Qui A Bu Boira


francois_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Qui A Bu Boira
Synopsis Transformed back from stone, Francois tries a succession of prophylactics against his numbing malaise: insomniac flashbacks, fresh air, white wine, then Teo.

Title literally translates to Who has drunk will drink, or A leopard can not change his spots.
Date December 1, 2009

Ryazan, RussiaSpektor Home

Something about a dark room in the wee hours of Russian winter drives Francois out of it.

The time between then and now was brief, filled with shuffling around for clothing, quiet door hinges and a descent downstairs, a quick detour, and now— it's snowing. The cold has taken on a truly stunning sharpness, which is good becaaause it keeps the wine chilled. In that the bottle of riesling, left over from a failure of a Thanksgiving evening, is half buried in snow half a foot from where Francois' boot-clad feet are set against the stone stoop, safe under the overhang of the rooftop. He's been considerate enough to shut the front door behind him.

He forgot gloves and a scarf on the way down, and he's free of a coat in favour of a sweater with sleeves he can pull past his knuckles instead. An emptied wine glass is caught between loose fingers as he watches the fine falling of ice from sky. His dreams had been uneventful, and the awakening had been less so, and this is a passive kind of deep-freeze he's content to exist in for as long as white wine is happy to put him back to sleep eventfully. It's always been reliable, throughout the years.

Something about being petrified to living stone and discarded by sociopaths makes Teo think that you need company, even if the whole evacuation from the house with a bottle of wine to nurse alone would logically wind any sensible intelligence to thinking that, maybe, company isn't wanted.

But hey. Bossy asshole. It's been said. Admitted.

Teodoro Laudani knows everything about confessions. "Buona sera," and with the subtlety of hammers, "can I have some?" Always preferred white to red, where il vino was concerned. He comes out with a mug, which is not altogether appropriate, but lends the visit a somewhat more casual veneer. Whether he's in pyjamas or day clothes is impossible to tell underneath the stuffed density of his coat, and the jacket he's probably additionally pulled on underneath that. His gait lilts closer, quiet from the conditioned roll of his foot inside its boot and the muffling thickness of the weather. Snow's somehow pure in its freshened whiteness, a facsimile of softness, instead of brittly sterile like it is in the worst of its frigid lock, as if it's endeavors to kill them from kindness instead of its various other options.

Francois' never said no to company, even when he physically moves himself from it. He lists a little to the left so as better to twist around and see who's opening the door behind him. There's no guilt in the glance upwards, as much as it could be either owner of this home, and this may be slightly rude. Fortunately, it's just Teo, who drinks wine from mugs. "Bonsoir."

The tall wine bottle is gripped by the neck— a New Zealand brand, they're not bad when it comes to the whites— and lifted free of snow, ice clinging to the glass, curving sides before dripping free in a wet pat against cement. "Sit down," is both invitation and consent to wine-sharing, and as Teo sets about doing that, Francois shuffles over those needed inches as he refills his own glass with a lazy tilt of the battle, wine slopping thick into glass curves, almost merry.

He goes to repeat the process with Teo's choice of vessel, eyes hooded lazily. "Did I wake you?"

Yes. "No," but it's a harmless sort of lie. Teo sits, acquiescing to invitation and tacit gratitude for wine-sharing, now to be conducted in polite manner. He adds, "Grazie," to verbalize the gratitude, after a moment. Sometimes lying is the polite thing. Other times, adding a heartfelt token doesn't go amiss. Of course this would probably all be far more awesome indoors, with central heating raging powerfully, and a mound of blankets worn over his pyjamas, maybe a laptop battery burning a hole into his thigh, but so too are there instances in which keeping one's mouth shut is the graceful thing.

He helps himself to a mouthful of the wine while studying the lassitude of barometry. Feathers or sugar or scraped-up scurf. Sky's changing its pelt. His hand curls tighter around the mug's handle. "Katarina's never going to invite guests into the house again. Insomniac paramilitary foreigners with their increasingly creative excuses for bleeding, cursing, and drinking alone."

It isn't like Francois isn't shivering beneath his wool, less heavily layered than the Sicilian, knuckles mottled a little red from the bite in the air from where pale fingers make talons around the elegant drinking glass. There's a rough edge of laughter at that comment, eyes going crescent with the smile beneath them, and he shrugs when he takes a warming sip of chilled wine. "Mm. Surely they knew what they were getting into, except for perhaps the Thanksgiving take over." His feet shift in a little further, arms resting in a circle around his knees, where denim tries its hardest to offer warmth.

"In theory, so did we. Ah, merde. Is everyone recovering their injuries?" He should have checked by now, and hasn't, regret edging his voice and smile fading as he glances to Teo.

