1965-08-04 - Shanghai Shanking, 1922
Summary: Ambrose just wants his knife back. Things escalate quickly.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
lamont ambrose 

There's something about that absurd bed - it offers a visceral reassurance, like an animal's den. It's the gray hours before proper dawn, when the city is as quiet as it ever is, the night-time glitter faded and the day-time bustle yet to be roused. The rains have gone, for a little while at least, but the city is misty, clouds and fog blending.

He's come another night to this house of the several he owns. And whether it's bravado or resignation, the door to the balcony is open again, letting in the cooler breezes of early morning. The little lamp has gone out, but there's still the scent of of that thick, sweet smoke lingering like stale incense in the room. Kent himself is sprawled apparently asleep, atop the bedding, as if even a sheet would be too much, in singlet and pyjama pants. The knife Ambrose left is displayed on a little table not far from the broad balcony doors, like an offering. Let him come and take it.

The cool air of pre-dawn that clings in dewdrops upon the spiderwebs is a blessing. He appreciates it on his approach to the abode. He doesn't follow the same route as two days back, knowing better than to try it again. Predictability leads to pain. Instead, from the opposite direction. A controlled slide down a shingled roof leaves two dark lines in passing where he surfs down it. Launching himself from the edge, he lands in a quietly-thudding roll upon the balcony and then slides into the room. Leaning overtop an extended leg and outwardly-angled bent knee, he has a hand resting on the grip of one pistol even as he rapidly scans the room.

No servants present. Slippery bastard was right; they really don't check on him until late.

Ambrose then slowly rises to his full height. His is a monochrome silhouette before the balcony doors, what with wearing the black silk pants; this time, a vest in a dark green, almost shadowed-jade. His eyes rest upon the bed and its recumbent figure…before shifting to the knife. Yep. That's his knife; he'd know it by the fleck of damage on the hilt from a fumble-fingered drop so many months back.

…so what's the catch? He begins to step silently over to it, attention flickering back and forth between the weapon and the resting man. Just gotta get the blade and then scramble, before Ying Ko realizes he's present and already breaking the goddamn promise he made days back.

Apparently he guessed there might be a visitation like this, for there's the knife - the table's much nearer the balcony door, not tucked in to the bed's alcove. The figure in the bed is utterly still, though, save for an occasional, almost dog-like twitch and spasm, fingers curling. There's even a whimper or two. Tucked in the back of the bed, though there's a little space between its rear wall and his spine, like an animal in its lair, indeed.

The little sound brings Ambrose to freeze. His hand remains extended overtop the handle of the knife and casts a faint shadow across it. He watches the small movements with brows slowly gathering together. Hmm…

…nnnngh. No. NO. He is not going to examine the man. He's an adult and his own person and the honorless wretch doesn't deserve a welfare check. With a quick and light-fingered motion, the Jackal gathers up his weapon and sheaths it, glancing once more at the shadowy figure curled up inside.

And an addict, to boot. His face is slack in sleep, on the pillow that's a snowy white, in contrast to the rich blue silks. Breath hitches and catches,and he murmurs something indistinct - might be French? The ring is on his finger, yet, it's a gleam like a drop of oil in the half-light before dawn.

French? Ambrose squints. The indecision flashes through his face in its microtells before he sighs silently from the bottom of his gut. Looks like the man is dead to the world as is…and he can smell the opium smoke, fainter as it is given the passing hours and early-morning breeze.

He looks to the balcony, to outside and beyond the rooftops across the street. By the colors of the sky and clouds, there's still time yet before the sun breaks the distant horizon of the ocean. Narrowing then his eyes again, Ambrose dares to tread into the alcove. He's painstakingly certain not to bump into anything — not even the drapes — and makes his way to the end of the bed. There he stands, head slightly cocked to one side, listening. Fingers rest comfortably on the handle of one service revolver, an old habit never lost.

Another twitch, and he curls in on himself a little more. Kent's on his side, dark hair mussed after a restless night. He sighs, softly, and seems to lapse into a deeper slumber, limp as a puppy. Blame the drug, for surely someone so hard-wired and wary in the brightness of day should be hair-triggered when it comes to waking.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 20

The scoff is silent, the nose-wrinkle probably worthy of being called 'cute' simply to make it deepen. Puh. Ambrose is convinced over again that opium makes men useless indeed. His eyes fall to Black's hands and his nostrils flare in an inhale at the sight of the black-opal ring.

