leonard_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Vostro
Synopsis Argument, acquiescence, sex, interruption, then separation; the whole of a relationship summarized in the course of one rather miserable evening.
Date October 9, 2009

Old Lucy's: Upstairs

Though one might remember when a certain fiery woman lived here… Now the living area above Old Lucy's has changed hands. The open living room and kitchen are homey, a commingling of two people's tastes. The leather couch sits kitty corner to a one of red suede and a bit smaller. A large bird cage for it's budgie inhabitant takes up it's own corner beside dark paneled walls. Bookshelves with literary pieces of a variety both academic and not take up another small section.

The kitchen is large, with a rolling wood and black marble island to give more counter space to work on. Pots and pans hang from the roof and track lighting keeps it not gloomy. A proper oak dining table has been set up with matching chairs instead of the 70's castoff that the residents have been known to own and a bowl of fresh fruit sits in the center.

Down a hall lay's multiple doors. A master bedroom occupied by the oldest resident and occasionally have a pervading smell of whiskey and smoke coming from it when the door is open. A second door with a cross above it, a third with no marking that is occupied by the third resident of the premises. Two other doors lead to a linen closet and bathroom respectively. A black cat with a red velvet collar and a little swarovski charm dangling from it can be found meandering at will.

Leo is too tired to brood. He's just tired. Abby's out, presumably tending to Deckard in one fashion or another, and the telekine is left to commune with the black cat. She's crouched on his chest, sniffing delicately at his mouth, which presumably still smells like the chicken tacos he had for dinner. He's in a faded t-shirt and plaid flannel pajama pants. There's a movie paused on screen - Monty Pythod and the Holy Grail.

There's a man in the doorway, too, abruptly and without transition, tracking noise or skin, as if his shape had been cut out and pasted into the frame from a different film negative. Teo looks rumpled, characteristically scruffy in that way that's choreographed but cleverly enough that the artifice to it is buried easy, under threadworn elbows, precisely this much stubble, the faint tracery of a slouch hooking his athletically broad shoulders, propped up at the corner of the wall. He smiles, and it's looser at the corners than it normally is, more sanguine. "Ciao. Are you okay?"

Leonard sits up, peering over the end of the couch as Scarlett beeps her objection. He summarily dumps her on the floor, blinks at TEo. "I'm awright," he says, drawl firmly in place, as he levers himself around to sit in the usual way on the couch. "You?" he asks, more gently. "I heard about the doc….I'm real sorry. He was a good man." And now he's a martyr.

"Yeah." Teo shrugs himself off the wall and comes over on a cadent kick and scuff of footfalls, crossing the floor til his long shadow comes swivelling over to blanket where the telekinetic is sitting, a bar that half blanks out John Cleese's abbreviated trunk thrashing around in a farcical caricature of dying bloody in black armor on the ground.

Up close, his face with its gaunt cheeks and dilated eyes, looks like it belongs on some specter of death, but death's smile is sweet, slightly crooked, the whites of his eyes paler than the bars of his teeth, and the fingers he splays on Leonard's throat are hot with supplication rather than threat, even as he enthrones himself with all of Scarlett's presumption and nearly as much of her grace on the other man's flannelled lap. He kisses Leonard on the mouth.

This is a welcome change. Very welcome. Leo's mouth, despite the scent of Mexican hanging in the air from the kitchen, tastes like cinnamon and chocolate. No doubt some confection of Abby's. It's only a tentative kiss, lips momentarily parted against Teo's.

It was an illogical thought in Teo's head, going up the stairs, that there is probably more nicotine, liquor, sildenafil, and cocaine in his blood than blood. Impossible. Conveniently so. Apart from the obvious and hopefully explicable departures from his 'normal' behavior, he seems normal, warm from exertion going through the back alleys of New York City or coming up through Old Lucy's, his nerves switched to fluorescent and certainty scrunching its larval corpulence around in the black layered litter of his guts that the sky is going to fall in.

