Second Fiddle


francois_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Second Fiddle
Synopsis Francois arrives home to +1 guest and +1 interrogation room.
Date September 19, 2010

West Village: Maison d'Allegre

There's a stranger in Francois' house.

'Stranger' being a debatable use of the term. He looks like Teo. Could probably even feel like him, if it came to that, but this version of the boy in question is purportedly the gentler of all of them, despite that there are calluses and recent bruises matted on the back of his hand and a certain chilly horror on his face when the clock-hands strike seven o' clock in the evening. Were he the hybrid, there would be dinner on the stove or at least a Post-It on the foyer wall describing what takeout to expect, and that he's upstairs.

Instead, the door to the third floor had been left open like the ghost never does, and there was an unfamiliar windbreaker heaped up over the shoulders of the dining room chair, a bottle of affordable but politely-branded wine on the edge of the table, an inobtrusive gift that would be like rote apology, commonplace in taste, were wine not one of Francois' personal favorite comforts.

Ghost did something to the third floor. Just one of the rooms, mind you, but still. Plastic taped down on the floor. Corrugated metal bolted like blinkers over the windows, a plain metal table with inscrutable steel hoops welded into the surface into which one might secure handcuffs, or, fuck if he knows, break someone's face? The chairs are utilitarian fold-up affairs, flimsy of make, nothing you can do to hurt yourself — or anybody else too badly wiht before the nails give way, but he doesn't really like the fact that he knows that.

After a few seconds of speculation, he decides he needs a smoke. Takes the pack out of his pocket, only to find that the lighter snicking and choking under his thumb is bewilderingly short on butane.

The wine bottle gains a few fingerprints and inspection, but it remains in place where it was found. Heaped jacket is picked up and overturned and set back down in a different configuration. Soon, Francois heads for the logical pathway after these discoveries — up the stairs, creaks beneath sensible shoes, and no greeting sent echoing upwards, no early tale of complaint, about how motorcycles are death machines and Teo better remember that, s'il vous plait, if he insists on riding one. Earlier than that, someone probably heard the front door open and close.

There is basically nothing after that. Francois is quiet-footed naturally, probably even before he tried to become an immortal ninja. Subject to complaint and comments about collars with bells on. This time, he's only trying to sneak a little bit.

Appearing in the door of the— the previously empty room, the one he'd allotted a few options to, the one that someone has taken it upon themselves to turn into something significantly creepy. Francois is dressed in plain clothes, a T-shirt that has a familiar blue sweater drawn over it, untucked over jeans, hands hidden in denim pockets. Bruises create shadows on the left side of his face, marking greenish blue around his eye, circling cheekbone. There is offense and hard alarm in green eyes that scope out the scenario he's discovered.

He sets a shoulder against doorframe, and finally drags his attention towards Teo. There is no mistake about who he is. Francois thinks he would know if it was anyone else. "Qu'est-ce que c'est?" Even English speakers know what that means.

"It's," Teo is answering with the ease of one fluent in French even though he's doing it in English, until his brain catches up with his mouth and he sucks a breath in through the cigarette harsh enough that the cherry glows like a star in the half-light of the room. He blinks hard. Looks up. Clears his throat, and it jostles the cancer-stick poking out of his mouth. "It's for questioning— it's for— the girl. Margaret. The one that the ghost is sitting on right now. He said that, um.

"He said he'd have to make it look pretty bleak because she'd watch him do it the whole time and that'd make everything less scary, so the… average, I guess, of those two facts had to settle on 'Please take me seriously. But he isn't going to torture her." By the time Teo finishes that sentence the cigarette is in his fingers and his knuckles are rubbing wearily across his eyes. His own clothing is shabbier than the hybrid's, less monochromatically utilitarian-metro than the ghost's, hoodie and jeans that have seen better days. He is clean-shaven. Younger.

And he says, not especially appropriately but sincerely nonetheless, "Sorry."

Oh. Francois catches his attention on the blanked out windows, a hand up to restlessly rub knuckles beneath his mostly unmarked jaw, thumbnail drawing a temporary line along thin skin, before he edges in a little more, mincing steps. Stops short of where there is plastic protecting the flooring, silent in his thought, and probably watching the younger peripheral-figment of Teo closer than he is the still image of his room-turned-dungeon, or creepy interrogation setting. Certainly not a nursery.

