2008-02-07: Couples' Therapy

Starring:

Jack_icon.gif Trina_icon.gif

Summary: Familiar faces are spotted at a local social spot. For the second time in as many days, things could've gone much worse for Jack.

Date It Happened: February 7th, 2008

Couples' Therapy


Therapy - NYC

Stripper joints just ain't been the same since that pesky Manhattan ban on indoor smoking. A certain dimension of classic, dirty ambiance has been forever lost to the nostalgic flow of time, and no fog machine ever invented will be able to ever replace it.

Not that this place is using fog machines. It's not. 'Tis just a bit of commentary that needed to be made.

Saturday night. Late. Or Sunday morning, early, if you really want to think about it. The wee hours of the clock are when 'happily' married men with their itches and dirty secrets have mostly left for the night, returned to the families on the premise that they'd just gone out for a few with the boys and gone home. That leaves the men who are here unabashedly, bold and content. The liquor and beer gush freely into their glasses and out of them again, making the tips even prettier for the women who have the dedication to stick out the scene.

The club's plush psychotherapist interior is dimly lit, most of the illumination bleeding off of the lights focused upon the dancers working. Over the speakers, a low bass beat resonates, pulsing through the club. Vibrating through bodies, both those moving and still. Male and female. The feminine forms of various hair colors, builds, and sobriety who wind and writhe over the poles are at the primal command of that beat, weaving a lusty spell over the crowd.

When Jack steps through the door, he immediately pauses and wrinkles his nose. Something doesn't smell right.

No cigarette smoke.

The Irishman doesn't let that deter him. He's taken the trouble to change out the bandage on his nose for something a little more streamlined, after all. Freshly shaved and dressed in a slim-fitting pin striped suit with a knattily unbuttoned collar and no tie beneath, he looks healthier than he has in quite a while. He's still pale and far too thin, but his clothing hides the worst of it.

For Jack, the first stop at any new locale is the bar. He secures a glass of bourbon and turns to appreciate the dancers with one raised eyebrow and a curious expression.

As the off-kilter beat of one song winds down, there's a changing of the pole guard. A man in a fitted suit is snapping, switching girls out.

You, down. You, up. This repeats until he's satisfied with the new mix of flesh.

Three changes are made, and two of them are quickly throwing back shots of amber something before rapidly pushing themselves up onto the stage. A platinum blonde with stick straight hair and a tramp stamp the size of Rhode Island, an Asian girl with honey tan skin, and a brunette with thick curls provide the fresh blood. There isn't long for the transition, and there's a legato-strided walk that two of them have to make to take their places as a male voice with a grumbly vocal harmony cuts into the air.

"Ah, She's an eight ball, She's a-rollin' faster than a white ball! She's got an avalanche packed into a snowball. She's a-losin' all the links, She's like a stonewall, She's loaded up…"

There's always a way to tell who's more accustomed to the club. Older blood tends to share tricks. Moves look similar, changed only by the interpretation that sinew and bone force upon a girl. Newer blood, thus, sticks out in these 'ensemble pieces'.

Even when new blood doesn't particularly want to stand out. The leggy brunette in the black velvet boy shorts and rhinestone-trimmed bra who took the back corner pole, for example, seems far more intent on using the pole as a prop for her limited floor work than the acrobatic feats of daring do that the other women are far more inclined to embrace.

The redhead in baby pink who happens to be on point, by contrast, is upside down and doing splits and making the fringe on her garters do some absolutely fascinating things. It's about degrees of experience.

Like everyone in the club, Jack's attention is caught be the changing of dancers. Fresh faces and fresh bodies, after all.

Something about one of them is awfully familiar. The contours of her body. The way she moves. At first, he's ready to pass it off. After all, the Jack-of-all-trades has been in his share of titty bars and dated his share of strippers. The longer he watches, the less he can ignore it, though.

A slow, meandering walk takes him from the bar to the corner stage. When he arrives, he boldly drags a chair up close and settles into it comfortably with his drink in hand. His grey eyes remain fixed on the dancer, studying her, mapping every movement. Otherwise, his expression is held carefully neutral.

