Just Desserts


sonny_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Just Desserts
Synopsis Hard to tell whether they are going to be sweet or bitter yet, although Sonny is unequivocally the former and Teo still the latter.
Date March 21, 2009

New York Palace Hotel


Maybe Teo expected that the reading would be off after their fight, after the confessions and Sonny's discovery of just how fucked up the world really is. But the doc can be unpredictable sometimes. He pushed Teo into going with the rhetorical argument of how Giovanni will probably not make many more trips back to the US. And how many opportunities could he possibly ever get to attend a private reading?

Before going, Sonny worked up a backstory. Teo's an old friend from college, from an Italian literature class, no less. And someone who would, more than any of his other friends, appreciate the reading. The event took place at a stately New York home. It's the kind of place with doilies and a butler, but the people are kind and welcoming, the way some Italian folk are, no matter how much money they have. There's canapes and wine served, and fortunately, all the smalltalk revolves around the guest of honour.

The aging Italian poet and author read poems and excerpts from his book in warm, rolling Italian tones. Northern Italy, for those with an ear for it. Giovanni is generous, warm, and embarrassed by the praise he receives. The evening wraps up early, because the guest of honour is scheduled to appear at a much larger gathering.

They leave the party in Sonny's Mercedes. He doesn't drive them towards either the safehouse or his condo. Instead, he takes them only a few blocks away to The New York Plaza Hotel. He pulls the car up to the valet.

"I thought we could use a night without worry of being bugged or walked in on," says Sonny. He's wearing a neat suit with a collared shirt underneath, but no tie. His hair has been combed and styled, he's clean-shaving and he's wearing expensive perfume. He doesn't seem concerned with walking into the hotel as himself, with Teo by his side.

Teo, on the other hand, is pathologically concerned. This is probably more understandable now that he has explained about the Vanguard, their viral apocalypse, Homeland Security's belligerent ingratitude and macabre experiments, John Logan and James Muldoon's criminal operation out of Staten Island—

Yeah, the world is a cesspit. This fact is regularly contradicted by the luxurious interior of Salvatore's car and the cut crystal chandelier and marble sheen of the New York Palace. There's an indoor fountain and the water roiling up and down it is probably cleaner than the stuff Teo and Pila usually drink. The Sicilian is uneasy. He could look more like it, but then, he's Lucrezia Bennati's nephew and has been spoiled enough to have learned to pretend it doesn't bother him. He manages to convince at least himself.

Teodoro, too, is dressed well. Which is to say, in some of Sonny's clothes— a suit foregone in favor of a sweater that probably took a dozen slaves a dozen weeks to weave, thread by luxurious thread, slacks, a belt that has a buckle that actually has enough silver content on it to require periodic polish. "'M never bugged," he replies. His left hand, bandage-swaddled, curls up inside his pocket; he offers Salvatore a fleeting smile, the valet another.

And yes, after Teo's explanations, Sonny's happy for the distraction of the reading as well. And really, the choice of hotels wasn't meant to be grand or luxurious. In his world, there are only a few hotels worth staying at - the way some people wouldn't go anywhere near a Super 8 or a Holiday Inn and instead prefer Best Westerns. Sonny's just a tier or two higher than that.

Sonny tips the valet and signs them in without any questions asked. Hotels like this one are known for their discretion. If they went shooting their mouths off about who stayed there, they wouldn't have any business. Besides, he got a room with two beds. If anyone asks, he's here to get drunk and hang out with an old friend while his condo is being painted.

He doesn't say much until they're inside the suite. Sonny shrugs off his jacket and hangs it in the closet. "Hope this is all right. I just…haven't been sleeping well lately." He scrubs his face, then steps into the handsomely appointed washroom to splash warm water on his face. "Did you enjoy the reading?"

New York Palace Hotel


"It's fine," Teo says. Pauses, his mouth listing, a lopsided smile. "By 'fine' obviously I mean it looks fucking amazing and I probably couldn't buy a night in here if I sold all my organs. Ff.

