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Slainte

7/8 2021

2:30pm

 

 

 

Crazy ass mofo...

 

*npc* Paddy...

 

The woman's voice snapped him out of his grouchy face at the stupid piece of equipment,  Blue always snapped him out of his moods... she was like a sister.

 

*npc* You got shit to do.  Stop screwing around with the sink.  I'll get someone on it.

 

Lips pursed, then smooched her on the cheek.  It was quiet always right after the lunch rush; a little bit of a lull before the dinner crowd and all out race to last call.  He needed a nap or some shit, still pretty banged up from his last escapade.  He sported a shiner, bashed knuckles or a bruised jaw more often than he'd like to admit.  Someone getting the drop on him made him pissy.  Granted, he dealt with assholes most of the time and it was rare they had a one-up, it still annoyed him. He was alive though, he'd heal.

 

I'll be in my office trying to be responsible.  Let me know if anything interesting happens.

 

With that, the quirky Pharos employee made his way up the stairs.  Nap maybe.  Responsibilities... nap...  responsibilities, nap.  Aw hell, he'd flip a coin.

 

 

 

 

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The bell chimed as Brandon pulled on the glass door's metal handle.  He had noticed the name emblazoned on the door and the marque of the establishment, Slainte, but paid little attention to it. The fact it was a bar with a beer that could be bought was all he really cared.

 

His eyes glanced around the place and a smile crossed his face as he made his way to the bar. It was just the sort of place he wanted to be in, a place that looked more friendly than the snooty upscaled one his lunch had been spent in. It was the second bar he had been in that day. His lunch was at one that didn't really didn't seem to suit his fancy. The place was too upscale for his less than refined taste and even the fish and chips had an odd seasoning which he left half eaten and even less appreciated. 

 

The whole day had been a loss. Without work for the day his melancholy mood made it's way closer to the surface. He pressed the rolled sleeves of his black button up collard shirt up as he slid onto a stool and rested a palm on the edge of the smooth bar. Breathing in deeply he inhaled the smoke-laden air and eased forward until his forearms rested on the wooden surface. 

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The night shift had been very long, but for her she was thankful she only really needed to heal two people. That made her have a reason to have a lunch out instead of eating in the hospital cafeteria. She never really minded the food there, but anything was always typically better. The only reason she ever ate in the cafeteria was so that she could be close to work as much as possible. Maybe she also felt like she had been a bit over worked. That's why she had decided to go to Slainte for lunch. Maybe have a beer with her food and then head to her apartment.

 

With a push of the door she walked into the building. The door closed behind her as her eyes moved over the bar. It had been a habit to do so every time she walked into a place. It was either to see if there was anyone there that she knew. Most of the time she never recognized anyone, but today would be the exception. She noticed that Brandon was sitting at the bar. Her eyes looked around the place for someone that she wanted to see here, but he was no where to be seen at the moment. She moved over to the bar and sat down at the stool next to Brandon.

 

"Hey you. Long time no see..." she paused for a moment. "How have you been?" She asked the question with a sincere tone to her voice. It had been quite some time since she had seen him and healed him up at the hospital. If there was one thing she mostly remembered from there first interaction was that he had seemed to be a little taken with her. Then her life at work in the hospital and ARMA had gotten rather busy. She seemed to always be busy with life. I need a freaking vacation, she thought silently to herself.

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Coin flipped in his fingers every second or so with a 'ping'....

 

..nap time it issss....

 

He plopped down in his office chair on the second floor, swiping a stack of papers to the side and put the heels of his boots up one at a time onto the desk.  Looooong stretch of arms then fingers intertwined behind his head, leaning back, eyes checking out the closed circuit TV to his left for a quick moment.

 

Empty.... no wait.  One.  Blue could take care of him.

 

Mehbe he should actually be responsible...  heel slid over the stack of papers slightly.  Just bills.  Bills sucked.  Even in the post apocalypse there were fucking bills... his pub tended to be a bit more loosey goosey than his own place.  Projects were meticulous, his bachelor pad was meticulous, this place... meticulous. Except his office.  It was his version of "under the bed".  Nobody ever came in the office anyway.  Well.  Only if they wanted to clean the place, then he got pissed. Things got cleaned, he couldn't frickin find anything.  Stupid cleaning...  moving on... motion on the TV brought his attention back.

 

Well I'll be damned...

 

She always seemed to know when he got roughed up... and she knew the other guy.  Always interested in that gossip... The laugh to himself always was on the border of inside joke or naughty internal monologue. Most of the time a little of both.  It kept him from going completely crazy.  Maybe he already was.

He leaned over... almost  tipping the chair because he refused to take his feet off the desk, picking up the phone to ring once for Blue just before she asked the duo what they wanted to drink.  The bartender picked it up, casting an annoyed glance back at the security camera.

 

*npc*  What?

 

Her answer was snarky.  It was always snarky because she knew he was watching the bar from his office.

 

You tell them I don't want none of them healer kind 'round here unless they order some expensive shit.

 

The chuckle to himself brought a roll of her eyes and a curt smile to the two as she listened to her boss.

 

*npc*  I'm not going to tell them that.  You can get your ass down here and tell them yourself.

 

Awww Blue.  C'mon...

 

*npc*  Yes yes I get it...  you don't want friends to see you got in a fight.  Get your pansy ass down here anyway, you're being a dick.

 

She hung up on him, then turned to the two with a bright smile.

 

*npc*  What can I get ya?

 

The harumph was almost audible, busted lip in a bit of a pout for a moment as he leaned over and opened his personal cooler and pulled out a beer. He'd drink his beer.  Then he'd go down... tipping back the bottle and watching the screen with interest.

 

 

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Brandon’s face lit up as if someone had thrown a switch and the bulb had turned on, “Altheia!’  Most of his teeth could be seen in his broad grin as he stood and offered her the stool next to his, “I’m doing great.”

 

Music from the jukebox began but Brandon could care less, more intent on the woman who had joined him. His arm started to come up as if to give the woman a hug but thought but then thought better of it. The man’s eyes twinkled as he walked back to his seat, “what brings you here?”