A slow undulation of her trunk. Her hip drags across her axis with a considered laziness. She toys with the straps of her bra with her arms still crossed over her and her back still to the majority of the club. She doesn't look for eye contact; any one she finds with her crystal blue gaze is given only a fleeting hold on her attention. She can't really see them well, anyway. She is, at least, smart enough to do a few things right. When she sees a twenty appear, she spreads her legs so she might bend over and reach through them to grab it, only to roll back up and go back to parading her pole with a false sense of assuredness. Her five-inch black patent leather stilettos are navigated with a concentration that is probably much more obvious to the more frequent enthusiasts.

One of the other girls across the way shoots her a pointed glance. There's a tight sigh.

When Trina actually turns around, she tries to play off the self-conscious hug about herself as something more lewd and base. Hands travel up until they find their way to her hair and lock there, letting her close her eyes and pretend it's for sultriness's sake. Yes, yes. She's enjoying this. Really. Then, she bends forward again, this time to make her transition down into a side split easier. Then it's rolling forward to put her belly to the floor. Guys… guys like you being closer, right?

The twenty came from Jack. A way to test the waters. Trina's drawn expression and her subtle awkwardness aren't lost on him, though. The two have known each other too long and too well for signals like that to slip by him. His brow furrows darkly and he crosses his arms over his chest, lost as to if he should be concerned or irritated. Then again, considering his own recent behavior…

The Irishman abruptly nods to himself. A decision has been reached. Rather than push the issue of recognition, he drops a handful of bank notes on the edge of the stage and then pulls his chair aside. He even angles his body away slightly, not overtly avoiding looking at her, but respectfully trying not to stare.

It's not until the light is far enough from her eyes that she can see into the more dim crowd. The bills that she picks up and then blinks at. The… arms crossed? What… There's a confusion that settles itself plainly on her face when she looks up.

Trina never was any good at keeping secrets. Her breath catches and her mouth parts to gape open as she recognizes at last that very familiar jaw. If she were on her feet, she'd trip. Thank God for the small mercies he still manages to bestow upon her here. Her painted lips press into a tight line that, after a tiny glance elsewhere, form up into a tight smile that only looks panicked as she tries to get up. Tries to recover from the shock and horror of being caught like this. Of all the places for him to show up, it just had to be here? He might not be staring, but…

Everything's falling apart.

Her face only becomes more and more flushed as she tries to trail herself down the pole with the steel to her back and arms up over her head to grip it. He's there. He's not staring, but he's there.

She does her part, dancing and collecting bills with a new found distraction and nervousness. As the song comes to an end, the brunette abruptly leaves her station and takes a few steps towards the wall, her shoulders hunched so high that they nearly touch her ears. She has to get down. She has to get down right now. She completely misses the sound of a manager bellowing a small distance away as she tries to slip past someone so that she can her feet to the floor. A bouncer, maybe. "C'mon," she quietly pleads with her brow deeply furrowed, trying to get off the stage. There a number of false starts as she just can't seem to find the space to get her legs past its edge. There's already the raised murmur of voices as she disturbs the seductive energy that her employer depends upon. "Just let me by. Please?"

Instantly, Jack is there. Concern has won out. He sways around where he can, and uses his size to push through wherever he can't.

"Don't touch her," he says flatly, using his bulk to clear a path. It's against the rules. It's against all the rules to do something like this at a strip club. You don't tell people what to do, and you don't act this way.

Unless you're Jack.

He stands his ground and casts a hawkish glare at all comers, daring them to defy him. Then, slowly, he reaches out to Trina.

It's a funny thing about confidence. With enough of it, people believe that it is well-earned. Jack commands something, and most people back up, including the larger man who seems not to be a bouncer after all. One balding, skinny executive-type man in a fine grey Armani even goes to far as to throw both hands up towards his shoulders. Not touching! Do you see this? This is not touching! The bellowing, however, is coming closer. Telling another girl to get up. Telling the 'stupid bitch' to stay where she is.

Trina's lips are in a tight line as she looks to Derex with so many emotions running behind her eyes that she doesn't even know the names for half of them. She wraps arms about herself as she looks at Jack's hand. Several minutes pass. At least it feels that way.

In reality, it's barely more than a breath's time. Then one slender hand, tipped with a pair of French manicured acrylics with little rhinestones on them, reaches nervously out to take his. It's tentative at first, but then it finds its strength as she clamps down and starts sliding off of the stage into the area that Jack's cleared for her.

