Stare Too Hard


francois_icon.gif odessa_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Scene Title Stare Too Hard
Synopsis Francois and Teo see to a shaken Odessa.
Date March 8, 2010

Old Lucy's


Chalk it up to fatigue, hormones, and the brain chemistry that comes of interrupted circadians, inadequate exposure to daylight, and a psychic conflagration or three that has probably committed enough damage to his hippocampus and limbic system, over the past few years, equivalent to lighting his cerebellum on fire. As far as Teodoro is concerned and aware, they have the apartment to themselves.

Of course, this is less of a mathematically random stroke of fortune than a little bit of choreography, a logistical perspective on the schedules of his roommates and general place of residence, and some slightly sweaty-palmed vengeance. Something about narrowly avoiding a premature meeting with one's Maker at the hands of an old serial-killer and former friend tends to get his engine running. Such as it is: he arrived at six, confirmed Abigail's room vacated at six-oh-five, finished making breakfast at six-thirty, swatted Alexander off to the morning shift at six-forty-five with half the breakfast in the redhead's belly and a fragment of toast still hanging out of his teeth, and waited for Francois to finish brushing his teeth at seven with the patience of a housecat on the wrong side of a window gone musical with early birds.

By seven-oh-five, the cat's unlatched the window and sprung fleet-footed across the sinking crystalline surface of the snow, leaving naught but a handful of stray hairs and a handful of divots no bigger than raspberry drupulets imprinted on the immaculate face of winter. Really, that's only an ambitious metaphor for saying he elbowed the dishes and the pan out of his way to make room to push Francois up on it for snogging.

Proceeded to dig the Frenchman out of his sleepwear with the tender zeal and facile speed with which he'd shell nuts using nothing but naked molars and short fingernails. Dawn makes unintelligible shadows out of incorrigible silhouettes; there's a laugh, and Francois keeps trying to tell him something, perhaps even about someone, but—


But the older man's words arrive wrapped in an inarticulate drowsing velvet and some foreign language Teo refuses!! to bother translating so early in the Goddamn morning. It is far easier to think in terms of metaphors, raspberries (metaphorical also, but blown against shoulders, rather than engineered to characterize the transdimensional grace of cats) and the smells of new coffee. He has to go to work in an hour: there will be enough vocabulary words there.

If Francois tried harder, he could probably make himself clearer, sharper syllables and ones that are in English, but maybe focusing on that would be doing Teo a disservice. Speech peters down and away, more concerned with fitting the curve of heels against the bend behind Teo's knees and revenge not served cold thanks to modern home heating via pulling Teo's own shirt up and off. Important things, if not actually more important than the fact that—

That he doesn't really mind. Getting snagged out of morning routine and up onto a table instead— who can complain. An arm drapes lazily down Teo's back in a pulling invite that doesn't yet yoink the Sicilian off his feet, fingertips and the slight crescents of nails exploring down the ridge of spine instead of making conversation. If there's a problem with sending out your lover into the wide world with a stupid smile on his face, then Francois has effectively forgotten it.

Something about a roommate, anyway.

It's been a rough fucking night for Odessa. And if you change the words of that sentence around a bit, it's probably just as accurate a description. She wastes no time in gathering her toiletries and requesting to be let up the stairs by the stalwart defender of the sacred apartments, Brenda.

Brenda also doesn't stick around beyond unlocking the door with the keys and the codes and swinging it open for the blonde. Eyes glued to the ground with her arms full of towels, a small cosmetics bag of essentials and makeup, shampoo, conditioner, and a bodywash all that smell of raspberries in a less metaphorical sense than the prowess of Teo the Cat, Odessa completely misses the display in the main room in her haste to make a bee line for the bathroom.

Only as she's brushing her teeth does she start to put two and two together. Odessa pads out in her bare feet, clad in only a white and pale yellow polka dot patterned camisole top with matching panty of lace and cotton, and bruises littered about on her biceps, wrists, thighs, calves and ankles in colours ranging from sickly yellow and green to blossoms of brilliant blue, purple, and magenta. With her tooth brush sticking out of her mouth, paste creating a foam at the corners of her lips, she stares at the obviously happy couple making each other even happier, if the lines of their profiles are any indication.

The happy and somewhat illicit couple goes from being precisely that to being a slightly astonished and glaringly obvious couple. Mind you, this process of going from the one state to the other actually requires some passage of time.

Initially, Teo is indeed distracted by impending sex. Practice has done wonders for reducing the very vain young man's anxiety about the hideous half of his face when kissing, and few things make practice more palatable than kissing. His sweater slithers to the floor with a sliding click of hoodie-strings against varnished wood, sleeves flattening out into a loosely pleated slop of a pile, his hair flipped up and hanging scraggly down into the comb of Francois' fingers, but then.

