Kill The Villain


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Scene Title Kill The Villain
Synopsis Teo and Leonard pay the dying Federal agent a visit in the small hours of morning and then give avoidance a break in favor of an extremely awkward line of questioning.
Date September 27, 2009

Morningside Heights — St. Luke's Hospital

St. Luke's Hospital is known for its high-quality care and its contributions to medical research. Its staff place an emphasis on compassion for and sensitivity to the needs of their patients and the communities they serve. In addition to nearby Columbia University, the hospital collaborates with several community groups, churches, and programs at local high schools. The associated Roosevelt Hospital offers a special wing of rooms and suites with more amenities than the standard hospital environment; they wouldn't seem out of place in a top-rated hotel. That said, a hospital is a hospital — every corridor and room still smells faintly of antiseptic.

There was a good deal of swearing from the doc who's head of the ER at Saint Luke's, when the emergency room staff wheeled him in again. Punctuated by the roar of, "Not this bastard -again-!" But the staff is used to his occasional fits of apparent rage - all bark, no bite. Far from it. The doctor's hands are very, very skilled, though he's more than once lamented not being given the Evolved gift of healing. Which means the surgery that's necessary went about as well as it could.

It's now the cusp of evening on the next day. Long rays of sunlight gleam on the glossy surfaces of the hallway. In a room not far from the ICU where Fel rests, a very weary, very numb cop is sleeping on a cot too small for his leonine frame. But Lee is all the guard there is, and he's a dozing Fluffy; whether from oversight or malice or a wish to use him as bait to draw out HF, there are no cop guards on the hall. Just a few down in the entryway.

In the room itself, Fel is nearly buried in a mass of tubing, bandages, gaunt face masked in plastic. There's little of him to be seen, but the outline under the sheet is subtly wrong. The hands splayed still over the starchy cotton of the blanket are spidery in their thinness, and there seems to be no more weight to him than to a downed bird. Only the equipment chirping and muttering to itself affirms that he's alive, and not merely in the process of being embalmed in some strange ritual.

They show up later in the night, in the small hours of the morning, when the rounds are fewer, and those that there are easily scheduled and shuffled between orderlies sympathetic to their interests. Freshly scrubbed, a double-dose of painkillers swallowed to offset a swelling sprain, Teo's dressed differently now than he was an hour ago. Hard leather and denim traded in for the soft cotton of a hoodie, a softer fleece pulled on over it, canvas trousers that come down low enough by the ground that the cuffs of his legs are frayed from the trample of previous use.

All of him drawn out in uncharacteristically gentle shades of white and gray, though the garb is— as ever— roomy enough to hide guns under.

He eases the door shut behind Leonard, allows his tread to make noise again, if only a little. He glances up at the telekinetic again, briefly, to impart gratitude that the redneck doubtless wouldn't find necessary anyway. Bodyguarding's somehow never been a chore for Al. Something about the way he was built.

Bred to be a Fluffy in his own right. Leo's in his usual thug couture - also in his faded black hoodie, fatigue pants, combat boots, t-shirt. His face is a little more pinched than usual, wary and nervous - he has that air of a fox continually testing the wind. Only little flickering glances at the figure in the bed. More sanitary than many a death he saw overseas; here it's all antiseptic comfort, departing life eased out afloat on a morphine tide. He hasn't asked Teo why they've come, what the Sicilian intends to do. One swaying step takes him up to the bedside, and he cocks his head, looks down at the unconscious figure there. "Here to say goodbye," he finally notes to Teo, softly. As if there weren't any doubt in the matter. To his mind, there isn't.

Chapped boots clop up behind Leonard, and then there's a creak of mattress, linens flattening their creases under the addition of Teodoro's weight. He hikes his knee up, onto the edge of the mattress. Lets his shoulders hang a lazy slope, callused fingers curled around an interlock, seemingly relaxed. No one, not even Leonard, knows him well enough to be able to read the gesture for what it is: restraint imposed on himself, barely.

