Nothing Now


felix_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Nothing Now
Synopsis Who's the one you're supposed to be here with you?
Date January 14, 2008

An Appropriately Seedy Hotel

That hotel has no doubt been there since before the Roosevelt administration, another odd little survival. Once it was beautiful, now it's fairly down at heels. Worn, but clean, not merely some hourly flophouse. The neon sign on the front facade still glimmers - The Heart of The City Motel, it declares. The night watchman is actually a middle aged lady, watching a soap, who doesn't more than look up as Teo passes. Presumably Fel called down for her to expect him.

Fel himself is on the third floor, waiting in the dimly lit hotel room - there's the green and scarlet glow of the sign coming through the thin curtains, as well as a lamp on the stand by the bed.

Three knuckles rap on the doorframe, which isn't wide enough to catch the percussive knock of all four. A pallid blue eye and slice of the Sicilian's tired face shows through the gap between the wooden strip and the door, pupil contracting and widening as Teo's vision adjusts to the lighting of the room relative to the hallway's sonorous illumination. Not much of an adjustment, really. "Dantes?" Wrong name, right guy.

"Ivanov, now, but yes," Felix says, padding over to swing the door in. No cracks about entering freely and of his own will.

Entirely pointless, Teo glances over his shoulder before he enters freely and of his own will. Provided, of course, his host allows him to do so without objection, physical or otherwise. "My boss says we'll take you and the other boys, but there's no real news yet.

"You know. Regarding the whole thing with you buying in to work with terrorists for a few days," he clarifies, casting a gaze through the room, his eyes casually curious. Books? He's used to finding books in the space that Felix chooses to reside in. "But here's some shit you should have." One gloved hand gestures, requests the older man offer a palm up, even as he roots through his pocket with the other.

Fel trusts him. More, perhaps than he should. So he holds out a hand questioningly, nodding to the news. Books, yes. Worn paperbacks he's scavenged. Felix has a habit, there's nothing else to call it.

Neither a saint nor infallible, Teo isn't the ideal retainer for anybody's trust. It could be worse, of course. He could be handing over a grenade pin.

Tiny pieces of metal and plastic, with the weight of artificial candy and similar in size. A slender sim card shows green except for the gold teeth where it ought to be plugged into a telephone; a round, flat bead of a battery, the like of which would be commonly and easily found installed in watches separated from an electronic device that isn't much larger, a GPS tracking unit, or data pusher.

They tumble into Felix's palm, winking dully like gossamer wings ripped off flies. "One of Median's numbers are on the card, or else she can find you if you're carrying that thing," Teo explains steadily enough, glancing up. "So you're in touch even if something happens to me or Chris."

"Interesting," Felix says, holding it up to the light. "A little tag." It vanishes into his pants pocket, for the moment. "I'm flattered. And who is Median?" He gestures to the chair by the little table, the only other seating besides the surface of the bed.

Never one to waste stealth unnecessarily, Teo lets his feet fall with careless percussion on the floor as he lopes over to the chair despite a moment's characteristic hesitation: he generally prefers to sit on the floor. In the end, he drops himself onto the furniture, in a haphazard sprawl of limbs. "Our hacker. Chris has probably mentioned her to you before. She's the one in charge of getting together the computer shit behind your Edward Dantes ID. Flattered?" he inquires belatedly, canting an eyebrow.

Felix points out, tone dry, "That's more than my own people would do for me. I'm impressed." There's bottled water on the table, more then one, unopened. Fel doesn't trust the taps here, surely.

"Don't let it go to your head," Teo suggests, slinging one long leg over the other: an ungentlemanly cross of legs. "I'm doing it for Deckard, too. You two kissed and made up yet?" Pale eyes swing through the room for the third time, as if measuring the length of the walls or checking that he might have missed something else. Signs of company, other objects, personal effects. You'd think there'd be a difference in lifestyle, between Dantes and Ivanov.

Not much, because there's not much to either. He doesn't have his apartment and his own stuff back, not yet. All in storage, pending a shipment to the part of sunny Florida where his aging parents live. Parents currently quietly stunned and yet jubilant - their only child isn't dead. Fel smirks. "In a fashion, yes. We'll see if he's willing to deal with me any further than he has to. I doubt it, but so long as he's not selling me to the highest bidder…."

