2008-02-10: Living In A Powder Keg

Starring:

Jack_icon.gif Logan_icon.gif Nathan_icon.gif

Summary: Ugly truths are uncovered, and things reach boiling point as alliances and friendships are tested.

WARNING: Reasonably graphic. Y'all should be used to us.

Date It Happened: February 10th, 2008

Living In A Powder Keg


Logan's Apartment

Every part of Jack hurts. His mangled hand is wrapped in thick layers of gauze and tape. His split nose broke open during one of the many scuffles he's been through, leaving smudges of blood on the bandage that bridges the gap. He has a knot on his scalp the size of a kiwi from where he was struck with a hair dryer.

None of that matters, though. Heidi is dead. Jack has done the thing that he was asked to do, and done it well. Now, after nearly a day of hiding out at the Den, he's finally made his way back to he and Nathan's apartment. His key rattles in the lock and he slams the door behind himself, signaling his arrival. "Honey, I'm hoooome~" he croons wearily as he shucks out of his coat and lets it drop to the floor. As soon as his arm is exposed, he fumbles an injector out of his pocket and jabs the needle in as close to his injured hand as he can manage.

The relief is instantaneous. Palpable. The drugs don't just take away the pain in his hand and his face. They take away the pangs in his guts and his soul that only addiction can bring on.

It took Nathan a long time to get back up after landing. But he did, eventually, and when he did, he hit the ground running. Dressed out of his prim and proper clothes of the morning, he's replaced his slacks and dress shirt with jeans and a sweater, inconspicuous and comfortable. He's about to face the world. But like a man freshly broke out of prison, a sense of direction is a hard thing to claim. For instance, his cellphone lies untouched on his bed, not quite brave enough to call anyone. Not yet.

Nathan is kneeling by the filing cabinet by the time Jack moves for the door, having not yet ventured out of the four walls he's surrounded by. The files are gone, unfortunately, but the gun is located, and he's checking the magazine when the door suddenly slams shut, and that voices rings out. Ice, that's what seems to suddenly line his veins, Nathan freezing in place, momentarily paralysed by panic, anger, and hate all surging through him, enough to take his breath away.

Calm down. He clicks the full magazine back into the Glock, squeezing the weapon tightly, head ducking low enough to rest the weapon against his forehead. Then, a heavy clatter, the thing dropped back into the filing cabinet, door slammed shut. Working on autopilot, Nathan gets to his feet and heads out of the bedroom, shutting the door behind him once he's there. Compared to Jack, he's the picture of health, but not in other ways. For instance, he can't hide the fact that he's been weeping. Doesn't matter. "Me too," he announces, a little tonelessly, watching Jack as if watching a stranger, unsure of how, exactly, to tackle this.

"Good to see you, Capo," Jack greets his friend and benefactor with a lazy wave as he leans back against the door. The wave turns into a languid, catlike stretch that brings both arms above his head and extends his next sentence into a near-purr. "Oi, you certainly look the part of the grieving widower." He settles back in with a quick shiver of freshly-loosened muscles and narrows his eyes to inspect Nathan more closely. "The tears are an especially nice touch."

The silence that Jack gets in response is positively electrical, Nathan's eyes narrowing and a look of pain rippling across his expression, as if he'd just been punched, dampened only by anger. Blind anger. Widower. Yes, he certainly does.

Suddenly… he knows how to tackle this. At least, for the next five seconds.

"Son of a bitch," comes out as a growl, long strides eating up distance between them as he fairly launches himself forward, as much as a brisk walk can be counted as such, hands out. Nathan finds a grip on Jack's shirt, yanking him forward just a fraction, enough so that he can simply slam the taller man back against the door. "How could you do it, Jack? How could you kill her?" The heartbreak in his voice is evident, no point in hiding it.

