Secrets Worth Knowing



In memory:

young-logan_icon.gif young-nick_icon.gif


Scene Title Secrets Worth Knowing
Synopsis Logan pays a steep price for something valuable.
Date October 29, 2009

Red Hook: West Washington Meats Co. Warehouse

It's a late sunset light that warms the office through horizontally hanging blinds, and, before the pain can get too much, Logan rolls back his sleeve and plunges a needle into his vein with a cocky kind of inexperience. Pure luck dictates that he doesn't fuck it up, inject it into muscle when the glowing blue liquid is sunk into his pale arm.

No, it flows in blood. It swims.

Logan isn't an addict. Except maybe to cigarettes, booze, and arguments. Narcotics have been avoided, because he knows what it does to people - he's done that to people. If he's going to be on a leash, it'll be connected to something he can fight, thank you. Addicts are slaves, is the thing, which is why he employs so many of them. So this is out of character, but what the hell— when in Rome, and so forth. He's peddling this stuff so often, he's encountered the Blue Fairy in minor wars no one else could witness, not even in the biochemical system of the addict that acts as the battle field.

Might as well meet her head on, just this once. Know your enemy. Know your product. And the poison he'd consumed a few moments prior is beginning to hurt. If there's a scrap of happy memory in Logan's personal history, he'd really like to get acquainted with it.

So that, you know. Maybe all of this is worth something. He's expecting to see Toru.

He doesn't, anyway, which could make this anti-climactic if Mu-Qian doesn't show up to save him. It had started with asking if Linderman could bring people back from the dead, and then rattling the pale healer's name around the minor Triad gangs. He'd gotten close with the White Tigers, of course it was the White Tigers, protecting the over sized pale cat of a woman from Logan, who is something of a similar type. That hadn't gone well. Logan doesn't really think the Chinese are loyal to each other. Even after he'd been hit in the mouth hard enough to split skin against teeth, he doesn't think so. He just thinks they must hate white people. That, or oriental sixth sense means they know he's fucking a Jap.

Or wants to bring one back from the dead.

Incidentally, if a store is called an apothecary in the Rookery, it means something else. What do you buy when you desire to hurt a man, but not kill him? A little plastic packet of powder to be dissolved in water and swallowed like you do tequila.

The man wasn't a professional, he'd dared to ask; "Who's it for?"

What did he expect? Logan had answered; "No one."

It's one of the oldest stories in English literature, save for a few creative modern changes. Like, there isn't a priest in this one, and there wasn't a freezer in that one. And homosexual. It's also a last resort. Maybe not the lastest— oh, no. Definitely the last. This, Logan is convinced of as the poison begins to work quicker than the Refrain does. Lying curled up upon the heavy oak desk within the office of the same meat packing plant in which he'd secured over twenty-thousand dollars for the Linderman Group, he is, as mentioned, expecting to see Toru.

They'd been happy, hadn't they? Kind of. Close enough.

It would only make sense.

Football is the most popular sport in London in terms of both participants and spectators; in total the city boasts thirteen professional teams including England's national football contingent, captained by David Beckham and based out of the world famous Wembley Stadium, and although neither of the young men sitting on the rain-slicked bleachers in the field several kilometers from the Wembley Park tube station belong to any such organization, what boy doesn't sometimes wish to be a crackerjack sports star?

On paper, the taller and darker of the two is several years his companion's junior in spite of his comparably worn features and seal brown eyes that are just a little too sunken into his face for the youth to be considered traditionally handsome. Fortunately, his good hygiene, fair teeth and full head of thick black hair all make him a desirable catch for almost any of the girls in his class, though it isn't a girl he's interested in this afternoon. A cannabis joint burning at one end dangles between two of his knuckles, spews smoke and covers the familiar smells of fresh cut grass, wet earth and rainwater intermingling with the oils in the pavement.

It's drizzling, and without an umbrella between them, this means that both the young men will be going home in clothes heavier and considerably more damp than the ones they left in.

Shoulders curled forward, the older of the two has his arms wrapped around his knees in a hunch against the miserable weather, although for all his fetal defense against the rain, he doesn't seem to mind it overly much. Likely conditioning. They make a strange pair on the benches — night and day, with the younger's unruly mop of dark curls in contrast to the older's offensive shock of bleach. He'd probably be more attractive with whatever natural colour it's meant to be, but boys tend to think they know better than nature as a general rule.

