Strings Attach Themselves


sonny_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Strings Attach Themselves
Synopsis The same conflict continues in embryonic, not-quite-actualized proto-arguments, though this time, Teo gets to see the view from the other side of the glass. It makes him frown. And it gets worse.
Date January 26, 2008

Upscale Residential Complex — Sonny's Apartment

Sonny hasn't been sleeping well the last few nights. Pick a reason. Screwed up taboo relationship, political pressures, possible end of the world hovering out of his sight maybe. Lots of things to interrupt a peaceful snooze. That and an insistently close young Italian when he's used to having his space. So it's inhumanly early - 5:30 AM, when the doc rolls out of bed and into the shower. He's an early riser in general, but not on Mondays (his appointments don't start til 9) and even his regular early mornings let him stay in bed until quarter to seven.

He lingers in the shower, under the hot steam. Deep breaths are taken in the hopes that the water will loosen up the thoughts that clench a headache in the front of his skull. He leans forehead against the shower wall and lets the water stream off and into the drain. This is all unusual. For one, he never takes showers in the morning. His hair holds water too long, so it just doesn't make sense in the winter.

It's not like Teo would mind if he was banished to another bed. He'd— there might be some vague, amorphous, background concern that somebody else would own said bed, but not even he pretends to such laissez-faire sexuality and interpersonal ignorance to think that was okay less than twenty four hours after almost lighting another valuable friendship on fire over his inability to keep his pants attached. He tends to sleep okay. He doesn't sleep for long these days, but the hours he succeeds in clocking are solid enough to carry him through the wear and strain of the work day. At least, when supplemented by adrenaline and caffeine.

The bump and seize of the mattress recovering from the loss of Sonny's weight is what awakens him, rather than the careful squirm of the body out of his arms. His eyes open to half-darkness and he crawls up, too, a mess of tousled off-blond hair, wrinkled flannel, bare feet more graceful, silent, than anyone in his state of disarray has the right to be.

Squeak, squeak. Letterforms develop in the fogged glass of the shower stall past Sonny's shoulder, glittering between crystalline beads and rivulets of hot water, the lines the exact width of Teo's forefinger because Teo's forefinger is the writing implement being used to write it, a lazy whorl and swoop of a practiced hand. Big round block letters, mirror-reversed in his own perspective so that they read left to right in Sonny's:


The sound of Teo's approach is neatly masked from Sonny by the trickle of the water in his ears and the effort the other is making to not be heard. The squeak of finger on glass is a new sound though, and breaks him out of his reverie. He turns and pulls back. Embarrassingly, there's a half-cross imprint on his forehead from where he leaned against the tiles. He matts a nest of black hair back away from his face, gives Teo a half-smile, then nods. "Be out in a minute."

Now that he's been discovered loitering in the shower, he returns to the task of scrubbing both hair and body and ridding his cheeks of the stubble that sprouted up overnight.

A reciprocal smile ghosts across Teo's features. A deft stroke of his finger through the question-mark, and he turns the query into a statement. OK. Turning away, he pads across the shower mat and back onto cold tile, dragging blunt nails down the back of his neck as he approaches the sink. Perhaps not unexpectedly, he then proceeds to step onto the marble counter-top, one leg up, the seesaw of weight across the bare balls of his feet, pulling his steam-blurred reflection closer to the mirror, giving his tattooed back to the room. The eagle flies stoic under yellow light.

Crouching like Peter Pan upon the bough, he turns on the faucet. Fills a hand with cold water and swipes it across his eyes, first, a vague effort to dispel the sore weight of fatigue on his eyelids, before he then reaches to wipe the mirror clean. Well— clean as can be hoped for with Chaucer still there.

"God man, you're part cat or something." Sonny kills the water and steps out of the shower. He grabs for a towel and wraps it around his waist. He slaps a wet hand on Teo's bare back and reaches past him to flick on a fan. It makes a fair bit of noise, which is why he didn't have it on when he got into the shower. "Why're you up so early?" The same question could be asked of him.

