Closed Gray Areas (Matthew)

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Gray Areas (Matthew)

Postby Nathaniel Ankah on May 29th, 2014, 3:10 am

21st Day of Spring, 514AV
14th Bell
Just Outside Sunberth


The wagon had been recently attacked; that much Nate could work out by himself. The blood from the still bodies around it was red and wet and steamed in the humid air. Crows still circled and called to each other joyously, wheeling back and forth, flitting from and between gouts of greasy smoke from the endless garbage fire.

More obviously, there was still some life there in the gutted carcass of former commerce.

"Stop the wagon."

"Nate, we're behind as it is-"

"We won't be long, and besides," the big man said with a quick, familiar grin just before he hopped down onto the cobbles, "The Three Borough Boys are always too quick when it comes to strippin' these things. Probably left a few things."

That certainly set Bryan's eyebrows shooting upward in silent contemplation, as Nate knew it would. The ol' Sunberth fallback: play on greed. Never fails.

For his own part, he started moving towards the ravaged conveyance, sliding his mace out from his belt and down at his side. The fearsome weight of it was a reassurance, knobbly head swinging lightly back and forth despite his grip. Battered and pitted about the flanges and weaves in the metal, it wasn't a pretty weapon, but in the hands of a normal-sized man it could crush a skull or break a limb.

And Nate wasn't normal sized.

His own hand fingered the kukri at his back but he let it be. Always leave something in reserve, that's what Lippy Eddie always told him before the fights in the Way-Back-When. Don't let them see everything you've got. Let them plan around what they can see... and just when they're committed, you hit 'em with the rest.

Nate wasn't expecting much trouble from a cart of corpses, but you never knew-

"... water..."

The single sign of life left in that site of slaughter and theft wheezed up at him, holding his stomach within himself. Nate looked down and the delirious, dying man thought it chilling how brusquely the huge fellow eyed him and his mortal quandary. In fact, they flitted over him with indecent haste, moving on to the cart itself a moment later... and the corpses still draped across them.

"... please... w-water..."

"Don't see much point in wasting water on dead men," Nate said, tone grave but words heartless, quick hands rifling through pockets slick with blood and bereft of joy for him, "Damn... fucking Boys are getting more thorough..."

"... p... please... I-"

"Oh, alright, alright..." Nate grumbled and rifled around between the driver and his guard until he found a sticky, stained waterskin. He handed it down to the man and trembling fingers took it. "Not like they're going to need it, after all."

A few deep slugs and the doomed traveler felt like he had been restored. Were he one to succumb to such blind hope, he may have believed it... but when he looked down at the steaming, stinking pit of back blood and pus and jagged flesh that they'd left him with... the educated part of his mind sighed and shrugged its shoulders.

"I'm... going to die, aren't I?"

"That water helped your voice, at least," Nate remarked conversationally, ignoring the dying man to clout Bryan around the back of the head instead. "Check the cart, y'idiot. Nothing under the seats."

"I told you before, lad, when I was a boy, I found-"

"Cheva's fuckin' cunt, that was one time, when you were a kid, and every time after that you've found fuck all!"

"Well how d'you know that if you never let me check?"

He was going mad. Surely, that must have been the case. A thousand leagues from home and the dry, cool home of parchment he knew, Denis thought his mind had broken utterly. Was he seeing some theater duo instead of scavengers? They jabbered and snarled back and forth until the older man with the orange whiskers scampered off, grousing and grumbling, to claw through the back of the already-ravaged wagon.

"They took... everything... killed... the men..."

"Yep, didn't bugger around with witnesses," Nate said airily, shaking his head a little in professional critique. "No need for it, y'know. Leaving bodies lying everywhere like this. But you try telling some of these kids that, eh? Knife you just to make sure the blade's sharp."

"Can... can you...?"

The big brute' eyes softened for just a moment, but that was all. He knelt down by Denis and gently pulled his hand aside, ignoring the wincing and the shuddering flesh. Nathaniel was hardly a sawbones but he'd been around wounds a plenty since he was just a scrap of bones clawing for pennies. He inspected it from a few angles, taking a swig of the liberated water... and then shook his head.

"Not without a sawbones, and you've not got any coin left, have ye?"

"W... Well... I could... er..."

That big, brutally honest face stared him down until Denis looked away. Nate knew what was coming: the waterworks. The full reality of what the future held for Denis had arrived... and there was precious little of it. Thin shoulders bobbed up and down and like always, the big man felt... awkward. Uncomfortable. He knew he should console the man, like Kay would, but really... what was he to do?

Sawbones'll want at least ten or twenty gold-rimmed to sort him, and that means the rent will go wanting. No... not worth that. Not for some stranger.

She would think differently.


Nate bore his teeth for a moment and resisted the urge to punch himself in the temple. Gods, how he hated that woman for her insidious, treacherous, outrageous crusade to make him... decent! Nate didn't know how she could have even survived this long in Sunberth. Taking in strays-

Like you.

-being charitable without thought of reward-

Like she showed you.

-not thinking practically, or pragmatically, or even wisely; sacrificing that all on the altar of "doing the right thing". Stupid, bloody unworkable philosophy, doubly and triply so in the fat old whore that was Sunberth.

