2007-10-26: 99 Problems

Starring:

Niki_icon.gif Jack_icon.gif DL_icon.gif

Summary: If you're havin' girl problems, I feel bad for you son. I got 99 problems, but a bitch ain't one. (Hit me!)

Date It Happened: October 26th, 2007

99 Problems (Hit me!)


Queens, NYC

The alley is dank, narrow, and dimly lit. The only cover from street view is a battered, rusted dumpster that overflows with eons-old garbage. Near where it dead-ends, a bum is snoring with his arm wrapped around an empty bottle and a tattered blanket wrapped around his shoulder.

WHAM! Jack pushes a thin, mean-looking man back against one of the brick walls that closes them both in. "This isn't what you promised me!" he growls, his eyes pinched furiously and his snarl accentuated by the recently stitched cut that widens one side of his mouth by almost an inch.

Unimpressed, the thin man adjusts the lapels of his worn sport coat. His own eyes sparkle dangerously and he pushes Jack right back. "It's what I could get. Take it or leave it. Either way, this is the last time we do business. How dare you put your hands on me?"

The Irishman growls again, but there's a desperate, frustrated edge to it now. He doesn't even try to look happy about it when he palms a large roll of bills to the thin man in exchange for a flat, rectangular cardboard box with no markings on the outside. "Take it and get the hell out of here."

The thin man does exactly that, but not before flipping Jack the bird.

Some days, it seems like you should have just stayed home in bed rather than venture into the big, dirty, loud world. Niki is having one of those days. Once upon a time - that is, this morning - she looked ready to face the day, but the facade has long since started to crumble; even still, bits and pieces chip away. The lovely waves in her blonde hair, now just weakly tousled; her make-up transparent, eyeliner smudged. A dark red sweater, long like a coat, is pulled tight around her.

Niki is having a battle all her own as her slow footsteps approach the mouth of the alley - she can hear the conflict going in the shadows, and there's something about one of the voices that seems… familiar — but it's not enough to make her stop. It's not enough to make her … care, like usual. But the wave of dizziness that hits her is, and she reaches for the corner of the building that makes up the left wall of the alley, just as that thin, mean man is getting the hell out of there. She's an effectively awkward roadblock as she reels, for someone so slender.

At first Jack doesn't notice. He's too busy ripping into his package, despite his obvious show of displeasure. One by one, he extracts pill bottles and syringes of various sizes and descriptions, briefly inspects each, then tucks them into one of his suit pockets. Some labels are in English, but more are in German, and there are even a few in Russian, Dutch, and others that aren't so easy to identify. When Jack locates the syringe he's actually looking for, the wounded side of his mouth twitches up into a feral grin. It reads 'MORPHIUM' in bold red letters. He pulls the protective plastic cover from the needle with his teeth and is already rolling up his sleeve when he notices the potential collision between Niki and the thin man. Groan.

The unsavory, gaunt man doesn't seem bothered in the least by Niki's arrival. He smiles slyly and reaches up to stroke his chin with exaggerated thoughtfulness. "My, my," he murmurs, taking a step closer. "You're tall. So much leg." There's no mistaking the crude, lecherous expression on his face as he sizes her up from nose to toes.

Niki stumbles back before she collides with the guy, bits of stray gravel crunching under her black boots as she tries to swiftly backpedal away. Once she has, albeit not very far, it takes her a few seconds (too long) to gauge him, slightly glassy blue eyes having trouble focusing — but there's no mistaking the lechery in his voice. She doesn't take her eyes off him— thus, Jack nearby? Completely missed. Her chin tips up, defiant. "Get out of my way," she warns in a low voice.

On the verge of pricking the syringe's needle into his arm, Jack hesitates. This is a woman he knows. One he's helped, or tried to. Talked to. Thrown out his bar. A part of him screams that it's too much attention. Too much risk of being identified at too unsafe a time.

This is a woman Jack has fought with. It's someone he believes he understands.

The Irishman gives his head a brisk, short shake, then straightens his body and creeps very, very slowly toward the thin man's exposed back with his hypodermic needle raised like a knife. When he steps into Niki's line of sight, he lifts a finger to his lips and makes a silent 'shhhhh' gesture, along with a brief motion indicating that she should hold still.

