Three Little Words


nick_icon.gif russo2_icon.gif

Scene Title Three Little Words
Synopsis …change everything
Date February 12, 2011

Manhattan — Random Bar

All roads lead to the same place when Bradley Russo is challenged with the perils of decision making. Liquor. It’s always liquor. But with his seriously considered and exercised sobriety, he hasn’t had a thing to drink. Not yet. Even if he ordered it nearly an hour ago. The glass of whiskey (neat) sits in front of him on the bar, silently taunting him to drink. But he’s been good. Or… good-ish. A lit cigarette presses firmer between his lips, causing them to whiten moderately underneath the pressure. This is his third cigarette in an hour. He may become a chain smoker at this rate. His thoughts swim with ifs, ands, or buts in careful consideration of the decision that weighs heavily upon his mind.

His fingers curl comfortably around the glass, paying silent homage to the liquor within— the way it would cradle each of his senses in turn, the way it would burn comfortably on the edges of his mouth and his dry cracked lips, and the way it could, quite powerfully, melt away all thoughts and feelings and every lingering decision to simulate wholeness— a vacation from the more broken corrupted pieces of himself.

The bar itself is quiet for a Saturday, but then, curfew is nearing. There are those that will stay well into the morning, choosing to be shut in rather than turned out. Brad is likely among their ranks. Hours upon his stool could only do him good, he’d decided.

Nick has been in the corner for some time, not having noticed Russo as he played a few rounds of pool — one of the few things he is good at that doesn’t require someone to get hurt. He isn’t worried about curfew, but does want to grab another beer before heading out. Taking the cash begrudgingly handed to him by his competition, he gives a mock bow of his head and heads to the bar. His own cigarettes are pulled out, one hand heavily scabbed across the knuckles bringing one of the sticks up to his lips.

Leaning in to get the bartender’s attention, he doesn’t notice Russo just to his left. “Pint of Bass,” he mutters, when the tender nods at him for his order. He settles on the barstool and pulls out his lighter, thumb spinning its wheel — sparks but no flame.

“You gotta light?” No, he isn’t hitting on Russo. He really does just want a light. His blue eyes lift to Russo’s profile before Nick realizes who his seat mate is. He gives a snort. “If it ain’t big brother.” He’s a little tipsy.

An eyebrow is quirked at Nick. If only Brad’s problems could begin and end with Nick. A smirk edges his lips only to fade into resignation as he reaches into his pocket to extract his Green Lantern zippo and hand it to Nick, the irony not altogether lost on him. “Hey ole blue eyes,” he murmurs gruffly as he leans against the bar, his elbows resting upon it. His head cants towards Nick haphazardly while his blue-grey orbs examine Nick with scrutiny generally reserved for politicians themselves.

“Drowning your sorrows in… liquor and smokes?”

Nick accepts the lighter, raising his brow at the Green Lantern logo while tossing his cheap plastic lighter on the bar top. “If I were tryin’ to do that I’d be drinking something harder,” he says as he nods to the bartender who slides his pale beer in front of the Brit.

His eyes dart meaningfully at the whiskey and back up to Russo’s face. “You? I heard about what happened. Sorry. That’s gotta be kinda rough,” he says lightly enough, though there’s a crease in his forehead and a twitch in his jaw that suggests he’s not as at ease as he feigns. After all, Russo didn’t like him before he could blast people with his hands.

Brad groans and then puffs nonchalantly on the cigarette. With a quiet sigh, he breathes out the smoke, releasing it slowly into the already acrid air. He turns back to stare at his drink and shrugs. “It is what is is.” There’s the smallest makings of a grim smile as his head shakes tightly. “I’ve got worse problems anyways.”

His nose wrinkles as he turns back to face Nick, craning his neck slightly while doing so. “Have you ever met a man named John Logan?” his eyebrows arch high on his forehead. Problem number one to be tackled.

The question makes Nick’s eyes narrow and he reaches into his pocket for a bill to toss on the counter. His MO: pay early so you can make your getaway more easily later. “I know him. My opinion doesn’t matter much, does it? But he ain’t someone I trust. If that counts for anything,” he mutters, clearly unhappy, eyes down in his beer. “I told her I’d find somewhere else, but.”

But. The damage may already be done — that goes unsaid.

He shrugs his left shoulder. “Not up to me.”

“Yeah.” Brad leaves the word to hang as he finally brings the liquor towards his lips only to return it to the bar like a game of whiskey chicken. He sighs. “The man is— downright dangerous and she won’t listen to reason.” Russo pushes the glass away from him a few millimetres, enough to give himself some reprieve.

