No Marian Cross


sonny_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title No Marian Cross
Synopsis Target practice leads to existential crises for both young Italians, despite that only one of them swore to do no harm.
Date March 26, 2009

Ruins of Midtown

Standing in the ruins of Midtown, it's hard to believe New York is still a living city.

There's life enough around the fringes — the stubborn, who refused to rebuild somewhere else; the hopeful, who believe the radiation is gone, or that they somehow won't be affected. Businesses, apartment complexes, taxis and bicycles and subways going to and fro — life goes on. Perhaps more quietly than in other parts of the city, shadowed by the reminder that even a city can die, but it does go on.

Then there is the waste. The empty core for which the living city is only a distant memory. Though a few major thoroughfares wind through the ruins, arteries linking the surviving halves, and the forms of some truly desperate souls can occasionally be glimpsed skulking in the shadows, the loudest noise here is of the wind whistling through the mangled remnants of buildings. Twisted cords of rebar reach out from shattered concrete; piles of masonry and warped metal huddle on the ground, broken and forlorn. Short stretches of road peek out from under rubble and dust only to disappear again shortly afterwards, dotted with the mangled and contorted forms of rusting cars, their windows long since shattered into glittering dust.

There are no bodies — not even pieces, not anymore. Just the bits and pieces of destroyed lives: ragged streamers fluttering from the handlebar which juts out of a pile of debris; a flowerbox turned on its side, coated by brick dust, dry sticks still clinging to the packed dirt inside; a lawn chair, its aluminum frame twisted but still recognizable, leaning against a flight of stairs climbing to nowhere.

At the center of this broken wasteland lies nothing at all. A hollow scooped out of the earth, just over half a mile across, coated in a thick layer of dust and ash. Nothing lives here. Not a bird; not a plant. Nothing stands here. Not one concrete block atop another. There is only a scar in the earth, cauterized by atomic fire. This is Death's ground.

Dusk over the ruins shines down enough moonlight to reveal chalk marks in the walls that look like ectoplasmic finger-marks left by terrible specters from the demolished homes and broken families that the Midtown Man left. They marks aren't that, of course. They're chalk. Held up against the concrete of a severed wall by perfectly human fingers, inscribed in to X's. Like, you know, treasure map X's.

No treasure out here, though, unless you subscribe to the definition of the term that scavengers like Flint Deckard do.

And Salvatore Bianco most profoundly does not. No, they're out here for something altogether different, no less edifying and profitable in its own way, a practical skill to possess. Target practice.

The smooth powder of chalk long since wiped off of them, two steady the plugs in Sonny's ears, nudge and wiggle, a query— That all right?— before Teo releases his head. The wall and its scribbled score-marks stands twenty yards off, rubble behind. "Whenever you're ready," the Sicilian says, swinging a short step sideways.

Sonny is wearing the mask of Connor Kinney, but not the personality. There's no need in the presence of just Teo. The doctor looks down at the gun in his hand and frowns. Violence. Of course it's necessary when one is attached to a terrorist group, but the heavy weight of the pistol in his surgeon's hands brings it home. He glances sidelong to Teo, then nods.

The weapon is raised and he tries to make his stance echo the ones he sees on TV. That and his general understanding of the human body and muscle structure means he's not too far off. Far from perfect, but generally better than your average joe the first time he raises a weapon. He takes aim at one of the chalk marks and squeezes the trigger. The shot goes wide and ricochets off stone with a spark.

To be fair, violence is kind of awesome sometimes. Maybe. Okay, not something even Teodoro can say aloud without sounding half his proper age, so he doesn't. His lips are sealed, jaw even, the pale of his eyes unlidded, blankly exposed to the sight of the bullet skewing off into nowhere, eating concrete out of the corner of the ceiling, a miniscule flare of light tracking the zag of its course.

"Two hands," he suggests after the departing ripple of its echo. "Set your feet apart. Balance and all that shit, right?" It must come as no surprise to anyone, really, that his illustrious career as a teacher had not been very.

