The Wyse Seyth


sonny_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title The Wyse Seyth
Synopsis Whenever one steps forward, the other steps back.
Date January 17, 2008

Absurdly Nice Digs — Sonny's Apartment

Tea-time finds a Sicilian squatting over Sonny's hair-care products up on the marble counter, one naked foot rooted down between silver-necked bottles of cologne, his heel parked above the hairbrush, and the other and a knee pressed against the cold, crystalline blue of the bathroom wall. This is perhaps not the state that the older man had hoped to find his erstwhile patient in, given an examination of Teo's pupils and reflexes some fifteen minutes prior had qualified the man as sober, fully recovered from the dose of Percocet that had thrown his brain so hard for the loop. Fifteen minutes ago, Sonny had gone to order some dinner, leaving Teodoro momentarily unattended. Unwise?

Hana might say as much. Upon closer examination, though, one might ascertain that whatever derangement Teo is currently enjoying probably couldn't be attributed to medicine.

His balance is perfect across the balls of his feet and his wrist angles a deft marker across the mirror glass, squeaking loopy navy blue letterforms across the shifting his own reflection, bisecting the look of intent concentration of his own face with one line, the stoop of his shoulders with the next. He pauses only to remember; continues, fastidiously, to write. It smells like expensive matte clay, herbal soap, new towels and, now, faintly if ink chemistry in here.

Sonny was in the mood for something different. With so many fine restaurants nearby, their choices are endless. However, the bulk of said restaurants do not have any kind of delivery service. He could very well have sent the concierge out, but given his recent outbreak of 'I'm a spoiled brat,' he figures the least he could do is walk two blocks to pick up the gourmet food. And, a nice bottle of red. Why not?

So the door is pushed open a few minutes later. "Teo! I have the most amazing lasagne. Seriously. Almost as good as my dear Tuscan grandmother's." A beat, "Don't…ever ever tell her I said that, or she'll beat me with a rolling pin. Teo? Where are ya, man?" He hefts the bags onto the counter and starts to shuck off his winter gear. "Feeling okay?" He peeks around the main level, then, determining that Teo's not there, climbs the stairs to the second level.

"In here." Raised far enough to carry out the bathroom and descend the stairs on footless reverberations of air, Teo's voice is as reassuringly clear as his gaze had been before his patron had left. He doesn't look up, though, nor lift the pen from the mirror until he's finished comitting the stanza in its completion — or, at least, to the best of his memory. By the time Sonny reaches the top of the staircase, there's a wedge of sweatered shoulder peeking out, seesawing into view from the doorframe as he extricates his foot from the small army of jarred and bottled things that give fragrance and conceal flaws, leaning precariously across edge, one hand gripping the corner of the wall.

"Don't say I never gave you anything," he says. Despite being muffled partly by the pen gripped between his teeth, his voice is bright with the awareness that, this much, Sonny could have gotten for free. A scrap of Chaucer, a struggling homeless guy off drugs. He could get either from the Internet. "Do you go back to Tuscany often?"

Sonny rocks forward, ready to stop Teo from slipping and cracking his just-repaired skull on the various pieces of porcelain in the washroom. "Jesus, what are you — ?" And then he peers into the washroom, squinting at the poem written on the mirror. "I'm…afraid literature kinda went by the wayside when I was in school. Old English?" His face screws up. He's the scientist failing to grasp the subtle levels that literature has to offer. "Niobe? Greek…goddess of some type, right?" The question about Tuscany will have to be asked again. He squints, trying to understand why Teo wrote this on his mirror. Then he casts a look back to Teo, brows raising in an unspoken question.

Somehow, Teodoro navigates his way back to the floor without relying too heavily on gravity or the strength of his bones, just this once, or on the other man's assistance for that matter, though it seems a realistic possibility that were he a little shorter on any of those three things he would have been in more trouble. As it is, he finds the floor with one foot, and then the other, stabilizes himself on the warm plush of the bathroom mat as he studies his handiwork with his teeth still bared into the rictus around the writing implement.

At least, until he realizes he looks weird doing that, and pulls it free. His teeth click shut. "Yes. She got bitchslapped down by the gods—" bitchslapped by the gods. Teo might not have learned that from class, "for being an arrogant bitch. Whole family got killed," he says, angling his long frame for the door, sniffing the air as if the scent of lasagne might have made it all the way up. "She went to the mountains to grieve alone and turned to stone."

