Mutual Exploitation, A Beautiful Thing


joseph_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Mutual Exploitation, A Beautiful Thing
Synopsis Teo and Joseph cooperate for a joint exercise in vices.
Date October 9, 2009

Old Lucy's

Old Lucy's has a vibrant and lively feel to it, from the dark wooden floors to the shady crimson walls lit up by neon lights and many times, the flashing of cameras from the oft-crowded floor. The mirror behind the bar reflects prices of various drinks, bottles lined up, as well as the entire saloon as seen from the bartenders; bolted-down stools line the other side, and there are loose tables and chairs placed all around, though many times they find themselves pushed back for more space within the center of the saloon. A few speakers are placed at strategic places and around a raised stage to the far corner from the bar. Above the counter, an obviously well-used bar is hung; it is this that the girls working will use should there be dancing, which is one reason many patrons choose to come aside from the drinks. Across the bar and near the back, there is a door that leads to the owner's office and just inside a stairwell that leads a apartment on the floor above the bar.

Creaking footsteps herald a descent downstairs, slow and careful due to the lack of any kind of light being clicked on. Plenty of it, moonlight and city ambient illumination, sneaks in through windows and the cracks of doors, and if you blink a few times, the shadows gain definition enough to be visible. Still, Joseph seeks out a light switch, and with the buzz of light bulbs, the low lights of the immediate bar area wink on.

In any other city, according to Joseph's watch, this place would be filled with people still, music and the clink of glass and the swing of the door's open-shut rhythm. As it stands, the city is expected to turn in early, and so, any business that doesn't want to have the police prowling around it has closed its doors to those not smart enough to stay inside. Or those smart enough for it not to matter.

He, himself, is not going anywhere. His shoes are worn out of politeness and manners rather than necessity, jeans faded and a plaid shirt covered with a comfortable woolen jacket. He'd go for a walk if he could, but instead, he moves towards where a chair has been rested atop the bar, gripping it, and gently setting it down onto the floor recently mopped clean. There are a lot of those, spindly wooden and metal legs in the air, turning the room into some kind of bizarre forest of bamboo shapes.

Sneezing, and then a clattering thump. It's from the restroom, the men's, a wheeze of hinges shoved out on the blunt of Teo's shoulder before his feet follow, boots squeaking brisk against the streaky-dried floor, plastic crinkling and flattening under the push and pry of his fingers. He's putting something back into his coat. Perfectly innocuous. It's the season for sneezing, clattering thumps, and lounging around in a bar room, after hours.

For unexpected appearances of pastors in the dark, as well. "Ah, buona sera, pastore." Five callused fingers flare briefly, a wave. The lapel of Teo's jacket flips under a lazy effort to flatten it down to some facsimile of tidiness under hte flat of his palm, gapping the webbing of shoulder holster and the weapon shoved in under his arm briefly into view. His smile is expansive, its warmth incandescent, following the chair's hike down to the floor with casual attentiveness. "Expecting somebody?"

It would be hypocritical to be surprised by another person's appearance down here, all things considered, but Joseph can't help blink rapidly towards the bathroom door, a guilty turn of his body before relaxing when he recognises Teo's shape step out into the partially lit room. Joseph glances down at the chair held in his hands, the object shifting a little along with his shrug but he settles it down properly. "Nope."

Sitting down, his back rested against the bar and his feet hooking against the metal rungs of the chair's legs, Joseph winds his arms around himself. It's the season for a lot of things, including the swift approaching winter which could readily attribute to why the pastor is obviously not feeling himself. Chills, that Teo's radiating smile can't quite stave, although it's responded to with a wan one of his own.

A glance over Teo's shoulder towards the bar's bathroom, then back to the younger man. "Not that you ain't welcome to stick around."

Maybe he will. Though there's a brief check, a moment taken to study the digital clock on the roof of Teo's cellphone, and a thought spared for the other things on his agend atonight before he decides to commit to this course of action.

Or else, it takes him an inconspicuous second or two to remember that he might owe the Baptist priest who'd almost been reduced to a cyanotic pinata martyr for all mutant-kind everywhere a few minutes of his company. Not to be insensitive or anything. "Sure." He moves over, comes closer, one arm out not to drag the adjacent furniture down from the bar, but to hang his fingers off the counter's edge. There's heat hugging Teo's skin like he'd just been running, though his usual equilibrium of hygienically cultivated scruff makes it difficult to tell if it was wind carding his hair or—

Something else. "How've you been?" He's slinging his weight down onto the floor, seating himself in a sprawl, a polite distance away insofar as he looks neither like he's a hound subordinate at Joseph's feet nor hostile. He pulls legs up, puts them down, in rough parallel to the wooden slats. "Keeping busy?"

