francois_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Unpretend
Synopsis Francois demands an explanation like Bourne delivers ultimatums, or that's what it feels like.
Date July 29, 2011

West Village: Maison d'Allegre

The brownstone home, number 57 on West 11th Street, is three floors tall, all old brown brickwork as the name implies. A curving stepped stoop leads up to the door, wrought iron barring it off from its neighbours, with the building's number in brass nailed into the painted wood without any glass inset to give a glimpse of the space within.

Once inside, the immediate hardwood foyer offers space to hang up coats and set aside shoes, with a wooden, open flight of stairs curving up into the second floor. The first opens up into three designated areas — a spacious livingroom with a rug of earthern tones thrown in the centre, a generous hearth set into the wall with traditional log-burning capabilities. The walls are exposed brickwork, lined with shelving of a slowly growing book collection. Next to it is a dining area defined as such by an oval dining table, generous and able to expand to sit up to eight people, and usually littered with too many things to be good to eat at until cleared. The kitchen is barred off from the rest with a counter, all stainless steel appliances and a sliding door that leads into a modest backyard. Tucked away to the right is a laundry, cramped but sufficient.

The second floor has more walls, closed off areas — a master bedroom with a connecting bathroom, a hallway that slides between the stairwell and said bathroom, into unfurnished open space that provides linen closets and such storage. The third floor is similar, if reversed, and almost designed to be its own separate apartment, with a bedroom and bathroom at the back of the house, an open social space with a squat coffeetable, and an open, unfurnished space with a balcony hanging off it, street-side. The stairwell spirals all the way up into rooftop access.

Louder than the other, Teo's feet press heavy on the doormat with a scuff-scuff as he scores away dirt and leaves. Key rasps in lock. Goes in and closes the door with a carefully articulated thump of wood on carpentered wood. Still scuffing his feet, as if there is anything the entranceway floor could do better than the welcome mat. Besides gather scratches. He's very careful about their house, whenever he isn't rigging its every door and hallway with grenades. Of course, to those who know him well, that counts as being careful, too.

The ghost thinks he knows him pretty well.

It isn't even four-thirty yet, but the time had moved past slower than it felt like, stretching less than an hour out into a gruelling silence and strain on the eyelids, drag to the hands. His progress up the stairs is ridiculously slow, and it isn't until the door opens blocky into Francois' book-bleared eyes that Teodoro takes his coat off himself like it's made of brittle, heavy lead panels. His shoulders rebound once they're relieved of its weight. He turns to look at Francois, then blinks a few times.

"Do you want some tea?" is his first question, followed by, "Or wine?" probably because something about the way the Frenchman's holding himself or his book reminds of advice he was given once, somewhere in his past. Just keep apologizing. Does he like jewelry? Teo doesn't like to follow the advice of others very much, particularly where his stubbornly unique relationship with Francois Allegre is concerned. Alcohol works better. Mostly, he does all right looking more concerned than nervous.

The lamp and the book and the general open eyed upright posture all come to the same conclusion — Francois is awake. But not just awake, but next to vibrant. Awake enough to skim whole pages, chapters, and have no idea what he just read, thoughts wheeling away in repetitive distraction. There are drugs that have this effect, too.

"You're not tired?" holds nothing very accusatory — it's an honest question. Teo should be tired, unless he's crossed over into utterly nocturnal, and if so, Francois wants to know that too. Dog earing the page, he goes to set his book aside without getting up, then rubbing at an eyesocket with his sleeve. Ghost could have never been here, at a glance, for all that the bedroom is just as Teo left it, Francois more clothed but in home-comfort materials with bland, worn colours. The window is still open, the sky still dark, but in this season, it won't be long until that changes.

The Sicilian swings up to the foot of the bed then swerves with gravity, colliding with the bed backward. His head bounces once, and his arms flop out like great huge fish at the market. "Of course I'm tired," he says. Too tired, at least, to notice anything's actually amiss. Of course Francois is tired too. He stares at the Frenchman from upside-down a moment, fuzzily, then crooks a sudden grin. Rolls over.

"It was good to get a breath of fresh air," says the ungainly, curiously adolescent creature worming his way toward his lover, until he finishes facedown just left of Francois' hip. He looks at the book, or tries to, but can't seem to raise his head high enough, before it goes crashing down again. "But tea isn't a bad way to finish that off. The night, I mean."

