Upside Down


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Scene Title Upside Down
Synopsis Teo gets trapped in a playground, is rescued by Alexander, tells him the secret story of HOW I MURDERED MY BROTHER'S SOULMATE, and a small interpersonal clusterfuck occurs before they hastily move on to discuss the prospect of kidnapping a little girl. Heroism doesn't come easy.
Date December 2, 2008

Residential District, The Bronx

About an hour after he and Phoenix's multiple man parted ways, Teo has made it into the Bronx. Waiting for Wireless to get back to you tends to be a deeply unnerving activity, and it was all of about fifteen minutes of sitting in his room before he had to get up and go for a run and coincidentally get coffee spilled on his pant leg, then some terrible mistake happened with the monkey bars and now he's stuck. Literally. Physically.

Dangling cruciform and upside-down, he looks distinctly oversized and altogether out-of-place on the playground equipment, across the street from the apartment complex that's been theirs to live in for all of forty-eight hours. Beyond his knees, the sky is white, visible through the gaps between bars. Below his head, the ground is five feet away and layered thinly with snow distorted by only a few variations of footprints and broken frost. He blinks the neon spots of blood-rush away from his vision and flaps his arms a few times. Sighs, then laces his fingers behind his head.

And there's Al, coming home with the shopping, whistling to himself. IT is, creepily enough, 'Hall of the Mountain King'. The black watchcap is on, hiding the bright stubble, and making him look more than ever like a hoodlum. He spots Teo on the monkey bars and veers his way. "What's shakin'?" he wonders, craning his head like an owlet, as if trying to match Teo's perspective.

"I'm teetering," Teo answers, once he's done blinking at the pale face he's confronted with and rotating in fractions. The ends of his mouth go up automatically. Or down, as the case may be. "Nothing. I guess. I'm waiting for Wireless to get back to me—" he twists his head around, verifies that the park is empty with a crazy twist that ends in a snagging bounce against his locked knees like a yoyo on string. "About maybe kidnapping a little girl. The one those people who blew up the school have with them. Hel's fighting the Chinese mafia some more. And Brian's kind of a loose canon, I hope you know.

"I'm stuck," he adds, awkwardly. He disengages his fingers from behind his head and lets them fall, nodding up at himself. Fortunately, he's wearing so many clothes that he doesn't have to worry about being a self-conscious. "My pant leg. See?" He points where the stain has frozen. "Coffee: I didn't piss myself or anything. But I tried to get out and got to thinking I was going to die."

"Relax," Al says, soothingly. And there are suddenly invisible hands, like the Beast's servants in the fairytale, bearing Teo up, and then turning him slowly until he's upright, and his feet are on the ground. He's got a bag of what's obviously grocery shopping on his arm. "I ran into some of them mafiosi myself," he notes. "Got away clean, courtesy of a fellow shopper who could mess with the shadows. No blood, no foul."

Cloth and metal separate with a cracking and tearing that, fortunately, doesn't come from the fabric covering Teo's leg. A good thing: he likes this pair a lot, given he is, as ever, characterized by the tendency to adore things that rescue him from the cold. The occasional redhead may apply. He goes end over end, doing nothing except keeping his grip on his pants for a brief moment, and try not to thrash around do anything else that would open his head up on the frosted metal. Returning to the snow seems like an improvement on his circumstances until he remembers there's snow, and the recollection of winter conspires with the dizziness that seizes up in his head to drop him into a low crouch, and then to sit on his ass. "Yeah?" he inquires, fuzzily, gloved hands on top of his head in an effort to settle its contents. "Sweet. What was he like? Or she?"

"Grumpy Irish motherfucker. Glad I met him. Name's Hagan. I owe him," Al says, rather laconically, as he tugs his packet of cigarettes out of a pocket, taps out one and lights it with one of those little disposable lighters. He puts out his free hand, as if to stop Teo's wobbling.

By then, Teo's managed to stop wobbling. Unfortunately, he's sitting in the snow, the makings for a miserable even later. Until then, his head sinks slightly into his collar under Alexander's palm. He peels his own off his scalp, gone shaggy now with winter. That trip had been kind of cool. "Oh, brava," he says, distracted but evidently here. "I've met him. Fucker's a Phoenix prospect, I think. Good to know he's definitely the guy: I wasn't sure. Surname's… O'Sullivan. Bar-fly. Can take a punch." Blinking away a rotating star-shape of cyan, he looks up at the acrid scent of cigarette. Instead of asking for one, there is instead: "Do you have to lie a lot to do this job?"

