Insanity Plea


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Scene Title Insanity Plea
Synopsis Teo corners Deckard on an isolated stretch of Staten beach and gets more of the truth than he probably wanted to hear.
Date April 25, 2009

Staten Island: Coast

The coast of Staten Island is as much of a presence as its inland, with rivers that invade right into its heart as well as cutting off the circulation of transport from the rest of New York City. The coastal regions reflect a lot of this borough's rural nature, with rough shores and plantlife, broken brick, and general abandonment. The harbors are left to the devices of those that freely come and go, a conspicuous lack of official presence - a number of them notably overrun by the developing crime syndicate, but there are still quite a few, particularly on the coasts nearest to Brooklyn and Manhattan, that are accessible to the lawful public.

The nice thing about most of the beaches around here being littered with garbage is that there's plenty of shit to burn. As far as specific sources go, driftwood mingles with the wreckage of a small boat far off enough that it's difficult to make out on the fading edge of a healthy bonfire's orange haze. A single wooden chair has caved in over the thicker wood beneath it. Been burning a while.

Why start a fire? In Deckard's case the more pressing question was evidently, 'Why not start a fire?' He has dry wood. He has a lighter. He doesn't have any adult supervision. So. Now he has a fire.

It's only logical.

Black sunglasses cast off into the sand alongside a half-empty open bottle of Crown, he's in the process of shrugging out of his leather jacket one clumsy sleeve at a time. Somewhere a few feet off to the side, a single robust stick is burning by itself next to a punctured beach ball whose faded plastic is blackened and curled away from the original point of contact. Not only does he have a fire, but he's been playing with it.

From the other end of the extended metaphor, Teo is walking around in the dark without a light. His tread is haphazard but not careless.

As a result, he hasn't tripped much despite the various and sundry pieces of litter jagged or heavy in the sand, thanks to the size of tonight's moon and the profusion of stars over the sea's disconsolately weather-wrinkled black face. The sand looks sterile, ashen gray. The shit lodged in it is black and mottled, mold-hued green.

Fire a licking, translucent orange, and Flint Deckard— some more sterile, ashen gray with chrome-shiny black and mold-textured cloth clinging here or there, curiously immune to the influence of his volatile plaything's sanguine palette, despite that the flames seem to pick out and emphasize trace vermilion, gold and yellow out of everything else. It will probably find some vermilion, gold and yellow in Teo by the time he makes it into the reach of the light; he's always had a fairly robust complexion, even if his father's Finnishness is eternally held culpable for diluting that with a greater pallor than he would prefer.

From the distance and the dark, however, his face is irrelevantly blue and his hair seems irrelevantly black, a thorny swatch tarred on close to his skull. His jangling skeleton is carrying one knife, two guns, and some keys, as customary as his adherence to that old adage, which starts, If you can't say anything nice

"Cool fire."

The faded t-shirt Deckard is wearing is brown. A slightly different shade of brown than the dusky lump of his jacket once he's dropped it carelessly aside. The nylon of his shoulder holster is black; the revolver snugged into it lifeless grey. He's a study in dusty neutrality and liquid shadow, blue jeans even blanched of their stonewashed color against orange light. And he isn't happy to see that he has company.

Scruffy head lifted to track a flicker of movement across the fire, he goes rigid. Still sober enough to be afraid, apparently. Muted blue melts into bloodless, ashy grey when the firelight licks up across the long angles of his face. Two guns, one knife, and at the center of it all, Teodoro Laudani's skeleton on the approach. Fuck. The word spells itself out in the twitchy hood of his brow and the hollow of his jaw, stark lighting making him all the more easy to read. He does not say, 'Thank you.'

Of course, Teodoro had not honestly expected the old man to reciprocate his diplomacy. His diplomacy was not really diplomacy, one would suppose: the fire is a stupid thing to talk about, all things considered. Closer now despite the hostility emanating from his host, Teo's approaching feet buff noise against the sand that is audible underneath the sussurration of surf and snickering pop of incinerating wood grain.