Irritation lances through Teo's features, a brief spate of light through eyes otherwise darkened by fatigue. "That's a pretty fucking funny concern for a guy who practically did as much to him." Trust the littlest Italian to be protective of even the petty crook, ex-con, and fugitive who draws penises on the condensation of mall windows. He smooths his brow with visible effort, a reversion that Felix has either seen before or similar enough: his gaze drops, a tacit apology, though a verbal one would have been just as ready if Teo didn't have something else to say.

Request, really. And likely less altogether predictable than his tendency to rue: "Can I sleep on your floor tonight?"

Fel's face is momentarily fierce, though it's that cold ire. "What the fuck? I damn near died to keep him out of their hands. That whole ruse came from one of Volken's gun molls deciding she'd kneecap me and damn near taking off my leg instead. I figured it'd be better if it looked like that was it, rather than have them come for me in a fucking hospital." And then he's back to calm, too. "You can have the bed. I'll take the chair," he says, wearily. "Or let me see if the main desk has a cot. I bribed her with enough, it should work."

"Fat lotta good that did you, eh? Ivanov?" Teo scrunches himself down in the chair like a belligerent child, staring from over his rumpled clothes. "I know you were trying to keep some people safe, but there were others. Abby—" But there's no real fight in the face he has on, either mollified by the brief and unexpected flare of the older man's temper or because he's moved on already, cycled through passions as brilliant and fleeting as an Italian's are wont to be. And then, inevitably, though this time his gaze holds steady, "I'm sorry. I've already infringed a lot on my friends and people who run the safehouses. Barracks have too many people. You're quiet." He didn't have anywhere else to go.

Felix concedes the point with a lazy shrug, thin shoulders moving under the cotton. He's already picking up the phone - a heavy plastic desk phone of a very old vintage indeed. He talks to the front desk for a little, nodding to himself. "She'll have one sent up in a minute. And I suppose I am. It's fine. I owe you more than one night sharing a room is going to repay, but I can at least make the gesture," He passes a palm across his face, tired. "Abby. That's the girl who healed me."

Despite the discomfort those words cause— of owing, Teo doesn't answer that, not directly in any case. "Yes. She said she made a deal with you before. It doesn't really matter," he adds, after a moment, as if it might matter to Felix whether or not he was still peeved about that. "She has others now." In a manner not unlike Felix does, with an uplink to Median now. Eyes the approximate color of the frozen day-time sky watch the older man's hand trail across his own face with none of that cold. He doesn't say anything for awhile, listening to the clock, the throaty grumble of central heating.

When he finally speaks again, it's a little like he's doing so in part to be a good guest; silences are rude when you're stepping all over somebody's courtesy, debts or no. It's a little like that. "I get better and better at compartmentalizing shit every day, but it's still really hard not to think about having sex with you. Like, I see your fat lip and I remember that thing you did with—" He smiles and, simultaneously, the strength goes out of his neck, dropping his head sideways onto the wood of the chair. Despite a certain wan drowsiness to his expression, the sentiment reaches his eyes.

Fel can deal with silence. He's used to it - patience and waiting make up so much of his work. There's the sound of the sleeping city beyond the windows, the flicker of the neon light. His throat works, once, before he forces a smile past the flush creeping up from his collar. Presumably when he's really in command of himself he has a decent pokerface, but Teo gets under the radar, somehow. His gaze swings away to the window, as if looking were itself too intimate. "Tell me about it. You still look the same."

"Eh. Probably not for much longer." Teo's face drains close to empty when he offers this peculiar assurance. He doesn't bother with his poker face most situations that don't involve actual stakes and chips, though, and he isn't going to here. He's annoyed at the prospect of having to change his face. Difficult to say why. Deckard had refused to, dug his heels in, despite the Force and terrorists both hunting him to ground; Felix, however. Barely ruffled. Ironically improved his complexion, even. Teo stops staring when he realizes he is, and sighs down the front of his jacket, some mixture of exhaustion and contrition.