"What job?" Al wonders, caught in mid drag, eyeing Teo, even as he offers a hand up. "And good. He strikes me as the sort of brass-balled fool we can definitely use."

"Same here." One scratchy cotton glove loops over Alexander's hand and Teo drags himself upright. Whacks snow off his pants, glancing down at his shoes before shaking the offending white stuff off that too. "Phoenix," he clarifies. "Our job."

"Well, in a sense, yeah," Al says, blowing a smoke ring, as if to invite snowflakes to jump through the hoop. "I mean, it's a whole double life, innit?" he wonders, setting the cigarette at the corner of his mouth.

Despite that his abundant recent history with looking at his urges too closely, Teo's content not to do so with this one. He looks at the smoke ring instead. It's a nice day for those; the sun's diluted enough by clouds to shed ambient light over everything. Silver, not gray. "No," he says. "Well, maybe. I mean like… fucking… lying. All the time. Not in a sense: just lying. I mean, I get that nobody ever really understands anybody else. The next sorry bastard on the bus, or their parents, or whatever. Language is an approximate science, empathy's vague, but lying feels weird anyway. I think I'm getting better at it. It kind of pisses me off," he concludes, huffing a far less elegantly-contoured blob of vapor against the sky. "So," Point A, to B, to F, "Can I tell you why my brother hates me?"

Alexander pauses, nearly choking on the inhalation. "Uh. Sure," he says, letting his hand fall, and looking intensely startled. "But yeah, we do lie. Lie by ommission, if nothing else."

Teo's gaze shifts away, then back, his awkwardness compounding on the oddity of Al's noises. "I lie about where I'm going, what I'm doing or going to do about any given clusterfuck that happens, how I met my friends, why I'm talking to people, what's on my mind, what the most important things or people to me are any given day of the fucking week. I…" Isn't sure how to link this train of thought to the other one. There's some kind of latching device freight usually uses and he isn't sure how to operate it. Alexander looks comfortable; he grimaces at that, slightly. "I'm not trying to piss and moan or anything. There's no more drama. I just thought someone should know." Worst disclaimer ever. He peels his shoe out of snow.

Al does the little motions of a man trying to resist the cold. "Let's go in the house," he suggests, suddenly, flicking the cigarette into the show, where it hisses out. "Abby''s out workin', no one home but us." Some other time, some other place, that might've been a salacious invitation. Now it's just wearily matter of fact. "And why does your brother hate you?"

"If she isn't at home, she's definitely not at work. She's been hiding," Teo says, running his gloved fingers down the back of his other hand parallel to the metacarpi. "Nostra ragazza is always getting into trouble. Nothing that can't be handled this time, thank God." He dips into silence even as he falls into step, heading back toward the apartment regardless, albeit slower than his usual race toward home and hearth. He appreciates the cold for some things. He appreciates the cold for the distraction that discomfort offers.

The pause isn't long enough to lead one to think Teo hadn't heard the query, leaden as he pauses to look for oncoming cars. "When we were young, Rommy and I weren't as good at what we do now. We still did the same things, we just weren't as good at them. I wasn't as good at choosing my battles. And Romero's—" what's the word he likes to use? "tesseract was always open. Uncontrolled."

Al whistlesat that. Not in disbelief, exactly. But awe, perhaps. HE pushes the door open, hastily, once he's unlocked it, urging Teo before him into the little lobby. "I see," he says, promptingly, though really, he doesn't. But whatever it is, it's better said in the safety and warmth of his own flat.

It's halfway said already. Teo thinks so, anyway. He's never told anybody about it before, so his understanding of procedure or pacing may not be entirely correct— a fact that he's entirely aware of as he clatters into the lobby after the older man, instinctively angling his face away from the security camera perched in the upper corner of the room, casual as you like.

He politely makes pause while he glances through the mailboxes— despite their tenancy being too recent to reflect in any packages whatsoever, up the stairs, down the hall. Opens the door with the key in his pocket, both locks, and lets the redhead in, his gaze shifting idly around the bowl of Alexander's freshly shaven skull. Gloved and gripping the handle, his fingers betray a minor twitch.

