2007-11-05: The Stranger


Jack_icon.gif Trina_icon.gif

Summary: Jack's home. That's not always a good thing.

Date It Happened: November 5, 2007

The Stranger

Jack & Trina's Apartment — Prestige Midtown Apts

Jack pauses in the hallways and leans his forehead against the door to he and Trina's apartment. Not the heavy slam of someone punishing themselves, just a weary thunk-and-lean. Before he knows it his upper body is pressed against it as well. Unbidden, his eyes start to drift shut.

With a start, he shakes himself back to wakefulness and slips quietly through the door. His heavy wool overcoat drops to the floor in a careless pile as he shrugs out of it. Same with his suit jacket and his shoes. Each article is a few feet closer to the couch than the last as he shucks them all on the fly. No Trina downstairs. Sleeping, maybe?

The Irishman doesn't dwell on it too much. He slumps down into an overstuffed leather seat and leans forward, letting his head hang between his knees. Occasionally he glances up, revealing haunted, bloodshot eyes and unhappily frowning lips.

Maybe ten or fifteen minutes after Jack's arrival, Trina makes her appearance. She hasn't been sleeping the way she should, and so there was a store run that was necessary. She unlocks the front door and — when she grunts and pushes it open with the ball of her foot — there's a large brown grocery bag balanced on her slender denim-covered hip. Her jean jacket is buttoned up except for the top two brass stays, leaving just enough room for the thick winter-white knit scarf wrapped around her throat.

It's not until she's a few steps in that she sees Jack's clothes scattered along the floor that she re-balances the bag on her hip. Looking up, she takes off her large-lensed black sunglasses so she can offer the full brunt of her quizzical expression to the man himself in his chair. "Baby?"

As much as he'd like to be, Jack isn't asleep. Not quite. He's teetering on the edge of consciousness and dreams, swimming in ancient memories and recent events, old promises made and new ones that have been broken. When Trina calls out to him, his head snaps up and his eyes fly open, but they're too wide and unfocused. He seems more panicked than aware. One of his hands slaps against his ribs, his hip, and then slides around to the small of his back, searching for a holster that isn't there. Long-suppressed exhaustion and guilt are catching up with him, and he's operating on autopilot.

Then he blinks, and when he opens his eyes again they're carrying their usual sharp, wary edge. He doesn't smile, but his features relax and soften. He's back. Or all the way awake, anyway. "Hey," he whispers.

When Jack startles, Trina jumps, too. She takes a rapid step back, and her glasses get dropped as she shifts her hand to steady the wobbling, clinking bag on her hip. "Hey." Dropping her gaze, Trina wheels her head to face the kitchen, body following suit soon after. With her accent a little more reined in than its been in a while, she continues to speak very quietly. Not a whisper, but certainly not at full volume. "Didn't mean to startle you."

"Mmmm," he mumbles, acknowledging the fact. His tongue traces an absent circle around his dry, chapped lips, then he slumps forward across his knees again, this time resting his head and face on his crossed arms.

"'M sorry." Jack's voice is muffled, but still audible. "'M really sorry for everything I've put you through in the last couple months."

"S'alright, sugar," Trina replies without looking up. There's a sigh as she sets herself to the task of unloading her bag without bothering to strip down her autumn bundling. A gallon of milk. A bag of cookies. A loaf of bread and a few other sundries. A smaller brown bag which, when it too is unpacked, reveals a small jug of scotch. The last is quickly tucked under the sink before she goes about putting things away. "Way I hear tale, ain't been much choice in the matter."

Now Jack straightens again, this time to fix his eyes on Trina's face as she bustles around the kitchen. He chews at his lower lip nervously and then shakes his head. "You… You trust me, right?" A spasm builds in the muscles on the left side of his face and travels all the way down to his fingertips. For once he doesn't seem to notice it, he just forges on ahead. "You trust that I wouldn't do this… Get reduced to this…" he waves disdainfully at his battered body. "Unless I couldn't find a better way?"

Trina looks up for a moment, the frown prominently displayed. Then she's back to looking at the counter, a hand coming up to scratch nervously at the back of her scalp. "I… I don't know what to think. I know I love you. I know you're doin' what you feel's best. But I don't know what country the two are meetin' in." Dragging her hand down the back of her head until she hooks it on her neck, the woman sighs. "This is a helluva mess, Jack. And I still don't feel like I know the whole of it."

