Stranger Danger


felix_icon.gif ghost2_icon.gif

Scene Title Stranger Danger
Synopsis Telling Felix he should know better is a little like asking the rain not to be wet. A 'stranger' picks him up at a bar, and it ends in a total nightmare.
Date June 22, 2009

Little Odessa — Bar

There are times when Felix Ivanov is happy to be an anonymous slob. Joe Sixpack. Or Ivan Sixshot, depending. This is one of those nights. He's in a bar that's nowhere near his usual haunts, but back towards Little Odessa. A good half of the conversations in the decidedly blue-collar but not quite seedy bar are in Russian, and a half of those remaining are in something east European. There's a hockey match on the television, which Fel is watching with a nearsighted squint - he's left both gun and glasses at home for the evening, and is dressed in white t-shirt and jeans. There are already several upended shotsbefore him, but only the faintest flush on the hollow cheeks to betray any effects. He's not talking to the others around him.

A pair of boots clops the doorway and raps the floor, rain dried off on the thigh of a black pant leg with one callous-notched palm before it finds a curl, held loose against his chest, and the digits of his other scratching along the splay of metacarpals in the back of his hand. There's a lupine mix of reserve and watchful indifference on his face, a light that isn't quite shy behind his pale eyes.

He notes Felix there, neither discreetly nor with much more ceremony than he pays anybody else in the room, but his cheek twitches faintly. His shirt is gray, voice unfamiliar, and he comes up to the bar, requests their take on England's finest. Which would be gin and tonic; a wry word and a shake of his head requests the bartender keep the fruit.

Fel glances over, but there's no recognition there. Why would there be? Just the faintest mist of alcohol clouding the pale eyes. He doesn't seem to have lapsed into mopey drunkeness, though there's a weary slump to the narrow shoulders. The t-shirt only makes it clear how little spare flesh he has - reduced to wire and bone. A long finger is lifted mutely to the bartender, like thought has fallen into the gulf between one language and the next, and he's just too tired to sort them out.

When nobody hastens in to fill the space between Felix and socially awkward silence, Ghost walks himself there. Drags his drink a few inches as he goes, the glass scratching worn varnish and knocking an abandoned coaster on the way, before he lifts it up, looping a finger around the cloudy skin of condensation, feeling its weight and density like a block of ice. He sits on the stool beside the Russian.

"You're Felix Ivanov, aren't you? From the news?" The loaded inquiry is somehow simplified by the cant of his voice, the words blocky as a foreign language against the good-natured otherness of his actual intent. He regards the Federal agent's slumped frame with a crook of his brow, either at his sparse size or at something else entirely. Seats his jaw on the heel of his hand. "Rough day at work?"

That has Felix actually focussing on the man beside him for a moment, favoring him with an owlish look. He's not particularly pleased at being accosted, but he's at least not prepared to be rude. We haven't yet arrived at the bitchy part of the evening. "I….yes," he says, simply. "I know. You thought I'd be taller. I did, too."

"Naw. You didn't look very tall next to Harry Bianco," the ghost answers, always one to be flattering. He offers a hand to shake, finally, even as he sticks his muzzle into the drink, swallows cold fluid in a single pull down his throat. "I'm Ian. I work in construction because I wanted to read books but didn't like writing about them throughout my college career. General consensus seems to have it that playing hero's different. Something about vocational calling.

"You don't look like the paragon of spiritual fulfillment." Mockery. No rude bullying malice in it, from the look of him, but there's a distinct sense of measuring in the tone of the words spoken, watchfully inquisitive, gauging how much give there is to Felix.

And the Fed is in no mood to be fucked with. There's that weird sealing over into immobility, like his expression is something that sets like epoxy. But he offers both hand and token polite smile, though the latter is very much a ragged banner. His hand is callused, narrow. "I'm not a hero. All that was a PR stunt, really. I'm just a cop."

"What constitutes a hero?" Ghost asks, ceding the barrier its invisible boundary without retreating any further; not even an inch. He tilts his glass, and ice surges to meet the other wall of it with a slurrying click. "Can I buy you a drink?"

"Honestly, I couldn't tell you. Self-sacrifice," he says, immediately contradicting himself. "And if you like," The Fed's on uncertain ground. How to politely detach one's self without being a complete asshole. He doesn't have much experience of the latter state, so trying to reach it is not without its strain.

