Twenty First Century's Yesterday


francois_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Twenty First Century's Yesterday
Synopsis Francois is unexpectedly accompanied for his last trip back to New York City.
Date October 8, 2010


The Sicilian is waiting for him, by the time Francois gets to the lobby, which smells faintly of dust, plastic ficuses, cheap towelettes, and the clean salt-oils from the infinitely mediocre breakfast service. It's possible that both Sicilians are waiting for him, given that one is invisible. However, as the Frenchman clinks in through the narrow plateglass door, the one that registers on his senses is ridiculously familiar, spiky hair and squared jawline, brows knit with intent over the top of his paperback (An American Psycho), might lead a work-wearied mind to think, for a moment, Oh. Call off the search.

No kiss, though, no scar, less familiarity in the smile that crinkles his eyes or intent that brings him up to his feet. Fewer threads in the elbows of his chosen sweater. It's the lacks, the negative space, the reductions that probably occur first. "Buongiorno, Francois." Genial grin. Pause, and he cranes his head over the other man's shoulder, out at the wide world, or at least the shaggy willows fringing the parking lot, behind him. "Thought you could use some company driving back."

It's starting to go away, the little retarded flicker-glimmer of something, whatever emotion is behind the tail wag of a puppy, that occurs whenever this Teo steps in frame. Not completely, but. It makes the grudging realisation a little less with each dimming lesson learned. Francois is in jeans, shirt, some cardigan thing pulled over the top that is fashionably unwise but probably soft to touch, sufficient buffer against the nippy autumn wind. Surprise makes round his eyes, before they hood a little. "Kind of you," is tentatively offered back, a hand skritching in uncertain twitches through his dark hair.

"Bonjour," is offered back, belatedly, a brief fan of a wave as he steps— not towards, a little leftwards, as if he were to circle the younger man. "You didn't need to— I mean it is a long drive. As you are aware now. Pardon, I'm tired. You get to drive first."

"Better with you than the fucking cookware I was dropping off," Teodoro answers, with a grin, that doesn't— has never perceptibly dimmed even though the desperately fetching incandescence behind Francois' has, steadily, with every passing encounter. Maybe he doesn't notice.

Probably not because he doesn't notice.

"Rattle, clank. And I think some of the tupperware fuckin' melted, or something." The book hitches underneath the Sicilian's arm, momentarily showing off all four corners. Not the least bit dog-eared or bent. "I feel like there's a layer of slick carcinogenic plastic vapor all over inside my lung membranes. Do you want to get something to eat first?" His bristly head weaves slightly, scouts across the 'concierge's counter to find nothing but an empty pen holder, the silhouette of mountainous paper records, and back again. "I don't actually know— where you just came from."

Francois blinks his eyes, contemplates food, finds his attention drifting to his watch as his tongue touches the corner of his mouth. "I came from— " Has to think about that for a second. It's early yet, making time for a drive home before the sky fully darkens, the atmosphere gone a hazy kind of grey that veils innocent blue. "There was PT starting at six in the morning. Gym, laps. And then suit familiarisation training, and then there was the shooting range. That is where I came from." A key dangles like a fishhook from his knuckle as he displays it, numbered metal, before moving to the counter.

It clicks neatly against it. "Breakfast was a grapefruit, a boiled egg and wholemeal toast — I could do with real food." Ding, goes the bell when he smacks it lazily with his palm, inviting Teo to follow him away and out with a tip of his head. There had to be a reason that Francois was looking tired apart from heartache. Rigorous militant training for real soldiers might just about do it.

"It is probably unwise of you, this, with the face you have," he says, over a shoulder, but warmth in his voice implies he doesn't mind.

A smile toys with the corners of Teodoro's mouth, beatific, sudden. He'd been expecting the Frenchman to get on his case about that, eventually. Having the front of his head the wrong shape, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. It feels better that he was able to predict the Frenchman like so, more reassuring than smiles, glimmers of errant hope. He starts after the other man, peeling lint out of the carpet on the undersides of his shoes.

"That sounds like a shit-ton of work," he says. "I've been doing a couple chin-ups and running a little here and there," and maybe Francois remembers: how often the Ghost tended to take Margaret's body out in tiny sweats, hooded jackets, and maybe the hybrid as well, vanishing every now and then even outside the rigors of Ferry work, his penchant for inglorious plumbing and other menial tasks, leaving sweat-soggied T's in the basket. "Shadow-boxing, or whatever, but nothing like that.

"What are you up for? Cheap Chinese?" There is a place with potted bamboo growing by the doors, down the street. "'American,' should we opt to say such a thing fucking exists?"