Even through the drugs, Jack can feel his sore bones and split muscles rattling in protest as he rebounds off of the door. Surprise. Anger. Confusion. They all flit across his face as he pushes Nathan back, albeit far more gently. "What the fuck is this, man? I did it for you! It's a little late to be changin' your damn mind!"

It's not the killing that bothers Jack. Not even that it was Heidi. For him, human life is an inexpensive currency. It can be bartered, reformatted, and destroyed if needed. It's the look in Nathan's eyes that stings him. It's a look he hasn't seen on his friend's face in a very, very long time.

Disappointment. Disgust. Moral outrage.

"Okay," the Irishman starts again more calmly, both hands stretched forward with his palms facing out. "Let's just keep our cool. No need to get worked up, right?"

The shove is gentler but does its job, Nathan's hands loosening and allowing him to step back, hands trembling for only a moment— then those words. Did it for you. It slams him back into reality with as much force as he'd shoved Jack, enough to make his stomach feel like it was rolling over. A breathless, near hysterical laugh leaves him through Jack's next words, hands raising to cover his face for a moment, backing up a few more steps, then pressing his hands together as if to stop them from shaking.

Out the corner of his eye, movement in the glass of the photos on the wall. Logan is less a threat, more a presence. A reminder. This is his fault, his awful fault, and he needs, as Jack says, to keep his cool. Even with plenty reason to get worked up.

"I know," he says, trying to get his voice under controlled, pained gaze landing back on Jack. Horror, pity. Unrecognition. God, what has he done to him. "Jack, I…"

But the man killed his wife. He could have told Logan no. Nathan steels himself, voice coming out with barbs of accusation. "No. No, you didn't do anything for me, Jack. You did it for what I could give you. For that— that drug. Well it's gone, Jack, all of it."

Jack's body jerks as if it's been exposed to a live electrical arc. Much of what Nathan says is lost in the face of graver, far more important news. "G-Gone?" he stutters unevenly. Desperate disbelief creeps onto his face. It isn't true. It can't be true.

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, IT'S GONE?" he roars, going bright red and spraying flecks of spittle with effort.

And then he's calm again. Sort of. He's still clinging to the fabric of his jeans with both hands, kneading and working his digits into the cloth until it squeaks in protest and his knuckles go white. "No," he states flatly, smoothly shifting from fury to denial. "No, it's not. You're just saying that because you're upset. It's okay. Everything is okay." The last two sentences are a near-frantic reassurance to himsef.

He's never had Jack rage quite like that, never seen it, and Nathan visibly flinches at the outburst, but it's a mere moment of disruption, swallowing hard and remaining stoic once more. Grief's an open wound, but it allows him to focus. He watches as Jack works his denial, and, after a moment, Nathan moves away, as if to stop himself from cornering the man. To give both of them some room to breathe.

"I'm upset," he agrees, gravely, darkly. The mini-bar catches his eye - there are still glass shards in the carpet, stains of bourbon. Nathan sets about fixing himself a drink, Logan's choice, in fact. "But I'm not lying to you. It's gone. And no— nothing is okay." That fury creeps back into his voice, and he tries to cool it with a good mouthful of bourbon. He just wants to take the hurt he's feeling and lay it on someone else. Preferably the man in this room. He's not entirely sure he won't.

This is not good. This is not good. This is very, very not good.

"This is not good," Jack states unnecessarily. He's pacing broad, irregular circles around the carpet and doing his best to restrain his panic. His success is… dubious, at best. His nostrils flare and his eyes shift from wide circles to narrow slits and then back again. "Why?" he asks forlornly, his voice strangled with anger and confusion. "What happened to the stash? And what the hell happened to you, man?"

The bourbon is downed, swiftly, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand before refilling, but not for himself. "No excuse," Nathan says, shaking his head. Nonsensical to Jack's ears. "I can't say anything happened to me." He moves towards Jack, now, and gently, he extends his arm right out, holding out the glass for the taking. "I let it happen to me. I wasn't strong enough. Neither were you. The drugs are gone." A pause, a snap decision. Nathan has no real issue on pinning blame on himself right now, as opposed to Peter, and so, he says, "I got rid of them."

