On Proximity Of Friends And Enemies


hagan_icon.gif peter_icon.gif

Scene Title On Proximity of Friends and Enemies
Synopsis At an Irish pub, Peter's darker half and a graphic designer discuss the finer points of allies and enemies.
Date November 8, 2008

Upper East Side: Biddy Flannagan's Irish Pub

Dim yellow light accents natural wood floors and rough brick walls, the interior design that lends to a warm and old-world atmosphere. While foreigners would balk at the notion of calling this place a pub, due to its strictly Americanized layout, the patrons here are comfortable with the level of decour being just European enough to accent the stout served behind the bar. Biddy Flannagan's is a local fixture here in the Upper East Side, a place of welcome respite for the thousands of upper and middle-class residents of the neighborhood to come and share a pint amidst a comfortable and warm atmosphere.

Inside of the pub, it's hard to tell whether it's day or night outside, with thick burgundy curtains covering the front windows, and the deeper recesses of the pub near the bar shrouded in the smoky air darker still, creating a certain ambiance that lends itself to drinking. With how full the pub is though, it's clear that it's nearing happy-hour; most of the high and round tables are full, and precious space at the bar quickly fills up as more people slip in for a few drinks to comisserate the weekend's closing and the daunting approach of monday.

Seated at the bar was an early arrival, a man who doesn't quite fit in with the decour around him, nor with the relaxed professionals seeking to deaden the impact of the work-week's approach. Sitting at the bar, hands folded in front of himself, he looks distinctly off-put. The reflection in the mirror across the way that he seems transfixed on, is of a young man that has seen his fair share of struggles, if that rough scar that travels diagonally across his face is any indication. A long, leather jacket hangs down over the sides of the stool, shrouding much of what else he wears, save that it is also black. Beside him, to his right, the last stool remains untaken.

The faux-Irishness. It presses a needle firmly into his brain and stirs it around like a straw in a milkshake. Despite the physical pain the pub causes one Hagan O'Sullivan, it does have something he needs - pints.

"All right, all right. Fuck off, will ya?" Despite the harsh content of his words, there's an odd politeness to those words as the Irishman waves off some guy in a Guinness t-shirt who overheard snippets of his accent and got enamoured. "I appreciate the light but I'm not your pet leprechaun. On with ye." He twiddles his fingers and drops down in the stool next to Peter. There's an aura of cold cigarette smoke around him. "Give us a pint," he says to the tender, then picks up a coaster and promptly starts tearing it to pieces. He catches sight of Peter's reflection as he looks forward. "Kid. You look like someone took a squat in your Weetabix or happy flakes or o's of golden monosaturated fat. You better have a reason for that curdled milk look. Else people with real problems are going to get feckin' depressed."

It's a mouthful to take in, for certain. For a moment it seems as though Hagan's commentary was lost on the dark-haired man, just as he is lost in the glowering countenance of his reflection. But after just long enough to make the shiftin focus seem awkward, Peter's eyes drift across from his reflection to the man seated next to him. It's a meeting of the eyes done by proxy, talking as though he were addressing the mirror, less so than the man reflected in it. "Anybody who's lived in this city long enough," his voice has a quality that matches his appearance, rough and ragged, the tone of someone that should be a war-veteran, not a 20-something New Yorker, "has real problems." Though, looking outside, it's easy to mistake the city for a former battlefield.

Finally turning his head to get a more personal look at the man seated beside himself, Peter raises one brow in a quizzical look that creases the scar across his face, "Peter." He states, reaching out with an unusually open expression of an offered hand. "You don't sound like someone who's been here very long."

"Oh I have been. Quite long, in fact. About six months before it all went to shite. But I drink. A lot. That's what pints are for." Speaking of, Hagan takes a deep drink of his as it arrives before he bothers with introductions.

"Hagan. And you still look all pissy. Tequila and also rum tend to help that, I find." He handshakes. "So. What made you come to a pancy fake leprechaun bar, hm? There's lots of places where your glowers would fit right in. Most places, in fact."

Eyes shifting up and down, Peter cracks a crooked smile and shifts his focus back to Hagan's reflection in the mirror. "It felt like time for a change." There's a hint of amusement in his tone of voice, a contrasting tone against his apparent demeanor. "Been around too many of the same places, too much of the same people. I felt…" One hand motions in the air, as if looking to grab the remainder of his sentence from the smoke hanging low over the bar, "…suffocating." Around this time, the bartender steps over, sliding a tall glass of dark stout towards Peter on a cheap cardboard coaster.

There's no subtlety in his movements, hand opening as the glass slides across the coaster, then up through the air and into Peter's hand. Perhaps it was planned that the bartender had looked away just in time to miss it, and that Peter waited until Hagan's eyes were on the glass to make that gesture. "Well," He raises the glass in his hand, motioning towards Hagan, "To a shit world, then."

