2007-08-16: DF: Hammer Vs. Anvil

Starring:

DFLogan_icon.gif DFJack_icon.gif DFNathanReal_icon.gif

Summary:

For all the Hammer's brashness,

it is rarely the Anvil

that breaks.

Dark Future Date: August 16th, 2009

Log Title Hammer Vs. Anvil


Location Weichsel Carcass House - Packing Room

At this time I would like to belatedly attribute the name and poem "Hammer Vs. Anvil" to the most creative writer I've ever known, R. S.. His work and his input continue to serve as my main source of inspiration. Thanks, R.

http://hammervsanvil.blogspot.com

This is torture. No, not the hand with its missing finger. Not the scrapes and bruises. Not the deprivation of a steak sandwich and a glass of water. No, what is torture? Is the goddamn singing. Please, god, make it stop.

"At the drive in~, in the old man's Ford~, behind the bushes~…"

Logan shuts his eyes, good arm draped over them as he lies in the centre of the cattle cage. It's soft singing, but it doesn't have to be loud. "This is petty."

Petty? Isn't stopping Nathan. He smirks from where he is apparently seated in the corner of the cage, and— and continues. "Where~ I got you screamin' for more, down in the basement, lock the cellar door~, and baby— "

"Nng."

"Talk dirty to me~."

If Logan never hears those words again, it will be TOO SOON. He rolls onto his side, and just simply tries to block it out. He used to be better at this. Times are hard and wearing down on his control. The fact that he barely even wants to be in this body anymore doesn't help, and he sighs as 'Mama's Fallen Angel' is apparently next on the jukebox.

For all the world, however, there is no man crouched in the corner and singing to his apparently identical twin. Just one, sprawled out in semi-sleep, and singing a Poison tune - and apparently, throwing a few snarky remarks at himself in between lyrics. His head twitches slightly from side to side between the transitions, and it is, in a way, disturbing for anyone looking closer.

The first hints of Jack's approach are the unsteady clomp-CLOMP-clomp of his limping footsteps. A polished dress shoes squeaks against the concrete floor as he comes to a halt in front of the livestock cage. Logan's cage.

The Shepherd has removed the jacket of his elegant, well-cut dinner suit and draped it over one shoulder. He still has his gloves on, but the sleeves of his dress shirt have been rolled back with affected casualness. Left exposed, the heavy, purple scars that twist upward between his wrists and forearms are a livid, angry thing.

Is that? Is he singing?

He is, the cheeky fucker.

"Well," Jack rumbles out, unable to completely keep a crooked smile off of his face. "It's nice to see that you're in such a peach of a mood, you crazy bugger."

He doesn't notice the footsteps, caught up in delusion, but when a second - third? - voice is added to the room, Logan's half-lidded eyes widen, body jerking up to sit, and slightly away from Jack, as if fearful. The singing is halted, Nathan apparently disappearing, though Logan darts a cautious gaze around the space to see if the mirage is stilling lingering somewhere. Not where he can see. He brings his left hand up to smooth his hair back, before settling his gaze back on Jack, eyes narrowing. "All dressed up and no where to go but here?" he asks.

There's no reason to hide his doings. Far from it. Jack grins wickedly as he steps closer, his body hovering inches away from the surface of the cage. "I've been out already, Boy Wonder. You just spent the night helping me work toward my aims and you didn't even have to leave your snug accomodations. Except for your finger, of course. That's in D.C. by now. Goody gumdrops, right?" Carefully, Jack drapes his jacket over the back of a chair, then flips it around with one toe so he can sit. "Workin' together for the greater good, just like the old days."

He almost crab walks so that he's further away from Jack, until his back hits the opposite cage interior. Apparently the power balance is in Jack's favour, for the meantime, because whatever opportunity Logan could take from the man being within arm's reach is ignored, and he leans his head back against the bars. "Wonderful," he sneers, just giving Jack a flat look of burning hatred. "You gonna keep sending me back in pieces in hopes they'll put me back together once they get all the parts?"

"No. I plan to keep some of the bits and pieces as… keepsakes." Jack cocks his head to one side and studies Nathan from a different angle. "You look like shit, even for a beat up ol' fucker in a cage." He smirks briefly, then snaps his fingers and produces two unfiltered cigarettes and a lighter. He plugs them both into his mouth, lights them, then pulls one free and tosses it through the bars of the cage. It lands halfway between Jack's shoes and Nathan's huddled form.