There are probably toxic fumes emitting from the plastic beach ball, but he didn't really expect Deckard to react accordingly to that, either. "Heard you punched a girl recently." Under cast of firelight, Teo's features seem to flatten into an orange like a cel portrait, flaws and texture alike inundated under the intensity of secondhand color. He's looking at Deckard's face as if he's trying to see to the back of Deckard's head, which is sort of a pointless enterprise, but he means well, of course. He always does. "Good to see you healed from the other thing."

Grizzled beard growth and wind-ragged hair flattered black with sparse white salted in where the fire manages to pick up on his age, Deckard bristles. Tense. The wiry muscle buckled taut into his arms stands out stark. He doesn't blink, twitch or look away…until Teo actually says something else. Something about him punching girls.

Then his eyes flicker into a glance sideways, black pupils ringed in near colorless white while he tries to think back through the wreckage of recent memory. The only 'girl' he got into shit with was Delilah, and if his distracted hesitation on the subject is any indication, he doesn't clearly remember. There was the gun and yelling and rain and she definitely punched him — there's still some light bruising drawn in a narrow line across the bridge of his nose — but after that? He zeroes back in on Teo, one eye narrowed, both utterly transparant with glassy paranoia. How does the Italian know when he can't decide whether he did or didn't and he was there?

"Sounds like something I would do," is all he can think to say, still wary, voice rough as ever. "I don't — " know, exactly. What happened. He does look healthy enough in the favorable light, though. Decently fed, recently showered.

Eyelids nearly as thin as only skin wrinkle shut and stay there for a staccato few seconds longer than Teo could simply blame on the stinging bother of incandescent heat. It's kind of like he's making a face at Deckard, which makes sense; that seems like something Teodoro would do to an answer like that.

"Your mind's really going, ain't it? Uomo." His eyes split open again, squinting raw into the fire, in time to see plastic burst a stinking, oil-slickened bubble.

At that, he remembers to take a step back, reaches up to test the heat from his face on the flat of his palm. Feels like fucking Botswana. Finally, shadows etch themselves in between his eyebrows, consternation every bit as fierce as the conflagration domesticated at their feet. "Every fucking time I see you it's worse. Got nothing to do with how much money you have in your pocket or how bad the last fight marked you up, or even how bad you left the other guy. Not in direct mathematical proportion, anyway.

"You know I think you were right" Except in Teo's 'confession voice' it's a mumbling blurt of y'knowIthinky'werright. "When we first met, you said the gloss would start to wear off my paradigm of thought after enough people left knives in my back. Or some shit like that. You're all self-cannibalizing, lying assholes. Eileen, Felix, every operative in Phoenix. You. Magnes.

"Maybe not Brian," Teo admits, presently, his brow furrowed by the thought. Brian is enough to populate his own category rather than being an outlier on the graph, perhaps. He hauls his head upright to fix Deckard with a stare steady enough to measure AUTOCAD off. "You're robbing girls and drinking yourself to death."

"I don't know." It seems like it might be going. His mind, that is. Honesty parceled out with quiet resignation after a breath or two of uneasy silence, Deckard follows Teo's example and lets his attention fall over onto the fire. So far it's proving itself easier to maintain than friends. And kittens. All he has to do is feed it.

Furious tension leaks out of his spine at a rapid, trickling dribble, slacking gradually out of his shoulders and clawed hands while the fire's consistent heat burns at the side of his face. More attuned to ridicule than physical discomfort, the plane of his profile turns further away at mention of self-cannibalizing. Lying. Robbing girls. Sweat glistens at his temples and at the back of the neck, cloying slick at the close shorn hair at his sideburns.

"I haven't lied to you," defended at a mumbling mutter, he frowns hard at choppy, white-capped waves, too far out for the fire to unmask. Alcohol rides the words off his tongue before he has more than a few seconds to think about them, and whether or not they're actually true. They seem true.

They do that. Teo suddenly can't remember when the old man had lied, except by omissions vaster, it feels, than the great hissing thing rolling against the shore beside them. "Ditched Abby," he volunteers, to replace the disqualified item. All that grandiose wordcrafting he's read in books— about people being really far away when they're standing right fucking here seems applicable somehow.

