Out Of The Fire


wf_francois1_icon.gif wf_teo1_icon.gif

Scene Title Out Of The Fire
Synopsis …and into the dog house.
Date August 27, 2011


Perhaps it is intended as salt in the wound, that there's nothing cooling in the oven or even tupperwared in the fridge, no scent of meat, garlic, or uncorked wine diffusing gently through the air. That Teodoro hadn't bothered to cook tonight at all, is instead dressed in a Columbia U hoodie and beached on the couch, a cowlick mashed into his too-long hair, the image of a frumpy housewife rotting in the lengthening shadows after the honeymoon.

Though, unlike the quintessential frumpy housewife, at least, he is dangling his hand past the crack in the couch cushions where a pistol's stored. The television is playing a news broadcast, bold-font sans serif, LIVE, that is fraught with fire and figures walking around bulked out by armor, fire suits, bomb gear. The skyline of New York City is almost lost in the rising smoke behind it, and there are only occasional intercuts of civilians, those standing behind the tape, or a pair of feet sticking out of the open doors of an ambulance, zooming out and in an instant before a policeman interposes himself between lens and subject.

Unlike the quintessential frumpy housewife, there are bullet holes in the facade of his home. He'd only started to fill them in before the bright patches of plaster in the brownstone's face became too dispiritingly obvious to look at; hadn't the heart to finish filling in all of them, couldn't be assed to paint them over. The neighbors know already. Most of them have moved out, and the place next door has more broken windows than whole ones.

He doesn't look up when the door opens, though his nostrils flare at the smell of autumn and burnt matter. Once, he'd have come over, or started to, touch his lover over in search of injuries or put his face in Francois' hair to draw in two fat lungfuls of the smell of the Frenchman's day before making a guess at them, or playfully suggesting Pantene Pro-V.

Tonight, he merely pushes his feet out further along the couch, taking up more space, and closes his eyes, allowing Francois to make his way to the First Aid kit in the kitchen or the bath upstairs without having to talk. It's a poor pretense of sleep. They already know what they're going to talk about. It's 4:32 in the fucking morning, and in another life, he’d be teaching class in the morning.

4:32 in the fucking morning is what it says on the microwave when Francois thinks to glance at it — it's one thing seeing the general time printed on the clockface on his watch, and a recontextualisation of the fact when he reads it in his own home. It's good to be home, regardless, somewhere safe until the next time he's on the retreat from gunfire and fury.

The place smells sterile, as far as residential homes get.

The water blasts into the silver kitchen sink and left to run until warm, Francois tempted to just slump forward and let it run over his head and shoulders if not for the fact there were fucking dishes in it. Which is why clatters follow, of porcelain and metal being gathered and shoved haphazard into the dish washing machine, ridiculously more important for some reason than the fact that Francois can feel his bones and skin cry out from tonight's ill-treatment. He splashes his face, fills a glass, and finds some painkiller tabs.

And then looks at Teo. Teo who is still asleep, Teo who was watching the television playing out highly subjective footage of what just happened, a strangeness that twists inside of Francois' chest as he clutches his glass of water. The rest is sipped from and then emptied into the sink, Francois now vaguely wet as well as smelling vaguely of gasoline and dirt.

The television is switched off, and then one cool, slightly clammily damp hand runs its knuckles along the line of Teo's throat, from the base of his skull to his collar.

Pretense collides with the original purpose of that pretense, mostly because it rises in Teo's stomach, this sudden, honestly unexpected aversion to that touch. It's only because he's mad, he's sure. Nobody likes being hugged or petted when they're mad. He just hadn't realized how mad, or.

Teodoro's eyes pop open like the microwaved kernels of a cinema snack. He gets up, probably too quickly, and while he haphazardly tracks the velocity of his own body in motion, it occurs to him, too, catching in the back of his throat with the oily quality of a sneer, that Francois is the only thing that doesn't smell sterile in here, but then, Francois has more important things to worry about than all that. Like not catching on fire.

Last month, he'd still have tried to make up an excuse, more for himself than for the purposes of deceiving Francois about why he'd been playing dead. Oh— you startled me. I was having a bad dream. Yes, another one. Or a joke: I didn't want you to bother me about sex. I keep old man hours now, role-reversal from your youthful pyromanias. There's no such urge anymore.

"I was going to wait until they had a body count confirmation. I'll come upstairs in a couple hours."

He'd thought for awhile, now, that marrying a cop must be a lot like being so with a terrorist. Nothing like feeling guilty about one's anger to make one angrier.

Francois' eyes got a little round in surprise when Teo is both awake and also moving away from him. He remains in that crouch made ridiculous with a lack of anyone to lurk over, which was kind of sore-inducing to get into by the way, before gripping the edge of the couch and standing. Predictably, he looks like hell, to accommodate the inferno-like scents of flammable chemicals and soot. The strike attack against the cargo hold full of murderous robot parts had more or less been a success, and that soldiers on security detail and engineers working late had been caught up in the boom is— predictable. The point.

They can always make more robots. On the television, they're still putting out the blaze, and bringing in dogs to crawl over the collapsed building.