He ignores this: rests his faith in the glass in the windows and the strength that Leonard could summon on a thought's notice. Occupies himself kissing, taking flavored ingress from Leonard's mouth when it's granted, pulling fitfully at the collar of the telekinetic's shirt. He'd said 'Yeah;' now it's Leo's turn, if it should so please him.

It fades, after a moment, and Leo puts his chin on Teo's shoulder, wraps his arms around the Sicilian's ribs. And then says, very pragmatically, "You're squashing me." Whereupon he shoves Teodoro off of him, using mere hands.

This surprises him, though not enough that Teo falls onto his ass. He falls onto his knee instead, which is not necessarily a less painful prospect, bone knocking a loud collision with wood, his toe braced, barely in time. He's left blinking his incomprehension, twinging, hanging half off the couch like a limb twisted out of its socket. He swallows once. Tries again, encircling Leonard's wrist in a fold of his hand, bisecting arteries with callused digits and pulling to pull himself close again, fastening a kiss to the telekinetic's jaw.

"Listen, Teo, don't, okay," Leo says, quietly. "I don't mind cuddling you, but the teasing's not fair." He's tossing his head, irritably, like a recalcitrant toddler. "I should go to bed, I got work in the morning. I took Ramirez's day shift, for once." His tone is merely matter of fact, as he tries to tug himself loose. He smells freshly showered, with that overlay of familiar soap.

It doesn't serve Teo any good that the target of his affections is snatching away and making faces like he's trying to escape his mother at the gates of school. There's a gust of a sigh, irritable, streaking up airy on the underside of Leonard's chin. "I'm not teasing," he points out, faintly exasperated but amused underneath that, and both things hidden from sight because he buries his face in Leonard's shoulder. "Go to bed with me." The last two worries are lifted on stress that carries despite the flushed muffling of his shirt.

Leonard just nods, flicks off the TV, and shuffles for his little bedroom. The absurd bed with its princess-and-the-pea level of padding is neatly made, and there's still that milkcrate nightstand beside it, with Leo's cheap alarm clock, and nothing else. Apparently everything he owns is stored in the closet, including that guitar. There's only a heap of books neatly stacked under the window. He's apparently missed the elephant-sized subtext there, because there's nothing seductive about the way he clambers under the covers, and tucks himself against the wall.

Old Lucy's: Leo's Room

Guns hit the floor in a doubled thunk, clopping of grips and nozzles and leather pooling into their messy heap. Bedsprings creak. The elephant-sized subtext is thickened to boldface by the escape of nicotine breath in Leo's ear a moment before Teo closes his teeth on the dry curve of the lobe, bent around the italicized scrawl of fingers up under his shirt, another kiss, more insistent than all of the telekinetic's earlier, politely aborted attempts stacked together and thrust against him on a lever. And, as if whispering could possibly make the demand more polite: "Call in."

He's still, but there's still tension in his muscles, without the relaxation of either yielding or true sleep. The light in the room turns off of itself, there's only the dim glow of the hall way under the door, and what creeps in past the blinds. There're goosebumps under Teo's mouth, at least, and the dlim gleam of one hand coming up to brace against the wall. Like he might literally kick Teo out of bed.

The absence of true sleep is a good thing. That of yielding— less so. Teo can tell the difference, despite whatever impairments have kept him out of practice or thinking about it proper. His hands go still, too, and he takes his mouth off Leonard's ear, ends up looking at the other man in the face despite his eyes giving in to the initial weakness, once or twice, of retreating to study Leonard's digits frayed on the wall.

Hard to see. The bridge is out. There's a warning: signposted, red. A yellow bar. The river's going past at in a white murdering rage, rain down in hard needles, so he hesitates, unsure of whether he's at risk of slipping, already in and boiling against spine-snapping stones, or if he is the water itself. "None of this is pretend," he says, and it's a statement despite that it's based on a guess. "I want you to be with me."

