Quiet Now


alexander_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Quiet Now
Synopsis Boys do cry, and it isn't very attractive.
Date November 23, 2008

New York Public Library

Once upon a time, the New York Public Library was one of the most important libraries in America. The system, of which this branch was the center, was among the foremost lending libraries /and/ research libraries in the world.

The bomb changed that, as it changed so much else.

By virtue of distance, the library building was not demolished entirely, like so many others north of it; however, the walls on its northern side have been badly damaged, and their stability is suspect. The interior is a shambles, tattered books strewn about the chambers and halls, many shelves pulled over. Some have even been pulled apart; piles of char in some corners suggest some of their pieces, as well as some of the books, have been used to fuel fires for people who sought shelter here in the past.

In the two years since the bomb, the library — despite being one of the icons of New York City — has been left to decay. The wind whistles through shattered windows, broken by either the blast-front or subsequent vandals, carrying dust and debris in with it. Rats, cats, and stray dogs often seek shelter within its walls, especially on cold nights. Between the fear of radiation and the lack of funds, recovery of the library is on indefinite hiatus; this place, too, has been forgotten.

Al is up in his garret room, lounging on his bed, reading. The deskchair isn't all that comfy, and is really only for actual study. Another old pulp thriller, though it's Hughes, rather than Chandler, this time. 'In A Lonely Place'. His expression is peaceful in repose, pale eyes heavy-lidded with the sleep he's not quite ready to yield to. The room smells faintly of sandalwood incense - there's a stick burning on the windowsill to drive away the old odors of dust and neglect.

Knock-knock goes the door, the framework for a joke, though before Alexander can pick up the next part it's jammed open on the end of his friend's shoulder. Teo pokes his head in through the slot, a stripe of his face showing from the relative darkness of the hallway. He turns his eyes to and fro, checking — for whatever reason — that the other man is alone, before he asks, "Can I come in?" His bruises are gone. All of them, not a scratch to show where tarmac had chewed on his chin or a greenish smudge to show where purple had faded away. It makes sense: he'dve done Abby's miracle, by now. Abby would have insisted.

The room is dim - there's just the light of the reading lamp he's dragged over, but bright enough to show that it is just him. Al's in a t-shirt, tucked under the unfolded sleeping bag that serves him as a comforter. "Sure. You look better," he observes calmly, marking his place and setting the book up on the desk. "What's up?"

"My school got blown up," Teo says. He looks appropriately cranky about it, finally. Kind of. He looks annoyed and tired, which works just as well; there's a loop of fatigue to his stride as he crosses the floor, which straightens out in time to acquiesce to gravity and drop him on the floor beside the bed. His preferred seat in any given room. Teo scratches his fingers through his hair— remembers to clarify, abruptly. "Washington Irving. Not Columbia. It was in the paper. Kids died." After a moment, he realizes that he's speaking only in fragments and six-word sentences so he stops altogether, glaring at the ceiling for a moment while he recalculates breathing.

Al goes still. So much so it's rather eerie - the light of the lamp is dim, and makes it look as if his face is a mask carved out of old ivory. "I….I saw the paper," he says, voice flat, strangely empty. "Has PARIAH sunk so very low, in earnest?" For all the calm in his face, he's slowly knotting his hands in the bedclothes, with near enough force to tear - and the level column of smoke is whisked away in the humming movement of air that is Al's reaction to suppressed stress.

Recalculating. Recalculating, and Teo figures it out eventually, and his eyes fall back to his friend's face. Skew to the left, after a moment, watching as restrained telekinesis distorts the column of smoke. Vaguely, he's aware that he perhaps ought to be afraid. "It doesn't seem like them. It really doesn't. First the bowling alley, now this. Why would they get everybody out of CitySoft in the Financial District, then—" He should have stuck to short sentences, he realizes, when he runs out of words for the long one like that Wallace and Gromit segment where the dog was laying down tracks in front of the running train fast as he could until he ran out. A spectacular crash. Teo spends a few seconds blinking steadily at Al's face, watching the hard porcelain pallor dim, black, brighten, return, twice. "Do you know how I can get in touch with Claire?"

Alexander shakes his head gravely. "Helena would know. I don't, sorry, man," he says, sitting up and patting the bed invitingly. The floor is cold and hard, even though there's a space heater glowing dimly in the corner. "Well, it's a new day for them, might be they've finally taken the gloves off," He just seems weary now, narrow shoulders bowed as if under a great weight.

