Brews for Bruises


ignacio_icon.gif nick_icon.gif

Scene Title Brews for Bruises
Synopsis A failed gym trip results in a shared drink between acquaintances.
Date March 15, 2019

Red Hook

The gym a few blocks from the Red Hook Market has seen better days, but most things in Red Hook have, to be honest. There's only eight working treadmills, a half dozen ellipticals, and five stationary bikes. Spin class is a thing of the past. The weight machines have fared better, not requiring electrical or software repairs. There's always a place for analog, especially in a post-war world. A few punching bags and a single ring for sparring round out the main room.

It's near the row of those coveted treadmill machines that Nick waits his turn, his name scrawled in indecipherable script on a clipboard that hangs on the wall he leans on. The frigid air outside threatens sleet, or he'd head outside to get his cardio on. In hindsight, he could have gone earlier instead of at what amounts to gym rush hour, but foresight hasn't always been the man's best skill — despite being a spy.

He drums fingers against the wall behind him lightly, blue eyes up on a television screen that's turned to silent, the closed captioning trying to keep up with the talk show that's being aired and doing a poor job of it.

One of those treadmills is occupied by Nacho. He's going at a good clip, and it's likely he's been at it a while, judging by the state of his shirt. He has headphones on, a luxury in this day and age, but if you're going to use them for something, might as well be running on a treadmill, the most boring exercise in the world.

There isn't even any warning when it happens. One minute he's running, and the next minute he runs into the handle, then stumbles to the side. "La concha de tu madre!" he exclaims with a hiss of pain, basically falling off the side of the machine, though he manages to remain mostly upright. It seems as though the gym has lost another one, considering the belt is no longer moving and the lights are out.

"Shit, you all right, mate?" asks Nick, moving away from the wall to move toward the machine and Ignacio — most of the others on the treadmill are too absorbed in the news or the screens of their treadmills or their music to have noticed, though one woman glances that way, then back to the television, clearly not too worried.

Nick glances at the machine with a bit of skepticism and also a sigh — he was counting on Ignacio to be the first done, after all. "Thought maybe we were in for a brown out, but it looks like it's just you whose out of power. Pieces of shit." Nick glances at Ignacio, appraising him for signs of any lasting injury — treadmill accidents can be nasty, but he managed not to go flying too far or land on the ground. "Nice recovery."

Thanks, Random NPCs! Thanks for caring. Nacho rubs his hip where he'd hit the handle particularly hard, wincing again as he does, but a dry chuckle escapes him as he looks over at Nick. "Yeah," he says, "I'm fine. Must be a sign I need to stop working out." He grins, stepping away from the evil machine without a backward glance.

"Sorry about that," he says, gesturing behind him. "But at least it wasn't you, right?" After all, he did take the fall, though maybe Nick would have been walking. Who knows!

"It's clearly bad for your health," says Nick with a laugh. He glances at the others on their machines and sighs — none of them look like they're even breaking a sweat, and he can see some of the readouts indicating they have quite a ways to go in their stationary 5Ks and half marathons it seems. "Suddenly everyone's a long distance runner. Who knew?" he says, glancing to the door that leads outside. "Should just suck it up and run outside, but I like to only see my breath when I'm smoking, personally."

One hand rakes a hand through his scruffy black hair. "You sure you're all right? They probably have a trainer or something that can tape you up if you sprained anything. Get it on file in case it turns into something worse, too." He's a man familiar with bureaucracy, it seems.

"Uh huh. That's what my tia always said, I shoulda listened." Nacho lifts the bottom edge of his shirt up so that he can wipe his face with it, and he glances to the door as well, before he looks back to Nick. "Why run outside when you can burn calories going nowhere?"

He tips his head to the side at the last words, though, continuing, "You a lawyer? 'Cause I wouldn't mind a windfall. Wow, all of a sudden my neck really hurts." He reaches up to rub it with another wince, but this one is obviously feigned, and fades into a laugh a moment later. "Nah, I'm okay. Been worse." He sticks a hand out then, saying, "Nacho."

"Nah. I work some at a nursery," is a sometimes truth, so it comes off as truth. "Plants, not babies," he adds, before Nick reaches to take the proffered hand. "Nick." He studies the red and green monitors of the machines for a moment, before he sighs. "I think I'm gonna cut my losses and get a beer instead. You wanna join me?" he asks, with a head tip to the door. "After having a cigarette. This is what happens when I can't fulfill that rare urge to exercise right away. We're millennials — we don't have the attention span to wait an hour for a machine. Think of how many instagram stories I could put up in that time."

Whether Ignacio comes with him or not, he makes his way to the exit, already pulling out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, flicking the igniter to spark the flame as soon as he's in the cold air. The very epitome of health and fitness.

