Play It Again


ignacio_icon.gif salem_icon.gif

Scene Title Play It Again
Synopsis Nacho remembers with the help of the blue fairy at Salem's suggestion.
Date September 30, 2019

Botanica La Romana

The late September evening has brought autumn with it, shooing away the last of summer’s warmth and sunshine. The cold, gray, wet weather isn’t great for business. There’s no pedestrian traffic to bring in curious window shoppers, and even the devout and loyal customers might have doubts about being out in the cold autumn rain.

The foul weather doesn’t keep out the likes of Salem Mayhew, however. The youth pushes the door to Botanica La Romana, closing a black umbrella just as he comes in and hanging it on a hat rack near the door just for such a purpose.

“Hey, man,” the empath says, his eerily-pale blue eyes seeking out Nacho. “You got any of that Gorilla Cookies you sold me last time?”

He doesn’t seem to care that Ignacio is already helping his sole customer, an old lady who probably thinks Gorilla Cookies are a snack. She’s clearly not a cop, at least, so he picks up one of the candles from a shelf by the door to hold up to his nose while he waits for Nacho’s answer.

Nacho is…well. Let’s just say Nacho is not looking quite up to his usual standard. Considering his usual standard is a little bit unkempt anyway, maybe some people would say that isn’t saying much, but usually it’s purposefully unkempt. Now his ‘hasn’t shaved in a day or two’ is more like ‘hasn’t shaved in a week or two,’ and his hair is a bit of a disheveled mess. There are also some spots that look to be fading bruises on his face, and he’s moving a little bit more carefully than he usually does.

He glances over to Salem and flashes him a thumbs up, before he finishes wrapping up the woman he’s helping. “Nos vemos, abuelita,” he says as he hands her the bag with the candles and herbs.

The woman is eyeing him in a very grandmother-ish way — probably she’s not his actual grandmother, unless he got very, very lucky, but they have that look. You know the look. “Y tu tienes que comer algo, mijo, si?” she replies as she takes the bag from him. “Te hago un mangu bien rico cuando vienes la próxima vez.

Nacho laughs. It sounds like his normal laugh, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “Ahi voy,” he promises. “Gracias.” The woman reaches out to pat his cheek, before she turns to head out the door. When she does, Nacho’s smile drops off. Apparently he doesn’t think Salem warrants keeping up appearances. “I got ‘em,” he says as he starts out from behind the counter. “Gimme a sec.”

Salem pushes the door open for the old woman, giving her a bright, wholesome smile. She probably knows what a skinny white boy is doing in the Botanica and she gives him a disapproving look, before stepping out into the rainy evening.

“That granny’s moving faster than you are, brother. You definitely look like you found the wrong side of someone’s fist.” The teenager comes to the counter to lean against it, picking up some tchotchke from the point-of-purchase bait near the register to play with. “Maybe you’re the one who needs some of the ganja. Or I could cheer you up myself, I guess.

Happy emotions aren’t Salem’s forte. Mostly because they do absolutely nothing for him.
“Don’t do me any favors.” On another day, while Nacho might have used the same words, the tone would be quite a bit more playful. This time, though, it comes out with a bitter edge that isn’t usually heard from the generally quite friendly, if a bit dubiously moral, man. He seems to hear it, though, and his mouth tips wryly as he reaches up to rub a hand over his face. “Sorry,” he mutters, before he disappears from sight into the back.

It’s longer than it would strictly take for him to get what he needs to get before he returns, but maybe he was giving himself an attitude adjustment. He does, at least, have a bag of the product in question in his hand. “I don’t even know what happened,” he admits as he comes back around to the counter. “Guess I got falling down drunk and forgot all the fun parts.”

Pulling out his wallet, Salem slides out a hundred-dollar bill to pay for the stash that he slides across the counter. He lifts his brows at the explanation for Nacho’s bad mood.

“Sure,” he says, with a shrug. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” the younger man says skeptically, maybe a little bit of butthurt creeping into his voice. He’s not the type to say ‘I thought we were friends,’ because he definitely wouldn’t consider anyone all that close, but there’s an undertone of that creeping into his bass voice. “My guess is you pissed off Garza or something. If they ask, you ain’t seen me, all right?”

