The Visitation

Summary:
July 17 2014: Jericho is unwinding (for once) when he realizes that he's got some very, very unusual guests.

Jericho's Midtown Safe House

A sixth floor apartment overlooking the water in Midtown Manhattan


Characters

NPCs

  • K'nert and lackeys

Mood Music:
[* None]


Jericho is taking a break from being shot at today. Mostly this is because he knows he's going to have a fair bit of it in his future, when the raid on that abandoned hospital happens, as it should fairly soon. Right now though he's working through a piano set. It's slower music, not bar faire, but he does occasionally play other venues. Just not often as he can't really afford the attention. No one pays any attention to the piano player in a bar. Just the music.

So there he is in casual mode. He's even got a short sleeved tee on because he's not going anywhere. It's actually the black 'Ranger Up' shirt that Illyana… personalized when she fixed it for him. Which is kind of a very militant shirt to be wearing considering what he's playing. But hey, it's his house (well, safe house) and he can wear what he wants thank you very much."

*

It starts as a prickle along his spine. That… sense of being watched. But none of his alarms are tripped. No smirking blonde either. And then there's that whisper of movement but when he looks… nothing there. Shadows flit in and out of his peripheral vision.

*

The music slows and then stops. None of this is tripping his 'I'm about to get shot at' alarms. Which is nice. He'd rather keep this place. But his 'something is out of the ordinary' alarms are well and truly going off. Jericho frowns, turning on the bench to sweep his gaze about the rest of the living area. It's actually midday, still light out, and he's not real sure what's going on just yet.

There is the scrape of something hard against the flooring, and as the silence lengthens a wedge-shaped head

*

There is the scrape of something hard against the flooring, and as the silence lengthens a wedge-shaped head that slowly peers around the side of the couch. The size of a large dog, but all skin and bone and sinew, the body lean with the shape of the bones pushing out against scaled skin. It has long claws and glowing yellow eyes and a pair of horns that curve away from its head. More of its body slides out. Arms. Shoulders.

Another clawed hand comes over the top of the couch on the other end. Smaller, as another demon peeks out there. Spotting Jericho it hissssses as it pulls the rest of its body up and crawls along the back of the couch.

There's a crash in the kitchen and angry chittering, and Jericho can see his 'fridge door is open but nothing else.

*

The last time Jericho saw something like this… well, okay, he was in Limbo and Illyana was dismissing them from having messily slain a sniper who had tried to kill him. But the last time he saw anything like this up really close, he'd been fighting them in Limbo. Well, and fighting alongside them to be fair. Demons on both sides, which had been kind of odd in truth.

Demons are not known for their general friendly sensibilities, his one part-demon friend aside, so this makes him stand up verrrrry slowly and eye the gun on the table next to him. He doesn't go for it. Not quite yet, but he's clearly a bit tense. "How the hell did you get in here?" He asks, not really expecting an answer.

*

A head pops up in the kitchen at the sound of Jericho's voice. Dark green, where the red one looks emaciated this one looks obese. A round face with short, chubby sort of horns it's face is covered in something thick and red. It blinks glowing eyes at Jericho and then liiiiicks some of the red from around its mouth.

The red one slides out a bit more, looking up towards the little one that has its head up almost imperiously. "Play." It says, voice high and demanding. The larger one on the floor crawls in around the front of the couch now, still keeping an eye on Jericho.' "Play!" It echos, voice deeper.

*

Demons from Limbo in your house is not something Jericho generally expects… apparently his expectations need to be adjusted somewhat. Okay… they're not here to try to messily eviscerate him. This… can be worked with.

Play? Wait? What are these? Demonic dogs? Well okay only one looks like a… skinned… dog. The other kind of looks like a skinned cat… ish. Sort of. Not really. And the one that came out of his 'fridge… oh gods. There'd better still be food in there. Okay, focus. Play?

What the hell kind of games do demons play?

"Play." He repeats. "Okay. Play what?"

*

There's more crashing from the kitchen, and the green demon is out of sight again. Its back end makes a brief appearance around the kitchen island, thick tail lashing back and forth before it disappears again with a *bang!*.

The red one moves forward again, watching Jericho with that wary manner and he can make out that the thing probably doesn't normally go around on all fours, but it can. And it's doing so to keep its head and belly low around him, ears back. The little demon jumps up and down, hissing again. "Play!!"

The red one moves slowly, stretching out its neck to nudge Jericho's knee to try to push him back onto the piano bench.

*

Jeri backs up a little as the skinned… red… uh… thing, pushes at his knee. "Play… oh. That kind of play. Play the piano?" He has a very brief image of him being held hostage at the black-and-whites but… well, he thinks he can handle three demons. Though he'd rather not handle it messily. Briefly he looks around, wondering if this is a new game or prank? Release the demons and see what happens? Except, Illyana seemed like she might be very upset if they got out. And she did mention both a sweet tooth and a taste for flesh.

Which means that keeping them here until he can figure out a way to send them back, or she can show up and take them back, is probably the way to go about this.

"Right. Play." He sits back down at the bench and does a quick flourish on the keys as he thinks of what to play. What do demons like anyway? Maybe something a bit… melancholy?"

*

The red-skinned demon rests its head on the bench, next to Jericho's thigh. It's hard to tell where it's focus is, given the lack of iris or pupil but its attention seems to be on the piano. There's the soft sound of the smaller, cat-sized demon hopping down to the couch cushions, then the scrabblescratch of claws on the floor behind him. A few moments later there's the quick, bright spots of pain as it leaps up, sinking claws into shirt and flesh in quick pricks as it climbs up his back and then hauls itself up over Jericho's shoulder to perch. Other than that, they are quiet. After a bit, the big green one lumbers over on Jericho's other side, standing up. It has a plate with… well. That's probably supposed to be a sandwich on there.

*

This particular song goes on for a good while, so he's got time to - "Ack! Hey!" Jericho's thoughts are momentarily interrupted by a demon climbing on him and turning him into a perch. That may leave a mark. Actually he's fairly sure it did.