 

As he spoke he caught sight of the bartender approaching and smiled listening to her come up, “I’ll take a stout off the tap if you’ve got it and I’ll pay for whatever she wants.”

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As she saw Brandon's face light up it gave her hope that he was doing good. It was hard to tell how people were doing nowadays. For the most part she had a feeling that pretty much everyone was having a rough go of it. She was fair off, but some people had it a lot worse than she did. After she heard his words that confirmed her suspicions she smiled brightly at him. "I'm glad," she replied happily.

 

Her eyes had moved over to the bartender who had answered the phone and was speaking in a hushed tone into the phone. She wondered who was on the other end, but she lightly shrugged her shoulders to herself and then turned her attention back to Brandon. She could hear the music that someone had started and thought that the song sounded familiar, but that was another thing that she didn't have time to keep up with. Work, work, work, she thought. She blinked a few times and then turned her attention again back to Brandon. Man, she thought, my brain is all over the place today.

 

“What brings you here?”

 

The question had her wondering herself why she decided to exactly come into this bar. It had been a close tie between either coming here or going home, but it had been a while since she'd gone out. "I don't really know. I just felt like getting out of the hospital and my apartment. Being in my apartment all the time, aside from the hospital, is getting kind of boring," she replied to him. Granted she didn't really want any kind of danger or trouble to get into. Maybe I should go see a movie, she thought to herself.

 

Her attention was drawn back to the bartender who had hung up the phone and asked them what they wanted. Her eyes flicked over to Brandon for a second as he said he'd pay for her drink. "I think I'll take a Jack and Coke," a small pause before speaking to Brandon once more, "and thanks for the drink." She smiled at him and then back at the bartender, nodding to her as a thanks as well. Her eyes moved back to Brandon. "So what have you been up to? Anything interesting," she asked.

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He physically turned toward the office door at the sound of music, bottle in mid-tip and boots clunking to the floor.

 

What the hell....?  Who the flip fixed that damn thing after he'd yanked the plug? Aw shit... if he heard 'Don't Stop Believin' one more damn time he was going to take an axe to that fucking thing. Thankfully, it wasn't. Blue. It was Blue that fixed it. Dammit.

 

Huff soft, feet went back up and he squinted at the closed-circuit TV.  So they knew each other....  If he'd been in his right mind, he would probably consider this spying.  Aw cripes, it was spying.  The security system was super important, it was never really intended for this but he didn't give two shits... it was kinda like caller ID, swipe left for call ignore... usually it was some crazy byotch that had too much to drink and thought he was her new beau that he had to make himself scarce for.  This was different.... he just, was self conscious???

 

Fuck that.  He was self-conscious about his black eye.  Self. Conscious.  A guy that told jokes so dirty it could make yo mamma blush...  When did this self-conscious shit start?

 

Blue poured Altheia's friend something... not a bad choice.

 

"I don't really know. I just felt like getting out of the hospital and my apartment. Being in my apartment all the time, aside from the hospital, is getting kind of boring"

 

His laugh was audible from the office and down the stairs after Blue hung up on him.  Of all the places she came...  this was one that was never boring.  Jack and Coke.  Jack and Coke?  Bottle finished, it spun in his palm and was placed on his desk to take care of later. He got up and brushed himself off.

 

"Use the Mexican Coke," voice was strong enough to carry down the stairs.

 

He peered in his mirror a moment, rifling his hair forward. Yep.  Shiner. Nasty one too. Busted lip. Nasty as well.  Brick walls and handle bars don't do the body good....  the other guy looked worse. Nothing better than a good all out brawl.  Footsteps were heavy as he 'jaunted' down the stairs.  He hurt in places people shouldn't hurt.

 

*npc* "Only got half a dozen left," Blue called back up.

 

"Then Altheia can only order five more," he stepped off the bottom stair and behind the bar counter.  "Save the good shit for friends."

 

He dragged a stool from the cash register over across the bar from both of them, pouring himself something from the tap.

 

"Try that one," he slid it over to Brandon and then poured one for himself, leaning his forearms on the counter and downing half the mug in one swig.  There wasn't a blink of a care whether or not the guy already had one to finish.  The more the merrier.

 

"So what brings ya'll here besides boredom?"

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Brandon nodded at the bartender as she brought his brew and gave her a quick smile before turning his attention back to the blonde nurse sitting next to him. His smile broadened and he

Listened intently to every word. She had helped him out when he really needed it using her powers to do so and was kind to him, Besides her winning looks, it was enough to win his affection.

 

“Being in my apartment all the time, aside from the hospital, is getting kind of boring.”

 

“I hear you there,” the man replied with a slight chuckle. He played with his glass by lightly tapping the sides as he loosely clasped the base and the edge of his hand rested on the counter. “I can get that way from time to time.”

 

"So what have you been up to? Anything interesting?"

 

“Actually I found some steady work,” Brandon replied with a smile, “the rest I’ll need to fill you in on a….” Brandon’s thoughts were called away not so much by the laughter as by the unusual directions given the bartender regarding the coke.

 

He glanced back over at her admiring her gentle blonde curls and taking in a deep breath before looking back at the man as he purposely brought a seat over to set his himself directly in front of them as if they wanted his company.  Brandon watched as he poured the extra beer he hadn’t ordered.

 

"Try that one"

 

Brandon merely watched as the man poured himself a tall one and then spoke again.

 

"So what brings ya'll here besides boredom?"

 

“Well I had planned to find a great place to kick back and down a few beers,” Brandon began, “thought I might make some new friends, shoot some pool, drop some money in the jukebox and have some great food for dinner,” he hesitated for a moment letting what he said sink in a bit, “but I don’t accept drinks from people who insult women and the rest of what I came here for is the good shit and I save that for friends.”

 

His eyes never left the Boone as he spoke to his friend, “you ready to go Althia?”

