francois_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Scene Title Parallax
Synopsis While Teo's friends think they're being charmingly antisocial, Teo relates to Francois his plans to bring back who he used to be and how this doesn't mean the end. It's not really good enough.
Date June 30, 2010

On a yacht in the East River

Teo had a lot of naturally handsome and well-educated male friends, back in Columbia University. Carlos is a doctor, just like Francois, albeit still ('still') in residency and the only one whose face gives a skeptical twist when Simon, who had been casually 'warned' ahead of time on the phone, introduces the older Frenchman as 'Theodore's boyfriend.'

Simon talks a lot, though, has a certain gift for gab honed by years of fraternizing with trust fund babies that smoothes over the ruffles formed by what might (might not) be homophobia, as well as the giant mysteries formed by Teodoro's erratic history post-Bomb in New York City ('Working for the government.'), and the war wound he has on his face ('Working for the goverment.' 'That's hot,' and Carlos' arm candy fizzled into a giggle). Simon is the organizer, and is dating an older woman from Chicago who wears Gucci's latest fragrance at the neck, Chanel tastefully cowled low around her shoulders, is a corporate slave of some kind (her card says 'CFO'), rolls her eyes punctually at every other thing the boys say, and winks at Francois sometimes. Travel and international prove to be safe topics, gun control a little heavier.

The sky is flecked with sea birds.

Probably, Teo made it this far with relative grace and poise, not blushing, or spluttering, or beating retreats visible in greater than fractional inch distances, because he has been carefully maintaining a level of inebriation by coordinating bathroom breaks and beers. He'd been sober on the phone, though. When he told Simon he was coming along, with his plus-one, to the rented luxury yacht. Boat trip. Keeps his mind off Eileen, or at least his mind off having to keep his mind off Eileen, thanks for jack shit, fuckin' Raith. Keeps his mind off his clone project, too, and the fact that the Ferry 'yotes he dropped a k on lost track of Delphine last week, Deckard's new number burning a hole through the portion of his hippocampus adjacent the one that retains stolen diary quotes, and… and…

It's a good sign that he can't remember the rest, Teodoro thinks. Four o' clock now. They have sailed out on the East River, now, not far from the pale beaches and gingko-treed suburbs of Queens, where the air is clean enough to nearly hurt if you've been in New York City as long as they have. Francois' shoulder is warm under his chin, his hands whole under Teo's hands, and the steering controls that he is pretending to teach Francois about warmed by the combination. He is having to consciously suppress a snigger when he says the word 'throttle' out loud. Francois seems happy, which is good even apart from the egotistical success declared over an objective accomplished. The slanted windshield window glistens clean and clear.

They should go out on the bow soon, he thinks. Simon, Theresa, and Finnegan with his tiny wife just picked up and came in, but somebody else will claim it if he lets it go too long. Maybe boys who will spill beer. James Cameron hadn't been wrong— he'd just ruined it for everybody else. It does feel like you're flying, garlanded by wind out there on the tip of the sea.

It's been a good exercise in lying, or attempting not to too much. Francois hadn't had much to say when someone asked him about where he went to med school, but he dropped the right names, the right suggestions of history that spans a few decades instead of several. He doesn't mind being introduced as Teo's boyfriend, but coming out as an ex-immortal (not even currently timeless, not anymore, but he's been trying not to think about that even harder these days) is a step that perhaps understandably he won't be willing to take around the handsome young beings loitering on the luxury yacht.

His hands stretch beneath Teo's as he pretends to drive the yacht, content in muttered instruction. Francois seems happy because he is, and a little beer never hurt anyone even if he doesn't drink it a lot at home.

"I told you I like driving," he notes, after a small, comfortable lapse of quiet in their conversation, surrounded by the sound of engine and not too distance other babbling conversation. "I've gone through more cars than people. I can see why you might like this also."

"What?" Teo asks, stupidly, bringing his attention back in through the sunny windshield. "You've gone through more cars than p—? Oh." He is silent for a few seconds, obviously embarrassed about the Freudian slip that his brain made in the process of interpretation. Right, of course. Francois is an immortal, he will have ridden a lot of things and it's a little socially irresponsible to assume that he's talking about one when it's the other.

