The Edge of Reason


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Scene Title The Edge of Reason
Synopsis Simon and Teo meet once again on the edge of the bomb site, and this time they both manage to hold back on the insults and anger. Just a bit.
Date October 20, 2008

Ruins of Midtown

Standing in the ruins of Midtown, it's hard to believe New York is still a living city.

There's life enough around the fringes — the stubborn, who refused to rebuild somewhere else; the hopeful, who believe the radiation is gone, or that they somehow won't be affected. Businesses, apartment complexes, taxis and bicycles and subways going to and fro — life goes on. Perhaps more quietly than in other parts of the city, shadowed by the reminder that even a city can die, but it does go on.

Then there is the waste. The empty core for which the living city is only a distant memory. Though a few major thoroughfares wind through the ruins, arteries linking the surviving halves, and the forms of some truly desperate souls can occasionally be glimpsed skulking in the shadows, the loudest noise here is of the wind whistling through the mangled remnants of buildings. Twisted cords of rebar reach out from shattered concrete; piles of masonry and warped metal huddle on the ground, broken and forlorn. Short stretches of road peek out from under rubble and dust only to disappear again shortly afterwards, dotted with the mangled and contorted forms of rusting cars, their windows long since shattered into glittering dust.

There are no bodies — not even pieces, not anymore. Just the bits and pieces of destroyed lives: ragged streamers fluttering from the handlebar which juts out of a pile of debris; a flowerbox turned on its side, coated by brick dust, dry sticks still clinging to the packed dirt inside; a lawn chair, its aluminum frame twisted but still recognizable, leaning against a flight of stairs climbing to nowhere.

At the center of this broken wasteland lies nothing at all. A hollow scooped out of the earth, just over half a mile across, coated in a thick layer of dust and ash. Nothing lives here. Not a bird; not a plant. Nothing stands here. Not one concrete block atop another. There is only a scar in the earth, cauterized by atomic fire. This is Death's ground.

Night has fallen on the Big Apple, and the city that never sleeps finally has a resting spot. Here, death has made its mark, and it has taken with it so much from those that live in the city. On the edges of the massive crater, people can be seen crawling around or foolishly trying to rebuild their homes that may have once stood there. It's a desperate, sad sight, and one that isn't for the faint of heart.

Simon has never made his way to the site until now. After slipping out of the safety of his home, he made the short walk here in no time. And now he just stands, leaning against the last remaining wall of an old brownstone. He's just staring, motionless, out across the wreckage.

It's not impossible to find a path down Manhattan that doesn't bisect the worst of the ruins, but Teodoro isn't wont to bother with the extra leg-work. There are only so many hours in the day and there is so much to do, a cramped enough schedule without having to worry about sparing his sensibilities. He's Sicilian enough that he likes to pretend he has few of those, anyway. Sensibilities. The evening sees him with a duffel bag slung across his shoulder, the zipper pulled taut across a handful of papers — for concealment — and spray cans — for propaganda. His sneakers make a stolid noise as he picks his way across chapped concrete, humoring the cold that bites his nose and ears with stoic reserve that characterizes him only when he thinks he's alone.

Rocks fall off to Simon’s right, and he’s sure they’re caused by some small animal that has wandered too close to the probably radioactive sight. Still, it gives him something to go after that isn’t his memories. Those are more dangerous than anything that might be causing the miniature landslide. So he pushes off against the single wall, which stood against the might of the bomb, and walks around it to the source of the sound. “Someone there?” he asks lazily, honestly not expecting an answer. Not here. Not at night.

A long hand freezes on the bag zipper, seconds from pulling out an aerosol of canary yellow. And just as well. Simon speaks and Teo stops short. Looks, for a moment, like one of the dogs he used to evade, on-alert, quivering slightly with livewire tension, feet standing wide on the brink of flight, pupils blacking out his eyes in the half-light of Midtown's stuttering lamps and watery moonshine. He hears footfalls, then, coming toward. His head jerks on its stem, looking over his shoulder as he tries to place the voice. It's familiar. Young, male, distinctly American. But he doesn't know any American boys who would lurk around at this hour in a place like—

—Oh. Instinctively, he grimaces, ducks his head down into the collar of his jacket as if that might offer protection from more than cold or fists. He tightens his grip on the bag strap, glances momentarily in the direction of the derelict subway entrance, and starts to walk away. Briskly. "No," he mutters aloud, an ignoble monosyllable.

Simon turns a corner and steps over a pile of rubble. As he does so the retreating form of Teo comes into view, and the young man stops in his tracks. “Yeah, right,” he mumbles, clearly not impressed with the stealth of this individual. Still, he feels like he recognizes the man, and after a moment he lets out a curse that echoes off the remaining brick and wreckage. “I should have known it would be you.”

On the dim overlap of two faded puddles of light, Teo halts again with a scrape of shoe on tarmac. His weight lists forward, swaying, as he does so, as if his body can't quite make up its mind whether he wants to go or should stay or needs to do something else entirely. He ends up banked on the balls of his feet, a little jittery from from something more than the simple cold. Caught in the crossfire of a dozen distant but distinctly contrary urges, he ends up exhaling, a sigh, rubs the corner of his forehead with the palm of his hand. Through his skin, he can feel the diminutive bumps and notches of the plate metal holding his skull together. "Ca-zzo," he mutters under his breath. "Yeah." He turns around, swiveling. "Enjoying the view?"

For a moment, Simon just stays where he is, but the distance between the two is fairly large, so in the end he decides to shorten it by taking a few steps forward. “Not really. What are you doing here?” He makes an obvious show of eyeing Teo’s bag before looking into the older man’s eyes, searching for some kind of reaction. Anything. “I’m guessing it’s *not* the view, either.”

