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Scene Title Veterans
Synopsis Teo invites one of his oldest friends to a celebration of new technology, and Abby reminds her newly heart-broken friend and herself that the good old days aren't gone. It may not be how it used to be. Not exactly.
Date May 20, 2019

Governor's Island, New York: The World's Fair

Teo had texted her the invitation, with a brief range of dates. It's not that he has a lot to do, but putting bread on the table and creepily stalking his husband's past sexual travails constitutes at least a little. He was happy to work with her schedule, and the proposed Saturday that ultimately arrived at the intersection of either of their conveniences ended up being perfect.

He hasn't known what to say, or what not to say. He still doesn't. This is the problem with sharing so many friends with a husband who is defensive about committing adultery. (One of many problems.)

As he walks through the crush of the entrance crowd beside her, it occurs to Teo that they look like a couple; an old problem, for the two of them. Two good-looking white people, but nowadays, featuring: wedding rings. The familiarity of this misunderstanding is dimly entertaining; one of those issues that are too small to be an actual fucking issue. It's almost nice to have those, a reminder that much of life remains ordinary enough that you can get by making it up as you go along. Speaking of.

"Hey," Teo says, touching her arm. Handsy, as ever; he had greeted her with a hug, too. "That stand is selling little pastas. We oughtta get one then go to the Yamagato stand to spill white sauce on their ugly motorcycles."

“They’re all pretty ugly if you ask me. I thought about the sports car, it would probably be cheaper than the gas I spend on my ma’s beater. But then I figured that just might send up a flare of person with some money living here, go rob her and I already have people coming over the fence to try and steal lettuce. I don’t want to have to light up and maybe scald someone who might be bold enough. That would get me in trouble” She’s not poor. But she’s not rolling in it. Most of Caliban’s money was taken after all and what was left over, went to her. Half of that helped pay for the beat up brownstone that she and Kasha are living in.

There’s no talking about Francois. Just filling him in on Butte la Rose, her father says hi, how tall Kasha’s gotten, her finals coming up with regards to the last step of becoming a nurse practitioner. Small talk. “Think they’ll make us buy them if we spill sauce on them?” She muses.

Teo is not good about kids these days; it's fortunate that Kasha did not come along for this one. But most people in his acquaintance are thoughtful about having their children and their previous lives as terrorists quite separate, and he in turn, is good about trying not to overanalyze why that might be. He is not good about kids these days, and shades a glance at them whenever small people seem to veer close to himself and Abby here at the expo, too. There are several families.

Teo grins at her, and ponders the concessions in earnest for an instant, before deciding the queue is too long. He bobs his head toward the waiting exhibits, gesturing invitation.

"You like the part of town where you're at?" It might seem like small talk, but Teo is sincere in his curiosity. He always is. New York's cities have changed so much since he left and returned. The least of which is of course, that New York City is no longer, and nearly everyone lives instead in Brooklyn. "Me and my roommate have our place in Sheepshead Bay, and a lot of it is a dump, except near the college where we're at. Almost feels like 2008, when I was still going to Columbia. But I get worried about Emily at night. Shit's shadier than it used to be, you know?"

“I lock the doors and windows, make sure that not much is left out that might lead to temptation. But Williamsburg doesn’t seem to be overly bad. I looked around Elmhurst but there were not many options. Slowly I’m getting the inside done and making it fit for habitation. Dah makes his way up now and then to help when it’s something I dun know how to do myself but he does.” There’s a lift of brows at the 2008 comment. “LIke, two thousand and eight, the place you made me move out of because it horrified you that I was living there or more like, two thousand and eight, the place we three found to live? There’s a big difference. Mainly in the size of the rats in the buildings.” That latter is teasing in tone as she keeps an eye out for the pasta. “Least the electricity only goes out at night, and in the winter I was able to keep up perfectly warm.”

Teo weaves his head side to side, as other people might wobble their hand. "At least that was fucking rats," he points out. "Not traumatized people living in poverty, maybe on meth, desperate to take what you have." This country is a shithole, but he does not go on a rant about it. All of his rants are internal! How much I hate this, how ugly that is. What's even the point, et cetera. No, this is not one of those days, fortunately; her answer makes Teo smile, and that's sincere enough, actually.

