"Everybody needs a friend. Doesn't mean everyone deserves one." (The day after the Lofts attack.)
<NYC> Village Lofts Roof - East Village
It tends to be windy, up here, but the presence of plastic table and folding chairs suggests that nevertheless building residents occasionally make their way out to this rooftop. With a good view of Tompkins Square Park less than a block away it's a good spot for city-watching. There's a railing around the edge, though it might be possible (if unwise) to climb over it to the narrow concrete ledges beyond and from there to the fire escape. Centrally, someone has broken down crates and constructed a small raised-bed garden up here, barren in winter but filled in three other seasons with a small assortment of herbs and vegetables.
It's no cooler today than it was yesterday, but at least up here on the roof there's a hint of a breeze. The little rooftop garden is lush -- mostly fruits and some herbs, the blueberries have been producing well this year. Dusk has plucked a few of them, bouncing them idly in his palm as he perches on the edge of the roof. Shirtless again, barefoot, in jean shorts and dark glasses, his watery-painted wings marred in places by a snarl of redder raw skin still healing from its peppering of burns. He nibbles a blueberry slowly. Looks down-down-down at the bloodspatters and tatty remains of yellow tape on the sidewalk far below.
The roof door opens, disgorges one brightly colorful photokinetic. Jax's hair is done up in a vivid red splay with pale blue tips and black spots, arranged in a tall fanning crest on his head. His shortalls are a black-red ombre; underneath his shirt is a rainbow crop. He's barefoot, too, carrying a tray with tall pitcher (lavender lemonade), fresh baked challah, tomato soup, a squat flat box marked with a red cross. He sets this down on the table before dragging it nearer to Dusk. "Them bigots ain't gettin' no less dead for all your starin', honey-honey."
Trailing behind Jax, Steve is wearing a pale lavender t-shirt with a cartoon chimera on the chest, the words 'Chimaera Art Space' arching over it in rainbow color as well as formation, lightweight gray convertible pants (unconverted), and scuffed black combat boots. He carries his iconic shield on a harness across his back and an immense plate of cookies in his left hand, his right neatly bandaged as usual and cradling a sketchbook with a pencil wedge into its spiral binding. "I'm sorry you were hurt," he adds, setting his plate down. "Might be able to help with that."
In the background, there's a small scuffling noise as one Rasa makes zir way up the brick face of the apartment complex in a blind spot that doesn't bother the residents very much. Ze tosses zir bag over the wall first, the pulls zirself up to perch on top of it. Zir gloomy gray coloration shines with a rainbow iridescence where zir hands and feet are covered in chitinous scales. Dark hair is now floofy white and billows in the breeze like airy plumage instead of heavy strands. a second set of eyes blinks at zir temples, the same slate gray as those in the more standard placement.
Ze closes zir eyes and sniffs, a small smile pulling at the thinner lips. "Jax... You baked. Of course you did." Zir tail relaxes as ze moves with more determination toward that challah.
"I'm glad more people weren't," Dusk says gruffly, "but still --" His head shakes, his wing stretching out to curl lightly around Jax's shoulders when he draws near. "Your fuckwad war buddy could have gotten a lot of people in deep shit, man." His wing tightens at the sound of Rasa's approach but relaxes again as ze comes into sight. He holds out his hand, fingers uncurling to offer out the remainder of the blueberries on his palm.
"It's a compulsion." Jax goes to drag a chair over, too. He drops down into it, waving his hand invitingly towards the spread of food. "Can't sleep? Can't help? What else am I gonna do. You -- well, okay is silly. Safe?" He looks Rasa over with a brief concern. T hen leans forward to tear off a chunk from the heel of the loaf. "I didn't even know he was back in town. This was -- a heck of a way to find out."
Steve's brows furrow at the sound of Rasa climbing up, and when the bag comes over the side he instantly pulls the shield from his back and drops into a fighting stance between the others and the source of the disturbance. His sketchbook falls to the ground, its pages fluttering open to a somewhat shaky but still dynamic portrait of a scruffy dark-haired young man grinning mischievously over a hand of cards he's about to lay down. At the clearly unbothered reactions from the other two men, Steve relaxes. Straightens up, blushing. "I'm sorry," he manages, his voice tight. There's a fine tremor in his bandaged right hand which he clenches to still as his left hand returns the shield -- slowly, unthreateningly -- to its proper place.
"I ah -- hi. I'm Steve Rogers." The blush is not receding, but he does try his best to move on. "Logan? He -- yeah, I know. I'd apologize on his behalf, but I don't know that he would. Wouldn't even talk to me, after, just snarled, like a --" He sucks in a deep breath, looks away. "He actually came to find me at Montagues the other day. I was glad to see him again, but..." His head shakes. For a moment he looks like he has more to say, but finally does not.
"Uh. Hi Steve." Rasa replies, definitely phased by his quick impulse to fight, but continues toward the rest of the group as casually as ze can pretend to. "I'm Rasa. Rasa Djalili. Same one you met yesterday. I just... am generally in flux." Pink flairs obviously through zir ear lobes as ze finishes crossing the roof to stand next to Dusk, picking up some of his offered blueberries.