Leo's answer is blunt, and wordless. The hand not splayed against the painted wall dips down between the blonde's muscled thighs. Taking the ambient temperature, as it will. That's apparently necessary proof, never mind all the earnest words. But Leo has rolled to face him, a little, expression near unreadable, in the dimness.

Well that's not sexy. A sentiment that carries over into the expression on Teo's face, after a moment, though he does his best to keep it from burning into actual impatience or a roll of eyes. He tilts himself on the mattress, flexing his tattooed shoulders flat, briefly, stretching, making himself comfortable while he obediently acquiesces to Leonard's check, a blink winced briefly through eyelids.


Teo's cheek drops against the mattress again, the next moment, chin resting on the incline of his own clavicle. He studies Leonard from across the half of the bed's fluffy morass.

Leonard is apparently somewhat mollified, at least, by the way his expression softens into thoughtfulness. He tucks his hand back against his belly, blinks sleepily at Teo, but makes no advance. If anything, he looks a little sad. And then rolls over to offer Teo his back again.

The flat of chest meets the back that the telekinetic turns to him, and fingers come down over the other man's, carding briefly in the zag of Leonard's knuckles. Thumb over thumb, breathing in dewy frankincense, cleaned skin, metabolic heat off of the juncture between shoulder and neck. It's the oddest thing, that Leonard doesn't have scars anymore; the resplendence of uninterrupted skin, even pores, isn't what either of him remembers. Nor is Leo's coldness.

His mouth tightens, releases again, tangible on the back of Leonard's shoulder despite the shirt blocking him from skin, wilful rejection and darkness scouring the color from his cheeks. Hoarsely, "I love you."

Leonard, graduate of the Han Solo School of Romance, answers, "I know." But he does relax against Teo's embrace, fingers knotting with the blonde's. "I love you, too," he says, quietly. "I'm just angry that you've shut me out for so long. I know you've been through a lot, but part of the point of loving someone is sharing. Even the bad stuff. I'm not made of porcelain, I don't break so easy."

"I don't want to talk about bad shit, shutting, and porcelain tonight." Teo shifts, pulls the hand he's taken hostage with it, straightening Leonard's elbow and straightening arm out on oblique approximation to its full length, and up so he can take the curve of trapezius and deltoid up close enough to perch another kiss there. Still exasperated. Maybe less. He doesn't think this lesson was in any syllabus with regards to 'Han Solo,' but he isn't as familiar with George Lucas as he ought to be. A beat's pause. "I know you aren't."

A long, slow breath, followed by a canine sigh. Another notch looser, among tightstrung sinews, and he reaches back to pat Teo fondly on the hip.

Releasing Leonard's hand seems to be a crucially timed thing, something to contemplate carefully with examination of context and subtle cues before Teo does so. Curls his arm around his sweetheart's shoulder, thumbs the dorsal line down the middle of Leonard's nape, eases a careful proportion of pressure up, down, parallel to the recognizable flow and grain of muscle strings, slowly, something gentle, neutral, akin to patience; his face dark.

He never used to need foreplay like this. Now Leo's as bad as a woman, fussing and demanding to be courted, seduced. But the petting has him making a faint, pleased noise. That's nice.

It's probably better for both of them. Like giving comfort to someone who crawled in shaking like a leaf from terror of the thunderstorm in turn draws comfort to oneself. Without going in all blunt nails and carving teeth, pushing knees and — the sort of brutally athletic fucking that used to occupy much of their attention. Back in Darien, at the Village Renaissance. Places that this incarnation of Teodoro Laudani has never really been, with a redhead who never met him, memories he feels no real sense of ownership over. Soothing Leonard's sensibilities soothes his own, with mouth to scalp, nose to Leo's ear and the tenderly discriminate wandering of hands calms a quaking in them he wouldn't have otherwise known was there.

Leo finally turns in Teo's arms to kiss him, slip his arm over his Sicilian's side. Still more gentle than his usual panzer division levels of delicacy, but more eager by the moment. Hands dive under Teo's shirt, peel it upwards.

