A Piece of Work


nick_icon.gif tess_icon.gif

Scene Title A Piece of Work
Synopsis Tess returns to Staten and Nick comes to her rescue, only to threaten her with unexpected results.
Date October 24, 2010

Staten Island

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet,
to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

It seems that some warnings have fallen on deaf ears. Specifically, Nick's warning to Tess to avoid Staten Island. Maybe the girl just can't help herself, because here she is, wandering around the island when it's getting dark, a camera in her hands, but otherwise looking much like last time Nick saw her. Backpack, fingerless gloves, though this time she's added a zipped up leather jacket to avoid the chill in the air.

She's stopping to snap pictures here and there, of things that most people likely wouldn't care to have captured on film. And she even manages a shot or two of people who would prefer not to be on film. The first one doesn't seem to notice, but the second…he notices and lets out a shout. "Hey! The fuck you think you're doin' bitch?"

Tess lowers the camera and shrugs at him. "Takin' pictures. And oooh. Angry face. I haven't gotten any angry faces lately. But you break my camera and I'm gonna break your nose." And then the camera is lifted once more as the man starts to stalk towards her, and she snaps away, stepping back slowly, though it seems to be mostly to keep him in focus and not a retreat born out of fear.

Coming around a corner, Nick is talking into a phone, voice low. "Nothing yet. I'll let you know. I'm working on it, all right?" he says with some irritation. He walks with a slight limp and his cheekbone bears a cut with four neat stitches placed into it, so he's looking a little roughed up since Tess last saw him. And he steps unknowingly right between the thug and Tess.

Glancing at the angry face of the man descending upon Tess, Nick then casts a look over his shoulder and lifts his eyes to the sky. "Fuckin' A, what did I tell you," he mutters, slipping the phone into his leather jacket's pocket, and turning to plant himself between the girl and her would-be attacker. "Back off, man," he all but growls.

The camera's lowered and Tess lets out a sigh. "Well you didn't call and I needed pictures of Staten!" she says, placing the blame squarely on him. At least in her mind. She cocks her head, watching thug and Nick face off, then she grins. "Ooooh. You gonna fight for my honor? You really don't gotta, but it could be hot. Seriously though, you can move. Awww…And you're already hurt! Don't let him hurt you more!" she says, sounding concerned, but in her bubbly fashion.

The thug doesn't seem too concerned about Nick, and reaches out to grab his jacket. "Move it, buddy. My business is with the girly there. Not you."

"You didn't need pictures of Staten. No one fuckin' needs pictures of this hell hole," Nick says a bit surlily over his shoulder, though his blue eyes narrow as he glares at the man. When that hand grabs for his jacket, Nick's comes up in a quick swipe motion, martial-arts style — wax on, wax off — to snap it away from him.

"Fuck you. She is my business, all right? I work for her old man," he lies. "And you don't wanna piss him off any more than I do, or you'll be swimmin' with the fishes." Who says that? Nick might have seen one too many mafia movies while studying up on his Americanisms.

Tess can't help but snicker as she moves up behind Nick. She doesn't make his lie known though, just peeks around Nick's body at the thug, while staying out of arm's reach herself. "He's right. But I meant it. You break my camera, I'll break your nose. So just shoo. It's for my collection, not the cops or anything," she says, making a go away gesture.

The thug doesn't look impressed, but then, neither does he look happy to have his hand slapped away. "Oh yeah, and who's her old man who's such a badass? She don't sound like no mafia princess," he sneers.

"Fuck, man, just back off, all right? I'll teach her about manners and not snapping photos of no-necks like you, but you ain't about to take it out on her. Walk away and you don't gotta worry about who her old man is," Nick says, one hand held up in front of him, ready to punch or block as needed, as the other moves slowly toward his waistband — not reaching for it, quite, but letting the gun that is tucked there become visible, so that the thug can see Nick has the means to back up his words if he must.

"Just walk away," he says again, his voice growing low and dangerously cold.

The gun is glanced at, and the thug weighs the odds, and Nick's words, carefully before holding up his hands and stepping back. "Whatever man. You just teach that bitch some manners or I will," he warns before turning around to walk off.

Tess takes a large step forward, so she's just behind and to the side of Nick, her right shoulder lightly touching his left side. "You know, my dad really wouldn't have done anything to that guy. I would've, though. But it was sweet of you to jump in like that." She grins impishly. "You gonna make a habit of comin' to my rescue though, darlin'?"


The monosyllabic word is terse and chilly, Nick turning to glare at her before he begins to walk in the direction he'd been headed — away from the thug's path, at least. His jaw is clenched, tensing visibly under the skin as he strides toward the docks, the long paces marred by that limp on one side. He doesn't seem to care if she follows or doesn't — if she goes off in the direction of the thug after he just stepped in to save her, well, so be it.