John straightens his back some, stretches his legs, before reaching his hand to steal away the joint that's smoking away near his companion's knuckles. He's older, brasher, confident, a lot of things the younger boy is not, and so the theft is easy and swift, with a smile that's just as easy and swift. Eyes are a contrast too, twin chips of ice, vaguely green.

"My mum would say you look haggard. 'nd probably try to feed you."

"She a good cook, then?" the younger asks, reaching up to rub the heel of his hand along a shadowed jaw. Stubble is stilla new thing for John's companion, Nicholas, coarse and uneven under a palm that will one day be rough and callused but is still as smooth as the strapping curve of neck and shoulders, which is defined by sinewy cords of muscle like wire beneath the sodden fabric of his school uniform. "I wouldn't mind getting away from mine for awhile," he adds. "Dumb bint can't even get porridge right. It tastes like something that came out of a sick dog's arse. Watery."

As he speaks, he drums the fingertips of his free hand against the inside of his thigh and turns his attention out across the field to where one of the local college teams is being put through its daily exercises by its coach: a mammoth of a man with more beard and mustache than neck and a whistle spraying spittle from jellylike lips. The thump of cleats hitting waterproofed leather punctuates the pauses in their conversation, drawing Nicholas' focus away from the stolen joint and toward the dozens of tiny white spheres sent frogging through the mud by even tinier feet.

"Anyway," he says. "It don't matter what your mum thinks, does it? I'm not fuckin' her."

Dry smoke that turns his throat to desert, dulls his senses, is dragged from, the steady spindly ease of smoke from the burning end of the joint put on halt as John breathes it in. Lets it linger in his lungs until it burns before exhaling in dragon curls out his mouth and nostrils. He lifts a hand to run the back of it against his forehead, pushing white-blonde strands off his brow, smoothing it back with a head shake that sends stagnant droplets flying. "She can cook. Maybe you should come 'round for tea sometime."

His voice is as it usually is - both sarcastic and entirely sincere, but to be certain of either would be a trap. The joint is offered back, still smoldering doggedly despite the wet weather, and John raises his hands to rub at his face once he's freed of it, before leaning a shoulder against Nicholas'. "Then I s'pose it'd matter what she thinks. In case you was a bad influence on me."

Nicholas turns the joint between his fingers, a smile creasing the corners of his mouth and crinkling baby crow's feet 'round his eyes. "Brilliant. Maybe you could ask her to make those little sandwiches? The buttery ones shaped like a tri-angle." To demonstrate, without dropping the joint, he rearranges his thumbs to form a base, brings the tips of his index fingers together into a point and peers one dark eye through the shape it creates, scrutinizing his companion the same way he might something small from behind the lense of a magnifying glass. His voice lacks the sarcasm that John's does, but there's a certain brusqueness about it that's derisive in its own way.

He drops his hands, pushes back against the other boy's shoulder, and squares his feet with an audible squeak of leather on metal. "What'll you do when you outgrow her? Somethin' like that?" Nicholas jerks his head in the direction of the men out on the field, now in a long mud-spattered line that stretches the length of the chain link fence separating the grass from the road and the rumble of city traffic mere meters away. "You're good enough, you know."

"Yeah? What would you know about it?" It's enough to have John casting his attention back towards the field, however, propping his elbows against his bent knees and slouching. Considering there isn't a game in progress to be observing, his attention is enough to deduce an interest beyond simple spectatorship. Admiration, or interest similar to the way he can watch Nick in turn, for the young men standing out on the wet field, socks up their shins and knees bare to the elements.

He shrugs with a crinkle of fabric, his coat bulky enough for the weather, hand coming up to support his chin, reducing his words to a mumble. "It's what I know. What I want." This is where he points out he's got a game this weekend, should Nick want to come by, but something stills his tongue, catching his bottom lip under his teeth instead.

"Wish I was out there," he observes instead. "'s fucking cold."

Nicholas raises the joint to his lips and purses his mouth around it, inhaling smoke and holding it in the cavity of his chest for the time it takes him to piece together an answer that only a little less ham-fisted than he is at this age. Teenagers. "Nothing's stopped you from taking what you want before," he points out in a tone just a touch milder than the one he'd been using before. Like the stubble, sex is new to him too, and there's something subdued about his voice and the body language that accompanies it when he makes the insinuation.

