Said The Spider


eileen_icon.gif lucrezia_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Said The Spider
Synopsis In all of his magnificent ignorance, Teo comes to save his aunt. Eileen imagines herself a new enemy, and Lucrezia recalls… something.
Date January 15, 2008

The Ritz-Carlton: Lucrezia's Royal Suite

In an hour, it's going to be lunch-time for people who run their lives according to the clock around which the majority of human interactions revolve. Teo decidedly fails to fit into that category for the time being, but he isn't too far removed to be painfully aware of it. Walking past strollers and coiffed businesspeople converging on the Ritz's cafe, haplessly glancing away from trophy wives who try to find his eyes behind their husbands' backs. He made it over the sprawling courtyard aglow with the high sun, past the stiffly-starched concierge, up the filigreed elevator after encountering that facetious array of trials, and the only real injury he sustained was the distinct awareness that he didn't really miss it.

Not really. Still, when he raps on the suite's polished door, he does so with the distinct awareness that he likely has limited time. Zia Lucrezia tends only to eat or sleep alone when she really wants to, and she's always been a congenial sort. He tends to think he got that from her side of the family when he's ignoring how much time he spends in solitude these days.

The twenty-second floor corridor of the Ritz-Carlton overlooking Central Park is lined with significantly fewer doors than the lower levels of the hotel. This is a scenario with which Teo has undoubtedly become accustomed to over the years… and very recently, too. Someone, it seems, has been ordering their fair share of room service lately, as there are a pair of expensive trays hosting the dirty dishes from what must have been breakfast. For two. Assuming Alex was still sleeping sounding in his bed this morning, that must mean to Lucrezia has moved on to other prey. (Has this become her modus operandi in search of cold comfort in the wake of her dear husband's demise? How sad.)

The door to the suite is opened after about a minute; it is an expansive piece of borrowed real estate, after all, and getting to the door from the bedroom takes time. The spitting image of Teo's immaculate mother is standing there in a dark, cowl-necked sweater coupled with a pair of flatteringly (but not obscenely) snug blue jeans. "Mio carino!" MWUAH MWUAH MWUAH! Three kisses are given; left cheek, right cheek, lips. "Vieni."

Relatively casual attire indicates, at least, that Teo hadn't walked in before brunch with somebody tastelessly famous. That's the second thought that crashes through his head. The first is, as ever, distinct pleasure that his aunt is in good spirits and lovely, despite a short-lived, bitter aftertaste to that notion; in truth, he hasn't been back to the apartment since last night so he'd honestly have no idea who was entertaining her, assuming there was somebody. He fetches her up in the circle of his arms, and it feels a little bit like having a wrought iron statue cast in the shape of an embrace, the disparity of their strength — physical strength, in any case — being what it is.

Kissed, he returns two: the inner-corner of each of her eyes, despite that tears have been absent from her face for awhile now. Preferable. Not to think ill of the dead, but he'd never particularly liked that pasty man or his light, celery-shaped limbs. "Mia zia. Thank you. I'm sorry I didn't call ahead." It's easier to insist in person. That much, he might have inherited from her as well.

Lucrezia makes all of the 'so glad to see you' noises that come with such a strong embrace; other unfamiliar or eavesdropping ears might nearly be tempted to consider the brief discourse of grunts and groans lascivious instead of enthusiastic. She steps aside in order to allow for her tall Teodoro to find his way into the suite before shutting the door in his wake and leaning against it momentarily to ask in their native tongue, "«Can I get you something to drink, sweetheart?»" Ever the hostess.

The suite is, of course, expansive; larger than most two bedroom apartments in the city, even on the island, and even boasts its own pantry/kitchen in addition to whatever may lay behind door number two. The boudoir is off-limits for the moment. That's… only a little bit unusual, really. Lucrezia's only rarely barred Teo from having free reign over her rooms, private or otherwise. Maybe there is a certain red-head being kept behind closed doors…?

