2007-10-18: The Highs And Lows


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Summary: Two friends talk. Then argue. Starts well, ends less so.

Date It Happened: October 18th, 2007

The Highs And Lows

Bat Country Labs and outside Seville Medical Center

The door opens and closes quietly, followed by soft, shuffling steps on the stairs. A moment later, Jack pokes his scruffy, bruised face into the living area to check for occupants. Once he's assured himself that the coast is clear, he limps in with a cane in one hand and a bright red cooler tucked under his other arm. He's dressed more casually today, wearing jeans, sneakers, an unpressed button-down, and a dark grey blazer. The small shoulder bag that's become his constant companion is slung across his back as well.

As close to sneaking about as a man using a cane can, he limps around in search of a likely spot to deposit his package. It won't do anyone any good if Cass gets to it first. As he turns, the blocky lettering on the end of the cooler is visible between his arm and his torso. It reads "LIVE HUMAN ORGANS."

So it's a good thing Nathan gets to it first, then. Emerging from his "bedroom" - and he will keep thinking of it as a "bedroom", not a bedroom, for as long as he can - and dressed as comfortably as he had been before, his slightly damp hair speaks of a recent shower, so there's that. Sick as before, obviously, but taking care of himself. Upon hearing the door open and close, he stops, frowning, a hand pressed against the wall of the hallway. Just a little paranoid about being seen down here, especially as the election draws closer, but when he sees it's Jack, he relaxes. "Evening," he says, to get the man's attention. Is it evening? He's unsure. It could be. But then Nathan narrows his eyes when he sees what's written on the cooler. "…Jack, you shouldn't have," he says, with bland humour.

"Man, don't sneak up on me when I'm trying to sneak up on people," Jack chides, startled. "I almost crapped my pants." He limps over to the chair he'd claimed during his last visit and eases into it gingerly. He's in much better condition today. Trina's been making him take care of all his boo-boos, and he's freshly scrubbed as well. He grins mischeviously as he rests the cooler across his knees and glances at Nathan. "Anyway, I figured I'd bring you a treat. I know what hospital food can be like."

Moving further into the main room, hands in his pockets, Nathan looks at the cooler dubiously— then, he gets it, and his eyes light up. Not something that occurs with Nathan very often, but these are desperate times. "Did you," he says, coming to lean against the nearest couch to Jack, peering at the cooler. "If it's actually live human organs, I may have to kill you. What'd you get?" Give.

Humming snatches of Beethoven under his breath, Jack draws a wide-bladed knife from his sleeve and uses it to slit open the safety seal on the cooler. "Hey, have I ever let you down?" he rumbles, grinning wider. "The stickers make sure I always get the first free cab." When the seals are seperated, he sets his knife aside and cracks the container's lid reverently. He doesn't bother with gloves, he reaches in barehanded and digs out two slim, green bottles covered with flecks of half-melted ice. "Just don't tell Cass I brought Rolling Rock into her pad or she'll scrag me." With a wink, he passes a beer to Nathan.

With equal reverence, Nathan picks up the beer bottle, with actually a small, happy sound, sliding down to actually sit in the couch as he studies the label. Would he have chosen Rolling Rock? Who knows. Does he care right now? Not even a little. Because he has a bottle of beer in his hand and it's ice cold with little bits of ice sliding down it like straight from a commercial and it's wonderful. "Yes she will," Nathan agrees, finally tearing his eyes from the item to look at Jack. "Not sure what that means but I know she will. Thank you." That's said with enough gratitude that perhaps Jack just found the cure for the virus, or something.

"Down, boy. I've already had sex once today. I'm tired." Pleasantly embarassed by Nathan's gratitude, Jack waves a hand dismissively and pops open his beer. "Besides, if I was being kept cooped up with your brother and Elena, I'd want someone bringing me care packages, too. Speaking of…" He digs a new label out of his pocket and slaps it over the warning about organs. This one reads 'CAUTION: RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL'. "There. Now anybody who's brave enough to steal one will have earned it."

The quip draws him back to reality, Nathan snorting before opening his own beer and taking a deep sip of it. Sigh. The world just seems slightly better. "It's going on ten days, now, I don't know if I'm going to make it," he says, tone dry, before peering at the sticker replacing the former sign. "I— that might get it tossed out the window— " metaphorically, this being a basement after all "— sooner than if it were beer. I'll keep it in my "bedroom"." His fingers twitch just enough to indicate the quote marks.