Standing up seems like effort. Teo probably should have thought of that before he sat down, but he hadn't, and he's here now, where it's cold and hard. However, the space beside Alex suddenly looks conspicuously barren, linens blank and wrinkled, the comforter slowly reinflating from the decompression. His brow furrows slightly. He picks his arms and puts up next to Al, folding them into a coiling pretzel of sweater sleeves. He sits his chin on his wrists, one cheek pillowed on his bicep, the other half-hidden by a forearm.

"I don't know of Hel told you," he says. "Somebody sent Flint Deckard to look for us and PARIAH. They threatened to kill him, so I helped Wireless and Conrad put him in a place. He's the only one I can think of. He doesn't seem to have anything to say yet." His eyes lid with exasperation, first, fatigue second; dimly aware he isn't connecting his sentences too well. When his voice re-emerges, it's slightly smaller than it was before. "Is there something else we should be doing?"

"I wish I knew," Alex says, quietly, turning to look at his comrade in arms. "Deckard. The arms dealer, right? And no, I hadn't heard. I've been off pretending to be normal," he explains, voice slow. "I feared it'd come down to this…we're going to have to stop PARIAH, and I don't know that we have the resources or the sheer bloodymindedness to do what'll need doing in that account. YOu think this might be a third party, though?" he says, propping himself against the bank of cushions against the wall that let the bed function as an ersatz couch.

Teo nods once, against his arms. He isn't entirely sure what he's nodding at. Deckard's the arms dealer, yes. He wishes he knew too. And he was afraid that it would… I'm not afraid of anything, his ego chimes in belatedly, irritable, irreverent, irrelevant. "Maybe I just want this to be a third party," he says, after a moment. Pulls his head up and puts his face down into the linens. Inhales the incense that rests on top like an extra skein of things to warm a sleeper and discovers, albeit only fuzzily, that he can pick Alexander out of the fragrance as easily as he had picked the fragrance out of Alexander. Muffledly, "I worked with them for months." PARIAH, he means. Erim. Claire. They terrified and, at times, terrorized him. And yet.

Alexander makes a little abortive motion with one hand, before letting it rest limply on his knee. "I did, too," he notes, gently. "It'd be nice if this were some third group fucking stuff up so we could blame them. But i'm dubious. Occam's razor says that it's just Karl and his dimwits gone off the chain entirely. We gotta talk to them, though. Maybe talk 'em down, before it turns into a gang war."

Muffled, again: "Occam's razor doesn't reflect a girl dying under a syringe, or…" Teo breathes in. A bright eye pops out into view from over his forearm, its matching eyebrow furrowed a moment as he blinks, squints, readjusting to the dim incandescence that Alexander prefers to read by. Man ought to worry more about his eyes. Be a waste if they were only accessible through the portals of a pair of glasses. The next moment, he stuffs his head back down in his arms again. "I'll see if Claire can set something up. And Hel. Or something. I don't know if you want to…" Exhaling sounds like a choked engine; wet, recognizably broken, not enough air cycling through, a spill inevitable. It takes Teo too long to tell Al's mattress, "I'll let you sleep."

Al is… chagrined, to say the least. "I'm not much of a negotiator, but I'll talk to Claire…." And then Teo's crying. Men don't cry like women. It's never pretty, or meant to manipulate. Inevitably it's wrenching and terrible, like an engine shaking itself apart indeed. "Come up here," he orders, suiting the action to the word and dragging Teo up on the bed with both physical hands and psychic powers. Not brooking any argument in either case.

It's embarrasing, or ought to be. He'd probably be embarrassed with most people else, or insistently, angrily indifferent whatever the fuck they think, except about the possibility of snot on bed, because anybody is well within their rights to comment on that. For whatever reason, Alexander chooses not to. Teo perceives this dimly. He covers his head for a moment. In the interim, he finds himself yanked up onto the bed in a graceless curl of unshed shoes and theadbare sweater skewed by Alexander's white-fingered grip. Lands on his shoulder with the agility of an especially fat pumpkin, one leg dangling off the edge and his ears turning red, sanguine from something that, by default, is not joy. He has one hand covering the other eye; the other curled around his own neck, anchoring himself by the dig of fingertips. He sounds horrible.