Salem gestures to Nacho’s injuries. “I’m pale and those bruises will show a hell of a lot more on me than you. And my face is the only thing keeping me out of trouble.” The teen hasn’t been back to any of the Shedda gatherings since the last time he dipped his toes in the group’s shallow pool.

Nacho’s head comes up when he hears that tone in Salem’s voice, and his eyes narrow very slightly as he puffs himself up a little bit, his spine straightening and bringing him to his full height. Which is not as tall as some, but still. “I’m fucking serious, man,” he says, and the anger in his voice might be a case of protesting too much — but it sounds real. There’s also a thread of desperation in it that can be heard, barely. “I was closing up the store like normal, and then I fucking woke up I guess the next morning and I could barely get out of bed. Had to call this kid to cover for me. Joaquin.” The young-ish cashier who works in the botanica sometimes. “Felt like I had some fucking busted ribs, face had blood on it, had a black eye. Couldn’t remember shit. Like, fucking literally, nothing.”

He starts to say something else, but then his mouth just closes, because honestly? He can hear how it sounds, too. It doesn’t sound real. So, he just shakes his head, harder than is strictly necessary, and waves a hand. “Forget it,” he adds. “Yeah. I ain’t seen you. Another fucking thing I don’t remember.” He lets out a dry laugh at that, not particularly amused, as he hands over the bag. “Maybe I did piss him off. Who knows? He’s not exactly even-keeled.”

Nacho’s lashing out makes Salem’s blue eyes widen, but as he listens, his brows draw together in something more like concern.

“I’d make a joke about aliens abducting you but you might punch me,” he says, glancing at the door, then back to Nacho. The older man can feel his mood elevating a little, the ire in him fading like someones turned down the volume somehow. Salem doesn’t go so far as to make Nacho happy — for someone who’s been fucked with mentally somehow — and physically — that might be a little too much. It’s just a dampening of the rage and fear into something a touch more mellow.

Like maybe he’s smoked a little of the Gorilla Cookies that Salem tucks into his coat pocket.

“That’s crazy. Reminds me of the stories the old folks used to tell us kids about the Company. They used to abduct people, stamp them with this little thing on the back of their neck to track ’em or something, then release them back into the wild. Unless they were very dangerous. Then they might not release them.” Salem picks up the little tchotchke he’d been fiddling with while waiting for Nacho’s return from the backroom to fiddle with some more.

“Yeah, I might.” However, when that feeling starts to creep over him, Nacho’s hackles lower just a bit, and his face smooths out. That anger and desperation seeps away, and in its place settles a sort of vague discomfort instead. Removed, though, and able to be dealt with. He flashes a look that contains something like gratitude toward Salem, even though he does not mention what just happened.

Now, he is more in a place to listen — of course it probably doesn’t hurt that Salem seems to be taking him more at his word. Of course, what is said isn’t particularly comforting. He reaches up to rub the back of his neck, as though feeling for something there. There is nothing, but it doesn’t seem to make him feel better. “Guess it’s a good thing I’m not dangerous, huh?” And again, that might have just been snarky in another context, but in this one, it just comes out kind of sad. It even seems to surprise him. He clears his throat, changing tracks quickly. Abruptly. “You want that, too?” he asks, inclining his head to the little mini-statue. “I’ll throw it in, no charge. For my friends.” This draws a grin, and it almost makes it all the way up.

“You’re not not dangerous,” Salem offers in a conciliatory tone. He knows the other man’s bitter at not having a power. “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” He’s never told the other man about his problems with his own ability, the impact it’s made on those around him before he could control it.

Now he chooses to fuck people up with it instead.

He looks down at the little statuette, studying it for the first time. His first inclination is to say ‘hell, no, it’s ugly,’ but maybe the empath’s empathy is actually on tonight, and he can recognize the offer for the symbol Nacho means it to be. “Sure, thanks. I’ll put him on my dashboard.”

Salem pockets the statue, before looking from Nacho to the door to the backroom. “You say you can’t remember. What if you gave yourself a bit of a boost in that regard?” he suggests. “I can stick around, make sure you don’t OD or something.” What a pal.

