Ice Ice Baby

What do you get when you throw characters from different settings together?

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JC
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Ice Ice Baby

Post by JC » Mon Feb 26, 2018 11:40 pm

A tiny turn out for the Warlord Tournament meant that she would home sooner rather than later. It figured. Weeks of fretting had led to this. As she so often did, she locked it up tightly, put on a good face, and refused to let even KC know just how torn up she was. Before the first clash of blades, she fired off a quick message to her boyfriend, despite knowing the answer already.

Will you be at home when I get done with this tournament?

His answer came in during a trade of blows. She could feel it thrum through the metal of her armor, rattling her concentration to the point she fudged the match entirely. When she finally got a chance to check it, it was but a single word.

Yes.

Charlie Nine had never been a man of many words so there was no reason it should have got to her as bad as it did. Somehow, by the grace of the dueling gods, she made it through the final match with a win. The prize was inconsequential, her victory hollow. She sent a single message back and set off for home.

Okay... I'd like to talk when I get there. I'll be home soon.

Soon was thirty minutes, drawn out by a threefold walk around the block once she made it back to New Haven. It took her by the New Haven Baronial Manor, one time home of Charlie Nine when he had been a Baron himself. And eventually it took her home. She nodded an absent hello to the doorman and headed up to the Chae Fortress of Prostitude by way of the stairs so that she could take her time getting there. Jin stood in front of the front door for a solid five minutes before taking a deep breath, unlocking both locks, and stepping inside.

For Charlie Nine, life was rarely a matter of blissful ignorance. He was shrewd and attentive to his environment, especially when it came to picking up cues that were a matter of personal weakness in others. A lifetime of exploitation and nefarious undertakings had made it come to him as natural as breathing. Still, if the last few years had done anything, they had fitted the strange, terrible man with a pair of blinders where Jin Chae was concerned. In her there was the assurance of acceptance for what he was and the things he was prone to doing, as infrequent as they had become, and it was well understood that the eldest Chae sibling still wanted him despite his many terrible quirks.

In his long earned comfort and certainty of what he thought were immutable facts of existence, it allowed Charlie to ignore certain details.

When Jin messaged back, wanting to talk, the worst that came to mind was another long discussion about something as innocuous (and irritating) as getting a dog or cat. The talk had taken place many times in their long relationship and often he won on the mere notion that he wouldn't be responsible for any sudden disappearances the pet. Then he would smooth it over with food and Disney movies and life would go on. It was what left him sitting silently on the floor of their living room when she arrived, carefully folding a sheet of colored paper in his hands.

A press of her hip shut the door in her wake, fingers flipping locks out of reflexive habit more than anything. You'd have to be stupid to try and break in to a place like that. But old habits died hard and soon the apartment was locked up tight. She shrugged out of her armor backpack and eased it to the floor beside the door. It could be put away properly later. A quick scan of the room found him on the floor with paper. In spite of her anxiety, she smiled and headed first for the kitchen to grab a pair of drinks (soda for her, Vitamin Water for him) before returning to the living room. A moment of indecision found her shifting her weight from left foot to right before deciding to sit on the very edge of the couch nearest him. "Hi... I won..."

"Unsurprising," he told her with a small, private smile, before turning dark eyes over one shoulder at her. "You are Best Chae, after all." Jin chose the couch, but Charlie changed the decision for her upon reaching out with a hand, palm up. It was an invitation to join him on the floor where, for the moment, he was more than comfortable.

"Only two people entered," she admitted sheepishly, her smile pulling crooked. No sooner had her butt met the couch cushion did he offer her his hand. So with a slight adjustment, she shifted both bottles into the crook of her left arm and took his hand with her right. With that, she eased down to the floor and sat cross legged. The Vitamin Water was offered out. "I took the Barony Challenge grant."

For the span of a long few moments, Charlie's origami was forgotten and he gathered her hands in his, giving her the full weight of his attention. His expression was laced with a subtle but deeply abiding affection, perhaps even an obsession, his chin dipping in a not for her choice. "And who will you challenge?"

"I figured I've already been Overlord and I like Terry." She gave him a little shrug, spelling out her rational when it was wholly unnecessary. Tugging her soda into her lap, she cracked the cap off but didn't drink just yet, instead holding it in front of her with both hands. Her teeth nipped at her bottom lip as she considered his question. "I'd like to try to New Haven, I think. It was nice there."

"You just want to play with your brother's child in the pool." Charlie pointed it out with a flat look. "And make silly noises at the thing." Even if it wasn't the most flattering of points to make, given the wording, Charlie was still scooting closer to the pretty Korean woman, seeking out the closer proximity. He was tepid with most others on his best days, but she was another matter entirely.

