Without Distance


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Scene Title Without Distance
Synopsis Fresh out of Bad Breakup N, Teo drops in on Alexander. It's 2010, and everything in the world has changed (everything!) except for the two.
Date September 19, 2010

Darien, Georgia

An itty-bitty coastal town.

Medals are nice. But they don't pay thebills, and they don't buy you groceries. Nor does being a hero of the Republic. Which is why Al has again taken up policing. Not in New York, though, but a tiny Georgia town near Savannah. He was something of a nine days' wonder when he appeared, but he's been there long enough that they've grown used to him, albeit with the bemusement of a town that more or less found a unicorn grazing on the courthouse lawn.

He lives a little ways outside the town, in a one room cabin near the water. It's elevated, for the occasional hurrican storm surge, the lattice enclosed space underneath serving as garage and storage. There's a worn blue Ford parked a little ways from the base of the steps that lead up to the screened in porch. It's desperately quiet, save for the hum of cicadas and tree frogs, and the distant sound of the quiet surf.

Hard to find. Although this stretch of tarmac was clearly labelled, the signpost for one of the intermediate streets was completely swallowed up by some kind of carnivorous bush. It's fortunate that he's been traveling a lot recently. There are subtle patterns of navigation that are universal between cultures and cities, and this tiny, salt-speckled and shrubberied coastal town is still traced on the same outlines.

Teo takes the stairs two by two. A few years ago, he'dve taken them in fours. It turns out that boys do, indeed, grow up.

Or not. Bang bang bang, goes the closed fist on the surface of the door, as tactless and unrestrained now as it had been driving nails into the walls of Ferrymen safehouses two years ago with the iron nose of a hammer. The young man attached to the extremity hasn't changed much since the last time Alexander saw him, courtesy of genetics and keeping in touch. Which isn't to say that Teodoro's arrival was in any way announced.

The door flings open with the force of someone not best pleased to have his afternoon nap interrupted. Al's expression is truculent, red brows lowered, short hair rumpled from sleep. But it eases, when recognition sets in, and he sweeps Teo into a bearhug. "T," he says, putting his chin on the Sicilian's shoulder for a moment. "C'mon in. I didn't know you was comin'." All that time down here has done very little for his grammar. Teo no doubt speaks better English than he does.

It is difficult to get one's arms all the way around Teo these days. Not because he's fat, of course, he's far too vain and inured against change for that, but because he has an enormous backpack sort of permanently grafted, tortoiseshell, to his back. At least, when a boat engine and quarters isn't doing all the carrying for him. Alexander's hands meet zipped canvas, and his nose the familiar redolence of brine and sweat.

Teo hugs back. Kind of. His arms are a little stuck, or he'd do better. As it is, there's a clap of a long hand on the edge of Alexander's torso, a gust of halcyon laughter in the corkscrew cartlidge of his ear. "Grazie," he says. And then, because he always does— "Sorry. I woke you up?"

Scent is….always that terrible goad to memory. So there's a fractional hesitation as Al withdraws, though he covers it with a smile. "Yeah. Day off, I was takin' a nap. No big deal," he says, airily, ushering Teo in. It's a one room, and not large at that. Mostly lined with bookshelves, though part of it is screened off with an arrangement of folding wood screens. Presumably the 'bedroom'. There's a little kitchen in the center of the back, and next to it an equally tiny bathroom, complete with tin shower stall. Not much furniture in the main body - a table off to one side for dining, a TV on a stand, a couch. Apparently there's not a lot of fame and fortune to be had down here. "What brings you out this way? And you want something to drink, or eat?" He smells of that same soap. God only knows where he buys it here

The Sicilian tramples in with a noise of a small cavalry, even as he slings the backpack down from his shoulder in a series of drops and jerks, the strap catching on his elbow before slithering to the floor with a rasp and thump of canvas. He isn't as good at covering things. Not with a smile, nor with a poker face. It's just soap, of course.

"I stink," he announces facetiously instead, sharply aware of the contrast. Snaring the collar of his T-shirt with a forefinger, he pulls it up over his nose, gapping his stomach into view before he drops into a crouch to yank his shoes off one by one. They're notched and worn, the paler flesh showing through varnish. "Abby broke up with me. I went to Panama, almost broke my neck about three times zip-lining in the cloud forest and diving around the Caribbean like a retard.

"Third was a pretty close call, so I figured I should stick to beers and good company for awhile. If that's okay." The shirt slides off Teo's nose about halfway through the word 'Caribbean.' Feet freed, he steps across the floor, splaying his toes in the thin fabric of his sock. Eventually, he scrapes together enough courage together off the creaking boards, looks up.