The thin man isn't going to make that easy, though. Grossly oversexual and completely unafraid, he sidles forward another step, breaking the boundaries of personal space and allowing his eyes to linger meaningfully on Niki's chest. "That's no way for a lady to act," he hisses, reaching for her arm.

Niki's eyes widen a touch in surprise, and with a hint of instinctive fear - not at the man in front of her, although it could easily be interpreted as such - but at Jack brandishing the hypodermic needle. She follows his cue, holding still … sort of. She tries to jerk her arm away when the man makes a grab for it, but her feet stay planted on the ground… maybe not firmly, or even steadily, but planted. "Don't touch me," she hisses through her teeth and glowers darkly.

"You're a bold one aren't you?" The thin man observes with a mix of annoyance and admiration. Though he's shorter than Niki and even bulks less, he's a man accustomed to getting what he wants with relatively little effort or complaint. An unsavory appearance with often do that. Growing angry now, he takes a final step that nearly puts his nose to nose with the blond woman.

That's when Jack pounces, sinking his hypodermic needle into the crook where the thin man's shoulder and neck meet. In the span of a few heartbeats he has the plunger fully depressed, injecting a surgical-grade dose of morphine directly into the man's carotid artery. Still, he clings to the thin man from behind, pinning his arms and preventing him from him from lashing out. "Hi," he mutters to Niki, his face partially obscured by the enormous syringe that's still sticking from the thin man's neck. "Long time no see."

The blonde stands perfectly still, staring down the man with obvious disgust dripping from her every feature. The only sign of fear is her heavy breathing, but then, it's hard to say if that's borne of panic at all. When the lech is stabbed, her slightly bleary eyes lose their dark glare and shoot to Jack. "Yeah…" she breathes out, sidestepping inelegantly into the alley, flattening against the wall as if she's not sure where, or if, the guy Irishman holds is going to drop. "What is…" she nods weakly to the syringe jutting out of the man's neck. "What is that?"

Jack cranes his head around so he can closely observe the thin man's facial expressions. When it's obvious that he's lost consciousness, Jack yanks the syringe out and casually lets him drop to the ground in a boneless heap, pushing him away slightly at the same time so he doesn't land on anyone's feet. "It's morphine," he answers. "Which isn't what I wanted." Frustrated both at having gotten the improper drugs, and at having wasted them on someone else, he boots the thin man heartily in the ribs. "You okay?"

Niki's arms wrap around herself once more, even tighter an embrace that rounds and slouches her shoulders. "I could've taken care of him," she answers, despite the fact that she looks like a mess. She's unfortunately well-suited to the dingy alley and its drug deals tonight. "…but thank you."

Jack give the thin man one more thumping kick to the ribs, grunting and gasping with effort. He glares downward for a moment, huffing and puffing, seemingly on the verge of continuing. Niki's statement is an opportune distraction. "Huh? Oh. Well… I imagine you could've." He looks her over, but unlike his unconscious business partner his gaze is carefully considering and wary. "It was my mess to clean up, though," he finishes.

This would be where a sane person leaves the sketchy alley with the violent Irishman who happens to have giant syringes of morphine and the unconscious lowlife. Unfortunately, Niki's determined efforts to be sane aren't exactly leading to the most sane of choices these days. "Actually," she starts to admit, unfurling one arm to help her slide down the wall unsteadily until she meets the cold, hard ground. "I'm … not sure I could've."

Concerned, Jack kneels unsteadily in front of Niki and sneaks a peek at her face. Slowly, careful to avoid any sudden or threatening movements, he places two fingers under her chin and pushes her head back so he can peer clinically into her eyes for signs of concussion from a blow he may have missed. "No offense, but you look like hell. You sure you're okay?"

