Tone Deaf


leonard_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Tone Deaf
Synopsis In which Teo barges in on Leonard doing something he's never seen him do before, in either of his lives: play the guitar.
Date September 9, 2009

Old Lucy's: Rooftop

God only knows where he bought it from, but Leo's got an old guitar. He's dragged a campstool up on to the roof, as well, and sits in the cool of the autumn night. It's like it hasn't occurred to him before to test out the new voice that Sal gave him, but he is now. It unfurls on the fall night like smoke, soft as are the notes from the guitar, "Now I've heard there was a secret chord that David played, and it pleased the Lord. But you don't really care for music, do you?" It's uncertain, thready, but not unpleasant. He's in the usual fatigue pants, boots, t-shirt, dogtags worn openly, since he's at home.

"Is that a question or a song or both?" There's a shadow craning its bristly head over his shoulder. Old Lucy's rooftop doesn't have a light on it, but it's all right: even past curfew, Manhattan has enough to offer by way of secondhand illumination, the street lamps in their alkaline orange glister, headlights from the increasing numbers of licensed and approved after-hours drivers scissoring by, lamps and nocturnal ads conspiring, all together, to beat back the stars from the sky. Teo crosses the roof easily, without much to worry about by way of tripping or watching his step too close. He's dressed simpler. Plainer: like Teo.

Leonard says, "It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift. The baffled king composing Hallelujah…" Leo trails off, giving Teo an owlish look, dark eyes all blended to one color like an owl's, no pupil or iris. He stills the strings with a palm laid gently across them. "Old song. I used to know it better," he says, looking down to the instrument as if it might remind him. He raises his gaze again, proffers one of those sidelong, vulpine smiles."

Fox-face. Somebody came out of the back of the hen house with a red grin and outrageous appetites. Teo smiles back, reflexively. "Well." Shrugs his left shoulder up to scratch his cheek, settling his eyes down at the faint glint of the tags at his chest. "Well, don't let me interrupt," he says, suddenly, flaring his fingers once in a gesture of humility. He stops at what he figures is a safe half foot's distance away from the end of Leo's guitar, folds himself down into a crouch on the pavement. It takes him another shuffle of seconds to get his cigarettes out, and a lighter.

"Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you
To her kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah…

Bidden to go on, he does, increasingly sure, if still shy. His fingers are more certain, though his voice is not. There's an odd relaxation that comes into his face, as if the act of singing took him out of himself, self-consciousness aside.

As if concerned that the other man might hesitate under the weight of scrutiny, Teo is careful to have his attention elsewhere. At the blank row of windows on the other side of the street, the distant grumble and clangor of street traffic. He doesn't leave his head, though. He could let his mind wander further afield, but he doesn't, either afraid to strain Ghost's ability past its safe anatomical limits or unwilling to depart further than the notes of Leonard's song can reach. He inhales smoke and exhales smoke, an inexplicably domesticated dragon.

"Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah.

Thank God Leonard Cohen has no range to speak of. It makes it that much easier for those trying to sing his songs. No fireworks, no theatrics or vibrato. One step up from poetry chanted. He seems to play by feel, rather than sight - he's bowed his head, but it's the gravel of the roof he's looking at.

Sad song, but most of the ones worth marketing are. So rarely do people decide to immortalize ~happiness~. It is one of those literary conceits that lead Teo to acknowledge that there is something in modern musicianship that might qualify it as something better than facetious entertainment. He huddles slightly under the weight of melancholy notes, bends his fingers around the thin cylinder of the cancer stick in his mouth, rotating it in an idle fidget in the clinch of his jaws for a few protracted seconds. And then he lets go of it, reaches out, stretches them out scissoring them above the gravel where Leonard's eyes appear to be pointed.

"There was a time you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah.

There are more verses, but he trails off again, and turns his head to blink at Teodoro. Not much offended at being interrupted - it's sort of a given with Teo, most times. No smiles, at the moment, but that sort of pleasant neutrality that implies one is lurking around the corner.

"Sad song because you're in a bad mood, or because this one's easy?" Teo is almost complaining. Even Teo— you know, the one that Al really knew— used to complain about only the most facetious of things, and even then sparingly. This one is turned into a question, a hovering query out of personal concern. Teo leans his elbow on his knee, cranks an eyebrow up to study the guitarist out from under it, obtrusive in its suspicion.

He starts to fingerpick, idly. It resolves, after a moment, into "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," Even as Al looks at him guilelessly. Like he doesn't realize he's doing it. "I liked it, and was trying to remember it," he says, with a shrug.

