Wild Rumpus


felix3_icon.gif teo4_icon.gif

Scene Title Wild Rumpus
Synopsis It may come as no real surprise to anyone that these two adult men merely regress to cope when things get rough, and find hiding places that belong better in a storybook.
Date October 18, 2009


Looks at Central Park during winter, at first.

It's winter, bitter winter. New York is an improbably Hollywood confection of shimmering snow and glittering light. Off in the distance, no doubt, they're skating at Rockefeller Center. People are gazing into shop windows splendidly decorated for Christmas. Or, since it's rather late, gone home to dream of sugarplums, etc.

But right here, right now, it's a full moon over Central Park, light gliding along the ice of frozen ponds, falling dappled like silver coins along the icy paths. And turning the blood pooling on the asphalt into a liquid darkness. It looks black, not red. It gleams silver on the rings in the ears of the boy standing with one hand propped on the side of one of the bridges, where one path crosses over another as if the lower were a stream, and glints off the absurd bit of metal on his tongue, exposed as he pants, breath clouding in the night air. And then winks conspiratorially off the blade of the knife in the corpse's hand.

This is a version of Felix Teo's seen only in dreams, though never before has this nightmare been so very clear. Something even his unconscious mind flinches from. A little taller, a little bigger than the blue-haired schoolboy who yielded so eagerly. College-age, no doubt - he's got a neat nap of hair, barely more than stubble, instead of that former punkish plumage, but hasn't yet cleaned up his act enough to abandon the jewelry. And he's standing, staring with drunken incredulity at the mugger he's just killed by slamming him at high speed into the stonework.

Before Teodoro Laudani got Gianina killed, he didn't really understand about winter. Sure, he went skiing, preferred the warmth, despised the cold, but rarely made much of a point to defer to it. He's a blurry cyclone of interruption here, as he had been in the flesh and reality of his childhood, a T-shirt flapping against his upper-body in jumpy syncopation to his running gait, leaving a drift of tattooed skin exposed under the edge of one exertion-furled sleeve. His sneakers skid on frosted concrete, inches for every stride, but he isn't worried about that or anything else, bleeding ropy steam out from between his teeth like a horse.

He comes over the bridge, loudly, despite that the bridge is made of stone and the dead post-twilight of the park lacks capacity for acoustics. At only sixteen years of age, he's blond from the hours that the sun's beaten into his scalp and as tall as a grown man, rangy still without the massed breadth and bigger arms that will find him by twenty but with a wiry, corded sort of strength that's deliberately, arrogantly content with its intermediate phase of growth. Not to be mistaken for grace: he stops heavily, one denim-legged knee slamming heavy into the granite post, his torso hooked over the bar, eyes big in his head as he stares.

At the corpse. Not the first he's seen. "Ehi! Darmi il coltello."

It's with that dreamlike, deliberate slowness that Fel closes his mouth, raises his gaze to Teo. Or tries to - it leaves his lenses blank rounds, ,white with moonglare, the blue eyes unreadable behind them. "It was an accident," he says, very quietly. As if Teo were judge, jury, and executioner all in one. He's in a worn army parka, pockets crammed full with who knows what. He's nineteen, or so, just on the cusp of true physical adulthood.

The mugger still regards the paving by his head with shock, eyes still open in surprise - positioned so that the ruined half of his skull is up, pulped by the force of the blow.

Teo's bare elbows come down on the chiseled concrete of the railing, callously indifferent to the nip of cold and harshly textured stone. He leans forward, equally, callously indifferent to the death cooling its ooze on the ground where his bridge meets land. "Fuck, signor." At seventeen, his English still has a little bit of an Italian accent, a wil-o-wisp figment of lag between syllables and tonguey over-generosity to his consonants, but his vocabulary is already alarmingly perfect. Long before he made something of it, languages were his forte. "I'm unarmed: who am I going to argue?

