No Remedy for Love


eileen_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title No Remedy for Love
Synopsis Teo and Eileen have a disagreement about definitions.
Date May 14, 2009


The best places to sleep during the daytime are those furthest away from the roads, the rumble of traffic and blaring rush hour horns — places separated from the world at large by silver spans of chain-link fence, too tall to climb, too tangled to squeeze through without a pair of wire cutters. This morning, as sunlight filters in through splintered windows and paints the dusty floors in kaleidoscopic shades of gold and honey, it's an abandoned firehouse on the far end of a vacant lot turned grassy field, patches of ailing greenery interrupted by broken concrete slabs and a solitary telephone pole that rises up from its center like a crooked monolith draped in coils of thick black wire.

Once upon a time, the city officials who condemned the firehouse boarded up its windows with wooden planks, making it harder for trespassers to gain entry, but according to Teodoro Laudani's global positioning device, the young woman he seeks has encountered no such difficulties. This might have something to do with the fact that one of the building's red brick walls has partially caved in since its closure, creating a yawning hole just large enough for someone Eileen's size to fit through. The Sicilian might, too, if he's careful about the way he maneuvers his body.

He is. Careful, that is.

Somewhat clumsy, also: if it weren't still daylight out, he would probably be battering a great horrible mess of things. As it is, the scabby mortar and age-eaten brick manage somehow to retain the integrity of its ragged-edged ingress even when Teo's left shoulder lurches in an inch too high and his right knee slap-bump-scrapes in after making an original attempt that was two too wide. He pops out the other side with shredded shrubbery hanging desiccated in the cuffs of his pant legs and chalk smears standing out in pale relief against the faded denim of his jacket. There is a sprinkling of rust flakes in his hair and the hood of his sweater.

Life of terrorist, most inglorious. Straightening once inside, Teo wipes his nose with a palm and squints around with a somewhat frazzled expression, glazey-eyed and balloon-cheeked from sighing exasperation, so much the blond for a moment. "Eileen?" he doesn't know why he's whispering. Feels like he should be whispering, though. Something about the chill in here, the boards and scarlet brick.

Something flutters uneasily in the steel rafters, either bird or bat, and loosens debris from the ceiling with the quiver-beat of its wings. Powder filters down, appearing as a fine cloud of dust where the light streams through it, accompanied by the occasional tinkle of tiny pebbles bouncing against metal, though neither this nor the sound of Teo's voice is loud enough to rouse the sleeper passed out on an old mattress left behind by one of the firehouse's former occupants.

The ridges of Eileen's spine and crescent ribs are made visible by her body's curl and stand out beneath the sweat-soaked cotton material of the tank top she wears. As small as she is, she appears littler still in the fetal position, denim-clad legs pulled into her chest, ashen face buried in her right arm's bony crook. Her feet are bare, leather boots discarded some distance away along with her jacket and the disposable phone peeking out from one of its rumpled pockets.

No sign of a gun, but given his most recent experience with the former Vanguard informant, that may not matter — as Gabriel learned, she doesn't need one.

Gabriel, Felix— others, for some reason Teodoro doesn't doubt (though he doesn't begrudge, either, judgmental though she's named him before). She's either being terribly indiscriminate or very much the reverse. He doesn't know. Can't tell from here, sort of doubts she's going to tell him, when he wakes her. He spends a moment too long staring, and 'when' turns into 'if' as he shifts his gaze away, reaches up to scuff rueful fingers through the hair on the back of his head.

The strongest of all his inclinations happens to be the most absurd: to wriggle back out of the firehouse, clap his sleeves clean, and then struggle back inside again, do-over, not because he's fucked up (yet) but because the moment seems a little too perfect to interrupt. He doesn't have time for that, though. The strongest and most absurd of Teo's inclinations remain unrealized. Just this once.

He clears his throat. Lifts his eyes again, scans the rafters and the battered walls. After a moment, he makes a fist and knocks on the… brick.