"Yeah but I'd like to play with you in the pool too." She lifted a coy look veiled by dark lashes. The rich brown of her eyes, despite having lost her opal over two months prior, were still scored by slivers of blue in a strange striping that seemed only apparent in certain lighting. This wasn't that sort of lighting. Her gaze fell down into her lap a moment later, fixating on her bottle as she twisted her hands around the label. "Ling Ling's not so bad... is she?"

"Then let's go find one." It was a not-so-subtle challenge to her little teasing quip, provoking a smile that died on the vine some moments later when she mentioned Ling Ling in the form of a question. Charlie's mouth thinned out into a neutral line but there was the ever present pensiveness to his dark eyes when she she looked away. "She's tolerable. Most times. Out of arm's reach."

"It'd have to be an indoor one. It's cold as balls out there." She offered out without looking up. The walk back had been brisk. IceDancer was missed to say the least. She was still re-learning how to function without the blue rock's presence in her life anymore and the cold was a strong reminder of its absence. The little Korean went quiet for a few long moments, nodding softly in response to his answer. "But she's family, just like Morgan or Nan are. Sometimes... sometimes we don't always get a say in who ends up our family, right?"

"And I have nothing to warm us up," came the reply, a touch wistful for the long since lost comfort that FireStar afforded. He fell silent in the wake of the reminder watching her hands and listening with a slightly canted head. "She's your relation. And Grace's." It was as good as an excuse as he could make for his tolerance of the child, alien as she was to Charlie. At the very least, the connection was an affirmation of his commitment to their life and, by extension, them. "I still think Kenny might be worth selling."

"So maybe we'll save it for when I kick Old Man Simon out of New Haven then." A whole lot of false bravado if ever there was any. Finally she took the cap off her bottle and brought the soda to her lips for a long drink, hoping it might just relieve her dry mouth. No such luck. She listened and actually looked at him as he spoke, her expression overtly flat thanks to her very best efforts at concealing the subtle twist of her stomach that came with his answer. "I think I want to keep KC around... he's, um... yeah. Important. Like Grace and like you are to me... you know that right, how much you mean to me?"

"There's always the shower." Coy but casual. A small smile had begun to form for the response about her brother but it stalled for the look on her face, then the confusion over what it represented. Charlie's expression sobered and his head tilted farther to the side. "You are very important to me too. Nothing else in this existence compares."

Talk of the shower and the pool fell to the wayside as she began to dip her toes into waters far more precarious. Picking at a loose bit on her bottle's label, Jin narrowly resisted the urge to rip it free and instead focused on slowing her breathing. "Okay... so... please keep that in mind. So, you know how I've been pretty focused on the studio? Haven't really had any time to do more than just paperwork for Madame Lemercier..."

"Okay." Dark brows began to knit together in confusion but he sat their quietly and allowed her to lead the conversation before it seemed there was an even chance that her question and the comment that followed were just rhetoric. "We have been more than financially stable, so it's perfectly logical that you wouldn't need to do that anymore..."

"We have been." She agreed with a little nod and forced herself to still her hands. Perhaps it would help still her mind. It was a bit of a long shot but she wasn't the sort to dance around a point and this was all sorts of waltzing ungracefully. After a handful of moments to try and quiet her mind, she took a deep breath and exhaled with a handful of words that came out at the same time. "Charlie, I'm pregnant."

"But you just said that you haven't been taking clients." He stared at her, unblinking. It left his mouth as a hard statement of fact. Quietly adamant,.

"I haven't been." She nodded again, then quickly added. "Nor have I been seeing anyone else. But I've taken two dozen home tests and done both pee and blood tests with two different doctors. They all say I'm about eleven weeks, give or take."

"It's not possible." He told her, leaning back. "It was ensured." Placid of feature, Charlie fixed chin with a dead stare. "All Charlies are sterile."

"I don't have an explanation for it. But you're the only one I've been with in that way for more than nine months now." She said softly, quietly insistent in her own way. It wasn't supposed to be possible but there weren't very many other possibilities save for immaculate conception. "But... regardless of how it happened... I intend to keep it. I... I don't expect you to force yourself to be involved... even if somehow it's yours. I just...," her voice shook so she took a moment to breathe before continuing. "You don't have to do this. But I'm going to try to."

Charlie just... stared.

And then he stared some more.

The seconds grew and stretched, becoming minutes of awkward, palpable silence, so thick with tension. And then, for just a few terrible moments, it seemed as though Charlie might do something truly terrible, visiting the unspeakable upon Jin, the woman whom he had once professed to love. It churned in his veins, each monstrous notion, and he could have rendered it a non-issue with a very swift, precise application of violence. He had done so many times before. He could do so then. Years of intense training and immutable expectation demanded no less.

But in the end, he stared. Just stared.