"Ah... fuck..."

"'ere, what's this?"

Bryan held up the odd little dish with the triangle sticking onto it, frowning as he saw Nate slide his arm under the dying man. A groan that seemed to rip from his throat like a saw would have made any other man wince but Bryan just rolled his eyes and growled: "Fuck do you think you're doing?"

"Syna dial."

"Eh?"

"That. S'a Syna dial."

Having one of those unfortunate moments he'd regret later - when the left side of his brain that wanted to know what his newest trophy was overrode the right side that was loudly asking "What the fuck is that big shit doing putting trash on the wagon?!" - Bryan frowned at the odd little device... then noticed the tiny numerals etched into the edge of the top.

"Oh... how's it work."

"Put it on the ground at the right spot, and Syna's rays hit the triangle-" he talked as he worked, laying the groaning, bleeding man atop their cargo of sacks and bags "-and when they do, the shadow tells you what time it is."

"Oh... well, what-hey, what're you doing?!"

"Taking him to a sawbones. Still got time."

"Gods, man, are you fucking mad?!" Nate tried to move around him but the skinny carter stepped defiantly into his path. "Oi?! I'm talking to you! Boss won't be happy! Wasting time, getting blood on the goods, us interfering with-"

He didn't hit him. He didn't even hurt him. Nate just hefted his mace... and rested the gnarled, dented head made of steel on the smaller man's shoulder. Eyes just as cold and hard looked down at him, and when he smiled again, they didn't thaw a degree.

"Tell him I threatened you. Think he'd believe that?"

Bryan flashed a glare at the big man. He was a Sunberth lad, too, and having some big brute get growly with him didn't make his breeches drip piss like most others. But he knew when the idiot had an idea in his head, and once it was there... well...

"... yeah. And I think you'll be out of a fucking job by tomorrow." He huffed and jumped back up to his seat, Nate resuming his position. A few flicks of the reins later and the horses were plodding off back towards the docks, leaving the blood and blacken behind them, the crows to return to their feast. "Not a smart idea, boy. Everyone's got rent to pay..."

Nate nodded thoughtfully at that, running a hand over his close-cut hair, feeling the strata of old cuts and bumps under the scratchy fuzz. Money, ah, well... that was the eternal struggle. But would old Strabo fire him? Nah, probably not... well, maybe... but if so, well...

"Oh, I dunno..." He said quietly, and with a glint in his green eyes that made Bryan both frown and turn away. "Always a way for a man to make money..."

He cracked his knuckles, though it would be bells before he'd need to. It felt familiar, and... oddly justified, in a way. Perhaps even divinely-prescribed. He would do a good deed because of Kay, and so he could do one for her in return, and make sure they kept the roof over their heads... Nate could be Nate.

But just because it was necessary. No other reason. No, he was well outta that. Honest.

Yeah. Sure.
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Gray Areas (Matthew)

Postby Matthew on May 29th, 2014, 1:28 pm

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A day spent jogging and running through repetitions of simple push-ups and sit-ups had eventually led him to a few random little stalls in the streets of Sunberth, each of them offering more random goods than the last. One item had caught his eye as he had struggled to catch his breath, a rather nice looking deck of cards that were spread out to show off their faces. It was an interesting suit of cards, displaying skulls and arrows, leaves and glaives. It was only after he had purchased the deck of cards had he he realized he was being watched. He had noticed the woman a bit earlier, seeing her struggling to walk with the aid of sticks, the wrinkles around her eyes furrowed down into an intense and studied stare of a woman who had nothing to prove to anyone but herself. He hadn't paid her much attention until he had felt her gaze sharpen.

Turning to fix her with a curious blue stare, the old woman met his gaze and flashed him a small smile. "Help me fetch a sack of potatoes and I'll show you how to put those to use. It has been awhile since I've had the pleasure of beating a handsome young man at a game of Crows and Crosses."

Matthew had paused, blinking a few times, trying to figure out if she was flirting with him or challenging him. He could never quite understand what eyes were trying to tell him when they sparkled like that.

***

A few bells later he felt like he had been lured in by an odd mix of cunning and kind generosity. She was what some people would consider strong, subtly manipulating the world around her to aid herself while at the same time aiding them right back. It was a good sort of cunning, as far as moral alignment had been concerned. She had gotten Matthew to assist her back to her home, fetch her a bag of potatoes so heavy that it had made the muscles in his arms sore all over again, and now he was peeling them. All for a few games of Crows and Crosses and a hot meal. She offered instructions on how to prepare the meal she had in mind while shuffling through the deck of cards he had purchased, leading him through a recipe that was similar to Noven's potato soup. He skinned and he sliced potatoes into chunks, working quietly and methodically, content to listen to the woman tell him simple story after simple story. He felt as if she was attempting to reach out to him in some way, but he wasn't quite sure how. He just continued to peel and dice the potatoes, soon getting a rather large pot of water boiling and coming to a small table where she had set them up to play.

It was like domino's, in a way. She was very good at it. He puzzled through the strategies of the game, playing slowly and thinking through each move, giving her time to talk and giving him more time to listen. She complimented the whore on his clothes, Matthew dressed simply but neatly, somehow managing to stay perfectly clean even in the filth of Sunberth. She talked quite fondly about a good friend of hers, a man she affectionately referred to as Nate. She gloated that she would have to get a deck of cards for herself, just so she could teach Nate a lesson in strategy.

