An Unprofessional Turn


nicole_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title An Unprofessional Turn
Synopsis A chance meeting in a bar takes…
Date April 24, 2019

Dirty Pool Pub

With its scarred and stained concrete floor and mismatched barstools, this is a no-nonsense dive bar and doesn't pretend to be anything but. The only decorating theme seems to be "adhesive," as nearly every square inch of the black-painted walls has been adorned by a sticker, with no particular rhyme or reason.

Along the center wall is the bar itself, long enough to seat perhaps 20 or so patrons. On either side are two pool tables, totaling four. The back wall has a few small tables for those who choose to sit away from the bar itself, but there are no waitresses to bring drinks, so anyone wanting to drink will have to order at the bar before sitting.

It's been a good night for the Dirty Pool Pub - members of three different biker gangs have stopped by the watering hole for a drink over the course of the evening, and the one fight that inevitably broke out involved no destroying of furniture, which is always a plus in the owner's book.

It did, however, involve a mess of spilled drinks and a few injuries when a bar-wide brawl broke out half an hour ago. It is quiet now. Bruce, aforementioned owner, towers over surrounding tables as he moves to calmly sweeps several bottles worth of glass toward a corner near the counter, the broom an almost comically small thing in his large hands. Most everyone involved in the scuffle has left, leaving just a handful of patrons left minding their own business. The smell of beer lingers heavily on one heavyset leather-and-metal-clad man sitting at the bar, but not on a stool — he's sitting slightly lower, on a chair, so as to provide the person sitting on a stool next to him with a higher vantage point. He's soaked not only in the drink, but also the pooled collection of blood that's soaked down into his shirt from where it's trickled down the side of his head.

The person next to him does not necessarily look like he belongs. His appearance is neater than most anyone who walks through the doors of the pub - dressed in black slacks and a white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows - but has nevertheless become a strange sort of staple around an otherwise more rowdy crowd. What makes him look ever so slightly more in place today is that the crisp white of his shirt is broken up by the bright red splotches near his collar and down along his chest. Some swipes of dried crimson near his nose may very well indicate the source. Zachery has had a night.

But it does not look like it was a bad one, necessarily. If nothing else, it has been one of purpose. That purpose is, at the moment, sewing up a gash in this man's head. He's just finishing up threading a suture through bottle-broken skin, pulling a curved needle aaall the way up to pull it taught, and grabs blindly for a pair of scissors by his side to cut the thread while deciding that the best place for that needle, evidently, is momentarily between his lips. Where better to keep things.

The man, to his credit, seems unfazed. He receives a pat on the shoulder once he is free to move, and blearily rises from his seat. He lifts a hand to reach for the side of his hand, but Zachery swats it away almost instantly. "Mno," is exclaimed, past the needle, before he takes it out of his mouth and giving his impromptu patient a hard stare while his pupilless eye narrows with a wrinkle of his nose. "Daniel, go home You're done. Don't touch it, don't look at it, don't think about it. Do not." The curter his words, the more his English roots seem to cling to his voice.

Daniel mutters something, but either he's got a concussion or he's had too much to drink, or both, because whatever leaves him is incomprehensible. It does not look like Zachery cares very much which one it is, though at least he does watch, from atop his seat, to see whether or not Danny makes it to the door.

That, it would seem, is that for Zachery’s work for the evening. Except for the brunette that comes carefully sauntering up to the bar, avoiding bits of broken glass and nudging an errant cue ball back toward the pool tables. She doesn’t take the seat that was occupied by Daniel, but stands next to it, her left hand held out in front of her with a gash across her palm. So, she hadn’t avoided all of the fighting.

Her moto jacket, worn over a faded Depeche Mode shirt, doesn’t identify her as a ride or die type. Just someone who tries to dress down to drink in this place. Nicole Varlane has left her sensible heels and her sheath dresses at home in favor of dark wash jeans and a pair of black sneakers.

