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Topics - TEDDY.

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The Badlands / what's the price i've got to pay? — trespassers, open.
« on: September 16, 2021, 03:34:45 PM »
Teddy prophesied his imminent downfall. It broke him to contemplate that it had probably been caused by Giovanni, as well as Teddy’s reluctance to remove his rose-tinted glasses, but there would come a time where he’d confess to Micah and Juliette and, more importantly, himself that his older brother had been right all along.

He had been standing in the hotel lobby when he noticed the upheaval outside. Initially, Teddy gave the commotion an insouciant quirk of his brow as it disturbed the conversation he was invested in. It was likely a tête-à-tête between a couple of Made Men, probably putting on whatever belligerent bravado made them feel like the men they wanted to be. That was until Teddy distinctly heard a man raise his voice, ❝ Nah, we’re here to see the Knopes, and we’re not leaving until we’ve spoken to them! ❞ It was easier to remain composed right in the heart of his own empire, but a twisting sensation in the gut was inevitable following the tone of the man’s voice.

If they wanted to ❛ talk ❜, it weren’t for nothing nice.

Teddy silenced the person he had been speaking with by wordlessly raising his pointer finger towards them as his attention remained focused on the disturbance outside. ❝ Yeah, well our Boss wants us to let them know that our deal with the father is off. ❞ On the other side of the hotel’s glass doors, three unfamiliar men were becoming increasingly confrontational as several Badlanders blocked them from walking up the brick road to the front of the hotel. Whilst it was usually policy to bring hostile trespassers to The Administration, Teddy was rigid as he listened carefully to their words. These weren’t people that Teddy wanted to face.

Teddy clicked his tongue, releasing a short sigh of stress before looking over to the person he had initially silenced. ❝ Go tell ‘em that the Knopes are busy and make sure ya see ‘em outta our fucking city. Make sure nobody kills ‘em though. They need’a stay alive. ❞ Killing or harming them would only ignite the explosive vendetta against them even more, and Teddy knew better than to play with fire as wild as these people. These were the big fish in the world; whilst the Knopes were steadily rising, they still had opposition that could crush them if they played a reckless game. Teddy was smarter than to tempt their aggression, especially after the misguided stunt Giovanni had pulled way back when he and Teddy worked together in New Orleans. The stunt that had gotten them into this mess in the first place.

❝ What’s all da ruckus? ❞ Giovanni wandered into the lobby from the casino with a shit-eating grin on his lips. As if he would dare to laugh once Teddy enlightened him. Turning his head to stare over towards Papa, Teddy’s lips parted with disbelief before brows pinched together tightly. ❝ It’s you, Papa. Fuckin’ us over, time after time again, that’s what all da ruckus is! ❞ Teddy hissed viciously, nostrils flaring with a look which could kill Papa if he ever had the heart to truly stand up to him. Teddy would complain, he’d hiss and spit and snarl, but he’d never cut Papa out of his life in the way Micah had. They were family, and so they’d inevitably face the storm together. Teddy would always be there for Papa, because maybe one day Papa would learn to be there for Teddy in return.

Giovanni's face fell with vexation. He clearly wanted to snap back, his face turning red with anger towards Teddy’s insolence, but instead he eventually broke the glare he sent Teddy’s way so that he could listen into the conversation outside. As father and son stood rigidly beside each other, they watched as the three men were ushered away, armed Badlanders following them to ensure they left The Badlands. ❝ We need’a figure out what we gonna do with ‘em… No, you need’a figure out what we gonna do with ‘em. ❞ Teddy jabbed a finger Papa’s way before turning to walk into the casino, sliding down to sit at the bar.

With a sigh, he cradled his head in his hands before glancing towards whoever was closest to him. ❝ I need a drink. ❞ He pointed out bluntly with the expectation that they’d provide.

The Badlands / the good, the bad and the dirty — fighting ring, open.
« on: August 04, 2021, 04:19:02 PM »
A twisted grin sat on his lips as Teddy sat right at the front in a place he dubbed the booth. Although it barely resembled any appearance of a booth, the only seating area in the fighting club was cordoned off with a red velvet rope fence so that the seats were reserved solely for whoever Teddy wished to have sit beside him. Within the stir of the excitable yet overcrowded underground fight club, the only area that wasn’t busy with drunken crowds all shoulder-to-shoulder was where Teddy sat comfortably at his own leisure, sipping at a drink with content.

His soft honey locks curled impeccably as he left his hair in its most natural state, and instead today he sported a more casual chino and crisp white dress shirt outfit, paired with a simple tie and his favourite black mules. Twisting his head, he curled his lips into an impish grin as he observed the way Giovanni stared over towards the fighting ring ahead with wonderment. ❝ Ya like what ya see? ❞ Teddy urged for Papa’s approval, his old man leaning back in the seat beside Teddy before he nodded his head towards the ring.  ❝ The crowd’s pretty fired up for today’s events, yeah? ❞ ❝ Mmm, yeah. Just hope it don’t start before Anya gets here. Now where’s she at? ❞

Leaning forward in his seat, Teddy’s eyes wandered the crowds until eventually he spotted Anya wandering over to their cordoned off area, as beautiful as always. ❝ Save some awe for da fighting ring, Cher! Nobody’s gonna be focussing on the fight when all their eyes are on you. ❞ Teddy hummed with approval, holding his hand out for her before pulling her onto his knee. ❝ As always, stunning. ❞ Eyes gazed up towards her, lips tugging into a softer smile before he wrapped his arms around her. Whilst he wouldn’t call them an item, they were certainly something. Not that Teddy was ever one to get into the nitty gritty of labels and any other suffocating terms which could restrain him in any way. Perhaps he cared more for her appearance than the bond they shared  — it wouldn’t have been the first time he’d done that to a beautiful woman — but there was something there. There ought to be in the way he looked at her.

Eyes turned to linger on Papa, watching the way he avoided looking over towards the couple as he rested his chin on his clenched fist. Teddy hesitated for a moment, allowing for one hand to fall to his side before pulling a chair closer for Anya to take a seat. ❝ Hey, Papa. Here’s da fighters coming on now… Comme on dit en français… Bonne continuation 1. ❞ His smile faltered somewhat at Papa’s dismissive hum before Teddy straightened up to watch the fighters step into the ring. The crowd ignited with lairy cheers and hollers, pushing each other around as they eagerly tried to catch a glimpse of the fighters preparing for the fight. Teddy lounged back comfortably, hands resting on his lap as he soon heard the bell ring to signify the beginning of the fight.

1 As we say in French, enjoy.

Flintlock Lodge / hangout at the gallows — invitation.
« on: July 31, 2021, 04:58:58 PM »
A man dressed in black approached the humble ski village, handwritten letter in hand as he awaited whoever would approach to take the letter back to the lodge. ❝ It’s a letter from The Administration. They’d like to invite you to a casino night in The Badlands. ❞ He announced firmly.


The Badlands / drop the game — casino party, open.
« on: July 31, 2021, 04:53:25 PM »
tw. mention of alcohol

They had piqued his interest, and that was a very dangerous position for them to be in.

When Papa warned him of their rising competition, Teddy was acrimonious. He had not fought tooth and nail to get to this point, only for the Knope’s attempts to crumble at the first sign of competition. And, to add insult to injury, Teddy soon heard through the grapevine of the Stirling’s dirty secret. They were well-esteemed in the criminal world, raised with a silver spoon in their mouth as they made their dirty fortune from a whiskey distillery with ease. This only frustrated Teddy even more. These people knew what they were doing in this alcohol-fuelled rat race which left the Knopes at a clear disadvantage. All because the Stirlings always had it all in their fine opulence and snotty upbringing.

Perhaps Teddy was envious to some degree; they always had what he wanted in life and they could do so that effortlessly, all whilst wiping out Teddy’s vigorous and determined efforts with little more than an insouciant nod of the head. From then on, the Stirling's would be so blasé in the way they’d dismantle Teddy’s work with little effort on Eddie’s part. Whilst Teddy had the nightlife down to perfection, the nightlife was no nightlife without the alcohol. Teddy had to ensure they monopolised it before it was too late.

Inviting Flintlock Lodge to a casino night seemed to be the most useless idea but Teddy had a plan. This one was going to be good. Lure the seemingly humble mountain folk in and show them exactly what they were meddling with. Perhaps a scare was all that was needed for them to realise that interfering with The Badlands was not a good idea. Whilst his people could do a good job at socialising with Flintlock’s people, Teddy, Micah and Juliette could find the opportunity for a one to one talk with the Captain himself, Edmund Stirling. Teddy had a lot that he could say to deter Edmund.

After all, it would be a damn shame if his people found out about the monster they looked up to. Because Edmund kept that part of his story very much a secret, right? The part where he was not the virtuous, steadfast leader he made himself out to be, as much as he was the cold blooded killer who was willing to tear down enterprises and end the lives of the innocent for his own benefit.

Teddy sat at the bar as he observed Flintlockers arriving in the casino. He did not act like the usual social butterfly he was, instead somewhat more closed off as he watched them with slightly narrowed eyes. He’d leave the socialising to the other Badlanders. After all, Teddy was looking out for one person in particular.

Slowly taking a sip of his cocktail — vodka distilled right here in The Badlands, might he add — Teddy waited several moments more before a mechanical, toothy grin soon curled at his lips at the sight of Edmund. Perhaps he should show his face for some time — keeping a close eye on the leader before making his approach — standing up before he began to approach the crowd of Flintlockers with a drink in hand, finding anyone that he could talk to.

The Badlands / only one not smiling — open.
« on: July 22, 2021, 10:41:59 AM »
❝ Ya know, you’ll try this and never wanna drink anything but this ever again! ❞ Teddy was ever-so-poised as he schmoozed with a group of Badlanders in the late afternoon. It had been his idea to hang out behind the bar in the casino so that he could prepare a couple of espresso martinis to whoever was interested. Teddy wasn’t a man who liked to get his hands dirty, but he could confidently claim that he was one of the best cocktail makers in this whole beachside town. ❝ Listen to dis: vodka, coffee liqueur, espresso, and sugar syrup, with a little garnish as a lagniappe. How dat sound? ❞

As he began to pour prepared drinks into martini glasses, Teddy took notice of Papa who wandered into the casino solemnly, hands in his pockets as he approached the bar. ❝ Papa! Ya gonna like what I made ya. ❞ Teddy exclaimed, sliding over one of the glasses so that Papa could receive a drink first before handing drinks out to others with a grin on his lips. ❝ Mmm, yeah… So I heard that people are runnin’ riot back home. Last week it sounds like Leandro Aguillard was shot ‘n’ killed in his own home. ❞ Well that was a name that Teddy didn’t think he’d hear again. Brows raised, lips parted slightly with a mild look of surprise before he murmured to himself, ❝ Aw, pauvre t-bête1. ❞

❝ I don’t think you're gettin' it. ❞ Giovanni returned in his gravelly voice, lowering his words to a hushed sound as if to not create a scene in the otherwise quiet casino. ❝ Aguillard and I had a deal. Ya know what dat means. ❞ With a curled lip, Teddy stared across at Giovanni with puzzlement before Giovanni lifted the martini glass and dismissed louder, ❝ We’ll talk later. ❞ With that, Giovanni turned to leave the casino again, this time with the martini in hand. Brows slowly bunched together before Teddy eventually turned to look back towards the Badlanders he was trying to entertain.

