Suspicious Minds


francois_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Scene Title Suspicious Minds
Synopsis After various pieces of apocalypse including but not limited to falling buildings and pregnancies, Francois and Teo talk about it. Because we can't go on together with—
Date April 21, 2010

West Village: Maison d'Allegre

By now, Abigail's asleep or ought to be. Teodoro is propped up, half-sprawled in an uneven spread behind a small fort-slash-igloo of jumbled pillows and rumpled comforter, like a layer of weird margarine gone bad on raisin bread or something similarly mismatched to the flavor of margarine. He's fully-dressed, or close enough: jeans, a jacket still pulled on over his hoodie, the cheap blue plastic of a lighter cinched between his teeth and a paperback tented over one hand. Its edges are rumpled and browning, corners rounded-off from having been loved well or from abuse. They're the same thing, for books.

Not for girls, though. These and similar ideas make it difficult for the Sicilian to concentrate on reading, despite that this late morning is supposed to be one of the lazier ones available on his paper calendar. He went over the same three first pages of this damn thing four times before resorting to an examination of the synopsis to calibrate himself, and having to do that twice before he gives up, with a gusting sigh. Throws backward, bodily, all melodramatic elbows and grumping face—

—over the dozing Frenchman who he'd somehow forgotten was there, and coincidentally responsible for the maimed vortex of bedclothes, during the course of his reading. It is difficult to be a good companion to someone trying to sleep off the worst of his injury. For a boy as restless and prone to self-possession as Teodoro is, particurly. "Nf," and his arm slings over the breadth of his lover's back, his hand stabbing startled for purchase in the linens on the far side of Francois' hip. He whispers: "Je suis desolee."

Francois remains unmoving, even as a book is thrown over him, even as an arm is slung along a similar trajectory to find its resting place along his back, but when the Sicilian whispers, he stirs to life. It's subtle, just a deliberate drawing in of air eased out quieter then it was sucked in, with his right shoulder and folded arm supported on a pillow half-crushed beneath him. "You should— " His voice is muffled against bed things, and Francois turns his head enough so that he isn't mumbling into a high thread count. "You should only say that for the things you cannot make up for."

The embrace is returned in the way he shifts back into it, conforming his body back into Teo's, natural gravitation into warmth his bed alone can't provide. The air prickles the bared skin of his torso, and his voice is still sleep rough. "I think you could if you tried." He lifts his head up briefly to glance back, before settling again. "Is Abigail alright?"

"She is." Teo's answer is a mumble lipped into the rumpled brunette at the roof of Francois' head, even as his callused fingers score gently up the column of muscle to the right of Francois' spine, up to his neck, fiddle at the weft of brown hair behind Francois' ears. "She spent a few hours talking to me about how Caliban might have been hallucinating, telling me not to do anything— 'brash' or 'heroic.' I dunno. I think it implies something, that she thinks 'beating the fuck out of that shitheel' constitutes heroic."

Such a way with words. Ones that don't involve apology at least. Apparently. His thumb fits itself to the soft hollow at the base of Francois' head, before he rolls closer, onto his shoulder, bumping the flat of his chest against the Frenchman's arm. A kiss snuffles up against the soapmilked incline of Francois' cheek, snags slightly in the finer locks smooth down in front of the other man's ear. (Dogs beseech for forgiveness in such format, presentation, and phrasing, but the Sicilian is too busy being annoyed to very well notice.) (The Sicilian never appears to notice, at all.)

His head whaps down on the mattress, the next moment, his neck giving out on the effort to hold the thing up. Something prods the nape of Francois' neck: by default, Teo's enormous nose. "How're you feeling?"

There is a smile more for himself than anything Teo can see, at his words, relaxed by the time overtures of apology are reaching his cheek, though he doesn't go to shut his eyes again. The muttered question from behind has him pausing, assessing, eyes blinking awake before he using his hand to grind knuckles against his eye sockets, and tempting though it may be to roll back and tangle up in embrace— not a difficult thing to coax out of him from a few well-placed kisses and touches— Francois stays huddled where he is, if not necessarily closed off.