“Don’t suppose you’ve got any iodine?” she asks the man playing doctor for the bar. One arched brow quirks upward. Her expression isn’t bleary, meaning she either hadn’t started drinking when the fight broke out, or at least didn’t get much in. It also means she probably didn’t sustain more damage than what’s been done to her hand, which looks fairly shallow. “I’d like to just get this cleaned up and go on with my evening.” Her gaze narrows as it settles on a bottle of cheap vodka on the back of the bar. That’ll do in a pinch.

As if this sort of thing has become routine, Zachery's gaze drifts from Daniel to the newly extended hand with an already expectant look on his face. "Iodine is a sham," he replies, flatly, reaching sideways to slide the needle out onto the bar before he finally lifts his head to look at the new face that goes with that offered hand.

And he freezes, if only just for a moment, as his good eye searches her features for… something. Maybe nothing. "Doesn't hurt?" He asks, finally, "You're really better off with some boring old saline water, even though…" Following her gaze, his mouth pulls into a one-sided smirk. "I know there's more exciting things. They're still good for drinking though." With that, he pushes off of his seat, and starts to move suddenly away, toward a black door in the back wall - adding over his shoulder, simply and quickly, "Sit."

“Doesn’t hurt badly, no.” The woman’s expression is polite. Nicole isn’t bothered by the moment of recognition. She gets that a lot, after all. She testified at Albany. She’s considered a war hero. She shows up on TV now and again. This is nothing new. The fact that he doesn’t call her on it is somewhat refreshing.

With a faint smirk, Nicole does as she’s told, following along first with her eyes toward the door before she takes the seat as directed. A cocktail napkin is swiped off the bar as she settles into the seat and she dabs at the edges of the cut on her palm, just soaking up the excess blood.

The door Zachery disappears through - after a jingle of keys - is one behind which a bright but cold light lives. It doesn't take long for him to reappear, the door shutting behind him with a pneumatic smoothness. This time, notably, his face is clean. His shirt, not so much.

He carries, now, a small roll of white and a squeeze bottle with no label on it. They're set down on the stool he occupied earlier. Next, he offers his now free his hands, in turn, to her. Should she not want to touch them, then at least they'll serve to motion her to bring that hand closer. "C'mere. It'll hurt a little more, but you look like you can take a bit of pain." He shoots her another look, then, and even if it's quick, a twinge of his grin pulling wider looks almost like a challenge.

The departure is watched with veiled curiosity and a thoughtful frown. A supply room, maybe? Not what she expected to see in this place. This is the last place she would have expected to be able to receive medical attention. It’s still sort of a gamble she’s taking here, but as the kids say: YOLO.

Something flashes in Nicole’s eyes, which are slightly too bright - like luminescent. She takes the challenge with a grin that only shows in those blue eyes of hers and offers up her injured hand. “Go ahead.”

There's only a heartbeat or two before Zachery's fingers find Nicole's palm— his attention on her hand wavering only just long enough for his brow to knit. But his expression settles back into something unconcerned again soon enough, and to match this, when his fingers do start moving along her hand, they do so with a gentle certainty. After that inspection, his fingers slip underneath hers, while his thumb remains on top.

"Yeah, you're fine." Is that disappointment in his tone? Probably not. Probably just mundanity. "You won't even see it in a few weeks. No souvenirs this time, I'm afraid." With that, he reaches for the bottle, tips it onto it side, and sprays clear water through a tiny plastic tube directly into the wound. Coincidentally, his grip tightens ever so slightly.

“Damn,” she mutters without any real venom behind it. “I was hoping to add to my collection.” Wearing long sleeves and long pants might leave him to wonder what kind of collection she actually has, if Zachery didn’t have precisely the ability that he has. He recognizes the bullet entry and exit wounds in her shoulder, fresher than something earned during the war. There’s another entry wound in her thigh that could have been much worse, but nothing left behind beyond the marred flesh and the bitter memory.