Teo's shirt twists, rides, skins off with a squirm of torso, leaving his dirty dishwater head of blond bristling at odd angles when he ducks down to claim his half of the kiss. Even at his worst, the Teo of past frames of reference didn't mind having to apply a little effort to get a girl to uncross her legs and as of late, arguably, he's been worse than all of that. This is like and unalike to that. He pulls himself up, urges Leonard's arms up to cable around his neck, thumbs his mouth, and when he presses his face gently down on the other man's chest, the meet of sternum, stomach, Leonard's skin comes away damp, marked, without salt.

Tick, tock.

Time passes. The princess' bier squeaks a structural threat, jerks and shuffles against the dull plaster bulwark of the wall, grinding an acute angle out of the wrist that Leonard has up on the wall. Teo's attention drifts, if only a little. Grows careless, in testing the feel of this body that's longed for his all these months, the flattery of its parted limbs corralled close to him, notices only subconsciously and without alarm, when the salt and mingled musk of exchanged and interchangeable sweat and spit take the place of frankincense and myrrh.

He should be too far gone to notice something so subtle. But when you're literally joined at the hips, even the least motion is a direct telegraph. So there is, slowly, a suspicious stillness in the body underneath is. A waiting, and not the spiralling climb up to release. Leo tucks his chin, as if to escape the hand muffling his cries….and slowly, rather coldly, a dark eye is cocked back over his shoulder. He says nothing, but there's resistance woven back into his muscles now. Not active, not yet.

Nothing changes outside the chain reaction of realization and obstinacy inside Leonard's pretty little head. The sweating, throatdeep cries shoved heavy and low into the back of his head don't abate and Teo's ink-scarred arm stays pinned across the breadth of his torso, low-set over his hips, fingers toying only absentmindedly with the olive curve of his lover's hipbone, interest that's almost pretend. He doesn't notice. The truth attempts to pass for generosity: that he merely doesn't mind Leo's distraction.

"What are you doing?" demands Leo, abruptly. "What the fuck, Laudani? When the hell did you get so bad?" He simply hauls himself forward, trying to scramble out from under Teo, roll over to face him accusingly. Better anger than hurt, right.

Few things would have surprised Teo more. His idiotic initial assumption is that the telekinetic is being rhetorical when he asks that question. He stops, mid-motion, fists in spasms around the bulk of Leonard's torso when he's abruptly pulled away from, separation registering through his skin as cold. His hands close on empty space and his breath spins and falls hollowly in the air, gusting exhale, before he realizes that this isn't a welcome change to either of them.

"What?" he finds his voice, blinks wetly down at the other man in the dark, tries to keep the exasperation out of both tone and brow, wiping sweat off his nose, memory failing him where he tries to determine how he went wrong. Can't remember. The past — however many minutes reduced to an organic smear, acheing with the certainty that he's supposed to be thing-deep in Leonard and coveted, right now. Something about the look on Leonard's face turns what should have been a flatly irritable statement into a question: "Fucking you?"

"Shut up?" The answer is crueller than Teo had really expected, but his temper's catching, incineration carried over on cheated lust like a fuse and the acridly dry pressure of background concerns, barely suppressed enough that he can ignore the incipient possibility of explosion. You could shut up. He jerks away, suddenly, lips white shut, shoving himself upright and away with fisted knuckles, kicks blankets off with a bare leg and overturns a cushion to find his pants somewhere in the wrinkle and strew of bedthings.

There isn't, funnily enough, the usual change in pressure that Leo's rage brings. Because for once, Leo's not angry. His face crumples, and he looks down, turning so he can sit on the heap of pillows. Like he's prepared to ignore Teo until he goes away.

From behind the telekinetic, there's the noise of clothes, pulled on piecemeal, in yanks and curses gritted down and caged back from speech. There's a snatch to Teo's fingers, a scraping twist to his breathing like it's sinking in, only belatedly, that there's something horribly disgusting about all this; he can't figure out exactly what, but it is. It's reprehensible. He'd get away from himself if he could, but he can't leave himself here, not with Leonard and certainly not with Leonard looking like that.