Better that Teo decides to be polite than for Joseph to directly ask him to stay put. Patience worn down to a fraction of what it used to be, he wouldn't have been above it, either. But he doesn't have to, and his smile twists into something more amused when Teo finds his sprawl on the floor. "Oh, you know. Mostly." His glance darts for the door, shoulders curling inwards a little more. Hot and cold. "There's the Grand Central Terminal project movin' along, and they're always hurtin' for hands.

"Was thinking about stayin' down there, there's room. I know Leonard and Abby would say I ain't wearin' out my welcome, but. There's a point at which it don't really matter." His words are tired and a little thoughtless, veering off the path of a logical response to Teo's question. Joseph's smile turns rueful, and he shrugs. "How're you, these days?"

If the question is loaded or pointed towards anything in particular, it shows in neither tone or expression. Framing will have to be inferred from context, if at all.

"Might want to go easy on the manual labor side of things. I know the Ferry can always use more bodies," Teo's lifting his head, making a gesture out of his chin at the way Joseph's face stands wan in the half-dark of the bar, an egg-white dissolving liquidly in a bowl of already-diluted ink. "But it looks like it might be doing yours more harm than good, signor." He props his elbows up on his knees, suffers the momentary nostalgia: his mother telling him to put his legs together when he sits, because just because he's la ragazzo doesn't mean he ought to be flinging his belt buckle about so, at the table, in decent society. There are only a precious few things that Amadora really ever insisted he not do. This wasn't one of them. He touches the outside of his jacket with his fingertips, checking for the sturdy shape of the flask he remembers pocketing.

There. Teodoro doesn't take it out: just checking. "I'm good. Well." There's a squinted smile. It isn't exactly an in-joke, but everybody in New York City knows what that sort of smile means. Nine times out of ten, the use of the word good is a little liberal. "More shit happening every day. Treading water, mostly. I'm here tonight to see my boy, but I don't think he's in yet." Context and even insinuation are betrayed by the fact that Pastor Joseph Sumter is, in fact, Pastor Joseph Sumter.

It's one of those things.

Joseph shrugs, a shake of his head that seems more like instinct than conscious gesture, expression settling into something more neutral than pleasant at the fact he's starting to show things on the outside. His folded arms are set like steel around him, rigid against the imagined chill. "You look well," is noted, if over-warmth and energy can be attributed to youth, which. It can. "Don't worry about me, I'll get used to it. It's different t'anythin' I did at the church, but." A head tilt. But. But that's rather the point.

"I haven't seen Leo," he agrees, and now does an awkward pause fall flat between them as Joseph hesitates. Almost just like normal. His gaze ducks down somewhat apologetically. "He was gonna ask you about the needle Abigail found in your jacket. And if he didn't, then I was."

Ohhh. Way-ull, shyit. Teo's expression doesn't instantly go furtive, but there's a blinking moment's surprise then a shade of embarrassment, color hiking the slopes of Teo's cheeks. He winds up planing the palm of his hand down his jaw. Sighs, once, a one-beat exhuming of air out of his lungs that has the intimation of an aborted word to it, a syllable that wound up gnawed short, rethought, lest it turn out to be something he regrets. This would not be the time for facetiousness. "Yeah. We talked about that.

"I'm not to bring any to Old Lucy's. I got the memo, you don't have to worry. The truth is— let me know if this is unsolicited," the disclaimer woven out with something too easy to be grace, a scoop of a hand in the air. Teo crooks a grin up at the other man. "I hadn't taken any. Still haven't. I worry about what it would do to me, with the other psychic complications I've been privileged to over the course of my career as an Evolved. Long story. Was Abby really mad?"

"Like a wet hen," Joseph says, with a smile designed to comfort and ease the news. "But she's Abby, an' she cares about you. I wouldn't worry 'bout that. She was— she was more startled, to tell you the truth. I sorta assumed you had, actually." Not to needle— hoho— the point home, Joseph studies Teo with perhaps a little more than his customary counselor's observation, letting puzzlement show in the angles of his own expression.

Hesitation, and then he shakes his head again, offers a quiet, "Sorry," before continuing with, "Just, it was emptied when she found it. So I figured." His own pale countenance is starting to get a little bit of colour back, in the same way Teo's already flushed skin had. "I didn't even know you were Evolved, though I shoulda probably guessed."