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In the back of her mind, even now, she kept wondering if things were going okay at the hospital. It scared her so much to be away from that place for long amounts of time. There were always people getting hurt and there were always people that needed the extra healing care only she could offer. Well shit, that sounded sort of dirty, she thought. Crap, I'm turning into Boone, she thought again and then shook her head slightly at herself.

 

“I can get that way from time to time.”

 

She smiled at his words and nodded in agreement. "I'm sure at some point in their lives everyone has those moments. For me, it's just a little more often than I'd like it to be. I'd love to find something that would tear me and my attention away from the hospital. Some days it really feels like I'm getting burnt out," she said the words as her mind reeled. Maybe I should just go work for ARMA full time, she thought. There were many questions that she had floating around in her head of what she should and shouldn't do with her life. She wanted more to it than there already was.

 

“Actually I found some steady work.”

 

It wasn't too hard to be happy for him. "I'm happy that you found some steady work! I know how hard it can be to find a job you're able to stay at. I've got tons of friends that can't keep their jobs. For various reasons," she said her words right before she heard a laugh. Her head turned in the direction of the stairs and she blinked a few times. After she heard Boone's voice she sighed softly and wondered why he hadn't come down a little before. Her eyes moved back to the direction of the bartender after Boone had spoke and watched as her drink was made. Her head turned back to Brandon as she was curious as to what else he was going to say. It must be important, she thought.

 

Then her eyes shifted back toward the stairs, watching Boone come down then. Another audible sigh came from her lips as she noticed how much of a mess he looked. Always with the getting hurt, she thought. It drove her nuts how much Boone got into trouble. She had already had a long night and morning healing a few people and didn't know if she should or even if he would want her to patch him up.... again.

 

"Save the good shit for friends."

 

Her eyebrows raised slightly at his words. Not friends, she thought, my ass. There was no way in hell he didn't think of her at least as a friend. Not after she saved him from basically bleeding out. Her eyes then narrowed at him before speaking. "We aren't friends?" She asked as her right eyebrow stayed up for a second. "Or is this just you being you?" She had an inkling that maybe Boone had been somehow watching her and Brandon. Her eyes moved around the bar slowly and spotted a camera. And where there's one there's more, she thought.

 

She watched as Boone gave Brandon another beer to try and glanced at the bartender as her drink was placed in front of her. She didn't say a word to the bartender and only nodded as she picked up her drink and took a slow and long drink, downing half of it and then placing it back on the bar. Her head turned back to Brandon as he spoke his last words and she blinked a few times.

 

“You ready to go Altheia?”

 

Ummmmm, she thought to herself, shit what do I do. Her eyes turned back toward Boone and she smiled at him before turning her head back to Brandon. "Oh don't worry, Brandon. Boone can't hurt my feelings," she said before looking back at Boone. When in reality she had a feeling that Boone could certainly hurt her feelings if he wanted to. "We can stay for a little longer or at least until we get kicked out." She said the words as her eyes stayed on Boone. "So what's up with you today? Hiding because you got ruffed up?" She asked Boone the questions before drinking the rest of her drink and setting it back down on the bar.

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Hahahaha…. the eeeeeeevil bitch glare!  He was used to that one, deflecting and ignoring grouchy pants bullshit with his ‘I don’t give two shits about your fucking feelings or propriety’ face was pure talent.

 

“Well I had planned to find a great place to kick back and down a few beers, thought I might make some new friends, shoot some pool, drop some money in the jukebox and have some great food for dinner, but I don’t accept drinks from people who insult women and the rest of what I came here for is the good shit and I save that for friends.”

 

His sudden laugh at the comment was adorable, this guy must have been Irish in a past life... uptipping his own mug as a glance to his shit-kicking bouncer in disguise gave him an invisible signal to chill and not throw them out.  He downed the glass without taking a breath, or a break, or answering the giant elephant in the room and then slid the empty to Blue- who caught it and set it in a sink like it was a regular occurrence.  Which it was.  Not the elephants…  maybe… but whatever.

 

He also didn’t piss alpha, people could stare at him all they wanted… he held up a finger for him to hold the cranky-pants thought, sliding the 2nd glass he’d just offered back and uptipped that too until it was gone.  The second empty glass slid to Blue and he motioned to her to toss the empty coke bottle over, which she did.  He caught it, spinning it in his palm and clinking it on the bar in front of Altheia just as Mr. Sassy Pants finished his huffy “I’ll go someplace else as if Boone really cared" protest.

 

He just needed his teacher glasses and a nice tight bun and ruffle collar for the next few moments of edification. It was a hilarious vision in his head at least.  Completely bypassing the obvious customer dissent because well, he didn’t give two shits, he opened his mouth to speak…

 

"We aren't friends?"

 

…closing it.  A cocked eyebrow flashed at her. He opened his mouth again, then closed it.  Him being him, what was that supposed to- make him mad?  … aw fuck it.  Guilty?  Lesson time.  The laugh came again as she huffed at him.  It was actually the most sincere thing about him, he was always warm. Laughing for him was all he really could do in his life to not go insane and strangle people.  Or punch them in the face....

 

"So what's up with you today? Hiding because you got ruffed up?"

 

He pointed at her, expression playfully quirky, “no.. and we’re not gonna talk about that…”

 

He really didn’t want to talk about how the artifact got away from him even AFTER he got into the brawl.

 

Finger moved back to the empty bottle of Coke.

 

“This…” he picked it up slightly and clinked it back on the bar counter, “is Mexican Coke.  As you know, Mexico, or the ability to get to Mexico or even WANT to go to Mexico because it's zombie-land no longer exists… The ability to bottle this shit, no longer exists. It’s bottled in glass, which preserves the flavor bite, and it's slightly sweeter.  It’s preferred for Jack and Cokes, and rum and Cokes.  You add a spiced rum and it’s arguably better than drunk sex.  There are a half dozen bottles left in the known world.  One of which, you… Altheia, my dear, just drank.  Which means, if you followed the math I mentioned just moments before I poured you a glass of my mama’s Irish beer instead of getting all cranky-pants...”

