nick_icon.gif tess_icon.gif

Scene Title Refraining
Synopsis Nick agrees to take Tess's stash of an illegal substance off her hands, but declines her other offers.
Date January 5, 2010

Upper West Side

Though there was a small party on Tess's birthday, where she got to drink in public, and openly, she hasn't gotten a chance to go out for drinks beyond that. But that has all changed now! She's at the bar in a small place not too far from her home, her back against the bar, a beer in her hand and she's alternating grinning and drinking as she watches people playing pool.

The Upper West Side is a bit far from his usual digs, but that makes it a better choice — Nick is trying not to run into Walsh or any of the smugglers he might find closer to his own apartments, either in Brooklyn or on Staten. He's dressed a bit posher than usual to fit in here, as well, not trying to look like a smuggler or a dock worker but like any other young man that might be out on the "better" side of town. His black wool peacoat is accessorized with a gray scarf and gray tuque; a gray sweater beneath along with black jeans and black boots give him a rather monochrome appearance.

The nicer apparel, however, doesn't quite hide the still-healing bruises and lacerations to his cheek, and when he pulls off the knit cap, the temple. Dark circles beneath bloodshot eyes suggest he's not doing much better than the last time Tess saw him, though his face is a little fuller and his black hair short but present.

He doesn't see her as he makes a beeline for the bar, sliding onto a barstool. "Jack on the rocks. Make it a double."

Movement out of the corner of her eye has Tess looking over to the man sitting on the bar. It's a quick look, then she pauses, looks again, and she beams, recognizing that face. Almost instantly the expression shifts to concern, and she hops off her stool, moving down a few spots until she can settle on the one next to him. "What happened to you?" she asks, lifting a hand and trying to lightly touch his cheek, below the bruising and cuts. Just that. No hi, no bubbliness, just the concern for the moment.

His eyes on the bartender pouring his drink rather than the girl approaching him, Nick startles at the touch, flinching before he recognizes Tess. Exhaling, he turns his eyes back to the tender, giving the man a nod for the drink and laying down a bill to cover it before turning back to the small blonde near him.

"It ain't anything to worry about." Before it got re-opened in the car accident, the original injury, at the hands of Holden, seems a lifetime ago, and a minor setback compared to everything that happened since. His fingers curl around the glass a little more tightly than necessary and he takes a swallow, grimacing a little. He really does prefer his Bass, but the JD works quicker.

Tess's fingers are gentle on his skin, though they don't linger long. "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you. Just saw ya sit down'n saw the bruises…" She shrugs. "Was worried." But she's done her share of prying this week, and lets this particular topic drop, since he doesn't seem to want to talk about it. "Haven't seen ya since Thanksgivin'. Which was awesome, by the way. I may start a new tradition of Chinese on Thanksgiving," she says, grinning and leaning back to get comfortable again, lifting her beer and sipping.

"I been busy," Nick says tersely. Busy getting his ass kicked and almost dying a few times over. "And it was curry, not Chinese."

He takes another swallow of the whiskey, then realizes perhaps that sounds a little ruder than he's intending. "I mean, you know, if you want to keep to the authentic tradition. You go into Lee's Wok and Roll or somethin' and ask for tikka masala, Mister Lee ain't gonna know how to make it."

"I figured as much," Tess says, not seeming at all put off by the rudeness. "Was just meanin', it's been a while, and it's good to see you again. Even if I misremembered. I still gotta make Cajun for ya sometime. Nice'n spicy'n better any sort of Cajun food you'll find in this city," she says, grinning. "And no, I guess Mister Lee won't, but then, I can always just see 'bout askin' you really nice to bring some over."

Nick arches a brow, and finishes the glass, setting it down and lifting a finger for the bartender for another, before turning to Tess again. "I wouldn't count on me bein' around in November, kid. My work here might be just about done. Donno if you heard the news, but Walsh's shit has hit the fan, so to speak, you'd be probably pretty happy to know," he says, and his jaw twitches a bit with tension and anger.

"Probably not a good idea for me to hang around, but I'm waiting a bit on some leads." Nick reaches for his refill. "Cheers," he mutters to the bartender before taking a long swallow.

"Yes and no," Tess replies, shifting a shoulder slightly. "Yeah, I'm glad he'll be off the streets, but they don't know where he is now and if he's Humanis First…That just makes him more dangerous to people like me. Though part of me would love to tell him that I manifested because of him," she says with a quick grin, flashing dimples at him.

Her beer is finished and she sets the empty down, motioning for another. "And maybe you won't be around then. It's a good point. Means I just gotta make good use of the time that you are here. Just tryin' to decide how," she says, studying him thoughtfully.

"He always was Humanis First. He always was that dangerous to you, kid," Nick says, tossing back the drink and setting it down with a clunk on the counter, tossing another bill to cover it as well as Tess's drink, with a nod to hers to indicate as much.