"Strange hm? The problem with big cities is usually that you never see the same people. But I know what you're saying. Same routine. Wake up, shit, shower eat, work, piss, eat, work, drink, smoke, eat, sleep. Maybe a fuck or two, but not with any regularity. Routine helps, but all it does is help you circle 'round the drain at a steady velocity." This depressing thought causes Hagan to swallow a big mouthful of his pint. It's half drained already.

His look to Peter's pint is out of curiosity to what he's drinking. The magic trick causes a very strange expression to creep onto his face. It looks like his emotions have been pulled both ways at once. And then he looks back to the mirror and raises the pint. "To it, then."

"So, Hagan," Peter's words are paused from a sip to the foam settled at the top of his glass, "What is it you do that keeps the mediocrity of this city from killing you from the inside out?" One dark brow is raised again, and at the question Peter's head turns once more, looking at the man in the flesh instead of his mirrored reflection. "In a city like this, everyone's got something that keeps their hands busy…" The lack of comment, in either way, about the display Peter so openly made seems to have decided the course of the conversation. Despite its casual nature, there's something decidedly directed about the way he talks, the way he carries himself, as if he's maneuvering the direction of the conversation towards some predetermined end, not merely small-talk.

Alas, Hagan's skills at determining that kind of thing are weak. All he gets is a slight discomfort that causes him to shift on the barstool. "Well. I'm a graphic designer. And the company I work for wasn't incinerated. So despite my desire to leave this crater of a city, I'm bound up in a gut-squeezing contract that keeps me here. Because my company has contracts with decidedly non-exploded cities that still need their Coca Cola ads and dancing chipmunks selling chocolate covered pretzels." His eyebrows go up and he drains another eighth of a pint. "And what about you then? I take it you're not wearing a paper hat and working at Mack Donalds by day?" He flexes the fingers of one hand and looks Peter in the eye.

Peter cracks a smile, "Contracts are just paper," he opines with another sip from his glass punctuating his statement. "As for what I do…" His head cants to the side, eyes drifting to the bartender, then back to Hagan. You could call me a terrorist. Or maybe a freedom fighter. The words aren't said, and it's clear his mouth didn't move, but Hagan can still hear them echoing hollow inside of his head, like someone speaking between his ears, like his own thoughts turned into that young man's voice for just a moment. "You could say I'm in the business of insurance." That crooked smile returns, and he takes another slow, casual sip from his pint glass.

"And why do you feel like telling me this? Not that I don't mind your openness, but it seems strange that you'd be telling this to me," Hagan's arms flail a little bit, but it's clear it's out of nerves. His face tics.

He shifts in his seat, then leans in a little towards Peter. "I'd stay out of my head if I were you. It's dusty and dark and full of misfiring cells." His tone -smacks of, 'why, what have you heard?!'

"I like to see people's reactions." The answer is blunt and to the point, "I didn't go looking for anything, yet. I'm not like the facists, I try not to take away the rights of others." Peter takes another sip from his pint, this one longer, perhaps giving him time to think on his words. "I like to see where people stand on the line being drawn, force them to think about things, get off of the fence and take a side." His brows raise, expression becoming a bit wry, "Even if it ends up being the wrong one."

"Oh. I see." Hagan's tone is hedgy. He avoids answering or speaking at all for a moment. Instead, he holds his pint close to his mouth and looks at the foam on the top of it. "Well. You're lucky to be alive if you enjoy provoking people." He swallows the last of his pint and sets the glass down.

Notably, he picks up the coaster again and starts to shred it. He bites the edge of his lip.

"Lucky?" Peter tilts his head to the side, setting down his pint glass, "I wouldn't say that." He manages a laugh, if not a somewhat awkward one, "People have tried to put me down, it doesn't stick." His eyes drift from the man seated next to him, towards the mirror, lingering on his own reflection for a moment. "Everyone who lives in this city is living in a deep, dark shadow of what happened two years ago. They're so settled on ducking their heads between their legs and hiding from the world that they try to pretend half of the things going on around them aren't." He smiles, looking up to the television nestled in a raised corner above and behind the bar. "Well, would you look at that…"

On the television, a news broadcast displays a still photograph of the Cathedral of St.John the Divine over the shoulder of a reporter. Below, a banner proclaims "MEMORIAL CEREMONY CRASHED." The image cuts to recorded footage from this evening, less than an hour ago from the timestamp rolling in the bottom right corner.

"Last night, at a memorial function held in St. John's Cathedral, three individuals identified as members of PARIAH delivered what seems to amount to a declaration of war against Homeland Security."

Clips of video fill the next few seconds of broadcast: a shaky view of a man in a floor-length black trenchcoat and equally black fedora setting a Ziploc bag of bills on a table; more steady footage of his face, his statements.