"Well, I'm sorry to hear it," Al says, gently, already turning away to open the little fridge in the kitchen, pull out a couple of bottles of soda. "You're welcome to use the shower, stay a little, if you want," His tone is soft. "I…there ain't much room, but I can sleep on the porch. I mostly do, this time of year." HE's in his usual white t-shirt and jeans, a little stiff. That explains the cot out there, covered only with a sheet or two.

That would be perfect. Abigail said so. Abigail had told him to. No clear idea why he detoured through Central America first. Ideas, but none of them clear. "I'd rather take the couch, please," Teo replies.

His socked feet thump across the floor and he drops himself on the furniture in question, his back finding a question-mark curl against the flat, oblong lines of the cushions and the wooden supports buried therein. He hides his feet between stuffed segments, looks at the ceiling for a protracted moment. The wooden boards there are even, too, the cross-section of growth rings drooping like melancholy eyes.

"I'm not," he says, blankly. Then, "Thanks."

"It ain't long enough for you. You should take the bed. I promise, I changed the sheets not long ago," Al points out, in his gentle drawl. And really, it isn't. More of a love seat, not so great for napping on,if you're a strapping young man. "Anyhow, I need to do shoppin' this evenin', so you wake me when you're ready. I 'magine you're tired, a trip that long. We can go out - there's a good Mexican place on the square," He looks tired himself, somehow. A more existential weariness, to have this fragment of his past popping up. With that, he shuffles out on to the porch, heading for the cot disposed at the other end. There's a ceiling fan out there, turning slowly.

It is long enough for Teo who is, absurdly, a rather compact sleeper and moreso now even than he used to be. In defiance of— something, he drops himself onto his back, his neck at an absurd angle with the armrest and his shoulder tilted to an oblique angle between the seat and the back.

He pillows his head on his arm, hooding eyes that follow the older man across the room even as he listens to the meter of Alexander's still-familiar drawl. It takes him a few awkward seconds to realize it when the redhead is done talking, that it's his turn to answer. "Whatever you want to do," he answers. "You're the one with an honest job."

"Right on," Al says, lazily, as he pads past. "You don't mind, I'm gonna finish that nap, myself," He leaves the door open, the screen on it closed. The heat of the southern sun hasn't given him any more of a tan than he ever had - he's still moon pale.

Time passes.

It isn't until Alexander's inscrutable pallor is joined by the slow swing of the moon's mint candy-white into the sky that the courteous host's rest is interrupted by his guest. This time, however, Teo manages to restrain himself from cheerfully slamming into things as if he means them harm and making a pandemonium out of getting from Point A to Point B. He's quiet, this time. A wheezing whine of the flyscreen door swiveling open, a conspiratorial whisper from inside:


Al's a limp figure on the cot, but he sits up when his name is called. "Hey, Teo," he says, easily. "You ready to go get dinner?" His boots sit neatly at the end of his coat, a habit left over from his days in the Army, and he takes his time putting them back on. The insects and frogs are a fullthroated chorus in the summer night. There are no houses close at hand, no light beyond that which comes from the moon and the dim glow of the lights in the cabin.

Nearly as dark as Panama out here. Teo's figure darkens still more of the doorway as he lets himself out, hangs his shoulders low and angles a pallid eye up into the sky below the edge of the porch cover. There are going to be lots of stars. Perhaps not the infinitessimal dust of motes between the ones that people putting down on star maps, but a lot. As many as you'll get without being at sea.

He changed his shirt and his skin is redolent of myrrh. "Si." When he tips his head down to look at Alexander, his pupils are pulled so wide by darkness that they've almost eaten all the blue out of his eyes. "Mex? I walked all the way here. It took fucking forever, but I don't mind doing again if you don't want to drive. Nice night." There's enough orange incandescence out of the cabin to limn Teo's smile into visibility.

"I'll drive," Al says, flicking on the light in the porch with a twitch of his power. Convenient, that. He shuffles back into the cabin to brush his hair into some semblance of order. "I'm too hungry and lazy to walk tonight," he adds, rolling his shoulders to work out the kinks. "What happened with Abby - if you don' wanna talk about it, just say so. Likely none of my business," he says, jaw gaping in a yawn. Still self-contained and quiet - whatever Verse has taken from him, some last vestige of innocence, remains gone. Still not recovered from Moab.