"I was telling you to get rid of the Goddamn knife— but I guess you didn't use the knife, did you?" He's getting a better look, now, craning his bristly blond head over, squinting glacially pale eyes against the dark, speculating at the original shape of the corpse's skull.

It wasn't like this. Not the real thing. He left, and the snow came, and covered the body. And he was a John Doe. Fel looked. More than once. Buried out in a potter's field. The first man he ever killed, but evidently not the last.

Fel lifts his hands, as if to ward off what he's seeing, takes a lurching and weary step back, boots crunching on the snow.. "He came after me. Something about my wallet. I didn't mean to…." There's no wound on the Russian boy. His own English is faintly accented.

Things flicker, like a film half off its reel. Resolve. There's another corpse, a soldier in a dark overcoat, half-blanketed by snow. It's grey dawn in a barren foret. Felix is a child, an impossibly solemn and owlish little thing, frowning past his glasses like this is a puzzle he should be able to solve.

Again, that flutter, like an incipient migraine playing tricks on the eyes, and it's back to that scintillant winter night, with Felix stumbling away.

"Run this way," the Italian suggests, from the other boy's elbow, abruptly, as if he'd tesseracted his way over instead of bothering with covering the physical distance snowed between them. Footprints deny this notion, pitted into the powdery white behind him, and his clothes don't shift and jerk with enough violence to reassure or mortify Felix with the possibility that he's met someone quite like him. "You're running the wrong way." Tawny fingers close on the cuff of his anorak sleeve, knot and pull.

His tan is as off-season as his clothes, sneakers that skitter, jerk and moisten against sheeted ice and slush as he leans the Russian the other way. Go that way. "It's safer."

He's too startled to resist, lets the Sicilian boy draw him where he pleases. The dark under the trees is indistinct, painterly and strange. And the path changes - from asphalt to mere dirt, and there's no longer the glow of the city beyond the trees. A true and primal forest, their tread muffled by fallen pine needles.

The running tread of their feet airbrushes weird noise through the skeletally-stemmed trees. Crackle-pop, susurrus, echoes that carry too far and rebound off limits that meet at inconsistent angles, the incandescence of their frenetic movements diffusing heat against the opacity of the sky. It looks flat, with only the full moon punctured through it: no stars. Teo isn't scared in this dream because he is too young for that sort of crap. He's invincible, privileged with the surety of being clever, handsome, and articulate among those he deigns to consort with. He comes skidding to a halt when they reach the sea.

It's colored pewter, is limitless, wrinkles and flattens in rough syncopation with the respiring moon. Comes right up against the shore, which is made only of dirt: the brown that was Felix's choosing. It is wide and open like the forest is not, but no warmer. Slowing to a jumbled walk, Teo pulls glasses off the older boy's face, carelessly smudging thumb-prints over their lenses, and puts them on his own face.

"Hey!" Felix protests, sounding younger than nineteen. "Give those back," Without them, his face in adolescence is weirdly angular, funnily vulnerable. Without ten years on the force to give him that near permanent sneer, his features are oddly mobile. He snatches them back, or tries to.

No— no, nope! Teo twists away, hands clinched over the joints, keeping them fastened on his face lest the older boy dare use force enough to break the spectacles along with his grasp. Without ten years of soul-crushing guilt to instill some sense of responsibility and self-discipline in him, he is kind of an asshole, facetious, grinning fiercely as he trips and scatters leggy strides down, down, until he trots onto dirt. "Scemo. I saved you," he says. "This is payment. You don't get that kind of help for free."

Felix is skinny, indignant, like a half-fledged falcon. He glares at Teo, shoulders hunched. "You did," he concedes. "But I need those to see. Ask for something else?" He pats down his coatpocket, like he might be able to produce something from there.

