2007-02-16: One Step At A Time


Jack_icon.gif Eliana_icon.gif

After the chaos at Common Grounds, Jack retreats to the Den of Iniquity where he calls Eliana. She comes to patch him up, and after sharing thoughts about the 'rescued' painting, they both go back to Eliana's place.

Date It Happened: February 16th, 2007

One Step At A Time

Brooklyn, NYC - Back Room of the Den of Iniquity

On the far side of the room, well outside the circle of bright light over the pool table, Jack is slumped over his desk. To one side of it, a pile of papers and a laptop computer sit in an untidy, haphazard pile, apparently shoved off. The glossy teak's surface is marred by drops of mixed blood and water as Jack soaks dry, crusted blood from a long gash on the back of his left forearm. Though he's changed into fresh, black silk pants and a white, sleeveless shirt, he's a mess. Cuts, bruises, and small burns spot his face and arms. The only other things on the desk are a large, well stocked first-aid kid, a bottle of scotch with a half-full tumbler beside it, and a long, cylindrical case.

The voice on the other end of the line summoning Eliana to the Den of Iniquity was not one that the journalist had ever heard come from Jack before. That alone was enough of a reason for her to get there as quickly as she could. Eliana makes no bones about walking through the door marked 'Private' to the backroom once she arrives, but once inside, she pauses. "God, Jack," she exhales in subdued horror before she steps toward him, her sneakers silent on the floor. She's dressed in a simple pair of jeans which have seen better days and a NYU hoodie underneath her open peacoat. "The hell happened to you?" Eliana asks, her face wrinkled with concern.

Jack squeezes a trickle of sickly, pink-red liquid from his rag, then lays it back over the slice on his arm. "Exploding bug crashed into Common Grounds," he croaks, his alread low voice made thick and raspy by smoke inhalation. "You know how to sew?" He nods at his forearm, which is still pulsing out a thin trickle of blood. If an exploding bus seems at all odd to him, he doesn't comment. THe last couple days have tapped him out.

Eliana knows that the last thing Jack needs is to have his own heart rate increased by what hers can do, so she bites her lip in an attempt to stay calm as she draws nearer, pulling a chair from the poker table toward the desk. "A little," she mumbles before she sinks into the chair. Despite her best efforts, some gas does seep from the skin on her face and hands, the rest muffled by her layers of clothing. "I guess it will be on the news tonight," she says after a moment of silence, if only to fill the tense air with sound.

Jack lifts the rag from his arm once again, then rummages in the first-aid kit for a pre-threaded needle with several feet of coiled suture and a bottle of antiseptic. Leaning down over the bucket, he grits his teeth and pours half the bottle over his wound. "There," Jack croaks. "Don't worry about me, I'm prepared. Just take your time." He snags the glass of scotch and takes a herculean gulp. When he speaks again his voice is as gentle as he can make it under the circumstances. "Thanks for coming," he murmurs.

Eliana gulps, realizing that now isn't the time for small talk. She nods, then reaches past Jack to get a pair of gloves from the kit and slip them on before she takes the needle and does her best to sew the two pieces of skin on either side of the gash together. As she works, her heart beasts faster, sending more gas out of her exposed skin. The rest seems out from under the cuffs of her coat and sweatshirt, but the gloves start to bulge slightly with the build-up.

It's good that Eliana donned the gloves, because the effect of the gas causes Jack's heart rate to rise as well, and this sends fresh blood oozing from the gash. He doesn't make a sound as she works, he only closes his eyes and chews his lower lip. Only when Eliana finishes her stitching does he finally let out a long, low 'whoosh' of air.

It's a sound that Eliana echoes. She takes the gloves off carefully, trapping the needle inside. When the gloves come off, the gas they were holding in is released with a silent woosh, but Eliana's heart slows and no more is produced for the time being. "It… it might be a good idea to take a cold bath. You might turn purple all over if you don't." Reducing the size of those bruises and any potential swelling sounds like a good idea, if it's even possible. "God, Jack," Eliana exhales again.

"I know. And all over this." Jack flexes his arm experimentally and winces as he nods at the case on his desk. "A painting that three people were willing to die for. And two of 'em were…" He sighs wearily. "Let's just say there are more people like us that we thought."

