Thy Drugs Are Quick


francois4_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Scene Title Thy Poisons Are Quick
Synopsis On their way to Mexico, Teo finally summons up the courage to test the waters with Francois again, only to find something far worse than rejection. Thus with a kiss I die.
Date January 27, 2009

Somewhere in Mexico

The bathroom was bright with yellow light. He took out his contacts, blinked bright blue eyes into a mirror for maybe twenty minutes, and went to bed.

It's the same Mexico Francois remembers, or at least, it's the same motel room as every other motel room in the world. This room was in Ryazan, too, before they'd pushed on to find something better. For their purposes, this one had worked fine. Then, they would find Flint Deckard.

Outside, porch lights radiate flickery pale white, and the air is cold if not actually wet, grey wooden boards in a row outside the uniform doors dry and parched. They creak, too, but Francois has by now sunk into a relieved kind of sleep that it hardly matters. Snatches of dreams, memories and fantasies comingling in a half-formed coherency that he's not going to remember in the morning. Under six hours of flying time isn't enough to take it out of him, but even when he was alive, he found sleep where he could, regardless of whether he needed it. And it's a blessing to not have to think. What he's going to do about himself. What he's going to do about Flint. What he's going to have to do about Teo.

Francois could do worse than a roof, a bed, and a faulty door. Thin sheets pull up as far as his chest, a loose T-shirt offering both modesty and some insulation against Mexico's attempts at winter. An arm folded and trapped beneath a pillow, and the clock reads a small number.

Teo is bad at sleeping. He didn't used to be. Seven hours might have been less than the average human adult requires, and naps generally regarded by health authorities as highly irregular and damaging to one's circadian rhythms, but he preferred to spend three quarters of any given day out and about and thought the idea of a twenty-four-hour routine sort of unnecessary until Federally-enforced curfew, with its checkpoints on the corners and armed patrols, suddenly made it a better idea. He'd adapted.

He seems to have forgotten how, by now.

In the small hours of the Mexican morning, he's awake, rather abruptly and without pleasure. The ceiling looks like a sterilized and desaturated version of the terrain their plane had descended over earlier. The part they'd actually driven through to get to Antigua had featured somewhat more scrub. His beard feels like scrub, he decides, dragging the back of his wrist across his mouth, a habitual check for the mucus leaking out of his severed cheek. He puts socked feet over the side of his mattress, levers himself into the vertical with a cartlidgenous pop of his spine.

He goes to the bathroom first. Looks into the mirror, and he sees blue eyes, too, but these are totally familiar to him except for the achey fatigue laddered into the grain of the fair skin around them. Doesn't spend twenty minutes there, though. Two, watching as static furs into the edges of his vision, blots out the skeletal leer of his scarred cheek in gray. He wonders if Deckard is going to ask again, out loud, and conscious this time. 'What happened to your face?'

If you asked him, he couldn't tell you why he tries Francois' door. Looking for a sign, maybe. Despite his future-self's revenant moniker, and his past-self's heroically-proportioned self-flagellation, he's really only human. As human as your average cheerleader. Not so indestructible, and he'll sleep with you if he's feeling fat that day or worse.

Embarrassingly, he thinks that Francois has left his door unlocked on purpose. It opens like a wink under the barest nudge of his fingers, and the room within seems dark with a promising sort of conspiracy. He steps inside, his socks making cookie-shaped dents in the discolored carpet and hands hiding themselves fretfully in the sleeves of his sweater. It's still cold here, to him.

Someone is doing a better job at getting some rest, and that someone is Francois. For all that he's had his wandering insomnia moments, he only barely stirs at the sound of a door gentled open — a shift, a leg stretching to tent the cotton sheets, relaxing again in an indefinite hillside of the bedsheet landscape. If the door was unlatched for visitors, than the Frenchman isn't prepared for them, rendered in grayscale from the light coming in through partially closed horizontal blinds. They wouldn't shut the whole way.

His mauled hand is out there for all to see, even if 'all' is one person. The splay of fingers is uneven, outlined on white cotton, lax and painless in sleep.

The mauled hand makes Teo feel a little bit better, then a little bit worse that it did. He looks at it for a moment, and after the moment he looks at it it seems to look better, the set of its fingers turned petal even and the tone of his skin more regular than the linen underneath them. Francois' face still looks perfect, anyway. The younger man doesn't really consider the moment in terms of— plans, doesn't wonder if he'd waited too long or if he's come too early; the absence of drawn bolt or locking mechanism is encouraging, if not an obvious invitation. He moves toward the bed and hunkers down to squat in the dark.