Thhhen he stopped. Blinking up, sidelong, finds himself staring up, past a woman and into the glint of mirror. There is the fleeting impression of damaged tissue, bruises on her and improperly healed skin on his, a sliver of tattoo mapped up his bicep, his own eyes blinking and Odessa's drawn circular around a stare.

He straightens very suddenly, clearing his throat, his hand yanked off Francois' fly with alacrity that falls somewhere between as-if-burned and merely pulling tiny metal tab up to secure tiny metal teeth back up the inch he'd managed to scratch it down. Instantly, his face is red underneath the shag of his hair, insufferably warm to the recently-released hand that he now scrubs his cheek with. Oh, Jesus.

Teo is good for some things, like— being embarrassed enough for the two of them. By the time Odessa has gotten to her staring, Francois has obligingly unhooked his legs from Teo's and painted a ready smile on his face. Joie, ca va? is what he's prepared to say, but it stalls out probably thanks to Teo's attempts at redressing him. Steering his knees around where Teo stands so that he is just merely sitting on the edge of the table. Hooks his ankles together primly.

And then notices bruises, creating a mottled battlefield up and down Odessa's legs and arms, and the slight shine of amusement that he'd started to take on around when Teo started ~blushing~ dims. He proceeds to try to not be rude; "Bienvenue chez toi."

"Tiens," the woman Francois knows only as Joie Saint-Jacques mumbles around her toothbrush with the smallest of smirks visible. "Don't stop on my account," she manages to articulate. "«I should film it,»" she muses in French, "«sell it on the internet.»" She chuckles in spite of herself, aware that they're both studying her fresh injuries. She turns a bit like a model might on a runway, traipsing back to the bathroom to spit paste and rinse away menthol taste. They're given at least a few more moments to regain their composure before she's returned to the common area.

"Since you have taken a breather," Odessa half-quips, "perhaps one of you might be good enough to help me retape my fingers? I got into a bit of a… situation last night." If the way the mirth drains from her face is any indication, it wasn't exactly a good time.

They have been in such situations before. How is it always attractive warrior women who stumble upon them in the midst of efforts to be discreet? Teo is snatching his sweater off the floor, even as his eyes dart furtively to and fro between the two French-speakers. His French isn't bad, but it isn't quite as good as theirs; he can tell from the subtleties and nuances of accent and cadence that it is so.

And past the buzzing skull-static of private (if not private enough) embarrassment at the harmless joke dispensed at his expense, he is also aware that they have yet to discuss what really happened. Besides— 'a rough night,' and that much, he could have guessed. Teo clothes himself in a series of stiffened, herky-jerky movements, smoothes his garment with broad hands.

Mumbles something about the First Aid kit, even as he sidles past the skimpily-clad temporomancer toward the bathroom. His needless quiet is familiar to Francois, by now, as is the deft pragmatism of his hands. He goes rattling through for supplies.

Francois watches Teo's back for as long as it's there to watch, expression difficult to read, especially when it switches off in the next moment and he's pushing himself off the table with a careful adjustment of denim as he goes, fabric gripped at the knees and subsequently released. His sweater is stolen off the floor, pulled on in broad and casual sweeps of movement, covering up the stark white old knife scars on his stomach, one around his ribs, the more decorative tattoo of black and red on his back.

Redressing is sort of a sobering process, takes away from the tingle beneath skin and the pattern of motions that become instinctive, after a time. A long time. Goal-oriented and focused, he raises a chin up towards the woman, offers a sympathetic smile.

"There has been a lot of those going around," Francois says, ruffling his own mis-healed hand through his hair, the other one going out to gesture her forward. "Situations, I mean. What happened?"

Odessa's dark blue eyes seem to dim when Francois asks her what happened. She isn't sure how she should answer the question. What happened was the sort of thing that was intensely personal, but yet she wonders if she should be feeling more traumatised than she is. "You boys make me almost feel underdressed," she offers instead, though having no inclination to actually do something like put clothes on. "Though I haven't felt this comfortable in the company of men for a long time." It may seem for a moment that she's implying that the two of them apparently batting for the other team makes them seem safer, but she does opt to clarify by way of tracing a finger over the ugly combination blade and burn scarring over her throat. "You two make me feel like I fit right in."

Odessa actually takes up where Francois was settled moments ago, carefully pulling her much smaller frame up to sit before offering her broken fingers to her fellow doctor. "I fell off the wagon," she murmurs lamentably. "I fell really hard." She frowns and stares off at a wall rather than either of the two men gathered to help her.

Not that she isn't grateful. Odessa certainly isn't used to being surrounded by people that actually want to help her. Especially not those doing it other than grudgingly. "What do they call that pill that they give to club whores after a night they can't quite recall?" Her eyes flicker upward, as if to pluck the answer from the rafters. "Plan B?" The question itself is almost absent, but flippant as the line is, she means it to be just as telling as it is.