"You're smart. Not like I am, either. All I know's books, arithmetic, three years of French immersion — je m'en fou. Best I can hope for is to piss the rest of my life away behind a desk somewhere, and that's real swell. To tell you the truth, I don't give a shit so long as it gets me out of that goddamn flat."

The insinuation gets a near sly glance from John, out the corner of his eye, before his focus returns against to the field. "Well, you know what I think about school," he says, straightening his back once more. "Sod it. I got out as soon as I worked out they couldn't keep me there. But something's better than nothink." The last syllable ends hard and sharp, deliberately leaning on his working class lilt with a smile cast his companion's way.

Then, a dismissive shake of his head, as he goes to relieve Nick of the joint. "You can get out of the flat. Get a job, tell your mum to go fuck herself and carve out something for y'self. It's not all that hard really. I only stay with mine because it's convenient. If I wanted t'get away, I would." John voice pitches somewhere lower as he adds; "Not that you aren't strapping in that uniform've yours."

"I tell her to get fucked all the time," says Nicholas as John's fingers nimbly seize the dwindling joint from his grip. He reaches up to loosen the tie knotted at his throat, glistening black and more like silk than polyester it really is thanks to the sopping weather. His undershirt, too, is plainly visible beneath the collared button-up he wears overtop it. "Wish it was that simple."

He rubs his palms together to generate heat, warming his hands after wiping them off on his dress slacks, and then blows hot breath into them as he cups the lower half of his face.

It isn't so cold outside that his words produce vapour when they leave his lips — cannabis smoke aside — but he's paler in the diluted light of the late afternoon than John remembers him being the last time they saw one other. His cheeks had been rosier then, flushed with colour, and although what they'd been doing at the time plays a significant role in this observation, John hadn't been far off the mark when he used the word haggard. "You haven't got any brothers or sisters, have you?"

The compulsion to argue that it is that simple is quashed mainly by the relaxing effect of cannabis in his system, and that, well— it's nothing to do with John. He takes another drag of it, cheeks hollowing as he does so and easing the smoke back out with expert patience, his limbs loose with it, his mind clear. He swings a look back to Nick at that question, the sound of a whistle from down on the field piercing through the relative quiet they're surrounded by, and he mutely shakes his head.

Which is all the argument Nicholas needs, really. The ashy stub of the joint is dropped onto concrete between his feet, John grinding it out the rest of the way with the edge of his heel. "'s out," is brisk explanation, needless, as he mimics Nick in rubbing his hands together.

"Could always be worse, right?" A twist of a smile and attentive, if red-eyed observation on Nicholas' profile from John, head angled in coy inquiry.

"Could," Nicholas concedes. "I might have two sisters instead of one. Double the responsibility. S'why I can't just pack up and leave, get away." If he planned to elaborate, he changes his mind before the words have the opportunity to click together into a proper sentence. Instead, he spreads his palms and gives John a helpless look that doesn't implore any real pity. "You're right, though. Something's better than nothink." It's not meant to be mocking or even affectionate — just an echo of John's earlier sentiment, complete with the Brixton native's unique inflection to acknowledge its source and give proper credit where credit is due.

"A few more years and we're gone. Out. I'm thinking Battersea. Maybe Deptford. Chelsea." He reaches into his uniform's double-breasted blazer, not to retrieve anything but to warm his right hand against his chest. Friction alone isn't doing the job, and neither is John's close proximity. It isn't meant to.

"What about you? Where do you see yourself in five years?"

John is watching him, ignoring the beginnings of the game down on the field in favour of studying Nick's thin face in the wan, hazy London light, wind kicking up to ruffle hair and lapels in defiance of their settled positions in the bleachers. "If I'm not filthy rich and touring Europe like any football superstar?" is wry, eyebrows lifting, before John's hands go out. Nicholas' arm is pulled, a surprisingly warm hand wrapping around the younger boy's wrist, other coming to clasp over his knuckles.

"Love to get out've this country someday, to be honest. Out of Britain. Italy, Greece. Somewhere warm. Fuck, Mexico for all I care." The clasp is used to warm, rubbing, practical and overly affectionate in equal measures as much as the gesture is matter of fact. "And no, I dunno how. What's in Chelsea?"