It's clear that the words are hurtful to Jack in his vulnerable condition. He hunches his shoulders and shrinks in on himself slightly, but he's nodding. "Okay. I can't. C-c-can't. Can't ask for m-more." The tremors are growing more intense. They've reached the point where he can't ignore them any longer. Though it's a futile, symbolic gesture, he angles his body slightly so his back is facing Trina and some of his front is partially concealed. He digs into his pockets and produces a number of not-so-savory items. A length of latex tubing. A preloaded syringe. Not one of the neat, white pens that he's been using, instead it's a heavy, steel hypodermic. With practiced ease, he winds the tubing around his bicep, clamps one end in his teeth, and starts searching for a promising vein.

"Gawdammit," comes the barely audible, hissing whisper from the woman in the kitchen. Just the tubing has got Trina ready to strangle him, it twinging something harsh and visceral in her gut. She should really, really just strangle him. Somewhere deep in the reserves, however, she finds the strength to not just leave him to whatever the hell mess this is. She'll wait until he's finished to talk, however; she doesn't have to watch.

The jug so quickly tucked beneath the sink now is quietly pulled back out, along with a glass from the dishwasher. Oh, hello, my amber friend.

The track marks are getting thick. Near-constant doses of potent drugs over a sustained period have withered veins that were once clear and prominent along Jack's muscular arms. After a painfully long time, he locates one between his first and middle fingers. None too gently, he stabs the needle through his skin and depresses the plunger.

At this point the contents of the syringe are anyone's guess. One thing is clear, though. It's not the same mixture he was taking before. There's no immediate relief. No loosening of tension. The trembling lessens, but doesn't subside completely. With a rubbery snap, he pulls the tubing from around his arm and tosses it on the couch along with the needle. "Aggghh. G-G-God, I was really hoping that work." His face pinches up and he wraps his arms around his stomach. He starts to rock back and forth with his gaze fixed unhappily on the floor. "I'm not on the s-spike," he quietly assures. "But I'm almost out of my meds. G-gotta start thinking outside the b-box."

Once her glass is poured, Trina takes her measure of liquor down with a resolved swiftness. The glass is turned upside down in the sink as she starts to cross the room. There is no softness that lingers on her face, no gentle place. Instead, there is just a grim steadiness as she perches on that broad arm of Jack's chair, her own too-thin arms stretching out to take hold of his rocking form and draw him against her. Okay, he's not on heroin now. And that's about the only assurance that she can take from this.

"And where do you draw the line, sweetie? What's that doctor of yours saying?"

Jack licks his lips again, smearing blood along them from inside his mouth. His minute seizure is subsiding now, but the spasms that are still coming are growing more violent as they occur farther apart. Then, with a final kick, he stills entirely. When Trina takes him in her arms he turns toward her, clinging to her shirt and pressing his face against her like a frightened child. His voice is quiet. Uncertain. The resolve that's been carrying him through weeks with little rest or food, that's kept him upright through all the immoral and inhumane things he's reluctantly done…

That resolve is starting to fold.

"Doc's working on it. He doesn't seem to think I'm helping myself with the drugs, but if I stop taking them it feels like I'm dying."

Trina just clings to Jack and holds him tight, trying to keep her breathing steady and calm as an unspoken encouragement.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. C'mon, just breathe.

Her lips she buries in his hair, murmuring through the unkempt pile. "Honey, those drugs of yours are killing you. Just— tell me what to do. Tell me what to do, and I swear I'll do it. Why ain't you got yourself to a hospital? That's where you damn well should be."

"Can't," he answers shortly. "No hospital. Ever." Jack clings to Trina's sleeve and looks her in the eye. His face is gravely serious. "No hospital," he repeats, releasing her. He slumps back against her and curls into a ball, soaking up her warmth and her presence. "Doc's going to figure out what's wrong with me. If nothing else, he can make drugs that won't make me sick." This isn't something Jack is entirely certain of, but it's a hope that he's clinging to desperately. "So we wait," he finishes wearily. "We wait and we pray."

"Why? Jack. Look at you." Trina reaches out, making a play to grab her lover's arm and hold it out for display. Two can play at this grabbing game. Her face betrays a supreme helplessness, the outward sign of inward flailing and gasping for some breath of fresh air. It's a breath that does not appear to be coming. "Ain't matter if it's brownstone or ing pixie sticks. Look at what it's doin' to you! You're scarin' me to death. This ain't you."


For the first time in their relationship, Jack not only screams at Trina, he pushes her away physically and spills her onto the floor. His eyes are wild, almost frenzied, opened wide enough to show the whites. He stands abruptly and points a quivering finger at her. "You never take me to a hospital. Ever! I don't care what's wrong with me or how bad I'm hurt."