Another shot for Felix, then, of whatever pretty poison he's been starving himself on. Whatever it was, it wasn't expensive. Not overly bothered that this kind of, sort of thwarts the appearance of his generosity, the ghost— Ian— is happy to allow the bartender's minimalistic presentation of liquor plonked down in front of Felix do it.

He finds it obscurely entertaining that the Russian was quicker to tell him to get the fuck out when he was prettier. "I'm sorry," he says, picking a thread out of thin tapestry, either to follow or to tear— not even he knows, but there's something ironically, horribly familiar about this situation. Which makes sense: he's seen Felix in one almost exactly like it, before. "Whatever you've given up."

Maybe he's drunk enough that he's not following properly. This is a distinct possibility. Fel gives him one of those stunned-pigeon blinks, mental gears creaking in the effort to catch up. "I haven't given up anything," he says, perhaps startled into bluntness.

The stunned-pigeon, Teo remembers, too. He squints slightly. "Really?" he asks, and when he looks around at the remains of Felix's barren solitude, there's a humorous edge of rough incredulity there that fades away in an instant, into something that is gentler, shows less teeth. Then, "People self-sacrifice for all kinds of horrible shit. Financial success, revenge, evil kings, a lifelong but unprofitable passion for driftwood carving. 'S that heroic?"

The Fed's shake of the head is gentle. "I don't know. I don't know where the line is. People face themselves into death for all kinds of causes. Some are heroic. Some are….just self-immolation. But I do know that I'm not a hero. I just do my job." He's clutching his glass like it's a touchstone, or a lifeline. And finally becomes aware of the little cylinder of glass and liquor, which he lifts in salute and tosses off. Cheap vodka. Breakfast of champions.

"'S that like a continuum?" the construction worker asks, as if he really is an overintelletual construction worker (he used to be), who just wants to know (he used to; he used to care). "Heroes or suicidal nutjobs? You fall somewhere along the scale, not both or neither? Would explain the world," he adds after a moment, blankly, a pale eye circling up to the muted box of the television bolted up in the corner of the ceiling. "What's the last thing you did you were proud of?"

"I'd admit to being kind of obsessive," Felix concedes, finally. The glass of vodka is refusing to regenerate, but he doesn't press the issue. "I don't know. I did help with that terrorist group. That I felt real pure pride about? Making detective, I think."

Actual conversation. Was that so hard? Ghost waves the bartender over again, blithely refrains from ruminating on the fact that John Logan is technically buying Felix Ivanov liquor: neither of them would like that. The vodka sprouts its meniscus again. "That was awhile ago, wa'nt it? Haven't pulled any girls out of burning buildings or locked up a bad guy lately?" Real sympathy, however unlikely, changes the shadow behind his eyes.

And oh, hey, look, vodka again. Russian Christmas, hooray. "Not of late, no. And….I don't know. You sort of get numb to a lot." Fel doesn't look as if he's a hundred percent certain what he means, and grimaces. "Sorry. I'm rambling."

Apparently Felix doesn't realize that the worst is still five years away. Either that, or Ghost clings to the paltry and still-thinning hope that the brightness that the future he had experienced is still retained somewhere in the dark uncertainty of this present. He lets himself look— a li-ttle— worried, which is novel on a number of levels; in another life, this is Leland's problem to solve, and the distance between them is the insistence of backfired intimacy instead of the politeness of strangers.

"It's fine." A hesitant hand hangs long, work-roughened fingers above Felix's shoulder, alights a pat there, once, twice. "Numb looks easier than the other thing."

Fel doesn't recoil from the touch. The vodka vanishes, and he finally seems to relax a little. Not much, considering it's him, and piano-wire tension is a way of life where he's concerned. "It is," he says. "I…..what'd you say your name was, again?" Like he's trying to remember just how it is that he pretends to be human.

"Ian." Ghost's mouth hooks downward a fraction of an inch though the knot darkening his brow loosens slightly. He drops his hand and remembers to let his shoulders fall into an easier posture, his elbow connecting with the bar-top, anchoring him against the urge to shake Felix until his mood flips over and slides into something murderous otherwise more manageable. "Do you live around here or something?"

"Not near, not really," Not a beat of hesitation. He tugs off his glasses, massages his eyes. "Grew up near here, but I don't have family around here any more." It's almost garrulous, for Fel, anyway. He offers a disingenuous and uneven smile, and for a moment the seventeen year old version of him seen only in dreams is there again.