With a gentle sigh he shrugs. “Women make no sense.”

The younger man nods, though his brows furrow. There is hurt and worry and anger mixed together but he keeps it locked in, swallowing a gulp of his beer and then a gulp of smoke from his cigarette.

“She probably thinks she can fix what’s wrong with him,” Nick says quietly, American accent dropped in exchange for the East-End London. “Difference between him and me? He don’t think he’s broken.”

His eyes rise to Russo’s face again. “Ironic, right? I’m staying away from her so she don’t get hurt and she falls into his lap. No matter what I do, she’ll end up getting hurt. It’s like those Choose Your Own Adventure books when you just keep falling off the same cliff over and over again.”

Russo runs a hand through his hair with a faint shake of his head. “She made a choice. And she keeps telling me she’s an adult. Nothing can be done about it.” Even if Brad’s face says otherwise. Whatever is running over his thoughts, he’s not sharing. Instead, he switches tracks, “Logan tried to rearrange my face because of my fiancee.”

“My fiancee,” he repeats quietly as he rubs his temples. “I can respect you staying away from Delia. Emotions are… “ his lips joylessly curl up, “… complicated.”

His nose wrinkles. “Business arrangements are supposed to stay that way, aren’t they? Purely business? When they become muddied by emotion.. is someone destined to get hurt?” Again his eyebrows tick upwards, particularly as he takes a long puff on his cigarette.

Nick snorts. “I rearranged Logan’s face if it makes you feel any better. It tends to be standard greeting for us,” he says wryly. He leaves out the part about the guns.

“Mixing business and pleasure’s pretty much a bad move I think, unless you need to for your business. I don’t think that’s the kinda business you or Nicole are in, though, yeah?” he says with a crooked grin.

“Ha! That’d be quite the scandal!” Russo holds up a hand and sweeps it across the air like a headline, “I can see it now; ‘Television Political Personality Involved in Prostitution Ring: Who Else Has Gotten Under Tracy Strauss’,” With a smirk on his lips and his cigarette between his fingers his head shakes. “Nah. Not our business. Thought we had a deal. An arrangement.”

His lips purse while he issues Nick a sidelong glance. “Not all marriages are destined for grand romance. And I’ve never had that wishy-washy doe-eyed feeling about love. Although— “ he holds out a single hand as if though this thought is a given, “— Lina was different from my general attitude. She was…” There are no words and so he leaves the notion unspoken. “I just.. marriage.. It’s a business contract. Two parties meet, they decide they could mutually benefit from each other’s company, they get married. Right? It’s business.”

He swallows the growing lump in his throat. “When one of them loses track of the goal of the arrangement..” He frowns. “That can’t end well, can it?”

Black brows rise and Nick takes another long drink of his beer before setting it down empty. The scabbed hand swipes at his lips to dry them. “That’s a bloody unromantic view of marriage, but I guess it’s pretty spot on, when it comes down to it. Not that I have any sorta expertise in it.”

He leans on the bar and tips his head Russo’s direction. “You mean you’n’ Nicole, yeah? You weren’t really a thing? What sort of mutual benefitting are we talking about — friends that shag with a diamond ring in the deal? You don’t need the ring for that, you know. It’s 2011, mate.”

There’s another smirk as Russo twists in his seat to truly face Nick. “Believe me, I’m aware,” he shoots the other man a bemused smile, slightly intrigued at the notion and random advice. “Shagging, yeah.. that has nothing to do with it. And not because I’m some kind of thirty-year-old virgin. And it wasn’t part of the deal.”

“We’re talking about an actual business transaction. Mutually beneficial. The agreement is we would marry each other while— “ hearing himself say it makes the arrangement seem that much more complicated. “— look it was not about love. It was about… “ his lips curl into a tight smile as he shakes his head tightly. “… just business. Always business.”

Nick snorts a little and gives a wave of his hand. None of my business. But Russo seems to want something from the younger man and he furrows his brow as if trying to figure it out, before shaking his head again. "I get love without sex," he says quietly, almost shyly. "And I get sex without love. I don't get marriage without either, mate."

He reaches for his forgotten cigarette, tapping off the accumulated ash before bringing the filtered end to his lips for a long drag. Breathing the smoke out his cigarettes, he arches a brow. "Whatever this business is you got with this bird… is whatever you're getting out of it gonna be worth it if you get your heart broken or vice versa? That kinda situation — I can't see one person not caring more than th'other. Most times, one person cares more than th'other, but if it's close, it's… maybe doable, I donno. Don't got a lot of experience with any sort of lasting couples, honestly, but in theory, I can see it working." There's a melancholy jadedness to his words, realistic and fatalistic, and sadly so.