“Yeah, yeah. Right. Semi-dangerous.” Though again, there’s a vague sense of appreciation for the solidarity. Salem has not shared much, and Nacho has not asked — they’re friendly, but while Nacho might say they’re friends, it’s unclear whether they’re actually friends. Friends probably know a bit more about each other under the surface than they do. He does, however, have to concede, of the other man’s power, “Probably.”

That the offering is taken does seem to please him, because he nods once as the smile settles a little bit more naturally. “Make sure you give him some chocolate every once in a while,” he says. “He likes that.” Whatever that means, since, well…it’s a statue.

He starts to say something else — again — but then stops at that suggestion. He glances quickly and a little furtively toward the back room, way more so than he ever does when he’s getting it for anyone. From the look on his face, maybe he’s thought about it before. But clearly decided not to, since he doesn’t remember. “I don’t know, man,” he eventually replies. “I never did that shit and I’ve seen people on it.” He reaches up to rub his face again, looking over his shoulder, then at the door, then down. “Fuck.”

There’s another long pause, a hand clenched into a fist at his side, the struggle evident on his face, before he speaks again. “Okay. Yeah. Thanks.”

“Me neither. I only have a few years of memories I’d want to remember,” says Salem. “And it’s supposed ot show you the good shit, right? So I’m not sure it’ll work for you, but you might try thinking a lot about what it is you want to remember when you take it. Maybe that’ll put that in the back of your subconscious. That’s what they say to do when you want to lucid dream, right? Worth a try.”

Except for the danger of overdose or instant addiction. Nothing to lose.

The teenager moves across the store to the front, flipping the sign so that closed points outwards, and locking the door, before turning back. “I’ve got your back. And at least we know your shit doesn’t have any of the glow stick bullshit up in it, right? Only the finest of illegal substances.”

“Yeah, that’s what they say. If it didn’t I don’t know why anyone’d ever wanna fucking come back for more, que no? But I guess people are all kinds of fucked up.” However, Nacho nods at the suggestion as he watches Salem move to turn the sign around. He squares his shoulders, steeling himself now that he’s made the decision, so that it sticks. If he did just piss off Garza, well…he’ll probably be annoyed he wasted his time, but at least he’ll know.

“It’s good shit,” he confirms after another moment. “It’ll probably be fine. If you see me foaming at the mouth, maybe just turn me over.” This is quipped a little bit more naturally, even though there’s still a thrill of nervousness running through his tone. Whistling in the dark. “First rule of this business is supposed to be ‘sell, don’t sample,’ but I guess I never really was one for rules.”

The back of the botanica is about what one would expect — a small storage space, cluttered and crowded, but with space enough to move around in, certainly. Nacho wends his way around a couple of rickety-looking shelves before he comes to a steel cabinet. He unlocks it, revealing another locked box, which also gets unlocked. That’s when the syringes are revealed, with the telltale blueish, slightly glowing liquid. He stares at them for several seconds, teetering on the brink even though the decision has supposedly already been made. Maybe he’s changing his mind? But no, eventually he reaches for it, plucking one out from among the orderly stack and shutting the box again. “Here goes nothing, I guess. Focus on what I want to remember.”

Salem follows, looking around a little curiously.

“You might want to be somewhere more comfortable than this. Pretty sure it’ll knock you out for at least a few hours,” he says. “Probably want to tell that kid to open for you tomorrow if he can.”

Joaquin is older than Salem by a few months, but Salem has an old soul.

He looks at the ground, then back up at Nacho. “This ground doesn’t look like it’s been mopped for a while. And no offense. Your shop’s as clean as a place like this can be, but it’s still Brooklyn and there’s still cockroaches that come through walls. You really wanna lie down there?”

“Hm.” Nacho is still looking at the syringe, and he nods a bit absently at the note regarding Joaquin. “Yeah.” The remark about roaches, though, has him suddenly straightening up and turning around. “Man, fuck you,” he says, though it’s said with a bit of a laugh in his voice. “I clean the shit out of this place regularly.” However, he does seem to acknowledge the wisdom of the plan, and after a second gestures for Salem to follow him. “We can go up to my place, I guess. I got beer in the fridge and shit if you want. Probably some food, too, unless I forgot to buy it.” Things are slipping his mind lately, Salem, you see. It’s a personal failing.

