No Right To Complain


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Scene Title No Right To Complain
Synopsis Teo drags himself home after his experiment, finds Alexander having an amazingly ordinary morning, and stews in toxic guilt and secrecy for all of about ten minutes before spilling his guts in the temporary delusion that none of it would matter to his friend anyway. He's wrong!
Date December 30, 2008

The Bronx — Abby, Alexander, and Teo's Apartment

It's not overly spacious, It's a New York area apartment. But it suits it's residents purposes. An open kitchen, crammed with all the accoutrements needed to cook, a dining table shoved against the far wall with chairs tucked in. A living room with a fairly new red suede couch shoved up against a window and TV set opposite on a stand makes up the rest of the communal living area. It looks fairly newly occupied and the personal touches not put to it yet. Five doors down a hall lead to three separate bedrooms, a bathroom and linen closet. What's behind the doors remains a mystery unless one of the residents leaves a door open, though if someone knows the residents, the simple gold cross above one door indicates where the woman in this place lives.

Al, all unconscious of his dear friend's emotional upheavals, is sitting at the worn formica dinette table in their kitchen, and enjoying coffee, a donut, and the New York times. He's wearing a worn blue fleece robe, and looking sleepy and contented.

And Al's dear friend is finally getting in. The sun made him blink too much, squint through eyes that had begun to accept the eternal light of Dantes' reading lamp and the older man's face, its perpetual state of patient wakefulness, as celestial reality. He feels so fucking sober; he's never been this sober in his life. I can't believe I… over and over, round and round, completely at odds with the ordered restoration of his clothes and recently soaped skin, the wobbly awareness that he lost count of how many times he did this, or that happened, too much time and quiet for memory and nothing forgettable about the experience at all.

He collides with the door to make it open after figuring out the key, walks past the wall that constitutes their foyer and stops dead at the spectacle of Alexander with his coffee. Stares for a moment, before dropping his gaze instead of his key, though he almost mixes those two things up for a moment there.

Alexander recoils a little from that stare, and looks down at himself, and then up again, perplexity visible. "Hey, T," he says, as a chair ushers itself out from the table as an offering of a seat. It's like living with the invisible servants of Cocteau's version of the Beast. "You have a rough night? There's more coffee brewed if you ain't goin' to sleep," he offers, smiling a little. He's stubbly, and heavy-lidded, and very relaxed.

There's a shapeless grunt of confirmation: rough night. Teo's eye shifts automatically toward movement, the self-guided chair, its sharp-angled outline studied blankly for a protracted moment, either guessing at a trick or trying to trick his way out of this. Inevitably, he ends up accepting it. Coffee first, though. Just a little. Wouldn't want to be rude. "You look better," he says, after a moment. His motions are precise: locating a mug, putting it down, hand on handle, pour; steam drifting into his face prompts an extra blink of blue eyes.

"I feel better," Al affirms. "Not one hundred percent, but good. Less like I'm like to keel over and die," he says. The various things for doctoring coffee inch over the table towards Teo like hopeful children - sugar, cream, cocoa. They're all among friends, so no need to hide the magic tricks. "You, on the other hand," he says, stirring a little more sugar into his own mug, "look like twenty miles of bad road. What happened?"

The bashful, scootching approach of condiments elicits a flinch of a glance up that then wears on a moment too long. After the moment, Teo reaches for the sugar and measures the distance to his bedroom in his mind's eye. A spoonful of crystals, the cream ignored; after an instant's consideration, a sprinkle of cocoa.

"Abby bought you the robe, eh? It's good." he curls a finger around the mug's handle and brings it back to the seat that the telekinetic had pulled out for him, and laments that normal furniture doesn't come up high enough to hide twenty miles of bad road under, a rare spate of self-consciousness lancing through guts that he'd sort of thought were incapable of theatrics for the time being. "I had a few drinks," he manages, from over the coffee.

He doesn't smell like alcohol. He smells like someone else's soap.

Alexander looks utterly innocent. "There's one for you, too, you know. I shouldn't spoil the surprise, but what the hell," he says, with a shrug. He's still watching Teo with concern, though that smile has softened a little, sheerly fond. "I thought you was more of a drinker than that. Don't you Italians grow up weaned on wine?" he teases.