It's not a loud noise, or even a particularly notable one — this time, though, it's enough to bring Eileen around and peel open one of her eyes, gaze bleary, unfocused. Like a napping cat, she takes several seconds to acclimate to the change, sluggishly sifting through all the information her senses are attempting to process. By the time she's remembered where she is and why she's here, Teo's outline has also come into focus, relieving the need for immediate action.

Whatever her feelings toward him, they can't be too hostile; rather than bolt the rest of the way awake, she squeezes her eyes shut again and slowly stretches her arm out above her head before unfolding her legs at the knee and extending them both as far as they'll go. Toes curl, joints pop, and Eileen lets out what sounds like a snuffle of malcontent, then drapes that arm across her eyes to help block out the light while she continues to adjust and grudgingly rejoins the waking world.

"I'm sorry," Teo says in lieu of 'hi,' though that probably wouldn't be odd for anybody, this time. Waking her up like that. "Your phone was off, and I was worried 'nd shit."

He stays by the wall and the makeshift door in it, breathing in the sunlit dust and exhaling what's going to be a gradual accumulation of mucus from his nose. Already, he has an inkling of a graceless accident with snot, so he rubs at his beezer with the roof of his left hand, his features creased around the nudge of his knuckles and probably other things besides. The absence of hostility and panic is good. He picks his way closer, glancing past the question-mark curl that her back left pushed up in the linens.

She'd been about to ask how he'd found her, but the question dies a death on the very tip of her tongue as soon as he mentions the phone. Eileen isn't sure what she should be surprised by more: that Teo attempted to call, or that she underestimated his tenacity when it comes to keeping tabs on his associates and past allies. Either way, she's in no position to do much of anything except tolerate, in silence, his encroachment on her personal space while listening to his footsteps crunch stone and tinkle glass.

Breath leaves her lungs in the form of an unhappy rattle as she flexes the fingers of her left hand and exposes a sliver of silver metal glinting cheerfully between them. Whatever she's holding, it fits too well in her naked palm to be anything except a small trinket of some personal significance — unlike the last time she and Teo found themselves in this position, there's no knife twisted between them. The probability of him discovering several inches of steel sunken into his gut at some point during the course of the conversation they're about to have is low. Slim. None.

She's just tired. That's all. "What do you need?"

There's something haggard about the shape of the eye Teo swings sidelong to study her, then down again. He feels worse already, which is no astonishing development in and of itself. She's sighing at him. It has taken forces much lesser still than this eddy of transparent air through Eileen's white mouth to push him over the edge of remorse before. A backhanded slap of a particularly rancorous dandelion leaf, or a strategically placed cheesecloth. Any of these things, a sigh from Eileen could tear in two.

"Details about the man who attacked you and who you were with." His gaze walks restlessly over the heap of bedding, lands on the knot of her pale fingers and the wink of steel between them. Sometimes, Teo is ridiculous about his guilt. Other times, there are light machineguns. "And," he continues, quite lamely, "to update you on Gabriel."

"I already know." About Gabriel. Eileen can feel Teo's eye on her, his presence worming its way under her skin and making her experience a kind of raw, physical discomfort she hasn't felt for a long time. She doesn't want him to look at her. Doesn't even want him to be in the same room. There's a reason she chose someplace as far off the beaten path as this, and it has everything to do with what he's asking. No: implying. Implicitly.

"It sounds to me like you do, too," she says after a pause. Her tongue darts out and skims across dry, cracked lips, not quite white but a washed out shade very close to it. She's not just tired, she's sick. "Everything you need to. I was attacked by a man, probably the same man who went after Gabriel, Gillian. Others. What Felix told you about me was true.

"I lied."

She sure as shit did. People do tend to. Teo's forgiveness is instantaneous and lacks for ceremony. He presses the heel of his hand across his cheek again, exhales underneath the line of his wrist. The backs of his arms and hands are messes of tan, scar tissue, and calluses, but the underside prickles slightly with the passage of his breath. "You picked this ability up from somebody. The one— you almost killed Felix and Gabriel with. I'd like to know who, please, and—" why you didn't finish the job.