"You… got rid of them?" Jack turns the statement over slowly in his mouth, tasting it and stretching it out as if it's in some foreign language that he doesn't fully understand.

"You got rid of them," he repeats, this time more clearly. He takes a step toward Nathan. "You got rid of them." Another step.

And then Jack springs. The drink is batted aside. The offering is vile and offensive in the face of the admission that's shattered his perfect, twisted view of the world. The view of an addict. With his hands locked around Nathan's lapels, he pushes the other man back against the wall hard enough to crack plaster and paint. "YOU GOT RID OF THEM," he screams, his face going purple again.

The glass shatters against wall, ignored, Nathan's feet frantically backpedaling as he's pushed back and back until he hits the wall, a pained grunt forced from his lungs in suddenly expulsion. Instant bruises. His hands grip onto Jack's arms tightly, watching him almost at a cosmic distance as the younger man screams at him. This can't be real. This wasn't the world he left behind. This is Logan's legacy. "What're you gonna do, Jack," he says, almost quietly, in contrast. His hands release Jack's arms, grab the front of his shirt, drawing him close. "Gonna kill me for it? Gonna kill everyone 'til you get your fix again?" Logan's brought out the worst in everyone. Nathan is no exception.

It seems like he's ready to do just that. Jack's grip slides up around Nathan's neck. There's a gentle, experimental squeeze. Then, slowly, he starts to bear down. He's never choked a man to death before, but there's a first time for everything.

He wants to. He wants it so bad that he can almost taste Nathan's death in the air when he licks his lips. What's one more life? What's one more murder in the name of his pursuit for power?

Jack's fingers quiver and spasm, then slowly slide down Nathan's chest and press him away. The stranglehold is aborted, though fury and conflict still swim in the Irishman's eyes. Something is wrong. Something is so fundamentally wrong that his world is collapsing, and still he can't diagnose the problem. There's no reasonable course of action. No way to magically make it better, and no way to make the confusion and pain go away. Right now, the only reasonable course of action is to replace that wrongness with punishment.

Growling like a wounded animal, Jack slugs Nathan in the face with every single ounce of strength he can muster.

One moment, Nathan is staring at Jack, feeling misplaced betrayal, throat aching from the aborted strangle, leaning limply against the wall as he struggles to get his breath back. The next moment, he's on the floor, and he can't feel his face.

Then, he can, quite suddenly, and a small grunt escapes his throat at the pain of it, the blood making tracks down his skin and dots on the expensive carpeting. From that to the cracks in the paint job, they're never gonna get the deposit back at this rate. Nathan brings his hand up to stem the blood flow from his nose, his mouth too, letting it soak into the sleeve of his sweater for a few moments before he spits out a spray of diluted red, and struggles to get to his feet, using his hand against the wall in effort. Fingerprints of red.

Well, if Jack can't kill him, Nathan will be damned if he wastes the opportunity. For what? He'll figure it out when it happens.

His feet leave the ground in a sudden rush, hands grabbing Jack and momentum of flight dragging both men across the room several feet, Nathan releasing him to let the solid opposite wall catch his fall. Nathan twists enough to catch his foot against the same surface, killing momentum, and staggering back in a clumsy landing. He can barely hear himself over his own heartbeat. "Now you're gonna listen to me," he snarls, all blood and anger. "And you're gonna listen really fucking hard. I am not your enemy. But I could be."

There's really no way to prepare yourself for a man flying at you. It tends to happen very quickly, and this is no exception. Jack only has time to grit his teeth and square his shoulders, then he's scooped up and dashed against the wall. The impact is hard enough to drive the breath from his lungs and produce a loud, popping protest from the joints in his back and shoulders. Sputtering weakly for air, he sinks to the floor with both arms clutched around his torso.