"Mm. Even the hamburger is German. Chinese is fine." Francois pauses for Teo to keep pace with him enough, angle their trajectories for the cheap Chinese place with the potted bamboo by the doors, not that it's difficult to miss. His hands find themselves to fidget with, as opposed to the compulsion to take one of Teo's, brush a touch at his back intimate enough to navigate the hidden curve of a shoulder blade through fabric, but no — Francois links his own fingers.

Over there, one can see his car parked aligned in the open shared space of the motel parking lot, sleekly black in the middle of a dustier collection of older vehicles, looking distinctly superior and smug, like a tuxedo. "What else have you been doing?" is politely asked.

A raspy clearing of his throat. "Talked to Margaret a little," the Sicilian answers. "And her losing her job. I dunno if 'at peace' is the phrase for it, but it doesn't seem like a fate she can argue with, exactly. Not that she doesn't find a lot of shit to argue about, anyway." His own hands are confined by a pocket in his jeans and the book sandwiched between ring finger and middle. The sunlight puts his brows into a highly photogenic squint; one that would have fit a long, eloquent stare into the distance and a further horizon than the one that the Chinese restaurant allows for, probably.

The giant plastic koi fish stickers loom up on plateglass windows. Menus faded through their lamination, a 'maitre d'— or equivalent thereof— flitting expectant eyes over their two figures as they approach. But there's a stretch of pavement yet. Teodoro's glance this way and that is furtive, watchful, but carefully casual. "Talking to the ghost, too. He's having a hard time not rampaging through the building looking for himself, but if any building's going to have people who can sniff him out, it'll be that one. And chances are, his body'd be a pit-trap for him.

"How do you feel?"

None of the vehicles on the road immediately seem like they might be sent out and driven by McAlister's flying monkeys. Francois isn't entirely relaxed either, despite the lax slope of his shoulders and the way his eyes hood heavier than conventional alertness would seem. "I was even reluctant to have Peyton Whitney use her gift to look around. All of them are psychics in some way. And nice people," is added with a tip of a half-grin. "I wish the people we will have to confront on Sunday were the ones who put him there.

"I am not sure they are to blame— the telepath, the trainees— but they are in the way. I feel— " That part stalls out, an impatient sigh. Francois is the first to step up on curb and grip the handle of the Chinese place. "Old." Something to do with aching muscles, weariness, what happens to anger when it burns out without completion. "And hungry," he amends.

"I'm buying," Teodoro says, despite that his sweater is thin at the elbows and he doesn't have a paycheck, last the Frenchman heard, or much of anything. Maybe it is kneejerk reflex, this generosity, the virtue of default. Or maybe he has his own version of that which glimmers and is quelled and gradually, with effort, fading behind the Frenchman's eyes. "I highly recommend Tsingtao beer," is the easy addition, as he lolls ahead to push the door open in front of his shoulder. "Or the Shaoxing wine. I can have one or two and still be able to drive, and it'll probably help you nap?"

They're seated in a matter of seconds. There is a tank of fish nearby, and one of the chubby orange cichlids seems to have something of a crush on Francois. Keeps wafting over by his side of the glass, pressing its triangle-shaped kissing against the pane, while red-striped tetras and a handful of sexually frustrated male guppies school absentmindedly in their background. Teodoro makes their orders in absurdly immaculate Chinese, an odd reminder, probably, of the hybrid's tendency for foreign language books, his clean French accent, easy way with Russian back in Ryazan.

There is that good idea implication crescent thing Francois' eyes do when someone mentions his poison of choice, agreement enough to let Teo do the ordering and wandering his attention to the fishes as the younger man's accent rings clear. His hands remain laced together, held upwards with elbows braced on the table and one cheekbone resting his head heavily against joined hands, until he hears the waiter pace away, and he can look up again. Scarring stretches at his throat, obscured as his knuckles brush against it.

"Abigail married Caliban." Gossip! Why not. "Delilah is perhaps a month due now. Life moves on, ah? I have a small superhero army collected for the weekend."

Ah, Deliilah. Teo's features soften visibly at that. He glances down at the table-top, his distorted and fuzzed reflection on the scarred plastic. "I admit, this wasn't the first stop I made," he says. "I went to the aquarium and blew a wad on fucking stuffed sea animals. I like boats. Kind of hoping that Walter will, too." He settles his jaw on his knuckles. Scar-notched, calluses all over it. Eyes in a crinkle, a little like the green ones on Francois' smile, except every Teo's are cooler than that in a way that transcend mere color.