"What the fuck is wr—" Stop. Restart, rephrased. "There's no one else in here except you and me." Somehow, that fails entirely to ease the tension in the air. He shoves his foot into a boot, the other. There's a dragging click of gunmetal off the floor.

"C'mon, Teo," Leo says, daring a glance up. There's just hurt in his face, and his voice is soft, lacking in the bite of sarcasm. "I know you. I was the lover of that other version of you, back when. Forward, I guess. You were a million miles away." Gently, almost ashamedly, he pulls one of the blankets up over him, as if Teo were a stranger he didn't want seeing him unclothed.

That doesn't feel true. The meaning folded up in Leonard's words clashes discordant with what he thinks, what Teo really thinks, or else he's being obstinate. He doesn't know. He's a little too drunk to find his meaning, a little too high to have enough patience for the gentleness that his boy's asking from him, far too angry to recognize the subtleties in this rejection. "Fuck off, Leo.

"If you don't like it, I gave you the choice— you just have to—" It only stings. Leo's pain seems ignorant, the smallness his voice designed to turn the ugly accusation into a trap, for concession for lack of agreement. Any concession would be too large. This is fucking ridiculous, sour, one memory out of Ghost's precious small hoard of good ones covered in crap and turned to coal. So he says the worst possible thing: "When did you turn into such a Goddamn woman?"

"What choice? I have to what?" Leo asks, and it's pleading, more than enraged. Worse yet, there's that look of dumb puzzlement, animal pain, like a dog not entirely sure why it's being kicked. "What is wrong with you? Is it Sonny?" Leo wonders, settling the blanket around his ribs. "Why do you hate me so much, now?"

That puts any plausibility that Leonard might have been being coy to death right quick. Coy would have been easier to deal with. Coy was a stupid idea: Leonard's never coy. Teo stares blankly down at the coverlet for a few long seconds, so distracted by the shape of the other man's toes tenting pleats into the linens that his fingers miss in the midst of trying to cinch his zipper and seal it up to his chin. What? "Nothing. I don't— I d—

"I couldn't hate you." His shoulders come up under his ears, and though his clothes are too warm and heavy against the sticky heat of his body underneath, he feels better like this, a gun under his arm, on his feet, beyond the radius of Leonard's grasp. "I don't think so." Not Sonny. "I don't know. Maybe I'm not good at this anymore."

Leonard is pale, unhappy, save for a blotchy flush of shame. Despite the late doctor's exquisite handiwork, awkwardness makes him ugly, hobbledehoy. He's red to the ears. "You act like I'm a burden you have to carry," he says, simply. "One more thing you have to be responsible for. I don't know if you've ever seen me, in this timeline."

Parroting 'I see you' at this point in time would be rude or something, in the context of Leonard's physical awkwardness and his effort to hide. Teo turns his eyes away as if that's doing both of them a favor. "That's your shitty self-esteem talking, not me," he answers, at length. "You're nothing of the kind."

"That's how you treat me. That's how you act," Leo says, still matter of fact, though his voice is soft. "You're in love with your particular crusade, not me." But then he stops, holds his arms out to Teo, nervously.

Even without looking, Teo senses the shift in the air when the arms are offered. His eyes are averted, shoulders trapped into posture, squared off, a stiff, severely-lined silhouette against the blank color of the wall. He doesn't do anything, but over enough time, even inaction becomes action: the decision to pretend that he couldn't see.

It's the poorest of farces. He turns his head first, his feet second. "I think I should go take a shower and clear my head." It's half-blind, drowning lucidity in mood. If that weren't enough, his pants fucking chafe, and the contentious scrawl of DNA rewritten in his cells, the pollution of brain chemistry and his crippled ability promise no solace in the alternative of sleeping alone. "I'm kind of fucked up. Alcohol and stuff. We'll talk later, okay?" He mops a thumb across his nose, turns his feet toward the door on an off-cadence, not quite stumble of boots on tripped pillows and matted clothing. His pulse presses loud in his ears, tangible as thumbs forcing outward against the drums.

