On Your Left


cesar_icon.gif monica2_icon.gif

Scene Title On Your Left
Synopsis They are competitive people, but manage to keep things good natured.
Date March 15, 2016

New York Safe Zone

It's not been O'dark thirty for several hours now, but the air carries a chill of the winter night, the kind that causes hot breath to billow forth in evidence of people moving at this time of early morning. New York has never been a city that sleeps, and even now in the Safe Zone this is true.

One such early riser is Cesar who has a long established habit of a morning jog. The man is dressed warmly enough to brave the cold, donning a grey hoodie that sports a logo of the NYPD in a faded mark at the left shoulder, and dark sweatpants reflectively striped at the seam down the leg. He's stopped to stretch along the side of a building, alternating between grasping his foot to pull on the thighs and squatting to relax the glutes. Though not readily visible given the tucked in wires, the pair of earbuds he's got in are playing something that urges on the bobbing of his head.

Monica is not an early riser. Rather, she finds it easier to stay up late than to get up early. But she is here in the early morning, also to jog. Most of the Safe Zone isn't really built for parkour anymore, which is sad, but it does make her daily exercise less unseemly than it once was.

She's pretty noticeable, though, because her replacement arm is visible. She's otherwise dressed for the weather, but the arm whirs and clicks to warn of her coming. And then there's the lights. Jogging from the opposite direction, she passes by his resting spot in a rhythm set for endurance rather than speed. Her head turns to look at him as she goes by, at first to judge the danger of the situation, but once she sees him, the look lingers for a moment before she looks ahead again.

The music playing in Cesar's ears impede his environmental awareness up to a point. He doesn't hear the mechanized arm's approach. He happens to glance up, catching a glimpse of the movement that passes him rather than from audible signal. His gaze is assessing but neutral at first, offering a subtle tilt of his head in polite non-threatening acknowledgment as she passes.

That shifts when the lights and shine of her robotic arm registers to him. His head tilts further in what could by any other observer's judgment be a rude checking out of Monica's backside. Cesar's expression, though, is more intrigued than merely attracted. He watches her for a few moments longer, then makes his decision. The man turns his direction from his original route and jogs after Monica, his pace originally quickened to carry him closer and catch up. As he approaches, he pulls his earbuds out and tucks them inside.

Her pace stays even, steady. Robotic, one might call it, if one were inclined to start a fight. Monica doesn't seem to notice him following, at first, but there is a moment when she turns her head just so to catch sight of him in her peripheral. If it unsettles her to have a man suddenly behind her, it doesn't show. She is pretty confident that she would win in just about any fight, so maybe that's why.

But she doesn't go without a reaction entirely. There's a hint of a smirk before she turns ahead again. And picks up her pace to one that's a bit more challenging. And, perhaps, a bit of a challenge.

A smile climbs up and overlays Cesar's focused features as he's jogging closer. He notes the ever-so-slight turn of her head that allowed her to see him, even though he's making no effort to silence his jogging footfalls. The intent is not to surprise - he definitely doesn't want to wind up slapped or punched by a lady with a metal arm.

But that doesn't mean he's going to lose a race. When Monica's pace picks up and she pulls away, he exhales a short huff - ok that was a surprise that she'd do that - and steps up his own pace, taking advantage of a long stride to eat up the distance and overtake her. The man calls a quick, "On your left." And then pushes a little more forward. He's up to the challenge, though how long will he last, that is the question.

By her posture, Monica is feeling a little proud of herself at that huff, a bounce in her step. Right up until he passes her. His remark gets a laugh from her and she speeds up to keep on his heels. "You always sass the other joggers or am I just lucky?" she asks from a step behind. And then, seeing a curve in the sidewalk ahead, she takes the inside lane — as it were — and runs faster to take back the lead.

“I only give what the others can take, which sometimes is not much at all,” calls Cesar back over his shoulder to the woman on his heels. “So maybe I’m the lucky one this time.” A grin pulls back on the corners of his mouth despite the steady in-out breathing. The man, maybe to his credit, doesn’t lose speed even with the impromptu addition of a challenging partner. He coughs out a short laugh as she cuts in front on the curve, switching position now that he’s on her heels. It’s not like he’s going to lose sight of her easily with that arm reflecting even the dim light. Coming out of the curve, he moves up to maintain a side-by-side pace with her as much as she’ll tolerate. He glances over then, the better to see the face of just who he’s competing with.