Both of them. His expression is middling, which requires conscious effort on the sanguine Sicilian's behalf, if likely no more than it takes Eileen to bear his company. Maybe— maybe, he ought to be afraid of her. "What you want to do. Gabriel and Gillian are going to go after Case, try to get this thing sorted. You're not well." The observation is neither sequitur nor non. Teo's face lines with worry, like the surface of a mousse clawed through by a fork.

"Kuhr," is Eileen's answer, and it sounds like a cough. "One of the convicts we turned loose from Moab. No use sniffing him out, though, if that's what you're planning." She's already tried, and the frustration wrenching into a tension-filled knot says what she can't: Teo won't find him. The arm draped across her face makes the woman's expression impossible to read, no elaboration offered by her bleary gray eyes or the expressive black brows that accentuate them like two arching strokes of Indian ink. Julian could be dead, another victim of Eileen's lapse in control, or he simply might have left town in the wake of their swap.

She isn't telling.

"Gabriel asked for my help with Case," Eileen says instead, closing her fingers around the object she holds nestled in her hand. "Told me I would. That I didn't have anyone. I was so angry, Teo."

Well, damn. There is an unmistakable species of surprise making a habitat out of Teo's face at that— at what Gabriel said, not at what Eileen refuses to. He probably could have bounced a football off the swoop of his eyebrows.

"Sometimes…" this would probably sound condescending if the words weren't hobbled, lame from the awkward shape and size of the sympathy that inspires them. "…boys say stupid things." Boys. Possibly, this is crediting Gabriel too much youth, or else failing to acknowledge the monolithic monstrosity of the man he's been, but Teo means it when and the way that he says it. Boys say stupid things. It isn't an excuse; it is a misfortune. It may also be a stupid thing to say, which works on as many levels as it ignobly fails to.

"You remind me of my aunt a little." This is awkward in its sincerity also, a verbal pat on the shoulder that folds haphazardly into a loose-fingered grip, a warm squeeze. Teo breathes into dust. "Lucrezia. She has people. She keeps them." Me. "Just not… nearby. Steadfast love without constant companionship. There's an English aphorism to that effect, isn't there? 'Can't live with them,'" or something like that. Teo doesn't remember it very well.

If he had, he probably would have picked something else.

This isn't the first time Eileen has been measured against Teo's aunt, the black widow Bennati, but to hear the comparison drawn by someone who isn't the spider queen herself causes mirth to cinch the corners of her mouth, stitching her lips into a tight and crooked grin that doesn't improve her features any more than the dark circles under her eyes or her skin's scaly complexion.

She's given him a hard time about a lot of things. That one of the people closest and most dearest to him belonged to a group that his openly condemned—

Eileen has to remind herself that now is not the appropriate time to dredge up shared mistakes and erroneous assumptions. What's in the past should remain there: a piece of advice that both their future selves might've saved a lot of bloodshed by taking it to heart.

"Does your boy say stupid things?" she inquires, tone mild, words carefully measured. "Alexander?"

Cue the spike of color through Teo's cheeks, artless as the palette of a five-year-old's finger painting. You know. You know, that seems like an inappropriate segue given Eileen is in love with Gabriel. "He's my best friend," he says, in a voice that has somewhat more molars in it than it strictly requires, and for what feels like the nth time. It's the second. Maybe the third. He blinks against the fat finger of sunlight, pursues the shadow of a passing pigeon through the lake it forms on the floor. "Of course he says stupid things. He isn't very smart.

"I've forgiven him." When he adds that, it's without magnanimity, as if he is oddly unsettled by this verisimilitude. He shifts, foot to foot, his shoulders hiking fractionally higher under his ears. A little blankly, he clarifies, "I have this problem where I'll forgive damn near anybody for damn near anything. I think it makes Deckard roll his eyes. And you."