Somehow the words 'exploding bus' and 'painting' don't really fit into the same sentence. Eliana blinks, shrugging off the idea of there being more evolved people in the city to focus on the reason why Jack is so hurt. "So someone blew up a bus for it? Is it worth a lot of money or something?"

Jack shakes his head. "I don't have a clue. I've been afraid to even open the damn thing." He runs his thumb lightly over the newly-patched wound in his arm. "I guess now's as good a time as any." Without further preamble, he pulls the end off of the tube and shakes the painting out onto the desk. Akwardly, he begins to slowly unroll it with one hand. The scene that it portrays hardly seems worth dying for. It depicts a blonde woman dancing in the foreground, at what appears to be a strip club. The background is pretty drab, lots of dark browns and blacks; it looks like a pretty run down establishment. In the background shadows, a dark figure lurks.

Eliana studies the painting for a long time, narrowing her eyes as she does so. After a few moments, Eliana shuts her eyes and shakes her head, then reaches into the bag for a roll of gauze and some tape in order to gently wrap the stitches and help ward against infection. "Maybe it's who she is that's important," she offers as an explanation. It's not a particularly spectacular piece in Eliana's layman opinion, so it's the only reason she can come up with.

"Maybe you're right," Jack replies. "All I know is, I almost snuffed it trying to save the fools who went /back into/ the exploding coffee house to save this thing and a bunch more like it."

"Just like it?" Eliana asks, glancing back at the painting as she moves her hands away from Jack's arm to tear off a few pieces of medical tape. She glances back to the gauze in order to focus on securing it properly before her eyes find the dancing woman and her audience of one again. "…so why did /you/ save it?"

Jack winces at the pressure on his arm, but his own gaze never leaves the painting. "I didn't see what the others looked like. As for why? If three people were willing to die for it, I figured it had to be important." He reaches out with his free hand and pours himself more scotch, then takes the rag and presses it to a cut high on his scalp.

Eliana glances to Jack's face, then frowns at the cut he starts to clean. "If that's just water," she says in an almost maternal tone, "you'll never get anywhere. Let me." She gets up then and moves closer to the desk so that she can rummage through the medical kit, but it doesn't take her long to find antiseptic wipes. Ripping the thin paper package open, Eliana poises the sanitized, damp swab to take over the rag's job. "They didn't say anything, did they?"

"I was too busy rabbiting to pay attention," Jack rumbles. He leans his head closer so Eliana can swab the cut. Like many other's he's aquired tonight, it's mostly superficial. With his good hand, he slides open a desk drawer and pulls out a pack of Marlboro Reds and his silver lighter. He deftly shakes one loose, then snaps off the filter and lights it.

Eliana's frown deepens as she works, swabbing whatever superficial cuts she sees and then quickly covering them with the myriad of Band-Aid equivalents pulled from the kit. "Were you paying enough attention to see if they noticed you snagging this one? I mean…" but Eliana's voice trails off and into another sigh. "Jack, if they were willing to die for all of those paintings, what makes you think they won't try to…" but her voice fails again, and Eliana mumbles something unintelligible before she's finally able to get out the words "for this one?"

Jack drops his cigarette where forgotten, it begins to smolder against the carpet. "I didn't think.. You shouldn't be here. The last thing I need is for something to happen to you. Yesterday was enough of a scare for me." He reaches out, grabs Eliana's hand, and gives it a quick squeeze.

Eliana has just finished sticking a bandage on one of Jack's cuts when he catches her hand, and she simply stares at him for a moment, her eyes narrowing as her eyebrows furrow upward. "Jack," she breathes, and her heart starts to pump a bit faster, though not fast enough to send much of the gas out through what little of her skin is exposed. She bites her lip, then sinks closer to him, placing her face closer to his. Eliana shuts her eyes then, warding off irrational tears, and when she reopens them, they hold a new fierceness. "/You/ shouldn't be here. They could find you here." Couldn't they?