This smile is familiar despite that Ghost hasn't seen it in awhile. Not that he hasn't seen Felix in a considerable length of time, but that look on the man's sepulchrally carved features is one that Ivanov hasn't shown the hapless Sicilian in years. Not even when they're fighting.

Especially when they're fighting. "So you come home alone," he observes, drawing his finger along the grain of the counter, idly trying to determine if he has sensitivity enough in his hands to feel it through the piling of calluses. "You'd rather be alone." It isn't a question, but it politely leaves room for disagreement, even one in the form of a mute glance down into the bottom of an emptied shotglass.

"I don't know about 'rather'. I…..there's no one to bring with me." It's puzzling Felix, clearly. "I mean, I don't live in that apartment building anymore. I don't know. Sometimes it's like just speaking and thinking and living in English makes me tired, and I want to stop for a while," he explains, shifting on his stool.

The stranger pulls a dark brow downward, splits his features into nonchalant asymmetry, only the faintest edge of cruelty to his quizzicality. Less than you'd expect. Show pony hero drinks alone after recent debacle with unsavory erstwhile comrades. There are any number of things the vultures could say to that, and some of those are very well-dressed and discerning vultures indeed. "Speak something else," he suggests with an unprepossessing sort of gallantry. "I'll try to keep up."

His smile makes the lines at the corners of mouth and eyes deepen, but it's not as brittle as one might think. "No, thanks," he says, amused. "You're not Russian. That's the only other language I'm fluent in. My Spanish is only passable." he surveys the little ranks of fallen soldiers before him, purses lips as he considers adding to their number. But for once, discretion wins out over thirst and greed, and he shakes his head at them regretfully.

"No, no. You and the other boys and girls in blue are out there every day, running around, lives on the line— the least I can do is try to remember. I studied Russian before—" Ian knots his brow with effort and holds up a hand as if to stave off further argument. "«Where is the restroom? Do you have the time? Have you seen my tour guide? I've beent old my accent is provincial, but I don't know how the fuck that happened considering I've never actually been to Russian,»" he acknowledges, tipping his head on its axis. His gaze stoops to the troop of shotglasses.

Fel laughs at that, that rusty sound. He is genuinely pleased. "You sound like you're from Pervouralsk," he notes. «From whom did you learn?» He wonders. His own accent is clipped Muscovite.

There's a dismissive motion of long fingers, humility or arrogance, some cheerful and equally harmless mix of both. Ian says, "«Pepper-haired lady who sold me groceries a few years back. I was unemployed. Had a lot of free time to sit and talk.»" He folds his arms across the table and glances down at his gin and tonic as if just remembering it. "«More of a luxury now. Where did you get your yours?»"

«My accent? It's natural. My childhood was spent in Moscow,» he says, a little wistfully. He still misses it, though god only know what his life would be had he stayed. If he'd lived at all. He gives in to temptation, crooks a finger for one last shot.

Obligingly, the ghost adds: "On me," in English. The bartender acknowledges this with a slight bob of his head, tops off the tiny shotglass with another quick sling of pretty poison, before withdrawing to converse with the knot of flannel and gentle sensibilities at the other end of the bar. "«Natural,»" he repeats, as if he finds this significant, ironic, or funny. It is all of those things. "«I don't think your American habits are artificial in comparison. Stupid T-shirts,»" playful again, in that fanged way. "«Refusing personal mythology.»"

That requires more thought than an already vodka-sodden Felix can really give it. He looks puzzled, brows canting down. «To your health,» he says, with perfunctory politeness, before knocking it back. «T-shirts?»

"«Like this one.»" Ghost's smile is beatific, pieced together out of a secondhand act, authentic humor, and a set of teeth that retain their architectural perfection. One rough forefinger ribbons a deft shadow out under the electric light, darts low, snags the bottom hem of the Russian's T-shirt on the curl of a hook. He pulls the fabric out, gently, stretching the elasticity of its weave as one flattens out a sticking scroll and stays it with weights. Tilting his head, he studies the frontof the garment. "«What,»" he says. "«You don't see?»"

Felix shakes his head in mute bewilderment. He's relaxed, now, as much as alcohol can. It blurs his age in strange ways. «No. What should I be wearing? What do you mean, then?» There's only a slight flash of skin, the tail end of the saber cut visible.

'Nothing at all. There happen to be no clothes over at the motel room, seventh floor, gray walled thing down the street.' Ghost's eyes thin around a smile. "«I mean New York suits you. You should never leave,»" he answers. "«Especially not to DC. You want to go somewhere?»" It's an artless question without specific intent, though a multitude of savory ideas. He returns the shirt back to its losen configuration, ceding it to the drag of gravity down Felix's torso if not without stencilling the line of the scar, briefly, against a ghostly flick of forefinger.