The blonde's head is weak under Jack's check-up, and as soon as her chin is tipped up it lolls to the side like a doll's. There's not a scratch on the woman. Niki is not suffering from a concussion or any other trauma— at least not of the violent variety. Her biochemistry's a whole other story, however. "No," Niki answers in thick voice. Where else to be honest, if not a sketchy alley with a near stranger who seems to provoke that breed of honesty. She looks past Jack, at first, distant before blurry vision suddenly finds him right there. "'M tired of everyone asking that. Every day. Every day someone asks me if I'm okay."

With gentleness that's uncommon for one who's usually so violent and impulsive, Jack pushes a few stray strands of hair back from Niki's face and frowns. He tips her head this way and that, wishing to God he had a flashlight as he lifts first one eyelid, then the other. "That's because you're not," he replies blandly. "Hey. HEY. Don't pass out. This is a bad place to take ill." He glances over at the motionless, probably-alive form of the collapsed thin man. "Obviously." He draws a shuddering breath, exhales, and pulls something from within his coat. Unlike the pill bottles and syringes he just purchased, these two injectors are shaped in the style of EpiPens. They're both hermetically sealed and stenciled with a laundry list of warning labels, all in foreign languages. "Can you get on your feet?" he asks. "I could maybe carry you, but honestly, we're not that cozy yet."

"What's…" Niki starts to ask when she sees the injectors, but seems to forget what she's asking a moment later She leans her head back until it hits the wall with a soft thud, closing her eyes. Her hair is pinned against it, some of it caught above her head in loops and tangles. "I just need a minute."

Jack lets out a soft, snorting laugh as he strips the wrapping from both injectors with his teeth. He shakes his head and spits the plastic out with an audible 'PTOOH'. "These are for me," he explains. "You can have one if you want, though. Trust me, this stuff'll light a fire under your ass."

By way of demonstration, he pops the safety cap from one of the injectors with his thumb, then stabs it into the meat of his upper thigh and pushes the thumb trigger. There's a quiet hiss as atrophine, morphine, epinephrine, and a cocktail of other ingredients are administered directly into the muscle.

Jack's eyes immediately squint shut and a shiver runs from the back of his neck to the base of his spine, then extends down his arms and legs. When he blinks his vision back into focus, his pupils are so fully dilated that the gray of his eyes is barely visible. "G-G-God. Wow. W-wow," he stutters and gasps in a ragged breath.

Niki attempts to sit up a little straighter, squeezing her eyes shut tightly and trying to focus - but she's still bleary-eyed when she stares at Jack. "Wh-what the hell?" she wonders outloud in her shaky voice, a little wary of whatever Jack's doing to his system. "I'm good to go," she says, flattening both palms against the wall, covering bits and pieces of graffiti. Up and at 'em. It's an unsteady process, but she manages without help, which she waves off.

Jack carefully considers the second injector, and for a moment he seems on the verge of using it as well. In the end he palms it with with a sudden clench of his fist, then crams it back into an inner pocket. He stands as well, purposely not looking at Niki and stuffing both hands into the pockets of his slacks. The recoiling, the questioning, the aversion, they're all something he's seen before and grown accustomed to. That doesn't mean he has to enjoy it, though. "Where are you headed?" he asks, arching an eyebrow. "If you don't want my help, at least let me walk you until you get your breath back."

At first, she has no answer for Jack. Niki steps over the form of the unconscious man; one, two, done. Out on the sidewalk, she hangs her head, pale hair tumbling ahead to obscure her face. She too tucks her hands into her pockets — the deep, comfortable pockets of her sweater jacket. There's a small rattle from within as she does so. Regarding Jack with a lackluster stare over one shoulder, her answer comes as a wistful little contrast. "Home." A glance in the direction she was headed in before this interlude. "It's not far. You can walk with me…" Pause. "Please."

"Happy to," Jack replies easily, as if Niki hadn't just interrupted a drug deal, gotten assaulted, and then was subsequently rescued by a friendly addict. "You just lead the way and let me know if you need a pause. I'll keep an eye on you and make sure you get home safe." He doesn't reach out to her. Doesn't even look at her. He just keeps striding along with his hands in his pockets, though he half-hitches a step when he solemnly adds, "Promise."