There’s a quiet hiss as the liquid hits her palm, her shoulders hunching up ever so slightly, but she doesn’t try to pull her hand away. Nor does she tear her gaze away from his face. There’s a small thrill in this, whatever game they’re playing here.

There is no need for Zachery to look up. He's got enough to read right where he's looking, dripping the mix of saline water and blood past palm and fingers (hers and his both). It trickles and splats right onto the the concrete floor below, near the toes of his shoes. Someone else's problem, later.

"There are infinitely worse things to leave a bar with. Especially one like this." Thumb pressing down, he turns the hand in his grasp just so, waiting for the drips to start slowing their rate. "Diseases. Promises. Food poisoning. Bullets." The solution runs clear, now, but despite this, the fingers of his other hand still tightens one more time around that bottle hovered conveniently nearby. "Strange men."

That gaze casts down to watch the water and blood mingle until it all runs clear again. It looked far worse than it was, which she figured in the first place. She’s had far worse, but when she has the chance to let someone who knows what they’re doing dress her wounds, she figures it’s foolish not to take it.

That last comment has her looking up again, the knife edge of a grin cutting across her face. “You suppose?” That isn’t what she came here for. It’s never what she comes here for. But he’s handsome - even with the eye, or maybe that only helps - and she’s in a mood. At the very least, she can entertain the notion.

“My name’s Nicole.”

The bottle is set aside, and Zachery instead reaches for the roll of gauze. Only when he's already started to wrap that hand - and expertly, he has done this many times - does he look back up to Nicole, almost perfectly calm, save for something that may very well be an eyebrow quirk of 'wait, is this working?'

"I'm— "

" —'DOCtor ZeeEEEEe'." The owner sing-song-interrupts not far from behind Nicole, mockery evident in the bellylaugh he gives in between wide sweeps. Maybe it's revenge for the extra saline mess.

"BRUCE, PLEASE." Rest in peace, Zachery's Apparent Calm. His shoulders drop, her hand is gripped tightly as his confident smirk fades, first, but then returns with a surprised chuckle that just seems to embrace the situation. "I mean. It'd be 'Zed' at the very least, thank you very much, but either way, can you not?"

She doesn’t make any move to try and pull her hand away to wrap it up herself, but she does startle at the sudden outburst behind her. Her eyes close a moment as she regains her own composure, then she chuckles at Doctor Zed’s flustered response. Even as his grip tightens, she doesn’t raise a complaint.

Nicole slants a look over her shoulder with a rueful smile. “Thanks, Brucie.” It’s clearly been too long since she’s been here if she doesn’t know about the apparent doctor on call. She might have to make more of an effort to come in with more regularity. Or at least by herself, unattached from any of her co-workers. Even if the injury to her hand suggests that perhaps this is not the best place for her to spend her time.

Neither was the battlefield. This has nothing on that.

Battlefields won't get you slightly tipsy doctors, either. Probably.

The familiarity in Nicole's tone seems to catch Zachery off guard for a moment, but after a moment to stare at her face and to roll back his shoulders, he continues. Both to speak, and to wrap more of the white around her wrist and thumb to create an anchor for it to stay over the actual gash. "You know what, 'Zachery' sounds a lot less ridiculous, doesn't it. Plus, I get the feeling anonymity will do me no more favours."

Even without depth of field, he's wrapped enough hands to already be done with this one in a matter of seconds, reaching for the scissors again to cut the end as he holds the bandaging lightly to her palm. "I feel like it's time for a change, don't you?"

“Oh, shit,” Nicole feigns horror, “were we doing the made up names?” She breaks into a giggle as she looks back to the man’s handiwork on her… hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Zachery,” she offers with more sincerity. “Glad you were here. Daniel didn’t look so good, and I don’t think he would have gone to a doctor.” She didn’t participate in the fight, mind you. The hand is just collateral damage.