One leg rub-bumping against the bedframe before the other. He folds his arms on the mattress edge and leans over them, peeks at Francois' face. Care-wear, age, and the stippled painfully shiny-stretched keloid tissue wrought by Sasha's touch around his ear and ridging under the downier drift of sideburns. It seems to him that the old man is dulled lately, from the vivacious hero whose pen had set fire to the diary page, that he has harshened and worn quiet underneath the luminous candlemelt pallor of his skin, but— but— the identity of that face still remains the same. The good corner of the younger man's mouth curls up.

Teo dips his head to kiss him. Match mouth to mouth, palm to pectoral to palm the quiddity of Francois' heart through thin skein, and breathe the stale warmth of halved bre—

—only warmth turns to searing heat, sudden and virulent as acid, and the waned taste of toothpaste is stricken from his tongue by the stink of viscous copper.

Francois breathes long through his nose like drawing in air would give him some kind of life. He wakes, first, to that familiar warmth, life-giving, the same that summoned him from the ice, and only then registers— mouth, that soft/firm dichotomy only human flesh seems to perfect; the shape of a hand on his chest. Shadow, woven from the darkness of the room, lifts off his skin like smoke, tendrils reaching for the warm body, one thin vine of ashy black coiling against Teo's scarred cheek. He's still waking up when he drifts into it, blood suddenly running hot through his veins. Realising it's not part of the patchwork flurry of his dreaming around the time he's lifting his head off the pillow to pursue it before it goes away.

It doesn't. There's no words, just a hiss, a syllable of some half-formed curse as he twists away. Asleep to awake in too many milliseconds, and the mattress groans under weight that bumps across it with a squeak of coils.

There's no ashy, umbral shadow now. All gone. Francois is half on the bed and staring blearily across at Teo, disbelief open and honest on his face. His eyes are cat-like and pale, luminous twin points, and around them, horror begins to write itself. "Teo— "

Sicily falls back, more of an ungainly mess than a tactical retreat. One hand cages around his mouth, protective, but he shies away from contact now even with himself. Blood fills the cracks in his lips, spits crimson through the webbed gaps between his fingers.

If it didn't fucking hurt so much, Teodoro probably would have recognized this pain from an exercise in giving his health away, months (or was it years?) ago. As it is, he's left with the more intellectual exercise of ramming disjunct fragments of data into place. Smoke— shadow— pain, the avoidance of touch, those fucking eyes. His voice comes through in a monosyllabic gasp, an inarticulate groan of dismay that actually ends in an embarrassing upward pitch of a query. He collides with stuccoed drywall, the defensive curl of his spine slapped flat like pizza dough on the pastry board, recovers his balance the hard way. He spits sloppily over his shoulder.

He means it when he says it: "'M gonna kill you," but it's based off sleep-furred memories and disjointed errata. Volken had consumed Peter, et him down to the bootlaces and chewed him up into a nearly unrecognizable, monstrous and twisted lesser wreck of himself, all the verve and strength in his muscles turned to puppet strings and his will reduced to a cheap whine in the background of Volken's traitorous malice. Fucking puppet strings.

Teo has a gun around here somewhere. He is going to get up to get it, conveniently forgetting that wouldn't work. And the possibility that Francois is still Francois.

Ha! Francois sort of makes a sound like that, a monosyllabic patch of laughter that sounds about as dismayed as it does dry-humoured. He crab walks off the mattress until his bare feet can find cheap carpet, letting the bed come between them. Against general sanity and common sense, he has a hand out as if he might reach across the room to touch. Doesn't. It retracts again, both palms up to nervously rub at his face, smooth back around to the nape of his neck and just looks at the other man.

History repeats, curls in on itself. Circles around like a horse on the end of a training line. Gabriel and Kazimir, the former of which tried to kill the Ghost, and now a mess of two men is snarling threats. Or promises. New paths are only new when new mistakes are accepted too.

"You can't, mon ami," he says, after a moment. Shaken, breathing like prey does, sharp and quick but quietly.

"Well, fuck you too, buddy," is Teo's imminently mature and helpful answer. He pushes himself up on his feet, his breath dragging around the contours of an unformed curse and blood smudging up his lip. When he pulls his hand away, it doesn't look too bad. New veins ridge the scarred rip in his cheek, soured to black and his skin's scaley like a parched corpse, perhaps the victim of a very theatrical dehydration.

He stumbles to the right, because that is where the door is and he wants to check himself in a mirror and break something, in lieu — possibly — of breaking whatever happens to be residing within Francois' person. "What the fuck?" Still, there's no one else around for whom that question could possibly have been intended, and in the wake of his departure Teo's voice reverberates in a shout that bounces off plaster and wood.

A light flicks on, steeps the hall in a putrid shade of yellow.

Sound and light are two things that can be used as torture devices. It's the latter that Francois flinches at, but that's because he's still half-asleep despite the energy anxiety, anger, fear all give him, and he lifts his ruined hand to rub his eyes with uneven knuckles. The doorway it spills from is looked away, the bed considered, before Francois moves. It sounds like soft footsteps, the ruffling of fabric. By the time they'll be in the same room, Francois would have put on a sweater that covers bared arms down to the knuckles.