It was only when he was finally done staring and the threat from within had passed, that Charlie Nine slowly rose to his feet and left her sitting there on the carpet, trampling the incomplete origami creation beneath his feet as he left the room. Scant moments later, the door to the apartment was closed behind him and she was left alone.
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JC
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Post by JC » Sun Mar 04, 2018 10:17 pm

2/28/18

The night Charlie left, Jin waited. Seconds became minutes, minutes became hours, until at last, around two in the morning, she left New Haven behind in favor of the dingy comfort of Dockside and soon after that, Little Korea. Her brother's apartment that he shared with Grace and Ling Ling was more than comfortable but still she found it impossible to relax, instead busying herself with cleaning up where she could and mothering both her brother and her niece excessively until she at last fell asleep on their couch just before sunrise. The days after that passed in a blur, blending from one to the next in a haze of uncertainty and increasing dread. Had she traded this spark of life within her for the only man she could ever say she had loved?

By Wednesday, she had passed the inconsolable stage and instead settled into downtrodden complacency. Robotic in everything she did, she faked her smiles through her classes, offered only the cursory small talk when visiting a shop for something other than the pants she normally wore. Hers were tight already. It wasn't fair. Jin returned home to the echo of an empty apartment, turned on some nameless Korean drama or other, and promptly ignored it while she laid on the couch with her phone, willing it to ring with some indication that Charlie might be willing to talk to her again. She hadn't reached out, no, instead giving the man plenty of space in case it might bring him back to her.

She doubted it would.

As the night stretched on and her energy faded, she peeled herself up from the couch begrudgingly and trudged her way into the bathroom, bumping the door half shut in her wake. Perhaps the heat would relax her enough that she would be able to sleep if she was lucky. Once it was nice and steaming, she shed her studio clothes and climbed into the hot spray of the shower. There she stood for what felt like an eternity, washing up and then finally letting the tears come in silent streams, her forehead pressed to the tiled wall.

Since his departure, a great many number of his hours without her had been spent wandering aimlessly. The silent, secret marauder was listless, purposely as he haunted the familiar streets of Dockside, ignoring most of the world around him until someone with more size than sense and too much alcohol had chosen the worst time in their life to pick at the slim, hoodied man slinking through the dark, seastenched alleys. Charlie Nine had left the man (and his friends) a bloodied, maimed mess, having plied his skills in near silence and nary a word given in rebuttal before walking away as if nothing had occurred. There had been no satisfaction in the pain he had inflicted on them. He was troubled. All but hollowed out.

The days dragged like that. He didn't eat. Didn't sleep. He couldn't make sense of the situation he found himself in. That Jin Chae was the center of his existence was not in question but... a family? It was hard to imagine such an attachment outside of her. Andrea. Grace. Maybe KC. It just... it didn't compute.

He hadn't been aware that he would end up in KC and Grace's apartment that night, in Ling Ling's bedroom of all places, looming over the baby and staring down at her as if all of the answers would be right there. Grace had found him there and a quiet, very important conversation had taken place. The universe, his universe, was all askew. But there was a purpose when he eventually slipped back into the apartment he had abandoned, to the empty couch illuminated by the light of one of the pretty Korean girl's favorite K-dramas and the sound of running water from down the hall. It took three very deep breaths for him to approach the bathroom, shedding his clothing as he went. Like an apparition he ended up behind Jin, beneath the heavy cascade of hot water, until the tips of his long fingers announced his all too familiar presence when he reached around to touch her stomach right atop her womb.

Jin didn't think he would come home. Less so, she didn't think he would end up in the shower behind her. Charlie had a way of moving quietly and silently even in environments that didn't allow such a thing and it was only the faint flutter of the curtain that alerted her to his presence. Her muscles coiled with tension, some lingering remnant of primal instinct more than genuine fear. On a molecular level her very being knew she should be afraid of Charlie, it always had been that way. But never had it materialized into a legitimate fear for her safety. This time around though, she had more than herself to worry about.

She jerked upright into the spray of the shower, an elbow cocked and ready for a throw should the moment present itself. But her initial spring-loading was sent haywire by the almost gentle touch of his fingers across her lower abdomen. Her arms slowly dropped, pausing only to wipe water out of her face and with it, she washed away her tears. A quiet sniffle acknowledged his presence followed by a hoarse little sound. A word, one word. "Charlie."

"Jin Chae." He said her name softly. There was a tone in the delivery about as reverent as a creature such as he could ever be and it spoke volumes about she whose name he spoke. The pad of his fingers probed over the soft flesh of her belly, searching for something that likely wasn't there. But there was a meaning in it. He was trying to find it, to understand it. "You're sure?"

It wasn't a simple question.

At almost twelve weeks already, there was the littlest swell of firm flesh beneath his touch, a barely there hint of the life growing within. She tried not to flinch away from him, instead holding nearly perfectly still as the water continued to stream over them. His question was one she had asked herself for weeks leading up to the grand reveal three days prior. Was she sure she wanted this. Was she sure she could handle this. Was she sure she could handle losing Charlie. Was she sure she could raise a child alone. It all came back to a simple answer for a terribly complex question.