"Nice to meet you." The suggestion of a drink, though, doesn't get any hesitation at all. "Sounds like exactly what I need right now," he says. "Let's make sure to take a selfie so that it looks like we're having way more fun than everyone else. Hashtag 'brewsforthebruise!'"

He starts toward the door then with his new exciting friend, and he's only limping slightly, which is a good sign. "You come here a lot? I don't think I've seen you before. Of course I might have and we just didn't get a meet cute until now."

"You're a little too good at coming up with a hashtag on the spot. I'm suspicious now," Nick says around the cigarette he's lighting, before he holds the pack and lighter out to Ignacio if he wants to partake.

He glances over his shoulder at the gym and shakes his head. "Not a lot. When the weather's a bitch and I feel like I didn't do enough work for the day to make up for the pints." He begins to walk in the direction of the nearest pub, luckily just around the corner. "I don't stand out much," he adds with a shrug, as for not being noticed. "You? You don't really seem the treadmill type. Maybe a boxer?" he asks, glancing over at Nacho as he lifts his cigarette for another drag. It's a bit chilly to be out without coat or long sleeves, but the walk's not more than two minutes from start to finish, so it seems pointless to go back to the truck parked on the curb.

"You got me. I was a social media coordinator when that was still a thing. All the chocolate-covered pretzels and Luna bars I could eat. Those were the days." Nacho lets out a wistful sigh, shaking his head as though it's a great loss, before he reaches out to take a cigarette as well as the lighter, and lights up. It's not a fancy protein bar, but it'll do.

He hands the lighter back to Nick as the other man goes on, and he nods. "Carrying around dirt all day does seem like it'd beat time in a gym." As for him, he shrugs, taking a drag. "Amateur," he says. "Just for fun, though. Sometimes I go down to the Crucible to watch, but I don't fight there."
"The fuck is a Luna bar?" asks Nick with a smirk. He probably knows.

The mention of the Crucible has him lifting a brow at Ignacio. "Yeah? I try to stay clear of the place. Not that they want to see me fight. I don't have the goods." He doesn't follow up with the obvious question — is Nacho SLC-E? At the door to the pub, he pulls it open and holds it for the other man, before dropping his cigarette and stomping it out with his Nikes. The laws are a little loose in the Safe Zone, but he doesn't need pointed coughs and dirty looks in his direction. "Hauling dirt's a pain in the ass, but it pays." That's a lie, but it reads as truth. "What do you do?"

Nacho just snorts at the question, and he doesn't bother answering, either figuring Nick is just being difficult or that it's not worth explaining. Instead, he says, "Yeah, me neither." Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean he's non-evolved, but he doesn't expand.

He takes a last drag from his own cigarette before he follows suit, glancing over at the other man with a raised eyebrow at the statement. "Yeah?" he asks, but he doesn't look like he disbelieves it, more like he's surprised. "Huh. Who knew." As for what he does, he continues, "I run the botanica in Red Hook. So if you're looking for the best place to buy candles and shit, look no further."
Heading to the bar, Nick slides onto a barstool and tips his head to look at what's on tap, but doesn't flag down the bartender's attention. He'll come when he comes. He looks back to Ignacio, brows drawing together.

"Botanica for candles?" he asks. "Why'd I think a botanica would sell plants?" He obviously isn't that well equipped with life in New York City, but the East London accent he has probably explains why. "Can always use candles, what with the power outages and shit, right?"

The bartender turns their way, and Nick orders a bottle of Bass, ignoring the tap beers after having spied the British ale in the refrigerated unit behind the bar.

"Well, yeah," Nacho says as he sits down as well, resting his forearms on the top of the bar. "Not plants plants, but like, herbs. Medicinal shit. You know? We got that, too. You can see if you come by." Though it's not a particularly hard sell, more just a friendly thing to say.

He turns to order as well, though he goes for whatever's on tap. "How long you been in New York?" he asks as he turns back to Nick. Since obviously the man is not from around here.

"Ahhh, got it. Like those herbalists in Chinatown," Nick says. Except, you know. Not Chinese. The drinks come quickly, since it's not long to pour a pint nor grab and open a bottle, so Nick tips his bottle in the direction of the tender. "Cheers," he says, before looking back to Nacho.

"Oh, a year or so before the war, I guess. Great timing, right?" he asks, with a roll of his eyes, before taking a pull from the bottle. "You been here a while?"

Nacho picks up his own glass to take a long drink — brews for the bruised, after all. "Yep," he confirms once he sets the glass down, "like that. We got all kinds of shit, useful and ornamental." Quite a tagline, that. And there's some other stuff, of course, but it isn't exactly what he leads with while making new friends.

He taps his finger against the glass as he lets out another little laugh, this one sympathetic. "Damn. That sucks for you, bacano." He nods then, continuing, "Yeah, a while. Moved here when I was a kid, so it's what I remember. Changed a lot since then, though." A little huff escapes him then, since, yeah, no shit.

