Men Need Fixing


vf_ruiz_icon.gif vf_shaw_icon.gif

Scene Title Men Need Fixing
Synopsis Ruiz and Shaw go to fix a broken boiler, but there's more wrong than just some equipment.
Date December 14, 2011

The Hub

It's one of the days that Shaw's slated for another dose of the negation drug, but the scheduled hour hasn't yet arrived. To pass the time, he has been hanging around the Hub common area of late making his trades of items scavenged on his last topside run. He's out of things save for a few bits and bobs now which have been laid out on a small square of cloth that's about the size of a hand towel. It probably was a hand towel at some point, but the ends have frayed over the years, and the color no longer as bright yellow as it had been upon first manufacture.

The man has occupied himself with other things in between approaches of other would-be traders, sitting cross legged with a heavy looking book in his lap and a single sheet of paper that has been scribbled upon in several spaces next to his knee. A pencil taps on said knee, twitching between his fingers as he reads.

Sometimes the garbage man and janitor for the Hub gets some weird tasks thrown at him. Ruiz could handle the electric tasks, and even basic repair, but sometimes— sometimes he just needs to go find the guy who's just a little bit better at working with junk and making it do what he wants. The electrician training that Ruiz has had makes it very difficult for him to improvise sometimes— cause he knows how it's supposed to work, and without the proper tools and parts it's just hard sometimes.

"Hey," he says as he approaches in his usual jumpsuit. This is the one that one of the kids slapped a patch on that happened to have Mr. Ruiz scribbled on it in a marker that they'd found. He was not about to say no to a gift from a kid. "I need a hand if you got one available, Blackout." It's a old nickname that's stuck.

Ruiz's approach doesn't go unnoticed, but the only indication that Shaw has heard him incoming is a tilt of his head the other way as he reads. Not until he finishes the line that he's on does Shaw pause and turns his attention to the man. He immediately swallows dryly at the nickname, expression flickering with familiarity for it. "Oh, sure," Shaw replies as he folds the book shut around the paper and pencil, the title read as The Second Sex.

Shaw unfolds from his seated position, pushing up to stand and brushing off his jeans of eraser bits. "You know who really needs a hand, Ruiz? Women." His large eyes round out like this is a rather new revelation. "Women have been suffering." Did you KNOW, Ruiz?

There's always something a little off about Ruiz. But just from how long they've known each other, the garbage man is negated at the moment. Apparently it's not one of his 'do whatever he does while not negated' days. His heartbeat is different, when negated. His blood pressure different. Everything about him is different. Most people don't notice it at all. But Shaw can.

"I don't think we can fix all women, sadly, but yes— I suppose they have. Always have been." He's now engaged to one, even if they don't have any rings.

"But one of the docs broke the boiler system that they got going down there. I think I can get it to work, but they mentioned you might have helped set it up originally." He's not sure what the heck is going on with it— it had been set up so unorthodoxly.

"No no," Shaw protests in a subdued timbre, reaching a hand up to scratch at the scruffy beard he has yet to trim. "We don't fix the women. The women aren't broken. They're supposed to—" His thought interrupts with a visible recoil from it, the man twitching like he might have just received an invisible shock from a certain electrokinetic. "We're the ones that need fixing. Men need fixing."

While Ruiz has always been a little off, so is Shaw. A little off. But say what they will, he's handy in some things. His gaze eventually refocuses on the other man and he arches his dark brows up. "Broken boilers and broken men. Got to fix it all," he sighs, and nods for Ruiz to lead on.

"Well, you're right." It's the men who are broken. But again, there's just not much they can do about that either. "But trying to fix the world usually ends badly." After all, didn't Vanguard think they were fixing the world? He shakes his head, leading the way toward the 'doc'. Almost none of those who they consider their docs actually had medical experience. This one happened to be a chemist. Helpful in many ways, but not if someone actually got hurt.

"You going out scavenging again anytime soon? I know that with the sniper most people are staying in…" It's an aside, and that's when his heart starts to change slightly, almost as if he's embarrassed about bringing this topic up. He even starts scratching at the back of his neck as they walk.

The thought of the whole world seems to overwhelm Shaw as they walk on, headed down one of the tunnels to find the source of the problem and the one who caused it. It’s not until Ruiz mentions the sniper and scavenging difficulties that Shaw is quick to return his attention to the present moment. “Isabelle wanted to go. But she says I should meet Magnes too, so maybe he wants to go. The others are scared but…” He trails for a moment, eyes narrowing as he finishes, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.” His gaze flicks over to Ruiz as he feels the slight shift of the man’s heartbeat, though he doesn’t make note verbally about it.