Sonny inhales a slightly shaking breath. He readjusts his grip on the deadly weapon and curls another set of fingers around the handle. Another 'X' is aimed at and the doc squeezes the trigger slowly. Pow - crack. The bullet hits the topmost stroke of the chalk mark. He's got good eyes and rocksteady hands, even when nervous. Ironically, skills that make him a good surgeon seem to have made him something of a fast study when it comes to guns.

"Better?" he asks, eyes still on the target, down the menacing barrel of the pistol.

The wall doesn't mind being menaced so much, nor even being struck by the discharge. Teo looks at its brute, ugly mark, injured plaster and riven mortar. Tries to imagine a person there, up against it, bleeding. He has no real doubt that Salvatore could do it, but under what circumstances and how he would bear it afterward— that much, he isn't sure. That much, maybe he'd— rather not think about.

"You know it's better," he answers, grinning crooked, his teeth gleaming hyena bright in the night. The sky purples toward blue and Teo's face still shows sanguine despite the wintry melancholy of its palette. "Pause a sec? Shake yourself off. Safety first, 'course," he remembers belatedly, forefinger spinning lazily at his side. "You look tense."

Sonny clips the safety into place and lowers the weapon. He exhales and rubs the side of his cheek. "That's because I'm holding a fucking gun. I…never wanted to learn how to shoot one of these." He sets the weapon down on top of an old overturned barrel. He rolls his shoulders back and stares down at the pistol. "My dad's security company wanted me to learn, wanted me to carry one after Midtown. But I refused." And yet, he didn't protest when Teo asked him if he wanted to come here.

"Why? It's a good skill to have." Teo steps closer, long fingers splaying out across the gunmetal and barrel top. The warmth from Sonny's grasp lingers in the grip, still.

He'd had something of a death grip on it, really. His hand curls back in on itself, and he jams his fists into his pockets. "Or didn't you know you were going to grow up to be fucking Batman?" One frost-blue eye lids halfway and he squints out of the other, quizzical from genuine curiosity and mild with what he can recognize as a sensitive subject.

"Because I'm a doctor, Teo. I swore to do no harm." The same reason Sonny's never explored the martial potential of his ability. Surely it's there. If he wanted to, he could deform a person quite severely with only a few seconds of contact. His teeth grit and the somewhat more serious features of Connor grow darker still. "But. I recognize the world we're living in. I have to learn how to shoot that thing to stop people from doing harm to me."

"And I'm not Batman. I'm not badass enough." There's a little humour in those words, but mostly his voice is tight, troubled.

Leaving off the stark, deadly shape of the pistol, Teo walks his fingers across Sonny's back instead. Or Connor's back. Either— or. It isn't the same as having Salvatore with his proper face on, but he has an endless supply of other trivialities to balk at and it actually reassures him in some obscure way, nowhere elaborated, that he can still behave as himself with Kinney's face on.

After a moment, Teodoro remarks, "Or me. Might even help if you think of it that way." Vast personal experience speaks quietly, gentle as the sunlight bounced off the round cheddar face of the moon.

It helps that Sonny isn't in the role of the sullen, somewhat jerkish Dr. Kinney right now. He just looks like him. It might seem like a bit of paranoia, considering how few people frequent the ruins. But it takes little effort and makes sure no one can say they saw the Mayor's son shooting at a broken down wall with a terrorist in the middle of Midtown.

He looks from the pistol over towards Teo. He gives a small twitch of his lips and then says, "I am." Hence why he came, why he's doing this. Because Teo asked him to. And he must have a good reason.

He sighs and picks up the weapon again. The stance is found again fairly easy. The technicalities may come naturally when he's shooting at a wall, but it's doubtful it will be so easy the moment that chalk 'x' is the face of another human being.