Matthew didn't say much at all, just quietly played the game with her while getting up every now and then to check on the potatoes. It was an interesting interaction to say the least, having met the woman just bells before and now helping her cook dinner. He would almost call her too trusting, a dangerous trait in Sunberth.

He knew better, though. His analytical gaze had seen glimmers of strategically hidden sharp steel, ways for the crippled woman to viciously defend herself if needed. She had noticed his observation and gave him a small smile, sly eyes glittering with more of those odd sparkles. He was a guest in her home and there was a silent subtle threat of what would happen should he dare misbehave. He was more than satisfied to keep playing cards while the woman perused about when Nate would be home. Kayleah, she had called herself. What an interesting woman.
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Gray Areas (Matthew)

Postby Nathaniel Ankah on May 29th, 2014, 8:37 pm

He came home, a mass of aches and stinging muscle, and the quick glance in the window's reflection made him shudder. No hiding this from her. Not those bruises and cuts. Who would have thought Fat Davey would have put up such a fight? Nate was hoping he could put whoever he was fighting down fast, just get his money and go, but... things didn't work out that way.

See? This is what happens when you try to have your pie and eat it!

++++++++++

"What fucking time do you call this, then?!"

"Hang on, I can tell you! Just... one minute..."

For a long tick, Nate and Strabo were joined in incredulity as they watched Bryan place the Syna dial on top of the wagon. Tongue wedged out one side of his mouth, hands trembling with anticipation, he seemed so sure of... something. The instrument, however, seemed to have less conviction.

"Oi, s'not working!"

"You're in the shadows, you idiot!"

"Forget the fucking trinket!" The merchant snapped, quartet of silent slaves bustling around him to unload the marred sacks of grain, flour, meal and barley. "Answer my question! One bell, that was how long you were meant to be gone, and now, here we stand, three bells later! I've had customers complain, Nate. S'not like I'm running a sodding monolopy, here, they do have other options."

"Boss, I know, and-"

"Not to mention the risk!" Gods, he'd have better luck dueling Uphis with a spoon than jolting the moaning sod from his complaints now. "I almost canceled the orders after the second bell! Didn't know if you were alive or dead, and my good bloody wasted into the bargain."

Oh, you're all heart, Strabo.

"Look, boss, something came up."

The older man just jerked a hand to the black, fly-sodden stains over the sacks being hefted around them. "I can see that. Explain what it was."

But before Nate could launch into his carefully-rehearsed and calculated explanation of why doing a good deed was actually in Strabo's interests, Bryan decided to be useful again.

"He saved some old fella from dying, boss! Like some hero from the fucking stories..."

"What?!"

"Strab, there was a wagon, see, got robbed, and this fella was lying there-"

"Anything left on him?"

"Fuck do you think?!"

"Mind yer tone!"

"Sorry, anyway, he wasn't dead and the sawbones was on our way, so-"

"No, it wasn't-"

"Bryan, see to the cart or by Ruros' balls I'll shove that fucking thing up your cock end!"

That was enough to get Byran working, to be sure, but the street theater hadn't ended for anyone else. The rest of this corner of the Seaside Market was abuzz with this new curio, all neat and whimsical and free for the viewing public. Nate scratched the back of his head and Strabo just folded his arms, rolls of fat hanging under each on wobbling judgmentally.

"So rather than just take what was left and come home, like what you were paid to do, you went and took this guy elsewhere? Took him to a sawbones?"

"Aye, paid with my own money, mind-"

"-and risked my cart into the bargain?"

"Well... I wouldn't say risked-"

"Nate?!"

Not for the first time, Nate felt rather than heard that growl in his guts when this querulous little man took that fucking tone with him. Strabo muscle had long turned to fat and his fiefdom rested on gold and miserly thrift rather than steel and fear... but Nate had to stand it. He didn't wade in the filth anymore, but that meant he had to stand in the light and still get it thrown at him.

Cost of doing a good deed, my boy.

Ah, bollocks it is.


"... yes, Strabo. We did."

"Right." His boss said after a tick or two, scratching out a number on his board and replacing it with a crinkling of his stylus. "You don't get paid for today."

"What?! I did what you-"

"In three hours! Not one, not even two, but three, and you risked my property, my horses, my cart and my business in doing so." He jerked a pudgy thumb behind him, chest stuck out feebly, barely even casting a shadow over his belly. "See that? Didn't build that up by doctoring to the dying nor wasting my time. Now bugger off home for the day, will you? The rest of 'em have it for now."

"But you said-"

"And now I'm saying you can't."

Then he went too far. Strabo took a stop over the line... and closer to Nate. He tilted his head up to stare into those frustrated, dismayed green eyes and pulled the chain just because he felt like it. Just because his balls needed a fondle.

"Now you be a good man and run along, or there won't be any job for you to come back to come the morrow. Don't push me."

Push you? You have no fucking idea what pus-

Count to five. Inhale. Exhale. Peaceful. Calm. What will it solve? What will it gain you, really gain you? No gold, no silver, no copper, nothing for the rent. Ten seconds of satisfaction in exchange for you and Kay and Jorka on the streets.