Then, just like that, his surge of energy is spent. He sways on his feet and holds a hand out, searching for support that isn't there. Then he sinks to his knees, and finally slumps forward with his face on the carpet.

To say that Jack's display catches Trina off-guard is an understatement. With her legs on the side of the chair's arm nearest him, she's easy to throw off balance. She goes tail over tea kettle and squeaks as she hits the floor with her back first. She doesn't move immediately, save to bring her arms up over her head as he gives his admonishment.

Silently, she berates herself. She knew better than to go there. She knew better than to escalate this, and she did it anyway. Why can't she ever learn to keep her big mouth shut?

"Alright, baby," she finally offers back to the man she finds kneeling — no, face-down — on the carpet not so far away as she twists and pushes herself partway up, leaning on her elbow. Her head ducks low and she pushes a nervous smile on her lips and lifts her eyebrows, the picture of penitence. "Whatever you want. No hospitals. S'whatever you want." Then she waits. She waits to see if he moves again.

He does, but it takes a while. Groaning, Jack pushes his hands under his torso and levers himself off the floor with weak, shaky arms. Getting all the way up seems like far too lofty a goal, so he settles for a crouch, his torso draped loosely over his folded legs and his palms still pressed to the floor for support. "Shit. Shit!" Clearly frustrated, he digs his fingers into the carpet and pulls at it impotently. After a few seconds, his fit of anger passes much as his burst of energy did, leaving him looking sad and worn. "Shit…" he repeats again. "Baby. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. I didn't mean to lay hands on you. I didn't, I promise." Through his apology his eyes stay vacantly attached to the wall far, far away from Trina.

Trina takes her time in rolling over and pulling herself back to her feet. Her boots fall quietly as she walks behind Jack and then tentatively stoops and drapes herself around his back, hands resting on his shoulder blades, and her head resting feather-light atop one of her slender hands.

This isn't the Jack she fell in love with. This is some pale imposter, but her hands are tied to do anything at all. This pale imposter moves around in her lover's skin, seemingly moving him steadily beyond her help and out of reach with deft and decisive maneuvering. Her voice is hoarse when she finds it, and it's tinted by a faint stuttering. "I know, sugar. It's alright. Don't worry about it. …Why don't you stay here tonight? Y'ain't in no shape to go back out."

His breath is coming is shuddering, self-loathing gasps. Almost desperately, he reaches across his own body and clings to one of Trina's hands with an almost uncomfortably tight grip. "I'm so sorry," he repeats, his voice even softer now. He wants to lean against her, to let her take away all of the aches and the anger and the guilt. He doesn't, though. He just squeezes her hand like a drowning man clings to a floating spar.

When Jack masters himself, he nods and presses his cheek very gently against his lover's. "I'll stay," he murmurs. "And baby…? Thank you. For everything."

"I ain't done nothin'," replies she. Normally, she'd kiss that stubbled cheek of his, but Trina instead heaves her own quietly halting breaths and drinks in his nearness. That's sufficient. After another lingering moment, the svelte young woman pushes herself to her feet and moves to pull Jack up with her. "Let's get you to the couch. You need sleep." And she wants her pills.

Jack moves with her, but he's uncoordinated and disjointed. He stumbles more than once on the way to the couch, and when he gets there he slumps onto it bonelessly. "You stuck by me," he acknowledges as he curls up, wrapping himself around his bruises and his internal pains. "You're still here, and you still love me. That's…" he pauses for a jaw-cracking yawn. "Baby. That's more than enough. 'Love you…"

And then the tired, tortured young man's eyelids flutter closed again, and this time they stay that way.

Trina, for her part, tries to keep him upright and does an admirable job of it considering the weight and height differences. When Jack's finally on the couch, she quickly moves to pull away the needle and tubing and sets them on the coffee table. Then she's helping to pull up his legs, followed by pulling over the fuzzy blanket she's been using to wrap him up in. And then he's asleep.

Roughly dragging a long-fingered hand over her face, it finally sticks just over her mouth and pivots so that her lips find the heel of that palm and her fingers twist back towards the arm that bears them. She watches him for a few long moments — making sure he's truly fallen to sleep — before dropping her hand altogether and making her towards the kitchen again.

With any luck, a little scotch and narcotic pain relief will see her asleep in the chair across from him without too much trouble. Despite everything, however, Trina forces a smile onto her face because at least he's home tonight.

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