2008-02-16: When The Levee Breaks

Starring:

Jack_icon.gif Yael_icon.gif

Summary: Showing weakness can sometimes be the greatest strength of all.

Date It Happened: February 16th, 2008

When the Levee Breaks


Jack and Logan's apartment - NYC

Logan and Jack's shared apartment is almost ominously quiet. Every electronic device has been unplugged or otherwise powered down, eliminating the buzz and hum that's become the background noise of modern life. Except for some broken glass in the bathroom, the place is very clean. Far cleaner that the Irishman's usual haunts.

Unfortunately, the man himself is continuing to deteriorate. The erosion seems to happen faster and faster as the days pass. No longer leanly muscular, he's an awkward collection of jutting ribs and bony elbows with a too-gaunt face on top. The swatch of cotton bandage over his injured eye hasn't been changed since it was first pasted on, and the strip over his split nose is no cleaner. The only concession he's made has been one of basic sanitation. He showered and changed into fresh sweats and a t-shirt just before he bashed out the mirrors in the bathroom to avoid his own reflection.

That was about a half-hour before he sent a text message to Yael. Now he's curled up on the couch with one of the loose throw pillows clutched to his chest like a teddy bear. His eyes are fixed on the flat screen television in the living area that hasn't been turned on for days.

Weighted down with several canvas grocery bags, Yael is slow in making her way up to Jack's apartment. In truth, while she was not surprised to hear from him, she was somewhat surprised at his request. It isn't that she minds coming over to drop off provisions — it's that things must be pretty bad, if he's asking something like that. Maybe that's why she went out and bought significantly more than he might be expecting. Or maybe that's just her protective spirit. Her concern for her friend is evident on her face even before she pauses at the door, shifting some of the bags to the opposite hand to allow her to knock.

Startled, Jack gasps aloud and flinches away from the sound of the knock. It's loud. Too loud. It echoes and bangs around in his head painfully. Instinctively, his good eye shoots over to a cigar box on the counter. It would be so easy to just…

No.

The cushion is flung aside haphazardly as Jack comes to his feet and fumbles his way over toward the door. He's not clumsy so much as his movements are disconnected and disjointed. Almost puppetlike. Another pause, this time to collect himself as best as he can before he lets Yael in. A brisk nod of his head, a deep breath, and then he unlocks and opens up for her. "Hey," he greets quietly.

Most of the bags in Yael's hands crash to the floor when the door is opened. She'd been mentally preparing herself for the state she might find him in, but she hadn't expected him to be so… despondent. "Oh, Jackie," she exhales, tipping her head to one side, a hand reaching out as if she might touch his face - before she draws it back. "What have you gotten yourself into?" But she isn't really expecting an answer, as she quickly picks up the bags and carries them inside. Even if she wants to leave them in the hallway and wrap him in a tight hug.

As she steps into the apartment, Yael gives the apartment an appraising look without being critical, carrying the bags to the kitchen. Or… the direction she thinks the kitchen might be in. "I brought you some things that don't need a lot of preparation," she explains, gesturing to the canvas bags, setting aside her concern for the time being. Plenty of time to be worried later. "And some fresh things, but not many."

The clatter of groceries hitting the deck causes Jack to flinch again, but he recovers far faster this time around. Soddenly, he follows Yael into the kitchen and starts to assist her in setting out the bags. Then, frowning, he realizes that he hasn't eaten a single meal here. He doesn't know where anything goes. With a box of dried pasta clutched in one hand like a shield, he turns to face Yael and puts on a wan smile. "Thanks," he says, his voice still barely above a whisper. "'preciate it, I really do."

"You don't have to thank me," Yael replies with a warm smile of her own, despite her concern for him. She works on setting all of the groceries out first, rather than putting them away. "It's no trouble. I worry about you, tateleh. At least this way I know you have food, so you might be eating it." She reaches out to nudge his arm playfully, though her touch is gentle, as if he was fragile. "Alright." When everything has been taken out, she surveys the mass, stepping back. "We'll put these things away, and then you're going to let me take care of your bandages."

The arm twitches away from the contact, but Jack immediately reaches out to grab Yael's hand and squeeze it. "'kay," he agrees again. For the first time, there's no fight. No casual dismissal, no brash laughter, no insisting that everything is okay and not to worry. Because it's not. It's not goddamn okay by any stretch of the imagination.

