2007-11-25: Less Than Ideal


Nathan_icon.gif Jack_icon.gif

Summary: Sometimes, superpowers only take you so far. Nathan tries to offer Jack some help of a different kind.

Date It Happened: November 25th, 2007

Less Than Ideal

Den of Iniquity

After several months of being closed down, the Den has faded to a shadow of her former self. The furniture has all been covered with heavy squares of cloth, cobwebs cling to the corners, and a thick layer of dust muffles much of the establishment's interior. It's broken by footsteps that lead back and forth to the office door, which has been torn out and replaced with a heavy set of iron bars. No longer chained and locked, the improvised cell door hangs askew as it was left when Trina found Jack and brought him home. The inside of the office is empty. All of the furnishings, Jack's private liquor stash, and everything else of interest has been bustled out into one corner of the pub, leaving the office bare.

The proprietor is perched at the edge of the stack with an expensive bottle of whiskey dangling from one hand. His eyes are half-lidded and there's a wisp of a smile on his lips as he sings in a rich, melodious basso profundo.

As I went home on Monday night as drunk as drunk could be,
I saw a horse outside the door where my old horse should be.
Well, I called me wife and I said to her: "Will you kindly tell to me
Who owns that horse outside the door where my old horse should be?"

Nathan almost doesn't expect the door to swing open when it does, but it does. The interior of the ex-bar isn't exactly a welcoming sight, abandoned for all intents and purposes, but Nathan heads in anyway, the sound of singing and the unlocked door at least indicating someone's presence. Quietly, he shuts the door behind himself, and breathes out sharply through his nose so as not to sneeze at the sudden onslaught of dust that floats thickly in the air. Of course, that only means it catches in his throat, so a sudden bout of wet-sounding coughing heralds his arrival, bringing his arm up to muffle it into the corner of his elbow. Oh, well, too late to ninja in now.

"Jack?" he calls out, once he's done, voice rasping more than ever.

He's dressed in muted colours, neat and clean but otherwise plain and ordinary, a rain resistant jacket covering a sweater vest and a dress shirt, slacks leading down to sensible polished shoes. His hair, still somewhat too long, is combed back, but none of this well-put-together-ness can quite mask exactly how sick he is, evident in the sheen of sweat on his brow and the unhealthy pallor of his skin, the dark around his eyes. Nathan makes his way towards the office.

Jack cuts off his singing when he hears someone calling out his name. He examines the nearly empty bottle of whiskey critically, then upends it and drains the last of the contents. Now trash, it's tossed casually aside where it clunks and rolls across the dusty floor. He picks up a similar bottle from the stack of discarded office items and hops down from his perch. With one hand resting unobtrusively at the small of his back, he pokes his head out to see who has come calling.

Weeks of heavy drug use followed by a cold turkey detox haven't been kind to him. His face is more deeply lined than ever, his posture is slightly hunched, and he's lost a great deal of weight. Now that he's thin to the point of being gaunt his rumpled suit hangs loosely around his shoulders and hips. His hair has been shorn close to his skull, revealing a web of old scars and one fresher one that's just above his hairline. Though his broken nose has healed, it was never set properly and now angles just a touch to the side.

"Eh?" When he spots Nathan, Jack pulls his hand from behind his back and steps out into proper view. "Christ on a crutch. You look like something I shat out after a weekend in Mexico."

When Nathan sees Jack, he can't completely hide his reaction - in short, a look of horror crosses his features, just a subtle one, but it's unmistakable, even with his paleness and the half-light in here. It's gone as soon as it comes, and he raises a skeptical eyebrow at Jack. "And this, coming from you. You know what happens when you throw stones in glass houses, right? Stuff gets broken." There's a sharp zipper sound as he opens his jacket, the stuffiness inside making this a necessity unless he wants to play chicken with his own fever, and he casts a look around the place with obvious distaste, then back at his friend. The expression doesn't really change much. "What's happening to you?"

"This is your youthful, attractive body on drugs," is Jack's wry reply. "I'll be fine. Just working out the kinks. Speaking of which, I lost your mother's phone number again." The joke lacks it's usual measure of punch. The Irishman is tired and it shows. He lifts the second whiskey bottle to his lips and attempts to take a drink, only to be thwarted by a cork that's still decidedly in place. He yanks it out with his teeth, spits it to the floor, and wipes the mouth of the bottle on his sleeve. "Though I get the impression you have a little more on your mind."

Nathan keeps a critical gaze on Jack, likely exactly the same look Peter gets a lot, or at least used to, before the older man slowly makes his way towards the bar, invading the usually off limits space just behind it so he can search for glasses, clean them off, and make sure he gets a few nips of whiskey himself. "I've got a lot on my mind," he says. "The state of the country, how I'm meant to do my job without potentially infecting the United States Senate— I won the election, by the way." He takes out a couple of lowball glasses, but they're dusty from disuse, and he holds them. "Got anything cleaner? This place is a shithole, Jack." The barb is delivered without venom, as if his sense of nagging has gone to the same place as Jack's sense of humour.

Jack furls his brow disdainfully at the comment. "Blow me," he retorts half-heartedly. "I'm pretty sure those are the cleanest ones I've got." There's an almost completely clean kerchief in his breast pocket, which he tugs out and tosses to his comrade. "Congratulations on the election. I always knew you'd win. Now you just have to get well so you can save the world. Speakin' of, I imagine you wouldn't have come here without a good reason. If this is going to be another bollocking, let's get it over with. Everyone wants to yell at me lately."

