American Dream

Summary:
August 07 2014: Jericho awakens from a nightmare and finds that he's not alone.

Unit 24F, Riverbank West

A comfortable apartment with a view of the Hudson in Hell's Kitchen


Characters

NPCs

  • K'nert

Mood Music:
[*None]


I am an American Soldier

Jericho hits the dirt behind a low berm as bullets and other ordinance skips and whines around him. His traces are glowing bright orange and yellow. His eyes are a swirl of colors as he takes in thermal and infrared light from beyond it. His radio is going absolutely crazy.

I am a warrior and member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army values.

Rising, Jeri levels the digital weapon in his hands. Glowing digital armor protects him from small arms fire. So long as no one brings down some ordinace he'll be okay. The weapon is short barreled, massive bored and weighs nothing because it's made of light. He fires on the dozen odd men firing on him. "This is Trent, where's the LT?" No one's seen him since this op went to hell.

"Goodlet went to find him, Staff. He's in your grid now." Comes the reply.

I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit.

Jericho advances at a walk. He can see Goodlet's traces now, his armor stark against his multicam uniform. Tracer fire from crew served weapons begins to lance out, the enemy's desperation growing reinforcements pour in to halt the assault of the dozen digitally armed soldiers tearing apart their compound while looking for their nominal CO. An alarm blares in his ears and on his HUD. Incoming ordinance detected. Mortars. Jeri throws himself out of the way of the inbound round, hitting the dirt again. When he looks up he sees a pair of enemy fighters setting up an anti tank missle… and aiming it at Goodlet. Jeri rises desperately, screaming a warning into his radio. Goodlet's already taken a lot of hits looking for the LT. His fields are down to 30. He'll never survive the hit. Jericho's weapon swings up. He's not going to make it in time.

The enemy fires.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

Jericho's eyes open with a snap and he sits bolt upright with a scream, soaked in sweat, panting and wild eyed.

*

The door to Jericho's room opens fast enough that it bounces off the wall a bit as Illyana comes in almost before Jericho's scream starts to die away. One hand rises in a fist, blue-tinted light radiating around it as it's limned in ghostly fire as she gives the room a brief sweep though her steps don't pause. Seeing nothing that would have woken him in the room, she turns her attention to the panting Jericho. "You're home. You're safe."

Illyana comes and goes perhaps more than Jericho knows. He has more than just the one safe house, after all but Illyana only tends to drop by this one. He can probably notice the signs that she's been there. Vodka missing, things moved. She's dressed in loose cotton pants and oversized T-shirt with bare feet. Pajamas. She doesn't touch him yet, or crowd his space. She certainly doesn't say he's fine.

*

Jeri does tend to notice those signs. At times that aren't now. At the moment he's not noticing much of anything. He's just sitting up in bed, panting like he'd just run a marathon, gripping the sheets tightly. He's not here. Not for a long minute or two. He's seeing somewhere and somewhen else.

Illyana's voice does seem to break through the nightmarish haze clinging to him though, and he blinks and looks around. "I… Illyana?" Jeri's voice is thick and rough for a moment. Then he clears his throat, taking her in, putting together: He's in his room, in what he has of a home. Illyana's here… in PJ's. Must have come in after he'd gone to bed.

"Ugh…" Jeri tosses off the sweat soaked covers and turns so as to sit on the edge of the bed. "You're here." It seems self evident but…

*

Illyana doesn't try anything more, just standing near him without touching. She doesn't talk to him, though that might have helped him come back quicker if she kept it up but talking just to hear your head rattle isn't really Illyana's style. So she waits.

"Yeah. We're in your place in Hell's Kitchen." In case he forgot, or he's confused. She drops her hand, the pale light flickering and then going out, leaving just the light that spills through the doorway behind her. When he turns, putting his feet on the floor she steps closer, between the set of his feet as she places a hand on his shoulder. "You back with me?" She asks in a murmur.

*

Jericho has to close his eyes and will away the last of the images and the ghostly echoes of the gunfire and screams. As he does his hand comes up and rests on her arm, just as a touchstone, a way to keep himself grounded. He takes a deep breath and opens his eyes. "Yeah… yeah I'm here. Thanks."

The hacker looks up and manages the ghost of a wry smile. "Got in late?"

*

"Late, early, the only difference is where the sun is." Illyana says, the mocking that normally underlies her commentary fairly mild. He can feel her thumb sweep along his collarbone from where her hand rests on his shoulder. "You want some tea?" She doesn't ask what the dream was about, or if it was a bad one or anything at all about what woke him. "I'm not sure what kind you have, but I have a friend with a great kitchen I can raid."