"We'll have to see how lucky you are," Monica says with a laugh as she glances over at him. She doesn't seem to mind keeping side-by-side, at least for a time. She also doesn't seem to mind being looked at, or doesn't notice, but when he seems distracted with looking, she grins over at him and sprints ahead. One thing Monica is, is fit. Which is fairly obvious, given the circumstances, but now she's showing off. She makes it look effortless, although she has to focus on her breathing more and keep her eyes ahead to keep it up. Instead of checking over her shoulder to see if he can keep up. Maybe she assumes not. Not many people can.

While no slouch himself, Cesar laughs under his breath with a low “este chica” to himself before he wills his legs to pump harder after the woman as she pulls away. His movements definitely aren’t as effortless, but the man is steady on. For a time, he lingers behind her by a few feet at the edges of polite etiquette for running space. It’s when he feels the vibration of his phone in a pocket that he’s brought out of the reverie of the race. But still, he ignores the alarm and pushes into one last sprint after Monica. The man remains focused on the catching up part that he misses a small patch of debris that he nearly gets his foot caught on, instead having to short hop and skip and just about dance around the trash pile. In the process, he lets out a short swear for the nearmiss. But alas, his opponent’s won this race as he lifts his hand in motion to concede.

The sounds of skipping and hopping behind her bring Monica's attention around and she gets to witness the little dance. She laughs, but not unkindly. And when he concedes, she trots back over at a much easier pace to come to a stop next to him. Her hands brace on her knees and she takes in a few laboring breaths that she was holding back on until now. "You alright?" she asks as she tilts her head to look over at him. Only when she's sure he is does she straighten up to offer a hand out toward him. "Monica," she offers, letting out a sigh that speaks to the drain of exercise. But a smile comes out a moment later. "You come here often?" she adds, playfully. Seeing as this is not a place where people often come, unless they're just passing through. But she's breaking the ice.

Cesar stops too, waiting beside said debris pile to catch his breath. A short nod answers her followed by a chuckle and a relatively cleanly-wiped hand that takes hers in a shake. “Cesar,” he replies, “and I’m just glad I didn’t shove my face in the ground. Although I might now out of embarrassment.” But not really, because ew, who knows where that ground has been. The moment after handshakes, he takes a quick glance around as if to really consider the area and whether or not he actually comes here often. But his response is a bit boldly spoken, “Might have to more often, if you do.” His smile remains friendly, the rest of him slowly coming down off the runner’s high. “But like I said, this,” he jabs an accusing finger to the trash, “I really did get lucky. The guys would really have had a field day if they heard I almost tripped while running.”

"Nice to meet you," Monica says once she has his name. But it's followed by a laugh as he goes on. "No don't, I promise I can pretend that didn't happen." She takes a moment to stretch her (flesh and blood) arm across her chest, loosening up some before his words catch her ear. Boldly spoken they may be, but they get a smile all the same. A crooked one. "If that's the case, we could probably arrange a nicer place to run into each other," she notes. Because, really. She glances to the offending trash, then back at him with a more wry expression. "Your secret is safe with me," she says, she even crosses her heart. "Who're the guys?"

It’s hard to see the flush of his cheeks under the sweat-sheened tanned skin, but it’s there. “Yes, please,” he gives in a plea that she totally just forget that whole dancing with trash thing didn’t just happen. Not that she ever will, perhaps. And oh, stretching. Stretching is a good idea. And a good distraction from the urge to watch the robotic arm as it moves (and clicks and whirrs).

So it takes him a moment to realize she’s asked him a question back, and he answers it with a quick point to the NYPD logo on his hoodie. “The guys,” he supplies, “but I’ll be leaving the precinct soon.” He sounds a little surprised to say it so easily, given the way he blinks a few times, but sticks with it. “You heard of SESA?” Not Cesar, but SESA, which is just ripe for assonance. And he finally just has to ask, “And how about you? Let me guess. Personal trainer.” A slight tease, but the tone is genuine. Because, he’s still catching his breath after that long sprint.