Perhaps unfortunately, Tess falls into step beside Nick, tucking the camera away in her backpack. "Aww…You shouldn't be mad at me, yanno. You didn't call, and I wanted pictures of all of the city. Staten's part of the city." Then she quickens her steps, trying to get in front of him and put a hand on his chest to stop him.

Nick stops, sighing a little dramatically, tipping his head and peering down at her with narrowed eyes. "You're gonna get dead pulling shit like that, kid. Taking pictures of criminals? Most the people here are here because they're trying to stay away from the law. Myself included." That's a lie, of course.

"Taking a picture of someone who probably has a rap sheet bigger'n you and more warrants than I have scars is a fucking dumb thing to do. I'm sure you have a brain in that pretty little head of yours, but if you don't start using it, it doesn't matter how cute you are or how you bat your lashes, you're gonna end up dead. You're lucky I ran into you, but the next time you're not gonna be so lucky, you know?" He shakes his head and looks away, eyes skimming the waterfront.

While he's ranting she's studying the stiches, the leg that was limping, and then Tess is looking up at him with narrowed eyes. "What happened to you? Don't tell me you ran afoul of a dragon." Yes, she just said 'afoul'. Go figure. "And I'll have you know, Mister Big Shot, that I can handle myself just as well as you can. And if you can wander 'round here, then so can I," she says, chin tipping up defiantly.

"Is that what you're worried about though? Seein' my name in the obits? 'Cause damn. We've only met once and we haven't slept together yet since you maybe got that sorta old lady back home who won't shut up'n all and have you ditched her yet?" She pauses to take a breath. "If you'd called though, I would've asked you to come with. That's why you took my number, remember?"

"Yeah? You packin' heat? You got a black belt? You already told me you can't shoot lasers out your nostrils or whatever, so I'm not real sure how you figure you can take care of yourself," Nick says, suddenly a little angry. He's not going to get anywhere on the job he's here to do if he keeps white-knighting and saving damsels in distress — helping out Abby and Raith and that lot, now Tess… his reputation as a thug who's supposed to be 'trustworthy' enough to be let into the trafficking rings he's investigating is in danger because he keeps having to save people.

He turns on Tess, blue eyes narrowing as he suddenly grabs her shoulder and pushes her up against the wall of the building they stand near, his good leg moving up to nudge apart her legs, leaning against both so that she can't raise her knee into his crotch or stomp on his feet. His free grabs the arm of the opposite shoulder, pinning it above her head.

"What now?" he whispers.

He may have been expecting her to fight in sheer surprise at being pushed against a wall. He apparently was expecting Tess to try to knee him or do something else violent in such a position, especially given how little she knows him. But instead Tess tilts her head, looking thoughtful, not resisting one bit. Then…she just leans up and…kisses him, taking as much time with it as he'll allow before jerking away. Which is what she is expecting him to do.

What now?

The kiss surprises him, and he allows it for a moment before shaking his head and pushing away from her, relinquishing his hold on her shoulder and hand. There is something haunted in his weary blue eyes and he backs away. "God, you're a fucking piece of work," he growls.

Is he talking to her, or himself?

He pulls out his cigarettes and a cheap orange plastic lighter, not his silver Zippo, hands shaking slightly as he taps out one of the smokes and begins to stride away. "Do whatever you want, kid. I'm not your escort service. If you're dumb enough to come here without someone to protect you, you deserve to get kidnapped," he says coldly. "Or worse."

Tess straightens and pushes away from the wall when he does, looking much like she always does. Well, maybe a wee bit confused. But, stubborn person she is, she starts walking, quickly enough to catch up to him and walk along beside him. Poor guy, hounded by the most hyper woman in the city. "So are you mad at me because I spoiled your demonstration, or mad at yourself because you liked it?"

She glances over towards him and grins. "And who knows. Maybe I came down here just hopin' I'd run into you again," she says flippantly, a little bounce in her step. "'Course, you could always make things easier on both of us and just give me your number. Since lookin' for you at the docks when the docks are on Staten is sorta counter productive, don't ya think?"

He continues to walk, not letting up on the pace to account for shorter legs. The telltale tensing in his jaw is the only sign he's listening. "You still haven't proven you can take care of yourself. You've proven yourself to be a bloody horrible judge of character, is all you've done. And I meant the other docks, the ones in Brooklyn. I work there in the daytime, when I'm not being a criminal, yeah?"

He glances at her through the corner of his eyes. "My number's for business, and you ain't business unless you're selling something, which you'll be soon enough if you keep coming over to Staten, kid. Only you might not be the one to make any money out of it."