Her smile is softer this time, brows lifting to signal her curiosity. But instead of what do you have in mind, she asks him, “Do I owe you anything?” That’s almost the same question in this case, loaded as it is.

"Daniel is an absolute idiot." This comment leaves Zachery as though it's not the first time the man would have been in trouble had he not been around, though there's almost a fondness to the way he says it. Almost.

When his eye lands back on Nicole, it's with enough of his composure back in place that he feels confident enough to stare at her, between taking a roll of white adhesive tape out of his pocket and starting to secure the bandage in place. "That's an interesting question. Maybe I should ask Bruce. We could use a waitress. Pick you out an outfit." His gaze lowers again, tape in place, for one last look while idly pondering aloud, voice lowered just slightly, "… Something to suit the pool theme, maybe."

Her hand is released, his own going up to by the hides of his head while he grins a content grin, palms out, tape still tucked between his index finger and thumb. Voila.

“Very funny.” Nicole wrinkles her nose. “I’m a terrible waitress, though.” That’s mostly a lie. But she didn’t have to do much waiting on tables while she managed Linderman’s restaurant. Her duties were tied up elsewhere. “And I don’t think anyone really wants to see me in a bathing suit.”

In case he was wondering, yes, she does have a couple self-confidence issues.

Still, she’s not in any hurry to get up from her seat, and she’s not looking for the nearest drink to throw in his face. She’s taking the joking in stride. Truthfully, it makes her feel a little more normal than she usually allows herself to feel.

"Oh, I'm sure many would be all too happy," Zachery is quick to point out, moving from his post to start gathering up his handful of supplies, loose suture thread gathered into a fist. "People aren't as easily scared off as you think by some stretch marks, or fat, or bones…" He throws her a glance with good and bad eye narrowing both, crow's feet deepening ever so slightly as he starts sauntering past her, back again, toward that black door. His tone is pleased, even if subdued. "… Or bullet wound scars."

The smile is chased away from Nicole’s face at that parting shot. She isn’t upset, by any means, but surprised. She glances down to see if there’s a tear in her jeans while reaching up to feel with her right hand if the collar of her shirt got stretched out. When neither of these things prove true, she narrows her eyes faintly at Zachery’s back.

X-ray vision, maybe? That one’s not unheard of by any stretch. “Okay, I’ll bite. How do you know I have those scars?” She doesn’t expect that she looks the type, and he doesn’t seem to know who she is by reputation, so it has to be something else. Extrasensory or whatever those who comprehend slice abilities better than she does would call it.

He does not stop. "Oh, she bites! Delightful." Once Zachery gets to the door, teasing tone and all, he shoves a shoulder into it in order to swing it slowly inward, says no more before he disappears back into the room beyond.

But the light does not go away, this time. It floods a fluorescent shape of a rectangle out onto the pub's floor, Zachery's silhouette cutting one side of it as he leans sideways to hold that door open with supplies still in his hands. "It's bad form to discuss patient details outside of the office, after all."

He'll wait. It's only polite.

That grin makes a return in tandem with a lift of her brows. When he holds the door for her, she pushes up from her seat and walks briskly across the bar to join him there. “Only if you ask nicely.” The line is tired, but she expects it’s still at least somewhat appreciated.

Once she’s slid past him and into the back room, she turns to walk backward a few steps, taking a quick visual inventory of what’s inside. She’s a field agent, after all. She’s got to keep up on that attention to detail skill. (As if she’d ever allow that to grow dull.)

Back Room of the Dirty Pool Pub

Entering this space from the pub almost feels like stepping into a different building entirely, though the unapologetically barebones concrete floor remains a throughline. The room is separated from the pub by an extraordinarily thick layer of white drywall, which extends several inches past the doorway, and has the appearance of a smallish doctor's office, if a doctor's office could be very, very tired.

