Moving Day

Summary:
July 12 2014: Jericho is finishing setting up in the favorite of his new set of safe houses and gets a housewarming guest.

Jericho's Midtown Safe house

A sixth floor apartment that used to belong to a recording artist, this safe house features a view of the Hudson, a soundproofed room in the back and more than enough space for Jericho and possibly a couple others to be comfortable for an extended period of time.


Characters

NPCs

  • None

Mood Music:
[* None]


It's been moving day for Jericho. Even amid all the tracking down and planning rescues and researching five different things he still has to get his stuff set up in his new safe house network which is finally operational - well, minus that one he had to burn because Bruce Banner got shot at there.

Anyway, this particular place, the favorite of the ones he's acquired, is a midtown Manhattan apartment overlooking the channel and the rest of the city. And he's just gotten the TV working. Ah. Time for lunch. Which is leftover breakfast, which is leftover last night's dinner. Cold Pizza. Thin crust. Meatball and pepperoni. Mmmm. He pauses to take in the view. Just because it's a safe house doesn't mean it can't be comfortable. He is gonna live here for a while after all. Well, here and a few other places.

*

He probably catches the brief flare of light behind him. Or maybe Jericho's traces hum just a bit as Illyana teleports in. She's apparently claimed the couch, legs stretched out with one leg over the other but angled to keep the soles of her boots off of the couch itself. She's in jeans and T-shirt today, so fairly casual for her.

"Nice view." She comments. "I like to be able to look out over things myself." Something he might have noticed the few times they've been in her citadel. All those huge, empty windows that look out over Limbo.

*

This time it's not her voice but the code-burst of demonic characters that ripple over his vision that triggers his paranoid jump response. At least he doesn't go right for his gun this time.

"Oh. Hey Illyana." How did she know how to por- ah yes. Scrying. Right.

"I'd say make yourself at home but…" He chuckles and winks. He's just finished moving his things in and while the place does have food… he still has cold pizza on the brain. So out it comes - a full 9 slices worth out of the original 12 - and a pair of plates. One of which he sets down on the coffee table before sitting down next to Illy. Her comment draws his gaze out the glass door that leads to the balcony. "Yeah, I do like the view. Part of the reason I got it." The other reason has to do with the soundproofed room in the back. Place used to be a recording artist's studio. Soundproofed rooms have lots of uses.

*

Yeah, at some point he might want to find out how to circumvent that ability of hers. Just in case. She's not the only one with it, surely. But the blonde just gives him a smirk, eyes dancing with amusement as if she can hear that question rattling around in his head.

"But I always do, hmm?"

The pizza gets an arched brow and a shake of her head. "Bachelor food eh? Maybe you should keep living with your little bundle of terror-on-a-stick. She can at least cook."

She'd been taking up most of his couch, but perhaps grudgingly shifts position so he too can fit. "Not afraid that big ol' window will make a nice opportunity for a sniper?"

*

"Moving food. I can cook. Sorta." Jericho grins. "I don't burn water anymore. And that arrangement was always temporary. Not good to keep depending on her for basic things like housing. Besides, this way if one of us ever gets the place burnt down."

He grins, wondering if she'll put her boots back up now that he's seated. Not that he'd object. "Well, maybe a little worried. That's why the place overlooks the water and not the street. View's nicer sure, but the nearest sniper perch is a lot further away."

He quirks an eyebrow. "Terror-on-a-stick? Do I want to know?" He rolls one shoulder as he grabs himself a slice.

*

Illyana doesn't seem too interested in the pizza, leaning back into that corner where the back of the couch meets the arm and slouching down a bit before moving her feet into his lap. Hey, it's not on the furniture, right? They're fairly heavy, being all leather with the heavy silver buckles. This close, he can see the subtle symbols embossed into the leather. Carved into the silver. Some are familiar. He's seen them flash across his HUD.

"Should get some kinda reflective film kinda deal to put over it. One-way vision and all that." Illyana gives him an oh-so-serious nod. "I saw it in a movie or something."

The 'unasked' question gets a chuckle, along with a shrug. "You ever see the movie 'Labyrinth'? There's a scene where some goblins have these chomper things attached to a stick and they're all mouth and teeth and 'rar'. She reminds me of them. When she's not being all weirdly domestic."

*

Jericho laughs, eating around the boots on his lap which he doesn't really seem to mind at all. The scrollwork and carvings on them do attract his attention for a long moment and he looks them up and down before following the leg back up to Illyana's face.

"Heh. You should have seen her when she invited me to her house. Barefoot, cooking, in a skirt. My head damn near exploded. As it did the first time I saw her in a skirt period. And… heh. I haven't seen that movie in years. Yeah, I can see the comparison."

One way film, mmm? Yeah that might work. There's tricks to it, gotta keep the lighting lower on one end than the other, but it could work.

