He Who Has the Gold


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Scene Title He Who Makes the Gold
Synopsis The end of a long day means relaxation for the overseers of the Sill.
Date September 12, 2018

Palisades Sill

Palisades Sill is a settlement in close proximity to the Pelago, operated by a sect of the old Vanguard. Unlike the Pelago itself, Palisades Sill embraces piracy and functions as neutral territory and a general den of iniquity where morals are loose and the unscrupulous thrive. Visitors from the Pelago are not uncommon, although it’s understood that disputes between pirates and the Pelago’s inhabitants are either left at the door or dealt with in a manner that doesn’t threaten the status quo or damage management’s property.

The settlement itself is built both into and and on top of the Palisades: a five hundred foot stretch of cliffside that runs along what was once the Hudson River. Generally speaking, wealthier individuals and business owners are situated higher than those just scraping by, but there are exceptions to this rule where the settlement spills out onto the water, such as the expansive floating bazaar or distillers who have set up shop in the cave systems inside the cliffs themselves.

There are roughly one thousand permanent residents of the Palisades, but when business is booming and the cliffs are crowded by ships looking for a port, that number can sometimes triple. Ramshackle buildings built into the cliffs are connected by either rope bridges or rickety walkways of dubious construction that increase in reliability the closer to the top of the cliffs they are. A once-abandoned cruise ship, Freedom of the Sea, is permanently docked at the water’s edge and serves as a hotel for temporary visitors — for a price, of course.

It’s one of the “nicer” floating bars that Nick sits at the end of the day — which of course doesn’t mean the end of work, given so much can and does happen in the evening hours at the Palisades Sill. His radio sits beside him on the table as he looks out at the water beyond the harbor, the storm brewing in the distance. 

Once upon a time, such a  view only the affluent could afford on a daily basis. 

He holds loosely in his hands  a glass of something amber in hue, that’s come from a bottle rather than a bathtub — and that is something that only the rich can afford. It’s not what would have been top shelf before the flood, but it tastes like whiskey should, which is more than can be said for most of what’s sold to the common man. 

Luckily, he’s not the common man. 

The Rapture came and went, leaving them paradise. 

Or the Flood is obviously the better Biblical allusion for the state of the world, and god knows that they know how it was intended to be, but from what fragments of theology that John Logan has absorbed over the years, he thinks the Rapture more fitting. The best of them gone, leaving the rest behind to pick up the pieces. That's the thing with the aftermath of a party, though — it doesn't have to be. Just make sure you keep dancing.

Which he sometimes likes to do, quite literally, and there are places for that — this is not one, and so his footsteps make only an even tempo as he moves across the space towards where Nick's back is turned to the rest of the bar.

Probably, Nick's instincts are by now finely attuned to whenever John enters the room, whether by his specific gait, the spritz of cologne worth an unquantifiable amount due to both scarcity as well as a lack of economics that could handle this kind of thing. Other scents like that, too — incense, and alcohol, and tobacco, laced into the fine weave of his suit.

But also this: a hand coming down, clapping into the centre of Nick's back. Thwok.

"You're a hard man to find."

Nick’s already turning, though the wrong way, at the sound of those footfalls he knows so well, and that quintessential Logan scent that lingers on his suits as well as the other man’s. 

“Am I?” he says, brows lifting as his bright blue gaze seeks the greener pastures of Logan’s eyes, lips curving into the sharp angle of his smile. 

His attention splits for a moment as he catches the eye of the bartender to hold up two fingers, and the server quickly moves to pull another glass for Logan and splash more into Nick’s. It pays to keep the landlords happy, after all. 

“And where would you have me be?” Nick asks, reaching for the glasses, pressing the fresh tumbler into Logan’s hand. 

"At my beck and call," John says, obviously, free hand going from Nick's back to the tumbler, hitching himself onto the seat beside him. Free hand, because the other is holding an object, a vessel, the shape of something you might expect someone like John to use to smuggle firearms, money, or heroin in — a black violin case, which he sets down on the bar between them.

No immediate explanation, because as ever, he likes to play things out. He looks like he's working, too, inasmuch as what he does for a living can be defined as working in a world of unimaginably harsh survival. Managing people, tracking credits, and something that apparently involves a violin case. John hooks a finger at where his own tie cinches at his collar, loosening it.

"What are we drinking?"

The radio that sits at Nick’s one o’clock is tapped twice. “You have the means to call,” the younger of the two men says, the implication made in gesture and the heat behind Nick’s gaze  that that’s all John needs to do. 

“Or were you planning to serenade me?” he asks, with a nod to the violin, his brows lifting curiously, though he doesn’t expect a quick or direct answer. “I’m partial to the Bach Chaconne in D Minor,” he suggests. 

The glass of whiskey is brought to his lips for a taste of his refilled whiskey, and he shrugs.

“Not Macallen, that’s for sure. A low-end Jim Beam, if I caught the label right, but at least it won’t make us blind.” Anything from an unopened bottle is practically gold, after all. 