The mirror quickly clears and so does the haze of steam in the room. He reaches for his toothbrush and paste, then begins to brush. It's almost…domestic, in a strange sort of way. If domestic involves shirtless guys perching on counters.

More of a dog person. "You woke me up," Teo replies without real accusation, wrapping his arms around his knees. The slap by itself elicits no reaction; Sonny joining him at the counter, if not on the counter, warrants him turning his head, resting his chin on the top of the crucifix tattooed over his bicep. Watching. "Why're you up so early?" It is domestic in its own eccentric way. He is perfectly harmless up on the counter. Helpful, even, when he reaches to clear Sonny a small window of relatively clear reflection in the mirror, one palm squawking friction against the glass.

Sonny spits and scrubs. His toothbrushing is not careless - it is meticulous. He must know some dentists. The minty foam is swished around his mouth before he spits, then leans for a mouth full of water. He uses the mirror as a point of eye contact instead of turning his head. "Couldn't sleep. Never like hanging around in bed if I can't sleep. Better to get up and make myself useful."

The doc in contrast, has ne'er a mark on his dusky skin. No ink, no scars, nothing. He reaches for a container of moisturizer and slaps some on to his still-damp face. He'll insist it's just for the sun block, but you know, there's more to it than that. "There's still lots of hot water if you want a shower." He grabs for another towel and pads out into the bedroom while rubbing it over his hair.

Vanity, vanity. Teo only had to look at the array of jars and bottles and their varying levels of volume to know there was more to it than simple hygiene. None of these belong to him, obviously. And would if they lived together for months more, they probably still wouldn't be, a study of contrasts in cosmetic products. He does, however, have a toothbrush here now. Takes that up after a moment, considering before undertaking a quick swizz over his teeth. Cursory: he'll do it again before he heads out to work. Spitting one glob of froth, he rinses against his wrist. The answer comes belated, as if he hadn't honestly planned to make one at all. "I'll take one later.

"Where are you now?" His shoulder falls against the bathroom doorway. He looks.

"What do you mean, 'where am I?'" Sonny gives Teo a funny look as he slides open his neatly organized closet to reveal rows of expensive suits of varying colours and styles. It's like an Armani store in there. His shoes are lined along the bottom as well. Sure, he has a cleaning service that comes twice a week, but they don't organize his closet. He pulls down a dark blue shirt and slides it over his shoulders, then begins to do up the buttons with practiced fingers.

"Oh, by the way. See that folder on the dresser there? Take a look." He nods towards a file with a thick document inside. "Tell me what you think."

The pages are full of Italian - business communiques. Nothing particularly exciting, and most of it's in legal-eze, but not so convoluted as to be incomprehensible.

A cleaning service that Teo's arrivals and departures are carefully timed around. "I mean, I couldn't see you from the bathroom." I didn't know where you were, but he doesn't bother finishing that sentence, either relying on the Doctor's scintillating intuition or too lethargic from the hour to realize that the connection might not be made without further elaboration.

He reaches a hand underneath his other arm, scratches at the raptor inked into his skin there. Drifts across toward the dresser on pale feet, flexing his eyelids in and out of a few bigger blinks to ready himself for reading. His spare hand, he tucks into the file, snagging the neatly-aligned edges of the document stack. Yanks it free to read. "I think, if you want to learn Italian, this is a good exercise to make it feel like self-evisceration," he decides.

Sonny tugs up a pair of darker blue slacks and tucks in the shirt. He stands in front of the mirror and smooths out the lines of the shirt that came neatly pressed and ironed from the dry cleaner. "It's a translation job, T. Wanted to see if you thought you could tackle it. Doesn't pay too much. Few grand a job. But it's something." That says something about his concept of money 'a few grand' is not much pay. Sonny fingers his still-wet hair and frowns. Oh well. He doesn't actually have to be in work for awhile yet. He picks a white tie with faint stripes and slides it around his neck. The transformation to doctor is almost complete.