His lip lifts in a curl at that. «Not a chance. I was in DC once. The spooks are in charge in DC, and I am a cop, not a spook.» He doesn't jump at that touch, but it's made a certain thoughtfulness come into his gaze. Which is made all the more transparent by all the booze. Well, alcohol is a diluent, isn't it? Ghost gets a considering look, one corner of his lip quirking, before he drops his eyes. Not quite a parody of demureness. He gives the little row of glass soldiers a last look by way of valedictory salute, and says on a sighing breath, «Sure. Where're you thinking?» It's a pass of some kind, and God willing doesn't end with two bullets to the back of his skull in a New Jersey landfill.

"«There are a few places down the street.»" Crumpled bills shuffle out of Ghost's wallet. An unassuming thing, scrap of leather oiled by the usage of careless hands and worn by same. He pays for it. After a moment, considering Felix's liquored stasis in his peripheral, he bemusedly chooses to pay for all of it.

Popping upright on an easy switch of strides, Ghost fingers the collar of his own shirt straight, ignoring the unfinished majority of his drink still melting ice into the mixture, the jacket he had never actually shrugged out of, takes a step across the floor before glancing back. "«A…»" what's the word for this? "«Diner, if you need to sober up. A few rooms, otherwise. Less than a hero deserves, but you're being unfashionably humble, so!»"


Fel's grin is suddenly vulpine. It's not been all that long since he dragged another man to bed, but even that while is too long, by his lights. «Sure.» He says, smoothly, slipping down from his stool without a stumble. «Lead the way.»

Ghost does, that. Even falls into a companionable stride, walking abreast of the shorter man as they perambulate along the concrete, watching the big Rolex clock posted below the phone booth's lamp ease closer and closer toward curfew. Not that that puts much of crimp in Teo's movements these days, or— ever has. Maybe it's just his old age talking, but he enjoys this too.

Walking with Felix Ivanov in New York City.

Yes, that's a little gay, but so is Teodoro Laudani, however brutally inhuman his critics apparently find him, these days. This is nice. Watching the wind tease piecemeal drinking paraphernelia past a discarded pizza crust, then on to the luminous slime of an oil puddle, while a car coughs its stink past, Felix's feet map their familiar stride across the ground and an easy snatch of conversation about favorite beer foods. Stopping halfway between motel and diner, Ghost stops. Gives Felix a playful eyebrow of proposition.

Which Felix greets with polite puzzlement, brows lifted. Like a student desperately searching for the right answer. He himself is a little wary - this is a stranger, and even that amount of booze doesnt' entirely drown the tiny voice that is his common sense.

Proposition gives way to speculation, then, mute and amused but not with any inkling of malice. Ghost takes a step forward, closing the companionable gap between himself and his erstwhile lover, finds himself privately amazed that he hasn't learned his lesson, yet, with the way that Sonny reacted to the possibility of having spent an entire weekend in the bed of a stranger, but this is different. Less intimate, the truth and subterfuge of it ironically inversed. He shrugs an arm up, gently, hooping it around the spare sculpture of Felix's waist.

Passing headlights splash his jacket, daub striations into the pale of his eyes. His face is close. A sharp flavor of soapmilk is in his hair, his breath stirring vibrantly against Felix's cheek. "Da ili nyet?"

Fel pauses, goes still, but doesn't shove away, or scramble out of the embrace. His breath is suddenly ragged, and Ghost can see the muscles of his throat work, once, before he says, with an air of finality, "Da."

Hand-holding is for a different genre of encounters, but Teo— Ian— Ghost— he misappropriates it for a different use, now. Snares Felix's fingers in his own, trapping the one hand in his and the agent's other arm in the close crook of his elbow, locking Felix up in the neat noose of his arm before he leans in to wolf down a kiss. There is no steel in the gesture, however subterraneanly territorial it is, no anticipation of struggle that isn't coming but preying here for forfeit, or a shuddering, reasonable facsimile thereof.

He gasps air in like a diver heading for the depths, before yielding to that kiss without further hesitation. His mouth no longer has any tinge of smoke - there's only the fumes of a good deal of very pure vodka. Shy, at first, but it's replaced swiftly by nearly whorish eagerness. Anonymous encounters have their own particular purity.