 

..the playful cranky glare was brief…

 

“…you would know the GOOD shit, is what I just gave both of you.”

 

He tossed the bottle back to Blue.

 

“You… yourself… Altheia, and only Altheia, can order five more.  Half dozen left, minus the one you drank, is five.  There are only five more left in the world, and Blue here will save them for you.  Unless you don’t want them.  In which case I’ll sell them to someone.  For a lot of money ....because I don’t really feel like going back to Mexico.  And I still owe you, so... we're even maybe.””

 

His bartender gave him a bottle of water, which he opened and drank some of, sucking air through his teeth and a quick tongue over his split lip to check if it was bleeding.  Smirk was calm, easy, followed by the laugh that seemed to indicate all the grouchiness was forgiven or at the very least not even cared about in the slightest.  He took another drink of water, brows coming down and annoyed for the first time.  If one didn't know him, he seemed... unstable. Or, just a jerk.

 

“There’s zombies there, and one bit me.”

 

He got up, the stool spinning under his hand before he put it back in its spot.

 

“Anywho, I’ll leave you two to your date.  That beer,” he pointed at the tap he’d poured from.  “is the tap only I give permission to use.  Mama was Irish.  This was her bar, and she made the best beer in the world.  There’s not much of it left and it’s the best shit in the house, only for friends.  But, if you don’t want to be my friends, I get it.  I’m an unapologetic asshole... but at least I'm a dick with great booze.”

 

Eyebrows wiggled.  His phone rang and he flipped it open and put it to his ear, giving Blue instructions to get them anything they wanted on the house as he left them to their date.  He retreated to the jukebox, trying to figure out how to undo what Blue had done to get it running again.  Except he was trying to get it UNrunning.  Break it maybe?

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Brandon watched and Boone began his sarcastic teacher mode and listened carefully but wasn’t too concerned the man would start something.  His head tilted slightly doing his best not to become too annoyed with the arrogance being displayed.

 

“This… is Mexican Coke.  As you know, Mexico, or the ability to get to Mexico or even WANT to go to Mexico because it's zombie-land no longer exists… The ability to bottle this shit, no longer exists. It’s bottled in glass, which preserves the flavor bite, and it's slightly sweeter.  It’s preferred for Jack and Cokes, and rum and Cokes. You add a spiced rum and it’s arguably better than drunk sex. There are a half dozen bottles left in the known world. One of which, you… Altheia, my dear, just drank. Which means, if you followed the math I mentioned just moments before I poured you a glass of my mama’s Irish beer instead of getting all cranky-pants...”

 

In spite of his best efforts Brandon a smile began to play with the edges of his mouth. As he heard the man refer to him as “cranky-pants.” It seemed sort of ironic seeing how cranky the accuser seemed to be himself. Brandon breathed normally allowing the man to make his teaching lesson uninterrupted, from him at least.

 

“…you would know the GOOD shit, is what I just gave both of you.”

 

That wasn’t the point and Brandon knew that much. It was how Boone made his appearance and how he worded things, how he seemed to disrespect Altheia was where he was coming from. The corners of his mouth crept up even more.

 

“You… yourself… Altheia, and only Altheia, can order five more.  Half dozen left, minus the one you drank, is five. There are only five more left in the world, and Blue here will save them for you.  Unless you don’t want them. In which case I’ll sell them to someone. For a lot of money ....because I don’t really feel like going back to Mexico.  And I still owe you, so... we're even maybe.”

 

‘Even?,’ Brandon thought as he listened carefully to the man.

 

There’s zombies there, and one bit me.”

 

The smile on Brandon’s face had grown even further in spite of the schooling from the man on the other side of the bar, ‘seemed to explain things,’ he thought listening to the end of the rant.

 

“Anywho, I’ll leave you two to your date.  That beer,” he pointed at the tap he’d poured from.  “is the tap only I give permission to use. Mama was Irish.  This was her bar, and she made the best beer in the world. There’s not much of it left and it’s the best shit in the house, only for friends.  But, if you don’t want to be my friends, I get it. I’m an unapologetic asshole... but at least I'm a dick with great booze.”

 

Brandon watched him walk away and took in a deep breath and chuckled, “guess I read that wrong.”  He looked over at the blonde woman and smiled, “sorry, thought I was doing the right thing.”

 

He glanced back over at the Boone as he talked on the phone near the jukebox and waved for him to come back over with a smile.

 

“Wonder if we can exchange stories,” Brandon began looking back over at Altheia, “haven’t had any experience with Zombies.”

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Her eyes stayed on Boone pretty much the entire time that he spoke. Her left eyebrow went up as he pointed at her and then her eyes narrowed slightly. When Boone didn't want to tell her something it usually meant that however he had gotten hurt involved some events that she probably shouldn't really know about, but the need and curiosity of wanting to know almost always weighed on her. It wasn't that she wanted to go beat the poop.... like she even could.... out of whoever had done that to him, but maybe she could find a better or safer way for him to do what he does.

 

“No.. and we’re not gonna talk about that…”

 

The sight of him pointing a finger at her made her left eyebrow lift up slightly. "Really? Cause I think we will be," she said as a matter of fact. Oh, she thought, I know we will. Now more than before she knew that she would be cornering him at some point to get him to tell her just what the hell had happened and maybe even heal him a bit. She did not want to see his face like that. Granted some girls thought it was sexy.... she was not one of them. It just made her angry. Her eyes moved to the bottle that he picked up and sat back down before returning to Boone's face.

 

“…you would know the GOOD shit, is what I just gave both of you.”

 

Son of a, she thought, bitch. This was not a good thing. She knew that downing a drink that strong was more than likely going to knock her on her ass and that is not what she wanted right now. Either that or it was going to make her start acting a fool and that was something she extremely did not want to happen in front of Boone or Brandon...... hell even anyone for that matter. A small sigh came from her mouth and then she blinked at Boone.

 

“You… yourself… Altheia, and only Altheia, can order five more."

