"How tough /are/ you, actually?" (CW: friendly violence.)
Village Lofts - East Village
There's kind of a college-dorm feel to this place, though some of its occupants have left college behind. Entering the apartment finds visitors greeted by the perpetually messy living room, a mismatched assortment of couches and chairs (and milk crates) surrounding the wide table in the center. The wall holds a range of posters; some political, some sporty, some from video games, and a string of white lights strung over the kitchen doorway might be a holdover from Christmas. A widescreen television stands against the wall opposite the couch, shelving beside it holding a host of video games from different consoles. More shelving beside the windows on the far wall carries stacks of board games, as well as sourcebooks from various RPGs.
The kitchen adjacent is just as cluttered, its table unfit for eating due to its perpetual covering of books, papers, cereal boxes, projects; the fridge is usually sparsely populated. Ketchup. Beer. Not a lot of food. There are two bedrooms here and one bathroom situated between them, split between the three people who live here.
It's mid-afternoon, sunny and mild, and the windows of the apartment have been thrown open to let in the cool spring breeze. Steve is sitting on the couch in a plain black T-shirt and plain blue jeans. He has a blue TARDIS mug in one hand and the 5th edition Shadowrun core rulebook open in his lap. His head is cocked far to one side, a deep frown etched into his brows. He traces his finger down the glossy page, lips moving silently as he reads, perhaps in the vain hope this might help him make sense of the content.
There's a rush of air, a snap of wings, a thump out on the fire escape. Dusk has to pull his wings in tight and close against his back in order to duck in through the window -- he's in jeans, sunglasses, beat up old Vans sneakers, a black t-shirt reading 'Aperture Laboratories' next to a stylized blue diaphragm. There's a bag slung crossways over his chest; he's unclipping the strap from it as he enters. Stops, looking over at Steve for a long moment, then continues on to drop his bag onto the kitchen table. "They trying to rope you into a campaign?" One polished sharp thumbclaw flicks toward the book in Steve's lap.
Steve looks up from his reading and very nearly starts out of his seat at Dusk's arrival. But then settles back down, blushing faintly. "Hey. Campaign?" He looks down at the book. "No, um..." He frowns again, suddenly uncertain. "I don't /think/ so? I was just killing time waiting for Flicker, and it looked interesting." He drains the rest of his coffee and sets the mug down, pale blue eyes tracking Dusk. "I confess I can make neither head nor tail of it."
"Yeah, uh, if you want we have books that are /actually/ books and not --" Dusk's next gesture is a little more expansive, the tip of his wing flexing outward toward the bookshelves. "That's just a manual for a game." He leans up against the edge of a counter, bending over to tug off his shoes. "You need more coffee or something? Flicker going to be long?"
Steve's lips twitch, but ultimately he just flushes deeper and closes the book, returning it to where he had found it on the coffee table. "I'm alright, thank you. Just restless." Then adds, a touch sheepishly, "/Probably/ drinking a whole pot of coffee didn't help with that." He gets up and goes to wash his mug at the kitchen sink. "Said he shouldn't be long, but couldn't say for sure." He glances over his shoulder at Dusk as he sets the mug out to dry. "How are you holding up?"
"Yeah, sometimes I think Flicker has the right idea with that shit." Dusk nods towards the coffeepot. "Like it helps with being awake, sure, but do /any/ of our nerves really need more rattling?" He pulls his sunglasses off, scoops up his shoes to trudge towards the door of his room and kind of -- toss the shoes inside. After a moment of thought, the sunglasses, too. "I'm sure you could find more bigots to punch if you're feeling edgy, the neighborhood doesn't seem short on them lately." He moves to lean up against the back of the couch, after, his wings rolling out and downward languidly. The smile he gives Steve is quick and sharp. "Me? Restless."
"Right idea?" Steve looks slightly blank, but shakes it off quickly. "To be honest, I'm not sure it actually does /me/ any good or ill except in some...mind over matter sort of way." His broad shoulders hitch up slightly. "But I still like how it tastes." He looks at the open window as though expecting some bigot to be conveniently loitering on the fire escape. "Tempting! I'd hate to send Flicker looking for me all over the village, though. For all the three minutes it'd take him." He curls his right hand into a fist, then flexes it open again, the motion slow, almost mediative. Shakes his head sharply. Returns Dusk's smile -- just as quick, if a lot less sharp -- eyes lingering on his wings. "Do /you/ want to go find some bigots to punch?"
