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Realistic or Modern LOVE, LOSS, REVENGE

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They pull out and true to Blu's word, the drive is as even keel as possible. At one point, Cade's sure a granny overtakes them.
On edge, he starts picking at a loose thread in his pants. Maybe he's driving this slow to fuck with him, maybe he actually is worried about losing control banged up as he is.

Neil did that.

Funny that Damien got him back so much worse. The asshole got stabbed in the back, which is hilarious and has a good sprinkle of poetic justice to it.

The thread snaps around his fingers. He scratches for another one to pull.

Kaden's unconscious. Damien's preoccupied.
"Take a left here," he murmurs. The moment they stop, he can make his move. The gun may be on Damien's other side (clever twerp), but he's left his wounded side closest to Cade. Other than getting hit in the face with a cast, there's nothing else Dame can do to him before he's choking. He's confident he can overpower him and then dump the body.
Then he can leverage Kaden how he needs to without the saint getting in the way.

"Okay, I get it," he puffs.

If he wasn't wired up, he'd honestly have to keep from rolling his eyes at Damien's whining. How did he forget how annoying he is? He's the prime example for leaving his locker unlocked and then getting mad at assholes stealing from him. What else did he expect starting this shit show? That people were going to give their humblest apologies for Kell before laying down to die?

Fuck, is he ever naive.
Worst thing is he went into this with family backing him. Or friends, whatever.

Cade blinks. Another thread breaks.
Damien's pity party takes an unexpected dip, the bad kind no one wants to be apart of. Voice thickening and face flushing kind of dip as he bares little pieces of his heart for Cade to look at.
Desperate to ease some of the fuck awful tension, he scratches at the back of his neck. If the guy starts crying, he'll debate opening the door to roll out into traffic.

I try, but it's like fighting the inevitable. Even after all these years, nothing's changed.

He remembers that feeling.

Ambitious and zeroed in on evening things out, making the world a better place. The harsh reality of realizing you aren't special and nothing you do will ever change anything in any substantial way. You can't save your friends, you can't even avenge them because things are so fucked there isn't just one person responsible.
You'd have to rip the whole world apart, and you just end up hurting yourself more than anyone else.

Obviously he doesn't say any of this, just stares out the window hoping it doesn't get any deeper. It wouldn't be all that comforting to tell a guy who won't be breathing ten minutes from now that they were doomed from the start but...

They both should've just stayed with the few people who still loved them. It wouldn't have been much, but it would've been enough.

You made a difference to me, Oliver had said, teary eyed and stupid. If Cade dies now he'll grow up and realize how big a piece of shit he actually is.
He can't do that to him.

"Shut up and pull up right here," Cade snaps, pointing out at the street.
The sudden vibration from his pocket nearly makes him jump out of his skin. Rory's phone, the one that has his dwindling life span conveniently on display.
He expects a text from the kid's mom spewing how special he is and that TreaTech doesn't deserve him.

Instead it's a photo of a fancy looking old colonial. The drive way is freshly plowed, a garish inflated Santa sitting squat on the lawn. Instead of red and green, there's a row of golden lights across the porch and...

It hits him like a pile of bricks, one hand throw at a time.

Cade stares at the image. It doesn't change the fact that's Matilda's place. How the fuck did they find them so fast? Sure, Neil knew her name but-
Before he can stop himself, he's slamming his first into the car door. Cheap plastic cracks like an eggshell under his hand.
It doesn't help anything, but he slams the door again. Until there's little pieces flying.
It takes everything not to hurl the phone itself.

By the time he's reined in the worst of his temper tantrum, he's lost fifteen minutes. Cade plops his face into his hand, shaking with the adrenaline, the fucking useless rage balling up in his gut. It turns to poison at the thought of Neil.
Fucking Neil.

"I thought I had more time," says the man who has hours to live, "He said he doesn't hurt kids... Did he lie about that too?"

Kaden is still blissfully unaware in the backseat. Damien... isn't.

"It'll be a trap. He'll take Kaden and kill me. Maybe he'll do it in front of Ollie for good measure. Twisted fuck!"

dreaming enthusiast

Sleepy in perpetuity
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Cade doesn't answer where they're going, but apparently this non-descript New York street is their destination. More concrete and dirty snow that is quickly turning into slush only to freeze over into a slipping hazard in the low temperatures. The ice crunches underneath the tires as the car pulls up. Briefly scanning the area through the front windshield, Damien can't help but grimace at his companion's reluctance to provide literally anything that would be useful when it comes down to what he's planning. Fuck, maybe he does intend to kill him, who knows.

At the very least Damien is grateful that Cade doesn't address any of the pathetic, self-pitying, and way too personal shit he just unwittingly spewed. He still doesn't know what possessed him to bring it up in the first place, yet... thankfully, he won't have to address it.

Honestly, Cade snapping at him instead is a kindness on par with saving him from a near-death situation.

That doesn't mean that Damien doesn't still want to know where the hell he and Kaden are being taken, and it also doesn't mean he isn't inching his hand closer to the handgun now that the car has been parked, in case the gangster makes any surprise hostile moves.

The guy is rifling through his pockets, yet it's not a switchblade that gets pulled out. It's a phone, and Damien briefly catches a glimpse of a message - a picture of a decorated housefront - before Cade's fist suddenly slams into the passenger-side door with enough force to make the plastic crack.

The ex-cop has already pulled out the S&W by the time he realizes whatever ire has gripped his companion is not aimed at him. It's aimed at that holiday-greeting-card-looking image he just received, and Damien's blood runs cold at the realization, hold on the firearm tightening. It feels like deja vu, of the particularly ironic type. Why do people always receive the worst messages when they are in a car? More importantly, why is he consistently there to witness it? Retroactively Cade's insistence that he drive was a good decision - Damien got lucky preventing a road collision once already, who knows if he would have been quick enough in the same situation one-handed, what with the anger that's gripped the gangster. He just keeps slamming his fist into the car door.

As far as Damien saw, what the man received is just a photo, no accompanying text. A threat not needing words, and only one person he knows fits the MO of pulling something like this.

Cade doesn't need to speak his name for Damien to guess that the sender is MacDarragh. Yeah, he is a twisted fuck. A twisted fuck that he can't be sure the morality of when it comes down to hurting kids - even associating the word "morality" with Neil feels somehow inherently wrong. The ex-cop has no idea who this Ollie is to Cade, yet all that the ex-convict can think about is Natalia's children, and how glad he is that the Montesanos got away thanks to Kaden's warning. In some alternate world, it feels like he would have been in Cade's situation...

Damien pushes down a shudder. When his eyes land on the man with his face buried in the palm of his hand, voice tense as he speaks, all the ex-cop can do is shoot back in even monotone, "Not if we kill him first."

He should have finished the job when he had the chance, back at the tower. How different would everything be if he'd killed MacDarragh then and there? A part of Damien wants to convince himself that the nightmare would be over if that man was gone for good, and though he knows such a notion to be a delusion, he can't help but think that maybe at least a couple of disjointed pieces would fall back into place.

"It's your loved ones he's menacing you with, isn't it?" Damien looks down at his lap, at the S&W now held there, and he checks the magazine as if expecting something different - the gun is fully loaded, he hasn't had to use it since the Black Dogs' shooting practice. The row of bullets smiles at him before he clicks it back into place, "Of course it'll be a trap. Expecting it gives us an edge."

"But we can't put Kaden in danger, not in the state he's in,"
Damien frowns in concern gazing at the bundled-up form that is the capo in the rearview mirror, "If nothing else, it would be a liability. Especially if MacDarragh intends to... take him."

Take him, not kill him. Damien's attention shifts back to Cade, eyebrows furrowed as an array of questions threaten to spill out: What are the High-Rise's intentions with Kaden? Does it have something to do with Delilah? Does Cade know what's happened to her? However, now doesn't feel like the right time, not considering what's at stake. Once they survive this... "We need to get the bastard before he can do anything."
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Not if we kill him first. Said ice cold.

Fuming, he nods. Apparently his thrashing was terrible enough for Dami to pull out his gun. It sits in his lap, a hand wrestle away. Clicks in the ex-cop's hand.
Neil didn't even have the decency to text. Killing Damien feels like playing into his hands, but leaving the puppy faced blue boy alive doesn't feel right either.

Same goes for Kaden, who's racked up enough pain in Cade's life to be lynched.

That same urge to beat and rip surges through him, regardless of the throbbing in his hand. When did he get so angry? When did everyone become an enemy? Why is the whole planet out to fuck him over?
Fact is, he can't wage war with everyone. There's only so many towers he can blow up.
And Ollie's apart of this one...

"Yeah," he grinds out. "I have a half brother."

Damien's voice goes tender when Kaden comes up and Cade shoves the reminder they're a thing out of his head. It's not all that hard, with the blanket of white rage dousing out any sort of higher thinking like unrequited nonsense.

"I can't show up without Kaden." Rather than crush the phone, he sets it down on his thigh. It frees up his hand to rub at the side of his palm, where it radiates hot tremors that won't last.
Looking over his shoulder, Finch has regained some of the color he lost in the cold. His lips are a soft red, glistening with drool he's not conscious enough to wipe away.
"But he is useless the way he is now, yeah. Could do anything to him right now... he wouldn't be able to stop it. There's a solid chance Neil will finish the job. He'd burn a lot of bridges if it meant leaving the High-Rise. That's the only thing that's ever mattered to him. Freedom and fun."

And his fucking asshole of a father.

All this time he was wondering when MacDarragh would get bored and throw him out, but he never expected to be duped this badly.
He looks at Damien, sighs out his nose at him. There's sharp edges to Blu, but there's more soft roundness and there is nothing more satisfying than toying with and breaking something beautiful. Especially when it doesn't know how gorgeous and fragile it is, how much further it has to fall before it's really good and used up. At the very least, Cade deserved the personal touch of being devastated for pure enjoyment. Not scientific and financial gain.

"I'm betting we can distract him if we make it fun."


Cade shoves Damien, jostling him up the walkway. This is so stupid. He's racked up a lifetime of bad decisions, but this might be the worst.
They're on an urban street in a rich, spanky neighborhood so they have an excuse to keep Damien untied.

The hidden gun Neil will find seconds into a body search? That's harder to explain.

The hourglass on his life gives him forty-five minutes. That should be more than enough time.
With a shaky breath and a final look at Damien, he gives the doorbell a healthy slam.

Before he can go a second round, the door opens. MacDarragh twisted smile doesn't greet them.

For the first time in years, the shrewd grimace of suspicion and disdain doesn't rake him over. Mat smiles, almost genuinely.
Its an improvement he doesn't notice. With his heart pounding in his ears, the only improvement he's impressed by is the fact he hasn't kicked the door in yet.

And there's no bruises on her.

No tears or fear. In fact, she's wearing the ugliest looking Christmas sweater coupled with candy cane earrings. The ignorance of it all nearly fires him up to push past her. If only to settle the nightmares playing out in his head.
He wouldn't hurt Oliver. The liar said he didn't hurt kids.

"Cadence," she says, a inquisitive smile on her plastic lips as she takes Damien in. "It's such a nice surprise to see you, but call next time. Hello, I'm Matty. Are you-"

"He's a friend. Damien. Is Oliver okay?"

"Oh, he's great," she beams, stepping aside to welcome them both inside. The family home aesthetic has never felt more like a trap, a lie. "You'll never guess who decided to drop by to let Ollie know personally you're going to be rehired."

"What?" He whips his head back so hard pre-dead him would've gotten a neck spasm.

"I'm so proud of you for finally taking some ownership and responsibility," she says in a lofty soft voice, like she's a paragon of perfection. Or his mother, and not some gold digging slut that picked at the decrepit scraps of his family.
"And Oliver is over the moon."

He grinds his hands closed and the gesture gets her attention and for the first time there's a flicker of doubt and curiosity on her bimbo blonde face at the fact he doesn't have a broken finger anymore.
Before she can ask after it (if she even would) he turns sharply away to the dining room.
It's a fancy wood table covered in a red cloth, dwarfing anyone who sits there unless they're a party of fifteen. A homemade centerpieces composed of real log and pine needles sits in the center like a dead animal. A porcupine comes to mind.

That same alien feeling back at the police station comes back with a vengeance seeing MacDarragh with Oliver. The kid is leaned in, sharing the screen of his Nintendo for Neil to watch. It's like seeing a man possessed the way the guy smiles so sincerely. His face moves in a way it never has, ways Cade assumed it couldn't. Fully committed to his act as human being, there's even a cup and a plate of fruit cake sitting in front of him.
With his ability to stomach the worst cake known to man it's no wonder Matilda swirls a curl around her finger.
"Look who's here," she says in her fake mom voice, laying it on extra thick.

"Cade!" Oliver barks, the light popping in his eyes going a few shades dimmer when he seems to remember the last time his two favorite people were in the same room together.
"You're early, I didn't realize you were that desperate to hang out."

"You have no idea," he says, each shift of his feet an aborted attempt to storm over there and tear the kid away.
His eyes flick to Neil's and they burn.

"Come sit," Matilda chirps to Damien, pulling a chair out for him. "Neil, this is-"

"They know each other already," Cade snaps. Are they already on first name basis? Where the hell does she get off?

"Oh." Tight lipped, she pours another cup. "Damien, do you work with the captain?"

And she looks up from the cup to glance at MacDarragh, pushing hair behind her ear.

"You're a cop too?" Oliver interrupts, grinning at Cade before looking back at Blumenthal. The kid's sitting on his knees in the chair, using the height to lean forward with a shameless amount of enthusiasm. The switch is set aside, all in favor for this moment.
"How many bad guys have you caught? Is Cade going to be your new partner? If you work with Neil does that mean you both have to do everything he says?"

dreaming enthusiast

Sleepy in perpetuity
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Cade's half-brother. That's the person that MacDarragh is leveraging to get to him.