Pastor Sumter went to bed and Abby hasn't come home. The house is too quiet. He can't hear anything. Won't, before he's on the street and the first siren wails out of the streaky sodium lights and curfew scares him running down a spit-marked alleyway.

Letter Writing

Dear Ale

Dear Jesse,

I want you to know that I meant it when I said that I

I'm writing to say good-bye. I went to see Sonny in the cemetary today and met Melinda instead: his mother, smaller by far than I am, a scientist politician, secret idealist, and his co-conspirator. We went around into a copse so the security detail wouldn't see it when she hit me in the mouth. The night he was gunned down, he'd been about to run to Peru because of me. I put ideas into Sonny's head, she said, and we both almost laughed. I'm Phoenix, baby terrorist and nocturnal vigilante. I'm trouble and I have a cause. I know all about ideas, but this turns in an entirely different universe.

I want to get this out of the way first. Teo loved him and respected him. Sonny was haunted by the impression that he was King Midas when they met, shut up in a cage of his own making. Teo cured him of this notion first by showing him that he wouldn't turn to gold; second, that he was going to starve anyway. So he left. I was humiliated, but not particularly surprised.

Mrs. Bianco almost asked me to bring him back. Almost. She has connections, you know; information access, and there are rumors about the circles in which I travel. I had a feeling she'd ask, but at the end she only fell in her silk and hosiery onto the lawn and cried, tried to get me to swear I'd find justice for him I suspect because my record would lead one to believe I anticipate vengeance more readily than resurrection. I guess both being accosted and the character of her request make sense in the grand cosmic irony of things and their consistency throughout Teo's lives. I'm bad at good-byes, or else, good-byes turn bad with me.

(I think I would've said yes. I always say Yes. Sometimes, a bad move.

With the pastor in particular, lately. I probably should have at least made him ask for it, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I know the way we default to tight smiles and deliberately maintained eye-contact with him, and I feel like it's probably about time someone looked at him askance or really close, but I… I couldn't really picture myself being the one. Check on him, please. He's into bad shit lately. It's what you thought.

You won't find me and I'd prefer it if you didn't look. While I'd love to have a Yellow Pages entry, Teodoro Laudani can't exactly go back to studying cuneiform or teaching teenagers; Minea Dahl made sure of that in the spring, however inoffensively she intended it, and Ghost spilled wax and fire to seal it this summer. Americans called my mother in Palermo the other month, asking if I called or wrote or mailed checks, what kind of son I was. They insisted I wasn't in trouble. Though it was the first time I'd spoken to her since March, mia Madre said she'd told them I did all of that and more, frequently, because it seemed better than the truth. She didn't ask me questions. I apologize if you find my paranoia embarrassing— I know much of Phoenix remains above-ground despite the numerous and various betrayals she's suffered, but I don't think I can go back to Sicily, either.

This is important for you to know: I never actually learned to like killing people, which I'm sure sounds like giving myself an asspat for burning down only half the house but that isn't how I mean this. I met an old convict once in 2013, named Andrew McAllen, who was in for more discrete counts of homicide than there was actual evidence to take to trial. He had been a hitman and one of the best in the world. A lot of the men I've met, the killers, are irrevocably convinced that you can't truly understand someone until you've engaged them in combat and seen their decisions made hard and quick, but McAllen was the first I'd ever met who believed you couldn't be close to someone unless you'd done this and I think it's true of me in a pathological sort of way.

