1964-03-28 - You're An A-hole, Jack

Kai's Apartment:

This is a small one-bedroom apartment that has been painted to resemble a psychedelic moonscape. The walls of the living room are a mural of colorful, abstract spires curving into a star-spangled black sky. The furniture is the very best a back alley dumpster dive has to offer. The couch is covered with mismatched cushions and blankets, and the easy chairs are mismatched and threadbare. There are ad hoc shelves everywhere, housing books and sculptures. Rather beautiful sculptures, actually. Most of them are abstract, but there seems to be a recurring theme of astronomy and water.

The kitchen is sparse, with very little space, a broken stove, and a single hot plate. In the cupboards, one can find a few canned goods and lots of sweets. Down a short hallway is a tiny bathroom and a bedroom whose walls are covered in sketches, drawings, and paintings done in the same talented style as the sculptures and mural.

No good deed goes unpunished. Remember that other evening when Kai bought a drink for that scruffy-looking guy? He's not been back to the bar, has Mr. Jack. No sign of him.

Until tonight. For when Kai comes home from a long shift waiting tables….the hallway and the stairs are dark. And there's a sharp, metallic scent in the air. Iron? Blood? The front door is locked, but….

Kai's footfalls are light on the stairs. For a fellow of his weight, he's nimble. Not that he looks like he weighs all that much. He's just… dense. Tough. Way tougher than he looks. Especially when he catches the scent of blood in the dark. Tough? Nah. Skittish? More like. He takes out his key, and he turns it as quietly as he can in the lock. Snick. Then he pushes it open slowly, using it as a shield. In his hand is his satchel, hefted to wield as a club if needs must.

The flat is silent. But….there's a presence there. A disturbance in the air. The air's still, but there's a sense of …something. The bathroom door is closed, and the light is on. No sounds of movement, but surely he left that off before…

Kai closes the door behind him. "Who's there?" he asks, still wielding his satchel, holding it at the ready. "I don't want to hurt anyone, man, but if you crash my pad, you better introduce yourself. Let's just be cool, all right?" He spies the light on under the bathroom door. He sighs, then locks the door and flicks on the living room light. "Oi, Johnny Walker, use your own loo. We talked about this." That damn drunk down the hall could just get his plumbing fixed, but oh no. Still, the scent of blood has Kai on edge. "Come out, now. Slowly."

No one emerges. Still no sound. But one needn't be supernatural to be sure someone's there. No sound of a drunk blundering, right? …..what if 'Johnny's' fallen and knocked himself out? IS it a joke? Some of Kai's coworkers are pranksters, after all…

"This is ridiculous," Kai tells himself, and he opens the door. Using it as shield, just like the front door, ready to whack whoever it is, because if it is one of his co-workers? They're getting whacked. If it's Johnny? He's getting whacked. If it's a stranger? Well.

It's amazing how big the barrel of a gun looks when you're nose to nose with it. Even a compact one. 'Jack' is in the bathroom….or something wearing Jack's body, anyway…..and he's got a Colt automatic in hand. The sleeve of the long-sleeved shirt he was wearing is cut away on the right, all the better to treat what can only be a bulletwound in his right arm. It's bandaged, but there're stains on the cloth, and on the sink that make it clear it's a very recent bit of treatment indeed. The other arm and hand are still covered.

It's not the pistol that's the most frightening thing, though. It's the look in Jack's eyes, all rage and pain and confusion. He demands something of Kai in a curt, clipped tongue that isn't English. Russian.

Kai does not whack the guy holding a gun in his face. In fact, he goes very still and raise his hands so Jack can see all he's got is a harmless art supplies bag. "All right," he says slowly, and he steps back. "Jack. Jackie boy. Jack, my buddy, my pal. It's just me, dig? Kai, your friend. The guy whose pad you're in." He smiles. See? Everything here is all right. "I'm afraid I'm not down with the lingo, but let's just calm down and we'll rap, yeah?"

He gestures with the gun, peremptorily. Step away - get back. Then, in English far more heavily accented than the other evening, he says, slowly, "Drop the bag." He's pale and sweating - the wound may be clean now, but by the little spatters of red on the floor, he's lost a decent amount of blood.

Kai keeps his other hand up while the one holding the bag slowly lowers it to the floor. He knew this was a risk when he told the guy where he lived. "Jack, don't you remember me? The bar, a whiskey? I told you where I live? In case you needed help, yeah?" He raises both hands once the bag is on the floor. He keeps stepping back. The further back he is, the better the chance his skin will slow the bullet down. "You need help. Let me help you."

"Kick it away," Buck orders, teeth clenched. He's risen from his seat on the edge of the tub, such as it is, and taken a pace forward. The hand with the gun never wavers, but the rest of him is looking none too good. There's another statement in Russian, trailing off in a hiss of pain. He's in no good shape - breathing harder than he should be. Might just be adrenaline….might be bloodloss.