He has a kid sibling, and it really shouldn't surprise the ex-convict as much as it does to learn of the fact. It's not like it's anything unbelievable - of course Cade has a past, as if such a thing is not inherent to every human experience, whether it be that of a stone-cold mafia boss or a loud-mouthed ex-cop gone bad. Maybe it's more difficult to see the humanity in such people, but it's there (sometimes even more than usual), and nowhere is it more palpable than the lingering, genuine rage in Cade's voice. Damien's lips press into a line.

No matter who he is or what he's done, he doesn't deserve to have the people around him used like this, put in danger as if the simple act of knowing him is somehow a crime.

The very idea tastes bitter on Damien's tongue, much like Cade stating he can't show up without Kaden. Brows furrowing, the ex-cop gears up to protest, yet the gangster's right, isn't he? There's no other choice, no other viable option for a myriad of reasons frustratingly outside of their control. It's all fucked. Mimicking his companion's movement, Damien finally turns to peer over his shoulder, gaze resting on Kaden. He's different from the reflection in the mirror - palpable, physical, chest rising with every breath drawn, and in any other situation the ex-cop might call his expression serene, yet now it only serves to make the desperation of the situation all the more real. What's the line between being asleep and being passed out? This shouldn't have happened. Kaden really is... helpless, and Damien all the more so for not being sure if he can keep him safe.

He doesn't exactly have a good track record when it comes down to protecting others, after all.

Sure, he succeeded once, kind of, yet he's not sure if anything of what he did actually matters. Kaden still almost died. MacDarragh still got away with his life. And somehow in this messed-up chain of events, he's ended up threatening a fucking child. Damien's hold on his gun tightens as he focuses back in on Cade, only to find the gangster already staring at him, glacial blue eyes glinting with determination.

I'm betting we can distract him if we make it fun.

That's truly the sole thing that matters to MacDarragh, isn't it? Having his fun at the expense of those beneath him, which in his overconfident eyes is everyone. Scoffing, Damien's mouth twitches up into a humorless half-smile, "I'm betting you're right... Let's make sure he has his fill of entertainment, then."


As if his nerves weren't already on edge enough, a singular annoying intrusive thought permeates Damien's mind - his parents would have killed to live in a rich place like this. The whole street is decked out in Christmas decorations, and he has to wonder if the residents of fancy neighborhoods try and purposefully one-up each other when it comes down to making the fronts of their homes look as garish as humanly possible like it's a competition. And in the midst of all the lighted displays of angels and the stands of reindeer pulling present-laden sleighs, the same inflated Santa from the photo is definitely an eye-catching piece that he'd vote to win. With one of its arms raised, it feels like it's greeting the ex-convict on his approach to the front of the colonial.

Did Cade grow up here?

Damien almost feels compelled to pause and ask questions, before a shove from the gangster reminds him they don't have the time. This is less of an approach, actually, and more of a firmly assisted walk, Cade pushing him forward so convincingly he nearly stumbles a couple of times. It's all part of the act. Probably. Even if it's not, it serves their purposes, if only MacDarragh were there to see it.

A blonde answers the door, yet it's not Neil.

It's a woman, smiling in the throws of holiday cheer. The hell is going on? He was gearing up to play at being a captive. Calling this a hard turn would be an understatement. The first thing Damien notices about Matty apart from the fact that she's safe (and the terrible sweater) is that he can't quite place her age. Honestly, if it weren't for the way she just spoke to Cade, he'd assume she was younger than the man. And hell, she could be, because that's the maternal tone of a stepmother if he's ever heard one, pleased with her stepchild for getting hired back on the force. It takes Damien's entire willpower not to balk in incredulity and stare at Cade, as if the guy isn't as taken aback as he is.

By the time the ex-cop has switched gears, the gangster has already introduced him and stormed away further into the house, briefly leaving him to linger with Matty. Clueless. She has no idea the danger she's in, doesn't she? Of course, anything is better than the hitman hurting this family, but... this all feels like a particularly cruel thing to pull.

A very MacDarragh thing to pull.

Damien's jaw tenses and he finally nods in the woman's direction in some semblance of a greeting, "It's good to meet you. You have a lovely home."

That's true, in a way - there's a certain atmosphere of warm homeliness that permeates everything on the way to the dining room. And in the middle of all this comfort, leisurely seated at the kitchen table leaning close to a child that is as unsuspecting as his mother, is something wearing human skin. When MacDarragh's acid green eyes lift from the screen to peer at the two newcomers, Damien swears the guy's pupils are slits. Is this what prey feels like?

"Well, isn't this a fortunate coincidence! That's some luck catching both of you here," the amiable smile Neil shoots Cade can only be described as predatory. The gangster's self-restraint in not leaping straight for the fucker is frankly impressive.

... He really has been resurrected, same as Cade. It doesn't feel real. The hitman's left shoulder is untouched, like Damien never stabbed him, like all of it was a dream, and whatever catharsis he experienced in those split seconds of not being powerless has been erased. The only vestige that anything even happened are the tears left on his palm that will take weeks to heal. Will they leave a scar? His left hand throbs with a dull pain as he squeezes it as much as the cast will allow. He did this to himself, he chose not to let go of the knife.

He's so caught up desperately reassuring himself (as if self-mutilation is somehow preferable to mutilation) that by the time Damien registers that Oliver is asking him questions several awkward moments of silence have already elapsed, "Um, yes-"

"Yes, he is a cop,"
MacDarragh's steady voice cuts through in answer, the captain leaning back in the chair and letting out an airy chuckle as he shamelessly ruffles the kid's hair in what Damien can only assume is psychological torture engineered to get Cade where it hurts, staring right at the gangster as he proceeds, "I wish I could get them to do everything I say. Running things would be much easier if everyone just listened."

"That said, they're both good cops. And I like your idea of teaming them up, Ollie. It would be good for the two to have a permanent partner, especially in Blumenthal's case- Ah! Sorry..."

Ah... and that is psychological torture engineered to get Damien where it hurts most. The rehearsed way MacDarragh cuts off his sentence and looks sheepishly at the ex-cop in pretend apology is disgusting. As if this isn't some sick theatre production, all of it a private joke in which Cade and Damien are unwilling participants to be thoroughly humiliated as a punchline. Because that's what MacDarragh gets off on, that's what he finds entertaining. And it will be his undoing.

Fighting to steady his expression, Damien sits down, taking the cup not to have a sip, but simply to hold onto something - its weight is grounding, "Thank you for the hospitality."

"Yes, thank you, Matty,"
Neil parrots with a smile and an overly familiar tone, watching the woman retreat off into the kitchen.

Like a parasite, MacDarragh has sunk his mandibles into this home, and Damien struggles to resist the urge to glance at Cade to check on how he's doing, lest that be too obvious. He can only hope the gangster is holding up fine. The hitman has already spewed so much shit and, unfortunately, it seems he has no intention of stopping.

"Actually, I'll let you in on a secret - your brother and Damien have been helping me catch a really really bad guy," MacDarragh leans once again towards Ollie conspiratorially, voice dropping into something more serious to add to the gravitas of what he is saying, "One of the worst, the boss of the Black Dogs gang that was all over the news because of their turf war with the Nakurra weeks ago. Talk on the street is that the Dogs won because their boss went after the Yakuza clan leader's girl. We don't have proof, but I'm inclined to believe it. This is a man that doesn't care who he's hurting - innocents, men, women, children."

Now's not the time, Damien tells himself to stave off any and all distracting thoughts. One thing at a time, focus on the here and now. Neil is grinning at him, sharp and nauseating. When his lips form the beginnings of his next sentence, that same revolting look switches over to Cade, and out of nowhere, the ex-cop can swear he hears a pang of... anger in the captain's intonation.

"Even his own subordinates. People call him the Butcher," he'll kill him. Short of unholstering the S&W, Damien's hand itches to chuck the cup of hot coffee square at the bastard's face. The ex-cop eyes Oliver, within Neil's arms' reach. He might not hurt kids, but it sure as hell feels like he's using him for protection. Fuck, they need to get Oliver away somehow... A pearl of revolting laughter pierces the air, "If you ask me, a guy with a nickname like that is overcompensating for something. Don't you guys agree?"

"The mob does notoriously have a thing for pretentious nicknames,"
it really does. But in this context, the very act of saying it makes Damien feel like an ass.

"Well, either way, the Butcher is no longer an issue. Thanks to Wilson and Blumenthal."

As if asking for confirmation that Kaden is "no longer an issue" MacDarragh tilts his head at Cade, before his lips all of a sudden form into a pout. "Cade, you came over to hang out with Oliver, right?" Neil inquires casually, taking out his phone to check the time. "You should get to it. Time is flying by..."

The gangster has also been checking his phone an awful lot since the hospital. Damien quirks an eyebrow. A cold pit is forming in his gut at the same time that his shooting hand itches again. Is... MacDarragh waiting for something?

"And there's work to do."
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Cade takes a seat like it's covered in thorns. If he moves too fast, he feels like he'll break through the thin threads of his self control. Already, he can feel how hot and red faced he is. Apparently him seething in barely contained rage is a regular enough thing for no one to notice.
Oliver frowns at him, a tense worried scowl begging Cade not to ruin this.

He preens under Neil's attention, but not half as badly as Matilda does. Short of bending over to pick something up, she's been pulling out all her tactics. And MacDarragh fosters the attention, uses it to stoke his ego as much as he does it to piss Cade off.
He goes on a sadistic storytelling spree about Kaden, and Cade feels his aching scowl soften at the self righteous anger in MacDarragh's voice at the abuse he stomached from Finch.

That hurts. It hurts more than he expected.
Oliver's eyes are round and bright with admiration for his brother who took down the big bad Butcher.

Swallowing, he glances at his kid brother before finding Neil's viper smile. For once he'd like to see that sonuvabitch be scared. Neil knows. Somehow he knows Cade has minutes to live and when he flops onto the floor to convulse, something tells him Neil isn't going to do shit for him this time.
Besides maybe taking him back to TreaTech.

He glances at Damien. This doesn't change anything. MacDarragh isn't wearing his collar, but he has it on him. There's no way he doesn't.

"Damien's here," he grinds out, and tries to remind himself this is a hoodwink. It's not a comfort with Oliver and Matilda out of the loop. The kid's looking back and forth, but Mat is still blissfully unaware clacking pots and dishes in the kitchen.
"And as you just said, I got the Butcher for you."

Just hours ago they were trading spit. And a lot more besides. MacDarragh sits there knowing more about Cadence than anyone, and most of it info handed over willingly.
"The way I see it, I deserve more time. You and I will get Damien to the office and finish up paperwork for the Butcher's arrest. Then we can be done?"

dreaming enthusiast

Sleepy in perpetuity
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Damien listens to Cade reply in thinly-veiled doublespeak, obediently handing over Kaden and him. Instinctual unrest spikes in the ex-convict's chest at the very thought, and he has to remind himself that this is merely part of the ploy. The plan. He keeps repeating the reassurance while the corners of the captain's lips twitch up at the mention of the Butcher. Suddenly, the bastard's smile breaks with a boisterous laugh.

The notes of ridicule underneath its otherwise friendly tone send a shiver down Damien's spine, "Be done? Cadence, we're just getting started."

What the hell did Cade do to piss off MacDarragh this much? The gangster has been radiating an energy of rage since earlier, bubbling beneath the surface like molten lava desperately searching for a vent to the surface. Neil stabbed him in the back. Yet now, sitting awkwardly between the two men while nursing a rapidly cooling cup that's still full to the brim, Damien can't help but feel that the hitman meets Cade's resentment with one of his own in equal measure.

The way he speaks to the ex-cop is permeated with mockery, and while he mercilessly toys with Cade too, it feels different. Underneath the barbs of laughter lies something far more caustic. Vindictive.

MacDarragh doesn't address whether Cade deserves "more time" or not.

"But yes, we should get to the office and finish things up," he mutters at the tail-end of his "good-natured" chuckling, though instead of standing the captain picks up his dessert fork to point it at the half-eaten piece of fruitcake, eyes glinting as they peer at Cade, "Right after I finish this first."

The wall clock's ticking signals the passage of time. MacDarragh savors each and every bite like it's a delicacy, and Damien has to wonder if this is more spitefulness geared towards the gangster. If he were a gambling man, he'd bet everything on the fact - this man's every move is meant to get under people's skin, one way or another.

By the time MacDarragh is done with the charade, he's left no crumbs on the plate. Exchanging a ridiculously elaborate handshake with Oliver before peaking around the corner to say his goodbyes to Matty in the kitchen, the captain moves to stand beside Cade and Damien. And when his arms reach around their shoulders on either side, as if they really were his subordinates, the ex-cop has to actively stop himself from trashing to break the unwanted contact. It only gets worse when MacDarragh starts leading them outside, like their children. Or animals, nearly being held by the scruff.

"I trust you can continue to handle Damien and... the Butcher," in the cold winter air, Neil leans towards Cade, nearly whispering in his ear with a voice gone sharp, "Get in your car and follow my lead."
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On better days, Neil's super villain laugh was overdoing it at best and down right annoying at worst.
Now, the dramatization is somehow chilling. Infuriating, obviously, but the genuine spite interlacing the dying chuckles makes it less a show and more a honest expression of how he feels.

Damien stiffens at his side.
Oliver stares up at the captain, a nervous smile on his lips and even Matilda peeks in to see how the 'men are getting along.'

Cadence, we're just getting started.

It sends a chill down his back, for all the wrong reasons, and he has to stare down into his lap to hide what's in his face.
And then, true demon spawn that he is, Neil declares they'll leave once he finishes the worst fruitcake known to man. This time it's not to make Mat giggle and blush, it's purely to torture Cade, tighten up the leash around his neck.