"What I mean is — you need your rest," responds one of the more hypoctical sources in the world. He doffed his shoes first. His jacket comes loose now, a scrappy thing with scraped-pale elbows and a sticky zipper. He hangs that up after Sonny leaves him a margin of space enough to fit his hands, and then swings a barefoot step over the floor.

"Si. Very much. His words always come through clear as a bell."

It feels like he's sinking up to his ankles in the carpet's ivory hybrid fibers. Teo's survived a few bad fevers in his childhood. He remembers well: delirium is this texture. He moves automatically toward the window. Initially to close the curtains, though he pauses in the last bar of nightscape exposure.

"I know this place won't tell anyone they saw us together here. And I didn't feel like sneaking around in a motor lodge." Sonny moves to the mini bar and pulls out one of the tiny bottles of wine. A place like this even stocks wine glasses. No drinking booze from plastic cups with the hotel's logo on it.

"I hope it wasn't too awkward for you. My family's curious about you, but they won't ask questions if I don't volunteer info."

He empties half the bottle into two glasses, then crosses the carpet to hand Teo one. It's hard to tell how he's been taking these past few days. The easiest explanation is that he's numb. It's a lot to absorb.

It's beautiful out. Or maybe he just thinks so because it's beautiful in. Put a fancy enough frame around anything and you can call it art. Teo turns down one corner of his mouth, the other one up. Drags the curtain the rest of the way shut with a sliding purr of metal on metal. "Your family was really nice.

"I liked your aunt. She said she had embarrassing anecdotes to share, and maybe you'll finally fucking learn Italian if she threatened to do it in the proper language." Teo's eyes thin slightly above a smile, pale irises showing like slivered glass.

The one that Sonny puts in his good hand remains intact, however, the curve of it held up between long, scar-notched fingers. He looks down into the transparent concave of its belly, sees his fingerprints stretched out and flattened through the glass in white-on-pink coils. He doesn't like the idea of Sonny drinking too much, but he doesn't know what 'too much' is anyway.

"That's the beautiful thing about my family. They don't act like regular rich people. Down-to-earth. Then again, the aunt you met married into money." Sonny takes a sip from the wine, makes a face. "Ugh. I'm going to have room service send us up a decent bottle of wine. You hungry?" He steps towards the nighttable and flips open the menu. He sits on the edge of the bed.

Notice how he moves from one trivial thing to another. That means he can avoid talking about the things they're here to talk about. "I can pretty much guess what people are talking about in Italian, even if I don't really know what they're saying. For instance, I know that Aunt Fillipa was asking you why I looked so tired during the first break." A beat, and a wry little grin. "She thinks you're a good influence on me. A nice Italian boy. Make me pay attention to my roots."

There's a wrinkle of discomfiture that takes Teodoro a second or four to rub away with the palm of his hand. He drinks the wine. It doesn't bother him, and his mouth hitches up into a mock-doleful half a smile when Sonny has his reaction to the drink. The curve of his mouth fits the rim of the wineglass almost precisely.

"Yeah," he says, blank with hesitation. "I don't like lying to them."

Teo notices. Of course he notices. He's a terrorist and therefore an intermediate adept at 'changing the subject,' as well as making the most of limited time to get shit done. Stalling is a definitive waste of time, and time is one of their more essential resources. He's trying not to think about it too hard. Doesn't want to.

Has to, though. His throat moves, carrying wine down. He turns away and pads over to the bedroom, waving his glass over his shoulder. The fluid clink-clinks seesawing as he goes, his other hand out by now, too, looking like a mummy's, bandaged, protruding from the cuff of his cashmere sleeve. "You have to stop me before I jump on the mattress," he announces, by way of threat.

"Trust me, you don't want the kind of heat you'd get from my family if they knew we were seeing each other. They're a loving, caring, bunch of people. But they circle the wagons when someone moves in on one of their own." Especially when it's their golden boy and Harry's son. Sonny looks with great seriousness at the wine list.