'Your next round of birth control,' maybe, or this is what Teodoro would pitch if he didn't occasionally do that thing where he loses his voice caught necking with another man. He probably read into the team-batting that way, or so at least Francois can probably guess, but he is solicitous and on the move, keeps his thoughts to himself. The First Aid kit goes onto the dining room table, its latches popped under his thumb and rolls of tape extricated along with a few slender wooden splints.

He lays them into the Frenchman's hands, once the Frenchman's hands are available to receive them. As ever, the misshapenness of the doctor's extremities fail to parse, despite that the damage wrought there is no smaller than the wreck adjacent to his own beard, and that a gimp hand is, frankly, a far greater obstruction to most meaningful lines of work than a nick in the cheek. Maybe he thinks Francois' hands are pretty and strong either way.

He stands back, then. Lifts his eyes to glance between temporal manipulator and doctor. The apples of his cheeks are phrasing back to fair, slowly but surely.

It's startling, how many ways a hand can become fucked up, and it might have something to do with how many bones and complications fill its shape. His own accept the splints, fingers picking cautiously around Odessa's own ruined digits, a quick study before he's retaping them in place as he listens to words that Francois isn't entirely sure what to do with, if his quiet study on his task is indicative of anything. He's learned to master subtle movement in his left hand, despite the bend of knuckles and fingers, and the tension from maintaining such slithers up in an ache across the back of his hand.

It doesn't show on his face. Anything he doesn't want there rarely does. He looks up again, concern, now, in green eyes as he studies hers before he's looking back down. "Is there someone you would like us to call for you?" seems like a stilted and useless thing to say, considering that when she had no where to go, she came here.

It's code for police, anyway, or what equates to the Justice League for Joie Saint-Jacques.

Police. As if. "I'm among the only people I would consider calling," Odessa confesses, wincing each time her fingers are jostled. It's very little wonder, as it seems Eric Doyle definitely meant to leave her hurting.

Maybe the pain in her fingers is what causes Odessa's head to slowly sink down until her face is buried in her good hand, and causes her to finally give in to a round of sobs. "I don't even know where he took me," she says. "I was… I was stoned, and then he… sedated me." She lifts her head enough to peer between two fingers at first Francois, and then Teo, where her gaze lingers. "Please don't tell Abby. I promised her I wouldn't start using again. I just… couldn't help myself."

Using? Teo's face makes a turn for the unreadable. Eileen had mentioned something about this, and he is uncomfortable to hear that, disappointed in some vague, distant, and peculiarly secondhand sort of way. It is none of his business. It has been a long time since he decided to make anybody's business his, if they weren't Ferry refugees, part of the world that needed saving from the apocalypse at an arm's length, or a close personal friend.

Which are broad categories, yes, but categories that Joy's drug habit falls decidedly outside of. He glances sidelong at his lover, roughing his fingernails across the sweater at his own belly, an idle scritching of blunt nails across a mild discomfort that— doesn't actually locate its origin anywhere near his torso. He comes to his senses the next moment.

Or to Abby's senses, as the case may be. Abby-senses are not always regarded as sensible by others, but he's pulling his tall frame off the furniture, then, moving to snag the Kleenex box off the coffee table, retrieving it with the well-meaning concern of a retriever puppy. "I think you should tell her," he gruffs out. "More importantly, I think you should tell her— why.

"What drove you to it. It'll be okay. Abigail Beauchamp is not in the business of giving up on people."

Teo handles the tears and Francois is content to handle broken fingers. His manner is not rough, only necessary, although his fingers could stand to be warmer for all that they were doing just a short while ago. Matter-of-fact handling of injury, lacking the fear that would manifest in being too gentle, but he's not trying to hurt her, and he's certainly avoiding damage. "I'll get you ice," he says, once his more doctorly work is done, laying her hand back down onto her leg and shuffling off towards the kitchen.

When he returns, the ice pack is covered, buffered in a thin tea towel. Last thing broken fingers need to do is swell more than they need to. As for whether or not to lie to Abby, Francois does not offer his 2 c for now, just glances towards Teo as he takes back her hand to press chilly wool to knuckles.

"She said," Odessa stammers, plucking up a Kleenex and holding it to her nose and somewhat muffling the sound of her own voice while at the same time staunching the flow that inevitably comes from one's nasal passages once they begin to cry, "she said she'd throw me out if I didn't stay clean. And I know she meant it."

"I… The people I was with, they did terrible things to her. To her friends. To your friends." Odessa seems to understand this concept of guilt by association, even if she finds it unfair. After all, she didn't go cutting people's fingers off or killing lovers. Even if she may have made no effort to stop such things from happening. With a loud sniffle, the blonde lifts her head and offers a baleful attempt at a smile to Francois. "Merci."