There's just so much indignity in this, and it makes him almost tremble in anger. Logan's look from Jack flickers down to the cigarette, blankly. Neither he nor Nathan had been smokers, but right now, Logan is thinking of taking up a new habit. Any luxury in any form gets his attention. With a slight shuffle, he moves forward to pick up the burning cigarette, not bothering to stand up. "Improve my standards of living, then bitch about how I look," he says, before taking a drag of nicotine. Injuries aside, he could stand a shave and a decent meal.

Jack's smirk widens. He lifts his own cigarette and takes a deep draw. When he exhales, the cloud of smoke partially obscures his face and the heavy layers of makeup that have been artfully applied to hide his fresh bruises. Bruises he aquired at Nathan's hands. It would be uncouth for him to make a public speech with black eyes, after all.

Suddenly, Jack's life-or-death mission to deliver cosmetics to his big sister doesn't seem so frivolous. Thank God for Candy's thoroughness.

"Yes. Standards of living. I've been meanin' to chat with you about that." The Irishman clamps his smoke between his lips and reaches inside his coat. After a moment's rummaging in the interior pockets he pulls out a half-sized bottle of water and a protein bar. He hefts the items experimentally. "Should be about the same as the daily rations at the camp, yes? I would've gone for gruel, but your people seem to have monopolized the recipe."

He's hungry, he's thirsty, but even these items don't bring about even a flicker of excitement. Logan glances at them disdainfully, though he's not about to turn them down, or seem ungrateful. Just in case. "Some camps," he allows, after a moment, blowing out a stream of smoke, which only makes his mouth drier. Oh well. "Others are improving. It's a work in progress."

"Save your spin control," Jack replies. "I've seen the camps." He sets the protein bar down on his lap and uncaps the water. A cruel man would simply drink it in front of Nathan. Jack isn't cruel, though. He's creative.

Slowly, almost lovingly, he pours the water out on the floor. All the while he keeps his eyes locked on Nathan's.

Logan grits his teeth, uninjured fist clenching and gaze breaking from Jack's in favour of looking in some other direction. He can still hear it, though, and he will not break. Not. Not in front of him. The hand holding the cigarette trembles but he calmly takes another drag, smoke drifting up through the bars above his head. "What do you want from me?" he asks, voice wavering, finally meeting Jack's gaze again.

"Tsk, tsk. Haven't we learned how dangerous a question that is by now?" Now Jack unwraps the protein bar and crumbles off a large piece. Without preamble, he drops it to the floor and crushes it under the heel of his shoe. "No, you can't give me what I want, but you can help me get what I need. You've taken justice away from the people, Nathan. I plan to give it back to them."

He flinches, visibly, as the food is crushed, and then another flinch mid-sentence. He almost crushes the cigarette in his hand, and utters, savagely, "Don't call me that." Get a grip. Get a grip. Logan draws in a slightly whining breath, fighting back the sudden, irrational panic that fills his chest, dropping the cigarette in favour of rubbing his face with his hands. "This isn't justice. This is… hate. You're turning me into the cause of everything. I didn't start the war, I didn't kill your friends, I didn't kill— my son…"

The rest of the protein bar disintegrates as Jack clenches his hand into a white-knuckled fist. Forgotten, the lit cigarette tumbles from between his lips and bounces across the floor. "What's wrong? Can't stand to hear your own name from the lips of an old friend? Does it bother you, Nathan?" He takes a slow, steadying breath. Must remain centered.

"Don't try and play the hero. It's just you and me in here. There's no one to fool. You may not have killed Monty with your own hands, but you have become the black, wicked heart of everything that's wrong with this country."

He's on his feet in a flash, as if he weren't half-starved and dehydrated, and there's a clatter as he nearly flings himself against the door of the cage, the hinges rattling metallically. "THEN KILL ME!" he roars, gripping the bars with both hands, injured or not, yanking and pushing at them before he staggers back, body draining of energy easily. He reaches above him to latch a hand onto the bars above, to keep himself standing. "If I'm the heart of all this, kill me, and maybe everything else with shrivel up and die and I can take it all the fuck down with me."