❝ How’s da martinis? ❞ He tried to appear as eager as before, but this most recent interaction with Papa left a sense of unease lingering within. He forced a smile, leaning on the counter before he stated, ❝ I say we spend the afternoon making each other cocktails. What about cha? ❞ His pointer finger landed on someone, quirking a brow, ❝ What’s your speciality? Come up and make us something. ❞ He lifted up his martini, taking a sip as he tried to put his worries about Papa’s ominous words behind him.

1 aw, poor thing

The Badlands / confidence — dress rehearsals, open.
« on: July 06, 2021, 05:30:06 PM »
The piano in the casino played the sweetest of melodies. It sounded nowhere near the mellow yet somewhat sleazy tune that his favourite jazz music would make, stirring a degree of fervour within Teddy. But that didn’t drive him away. In fact, as Teddy stood in front of the stage, he seemed to appreciate the melodic music that a Badlander played nearby whilst he looked upon a sight that he could only describe as breath-taking.

Graceful movements sent Tatiana travelling across the stage as she danced to the piano piece. She was so unassuming and gentle in nature, and yet her presence on the stage felt as if each movement demanded the utmost admiration from all those who laid their eyes upon her. She whirled around, so light on her feet, as she danced with a practiced ease. Foot forward. Back. An elegant, perfected twirl. Teddy’s eyes followed as he casually smoked a cigarette. A silent look of admiration lingered in his gaze — Teddy was proud.

This beautiful dancer was his.

Not an official declaration — dare Teddy ever claim to commit to anyone ever — but he enjoyed the times that he could freely spend in her company. She seemed to like him a lot, or she at least made him assume that was fact, and in return he felt confident in being able to support her and share a romance so casually enjoyable that it fit perfectly with Teddy’s expectations. No strings attached, but an opportunity to fulfil needs without having to search too far. She made him feel content and she treated him well.

Some would say that Teddy would move from one woman to the next so quickly, simply because he could. But this one seemed to stick. Teddy would claim it was solely because she hadn’t given him reason to cut off ties yet, but usually at this point he would have grown bored and have moved on. Not this time. This time, she was less another notch on his bedpost and more a lingering thought whenever he was not with her. He had never given a woman any second thought whilst they were not near but, with Tatiana, she was a lasting thought.

He enjoyed spoiling her with lavish gifts whenever he could, and it drove him mad when she would try to decline with a humble laugh. Teddy had to resort to begging Juliette to give Tatiana the gift on Teddy’s behalf because perhaps she’d more openly accept the gift if it was from a friend rather than a lover. Teddy was undoubtedly a biased man who’d only give back to the people that he benefited from, and that much was clear in the way he would encourage the best from Tatiana when she would perform at casino nights, providing all that she may need to give the best performance that she could offer.

Maybe this was just another woman that Teddy would enjoy for the time being until he’d inevitably grow bored, but maybe this was more. Maybe he liked her a little more than he was willing to admit. As far as anyone else was aware — in Teddy’s humble opinion — she was no more than his sweet exemplar of the perfect casino performer.

Stubbing out his cigarette in a nearby ashtray, the quiet casino echoed with a singular clap of the hands as Teddy applauded Tatiana when her performance came to an end, slowly wandering over once she hopped off the stage towards him. ❝ Mais! Ya poise and finesse never fails to amaze me. ❞ He admired as he snaked an arm around her waist, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear before he grinned. ❝ Absolutely beautiful. No wonder ya such a beloved dancer at events. ❞ With all the public displays of affection that he was so invested in, he nearly forgot to take notice of the fact that the next act had not yet stood up to begin their dress rehearsal. 

❝ Who’s next?! ❞ He exclaimed, waving his free hand towards the stage whilst his other hand rested on the small of Tatiana’s back. ❝ Y’all ain’t taking part in tonight’s party if ya haven’t practiced beforehand! Y’all know dis. ❞ He warned. After all, Teddy wanted his performers to put on the most perfect of performances. They were the entertainment that wowed the guests after all.

// i had permission to write tatiana beforehand! also, feel free to have your character perform something on stage, watch as performers go through rehearsals, or even be the badlander playing the piano!

Private Threads / et moi, envoutée de ténèbres — micah.
« on: July 06, 2021, 11:39:43 AM »
Love was close to hate when it came to a bond between two brothers. Oftentimes, it was difficult to tell one from another when brothers were as close as two people could be. After all, they both came from the very same womb, grew up in the very same home, looked up to the very same people. Even if in character they were two worlds apart, they were the same. That was why it hurt Theodore as much as it did to see that grudge-bearing resentment in Micah’s eyes, that unfamiliar look of betrayal whenever the brothers met each other’s gazes. It felt as if a part of Teddy had turned against himself with trepidation.

Papa had been a sore subject for the two brothers for most of their lives. In fact, there had only been a fleeting spate of instances in Teddy’s youth where his relationship between his parents was one to marvel at until Papa found himself increasingly invested in a new, frightening shadow of a lover. One which nobody could see or anticipate, yet it lingered in the darkness over their ramshackle family home all the same. His ambition of grandiosity had reached new dangerous heights that had left him with a decision he so easily took; success over a functioning family life. What hurt more than having no father was a father who would pay him no attention in favour of his work life — to earn a fraction of Papa’s time, Teddy would have to bend over backwards for him.

Micah had always been far less willing.

This had been a reality that had laid dormant in their youth whilst Micah focused on taking on Papa’s role as Teddy’s primary caregiver following Mama’s untimely passing. But over years this once unnoticed realisation erupted into fruition the moment the catalyst had returned to test the brothers’ seemingly unwavering relationship. Papa’s arrival had ignited a fraternal hostility which appeared so unassuming and quiet but, to Teddy, felt so loud. Never had the brothers been so cold towards one another until they disagreed fiercely about what to do with Papa. Teddy wanted him to stay — he was desperate to repair their fractured relationship — whilst Micah would be pleased to never see his father’s shrunken face again.

The brothers both loved each other, but they’d keep an eye on each other.

There were plenty of other eyes on them too. People began to whisper about how the well-esteemed Knope brothers had landed in hot water following the arrival of Giovanni Knope. Teddy wondered how long he could stay afloat this way without his brother’s guidance; after all, Micah had always been by his side until their recent divide, and this was clearly unfamiliar territory for the younger of the two. And maybe Teddy was bitter that Micah seemed so full of gall towards Teddy when Teddy was just doing what any person should do for their family. Whilst Papa barely acted like it, he was still their father and so Teddy would treat him with such respect. He would go to the ends of the world for him if it meant he could finally receive the praise that he had waited nearly three decades for.

And so he’d go into things blindly at Giovanni’s request because maybe his boldness would surely be enough to impress Papa. ❝ So, Micah… ❞ Teddy introduced his proposition with a vaguely confident hum. If he was being entirely truthful to himself, Teddy would admit that he was scared as hell because he knew Micah would not react well to this. In fact, Teddy would not have even brought up this proposal in the first place if it wasn’t for the fact that Micah deserved to be made aware of any changes Teddy wished to make in their empire. Teddy leaned against the balustrade of the upstairs lobby, outside of the hotel conference room and hallway to nearby suites. It had initially been his intention to make full use of the conference room, but the formality of it left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Instead, he cracked his knuckles as he stalled for a moment until eventually straightening up to look towards his older brother. ❝ I’m letting Papa be in charge of our tobacco sales. He knows what he’s doing and — well — I think it’s time for him to be a part of da family again. ❞ With the smallest of sneers, Teddy sent Micah a small shrug before he pointed out matter-of-factly, ❝ He’s different now, ya know? He just wants to be there for us, for Jules, for the boys. Ya just need to give the old man a chance. ❞ Teddy was too afraid to acknowledge that Micah may have been right all along, and so he’d push his version of reality until it eventually became true. Maybe a part of Teddy knew that Papa would only tear him apart until there was nothing left but grief and anguish in his heart. But, he’d rather pretend than ever side with Micah’s version of events.

Sometimes his own ignorance was bliss.

The Badlands / unconditional — open .
« on: June 24, 2021, 04:57:27 PM »
❝ Oh, I like this one. ❞ Giovanni’s gravelly voice rattled as he spoke, puffing at the end of a cigar whilst he lounged back on his chair. The father and son duo sat at a bistro table on the terrace which looked out across the ocean. Whilst Giovanni twisted the cigar between two pinched fingers, scrutinizing the item for any faults, Teddy sat at the other end of the table compliantly, watching his father with an expectant gaze. Usually, those somewhat narrowed eyes meant that he was searching for something to criticize, as if the pleasure of being able to take full advantage of his sons’ empire would never be enough for him.

Giovanni smacked his lips together, blowing a thick plume of smoke towards his youngest son before he remarked, ❝ Much better than the last one. You should stop manufacturing dem other ones; won’t be good for business ‘round here if we keep selling them off to our guests. ❞ Teddy’s lips parted slightly, nodding his head thoughtfully as he observed his father. We. Our. Words which would send Micah into a frenzy if he ever heard them pass Giovanni’s lips. And so Giovanni would not dare mention his intentions in front of Micah — those were words he’d use to manipulate Teddy instead.

Sometimes, Teddy could see right through his father. He knew that Papa only decided to show up upon hearing about the Knope’s success in this neck of the woods, but Teddy couldn’t help but automatically yield to Papa regardless. He had spent his entire life desperate for just an inkling that Papa was proud of him, but instead he would be met with those cold, indifferent, judging eyes that always brought about a feeling of unease whenever he was around him. Teddy would never admit that his relationship with Papa was fractured in its very own way; Teddy so desperately wanted to hate Papa, but even more so wanted to hate the way that he loved him all the same. Yearned for a connection, one which he had never been fortunate enough to experience in his youth.

Everything felt tangled as Teddy gazed across at Papa. He hated that look on Papa’s face — despised it — and yet his tongue felt as if it were in knots as he fumbled uselessly for the right words he could use to impress him. It was the greatest oxymoron, his love and hate for Papa. But, when Papa sat, live in the flesh, in front of Teddy, he felt nothing but the desire to please and the intense fear of angering the beast in repose. ❝ Yeah, you right. ❞ Teddy chose to agree, even whilst he quite enjoyed the last cigar that Giovanni had tasted. Teddy was intrigued by the types of cigars that they could manufacture right here in The Badlands, but Giovanni had especially taken an interest in the commodity. It was almost as if he knew that it was one way of sneaking into the business. His honest opinion and his own presumed expertise could be enticing for any businessman.