“Did you need something?” he asks after the moment, the temptation to tug on the just recovering powers, passes. “I found coffee last time, and then… then Lynette told a good story. Two good stories.” So she’s the one that wound up getting the coffee from him. “And she taught me a lot about Miss Jenny.” The mispronunciation is evident in the way Shaw stumbles over the word ‘misogyny’, but he doesn’t seem to notice it. “That’s why men need fixing,” comes the remark with a sage nod. “We break things. But we can fix them too.” It’s all so simple, right? You know this, Ruiz, as a man. Right?

“Of course.” The whole thing makes sense now. Where Lynette got coffee, where Shaw got his new attempt at feminism. It all makes perfect sense. Ruiz shakes his head and smiles, allowing that to calm his nerves for a moment. “Let’s fix ourselves first and then worry about men everywhere, okay?” He thinks that’s reasonable. Considering how few men there are now. If the two of them are the only ones fixed, that’s still a decent percentage!

“We might be able to find something suitable without ever going topside, but… I might have mentioned to Lynette that we should get married.” And that’s why he’s embarrassed. “She agreed, so— I thought I should at least try to get her a ring. Something that she can wear. Rings for both of us.”

Sometimes useless possessions like jewelry are unimportant. They can’t warm, can’t feed, can’t keep healthy. But sometimes the symbols still hold meaning.

“I plan to see if Rickham will marry us, too. How many people get married by the President.” A President that has no country to govern. And barely even governs this little group hidden away under New York City.

“Yes, we must fix ourselves,” echoes Shaw agreeably. Perfectly reasonable proposal, this statement from Ruiz. His next talk about rings and marriage brings a mixed reaction out of Shaw. Maybe he hasn’t gotten to anything about marriage yet. But he knows the basics, and looks speculatively at Ruiz, eyeing the man up and down as the other notes asking the president to marry them. “A ring is tradition,” he concludes simply. “And union gives strength. But, don’t give in to the patriarchy.”

There’s a longer pause in conversation as they walk. Shaw looks around as if in examination of the piping and tunnel walls, but seeming in a state of orientation more than anything. The closer they get to the broken boiler, the less electricity gets used to light the way in order to keep the scarcity of resources at bay, used only when needed. So it’s in the dark when Shaw speaks again, “How about a song?” The question comes sort of out of nowhere, but it might be more obvious just from their past interaction and familiarity that Shaw has sometimes a delayed connectivity with his thoughts. “You always know a good song. That’s why Lynette smiles.” Another beat passes. Shaw scrubs a hand behind his neck in the dark, his expression shadowed in the dim light as they approach the boiler area.

“She doesn’t smile around me,” is the man’s quiet lament. “But, I can’t tell her to smile.” No, no that would be bad. He’s been reading about this, you see.

“I never understood that— why tell someone to smile unless you’re trying to take their picture,” Ruiz responds, shaking his head as if that tidbit of certain men has always eluded him. His mother didn’t smile much, but she always had this way about her. In some ways, neither did Dess. Smile that is. Instead of asking them to smile, he strove to give them a reason to smile, either with a joke or a well meaning prank. Usually a joke.

Lynette gets the brunt of it now, now that he wears his dead sister’s watch on his wrist. Most people knew him and Dess to be like siblings. Even if they shared little in physical features. Sometimes, like the kids growing up down here, people could be siblings whether related or not.

“I’m going to give Nette such a hard time for ruining you,” he responds after a minute, shaking his head and laughing. He doesn’t quite mean that, but Shaw was like his one guy friend around here. “I’m still getting her a ring, even if you don’t plan to help me. She can throw it away if she doesn’t want it.”

He won’t be insulted. He wants one and doesn’t want her to not have one if she did too. It’s pretty much that simple.

“Can’t tell her to smile, it’s rude,” Shaw remarks, “because she doesn’t have to smile for you. She’s not a performance monkey. She’ll smile when she wants.” He bobs his head in a nod along, confirming this to Ruiz as much as himself. A man can learn! Shaw looks confused though, when Ruiz jokes about Lynette ruining him. “It’s the men who need fixing.” Or so he insists.

But he turns to Ruiz when he mentions the ring again, eyes round with surprise that the other man mentions Lynette just throwing the ring away. “But I do,” he adds, the insistent tone from before remaining, “I’ll find a good one. Two. Bet I could. You’re going to be surprised. But that’s what I’m asking for, a song. Are you game?” The trade negotiations thus open.

“Oh, I understood that part, I just don’t understand why anyone would do it, especially with the world the way it is now,” Ruiz responds, casting a look at his friend as if, well— he’s not entirely sure he understands why this would have even been a problem in the first place. Telling someone to smile when they obviously don’t want to would be like telling them to do jumping jacks to him.

A song, though— that he can do. “I can find you a good song. Do you prefer one from the piano or guitar?” Cause he can do either. He just hopes he’s not asking for an original one. Because, well, Ruiz may be good at playing and singing, but writing? Not quite as good. Though he might be able to come up for something.