 

A small laugh came from her lips before she spoke, "You have got to be out of your mind if you think I'm going to drink another one of those. If I do someone is going to have to carry me home and that is not something that I really want happening." Or the fact that someone would probably have to nurse my hangover tomorrow, she thought. There was one thing she was more than determined to have happen in this world and that was to not let anyone besides herself see her throw up. Another sigh came from her lips as she began to feel like it felt it was getting a little hot. She pulled up her hair into a ponytail and leaned her arms against the bar. Oh please do not let me make a fool of myself tonight, she thought.

 

“Anywho, I’ll leave you two to your date."

 

It felt like it took all of her self control to not spurt out the words 'we're not on a date' because it wasn't like it was his business if they were or weren't. I mean, we aren't, she thought. Still, Boone was being so infuriating to her. She almost got up right after that to follow after him, but she sat there and watched him walk away to the jukebox. Altheia closed her eyes slightly and took a deep breath in then let it out slowly before opening her eyes again and turning her head toward Brandon.

 

“Guess I read that wrong.”

 

A slight shrug of her shoulders was the beginning of her reply to his words. "I didn't know Mexican Coke was better than all the rest. ... I tend to not drink too much. Pretty much on call at all times," she said and looked down at the bar for a second before lifting her head back up to look at Blue. "You know what. I think I'll go ahead and take another one of those, thanks," she said softly and then looked back over at Boone. To hell with acting like a crazy dork, she thought, I don't really care at this point.

 

“Haven’t had any experience with Zombies.”

 

Her eyes turned back to Brandon and she smiled. "I don't think I'd ever want to have a run in with zombies. Though.... it would be kind of interesting to find out if I could heal a zombie bite...." she said the words and then her mind started to wonder as she began to sorta zone out. Her eyes blinked a few times and she giggled softly. "Sorry, kinda feeling that drink a little," she said and soon after Blue had placed her second drink down in front of her. She smiled and lifted it, this time taking a small sip instead of taking an enormous gulp like before.

 

 

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Chuckling to himself at both of their crankiness, he tinkered a little on the jukebox.  They alllllllll said they weren’t going to drink any more at some point or another.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow…. but it would happen.

 

He hated this damn thing…

 

Steel toed boot kicked it slightly, the stink-eye toward the two at the bar.  He grumbled like an old man sometimes.  Crap, he just wanted that fucking song out of the thing.  Soft sigh was like the kid that couldn’t come out and play, kicking it again softly with his toe as if to communicate his displeasure with the thing.

 

He hated this machine.

 

Blue’s idea.

 

Blue annoyed him sometimes, but she did remind him to eat.  There was no reason in hell he should be able to survive out in the nowhere, but for some reason when he was surrounded by civilization he got lazy.  Out in the crazy it was keep up or die.  He kept her around because he’d probably die of starvation with the civies… hahaha

 

“Stupid piece of crap,” he mumbled.  He HATED Journey, glancing up as Brandon beckoned him back over.

 

What the fuck was people’s fascination with zombies?  Other than…  well zombie grossness.  He fucking hated zombies.  Like rats.  He hated rats more.

 

He glanced at Altheia with the wary eyes of a puppy trying to be lured to the vet.  He was being drawn back over.

 

Hahaha..  TRAP!

 

Nope. Nope…nope… he wasn’t falling into the ‘I told you so trap’. He should have stayed upstairs, peering behind the player of bad music to see if there was some kind of control to program the songs there.  Nuuuuu of course not.

 

He would have to pass them to get to the stairs up to his office.  Internally he was rolling around like a two year old having a tantrum.  There was no way out of this….  ARGGG

 

“You know what helps with the tipsies?  Bar food,” he chuckled to himself.  “There’s a reason bar food is hearty.  Eat some food before you fall down.  Not everyone is a functional drunk like me.”

 

Wandering back that way, he stayed on the other side of Blue as she did her prep rounds for the impending dinner rush; make sure taps were full, peanuts were stocked. He kind of… helped her, and the eye roll from her was profound.  Keeping busy and responsible and stuff gave him a reason not to look either of them in the eye.  HA!  Then he didn’t have to engage at why his face looked like a great bar fight had taken place… but he could still tell crazy ass stories if they asked.

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“Haven’t had any experience with Zombies.”

 

"I don't think I'd ever want to have a run in with zombies. Though.... it would be kind of interesting to find out if I could heal a zombie bite...."

 

Brandon smiled and chuckled, “I suppose it might seem like morbid curiosity.” He shook his head and looked back over at Boone in time to see him kick the music box.

 

Sorry, kinda feeling that drink a little."

 

He looked back at the blonde he had been smitten with and nodded as he picked up his glass of beer, “from a rum and coke?” Brandon tilted his head slightly and raised an eyebrow before offering a broad smile, “you eat a little and that feeling will go away.”

 

“You know what helps with the tipsies?  Bar food.”

 

Letting his gaze travel over to Boone as he offered his advice Brandon grinned and took another drink from his glass. He glanced over at Altheia with a knowing look then back to Boon as he spoke again.

 

“There’s a reason bar food is hearty.  Eat some food before you fall down. Not everyone is a functional drunk like me.”

 

"There see both of us can't be wrong about that," the man seated at the bar took another sip and swallowed it. Brandon remembered an act of kindness from a woman when he was much younger and on the run and gave a more thoughtful smile. He placed his glass done on the bar before speaking again, “do you have bacstaí?”

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“do you have bacstaí?”

 

His head cocked slightly, the arch of his eyebrow completing the look of a confused puppy for a moment… then the grin, and the murmur of lips trying to figure out just what the fuck he was talking about.  They had a real name, he forgot sometimes the food his mum made wasn’t just potato cake.

 

“Bacstai…?  bacstai… bac-stai… BOXTY?”

 

He clapped his hands together and pointed at the man.

 

“Yes!  YES!”

 

He literally vaulted over the counter.

 

“We need to get someone who can make this stuff…  besides me,” he chirped to Blue, grabbing a towel, wiping his hands and then washing them all proper. “I told you people wanted it.  Bangers… farl…. real bar food, not just that chips and spinach dip crap.”