Jack nods approvingly. "Your beer, your call. I'm just the delivery boy. Hey, did you know that your brother and Elena are having sex?" He arches a heavy brow as he takes a long pull from his bottle. "There's no oxygen or anything like that in here, is there? I'm dying for a smoke."

He doesn't choke on his beer. It's too precious to allow it to go down the wrong pipe. Nathan does, however, pause, and swallow the liquid carefully. "Jack? You're a very dear friend of mine but if you ever say those two names and the word 'sex' in the same sentence ever again, I may have to re-evaluate this whole friendship thing we have going." This said, he pushes himself up to stand. "If you want to smoke, we can go outside, I could use the fresh air."

"I'll take that as a yes." Jack lets out a snort of laughter and hauls himself to his feet. "I don't really approve, either. Peter's already got that look in his eye. The altruistic one he gets before he does something stupid and noble." The mirth disappears from his face and he glances at his friend as they make their way toward the stairs. "I'll try and keep an eye on him. I know you're concerned about the kid."

Out the door, and it's not long until the two are breathing night air. Nathan even closes his eyes to appreciate it, moving to stand against the brick wall of the extrior of Seville Medical Centre. Dressed as he is, and slightly unshaven, he can probably pass for Just Another Guy rather than Senator-wannabe Petrelli, if people are even walking by. He sips his beer, and glances at Jack. "When did you see him?"

Jack pats his pockets until he finds his cigarettes, digs them out, and shakes one loose. He snags it between his teeth and draws it from the pack, speaking around the butt as he searching for a source of flame. "Yesterday, I think. I've been busy. I saw him and Elena when I stopped in for confession. There you are, you lil' fucker." Grunting, he paws his lighter out his shirt pocket and lights up.

So he's not the only one running around and breaking quarantine. For that reason alone, he doesn't bitch - it'd be hypocritical. Still. Nathan rolls his eyes and tilts his head back, simply watching the sky as they talk. A convulsive shiver is his first unwilling reply, before he pulls his jacket around himself tighter and says, "He can't afford to do anything stupid, altruistic or otherwise. What do you think he's gonna do?"

"Try and save the world, I imagine. He was never the type to think small." Jack shrugs his broad shoulders and exhales a thick cloud of smoke. "He's sick as a dog, he wants to feel useful, and he wants to stay close to Elena. I figure if I ask him to keep an eye on her, they might babysit each other." Helplessly, he glances at Nathan and takes a swig of sweet, sweet Rolling Rock.

"Maybe," Nathan says, a little doubtfully, and obviously troubled. "This is about the villains, isn't it." Sigh. "You know what happened to him the last time he did something altruistic and stupid? I mentioned it, he got killed a couple of times. I think he got hurt worse than that, though. She was… playing." And he seemed somewhat sickened by this idea, taking a hasty gulp of beer. "Would've thought that little experience might have knocked him down a few pegs already."

Jack's expression grows drawn and grim. "That's why I want to handle this one myself. It'll get worse before it gets better. Peter's no killer. He doesn't know how to think like them." Another puff from his cigarette, another sip from his beer, and another shrug. "I can do this. No reason the kids should have to go through it."

Potentially, Nathan could see Jack as another younger brother type. It would be easy roles to slip into. But a) he has a younger brother already and that younger brother is a pain in the ass sometimes and b) just, no. Jack is an equal. So Nathan nods to him in agreement, and takes another long, almost contemplative sip of beer, sighing out his satisfaction. "I worry what he'd turn into if he did it," he says, quietly, as if Jack weren't there. But Jack is there, and so, he's party to Nathan's thoughts. "He can walk through walls now. Read minds. Die and come back from it. I'm worried he— won't be Peter anymore, after a while."

"I know, man. He probably wouldn't appreciate this conversation if he knew about it, but we're both trying to look out for him." Jack stuffs his cigarette between his teeth, lets out a sigh, and reaches out to give Nathan's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "You're doing the right thing. He's been through too much too fast, and he keeps blaming himself for all of it. If he never takes a rest, he really won't be Peter anymore."