Jack might not know this kitchen, but it's far from his first time in one. He rattles cupboard doors and drawers alongside Yael until the bulk of the goods have found some sort of resting place. Even this small amount of activity seems to tire him, though. There's even a faint sheen of sweat on his face when they're finished.

Throughout the task, Yael casts swift, surreptitious glances to Jack as if he might collapse right here and now. Still, she doesn't say anything of the sort while they put the groceries away. It's only once they're finished and he looks so exhausted by such a simple thing that she gestures towards the living room once more. She doesn't reach out to touch him again, however, even if she might want to. "Go sit on the sofa," she says, her voice only commanding in a gentle way. "I'll go get what I need. Provided you have it." And with that, Yael leaves the kitchen in search of the washroom, where she hopes she might come across some basic first aid supplies. …and a pile of broken glass, but she won't even ask about that. She doesn't need to.

Jack sucks in a gasp of air when Yael heads for the bathroom, but he doesn't try to stop her. He doesn't have the heart or the strength to hide the way he has for his entire life. Not now. As instructed, he limps over to the couch and curls up on it again. It's an almost childlike pose for him. Except for his scars and stubble, he looks very much the part of a small, lost boy.

All of the mirrored surfaces in the bathroom are shattered. Cupboard doors, the broad panel above the sink, even the full-length sheet attached to the back of the door. The broken remains of the hair dryer that Jack used for his smashing are piled into the sink haphazardly. Two towels have been tossed out to cover the worst of the danger, but it hardly conceals the dramatic nature of the mess.

Out on the couch, Jack whimpers quietly under his breath and clutches his arms against his chest. Ashamed. Very, very ashamed.

Yael takes her time in the washroom to collect the necessary items, stepping carefully around the glass. Here in this room, where she knows Jack can't see her, she gives in to a more despairing frown than she's ever shown to him. If there was ever a time to dread her clumsy nature, this would be it - but she's just cautious enough that she makes it out unscathed, with an armful of things from the medicine cabinet.

Wordlessly, she walks around the sofa (hitting her leg on the arm in the process) and lays the supplies out over the coffee table. First order of business? That eye. "I'm not going to ask you what happened, because I do not want to know," she says, her touch light as she removes the swatch from his eye. "But I will be pissed if you go out and get yourself killed, tateleh." Her tone is teasing as she speaks, light-hearted.

The pressure and pull of cloth and Yael's fingers against the injury is almost soothing. It's a basic, physical pain that doesn't promise to torment in ways that can hardly be seen or understood. It's a logical, quantifiable pain. He doesn't lean away this time. His eye is ugly and bloody underneath the bandage, marred by two angry fingernail gouges that rake down his forehead, across his cornea and pupil, and trail down his cheek. It's healing, though. Sort of.

"Things are gonna get better," he murmurs. "They have to." His good grey eye flicks downward to avoid potential scrutiny. The injured one is sightless and doesn't follow the same instinct. Perhaps it's unable. Either way, it remains fixed straight ahead.

When the bandage is removed from his eye and the full extent of the damage is exposed, Yael can't help the wince that takes over her face. One of the items she brought back with her is a towel dampened with warm water, and it's this she uses now to very carefully tend to the wound. "I'm sorry if it hurts, Jackie." And she doesn't doubt that it will - how could it not? If he was worried about judgment or scrutiny, he'll find none in Yael's, if he looks up. Just concern for a friend.

When she's done all she can with the damp towel, she replaces the swatch of cotton bandage with a fresh one. "Things will get better," she says quietly, brushing the towel over the rest of his face before she begins to tend to his nose. "You just have to let them. And let people help you." People like Yael. He's doing pretty well with letting her help, thus far.

Jack wants to nod, but really, that's not a great idea when somebody is tending to the two halves of your nose. This injury is older and has spent far more time being properly treated, though. The horizontal slash that creases his face from one cheekbone to the other hasn't been sewn up as it should've, but the bandages have been changed regularly.

None of this really bothers Jack. If anything, the pain in his face is a distraction from the withdrawal pains in his stomach, his bowels, his skin, and most of the rest of him. The warm, gentle wiping of his face is is comforting enough that he closes his good eye and turns his face toward it slightly. "You're right," he mumbles, cracking a weak smile. "If I don't stop this carrying-the-world-alone shit soon, I'ma have to just hop on a cross and get it over with."

