Logs:Calculated Risks

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Calculated Risks
Dramatis Personae

Jax, Steve, Ryan


"Been a long afternoon."


<PRV> Black House - Ridgewood

This stately townhouse has a cheerful yellow brick exterior, its front entrance spectacularly inaccessible but affording residents a commanding view of the quiet street below. Inside it's bright and airy and almost entirely empty of furniture. It has the pristine, sterile look that comes with professional renovation, but here and there the obvious custom touches -- whether from the previous residents or at the new owner's request -- shine through.

The first floor is expansive, with a longish open floor plan that's quickly falling out of fashion. One entire wall of the living room consists of tessellated geometric mirrors, reflecting the truly massive and functional fireplace and even larger mosaic stone hearth. Beyond this the dining room and kitchen are conjoined; the space left for the as yet absent dining table looks vast and strange. A small half bath is tucked at the rear of this space, beside which the back door leads down into a small backyard with a patio sheltered by a quaint little pavilion and a strip of a garden along one side.

The staircase winding through the heart of the house is lit by a generous skylight, and runs parallel the main hallway of the second floor, which joins two comfortably sized bedrooms room, with an expansive and luxurious full bath in between and not one but two hallway closets. On the top floor is a massive bedroom with as much glass as wall and its own full, if smallish, bathroom. French doors one one side of this attic room lead out onto a roof deck, whose stairs lead down into the backyard far below.

It isn't all that late, yet, though this time of year it's fallen dark outside already regardless. The house is half-dark; there are lights on in kitchen and back garden, but most of the rest are off. It makes it almost easy to overlook Jax, where he's fallen asleep on the living room couch, dressed in black corduroy overalls and a bright green tee that reads 'Social Justice Psion' in large capital letters and underneath that in cursive, 'changing the way you think', laptop tipped askew on his lap and a sheaf of sketches of wildly variable skill levels fallen off the couch to scatter on the floor by him.

What isn't easy to overlook is the rest of the living room, which is currently wreathed in flames. Bright ruddy, they fill the room with light but no heat. A wall crumbles and falls in a scattering of similarly-harmless debris. Flitting and ghostlike, Dawson can be seen through the flames, a blink here and a blink there but never staying put long enough to properly catch him.

The front door opens to admit Steve in a black canvas jacket over a pale blue shirt with a cartoon chimera on the chest, paint-splattered blue jeans, and scuffed black combat boots. His shield is strapped to his arm and raised as he leads Ryan inside, though it's clear whatever trouble he had prepared against, it was not this. His eyes go wide-wide, initially at the fire and then at his first glimpse of Dawson. "Flicker!" he cries, surging forward into the room, heedless of flames illusory or otherwise. Drops to one knee beside the couch and shakes Jax's shoulder. "We have to get out of here." His eyes are still frantically trying to track Dawson's movements. "Dawson?" his voice wavers now, uncertain, his eyes filling up with tears.

Ryan trails right behind Steve, hands tucked in the pockets of his denim jacket; beneath it his grey tee (it says WRATH in rainbow lettering across the chest) is sweaty but thankfully free, today, of tear gas. "I need a shower bad, but if you want to stay for dinner, I'll --" he's telling Steve, but this cuts off as he takes in his living room. His reaction is far more subdued than Steve's; his eyes widen but only for an instant, and he's oddly casual as he strips his jacket off to hang it by the door. He lingers in the entryway a moment, breath hitching slightly as he tries to track the ghost-Dawson's movements. "Yo. Jax. We're home." He's sagged against the doorframe slightly with this, but despite the heaviness of his posture -- eyes still fixed into the flames -- his words come with only a wash of soothing calm.

Jax's eye scrunches tighter at the shaking, a disgruntled noise of protest coming from him. The flames hitch, frozen oddly in place. Dawson does, too, briefly more solid where he's been reaching one mechanical hand out to nobody. All these fade from view as Jax cracks his eye open, mumbles something incoherent; he sits up quicker, though, blushing deep, once he actually notices Steve. "Oh gosh. Where -- oh. Sorry, I didn't mean to -- what time's it. Sorry."

