Lost in Nachton (invite only)
Kiyoshi was pretty sure he'd already passed the same convenience store three times. Either it was the most convenient convenience store in Nachton or he was completely turned around. He'd gotten directions from a co-worker on how to find a store that would sell him some food he wanted. Kiyoshi was a notoriously picky eater, and he'd been in hog heaven with the deer he and Evan had hunted a few weeks ago. Now that that meat was gone he'd searched online for, and found, a vendor in the city who supplied restaurants with unusual meats. Alligator, ostrich, bison, rabbit, venison, bear... those were just some of the menu items available and Kiyoshi had to admit, game was his favorite. Storebought fish and steaks just weren't the same as something fresher.
The trouble was, the butcher was located out of the way on a side street of an alley off a sidestreet or something crazy, and here in the heart of Nachton his keen senses were as much a detriment as an asset. He could smell everything, everyone. It was dizzying. Every time he thought he caught a whiff of fresh meat it was gone again, overpowered by perfume or cologne or street food.
Trying to follow his nose had gotten him nothing but lost. Normally he wasn't so bad with directions but the city threw him off. In desperation he'd pulled his Nachton mini-map out of his backpack, which was mostly empty in anticipation of carrying plenty of food home. He'd have called Evan but his boyfriend was likely asleep and Kiyo didn't want to wake him. That, and stubborn pride insisted there must be something he could do without going running to his partner for assistance.
So there he stood in the middle of the day in the middle of a fairly busy street somewhere in Nachton. It was grey and overcast and Kiyo was starting to get cold. If he hadn't been so flustered he might have noticed he was holding his map upside down.
He'd been down at the library finishing up some applications for PhD programs. Nikhila had agreed to look them over before he sent them off, maybe the Chief would as well, the more sets of eyes the better as far as Drew was concerned. With any luck he could get into something local or on line, but a lot of the programs he was interested in seemed to be more prevalent out west, back home. Drew, however, wasn't quite ready to go back to the reservation and the middle of no where just yet. Nope, he was learning way too much out in Nachton.
Maybe he'd go home for a visit soon though. He was a little home sick, snow in the desert smelled different than smell in the city and for all the wide open spaces in and around Nachton it just wasn't the same. You couldn't go for days without seeing another person and he missed his family as well.
In all these musings about snow, and home, and schooling Drew had gotten turned around. Usually if he paid very close attention and didn't deviate from a set route he managed, but he hadn't been paying attention. He had no idea where he was. Huh. That could be awkward if it did decide to snow couldn't it?
Pausing to try and get his bearings Drew noticed another man who looked worse off than he was. If his eyes weren't playing tricks on him the guy's map was even upside down. The Boy Scout in Drew took over, and even though he was lost he stopped to see if he could help. And maybe borrow the map a bit as long as he was at it.
"I'm guessing you're not quite where you planed on. Need a hand?"
His smile was friendly, open and relaxed and he'd stopped a reasonable distance away. He didn't want to be pushy or intrusive, just helpful.
"What gave it away?" He looked around himself to see what was out of place, then looked down at himself, and then realized his map was wonky. He blushed a little and carefully turned it right side up with a soft, self-conscious laugh. "Aside from the obvious. Yes, I'm lost."
He moved closer to the younger man, who looked friendly enough. He'd bothered to stop and offer help and that was nice of him. Kiyo showed him the post-it note on the corner of the map where he'd written the address of the butcher down; it wasn't a real street address, just the name of a street and the description of the building. His co-worker hadn't been able to remember all the details.
"Do you know where Water street is?" By this point he'd managed to remember to speak English again; he was not in Brazil, he was in Nachton. "There's a butcher shop I'm trying to find there."
He grinned as the man turned his map the right way around.
"That might have been a tip off, not that I was stalking or staring or anything."
Drew answered in Spanish. It was always nice to hear your language being spoken when you were in a strange place. Between the map and the Spanish Dew had decided that his new acquaintance was either a tourist or new to the city. Either way he had no intention of becoming an indifferent, jaded, big city dweller.
Not even really noticing the change of language he nodded a bit.
"Yeah, more or less. Long street though... ummmm.... let's see...."
