Last Frost


francois_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Scene Title Last Frost
Synopsis Unresolved issues, slapfights, and an uneasy equilibrium all happen out front a popular Ferry safehouse.
Date February 16, 2010

The Garden

There is a French guy around here. Even the Ferrymen who haven't gotten around to getting to know him, his name, face, dispositions or habits, know that there's a Frenchman around, and that was enough for Teo to get a bead on.

Take it from Doctor House: you don't have to have two full-functioning legs to ride a motorcycle. Granted, at his age and with his predilictions, Teodoro does not rock the look quite as well as the television character does. His lopsided balance looks more foolish than styling, more of a tot squirming desperately for the bathroom than grizzled war wounds, makes a mess out of his already paranoid approach to snow.

A recent pot of coffee has his eyelids locked brittly open around a manic glaze, and he has a cigarette clinched in his teeth, protruding through the scaley keloid-rimmed rift in the corner of his mouth, and there's as much burning nicotine particulate as condensed tar breath seeping translucently out toward the afternoon's ashy sky.

Left, right. Left-left right. His boots pack the snow down between shaggy conifers and finger-bone beeches on an uneven rhythm, and he resists the urge to cast a paranoid squint backward to check that his discreetly parked car hasn't been thieved away while his astral projection wasn't looking. It's quiet as fucking death. If he hadn't been through here dozens of times before and couldn't see the safehouse's bleak silhouette crouching inert ahead, he'd think he would almost think he was breaking a new path instead of following the faded remains of one already trodden.

Francois is learning that you can earn your keep by shoveling snow, doing the dishes and not getting in the way. You don't eat food that refugees should eat, you don't take up the space needed for people who need it, and after that— well. You can exist. Amicably, even. It's not so unlike many places he's stayed, comfort in familiarity and a warm house always well-stocked with tea leaves and boiling water. He'll work out later that you don't have to be Evolved to be considered one of the needy, maybe a few weeks from now when he tries to push money onto the safehouse operator as compensation.

He's doing one of these tasks — the dishes, although only his own, raking a scrub brush around the inside of a coffee cup where he'd let it congeal at the bottom for too long. Movement on the other side of the window has him looking up, and for a second, he's confused, standing still with the wet porcelain ring caught on his awkward fingers and bristled brush wielded like a wand with his better hand.

Then, both items clatter down into the sink with more indignant neglect than they deserve, a dish towel whipped off the handle of the oven to dry off his hands. It's barely a few moments later that, as Teo is making his trudging way towards the door, it beats open and out steps Francois. A woolen sweater is— n't quite adequate protection from the bitter end of winter, on second thoughts, but he doesn't intend to go far anyway, just steps out, arms folded over his midsection and hands hidden in the black material making warm ripples over his torso. His expression is a neutral kind of bleakness, much like the sky at this hour.

Not a bird in the sky out here. Teo suspects for about three seconds that a certain svelte girl bird whisperer had summoned them away to her dark purposes, but those three seconds don't last very long; surely not every little thing gone eerie or amiss in the world should be attributed to the Evolved. That's racist. Specist. Falling into the same fucking trap that has the American public by the balls, legitimizes old and characterizes new dictatorships around the world.

And when Francois moves from the window frame and onto the path, the answering wrinkle of sentiment in Teo's gut can be attributed to nothing that isn't purely or grotesquely human. He doesn't pause or stop, mostly because they aren't in conversational distance yet, and partly because inertia is the one thing left to cleave to while everything else is slashed apart by leafless shadows or imploded by the cold, reduced to harsh edges, irregular measurements, and a brutal monochrome. Just keep swimm-ing, jus—

"Buongiorno." Oratory pitch in the wintry hush, customary greeting. Listening to himself, Teo thinks he almost sounds like he knows what he's doing.

