Black Pawn White Pawn


raul_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title Black Pawn White Pawn
Synopsis Teo goes to an unlikely old friend in search of work because it turns out that being unemployed doesn't pay.
Date April 19, 2019

New York Safe Zone: Sheepshead Bay

Sheepshead Bay is what remains of a once-thriving residential and industrial neighborhood. Rows of abandoned warehouses and factories spill out from the coast where derelict docks have been repurposed into shipping and immigration sites for the Safe Zone. The residential buildings of Sheepshead Bay are still in staggering decay, with collapsed apartments and long-dormant structures awaiting re-habitation once it can finally be confirmed they aren't safety hazards. In time, Sheepshead Bay could become a thriving port, but the process of growth and reclamation in the Safe Zone is a slow one. In the shadows of these once-proud buildings, smugglers and thieves alike lurk in the empty shells of abandoned buildings alongside packs of wild dogs.

It's during lunch break that Teo finally gets himself to do it. He makes himself get out of the cafe and away from its exorbitantly priced caffeinated beverages, and start toward the construction site that he's been loitering outside of for the past forty-five minutes.

Something about the post-war environment, about being back in New York City, gets his back up. Teo thinks that that's all it is, why he's dragging his feet — metaphorically, not literally, they're picking up just fine as he walks over the striped asphalt here — to go see his old friend. He thinks: he just doesn't like it here. He doesn't like cities anymore in general, all the people, the noise, the expelled gasses and grey colors that come with trying to make something old into something new, so there can be even more people crammed in to fight over who gets to afford exorbitantly-priced coffee, parking rights, the areas where there is the least dangerous crime, in full knowledge that there is dangerous crime everywhere.

In reality, Teo's issues go considerably deeper than that, but he is limited in his gift of insight, and right now his focus is on: making some money, as long as he's in this town. As far as priorities go, this one isn't so dumb.

And there's Raul. As expected. Still horsing down lunch fast, like he doesn't even taste the rice or stir-fry from the carton— an Army habit, probably, even though the government mandates he gets at least thirty minutes for lunch. Raul has any number of endearing habits, and working too hard is one of them; being effortlessly good-looking in fitted, practical clothing is another. Teo stops outside the chainlink, the warning sign, peeking through the diamond-shaped gaps. "Hey," he says. "If Chau's Shanghainese Kitchen is paying you to advertise, you should be trying to do it in slower motion. It's what people like."

It's more of a deconstruction site than otherwise, at this point, which is why Raul's even here. He looks up at the speaker, down at the carton in his hands, and back again, lips quirking in a wry smile. "If they were paying me, I might," he replies with no little humor.

He closes the carton and sets it aside, resting it on a stack of recovered timbers. Odds are he'll forget it there, later; that's how these things go. Raul's shoulders lift in a nonchalant shrug. "Really, it's just barato," he remarks. "Wound up working through the weekend, didn't have time to cook ahead."

There's a moment's quiet as Raul looks Teo over, on his other side of the fence. "Been a while, Teo," is casually spoken, a statement without rancor. People come, people go, and sometimes they come back again. "You lookin' for work today, or just to say hello?" He tips his head in the direction of the work site. "Wouldn't mind another pair of hands this week, walk-on or no." At least when that walk-on's a known quantity.
Somehow, it's not embarrassing when Raul is asking. Offering. At some point, Teodoro will have a theory as to why. As it is, he just waits for the carbon fizz of shame to pop-pop in his nerves, and when it doesn't happen, it's easy to be grateful. It has been awhile.

"Looking for work. That would be excellent. Thanks." —for offering before I had to ask, is the unspoken finish there. In this respect, the matter of some small personal pride, Teo is hardly unique.

Teo wasn't planning on coming back, but plans change. He follows the line of Raul's gaze to the deconstruction site, a couple of silhouetted workmen picking through, not really busy yet, still on break. It's good to have a boss who will actually pay you overtime for Saturdays and Sundays on-site, and encourage the full half-hour break get utilized most days. It's a good way to earn a paycheck in New York City; something satisfying just looking at the reclaimed lumber sitting right there by Raul, already. (Internal whining about the city is momentarily: suspended.)

"Can I come through right now?" Teo scuffs sideways, taps a finger on the gate. The padlock isn't on at this hour, of course. "Take a look at what you have going on. Congratulations, by the way. Heard you get more calls than you can book."

There's no verbal affirmation to Teo's request, just a dip of chin that grants permission. No particular standing on ceremony here.

The congratulations elicits a wry snort. "Sure do. Not like that's hard. We're a small crew and there's a lot going on." Three full-time staff, counting Raul himself. A handful of extras, from time to time. Like this one. Compared to the breadth of activity in the Safe Zone, their work is not much more than a drop in the bucket — most buildings taken down simply don't have any salvage done at all.