"So…uh, is there a lesson in this for me?" Sonny's hands rest on his hips, his head tilted like a curious puppy as he studies the words, trips over the old spelling, but in general seems to grok what it's saying. He mouths the words, squints, shifts his posture. Fairly focused. And he doesn't seem to find the whole thing too strange - oddly. "You might have to spell it out for me, man. I'm as subtle as a rock."

That query elicits a look of cheery bewilderment from over Teo's shoulder. He latches onto the bannister and has to visibly remind himself that this isn't for sitting on and sliding down. It's only been a few days, and scattered throughout the last week, but already he's begun to rather liberally applied himself to the other man's home. He thumps down one step before realizing that he isn't being followed. Turns around in a shuffle, leaning on the railing to watch Sonny's profile as the older man looks for something in the mirror other than himself. "No." Lessons; as if he's qualified to teach.

"It's a good stanza from a long-ass poem and means pretty much what it says. …Which is," as if only then realizing that the language itself was not, perhaps, as utterly transparent to most as it is to him, "Uhm. Long, short— 'having someone to bitch at is a good.'" The first line is perhaps more readily comprehensible than the others. Woe to him that is alone.

Sonny is a pretty smart guy. But literature, specifically of the ancient variety, is difficult for him to absorb. In science, the meaning is the meaning. If you do X, then Y or Z might happen, with a higher probability of Y. Simple. Straightforward. Logical. But literature can be interpreted. It's like he's trying to diagnose the words.

After a moment, he becomes aware that Teo's waiting for him before going downstairs. He gives the words another look, then starts down after him. "First line's a bit depressing," a chuckle. "Hey. That reminds me." He pokes the other on the shoulder as they descend. "How'd you feel about teaching me Italian?"

"Slightly puzzled," Teo replies amicably, "but willing." He ends that sentence rather abruptly, a sheepish shade of pink climbing his face as he locates the ridiculous innuendo in that, then dismisses it with a flick of his gaze away from Sonny's approaching figure. He, too, descends the stairs. At an easy lope, the swing of knee and shoulder hinting only gently at the swagger that he defaults to when on the street. "First line shouldn't be depressing," he answers, without turning his head from the beeline he's aiming at the lasagna. "You're not alone, eh?"

"Well, not right now. But I do keep expecting to come home to a 'Dear John' letter," Sonny chuckles, claps Teo on the shoulder again, then skips past him to open the containers. He also pulls out a bag of hot, freshly-made breadsticks. "This is the best homemade Italian food you'll ever pay for." He fishes down a pair of plates and sets them on the counter. He draws out the bottle of wine too, then pushes the corkscrew towards Teo. "Do the honours please, sir."

Then he's tugging the top off the container of several layers of gooey lasagne goodness. It smells fantastic.

Both heels of Teo's hands set down on the counter's edge and, with a boost of his arms, he winds up seated there with his heels dangling, the way he'd done before. Like a kid on the dock, with a fishook strung from his big toe, his shoulders hunkered against the cabinets instead of the loving ferocity of the Mediterranean sun. "I don't think so," he says, turning up the corners of his mouth, beatific and sincere. "You gave me drugs, dragged me out of a church you didn't want to be in, made sure I didn't go fucking around chasing cars, fixed my head, brought me back here, fed me food. Put me up, put up with me. I don't think anybody could argue that the honor is all yours, signor." Then, blank as a foreigner is wont to be: "I don't know what a 'Dear John' letter is, either."

"Well then, just help me out and open the wine while I cut the lasagne then? Forget about honour." Sonny grins. He seems to be in a good mood, but the source of it is hard to tell. Especially after the long list of things that Teo just rattled off. Maybe it's the smell of the lasagne.

He pulls out a large knife and makes precision cuts, sawing out two over-generous portions which he lifts onto the plates. The pieces mostly keep their shape. "Uh? Well, it's a letter, I think, literally when a woman just up and leaves her husband one day without saying goodbye in person. But in general, that's what it means. No goodbye, just a note."