"Jump on the 'mattress,' huh?" That's a joke that would have been better suited to a few weeks ago, and he realizes that almost the moment the words are out of his mouth. He purses his lips. Then he picks up the phone and dials down to the desk. He orders up a nicer bottle of wine and a large gourmet pizza.

In the meantime and some twenty feet away, the bedsprings are creaking underneath the lazy flop of Teodoro's weight. Somehow, he manages not to send a miniaturized tsunami of wine flying up and over the stretch of gilt-trimmed, quilted cover or the linens underneath. His head hits the pillow, crinkling raggedly spiky hair over the case.

Mummy arm over his stomach and Italian literature echoing faintly in his mind's ear, he stares up at the ceiling. It was a joke more suited a few weeks ago. Would that the kind of heat he'd get from Sonny's loving, caring bunch of family the worst he has to contend with. The order that the good Doctor phrases across the phone is audible in snatches, a word here or there. Olives. He does like olives.

Teo tilts back the rest of his wine. "Come here."

Sonny shrugs off his suit jacket and drapes it over a nearby chair. He untucks his shirt, kicks off his shoes and moves towards the bed. He kneels on the edge, looks down at Teo, then lowers himself down. He doesn't say anything for the longest time. Instead, he just studies his lover's face, as if he could figure out how to clear the air between them just by looking, by studying the muscles in his face.

One arm pillows underneath his head. "So."

The muscles in Teo's face are almost relaxed where they lay, taut with youth and health over the arrogant cut of his cheekbones and strong jaw. Almost relaxed. There's enough ambient tension floating over Manhattan Island that even deep sleep filters dreams with a dark palette and unsavory themes for many of its residents. Teo merely stares back. His expression doesn't change between watching Sonny reconfigure his clothes for comfort or come down to lie down with him.

There's no more wine left in his glass, or it would've slid out of the toppled lip, stained pink dots into the bed. He feels like he's been awake for a very, very long time. "I talked to a hooker," he says, eventually. It is supposed to be funny, but Teo isn't telling it very well, so… it probably isn't. A quaver-beat's pause, then there's clarification: "Verbally. How about you?"

"A hooker?" Sonny isn't laughing. Instead, he just looks confused. "About…what?" Is 'talk' now a euphemism for something? Seems like everything should be a euphemism when it involves prostitutes.

He chews on the edge of his lip and then looks down at the expensive duvet. "Mmm. Told Abby. Didn't mean to. Just came out." He remains blissfully unaware of the text. "I don't know why. Since we don't really get along."

He reaches out towards Teo's good hand. He folds his own long, surgeon's fingers around it and just holds. There's no desperate squeeze, no tug of it forward. It's just a gentle, warm hold.

Conversation has been a euphemism since before hookers, probably. Since before money. It's in the Bible, an inculcated part of Teo's mental vocabulary that extends its subtle if not pernicious influence to the furthest parts of his mind.

He flinches when Sonny mentions Abigail, but he isn't surprised. He'd gotten her text, angry, chastising. "It's okay." The shame is fresh and sharp enough that even mere recollection hurts. Of all the people he tries to be good for, Abby's always been one he guards with the most paranoia. It is unfair. Sonny already knows that. "'Bout you. And me. Kind of," he hastens to reassure.

"No names or pronouns. She said—" By now, Salvatore is used to this, stop-start, like a horse balking at the prospect of jumping the hedge or corrugated iron fence. For all Teodoro speaks a dozen languages, telling his lover things is like cutting teeth loose. It always seems wiser, more practical, less perilous to his psychological and physical health, not to try.

For a moment, it doesn't seem like Teo can get any further than that. 'She said.'

And here Sonny was beginning to think that Teo was having an easier time telling him things. Or, was at least more willing. He doesn't try to get the rest of the story out of him with words. Instead, he just watches expectantly, and waits. No more pushing - or at least, not shoving.

They both smell like expensive cologne, though Teo's is fainter. The cashmere of the borrowed sweater has soaked up the fragrance from previous outings. The linens too, smell fresh and sweet. The mattress is like a cloud, softer even than the expensive one that sits in his Upper West Side condo.