The substance of Flint seems to be sublimating. Thought, emotion, memory, spooling away in so many clouds and dandelion clocks and rising seams of abstracted confusion. And he's sweating, gives an odd sense of a melting wax figurine. The process does not seem tremendously reversible. Teo is quiet for awhile, which probably betrays the fact that he isn't really sure what he thinks he should or can do here. Staring will work until an actual hole burns into his peripheral cornea where the fire squats.

"And you killed Felix," he remembers, eventually. It sounds bizarrely non-sequitur next to all of the other things.

After that, the gravitational pull of temper and self-restraint combined drags Teo, grating and tumbling and flailing without moving very much, into deadened silence. Something that closely resembles helplessness locks his feet and jaws there.

"I wanted to go back for her." Leah wouldn't let him stay. Right arm retracted from a touch that isn't there to restrain him, Deckard finishes his awayward turn with a scuffing twist of boot against sand, brow knit, face dark. The fire plays broad across his back, glancing off the dull sheen of nylon that crosses stiff across his shoulders. It doesn't seem to cross his mind that there's anything inappropriate about 'ditching' her in a more social sense of the word. Considering.

He did kill Felix. There's no real defense to give there, save perhaps that he's killed a few people over the last several months and out of them, Felix was probably the only one that actually deserved it. Silence falls between them accordingly, a smothering, cumbersome thing that condenses darkening sweat into a line down the side of his neck. The crackle and sift of sparks skating up from beneath resettled wood does little to ease off the quiet pressed between them.

"I don't know what you want me to say.".

The seconds go by with the distinct sense that each is unnecessarily loaded. Heavy. They've been through so much worse and more than this, and there was always something to do about it. Vanguard operatives to evade, kill, or negotiate with, an Abigail Beauchamp to rescue. Now, the largest gesture available is for Flint to find somewhere cooler and darker to rest his eyes and Teo to scowl at his back.

"That you'll fucking stop?" There is a question mark shoved in under the edge of that last question there, raising Teo's voice into something closer to a shout, if only by a small increment. He tries to level it out when he continues to talk, but there is still that bump there, that fractional elevation, crumple of inconsistency. "You could still. Go back to her. Or stop; both. You could just stop."

Reddened sand underfoot, and it's like he suddenly thinks he's back in the Kalihari again. Pep-talk. We're not gonna die. We just need to get further. That way. I'll fix the radio. You get some sleep; I'm going to fix the radio. Teo looks at the reddened sand under his feet and listens to found objects disintegrate in the conflagration. Heat still funneling up at his face, evacuating space blowing wind in his ears.

"If I did that, I would be lying. And given that we've established that's about the only asshole thing I haven't done so far…" Deckard trails off, brows lifted at nothing while works his thumb over a strap on his holster, eventually freeing the revolver enough that he can toss it lazily onto the flat of his discarded jacket. His eyes cast back over to Teo when he reaches to drop it, unnatural blue lighted brief in the shadow that crosses his face in the process.

"I'm not going back," is added with a little more confidence now that he's free of the firearm, whatever that has to do with anything. Maybe there's something to be said for little islands of perceived certainty in the sea of dubious sanity he's been drifting around in lately. "She isn't interested. Why would she be?" Something like anger has started to burn in his gut and prickle its way up the lock at the base of his spine. It's enough to harden his glare, the low hood of his brow clearly defined when he finally turns himself back to the fire. And Teo. "What do you want me to do? Trick her into having one too many? Drug her? Bend her over and — Jesus Christ, Teo, she's — I don't even know if she's old enought to buy liquor. There isn't anything for me, outside of this place," he lifts his arms, hands swept out broadly to indicate Staten as a whole. "My name, my face."

Movement shades into Teo's frame with the abruptness of a charcoal swipe on the page. He twists on a heel, stomps over or around the discarded revolver and its crumpled mattress as if it were nothing greater than another pip of sea glass pitted into the sand.