Fwop, says the wine bottle, a sigh of relief after the cork is hiccuped out on the end of the corkscrew. Teo brings the nozzle up to his nose, brow knit into an inquisitive furrow, inhale, then exhale, after he's tipped it away and offered Sonny a smile. He tosses his other arm up, around, to open the cabinets and find wineglasses from where he'd seen them through the silver-hinged doors, without looking— because he's looking at the lasagne with interest. The reach looks more haphazard than it is. Many things about Teo are. "I think — I'm pretty sure: if I was going to disappear, you'd necessarily be the first person to know.

"In person," he points out, his tone gone slightly, oddly remote with rue. He thinks that must be an awkward thing to think you're going to come home to every day. "I don't think you can do your thing across pen and paper." The glasses are out, stems gripped in the webbed space between fingers. He fills out the bottom of one, then the other and, of course, doesn't mention that he prefers white.

Sonny carries the two plates and bag of breadsticks over to the table. He trusts Teo to grab the wine and the block of very nice parmesan from the fridge. He may not speak Italian, but he can certainly eat like one. "Do my thing?" He looks momentarily confused, then, "Oh."

He pulls the chairs out and sets the plates down. "Well, I do hope I never have to do that to you, Teo." He seems to mean that. Perhaps in a slightly…odd way. "Not the least of which because it would mean you'd be in a whole lot of shit." He clears his throat. "That, and no matter how hard I try, you're never exactly the same when I put your face back. Even my own face is probably a little different every time."

Bare feet pick Teo's way out of the kitchen, wineglasses in one hand and bottle under his arm, his other hand laden with the precious ingot of cheese. The lattermost item is laid down first before he arranges the rest around the table, positioning items with the alacrity that his mother had required of him. 'A whole lot of shit' strikes him as rather funny, given the little fire he'd recently rolled his fat out of; a grin flares bright across his face, briefly, before going out a little sheepishly.

"You never have to do anything," he points out, at length, weighing out the syllables carefully because the terms and tone Sonny chooses requests that much. To be taken seriosly. "I think I know what you mean. Felix Ivanov looked different from his photograph when you brought him back. He didn't seem to mind, though. I know another guy from work who did. It was the smartest thing to do. To go to you. But he wouldn't do it. Whenever I looked at Edward Dantes I wondered if that— you know. Meant something.

"How much you care about keeping your face. Or somebody else's face," he adds, blankly, acknowledging Sonny's earlier statement of reluctance without the audacity to inject it with greater significance than simple flattery.

"If there's one thing I've learned…" says Sonny thoughtfully. He settles himself into the chair and takes the cheese, plus grater to dust some on top. "…it's that a face does a lot, changes a lot. I don't know how many clients I've told that a tiny change of their nose will alter their whole face. Let alone what the major changes will do. I've sent a lot of clients away from my office who were completely different people after what I did. Always wonder if they started acting differently too." His lips twitch, thoughtfully. "Gotta wonder about the ethics of that."

Sonny's lips crease into a thin line, then he looks down at his food. He blows on a bit, then takes a bite. A breadstick is ripped into and dipped into the sauce. "It's easier to do it to strangers," he says quietly. "So I really hope I never have to do it to you. Don't wanna change ya." He looks up, across the table at the other Italian. His expression is fairly earnest. But he gets awkward after a moment and looks back down at his food.

There should be some kind of running tackle involved at this juncture, Teo's pretty sure. Not only does he speak Italian and eat like an Italian, but he also tends to constantly think about that sort of thing as often as the archetype is wont to. Not the violence thing, though there is that. Sonny's all good-looking and smart and nice, with the PhD, and the teeth, and the eyes, and curls measured around what seems like disconcertingly accuracy to the breadth of Teo's fingers, a posterior that retroactively made him regret not ascending the safehouse steps behind him earlier that morning, and enough redeeming qualities to give a saint inspiration.

As a result, Teo ends up looking a bit stupidly at his food, fork in hand, its teeth hovering above the doughy skin. Je-sus fucking Christ. "You and Abigail. The other thing I'm sure you have in common is the devastated swathe of broken hearts left behind. I should've given you the other stanza before 100. Chaucer knows how to spin a line. He could help you out. Not that you need it." He's laughing, a little: mostly through the eyes because he's eating now, scraping lasagne up and then a drink of wine.