*

"Tea's good." The hand on Jeri's collar seems to comfort him. The tension goes out of him. Well, some of it. In any case he rises to his feet, sliding his hand from her elbow to her shoulder as he does and patting once gratefully before letting it drop to his side.

"Did I wake you?" And comes to that, where's K'ne-. The creep of shadows and sight of red slitted eyes flicker at the edge of his vision, headed down the hallway. Ah. There he is.

*

You know, the knowledge of a demon's presence usually unsettles people. It doesn't calm them down and serve to remind them that all is right, or as right as it gets, with their world.

When he starts to rise, she takes a step back and lets her hand drop back to her side. He still gets a long, considering look that drops to his feet and slides back up. She's assuming if his traces were freaking out they'd light him up like a Christmas tree.

"No, I wasn't going to sleep." She just wanted something comfy to wear. Is that… one of the shirts out of his closet?

She heads out of his room, giving him the opportunity to pull himself together or go to the bathroom while she goes to heat up water. And find his tea.

*

His tea, as it turns out, tends toward blacks and greens, though he has a couple of whites. Some of it is store bought, some of it is sourced off the internet. Some of it is very good tea. There's a the flicker of a light in the bathroom adjoining Jericho's room and the mostly unused room next to it, and the sound of running water as Jeri washes some of the sweat and ick off him. A minute or so later he comes padding into the dining area and leans on the little bar-area separating it from the kitchen as he watches Illyana. The amber bands in his eyes are wider. Not by a large margin, of course, but enough to be noticeable. That… is one of his shirts, isn't it.

*

Well. He said the place was hers too. Apparently to her that means everything in it too. Illyana's picked out a rooibos and as Jericho comes out she's pouring the hot water over it in a pair of mugs. It didn't take her long to find either, because when she's bored she roots through his things.

Illyana flicks her gaze up through the fall of blonde hair. "How often?" She asks without any sort of preamble.

*

"Between once a week and a couple times a month," Jericho says quietly, accepting the mug and taking a sip. Mmmmm. That's soothing. He doesn't question anymore how Illyana knows where everything is anymore partly because as previously mentioned, she doesn't always put things back in the same place and partly because he wants her to feel at home here.

"More often if I've been through something stressful recently… or if my mind is being particularly spiteful." He went through two weeks a while back where he had one every night for no particularly evident reason.

*

"Somehow I don't think my solution would work as well for you." Illyana adds a little milk and honey to hers and then leans on her elbows on the island counter as she watches him. She nods at the bit about stress. And it's not like he lives a low-stress life, what with getting shot at on a regular basis.

*

"Not sleeping?" Jericho smiles a little. "Or do you have another trick?" Jericho can function on not a whole lot of sleep for a rather surprising amount of time. It's one of those things one learns how to do in Special Forces. However he does need it. Regular is better though sometimes that's not an option. In a way, though he's lucky. At least he sometimes has nights of trouble free sleep. Illyana, from what little he's been able to see, simply never does. At least, not while she's ever been in their place. Perhaps it's better when she sleeps elsewhere.

Jericho leans forward on the island, slightly offset from Illyana but fairly close otherwise. It's really a good thing she's here. He might be slipping into flashbacks and waking dreams were she not.

*

Illyana doesn't seem to care for overly lit spaces. Maybe it's that lack of a sun in Limbo, but she has a few table lamps on and a dim light on in the kitchen, and that's it. It fills the room with shadows. And quiet. "That's pretty much it. Though it takes a few 'tricks' to manage that." And it isn't 'no' sleep, just… markedly less.

*

"Right…" He remembers when she fell asleep at his place. Vaguely. She did something shortly thereafter that… sort of blanked him out. Oh he remembers her waking up from the nightmare, sure enough. But the subsequent application of white magic was very, very intense.

Shaking himself from the thoughts Jericho walks around to the kitchen side of the island and leans next to Illyana just close enough to brush her arm as he sips his tea. Ordinarily maybe he might not be quite so forward but he's shaken and could really use the reassurance of contact at the moment.

After looking out from the kitchen, over the deck and across the river for a few minutes he finally speaks again. "How have you been?"

*

Illyana doesn't have any problem with Jericho coming over closer. In fact, as his arm brushes hers she checks him lightly with a hip. "C'mon. Let's go over to the couch. My feet are getting cold." Of course they're not, but Jericho probably doesn't know she doesn't feel the cold yet. He hasn't been around her in winter. She bumps him lightly again, herding him over to the couch and after he sits down she crowds in close to him, tucking her feet up under her and leaning on him. Did he want more room? Oh well.

The question gets a hitch of her shoulder in a half-shrug. "Alright. It's late here, so I figured I'd just bum around until things opened or I was starting to get in your hair."

*

"When have you ever been in my hair?" Jericho chuckles. His arm goes around Illyana both for comfort and now out of habit. To be honest this is nice. He likes it. Also right now it's really comforting.

