francois_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Lethargy
Synopsis Teo and Francois claim the cafeteria to go over Dreyfus' dead son and Christmas plans.
Date December 21, 2009

Russia — Ryazan — Company Facility

Dinkdinktink. Dink. Ting. Teo has been stirring his coffee intermittently for about twenty-five minutes now, and the considerable quantity that remains in the cheap white ceramic vessel is probably just about undrinkably cool. He'd systematically devastated his way through most of his Company cafeteria meal, however, and had lucidity enough to doubt and then guiltily ignore the coleslaw, with evidence of a second serving of chocolate cake stacked up on the lefthand corner of his tray.

The rest of the mess hall implies how long he's dawdled, however small the facility is. None of the dinner-time crowd are still eating, though there are four or five agents with arms in slings or a grateful heaviness to their sit clumped about tables in pairs, discussing something that isn't immediately available for reference against typed page and a little too self-referential to mean anything to any of the New York transplants who have intruded upon their medical hospitality. Not even Felix, of Russian origin himself, counts as one of us to them.

They leave the Sicilian alone, predictably enough. His work pants aren't the same ones he'd worn yesterday, and probably not the trackies he has on under those either: he'd stopped by the apartment some time earlier today.

There's a mix of indolence and introspection knotted up on Teodoro's face as he cycles flatware inside caffeinated beverage, sometimes accelerating, only to slow perhaps a little listlessly. There's probably some gentle irony in the fact that whatever's apparently going to keep him awake for the next while is precisely what has distracted him from the coffee, no longer necessary, but a convenient fidget.

Movement creates froth, spins it, whirlpools in the same hypnotism that keeps cats entertained in front of the washing machine everywhere. Meanwhile, Francois is very late to dinner, evidently, and approaching unnoticed, his pace meandering and without rush. The agents gathered and scattered are inspected with an outsider's curiousity and observation, vaguely superior as much as he in turn goes ignored. Winds around tables, out of the way of chairs left untucked into their tables, and murmuring an apology in Russian when he knocks his shoulder against someone who stands too quickly.

In short, he gets to Teo's table, holding off on the characteristic bonsoir of greeting that is both him and clinging remnants of culture. The French greet total strangers and friends the same way. His own cup of coffee is set down, in favour of using the same hand to drag out a chair for himself and sit down opposite. Layers of shirt, long sleeved and shorter, aren't quite enough to shrug off Russian winter felt even in here, but he doesn't seem uncomfortable.

Tired, in the way that people who go to shut their eyes in the afternoon and accidentally sleep through dinner are. Old people, maybe. Hands lay out on the table, one made thick with bandages still, arms folded. No greeting, resting his forehead instead on arms as if intending to sleep then and there.

Tinktinglinkcl— ink. The disturbance in the mug slows and actually stops entirely; Teo releases the handle of his spoon, stops a salutation before he actually speaks it, leaves it idling on in the swinging hinge of his jaws, lips ajar, as he peers uncertainly at Francois' slow-motion collapse across the table. No bonsoir. It isn't a good night. It— and Teo's head turns slowly on its axis, owlishly reorienting his view of the top of the older man's prone head.

There is a rattling drag, a long and onerous sideways scooting of metal legs against linoleum, aaaaaall the way around the edge of the table. Upon arrival, Teo flattens his feet to a stop, resettles himself with a slight knocking of furniture and floor. He pokes the top of Francois' head with a forefinger, once, starts a second childish assault but the will behind it fades out before the rim of his fingernail does more than tickle Francois' scalp through his hair.

Though thoroughly callused, subtly scar-notched, ridged through the bone with old breaks, the digit folds under the pressure of its own nudging, curls, sleeking through the grain of dark locks. "Ca va, Francois," Teo's voice offers, from not far, singsong like a schoolboy's; making light, rather than mocking. "Est-ce que tu vas malade?"

Fingers stretch out, splay from where they were braced against an elbow, and relax again — the most response Teo gets for the jab. Unsurprisingly, gentler coaxing gets some attention, shoulders curling inwards, stretching muscles. One hand wanders up, blindly skims fingertips against the back of Teo's hand as if to confirm it's there, before the touch falls away again and Francois is lifting his head. "Ca va, Teo. Non, je suis crevĂ© mais j'ai pas sommeil."