 

*npc* Dinstinct lack of Irish at the moment to make it to your liking Paddy.  They’re all in Ireland freaking out about Outworlders.

 

Boone didn’t frown often, when he did it was startling.  Puppy to Rottweiler in less than a second.

 

“Ain’t the Irish doin’ that,” he was not happy.  “Some other fucked up shit going on there…  English.  It’s the fucking English.  Can’t fight dragons so they jump onto my fucking island and get all shitty with Outworlders…”

 

The rant continued into the back, pots clanging, random swear words as he lit the griddle.  Face peeked out from around the corner.

 

“How many you want mate?”  he asked Brandon, whose name he didn’t even know at the moment.  Mate.  His name was mate. He pointed at Altheia, spatula in hand.  “You get four.”

 

Not even caring one bit in the slightest she probably had no idea what they even were.

 

“See, if you’d had these that night you stayed at my place…”

 

…the pause was poignant.  Shit.  Um.  Shit.  SHIT!

 

“…because I got shot and called your boss who was a friend of mine and he called you and you came over on a favor and healed me so I didn't get perished and I was the perfect gentleman and let you sleep on the couch.”

 

Pause again, a quick peer around the corner to make sure things were okay as food began to sizzle.

 

“You wouldn’t have had a hangover.”

 

The clack of a mad scientist in the kitchen was bright, he truly enjoyed cooking.

 

"You Irish mate?" he asked Brandon, flipping something that was starting to smell amazing.

 

Distract.  Distract and charm from the fact he probably just totally sent the wrong message about that night.... yikes.  It'd been the first time in a long time he truly thought he would die, smuggling illegally was dangerous... but rarely did someone get the jump on him like that.  He really did owe her a debt he couldn't repay.

 

So he would make... PANCAKES!

 

err... POTATO CAKES!

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Her eyes had been stuck on Boone over at the jukebox. She couldn't for the life of her figure out why he was so angry at a thing that gives so many more people joy. Music was something she'd always loved. Her mother and father would always play anything from opera to classic rock. They had been a very diverse couple and it had leaked from them to her. She could listen to anything and find the joy or beauty in it. Boone, does not seem to think that way, she thought.

 

Brandon was distracting her from her thoughts and her eyes blinked a few times as she looked back at him, hearing him reply. "I suppose so, but curiosity is the best way to acquire knowledge! That's probably why I became a doctor. I'm a very curious person," she said back to him as her eyes stayed on him for a moment before Boone made his way back over to them.

 

“From a rum and coke?”

 

There was a slight nod in toward Brandon. "Yeah. That's what I get for being such a light weight. I'm not too much of a heavy drinker. No where near as much as Boone is," she remembered the night that she had healed him and how he had just right into drinking.

 

"Eat some food before you fall down.  Not everyone is a functional drunk like me.”

 

Eyebrows raised at him as she took another sip of her drink, set it down, and then pointed at Boone. "First of all. Who said that I will be falling down? Second of all. Who said I'll be getting up," she asked the questions with a smile on her face. "Although. I am quite hungry.... I think I forgot to eat today...." she said the last few words with a little bit of disappointment in them. She should know better than to take care of herself as much as possible. Too many people depended on her. Some knew it. Some didn't.

 

“Do you have bacstaí?”

 

Her eyes moved over to Brandon with a questioning look on her face. She had no idea what that was, but she had a gut feeling that Boone probably did. Her eyes moved over to Boone as he had his reaction that she figured he'd have, a smile on her face. Yup, I was right, she thought. "I'm so glad both of you know what that is and have something to bond over," she said, pausing for a second. "I guess the way to a man's heart really is his stomach," she said and giggled softly.

 

At the movement of Boone going over the counter she sat up a bit straighter and looked at him, "If you had spilled my drink....." She eyed him as she spoke and then took another drink. It was so hard not to laugh at Boone as he went on his rant. She looked over at Brandon as Boone asked how many whatever it was that Boone was going to make. Her eyes went back to Boone, "Um.... Okay.... What if I don't want that many," she asked. Him and his thinking that he can just decide things for me, she thought.

 

Oh shit, she thought.... Whoa, okay, things got weird.

 

A very slight blushed was apparent on her cheeks. "I.... I didn't have that bad of a hangover. I mean.... I've had worse hangovers..." she said to him and looked down at the drink that was almost empty in front of her. "Probably will have a worse hangover...."

 

"You Irish mate?"

 

That was a very interesting question, she thought. The only thing she really knew about him was that he was in essence a hero, but there is always more to people. Onions, people are like onions, she thought. "Yeah, are you Irish." she asked as well. Curiosity is coming through loud and clear, she thought.

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Brandon’s head tilted as he saw the man’s antics and the catapult over the bar from his question. He chuckled and shook his head trying his best not to laugh at the man. He glanced over at the blonde sitting next to him and grinned as he muffled the humor that wanted to escape.

 

"I'm so glad both of you know what that is and have something to bond over.”

"I guess the way to a man's heart really is his stomach.”

 

The man nodded as he chuckled, “well we do like to eat but there are other ways to our hearts.” He watched as Boone disappeared into the kitchen and listened to the other man’s banter as he started to cook and the aroma escaped into the bar area.

 

“We need to get someone who can make this stuff…  besides me.”

 

Brandon looked over the Blue and just shook his head, “not sure if that’s necessary, he took a breath in, "there probably isn’t that much demand for potato pancakes.”

 

When the bar owner asked how many he wanted Brandon started to speak and looked over at Altheia and held up four fingers but didn’t get the words out before Boone made his own decision as to how many they would get. He chuckled and looked down for a moment before looking back up, “smells really good.” He saw the woman blush as Boone said she had slept over and hadn’t eaten his pancakes. Brandon chuckled and blushed himself.  He hadn’t thought Altheia lived a chased life finding out she had been with the man and her reaction had brought about even more humored and yet a little uncomfortable.