"You haven't exactly given me a chance to prove that I can take care of myself either," Tess says with a shrug. "And nah, I know you're not nice people. I mean, how many nice people carry a gun? Besides, I don't think my dad is nice people either. Or his friends. I guess I'm just more comfortable around people who aren't good, law abidin' citizens."

She grins then. "I'm sellin' somethin' already, just not my body. I dance at this strip club over on the mainland. And really, why sell sex anyway? It's like a recreational activity, not a job. Anyone who wants sex to be a job is an idiot."

Nick begins heading toward his boat, stowed among the dilapidated ghosts of former seafaring vessels. "News flash, kid, no one wants sex to be a job. The people who do it see it as a last resort or get pushed into it. No one grows up saying 'I think I'll turn tricks when I grow up,' do they."

He stops in front of his speed boat and nods at it. "Am I playing cabbie for you again? Get in and I'll take you back over, otherwise I'm outta here and you can see if that Neanderthal wants you to get his better side."

"Oh, I'm sure there are some people out there who do," Tess says with a shrug as she climbs into the boat, remaining standing this time, remembering her last ride on his boat. But she's smiling, as if secretly pleased about something. Something she doesn't intend to share. "Just like I'm sure most people would say that they'd never want to grow up to be a criminal or a stripper. Me? I grew up in a strip club almost, so it just looked like fun to me."

Snorting derisively, Nick unties the boat, climbs in, pulls keys from his pocket and almost violently starts the boat. "That just fucking figures," he says with a shake of his head, reaching for the tuque to pull over his dark choppy hair and then nimbly pulling the boat out of its mooring spot.

"What figures about it? Dad didn't know about me, mom had to work, and couldn't afford a babysitter," Tess says with a shrug, again holding on to the top of the windshield to keep her upright once he takes off. "We can't help the people we're born to or the choices they make. And dancin' is fun. The strippin' part is just a minor detail that nets me a lot more cash than dancin' with my clothes on would give me."

She grins over at him. "Don't tell me you got a problem with savin' a girl who turns out to be a stripper. I'll be hurt. Devestated," she says, though it's clearly an untruth. A big one.

"I don't care if you're a stripper, or who your parents were," Nick says with a shake of his head, keeping his narrowed eyes mostly on the waterway in front of him. "And I didn't 'save you,' remember. You were perfectly capable of taking care of yourself. Never mind that people tougher and smarter and bigger and faster than you get killed every day in Staten." He glances at her again through the corner of his eyes. "There isn't a good reason for you to go there, kid, and you may think you can take care of yourself, but there's a lot of shit you haven't seen on that island, and it's better for you if you don't. Stay clear of it. You don't need any fuckin' photos of it, all right? And if you're looking for me, you don't fucking need that either."

"Why?" Tess asks bluntly, turning to face him more directly. "What's so bad about you, hmm? Because I think it's pretty much just hype. You took me home last time, and shooed one of your buddies away from me. Tonight you got between me'n that thug, regardless of whether I could've handled him. And when you had me pinned and I kissed you, you backed away instead of takin' what others might've with less of an invitation," she points out.

She shrugs and looks back towards the water. "So from what I've seen, you're not as bad a' guy as you like to pretend. But hey, you want me to keep away from you, fine. There are other cuties in the city." Then she pauses to muse, "But not all of 'em kiss like you do…" Another moment, another shrug, and she grins. "Ah well. You're the one losin' big."

Nick's eyes close when she talks about taking without invitation and his hands tighten on the steering wheel of the boat. He doesn't answer but steers in silence for a few moments until they approach the marina for small vessels, and he slows his speed to maneuver through the docks.

Once in his slot, he hops out, mooring the boat and offering a hand to Tess. "Don't take it personally," he says quietly, though the anger seems to have faded, whatever upset him so having dissipated. The pink in his cheeks is no longer from choler but simply the chilly coastal air. "And you're right. I am the loser, here. You remember that."

Tess takes his hand and climbs out, and doesn't immediately let go once she's on the dock. Instead she pokes him in the arm. "I said you were losing, not that you were the loser. Geeeez. Is everyone in this city a glass half empty kinda person?" she asks, shaking her head. "And do I look like I'm takin' it personally? Hell no. I know I'm a prime catch. Pretty, funny, fun, good in bed…What the hell more does a guy want in a girl? Well, maybe money, if they're goin' for a sugar mama, but one of these days I'll have that too, so really, I have everything a guy could want," she says, the smile returning.

She leans up to kiss his cheek, a friendly, chaste kiss. But she follows it with a whisper. "And in case you're one of those dense guys, that was an invitation back there." Then she lets go of his hand and, grinning, starts to walk down the dock towards dry land, singing Lady Gaga's Love Game. It must just seem appropriate. Or maybe she just likes singing, "I wanna take a ride on your disco stick."

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