He is grinning the next instant, foolishly, but youthfully so this time instead of anything nervous or false in any significant proportion. "Sorry," apologizes the boyfriend for having been embarrassingly jealous, again, of imaginary invocations, but brushing past that: that isn't really the point. He grasps the key in the ignition and turns it to autopilot along the course that's supposed to take them past a lighthouse that the girls got all squealy about, sets the yacht to cruise with the hush of AC and lights, of course, also on. He straightens slightly, leans over Francois' left shoulder to look at him in the face. "Actually, this isn't really it.

"I mean, I really like a lot of things about water— swimming, I fucking love swimming. But I liked sailing the best, feeling the wind and everything. It's better outside. You've probably felt it before, I mean," a glance over his shoulder reassures him that Simon and Theresa are holding hands far enough away that no unwanted steps are about to be stumbled on, "you were crossing oceans before there were affordable passenger planes, right? I like being out there." He turns his eyes forward again, bobs his ragged head out at the deck. Makes a question out of his eyebrows, and the nudge of one dense bicep.

What do you think?

There is a little pity in the look Francois trades him at his apology — nothing more than the usual kind of superiority that comes part and parcel with age, and softened with a smile besides. Kidding! Kidding, he's kidding. Also how many cars can one man go through, anyway. "Oui, I went on a boat from Europe to America. Nineteen fifty something. It took days and I was sick for half of it." He's moving, too, ahead of Teo as nudged, his colour palette in clothing a lot earthier than all the blues and whites around him, jeans the approximate colour of iron, the cotton of a shirt a deeper, mossy green.

Naturally more of a land crawler than the Italian anyway. "But I was told that if you go by near the edge and watch the horizon, it, ah, reconfigures you to the movement of it, and no more motion sickness. After a drink, it was about true." Down on the deck, the railing approached to lean back against, not the least bit sea sick now and almost comfortable on the gentle movement of water rolling beneath the craft.

Teodoro smiles broadly at this bit of generic layman's knowledge that the older man recites prettily in his direction. It's charming. Non-sailors are like this whole other subspecies of doddering, awkward primates with these funny little vocabularies and botched superstitions. The term is parallax, darling, he thinks but doesn't say, finishing a conjured beer in one swallow. He follows the older man down, thump-thump, his feet sure and fast as a retriever bounding faithfully along the lawn. The door gives a fancy swish behind him, catching the inscrutable Sicilian's backward wave of farewell. cutting Mrs. Finnegan off in the middle of wondering whether the two European, er, fellows are wearing enough sunscreen, they are so pa—

"Here, you'll see," Teo says, attaching himself to Francois' elbow, and pulling. His shirt is white, buttondown, and his jeans are a crisp blue, the same spectrum as cerulean but with soul: he looks kind of like he just fell out of the sky, cut from the same palette, after having concealed himself there peeping at the mortals and their little boat thing and commonplace pleasures. The errant, tousle-headed son of some irreverent pantheon. He steers Francois closer to the nose of the vessel, along the railing, optimistic, urging rather than as insistent as, say, the careful manhandling that occurs every couple of nights. "Over here." Forward.

They run out of deck a foot before the two railings converge on a bottlenoise point, jutting over the mobile facets of the river water, scalloped waves and aerated foam flaring outward on either side of their point of suspension, down below, like an avian flight formation. The wind is low, cuts the sunshine off before it can sink the spiny feel of burning into Francois' fair complexion. The gap between railing and deck is filled in by the Frenchman's lean-shouldered shadow, when Francois finds himself positioned, carefully, by an arm around the waist, and then a clasping hand and then only a palm. The recursion ends there. The palm isn't going anywhere. (Somewhere in the background, Simon is making a droll film reference.)

The wind bites at Francois' ears. "Stand right here," says Teo's voice (by default, from Teo). "See?"

At least ignorance can be charming. Francois' ego can handle maybe not knowing much about boats and being on them, would have to think about knowing which side(?) is port, so long as it's attractive. Teo spares this little piece of agonising by being subtle and silent, Francois none the wiser as he's directed to the prime position on the deck to witness the vessel's knife slice through the water. Wind made cool from coming up off it stings his left ear and what remains of it more than his right, but—

Rose Dawson didn't bitch and neither will he, if he had the inclination, even. Mmhm is tolerant and amused, flattered that there's a notion, here, of maybe showing him something new, and maybe Teo is. Literal things, and things as tangible as sea froth.