"Sometimes I forget that you knew him," Teo says. His voice has recovered in the past few hours. He stares down at Felix's head in skeletal relief against the pillow, and it's like having to lift something heavy, raising his attention from it. He has more bad associations with hospitals than good ones. Comatose at fourteen, his skull crushed by a Samoan bouncer; infested by parasites at twenty five, after charity work at the Projects; a lifetime of broken bones, stitches, hanging over the bedsides of friends suffering the same. "I have no talent for that."

There's that odd, haughty tilt to Leo's head for a moment. A hint of something almost like snobbery. "I knew him," he affirms, calmly. "I fucking hated him. Careerist little prick who'd ride roughshod over anyone in his way. He had this habit some detectives have, where the minute they get their shield it's like all us guys back in uniform are suddenly the peasantry." But he makes a little gesture with one hand, not quite crossing himself. "But that doesn't mean this is what I wanted to have happen to him. And he was a cop, and he was good police. He was called." It's all the eulogy Fel is likely to get. "Talent for what?"

"Good-byes." Teo rocks his head back on its axis to say, that, closes his eyes and it's more of a sigh, shaped by coincidental cracks on its way out escaping through his lungs, teeth, and over his tongue, rather than speech intended as such. When he attempts sight again, its through the gaps between his fingers, each digit flattened out into a concave and rubbed over eyelids like a tot cranky from fatigue.

"Really. I have this terrible habit of hanging on. Well, the other ones — of me did. You remember." His smile doesn't reach his eyes, which is a rare thing for him and perhaps unfortunate, but he doesn't know what else to do with his face. Ghost was deranged from grief, baby Teo by guilt. The hybrid is left somewhere in between. "Sounds like him." As eulogies go, it could have been worse by far. At least that one had a good ending; it's the ending that matters.

"I'm glad you lack this talent," Leo says, drily. "If you had it, I'd be dead. Or rotting in a hole, somewhere." He shrugs. "I only worked with him briefly. He was partnered with this big thug of a detective. From Baaaahstin." It's said with the proper nasal inflection. He's met Lee, at one time or another. He flicks a look at Teo, sidelong, eyes a little narrowed. "Why him?"

The improper nasal inflection, if you happen to be a language enthusiast who's been paranoidly on-guard against cloying the flavor of any given one with an unmatched accent for as many tongues as you've spoken. Still, this makes Teo smile, genuine this time. Accents on Leonard's speech always make Teo smile. He slants a look back at what's left of the Feeb limp and hollow on the bed. The figment of mirth isn't long fading, though, at that question, and something like shyness draws his eyes down on the linen. He finds himself balanced awkwardly on what exactly Leonard's asking. "You mean: why're we here?" he asks, tentatively.

Leo has grace enough to look abashed. Drops his gaze, shuffles his feet. Death and his shadow demand respect, even if thebody it's happening to does not. "I…don't mind me," he says, tongue suddenly think, awkward. "We c'n talk about it later, if we gotta. You want me to step out for a little bit?" The hands give Fel away. There are layers of bruises around the wrists, chafing, abrasion, testimony to not one but many strugles against the cuffs. The sinews and the bones are clearly visible in the hand, and there's that pallor in the nail bed.

There's a bob of Teo's bristly off-blond head, quick, simultaneously too eager to shed the uncomfortable subject and subdued at the prospect of trading it in for time alone with a dying man. Dead man, some would say. His chances aren't good. Single digits. Math isn't his strong suit, but he knows what the linens mean, the slings around his limbs, the abbreviated stump of the Russian's ankle, and that all those fucking tubes wouldn't be rooted into his arteries if they didn't constitute the unraveling thread that Felix's life hangs on.

