Exhausting Conversations


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Scene Title Exhausting Conversations
Synopsis Nacho is good at those. Chess, less so.
Date January 9, 2019

A dive in Red Hook.

There are those who never step outside of Yamagato’s walls. Chess, now she’s a “resident,” should probably be one of them. Instead, she’s back to the Safe Zone, which means she’s out of the relative protection of Yamagato, inviting trouble from would-be assassins.


The bar she agreed to meet Nacho is a dive bar, not far from his shop. She sits with her back to the back wall in a booth, so she can keep the entirety of the bar in her sightline; even the backdoor remains on her periphery, on the opposite side of the large room. She tears bits off of the label on her beer bottle, letting them disintegrate to the tiniest piles of ash as they drift to the table below — a minute outlet for pent-up energy that is luckily not noticeable by the rest of the bar’s patrons. Even in 2019, even in Red Hook, not everyone’s a fan of the SLC-E.

Considering her positioning, she can see Nacho as soon as he arrives. It must be a frequent hangout of his, since as he scans the bar for her, there’s a couple people who greet him, which he returns. Of course, it is his home turf, so that makes sense.

It doesn’t take him long to pick Chess out, even though she’s in the back, and he starts over to her with an easy gait that belies his first words to her. “Am I late?” he asks with a grin as he slides into the seat across from her. Seems he doesn’t mind being the one who’ll be the first to get shot, should anyone with that design enter the bar. “Good thing I already made an amazing first impression on you.”

When she sees him, she stops incinerating the bits of paper between her fingers and brushes away the evidence before he sits down. She didn’t dress up for this date, if that’s what it is, though she’s in different jeans, different sweatshirt, same jacket, and combat boots instead of Chucks. Maybe the boots count as date apparel.

“Did you? I must have forgotten,” Chess says, taking her feet off the bench across from her when he slips into the booth. “So something’s wrong with that thing you gave me. I put some candy in front of it and it hasn’t eaten any of it,” she says with a smirk as she lifts her bottle for a drink. “I would’ve ordered for you but I didn’t want to presume.” What he likes to drink? That he’d show up?

It seems as though Nacho did actually dress up a little — he’s wearing a collared shirt, and jeans that don’t have any holes, plus non-sneaker shoes. He doesn’t look like he feels awkward that he’s looking way better than her, though.

Just kidding, Chess, you’re lovely.

In any case, he laughs, leaning forward to rest his forearms on the table and clasping his hands in front of him. “Maybe it looks like he hasn’t eaten any of it,” he counters. “He’s sneaky. You just never know. It pays to be on his good side. If you are, good things happen.” He reaches for the menu then, even though he’d just settled into another position. She doesn’t know him that well, obviously, but he seems to be in a constant state of motion, even when at rest. The fingers of the other hand tap the table absently as he considers. “Been a while since I’ve been out with a cute girl, so I wouldn’t’ve minded if you had.”

He sets the menu down again then and gestures to the one waitress who looks mostly like she doesn’t want to be here, but that’s probably because she’s…the one waitress. “I’ll have what she’s having,” he says once she comes over, gesturing to Chess’ beer. “Looks good.”

“Oh, sneaky. Got it. He got any favorite flavors? I put out some Pez but maybe he prefers Red Vines, I donno,” she says with a smirk, watching as he peruses the menu.

When he says she’s a ‘cute girl,’ she glances down, then out the window, clearly not all that good at the little dance that comes with meeting someone for drinks. The slightest flush colors her cheeks, before she looks back to him with a shake of her head.

“Somehow I don’t know if I believe that. You seem like you’re pretty good at people,” she manages, tipping her beer for a drink, nothing too dainty about it, though she’s pacing herself, “I’m not,” she adds, in case he hasn’t figured that part out for himself. “In fact, I don’t do this. Like pretty much ever.”

“I usually go with chocolate, but I think he knows it’s the thought that counts. But as long as the Pez came from a fun dispenser I think you’re good.” Nacho’s beer comes just in time for Chess to look down and away, and his eyebrows raise as he takes a sip from it.

“You’re not? You coulda fooled me. You were pretty smooth asking me out the other day.” His smile widens there, though he doesn’t poke the bear too much, continuing on a moment later, “Comes from working retail forever. But I guess I never really shut up as a kid, either.” He sets the bottle down then, rolling it around absently on the edge with his hand around the neck. “What do you do, then? I was gonna guess public relations but I feel like that’s wrong.”