"D'accord." He rocks back a step enough to pivot his attention fully on the other man. "Why are you— ? I didn't know he was going to involve you. Well. He did not tell me of this, either, really."

Shocking, isn't it? Teo takes another drag out of his cigarette, exhales like a drowsing dragon, and the nicotine smoke whirls the translucent thickness of eddies around the line of his wrist, vents through the gaps between his fingers, uncurls overhead and vanishes before it reaches the ceiling. Ghost keeping secrets. In another man's house. Crazy! "He wants my help. He won't have a body if he climbs out of her to ask her questions with, so whether— I want to do the asking, or— he—

"'Least thought I should fucking be here, I guess." A shake of his head sends the bristly stuff of his hair twitching slightly: the porcupine will be in need of another shaving, in not along at all, before he goes still, neck-up, feet shifting restlessly underneath him. When he looks up, his eyes are the same glacial shade of blue as his counterpart's were. "He said you were taking care of a lot of it. I thought you'd know."

"I'm— "

Heh. Rueful laughter, breathy, and a genuine if small smile for it to slither out of, Francois easing his gaze away from Teo in doggish guilt. Hands drop, tuck fingers into denim pockets. "'Taking care' of what I can. Anything he— and yourself— can get would be helpful, or— progressive." This mission feels like walking through treacle, waiting for Sheridan's paperwork to go through, making dates for a week later, jumping endless hoops. Today will be the day they fuck up sedative medication and drive the hybrid into cardiac arrest, induce brain-damaging comas, print scars into his body that won't heal. Because his appointment is next week.

Amongst other nightmares. He swallows, hard, shakes his head. "I know a little. Not the part where you would come into it. You thought he was dead, non?" Francois' eyes follow the track of cigarette with interest, like cats watch birds. He isn't a smoker— not since the 60s, he likes to say.

That's before Teo's time. Any of him. For a moment, all three seem to stare at Francois out of his eyes, responding to the cat behind the window as a bird bigger and of different disposition than the easy prey would. Gone in a blink, and then he's just a weary child again, watching the discomfiture of his elders and betters with a dismal, oddly naive comprehension. "We should probably pool intel," he hears himself say, and then he knows that's what the ghost wanted him to. He's the only one who doesn't have stock in this.

Any of this at all. The hybrid's living a life made forcibly separate from anything that was his own, and the ghost being without a body is no real business of his other than the mostly-sociopath potentially shopping him up as a prom dress when he's tired of going about naked. And if he got far enough, Ghost wouldn't bother. He'd just find another way, and that's only Teodoro's problem because—

"It makes sense he isn't," he answers, quietly. "To pure pragmatists who minored in politically violent douchebaggery. I'm willing to believe it."

The plastic crinkles, now, beneath the Frenchman's tread as he rounds towards the table, curious inspection over its shape and placement in his home, wondering when the diminutive girl-body of Ghost dragged this up here without marking up the staircase. More likely it was the man-child over there that did the deed, muscles shifting beneath skin familiar to him, familiar enough that he could map out marks, scars, tattoos with his fingers with his eyes shut. Although maybe he'd miss, by now.

Francois sits a lean against metal table, snags two fingers in one of the metal loops in fidgeted curiousity. "The Institute has a human resources department. He recommended I join their security programme when I enquired about available positions, in a sense. I did not think it would work, actually, but it has. It might. I'm probably going to lose my job at St. Luke's, at least for a while."

The long and short of his intel, or at least, his intentions. Blinks back at Teo. "It's— I mean. Thank you, for helping. You have no reason to help."

So Little Paris has noticed. Teo creases his eyelids into a brief blink, reopens, and finds himself unsure of what to say. There are things he wants to say, that he'd be able to if this were a different kind of movie, because as much as the hybrid inherited an itchy-trigger finger, horrifying skill-set, and ironclad capacity for faithfulness from the ghost, or at least the template for all of that, the accusation Deckard had laid at his door— You fall in love with anyone who looks sideways at you was all him.

