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2046-02-22 Like God Exists

From X-Factor

Like God Exists
Date Posted 2016/02/22
Location Mutiny - Mutant Town, NYC
Participants Mikhail, Luka
Summary Mikhail and Luka are deep as hell.
 
Mikmikhail.jpg
This bar has little to recommend it save the price of its drinks - beer and hard liquor only - and its tendency to not ask questions of its customers. The place is poorly lit, perhaps intentionally so, with close tables and booths that always seem to be a little sticky with something. The dim interior is colored with flashes of orange and red and yellow from the constant, strobing flash of the neon signs in the front window. The only decor in the place is a twist of thick, fraying rope that drapes one wall on its way to an iron anchor: the remnants of some long-forgotten nautical theme. There are often card games of some nature at the larger tables in the back. Rocco, the ever-present owner, tends to know just about everything and everyone in Mutant Town. He'll often give odds on just about anything it's possible to give odds on, and provides information on the Town's not-so-secret mutant fights, or where to obtain illegal items and substances, if he likes the look of you.


It is a winter night. The weather is freezing and fair.


Mutiny on a Monday night is not a hopping sort of place, but it's relatively crowded with its regulars, men and women (and boys and girls, let's be honest) busy trying to forget their work day, or their lack of work day, or whatever else is bothering them. And then there are the games at the back, filled with cards and sometimes dice. Mikhail is lingering on a bar stool with half a bottle of beer watching these, his eyes bright and interested, though he shows no signs of actually playing himself.

“Just a club soda for now, thank you.” A few bar stools down from Mikhail and with more than a few bodies between them, Luka leans in slightly to order his drink with a confident smile. He always smiles and makes eye contact with the people serving him. Although older than the crowd around him, he doesn’t appear to feel or even be very out of place. Waiting patiently, he sets out a small stack of ones, leaving a good tip for relatively little work.

One game ends, and for a moment Mikhail looks pleased, if not borderline triumphant. He spins back into the bar as the dealer gathers the cards for a reshuffle, leaning into it with his beer bottle held loose between his hands. He tips it this way, then tips it that, and his gaze wanders down the length of the bar. When it finds Luka, it sticks, lingering in momentary surprise, as if finding him outside of the context of Open Hands is simply inconceivable.

Luka is momentarily distracted and so, it's Mikhail who gets the upper hand.

A pretty blonde creature squeezes past Luka to get to the bar. Half his age at least, she bats her long lashes and says excuse me as she causes Luka to raise his drink up above her head to let her through. His same old brown leather jacket makes it difficult to raise his arm too high, but he manages. For his part, he couldn't be more fucking oblivious.

With a sort of blank smile reserved for dealing with the masses, he looks up over the crowd. His eyes wander as he inches past the young woman. She still watches Luka with desperation as he locks eyes with Mikhail instead. There is a fleeting moment in which Luka does not yet comprehend who the young man is, but he knows that he should.

Mikhail watches this interaction with stark interest, and his eyes linger for a beat on the young woman before moving back to Luka. He has no problem placing the other man. Of course, he encounters far fewer men running halfway houses than Luka does boys needing them. He clears his throat, and when he speaks, his accent perhaps helps to place him. That, or the fact that he speaks in Russian. "{I think she likes you,}" he tells Luka.

Luka cocks his chin back in a birdlike movement. The corners of his eyes crinkle together happily, "{Who?}" He offers jokingly, perhaps looking around clear over the blonde's head on purpose as he looks around the room. Turning back to Mikhail, Luka offers the young man wide doe-eyes, "{The bartender?!}" He points towards the bar innocently.

Mikhail gives Luka an uncertain look, as if he is trying to work out the presence, or lack thereof, of humor. He frowns, forehead furrowing, and apparently decides that directness is the best route, because he says, "{No, her,}" and tips his chin upward just as (luckily) the blonde turns another look up at Luka.