Hands the size of hams flexed and tightened, then relaxed. Slabs of muscle the size of Strabo's sweaty forehead bunched and trembled. The crowd whispered and the old beggars grinned and nudged each other. Oooooh, they knew that look!

Some of them literally. Faces Nate recognied. Drinking buddies from the old days. Wallflowers and tavern ornaments that always seemed to show up. They knew what he could do to something like Strabo. What they were expecting. Be good to remind them, just to... just to...

Nathaniel pressed his teeth hard together until the molars cracked and ground, then nodded.

With his eyes cast down, like a good man.

"Yes, boss."

++++++++++

It had taken him beating Fat Davey into the Dreamscapes to erase that very public shame, but it was only ever a beaver's dam, not a truly human construction. Every time him mind went back to it, Nate's stomach clenched and his throat seized. His fists trembled and he looked for something to break, anything, anyone.

He stood outside their door and breathed steadily. In... hold it... out. In... hold it... don't make a fist... out... There, much better. The smells from inside prickled his nose and took much of the sting from him. Potatoes in a pot, seasoned with spice and pepper and salt. Jorka's musk of fur and good nature. The sounds, too... labored panting from the hefty guard dog. The click-clunk of Kay's sticks... quite a bit more active than Nate liked-

Then he frowned. Another voice. A male voice. And not an old one, by the sound of it.

The door opened and the two inhabitants would turn to see someone pretty much filling it. He wasn't an Akalak, but Nate was big for a human and had to duck under the beam when he entered their Sunset Quarter lodgings. Green eyes pinned the coiffed and elegant male in their kitchen as so ridiculously out of place he had to blink a dozen times to make sure-

-then Jorka landed on him.

Seventy-five pounds of ecstatic Pitbull crossed the carpet and jumped up at him like he was a fleshy treat to be enjoyed... and her front paws were just long enough to smack him in the balls, too. Nate winced and doubled over faster than he would have usually - thanks again, Davey - but covered it up with a chuckle, bending down to nuzzle and pet the slobbering, gasping creature.

"Someone's in a good mood, eh? Eh? Miss me? Miss Daddy? Miss me enough for kisses?"

"Nate?! What happened?!"

"Nice to see you, too, Kay." Nate said with a wry smile, crossing the distance quickly and shrugging off his jacket, stripping down to his dirty breeches and tank top, muscled arms still sweaty. Why bother hiding anything now? "What every happened to "welcome home"?"

"Nate, don't bugger about," Kay said, managing to swing a hand down to her hip imperiously, even with the other engaged keeping her upright, "Your face. Your arms. What happened? Been fighting again?"

"Trouble at work." He'd had plenty of time to craft this one, and now Bryan wasn't around to interfere. "Wagon got jumped just outside the Docks. Had to swing the ol' stick around-" as an afterthought he unlimbered the mace from his belt and rested it with the umbrella on the mantle "-before they buggered off. Still, got nasty for a few chimes, as you can tell."

"And that's why you're late? This late?"

"I went to the sawbones on Seaside Avenue!" Now Nate's voice was rising in annoyance, only some of it feigned. Ah, weaving truth into the lies. The mark of a champion, and wouldn't he feel like an utter cunt for doing so later on, too. "Ask him, if you want! One of the lads took a knife to the gut! I stayed with him for a while, went for a brew after."

Kay's eyes would have cut through the bullshit and flaying the lie still-beating in the past, but one adapts well to new challenges. Namely, Nate had learned to lie to her face. A stony, sullen mask faced her as she studied him, looking up and up... before sighing.

"I just get worried, boy. You know I do."

I know. And I hate having to lie, but you wouldn't understand, and even if you did, you wouldn't let me do it. But if you didn't, we'd starve, and we'd be homeless, and I won't let that happen.

The tension oozed from his muscles and he gathered the small, warm woman into a bear hug, careful not to bang her legs into his bulging thighs. She snaked one thin arm around his waist and patted his back.

"Not too serious, no?"

"Not at all. Bruises and bumps and a few shallow cuts. Now, Kay..."

Nate's green eyes flashed open as his chin rested on her shoulder. His gaze could have nailed a horse to the wall, and the full measure of his suspicion and territorial maladjustment fell on Matthew's perfectly-sculpted features.

"... who's this bloke in our house?"
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Gray Areas (Matthew)

Postby Matthew on June 3rd, 2014, 8:08 pm

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A moment of curiosity consumed the Harlot as he poured cream into the boiling pot, blue eyes shimmering as he hesitated. Where had the old woman managed to secure what Matthew assumed was a somewhat rare commodity in the slums of Sunberth? It was only a season ago that they had been so very desperate for food. He glanced at her, trying to see beyond the damaged flesh and into the woman underneath. He barely had time to instinctively begin summoning djed to flow to his eyes for a brief moment of Auristics when he was interrupted by the loud noises of a rather large dog bolting across the livingroom. How had he missed that? No wonder the old woman had been utterly confident in her safety. Not only did she have weapons hidden within arms reach, she also had a beast that could probably turn vicious within mere ticks.