The consideration takes less than a second. Tit-for-tat and all that… He digs one knee into the plush of the bed with more caution than required for stepping upon thin ice and reaches. The lessons of childhood play on the streets of Basra come in handy. Sleep-sweat makes it shockingly easy to slowly entice the ring off its home finger. Once Ambrose has it in closed fist, he begins to retreat backwards into the alcove. His heart dances in his throat and even he's stunned at his own daring. Still, he remains silent as a wraith in another half-crouched backwards step.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 8

He can hear the sleeper's breath catch in earnest, stop….the rhythm altered to wakefulness. A half a heart beat of silence, and then the voice behind him comes, low and bitter. Not a shout of outrage, nor an attempt to call for help, as he's rising slowly from the bed. No, there's that metallic note there, like an iron spike to some tender part of the brain.

"Stop, thief."

Yep, time to get to stepping, post-haste — that's not the cadence of breath found to the sleeping and dead to the world. Ambrose turns on the balls of his slippered feet and makes it out into the bedroom proper with increasingly quick and lengthy steps before the voice sounds from within the shady confines of the confined bed.

As if caught by the back collar of his shirt, he comes to an abrupt halt as his knees lock. Cold sweat immediately breaks out at his temples and palms. Oh God. Oh God oh God oh God. He's indeed stopped, back facing towards Kent.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d10 for: 5

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 5

There's the scuff of bare feet on the painted wood of the floor, coming closer. Then a narrow hand rips the scarf from Ambrose's face, flings it aside like a discarded rag. "Atherton," he says, and his tone is still edged. "So much for distance. Give me my ring."

"Why? You always end up with my things," he replies just as shortly. "First it was the guns, and then it was the knife. About time you felt the lack of something significant to you, don't you think?" Fear makes Ambrose a smart-ass, apparently. He tries leaning his head away from any further touch; the length of headscarf hangs down along one side of his chest. His fist closes all the tighter around the purloined ring. The other hand begins to creep for the knife he so recently returned to its sheath.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 12

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 6

"Your guns you have, and your knife you left here. I left it out for you, figuring you'd come and take it back." And anger makes him foolish, tense. He lashes out with a foot to hit that creeping hand - whatever else he's done since he came East, he's studied at least some martial arts. "I have offered to *help* you, as best I could. Touched your mind so you might have some respite," he hisses. "Nevermind that I can feel your contempt like an acid burn. I am *trying*, Ambrose. I am trying to put a stop to this." And heedless of the Bane, he reaches down, grabs the other westerner's chin, and forces it up, so that Ambrose has to meet his gaze. "Now submit and *give me my ring.*"

"Ow!" It's a half-swallowed sound, but damned if the slam of bare foot into unsuspecting knuckles doesn't sting a goodly amount. Ambrose has enough time to bare teeth and shake out the tingling hand before he sees the approach of fingers in peripheral vision. Jerking his head away is far too late; the hold is stronger than the natural resistance of neck muscles.

He feels the command land home like a wet blanket over any self-imposed action or logic. A hard swallow and Lamont gets to meet a flinty blue gaze gone absolutely frigid as the Baltic Sea even as the young man's hand extends outwards, palm-up, to reveal the black-opal ring. The back-splash of anger probably doesn't help what the Shadow can sense of this contempt radiating hotter than a brush fire.

He snatches the ring from that palm, settles it back in its proper place on the left hand. Releasing his physical hold on Ambrose's chin….but not those mental claws. And with his right hand, he backhands Ambrose, hard.

"Here. Here's the fight you sought," he hisses. "The excuse you were looking for. You want the ring, you'll take it from my dead body."

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 11

The hatred is nearly palpable as it suffuses Ambrose's mind. Watching the man take back his ring with such ease galls him. Being able to do little about it is salt ground into the wound. He can see the blurred hand coming and can't stop it. The force of its collision has him stumbling one step to the side, face averted towards the floor.