The kerchief is caught, and without further complaint, Nathan cleans off the glasses and sets them out, inclining his head to them at Jack as if to say: fill 'er up. At Jack's next words, he seems to consider them, and it's as if some tension is unwound, shoulders loosening, relaxing. "I don't want to yell at you," he says, which is a far cry from his attitude back when Peter was talking to him just the previous night. But it seems Jack's managed to turn that on its head, even while telling Nathan to go ahead and do it. He taps the edge of his glass. "Now share, or I'm liable to change my mind. But yes, I did come here for a reason. Peter told me what happened with him the other day."

"That reminds me, I still owe him three hundred bucks and a fresh shirt," Jack muses as he pours a hefty three fingers of whiskey for Nathan. He takes his own swig straight from the bottle and then wipes his mouth on the back of his sleeve. "That was hardly an ideal situation, but he did well. I'm really sorry about getting him shot up. It was a less than ideal situation, to say the least." Frowning now, he goes back to the jug for another swig.

There's a bit of a pause, before Nathan picks up his glass. "So he got shot," he says. Apparently, this was a piece of the story he missed out on, and for a moment, he's back to looking like he does, after all, want to yell at Jack, before he simply tips back a decent mouthful of whiskey and shivers it off. "So what was the plan had that been me? Not all of us can bounce back from that. I can't even fly right now."

"There was no plan. It's not like any of this was my idea." Jack clamps his bottle under one arm so he can reach into his pocket for a fresh pack of cigarettes. His forehead creases and his mouth pinches as he picks at the plastic with a fingernail. "I am sorry, though. I never meant to put anybody in danger. I'm going to take care of it. Honest." The wrapping finally gives, granting Jack access to his prize. "Smoke?"

Nathan hesitates, glancing down from Jack's eyes towards the packet. Well, if anything, the virus has a better chance of knocking him out before lung cancer, so what the hell. "Yeah, sure," he says, elbows coming down to lean on the bar. "I know you're going to take care of it Jack, but— listen, Peter said these guys were mobsters, criminals. I've been digging dirt on these kinds of people and putting them behind bars for years. It's not my job description anymore but I have to be able to help you somehow."

This is a possibility that Jack hadn't yet considered. He cocks his head to the side thoughtfully and reaches up to stroke his stubbly cheek with the back of one hand. "Information is what I'm having the most trouble with right now," he admits. "I don't know if Peter told you, but I'd bet my lunch money that it's my father who's doing all of this. Problem is, I can't find him and I can't figure out who he's using to set all this up. I can punch thugs all day long, but it won't get me any answers."

Obstacle, and Nathan nods his understanding. He wants, badly, to bring the police into this - but between Jack having a shady enough background as it is and Peter walking away fine from bullet wounds, it makes it more than a little tricky. He'd have to target these men directly. "The thing about thugs is that if they're more or less hired help, it's a domino effect. Grab one, they're not above dragging down the whole system, like a thread unraveling," Nathan says. "Do you reckon they'd be brave enough to go for a Senator-elect?"

"That's hard to say. I imagine not. You're too high profile." Jack shrugs his broad shoulders apologetically. "Not that you aren't special enough to get killed. It'd just cause too much attention. If I were them, I wouldn't. Shit, I hate this. The problem with these people is that they're loyal. The guy who shot Peter killed himself rather than give up information."

"Christ," Nathan says, and takes another sip of whiskey. More information he wasn't aware of. A sudden feeling of bitterness as he realises how much Peter hasn't told him, and his mouth twists in a smirk. "Pete left that out of his story. Left out a few things. I'll need to let him know I don't appreciate being put out to pasture." It's lightly spoken, but it seems a genuine annoyance, and he shakes his head as if to ward off the feeling. Because he's not going to drop dead any minute now, damnit. "Okay. That doesn't change the fact that some men might feel a little more generous if they think the justice system's gonna come down on them like a ton of bricks. Not sure how to get one if I can't set a trap, however."

Jack nods and purses his lips pensively. "That's a tough one, no mistake about it. I'll have to think on it and get back to you. This is a different breed of crazy we're working with. I don't know how to bribe or intimidate a guy who'll kill himself over a job." Tiredly, he rubs his fingers over his face and grinds the heels of his hands into his eyes. "Grr. They have to be getting financed somehow. Stuff like that takes a lot of money. If we could find the paper trail, that could lead us right where we want to go."

"Hard to do that without names," Nathan says, setting down his glass so he, too, can rub his face wearily. "The man who killed himself…" His hands lower again, looking across at Jack. "What do we know about him? Who cleaned up the body?" And he extends an arm out to drag an ashtray closer to sit between them.

"I did," Jack replies emotionlessly. "His name was Danny Walsh. Irish hitman. Here…" He pulls a handful of stick matches from a pocket and dumps them out next to the ash tray. Next he produces a passport and a leather wallet. "These were his. The wallet and shit, not the matches. I only knew him by reputation. Gruesome ol' nutter. Had a thing with making friends with his marks before he took them down."

Nathan takes the wallet and passport, a spark of something showing through his feverish haze. "Can I keep these?" he asks, waving the items. "I've done enough suspicious prodding and prying in the past month to last me a while, but a little more can't hurt. Maybe something'll come up if I pull some strings." There's some optimism in his voice, but it's clear he'd been hoping to do more than paw around the information left by a corpse, not quite looking at Jack as he pockets the passport and wallet.

"Sure, take 'em with you." Jack chews at his lower lip for several seconds. "Let me know when you get better, man. I'd feel bad about taking you out as sick as you are, but I'd feel better with you watching my back. Somebody has to be the smart one."

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