Once she's on the move again, Niki seems to be okay — that is, using a loose definition of the term. Neither of them is particularly okay, after all. Everything she's feeling that makes her want to slow down or stop altogether, she toughs out. She manages a weak smile of gratitude for Jack - forcing it, even though it's sincere - but finds that he's not looking anyway. Shoving her hands deeper into her pockets, she watches the sidewalk. It's not that far, like she said — several minutes, at best. Just enough time for the neighbourhood to transform into an area that looks less sketchy. Less dangerous. Of course, nothing is as it seems.

Jack doesn't notice Niki's tired smile. He's not looking at her, not making eye contact. Partially lost in thought and partially keeping his promise to watch her back on the way home, he has little brainpower available for other pursuits in his drug-laced state. He does glance at her at one point, but briefly, and only to assure himself that she's still on her feet and not about to pass out again. Still, the silence drags. "So…" he begins awkwardly. "Haven't really seen you since you shot up my pub. How's your son?"

"He's great," Niki answers, and there's a flicker of life in her words for once, but it quickly dies. There's a hitch in her step, a fumble, but she evens out her pace to match the spinning world and she's fine. "I almost went to see you, once." Hey, irony: "But I just… wound up… getting into a fight. In an alley," she says flatly. Guess that's her new thing, getting into trouble in skeevy alleys with strange men only to be 'saved' by another strange man. Watching the sidewalk dully, she almost misses her address. "This is me."

Could have something to do with the fact that he's here… another night… alone. Frowning, the great black man that's known as D.L. Hawkins is tired of waiting for the wife to make it back inside. Or back home, even, for that matter. He's pushing up off the chair he's been sitting in for a couple hours and slides across the floor to get to the closet, where he yanks open the door and snatches out his jacket. This, of course, is thrown on his shoulders and he's reaching to yank open the front door. Facial Expression: Frustrated Husband. of Doom.

"Steady on, lass," Jack urges Niki, laying a hand on her elbow to guide her toward the door. "Need anything while I'm here? I could… Uh… Call someone for you?" He winces and shrugs. The urge to assist is there, it's his social skills that are lacking. "Maybe order you in a hot meal or something? You look like you could use…" he trails off when someone makes an appearance from inside the house. Someone angry.

Jack glances in Niki's direction, hands still in his pockets and his face still drawn and expressionless. "Who's he?" he asks, giving his head a minute jerk to indicate the new arrival. There's a hint of suspicion in his voice, and one eyebrow slides upward appraisingly as he shifts his gaze back toward the door.

Niki forces another scarce smile. Her efforts only make it look sad. "Walking me home was good of you, Jack. That's— enough. Thank you." She doesn't notice D.L. emerging from the door until Jack says 'who's he?', and even then, it's a delayed reaction for the woman whose world is a little off-center with reality at the moment. Looking up so suddenly at the same time as she starts to makes her way to the steps causes her to nearly trip— "That's my—" And she steadies herself by grabbing Jack's forearm. There's hardly any strength in that grip of hers, curiously.

"Husband." D.L. feels the need to finish the sentence, even if he's not going to finish closing the door behind him. His eyes are probably harboring the same suspicion that Jack's tone has, but that's what happens when two badass males are around the same blonde chick. Eyes narrowed, he's already stepping forward with more speed than he was using before, reaching out for his wide. "Who're you?" Yeah, D.L.'s tone is accusing but he has a good reason, considering how hot Niki is and her tendency to… well… get him shot when she goes out. "What happened?" That last question is to either of the non-black ones.

Spectacularly unimpressed, Jack offers Niki his arm for support, at the same time holding his other hand out to block D.L.'s advance with an open palm. "Stop," he orders shortly. "I'm the guy who just got her home safely. To me, it looks like she don't want to see you. Why don't you piss off?" The brash statement is punctuated with his best glare, and his hand remains out, effectively blocking the way. The painkillers and artificial adrenaline coursing through his veins are pushing him to recklessness. Beyond simple defending Niki as he promised, now there's a wild shimmer to his eyes that has nothing to do with her honor or safety.

