1964-03-26 - Heroes Help People
Summary: Kai meets a stranger who calls himself Jack, and since Kai's a hero, he offers a helping hand.
Related: http://marvel1963mush.wikidot.com/log:1964-03-28-you-re-an-a-hole-jack
Theme Song: None
bucky kai 

From the outside, to the casual eye, it's just a bar. Once one steps inside, however, it's a bar filled with a hazy plane of cigarette smoke, and the men and women lounging around are dressed in black, or black and white stripes, sporting berets and neck scarves. Most of the people here sit at tables with their nose in a book or engaged in quiet conversation. There's one man at the bar, though, leaning with a cigarette holder clasped in one hand, sleek and black. He's just lighting up a cigarette, an he puffs smoke into the air before groaning, "Finally. I've been jonesing all day."

It looks like precisely the place to drink and not be disturbed. He's not ragged - he's got some money, plain dark clothes…but his hair's too long for the era, a bit more scruff than this clean-shaven age demands. The smoke's enough to help keep him from being recognized. So he finds a seat at the end of it, in that reflexive position that gives him eyeline on all the entrances and exits. No one's gonna sneak up on him. "Beer," he orders, curtly. "Whatever's cheapest." There's a hint of a rasp to his voice, as if he were a smoker himself.

Not too long or scruffy for beatniks living on the brink. A few people look up, then go back to what they were doing. There are a few lingering looks. The stranger's a looker, even in his state. His presence at the bar draws the smoking man's attention. He looks the stranger over, toe to tip. He sighs quietly and turns to the bartender, "Juiceman, hold that thought. I'll take a gin martini and he'll have a whiskey sour, minus the sour." He exhales a plume of smoke, then looks at the stranger again. "You need more than a beer, man. You want a kick stick?" He brandishes a silver cigarette case.

That has Bucky reorienting on this new guy. His expression's not friendly. It's almost nonexistent, in fact. He's darn near perfected a pokerface, though there's something already cloudy in the blue eyes, as if this weren't the first place he's gone looking for a little oblivion to tide him over. "So long as you're buying," he rasps, tone no warmer than it was.

"I've got the bread." He taps ash from his cigarette, then lights another on it before flipping it with a flick of his fingers so the non-fiery end is pointed to his new unfriendly friend. "The name's Kai." And this guy? Kai won't say it, but he knows the look of a man in trouble when he sees it. Trouble might be close at hand, and it's a nice night to be a hero.

He looks at the cigarette dubiously….and there's a little line etching itself between his brows. Does he smoke? He doesn't think so. But….will he like it? Tentatively, as if expecting a trap, he reaches out to take it. "Jack," he says, biting off the syllable.

"Jack," Kai says with a nod. No sudden moves. He lets Jack take the cigarette at his own pace with only a murmured, "There you are." Then he smiles and tips his shades down so Jack can see the full brunt of those large blue eyes. "Nice to meet you, Jack. Take load off, you're in the grooviest gin mill in the city. They've got poetry on Wednesdays." The bartender sets a martini before Kai and a straight up whiskey in front of Jack before going off to tend to other patrons. Kai calls after him, "Put it on my tab." Then, "What's the haps, Jack?"

There's a flicker of his eyes. HE speaks English, doesn't he? How long was he out? A drag off the cigarette….and yes, he likes it. His body remembers, when he doesn't. The second is far more comfortable….the third almost greedy. Nicotine's not generally allowed. Same for the whiskey, though he's careful with it. Far more so. "Not much," he ventures, as if he's not certain he understood the question.

Kai nudges his shades back into place, though he watches Jack as best he can in what dimness they let through. With the benefit of one not being able to follow his eyes, he turns his head aside just slightly so it looks like he's not staring, and he takes in every measure of the man. He doesn't look so good, no not at all. And he doesn't even speak the lingo. "Aw, are you square?" he says, tapping ash from his cigarette again before lifting the mouthpiece of the holder to his lips for another drag. "You just need to have your mind blown, man. Where'd you fall in from?"

No, he doesn't look good, this one. It's clear in the sunkenness of his eyes, the tightness of his jaw, the way that line deepens. "I don't know what you mean," he says, simply. "Are you trying to get me drunk?" Well, why not go in for the attack? Might get him rolled and robbed….but that's a better prospect than someone seeing that arm and demanding all the explanations he can't offer.