"Have you managed to avoid getting a phone so far?" Dusk holds up his hands, mimes texting. "You could just. Tell him. Where you're at." He curls his own right hand into a fist -- though loosely, only for the purpose of propping his chin on it, his elbow resting on the back of the couch. "I found plenty all night. Honestly I think it just makes me more restless sometimes. Needs to be done, but it's not --" One wing hitches up in a small shrug. "/Satisfying/. They don't put up much of a fight."
"Oh! No, I've ah..." Steve reaches into a pocket and pulls out a low-end LG smartphone. "...had this for months, actually. Just still forget I have it on a regular basis." He tucks it away again. "I see what you mean." He paces around the living room once and finally sits down on an arm of the couch, about on level with Dusk. "I shouldn't brag too much, but if you want to punch /me/, I've been known to put up a fight."
"Well. They're helpful for things like. Not being tethered to our couch when Flicker goes off to -- whatever the hell he's doing." Dusk has been letting his head droop, eyes slipping lazily half-closed. They open again at the offer, though. Wings tucking back in, brows lifting. His dark eyes skim over Steve slowly; for a moment his tongue swipes against his teeth. "Huh." There's a curious note in the sound, his mouth pulling into an easy smile. "I don't, uh, want to sound --" His hand waves vaguely in the air. "But like. You've been known to put up a fight against -- /humans/, right?"
Steve quirks a slightly lopsided smile. "Aside from one particular Nazi supersolider, my opportunities have largely been limited to humans, as far as I'm aware. But this --" He makes a sweeping gesture that encompasses Dusk, the empty kitchen, the open window looking out on Tompkins Square Park. "-- is a brave new world. I can't say for /certain/ I'd put up what you'd consider a satisfying fight because I don't know your standards for that, but..." He shrugs one shoulder. "/Maybe/ I would."
"Jesus Christ, the Nazis had supersoldiers too?" A shudder runs through Dusk's wings. "There's an ugly gang of nazi mutants who come around some times and they're awful enough." He straightens, looking towards the window briefly. He's casual about ambling back into his bedroom, returning with sunglasses once again -- though a different pair than he'd arrived home with! "Aright, I'm game if you are. But I --" His teeth press down against his lower lip. "How tough /are/ you, actually?"
"At /least/ one," Steve sounds quite certain on that point. "They always claimed to have others, but it's hard to separate the propaganda from the reality, especially where it interacted with their fixation on racial superiority." Here his eyebrows raise up. "I...would have thought that Nazis would be very hostile to mutants, as they were to anyone they considered to pollute their Aryan perfection. Maybe they've adapted to the times." He stands up and watches Dusk. Rolls his shoulders in a slow stretch. "I'm not sure if someone's invented a scale, but I /have/ survived..." He looks up, brows wrinkling in concentration as he ticks off each item on a finger. "...being run over by a tank, falling six storeys, and drinking Alsatian hooch -- among other things -- with fairly minimal fuss. Actually getting shot is usually a /bit/ more obnoxious." He splays his hands open. "Crashing into the ocean and being frozen for seventy years /did/ take me out of commission for a while, so if your sparring involves /that/, I'll take a rain check."
"We're far enough from the ocean, I don't think that's a worry." Dusk gives Steve a longer looking over before putting on the sunglasses -- a large wraparound pair that straps securely behind his head -- and heading toward the window. "C'mon. I know our house looks like a storm blew threw here but probably my housemates wouldn't appreciate us /actually/ trashing the place." He climbs out onto the fire escape, holding out a hand towards Steve.
Steve nods, kind of /solemnly/. "I /was/ joking, but -- perhaps there are situations where it...might be relevant? I'm still finding out just how woefully unprepared I really am for the twenty-first century." He takes Dusk's hand and ducks out onto the fire escape. "On the roof, then?" There's a touch of boyish mischief in his smile now.
Dusk's hand closes firmly around Steve's as he helps the other man up and out. "Conveniently," he says lightly as he starts up the fire escape -- his own grin brighter, himself -- "We've only got six storeys."
The fire escape doesn't go all the way up them, a small gap left between the sixth-floor apartments and the roof proper. Certainly not insurmountable -- likely most reasonably athletic people could jump up and hoist themselves over the ledge. Dusk's wings do most of the work for him, when they get to the top, stretching up to hook claws against the concrete and pull up until he can grab it with his hands, swing his legs the rest of the way up, clamber over the railing. He drags the plastic table and its accompanying folding chairs over by the raised-bed garden in the center of the roof, his shoulders stretching afterwards as he looks to Steve. His wings stretch, too, very briefly flexing out to their full wide length before folding carefully in again. "I feel like you oughta set the boundaries, here. I'm guessing most people you spar with haven't usually had -- claws."