"Or we can throw you on it," Yael jokes in response, a wry smile tugging at the corner of her mouth as she replaces the bandage on his nose. Setting the towel down on her knee, she takes one of his hands in hers, turning it over to ascertain whether he's done any damage to them in the process of destroying all of the mirrors in his washroom. "I am going out on a limb," she says, taking the towel once more to run it over his hands, "and guess that you did not go to the hospital for your eye. I won't tell you that you should see someone, because you know that. But if it gets worse or feels infected, tell me. I will find someone to come here." Sitting back, the damp and bloodied towel set on her knee once more, she looks to him with a quick smile. "Are you hungry? I can make something."

Jack curls his fingers around Yael's, soaking up the simple comfort of skin-to-skin contact with another human who isn't afraid of him. His hands are battered, bruised, and scratched, but not cut or gouged badly enough to warrant more than band-aids. His injured eye rolls and probes weirdly against its bandaging as he squeezes Yael's hand and glances down. Compared to his prematurely aged slough and calluses, her skin is china-white and smooth. Absently, he trails a line with his thumb along where she cut herself the last time she tried cooking for them. "I'm okay," he replies. His smile steadies considerably as he looks back up at her face. "I think that was the last of the gauze, anyway."

Huffing quietly in mock-insult, Yael allows herself a smirk at his response, her hand tingling strangely where his thumb brushed against the scar on her hand. "I don't always end up in the hospital when I cook, you know," she replies in a most matter-of-fact tone, holding her chin high. "Only when you're around." Sliding further down the sofa, she gestures for him to lie down, likely with her leg as a pillow. "You should get some rest, Jackie. You look like you haven't slept in days."

Without letting go of Yael's hand, Jack curls his body around until he's spread comfortably across the couch and her lap. Retained, her hand is pulled in gently until he can nuzzle his cheek against it.

For the first time in a very, very long time, he simply sits and lets someone hold him.

"Thanks," he whispers again. "I haven't. Slept, I mean."

"You don't have to thank me," she says again, brushing her free hand over his hair as he rests, shaking her head. "This is what friends do." Friends like Yael, at least. It doesn't even occur to her to do anything but what she has been. Content to let him lie without turning on any of the electronics, her hand settles on his shoulder next, rubbing down his arm in a light, gentle way. She hums a quiet, wordless song beneath her breath, almost unconsciously.

Unclench. Release. Relax.

The tears that have been building for months finally start to pour out. Just one at first, then two, and finally he lets out a wracking, full-throated sob. He speaks through the spasms, but the words are largely indecipherable except for vague apologies, most of them to people other than Yael. It'd a raw, rough expenditure of emotion. The breaking of a dam that's been loaded beyond capacity for far too long.

A moment later, the fit starts to ease as fast as it came on, leaving him clutching at Yael's knees with his face pressed against her clothing. Still, he shudders and gasps as he hides himself not just from her, but from everything.

When he begins to sob, Yael feels not unlike her heart is breaking; she so desperately wants to be able to do more for him, but if this is all she can do, it'll have to be enough. She says nothing to dissuade him from his fit, knowing that it's likely been a long time coming. Softly, she makes a hushing sound, more of a comforting habit than anything. Her hand rubs down his back, still light lest he be bruised or sore. With so many other injuries, she can't be certain any more. "It's alright, tei-yerinkeh. Things will get better. You just watch."

Jack's energy is spent. Not just physically, but emotionally. The charge that's been sustaining him long after he should've dropped is just… gone. Without his addiction to sustain him, he's a fragile, tired shell of a man.

Tired enough to sleep for the first time in days, if not longer. With his fingers knotted in Yael's skirt and his cheek resting against her thigh, his good eye flickers and drifts shut.

This is precisely where Yael will stay until Jack wakes up once more. Her leg will likely fall asleep beneath the weight of his head, and he very well might sleep for hours. But he needs the rest, and she isn't convinced that he would sleep if she were to go anywhere. "Sweet dreams, Jack," she whispers, leaning down to lay a gentle kiss on his temple as he drifts off.

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