There's a hard edge to Rasa's words when ze speaks again. "Like a wild animal? Yeah... pretty much exactly like that."
"Rasa wears a lot of shapes," Dusk offers so-very-helpfully. He pops the rest of the blueberries into his mouth once Rasa has taken some. "I don't think he seemed interested in apologies. Motherfucker had the nerve to tell me I wasn't doing shit to stop those men like -- murder is the only fucking solution to a problem. Not a fucking thought for those of us who actually --" His teeth snap closed, a soft growl rumbling in his chest. "I hope he fucking rots."
Jax does not bother serving any of the soup into a bowl, although he did bring some. He dips his bread into the soup, munching on it as he gets up. Scoops Steve's sketchpad up, dusting some dirt off the picture and glancing at it before he sets the book down on the table. "He's always been a bit of a loose cannon, but not like --" His eye turns down. "M'sorry." He settles back in his chair, pulling his leg up to rest his heel on the seat. "S'real disturbing, that's for sure. Don't nobody belong locked in a cage, though."
"Rasa?" Steve echoes, staring blankly at zir, eyes darting from feature to feature in some attempt to find the resemblance. "Oh, that's..." He arches one eyebrow as he glances back to the two other men. "Right. Lot of shapes. Got it." As though it were a perfectly commonplace thing that he just forgot for a moment. He looks down -- a gesture of shame at first, though then his eyes land on the sketchbook where Jax had placed it on the table. Touches the corner of the page gently, as if contemplating closing it. Picks it up instead, propping it on one crossed leg as he sits down. Finally pulls off a chunk of bread for himself. "He didn't used to be like that. Whatever happened to him -- well, it's no excuse, but I don't think he was in his right mind. Maybe..." He shakes his head again, looks down at the sketch. "He did wrong, and I'm sorry I wasn't able to stop him." His next words come out just a little quieter, just a bit clipped. "Just haven't got a lot of people left, from back then."
"Wears? Sure, I guess. I mean. I can explain, if you want to know." Rasa is willing to let it go, given Steve's acceptance. Ze finds a seat to slouch into backwards, only to prop zirself up a little more to put some soup in a bowl because the larger vessel is not a comfortable reach.
"Why would it be your job to stop him? You kind of had your hands full with, I don't know, a pipe bomb? That whole damn thing was over before I could even get my feet underneath me." Ze rests zir chin on the back of the chair as zir fingers work a knuckle of the bread off the larger loaf. "Besides, I was technically the last person to speak with him before he did it, connected and all of that... If anything I should have done something. I mean, I take no responsibility, but one could say... I could or should have..."
"Pretty sure a grown-ass man is responsible for his own fucking murders." Dusk glances down one last time at the sidewalk before swinging his legs inward and draping his wings behind him over the roof's edge. He looks over to Steve's sketchpad, his lips compressing. "Maybe it fucks you up. Living that long. Not aging. Like some kind of --" His lips twitch slightly. "Vampire. World of Darkness would have me believe you lose touch with your humanity."
"Oh my gosh," Jax groans at Dusk, head bowing and his free hand lifting to press to his forehead, shading his eyes. And then, with a softer sort of startlement: "Oh my gosh." He looks up. Regards Steve intently. Fidgets, takes a small nibble of his bread. Eventually just looks back to the table. "What y'all should have done was kept yourselves alive, so good job on that."
Steve looks up at Rasa -- not exactly furtively, but transparently trying not to stare again. "Figure he means you ah -- change forms. Metamorphosis, like in the old legends?" He doesn't sound altogether certain of this, though. "Things were -- pretty different last time we fought side by side, me and him. Guess I just wish I'd had his back, bomb or no bomb, even if it was to stop him going too far." His glance at Dusk here is sharp, but his expression is opaque, his eyes quickly dropping back to his drawing. "I suspect he might not disagree. But back then, those claws were bone, not steel." He closes the sketchbook gently. "It's a dark world, for sure, and I'd wager he didn't lose his humanity just to time. Anymore than I did."
"Well, it's... not all that epic, I guess." Rasa takes a deep breath and holds it for a second or two as zir scales change to a pinkish gold color before melting into zir skin, zir hair turns black and eyes a amber hazel. "It just kind of constantly happens." Ze runs zir fingers through zir hair, shaking it out and tying it back.
Ze keeps zir quiet while the group continues the discussion, zir attention diverting to the consumption of bread and soup. "A... lot has happened to him. You should ask him about it some time. Doesn't excuse anything, but you sound like you care about him... and maybe he would appreciate a friend."
Dusk's brows lift. He turns his gaze on Steve -- steadier, probably, for the sunglasses that hide most of his expression. "No? What do you think does it, then?"