Jack grits his teeth and growls, "Don't be so fast to blow your wad, stud. You'll get your moment in the spotlight." Several seconds pass as conflicting emotions vie for purchase on his face. First, satisfaction at seeing his enemy reduced to this. This pitiful, quivering thing. Next comes a flash of guilt that's most visible around his eyes. Last and most prominent is rage. "You really want to know what I want from you?" He stands and kicks the chair away violently, sending it and his jacket flying across the room. "Nathan, I don't just want you to die. I want you pay."

That name. If Jack knew, if he knew, maybe… Logan's hand grips the bar above him hard, until his knuckles turn white, before he lets go in favour of folding up on the bottom of the cage, sitting down heavy enough for it almost to be a fall. With a shaking hand, he picks up the cigarette he'd forgotten. It's ashed, mostly, but upon tapping it, there's still a burning ember. He keeps it alive by inhaling the smoke, breathing it out in a shaky sigh. "You want me to pay?" he asks, spitting that last word. "Then you're gonna have to keep my alive for a long time. The damage is irreversible." First time he's ever really admitted to how fucked the world is right now, but he sounds almost proud.

"You motherfucker," Jack growls. "Sit down. Sit the fuck down." He points at the corner of the cage with a trembling finger. When he approaches the cage door his breath is coming his fast, angry wheezes through his battered throat. His grey eyes are wide and wild as he fumbles in his pants pocket for a heavy, janitor-esque keyring. No longer are the keys to Nathan's bonds kept in so tempting a location as a chain around his neck. "If you have so much payin' back to do, we'd better get started."

It's the fear he hates. There were so few people in the world he feared. Peter was one. And… Sylar, when he was reported to be alive, but less so. Even then, that was a shadowy threat, a coming storm, a fear that could be set aside. Jack is here, and dangerous, and Logan finds himself scurrying into the corner of his cage which suddenly seems much less safe. He's so tired of the burden of physical pain. It's more of a presence than time. "Stay away from me," he growls, despite the retreat. "I'll kill you, I'll kill you if you come closer."

"You think you can?" Jack sneers down at Nathan as he fits a key into the lock and turns it. "Feel free to test that assumption at your convenience." Armed only with self-righteous fury, Jack jerks open the door and steps inside, then slams and locks it behind himself. Disgusted, he glares at his captive for an uncomfortably long time. When he's finished he drops his keys to the floor and kicks them through the narrow gap under the door.

"Well? I'm all yours."

Fear is still making his heart beat faster, motivating himself to press red lines into his back as he backs further into the corner at a crouch, and he watches as the keys skitter out of reach for only one person within the cage. In the unlikely event he succeeds? He's in a cage with a dead man and a whole group of people who would unflinchingly tear him limb from limb for such a crime. Those odds are possibly the worst in the world. It'd be pointless violence.

And yet, Logan grips a bar, pulling himself up to stand, to stagger forward a step. "I'd want nothing more," he says, of Jack's hypothetical death, as evenly and flatly as possible, as if trying to make him understand this. Then? Then he takes a swing, fist flying towards Jack's face.

The time for words is over. All that's left are two men and a great deal of anger. Rather than move away from the blow, Jack steps in toward it. He catches Nathan's fist in his own hand and halts it's path toward his face. Then Jack squeezes, bearing down with thin, strong fingers and compressing the knuckles and small bones of Nathan's hand. "Try harder!" he roars, his eyes alight and his nostrils flaring.

The temptation to wrench his fist out of that grip is immense. Logan takes a breath, then instead moves both of their arms aside with a jerk, giving him time to bring his other arm around in a backhand - which is all he can do with that hand. It's a staggering amount of pain, but worth it. Worth it. He literally throws himself at Jack, to slam him against the bars just behind.

The backhand catches Jack across the jaw and drives him roughly back into the bars. When Nathan's body slams into his the breath is driven from his lungs explosively. "That's better…" he croaks. Then, mercilessly, he drives his fist in just below Nathan's sternum. Not content with a simple gut punch, he jams his fingertips into the minute space underneath Nathan's ribs and yanks. Hard.

"More!" he shouts.