As soon as her husband is there (which seems like instantly) the aforementioned blonde chick makes a well-meaning attempt to replace Jack - she all but falls toward D.L., but he's being blocked, and she's hit by a wave of dizziness. Niki is suddenly not sure what the hell is going on, caught in-between. She catches that wild look in Jack's eye, though. Letting go of him seems, all of a sudden, like an excellent idea and a terrible one all at once. She holds on tighter and reels slightly, pale and dark-eyed, but promptly lets go and steps away. "What… nothing … happened. Jack…"

Breathe. That's a good word for the moment that D.L. needs to actually try and pay attention to. Which he's doing. All but ignoring whatever the hell Niki's trying to ramble out to save this Irish Bedwetter, D.L. keeps on with the stepping up, not really caring about the hand that's trying to block him from sliding in closer. "Look. I don't know who you are, jack." Coincidental slang-name-combo. "But you got my wife home safely. And I'll thank you for that if I have to. But your My First Good Samaritan Badge work is done now. Run along." Eyes are narrowing. "Before I forget that I'm letting you slide."

"Letting me slide?" The extra inch of smile that's been freshly cut and stitched into one side of Jack's face twitches ominously. Niki is forgotten entirely as he pushes forward until he's eye to eye with D.L.. "Mind your manner, black-in-the-box. You should be thanking me and then getting the hell out of my face. You're too pretty to be scary, anyway." The Irishman draws himself to his full 6'4" and squares his shoulders. Then, very meaningfully, he prods the aggravating upstart in the shoulder with two fingers.

If she didn't have so many meds coursing through her system doing battle with one another - if she was her normal self - Niki would do something. Anything. Clear the air, clarify get between the men with her superhuman strength. Now, she can only try. "No, there's been… a misunderstanding," is all she can manage to say. The shake of her head is more adamant than her flat, distant voice, but she tries, while all but falling toward D.L.'s side. She holds onto his shoulder with both hands — for support, but also to urge him back.

D.L. is trying his hardest to keep his cool. Which, well, with Niki right there… is kind of hard. She's all close and on his shoulder and watching this dude talk to him like he's nobody. This is almost like Slavery: Redux or something. Except, not really. "In the house." comes the voice of Husbandy D.L., as he tries to pull rank on the drug-addicted chica and push her towards the house. His eyes never leave Jack, though. Not for one moment. "Walk away, Boondocks Ain't. Just walk away."

Jack shakes his head slowly from side to side and reaches up to scratch the stitched left side of his mouth without breaking eye contact. "Me? Leave? I think not," he says evenly. "Not until you set a good example for your son and apologize to me for being a giant douchebag."

He doesn't twitch, or blink, or crack a smile. He just stares as he pulls a cigarette and a stick match from his coat pocket, plugs the butt between his thin, cracked lips, and lights up.

Even in her addled state, Niki experiences some measure of affronted surprise when D.L. tries to push her away and orders her inside. She does back up, fingers trailing off his shoulder and falling. She gapes at the two men from the sidelines, looking like she may be ill any moment, but she's not going anywhere. Not yet. "Jack!" Thanks but go away now?

"Fair enough." And there is nothing else that's going to be said from the D.L. of Hawkins. There is, however, the clenching of his fist and the sudden uprising that happens as he brings it up and leans into a punch for the lit-up cigaretted face of the Jack that's been pushing his buttons ever since dragging the Niki home. He, well, doesn't have the best of tempers.

Jack turns his head slightly, allowing the blow to breeze harmlessly by his face. With his cigarette still clenched between his teeth, he snaps his head back around to smile blandly at his attacker, taking a long draw from his non-filter. He exhales a cloud of smoke into D.L.'s eyes and nose as he clasps his hands together behind his back in a loose imitation of the military's at-ease posture. "Once more," he urges. "With feeling."

Niki has enough initiative to throw a look toward the house. The door's open, she can't see anyone there. She just hopes Micah or Cam aren't watching. Whipping her head back around, untidy blonde locks flying, she just catches sight of D.L. throwing a punch. "You don't have to do this!" She knows her peacekeeping attempts are falling on deaf ears. Speaking of falling… this medicated ex-stripper is not feeling too hot. In the midst of everything, she puts a hand to her head and carefully lets herself sink onto the walkway's cement.