The apartment stands silent, but for the faint twitter of Pila in his bedroom. "There was a girl," he adds, in a wry tone of voice. There's usually a girl.

"Let's have something hot in the kitchen." Again, not the lascivious comment it might be. "I got coffee, cocoa, and tea," Domesticity, no matter how newly fledged, is a refuge, and Al scuffles into said kitchen happily, shrugging out of his coat. Terrorist, cabbie, aspiring househusband. "YOu both loved the same woman, and it didn't go well?" he prompts, with that over the shoulder gaze. Beneath the parka, he was in one of those drab sweaters. Like all his shopping is done military surplus.

The coat coincidentally falls into Teo's hands, the gesture as automated and sincere as the rest of his manners have come to be. His mother taught him well: smile because you mean it. Teo does, appreciating the absurdity of Alexander's tendency to drop double-entendres the way other rednecks attack spittoons. The folds go over his arm, and he tosses the discarded garment over the couch. It's a newish couch. Big enough for three— or just him, if Teo's feeling particularly self-absorbed. "Nah.

"Sort of? Maybe, kind of…" he hedges, circling this new notion, before dismissing it with a shake of his head. "No, no: it was them. They were the same age, and together. I was two years older, and I watched it. Nothing like that," fending off the obvious vulgarity with a half a grin that doesn't last.

He leans on the kitchen doorway, still in his cold things, puts his head on the wooden frame and watches Alexander putter. Make no mistake: Teo does notice. That domesticity suits him. "They were good Catholic kids. Anyway, I got in a terrible fight. At least twenty stupid boys. I got shot while they were at home. It went through me, and Romero, and hit her. We're taller, so the…" fluency deserts him for a moment. He measures a bullet between a thumb and forefinger. "It got her lung instead of her heart."

"I'm having cocoa," Al says, as if it were a matter of any kind of import. And once he's set the milk to heat, and got the tin out of the pantry, he looks back at Teo. "She died of it?" he asks, bluntly, blue eyes wide. "And he blames you forever after?"

Blunt fingers grate the doorjamb and Teo blinks as the tin comes out of pantry and the milk, bizarre to his collegiate sensibilities, actually goes to heat. That particular process takes a beat too long of his attention. "Si. That's the abridged version," he confirms with a nod. His hair rasps on the wood grain that's propping his skull up. "The long one includes other stuff I don't remember well.

"I said some terrible shit. Y'know, after I got tired of him being pissed at me, or started to realize he wasn't going to… get better after a few months. Tried to convince him…" a shrug moves through his shoulders, articulating misery despite that the nearness of it has long since faded. "He hit me. The only time he ever hit me. There were no take-backs." He glances through the kitchen window when a bird flits by: a red cardinal.

There's no good response, but Al tries. "I'm sorry," he says, quietly. "Never had any siblings mahself. Had a sister who died when she was born, but that was before me." He reaches back into the waist of his pants to withdraw the ugly little Glock that he carries when out and about. You never know when you might need plain old vanilla violence.

There's no good response, but it matters that Al tries. "Me too. Thank you." Teo's sure there is more to be said, between his own penance and Romero's desperation to translate the world into comprehensible terms again, even a word of gratitude that the older man doesn't try to trivialize the thing by jabing him with secondhand absolution. However, no words come, so he lets the topic conclude there and tries to parse how he feels about all that. Not a lot. Nothing is different. Nothing would be, after eight years. Alexander's here, though. That's always better than the alternative. He clears his throat. "You're not going to shoot me, are you?" Grins, shows a white tooth.

"No, darlin'. I don't kill that way if I have a choice about it," Al says, tenderly. He settles down at the new/old kitchen table, and begins to strip the Glock down, preparatory to cleaning it. There's an odd flicker to his gaze, up to Teo's face, and then down to the gun. ALmost flirtatiously demure, though there was nothing sweet in the blue eyes. Almost wolfish, in fact.