"You don't have anything I want, I'm just torturing you," Teodoro answers, blithely dismissive. At the very least, he's honest, in this incarnation, unbound by the importance of secrecy or the demarcations of good manners. He'd probably have you believe that he has none at all. He kicks into a winged spindle bush, using his feet because his hands continue to be occupied by standoffish possessiveness. He doesn't cede his grasp even when the toe of his snow-damp sneaker connects with something wooden, curved, heavy: the stern of a rowboat, half inundated in the lurid brocade of drooping salmon pink leaves. Almost makes it look like it's on fire. "Was that the first time you ever killed someone?"

"Yes!" Felix replies, indignant, trying to angle himself for another grab at those glasses. "I'm not a killer. That just happened - he came at me with a knife! God, who -are- you?"

Mmmnh~ Teo makes a most skeptical noise, which shatters into a bark of laughter when the Russian makes his next grab. He jerks away, quickly. Too fast: tumbles back, one leg flinging inelegantly into the air, his shoulders overturning and center of balance rotating ragdoll. Thin branches snap under his weight, bend, mat, drop him in an ungainly heap inside the boat's body with one of the benches digging uncomfortably into his kidney. "Sh—" It really hurts, and Teodoro Laudani only ever complains about injury if it's superficial, so he says nothing of it, coughing, pulling himself up onto his hip in a scrabble. "Are real names or fake names better for alibis?"

Fel snatches his glasses back, before he answers, pushes them up his nose with a gesture that is far more adorable when Hiro does it. There's the flicker of stud against teeth, that annoy, nervous habit. "Fake, of cou- hell, I don't know. The whole poiint of an alibi is to prove you were doing something else when the crime happened." He offers Teo a hand up, and out, though his expression is somewhat less than sympathetic.

When Teo's fingers close on the other boy's, they are cold as a corpse's, waxy hard, acknowledging the weather even when the rest of himself refuses to. In dreams, he probably skis uphill, too. He gets up, breaking vegetation as he goes, knees swatting and elbows brusque against the tender brittleness of vegetable parts. Without pausing to check himself over for bruises or leaves stuck in odd places (there is one perched ostentatiously red on the roof of his head, flamboyantly protuberant, Robin Hood's cap) he stoops to drag the boat out, onto the dirt, aiming it at the water. "Then I'm Simon. What's your new name going to be?"

"Joe," retorts Felix. What, Joe Stalin? He follows along, but doesn't help, hands in his pockets again.

That's cute. A grin cinches the corner of Teo's mouth up, makes the brash mania of his rictus softer, somehow, exposes the slight crookedness of his teeth to the light of the moon. "I have to keep going. You can come along if you want; I can probably get you as far as the Tropic of Cancer."

Now he bothers to help, still looking grumpy. "The owl and the pussycat went to sea, in a beautiful pea green boat," he recites. Fel is a little bundle of Russian angst.

"What is that?" Teo's boot thumps hollowly into the boat's floor, keeps its surety despite the tiny vessel's gentle essay and sidle in the water. "A poem? That's a poem, isn't it?" He drags his other leg in, hurdling over the rowboat's wall. The rowboat is, somehow, pea green, its edges grimy with sandy soil and scarred with human fallibility. He sits into a woolly mesh of blankets at the bottom, scrabbles his fingers through coal pips, loose pencils, finds a candle to hold out.

"It is," Felix says, even as he produces a disposable lighter. He takes the candle from Teo, but doesn't light the wick. Instead, it's the bottom he treats to the Bic's flame…and one he's rendered it soft, carefully squashes it down on the prow, before applying the lighter to it. Now their way is illuminated, at least a little. Though the effect remains ghostly.

From here, the forest looks even worse than it had when they were in it, somehow. Oppressive, unvariegated darkness. Branches tearing at the sky like some alien thing implanted in a womb, scrabbling, fighting to split escape through its membraneous confines— or else to draw everything outside of itself into it, back into the miserable recollections of baroque granite-carved bridges, blood, spilled knives and random, horrible violence. Teo turns his back on it, shuffles his butt against found objects, bric-a-brac, and wadded wool, swings his heels up to rest calves imperiously on Felix's lap. "Tell me the whole thing."