"So what brings you by?" He says conversationally. He clearly doesn't mind the company. He oddly doesn't ever seem to after he gets over the initial jump-scare. This close, Illyana may be able to sense that he has a lingering feel of magic about him. Oddly mixed wild, angelic and demonic feel to it, as he's absorbed bits and pieces from all three sources.

*

"There's only so much coffee I can drink and inane conversations I can overhear. About someone's nails, or hair or, by the Dark Lords problems with their family/significant other/boss/whatever." Illyana says with a roll of her eyes. She doesn't seem bothered by his scrutiny, her manner as relaxed as he's ever seen her.

She tilts one foot, so it knocks against his chest lightly. "You feel weird." She wrinkles her nose a little. "You've got touches of the Divine on you."

*

Jericho balances his second slice of pizza for a moment as she knocks him. "Divine? Oh, probably from that angel guy a few nights back. Hitman tried to kill me with explosives and it broke my arm in three places. He was nice enough to heal me up. And then inform me that my cybernetics was eating magic and gaining a mind of it's own. Guy stuck a wing right through me so he could 'talk' to them.
"
Jeri shudders. "Just another day in the life." He says wryly. The boots are… well the most intricate thing she's wearing and the juxtaposition between them and the jeans and tee makes him chuckle.

"Hanging out at a coffee house, were you?" He knows how coffee house conversation goes. "Tell me the guys in Limbo don't talk about things like that."

*

Illyana grimaces in sympathy at the whole wing thing. "Me and the Divine, we don't get along so hot." She admits. "Makes my skin crawl a bit."

The information though, that makes her tilt her head to the side a bit, thoughtful. "'Eating' hmm? So if I feed you demonic magic will you stop feeling so itchy?" She teases with a smirk.

Illyana gives a soft huff at the idea of demons whining like that. "No. Normally it's all about finding food, or beating someone up or, if they're talking to me to try to get me to be around more or give in to my 'true nature'."

*

The slow scroll of demonic characters at the edge of his vision tells him that he's absorbing what he hopes are small amounts just by contact.

"Maybe?" Jericho chuckles with a shrug, wondering if she'd actually do that. "I think I absorb small amounts just by being in contact with magical things. So far it's happened every time I've touched something magical. Er, well, I think they're small amounts anyway. It's not like I'd really have a way to know."

"True nature, huh?" Jericho snorts. "Is there something wrong with the nature you have?" The way the question is asked makes clear his opinions on the topic.

"Any luck finding digs outside of Limbo, by the way?"

*

"Probably because of the rare metals they shoved in you. Silver's real receptive but it's also… stable. Not prone to wonkiness. Mystical stuff tends to give off an aura. I suppose it's like radiation in that way for the science-minded." Illyana says, her attention drawn to his arm as though looking for traces of the arcane on his… err, traces.

Illyana's gaze shifts upwards to meet his eyes. "To them, yeah. They see my humanity as the worst part of me. It gets in the way of how I should be. Keeps me from my destiny." Which reminds her.

Frowning faintly, she knocks him a little harder this time. "What did I say about making you forget?"

Somewhere to stay? She gives a grimace at that. "I should find somewhere out in the sticks. Then maybe I could afford it." Living in New York City isn't cheap. Especially someone without a normal job.

*

It's there. The entire magical signature on him is weak but it's more demonic than anything else. He's only very briefly absorbed any divine or wild magic. Very very briefly. Jericho glances over but her fascination with his traces isn't anything new. He offers his hand out so she can look closer if she wants.

"I can't remember." He says with a wink. Clearly that bugged her just a little. But he shouldn't be surprised that his personal demons and her literal ones share a common MO of wanting people to be the way they want them. Honestly, there's nothing wrong with Illyana, he thinks.

"Mmmm. Well I wish you luck, then. You know can always come crash at one of my places for as long as you need though. I never mind the company." It's mentioned in a kind of offhanded way as if he figures she knows this already and he's just reminding her. She might, he figures, take it better than an outright offer. And yes, he did say 'places.'

*

Well now the poor guy has to juggle his pizza and her feet all with one hand? But Illyana is immune to his pain there, accepting his hand and pushing his sleeve further out of the way. The way her eyes narrow in thoughtful consideration one might wonder if she's pondering peeling his skin back, just to get a closer look. Something seems to occur to her and she sets his arm down in his lap and reaches up to her shirt. Her fingers hook under the neckline and there's the glitter of gold as she fishes out the chain of a necklace. Pulling it over her head, he sees the large locket that hangs from it, probably a good three inches in diameter. But he can't remember ever seeing signs of it. Before *or* today. Holding it by the chain, she turns his hand palm-up and lets it swing above to watch its reaction.

"Yeah, you better keep not remembering." She grumbles at him. "I don't need to justify myself to anyone, or have them pity me or think I'm making excuses."