Takes more than a year to get over things like that. Teo understands: he isn't very good at getting over anything, or anybody. "Okay. That sounds good." Remaining on the porch, he tramples backward to rest his back against the wood of the cabin wall.
Loose-linked behind him, his fingers curl against the grain, trying to determine through the roughened thickness of his skin whether or not it has retained the ambient heat of the weather. Wooden houses seem to have a lot of life in them, long after the subtle chemistries and processes that breathed life through their trees is withered away. He looks out at the water. He's always loved water, too.

"I don't mind. There wasn't a lot of drama. We're still friends," Teo adds, as if that weren't blatantly obvious. They're still friends. It has taken more than a viral apocalypse, dissent among the terrorist cell ranks, and a dozen injuries of various levels of fatal to push those two apart. "Just didn't work. I don't think I was very good for her.

"Or Salvatore," he adds, blankly. Not quite an afterthought.

Alexander grunts, as he locks the door behind him, leads the way down the steps to the Ford. "Sorry," he says, simply, clicking the locks on the car open. No need for power locks with his particular trick, apparently. "What're you gonna do now?" he wonders, as he settles into the driver's seat, keys the ignition. The flare of the headlights calls up green sparks in the eyes of a family of deer, browsing on the patch of lawn, who crash into the underbrush. By Al's lack of reaction, this is nothing remarkable.

Vaguely, Teo remembers hearing Al and Cat talk about like. Hunting, once. Killing stuff. For— food, maybe. He can't remember, only that there was some excited discussion of what weapons to use. Odd though it is to see the Ford unlock itself, he isn't perturbed by it, puts himself into shotgun in two consecutive swings of his limbs. "Beer, I think. I don't know. School?

"I like traveling and translation work just fine, but I keep doing dumb shit out there by myself," Teodoro says, in a tone of complaint so mild it seems there for color more than anything else. "Abby thinks I should stop. Sonny's still doing that whole 'finding himself in obscure Third World Country' thing, with the MSF, but.

"Fuck, I spent the last— twelve years of my life doing that, so it's probably time to cut it." Not that the good Doctor and former terrorist hadn't had other differences, previously elucidated. Not only had there been a certain disagreement about going public, but through some bizarre coincidence of bad timing, Salvatore he needed to go abroad during Teo's first ever recorded decision to sit and rest.

It seems improbable that it'll last this time too. Teo knows that. Pushes his seatbelt home, leans on the door, stops his hand before he starts messing with the redneck's radio. "How's being a cop again?" he asks, tilting his a glance across the cab.

"Nice," Al says, blandly. "Nothing like being a cop in New York. This is like….Mayberry," he says, with a little laugh in his voice, wry and affectionate at once. "I'm one of a dozen officers, the only openly Evolved. They don't know what to do with me, so they treat me like anybody else. Well, Bianco always was an idealist. I'm sure he's doing some good," he adds, glancing at Teo out of the corner of his eye. He pulls out onto the dark road, streaked with moonlight under the moss-clad trees. It's not a long drive, happily, the lights of the town visible in thedistance.

There's a grunt in response, which fogs the glass that Teo is peering through. It's sort of an obscene idyll out here. Pretty in a way that Teodoro isn't sure what to do with. He can see the glowworm ambience of the town in his peripheral; not long to drive, though considerable to walk with a backpack. Even if you are a strapping young man.

"No more than you or I," Teo answers, once he's decided that is what he wants to say. Takes him a few seconds. Idealism feels a little outmoded after everybody has started doing it. "You miss New York at all? You were a little bit infatuated with her, last I checked. Fucked up traffic and skyline and everything." The seat creaks under him when he swivels to look at his friend.

So quiet. No sirens. No cars, almost. No planes. "I do, a bit," he concedes. "But…I'm not interested in playing at being a celebrity. Helena's more eloquent and more photogenic. I was never anythin' but the muscle, and now that we no longer need violence, I don't do that movement any good. And I could do with some peace and quiet, after Iraq, after New York, after Moab," His hands are white-knuckled on the steering wheel. "I'm tired," he says, faintly, after letting the silence sit for a little.

"You sound like an old man," Teo says. This is not an original thought, not for all of humanity's collective consciousness of course— but not for Teo thinking about Jesse, either. He's never liked it. Not while they were hooking up lights in the dust of the abandoned subway tunnel, nor between grueling cab shifts, and he isn't about to like it now.

It's probably a little different that he actually just says that out loud, though. Instead of arguing or stealing something out of Alexander's pocket and larks around with it like some ungodly pestilence of junior sibling. Annoyance knits shadow into his eyebrows, but concern keeps the set of his features otherwise quiescent, inobtrusive. Teo might have grown up, a little.