Nathan glances at Jack with a semi-smile, though it doesn't quite reach his eyes. "No, he probably wouldn't appreciate it," he agrees, ruefully. "Which means I should probably be having it with him." Nathan's logic. If people don't want to hear something, it means they should be hearing it. "No, you're right. I don't want to lose my brother anymore than Elena would want to lose her— boyfriend." Shudder. Shudder. "I hate you for telling me that. No, I didn't realise, by the way."

"You had to know it was going to happen sooner or later. He hasn't thought of anything but her for months. With either of his brains." Jack shrugs and chuckles ruefully. "I was hoping her Catholic morality would hold up a little longer, but I should've known better. Elena's got a saucy streak hiding between those ample bosoms." Now he's just prodding Nathan. The corners of his mouth twitch, but he manages to keep from smiling or laughing.

The prodding is working, Nathan almost looking pained. Doesn't help that he and Elena have developed a sort of sibling-like dynamic over the last ten days or so, and he just groans, bringing his beer bottle up to press it against his forehead, as if to stave off his fever. "I'm really going to hurt you in a minute," he says, arm dropping back down. "Swear to Christ. My brother doesn't have sex." He points. POINTS. Do not break his denial or he will cut. You.

"Okay. I'm sure he did not have sexual relations with that woman. I'll return the cigars." Holding both hands out in a warding gesture, Jack limps back a couple of steps. "Seriously, though. How did you not hear them? You're sharing living space, and she looks like a feisty little minx. I guess the virus must be slowing them down."

"Jack," Nathan kind of laugh-whines, free hand coming up to pinch the bridge of his nose. "I don't think you're understanding what I am trying to communicate. In short, I do not want to know. Ever. And I've— actually been taking some strong sleep medication to make sure I do, so that— might've been it. Supposedly. In this hypothetical reality." Glare. Not a word, Derex.

"Okay, okay," Jack reassures him. "I won't talk about your brother's penis anymore, nor about how it's been in my niece. And back out, and then in again. You want some stronger sleeping pills? I could probably hook you up." He peers over at Nathan innocently, as if he's doing his friend a favor instead of tormenting him mercilessly.

Missed you, Nate Dogg.

Okay he is DOING THIS ON PURPOSE NOW. If you listen closely, you may actually be able to hear Nathan's sanity snapping in half as Jack delivers his K.O. Nathan sort of sags back against the brick wall. "Yeah, sure," he asks of Jack, with a wry smile. "Because I may never, ever have sex again, thanks so much." The rest of his beer is down with quick succession, yay, booze.

WHAM! BLAMMO! SOCKY! Now that his deathblow has been delivered, Jack is magnanimous in victory. "I can get you the little blue pills, too. I'm not sure why you'd need 'em, though. I've seen your wife. Man, you want a smoke or something? You look a little pale." Grinning again, he slumps against the wall beside Nathan and sends his own spent cigarette spiraling away with a careless flick.

"No thank you. Asshole," Nathan mutters - almost affectionately if that's possible. Missed you too, Jack-o. He shakes his head. "Cure or no cure, I need to get out of this place or I may kill all of them. As much as I love them. Kind of." He gives a ragged chuckle. "This whole extended sleep over thing isn't so fun anymore."

"Sounds fun," Jack replies casually, pushing away from the wall. "Let's get the fuck out of here. We'll get you a rare steak and a fresh suit. If Mom catches us, you can tell her I stole your teddy bear and held it hostage." He gives his head a brief jerk in the direction of his car. It's a far cry from Julia, a well-used sedan from sometime before the new millenium.

Nathan's expression turns serious, but tempted. So tempted. Damnit, Jack. "It's… it's not worth it," he says, ruefully, looking at his friend. "What if I infect you, because we share the same breathing space for too long?" He shakes his head, now studying his empty beer bottle. Infected, that's what he is.

"Shit," Jack replies eloquently. He wants to argue the point from an manly perspective. He's Jack. He's too tough for some silly virus. Jack strong like bull.

In the end, Jack nods unhappily. "Fine. I take you for a medium-rare guy. Baked potato. Pint of lager, maybe? I'll see what I can do." As he speaks, he paces a slow half-circle around Nathan's position and studies him closely, sizing him up. "Broad in the shoulders, narrow in the hips, short in the sleeves. I'll see about getting you something proper to wear, too. You look like shit."