Leaning over Drew looked at the address, looked at the map and looked for a street sign. It took a second to figure out where they were.
"We're... here." He pointed to the cross streets on the map. "So it should be pretty easy you just have to go... that way."
With unfailing 'accuracy' Drew pointed in the exact opposite direction. It wasn't intentional or spiteful just a mistake. Of course, he had also forgotten which direction he was going and it seemed to him that that was the way he needed to go as well.
"Mind if I tag along for a bit? I was headed that way myself."
They consulted the map together, and when the other guy pointed off in the direction he thought it was, Kiyo squinted more closely at his map. He wasn't entirely sure that was the right direction; after all, he was decent with a map now that he was paying attention to what he was doing. But the taller man seemed to know the area much better than Kiyo, who hadn't had any idea how long the street was or anything at all. He suffered from a few moments of self doubt and tucked the map away.
"Okay, sure," he said agreeably. "I don't mind company. I'm Kiyoshi."
He never introduced himself with his nickname; that was something he didn't allow many people to use. Evan, Tavi, Guillaume, Gris... huh. That was a longer list than he'd ever had in his life. He started walking in the direction the guy had pointed, a little worried that they seemed to be headed away from the sea when he was fairly certain that Water Street was kind of towards it, but, well, he was already a little turned around and in the midst of the city scents, the tang of salt water wasn't what it should be.
There was a fair list of names that Drew responded too, some were rather quirky and had to do with the teams he'd played on over the years. Only one name was held back and rarely used, few even knew it. Of course, unless you knew the culture no one even knew that and he didn't even thing about it. It wasn't odd to him, it was just the way things had always been.
Cheerfully accepting Kiyoshi's company Drew ambled them off in the direction he was sure they should go.
"So are you visiting Nachton or a recent transplant?"
Plenty of both to go around in a city this size and the upside down map didn't really indicate one way or another. He still had a tendency to stand on street corners with the GPS and maps on his phone scratching his head.
"You look a little familiar...."
Drew squinted a bit at Kiyoshi, something about the guy was ringing a bell but he couldn't place it. Kiyoshi wasn't part of the Pack and he didn't play in the softball leagues, that Drew was sure of he'd remember either of those. Maybe he'd seen him in passing in the Towers, it could be any where really.
He shrugged and decided not to worry about it. It was up to Kiyoshi to decide if they wanted to try and figure it out or not.
As they walked along Drew continued to chat, which was fine with Kiyo. He considered the options Drew gave him and then half shrugged. "Neither, really. I guess it depends on your definition of recent."
He counted back in his head quickly. "I've been here for more than six months."
The statement that he looked familiar wasn't entirely unusual. A little bit, maybe, but in his small competition circle Kiyo was used to being recognized. If this kid had ever watched flairtending on TV (it wasn't on primetime, but they did videotape the competitions and certain channels liked to air them late at night), he might have seen Kiyo. It seemed more realistic that he'd been to Terminus however.
"I compete in flairtending competitions," he said, "and I work at a bar here in Nachton called Terminus. You may have seen me there."
So far they hadn't crossed any boundaries Kiyo considered too personal. What's your name and where do you work seemed innocuous enough for a first time conversation to Kiyo. That and, maybe just maybe he was learning to be a little more relaxed and open. That would have to be thanks to his friends. He would like to lay all the credit with Evan but the others certainly had a hand in that as well. There was no doubt that he was changing, though. The almost-conversation he'd had with his parents on his birthday proved that.
"What about you? Do you live here? Go to school?"
He said with a grin as he frowned at a street sign. Those numbers didn't seem to be going the way he wanted. Or were they not going the way Kyioshi wanted? Either way Drew kept walking, he might turn in a second and try and get his bearings a bit better.
"Well there you go there, you're recent. Welcome to Nachton."
Watch out for wolves and vampires and other things that bite and go bump in the night.
When Kiyoshi explained where Drew probably knew him from he snapped his fingers and his smile broadened in recognition.
"That's it. I've been in there a few times, it is a pretty cool place and you're good. I'm lucky I don't drop the bottle pouring a rum and coke."