John says, "fuck off," at Bach Chaconne in D Minor, but it's lightly delivered and then both muffled and amplified by his glass of bourbon as he brings it up to his mouth. The first sip is followed by a second, smaller sip, an instinct towards conservatism preventing him from sliding the whole thing back down his throat.

Mm. He nods a little, like he's recalling a memory. And isn't that really what they're selling? Not just finery, rare liquor, and pussy — but a moment in which you forget that the world isn't as fucked as it is, that it's back to the way it was.

"It's for your sister," he says. "She used to play, once upon a time."

He opens the case to show off its contents, and sure enough, there lies a beautiful violin in velvet, shining, strangely perfect. No telling if its in tune, of course, or how long the strings will last, but there it is. As Nick looks at it, John reaches across and adjusts the swoop of Nick's dark hair over his brow with a light rake of his fingers, matter of fact and assumptive about this imposition. "It can be from the both of us, if you like."

The reveal of the violin, lying like a perfect specimen, almost like a butterfly in shape, in its case, draws an appreciative sound from Nick. His hand reaches out to trace the curvature where the waist meets the upper bout. He is a fan of beauty in all its guises, that sensitive poet soul that makes itself known now and then, despite the hard world they live in. 

“Jesus. It’s exquisite,” his low voice murmurs, as his head tips to lean into John’s hand.

Once again, his eyes come up to seek the green of John’s. “Well, then she can play the Chaconne,” he says, amused tone a sheer lacquer over the fact he’s quite touched by the acquisition of the instrument, a rare and thoughtful gift. 

“Where’d you find it?” he asks, curious, before one brow quirks upward. “Do I want to ask?” 

That hand finds a place to rest at the back of Nick's neck after planing through ravenwing dark hair, and when he looks to John, he meets a searching kind of stare. Frank and unabashed and, by now, smug that he has done a Correct and Pleasing and perhaps even Surprising thing. Then, his usual fox grin at that question and its qualifier. "No one died," he says, lightly. "Not by my hand, anyway. Someone came in with a mind to trade it, is all — literally the only thing of value they had. Barely any food or water. Didn't seem to have any particular attachment, but figured we was the only settlement around who'd give generously for this sort've thing.

"And I didn't ask them where they got it," he adds. "But they've got themselves practically a year's worth of revelry and a little bit of fuel. My favourite sort of bargain." The kind where everyone walks away happy, he means. Idle, the thumb pressed gentle next to Nick's spine acts as a sort of mental point of contact as John idly releases a touch of low, thrumming contentment into the younger man's system.

Just a nudge, to underscore his point. His eyes gleam a wickeder green, and dull again. 

At the feel of that familiar rush of warmth and pleasure running through his veins, Nick’s eyes seem to grow a touch darker with the dilation of his pupils. 

“I didn’t think you killed anyone for it,” he adds. Not that he hasn’t witnessed John kill anyone — it was their business for quite some time, and now, even in their little oasis, there’s call to do it now and then, and all of those living at the Sill will do what it takes to protect it with little sentiment or guilt. “But I’m glad it came to us. She’ll like it. And we all deserve more beauty in our lives.” 

He leans forward, one hand reaching up to graze along John’s jawline before his fingertips curl into the golden hair behind the other man’s ear. His kiss, heated and lit by persistent desire and need for the other man, comes slowly and warmly, tempered by that thrum bestowed on him a moment before. “You spoil me. I was feeling pretty good all ready,” he murmurs, voice a low rumble.

John receives the kiss with the slow, hazy laziness of the pace of things being set. His eyes close, and only open a fraction as it breaks, and smiles wider. "Well," he says, pulling back only just enough to allow himself to speak. "Then you ought not to reward bad behaviour." 

The nudge of serotonin, he means, but Nick is free to correct him. His eyes have now return to the colour of icy green and the thumb stroking the fine hairs that grow along the back of the other man's neck is now just doing nothing more stimulating than that gentle, persistent action. "Besides," he says, adjusting a little where he sits to make their shared intimacy an easier thing, without having to lean, "you're on the clock and so am I. The difference is, you keep us safe. And I? Keep us happy."

It's slightly too true to be funny, given some ongoing conditions, and yet, that is often when John's humour lies, tempered with an edge.

“Mm,” is Nick’s noncommittal reply about ‘bad behavior.’ 

His gaze, icy blue, rests on that icy green, half-lidded with the pleasure sparked by a mix of the chemicals evoked by John’s ability and the chemical’s evoked naturally by John’s presence. The latter is a heady mix as well, and one less easily turned off.

“I suppose it’s a good thing we own the bloody clock then, isn’t it?” Nick says, his fingers tightening a little in that curl behind John’s ear.  “He who has the gold makes the rules, after all.” 

They haven't much gold, unless you count the trinkets from lives past traded to them for a bottle of whiskey or a piece of ass. They have those things, plus land and whiskey — the post-apocalyptic American dream. Even if none of them are actually American.

Nick rises, fingers wrapping around John's wrist to tug him with him. "Work can wait."

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