Numbered Clouds


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Scene Title Numbered Clouds
Synopsis Teo and Francois return home from reactionary forays with people of exceptional ability, one more healing than the other. In more blatant terms: Francois shows off his lack of disability, and Teo makes lunch.
Date June 23, 2010

West Village: Maison d'Allegre

The first thing Teodoro did back at the brownstone was to drink another beer.

Then a second, before he realized he hadn't eaten, and took out one of the bricks of pasta sauce to heat up, the parm shaker, put some pasta on, and a few spears of asparagus on the tray with a slender pat of butter. It was methodical and he did it with the light and the television on, filling in the generous spaces of the ground floor, between bookshelves and the plump couch, the pale walls and question-mark curl of the staircase with noise, animus, light, the crisp fragrance of basil and garlic, the kinds of things that are normally supposed to pervade the living.

Of course, it wasn't very normal that it took Teodoro thirty-four minutes to realize what was missing— that was: the other person who lives here. That seems like something of an oversight just reading it, but to a pathologically paranoid ninja who is considering throwing himself on the sacrificial altar for friendship, love, justice, existential peace, and all the high-fallutin' reasons, it is like having a bucket of cold water upended over his own head. He looks at the clock and determines that Francois was supposed to have been back twenty minutes ago.

Begins to curse, under his breath. Of course, by the time he has reacquired his cellphone, he has managed to smear sticky extra virgin olive oil all over his left pant leg and overturned a chair. Inconveniently, Teo nearly drops the damn thing again, when he hears the burst of ringtone through the front door.

Francois now has enough experience with cellphones to know that just because they ring at simultaneous moments of other actions doesn't mean the two events correlate. Still, beyond the dividing wall between foyer and living room, there is a muttered exclamation and a distracted hitch to foot falls when the device goes into shrill chirping almost as soon as he steps into the house. They've both been more graceful than this as a cellphone is struggled out of the trapping pocket of denim stitched, in hindsight, too firmly at his hip, the beeping, lit up thing only stared at as Francois continues inside.

He steps into sight less than a second before he's managed to (accidentally) hang up. The sun risen higher in the sky cuts out the need to wear the black leather jacket he has hanging from a fist, the button down beneath with its sleeves rolled as far as his elbows, hem tucked neatly into blue jeans, shoes sensible, looking his middle thirties as his physical appearance claims he is.

A smile, though, that tends to make him seem even younger, brightens immediately despite overturned chair and the general embience of chaos that plagues his home suddenly. "Bonjour?" he greets, unable not to have his tone lifted in query. He's in a good mood, almost tangible considering his subdued last few days since their mutual reveals.

Teo throws his phone at— the couch, after deciding he isn't going to throw the thing at Francois' head like a petulant girl. He wipes his hands off on a square of paper towel that he had ripped off between asymmetrical seams, crumples it into a ball. Tosses it understand into the trash can over there, before he comes clomping out, barefoot, toward the Frenchman with his tiny skinny cabana boy jeans.

"Hhhh," Teodoro says, expressively. "Hhhhh." He waves his hands around a little, then goes over and gives Francois a hug around the waist, tight enough to take half the breath out of each lung, then secure him enough to lift the Frenchman right off the floor. Teo's breath smells a little beery. With the bad side of his face hidden against the shoulder of Francois' sweater, he turns, proceeds to stilt toward the dining room, his prize in arms, navigating around overturned chair and away from the retarded prime-time inanity chattering from the television.

Francois is let down, installed beside the stove, so that Teo can poke asparagus around while they catch up. "You look different," he observes.

Hrrk. There is practiced tolerance in the way France brackets his arms around Sicily's shoulders for his own comfort, and no protest by the time he's being set down again, keeping one leg vine bent around one of Teo's. Halfway, he'd let his jacket fall in a pile on kitchen counter, and so his hands are free to grip onto the front of Teo's shirt and pull him closer without regard to the fact that he is. You know. Cooking. But there is a more romantic than truly suggestive feeling to the press his his mouth to the younger man's neck, when he mutters, "I feel different."

He'd glance at his watch when he catches that scent of beer, but it would also be hypocritical. Francois likes to drink too, rich dinner reds at whatever hour seems clever, lighter whites at insomniac midnight. There is a point at which where you are functional for however many decades that a problem probably isn't.

"I met a friend of Eileen's," he explains, half muttered at Teo's jaw until that name is clearer when Francois leans back against the counter, allowing some distance. "He gave me something."