"She says she loves me," Russo mutters to his whiskey as he puts out his cigarette in the ash tray in front of him, leaving the remnants behind. "The deal was… marriage for every other reason under the sun. For politics. For power. For protection. But love?" He frowns. "I lived through that. I lost that. And I'm.. I have someone else I care about, who I don't think will ever be in a space for a real commitment." He sighs heavily as his arms fold around his body.

There's a pause. "So you rearranged Logan's face? Man, I would love to get in on that. I should've punched him when he tried to take me out with his cane. You know, I don't know what she sees in him. She wants to fix people, but some people don't want to be fixed."

The cigarette is snuffed out in the ash tray, and Nick picks up his glass to drain the remaining quarter, then nods to the bartender and lifts two fingers before pointing to the glass of whiskey Russo holds. Apparently he's ready to start drowning his sorrows with the harder stuff.

"The way I see it, it can work if you're on the same page — both of you in it for those other reasons, or both of you for love. But one on one side and th'other on th'other… if you don't love her? Better to hurt her now than later, y'know? Because if you go through with it now, knowing that she loves you, then there's a promise made in that. Even if you never say the words."

His hand curls around the glass of whiskey that's brought to him. "It's implied, yeah?"

Finally, after staring at it for so long, Brad takes a gulp of the whiskey and peeks at Nick again. "So I end it then? Three words end it. Ironic, isn't it? Isn't that what makes most people continue in their relationships? It just happens to destroy mine. Probably says some moderately messed up things about what I consider healthy and what I don't."

Russo rests his cheek on the bar to stare at Nick again. "So are you actually staying away from Delia for her safety? You know.. I never disliked you." And there's the truth. "Not really. I just… wanted the best for her." His lips tighten again while he pushes himself up to a sitting position again.

Nick scowls into his whiskey, taking longer than necessary to mull over the question — to the point it might seem he doesn't plan on answering at all. "I thought I could be her friend," he says quietly, eyes down and away. "She's a good person. Not the kind that I usually associate with, y'know? I felt like… like I could be more like the person she seems to see."

He lifts the glass and brings it to his lips, taking a swallow and grimacing just a little at the burn. "But she's too good for me for anything more than that. You know it. I know it. She's also too good for Logan, but like I said, he don't think he's in need of fixing." The glass is set down. He lifts his left shoulder and finally lifts his icy blue eyes to Russo. "She's better off without me. So I'll do what I should."

It's Russo's turn to scowl at his drink. It's brought to his lips once more and he downs half the glass. "Yeah. Clearly she's better off without me too." He exhales softly, letting his cheeks inflate with a small puff of air. "She needs someone to look out for her from afar. I guess that's my new role." From afar. "She needs someone who actually takes her interests to heart before jumping into action, you know? She thinks the best of everyone, even if it's not actually there." He finishes of the glass with an ahhhh. "Some of us just happen to be sharks."

With a shrug he points to the glass again. The bartender will get him another. It's a good night to destroy his liver.

The whiskey is nursed by the younger man sitting in stony silence for a moment. Another bill is tossed onto the counter to pay for the drinks. "I got her back anytime she needs me, but unless she asks for it or someone tells me she needs my help… I'm laying low," he says, finishing the whiskey with one long swallow and grimacing again.

His eyes lift to Russo's face again as he stands, taking the coat from his lap to shrug himself into it. "Sometimes you have to care from a distance, I guess. It's kinda how my family works, right now, too," he murmurs.

"If she needs you and I know…" the rest goes without saying as Russo shrugs and finishes off his second glass of whiskey. The glass is slide back to the bartender, but Brad lingers, unsure if he's leaving or not.

"Maybe that's how all families work eventually." He shoots Nick a two fingered salute. "Or maybe it's all I can do to keep the demons at bay. And the monsters away from my sisters. I just wish the monsters were less familiar looking."

The last comment gets a scowl from Nick, unsure if he fits in that category in Russo's mind or not. Apparently he's not going to ask and possibly break this tentative truce. "Yeah," he murmurs, after a moment, then gives a nod.

"Well. Good luck with the marriage and all," he says. "Thanks for the light." He lifts his pack of cigarettes as reminder and a wave of farewell, before heading to the door and into the cold wintry night beyond.

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