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Jensen's elbows dug painfully into the bartop, but he remained slouched over the drink he had yet to sample. It was a squat, small glass filled with clear liquid that burnt his nostrils every time he drew close enough to actually take a drink. Finally, with a cringe, he brought himself to wet his lips and swallow what had to be liquid fire in a cup. If rain falls in hell, it falls cheap vodka.

He pushed the glass away and stretched out enough to pull an early model iScreen from his jeans' pocket. He fiddled with it on the bar for a while, but soon enough was slouched back to the former position, hovering over a glass that waited long minutes between his touch.

The current time and temperature faded to the DFW clog home-screen. It was just after dawn and cool enough outside to walk around comfortably in his t-shirt and short jacket. This morning's trip to the bar coincided with his journey home after working the overnight shift; but he'd thought about coming here ever since meeting John at MSU. Though he'd never finished a single drink he'd ordered, he'd been here before--this bar was a few stops from the shipping yard that employed his meager forklift skills: one of a couple blue-collar abilities he picked up in the last four years. His father would fall off the porch swing if he knew his son was driving a forklift. So due to the rearrangement of his night and days, the bar was a ghost town at this time of morning. Too late for the all-nighters but too early for the daily drunks too. Which left only Jensen and the bartender, who shot him disappointed glares for every few minutes Jensen didn't drink their firewater. No matter how badly he wanted to chug it all.
Tony was fucking exhausted.

He had trudged around the Undercity, up to his neck in filth and bad memories. It was a wonder he had survived for so long in the wretched underbelly of Moscow. Stranger yet was the way he felt at home amongst the rejected and outcast of society.

Needless to say, his mood was decidedly sour. Without the power filling him, the gnawing void returned in force, and he felt once again the craving for vodka.

All of the bars around were dead, the owners preparing for another day of drunken misers or revellers. However, Tony spotted a quaint little place - he did not bother to even check the name - where a lone man sat hunched over a shot glass, the barman giving him a sour look.

Tony smiled and entered. He did not have any idea who the man was, or why he was in a bar at this fucking hour, but it suited his mood fine. Michael would have called him a fool, but Tony was only a man. "A shot of your best vodka," he called to the barman, wandering over to sit next to the sullen patron.

He looked miserable. His face lined by stress and marked with a brooding intensity. Perfect. "A long night, friend?"
he asked with weary sympathy, Tony felt he could relate to the struggle he saw in the man's eyes. "Our demons are strongest in the early hours, eh?"
The door creaked open, a male voice ordered and the clink of glassware responded. Jensen didn't glance up from the object sitting beneath his face that might as well occupy his entire world until the man sat alongside.

He twisted his neck aside to see who it was rather than sit up and acknowledge him like civilized men should, but there was little recognition behind such a flat ingestion. Funny thing was, the glaze had nothing to do with alcohol. He'd barely made a dent in sipping at the shot glass: the meager few ounces of liquid might as well be an ocean. He quickly deduced they were near to the same age, though the man's weariness was tempered with self-assured confidence. A bit of a contrast to Jensen's fatigue.

The bartender made quick work of supplying a shot. Identical to the one sitting mostly untouched beneath Jensen. The bottles along the wall glistened with shelf lighting, but they all looked the same to him. What made one ungodly expensive and another barely worth the bottle it came in? He had no clue, but at least the bartender had a worthy customer now. The place was hardly welcoming after forty-five minutes of one guy warming the seat.

While toying the glass between two fingers, he uncurled his posture enough to drape a hand through dark curls and lean back. These old wooden seats were not built for long occupancy.

"I work third shift," he replied with his usual accent, though all the gleam and passion once devoured by thousands was now dusty with irrelevance; just like the rest of him. Gosh, he missed it.

He broke the awkwardly long eye-contact with the newcomer and peered longingly into the glass instead. He still found it hard to believe he was so intimate with something he'd so sternly objected for his entire career. No, his entire life. He sighed. At least alcohol was a minor friend sitting in this sinking boat of hypocrisy.

It looked like water: quiet and benign. Yet it could rot a man from the inside-out, but liver rot was a minor consequence of such relationships. If he wanted to erode his own soul, Jensen was doing a fine enough job on his own without such merciless aid. Why sit here when there was vodka at home?