"So what does that make me? You know I worked for him. You think I didn't know what he was? That I was just an innocent doing his dirty work for him, not knowing what sort of shit was going down behind my back?"

He points a finger at her. "Because that gives you two options. I'm either stupid and naive, if that's the case, or I'm a piece of shit and aligned myself with HF knowingly, yeah? Either way, you have shitty taste in guys, kiddo."

"Not necessarily," Tess says, turning on her stool to face him directly. "You were talkin' about your work here, right? You've known I was evolved for ages. But you haven't hurt me. You haven't sicced Walsh on me. For all I know, you were just tryin' to infiltrate - that's an awesome word by the way - Humanis First so you could help people like me."

She smiles, as unaffected by him pushing her away as ever. Or trying to push her away, in any case. "Besides, haven't we gone over this before? Do you know what I found when I actually went to look through my dad's apartment? It sure as hell wasn't anything good. In fact, it's somethin' I wanna get rid of ASAP. Which doesn't really make him a good person, but yanno what? I still love him. Which means I can like you."

Nick snorts at her words. They're close to the truth, but they sound ridiculous, even to him — who'd buy him as a spy, after all? "Yeah. That's me, some goddamned hero for Evolved rights, or somethin'. You been watching too many movies if you think that I'm risking my neck trying to help people I don't fuckin' know, kid. I'm just a dock worker who got in with the big boys because that's where the money is, right? I don't give a shit about people like you — I don't wanna kill you all, no, you're right, but I ain't going to put my neck on the line to save anyone."

He rubs his hand over the back of his head. "What is it you need to get rid of?" he asks after a moment, despite his rant. "If it's something illegal you don't want found on you, I can probably help with that, anyway."

His argument just has Tess grinning again. "Says the guy who got between me'n a thug who wanted to bash my face in." Oh no, she hasn't forgotten that, even if he has. "But I can't blame ya for wantin' money. Everyone does. It's how we get comfortable lives." She picks up her fresh beer, tipping it up and smiling just to be sitting in public drinking.

His question has her leaning towards him, close enough so she can whisper in his ear. "Seems my dad liked makin' money too. He had a stash of Refrain. So yeah, it's illegal."

There's a raise of brows, but given who her father was, he's not too surprised. He shrugs his left shoulder. "I can handle it, if you want. I don't wanna sell it for you, since that could get you in trouble, so if you want to make money off of it, you probably wanna go somewhere else. Not that I'm above selling it, you know, but I don't wanna lead it back to you, and even without paper trails — you know. These days, cops don't fucking need paper trails when they have telepaths and everything else, right? Not to mention martial law."

"I could use the money, but mostly I just wanna get rid of it," Tess says, remaining nice and close. Even with his arguments, she's not above flirting. And whispering in his ear is pretty tame. Especially when they're talking about illegal goods. "It's back at my place, and I'd be very appreciative if you could take care of it for me, darlin'."

Nick pulls his cap back on over his head and nods to her beer. "Finish your beer and we'll go. I donno how long I'll be around, so if we're gonna get rid of it, I should do it now. Considering a flight outta this hell hole, maybe this weekend. Farther away from Walsh I am, the better."

Leaning back, Tess nods. "Temporary flight, I hope. Next November's a long ways away. Was hopin' for at least another month or two before ya disappeared." She grins and gulps down a few more mouthfuls then sets it down. "Well, let's go then, cutie," she says, standing and offering him her arm, as though she were escorting him.

He arches a brow at the arm and gives a shake of his head. "Doubtful. If I go, I'm out. Thought I'd like the city better'n this but turns out not my thing." That and the options on the table — if they still are on the table after the past weeks' events — are to either go into CIA training or to get relocated by Interpol at some other dock, most likely, his cover here useless with the HF crowd. "Subway, taxi or walk?"

"Not gonna let me escort ya? You can escort me instead if you want," Tess says, flashing dimples. "And we're close enough we can walk. It's why I picked this place. Nice'n close. Means I can stumble home if I get too drunk here. Which isn't really likely, but ya never know."

Nick glowers a little and he moves to the door, pushing it open and then shoving his hands in his pockets. "You're clearly mistaking me from someone in one of those fuckin' Crime and Prejudice movies or somethin' you girls like so much," he mutters, waiting for her to set her feet in the direction they're walking in before following suit. "Or given your origins, maybe more like Gone with the Wind, yeah?" There's at least the tiniest smirk at that, even if it's maybe at her expense.

The joke has Tess trying to bump him lightly with her shoulder even as she's grinning up at him. "Gone with the Wind was a few states east of where I was born, darlin'. Besides, I'd rather just slide my hand in your back pocket than on your elbow, if that works better," she says, beaming and starting to walk towards Dorchester.