"Comfy up there?" He says, now really kind of confused. Okay. There's a demon on either side and one on his shoulder and all are watching him play piano. Interesting metaphysical implications aside, What. The. Actual. Hell?! He's never seen these things really evince any kind of emotion but bloodlust, hate and a general tendency toward corruption and yet… here they are. Which begs the question: Why?

Jericho has absolutely no idea, so he keeps playing, watching the demons as he scrolls a playlist across his HUD, which is slowly starting to bleed into Demonic characters while his traces start to glow red.

*

The green demon's kind of a mess. This close, Jericho's fairly sure that the red on its face is ketchup. Which'd make sense with the white smeared down its neck and one hand that's got yellow on it. With one hand it tears off pieces of the sandwich, which isn't really designed for being torn like that, which means it gets bread and pulls the sandwich innards all over the plate and dribbles down its chin.

The small demon looks back at Jericho, as though staring him down, and nips at his ear and likely leaving some teeth marks in it in reply to the question. That long tail slides against his back and then curls around Jericho's neck in a fairly firm grip, though not tight enough to cause him trouble breathing. The redskinned demon's eyes have started to slit closed and looks like it's planning to take a nap.

At least until there's the familiar flash of light and Illyana's apparent echo of Jericho's thoughts: "What in Hades is going on here?" Well, doesn't look like the demon queen sent them to bother him.

It's like turning on a light at night and the vermin all shoot for the shadows. Poor Jericho's likely to have more cuts on him as the small demon squeals and pushes off, making for beneath the couch. The green one throws the sandwich up in the air and sort of runs in circles for a bit before heading down the hall. The redskinned one slides under the piano bench and goes very. Very. Still. Ignore the demon under the Jericho.

*

The music abruptly stops and while the voice gets a bit of a jump out of him (still) it also makes him smile. Illyana can see Jeri wince as the cat-thing scrambles off him and hides under the couch. Huh. Maybe it is a cat of some kind. At least he didn't have to stall for very long. Jericho turns around on the bench glancing about the living room, and at the plate and sandwich on the floor before looking back up at Illyana. He doesn't seem upset, at least. Concerned, yes. Maaaaybe a bit freaked out on some level. But not upset.

"I was kind of hoping you might have some insight on that, honestly."

Another glance around. "At least they haven't destroyed anything. Yet. That's a lot more courteous than my last set of houseguests that weren't named Illyana."

*

Well. The kitchen is a bit of a mess. Illyana stands there in boots and leather and hands on hips as she glares about. Mostly at the red demon, since he's still visible. Still. Their antics do make the corner of her mouth twitch up a bit. "If you make me haul you out of there K'nert I'm gonna be sooooo pissed off." Illyana says, probably not speaking to Jericho.

The little demon's head sticks out from beneath the couch. Well. Part of its head. Definitely its snout. It says something in a gutteral, hissing tounge and Illyana's eyes close, breath leaving her in that slow 'I so have a headache' sort of manner.

*

Jeri leans back on the bench, bracing his arms behind him and looks rather amused, at least, until she sighs. "What's wrong Illyana?" He says quietly. It's not like the demons can't hear him. They can probably hear better than he can, but he's not talking to them. K'nert, eh? You look like a skinned cat, K'nert.

The hacker looks about, thinking. Part of her issue, if she didn't send them here, is probably the very fact that they got out. Which again brings him back to the two obvious questions of 'how' and why'.

*

Illyana rubs at her temples, a stepping disk appearing off to one side of her. She points. "In." K'nert makes a beeline for it, gone before you can even blink. The red demon sort of subtly scoots further behind Jericho's legs. Tapping a foot, she looks over at it. It kind of curls *around* Jeri's legs, holding on tight. One blonde brow goes upwards as she looks back to Jericho. "You apparently have a fan." She says dryly.

The concerned question gets a shake of her head. "He said they were just standing around a stepping disk caught them. Which… isn't that hard to believe. They show up all over the place. That's why one of my jobs," Not hobby, this "Is tracking down those that end up on earth accidentally. Sometimes they come find me, sometimes they lay low so they don't have to go back. The noisy ones I usually corral pretty quickly."

*

Jericho actually laughs a bit when the dog-demon tries to hold onto him. "Go on." He says. "Look, if Illyana says it's okay, I'm sure we can find a way for you to listen to more piano at some point, but she's in charge of you guys, remember?"

The hacker looks back up at Illyana as she explains. "Ah, I see. Fortunate, then that the disk lead here… and that they weren't hungry. Well… two of them weren't anyway." Idly, it occurs to Jericho to wonder if a piano in Limbo would get corrupted over time. He seems inclined to write off the incident as a bit of odd luck. Not bad luck, just odd. And really… they weren't all that much trouble.

*

Slowly, head down, the red skinned demon makes its way to the portal. Reluctance just bleeds off the thing. Illyana moves over towards the couch, and then frowns at the mess that tried to be a sandwich everywhere. Then she looks over at Jericho and grimaces, stepping over towards him instead. "Ow." She comments of the bite she can see on his ear. "Well, these guys they're like… my fan club I guess." If demons could love, they'd love her.

*

Gingerly Jer reaches up to touch his ear. "Yeaaaaah. Not sure what that was about." He says as he rises off the bench. "Fan club, mmmm? That's almost cute. I guess that explains why they were so little trouble. They kind of do run the gamut, don't they? Lot less… hissy and claw-y than the other guys I've seen."

"Good thing they like Piano music." He says after a moment's musing. "Maybe those old greek stories about Orpheus have something to them."

*

As Jericho stands she catches sight of the rips and blood spotting the back of his shirt and frowns, physically turning him so she can pull the hem of his shirt up to look at his back. She makes a sound of annoyance.