He starts toward the stairs, heading up and unlocking the door that surely leads to his apartment. And, in fact, it does! The apartment is pretty well-kept, too. A little cluttered, a little run down, but clean. He has a slightly dilapidated couch in the living room, and it’s there that he parks himself, looking down at the syringe again. There are some chairs and such as well for Salem to sit on, so he will at least be comfortable, or as much as one can in this particular place. “Help yourself,” he says, gesturing toward the kitchenette.

Salem lifts his shoulders. “Look, I’m pretty neat too, but I wouldn’t want to lie on the floor of my kitchen or something when I’m tripping,” he says.

When common sense prevails, he follows Nacho up the steps into the apartment. There’s no judgmental looks from the younger man as he glances around, and he nods at the offer to help himself to whatever’s in the kitchen.

“S’okay if I smoke?” he asks, pulling out the baggie of Gorilla Cookies from one pocket and rolling papers and a lighter from another as he drops himself into one of the armchairs across from the couch. “Or will it offend your virgin nostrils?”

The question gets a snort, and Nacho replies, “Go for it. Just maybe open a window. And try not to set the place on fire.” Of course, he’s going to be the one that’s down for the count, so that’s probably not a necessary warning.

He takes a deep breath, looking down again, before he gets to work. He may not have done this before, but he’s seen it done plenty of times, and it’s not that hard. He sets the needle against the inside of his arm, hesitating another moment before he presses down with a little hiss, breaking the skin. He presses the plunger down, slowly, all the way until there’s nothing left. No turning back now.

Once he’s through, he sets it aside, looking up at Salem briefly again before he shifts, lying back on the couch and closing his eyes.

Salem gives Ignacio a withering look. “Yeah, because I super planned to set fire to your apartment and not just the end of my joint.”

He pulls out the paper and some of the green herb, working on rolling it as he watches, with curious eyes, Nacho as the other man prepares to do the much more dangerous drug. “Think about that night. What you remember last. If you get the wrong memory, try to will the right one. Like a lucid dream,” he advises.

The drug feels cold in Nacho’s veins, and he tastes something, a tinge of metal, maybe, in his mouth, as if he’d bit down on a piece of foil. He can hear the fricative scratch of Salem’s lighter, followed by footfalls and the rumble of metal on metal as Salem opens the window a crack. But it feels far away, as if Nacho is underwater. Soon he can smell the pungent aroma of the cannabis and feel the slight chill of the autumn night in the room.

But it grows more and more distant. Soon, the small apartment fades completely as he slips into another time.

There’s a quiet whizz as the woman shoots a negation dart at him — not accounting for his happy feet that suddenly make him move to the left a step or two, unable to keep from moving to the beat of the tambora inside his head.

The dart hits the sleeve of his leather jacket before clattering to the ground in front of him. Nacho turns, seeing the three shadows. His hands come up…

… as does a bluish-white transparent wall — that the first of the men runs into, falling back into his two comrades.

”Que mierda?!”

Nacho stumbles back after that wall is flung up, his eyes wide and staring at it with almost as much shock as at the people who are suddenly shooting at him. Well, shooting darts at him. That’s still not very polite! “Who the fuck are you!” he yells, though his voice is a little unsteady, and it manifests itself further, unfortunately, in a little crackling in the wall, as though it’s an old TV that’s suddenly on the fritz. His eyes snap to it then, instead, and he holds up a hand in what’s pretty obviously an experimental fashion, before it stabilizes again. “Holy shit!”

The trio are scrambling to their feet, eyes wide. “What the fuck, this guy’s supposed to be a matter mimic!” the driver says, pulling out his own gun — this one a taser.

“I told you it wasn’t him,” says the meatball-sub eater, sizing up the wall. He reaches out to touch it — it’s solid, or seems to be. “You’re not gonna tase him through that, dumbshit.”