The offer gets a brief glance from her 'experiment' and a smirk. "Last time I made myself too at home I got shot at." She reminds him, more teasing than anything.

The artifact in her hand is the Beatrice Medallion. The item itself is a creation of terribly dark magics, it's purpose to unlock the Elder God's prison but within it… Pieces of a pure, radiant soul made physical.

*

"Yeah but that was Partisan's place and this is mine." He says between bites of pizza. His brows knit when she pulls the medallion out precisely because he can't ever remember seeing any sign of it and he's pretty good about this kind of thing.

"Granted, you may still get shot at, but it won't be by anyone I care about you killing, most likely."

As the artifact swings above his hand, the traces on his wrist pulse with energy, little shots of colored light travelling along them every time it reaches the point closest to his hand. It makes his arm look like an arcade game after a moment. His eyes quirk up and left, appearing to look behind her but actually noting more demonic characters bleeding into his vision.

*

Illyana chuckles a bit as she watches it. "I could take off your shirt and use you as a disco ball." She jokes. Looking up at him, she watches his vision move off to the side. "More symbols? We should probably teach you to read them, in case it's spitting warnings at you or something."

She relents, pulling the medallion back into her palm so it doesn't keep lighting him up like a sparkler. She did catch his perplexed look and chuckles. "It's usually just out of phase with the rest of reality, I guess you could say. Makes it harder for someone to try to make off with it."

When Jericho points out that wasn't his place, she finally gives a slight sigh and a grimace that kind of says 'you caught me'. "I'm not a good overnight guest."

*

"Figures that'd be the only reason anyone would request getting my shirt off." Jericho fake-grumbles with a wink. "Don't want it stolen? I'm going to guess it's something pretty important then. So… what, if anything did that tell you?"

He watches her grimace curiously and gives an easy shrug. "Whatever you're comfortable with Illyana. I'm just saying I certainly have room and I certainly don't mind the company. If you find yourself needing to get away for a while you can consider my places yours, okay?"

*

Illyana looks amused at his 'grumbling'. "Yes, because seeing you without your shirt off is a total eyesore." She says with sarcasm. "Don't tempt my nature." She says, shaking a finger at him before looking down to the locket in her hand.

She pops it open and then offers it over to him with a gingerness that would make one think it were made of glass, and not heavy metal. Real gold is exactly that. Heavy. And the weight of the locket bespeaks the solidness of it. Within isn't a picture as one might expect, but a pentagram with sockets at the points. Two are empty, and three hold smooth red stones with a deeper, richer color than any mere gem.

"That you probably have more trouble in your future. You're very…. sensitive. Maybe after the metal's a bit more 'saturated' you won't be."

The offer is met with silence this time, and then a slight tilt of her head. And here most people would say 'thank you'.

*

Jericho takes the locket in his hand and looks over the stones closely. Some sense of… weight, of the importants of what's inside prevents him from running his fingers over it like he ordinarily might though he does trace the outside edge. Also, his entire arm lights up.

"Is this…?" She's only tangentially mentioned to him that she's got power bound up in Limbo somehow, so he doesn't know what this is, though he's got a sense that it's very, very important.

"One can only hope, yeah." He says a bit distractedly as she mentions getting saturated. "I suppose it depends on what the hell my cybernetics is doing with the magic."

*

"The pieces of my soul that Belasco took from me." Illyana says, her tone much more subdued, quieter than usual. "He needed five. I stopped him at three." Not her brother, not even Cat or Ororo though they helped mold her. She did it. Understandably, she doesn't want anyone making off with it.

*

He nods slowly. Soul. These are pieces of her soul. He closes the locket and hands it back with the same ginger care as she handed it over. "Glad you did." He says quietly. "Thanks for showing me that." He understands, rather implicitly, that this is not something aht one show's to just anyone.

*

How many people would believe it? That a soul could be made something tangible. That could be held in the palm of your hand. And while it's in Illyana's possession, she doesn't *have* it. How terrible must it be, for it to be so close and yet so far away.

Illyana closes her fist around it briefly, and then puts the chain back around her neck. It's tucked back beneath her shirt and then… he doesn't see any sign of it anymore. "Yeah well, you're not alone." She says, trying for levity. It's a bit brittle. "When the fifth stone is placed, the Elder Gods go free."

*

Jericho nods at that bit of information, but the fact is that apocalypses - while terrifying - are impersonal and beyond the scale of human thought. So it registers more on his mind not that this would be a Very Bad Thing though he does realize that, but that it would be very bad for Illyana. "I see. Is there no way to…?" He figures perhaps not. If there were surely she'd have tried by now.

*

The smile Illyana gives Jericho is wan, and for a moment she looks very… young. "No." She doesn't try to explain, doesn't elaborate. That one word is enough.