Or maybe their future-selves would have spilled more blood still, if they had truly cut and burned the roots they put to the past. Mistakes and assumptions are foul specters to lead into the dawns and the tomorrows, but if they had never made any, they never would have met and God only knows who or what would have stopped Kazimir Volken then, or upon what context this conversation would have occurred on then. She'd certainly hate it— and he knows this already, even now, despite the wounds she'd reopened on a whim— if Gabriel Gray died.

Now, Eileen lowers her arm just enough to peer across the gap at Teo, watching him from behind the milky curve of one slim bicep. "I'm sorry," she murmurs, though she doesn't sound particularly apologetic when she speaks. Her voice adopts a thin, lilting hiss more suited to an asp than a woman, as toxic as it is teasing, "When you asked me to send him your love, I assumed he meant more to you than that."

Although it takes a great effort on her part, Eileen manages to make the transition from laying supine to sitting appear seamless as she rolls over onto her side and, easing her weight onto an elbow, draws herself up. Takes the serpentine analogy all the way. "Gabriel's my best friend too, you know," she leers, "or was. That shouldn't change anything. If not Alexander, then who?" Far from intentionally mocking, there's genuine curiosity in her eyes as she continues regarding Teo, spine curving to mirror the upward tilt of her chin and the attached slope of neck. "Ivanov?"

Women. Small wonder Teo's in his gay phase, really. His religion has a lot of stories about those, and about snakes. Pernicious and dangerous ilk, both of them. He is regarding her sidelong out of his periphery with this sententious obstinacy which then knots his eyebrows into confusion when he divines that the snake isn't laughing but intentionally curious. It fails to occur to him that the serpent's fork-tongued scrutiny is only a small improvement over the venomonous sink of its fang.

"Infatuation, loyalty and sex are rarely a function of amorous love. You'd know that better than most people, wouldn't you?" Could be, he's being an asshole about that. Could be, he's even being an asshole on purpose. Probably not, though. He's Teodoro Laudani, and he has a few years of self-appointed sainthood left for him yet, before the last bad thing happens and strands him in some existential desert with his camel steed cracked in two.

Abruptly, he sits on the edge of the bed, creaking his weight across the pallet's balsawood struts. His doing so— it's a little like barging in, intrusively making himself at home, except that this isn't really her home. The hollowed corpse of the derelict firehouse enhouse them like parasites, and the parasites have no more ownership of it than the mind of the thing that once lived here does now. At the very least, it's absurdly companionable. This is the sort of thing to discuss over hot cocoa in a pyjama party. Tyler Case remains conspicuously absent form the conversational fare.

"I don't think I've been in love before." I don't think I've ever been in love before. I don't think. Teo raises an eyebrow. Grunts, snidely reflective. "None of those choices would be a good one."

"In love?" Eileen lets that question hang, not because she wants Teo to speculate about why she's asking, but because she's seeking clarification on that point herself. His close proximity to her bothers the Englishwoman for reasons that should be immediately apparent — if they aren't, they become so when she leans back, increasing the distance between them even as he narrows it.

A few minutes ago, she might've found comfort in the fact that he still trusts her in spite of what she did to their mutual friend— acquaintance— ally— whatever label it is they're assigning Gabriel today. Right this second, however, her body is growing tight as dread roils and bubbles in her belly, transforming her posture into something much more guarded and subdued.

She doesn't want to hurt him. "You make it sound like it's a place when you put it like that. Something physical you can pack things into. People." Eileen reaches up to run her fingers through the tangle of dark hair that crowns her pale head. "You've met all the men I've ever loved, Teo. I've only wanted to fuck one of them, and he's just as important to me as the others. I don't feel any more strongly. Or less. You can't tell me you've never."