The woman, a petite but muscular blond with cropped hair, walks along the wall, one hand sliding across its surface — until it doesn’t. She’s found the end of it. Her free hand lifts the dart gun to shoot again, this time aiming for the core of Ignacio’s body.

Surely Nacho would have had a cutting remark for Salem, were he conscious. He’s a bit off his game, but he’s not out of the game. However, he is not, in fact, conscious, and so Salem is spared whatever it was in favor of silence and the chance to smoke his blunt in peace.

It’s a little bit before anything happens, but when it does there’s a shift on Nacho’s face. The smooth lines tense up again, his brow furrowing as he mutters something unintelligible. He stiffens on the couch, and his arm twitches like he’s going to extend it toward something, though he doesn’t quite finish the motion. Another murmur and he turns onto his side, facing outward with his back against the back of the couch.

The memories blur together, one becoming the next. Time means little. He sees himself in a cage, a woman in a cat mask plunging a syringe into his shoulder. He sees Marlowe’s frightened and angry face in the cage beside his. He feels himself lowered into an arena full of chanting people with the grotesque paper mache faces of animals.

His eyes move across the masked faces, his expression contorting as he looks back to his opponent. There’s another split second of thought, before he throws his hands out, his eyes narrowing with concentration. This time, the shield envelopes Marlowe, as though she’s in an invisible egg.

With her focus on her ability gripping the matter, Marlowe barely registers the motions of the guards at all. The metal flooring groans in protest as it pulls away in sticky chunks, strung out like melting mozzarella.

An incoherent yell of fury rips out of Marlowe as she grasps the material and swings out a handful of it to hurl towards Nacho.

The metal hardens as it sails through the air and leaves her touch, but doesn’t get far due to the invisible field. Undeterred, she strips another piece of metal and sand out of the floor and throws it against the field too, only to watch it clang down onto the arena floor. A third time, and the floor's got some irreparable holes that will take some fancy patchwork or another Evolved to put back together.

Seeing her projectiles rendered useless, Marlowe finally rushes at Nacho, slamming on the field with an abrupt stop. Her fists smack at the seemingly empty air. Her breaths get faster and harder as she also fights against the dizzying feeling circling her.

The lead guard seems content to keep holding for the time being, though he keeps an eye on the damage being wrought to the metal of the floor — and where the fighters move in correlation to those new holes. Whatever is below, it’s too dark to see, but it’s apparent that they’re not on a ground floor; there’s something beneath.

To the audience, Marlowe appears like the stereotypical mime trying to get through an invisible door. They can’t see the shield any better than she can. Those who have been cheering for Team Verus can see that this is good for their contestant, and their roars begin to crescendo. The Black Stag masked man above sits, taking a sip now and then of his drink; it’s hard to see his expression to know how disappointed he might be, but the White Rabbit woman is all but jumping up and down and pounding his shoulder in glee.

Nacho can see what he’s done, of course, and for a moment there’s a triumphant look — considering the fact that he believes he’s won, maybe it’s not surprising. However, that triumph is short-lived. Despite the haze of drugs heightening the rage that he’s already feeling from having been kidnapped and forced to fight some random person he’d never met before, he does notice Marlowe’s breathing getting faster. As soon as he does, something seems to click for him. He frowns, squinting and furrowing his brow; anyone who’s close enough to see can probably identify the look of concentration, of someone trying to do something.

When nothing happens, his eyes widen, and some of the color drains from his face as he tries again, starting to look a little more frantic. The field is still up, but he’s the only one who can see it. He lunges forward, pounding on the other side, but the look on his face isn’t rage anymore. It’s definitely fear.

“Help!” he cries, jerking his head toward one of the guards with wide eyes. “Help her!” Help me.

Marlowe slams a shoulder against the invisible wall, and then after a few more seconds of struggling against the feeling of losing more than just a fight, it evolves into losing focus and drooping eyelids. Finally, Marlowe collapses. The golden color of her irises fades away to brown.

The metal solidifies in its reaching, rictus yawn against the side of invisible field. The sand drizzles down loosely, harmlessly, back down to the arena floor. The matter manipulator joins both elements. Her face pales as if to match her opponent's draining color, and she stares blankly up at Nacho as he calls for the guards' help.