"I think she calls it heroic because you are her hero," he suggests, a glimmer of amusement and affection for either of them warm in his voice. "Or she aims to flatter you." He stretches a little, working out the stiffness that Teo might have detected along his spine.

Angles back against the other man a little. The bruising that ringed his shoulder has faded slower than the swelling did. Though he may have dislocated that limb before in his expansive history, healing tends to make things as good as new. He does not feel as good as new, and communicates this when he finally answers with, "I feel sore, and like I've had better weeks, oui." He takes a breath like he's going to say something more, but eases it out between teeth and lapses into sleepy silence.

For a periodic withholder (see: Delilah's body lunge between the couches) of subconscious variety, Teo doesn't actually enjoy the awareness that he's being withheld from. It's one of those hypocritical self-entitlement things, possibly a figment of residual vanity.

Or of love, if one prefers optimism. He moves his hands back, begins to knead steadily at the older man's neck, shoulders, seeking out knots of tension with the tips of his fingers, skirting the tender discoloration of bruises and residual swelling by using his eyes to steer. The current set of their bodies frees him up to do this by rendering eye-contact unnecessary— or that's an optimistic spin, too. "You can tell me," he says, forging ahead and into the silence with all of the grace and aplomb of an elephant seal evacuating the surf.

"I can," is easy agreement, words tumbling out upon a sigh drawn out of him from the touches to his back that Francois indulges in. Subtle adjustments to ease the paths Teo is finding with his hands, chin tucking in to expose the nape of his neck and body relaxing beneath pressure. The only defense that manifests is the way his right hand loosely clenches at bedsheets.

This seems like a good position for them when they're trading difficult words, and Francois doesn't fix what isn't broken. They can look at each other later. Soon. "I would. I do not quite know, other than that things are as fragile as they have always been. The structures in old buildings beneath too much snow. Ligaments.

"Egos," he adds, with a huff of self-deprecating laughter and the kind of smile he flashes to assure the world that everything is okay, even if no one can see it from here. It fades both physically and in his voice when he goes on to add, "You said 'anything'. I worry, that is all."

Oh. Revelation is presented in a bunch of helpful eye-blinking, before Teodoro stops batting his lashes long enough to focus on the reality that the Frenchman is too (physically, but perhaps in other ways also—) turned around to appreciate that. His hands have slowed, but they haven't stopped, carding the muscle-strings and contoured bones of Francois' back. The flat of one squared-off thumb winds up niggling gently into the vertebrates at the Frenchman's neck, nipping into the well, flattening at the tiny dark mole there.

"I was being expansive," he says, after a moment, because it's true, and as close to apologetic as he's going to get away with without Francois believing he's jerking around. Coincidentally, Francois' such belief would be true. It's nice to have a boyfriend who manages to operate as an externalized component of self-awareness without the use of guilt-trips or elaborate personal drama as the connecting cables and interfaced conductivity. Sometimes.

It would probably be nicer if Teo could do self-aware all by himself, but. "I gave salient examples. Money, company to the clinic. He's her child. I don't know. There's only so much of a right of say that I have, 'specially while she's carrying him, and that limitation comes with— other ones, I think."

It's a good answer — makes Francois breathe easier and everything, a slightly stiff nod of acknowledgement for simplicity. Limitations and the status quo. That he doesn't answer right away or even roll over is a sort of manifestation of some lingering doubt, turtleshell defense that is slowly melting away beneath skilled hands and honesty. Finally, the bed shifts along with movement, mattress dipping beneath their shared weight as Francois goes to roll onto his back.