 

"I.... I didn't have that bad of a hangover. I mean.... I've had worse hangovers..." "Probably will have a worse hangover...."

 

“I got some secrets on that,” Brandon said with a grin trying to distill her discomfort, “but food does help.”

 

"You Irish mate?"

 

"Yeah, are you Irish."

 

The aroma was making his mouth start to water and was taken off guard a little by their question but he quickly, “Tell you what, you come out with those boxties and I’ll let you decide.”

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“No where near as much as Boone is”

 

“I heard that,” he muttered.

 

WHY did people think he was a lush??  …he was a lush.  He was just a functional lush.  Irish and altered seemed to make this AMAZING mix of functional drunk. He was never really drunk, metabolism burned too fast.  He could just keep drinking and hope for the best??

 

"First of all. Who said that I will be falling down? Second of all. Who said I'll be getting up. Although. I am quite hungry.... I think I forgot to eat today...."

 

There were few things that bothered him.  That was one.. errrrrrr two?  Cripes he was an accountant by day, he knew how to frickin’ count and stuff.  Per se…  He hated that phrase, it was a dumb phrase, per se…  moving on.  Two things.  People that took advantage of those that worked their asses off and those that worked their asses off and forgot to eat.

 

So… POTATO CAKES!

 

"I'm so glad both of you know what that is and have something to bond over, I guess the way to a man's heart really is his stomach"

 

“Darn right,” it was matter of fact.

 

“Well we do like to eat but there are other ways to our hearts”

 

His laugh was bright, the air “fist bump” at the man spoke volumes.  Lotsa ways…

 

 "If you had spilled my drink....."

 

“I’d pour you another,” the chide was sing song as he dictated how many potato cakes the world needed.  Everybody needed potato cakes.  “It’s almost as if… I have unlimited access to alcohol…”

 

"Um.... Okay.... What if I don't want that many"

 

“I’ll eat ‘em,” he rubbed his stomach as he cooked.  “Gotta keep my beer belly fluffed somehow.”

 

He reeeeeealllly wanted a cook that could make traditional Irish food.  Blue had been looking, but passively.

 

“Not sure if that’s necessary, there probably isn’t that much demand for potato pancakes.”

 

Eyes flicked to Blue as she continued prepping for the evening crowd. The “pin-up girl” was often mistaken for his girlfriend, but she was very much like a sister.  She didn’t take his shit, and she could throw a punch with the rest of them.  Sometimes, she even rivaled his wit but could do it with a straight face.

 

*npc* There isn’t.

 

She agreed with Brandon, casting Boone a glance with a lick of sarcasm to annoy him.

 

“Traitor.”

 

"I.... I didn't have that bad of a hangover. I mean.... I've had worse hangovers...Probably will have a worse hangover...."

 

“Nah, food during helps.”

 

He glanced out over the counter as he asked her friend if he was kin of sorts. Apparently Altheia didn’t know either. What a curious dude.

 

“I got some secrets on that, but food does help.”

 

He flipped his creations…

 

“Tell you what, you come out with those boxties and I’ll let you decide.”

 

The “humble accountant” chuckled to himself as he plated his masterpieces, totally blasé about grabbing things without a potholder.  To Altheia and Blue, it was normal to see.  To anyone else, the usual reaction was to freak out that he was going to burn himself.  Hell… at first his normal reaction was always to freak out that he was going to burn himself.  Now… picking up a griddle not by the handle was the norm.

 

Silverware. The best cool looking stoneware plates anywhere in the world and they were slid in front of the two with the grace of a master chef… or just someone that worked in a bar all his life. Sliding glasses down the bar was actually a real thing too.

 

He poured himself another beer and sat to dig in.

 

“Do you cook?”

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“I heard that.”

 

"Oh no he heard that," she whispered to herself in a hushed tone and giggled softly. She couldn't help it was the truth. Boone could drink her under the table in a heartbeat. Sometimes she wished she could handle her liquor a little better, but if there was one thing that she was certain of it wouldn't take much to have her feeling awesome and tipsy.

 

“Well we do like to eat but there are other ways to our hearts.”

 

Her eyes looked over at Brandon and she nodded slightly. "You are right about that too..." she stopped talking and blinked a few times. There were many ways. Lots of ways. Too many ways. It had been a while since she had to worry about any of that. Finding someone didn't seem as important as it had been before everything changed. Took too much time. But she couldn't help but feel a sense of loneliness most days. And most days it was pretty much unbearable.

 

“I’d pour you another.”

 

At first she felt like she was going to shake her head, but she didn't because she would have probably made him pour her another. But she had already taken another drink and it was half gone. She wasn't too sure if she should have another drink after this one. Would probably not be the best idea, she thought.

 

“Gotta keep my beer belly fluffed somehow.”

 

What beer belly, she thought to herself. There was no way in hell she was going to open her mouth to make any sort of comment to those words. Nope, she thought, nope nope nope. She sighed softly and looked at Boone, then at Brandon. She was getting too wasted to be here.....

 

The plate slid in front of her and it stopped her in mid thought of wanting to leave. The sound of her grumbling stomach was more than enough to overpower her urge to leave the two boys to hang out. She picked up a fork with her right hand and cut into one of the four potato cakes on her plate. She blew lightly on the food on her fork and put the food in her mouth. It was literally to die for. Her eyes moved between Brandon and Boone, then stayed on Boone. "I'm wondering if the way to a girl's heart might not also be food," she said, then looked down, blushed lightly and smiled. "I mean. These are really freaking good," she said.

 

That feeling of wanting to flee the scene of the bar came back. This whole making a fool of herself was just too much to handle. She couldn't help herself. It was who she was, but that didn't mean she liked it. "I might have to take some cooking lessons," she said softly to herself as she took another bite of the food, feeling slightly better.

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Brandon had glanced in the kitchen to see how Boone was coming along and watched as the pancakes of potatoes plates and threw the griddle around by its hot surface as if it was as cool as cellar cooled tuber. His eyes widened and then his brow furrowed but he didn’t say a word knowing that the world he lived in allowed people to do feats that others could not.