Which Fel gently sets aside. "It was an accident. He tried to mug me, I hit him too hard, he died," he says, curtly, eyes narrowing behind his glasses. He himself takes a position near the stern, looks around for something to steer with, paddle, do something.

Paddle, if Felix wants it— oars. Or he can use his hands. Make a sail; there's enough canvas down here to catch wind with, and the wind is still vicious, razor-edged cool, the one reliable element in terrain too close to the dream manipulator's epicenter for consistency, otherwise. Teo's legs lump uncomfortable up onto the bench instead. "I meant the poem, not the murder. Talking about the murder makes you a liar. Telling me the poem makes you less boring. I don't take passengers who bore me." He closes his eyes and scratches his fingers through his hair.

"I didn't murder him!" Fel's voice all but cracks under the strain, and for a moment the gangling boy with the piercings is replaced by his successor, the cop with his mask…..and there's a flash of him, burnt, cuffed, dying slow on the concrete floor of the cell, but still baring his teeth in helpless defiance.

Talking about the murder makes you a liar. Teo doesn't have to repeat it for its veracity to make itself apparent in the canvas of Felix's denial, and he lifts his head, turns his face away from the stink of sepsis and organic filth. The turning incline of his cheek inverts neat as origami flattened along its crease, and the other side of the paper shows his back turned, older, scarred and brindled over with more ink than any incarnation of Teo that the Russian has ever seen, stretched out like a supine felid on the bed, studied indifference in the jaw-cracking stretch of his yawn.

Oddly aloof: the way that the ghost had been before he was quite the ghost, the last time he had been with Felix, before adventures to Caribbean islands on high seas. A blink, and there's only the tousled teenager again, watching the older boy through slitted eyes, kind of thoughtful, kind of unkind. "A killer is someone who kills somebody. It's not nature or nurture. It's the deed, and not the worst thing you could do to someone."

How well he knows those tattoos, at least one draft of them. Played at trying to remove them with tongue and teeth. "I didn't say I didn't kill him. I didn't set out to murder him. He wanted to rob and kill me," Fel says, irritated, pedantic.

"I didn't say you set out to murder him," Teo answers, sitting up, abruptly, popping upright above the level of the boat's edge and taunting the radius of the speedster's grasp. He arches both eyebrows, exacting. "I said you did."

Felix protests, in that obnoxiously pragmatic tone he has, "That's manslaughter. Not murder."

Hitching blanket up around his shoulders, Teo watches the glint and recession of the older boy's tongue piercing the way a cat might regard a goldfish through the aerated distortion of the tank's water surface. "Murder's murder. In America, I hear they have degrees, is all: so yours wasn't too bad. Medium murder. But I guess," he hitches a half-shrug, "bad enough to lie about or run away from. If I killed someone, I'd probably go halfway around the world and never come back."

"Well, that's what we're doing, isn't it?" Fel points out, tone brittle. "You should turn around and….navigate, or something. Fuck me if I know where we're going." He's patiently trying to ship the oars, and not doing too terrible a job of it.

There's an argument forming in the jut of Teo's jaw, the crabbed steeling of his brows, but he gets confused between denial (I did—n't—kill anyone) and pugnacious belligerance for pugnacious belligerance's sake (yah fuck you), ends up saying nothing, carried on for a brief moment by the momentum of bluster and bad temper alone. Finally, he sniffs, pulls himself up to the edge of the boat with an irritable yank of hands, setting the boat seesawing despite the reasonably steady grumble of wood-on-wood powered by Felix's amateurish rowing prowess. He puts his feet up on either side of the candle, shades his eyes with his hand despite that there's nothing but lunar rock staring baleful down from the sky.

"There," he says, finally. "Two-and-a-half degrees to your right. That's where people go to hide." He points over Felix's shoulder, where there is a disruption of the otherwise featureless meet of firmament and vista that defines the horizon.