It doesn't take the most sensitive young man in the world to notice Eileen's recoiling, otherwise Teo probably wouldn't have. He bumps into the inscrutable stuff that her personal bubble is made out of, his shoulder seesawing nearer an instant and then tilting carefully away. He isn't entirely sure what that's about. Kuhr's ability heated to white heat and stamped branding-iron over her genes, or perhaps that he has… cooties. One or the other. Neither would hurt his feelings.

"I love you, Eileen Ruskin," Teo says, bright and clear as a bell. "'S that what you wanted to hear, signorina?"

He grins at her from around his shoulder, and from the shape of it, pristine enamel and lines crowding in the corners of his eyes and highlit by the nimbuses of borrowed sunlight twinned around their heads, there's nothing sacred enough about the words to make the humor cruel or even particularly, actually untrue. It isn't that sort of joke. "My feelings lack consistency. It's either because I have a dick or because I'm fucking deranged by self-loathing. The only thing I'm sure about is God and family, and I'm pretty sure those count as separate psychoses depending on who you ask." There's a dry intake of breath, and he agrees. "I can't tell you I've never."

"Your life lacks consistency," Eileen points out with a good-natured roll of her eyes, followed by a low, snorting chuff of what might be laughter. She draws one leg up, encircling her knee in her left arm, and tucks away the object she'd been clinging to. "Why should what you feel be any different?"

If I love you was what she was hoping to hear, she doesn't say. Suspiciously, she doesn't even acknowledge the words have been spoken with anything other than a sidelong glance slung in Teo's general direction that walks the fine line between appreciativeness and an attitude slightly more dubious. No time to answer her first question, either, because here comes another one: "How come you don't consider him family?" she wonders. "If he's your best friend."

There's a dry intake of breath. "Family, you don't choose. Family, you're born to," Teo informs her, splitting a brief grin of teeth.

Brief. His scruffy, aquiline profile tucks in lower, veering his gaze across the floor, across where the bichromatic stipple and spatter of very old bird droppings have dried stuck to the corner, below the rafters nearest the boarded window. He hunkers his shoulder up higher and glances around it at the girl. "Everything in New York City lacks consistency. Love's supposed to be different. Kinda." He scrapes his mouth with the worn flat of his thumb. "You're supposed to be sure of it on some level, no matter how bipolar the manifest reactions are.

"I thought you hated Alexander," he says. Effectively lies, but not on purpose. It is one of those thoughtless things that people say when they mistake a notion for its easiest cognitive association: the truth is, he knows that Alexander hates her. "He tortured you." There's more to it than that, he knows, but it's lost to the mercies of his biases. He chases the glint of metal with his eyes until it disappears into concealment in the fetal furrow of her body, and doesn't think about knives at all.

It has something to do with their disparate upbringing, Eileen suspects, this wildly differing view of what does and does not constitute family. She studies Teo wordlessly, as though examining all the lines and creases that comprise his face might lend her further insight into his perspective. When that fails, she drops her gaze to his hand and busies herself with tracking its movement as he brings his thumb across his mouth.

Of course he thinks she hates Alexander. That's not an outlandish assumption for Teo to make, because it's true — and exactly for the reason specified. "I didn't think we were talking about my feelings," she confesses, not at all furtively, "but you're right. I do. It's not so different from you hating Ethan."

"I don't talk about Ethan. I sure as shit don't ask about him." His saying so is a little defensive, but only a little. If he was that unwilling to talk about Alexander, he would be saying even less than he is. Teo's fingers close, jack-knife open again, flexing as if they've stiffened from lack of use.

As if. "Family's just blood. Coincidence of genetics and biochemical kinship. At the very least, the kind of love you can stencil out of a Hallmark card. Or the pointed lack of it. Anything more than that is extra, I think. Or that's my excuse for not getting along with my dad— " Gabriel had asked about this, so Teo's swift and simple about finishing that explanation before it's asked for, "—even though he didn't do anything. Besides fail to impress.

"That doesn't sound very nice, I guess."