He steals Teo's hand, then, still forward facing and not coaxing it to do much more than be held in a practical manner that Teo might wonder if his hand is being studied (trusts that recent good tidings to do with bones and their healthiness won't have Teo retracting), though Francois dutifully watches the horizon. It's less duty when the hypnosis of it registers, for all that it doesn't distract him from being a stealth ninja. Snaky metal, warmed from pocketing but still distinctly cool the way silver can be, wraps around the Sicilian's wrist like a clinging weed.

Not to be cuffed to the railing, for dastardly purposes of inappropriate exhibitionism or some kind of Kutcheresque prank inspired by the proximity of so many beautiful youths, apparently. Teo's eyes close and open, shift down from the familiar serenity of the sea's far horizon. Silver catches his attention. Oh, that is nice. The bold elegance of herringbone, braided, the severe geometry of its clasps. It is a bracelet. Teodoro wonders what it's doing on his wrist, thinks it would have been sad, never mind expensive, if Francois had accidentally dropped it in the process of closing it on his wrist and it had fallen into the water.

Some seconds later, he realizes that it was for him. Upon revelation, Teo takes his hand back, bending his wrist up to study the gorgeous articulation of precious metal, which has not physically changed or gained excessive detail since the first glance he had over it, but he sees it in a different light despite all that. It is for him. How dreadfully ego syntonic, and beautiful, and thoughtful, and totally unexpected. He squints when the refraction of sunshine glares a little brighter against the tilting facets of the jewelry. Though aware that he should be volunteering an opinion, preferably one of consummate gratitude, in either speech or gesture, none comes to mind. It seems very loud out here.

He'd thought about it, actually — the aggravation of the silvery thing slipping from his hands and lost beneath the hull of the yacht. But in surgery, Francois' hands would have to be even more careful than this otherwise simple task, done without tremor or the nerveless clumsiness that might have otherwise come from the left side of this equation. This is why he got to slice the turkey at Ryazan Thanksgiving last year.

Besides, it's always so much easier to just do.

Turning a shoulder to the horizon and the tapered nose of the yacht, Francois leans on railing, side on to Teo with a hand coming to rest on the other man's hip, the pad of his thumb finding that subtle hollow at his hip bone and green eyes skimming down to settle his gaze on the circle of silver the other man is studying. There is pleasure taken both in the sight of it and the fact Teo doesn't have words yet — not that Francois thinks that gift giving is staggering, but maybe a surprise. He can permit himself that much.

Do you like it? seems too prompting for praise, and Francois can more or less see that he does. Maybe. He doesn't always read Teo correctly and it's not like the younger man is typically big on jewelry. His hand squeezes a little. "It looks handsome on you," he notes, to praise himself, a smile showing through. "Not exactly a trade for the gift you gave me," dreaded box though it may be, "but fair for that, so you cannot complain."

Teo isn't complaining, and he is surprised: quantities that soon become known to the Frenchman through a few seconds of looking at him. It is recognizable, that familiar tilt and curvature of the Sicilian's eloquent brow, the clarity of his stare, and then the long fingers that he ropes over the bright thing linked on his wrist, enjoying the feel of it, the texture, frictionless except for the messy oils on his own skin, cold and warm.

"I sure as shit can't," he says, because swearing is masculine or something, but then there is a hand on Francois' elbow, too late to intercept the grasp on his hip so it winds up breaking the grasp on his hip instead. Then Teo is pulling gently, turning, steering him a foot inward from the precarious edge of the sea and the threat of momentrum and splitting water. Bringing him closer, too, by some coincidence of subconscious intent and necessity. Their faces are near enough that conversation can be close to quiet, now, and the sturdy shape of Teo's shoulder and its mint-white shirt coyly veils half of Francois' features from the view of those within the yacht. They could be talking about anything. Obscurely, he realizes they should be talkinga bout anything but this. "I love it. Really— it's fucking amazing, but… Listen.

"Listen, I."

His fingers tighten. He leans onto the railing with his other hand, making a shrug out of it, casual, pretending it is anyway, rathern than— just trying to block them further from view. "I'm going to try and bring the other two Teodoros back. I'm not sure when yet, but pretty soon," tightly. A gull laces its shadow around Francois' shoulder for a moment and Teodoro decides not to dwell on his lover's physical beauty and the accuracy of its reflection of the soul he is probably about to injure. "You won't see me for a few weeks, when I go."

But, listen, is really no where you want the conversation to go, but that sudden drop of ice— refreshing to know that he might care this much and so youthfully too— that greases through Francois' nerves never makes the opportunity to retract or anything before fizzling into low confusion and worry. His arm had twitched as if to reclaim that spot his hand had found on Teo's hip, but it doesn't make it, hand flopping to his side and the other one, in unconscious mimicry, settling on the railing of the boat as well.