Once, twice, three times he tries to rise, but to no avail. The physical abuse he's taken over the last several days has culminated into an ugly pile of injuries that each qualify for their own hospital visit. Still, it's no match for his emotional pain.

The drugs are gone.

"Nathan," Jack mewls weakly, still struggling like a sickly kitten. "Please, don't do this. You can't. I need it."

Pity without sympathy, if that's possible. That's the look Jack gets. Nathan could kill him, and it'd be a fast and ugly job but over quickly, and he'd probably never be the same again, but he could, and maybe Heidi's death would hurt less. That's really the only reason he doesn't. It's easier to rail viciously against what you can't control. That's what makes him different to Logan. One of the many things.

Wiping, again, at the blood on his face, Nathan crouches down in front of Jack, the same kind of posture he'd take up when addressing one of his sons. His sons. He'll have to tell them that mom is dead. Grief almost makes him fall the rest of the way to the floor, a shaky hand covering his mouth as if he were about to puke, but he manages to keep the tears back. There's plenty of time for that later.

"Jack," Nathan says, voice simmering with anger, hurt, hand lowering. "You need to listen. Please. They were right. They were right about— me." He studies Jack, to see if he's taking any of this in. "About the split personality. I'm Nathan, and you haven't— we haven't spoken for a long time. Do you understand that?"

"Nathan?" Jack queries, turning the name into an incredulous, terrified whisper. His eyes clamp shut and he grits his teeth so hard that the grinding is audible.

It's not that he doesn't hear the words. He hears them fine. It's that they don't make sense. It's wrong. A trick. A lie. "No!" Jack shouts. "NO!" It's a desperate, vehement denial that comes with more physical thrashing. He's no longer trying to attack, or even to stand. Heedless of the cuts and bruises on his back, of ribs that are likely broken and cartilege that is almost definitely torn, he drags himself backward on the floor in a primal attempt to escape.

Nathan's hand goes out, as if to pull Jack back into place, but he wasn't close enough to begin with, arm sharply folding back in. Wordless, he stays crouched there, perhaps knowing Jack isn't going to get very far anyway. He waits for a few moments, head bowing, before looking up again. "I'm not the scary one," he says, an eyebrow raising. Finally, he gets to his feet, looming over his fallen friend. Former friend. "He got you hooked on those drugs. He played to your weaknesses. He made you do terrible things. If you know me at all, you should know I'd never hurt my family. Peter, Hei— " Can't say it. Nathan just shakes his head. "I needed you, Jack, to help me. And you just needed him. Logan."

It can't be. It's wrong. Cruel. False. If what Nathan is saying is true, then Peter was right all along. All the things Jack has done… all the pain he's caused, the lives he's taken and ruined…

It was all for nothing. For the drugs, and nothing more. For his 'edge' that he craved so strongly.

"No," Jack repeats again, unwilling to believe it. He can't listen. He won't. He rolls and flops against the carpet, turning his face away, muffling his ears against his shoulders, anything to keep away from the awful words he's hearing.

Grim satisfaction out of tormenting this man, not with fists, but with words that sink in like silver daggers. Nathan watches him, lifts a hand to his own mouth still leaking blood. Of course, Logan had never used fists on Nathan. How could he? They shared this body. No, it was words too, knifing, cutting blows to reduce him down to— well. Jack, right now, only in the form of something unconscious. Heidi was right. They were the same person in a lot of ways. But Nathan gets a break. His wife is dead.

Like a knife taken away from Jack's throat, Nathan steps back, silently. "So what do I do?" he asks, quietly. "Do I kill you? Lower myself to his level? Or do I save you."

"Neither," Jack replies quietly. His head snaps back and he looks up at Nathan with wide, empty eyes. No longer sobbing, his breath now comes in fast, tightly controlled gasps. "I kill you."