Steve follows Dusk up the fire escape and hauls himself up onto the ledge with ease. He helps clear away the patio furniture even while he admires the view. "We used to love sneaking up onto the roof, me and -- my brother. Our landlord hated it, but when we were younger, it was the only kind of privacy we could get." He shakes his head impatiently, his smile brittle and distant. "Sorry. I um -- you're right. I guess those claws can slice pretty deep, which..." He shrugs. "Fight until one of us yields? As long as you aren't puncturing major arteries or major organs, I'll be fine. Though since I'd like to actually get in some camping and continue helping out with guard duty when I get back, might be nice to also avoid severing -- entire muscles or ligaments?" He frowns. "But, if you're used to fighting with them and can't ah.../retract/ them, that'd probably handicap you quite a bit, right?"
Dusk tilts his head slightly to one side, the large glasses shading much of his expression. "Our landlord wasn't too fond either, but he made piece with it after Jax put the garden in." His wings ripple, fold up a little tighter. "They don't retract." Though the question about handicapping him gets a furrow of eyebrows, a very small twitch of lips. "Flicker's pretty serious out on the rocks, I wouldn't want you to get left behind. Maybe save the claws for another day." He takes a step back, toes curling against the rooftop. Lifts a hand, beckons to Steve with a sharper smile. "Right then. Let's do this."
"I'm pretty sure he /could/ leave just about anyone behind," Steve speculates, "anytime he likes." He settles his center of gravity, weight visibly shifting onto the balls of his bare feet. This is not the stance of a formally trained fighter, but there's something oddly self-possessed about it all the same. He looks like a man who's been knocked down a thousand times, fully expects it to happen a thousand times more, and isn't the least discouraged by the prospect. And he does not need to be invited twice.
When Steve moves it's startlingly fast -- not /Flicker/ fast, but very obviously superhuman -- closing the distance between them in the blink of an eye and opening with three left jabs aimed at Dusk's face, chest, and solar plexus. Despite his speed there's a remarkable amount of /control/ in this attack, each blow hard enough to stun -- and probably incapacitate the average human, if they were to land solidly -- but not severely injure.
Dusk shifts his stance, planting his weight firmly. His wings mantle slightly outward, his fists curling as Steve shifts into motion. When Steve actually strikes, he -- does nothing at all, only growling low and soft, rolling through the punches but trying in no way to avoid them. It's only /after/ these first three blows have landed that he moves, one wing slicing in hard, its long upper spar aimed in a solid crack toward the side of Steve's skull. Dusk turns his opposite shoulder in toward Steve at the same time, fist coming up in a quick hard -- and tightly controlled -- jab aimed just under the other man's ribs, a solidly bone-cracking -- for an average person -- level of force in the quick strikes.
Steve raises his arm much too late to deflect Dusk's wing, his eyes going a bit wide. But though the wing spar catches him squarely across the side of the head, he seems more or less unaffected -- his eyes blink rapidly and his head snaps aside a little, but other that he keeps going. He doesn't even /try/ to block the jab -- which thuds apparently harmlessly into his side, only incidentally robbed of some power as he swivels to deliver a /much/ more powerful though still precise cross which, if it connects, could probably break most human's jaws.
Dusk's lips peel back into a bright grin. There's something in his stance that eases after the punch connects, after Steve keeps moving easily. His other wing snaps up, cracking at Steve's arm to deflect the blow as the heel of his hand rises hard toward Steve's chin. The wing that had just connected with Steve's head keeps moving, curling in with a surprising flexibility -- sweeping out lower against the inside of the larger man's shin.
Steve is unfazed when his cross is turned aside, and brings his other arm up to block the blow aimed at his chin. It's the attacking wing -- again -- that catches him off-guard. Though his footing is not /easy/ to unsettle, once it's obvious Dusk it strong enough to make that happen he just /goes/ with it, slamming his knee up at the other man's hip.
Dusk draws in a sharp breath, teeth clenching at the blow to his hip and a low growl rumbling in his chest. His wings stretch out, beat down hard. Not entirely taking off; just giving him a considerable amount of extra lift when he leaps into the air. Spinning up and over Steve -- flaring a wing out hard as he comes back down, swiping towards Steve's chest. His elbow is following in nearly the same moment that he's landed.
Steve seems less flat-footed about Dusk's death from above than he had been about the wing attacks in general. /Slightly./ He raises his left arm and sinks his weight back onto his trailing foot, bracing his immense strength to counter the force of the blow. The block yields, though, for the incoming elbow -- he just /takes/ it on his chest, though a step backwards disperses the force of the blow somewhat -- so that he can thread lock his arm through Dusk's and bodily throw the smaller man to the concrete rooftop.