"I don't understand," he honesties, a glimmer of a smile turning this also into apology. He doesn't like the words coming out of Teo's torn mouth, and he doesn't manage to fakery of a smile when his own words leap ahead of him to ask; "Where are you going?"

'I'm not sure yet, possibly Canada,' but that would be a lie and Teodoro is not as much in the habit of lying to his lover as some of his detractors and critics might say. He suppresses the urge to look down at the silver on his wrist, which sends his eyes into a distracted swoop like one of those birds diving for garbage from the air. He breathes carefully through his nose, though his tongue is stroking an erratic rhythm inside the exposed of his teeth, on his scarred side, at the corner of Francois' side. It says something for their familiarity, that he can engage a tic that thoughtlessly, that—

Ugly. "I have a friend who can make a clone of me, and there's another man out there— one of White's men, you might have heard of them, who can move consciousnesses. If I can negotiate some decent terms— I'm not completely unfortunate in that department," Teodoro adds, easily, because humility is unfashionable, "I can go into that body.

"And then there's another Evolved woman— she's still floating around somewhere in the Ferry system, I think, who can undo the effect of abilities on anybody or thing that she touches. Volken's ability pureed those two into me. So, she could use it on this," he closes his callused hand into a careless fist, bumps himself on the chest. In the act of pointing himself out, he becomes distinctly aware that he has no idea what he's doing, or why he is so eagerly doing it this way. Well, no. That much is obvious, but you know what they say about good intentions, and you know that sometimes they're right.

He falters, visibly, and he does so out of something other than specific weakness.

"So I won't leave you," Teo says, finally, "but I'll die."

It's about then that Francois decides to continue testing out the effects of what the horizon can do for seasickness or a convenient place to set his gaze, the sharpness of that gesture along with a soft mm from the back of his throat designed to communicate that he thinks Teo is being melodramatic, unfairly. There is also a piece of him, however, that notices he's hiding, and remains hidden, and quiet. There are a lot of ifs and I thinks to match all the certainties, the future tenses.

His skin is getting no tanner, in the baking sunlight. There is a bloodlessness both to the pinched tension around his eyes and his voice when he says, "Pauvre con. There is only one of you, Teo. One that matters."

Determinedly, his hand pushes out to snag a finger on a belt loop, this hidden too. "Don't risk him. This is foolish."

"I have to do this," Teo says, meaning it, and unsure since when his argument could boil down to such a brief and unsubstantiated string of words. He places a hand on Francois' arm, grasping the bulk of he man's upper-arm, verdant-colored fabric ruching up between his long fingers, gently, he thinks, but firmly, too. "Tesoro," he adds, in a tight voice, but not as if the fondism had come insincerely, "I think you're the only one in this world who thinks that I am, and I love you for it.

"The copy will be first, though. I won't be lost unless that fails, and I saw the Doc's ability at work before— it was the strangest thing, this little girl I'd loved suddenly behind the wrong face," his brow furrows, thoughtfully, "inside the wrong skin, but as just as valiant. Believed in all the same things, didn't have an instant's doubt about who she was, what she loved.

"He will be just like me, Francois." He grins for some reason, or reasons-plural that he can't assemble a name for out of words, a sweet and foolish expression made a little pathetic, charmingly unself-conscious, stripped of choreography by the ugly scar fitted to one side. The offer of a mushed bouquet, or chocolates that I'm so sorry but they fell in the dirt because I was so excited coming over here for you, an amateurish poem cobbled awkwardly together around a bullshit rhyming pattern or a pet that shat in the gift box. That is Teo's smile. "There's no risk.

"I've been thinking about it for awhile. It's hard not to, with anyone but you."

"I just want you to stop. This." This, whatever this is, changing things, disruption. There's a line at Francois' brow that hasn't gone away since initial confusion. It bothers him, too, that some random synapse will compare the colour of Teo's irises with the same meeting of blue that is the fold of sea and sky over there, to his left, when everything is going on. That hand still attached at Teo's belt hangs limp like a vine off a branch, paid no attention as Francois' gaze twitches over the planes of Teo's expression.

As if maybe it would tell him what the hell the younger man is thinking. It shouldn't be too much of a mystery — there's a lot of character, in that face. "I love you too. Whatever it is that makes you. These other two you say need to be brought back. I do not want something like you. Merde, is that not what you feel everyone else feels also?"