It's perturbing. Because there's so much Al has forgotten. Or, more accurately, jettisoned on the way from Georgia to here. Bits of conscience and heart, on the sands of Iraq or the concrete of the city. But he doesn't say anything, merely dragging Teo to him in an embrace. He doesn't seem to find weeping particularly embarassing or something to stop.

Understandably, it lasts awhile, if not as long as it feels like it does. Racking sobs, shoulders tremoring, seismic, in the circle of Al's arms, the noises done wrong, not enough voice, not a whimper, only coughing, ugly rasps like he's ill instead of very sad. Partly, it's because Teo can't figure out how to cry and breathe at the same time. He's out of practice, the way a fair number of men his age probably are. He'd seen people die before, and he'd seen them dead afterward; he'd even almost died among them, known them, liked them; but he'd cried a little then, too, and the enormity of the tragedy seems inversely proportional to their age and the at-times infuriating persistence of his own life. Nine minutes later, and the head on Alexander's shoulder stops making noises other than inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

Al's matter of fact, really. And he drags over a bandana to function as a hankie, via the Force. Best to let it all out in private. He hasn't said anything through the entire spell, merely patting Teo's back and shoulders gently. He's not got him tightly gripped, however - there's room to move, after all.

Always a good thing. Eventually, Teo's blinking manage to return the room to some approximation of clarity. He can see the hankie. Bandana. Thing. Sits up, after a moment, an elbow poking into the wall so he can snag the thing out of empty air, if empty air would be so kind as to let him have it. Put it on his face and smear saline all over his eyes, which isn't so great, and he hesitates for a moment before eventually fighting down enough squeamish concern to blow his nose in it too. After he clears his throat, his voice sounds roughly normal. He says, "I went up to the second floor but I was too freaked out to move away from the staircase because I thought it would fall down, then it did." He looks at the makeshift hankerchief, folds it.

"Wise of you," Al says, gently. He's oddly good at just being quiet, in all honesty, watching Teo sidelong like a direct stare might startle him right out of the room. He leans over and ruffles the younger man's hair, as if he were a child.

Disgusting. Embarrassing. Ought to be. Teo's motions and emotions come off fragmented now, like something continuous and whole had been sawn apart and then hammered back together. It's fortunate, his ego's large enough to handle the sundry insults of masculinity. When Al ruffles his head, he ducks it down, squints over his shoulder like a child, face half screwed up like a ball of tissue. It smooths after a moment. He tries breathing again. It's easier, this time, and still more the next; draws the color away from his face.

Alexander is still maddeningly calm, having let all the storm and stress break over him. "Feel better?" he wonders, before summoning the bottle of water from his desk to his hand, and offering it to Teo.

The Sicilian himeslf is having a hard time accurately gauging the storm and the stress or anything beyond his own skin. He makes a wild guess, and lands somewhere in the region of thinking Al must be uncomfortable. Then and only then does something approaching self-consciousness flush his face; he refuses the bottle of water with a shake of his head and snags the collar of his sweater, pull it up higher, as if it's cold. Actually, it is the opposite. "I think so," he answers. "Just tired." A half-beat; his hand curls tighter around the bandana. "Grazie."

The way Al's eyes inadvertantly follow that hand on the collar of the sweater….embarassing. Just a flicker, there and then gone. "It's tough. It never gets easier," he says, letting his shoulders droop. "I mean, you'd think, what with bein' in Iraq, and then working as a cop for so long, you'd get used to violence. I never did."

Either it helps to hear that, or it suits Teo. Turning the conversation toward the other end of the bed. "They have medicine for that." He sniffs once, whuff canine and he forgets to let go of Alexander's gaze when it evades. "Your dreams."

Alexander looks away, though he can't really look -out- the windows, considering they're curtained off. "I can't afford it, and don't dare take it. That shit'll fuck you up if you take it long term," he notes, tonelessly.

Curtained; boarded; armored from the outside, though when you're sitting in Alexander's sleeping space, you have to wonder, a little, if there wasn't thought given to the possibility of a telekinetic lash-out. Teo doesn't know what else to do with the bandana except for hold it. "They gave me something. I think it works, for the dreams. I haven't woken up." He hasn't slept much either, granted. He scrapes a cough out from the bottom of his throat. And with a dry edge of gallows humor, then, softly, "Maybe you should get out of here."