Three more treads and then Teo scrawls his boot treads to a halt, concedes to get a proper look at the man and his state of underdress. Francois, he thinks, looks uncharacteristically domestic today. The sweater, the hair. Teodoro can almost smell the soapmilk on his pruney hands from here. It must be a nice thing for the refugees to come home to, or possibly the gimpy, ragged ninja is too easily impressed. He shifts his weight off his fatter boot, favors the other. "You told Abby?"

He's watching Teo's legs and tottery gait up until he speaks, and then a certain lack of sympathy is directed on upwards to meet his eyes. Around now, Francois would be stepping aside to permit entrance into the cottage, but if Teo is content to have a conversation out here, then, hell

Francois shakes his head, briefly, but the furrow his brow communicates that this isn't denial. Confusion, mainly, from his rigid, barring stance in front of the door yawning wide and letting all the cold air in, though not a whisper of warmth can be felt escaping the cottage, and Francois' own demeanor is doing very little to help it along. By the time a second or so has passed, he thinks he knows what Teo is talking about.

The tilt of his head remains quizzical. May as well get verbal comfirmation. May as well hear it. He told Abby what?

"That you slept with me." There is some importance to the grammatical direction that Teo chose to phrase that in. Not 'I slept with you,' or 'We slept together.' Maybe it's humility: after all, there was a great and flattering fanfare about how the Frenchman was rather slumming it, the first night he showed up and blurred into focus past the Sicilian's misery of liquor bottles and cigarette smoke unwinding above his ash tray, before the Sicilian found out that all that elegant patronage Francois had shown his habitual paranoia had merely concealed Francois' capacity to fucking liiie.

It might also be arrogance, but either way, one would suppose that was the sort of thing left for interpretation.

A beat's pause. No less stiffly, and perhaps more: "I'm glad you didn't tell her what I said about her."

Out of all the things that Francois has done to Teo, sleeping with him is probably not among the worst. The phrasing isn't ignored, and it halts him after taking a conversational step forward— green eyes going a little slitted and catlike before he shifts his gaze over the other man's shoulder, lest Teo see there isn't just anger to be found there. "She didn't need to hear it," he says, delicately phrasing stuff right back at Teo — he doesn't care about gladness. Tension doesn't disperse, but resignation sets alongside it.

"I did not tell her anything." There's enough humour rattling around, now, for Francois to lift a half-smile. "The young man, who flew us? He did." One lift of a shoulder communicates that Francois has no idea either. The cookie crumbles in weird and unfortunate ways. "I thought it was you that said something."

This new information does not register instantly on Teo's face. Or the parts further inside his (formerly) pretty blond head, for that matter. He may be a clever and academically quick creature on a lot of levels, but he isn't the most self-analytical boy you've ever met. He closes and opens his eyes twice in the frigid light of the day. Boywha. Flywhu. Magnes.


A few seconds later, the ineffable emotions translate to miniscule motion, and his mouth resolves into a straight line except for the twisted hook on the left. He glances over at the rope-tethered swingset on the oak tree a few yards to Francois' right, an altogether greater and more prepossessing figure than the Frenchman himself.

He wants to go inside less than ever, now. "I never wanted her to find out either," Teo says, suddenly. "I always knew she liked you, and I knew you felt the same way. But I figured the time wasn't right, if it was ever fucking going to be, and you could use the distraction. And that's the story of why I tried to get you into bed in December, and why you've been making your lipservice fucking apologies about the wrong fucking thing since January.

"Just thought you should know." Teo's tone is flat like he can't be bothered with inflection, a verbal absence of punctuation, red spite and green envy inverted and squashed into a sullen brown paste.

Among the things Francois did tell Abby was that he missed Teo, and that he was angry with him. Unrelentingly. Well, he's here now, mathematically sating one of those needs, so it doesn't factor in as the other one crests to make the Frenchman see red. No, not red — just white, from the grey sky smearing into the snow backdrop all sort of blurring together with Teo's face in the middle of it. Injured pride shouldn't scramble one's ability to focus, but Francois abruptly can't see. His expression is proud and impassive, as it usually is.