The shrug finds its approximate mirror in a shift through Teo's posture, and then half a smile. "I like it too," he says. "I just had to ask. I don't know why. Sorry if I'm— irritating." Talking, he means, but he doesn't do a very good job of articulating that, either, making a flap of his hand that slices through the rising skein of tobacco smoke, but already there's a grin picking at the corners of his face at the brighter clarity of Bach.

Thoughtlessly, he says, "You never used to play," and then, despite that the last word makes it out and the sentence pleats itself neatly to grammatical completion, the end is too abrupt like Teodoro had just cut himself off for some reason. His eyes shift away, guilty, and he isn't sure why that either.

"No, I didn't much. I hadn't in a long time. I used to love to, before Iraq," he says, like that's the dividing date for everything. Really, it is, sunlight and sand like a bright scythe. The music segues into 'Bridge Over Troubled Waters', as he continues to wear that absentminded air. "I saw this in a pawn shop window, figured I'd try it again. See what I remembered."

Not in a long time 'til now, and not by 2011, either. It's that second future that's struck Teo now. He wastes a few long seconds wondering if he'd merely forgotten, and then a few more suspecting that Alexander had hid this from him, gone back to the porch whenever he was out or into Darien's woods to play because he didn't want his lover to overhear or take more than his share. Still, it's less than a minute for him to come to clumsy grasp with the probability that the other Alexander, Ghost's Al, had never passed that pawn shop or another window like it, had merely forgotten to remember he had known and loved guitar before Iraq, and these circumstances, these Alexanders, were separated by nothing worse than coincidence.

He blinks. "I tried Sudoku this morning," he mentions, irrelevantly. "I'm pretty bad at numbers, though."

He used to sing in the shower. A lot, if nowhere else, then. "Sudoku don't need numbers," Leo admonishes, laughing. And it's absolutely weird, for a moment, the way Al's there, despite the changes in coloring, looks, voice. The grin is the same. "Just process of elimination. I can show you how. I'm okay at it," he says, amused, even as he gently tunes the guitar.

The grin is the same, vulpine, despite that someone bleached and tarred all the red out of the fox. Teo resists the urge to reach over, put his nails up against the incline of Leonard's cheek and tug until he unseats the mask. That would be unkind. "Sudoku does too need numbers.

"They're supposed to add up a certain way going up one side or across the other. It's confusing as fuck, I'm telling you. I'd put down a four and only figure out it can't be four after I've put in like a three and a six on other lines based on the four. It was fucking terrible." He taps ash out on the toe of his boot, watches Leonard's fingers shift and turn the pegs, tremor guitar strings.

He has perfect pitch, apparently. Or something like, from long practice. "But it's not math. You can do it with letters, or symbols," Leo insists, pedantic. The mask will stay. It's the body language that doesn't change. There's that flicker in his eyes, like a fish rising to mouth the surface of the pond and sink again. He strokes idle chords out of the guitar.

"I don't know why you have to lie to me," Teo grouses, gargling smoke. He sniffs petulantly through his nose and finally pulls himself up out of his crouch, pleased to find that his exercise regime has been keeping himself up well enough that his legs haven't stiffened in the interim. There's a quaver-beat's odd silence, speculative, as he watches Leonard's eyes with suspicion hooding his brow: he could have sworn he'd seen something. "Unless you're making fun. You want to smoke?"

Leonard's expression is all innocence. And perhaps a little soupcon of stupidity in there, too. "I'm telling the truth. The kid's version is just symbols. I'll get you one and prove it to you," he says, setting the guitar aside very gently, and holding out a hand for a cigarette.

What Leo is doing with the kid's version of Sudoku is a little beyond Teo's ken, but maybe that is why he is so terrible at the newspaper grown-up version lately. His forehead is all knotted up in consternation, which alleviates slightly when he finally produces a cigarette for Leo, securing it between the youn— ol— other man's hands, before he goes down on one knee, blanking out the wind with the rectangled bulk of his back. The lighter gleams stumpy green in the flawed heart shape of his palms, a pip's flame scraped up, guarded carefully for Leonard's use.

It's touching, for some reason. And earns Teo a kiss in return. A chaste one on his brow, like a benediction, before he dips his head to light the cigarette, and murmurs his thanks.

Non c'e problema, comes the reply, mumbled in an abashed shade of pink that's hard to see in the dark, pleased by this gratitude however obviously disproportionate. Teo smiles, and shuts the lighter.

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