He's working on jeans. "I'm sorry," is quietly emphatic, regret and rue twisting his voice, and simmering frustration. "Bon dieu, I did not want to hurt you. I've been trying not to hurt you." Francois' shadow spills out behind him when he moves enough towards the bathroom door, his steps matter-of-fact as opposed to a timid shuffle. "How bad…?"

It's nothing short of ridiculous, how often Teodoro's pride ends up in these embarrassingly unwieldy equations. He thinks it's pride. Something's sore, anyway, something that slows him down when he peels his hand from his chapped mouth to show the older man what he wants to see, and makes his eyes smart in their pits.

Both men see it framed in the mirror's pocked surface. It's not that bad. He'dve sustained worse being punched twice in the mouth, and he's been punched more than twice in the mouth. Lit blood lines down his chin, inundates the bristle of his beard. It's not worse than the macabre leer of his half a Chelsea grin. The wound offers no adequate explanation for the anemically gaunt pallor that's sunken Teo's face down to the bone and makes jackhammers out of the heart ensconced in his ribs.

"You didn't honestly fucking think I wouldn't find out." The leaden weight and toxicity of angry exhaustion flattens the end of that sentence down into a pointed sentence, no kind of question at all. He twists the tap on, columns a glassy twist of water down to sluice the stickiness off his fingers.

He can see the injury from here, and it's enough for Francois to look a little more tired, a little older, than he was before. Wide awake, though. His shoulder connects with the doorframe in a slouching lean, watching, dully, what he can see of running water trickling away the gathered blood on Teo's fingers. "I thought that by the time you did, it would not matter," he says, in a voice that sounds even more hollow thanks to the acoustics of the room. "I thought— " He blinks once, twice. "I don't know what I thought.

"Flint will be able to fix your face." He does know what he thought, on second— thoughts. "If you knew me— how I survived— I wasn't sure what would happen. I wasn't sure if you would stop trusting me, or if you would not take me here, and there is no undoing a thing when it is done."

"My friend held the ability before Peter." Obscurely, Teo suspects it's petty for him to say so, or else not helpful. He isn't sure. He isn't tracking very well. His thumb skews blood and stinging sensitivity across his mouth; he spits again, this time into the wetted hollow of his hand. Scoops tapwater up onto his face, and it comes away red, dilute.

Fucking liar.

So much stupid anger, pointless words; there's some incongruity in this situation, still, and he doesn't know what it is. He has hurt, upset, and lost so many people lately, it's impossible that isn't a factor in the silence that suddenly eats into the ache of his jaw. He raises his dripping chin, and looks at Francois so hard it makes his eyes smart and murderously impassioned that maybe he's even convinced himself that is why his eyes are smarting.

Whatever he says is lost in the feline sneer that torques his ruined lip. He stalks toward the door. Toward Francois, keeps his eyes locked on the alien blue discs set in the pits of Francois' skull as he walks, swallowing the vomit-slicked recollection that Sylar's eyes had stayed dark. Inarticulate ill-temper finally catches him by the fist: he slams a punch into the bathroom door, a foot from Francois' gut, pocks a splintered dent into its surface. The hinges whine. He walks past.

Rigid straight, Francois stands and waits. He's expecting to get hit, which can be seen in the angles of his shoulders. Bracing himself. If there was more time, he'd explain a warning, but there isn't, and avoiding it is cowardly. Blue eyes that are meant to be in Teo's head are watched, and his own seem unnatural even if green is only a shade away. By the time Teo is swinging an arm, he's already putting a hand out to make sure the door doesn't bounce on the hinges when it's struck.

He has a terrible kind of patience for this kind of thing, as if he really did act his age on occasion. Young men will be angry in young manly ways. Eyes shut and he shifts to make sure Teo has free passage.

"«This is different,»" is muttered French, and he follows the Sicilian out a few steps into the main room, leaving the bathroom light on. Any other time, Francois knows he would not let the younger man just leave, and fingers curl against his palms as if envisioning the bunches of sweater fabric he'd be grabbing.

Teo walks away like an enraged cat. One foot down precisely in front of the other, and bones moving like they aren't hinged in quite right underneath his skin an the traction of muscle, quick, but too well-conditioned by now to run.

By some coincidence of distraction and an errant fragment of maturity, he doesn't actually reach back to slap the light off on Francois. Instead, he very, very deliberately plots his way back to his room, egotism compelling him to match or exceed Francois' patience with strained artifice of his own. Brittle silence, elaborate negligence. Water drips off his mopstring beard. Teo's fooling nobody, couldn't fool anybody even if there was somebody here other than the old cretin, and he knows it too.

He shuts the door with a hand closed with white-knuckled precision around the knob, and not a word.

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