There is a long, quiet moment then, and Illyana tries to break that melencholy mood. There's a reason she does so many things to distract herself. Deep Thoughts are depression. "So. You wanted me to get you out of your clothes? I think Nancy would have a fit." A pause. "Well. When she's Nancy again."

*

That wasn't an unexpected answer. But the finality of it has an almost crushing weight to it. It means the bits of her soul she still has left are very, very precious.

And then she says that. And he almost chokes on his pizza laughing. "Well, yes, I suspect she would. Close examinations of my level of fitness seem to bother her. As do images of you eating ice cream." He winks. "Don't ask. Though if you went through her phone it's possible that you already know."

*

Illyana grins as he has problems with his food, a wicked sort of thing that explains why she pesters people. She enjoys their suffering. Even if it's something mild like this. Maybe it staves off a larger hunger to truly torture.

The bit about the ice cream gets a 'huh?' sort of look though. "My eating ice cream makes her uncomfortable?" She shakes her head. "Yeah, not sure if I want to know what her issues are there." She gives a soft huff of amusement. "I didn't go through her phone, just.. helped her with a few texts."

*

"Let's just say…" Jericho says when he finally clears his airway. "That when I mentioned we'd gone out for ice cream, she made assumptions about what I actually meant." ‘Cause Lord knows, he couldn't have meant actually going out for ice cream.

"Ah yes. I had wondered who was sending those. Especially considering Nan seemed too listless to do any real trolling." He rolls his shoulder. "She seemed a bit better when she texted this morning."

He thumps his chest a few times with a balled fist and shakes himself. "Pizza choking does it for you, eh?" He teases.

*

The apparently confusion about ice cream eating gets a bit of a squint from Illyana. "Made assumptions? What in the world would that be code for?" She honestly seems baffled. Ice cream is like a sacred ritual for her! Bad Nancy, trying to bring evilness into the hallowed halls of the ice cream parlor.

"Well, I was the one with her when we showed up in the middle of the texting." She points out and then tsks softly. "And here I thought you were a bright boy!" The teasing gets a small shrug with smile. "I enjoy watching people squirm or otherwise be uncomfortable." Yeah, she and Nan have stuff in common.

*

"No wonder you two get along so well." He laughs, downing the last bit of crust and giving her question about ice cream code a 'never mind, it's not that important' wave. Surely, if she wants to know, she can just pester Nancy about it.

"I try to not make too many assumptions when it comes to texts like that." Jericho winks. "Well if like watching people sweat and squirm you'll probably love watching me do manual labor. Which reminds me, I think I have enough to actually try my hand at Limbo-scaping, if you still want me to help. I'd have tried myself by now but it's kind of hard to get there with a car or wings, y'know?"

*

Illyana seems fine with letting the whole ice cream bit go. Though maybe when she's around Nancy she'll have to see what makes her squirm.

"Well, I can see the sweating, but I don't get the squirming." Illyana points out. The not being able to get to Limbo gets a chuckle. "Yeah well, I didn't think you'd like me leaving a portal open. Demons might decide to wander into your living room looking for something to snack on."

*

"I kind of do appreciate that." Jericho says with a short laugh. "Especially since I'm not always around to send them back with a rolled up newspaper. I guess you'll just have to come drag me off whenever you feel like having it done." The prospect doesn't seem to bother him as it might perhaps others. Hell she already drops in on him fairly regularly.

"Squirming? Oh, you've never watched anyone reach down into a trench to pull a root out have you?" But he has. Watched it and done it.

*

"I kinda figured that was more straining than squirming." Illyana says, looking thoughtful. "I suppose it could be comedic, though." Especially because you never know what might be alive, or living under Limbo's surface. "Sounds like it will be an occasion that warrants iced tea. And a lounger." Maybe a demon fanning her with a palm leaf as she watches.

*

Jericho chuckles as she conjures up an archetypal image of being the idle rich. "There, see, you're already getting used to having a landscaper. Maybe I should find myself a straw hat… and… a very, very sharp machete." He thinks about how much he doesn't really know about how the rules of this place work.

*

Illyana chuckles at that. "Except I don't think we need a lot of stuff cut down. It's getting it to grow in other places that's the trick."
Illyana tips her head back, so she's sort of looking at the place upside-down. "You move all this stuff yourself?" Any real point to being here? Seems like it's mostly to nose into his life.

*

"I got the place furnished." Jericho says. "Mostly. The beds and such I picked up elsewhere. Table too. Just got done putting it all together. Most of the things I did move here are what few personal effects I have or otherwise 'work' related stuff."

There's a picture on the little bar-like area between the living room and the kitchen. It's Jericho, a bit less lean and hunted looking, in an Army uniform, full combat kit, smiling with a couple of other guys. It's possible, if she thinks about it, she's never actually seen him smile like he's smiling in that picture.
"Bought most of my safehouses mostly furnished. When you're just one guy it saves a lot of time."

