Neutral Territory


felix_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Neutral Territory
Synopsis Covers a little distance a few conversational topics — runaway girls, kidnapped girls, brainwashed girls living under false identities, Englishmen who are as catty and troublesome as girls — before Felix makes it understood that Teo really has to go.
Date March 3, 2009

Le Rivage — Leland's Apartment

Welcome to ….where Felix is holed up now. Which is with another cop. He's currently taking a break, relative for him. Which means he's not out on Staten digging around, but is sitting in Lee's kitchen, nursing a mug of cocoa and reading a paper, dressed in slacks and oxford shirt. The Fed is beat, and it's plain on his face - the sheer weariness.

Leland Anton Daubrey is at work, so says the quick electronic check that went through, and Felix Ivanov is — not. That's pretty strange, but Teo has probably lost track of the real meaning of that word somewhere between getting iron-maidened with hydrokinetically animated water and asking a 90-year-old metahuman ex-KVB assassin man to organize an army or examine his boyfriend's capacity for espionage work. He smiles at the receptionist, gives the security camera the back of his hooded head.

Knock knock.

And Fel opens the door. There's an impressive array of guns in various stages of disassembly on the coffee table. Lee and Fel have the same hobbies, more or less, it's great. Fel ushers him in without undue haste. "Hey," he says. He's in his usual oxford shirt and slacks. "You want a drink?" It's all very casual.

Cops have the same hobbies, more or less; Teo remembers seeing spreads like this out on Chris' dining table before he died, and Alexander's pet Glock, too. Neither of which are particularly cheerful memories or casual, though the cast of the Italian's features stays pleasantly blank.

"Buongiorno. Sure, 'f you don't mind," he replies, removing his boots with the same expedient quickness that's characterized him for months of well-mannered if sudden entry. Hooking a thumb under his hood, he pulls it back; glances around, studying the layout of the apartment with interest that isn't entirely polite. "I'm sorry for dropping in unannounced, but time's short and this isn't the usual Staten Island shit."

Fel's usually pretty hard to read. Which makes the flicker of his gaze between Teo, the spare bedroom, and then back all the more obvious. There's the faintest twitch of his lips at the realization he's more or less waved a flag - he shrugs at himself. "I trust you," he says, simply. "You wanna cup of tea, coffee, something? Or booze." The door, with all its latches, is quietly shut behind Teo. "What's the story, kid?"

Less subtle by far than his counterpart, Teo goes a little red with good Catholic embarrassment first and a more self-effacing kind second, for the bedchamber and the trust respectively.

He looks for composure on the floor. There may be mouseholes at the bases of these walls or something; it's nowhere in sight, and pursuing it on his hands and knees is probably the opposite of what he should be doing. "Coffee." Better safe than sorry. By the time his eyes flit up again, they're crescent-shaped with humor, but it's fading.

Fast. "Judah said anything about your girl Colette?"

"Not of late. I've neglected him pretty shamefully," Fel admits, even as he sets about making coffee. Guns aside, it's a fairly neat, airy two bedroom apartment. Lee is going to have a hell of a time convincing Fel to leave. "Why?" he asks, pausing to give Teo one of those flat blue stares.

There's a mark healing on Teo's jaw where one lanky rat pegged him for running his mouth about Abby just the other night. The other colors he's wearing over his Finnish-fair skin are older, with the exception of his blush. He drags a chair back to put himself in, puts himself in it somewhat stiffly.

"She ran away or some shit," he answers, flattening his shoulders against the backboard. "I think it probably has something to do with the fact the former President-elect's personal assistant fucking looks exactly like her missing elder sister. Despite having a completely different set of memories and paperwork, and they recently renewed contact."

"I….." Felix is, for once in his life, left completely speechless. "Run away. From Judah. What? Why? How do you know?" He drops limply into a seat, as if Teo's words had been a literal body blow. "More importantly, what do you know about where she is now?" he says, sucking in a breath.

Five long fingers flex out, fold again, go loose over the flat surface of the table. After a moment, Teo finally gives in to the building urge, puts his hand into his other sleeve and scratches at the line of stitches scabbing there. It's peripheral, a mere surface irritation on multiple levels, but makes him look like a sullen child grimacing under the onslaught of questions.