It's like a prelude to an episode of COPS.

Anger. That's the only thing in D.L.'s eyes at the moment. And since there's going to be a little bit of something left over after this, like say the police, D.L. has decided to not pull punches anymore. And so, he has even growled a little bit at the fast talking bastard. Fueled on by the smoke in the face, here comes D.L. with 1-2-1 combination that is primed for a couple body shots and maybe, if he's lucky, a hook to knock cigarettes free from smirking mouths of doom.

Jack sways easily around the first 1-2, but the final blow clips him across the jaw and sends the cigarette spiraling out of his mouth and into the street. He licks his lips, then dabs at fresh blood with his fingertips. "Mmmhmm. Don't lead with your shoulder, though. We call that 'telegraphing your punches.'" He pinches all five fingers of one hand into a point that looks a little like a bird beak and lashes out at the cluster of nerves just to the right of D.L. windpipe.

Bad News Bears. Maybe he's thrown off by the fact that he's being attacked by some sort of Irish Ninjaconda, but the fact of the matter is that D.L. promptly dodges right into the fingers headed for his windpipe. And that puts him at an extreme disadvantage, because he's NOT REALLY BREATHING at the moment. The smoke was bad, but this is just ridiculous. This is going to take him a second to recover. And that's, well, probably all the time NinJack needs!

With both hands gripping his lapels, Jack pulls sharply downward until his neck and his broad shoulders pop audibly. He rounds on choking opponent and draws his hand back again, this time with his fingers straightened into a blade.

The expected blow never falls. Jack shakes his head slowly and lets out a disappointed snort. He reaches out, lays his open hand against D.L.'s forehead, and pushes.

Propping herself up heavily with one palm pressed into the ground, Niki kicks a leg out along the walkway - knees bent, tucked to one side - and tries, frantically, to get up. Be of some use. "Nnh!" she lets out a muffled sound of frustration, setting her jaw hard for a second before she's left to just watch, helpless and … fading. One too many drug interactions, Ms. Sanders. Shoulda been more careful and less desperate.

There's not really much that D.L. is going to be able to do at this moment… except fall. Which is what he does. He's finally starting to catch his breath, just as his back smacks into the ground and he grunts with a new pain. Normally, if he was on his feet, he would be mounting some sort counter attack or something. Instead, though, the black housewif— husband writhes a bit on the ground to get the air back into his lungs in a more full manner. "Son of a …"

Jack lifts one pointed dress shoe and pantomimes booting D.L. in the ribs. "I don't warn lightly, and never twice. Don't ever talk about my mother. And learn how to fight before you act like a dick to strangers." He puffs out a disgusted breath, shakes his head again, and turns his back to offer his hand to Niki. "You okay, lady?" he asks, as if he didn't just flatback her husband. "Let's get you inside."

Niki looks at the hand. She looks at Jack. She looks past him, at D.L., and promptly back up again. Her expression is a dark one, bordering on threatening, even though she's anything but dangerous right now. "I appreciate you helping me out," the woman says with effort to make every word clear, "But get off my property."

One moment, D.L. is on the ground. The next moment, D.L. is sinking into the ground. He's gone Swayze and taken to fleeing this particular scene for the record. Or at least, pulling himself underground so that he can get away from this crazy attacker and prepare to extract his wife, in the unlikely event that he'll have to. Traveling through the earth is freaking weird.

Jack shrugs and spreads his hands helplessly. "It's not like I started it," he mutters. "Man, you two are crazy. I am going to get out of here. I have to get drunk immediately." With a frown and a final headshake, he turns and heads back toward the street.

Before she knows it, Niki is alone. Taking a steadying, determined breath, she scrambles onto her knees. "D.L.?" And here we go again with the trying to move. She manages to get to her feet and make an unsteady run toward the house, as if the entire walkway is going fullforce at a diagonal tilt and she has to keep her balance - which means she's falling onto the stairs, but at least she's closer to home.

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