Wouldn't put it past— either of them. Teo isn't about to go stomping into locked rooms in the spider's parlor for a little while, though that's more a subconscious aversion than an explicit deduction of logic. His game-face is getting tired, and he promised not to punch his best friend anymore, leaving avoidance the only really tactically sound recourse. He looks around the sumptuous room, smiling a little, then more.

"«It's early,»" he observes, shifting a gaze through the nearest window. Whether by virtue of chemically enhanced glass or personal psychology, the sunlight looks more lustrous than the stuff he'd tracked through to get here. "«Whatever you're having, thank you.

"«I have a gift for you,»" he adds, prompt with habit: there's no need to be shy here. Never has been. A full-fledged grin splits his cheek, and a jerk of his head clears strandy shadows from his head and indicates the couch at the same time. He goes to install himself there, shrugging off the panels of his jacket as he walks, long, loping strides with the faint loop of a swagger he never managed to grow out of, despite all his affectations of humility.

Journey to the Kitchenette: The Quest for Orange Juice is a smashing success and Lucrezia's starring role as the beautiful, beguiling aunt who dotes somewhat inappropriately on her nephew is executed with expert artistry. A masterpiece! Fun for the whole family! Teo is delivered a tall tumbler full of orange juice over ice in short order, direct from the fine fingertips of his mother's delightful doppelganger. "«A gift?»" she asks, gentle smile manifest and radiant as the admired sun. She sits down smoothly on the cushion next to him (instead of at the opposite end) and curls one bare foot up underneath her denim-clad thigh. Without any indication as to box or location, Lucrezia slinks a sidelong look over to her sister's son and wonders, "«Here? What is it?»"

"«Inexpensive for me, I'll admit— but potentially costly for you.»" It isn't an answer the likes of which any Phoenix member or the vast majority of his friends in New York City would have gotten from Teodoro Laudani, who generally attempts to be direct, or apologetic if he isn't or won't be, barring the circumstances of lies of omission. More and more frequent, these days. Things are a little different with his mother's dark mirror. He's all teeth, wolfishly exposed, and laughing eyes, impudence that subtly implies arrogance. He drinks half his orange juice and finds a ball of white string in his pocket.

Requests her hand with an upturned palm, grasping gently once — if — it's granted. A thumb tacks the end of the smooth twine to her inner-wrist and, with an expedient twist of sailor's hands, he begins to unravel it, encircling the base of her hand before weaving in and out of her fingers, laddering his way up to her iridescent fingernails. No crown in the world has such perfect stones. He's talking while he does this, looking up now and then.

"«It's an ugly time to come to New York. There's nothing to see,»" with a slight tip of his tousled head toward the window. Midtown lies in ruins. "«The school I was working at was attacked by terrorists the other month. I almost died. There are shoot-outs and abductions in the paper every fucking week, and it's going to get a lot worse — with Rickham stepping down. And things I've heard. The people I know. Auntie—»" Her fingers are bound, though in confines only threaten the flow of blood or sensitivity with constricting coils should she flex them.

The string leads out of his hand. He tips his arm, tugs on his sleeve and, out of the recesses of his sweater, a loose hoop of flat, irregular beads and translucent stones comes tumbling down, smooth contours carrying the heat of his skin, including the metal bezel set of the delicate oval clock-face hanging from their midst. A watch. It slides off his arm, down the string, and onto hers in a musical clatter of parts. He looks her in the eye. "«Please leave town.»"

So clever. Teo was always so clever. Everyone always insisted that Romero was 'the smart one' but Lucrezia knew better. Dark eyes momentarily admire her nephew's handiwork, seemingly less interested in the watch but rather enthralled by the length of wound twine. With both hands — one bound metaphorically as well as physically — she reaches up to gently cup Teo's cheeks in her palms. The emotional mask wears is a complex collage of various feelings that run the gamut from appreciation to sentimentality to amusement to concern; every one struck and delivered like the peal of a blacksmith's hammer on a cast-iron anvil. Impossible to miss or conceal.