The pain in Jack's body melts away and is replaced by the hollow ache of Nathan's betrayal. It begs for reprisal and retribution. He doesn't even try to stand. He just launches his entire body across the room.

"YOU RUINED MY FUCKING LIFE!" he screams, pounding his former friend in the face, the abdomen, in every inch of flesh that he can see and reach. Where he can't strike with fists, his hands twist into feral claws to tear at skin and muscle. There's no skill or guile to the attack. It's fueled by desperate, helpless rage and a need for revenge.

There's a kind of surreality to this, Nathan notes distantly, as he feels Jack suddenly catch him in a tackle, bringing him down hard to the floor. It's been a long time since he felt anything this vivid, and for a moment, he lets the hits connect, this wild animal on top of him doing exactly what he wishes he had the strength to begin. Lash out. Cause pain. He can't breathe from the fists laying into his sides, bringing his arms up for a moment to protect his head, to curl up and away from an attack almost rabid. Even worse than the blows, he can hear those words ring loud in his ears.

YOU RUINED MY FUCKING LIFE!

He did. And Jack ruined his. And Logan is to blame, the only thing in this room not made of flesh to tear at and punish. How gloriously fucked up.

Nathan snarls something that's meant to be "get off me!", although it comes out muffled with anger and a hurting mouth, defending himself with an attack, knee coming up to hit Jack away, fists dragging at hair and clothing and skin to pull the larger man off him, a wild and desperate brawling scrabble on the floor of the richly Manhattan apartment.

There's no escaping from Jack. Not this way. He doesn't even acknowledge the injuries that Nathan inflicts on him. Not a single flinch as a fistful of short, dark hair is torn out. Not a whimper as two fingernails scrape down the side of his face hard enough to dig gruesome curls of skin from his forehead. His only concession to the pain is to squint his left eye shut when the nail tears into it.

Meanwhile, he shakes and pounds Nathan's body against the floor like a bull goring a haystack. "You RUINED-" Slam. "-my FUCKING life!" he repeats. Despite his earlier words, he doesn't seem to be trying to kill his old friend. Not actively.

Not yet.

Jack's fist catches him good on the jaw, which sends a white-hot streak of pain up the side of his face from the first initial strike, rendering Nathan useless for a moment. Jack is stronger than he is. Younger. Better at this. Nathan's attempt at escape dies quickly at that one cracking, well-aimed punch, sending his head whipping to the side hard enough to twinge his neck. His hands grab at Jack's wrists, now, going purely on defense, attempting to stop him at least until his vision stops doubling.

"Jack…" he chokes out. "Jack, s-stop, Ja…"

When the man wrenches his wrists free, Nathan only tries to get away, now, twisting around and digging his hand into carpet and pulling away a fraction, curling in on himself. It doesn't even occur to him to give Logan the reins, whether to get him out of this, or to take the punishment. When it comes to letting Logan win… there are worse things than being beaten.

Jack clings to Nathan like a second skin, worming along with him across the floor and wrapping his arms around the older man's neck. Tattoos and scars stretch as his muscles lock into a tight, deathly embrace and his legs wrap around to secure his prey

Very slowly, he leans down and kisses Nathan on the top of the head. "I love you," he whispers. Then, grimly, he starts to twist. "I want to talk to the other one," he growls, applying more pressure. "Logan. Let him out, or by God, I'll tear your head right off your fucking shoulders."

Suddenly he can't move, hands coming up to grip Jack's arm around his throat, weakly digging his fingers in. Can barely breathe, can barely move, locked into an expert grip that Nathan tries, vainly, to struggle against. "Jack," he bleats out, breathlessly. The words— don't make sense. Everyone wants him to win. Everyone was counting on him. "No, please— " His words are cut off in a sharper cry as his neck is drawn further back, panicky breathing audible. "Let me help you. I can help you."