Kai is quick to hold up a placating hand. "Relax, man, I'm not on the make. Just trying to spare you the beer. Call it a humanitarian effort." He shrugs a shoulder and takes up his own martini for a drink. "Have it or don't. I'm not going to pour it down your throat." He still keeps a gentle tone, relaxed and easygoing. He glances around the bar behind his shades. ''Is'' there anything here out of the ordinary? No, not really. He knows what little details to look for, too. "I don't think you've slept for a week."

"Not well," he agrees, and there's a bare hint of what might be deadpan humor in his tone. The eyes…..they are full of the crazy. It all feels wrong. To be here with no clear purpose, to not know where he's going other than a very nebulous but very powerful Away from something he's not at all sure he can remember. Like somehow walking with no solid ground beneath him. There's the comforting weight of the gun beneath his coat, but….what good is it when he doesn't know where the targets are, or who they might be?

Ah, Jack has already been through the not so good. He's not just scared, he's broken. Kai makes a mental note of the mad eyes. There's helping, and then there's backing off for self-preservation. "Do you need a place to lay your head?" he asks tentatively. "Not saying you're down on your luck, but…" Does this guy have a safe place?

"Yeah," he says. He's got the instincts for a hidey hole - he's already got a squat set up in a building that's eventually chalked for the wrecking ball. "I'm okay," he insists, squaring his shoulders….and knowing that he's not convincing. That he's not living up to someone's standards. They. Them. There's a Them.

Kai nods slowly. "Good," he says. "Good, good. If you ever need a pad to crash at, you'd have to promise not to steal my stuff, but I've got a couch." So dangerous offering it to strangers who are crazy and on the run. But Kai's a hero. This is what they do, right? Besides, he's tougher than he looks. He stabs out his cigarette then lights another, switching it out on his holder. "You just have the look of someone on the run."

There's the tiniest cock of of his head at that, as if he's hearing the other man's voice on some kind of delay. Very His Master's Voice. And that….whatever it is flickers behind his eyes. "How would you know?" For all the coldness in his tone….there's curiosity there. He's not giving Kai the full-on brushoff, at least not yet.

Kai leans in close so he can keep his voice down. It's not so unusual-looking in their surroundings, people are having quiet conversations all around them. "Just a hunch. I've had to beat feet a few times, myself, hep cat. Like calls to like, yeah? But I get it. You're not looking for any friends and you've got no reason to trust me, I'm just saying it's all right. There's no snitches in here."

He smells wrong. That's the thing, barely at the edge of perception. He smells of cigarette smoke and the booze and sweat that isn't too old - he's been finding somewhere to shower or some way to keep himself clean. But underneath all those perfectly ordinary scents is something harsh and keen: metal. Not exactly Old Spice, is it? "Why are you doing this?" Even as he's asking the question, he's cursing himself for bluntness. AGain there's that sense of failing an invisible, judging audience. He's smoother than this. He knows how to….how to fool people. To be someone else. Kai should be a mark, a means. But he's stumbling, asking those questions with that childish directness.

Kai says, "I'm an angel," he says, not having entirely lost his playfulness. He shrugs, taps ash, and adds, "I've been on the run, looking over my shoulder. Met some hep cats who helped me out, and I'm one to pay it forward." He tips his shades down and his eyes are nothing if not sincere. "And I'm good at trouble, like it or not."

Trust's been burned out of him long ago. But….cynicism's swift to rear its head. Something in him softens a little. There might be a use for this one. A fall guy, a means to who knows what. And that little train of thought….it feels comfortingly familiar, if stunted. "Yeah?" he says, but now there's a prompting note in his tone, rather than that borderline sneer.

"Yeah," Kai says. "I'm not a bad guy to have at your back. I know my way around the neighborhood, who's good, who's bad. I know where the hookups are, I know the safe places and where you don't want to park your lead sled after dark." He flits a look over Jack, then adds, "Besides, I know the lingo. Square like you in this area, people might think you're fuzz in sheep's clothing, give you the cold shoulder. They see you're with me? You might blend."