Abigail's a different sort of topic. One that lags fractionally, until the rice wine arrives in its slender brown bottle, two bell-bellied glasses to go with the tiny starters of salted shrimps and spiced pickles. "We miss her," is a blank observation, neither here nor there, neither himself nor Francois, or maybe both of them, and the ghost, the hybrid besides. He isn't one to blame separations on continental drift. "Superheroes," comes less like picking up a thread and more like snatching at a lifeline afterward, in some understated way. Easily, "What the fuck are we gonna do?"

It was probably foolish, to speak of Delilah in this context. Francois does a thing where it seems like he is looking through Teo, cattish and therefore aloofly predatorial, and thankfully redirected down at the table. It is probably not very hard for people who can anticipate him that there was something in Teo's words that is vaguely upsetting. The topic of Abby's marriage, talk of separations, flies by, undetected, unremembered. He should probably think it's sweet. Teo's efforts.

And righteous, considering prior dialogue. And it is, and it is. "Use them," Francois proposes, with black humour and a crooked smile. "Or just try harder to keep up. Richard Cardinal, and his shadow ability. A few of— his people. Deckard. I asked him to come too, and he agreed. I think to get me out of his home as much as to rescue Teo."

The upset is only residual by the time Teo's eyes skim upward again. He catches the tail-end. Furrows his brow, tries to get to the bottom of it, but Francois is, um, spinning the bottle around or something— it's hard to tell where up is versus down and there are other subjects of conversation asserting themselves. He blinks, and occupies his hands with the wine. Pushes Francois' share over to him, a sleek slide of glass on glass. He debates with himself for a few seconds, drawing his grasp back to wooden chopsticks and splitting the two narrow pieces of wood apart.

New topic, go. "I was actually wondering," he clears his throat. "If you thought it might be better if I let Ghost take over for the adventure. I think he'll probably take better care of me than I could. Sure as shit can't let anything happen to me until he gets his body back and he isn't." A beat, maybe a pang of guilt, Teo realizing how he's making his older, psychopathic counterpart sound. "Completely heartles."

Francois takes a sip of wine that the nutritionalists at Granite would frown at, cuts a look over at Teo over the rim of it. Maybe if Ghost was in there, and he shook the other man up and down, he'd have his boyfriend back. He wouldn't even have to add love to sweeten, apparently. "Oui," he says, a glance down at his food and wondering what happened to his appetite. Another sip of wine, before he goes to break apart his own chopsticks in gesture that he's intending to eat the food the other man can't afford necessarily.

"If you both think that would be wise. If you are willing," is tacked on, with a pinning look making eye contact happen for the first time since Teo mentioned Walter.

"I suppose," Teodoro answers. He snares his own glass and tips it toward himself, studying the skew and splay of the elliptical meniscus, slickly amber-colored against the walls of the vessel. "I just don't want to get in the way, mostly. I feel kind of rusty, which is weird to say, and pretty fucking hard to explain. It's been awhile since I did any shit worth mentioning." There's an upward lift to the corners of his mouth that indicates unmistakably that he's confident enough, but the Sicilian doesn't seem must for coy false modesty. Neither here nor there, or anywhere.

Francois' food stares back at him. Flat noodles with succulent chicken and fleecy bean sprouts, tofu, a little red ham for salt, texture and color. Mushrooms with caps only as big as their pinkies, all of it glistening under a patina of rich oil. Teo thieves a few strands away to go with the little side of buns he'd gotten, on the tacit excuse that he'd eaten earlier. "You hold them like this." The chopsticks, he means. See?

You do hold them like this. Francois obediently mimics, wine glass set aside as he pokes the wooden stalks into the tangled greasy noodles, and when he eats, it's with a certain selective daintiness of someone who lied about being very hungry. Pays attention to the pieces of chicken, the mushrooms, occasional mouthfuls of noodles. Ignores the tofu, largely, perhaps not even consciously, with the same evasian he gives the more questionable seafood in Teo's own cooking.

By the time it's time to cleanse palette with booze, he angles the bowl towards the other man in a customary gesture of sharing. Familiar. "Was there something you needed to talk about, away from the other?" he asks, a little more direct now. Feels the need to find function behind. This. Coming out to Massachusetts for him. He'd have been flattered if the hybrid had done so.

I suppose. Teo doesn't repeat himself, but an answer that is ambivalent and weirdly watercolor like that hangs around in the air around him, uncomfortable and generally incompatible with what the air around Teodoro is used to. He has pulled apart one of his buns by now, has it in fluffy white clumps that are being systematically eaten. More slowly systematically eaten, by now. The bread's a little sweet. He had been thinking about offering some to Francois, it goes rather well with the wine, until that was waylaid by important questions.