Rewind, Teo decides. Retry.

"Intellectually," he says, trailing the ceiling with his pallid gaze. "Intellectually, I know that my personal experiences of twenty-six years can't definitely be representative of the luck and coincidence that could affect me for the next sixty, and that personal, conscious decisions probably, uh." Teo clears his throat and grimaces slightly at sounding as textbook dry as he does. "You know. Determine outcomes.

"Still, there's this— some shit happened. I let them define me. Maybe that's very fucking pathetic and weak. Probably. I don't know how to explain." His thumb curls, roughs down the web of skin between the knuckles of Sonny's forefinger and thumb. "Everybody's had to maintain a lie before. Plagiarism, or college interviews, impressing some kid in skinny jeans at a club.

"'Nd some part of you is just waiting, breath bated, for the moment they get a close enough look, brainwave that you're a complete fucking fraud, and leave you. That's the last nine years. Being a terrorist 's easier for it, I think." Teo's eyes open and shut mechanically. He rubs the linen-bound side of his hand on the bridge of his nose.

"You're too hard on yourself." Sonny doesn't say that flippantly. Rather, it's considered and said only after he's let Teo's words sink in. "You expect to be hurt, expect to be pushed away and that's exactly what's going to happen. You make yourself miserable because you think you deserve to be miserable."

He purses his lips. "You've been going through a lot. More than I imagined. And you've taken a whole hell of a lot of shit on yourself. Why is it so hard for you to feel like you deserve a little happiness? Or that you shouldn't be the one carrying all the heavy stuff by yourself? Whatever it is is what makes you keep me away. And I'm pretty sure that's why you did what you did. Because on some level, you thought it would drive me away."

The ceiling is shut away by Teo's eyelids. Through his nose, he huffs something that sounds like a laugh, a stray note of sigh in it. "Maybe," he mutters, deferring momentarily to the other man's superior intelligence and, like, emotional health and whatever. "I d'no. I'm not miserable alone. Even before that, I was… maybe I'm still just an asshole, partly.

"Even before that," he verbs his way into a circle and finds a linear progression to pursue. "I was hard to impress, I guess, though that may be a function of insecurity, I'm not even sure.

"I'm not a very cerebral guy I guess." He clears his throat, breathes on the white cloth taped to the back of his wrist. "I think about what to do, I don't think just to think. I make deductions, fit pieces together. It doesn't fit you told me you love me when you didn't—" a quaver-beat; he almost said don't, "know a damn thing about me. And I keep thinking back to when Al said same just to get me to sleep with him. Few days later, he was back on the fence: not sure if I was just a friend or whatever the fuck.

"Maybe I'm just an asshole who thinks he deserves better than that." His mummy arm flips up, over his head to rest on the pillow, the bend of his elbow and wrist haloing his head without touching, allowing him enough movement to risk a glance over at Sonny. His terror is relatively minor compared to what it might become.

"Teo…" Sonny removes his hand and pulls it through his hair. He scrubs his face and takes a moment to collect his thoughts. "You know that I didn't say that to get something out of you, right? You have to know that I'm not that kind of person. And if you think I am…." He pulls in a long breath. "I was…hurt. And confused. And you're right that I don't know everything about you. But I know you."

He rolls over onto his back and stares up at the ceiling. "Maybe 'love' is a strong and loaded word. But I think you know what I meant. I care about you. I want to be with you. There's not a word that explains exactly what I want to say." And then his voice drops. When he speaks again, the words are quiet. "Do you want to be with me?"

Barely audible above the silk-lined silence of the luxury suite, the Italian kid whispers, "That doesn't make any sense." It doesn't sound like recrimination, of course. It's — confusion, pathetically scratchy, doleful, apologetic, a pupil's frustration at failing to succeed in academic discourse on a subject the rest of his class seems to understand. Everyone wants something, and there's nothing wrong with that. No one really knows anybody else, and no one could really want to get to know him.