"It's art supplies," Kai says, but he does as he's asked, and he kicks the bag away. He was having such a good day today, too. Lots of tips, always nice. "You need help," he reiterates. "Look, man, you're weak, and I can help you, but you gotta let me. Cool your jets. You're hitting the point where there's nothing I can do to you that's any worse than waiting to get help. I know you dig it. So let's just calm down and be friends, okay?"

Kai's left the path to the front door clear….and that's enough. He's utterly looted Kai's medicine cabinet of anything useful, crammed into the pocket of that overcoat that was worn and is now actually torn; must've had it on when he got hurt. There's no good way to get it on while keeping his sights on someone. That little mental voice that is the aggregate of his instructors, his masters, his tormentors is sneering at him for his foolishness in getting trapped in someone's apartment, and being surprised by the occupant. Buck attempts to lunge for the door, the way out. He's remarkably fast, for the half a dozen steps or so that he actually makes it. And then lack of blood pressure and incipient shock betrays him, and that impressive dash turns into a collapse with all the grace of a retriever puppy skidding on a newly waxed floor. If this is the best the Russians can muster, the Cold War won't be undecided much longer.

"Oh, come on man," Kai groans when he sees his medicine cabinet has been looted. He had bennies in there! The elf is pretty quick, himself, and when Bucky lunges, he pursues, catching up to him right around the time he collapses. The first order of business is to seize the gun. With quick, decisive motions, he unloads it and casts it aside. No guns. "Why do they always run," he mutters. Then he goes to get his bag, holding its handle with his teeth while he uses both arms to finagle the Winter Soldier into his arms. For a little guy, he's strong. Unnaturally so. He grunts, hauling Mr. Metal Arm, who's heavier than he looks. To the bedroom onto the bed in a graceless heap. The blankets are black. To hide the bloodstains. Once Bucky is laid out, he takes the bag from his teeth and rummages in it. "Now just stay still, you're not allowed to kick it in my pad."

He is oddly heavy, unconscious. Humans always are, when they go limp, but this is far more so than usual. The arm still in his sleeve feels oddly rigid, cold - a prosthesis? No wonder he keeps it covered. He's terribly pale, with that greenish tint that doesn't bode at all well. Blood on his pants, soaked into the boot on the same side as the wound.

Kai sits on the edge of the bed, and he takes from his satchel an apple. It's a white apple, faceted. It's crystal, so probably not too tasty. As he holds it, it starts to thrum with a faint, silverblue light transforming to golden. He lays it upon Bucky's chest, holding it there. The first impression it gives is of a comforting weight, and then slowly, warmth seeps into the man's body. It isn't a quick process. It doesn't go lickety-split. Minutes pass, and the damage done to the body through blood loss begins to repair itself. The wounded arm begins to knit. It's almost kind of itchy, but not in a bad way, if that makes any sense. Overall, there is that warmth. Like a fresh day in Spring and the sun on one's skin. While the apple does its work, Kai uses the hand not holding it to pay the man down, looking for other wounds. "Just what have you gotten yourself into, Jack?" he murmurs.

No other wounds, at least at first touch. An assortment of weapons, of course - another pistol, and at least three knives. Because no well-dressed New Yorker goes unarmed, right? The whole of his left shoulder and arm have that odd unyielding quality to them. Armor, almost….and even the warmth of the apple seems to sink into it. Whatever that hurt, it resists the boosting of magic to heal it. He goes increasingly limp, into a genuine sleep.

Kai divests Bucky of his weapons, one handed, one by one. He gives the hard arm a rapraprap over its clothing. That's one hell of a prosthesis. Meanwhile, the apple continues to knit flesh and heal damaged cells that aren't getting the oxygen they need because of diminished conveyance. It can't, alas, make more blood, but it does keep the body optimized. All the while, Kai grows wearier, paler. When the apple is finally done with its deed, he takes it, puts it in its hidey spot in his bedside drawers, and he staggers to his feet, barely able to hold the weapons he takes and relocates. To the kitchen, into the fridge. The bullets are taken from the guns with fumbling fingers. Then, still in his work uniform, with Bucky's blood on him, the Alfheimim collapses to the floor.

How many hours pass before one of them wakes? Dawn isn't yet graying in the east, when there's the thud of boots on the floor in Kai's bedroom. Someone's awake….and patting himself down frantically for his weapons. But then, he's always got that hand, doesn't he? Poor Kai finds himself dragged up from the floor by a hand none too gentle, and shaken roughly. Wake up. You've questions to answer. Androcles pulled the thorn out of a lion's paw and the lion was grateful, after. This little monster, however, doesn't seem to have learned the same lesson.