*

Illyana knows what it's like. To not smile like you used to. Hell, Illyana hardly ever smiles period. She smirks, she's got those wicked or fierce grins, the very rare faint smile but… No, the smiles seem gone. Along with the laughter.

"So Partisan said you guys are like this army of two against the world, all above the law A-Team-but-with-messy-public-killings." Ilyana says then, bringing her blue gaze back over to him.

*

"I mostly do network ops. Partisan… fighting oppression is her thing. Her reason for living and existing. She's a friend though and she's helped me stay alive. I'm being hunted for this." He raises his arm, indicating his traces. "And I got tired of doing all the running a while back, so I started hunting back, trying to find a way to get clear of it. Some of the other things I do…?"
"I've not really had any friends since this started. I don't make 'em easy to begin with and having to keep clear so people don't end up in the line of fire didn't help when you layer it with developing paranoia as a survival skill. There are not many lines I would not cross to help my friends. So sometimes I get involved in things." Illyana may or may not get the sense that she's included in the very short list of people he will cross all kinds of lines for. But she is.

*

"You can only run so far." Illyana agrees. "Then you're backed into a corner and there's nothing else to do but fight or lie down and die." Illyana's a survivor. Just like Jericho. Maybe that's one of the things that appeals to her about him. She can't help but chuckle a bit at him not making friends easily. "One wonders how in the world you ended up with me, Nan and Partisan as you friends then. Because I'm pretty sure we're three of the 'least likely to make friends' club."

There's that flicker of a smile, "Yeah, I get keeping people at a distance for their own safety." And not just their physical safety, though that's the obvious one.

*

It may be the thing that appeals about Illy to Jericho as well because temperament aside, one does not expect someone to take this kind of prodding with grace, generally. Well, that and the sense that Illyana kind of doesn't ever ask for things. People don't generally ask Jericho for things as matter of course unless they're out of options. And he doesn't often turn them down for exactly that reason.

"So yeah there you have it. Me and Parti and anyone who will help us."

He laughs. "Well yes, and here we all are friends with one another. Shall I start looking out for signs of the world's end?" He says with a wink.

"I'd have warned you for your physical safety a while ago but… honestly the only one of my friends who is any more fragile than me is Nancy."

*

"I don't worry too much for my physical safety. I can get gone pretty damned fast." And where Illyana goes, sane people don't follow unless she likes them. "I dunno that my…" She frowns then, trying to find a word that doesn't sound silly. "Spiritual safety might end up in jeopardy if I were to pal around with Partisan too much. She's all 'end justifies the means' and that's just a bit too close to how demons think for me. Sure, she's got this pie-in-the-sky ideal she's doing it for but…" She shakes her head. "Too slippery for me. If I start living elbows-deep in blood I'll forget that I'm trying to be good." Too tempting, to just give in to that darkness inside.

*
.
"Hundred twenty years of crap like she's dealt with and I might be similar. Well, or pehaps not, but I do understand what you mean. I work with her. I have her back. She's my friend. But that doesn't mean we see eye to eye on all matters." On Hydra though, they pretty generally agree on all the important ones.

His head cants as he considers something. "I'm a little curious that you don't have the same concerns about being around me, actually." Sure he and Parti are different people, very different people in ways, but they have a few similarities.

*

Illyana hitches a shoulder at him. "Maybe because I only end up being around you when you're on downtime. Also, you like to keep a lower profile and don't spend your time telling me about how folks need to die messily. But most of all?" Illyana puts her hands down, so she can push herself up a bit straighter and out of that almost reclining slouch. "She may look like a person, and talk like a person, but all she is, is the memories of being human covering pure rage. She's a lot closer to 'demon' than human. And like a clever demon, she's gotten good at hiding it."

*

Jericho's smile is a bit wan. "There's part of me that's not forgotten that. I told you, she terrifies me." As does Illyana, but he doesn't have to mention that here. He doesn't belabor the point that Parti's still his friend. Illy is too after all and he overlooks the chills she sends down his spine sometimes. Part of it is just a soldier's temperament. Fear is just part of the life.

"Mmmm, but it's a fair point and I can understand why you might want to… avoid that kind of thing."

He laughs. "And you've seen me in action before. Last time we visited Limbo. Or… do you remember that? I just realize I don't know how your… transformation works."

*

"That's different. That's defending. Against demons. Yeah, you got dropped into my ongoing war but… it's not the same. Demons don't have souls. You can't ever redeem them. No amount of second chances will turn them 'back to the light'." As to her transformation, Illyana wrinkles her nose a bit, turning her head to look out over the water. "The outside manifestation of the evil in my soul. The more I give into those darker emotions such as anger and hate and jealousy, the more I slip towards that. Of course I'm stronger like that. Faster. My magic comes more easily to me. But it also makes it easier to keep feeling those emotions."