The closer they get, the clearer it becomes. Moonlight glinting off glass: clerestory windows, gapped but largely intact, vaulting twenty feet above the sea, colonnade stilted like a mangrove forest in front, stacked stone and crafted masonry of the submerged building's archway jutting above the flawed mirror of its own reflection. There are inlaid letters, serifed, reading: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY, but the sumptuous white marbled proportions of the portico is drowned, ghostly through the translucency of the water.

Light brackets and rot-rosetted ceiling murals show dim to the squint of a naked eye. Beyond it, Staten Island's skyline has been trimmed narrow by the flood. Trees, parking lots, and roads crawling with fish, floated dumpster contents, and wafting electric lines. "I don't remember it looking exactly like this," Teo admits, after a moment, somewhat confused. "We should go to the library. There'll be paper there. You could write something to your family or girlfriend or whoever."

"I don't have a girlfriend," Nor does he, at that point in time. Fel puts his back into the rowing, and while he flushes with exertion, isn't too winded by the time the prow grinds against the steps. Onlyt the very tops of the lions' heads are visible above the water. "This is like Spirited Away," he adds, more mildly, as he looks for a line with which to secure the boat to the building. Maybe he can tie a hitch around a column. "How do you know this?"

As unafraid of the water as he had been of the cold, Teo plows a foot into the surf and steels himself to yank the boat up close while the other boy is tying it down. He leans across to unseat the candle that Felix had stuck to the middle bench, giving it a careful jiggle, a hiss and a flinch when hot wax drips onto his finger but he doesn't put it out. Lifts it instead, steady and unwary that another burn awaits him if he doesn't change his technique, sheltering the pip of flame with a cupped hand.

"Know what?" He looks the more dishevelled as he ascends wet stairs, rumpled, damp, blue from cold, the red leaf now sodden flat on his scalp. "I don't know how they do it in Soviet Russia, but you have to use nouns when you have conversations on Staten Island."

Zuleyka's grin is more a sneer, one bicuspid exposed with a lift of his lip. "Know what this place is? What is this, sanctuary?" His tone is hopeful, despite that wary, uncertain expression. He ties the boat as securely as he can, and then bends to see if there might be more candles, more things that're useful. Satisfied there's nothing moreto be scavenged, he follows Teo.

In the library's lower levels, there are tables floating like lily pads. Up here, though, things look relatively dry, only ill-maintained, wavering slightly whenever they can't quite decide whether they'd rather be pre- or post-Bomb. Language fetishest that Teodoro had been, he had spent a good deal of time familiarizing himself with the layout of broad floors, somewhat excessive staircases, the citrus-based must of volume binding adhesives, and such details are correct here to that bygone era.

Some dust, is all. Darkness. Discontinuous windows. Cracks in things, an inexplicable blight of scorching eaten down the wood of some shelves, the pages of the books contained on them. Teo shrugs slightly, but his shadow is sixteen feet tall and the gesture exaggerated with it. "Non lo so." Teo's voice echoes slightly and, coincidentally, that's the way the library still is in 2009. "I've been on the move awhile. It's the kind of thing you pick up when you're on the move: where to go. What are you going to write?"

"I don't know that I will," Felix says, and his tone is lost, rather than defiant. His face slowly crumples. This place used to be a sanctuary of another sort….and now it's a ghost of its former self. "Thank you," he adds, quietly, glancing over his shoulder, as he looks for a way up.

Grudging concern ridges Teo's voice, though his eyes are turned away, an elaborate facade of disinterest. "What do you mean you don't know?" He squishes the candlestub down on top of a conveniently proximate table and scrunches himself down into a chair. Fluff squeezes out of the padding from underneath his butt, pushed through a ruptured seam. He looks at the ceiling, where rot interrupts the yellow lambskin fluff of cumulus in a halcyon sky with clouds of brackish brown. "You shouldn't take them for granted."

Felix looks to Teo, thoughtfully. "I don't. I never do. They saved my life so many times, after they gave it to me," he notes, as he looks for a place to sit. He puts his head down in his hands, rubs at his eyes miserably.