Always bad news. "She's safe right now. With some of our people at the Lighthouse — you know, the one you might've read about in the news." All over the fucking news. There's a dark weave to Teo's brow as he remembers Linderman's rather ambiguous sponsorship of that particular establishment, but he dismisses it in a moment. Whatever the crimelord wants to try, it's going to hit Brian before it touches any of the children in it, and he's already tried to work some contingencies out for that.

Try, try, try. "I think you should try and figure out what the fuck is going on with her sister. Stephanie Ciati, or Nicole Nichols. Whoever she is, that's a pretty fucking solid identity she has built for her, to get past both the NYPD and the presidential campaign selection process. Means that's either a Hell of a coincidence or…" He casts a long hand up, gesturing irritably at the expansive category of costly and clandestine Alternatives.

Felix nods to that, lips thinned out. And then he blinks, and asks, quietly, ""What happened to you? You look like hell? Any news on Abby?" Unable to help himself, or mentally entirely revoke that right of touch and possession, he moves over to gently turn Teo's face to better light, to examine the evidence of wounds. "Has she told Judah where she is?"

And so much more the irritable whelp: Teo makes another face, turns his eyes sideways in their sockets to show the older man his disapproval at being more or less coddled by someone whose professional respect and acknowledgment of strength he values far more than a few increments of physical comfort or pity. He doesn't thrash around, though. That would be worse.

What Felix winds up examining under improved light is one recent punch in the face and the epilogue of a shattered jaw and broken nose a few months into the healing process. Most of which is, among other things, too hard to explain for Teo to bother. "Got into an argument with Deckard. My fault. Jus' John Logan before that— trying to run me out of town.

"Think we scared him." There's a hopelessly idiotic, boyish fragment of a grin there, here and gone in a moment. When it's gone, he glances away. "Abby got moved to the cages where they're holding Pancratium's fighters. The unwilling ones."

As for errant daughter and hapless father — Teo shakes his head. "Don't think so. She's a runaway kid, si? Probably wrote him a sappy letter, emptied out his wallet, and bolted."

Felix grunts. "Poor Judah," he says, unhappily. His fingers linger a few heartbeats more than they should, before he withdraws them, and shakes his head, moving away. "We'll get her out of there," he says, sounding grim.

Through some minor miracle of poker table restraint, Teo manages to avoid slumping over the table's edge until the speedster has started turning to do coffee or whatever.

And then his elbows go up on the edge of the furniture, rough hands on his bruised face, roughly scoring away the ghostly tactile impressions that the older man's fingers left on his battered skin hard enough to make himself blink, before he reaches back and pulls his hood back on in some half-hearted effort to conceal the nature of his actions as the discomfort of morning grogginess.

Probably not very convincing, but if Teodoro would start to worry about his dignity at some point, it wouldn't be in the company of his erstwhile lover. "D' you know what they did?" he asks, his voice muffled from around his wrist. "To Deckard and Abigail?"

"The way you say that makes me not want to hear that questions answered. But I'll say no," Felix says, quietly, as he makes coffee. "Who is they, precisely, and what di they do?" He watches that little gesture with a faintly puzzled expression.

The reminder of pain is almost enough to clear Teo's mind, but painkillers kind of get in the way of that. He's still on a little bit of that. Mild stuff. Unfortunately, the only drug he's any good at metabolizing is alcohol. "Logan. Or his guys, I don't know. His bodyguard— some fuck who goes by 'Jack Discreetly' has a bad reputation around." He sits his cheek on his fist, leans against it. "Dug out Deckard's fucking eyeball, and after — we got him out," not I, he keeps having to remind himself, "they cut out Abigail's tongue.

"We do need to get her out. 'Least some of the fighters, too."

That kills any urge to renew certain aspects of their old acquaintance right quick. There's that malevolent light in the blue eyes that turns the skinny, unassuming Fed into something that might actually be frightening. "Why did they do that?" he asks, tone utterly flat. He's splayed his palms over the countertop as if pondering launching himself over it.

"Same fucking reason they put me in the river, I figure," Teo replies dryly, his pinkie curling against his jaw. "Sending a message. Apparently these cunts aren't above using people as stationery. The shadow guy— his name's Cardinal. He thinks if we push too hard and they'll have to push back. But if we go in, get them out — get the job done, then… well. Fuck." A quizzical flux goes through his eyebrows, a shrug of facial expression in lieu of one through posture. "Vengeance later, for those who want it. And maybe you and your boys in blue will have something to do when Staten Island's back in your jurisdiction someday."