Some brand he'd pulled from the lowest shelf at the liquor store awaited alongside a shot glass smaller than this one. The sick thing was, Jensen knew exactly why he was here. He swallowed nervously at that thought, and when next he brought himself to physically look upon the stranger alongside, it made him a little sick to think about it.

And a little hopeful at the same time.

Great. His sentence in hell just got a little hotter. He squeezed his eyes shut and awkwardly looked away once more.

"Jensen," he added, but the introduction was not aimed to anyone in particular. At least he finally brought himself to take a second sip.

Edited by Jensen James, Sep 27 2013, 06:12 AM.
Tony downed the shot in one practised motion. The fire that burned his throat was a little dimmer than he remembered and the effect was not entirely pleasant. It left him with a bitter taste of disappointment laced with the comfort of the familiar. was no longer familiar, not as it had been. He understood why Michael did not drink for the first time. Compared to the fire and life of the power...


Jensen's dour American accent set him at ease. He had not asked for a name - most out at this time wanted to remain anonymous - but he felt obliged to return the sentiment. He doubted the American knew anything about the Soloyov family.

He was a strange man, this Jensen. He had the same dejected hopelessness in his eyes that Tony had so recently possessed, yet he did not drink, although it was obvious he wanted to drown himself and his sorrows in the potent liquid fire that was vodka.

"Staring at it won't help,"
he added as Jensen did just that. Perhaps this man reminded him of himself, and hit so close to home, but Tony had a desire to help him.

Looks like undermining the fucking CCD isn't enough to clear my conscience.

Tony had not been oblivious to the look that Jensen had given him, the awkward eye-contact. It had been so long that he didn't even mind that it was a man, although he certainly would have preferred a willing young woman.

The thought made him smile. Story of my fucking life.

"Drinking that shit is only going to make things worse when you wake up, friend. Or perhaps you don't want to wake up, eh?"
It wasn't really a question, just idle conversation. He ordered two more shots. "But if you insist on torturing yourself, let me show you how it's done."

He downed his second shot, but felt nothing. He grimaced at the waste, and irritation rose in the hollow of his gut aimed at Jensen. It was not entirely fair, but the wounds were too raw in Tony's mind for rationalization.

Let's see how much the man really hates himself.

He pressed the second shot glass towards the man, pushing away the cheap shit for the barman to take away. "Drink,
" he demanded, although his heart was not truly in it. "Drink and be done with it, man, or else go home. You don't belong in a place like this."

Edited by Tony Soloyov, Sep 27 2013, 07:46 AM.
Tony replaced one anonymous shot glass with another, and Jensen scratched at his temple skeptical at the swap. In the span of minutes, the man - an obvious local - tossed two down the gullet without so much as a grimace, while Jensen barely managed a sip.

He hesitantly pulled the new drink before him. The liquid was as harmlessly clear as the previous brand, but the glass serving it fit heavier in his palm. Besides expensive taste in liquor, everything from the cut of Tony's hair to his dominating posture at the bar spoke to a man of means. Jensen may be a child in Moscow, but he knew enough that means meant wealth. At least some things were consistent across the ages. The root of all evil, right?

He pressed the rounded edge of the glass to his lips. The scent itself stung his nostrils. This was bound to taste like burnt rubber, but before a drop touched his tongue, his eyes narrowed defiantly, and he gave into Tony's demand. He did belong in a place like this.

He threw the shot back in one gulp. There was more liquid than he'd actually anticipated, and had to swallow twice to get it all down. He grimaced. Painful tears quickly welled in the corner of his eyes. It ripped through his chest and he coughed for air like his throat were about to close off. If this was the 'good stuff,' he couldn't tell. It was all battery acid.

He ignored the bartender's shameful head shaking once his vision came back into focus, and instead turned back to Tony. That was the first and only shot of his life. Thus far. It was like conquering Everest, but his cheeks flushed warm and his head was already swimming.

He ran a hand through his hair, unsure whether the sensation crawling across his skin was normal or not. "Never finished one of those before," he admitted. "Then again, I didn't trying start until I was thirty." There was a silver-lining in that. "Maybe in another two years I'll finish the second," he chuckled.

Instantaneously warm, he shrugged out of the jacket he wore and slung it across the back of the chair. "You a shift worker too?"