"K'nert is bossy, and thinks he's a lot stronger than he is. Mostly because he tends to pick lazy demons who don't care as much for power." The less ambitious also tend to be the dumber ones. "Next time, smack him. If you don't put him down he'll decide he's dominant to you. Or worse, decide that you're his."

*

"Mmmm. I'll keep that in mind." Next time? Operating on the assumption that there will be a next time… which, if they're Illyana's fan club and Jericho continues to hang around her - as he intends to - there probably will be. Fair enough. At the notion of the demon decided that Jericho is 'his', the hacker smirks. "Isn't that what all cats do?"

As he turns to look at Illyana over his shoulder, he sees the ripping and sighs. "Damn. I'll have to get that fixed somehow."

*

Illyana's fingertips trace over the small cuts and punctures in Jericho's back, and then gives him an odd look before blinking. "Oh. You mean the shirt? I can fix that later." When she's in Limbo. Using what little magic she has on Earth is a lot more tiring.

Given Jericho's planning to do some landscaping, yeah. There's a good chance he'll see the little demon again. Especially if it's decided to take an interest in him. Illyana frowns at his flippant answer, still tracing out in injuries. "Fine. Then I'll do it." She says absently, her tone a bit clipped.

*

"Oh don't worry about it Illyana." Jeri chuckles still watching her over his shoulder. "Now that I know that's the proper thing to do, I'm more than capable. You've never seen me handle animals before, I think, but I'm not very shy about applying proper disciplinary methods." Not that demons are the same thing, but it kind of seems to apply here. Jeri flashes Illyana a smile, muted but genuine. "I won't make more work for you, Illyana. Promise."

*

Illyana's expression is hard to read. Caught between frowning and sort of… indecisive. "It's not that." But whatever it is, she just shakes her head. "I guess I hadn't really thought about you having to interact with them. Most people don't have any kind of regular exposure. I guess I'm gonna have to give you some kind of Demons 101."

*

"If I'm to be about, that seems like something that should probably happen at some point. If nothing else I probably need to know when they've crossed a line that dictates that violence should happen." He chuckles. "Unlike my wolf friend, I don't resort to violence first, last and always, y'know? Also you should definitely tell me what to not do to avoid undermining you somehow." His eyes turn concerned. "That's the last thing I want to do."

*

Illyana finally makes herself stop poking at his small injuries, settling down on the couch. On the opposite side of the mess. Which she does not volunteer to help clean up. "Well violence is the go-to answer with demons. You're something of a known entity though. They know if they kill you, I'll likely gut them. So unless you think they're trying to kill you," Which is a possibility, given that some would challenge Illyana herself, "Try not to kill them. Beat them until they submit and they'll probably leave you be after that."

That he'd think of that gets one of those faint smiles from Illyana. "Well, try not to challenge me or question me in front of my demons. For them, everything is like this ongoing dance of who is dominant to who. Fights, words, you name it."

*

Jericho can do that. Sort of Army Noncommissioned Officer rules. You have a disagreement with someone, you take it 'off line.' Never in front of the troops. "Alright. I think I can handle both of those."

Jer casually goes to clean up the mess on the carpet and couch and kitchen with a few towels and a bit of stain remover. "Not that I really think I'll have occasion to challenge or question you." Frankly she knows a lot more about her domain than he does, so he's willing to trust and take her word for an awful lot.

*

"You'd be surprised how often people question their friends, or argue with them. Not that anything's usually meant by it. That's the just world that people live in." Not always the world that Illyana lives in. "Keep in mind though, that once you assert any kind of place, they'll see you as part of the system."

"I seem to be already, if my visitors are any indication." The hacker notes with a wry laugh as he puts dishes away and wipes down the counter top. There. Not even a stain on the carpet. All clean. Out comes the vodka, since there is, after all, an Illyana here. And two tumblers. Jericho walks back and sits down on the couch next to her as he pours.

"That said, they were relatively polite… for skinned dog things."

*

"Mmm, not really." Illyana says, accepting the glass and swirling the clear liquid thoughtfully. "K'nert marked you. He was making a statement."

Which makes her give an absent frown as she mulls over the little demons actions and likely motives. His comment draws a short chuckle as she looks his way and just shakes her head. "Only you, Jericho…"

*

If one is to be friends with a demon queen, one must be prepared to accept a few demons. Not that it didn't nearly flip him the hell out. It's fortunate that those three weren't more threatening than they were, otherwise there may have been an incident. And his heart is still kind of racing over the issue… but all's well that doesn't end in a trashed safe house.

"Only I what?" She's commented before on his… relative lack of sense regarding… er, a number of things actually. This time though he asks with a teasing grin.

*

"Only you would decide that demons in your house that *cut you up* were 'relatively polite'." Well, to Illyana that *is* relatively polite but that's not normally the case with other people! "Most people flip out."

*

"Well I'll admit there was a moment when I was seriously considering going for my gun but…" Jericho takes a sip of vodka and exaggeratedly looks over his shoulder at the small cuts and tears in his shirt. "…eh, I've had worse." That last part comes with an impish grin, the tone deliberately blasé to tease a bit more. Still, he has had worse, that Illyana has seen, and the sad fact is that most of the people he's interacted with in the last year have wanted him dead, which puts these demons way ahead already.

"What can I say?" He chuckles, a bit more genuine now. "I lead an odd life."

*

That gets something like a snorting snicker from Illyana, and she has to pause in drinking to not spill anything. Putting her glass down she gives him a look and just shakes her head. Yep. Only Jericho. "Anyhow." She's still smirking.

*

"Yes, anyhow." Jericho grins, taking another sip while she laughs and puts her glass down. "How have you been? I know you were only here last night but… time runs differently in Limbo, you've told me, so I don't know when you stopped by last from your perspective." Which is a really odd thing to consider, even among the odd things he often has to consider.

"Didja just stop by to round up the Mousketeers? Or will you be staying for a bit?" If he hasn't made it clear to her by this point that she's pretty much always welcome… well… he fails at communication.