Alexander's gaze searches Teo's face. "Who's they?" he wonders, quietly. "And get out of here, what do you mean?" He looks a little confused. And, well, there's a reason he's way off in this corner of the building. Telekinetics with nightmares…

"People, um. The hospital," Teo motions emptily. "St. Luke's, where Abby and I landed to heal the girl for Miracle Day. They only gave me enough for a week. I think it's supposed to stop brain shit happening before it starts." The motion ends next to him. He still hasn't leaned back, so it looks a little awkward there, his arm lank down his side. After a moment, he crosses it over his other one, his shoulders trying on the slump that seems so often to curve Alexander's pale frame for size. It doesn't quite fit. "Out of Phoenix. Out of New York City. Maybe you'd get better." He turns his head slightly because the lamp's getting into his eye.

Alexander laughs at that, though it's a rather mirthless sound. "Oh, kid, I wish," he says, bluntly. "Geography's not a cure. I'm still the same asshole, no matter where I go, right? And I'm leery of drugs, no matter how benign." He edges back and wedges himself comfortably into the heap of pillows on the coner of the bed, and leans back.

Eyelids go half-mast, then wide. Teo squeezes them shut and cracks them open again, trying to make the tired go away. Fails to, coincidentally. That's more upsetting than usual. Getting Al out of these moods demands energy, and it's so very rarely in him to refuse to give it. "I'm not a kid," he mumbles.

"I know you're not. Only two years younger'n me, right?" Al wonders, blinking patiently at Teo. "T, meds or not, you need sleep. You go to bed, huh?" he urges, inthe process of stealing some of the comforter out from under the Sicilian.

A wince. Obligingly, Teo leans his weight onto his far hand, allowing the comforter to pop out from underneath him. "A little less than that. I just turned twenty six on the fifteenth." Which, he belatedly remembers and hopes that Alexander doesn't, was the first time he crawled onto this bed and onto the redhead's person. A conspicuous silence integrates itself uncomfortably on the far end of that recollection. "So don't call me that." One corner of kerchief wraps around the other folds, squares and angles away, wadded dry and smooth in the palm of his hand. Struck by the urge to inform Alexander that he doesn't want him to be alone, he's relegated to saying nothing until reassured that it's okay. He isn't sure what 'it' is.

"Congratulations," Al says, amiably enough. "And ah won't, anymore," he offers a little snapped salute, not quite mocking. "You got something else on your mind, 'cause it doesn't look like you gettin' up to go?" His tone is cheerful, but not flirtatious. That whole incident is water under the bridge, clearly.

If not clearly, then at a steady and gradual pace. It wasn't lost on Teo, that things weren't quite even when they spoke outside Piccoli's. Nor is it lost on him that things are better now. "No," he lies, after a moment. After the moment, and with some effort, he gets up, smoothing his sweater down with awkward hands, one of them still balled up around the hankie. "Sorry. About— for… that I… messed up your bandana," he finishes, at length. Rue fits him better than most of the other sentiments he's clawed through tonight. He wraps an arm around his chin and nose, looks at Al from over it. The tone had reassured him. The cheer. He would rather it weren't passing.

"It'll wash out, you don't cry acid," Al says, carelessly. "Throw it in the hamper in the corner, I don't need it right now. You gotta cold or somethin'?" He's relentlessly casual, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his drawn-up knees, and eye Teo.

Teo shakes his head. It's a little more difficult to shake your head when you're holding it in your arm, but he manages, like a younger boy of a different character shy and half in hiding. His brow knots briefly when he's reminded that he'd done that — cried — but it goes away afterward. He sniffs, once, loudly, lets his arm fall. Prominent with the residual crook of an old break, his nose is pink. His gaze moves on Alexander's face. "Buona notte," he says, at length, stooping to drop a peck on the top of his friend's head with tentative precision. Though his crucifix remains tucked out of sight, its diminutive chain coils and catches weightlessly againts the side of his neck when the center of his balance shifts.

Alexander reaches up to pat him affectionately on the side with a palm, like a favored pet. "You have a good night, too, I'll see you inna morning," His tone remains soothing, as if Teo were the fractious child he so firmly denies being.

He could be angry about that, but he's too angry about a dozen other things, right now. Teo takes it with only a slight scowl, vulnerability and vices, all, receding back behind the role alotted to him. He straightens and turns away, his shoes dragging only a little. He doesn't touch the door as he goes out, angling his shoulders to slot his long frame out the gap.

November 23rd: The Plate Spinners

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…

November 23rd: Something Said
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