Carefully does it, for the sake of his shoulder and Teo's hands. His own right one flops lazily against Teo's chest, palm up and knuckles grazing fabric that continues to clothe it. The luxury of rolling over all the way to face him is a tricky one, logistically, and he's content in lying belly up instead. The glance he deals towards Teo is clear and searching. "Tell me about 'him'?"

Under the Frenchman's knuckles, Teodoro's heartbeat goes tha-thump-thump-thump, not exactly panicky, but residual unease like Francois is being residually doubtful. Understandable, of course. Conventional interpretations of 'my boyfriend knocked up this girl' are fraught with the kinds of queasy uncertainties that they're having moderate success with circumventing with precariously placed stepping stones. There's something slimy, dark, and carnivorous swimming in the waters.

Now they're kind of looking at each other, but still mostly not. A glance from Francois finds the top of Teo's forehead, because he's tugged his head down to kiss the corner of the Frenchman's shoulder. He doesn't raise his head again, or not immediately. The hood of his sweater winds up in a cottony smear pinched under his jaw, hiding his cheek. "This happened in the other future, too. But later," he says. "Other-me went to kill terrorists for four years, despite that there was a part of him that—

"I think— suspected that the kid was his. He was the spitting image of Delilah, though. Walter. They got along good." They. Teodoro always enforced a sense of separation between himself and those— other selves, and it laps faintly onto the edges of the relationships he'd inherited from them. Wintry eyes blink sharded ice, and he looks up at Francois finally. (And maybe that's part of it: having one thing, one person, a single connection in the burning tangle that is entirely his own.)

And that single connection will want to be a strong one to withstand the current, with or without the presence of dark and carnivorous entities. Conventional interpretations of 'my boyfriend knocked up this girl' don't have half the complications of the threat of a future that Francois doesn't get to play in showing itself in fleeting, darting teases, fish tails in the water, and what seems like a devestating impossibility of a bright future denied to most, well. Time is malleable. That hand travels up enough to run the backs of his fingers down Teo's unshaven jaw, offering a smallish smile when they finally do manage eye contact.

"I'm vain enough to think that keeping you is enough of my choice to fear it being selfish," he admits. Though apparently old enough to recognise vanity. "But so you know, if you do go to hunt terrorists for four years, I would not mind coming too. I have gotten used to having a place, here."

Lime-to-yellower greens and ruby-flecked purples form a dermal nebula on Francois' shoulder, an anatomical star map of somewhat less pleasant make than the ones that Teo sometimes produces (vainly also) with his teeth. He doesn't stare directly at them, but he does think about them. And remember how it felt when the roof went in. Jesus fucking Christ. He hasn't tried with words, hasn't bothered to try.

He takes exceptions to buildings falling on his boyfriend. Icebergs, also. Nuclear bombs. Mythological fish-predators of unquantified analogy. This is the beginning of all that bullshit he sometimes does, where he stores his lovers on pedestals or in cupboards, hamsterballs of civilian safety, except that it's all backward. Francois has already done it, is already doing it, and is glibely inviting himself along for the hunting of terrorists as if the absence of a susceptible uterus is a likely qualifier!!

It takes Teo a moment to smooth the wrinkle out of his brow. Apparently indifferent to the churning chaos taking place in the gray matter above it, his mouth is busy snuffling affection against the back of Francois' fingers. "What would you do if you were in my shoes?" he asks, suddenly, tenderly muffled by misaligned digits and the administration of kisses to them. A beat. "Hypothetical is the default, but if you start speaking in the terminology of a primary source, I'll understand."

His fingers wiggle a little, a fraction, then relax again against kisses and muffled words. "Uh huh," at that last part, a rueful smile in his tone, before Francois is steering up his gaze to watch the ceiling. Above them is empty space, a room he hasn't worked out what to do with yet, with Abigail situated towards the back of the house. "I would rather not, for the latter. I do not think I have ever made a correct choice in these cases. If I could not give her the world then I could give her nothing, and I would go. Allow for a void for someone else who can give what I was not willing to fill.