 

His smile broadened and the expression turned to normal as he saw the bar owner emerge with his creations, “look at those beauties.”  

 

Casting a glance at Althea the man gave her a big grin, “hope you’re ready for a masterpiece of flavor.” The smile on his face couldn’t have been bigger as his gaze turned back to the browned potatoes that occupied the plates.

 

"Do you cook?"

 

Brandon’s gaze came back to Boones and his eye twinkled, “I sure wish I could cook but what I manage to do is burn my food though I’m better over an open flame like a campfire.”  

 

"I'm wondering if the way to a girl's heart might not also be food, I mean. These are really freaking good.”

 

Oh great, Branden thought as he watched the woman, lost her already. He just shook his head and chuckled, “most Iris food is amazing.”

 

"I might have to take some cooking lessons."

 

Brandon chuckled as he glanced over at the woman, "I should join you on that."

 

Taking in a deep breath and allowing the smile on his face to become a little wry, “alright," Brandon said as he grabbed his fork and knife, “I said I’d let you decide if I’m Irish or not so here it goes.” Brandon glanced between the three others around and he nodded, "the Resonance is my earliest memory so I’ll have to start there.” The man shook his head as he recalled the ordeal, “I watched a man not ten feet from me change from a human into an elf in an alley.” The man drew in a breath and continued preparing to slice off a piece of the fantastic edibles before him, “evidently I was living on the street and there are no records of my parents.” Brandon slid the tines of his fork into a small portion of a potato pancake, ‘there is one clue I have, just one, a brooch I believe was my mothers.”

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Beer belly…. all dudes had beer bellies in different states of “maturity”.  Hahahaha….  his, was well a little underdeveloped because he went off to god knows where all the time and had to live off power bars, dirt and bugs..   Not really.  Just power bars.  Occasional squirrel.  Moose.  Moose and squirrel.  Meese?

 

Aw fuck it.

 

Brow rose slightly under the guise of being focused and concentrated, he knew she got tipsy quick.  Might need a chaperone home if that’s where she chose to go.  He had a flop spot upstairs, but… man cave.  True man cave. No girls allowed.

 

Food delivered, he just bypassed the silverware and picked one up like a cheeseburger.  They were fried, sorta.. but no greasy paws.

 

“I sure wish I could cook but what I manage to do is burn my food though I’m better over an open flame like a campfire.”

 

“That’s a skill, definitely a hard earned skill.  Major props.”

 

"I'm wondering if the way to a girl's heart might not also be food, I mean. These are really freaking good.”

 

 “Maybe I’ll start a cooking class,” he munched and flicked a quirked glance to Blue.

 

Her perpetual state of annoyance didn’t change.

 

*npc* You’d be awesome.

 

The deadpan delivery of almost everything she said still made him snicker.  He loved her to death.

 

“Hear that?  Accountant.  Builder of fancy pants motorcycles and master chef,” he grabbed a clean dishtowel and tossed it at her playfully.  She was going to clean his clock later hahahaha…. 

 

Then it came.  The explanation that really… reallllllly tested his resolve.  Sure, Altheia sorta knew what he’d been doing before he’d gotten shot when they first met.  BUT, she didn’t really.  Nobody did.  Not Blue, not Bakkhos, not Pharos.  Nobody except his buyers… sellers, err buyers.  No fucking difference.

 

So not Irish and has a fancy toy eh?

 

He smoothly took a long tip of his mug, eyes glancing to Altheia, then to the room.  Place was empty. Good. Not for long though.  Dinner crowd, end of work crowd…

 

Don’t say shit.

 

Don’t say shit.

 

Don’t say shit.

 

Act cool.

 

Boone is cool.

 

Boone is awesome.

 

“Brooch eh?”

 

Mug clunked on the counter and he turned in his stool, both forearms on the counter as he picked apart his second potato cake like a piece of chicken as he ate it.  His interest wasn’t ALLLL bad… c’mon now.  It wasn’t like he was going to clunk the guy over the head, take it and sell it to the highest bidder.  He HAD a REAL job.  Like… taking it and giving it to Pharos.  Neither of them knew that soooo…  fuck it.

 

Nosy it was.

 

"Are we talkin' like cameo hoity toity or like..." his fingers flipped and he made a quiet explosion sound.  "... kaboom kind of thing?"

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Brandon laughed openly seeing Boone pick up a pancake as he did, “you might want to consider a roast beef and cabbage sandwitch with these as the bun.” He was teasing of course but hay if fast food places can do waffles and regular pancakes why not these masterpieces?”

 

“Call it the Boxty and hoof special.” Brandon was on a roll and he had a few others up his sleeve, “take a banger and wrap it one of these like a hot dog bun.

 

“Maybe I’ll start a cooking class.”

 

Brandon’s eyes followed over to the bartender as he chuckled at his words, “I’ll sign up for that if I can learn to make slow cooked corned beef and Boxty.”

 

“Brooch eh?”

 

“Are we talkin’ like cameo hoity toity or like... kaboom kind of thing?

 

“Were talking grandma style round brooch with hoity toity decorative knots around a fake blue stone, supposed to look like a sapphire.” Brandon chuckled to himself at the other man’s curiosity in his keepsake, “no kaboom, costume jewelry I think they called it.”   He drew in a breath as he squared another piece of pancake with his fork tines, “so why are you so interested in my mother’s brooch, it’s not worth anything but sentimental value?”

 

Actually, he had a good idea that people might like to steel the thing, that’s why he was playing down as if it had no value to anyone other than him. He tilted his head and raised an eyebrow at Boone, “you might be even more interested in, why I love Irish food so much if I don’t know for sure I’m Irish?”

 

It was an attempt to get Boone off the trail of the brooch and Brandon was sure the potato pancake maker was already aware of that. Still, it was worth a shot and he was going to take it.

 

He glanced over at Althia and grinned, “Bridget’s kitchen, she sure could feed a hungry boy.”

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