Now hands leave the other man, ignoring the grasp to his arm as he turns to set both hands on the railing.

The boat beneath his feet feels unsteady, like it could keel over beneath their combined weight on the side of it. His arms are rigid where his hands are set on the metal, tense. "What is the— " His eyes shut, irritation, open again only to roll upwards and settle somewhere neutral. "What is the other one of you supposed to do?"

Teodoro is left holding a man who is not holding him in return, which is not the most impossible difficulty he has ever faced with an upset lover but, you know, perhaps symbolic or foretelling about some shit about to hit. He presses his mouth to Francois' cheek, suddenly, and arms constricting parenthesis around the older man's waist, overcome by a fierce possessiveness that's altogether stronger and more significant than the kneejerk territoriality that comes when, uh, Francois looks at somebody else or appears to be thinking about someone else or obviously would kind of like somebody else. This curiously has nothing to do with someone else, though.

Teo knows that. He isn't entirely socially irresponsible, and he can account for his own actions, even if they're ones that he hasn't quite finished doing yet. "Live," he says, with feeling. "I'm supposed to live. Just: so are they." A plea edges into his voice, out of place, he thinks. Too early. Clearly Francois isn't wedded to the idea, but there is no reason to press this into obviously contentious territory. Christ, he did this at the wrong time. Unpremeditated. "This is… there are things that they were going to do that I won't do for them. You'll get to meet them, and you won't be able to tell the difference. Nothing really needs to change."

Probably, some yards behind, the ladies and Simon are charmed.

Charmed is an effect Teo is good at, unfooortunately. How hard it is to stay mad. There is protest in the way that the tension up Francois' arms eases down is back, but eventually, a hand comes up to curl an arm around one of Teo's upper, fingernails finding rest in the shoulder seam of his shirt. It's a kind of dead gesture back, admittedly — Francois' posture hasn't improved, and there's no subsequent folding, no lean of warm weight into Teo's chest. "You die," he corrects. Teo's words, not his.

"When I went to kill myself," and this line is delivered with a certain amount of wryness, if sharp, still, "I had demons chasing me. And I knew I was hurting you."

Probably not the right thing to say, when Teo says—

"I've done it before," with certainty that he doesn't— feel to quite that extent, admittedly, but it's there. Ghost had been slain by a telekinetic nutcracker across the forehead. All versions of him had been variously shot in the head, nearly drowned, and crushed under the two-ton boots of great Samoan bouncers, before, had experienced a conviction of final darkness, matched with excessive pain. "I'm sorry. I know it's— I know it's fucking ugly and lonely for you to think about, but it's different and complicated, and I don't want you to be— alone. That's what I mean. I mean, I'm not saying you don't have a right to be hurt. Or worried. I'm erratic and characterized by, uh, self-destructive behaviors, and stubbornness. But I don't think this is a mistake.

"And— and," Teo's shoulder falls heavily around the inert arch of Francois' own. The wind refuses to leave the Frenchman alone, too, making charms and spells out of his hair, pressing salt-edged fingers to his cheeks, carrying the rustle of water, the reminder of what this day was supposed to be up to spin in the spiral of Francois' ear. "I was hoping it would make this better, that I wouldn't— I wouldn't really be gone."

That hand resting near Teo's shoulder clutches a little at the gull-wing white of his shirt, and playful wind does nada for prickling eyes too when keywords are marked in this context, of all contexts. Francois' been pretty content in being alone, but he's been dying— like everyone else— since he gave up his power. "And what about your vision?" They've been doing good at not really discussing that, since, and the words come awkwardly from Francois' throat.

He risks a glance up. "Our visions. They are ugly and lonely to think about as well, and I don't know why you must— " And he stops, because he's not sure where he's going with that one. He doesn't mean to blame Teo for the supposed inevitability of fate.

Instead: "I want you to feel whole. And happy enough that you do not risk this. Merci, for thinking of me — but this." Anger sparks again, and it's about as understated as he is in most things, but visible in the edge of his voice, the way the hand closing around its light fistful of fabric tugs with restraint. "None of this is for me. I am not worried, I'm scared."

Are they? The visions, really? Teodoro had thought, if you quite excuse his thinking so, that Francois' had been kind of pretty, really, and he most certainly hadn't been alone in his. He knows better than to say it out loud, but he probably can't keep it off his face, anyway. Anyway: Francois had already figured he was thinking it, another weighty, ruthlessly simplified figure in the fatal equation.