'I know,' Luka mouths. The toothy smile that blooms forth directly after reveals his pointed set of canines. Angling body, Luka steps around the blonde and allows the wave of other people waiting to get close enough to order drinks to crash in on her. "{When you get to be my age,}" Luka comes closer, leaning in and lowering his voice despite the likelihood of anyone being able to comprehend him being very slim, "{You pretty much get to know which people are going to be completely fucking exhausting. And which people will be worth your time.}" The smile turns to mischievous grin. It's easy for him to be smiley. "{Am I wrong?}"

Luck dissipates in the wake of Mikhail's confusion, and his gaze lingers on the blonde for a moment before the crowd closes in on him. And like a young man rather than an old one, he says, dumbfounded, "{She's pretty!}"

"{She /is/. And there is nothing wrong with that.} Luka swings around a large paw to pat Mikhail gently on the back, "{But it also means jack shit, my friend.}" And then, gesturing vaguely towards Mikhail with his glass, he adds, "{Maybe a good thing for you, though!}"

The look Mikhail fixes on Luka is beyond dubious. It's outright disbelieving. Come on, man! She's blonde, she's young, she's into you! Mikhail lifts his beer bottle to his lips, swallowing as he eyes Luka before saying, "{I don't think she's interested in /me/.}"

Luka's chest moves as he laughs at the scrutiny he's put under, nearly throwing back his head. "{No, I think you need a haircut, my man. Then, she'd be all over you.}" He pouts his fat lips, slow-blinking thoughtfully as he touches the flap of his leather jacket, "{Maybe one of these.}"

Mikhail scowls suddenly, leaning back on his stool as he raises a hand to ruffle fingers through the flopping mass that is his hair. "{What's wrong with my hair?}" he asks, clearly self-conscious. A deep desire for Luka to tell him just how fucking awesome his hair is stirs, stretching out convincing tendrils.

Being complementary is another thing that comes so easily to Luka, it might be difficult to differentiate where Mikhail's influence starts and where the other man organically begins. He laughs, tilting both eyebrows in such a way that reveals a great, amused sympathy. "{It's fine hair! Strong. Thick. Look at mine-}" He combs his fingers through his own hair which OKAY it's good. The man has good hair. He gets free haircuts. This might not help. {-Look at how gray and old!}"

It's difficult to differentiate such a thing in any case - while some of Mikhail's luck is deliberate, far more of it is linked to whatever unconscious desire he's currently desiring. Which is perhaps why he is mollified by Luka's laugh and compliment and general enthusiasm. In response, he admits, "{I do like the jacket. Where did you get it?}" And then with the tactlessness of someone who's been raised in a box, "{Was it expensive?}"

Luka furrows his brow, shaking his head despite clearly not being quite sure. "{Thrift store. I'm sure you can find one that fits you without much trouble.}"

"{Thrift store,}" Mikhail repeats, a little fascinated. "{Yes, okay. I will look.}" The faintest of smirks touches his lips as he says, "{Maybe I will get lucky.}"

Oblivious as usual, Luka swats the back of his hand playfully at Mikhail's chest. This isn't done with any great force, of course. "{That's what I like to hear!}" The ice in his glass clinks as he brings the rim to his lips and takes a gulp, "{So, how are you doing, young buck? Doing well?}" Luka's eyes wander around their surroundings, as if to find some clue to Mikhail's present state in the room.

Mikhail rocks backwards just slightly, clearly surprised, but the flash of his smile is pleased for the gesture. As Luka looks around, Mikhail does as well, and his gaze drifts toward the tables full of card games in the back before he looks back to the other man. "{I am okay,}" he says, which seems true enough. For a beat he's a little awkward before he asks, "{How are you?}" He does not call him an old buck.

"{You're okay?}" Luka repeats in a playfully mocking tone, "{You will have to do better than that! What have you been doing this week, eh?}" He smiles, "{I'm well. It's been a good week.}" And then, "{I'm sorry if I'm pestering you-}" His eyes slide in the directions of the tables, not necessarily having comprehended what might be over there. Well, until just now.

