1965-10-04 - Shanghai Showdown, 1922
Summary: The Green Jade Brotherhood has one last lethal gambit to play and it's played on a most vulnerable playing field — Ambrose's own mind.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
ambrose lamont 

A quiet evening in the house in the Red Light lilong. Ambrose is tucked away into the chair at the roll-top desk. He's got a thin book, a triste on parlor tricks, spread with one hand held up and he's frowning at it now.

"What in the bloody hell…?" he mutters, glowering at it. With trench-knife in-hand, he sets the book down in order to cut off another hunk of apple. Dressed in his warm navy-blue buttonless undershirt and the black fatigue pants, he's actually not got boots on the desk…this time.

When he does, there is lecturing. Such lecturing. At the moment, however, Kent is lounging like a harem girl in his ridiculous bed, in his usual bedclothes of pj pants and t-shirt. Dozing, a little, listening to Ambrose. There was, alas, opium use today….and while the effects are mostly gone, well, he's still a bit out of it. "What?" he asks, looking up, sleepily.

The Jackal glances up from the text, looking pleasantly surprised. "Oh, you're awake after all. I thought to let you sleep the damned mess off, my apologies." He cuts another hunk out of the apple and then speaks around it as he chews. "This author isn't making any sense in explaining how he's palming the card from the center of the deck. It shouldn't be the center of the deck, it should be the bottom of the deck," Ambrose insists, finally shutting the thin book. "The bastard shouldn't even be published, his information is rotten." He cranes his neck to look into the cavernous bed.

"Has anything come of your connections in regards to…" A growl at himself for the hesitation. "Of the Brotherhood? My own have little to say in the matter. They've gone silent, for lack of a better description of behavior."

"No, thank you," Kent says, almost humbly. "I needed it. It was a bad day," His short-hand for pain severe enough to keep him in bed- old war wounds act up. "No. Nothing. Very quiet," he says, softly. "I suppose they've figured out I was the thief. Who else would steal you from them, after all?" He allows himself an arrogant little smile. His Jackal. All his.

That smug smile is echoed to a lesser degree, though still true to the emotional base. Ambrose scratches at his temple briefly and his eyes slide to one of the top desk drawers, where that bedeviling collar is stashed away.

"No doubt they've figured out who swept in beneath their noses — or rather, above them. That was…" Rubbing at his eyes with fingertips, he then rises from the desk chair to meander over and into the alcove. He brings the apple and trench-knife with. Leaning on the frame of the doorway, with part of the silk hangings trapped beneath his shoulder, he continues his thought quietly: "…a goddamn bloody mess. Never again, that." A small shudder wends through him and he then takes a bite out of the fruit rather than utilizing the knife again. It goes away into the sheath at the belt of his pants. "I'm rather hopeful they won't try any sort of…mysticism like that again, not after your involvement. You've a reputation these days, Kent," he reminds the man with a dark grin.

A firmly locked drawer, that. With a key kept by him. "Do I?" he asks, raising his brows. "And what, pray tell, is that?" The idea seems to intrigue him, but he's quiet about it. No more of that arrogant flicker.

"You've more than a touch of the mystical, apparently. You've also made deals with the devil and you've a familiar in a hellhound. In my skin, I apparently weigh…what was it…" He wrinkles his nose in thought briefly before barking a short laugh. "Close to four stone and my eyes glow like brimstone." He winks once in the dark room, allowing that nightshine-red to flash through his pupils in cheek. "Half of Shanghai is…"

On a breath, he pauses. His smile takes on the slack of confusion that then suffuses his entire face. His bright eyes go vacant and dull, looking through Kent. An inhuman blankness of emotion then masks him and he straightens from his lean on the doorway. "Excuse me, I need to be elsewhere," he says, voice eerily empty and even, as if he's repeating words rote…or something someone's insinuating into his mind. "I mustn't be late. She won't like that."