"Did you want to come back here?" is nonetheless a related question. Teo stops by a display about renewable energy sources, and the hologram emitter accidentally catches the edge of his face, scrolling three dimensional letters over his cheek, which he doesn't seem to have noticed. "New York, I mean. Or you end up just assigned here? I was talking to Alex. He seemed to feel like it was a shit draw in the lottery, they put him back in New York." He studies her curiously. She seems in so many ways the same, older without being sadder. Insert fire metaphor here.

“Elmhurst reached out. An offer to pay for the last year of my schooling if I would come work at Elmhurst. Not a draw, a choice. For some reason, pulled back here. Like way back when. Alexanders here too?” Abigail seems to smile at that, knowing that one of her former roommates is alive. “Nurse practitioners in the ER are cheaper than full fledge doctors and given who I am, no doubt that would be some small amount of cachet.” She looks to Teo then reaches out, pulling him back just enough so the hologram doesn’t catch him. She is older, but the sadder, well. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it isn’t. There’s no reason for it to rear it’s head right now.

“How are your counterparts?” Her Teo’s. They’re all Teo to her, even if they’re not.

So it's true. Teo had thought for a moment that Alexander had been misleading him out of some anger or indifference, but it's true; he and Abigail haven't been working together at the hospital. It's not so surprising. It's a huge institution, after all, and stretched to capacity. Post-war USA, go figure. "Yeah, he's a nurse too, but I don't know what degree he went after. You should stalk his avoidant ass." Teo grins, unironic. Yes, pot and kettle, but tO BE FAIR, he called Abby and Alexander to hang out, if after an enormous amount of hemming and hawing, he still did it. Alexander has been more avoidant. So he's definitely winning that relationship, too. (This is how it works. You love a bunch of people, then you try to beat them without having to engage.)

"They're doing pretty good. Apparently the — uh, non-SLC-E one," Teo has been careful to use the Correct terminology since Francois told him off, "he's getting married to Delilah Trafford. Dunno how the fuck that's gonna work, but I guess it is." He grins briefly, shows teeth, lets it fade. It doesn't bother him, not really, even if he thinks the whole polyamory thing is way too 2019 for his upbringing. Sicilians culturally have a very specific relationship with fucking multiple people at once, inside and outside the context of marriage, according to: himself. (There are plenty of Sicilians who practice polyamory. He's just old and oddly conservative, anymore.) "And 'ghost' is…"

What can one say about Ghost? Teo stares at the renewable energy matrix without really processing it, then turns away. The Yamagato vehicle display has a series of arrows guiding the way. "Heard you saw Liz," he adds. "What was that like? You've both seen some shit. And now you have your kids."

“Yeah. She has a time traveling kid, younger than mine. She says I sparkle.” There’s a slight shrug of Abigail’s shoulders. “A little surreal. But then again, she’s not the first person to come back from the supposed deal so, seeing here was a warm welcome.” She smiles at Teo, reaching over to grab the top of his closest ear and give it a gentle tug. ‘Much like seeing you and others as they pop up. It makes my heart much warmer, little by little and glad I came back to the city. I’m going to see her a little more what with I put my name in for scout. She was a little surprised, don’t know that she’s keen on me trying. But she fixed the expression on her face fast enough.” Alexander is at the hospital. “I’ll see if I can’t track him down but I’m pretty much in the emergency department. I didn’t realize he was there, but it’s easy enough for him to know I am there. Kozlow is there as well.” A wrinkle of her nose.

“Well, that’s good for him. No he’ll do right by Delilah and Walter.” She looks happy about that. “It works by going before a priest Teo, and you stand side by side, and there’s rings and then the priest says before the eyes of god you are married, blah blah blah, you kiss, sign paperwork. And that’s how it’s done. That’s how it works. With slight variations on the theme.” An elbow to his ribs, gently.

When elbowed, Teo makes a gurgly sound of ambivalence, which would be more suitable to a teenager than a man over thirty. Whateverrrr.

"Fine," he says. "Fine." It would be inappropriate, Teo thinks, to tell her about his doppelganger's decision to participate in polyamory as it is not really his business — and of course, there is Delilah's own privacy to be protected. But as he walks along, contemplating Yamagato's frightful motorcycles and another murder of children flocks by, he finds himself remembering that Abigail was one of those he trusted most. There is so much 'gossip' he can't ethically tell her, out of fidelity to his own stupid husband, as ever unwilling to take away friends from Francois for whom loneliness had featured prominently as his reasons for infidelity. Catch twenty-two.

