Sympathy For The Mere Man


sal_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Sympathy For The Mere Man
Synopsis A little doesn't go very far, and none at all in return is enough to finish setting this relationship back a hundred paces and crippled.
Date July 30, 2009

Somewhere In Manhattan — Safehouse

These days, Sal can tolerate his old life less and less. The parties seem that much more oppressive, the various duties, hand-shaking, even time spent with his parents all feels tedious and hollow. That's why he escapes into his second life quite often, even if there's nothing specific that Sal Silvatti needs to be doing. In fact, often there are things that Sonny Bianco should be doing.
In this case, rather than attend a charity function for some worthy cause, he's cleaning one of the rooms in the Dispensary, changing sheets on the beds, vaccuuming, dusting. Domestic things. Things he's had a cleaner for his entire adult life. It gives him time to think and just move. Putter, as it were. Putter uninterrupted, with no pressures on his time. He's just a Ferryman volunteer.

"Excuse me."

It's the most ridiculous salutation Teo's ever made, all things considered. It comes with an appropriately hapless, furtive switch of glances, left then right, a slight grimace canting his line of sight closer toward the floor. He doesn't quite end up staring at Sal's feet. He's wearing the clothes Teo tends to wear: a beaten hoodie, jeans, boots laced up high over the shins underneath. He has a laptop case under his shoulder.

"This for you." He continues without leaving proper margin for response, without actually looking up to see if Sal turned around or had merely stiffened in place, or whether he'd ducked away to hide underneath a table or some other gymnastic display of disgust or generalized repugnance at the sudden appearance of everybody's favorite Sicilian.

"Before he left, Ghost let me know the Healing Hands thing— it could work. If you ever want to get back into it." Fortified canvas bumps wood and the strap falls off his shoulder, slithers to a stop with a shift of his elbow.

Sal doesn't need to turn around to know who's standing there. His sudden stiffening lasts only a moment, then he continues his work of making the bed. He glances only back far enough to see the shape of the laptop bag.


The sheet is flipped, smoothed out. "So. You're really yourself again, are you?" His tone is as flat as he can make it, but there is a slight quiver for all he's trying to be strong. He's still not looking, hasn't looked since he gave Teo his face back. "I'm sure Leo's very happy." There's a bite to those words, but it's quickly followed by a sigh. "I'm glad you're all right." Genuine, that. He grabs for a pillow and starts to stuff it into a fresh case. As for Healing Hands? Well, he heard it, but no comments, not for now.

No. Yes. Maybe. Maybe, leaning toward 'Yes;' it's difficult to see Sal right now, in a way that is accountable only by the fact that the small red pieces of Teo's broken heart are lying heaped at the bottom of the void of Ghost's armor right now. Alternatively, it smells funny in here. Mould, maybe. Linens gone too long unchanged, an accumulation of bunnied dust and pernicious mites, their asthatic offal underneath the furniture.

"I dunno." There's more of a mumble to that response than the ghost could ever muster, or even that Teo's voice was accustomed to carrying, really. "Leonard got his hand liquefied by a psychotic serial killer. There's not a lot I could do about that except throw Deckard under the metaphorical bus; he burned himself out trying to fix that."

"Yeah, I know," says Sal. "I'm the doctor around here, remember?" He continues his slow, almost unconscious movements around the bed. Tucking hospital corners, re-tucking when he realizes he can't quite remember how to do them, despite having worked in a hospital. "Whoever you are. If he's in there, part of you. Whatever," a shoulder lifts. "I'm sorry things ended the way they did. I would have preferred to do it to your face. His face. Wherever he is."

It's all very confusing, but there's not confusion in his voice, just a tired sadness. "But even if I got my Teo back whole, it was still the end. And I was tired of being hung up on you, having my life revolve around yours like a small moon. I didn't like who I had become, waiting and worrying over you. I had to do something."

There's only harsh-edged half-second, not quite long enough for Teo to think about it before he finds himself responding, shortly, "I remember. You'd sounded like you'd forgotten. I apologize." Those last two words hang in the air wrong. He feels a headache coming on, the kind that hurts behind your face. Or that might just be the red starting up his jaw, inexplicable and embarrassingly predictable, raw down the throat and around the eyes. Man. If he was Teo, he'd be screaming his fool head off right now, wouldn't he?

"Yeah," he says. Minimalism, then. Monosyllables are better for everybody involved. No color, no pressure, the graphite chicken-scratch version of conversation. "Waiting on Ghost's whims was hard."