That makes him sit up, jolted out of his fading languor. The change in those familiar blue eyes. "What?" he says, frowning. "You need what? Who's doing that?" And then, without hesitation, he's diving into connection with Ambrose, starting up their usual link.

Ignorant entirely of Kent's physical actions, Ambrose turns and walks silently back out of the alcove. The kything space is occupied by himself and another mental presence entirely, one soft and sickly-sweet, whispering commands across an impressive physical distance. The starry pond is murky and oily atop its surface, its usual beacons clouded out. The jacket finds and slides on his jacket against the cold before grabbing up his boots. He finds the desk chair and sits in it, his actions almost robotic but for the assurance of long-practiced motion. Boots must tied. It grants a precious minute to act — a relative eternity for the flicker-flash of the mind.

Physically, he's hurling himself out of the bed, dressing - blessing his habit of laying out the next day's clothes, before a servant can do it. But in the link, he's lunging for that new, alien presence, heading for her with an attack dog's fervor. She's going to get a savaging, if he has anything at all to say about it.

Within the kything space, there's a sudden fog to hamper Kent's approach. The foreign presence is here, there, everywhere at once, skittering about with light whispers of movement.

Ah, white devil, comes the feminine whisper, cool like the brush of morning mist. You have interfered long enough. Once he has disposed of you, I will be able to take *all* of what is rightfully mine.

Snapping like guide-ropes against something heavy, Kent can likely feel her prying away the Jackal's control on the Bane. Ambrose looks up from tying his boot and locks on to the other man. There's nothing behind his eyes, a chilling emptiness that engulfs like the expanse of the northern oceans. With eerie assurance of motion, he rises to his feet, only to toe one boot off…and then the other. Bare feet on wooden flooring, all the better for traction. His dominant hand goes for the trench knife at his belt even as his body tenses and readies itself for combat.

"No," he says, and it's echoed in the link. "He's mine," They have that sympathy, after all, the lover's bond, body to body. Barefoot, himself, with his shirt half-buttoned over his t-shirt. I'll show you 'white devil', madame, he retorts, trying to cut her link to Ambrose - attacking directly, reaching for the presence in his lover's mind.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 9

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 20

Even as he takes his first few intentional step towards Kent, one can see the conflict settling into place. It nets and slows him, making the first inklings of humanity return to his face. The small vee of a frown appears and he blinks, confusion returning. The knife drops down to his side, held more loosely, and he weaves in place. Within the kything space, an incoherent splutter of rage even as her own mental connection to Ambrose begins to fail. Her own retort is shocked, quick and rather like the snap of a bullwhip, aiming to stun and force Kent's mental claws away from herself.

— wha — w-where — …Kent? He sounds heartbreakingly bewildered in the link, as if trying to surface from a nightmare and stuck just beneath the film of consciousness.

You are with me, There's the snap of command in that mental voice. He apparently means it in both senses of the phrase. Jealous much? Oh, yes, yes, yes. Kent's eeling forward to take the knife from Ambrose - let's take that out of the running for now. But he's lashing at her again, fangs out. Perhaps it's courtesy of Ambrose's mental images of him, but he's some sort of viper at the moment, taking on that mask.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 5

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 10

Ambrose appears frozen in place, still sporting that worried frown. It's not difficult at all to take the knife from his hand with the slackened hold on it. He's still a thousand miles away mentally, almost held in stasis with two minds battling for prominent presence inside his skull.

A spluttering hiss from the feminine interloper as the attacks flash out again and again, landing here and there. The jarring winces shake the stagnant water of the pond and then comes the retort on her part, a rapid skittering approach with far too many legs. Her nips are quick and painful, intended to sting and cause a flinch.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 13

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 7

Flinch he does, dropping the knife and snarling, for his attempt to dodge fails. But then he's striking out again, trying for somewhere more vulnerable. Shifting shape into something dark and winged, with cruel talons and blazing eyes, all the better to claw her.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 14

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 4

The Jackal seems to flinch at the sound of the trench-knife hitting the floor, his eyes briefly shifting from the thousand-mile stare at the wall. A shriek for Kent's thundering impact that sets the kything space to shaking and the impression of a sudden tension headache for his claws setting in. She writhes in the clutch. Within the kything space, a rabid hiss of rage at the attempted constraint.