OK that wasn't strictly true, he wasn't a total klutz but in comparison it would sure look that way. All in all though Drew was happier sticking to beer, which did not lend itself to tricks like he'd seen Kiyoshi do. That also reminded him he needed to stop by Reign's and check on his most recent batch.
Unfortunately, that also managed to give Drew yet a third point to orient to and made his sense of direction even worse.
"It is sort of home away from home. I work over at Meridian," now a fourth point to orient to, "and I'm working on getting into the next step for school. Just finished up some applications actually."
Drew said brightly and with some pride. He may have taken off more time than he'd planned but he hadn't given up. He was truly looking forward to digging in and getting back to work.
He also paused and discreetly checked his phone's GPS. Yeah, they were off course.
"I think we want to turn here."
By sheer luck this turn was in the right direction. So they weren't as bad as they could be, just not good.
"Thanks," he said when Drew mentioned seeing him before. It felt a little odd to him that people recognized him here and there. He wasn't used to that when outside the bar. Usually he got fired for poor attendance before he could become a familiar face outside of work.
Drew, meanwhile, had moved on to his own workplace in answer to Kiyo's question. Kiyo had no idea what Meridian was, so he just nodded. That Drew was a student was impressive to him. Kiyo regularly felt a little self-conscious for having nothing but a high school diploma under his belt.
"What are you going to go to school for?" He asked curiously. Maybe he could save up some money and take classes online. Evan might be willing to help him with the things he didn't understand. Kiyo had recently bought a book about anthropology to understand what Evan had studied (one of many things, anyway) and he was fascinated.
He had begun to think that maybe he could get a degree, too. He had traveled a lot and he enjoyed visiting new places and learning about the people there. That, his book told him, was basically anthropology.
Drew checked his phone and said they needed to turn. Kiyo was starting to worry a bit. Maybe they should stop and ask for directions? Drew had seemed to know where they were headed, but as they walked along he seemed more and more unsure of himself. Kiyo was hoping to return triumphantly home by the time Evan was up and about; they both had the evening off and Kiyo would have been lying if he said he didn't plan on spending most of it as physically close to his boyfriend as possible before Evan became Evalyn and they went out.
After all he could take the time to make a study of contemporary issues and hopefully use these studies to help not just lead his Pack but his tribe as well. There really was no reason that the reservations should be so poor. There had to be answers other than casinos that would help to fix things. Drew really was excited about looking forward about new approaches and what he might be able to do in a few years, decades, if he took over from his father.
"I know some people think it is a soft science and that I might be doomed to fester in academia but that would be OK too."
It wasn't like he was going to be doing nothing but studding tee pees and cave paintings. That was what most people failed to grasp.
"So what about you? You're not a local, where did you move from? Did you move here for the job?"
Flairtenders were hard to come by, he could only presume that Kiyoshi had been head hunted or otherwise scouted for the position. That was a fascinating thought to Drew. Although he had limited experience in the work force he was used to having to fight like hell for a job.
But he was pretty certain Drew was expressing a preference for macadamia nuts.
Either way he figured he should just smile and nod, since there didn't seem to be an expected response. He walked along trying not to look as dumb as he felt. Drew's words said that whatever it was Kiyo had missed couldn't be half bad, since he would be OK with whatever it was. He wished he'd been a little more diligent in high school English. His keen hearing couldn't help him decipher meaning if he simply didn't understand the words.
Fortunately they moved back onto a more understandable topic. Kiyo could evade details like a pro, so he did that now.
"Here and there," he said. "I was born in Brazil but the competition circuit takes me everywhere."
He shrugged. "I liked Nachton. When I heard of the job at Terminus I jumped on the chance."
It wasn't entirely accurate but it was true enough. "I'm glad I got it. I love working there."
Plenty of the Pack were travelers and could say they were from 'here and there' so the answer didn't seem unusual and Drew didn't push. People had their reasons. Could be Kiyoshi was an army brat, or one of his parents had some government or otherwise high powered job and they moved all the time.
"Brazil? That is cool. I can't say it is on my list of top ten places to go but I wouldn't
mind visiting at some point. Some of it looks fascinating. Nachton must be a lot different for you.â€
Although he though they spoke Portuguese in Brazil. Not that it matter, and it didn't make him doubt Kiyoshi it was just a random thought.