'Everyone' is a surprisingly long catalog, so it takes Teodoro a moment to consider each individual along for this hair-brained adventuuure to the land of ice and peculiar fuzzy hats, their state, prognoses. Long list. Many comrades. Mostly friends. A reasonably proportion of them shot up by Russian ex-Vanguard. "Si. Catherine's missing a strip off her scalp, I think. Abigail got her arm nicked, Liz was hit three times, but none of them too bad… Felix has a hole the size of my hand Swissed through his thigh, but he'll get to keep the leg and everything. Ethan wasn't there at the time, and I was doing my…

"You know." There's a sidelong squint, then one dropped down into the circular mouth of his mug, as if seriously attributing his lack of explanation to its alcoholic contents. At least there was Thanksgiving. Memorable in a decent way, despite the specified Englishman's best efforts. "You? Good as new? Reflexes, lift, full range of flexibility?"

"Good as new."

The echo is ambiguous between confirmation or simply parroting back the man's phrase. Then, Francois lifts a hand, skin pink and white but whole, fingers splaying and flexing, turning his palm as if to inspect it. "I haven't felt anything that justifies Monsieur Kozlow's caution, but then, the nature of this healing is strange in itself. I know that my ability would not have been able to help." Certainly there's no doctoring for stone, either, even stone that retained the ability to think and swirl around in itself.

He gives his glass the quickest of top ups before the wine bottle is being pushed back into snow with a crunching squelch, back curving so as to lean down the stairs to do so. Sleeve comes back studded with glittering granules of ice, and he wipes it off against his thigh. Makes no comment about the varying injuries - the blood is wiped, stitches are set, pain medication distributed.

"I didn't properly thank you for staying with me, when you could. And now you are here, too. Grazie."

Italian is nice to hear, and it doesn't go unnoticed by Teo that Fancois' accent is better than Abigail's. Not that he resents her efforts with the language. He puts his nose into his mug and takes a draft out of it that reduces its contents to a half-inch sliding around against its ceramic walls still. Exhales. He looks down at the bottle, trying to ascertain from here how empty that receptacle is, but it's too dark for him to tell. "Yeah. There's sssome shit going on with Kozlow, but the man sure has magic fingers. You're welcome," he adds, a little abruptly, not quite disjointedly.

Appropos of what Francois said, but out of order. His fingers splay and hike upward, after a moment, like a shadow pupet hiking up invisible steps in the air. Though there's no pressure behind the flat-shorn edges of his nails, his fingers wind up on the clean incline of the Frenchman's face, making faintly unsteady march that falters in the subtle cleft where the hollow of Francois' cheek gives way to haughty-cut bone.

Too dark to see, but not to hear - upon descent, the alcohol sloshing around was still reasonably heavy, the Frenchman disinclined to drink himself into a stupor as much as he's not being particularly conservative either. Drinking against the cold, drinking against insomnia, one of which more self-imposed than the other. Cold is inescapable, and while he wasn't warm as a statue, neither did he feel any trace of the snow that had gathered upon him. It's sharper than the warmth of bed and so— appreciated.

Pressure, too. The feeling of pigeon claws alighting onto an outstretched hand or stiff-necked nod was lost on him, but the graze of Teo's fingers now, abruptly, are not. He doesn't start, just twitches his look up from fluffy snow and swivel diagonal. He was going to ask, what's up with Kozlow?, if in slightly older sounding words. A hand comes up; captures Teo's wrist gently with a mild sound from the back of his throat. Wearily, Francois manages to drrrag his blue-green gaze up to match Teo's in innocent quizzicalness. He's old enough to not be so, but he's old enough not to join in in snowball fights too.

That was about to be an important question, Teo can tell, the pause proportionate to the drag of its weight when interrupted by the Sicilian's hand errant. It's been a hectic few days. The war-time paradigm of 'hurry up and wait' is not so insufferable, when the down-time is spent on the excruciatingly gradual process of refitting oneself properly in one's body after too-much-astral projection like an off-season debutante into a poor-fitting dress, the shoulder sagging here, tight around the waist and unwilling to curl to the fullest permissible extent of agility, glove-numbed digits.

So anyway, energetically athletic fucking is sort of out of the question at the moment, but that's all right: that doesn't necessssarily have to be what this is about. The debutante in the awkwardly bunched gown is allowed her tokens, especially with the long seasons of starving and shitty impractical shoes and pre-ball neuroticism coming up. Or, in terrorist terms, their analogous equivalents of nuclear apocalypses or, arguably worse, the threat of eventual alienation and total friendlessness. Though his hand remains sort of hanging around, up there, uselessly, its momentary entrapment does not immediately register as rejection. Teo's smile is sudden, secretive and brilliant; in spite of the dark.