Not that he thinks Salvatore is lying, mind you. He dated an astrophysicist once, who tried to explain to him how the event horizon of a black hole could duplicate matter, and he didn't understand that either; how one version would be moving closer and closer to the collapsing, self-consuming center of the dying star, and the other remain poised motionless on the coruscating edge of it. There was a mathematical proof for it and embarrassingly simplified metaphors and everything. Teo hadn't understood anyway. You're either going or you're staying.

Anyway, this is a little like that: he just doesn't really understand how Sonny can say stuff like that and mean it. It seems unwontedly dangerous. He would think, by now, that the good Doctor would understand the potential consequences. God knows Teo hurts people enough. Hurt him worse than most; himself worst, perhaps, of all.

"Yes. A lot." His hand gets tighter. Warmer. The ceiling eyes the two with inscrutable cleanliness and craftsmanship.

"Sex and feelings aren't currency. I don't give them expecting anything in return." Sonny sighs. "Too much of my life is about currency. The only thing I want from you is you. And I'd like you to stop putting me in a box to pull out when you need to forget." He glances periodically over as he speaks. "If that's the way you want to be with me, I…can't do it. And if letting me in on everything is going to make you unhappy, make you run and…cheat. Well.." he pulls his lips into a humourless smile.

"Do you know why you did what you did? Really? Because I need to know that. I need to not guess. And I need to know that you're going to keep telling me things. That all you've told me in the last few days…that you opened up for the right reasons."

'The right reasons' sounds like some mythical chimera. Teo studies it from various angles, trying to figure out how the snake fits in with the feathers and hooves. He doesn't look at Sonny, though he can feel the other man's gaze touching his profile every so often.

"I can't always tell you everything, always, straight off," he manages, with great difficulty. "Sometimes I don't know. Other times, I just need you— and everyone else— to trust me, 'ntil the time is right. J'ss like— you can't tell me about everybody who comes in and twists your arm to get you to morph 'em.

"'Cause it'd drive me crazy, and I'd do something stupid. 'M sorry, I can't." Teo wobbles into an unsteady silence. The grip of his fingers loosens and his voice thickens. Irrelevantly, he mutters, "I forgot about Lent for two weeks, 'nd then my priest reminded me. And I forgot again."

"I understand that, Teo. I know what a leader has to do. But there's a difference between withholding a few details and me not knowing anything about what's going on. If you say you don't want to talk about something, you don't have to. I just want to be in the loop."

Sonny rolls onto his side and props up his head with one arm. "You didn't answer my question." The question behind the question is - will you cheat on me again? But he's too much of a politician to ask that outright.

There is a slight disjunct between that request and the concession Sonny offers with it in the same breath, but not one that Teodoro is particularly inclined to argue at the moment. That seems like a bad move. His weapons cache seems low and his limbs lack strength for fighting. He'd have no place in a world that consisted entirely of neat definitions and simple decisions, either.

"I think I just wanted him to like me. But he was thinking about someone else the whole time."

He probably should have lied or offered a different verisimilitude, one that consisted more of visceral, superficial appetites and less of the sentimental weakness that most people identify as who Teo is. Sonny is a good man. Generous, brave, concerned. Not all of his concern can be attributed entirely to his overzealousness, of course. "I won't do it again."

"Why did you think having sex with him would make him like you?" Sonny's tone is as even as he can make it. He's relying on his doctoral detachment to keep his jealousy pinned like a butterfly on a board. "And what makes you sure you won't feel like that would be a solution again?"

He's suddenly aware that he's interrogating Teo. He flops back onto the pillow. The miracle of the expensive hotel bed means that the man beside him barely feels his drop in weight. "I'm not trying to grill you. I'm…trying to understand. To get you to understand why you did it." And then a deep breath. He hesitates and tenses in a way that betrays how difficult it is for him to say his next words. "I don't want to hurt like this again. I can forgive you. We can…move on. If I understand why it happened."