The book makes the nightstand tremble when it's dropped accordingly, discomfort in the way Francois shifts when Teo flops down upon the bed and says— that— and legs curl at the knees in unconscious defense. By the time the younger man is rolling his way closer, the Frenchman is getting a grip on the edge of the mattress and levering himself off as insistent as a sophomore virgin whose seen several grainy videos on peer pressure and rape. The bed shivers, jolts beneath the distribution of weight, and he's on his feet, scratching fingers irritably through dark hair and pacing down the length of the furniture.

Well, if he's going to be mad at Teo for being a lying, hyprocritical—

"I had a visitor." Heavy emphasis on the last syllable, slurry French quirks — he hasn't been drinking or anything, but he mutters, anyway, just loud enough for Teo to catch it. "The one they call the Ghost. It took me perhaps half a minute to realise he wasn't you." He tilts his head for the lamp, as if to indicate that it was dark.

"Whuh," Teo says, always the paragon of eloquence. He thinks he should have received some kisses by now, rather than being recoiled from like that unfortunate rape victim analogy or, um, a flower from frost, mist from a scorching sun, things that smack of harm on other things that are precious and probably less the bastard of the two metaphorical components. He looks at the Frenchman in genuine confusion, and starts to sit up, finally, a foot catching awkwardly in blankets.

He doesn't care. He kicks his foot somewhat. "Was he playing a mean trick?" he demands. "Like the Parent Trap or something?" Teo's imagination leaps around a little bit after that. It probably leaps onto the correct assumption for a moment before losing its footing, incredulous that that would happen at all, then dashes off to less scandalous if not necessarily more improbable territory. His eyes dart between Francois and the divot that Francois' weight had left in the bed before he got up. He doesn't know if he's just tired, but he'd thought the mattress had lurched a lot. Like Francois had departed with some force. "Why did you get up?"

Francois' mouth curls in something that is technically a smile, but isn't deliberate enough to be one — this in response to mean trick as opposed to the Parent Trap. He didn't catch that one as it didn't have enough dinosaurs, and lets it, like other staples of living through the 90s and 2010s, skid on by without so much as a blank blink as he studies this Teo. No doubt it's his, in that it's certainly the one he's been living with.

"Because I'm not tired," he offers, a little uselessly. The first word is the lie.

Palms rub together in slow and unconscious nervous gesture. Being mad at people, historically, means long absences, maybe departures. Being mad at Teo makes him nervous, these last few months. Last year. Especially over something he is having trouble asking about without sounding like a crazy person. "Did I not ask you," he starts, leadingly, "before, how you would manage to divide yourself into pieces, or did you skim the details? I don't recall."

The Sicilian moves his feet around like a nervous child, adjusting his position on the bed several times. For once, said bed doesn't seem to be the most comfortable place he can think of to be doing a thing, though he doubts moving over to a couch or a conference table or a guillotine would help either.

He's too tired to look guilty immediately. Takes a few moments to process the Frenchman's words, scraping a hand up and down his own leg absently as he thinks about it. "There would be a lot of details," is no doubt the wrong thing to say, and he seems to realize that, straightening finally and no longer fiddling with his pant leg. "The mechanical particulars I wasn't. Sure of." He only talks like mechanical particulars when he is, in fact, nervous. "But I was sure it would work, and.

"It did," he finishes. A beat. "Why are you all the way over there?"

As stated — very awake, stare tricking hawkish over Teo's fidgets and adjustments, Francois in contrast quite still and stiffly shouldered. Becomes conscious of self only when there's a question levelled back at him, and there's a tilt to his head and lift of his chin that is meant to communicate he doesn't think he should be the one answering the questions, especially when he is, at first, silent as he sieves through Teo's first. He shakes his head, a small and quick gesture, stubborn intolerance forcing him to stand where he is and avoid answering right away.

"Well," he begins, voice hitting that quiet and soft, almost casual tone it can do during arguments, "you kept your distance as well, after Mexico, and what I hid from you."

Teo :( :( basically, the color gradually draining out of his face as he begins to have this terrible inkling, suspicion of what Francois is talking about, or at least the relative gravity of what he's angry about, which, as any advice column would tell you, is more important than the nature of the specific issues themselves. Keep apologizing. How does your significant other feel about jewelry?

But it's too early for the one thing, and maybe, in a sense, too late for the other. His eyes dart toward the ring on Francois' hand, assuming the ring's still there, and he really— hopes. Anger spikes in his gut for an instant, ugly and black, when his panicky scanning backward and forward of potential explanations highlights the ghost again. Ghost. "He said something," Teodoro says. "Something stupid. That's just what he does, Francois."