But Teo realizes he can tell her about this. Even if it's not his business. Because she won't share it with anyone else. "It's called polyamory," he says. "Do you know about that?" There's an exploded hologram of the new Yama engine coming up. It's user-responsive. Some gearheads, both men and women, are pulling it apart with their hands, shaping light and lines with seeming naught but a touch. Teo, on the other hand, is turning his analytical powers toward 'free love.'

There’s a wrinkle of her nose. “I thought it was called the Ventus. Why would they name the motorcycle after the concept of having a relationship with more than one person and everyone being fine with it.” Even nearing thirty she’s still a little… well, blonde. She tears her eyes away from the engine on non-physical display. “Or do you mean… are you still talking about Delilah and Sicily Teo?” She offers her arm to him so they can keep walking if he wants, all properly southern like.

It is as automatic as climbing back on a bicycle. Teo walks beside her, his arm crooked up like a stirrup to contain her grasp. For an instant, he thinks she's joking about what she thought she heard. Or making fun of him? But she isn't! He doesn't laugh at her, but it does make him smile — and he tries to hide it, glancing toward the engineering enthusiasts fawning over the hologram there. "I'm talking about Delilah and that guy, yeah," he says. 'Sicily Teo.' That's funny. He can't find any excuse to be offended; he hasn't been home since

well, since he was created, more or less.

"I think polyamory has to be one of those sexual identity things. Like orientation. Don't you think? And I'm not. And if the other — if Casper," whatever, 'ghost' is a stupid moniker (and it creeps him out), "was like that, he'd probably have done it at least once in his total twenty years he has on me and Sicily anyway. It seems like a dangerous idea to try," Teo concludes. "I don't want Delilah to get hurt." A beat. "Or him." Whatever. Having clones is weird. (#francoiswasright.)

“I think that they are living their own life. If it works for them, who are we to be unhappy about it? We have no right to impose our morals on another.” Slightly ripe, just a little, coming from the flaming baptist, but she was never a -flaming- baptist, just a literally -flaming- baptist. “We only have the right to be unhappy about our own lives.” She looks at Teo, always a little shorter than him. “Are you bitter about him finding happiness in whatever fashion that he’s managed to squirrel it away and hold close?” Abigail leans her head against Teo’s shoulder as they go. “Delilah will smack him upside the head if he gets close to hurting and in the end, they’re consenting grown adults who have a kid and want something concrete in this world. Let them have their happiness. Even if yours is fragile. Don’t be jealous Teo.”

Teo 042f058648c1e13a93aff099ea2f8e5b.jpg bleh beside her. It is quite odd how he devolves into a tweenager every time he hangs out with people from his old life, but that's how it is. "I'm not bitter, I'm worried. Morality and predisposition are different," he insists. "If he was gonna take a job as a mime or in corrections or shooting animals at meat factories, I'd be worried, too. But you don't have to worry," grudging despite his profound annoyance, "I'm not saying anything to him. He already took my fucking head off the other month anyway."

Sicily Teo would be grateful to Abby, if he were here. Or he'd just take his analogue's head off again.

"I want people to be happy," Teo adds. He is sure of it. "You, too." He glances at her. She deserves a lot of it. Happiness. If anyone does. Slowly, the two of them are coming to a stop in front of the Ventus. This version is red and black, super goth, sleek shiny on its pedestal. Specs floating around it, scrolling light diagrams. There's a ride simulator nearby.

“Some of us already had our happy Teo.” She counters. “I’m happy enough.” She assures him. “What do you need to be happy and the answer can’t be everyone else happy. Because everyone being happy at the same time is just never going to happen.” She looks at the motorcycle, tilting her head. Tilts her head the other way. “Is it just me… or does it look like a really space aged speculum…” One eyebrow lifted higher than the other. “An eighty thousand dollar futuristic speculum.” Each syllable of the last word emphasized. “The muscle car looks much better. For a thousand dollars more, you can actually carry people with you and not get wet.”

Teo pauses at length, staring at the motorcycle. "I don't know much about medical implements," he says, "so I'm going to assume you're right. It'd have to be a big-ass — whatever you put a speculum in, though. Hahaha. Oh, he's gross. But she started it, in his defense. He watches the vehicle rotate slowly on its axis for a moment, his mind wandering back to her other question. He does know her; she had asked him in earnest, even if the conversation is being intercut with bad jokes.

But unsurprisingly, the motorcycle doesn't exactly inspire Teodoro to great heights of positivity.