The faint laugh is almost sickened. "…as you wish, snake," he hisses. One can see his tongue slide beneath his lip and at his cheek, testing for broken skin, and then he's pulled the knife again. In one smooth movement, he brings it in a driving arc at the Shadow's solar plexus! Nothing like someone regret giving back a weapon.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 20

If he were clear-minded and awake, this'd've been more of a fight. But the drug still in his veins slows him, and the knife goes home just as its wielder intended, sunk to the hilt - Ambrose's attacker's forward momentum only sinks it deeper.

He doesn't shriek in pain. There's only a gasp of shock, and he stumbles back, mostly off the blade, before the pain hits. Then there's blood welling past the hand he's pressed to the wound, so much blood. Even then, there's no whimpering or begging. There, at the last, some modicum of pride, before his knees fold under him, and he collapses to one side. Curling around the wound, as if he were back in his bed again, eyes wide and blank, like he's already forgotten Ambrose is there.

He's not a stranger to the killing blow. Time in the military inured him to the inevitability of its happening. The blade emerges coated in red as proof of his success. Ambrose takes a step or two back, breathing heavily, still gone white around the lips despite his apparent sangfroid. The knife drips onto the floor.

"Idiot," he breathes. "Now you know how it feels."

It hits him — the memories of the bullet wound blazing with agony to blind him. How it felt when the water filled his lungs and darkness took him under. All the regrets, all of the anger, all of the fear — the loneliness. His throat closes off. …dammit.

The knife is thrown aside almost violently. It clatters across the floor and leaves Escher designs in fresh blood in its wake. "Stupid. Stupid bloody bastard, with your stupid tricks and stupid ring," he spits even as he kneels down. He's heedless of what pain it causes Kent when he rolls the man to his back. He yanks away the blood-slicked hand of the other man and replaces it with his own. "Stupid, stupid, stupid!!!" Who's stupid?

Time to try a little trick he picked up on accident when testing out the Bane in isolation. It might sting a little…or a lot…but that's a rush of pure stolen life-energy back into Kent's body. Healing on full reverse, GO — pain and all.

His face is slack, horrified, as Ambrose stoops to him. Filled with fear, sure this has to herald some last torment. But he can't manage speech, and his strength is pouring out of him in a scarlet pool.

Rolled, he's like a broken toy, joints loosening. Then there's that energy poured back into him, a cataract that makes his body jerk and spasm, one heel hammering the floor. There's a wheeze of departing breath, the sound of someone who can't pull in enough air to scream, his gaze fixing on Ambrose's face in a terrible astonishment. What's happening isn't clear, and this feels like torture.

Saltwater poured on the wound would probably feel better. That being said, the influx of life-energy does its best to reverse what would be months of natural healing time in a period of a few seconds. Drawn from Ambrose's personal reserves, it takes from him instead; his own expression is tight with concentration and whiter still about the mouth. On first sight, he doesn't appear to age — what's a few months to someone just counting two and a half decades without Bane-aided immortality? The other hand presses down hard upon Kent's sternum to keep him from thrashing further.

When the pins-and-needles begins to bite at the palm he has clapped firmly over the sucking wound, Ambrose yanks away as fast as possible. Nearly ass-over-tea-kettle, he tumbles, joints and limbs hammering the floor in retreat. Increasingly faded bloody handprints are left until he ends up spine against one of the lintel-beams of the odd bedframe. He stares, jaw hanging open as to gasp shallowly, and he seems almost afraid of what he's done now.

The pain nearly knocks him out….and it certainly whites him out for a bit. His expression has gone strange, beatific, a saint in ecstasy or one of the damned trapped in hell. Looking up at Ambrose as if he were something utterly alien, beyond comprehension.

Then he's still, limp, eyes closing. But the pool of crimson has ceased spreading…and there's the faintest rise and fall of his chest, the white cotton of the singlet gone red and rusty. The scent of blood is heavy in the air, sweet and metallic. All of this in a few moments, life and death and life again.

"…Black?" Ambrose's voice seems small in the room now. He swallows as if he's fighting down his gorge where he sits, tucked against the outside of the bed-set. Outside, a bird calls from one of the courtyard trees into the relative stillness of the wakening city. Beyond the buildings, the sun crests the horizon of the ocean and begins to light up the sky fully. The clouds are golden and pale pink wisps high above, portent of a clear and bright day, hot and humid.