Closer now. His breath huffs and puffs with all the audacity of a storybook wolf. "Talk to her?" Teo asks, in his very best rhetorical voice. "Be there? Don't fucking run away because she shrank back from — amorous contact after spending a fucking month in a cage under John Logan? Maybe? Maybe she would be," he grates, snapping his head around on its axis to stare at the island unveiled at the sweep of Deckard's magic hand, "if you could locate your sense of honor somewhere in the region of your backbone.

"Jesus fucking Christ, Flint. You saved her, you saved the world—

"And you're our friend." As closing statements go, that does not seem a particularly impactful or cleverly-phrased choice, but Teo defaults toward the conclusion there because he suddenly lacks the syllabic building blocks with which to forge anything else. Yeah, yeah. It's probably no big deal: Teodoro isn't good at keeping friends either, and he has patently terrible taste in them, by the standards of any given one, but it will be— it'll be a big deal, you know, if Flint has realized by now, or will realize then, that this is of no consequence.

So he stops talking very abruptly, face pinched. Teo doesn't remember anything about his grandmother Bennati except that she had been so terrifyingly sad, and this is like that, the ropey, rotted musculature of it hanging off the bone in state of early liquefecation, heavy and fetid, worse than externalized chain or shackle.

He wasn't there. Didn't see her.

Truth be told, Deckard isn't 100% sure he's here either. Tension rises again against Teo's abrupt advance all the same, animal unease shrinking back and bristling outward all the way to the fine hair standing up on the back of his neck. He's still sweating, clinging to fire and light like a retarded moth despite the fact that he can't see the latter and doesn't seem to feel the former's searing heat through his side.

Whatever Teo's trying to do is the more agonizing phenomenon. The way he draws back into himself, recoils, panic or fear or something else similarly incendiary burning cold beneath the hood of his brow. "Honor. Doing what's right." He doesn't quite sneer, but the sentiment is there enough with the more aggressive step he takes forward into Laudani's approach. Just the one. Any that might have followed are fettered by hesitation's scattered grip. "My conscience is a parasite." A quavering thread of self-conscious exasperation in the rough of his voice provides the illusion of sanity on the subject, as if he knows how it sounds. Crazy. Insane. Your mind's really going.

"I don't want it anymore." The flat of his chest hitches over a flinching breath, the cut of the holster around his arms digging into the deeper exhalation that sags after it. As far as parasites go, this one has been painfully resilient. It's writhing in his ribs now, winding viscous and thick around his lungs and heart.

The second the blue coals of his eyes venture to to refocus on Teo, the hardened resolve of his anger shudders into a shiver against the cold slime filling his chest cavity. Pathetic. His glare squeezes off shut against brittle pride and imminent humiliation. He should have had more to drink.

"Sumter showed me something. The future — a v…" His mouth catches open on the word, then closes. It's hard to say. Things that are blatantly (as opposed to accidentally) insane often are. "A vision. I think you're supposed to help me."

It isn't! Teo's big dopey puppy-face argues back. It isn't a parasite. It's— and now Teo's face is making an argument about the presence of Flint Deckard's immortal soul, insofar as that he's apparently trying to use his eyeballs to pierce through the grease patina of sweat and dead skin cells in to that incandescent, burning core of definitive purity somewhere in there. The strength of his stare is either something offered to hold onto or an outside force of repulsion determined to shove the old man back in his crooked tracks mottled in the shore.

Though it atrophies very, very suddenly at the mention of Sumter, of visions, because he'd had one too. Teo's eyes drop to the sand like a wilted leaf out of a desiccated bough, skits along on the next moving eddy of sea air. "I had one of those too.

"Not about you, but good news too. I believed mine.

"My other friends coming back," Teo clarifies, without special emphasis on 'other,' because there doesn't have to be for the word to stand out like a firebrand on white cloth. He ends up flattening his nose with the back of his wrist, alleviating an itch with a coarse seesaw scrubbing of his sleeve against his face. "On a train. Probably symbolic.

"Well—" His shoulders straighten abruptly and his hands span outward, like an insect tacked out for inspection or to fit into the lines of a diagrammed transparency. There is a hopeless grin on his face. "Am I getting it right? 'S this fit what you saw?"