He winds his wrist down, stoops his thumb against Francois' mouth. It's a character gesture in reverse, though Francois has no way of knowing that. Cocking his head around an odd angle, Teo transfers the pilfered kiss onto his own lips, before disrupting all five digits with a waggle.

"That's for me," he explains, cordially.

Even jaded ex-immortals can be charmed, and Francois is, as indicated in the smile-lines that follow. If the grip to Teo's wrist is anything that isn't rejection, it's a question; one that even gets answered, in a sense. "You do not ask for much," he comments. Hand shifts; doesn't quite let go in that his palm finds the back of Teo's hand, and fingers slip between the Sicilian's. "I don't either," he adds.

Usually. He'd been asking for much before, and a focused look turns hazy with the leeching emotions that trail after memory. The warm in his expression evaporates as much as heat is shared in an odd hand clasp that almost loosens. Instead, temptation is given into when Teo's hand is directed back inward - the side of Francois' throat is warmer to Teo's palm than surgeon's fingers and he breathes out a sigh as if he'd been holding onto it.

Almost drops his wine glass from his other hand as he relaxes, but remembers it in time. "I should stop making you endure the cold."

"It's not so bad," the Sicilian scoffs. To the benefit of his personal sense of machismo and reputation as a badass mofo, his teeth don't chatter around this claim. He smiles and it reaches his eyes, makes him look as contiguous to this suburban Ryazan setting as Katarina's intricate china and matched salt and pepper shakers. He grew up somewhere not entirely unlike this, and in such company, such a neighborhood, it's easier to forget the grisly mobs and extravagant war-grounds in which he'd begun to grow old.

Which isn't to say that Francois is just some old guy, or even the old guy who was trying to get into Abby's pants, or the old guy whose piteous overthrows blocked him from Abby's pants with projectile ice and then from pursuing a tactical lead by full-body petrification. Not quite so superficial, nor nearly so much pity. It is good to think, he has greater freedom to give what he has than Abigail does, but is asked for less. Reassuring.

Teodoro's mouth lifts crookedly at the corner and it's a long few seconds before the nerves in the curl of his bloodless fingers adapt, acclimate, no longer register the thin skin of Francois' throat as furnace's heat in comparison. He is aware that this is as much because he's warming as that he's leeching the warmth from the other man's person. His brows hike up the next moment, suddenly articulate: "No, you're right.

"It's fucking awful— I can't feel my toes. And I can't fight without my toes." Perhaps reminded by the tremulous bottle in Francois' hand, his grip tightens on his wine mug, other thumb dipping the well below the apple of Francois' throat.

There are other things you can do without your toes, which isn't something Francois communicates with anything except an innocuous 'mm' of agreement, one that vibrates like a cat's purr against where Teo has his hand. The shiver is more obvious - Teo's fingers feel like icicles and so, appropriately, a shiver wracks up the Frenchman's slightly hunched spine and he breathes out curls of steam. Seeking human contact may have everything to do with the ease in which he tends to accept it, or being a statue, or the awkward dance he and Abigail have found themselves in of general avoidance and loss of eye contact and conversation.

Speaking of that, and honour, she doesn't occur to him now. For someone so introspective enough to maintain diary-keeping for decades. "It's punishing," he agrees, hand wrapping tighter and warmer around Teo's, as if in apology. In the next moment, he releases the younger man's wrist, pulling back and returning his hands to his wine glass only to tip it back, swiftly consume the generous serving of wine he'd given himself. Which means he might wind up downstairs and urinating like a racehorse after his third attempt at sleep.

The world dizzies just a little as warm alcohol hits the bottom of his stomach, and carefully, he sets the glass down between his feet. Inhales bitter cold and expels it in warm steam and the scent of riesling.

Hands go out again, in offer of helping— or getting helped up.

Hu-uup. Teo helps— and/or is helped, one hand tangled into the older man's fingers, the other arm in an ill-fitting crook that's to bracket Francois around the waist or lean on his shoulder, both or alternating, and by now the level of liquid in his mug is low enough that it isn't going to go careening over the rim of the vessel and blotch stickily onto his coat. Still, its heavy fabric bunches, jerks and sways in rough echo to their combined gait and the percussive intrusion of the wind.

There's still wind, still snow, a roughly even distribution of flurries in vacuous black space. Texture for the backdrop, though they're turning their backs against that backdrop, making their lurching, uenven pace way back toward the house that still looks, unchanged, as if it's sitting for a portrait. Invitation or no, it's something of an invasion of personal space but, by now, Teodoro's shows of conceit can only be predictable, by now. Normally, he'd have to be a little more sloshed, too, but the same weather that drives Francois to drink and troubles their stride denies oily fears from filming close enough to find purchase.