Stupid redhead makes Teo's stupid toes curl. Stupidly. Stupid is a good theme for today. Might not be the best one to try this whole kidnapping genocidal paramilitary unit's subordinate plan thing, maybe; Teo's having a difficult enough time parsing that being killed is a bad thing in the current conversation. "I have to go away soon. Meeting Wireless I think." He puts a still-gloved hand on Alexander's head, the seams where the fingers end sliding through the grain of the bristled down shaped evenly all the way around the immaculate convex symmetry of his friend's skull. Al never seems to end up with marks from the neck up. Teo's nose, on the other hand, is still healing from Brian's fist.

Well, Al is still toting bits of metal - forever carrying little souvenirs of Baghdad and Basra. "How long away? Just for the night, or?" He wonders, looking up, even as his fingers go through the familiar ritual - clearly, it's a piece he's been wearing for years and years. There's a shiver at that touch, though he doesn't acknowledge it. The scalp is so sensitive, after all.

"I'm not sure. Just a few hours or the night, if the thing goes down — either way, I'll be in by morning," Teo answers easily, forgetting to include the other possibilities that dog all of the Phoenix operatives. That something goes sideways, and you never come home. His hand drops, thumb and forefinger rubbed through two layers of cotton in general dissatisfaction. Can't feel a damn thing through these. His gaze shifts over the gun in Alexander's hands. It's bizarre how ex-soldier, old Glock, and kettle of fresh milk all look equally at home against the kitchen's bright tiles. "How about you?"

There's an odd look in his eyes, a question welling up, before Al rises quickly to deal with milk brought almost to boiling. "Quiet night here, I'm thinking. No work, so I'll just go to bed early. I'll have my cellphone on me, so call me if you need?" he suggests, leaving the gun only half-assembled.

Teo's self-absorption occasionally leads to more than hogging the couch, his ego or principles alike rarely flouted in all the superficial ways by the insecurities and doubts that come between most people and doing whatever the Hell they want. He doesn't miss the query in Alexander's eyes, but isn't sure what it was. Offers, tentatively, "We might need you for the kidnapping, si.

"Sleep is smart." Pulling his long frame from the doorframe, he pads across floor to stove, parking behind Alexander to glance down at the comfort beverage in progress, eyes lidded with appropriately feline greed. "No homo," he disclaimers, two words' warning, cheerfully, before he leans over and skates his mouth along his friend's scalp, quick, registering the regularity of its prickle and sandstone regularity through the innumerable nerve-endings in his lips. He pitches back the next moment, laughing. "Enjoy your cocoa, amico," he says.

"Kidnapping?" Al demands, as if to hide his startlement. And then Teo gives warning, but despite it, it leaves Al with a shudder too severe to be concealed. He immediately scowls, but says nothing. No blow, no telekinetic swat as punishment. "Who're we grabbing?" If he can pretend he's all business, it's less embarassing.

Teo's eyes are elsewhere by then — maybe too hastily, as he tracks his way to the doorway. "Eileen," he answers. "Unknown three on the list of people mobbing up with Sylar and Ethan. She surfaced looking for Flint Deckard at Central Park, and despite Brian running his mouth like a fucking lawn mower, she's still out and around and our eyes in the sky are tracking her. She's really young," he mutters softly, pausing to glance back in some thin hope the scowl has faded.

No such luck. Well, the scowl -is- gone, but the lack of expression that's replaced it is really not any better. Al looks…cold, in many senses of the word. "What eyes?" he wonders, crisply, as he reassembles the Glock carefully. "How young?"

"Wireless," Teo answers, quick with regret. "I asked her to watch the traffic camera feed and IDed her face. I don't know exactly how old; I don't even know her full name, or if Eileen is her real one. Teens. It was on the docket." His footfalls stopped just past the door, his shadow falling in the living room and one shoulder hidden by the angle of the wall, not quite cowering but entirely without audacity.

Better to laugh alone than not at all, Teo knows. Half-turned, he tilts his head to the right and forward, allowing his shoulders to slouch briefly, lazy under its weight, watching Al have his private teehees or whatever the Hell from an oblique angle. Technically, he's still nervous, uncertain, cold, feeling rather young, and very much stuck, but it's better than the condition he was in half an hour ago. "Okay." One crooked grin. "Don't laugh at me, cazzone." He casts a backward wave. Goes.

December 2nd: Dearest Daddy Deckard
December 2nd: Not Quite as Planned
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