Then her eyes roll back, and she's lost consciousness.


This time, that word can be discerned as opposed to the incoherent murmurs from before. Nacho’s face is tight, his body tensed enough that he might feel it when this is over. He jerks again, then once more, enough that he might really be in danger of falling off the couch. He seems like he’s teetering on the edge, and it could go either way…but finally he relaxes again, settling, letting out a little breath. His features smooth out, and he’s still.

Nacho has felt out of place ever since they left his bright island and came to New York. The gray dingy skyline is nothing like what he knows, and he doesn’t really speak much English yet. School, which had never been difficult for him before, is suddenly almost more of a challenge than he’s up for, and while he’s always been good at making friends, well…yes. It’s different here.

The botanica his aunt runs reminds him the most of home, and so he spends a good amount of his time there. He’s there today, too, even though it’s closed. He’s come down from the apartment above where his family is staying until they find their own place. He makes his way around the shelves, picking up a candle, examining a bag of herbs, reading an icon, before moving on to the next curiosity.

There’s a little egg-shaped statue on a shelf that catches his eye. It’s red and black, with white shells pressed into it to look like a face. He pauses there, looking at it for a long moment, before he reaches a hand up to touch one of the shells that form its mouth.

“You like him?”

Nacho whips around quickly to see his aunt standing behind him. She’s small, but has the feeling of being solid, like she’s rooted in place by something stronger than herself. She has a knowing smile on her face, even as his expression warps into something that exudes plausible deniability.

“I guess,” he says with a fluid shrug, taking a step away from the little statue and sliding a hand into his pocket. He’s small, too, and lean — at 10, he looks younger than he is, though he makes up for it with the amount that he talks. “He’s okay. Kind of ugly. Do you really sell that many of those?” he asks. “There’s way nicer stuff in here, tia. Why do you stock the junk?”

His aunt starts toward him, reaching past to pluck the little statue from the shelf. “This is Eleguá,” she says. “He’s the owner of the ways. He might not look like much, but neither do you.” This is said with a significant look at Nacho. “Without him, we can’t communicate with any Orisha. He gives us permission to open the doors, or not. It’s best to stay on his good side.” She studies him for another few moments, before she hands it to him. “Take care of him,” she says, “and he’ll take care of you.”

When Nacho’s eyes open next, they’re wet with tears. “Fuck,” he says thickly, swiping a hand across his face.

The call for help draws Salem’s attention from where he’s scrolling through his phone to the man he’s babysitting. “You okay?” he asks, but then Nacho is gone again, into another memory.

The teenager watches for a few moments until it’s boring again, then gets up to go poke around in the cupboards and fridge. By the time Nacho comes to, he’s helped himself to a bag of chips and a beer. He sets these down on the ground beside the chair, leaning forward to give the other man his attention.

“You all right? You definitely weren’t having all warm and fuzzy times,” Salem says. “There were some grunts that I thought might be some steamy moments before you called for help. I mean, I don’t know what you’re into but it didn’t sound like a safeword.”

With an audible sniff and another wipe of his hand over his eyes, the tears are banished and Nacho snorts. “Sorry to disappoint,” he says, sitting up slowly. As for whether he’s all right or not, he just nods. He doesn’t elaborate too much on whatever it was he’d seen. Despite the kindness in not letting him OD, they’re not good enough friends for that.

Instead, he stares into the middle distance, his mouth pressing into a thin, hard line. Then, he lifts a hand, and pushes it outward experimentally.

Salem doesn’t see it, but Nacho does. A blueish-white wall that appears between them, about six feet by six feet. His eyes widen, as though he can’t believe it — and Salem, of course, can’t see anything at all. Nacho, however, says, “Stand up for a sec, and walk toward me. But not too quick, yeah?”

“Look, I wasn’t hoping it was or anything. Don’t make this about me,” Salem quips.

At the instructions, though, he tilts his head curiously, then shrugs and stands. “If you remembered you learned Kung-Fu or something, I’d appreciate a war-”

Suddenly Salem’s stopped by the invisible wall, recoiling a little and taking a step back. His hands come up to tentatively touch it, tapping it like he’s testing a window.