It's the kind of transformation that any red-blooded Sicilian boy would like to mess right up again. Not the least of which because this one is curious about why it's being executed in a manner as timely and efficient as normal mornings. This isn't a normal morning: Sonny has time, and he could be taking time. "I could," he answers, after a protracted moment, stilted by surprise. "I'd like to. Grazie. This would help. Is the contact information in here?" The manila cover is twisted wider open; Teo drops his head to peer underneath, into the shadowy recesses of the folder, before he simply squares both hands on the corners of the packet and shakes out any residual pieces of paper.

Habit, is the simple answer. Sonny likes routine. On weekdays when he's going to work, he puts his suit on. "That's not the whole job. It's just a sample. They'll pay you…oh…hell, there's an invoice in the back. They'll pay you for a sample. And if they're happy with the translation, they'll give you the rest of the job. It's for my uncle's company affiliate. They make parts…for something. I don't know."

He slides his feet into a pair of neatly polished shoes, then bends down to tie them up. What he doesn't do is put on his jacket. That is draped over his arm. He walks over to Teo and the folder, then fingers through to the back. "There, there it is." Twelve hundred bucks for a sample, a few pages. Probably three days' work.

There is more money in Teo's pockets now than there ever had been in teaching. If he does this, there will be still more. That says nothing good about the world, he knows. Talked about it to a flippy-haired Irishman with lung cancer, once. He studies the invoice from under eyelids so heavy that the fringe overlays an extra shadow.

"I'll…" His eyes squeeze shut, reopen. He isn't sure how to end that sentence. "Find time." Because making and sparing time are out of the question, for now. Three days: he doesn't have three days, not even if he sits and starts right this second. His bare shoulder bumps the straight-edged corner of Sonny's; he leans over to press a kiss of gratitude on the man's newly 'shaven' cheek, unremarkable and entirely sincere.

Eventually, the domesticity is going to feel so much like the other that his nerves are going to implode from the festering paranoia that this, too, is a false sense of security. Sometimes paranoia is just and realistic. Until then— "You want company for breakfast?" He leaves the question as open-ended as he can. It's all right would work just as well as No; Only if you want to.

"There's no hurry." Either Sonny senses the agitation that grips Teo at the thought of scheduling the job, or he really did just mean to mention that. "They've got another translator on the most urgent stuff, but she's too backed up to take any new contracts. Which is why my uncle asked me if I knew anyone who was fluent." He lifts a shoulder. "As long as you can get a few pages to him by the end of the month, it should be fine. All the company's business is conducted in Italian, but they've got English shareholders who want to be in the loop."

The kiss on his cheek is followed with a ruffle of the lighter Italian's hair. To the question of breakfast, he blinks with genuine surprise. "Of course. I was just going to put some coffee on." That was clearly a non-issue. Why wouldn't he want Teo's company for breakfast?

Because he looks unpleasantly achey. Having carried around a plate of surgical steel in his head for almost half his life and been subject to the gradual discomfort of it torquing in wrong between fresh injuries and natural bone growth, Teo can recognize a headache when he sees one. A bad night, too. Nevertheless, he is happy to hear this. Possibly overmuch so, though he is spared an embarrassing overreaction by the veil of fatigue that is rendering all of his expressions in pastel and his words in largo. His eyes crinkle a smile, almost shy. He ducks his head an inch under Sonny's hand. "Okay.

"I can do the end of the month." He swivels to look for some article of clothing to stave off the growing sensation of cold, and finds a discarded sweater on the floor, peeking out from underneath the bed, where he had toed it to protect Sonny's obsessive-compulsive sensibilities. Fetching it up into the air, he pokes his head and arms through it. Sticks his forefinger through the belt loop of Sonny's pants, Armani or no, and proceeds doorward.

Sonny squeezes the back of Teo's neck and pats his shoulder. "That should be fine," on the subject of the translation. Hey, this is how you get the good work. Contacts. Sure, there are lots of pro translators out there, but knowing someone who knows someone takes less effort than checking credentials and phoning random numbers. And rich people are fundamentally lazy, even businessmen in certain areas.

When he starts to descend the stairs and feels the finger in the belt loop, he laughs. "Hey now, don't rip my pants down." He may be a bit OCD, but not to a fault. If his pricey pants get a rip in the loop, so what?