Jack whips off his coat, drapes it around Trina's shoulders, and rubs her back reassuringly. "It's okay, baby," he murmurs. "It's okay. I'm so sorry." There's pain in his eyes and etched in his prematurely lined face. He did this to her. He did it by trying to mix business and pleasure, and by doing so much more. There will be time to figure that out later. Hopefully.

For now, the bellowing demands to be attended to. In particular, 'stupid bitch' is a phrase that grabs Jack's attention. As a man with a self-imposed sense of authority, he can smell his own. He gently pushes Trina behind him and faces down the man in charge. "I'm an Irishman, which means I'm also a gentleman. Don't abuse that, because I won't hesitate to put my foot so far up your ass that every idea you have for the next year will get tangled in my shoelaces."

As Trina feels that coat fall on her shoulders, the first thing she does is savor the warmth of it. She doesn't speak, but there is an ashamed gratitude that finds its way to the forefront of her expression and it's freely given right before she presses against him. And then there's the scent. She's surrounded by the scent of Jack and, for now, she is easily swayed into a calmer state by it. The money she has clenched in her fist — Jack's money, mostly — is shoved into the interior pocket that she finds. It's not like she has anywhere safe to keep it. As people turn their attention on the disturbance, her wide blue eyes fix themselves somewhere else. Her face turns timidly towards the floor as she feels him bodily shift her behind him. She shouldn't be letting Jack handle this. She should be doing it for herself.

She does let Jack handle it, ultimately — one hand clenching Jack's coat to her and one hand finding a place on the back of his shoulder blade.

The man who approaches is tall, a couple inches clear of six feet, with a lean build. He's broader in the shoulders than the Irishman, and more muscled now than the drug-ravaged man before him. Dark hair, thick and wavy in the humidity, falls to his shoulders. "That bitch works for me," he explains, a finger pointing indicatively past Jack to the woman practically cowering behind him. As if there was any question, really. To his credit, he is exceptionally polite about it, all things considered. He's at least affording Jack a modicum of respect. His hands then spread wide, demonstrative of his inquiry. "Where do you think you're going with her? This is my club. My employee. Really now. We should be talking about manners here."

"I swear to Christ," Jack utters through tightly clenched teeth. "If you don't turn around and walk away right now, I'm going to break your arm in front of all these people. And then when I get out of jail, I'll break your other fuckin' arm." He steps closer, not touching the manager, but close enough to lord over his two inches' of extra height. His nostrils flare and his eyes widen until the whites show. He's trembling from a mixture of anticipation, adrenaline, and anger. All the while, he maintains his protective stance in front of Trina. It's a clear challenge to anyone, patrons or employees.

Come hither, bitches.

To emphasize his point, Jack reaches out and pokes the manager in the chest with one long, bony finger. "Fuck off," he growls. "Now."

The manager is doing a far better job of maintaining his cool. He looks slowly down at the finger touching him and then levels Jack with a clearly unhappy expression, sepia eyes darkening and becoming only angrier. "Fine. But don't come back. Ever. I catch you? You're gonna get seated in a dumpster." Then his head cranes to look around Jack at Trina. She's not looking back, but that doesn't matter. His eyes narrow. "And you! You show up to work on Monday, or you don't show up at all. Capisce? I'm a forgiving man. I'll let this little 'infraction' go. Tonight. Because I'm in a good mood. But just tonight. Don't let it happen again."

Turning his darkened gaze to the burly man to his right, the Italian continues. "Let 'em go." His lips turn downward in a frown as he turns to look at the pair anew. "But you remember what I said."

This is one more insult than Jack can take. It's not the ones to him that matter. The threats injure nothing but his pride. It's the brash way that this guido is ordering around his mostly-nude fiancee that perpetuates the explosion. He springs on the manager's turner back and hisses hotly in his ear.

"Big. Mistake."

The same fingers that were prodding the manager's chest a few seconds ago now jab in on either side of his spinal column. With strength fueled by anger and drug use, Jack squeezes down like a vice until the grinding protest of vertebrae is audible. "Apologize," he demands.

Pain. There's a snort of pain as Mr. Italian clenches his jaw. "Va fangul," he grunts, eyes squinting up and entire body going rigid. "I ain't apologizin' to a bitch." Incensed, the nostrils of his significant nose flare. And that, somehow, is some sort of sign to the bodyguard who now is well in front of him. He starts closing in.