Poor puppy. Frowning, Teo shuffles down lower and lower in his chair, until the stuffing is spooling out like loose guts and his chin is buried almost in his chest. "Okay," he says. "Don't write to them, then. Run away forever. Works for me. The ocean doesn't exactly end."

The Russian boy wriggles uncomfortably, like a prodded puppy. He gets up, then and starts to pace, more or less aimlessly. "Where….do you stay here? I'm tired. I'd like to rest," he says.

"I like sleeping behind the statues. The alcoved ones," Teo says, slowed by some form of discomfort that can not be even partially attributed to his physical circumstances. "For cover. But I don't sleep. I read there sometimes. You can have the candle. There were some blankets and shit in the boat."

"Yeah," he says, wearily. "Lemme go get 'em." It's the bottomless grief of the recognition of exile to come in his voice.

Though Teo's posture is already an awful scoliosistic nightmare, bent up in the curve of his chair, he isn't stooped down low enough that he can't see the look on the other boy's face. The table doesn't come high enough to block the boy's scrawny shape or the doorway. He exudes a long sigh through his teeth, lumps a tattooed arm up over his nose and tries to think ataraxic thoughts. Really. He's sixteen years old, has a boat and has the skill to pilot it, a world large enough to hide in: this isn't his problem.

That, arguably, is a great gift of Felix Ivanov's. Making things that are his problem everyone else's. He comes back in a little with the blanket, supplies, goes to look for a statue to hide behind. Maybe there's one that's appropriately Soviet.

If there is, Teo doesn't recognize it for what it is when he finally comes clattering up the stairs, his jeans and shirt winking dark in the gaps between the bony pallor of balustrades on his fleet-footed ascent. He squeaks to a stop on the landing, quiets as he pads closer, his stride the same rolling thug's gait that continues to influence his posture at twenty six years of age, but far more pronounced, nigh to the point of exaggeration, joints swaggering in their sockets. "Joe?" he asks, craning his head in the shade.

"Yes?" calls Felix, as he ducks in and out of the shadows between the pools of light cast by the window. "What is it?" He's got a blanket draped over his shoulder like a serape. The Student With No Name.

Carpet peels and dents under Teo's plodding big-puppy tread. He didn't notice the dawn coming up. "Nothing," he says. "I just thought slee—ping might not be a good idea. In case you have… the—" his accent snags, "—nightmares." There's a hang-back, hesitation, a self-conscious lag to the statement separate from the Italian embedded in it, as if he's almost aware of the irony that permeates that statement on a different plane of awareness. He slows his stride. "But I was also thinking— ah.

"You see," he kicks his way over dust, looses a ragged, sluggish curtain up into the dank air of the hall. Despite that as many windows lack glass as there are those that have them, there's a long dynasty of odors trapped in the atmosphere in here. "The night is very long, and life is short. There's still time if you want to go back. You would only have to lie."

"I need to lie down," Fel says, stubbornly. He's found an empty alcove to nest in, a place he can put his back against the wall in the most literal sense. He crouches to start arranging his blanket - he's generously left one for Teo. "I'll think about it, later."

Snagging the leftover blanket by its corner, Teo hitches it up, over his arm, flexing his shoulder to make carrying the bundle easier on the bundle. He squints at the Russian making up his nest like a little barn swallow in a nook of the rafters. "Okay." He accepts this stubornness, after a moment, because there's nothing much he can do with it other than decide how long he's going to leave it alone. Maybe a few hours, maybe forever. "I'm going to go check some fish traps.

"Buona notte." It isn't night anymore, but Teodoro doesn't notice and doesn't take it back, turning for the stairs. His diminishing figure looks small already, in the size of the library's desiccated husk.

If you rest within a dream, do you wake to the real world? Fall into a deeper layer of the mind, like a child pulling open a matroshka? Fel doesn't seem to do either. Genuine sleep, lost even to himself, as he curls up on the floor.

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