*
.
Illyana says, "Was it last night?" Illyana huhs softly. This is why her poor phone is always so confused. It's like every time it talks to a tower it's a different time than it should be! She chuckles then.

"I didn't think about it. You're gonna start thinking I'm clingy or something." She jokes.

The question gets a shake of her head. "I didn't realize they were here. I was just dropping in before I went to see if I needed to find something else to do.""

*

"Aaaah. Well that's always your call, of course. I doubt we've exhausted our movie options though. And I'm positive we haven't exhausted the vodka." Mostly he's positive about this because he keeps it refilled. Hey! There's always the chance that Illyana might decide to make use of the place while he's away and want some. She dropped in on Parti's place after all. He's not forgotten that.

"Clingy?" Jericho laughs. "No, clingy was that… dog thing." Jericho laughs. "Stopping in from Limbo is just that."

*

Illyana chuckles. "Yeah, he's not much above a dog." Illyana admits of the redskinned demon. "Some demons are actually really intelligent. Scarily so. But a lot of them are close to animals." She leans forward a bit to snap the buckles on her boots open so she can pull them off.

*

"Which, I suppose, makes the smart ones all the more dangerous." Jeri leans over and hits the remote. The TV comes on but is muted. Illyana gets a questioning glance, Jericho silently asking what she'd prefer to see, if anything. He leans forward to set the vodka glass down as he examines the options himself for a moment.

"Though again, those three seemed… well about as harmless as I'd ever expect a demon to be." Actually they seemed a lot more harmless than he'd ever have imagined. Bite and torn shirt notwithstanding. And they like his Jim Brickman impersonation. Which is… more than he can say of some barflies.

*

Illyana gives a nod, her expression slipping serious for a bit. "Yeah. Sometimes… Really dangerous." She agrees softly. Dumping her boots to the side with a sigh, she turns to lean against the arm of the couch and puts her feet in his lap. She reaches for her drink, resting it on her belly while she looks over at him. Then she blinks, remembering something.

"Oh, hey, are you like a waking video camera?"

*

Jericho has, to be honest, clean forgotten about the video connection to her phone. "Not… ordinarily. Why do you ask?" That's gonna turn into a hilarious dig or a really odd line of questioning and he's not sure which it is yet. A few moments pass as he pages through the movie options before bringing up the original Stargate and glancing back to the person now holding his lap hostage. Not that he minds.

Illyana's brows arch and her toes wiggle. Helloooooo. "Well, I was wondring if you still had the uh, footage? From when we were shot at? I wanted to try to get a look at it on a bigger screen." You know, like his TV! She's totally oblivious that he might still be linked to her phone.

*

"Oh that. Yeah it's all in my buffer. And actually that's kind of half the reason I have this particular model of TV."

He hits the remote to switch the TV to a new input and in a few minutes. There's… such a temptation to find out if Illyana's ticklish… no… maybe not right this second.

"Aaaaaaaand…" Recorded Jer-cam footage comes up onto the screen, complete with his HUD going all demonic. It's paused, but seconds before they were first shot at.

*

Illyana turns her attention to the TV and sings her legs off to stand up and walk over to the TV. She'll have to prod him to massage her feet later. She points to the characters above the one of hte guys heads. "If this is right… You're somehow picking their level of spiritual corruption. And this here…" She points to the indicator, "Is indicating some kind of storage?"

*

Jericho is leaning forward now. "Storage… but what on earth would I be storing? And where?" Leaning back he sits he eyes the screen with a frown. "Comes to that, how on earth am I picking up information like that? Is that stuff everyone can see and no one can really understand without magic? Or does it have something to do with my traces?"

Hrm… he lets the video play, slowly, watching as they take fire and the demonic rapidly changes. He hadn't noticed at the time, he'd been busy with surviving, but the text definitely changes when he comes under attack.

*

Illyana shakes her head. "I'm not sure how it's picking it up. Or if it's accurate. I'd also like to think that if people could unconsciously tell that stuff, they wouldn't vote for the people they do." Illyana says, crossing her arms as she watches the video play.

*

The demonic gets really interesting after Jericho drops Illyana into her stepping disk. She can see the camera shake when he gets winged. A flash of demonic text tells him exactly where the shot came from. As he engages the assassins across the street with his boxy little guns, helpful runes highlight the correct placement for kill shots. Every time he downs one, a little tally in the lower left hand corner of the screen ticks up one.

"Hah. Fair enough." The hacker rises himself and walks closer to the TV, examining not the demonic, but the placement and tactics of the hitmen, trying to get a feel for who sent them and from where.

*

Illyana frowns as she watches that tally tick up. She taps at it. "Are you still seeing this?" It's funny, really. The pair of them are each only paying attention to half of what's going on. Entirely different halves.

*

Jericho shakes his head. "I'm not seeing any demonic at the moment. You opening the stepping disk while holding onto me must have given me quite a charge. Ordinarily I only see it for a bit when something magical touches me. Usually you, actually. And only for a little while. I guess spell casting around me…" Or, for that matter, against him, "… is a bit more potent."

*

Illyana doesn't bother to *ask* him if it's OK for her to touch him, given that information she just reaches out to grab hold of his forearm since it's right there. There's a hint of worry to her expression as her other hand gesture to the screen. "Change feed."

*

Jericho's traces light up as they usually do. A moment later the feed switches to a live one from him, just him looking right at her. Odd seeing that in the TV. Slowly, demonic characters bleed onto his HUD, replacing or augmenting the English ones. Strangely enough, the text for her corruption level reads the demonic equivalent of error.

"Illyana what's wrong?"

*

Illyana's attention slides around, watching things come up. Then she comes back, looking for that tally. "Maybe it's because you haven't killed anyone in a while…" She muses. The corruption status gets a smirk. "No kidding." She mutters.

Illyana looks back at him, "During the fight, each time you killed one of the guys, it kept track. Question is why. What does it mean."