Nice to know each other so well, and the inevitability of fate. Odd, that some of time's greatest, most audacious transgressors are the ones this powerfully aware of their limitations over its crushing tide. Teo glances down at his shirt, where Francois' hand— marred with a scar, but boasting an unimpeded and stubborn strength— has the fabric starfished in his fist. Thinks about how he'd miss them, if he wasn't going to short out to nothing. Thinks about Deckard's journal, the growing gulf between himself and all of Teo's old friends, the children that his little self was going to save, the son Ghost never got to raise, the fleeting impression of red hair that Saidie had left him to rot with. "If you don't want—

"If you don't want the clone-me, then…" Then that would be infinitely terrible, actually, but Teodoro isn't sure it's fair to say that after having said everything else. After the visions, after hurling himself on the train-tracks of Francois' relationship with Abigail and daring the Frenchman to run him over.

Some claim to make, when you've declared your intent to up and die on a guy. "I don't know what to say," he finishes, a little roughly. "You know how it is, or maybe you don't. Every moment I'm alive, I'm keeping them dead."

There is a point where a statement is so ridiculous or so obvious that tying it down into actual words doesn't quite do it justice. That's why Francois is blinkingly silent for several moments, eyes have taken on water— embarrassing— and studying, now, the fragment of Teo's reflection bent around the steel railing. "I want you," he says, voice markedly even. Angry, still. "That is the problem. But you want this— this different thing to what you have now. What are you giving up for them? Not me. Flattering. And everything else?

"Everyone else? I like being a part of your life also, and you want to take it from yourself and me as well." And there is something else here— too selfish to express, probably. There is a lot of selfishness flying around as it is.

That grip lessens, fingers catterpillar-bending, smoothing out again to ease the creases he's made in Teo's shirt. It's either that, or lever the younger man into the ocean, or something. "If I say that I do not want it, you would do it anyway?" he asks, a statement turned into a question with enough doubt to keel it back into a statement again. Such leverage seems too easy.

Teo is pale and quiet, now, dwindled down to an outline of himself and rather effusively blue jeans. Air plays with his shirt, and Francois is smoothing his shirt, but he feels neither playful nor better-composed for it. That seems like the kind of question he should have known the answer to before he set out on this conversation. Perhaps a 'Yes' in a terrible whisper, or a humble and weary 'No.' Not—

"Maybe." There is a sudden hand near Francois' face, long fingers pushing the twisting dark thread of the Frenchman's hair out of his eyes, holds it their against the smooth arch of temple and his thumb resting gently against the incipient bristling of sideburns, gently. "Or maybe not. And you'd live with me wondering, and self-sabotaging, and you'd get angry when there'd be a little too much quiet between us 'cause you'd know I'm just waiting for your lady to show up.

"I don't do subtle or ambient anything all that well, but it'd start eating at the fabric eventually." Teo's hand falls. Tries to find one of Francois', trap it fast and warm it or close physical pressure around the gasping spark of the older man's temper. "I'll be here. I'll be here. That's the fuck'n' point. I'm more than the thing I'm wearing." A beat. Weak, half-hearted joke: "Well, not much; but I am."

"And it is that that you are risking. Even if you do not believe you are, and we can be here all day arguing so. You say you'll die and then live, that it is totally risk free and that you are self-destructive and stubborn. Merde, what do you want me to say? What am I supposed to say, or think?" Francois' hand is caught in Teo's hand like a dead fish somehow snagged on an unlucky hook, small protest in minor currential tugs but no true wrenching free.

Mostly, he likes holding hands. "I don't give you permission. I don't want you to do this. I don't think you need to. But it doesn't matter, you have decided — not only to do it, but that it is necessary to be happy, or whole. What do I do, now?" He glances over his shoulder, resentfully, to take a glance at the nearest landmass. It would be nice to be home, suddenly.

"Sometimes you have to give up things, to have what you want, instead of have everything. I chose you, and to remain in New York, and to let you sacrifice to Sadie for skills and ideas. And I am happy. Why can't you do that?" Compromise, or be happy, or both. There is hurt, in the way his hand abruptly clings back to Teo's.

Teodoro likes holding hands, too, and beer lets him do the things that he likes more easily. His fingers shrink tight around the angry fish flip-flopping and biting in his hand, strong from the realization that to let it slip away at this particular juncture would be a terrible idea.