"«Oh, honey, that's very sweet of you but— I'm fine. Really.»" Words she's been repeating a fair bit in Teo's presence, they seem no more convincing now than when she spat them out after being confronted at a stranger's bedroom door. Those clutching hands fall away back into her lap and adept fingers slowly begin to unwind the twine from betwixt her spindly digits. She then ups the ante with a disarming look delivered through the veil of long, dark lashes. "«If you'd rather stay with me here for a little while, all you have to do is ask…»" Her freshly-freed wrist, painted with stripes of pale and pink skin beneath brand new bling, goes limp in a gesture directed over her shoulder toward the closed door of the boudoir and she extends, "«There's an adjoining bedroom.»"

"Lucrezia." Oh, he's being serious now. That ought to make her smile: he sits straighter, and the clever hands that had bound her up tighten — inadvertently, surely — and there were enough loops and turns of the string that, despite that she had released herself of several levels from the wrist, the skin of her fingers pales for it. He notices, but it takes him one or two seconds, before his grip relaxes, abrupt with guilt. "Please."

Despite that her expression is far more convincing than all of the masks he had ignored on his way to walking up and down somebody's waxed ass on the mattress years ago, he's ignoring this one, too. Her reassurances can't hold up under the sheer, crushing magnitude of everything that he knows is coming at them, bearing down on a timeline of no greater than two weeks. Maybe less. The bridges are going to go. There will be panic. Money implies safety, but inflation becomes a very real issue when simple survival is at stake.

His jaw is tight against the palm of her hand. He holds her stare, all of his ridiculous earnestness brought to bear. It's worked before.

It might work better if she hadn't taught it to him. "You're my family, and I love you." L'inglese.

There's no mistaking the look on her face now — genuine, brow-fretted concern. The one-two punch of having her name invoked so pointedly in combination with the young man's lapse into English has struck a profoundly personal chord and it makes breathless words materialize on the tip of her tongue, tumbling from her lips in refrain, "I love you, too, Teo."

While Teo's grasp wanes, Lucrezia's grows stronger in reply, no longer willing to allow him retreat until she's been given more of an explanation as to his strange behavior. She allows herself a moment of vanity and makes a carefully calculated, egotistical misstep… because that's what she believes he wants to imagine; that she's still the same beautiful and vain creature he used to worship and adore as a boy. She even serves it up with a sly smile.

"Is this because of your friend…?" You know, the one she fucked.

'Woozy' is the word that best describes the way Eileen is feeling right now. The voice now has a face and a name to go with it, and she's deriding herself for not having recognized him sooner. Teo. Teo Laudani. She discards her bath towel in favour of one of Lucrezia's bath robes, ensuring the sash is tightly fastened before she even thinks about what her next move should be. You're my family, he'd said, and I love you.

Has he been working with Volken all along? It would, come to think of it, explain a lot of things — the speed with which Volken determined her loyalties had swayed, for instance. Eileen places her hand upon the door handle but does not yet turn it. As tempting as it is to explode out into the living room in a violent whorl of hastily flung accusations, she remains right where she is, working her free hand into a fist and then stretching her fingers back out again. It's not the best use of excess nervous energy, but neither is anything else.

Yeah, Teo knows. The one she fucked. It's a good distraction. Hits him like a train, punches a hole straight through the apocalypse that's squatting on the grim horizon of his thoughts and emerges into light on the other side. Bright light, enough to make him blink once, hard. Color, visibly, discomfited by something that isn't eureka. Though his intent may not have been entirely pure, he bears his friend enough lingering resentment that possessiveness wouldn't have been his sin in this particular case. He retreats behind his face, a breath caught.