Not Teddy, though. He just feared how Giovanni would respond if he told him no. Would he abandon the brothers again if Teddy were to stand up against his father? Would he break Teddy’s heart all over again, fracture all trust that Teddy already struggled to form with people? He hated the way Papa made him feel, as if nothing he said would ever be enough. As if he was trapped upon a tightrope, balancing between maintaining or destroying this fragile relationship he and Papa had. ❝ Ya like this one though? It’s da smoothness that I like. ❞ ❝ Toasty, almost. ❞ Teddy nodded his head, leaning back in his seat as he looked out across the sea. ❝ Toasty, yeah. ❞ Compliance would hold Papa's attention; it often did in times like these, Teddy had learned through experience.

The Badlands / puppet loosely strung — meeting [ 05/22 ]
« on: May 22, 2021, 10:05:02 AM »
Today’s meeting was different.

As powerful as Teddy could appear when he stood on the stage in the casino, this time there appeared to be a crack in his armour. A space between where he stood apart from Micah and Juliette. He folded his arms across his chest as he began his wordless search, peering around the growing crowd to find where Giovanni sat at one of the tables, a smirk of pride lingering on his lips whilst he drummed fingertips on the table. Teddy pulled his head back slightly, clearing his throat before looking down at someone in the crowd, then starting a casual conversation with his ever-so-alluring charm and falseness.

Look, Papa — Teddy was adored now.

After several minutes, Teddy ended his short conversation with a laugh and a short crinkle of his nose before lifting his head to see that the room was nearly full. Teddy hummed to himself in thought before lazily gesturing his pointer finger towards the door, ❝ Make sure nobody’s out dere wasting our time. Meetings about’a start. ❞

The Badlands / bad — boutique , open .
« on: May 16, 2021, 12:53:03 PM »
He was a lesson in fluidity. A beast in repose, tangled up in silk and all things glamorous and beautiful. He was beautiful when people would stand and watch him in awe; whether it was his power and glory that made him so prepossessing or the silver tongue as charming as a snake’s as he weaved the most alluring of words to fool any person, he barely knew himself. It was his natural warmth like the comfort of sun rays, and that metallic, hollow laugh with those toothy, fake grins of his that lead many to underestimate his potential. The danger of a man so unassuming that no one would ever expect to find him to be as volatile as he really was.

The only thing more terrifying than a violent man was a violent man without the warning signs.

It was easy to see his appeal in the way he walked, the way he warped the minds of those who’d bend over backwards to please him because they always assumed that their relationship would go both ways, the way that people would turn to watch the man who barely understood the kind of monster he had slowly evolved to become. It was the danger of ambition; it always looked ugly in its extreme, but Teddy made it look so good with his stylish flair and beautiful slicked back blond locks.

And as he stood in the boutique, gussying himself up in the mirror before taking a couple of steps back to admire his clothing, from the outside no one would ever be able to predict the sort of terror he could instill in those who knew what he was capable of. Like a ticking time bomb that they’d hold close to their chest, nurture and cherish as if that would prevent the inevitable from happening. One day they’d step out of line, leave Teddy feeling unhappy, and they’d regret it when he’d erupt. But they still treated him like royalty all the same as if they were attached to him under duress. As if they not only idolised him, but feared him just as much.

❝ It looks so good on you, Teddy. ❞ A woman stood in the boutique nearby Teddy, watching the way he looked intently at the blazer they were fitting on him. It was exactly his style, the muted navy blazer left unbuttoned to reveal an off-white dress shirt with two or three buttons left undone. His beige trousers were fitted precisely, leg length just perfect to reveal his favourite leather loafers. Lip twitched, Teddy’s face quickly falling as he gazed at himself dully in the mirror before he mumbled, ❝ Don’t stand there and lie to me. ❞ With an exaggerated frown twisting at his features, Teddy turned his head to look across at her, the woman’s lips parted as she tried to form the right words with her mouth.

As if she believed that those words would be her last.

❝ I can hear it in your voice. So fucking monotonous. Ya don’t even know what you’re talking ‘bout. ❞ ❝ No, the blazer. It’s nice on you, Teddy! ❞ She tried to correct her tone, Teddy releasing a stressed sigh before looking back at himself in the mirror. ❝ It doesn’t fit me right. The sleeves are too long. Much too long, I can’t wear this out. ❞ In the reflection of the mirror, Teddy watched the way the woman cautiously walked behind him before nearing the side of his shoulder to peer over into the mirror. She rested her cheek on his shoulder, eyes darting across his frame, before peering up to him.

❝ It’s nothing that can’t be tailored to fit you better. ❞ She reasoned gently, soon looking over her shoulder as she heard people entering the boutique. ❝ Don’t you think Teddy looks good in this blazer? Just need to fix the length of the sleeves, but that’s an easy job. ❞ Teddy didn’t move from his position, instead flitting his gaze up into the reflection to look at whoever had just walked into the boutique behind him. As if he was awaiting reassurance that he truly did look as good as the woman beside him so desperately insisted.

The Badlands / no church in the wild — tasks , open .
« on: May 15, 2021, 07:57:26 AM »
❝ Okay, get over ‘ere! ❞ Teddy exclaimed as he gathered members of The Badlands around in the hotel lobby. Once he was pleased with the size of the group being formed, he raised his brows and revealed a notebook. ❝ Gotta list ‘a’ chores here for y’all. I need these things done in the next few weeks so... ❞ With pursed lips, Teddy placed the opened notebook down on a nearby table for people to look through, then resigning to sit on the nearby couch so that he could take a sip of his herbal tea.

Spoiler: show
∙ Gather a group of people to scavenge in a nearby mall for any clothes, jewelry or fabrics for the boutique.
∙ Set up a new target practice and practice shooting a gun.
∙ Look after the horses in the city’s stables.
∙ Perform an act in the casino one evening, whether that be music, singing, dance, comedy etc.
∙ Make and serve dinner for the inmates in the prison.
∙ Renovate an abandoned house for new recruits.
∙ Serve a brunch for The Badlanders to eat one afternoon.
∙ Punish an imprudent Prospective.
∙ Spend the day taking care of an injured member of the group.
∙ Sell drugs, alcohol or cigarettes/cigars to a visitor.
∙ Host a water sports competition.

The Badlands / livin' in a dream — open .
« on: May 08, 2021, 01:01:21 PM »
As a child, Theodore had little but the clothes on his back and a different reality to immerse himself in. Reading books allowed a sweet escapism so necessary in the life that he was trapped in. Most days, he watched life pass by as if he were nothing but a spectator in a movie. Behind his eyes, he’d kick his feet up and passively watch the horror of day to day tribulations. Mama died, and nothing to curb the loneliness in the same way as escapism did. Not even seeking justice could right the wrongs of her awful passing. In most ways to Teddy, justice seemed to be nothing more than a literary conceit. What was justice if Mama wasn’t there to see it?

Even today, a part of Teddy would always feel out of touch in reality, as if this life wasn’t his for the taking. He felt to be an imposter in his own skin, as if all the years lost in novels meant that he began to lose himself too. He’d obediently watched the world pass by for so many years of his childhood that actively throttling his life into motion felt to be more like an assault rather than ambition. Perhaps he had been overcompensating for all of these years once he realised he had to take his life into his own hands. All of this vicious passion and inspiration, he no longer wished to be the meek young boy whose life felt more like a devastation in a movie scene, but a charming young man who paved the way for a life he felt was worth living.

But even still, the cracks of his former life still remained. Once one had distinguished a crack from an otherwise pristine illustration, it was difficult to look away.

In the late morning, whilst many Badlanders took the morning off from their daily chores, Teddy sat upon a sun lounger in his swimwear whilst he sunbathed. In his hands he held a novel recommended by Beatrice when he finally decided to give her kiosk a visit. This mawkish ode to romance was nearly nauseating to read, but Teddy would complete the novel before making his final judgements. Those banal books of romance and yearning for a forever with another were seldom a genre Teddy thought was ever worth reading, but he’d not turn down a recommendation.

All he could come to conclude was that Beatrice was likely far more sentimental than Teddy could ever be. It made sense to him; it seemed as if nothing was worth holding onto in his life, especially since he’d inevitably lose it all in the end anyways.

Private Threads / lost in the game — salem.
« on: April 15, 2021, 07:50:25 AM »
The night air was crisp and peaceful as the live band played some distance away. Whilst the party was slowly dying down as Badlanders began to resign for the night, Teddy would continue to celebrate his birthday until the sun came up. After all, what better than to bask on a lounger beneath the warm glow of the sun whilst he napped in the daytime? But, whilst the party was still alive, Teddy had simmered down with a comfortable ease, sat on a step looking out across the beach as he quietly fidgeted with the empty cocktail glass that he held against his lap.

Messy butterscotch hair and a tired smile on his lips, Teddy nodded thoughtfully to himself as he then glanced over towards Salem to continue the story they were so invested in. ❝ Ya should’a seen Maia when I got back yesterday. Purring and kneading and so happy t’see me. People always underestimate cats, I feel. See ‘em as these emotionless, snaky lil things that don’t care about their people; that’s simply not true. ❞

He released a huff of mildly intoxicated laughter, finally lowering the glass behind him on the ground before he nonchalantly wrapped his arms closer together as if to shelter himself from the cool breeze against the cabana shirt and linen trousers that provided little warmth. ❝ She reminds me of my first ever cat sometimes. His name was Auguste, this… scruffy tabby cat with the most grating meows I think I’d ever heard. ❞ A soft closed lip smile curled at his features, staring fondly out at the sea waves rolling back and forth. Soon, the turned his head to look towards Salem, brows raising as he scrunched his nose up, ❝ Sometimes a man’s best friend can be a cat. We say fuck it to all the dogs out there. That Auguste was my best friend. One of my only friends growing up, actually. ❞

Swallowing hard, he looked back out towards the sea, too drunk to know when to keep his mouth shut, when to stop opening up to people who likely didn’t care about him. After all, entrepreneurs never had feelings, right? Just power-hungry, materialistic fiends that would always take and never give because they were privileged in doing so, right? ❝ The only damn friend I had to help me through each day when my mama died… it was bad. ❞ He grimaced somewhat, as if the memory still agonised him even to this day.

❝ There was this rundown quarter I lived in back in New Orleans. They called it Back O’ Town, the best damn music and food you’ll ever experience, but also dangerous. Everyone’s there just tryna make ends meet — ya know — but it ain’t that easy since the blackout so people just push and push and push because that's the only way they gonna live out there. My mama, she went to the store one day, she. A few days later, I found my ma’s body in a ditch, what? Five hundred yards away from the back of my house? ❞ 

He huffed a short breath, quickly carding a hand through his hair to remain his composure before he chuckled lifelessly, ❝ Rough place to live in, but at least I had Auguste by my side right until he died. So Maia? It’s almost as if she’s livin’ Auguste’s legacy. Bein’ a good friend and companion ‘til the end of her days. I can get through anything if I got my friend by my side. ❞ Lips curled down, Teddy then offering a half-hearted hand gesture out to nowhere in particular. ❝ Some people just see her as a cat. I see her as much more than dat. ❞

Talk about good timing. Twenty nine years of life was just around the corner and Teddy certainly could not afford to miss out on the celebrations. Tomorrow was his birthday and there was no way he’d roll onto the thirteenth without the roar of a party filling his ears. And so, his trip to New Orleans was planned meticulously. Get all the dirty jobs done, schmooze with the right people and get The Badlands name out there. Eventually, word would spread like wildfire that the Knope brothers had finally made it to the top. Micah had a wife as pretty as a picture and two boys that were too endearing. He held the world on the palm of his hand, using brains and brawn to command an organised criminal empire.