The ring is on the bedside table. Fortunately, it is where Francois puts it when he goes to sleep, shower, shave in the morning, out of the paranoia of not wanting to lose the thing. That said, he isn't doing any of those three things now and doesn't follow Teo's search around for it either, focused on other things and taking no enjoyment out of Teo's face going paler colours.

There's a minor flinch at the words that come next, the human equivelant of hackles raising. "Then he is lying?" he asks, a cynical sounding challenge. Not that he doesn't think Ghost is a capable liar — he probably is. It seems to fit the profile described to him by the man sitting right there. "About what you are? He said you fear you would act on— that you would do something terrible because of what you are, now. He says it is why you go out at night. These are details— "

He scissors off the end of what he was going to say, words coming out sharper, louder, having had too much time to dwell and nurture angry righteousness, make connections and logical leaps and conclusions, but he's careful to not turn the entire conversation into a totally impenetrable tangled knot.

Silence reigns for a long time after that, with an iron fist, imposing-looking throne, sowing the fields with salt, leaving the rivers to stink, and raising vast armies for bloody conquest. Teo brushes his fingers across his own throat, hazards a meaningless motion around the side of his head, then lets his hands fall to a death-like stillness on his lap. He doesn't suppose going over there and mooshing his nose in Francois' ear is going to cut it this time.

Nor would throwing up, so he puts that out of his mind too.

"Are you unhappy?" he asks. "I was going to tell you. Well I was going to talk to you about it. I was. I just wanted to be more. Sure. Of what was happening, before I shared it with you, because you were— sick, and busy with the Ferry, and there's so much shit they need you to do. There's. I'm. I'm still Teodoro Laudani, and— I'm happy living here with you, even if scary things might happen, and. I'm sorry that you had to find out about the contextual issues of our relationship through that asshole who should've minded his own fucking business, but I was under the imp—

"I thought you were happy too," he stumbles, halts, circles his eyes awkwardly around the floor Francois' bare feet are printed on. "And I wouldn'tve done it this way if. I reall thought that— I was going to jeopardize your happiness in any tangible way. Other than momentary delays in. I mean I know I should have you months ago, but I was going to talk to you about it, and that's what I was going to say.

"That I think you could still be happy, being with. Me," he finishes, before silence beats him back across the oscillating boundaries of neutral territory once more.

Maybe Teo should stand up too, so that Francois will feel less like he's on stage and forgetting his lines as he listens and tries to stifle immediate reaction in favour of thought.

Or not. "You know I did not want you to do this," he offers, eventually, breaking his gaze off Teo to look instead at the patterns of bedclothes wrinkles, the shadows on the ground directly around him. "But I agreed as best I could because you said it would help you. Yes, I am happy, and I was happy then, also, and mad that you would jeopardise it — and you did. I could have never recovered you from them. If I was not the same way now, perhaps I would care less about losing you to whatever you have done to yourself. People who are happy do not avoid their friends, or always seek solitude, or lie for months."

A smile breaks fast across his face, some thought striking as ironic or something, as is the only appropriate kind of humour in tense relationship battles. "I had planned to be mad at you for going into their custody so willingly — perhaps we should thank Hiro for the timely vacation." Quiet, nervous hurt keeling into arguably less defensible irritation, sharp and curt, moving away from his current spot to pace, or seek his jacket slung over the end of a chair.

Teodoro is quickish on the uptakeish. He leans across, does get to his feet then, and captures Francois' jacket with one hand wrapped around the collar of it, holding it behind his back. Retrospectively, about a half a second later, he realizes this is maybe a childish gesture, but not one that he seems wont to rescind anytime soon.

Through the whole thing, his mouth wobbles an awkward line on his face, almost like he's going to cry. This is a really bad guilt trip you know. "I was just waiting," he says, feebly. Then, "And it won't be forever. It won't. I just started— recently because I found out I have some of his powers. It's just powers. Nothing else right now, nothing else for months, and I even went out for drinks with Abigail and her friend with the very big goldfish eyes the other week, remember?

"And I'm sorry for scaring you," he finishes, thickly, rubbing the thumb of his free hand on his palm, as if there's a void there that would normally be filled by holding Francois' or something he's pretty sure he'd get slapped for right now.

Hey that's his jacket. Francois has more jackets, and coats and things, and also it is summer so he might not even need it. But he allows it to be a barrier, the childishness, halting when Teo does and tilting a look up at him. Away from him.