Or not. "I hope you aren't getting fat out here, or I get all the fucking beer. We should go exploring tomorrow." His eyes lapse shut; his head rolls on his shoulder, hits the glass pane with a thok.

Yeah. Old and doddering at thirty. That's Jess. "I been through enough to age better men than me," Al says, with the lift of a shoulder in a shrug. "And sure, I'm off tomorrow, I can show you 'round. This is an old town, or we could drive up to Savannah, play tourist. "No, I ain't fat. Never do seem to gain weight." It's true - he's still lean, though without Felix's sighthound build.

Oh, Christ. That— the road widens here. A good thing.

"Pull over," Teo commands in the style of… well, not really Phoenix's co-leader, given he was pretty awful at dispensing orders during that chapter of his life, but he's loud with braggadocio in a way that might be somewhat obnoxious compared to the cadence of green-fleshed fauna and the general overabundance of flora out here. Without actually waiting for the telltale clunk of brakes or shift of velocity inside the vehicle, he unlocks the door. Throws off a casual salute with his eyebrows, a wave of his hand. "Come on.

"It isn't far from here," he says. A quaver-beat, before he replies, a little sullenly, "There aren't any better ones."

And Al obeys enough to hastily veer off, pulling on to the shoulder, turning on the hazard flashers. "What isn't far? What's not better?" he demands, a little irritably, but he does follow, after clicking the locks closed behind them.

"Other men. Your inferiority complex is annoying. Or inconsistent with my delusions of preference— don't argue with me, I'll win anyway," Pleasantly blinded by darkness, Teo kicks a bit of wood that turns out to be a rock and hurts his toe. Ahhh. Fuck. He doesn't even stumble, of course, continuing forward at a gait that maximizes the rangy length of his legs. Alexander's as tall; he has no real doubt that the former soldier can keep up.

"Town isn't far from here." Superfluously, Teo raises an arm; points the way ahead into the yellow glitter of street lights and somnolent glow of restaurants, bars, whatever's open past retail hours. Grass flattens underfoot and he breathes dew in, shoving his hands into his pockets. And for no other reason than because he has nothing else to say, he admits, "I was going to see you sooner."

Not a whole lot's open. It's later in the evening, and Darien is not a large town, by anyone's standards. Al settles in at an easy lope, catching up with Teo, hands in his pockets. "Oh?" he says, with mild curiosity in his voice, eyes a little narrowed against the glimmer of the street lights, as they come in out of the velvet darkness of a southern spring night.

Though Teo has never been afraid of the dark, his pace quickens further still as they near the town lights, eyes roving among them. He lifts his voice above the wavering melody of crickets. "Yeah. It was a good idea. Abby's. Weeks ago. But I wanted to be less of a mess when I got here." There's a fragment of an apology lost somewhere in all that, either a few bars of tone or the dull choice of words.

One of the restaurants on the town square is a Mexican place. There's bright neon above the door - an iguana wearing a sombrero. 'EL SOMBRERO' reads the legend by it. Al's silent at that, as if not entirely certain what to say. He finally comes up with, "Well, you can stay as long as you like."

Prompt as good manners, Teo answers: "Grazie." He slows once they break into the first round lake of street lamp light, his eyes on the hatted iguana, though his feet slow, ceding leadership to Alexander. Odd to think about in the extended context, but it's practical. This isn't his home territory, and his irritated compulsion to shake Al out of his old man's malaise has spent enough of itself that he can behave now.

Alexander doesn't feel compelled to chat, clearly. He's gotten even more laconic and closemouthed since the fellowship sort of split up, its mission done. He pushes open the door. It's not a large place - the booths are worn, but the air is fragrant. "Food's real good here," he says, more cheerfully, as he makes his way in. By the greetings he gets, he's known here.

Sometimes, quiet is better than the words that come out of Al's mouth. Easier on Teo's ears and his sensibilities, anyway.

He falls in line as neatly and pragmatically here as he had with Helena's captaincy years ago, picking his way along the floor behind the redhead, studying the layout of the restaurant with a proper tourist's interest. He smiles at the mingled employees and patrons who greet his companion, offers a greeting or two, polite and never without warmth despite his preference for monosyllables. "Good. I'm hungry."

Al reflexively takes the booth in the corner that lets you see all the entrances and exits at once. "How'd you get up here?" he wonders, as he takes his seat. Unarmed, since he's off-duty. In terms of mundane weapons, anyhow. Not that he's ever really weaponless. The waitress is a motherly Mexican woman, who bustles by with glassesof water and a murmured good evening.

"A plane and then a bus — or two, and then a boat." Teo puts himself in the booth on the opposite side of the table, despite that that limits his view of the room and its exits. If you're going to trust somebody with your back, it might as well be the best friend who can fling a moose around just by thinking about it.