Glaring hard at MacDarragh's smug fucking face as he takes a teaspoon at a time, even the thought of ringing his neck doesn't settle the rage.
They're not close enough to play footsie; if they were Cade would bruise the fuck out of this asshole's shin.

"Your finger's okay," Oliver says, suddenly and without the squeaky excitement and happiness he's been known for for the past fifteen minutes. Just a soft concern you find in old women and preschool teachers.
Cade unflexes his hand, letting the blood rush back into his palm.

"Turns out, it was never broken. Just sore. Nothing can hurt me forever," he says, and shoots the last bit at MacDarragh who's analyzing a sliver of almond.
He'll kill him.

Oliver gives him a look, somewhere between a scoff and the tiny hope of a child that believes their older sibling is as cool as they say.
"Come back when you're done," he says, and glances once at Damien's cast. "Doesn't matter when, I'll wait. Just...come back. All in one piece."

Cade can't say anything so he just nods. Used to nothing, that seems to be enough for the kid.

MacDarragh finishes his slice, says goodbye to Cade's family like he's been some sort of lifelong friend and then herds them out. The touch may as well be a brand into his shoulders. Damien does his best not to squirm either.
Outside, Cade gets the first honest communication whispered into his ear. The hot breath pushes aside the cold air and he remembers when the same voice pushed sweet nothings into his brain. It makes his knees weak, at the same time adding to the fire.

It was all programming, playing with him. It was never fucking real to Neil.
And it still means so much to Cade.

The car offers some much needed privacy. Dedicated to this stupid plan, he escorts Damien to the passenger seat and shoves him inside. Maybe he should finally tie the guy up, at least pretend to make this more convincing.
For the first five seconds, he just breaths it out. Rory's phone gives him half an hour. That prick sucked fifteen minutes with his cake and coffee. At least it was spent with Ollie.
He rounds the car to the driver's seat. Oliver's in the window, waving.

He's coming back this time. He sure as shit is going to try at least.

Kaden's not there.

Where he's supposed to be is an empty seat and a rumpled coat. He could've sworn he locked the doors.
Before he can panic a voice rasps, "Down here."

Between the back seats and the front, Kaden is a squished pile of person. The stupid bastard has rolled off the seat onto the floor.
Finch blinks, long and softly. "I seem to be...a little sedated."

Slow like a sloth Cade saw in a nature documentary once, the Butcher tiredly lifts an arm to the seat. And then, nothing. If he's using it as leverage to get up, he's doing it pretty poorly.
Damien goes to help him, the saint, and Cade grabs him by the shoulder. Rougher than need be, he slams the ex-cop back into his seat.

"Neil can see you," he huffs. Pushing the gears into place, he pulls out after Neil.
Lambs to the fucking slaughter.

Kaden frowns and stares into space, resting his head back into the cramped space.
"You...shot me," he says, no accusatory glance wrinkling his cherub face. Just a blatant statement, as he puts all the events into order.


"And I... shot you."

"...Yeah," Cade grumbles.

"And you're alive. And so is MacDarragh."
Kaden groans as he summons all he has to grip the seat and force himself to sit.
A sharp, delicate sound of pain spikes from his open lips before he slumps back into the crevice with a heaving gasp.

"Damien, are you okay?" He asks in-between quiet breaths. He's breathing heavily, but slowly, trying to hide how exhausted he really is.

"He is," Cade grunts, watching MacDarragh's car. It's too early to know for sure if they're headed in TreaTech's direction. He's betting MacDarragh will want somewhere private to play with his food, but who really knows what goes on in that guy's head?
Cade's has the time to watch a few SNL skits before he's dead. He's got zero options left, but to follow.
"Damien is actually one of the few people who haven't been shot. Thanks for your concern."

"I'm assuming we've been kidnapped," Kaden answers in a miffed tone, "how much concern would you like?"

Fucking asshole.

Cade taps the break, enough to press Kaden into the back of the seat. It's a peck, but it still pulls a grunt out of him. He can practically see the indignant pout on the capo's face.

"Did you really mean what you said before?" Finch asks quietly, so quietly it's almost lost in the engine's hum.
Cade would roll his eyes if he weren't driving.

"I swear I didn't fucking touch your precious Damien." Neil's going to do that.

After a light pause Finch answers with, "You hated living at the tower and being with me?"

Cade breaks behind Neil for a red light. If he squints, he can see the fucker's silhouette through the tinted glass.
"Would you've liked it?"

Another thoughtful pause, Kaden running through all the possible social responses to pretend to be human. He's not exactly like MacDarragh; in a lot of ways he does care and about a bunch of things. He just doesn't express it in a comforting, satisfying, reassuring or useful way. Making him worthless as a real friend.
Cade brushes his lips with the back of his hand.

"...It was keep you prisoner or dump you in the river."

"Then you shoulda fucking killed me, you self righteous asshole!"

He has to keep himself from pressing too hard on the gas when the greenlight flashes. MacDarragh's about as pissed as he could be, but riding his ass probably wouldn't improve things.
He lets some of the tension turning his shoulders to stone out in a breath. "Why'd you even do it in the first place? Damien I get kidnapping. You like him as a fuck-buddy-"
"Don't call him that."
"But you were never interested in me. Why keep me around, Kaden?"

It couldn't have been sadism; most times it was some nobody laying him out. Faceless revenge for all the annoying cops that had threatened the Black Dogs over the years? Maybe. Or maybe it was Kaden's obsessive need for control, or even just plain fucking curiosity.
He almost doesn't want to hear, thinks it'll break him completely to know. But there's a good chance they'll never see each other again.

"I interrogated you for several weeks," Kaden states, "You were resilient and caustic but loyal to a fault. I was surprised when no one ever came looking for you."

It hurts to hear who he used to be as much as it hurts for someone like Damien to hear it. Blumenthal went through worse and kept his shitty soul, Cade gave it up one chunk at a time.
"So it was some fucked up pity?!"

"No!" Kaden insists and then, "Maybe, I'm not sure. Not many people have ever wanted me either. I...knew it was cruel, but I didn't want to kill you."


A torrent of questions and curses scream through his head so loudly he can't distinct one from the rest well enough to vocalize it. He's mute, stupid and constipated with his own feelings. He still drives well enough, not immature enough to drive them straight into a building. Yet.
If only Oliver knew he was better off without him, MacDarragh could take Cade out for good.

And maybe personally. Probably not gently, but he's never wanted gentle. In the ideal scenario MacDarragh would make him wish he'd never been born because he obsessively hates Cade. And maybe, if Cade thought he mattered this much, he'd end him because if Neil can't have him than no one can.

It's fucked up wishful thinking he'd do anything to not want. If he could change himself, even now when it doesn't matter anymore, he would.
Instead his brain is a valuable petri dish and that's it...

Neil wouldn't hold him captive for two years because he relates to how pathetic and lonely he is. He'd show him the night of his life because he's that motherfucker, and Cade would never have another one like it.

He feels for the pill in his pocket, driving onwards.

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Retreating into the relative privacy of the car is a relief until it isn't.

Kaden isn't there. Well, Kaden is there, but he's wound up crumpled on the floor and that makes Damien feel a total of 0% better about this, waves of concern washing over him. And regret. The man shouldn't be here. He shouldn't be in a car trailing after MacDarragh when he doesn't have the strength to even prop himself back up into the seat. And he's asking if Damien is okay as if he were the one deserving of worry.

"Yes. Are-" before he can get so much as a word in, Cade in all his politeness has already answered for him. With a grimace, the ex-cop turns to glare at the man in the driver's seat. Not that the answer was wrong, but he's started to get fed up with this shit. Damien understands that Cade and he are keeping up an act - kidnappee and kidnapper, that's the roles they're putting on, and the jostling around for performance's sake he can tolerate out of necessity. But when the gangster put his hands on him to hold him back from helping Kaden up, the ex-cop was more than ready to sneer. As if the flimsy explanation that MacDarragh can see them is good enough.

To make matters worse, getting called a fuck-buddy is almost as demeaning as being referred to as a boy toy. And neither is even really true. With a huff, Damien crosses his arms (as uncomfortable as it is with a cast) and sinks further into the seat, frowning. Cade really is kind of a dick, isn't he?

A dick that's talking about Damien like he isn't right here, in the fucking passenger seat.

Maybe he shouldn't be. The longer Damien listens the more his expression mellows. It feels like he shouldn't be hearing such a private conversation. Frankly, it feels like he shouldn't know what the two are even referring to in the first place, yet what Kaden revealed about his second-in-command way back at the hospital is a stark truth Damien hasn't really had the time to address. The capo kept Cade prisoner. He tortured him. It really shouldn't be a surprise - he went into this realizing that Finch was dangerous, yet this situation has wholly different shades to it. Clenching his jaw, the ex-cop's eyes linger on the tattoo on the gangster's neck. Is his eyesight getting worse or does the ink look faded? Shit, maybe it has to do with whatever bullshittery Cade explained is now coursing through his veins, keeping him alive and making him appear younger than the last time the two spoke. Did it have an effect on the image of the wolf as well, this vestige of what he went through? Just like having to hear the Butcher moniker spoken with reverence, Damien can't imagine having to see such a reminder stare back at him in the mirror. He already hates looking at himself in it as is...

He doesn't know what he would have done in Cade's position. The one thing he knows is that... he agrees that it would be kinder to just end someone instead of keeping them, and he is not sure what holding such a belief says about him. Just like he isn't sure what the explanations Finch gives say about him, yet that is what they feel like - explanations, not justifications. And that's important. Looking back over his shoulder, Damien's eyes find Kaden's, searching. Scarily human - that descriptor pops into his head again and he can't help feeling that it fits. The hold on his arms tightens. Damien wants to believe that for everything that Finch has done, he hasn't derived pleasure from it.

Which is something that can't be said for MacDarragh.

"This isn't a kidnapping," in the silence that settles, the ex-convict finally allows himself to speak. None of them are getting kidnapped if Damien can do anything about it. Taking the opportunity when Cade is lagging slightly behind MacDarragh on a turn, he reaches his good hand to help Kaden get back in the seat (daring the gangster to be enough of an ass to take his eyes off the road while turning), "We're working together."

Glancing at the resilient and loyal if caustic ex-cop, Damien thinks for a second before heaving a long sigh and gears up to fill Kaden in on exactly what they're doing. Because maybe running through whatever the hell Cade and he concocted as a plan will help it settle in his mind.

Damien needs this to be over.


Neil needs this to be over.

Cruising down the Manhattan streets, he can't help but feel that the city has grown stale and, frankly, way too small for someone like him. The hitman's been overdue for a change in scenery for a while now. A change in everything.

There's a constant annoying buzzing that fills the car's interior. Viv keeps blowing up his phone as if his field report will somehow be different from her last check-in 15 minutes ago. As if she needs to keep reminding him of his mission. Bring back Wilson. Alive. The woman's voice is fresh in Neil's head, grating in that commanding tone of hers even when it's laced with a deep, pathetic desperation she can't hide from her "sibling". He should text her back, let her know not only does he have Wilson, but Finch and Blumenthal as well. Three smears on his track record and reputation - the only three smears he's ever had over the course of an illustrious career - captured in one fell swoop. In the rearview mirror, Neil can glimpse at the car obediently following his lead because its driver has no fucking choice.

Smiling, the hitman picks up the phone in one hand and unlocks it through the slew of messages that keep pouring in.

Working on it.

The smile twists into a smirk - a hateful, disgusting thing that feels barely contained within the scope of expressions even MacDarragh's well-trained mimetic muscles are capable of. With the care of someone discarding garbage, he tosses the device onto the passenger seat. Like hell is he telling that bitch anything. Let her stew in her misery and futile hope. It's frankly a miracle the CEO didn't have him cut open after Cadence escaped, with how frantic she is for the slivers of silver wriggling around in both of their brains. He has to believe that the only thing that stayed Vivien's hand was the thought that if she killed him, their guardian would never forgive her for it. That man's opinion is the sole thing that has ever mattered to her, aside from his well-being. Far more than even the sanctity of the High-Rise.

Well, soon enough she's going to lose both. She's going to lose everything.

With a flick of a button, the radio comes to life, drowning out the continued droning of the phone as Neil cranks the sound of his favorite station up. Jazz. Neil recognizes the tune immediately - it's Moanin', the Charles Mingus version. Fate picked a damn good piece to accompany this ride - basking in the organized chaos of the squealing instrumentation, MacDarragh is nearly moaning leaning back in the car seat. His guardian used to say that Mingus was one of those musicians that infused his craft with his personality, a violent temper. True artist shit. It's a philosophy the hitman has carried over into his own work and the reason why he loves what he does so much in the first place, despite how much Vivien and the giant stick up her ass have tried to bastardize it over the last years.

Neil barely contains himself from running a red light. That's how eager he is to have this all done with, wrapped up in a nice little bow he can then set on fire. But instead of breaking traffic laws he stops the car like a good samaritan, and holds a cigarette between his teeth. His foot jumps to the discordant rhythm of the music, and when he takes a drag of the stick it's euphoria that fills his lungs. Before the hitman starts the drive down south in a couple of hours, he's gonna dye his hair red. That's the color he's settled on - it'd look good on him, and so many people already think he's Irish he might as well play into the stereotype. He'll choose a non-Irish identity for shits and giggles when he leaves, though.

The light turns green. He should have left New York two days ago.

He should have smothered Cade with a pillow when he had the chance. Or broken more than a finger back at the hotel when the guy was preventing him from leaving. Or finished him off the night of their very first meeting after they'd already tussled and had their brief, meaningless exchange of inconsequential, violent fun. Instead, he debased himself for that motherfucker's sake - groveling, bargaining... Several hours ago some small, irrational part of MacDarragh was nearly convinced that Cade could be the change he wants in his life so badly.