"Worse over there now, honestly. If you can imagine," Nick says with a shrug, taking another long drink of his bottle, before a soft huff escapes his lips and he turns to regard Nacho, brows lifting with amusement.

"Bacano?" he repeats. "Are you calling me bacon?" he asks. "Or implying I'm a cop?" Spanish isn't one of his languages, it seems, slang or otherwise. "Hauling dirt could be a euphemism for police work, I guess," he asides, looking amused.

"No shit? Well, then I guess you were lucky." Nacho takes another drink, and whatever leftover pain he'd had from his unpleasant treadmill experience seems to be gone, or at least manageable. "Who knew I'd be so glad to be here. But I guess it's all right, even if the alternatives weren't worse."

He registers some surprise at the question, before he laughs again. "Nah," he says, "it's like, dude. Bro." There's a slight pause, before he adds, "But not dudebro. That's more like pendejo."

"Ah. Got it, mate," says Nick, with a small grin, since 'mate' was the original 'bro,' wasn't it? He tips his bottle for another drink.

"I can tell you one thing about the world, from what I've seen of it. There's always somewhere where people have it worse," the Englishman says. "I mean, unless you're at the bottom of the barrel. In which case things can only get better or you die, right?"

That's what we call Ruskin optimism.

The interpretation complete, Nacho reaches for his beer again, but before he can take a sip, Nick's giving his…less than rose-colored glass-view of the world. His eyes widen as he eyes the other man for a few moments, before he just shakes his head with a snort.

"Damn," he says, "what a philosophy. I was gonna have a mother one after this but I think if I do I might be a danger to myself after that." It's a joke, though, said with amusement and without any particular barbs. And he's still here, isn't he? "I bet you kill with that one at parties. I'd steal it but I think I'd need to practice more with the whole dark brooding thing to really make it work."

Nacho's words draw an actual laugh from the British man and he lifts his shoulders, finishing his pint and glancing to the bar man to hold up two fingers, regardless of his drinking partner's words. "Tell me it isn't the truth, though," he says, with a nod in Nacho's direction. "I've almost died too many times to count, so I speak from experience."

Despite the pragmatic outlook, it's not said in any sort of morose manner. "You're probably shocked to learn I don't do a lot of parties," he adds, lips twitching into another smirk, clearly entertained by the other man's reaction. "So what's your philosophy? You get knocked down, but you get up again, no one's ever gonna keep you down?" Tubthumping's very timely in 2019. "You seem the scrappy sort."

Nick's words don't exactly make Nacho become suddenly serious, even if they're true. He certainly doesn't contest them, so he must feel they're true on some level. "Hold up, hold up," he says instead, "let me try." He schools his expression that had been tending toward a grin into a more serious one, and locks eyes with Nick, reaching out to rest a hand on his elbow. "I've almost died too many times to count," he echoes, though his tone is exaggeratedly deep and doesn't really sound like Nick's, but more like someone who's trying to pick someone else up for the night. Which is, of course, the point.

He can't keep the straight face for that long, though, and it dissolves into that grin again as he takes his hand back. "You know what," he continues, at Nick's suggestion, "that's pretty spot on, actually. Plus the drinking part. Can't take this shit too seriously, right? Since we're all heading toward a long-ass dirt nap."

“Please tell me I don’t actually sound like that,” says Nick with a snort, shaking off the hand on his elbow, though there’s no real belligerence to the gesture.

He reaches for the fresh bottle slid in front of him, with a nod of appreciation to the bartender.

“Some of us, anyway. There’s a few blokes and birds who seem intent on sticking around forever, thanks to winning the genetic lottery. Or losing it, depending on your outlook. Not sure immortality’s something I’d wish on anyone,” he says. “You have to think that everything loses meaning after seeing it happen a thousand times over.”

“If I could, I would,” Nacho replies with a sympathetic tone, though there’s another laugh that follows it as he reaches for his beer as well, finishing it off.

He turns to Nick again then, and makes a face at the mention of immortality. “Yeah,” he says, this time a little more actually serious, unlike before. “Living forever sounds like pretty much the worst ability. I wouldn’t want to have to make friends over and over when my old ones died. I mean, I like people but there’s a limit.”

Perhaps it’s because Nacho is a stranger, but Nick voices something he hasn’t voiced aloud to many people. “There was a time I thought my secret super power was not being able to die. Not like I instantly heal any injuries — I know a girl who can do that — or don’t age, because I sure as shit don’t look or feel like I did ten years ago,” he says with a laugh, taking another swallow of beer and then glancing at Nacho, like he expects the other man to argue with him.