For a moment, he regrets trying to explain and sounds it, too: apologetic. He isn't entirely sure why he felt— obligated to, except that they're talking. Eileen has explained, too. Took the time and spent the breath. Probably, it doesn't sound very nice because he's depressed or something. It happens when you hate yourself and the world's aureolaed in rising flames and shit. "Jess— Al changes his mind about me a lot. You and Gabriel don't seem to have that problem."

Teo's comment about his father earns him a knit brow from Eileen. "Most parents do," she says. Fail to impress. Her da walked out on his family when she was six, and while the talk of Hallmark cards probably goes over her head, she can at least understand what he means when he uses the phrase coincidence of genetics and biochemical kinship. It's something she's thought a great deal about herself, though she doubts she could ever hope to articulate these feelings as artfully as Teo does.

"You're right, though," Eileen agrees, "about Gabriel and I. He knows my mind, and I think I stand a fair chance at guessing his. It's only too bad we don't like what we see in each other." She raises both her dark eyebrows at him, somehow expectant, anticipating his answer with unspoken skepticism even before she's posed the question that precedes it. "Do you know what I wouldn't give to have him change his mind about me? Just once?"

Maaaybe he'll surprise her. Mmmmaaaybe not. Teo's face goes crooked underneath its stubble. "Picture this: he changes his mind for the worse," he says, motioning with his eyebrows. "All right. I take your point, I think: I could be happy with somebody. It happens in every country all the time and there's nothing unique about my case." The exposition sounds tiresome because Teo is getting tired of it, in that way that self-perception wears on one with the increasing magnification of one's flaws and the looming improbability of adequate change.

"You know— " Teo claps a long-fingered hand down on his pant leg in a significant, punctuative kind of way. "I could— would get you medicine, if I knew you were still gonna be here to take it."

"I tried to kill him," Eileen says of Gabriel. "The only way it could be any worse is if I'd succeeded." She has not forgotten what abilities lie dormant beneath Sylar's still exterior — somewhere, deep inside but inaccessible for the time being, he carries with him Kazimir Volken's legacy, and with it the power to transcend death.

She'd much rather think about Teo and his ability to transcend her expectations every time their paths cross and then diverge again, for better or for worse. The smile she offers him is considerably softer, warmer than crooked the one she was wearing earlier, all taut lip and no teeth. "For what it's worth, I don't think love and happiness are meant to go hand-in-hand. There's that dark side of it people don't like to see, so they pretend it doesn't exist. Pass it off as something else."

A pause. Then: "I won't. Be here."

Heehhh. That is air gusting out of him again, after Teo snuffles it in through his nose. The dust in here is awful. He wonders if avian telepathy ingrained her physiology with benefits like asthmatic resistence to bird dander and bacteria, but she looks ill; probably not. "Hadn't thought so." He pushes himself up off the mattress with his hands. "Use your imagination," he says. "Orrr don't. 'M sure you could do worse than that, dolcezza. Fuck, 'm sure you have."

He stops talking before he says something petulant like: Like that's what the world needs more of. Darkness. By the time the urge passes, he's tracked halfway back to the blocky hole in the wall, its fragmented brick and shattered glass troubling his stride without quite breaking it. His heel skews across a slippery patina of finer dust and he drops his shoulder around a smaller bend to start to scoot himself, gopher-squatted, back out. Only, he pauses then, one foot in sunlight, his eyes pointed back into her shadowed nest pile.

"Where'd you hear the thing about Ivanov, anyway?"

Exhaustion has stunted Eileen's imagination, rendering her incapable of thinking much further beyond the boundaries defined by her last exchange with the departing Sicilian. A blessing, that. She lowers herself back down to the mattress, hair spreading out in an inky black halo around her head, cheek rubbing against ratty fabric in lieu of proper linens.

She wouldn't mind a little more darkness, truth be told — it would make it easier for her to fall back asleep.

"I'll give you three guesses," she says, closing her eyes, "but you'll only need one."

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