Yes. No. Teo guesses he doesn't look specifically hung over, although he can't make out much of his reflection the meniscus of his drink. Blearily, he scrapes a hand through his hair and resists the urge to curl up and die underneath the kitchen table. The weight of Al's gaze and warmth of his affection might as well be grinding his heel into an open wound. Teo's missing something like — twenty hours out of his life, far too many of them spent with somebody else's peepee up his pooper and, really, that wouldn't have been nearly so bad if it had actually been bad.

"Normally, yeah." He lifts his head, his right eye squinting under the onslaught of sun through the window. Grimacing like a four-year-old, he rubs his knuckles into his temple. "There was other bullshit. I made a mistake. Remind me to thank Abby."

That's sort of the kicker. You try something, expecting to hate it so you can swear it off forever. And it….doesn't turn out that way. Al's smile falters, and he eyes Teo with open concern, now. "No one got hurt, right?" He glances around the room, as if afraid of who or what might be listening in. "I….not Phoenix business, right?" Because maybe T spent the night indulging in terrorist derring do. Instead of thoroughly gratuitous gay sex.

It doesn't take long for Teo to knock back the coffee. There isn't much of it; he wasn't planning to stay awake. Not that two cups or eight could probably do more to keep him upright than sheer willpower. The linoleum is peeling under the chair leg nearest Teo's foot, and Al's anemic pallor dramatizes his concern better than a barrage of questions would have. Uncomfortable breakfast thoughts. "No, n—o.

"It wasn't that shit. No one's in the hospital or anything. Won't be." He thinks. Hopes. Though, seriously, if he caught a viral blood infection that Abby can't get rid of, he might have to blow up Minea Dahl's loft. He doesn't want to lie, but shame inspires mundane cowardice. He isn't thinking clearly enough to recognize that as the precursor to his tendency to move perpendicular to ordinary urges. Wearily, he stares at the table.

Al heaves a sigh of relief. "Good," he says, heavily. "Good. I'm glad to hear it," he adds, in a murmur, before looking up again from his own contemplation of the grounds in his cup. "You need any help, or just a good night's sleep?"

"That. Second thing. Grazie, amico." Though the telekinetic lacks the Evolved ability of razor-edged breath, the sigh hurts somehow. Teo blows his hair out of his face and finally shoves himself backward on his chair, manages to catapault onto his feet in the same motion. He topples his jacket off his shoulder with a shrug of one shoulder, catches it before the inversion of sleeve drops the garment on the floor.

Throwing it over the table, he snags the mug and turns to the sink, trying to determine whether he's hungry, why there's seems to be a thing dying in his stomach anyway. Clarity fails to find him, but the feeling turns inward, snags, cuts, and something else resolves into sharp clarity. Nothing means anything unless you let it, and Alexander seems to live with a deliberate lack of investment in existential bullshit. "Y' wanna know? Really?" He rubs his nose on his sleeve and circles back, tousled, miserable, incipiently numb.

Al has seen and done too much to get upset unless he needs to. He's seen the horrors of war, the underbelly of the greatest city in the English-speaking world, and is now involved in the sort of terrorist enterprise that earns you a free ride on Old Sparky, if you get caught. Anything else….gravy. "If you're wantin' to tell, sure," Al says, simply, sipping at his own coffee like he's going to nurse it all damn morning.

'Gravy.' Teo remembers that particular element in his friend's personality pretty well — the everything is okay part, conveniently forgetting the part that goes ballistic on avian telepaths for little stabbing accidents and skews far enough out of control to land him in a derelict train station with more blood scabbing spilled inside his own torso than flowing through his veins. He grips the cuff of his sweater sleeve and pulls until the garment start stretching loose enough for him to slip over his head.

"I fucked a cop." Muffled, then not. The slide of cloth momentarily resurrects Teo's bedhead, though the strands fall again under the scuff of a callused hand. "I can see how that does it for some guys." He squints up hopelessly, half expects to be asked for lurid details, chuckled at, a cat call, You silly hypocrite. He is.

Al cocks his head like a deaf old man being told the football score. It's not a joke. "What did you say?" he asks, in honest confusion. He can't have heard that. "Was she pretty? I mean, most of 'em looked like tractors, but now and then you'd get one who was still a hottie, even in the blue uniform," he says, with cheerful and innocent piggishness. Al's one of those people for whom every day above ground and breathing counts as a success.