"Honestly. Your place, right? You can't be in my hair in your own place." Well, his place too, but that's not the note he's hitting right now.

More tea disappears. Mmmm. Roobios. He's calming a bit now, conversation, tea and company keeping his demons at bay as they slowly fade. K'nert crawls out onto the island back in the kitchen, lays down and watches.

*

That's one demon that doesn't quite stay at bay, but that's OK.

Illyana leans into Jericho like he's furniture, shifting a bit to find the most comfortable angle between the side of his body and beneath his arm. Both her hands are curled around her own mug of tea, sipping at it in quiet companionship. "Mmmm. I suppose." Territoriality is big with demons, and she's still human enough she hasn't let that mark she put on him go to her head. Entirely.

*

"Well then. There you have it." Jeri doesn't particularly feel the need to say much else on the matter. He'll remind her again, he's sure, but Illyana doesn't need to hear him prattle on about how welcome she is. Either she knows, or she doesn't. There's something that nags at him though, just a little. A vague sense of deja vu, or like there's a dream he had that he should be remembering. And not the one he'd rather not remember. Odd. Oh, and his traces are starting to glow by this point.

"Comfy?" He asks with a very slightly teasing smirk after Illyana has shifted around and settled in.

*

"Mmmm. Lumpy. I might need to punch you a few times to get the proper squishiness." Illyana says dryly, glancing up at him. The smirk says that yes, she's comfy, thankyouverymuch. "So there's never a dull moment in the life of Jericho. What derring do have you gotten into today?" She leans her head back so it rests against his shoulder as she looks up at him.

*

"Mmmm. Today? Some reading. Some gardening. Some sneaking into an illegal genetics lab in Gotham. That one went well. I didn't even get shot at." Two of the orderlies tried to stab him, but he didn't get shot at. And he managed to deal with them quietly. "They had some files and I wanted and it turns out they had some kidnapping victims as 'research volunteers.'"

Jericho shrugs. Not like it's nothing because frankly that could have gone badly. But he's more than a match for your average street thug with a knife under almost any circumstances. "So that was my morning and afternoon. You been up to anything sharable?" That's an invitation to not tell him if she doesn't want to think about it.

"Oh, and did K'nert give you my message about Manning and Hill? I can never tell with him."

*

Illyana's brows go up and she twists a bit so she can look over his arm towards K'nert. "Message? No.." Clearly, K'nert didn't feel that it was that important. It's a good thing the US postal service doesn't make judgment calls like that. "Manning…" Her eyes squint a bit, as she tries to recall the name. She's not always great with names and it was just the one meeting. "And… Hill?" Someone completely off her radar.

*

"Manning is from the bar. Hill is a SHIELD high ranking agent. My least favorite of the lot. Both of them want to meet with you. Paul wants, I think, to pick your brain. He's feeling a little bit thrown into the deep end." Jericho keeps his tone neutral. Paul's request he can at least understand and sympathize with. A bit.

"I haven't the slightest idea what Hill wants, to be honest."

Jericho had promised that he'd deliver the messages and he does so in a way as free of prejudice as he can manage. Given the timing of his relaying the messages, that'll just have to do. He's more comfortable than he was when he woke up by a fairly large margin, but he's still piecing the finer parts of his composure back together.

"I told him I'd relay the messages."

*

Illyana's brows go up a bit as she looks back up at him. "And you're a man of your word, hmm? I'm guessing that you're not keen on me meeting with Manning?" Because while the words aren't colored by any distaste he may have, that almost careful blankness he gives them with, not volunteering any thoughts, speaks volumes.

*

Jericho chuckles. "You know me too well." He really doesn't sound displeased by that though. "I'm not keen on you meeting with either of them if you want my honest thoughts. I don't know that I trust either of them and…" Oh boy. Jericho runs his free hand through his hair. "And you're important to me. A lot. Buuuuuuuuut…" He blows out a sigh.

"But it's not right for me to try to make that decision for you, so I was trying not to… color it."

*

Illyana chuckles and pats his thigh with one hand before leaning across his lap to put her cup on the table at the end of the couch before settling back against him. At least now her hands are free. "I appreciate that." She assures him. "But tell me why you don't want me to. Because you don't think I'd be safe? Because you don't trust their motives? Because you don't think they deserve whatever answers they're seeking?" She's honestly curious for his take on them. Because his opinions matter to her, where so very few people's do.