Into the kitchen he goes, to go through the nearly unconscious motions of getting the coffee ready. He hands the suit jacket over to Teo. "Can you drape this on the back of a chair, there?"

"Your pants wouldn't mind."

Despite the ordinary compulsion to stick his arms into the silk-lined sleeves and summarily carry the jacket off in such a fashion, Teo does not do this thing. Instead, he takes the garment in both hands, careful not to mangle anything with his calluses or fingernails, however remote the possibility might be. Obligingly, he turns toward the dining arrangement, dragging three or six reflections through the array of glass and varnished surfaces that characterize the kitchen. There's a rattle of chair legs after, a clothey scuffle of the young Sicilian seating himself.

He glances up at the light; wonders at the shape of the moth silhouetted there against the delicately translucent glass, wondering if it's already dead or merely doomed to, compelled toward the scorching heat of electrical incandescent by some hormone distantly related to lust. He lacks the energy, just yet, to get up and check or rescue it. "There's medicine to help you sleep," he notes, eventually.

Once the coffee pot is bubbling happily, Sonny moves through the dining room to hit a switch that draws up the blinds over the condo's wall-sized windows. Morning light filters through UV coating to bathe the room in the cool blues of winter sun. When he walks back through, he pushes at the side of Teo's head, pawing like a cat at a bauble. "Whaddya want for breakfast, then? French toast? Cereal? A bagel?" Never mind it's just past 6 AM. He's a morning person, or at least, when he's up he's up. And the exhaustion takes awhile to catch up.

"Oh really? There's medicine? Wow, I didn't know that with my doctorate of medicine," the doc deadpans that, but he can't hold the tone for long. He cracks a grin. "I'm fine. Just…a lotta stuff going on." No kidding.

Despite the grimace that that tone elicits, there's a distinct lack of real annoyance in Teo's response to it. "Don't make me trip a nerve with your boob surgeon niche and your cheap, short-cut superpowers," he suggests wryly. The bauble bats to and fro in the cat's paw, indolent, acquiescing, before transforming abruptly into a wolf cub: Teo's teeth flare white in the light of morning before snapping shut across the surgeon's hands, moist, strong as a steel-trap. His canines fit between the metacarpal of pinkie and ring finger, the round bone of Sonny's knuckle concave into the roof of the young man's mouth.

Teo puts an eyebrow up. Shrugs in answer: Whatever you see fit.

Well. That was unexpected. Sonny just looks at Teo, brows raised high towards the still-damp hairline of curls. "It seems you have caught me. Now what are you going to do, hmm? If you bite any harder, I might need a rabies shot." His tone is wry and his lip quirks in an amused angle. His fingers wriggle, but he doesn't pull away. "I need this back if you want a bagel."

Nya. Slow with precision, the articulate gesture of a magnanimous prince, Teo opens his jaws. He goes so far as to wind his head backward a few inches, too, removing the older man's extremity from the temporary vise all on his own. Turning his head away to study some infinitely more significant part of wall — that is, the one one Salvatore Bianco had rammed his fist into, the other night. He raises his own hand, motions imperiously toward the kitchen. A'ight. Bagel, then. In the meantime, he'll proceed to shunt his torso down in his chair, teetering it back to a deeply precarious angle on its back legs, while he puts his knees up against the dining table.

Once his arm is freed, Sonny loops it around Teo's neck in a loose headlock. He leans down and kisses just to the left of his ear, towards his cheekbone. "You're a weirdo." But that's clearly a term of endearment. Then of all things, he blows a raspberry against his neck, finishes it with a kiss and then withdraws to the kitchen to pour a few mugs of coffee and to drop a pair of bagels into the double toaster.

"Uh. So. I have to go to this charity dinner on Thursday night." A beat, "I have to bring a date or people would talk." He carries the coffee and creamer to the dining room table and sets the mug in front of Teo.