"How did you know you wanted to become a doctor?" Teo slings a long leg over the roof of the now-deserted barrel, seats himself on it with a shuffle of buttocks and kicking heels. The wooden staves groan faintly underneath his weight, which he finds momentarily amusing. There's an inquisitive glance downward, an experimental bounce-bounce on it. When the barrel refuses to concede his point, he lifts his head, palms his ears with both hands.

At a glance from Sonny, there's a slight shake of his skull: postponing the question for whenever the good Doctor is ready.

"I've always been interested in how things work. And there's a rush that comes from saving a life." Perhaps Teo can relate - though saving in a different way. Sonny tries to relax as he squeezes off another series of shots. A few land close to the target, others go wide. Every time he misses, it's because he isn't taking time to adjust his aim after each shot.

The doctor keeps shooting until the clip is empty. Then he snaps the safety on and sets the gun aside. The plugs are removed from his ears. "Did I do all right?"

Yes. Teo nods his head once, twice, his skull still sandwiched between his hands. He is smiling, not some great ear-to-ear banana-sized, ridiculous thing, but authentic in its warmth anyway.

Maybe he can relate to some fundamental core to that statement— after all, he has a soul or he wouldn't feel it so fucking often, but he isn't used to thinking about it in those terms, exactly. Brian, Abigail, Helena, any of the others might have seen it more clearly. For all Teo is that easily assigned the romance of a white knight, it probably wouldn't be such a good fit if he actually thought it was.

"You're a lot better than I was starting off, and I was at a proper shooting range and shit." He drags himself off the barrel, stretches his jaw to relieve the residual ringing inside his skull.

"I've always had pretty good hand-eye coordination. S'why I made a half-decent surgeon." Made. Sonny doesn't perform appendectomies anymore. It's all the use of his power or field medicine. "Steady hands." He lifts up one and holds it out. Flat as a board. "Going to be different when the target's moving." And breathing.

He runs fingers through the coarse brown lengths. He misses his own stupid curls when he looks like this. Funny because he hated them as a kid. But when he was a kid, they made him look at best, like a doll, at worst, like a girl.

At least he doesn't resent Teodoro having coarse brown locks, though they do soften and lighten with enough length and exposure to sun. Between the two Italians, their vanity is different. Sonny tends to fret, to preen, to coiff and employ exorbitantly-priced products to maximize effect; Teo tends to be stubbornly confident that he's as perfectly shaped and lit as he's going to get. He's all scars and scuffed jeans now, stumping over to perch his arms on Sonny's shoulders and pull the plugs out of his ears. "How long is 'always?'"

"I dunno. I used to kick ass at that dart-and-balloon game at carnivals when I was a kid," Sonny tilts his head and grins in a way that seems different on this face. Not quite so Hollywood. He mimes the motion of throwing darts.

He eyes the rock wall, then tilts his head and looks up at Teo. "Do you want me to shoot another clip?"

The earplugs are wiped on Teo's pant leg because he is super classy like that. He holds them up under the distant glow of lamp-light to look, before wedging the handful into the right pocket of Sonny's pants. He locates another clip concealed in the fold of his own thigh pocket, though it takes him a moment to check, remember that these go to which gun.

The process of loading the weapon had already seen some due attention earlier, so the oblong of deadly little projectiles is offered without ceremony. "Maybe in a bit." He rubs his fist against his nose and studies Sonny's Connor-face. "I had no idea what I was going to do when I was younger. Besides the silly shit like— fisherman. Astronaut."

Sonny can't quite stop a little grin from tugging at his lips as he watches Teo handle the gun with confidence. Teo's seen that look before - just not on Connor's face. He moves to sit on the barrel that the Italian was on a moment before.

"Mmm, I wanted to be a paleontologist when I was a kid. You know, dinosaurs? That's what got me interested in skeletal structures, which got me interested in biology. Mom telling me about all the awesome stuff chemistry can do got me hooked even more. And you know, when you're…uh, of a standing like my family, becoming a doctor's a pretty natural career choice." He lifts one shoulder.