Dingy Motel — Interchangeable Room

Classy, guys. Real classy.

From far away or above, their bodies, heaped together, ruck up the splay of cheap linens like a leprous infestation peeking out from underneath a thin T-shirt. It is to politer fare of lovemaking a little like Sicilian snacks stewed fatly on the streets is to the beautiful enormity of raw vegetables and fruit on cut crystal and a long table, geometric and inedible.

Ian— as it were— appears asleep, but he isn't; his mind has arranged itself into a langorous sprawl that casts its extremities beyond the strict confines of his own self, dipping half-sheathed talons into the edge of Felix's periphery, dreams, or the dim emergence of sensory perception through the wet soup fog of sleep. He doesn't know.

He isn't worried. He should be, probably, but after the first dozen skin-of-your-teeth escapes from early demise and other, somehow incalculably worse losses— you feel a little less, colder, older, and what manages to push through the green patina of fungal, rusted numbness registers invariably as relief. The lean bulk of his shoulders are folded in a concave shelter for the other man's torso, fingers matching the bruises laddered green on the dimpled point of his hip.

Fel is in the dim gray no man's land that is the edge of sleep. Part of his mind refuses to stop ticking over, even in that pleasant haze, worrying at cases with the persistence of a terrier puppy with a piece of spare hide. But it's abstract and relatively pleasant consideration, balanced out by the smoothed edges of exhaustion. Even the bruises and scrapes left by 'Ian' aren't troublesome. He doesn't precisely cuddle up, but nor does he bother to scoot away, out of the other man's embrace.

The terrain of Felix's Morphean psychology is familiar, but this time somewhat painfully so. He can't put a finger on it, so he doesn't. Stirs instead, finally, pulling his arm up out of the curve it had matched to Felix's ribs precisely, straightens his spine out of the question-mark sleeper's curl and begins to pull away, the tawny slice of his unmarked shoulder, then callused digits, a bare foot sidewinding out of linens before he rolls his hip.

It's a little careless— just a little, when he parts with a kiss on the cusp of Felix's shoulder, tumbles off, away. Reaches behind himself to drag a brief run of fingernails down the twisted lump of scar tissue that swerves sharply around his shoulderblade before it forks, loses momentum on the swerve around his side.

Fel has one that almost matches, actually. Courtesy of one minion of Volken's, that serpentine arc of keloid down his shoulder, towards his spine, almost kissing the entry wound from Deckard's bullet. Felix wears no ink, his myriad scars are his adornments. He grunts at the warmth departing, makes no pretense of sleep, rolls slowly to look at Ian. There's not much light in there, save the orange sodium glow that sneaks past the cheap blinds. "Leaving?" he wonders, and for all his efforts to keep things neutral, can't keep the faint thread of forlornness out of his voice.

"Probably should," comes the answer, stilted, suddenly jolted off-balance over the little tripwire strung there in the recesses of Felix's tone. Ian has sat up by now, swung himself halfway off the edge of the bed— but the half that remains seems unwilling to finish the proceeding, despite his toe dipped into the puddle of divested clothing and the dim urgency of the digital clock on the bedstand. He steers a forefinger down Felix's back, examining the concatenation of scars as an astronomer might, charting a dermal star map. After a moment, he adjusts his word as if only remembering to tuck in one word at the beginning, there, but as if this was what he'd meant: "You probably should."

Goosebumps follow the course of that finger, a heartbeat behind. Perhaps he should argue. Fel doesn't bother. He sits up, holds out his hands without a word, to Ghost. And then says, as if that were enough, "Later." There's always later.

Maybe in another ten years, Ghost will have developed some form of restraint? Maybe. It's possible; he's thought about it before, but he's seized by a different notion, this time, small and guarded but locked unerringly onto some secretive vulnerability of character. He retracts his foot.

Puts his knees up onto the mattress, crawls closer, his knees pushing and plowing marzipan whorls through the sheets. "You have somewhere you need to be." It isn't contradiction, but there is a softened factuality to it, an observation made at one's own expense. He accepts one of those hands. Leans into it, wraps his mouth around Felix's jaw, philosophically ignoring any and all self-contradiction provided by the lave of tongue or teeth.

"Not tomorow, I'm off," Fel protests. One of those perfectly mundane little comments, before he sucks in a shuddering breath. One last for the road, oh, yes. And then he turns to fit his mouth to Ghost's, with the unashamed generosity that is arguably one of his few merits. He's exceedingly generous in bed, at least.