Sonny laughs with a mouthful of lasagne. It makes a little sauce dribble out of his lips. He uses his wrist, then his napkin to swab it up. "Broken hearts? Maybe," he half-shrugs. "But you know, most of my relationships never involve hearts. It involves wants and needs. Gives and takes. And then usually a sharp break. Most people don't want the pressure, y'see." Of dating the mayor's son. "Or the secrecy. One of the two. That's all I can offer." He lifts a shoulder, lets it drop, then takes a pull from the wine. His eyes drop to the pasta again, to avoid the potential awkwardness of looking anywhere else.

"Maybe not your heart." It's not an objection, not really, nor the Devil's advocate. Maybe his coffee-runner, intern or aide. Maybe. Teo doesn't know why he keeps ending up in these conversations these days. Personal misery cultivates preoccupation inevitably steers toward certain predispositions, probably. It's either the war that looms ahead or the petty — 'romance' he'd managed to crash without launching, and the supervirus on the verge of wiping out the vast majority of humanity is not an available topic of discourse with the Mayor's son. "Do you ever feel like you're becoming some retarded fucking caricature of yourself?

"You haven't said anything stupid," he's hasty to reassure, sitting back in his chair. His breath fills the belly of his wineglass with fog. "There was j— uuh. I just don't know what I'm doing. Anymore. Ever." He's jumping topics, sort of, but they're related somehow; he eventually brakes his train of thought to a destination station that seems harmless enough to alight at. "How hard could it be, finding somebody smart who realizes you didn't buy your PhD and appreciates everything that comes with that?"

"Hah. How hard can it be to find somebody? Shit, man. Isn't that what we all spend way too much fucking time doing? Looking for somebody?" Sonny tosses up a hand, then pushes said hand through his hair. He leans his face on his chin and exhales with a flare of his nostrils.

"Then you might find someone, but maybe they don't feel the same way. Maybe they're involved. Maybe they're too deep in something, too busy with their career. It's love, man. Hardest goddamn thing there is. Harder than heart surgery or…saving the world." He lifts up his fork and puts a bite of lasagne on it. But he doesn't raise it up. "Hell, even simple compatibility is hard enough."

Teo is becoming some retarded caricature of himself. Tragically hung up on two impossible conundrums and, apparently, subconsciously looking for more. This makes him frown. Sonny's words also. "I don't," he says. "I don't spend any time doing it. You don't, either. Not the ones you talk about, anyway. You make everybody you've ever been with sound like vain little bitches trading sex for sculpture, which is kind of nice, because then I get to pretend I'm original for being a vain little bitch who'd do the opposite, but seriously.

"You don't sound like you're trying." He sounds like he's trying to pick a fight, but he isn't; reverts to apologetic the next moment, picking up an elbow to put on the table. He draws a thumb over the edge of metal in his head, a thoughtless habit that grows a touch more self-conscious when he realizes — remembers — that it's moved now. "Are you?"

Sonny chews the mouthful of lasagne in his mouth as he listens to Teo. "All right. Thinking about doing. Thinking about trying. How's that?" That can be loaded any number of ways, but it's still loaded. He sets his fork down and picks up the wine. The glass pauses partway to his lips. He tilts it back, takes a taste, then sets the glass aside again. He examines Teo, a questioning look on his face.

"In bocca al lupo. Means like 'break a leg,' except the imagery is better in Italian," Teo answers, lightly. Or doesn't answer, depending on one's perspective on what constitutes relevance and what evasion, what merely buying time. Of course, you wait long enough, and no decision becomes a decision. His fingers curl above his brow, and he cuts apart the lasagne with his fork in the other hand. It really is good. Which is helpful: you can hide almost anything under enough appetite. "It means 'in the mouth of the wolf.' Someone told me it was based on the Red Riding Hood story once. You're supposed to answer with 'Crepi il lupo.' 'To Hell with the wolf.' Give it a try?"