Dusk hisses -- his enormous wings flex out, snap back inward to fold Steve along with him as he's thrown. His breath comes out in a hard rush. For a moment his teeth bare, beginning to snap toward Steve. He catches himself with a hard click of teeth, a deeper rush of colour flooding his pale cheeks and a deeper growl rumbling in his chest. His head slams upward toward Steve's with a frustrated snarl.
Once again, Steve seems startled by the reach and strength of Dusk's wings and is drawn along to the ground. He lands on top of his opponent, forearm slamming down into his chest -- and he is /heavier/ than he looks. His eyes go very wide at the snap of Dusk's teeth, his pulse pounding loud and fast, but he manages to conquer the impulse to pull back. He meets the headbutt fiercely and does it /again/ right after in a bid to bounce the other man's head into the ground beneath them. /Now/ he tries to pull away -- perhaps expecting to be able to overpower the skin-and-bones cage of those wings -- but to no avail.
Dusk's head cracks back against the concrete; he hisses again, teeth still bared. His wings curl tighter around Steve, a shifting cagelike vice of bones. One arm slides up between them, pressing up against Steve's throat as his wings press down.
Steve tucks his chin down, but cannot quite keep the pressure off of his neck. His initial discomfort at proximity of Dusk's fangs seems to have passes, but his pulse is racing even faster now as the wings tighten around him. He flings his weight hard to one side in an attempt to roll them both onto their sides, or at least to throw off their equilibrium enough to get some leverage for his open-palm strike against the arm choking him.
Dusk's grip doesn't slacken. They do roll, with the shift of Steve's weight, tumbling still cocooned together. Dusk's inner wing stays bearing down hard against Steve's back. There's a slight shift in the fingerbones of Dusk's outer wing, pressing against the rooftop, carrying the momentum along until now he is atop Steve -- all the better to press his weight down harder, the harsh rasp of his growl as Steve's hand hits against his arm echoing louder in the semi-enclosed fold of space.
Somewhere mid-roll, Steve clearly realizes that he's in trouble, but there's an blaze of determination in his pale blue eye. Before Dusk's weight has settled fully on top of him, he squirms one hand loose and jams his thumb into the other man's jugular notch while slamming his knee up at -- at this point, whatever he can reach, and quite hard. His breathing comes fast and labored, each breath a struggle, but there's a certain kind of serenity in his intensity now that wasn't there before.
Dusk coughs -- rasps -- snaps his teeth at the hand Steve jabs into him, though they clack closed on air and not flesh. There's a tremor that runs through him, easily felt in the close space. The arm that has been at Steve's throat shifts, hand closing against the other man's neck instead. Teeth still clenched, growl still rumbling, there's an incongruous deliberation in the curl of his fingers against Steve's throat, firm but not bearing down any longer. Just a brief moment of /restraint/ while his wings shift, claws clicking against the concrete to either side of them, more tent now than cage as he levers himself partly up. Lets his hand slide to the concrete beside Steve's head -- just as his other fist smacks down hard into the hinge of Steve's jaw.
The moment the pressure of Dusk's arm eases off, Steve tries to kick the other man off of him -- and probably would have succeeded if he'd moved /just/ a touch faster, but hypoxia has taken a toll on his reflexes. As it is, he only manages to get one leg up between them, still gasping hard, before the punch lands. Steve's head snaps back against the concrete, then forward, before dropping back down with a painful thunk. Blood trickles from the corner of his mouth and he blinks, his left hand reaching and slapping the rooftop hard, several times.
Dusk pushes himself off and away at the slaps, falling onto his back on the rooftop beside Steve. One of his arms drapes across his chest, one of his wings splayed out wide beside them. He rubs at his throat, his breathing raspy, still. His head rolls to the side towards Steve, and he lifts a hand to slowly adjust his sunglasses -- pushed askew but still held in place by their snug elastic band -- back into place. There's a bright flush in his cheeks -- a sharptoothed smile spreading across his face.
Steve just lies still for a moment, chest heaving. Despite the blood on his lips and trickling from the corner of his mouth he looks -- almost peaceful, a slightly embarrassed smile on his face. "Oh," he says, finally. "Wow." Licks his lips. Rolls his head aside to look at Dusk. "I ah...hope I put up...enough of a fight."
"I don't think you gotta worry about your performance, that was --" Dusk shivers, swallows hard. Slowly pushes himself up, his wings flexing and pressing down against the rooftop. He offers a hand out to Steve. "We'll definitely have to do that again some time."