Ian whuffs an inhalation off the surface of Felix's skin, pushes his fingers into it, momentarily deepening the grooves between the spars of ribs. "Not what I meant. Don't think I can't tell." After that kiss, the words blur on the side of the Russian's head, even after he hooks an arm around Felix's neck and thumbs the skin taut at the side of his throat. There is probably something faintly menacing about his snarled hand, but only faintly.

For him, pursuing Felix Ivanov has always been like chasing the sun; around and around, endlessly, weeks, months, years, until he felt fatigue break in his bones and he'd stop, heaving, hurt and exhausted in a drowning phase of night— only to be caught again by the next inexorable revolution. It is inescapable and unwinnable. Most of the time, he thinks he wouldn't give it up. Anyway, you can't kill the sun by caging your fingers on it. Stop it, neither. "Someone at home."

That's almost a strangehold, and it has Felix poised in Ian's grip, as if about to struggle, pulse hammering against that hand. He lifts his own hands to display their backs. No wedding ring, no pale band that betrays its absence. "No," he says, with flat finality. "I am not married, I have no lover." Liz….doesn't count. A one night pity fuck, no, not in that sense.

"That's not what I meant." It's half recoil and half rejection. He shoves. Not too hard, only hard enough that the apple of Felix's throat rebounds off the flex of knuckles in his palm as if he were a magician dispensing irritably with his own juggling trick: rough play. No more, no less. It isn't entirely clear whether this latter exchange has weakened him or given him strength— not even to Ghost himself. He glances over at the tiger stripes of blinds. Then: "Sorry."

Fel simply surges against him, insistently. Not quite a shove, but very obviously a request for more of that, please. There are times when Fel has politely requested that Teo stop what he was doing, but it's never been a matter of 'too rough'. "Was I complaining?" he asks, a little breathlessly. "What did you mean?"

They always had an odd strain of intimacy to them, conducive to sex, though sometimes exclusive to actual friendship. Anyone else, you'd think, would be stung and a little warier at the style of this dismissal. It's only casual sex, after all. At the same time, there's something less pitiable about Felix's insistence than — endearing. "I mean—" This would be a great time for a lie, but somehow Ian can't think of one. His heartbeat pounds against his ribs, a reverberation of rhythm that Felix can feel through the thin skin underside his arm. "Nothing. You just remind me of somebody.

"Bad time in my life. You'll understand when you're older," and there's a wry twist of whimsy to that, the crow-foot smile gripping the corners of his eyes.

"Of whom?" Felix says, settling into a more patient posture, though he's still straining back against Ghost's grip. Come on. More fucking, less talking, we're burning starlight. "Why, is this cheating for you? Got a wife at home waiting for you?" His tone is utterly matter of fact, which makes it worse than a sneer, somehow.

There's an oblique slant to Ian's dark brow, suddenly, an instant's spike of rebuke at Felix's artless questions, however fair they might otherwise be.

"You don't ask as if you care," he observes dryly, turning his head away. He drops his eyes down the column of Felix's bared back, pretends to take an interest in the pale groove of spine, tapering, until it ends in the pert bump of tailbone, cleft seated on the level of rumpled bedspread. "Trying to talk me out of it?" Caring, he means. He shifts, uneasy or restless or tempted, some combination thereof, his knee scissoring, flattening over Felix's lap, crushing downward, torquing outward, forcing their upper-bodies apart even as he crushes lower together.

"No," says Felix, evenly, even as he reaches down roughly between them. "I don't. Not really." He's already leaning down, back, propping his weight on an elbow. He's acquiring that look of glazed and distant concentration that means he won't be coherent for too much longer.

Four fingers hook the back of Felix's knee, contract, biting nails down, knuckles locking underneath scarred calluses that no mere construction worker should wear on the backs of his hands. Not even an especially angry, lovelessly married, and miserably repressed homosexual one. Not that Ghost is particularly surprised that Fel missed that hint, of course. He'd been drunk. He's less drunk now, but that's another thing the ghost can't do anything about apart from— leave.

Unlikely. Though he makes a good show of it, for a little awhile, watching Felix's face with the preying, toxic indifference of a plaster saint, difficult to impress and inscrutably fickle. Finally, though, he gives in, allows the littlest Feeb to get him through, netting one arm, twisting, to pin it down like a moth tacked out for examination. He jams Felix up against the headboard at an angle that is going to give him an awful crick in his back like sand or rust grain got wedged in between a crucial join there— if they don't fall over, pries his mouth open with wristbone and holds Felix's hip momentarily immobile under one of his own.