NO! I SAID KILL HIM! Again, down come the shutters of soullessness. Ambrose locks onto Kent yet again even as he reaches behind his back. Oh look — another knife, this one with blade glinting as he flicks it open, a straight-razor. The next few steps to close distance are quick and it is with devout deadliness that he moves to attack Kent now, silent and skillful. Herein is the explicit evidence that the accursed has the gumption to spill blood without thinking twice about it — no moral qualms, no hesitations — just a switch flicked on. He's no true master of the blade, however, in comparison to Kent.

Indeed…why choose the knife?

That begs the question. The Bane needs no finesse, no skill, just being unleashed like a flood tide. Torture, perhaps? Or because it might rebound upon her somehow? Kent's trying to dodge, even as he tries for her again, determined to dislodge her….or land a disabling strike.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 5

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 2

The Bane is held by a trembling thread of self-control by Ambrose, the last containment left by the foreign presence of mind out of immediate distraction. She's thoroughly entangled with Kent now, screeching and lashing out at the darkly-feathered presence. Along the stretch across miles of the city, the tension headache grows to become something close to an eye-watering headache on her end. Despite the initial ferocity on Kent's part, the mental brawl is becoming almost like an arm-wrestling match, a battle of attrition.

Ambrose stumbles in his first swing given its ridiculous over-reach and the blade slices through a loose section of Kent's overshirt. It's brutally sharp, proof there, and he rises, still looking at the other man as nothing more than a target to open from chin to gullet. He telegraphs his next move clearly for someone with experience, another swing in the other direction, from left to right, easy to block with a raised forearm if it comes to physical grappling.

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 17

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 7

"Llew. Fight her. Fight. You can do it. Drop the blade," Fighting on two fronts - trying to dodge before he's cut open. Still striking at her, furiously. As if sheer rage were enough to drive her out, chivvy her out like a wolf defending its den.

|ROLL| Lamont +rolls 1d20 for: 18

|ROLL| Ambrose +rolls 1d20 for: 2

The brunet's next attack arcs across the space before Kent's chest, slicing in another multi-point impact through portions of his shirt, still not touching skin. He stumbles and seems to wince; in the kything space, a low rumble of the Bane testing at the final strand and a winkling of the stars beneath the pond, as if attempting to come out from behind scuttling clouds.

Beneath the flash of cutting defensive rage, the presence crumples more yet and begins to fall apart to ribbons. There's the sense of something strained to a breaking point on her far end and an icy rush of fear of failure at great cost: her own mind. Still, one last rally — one last suicidal gambit to play. Within the confines of the Jackal's mind, the feminine voice echoes like a rush of wind through a narrow arroyo.

Good boy. The purr slides down Ambrose's nape and spine, making him simultaneously grimace and flush. Now…drop it. The flip-blade falls from his hands in a wink of honed steel and clatters to the bedroom floor. Good. Now…play *dead*.

Ambrose's jaw drops even as he tries to inhale and can't, his lungs seeming to seize up. A hollow sound even as he clutches at his chest, skin going sallow. A driblet of blood paints from his nose to lip and then his knees hit the floor, two solid thumps as he wheezes. His eyes, still gone blank, stare into nothing.

He's heard stories of what comes next. Tales of darker deeds from his ancestors, the blackest of magics. But he's in the grip of his own icy rage, and not inclined to let her go. That image of talons sinking in, the hooked beak tearing her, bringing the antagonist's mind down to destruction. How dare they. How dare they try that AGAIN, to hurt him by taking his lover's life.

