He knows he could have driven, but if there was one thing Quarters learned in the war, it was that a guy shouldn't waste his supplies when he doesn't need them, and all he wants to do is go to the store and get some smokes. The walk is half an hour – an hour total, including the trip back – and not long enough to warrant a trip by car, in his opinion. There are better things to waste gas on, and besides, Quarters likes the walk.
The city isn't the winter wonderland of his boyhood back on the green moon, but its got its own kind of special charm, with the way the snowflakes are illuminated in a glittery halo by the gas streetlamps and how the shops are all decked out with their twinkling, multicolored lights. It's night, and there are very few cars, so all is quiet save for the light crunch of his boots on the sidewalk and the gentle rustling of the wind as it winds through the alleyways, kicking up feathery plumes of freshly-fallen snow.
Yeah, it's different from home, but he can't help but feel nostalgic.
Quarters adjusts his heavy winter coat, wool and green, just like the tailcoat he wears beneath it, the tails pinned up inside to keep from dragging in the slush. He thrusts his hand into his pocket, feeling for his lighter and wallet, just to make sure they're still there. Silly as it is, he wants to light up a cigar as soon as he gets one so he can live the whimsical picture he sees in his head of himself, his tall, intimidating self, walking along the sidewalk while having a smoke and enjoying the delicate flurries.
He chuckles quietly at himself then, because if the other guys knew he though that way, they'd probably shit.
He turns a corner, now just a block away from the smoke shop, and suddenly a new sound drifts towards him as though carried on the breeze. The soft and mellow brass hum of a sax being played by masterclass hands. He sees the source immediately, a guy in a dark suit jacket way down at the opposite corner of the sidewalk.
He's got time, and he plays an instrument himself, the bass violin for his gang's orchestra, so he decides he'll stop and listen. Quarters knows talent, and this guy's got it. The least he can do is be part of the man's small audience, because he's grateful for people like this guy, people who love what they do and love those who'll listen so much that they're willing to stand outside on a curb in the height of winter to play for nothing but smiles.
There is a little gathering of six other people, all standing around the man in a loose ring. Quarters slips up beside a woman holding the mitten-encased hand of her child. And when he sees who the player is, his green eyes suddenly go wide with surprise, because he recognizes the guy.
He's staring into the face of Spades Slick's right-hand man. Except he looks different now; his expression lacks that uptight glare, the one that makes him look stoic yet apt to snap at a moment's notice. He still looks calm now, sure, but it isn't that angry, controlled kind of calm. His face is relaxed as the brassy notes roll from his instrument, his body void of its usual tenseness. Even as his eyes sweep over his tiny crowd and flash with recognition when they fall upon Quarters, he doesn't lose his cool; he looks like he could care less that a rival is around. He is enraptured by his own actions, his fingers as they dance up and down the length of his instrument, the sound of his music as it fills the streets.
He doesn't care.
He is at peace.
One by one, his little assembly begins to fade, the people falling away as they remember they still have gifts to purchase, errands to run, places to go. Eventually, they're all gone and it's just him and Quarters, alone but for the gently swirling wind, snow, and music, because he still doesn't stop playing. Someone is still there, still listening. He doesn't care that it's Quarters. Just as long as someone listens and enjoys, he is happy.
Silent and expressionless as the man he watches, Quarters stays and listens to the Dersite play his tunes until the poor guy runs flat out of songs to perform. Quarters is sad when that little spark of magic transcending all rivalries is burnt up and spent in such a miniscule frame of time. But he knows that's part of what makes such a moment amazing. If that sort of stuff happened all the time, then it wouldn't be so profound and captivating.
The guy's black hat sits propped up against his instrument's rectangular case, it's bottom facing outward, making it like a bowl in which sits a few coins tipped to him by other generous listeners. Quarters take out his leather wallet and flicks in a twenty without a second though. It's a big bill, but he's not going to need it tonight. Not now, anyway.
The other man looks at the bill and stares at him, one brow arched in confusion, as if he can't believe Quarters would give him a tip like that.
Quarters tips his hat and offers the guy a wry smirk. "Just giving credit where it's due."
There is a pause, the stark silence of a shocked man, and then the guy smiles. It's not a big smile, but it speaks volumes anyway.
With that, Quarters gives him a lazy sweep of a salute, and then pivots on his heel back the other way. The way heading towards home.
Smoke shop closes at ten. It is eleven thirty.