Oh hey that's new pain. Logan gives a sharp gasp, staring in shock at Jack, especially when that word is thrown into the mix. With a forceful shove, pushing Jack further against the bars, he staggers away to catch his breath, bleeding from where fingernails had to inevitably dig into skin. He's not going to kill Jack, no matter how hard he tries. He's going to give him satisfaction, and Logan prepares to fire back his refusal. Then. Then he simply doesn't. A look of regret, and extreme sadness is shown in his eyes, then resolve. "More?" Nathan asks, rolling his shoulders back, wincing. He's getting used to the inventory of pain he's met with every time, however. Then, he nods. Then, he throws himself back into the brawl, aiming his left first to Jack's gut.

What follows isn't pleasant and doesn't need to be detailed. Jack continues to fight back, but each dodge is less effective than the last. Each parry more half-hearted. Eventually, his counter strikes cease altogether. That's about the time he starts to laugh.

It could be the forth time that Jack has picked himself up off the floor. It could be the fortieth. He's lost track. Bleeding from his nose, his mouth, and the corner of one eye, he sways on his feet as meets Nathan's gaze. Then he bares his teeth in a fierce smile and laughs louder, right in the President's face. "Now… Now you've indulged. You've finally gotten blood on your hands the old-fashioned way. How does it feel? Did you enjoy it?" Now he steps closer and shoves Nathan away and against the far wall of the cage. "Is it true? Are we the same, you and I?"

There's a clatter as bars shudder where they're secured as Nathan falls against them. Fresh bruises and cuts mark his body, and he's earned them, and he brings up a hand to grip a bar to prevent himself from simply sliding back down. He observes Jack, that bloodied smile and wild eyed expression, and shudders. Not the friend he knew. Not a man he can call friend anymore, or has a right to. But owes a lot to, all the same. "In a way," he murmurs. "We've both…" An easy smile now alights his features, and Nathan shakes his head. "We've both cracked."

Jack spits out a gobbet of bloody phlegm and works his tongue around the inside of his mouth, probing fresh cuts and checking for loosened teeth. He huffs out several hard breaths in an attempt to calm himself and set his respiration at something like a normal pace. The last of his adrenaline-earned strength is spent. He staggers into a corner and slumps down with his head in his hands. "I hate you," he whispers mournfully. "Goddamnit, I hate you so much."

It doesn't matter if Logan should be the target of that statement. Nathan feels it, and it's that awful sort of internal pain. Not this external pain which he's come to appreciate. Clumsily, he slides down to sit as well, fisting his bruised left hand. His body is just an amusement park of aches and pains, and it's more than he's ever felt in two years. He owes Jack more than the Irishman will ever know. "You should," Nathan says, voice rough. "I've done terrible things."

The blithe admission only serves to anger Jack again. He peers out from between his fingers, and for a moment he seems on the verge of rising to attack again. Even shifting his weight hurts, though. A few years ago he could've taken two beatings like this without breaking a sweat. Now? Now he's a ball of fresh hurts piled on top of old ones, much like his 'cellmate'. Frustrated, he rumbles out a wordless growl that tapers into a sad, angry rant. "What the fuck happened to you? I want my friend back!"

The look Jack gets is not angry, or hateful, or icy and apathetic. There's mostly shame and guilt, and a healthy dose of helplessness. He raises a hand to touch a bruise forming on his stubbly jaw, fixing his gaze on the ground beneath them. "I changed into something else," he admits simply. "After Mon— " Nathan has to take a breath there, that's an old wound that never healed, that lies gaping and infected in his consciousness. "After Monty died, and Heidi… Heidi got hurt. Looked in the mirror, wasn't looking at myself anymore." He looks back at his former friend, unsure of what to say, unsure if it's even worth it. Isn't it easier to hate?

"Yeah, you changed alright." Jack's voice is low, hoarse, and cynical. He burrows his head deeper into his arms, hiding his face and hiding his shame. Hiding what he's become. He hugs his knees and clenches his eyes so tightly closed that his forehead wrinkles. One deep, sobbing breath. Another. It takes several minutes for him to regain his composure. When he finally has he opens his eyes, grips the bars of his cage, and hauls himself into a standing position. Slowly, he hand-over-hands himself toward the door. He jostles it several times, but it's just as locked as he left it. "Open," he groans at it, rattling harder. "OPEN!" His brain tells him that he should know why it won't open, but for now he can't quite suss it out. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, he is spent.