"'M sorry for that too." That should have more words with it, to explain, clarify, negate an inadvertent insult, but he either can't think of them or doesn't think Felix, of all people, needs to hear them.

"I take it you're going to need a new identity?" he says, having gone poised and still. What passes in him for fidgety nervousness. That weird, angular profile is momentarily cut against the dim glow beyond the curtains, before he looks back to Teo, finally. "And sorry for what, how? You lost me," he says, as there's a knocking at the door. He checks the peephole, and then unchains the door, swinging it in to accept the folded cot and roll it towards what little open space there is on the wooden floor. "You've done nothing to me."

Teo should get up and help. He sits where he is, legs propped in a sloppy T-cross, arms huddled close around his frame, his tousled head held between the back of the chair and his own chest. He'll be over here while Felix does all the work. Awesome. "New identity," he confirms. Then half takes it back: "Maybe. Sorry." He's too sleepy to remember to put a filter on the compulsion to repeat that word every other sentence; no brain-mouth filter. Wryly, "I'm sure it made you feel better to have positive ID on one of the FBI's bogies." Attention shifting away from the door, he proceeds to track the lines of Felix's body through space.

"Well, I shot you," he points out, irrelevantly, because it's the first thing that comes to mind. Then, disconnected, "You didn't want that."

Sonny's work never added muscle or bulk. He's still the same wiry thing he was before. "Yes, it did, actually," he notes, levering the thing open. It squeaks in protest, like a graveyard gate, but yields, folding out into something approximately twin-sized, made up with white sheets and a dark green blanket. "Fucking Volken," His tone is without heat, before he glances back over his shoulder. "That you did," he concedes, lazily. "I'd forgotten, in all honesty. Sad, huh? Been shot so many time I lost track. There," he says, standing back. "It looks like it'll hold up. Reminds me of the old Murphy bed in my parents' apartment in Little Odessa," he says, amused. "My room was that tiny, like a ship's cabin." He turns a blue gaze on Teo. "You shower at night, or in the morning? And are you sleepy now?"

"Maybe we can still be friends afterward." Teo doesn't use sarcasm or irony very often, but that remark is a decided departure from his tendency to talk straight. Friends! He's being funny. "If you get assigned to something else and Homeland Security conveniently fails to notice you know something worth exploiting." It's sort of an explanation, despite the fact that he probably didn't owe Felix one. Finally, he starts to drag himself off the chair, a process that requires him leaning hard and pushing with his hands.

He looks at the bed with a gaze no more meaningful or deliberate than the one he'd expended studying the steepled angle of Felix's thighs while sorting it out.

The notion of a ship's cabin makes him smile — though that might have been the mention of the older man's childhood. Nostalgia has that effect. "Whenever I get the chance," he says, scratching the back of his head, a hapless grin, a joke at bachelor hygiene though he only smelled much for sweat or the like the one time. He nods. "Yeah, I am."

Felix jerks a thumb at the bathroom. "Then you get first dibs on the shower," he says, bluntly. Still more or less avoiding Teo's gaze, what courtesy he can offer. He makes a face at the mention of Homeland Security. "Let's hope," he says, slightly more somber. "I don't fancy spending any time in their basement. My Bureau clearance, if I still have it, is only a partial balance against my being Evolved."

Without further ceremony, Teo begins to angle for the bathroom in question, slotting leggy strides in the gap between beds. "It's good to have contacts," he acknowledges, without turning around, steering his way with both eyes trained ahead. "And a job, and freedom. In bocca al lupo with all that shit, signor." He reaches the bathroom, snags the knob with one hand and finally begins to peel off his jacket with the other. Pauses only to kick off his shoes, moves them to the side with a pry and poke of his toes.

"Thanks," Felix says, but it's uncertain. How much of that was sarcasm? Once Teo's safely in the bathroom, he rather gingerly disposes himself on the newly arrived bed, as if uncertain it'll bear his weight or not. The room's actual bed is a full, It's a rather catlike set of gestures. Satisfied, he scoops up the book he was reading before and angles it towards the light of the lamp.