“I’m not going to waste chocolate on something that’s not going to eat it,” says Chess with a smirk. His words earn him a narrow-eyed stare as she takes another small sip from the bottle with the swiss-cheese label.

What does she do? She lifts a shoulder, tearing off another bit of the label, but just letting the tiny bit of paper flutter to the table rather than destroying it utterly. “This and that. I freelance a bit. Demolition mostly. I haven’t been working lately, though. Winter’s a slow season for construction.” One part truth, one part lie — the season has nothing to do with why she hasn’t worked, of course.

“So if you have anything you want ruined, I’m your girl.” There’s a smile at that.

“Come on, nena, I was just kidding.” Nacho doesn’t exactly look contrite, but he does stop teasing her for the moment. Instead, he lets her actually answer his question, though the answer does get a laugh. “Shit,” he says. “So that whole ‘can and will hurt you thing’ was totally serious. Guess I better make sure I don’t ghost you since you know where I live.” Presumably in the apartment above the shop, since it was clear when she found it that it had more than one floor.

He takes another pull from his beer, before continuing, “You from here or a transplant? You got the whole ‘Don’t make eye contact with me’ thing down.”

“Yes, that was totally serious,” says Chess, totally seriously, but the rest gets a small smirk. She leans against the wall, relaxing a very little bit, as she studies him, apparently deciding how much to answer honestly.

“A transplant, but I don’t remember Mother China,” she tells him, lightly. “Much,” is added, a flicker of something in her expression, before she takes another small sip. “And I’ve only been out east a few years. I was in New Jersey by war end, so just never went back west. Not that much to go back to, anyway,” she says with a shrug of her shoulders. She doesn’t sound too broken hearted about not returning to wherever “home” was before the war.

“You? Dominican, yeah? How long you been here?” she asks, a little cautiously, like she might be wrong in her guess.

Another laugh escapes Nacho at Chess’ first words, and he shakes his head, though more at himself than her. “Oh, I see how it is,” he says. “Trying to beat me at my own game. Well, go ahead, I like a challenge.” His thumb taps the neck of the beer bottle to the rhythm of the song that’s playing in the bar, though it can barely be heard above to ambient noises, but his attention is focused on her. “China, huh. So further than me.”

She does seem to have guessed the ‘me’ in that sentence correctly, though, because he nods. “Yeah,” he says. “We moved here when I was ten, so it’s been a while. I haven’t been back since, but I don’t think there’d be a whole lot there, either. I’d rather remember it like it was when I was a kid. Plus, I’d have to get someone with a boat, ‘cause when we flew here I freaked out and they had to drug the shit out of me with NyQuil.”

“Quicker just to drug you. I’d rather fly than be on a boat, myself. Or find a teleporter.” The words slip from her mouth easily enough, but once they’re out, Chess’ brows draw together and she looks out the window, taking another drink from her beer. A longer one, this time.

Her eyes return to his, a little more solemn than they were a moment before. “Nyquil probably wouldn’t work as well anymore, now you’re not a kid of course,” she says with a smirk, an attempt to bring back the levity she’d had just a moment before. “At least you could get whatever you needed at wholesale, yeah?” She sets the empty beer bottle down but holds her hands around it — something to fiddle with.

“Yep. My mom was so pissed.” Nacho grins, though it fades just slightly when he notes the look that comes after the mention of teleportation. He doesn’t comment too much on it, though, except to remark, “Yeah, I wouldn’t mind being able to do that.” So apparently that’s another thing that he cannot do, along with supernatural fortune-telling. At least, not in this iteration.

Luckily, as she’s noted, if she had to be awkward around anyone he’s a pretty good person for it to be, because he glosses over whatever moment she’d had and picks up the thread she throws to change the subject like a pro. “Exactly. Why do you think I got into this gig? I’m terrified of everything, but you’d never know it, right?” He takes a sip of his beer again, before he sets it aside, and instead of holding it like she does he returns to tapping his fingers on the table. “So what do you do when you’re not blowing shit up or getting questionable readings from gorgeous and interesting Dominicans?” Though he says it with just enough humor to keep it from falling into narcissism.


“I somehow doubt that too,” she says, of his being afraid of everything. The question earns another shrug but she smirks at the self flattery. “Nothing that interesting. Try to stay standing. Read sometimes. Live in the past.”