Slightly more alive than before, or at least more awake, Jensen was careful not to hold Tony's gaze more than a few seconds at a time. Not after the man's previous reaction.
Watching Jensen choke down the shot was painful. He did not scorn the man like the barkeeper, Tony just sat in silence. It was surprising, he never thought that the man would actually cave in to his casual demands.

That look in his eye, just before he had started coughing up a lung... This poor bastard truly despised himself. For so long Tony had only had to look in the mirror to find such intense self-loathing.

Perhaps that's why he didn't simply get up and leave him to his miserable thoughts. Instead, he ordered another round for them both, even though the man was clearly uncomfortable.

"It will always taste like shit,"
he said as the barman poured another drink, gesturing at the clear liquid with his free hand. "Don't try and drink it, just pour it down your throat."
It didn't exactly make sense, but he wasn't in the mood for elaborating on drinking methods.

To make up for his shitty explanation, he lifted his own shot glass in a mock toast and demonstrated, the fire running down his throat little more effect than the fizz of icy beer. He could feel the warm buzz rising, but faded into nothingness compared to the drug that lurked at the back of his mind.

"My work demands...flexible hours,"
Tony spoke in answer to Jensen's question. It was hard to ignore the way the man avoided his gaze. What did he see that was so terrifying? Was he ashamed of his...impulses? Tony had no idea what people thought of sexuality these days, and he didn't really care. When he developed the mysterious powers that had seen his family destroyed, it was hard to summon up the hypocrisy to condemn a man for his preferences.

Tony repressed a weary sigh, he had no idea why he was a fool for hopeless causes. He passed Jensen the re-filled shot glass with a smile. "Another tip: never drink alone. I won't say it changes the taste, but it makes the hours pass faster."
Claire tucked her wallet away and slung her purse across her shoulders. It was a large, leathery bag voluminous enough to slide all her belongings, a water bottle, and her jacket in an out with ease.

First on the list today was an out of the way pub only a few blocks from the main metro line. She was making the rounds today to drop off applications and beg for a job.

Outside the establishment, she sighed at the less-than-kept exterior and decided extra cleavage was going to be helpful here. She had a bust wrapping tank-top on beneath a bright blue motorcycle jacket. She didn't ride a bike, but pickers couldn't be choosers when it came to great thrift store finds. This jacket had Sturgis written all over it, at least in appearance. It was edgy and fitted. With black thigh-highs and stilettos, her image was richer than she actually was. Claire was fantastic at those sorts of deceptions. With her hair and earrings, she more than made up for diminutive stature.

The interior of the bar crinkled up her nose at the scent. The very least dive bars could do was buy a fucking mop. And use it.

Two guys were sitting at the bar, but Claire scanned beyond them. She was here to see a manager, not buy a drink.
Jensen absorbed Tony's answer without much understanding. Flexible hours could mean a dozen things, no few of them illicit. If Tony were involved in questionable activities, Jensen did not want to know about them.

He shook his head and blinked, unsure of what to do. Tony called the bartender once more, and Jensen wondered if the man would find it easier to simply leave the bottle rather than stalk back and forth so many times. Is that number three??

Just when Jensen caught his breath, Tony shoved a second shot in front of him. He gaped at it. "Another one?"

So soon after the first, Jensen could hardly imagine putting himself through that kind of pain again. His lungs still burnt from before. He watched Tony in awe.

The glass was so small, and kind of pretty, actually. How could something wield so much power? Okay.. He steadied his nerves and drank in a devoted breath. ..don't think about it.

He swallowed a wince and threw back the second shot of his life. Pain tinged with the color of regret ripped once more and he curled over the bartop. He swallowed the sting of tears, licked his lips and shoved the empty glass away like his soul was longing for distance his head was not willing to provide.

"I think I'm getting better at this," he admitted with comfortable disinhibition. Like the veil between his head and heart was torn and he finally peered into the forbidden corners of his own thoughts for the first time.

He bowed his head and before he knew it, a third shot appeared before his face. He drank it back without so much as considering the consequences. He didn't care. This was the sweetest oblivion he'd ever felt. Minutes ticked by with Jensen staring straight ahead. For once his mind was blessedly empty of thought. Like Tony said, the time passed faster.

The door creaked once more, but unlike upon Tony's entrance, he twisted, curious to see who entered. A young lady.

Then the world spun, and suddenly he was on his back and staring at the ceiling. That's weird. His chair clattered alongside.