He's had a lot of years to build up armor against stupid words. So he goes to walk away, leave Teo out in the cold.

A half turn into the house is aborted in the same time he is turning back towards Teo, not meeting his eyes but rather focusing on his crooked mouth. Incidentally, that's exactly where he punches him.

"I would have told her, you idiot boy."

Blood squirts onto Teo's teeth. His head knocks back on its stem and his bad foot almost gives, thanks to the precise same cast that is supposed to be keeping his ankle straight and preventing further injury. His boot skids on a patch of snow that got squished and received enough lamp light to turn into ice, his knee rockets out that way, and he abruptly overturns into a chunky white drift that blots him out up to his elbows.

This is variously embarrassing. Francois hadn't wound up ten miles and haymakered him, even. Francois is shorter than he is, too. Older. Less of a ninja, in theory, probably less caffeinated— but ahh his jawbone is buzzing inside his face like someone had just baked a clay moulding full of bees and surgically swapped the bottom half of his head out for it.

He ends up having to look up, and every inch of elevation heightens the color on his face. "Stronzo," he practically spits it; too proud to actually try to get up. "You're the worst kind of liar. The worst."

Despite careful staring as Teo had come up this way, Francois had managed to forget that he was injured, reeling back a step when Teo goes down but not rushing to help him up. No. Disgust is visible for the pair of them, harsh breath making steam in the air in short bursts and curls as he levels blazing green eyes down at blue ones turned upwards. "I think you win now," he snaps, unnatural flush colouring his cheeks, and a petty, resentful kick spades the toe of his boot into the snow and lets it kick up in a spray that glitters on over Teo's fallen form.

"I lied about what happened to me. I lied about what I would do in Mexico. I was scared. People make mistakes when they are! But you— what is wrong with you? You have decided you hate me for this thing now? I don't believe you."

Breathe in, breathe out. It hurts Teo's lungs to do so. Maybe he's about to cry or some stupid shit like that. Christ, he's getting horrible, frozen white clamminess kicked on him. There is a predictable urge to hurl a fistful if it back at Francois, but it loses momentum somewhere in the region of his elbow and has faded to a spasmodic twitch by the time his fingers know what is up.

It winds up staying there, over his face. His arm, fending off snow that Francois isn't quite sadistic enough to actually aim at his head. "I don't know. It's a long list. Probably, if I told you about the future history of other-me, you'd understand it a little better but I think your question was fucking rhetoric—" Pain zithers through his head, starts at the mouth, straight through his skull. "Rhetorical. I'm sick of people dying. Walking right into itdying. It's stupid bullshit, and you fucking—

"You shot him!" It's very blurry down here, possibly because there are gale-force winds and a mounting blizzard. Something along those lines. It takes more seconds than it otherwise would have for Francois' choice of words to sink in. Mistake. Mistake. Mis— "I don't care that you lied to me! That's not the fucking point!" Teo does not honestly have any idea of whether or not his point would be better served if he were upright.

It's only the vaguest of accomplishments that he's managed to focus is shouting on the discrete individual at hand, this time. "I'm some douche you slept with, and then you celebrated your fucking resurrection by shooting my friend to make him fucking kill you, and that's clusterfucked with nearly enough diarrhetic force it killed the ability in him too. What the fuck do I win?" Powder-crystal white bounces off Teo's glove abruptly. Not a throw, but a snatch: his arm goes out like a snakebite, yanks at Francois' leg. He doesn't notice the faces blotching the Garden's windows. Surprised Ferrymen. It's like Christmas.

Teo could have fooled Francois. About lying not being the point. But there's no real time to flail in wide arcing European gesticulations about Teo's ridiculousness, because his leg is getting grabbed and subsequently yanked. An effort to stay balanced enough to kick the crab claw grip away is thwarted by inevitable ice under heel, boot skidding along until Francois is planted into snow that instantly, freezingly saturates his jeans. He's under dressed for the occasion, hissing a curse.