A shrug puts Teo's shoulder up, just one of them. It's a little closer to Gallic than Teodoro Laudani's shrugs used to be, but still far from inscrutable. It says: Oh well. Oh well, oh well. "I wasn't always. I wasn't when I started out with PARIAH, anyway. Feels like a long time ago." There's a quaver-beat's pause, his expression flattening slightly, going quiescent if not entirely indifferent, in poignant contrast to the pale of his eyes: which sharpen, pupils contracting to pricked-black points. Joseph's looking better now. It throws into harsh relief how bad he was looking earlier.

That Abigail loves him isn't news, but nor the familiarity of the notion put a smile on his face. It makes him hunt through his jacket for cigarettes, instead. "Guess it was a waste of a syringe. I don't know. I've been thinking about making a gift of some to a former associate of mine. I think he could use a shot or two, take the edge off the shit-storm he's drowning in lately. What's your take on the stuff?"

The pastor nods his understanding. He, too, wasn't always a vision-giving freak. His heels brace against the floor, shifting himself more firmly into the center of his seat, and it's not even out of retreat when Teo angles for his opinion. Slowly, the other man is blinked at, not quite understanding what he's getting at, even if Joseph especially really really should. He's going on two and a half days, now.

"There're better medications," he finally responds with, voice a little flat. "It— it don't sound like the kinda thing for— " Raising a hand, he smooths his palm against his brow as if to rub away a headache, fingers then carding restlessly through his dark hair. "That kinda thing."

It seems like the wrong conclusion, at first. Improbable, disjunct with his, with everyone's working preconception of who Joseph Sumter is, the kind of man. To base further thoughts off that origin suspicion seems like a certain failure of logic, but the weave of Joseph's hands, the flat drone to his voice, the generic symptomology, accrue on one end of the scale and dip the plate. There would be gentler ways to find out, just as there are sweeter gifts he could offer the Russian. He could ask. He doesn't. He could pay visits and bring flowers. He won't. They're getting into the season for Scrooges, too.

He smiles, sort of a reflex, but it reaches his eyes anyway. Shachter's theory of emotion has it that the mind uses emotion to make sense of pre-existing physiological reactions to the outside world, and that makes more and more sense to him, these days, than to think that thought and feeling are the actual foundation or inspiration for anything he does. "I think Felix has about all the medicine he can use. Morphine, painkillers. I'm gonna see if Deckard wants to finish rebuilding his foot, but short of that— I mean, fuck, right? How else is a guy supposed to put all that behind him?"

Felix. Joseph's mouth opens, shuts, a little at a loss for what to say now that more dots are joined in the story of what Teo is asking about. Troubling. He seeks out the floor to look at, and concedes with a, "Dunno." A sniff, a doggish kind of restless head shake again. "But I guess it could pay to look forward, right?" He doesn't add the obvious extension to that, about what Refrain deals in otherwise: memories. Choosing to be candidly quiet either too early or too late, Joseph is too tired to tell.

Plus, he's looking at the floor. "I talked to him the other day. He was glad to hear that BJ Cambria ain't dead. He didn't seem so bad off. All things considered, I mean— besides the foot."

"I figured I'd make the offer." Teo's eyes ease out of their smiley Cheshire configuration, empty out to something that's arguably a little less untoward for the occasion. It leaves him looking, overall, simply tired and not much more, despite the glaze of stimulants swimming in his veins and the translucent, curlicued trickle of smoke ventilating up, vertical, past his eyes, not quite a screen between him and the exhausted priest. His voice is different when he finally moves to elaborate.

Quieter. "People are talking about more terrorist shit I should go help with, so I don't think I'm going to have a chance to see him for awhile. Do you think you could run the idea by him? I saw his face, last time we talked about Danko and Dean. If you're right, that's better, but if he isn't— I figure if Refrain's like any other psychoactive drug. I don't have anywhere else to put it."

The look Teo gets slid towards him, beneath a serious brow, is— probably a little honest. As if to point out that Teo is truly asking a Baptist pastor to slip a hospital patient illegal Schedule I substances, or at least bridge the gap. Joseph untangles his arms from around his torso, hands up to rub his face before his palms descend to lie flat on his thighs. "I can ask him. I guess I can ask him."

Two more seconds, before it seems as though Joseph relaxes a little. Shoulders tense beneath warm wool flatten out into a slack horizon, and he nods his head. "I can get rid of it if ain't interested." Those words had hovered nervously at the back of his throat for all those two seconds, released only when he thinks they won't waver.