Now, for the first time, there's genuine amusement in his eyes. He slants a look at Kai, sidelong. "Do I look like the fuzz to you?" A hint of an accent there, something not quite American. "Aren't Mr. Hoover's men painfully clean cut?" J. Edgar would have the mother of all hissy fits at the thought of one of his agents looking like the neighborhood ragman. "But you're right," he concedes, toying with his glass. He's only taken a sip or two. "I don't know the lingo."

"Oh, it's not me you have to convince," Kai says, and he grins, boyish and just… energized. That's his deal. He's got so much energy about him. "Besides, I said in sheep's clothing. We're not dumb, we know they've got men on the inside." He glances around the place. "Not here, though. Not today." He finishes his martini and sets down the glass. "Anyway, it's just an offer. You might be all kinds of dangerous but I can't be who I am and not say something."

Bucky inclines his head to that. "Fair enough," he concedes. "Well…." He runs a finger lazily around the inner rim of the whiskey glass. Not being crystal, it stubbornly refuses to sing. "What about work? Got any lines on that?" His tone is idle, almost lazy.

Laughter ripples lightly on Kai's voice. "Work? Why on earth would anyone want to work?" He doesn't even dare say the word too loudly lest it garner any attention from other patrons. The two are already getting their share of looks. It's a hard lot, being easy on the eyes. "There's work at the cannery, or waiting tables. That's what I do at this dreadfully upscale eatery where the ivy go." He sighs. "It pays the bills."

There's a grin curling at the corner of his mouth. He takes a long swig from the whiskey before answering. "Well, how else're you gonna pay for the whiskey and the beer. Waiting tables, eh?"

"The tips are good if I keep my mouth shut and listen politely to the most inane social commentary you'll ever hear," Kay says with a small, tragic sigh. The truth is, he could probably become one of the great artists or musicians of his time. He's had centuries to practice his arts. But then he'd stand out, and standing out is bad, so. Waiting tables. "You should try it. A nice mug like yours, you'd bound to get on the ladies' good side and, trust me, when the ladies are happy, the gents are generous."

Bucky runs his good hand over the scruff on his jaw, and looks dubious. The other, gloved….he's not used it for anything. Not moved it, in fact. That hint of a grin fades, and that bleakness comes into his face. It ages him in moments, the light dying out of his eyes. Talk about that thousand yard stare.

Kai tips his shades down, then back up, nudging them into place with a fingertip. That's him seeing nothing, right? Right. "Or disappear into the cannery where no one knows your face," he says quietly. Behind the shades he considered the gloved hand, but it would be impolitic to say anything. Just yet. "It's up to you, man. I can show you where I live, and I'd be much obliged if you didn't come murder me in my sleep. Just think of it as a hail Mary option when everything else goes to shit."

A gesture of profound trust. Moreso than Kai likely knows. His lips've thinned out into that pinched line, the mark etched between his brows again. "All right," he says, almost roughly.

Kai might not know the depth of that trust's profundity, but he can guess it doesn't come easily. He takes some cash from his pocket, small bills and change mostly, and he counts out about the amount of his tab plus some extra, and he puts it down on the bar. "Later days, Alonzo, I've got to jet." The barman looks back, sees the payment, and replies, "Later days, Kai." A few people nod as he makes his way toward the door. One hipster (in the original sense of the word) tells him, "Nice catch." Kai flips back, "I've no idea what you're talking about." And it's onto the street he leads the way.

Bucky follows behind him, not buttoning his coat, but wrapping it tighter around him. Silent, head bowed a little. As if he'd shrink back into himself. The walk, though….that's something else all together. Like he weighs more than he should - Buck's not a big guy. Weight of the world literally on his shoulders? Who knows.

Kai keeps a sidelong glance on Bucky, though with those shades, he looks cool as can be, focusing his attention God knows where. Quite tactical, those cheap plastic sunglasses. He shoves his hands in the pockets of his black pea coat. "It's just up the street a bit," he comments as they walk shoulder to shoulder. He cases the street as they walk, himself no stranger at keeping an eye on every corner. What's more, he's light on his feet. Agile. If he had to move quick, he could. "So are you staying around for a bit or is this a pit stop?"

That's when there's fear again - he can't watch all the lines. He's out in the open, and paranoia's barking at his ear like the world's worst little dog. Kai can see it, the tension starting to well up like blood from a wound. This could be a trap. It is a trap. And there's that lonely thread of sanity trying to clamp down. "Dunno," he says, gruffly. "Depends."