Drew nodded when Kiyoshi mentioned the circuit.
"I have a friend who travels a competition circuit. I think she might be getting a little tired of it. Do you like having a home base? Does that make it easier?â€
The smaller man seemed well pleased with his job and Drew didn't blame him. If he had more time he'd spend more time at Terminus. It was a great place to meet up with folks though and there was always something to do
He would have asked more about the job and Terminus but it was starting to snow, not that he hadn't seen it coming. What was taking Drew by surprise was it wasn't just a few flakes falling gently and melting immediately. It seemed to be thinking about -really- snowing.
"Huh. Can't say I expected that.â€
He said looking up and scanning the sky to try and asses how bad and how long this was going to last. It could just be a flurry, but the more he looked the more Drew doubted that. As he was looking up he absently made a turn, a wrong one.
In fact, although the competition season hadn't begun yet, Kiyo was looking forward to it. There was something to be said for having a boss who was not only your boyfriend, but a licensed pilot as well. Of course, Guillaume was a pilot too, and Kiyo wasn't sure which one of them might be flying out with him, but naturally he hoped it was Evan. It would be fun to fly with him, fun to travel with him. Kiyo was more excited to compete now than ever, because he might get to do so with Evan supporting him.
As they walked, Kiyo was aware of the fact that the weather was changing. The wind had gone from chilly to downright cold with a biting edge to it that had him shivering a bit. The sun had been trying to break through the heavy clouds overhead but it lost the battle. Now it was snowing all around them, big fluffy flakes mixed with bits of ice that clung to everything.
"Me either," Kiyo said, pulling his scarf up to his nose and shoving his gloved hands in his pockets. Fortunately he was warmly dressed; he wasn't used to the cold weather of Nachton so even though it was technically spring time, he was bundled up because it was still chilly.
Drew turned off onto a side street and Kiyo followed, not sure where they were going, if this was the way to the butcher shop or something else. It was a little street with some word down buildings on it. There seemed to be many such streets in Nachton, as if the city had simply been built around (instead of on top of) whatever little town or village had existed here before. Come to think of it, that had probably been the case.
Sadly, turning onto the little street didn't get them any warmer... or make it any less slippery. Instead, it seemed even colder and darker than it had before.
Drew mulled all of this over. At least Kiyoshi had a stable job to back up his competition. That was a huge deal. He knew Reign 's income really depended on winning and a few endorsements. While there were limited endorsements for a pool player he could only imagine it was even worse for a flairtender.
"Can you actually make a living competing or is it something that you do just because you love it?"
Not that he was planing on a change of career path or anything but Drew was rather curious about this and why Kiyoshi would go into such a profession. He didn't know the smaller man well enough to come up with an assumption one way or another and he preferred not to prejudge people.
While the weather had gotten cold enough that drew had fished his gloves out of his bag, thankful that he'd forgotten to take them out he wasn't as adverse to the cold at Kiyoshi seemed to be. Although, he might want that scarf in a second. Or maybe he should find it and offer it to Kiyoshi, especially as the storm seemed to be getting harder by the second and he really wasn't sure where they were right now.
Half looking at Kiyoshi and half looking for some kind of land mark or street sign to orient himself with Drew wasn't watching where he was going and stepped on something slick and cold. Might have been ice or maybe he just caught some snow oddly but he slid a bit and had to work to get his footing.
"Damned. Maybe we took a wrong turn and should double back?"
He had a sudden graving for coffee too, something nice and hot.
Drew, however, failed to double back he turned down another little street, one so narrow it was more of an ally and so old it was still partially cobbled rather than paved with asphalt. He had no idea this part of Nachton existed and found himself fascinated.
He was too modest to point out that he kept winning said competitions. He didn't want to sound like he was bragging. Granted, he hadn't competed with Terminus as his sponsor yet but he would soon, and he'd been practicing some new tricks behind the bar that were above even his usual level of difficulty. Pleasing Evan and Guillaume led him to be bolder and bolder in his pursuit of a win. To stay on top, he was going to have to keep on reaching farther and farther.
