WARNING: This story has mentions of slash and implied rape. Don’t be dumb: if you can’t abide that stuff, don’t read.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Jackie Chan Adventures, or the characters within. Don’t sue, please.
AN: Hey, look what Avery got out. Once again, I’ll probably revise this later on, but for now, I present the sequel to Almost. Read and review . . . if I get enough, I might just write that Chow/Finn lemon some of you have been begging for.
He let his fist fly, and it connected with the punching bag soundly, making a curious ‘doffing’ noise and sending waves of pain through his nerves, up his arm, and straight into his head where they smacked him right between the eyes and took his breath away. Oh hell, that was it. He was spent, he was bruised, and fuck if he didn’t have a broken hand. Shaking it and grimacing, Finn retreated to the other side of the room, breathing heavily. Well, maybe not broken. Not even sprained, actually. In fact, he was probably just being a complete lazy pansy-ass who didn’t want to train anymore.
It was a chill but cloudless Friday evening, and the warehouse was alternately lit by florescent bulbs and streetlights from outside- the glow pouring through the skylights in stark white beams, battling its way through what had to be an inch of dirt caked onto the window panes. He could feel the cool air brushing on his sweat-slicked arms and legs, sending shivers up his spine and causing minute goosepimples to break out all over his body. He wanted a shower like nothing else, except maybe a couple million bucks and a hot blonde. But since a shower was all he was likely to receive right now, he would have to concede.
It was while he was peeling the tape off his hands, shivering in the cold white gold illumination of the room, that his anxiety returned. The whole reason he’d been beating the shit out of his own fists, without even imagining Chan in place of the punching bag. The whole sky demon thing- and his worry about Valmont not calling four hours after he said he would. And if there was one thing, *one thing* that you could count on Valmont for, it was being unfailingly punctual. His lack of update on the situation was agonizing, and for a dark half-hour, before he began the assault on his knuckles, Finn had a terrible premonition of . . . loneliness, of all things. Like they would never be coming back.
Of course, it didn’t help that frankly, Finn hadn’t been optimistic from the start. After finding out that Chan had been laying in wait at the stadium, and that his kid had *cut off* the Demon’s tail, his intrinsic pollyannaism had pretty much taken a swan dive off a skyscraper. And when the creepy, blue-skinned bastard had re-contacted them, commanding that a bunch of dusty old tomes belonging to Chan’s eldest crony be delivered to the top of some water tower, Finn had already considered the mission a downright failure. So he stayed behind. And waited. And waited. And waited.
The shower water was pure ice. Yelping like a wounded coyote, he leapt out of the little cubicle, and glared at the offending spray with sheer antipathy. God *fucking* dammit, the water heater was dead *again*. Second time in the same amount of weeks, and the last repair job had cost them a small fortune that the Enforcers had paid out of their own emptying pockets. Valmont didn’t want to admit it, but without any business due to the whole demon-possession thing, the Dark Hand’s funds were running dry. The lanky Enforcer cursed spitefully, grabbed the only towel he could find (Fluffy and pink. He had no idea where the thing had come from, and everyone else living in the warehouse denied any association), and stormed out of the bathroom, ready to take out his pent-up tension on the stupid shoddy piece of junk.
He flung open the doors to the small room where all the general plumbing shit was kept, and was about to start beating on the side of the sputtering heater with the wrench hanging up next to it when suddenly, like a bad joke, his phone rang. Of *course* it would happen while he was naked. Christ . . . Finn abandoned the troublesome towel, and made a break for his jacket pocket, where a small purple piece of plastic hope was trilling the hopelessly annoying tune to ‘Funkytown’. Oh, please be Valmont, please be Valmont-
"Yo." He said, and held his breath as he waited tersely for a voice that he hoped he knew well.
"Finn, that you?" It was Ratso, not Finn’s white-haired boss, but the relief was the same. Silently thanking any God in hearing range, he grinned at the mouthpiece.
"Took you assholes long enough. What happened?"
"Do you have to ask?" Ratso’s reply was uncharacteristically sarcastic; his tone tired and dry. It must have been a miserable defeat to dampen the spirits of their resident ‘kid-at-heart’, to put it kindly.
"No. Chan came, Chan kicked butt, we lost, yadda yadda yadda. Am I right?"
"Yeah." There was a pause, then: "Hold on a sec." Someone yelled in the background, sounding pained, and Finn took the opportunity to put his pants back on. No chance for a shower now, that’s for sure, he’d have to take one later tonight. Judging from the barely muffled cursing coming in over the line, someone was hurt pretty bad, and being the only one left behind who was at the warehouse (Hak Foo had disappeared to god-knows-where earlier that day, without so much as a see-you.), he would be on infirmary duty.
"Right, I’m back, and we’re on our way to the warehouse." The sudden message startled Finn, who almost dropped the phone. "Can you get first aid ready?" So he was right about someone being injured.
A sudden and rude thought made his tongue stumble before he answered. Fuck, it had better not be- he didn’t want to be taking care of- "Yeah." He answered hurriedly, cursing the slightly higher pitch of his voice. "Who’s hurt? And how bad?" Please no, no, no . . .