Blue eyes open and shut once, twice, somehow blank and hesitant at the same time. Teodoro doesn't like lying. It isn't particularly in the commandments and, really, as an active 'terrorist' he has to practice it now and then, but at the same time— "Personal business," he provides, finally. "I'm on my way out. Meeting with a friend." Sort of true. He'd hoped to get a few hours of graffiti in before the rendezvous to clear PARIAH's shit out of the tunnel, but the plan is, as ever, fluid. After a moment, he remembers himself. He glances away and into the whistling abyss torn out of Manhattan's heart, and his features go still — or harden, abruptly; by the time he looks back, they've shut inward. "Need an escort home?"

Simon isn’t as stupid as he may sometimes look, and he knows a lie or at least a dodge of the truth when he hears one. Still, he doesn’t chase the answer to his question because he honestly doesn’t want to give one of his own. Instead, he takes one more tentative and cautious step towards Teo. No sudden movements here. He laughs a moment and rolls his eyes at the question tossed his way. “Hardly. I don’t live far.”

"Okay," Teodoro answers, softly. "Okay. I'm this way then." He gestures vaguely to the left, the crooked, chalk-strewn strip leading toward North and back into the bad part of the town they had first met at. It might occur to the younger man at that point that the offer had been a formality, a token politeness; that its inevitable rejection excused his departure, the demarcations of professional responsibility absolving him of the necessity of maintaining conversation or contact as long as Simon's safe. And, despite that the young man is coming discernibly closer to what he had himself previously described as a source of danger and discomfort, he seems to be safe enough. This time. "You take care of yourself, a'right, bambino?"

Simon stares over into the part of town Teo nods to and frowns. “What the hell is a bambino?” Although he doesn’t like Teo. Although he has *forced* himself not to like him, he’s better than facing what’s in the center of that crater, so he walks towards the older man over rubble and debris that doesn’t seem to alter his sure footing. “And what the hell is your name? I don’t remember you from school. Probably because you’re bad at your job.” Low blow, even Simon can admit that.

Where Teo comes from, pulling your punches made them worthless. At the very least, he can appreciate the sincerity of the younger man's spite, in a way that is almost distinct from what he holds for himself. "'Bambino' means 'boy.' I wasn't really cut out to be a teacher," he admits after a moment, his tone of voice stating fact rather than making concession. He knows it. If they hadn't had Romero down a sure thing for priesthood, he'dve been the professor of the family. Teo watches Simon billy-goat his way across the treacherous footing and the corners of his mouth go up at the same time, reflexively. "You may call me Professor Laudani," he adds, magnanimously. He puts his hand in his pocket and starts away, a subtle aspect of a furtive, circling wolf in his gait despite that his path is straight, perpendicular to Simon's approach.

”Fat chance, Laudani.” Simon isn’t going to be calling him professor anything. As he moves slowly across the rubble, he’s not only apparently going to cross Teo’s path, but also head towards home, where a bed and the comfort of family is beckoning. “And yeah, you don’t exactly strike me as the patient sage. Those are the types that make good teachers. You know the ones. Like in those movies from the far east.” He presses his hands against each other, pauses, and bows. Though it may be comical to some, Simon has no smile on his face as he does this.

That's all right. Teo can smile enough for both of them, though it isn't directed particularly toward anything when he turns his face toward the stiffening breeze. Fuck, he hates the cold here. Hates it. Hates it worse when it dries out. "Yeah, I'm still working on that part," he says, and this time his tone does make it a concession. Of all his vices, his temper and impatience had been the most blatant, if not necessarily the worst. His pace is unhurried across the cracked asphalt, belying the tension coiled quietly under his jacket and work clothes.

Bambino means 'boy.' Simon is just one, sure, but it's been a rough couple weeks. "Are you so pissed off all the time because you keep looking for ugly shit, or do you look at ugly shit because you're pissed off?" The query was unbidden; spoken before he knew he was going to.

Simon stops in the his tracks a moment, standing on top of a pile of broken glass that crunch under his feet like taco shells. “You know what? You would probably do a lot better in life if you didn’t ask such stupid questions.” Simon is clearly angry about something and if it has to do with looking at ugly shit like the crater next to them, it wouldn’t be hard to believe. After all, he’s been here a while. “I gotta go. You can go back to doing whatever it was you were doing here.” When Simon starts moving again, he’s headed towards the Upper East Side, in case Teo takes notice of such things.

Three times makes a pattern. Simon had gotten his wallet palmed the first time, almost shot in Harlem the next, and now it's here on the scorched edge of the rad zone. Eventually, Teo's going to learn the fine art of diplomacy. Or keeping his mouth shut. For now, however, touching nerves like breaking bones is, apparently, a talent he insists on exercising. Regret darkens his features fleetingly. He looks at the ground, stops to allow the boy to pass. "Addio, Simon," he says. He remembers the Upper East Side; he'd almost followed Simon there, once upon a potentially lethal mugging.

It would seem that Simon is starting to warm up to Teo, although it’s a far stretch from liking him. There was no violence this time, and the two almost had a civil conversation. Maybe it’s because the boy had spent the night in deep thought over his parents, both of whom the bomb devoured. Maybe it’s because he’s not really a terrible person, only angry over the loss of said parents. For whatever reason, though, Simon doesn’t hate Teo long as his figure fades away in the distance. No, once he gets home, the Sicilian will be far from his mind.

October 20th: Pinch

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…

October 20th: Side Jobs
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