"I don't have anywhere else to go," Jack mumurs by way of reply. Exhausted, he leans his cheek against Eliana's, savoring the contact, closeness, and trust. He closes his eyes and his muscles lose tension. The adrenaline that's been sustaining him has finally run out. "I appreciate you patching me up, but if something happens I don't want you to be around for it. You could do me one favor though, if you were of a mind to.."

Eliana 's eyes snap shut again when Jack presses his cheek to hers, and she swallows audibly. Whereas she told Sydney she didn't want to get roped into anything potentially nasty, she wouldn't mind much with Jack. But then again, she has a bond with the magician that she doesn't share with the seedier entertainer. So Eliana /has/ an idea of where Jack could go, but it goes against his idea of keeping her safe. "What is it?" she asks after a moment, opening her eyes but keeping her face against his.

Jack gulps, then steels himself and forges on. "When you leave, get as far from here as you can, call the police, and tell them you saw me there. Use my name. That should give me some time to think." He squeezes Eliana's hand again and murmurs, "Ne vous inquitez pas, tout sera bien."

"Jack," Eliana says, her voice slightly garbled by a sob that squeezes at her throat. She pauses to swallow, then speaks with more clarity, though her heart beat continues to rise. "Wouldn't they want to know why I'm calling? Wouldn't…wouldn't you be safer somewhere they won't come looking?"

"I don't know. This is new ground for me." Oblivious to Eliana's implied offer, Jack drags his good hand through his hair, which is mussed and streaked with soot. Grimacing, he wipes his fingers on the rag he'd be using to mop himself up.

It's only crime novels and mysteries that have given Eliana what little she knows about how to evade the law or someone looking for you. When you go to ground, you can't go home. "Then you're coming with me," she whispers before she presses her lips against the side of Jack's face near his ear, punctuating the matter in her own mind with the action.

Jack blinks, shocked. No one has offered to put themself in the line of fire for him since he left his parent's household. His instict is to maintain a bold, gentlemanly front, but both prudence and desire win out. "We don't know if it could be dangerous to have me aand this," he tosses his head toward the painting, "around. Are you sure you're willing to take that risk with me?" He cups Eliana's chin in his hand and his tired eyes bore into her clear ones intently.

But Eliana's clear eyes are starting to get slicker, even if she's doing her best not to cry as much as she might. "I think my apartment is insured against exploding busses," she whispers, making an attempt at humor to lighten the weight of the situation. "And I think we could put up a pretty good fight, or at least diffuse one. Besides, we only have to keep that thing around until we figure out why the hell it's so special." Though that might be difficult.

Immensely grateful, Jack sinks against Eliana. He reaches out with one hand and strokes her cheek, speaking into her hair at the same time. "Let's just take things one step at a time."

Eliana nods, but the motion is slow and short so as to not disturb Jack's head. "Right," she whispers. "Is there anything you want to carry with you, or will you just…" Get it later? How soon will these mystery art aficionados come to the Den in search of their lost canvas?

Jack smiles wryly and shakes his head. "I travel light. I don't want to leave this behind, though." He rolls the painting back up and slips it into the tube. "It means.. Well.." Jack bites his lip and puff. "Thank you, for everything. So much has happened, it's nice to share it all with someone."

Eliana smiles a little and shakes her head. "I'm glad I can help. You'd do the same thing for me." Or at least Eliana thinks Jack would, but that hardly matters now. She slowly stands and steps away from the chair, giving Jack plenty of room to get up, imagining he's sore in addition to tired. "Too bad you can't relocate yourself."

"Tell me about it," Jack replies. He pushes back from his desk, grabs his jacket from the back of his chair, and tucks the tubs under his arm. "The signature on this thing said 'Mendez.' That ought to give us a place to start on figuring this out. First, I want to sleep for about a year."

It's a common enough name that Eliana frowns, but searching for it in addition to art related terms might provide some more useful results. "Alright," Eliana answers with a soft, reassuring smile as she slips her arm around Jack to support him as much as just be near him. Back at her structurally shabby apartment, she relinquishes the bed to the wounded Jack and sleeps on the couch. But Eliana's eyes remain open most of the night either glued to the evening and late news, or Jack's sleeping form through the open door to the bedroom.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License