Matthew quietly worked as Kay rose to greet their latest guest, a towering mountain of a man. Not quite yet putting the swirling djed within his body to use, Matthew instead opted to merely use his eyes.

Tall. Bulky, but solid bulk. Worn hands. Leathered skin. Sweaty. Bruised. Weapon. Sawbones? Green eyes. Sweaty. Sweaty?

The Harlot blinked, blue eyes flicking over Nate in a mere couple of ticks. He soaked in everything about the man while he continued to work, arm slowly stirring the boiling pot. He lifted the spoon to drip some of the soup onto his fingertip (a trick he had seen Noven do) tasting the liquid and then opting to add just a touch more black pepper. He was going for a specific sort of peppery taste to balance out the savory feel of the potato and cream. He wasn't so sure if that was actually a good idea, but he was about to find out. It probably wasn't polite to experiment with the established recipe of what appeared to be a talented old woman, but he was only making minor little modifications here and there. He tasted it one last time and then nodded slightly to himself, stepping back to watch the scene unfold before him.

Both the Harlot and the Dog briefly crossed stares, but the shared glance didn't linger very long. Apparently the beast didn't see Matthew as a threat, that or it had already sensed that Matthew was a guest of its master. He wasn't so sure. Dogs were painstakingly simple creatures most of the time, which also could make them complex to one who thought about things as much as Matthew always did.

Now Nate was staring at him. Matthew stared back, blue eyes endless and painfully... blank. When his voice spoke it was quite soft, almost feminine in tone while also being quite polite. "Matthew. I normally work as a prostitute, but Miss Kay picked me out of the streets to teach me how to play a particular card game. Would you be interested in playing as well? I am also attempting to make potato soup, if you are hungry. If any of your injuries require any more nursing, I know a little about medicine and would be happy to take a look." The Harlot sounded like such a good little professional. He had gracefully crossed the space between to offer a hand to Nate, steady stare not wavering as he did so.
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Gray Areas (Matthew)

Postby Nathaniel Ankah on June 10th, 2014, 12:44 am

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Too fucking smooth by half.

Polite words and little things details like the benefit of the doubt and basic trust were not things that meant much to Nate. He heard the words and despite their tone and sense, the more he listened, the more he innately trusted this-

Whore. Guy sells his arse for a living. Oh, definitely trustworthy.

But there was a five-foot-four problem in that equation, and it was watching him like a hawk. Kay apparently trusted this interloper, and since it was ultimately her roof he was staying under, Nate would have to make nice and tolerate him. He reached out and closed his hand over the rent boy's, smile on his face that never lit his eyes.

He didn't squeeze or test the other man's strength: the fact that Matthew's hands practically vanished into his grip was enough.

"Well, sure yer welcome here, if Kay thinks so. And I'm fine, thanks: takes a lot to slow me down."

He met the other man's eyes and tried to give him "The Message" that all Sunberth youths seemed to learn by the time they were about yay-high. It was an unusually passive-aggressive trait for such a brash and upfront city, but sometimes a little subtly was necessary. Green eyes bored into the harlot's, hard and cold under the bright, brittle smile of greeting. A few novels worth of warnings and ill-feeling were transmitted from them, Nate refusing to let go of Matthew's hand for juuuuuuust long enough-

I don't trust you. I don't like you. But she does both, apparently, so I'm going to be nice. But put one foot wrong and I'll rip your guts out through your cock end and feed them to-

"Ow?!"

"Nate! Stop that!"

"Stop what, I'm shaking his fucking-OW!"

"Language! And you know what!" Kay bustled him out of the kitchen with surprising alacrity for an ostensibly crippled woman, leaving the hulking Nate nursing his tingling arm. "Gods, you forget I was born in this city too, hmm? Think I don't know The Look when I see it?"

"Kay, look, I-"

"Ah-Ah-Ah! Enough. Set the table... no, actually, Matthew with the soup." She turned from them both and made her way to the table. She was speaking again before Nate's body had even started moving towards her. "I'm fine, boy! Stop fretting and help the man. About time we had some decent company over here for a change..."

Nate's scowl told Matthew exactly what he thought this "company" was, but he bit his tongue for Kay's sake. Instead he rolled up his sleeves and rather unnecessarily cracked his knuckles-

-then winced and swallowed a whimper. Gods. Not a good idea...

"So... what do you need help with?" He said with a glance around the killing fields of potato peelings and cut out eyes and flour and herbs scattered around the kitchen. "I'll warn you, I'm hardly a gore-met when it comes to the kitchen."

He never did learn to pronounce that word properly, but just being in Matthew's proximity seemed to make people try to act more than what they were. Something so poised and noble was like a rose rising from the shit Sunberth was comprised of, and even stolid, reliable Nate Ankah couldn't help but be affected by it.

"So, ah... what game did she teach you? And what were you doing around our end, anyway? Don't... really see much of your type outside of the Gated, y'know?"

He didn't know how Matthew would react to the "your type" comment, whether he'd hear it as a reference to his profession, his looks or his breeding. Frankly, he didn't care.