He isn't embarrassed. He's holding his temper by the throat. "It has nothing to do with him." It doesn't sound like a lie, but it doesn't come easy, either. Everything has to do with Alexander. It's what happens when you're in love. Or — was. The distinction between those two states is a red and liquid thing he fails to grasp. "Just— for three weeks," he says, as if to prove this isn't about that. "You could come back afterward." If there's a city to come back to. "I'd show you the city, or what I know of it." He says it like it's a promise. He's good at those. Eileen knows.

"Three weeks?!" Objection. Lucrezia can't help but look incredulous, expressive hands bounding through the air in concert with her mood; fingers splayed and palms presented to the ceiling. "«And where would you have me go for these three weeks, hm?!»"

The incredulity is better than the sly smile that had gone through Teo like knives. He almost laughs at that; she'd flounced the same way years ago. "Maldives?" he suggests. "Phuket? «Somewhere warm. You don't like the cold, anyway. Don't think I forgot: we're the same.»" He ought to be suspicious, perhaps, every word that exits his mouth— every experience he's had of her highlights the strangeness of her presence here. The silk ties sitting in his drawer and a little bit of luxury in the stricken city are poor cover for her choice of winter vacationing spots.

And yet, he suspects nothing. Or else, fails to allow himself to.

The lovely lady's lips purse unhappily, perched precariously on the edge of a pout that might otherwise be unbecoming for a woman her age if she didn't possess a mouth virtually made for just such an expression. "No!" she objects with knitted and threaded brows. "«I don't care about a little crime. I can take care of myself, darling… I've been to Paris.»" Ah, yes. Because a little dimming in the City of Lights is clearly on a parallel when it come to crime statistics as the worm-riddled, bruised, and brutally bitten remains of the Big Apple. "«Besides… I came here to see you, so… let me see you.»" And your roommate. Bra-VO!

And Teo is — furious. Not the worst he's ever been before; not even as bad as Eileen had seen that once, but it's as familiar to Lucrezia as the microcosm of her own loneliness. His eyes go dark, flooded by pupil; his jaw hardens with an audible grating of his teeth; his features as harsh with love as the open palm she had showed him as a child. A man is judged by how he treats lesser creatures. His only redeeming opportunity is, as hers, his loyalty to the greater. He rises, a breath shuddering through his shoulders, wordless, before he finds the words:

"This isn't a fucking joke." An ugly language for ugly words. "I can't fucking believe you aren't taking me seriously: you're in danger, you silly b—" A swallow. "This city is damned. You don't know what I've seen. I know I haven't been the best nephew. I haven't been there for you, or Cyrano, or Mother, and maybe you all thought I — didn't care. And I'm sorry for that. I am! But I swear. If anything…

"If anything happened to you, I couldn't…"

It's loud where Teo is. Red inside his head. His voice emerges thick with early grief and belated fear, plagues of doubt that have long since found his comrades already. It is no help when a shrill twitter from his pocket signals an incoming call, the beginning of some new crisis and the necessary end of this one: he has his job to do, and his duty as a nephew asks him as poignantly that he goes and does that as that he stay and see this through. Not knowing how to reach her, he is incapable of explaining himself and, inevitably, barred from starting over by cruel and simple circumstance. He wants so badly to save her. He'll have to think of some other way. Later: when he can think straight again. It isn't the end of the world.


Teo kicks the coffee table, a vicious, arching sweep of his foot: sends it through the boudoir door. It smashes the scrimshaw wood like a carcass breaks over the glass of a car. Bang. Impact ricochets through thick walls and the door behind which Eileen huddles, sends shockwaves of noise through the algid air. He twists on a heel, stalks away from her pretty perch. Toward the door to get his shoes. And leave, his cheeks high with color, an inelegant bruise staining across his foot inside his sock, deaf and dumb, inarticulate as he is ignorant. He doesn't say good-bye. This isn't one.

And Lucrezia is left speechless.

January 15th: Woolgathering
January 15th: The New Guy
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