"Ghost?" a loose chuckle, void of humour. Sal'd never actually heard anyone call the spectre from the future that before. He shifts the pillows into place, then pulls up the comforter. The fact that he's not getting yelled at or sniped at makes him think he really doesn't know the man he shares three hundred square feet of air with. And not in the way that ten years changes a person, or in the way one self-deludes because of love.

"It wasn't…Ghost," he tests the name in his mouth, decides he doesn't like the shape of it. "He's not why I ended things."

Ghost's an ugly name, it's true. There had been little vanity involved in its choosing, even if a lot of cracks had been made, facetious or otherwise, which was perhaps a rare bit of humility in the old soldier. This Teo has a hard time recognizing his own face in the mirror, lately.

He sets his shoulder against the doorframe for only a half of a second before the restless axis of his spine seizes upright again, steers his stride sidelong, a glance cast over his shoulder into the hallway. "If that was the case, you could have maybe waited until your boy was done getting fucked, shot up, and implicated in crimes all over New York City.

"I understand why you didn't. It just looks like you had a choice, and— I— guess it should mean something that this is the one you made. I hope your new wisdom feels better tomorrow."

"I waited. I waited for months. And then there was talk of suicidal missions to fight evil again. And horrible things done by Ghost, and no reason to believe he'd keep his word." Sal flicks a pillow outwards. "And it looks like I made the right choice. Maybe what I said actually got to him in some way. Because you don't sound like him. But you don't sound like the shade from the future either."

"I gave a fucking lot into what we had. I waited, tried to get him back. I got drunker than I ever had in my entire life, tried misguided attempts to do something and got people hurt. I was tired of waiting and beating my chest and tearing my hair out for a doomed relationship, for someone who never loved me the way I loved him."

He has no more bed to make, nothing else to keep his hands busy. "At least this way I got to say goodbye. Got to explain myself." His jaw tightens and he draws in air through flared nostrils. "If you're going to start snarking at me and dissecting my decisions, you can leave, now."

"That isn't fair to me, either," Teo points out, despite that that does his ruse no good, either. Teo would have taken this differently. Either fought back in a wheeling spin of claws, blinded by fury and hurt, or soaked it in like a dead side of meat takes blows from fists. Things never have to be fair to the Teodoro Laudani that Sal loved. Loves. L-luh. "I was going to leave Phoenix.

"I know this must seem crazy with the peanut shells you had in your weapons cache but you could have tried harder. You could have asked Helena to fucking do something— she had favors to ask from telepaths, soldiers who owed me, you could have ask" Words buckle, too much sentiment compacted into the limitated mechanics of language, metal snapping, crumpling under the stresses of internal pressure. "I can't believe you want me to just stand here and listen to you and your pain and accept that this decision was" Teeth click, snap shut like the maw of a garbage incinerator.

Words, words, words. Only so much garbage. "You didn't have to explain yourself. I get it. It's my curse." And how it galls him, Teo's greatest virtue, the double-edged knife that brought him to the most intimate counsel of the little girls he had kidnapped and tortured, allied him with sociopaths, dragged forgiveness out of him, twisting and clawing unwillingly across the dirt, raking in desperate traction against what he is supposed to deserve. There's a slow intake of breath through his teeth. He navigates out the door. "Good luck."

"You could have tried harder, too," says Sal. Those words aren't angry, either. They're tired once again. "Helena should have helped you in any way that she could have. You can't blame me for her leaving you out to dry, if she knew of these contacts, if she knew how to help you, she shouldn't have needed me to ask. I never knew about contacts or favours. I never knew a fucking lot about you, because you didn't let me. I had to push and shake out every last bit I ever learned about you, every tiny inch I got myself into your life. And for what? To be second choice."

He's still not looked at Teo the entire time he's been in the room. His voice drops to a low mumble. "Things only worked between us as long as he was in prison."

He rocks back a step and shakes his head, and then he sucks another long breath. "For what it's worth? I hope one day you let yourself be happy. I'm tired of trying to beat you over the head with the fact that you deserve to be."

It's not uncommon, lingering anemia and sleep deprivation accruing at around the same time enough that Teo's hands shake at the prospect of him doing absolutely anything with them.

He keeps them both in his pockets, and his mind rooted firmly inside his skull, eyes on the stretch of architecture in front of that. "That's a comfortably self-loathing assumption to make," he answers. It isn't a hiss, but it's faint, dwindled by the treading distance of the hallway as he recedes. "No wonder we had so much sympathy for each other.

"Noted. I'm going to go work on that."

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