"It was wrong, always wrong. I was proud of you." A fractional pause, the time it takes for a smile to reach eyes. "You know, between counting back ten weeks in my head. I think I would have to check my journal. But I do not think you did a wrong thing, Teo. She seems happy. Ah," and this last syllable is a tired sounding exhalation. "I'm talking around a thing, I think. Pardon. In your shoes, you should tell your boyfriend that everything is fine before he embarrasses himself any further."

"He might not believe me if I only say it after he advised me to," Teo observes. A line engraves itself between his brows, and he blinks away a wrinkle of fictional movement in his peripheral vision, there, before it finishes filling in the texture of clothing, hair. It's a good sign, that he can abort out of his hallucinations in their early stages, these days. He decides that it is a sign of nothing at all, that he could not tell who that was, forming inchoate in the layers of his consciousness. "You're not embarrassing.

"At all. I wish I was good at showing instead of telling. I was trying to show instead of telling, that— uh. Shit. You know…" other than the fact that Francois plainly does not. Teo forebears to squirm closer, his gaze falling lidded for a moment before conscious effort goes to his eyes dishing an upward angle, pupils constricted around a closer reading of the sentiment in the Frenchman's malachite-ringed stare. He knows that this is a bad time to be ambivalent. Just— you know.

It's very fragile. Hard to see, with the both of them prone on the swirled vortex of linens and barricaded pillows, but squint a little and you'll see. Francois' tangible approval squeaks in the balance opposite Francois' amorphous fears, and Teo is trying not to breathe to hard on it, lest it tilt the wrong way. "Everything is fine. You and me aren't over," a little haltingly, wavering on that fine line between heavy-handedness and cowardice, "'til you and me are over."

Teo isn't alone, with the fine line thing. The fine line between saying your feelings and ruining your lover's day. Francois is careful to keep eye contact, and it's not too difficult to do even if it's a trifle unwilling. He'd rather be close enough to make eye contact too difficult to bother with. Glad that he isn't, though, so he can offer a halved kind of smile, a small nod. "I believe you," hand moving so that crooked digits skim over the twist of scarring on Teo's face. It isn't the first time such a gesture has happened, and it won't be the last.

A kiss follows, and there's apology in it, gently delivered and passive in his recognition that he should not need to be shown, let alone told. But Teo did anyway. "And I'm glad," is murmured when he allows only just enough space to form words. "Merci."

"De rien." This is a lie. It isn't nothing, and Francois knows that, but it is a rare gift indeed: to not mind hesitation and transparency in equal measure from a lover. Teodoro has a lot of foibles to have to tolerate, and relationships as a culture are awkward enough to begin with. The Sicilian's shoulders curve slightly, make shelter around the Frenchman.

He bears the caress on the broken side of his face with a nervous kind of greed, a strangely complicated sort of pleasure, an exposure worse, more suffocatingly close than coming home covered in blood or getting naked could ever be. "It's okay if you're a little mad about— that— I slept with her. I was kind of annoyed about you and Laurel." There's the grinding tone of admission to this, a figment of due shame. A stray fidget takes up his own hand, winds up tangling his fingers in the strings of his hoodie.

Another casualty of physical neurosis that Francois can't remember ever having witnessed first-hand, the sleeves of this sweater are already stretched out, the elastic of the cuffs gone sinosoidally wobbly despite their circular fit. Difficult to tell whether that was recent or from Before.

Francois' eyes gain a dull cast at these words, that name, an eyebrow lift expressing a sort of fair enough sentiment slightly removed from residual angst regarding Laurel and what happened there. Catches his attention on Teo's hands for wont of a better place to focus, and he brings his right, unscarred hand in to interfere, pushing his fingers between the tangle of drawstring with all the matter-of-fact demand of a cat seeking a warm lap.

"I won't ask about it if you don't ask about it," he offers, "but I would not mind if you did. Yes, a little mad — I hadn't known until then, you know? And then I would wonder how much love one man has in him for others."