Gingerly, Odessa blows her nose with the tissue clutched in her hand, wadding it up before snatching another and holding it in place of the first. "Kazimir Volken and his people were awful, and I'm never going to get out of that shadow for as long as I live." Now the focus has shifted entirely from what happened the night previous and has settled firmly into a vein of feeling sorry for herself.

Oh, none of that now. Teo meets Francois' eyes over the yellow roof of the woman's head, and his expression is doubtless difficult to read for anybody who doesn't, at least, know him as well as or better than the Frenchman does. He allows one callused palm to fall to her shoulder, squeezes it gently. His grasp is as metabolically robust with heat as Francois' is clinically temperature-neutral. "Volken's dead.

"His agenda's been disavowed— I thought, by you among others. And as I understand it, he had no interest in narcotics, demoiselle; you are what you make yourself.

"I'll get you some painkillers. Does the doctor prescribe a good night's sleep, or is that just an old wive's tale?" His voice comes more regularly, now that he has— practiced that, too. His feet slide soundlessly socked on the uneven varnish of the floorboards, angling him toward the bathroom door again. Cabinet. Somewhere, one of these cabinets—

"Non, sleeping is the second best healing power I know," Francois says to Teo's departure and Odessa both, offering her a smile before he's putting the First Aid kit back together again, leaving her with the ice pack to toy with herself. This all happens after he spends some several neutral moments of tongue-tied silence of being not entirely sure, again, what to say, though Joie's Vanguardian exploits are not entirely new to him, not when people who know better surround him every day.

Neo-Vanguard isn't really his niche, anyway. He snaps closed the First Aid kit with metallic sounding precision. "Even if it was not, you should get some rest. Do not worry about Abby right now. It is not our business to do the telling, oui?"

That much is true. If Kazimir Volken could see Odessa now - and he did in a way through Peter's eyes - he would be extremely disappointed in his Nightingale. He was. Somewhere, on some inhuman plane, he probably is. "I'm trying," the woman says defensively, though not necessarily to either of the men in the room. Her good hand lowers from her face when she ceases crying, holding the ice pack to her hand.

Carefully, she slides off the tabletop, testing her own legs' ability to keep her upright. "I need to shower," she tells Francois absently. "I have to… Have to wash him away."

A shudder runs through Odessa's too-thin frame. "What have I done?" she asks herself in a hushed voice, examining one of the bruises on her arms. Her legs threaten to give out in a combination of overwhelming emotion and lack of sleep. "Though… perhaps it can wait. The sheets are clean. Perhaps that will…" There's a small hiccup, and Odessa doesn't see fit to finish her thought. Instead she rubs one thumb over her cheekbone, banishing a fresh tear from her face.

Bottled painkillers in hand, Teo stops to toe her bedroom open with his foot. Winds one long-sleeved arm into the doorway, sets drugs down on top of the chest of drawers with an audible clack of plastic against varnished wood. He straightens again, turns to study the woman for a long moment. The feminist in him, and yes, he has one, is unsure of how to parse this. People do things they regret, but that's a thing unalike to rape, and a shower—

—might help, either way. Just probably not enough. "Go on in." He claps a callused palm against the wall beside the bathroom door, nods his head into its brightly tiled recesses. "Make haste. Try not to stop and stare too hard at the mirror. I know it'll be tempting." Teo snips that word off with a sudden meet of his teeth, dimly surprised at himself and perhaps slightly self-conscious for it, but he neither understand where that came from, exactly, nor particularly cares to.

He pads into the living room again, gets out of her way. Leaves a fleeting touch of fingers on Francois' elbow.

Being an immortal healer for the best part of a century teaches Francois in lessons both harsh and velvet-gloved that there are a lot of things in the world neither his gift nor his surgeon's hands could fix. Grief. Man's tendencies towards self-destruction. AIDS. Death. His eyes blink open at Odessa as he studies her as well, gripping the kit box, until his attention breaks towards Teo. It's not exactly surprise, that registers in the arch of his brows. More Europeanly unreadable expressions.

"We will be here for a little while longer if you need anything," he offers as well, giving her a smile communicated better in his eyes than his mouth, before he's moving as if summoned to do by the brush to his arm, although he is headed to where he was going to get coffee before getting accosted and derailed.

Odessa reaches out to grab Teo's arm when he passes her, fixing him with a look that's equal parts surprised and grateful. "Thank you." Her fingers tighten around the bend of his elbow briefly to reinforce that gratitude. "It's been a long time since anyone ever…" Her voice trails off and she shakes her head. Releases him go.

Lets the Italian free himself from her awkward circumstance.

Odessa flashes a sad sort of smile to Francois in return for his help before closing herself up in the bathroom.

The sound of running water can almost mask the flow of her own tears.

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