Switching in and out of the shower is a fairly painless procedure that doesn't require much discussion. By the time Felix emerges from his turn, the Sicilian is passed out — on the unfolded cot, the lamp light going dull on the line of his cheek as moisture evaporating slow-motion into the heated air. He is buried underneath a wrinkled mountain of doubled linens and blanket, not a toe nor an errant elbow peeking out from underneath, eyes sealed behind fringey lashes and nose and mouth hidden in the belly of his pillow. There are no guns, knives, or phones laid out in sight: by default, they must still be on him. It can't be a comfortable state to sleep in, but he's out, and what's left of him remains stubbornly unavailable for response.

Though not for long. They aren't nightmares, exactly. He used to have those, a Catholic boy's fare of images and terrors that awakened him with teeth pink from the guns and ears bleeding. Teodoro knows nightmares when he has them. He emerges from something else, ugly and cold, and finds his feet in perfect silence, without any real sense of time, still cocooned in his bedding, his bedhead emerging all fuzzy eyes and warm breath from the middle of a vortex of cotton, one side of his jaw paler than the other, and proceeds to pile onto Felix with what looks — feels — like enough arrogance to genuinely think he can make a play for the older man.


Well, it'd've been cruel to wake Teo. He did seem to be sleeping relatively peacefully. So Fel takes the bed, the actual bed. His Walther is on the bedside table, a little gleaming thing, like a deadly pet. The Fed himself is in a half-sprawl under the covers, which he has somewhat managed to kick right off - modestly clad in a pair of dark blue pajama bottoms and a T-shirt, anyway. He smells of nothing more than soap and toothpaste, and is as limp as a sleeping dog. If he has nightmares, they don't show on his features. Teo's approach has him waking, but not startling, making a questioning noise and rolling over a little, trying to parse what's happening.

Teo had been sleepy before. He's not entirely awake now, but given a few minutes, he will be more than he was before. It's going to be a problem, soon, his inability to stay asleep. That's kind of a good excuse for harassing Felix Ivanov, despite the busted lip and all the sincerity of his earlier apologies. It's tactical, medical; he needs sleep and he can't get there by himself.

There is not a lot of grace in the way he moves onto the bed and levers himself onto Felix's legs, his lowered gaze momentarily inscrutable in the deficiency of light. He's warm. Not feverishly so, but chocolate would melt easy in the hand that he flattens on the other man's belly, pushing the bottom of the T-shirt up with his thumb, dropping his tousled head to plant a kiss onto the navel he locates, somehow, without using his eyes or fingers.

His hair tickles where he drapes his head blearily across Felix's hip and stares upward out of eyes abruptly pale again from the refraction of distant street light. One bare shoulder started to slip out of blankets. The top of the tattooed crucifix shows in stark relief against the line of his skin.

This time Fel is obliging, letting Teo do more or less as he pleases, with no objection. Whatever obscure point he felt he had to prove as Dantes has apparently been made. It's odd - the face is so different, but the scent of his skin is the same. As is the refusal to remove the little silver medal on its steel chain. It's in the later watches of the night that he finally rolls on to one side, sighing contentedly. Apparently he's not one to be much troubled by guilt. "You mind if I smoke?" he asks, drowsily, eyeing Teo from under half-lowered lids.

There's nothing apparent about Felix's lack of trouble with guilt. In Teo's experience, that tends to come and go. And while horrible puns are gratuitously available, guilt isn't the only thing.

The pillow is yanked out from under the older man's hip with after two efforts, the first less efficient than the second, flipped over with offending side down and planted onto the mattress under his head. Or so was the plan, but he miscalculated, overshot slightly in the shortage of light; the top and tip of his shoulder ends up embedded in the stuffed cotton instead. He's too lazy to fix that. Stays there, tousled head cast down at a slightly awkward angle, the lassitude of gravity and exertion bottoming out inside his skull. His voice is muffled.


"Thanks," he says, easily, before sitting up to dig a pack of cigarettes and a lighter out of the pocket of the coat draped over the chair. Once he's taken care of that, cigarette dangling lazily from a lip, he half props himself against the headboard, and draws up one knee, tugging the sheet up to his waist in an odd and rather extraneous motion towards modesty. With his free hand, he idly strokes Teo's hair, as if the blond were a favored pet.