Francois is pretty good at making eye-contact, straight on, but every glance that threatens toward slightly oblique, even from a three-quarter profile, is an odd tug at least to get to know him better. Smoke in, smoke out. "It's the right thing to do," he says, and then looks at the table that presides, bestial and sharp-edged, and there's barely a seam of a pause between those six words and, "so far. Can you take a vacation? Lie about being sick?"

A shake of his head to mention of vacation, and then a tilt of maybe to the latter suggestion. "I'm not really a doctor anyway," Francois comments, lightly, a wink following — the kind of good natured jest you give pre-op patients who need a reason to laugh, even if it's bitter and edged with oh don't tell me that, and they don't need to know the real punch line. He unhooks his hand from the welded metal hoop so as to fold both hands between his knees, tucks his chin in to study the tangle of pale fingers.

"People ask me about you, you know. You should— go out. See them. It is what you are here to do."

Is it? Teo's features soften, before they— don't exactly harden, exactly, but there isn't as much give to his response as one might have expected from the idea that he is missed, ought to fraternize with those who love him again. Lots of bitterness and edges made of other substances for everybody involved. Times like these make for certain types of fragmentation.

Watching the table rather than the little winks, Teo's long, scar-notched fingers flick restlessly around the burned-short stump of the cigarette, loose off particles of ash that drift floorward and land like dander and dust. "I'll keep that in mind," he answers. "But to be honest, I was thinking about leaving this place before that shit at Pinehearst conceived your boy. Couldn't," and his choice of words is forcibly casual, "cut it."

There is a look from Francois to Teo like he's not quite sure he believes. That. Although he has no reason to doubt — pre-late 2009 is to him what the 60s are to Teos, and maybe it's so, that home to his Teo is not so much to this one. His head tips, a little, to try and get eye contact, but gives up to instead look out the window, even if it's nailed over with iron, tongue sweeping along the still sore inside of his cheek as he thinks of words. Ones that are mature and generous. "Then I suppose that leaves you with saying 'goodbye'."

Maybe it's the room, but this feels like interrogation, or unwanted debriefing if not that, and so Francois falls consciously silent before the next prodding query can surface. Can't quite keep himself from that watchful study, now mutely expectant, and a hand travels up to, in normal nervous fidget, drag edge of thumbnail down the scarring at his ear.

Does it? And why does Teodoro's brain keep producing coy, monosyllabic questions in response to perfectly legitimate, kind, mature and generous advice that the other man gives him? That isn't very nice.

A symptom of uncertainty, maybe. He resists the urge to turn around, grab the doorframe and knock a factory reset back into his skull through the part of bone that was once shielded with titanium. So little of human experience is unique. Every story you could hope to write now has been told before, so coming up with something original is an exercise in futility. That should mean there's something like precedent to go off of. Common sense, the right thing to do, but Teodoro's left feeling unhinged, like he dislocated something more crucial than a shoulder, and even the greater excruciation of popping it back into place will be preferable to this weirdly facile uselessness.

"That's probably true," he answers. "I mean, I wanted to get away from all this shit before I turned into him." His nod is kind of ambient because the ghost isn't here, but look around: in a sense, he is. Teo realizes that his cigarette is going to burn right up to his fingers soon. Ghost doesn't typically smoke; there are no ashtrays in here. "Guess I still have some fuckin' time to catch up, too."

"Sure." Francois takes his weight off the table now, hands smoothing down his thighs to settle the sit of his jeans, shoulders rounding in before straightening again, takes a step that is both doorwards and closer, a second one that is the latter in an absent wander. "They speak fondly of you. Abigail, and Elisabeth both have, and Eileen. And Flint Deckard, bien sur. The girls try to describe you to me, sometimes." Deckard just leaves marks that this Teo doesn't think to ask about, even in jest or pragmatic curiousity, and Francois is almost arrogant enough to think it's deliberate.