Tony could not help but laugh as the man stared at the shot glass in disbelief. 'Another one?' he said, as if one would be sufficient. Might as well drink water and save his taste buds the pain. Whatever anyone claimed, nobody drank because they liked it. They drank to get drunk. A lesson Jensen hadn't learned yet, it seemed.

Watching the man drinking the second was slightly less painful than the first. At least he didn't choke this time.

Not that I should be too harsh on the poor bastard.

If what he said was true, it was the first time he had ever had a shot. What the fuck was this guy? A monk?

It was all idle curiosity. In truth, Tony didn't care who he was or what he did. He wanted to know why he decided he was going to throw his life away. But that could come later, for now, the man needed to relax.

"I think I'm getting better at this," Jensen said when he had finally recovered. He was certainly much more relaxed, although Tony still sensed a tense reluctance in the man's posture and demeanour.

Tony was about to say something, but Jensen had another glass in his hand and drained it without any of his previous inhibitions. He gave a quiet laugh at the sudden enthusiasm.

He turned his head towards the door as it opened, revealing a young woman in some kind of garishly blue jacket (in truth, it was a hell of a lot better than the shit he had worn for the past decade, but old prejudices died hard, as they said) and a tight-fitting top that accentuated her assets quite nicely. However, it was not her bust that really caught Tony's attention. The woman had a raw, almost wild confidence in her eyes that was fascinating to behold.

Tony studied her with a sharp eye, wondering what this young woman - she could be no older than twenty, surely - was doing here of all places in the god-forsaken early hours of the morning.

His study was cut short as he heard a thump followed by a metallic clattering beside him. Tony swung around, finding Jensen blinking up at the ceiling with glazed eyes, flat on his back.

Tony frowned for a moment. Surely he wasn't drunk already. Even if it was his first time, it shouldn't be that easy.

Then his mind too a darker turn, and he siezed the power without thought, placing a hand on the man's head as he knelt down. He wove something... He was not exactly sure what it was, they had never really understood it, it had proved dangerous to experiment with, so they had kept it simple. However it worked, Tony could tell that there was nothing life-threatening in Jensen's body.

Well fuck me, it seems like he is just drunk...

Tony looked at the barman, but he shook his head with a smirk, unmoved. Nasty fucker.

He then turn his head to the woman standing at the entrance, giving her an apologetic smile, a hint of humour in his voice. "Excuse me, young lady, it seems that the barman is busy working. Would you mind giving me a hand?"
He nodded to Jensen who was still on the floor. "He's having a little bit of trouble today."

Edited by Tony Soloyov, Sep 30 2013, 08:21 AM.
It was a precarious bar stool, and one leg was half an inch shorter than the others. An hour ago when he crawled up on it, Jensen wasn't exactly confident its design was a feat of master engineering. It was no surprise he ended up on the floor.

He found something soft laying alongside, and after a few moments of pawing at it, he realized it was his jacket. It was an old thing, but otherwise clean and mended. He'd always been a sharp dresser. His side of the closet was more elaborate than his wife's when it came to that sort of thing. And more organized, he recalled fondly. She was the brains of their operation, but Jensen knew how to fold a mean pair of socks.

Sometime in the moments between Tony crawling down beside him and what came next, Jensen realized the painful truth. He missed his wife; she was his best-friend, after all.

Then. Something happened.

It was a combination of blunt force and burning fire crammed into his skull all at the same time. His throat dried. His heart seized up. But his eyes, his eyes fixed upon Tony with sheer horror.

He clawed at it himself, fearful and instinctive, but his head was too blurred to concentrate to force it into control. It was like a dream too disturbing to remember, and yet, all-consuming at the same time.

He barely heard Tony's call for assistance. One moment he was overpowered with force and the next it withdrew. And he didn't know if it were real or a figment of his own demonic possession, but deep in his gut, he knew it was all too real. Tony's overbearing presence took on new meaning.

Jensen scrambled on the floor shuffling away from Tony as fast as he could. Eyes wild with fear, he put his hands up in some heroic attempt to surrender to the truth of what he was and so halt their approach like he were some radioactive bomb about to contaminate everything.

His back hit the bar's foot rail. "I swear to you! I won't touch it again. Please!" His begging mumbled fast and incoherent. The room shuffled in and out of focus.

He squeezed his eyes shut and threw his palms to his face. He didn't even know what he was bargaining for. To be left alone? Or to get what he deserved?

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