He isn't sure what to say to that, his brows knitting together in confusion. Why won't Teo come upstairs? What's so great about downstairs? Is the current affairs news reel so interesting? Doesn't Francois look like he could use hugs right now? But he also isn't that illiterate, seeing the anger plain in blue eyes, reflexively, nervously brushing his palms together. "I'm sorry it's late," he says, in an accent that hasn't diluted much since they've been married. "I had to go the long way."

All right. Teodoro sucks in a breath, reaching up to flatten his hair down from where the couch's arm, the cushions, had skewed it. He blinks hard a few times like, maybe, something innocuous like lint had insinuated itself past his eyelashes, or he should have tried to get some rest while he was waiting for Francois to come home, or he's upset.

"Do you think you met your quota for fresh orphans tonight?"

Probably upset. He isn't sure where that choice of rhetorical questions came from. "I'd guess there are at least four. I don't know at what age parental death doesn't result in the categorization of a person as an orphan, but you probably contributed to the production of a few tonight." He only ever talks like that when he's trying not to talk like something else, probably having a lot more fucks and shits or hyphens in it, a throwback to analogues he doesn't really keep track of anymore. "You look— you smell—" Of course, the hyphens only bottleneck for so long. His hands describe contorted stick-figures in the air.

And then his knuckles go to his eyes, with a little more violence than must strictly be comfortable, anger ridging the narrow silhouette he cuts. Nothing about his movements indicates a preparation to concede hugs. "If you could see the look on your face—"

Cold anger sparks— or frosts, one of those two metaphors— somewhere behind his face, making it more mask-like and tense as a result. Francois' kind of anger is not very expressive, at least not at first, but it's there when it could stand not to be, being the transgressor, here.

And still, he says, shortly, "You are sounding like them." He kicks a nod to the television without looking at it, the fretful news presenters and cocksucking press conference conductors. "The terrorists, they are hurting children again, news at 4 a.m." Peeling himself out of his jacket, he lets it fall on something wooden to discard, the state of his clothing indicate that though he had gone the long way, he had gone straight here as opposed to seeking treatment and comfort, and he isn't looking at Teo now — unable to turn or walk away, but meeting eyes is another matter.

Well. But. Well: Teo had assumed, naturally, that if Francois had incurred any sort of serious injury, he would have gotten it looked at, and the instant he thinks that, annoyance is flaring behind his eyes again, his expression growing loud with Yes. Yes; look at yourself. He looks the Frenchman over with renewed anger, finds the aversion to touch ironically inversed against the probable availability of tactility, now. He stands apart, shoulders going up, hands rigid at his sides.

"I guess what you mean is I sound like a relatively fucking person," he says, "concerned about children who are hurting. At 4AM, which is when my. Husband comes home. From hurting the children, for righteous reasons, and no longer realizing that that's— a fucking terrible thing anymore. You don't, do you?" Rhetorical questions aren't fair with grown-ups, even if the self-help books generally eschew the use of sarcasm with teenagers specifically. He remembers some things from the lives of his-others. "You haven't. Turned to religion, or drink, or— literature, Hell. You haven't…"

He sounds like a quintessential woman, he realizes, and that's a stupid thing to shut him up so maybe that wasn't it exactly, but the failure to articulate himself adequately has been rare in the years of their acquaintance once he set his mind to it. Teodoro's face begins to color, dangerously, and he crosses his arms on his chest, steeling himself for. What? Some of that sarcasm they so often eschew with teenagers?

Slithery, muttered French goes here, too quiet and too beneath Teo's words to be picked up on, but Francois is probably swearing. They swear like that, as if to do so were continuous list-making. When it's his turn to speak, he stops, and stares balefully at the other man with his mouth gone pinched at the corners of jaw stubborn.

"If you are a father concerned for the welfare of your family, I would suggest not putting on a uniform in defense of this government," he says, after a measured second. He is not mentally prepared for this, and his argument comes out stiff, stilted, but not disingenuous. "They certainly do not care for our families when they do as they do — they put our orphans in Maclauren's and ship the promising ones out to camps. Perhaps you would fight, if you imagined Walter there."

And he. Stops talking. Teo's arms have crossed so Francois can't attempt to burrow for forgiveness under his sweater, but he does make a show of letting his shoulders drooping and chin tuck, and it's not really a show, either.

Teo had been avoiding mentioning his son, knowing that was a low blow, but he almost regrets not getting there first. A high blow, then. Closed-fist, knuckles out, the first two aimed squarely at the high arch of Francois' slithery French cheek.

By the time he recovers, and perhaps not until Francois does too, the color is high on the Sicilian's own face. He notices, perhaps too late, that Francois' face had been a bit lower down when he aimed his hand over, but Teodoro's head still sounds like a beehive from where he's standing. "You nearly caught on fucking fire," he says. "You were nearly— you have been nearlycaught— and you're throwing orphanages in my fuck. Fuck, fuck." The scatology falls out like someone had blown a dam. "Cazzo.