Half his face hidden by the turn of his profile, Teo looks up out of one eye in a fashion not unlike the way he'd blinked at the older man upon his initial request, however long ago. His attention doesn't stay there long, roving down the odd angles of Felix's face, searching out the marks that would fit his teeth. There will be a palm-sized smear of translucent yellow across the older man's hipbone in the morning. The kind that's only really felt by the gentlest of touches, and only then if one's straining to. In his own disorientation, he'd forgotten to pull off the crucifix.

It's hanging beside another trinket, however: a pendant the size of a nickel, a sailing ship circumscribed by a brass ring. Neither man has any way of knowing that that particular gift came from a mutual friend.

The favored pet closes his eyes briefly, and opens it again in time to see the glow of embers delineate Felix's profile, then fade. He mutters something, not English. Moves a hand underneath his face as if to help tilt his head, nosing the inside of Felix's wrist, lazy before he starts to feel the cold.

He tends to be gentle, but there's always a faint air of restrained cruelty. Like a cat playing with its claws sheathed. Apparently it's not worth smoking the whole cigarette - he pinches it out after a moment, leaves it in the nightstand ashtray. "You like to play rough," he comments, after a little bit. His tone is not disapproving, almost amused.

Denial is instantaneous, but entirely nonverbal: Teo's eyes smile, his mouth hidden by the bar of the older man's wrist before he puts a kiss there. It feels more like a rosehip than anything they'd done over the course of the last few hours. 'Course not.

Felix's answering smile is fond, if a little distant. "I'm flattered you came back," he says, quietly. "And glad, honestly. You're good," he murmurs, twining his finger in the blond's hair, again.

Probably strange, but predictable in its strangeness, that sends Teo's retreating to the darker corner of the room. There is no accompanying blush, or at least not one visible in the half-darkness. Very well. Conversation, then. "Not 's good as you are," he points out, presently, his voice even, volume low, tone framing something that suspiciously resembles a complaint rather than flattery. His egotism is a sporadic if sturdy thing. Then, "Why wouldn't I?" There's a laundry list of obvious answers. They have talked about them before. Teo might be inquiring after a repeat, or he might not.

"I wasn't certain you enjoyed yourself all that much, or hadn't succumbed to regret after. Not to mention our respective employment," he says, simply. "And you haven't the practice. I've got twenty years behind me." He rolls fully on to his back, props head on hands, eyes Teo calmly.

Two toes snag at the rumpled spill of blankets barely latched onto the corner of the mattress. Teo pulls them over. Some of them, anyway. They slip out of his grasp once and he has to move, finally, twisting to grasp the hem with his hand and roll the snarled mass over himself in the same motion that rolls himself up against Felix's chest, abandoning pillow in favor of warmth. "You can do a lot of things with regret besides succumb," he answers, blankly.

Felix is not especially cuddly - he's all bone and sinew. But he puts his arms around Teo, gently, shifting to make himself a more comfortable pillow. "True," he says, plucking at the covers to settle them more equably. The light from the sign beyond the window catches in the pale eyes.

Teo isn't very good at cuddling either. As obviously implied by the older man's decades of experience, that sort of thing doesn't necessarily follow as a natural course from sex, and it hadn't. It doesn't matter. He's a simple creature with needs that are rarely edifying, and the circle of arms was more than he expected; he permits himself to be held, close, and despite already being something of a furnace, he sops up Felix's body heat with the same feline greed as he had caresses. Inelegantly, his nose ends up bent against mattress, his breath a grumbling wash against Felix's jaw. Hates the cold.

"Who're you supposed to be with right now?"

"What do you mean?" Fel wonders, tone mild, turning to look at him. He's equally greedy for warmth, fitting himself against Teo as best he can. "Are you supposed to be with someone else, at the moment. Did you get lost?" He doesn't sound offended at the idea. There's no possessiveness there.

Nor is there in Teo. He shakes his head. Which isn't very easy, given he's lying down and has trapped half his face below Felix's, but he manages, mooshing his sandwiched hair. "No." The syllable is stretched out a little in a way that implies drowsiness. "But the fact you asked kind 'f implies you know what I meant."