Teddy, on the other hand, had not settled down but it had never been in his nature to do so anyways. The sheer thrill of his life as a bachelor was more than enough for Teddy. Enthralled by the nightlife scene that the casino had to offer, Teddy could utilize that entrepreneurial brain of his to shape The Badlands into the picture perfect town that people from across the country would kill to visit. He was more than content with his many lovers, overjoyed with the seaside view that he could wake up to every morning, and proud at the fact he had a group of people who looked up to him as a leader. Life couldn’t get any better than it was right now in that very moment.

❝ Hey! Where y’at?! ❞ He greeted a handful of Badlanders as his shoes clicked with the way he strolled nonchalantly into the hotel lobby. He was soon followed by one of his confederates, a man who had accompanied Teddy during his trip to his hometown. ❝ How’d it go? ❞ A Badlander questioned with awe as they wandered over to listen to the story that Teddy was brewing, Teddy standing tall in the middle of the lobby as he smiled smugly towards the man. ❝ Ya know… it was unimaginable. Y’should’a seen it. ❞ Not shy to speak of his contacts around Louisiana and further afar, he’d turn away from the conversion with a cool shrug of his shoulder.

❝ More importantly though, where’s Penny at? ❞ He questioned, rolling his shoulders back before wagging a finger towards no one in particular. ❝ I asked her to gather some decorations for my birthday celebration which will be tonight, I hope ya know. Since the weather is so good, picture this: out on the terrace outside the casino, kir royales on me by the way, whilst we take the party outdoors. Brass band in da corner, chairs ‘n’ round tables and a place to dance if you wanna. What’s better than to listen to the ocean waves along with da trumpets?! ❞   

Clearly excited for his big day tomorrow, Teddy’s lips curled into a pleased smile as he briefly glanced at an NPC bringing his luggage back in from the carriage. ❝ To my room… merci. ❞ Swinging back to look towards those who had gathered to welcome him back, Teddy released a pleased sigh before he threw his hands up, ❝ What are we doin’ standin’ about? I ain’t gonna be twenty eight for much longer; let's drink to dat in da casino or something. ❞ He would barely give himself time to settle down after his long trip before getting himself hyped for tonight’s celebrations. After all, he thrived on good times.

The Badlands / back o' town — oneshot .
« on: March 13, 2021, 11:33:12 AM »
tw. gore, death, violence, allusion to sexual relations with older men, nightmares

Back O’ Town AKA The Battlefield — an unruly area of New Orleans located from the river to North Claiborne. A hub for illicit gambling and brothels nestled between normal residences. Also a lively area, rich in culture and responsible for the blossoming of New Orleans jazz, the residents taking great pride in their musical traditions.

➤ The Hardest Button To Button

Mama wept for forty two years, the sadness coursing right through her rather than dripping from her skin. With a kindness as sweet as hers came the honeycomb core that kept her so feebly strong for so long. Appealing and pleasing, but her soul was still so porous. Despair was able to sink into every pore, infiltrating every cell and fiber of her being until she died to the sound of Giovanni Knope’s omission.

As a child, Theodore Knope had very little but the books he’d read to escape the very same sadness. Stomach twisted in knots as another pang of hunger brought about a wave of nausea, and yet Teddy would not complain about the lack of food that his parents would always fail to provide. In these unprecedented times, an already struggling family would only suffer more now that the economy was in ruins. Baby blues flitted up to look towards a television that no longer worked. Months had gone by since Teddy had come across electricity in the back o’ town and, whilst he didn’t understand how or why the world as he once knew it was ending, he’d never sigh nor whimper at his parents’ failure to provide for their two sons.

Legs swung back and forth mindlessly as Teddy turned the page of the story he was so invested in, loud clatters and movement in the kitchen around the dirty breakfast table he sat at. Chatter was loud with conversation between his mama, papa and Aunt Denise as they prepared a space on the kitchen counter for the meals that extended family would bring when they’d arrive for this afternoon’s family cookout.

❝ Can someone get this cat off the counter?! ❞ His aunt sighed with exasperation, Teddy soon glancing over his shoulder to wordlessly peer over at his father nudging the grey tabby off the counter and onto the floor. He met Papa’s gaze, face twitching before he quickly looked back towards his book to continue reading. Moments later, a gentle glide of warmth passed Teddy’s leg, brows knitting together as he then nudged the cat away with a sigh, ❝ Auggie, no. ❞ Whilst Teddy adored his feline companion, he was wearing his Sunday best just so that he could impress his family. His cousins were no better dressed than he was, and yet he always felt obliged to try to stand out somehow — to Teddy, success was to stand out.

❝ What book is that? Where did you get it from? ❞ Hélène enquired as she peered over Teddy’s shoulder, Teddy’s breath hitching in his throat. ❝ Pocket money. ❞ He lied meekly with a squeak, shifting in his seat before pulling the book closer to him. Mama didn’t say anything for a second or two, before lightly pinching Teddy’s ear lobe. Of course Teddy did not purchase this book; Mama would have been so mad if he wasn’t saving his pocket money up for necessities at home. The book store was a fantastic place to sneak a book home with no intention of returning it. Sticky fingers and a sleight of hand was the only thing needed for young Teddy to get by.

❝ Tu me prends pour une conne?1 She huffed bluntly, Teddy pulling his head away with a curl of his lip before she gently ruffled his hair. ❝ Did you get away with it? ❞ Mama then asked, Teddy twisting his head back to peer up at her before he confirmed, ❝ Yes, Mama. They didn’t even follow me around the store. ❞ A moment later, Mama’s lips curled into a smile, hand gently smoothing Teddy’s hair back before she hummed, ❝ That’s my good Teddy boy. ❞

A knock at the front door ignited an excitement within as Teddy leaned into his mother’s touch. As soon as the big family would pile into the rickety house, the Knope’s family home would be bustling with laughter. Whilst they had little money, the Knopes were rich with familial love. ❝ Mama? ❞ Teddy used his pointer finger to usher Mama down to his level, swivelling around in his chair so that he could whisper into her ear. ❝ When they get here, can I play outside with my nice shoes on? ❞ A question that did not need to be asked in a whisper, but an opportunity to feel closer to his mother as she then pressed her lips to the top of his head.

❝ As long as you clean ‘em after. ❞ Teddy’s lips twitched as he heard Papa opening the door. The chatter was inaudible, hushed, until his booming voice called down the hallway, ❝ Darlin’, there’s some business I gotta tend to. Tell your family I say hi! ❞ A moment of rustling at the front door before the door slammed shut was the norm for the Knope family nowadays. Teddy looked back up towards his Mama, a somber nod of her head enough to alert Teddy that her heartache was still raw. Slowly, yet certainly, they were losing Papa to the criminal rat race. He never knew what to do or say to save her from the pain, and so all he could do was be there for her. With a quiet squeak under his breath, Teddy leaned closer to rest his head against Mama’s stomach.

Footsteps descended down the staircase, and soon Micah was standing in the doorway, looking over towards Mama as if he already knew the answer to his next question. ❝ Where’s Papa goin’? Everyone will be here in a minute. ❞ Mama cracked a sad smile, as if she understood her sons’ hurt that their father would once again be absent in family affairs, as her meek voice soon said, ❝ I think someone from work needed him again. ❞

Teddy looked over towards Micah, watching the way his brother’s shoulders slumped ever-so-slightly as he stared down the hallway with defeat before turning around and rushing up the stairs once more. ❝ I still need help with the beans ‘n’ rice. ❞ Aunt Denise hummed with reassurance as she wandered over towards her sister, squeezing Teddy’s shoulder lightly before adding, ❝ Why don’t you come help me make it whilst your Mama goes to check on Micah? ❞

With a shaky breath, Teddy stared out of the window into the garden, over the chain link fence and into the wooded grove behind the house. ❝ Or you can play in the garden, if you want? ❞ Auntie then chimed in, as if reading his mind, before Teddy turned to look up to her. ❝ Please can I play in the garden? ❞ Teddy asked, Aunt Denise then smiling before nodding her head towards the back door. ❝ Go on then. I’ll give you a shout when everyone else gets here. ❞ 

As Teddy slid off his seat, closing the book with a solid thump before hugging it against his chest. He gave Mama one last glance as he watched her leave the kitchen in search of Micah before Teddy opened the back door to head out into the garden. He stared across the garden quietly as Auguste followed him out, the feline then trotting to the perimeter of the garden and hopping over the fence before disappearing into the grove. Oh, how Teddy wished he could do the same sometimes; leave when things got too hard. Vacant eyes blinked, uncertain gaze judging the height of the fence before he resigned to trudging to a makeshift swing set which was suspended from a tree. The rope was fraying and would someday disintegrate to the point of being rendered useless, but Teddy would make the most of it whilst it was still here.

He should’ve done the same for all things in his life.

Perched on top of the swing, Teddy swung himself back and forth for a couple of minutes before eventually resting with his book on his lap, quietly indulging himself in the sweet escapism that he relied on.

1 Do you take me for an idiot?

➤ World Doesn't Care

Over the next few months, Papa only grew more absent in the home, his actions with his family sporadic and his loyalty to his ambitions undying. Teddy would never speak up; instead, he was no more than a quiet young boy who’d observe life passing by. He’d watch the way Mama fretted about the dangerous life Papa had become engrossed in, and the way Micah seemed more distant than ever as he began to wordlessly act as the secondary man of the house at the age of twelve.

❝ If you hit one three times in a row, then you win. ❞ Teddy murmured thoughtfully as he stared over an overpass where Back O’Town and Vieux Carré collided. Brow then raised with pursed lips as he peered over towards his childhood best friend, Julien, as he then looked over at the road below them again. ❝ But if I hit one three times in a row first, I win. ❞ He crouched down to reach into a bucket that the boys had brought with them. Inside the sun damaged bucket contained chips of asphalt that they’d picked from the heavily cracked roads in the neighbourhood.

It had been years since the council had maintained the condition of the roads in old Back O’Town. Ever since the electricity had gone out on that side of the city, it was as if the darkness hid the impoverished. Out of sight, out of mind. Uptown New Orleans turned a blind eye to the poverty-stricken side of town; after all, the affluent were still fortunate to have access to electricity. They could live out their normal lives the best they could for several months more. Only a few cars passed by nowadays. They tended to be old models of cars Teddy never knew the name of, car brands reserved solely for those who could afford such luxury. All the wealthy folk on the right side of the tracks who did not have to worry about a thing.