A ceiling light bathes a hard steel and teal operating table in the middle of the room in cold, fluorescent light. It is the newest looking thing in here; Everything else seems to have taken a beating at some point, even if it does look, generally, spotless. A long, grey leather couch stands in the far end of the room, next to a stainless (but not scratchless) countertop with a large, embedded sink. Four white metal cabinets, all of different build and make, stand sandwiching a small fridge that drones a quiet thrum out into the rest of the room. A peace lily stands atop it, surviving but certainly not thriving.

With no windows to open, and only a small vent up over a bathroom door for airflow, the smell in here is overwhelmingly one of bleach and disinfectant.

“So…” Nicole gives Zachery a quick glance down and up. “You show me yours and I’ll show you mine?”

As soon as Nicole moves past him, Zachery's head lifts and his eye follows her — the white, acrylic one twitching along with it in mimicry of displaced muscle. Once she's inside, he releases the door to slowly shut, by itself, while he turns his attention to a cabinet by the wall.

"I feel like maybe I've been visiting the wrong doctors, if that's your first question." Not that he's been visiting any, at least not for a while, until he was literally at risk of bleeding out through his eye socket. He kicks a heel at a cabinet drawer, which has it open with a metallic scraping creak. He slides what's left of the bandaging back in there, leaving the rest of his things deposited on top of the cabinet instead so he can stand and observe Nicole observing in turn. "Unless, you mean… I've caught another one."

Ka-click. The door shuts, and it goes perfectly quiet save for the hum of the refrigerator.

A silent chuckle comes with a brief flash of white teeth. “No kidding,” she muses. Then, Nicole holds up her uninjured hand, palm facing toward her. Blue arcs of electricity spring to life, dancing between her splayed fingers, a shade of blue that matches her eyes. When she closes her hand into a fist, the crackling stops.

“Now. What have you got?” Before he can even think about insisting that he doesn’t have an ability, she shakes her head slightly. “You didn’t figure out I’ve got those scars just by looking.” The stretch marks are an easy guess. Bullet holes aren’t something someone generally assumes about another person.

For as brief of a time as the blue reflects on Zachery's face, from over that operating table in the middle of the room, he seems enthralled. And a little speechless, head angling, his gaze attempting to lock onto the arcs as they happen, but too quickly. His grin ebs away with their disappearance, even if amusement stays with him further up his face.

For once, his inclination regarding his own special skills is not towards hiding, or deflecting. So her further comment only serves to widen his grin, tongue running idly past molars as he listens. No, tonight's turning out to be a good night, and good nights call for cooperation.

"It's looking. In a sense." Alright, so maybe partial cooperation. He leans forward to start walking again, slowly, rounding the table to approach Nicole once more. He's not looking at her face anymore, now, that eye rather searching a little more… broadly. Attention downward first, then drifting up to settle on her shoulder as his fingers curl inward towards his palm, then come back out again. "Just more within, than out."

She could chalk up his gaze to attention. She reached for the place before, it’s not terribly hard to assume there’s something there she’s trying to hide. But if this is a party trick, it’s not the most exciting one. It’s more likely, she decides, that what he says is true. Even if his explanation is a little vague.

Nicole reaches out to take his hands in hers, letting him feel the warmth of her skin. She closes her eyes to concentrate. Soon, he can feel her power against his palms, a low current like a quiet buzz. After a moment, it subsides again. She opens her too-bright eyes again and smiles. She doesn’t let go of his hands, though she does loosen her grip a bit. An invitation to disengage, should he want it.

There is a tightening of the muscles in Zachery's shoulders and neck when his hands are grasped, underneath blood-stained shirt. But though it's noticeable, the fact that his hands twitch forward and not pulled back probably means Nicole's actions are not entirely unwelcome.

He stays quiet, leaning forward as if listening for that buzz the same way he can feel it, even if the sound of breathing and a mechanical hum is the only sound present at the moment.

This is a good night indeed. And good nights… call for gambles.