Idly, he wonders what his Felix would say if he knew. Probably something a little heartless, kind of kind. 'There are probably worse ways to pass the time.'

Anywhere At All

And ….Fel, again, lies down with alacrity under the body of a stranger. He should be ashamed of himself. Maybe. But somehow, casual and anonymous sex seems very much a lesser sin, these days. And once he's done, he drifts off to surprisingly peaceful sleep. It's not a nightmare. Just a faintly wistful dream of that mother and child, ghostly and indistinct images. Followed by a succession of more violent ones - centered around the fight against Kazimir. Fel, armed with a rusting saber, battles futilely against figures made of smoke, vague and unformed save for the blades that lash out with a viper's speed to wound him. But, even bleeding from all those gashes, he never faints nor falls.

There's a ripple in the fabric of this reality, an insinuation of a wine-colored thread in dark fabric.

A pale eye blinks up, upside-down, from the reflected puddle of blood and then the narrow glint of Kazimir's blade, and then an aquiline profile that is not Felix's own, heavier shoulders torqued into the same fencer's stance, boots scudding in perfect syncopation with the Russian's whirling tread. He bleeds from identical wounds, breathes with the same brutal, burning effort that claws at the bottoms of the Russian's lungs. For the moment, however—

He's merely a fragmented image in the mirror, sporadic in appearance, a subtle irregularity, watching without any real intent, thus far, to distract or otherwise insinuate himself.

It's only speedster's reflexes that save him from the last flurry of blows. Technique against raw power. The mirror image is a distraction, however. An anomaly that has the whole tape paused, before the ghosts of ash and smoke explode into nothing, and Fel is left panting and bleeding, blade suddenly almost too heavy for his hand.

And the wolf cane falls, down, down, whisking linear through ash-choked indoor air—

—only to be intercepted by the grasp of a rough-fingered hand, lunged up like the grasp of the Lady of the Lake, were the lake comprised of blood and smash-patterned glass. Teo pulls himself out of the floor, leg over long leg, like a vampire out of a grave or a rabbit out of Wonderland, shaking himself off in inches as he goes. Red comes off him, his clothes, skin, hair, like water beads and slicks futilely off plastic.

The powdered pieces of Kazimir, however, cling like the real thing, and are the apparent subject of some annoyance. He wiggles one boot-clad foot, slaps a gray handprint onto the black of his coat. Turns his mouth down in a frown. "Congratulations," he says, dryly, looking down at the mess made of his garb.

"Teodoro," Felix's tone is a mingling of many things. Amazement, affection, chagrin. "What are you doing here? And what in hell have you been up to? I hear you're claiming responsibility for crimes you could never have done, but are most definitely killing cops. By sword, no less. What the fuck?" he says. He wipes his own blade clean on the leg of his trousers, doesn't seem inclined to yield it, despite the weary droop of hsi shoulders.

There's a motion through Teo's fingertips which ends in a loose shunt of the spare hand into his pocket. The sword-cane plays like a baton through the other, seemingly light as a shaft of plaster or a hollow bird-bone stretched out to the length and size of a deadly weapon in folded steel. "I've been framed," he says. Proposes. Suggests— lies, is joking, it's impossible to tell, but he's smiling like he means no harm.

Is warm, genial. "By someone who thinks cops merit punishment based on the same standards with which their civilian peers are judged. And apparently thinks getting Deckard off the country's Most Wanted and clearing half a dozen dead-end cases is a good idea. I dunno. Maybe your bosses will redistribute resources accordingly. You shouldn't worry. There are worse things to die for."

His whole body half-collapses in relief, like one of those bead and string puppet toys. "Oh, thank god. That wasn't you on the tape? A shapeshifter, someone else?" Fel suggests, hopefully. He's taking it in earnest, because the alternative isn't easy to bear. "I know Deckard was framed for that original crime…"

The butt of cane meets floor punctuated by an expletive click, and then a quieter one, rapping, as the young Sicilian steps closer, peering down at Felix's face as some figment of uncertainty threatens his own. He drops into a crouch where the other man nears collapse, calm contained in the loose set of lips, organic dust clinging to his skin where Kazimir got on him. "He was. By Zhang Wu-Long, former soldier of the Chinese military, who's dead as of 2009.