*

"Hrm." Jericho considers that. "You seemed decent enough to me in that form. A little grabby perhaps." He chuckles, not meaning anything particularly bad by it. "I kind of feel that way about some people. Mostly people who act like Demons. Hydra comes to mind."

*

Illyana chuckles, "Grabby?" Apparently she doesn't remember being grabby but also, she was distracted with y'know, fight. He gets another shrug though. "You fought for me, you weren't trying to attack me or run or anything like that. It's not like I completely lose control I just have a quicker temper. And I don't… I guess feel as much." And she already feels less than most people.

The bit about Hydra has her tilting her head side to side some. "Some people are completely lost, yes. But *most* there's still a chance. There's still humanity left in them."

*

Jericho nods. "You're right. I just guess I get to 'out of options' faster than most people. Which is not something I admire about myself particularly just… how it goes sometimes you know? Most people just need to be nudged. Or sometimes shoved. I done a fair bit of shoving in my fight." He shakes his head and smiles.

"Yeah, grabby. It was fine, you were just, I'm dunno, interested in my bruises and burns. Not really sure why. It was fine, I just…" Jeri frowns in thought. "… There was something else on display, yeah but it didn't seem like it wasn't you was what I'm getting at I guess. Though that's neither here nor there, I suppose. I'm glad that I don't remind you of demons. Says something about still being mostly human."

*

"Pain." Illyana murmurs. "Your pain is…" Her lips purse as she searches for the right word. "Attractive." Some girls like long hair or blue eyes… The Darkchilde prefers cuts and bruises. "And you mean because I touched you?" She arches a brow, amusement in those blue eyes.

Illyana shakes her head. "That's because it's still *me*. Just… a little more intense I suppose."

"Well no, being touched is downright unusual for me though come to think of it you never seem to have a problem doing it. But you seemed… restrained. Holding back. Like you were a few minutes ago when you didn't do whatever it was you were thinking about doing to my arm. That's what I meant." Usually without asking which, yes was the case there.

"You're pretty intense to begin with, Illyana." Jericho says with a chuckle. "Not that I mind." An odd thought occurs to him and he gives her a curious look.

"My pain or pain in general?"

*

Illyana smirks as he comments on her touchiness. "Well all those decorations, seems to be just begging to be touched." Not that he got them for that reason, or shows them off to most people.

His observation about her restraint gets a slow nod. "I'm the ruler of a dimension of demons. It's not like ruling over people. I own them in a way that's… hard to really explain. It's a mindset that's hard to break away from when I'm not there. I want something, I do it. It doesn't matter who it hurts, or what they feel about the matter. All that matters is me and my wants."

She flashes him one of those quick, wicked sort of grins as he says he doesn't mind her intensity. It fades though at the question. "Both. Strawberries on their own are good. Strawberries dipped in chocolate are even better."

*

The analogy gets her a quirked eyebrow and a smile. That's… not quite the answer he expected. Honestly he'd figured it was just pain 'cause honestly why should his be unusual? Other than that he's in a lot of it on a semi-regular basis. Still… it's not an answer that worries him. Well, any more than anything about her worries him.

"Chocolate strawberries, mmm? I think, Illyana, you have left me speechless for once." He gives her a wink. "Savor the moment." That might be a blush and not a charge in his traces. What? The guy never gets complimented even in that kind of backhanded way.

*

"For someone struck speechless, you still do a lot of talking." Illyana drawls, smirking at him. And then there's the slight lift of her brows as she catches the slight flush along his cheekbones. Which of course is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

Illyana pushes up, shifting her feet out of his lap so she can put one knee down near his thigh as to take her weight as she leans forward and waaaaay into his personal space. Her hands close on the back of the couch, her breath a warm tickle against his cheek and ear. Her long hair falls forward, brushing against him but that's all of her that actually touches him, caging him with her body.

"Pain by itself is enticing. The promise of screams and suffering. More tempting on those that I dislike though. On someone I like? The marks of pain in my defense, or service, or for my pleasure?" Her soft voice drops to just above a whisper. "It's like an offering. Heady. Intoxicating. The purest sign of devotion."

*

Illyana's invading his personal space is nothing new to Jericho. He's gotten mostly used to that. Illyana's invading his personal space in this particular manner and that particular tone of voice is entirely new to Jericho. There's a slight red glow, like embers, to his trace as she gets near enough for ambient magic to be absorbed into them, but even that, and the combination of surprise and concern at both her sudden shift of position and her words don't mask the sudden, rapid, additional blush. Not so subtle anymore, it seems.

Oh and now? Now he really is speechless. His eyes cut over in her direction though all he can really see is her cheek and a lot of long blonde hair.