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Gray Areas (Matthew)

Postby Matthew on June 10th, 2014, 7:12 pm

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Matthew's smile didn't reach his eyes either, perhaps not something that improved his standing in Nate's cold stare. His blue gaze wasn't unfriendly or anything, it was just vacant. It seemed distracted in some way, almost. The smile was a formality and nothing more, just one of those professional smiles that Nate had probably seen a dozen times before. The Harlot did notice the fact that Nate's hand was so very huge, his unblinking stare shifting downwards to curiously peer at the massive piece of five-fingered meat that had engulfed his handshake. What a large man. "The Message" was completely and utterly misunderstood, Matthew's doe-eyed apathetic stare not managing to understand the silent message that was attempting to pass from Nate to him. He merely tilted his head for a moment, a brief flash of curiosity flickering in his eyes. He could tell the man was trying to tell him something with that stare, but he had no idea what. It had become much harder to puzzle out the social nuances behind those special stares as of late.

More noticeable was the fact that the handshake was going on for quite a bit longer than they usually went. Was this another silent message that he was supposed to instinctively understand? His eyes bobbed back down to their hands (though he still couldn't see his), as if he could find a clue in the mixture of fingers and knuckles.

He had no idea. His soup was going to boil over if he didn't let go soon, though.

Ah, Kay to the rescue. He took a defensive step back to allow the oddly speedy woman her way with Nate, giving them a curious series of blinks as they discussed this 'Look'. He'd have to ask about it later. He had recieved it before, though in different ways. Razkar had given it to him with Edreina nearby, but that had been different. How, he didn't know. He just realized that it was a different concept entirely. Soon they had switched their focus back to the soup though, Matthew already having moved over to it and partially scooted the pot off of the heat.

His head partially turned to take in the scowling human, nodding and offering a polite smile at the offer of aid. Fetching a bowl, he lifted the heavy pot with the slim muscles in his arms bulging, slowly pouring a good chunky portion of the stew into the large bowl. Grabbing something that looked sort of like a potato masher, he gestured toward the bowl and handed Nate the tool. "According to the Miss, this will need smashed until it is pureed. Be gentle with the smashing, as I've found out it tends to splash."

He turned back to the rest of the pot and scooped out a small taste of it, doing what he could to figure out if it was properly seasoned or not. Recalling a trick he had performed back several years ago, he took a moment to focus and summon the smallest bit of djef from within his belly It swirled and smoked throughout him, the Harlot reaching in and burning some of it. The world shimmered ever-so-slightly and auras danced into view, Matthew particularly focusing on the aura of the soup. Nate had asked questions though, so he still needed to respond to those. "Crows and Crosses. It is something like dominos, if you have ever played that? I could teach you. I also like chess. Or just about any sort of game with strategy in it, I suppose. As for why I was here, I was exercising and then decided to buy a deck of cards. I wanted to teach someone a few games. What is my type, exactly?"

The sudden question wasn't phrased with anger, just simple curiosity. He genuinely had no idea what exactly the man was alluding to. The fact that he was a prostitute? Wouldn't he have just used that word, then?
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Gray Areas (Matthew)

Postby Nathaniel Ankah on June 10th, 2014, 11:38 pm

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Splendid, now she's got me cooking...

Which, in and of itself, wouldn't have bothered Nate, but he couldn't bring himself to tweak the language to the more accurate "he's got me cooking". Ten chimes in the house and already Pretty Prick was invading his kitchen, charming his pseudo-mother and being so... fucking...

Pleasant. That's the worst part.

Nate swallowed his disdain and concentrated on smashing potatoes, wishing the lumpy little balls were something else. His arms twinged and ached less than a few chimes into it, though. Six rounds... gods, was he really getting old? He could have pissed six rounds a few years ago, banged them out and fought them again and been ready for the next cunt who wanted to step into the ring. But tonight?

Four years of of practice, boy. Fucking lifetime on the streets.

"Er... yeah, sure," he mumbled, latching onto the harlot's words as a distraction. Something about Crows and Crosses? Chess? He snorted without even realizing he'd done it. "That like checkers with... statues, or something?Sounds like your kinda thing..."

Meaning "sounds like the kind of intellectual pomposity your type would go for", and Kay heard the subtext like a mind-reading back. Her head snapped around in a whirl of black hair and narrowed eyes pinned him to the wall. Nate blushed and bent over the suddenly-crucial bowl of potatoes.

That's one. Don't make it to three...

"I, ah... I was always more of a dice man, myself. Y'know, Sixes and Sevens? Tavern wages, that kinda thing..." A new thought struck him. Well, an old one, perhaps, resurfaced with fresh words from an original direction. "Be nice to learn something new, though..."

Then the tentative moment was broken by Matthew's... decidedly non-pointed question. Damn him. Damn him and his reasonableness! If he'd been aggressive, pugnacious, offended, Nate could have worked with that. But when he swung his boulder of a head around, he saw nothing in those flawless blue eyes but an honest, almost childlike curiosity.

Is he daft? He could be. He has to be... simple, maybe.

Nate grunted to himself, not taking his eyes off the harlot. "Simple" didn't mean "stupid", as a wiser man than him once wrote. His mace was pretty damn simple, and look how many problems that had solved for him.

So Nate took his time with this one. He pondered and he thought and finally... a smirk crossed his face.