"Black?" he asks again, a hint louder yet, his eyes resting on the man.

His reply is a whoop of breath suddenly sucked in, as if he'd startled awake someone sleeping peacefully. Then he's scrambling up in a tangle of disjointed limbs, like nothing so much as a newborn foal, clumsy. Only to plant a foot wrong, slip in a puddle of blood, and go down heavily. There's finally, from outside, the sound of feet, a knock on the door, and a nervous question in the musical lilt of Shanghainese. Kent barks a reply back in that same tongue, harsh and peremptory, and the feet depart.

In the ensuing silence, he turns that glassy-eyed, shocked look on Ambrose, something beyond terror. "Did you curse me, too?"

Ambrose has his own secondary startled reaction to watching Kent suddenly come to vitality. He can't push himself backwards any farther against the wooden frame, but he certainly attempts it as the white of his eyes flash from beneath the rolled brim of his headscarf. Slipper heels scuff softly at the floor a few times before he goes still. He stares at the far door when the knock comes and looks back to the Shadow, praying over and over again that he isn't about to let in the house-guard.

Apparently not, given how the servants retreat. Dry lips are licked and then his brows twitch into an uncertain frown. "…no?" Oh great, there's a lilt of question. "I healed you…?" And it was apparently one big and bloody experiment in Bane application!

His servants already more or less know he's a witch. God only knows what they'll make of the stains everywhere. Ying Ko, the unkillable. Or a demon who feasts on blood. He gets up again, more carefully, if still unsteady on his feet. Shaking, Kent looks down at the welter of blood on clothes, hands, and then slowly peels up the sodden shirt to examine the healed wound. There is a scar, a weird testament to the healing of a blow he should not have been able to survive. He's still an awful gray color.

Then, without a word, he's turned on his heel and heading for the bathroom. Task number one is apparently to get all this mess off him. He's peeling off his shirt as he goes…and leaving sticky red foot prints in the process.

Shoulders risen the slightest up about his face slowly begin to drop. Ambrose even risks leaning outwards to watch the other man's path. Apparently, there will be a trail of bloody footprints leading to the washroom. Carefully, with a fine trembling in his own knees, he works his way to his feet utilizing the decorative scrolling carving of the wooden pillar behind him. Once there, he looks around almost absent-mindedly for the knife. There. It's tucked up against the base of the balcony door. The blood on it is already drying tacky and darker.

Not touching that again, he decides. It has the stain of warlock-blood upon it. Kent can do what he wishes with it. Looking down at the palm he had pressed over the knife wound, the young man makes a small sound and rubs it roughly on his pants. Black hides the crimson of spilled life beautifully, but it'll take more than some scrubbing to get the stain off.

Something glinting in his side-vision makes him turn to see the pitcher of water and glass resting on the table in the alcove. Quick steps bring him to both. He tilts the pitcher onto a section of his vest and then gets to working at the skin again. Maybe if he's fast enough at his task, he can still scarper before the washroom door opens again.

He's apparently dismissed from Kent's mind. Or the events of the morning have shot him beyond some event horizon where the arrogant Englishman just doesn't care. For there's the sound of water on tile, as if this were every other ordinary morning with an opium hangover. Kent's apparently taking that shower, and Ambrose can do what he likes.

Almost all of the viscous red is removed from Ambrose's palm after a minute or two of rubbing. The vest will need to be thrown on a rubbish heap, but maybe someone else enterprising might find a use for it. He's not about to continue wearing something with that man's blood on it.

With one final leery look towards the bathroom — water's still running, sounds like no one's going to abruptly come out wielding some gun or straight razor — the Jackal minces over to the balcony doors. It's truly dawn now given the sounds of street traffic below starting up in snippets of conversation and distant sounds of automobile traffic on the busier main streets. All too easy to leave the same way as last time, no more settled in another vein. Up upon the balcony and then to the rooftop, where he disappears once more.

The trench knife remains where it slid up against the base of the balcony door. Golden sunlight bronzes its blade. The blood dries further still. A parting present for the Shadow, it appears.

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