*

Illyana turns her head enough that her eyes can meet his. Deep, deep blue pins him with that intensity he commented on earlier, the smirk on her lips as wicked as any grin she's given him. "Mmmm. Pretty." She says in a low almost purr, letting her gaze slide across him. At the red traces? Or the blush? Hard to tell. She finally brings her gaze back to his and quirks a brow. "Demon got your tongue?" Then that smirk broadens into a grin, flashing white teeth with the slightest hint of fangs at him.

*

Is it her imagination or is there more amber in his eyes than there used to be. The intensity does strike him. Rather solidly, and then the fangs, though… he's seen her do that once before. Though at the time she was warning him. He clears his throat. There isn't actually anywhere to go on the couch that isn't right into some part of her body… and that gaze is pretty damn arresting.

"Maybe just a bit." A hint of a smile comes back because what is Jericho's first response when something rattles him? Illy probably knows this one by now. "Or maybe not quite yet. Depends on who's asking, I guess."

*

Illyana seems to find the amber blooming in his eyes just as transfixing as the way his traces light up and his cheeks flush. Her own half-close like a contented cat as she watches him from a breath away. "Your heart's beating faster. Your breath's gone fast and shallow." Her observations are a soft murmur, but she's close enough he doesn't need to strain to hear her. And still, she doesn't *quite* touch him. Just that whisper of her long hair, teasing at him where it brushes his skin. "Nervous?"

*

Y'think? He's nervous as all hell but he couldn't tell you yet if it was because he was slightly frightened or because there's a very attractive blonde literally inches from his face. Both, is probably the correct answer. "Maybe just a bit." That's not so much a lie as it is the understatement of the century. It doesn't prevent him from smirking and following that up with. "Why? Are you?" As if he has that effect on people (he doesn't). Jericho is, by this point almost completely flushed.

*

Illyana's right hand lets go of the couch, laying her palm against his cheek. Her fingernails brush the edges of his hair as she chuckles at him and this time she gives him the wink. "Not really." She admits. Her thumb slides along the rise of his cheekbone. "Here I was starting to think I couldn't rattle you. Not enough to see it." Her lashes sweep down as her eyes close a moment and she draws a slow breath. "Smell it." The tip of her tongue slides along the inside edge of her upper lip. "Taste it." She pats his cheek once, and then starts to ease away, giving him some breathing room.

*

Jericho places a hand on Illyana's shoulder and slides down her arm and he takes a deep breath. He doesn't stop her from moving (because he's not stupid) but hey, if she's gonna touch him it's only fair. He's not reaaaaly thinking coherently enough at this point to be remembering that as little as she cares for his personal space, she jealously guards her own. He's either brave enough, or transfixed enough to still be following her eyes.

"And do you like the taste?" He asks with a breathless little chuckles.

*

There's not a flicker or a flinch from Illyana as he touches her, either by virtue of how she's invaded his space or because she doesn't mind him in her space in general. His question gets another of those slow grins. She's straightened now, still in front of him with one knee on the couch beside him and her other foot on the floor and her tone's gone back to normal. "More than I should."

*

Jericho chuckles a little bit. "I'm flattered." It's going to take him a few minutes for his heart to come down from the marathon it's running. Intense is… one word for that. He pats her knee a bit, in a not exactly friendly manner but in a not overtly anything else manner either.

"Makes two of us." He says a bit more quietly than usual, a smile quirking at the edge of his lips as he tries to get a handle on his breathing.

*

Illyana laughs at him then. A brief, light sound that lacks her usual mocking edge. Much like his lost smile, it lacks the brightness that it should have, but it's still a laugh. She reaches out and ruffles his hair briefly before shifting back and standing up, finally giving him back his space so he can more easily catch his breath. "Most people don't like being nervous." She says, and that has the subtle edge of teasing to it as she heads over towards his kitchen. Because she's betting there's vodka in the 'fridge.

*

There is, if she bothered to look, Vodka in all the 'fridges of his safehouse. And not just one bottle either. "I think it depends on why I'm nervous, to be honest." Illyana makes him nervous sort of generally, but he likes her. Still, he does stay seated as she goes to get the traditional drink and finally manage to bring his heartbeat and breathing back to normal levels. The laugh… nice to hear. Sort of… muted, but still.

*

Illyana comes back with two tumblers and the bottle, holding out one of the glasses to Jericho as she sits down on the coffee table across from him. She pours the clear liquor before setting the bottle aside. "Getting you all ruffled is amusing, but if it really bothers you I can tone it down." She didn't say *stop*.

*

"You remember when you said 'If they can't take me as I am…'" He takes the glass and raises it to her as she seats herself across from him. "What kind of a friend would I be if I couldn't take you as you are. You rattle me, Illyana, but you don't bother me. It's fine." A good quarter of the Vodka disappears as he takes a pull at the tumbler. "Ah. This stuff's growing on me too." He says with a grin.