Slump shouldered and dark at the collar and in the curl of sweat-damp hair, Deckard listens quietly while the hot stink of burning plastic and mismatched wood sinks into his pores. Smoke furls around in a brisk loop where the sea breeze takes it. Away from them, for the most part.

By the time awkward silence has transversed into talk of trains, he's drawn a flattened pack of cigarettes out of a back pocket, followed by a slender plastic lighter. A single smoke is knocked out and lit up with shaking hands, which would probably make the process more difficult if it wasn't such a familiar obstacle these days. A rattle of the box hints at one or two remaining before he pushes it back out of sight — as if he wasn't inhaling enough noxious, toxic air already.

Predictably, his eyes have sought out something else to look at further down the beach, where white sand particulate dragged back in forth beneath invisible waves fades into the black that borders every real amount of distance when seen this way. X-rays only read so far. He can only perceive so much.

"No." This isn't what he saw. "I don't know."

At least Teodoro doesn't actually, physically droop at the— criticism. He isn't really disappointed. Low expectations; Deckard had scolded him for not keeping such before, but he's been schooled since. About that and betrayal and possibly also parasites, though Teo is still not making much physical progress in the direction of 'away' from this one or its unkindly labeled soul.

His hands fall back to his sides, conspicuously empty. As ever, Teo finds himself following the old man's gaze despite that he knows, intellectually, that there is nothing there, always one to shape himself to the convenience of others, as often swept along by the inertial pull of decisions and actions external to him as he is to run around with the Captain hat on. His throat works around a swallow, and then he looks back.

"Your conscience isn't a fucking parasite," Teo says instead. "It's yours like your face and your name and this stinking fucking island never will be."

Deckard smokes. The cigarette's ember is unimpressive up against the fire that continues to blaze a few feet away — the tenuous stream of smoke that he forces out through his sinuses even moreso. He doesn't look like he's paying attention. Doesn't look like he's listening or cares to listen while he frowns dimly at the garbage broken beach stretching off alongside the sturdier lines of the seawall.

"My face and my name haven't ever conspired to have me killed. Kidnapped. Mutilated. They've never pulled a trigger. They've never wanted to." The whites of his teeth bare out into a sliver of a smile in their bite around the base of his cigarette, easily as unpleasant as most of them have been, lately. "You don't know what I've been up to."

My, that's ominous. The washed out light of his gaze skips back just long enough to take a reading. Double-checking the assumption.

"Even when you try to take things in stride you can't make yourself assume the worst."

Smoke blows, wind rises, sea tilts in and roils out. Teo stays the same, inert, stationery, upright. The proximity to the fire and current mood are not enough to pry any sweat out of his pores. His face knots up in suspicion, worry, —something, and stays there. Watching, his shoulders stiff and his brain singing with static that bespeaks something off with his blood pressure. Yes, that was ominous.

Deckard is off the rails. So's the whole damn world.

"Your conscience didn't do that. Your— well sometimes you make really fucking stupid decisions to go with your kind ones, and…" When Teo shuts up, wallows into quiet, it is an admission of ignorance, because he definitively doesn't even know enough to be able to say whether or not Flint is actually right.

What does that mean? What does that mean? If Teo's brow knit any tighter, the thread would snap and spill his speeding brain out into a spinning mess of organic cogs and neuron misfire across the beach. What would the worst be? If he'd raped Abigail, or something— oh, but his brain balks against that like it's a barricade, circles back, skittering gait on ridiculously small hooves, refuses to go further.

"You're just sick. Ill," he tacks on at the end, as if to neaten it; to be polite.

This time when Deckard's eyes follow Teo's speech back to its source, they manage to stay there. Pale and unblinking, their hollow focus is home to a distinctly broken brand of curiosity while he watches Teo attempt to rationalize sins he doesn't yet know the length and breadth of. It's fascinating. Also, depressing.

Rigidity bled out of the broad slope of his shoulders, he keeps his spine straight and his head dipped, cigarette tip inclined vaguely at the sand at his feet. What does that mean? The uncertainty is written out in bold, worried question marks across Teo's sincere face. It's so perfectly, predictably him.