*

"If it means anything at all. I mean I suppose it's possible that the magic was interacting with my cybernetic software and just showing what made 'sense' to it somehow." Jericho's glance does down to his arm, where his traces are slowly spreading red up it.

"Or is that not how it works? Either way, if it does mean something it'd be good to know why."

*

"Well, on the upside, I think it's trying to help you." Illyana notes. "Go back to the fight." She waits for him to switch footage, apparently thinking this is all very easy for him to do, and then points out the tactics notes. "It's making some kind of tactical recommendation to kill your enemies. So while a bit extreme, it looks like it's trying to be *helpful*. Which, if it's just your uh, traces trying to express itself, hopefully means it's not poisoning you to death or something."

Admittedly Jericho does make this kind of thing look easy. It's not, but he does it anyway. "Huh. Interesting. And yes, I hope that too, though that's really a concern without magic as well. One does have to wonder at the long term ramifications of having a network of rare metals in your body."

As he considers that a slow smile creeps over his face. "Though, to be honest Illyana, I doubt this is one anyone ever even considered."

*

Illyana looks back over to him at that as it apparently goes over her head. "What's that?" Hey, weird is where she lives! Kinda literally. She looks back at the screen and frowns again. It's a puzzle. Eating at her.

*

That she misses it only makes him smile a bit wider, albeit a bit more genuinely. "I don't really think a bunch of stuffy government scientists in a meeting ever sat down and said: 'You know? Maybe we should think about what happens if one of our test subjects becomes the friend the Queen of Limbo.' It just… seems like the kind of thing that might not occur to them." And yet, such a very interesting question right now. Sometimes it's good to be the one in the middle of the interesting stuff. Not often, granted, but sometimes.

*

That gets a short chuckle. "Ahhh, yeah. Magic at all doesn't usually enter into most eggheads' thought process." She says dryly. A thought occurs to her then. "You know… it's kinda creepy that you could be recording everything and putting it on your facetome or whatever it is."

*

"Well yes, I suppose it is." Jericho says with a wink as he turns back to go sit down on the couch… and retrieve his vodka.

"But I don't. Well, I don't without a reason. Sometimes I record things that Hydra doesn't want people to see and then make them public, but I never record ordinary people and I especially don't record friends." He stretches his arm for a moment and rolls his shoulder. "So you're perfectly safe."

*

"Liiiiiies." Illyana replies when he says she's safe, smirking at him. "You should make sure to show me when stuff comes up." She heads back over to the couch with him, thumbing the screen behind her. "I'm still not real sure why it's telling you a lot of this stuff. Or where it's *getting* it from." Illyana says, dropping back down onto the couch with a fwump.

*

"I'll make sure to archive it and we can go over it together, sure." Over vodka, no doubt, not that this is a bad thing. "I kind of wonder if the HUD tells me the same stuff when it goes all feral or angelic. Not that I'm particularly eager to find out, mind you." The only magic Jericho has ever seen Partisan do that didn't involve a gun and a workbench involved the messy evisceration of a dozen men. He's not about to taunt her wolf out just so he can find out if the characters she makes him see say different things.

Besides, who could read stuff?

The screen flicks away as Jericho changes the input again, back to browsing movies. It's still up on Stargate, as it turns out.

*

Illyana puts her feet back in Jericho's lap, still waiting apparently, and laughs lightly at him. "So you're strictly a Demonic magic sort of guy?" She teases him. Though… "I do have White magic." She reminds him. "I just don't use it as much because it's more… finite. It's like a cup that once you empty it, you need to give it time to refil. My magic in Limbo… It's like being a channel. There's no limit, but the more you want to channel, the more of my humanity it blasts away to access it."

*

It takes another round of toe wiggles but Jeri does take the hint. He's just a bit slow sometimes. Still, he looks thoughtful as he starts to massage Illyana's feet.

"Let's just say I'm not so trusting that I'd let just anyone blast magic into me to see if they could. And, well, you've met Partisan. I suspect she'd have to be clawing me or something to put that much into me. I don't think she would, but I'm not about to try pissing her off just to find out."

Jericho accesses the TV wirelessly so he doesn't have to pick up the remote. His hands are busy. And his traces are lighting up. Seems it doesn't matter who is touching whom. Stargate flicks away to be replaced by the recent 'City of Bones' movie. Hrm. He's not seen this one yet.

"And the more you do that… the harder it is to care about doing it, I imagine." Power is the same anywhere, he's coming to find. It's hard to get without developing a taste for more, and the more you have, the harder it is to care about hurting people, or yourself, to get it.

*

"The less humanity you have, the less conscience you have about missing it." Illyana says with a nod. She knows the path she's walking. Knows that she's probably doomed, too. People really don't realize what a service they're doing to the world in letting her amuse herself with them so she can keep that darkness at bay.

Illyana lets herself scoot down further so she's mostly lying on the couch and lets her eyes slit half-shut. She might not end up watching much of the movie. "Yeah, she gets all crazy for cocoa puffs when you let the dog out."

*

Jer flicks the movie on with a nod and sets the volume to half so they can keep talking. He doesn't know the full details of the 'service' himself. What he does know is that she seems to need a friend and she doesn't - at least at the present - seem to mind him being around. He likes her, so it all works just fine so far as he's concerned. Well, until she gets bored at any rate. Until then this is… really quite nice.

"Yeah, or just pissed off in general. The wolf is never that far from the surface. You can read it in the way she acts even while human once you know what you're looking for. Part of how the magic works, I think."

Jericho leans back, switching his attention to Illyana's other foot, lest one become relaxed and the other kick him. A lot. "You seem to do alright, though, in the humanity department. I know it can't be easy but I've seen folks do a lot worse with a lot less of a reason to do worse."