A brief smile, one that grows a little wry when he places his hand back over his coffee cup. God helps those who help themselves so there's likely to be very little divine intervention concerning Francois' sleeping patterns, but regardless, he takes a sip despite the amount of steam it's giving off. "What is your excuse?"

'Excuse'— reminds Teo of what time it is, or rather, that he doesn't know. He starts. "What time is it?" Turns his head this way then that, scouting the walls for some sort of insufferably plain analog clock but he finds none. Question is sequitur but ultimately irrelevant; he resettles with a half-smile crooked on his features, transparent if not actually superficial. It's late. For dinner. For finishing dinner, for loitering in the cafeteria, and something about this makes the broad-limbed boy self-conscious enough to draw his arms off the table and back to himself, hands in pockets with fingers compressed. "Spoke to Orlova today," he says. "Found out the kid who tried to put a round in me the other week was Dreyfus' kid. Robbie?

"After Liz capped him, I threw him at the Company's incinerators without checking his face. Carlisle's… pissed; seems like Zhukovsky set it up just right, told him. It's bugging my shit now." A scowl begins to curdle in the smooth of Teo's face, almost half-hearted; fizzles out into grumbling neutrality the next moment. He glances at the mobile translucency of steam rising from Francois' cup o' caffeinated salvation. Insomnia's a bitch.

A cup of coffee and an unfurling of uneasy contentment are two things that aren't good for your circadian rhythm. Some forgotten assurance unravels like rope from its coil, loose and leaving a tangled mess in its wake, Francois' fingers neglectful around his coffee. Even sharp edged mirth is shelved in favour of silence and thought, eyes dark and turned downward. He doesn't have a watch on his wrists, didn't try to check or respond to the query on time — he's not sure how late it is, just late enough for the kitchen to start shutting down and the sky coated a chill, tarry ink.

"Oh." He edges his thumbnail against a rivet crack in the cheap ceramic, no depth, just a grey vein. "Do we know where Dreyfus— Carlisle, where he is now?"

"No." Teo knuckles at the insides of his pockets like he's trying to emboss their bumpy impressions on the fabric, before his hands loosen, his shoulders with them. "No, we don't. In Orlova's words, 'he didn't take it well.' No way of knowing who he's seated with the majority of the responsibility or what he's going to do about it. He was fucking sixteen."

This last part is spoken with a certain vehemence that seems to weigh a little heavier than sharing mere fact should have. It was different, somehow, when the culprit in question was Abigail's age. Abigail was doing psychotically altruistic shit she refused to allow anyone else for taking responsibility or giving recrimination for at nineteen, cavorting with grave-robbers, serial-killers, terrorist cells the likes of which would have given Francois the heebie-jeebies. Ethan still gives people the heebie-jeebies. But she was an adult then, or near enough. No one's an adult at sixteen. Everyone's an idiot at sixteen. Teo could've killed Gia at sixteen.

Teodoro didn't even consider growing up until afterward. He compresses his fingers, loosens them again. Neither here nor there. Nowhere. "I already told Harrison."

"I wouldn't imagine him to 'take it well'." The quotation is leveled back, flat, without particular awe inspired from this uninformative, unshocking news. That a father did not take well the death of his son. "Russians." Francois' taste for coffee has depleted, or forgotten as he removes his hand from the cup to settle his chin in his palm, sinking for a moment into the same kind of thoughtfulness he'd interrupted Teo from. Similar in outward appearance, however — Robbie's age is a minor kind of detail.

As much as he'd had the luxury of being in his early twenties when he'd chosen his war. "Zhukovsky is not sixteen. Almost as old as I am." Lines at his eyes angle to convey a smile that doesn't quite make it. "It was his choices that got the boy killed. A shame. Or you could date it to when I pressed his father to give us information and then receive it without owing him anything more than chasing our goal. Harrison could have let him kill you."