"Oh, come now," he said, setting down the bowl and moving onto the precious celery that Kay had scrounged together. He'd helped her enough to know she liked it sliced thin, so it mixed well with the thick soup... but not too much. She didn't want to be picking it out of her teeth all the next day, "You're petching wearing the season's rent, mate-"

"Nath-aniel?!"

"Well he is," Nate shot back, but without raising his voice. His face was as calm as Matthew's, but his eyes could have dripped venom. He placed a hand across his bruised stomach and gestured with the cutting knife, gloriously and utterly failing to grasp Matthew's motives. "You come down here from whatever gated, guarded, sweet-smelling ebony tower you live in and come down here... why? Just to mingle? Get a nose full of the shit, see what everyone's complaining about? Your purse could buy this house, probably, but you take a whole day of business from that lady, and then cut into our food, too?"

Nate snorted and tossed the knife down with a clatter, ignoring a red-faced Kay, scarlet with embarrassment aside from the thin, white line of her pressed lips.

Nate looked the harlot up and down like he was an upright rat. Even he knew the man was gorgeous. He could walk into an tavern in Sunberth, in Syliras, probably the whole world, and they'd cue up to take him home. He made Nate feel like the pug he was, and that was without the suspicion rooted in his soul that something so smooth, pretty and smart would be there, of all places.

"Bet no-one ever says that to you. You bat your eyes and rattle off a few smart words and all is forgiven. Don't expect that shite here, boy. Freak show's across town. Fuck know's what your doing here." Then he lumbered past Kay and managed one final barb, turning to her briefly before muttering, just loud enough for him to hear: "Mind the silverware."

"Out!"

Nate was already moving. A half-chime later, Kay was spilling over her apologies and there was the muted, erratic sound of tired limbs smashing into a worn training post in the yard.

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Postby Matthew on June 11th, 2014, 1:48 pm

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Checkers but with statues? Matthew gave a slow nod, finding the comparison agreeable. "Similar, yes. Each piece has different rules of movement though. One type of statue can move diagonally for instance, while another type of statue can move horizontally or vertically. And instead of jumping over a piece to capture it, you merely occupy the space an enemy piece is already in. It is a bit hard at first, but it eventually becomes easy to remember the rules. It just takes repetition to learn, like any other new task." He moved over to a small little cutting station that he had arranged for himself off to the side, working on cutting up some thin little carrots. There were already a mix of carrot, onion and celery in the soup, but that was for seasoning and would soon turn to mush. Apparently Kay liked plenty of solid vegetables in her soup as well, which was why she had instructed him to add a second helping when the stew was close to done. Matthew was learning a lot between this potato soup and Noven's potato soup. He'd be confident enough to come up with his own rendition of the recipe quite soon.

The sudden outburst didn't offend Matthew, only caused even more confusion. The Harlot blinked up from his slow and steady chopping, peering at Nate as the edgy words were spit out. Matthew was simple in a way, smart and complex in others. This sort of interaction most definitely fell on his simple side. He had absolutely no clue what was going on. He didn't live in a tower, nor did he come to this area to get a nose full of fecal matter. Then there was the matter of the house. He couldn't buy the house, that was a silly.

The Harlot spared a glance around the place, silently judging the value of it in his mind. On second thought, perhaps he could.

He didn't need auristics to sense the red-hot anger now glowing from the both of them, but it flared at the edge of his sight anyways. He didn't really focus on their auras, merely kept aware of their existance. Auras were something of a private thing he had always felt, so he tended to avoid the use of the magic when it didn't pertain to his profession. It was the professional thing to do, in his mind. Now Nate was peering him up and down, Matthew slowly turning to face the man, unsure as to what exactly he was being inspected for. There was a hiss, something that sounded like an insult, something that definitely was an insult, and then Nate was gone.

Matthew turned back to the soup, puzzling over the scenario as he worked quietly at his vegetables. Kay was at his side apologizing and he quickly shook his head, explaining that he wasn't insulted at all. If Nate had spoken what was on his mind then there was no reason for him to be offended. Honesty was a good trait, wasn't it?

She hesitated a moment before softly speaking her next words, a certain tender tone to her voice. "He could use a friend. He's always had a... hard time. As long as I've known him, it's like there is something he struggles to prove to each and every person he ever meets, everywhere he goes, and to the world he lives in. It is good he now has someone who can be patient with him."

That caused his chopping hand to pause. He hadn't come here for a friend. He wasn't the sort who had friends, not really. Not that he was opposed to the idea, it was just a slightly foreign concept. He narrowed his eyes ever-so-slightly and glanced over to her, watching as she shuffled back to the game that they still had in progress. She had shifted from shame to this odd color of amusement and gentleness, a subtle change in her aura that he almost hadn't noticed. She hummed as she pondered her next move. "This might take awhile. You should check on him. Don't let him bully you around." Matthew slowly nodded and turned back to the soup, assuming that she had just given him a suggestion. "I might not even be done until you get back in from checking on him." Matthew paused, sighed, and put down the knife.

***

A few chimes later he stepped outside, blue eyes soaking in the sight of the large bear of a man beating away at some sort of post in the ground. He lifted an eyebrow and then spoke, words painfully honest. "Kay told me to come check on you."