Steve glances back at Ryan, then Jax as he stirs to wakefulness, then finally at the stuttering illusion around them. His shoulders slump when the image fades at last and his right arm dips, the edge of his shield oddly quiet where it taps against the floor. Confusion doesn't so much give way to anguish as become overshadowed by it. His mouth opens, but no words come out at first. It's a moment's struggle before he manages. "Sorry. I --" He blinks away his tears, sitting back heavily back on his heel. "It's quarter after six," he replies mechanically. "Or thereabouts."

Ryan doesn't move until the illusion has faded. Even then it's a bit slow, a bit stiff as he lowers himself to unlace his sneakers and set them on the shoe rack by the door. A bit slow when he gets up, too, heading over to squeeze Jax's shoulder gently. "I gotta take a shower," is all he says, heavily, pulling his phone out of his pocket to leave it beside Jax on the couch, "y'all should order whatever." His head bows as he heads for the stairs.

Jax's gaze darts from Steve to Ryan with a small frown. He sits up straighter, setting his laptop aside on the couch. His hand touches lightly to Ryan's when the other man passes. He picks up the phone only to run his thumb mechanically against the smooth side of the case. "Sorry," he finally says, brows creasing, "I don't know what I --" He presses his lips together, reaching a hand for Steve but then dropping it back to his lap. "Didn't mean t'fall asleep out here. Had no mind t'startle you."

Steve doesn't move at all for a moment. It seems to be with a great effort that he lifts his eyes to Jax again. "It's fine," he says quietly. "You were just -- I think you were dreaming. I didn't know --" He shakes his head. "Just. Suprised me, is all." He tries and fails to smile. Unstraps the shield from his forearm, strips off his boots and jacket, goes to set them by the door. "I'm sorry for waking you," he adds as he returns. "You must be exhausted."

Jax's cheeks flush deeper. He leans down to start gathering the papers that had fallen across the floor. "Sorry," he says again, quiet. "That -- usually happens when I'm sleeping, I..." He shakes his head, collecting the drawings back into a pile. "No, I'm fine, I just -- this time of year is --" He presses his lips together, tapping the phone lightly against his palm before flicking the screen on and unlocking it. "You want dinner? Ryan's treat."

Steve blushes now, too. "I -- of course. I just meant the illusions." He sits down beside Jax. "This time of year?" he echoes, glancing at the stack of drawings. "Is school especially hectic, in October?" His eyes flick down to the phone, and he hesitates. "I could use something to eat," he admits. "Been a long afternoon."

"Sorry," one more time. Jax shifts his computer to a table to make room for Steve on the couch. His thumb swipes against the phone, teeth worrying at a lip ring. "You good with Ethiopian?" Kind of absently as he scrolls. "School's alright, no, I just. Short days are harder." He offers the phone to Steve. "Was it real bad out there?"

Steve nods, blushes deeper. "Right -- the dark comes so early now. And I guess you're inside mostly when it's light." He glances at the window, then back at Jax. "Ethiopian? Ah, yeah, that's fine. Thank you." He studies the screen, brows furrowed in concentration as he makes his selection. Passes the phone back. "It's bad. More fascists showing up every day, it seems like. In and out of uniform." He studies his hands, tugging at the gauze wrapped around his right hand where it's starting to shift and bunch. "What duty are you pulling tonight?" Matter-of-fact, quiet.

"Just need a little more caffeine than the summer." Jax's tone is light, somewhat incongruous with his pale and drawn expression. He adds to the order, sets the phone down when he's done. "Running comms for our medic team. Feel like I oughtta be out there but that ain't --" He shakes his head, eyes turning toward the stairs; somewhere above the sound of a shower is going. "Feel like the Lower East Side's half turnin' into a warzone. You heading back out after this?"

Steve lets out a long breath. "Feels more like a warzone than some of the actual warzones I've been in." He bows his head. "I hadn't planned much beyond getting Ryan home safe, but probably." His gaze follows Jax's. "He staying in with you, I hope? Not that it's my..." He shakes his head. "Just worried--about you both. How are you holding up? Aside from needing just a little more caffeine?"