"They definitely count as organized crime," Fel's voice is almost silky, even as he comes back around the counter, bearing coffee in each hand. "And thus my department," He nods. "Cardinal, hm. The one who paid me a visit. If we bust them out, who is there for them to push back against?" He sets the coffees down on the appropriate table, picks up one of Teo's hands, examines it with that oddly clinical air.

A lucent blue eye watches Felix out of the corner of Teo's face, aggravatedly narrowed; he almost yanks his hand back into his personal space, but doesn't, in the end. The lean limb ends up hanging there, stretched out in the FBI agent's grasp like an artery tacked out for examination.

His hands look the same. Notched with faint scars and the distorted grain of calluses, long fingers, neat nails. The stitch marching up the outside of his forearm is new, irritated red by recent scratching. Not an altogether bad sign; means he's healing. "I don't know. Bust-out is one thing — I'm pretty sure a few dead guards and replaceable fighters aren't worth going to war over, but 'm worried if somebody tries something… stupid. I mean—

"One stupid Sicilian kid, a middle-aged dimestore robber, and a mouthy shadow managed to find an abducted girl on Staten Island. How hard could it be to find you? Or the Demskies? Daubrey? Any 'f the other people and their fucking families?" It probably qualifies as an Evolved power in and of itself, that Teo isn't going gray yet.

Felix pushes the sleeve up, examining the wounds. There's still that clinician's patience, making his lips thin out in professorial disapproval. "Because I'm a cop, and not a vigilante, I won't suggest that we have John Logan simply assassinated. I merely observe that if he were to turn up floating face down in the Hudson, there would be little to no mourning among New York's Finest," Fel notes, voice dry. "I'm not hard to find. Deliberately so. If this Logan tries to come against any cop in New York on a personal level, he's going to find the National Guard so far up his ass he'll have a sergeant wiping his nose for him."

"Yeah?" Teo spins his eyes to look at the wall, his knuckles sinking dents into the curve of his cheekbone as he suffers this analysis despite being vaguely aware that he's already received the best medical attention that the United States has to offer. "That why I ended up asking somebody to crap together an electronic identity to back up one Edward Dantes? Don't forget: this isn't just John Logan anymore. He has friends.

"Like Abigail Beauchamp has friends." Black thread forms neat, linear ridges. The hands that wove them didn't belong to a plastic surgeon, but the scars won't be clumsily hideous and the work is neat, hygienic. Two there that Felix can see on his forearm; slash marks, roughly the same length, the skin around them slightly rucked toward one end, as if the weapon that had delivered it had been levelling a stab, not a slash.

"You've been working alone too long or some bullshit. I don't know how you get around being so reckless." Teo grasps his coffee mug, finally, glances into the dark liquid. He sounds somewhere stiltedly between morbidly amused and wryly affectionate.

"True," Felix concedes. He slides fingertips down to Teo's hand again, lifts it to put a kiss on the palm. It's not so much seductive as it is apologetic, in its fashion. "Luck. God watches out for fools, or I really do have nine lives."

That's no particular reply Teo can make to that: it isn't as if the FBI agent is desperate for a change in lifestyle. It's either fortunate or not, that he started drinking coffee. He neither chokes nor flings hot beverage into Felix's eyes, which is good for both himself and Felix's eyes.

From over the round horizon of the porcelain rim, he regards the older man with an expression that's somewhere between accusatory and murderous, brow creased. Whether it's for the kiss or for Ivanov's kamikaze Spartan approach to crime-fighting, it's hard to say. He swallows two mouthfuls of coffee and pulls his hand back to wipe his mouth on the back of his wrist. Always the paragon of maturity: "Asshat."

Teo yanks his head a fraction of an inch away from the older man's touch, and starts to scowl him except that Felix has his frown conveniently blocked off by his hand, leaving only the upper half of his face squinting irritably above the contact of his palm. It neither helps nor makes things actually worse, that that's the thing Sonny used to do while they were playing at platonic. When the FBI agent then meanders off again, the Sicilian's eyes narrow still further.

His posture loosens fractionally, as if he were unwinding himself from the subtle beginnings of a fetal curl. "What are you going to do about Colette?" he mumbles. His breath rebounds off the surface of the coffee, blows warmth back into his face.

"Find her. Convince her to abandon this particular idiocy and go home to her father, who is no doubt chewing his own leg off in frustration right now," Felix says, lazily. "What do you think I should do?"