He doesn't look up again until Leonard's a brief silhouette framed by the doorway, and then, it's mostly so he doesn't need to look at Felix himself. An awkward moment or three transpires before the callused warmth of his hand closes on the back of Felix's stringy wrist, a thumb nudged down between his knuckles, then nesting gently in the webbing between ring finger and middle. "I know I'm sentimental fuckin' Mother Theresa compared to half the people over age nineteen that you know, but I don't really think you can hear me. I was in a coma once. People came to sit and talk. They told me afterward. Didn't recognize a thing."

Leo's shut the door behind him, very softly, and there's the almost inaudible sound of his tread moving away. Fel's hand is terribly limp, weirdly fragile. The hand that never bore a ring. A world away, one universe over, there's a triple gold band there, and it's next to his wife in a comfortable bed he's dozing. Here, there's no alteration in the various cricket cadences of the monitoring equipment. No flutter in the electronic lines traced on the screens.

A thumb nail cards over the skin on the back of Felix's hand, following the subtle rifts between metacarpals down to the small, laddered bones inside his wrist. Teo's mouth tightens. He pulls his thumb back, turns his palm up underneath the Russian's own. Squeezes once, briefly, skin mapped to skin. There is something peculiarly experimental about it, like groping through the fog formation of a dream or depersonalized memory instead of tactile affection.

"There's a part of me that's in love with a part of you."

The words sound either trite or insane, depending on how seriously one takes them. Realizing this in a moment of pointless, dislocated self-consciousness, Teo creases his face around a brief grimace. Steadies his brow to level on his face, takes a breath that shakes just a little moving through his lungs. "It's a part of me that I spend my time either trying to kill or exploiting for his— its practical uses, and it's a part of you that you seem to spend all you fucking time trying to kill because it has none. It's only 2009, but you probably already know: there's a little bit of a villain in me, and you've always been his hero. Take that however you may."

Hero. He's got the medals to testify, a pair of bitter metal millstones that convince him of nothing but everyone else's blindness. It's weird, how the body you knew so well is so still, an empty shell left like jetsam on a distant shore. He was gone even before they strung him up - no doubt part of the reason he didn't throttle slowly. Too relaxed to fight the rope. Though there's the circle of bruising around his throat.

Or if you have an appetite for irony, you might suppose that a villain's hero might well be the worst of all evil men. It's probable, if improbable coming from Teodoro Laudani. Desperate as he's always been to be good, he has never been very good at recognizing and acknowledging evil itself. This isn't the first time he's been around Felix while there was no life in him. It doesn't get easier on repeat, and there's a part of him that's cringing at the contact, but the years of Ghost's recovery and steel constitute enough practice at squashing the softer parts of himself. "In the end, one of us is going to succeed. At this rate, probably both.

"I'm gonna turn myself in to the NYPD, in maybe a month's time. For what Ghost did between the Bayonne precincthouse, and — he did so much horrible shit, I can't even tell you." His mouth sets. Twitches down. He looks downward. "You, Joseph and Mona know better than anyone else, now, there's a way these wars ought to be fought, and I failed because he lost his way.

"Once I go, I think that'll be the break. Leave the ghost behind. And you, and the true Columbia 14, Leo, Humanis First!. Everything else that didn't happen here. I'm going to kill the villain in me.

I think Humanis First! already managed to end the hero in you. But I want you to know: I'm going to do everything I can to make sure the rest of you lives. I'm here for you, and everybody else, until I'm gone." It takes him awhile to finish talking because he's talking very slowly, thinking and listening, processes made onerous by fear and fatigue. There's one lass squeeze contracted around Felix's hand, then Teo lets go of it, recoils with a fist. He lays a kiss onto his own knuckles, nudges them gently against the garlanded of bruises at the man's throat, and gets up.

Humanis First looks likely to succeed in ending him entirely, period, saint and sinner, hero and craven caitiff alike. They never did seem to understand that what they were making were martyrs, and this one is not yet done. But it's a matter of time. A few days before the last strand frays and the cord parts entirely. Still no twitch of acknowledgement, just Fel lying there. He looked more alive newly dead on the sands of Staten.