Only to glance back at him with what he might hope to be a cutting glance of resentment at the implication that he was scared. It isn't the argument he chooses to speak on. "Kazimir was just powers. As was mine." These two facts are offered simply, firmly, to signal that that isn't the excuse Francois wants to hear, or isn't the excuse that won't work when it comes to aforementioned fear. But he doesn't go to draw Teo into a wrestling match over articles of clothing or make other little gestures that he needs to roam, frozen in place for now before he asks, "Tell me about. It."

Installing the jacket under his arm was a bad idea, even though it initially seemed like a good one, necessiting Francois' proximity if the Frenchman planned to reclaim his clothing. Warm weather or not. Teo finds himself waving his hands though, unable to articulate this, exactly, a little because he doesn't know, more because of the implications of what he does know. "Well he could reap abilities and hold many at a time. His control over them was very good, but the core one, the ability to take the others, seemed to have. Side-effects. Compulsions, a desire for more.

"Sometimes he would have to kill them to take them, but not always. Especially not later on. He got stronger, and I think, in a way he got stronger than." How much did Francois know of Peter Petrelli? Other than his goofy hair, his ostentatious scar; Sasha's gift by his proxy. "Peter Petrelli," Teodoro says anyway, even though he feels an obscure pang from one of his other selves, unsure which one, of discomfitted loyalty. Ghost, he realizes, after a moment's pause. "He was stronger than Peter was— and still is sometimes. Petrelli, when he lost control, was the true Bomb. But that's. A secret." Which he wasn't trying to buy back Francois' love with, or anything.

"So. I'm just afraid there's something to be afraid of. Is that— what you meant?"

Bare feet hedge a step and a half forward, encroaching on the line of conversational and then into a more familiar distance, for all that Francois is demonstrating a clear absence of flinging his arms around Teo in hugs of forgiveness. Despite proximity, he keeps to himself.

He is listening. Trying to understand seems like a better idea than flouncing out of the room, but reservation is frosty, even in the warm pre-dawn. Green eyes seek the lumpy form of his jacket bundled beneath Teo's arm, though doesn't go to take it or anything. A small twitch of a nod indicates sort of what he meant — illuminating, regardless, that he doesn't fly into defensive reasoning.

"And these compulsions?"

"Oh," Teo says. "Well a lot worse than shooting Deckard was, now that I think of it, but I don't think those two situations are comparable yet because I."

Back up. Forward again. He quells his defensiveness. He can't help it, sometimes, except to remember that Francois is seventy-something years old to his er, technically— about two. He's over that bit about Kazimir, though, well and truly, and fights a moment to maintain the composure and dignity to act it. Some things are more important. Francois, as a thing, is more important. "He was very…" and he almost says Analytical and precise or something safe like that but what comes out instead is:

"Interested in pulling things apart.

"He needed— needs," he amends, "to understand how things work. Evolved abilities, mostly, but he was a clocksmith by trade and really fucking anal-retentive about timepieces ever since. He's a weird guy. Brave. I think he lives by a code he isn't arsed to put into words for everyone else, but it's there; Petrelli was always the one who was going back and forth trying this or that destiny on and no two were ever alike, even though his heart was in the righ— I mean— Gabriel is the furthest thing from soulless." He looks down at himself and wants to say 'Obviously,' but doesn't think Francois would be feelin' that gratitude at this moment.

"But nobody survived what he had to do to understand them back then," Teo finishes, finally. Then, weakly, "He learned different."

There are troubling things between the lines, some obvious and others more subtle, and highlit with Ghost's commentary running in the background. The question of soullessness behind the ability, the but not always qualifier to murder—

Francois reduces the space between them over the end of Teo's last words as if he isn't really listening, a hand closing on the bicep just above where his jacket is bundled for some reason, the other shaping against hip bone — close enough so that when he tips his head, the tip of his nose nudges against Teo's cheek, jaw. The precursor to kisses, generally, when being coy seems like a fun thing to do. Except that reluctance and uncertainty isn't faked. It's just shelved, quite firmly, a hand goes up to nudge Teo into a kiss. Such gestures are, you know, pleasurable as a general rule.

This one holds demand and expectance, executed with the kind of firmness one would give proving a point.

It isn't exactly like falling into his arms with forgiveness, but as the Frenchman's nose touches his cheek, Teo thinks this could be going worse. He sighs a little, only through his own nose, and leans forward, optimistically putting an arm around the Frenchman's hip, resting his chest against the other man's.