*

"Well, that's why I said I'd tone it down. Not that I'd quit." Illyana says with a smile, raising her glass in return. "And what kind of friend would I be if I made you miserable, instead of just uncomfortable?" Which… might imply that she actually considers him a friend!

*

Jeri grins and just shakes his head. "I don't think we're quite at the point of being uncomfortable yet." He says with a wink and the flash of a grin. You'd think he'd learn not to say things like that to a person who may very well take it not as an assurance but as a challenge. Sadly, he has not. He's usually a bit more clever than that but rattled hackers say things sometimes. He does smile a bit more genuinely though wwhen she implies that she considers him a friend. It's nice to have that consideration reciprocated.

*

Illyana laughs at him again, a soft chuckle from behind her glass. "No? I guess I wasn't trying hard enough." Her eyes seem to darken a few shades as she lets her gaze slide down over him. Slowly, the smile fading away as something that's less amusement and more predatory slides behind those little blue windows.

*

Every time her eyes do that, change shades, it catches his attention. The predatory look doesn't escape his notice though he can't help but wonder what it's for. She certainly has no problem looking him over under general circumstances. Another drink of vodka before he lowers his tumbler. "Illyana?" His head cants as he chuckles, though the chuckle is tinged with 'what… are you looking at?'

*

Illyana's head comes up a little abruptly and she meets his eyes for only a moment, before her gaze slides away and she knocks back a large swallow of vodka. "Sorry. Too much thinking." She says, leaning back for the bottle to splash some more in his glass, offering to pour for him as well before setting it back down. Standing up and turning away from him, she walks over to those big windows. Where the lights dance on the water down below.

*

Jericho accepts a bit more of the clear, stinging fluid and knocks some of it back, letting her watch the lights in silence for a few minutes before he moves to the window himself, making sure to leave some space so as not to make it uncomfortable. He's still got his tumbler in hand. "Really is a nice view. I saw it when I first came to look at the place. It was one of the things that sold me on making it a safe house." He says as he takes another drink.

"Sorry if I made that uncomfortable." He offers. Unlike Illy, Jericho does do apologies.

*

That 'sorry' she gave him a few moments before was the first she's offered him. Seems out of place, given how she avoids the word, for her to tack it on like someone else might say 'excuse me'. She has one arm folded across her body, the other holding her glass, elbow tucked in against her side and she turns her head enough to look at him. A soft huff of amusement. A small smile. "You didn't make anything uncomfortable, Jericho. I just… distract myself for a reason. When I let myself think too long I start trying to justify things to myself."

*

"The other half?" He says. It's not so much a question as an observation as Jericho turns to look at her with a chuckle and a 'I know I'm asking for trouble' kind of smile. The kind of smile he gets when he's about to dig up a new reason to get shot at, but not anywhere near as pained. "Well, I understand. Er, as much as I can anyway. Feel free to distract yourself as much as you need." He rather suspects it'll be very amusing for her and occasionally painful for him but… she's a friend. And she asked for his help. So that's that.

*

"It's not like I think of myself as two people." Illyana explains, when he asks about her other half. "Just I know which emotions are rooted in which side of my nature." His offer has him giving him a sidelong glance and a slow shake of her head, chuckling. "You're not all there, are you?" He *does* like to hang out with some frightening women. She leans over enough to bump him with her shoulder lightly. "Quit teasing me and find something to distract me with, before I decide to take you to this club I know."

*

"I'm fairly certain I'm not." He says with a wink and hits the remote on the TV he just finished setting up before she arrived. "Well, I think I can get you a fairly good distraction. Care for a sneak peek at the last installment of the Hobbit? 'Cause guess who'se good enough to hack Peter Jackson's editing bins?"

Worst case scenario, she zots him over to a club in his work clothes. Which will just make him seem like a clueless sod. He's had worse. He's willing to bet, though, that this might be popcorn and vodka worthy.

*

Illyana glances over to the television and then back to Jericho, grinning. "Oh, you are a naughty, naughty boy, Jericho. You make the popcorn." She reaches out for his glass to take it with her over towards the couch.
Take him in his work clothes? Oh… he obviously missed Nancy mentioning that Illyana takes care of the whole clothes thing.

*

The hacker grins and walks on over to the kitchen to break out, not microwave popcorn. Nope, actually, he gets stovetop popcorn and clearly has some practice making it because by the time the opening credits are over he's back with buttered popcorn and a fresher bottle of vodka… and some soda in case they want to switch to that later. He looks rather pleased that she likes this idea. He thought it was pretty neat.

*

When Jericho settles back down on the couch, Illyana settles in against him. She's taken off her boots, letting them lie on the floor in a heap of black leather and silver. Apparently he's been upgraded to 'pillow' as she settles in to watch the movie.


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