"And don't you think this is a line of questioning you should've completed before you set the nation's law enforcement on me?" He cracks a grin. Half-grin. Less. Behind him, the sun begins to brighten the window, eating up the shadows and variability of detail in great white bites of light.

That sound will haunt his nightmares. It does. Enough to raise the fine hairs at his nape. "It's you on the tape, Teo. I couldn't lie, pretend I didn't know," he defends himself, reaching up to put a hand on Teo's shoulder, lightly. "If you're innocent, I'll clear you." Oh, he's done such a wonderful job thus far.

"Bullshit." The shaven curve of Teo's head flattens out with shadow as the sun bites deeper through the membraneous stuff of Felix's retinas.

Click, says the cane, and then a dragging, sussurating slide of textureless metal against featureless inorganic masonry as he draws the weapon along an invisible line between them. The wolf's head gently nudges the Fed's arm off his shoulder. "I'm going to be done with this life soon enough. Your hounds can have it if they want. You have other things to do, anyway.

"Other people." Ghost makes that sound like a dirty joke, but it isn't really. Green, sudden, an impressionist's paintbrush daubing the harsh canvas behind Teo with the color of trimmed lawn. Dogs, the intimation of a house's square contours sketched in, indistinct voices lifting of the breeze.

Fel winces, as if Teo'd just slapped him. "What are you saying?" he says, lowly. "Is this an extended suicide by cop? Why? And no, I don't, Teo. The woman, the girl - that's only a dream."

Teo turns his head away, glances over his shoulder. The shape of him blurs, loses consistency, solidity, as if Felix is focusing past him— is being forced to, by someone taking his head between psychic hands, shoving him into a further horizon. "I'm saying none of this fucking matters. As usual, there are a million things going on in my sordid crusade of a life, and this one probably isn't going to be the one that ends it.

"Go on, Felix. Get yourself out of here."

A rumble of laughter, now: male, restrained the way that some men are when they refuse to try anything else, but earnest all the same. There's the dowdy edge of terrycloth skim-bouncing over the tips of grass blades, slippers flipping, flexing in an easy, lumbering stride before the figure hunkers down, his back to Felix, his hands making friends with the scruff of dog fur and licking tongues.

That isn't funny. Not at -all-. Fel gets the outraged look of a grade school nerd who's just had his glasses snatched from his nose. He rounds on the fading Teo. "What are you doing?" he demands, bony hands curling into fists.

There's a translucency to Teo's placid confidence now, as if it were an extraneous layer of gauze pulled on over the real stuff of him and just as easily pulled off— but Felix's hands are closed, and the Sicilian is, as usual, a little out of reach. He betrays himself with a little downward quirk of his mouth, a little too honest to be passed of as peace. "Returning a favor," he says. By which he means, clarifying: "Giving you up."

Not a chance. Fel lunges for him, with a fencer's speed, hands out. Trying to hold him. Keep him from fading away entirely. "No," he says, roughly. "Where are you going?" It's a childish plaint.

The Russian's fingers meet something solid. Scent erupts in his face like a haze of gnats from a disturbed carcass, nauseating sweetness, the peculiarly fruity dolor of decaying flesh. Teo's face changes, a flickery film reel spin through incongruous frames— Leland's, then Ian's, then Teo's again, Sylar's, Richard Santiago's. Settles there, on the last, a thickening skein of image and feeling that submerges the Sicilian's psychic retreat (into a gray room in Washington DC; 'I'm an expert at unrequited love;' then the last real fight they had had, something about coming back from Israel without two of his fingers before Abby got to him; he hadn't slammed the door, knowing that the sight of him shrinking into the distance was worse when Felix couldn't merely drag him back with a hand on his scruff and preternatural speed to his heels, because Felix doesn't have the right—)

Steel rams halfway up his ribs: Kazimir's sword, and a mirthless show of teeth, horrifically fast, but not rushed. In Felix's mind and memory, Kazimir Volken doesn't do rushed.

It's a terrible moment of stillness that follows that blow, followed by motions of underwater slowness. A trio of abortive spasms, nerves neatly severed from the spine firing off one last time - none of which serve to dislodge him from the steel that pins him like a butterfly mounted for display. He struggles to form a question - he died the same way for Deckard, one last query on his lips, and rests a hand gently on the blade's dull back like he fears disturbing it. The only thing that emerges is a spill of blood from his mouth, rather than words. His eyes, bizarrely, have begun to crinkle in a smile. Like he finally gets the joke.

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