Sense, aplomb and maturity are shed as quickly as his dignity was stolen away, because he hisses— "Perhaps you win Leonard." Asshole. The next exhale is kind of a gasping shock — it's seriously cold down here. "Whatever you want, Sicily. I would admit when I am wrong but you will not fucking let me.

"What do I win? After all these miserable decades— " He runs out of words, just huffing out another breath, almost visibly restraining the urge to kick something hard, possibly Teo's uninjured leg.

Nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around. Interestingly, the cold operates slightly differently: it get any warmer just because there's an extra person sitting it nearby. Maybe if he was nearer-by but, at least initially, the only thing that counterbalances the erosion of gooseflesh is the scrub of Teo's temper like steel wool inside his skull, grinding mutinous static into his ears. Leonard. Son of a bitch, who told him—?

Shame takes a few seconds to catch up, and its sudden acceleration, overtaking is unexpected. His throat works queasily. He had started this out okay. Almost. Vaguely optimistic, prepared to admit, apologize, draw clear lines and diagrams around the demarcations of responsibility and fault, sort it without resentment, stand by what was done then let sleeping dogs lie.

Something along those lines, anyway. Give or take a few maturity points.

"Leonard's my friend," he says, finally. His breath mushrooms white out of his mouth. "Or something. Maybe 's much as thirty-five percent of the future history that's fucked me over for relationships is credit to him. I put ten years into making myself a psychopath with the power and skill to save him from a stupid mock-heroic death. He's my Holy Grail. You don't put your cock in the Holy Grail. You can't even really have conversations with the Holy Grail anymore, and the Holy Grail fucking hates the pedestal you put him on."

Metaphor possibly pushed too far there. He screws his eyes shut briefly, and then starts to drag himself out of the snow, finally, choosing to stumble and stilt coltishly on snow instead of over his pride this time. "I saved Leonard, so yeah, I won and maybe fucked over six billion people to do it. And you just saved those six billion people from what that could've meant."

'Holy Grail' doesn't sound like an awfully bad thing to be when you're— whatever this is. Sitting shivering in the snow. Francois blinks across at him when he receives a new story, gaze wandering briefly as if to try and summon up the words about how he doesn't want to hear it, but kind of does anyway. He's slow to get back up, but eventually does as well, careful on the ice and palming off sheets of it clinging to damp blue denim and black wool. "That is a different story to the one I was told," he admits, scrubbing a hand up the side of his face, up through his hair to shuffle away clinging snowflakes before they can properly melt.

Which, of couse, doesn't mean that two stories can't coexist. He wants to check to see if he hurt Teo's mouth, gaze lingering with a doctor's eye on the scarring, but merde, if he didn't deserve it! The fresh blood. Not the scars.

His arms go out, fingers splay, before they fold and huddled against his chest. "Why did you come here? If you've accomplished it, maybe you should go."

The perennial why.

Teo idles on his feet idiotically for a moment, his gloved fingers in twitchy curls hung at his sides. His hair hangs stringily down over his forehead, gets in the way of his eyes as he stares down at the dishevelled bump of French that he'd reduced Francois to. Despite the sundry stupidity and snow, much has been accomplished and discovered in the past few minutes. He isn't done reassessing all of it, but he doesn't have to do that with his brain to realize that he cares.

A lot. Proportionally to how angry he's been, or near enough. More than he has a right to, if that's the word for it. It's a grudging sort of grace, that Teo lets go of his suspicions about who told the different story. People will talk. One would hope that their intentions were somewhat better than Teodoro's were, when he dropped Francois into the snowdrift. Rolling his lips back against his own teeth, he smudges the vertical lines forming red down his chin, creases his scarry leer unflatteringly, and studies the chunky mangle of their footprints below.