Four squared fingers toss up, hook the edge of the counter above Teo's head. Tense white, as he begins to pull himself up, and upright onto his feet, his boots thunking solid rubber against wood, a fist jerking the lapels of his jacket straight. His attention appears to be elsewhere, his head turned around an angle, eyes shifted at the ceiling as if he's seeing through floorboards to a certain Georgian trampling around worn from work upstairs, fresh quarry examined through narrowed eyes. "I was thinking I might donate it to the Suresh Center for research." He's offhanded about it.

No particular malice, nothing incisored even about his curiosity when he asks: "Or I could give it to you, to—?"


It's kind of like a mousetrap, but Joseph manages not to flinch. Or even go tense, again. His fingernails scratch absent against the denim of his jeans. He attempts a smile, although it feels strangely departed, something projected without much in the way of feeling. The explanation doesn't sound awfully stilted. "You got enough going on, I got too little going on. Suresh is on Roosevelt Island, that so?"

There's a bob of Teo's head, just the one, distracted and blithe. "It is. I don't know if they'll take it, but I hope so. Maybe I'll save us a couple hits though, eh?" That's a joke. A terrible one, but it probably would have been worse if he would have actually smiled to go with it. He fortunately spares the Pastor that knead of claws, however, merely turns a half-circle, considering, cigarette ashes drifting out of his hand and down onto the floor below.

He can tell Joseph is broken. He's standing close enough that the size of the injury yawns in his face, whistles, is dark, not the mere absence of light but something that bends, distorts, breaks, eats the wavelengths that chance too close to it, generates cold. It strikes him, first, that he may not be the first to see it; second, that if this is true, he won't be the first to have done practically, effectively, nothing about it.

He isn't sure if it's a twitch of shame or amusement in the back of his head, when Joseph hands him that excuse on a silver platter. 'You got enough going on.' From a priest, that's some awful, awful parody of absolution. "You gonna stay down here a little onger?"

The terrible joke isn't dignified with a response, allowed to pass by like it never happened, blinked away. Joseph takes a breath, casts a needless glance around the empty bar. The light from behind him slants over his shoulders, doesn't do much at all to penetrate the deeper shadows towards the corners, too dim even to pick up the dust and grime of the setting. "Probably," he says, each syllable picked out and deliberate, a soft chuckle following it out. "For a while longer."

He can probably find something not under lock and key in the back room, if only a glass of water, an acceptable excuse. If he smoked, that would be even better, but Joseph doesn't. "You have a lot of it?" Even far removed for any compulsion he has, any ulterior motive, the question is asked curiously and openly. One empty needle is one thing, a stash is another.

The question isn't unexpected, not rude. It's a good question. "For one person? Yeah." Teo scrapes his hands down his pant leg, ridding it of something he can't see, runs the back of his wrist over his throat, once, wearily. "I took it instead of currency for payment on a job the other month. Not a bad deal.

"Not a good one, either," he adds, after a moment's thought, his voice wryer then than it was before. Thanks, John Logan; you are mercenary and self-seeking, through and through, and expect God, all friends, merely to serve your turn. With any luck, it is not entirely wrong that they do so. "I'm going to head up. I think I heard Leo come in." Not from down here, though, not exactly. Teo's eyes trace the ceiling, a saccadic arc, before he blinks them to flatly definitive conclusion. He shoves his hands into his pockets. "You need anything?" There's no real reservation or absence of sincerty in his asking, but it probably isn't the question that Joseph needs to hear.

"Maybe not a good one," Joseph agrees, gentle, and with an equally gentle smile to accompany it. Pulling his jacket tighter around him, he readily shakes his head at the question. He doesn't even quite think to question whether Teo heard anyone he certainly didn't hear. For all the pastor knows, it's a polite excuse to get away, and he lets him have it. "I'll be followin' you soon. Don't mind me when I do. If you see Flint before I do…"

He trails off when he's not actually sure what to input in there, and the lines at his eyes deepen some in either weariness or a defeated smile. "Never mind. I'll cross paths eventually. You have a good night."

While the mathematical likelihood of that seems fairly low in the existential sense on either of their respective evening agendas, well— who gives a fuck about existentiality, anyway? Joseph has a bar to himself. Teo has a guy, and cocaine. Based off the materiality of their physical circumstances and conventional reasoning, a good evening is attainable. "I'll tell him you said hi," he promises, ducking his head, briefly, partially in acknowledgment and partially to take one last drag off the cancer stick that's threatening to singe the edges off his fingers.

He grates his boot on a turn, measures long strides across the floor, for the doorway back, out, and up. His shoes make an acoustic chamber of the room, its upended furniture and wood-panelled walls. "In bocca al lupo, Joseph," he calls back, almost an afterthought, its translation a second one: "Luck."

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