Felix murmurs, rather sleepily himself, "The one I'm supposed to be with is dead. Has been for years. No one really serious since." He reaches down to idly scratch the length of Teo's back - more an idle affectionate gesture than anything else.

There's a tangible transition of tug and texture where the blacked area of tattoo and unmarked skin shift under the drag of nails. Perhaps realizing he ought to be reciprocating here, or something like that, Teo moves, clumsy from sleep, a hand disrupting the slack spread of the sheets a moment before his fingers make contact. Flatten, parallel between the spars of Felix's ribs. "A woman?"

"No," he says, simply. "I've loved them, too," he allows, before arching a little under the touch - there's the ridge of the blade scar, curving up from his hip. "But the one I'm thinking of was a man."

Teo's fingers curl when they find the scar, aligning his nails along one side of the curving seam. A twitch of movement, and he scratches the minute jump to the other side. The next breath, he remembers he doesn't actually have energy for— that; presses his other palm to Felix's chest, an odd sort of apology, even as he pushes, gently, just enough to get his head up, back, far enough to look Felix in the eye. He wants to ask, see, but not for any creepy underhanded terrorist motive, and that merits eye contact. "What was he like?"

That has Fel making a stifled noise, and not entirely one of displeasure. But he subsides, a little sheepishly. "He was a firefighter. He was from Hawaii, originally. He was one of the most easygoing people I ever met, which is why he put up with me and my job as long as he did."

That's nice. Where 'nice' can not possibly encompass the snide disbelief and toxic envy that mars Teo's features, fleetingly, before he shuffles his head to glance down into the darkness between their bodies cocooned in blankets and Felix's. "You get over him?"

His gaze is fixed on some nonexistent middle point, searching as if to read letters written on the air - he's not looking at Teo, for the moment. And his hands on Teo are strangely light, as if he'd almost forgotten him, despite the skin to skin contact. "I… yes? No?" Like he's searching for the right answers to a test. "I mean, I didn't kill myself when he died. I didn't crawl into a bottle. I function. Time eases pain. But it doesn't heal everything, any more than it would for an amputee, I guess. I've just never felt anything like it since. I don't know if I can." There's no self-pity in his tone, and the grief is faded and dry, like old leaves.

"M' brother was in love once. She's gone. He's the only one I know who really…" Teo looks at the middle point. Sees nothing there, but hadn't really expected to. "Lost his shit after something like that. World — broke. Y'know. Like they write about in the girly fuck books and fairy stories." Evidently, Teo doesn't read girly fuck books and fairy stories, or he'd know that they don't talk about that, but the gist is there. Fatalism is romantic. People like him, however, survive an endless series of panultimate trials and possibilities.

Teo shifts. A knee bumps and slides past Felix's, and he hides his face in linens again, closing his eyes wearily. "But you did it other times before. Just not since."

"Yes, before, just not after. And never quite like that." he concedes, quietly, letting his eyes half-lid, before reciting, softly, "He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong. The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood. For nothing now can ever come to any good." He stretches, lazily, and shifts so he's got one arm draped comfortably around Teo, as if to keep him from getting away entirely. "Eight years. You're hardly the first lover I've had since his death," he adds, softly.

'Getting away entirely' seems like effort. By this point of evening, Teo has already expended most that he cares to. His breath tides regular with sleep and the tips of his fingers drag as heavily as bags of sand across the older man's belly when he moves to assure Felix that he's still awake, without knowing precisely why he keeps himself so. "Won't be the last, either," he answers. Whether he means about falling in love or taking lovers— fortunately, the one answer serves well for both, but should one be overly presumptuous he can pretend it was the other. "Shouldn't be." As if he hopes so. You don't have to like someone to hope they make it through. "I like Auden. If you're using him right, I guess you're more like my brother than I thought.

"Y' ever read Garcia-Marquez?" Love in the Time Of Cholera, One Hundred Years Of Solitude. Deckard got so mad at him for the second one; remembering makes Teo smile, even with his eyes shut.