It's borderline madness raging behind his icy control. Utter fury - no one last precise strike from him, but a clawing fury. Until it sinks in, what she's trying, and he abandons her in favor of turning his attention to Ambrose. No. Live. You belong to me. Your life is mine, your death is mine, and I do not permit this. The equivalent of a solid thump on the chest, meant to start that heart and breath again.

The last tendrils of the foreign influence slip away slowly, like the final reflexive curl of a snail into its broken shell. A plaintive sound of woe from her end and then the sorceress of the Green Jade Brotherhood loses her mind. In a manor many miles across the city, she slumps to one side in her chair, limp and blank-eyed as a broken doll.

Ambrose jolts in his kneel, his face dropping and then flying back even as he catches himself with one hand. The other clutches up a handful of his shirt and now he coughing madly, the sound bright and forced — gasping for air as he looks up at Kent — scrabbling to his feet and attempting to pull the other man close into a frightened, relieved hug. "Bloody fucking hell, I'm sorry - 'm sorry, so sorry!" There will be blood smeared on Kent's overshirt from his nose, unfortunately.

"Shhhshhshh," he says, as he brings Ambrose into his arms, drags him summarily into the cavern of the bed. Like a mother trying to haul her child out of harm's way. Nevermind that Ambrose has to have at least a stone of muscle on him. "It's all right. I've got you, love. I've got you. She's gone." He tore her mind open like a frightened animal tearing down a paper screen. Let them try and heal her, if they dare.

Shaking like a leaf, Ambrose moves with him almost like one half a paired frenetic, half-panicked dance. He swipes at his nose at one point, squints at the stain on his dark shirt that then colors on his wrist, and then looks up at the other man.

"You're not hurt, are you? I felt her attack you, Kent. Bloody christ, it was all I could do to - to — I drew the knife because you know — you know the art, and - and - and — " he stutters, trying to explain away his actions as if he'd been caught red-handed at his own art of theft.

"Ambrose, beloved, please consider some opium," he says, tightly. "I've some tincture in the bathroom. I know you hate it, but it might be what you need. I'm fine. I am." Nevermind the psychic residue. He feels dirtied….violated, after that alien, hostile presence in the space he's shared only with his lover. Finding a clean cloth from the drawer, handing it to Ambrose in lieu of a hankie.

The hankie is taken and pressed to his nose once before he sniffs, almost experimentally, even in the middle of fear. Still bleeding. He blots at his upper lips even as he gives Kent a glossy-eyed look.

"I am afraid that the curse will come for you, «azizam», if I go under its spell," Ambrose whispers past the thin cloth of the handkerchief. "You must promise me to grant me space if you feel it and cannot control it. Not leave this place, no, just the desk — chair — desk-chair," he tries to clarify with a wince.

"I understand," he says, softly. "Then come find what peace you can with me. Here. Lie with me." Not the proposition it might be - he's blunter, when it comes to that. But he strips off the outer shirt, gathers Ambrose to him in his arms, pulls the dark head to his shoulder.

No resistance on his part, still with fine quivering running from nape to toes. He rests there for a time, but there's no missing his mind running through the scenarios of 'what if' in a tizzied useless manner. After a minute or two, there comes the woeful whisper of,

"I think I may need some tincture…" It has the sense of remorseful acceptance for the necessity. "I trust you with my life. «Azizam,»" he breathes again, his next inhale catching on the lump in his throat.

Kent rises, goes into the bathroom, comes back with a little bottle of syrup. Measures out a little in a dropper - he's set down a glass of water on the table. "Here, Ambrose," he says. "Take it, and then wash it down. It has a bitter aftertaste….." There's even a wrapped cube or two of sugar on the lacquer table.

By the time Kent returns, the brunet has worked himself into a hunched sit with back curled almost as if ready to take a blow. He eyes the dropper with a properly-mutinous expression, but does reach out to take it along with the glass of water. The dropper's bulb is depressed and he throws back the water as fast as possible after — still comes the gag and reveal of teeth in a disgusted grimace.