Good questions, you could say. "Yeah," he answers, at length, shifting pale eyes across orange fish, and back again. "I was wondering. Tell me if this is too fucked up to think about right now— because I figure it is. But what are you going to do if you don't get him back?"

It's too fucked up to think about right now, is what Francois doesn't say, but a flash of a look says he could well do so. With the bowl of his lunch in the middle of the table for shared eating, he nurses his glass instead, takes sips, rolls the sharp flavour of the wine against the roof of his mouth. Then, puts out a hand, takes a piece of that broken up bread, for partial fidgeting, partial eating. "I had not made plans," he notes, after some stilted silence, mouth going into a severe and pensive line during the pause that follows.

"You mean 'at all'," he clarifies, to make sure 'try, try again' isn't an option. "And so do I. Getting him back, not getting him back— I don't know what happens after." He tears a piece of bread with teeth, is surprised by its texture and taste. "What are you going to do?"

"Fuck off out of New York City," the younger man's answer is frank, and the same as before. Maybe he really means it. Rusty with the terrorist ninja for justice! thing, and happy that way. "I dunno, take up teaching or something. Get around to doing all the shit the ghost and the hybrid are never really going to get around to." Are. It's weakness, maybe, backpedalling given what his earlier question had been but it can't come from a bad place.

A pull of wine to wash down savory and sweet. "And I'd like to get to know you better," comes out in a little bit of a speed blur. Teo glances out the window because there is something interesting about a gull coasting toward a restaurant dumpster, then back again. Closes his eyes, reopens.

Out the window, back again, and Francois is still leveling a speculative look on him, a little mournful, a little concerned — maybe for himself or the man seated opposite. He finishes the coin-sized amount of alcohol on the bottom of his glass, and sets it aside. "I don't know what I'd have to return to, after all of this, if he is not— if— " Eyes close, briefly, open again to look elsewhere. "I mean. Leaving might be nice. I would probably follow you."

There is colour warming his face at that admission, for all that it's not shocking. He's trying to rescue a man who is very similar to this one, as opposed to some other dude. A smile manages to crack through, genuine, brief, but whatever managed to spark mith, Francois doesn't share it out loud. Instead points out, "And you know me quite well already."

"Quite well," is a slightly idiotic echo, two parts agreement, one part but and yet~ floating around out there in the ether, mingling into the steam that lofts out of noodles, meats, oils. He grasps his wineglass and lifts it up, tips it toward himself to peer at the colored sheen of reflection on the surface of the drink, tinged dark, glassy, rich, makes Teo look more tan than he really is.

Where would you want to go? He is thinking of rambling back to Western Europe. Ghost had done a lot of South America and the rest of the United States, they'd all been to China, and the hybrid's impressions leave Russia in one homogenous mass of icy gray ick. Sicily is in Western Europe. France is in Western Europe, too. Coincidentally. The world can't be as small as New York City's claustraphobic supply of endless disasters makes you feel, right? In this idea lays hope. Not that it was so bad, here, but that he was— turning out—

There's a rasp of richly burdened porcelain against pocked wood, Teo pushing aside the noodle dish and the bread plate on a swipe of his arm, brings his elbow down to hold himself up, nearer Francois' chopsticks and Francois' napkin and Francois' self than the food is, suddenly, and there is a mouth on his mouth. It seems partially dislocated from this plane of reality. Its suddenness, spoken hypotheticals transmuted into spontaneous tactilities. And no noise from behind, no waitstaff making minute squeaks of surprise or other patrons clearing their throats, no change to the thrum and burble of the aquarium's air pump.

Were one to cast this in its most unflattering, objective light, one would realize that Teo had waited 'til all the other people were all gone. It might be the sun slanting pale bars through the window, or the (talented) curl of his own tongue or the warm, menthol-spice underlay of cigarettes, or the secondhand salt on his lips, though, or maybe the face he conveniently shares with somebody Francois loves— that Teodoro's hoping— makes this something that, oh— he doesn't know, maybe, that Francois might—

He might raise a hand and grip onto the front of Teo's sweater, note the unfamiliarity of a mouth that isn't broken by a scar, and how that's such a minor detail in comparison to everything else that is painfully familiar. Air whispers noisily through his nose in a pent up breath, and gently, his hand comes to rest on the column of the Sicilian's neck, a thumb sketching a touch along the bump Teo's adam's apple makes. Francois is open to kissing. Parting mouth to grant permission and cross over into invite. Makes a sound unbecoming of a man of seventy-seven.

