delia_icon.gif nick_icon.gif

Scene Title Ultimatums
Synopsis Nick's given one by Delia, good-natured as it may be.
Date February 1, 2018

Red Hook Market

The Red Hook Market resides within the gutted shell of Textile Factory 17, a turn-of-the-century mill building that once served as the headquarters of New York's FRONTLINE civil defense organization. Miraculously, the building survived the civil war largely unscathed except for the total collateral loss of its electronics to the EMP that ravaged Manhattan. When the building was reclaimed by Gilbert Tucker in late 2015, it was remodeled with the intention of turning it into a central community hub for the entirety of the Safe Zone. Today, the multiple above-ground buildings serve as meeting halls, council chambers, offices, and storage rooms for the Safe Zone Cooperative. The basement levels, a labyrinthine maze of brick corridors, vaulted storage spaces, and small nooks, have become the sprawling home of the Red Hook Market, an open-air bazaar with free admittance to every Safe Zone resident. The market features pop-up vendor stalls, a single bar called the Red Hook Tavern, and food vendor stalls.

It used to be that Saturdays were the busiest time to go shopping. For a lot of the people in the Safe Zone, old traditions haven't changed. Little stalls filled with wares, both handmade, home grown, or scavenged can be found lined up in neat little rows.

The yellow lights of the market aren't flattering for most of the wares offered but one in particular doesn't seem bothered by them. The items it offers entice customers by scent. Piles of handmade soaps of all varieties are neatly stacked in artful arrangements. The maker is a true artist because people in the Safe Zone haven't seen soap like this, here, since before the civil war.

As Delia meanders between displays, one soap in particular catches her attention. It's a light green color, close to mint, with little flecks in it. When she lifts it to her nose, her eyes slowly close as she inhales the aroma, evergreen. It earns a devious little smile and the bar is quickly paid. Once it's wrapped in paper, she places it in her bag and wanders out to the next stall.

Delia's unaware she has a tail — and one well-equipped to stay out of sight until he chooses to be seen. He follows at a distance, stepping into a stall when she looks like she might double-back or turn his way. His height and coloring are common enough to ensure he doesn't stand out; his clothing, dark and unobtrusive, does the same.

Eventually, Nick decides the game of chase has come to an end. When she steps into the next stall, he does, too. When she peers at the vendor's wares, he leans against a nearby table, as if he'd been there all along, arms and ankles both crossing in a pose of faux nonchalance.

"That rusty color would look great on you," he says, nodding to a scarf just to her left. "But the blue matches your eyes."

Even though the voice is so familiar, Delia startles, almost knocking over a display of handmade earrings. She's quick to catch it though and make sure it's staying upright before she turns. When she does, Nick is given a swift punch to the shoulder, "You!"

Didn't warn her he was coming. Hasn't called. Forgot the anniversary of the time they considered getting a cat together and settled on a cactus. And Christmas.

"Hi," Delia grins as she slips an arm around his waist leading him away from earrings and scarves. "When did you get into the city?" Accusations and things of that nature can always wait for later or just not be spoken at all. They're not important in the grand scheme of things, at least not where she's concerned.

Nick winces when she punches him, reaching to rub it — a sign he's probably injured it lately, though he'll never tell. "Hi," he says, letting her lead him out of the stall, his own arms sliding around her waist as he leans to kiss her, ignoring her question for the time being. One hand comes up to curl in her red hair. He tastes of wintergreen which is probably a hint he's been smoking — the habit picked up again in the past at some point. He doesn't in her presence or in her home, so the nicotine addiction isn't what drives the need.

"Just today. You think I'd stick around here for more than that if it weren't for you?" New York's not his favorite city by any means; the Safe Zone is even less his favorite place. "How are you?"

"You never know," Delia smiles after the minty greeting, "I mean, there could be someone else."