A cheeky grin slowly grew to his lips as he saw a car approaching, Teddy lifting a piece of asphalt from the bucket before he said, ❝ Okay, my turn first! ❞ He wouldn’t give Julien a chance to challenge him. If Julien had done just that, Teddy already knew that he’d return with the reminder that he made the game up and so he made the rules, too. And, for those who made the rules, there were no rules. Teddy waited eagerly for the car to drive beneath the overpass, Teddy dropping the chip of asphalt from above and giggling at the TING! as the piece hit the roof of the car.

The boys played the game for what felt to be hours. After all, at home they had no toys to amuse themselves with; the best they could have was the world around them. ❝ We should go home. My ma told me to be back before dinner. ❞ Julien pointed out, lifting a nearly empty bucket up with a sigh before Teddy jutted his bottom lip out. ❝ Okay… I’ll walk ya home. ❞ With that, the two young ten year olds wandered back through the neighbourhood, Julien swinging the bucket back and forth as the boys reminisced about their amusing day. Once they reached Julien’s house, Teddy waved him goodbye before trudging home.

Kicking up dirt mindlessly on his walk, Teddy’s eyes watched his shoes take each short step until hearing a scream up ahead. Head shot up, eyes springing open wide at the sight of a group of teenagers running away from a man collapsed on the sidewalk. Teddy tensed up, frozen in one place as he watched the person on the ground writhing to try and sit up. But, the blood that oozed from his abdomen only painted the monotone sidewalk a thick red as the man tried to nurse his stab wound. Eyes met with Teddy’s from down the street, the man then calling out in a pained wail, ❝ Hey! Hey you! Help me! ❞

Teddy’s lips trembled, staring over in horror as he watched the scene unfold in front of him. But, he said nothing, despite the man’s pleas for help. Instead, Teddy slowly backed away, heart slamming against his chest and tears pricking in his eyes before he turned around and ran in the opposite direction. He’d take the long route home that evening, trying to hold back the whimpers of fear that threatened to spill passed his lips until he returned home. As he shut the front door, he kicked his shoes off before shuffling down the hallway. ❝ Baby, is that you? ❞ Mama soon called from the kitchen, then peeking her head around the corner to come face to face with young Teddy who trembled with red, glazed eyes.

❝ Oh, baby, what happened?! ❞ Mama asked, Teddy making no noise but a feeble squeak before his shoulders shook as he cried. Mama would spend the rest of the evening holding onto young Teddy, trying her best to console the traumatised young boy after what he had witnessed that day. This side of town was no place to be anymore. In a world where no good-hearted people could survive, all Teddy could do was toughen up or never make it past his eighteenth birthday. It was the way of this rotten place.

➤ Teddy Boy

❝ But you’re never around anymore! ❞ 

❝ Maybe, but don’t you realise that I’m doing this for you? ❞

❝ Oh, really?! ❞ Mama would huff a laugh of disbelief. ❝ If you told me that last year, I would’ve believed you. What have you done for us? Nothing! All you do is leave! ❞

❝ Bullshit! ❞

❝ What about the boys, huh? You missed Micah’s birthday so that you could mess with some guy on the other side of town! ❞

❝ And the money we got from that job helped us get him his first ever birthday cake! ❞

❝ And all the glory helped you get your name back out there, which was exactly what you hoped for, huh? The work you are doing is so, so dangerous... Think of the boys, darlin’. You’re putting them in danger now. ❞

❝ I know what I’m doing, Hélène. Stay out of it! ❞

❝ Ugh, Giovanni Knope, get back here! ❞ BANG! The front door slammed shut, Teddy flinching from where he sat at the top of the stairs, listening closely to the latest argument. It was beginning to feel as if every night was the same, Teddy then lifting his head to peer up towards his older brother who stood nearby, leaning on the bannister as he released a long sigh.

❝ I hate him. ❞ Micah would utter, slowly shaking his head before returning to his room. Teddy swallowed hard, hugging his torso with uncertainty as he stared down the stairs before eventually standing up, creeping down each step and then wandering into the living room.

Mama’s face was scarlet red from the way she tried her best to hold back her tears of frustration. Teddy’s lips curled downwards theatrically, saying nothing as she looked up at him and forced that same sad smile before he scampered over and climbed onto her lap. Arms wrapped around her neck, curling up in her warm embrace until he felt her body shaking. Silent tears that she tried to fight away. ❝ It’s okay, Mama. ❞ Teddy whimpered, baby blues staring at the wall as he listened quietly to his Mama’s defeated sobs. ❝ Don’t cry. ❞ 

Weeks went by and the same arguments persisted. All that Teddy could do was insist to Mama that her Teddy boy would always be there for her. After all, someone had to be, even if he was only eleven. It was supposed to be the parents who made their children feel safe and secure. But, in the Knope household, it often felt as if it were Micah and Teddy who held their parents together.

Until, one day, Teddy would accidentally let go of Mama.

One toy train in hand, Teddy spent the afternoon allowing the vehicle to zoom across the stained carpet in the living room whilst he waited for Mama to return from the store. Papa had been gone for half a day now, as he often would. Teddy and Micah could expect to see their father return home by midnight at the earliest, long after Teddy had already fallen asleep.

But then, the sun began to fall, Micah lighting candles around the downstairs of the home before explaining that Mama probably went to visit a friend on her way home. Teddy’s stomach growled, and soon the satisfaction of playing with his toy train diminished. ❝ Micah, I’m hungry. ❞ Teddy whined, curling up on the couch as he stared over towards his older brother laying on the opposite side. Micah’s face twitched, yet he otherwise remained stoic as he crossed his arms tightly across his chest. ❝ Mama will be back with dinner soon. ❞ He said as if he was trying to convince himself of it, too.

This time, Teddy wouldn’t give up. ❝ You said that an hour ago. ❞ Teddy furrowed his brows, watching his brother more closely before Micah sighed and grumbled to himself. He sat up, looking back towards Teddy, before he said, ❝ What do you want then? ❞ ❝ Have we got cereal? ❞ ❝ But there’s only enough for one more bowl and I haven’t had any yet. ❞ Micah explained quietly, watching the way Teddy sadly pouted to himself before Micah stood up. ❝ Okay... Fine. I'll get you some. ❞ 

With his hunger under control after a bowl of cereal, Teddy lay on the couch, hugging onto his toy train as he eventually drifted off to sleep. He’d wake up hours later when his father returned home, quietly stepping into the living room to whisper to Micah, ❝ Where’s your mother? ❞ Teddy kept his eyes shut, listening carefully to Micah responding just above a whisper, ❝ I don’t know. ❞

➤ Adventures In Your Own Backyard

Several days had passed by with no sign of Mama. Teddy knelt in the dirt outside in the garden, quietly playing with a stick in the soil as he listened out attentively for the sound of her soothing voice. Teddy had never gone this long without the embrace of his Mama. As for Papa, he was never the kind of man to ever pay him nor Micah too much attention. Affections were limited when all Teddy and Micah craved was that feeling of love and validation. If they were to reminisce about what made their family life feel so loving, they would be able to speak about Mama for days. Their undying love for their mother was apparent in the way they craved her kindness in a world that didn’t care for people like them.

The door leading out to the backdoor cracked open with the grinding sound of the rusted door handles, Teddy whipping his head up in the hopes of seeing Mama stood in the doorway, that beautiful smile on her lips as she’d exclaim that lunch was ready. Instead, Micah slowly stepped out onto the dying grass, Teddy’s face falling before he lowered his head to focus on the drawings in the dirt once more. Footsteps carefully neared Teddy until Micah plopped down opposite him, looking down at the drawings. ❝ Aren’t you cold? ❞ He finally asked, shifting before he held out Teddy’s hoodie. Round eyes flitted up to his older brother, Teddy squeaking dismissively under his breath before continuing to draw. Whilst Micah had not been at fault, Teddy still hurt to see Micah approaching him instead of Mama. Not even Papa would be around to help calm his anxiety, having disappeared in the early hours of the morning for work once again.

❝ Can I draw too? ❞ Micah asked, Teddy whipping his head up suddenly before he snapped,  ❝ I don’t want you here, Micah! Did I ask you to be here? No, so go away. ❞ Jaw was tight, lip jutted out sternly as he stared at his older brother’s face. Micah’s face twitched, a frown slowly curling at his features before he stood up, chucking the hoodie towards Teddy before he uttered, ❝ Fine. I won’t help you then. ❞ ❝ I don’t want help, I just want Mama to come home. ❞ Teddy pointed out snarkily, guardedly, before Micah whipped around to retort sharply, ❝ Well, sitting in the dirt ain’t gonna do nothing, will it?! ❞ He stared at Teddy for a couple of seconds, Teddy’s lip wobbling, before he turned to walk back instead.

Teddy looked back at his drawing once more, a lousy attempt at drawing Auguste before he used the stick to scratch out his efforts. He threw the stick aside, an involuntarily faltering exhalation passing flared nostrils as he tried to restrain himself from crying. Everyone was worried about Mama; she’d never been gone for this long before. Teddy would stare at the scratched out drawing of Auguste before looking over towards the back door where Micah had left. He couldn’t will himself to cry, not after the way he’d snapped at Micah when all Micah had wished to do was take care of Teddy.

The hairs on his arms raised as a shudder was sent through his body. It was cold, but Teddy was a stubborn boy. Instead, arms tightly crossed against his chest, he whipped his head around to look at their painfully soulless backyard. He couldn’t sit here for any longer, left to ruminate on his worries. And so, just like Auguste, Teddy took a few steps towards the perimeter of the chain link fence that looked out onto the grove, Teddy sneakily looking over his shoulder towards the back door one last time before scaling the fence and scampering into the deeply wooded grove. ❝ Teddy! Get back here! ❞ Micah’s voice was booming with worry as Teddy heard his brother rush out several seconds later, Teddy’s face shrivelling up as he then began to jog away. ❝ No! Go away! ❞ He would protest stubbornly, a slow jog turning into a run as he weaved through trees in his feeble attempt to escape reality just for a little while.

But Micah was slowly closing the gap, the older child taller, stronger and faster than his delicate younger brother. Teddy hopped over a log, threaded his way around foliage, until he stopped dead in his tracks.

Lungs worked in overdrive to catch his breath, lips parted and eyes wide as he looked upon a body in the grove, mangled almost to the point of being unrecognisable. Blood seemed black upon the skin of her porcelain face, thick bruises dotted across her skin from where she had been beaten. Skull concave and bloodied from vicious blows to the head, and mouth wide as if she was screaming but could make no sound. White noise echoed through his eardrums, and he could not tell whether she was breathing or not. Whether he was breathing or not. Eyes were open wide, ear to the ground as she gawked at Teddy. Finally, the breath that had hitched at the back of his throat came out as a slow whimper.

❝ Mama? ❞

❝ Oh my God, Teddy- ❞ Suddenly, Micah was at Teddy’s side, grabbing the young boy harshly and pulling him to his chest to shield the young boy’s eyes from Mama’s murder scene. Teddy’s sobs were quiet, as if he feared to make too much noise as he grieved, shoulders shaking violently. Micah would stand, hiding his brother’s face whilst he’d stare at their Mama’s violently mutilated corpse, chest trembling with short exhalations through his nostrils. He would not allow himself to grieve; someone had to be there to protect Teddy boy from the dangerous world they lived in.