Mikhail shakes his head, ducking his gaze away with a flustered, pleased sort of embarrassment, as if Luka's attention is both unexpected and desired. Probably because it is. "{I work,}" he tells the older man. "{It is very boring, and does not pay very well. Last night I watched half of Chinese Commander,} he says, naming a rather kitschy action movie of recent streaming release, "{but it got very crowded.}"

Luka nods along. He appears to nod a little more deeply when work is mentioned. Luka doesn't care what the work is: working is always a good thing. "{What is Chinese Commander?}" He asks, frowning and shaking his head. And then, he gestures around them at the crowded bar with a chuckle, "{You don't like crowded?}"

"{A movie!}" Mikhail says, suddenly animated. He gestures with his beer bottle, breaking into a quick summary of the movie, which involves a ridiculously convoluted plot which seems to exist mostly as an excuse for things to explode. At the end he subsides a little, twisting at his beer bottle, and after a beat of silence he admits, "{Sometimes it is not so bad.}" He glances around the bar in quick indication. "{Sometimes crowded is just people. Sometimes it is--}" He flails for a moment, not finding the words.

Luka watches and listens with great interest. He loves explosions ...in movies. He also loves over people being excited about things, particularly people as reserved as Mikhail. When the young man falters with his words, Luka doesn't make him finish the explanation. Instead, he reaches out a hand to clasp the other man's shoulder. Giving Mikhail a gentle shake, he sets down his glass of club on the bar and extends a long arm to get the bartender’s attention. Motioning towards the bottle Mikhail has in his hand, he orders two.

Mikhail jerks back against Luka's touch, startled and, for a moment, clearly uncomfortable. He lifts his head to follow the wave of Luka's hand, then frowns down at his own bottle before he lifts it in a sudden surge of energy to drain the little that's left.

When the stool beside them finally frees up, Luka reaches out to pull it under himself. He takes up a little too much room, sitting with spread knees the way a lot of men tend to do. “{It is alright? This beer?}” He asks, trying to make sure before the bartender pops open the bottles. All the while, he fumbles with his cash in order to toss it down on the bar.

Mikhail recovers himself in the time Luka takes to settle on the stool, and he turns into the bar so that he only has to give the other man the occasional sidelong glance. He shrugs, saying, "{It is okay. It's cheap, and not disgusting.}" He twists his empty bottle a bit, watching it roll across the bar before he asks, "{That place you run. Kids just go there and-- do things?}"

"{Perfect.}" Luka smirks, only turning back when he has both fresh beers in hand. He holds out one of Mikhail, waiting to clink the bottle together in cheers. "{To your health.}"

"{They go there to..}" Luka purses his lips in thought, "{To get back on their feet. After times of trouble. To be safe. Catch breath.}" He raises his eyebrows, "{I was not in such a good place at your age. It's something that could have saved me.}"

Mikhail looks surprised at this toast, but ultimately pleased, and he gives Luka a quick smile as he lifts his bottle in matching toast. "{If we are toasting, we should have vodka,}" he opines, but he lifts his beer for a drink anyway. His gaze goes bright with interest as Luka speaks, and after a hesitating beat he asks, "{What place were you in?}" His desire to know stretches heavy and thick between them, persuasive.

Luka holds up a palm flatly in the air at the mention of vodka, "{No, please!}" He grins.

"{I lost my family very early. When I came to this country, I did not speak the language. I had a support system, but it was not as strong, I think, as family. I was lucky, really. I went to school. I became hero but...}" Luka speaks easily about his experiences, "{My powers. I abused them. People told me: Luka, stop this. But I pushed everyone meaningful away. And ultimately, had to learn the hard way what mattered.}"

Mikhail looks positively enraptured, his expression open and oddly yearning as he leans unconsciously toward Luka. His voice goes very quiet as he asks, "{What-- what were-- are your powers? How did you abuse them?}"

Luka looks away, down to his fingers where they wrap around the neck of his beer bottle. "{I WAS a healer. But it is not a simple thing.}" He flicks his eyes up to Mikhail, nodding seriously, "{The forces that control life and death feel like nothing you will ever experience, my friend.}"

Mikhail exhales, slow and long and fascinated. "{What,}" he says, meeting Luka's gaze, "{does it feel like?}"

Cheeks and neck flushing, Luka averts his eyes again. “{Like God is in you. Like God is real. Like Heroin. Like Heaven.}” His chest heaves, straining against the material of the button-down he wears beneath his jacket. In a gulp, Luka’s adam’s apple bobs up and down. “{It is something I strive never to experience, again.}” He looks back into Mikhail’s eyes. “{For fear of not being able to stop.}” Bowing his head, Luka looks back down to his beer. Eventually he takes a sip.