There's hesitation that only manifests as a kind of bridling in Francois' posture, before a hand goes out to settle at the nape of Teo's neck. "And to me, you are as young as he was, mon ami."

Obscene humor (PEDO PEDO) would do disservice to the situation, and Teodoro isn't that much soldier yet. Lacks the callouses or the right to make light of dead sixteen-year-olds, even if they were homicidal little pricks. He is somewhat too discombobulated to even lift his shoulders when he notices the hand coming, which is mostly fortunate because he ultimately finds the contact comforting. Goes still, contemplating the table-top, then Francois, then the furniture some more, finally Francois again.

"The logic," he says, "it is logical." One life or the other. His or theirs. Trying to save the world, here, and age is just a number. Also, Zhukovsky's a dick for picking assassins who probably can't even legally have sex yet; drinking's harder to tell with Russia. A moment, and Teo pulls up the corner of his mouth, tries on a smile that takes a few seconds to reach his eyes. They are, as ever, unsympathetically pale and blue. Francois' are reliably and reassuringly green. (Also: pretty.) (Deliberately not now elaborated anywhere in Teo's conscious.)

After a moment, his greed finally spends itself; he lifts a hand to squeeze Francois' wrist, gratitude. It's okay, now. Francois can let go.

"We could be home in time for Christmas," Teodoro observes instead.

And he lets go— less a practical retract and more winding up through blonde, less salacious and more carelessly ruffling and brisk before he's steering that hand back to his coffee to dutifully drink it while it's still hot. It tastes of burnt milk and too much sugar, swillish as he gets close towards the dreggy bottom. Elbows hit the table, leaning forward, and Francois' brow knots a moment in consternation at this observation. "In 1994, it was the peak of summer — I had many months until Christmas, so that is unfair. I have not done my shopping."

Coffee swirls, not from restless spoon poking, but the cup picked up and wound around in a little circle, tired restlessness. "Should I call New York home, then?"

"I'm not sure what other options you have. I'm pretty fuckin' sure I'm not entirely prepared to introduce you to my mom in Palermo yet." Teo's eyes crinkle the ghostly intimation of a smile first, this time before the corners of his mouth lift and there's a fractional inch of a shift in the ears on either side of his head. Nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around. Well, maybe coffee, factory-produced chocolate cake, a tousle that sets one's bristly off-blond crop on end, the peculiar comfort with being reminded of the superficial triviality of certain earmarks of innocence and of deserving.

"You mind me asking how long you stayed in touch with yours after you picked up Volken's trail?" It isn't entirely sequitur, despite their discussion dabbling loosely around the topical territory of lost sons before. And despite its certain solemnity, it's lighter fare. Teo leans across the table, reaches out an arm to rattle the ceramic vessel into which the variously colored options for sweetener are wedged.

"My mother?" Francois rhetorics, eyebrow raise more in his tone of voice than the expression coming to be, before laughlines crease enough to convey a rueful smile echoed like the one he gave in response to meeting Teo's in Palermo. "She was weak for as long as I knew her — she died when I was only very young, and I was raised by my grandfather. He passed away…" A considering glance over Teo's features, trying to set out these dustier memories, put them in some kind of order. "Non, I was younger than you. Before the war."

He shrugs, finishing off his coffee in one swoop of lukewarm liquid. "So, I was very much free to… go where I wished. And there are as many options for me as there are cities, you know. Perhaps Ryazan has room to spare, even."

There's a slight bird-like realignment of Teodoro's head, a question-mark in the curl of his left brow while the right remains level. "Would any of those be home for Christmas?" HE DOESN'T THINK SO. Insofar as New York City at least has a few odd acquaintances. His features soften the next moment, shadowing with a compassionate shade of grief, or maybe a slightly more self-referential sort. His Madre's still alive. This will be something like— the eleventh commemoration of Jesus' birth that he's missed, consecutively.