Given the theme of the past few minutes, Felix will have to forgive Teo's temporary expression of skepticism: evidently, he thinks that the old man's making fun of him through new means of soliciting his advice. When there's no punchline forthcoming, he pushes one shoulder up in a shrug that functions as a disclaimer. "Find out what the fuck is going on with Stephanie Ciati. You know that half a photograph 'f Nicole she kept showing everybody? Turns out the other person in it was Linderman.

"If nothing else, she might like you more for helping out with her crazy personal drama. But do everybody a favor, don't let her know you found out about all this shit from me?" The instant after he says it, he's grimacing. The theatrics required to keep the compartmentalization of their lives intact gives him a headache.

Fel's smile is thin, lazy, and very fond. "That's interesting," he says, pouring himself more coffee. "And I won't tell her you told me. How was she when last you saw her?" he wonders. No, genuinely asking advice, apparently he trusts Teo's wisdom that much.

When it comes to little girls. Possibly because Teo tends to exhibit a commensurate degree of maturity. He leans back in his chair, sniffing at his coffee like a new pup, occupying his margin of spare attention with the sensory input of heat, texture, color, and fragrance. "Scared — mostly about hurting her dad, I think. Judah," he clarifies. "Hopeful. About her sister.

"She hadn't figured out all the weird political baggage her sister's current identity had come with, or the implications that would come of finding out her current identity's fucking fake. I figure a DNA test or one of your psychometer people could figure something out. Oh." Teo's face goes blank, clumsily rewinding. That wasn't— "I— uhhh. Saw her… again…"

There's something both wistful and oddly cruel in Fel's face as he regards Teo over the rim of the mug. "Her sister's identity being fake? Yes. Again?" he prompts, settling into a seat at the counter. He's worn, thinner than he was, and he didn't have all that much flesh to spare asit was.

"Again." Teo remembers to look up, finally, and almost instantly regrets it. There's something both wistful and oddly kind as he regards the older man from over the rim of his mug. "She's the one who found me after John Logan's hydrokinetic got through. Last time I saw her was between phases of unconsciousness, and I think she was mostly pissing her briefs with the possibility I was going to die. I think she's okay, though. Brian— boy who's running the Lighthouse?

"He should be taking care of her. Is taking care of her," he says, his features creasing slightly. "I mean, last I heard, they were talking about their love lives or something." Girls and their gossip. What can you do?

"That sounds like a relatively safe haven, considering it's on Staten," Fel says, sounding rather grumpy. "Love life, pff," he says, looking away from Teo.

There's an audible wipe of smooth friction when Teo puts his mug back down on the table, pushes himself upright, rising with only the faintest intimation of difficulty. He hooks his finger back into the porcelain handle, drags it along beside him on his way back to the sink; always the proper houseguest.

Irrespective of whether Felix happens to be living out of a dingy hotel or another host's apartment. "'S what happens when you have Linderman's blessing, I hear," he answers, locating detergent. "Working on yours, I see." He cocks his head at — the apartment at large. Smiles; no teeth.

Fel pales, flushes - so much for that pokerface. And then he laughs. "No. Leland Daubrey is an old, old friend and as straight as they come. A very old school cop, who deliberately has no idea that I might like men, and can barely deal with the fact that I'm Evolved. The only reason he tolerates me is that we were partners long before he knew I was a mutant."

Long fingers and abrasive sponge make short work of the mug, ridding its walls of the coffee slick. Teo sets it aside, then, and into the drying rack. "'Mutant' isn't very politically correct," he observes with a trace of annoyance. He puts his hands up on the counter and lurches up, seats himself off to the FBI agent's side. He closes his hand on the side of his neck and studies Felix with polite interest, tacit concern. "'S he like you? Another crazy loose-cannon asshole soloist Phoenix ought to be ready to shell out favors for?"


Kind of.

"It's the truth, because Evolved is a fucking stupid term. We're all evolved, god didn't make us out of clay. The fact that a small fraction carry bizarre genetic anomalies that let us oh, shoot fire out our noses rather than dying in infancy of Tay Sachs doesn't make us more advanced, it makes us random blips," Felix says, waspishly. "Yes. He's like Jekyll and Hyde, and even without powers I've seen him put a human through sheetrock with one hand."