In a jesting tone, he asks, looking over with the hint of a smile, “I’m not a performance monkey either, you know, but why is it okay to ask me for a song? Is that what you got in trouble for, asking a woman for a smile in exchange for something?”

Referring to the world at large, such dreams don't seem to be beyond reach now at least in Shaw's mind. Don't worry, it's just that he's been reading some books about how the world was. "We can fix it. Should fix it. Will… Fix it," the man says to his companion, although his gaze sinks, pointing groundwards. "If we live long enough to see it."

Then his head shakes and he moves back to the topic of something more hopeful with the talk of rings and exchanges. "You choose," he replies, "I… I like all the songs you play." It's not an unpopular opinion, seeing as music helps everybody forget the sheer weight of the depressing state of the world. And it apparently doesn't even occur to Shaw to ask for something original, so he doesn't. It'd probably blow his mind to ask for something original, but then again, that's a steep price.

Shaw looks back up as Ruiz takes on a teasing tone, and a flush of color rises to the light tan of his cheeks. "I meant… in exchange for finding a couple rings. I thought that was fair. Is it not?" Suddenly, his expression is full of doubt and questioning, Shaw's brow pinching down. The expression is brief and he shoves his hands into his hoodie pocket, the sound of some paper inside crinkling.

The paper is extracted shortly, and he offers it over to show Ruiz. It's one of Dirk's pamphlets, albeit filled with pencilled in notes and scribbles in both English and Arabic that point to the man having made notes of counterarguments from what's drawn on the paper. It's Your Civic Duty to Have Children this one says on one column of the trifold sheet, We Need to Breed on another. Shaw wets his lips nervously. "Lynette got mad after she saw it, and took all the coffee." All of it, Ruiz. But somewhere along the line, Shaw has realized that this pamphlet is what’s wrong. Now it’s a matter of, “She’s still mad at me, I think. So… so I thought I should figure out what I could do to make her not mad at me.”

“God, he even words it badly,” Ruiz laughs, looking at the pamphlet now that he’s finally seen it. Lynette had not let theirs stick around long enough for him to. He imagines she either shredded it, burned it or threw it at Dirk, and he doesn’t blame her. He probably would have tried to get rid of it before she saw it if he could.

“What were your counter arguments?” he has to ask, not close enough to read the little points that he’d been making in the margins, especially not the Arabic, but he can imagine what they might have been. “I have a few myself, not to even mention how terrible it is to tell a woman that it’s her duty to do something like that with her body. If he’d have worded it as a request and not something they need to feel ashamed of not wanting to do— “ But no. Had to make it about Civic Duty.

“I mean the mortality rate would likely be high. We don’t have near enough medicine or proper sanitation. And not to mention rationing.” They were already on rations as it was. “It wasn’t a very well thought out idea.” Or well worded. He understood why women would be mad about it. It’s one thing to tell people they had to work and find a job to keep the community going, it’s another thing to do this.

“And I understood what you meant with the song. I’ll sing you one.” He’ll go through his list to see which one works better. …And on the guitar. He’s not ready to use the piano in a performance yet.

Shaw pulls the paper pamphlet up, reading from the margins, “Civic Duty is not equal to family duty, because family could mean more than just man, woman and child. Women are not machines, They need not Produce, They need not Labor. Women are people too, we shouldn’t pressure them to do things they don’t want to do.” He adds in, louder, “NO MEANS NO,” followed with a softer, and hesitant, “… means no.” The man then re-crinkles the paper in a fold and slides it back into his hoodie pocket, scrubbing at his dark beard with the newly freed hand.

“And, you know, you don’t want to be cleaning up dead babies and picking up crying mothers from the floor.” It’s a rather macabre observation, and yet, they’ve all seen their fair share of death and gore.

He’s glad to go back to something more pleasant sounding, like songs and music. Speaking of sounds, Shaw slows as he seems to hear what sounds like the ailing boiler and the pipes connected to it shuddering, struggling. He tilts his head, coming to a stop and stills in what Ruiz knows as a utilization of his sensory augmentation power. While it might mean his hearing turns super sharp, the rest of his senses “black out” for the time being.

No. No one wants to clean up dead babies. Especially not this guy.

“Considering the morale blow the last kid we lost had on the Hub…” Ruiz couldn’t imagine how an actual baby born to someone they knew would affect those living down here. Or worse both mother and child. They already struggled with morale, with the looming doom that seemed ready to engulf him. He’d been among those who had been the most depressed—

Until recently. Until the kid. One would have thought he would have been more depressed since around that same time he lost Odessa. But they didn’t know what else they had gained. He just wishes Dess were still here to benefit. Assuming it ever works.