It's not a joke. "I thought he was pretty good-looking." Teo's voice manages to transmit and stagnate in the air simultaneously, the mirth he's trying to adopt failing utterly without actually faltering. He snags his jacket up off the table, shaking long folds and sleeves loose, so they hang together in some semblence of order. Apparently this task is so engrossing that he needs both hands and eyes on it. Possibly, the only thing more depressing than fucking the wrong person is if one that might qualify as right doesn't appear to give a flying monkey's ass. "Dark hair, nice arms. I have no idea how to talk about that, mi dispiace." Lingering homophobia, always a convincing bit of camouflage; he's Catholic, after all.

It's a little emotional slideshow, there. Al is…, infuriated, sickened, and bewildered. Or stricken. Before he clamps down on that, and just peers at Teo. "Oh, Teo," he says, gently. "Please be joking, though honestly, that ain't funny, either. I mean…'re not talking about some ally of ours, like Sergei, right?" He's staring at Teo as if not certain if his comrade has been…possessed, or stolen by aliens, or something.

The slideshow reels through and yanks the carpet with it, leaving the Sicilian slightly off-balance, caught between tropes and befuddled by some fancy metaphor that pretty much just means he's confused and pretty sure the clusterfuck just turned a little further tits up. You don't need to have spent as much time as Teo has, to recognize that something's off about Alexander's voice even before he looks up to see the final frame settle on the older man's expression. "N…no. To either those things. There was a guy. I don't—" Like him very much, know him very well, want to explain. Awkwardly, he bumps into the urge to apologize again, for not feeling adequate to the retelling of lurid details, as if that could account for the expression on his friend's scrimshaw face. If anyone would understand, he'dve thought—

Alexander is clearly fighting to understand, though his expression has sealed over like a winter pond. "I….does he know who you are? What you are? I mean, what you do?" He's got the vertiginous unease of a cartoon coyote who has just put down a paw to find that the bird has led him off the edge of the mesa and out into thin air. "I just….what the FUCK, Teo? What the fuck?" And then there's anger, like a summer squall, even as Al clamps down on his power. It leaves that weird, muffled sensation in the air, a literal change in barometric pressure. Better than having him fling crockery around with it, at least. "A -cop-? Are you TRYING to get caught? Where did you find this guy?"

That doesn't make any sense to Teo. Granted, that doesn't say much given the state of the younger man's intellect these days, but still. There's a furrow in his brow, uncertain, uncomprehending, a twitch of indignation offering an inkling of stability in the form of familiarity. It's an Italian thing, being angry. "I'm not stupid." He's stupid. Only, arguably, not that way. His weight shifts back on his heels and the clothes in his arms creak in his grip; he doesn't look up at the dead air, knowing that there's nothing yet to see. "I didn't get Phoenix in trouble.

"I'm not going to show a cop shit just because he has a dick instead of a vagina. He didn't look like a fucking tractor, so if it's all the fucking same to you." Stupid thing to say. He jerks his head to the left, stares at his mug in the sink. Should have turned the faucet on over it. It's harder to wash off once it's dried up. The residue.

It's still utterly beyond Alex. "I just….of all the people in New York City to pick up for a one nigh- are you, like, seeing this guy? In love with him?" Al's sat down again, and he's gone terribly pale, with that waxen bloodlessness coming into his face again. It's just like Teo to flip the switch on the track and create that kind of emotional trainwreck. He's not even really looking at Teo any more, but some indeterminate middle distance.

Hadn't seen the train. That's Teo's excuse. He was just walking. Slammed into something, tripped and found his balance on the other side, and then suddenly there was this terrible teeming noise and Al really doesn't look well anymore. He's also asking the most inconceivable questions. "No." His answer comes across mechanical, like the rotation of eyes in their sockets. Fatigue puts everything through a Doppler filter, and he can't tell if he's misparsing things in their incorrect extremes or if this is what is really happening. "He's an asshole. Not evil, just an asshole. It was just that; what you said." One night. That last sentence comes across with a footstep shifted closer to where the redhead is seated, some weird figment of reassurance whose origin he has yet to pinpoint.