Cruelly, Deckard witholds tangible answers to questions gone unasked. Just stands and stares, misery carved stark into the hollows of his long face. The firelight makes it worse at this angle — lends him the same skeletal cast of weeks and months past. The one that he's only recently been able to shake.

"I know."

"You regret it. Whatever it is, whatever you did—" Teo is slower, this time, to dismiss out of hand these supposedly impressive crimes that he honestly does not know the character of.

His mouth finds a razor-flat line, jaws clenching, chin squaring, and his eyes search the old man's face with worry that couldn't be louder if he exclaimed it aloud, in all-caps, underlined, bubble-lettered, You're freaking me out. He has enough surface area available on the front of his head that he can do this without diminishing the continuous haphazard scrabble and wonder about What that means.

He would make a terrible father. It's been said before, and it'll be said again. It's hard to say what or how this conversation weighs in on that particular fact: Teo's unconditional approval, shortage thereof, or struggling inability to simply ask, "What did you do?"

"Regret never changes anything." Sullen distance drags down at the corners of his mouth, reproach for any thoughts otherwise knit into his brow without real feeling. People stay dead. His hands stay bloody. His thumb bends to scrape one blunt nail under another, where a flaking film of resilient blackish brown still resides after all his scrubbing. The fire is finally beginning to burn low — the increasingly feeble stack of its lower supports heaving in on itself in a bristling fountain of sparks and scattered embers.

The spectacle of Teo's face is such that Deckard's eyes have dimmed to better see the subtleties of it in the meanwhile, slate blue yellowed out to near nothing by the fire's orange contrast. The effect is humanizing, but only so far as a dog is able to be anthropomorphized by the addition of a hat. He is what he is. What he's made himself. And here's Teo, caught in the crossfire of his failure. Again.

Somehow or another, he didn't actually expect him to ask. Unease stirs like silt in the the turn of his head and the subtle shift of his weight over onto one side. He doesn't answer.

Hitchcock got it right. The silence and negative spaces and minimalism is so much worse than all of the hysterical din and pandemonium one could otherwise replace it with. Teo's eyes close only to open again, as witlessly denuded to mundane sight as they had been brave to meet the two points of radiation on Flint's face. Eventually, his lips loosen enough to make a gap. He doesn't say anything either, for awhile.

Despite everything, he's here and the fire's the one on its way out. Maybe the fire was the smart one.

"Almost everybody I know these days has killed at least once." The air in Teo's lungs seems to be the wrong shape to make words with: his voice doesn't normally sound like that. Not this shallow. "At war, or as part of a genocide effort. This guy I know used to be a serial killer— or— did you steal something?" At the very least, Teodoro would be the first to admit that he's flying blind. Haplessly, "What matters," here he goes. Here he goes again, "is that you stop. Regret can change that. Regret changes people. The kind of decisions you make.

"You don't have to keep digging yourself deeper. Redemption isn't a fucking fairy tale concept. You know too many people who fly in the face of that fact." This time, Teo only lapses back into silence when he realizes he's started glaring heat at the fire in an absurd effort to revive it. It's harder to see Flint without its light, and Flint isn't saying enough for him to read into tone or inflection.

Still more silence. It threatens to drag and drag, yawning wide in the shadow pooling thick and thicker between them. There's another stumbling collapse within the bonfire — smaller this time. Weakened flame licks briefly bright, only to dissipate again when it realizes it hasn't actually found fresh fuel. "James Stutzman," Deckard says finally, quietly, out of nowhere. His eyes stay dimmed, still lightless when he reaches up to tug the cigarette out of his mouth a few seconds later. Smoke trails after it, fogging thin through flared nostrils on the rush of a sigh. Monkeyvision better suited to the weakness inherent in this admission. "He was there, that night. After the theater. With his boat. Waiting." Two shots to the chest and he was still alive enough to struggle while Deckard dragged him through the snow, all the way to a dropoff over a dumpster that's probably still there.

There's a pause while he thinks it over, the gurgle and crunch of crisp memory playing silent to Teo's ears. His eyes scan blankly over scenery that isn't present. It hadn't started to smell yet, when he'd gone back. Too cold, maybe.