But no, Wolf is a dog that only knows how to bite, even the hand that is reaching out to help him. Especially that hand.

Not Finch's hand, however, not even after years of suffering abuse under it. When he shot him, Cade didn't even realize it was Kaden. When he stared at Neil back at TreaTech when everything went to shit - gaze laden with hatred and accusation - he knew damn well who it was that was standing before him. A man he was peppering with kisses and stupid, cheesy lines that very morning, claiming MacDarragh was all he had. Bullshit.

It was all bullshit. His "partner" left him behind like none of it ever meant anything, and now he has the audacity to look at Neil as if he betrayed him.

By the time MacDarragh notices he's been driving on autopilot snarling into space, only a cigarette butt is left in his grimacing lips and the docks are coming up right around the corner. With a sharp inhale, MacDarragh releases the vice grip he'd unintentionally had on the wheel - breathe, don't let any fucker get under your skin. All of this is going to be over soon enough.

He'll eliminate his last 3 reasons for staying in the city, and then he can be free. At last.

The handgun is a familiar weight in his hand. With the effortlessness of a professional, MacDarragh's smiling mask falls back over his visage as he exits the vehicle to step onto concrete. Apart from the jazz now streaming out into the cold air, the pier is just as desolate as every time Neil has come around these parts. The last visit was several weeks ago when he took care of Lonie, but this quiet part of the harbor is a hidden gem MacDarragh discovered over a decade and a half ago, and when he was brainstorming a good location for the end, he couldn't think of a better vista. Across the East River, the Brooklyn skyline is reaching up towards the gray sky heavy with clouds on the precipice of snowfall. Leaning back against the chassis of his car, Neil lights another cigarette.

His firearm is already pointed at the vehicle parked several feet away when Cadence steps out still buzzing with an ambient rage he can't or doesn't want to conceal. Behind the cocky grin Neil replies to the scowl with, his teeth grind as he takes in the man. In lieu of wasting his nerves worrying about the worthless pain in his chest at the very sight of this dumbass, the hitman retreats into the comfort of ruminating on exactly how he's going to take Wolf apart. Dismantle him until he's cut all strings binding them together.

"Feels good to be able to talk freely, doesn't it?" MacDarragh calls out to the gangster, casual and light like he isn't holding a gun. Like Cade isn't living on borrowed time and like he isn't here to hand over kidnappees, "Didn't get to say it earlier, but good job on getting the Butcher and Damien."

He sure got to Matilda's place awfully fast after receiving the photo, and while desperation at the mere idea of Oliver getting hurt is probably one hell of a driving force, that doesn't explain the full expediency of it all. Chuckling, Neil can't help the caustic undertone of his rhetoric question, "I wonder, had you already crawled back to your old boss like a bitch or did you go seeking him out just for little ol' me?"

He's inclined to believe the prior, and it pisses him off even more. But considering Cade's track record - his willingness to attach himself to Vivien and her lot without giving himself even a day since the Black Dogs fell - MacDarragh has to question whether the gangster can even function without some hoity-toity prick with parental issues telling him what to do, like buying fucking lunch. And the only thing that can break him out of that is how much he cares for his little brother.

"This is what you want as a reward, right?" in one smooth motion, the bracelet/chocker is off of Neil's wrist and held up into the scarce afternoon light. It's undoubtedly Rory's make, yet a newer model just like boy genius had promised them. When they still were a them. The handgun's barrel moves away from Cade to point at the charging device masquerading as an accessory, "Time."

"Hand Blumenthal and Finch over, and I'll give it to you."
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He's been a piece of shit gangster long enough to know you don't want to be anywhere near the water. As a cop, you pick up the remains anywhere and everywhere. After all, you don't wanna bring the heat down where you do all your best work. It's almost flattering to be brought where Neil makes his sausage, but it's probably only one of many. There isn't shit about him that's genuine.
With his knife (which he draws slowly enough to avoid being shot in the head), he saws through his seatbelt.

"Safety first, let's go," Cade grunts, gesturing for Damien's hands. It takes next to no time for Blu to offer them, so Cade doesn't waste any wrapping them up.
He's used a lot of different materials to get the same result, but never something this wide, thin and stiff. He can feel more than see Finch's critical stare on him. The guy might as well be a worried hen and each judgmental glance threatens to push Cade over the edge.

After the last knot is tied he says, "Okay, get away."

It takes five seconds of serious struggling to see Damien's going to lose his cast before he loses the belt.
Impatiently, Neil's waiting (his favorite thing) and they're not parked as closely together as they were at Matilda's but this is risky.
At best, Cade comes off as an inept kidnapper. At worst, Neil sees straight through him, knows he'd never be this gentle.

Unless it was Neil he was tying up.

"Take me instead," Kaden coughs, glaring out the window, "I'm ready."

"Ready to get shot in the head," Cade mumbles. He takes Damien's hands again, watches for where the polyester is catching on the cast.
The thickness of it versus Damien's bare wrist means it's either too tight he can't get out or so loose any idiot could see through their clown show. The fact it's slippery on skin doesn't help either. They just don't have the time to find that sweet spot between a real, silence of the lambs tie and incompetent citizen's arrest tie.

"This is not going to work," Kaden says, with the infuriating calmness of someone discussing the play by play of a sport's game and not their mortal lives.
He looks fractions more comfortable back on his seat, sitting up (thoughtful, angelic Damien). Pale and weak, but it's still too soon to make a complete comeback.
Cade blocks him out, focuses on the task at hand.
If he thinks about how he lost his life because the mob boss was lonely, he'll start up the car and drive them off the pier. It's that simple.

He lets Damien go to struggle free again, stopping him when he gets halfway there.
It's either going to work or it's not. They don't have the time to start over from scratch.

The phone gives him three minutes.

"If it's you or him fuck him up, Damsel. But if you can help it, I'd like to do it myself."
He steps out, and the frigid air gusting off the river feels damn near cathartic on his boiling skin.

Feels good to be able to talk freely, doesn't it?

It softens his grimace, enough that he hates himself all over for feeling anything for this guy. For all the punches they've traded, Neil never hurt Ollie. He could have, and it would've hurt Cade more than anything else in the world. But he didn't.
Even though there isn't a doubt in Cade's mind Neil knows how much it would've devastated him.

I wonder, had you already crawled back to your old boss like a bitch or did you go seeking him out just for little ol' me?

Ah, right. There it is. That weird ass projecting that's been shadowing their relationship since the start. Cade has to stand up to Finch and everything else, but Neil loves it when he licks his boot like it's made of taffy flavored gold. How many people have come close to satisfying whatever the hell that need is in Neil?

How many people have satisfied the reverse in Cade?

"You know as well as I do I had nothing else to bargain with," he snaps, his anger feeling dwarfed by the wind. What else but fear and desperation would drive him back to Finch? He takes a step forward, waiting for his higher thinking to give out like a puttering engine so he can jump this guy. He could tank a few bullets, as long as he got the collar...
Then again, that depends on how good a shot Neil is. Rory's a miracle worker but he's pretty sure nothing could fix a hole through his brain.

"I needed Finch! To get you and your bitch of a sister off my ass! You're done with TreaTech, but she isn't and let's be honest, she's ten times more dangerous than you are."

When did you decide I wasn't worth it, he thinks bitterly to himself.
Was it after the night we spent together or during it?

He hooks an arm under Dami's elbow, hauling him from the passenger seat.
Kaden watches them both, with a look Cade's never seen. A darkening of eyes already the shade of space, but a worried, helpless furrowing of his brow. It's the kind of look that fills Cade with a dark satisfaction, even if this is all a masquerade.

Watch me take him away from you.

And there's shit all Finch can do about it even if it was real, but especially now that it's fake.
No, he has a front row seat as Cade escorts his boyfriend to the most feral man in New York.

MacDarragh keeps his nonexistent feelings close to his chest, but there's a stubbed out cigarette by his feet and a second one burning down between his lips.

"You can have Finch after you give me what I want." Between a hand on his shoulder and the toe of his boot against the back of Damien's knee, he goes down. It puts Blu in a vulnerable spot, but Neil's at least a little less likely to search him if he looks this pathetic.
And who wouldn't be distracted by their sworn enemy bound and on their knees? Might as well put a dollop of cream and a cherry on Damien's head to complete the picture.

He takes a step, and if he breathes deep enough he's almost close enough to get a whiff of Neil's smell. It's almost all ash, the same shitty brand Damien smokes.
He glances at MacDarragh's neck, but the marks there are long gone.

"You let my brain melt out my ears and this whole thing's been a waste of time," he says, holding out his hand. He's got seconds before he collapses into a seizure that ends with him being dead.
Obviously his body doesn't get the memo because the tips of his fingers tingle in the cold, at the prospect of touching warm, familiar skin.
The first time it happened, Neil groveled to save him. Was that a lie too? Why?

It was before they knew their heads were worth anything, wasn't it?
Was it just to hurt him, drive the stake in deeper? Why put so much effort into hurting him like that?
"You can finally get your shithead dad back. Since that's the only thing that matters to you."

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Cadence calls Vivien ten times more dangerous than Neil and, barely containing a jeer, the hitman instead settles for a sharp exhale, smoke streaming out of his nostrils as he crushes another cigarette butt underfoot. As if the gangster actually believes that assessment. And if he does, that simply proves how much nothing about anything he knows.

Viv is a bitch, though. On that, they're in agreement.

Not that Cade isn't being a bitch too.

Only Damien gets dragged out of the car - bound unlike earlier, bearing that frazzled look he has every time he's faced with MacDarragh. It's like an ingrained, physiological reaction reminiscent of a panicked animal desperate to bolt yet still fighting the instinct. And as satisfying as it is to see Blumenthal in this pathetic state being pushed down to his knees, MacDarragh pouts in displeasure in Cade's direction. When the hitman has made his terms crystal clear, the fucking guy tries to negotiate with him, even though he's in no fucking position to be making any demands.

Or maybe he thinks he is - Wolf snarls about being the ticket to Neil getting his "shithead dad" back, and the hitman can't help it.

Near-manic laughter pierces the air, ringing out over the empty pier. If he didn't have to keep the gun aimed at Cade's head, Neil would be doubling over in his hysteria. It's fucking hilarious.

"Is that what you think this is about?" MacDarragh poses the question in between bouts of chuckling, searing eyes narrowed in something between amusement and disdain.

As if Neil gives a shit about what's inside Cade's head or how to extract it. If the gangster has convinced himself that that's the case... he really doesn't know him at all. The sole thing that matters to MacDarragh is MacDarragh. That's the way to live - putting yourself above everyone and everything else. Ironically, it was precisely his guardian that taught him this lesson, and a myriad more. At its core who the hitman is today was shaped by that man, and for that, he respects him more than anyone. Which is why he's going to make sure his guardian dies with dignity, not kept medically hostage by some delusional little girl unable to let go.

Cade has moved in closer, arm extended in nervous wait as the seconds of his life keep passing him by, and the only person that can stave off the inevitable... is Neil. How long until the fucker collapses to the cold ground in a helpless, convulsing heap?

With languid steps, MacDarragh closes the distance until he can almost feel the gangster's body heat, pressing the barrel of the gun to Wolf's forehead. When the hitman speaks, his voice is a low rasp, "The only reason you're being collared right now is because, as funny as watching you spaz out while you die would be, that's too fast of a death for you."

The tension in the muscles on Cade's neck is palpable as Neil clicks the device into place with his free hand, feeling more than hearing it being to hum with electrical impulses. Damn. Putting the blasted thing on is almost as exhilarating as taking it off. The tips of MacDarragh's fingers ghost over the faded tattoo beneath the metal, before he retreats them in the blink of an eye.

"And I have plans," he has plans for all them. Reaffirming the firearm's position with a hard press, MacDarragh orders, "Hand over Finch."

"And, for once, don't do anything fucking stupid, Cadence."
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Being stared down by the void of a gun's barrel is only slightly less chilling than being stared down by Neil's eyes.
He knows it's an empty threat. He'll wound Cade, if anything.

But that fucking laugh makes him wish he would blow his brains out. Fuck, does it ever drive him up the wall. A glance to Damien shows the man's a little more on edge than irritated, and that's a sign Cade isn't a smart human being.

Man, does he hate him.

And then...

Is that what you think this is about?

Like a cat, Neil stalks forward, until the cold kiss of the barrel is against his skin. The change in temperature contrasts like fire and ice when Neil loops the life saving collar around his neck. Bastard could've put it on his wrist, but chose to do this instead and Cade has to suppress a shiver. He's still just as talented with his hands, only needs one dedicated to each little task. Even so the touch lingers a hair too long and he hopes Damien isn't watching.
And all the while Cade's searching his face, trying to see how the maze of his own life and feelings have once again shifted away from his understanding. Damien was supposed to be the main entree, but Neil has hardly looked at him.

He feels himself flush, and this time not with anger. Turning away, he can drop any lingering of rage to stare in shocked, dumbfounded confusion as butterflies go wild in his stomach. He traces his throat, but this time it's not to rub at the wolf stubbornly holding onto his skin. No, he feels the outline of the collar.

In the car Kaden's eyes are closed, his head dropped back against the rest. Of all the scraps and adventures they've been on, Cade's never been this close and he's carried him twice now.

"There's a chance he'll kill you on sight," Cade murmurs, tucking his arms around Kaden's ice cold body. Outside, that's not going to get any better, even with the coat draped over him.

"He'll kill Damien otherwise."

Right, because that's all he cares about. In his mind he hears Neil's echo; I have plans.
Going braindead is too quick a death for him, MacDarragh is going to do this himself. Before the repercussions of that thought really set in, his stomach goes tight with warmth.