But only almost. There is no certainty anymore. "Which is strange, I think. All things considered." Steps carry him forward, which is a literary blamelessness — Francois walks to Teo, consciously, decisiveness, even if a slow pace gives allusion to hesitation. A hand goes out in hopes to catch the one that doesn't have a little cigarette in it, a firmer circled grip on his wrist though not one Teo couldn't easily break; thumb sweeping along the roughness and smoothness of lined palm. Green eyes match blue before dropping to visually track his own study.

Not that he hasn't already — for a long time, when the younger man lay prone in the makeshift medical centre, and Francois held his hand like this and studied every familiar detail of blunt fingernails and callused palms.

Oh this is all wrong. Oh dear. Teo doesn't flip out and hasten to retreat, not exactly, but there is a certain aspect of skittishness to the reflexive tug and minute swing of his arm once he's been captured at the wrist. Not enough to break it, despite that the Sicilian must be able to tell that its fragility was deliberate in design rather than some arcane soft-palmed kung-fu kata or other ninja-ness. Ahhhh. Ahhhhh. Oh, Francois looks a bit rougher up close. Aha.

"I'm the good one," he clarifies, unnecessarily, then frowns reflexively at his own facetious use of that term, which is also ridiculous, a hamster joggling around inside his plastic ball with so much gusto that he winds up shooting backward, up, falling on his head or succeeding on accidental somersaults beyond his tangible physical capability. "All things considered," he echoes, then realizes awkwardly that he didn't quite follow Francois' meaning there.

Reddens slightly, bizarrely, because the other ones almost never, and Teodoro's grin is too big for his face, full of funnily perfect boy-teeth. His eyes shutter a curious blink, and he inches the fingers of his cigarette hand further from the encroaching burn. "Uhhhh," always the paragon of eloquence. "Why the fuck is that strange?"

"It assumes I don't know you, if they explain, but I must, oui? At least a little. You remember everything I had with him," and a direct look again, now, but Francois also isn't letting go of Teo's hand, touch still gentle in the way that clinging seaweed can be peeled off with some urging involved. "I don't know what that means and I don't know what I am supposed to do with that. And why you will not look at me all the way unless I make you."

Fingernails, now, bite like the claws of birds into the soft inner of Teo's wrist. Demanding attention, response, even if it's only in nerve endings and not in confessions or. You know. Hugs. He could go for hugs. "If I never see him again, I would not want you to go. Is that wrong?"

The silence has a grinding quality. Teodoro doesn't go ashen, exactly, but there is the sense that his complexion is not exactly what it should be in the medium light of the interrogation room turned dungeon. He supposes he does have some of Abigail's better qualities, or at least, terrible manias and hangups masquerading coyly as such. It's kind of like having a good person in Teo's body, but he can't even believe he thought those words, never mind the 'No' that he was about to squeak out like some pubescent on his first San Valentino.

"I guess," he says, in a voice that does not quite resemble offended, "that isn't really all that flattering to me. Second fiddle to some poor asshole with my face, who could be plugged into a gelatinous womb with telepath fuckers playing slum lords with his hypoth…" Teo's fingers shut and reopen in empty air and the shape of his mouth constricts to a narrow line, staring at Francois for an instant mangled with dual suspicion and embarrassment.

"I'm sorry," he roughs out, less automatically than before, pulling at his arm like a switchblade's spring-loaded motion.

Francois' hands give, and curl inwards when empty. Blinks, slowly and sleepy, staring somewhere more like Teo's chin than his eyes by the time silence falls, probably awkward to anyone who isn't Francois. Short of— pushing Sicilian against the wall in further demand, that's probably all he has in him, maybe to do with the promise he tossed Deckard's way, likely more to do with the hybrid whose absence seems to be shaping his life even sharper, with harder rules and definition, than his presence.

There is a salt-water sheen to the glance back up, which— Francois probably can't afford to be ashamed about, when the man in front of him knows so much already. And now knows he's a terrible person, or sssomething. Maybe he can blame it on being grief-stupid, like he can blame other transgressions on Kazimir's brief stay in his body.

"Ah, oui, moi aussi." His shoulders go slack, and he rocks a step back in retreat. "I love him enough that I have love for those that make him up too. I did not mean to be unflattering." If there's a dignified way to go hide in his room and— cry or something, then Francois will find it!! as he furthers his retreat, turns to leave his new creepy dungeon attic and the warm body in it.