"Wouldn'tve told you if you could hear me anyway." Teo's eyes thin above a smile. He pushes one hand into his pocket and stoops briefly to smoothe the linens where his hip had dented its depression, effacing all trace that Felix had received any sort of night time visitor at all, willing himself to be in then away as painlessly, insubstantially as his former analogue's namesake. He steps away. Squeaks through the door, one shoulder shoving the jamb open, his head in a furtive stoop.


There's Leo out in the hall, his usual grim little self. He nods to Teo, rocks his weight forwards and back, like a restive horse in a stall. He looks more pouty even than usual, sadder in a way than Teo himself.

It's quiet and dark out here, St. Luke's lights reduced down to thin aquamarine ambience to conserve electricity, all fluorescent circles and steeply-edged geometric shadows. Teo comes over to his — best friend, lover, colleague if you want to be the most definitively and temporally correct, and then there are two warm hands burying the numbness and hackles on Leonard's back, a mouth on his mouth, a hold with a kiss in the middle of it. Breath climbing the incline of Leonard's cheek, before the parting. "Thanks for coming with me," he says. He felt safer with the telekinetic here.

His mouth tastes incongruously of cinnamon, lips soft. He smells of frankincense and myrrh, over the antiseptic scents of the hospital. "You're welcome," Leo murmurs, nudging his cheek against Teo's for a moment. "I'm sorry you felt you had to." he adds, turning to lead the way out, wary as a cat.

Old Lucy's — Leonard's Room

I'm sory you felt like you had to. Them's not the most peaceable words you can leave for a dying man's visitor, and they niggle at Teo all the way home. Biking past checkpoints and evening patrols, conversation minimized as they strained for scuff or sign of approach, their own breath and emergency sirens streaking lurid Doppler residue in their ears. Despite that the naked-boned bachelor pad that he shares with Deckard is closer to the hospital than Old Lucy's, it's the bar's residential level that they head to. Warmer, safer, more comfortable, bigger bed.

The lights are out but dawn's already creeping through the slitted blinds, lifting shafts of wan dust and soapmilk-colored light off the floor. Teo is not being terribly subtle about avoiding the previous subject, exploiting what teeny tiny margin of avoidance was left available by Leonard's earlier answer— If there's anything to talk about, we will. There isn't. He'd rather kiss, sleep, and go when he reawakens; as ever too soon.

Leo's bathed, and is peaceably pink and warm and damp, cuddled up around Teo possessively. Breath hot on Teo's neck, not as part of amorous advances, though he does kiss the Sicilian's throat. Glad it's not his lover lying intubated and dying in the antiseptic halls. He nips Teo's nape, though. No sleep, not quite yet. "Why did you go?"

For a few long seconds, stretched out over the gradient of intensifying light outside their window, Teo doesn't answer. Probably hoping that the telekinetic will pass out in the interim. It's been a long night, after all, and word had it Leo was working a shift at the Center when a fucking chopper crashed into it, and being peaceable, pink, warm, and damp constitutes Earthly delights that beg to be excused from the loftier concerns of God, war, or pretentiously emotional relationship imperatives.

Maybe if Teo's dick were working. Alas: he isn't that good a kisser.

"I wanted to," he answers, finally, his shoulder falling back, settling after the short-lived jolt of squirming the scissoring of teeth had triggered in his neck. "He was Ghost's friend. Saved the world with you and your Teo once, too. It seemed like the respectful thing to do."

This isn't answer enough. But Leo falls back, still with that arm tucked over Teo's ribs, flops on to his own back, stares up at the ceiling. There's a peaceful poster of red woods up there, for just such occasions. "Why him to begin with?" he asks, voice a little drier.

The Sicilian's turn to roll closer, this time. His head first, tipped over on its pillow to find Leonard's profile in the dark, and then the rest of him follows shortly afterward, the span of his shoulders rocking up, over, balancing when he's on his side and his nose drinking body heat and frankincense out of the hollow of the telekinetic's shoulder without being close enough to touch. It's his way of conceding. Fine.