"Last chance," Jack offers bleakly. He leans backward, stretching out Nathan's spinal column and using the other man's lower back as a recliner. "From this angle, I won't even have to try to break your neck. All three of us know that." There's an intimate promise in the implication.

I am your best friend, and I'm still going to kill you.

"Let him out, Nathan. Let him out or I'll kill you both."

The world is starting to blur, Nathan clinging on to consciousness like someone dangling from a precipice, fingers slipping. He can see him, now, a bleary mirage, just his feet in polished shoes, strolling closer, and closer. "Jack," he murmurs, one last heartbroken, pleading murmur, attempting to say You don't understand! but there's nothing left, and Logan is moving closer, and even flying men know the pull of gravity.

His grip slips. He plummets.

Logan gasps in at the fresh new pains he's bombarded with. Can't trust Nathan in this body, it's like loaning out your car only to find dents in the paintjob. He relaxes, an almost subordinate gesture, relaxing into Jack's grip in indication of surrender, eyes hooding. "Shh," he intones, weakly, voice strained and taut from the pressure on his throat. His hand smoothes up Jack's arm in a sort of carress. "It's over now."

"You're damn right that it's over!" The Irishman rages. "You're mine now, d'you understand? I own you. You do as I say, and if I think for one fucking second that you're gonna turn on me, I'll kill everything you love. Simon and Monty… Peter… Everyone. I'll tear the skin from their bones with my bare hands."

Quivering with barely repressed rage, Jack recoils from the symbiotic Logan/Nathan creature and pushes it away like the distasteful, slimy thing that it is. "Wherever you got the drugs from, you're going to get more, and you're going to keep getting them along with anything else that I want." His upper lip curls disdainfully as his good eye rakes over his former benefactor. "In return, I'll let you keep that body. I'll even help you keep it. After what Nathan's done, he doesn't deserve it anymore."

Logan takes a gasp when he's finally released, taking in too much and choking himself on it, harshly coughing as he lies, still, on the ground. Pushed aside, he doesn't move, trying to reckon with what injuries he has. Ribs are cracked, that much is obvious, muscles in his throat aching fiercely, and he tastes blood anew. Finally, he manages to extend his consciousness past himself, past his own aching body, to listen to Jack, not daring to get up should he only be beat back down.

A cold look rakes up Jack's form, but he's in no position to disagree. It's a shame. His favourite pet is damaged, no thanks to Nathan. Wild dogs get put down, typically, but he pushes the thought aside, as if Jack could somehow read it and act out.

"I'll get you the drugs," Logan promises. His words come out hindered from injury, and slurred. Owned. The idea is detestable. "It's just a matter of picking up the phone, I swear." Slowly, he goes to climb to his feet, grunting harshly as his body protests. "You'll feel better when you're thinking clearly again."

"Don't fucking patronize me!" Jack snaps irrationally. He makes as if to boot Logan while he's down, but the blow never lands. It's a clear warning, though.

Right now, I am stronger and I will hurt you to get what I want.

Jack has been broken down to his most basic components. Survival and addicition. The safety of his components has been ensured by physical abuse and threats. Now it's time to make it clear just how valid those threats are. He digs his cellular phone out of his pants and drops it into Logan's lap.

"You have one hour. Then I kill…" He purses his lips and chooses arbitrarily. "Simon. If you think the police can protect him, by all means, I urge you to call them instead."

Logan barely resists the urge to roll his eyes. Even he's not sure where his sons currently reside, and apart from the minor inconvenience of being a widower and the father of dead sons, it doesn't much matter to him. Apart from the fact that the police will start asking very difficult questions, and that it might just bring Nathan back full force and obliterate him. The threat works, and not in way Jack could recognise.

He picks up the phone, although he doesn't dial anything yet. Just shows he'll do it. "Then what?" he asks, grimly.

"Then you get to live for another day," Jack replies sharply. He pauses in the doorway and glances over his shoulder at Logan. "Be seeing you."

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