Did he love it, though? Kiyo considered that. "I enjoy it," he said. "If you were to win, and keep on winning, I guess you could make a modest living. But really, a regular bartender with a lot of experience could make more than someone who just goes from competition to competition."
It was true; bartenders who had experience and speed on their side could make upwards of 50k a year at the right place, with their tips included of course. Kiyoshi had actually come close to that salary a few times, and now at Terminus, his pay was rather generous. He couldn't see why he wouldn't make that this year.
The snow was falling heavily now, coming down between the buildings. Kiyo followed Drew, mindful of the spot the other man slipped on, avoiding it nimbly. As they turned into a side street barely wide enough to be called a street at all the snow turned into icy hail.
Kiyo glanced down the street and saw one shop that appeared to be open, a dim glow in its windows making it look rather warm and welcoming.
"Let's duck in there," he suggested. "Maybe we can wait out the worst of it?"
In his defense, he was still fairly new to cold weather and storms. Kiyo didn't realize that snow storms tended to last for hours. He thought that perhaps, like rain, they could just dodge the heaviest of it and then be on their way.
Into the store they went. Kiyo was immediately pummeled with an array of strong scents such that he couldn't determine what was what. The shop was crowded with items, dimly lit throughout, and very confusing. He turned to say something to Drew and found himself face to face with a floating human skull.
He gave a surprised little yelp and did a double take, realizing at last that the skull was sitting on a glass dome, mounted on a little round dais of wood. Kiyo blinked, and then realized the store was full of strange curios, oddities, and Victorian era antiques.
"Woah," he said.
It was an odd spot for a shop Drew reflected. Limited foot traffic, and even less driving traffic. No one was ever going to find this guy unless they were specifically looking for him, and maybe not even then. Drew doubted they could wait out the worst of it, but Kiyoshi seemed clod and so he figured they could at least get a little bit war before heading out. Besides it couldn't be that bad, it was just a spring storm right? It would give him a chance to double check his phone's GPS as well.
Drew followed Kyioshi in and promptly sneezed. He couldn't identify all the scents in here, but one of them was dust. Maybe tobacco, maybe mold and old perfume, or dried flowers and some that smelled like fish, fur or animal and formaldehyde and that was only the ones he could identify he knew he was missing them all. What the hell had they walked into?
Looking up sharply at Kiyoshi's yelp he tried to figure out what the problem was. He too was taken aback by the skull, but didn't have quite the same reaction. He looked around and didn't know what to make of half the stuff, stuffed animals, old books, things that put him in mind of Diagon Alley (yes he had read those books) and things that should have probably been in museums.
"Some how I'm guessing they don't have wifi..."
His voice sounded abnormally high, even for him, and somewhat thin and reedy. "Is anyone here?"
There was a rustle in the back of the store, followed by a thunk, a clatter, and a profanity Kiyo had only ever heard in old movies.
"Back here, I'll be right up, make yourself at home."
Kiyo turned to Drew and shrugged. He didn't know about the other guy, but this place was about as far from 'home' as it got. The proprietor was male but that was all he could tell. The voice could have belonged to anyone.
He looked around some more, gingerly poking at a few things. He avoided the skull and the floating something-or-other in the jar next to it. There was a mannequin wearing a very old set of armor a little down the way; Kiyo wandered toward it, moving various interesting things out of his way.
There were some footsteps approaching; Kiyo turned to see a man an inch or two shorter than he was, completely bald on top but with a thick silver beard neatly trimmed. He wore an old-fashioned looking set of spectacles through which he peered at them.
"Oh hello. Come in to get out of the sun have you?"
Kiyo blinked at him and then looked at the door uncertainly. "It's snowing," he said softly.
The man peeked around him, grey eyebrows rising in surprise. "So it is!" he said. "It's still winter, is it?"
Kiyo stared at him for a second. "Sort of. Is it all right if we look around a little?"
The man waved his hands dismissively. "Of course, of course. Let me know if you have any questions. Name's Sam."
Sam turned to look at Drew, as if seeing him for the first time. "Well hello there youngster. You sure are dressed warmly. Aren't you hot?"