Nathan would LOVE to argue this from a manly perspective. Unfortunately… he can't. Nathan not quite strong like bull, if his headache has anything to say on the matter. He watches as Jack circles him, sizes him up, and smiles mildly at the results, even that last tail-end semi-insult. "By all means," he allows. "I'd appreciate it. Not that I'm sure what good a suit would do me down there, but we all have problems, right?"

Jack finishes the last of his beer and stoops awkwardly to set the bottle down. When he straightens, he moves closer to Nathan, tugs the other man's collar straight, and brushes his shoulders off in a gesture that's affectionate in an older-brotherly fashion. Nevermind the fact that Nathan is at least a decade older than Jack. "You've got to look your best while you're down there," he says calmly. "People look to you for support and guidance. Even if you don't feel like you can give it, you have to look like you can. They need that right now."

A flash of uncertainty in Nathan's eyes, looking at Jack as if to gauge out whether the taller man is just fucking with him or if he's being serious. "Y'think?" he mutters. Hard idea to grapple with when you're preparing to lose an election, after all. "If you say so. I think we're all looking to Cass, right now, and waiting for permission to get the hell on with our lives."

"And if you spend the rest of your life in a bunker with the same handful of sick people? Or if people start dying?" Jack's mouth purses unhappily, and for the first time he shows some of the fear he's feeling for everyone who has been infected. "Cass is a healer. You're a leader. Everyone knows that. As soon as a leader gets scared, so does everyone else. Just keep a stiff upper lip, okay?"

The fear is only mirrored, but briefly. This is a weakness Nathan can't simply patch over. He can't hide the fact that he's pale, feverish, too tired to hold the quality of conversations he likes. And he can't hide the fact that he's concerned for the people who are sick in the same way. But he takes Jack's words to heart, almost visibly pulling it together, despite the fact nothing really changes. "I will," he promises, with a forced twist of a smile. "I'm just letting the cabin fever get to me, is all."

The effort is noticable, and Jack smiles encouragingly. "Good man." He gives Nathan a gentle cuff to the shoulder, then shrugs out of his blazer and passes it over. "Put that on. The fresh air will do you good, but Heidi will kill me if you die from taking a chill. Wait— " Before the hand off is complete, he roots around inside his coat pocket for a few seconds. When he emerges he's grasping two of his injectors, which he palms and tucks into the back of his belt. "There. Go ahead."

He hesitates, but really… it's cold out here, and he has enough symptoms to deal with. So Nathan takes the blazer silently and puts it on, wrapping it about himself efficiently and folding his arms to take proper advantage. The little injectors swap, however, does not go unnoticed. "What does Trina think about all of that?" he asks, quietly - going straight for the kill with that one. It's always worse when you have to force your significent other's attitude into the equation.

"I was planning on lying to her about it for as long as possible," Jack admits quietly, his face pinched into a guilty frown. "Can't live with someone and hide track marks, though. At first she thought I only left her to binge. I explained it to her. That woman." He crosses his arms over his chest and slumps back against the wall again. His gaze is pinned to the ground between his sneakers. "She's incredible. She took me back like that— " he snaps his fingers. "And she didn't even question the injections. I could've told her they were vitamins. So much trust, man. I really love her."

Nathan watches Jack as he speaks, even if his friend keeps his gaze down on the pavement. When he's done, Nathan sighs, and returns his gaze upwards, head resting back against brick. "They have a way of surprising you, don't they," he says. "When they stay when you think they might leave." He changes topic, briefly, to nudge Jack. "Can you do that thing, the— " He snaps his fingers, makes Jack's signature 'hey presto!' gesture. "I could use another beer."

Jack shakes his head, a quick, brisk negative. He breathes in and out slowly through his nose before tapping his bandaged neck by way of reply. There's a tensing of his muscles, and he puffs up slightly when he inhales, like a wild animal attempting to look larger and more dangerous than it really is. "I'll go get us another round from the bar." He chucks a thumb in the direction of the door and turns to slip back into the lab.

..wh. What? "Wait." Despite his caution, Nathan's hand reaches out to snag Jack's sleeve, but he lets it go once he's effectively stopped the man from walking away. "You can't use your powers anymore?" he has to clarify, in slightly hushed tones, despite the street being relatively empty.

"I can't use them right now," Jack clarifies emphatically. "A situation I hope to remedy when I get whatever this is cut out of my neck. Don't tell anyone. Remember, we're keeping our perky smiles on for all the sick boys and girls."