*

"I have my very own 'WWJD' kinda mantra when I do something serious. I think about my big brother, and what he'd do if he were in the situation, and try to hold myself to that, as much as I can." Illyana's manner is oddly serious for a change. "And I gues… I'm more aware that I've lost something. And what losing it means. Hell is this esoteric thing that a lot of people claim they're afraid of but really, they don't believe it's real. But I know it. I've seen it."

*

The soldier nods, quiet for a long moment himself. He's seen as well, and held pieces of her soul briefly. It was really, really sobering. "Well your brother must be some guy, if that's your standard for behavior." And really, he's never seen her do anything heinous.

"Still wish there was something that could be done for that. Y'know I'd have your back in that one if there were." Jericho shakes his head and shoots Illy a wry smile. "But y'know what they say. If wishes were horses…"

*

"Beggars would ride." Illyana finishes the quote, smirking at him. "And yeah. My brother's pretty awesome." She says with a small smile and a lightnes to her eyes that he may have glimpsed before. And it was probably when talking about her brother. There's a certain hero worship going on there for her knight in shining armor. Hey, at least she *has* a hero.

*

Most people would say having demons rip a person apart is pretty damned heinous. But Jericho's got a little different standard than most people. "I think… that's why I'm not like Partisan. I don't just go for the kill and do things 'efficiently'. Because it's too easy to fall down that hole."

*

"Partisan has…" Jericho pauses, thinking about how to summarize his assessment of his friend. "Accepted the loss of her humanity and the person she used to be. There's a kind of freedom in that, I suppose, but it makes her quite literally inhuman. Not… evil, I'd say, but alien. Most people don't get along with her because they can't understand where she's coming from. Or don't want to because the implications of that viewpoint frighten or anger them."

Okay, he has to know if Illyana's ticklish. There's a brief attempt at it before he resumes just massaging her foot. Not long enough to do more than get a reaction… like a kick. If he does get one, though, it'll be while wearing a slightly impish grin.

"In your case, Illyana… yeah, I can see how that could be a trap, acting the way she acts. For what it's worth I think you're doing the right thing, trying to hold on to what you have left. To be honest with you, I admire that, and if your brother is the kind of man that he seems to be by talking to you, I'm sure he's really proud of you."

*

"And Partisan's loss of humanity is…" Illyana frowns a bit, looking thoughtful. "Minor. It dooms her. If there's even really a 'her' left to doom. It almost seems like she's more the remnant of whoever she was originally. The soul's moved on and some force of nature has coopted her memories and thinks it's her."

Illyana's foot jerks back as he tickles her and glaring at him she does indeed kick him. Not terribly hard. Her other foot pulls back enough to try to wriggle her toes against his side though, to see if he is ticklish.

*

He is, if the way he snerks and squirms is any indication. "Heh. Parti-Girl is… yeah… she told me she's either the wolf nor the girl but some… odd amalgam of the two. Almost like something new was born from that magic." Jericho has really odd friends. "She's oddly consistent for all that, though perhaps I think that because I've only ever known her one way."

Jeri shifts a bit more to get away from her foot (he doesn't really have the room to, so it's not like it helps) shoots her a grin as he tries to hold in a subdued giggle fit. "You never did tell me a whole lot about your brother, other than his name and that he saved you from a combine…"

*

That Jericho is ticklish seems to be facinating to Illyana, as her toes chase him into that corner of the couch. He's really going to regret opening that can of worms, just watch.

She finally relents as he comments on her brother and there's a sad smile. "Twice, he's saved me. Once when I was a child in that field. Then again when some maniac criminal kidnapped me to try to blackmail him. But he couldn't pull the hat trick." The smile fades. "The third time, I was the one that got myself out. I… don't know that he's ever forgiven himself for not saving me. Because even though I escaped…"

She just lets it trail off. She came back a monster. He couldn't save her from that fate.

*

"Must have been hard for the both of you. I probably wouldn't forgive myself if something happened to my adopted little sister that I couldn't get her out of. And I've only known her a few months." There's a short pause as a thought occurs to him. "Y'don't have to answer this, of course, but is that why he's distant? Guilt?"

Could be a million reasons why Illyana's brother isn't more active in her life, but that seems like it could be a big one, especially if the guy loves his little sister all that much. And it sure as hell sounds like he did.

*

"Duty." Illyana answers instead. "My brother believes that his abilities should be used in the service of all mankind, and unfortunately of late that means being away a lot." Her tone is tinged with a quiet sort of sadness. "He'd deny that he's guilty, just tell me that he loves me, and he's proud of me for what I've done." She turns her head then, to look at the television. Her jaw flexes just a bit in silence.

*

Which isn't the same thing, Jericho notes to himself, as it not being true. "Do you believe those last two, at any rate?" He asks in a subdued tone after several long moments. Now probably isn't the time to prod at the guilt thing. It doesn't, honestly, matter at the moment anyway, though it's a shame. It's just a private observation but he'd bet anything that Illyana could use her hero right now. Probably not the best time to prod that either. Prodding things is dangerous. As he just discovered.

*

It's a hot minute before Illyana answers. Be it because she's thinking of what to say, or doesn't want to answer or, just maybe, because she's got emotions she doesn't usually have to deal with choking her and she has to work not to let them show. Letting them show is a weakness.

"Yeah. I know he loves me. I believe it. And… I think he *was* proud of me. Before he realized the reset of it." Before he found out just how broken she was. "When I was just the hero of my story, beating the bad guy." Instead of becoming the bad guy.

*

The television talks at them, and Jericho is looking at it - rather than making Illyana deal with him looking at her - though he's not honestly paying much attention.

"Maybe he should read some other stories." He finally says quietly - quietly enough in fact that it might be hard to hear him if there were any more noise in the room.

"Not all evils can be shot or punched or sworded. Not every problem can be thrown in a prison. The hardest ones always come from within." His head cants slightly, half turning so he can look at her out of the corner of his eyes. "But that's where you get the best heroes from. I think, anyway."