Grief-stupid works. Grief-stupid's beautiful, the kind of beautiful that comes with crying even when one's blotchy or laid up ill in a dressing-gown, a tree ripped naked by winter, fog blotting out the sky, a broken pinwheel found amid gray garbage, or the eloquence of a dirge. Teo has mental problems where he thinks damage is attractive. He also feels terrible now. His hand goes out of its own accord, rabbits through the air like the hybrid's idiotically sweet nickname, lands gentle fingers on the cuff of Francois' sweater.

Stops him, maybe. "I envy him," is blurted out, slippery and thick, and Teo blinks rapidly a few times. He supposes that's the only way he could have said it that wouldn't have sounded dry and condescending, disappointing, salt into the wound, but still: it is embarrassing, somehow. "I think I'm doing this for you. Being here, in this fucked up room, and shit. I don't think that's supposed to make you feel better, but on the off-chance it does, you should know. It isn't gone from us. Not even for the ghost, I think."

It does. Stop him. Any excuse will do, really, even if the magnetic draw away was just as genuine as the hesitation that brooks upon Teo touching his sleeve. Francois doesn't quite turn back to him, chin tucked and watching, instead, the shape of his shoes, not that they're really doing much interesting. His hands come together, palm to palm with fingers hooking over the side, a massaging squeeze to it as useless and automatic as Teo's compulsion to bash a non-existent steel plate into the wall, only with less legacy — his hand was only fucked for several months.

Attention twitches back, guiltily, eye contact made again. "A little," he admits, after a weighted, assessing pause, abashed smile following. Fingertips come up to rub along either side of nose, smear away greasy dampness. "Thank you," again, uselessly, but this time with better meaning attached. That he's doing this for him.

"If you do go anywhere, you, ah. Should let me know. There are things of yours to give back."

"What?" No, Teo's ears are fine. He heard. He just doesn't understand. Things: guns? He supposes the hybrid had some of the same tastes. Armor. Books, though he recalls the other reading somewhat less, and all the funny ones— Caligula, particulary— had been joint ventures rather than falling easily under the categorical definition of yours… "Clothes?" is the next cautious guess. Teo's shoes do something arguably more interesting, insofar as that they are shifting slightly, making wrinkles in the plastic underfoot.

It takes him some seconds to let go. He'd held on for too long as it was, and there is something underneath the discomfiture that has him rubbing his fingers together afterward, as if he's forgotten the texture of his own calluses, or is trying to keep the other. "Guess that'd be good. I don't really have much money."

Another smile — he does that pretty easily, maybe too easily, Francois reflects, before struggling it away again. Be still. He shakes his head, sniffs. No clothing, sorry. Maybe money. The details of things one can touch and actually use and probably get from somewhere else can be grappled should it all become necessary — memory is a weirder currency. For one thing, you can't even know when you don't have it. His voice has taken on a strained roughness as he clarifies; "Call it a favour." Not that kind would go qualified here if they were together, along with mock-narrowed gaze.

"But it would mean something to me." His gaze darts down to Teo's hands, then to the floor, sweeping attention to the door that re-carries him that direction again. The turn of his back indicates he'd rather not go into detail right now, snagging his hand on the doorframe as he goes.

Well, then. Well. Teodoro shouldn't get greedy, anyway. The stuff he said in subchapter one of this scene remained true through subchapter two, and it is very important to remember that, even if he sort of, you know, wedging unnecessary hiccups and burps of complication and at least one extra character to a story arc that has nothing to do with him. He doesn't reach again. Does inhale. Say: "Bon. Why the fuck not, right?"

He had been about to ask if he could stay.

—But that's a bad idea, for any number of reasons; leaving the cookie-jar within the ghost's reach being one of the more tactical. The Sicilian stands there, fighting down a dim, irrational concerned that the floor's creepy wrapping is going to peel up and rip when he finally picks up one of his feet, among other dim, irrational things that could use fighting back. He doesn't watch Francois go, but finds himself straining his hearing to match the notes of expensively-maintained floorboards to someone-else's memory of long strides.

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