"I probably need the shit that makes me unhappy to have never happened," Teo says, eventually. "How about that? I'm sure we can find a space-time portal somewhere." He sounds wry, rather than sullen, but she wouldn't be wrong in calling him childish. He thinks he sounds like it, too.

“I would go back to the night he lied and told me he divorced me. That he cheated on me. It was a lie. I would be waiting with his bags packed and tell him to get the money he can get and run away” She probably wouldn’t have the jagged scar that bisects her midriff if she had. She bobs her head in this thought. “Maybe, truth be told, to the alley. Not go out, not lose the healing.” Oh how her life would be different. Harder? Easier? Even more famous? She pats his arm though, pressing a kiss to the bicep, friendly affection. “How about, for now, for however long you stay in the city, it’s a dinner? Or a lunch or something. At my place. I can make a bowl of rice stretch. I can even find a pack of baloney and cream cheese and make baloney cake.” A staple, in the freezer, way back when. A lifetime ago almost. “Or I can haul you with me when I bring Kasha to my Dah’s in a few weeks for the summer to Butte and you can road trip with us. We can raid the fields for the stuff that’s grown fast and early and bring it home. I think he said his tomato’s are already growing. There’s some sauce for you. We can go get some hunting done too and bring back enough meat for a freezer.” She gestures to the Motorcycle. ‘I mean, not that you could get a freezer full of meat on that. That’s just impractical. Remember my scooter?”

"I'd like to meet your dad," says Teo, genuinely thinking about it. He hunted a fair bit when he lived in the mountains, learned to butcher meat, cure the skin. Gave away most of the venison and kept some of it in his freezer, learned not to hunt animals that frequented sage fields unless he wanted to taste nothing but sage for months.

He also genuinely thinks: boy, it would have been nice if Francois had been lying about cheating on him all three times! But that ship has sailed, probably. "And I like tomatoes. You know, before the war, with all the GMOs shit, I noticed that tomatoes in the USA didn't taste very good. It's fucked, but they might taste better now." After the war. The end of Big Agriculture, the death of the economy as it was at its thriving apex. "Kind of like.

"Do you remember? What happened with my eyes after you healed me, the first few timed." He reaches out absent-mindedly as they walk, slapping a hologram on the way past. The Yamagato "Y" spins slowly from the imaginary impact, germinates into a colorful menu that will collapse again once it's neglected for a minute. He remembers her scooter, with a smile, it's also from that time. Times when things were worse and somehow less complicated too.

“You lost the halo’s.” She remembers. “Things were sharper, lights didn’t have their halo’s around them. I don’t know whether you missed that and that’s why you commented back then or if was a thank you in a round about way. But you told me about them.” This Teo? Sicily Teo? Most certainly not Ghost.But then again, save for Ghost, they’re all the same to her. All born from the one and then the one from a future that doesn’t exist anymore.

And they walk. A smile on her face from the memory. Her hand tightening briefly on his arm. “You were the best thing that happened to me. Do you know that? I don’t know that I would have survived to now, without you then. I owe you so much.”

Not far from the Yamagato vehicle area, there are a number of smaller exhibits. An agriculture one, featuring a number of glass spheres, the plants in their varying stages of growth. Some kind of growth enhancement technology, a film playing to show how they will defeat parasites, after all. Gene therapy? How very SLC-E-Progressive. The small green plants look tiny, bright, perfect in the display.

A little like Abigail. Teo is in the habit of internally comparing women to plants sometimes. It's not meant to be offensive. Something about having perfect edges and colors that remind him only of better times. Something about leaning into the light.

"I don't think that's true," Teo says, but he's grinning at her, boyishly. "But my manners are much too good to protest too much. We met a lot of good people. I'm glad I met you. And I'm sorry that I fucked off, I've been having kind of a weird time ever since I got back into town. With the war and shit." 'The war and shit.' That feels like minimizing a little, but that's what happens when you try to assign words to things that are beyond language. Teo doesn't have convenient labels for what he went through, not 'PTSD,' not a standard of comparison for the brutal deeds he had performed back when they'd known each other, with Phoenix. And he doesn't feel at license to speak to the drama with Francois, certainly.

“You realize right that I’m the one that grabbed my kid and ran for Canada right? That I’m the one that actually abandoned everything?” She points out, pulling him away from the display at hand, off to some out of way wall. “And then when I came back and went to Butte, I just… hid yeah?” She has to look up to look in his eyes, but she’s always had to do that just a little. “H E double hockey sticks Teo, I came here and the only person I let know really was Francois and Huruma. Everyone else sorta had to find out on their own as I came across em.” There’s guilt painted on her features, could be termed catholic guilt if she were such a thing. “So you dun got any explaining or apologizing to do. Not in the least. We’re here now. We survived in our own ways and now we just sorta… keep living.”