There's a noise out of the back of Teo's thought, half humorous and part hopeless. It's not a bad question— why you think having sex with people would make them like you. "'Cause I'm a maladjusted young man who sublimates his intimacy issues into physical excesses and generalizes the pattern to everybody else? I guess. I don't know. I had sex with you because I wanted you to like me, too."

His elbow digs into the mattress, his weight tipping like a barrel over onto his hip, then his belly. The narrow margin of bed that had separated them is too narrow for them to avoid touching, though the clasp of hands pulls apart. He looks down at Sonny's face — for all of about two seconds. "'Cause it didn't work," he admits with difficulty. "And you're more important. I don't need anything else."

"God, you're such an academic," says Sonny. But those words are fond and he can't help the little fish hooked smile from pulling up. He reaches out and cups his hand around Teo's cheek. The nurturer in him can't blame the young Italian for being a little broken. Everyone is, in the end. And if Teo were perfect, he wouldn't be interesting.

"I wanted to be with you in part because I knew it wouldn't be a smooth road or a straight shot to anywhere predictable." Like marriage. Kids. A photo spread on page five with all the color commentary. Another set of bars on a gilded cage life. Teo is like a wedge in the door of the cage. It'll never close in on him fully. He may let the bad things in too, but he stops the world from being locked out. "We're in a constant state of redefinition, you and me." Then he leans in for a gentle, pecked kiss. Reassurance. Forgiveness.

And little boy Sicily goes boneless with relief. According to the punchlines, guilt is supposed to be for the Jews; Catholics are supposed to believe in forgiveness. Supposed to. Teo doesn't have a whole lot of personal experience with that, but it's ingrained deep enough to know that when it's given to you, you get to go all floppy and stupid with relief.

As much because of this as because his left arm has been preternaturally atrophied, he collapses after the kiss, his head wedged into the crook of Salvatore's neck and right hand curled on the good Doctor's chest. He isn't an academic. His English just isn't very good. "In other words," he says, gruff with leonine satisfaction, "you were slumming it."

Sonny rolls his eyes. "Slumming. What the fuck does that mean, anyway? I'd rather be real in the slums than dating plastic people." Says the incredibly vain, rich boy. "I swear to god I was with this one chick and her tits actually squeaked." There's wry amusement in his voice.

He opens his mouth to say something else when there's a rap at the door. Oh yes. Wine and pizza. He rolls off the bed, straightens his shirt and goes to the door to sign for the cart and add a tip to the total. He wedges himself in such a way that the man can't see who's inside. It's not his business. He shuts the door and latches it, then pushes the cart further into the room. "Y'hungry?"

"Always." By now, Teo is upside-down. More or less.

He'd gotten up, crawled around in a circle, laid back down again, this time with his head hanging off the foot of the bed because he had underestimated the distance to the edge. It puts his neck at a somewhat awkward angle but, at the very least, gives him an all-inclusive view of the approaching meal, its wheels, and its handsome conveyor. It also makes him look like some sort of deranged simian, or else a lethargic asshole, but generally that's okay. His vanity can take a little clumsy handling. Some people find monkey boys charming.

"Hey," he adds, suddenly. "Not— I don't wanna be — fucking — dramatic or anything, but there's just one other— thing.

"Maybe it isn't a thing. I don't want to fucking make it a thing…" Sometimes, his English isn't very good at all. He looks up, which is down at the carpet, then back again. This is awkward as only revealing one's misshapen parts can be. "I'm probably not going to… fuckin'… like myself anytime soon."

Sonny plays the part of the waiter. The food even comes with one of those silver tray covers. How ostentatious. He tugs it up to reveal a good sized gourmet pizza with goat cheese and roast vegetable toppings. He inspects the wine label and finds it to his liking. He gathers up their glasses and fills each, then carries one over to Teo and holds it out. He tilts his head to watch the upside down Italian on a slightly better angle.

"Why not? I like you. And if you don't like yourself, you're telling me I have bad taste." He lifts his brows, then his chin, then sips from the wine. "If there's one thing Salvatore Bianco doesn't have, is bad taste."