Not that he's unarmed, though. It will be awhile before he'll consider that again. He has more avenues and excuses than much of Phoenix and the Ferry to return to civilian life, but less of an inclination to do so for reasons he hasn't yet ascribed words to. "Thank you." That's for the waitress.

"'M gonna bus up to New York a little while too, maybe. Some point. See how Deckard's doing." That's for Alex.

Alexander shakes his head. "Busses are miserable in this country. Fly or train, if you can," he suggests, handing over a laminated menu. He grunts. Deckard's never been one that mattered much to him, one way or the other, clearly. "You can take Amtrak outta Savannah alla way up to NY," He's calm enough, almost relaxed.

Deckard's always been one to matter a little too much to Teo, and hard to tell whether the converse was true first. Or why. Or how that all happened, with the genocidal terrorist cell and supervirii and shit. Feels like a long time ago. Hard to make sense of that which remains. "Okay.

"I'll take your word for it," he replies. He takes the menu between thumb and fingers, turns it to look at. Beans, beans, everywhere, and 'everywhere' circumscribes a surprisingly large number of items. "What are you going to get?"

"Beef enchiladas, and the soup," Al says, before fixing Teo with a surprisingly piercing blue star. Like he can puzzle out what Teo really wants to accomplish by stopping here in some coastal backwater.

The menu is promptly discarded with an attitude of resolution. "Beef enchiladas and the soup," Teo decides, because thinking for himself is too hard. He is all over pleasant conviction about this until the look on the older man's face kind of punches him between the eyes; his own gaze wavers down for a fractioned instant, sidling around the urge to look at the table.

In the end, he winds up wiping his face with his hand and checking his palm for residual dirt. Or something. Which probably isn't much better, but hey. Teo is still Teo. He has a hard time being anything else. "What!"

"Why're you here, Teodoro?" Al asks, tone polite, almost fond, but also inexorable. He's finally won a measure of peace, and the Sicilian Tornado showing up here in Mayberry…..well, no doubt it'll upset all kinds of apple carts. He lays his palms on the table, almost as a gesture of good will.

It turns out, there is nothing on Teo's face except for Teo's face. It is pretty obvious that the default answer for that one, the top of the drop-down menu, is 'I dunno, whatever.' Teo almost says it; his mouth starts to shape the first syllable, his shoulders going up in unison of perplexity.

Something about Alexander's expression stops him from going through with that store-bought answer, however, and his teeth connect before 'I' emerges into the spectrum of human hearing. "Wanted to see how you were doing," he answers, presently. His own eyes blink blue as the throat of a bee-eater flitting by. "I missed you."

That's answer enough. "Missed you, too," Al says, simply, before setting aside his menu.

"'Course you did." There's a scuff of Timberlands underneath the table, before two of them emerge up, snub leather noses first, dropping to settle on the bench beside Alexander. Teo beams. "I'm awesome."

There's a vulpine flash of teeth, accompanying the almost predatory look Al gives Teo. It's not there for more than an instant - he stifles whatever retort he intended to make. No doubt something dazzingly crude.

It's been a few years since Teo was subject to that /look/ or in a position where he could acknowledge it. His face darkens. His face always does. He smiles, unsure whether the quelled remark had been an insult, flirtation, or some rough-handed amalgamation of both, but equally prepared to— not take offense, whatever the fuck it was. "Asshole," he says, intelligently. He raises a hand to flag down the great Mexican matron.

"Same as always," Al says, with mock resignation. He places his order, expression bland and innocent, before that spark of mischief fades entirely. It leaves him looking older than he should, especially considering the smoothness of his skin.

When Teo makes his order, he does so in the Espanol, inevitably. Leaves the lady with the menu, hunkers down on his bench with round shoulders, so low he's probably at risk of sliding right off the edge of his seat and hitting his chin on the table, except he won't, because he's Teodoro, and though he never learned to use furniture properly but he's had a lot of practice with using it improperly.

"Any immediate plans?" he asks. "Or is this your plan for the next while?"

Which makes the waitress laugh, and pat Teo on the shoulder gently. "This is my plan for the next while, yes," Al affirms, quietly.

Log title from the song: the Neverending White Lights' "Distance".

Scream out all the ways you notice.
The past is gone, forget what you had.
If you’re the only one who knows it,
Then you can’t come back to me, I know.
Do whispers of lovers always hold you way
Underneath the tide in our minds?

Don’t you wish you were?
Don’t you wish I was?
Something more than mystery to uncover.

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