Kaden let's his arm droop, his neck hangs over Cade's bicep. If you ask him, it's a little over the top. But Finch has always had a flair for the dramatic. Like Neil does.
A hand bunches the fabric of his shirt. Finch's face is trapped in a worried pout.
"Cadence, I-"

A half assed apology? A nervous request for reassurance? Stuff that's all cheap, cheaper now when Cade has him like this.
In the end, nothing comes from it. The gangster moves out from the cover of the car door and Finch goes back to playing possum.
Another electric bolt stabs through him and he feels downright light headed walking back.

"Where do you want him?" Cade asks, shifting the weight in his arms. It's not that he's too heavy, so much as he's gangly as fuck.
"He's stable but he's out cold."

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No matter Cade's attempts at hiding the flush blooming across his face as he turns away, Neil sure as hell notices. A nostalgic feeling begins to settle in his chest attempting to overtake the vendetta driving him forward, yet with a grin he banishes it away. This changes nothing, it means nothing... though it is fucking good being able to get such a reaction out of the guy, despite how supposedly angry Cade is. The mere echo of a touch and he turns all bashful.

Does anyone else do it for Wolf like he does? The hitman doubts it.

MacDarragh's won. Cigarette number three is already in his mouth as he watches the gangster obediently retreat to retrieve Finch, and at last he allows his focus to shift over to his year-long personal project. Overdue assignment. Grey eyes hold his own, yet for as much as Blumenthal struggles not to look away in obvious fear, the way he flinches at the sudden attention says more than enough.

Abject fear is nearly as gratifying as abject adoration.

All smiles and swagger, Neil stalks forward, crouching down to be on eye level with the kneeling ex-convict. His voice is cheery as he speaks, "Hope you weren't feeling neglected just now, Damien."

Weeks ago, MacDarragh was having fun playing detective trying to track down this guy. Somewhere along the way his priorities shifted, and based on the position he's in currently, it seems like Damien's priorities also shifted. Everything is different now, not to speak of how things were 15 years ago. However, them meeting like this at the end of it all was always going to happen, one way or another.

It's not a gun that the hitman brandishes inches away from Damien's face (not yet) - it's a carton of cigarettes, one left hanging out for the ex-cop to take in his teeth. When instead the idiot's face scrunched up in silent disdain, all Neil can do is roll his eyes and shake the Marlboros in incentive, like a dog toy, "C'mon, for old time's sake. This is a last-meal type of deal, like on death row, right? I'm being generous."


Around a click of his tongue, MacDarragh blows a puff of smoke straight into the ex-cop's face, and for a chain-smoker himself, Damien almost looks like he's going to hurl. Yet stubbornly, he is sticking to his vow of silence. Or maybe his nerves are so on edge around Neil he genuinely can't find it in himself to speak. After all, he used to be so chatty when they were on the force, yet now the most Blumenthal has uttered to his old friend is telling him to fuck off, as well as agreeing that the mob has stupid nicknaming practices. And as funny as it is to think the guy is this pathetically afraid, it won't be entertaining if he doesn't put up a proper struggle. Kind of like whatever the fuck it was that overtook him when they fought back at the tower. When Damien dared to stab him.

Slowly, Neil rolls his right shoulder. Once. Twice.

Like a snake striking, his arm shoots out in a flash, grabbing Damien's face by the chin in a vice grip that won't let him cower away from the touch. Or from the way Neil leans forward, pressing the still-burning tip of the cigarette in his mouth to the ex-cop's skin. He can feel it when Blumenthal's muscles go taut against his bindings; can hear him wince from the sharp pain burning at his nerve endings.

It doesn't last long, but when MacDarragh pulls away to stare at his handiwork, what meets him is a small, round scar bright red at its center where it singed the flesh sitting at the tender spot on the edge of the ex-cop's upper lip. That's gonna hurt like a motherfucker for the rest of the day, and it's gonna look like a herpes sore for two weeks. Not that Damien is going to live so see it healed this time around.

With a shove, Neil lets go, only for Blumenthal to spit back at him with a sneer, "Fuck you!"

Oh, how creative. The hitman chuckles in return. Damien should be grateful he didn't burn his eye, or that he didn't make him eat the cigarette. An idea to save for later. This was always meant to be a drawn-out affair, after all.

Standing up with a brief dusting of his clothes, MacDarragh casts his gaze over the surrounding pier at the cold, murky waters of the East River, humming to himself, "Because I'm so endlessly generous, I'm even gonna let you leave suicide notes for anyone you think might give a shit that you took your own life."

For Lonie, it had been their family and close friends. And Dan. For Damien, it'll probably be Eleonora and Montesano, because despite everything the shmuck still had people supporting him. An estranged sister and a sergeant putting her family in jeopardy for him, and a fucking mob boss that the golden boy has latched onto. It's hilarious.

"Why?" the question is more whisper than anything else, and for a second Neil is not sure if that's the wind playing tricks on him. When the hitman looks back at Damien, the man's freshly-scarred mouth clamps shut, yet his eyebrows are still furrowed in a deep, desperate question. Why what? Why is MacDarragh doing this? It's simultaneously an insufficient yet loaded question.

Neil enjoys breaking people down. Cade would have been his first attempt at doing the reverse. The gangster hates Damien, and some part of MacDarragh has to wonder whether if things had gone differently the two would be doing this together right now, menacing Blumenthal and Finch. Because Wolf is one of the only people to appreciate what he does, what he was brought up to do - the admiration is obvious enough any time Cadence looks at him, no matter how much the guy swears up and down that the two aren't alike. He knows what MacDarragh does and he thinks he's a bad motherfucker for it.

Damien knew too. Parts of it, anyway. But instead of either sticking by his friend or ratting him out in all of his self-righteousness, the idiot had the audacity to confront Neil directly, to try and moralize while undermining the very morals he claimed to purport by giving MacDarragh a chance to explain in the first place. To change. Some might call it empathy. Neil calls it bullshit and annoying. He could have killed the ex-cop all the way back then. He has gotten rid of people for much much less, so why not? When he let Blumenthal live the first time... maybe part of it was for old time's sake, all of the smoke breaks they took because Mike didn't indulge. Yet most of it was a sadistic curiosity to see how devastatingly he could break this man before having him beg to be put out of his misery.

The over a decade and a half that has elapsed since and nearly ripped the opportunity away from Neil was never part of the plan.

Still smiling, MacDarragh can murmur only one response, "Do I need a reason?"

Cade's voice snaps him out of the moment. Grip on his handgun tightening, Neil turns to stare at the gangster and the limp body clutched in his strong grasp - the Butcher. The asshole that shot him and Cadence.

"Set him on the ground," he calls out, gesturing to a spot with his firearm. Visible excitement stirs throughout MacDarragh's entire body - he has plans for all of them. Finch, then Damien, then Cade. When his eyes flit over to the gangster's, the involuntary smile on Neil's face feels almost genuine - save the best for last, right? But first things first, "I've been thinking who should have the honor of killing the Butcher."

In the fantasy land in which Cade and he are still partners, it would have been him. Half as a way for the gangster to get payback for the torture he sustained. Half as a way for Neil to test if he was well and truly over his old flame. If his loyalty could lie with someone else. Its the same thing Vivien intended to assess with their first assignment, if for different reasons. Well, whether he truly views Finch as merely a bargaining chip or not, Cade has certainly proven one thing to be fact - his loyalties sure as hell don't lie with MacDarragh.

"You'll do it, Damien," Neil's voice rings out on the verge of a cackle, only stoked further by the hateful, horrified look that Blumenthal throws him. Before he can curse him out further, MacDarragh continues, "I mean, all of this, everything you've been doing... it's to get justice for Kell, right? It would be anticlimactic if I didn't give you the chance."

Incredulous. That's the only way to describe Damien's expression as his eyes shift to take in Cade and Kaden. He doesn't know. Good.

Humming, Neil's eyes follow the same trajectory, settling on the helpless soon-to-be corpse that is the Butcher. Wonder if he knows? "There is a dead man's trigger at the base of his skull. The Black Bitch set it up as a safety measure - he dies, and the world knows everything about the High-Rise. Everything, Damien."

Including Moore's documents, and the proof of the framed murder of Michael Kell the old police chief held onto.

MacDarragh is grinning, all giddy inside. Fuck, this feels good. What a great way to start his new life. He can't wait to see what shocked expression Blumenthal's face has contorted itself into at the revelation.

Something connect with Neil's midsection, throwing him off balance.

The sky spins in his vision and all of a sudden he finds himself falling to the ground, handgun still secure in his grasp. All this time, he's kept it pointed in Cade's direction - the only person that could try and make a move against him and spoil the moment. When it's Blumenthal that gets him in a tackle, bindings sliding off of the ex-cop's arms, MacDarragh snarls.

Све су јебене кучке.
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This isn't the first time Damien has had to undo bindings, though before they weren't the ones on himself. They were on Kaden, back when the two could barely stand being in the same room for more than five minutes without uselessly bickering over one petty thing or another. It's strange, to reminisce on how things started. Now the ex-cop can't help wanting to be in the capo's presence, to hear his voice even when he says the most out-of-pocket shit. They've come such a long, bizarre way.

A month ago feels more like a lifetime ago. Even if the memory of the zip-tie persists.

Loosening it had been a painstaking process, gradual and tense. The same stands for the fake tie-up Cade has put him in now, on purpose. Not too tight, not too loose. Convincing. It's quality work, even with something as unorthodox as a car seatbelt. Honestly, Damien would be long free if only in the process it hadn't caught on one of the clasps of his dumbass fancy plastic cast.

If it weren't for that, he would be free by the time Neil burns a cigarette out on his face. Or by the time he reveals he plans on staging his suicide.

Or by the time he tells him to kill Kaden. As if these past 48 hours Damien hasn't been scrambling to keep the man alive.

The seatbelt doesn't release. Because of course it fucking doesn't. With a forceful tug, the clasp on the cast comes undone, and when Damien tenses his arms apart the damn thing is ripped off of his hand, along with the bindings. He doesn't stop to care for the sudden pain shooting up his left limb.

All he can think about as he tackles MacDarragh is that he's going to kill him.

When the two land on the ground, Damien can feel the hitman's breath get knocked out. Caught up in his disgusting theatrics, the cocky fucker didn't see this coming. Vile green eyes are wide and furious as Neil stares up at his assailant - at the ex-cop's clasped hands coming down right in the middle of his face. They connect with a crack. When Damien's hands retreat to gear up for another hit, strings of blood stretch out and drip. Part of it is from the reopened wound in his palm. Part of it is the bastard's own lifeblood.

If he keeps hitting MacDarragh like this, will he cave in his smug face?

Neil growls, red-faced and showing teeth, and Damien meets the expression with one of his own, eyes burning. Just like he meets the handgun swinging to aim at him. The trigger goes off with a wail. The bullet finds no purchase safe for air as the ex-cop puts his entire strength behind relentlessly holding onto MacDarragh, aiming the firearm away while his free hand continues its flurry of blows. In a brawl like this, firearms aren't worth shit.

And MacDarragh knows this. He has to get away. In one harsh, jarring move Neil kicks with his legs to get Damien off. He's stronger than back at the tower. The ex-cop feels himself lift with the unexpected force, and in that split second of weightlessness, the only thing his rushing mind can think of is to clutch even more fervently onto MacDarragh's arm. The hitman's visage turns to shock when his body too shifts to follow. To get dragged down.

The handgun gets flung out of Neil's grasp and somewhere onto the pier in the same instant that he and Damien go tumbling over its side. But it's not water that greets them when they fall. The thick sheet of ice cracks with an echoing wail as the two men land atop it. Blumenthal is on his stomach, breathing in gasps as he watches the surface beneath him spiderweb at the impact, groan. Not shatter, however. Not yet. Adrenalin pumping through his system, Damien finally reaches for the engraved S&W concealed at his hip.

The brass key is in his coat pocket on the same side. Worthless now. He thought he had something.

He did have something- he had everything! And then he gave it to Delilah.

Hot anger contrasts with the chill on his skin as Damien flips over, gun held tightly. MacDarragh has already stood up. Aim for the head, that's what Cade had told him. He aims. A second crack of thunder pierces the air. And this time, it connects, yet not where it's supposed to.

A hole gapes in Neil's shoulder where the bullet went through, where he managed to deflect it at the last second reaching to hold onto the gun as it went off. There's soot on his fingers. Insane bastard. His eyes are near slits. Damien can do nothing but take the kick MacDarragh levels at his head. That same unexpected force sends him skidding back onto the ice several more paces, the S&W lost as his ear rings where the hit landed. It's almost as bad as his headache.

"You really don't know when to just lie down and accept fate, do you?" MacDarragh calls out, lips twisting as he holds onto his bleeding shoulder.

"Fate?" Damien rasps out. Like he's one to talk about fate, "You should be fucking dead, MacDarragh. You were dead!"

"As if you aren't the one overdue for retirement. It would have been better, and you know it. Or do you actually enjoy this ruin of a life Moore's "mercy" has left you with?"

"You were the one that destroyed my fucking life!"
Damien screams, as if MacDarragh would ever care. But it feels good to heap all of his problems onto one person. One target. One thing he can take care of, and maybe then he'll be okay. Maybe then the memory of his best friend can rest easy.

As if Damien is doing this for Mike.

When was the last time he even thought about Mike? Outside of his death, that is. As if that's the sole thing his best friend has been reduced to. A martyr. How many times has Damien imagined Michael dying? He's killed him so many times in his head and used that to keep himself going. He's disgusting. On some days the ex-convict can almost convince himself all the self-destructive bullshit that he's doing is for Kell's sake, for justice's sake. On other days he knows deep in his heart this vengeance is a selfish suicide mission that will rip him apart, because he's too much of a coward to rip himself apart.