Trina observes this, blue eyes looking out from behind the curtain of black curls. So many people are staring now; she can barely stand it. Her other hand nervously comes up to help clench Jack's coat closed up to the middle of her neck, and then she leans in tentatively to speak to him. "Jack. Jack, no. Just… Let's just go. Please?" No more fighting. He could get hurt.

There's that word again. Bitch. Enraged, Jack's eyes flash and he growls wordlessly as he releases the manager's spine. The respite is short, though. He immediately starts wailing on the Italian man's kidneys with a fast series of hammerlike left-right-left-rights. "Stupid. Stupid. Fuckin'. Gudio." he growls, spitting out each word around a punch. When he's finished, he shoves his victim away and beckons the bodyguard forward.

"Stay back," he urges Trina. "Nobody talks to you that way. Nobody. Not even me." A look of confusion flits across his face. For an instant, it's unclear who exactly he's punishing.

"Jack! Jack, it's okay. It's just names." If Trina's knees were pressed any more tightly against each other, they'd be occupying the same space. As Jack beats up on her boss, however, and sends him sprawling onto the floor, she has to move. Her stilettos shake unevenly as she scurries to his side, and she gives what might possibly be the world's pathetic look to the bodyguard who is closing in. It's hard not to feel pathetic like this. How the hell did things ever get so bad? And she may feel worse for the fact that part of her is so comforted to have him racing to her defense. He's defending her.

"I'll get him out of here, Derrick. Just… Just let me get him out of here?" She looks to Jack, steady and imploring. "You'll come out peaceful with me, right?"

Jack takes a step back, brushes himself off, and wraps one arm around Trina's waist possessively. The bouncer is spared a long, considering look, but nothing else. After all, he hasn't said anything crappy yet.

"Sure," Jack replies to his lover's query. "Yeah. Let's get the hell outta here. We need to get you home." Now that he has Trina close to him, the ache of her brief absence has become that much more intense and present. His hand lingers against the small of her back, supporting her and guiding her toward the door, even though it's she who saved him from further confrontation.

As they pass the brawny man considered to be part of the security detail, Trina affixes him with a wary gaze. Then, in kind, well over a dozen pairs of staring eyes bore holes into them as they go. It's hard to ignore them, and Trina presses tightly against Jack. She's grateful to have him there; he's so close and steadying her stride on the too-tall heels. She watches as they go for any further indication of a coming fight, but none seem to be coming. She's be lying, however, if she said it was anything but difficult to have to walk out the front door in little more than her underwear and the Irishman's coat. It's humiliating. It's humiliating, but she'll live.

It's not until they're out in the frigid winter air that she glances anxiously over to Jack, fingers digging into the coat to see how much more tightly she can pull it against herself and fight the shivering that starts. "Do you happen to still have the spare key for Baby? Mine's in the dressing room and…" She trails off.

Nodding solemnly, Jack pulls Trina closer and cradles her against his chest to help ward off the chill. His keys are dug out of one pants pocket, which include the aforementioned spare. "Let's get you somewhere safe and warm. C'mon, I'll drive so you can relax."

The way he clings to her shoulders and holds her in a near-crushing embrace betrays the turmoil of emotion hiding behind his casual tone. Trina's here in all her soft-haired, smooth-skinned glory. She chose to leave with him. He finally has his girl back.

Reluctantly, he separates from her just enough that he can lead her toward the car. "Missed you," he whispers, twining his fingers through hers.

Warm, too-thin Jack body. He's still not healthy. Still not right. As he produces the key, however, Trina heaves a tiny sigh of relief. That's one problem, at least, that she doesn't have to deal with tonight. And Jack's not going to make her sleep in her car. That's another problem also solved for tonight. "I missed you, too," she finally replies in a hushed tone, although she has a hard time looking up for more than a glance. She doesn't know how to even begin unraveling this giant ball of messed up that her world has found itself thoroughly tangled up in.

Is he on the drugs now? Is that why he's coherent? If he's flying high, he shouldn't be driving her car/mobile bedroom. Her eyes look back at him again, a little more dedicated now to their course as they search out his eyes. Those eyes that betrayed him last time she sought them. What's he playing at?

In contrast, Jack is trying to avoid meeting Trina's eyes. He knows what he's done. What he continued to do. There's that and more. How could ever start to explain it all?

No. Best to get her somewhere safe. Somewhere he can hold her and tell her he loves her and how sorry he is. Truly, that seems like a far wiser idea.

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