For this there is an elaborate snort, the likes of which only the very young manage to pull off without sounding like a carbonated drink went up the wrong nostril. "We're all mutants too, if God didn't make us out of clay. Only mutant is an uglier term, not to be mistaken for realistic, and has connotations of… fucking… tentacles and circus freak bullshit." Teo winds his forefinger through the braided string of his hood and goes squinty with thought. "Sounds like a character. 'S good: you need somebody to take care of you."

Fel eyes him, sidelong. "It is circus sideshow bullshit," he says, bluntly. "That's all." And then he's eyeing Teo, not sure if he should be affronted or amused. "I need someone to take care of me?" he says, deciding on amused, after that moment's hesitation.

While Felix is choosing between affronted and amused, Teo is making the same decision, though it's not readily apparent why. Until he says, at length, "One of my people died in January. Saving the world, coincident'lly. He couldn'tve pulled it off if he hadn't been Evolved— mutated— whatever. I'd appreciate it if you took a little care.

"You're coming dangerously close to dismissing the crater the power plant left — or the alternative scenario where everybody's dead — as a circus trick, sideshow, or bullshit." His head tips forward and his eyes tilt upward, a scowl etching harder lines and shadows into his bruised features. A quaver-beat, and he slides back onto the floor. "Si. Thanks for the coffee."

"I'm not dismissing what it can do. I am dismissing the idea that it represents an advancement in human existence," Felix says, quietly. "And you're welcome. People die every day, saving the world. Or live, doing it. I'm not saying your friend doesn't deserve respect. I'm saying that people need to step back from all the woowoo surrounding humans with weird abilities."

There's a jut of belligerent disagreement to Teo's chin. "It could be an advancement in human existence, if people weren't being raging assholes about it. There's potential there. Technology, medicine and literature are same.

"I realize it's equally fucking retarded to treat the whole world like it's one big pro-Evolved parade float, but treating those gifts like it's no different, or doesn't mean fuck-all is…" His teeth click shut; his brow furrows. Sometimes, he really does sound like a terrorist. If terrorists operate out of soapboxes instead of safehouses, anyway. He has grace enough to color faintly, pink to go with the green and faded mustard hue of bruises. "'M sorry.

"That should be it."

"It's a tool. A trick. Like being able to sway a crowd via a speech, plan a battle, paint a picture. A talent. A weapon, some of them, with all the moral import thereof," Felix says, calmly. "Humans've committed genocide over so very much less. Religion, skin color, you name it. People are assholes, end of story."

The younger man ends up standing in the middle of the floor, weight shifted subtly onto one leg, hip faintly cocked underneath the drape of his sweater. Teo looks the other man in the eye, his own expression flat, thinking, sharp-eyed, never cold. And then, abruptly, he turns up the corner of his mouth. "'M glad you see I'm right, amico," he replies. "That it?"

There's that little flicker, darting down and away from Teo's face and back. Still a pig, in more sense than one. "Is what it?" he asks, in a deliberate drawl, letting one brow climb for his hairline.

"Is there anything else? Information, guns, safehouse, whatever?" Self-conscious in a way that probably seems inappropriate in and of itself, Teo corrects his posture the next moment; vanity and masculine braggadocio come to him as easily as swear words and he forgets, sometimes, how that looks.

Wasn't meant to. Or maybe he had, self-consciously, or— anyway. He loops a long forefinger around the base of his scalp, scratching. "See, I — have dragons to slay before supper," he adds, a sheepish apology — for the lack of details he can offer, and a ginger attempt at the old joke — white knight, hastening to displace his fluster with humor.

"The less I know, the better. If there's no news on Abby, and nothing else I can help you with, you should go," His tone is cold, rather peremptory, in direct contrast to the white knuckled force with which he is gripping the coffee mug, and the tightness of his lips. "You're distracting me," he adds, still in that offhand tone.

Teo doesn't need to be told twice. His gaze drops to the floor as if someone had replaced his eyes with stone weights and his features flood with a color that couldn't have been more telling if it had been dyed into some florid set of satins. He flips the hood back onto his head, steps back, nods like a penguin and starts to evacuate in the direction of his boots. "I'll call you about her." Abby.

Teo is all but hustled out. So much for hospitality. And once he's gone, Felix leans back against the door, and casts his eyes to the ceiling. He stays in that posture, as if beseeching Heaven's help, before he looks down and swears fluently and viciously in Russian, with something that can only be despair in his voice.

March 3rd: On Proper Handling Of Flammable Substances
March 3rd: To The Point
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