“You probably wouldn’t believe most of it, so I won’t bore you with the stories. I did survive that fucked up flu in 2011,” he says, eyes hardening at the memory — quite literally attempted murder, and by someone still in the periphery of his life and loved ones. Asshole. “Anyway, signs point to no, just a lot of irony and luck — if it’s good or bad, I haven’t decided yet.”

Nick’s blue eyes slant back to Nacho. “If you could have an ability, what would it be? If not immortality.”

“Oh yeah?” Nacho shifts a little bit so that he’s facing Nick, resting his elbow on the bar and propping his head on his fist. He doesn’t interrupt, though he does grin at the not looking or feeling as young as we used to be. It’s difficult, but he manages not to snark.

He shrugs eventually instead, adding, “There’s a lot of unbelievable shit I’ve seen with my own eyes, so I don’t know why not being able to die would be more unbelievable.” However, he doesn’t ask about the other stuff, though his eyebrows raise at the one example. “I can see why you might have thought that.”

The question gives him pause, and he looks away briefly, toward the wall of alcohol behind the bar. “I don’t know,” he finally says. “I actually tested positive when they were going around doing that, but nothing ever happened. I used to wonder what it would be. I tried a lot of crazy shit. Broke my leg jumping off a fire escape. But now I just figure the test was wrong, or something like that.”

The admission doesn’t seem to surprise Nick — after all, he’s surrounded by friends and family who are, even if he isn’t. “I doubt it was wrong,” he says after a moment. “It could be you just haven’t needed to access it yet. Or it could be something so subtle you don’t realize you’re doing it, like being immune to radiation, or…”

He thinks for a moment, before he smirks again. “You could be an animal telepath — I know more than my share — but maybe it’s with some animal you haven’t met yet. Like giraffes or, fuck, killer whales. Not super useful, here in New York, probably. If you’re curious about the test being right or wrong, you could take the test again with SESA, I’m sure.”

Nacho snorts, and even though it’s clear he’s a little bitter about it all, he does seem genuinely amused by that. “Man, it would be awesome if I could fucking commune with killer whales. I’d go live on an island or some shit and just hang out with them all the time. They could bring me fish or whatever, and take me for rides like Free Willy.”

He does consider the SESA suggestion for a moment, before he shrugs. “Maybe. I don’t know if I care enough. I’ve been normal all my life, so I don’t even know what I’d do with some crazy power if I got it. Maybe it’ll be that I’ll never get arthritis, and I’ll only notice when I’m seventy.”

Nick laughs at the Free Willy reference, but nods more somberly when Nacho talks about not knowing what to do with a ‘crazy power.’ “There’s definitely some downsides to some of the powers. I had a dreamwalker basically tucked in my brain while she was comatose for a bit. Had to run her body around hiding her from the government goons. That made for a fun time.”

He considers the label of his beer for a moment, before adding, “We’re still dating nine years later, so I guess it’s one hell of a meet cute.”

Taking another sip, Nick adds, “Another person I know can’t touch anyone or they’ll die, kinda like that cute X-Men chick. Then you got the people with psychic visions who are always a bit mad. The time travelers who don’t know what they’re going to fuck up by stepping on the wrong butterfly… Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of useful powers, but some of them definitely come with a lot of fine print.”

“Oh shit.” Nacho sits back a little bit, those particular powers possibly sinking in. It’s a lot of crazy shit, that’s for sure. “I don’t want anyone in my head but me. Sometimes I don’t even want me.” Though he doesn’t say it too seriously, so he’s probably at least somewhat joking. Everyone has those moments, though, right?

“Yeah. I knew this chick who had like…sonic scream. When she screamed it would melt metal. That made for some interesting times.” He grins, giving Nick a meaningful look. You know, Nick. “That one didn’t exactly last nine years, but it was fun while it did.”

Nick laughs and rakes his hand through his perpetually unkempt hair. “I’ve had a few people in my head. Hard to keep secrets sometimes. But they’ve helped me too, in their way.” He takes a pull from his beer bottle, pulling another long drink that empties it out.

“That doesn’t sound like fun, but glad you didn’t get melted,” Nick adds with a chuckle, lifting his empty glass in Nacho’s direction like a toast, before he sets the empty soldier on the bar top to be collected. He pulls out his wallet and adds a couple of bills, covering both his and Nacho’s drinks. “Speaking of fun times, I should probably get home to my dreamwalker,” he says. “I’ll look for your botanica one of these days maybe, next time I need candles. You got those big pillar things with the saints and shit on them? Those are great in the outages.”

“Yeah, me too. Live to fight another day, right? Except I’m more of a lover than a fighter. Mostly because I always seem to get my ass kicked some way or another.” Nacho grins, before he lifts a hand when Nick stands up. “We got a ton of those,” he confirms. “Any saint you want. People tell me the Francises burn the best.”

He nods then, adding, “See you, Nick.” He doesn’t seem about to get up, himself. He has more than one bruise, after all.

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