More wine sounds like a good idea. It is taken from Sonny's hand very carefully, lest his upside-downness create accidents all over the immaculate savannah depths of the carpet. It's a little difficult, puppeteering the disparate parts of himself with respect to physics so that Teo rights himself out enough to drink but he manages with one hand clumsied from linen wrappings and his bare feet hooking for balance on the comforter, sitting upright.

He clambers off the bed, puts wine in his mouth, glances down over the glistening edge of the glass and at the pizza. Pulling the rim away from his mouth, he swallows. Glances up at Salvatore momentarily.

"You have bad taste, amico," he informs the older man in his kindest possible voice. Reaching down, he picks an olive off a slice and eats it, offers a wan, crooked smile. He feels like he's run out of explanations; that things are better now. It had merely required saying. Would've been better, maybe, if he'd actually mentioned what Bebe had pointed out to him, but Teo would be the worst knowing liar on Earth to say that people never change so he'd rather not. In case he does.

"I have excellent taste. I maintain that. You're not convincing me otherwise." Sonny lets some mock snobbishness enter his voice. He tilts his chin up just so. Haughty. It suits his face, if not his personality.

He sets down the wine and unstacks a pair of plates. Three slices per plate are deposited, then he re-covers the pie and hands the plate over to Teo. "Hey, uh. Am I…doing all right? As Connor? I feel bad, almost. Lying to your friends and all."

Hungry or no, the plate is momentarily ignored. Teo winds a long stride across the carpet, stepping his foot to a stop just beside Sonny's foot, parking behind the older man. He puts his arms around his lover's waist, contracts them until he can feel his left arm give slightly and his right drums with the dull thunder of the older man's breath outgoing and returning. He gets a faceful of curls for his trouble, but that's okay, too. He likes the clay that Salvatore uses to keep and perfume the structure of his head.

"You'll stop lying to them when you feel like you can trust them enough," Teo replies, quietly. "And they'll understand. I think you're doing fine."

It's moments like this that make Sonny forgive Teo for a lot of things. That and raw physical attraction counterbalances certain other incompatibilities. He moves just enough to set the plates of pizza down. Then he closes his eyes and leans back into the embrace. He turns his head far enough to press a little kiss on Teo's chin. "M'surprised they didn't take one look at me and see right through me. I'm trying to act like a different person. Afraid that's making Kinney into an asshole."

He inhales, then exhales to expand his chest against Teo's compressing arms. Feels safe, somehow. "Y'think I can actually be useful? Don't want to be a liability." Since from what he's heard, the odds are usually stacked high enough against Phoenix as it is.

The odds do tend to come in that configuration and magnitude, it's true. Keeps life interesting, at least; Teo was characterized throughout his youth by restlessness that he often termed boredom. "Yeah. You can.

"Maybe not for Moab, but after that. Our game-plan's got to change. Phoenix's, I mean. When she gets back, Hel will figure out what this country and faction needs more. Whether it's sowing dissent, shooting up illegal facilities, and airing out the government's dirty laundry whenever we find it, straight-up pro-Evolved advocacy, or something subtler. Your society—" American society, he means, "is a clusterfuck right now. Shifter's always good to have on-hand for navigating that."

It's horribly vague, but makes sense at least in Teo's mind. His palms flatten on the opposite planes of Sonny's torso, his wrists crossed over the dorsal line of the man's abdomen. He squeezes, roughs his nose down the back of the doctor's ear. "Being a little bit more of a jerk probably isn't going to get you in trouble," he points out, cheerfully.

"Whole world's a clusterfuck," murmurs Sonny. "S'like growing pains. We hit a growth spurt and we're a teenager. All hormonal and angsty and fuckin' spindly." He chuckles at his own runaway metaphor. His eyes drift closed and he relaxes. "Feel free to tell me if I'm being a bastard. As Kinney. Or if anyone's getting suspicious. Safer for them not to know."