"I have a message for Everett Hicks. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will. So said Frederick Douglass, and his words are no less true today. Well, we demand equality, Mr. Hicks. We demand the same liberty as everyone else. The right to live our lives without fear of Homeland Security. And in pursuit of that liberty… the gloves are coming off."

The camera pans down to follow the flight of a left-handed glove towards the floor, mic catching perfectly its thwap against the concrete. It swings back up to fix on the terrorist leader's face again.

"Fortis et liber, Mr. Hicks. Never forget it." He concludes with a mocking salute.

The broadcast returns to the news anchor.

"Homeland Security officials, including the head of Homeland Security, Mr. Everett Hicks, declined to comment in response to this direct challenge. Between the reappearance of PARIAH and the recent anti-Evolved demonstrations around the country, however, it's safe to say everyone should tread carefully in days to come and take extra security precautions."

Peter looks down from the television, leveling his gaze on Hagan with one brow raised. "People tend to pick a side, one way or another."

"How do I know you're not some Homeland Security guy who just pretends to look all pissy, trying to ferret out Evolved sympathisers or the Evolved themselves? It's possible, don't you think? I…" And then the video clip. Hagan looks up and squints at the report.

"The problem," he says after the report is finished, "…is allies, or lack thereof. It's hard to be active on either side and keep your head for long if you're flapping in the wind by yourself. So things like that…" he points to the TV screen with the half-shredded coaster. "…is that there ends up being friendly fire."

"Maybe I am." Peter says with a dubious tone of voice, "Scary, isn't it?" His head tilts to the side, regarding Hagan with an inquisitive expression. "Allies are the point, definately. The right people for the right job. It's hard to do anything by yourself." He shrugs one shoulder, lightly pushing his half empty pint glass to one side with the back of his hand. "Sometimes sacrifices are necessary in order for the greater good to be upheld. Sometimes they're not. It's all about picking the right people to stand by… because when you get down to it," Peter taps one finger on the bartop. "There's two types of allies — the ones you trust, and the ones you use." He smirks, mostly to himself, shifting in his stool to turn back towards his pint. "The trick is, knowing what the people you work with classify you as."

"If you are, I have to wonder why you bother talking to -me-. Fucking paranoia," Hagan mumbles. The good bartender replaced his pint silently. He tugs it towards himself and leans over it like a cat trying to get water from the bottom. He swallows. When his head comes up, he has a beer-foam moustache which he wipes away with the sleeve of his coat.

He turns, then squints at Peter, as if he could devine what the kid is all about just by looking. But, unfortunately for him, he's not that good at reading people. He exhales with a rough sort of sound.

"Because everyone has to pick a side, sooner or later, Hagan." One brow is raised, briefly, "Evolved or Non-Evolved." That much settles the odds that he's making a shot in the dark, perhaps less likely to know more than the obvious. "I like to know who's on what side, even if it's just a graphic designer who likes his pints." He cracks a smile, a bit more teasing than honest, "Who knows, maybe the movement will need print ads done eventually. It's good to know what your options are, right?"

"I'm still not entirely convinced of which side you're on. Just because you can do shite with your brain doesn't mean anything." Hagan grunts again and swallows a few mouthfuls. "I'd like to live to actually get out of this smoking ruin of a city." He runs a hand over his hair. It…sticks directly up like he's got hair gel in it. But he doesn't seem the type.

There's a long moment of consideration, and Peter slowly begins to slide off of his stool, settling on his feet as he straightens his jacket and pulls up the collar to cover the back of his neck. "I'm on the side that means not being locked in a deep, dark hole for the rest of my life." Peter's head tilts to the side again, eyeing Hagan with a side-long stare. "Maybe when you decide what side you're on, we'll see each other again." He looks to the bartender, then back to Hagan. "Then again…" He has absolutely no subtlety as his body shimmers and turns indistinct like a heat mirage, before completely fading from sight. Several people at the bar and at the nearby tables spotted this, rising up from their seats with puzzled expressions, equally as puzzled as the bartender's. Maybe we won't be on the same side of the line. The voice is clear in Hagan's mind, even if Peter isn't visible, or perhaps he's not even in the bar anymore.

"I have decided," says Hagan, his tone quite low, almost a murmur. "…just haven't decided to trust." He turns back to his pint and looks up when Peter stands. He blinks at the shimmer, but there's also a tiny tic of a smile. Hard to say -why- that came about. Something about that little speech seems to have stopped him from wanting to get pissed drunk. He drops money on the bar for the pints and slides off himself.

He slips out the door and lights a cigarette, then looks left and right. Then he heads towards a darker street, one with streetlight still not repaired. He slips, literally into the shadows and disappears completely from sight.

November 8th: Son of a Bitch

Previously in this storyline…
Stand in the Rain

Next in this storyline…
Hello, Goodbye

November 8th: Moonlit Sonatas
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