2007-08-18: DF: Bird In The Cage


DFJack_icon.gif DFNathanReal_icon.gif

Summary: Worth more than one in the bush. Also, Nathan makes meets a new friend.

Dark Future Date: August 18th, 2009

Bird In The Cage

WCH - Packing Room

How do animals do it? This whole… captivity thing. He supposes that being, you know, an animal helps with the boredom, but god. Nathan has counted the bars twice, hummed every song he knows, and even attempted manly pull up until his hand made him give up about three in… and it's only been about an hour since Elena left. Since Logan seemed to vanish. He almost misses the company, though, not that much.

Now, Nathan sits in the centre of the cage, legs crossed and watching the paper cup that had previously been filled with beer. He'd long since drained it, set it aside to be thrown away, but now he leans to pick it back up, absently picking away the rim with his thumb nail, just for something to do. Once that's done, he starts drawing lines into the side, then pushing his thumb through the flimsy paper to create holes and… tada. It is a smilie face. Not exactly a work of art, but it ate up about ten minutes, so that works. Nathan sets it down in front of him, with a frown. "If I name you?" he says. To the cup. "Then I know I've really lost it."

"Who're you talkin' to?" Jack might be easier to sneak up on these days, but with time he's also grown even lighter on his feet. His footsteps don't give him away until he's well within earshot of Nathan's voice. He looks up from the hefty rucksack that he's rummaging around in. Though he's able to move bigger objects father, these days it's always best for a guy to save his strength. Sometimes carrying stuff around the old-fashioned way has its merits. With suspiciously narrowed eyes he asks, "Logan's not back, is he?"

Jack gets a slightly startled, then guilty look, and Nathan snatches the cup up. "No, he's not. I was…" Okay, well, may as well prove that he's only talking to an inanimate object and not a split personality. One is slightly less crazy than the other. So, he sheepishly shows Jack the still unnamed cup-face, and sets it aside. Within the cage. In case Jack tries to throw it away. He gets to his feet a little stiffly, back and knees twinging in protest. "What're you doing?" he asks, conversationally - both to divert from the cup-face, and also to perhaps snag Jack into conversation. It's… it's been awkward since Ramon's discovery, to say the least.

Nathan's careful treatment of the cup earns him a curiously raised eyebrow from Jack, but he doesn't comment. Instead he leans closer and stares into Nathan's eyes. Windows to the soul, right? With Ramon out for the day, this is the most reliable way for him to ascertain who he's really talking to. His gaze lingers for a suspiciously long amount of time before he nods absently and hefts the rucksack. "Brought you some stuff," he grates. Now that his suspicion has been more or less satisfied, he looks away, focusing instead on what he's carrying. One by one he digs out a sleeping bag, a thin pillow, several bottles of water in a plastic grocery sack, and a paper bag filled with snacks that won't quickly spoil like granola bars, tins of potato chips, donuts, and ect. It might be very little, it could be a veritable bounty. That largely depends on perception. One by one, he loads each item back into the rucksack, then closes his eyes and furrows his brow in concentration. The package dematerializes, then reappears on the floor next to Nathan's feet.

Short of shooting him up with Cass's drug every time, the eyes are probably the best way to go. Nathan just waits patiently until Jack sees whatever it is he needs for confirmation. Then, it's— well it's Christmas. He says nothing when he's shown the 'gifts', but when it appears in the cage beside him, he kneels down to pull it closer, inspecting the contents and for now, unloading just the sleeping back and pillow. Something to rest against that's not metal and cement is appreciated, and he tosses these into the corner. Then, a water bottle is extracted, and the rucksack is nudged to the side. "Thank you," he says, twisting off the cap and taking a sip. He can't help but dart his gaze over the bruising on Jack's face, then down to the much older scars that seem to age the younger man's skin before his time.

Jack follows Nathan's eyes down to his own arms. The right is far worse than the left. He was standing sidewaying in the doorway to the Den when the bomb went off. Between the sleeve of his t-shirt and he cuff of his glove it's little more than a pile of ropy, twisting bands of purplish tissue. Similar marks crawl out of his collar and up his neck. For the first time in a year, he strips his right glove off in front of someone other than Trina. His hand has fared no better. It's no longer the slim, elegant extension of a magician's will. There are no fingernails. The knuckles are slightly warped, broken and twisted in ways that only surgery could fix.

Jack holds his claw up to the light so they can both inspect it. He wiggles his talons briefly, then shrugs and tucks it behind his back along with his still-gloved left hand. "There was a reason I started with your hand." His voice is small and quiet, though still as harsh as usual. "I'm sorry."

To his credit, Nathan doesn't flinch when that hand is brought out to the open. He observes it evenly, although it's clear it disturbs him, and slowly, he steps closer to the bars. The water bottle is held at his side in his left hand, and his right arm curls around the bars in front as he leans against them, messily bandaged hand also on display, in a way, though not really on purpose. The apology comes and Nathan closes his eyes for half a moment. "Jack." How to explain? He thinks about it for a moment. "It was the first time Logan's ever been scared enough to let go. I should be thanking you." Which. Also comes with the double-edged sword of admitting it had been him throughout, but.

Jack physically flinches, turning his head to the side and toward the floor so he doesn't have to make eye contact with Nathan. "Man… I didn't know. How could I know?" He cuts the air briskly with his claw/hand, dismissing the rhetorical question. "God, I've made a bloody mess of things. I started this with good intentions, if you can believe that."