"If you do wind up in New York City then, I'll invite you to St. John's. Not the most Catholic thing I could be doing," Teodoro admits easily, a rueful shrug rocking through his shoulders. "But they do much better than most of the Catholic efforts around in community building and that kind of thing. And if Abby doesn't go back to Weezyanna—" 'Weezyanna;' he speaks it wrong, curiously straight-faced, the way that a foreigner would thinking the error had been entirely and appropriately assimilated into the indigenous dialect's slang, "to avoid lying to parents, among other things I guess, she'll need help making a dinner worthy of commemorating the end of the fuckin' world."

That gets a snort, the same affectionate smile that likes to crop up when Abby's name, antics, occupation, serial number happen to wriggle into conversation, and about since Francois had been tossed into the friend pile, it tightens and depletes back into pleasant neutrality. Mm. Anyway. "I remember Thanksgiving," he agrees, looking down into his emptied cup, arms coming to fold with the less sound hand placed atop the crook of his other arm. "I wouldn't mind seeing what she does for Christmas, and going with you to St. John's. New York it is."

A decision made lightly belies the gravity he'd given the question, or maybe the other way around. The mysteriousness of an uncertain mind. The butt of the coffee cup rattles against the table when he nudges it with a finger before he settles back in his chair. "Do we get paid for this? If not, you will forgive me that I cannot get you anything I don't steal."

The friend pile is pretty big. Comfortable, though. A lot of warm bodies in it; many of them still haunted by the promise or the possibility of being with Abigail Beauchamp and all that entails, but most of the time it's more of a sociable place to be than particularly dramatic or uncomfortable. Even if the thing with Deckard seems, even to Deckard's biggest fans, to have its nape stretched out across the chopping block. Teo's eyes go squinty with casual gratitude.

It's the thought that counts. "I don't think we do. I wouldn't worry about it. Not all that materialistic. I was thinking about getting you a diary, though. Figure by now you have a few other acquaintances considering the same." The smile doesn't fade. He sits back, hands knotting in his pockets, and mother dearest stowed away with them. "Do you still feel like writing about life now you've been given a second shot at yours?"

There's the stampeding clutter of chair legs exiting a table somewhere in Teo's last words, and Francois spares it a glance leftwards. Agents of the Company moving as one, leaving behind the debris of their own supper, a couple still exchanging banter but all the while dispersing and underscoring the notion that the two Charlie boys should consider doing the same. Amusement curls the edges of Francois' mouth, at the mention of what had been, once, a private and personal and intensely vain hobby that had wound up saving his life somehow, in a sense. Not quite shy, either.

"Not lately, but then, I tried to do my writing while I was on the road. In between. Everything has been moving too fast but inevitably, oui, perhaps again. And when I do, I will not have enough friends to provide me with too many pages."

Now he follows that cue — braces a hand to the table and levers his chair back with standing. "Do you write? I think you owe me access to it."

It would be rude to keep the coiffed and uniformed ladies or the janitorial staff waiting up over forming coffee encrustations and dead baby Dreyfus grief lethargy. It is getting late.

Politely, as such, Teo gets up too and knees the chair back under the table behind him, circles back around to gather up his tray, its rectangular dish-bowl-thing with its contoured subdivisions and arrayed eating implements. His coffee, too. Full. Cold. Too sweet for his taste, honestly. "Fresh journal, then," he says. "You will have to pretend to be surprised." The imperative is delivered with a grin, not quite as bright as the Frenchman's sardonic quirk but not reluctant in the slightest with what wattage there is.

He shuffles the rubbish off his tray, adds it to the stack of brown plastic on top of the trash can. Brings back the Washington Irving days, really, or would if those hadn't been deliberately and consciously buried along with the healing recollection of this other teenager in flush blush of youth who'd died because of the Goddamn Vanguard. What's his name? Never mind his name. Teo will summon it back later, when it's time for prayers. One for the fallen, a few more to bless the salvation for those who remain. Not even the Company's creepily clinical residential offerings (probably with sedative vents and pinhole cameras everywheeere) can put a damper on such sacred bedtime rituals.

"I would, but no, I don't write. More of a reader. But I'll let you know if I start some time," he says. Teo falls into step, knuckling hands back into his pockets. Vanity and confidence upon the stage suit him just as well. He cracks a sidelong grin. "People love the idea of a life with chapters."

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