“Holy shit. Did someone make you manifest? Why would they make you forget?”

There’s a slow grin that spreads across Nacho’s face when Salem runs into the wall, though the quality of it is more like the baring of teeth than an actually happy smile. “Gracias, hijos de la gran puta!” he crows, sitting back against the couch.

“Because they fucking kidnapped me for some evo fight club shit, man. That’s why I was all banged the fuck up. I saw myself fighting some girl. Knocked her out.” He glosses over the fact that he never actually saw his opponent wake up, in the memory. Surely she’s okay. “They were all watching us, wearing animal masks and shit. I know that sounds crazy but I saw what I saw.” He lets the shield drop, and Salem’s hand suddenly swipes through what was that invisible barrier before. “These motherfuckers. But hey, I guess they did me a favor. All these years and I guess that test really was right after all.”

Salem’s brows lift at the explanation and he looks just a shade skeptical. “I buy the evo fight club. I mean, there’s one on Staten,” he says. “But they don’t usually kidnap people for that shit. Enough idiots sign up for that on their own.”

He steps back to drop back into the armchair, leaning forward to rest his arms on his knees. “But animal masks? You’re sure you didn’t cut that with some Windex or something?” His blue-eyed gaze darts to the syringe where it’s been tossed onto the coffee table. “Wonder why you don’t remember it at all. Maybe you hit your head and that’s screwing with your memories somehow. Brain trauma’s weird like that. There’s a guy in my dorm that almost drowned and he can’t read but he can write perfectly. You ask him to read back what he just wrote, and he can’t do it.”

Picking up the bag he’d set down, Salem pulls out a chip to pop into his mouth, crunching. “Forcefields are pretty cool. Are you going to register that bad boy?”

“Yeah, I don’t fucking know.” Nacho throws up his hands in a sort of half-shrug, half-exaggerated what the fuck gesture. Or maybe more like 40-60 than half and half. “Felt like they probably wouldn’t’ve minded if we killed each other,” he admits after a moment. “That shit on Staten Island usually, like…doesn’t go that far, you know what I mean? But they were out for blood.”

He makes another gesture at the mention of the animal masks, dismissing the idea that his refrain is anything less than completely pure. “Yeah, maybe. Sucks for me ‘cause I probably didn’t have a whole lot of brain cells to lose, que no?” His tone is a little dry there, though, and he doesn’t spend too much time on the thought. If he’s braindead, he’s braindead. He focuses on the latter instead. “Nah,” he replies, shaking his head. “Least, not yet. Don’t spread it around, yeah? I like having some tricks up my sleeve.”

There’s another pause, before he says, a little more seriously, “Thanks. For making sure I didn’t die or whatever.” It’s not exactly a heartfelt statement, but the sentiment is genuine enough.

Salem reaches for his beer next, finishing that off as he listens. “Sure. Not my tale to tell. I don’t care either way. I’m not, for what it’s worth.” Registered.

The younger man stands, setting the empty beer bottle and half-full bag of chips on the coffee table. He shrugs at the ‘thanks.’ “No problem. You’re one of the few people I can stand, so it’s totally selfish on my part. Plus, you got the good stuff.” He pats the pocket of his coat where he’s stored his stash.

“Congratulations on a kick-ass ability. Wanna trade?” he quips as he makes his way to the door.

It’s a joke. No one should want his ability, and Salem knows it.

“Mm.” It’s not exactly surprising — Salem doesn’t seem like the type, anyway, and there are plenty of similar among their…mutual friends. Not that either of them have been there for the last little bit, but still. He doesn’t get up, but he does lean forward to snag the bag of chips from where it’s been set on the table. After those memories, he deserves a snack.

“Hell no,” he says with a laugh, shaking his head. “Think I’m good on that one. But let me know if you need me to stick any annoying-ass people in a force field for you, and I’m there.” He settles back again, reaching in to grab a chip and waving a hand when it comes out. “See you, brother.”

And just like that, they’re a little bit closer than they were when they woke up in the morning.

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