Spots his cigarette, protruding from a shallow grave. Already out. Which is what he gets for trying to cowboy it up, cancer stick in hand, ripping a decent man apart with the meanest-spirited spin he could think to give his admission.

The length of his silence indicates that his mission is not yet accomplished, or that his objective had been reevaluated somewhere in the duration. The length of his silence is trying to take into consideration the fact that Francois is cold, wet, and still underdressed, but the words are both difficult and important, this monstrous eloquence, unburdening pride.

"If you want to get to know me some time, I would like take you to dinner."


Francois' hands go up, acting almost like blinkers where fingertips touch to his brow and palms hide his eyes. As if embarrassed for Teo's sake. And the smile that flickers on in the shadows is only just visible by the time his hands are falling away again. He's trying not to laugh.

It'll be the weirdest damn movie in the world— some Eurotrash art flick maybe, the kind without sound and about feelings— for the remaining peeping toms in the windows when Francois steps forward in strides more confident than he truly feels— and almost aggressive, like he might be trying violence again— and puts his arms around Teo's shoulders. His chin rests atop one, voice quiet when he points out, in a voice that's quiet from the proximity and warm against Teo's throat, "There will be dinner inside in a few hours. Take me there."

He's still two inches from slooowly squeezing until a hug becomes a throttle, but— fingers curl at the nape of the Sicilian's neck, his knuckles chill to warmer skin

Unpleasant cold. Cold, cold chilly on his neck, which wouldn't be as bad without the mock-overtures of aggression seconds earlier, and then the embarrassment for his sake a moment before. Teo's brow furrows slightly, and he frowns in a juvenile peevishness, but the shape of both his mouth and most of his nose is hidden in Francois' woolly-clad bicep. He tilts slightly in the older man's grasp, reeled in for what appears to be a hug. He doesn't hug back with his hands, because—

He's still being juvenilely peevish, moreso now that he realizes that they have a minor audience. He does, however, set himself greedily into the bulk of Francois' chest and, eventually, allow his frown to erode away against the prickly dampness of Francois' sweater, his mouth conforming faintly, and briefly into a pucker. As Francois' friend, he should probably recommend he try to take a healthier option, but.

When you hurt yourself, you hurt your friends, and surely shooting down a first date before it starts would qualify as self-destructive. Teo lifts his chin, finally, scrunches his face close enough that the thronging of brunette strands compels to pinch his eyes shut. "You're ruining my gesture. I'm not that poor."

"That's okay, you're ruining mine now." The embrace breaks down, retracts, faint irritation not quite standing up to blind fury of several moments ago and probably petty in the face of being asked out to dinner and all. That, and Teo is still leaking from his face, catching back Francois' attention now that he might have some investment in how well the other man's mouth can function.

By which I mean dinner has eating. "But you should come inside anyway and let me look at that," he says, a quick point before he's steering a step back, turning on a heel to bump his way back inside the cosy warmth of the cottage. "Oui, I'll have dinner with you. I'm poor."

Oh. Teo pauses, reaches up to put gloved thumb against his mouth, realizes belatedly that he'd left a sticky brownish smear somewhere in the heady recesses of Francois' hair. He opens his mouth. Closes it again, before he starts to hustle off after the Frenchman, or as quickly as a poor Italian gimp can hustle, anyway. His foot is trapped in its L-shape, and it feels like pole-vaulting over every stride that he measures in Francois' wake, arms penduluming at his sides as if paddling air is going to help him gain velocity.

It doesn't. Still, he just short of skids in across the kitchen floor behind Francois, collides with his back. Arms hiccuped up around the man's waist, more saliva-pinkened blood stringing into Francois' hair, though not a lot of it. Just a little bit of it.