"Couldn't tell you," Nicholas admits. "Never been, but I hear it's posh. Clean." Which, judging by the teen's emphasis, is more important than posh, just as out had been more important than gone. His hands are frigid and tight under John's touch to begin with, but gradually the tension in his fingers and joints begins to loosen, becoming more receptive. There's a quick glance down at the field, wary and circumspect, his dark eyes searching with hawklike intensity for anyone who might be watching. Only when he's sure that he and John are free from scrutiny does he meet his gaze and hold it.

"They paint donkeys to look like zebras in Mexico," he says. "I saw it on the BBC. Americans pay money to get their pictures taken with them."

"Do they?" As much as John, too, might dart a glance around, Nick's taken care of that for him, and he's a little stoned. And also, a little like this anyway. Five years from now, perhaps Nicholas would feel even warmer than he is now, quicker to smile, pinched pale features getting back a healthy cast as John's influence extends beyond words. A direct connection between flesh pressed to flesh, picking up the baton to a symphony of neurotransmitters.

Not today. The only warmth Nicholas receives is the clammy friction between their hands, and the amusement that crinkles John's brow. "I'll 'ave to get a picture when I go and send it back to Chelsea, then."

There's protest written in the lines of Nicholas' face that go unvoiced at first. Dark brows lower over his eyes in a dubious expression, lips drawn into a silent accusation. John won't; Nicholas might be young, but he isn't stupid, and even if he was the boundaries of this friendship — if either of them want to call it that — are as clear as the spray-on chalk lines that divide the field stretching out in front of them. There won't be any pictures. Or postcards.

Whatever he might've been about to say is cut abruptly short by the sound of a small voice mewling up at them from the bottom of the bleachers. "Nick," it keens, soft and female. "It's quarter-past. We'll miss the train."

The corner of John's mouth lifts in a wry smile that could almost twist into a sneer, but doesn't. No slice of canine, no needless cruelty, as much as pale green eyes are cold and distant as they'll ever be. In the next moment, there's a voice, and John's hands retract from Nick's as he spares a glance down the bleachers to the slight figure awaiting her brother. Barely a glance, John turning his attention back towards the other boy, and chooses to be the first to rise to his feet.

He's quick, a hand going out to card fingers through and gently seize at dark hair, leaning in to mutter, "I'll see you around, Ruskin," just above Nicholas' ear before departure. Ambiguous at best, questionable at most, but brisk and careless that surely, there's nothing out of place.

Nicholas' throat contracts, a visible lump bobbing up and down with his Adam's apple when John's fingers catch in his hair and his voice breathes heat into his ear. He's pulling away in the next moment, polished shoes clamouring loudly on his way down to the pavement as he takes the steps at a pace much more languid than the tempo of his pulse hammering away at his carotid artery and the network of veins in his wrists.

When he reaches the bottom, he's greeted by a rail thin figure with a porcelain doll's miniature proportions and eyes several shades lighter than Nicholas', the colour of the overcast sky. She carries a violin case in one hand, a beaten up leather satchel tucked under the opposite arm, and watches John's retreating figure from beneath brows more defined and pronounced than her brother's. "Who was that?" she asks.

"No one," Nicholas is quick to answer, reaching out to place his hand at the small of the girl's back. "Come on, Lee. Let's go."

No one moves lateral across the bleachers in heavy steps, the mist-fine rain continual and soaking through the jacket he wraps around himself tightly, starkly bleached locks clinging to his brow, the nape of his neck. When John spares one last glance over his shoulder towards the pair, it's intended for Nicholas, one last easy look up and down the boy's taller frame, but his distant gaze catches on the girl as well in a fleeting hitch of notice.

And dismisses her in the next moment, as with her brother, smoothly becoming one with the sparse football crowd as he finds somewhere dryer to sit and watch the game. Like many of its kind, it's only just begun.

Nicholas Ruskin.

Of all the secrets Logan has, some even worth knowing, it would not have been that one chosen to die with him, as he chokes on the boy's name along with blood and bile.

Ruskin ruskin rusk in rus kin… His sister hasn't grown much in stature, if so much more than nine years in every other way that counts. Did Logan know before Eileen that she and her brother's father drove a taxi? He can't recall. As much as the scent of rain and grass lingers strong in his memory, the details around are as thin as the most delicate ceramic, threatening to break apart if touched.

All the broken boys and girls Logan's left behind. It would be arrogant to think they still are that way. Broken and unhealed. Many would recall him as a bad thing that once happened to them. Nicholas Ruskin got a rawer deal.

Maybe Toru will get a better one after all.

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