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A New Day
#21
Tony watched as Jaxen struggled to seize the power. It took a while to do, but the speed and determination of the man impressed him.

As his fists clench, Tony felt the spark of power trickle through the man. It was just that, a trickle, but he had done it well.

Jaxen's shirt was covered in sweat, and Tony remembered just how beat up the guy was. With a careful touch, he cut Jaxen off from the power and he slumped in exhaustion.

With his connection severed, Tony released the weave and the connection was restored. It had been one of the first things he and his comrades had learned. They had tested the connection to see what limits it possessed.

Michael sat watching, he hadn't moved, but he looked impressed, although it was hard to tell. The man's face was a cage of steel, he was still shaken from whatever had happened to him earlier, Tony would bet on it.

"That's enough for today,"
Tony adressed Jaxen, who looked like he was about to throw up and pass out in his own vomit. "You are safe from the Sickness. It has passed."
Such a simple thing could prevent death. It was like eating an orange to prevent scurvy. "Unfortunately, the danger isn't gone. It's never gone. It will get easier in time, but the struggle will always remain. There's also the danger of fucking something up and killing yourself - but that's something for later. For now, get some more food and sleep, you look like shit - an impressive shit to have endured so much, but you can't last much longer or you will kill yourself."


Michael spoke, which was a surprise. "That was all it took. Stay or leave, it's your choice. You can use my bed to sleep if you stay - I will be out overnight, I don't need it. Tony will show you how to actually use the power later."


With that the man rose and left, turning back at the door to speak to Tony. "If those hunters come back, try to keep one alive."
A dangerous light shone in his eyes mixed with revulsion that made Tony uneasy. He nodded to Jaxen. "Don't let them find out he can use the power."


With that, Michael left.

Tony turned back to the exhausted Jaxen. "You want another drink?"
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#22
Sweat glued his shirt to every angle of his chest. Half moons dug four white lines into his palms. His hands were quivering with fatigue.

Then suddenly the floor dropped out from under him. His face, already white, paled with immense worry. For a brief moment, Jaxen was gaunt and aged, sick with fury to have discovered something so obscene one moment and have it ripped away the next. He was grappling, clawing at whatever was there, on the cusp of pounding his fists bloody against the trap. But in a flash, the barrier overhead disappeared, and he surfaced, a drowning man gasping for glorious air. That he was flooded with relief of the power's return was an understatement.

"That's enough for now."


He opened his eyes slowly. His gaze directed dead at Tony, daring him to tell him what to do. He held the Power for a second longer. The final burst of will over it lidded the storm he commanded to a dull simmer. Then the sprint of dominion passed and Jaxen's deathhold loosened. The power left him, but for that final push of exertion, he was stronger for it.

He slumped, panting. Himself once more. Head thrown back with exhaustion, he stared at the ceiling while the two men continued their explanations, but his mind was barely tuned to their words. The important part sunk in, though. He wasn't going to die. That, and, he really was kind of an impressive bastard, wasn't he? Jax almost grinned at the thought.

Michael left amid cryptic instructions. The sort of keywords that scratched at the back of Jaxen's mind hovered on the air, and he thought about the strange building on Nikolskaya street, the vultures that followed him after, and the guy whose throat was ripped out by Sicko. But until Jaxen was clearer on a few details, and had a nap, he'd bring it up later.

Finally, Tony started talking some sense. "Another drink. Hell yes."
Tony tossed him a bottle and Jax drank straight from it. Screw the limes and ice. Though that little floating through the air trick would have been handy right then.

He eventually fell asleep sitting up right there on the couch, empty bottle wedged between his leg and a cushion. When he woke, it was the middle of the night. Or maybe the middle of the next night. More cereal bowls were stacked on the floor beside the couch, evidence of 'meals' Jaxen barely recalled shoveling down. His back ached of being beaten by bricks; shitty couch springs.

He sat up and stumbled to a bathroom to take a leak. Half way there, he realized he was only wearing a pair of briefs--Gucci at that. That gave him a moment's pause. He definitely didn't remember stripping down any time in the last thirty-six hours, but it did seem like the kind of thing he'd do.

He shrugged and slammed the door behind him, swearing to himself that there better be some coffee around this shithole.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
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#23
Another day of work over. They had requested he stay overnight, although why they needed him to be there was lost on him.

As good as he was with tactics and strategy, if a war broke out in the middle of the night, he wouldn't be able to do much about it. They would just press their shiny red buttons and blow the world to pieces. Michael hated it and the parody that they called 'war' in the modern world. True warfare had began to die when gunpowder was discovered. From then on it had been a steep slope of chaos and mindless slaughter.

As he approached the house, his mind turned back to the events of the past few days. Emotions tumbled through his head, frustration, anger, pain and sorrow. It seemed like an eternity since he had been able to relax and enjoy living.

When he entered, he was struck with surprise. The couch and floor had been cleaned and the kitchen was spotless. Surely this wasn't Jaxen's doing. He didn't seem housewife material, but he couldn't imagine Tony doing any of it either. He would have thought they had been robbed aside from the fact the TV and anything remotely valuable was left undisturbed.

He received an even greater shock when Tony came down the stairs. The man had showered and trimmed his beard into a semblance of tidiness.

"Welcome back, Michael."
His voice was stronger today, not addled by alcohol and the bitterness was well disguised. He was attempting to get back on his feet, but he still had a way to go yet.

"Where's Jaxen?"
he asked, accepting Tony's change of heart. He had thought that yesterdays events might trigger something in him - although he had not set out with the intent when he rescued Jaxen.

Tony shook his head with a smile. "Our venerable guest has decided to leave us. Bastard didn't even leave any vodka, although I don't feel much like drinking now."


Michael nodded. He thought as much. As soon as he knew he was not going to die, he needed no more help. It was admirable, the man was fiercely independent, but also very dangerous without having learned the basics.

It reminded him of himself when he had first arrived in Moscow, but by that time he had learned that he must endure humiliation and orders to become strong. Pride was a small price to pay when it brought him the power to defend himself and rise above his enemies.

The thought was strange, even as he was thinking it. How many enemies did he really have? The hunters, sure, but he knew little about them, they could be justified in their pursuit for all he knew.

"Did he say anything?"
Michael asked.

Tony shook his head. "Slipped away like a thief in the night. I thought it might happen, so I left him a little note, but I'm not sure if he read it."


Thief in the night? Really? The man enjoyed the sound of his voice far too much.

"We have done all we can. If he dies, it is his own fault. But I don't think he will. Whatever else can be said about him, he has a knack for self-preservation."


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