He snorts as he continues to walk, shaking his head a bit. "All southern girls as persistent as you are?" he asks. "I mean, I'm from Florida, but as South as that is, we don't really consider it the South." He frowns a little, tipping his head. "I wonder why that is. I guess it's more of a mix, doesn't have that plantation feel to it, at least not in Miami." Subject change.

Well that wasn't a no, which in Tess's mind is apparently a yes. So as they walk she moves in closer, and then tries to sneak a hand into a pocket. "All of us? Nah. There are a bunch of us who're all…yanno…belle-like. Too proper to be persistent. But I learned early that if you want somethin' and don't try to get it, you'll never get it. It's not just gonna drop in your lap. Besides, you don't hate me, and you haven't run away so far. Which means either ya like me a lil', or…you're hopin' I'll jump you so we can have some quick guilt-free sex." There's a pause, then another grin. "Or you're just really good at humorin' me, but I'm gonna ignore that option, however likely it may be."

His pale eyes flick her way and then lift to the cloudy sky above. "There's a big jump between not hating someone and wanting to have them jump you, kid. As cute as you may be, I've been jumped a few too many times in the past three weeks in the less-fun sense of the word. I'm exhausted. Putting up a fight with you is hard work, so humoring's easier."

He'd add something about there being no such thing as guilt-free sex, but that would open a large amount of topics he's not inclined to discuss. "You're gonna throw yourself at someone one day and get yourself severely fucked up, you know that?" he adds.

"Nah," Tess says, shaking her head. "Believe it or not, I do have standards. Which is why I have so not gotten laid as much as I should've since I moved here." Which brings a sigh. "But hey, I'd never jump you in a less-fun sense of the word. I'm all about the fun, cutie. But I understand exhaustion too, so I'll keep it to just flirtin' for a while. Even low level flirtin'. Maybe. I'll do my best anyway," she says, grinning at him.

With a shake of his head, Nick exhales. "Standards don't mean shit. People know what your standard is, they'll play to it, you know? If I know you want someone sweet and polite and gentlemanly, I can do that. If I know you want someone rough and tumble, I can do that too. It's not too hard, and the worst sort of people, the ones who are the wrong sorts? They're the best at figuring out just what it is you think you want, and making it look like they're the perfect asshole to give it to you. That's where you're gonna get yourself in trouble."

His jaw twitches as he grinds his teeth, staring straight ahead at the sidewalk in front of them as they walk. "You think you're a good judge of character because I protected you — but you liked me before that happened, right? What if I was Humanis? I could have taken you back to my place and you'da been in Walsh's hands for whatever the fuck he wanted to do with Evos like you. Sell 'em, torture 'em, kill 'em."

He stops to turn to look at her, glowering down the distance between them, unknowingly right in front of her building. "I could still be playing you, you know? Pretending like I'm protecting you from people like me. Do you get it? You're going to fuckin' end up dead if you do this with every guy who you think has a cute ass or nice smile."

Tess cocks her head and looks up at him, not seeming to be the least bit intimidated. "I don't do this with every guy I think has a cute ass or nice smile, Nick." Oooh, she used his name instead of a nickname. She must be srs! "And believe it or not, I am a good judge of character. I've met a hell of a lot of shitty people out there. People who only want somethin' from others, or who wanna use 'em. And yeah, they can be damn good actors. Hell, I'm a damn good actor myself. So I don't disagree with you on any particular point there."

A deep breath is drawn and she lifts a hand to rest fingertips lightly on his cheek, where it's not hurt. "There are those who are bad who pretend to be good. I've seen that, and I've seen through 'em. But there are the opposite sorts too. You? I think you're somewhere in the middle. Not exactly sure where, but I don't think you fit at either end of the spectrum."

Her hand drops, sliding into her pocket as she shrugs. "But tell me, Nick, what is it about how I act that really bothers you? Do you really just think I'm that stupid, that I would go for any cute guy out there, without a second thought? Let my hormones rule the day? Or is it that you try and pretend you're bad news so no one gets close to you. Because if no one is close, they can't be hurt because of you, and can't be used to hurt you?"

A smile forms on her face, and though it's genuine, it's also knowing. "Because that's exactly what my dad did. Which meant that we just had a lot of time wasted. I don't like wasting time like that."

He dips his head when she touches it, turning to look away. "Don't waste time, then. I told you already, I'm leaving, and there's no reason for you to try'n start shit — no matter how guilt-free you think it might be — if I'm leaving."

He nods to her. "Where's your building? You can run up and get the shit and I'll wait outside. Better for your building managers not to see me, and this end of town, they all got the fancy fuck concierges, yeah?"

Tess's head tilts and her expression goes curious. "Start shit? Nick, I'm not lookin' for a boyfriend or anything. And you can come up. There's an elevator in the parkin' garage. But your choice."