"You're all right," Kai says quietly. He's never been particularly good at talking down rabid beasts, twigging to the psyche as more bunny than wolf, but he does have a soothing tone. It's the first real acknowledgement he's given to that fear and the seeing of it. Then, like they're just two men having a conversation, "Depends on what? If the cannery works out?"

That Kai's humoring him, trying to soothe him….that gets through. And his eyes are suddenly cold, cold, as he returns that sidelong glance. What are you walking with, Kai? Is it even human? "How I feel," It's an inane statement….but somehow, there's an edge of menace.

Kai swallows, and he nods slowly. Maybe it's not human, even if it once was. People can become rabid beasts and never even change their skin. "Here it is." A brownstone with stairs leading up, and he goes first, knowing better than to expect Jack to put his back to him. Besides, he listens for Jack's footfalls, for the rush of them up the stairs to jump him. He's not exactly ready, but he's ready not to be surprised if it happens. "Third floor," he mentions.

He doesn't jump him. No threats, no attack. The unfortunate Jack follows at at deliberate pace, quiet but not uncannily stealthy. Not even breathing down Kai's neck. But there's that sense there, nonetheless.

Kai relaxes some. Why is he doing this? The man is clearly dangerous. But the man is clearly stricken. Something has wounded him in ways that don't leave a mark, and if they could do that to someone this intense, what would they do to some poor schmoe with no defenses? It's a calculated risk. Besides, Kai's tough. He keeps telling himself that as he leads Jack to the third floor and a door at the end of the hall. Inside is a small flat, with abstract decor that definitely leans on the side of whimsy. The walls are painted in a staggering mural of moonscapes and dancing lights. A short hallway leads to a bedroom and bathroom. The kitchen is little more than a hot plate and coffee pot. The living room is all about the ad hoc bookshelves and kitsch yet well-worn and comfortable furniture.

It's the art that bemuses him, clearly. The painting….he pauses and stares at it for a long time. There're no token compliments - that particular social skill's apparently fallen by the wayside with the personae he needs for work. The Winter Soldier's an assassin capable of infiltrating everything from the wilds and the forests to glittering high society, though the latter is far more the Widow's forte. The assortment of shards and confusion that used to be James Barnes….is having a bad time concealing much of anything. "Your work?" he says, finally, lamely. Whose else could it be?

Kai does have enough of an ego to gauge Jack's reaction to his work, and he arches a brow vaguely to see the bemusement there. Then he schools his expression before taking off the shades. A symbolic gesture. Now Jack can see his features, his expressions, and where his eyes are going when they take a looksee. "Yeah, I had to break up the dreariness, this place was Squaresville." It's good work, and the fairy lights strung along the ceiling add to the otherworldly airiness of it. "Do you like it?"

His brow furrows. It's not that pinch of confusion seen in the bar, but genuine consideration. Then….the lost look bleeds in again. Why in the hell should he have an opinion on someone else's artwork? Especially a mural. A beat, before he looks over his shoulder at Kai. "'s good," he says, simply.

Kai smiles faintly. It's praise, he'll take it. "Are you hungry?" he asks. "I don't have much, but I keep coffee and tea, lots of biscuits, I've got a bit of a sweet tooth. The couch here is quite comfortable. Sometimes I crash out here instead of my bed because it's just that nice." He's got a television, though God knows it's probably seen better days. "I don't have an extra key, but I somehow doubt I have to teach you how to pick a lock. In case I'm away. Trouble rarely happens on a schedule."

Bucky snorts at that…..but doesn't bother to deny it. "No," he says, after another beat of silence. "I'm not hungry." Then the strangeness of it is on him again, the old black dog that trails at his heels. He has to run, he has to hide….and this stranger's kindness, however well intentioned, is a distraction. "I should be going, thanks for the drink," The odd accent's getting stronger, as is an odd flatness to his voice. Pretending to be even this little bit of normal is a strain….and now it's time to hole up and rest.

Kai regards the stranger with understanding. And he does. Understand, that is. He grew up on the run. He's seen that look Jack has in his father's eyes before just before the family was uprooted and had to move because of 'work.' "Maybe I'll see you around, Jack," he says with a sunny smile. This is just what he needs, to wonder and worry if this dangerous man with something even more dangerous will be there whenever he comes home. But he's a hero. Heroes help people.

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