Suddenly, he is remembering how ill Francois had been, how pale and thin underneath the sheets, how he'd only fallen asleep when he'd exhausted himself from coughing some nights and mistaken the glowing triangle-shaped gap in the curtains from some effigy, one morning, when Teo hadn't been thorough about cleaning up for Abigail and then, a little irrelevantly, about the way Francois had flung up his hands after ambushing Ethan in Ryazan— I can't work like this, the diva said before she stamped on back to her trailer. How Francois really didn't need all this hhheadache. It makes Teo feel worse.

So he kisses Francois back, naturally, a little greedy, maybe a little wet, his recently-lengthened forelocks scuffing against the Frenchman's forehead, arm tightening, heart trembling in his ribs with all sorts of nonsensical declarations like I promise! Never again! I won't murder anyone for their powers. It'll work out somehow. Because you deserve that.

Pressing into embrace, Francois places both hands at the base of Teo's throat, fingers spread around the nape of his neck and using this and the arm around his waist both to draw him along in steps back for the bed, blindly but he's moved around this room too much to not be able to navigate it with only the bare soles of his feet.

"This was," he says, once kiss reaches its natural conclusion, still close enough that he is muttering against Teo, and long fingers designed to be surgically precise slip beneath the waistband of Teo's pants, the backs of his knuckles against skin, "about as far as Ghost got. Do you think that he only wanted to trick me? That he was, perhaps, making a point?" Being serious, of course — he isn't undoing Teo's belt for nothing, sliding it out of denim loops, stopping his steps back only when calves find the end of the bed.

"I was going to offer to sleep on the couch," Teo was in the middle of saying, to make himself out all honorable and stuff, but he quiets to hear Francois while wrapping his mouth around the apple of the Frenchman's throat. What he does hear locks his jaws in place, not all that much pressure applied to the flesh captured in his teeth, but something catching in his breath, incredulity dawning.

Anger, next. Teodoro's head pops into view like a prairie dog out of its burrow, his eyebrows cleaved down into brutally irritated angles, a hand fisting white on the blankets. "What," he says. It can't be that hard to set up a sniper perch outside the range of Ghost's ability. "I don't. I'm going to kill him, probably, so we might never find out," he decides, finally, fading into a mumble against the collar of Francois' shirt, teeth clipping flesh, a rough palm sliding around Francois' hip to grab a handful of ass he still finds far better than satisfactory.

You still may, is what Francois might have responded with, but that line of conversation has died away — which is unfortunate, it'd be nice to get in a few more jabs on behalf of an anger that hasn't gone away yet even as he is reversing along the bed and pulling Teo with him. And shedding his own shirt, as if to get back to what he'd stopped before with a Teo not so dissimilar to this one, an hour or so later. "I think we should expend no more energy on either of them," he suggests, the sort of suggestion that demands only a yes dear as opposed to discussion, fingers combing through off-blonde and gripping, releasing. "This insanity— it has taken enough, non? Time, for instance.

"Agree with me," is helpful, accompanied with teeth scraping the lobe of Teo's ear.

Teo's pride exclaims in some aggravation that his lover just doesn't think he can win, probably, but he makes plans, you know, and sometimes they work. His whatever's opposite-of-pride hisses up the next instant, chastising said pride. Look how your last plan went over. And keep apologizing. Remember the jewelry. Keep apologizing.

"Of course, you're right," Teo says. "Je suis desolee." He quells a final rebellious spike of anger in his stomach, squashes it by crushing down on his lo— fiancee, mouth finding mouth, a roll of his hips half paring the trousers off on Francois' hooked thumbs, and his hands trying to do that thing that made Francois' eyes roll back in his head that other time, awhile back, but of course, that had been Francois' point.

Francois imagines that he is allowed tonight, to wonder how different this would be if he'd somehow not noticed the little differences that sets apart Teo and Ghost or even the other one. Of course, he has been with the other one, but that was a while ago, in the middle of a mire of abstinence and drinking.

Not that it matters. Like he'd pointed out before, stealing the covers is a universal trait amongst Laudanis.

And Teo gets them all, by the time dawn has completely broken light over the landscape, Francois sliding out from beneath them and collecting dropped jacket on the way of retrieving other sets of clothing to dress himself in the hallway. The ring being the first thing he'd put on after deftly and entirely subconsciously picking it off the bedside table on his way away. Maybe the crisp morning air will help him decide— something. Anything at all. It is, if hear-tell is reliable, pretty illuminating.

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