Intimacy for me is something that's been fundamentally Catholic in origin, for as long as I've been alive: blood becomes wine, flesh becomes bread, in death the real value of life's tedious prologue. That sounds dramatic but it didn't start out that way. Teo returned to New York City after the Bomb, never thought about running from PARIAH: not really. Toward the end of 2018, after (because?) Eve left him, the ghost started to use his ability on people he killed because not even all of the the subtle details that shiver through six inches of knife were enough. He wanted to feel the human heart beating alive in his teeth, feel the cramp of fingers, pounding feet, admire the gorgeous simplicity of one and then destroy it anyway. In that moment, they know it, too. Hana, she just knew me. She was happy to hear you had arrived in the United States because of this. I've never wanted you to get too close. That doesn't feel like something I want you to understand.

Don't get me wrong. I know you know like I know that when you murder somebody, you aren't only taking their life, you're taking everything that life could have been and, as a consequence, much of what it had. Ninety nine lives out of one hundred, the simplicity of one is, at the very least, a deceptive disguise for the complexity of two. Spouse, friend. When you take a life, you take away all that potential they had fostered: the children they could have conceived, the motherfucking hovercraft they were going to buy on impulse, the love they would have made, gone with a squish of teeth. Some men need blood to relax, like others need sex, smoke, sail, or drink. It's mastery asserted in various permutations. I know you get that.

I don't like you knowing how fighting's like sex, like smoke, sea, and drink and that I could take it or leave it, but I take it because I'm out of place, unfinished, and lonely without. I'm neither numb nor cold to the concept. It's hard to write about because it's true. I can't imagine talking about it.

Or about this: Teo helped to save the world once. Ninety percent of the human population constitutes an approximate gross of six billion. Checks and balances and self-pity were Ghost's excuse for doing a lot of shit. Fourteen dead kids at Columbia University, Minea Dahl, Andrew McAllen and his daughter, Samantha Tanner, Officers Roger Gibbs, Annelise Rivera and Donovan Casey— as long as the quantity was such that he could physically remember their numbers and names, the computations came out in his favor and he would solve out of the equation as a hero, one of the greatest the world had ever kept unknown. To Teo, none of it counted at all, of course. Still damned. Could've done that better. Personally, I don't ultimately agree with either assessment, but I can't undo what was done. Three months later, I still owe Ghost my sword, and Teo's weakness of character every strength I own.

Not all of my memories are bad, mind you. Ghost went into Tamara's head, once— I don't remember exactly when, but it was late, and instead of havoc and psychosis he saw her looking at herself in the mirror. She was doing her hair. This vanity was unexpected in her. She brushed her hair over one ear and then twisted it up with her other hand. He could tell from her face that she was thinking about Colette, which was significant primarily because of all the things that meant she wasn't thinking about. Felling Pinehearst Tower to riven pieces, executions without trial, her precognitive kind the world over crying in the coming curtainfall of dust. I remember. It's one of my favorites.

These days, we have a guy named Francois running around who's more like me than anything I'm comfortable admitting, another psychic clusterfuck of thirdhand history, mutant gene transplants, and dissociated identity. He seems to think that it takes more than a few welded pieces of memory to make a person, but that shouldn't stop him from acting like a human being.

You asked me when I'd gotten so bad. You were talking about sex, but it goes back to the same place. First of all, I cheated on you once in the two years we were together, and didn't tell anybody until after the assassination (Peter, who gets a line on his forehead that only shows when we talk about infidelity, and I don't know— won't ever know whether it's some cheap thrill Gillian never found out about that puts it there, or if it will always be that Helena was the one who could take it away). Some guy. It was a horrible mistake, but I'm almost glad he'd done it because I get to learn from it without. I've learned that what I used to call sex because I was too stupid from moronically, childishly fatalistic notions of moral dichotomy and panultimate destinations, love, Heaven, Hell, clarity like the air over Everest, to experience what, in the real world, was love.

A girl with a rotting sickness on her face told me once that, "All love is true"— and I don't remember exactly when she told me that, either. The converse of that means that even the most trivial and biochemically-motivated of infatuations, incest, some rape, the most ambivalent of parenting, screaming barefoot trailer park codependent pregnancy dramas, the loyalties that redeemed New York City's cell of Vanguard terrorists by coercion over principle, all of these are true. That may be tawdry and crushingly dispiriting to some, but it seems like the last and only hope for me. You're all I have.