After that fateful day, Teddy would no longer sleep at night, tossing and turning restlessly as he'd quietly refuse to accept that Mama was gone. Whilst Papa would give Teddy his first hug in years, he'd not cry, instead uttering softly that things like this always happened to the best of people. Teddy would simply nod his head meekly with agreement. After all, Papa always had the right things to say when he did decide to show his face. As years passed by, not much had changed. Papa would still be absent in Teddy's life and Teddy would still be a child in a man's world, this time without Mama to raise him. Instead, Micah would spend every waking moment of his day prioritising Teddy's needs over his own.

Who else would look out for Teddy?

➤ Ain't No Rest For The Wicked

Many years had passed by since that fateful day, and those years had taught meek Teddy boy the harsh realities of the world he lived in. People like him could never survive in a world with their simpering smiles and inability to ever stand up for themselves. Micah had been by Teddy’s side all throughout his teen hood, raising him in a way that Papa had failed to do so. But, it was okay; it had always been Micah and Teddy against the world anyway. Once teen hood crept upon Teddy, his independence began to escalate and soon he’d fallen into the very same trap as Papa had as he began to stray from Micah's reliable side.

❝ Theodore Knope. ❞ A street dweller called in greeting as Teddy strolled on by, Teddy humming smugly before crouching down in front of him and shaking his hand. Asher. How are ya? How’s the finger? ❞ Teddy rose to his feet, Asher raising his other hand to reveal his pinky in a makeshift splint. ❝ Getting better every day! ❞ Mais! It’ll be better in no time. ❞ Turning to walk on by, he began to smile to himself as Asher called out, ❝ I’m countin’ on it! ❞ People knew Theodore Knope around these parts nowadays. If it wasn’t because he was desperate to weasel his way into a downtown jazz band, it was because people had heard of him from a friend of a friend of a friend. Every walk through New Orleans often consisted of a handful of conversations, many people knowing him by name.

The only way to make it in the world was to work hard and work dirty. After all, nothing in this life was for free. It began with a conversation one day with a man who worked for the beautiful people of high society. ❝ You must be here for the meeting with Mister Seymour. ❞ The man would announce to Teddy, the teenager blinking with confusion before glancing towards the building he stood in front of in the centre of town. A tall, pastel building, overflowing with window boxes of floral arrangements. It loomed over Teddy as if it had been waiting for Teddy all its life. ❝ Uh… ❞ He’d merely been waiting for Julien so that they could spend the afternoon roaming around the city, taking in all the brass bands and essence of New Orleans. ❝ Yes… I am. ❞ He lied smoothly through his teeth, an opportunist’s son falling into the same routine as his father.

That day, Teddy had spent hours schmoozing with an older man, soon invited to an event to network with other individuals like him. Other individuals with money and goods for Teddy to steal from. This only began to escalate — the desire for the thrill of handling money only multiplied during his times socialising with the aristocracy. The things he would do to bring home money at the end of the day was nearly belittling and humiliating. Some of the big fish loved to socialise and chuckle as they would share malt liquor with the younger man, whilst others appreciated a more intimate evening with a man like Theodore Knope; charismatic and charming, yet desperate for acceptance. Obliging. Willing to do anything for an ounce of approval. An ounce of recognition.

He would not complain for the situations he’d sometimes find himself in. If it pleased the wealthy, then he’d grit his teeth and bear it with little more than a sad smile. After all, this was the only way he could finish a job before moving on and, one day, he’d hear of a rivalry in Boston that would be too good to miss out on. Whilst two mafia syndicates were at each other’s throats, Teddy would be able to stack up the fortune that they were fighting over in the first place. So, on a ship he went, travelling for over a week until he stepped onto the pier one afternoon with nothing more in his possession than one suitcase and his saxophone case. Boston was nothing like New Orleans. The city seemed so listless, void of the colour and the vibrancy that Teddy seemed to thrive off of back home. He wandered down the streets where no one knew his name until he checked into an inn in the wrong side of Boston.

Within thirty minutes of arriving, Teddy had slid onto a barstool, deep in conversation with the prepossessing woman behind the bar that would continue to serve him. Eyes observed his surroundings. Boston truly was unlike New Orleans, or perhaps it was this inn in particular. It had soon struck him that a place like this did not belong on the wrong side of the city. Teddy knew with great certitude what it looked like to stick out like a sore thumb and this surely superseded Teddy’s many years of practice with doing that very thing. The plaster on the walls did not flake and peel away and the ceilings were not dampened by eroded water pipes that had stood stagnant for many years. ❝ This was a renovation project. ❞ The woman pointed out, head cocked to her side as a coquettish smile curled at her lips.
❝ Yeah? ❞ Teddy welcomed her to continue, the woman slowly leaning back against the counter behind the bar to peer over at the intricately updated gritty  wallpaper. ❝ Yeah, my family likes to improve our buildings in the area. Makes this side of town a little more appealing for folk like you. ❞ Teddy eyed her carefully before he slowly tipped his chin up.

❝ Well, your efforts have certainly paid off. ❞ ❝ Uh huh, do you think so? ❞ ❝ Oh, definitely. I felt like the sandstone effect was calling my name. ❞ They shared a look before beginning to chuckle a breath of laughter. With a slow shake of his head, Teddy looked down at the bar before he looked back over towards the woman. ❝ I’m Theodore, by the way. ❞

❝ Theodore Knope. ❞ The woman confirmed with a slow nod of the head, Teddy twisting his head to frown at her with puzzlement before she nodded her head towards the door leading out to the inn’s check in desk. ❝ I could hear you when you checked in, what? Less than an hour ago? ❞ ❝ Okay, okay- I’ll let you have that one. Theodore Knope, but Teddy’s just fine. ❞ He twitched his nose playfully, the woman huffing with amusement before she then said, ❝ Penelope Rossi, but Penny’s just fine. ❞

As Teddy watched her face, the corner of his lip gently twitched. This was exactly what he was searching for. The lion’s den for the Rossi’s heavy mafia activity in the area.  ❝ Well, Penny… ❞ Teddy leaned his elbows against the bar as he gazed across at her. ❝ It has been a pleasure to meet ya. ❞ And it would be as much a pleasure to screw her family over.

And, for weeks this had been the very thought lingering at the forefront his mind as together they fell into the same old routine. Teddy would pass by in the morning as he’d leave his room for the day, greeting her with a friendly wink before he was on his way. It had been common knowledge to the Rossi family that Teddy was no more than a mild-mannered music man who’d travelled to Boston to make his dreams a reality. Well, that had been what he’d said to her family anyway, and they seemed to believe him at the time.

Family. The Rossi family were a lot like the Knopes, just without the absent mother killed by her husband. It had only been several weeks before Teddy had gone to meet the parents, schmoozing and socialising with Mister Rossi right into the night over a couple of drinks and cigarettes. A silver tongue was invaluable when trying to impress a mafia boss in hiding, Teddy leaning back onto the armchair he had lounged in for hours, he and Mister Rossi roaring with laughter at Teddy’s rousing stories of his travels, real and fabricated. One evening he’d grab his coat and hat to leave, standing on the porch with a hopeful smile on his lips as he’d listen to Penelope’s mother nag light heartedly about the way Teddy was right kind of man to have a husband.

All Teddy would do is huff with amusement, give Penny a simpering smile, and then turn to head back to the inn for the night. Weeks turned into months, and Teddy’s elaborate stories won the hearts on many in downtown Boston. When he’d lay eyes upon recognisable faces on the streets, people would swoon at the way he’d present an outwardly bona fide wave and smile, passing a compliment so smooth it were as if he’d been planning it for days. When he’d look someone’s way, his warmth felt as inspiring as the summer sun on one’s back; comforting and inviting. Alluring in all the best ways. When someone had his attention, it was as if they were the only person in the world.

It was why people loved Theodore Knope so much. He’d make people think that he would give them his all and then, one day, he’d take it all away from them. Once one was no longer an asset to him, the world would suddenly feel cold. Icy. Uninhabitable. This influence was a dangerous talent for him to have. It hurt a lot of people along the way.

Soon, once those weeks had turned into months, the desire to steal from the Rossi family had become stale. Teddy refused to put his finger on it, but the way he’d always smile when he saw Penny gave him an inkling as to why. He had a job to do here — he was desperate to impress his father — but he was quickly coming to realise that there was no way out of this except for breaking Penelope’s heart, and he wasn't too sure if he could bring himself to do it.

❝ So, the Brambilla family wants to meet me. ❞ Teddy would say one morning over a cup of coffee, Penny raising her head with a deeply set frown as Teddy then huffed. ❝ No, no, I know. They're allies with the Greco family. ❞ Teddy acknowledged, adding, But, they have a proposition that they wanna make… And I’ll bite because that means I can find out more about the Grecos for you. ❞ Penny’s suspicions dissolved into a look of wonder, the realisation that Teddy was not the simple man she first thought he was.

❝ Who are you really, Theodore Knope? ❞ She finally asked, Teddy’s lips curling into a toothy smile as he’d then dismiss knowingly, ❝ I’m just a music man. ❞ The look between them spoke a million words, Penny scoffing before her lips twitched into a smile.

➤ Mama's Gun

Somebody indeed had a proposition to make, but it was not the Brambilla family. Instead, in the humdrum of Boston’s summer sun, Teddy skipped a beat as he jogged up the steps to the entrance of a skyscraper, tapping at the buzzer repeatedly until the intercom crackled and sputtered until a male voice spoke. ❝ Name? ❞ ❝ It’s Teddy, ❞ Theodore would respond lightly, ❝ Teddy Knope. ❞ He waited a few seconds, glancing over his shoulder to look out for any curious eyes before the door clicked and he could step into the building to meet Brambilla.

Holding his breath with nervous anticipation, Teddy sat in the lounge of the Brambilla’s apartment suite, chuckling calmly whenever the head of the family’s son would crack some monotonous, dry joke in his own favour. The conversation lasted for hours, Teddy eager to make him feel as if Teddy was one he could trust. After all, this wasn’t the first time they’d met — Teddy had pleased him once after schmoozing with him at an exclusive gentlemen's club open only for networking in the criminal underworld — but this would be the first time that they would meet alone to talk.

❝ So… Tell me, ❞ He began after a long chuckle, features slowly darkening at he stared across towards Teddy. ❝ What was it that you wanted to propose? ❞ Teddy’s lips pouted slightly, eyes staring across at the man before he said softly, ❝ Well, I have information on the Rossi family. ❞ With a quirked brow, the man slowly leaned back into his seat before he then said, ❝ And why tell me, and not the Greco family? ❞ Swallowing hard, Teddy looked passed the man’s shoulder, gaze scouring the desk in the corner of the room before eyes darted back Brambilla.