Roofies? The joke is almost out of the gate before Teo can shut his teeth on it, but he succeeds last-minute, in a heroic push of adrenaline and self-control. The other man's better mood gives him room to grumble, as long as it's nothing too heartfelt or sour, balancing out, anchoring the numbered cloud that Francois is traveling the skies upon. Lips on his neck feel like deserved coddling. Murmurs mapped to his jaw had been, as well.

And then there is 'some distance,' which is a somewhat less positive quantity, but it's only some. Teodoro studies the older man rather than watching the prod of the spatula in his hand through sizzling vegetable matter, but the spatula is not very long and the superheated oil not all that dangerous, and all of it far more familiar than the circumstances of Francois' elevated mood. His other hand is on Francois' hip, fingers dancing a brief, anemic skitter over the bump of his hipbone.

"A line?" he asks. "Not— you don't smell like pot. I don't— I'm very curious," the Sicilian finally resolves, diplomatically, putting his eyebrows in a lopsidedly questioning curl, before some combination of secondhand pleasure and irrepressible humor begins to twist at the good corner of his mouth. It's a desultory mutter, added, addendum: "I'm happy you're happy."

Ha ha ha, which Francois isn't childish enough to announce out loud, through a lift of an eyebrow might well communicate it. You're so funny, dear. Doesn't put a dent in his demeanor, doesn't even sour it, really, enough genuine amusement in the twist of his smile back. He isn't stoned, is what clear eyes and working pupils will tell Teo if he thinks to check. "Maybe later," he suggests, before glancing towards what's cooking on the stove. Just to his left, in fact, and that hand is the one that travels out to wind around Teo's.

Pushing the handle of the spatula out from the Sicilian's grip to let it clatter against the rim of the pan and settle there. The now familiar feeling of crushed knuckles, skewed fingers would fit into Teo's palm, but no, the subtle difference probably only there if you look for it, or look directly at it. What is probably more overt is the firmness and painlessness with which he simply squeezes Teo's digits.

His eyes are patient. He'll explain if he has to, but waits to see if he doesn't.

For a few seconds, things don't seem to optimistic on the Teo's powers of observation front. He is a little baffled at being summarily deprived of his spatula, for instance, and temporarily preoccupied by unhappy visions of burnt butter, asparagus charred to skinny black scorch marks on the bottom of the non-stick pan. Oh, but then he realizes— the crease in his palm deepens, forefinger and middle tightening on the round knuckle of Francois' palm. His hand squirms around, reversing the hold like some miniaturized illustration of the grappling principles of jujutsu.

He is the one holding Francois' hand, after a moment. His brow is knit, his eyes thoughtful, then wondering, then brimming with incredulity, and then just before he starts to look perfectly amazed, his eyes drop, gone huge in his head, scarred face bent down to stare at the spreadeagled appendage caught up in his grip. "Madre di dio," he says, turning the captured extremity, marvelling. "Wiggle them— let's see. Let's see it. It doesn't hurt, at all? Can you feel through your palm?"

On command, fingers wiggle in Teo's grip. Pale skin is without scarring — not even the sliver of where a bullet entered between fingers, much less the exaggerated splay of keloid mapping along the back of his hand to pull and pinch skin. The bones beneath it are set where they should be, no claw made of curling digits and no tension riding up his arm at even the most basic of movements.

It is a hand, healthy and whole. Voila. "Oui," Francois says, from behind a smile reemerging, more compulsive than his usual deliberation behind gestures and modes of expression. "And it doesn't hurt either. It is as if it never happened." For someone who likes to set down his historic events in the permanence of ink to paper and journals in locked boxes, scars can apparently be banished into 'never was' as far as he is concerned. He still has a few — the bite taken from his ear, as one oddity, like the stray, war-bitten cats that skulk around the city.

Cosmetic and vain to worry about. His other arm is settled around Teo's waist. "I didn't know if it would work," he explains. "I needed to see first." First, before saying anything.

That doesn't make any sense. If Teo was soberer, that would be the first thing he'd point out. If it didn't work, it wouldn't have done nothing— abilities rarely have zero effect over their essential domain at all, and what then? What if something had gone wrong? Whereupon Teodoro would trip over the scintillating possibility that checking that it would work, to see it first, then saying something was all prelude to something else, something less to do with Francois and more to do with himself.

It is perhaps flattering and virtuous to think that, excised of some of his inhibitions, closer to the core of his being though hard to tell whether the paring implement was booze or, oh, catastrophic emotional pain, Teodoro is actually a less egocentric person.