"My lessons have begun, have they?" Sonny's eating more slowly. His appetite has been tempered by polite society. Society that tells you never to shovel food in your mouth, no matter how hungry you are or how good the food is. Something very wrong with an Italian showing restraint towards food. "Sounds like you're saying to hell with something that could bite you to pieces. A reckless kinda-sounding sentiment. But…" he waves a fork. "…maybe I'm overthinking." And what precisely they are talking about was lost somewhere along the way.

Deflection buys time, and metaphors allow the illusion of interpretation. Also, staring at Sonny's table manners suffices as another distraction from trouble, should Teo need one. "I don't know if it's reckless or it just doesn't make any sense. 'Break a leg' never made much sense to me either. You're probably right. I don't know. I figure, if you want to do some begging, pleading, or running away, you should probably get it done before the jaws shut behind you.

"I guess — maybe, luck's more important when the only thing left for you to do is give a big 'fuck you.'" He swears too much, still. Less, these days, playing liaison for Phoenix between x and y, but still too much; the curses come to him with as little emphasis and as much neutrality as color or water. He forgets what he was wishing luck for, fails to notice Sonny thus far tacitly refraining from accepting well wishes or fatalistic fuck-yous, both.

"I guess. Speed up the inevitable?" Then Sonny shakes his head. "Man. I…haven't had enough to drink to have lost the thread of conversation." He pulls out another breadstick and bites off bits if it without dipping it in the sauce. Seems he's had enough lasagne. He sets half the breadstick down, then stands. "I'm gonna go get a shower. You wanna watch a movie or something tonight?"

He stands, then tips a bit more wine in his glass. Teo's is refilled too, whether he indicates he wants it or not. Then he picks up the wine glass and stretches one arm high over his head. He peers down at his seated friend.

Genuine remorse shadows Teo's features as he looks up, his lip twisting to the left and up as if pulled by a pin. "Don't think I can," he says, pallid eyes going once across the wall before circling back on his host with what appears to be actual effort, scaling the angle of the arm Sonny's used to frame his head. Mild as it is, his fluster can probably be attributed to apology. Now forthcoming. "Sorry. I probably have to go out. Work. Slept the whole fucking day away. I should be be back in the morning, though." Teo's biological clock stll operates on thirty hour days, give or take the complications of insomnia, passing out stoned post-surgery.

Well-intentioned avoidance of sitting next to potentially available young men in the dark for long periods of time otherwise fraught with generalized anxiety and erratic tension. It would be awful, for instance, if he accidentally punched the statue. "Maybe see you for breakfast?" He stands up too, finding his feet with the push of an elbow against the table, a hapless smile out from under the strandy shadow of his hair. "Grazie. Thanks again: for everything."

"Yeah, sure." Sonny keeps weird hours of his own, so he's not about to make an issue with Teo having to go out. Whether or not it's actually for 'work.' He stands still for a moment, just looked at the other with head half-tilted. Then he rocks back and smiles sheepishly. "I like to make omelettes on Sundays." And with that quasi-offer hanging in the air, the doc turns and ascends the stairs to his upstairs washroom.

Old English


And witeth wel, that bothe two ben vyces,
Mistrusten alle, or elles alle leve;
But wel I woot, the mene of it no vyce is,
For to trusten sum wight is a preve
Of trouthe, and for-thy wolde I fayn remeve
Thy wrong conseyte, and do thee som wight triste,
Thy wo to telle; and tel me, if thee liste.


The wyse seyth, "Wo him that is allone,
For, and he falle, he hath noon help to ryse;"
And sith thou hast a felawe, tel thy mone;
For this nis not, certeyn, the nexte wyse
To winnen love, as techen us the wyse,
To walwe and wepe as Niobe the quene,
Whos teres yet in marbel been y-sene.

Modern English


And know well that both of these are vices,
to mistrust all, or else offer all love,
but I know that the mean of both no vice is,
since to trust some people is to prove
one’s truth, and for you I would remove
your wrong belief, and make you trust that there is
one you can tell your woe to: and tell me if you wish.


The wise man says: “Woe to him who is alone,
since, if he falls, he has no help to rise.”
But since you have a friend, tell your moan.
For it is not the easiest way to my eyes
to win love, so they teach us, the wise,
to wallow and weep like Niobe the queen,
whose tears can yet in marble still be seen.

— Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde

January 17th: Someones Going To Be In Trouble
January 17th: Bowling For Dinner
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