"I have tried. He never grabbed me - a matter of taste, I suppose," he muses, something like smugness coming into his face. A ghost of satisfaction, even as he moves to scratch Teo's scalp with his fingertips. "Garcia-Marquez, I mean. I like Neruda, though, if that helps." There's a glint from the streetlight outside on the medal he wears, it's been worn enough that it's polished bright.

Teo cracks an eyelid open. Through the half-dark of eyelashes, he watches Saint Michael even as Saint Michael exchanges fighting stares with his ship and cross. "'I discovered that my obsession for having each thing in the right place was not the well-deserved reward of an ordered mind, but just the opposite,'" he cites sluggishly, with little apparent effort. "'A complete system of pretense invented by me to hide the disorder of my nature. I am not disciplined out 'f virtue but as a reaction to my negligence, that I appear generous in order to conceal my meanness. Pass myself off as prudent because I am evil-minded, conciliatory in order not to succumb to my rage.

"'That I am punctual only to hide how little I care about other people's time. I learned, in short, that love is not a condition of the spirit, but a sign of the zodiac.'" He skips a beat, or a few lines, resting between Felix's arrogant smile and Felix's affectionate fingers; thinks of cats, nine lives, sheathed claws; forgets to be afraid. "'I buried myself in the romantic writings I repudiated when my mother tried to impose them on me. And in them, I became aware that the invincible power that moves the world is unrequited, not happy, love.'" His speech slows into a stop.

Teo shouldn't know him that well. But it's all apropos, and the fleeting smugness turns a hair sour, disconcerted. Am I so very transparent? "That's… accurate," he admits, a little haltingly. "Sad to say." He fondles the line of the younger man's jaw, the cheek, the throat, still with that absent-minded air. Whatever tension is in him he's disciplined enough to suppress, ribs rising and falling slowly.

Or, perhaps, not so much the Auden man after all. Teo hadn't really thought so. Or he might be too enamored of Romero and Gianina's tragedy to allow anybody else its like, as if holding them above the ordinary muck of human struggle and failure gave him unique and identifiable purpose. "We can't all be cowboys and princesses and pure of heart," he answers. Two-tone: there's a note of cheer in his voice and the drag of indifference. It's slightly at odds with the squeeze of eyelids that suddenly troubles his otherwise quiescent expression and bob of shadow in his throat, a sentiment that can be termed neither pleasure nor pain. Doesn't tickle. Not exactly. Felix isn't the only man in the room he wishes he didn't know as well as he does.

Enough, now, enough. It's still dark, beyond the flickering neon. Dawn hasn't yet begun to paint the reaches of the eastern sky. "No," he agrees, quietly, "We can't," And turns sufficiently to kiss Teo, more fiercely than he has yet that evening. It seems a pleasant enough way of ending the conversation and starting another wordless one.

It's been a long day and a difficult conversation: there might have been more objection if Teo hadn't been waiting for this for half a fucking month. He splays his jaws between Felix's thumb and mouth and turns with the torque of the older man's body, one knee hitching up, his breath also. He hadn't really wanted to talk anyway.

I discovered that my obsession for having each thing in the right place, each subject at the right time, each word in the right style, was not the well-deserved reward of an ordered mind, but just the opposite: a complete system of pretense invented by me to hide the disorder of my nature. I discovered that I am not disciplined out of virtue but as a reaction to my negligence, that I appear generous in order to conceal my meanness, that I pass myself off as prudent because I am evil-minded, that I am conciliatory in order not to succumb to my rage, that I am punctual only to hide how little I care about other people’s time. I learned, in short, that love is not a condition of the spirit, but a sign of the zodiac.

I became another man. I tried to reread the classics that had guided me in adolescence, and I could not bear them. I buried myself in the romantic writings I had repudiated when my mother triedto impose them on me with a heavy hand, and in them I became aware that the invincible power that has moved the world is unrequited, not happy, love. When my tastes in music reached a crisis, I discovered that I was backward and old, and I opened my heart to the delights of chance.

Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Memories Of My Melancholy Whores.

January 14th: Stolen Moments
January 15th: Final Orders
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