A little blood never hurt anybody. Teo inhales like a dog. Smells sweat-musk and some form of shampoo, cold dumbing the notes down to more of a sensation than a fragrance proper. A single squinted eye around Francois' twisted ear verifies that the immediate area is clear of spectators. Apparently, washing the dishes requires only one highly-trained Ferry operative. "I'm not all bad," he feels it necessary to note, in literary quotes and a rueful tone, "sometimes I'm all good."

Thunk-thunk. Francois' footfalls land heavier by the time he's got a man-labrador drooling in his hair and putting his paws on him. Irritation that had him stomping on inside makes one good last go at flaring up before withering away entirely with vacant promises about how this isn't over!! Laudani!! Francois isn't even much of a dog person, but puppies are hard to stay mad at no matter who you are.

He twists in the bracket of Teo's arms, hooks an arm around one, enough to meet blue eyes with green. Not unusually, there's a smile in there — a guarded one. Once bitten. "I know that."

It occurs to him he never did get a good look at it. Company physicians — you know, real doctors — had done all the inspection required. Then there was moving across the world, a stop at Russia, a ship, and then— fucking— everything else. Now, though, Francois looks at the scar, and specifically, what he might have done to it. It's his good hand that comes up to nudge Teo's chin this way, a finger grazing along the bristle at his jaw.

Bristly chin is bristly. Teo shifts his jaw left and right, a wiggle that gently scrubs the tips of the Frenchman's fingers with his beard like a toothbrush. It is kind of playful and puppishly adorable yes, okay, maybe. It is also faintly vain, somewhat ashamed, generically uncomfortable. Fortunately, the unhappy combination of negative sentiments casts the minority vote, this time.

There it is. The leer. Also a shallow split in his lip, swollen on either side, where one of France's finest laid into him knuckles-first. However effulgent Francois' anger must have felt then, his intent was apparently short of murderous: the injury doesn't go all the way through to his teeth or bone, at least. Teo smiles too, which inevitably wells up another fat drop of blood from the notch.

He doesn't have guards on his smiles, ever. Madre always said, smile if you mean it. So her boy's are sincere, or they aren't; big, or merely his lips are. He watches Francois' eyes. Mostly a delicate touch, for the flaws in his mood, though there is naturally a narrow margin of paranoia there spared to note even the faintest hint of disgust.

Francois isn't happy, kind of the norm for New York City, but there it is. But if it's there— disgust— it isn't for Teo's mouth. Dwindles, even, annoyed that careful patience finally broke down enough to mash skin to bone and split it. The lines at his eyes deepen a little, partial wince and partial smile of reassurance. It's not that bad. Needs ice, no stitches. But hey, have this instead—

It's a kiss, a gentle one against the corner of Teo's mouth that looks less sore than the rest of it, although there's still the taste of blood. It's probably cooler than the one against the window in Russia, cautious on a few levels, and practically chaste if unmistakeable.

It also doesn't try to kill him.

Teo has had enough of ice, lately, and not enough of kisses, so this is nice. Balances out against the damp chill clotting in the weave of their clothes and flatters the Sicilian's fragile ego enough that he's permitted for a moment to believe it isn't. Fragile. Though the kiss may be cooler than the ones history's lured him back with, Francois' mouth is warm, anyway. Dinner also resembles a baby step also.

He makes careful crease out of his mouth, wrinkling his half of the small kiss where the Frenchman can feel it. Draws himself up to his height the next moment, and pulls back his arms with no end of magnanimity in the motion despite that his courtesy carries a certain shortage of particular logic: "I know where the box is. I'll go upstairs and find you a sweater." Meltwater streaks behind his heels.

"Merci. Veuillez ôter vos chaussures, s'il vous plait," is an echoing reminder dogging motherhen like at Teo's back, before Francois letting out a sigh like he's been holding his breath. Something to be said for a battle field that's been made slightly less uphill, not to mention one where the enemy's actually gone and set foot down on it. Inspecting his fingertips, where dilute blood has smeared on skin, highlighting the marks of fingerprints, he goes and washes his hands.

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