"Yes."

"This," he began and then stopped, the pregnant pause (no pun intended) giving him time to not so much choose his words carefully but to properly articulate what he was feeling. Or struggling to feel his way through. "This is the antithesis of everything I am supposed to be. I don't make families. I destroy them."

Charlie paused again.

"Or I did."

His forehead fell to rest against her slim, bare shoulder. His hands eased from her belly to rest on her hips. Whatever soul he had, if he even did, was laid bare. "I don't know how to want this. I will forego the dramatics of the concepts of what someone like me might deserve or strive to have. I'm still a monster, aren't I? What if I...? What if the child... What if..."

In all of it, he didn't rebuke her. He didn't deny her. For all of his talk of what he was, what he had come from, in those fragile moments, Charlie Nine sounded so very painfully human.

Jin held her breath, expecting reproach or something vile to drip from his silver tongue. When necessary, the man had an acerbic bite to him and now of all times, she didn't think she could handle it. But what she expected never came and as his hands shifted to her hips, she exhaled slowly, deflating little by little until her frame sagged entirely. "Life likes throwing curve balls. If there's one thing you know, it should be that. Sometimes, you just have to try to knock it out of the park and barring that, have a hell of a swing when you go for the pitcher."

Dark humor, it was all she had at the moment. That said, she couldn't manage a smile or laugh to go with it. She was... in a word, tired. Exhausted even. "I hadn't counted on such a thing occurring. You being what you are, me being what I am and all. But it's happening and I'm going to do what I always do when life hands me something unexpected... my best."

"I suppose, if you believe in karma," he murmured. "This might be the universe's way of getting back at me." It was a humorous notion, though Charlie didn't seem to find it particularly funny. Ironic, certainly. His hands remained gently on her hips, tentative like a man who might not find himself deserving of getting any closer. Not at the moment. "You? You will be a good mother. Morgan's not dead. KC is doing very well for himself despite being retarded. You look after everyone. You... you don't love half way. I think the child will be inarguably fortunate to have you to raise it. But me..."

He paused again.

"What if I am terrible at this? What if I am not good enough for this?"

There. It was there in that moment for her read between the lines.

"I don't believe in karma. The universe doesn't care about balance. It doesn't care about anything at all, there's no order to it." She said with a little shake of her head. Her hands came up to swipe her wet hair away from her face. There was nothing funny about any of it. As he spoke, she shifted around, turning her back to the shower's spray for the sake of facing him. "I don't love half way. That includes you, Charlie."

Jin quieted in hopes of letting that sink in, glancing down at their feet then back up at his face. His worry, his fear, his hope. All of it. She had had a similar conversation with KC but a year ago. "There's no such thing as good enough when it comes to parenting. You'll fuck up. Likely often. I know I did plenty with KC and Morgan. But... if... if you're willing to learn a new Dance, I'd gladly take you as my Dance partner."

His dark eyes lifted to meet hers, boring into the soulful depths of her gaze. He had always liked her eyes, the way she looked at him. Jin Chae was so alive inside, despite everything her life had handed her, and it showed through the window of her stare. A small, uncertain smile curled at the corners of his mouth, more than the wooden facsimile of one he showed most of the rest of the world. "I'll try this Dance. With you."

"You don't have to..." She said softly, repeating what she had told him the same night she had laid it all out for him. Jin had no expectations. She just hadn't expected it to hurt so bad when he left without a word. A wet hand came up to brush across his chest, a gently tentative motion that fell away a moment later. "But if you want to... I'll do everything I can to make it easy on you."

"I held Ling Ling tonight," he replied, out of the blue and after another long pause. "I needed to, wanted to know, what it felt like. That you are everything that is worthwhile in my world is beyond question but I needed to know... that I can do this. It is very hard for me to connect with others on a sincere level. I needed to know..."

The faintest of sighs escaped, barely a sound over the running water. "I didn't want to hurt you. Ever. I know that I won't be a very good role model to the child, a good father, but that it's a part of you... maybe together we can make something that is better than my broken, horrible DNA. I would want to do that for you. With you."

"Really?" She asked a rhetorical question that was answered by his elaboration. It stole her breath and for a selfish moment, she lamented that she had missed it. After months of trying to get him to hold her niece and she missed it. "I knew you wouldn't hurt me... you never will. And... I wouldn't have told you if I didn't think you could do this. I thought you might not want to... never that you couldn't."

It was a frank admission that came with a careful step forward into his space so she would thread her arms around his torso and lay her head against his chest. "I'm going to make the best of things no matter what. But I think... in time... and with help... that you can make the best of things too... With me."
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