His eyes narrow and his jaw twitches. "And I'm not looking for friends," he tosses back, one of his pocketed hands coming out with his cell phone to check the time. "People say no expectations, but someone always expects something. Even if it's simply to just have a good time — and then when something goes to shit, which it invariably does? There's hurt feelings. And you have enough shit in your life without me in it, even on a short-term basis."

He glances up from his cell phone. "That girl I was seeing? The theoretical one? Last time I saw her I pulled a knife on her. She was paralyzed at the time. How was she paralyzed? I drugged her. Deliberately. That was supposed to be a guilt-free one-night stand, by the way. So you see, when I say you don't want anything to do with me? I'm not fucking kidding." He jerks his chin toward the building, deciding it must be it, since she hasn't kept walking. "Go get the fucking drugs."

"And I'm bettin' you had a damn good reason to both drug her and pull a knife on her," Tess says calmly. "And I have absolutely no reason or desire to fuck you over. But I know you won't believe that. I'll be back in a minute." And then she starts towards the building to retrieve the refrain.

An actual argh escapes his lips. "You don't fuckin' get it. I don't think you'll fuck me over. I'm the one who's likely to do that to you, get it?" It's mostly rhetorical. He goes to lean against a fire hydrant, eyes hard as they stare at the traffic passing rather than to watch her retreat.

Pausing a few feet away, Tess glances back at him, brows lifted, lips curving a bit. "Fine, I get it. But shouldn't I get to choose if I wanna take that risk?" She doesn't give him time to answer though, before she disappears into the building. She's gone for several minutes, since she has to go to the top floor, get the drugs, then come back down.

When she approaches, Nick just arcs a brow, not speaking and holding out a hand for the promised delivery.

While he's grumpy, Tess gives him a bright smile. It almost looks as though she couldn't be happier to be standing on a cold sidewalk, about to hand over her deceased father's drugs to a smuggler. "So I'm guessin' you don't agree that it's my choice on the risk? Tsk. Free will, darlin'. It's a wonderful thing, even as it's a pain in the ass." But she does pull her hand out of her pocket, discreetly handing over a little box with the drugs in it.

At the small size of the box, Nick shakes his head, snorting derisively. "Coulda just flushed that much down the toilet, kid. For future knowledge, I guess." He slips the box into his own pocket. "S'alright, pretty sure I have some places to unload it."

The discussion of free will may have contributed to the derision, since Nick sure as hell doesn't feel he has any of late. "You take care of yourself, kid. If you have any brains, you'll sell your dad's place and get the hell out of this city. This isn't a good place for people like you," he adds, before turning toward the subway station at the corner.

"Call me paranoid," Tess says, grinning at him again. When he starts to turn away she reaches out to try to grab his arm, lightly, just enough to encourage him to stop and, hopefully, turn back towards her.

At her touch, Nick turns, but pulls his arm back, eyes narrowing as he glances at the sleeve and back to her, his jaw setting with tension as he backs up a step.

"You don't have the sense to be paranoid, kid," he all but growls. "A little bit of paranoia would do you some fuckin' good." He sighs. "What." It's not really a question but he waits for her to say whatever she stopped him for.

"No, I am paranoid when the situation calls for it." But his words just further prove, to her at least, her prior guesses about his behavior. Tess smiles, stepping a little closer, dropping her voice to a more intimate whisper. And if he doesn't step away, she gets close enough to kiss him, but she just speaks instead "I know the attraction between us isn't one way, Nick. And it's sweet that you're tryin' to keep me safe from yourself. But unnecessary. However, I know I won't change your mind tonight. But if you do decide you need to feel human, without worryin' about strings or commitment, you know where I live."

His eyes narrow coolly but a flush of color comes to his face, the hue borne of a mix of anger and shame. Nick shakes his head and takes another step back. "Sex isn't what I fuckin' need to feel human, but thanks for that bloody brilliant analysis, Doctor Fuckin' Freud," he hisses, pulling his cigarettes from his pocket and shaking one out.

"Maybe you should look into a gig as a sex therapist, if you think that'll solve all my problems. They get paid bank, I hear."

Nick shakes his head one more time, and turns away, long legs striding for the corner station again.

The anger is something that can be expected. Nick seems to be almost constantly angry. The shame has Tess's brows lifting. "I wasn't talkin' about sex. Not just sex anyway, Nick. There's more to bein' human than fuckin'. And I could give you some of that." And in a lower voice, "If you'd stop bein' so scared to take it."

Whether he hears or not, Nick gives no indication. He continues his route to the corner, disappearing down the steps of the subway station without so much of a glance back in her direction. He will board the last train of the night to take him to his apartment in Brooklyn to spend the night alone. Humanity — from others — isn't something he is seeking, nor deserves.

It's the humanity in himself he's in search of.

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