"I've been killing people around the island. Cutting out their organs while they're still fresh. Heart, liver. Kidneys. Whatever Filitov asks for." As far as sample sizes go, this would be enough to gauge inflection from if there was any. There isn't. He lifts his cigarette for another stout drag, then turns his head the rest of the way away, curiosity abolished where a defensive return to withdrawal is preferable in its place. "I like the way it feels, sometimes. They're afraid of me." As opposed to default state of his life, where things are the other way around.

It would be terrible waste of a divine prophesy, Teo thinks, if he couldn't help Flint Deckard tonight.

Probably that, more than any solid logic or even rationalizable anything, thanks to this sudden give his worldview, paradigm of reality, and crack in his otherwise ironclad faith in stuff to work roughly right, is why Teodoro doesn't do much more than sway faintly in the direction of retreat before swaying back into perpendicularity with the austere black and gray of the horizon.

He'd taken Stutzman in stride, naturally. Deckard wouldn't have expected anything less. It was the second part, the organs, Filatov's behest, the pleasure of the act that changed things— as Deckard knew they would have. Teo's lips are pulled thin as molecular wire, like he is trying to invert them that they might slice his abruptly useless tongue out of his mouth and leave it to lie in its slimy corpulent excess until he kicks it into the sea. Teo is really, really good at making excuses for people, but he isn't that good.

"Would you stop?" Teo repeats, except in question form, this time. His face is frozen stiff around the physical formation of the words.

Just another blurry, confused message from God. The way they all seem to be, lately, variably disguised as returns from the dead, eye gougings and homosexual hairdressers.

No pressure.

This is a long silence. Long enough that even he takes note and glances up to see if Teo's still there. He might have silently imploded or fallen to dust like some ancient artifact exposed to fresh air for the first time in centuries. Except that he hasn't. He's still there, and the look on his face is enough to hold Deckard's attention for the long, long seconds that stretch between his initial glance and the formulation of the question that follows.

"Most of the time I don't feel anything. One minute they're alive, then…" they aren't. There isn't time for anything else. He shivers again, breath rattling in his chest behind the insufficient plug of his cigarette.

"I shouldn't have said anything." So much to say. Unspoken frustration is pinned behind the clench of his jaw and in the fierce knit of his brow, hatred boring inward in the grind of his teeth and curl of his knuckles. "I'm sorry. I should have just — I should have. I'm too much of a coward. I'm sorry."

Now Teodoro is shaking his head. A lot, quickly, fiercely, an adamant 'no' to at least one of the statements that the older man had expelled into the air. His hair isn't long enough to wobble or sway, otherwise he'd have a deplorable bedhead by the time he snaps his skull up into sharp alignment with a stare. "You have to talk to someone. All of this— being out here by yourself, you— you hate yourself. You…"

The light has subtracted itself from Flint's eyes, which makes seeing him even more inconvenient and is accompanied by the almost painfully keen awareness that it's his face being watched instead of his guns or his clackety-clackety skullfaced smile or the translucent squirm of his brain chemistry. His own regard is beginning to waver. Metaphorically. Physically. The heat from the fire is making his eyes hurt, and he is not blinking often enough.

Teo's eyebrows are peaked outward that terrible way people do when they are about to burst into tears, but he isn't. He's just upset.

When he remembers he has hands, they twitch, and one goes up on the back of his neck, scrubbing fiercely at the lack of sensation there. Pull in, scrape out. Rinse, repeat. "Do you feel anything now?" he asks, with difficulty. Winds up answering it himself, in a mumble that does not retract the implicit request for elaboration, "You do."

Deckard has moved further away from the fire in turn, stemmed sweat cold at his collar and chest, under his arms at at the small of his back. Good think he tends to be prudent about remembering things like deodorant even when he's really busy being crazy and murdering people for a living. His eyes are slow to adjust in the waning light, but Teo remains as easy to read in red and orange as he is in black and white.