The last bit is said with a small smirk, given the reading he gave her. Chess reaches into her bag to put a bill on the table, enough to cover both their beers and a tip.

“So I already had a bit of the super flu after my last dose, a few days ago,” she says suddenly, an abrupt non-sequitur only it’s not, given the context of her last words. “Wanna distract me from using what you sold me?”

She really is bad at the flirting thing.

“For the record I only did it twice. It’s just…” Chess trails off, but shakes her head. “It’s not the high I want, you know?”

“You'll see if we start hanging out more. Don't ever take me up to the Bronx. Fucking deer running around like they own the place with their weird-ass eyes staring at you.” Nacho gives an exaggerated shudder, reaching for his beer and shotgunning the rest as though to chase away the thought of wayward ruminants.

He sets the bottle down with a dull thud, just in time for the callback to their first conversation. “Hey,” he says, “not for nothing but there are worse places to live in.” He starts to say something else, too, but her flirt — if that's what it is — stops him. “Am I not distracting enough now?” he asks, as though he's a little bit hurt, though he can't quite hide the smile. “That was my plan. Best of both worlds. I got paid and you don't actually use it.”

His expression does soften a little at her last words, though. “Hey,” he says, “you don't need to explain yourself to me. I get it. I mean, I sell it, right? I've thought about doing it before. Just never have. Probably too scared.” His lips pull up again at that.

“You’re afraid of deer,” Chess says flatly, then shakes her head. “I won’t even tell you the things that lived in the place I used to squat in.”

His sympathy seems to make her less comfortable rather than the way around. “Yeah, well, I feel the need to explain. It’s… I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t-” she stops and huffs a laugh, pushing a hand through her hair as she realizes she’s likely doing what every drug addict in the history of drugs does — justifying her use.

“It’s research. The first time it wasn’t. But there’s some memories in there I need to find, and I’d rather do it myself than have a telepath root around in there, you know?” It’s a half truth, but the half makes it sound like she believes it at least. Chess heaves a sigh. “Right. This isn’t very distracting. Let’s stop talking about it,” she suggests.

“Everyone should be afraid of deer. They're gonna take over one day.” It's hard to tell whether Nacho is being serious or not, though. He leaves that there, leaning forward again as she speaks. “Okay,” he says, “it’s research. I got it.”

As for whether it's very distracting or not — as she said, it's not — he stands up then, but not to leave. No, he comes instead to slide into the seat next to her. And these booths are not that big. “I can be more distracting if you want me to,” he says as he puts an arm around her shoulders. Unless she punches him, of course. Maybe she will! But it's pretty clear from his expression — which is quite close to hers now — that he doesn't think she will. “And we don't have to talk.”

Chess looks like she might argue more to support the ‘research’ argument, but she stays quiet when he comes around to slide in next to her. There’s a slight tensing of her muscles for a moment, but it seems more born out of habit than anything about him personally — after all, she more or less invited him.

“Good,” she says, studying him for a moment, before her lips curve back upward into a slow smile. “Because you talk a lot,” she adds playfully. “It’s kind of exhausting.”

”No shit, mamita. That’s on purpose. How do you think I get people to do what I want? I just promise I’ll shut up when they do.” Nacho grins as his other hand comes up to rest against the side of her face. “Either that or by the time I’m done they don’t even know what they agreed to.”

Mercifully for her, he doesn’t talk much longer. Instead, leans toward her, bridging the rest of the distance so that he can kiss her. It’s slow, but deliberate, with no hesitation. His arm around her shoulder tightens a little bit, pulling her even a little bit closer to him.

“A plus manipulation tactic then,” she breathes out just before he makes contact, and she leans into the kiss, tipping her face up to meet his. It’s surprisingly just as deliberate, no hesitation, given all the defense mechanisms she has in place.

After a moment, though, she pulls back, gaze moving back to the door, skimming the area, as if something might have changed in the minute she wasn’t watching. Her eyes move back to his face, one corner of her mouth curving up into a smile.

“Do you want to not talk somewhere else?” she asks, brows lifting upward with the question.

She is much more situationally aware than Nacho is, that’s for sure. He sees her looking around, but since she’s doing it, he probably feels like he doesn’t have to. Or he’s just not as paranoid as her. Probably more the latter than the former.

“Sounds good to me,” he says as he starts to get out of the booth again, though his hand slides across her shoulders and down her arm to take hers and pull her with him. “Let’s go back to my place. I got another ritual to show you, and I think you’ll like it this time.”

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