"Yeah, well, not at the detriment towards your health," Nathan snaps, obviously a little pissed off that he wasn't told this sooner. "Jack, if that thing is affecting something that is meant to be tied in with your DNA," because Nathan did actually listen to Suresh, a little, "then it needs to be looked in to, villains and viruses or not."

"Gee, you think I might be sick?" Jack snaps back irritably. "I know there's something wrong with me, Sherlock. Mind your own business. If confiding in you means you're going to act like my mommy, I'll suffer in silence like a middle school girl with a cutting problem." The muscles around his left eye twitch visibly, almost immediately followed by a tremor that travels from his shoulder to his wrist. With quivering fingers, he pulls one of his injectors free and snaps the safety cap free. "Hold on, Daddy needs his fix. We can go back to wasting my time in a second."

Nathan's hands raise into a defensive posture when Jack initially snaps at him, and they remain there throughout, before slowly falling to his sides as Jack fumbles with his injector. "Well excuse me for worrying," he says, not buying into the argument as he forces his tone to be somewhat gentler - almost offended. Perhaps he is. Who knows! But his voice rises up in volume again. "Maybe I don't trust you to be smart enough to take proper care of what you're doing. In case you didn't notice, you disappeared for several weeks, Jack."

Jack jabs the needle into his chest and depresses the plunger, sending a premeasured dose of stimulants, painkillers, and antitoxins rushing through his system. "Y-YEAH. RRRR." Gritting his teeth so hard that he's nearly growling, he braces himself for the impact and rush of the drugs. They don't disappoint. His pupils dilate and he throws his head back, letting out a ragged gasp. "Nng. If you don't trust me, I'd say that's your problem, not mine. I'm fine. Better than fine, and I'm better off than you. At least there's a treatment for whatever's wrong with me."

As soon as the words leave his lips, Jack's eyes go wide and his mouth snaps shut. He shuffles his feet uncomfortably and averts his gaze, looking away from Nathan. There's one thing he doesn't do, though. Apologize.

There are lines. Nathan, admittedly, was pushing one. Jack just stepped over another and they both know it, as Nathan stares at his friend, averted gaze or not. Silence falls and when Nathan does speak up, his voice sounds almost clipped. "Great," he states. "Happy to hear you have it under control. Thanks for the beer." Better he just lets Jack do what he does, and better he just— flees. Which is what Nathan does, making for the door at a brisk pace

Jack squeezes his eyes closed and pinches the bridge of his nose as if his head pains him. "Nathan. Wait." Barely limping now, he scoops up his cane and heads after the friend that he's now abused no less than three ways in one night. "I'm sorry. It's the epinephrine. It makes me… irritable."

Said brisk pace slows with great reluctance. It's hard to stop a manly walking away once you have one going, but stop it he does, just as he's opening the door. Nathan sighs, and turns back to Jack, expression still a little stony. After the little pep talk from earlier, Jack hitting him where it hurts was unexpectedly rough, and harder to shake than he'd like. Luckily for both of them, Nathan has one of those knacks for moving on. "Add that to your list of problems," he says, a little callously. "I may or may not be dying but at least I'm not the one caught up in some fucked up drug cycle." Harsh, but the worry is clear in his voice. He takes his hand off the door, stepping further away from the building.

Jack inclines his head, stoically accepting the verbal blow as his due. "You're not dying," he insists, changing the subject. "You're too annoying to be dying. Besides, Cass is going to fix all of you. That's what she does." There's a quiet, steely determination in his voice, but his shoulders still slouch as he pats his pockets, searching for something. It's his flask, and when he digs it out, he offers it to Nathan first.

Nathan shakes his head, declining. Virus. Shouldn't share things. "I think I'm better off finishing your beer and hitting the hay," he says, quietly, with an attempt at a smile. A small, shuffling step is taken, back towards the direction he'd been storming off in. "And I'll hold you to that suit you promised."

"Right." Jack says, nodding briskly. He tucks the flask away and turns to leave as well. A few steps away, he stops and speaks without turning. "Look after the kids. And please, don't tell them you saw me like this." No more words. No more apologies. With the painkillers in his 'antidote' spreading through his system, his limp is almost imperceptible as he moves away.

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