Jack's boots scuff against the concrete floor briefly. He doesn't want to ask. He really doesn't. He has to know, though. Again, he looks Nathan in the eye. "Were there any other times that you took over?"

Nathan's turn to look away, gaze darting down to the stained cement floor he's gotten used to quite a lot over the past few days. Does he lie? No. He's over pretenses, really. "Not often," he says, truthfully. "Even when it got bad, it was mostly him. There was one point…" A guilty look to Jack's face. "When you came into the cage that time. Logan wanted out, I wanted in. We - you and I, we fought." How to explain that? That he put those bruises on Jack's face? "Sorry. Seemed like you needed it. But I didn't want Logan to kill you, on the off-chance…" He rolls his eyes. Like he could really take Jack down in a fight these days, even if it came close? Probably not, no.

"Oh God." These days Jack utters those words more often than a well-paid porn star. Nathan and Logan share a body and mind. It's not as if he could've hoped to keep the experience from Nathan entirely, but to know he was at the wheel during the beating?

Jack shivers and hugs his arms over his chest. "Those were some dark, ugly hours that we shared," he whispers. "Wanna never talk about that again? That would just be outstanding."
"Agreed," Nathan says, briskly, with a slightly nervous smile. From the first blow dealt to Jack, to the gun to his eye. Somehow, the memory leaves a feeling of shame, and he shudders a little. "I know that… you gotta have people telling you this over and over now but… you couldn't have known any better. My own brother didn't." There's a little bitterness there, and obviously, he's talking about Mean Peter, not the one from the past.

Thoroughly shamed, Jack turns his back to Nathan and bows his head. His claw/hand clenches around his gloved one with an audible, leathery rasp. "I haven't told anyone yet," he admits. "I just… I had to figure it out for myself. I spent so long hating you, man. So fucking long. The hate is like a teddy bear. I want to give it up, but I don't know how."

His favourite daydream used to be Logan simply vanishing one day, and Nathan reuniting with his friends and family, and everyone forgiving what he had done, who he had been. A completely implausible dream, but it was wonderful in its impossibility. But this is the reality. Cass had already walked away, likely never to meet him again, and we can't all be like Ramon and Elena. He had been hoping, though, that perhaps Jack would remain on the latter side. He's not quite willing or ready to give up that hope. "I'm not expecting a miracle," he says, with that slight impatience that so often characterized the way Nathan was so long ago. He softens his tone, though. "I'm not expecting things to ever be the way they were. But you… you hated the man that did those things." But then he adds, bitterly, "Hate me for not stopping him, if you want."

"I don't hate you for what he did." Jack glances over his shoulder and his face quirks into a pained, conflicted grimace. "Can you blame me for bein' confused? This is a lot to take in over the course of a few hours." He shuffles his feet a bit more, then grabs a chair and swivels it around so he can straddle it and face his captive/friend. "I'm tryin' not to think of whether you could've stopped him. What do I know about MPD? I'm tryin' to focus on how we can fix this mess."

"No," Nathan says, shoulders slumping a little, tension fizzling out. "No, I don't blame you. For what it's worth - I don't think I could have stopped him. I tried, but he's strong, Jack. Well. Was strong." Agitatedly, he bangs his palm against a bar, not hard - more like a fidgety gesture. "I'm not sure how this is meant to be fixed either. I want to say, let me walk right into the White House and start cleaning things up, but… I don't know."

Jack's red-rimmed, dark-bagged eyes grow hard and flat. He sigh and gives his head a slow, reluctant shake. "No dice, Nate Dogg. What're gonna do, ask the Secretary of Defense to cut one of your fingers off every time your concentration starts slippin'? Nah, man. This place is is helluva secret." He gestures around grandly at the inside of his 'palace'. "After the storm came through and leveled most of the buildings, Prime contaminated the whole area with radiation so's people wouldn't think to look for us here. Even if they did, it takes a Geiger counter an' a act o' God to get through without your hair fallin' out. So we've got all the time the telepaths need."

Well. At least it's secure. Welcome to your new home, enjoy your stay. This bitter thought is probably visible when Nathan glances around, but he's not really redeemed enough in the heart and souls of the people to start bitching about accommodation. That rich boy attitude will start showing through eventually, just not today. "So we keep me here," he says, "and everyone else can fix my mistakes." Forced out to pasture, more or less. Still, he doesn't lead this into the argument it could be. "It's how it has to be."

Jack stand and shoves his chair out of the way suddenly. "You're damn right it's how it has to be! Don't bitch, Boy Wonder. You don't get to be snotty yet. This time yesterday I was ready to blow the front of your face out the back of your skull." Deep breaths, Jackie. Take nice, deep breaths. "Damnit! I can't even yell at you because it's not your fault! Fuck! Shit!" He throws his hands up helplessly, then turns and storms back toward the staircase to the loft.

"Jack," Nathan sighs out, but the man is storming away. Nathan follows for as long as the cage lets him - which isn't far. "Jack, wait." And he gets a doorslam in response, to which Nathan replies to no one by turning and pitching the water bottle away from him as hard as he can. It catches its end against a bar, and bouncing impotently back inside the cage, but Nathan barely notices. He storms/paces back and forth for a moment, before glaring down at the cup. It is smiling at him. "Well what am I meant to say, 'sorry, I love the cage, matches my cement floor'? Fuck you too." And with that, he leans heavily against the cage door, and shuts his eyes. It's going to be a very long… however long it takes.

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