Four long fingers interlink with Francois' own, contrasting subtleties of texture between two sets of skin as well as with the plumply braided cotton of a hoodie string.

Teo's other hand ventures to scritch tenderly against the underside of his arm, stroking along the lines of biceps brachii with the distribution of force with which a violinist would apply rosin. That part of Francois' skin is already impossibly fine, of course, and a wealth of fragility in nerve-endings; there's no need to improve upon its friction, or make it speak in the musical terms of the word. But. Just. Non-musically speaking. His nails prickle gently. Teo is a simple man despite his complicated psychic assembly. He thinks, the sooner they get to fucking, probably the sooner Francois will feel better.

He kisses the Frenchman's cheek, too. Beard scuffs, lips nudge a contracted circle. "What do you mean?" — but he's still listening, albeit with a fearful sort of reluctance, his voice no greater than the minimally required mutter. "Like— uh. If there are too fuckin' many others, or if this anonymous guy happens to be too selfish, or doesn't have enough of a heart, or what do you mean?"

"Non, he has enough of a heart," Francois assures, swiftly, but not too swiftly — quick in the way confidence is. Teo is listening and so he talks. That he also shifts enough so that a knee can rest with just enough pressure against the outer of the other man's thigh probably indicates that he doesn't mind being simple either — but he's also going to answer the question.

A hand untangles from Teo's to rest against his chest, to scratch a nail over the location of the organ they're talking about, through fabric and also hidden tattoo ink. "It is a generous one. But he does only have one. Healing and love are similar — ideally they should not be quantifiable, but they are. A little. It even regenerates itself but that doesn't mean you don't get tired. What I am talking around is that I want to love you without guilt for Delilah, or even Alexander and Abigail.

"It is like how you felt a little, I think, before. When we talked about how this started. But if you are where you want to be," which is to say, in Francois' bed and words being murmured against his throat, "then it is as I said: I believe you."

Well, at least one of them can believe the words coming out of Teodoro's mouth with little equivocation. I mean. They both ought to— be able to do that; it's just harder, when one is lying down on this side of Teo's face, and painfully aware of every mechanical detail, flaw, rusted hitch in the works back here, as well as which respective scrap pile every one of these ffffeelings came from. He's getting scared, but he doesn't let it show.

Much. A little fear is probably acceptable in the context of this conversation, anyway. You can't tell just by looking at his hideously scarred mug, what precisely he's frightened of, and it is perhaps victorious tribute to intimacy that he hopes Francois' ego can fill in the blank. Francois' ego would be justified in thinking itself a noteworthy quantity in these equations. Teo's heart goes thump-tha-thump under the older man's hand.

He rolls Francois onto his back, abruptly, vising Francois' elbow in a proper grip while he props himself up over the other man, moved to a predatory sort of covetousness. His reading light is still on, granting the bedroom just enough illumination to make out details while retaining the long, supine shadows that Francois was originally meant to sleep in. Never mind that now.

"I am," he says, very clearly. "I love you."

The gripped elbow has his forearm coming to conform up Teo's, with his crooked fingers snagging onto sleeve as lightly as a clinging vine, with his other hand flattening as a kind of warm pressure to his chest that doesn't push back. There's nothing about this that Francois wants to reject, showing in the somewhat solemn smile the younger man's words earn. "I love you too," similarly clear, instead of the whisper-murmurs against the column of Teo's throat and the bristle growing there designed to mask other things.

His legs cradle one of Teo's, the other pushing in between around when his hand is making a grip around a handful of sweater, either tugging himself up or Teo down enough— likely both— to mutter a less romantic invitation against the younger man's cheek. It is: "baise-moi," which while less artful than prior discussion, is a far more direct instruction in what he would like without the crossed wires, the arduous explanation. Or the fear.

In the spirit of I love you, anyway. His fingernails seek out warmth beneath Teo's sweater.

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