It's fortunate for everybody involved that Teo is a nice boy and a forward-thinker. His initial reaction was to grab a handful of curls and keep Doctor Bianco attached to the side of his head and doing what he was doing but with coffee on the way and some notion that gratuitous dishevelment is off the menu for this morning. His eyes fell further from open; he turned his face closer, throat bobbing briefly with an incipient curl to his mouth, distinctly pleased and oddly boyish; he didn't move even after Sonny did. Doesn't move even after Sonny says that, except for the line of his mouth.

Hardening. Then, "Can I help you pick?"

"Uh, it was actually all arranged. A few weeks back." And Sonny's been trying to find a way to tell Teo. Or if he even needed to tell him, seeing how things were shaky for awhile, and also potentially nonexistant between them. He sits down and makes an effort to be as flippant about his date as Teo was prepared to be when he came home smelling of cigarettes and someone else's soap. "Her name's Celeste LeSalle. Her family owns a luxury yachtbuilding company based out of…oh, Spain somewhere I think. She owns a gallery not far from here."

There's a bit of reprieve from responding to that directly, as the toaster pops. He stands again and moves back towards the kitchen. "What do you want on your bagel?" Casual. That's what this is supposed to be, right?

Yes. Casual. "I want to see pictures." Teo remembers how to move. Swivels his head forward and throws his arms back behind his head, folding them into a pointy pretzel to support the weight his neck is, momentarily, too lazy to support. He feels no particular need to point out that he hadn't been flippant about fucking strangers, and nor had he made any preparations to be; he had merely expected to slide by without eliciting surprise or remark. Granted, that had failed. He still isn't sure what to make of this, honestly, but he assembles a reply out of spare parts and a scowl that is one part thoughtful and two parts resentful. Directs it at the moth in the light. "Peanut butter. Is her gallery any good?"

"Why do you want to see pictures, Teo?" Now Sonny's tone is tightening slightly. He senses a double standard on the horizon. But he bites his tongue with the snappy remark that is likely to start a fight. Namely: are you going to give me pictures of your random fucks? But that's unsaid. Because really, he doesn't want to fight, least of all about that - the very thing they failed to resolve when he nearly punched a hole in the wall.

He tugs out a butter knife and a jar of peanut butter. He proceeds to bathe all four bagel halves in it until it melts thickly over the toasted surface. "It's a very nice gallery. I've known her for years. Half the art in here comes from her place." He walks back into the dining room and sets the plate with the twin bagels in front of Teo.

Which means she isn't some vapid idiot Sonny plucked out of the trophy on some older millinaire's mantelpiece. Teo isn't sure how he feels about that specifically. He's annoyed by the whole thing, of course. "I want to see if she's beautiful," he answers, as blunt as head trauma. He has the decency enough to make eye-contact when his meal arrives, albeit only briefly, and then he is stooping over the bagel halves to eat them with his hands, elbows braced on the table's glass, rumpled head drooped low over his work the better to concentrate. "It's kind of a casual segue-in to asking if I should find somewhere else to sleep on Thursday."

Maybe with the fishes.

"She's quite lovely. I think so, anyway. But you know, I've done some work on her." Which means by default, Sonny's less attracted. Not that Teo knows this, though perhaps he should suspect. He takes a bite of his bagel and chews it slowly. "I haven't seen her in awhile. She could be seeing someone, I dunno. She's been in Paris the last two months." A beat, "I don't plan on sleeping with her, Teo." Doesn't plan. Doesn't mean he won't. It might depend on the outcome of this conversation. "Besides. We'd just go to her place. It's closer anyway. You don't have to worry. I'll try to avoid bringing anyone here."

Because Teo's opposable thumbs are essential for the consumption of bagel, he only has a pinkie to wave when he says: "Fine." Not inobviously, it isn't. Fine, that is. But he says it's fine, and he's looking at his breakfast instead of at Sonny, so as long as that much holds and he isn't threatening to throw anybody out of the house or his bed, he thinks — has no reason to believe that it won't continue to hold. He isn't immune to jealousy. Far from it. He's merely capable of getting over it, insofar as that tends to be as fleeting a passion as the vast majority of hormonal fires that spark and fizz out in an Italian's psyche, leaving a mark but little in the way of real damage. "Do whatever you want," he adds, around a mouthful of peanut butter and wheat.