"Lei lo stronzo. What the fuck? Do you? Do you have any idea what Walter could use, right now? Do you do you know how much I fucking. I fucking hate that he's here, in all this?" It'd been quiet exchanges, before, in a grim sort of way, late-night theorizing about Barcelona or Trinidad or, or, rural France, but easily buried under the din of riots, protests, increasingly risky, the-skin-of-your-teeth sabotages. Almost joking, in that way that one gets when one isn't actually— joking. At all. The words keep coming, sharpening to a point. "That some night you're finally going to get your ass killed? It takes a lot more than a wall to slow down the average military-grade ammunition round so it won't go through kevlar.

"This isn't the fucking 40's, old man, and Hell if this is even your fucking fight."

Though Francois knows very well the kind of words he just spoke, sharp enough to cut his own tongue, he doesn't expect the swing and makes no move to block it save for the tiniest of flinches away. He is in no position to fight, hand clutching over where hard knuckles scored along his skin as bright lights dizzy in the corners of his eyes.

Teo is saying more things, and it's less the clock to the head that has Francois struggling to pay attention, injury becoming a dull, vaguely numb ache once more, but more the— everything. The everything. But his attention hones in at angry-shaped concern at whether or not he's going to get killed, soon, if he keeps doing this, and he moves forward, hands out. He wants to take Teo by the shoulders, maybe a hand clasped in comradely intimacy at the back of his neck, but doesn't trust he will get that far. At increasing proximity, Teo gets the HD version of the flinch at these last words — the lines around his eyes already printed there and set to deepen, going shadowier at the hurt of it, brow creasing.

He'll probably have some grey showing, soon, if he doesn't already. Impossible to tell at the moment, a little damp and dirty all over.

"My fight is for you, and my family. You cannot— you cannot say you don't understand. You understood."

It would feel unnecessarily petty to snap back: but I grew out of that. It isn't exactly true anyway, and Teodoro shakes his head in denial. While multi-tasking with the act of stepping back, which is kind of like rejection, but begins to bear uncomfortable resemblence to retreat when his arms come up in front of himself, crossing protectively over his chest, softening already despite that his jaw stubbornly squares.

Softening unevenly! Like a piece of ice cream cake placed off-center to spin in the microwave. Francois looks tired. He did just nearly get toasted in the process of having a whole bunch of government workers incinerated, and that bears some acknowledgment. "Like we will have to understand," he says, "me. Your family. When something happens to you. You can't talk about what I used to do without considering why I fucking changed.

"You're killing builders and soldiers while those — war video-gamers," he'd left the computer on the other week; on the page that critiqued the use of robots as an exacerbation of a problem that had begun decades ago, with the automation of warfare. "Sit on their fat chairs and push their stupid fucking buttons, revise policy, hundreds of miles from the front lines. Evolved abilities don't level the playing ground the way they used to. It's. I don't know why." He sucks breath in raggedly.

"I don't know why you need this shit," Teodoro finishes, but his voice is rough in a way that's hiding a plaintive note.

"Because it makes me angry," Francois says, a little hollowly. With his hands no longer able to perch on Teo's shoulders, they've taken to tangling together and twisting round his wedding band, which needs a little polishing but only from fingermarks. He doesn't risk losing it, in warfare, and only puts it back on after people have finished shooting.

And he doesn't know how to explain it. He was born in the part of France that wasn't occupied, and the darker features of his appearance probably hark more to some Spanish ancestry than Jewish, and still he fought too instead of complete his medical degree. "I cannot— just convince you that I am doing the correct thing, I just know it. And that maybe soon you will see the differences, that it can get better, mon chéri. I'm sorry," is added. Not exactly tacked on, but certainly it occurs to Francois that he should. Fucking.

Apologise. Regardless of ideological difference.

Teo's hands go out violently, but only upward this time, a pointless excess of movement, frustrated, albeit only in the way he'd get if he was essentially agreeing. Pointless, pointless. "Figlio di una cagna," he says, his voice loud in the half-light. "Eat something before you come up, will you? When you forget, your gurgling stomach wakes me up in the mornings, and I don't need to be reminded—"

He doesn't finish that sentence, given the occasional meal skipped on surfeit adrenaline is probably overall much less lethal than, you know, robots and fires and he doesn't want to sound like he's just complaining about things to complain. He shakes his head and turns away, the soles of his feet flashing white as he moves toward the stairs, briskly. He hadn't been asleep at all, evidently.

It isn't grudging, though, when the Sicilian adds, "Take your time. I'll draw you a bath, and you know how big the tub is."

Francois manages to keep the relief of his face when the storm passes by, and also manages not to make his expression go all pinched and proud at reminders of doing things like eating and washing because that last one holds promise and he was. Hungry anyway.

"I will," he says instead — eat and take his time, he means, maybe even sneak into the laundry and exchange his aggressively smelling clothes with the ones merely stale from the hamper, just to get undressed from, just to purge and not draw the evil smell of flammable fluid and adrenalised sweat through the house. He stares at the shape Teo makes as he moves upstairs, darker above, biting his tongue before he can say anything of excessive romance, lest it come off disingenuous.

He'll have time for that later.

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