MacDarragh's nose isn't broken. There's a smear of blood underneath it, but that's all. When his arm moves away to unveil his shoulder, the remains of the bullet clinking as they fall, Damien's breath hitches - something stirs within the wound. Or maybe it's the wound itself stirring, its edges coming to grotesque, unnatural life as they undulate to sow themselves back together.

Aim for the fucking head.

Damien whips his head around to look over his shoulder, eyes burning. Like a hawk's, they zero in on a dark spot stark against the canvas of milky white that is the ice sheet - there, some feet away further from the dock, lies the S&W. He doesn't know if he could reach it in time.

MacDarragh takes a step forward, hand retrieving something from his pocket. A knife glimmers.
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There is a dead man's trigger at the base of his skull.

He forgets he's playing dead. He's simply lying in a dark void of ice, skin gone so cold he feels like he's on fire.

The Black Bitch set it up as a safety measure - he dies, and the world knows everything about the High-Rise. Everything, Damien.

His eyes snap open, body numb and pulled tight like a bow string. Neil and Damien - body of tussling limbs roll off the edge of the pier. Like a pair of wild cats, the vicious fight has erupted in a blaze of teeth and flying fists.
Kaden scrambles, an outraged cry on his lips when a hand made of iron holds him back.
He has no mind for words, just a savage sound.

"You'll get yourself killed-" Cade's eyes are scanning the horizon, where the two of them disappeared off the side of the docks.

"Help him!" Kaden spits.
Like Wilson's words are a reminder, his chest aches, barbed tongues of fire licking up his ribs.
His broad hand finds where it hurts the worst, cups Kaden close by that radiating spot of agony. It's the only warmth in this harrowing world of vicious cold and it's too much.
Damien ripped his cast off, speckled the dock with blood. By the muted grunts and roars, he can only assume the fight is growing that much worse. Blumenthal is an adequate opponent, but three bullets couldn't stop MacDarragh.

They're both too close to the ground, too far away from the edge to see any real detail. Cade stares, hemming Kaden in against his wide chest and large shoulders, listening with fervent interest.
Is he waiting for MacDarragh to finish Damien off? Was this a twisted scheme of theirs? Or Cade's own personal revenge against him?

Cade takes the gun. Free, Kaden scrambles to his knees, hoping to see a glimpse of his partner.
As soon as the weapon is in the gangster's hand, he fires.

The thunder slap of a bullet spins the knife straight from the hitman's hand.
It's the shot Kaden couldn't perfect with Cade on the other end at half the distance. The crooked cop doesn't so much as lose the tip of a finger.
Cade is missing his signature grin, he doesn't unload his clip all into the same precise hole his first round should have made in MacDarragh's forehead.
Sparingly, the next shot buries itself into MacDarragh's knee.

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MacDarragh is a nightmare of morphing, clay-like flesh made incarnate as he stalks toward Damien, blade at the ready. The ex-cop has only one more hand to sacrifice getting mangled in his attempts at putting this golem down. And then, that'll be it. Will the hitman just get back up anyway to finish the job?

There's a ringing of metal. In the blink of an eye, the knife goes flying, spinning trajectory sending it away from MacDarragh to embed itself straight up in the ice, another fractured spiderweb spreading out from its buried edge. The entire ice sheet groans and creaks in protest of the damage being done to it. Damien looks up at the lip of the dock - Kaden is there, face formed in a unique expression of concern only he could make. Next to him, a gun smokes in Cade's grasp. The ex-cop's eyebrows raise in surprise. The gangster did this.

Shit. Maybe that nickname is warranted - Damsel. How many times has Blumenthal been saved at this point? By Cade alone, it's been twice.

He really needs to thank the man. Genuinely.

Cade fires again. With a violent jerk, MacDarragh's body lurches forward. Falling. His knee gives out with an arch of fresh gore spraying out - the ice has already been smeared in red, the marks and prints of the fight stark on a canvas for any forensic's team to have an absolute field day with. How many people can claim they've seen blood suffused with slivers of silver? Maybe it's a trick of the light, an illusion, but Damien swears he can see the chunks blown off of Neil wriggling like worms, desperate to conjoin and reform. How long until his knee heals, just like his shoulder?

Knelt on the ground, the hitman too is looking up at the pier, visage darkened. The air around the unstoppable monster that is MacDarragh hangs heavy with hatred, so thick it's almost palpable.

He is still alive. Damien's eyes shift from MacDarragh to Cade. He is aiming for his head, but it's only to hold the slippery bastard at gunpoint. Why?!

The ex-cop doesn't have the luxury of wasting time deciphering that fact. Damien springs into action once more, scrambling to stand and run for the S&W. Not a beat later, a bullet whizzes right past him. With the same precision aim he shot the knife out of MacDarragh's hand, Cade shoots the engraved gun, sparks flying. Damien inhales, sharp and shocked, something more than the cold air burning his lungs. The engraved gun is his lifeline! Far more important than that, it is a gift - the sole memento he kept from Kaden when he believed the two would never see each other again. The ice underneath the firearm fractures as dark water gurgles up to overtake it, disappearing it into its depths.

What the fuck is Cadence doing?! Well, doesn't matter. When Damien skids along the ice only to alter the direction of his dash, he doesn't care if Cade tries to shoot him up. And neither does he care for the way the surface beneath him shifts with each step, his shoes getting wet from the bone-chilling water of the river progressively coming up. Because no matter what, that knife is ending up in MacDarragh's skull.

Damien reaches down, grasps the handle, and in one harsh pull dislodges the weapon. That's the last straw. With a high-pitched crack, the ice sheet's integrity gives way, and a sinking feeling settles over Damien. One instant his eyes lock onto Kaden. The next, he's dipping below.
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Relentlessly, Damien goes for the knife. The ice groans and creaks under his weight. Beautiful streaks of lightening frozen in time splay across the ice's surface, in tandem with each of Blumenthal's steps.

"Dami!" Cade calls, gun shifting from Neil to the ex-cop.
"Fucking stop, idiot!"

The river inhales Damien.

Once more, the man is sucked down into watery depths while Kaden watches.
With bated breath he observes the lazy waves lap at drifting sheets of shattered ice. It mixes with the droplets of blood, washes it away in a haze. Desperately, he crawls forward, scanning the shifting hole Damien disappeared in.

The man breaches the surface, scrambling for the broken edge of ice. Trembling, he slips back into the bone chilling water.

Kaden pulls back the front of his gown - a ridiculous thing to be wearing for such an occasion - and scrapes at the layers of gauze and bandages wrapping his chest.
Tender, oversensitive skin grows redder under the attention. And colder. Apparently it was doing the most to keep him warm.
The wound that should be a swollen sutured mess is a red, silvery hole.

He's still in pain.

The freakish creature that is MacDarragh comes back together in seconds. When Kaden urges himself to pick up the remains of the seatbelt off the edge of the pier, his body is heavy. He's clumsy, slow, particularly when following the rungs of the ladder down to the sheet of ice.
The ice is fire under his feet, and his breath is ripped from his lungs when he surrenders to his knees to keep the ice from giving out.

"Loop it around your arm," he instructions, inching as close as he can. Another hollow crack rips through the sheet of ice.


Neil's eyes are pinpricks of hatred and rage. The guy is feral, and that's part of what sends him into the water.
Like a wet, panicked cat he's scrabbling at the edge. It doesn't douse the fire in those eyes though. While Cade shimmies off the edge of the pier, digging his own claws in to keep from slipping and falling through himself, he can feel those eyes.
Despite the wind cutting his cheeks raw, he feels warm. He's so far in the clouds, he almost forgets to leave the loaded gun on the pier, away from the frozen hitman.

All things considered, this went better than he thought it would. It was always going to be a shit show, one way or another, but no one died and it was damn entertaining. Can't get much better than that.

And Neil meant this for him.

Damien, too, but whatever.

For a moment Cade thinks Neil won't take his hand, that he'll spitefully swim to the opposite side to try his luck there instead.
Then he thinks the little shit is going to drag him in the moment he gets close enough. Both wouldn't be out of the ordinary.
He glances at Kaden and Damien, can hear just barely the soft reassurance Kaden's giving to the guy like he's a damn dog.
The pill took longer than expected to actually do shit. Even now, Finch winces when he heaves on the belt to pull Damsel's water logged ass out. The capo forgets his pain, dropping the belt to hold Damien's face between his hands. He shifts, like he wants to do more for his popsicle boyfriend, touch more, but doesn't know how to.

"Hey!" Cade barks, and Kaden glances over, ragged.
With a grounding swallow, Cade gestures for the belt.
"To tie him up with."

Even from feet away, Kaden's face darkens. He gives Neil a withering glare.
The expression only drops when Damien slips and Finch bends to steady him. With a final frown, the capo balls up the belt and slides it across the ice.

Like this plan, that worked better than he thought it would too. But it's hardly the end of it, not with Neil's rapsheet.

"Hurry up," Cade hisses, shifting his weight on the creaking ice. He gives the belt a shake. "Before your dick falls off."

The ice isn't nearly as splintered here as it is where Damien fell through. It's thick, the kind of shit that only breaks when a dumbass shoots at it. It makes dragging Neil out only slightly less dangerous for both of them.
The real danger is when MacDarragh is out. Playing pussy lovers like Finch and Blu, they carefully shift away from the ice. Slowly, watching each other. If you didn't know them, you might think it was with concern.
Not that they were sizing each other up.

Predictably, he jumps Cade.
They both roll across the ice together and he can't help the grin growing on his face. Even when the ice water soaking into his clothes feel like little blades, even when MacDarragh tries to strangle him.
His hands cool the hot blood flowing through Cade, and if Neil wasn't genuinely trying to wring the life from him, he'd bask in the touch.
Neil's skin is pale, his lips are blue. His hair is half in his eyes, half smeared back in at awkward angle. Bloody nose scrunched, teeth clenched.

Color swims in Cade's eyes, making the world rosy and warm.

"You're-" he spits, touching where MacDarragh is gripping him like steel. It doesn't matter that he just went round two with Dami, doesn't matter that he tanked two rounds or went for a dip in the harbor in December.

Neil keeps fucking going.

The pressure in his head builds.


The tiger snarl on Neil's face softens.

He kicks the hitman off, scrambling to grab the fucker. Grabbing a handful of hair, he slams Neil's head into the ice.

While the poor bastard sees stars, Cade grabs the seatbelt.
He crosses Neil's hands behind his back, one over the other and starts tying. It's not the bullshit knots he did with Damien, not even close, but he can still see MacDarragh finding a way to wiggle free with enough time.
The guy makes the seatbelt look good, framing in his toned muscles and pretty hands. Still, Cade's willing to bet he brought something more practical, seeing how he meant to make these docks into a Saw sequel.

He finishes the last knot, jaw clenched as he pulls it nice and tight. Neil's trembling beneath him, not from anger but because he's freezing. Despite that, something lukewarm caresses Cade's leg.

The ice is splattered in blood, the faintest licks of steam disappearing into the wind as it rapidly coagulates.
Cade prods Neil's knee and his hand comes away with fresh blood.


"Respectfully," Kaden says, turning the heating of the car on to it's highest degree, "take off your clothes."

It shames him to admit, but MacDarragh's car is a newer model with better facilities. All the seats are temperature controlled and it's clean, unlike the dumpster Cade must've stolen from some rig worker. For the moment, it's the best place he has to regulate Damien's temperature.

The man's been slurring his speech, trembling violently. The wound in his hand has reopened without his cast, bleeding into the seats.
With shaky hands of his own, he helps his partner undress.

Before the interior of the vehicle can even begin to change, the door opens to let in a gust of cold wind and disease.
MacDarragh's soaken, corpse-like body takes a seat, followed soon by Cade who half sits, half stands between his opens knees. It's an uncomfortable, cramped position, one Kaden mirrors.

"You guys sure don't waste any time," Cade says, slamming the door shut. Despite the inappropriate nature of the comment, Cade doesn't send them a sleazy grin. His focus is on the pile of shit he brought with him. He's sufficiently tied, but Finch feels ill even breathing the air this creature exhales.

"He's hypothermic," Kaden explains, pulling Damien's arm from the sleeve he can't with his injured hand. "I need to get him out of these clothes. Do you have another one of those... pills. Damien's bleeding."

Cade frowns. He takes his knife, steadies MacDarragh's leg and cuts through his pants.
Blood bubbles from the wound there, dripping down his calve. The scowl on his face deepens.
"Not sure how well it'd work. It's been minutes already and it hasn't done a thing. Mac's... you're still bleeding."

The term of endearment is as unusual as the entire situation. With a thoughtful glance, Cade buckles what looks to be a collar around the villain's neck.
Then waits for something to happen with the crippling wound that's turned MacDarragh's knee into mush.
What little silver oozes through the wound does it slow and aimlessly. Another gurgle of blood drips from the wound.

"I don't get it..." Cade says to himself. With eyes suddenly gone wide, he puts pressure onto Neil's leg.

"Don't look at him," Kaden orders, turning Damien's head to look at him. There's a red, blistering patch of skin just above his lip.
Had Kaden recovered sooner he could have kept this pain and terrorism from being inflicted on Blumenthal. It's a failure he'll find difficult to forgive.
"It's just you and me, Damien."

His hands pause over the man's lower half.
This is already more of Damien then he's ever seen and there's still more to go. He hates that it has to be like this, in this way with these people. Blumenthal deserves so much more than this.

"Neil," Cadence says, growls, "What's wrong with you?"

The man is pressing hard on the hitman's kneecap, looking expectantly at MacDarragh.
When the gangster doesn't get a satisfying answer his voice softens, "I don't know what to do. You gotta tell me what to do."

Despite the unusual air, Kaden says, "The nature of this...thing is robotic, correct?"

Cade guardedly glances at him, biting his lip. He nods a moment later, before his eyes are back on MacDarragh.