He is merely happy for Francois. Complicatedly happy for Francois, but purely also. "This is going to open up a lot of possibilities for you," he decides, smiling, looking Francois in the eye now. (They are pretty and green.) "Especially after all that junk we fuck'n' bartered into this thing." A thumb presses the middle of the Frenchman's forehead, down toward the sculpted bars of dark brows, where the third eye should be.

Eyes press closed, open again and a chuckle through his nose later as Francois pushing Teo's hand back and out of the way so that he might press a kiss to the younger man's mouth. Any glimmer of guilt for what was sacrificed in negotiations is effectively stifled. "Mmhm. I'm very excited," he agrees at a mumble, in between these soft moments of contact, and his attentions journey sideways enough for his own mouth to nudge against where scraggly beard grows near the scarring lacing up the side of Teo's face in a final kiss. There's a difficult question, coming, one that Francois took his time to figure out how to phrase as he roamed Greenwich in a giddy stroll.

His hand comes up to smooth back off-blonde hair from Teo's forehead. Vegetable matter sizzles on steel over the gas lit flames just over there, and he's shifting out of the way enough for Teo to tend to it as he wishes, other hand easing up his spine. "If you would like to, I can take you there," he says, simply. If there were better ways of asking, he's forgotten them now.

Teo grasps hold of the spatula handle after the other man asks the question, rather than before, and there is probably a mechanistic reason for that. Sizzle, pop. Asparagus spears seem to have achieved a reasonable state of tenderness, and also the smell is making it hard to think because he's hungry, so he reaches over and turns off the stove with a click of the round plastic handle. He pokes the pasta, once, just to make sure that it isn't getting stuck squiddy to the collinder, then stops to look at Francois.

He should probably have an answer at this stage of the conversation, but he doesn't. The words get stuck somewhere between 'No' and explaining, mostly because they are balking at hurdles and terribly tempted to turn around and go back the way they had come, gallop off into 'Yes.' Francois' fingers are soothing, but even that soothing comes with a sticky residue of obligation afterward. Hey, what do you know? It wasn't egocentric at all. Francois was thinking about him.

"I'll think about it," he supplies, after a moment to consider, lifting his head to lip briefly at the heel of Francois' hand. "He isn't going anywhere, right? The skinny dark guy? Constantine?"

That gets a few blinks from Francois, swift and in continued succession, his turn to be surprised but in the end he mostly smiles and nods oui, that's the one. "He has a shop a few blocks away," he says, that trip over that conversational hurdle left behind as he curls a hand above Teo's elbow, a squeeze as if to show that he is fine with Teo thinking about it. Or not thinking about it, variously.

Understandable, either way, and Francois is then dropping his gaze to the activities of cooking to see if there's enough for two. "It is wonderful, actually. Antiques, herbal medicines, few customers. A little, ah— well. It has books on astrology, you know." That kind of thing. What's French for 'New Age shit'?

"He is as old as I am," he notes, reverting into almost gossipy conversation. "Do you want to go out tonight?"

"Si." Teo's answer is prompt there, though. He thinks that they should take that hand on a spin, hurr hurr, that's potentially lewd but mostly, you know, they could hold hands. Maybe they could dance. Francois could drag him around, push him around, maybe; Francois would probably touch him more, that half of him returned to full functionality, like someone had run a strainer through him and took out all the subtle hitches, subconscious reconsiderations and more conservative efforts, compensations. He doesn't know the French for New Age shit, although he probably should.

There is enough food for two, also, but he forgets to mention that aloud. Instead, there's a demonstrative kong-konk of his spatula on the edge of the collinder, a little more theatrical than strictly necessary, but then— he's had a bit to drink. Look at all this pasta. I was calling you to make sure you were alive to eat some of it. "Um," he says, pausing in the middle of opening up the cupboards for dishes. "Wait, was that question appropos to the comment right in front of it?" he actually sounds suspiciously casual. "Do you want to bring Constantine along?"

What a Eurotrash evening that would be. "Ah non. But perhaps some other time." Standing in the kitchen, hesitating, turning to lever open the fridge to drag out the slender bottle of riesling stashed into the door of the thing, Francois is halfway tempted to lunge sideways conversationally and point out that in the future, his hand had been fucked up. Maybe he'll do it after a glass of wine accompanying the pasta and asparagus. Maybe he'll do it never, in an effort to keep this mood where it is.

Unfathomably oblivious to the deeper hidden scarring of Teo's own moods, but that could change too. He doesn't ask where Teo has been this morning, but he is able to clutch a bottle of wine and hold twin glasses without fear of breaking anything. It feels like showing off, when he does so, and sets things on the table. It probably is.

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