❝ Because I trust you. ❞ A smooth lie through his teeth, Teddy waited carefully for Brambilla to make his next move. But then, he stood up and wandered over to sit beside Teddy, leaning in close to utter, ❝ And I trust you, too. Trust you enough to know you won't talk to anyone about us. If my father found out, it would have you killed. ❞ The man, nearly twice Teddy’s age, leaned in, Teddy fluttering his eyes shut as warm breath sent an shudder through his body. His blood ran cold. And then, a purposeful quick twitch of his wrist and he sent a wave of his port spilling all over his lap, staining the cream couch he sat upon a ruby red. Shit. ❞ Teddy hissed, Brambilla whipping his head back up before quickly standing up and clicking his tongue.

❝ Merda… That’s okay, I will just— ❞ Sighing a sharp breath, the older man turned to leave the lounge to find something to clean the mess up. Teddy watched him leave out of the corner of his eye, ignoring the way his hands trembled before, when the man’s shadow disappeared around the corner, Teddy stood up and wandered to the desk in the corner of the room, hurriedly scratching through the drawers until he could find what he was looking for.

A huff passed his lips quickly, followed by a short smile before grabbing a ticket and shoving it into his blazer pocket. With hesitation, he shrugged before then pocketing a platinum and mother of pearl encrusted knife, as well. Slowly he backed away, eyes warily searching for signs of movement from Brambilla before he turned and silently slipped out of the home before Brambilla could even realise that he was gone.

Out on the streets again, Teddy turned to stroll down an alleyway, alight only with a pale moonlight as he had a look at the ticket again. An auction reserved only for the black market. Teddy wanted to grin from ear to ear. All of his hard work had led up to this moment. He’d have a first class ticket into the black market auction and finally he would be able to steal the 52-carat diamond to take back with him to New Orleans. With that in his possession, his family would finally be rich enough to live a life worth living. 

A cock of a gun to his head had him freeze in his tracks, breath hitching in his throat. ❝ I want everything you got. ❞ Teddy turned to come face to face with a balaclava. Fuck, seriously? ❝ Take my wallet, just… Leave me be. ❞ Teddy panicked, taking his wallet and tossing it at the man’s shoes.  ❝ The rings? ❞ The man demanded, Teddy’s breath wavering as he quickly removed each ring and dropped them into the man’s hand before he picked up the wallet in preparation to run. ❝ And this. ❞ He finally said, snatching the ticket out of Teddy’s hand without truly realising what it was before darting down the alley and out of sight.

Trembling, Teddy stared with parted lips as he watched all of his hard work go down the drain that night. Soon, he snapped his jaw shut, face twitching with sheer horror before he slowly walked back to the inn.

Days had passed and Teddy was miserable. He had no more time left to spare until the auction, and the grave realisation that he had failed to do his one job quickly dawned on him. Penelope had invited him to his home one afternoon and, once he arrived, he frowned at the sight of Penny in a silken robe, hair curled and makeup applied with precision. ❝ What’s the occasion? ❞ Teddy queried with a huff, Penny’s mother soon stepping into the room with a pressed suit and tie. ❝ We heard about your talk with Brambilla... We'd like for you to accompany Penelope as her date tonight. ❞

Teddy turned his head from Penny to her mother before he huffed softly. ❝ As her date? I’m a lucky man. ❞ He commented, hesitating before looking towards Penny. ❝ Where are we going? ❞ ❝ Oh, just an auction event. ❞ Teddy wanted to grin like a Cheshire cat, slowly nodding before he reached out to take the suit from Penny’s mother. ❝ I’d be honoured. ❞

The live band blared music, accompanied by the low hum of chatter as the auction house was filled to the brim with guests. This was no auction house but more a mansion in the way white and black marble floor allowed for Teddy and Penny to slide effortlessly into the event. As if Teddy belonged here. Chin tipped upwards, he wanted to smile at the extravagance of the interior; a large floral arrangement centred on a rounded table, and waiters wandering around with serving platters of champagne for guests to take.

With a crack of a charming smile, Teddy nodded his head as thanks as he took a drink, sipping at it slowly as he and Penny wandered around with linked arms. ❝ This place, it’s- ❞ ❝ Incredible, right? ❞ She smiled, Teddy agreeing with a soft huff. In the height of the event, the duo wandered around to mingle with other guests until they were left standing alone towards the back of the hall.

❝ So… What is it here that you want? ❞ He asked. Penny certainly would not have chosen to attend the event for no reason; with every event had a plan behind it. She would raise a brow at him before turning her head to look towards the board of items to be sold tonight. ❝ The artwork. We have a seller in New York willing to pay us a hefty profit if we get it for them. ❞ Teddy stared at the board for a couple of seconds before he asked,  ❝ Is it heavy, ya think? ❞

With that, Penny gave him a quizzical look, never quite knowing what to expect from an unassuming music man like Theodore Knope. ❝ Why?❞  Teddy shrugged, lowering his gaze before he murmured quietly, ❝ Well, you won’t have to pay a dollar tonight for dat thing. ❞ He looked up with a small, knowing smile before he leaned in to whisper, ❝ I just need access into the backroom, but that door’s locked. ❞  Straightening up again, Penny looked over her shoulder to glance at where she saw a waiter swiping a key card to get passed the door. Soon, she looked back to him before uttering just above as whisper, ❝ I’ll see what I can do. ❞ With that, she turned and disappeared into the crowd.

Teddy wandered on his own for twenty minutes, sipping slowly on his drink as he spoke to the event organiser until Penny finally returned, clasping onto Teddy’s hand. ❝ Well, I should probably leave you to it, looks like the auction is about to begin. ❞ Teddy nodded his head to the man, subtly taking the key card sandwiched between his and Penny’s clasped hands before he pocketed it and wandered away with Penny.  ❝ Now listen, there’s a lot at stake here, yeah? ❞ Teddy pointed as he held onto her shoulders. ❝ This isn’t my first rodeo, Knope. ❞ Penny’s brows bunched together, Teddy hesitating before lowering his hands to his sides quickly.

❝ Right. Well… When I go, I want you to leave the event. We’ll meet back at the inn, ‘kay? ❞ With a nod of her head, Penny wandered away, Teddy watching for a moment before turning and heading towards the door in plain sight. He swallowed hard, looking around, before—


Guests gasped, all turning to look at the beautiful floral arrangement that had fallen over and crashed on the floor, Penny leaning on the table as she played the part of a drunken woman who had just tripped over. With people distracted by the commotion, Teddy opened the door and slid inside. Down the hallway he strode, glancing over his shoulder warily before peeking his head into the room where the goods were stored in preparation for the auction. Lips curled into a smile of disbelief; how did he manage to infiltrate an organisation of this calibre?

Scratching around, Teddy eventually picked up the ring, staring at it in all of its glory. This item was priceless, and the ticket to a lifetime of wealth. He huffed with a slow nod of the head. This was it. His family would never have to sleep on an empty stomach again, he could get himself a pair of shoes that didn’t have a hole in them, and he could finally make Papa proud.

Pocketing the ring, Teddy lifted his head to search for the artwork that Penny wanted before an arm was hooked around his throat, suffocating him. ❝ You slimy bastard, ❞ The event organiser snarled loudly down Teddy’s ear, Teddy writhing around as he gasped for air that would not reach his lungs. ❝ I knew I had to keep an eye on you, knowing your kind of p- ❞ From within his blazer, Teddy revealed a knife, swinging it back to piece the man’s abdomen. The event organiser stumbled back with a strained cry, until he shouted with the surge of adrenaline and rushed at Teddy, trying to wrestle him to the ground. Teddy tried to put up a good fight, the two men throwing themselves against the wall in the heat of the fight before Teddy eventually managed to push the injured man away.

Without second thought, Teddy thrust the knife forward and straight into the man’s right eye. With a blood-curdling cry, the man teetered for a moment before sliding to the ground. Teddy gasped for breaths, eyes wide as the man’s blood painted his face, his clothes, his shoes. Mama’s face. Ear to the dirt. Blood dried upon her face. Eyes open but vacant, she lay lacerated in the woods. Did she die fighting? Was she afraid? Teddy’s hands shook as he looked down at the man he had just killed, knife lodged in his head. Head to the wall. Blood trickling down his face. One eye open and the other mutilated beyond recognition.

He released a slow, shuddering breath. He wanted to be sick, but would refrain from doing so. There was a job that needed finishing, and so Teddy would do so before the auction was due to begin. Quickly using his blazer sleeve to swat away the blood, it only smeared it across porcelain features before he gave up. Shoe pressed against the body, he ripped the knife from the man's eye, Teddy then searching around for the artwork before carefully picking it up and hauling it out of the room, down the hallway and out the fire exit. Teddy made it out into the darkness with the goods and a dark price to pay.

Days later, Teddy quietly stood in the doorway as he looked around the small bedroom he had called home for months now. Bed made neatly and room cleared of all belongings, Teddy nodded before shutting the door behind him and wandering down to the lobby. ❝ Surely you can stay a few weeks longer? ❞ Penny attempted with a small cock of her head. Teddy huffed quietly, leaning on the counter before he said quietly, ❝ Ya know I can’t stay here. Pretty sure they want me dead after that job I pulled the other night. ❞

Lips twitching into a sad smile, Teddy opened his arms out to hug Penny, pressing a kiss to the top of her head before she uttered, ❝ Why did you do it? Pull the job when you got nothing out of it? ❞ Teddy held onto her for a moment longer before he pulled away, holding onto his suitcase before he said, ❝ One day, come meet me down in New Orleans and I'll tell ya... In Back O’ Town. That’s where you’ll find me. ❞ He tucked her hair behind her ear before he turned and walked away. Out of dirty old Boston and back home.

Settling down on the ship back to Louisiana, Teddy had several days to relax. Wandering down the deck, he admired the ring quietly as he twisted it around between a firm grip. This was it, the start of a new life. In his hand, he held the value of $4.2 million. That was enough to his family to never have to sleep on empty stomachs again, enough to make Papa proud of him. His body ached with pride. This was the very thing he worked for his entire life. He risked his life to make his Papa proud. ❝ Hey, Teddy, ❞ Teddy instinctively followed the sound of the voice, turning to look around before he was punched square in the face.

Reeling from the blow, Teddy gasped in pain as he clutched his nose with one hand and clutched the ring even tighter in his other. ❝ Who the f- ❞ Eyes flitted up to see Brambilla coming at him again, grabbing Teddy by his shirt before he growled, ❝ You’re a snake. A fucking snake. You don’t think I didn’t get people trackin’ you the moment the bounced? ❞ Blood trickled from Teddy’s nostrils, jaw tight before he tried to swing back.

The men fought ferociously on the deck, Brambilla grunting with each sharp blow he delivered. Teddy was sure that Brambilla planned to beat him to death, a likely outcome after Teddy stole from his home as well as stole the ring that Brambilla was due to buy at auction. If Teddy died that night, all of his work would be futile. Papa would never know what had happened to Teddy. Micah would have a grieve a body he'd not seen dead. Albeit battered and bruised, knees wanting to buckle from the strain of the fight, Teddy wrestled Brambilla, wheezing as he was shoved roughly, the ring flying from his grip and fall overboard.  ❝ Fuck! ❞ Teddy shouted, rushing to the railings to look overboard into the darkness. He’d lost all that he had been working for, all for—

Turning around with a fire in his eyes, Teddy clutched onto Brambilla as they tackled one another. With several blows, Teddy cried in agony before he fell against Brambilla, biting down on the man’s ear until the man shrieked. ❝ You bit my fucking ear o- ❞ Before he could finish his sentence, Teddy shoved him roughly against the railings, using a nearby rope to choke Brambilla until he stopped writhing. Shoulders slumping, Teddy gasped for breaths as he stared at Brambilla’s limp body before, with a heave, pushing his unconscious body off board.