When the doctor chooses to seat himself, Teo shunts clip shunts into gun and the weapon is palmed almost idly, between hand and hand. "I liked dinosaurs, too. I mean, the other boys were all about the velociraptors and other roughly anthropomorphic shit with vampire dentistry, but the primordial cocs were where it was at, am I right?" And then— it's sudden.

Unwonted tension stiffening his hackles, riding sharply into the line of Teodoro's shoulders, then, some sudden memory arriving out of nowhere like a fist in the gut, so sudden it's startling. He pauses. Glances down, his brow in a knit of consternation. "I used to hate guns. Hate them. I got a girl killed with one when I was seventeen years old. I—"

His throat moves around a momentary silence. Teo looks up, his hand adjusting on the grip once. Twice. "You'd never guess, eh?"

"There's hating guns," says Sonny quietly, "…and hating what they do to people." He recognizes almost immediately that Teo's stirred up something painful. He knows the young Italian quite well by now.

He lets silence rest for a moment as he looks to the other with a sympathetic expression. It plays fairly well on Kinney's face - though not as well as on his own. "I'd guess that you'd be a victim of an accident, Teo. Of circumstance."

Safety off, safety on, safety off, safety on. Click-click-click. Teo is looking down again, watching the red flick in and out of the tiny slot. "You can dress it up however you want," he replies. "I hated guns. And she was the victim.

"Accidents happen because people fucking let them." He sniffs once, enough noise and force to, crease a brief wrinkle in his nose. He looks up again, though not at Salvatore this time. He's too busy huddling away from the slippery-slick edges of some ravenous black tar pit that has been ground out of the organic matter of some ancient agony or other. He shoots the target, just once.

Pleasantly deafened, he turns. Click. Shoves it away into the holster at the small of his back.

Sonny stands and steps towards Teo. He reaches out and slides his fingers around the back of his neck. He squeezes reassuringly, then presses his fingers in an impromptu massage. "Let's go home?" Standing behind him means he doesn't have to pay too much attention to the fact that he's got the wrong face.

Sure, he's curious, but the doc's done plenty of pushing lately that he regrets. This isn't going to be one of those times.

Although Teo can't hear what Sonny is saying very clearly, he can hear enough and see enough to make sense of the older man's meaning. "Okay." Though instinct originally steers his voice toward uncomfortably higher tiers of volume, something about discussing dead girls and the principles he's supposed to believe in is downer enough that his reply ends up levelling at about normal.

His head tilts slightly, jigging in the socket of its stem under the delightful pressure of Sonny's fingers. Teo's wintry eyes lapse closed for a moment. Shuttered away behind his eyelids, the wind sounds very far away. "Are you hungry?" he asks, abruptly.

Another part of Sonny realizes that Teo doesn't really need to be facing this particular demon right now. Not when another major miracle needs to be pulled off so soon. But he'll ask again one day, when the time is right. Or even better - one day, Teo will tell him.

His fingers continue to work at the dozens of knots that have taken up permanent residence in Teo's musculature. "Starving," he murmurs. "Did you have something in mind?"

"There's a deli just a little ways North of here. Hel and Al used to like the pie a l—ot." Despite that it only consists of one syllable, that last word winds up presented in two halves, split by a long exhale. Nasty knot right there, the size and consistency of a cat's eye marble.

Teo opens his eyes after, pumps his shoulders once, exaggeratedly, almost playful, as if by physical strength of muscle and edible fuel, he could thus propel himself out of abysmal recollection. "'M gonna have to go to Staten Island tonight. Someone I know dropped off the map, and you know how much I fucking hate that.

"Some pie with you would be good." He snags Sonny's hand off his shoulder, lacing rough fingers across the smooth hollow of his lover's palm. The barrel goes end over end with a careless, arching kick of his foot. He gives the chalk cross his shoulder, and then his back.

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