When he was just Ferrymen, the risk wasn't really there. There are probaby members of Phoenix who would see him as more trouble than he's worth. Like Elvis, no doubt. He lifts a hand and strokes it along Teo's cheek. The other hand rests on one around his waist. He stretches his spine like a splayed cat. "You're always so warm," he murmurs. From the roll in his voice, that's a good thing.

Elvis, Elvis, Elvis. Makes Teo's heart ache. Not that that's difficult or rare or anything. There's plenty of bad shit around to feel sad about when he stops and thinks about it, instead of thinking simply about what to do. "Now you sound like me," he points out, wryly. Safer for them not to know. Ironically, it's almost the same practical injustice that drove Salvatore mad about him. Almost. Unless Teo's very confused about something, Sonny and Elvis aren't fucking each other or living together. That matters.

A lot. By now, Teodoro has tired of Phoenix, their collective clusterfuck of species with all of its countless subcategories and subtypes, and most of all, he's tired of himself. He isn't tired of pizza, coincidentally, but his focus has shifted. Along with his hands, palms curved inward, both bandaged and bare, scritching down the muscle tension and arc of Sonny's flexing frame through fabric thinner than skin.

"'S that better than cold pizza?" Teo bends his mouth around a bright, boyish smile. Resting against his face, Sonny's curls shift with it, transmitting the movement into the curve of his scalp.

That's the critical difference. When there's no fucking or cohabiting involved, that kind of logic works just fine. It's a way for Sonny to see if he trusts Phoenix as much as it is a way to create a buffer between them and his public, true identity. "Mfh. Don't forget, I felt that way about myself. It was safer for me not to know what was going on. But safer isn't always better. Safe means everyone's ignorant."

He can't help but chuckle at Teo's words and that little boyish smile. He's easily charmed by this particular young Italian. "I'll take a warm Teodoro over hot pizza any day." Cheesy, and he knows it. But the doc says it anyway. "When shit settles down, we should go somewhere. Get out of the city for awhile."

"I was thinking about quitting Phoenix anyway." The admission comes out in a mumble too low to be a blurted spate of air and aggravation. Teo's lips on the side of his neck, teeth an incessant scrape syncopated to his syllables. "D'no if I actually will.

"There'll be too much going on here…" That sentence wasn't supposed to end there, probably. There's a trail to it, comet dust to a mobile object through space. His fingers open and close, trace the sculpture of Sonny's torso. He's losing interest in talking, but it isn't gone yet; he's far too polite for that, always. "Maybe a little while. I guess I could use a break.

"I haven't gone anywhere since my uncle died." Teo uncurls a forefinger around the apple of Sonny's throat, drops a jumbled array of kisses on the folded collar of the older man's shirt and cheek.

Sonny closes his eyes and lets himself indulge in the kisses, the embrace. Like lingering under the spray of a hot shower. "If anyone deserves a vacation, it's you," he murmurs. "We could take the boat somewhere down south. Sail around for a week or so. Just you'n me."

He twists his body around so that he can face the other Italian. He slides both his hands along the side of Teo's head, blunt nails scraping through growing hair. He meets him eye to eye. A hand cups the back of his neck, surgeon's fingers pressing at all the right spots along the curve of his neck. "Teach me Italian and how to sail properly." Even if they don't get to go, it's a pleasant thought to hold in mind.

There's a wordless mumble of disagreement and gratitude blended in one protracted consonant, reverberating through Sonny's ludicrous ringlets and ear. It doesn't sound especially pretty to Sonny's ear, a shapeless rumble, accompanied by a nip of white teeth.

"Tell that to my people in fucking prison," he responds, perennial in his unwillingness to accept the theory of just reward. He loosens his grip enough to allow Salvatore to shuffle around in a little circle. There is no real disparity between their heights; his piggies spread over the bridges of Sonny's feet, cool, not cold. The back of Teo's neck carries its usual string of uncomfortable knots. Touch elicits a half-smile, eyes half-lidded.

"Italian." Acquiescence, this time. "Sailing."

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