Teo doesn't scoff and he doesn't laugh, but he makes an air sound from his face that sounds somewhere? in between. "I like that better than having to learn or grow," he says. Making fun of himself! You can get away with self-deprecating when you're a tall, well-built, and otherwise conventionally attractive white fella with a tragedy beard. (Who is also: too stubborn these days to learn or grow.) "That all? 'Keep living?'

"Works for me." He lapses into a brief pause, watching the time-lapse video of plants flowering under special, technologically-advanced conditions, next to a comparison of plants maturing much slower beside it.

"I dunno what I would've done without you, either," Teo adds, after it becomes apparent that the newer, better plants are going to outperform traditional agriculture. He glances down at her profile, which seems nearly unchanged despite the intervening years. No silver in her blond that he can pick out now. Though maybe if she zapped him with her healing, fixed his eyes? "Eaten less, for fuckin' sure. Never met my husband." Ha ha. No, he can say that as if it's a bad thing, with reasonable sincerity. "Lost a lot of my friends a lot sooner. You've gotta think about it some time; all those lives you saved."

“Less that I saved and more the Kami that resided within me saved” Semantics. She can self depreciate too with the best of them. She watches the time lapse of the plants, tilting her head. ‘I think I’ll stick to good old fashioned plant food and fertilizer instead of that stuff, but I can see how that’d be a miracle to help with the food shortage.” See, she is paying attention to everything. “My dah’d turn his nose up at that. I wonder what Cash’d think of it.”

“Keep living. I suppose really, that’s all we can do. Just like everyone else. For the better or the worse, help out who we can, give where we can. Less saving the world and more… getting to actually live in it and with the people in it instead of hiding from them.”

Teo turns that over in his head a few times. Were he more incensed, or in his husband's presence (the same thing), or drunk, or some fourth option that he isn't thinking of at the moment, he would probably have some poetic rejoinder for what Cash might think of it. How all the future-children have been, during the war. Surviving to see the era afterward. Nothing compared to the wasteland they came from, which is just its own separate horror.

"You don't get bored?" Teo asks instead, a little suddenly. "No 'kami,' which I'm letting slide, by the way." Why would you try to defeat Teo in self-deprecation! He drives recklessly with a lead food; he is determined to win that competition, and every other competition ever ill-advised. "No war. No husband, and I'm sorry for that." It's not like Teodoro Laudani and Robert Caliban had been each others' biggest fans, but he can still be sorry. "Your daughter's small, native to the timeline, getting into what I hope are the normal fuckin' childhood scrapes."

(He forgot, okay. Abby is free to 'LAAANGuage' him.)

"Is being just like everyone else enough for you? Especially considering, you know. Everybody else got pretty fucked by the war we won." Teo leans into his next step, gently urging her back into the slipstream of foot traffic.

She could lie. She could chide him on language. “Language.” She does child him on his language. “It’s not enough for me, no. I miss burning buildings Teodoro. I miss laying my hands on someone even now and feeling the warmth leave it and wounds fix themselves. I miss being able to take a bus and not have some blonde with short hair and big glasses turn and sputter at the sight of me and say my name with reverence and ask for an autograph. I miss the bar and it’s wallpaper. I miss a lot of things. I get bored. I lead a very quiet and boring life now. Even with putting an application to SCOUT and jogging every morning before Kasha wakes, I get bored.” She follows along, back into the slipstream.

“But life moves on and Kasha needs boring. To be normal. To grow up with her garden in the yard and learn to ride a horse, shoot a shotgun, go to school and some day she’ll turn to stone and I’ll be right there to teach her how to turn back to flesh, and to keep her away from Lance. So that future doesn’t repeat itself. So I don’t see my daughter cry because her husband died. So that she doesn’t wake at five in the morning remembering his hands on her breasts and the feel of his lips across her middle hours before he’s dead.” Abby looks to Teo.

“I’m bored. But that’s not a bad thing.” Is it?

Teo leads them into the next area. A demonstration of fisheries, which amounts to aquariums and mini-movies. There's a sizeable tank of sardines churning through a space of blue light and black glass. Food of the future!

Funny how the war has left the United States slightly more concerned with volume than sustainability, a reverse of the era right before.