Mikhail, in contrast, leans forward, quietly eager. "{I have felt that,}" he says, and never mind whether luck is the same as the energy of life and death. "{The entire world bending around you.}" Where Luka is wary and struggling, Mikhail is enthusiastic, though his voice is in a hushed whisper despite their Russian. "{I cannot imagine stopping. I do not know how I would.}"

Mikhail's reaction, the way he is reacting, makes Luka sad. "{It must come from within.}" Luka taps the base of his bottle against the seat of his stool idly, "{From wanting something that is real, I think.}" Flexing out his shoulders, he re-adjusts his weight in order to lean back, "{Then again, for some people -- as it was with me -- rock bottom.}"

"{Set limits now, my friend. Know how far you will go and where you will stop.}" Luka frowns thoughtfully at his companion. "{Draw the line.}" With a strong, steady hand, the man draws a line in the air.

Mikhail shakes his head, his hand tight around the neck of his bottle. "{No,}" he says. "{I do not know /how/ I would.}" In repetition, his emphasis changes. He rocks back a little, and his breath is a little unsteady as he admits. "{It is hard to know what is real.}" He pauses, hesitating, and then adds, "{It is maybe impossible. I don't know.}"

Slowly, Luka begins to comprehend. Well, as much as he can from speaking in purely hypotheticals. "{You do not know how.}" He states with quiet pity, watching Mikhail with softening concern, "{What?}" His eyes search Mikhail's face. "{What do you do?}" Perhaps Mikhail should hesitate. Certainly, one would think his past experience would make him less than open about his gifts. But Luka is pitying and concerned, and there is an edge about the older man that suggests an understanding Mikhail is desperate for. His luck stretches out, turning away any eavesdroppers who might understand the language, suggesting that Luka keep this information private, tilting him always toward sympathy and help. "{I make things happen,}" Mikhail says softly. "{Or not happen. I make things lucky.}"

Luka nods, familiar with a myriad of power-sets. His brow remains tightly knit. "{Probability Manipulation.}" His adam's apple bobs up and down, again. The healer's muddy green-brown eyes shimmer with such sincerity that they might very well be on the brink of tears. "{I would like to save you from a great deal of heartache, son. But this is not something I can do, if you do not want it, yourself.}"

And then, a glimmer of further comprehension ignites in Luka's eyes. He almost leans away, but thinks better of it. "{But you've wanted this all along. ...you must have.}"

"{I do not usually get the things that I want,}" Mikhail answers in a bitter flash of contradiction. It fades abruptly as he lifts his bottle for a quick swallow and corrects, "{I /did/ not. Now-- I do not know. How it works. When it works.}"

Luka does lean back now, shaking off the brief ...no, 'paranoia' isn't the right word. He is perfectly comfortable with Mikhail, and the urge to help him persists both within and without his power's influence. "{I want you to let me help you find this out.}" Luka flexes and tightens his strong, square jaw.

"{To find what out?}" Mikhail says, shaking his head slightly as Luka leans back. He twists his beer bottle again, letting the bottom spin against the bar. "{How it works? When it works?}" He sounds wary now, and a little angry. "{I am not an experiment.}" And then, stubborn after a beat, "{Maybe I /want/ to get what I want.}"

"{You deserve to get what you want.}" Luka offers softly, turning his attention to the bottle that Mikhail spins, "{And you deserve to know the difference between where you end, and your abilities begin.} Leaning forward, Luka dips his head to try and get Mikhail to look him in the eye, "{You are not an experiment. Know this, please.}"

Mikhail glances at Luka for that dip of his head, and for a moment he looks deeply, deeply tempted. But it passes, and then he simply looks uncomfortable, and he slides off his stool with a last swallow of his beer. "Thank you for the drink," he says in English, his accent made heavier by the weight of emotion. It is the only answer he gives, and when he slips away through the crowd, his luck bends itself in an effort to keep Luka from following.

Swiveling in his stool, Luka's muscles tense as if to rise. Despite himself, he does not. Instead, he remains there alone for some time. Eventually, he takes in a deep breath through his nostrils and releases it very slowly through his lips.

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