Sonny could say something else biting here. Like, oh, thank you for your permission, sir. But again, it comes down to him not wanting a fight. Not for now. Instead, his jaw sets briefly and he takes bites of his drippy peanut butter bagel, somhow managing to avoid getting any on tie or face. He chews slowly, then decides to change the subject.

"So. M'guessing you'll be gone tonight as well?"

As if sensing a seismic vibration by appendages not present on more genetically diluted Italians, Teo looks up. He smells a fight. Blood in the water, as it were, through the gills of a very big fish; blood on the ground to the nose of a wolf. His attitude is characterized less by hunger for that, though, than a certain exasperation, no more kindly than either of the predator tropes: don't bleed on me. "I don't know. Don't have plans, except this dinner thing Abby's throwing. You can come if you want. My aunt will be there. Lucrezia Bennati. Your uncle has probably heard of her: she's an actress and very well-known in Italy.

"The one Al fucked," he adds, after a quaver-beat, his expression seesawing between one annoyance and the next. And yet he lacks disingenuity when he says: "I'm showing her off to all my friends." Pride. For Lucrezia, always, even if it's tempered now, here, with a shade of something else.

"I would, but Abby and I…there's…eh. We don't dislike each other so much as we don't gel. I wouldn't want to make things uncomfortable." As if the thing with Al and Lucrezia wasn't awkward enough. Sonny finishes off one bagel half, dusts his hands together, then picks up his coffee. "I should probably go visit my parents." A beat, "Bennati. Is she the one whose cousin's marrying my uncle?" One brow arches up, then he glances to his watch. "Well," a sigh. "I should probably go in to work seeing that I'm up. I've gotten behind on paperwork lately."

The doc stands, and if to prove that things aren't as awkward as they might feel, he leans down for a peanut buttery, coffee-scented kiss. A proper one, not just a peck. "I'll see you if I see you, then." There's a tiny bit of a quaver to those words. Regret. Affection. But he's trying to hide it, downplay the fact that he doesn't like the idea of spending the night in an empty bed. Funny how quickly you get used to things.

English people do awkward. Italy bludgeons past it with the zeal and grace of an infuriated boar. Also, kissing is awesome, so Teo lets that happen, coffee the single recognizable disparity in the flavors of their mouths. The words generated in parting are somewhat less favorable, evidently. If he were somewhat less susceptible to guilt, his ego might have successfully catapaulted that right back into Sonny's face in some way, shape or form of counter-attack.

See you if I see you. Parrot back the words, emphasis appropriately distributed, a gentle push in another direction, anonymous. Sonny was right: this wouldn't be so bad if they were both unrepentant sluts.

'Unrepentant' is always a tricky word to apply to a Catholic as pathologically conscientious as Teo can be, however. It's early yet. Evidently, he isn't in the mood to fight. The quake to the other man's tone puts a lump in his throat and a weight in his stomach, leaves a feeling both teeming and hollow. "Do your paperwork here," he suggests, sudden with impulse, thickly, glancing down at the table. It's an apology in lieu of a promise. "You have your laptop."

"I can't." Can't what? Do paperwork here or stay with the proto-fight just waiting to emerge? Both, really. "The files I need are on the work server. If I wanna do stuff at home, I have to make sure it's loaded before I leave the office. Which…I didn't do." Because that was Friday. "Plus I've got appointments starting right at nine." And it's nearly seven now. Twenty minutes to the office, and a good solid two hours to get paperwork out of the way. That's the logical bit, anyway.

Sonny puts a hand on the side of Teo's head and pulls it close so he can press a kiss on his forehead. His hand lingers to thread through his hair, then he just leans his face against the other's head and exhales slowly. One more kiss, gentle, just above his eyebrow and he's pulling back. "Have a good day. Enjoy dinner with your friends." Then he's reaching for his suit jacket to swing over his shoulders. The transformation to doctor is complete.

January 25th: Pay It Forward
January 26th: Undeserving
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