"In actual war zones, tear gassin' folks is considered a war crime." Jax presses the back of his hand to his mouth, stifling a yawn. "Lord only know what Ryan's gonna do, him an' plans don't get on so good." His brows dip as he looks at Steve. "Goin' back out -- by yourself?"

Steve shakes his head. "Thought I was an impulsive sort, until I met --" He goes a shade paler. "Well. I can relate, somewhat." He blinks at the question. "Oh, I..." His cheeks flush again. "I reckon that's not necessarily the most wise. Just want to help protect folks, but..." His eyes drop to an almost-healed cut on his forearm. "Feel I'm just about as like as not to put any buddy of mine in more danger."

Jax draws in a slow breath, setting his sheaf of papers aside and pulling his laptop back into his lap. "Dawson ever mention how he landed back in the cages, that last time? Gone and hared off solo on a rescue mission. Not sure it keeps people outta danger if they gotta scramble and..." His lips purse, fingers drumming against the laptop case. "If you're worried about keeping a buddy safe, you could maybe jus', take less risks."

Steve's eyes widen. "I -- no, I didn't know that." He's quiet a moment, his breathing quick and shallow. "If I had a buddy with me, I probably would take..." He suddenly trails off. Then resumes. "...fewer risks. Part of the point, I guess." His brows knit slowly. "Before all this, I was planning to take a much bigger risk than facing some bigots, alone. Might be I ought to rethink that, too." He scrubs his face with his left hand, his shoulder slumping wearily. "Used to running with a team, and I'm not making the best calls without one. Appreciate you pulling me back."

"Part of the point, yeah. Keepin' each other safe is part of the point. Lookin' after everyone else is great but -- having folks at your back is pretty important, too." Jax turns on the couch, pulling a leg up beneath himself. "What -- were you planning to do?"

"I knew that, from the war if not common sense, but..." Steve shakes his head. "Always had a tendency to -- hare off, I guess. Been warned about it plenty, too." The tug at his mouth is another attempt at a smile, almost successful this time. "May be high time I start listening." He licks his lips. "Are you familiar with a U.N. agency called S.H.I.E.L.D.? They keep a low profile, but you're a well-connected fella and they specialize in..." His jaw works for a moment. "'Existential threats'."

"So they're mutant hunters?" Jax chuffs out a small breath. "Heard of 'em in that they been spying on us lately." His mouth twists to the side. "If you're thinking on taking on an entire government agency singlehandedly, it probably ain't a great call."

"I'm not that foolish," Steve objects mildly. "These people tried to play me before, when I first came out of the ice. But -- they might be a mixed bag. When Prometheus had Dawson, I asked them to intervene. Thought nothing came of it but -- they sent someone. And he helped get them out." He rubs his right hand absently. "Figured maybe even if I can't rein them in, I might at least get an idea...where exactly they stand in this war." He grimaces. "...Still doesn't make it a great call, but I don't think they're likely to make me disappear."

"They -- helped him?" For the first time now surprise registers in Jax's expression, his brows hiking and his eye a bit wider. His fingers tap against his laptop again, light and quick. "You'd be a hard man t'disappear. Some upsides to fame." His eyes flit to the staircase again, fingers slowly curling into a fist. "Rein 'em in? So -- what, you're --" His brows knit again. "Thinking on working for 'em?"

"Dawson confirmed it -- we met the fella they sent. And if they were willing to work against Prometheus --" Steve shuts his mouth. Shakes his head. "I can't say as I know what they're really about, but they seem to have a vested interest in me, and if I can leverage that somehow..." He bites his lower lip. "Yeah. I just -- don't see how I can go at this any way but alone."

Jax bites down on his lip, quiet a long and pensive moment after this. "Do know someone who's pretty good at watching folks backs from a distance, but --" His hand curls tighter, a ripple of pale sickly green fluttering around him briefly. There's another hesitation, another frown. "Actually, who knows. Might do Hive some good to have something else to focus on."