Now what? He doubted he could just go back in and then the lady would stop blackmailing him, simple as that. No, there was probably something else he was supposed to do here. "Would you like to go for a run? I don't think she is going to finish our game together until I socialize with you a bit more. Or we could spar, if you are looking to." He offered the last option on a whim, instinctively knowing that Nate was the sort who could probably find comfort in violence. He just lingered and watch, still slightly unsure of his next move. Nate's outburst hadn't changed him though, he was still there with that somewhat blank look on his face and glint of curiosity in his eye.
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Gray Areas (Matthew)

Postby Nathaniel Ankah on June 11th, 2014, 4:58 pm

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A perceptive neighbour could have told the difference. Usually when the big lad next door bashed that weird, arm-and-leg-sprouting post, it was in flurries of staccato impacts or steady, measured punches.

Sometimes there would be cursing, or little barks of victory. Panting, grunting... even the occasional thunk of metal on wood as Nate mixed it up and added his weapons to the routine.

Not that night. That night it puttered and spat in drabs and odd clusters; the trainee sounded exhausted, slowed by weariness. Nate learned within the first few blows that his knuckles simply weren't up to the punishment, not with gloves, and on bare, resin-hardened oak. His limbs were leaden and his blows sluggish; combinations were rudimentadycand one high kick was enough to send him swaying.

Yet srill , on he went, punishing himself. Prideful and foolish, 'twas all it was. Harsh words that accomplished... what? His second mother mortified, his guest offended and their night ruined. Great job, lad. Wonderful way to live up to her expectations.

The fresh sting of his appointment got him gritting his teeth, spurred his fists into a slow, heavy three punch combo, ending with-

-a vicious left elbow that nearly fractured his arm. He went to rub it then heard the choice over his shoulder.

"I'm fine, thank you," Nate spat, "Why don't you go back to making such a good fucking impression?"

Zounds, aren't we just the acme of fucking charm tonight?

Then Matthew laid it out again and Nate sighed, turning to face him. Of course, Kay wouldn't let this lie, and the old girl was more cunning than the two males put together. They would get on, or she would make the suffer. Simple as that.

But he grimaced at the idea of going for a run with Matthew. Gods, it'd be like some old donkey trotting next to a thorough bred. He'd never live it down, and Matthew was pretty enough for people to talk about... well...

Cue Nate awkwardly clearing his throat.

Sparring! Gods, he nearly choked on that idea. Oh, the idea of pounding Matthew into the ground was sure appealing, but the outrage Kay vented at him before would pale in comparison to the scrotum-crushing fury she'd hurl at h if they walked back in with pretty boy looking like a hunk of raw steak.

Then show some restraint. Control. Discipline. Or is that too much for you?

Internal challenge accepted, Nate flexed his shoulders and made a little "come hither" gesture with his fingers, knuckles still purple from the last man they'd pummeled that night.

"Come at me."

Nate flexed his feet and got ready to move. He may not have liked the man, but he didnt doubt he was in shape. He'd fought lean, smooth men like Matthew before, and while they certainly lacked strength, they more than compensated in speed and grace.

In theory, anyway. Still, best not to test it tonight... even with a whore...

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Postby Matthew on June 12th, 2014, 1:42 pm

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This time he caught the sarcasm, if only because Nate was kind enough to add in the curse word to get his sarcastic point across. Matthew had not made a good impression, that was what he was trying to get across.

Ah, but they were going to spar. Matthew could only imagine how this scenario could be used against him. It would certainly be a form of stress-relief for Nate if he decide to use it that way, that was for sure. Blinking a few times and casting a glance behind him, Matthew made sure to quietly and fully close the door he had exited out of in order to protect their little moment from Kay's eyes. He had gotten the impression that she wanted Nate to treat him well, and even the socially awkward Harlot could see how stumbling upon the two of them fighting with each other would go over.

Turning back, Matthew prepared his stance. It was a painfully orthodox and proper little stance, fists loosely held on either side of his face to provide meager protection for his jaw, feet squared with the hips and lightly spread to provide balance and support. He tossed out a few blows with his off-hand, snapping out rapid-fire little jabs that had a healthy amount of speed to them. He remembered words and lessons from long ago, things such as the point of impact, different uses for the jabs and how to smoothly combine blows into neat little combination attacks. His opponent was big and strong, not to mention more skilled than him if his bruises were any indication. Matthew took a few ticks to give the man a critical once-over, medical mind processing all the signs that he had seen earlier. He had been injured in some way, though evidently not life-threatening. He was just dealing with aches and pains. Keeping out of his range, harassing him with blows that targeted those weakened areas... that'd be ideal, wouldn't it?

Just a few days ago, Matthew wouldn't have even dared challenge someone to a spar. He was barely trained and his face was his product, something that had to be protected. Things had changed, though.

Seemingly on impulse, Matthew dropped his stance and just charged. He came in quite low, hands scraping the ground as he bolted forward, waist turning and shoulder aimed for the stomach that had been touched gingerly a few times so far. He tried his best to keep aware of any attacks that would come from above, not so sure if Nate would try to hammer down or try to lower himself to match Matthew's incoming attack. Or perhaps he would just take the blow, muscled as he was. Matthew had a feeling that beating around the bush wouldn't do a thing. Fights had a language of their own. Why not pay Nate the proper respect and speak in his own language?
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