"For you," Monica promises, although by the crooked smile on her face and the tease in her tone, it's likely she will not actually forget. Just officially. Her legs come next, as she grabs a foot and pulls it up behind her. "Oh, I see," she says to the logo, "but what a great going away present for them, yeah? The mental image of their buddy Cesar dancing with New York's finest trash bins." Something here is New York's Finest. But even she knows not to say that line out loud. But it is thought.

"The SLC-Expressive Services Agency, the acronym within an acronym," she says with a chuckle. "I've heard a thing or two about it." Enough to know its name, anyway. "But that's a step up, isn't it? Congratulations." She switches legs as the question comes back around to her, her mechanical arm moving to grab the other foot. "No no, most people fire me as their personal trainer after a day or two," she says, although that's not the reason she isn't one, of course. "I work for Yamagato. International Relations. Which means I go to a lot of meetings. Nothing like putting your life on the line to protect your city." She swings the conversation back to him smoothly, her smile reflecting some of her admiration for his choices in employment.

First, he's inclined to believe her, and then the crooked smile and tease mirror in his features. "They'd believe it. Dancing is in my blood, after all." Cesar does a slight salsa-shimmy of his shoulders, masked under the guise of moving to loosen up and stretch. But not entirely masked, as it's quite obvious he is humoring her.

He's also likely not thought of the SESA acronym that way before because when Cesar realizes it once she's said it aloud, he laughs. "It's a mouthful, isn't it?" considers the man, and he nods at the congrats. "And thank you. Not entirely sure what I'm about to jump into, but." He sounds game for what may come.

He perks his brow up at her reveal of occupation and name drop of the company. Impressed? Interested? Curious? All of these things. Though, a sympathetic grimace comes up for the mention of so many meetings. "Ah, corporate life," he says, nodding slowly. "But you know, that's good too. Getting back to work after all that's happened around here." There's a glance to the debris pile, to their surroundings that still bear the marks of conflict. Of war. Even if the efforts to rebuild are ongoing. It sobers Cesar briefly before the man turns back to her and pushes a smile back up for her comment about protecting the city, putting his life on the line. His head tilts slightly angling towards her robotic arm, as he delivers his response. "It's not hard to sacrifice when you care deeply about something."

His dance gets a crooked smile from Monica, but it's followed by a shake of her head. She foregoes showing off this time, she had her one for the day. Another time, though. "A mouthful, yep," she says, chuckling, "SESA is a lot easier." As for what he's about to get into, she looks more thoughtful there. She knows what he's getting into. She's seen previous organizations with the same state goal and where they've ended up. But that's also a matter for another time. "Civil rights. Angry people. Protests, probably. But as long as you keep it honest, you're doing a good thing."

She doesn't miss the look to her arm, or its timing. Her gaze flicks to it, too, her head angling down to hide a frown. She understands sacrifice for the greater good. She took her turn at it. Someone else can have a go this time. She looks back up with a smile, flipping her ponytail back over her shoulder. "Easy to say. Harder to find someone walking the talk." Which he is one, apparently. Her hands move to her hips with the churning of a few gears and she tilts her head over at him. "You wanna go for some coffee?" There's probably a place that sells coffee somewhere in the Zone, but there's a look in her eye that might imply she doesn't mean it quite like that.

Cesar utters a thin grunt of acknowledgment to that list of negatives. Understanding, even. And his smile that returns is a touch wry, eyes bright despite crinkled at the edge with healthy skepticism. "I hear you. And willing to bet the other countries you've been to are hard up on people about who has what rights too." Another meaningful look scans Monica over, as there is an implied note to her Registered status. He assumes, but doesn't press. Having decided, perhaps, it's not polite or it's not the time for personal details despite topics of conversation just prior.

Still, when she looks back to him and invites him for coffee, that gets his attention. Cesar's dark brows lift up again, catching the look in her eye. Again, he assumes, but doesn't press. And instead, puts on an easy - if slightly crooked - smile. "I'm always good to go for some coffee," he answers, "Lead the way." At whatever pace she so desires.

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