Nathan simply watches Jack as the younger man curls up, moves to the door, tries to fight against a locked exit. Maybe it's true. Maybe Nathan did just simply change. Maybe Logan's just an excuse.

Maybe he truly is crazy.

Pulling himself up to stand, Nathan uses the back of one war-torn hand to wipe away mysterious hot tears that suddenly appear without warning. No sobs, no sniffles, nothing. Just the tears. Fine. He makes sure they're gone before he speaks again. "Keys're outside, Jack," he murmurs hoarsely. He leans against the opposite wall of bars. "Don't let me hurt anyone else. Not you, not anyone."

Jack's desperate clamoring and banging at the door abruptly halts. Slowly, he turns and slumps with his back against it. His expression is incredulous. Disbelieving. His eyes are wide and pained. He takes a staggering step closer to Nathan, than another. By the third step he's almost out of space, but he's picked up enough momentum to hit a stumbling run. He slams into Nathan's midsection shoulder-first and tackles him to the ground. Where he at first had been unarmed, now he's suddenly holding a pistol.

Now kneeling on top of Nathan, Jack jams the muzzle of his firearm into the older man's eye socket hard enough to bruise. His entire arm quivers and spasms with barely repressed rage. All except for his trigger finger, which is steady as can be. There's only one question that needs asking in response to Nathan's statement. "Why? When did you start carin' about hurtin' people?"

Okay, two questions.

Nathan goes down easily, and grunts in pain as the barrel is forced against his eye that closes a split second before it'd be too late, and he goes very, very still, not wishing to encourage more pressure. His other eye is also squeezed closed, as if in fervent prayer. "I don't know," he groans. "Never. Always." His moral compass had always been skewed, but nothing like what he's become. "But I don't want to anymore, I don't…" He tries to take a calming breath, trying to keep the panic at bay. "I want to change back."

Jack's finger caresses over the trigger. He begins to apply pressure, and in response the weapon's hammer starts to move. A fraction before it falls and strikes a round, he jerks the barrel away from Nathan's eye and instead fires a few inches to the side. The heat from combusting gunpowder and expanding gases washes back over both of them. The bullet ricochets off of the concrete and zings across the packing room to sink into a far wall. Then, disgusted with both Nathan and himself, Jack pushes himself violently back and scoots away on his backside.

There's a whine in his ear when the gun goes off, deafening him for who knows how long it'll be. All the better to mask the sob from himself when he realises he's not dead. When Jack's weight pushes off him, Nathan staggeringly crawls back to the opposite side of the cage, away from Jack, away away away and it's only the barred wall that stops him from moving any further, back landing against it. With a shudder, he fingers around the bruised area surrounding a bloodshot eye, before looking back at his new cellmate. And waits, subdued, clutching the fabric of his pants just below the knees.

When Jack bumps into the bars again he hauls himself upright. This time he remembers to relocate the keys back into his hands with a weak, quiet fingersnap. The door is unlocked and opened, then re-locked behind him. As soon as he's on the other side he grips the bars and stares through at Nathan with haunted, hollow eyes. "You can't kill me and I can't kill you," he rasps. "What a predicament we find ourselves in."

He rattles the door the cage one last time, then turns and limps away.

For a long time, Nathan stares blankly at the cage door, and the vision in his left eye begins to clear. The wounds begin to reawaken, and he gives a shuddery breath. So much pain. But it's an anchor and he clings to it, although the idea of sinking into subconsciousness is tempting. If there's any real division between himself and Logan, anyway.

"Oh there is," a voice says, and he turns his head to the side to observe his true cellmate. But they are not identical. Covered in red, angry burns, the features untouched by radiation on Logan's face seem more like a splash of normalcy on something that had always been inhuman. He looks at Nathan through one seeing eye, and his distorted mouth pulls into a smile. "I told you. I told you they hated both of us. You should have killed him."

Nathan doesn't answer. Instead, he closes his eyes, and when he opens them, Logan hisses in a breath at all these fresh new bruises. Then, he laughs until he cries.

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