When Shaw starts to use his ability, Ruiz quiets, knowing how the enhanced senses would affect him if he just kept talking. The man can now hear his heartbeat, and how it’s changed in the last month of so. There’s something wrong with it, now, as if he’d put a lot of strain on his heart and it’s no longer working as efficiently. Or having to pump blood through scar tissue.

There might be something to be said for the man whose brain doesn't quite work the same way as the others. But back then, Shaw was frequently going out on scouting and scavenging missions like he was trying to escape the atmosphere of the Hub. Only to risk infection and/or death by illness or one of Vanguard's hunters.

Who knows what Shaw can hear when he has his senses focused? "There's something. It sounds strange," he says as he's listening. Not broken, but strange. His eyes turn not to one of the pipes or the walls of the tunnels, but right to Ruiz. The stare might be unnerving even though the man can't visually see at the moment - and Shaw seems to have his hearing trained on the other man. His eyes close, then reopen, and the man appears to fade back into the moment, back to visual acuity. And it's then that he purses his lips together, eyeing Ruiz a little warily. Worry creases his brow.

"Does Lynette know?" he asks in a cutting, yet general-sounding inquiry. It almost sounds accusatory. Almost.

Probably no one would like that look leveled on them, but Ruiz doesn’t exactly know what the man is listening for. What he sees or hears or senses about him. Until he asks that question. In that tone. Then he knows. “I don’t think so,” he explains quietly. He’s not sure anyone knows. He’s not even sure he knows exactly what the man means, but he does know one thing. He’s felt worse since he started using his ability in connection with the kid’s ability. That he’s been tired. Fatigued. That he’s had pain he’d never had before.

“I’ve talked to Goode.” The chemist who acts as one of the few people with medical knowledge. “She keeps saying ‘I’m not that kind of doctor’, but…” But she must have given him some thoughts. Warnings. “Ray hasn’t told me to stop, so it probably won’t kill me.” Would Ray have even bothered? In this case, probably not. Not if it got his daughter to safety.

But Lynette would have stopped it, he’s sure. If she even suspected what all this strain had been doing to him.

“I’ll be fine,” he says, dismissively. His life didn’t matter if he got at least some of these people out of this place. Especially Lynette.

“Is this about ‘finding a way out of here’?” The flat question sounds like Shaw is quoting rather than a statement of direct knowledge. But even with such a hopeful dream, he doesn’t sound convinced such an outcome is possible. “The likelihood of survival outside the Hub, without running into Vanguard, is very slim,” continues Shaw as he leans in to stare at Ruiz, at the lines of fatigue that show in the man’s features despite his statement to the contrary.

Shaw frowns again as he realizes, “Ray wants you to do this, too?” Suddenly he straightens back up, scrubbing a nervous hand on the back of his head and pacing a few steps this way and that. “What else, what else… what— why?” When he turns his dark eyes back to Ruiz, his gaze is fraught with anxious thoughts. “But, if you keep going like this, it’s going to be dangerous.” Shaw lifts a finger to point at the man’s heart. “You’ll get broken, and. And nobody can fix it.” His finger lifts up to point at his own skull. “Like me.”

“Oh, I know. Vanguard would kill us the moment they find us outside,” Ruiz states it as a fact, which doesn’t mean he won’t still work toward whatever it is he’s doing for Ray. It could be anything, really, and while part of him wants to tell the people he trusts, he doesn’t want to tell everyone. The more people who know, the more people who will want in. And he’s not even sure they will be able to take even a handful.

And he wants Lynette to be one of the first to go in.

“How do you know I wasn’t already broken?” he adds. Not physically, but… in some other metaphoric way. Shaw hadn’t been able to hear the noise in his head before he discovered a kind of peace with negation, but it had always been there. “And maybe I owe it to others. To do whatever I can.” What he means by that, he doesn’t say.

“This isn’t about me, though. Think the boiler can be fixed?”

“Only the sniper would, the rest of them, they have to get closer. They’re still cold,” Shaw considers of the Vanguard, but then he too gets quiet about the subject and looks away when he tumbles into the dark thoughts.

When his gaze sweeps back, it’s both tired and softened. Perhaps the use of his ability, even for the little bit, is an unexpected taxing endeavor especially when he’s not had to do so for a while. It’s not the same as a constant background roar, like Ruiz’s, which could be more tiring than even Shaw can imagine. “You do a lot already,” he affirms rather informatively. “You keep the area clean.” It’s something Shaw appreciates more than some might, even if he’s always been a mindful person and careful not to make a mess for others to clean up when he could avoid it.

But when it comes back to the boiler, to the actual issue that they’ve originally meant to face, Shaw straightens and looks more present. “Yes. Yes, I think we can fix it.” He smiles thinly, his usual expression, looking pleased with good news despite that they haven’t even touched the boiler.

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