Slowly, Teddy took a couple of seconds back, lips parted to catch his breath, before tears began to fall. ❝ Fuck. ❞ He whispered, sick to his stomach with the feeling of defeat and loss, before he limped back to his cabin to clean up and mull over his greatest failure of all.

➤ House Of The Rising Sun

Loafers clicked down the cracked sidewalk up in Back O’ Town, knuckles white from anticipation as Teddy clasped onto the suitcase tightly. Whilst he had failed to complete his one job, the excitement of being reunited with his family nearly made this walk of shame worth it. Papa would be disappointed, but hopefully he’d at least be glad to see Teddy once again. Chest raised slowly as Teddy stopped outside his family home, lips twitching before he slowly exhaled. This was it. Hyping himself up wordlessly, Teddy brushed the dirt from off his trousers before he strolled up the winding pathway up to the front door.

He rattled the handle, but it would not budge. Locked. Humming to himself with acceptance, Teddy then turned to walk around the back of the yard, passing by the old overgrown tree with a hanging piece of worn rope which once held a swing set. ❝ Where y’at, Auggie? ❞ Teddy greeted a small plaque beneath the tree as he walked passed to head to the back door with the rusted handle. With some effort, he managed to open the door as he stepped into the kitchen. Home.

A long sigh of relief passed his lips, looking around at the decrepit interior before brows knitted together. Dust had accumulated within the room, as if it had not been touched in months. ❝ Papa? It’s Teddy. ❞ Teddy called across the house, exiting the living room to wander down the hallway. ❝ I’m home! ❞ He stopped dead in his tracks, listening out for any sign of movement in the house.
A deafening silence occurred.

Teddy swallowed hard, then quietly stepped into the living room to look at vacant furniture. Shelves void of all valuables. Tables cleared and drawers emptied. Jesus. ❞ He huffed with disbelief, soon searching every room in the house to find that, not only had Papa not been here for months, but he had left with all of Teddy’s valuables. ❝ C’mon, no, no no... ❞ Slowly shaking his head in awe, Teddy fell to his knees in his childhood bedroom, peeling away the rug before picking at a floorboard before it cracked open. His most valuable possessions, hidden away beneath the floorboards, were missing. ❝ Fucking bastard. ❞ Teddy hissed beneath his breath before rising to his feet and kicking at the folded back carpet.

Head turned to look towards his bedside table, soon narrowing his eyes at a note that sat on its surface. Carefully approaching, Teddy picked up the paper as he then began to read, slowly sitting down on the side of his bed as eyes began to glaze over.

Papa had left to do a job on his own. He was sorry, but he needed Teddy’s things to get by. Micah was still around, Papa would say, and he wished him the best. As for him, he had work to do in which he was better on his own. After all, Micah didn’t seem to like him anymore, and Teddy had gone up North. He could only wait so long...

Slowly, Teddy folded the note, nodding his head slowly as he swallowed hard. So this was it then. Micah had moved on, and Papa had never specified where he was going. Teddy pocketed the note, cleared his throat, and then he stood up to leave his room with the grave realisation that he was on his own this time. Patting away the wetness that accumulated below his eyes, Teddy took a deep breath before he left his home to find Julien. As the streets he walked down grew busier, the more Teddy straightened to inject confidence into each step. Hands in his pockets, he wandered down the street until he saw Asher still sat at the same corner of the street, blanket over his lap as he stared out across the street.

Like mechanical works, Teddy fit the mask he wore so well over his face. The brightness of ambition that would veil the hurt and abandonment in his eyes. The smug grin that had once looked so fake now practiced with such ease that it looked believable. Shoulders rolled back, each nonchalant step obscuring the truth about Theodore Knope.

He was nothing extraordinary; he was just a man who wished he could be, because maybe then Papa would have stayed.

❝ Knope! ❞ Asher exclaimed with exuberance, scrambling to his feet to greet Teddy with a hug.

❝ Where y’at, Asher?! ❞ Teddy feigned a joyous laugh, eyes alight in the way he’d so practiced all these years as he hugged Asher back. ❝ Yeah, doing great now that I’ve seen ya face again! ❞

When they pulled away from one another, Asher asked,  ❝ How about you, den? ❞ Teddy shook his head with a laugh. He could tell Asher the truth, about the way Teddy’s world had fallen apart that day. ❝ Never better! Ya know how it is. ❞ Teddy decided to say, nose crinkling up because this mask was built upon every grievance he’d felt.

➤ The Mask

In the few years following his return to New Orleans, Teddy decided to interfere with relations closer to home. At least he still had his best friend, Julien, to keep him company as he’d settle back into the old routine, this time without Micah nor Papa around, and work was rolling the best it could. Nowadays, Knope was quite a renowned surname in the criminal world, whether it was down to Papa’s reputation, Micah’s gang work, Teddy’s fraudulent ways, or a bit of all three. Whatever it was, it made some people wary of Teddy but more people desperate to have him around. The parties were impressive down in New Orleans, and Teddy was beginning to feel much like a celebrity with the way his name was so openly handed around by the big fish in the game.

Teddy’s lips played a well placed smile as he gazed across at a group of highballers as they socialised right into the evening. Nowadays, Teddy was far less likely to buckle to their requests, instead oftentimes calling the shots himself. People liked the confidence; they tended to assume that Teddy was something that he wasn’t. They believed that he’d been doing this his whole life, raised with a silver spoon in his mouth and an eye for entrepreneurship. Teddy had practiced the art of deceit for many years now.

❝ Did ya hear about that Hotel and Casino in The Badlands? ❞ One man commented, the group looking to him with interest.

❝ Pretty rundown these days. Like a pile ‘a’ bones, barely got a single soul livin’ there. Shame, it used to be the place to be, huh? ❞ 

❝ Tell me about it! ❞

Eyes narrowed slightly as Teddy observed the conversation carefully. So, this Badlands was an empire that had since fallen, if Teddy was hearing correctly. Where is this place? ❞ He enquired casually, the one man leaning back in his seat before swirling his finger in the air. ❝ West coast, around about. It's pretty well sign posted nowadays. Doubt you’d get too lost if you wanted to have a look for yourself. ❞

❝ Right… ❞ Tipping his chin up, Teddy observed his face for a moment before his lip curled upwards slightly. ❝ So you were telling me you saw my brother around recently. ❞ It was no new revelation that Teddy hadn’t seen Micah in months, simply leaving him be as they went on with their own separate lives. But, truth be told, Teddy missed the comfort of his brother. His family. Teddy couldn’t count the times he’d been desperate for his brother’s pragmatic words to humble Teddy, or in need of his brother to break up fights that Teddy rarely won.

❝ Uh, yep. Last we saw he was in Los Santos with his family. ❞

❝ His family? ❞ Teddy frowned, glancing away before leaning forwards to look more closely.

❝ Wife and two newborns. ❞

Girlfriend, actually. ❞ Teddy corrected before straightening up again. Damn, so he was an uncle? ❝ Girlfriend and two newborns. Of course, takes time to adjust to the two new family members, right? ❞ Teddy couldn’t help but compulsively lie. After all it was only in his nature. ❝ Right, yeah. ❞ The man laughed before the group socialised into the night. 

The very next day, Teddy began his journey to this ramshackle Badlands, finding refuge in the very heart of the city until he could learn more about this new opportunity. Like all the wealthy entrepreneurs in New Orleans, they started as estate owners to establish their businesses. Teddy would know; he’d spent years observing their lives, learning about them, enveloping himself into the lifestyle until he was ready for this very moment.

He wanted this group. He needed the group, not for his selfish desires but to finally find his self worth. To materialise all that he’d spent his entire life working towards. Teddy would no longer have to pretend to be someone that he was not when, here, he could make that his reality. He would fake it until he made it to the top, and he was so nearly there. He met a man named Michael whilst he was there, a habitually morose older man who seemed half beaten to death with the responsibilities of leader. ❝ Hmm, ❞ Teddy would comment vaguely, hands on his hips as he looked around the empty casino. ❝ I think I can help ya with dat. ❞ He then commented, turning his head to give Mike a cool-headed grin.

Weeks later, Teddy was on the road again, this time to make a temporary stop to a place that had been on his mind for a very long time. Sweat beaded down the side of his head, exhaustion aching within his bones, but Teddy’s ambition would forever remain unfaltering. He’d experienced too many failures in his life to let this opportunity down now. This was it; he could feel it. After everything that he’d been through in his life, the trauma, the poverty, the heartbreak, the feeling of abandonment in more than one way, the risks he took to get to this point and way he subjected himself to the most humiliating of interactions with other men in order to get closer to his goals… He couldn’t be that man for any longer.

He couldn’t be the man that had fought every single day of his life to get to this very point. The music man from Back O’ Town who never let his dreams die out in a side of town that tended to kill all ambition. Teddy was no lazy extraordinaire that had been raised with a silver spoon in his mouth, but a man so viciously ambitious that he’d grapple at any opportunity to never see destitution again. This had been a lonely road for all these years, but it had shaped Teddy to be the man that he was today.

With a broken heart, Teddy would always be chained down to New Orleans, the place which brought him so much pride and joy, yet also the place which haunted his nightmares. Mangled roots of trees sewn into the ground like stitch work, rotting leaves that mulched below shoes as they stepped through the dirt until he’d see Mama all over again. And again. And again. An image that would never be erased from his nightmares. But, this was the beginning of a new life. A new chapter. A new beginning.

And so, crafting a mask that fit flush to the skin, Teddy would air the injustices that he’d never quite forgiven. Hélène Knope would never be forgotten, but Teddy had slowly learned to finally come to terms with her passing. As he wandered in the territory of Los Santos, he bared a smile and never looked back.

Micah was an unwavering presence in his life always, Teddy stopping in his tracks as he watched his older brother step out to greet him with that level-headed firmness that always made him feel so safe. ❝ Watcha doin’ ‘round these parts? ❞ Micah enquired.

Teddy couldn’t help but smile knowingly, raising his brows before he said, Well... I gotta proposition to make. ❞

// welp. 11,000 words later and this oneshot is finally ready! it's definitely my longest oneshot to date which is fitting as i love teddy so much. the quality of this oneshot? lets not talk about that, but i tried! just goes into detail about the life teddy grew up in and the reasons why he really does everything in his power to never experience that kind of life again :-(( will never justify the bad things he does, but it's easier to see why he does it. anywho, pls feel free to track or respond! happy 100th post teddy! hopefully there will be hundreds more! LASTLY, here is the playlist i made, inspired by this oneshot hehe

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