*

Illyana's smile in return is a bit wan. "I see what you're doing." She says, as though chastising him. "And I at least claim to be a hero. Which is one of the reasons I told Partisan I don't agree with her methods. My brother loves me, despite what I am. Despite us losing all that time. And that's what makes him my hero."

*

"I have no idea what you're talking about." Illyana probably won't believe that for a second… and she's not really supposed to. If she was Jericho wouldn't be staring right at the TV with a small grin on his face.

"I was talking about stories."

His mood turns a bit more serious and he glances back at her. "But I'm glad to hear that."

*

Illyana finally pulls her feet away, pushing herself up so she's not mostly lying on the couch as she leans forward for her drink, taking a few slow swallows. "What about you? Siblings?" Seemed like a good time to change the subject.

*

"Two, both years younger. Brother and sister." The change of topic puts a pensive look on the hacker's face. "Not seen either of them in a couple years. I couldn't risk any contact Alex or Akila or really any of my family after all this started. So far as they know I went off the reservation, killed a bunch of people and led the authorities on a manhunt from Utah to Chicago…" Jericho rubs the back of his neck, shaking his head a little. "The official line is that the last time anyone saw me was in a shootout with the National Guard while I was trying to sabotage a nuclear plant not far from the city. I'm not exactly welcome to show up at reunions. For all they know, I'm probably dead. It's… safer for them that way, sadly."

He takes another swallow of vodka and swirls it around in his cup. "Then there's Nancy. She seems to have adopted me as an older brother. I have nickname and everything." He says with a wry laugh. "Thing is, I'm probably closer to her now than my actual family what with all that's gone on."
"
"It's kind of like aging, hmm? Not the years but the mileage." Illyana says, glancing over at him before swallowing down the rest of the vodka in her glass and setting that aside with a firm *clink*.

"So where's your first aid kit? Kitchen? Or bathroom?" Illyana asks, standing up and heading towards the first. Obviously, if he doesn't answer she'll just look. Because y'know, he said mi casa es su casa.

*

"Yeah, the running takes a toll. I feel like I've aged a decade in the last year, some days."

Jericho's eyes follow Illyana as she gets up. he doesn't move to stop her because - he may be a little nuts - he actually meant it when he told her to treat his place as hers. "One in each, but the Combat Lifesaver Bag's in the kitchen there, under the sink. Big green bag with a red cross. Can't mis it." The abrupt change in topic has a curious little frown adorning his face.

*

There's the faint sound of rummaging around as Illyana does indeed find the green bag, making a grumbly sound as she hefts it up to bring it back to the living area. She puts it down on the coffee table with a *thump* and then gestures to his torso. "Time for me to get you out of your shirt again." She says, smirking at him.

*

The smirks and comment are greeted with an amused little laugh as Jericho peels his shirt off and gets up so Illyana can get to his back, since he presumes the scratches are what she's after.

"Fair enough. They're not, you know, poisoned or anything, are they?" He glances down his back, indicated said scratches.

The traces now visible can be seen glowing a dull, sullen red after a rather extended period of contact with Illy. Indeed they look rather like someone took mostly spent charcoal and used it to paint under his skin.

*

"Eeeeeh." Illyana says rather evasively. "Not venomous but… Let's just say you don't want to know where they've been." She finishes, digging through the bag to find some peroxide to see about cleaning out the wounds. Sure, they're not too big, but cat bites can kill sometimes. So.

The Russian chuckles, tracing a finger along one of the glowing traces. "So are you just happy to see me?" She teases his physical reaction. "How'd it feel, by the way. Not hiding them at the concert?"

*

"It was nice, actually… I don't know I mentioned that the night of but… I liked it. It's been a long time since I've been able to walk openly anywhere. I only where shirts like that…" Jericho indicates his 'personalized' shirt with a nod of his head. "… around the house. If I wear short sleeves when I go out it has to be with a jacket or a hoodie or something that I then basically can't take off unless I'm somewhere that I can pass the markings off as tattoos… which is always risky even when it's expected. Most often I just wear long sleeves. It gets to be a habit but it's sort of one of those constant reminders of how things are for me. Losing it even just for an evening was really, really relaxing."

"And when am I ever not happy to see you?" He adds with a teasing tone.

*

Illyana chuckles at that, a low, soft sound that's different from her usual amusement. "I figured you might enjoy it. I know I did. I think Nancy enjoyed it more than she's willing to admit."

First aid is one of those skills they teach at Xaviers. Because y'know. X-Men. Someone's always getting hurt. She works from the top of his spine downwards. Some are up to inch-long tears, others more punctures. None of them so deep he needs anything more than them getting cleaned out. She makes a soft hmmm sort of sound as she gets to the last set on his lower back, a fingertip tracing between two parallel lines that curve under his waistband.

"You know, I'm starting to wonder if you do this on purpose."

*

The peroxide fizzes and bubbles as it generally does when cleaning things out. "I think she covered it pretty well with the phrase 'best birthday ever.' You know she considers you one of her best friends right? I'm sure she enjoyed it quite a bit more than she'd ever admit in public." In private? Over texts? That's another matter.

"Hrm?" He looks over his shoulder at Illyana again. He's getting a lot of practice doing that.

"Get hurt you mean? Or play piano for denizens of another dimension?" Now his tone is slightly teasing and slightly… well one could almost call it affectionate. "Either way I can think of sillier things people have done for attention. I like to think I'm a bit more clever than that… then again you've seen what I do for a 'living' so…"

*

"I didn't actually know it was her birthday." Illyana notes. "And I had the luck to be able to give her something she wanted. That shouldn't be anything to get me BFF status." If anything she seems… perhaps a little uncomfortable at the thought she'd rank that high with anyone.

His playing obtuse gets him smacked on the shoulder before her hand smooth’s down over his back. Over those cleaned cuts, despite their angry, ragged edges. "Yes. You getting hurt." She says in a soft murmur that tries to be grumpy. Her hand pauses part way down, where the longest cut is, forefinger sliding over the weeping length of it. Illyana's ministrations have gotten them bleeding just a bit again.