"It took time with me. I was cold," he says slowly, meeting Neil's eyes, "Maybe it doesn't work well in cooler temperatures."

The gangster pauses to reflect on that statement.
Then, armed with his knife, he starts cutting through MacDarragh's shirt. Pulling the water laden fabric away, he hurriedly saws it through. And yet he never nicks the skin.
Roughly, Cade starts unbuckling Neil's pants and with his strength, easily shifts the hitman so he can shimmy them off.
Next Cade takes his shirt off over his head, holding it out to be taken.
"It's dry-ish."

Kaden eyes the offered article before hesitantly taking it.
He uses it to swab the clinging moisture from Damien's body, mopping up droplets and flecks of ice. Once he's finished, he wraps it around Damien's torn hand.
MacDarragh did that to him...

The man sitting not two feet away did this to him...

Far more gently then Cade, Finch helps Damien out of his lower half of clothing. The man's pants are tugged down to his ankles and tossed away, along with his shoes and socks. Eons prior at the mansion, Kaden had drawn parallels to Damien's drowning to the execution order Kaden made when they first got into contact. It was a faint resemblance to what could have happened.

This is much more accurate, sans sedative drug. He nearly gave this man a frozen, watery death.
Damien's palm is red, while each fingernail is a lurid blue-purple.

Eventually, he can't forgoe the moment any longer. He pulls his arms from the sleeves of his gown and presses it down to his waist where he is still ridiculously without undergarments. Pulling the last of the sodden bandages from his sore chest, Finch inhales carefully.
Tentatively, he tucks into Damien. Each touch of his trembling body of ice makes Kaden flinch. With a inhale he must manually slow, he sinks into Blumenthal's body.
Like sinking into a warm bath.

The slow process is nothing like the way Cade has pressed MacDarragh snug to his being, like his chest was made for it, like the human contact doesn't set his senses on fire.
The man is glaring sheepishly at Finch. After a huff, he looks away, scooping MacDarragh's injured leg flush to his hip. With harsh rubs up and down MacDarragh's thigh he says lowly, "If I'd known you couldn't take it I never woulda shot you. Just grazed you, maybe."

Kaden rubs along Damien's shoulders, avoiding his pretty eyes as if he was some young stupid thing. Normally he could do this with no theatrics. He can tolerate touch if it's practical.
With gritted teeth, he builds friction into his partner's skin. There isn't a hint of warmth, it's like lying with a dead man.

The man who didn't hesitate to save him from MacDarragh, even when Kaden's death would apparently give him everything's he's ever wanted.

"You keep saving my life at the expense of your own safety you stupid man," he whispers into Damien's ear. "Thank you..."
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It wasn't long ago at all that Damien promised Kaden he'd try his best to value his life, and this pitiful display certainly goes against his word. The ex-cop knew the ice was cracking, yet he couldn't let go, a single-minded numbness carrying him forward right up until the water engulfed him. It'd felt like burning - like the embers of a cigarette being pressed all over his body, though this time it was a torture of Damien's own foolish design.

And still, his partner fished him out of that frozen tomb when he arguably deserved to be left there.

He definitely doesn't deserve it when, with so much considerate care, Finch holds him, even when this must be a private sensory hell for the man. Damien can feel every flinch of discomfort that Kaden powers through to clasp him further, hands rubbing away trying to warm up the shivering, fumbling mess that is the ex-cop. Fuck, he's so pathetic. He's always causing trouble for the people around him. Damien struggles to apologize, but stubbornly his voice won't come out, stuttering until he's forced to give up in an irritated, defeated gasp. It isn't right that he is the one getting coddled again.

The fact that secretly it feels so nice only amplifies Damien's shame at his predicament - selfishly, he steals Kaden's meager body heat, leaning into the contact in the same breath that he chastises himself for taking advantage of the moment. Under different circumstances, he might even be selfish enough to let the edges of his being grow lax, trust them to be kept together by other hands. How long has he wanted to be held like this?

How long has he wanted to hear the exact words that get breathed into his ear, in that familiar voice that makes him weak?

Damien trembles, but it's not from the cold. The ex-cop's chest is a fragile vessel ready to overflow with emotion. Does Kaden realize exactly how devastatingly much this means to him? Slowly, he removes his good arm from where it's pressed between his body and Finch's, shifting it to the capo's back in a light embrace. Damien can't look at him or he might just break down. So instead, he hides in the crook of Kaden's neck, eyes closing.

He really is stupid.

"And I'll keep being stupid," finally, Damien finds some semblance of a voice - shaky as it might be, it's enough to plead, "Please, just- I need you to live."

"You're a dumbass,"
another strained utterance slithers into existence. That's not Kaden, and it's not aimed at him. Tensing up, Damien lifts his head slightly, barely enough to peer at the other two passengers in the car. Because despite the capo's calming insistence that it's just the two of them, that's not true. It's a fact too difficult to ignore.

MacDarragh is right there, within reach, but secure in the arms of the man by whose mercy he draws breath. Not only did Cade not throw the hitman into the harbor, he didn't put him in the car trunk tied up either. Shit, Cadence nearly sounds like he regrets shooting the bastard he talked big game about getting payback on, and even said bastard calls him a dumbass for it... despite the fact that Neil's tone sounds far from the usual caustic, biting sting of the creature behind the mask. If Damien didn't know better, he'd almost call the way he addresses the gangster gentle.

As if aware of that strange reality, Neil scoffs, summoning back some of his vitriol.

"I can't believe you conspired with these two schmucks. Finch I nearly expected, but Blumenthal-" a sudden hiss cuts off MacDarragh and he looks down to where the gangster's broad hands are doing their best to warm his injured leg. If nothing else, the cold has probably been good for numbing the pain from the gunshot, so the more the hitman's body temperature stabilizes the more he can feel.

MacDarragh's jaw clenches and in the next instant, he's glaring in Kaden's direction, expression sharp and severe.

It's only when another spasm of pain goes through his body that he refocuses on Cade. The muscles in his arms visibly tense as if he means them to flex, to hold onto the gangster for support, yet they have been made useless between the ice water's chill and being bound. All that the untouchable hitman can do is bite down a groan and tuck into Cade, "... If it weren't for you, I would be halfway across the country."

Damien's brows furrow - he's never seen Neil like this. His eyes shift from MacDarragh to Cade and back. If all of this is merely another one of the fucker's ploys, the ex-cop has no idea to what end it might be.

Cade's hands are covered in blood. Red continues to run down the hitman's calf - not in a torrent, but an unabating trickle nevertheless.

Just like Damien's reopened wound, soaking into the gangster's shirt wrapped around his palm.

There's a duffle bag in the passenger seat.

The ex-cop only notices it now, casting his eyes to take in the interior of the car with the clarity of someone past the hazy point of hypothermia. A lot of things become clearer now that a freezing death is not knocking on his door - like the fact that all four unlikely occupants of the vehicle are in some state of undress, and if a passerby were to peer into the window they'd be greeted by one of the weirdest, most homoerotic situations ever. He'd laugh at the absurdity of it all if he wasn't too busy quietly panicking. Inhaling, the ex-cop retreats his arm from where it's long overstayed its welcome on Kaden.

Thank God for the recent ice bath preventing Damien from growing as visibly flushed as he usually would.

It's more with half-embarrassed gestures than with words that the ex-cop asks Finch for help reaching for and then unzipping the bag.

"Didn't anyone teach either of you to keep your grubby paws off of other people's stuff?" MacDarragh pipes up like he's in any position to say shit.

Tied and pressed in by Cade as the hitman is, ignoring his protests proves to be easy, and Damien carries on inspecting the duffel bag's contents for anything of use. As it happens, there is a single change of clothes he can only assume was meant as a backup if things got... messy. Which, considering the rest of the supplies, was a high probability - the rope and ducktape are the least concerning items. When the ex-cop unfurls a neatly rolled up black kit, he's pretty sure the pristinely cleaned tools it contains are not surgical, as much as they might look like it. One vaguely resembles a corkscrew wine opener, and at that point Damien lets the whole thing fall back into the bag in repulsion. The cigarette burn aching over his lip was an appetizer. This is what MacDarragh had in mind for him, possibly for all three of them.

What part would the case of silvery pills and injection gun have played in the psycho's torture plans?

Even more than the corkscrew, it is this thought that makes Damien shiver, cautiously holding up one of the bullet-shaped capsules in front of his face - the silver within swirls like a living thing, something straight out of a sci-fi. It's almost beautiful. Almost, "So this is what the High-Rise has been working on. Or TreaTech, at least..."

The thing that brought Cade and MacDarragh back to life. The thing that apparently healed Kaden. His exposed chest is unmarred. Damien nearly reaches out to touch to make sure, before deciding he's very much causing the capo enough discomfort as is. Eyesight alone proves that where there should be a bullet hole, there is only an expanse of creamy skin stretching over muscle. Has it also erased the gnarly gash on his thigh?

Before he can change his mind, Damien grabs the injection gun, holding it to his left arm with a press of the trigger. Cade's shirt falls into his lap.

He swears he can sense something crawling in his veins, and a wound that should have taken weeks to heal begins knitting itself back together. This would have scarred him for life - same as the cicatrice on his right forearm, it would have persisted till the day he died, and now it's fading, being eaten away until all that remains is a faint white line. Like it was never inflicted in the first place. Far from giving him comfort that... unnerves him.

"I don't like it," Damien mutters absentmindedly, flexing his fingers, "It feels... wrong."

A sharp scoff comes from MacDarragh, who simply can't stop himself from commenting, "For once we're in agreement. And the piece of shit even has a fatal flaw. Wonder if we'd die from exposure to a fucking draft." He says that last part to Cade, chuckling through another bout of pain.

These two really were working together, huh... And supposedly they now want revenge on one another. Cuddling seems rather counterproductive to such a goal.

Cade's glare is daring anyone to question what he's doing, and Damien's narrowed stare is very much questioning it all in return.

You better have a good explanation for this shit, the sentence balances on the tip of the ex-cop's tongue, ready to spill over, before he swallows it down with a drawn-out pause staring at the pair. Technically... the gangster never made mention of killing the bastard. Damien should have expected such an outcome. Honestly, it's more surprising that Cade actually saved him from Neil when there were no benefits to doing so except upholding a tentative "alliance" made mere hours ago under the threat of violence. Loyal to a fault, huh...

Briefly glancing at Kaden out of the corner of his eye, Damien heaves a deep, dejected sigh, "I guess you did what you set out to do and brought him down to his knees... In the most literal sense."

MacDarragh's angry pout at the mention of his defeat proves to be unexpectedly gratifying, in a very smug way. He didn't see it coming, they played this fucker.

"Listen, I don't fucking get it. Like, at all!" in an indication of what he doesn't get, Damien nods his head in Neil's direction before shooting Cade a meaningful stare, "... But here."

"Just make sure he doesn't get loose."

The ex-cop holds out the injection gun for Cade to take, loaded with another pill. This feels like a moronic move, but the gangster seems genuinely concerned about the injury... Plus, if MacDarragh dislikes whatever this silver is supposed to be, seeing him be reliant on it brings with it even more petty satisfaction.
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Damien settles into him, hollow gasps raking his shaking chest as if he means to speak. He never does, instead folds into Kaden further. Weakly, an arm wraps around his back and he inhales, softly jerking into Damien at the intensity of touch.
The freezing hot brand against his skin is a hug, an embrace. When Finch half twists to look at the man, he bumps into locks of brittle frozen hair as Damien hides his face into his neck.

Even his breath is cold...

Again, he's struck by this conundrum of social touch and how it's performed. Such a simple thing has him sitting in flustered confusion. Glancing at Cade, at the way he caresses the man he dragged from the harbor, Kaden lifts a hand. Tentatively, he rests it on the back of Damien's neck. The skin here is reliably plain, even pleasantly fuzzy the closer to the man's hairline. Kaden holds him still.

"Taylor cornered me into it," Cade spits at the hitman. It's bizarre what a few days apart has done to the gangster and his social circle. Taylor, potentially being the C.E.O of TreaTech. This has become bigger than any of them, larger than perhaps even Damien anticipated. The hitman glares spitefully at Finch, personal hatred the capo feels he hardly deserves. He's barely even met this man.
The irritating scowl is interrupted by a wave of pain that MacDarragh smothers into Cade's shoulder. Rather than shove the gesture aside with manly bravado, Cade cups Neil's head to his chest.
"Big baby," the gangster rumbles.

The contents of the bag are distressingly familiar.
Kaden picks up one of the shiny tools, twisting it in his hand. Cade follows the movement and when Finch's eyes flick up to take him in, the man's throat wobbles in a swallow.
Finch has a set just like it.
Damien's attention shifts to the unusual silver pills that refuse the laws of nature. Kaden's lips set in a line as he sits back, stiff, watching.
Like it had with MacDarragh's shoulder, and Kaden's own wound, the crippling cut repairs itself in a rippling of silver.

Kaden looks at Damien's hand, shifting further into the man's lap to see. It's as miraculous a recovery as his own. Ghosting a finger along the scar, he confirms for himself this isn't some hopeful illusion. In fact, the characteristic dryness of Blumenthal's hand is gone as well.
He takes Damien's chin, tilting his head up to watch the sore circle in his lip fade.

"It's outstanding," Kaden admits in a breath. It may be weird, but his partner is in one piece.

"Makes sense why it took us so long to come back. That morgue was fucking freezing," Cade murmurs to MacDarragh.
Like a dog with a piece of meat, he's eyeing the both of them. If Finch were to reach closer, he wonders if the gangster he used to know as friend would snarl at him.

Damien is... infuriatingly forgiving.

"There's nothing to fucking get," Cade mumbles, pushing his man back against the car seat.
"He hates the High-Rise, too. I got into trouble... Really shook the hive. Neil's the only one who knows shit about them. And he hates them. Right, tell 'em."