His hands stay in hers without complaint all the way until they do not. Until her eyes open again and he stares into that smile. Something else takes over and he lifts his hands slowly out of her grip, so he can reach up to where her head meets her neck, closing the distance between them with a half step forward and considerably less invitation to disengage given in return.

For a moment, she wonders if she's pushed past whatever boundaries might exist (should probably exist) between herself and this perfect stranger. But when she opens her eyes again and finds him watching her, she brings her top teeth down onto her lower lip, biting back a grin. She doesn't usually find people to be too curious about her ability. Appreciative at times, sure, but she's mostly treated with a healthy sort of respect. Like most sane people view a live wire.

Fortunately for the both of them, she has more control over her ability than that. When his hands leave hers, she starts to bring her own back to her pockets. Instead, he reaches out for her and she takes in a quiet gasp. For a moment, she's uncertain, her gaze wandering his face as if looking for some tell.

The distance between them is shortened to nothing as she leans forward, resting her hands on his shoulders as she presses her mouth against his.

Some people just can't help themselves around live wires. If the past week (if not his entire life) has been any indication, it's a good thing Zachery has never come across an exposed current strong enough to kill him. Not yet, anyway.

And what doesn't kill you— you make out with, apparently. His face now close to hers, she may not see much, but what she does see is that he's having fun. It was most definitely time for a change, and he's leaning hungrily into it to reciprocate that kiss with an amount of enthusiasm that is, perhaps, appropriate for how long he has not done this sort of thing.

Honestly. Too many years to admit.

He is also, coincidentally, leaning into her. Thumbs on the side of her face while his fingers creep thoughtlessly over ears and into her hairline, elbows and forearms near her shoulders nudging her to turn her back on that operating table.

He's in good company in that regard. Nicole's been alone longer than she'd care to admit. Something about being a single mother with a demanding work schedule. Or, at least, that's the excuse she makes for herself.

When he guides her back, she's happy to oblige. Careful steps carry her back and up against the exam table while she lets her hands drift lower, resting her palms against his chest. This is part of the natural progression of things, but also a method of defense. If he tries anything she's not interested in, it won't take much to make him back off. She isn't expecting she'll have to do that.

There is a relief, when she obliges, shown in the way Zachery's lean into her form relaxes even if the distance between them remains the same. Moreso when those hands come to rest on him.

His face finds her neck as his hands slide down, but only a little — one coming to rest on the back of the shoulder they'd discussed earlier, while the other's fingers seem intent on moving only just into the collar of her jacket. But then… he stays still, his mouth in an an oh-so-pleased smirk he seems incapable of fighting back down, so near her ear, breath warm against her skin. Spoken quietly, but clearly, he comments, "This took an unprofessional turn."

For the best, his tone implies all too readily, though fact remains that he's stopped moving now that she is where he's guided her.

Her hands slip slightly lower and off to the sides, resting against his ribcage now. It helps minimize the abbreviated arm's length she'd been holding him at. Her body relaxes against the table at her back, and against him. "It did," she agrees with a husky laugh. Someone who knows her better might make a joke at her expense about her willingness and ability to blur the lines of professionalism – it's like a habit at this point – but fortunately he doesn't know her tendencies. The less he knows about her, she expects, the better.

"Don't stop." Nicole encourages his attention with questing hands that slip around to his back and draw him closer before sliding lower, toward the waistband of his pants.

That is all Zachery needs to hear, apparently, to push closer again, hands heavy and pressing against Nicole's shoulders, then back, then lower still to hoist her up onto that surface behind her, the teal fabric stretched perfectly and neatly across its cushioned surface only just pliable enough to comfortably give under the weight of a person.

"I'm not." Only then do his hands come back up again, around the outside of her thighs, and making quick work of finding the hem of her shirt and sneaking underneath. It's edging on frantic, if he didn't keep himself from it, though still his movements betray him on occasion. At least he manages to sound calm when he pushes close to the table, and pulls her closer to him in turn to say, "Let's compare collections, shall we."

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