*

"Like me, Nancy doesn't make friends easily or often, I think. I'm fairly sure you had 'one of her best friends' before all that, if it's any comfort to you. And her birthday Friday, she just figured you'd gotten her something early." A faintly amused smile plays over Jericho's face at the knowledge she that she didn't know. Honestly the fact that she didn't kind of makes it nicer, but he's not going to tease her with that.

Jericho just watches Illyana for a moment and, if she looks, she may notice perhaps a bit more amber in his eyes than there used to be. "I do try to avoid that kind of thing." He finally says, quiet again. "I'm just a bit more mortal than most of the company I keep, it seems. Pain's been sort of de rigeur for me for a while." His brows knit when Illyana's finger comes away slightly wet with this blood. He's gotten his blood on a lot of things over the past fourteen months. Not quite sure why seeing it on her finger strikes him as odd.

*

Illyana has gone still and quiet behind him, the blue of her eyes sliding to deep cobalt as shadows slip and play behind him while she sits there. Staring at her fingers painted in his blood. Her eyes close, and she draws a slow, deep breath. He might recognize the breathing techniques used in meditation. He might not notice the very fine tremble to her hand. He definitely can't hear the riot of voices in her head as the different parts of her nature vie for her attention.

*

It's the stillness more than anything that gets his attention. She will go quiet at times. He's watched a few movies with her, so he knows that. But still? Not quite like this. It's a predator/prey type of stillness. The kind you adopt when movement might change an entire situation for better or for worse and you have to be careful what you do next. Soldiers do it all the time.

Very slowly Jericho turns back so that he's facing her. He looks concerned, but mostly because he knows something's happening and he's not quite sure how to help… well, beyond…

One hand comes up and rests on her shoulder. "Hey…" He says barely loud enough to be heard.

*

Illyana's fingers slowly curl inwards, the red-tipped fingers disappearing from view. Her nostrils flare a bit as the strong scent of it diminishes. And then more as Jericho turns around.

At his touch and voice, her eyes come open in a quick motion but there's no sense of panic. She moistens lips gone dry and exhales a slow breath. "I'm OK." She says, her voice soft and low.

*

It's half a smile, really, but close to as honest a smile as Illyana has ever seen Jericho use. "Okay." He says in the same tone of voice, rubs her shoulder a bit and lets his hand drop. He doesn't press for information, doesn't ask what happened or if she's sure she's okay, though his expression is… well less one that says 'I'm worried' and more one that says 'I'm here.' After a moment's silence Jericho sits back down beside her.

*

Illyana's head lifts, looking forward and nowhere at the same time. Her hand with his blood on the fingertips stays balled up in a fist, keeping them hidden from her senses. "I shouldn't be here." She finally says, soft enough that maybe it wasn't meant to be heard by anyone but herself.

*

"I really don't mind, Illyana." Jericho debated for a moment letting it pass but… she should know. He's told her often enough, but something seems to have rattled her a bit though he couldn't say what.

"I do honestly enjoy your company." He pauses to finish off the last bit of vodka in his tumbler. "And I meant what I said about considering these places yours." Another short pause, this time while he takes in a breath and lets it out slowly. "I don't want you to be uncomfortable, though. Especially on my account."

*

Illyana shakes her head mutely. "It's not about you minding, though I think that you'd start to mind real quick." The laugh that comes on the heels of that is rough. Dark. And not at all funny.

"Don't you get it, Jericho? I'll hurt you."

*

Jericho's answering smile is… rather wry, but he fixes Illyana with an honest, serious, if… slightly mischievous look. "Do I look put off to you, Illyana?"

He rolls his shoulder in a half shrug. "I haven't made a friend in the last two months who hasn't put me in some manner of danger. Even Nancy. I get shot at for her a lot and I love her to bits."

The hacker lets out a short chuckle. "If hurting me is what you're worried about, don't be, okay? I'm more than willing to endure your version of getting me shot it. It's fine, Illyana, really."

*

Illyana turns her head so she can look over at him, expression a bit pained. "I don't mean like you're going to be in danger from people and you need to defend yourself, Jericho. I want to hurt you. Me holding you down so I can try to get you to scream until you're hoarse is not the same!" She stands up there, her movements a bit jerky as she goes over to pick up the bottle of vodka to pour herself another glass.

*

"I heard you the first time." A laugh rolls up from the hacker. He reaches for the bottle hen she sets it back down to pour himself some.

"You mentioned this before, remember? When we were talking about me being a magical battery. You said you might hurt me, and you might even mean to do it. Do you remember what my answer was then?"

He'd said 'I'll take my chances.' "That answer hasn't changed." Jericho lifts his tumbler to Illyana and then takes a drink.

*

Illyana takes a healthy swallow while still managing to glare him down at the same time. Her jaw is tight as she pulls the glass down, mouth pressed into a thin line. Especially that he could laugh in the face of it all. At least that definitely shakes her free from that growing desire to add more marks to Jericho's back. Marks that she put there and not some minor demon.

Illyana finally draws a deep breath and lets it out in a rush. She points to him with the hand holding the glass. "You're nuts. You know this, right?"

*

Illyana has probably never seen one of Jericho's signature mild looks. But she's getting one now. They often me something sarcastic or express irritation. In this case it's simply a mild look. "I've always kind of suspected." His tone is gently teasing as he swirls the vodka around in his glass. "Guess that cinches it, mmm?"

*

Illyana dips her head with another sigh, and finally steps forward to put her glass back down with careful, precise actions. A moment's hesitation and then she steps over closer to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. Her touch is light. almost like she's afraid of something.

"I'm gonna go get my head together." She starts to say something, maybe like 'see you later', and then stops herself. "Don't forget to clean up your ear."

*

Jericho returns the gesture, pats her shoulder. "Don't be a stranger." Then he steps back so Illy can depart, after which… he goes to clean his ear.


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