No more of the easy distractions; Teo will pay him that much courtesy, at least. "He had to keep the secret," he begins, a little bit blankly, his voice a thing dislocated and hanging separate from him in the air, "partly because he barely had three people to tell, 'nd partly because… he couldn't afford to lose the respect of those he did.

"And 'cause he was there, good-looking, and it wouldn't bother me at all if he thought I was disgusting, ugly, or an opportunistic asshole." A beat. "He only thought the latter, and didn't really mind. S'pose we had that in common." That probably isn't answer enough, either. The redwoods regard him balefully from the ceiling. He folds his arm across Leonard's chest and tries to bore a hole in the side of the telekinetic's head, through which he might access his secretmost of thoughts.

"You used him," Leo's tone is thoughtful, rather than accusatory. "I guess you owed him an apology. Even if he used you, too. That's kind of cold. I mean, you loved your doctor, but…."

There's some part of Teo— the villain part— who votes unequivocally that now is the time to lie. Or to deny that, at least, without inquest further into whether or not it was a lie; now would not be the time to lie and ponder and whittle that down to the core. Maybe. I already apologized. And I didn't love Sal; I love you.

However, consistent with the greater existential changes he'd mentioned to the dying man earlier, he leaves the ghost's practical shrewdery by the wayside. "I think if I'd ever been as nice as I wanted to be, choosing the right thing to do would've been harder. The other me, later on— in 2014, or so. He fell in love with Felix eventually. Never apologized for everything earlier, though."

Leo murmurs, as he buries his face against Teo's shoulder, "Why then? But you aren't now?"

"Not for long. Not for too long." The words are bleak, but Teo's voice is odd with reassurance, not quite melancholy. "I don't know. Ghost's future is my past. Self-help books eschew the use of nostalgia as your primary method of surviving the present." Blunt fingers slide over the curve of Leonard's scalp, scratching against the grain of dark hair, then with to soothe it flat again. "I'm not the same. He isn't the same. I think some things fade if you choose to let them. That's how my temper worked for most of my life, and I figure most passions are the same way.

"I sound fucking crazy, don't I?"

"I mean," Leo amends, "If you loved him, even then, why? What did the future version have that he doesn't now. Won't now," he adds, reflectively.

Teo closes his eyes, shuts the redwood forest away with it. His fingers slow their lazy circuitry against Leo's scalp. "Do you want the nice boy answer or the mean man's answer?" he inquires, abruptly, with something like a smile in his voice.

Scalp massage has always been the key to Leo's heart. He's limp as a ragdoll, dark lashes tracery on pale cheeks. "Both," he mutters.

Fingers corkscrew closed, splay again. Closed, open. Tautening and stretching across the surface of Leonard's head. This is a wise tactic; makes this conversation more palatable, probably. "The mean— kid, I guess," now that he thinks of it, he'd phrased that wrong. "The stupid mean kid in me thinks, what he had for me then was just time for me. I can keep the mission, I guess, I don't need much to keep going, but some shit, matters of the heart and stuff— you know me. I need attention. Salvatore had to sit on me to keep me." You know how I am.

"The rest, I don't know. He was older. Grew up. Still fought hard, but smarter. I liked that he was smart but fucked up anyway. Reminded me of me. I always liked that, even when I didn't like myself." Lifting his hand, he planes his palm down the column of Leonard's back, bunching cotton T-shirt under his digits.

"'What do you mean," Leonard murmurs, "Time for you? And fucked up how," There's no appeal here, that he can hear.

There's a vague, weary skitter of fingers on Leonard's thigh, an enervated hand-wave. "He made time for me. For him. For Ghost." The self-corrections come in sluggish succession. "This Felix doesn't have time for me." This Felix doesn't have any time at all.

His throat moves and he reopens his eyes. "Fucked up. Makes mistakes: betrays the wrong people, for nothing but pride or — some shittily-conceived notion of justice. I make mistakes too."

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