"But I don't need new skills or ideas," he says, thickly. "I don't need to get rid of a magalomaniacal sociopath's cursed ability. What I need is to do this. People say things. People miss— them. All my hallucinations— almost all my hallucinations, they were about lives that aren't fucking mine. I want to be whole, and happy, give a little, and be with you, but there's no fucking on switch for that. You know that: it's like you just said, after everything…

"I'm not asking you to be happy about it. Not this fucking soon— maybe not ever. Just— don't think I haven't thought about you.

"Please." Don't get Teo wrong. He knows that that's already a lot to ask, and rather unfortunately phrased like a guilt-trip, balanced out by everything he did to let Francois' little dream come true. No take-backs, but that means Francois can't do take-backs, either. He hadn't asked Teodoro to — what, chase him to Mexico, fall in love with him, give up years' worth of nostalgic memory? Things. Teo isn't trying to hold them over Francois' head, not really, it's just coming out like that.

So he stops talking. Replaces verbiage with proximity, and whoever said that you souldn't pull out the same trick in the same negotiation seating can go ahead and fuck themselves. It is going to work because— because it has to fucking work. Teo's arm cinching around the Frenchman's waist, his nose brush-stroking against the grain of Francois' throat, his mouth coming up to map itself flat against the scowling line of the brunette's brow, not the condescention of a saint to the forehead of a child but supplication, soft enough that were it not for the reasonable excuse of bobbing water, Francois might suspect he is— fuck. Maybe shaking.

It's a cheap trick, he thinks. Francois isn't sure he ever wants to meet Teos that aren't in love with him, isn't sure he wants to have his boyfriend split into so many different ways that his carefully negotiated world of control freakdom fails inherently, isn't sure he wants to share even when he's not sharing, and. Most importantly. He doesn't want anyone to die, to see black when they get a glimpse of the future. His eyes squinch shut almost petulantly at the kiss he receives, like someone about maybe seventy years younger than he is and receiving, variously, either vegetables or an unwanted measles shot, as opposed to a kiss.

But it works, because it has to. His arms rope around Teo's shoulders, tight enough that he could grip his own elbows on either side, letting the planes of his features press into the smooth slope of the younger man's throat. Maybe if he wasn't scared of that prior maybe, he'd reject a hug in hopes that it would function as an adequate powerplay to achieve—

Futher unhappiness, apparently. Besides, maybe a few more hugs would have prevented this anyway. Francois doesn't know. He's not shaking, but his breathing is tight.

"I hope this works as you hope it does," he mutters.

Teodoro hopes so too. He feels fractionally better now than he had five seconds ago, perhaps because the probability of his last few months on Earth being conducted whilst celibate and desperately trying to win his lover back seemed like not fun. A slightly less immediate possibility, now, and the further away they get from it, the better he'll feel.

(He is tremendously selfish that way.) "I'll stop if it starts going wrong," he says, unevenly. "If I can. Promett— I promise." It is like promising that if he can catch lightning he'll bring it home in a bottle for the mantlepiece, but you know— he got Francois the sea, under a luxury yacht, with a gratuitous Titanic reference, and he looks handsome in silver. A man who can accomplish that might well be able to capture the electric byproduct of storming skies, or brake the inevitable tragedies that he put the coal into the engine for.

By now, Simon and the others are wondering if Teo had planned to really talk to them at all. The twenty-five minutes over brunch had barely counted, they'd all been so busy catching up, and the Sicilian's mouth as frequently occupied with ingesting beer and pleasantries as volunteering any kind of information of substance, or jokes that didn't sound terribly— careful. Teodoro used to be better at parties.

Theresa slaps Simon just above the knee. It's what happens, she says, when you grow up and settle down. Hey, Simon waves his hands! You're the one who won't marry me. I asked. Yes, but you were drunk and you didn't have a ring. I'dve gotten a ring if I thought you'd say Yes. Why do you think I said No? I don't know. 'Cause you think I'm a kid. Maybe I know you aren't; a little wait-and-see never killed a man, and you're doing just fine, aren't you?

So Teo is permitted to hold his lover in peace, nose-deep in the shampoo that he deliberately never picks up in the shower because he likes being able to smell it on Francois'; he is ffffatally sentimental that way, what can he say? He is listening to the boat rock, counting the seconds until he gets shrugged off. One, two. Seven. Any second now.

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