Kai proves much heavier than he looks. Still, he looks so drawn and wasted. Pale, dark circles under his eyes. When he's shaken, he regains consciousness, but he's still sluggish. His head lifts, then lolls to the side. He aggles like a rag doll. "Stop it," he groans, the words thick on his tongue. He's tapped. This isn't sleepiness. This is someone profoundly unwell. Drugged, maybe? But he stays conscious, for all that he's weak and limp. "You're welcome. Stop shaking me."

"What did you do?" The accent's there, still. Comrade Hyde remains in evidence. So much for thanks. "Where are my guns? What did you do with them?" That hard hand rattles him again, for all the world like a dog trainer scruffing a puppy to chastise it.

The force of the shaking knocks Kai clean out. It takes him a moment to stir again. "Fridge," he says. "No bullets til you promise not to shoot me." Like he's in any position to negotiate, save that he knows where the bullets are. After another brief lapse in consciousness, he stirs and says, "Healed you. You're welcome."

He's being dragged with a kind of contemptuous ease - Bucky's shifted his grip from a mere hold on Kai's collar to gripping the nape of his neck. It's painful. "How?" he says, looking down at Kai with a kind of distant curiosity. Because the truth of that can't be ignored - he flexes his other arm, twists it, as if to test the extent of the healing.

Kai winces, but the pain keeps him awake. The formerly injured arm is in great condition, all things considered. The deep tissue is healed, the would has scabbed over. If not for that metal arm siphoning off energy he might've been able to heal of it completely. The blood loss is still a thing, but no lingering damage from it. Buck just needs a little time and a few rare steaks. Kai grabs feebly at the hand at his nape, but even as strong as he is, he can't grip any harder than a human. "Jack, you're hurting me. I have powers, that's all." That's all.

"What are you?" he asks, even as he goes through the fridge with brisk efficiency. He's able to check for rounds in the guns even one-handed, though he has to pause, now and again. "Where are the rounds?" He stows the pistols with care, one in his clean boot, the other at the right hip. "Tell me and I'll let you live," There's a kind of chilling casualness about that last statement. Like he's seriously considering the alternative.

The fridge is mostly empty. There's milk, a dish of butter, and some mustard. And guns and knives. Kai groans, gripping that metal hand and trying to pull it off with no success. Limp, along for the ride whether he likes it or not, he says, "I…" have a magic doodad you're going to try to steal if you find out it exists, "…have magic. I've had it since I was a kid." Not the same magic he just used, but never mind the details. His head lolls to one side, and his eyes close. Still, he's awake enough to say, "They're in my pocket." Then, "You're an asshole, Jack."

"Could be," he allows, with a kind of grim humor. "I didn't ask you what you had. I asked you what you are." He drops Kai to the floor hard enough to make the elf's head bounce, belly down. And then, kneeling down carefully to keep the healer pinned, goes through his pockets. There's the unpleasant clicking of him getting a round into their respective chambers. He'll deal with the mags, later. Then….the cold, cold kiss of a pistol's mouth at the base of Kai's skull, and seconds of deliberation that seem to stretch and stretch. It's unpleasant to hear someone thinking, in a way that needs no telepathy at all, if they're better off with you dead. But then he's heaving himself up again, the weight of metal leaving Kai.

Kai lies helpless. There will be no more offers of his home as crash space. It might be a beatnik leaning, but damn it, this is why heroes have secret lairs. "You wouldn't believe me," he says groggily. He would come up with a fancy lie, but his head hurts, his body is spent, and there's a gun at the base of his skull. "I'm not from this world, but I'm not going to hurt anyone. I just want to help."

Bucky just grunts at that. He hasn't holstered the gun, but at least he's no longer poised to blow Kai's head off. "Try me," he insists, retreating a few paces.

The poor thing, whatever he is, lies crumpled. Dizzy now, from the shaking, not trusting himself to get up. He's just… spent. His eyes are dull and lackluster, though there are silvery specks in the blue like flecks of moonlight. His lips are dry, his complexion wan. "I'm an elf. Don't laugh. I don't make toys in old St. Beatnik's shop, dig? I'm just…" he waves a hand weakly, "from the elfy place." If he weren't so out of it, he wouldn't be saying this. The small part of his brain alert enough to know better is not happy. But. He says it.

He puts his head a little to one side, like a different angle's going to make some of that clearer. It is unpleasantly like a raven considering what part of a corpse to peck at first. "From one of the other worlds," he says, slowly. Like it's something he knew, once, that Kai's reminded him of. A flicker of his hand, making sure every piece of weaponry he came in here with is still with him….and then he's slipping through the door without a farewell, and with surprising silence.

Poor Kai. You couldn't've known he was a snake when you picked him up, could you?

Jack is an assshole. Kai doesn't like Jack. Kai hopes Jack gets a splinter under a fingernail. He eventually crawls toward his bed so he can collapse. The important thing, he tells himself, is that Jack survived. He'll get better. That might not be great for the rest of the world, but it's good for Jack, and that's Kai's goal. Saving the world one ungrateful prick at a time.

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