Jax's brows knit into a deep frown. His toes curl down against the edge of his seat as he finishes the bread in his hand. The tip of his tongue pokes at one lip ring, wiggling at it slowly as Rasa talks. All he ultimately says is: "Right now, what he'd probably appreciate is a lawyer."
Steve does stare now, openly, as Rasa changes. "Well, it -- looks pretty epic to me," he allows, blushing faintly. "But I've never seen anyone do anything like that." Frowns down at his (closed) sketchbook. Meets Dusk's gaze, his own naked and steady, though there's no challenge in it -- only a kind of weariness. "The war seems like a pretty good bet, and if I had to guess I'd say the one we met in wasn't his last." He runs his hand through his hair. "I don't mean that it excuses him anything. Or me. But Jax is right." His mouth twitches, but never makes it near anything like a smile. "I don't suppose any of you have got a lawyer you'd recommend?"
"Thanks." Rasa bows zir head sheepishly. Ze glances over at Jax and Dusk before looking back at Steve. "Por qué no los dos?"
"Same war you fought in? Didn't see you leaping to gut anyone on our doorstep. Never seen Jax's first response to any-damn-body be stabbing them through the heart and he's been leading people into battle since high school. Dawson's spent half his life dying for everyone around him and he has more consideration for the people who carved us open. Some people are just monsters." The thin twitch of Dusk's mouth is -- similarly, nothing close to a smile. The claws at the tops of his wings flick. "And if I ever see your friend anywhere near my people again, I'll gut him myself." His wings tighten, curling against his shoulders. "You can keep that kumbaya shit for people who don't come around here putting my family in danger, Rasa. Everybody needs a friend. Doesn't mean everyone deserves one."
Jax's eye stays fixed on the table, tongue still fiddling slow with his lip ring. His fingers fidget, too, toying with one unhooked strap of his shortalls. "I don't think that's true," he says finally. "I can't think that's true. People ain't just -- locked into being bad. It's choices they make, an' maybe they're gonna be real set on makin' 'em but -- maybe if they have better support, better circumstances, better options, maybe they'll make better choices." A very faint ripple of faintly greyish shadow blossoms around him, then vanishes. "Maybe."
Steve sets his jaw hard, his teeth grinding together quietly. But whatever he was going to say first, he ultimately swallows. His eyes skip aside to Rasa, uncomprehending, then back to Dusk without so much as blinking. "Look, I can't agree with you, but I am -- furious with him." He bows his head. "Anyone can do terrible things, and anyone can be saved. Doesn't mean you have to be party to it, and if you want to gut him that's between you two. Doubt you'll have the opportunity, given he's liable to to be locked up forever, if they can only find a --" He breaks off, the blood draining from his face -- a dramatic effect, given how flushed he had been a moment ago. "Doesn't seem likely to come up, is all."
"For fuck's sake, Dusk!" When Steve finishes speaking, Rasa's fists rattle the table as ze half rises, eyeing the vampire bat with full on yellow eyes. "I was trying to be nice to this guy. Steve. Someone I don't know... who seems devastated by the loss. It was a KINDER way to say, 'don't talk to us about his stupid fucked up frame of mind if you care so much. Go fucking talk to him. I can't listen to somebody wonder if this is some terrible thing that happened to make him this way like none of it is his fault. It's making my skin crawl to even hear the breath of 'he used to be so much better' This is the asshole that took me under his wing when Peter, Shane, and B went missing and I was out of my mind with worry and dread. He let me into his head and trained me how to ... do... that." Zir throat chokes up as zir gaze shifts back toward the street as if ze could see it through the building blocking zir view.
"I was being nice... to Steve because I don't know how to think to think about any of this... for me. Not yet. Sympathy just... feels nicer than this angry, freaked out question mark tearing at me inside." Ze settles back down into zir seat. "I ... don't want to see him. That's for sure."
"Spare me." Dusk's words come out in a snarl, a soft growl in his throat, though he folds his hands down against his knees when Rasa slams the table. "Two dead flatscans on our doorstep, pigs crawling all over our home, a long night of chatter from the spooks who are watching us and salivating to throw my family back into their torture cages and you want to cry to me about being nice. Cry about how hard it is that that goddamn animal was nice to you when you were a kid? You're not a kid anymore. Grow the fuck up. The rest of us have had to." The rumble under his words has deepened as he speaks. His teeth clench, his hands squeezing harder at his legs. He pulls himself up in a sudden motion, shaking his head in disgust and tipping down off the roof's edge with a heavy snap-crack of wings that carries him off across the park and rapidly out of sight.
Jax flinches back at the slam of Rasa's fists on the table, the legs of his chair scraping against the concrete rooftop. The brief flutter of shadow reappears. Melts back away. He leans forward after this, elbows resting on his knees and his face dropping into his hands. Fingers rubbing slowly at his eye. Breaths coming slow and deep for a few steady counts. He drops his hands, laces his fingers. "... sure it's a surprise given the kinda life I live. Precautions I tend to need to take. But I'm on good terms with a couple good lawyers."