*

"Hill is easy. I quite flatly don't trust her and I don't know how much I trust her agency either. Even the best intentioned of their agents seem to be prone to doing things like strong arming people into helping them. They did it to me, in exchange for not ruining our chance to get Nancy's fellow victims out of their confinement. I don't trust that they wouldn't try to find some leverage on you and you don't deserve or need that with all you deal with. I'm not entirely confident that they wouldn't just decide you were a threat and try to imprison or kill you either." Jericho shakes his head. May is good people. Maybe even Steve. And the rest? He wishes he could say, but what he's seen isn't filling him with confidence. He's looking through Illyana's bangs to meet her eyes, still fairly relaxed against her as he talks.

"Manning's a bit more complicated a case. I think he's a decent man, or mostly one, but he's really, really narrow minded in a lot of things. And, if I'm honest, I'm not really over his general suspicion and maligning of me either. I think he'd do what he thought was the right thing with whatever information you gave him. I don't know that I trust his judgment of right or wrong. He's very… absolute about many things. And it's a less absolute world than most would like."

The hacker hopes he's making sense.

*

Well, she doesn't look terribly confused, and she's not usually shy about letting him know if something isn't making sense. She gives a slight nod. "I really should get back into the habit of wearing a costume." She says with a grimace. It's just very…. costume-y. At least she doesn't wear primary colors like some silly superheroes.

"So be careful about the meeting with Hill if I do it. And Manning… well, more information might help him." She doesn't sound sold on that though. She gives a sigh. "I probably should though. If someone made the effort to try to get in touch with me…"

*

Jericho has never seen her in a costume… if you don't count her rave outfit from when she took he and Nancy out to that concert in Poland. He gives her a slight raised eyebrow in question. She's mentioned, in passing, things that he needs to be vaguely aware of but aren't really his place to know. And he hasn't pressed. He's come to trust that she'll tell him if he needs to know.

"It might…" He doesn't sound sold on the idea himself. "At least he has Sara to keep him grounded. Mostly. Just watch your back. I trust your judgment a lot more than either of theirs, so if you think you should then you probably should. Don't hesitate to call me if you need me though."

To an extent he understands though. People don't usually get in touch with him unless they're out of options. And he doesn't turn them down lightly.

*

Illyana can't help herself. As he gives her that line she looks up at him and gives him her best big soft doe eyes, which are helped a bit by the dim lighting. "I don't know why, but every now and again in my life - for no reason at all - I need you." It might seem a bit odd. Out of place. Or perhaps just really out of character for her to say… except her mannerisms are more than a little over the top.

*

Jericho doesn't think about what he does next. Because if he had thought about it he'd likely have second guessed himself into not doing it. He tries, very hard, to be careful with Illyana. He wants her to be comfortable around him, at ease in a place he wants her to view as much hers as his. And he knows she's been very, very badly hurt. Many things she does only on her terms. But when she looks at him and says that, he leans forward and gently brushes his lips against her forehead before pulling back to look at her very earnestly.

"You can always come find me. No matter what I'm doing, no matter what's going on. You're important to me, and when you need me, I'll come."

*

Illyana had been teasing, quoting a movie at him with what she thought were enough theatrics to make that clear and so to get such a serious response back from him…

The light brush of lips against her forehead just gets a fairly dry chuckle. She certainly doesn't seem put off by his presumption. "It's like I have another brother." She teases him. Perhaps because of the chaste kiss, so similar to one Piotr might give her. Or the staunch loyalty which is also much like her brother. She gives him a slightly lopsided smile and nods her head. "I know, Jericho." Those words are softer, but serious. He's more than proven himself to her over the time they've known each other.

*

Slight deja vu again. What is it he's not remembering? It's kind of like he feels like he's dreamt about something like this before. Maybe it'll come to him later.

Now Illyana gets a grin and a wink, though his expression is still kind of soft. "I'm a decent brother, I think Nan would say. Though oddly you two are important to me in different ways."

He takes a deep breath and rolls a shoulder, ignoring K'nert's death glare. "I'm glad you know. Very glad."

*

"Everyone's important in different ways. That's what caring about someone is all about. Caring about them, not just something they have in common with someone else." Illyana says with an easy shrug. "Did you wanna put on a movie? Or you ready to try to get back to sleep?" Because it's way too early in the night for him to have gotten enough sleep. "I could make you a teddy-demon or something to keep you company? Or y'know, sit and read in your room while you sleep. But that might be kinda creepy for you."

*

"And it wouldn't be creepy for you?" Jericho lets out a little amused snort. "Let's put something in. I'm not sure how much sleep I'll honestly be getting tonight, but that's par for the course." Though, perhaps later. He doesn't often get back to bed on these nights, but tonight it may be possible. "For now though, movie. Got a preference?"

*

"Ffft. I'll be reading. How is it creepy for me?" Illyana asks with a chuckle. She shakes her head and then turns so she's lying along the couch. And using him for a pillow. Did he want more couch? Too bad. "Surprise me."


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