And then there's a metallic click in the back of Alex's brain, and the….it's not quite a survival instinct. Innate ruthlessness, perhaps. But whatever it is comes to the fore, and the redhead's no longer wearing the tragic air of a spurned lover. "Huh," he says, shaking his head, as if he'd been told the answer to a puzzle, and it'd turned out to be something utterly other than he'd expected. He purses his lips for a second, and then rises to rinse out his own cup and stuff it into the dishwasher, before scuffling for his bed. He's tired, nothing to do today, and Sonny will be by, later. Maybe.

The step Teo had taken toward the chair folds neatly into the next, pursuing Alexander toward the sink. Having already bungled one, the presence of more switches is just fucking the Sicilian's grasp on the situation further. He doesn't know what happened there, except he has to, sort of; it's the same flash-freeze-over that hits him when he thinks about other people getting their grubby hands on something that ought to be his. His armload of winter clothes falls out of his hands and hit the chair. Suddenly, he's arguing with — reassuring — nothing but cold and empty air. "'Huh?'" he repeats, articulating no sensible statement with an uplifted eyebrow. Which caves the next moment, consternation as the dishwasher comes open. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" He stoops when Al moves to put the cup in. Follows, after.

"I just….that was fucking stupid, kid, but it's your life. You're the co-leader, if you think you can ball one of the boys in blue with no one the wiser, knock yourself out," Al says, utterly weary, as he heads for the bedroom, already unbelting his robe. There's nothing underneath it but a pair of pajama pants. "Me, I'm gonna lie down. Shit. You really had me worried for a second there."

The middle of Teo's face is all lines, trying to figure out how it was he managed to reverse a week of recovery and what had appeared to be a healthy start to the morning. "Elisabeth and Sergei are cops. I'm not going to do it again, anyw—" His lips find a straight line and, instinctively, he straightens and shifts his eyes away as Al starts peeling terrycloth away from his skin. He'd get defensive, but he's awful at that; self-condemnation gives him a strange sense of security that relies little on external validation or criticism. "Sorry about that," he adds after a moment, gruff with sincerity.

Al is pearl-pale, enough so that were one close enough, they could trace the blue lines of veins under the skin. "No problem," he says, tiredly, disposing himself on his bed, and rolling on to his back. His bedroom is nearly bare, that almost zen simplicity. A cheap plastic wardrobe for his suits for work, an equally cheap dresser, a single bed on a low pallet frame, and a low nightstand with a lamp. A calendar, with a smiling pinup girl on it.

Scruffy hair, the side of Teo's skull thump on the doorframe before he leans his shoulder on it. He knows Al's bedchamber well enough that there's no compulsion to glance through it — the dresser is comfortable to sit on, and he prefers February's girl. His attention stays on his friend, whose partial nudity he conveniently forgets to let bother him. There are enough elephants in the room to populate a savannah. He's distinctly aware that he's going to be chased out any moment now. Any moment now. He only really has the right to say one, maybe two things. He says neither of those. "The nineteenth," instead, abruptly. Either looking for a fight or because that goes both ways, the worrying. Both. "In Midtown. You ran off to throw down with Wu-Long. Could you not do that again?"

"I didn't have a choice. He came for me, he was all I could handle," Al's voice is matter of fact. "I know Rickham was our objective, but I couldn't….." he trails off. Excuses have been made. One hand is curled on his chest. He closes his eyes, and they have that sunken look that gives him the aura of an effigy on a tomb, before he tugs on his comforter.

Over the distance of Al's bedroom floor, there's the grate of blunt fingers on doorjamb. Teo fidgeting. "There's always a choice." Insisting, though he doesn't usually.

Alexander's lips thin out, but he doesn't open his eyes. "Then I made the wrong one," he says, gently.

Blame it on testosterone. The excuse lasts until you die. A shoulder comes up under Teo's ear, huddling despite the warmth. He doesn't know how to articulate the terror of the derelict subway's darkness, trying to find breath in a body that looked like a particularly unconvincing marzipan construction. "'Re you mad at me?" He has asked this question before.

"No," Al says. His voice is very quiet, and there's none of the huffy note that denotes someone sulking or lying. "I'm tired, Teo. Do we have to do this now?"

'Course not. There's a rough transliteration of that in the click of the door closing by Teo's hand. He tries not to listen for the echo of the lock.

None follows. Nor is there any sound from Al for hours to follow. If Teo should look in, he is apparently sleeping soundly.

December 29th: Secret Meeting...
December 30th: Give A Man A Rope
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