She'd probably kill him if there was, maybe. Her eyes drift to the silver chain around his neck and then back up to his face. No crinkles near his eyes, her smile fades. "I'm good, trying to get organized for spring. There's a lot to do if I want to expand, I need to find someone that can get me railroad ties for cheap."

As they walk along, Delia holds up the small paper bag, pressing it into Nick's hand. "I got you something, I was going to just give it to you at home but.." She shrugs, "Surprise~"

"Not happening. If I find someone else, trust me, they'll be in, I don't know, Belize or something." Nick grins, clearly joking. It's not like his work takes him to such places usually. "A woman in every port — that's sunny and warm year-round. They never add the last bit."

He raises his brow at the talk of a present and reaches for the little bag, peering inside. He brings the bag to his nose to smell; his lips turn up again into a smile. "I love it. Thank you." The words are sincere and he bends his head to kiss her again.

"There's probably somewhere on the outside where you can get some abandoned ones, but don't even think about doing it yourself. Benji's pal might be able to help with that." Calvin. He doesn't call him by name. "If they're nearby. I just got back from Belgium, so I haven't talked to anyone. You're the first."

"If you find someone in Belize, you'd better find me one too," even though she's refused to leave the country every time someone's tried to talk to her about it. "I could use a little sunshine and warm."

The mention of Benji's pal earns Nick a look the kind that's composed of thin flat lips, knit eyebrows, and a stern stare. "Railroad ties are made of wood, he's not a woodykinetic." Is there even such a thing? "Besides, I don't like to spend my time with her doing work." She pauses and leans up to deliver a peck, "I save all of that for you."

As they pass by another stall, Delia stops and tugs Nick a little closer. "Nick, I've been meaning to talk to you about something… I think we're ready for a bigger commitment." She points to the merchandise and looks up at him with watery kitten eyes. "I want to add a fern to our family."

"Ah. I'm not an expert on railroads or gardens," Nick says simply, not embarrassed by his error. "So got it. If I find someone in Belize it's all right 's'long as I find you one, too. I can work with that."

He falls into easy step with her as they move through the market; they have that comfortable and easy camaraderie of a relationship that's several years old — at least when they're not arguing When she stops and tugs him though, his eyes narrow a little, looking for whatever it is that's caught her interest and studying the merchandise like it might give him the clue he needs.

His head turns to look down at her, and he lets out a held breath in a short laugh. "A fern's a big commitment. You have to account for spores. You're sure you're ready for that?" he says solemnly, reaching down to tuck a stray red wave behind her ear.

"It's not like I'm asking to add an orchid," Delia grouses picking up one of the smallest pots. Its fern is tiny, its longest leaves maybe stretching to two inches. "Besides, I think a fern is a great step up from the cactus, it's getting a bit lonely in the house all by itself." She passes it to Nick while she digs in her pocket for the cash. She lets him go too, in order to flatten the few bills out and lay them on the counter.

Once paid for, she turns back to Nick with a smile and wraps both of her arms around his waist. "You get to keep it safe and warm for the trip back," she probably thinks she's giving him an awful punishment for something. "Don't let it die."

"An orchid… you're going to give me a heart attack," he teases back. It's an ongoing joke — but it's also an avoidance of a real issue, and he knows it, so he plays along. He peers at the fern as if it might bite him, while she pays. "You know they all look the same to me," he says as turns it slightly, as if trying to see it from a btter angle.

He shakes his head as she pushes the joke further. "I think even I can keep a plant alive for the time it takes to get back to your place." He begins to walk again, leaving the joke for the time being. "Anything else we need here? Don't try to save. I've got it."

"Now that you mention it," Delia emits in a whistful tone, fluttering a hand against her chest. "I do have some unexpected company and not much in the way of food." She guides Nick toward yet another stall with the bump of her hip. This one smells like curry and causes the redhead to take a deep breath inward.