"I don't know." He doesn't know much of anything tonight, if the frequency with which he's falling back on those three words is to be believed. "Yes." Teo already said he did, but the echoed admission is…something. Something slightly superior to the verbal shrug that preceded it. "I like you, Teo. I like — talking to you, and Brian, but I don't want to have to eat out of your hands forever, like…some kind of crippled dog. I talked to a guy today — someone gave him my name. He's looking for guns. If he's good for the money, maybe then…"

Despite that it's becoming an increasingly pointless act, Teo follows the older man's course with his eyes, his face ticking in precise degrees like a satellite calibrated exactly to his strides. Maybe then… Flint will stop killing people with his own hands, and Teo will go back to being at uneasy peace with the fact that the purchasers aren't asking for Glocks and AK-47s to get elk around New York's industrial center.

"It'll be like it was?"

Uneasy peace, or whatever holding pattern it is Teo's usually in when he's — enjoying — talking to career criminals, serial killers, erstwhile genocidal cultists. He has been steadily breaking his habit of wondering what his life has turned into since switching out of America's most notorious pro-Evolved terrorist cell and into Phoenix's glorified knitting circle.

Toppling down, his hands end up tight on the lapels of his jacket. Relax again.

"You too." 'I like you.' 'We're friends.' Teo doesn't bother to clarify. The font to match that tone of voice is chickenscratch. He is still growing accustomed to the stink of Deckard's most recent sins above all of the others. It's hard work, remembering to breathe; probably less to do with incinerating toxins than he could otherwise argue. He decides that he doesn't like the analogy about the dog. "'Ve never given you anything you didn't deserve."

"It won't be like it was." Abigail hoped for the same thing. He shot her down just as quickly and almost as mercilessly. Cigarette flicked aside, Deckard stoops himself down into a crouch, then into a sit from there, bony rear plowing harder than is probably necessary into the sand. He happens to be within reach of his whiskey bottle in this position, so. He reaches for it. The fire is warm again down at this level. Comfortably so now that the blistering heat of it has had time to burn itself off.

"My head is fucked up." Teo said so. He drinks to that. The whiskey is hot, but it'd burn going down one way or another anyway. The rest of the bottle is curled over into his side, gripped too hard beneath the white splay of tendon and bone across the back of his hand.

"Technically I deserve the death penalty." This is pointed out with the sort of bland distance that seems to be his specialty in matters of massive personal discomfort.

There is a slithery thump as Teo's legs fold underneath him, drop him ass-first in the sand across the fire. He crosses his ankles, configures himself like he is settling down to listen to stories. "Maybe it will be," he says, too loudly, argumentative contrariness germinating out of his DNA. "You don't know. The world was about to end from sociopaths. You fought with Abby lots. You were stuck sweating shit hiding in a breadbox, catching knives in the back from fucking Ivanov. Selling guns for a living, buying hookers.

"And we knew things were gonna get worse before they got better. It could be like it was.

"Things weren't that fucking great back then, anyway." The sand underneath his bridged shins acquires Teodoro's attention now, dimpled by… maybe flying drops of superheated fluid that had come out of the fire at some earlier point in its smoggy, polluting lifespan. "You could plea insanity. Technically." No one who wields a gavel would listen or even get the chance to, but technically. Wedging his fingernail into the depression of sand, Teo pries out the pip of dried chemistry filling its base. Flicks it away, forefinger over thumb.

Maybe they weren't, when he puts it that way. Brows tipped up in concession of the shitty time of things he was having before the world actually started to end, he stretches out in the warm sand, one knee bent while the brace of his elbow takes on most of his weight. "Insanity's an affirmative defense. And even I managed to find a lawyer willing to make the effort, if we won they'd ship me off to a treatment facility until the end of days." Or until he figured out a way to kill himself, which probably wouldn't take very long given that his ingenuity doesn't seem to have suffered from his condition.

He falls quiet after that, a faint frown still present in the fuzzy lines around his mouth. He's relaxed for the moment, content to sit and drink and maybe talk a little more before it really gets late and he has to head back to check under beds and in closets for monsters more likely to actually exist here than in most places. Brian's original intent probably wasn't to fight fire with fire, but so far it seems to be working. It'll probably even be an hour or two after he gets back before the conversation that just went down really starts to sink in enough for him to resume self loathing in peace.

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