He gets the door with his foot. Digs a toe into the gap, rolls his ankle once, bumps knee-first into the frame, clumsily, before the door concedes to pop, hiccuping open.

The glass is left sitting on the stoop, and half a bottle of white leans like that building in Italy in the snow. By the time the sun comes up, melts ice, it will tumble over and upend sparkling sweet alcohol onto the ground, and Francois will be sincerely apologetic to Katarina for turning the immediate outside of the friendly home into a drunkard's pissing corner. For now— he wants to be warm again, mood changing like the wind. He wants to be warm, and comfortable, and attempting sleep, which are three things he wasn't sold on before.

Still not sold on sobriety, but he's well away from that anyway. Francois more or less stumbles along with Teo's push into the house, hand detangling from Teo's to keep a steadying grip on an arm. Either it's unnecessary, or mutually necessary. Boots never went far enough to track in ice and winter slick. "Are you going back upstairs?"

"Good question." The door clicks shut behind them, with a whuff of air pressure against the backs of their legs. Teo hurdles the next few steps over the foyer's lacquered floor, past the closet, up to the broad foot of the stairs. Parks there, momentarily, his weight tipped at a lazily oblique angle, hip set against bulbously carved bannister and mouth buttoned up in a smile that goes all the way up to his eyes. His fingers are still stupid from cold and other deprivations, but refuse to desert the cause.

It's toasty in here, and smells like home. Some combination of smooth soap, flowers bequeathed from wife unto husband, and dense foods stewed fatly in oil and cheese. As far from that dingy intersection as you could get. A rough thumb and forefinger free Francois' top button, start to scale zip with a drag of index, and it's some easy coincidence, that the widening Teo's grin coincides neatly with a glimpse of the musical swoop of Francois' collarbone.

It's a throwaway line: "Am I?"

Francois gets to brace a foot against the stair, lever himself up without particular grace. It gives him height around the time Teo's hands seek fastenings. If the Frenchman angles his head this way, those two ticks of black making the world's tiniest vampire bite on his neck will make artful contrast against pale skin. For now, there's only a glimpse by the time he's leaning enough to brush against Teo brow to brow, these angles, cheekbones, the slopes of noses matching together like he's done this before.

A throwaway line, upturned into a question like what a smirk is to a true smile. It's warm in here for coats, anyway - the dense fabric is gripped to at Teo's back, tugged enough to free shoulders— there's a whisper of laughter of the Frenchman to discover the jacket beneath that. He himself is manly in but a sweater over the T-shirt he'd slept in. "Ah, Sicily."

Fffortunately for everyone involved, Teodoro Laudani was raised too well to bring up the possibility that he needed more physical padding against winter's intrusion because he wasn't, you know, drinking alone. Outside. In the blind of wintry barometry. He makes a face, like a four-year-old confronted with an overly adventurous casserole, manages not to drop his mug even when his systematic disrobement has his sleeve wadding down and packing into his forearm, squeezes at his wrist. This is awkward.

This is fun. His prodigious nose is cold, and Francois' nose is cold too, but not cooler: possibly, the only parts of their respective bodies that are about matched in temperature, despite whatever other differences in metabolism and sensitivity there are.

He can barely feel Francois' nose, despite that the flats of their foreheads are tangibly mapped together above that intersection point. "You shouldn't go up backwards," he whispers, conspiratorial in the dark. Somewhat contradictorily, he is hauling a foot up to join Francois' on the step anyway. "You're drunk; you'll fall, knock retrograde amnesia into your head and blood into the carpet, and it'll all explode then. Demoiselle Spektor's temper, and the Vanguard's nuclear bombs."

An arm nestles comfortably around Teo's waist, beneath jacket and over however many layers reside beneath. It's not a comfort to the other European in that Francois was refrigerated for longer, but warmth mingles, dilutes, becomes shared. In the overbearing darkness of the wee hours in the Spektor home, Francois blinks. Teo might be able to feel it like the barest graze of eyelashes, this close, before his posture and head with it is drawn upright and back, in conjunction with Teo's ascent.

"Ah, oui." There's doubt, there, and more words to come, but serious discussions on the value Francois holds for their team aren't for whispers at the base of the stairwell when knees are brushing together and arms are tangled. The latter withdraws, however, place against Teo's chest. There's no push, unless whatever strength was given to such a thing is distributed backwards enough for Francois to rock on his heels. Dizzying melancholy and abrupt realisation - he is drunk.

The slice of a smile in shadow is abrupt, familiar in its suddenness. As if age gives him the ability to breeze blithely past what's ailing him, or appear to. The French do it like this— a kiss, that is— quick and romantic, once fingers curl enough to grip the front of a shirt, a crush of bodies to staircase rails. He can have this.

And says as such; "For me." A hand moves, to grip railing, ascend a stair; and then another.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License