"Think you can help me out with that? I want something that tastes great. I also want to give him the impression that I can cook and do a good job at it." Even though her cooking skills did get marginally better over the years they've been together, cereal is still her specialty. "I don't think soup is going to be good enough for this guy."

"That is sneaky of you. I'm sure he'll never know." Nick lets himself be led over to the curry stall. "I think he'd like some of the korma and the naan. I mean, that's what I'd get, but my opinion's hardly the most important.'

The joke made, he moves closer to order from the vendor, getting a couple of other dishes — there'll be leftovers for a couple of days. Just in case she tries to cook something that's inedible. Once he's ordered and paid, he moves away to wait, tugging her along with him. "It's good to see you, Del," he says more solemnly. "Like coming home, no matter where you are."

The joke made, he moves closer to order from the vendor, getting a couple of other dishes — there'll be leftovers for a couple of days. Just in case she tries to cook something that's inedible. Once he's ordered and paid, he moves away to wait, tugging her along with him. "It's good to see you, Del," he says more solemnly. "Like coming home, no matter where you are."

The sudden seriousness in his tone forces a worried expression onto her face. "You are home, Nick, even though you hate it here." She knows, it's not like he tries to hide it from her. There've been fights. As they step outside, she rests her head against his shoulder. It's snowing again, big flakes that take forever to dissolve on skin.

"I just wish that you'd consider taking a break," she says plain as day, instead of beating around the bush. "The war is over, Heller, Mitchell, Moritz, they're all gone." Unlike in some of the dreams they've shared, it's something she can't hide from him. Some nights, it's not over for her.

He sighs, and the chill in the air makes that exhalation visible, like a puff of smoke. "New York's not my home," he says quietly, wrapping an arm around her as he nods to the vehicle he's driving, pulling keys out from his pocket to unlock the door. "You are."

He moves to open the passenger door for her, handing her the food and the plant to keep on her lap while he drives.

The second sticky subject broached, he closes the door once she's in and takes his time walking around the vehicle to the driver's side to avoid answering it as long as he can.

Once in, he shakes his head. "They're not all gone," he says simply.

She doesn't say anything because he's not wrong.

The ride back to the house is fairly quiet, almost uncomfortably so. Luckily there aren't many vehicles on the road to impede their progress. Most people here rely on public transportation, fuel is a luxury and money is better spent on food.

"You know," Delia finally breaks the silence, looking over at Nick, one eyebrow arched up in mischief. "If you took a little break, I'd consider letting you take me somewhere that has McDonalds." Her taste for cheeseburgers has never died and no one else makes anything quite like a Happy Meal. "I'm not asking for forever, Nick, just more than a few days."

He drives with one hand, the other arm leaning on the door, fingers curled into his hair. It's easier for him to be quiet as he drives, concentrating on the road — the potholes and debris in the street make it so he needs to pay attention, despite the lack of traffic. When she speaks, a small muscle twitches in his cheek — he knows the joke will still end up somewhere more serious, because he knows her.

He doesn't speak for a moment, but shifts positions so he can use his left arm to steer and reach over to touch her hand lightly with his right.

It's another few seconds before Nick speaks. "I know. Soon." Soon is relative. He hasn't taken more than 'a few days' since he began this line of work.


It's always soon.

She lets go of the food on her lap in order to grip his hand tightly. "I'm giving you until the end of that bar of soap," she says as she looks out the passenger window. "Then I'm claiming two weeks, even if I have to force it out of you." Delia turns to give Nick a hard stare, "And we can do it the easy way or the hard way." Meaning, wherever he is, she will find him.

Her lips twitch into a slight smile, only because she knows the timeline she gave him is absolute but flexible.

His eyes slide away from the windshield to her face when he feels those hands gripping his. The ultimatum gets a smile from the man. "Jesus, you're scary when you're…scary." He squeezes her hand back, driving in silence for a few minutes.

Eventually his lips twitch into another smile, and he glances at her through the corner of his eyes.

"Joke's on you. I only shower once a week."

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