Over the shorter man's head, Kiyo looked at Drew and shrugged again.
"It's wild isn't it?"
Drew said in hushed under tones to his companion.
Kiyoshi started poking around a bit and Drew took to staring at what seemed to be a framed puzzle. He jumped noticeably when a little bald man with a beard appeared almost out of no where. He didn't know what to make of the guy who didn't know if it was sunny or spring and who might have crawled out of a hole in the back for all he knew.
He shrugged at the comment, his jacket certainly wasn't suited for a snow storm, spring or other wise, but he pulled off one of his gloves and offered his hand to the guy.
"It might not be my best fashion choice. Interesting place you have here Sam. Been here long?"
From the looks of it, he'd been here forever and then some. It was almost as if the store inventory and all had popped up out of no where.
Sam, meanwhile, smiled at Drew and looked around him. "Oh yes," he said, "I've been here for decades. Sometimes it feels like Nachton just sort of grew up around me."
Kiyo hid his alarm. Did the man just drop a hint about his race, or was he just being somewhat hyper-sensitive because he was currently intimately involved with a vampire? He didn't let it show for once; contrary to popular belief, when he wasn't flustered or being put on the spot Kiyo could hide a thing very well and that included his own reactions.
Would it matter if this guy was a vampire? They were just here to get out of the snow and he seemed harmless. Sure, looks could be deceiving, but he didn't even seem to know what time of year it was.
Kiyo began to check out a large wooden box with a bunch of drawers in it. Curiously, he opened a few drawers but a few wouldn't go. He tugged gently; they were jammed in there. Shame, it would have made a fun box for little trinkets. He glanced at the price tag and found it was four digits long.
Really? For a broken box? No wonder some of this junk looked like it had been here for all those decades.
"You like that, huh?" Same had turned back to Kiyo. "Chinese puzzle box. Not many like it in the world. Have to open things in the right order to get to the center of it."
"Really?" Suddenly Kiyo's interest reached new heights and he turned back to the box. "Do you know how?"
Sam shrugged. "Never could figure it out myself."
Kiyo looked at the box, wide-eyed. "Can I...?"
Sam waved a hand. "Go ahead, give it a shot."
Kiyo was entranced.
"It sure looks like that is just what happened."
He could imagine this area being more central to the city and people come and going. Maybe the merchandise made more sense then. It could have been more trendy or, at least less dusty. It was like this place was almost in a little time warp.
Drew had become rather fascinated with an old silk top hat that looked like something a magician might wear. He was tempted to try it on but his gut told him it was an antique and probably cost more than his paycheck. Gingerly setting it back down where he'd found it Drew ambled over to where Kiyoshi was looking at a box.
A lot more intricate than modern knock offs he'd seen. Kiyoshi seemed rather interested it in, the price tag, however, scared Drew who kept his hands in his pockets.
"Have you played with this sort of thing before? Any idea how to make it work?"
"Have I? No, never. I didn't even know about anything like this. I've read about furniture with false drawers and stuff before but I thought that was just for fiction."
He poked at a drawer and found it slid in instead of pulling out. When it did, a little lever on the side was revealed. He pulled it gently. The drawer above dropped down a bit. Fascinated, Kiyo pushed one or two more things before he got stuck and had to backtrack.
"This is awesome," he said.
He had to try very hard to pull himself away from the box. Very, very hard. Could he justify spending this money on it? Evan didn't ask him to pay rent; he only provided for himself. Food, drinks, those sorts of things. So he had money, for once. He could buy the puzzle box. But it scared him to even think of it. Kiyo didn't buy things like this, he had nothing that couldn't be picked up and packed quickly away.
He let it be.
Straightening up, he looked around the store a bit more, taking in all the oddities around them. Sam, who had disappeared around a corner, returned to squint at him through those old-fashioned spectacles.
"Oh hello there. That's a nice box isn't it? There was a young feller in here a few months ago, looked a lot like yourself now I think about it."
Kiyo raised his eyebrows. Then, carefully turning and leaning back to peer behind Drew he said, "Was it snowing?"
Sam rolled his eyes thoughtfully upward. "You know, It just might have been."
Kiyo sighed softly. Poor Sam.