I love the limerick inherent to your stupid accent even when I have too little to say to you by which I might invite meaningful response. I love the furniture you picked for the little house in Darien you'll probably never own, your courage and humility, that you'd die again if it would make things right, and the jokes you told the one that you love. I don't know if it is particularly humanistic or flattering to humanity to assemble that much grandiosity of sentiment out of so many spare parts, but it makes me and my shit-pile chimera of pieces feel like a human being to do so. Fuck, I don't even know why I covered it up: the girl who told me was Eileen. Ruskin.

I haven't been quite as close to her in awhile, I think. I haven't been getting close to most people because I have been planning on getting away. Separation is a process. From the Vanguard remnant, Gabriel who made me and has the appeal of indifference, even Hana, or Flint (or Deckard, the healer, or whoever he happens to have reforged himself to be based on the size and availability of anvils on this particular day), mia zietta, Felix whatever rivalry real or imagined exists between you and him, Abigail— for all that she's the best of me. Cardinal— who I'd imagine has everything 'under control' anyway, or the nearest facsimile a mortal shadow can exert over actual darkness, and not Phoenix; especially not Phoenix.

It hasn't been difficult, and I don't say that to be cruel or arrogant (I seem to prefer to do that in person, without transcription, lacking witnesses, and when I am sober). I don't think most of them realized I never quite came back. I don't need their steadfast regard or their help anymore. More importantly, I don't want to see what they'd do to get their Teo back, or worse, what they wouldn't do. I don't trust them, and the only kindness I can sweeten that pill with is to discourage them from trusting me.

I know that sounds facetious. A farce of gentility or some bullshit, but it is what it is. It's too much to ask of anybody to be sorry. Being sorry doesn't help, anyway. People change, and relationships must change with them. Fuck. You know… I suspect that you outgrew me. I don't really believe in anything anymore. I'm not responsible for anyone. I find it flattering that your natural assumption was that our relationship problems are rooted in the rending gravitational attraction I have toward grand revolutions, causes you can make missions out of and opportunities for self-sacrifice. It's one of the more flattering analogies you could find to a pig snorkelling its own shit.

Unfortunately, I'm not that guy anymore and there is no forgivably romantic excuse for why I fail at romancing: I'm a sterile zoological hybrid of misperceptions, arbitrary Mossad skills, felonies, discontinuous religious conceits and charming anecdotes, broken dick, a little bit useful when crisis resolution involves murder or you want to smash a smoothie out of beef bones but not much else. It seems you've done your share of growing in the months we had together, and you've tired of my equivocation. You see, I don't believe in anything. I just hold you back.

The truth is, I have no doubt that I'm going to regret leaving, at least once and sooner, I'm sure, than I'd like. The moment something happens— some new cataclysm, personal threat or aggravated attack, and I can't come back and be one of the caped legions who come over the hill to save you, I will be sorry. But I have to do this.

It'll be fine. No— that isn't a promise, of course, but I mean that everyone I've written about in this letter was characterized by a certain capacity for greatness, including Phoenix. Never the least of which is Phoenix. Teo was born out of generation and financial demographic that steers its ships toward the style, whatever dopamine-serotonin-narcotic-train-jumping thing happened to be the velocity in style, but I was privileged to come out of a caste of heroes, as many of them self-regarded as social detritus as champions, all of them honorable. If good intentions pave the way to Hell, at the very least the mock-democracy of constant disagreements about direction and methodology will steer the world anywhere but.

That's what I mean when I say it'll be fine.

I hope enough of this made sense. I know it's too long, and still there are things I wish I had words for— the son that Ghost left behind, the girl Teo killed, the one who started everything, but it's no good to start now. Last, then; last of all, I'm sorry things didn't work out the other night: I'm not sure whether it was too soon or too late, but I did want to make you happy even if I haven't quite been. I will miss you. V Y Vostro,


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