Niko at Night

There was nothing “ordinary” about the sanctum, that was for sure. Waking up late in the morning, Niko ran a hand through his silver hair and padded half asleep down the hall to the bathroom, or at least to where the bathroom was last night. Today it was a linen closet. He looked at a large potted plant in the corner thinking to himself ‘well, when you gotta go, you gotta go’ but as he contemplated doing so, Theo burst out of a door he didn’t even remember seeing; her hair and body wrapped in brightly colored, thirsty towels as steam from her shower wafted into the hallway.

“Too slow!” She teased, punching him in the arm. “I used all the hot water.”

“That’s nothing new, Miskja Brat.” He chuckled, letting her pass in the hallway. When he opened the door she had just walked through, it was now again a linen closet. Niko contemplated the plant once more, but a door appeared to the right and he was able to both relieve himself and take a lukewarm shower. It was par for the course with the Sanctum.

He hated the ever-changing decor and locations of things. Going to get a bowl of cereal for breakfast, he found the kitchen on an entirely different floor. That afternoon he and Theo were going to go for a walk and he had to promise in fact to walk, and suddenly where the front door was now they would find steps leading down to a basement they hadn’t known existed. While Theo found it exciting and liked to explore, Niko found the whole experience aggravating. Plus there was so much… clutter; books and artifacts and things that would break if you moved past them at a quick enough pace.

After spelunking in the basement, they headed out with Theo calling the shots. Niko sat on top of a slow moving double decker bus learning the boring history of buildings from an overly excited narrator. He served as a coat rack in every boutique Theo shopped in, holding bags, packages, and trinkets as she shopped. He wore the I Heart New York tee shirt she bought for him, a size smaller than he was. Though he’d claim this was more aerodynamic, truth be told he likes to show off his abs. He even let Theo pick where they would eat that night, some diner she’d seen on TV that involved a lot of singing. It was a whirlwind day filled with walking, touring, busses and subway rides, unless you were a speedster. He much preferred the tour he gave, but he did like seeing her cousin so happy and full of wonder. Then it was back to the sanctum, which seemed genuinely happy itself to welcome Theo back home, the door swinging open as she bounded up the step.

What Niko discovered that night, after making sure Theo was asleep was if he wanted to leave on his own, the Sanctum was kind enough to let him. He took solace in the fact that the Sanctum did seem to be protective of Theo, meaning he was free to explore more open spaces or as open as they get in a city like this. To the best of his knowledge It was wall to wall people, cars and bike messengers.

Within seconds of leaving, he found himself in Washington Square, a vibrant park alive with music and people no matter what time of day or night as it was. It definitely wasn’t what he was looking for, though he did take the split second to stop a pickpocket in progress. He swapped a careless woman’s wallet for a hand full of feminine products she was carrying in her purse. Crime-stopping at its finest.

About the only place he was free to flat out run was down in the subways, but he had to stay mindful of something called the third rail, plus the sleepers under the rails kept him from going flat out balls to the wall fast. He also thought it was funny to pretend to have his foot stuck on the track long enough to see the horrified look on the driver’s face, only to take off at the last second unscathed. He decided Theo didn’t have to know about that game either.

The main problem with being underground was one he hadn’t anticipated. There was a certain odor to the NY underground transit system he couldn’t quite discern. Urine; plenty of that, it was stale and yet acrid, assaulting his nostrils as he ran. The rest he could only describe as ‘city.’ Burning metal, asphalt and hot dog water; it all blended together to make a unique scent that was very urban in nature. The other problem with the subway system was the lighting. With stops every few blocks, his eyes wouldn’t have a chance to adjust to the dark again before being blinded by the harsh lights of a stop. And twice he had to slow down to catch someone standing too close to the yellow line who got caught in the whirlwind he kicked up behind him.

“Whirlwind,” He thought to himself as he ran up the station with the blue sign marked Bleecker St. “Not a bad hero name. Not a very good one either.” Hero names were Theo’s idea. Growing up her favorite game, besides ‘punch Niko in the arm’ was ‘Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver,’ even before their powers set in. “You’re fast and I’m weird!” She’d call as she shook red ribbons in front of her. It was a catchphrase her mother wrote in her journal, told to her by Captain America. Niko would run as fast as he could, which in retrospect was laughingly slow, but many summer days up in their New Hampshire yard were spent on this pretending.

Coming to the top of the steps of the subway entrance, he stopped and took a breath. He wouldn’t call the air fresh, definitely not by New Hampshire standards, but fresher than it had been down in the tunnels. “Backlash?” He said out loud to test it out, then shook his head thinking it sounded decidedly lame. Taking another deep breath of semi-clean air, Niko picked up a ready made sandwich at the Bodega without missing a beat and handed it to the homeless man who liked to sit outside the Tattoo place near ‘home.’ Something flickered overhead, catching his eye. “My night just got more interesting.”

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