It's over if not done when mouths separate and his brow nudges against Teo's, hand gripping onto him firmly and that other hand traveling around to draw a line with his fingertip where that scar used to be. It's a Moment, like when his own hand had been deserved after Constantine's healing. Francois replaces touch with another kiss.

Lets go of Teo's shirt, sits a little more certainly as opposed to the rocking forward he'd done to meet the kiss. Too sober to feel good, too numb to feel guilty. Not hungry anymore either, if visibly shaken.

Teo is more sober. More numb, too, which is probably symptomatic of permeating depression. Still hungry, in so many ways, less steady, increasingly unsteady. It'll be worse if (when) someone comes in. Ah, but he's been wanting to do that ages, test the feel of— a mouth, the bridge of nose, working jaws, that had been in on some way denied to him for as long as he'd spent being one half of the man who had so intimately acquainted himself with their mechanics.

He sinks back into his chair with a creak of upholstery and cheap metal. It takes him a painfully long few seconds to take out his wallet. Too late for it to seem like a desperate scrabble to reach the relative privacy of a backseat and get their pants off, anyway. He pinches out wrinkled green bills, pulls them out with a sinewy hitch of his wrist, staring at Francois' shirt buttons, then up at Francois' face, then down at Francois' food. There's an apology forming on his mouth.

It doesn't get said.

It might not have been accepted. Francois is about the most alert that Teo has seen him all past half-hour, nerves a little electrified, blood a little warmer. It's going to be a really long car ride, or— too short. One of those, an unsatisfactory period of time, much like March through to July. There is a slight tremor in the hand that tries to settle casually beneath his chin before ducking beneath the table edge instead as Teo counts out money. He has two things he wants to say. The second probably hinges on the first.

"I am always going to try to bring him back." He doesn't mean to insult Teo, by pointing that out, says the slight crinkle to his brow once the statement is made. "To me. If he will have that."

"I understand," Teo replies, and the words come easily enough despite that that has to hurt. He just! kissed the guy! after buying him a lunch and stuffing a generous quantity of wine down his throat, and had premised the previous paragraphs of conversation with, what if. This was clearly them-time. Of course, given they don't exist, that's a fleeting notion, not even really a fancy, make-believe, like drawing a few lines on a piece of paper offers the temporary illusion of a cuboid space with depth.

But no. Merely a sheet of paper. "We can go now. This is ours," the Sicilian adds, grasping the bottle by the neck and lifting it up like some ridiculous wino. He will need a bag for that, which is a convenient diversion, excuse to look around instead of at Francois as he gets up onto his feet. He may be able to prolong his search by retrieving doggy bags and cartons also.

Francois gets to his feet, ponders if it would have been better to hurt another time, but. But then, with the second thing he wants to say, it would hurt more, maybe. Feelings are difficult, and this situation is awful, if mathematically ideal. He smooths the sit of his jeans as he steps out from around the table, cardigan open to the thin cling of T-shirt, a cellphone latched trendily to his belt. This time, as they make for the door, his hand does come to rest on Teo's back in gentlemanly guiding gesture taken straight from the fifties, when they believed, a bit, that women had trouble doing things like voting or walking in the correct direction.

The air is cooler outside, but it's a surface kind of feeling. Francois feels overheated. Second thing: "Can we go back tomorrow morning?" he asks, after a few steps of distance are eaten up and wondering if he's risking getting abandoned in Massachusetts like he was in Mexico. But maybe it's not so bad as that time. Wanting to spend a night. Even if it's full of talking and drinking, maybe getting held. Maybe it can still be them-time.

They will need more liquor. This is the first thing that occurs to Teodoro. The second is, "Yes," very precisely dispensed, perfect as the fit of the hand on his back and jarring to hear in his own voice. It is cooler outside for him, too, and a surface kind of feeling, even for a young man characterized by a sentimental affinity with and trope of heat. Summery weather, layered winter clothes, the loudest heights of sunshine and a metabolism that takes care of cheese-choked lasagna like it's granola or water. Something about the hand, or how blase Francois is.

He feels awfully young. One might suppose that's perversely exciting by itself, but he's careful not to think about that, the margin of difference that it circles, highlights, between himself and the man that Francois would AND I QUOTE always try to bring back to him, unquote. The hybrid had never felt young, with two overlapping and prematurely terminated lifespans jammed into the fit of his brain. He scratches blunt fingers down his jaw, and angles his strides toward the hotel instead of its parking lot. A difference of two or three degrees.

Some audacity in this: "I was hoping you'd say that." Not enough courage, though, to mention he could've left the other part out.

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