"Oh bloody — " A gargling sound and one of the sugar cubes is promptly retrieved after he gets the empty water glass back to the side table. He chews on it as fast as possible, still making little glucking sounds, and then blots at his nose again. "Disturbing," he mutters, smacking his lips. "How fast d-does it begin to work?" The question aimed at Kent is accompanied by a glossy-eyed glance.

"Taken like that, a little longer. A quarter of an hour? The pipe is faster, but much harder to manage," he says, softly. "Breathe deeply, my heart." Uncurling him, reaching in, soothing the roiled surface. There's a dark, sharp note of triumph behind it all. Dead or mad, he made that witch pay for her attempt….and now he's all but brooding over Ambrose like a hawk mantling over a kill.

Kept from disappearing like a hedgehog into its quills, Ambrose reclines on the bed and buries his face away into the neck of the other man, as is his wont. The steady beat of Kent's heart is something he can track, a tangible validation that he's not alone after the living nightmare. His trembling begins to lose intensity and break into spates rather than a steady action. There's no missing his focused attempt to modulate his breathing and after a handful of minutes, it's far more steady — deeper as cajoled.

Within the kything space, the reflection pool's ripples begin to settle. The Bane rests back in its trench-like bed far beneath its surface. There's no resistance on his part to the idea of being shaded by the ephemeral vision of the eagle; rather, he rests easier beneath the umbrella of stygian feathers. As time ticks by, the opium starts its work and he slowly begins to gain a true lethe about his person. Wet-rag limbs, slowed breathing, little blips of thought here and there, a little sound in the back of his throat — one step shy of genuine sleep.

There. There. Better, No feeling of vindication - Ambrose's necessary dose is a far cry from his own addiction, and well he knows it. But for now, he's still wrapping himself around Ambrose, as much as he can, mind and body. Daring all comers to try something that awful again.

He's put Ambrose on the other side of him, so for once, he's nearest the bed's door. Sheltering him, kissing his temple, smoothing his hair.

Better? Yes, I think…? How counter-intuitive: the Jackal's mental voice is crystalline clear at this time. The cause is unknown for the moment; opium? Or perhaps even the relative warfare that raged in his mind to force him to stretch the burgeoning skill-set in his attempts to break free and reach Kent? I wish she hadn't mucked with my nose. It stings bloody fierce. Still slurred, however, his thoughts. So does my head. Bloody christ, I feel like someone played at kicking it… He shifts in the embrace, but it's resettling joints rather than discomfort.

It'll continue to get better, he assures Ambrose, gently. AS it continues to work. I know you don't sleep, but you may get close. Is….is there anything else I can do to help? All solicitousness.

Don't let me wake up alone, comes the soft thought, as delicate an overture as frost on a windowpane. There's no low burn of heat, just still that remaining dusting of fearful anxiety that pales like volcanic ash across his psyche. You don't…don't need to linger. Eat. Shower. Change your shirt. The few jolts that rock him are a bout of hysterical laughter aborted by the weight of opium. It doesn't stop the tears from welling briefly and he nuzzles weakly to wipe the worst on Kent's collar. Man, that shirt will need some laundering.

"I am not going anywhere," Kent assures him, and leans to kiss him, gently. "I'll be right here. Weep if you need to. It can take you that way." Back to physical speech, even as he offers the warmest presence he can, via that link.

With hypothetical permission granted, Ambrose dissolves into the other man's shirt front. No need to be strong, just for a blessed bit under the influence of the drug. Out it pours, all of the emotional baggage of the encounter. Electric adrenaline, metallic fear, sour disgust, bitter regret, the clotting of useless rage, and then the cool balm of relief taken from his immediate surroundings. A heartbeat, arms to hold him, familiarity and trust.

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