Sometimes that strikes Raul as a pity, but there's only so many hours to go around.

"Gear first," Raul instructs. No surprise there. The conversation continues as they walk. "We're pulling paneling from the top floor — some nice old cherry from the 40s. Hardware from the lower two." Which is to say, things like switchplates, shelf brackets, drawer pulls. "Work whichever you like. We've got two more days here; after that, that's it."

At the moment, Teo is pleased. It'll be nice to have something other than alcohol, home errands, and work-outs to leave the house for. Bonus: a reason to delay responding to Francois' texts and E-mails. Unfortunately, at the present time, he lacks the foresight to tell that escaping his husband's company in favor of that for a handsome man who makes him feel more comfortable will lead to trouble. But it's nice to be pleased, now and then. And there's something familiar about this.

The rhythm of the workspace, the smell of dust lifting gently off the rubble. Somebody's tools left open, but stored neatly out of the way, on a ledge there. From across the way, one of the workers on break throws Raul a wave.

"I'll work on the ground." It's slightly more solitary work, what if Teo doesn't remember how to interact with other humans? It's something he sporadically worries about. The normal rhythms of Emily's life, which he observes as his roommate, makes him uncomfortably aware of how strange his experiences have always been. It'll be nice to stop thinking about it, to listen to his body for a few hours and have that be all. He glances through the yawning rectangle of a doorway that no longer has a door in it. "What time do we close?"

The reasons for Teo's choice are his own — although he might not be as 'solitary' as he expects; there are several hands on both aspects of the job. Raul merely nods, acknowledgment of the decision, attention momentarily distant as he reviews what that means for the work.

His return wave is thus absent-minded, as passing social niceties are wont to be.

"You're off at five," is Raul's answer to Teo's question, herald of his attention refocusing on the immediate moment. Less than a full day's work, but that happens when one shows up at lunchtime. Pausing, he picks up safety goggles and a hard hat, hand hovering over one size before selecting another. These are passed on to his newest temporary worker. "I'll give your shoes a pass this time. Barely." The admonition is not particularly chiding, tone owing more to good humor than rebuke.

Really, to start right away was better than Teo had expected— and if he weren't prepared to talk to people for a few minutes at a time, well. Offering his salutations through the fence was clearly a huge mistake.

Teo grins, at the shoes. Glances down at them. He does have workboots at home, though these are a far cry from what passes for fashionable. Some people like a man covered in dust! Teo has certainly gotten covered in his share of dubious environmental contaminants. He accepts the helmet first, plunking it down on his head— no surprise, it fits perfectly, the disarray inside his cranium failing to translate to anything weird in its physical size— and secures it, before accepting the goggles. He huffs on them once, wipes them off; a habit that is absolutely without utility, considering all the particulates that are bound to float onto his face.

He puts out his hand to grasp Raul's arm, a gesture of unmistakable gratitude. Though not before he asks, owing somewhat to good humor but probably with a concrete interest in the answer too: "When do I get paid?"

The crucial question, to be sure. Raul gives his newest (temporary) hire a level look across the armclasp. "After you get some work done," is patently facetious, inasmuch as it is a statement of the obvious, the common understanding they already share.

"You'll want gloves, too," he says, leaving it to Teo to select what he wants from the variety on offer. After, a flick of his fingers directs them on towards the building being stripped. "There's two and a half days left, so at the end of the job," Raul adds more seriously, addressing the spirit of the question.

That puts Teo on the hook for more days, at least nominally, but he did indicate wanting money. As expectations go, that one isn't exactly far out on a limb.

A long time ago, Teodoro fought on the other side of the war from this man. He'd killed some of Raul's people, and Raul had killed some of his. There are whole years christened in blood, mired with politics that shape the world today; that have made Teo's own husband firm in his decision to keep fighting, in his own fashion, long after Teo himself left. But Teo is here today, and he squeezes his friend's arm.

Somehow, for Teo, this feels not unlike the first time they met, once upon a bar. Loyalists had been regarded, understandably, with skepticism by those more susceptible to the prevailing new attitude toward the war— and Raul made a secret neither of his past, nor his present criticisms of all administrations involved, then and now. Teo had been eager to escape the admiration of like-minded peers, and the barman had been less grudging about providing Raul service once Teo was sitting with him. What Teo remembers, mostly, is that they had both had kids they had not seen in some time. (And also: that Raul has always been incredibly handsome.)

War is Hell, and the purgatory that comes after is not always easy.

They're the worst possible candidates to be working together, to try and reclaim something from the rubble left over of those devastating years.

Or maybe they're the best. So long as they don't talk much about it. They haven't yet, anyhow.

"I see the gloves," Teo says, turning away. There's a bag that way, deflated leather fings poking out of the lip. He calls over his shoulder without turning: "Buy you a drink after."

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