Kaden takes the injector gun.

Cadence studies the glare on his face like he's trying to decipher it. As if there's anything to decipher.
"He's not worth the trouble of keeping alive."

Cade huffs out his nose.
"But I was?"

"...These are different circumstances."

Cade leans in. "You fuck with him, you fuck with me."
He brings a fisted hand up, too slowly for an attack. Slowly it opens.
"And way I see it, we're all low on friends and now's not the time to get choosey."

Kaden scowls at the open palm, sticky and red with blood.

"I'm not saying we assemble like the fucking Avengers, I'll keep him tied for fuck's sake," Cade says with a roll of his eyes. His face goes hard, blue eyes glinting.
"Now fuck, off."

The gun makes a gentle slap as Kaden carelessly hands it off.
"He goes in the trunk."

"Fine." Cade sits back, parking Neil's leg into his lap. He smears new rivets of blood aside before finding a place to stick the man. The gun makes a soft hiss as it empties. The gangster sets it aside to watch as the wound flows back together, muscle and bone finding their rightful place.

"Can you move it?" He asks and upon being given a look Kaden can't define other than being bratty, he rephrases, "Move the damn knee, Neil."

Without pain, the joint bends as it should.

Wilson makes an audible sigh of relief, shoulders sagging. Rubbing his eyes, he gives another tired sigh when he realizes he's smeared blood into his face. Finch nearly nods in understanding, spreading his legs to rest his rear more squarely on Damien's thighs. It gives him space to breathe, allows him to unfold his calves a little.

With a solid pat against MacDarragh's thigh Cade says, "This bad boy can fit so many bullets in his ass, lemme tell you."

Before leaving, he plucks the car keys from the cupholder and stuffs it into a pocket. He takes the roll of duct tape as well. "Don't go anywhere."

Even though MacDarragh's already lost, he fights tooth and nail. Honestly, Cade wouldn't expect anything less.
The moment Neil's out of the car seat, he nearly yanks Cade off balance with how hard he jerks. It instantly reminds him of Vivien's hell dogs, how awful it'd be to have one of those on a leash while a squirrel runs by.

"You're going in one way or another - " While pinning Neil down into the trunk, his arm bends too close to the little shit's mouth. Teeth latch, sinking deep into muscle like fish hooks.
Cade smashes him in the head - more than once - to get him to let go.

A circular bite is imprinted into his skin, oozing pretty red lines. Another zombie bite between them, Neil's teeth pressed into his skin. Ghosting a touch over the aching skin, he watches it disappear a moment later.
Some things he'd like to keep...

Cade jerks Neil onto his stomach to tape up his arms. The last thing he needs is the fucker getting free and jumping him the next time he opens the lid.
"You were so good back there. Just fucking badass," he huffs, tape screaming as he unravels it to loop around Neil's little wrists.

"You- I'll be honest, bringing my family into it really pissed me off, Neil." He tests the strength of the ties with some jerks.
He does his ankles next because the guy isn't going to stop.

Man, his legs...

They're dimpled with fresh goosebumps, red at his knees and little feet and icicle toes. Cade follows them with a hand up to his ass, where his underwear are drenched enough to hide practically nothing. He tucks a finger under the waistband, soaking in the frigid cold dogging where its gotta be aching the worst.
"You were just hurt, right? Thought I'd turned my back on you. You vindictive, fucking psycho."

Grabbing a handful of hair, he cranes Neil's head back far enough for him to steal a kiss. A fast one, not nearly enough to satisfy him, but one that guarantees he doesn't lose his tongue. The thought shouldn't turn him on as much as it does, but he doesn't know how far their healing situation goes. He might not be able to grow back the things Neil takes into his mouth.
"I... how was I supposed to know you..."


How was I supposed to know you liked me?

Enough to turn his back on his dad. Maybe that isn't that much. Cade knows he doesn't give a shit about his own fucking asshole of a dad.

"I thought for sure the best case scenario was being Vivien's guinea pig for months. Don't lie to me and act like you weren't betting on that outcome. I couldn't...do that, Neil. I can never live like that again."

He dips deeper, cups the frozen handful of meat.
"...What were you going to do to Damien, with that corkscrew thing?"

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An animal.

That's what Neil feels like he has been reduced to, yanked and manhandled by Cade whichever way the fucking guy wishes, yet if he's going to play the role of something wild being captured, he'll play it well. Putting his newly healed knee to good use, the hitman trashes around like a madman, barking curses into the air that are half in English and half in his mother tongue. Like always, he fights against fate tooth and nail.

Even though he fully realizes just how inevitable (and ironic) it is that he'll definitely end up in his own car's trunk. One way or another.

In this situation, bound and held down by Cade's strong arms, there's no other way. It strikes the hitman once more how mere hours ago he was also being held by this man - still roughly, but with a very different intention. Genuine intention. One Neil allowed and met with genuineness of his own like an idiot that doesn't know the very basic rules of relationships in his line of work.

The kiss is what finally gets him to cease his struggles. Quick, burning. Stolen. Just like the feel Cade cops of him with the same casualness he asks a simple question, as if the fucker hasn't just betrayed him to Blumenthal and Finch.

Keeping the rest of his body completely still, Neil turns his head as much as the grip Wolf has on his hair will allow, to look at the gangster over his shoulder. When he speaks at last his voice is calm if strained from the cold and the shouting, "The kneecaps."

Ain't that ironic too?

"It's a multipurpose kind of tool. I was planning on screwing it right underneath his kneecaps until they popped off," maybe use it for some other mutilations as well. Whatever he felt like.

MacDarragh had many ideas and plans. All of it now ruined.

"You're a cheat, by the way," Neil exhales, arching himself further back to be basically flush with Cade, if not for the guy's hand on his ass. He leans into the touch, "It wasn't a fair fight you got me in, remember that... I would have put you down right."

In one harsh jerk, MacDarragh headbutts his captor as hard as he can manage.

He's done this once before, back at the hotel, and it had proven to be especially successful, just like now. For a split second Cade lets go as he reels away from the momentary pain, and Neil uses the opportunity to flip over - he has no chance of escape currently, not with the duct tape keeping his arms and legs secure, but at least when the gangster comes back to his senses and slams him into the freezing chassis of the car knocking his air out, Neil is facing Wolf, green eyes blazing.

"Пљујем на твој гроб," he snarls, hacking a ball of spit straight into Cade's face.

With a growing grin - mean and offended - overtaking his expression, Neil continues, "You got a taste of this once, and now you feel like you can get grabby with me whenever you want? Epecially now?"

"Touch me like that again and I'll cut your dick off and feed it to you."

It's nearly surreal to think... He let this man touch him - willingly - in ways he has let few people do before, because you have to earn such a privilege and level of trust. And then Cade betrayed him. Shit, it's even more surreal to think that, looking up into his blue eyes now... part of MacDarragh still wants him. A large part. His leg is still warm where Cade fretted over it.

The hitman scoffs to himself, banishing such useless musings - it will take more than calling him beautiful or badass to make up for everything.

"You did turn your back on me. You left me behind, you fucking bitch!" even after everything they went through together, "... I would have helped you escape."
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The same way the guy froze being called beautiful, he settles under the kiss too. It's ridiculous that someone this dangerous can be so flighty.
The guy was gonna go after Damien's kneecaps for fuck's sake. Go figure. He thought maybe it'd go in an ear or something, or between knuckles. Either way, Blu is one lucky sonuvabitch.

Neil warms up to his touch and, like an idiot, Cade leans. "I know you would've had me if you were at your peak-"

The bastard's head cracks into Cade's. It's nearly enough to land him on his ass. No, instead it will give him a headache for an hour.
Blinking back tears as he pinches his smarting nose he manages, "Alright. Fuck- no touching."

And what a vivid description too, perfectly accompanying the spit splashed across his face. He nearly hits the fucker again, has to take a long breath to reel himself back in.
With a breath he scraps a hand down his face, gathering the junk to wipe it off on his thigh.
"Yeah, fuck you too," he mumbles to MacDarragh's hissing.

And then the sinister psycho finally shows his soft spot, the one that's made him crazy and mean with pain. At least, that's what Cade's willing to believe.

"And I know that now, bitch. Maybe next time grab me and let me know you're on my side," he reiterates, picking up the jacket Kaden left on the ground. He idly swipes at it, shaking out any muck. Technically it's Cade's, and his own chest is cold enough his nipples could carve diamonds but the only thing keeping Neil warm is how pissed he is.
He's still glaring, spitting insults like a dumpster cat. There's a person under the vitriol, under the corkscrew tools and pried away kneecaps. There is.

"I... I had no idea, Neil. I thought you were just using me to distract from your shitty life. I didn't think I actually... ya'know, meant anything. I mean, you could have anyone you want," he says, playing with the zipper on the jacket.

Man, he sounds pathetic. Cade's never needed anyone before, and he still doesn't.

And how much can you really matter to a psychopath anyways?

He drapes the jacket over MacDarragh, tucking it up underneath him. It's not much, but it'll have to do until he can get him something better.
"You can help me escape now. If Vivien's anything like you, she's not going to stop. Our best chance is with these schmucks. They're the only people in the damn world not in the High-Rise's pocket."

He steps back to rest his hand on the trunk lid. Weeks ago, MacDarragh saved him from this exact predicament. Saved him by kidnapping him for himself.

"I won't leave you again, Neil. Welcome to Misery, part two."
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Why do people get back with their ex's?

On some level the general population must be as masochistic as he is. It's not like people change. You go crawling back and they're just as shitty as they were before.
You're just as shitty.
You remember how much you hate yourself when you're with them. Not that they make you suck or anything, most times you do that to yourself. Just hacking bits of yourself off to fit the narrative of this happy couple.

And that's what people want right; Happily ever after?
It's why no one can ever actually be happy because real life is really just one thing after another. It doesn't end until it ends, and it's never all that happy.

Cade tucks his feet under his thighs, sitting cross legged. The heated seats are damn near orgasmic. Sure, his ass is sweaty and hot while his chest is still chilly where he has his arms crossed, but you can't have everything. His shirt is damp and gross, but it's better than sitting half naked in the vehicle he's hence forth dubbing the Orgy Car, in remembrance of one of the weirdest moment of his life. He sure won't be having any weird dreams about this in the future.

They both gotta know what kind of deranged loser he is now.

Like a freak, he's been picking at the seams in the leather where blood has caked and dried. It's better than picking at himself, even if it doesn't give half the catharsis. It's still keeping him awake.

Kaden and Damien are dead silent. Up in front, which they took without so much as a heads-up.
In their defense Cade gave the car keys away without question, too. Just handed it over to Kaden, like some brainwashed fuck face. By the time he realized it, Finch was driving and Damien was buckling in his seatbelt.
Anything they say to one another is lost in the white noise of the heater blasting. If he leaned in, yeah, sure he could hear them but he's not going to bust his back looking like a desperate idiot.

Part of him thinks they're waiting for him to fall asleep so they can throw him out. He started this calling the shots and now he's shaking his head to keep going.
At least he knows he can still get tired... He's already crazy as it is, imagine if he never slept again. What kinda shit would that do to a person? Rory would probably know, smart ass.

"Where are we going?"

Kaden's slender hand slithers out to adjust the heat cooking them into dehydrated cuts of jerky. He's in a sharp, skin tight turtle neck. Sleek pants, probably cute shoes. It's Neil's, even has the stink of his cigarettes on it. He knows because Finch keeps rubbing his forehead. Another headache brought on by every thug and gangster's life shortening habit of smoking.
"...Come again?"

A little self conscious he repeats, "Where we going, guys?"

"You don't know?"

Cade glances at their profiles, tightening the grip of his crossed arms.
It's gotta be almost an hour and he hasn't asked where they're going. A normal person would've asked as soon as they were in the car, demoted to the damn back seat like a kid.

"I...have my theories," Cade grunts, and the old cop gears in his head give a tired little puff.

Kaden's black eyes glance at him in the rearview mirror.
He's always been pale, but never as white as when he'd been on death's doorstep. Guy looked like a bedsheet.
Now he's got his color back, his everything. Damien's hand is patched up, it's like Finch was never shot and Neil's tied up mostly naked in the trunk.

"Hm," Kaden says.

"Thought maybe we'd hit Neil's place. You saw all the weapons he had there," he tries, clearing his throat. With a blood flaked hand, he touches the back of the seat next to him.
"But we would've hit that half an hour ago. I'd guess we're going to the Wight place."

"Correct," Kaden answers, and his voice is soft. Damn near gentle, and he nods his head while looking at Cade in the mirror.
It's scrutiny softened by several suffocating layers of curiosity and... consideration(?) Maybe? It's weird, whatever it is.
The subtle raise of Finch's perfectly maintained eyebrows prompts something more.

"Are you warm enough?" He asks when Cade says nothing.

From here he can't see Dami's face. Does he think this is weird? The perfect fucker's dating this asshole. Are Kaden's quirks and mind games already well known and adored by him? Or maybe he's in on it, and they're both having fun making Cade look like an idiot before they finally get rid of him.
Dump him, so they can Broke Back Mountain each other to their heart's content.

And get rid of Neil.

"...Fuck off," Cade grunts, settling on old faithful to get him out of whatever this is supposed to be. He leans back into his seat, looking at the patchy spots of blood again. There's funny shapes pressed into the leather, smears of hand prints and gouges of knees.

Kaden inhales, fast and dramatically. The capo glances at Blu and he lets that lungful leave him empty.

He turned on maybe the only guy who's ever been able to tolerate him for these people.
It's like he's predisposed to fucking his own chances at happily ever after. At this rate, he's lucky if he even gets messily ever after.

He rests his cheek into the leather, and pretends he can hear MacDarragh through the layers of seat and distance.

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