"I think it's inherently a bad thing," Teo says, eyeing as one fish swims by with its mouth agape. "It's just that the alternatives can be worse." Back up back up. He looks at her, in time to see translucent shadows slide over her cheek. "You're joining SCOUT? They need nurses?" The old faces in his life, falling into the world of law enforcement. His distrust of institutional violence is so strange, particularly given he spent some of the most widely notorious years of his life engaging in terrorist violence.

“Less nurses and more flaming baptist. Besides, I’m juuuust about to become a nurse practitioner. Which is -almost- like a doctor but not. So an almost but not quite an actual doctor on the side can’t hurt and I can turn parts of me into flame instead of all or nothing.” Abigail doesn’t flinch. “I’m trying to find my new normal and I remembered how I wish there had been a SCOUT when I was on Staten. If I could still heal, they said they’d have taken me hands down but I don’t do that, at least not in that way anymore. So I’m trying out. WHICH.” She raises her voice a little for emphasis. “Doesn’t mean I’m for sure getting in. Just means that because I go a little hot and I know how to shoot a gun and probably because I’m one of the celebrities, I suspect I’ll be more flash and face than actually doing anything. I don’t actually think they’ll graduate me from their little program training thing. I have taken a leave from Elmhurst. I can go back if it doesn’t work out. Or maybe back to Butte and farm.” Probably not. Something called her back here, child and all and here she is.

Teo isn't actually thinking about nepotism at all when he says, with utmost confidence and the most frank of airs, "You'll get in."

How could she not? Hero is right. It's like Francois has promised him before, he could have any job he wanted. Not without training, but there's a certain cachet for war heroes right now. Alexander and Abigail have both leveraged it into bright and meaningful careers in medicine. Francois of course, has rooted himself into Wolfhound, growing the foundation Hana built. So many illustrious friends. SCOUT — Elisabeth will want her, no doubt.

"So you're going to be a cop, or how's that work? I know, not trying to jinx it. If you get in. They're doing inhouse medicine now?" Teo cocks his head.

“I am maybe going to be a super powered cop.” She emphasizes maybe. “I would imagine that it’s handy to have someone who can get someone stabilized, experience with the evolveds and doesn’t hurt either that they have a fairly… offensive ability.” A light shrug of her shoulders. “Better if I was, how’d they put it… still a metabolic specialist.” She looks over to him. “I talked with Liz when I first saw her. That I missed running into proverbial fires. It was why I worked in the ER” Proverbial and literal fires happen there after all on a regular basis. “She thinks that we were so used to adrenaline, that our bodies and our minds just can’t function without it being so high anymore.”

"That's a real fuckin' useful combination of skills," Teo agrees, thoughtfully. He decides: not to dwell again on how many of his friends and loved ones have joined law enforcement in some capacity or other. He decides: not to wonder what it means, that he continues to have no interest in that, himself. After awhile, the rhetoric of cowardice! gets old, unproductive. Plus there are too many kids laughing and shouting in here for him to focus on his self-loathing habit. It's as if getting out of the house while sober to look at a prosocial, positive community event is good for you or something??

"Hey, will you let me know the minute you find out if you're in?" He looks at her, grinning, broad and white. "We should do something. Some shit deserves the hype."

“If I get in. I figure that is probably deserving of a big dinner.” Abigail nods. “And even I don’t get in Teo, we still deserve a nice big dinner. Kasha wanted San Marzano tomato’s in the garden. Which is what they use to make pasta sauce in italy. Or something like that. They’ll be ripe soon enough unless someone hops my fence to take some down. So you’ll come for dinner regardless.” He’ll come for dinner. Disappointed southern Belle’s have big eyes. Big wet eyes. “Come on. Lets go see what else they got in this place that will make us roll our eyes hmm? And pasta. You promised me pasta from a stand somewhere here.”

Teo only hesitates for an instant. And his hesitation isn't in saying 'yes,' it's the visceral discomfort of concealing the harder personal truths he has come to endure. But it doesn't feel like his secret to share, yet; not until Francois tells her something first.

"Yeah. Of course."

That part is as easy as breathing the sweet warmth of amber and smoked vanilla that hangs around her blonde head like an invisible halo. "Road trips and shooting guns after that." Reduced to an abbreviated list of activities, he can forget how much he fears he won't have the liberty to say. There's enough good news to look forward to hearing, right? Look forward. He tells himself that, in English instad of in Italian, and refocuses on the stretch of expo floor ahead.

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