"Chow. Worse than ever, but not life threatening. We think. Looks like a broken leg, some bruised ribs. Or cracked ribs. Can’t tell. But he can’t walk, and’s in a world of hurt."
‘Oh Lord, just strike me down here.’ Thought Finn to himself, placing a hand over his clenched eyes. Of all the people, it *had* to be the very one whom he could barely even look at. "All right, dude. I’ll have everything ready back here. Bone set already?"
"You heard the yelling. We’ll see ya in fifteen."
"Right on." Said Finn, trying to sound normal. He could hear the soft click of Ratso hanging up, and he groaned, dropping the phone onto the couch before he followed, flopping haphazardly in a shower of gangly legs and bare arms. Maybe he’d get lucky. Maybe Hak would come back. Maybe Ratso would agree to take watch. Maybe Valmont would notice the ‘tension’ between him and Chow and, in a bout of sudden philanthropy, show a little mercy.
The last week had been a slow, broasting-Finn-alive kind of hell. What happened last Saturday had driven a stake of chagrin and unease right into the barely beating heart of the Dark Hand. That night- he hadn’t come out of his room. Not once, not till morning and he heard the others come crashing inside, returning from Spain in a foul and defeated mood. All he’d done was sit at the foot of his bed, shaking slightly and running the same thoughts and images on a conveyer belt through his mind. It didn’t matter that he ached to apologize, to go out into the main room and . . . and he didn’t know what.
No, that was lying, he did know what. And that was *exactly* the reason he kept himself locked behind a barrier of splintering, stained wood. Christ . . . the next morning, Chow had emerged out of his room about two hours later than usual, but it seemed Finn was the only one to notice. The small man had looked and talked like the night before had been a fever dream, and even smiled for the first time since the Moon Demon incident. In fact, everything seemed so damn *mundane*, Finn began to wonder if his friend had been so drunk that everything they’d done had slipped from his head like a washing machine loses socks. Sure, four, five shots wasn’t usually enough to cause complete blackout, but being the employee of a demon, he was willing to swallow quite a lot.
And then he tried to actually *talk* to Chow. Not the- the "talking" they’d done Saturday night, but everyday banter between friends. Jesus, he’d never seen someone so absolutely frigid. Even Shendu couldn’t glare like that, with such abhorrence that Finn had actually physically recoiled, jerking back into the wall and gaping at his partner. Chow’s eyes hadn’t been cold, even though his stance and the snarl his small mouth had twisted into certainly were. No, they burned. They flamed. Finn had had a sudden fright, the ridiculous thought that if he looked deep enough into those eyes, he’d see himself being drawn and quartered, but he still stared until at last Chow turned and walked away.
They hadn’t spoken a word since. Nothing. It just . . . wasn’t worth it. The others were certainly aware of the silence between them, though outside of Ratso’s quizzical glances, and Hak’s raised brows, they simply didn’t acknowledge it. And Valmont, he was too busy dealing with Shendu’s increasingly preposterous demands to be notice. So Finn had, once again, been resigned to a suspenseful wait that just got worse and worse. If there was a purgatory, he was smack dab in the middle of it. He was a communicative person, he wanted to talk about everything, he *needed* to converse and confer and simply chatter. Reticence was not his style, and the week of taciturnity was absolutely infuriating.
And- and Christ, he was worried. Shit. Chow might have smiled that Sunday morning, but almost immediately he had sunk back into a dark pond of hollow despondency, and Finn couldn’t help but think that he was a part of that.
It was getting decidedly chilly in the warehouse, and Finn could feel his teeth threatening to chatter. His shirt and jacket were lying, discarded, on a crate next to the punching bag, and he gratefully went for them. The cloth felt starchy on his skin.
First aid was painfully easy to prepare. The smell of the docks, salty and subtle and oily with half-forgotten death threats, oozed along the floor like tendrils of poison ivy. Pacing and fidgeting and cracking his knuckles in short Uzi bursts, Finn waited. The sound of the limousine’s engine, a velvety low rumble in the dark, was long in coming.
Valmont entered first, looking more exhausted than upset. His hair and clothing were damp, torn in several places, and smelled horribly of a bizarre combination of candy filling and mold. He did not even look at his employee before he brusquely shoved past him and closed the door to his office with a glass-shattering smash, perhaps trying to hide the evil looking yellow bruise and caked blood that covered the entire left section of his face. Finn winced at Valmont’s door, sympathetically clicking his tongue. He knew his boss wouldn’t be out for the rest of the night- and certainly wouldn’t let anyone in to help nurse the wounds, no matter how bad they might be.
"Got somewhere to put him?" Questioned a voice from behind, and Finn pivoted, a reply already dancing just past his lips. Ratso stood in the doorway, the streetlights to the rear of him giving the Enforcer an almost angelic mien- and illuminating the unconscious mess he held in his arms. If Finn thought Valmont looked bad, Chow’s condition made his midsection tie itself into sailor’s knots. There was only one time any of them had looked this awful- and that was years ago, back when they were all still terrified rookies.
"This way." He choked out, gesturing towards the room they used as a makeshift infirmary. Ratso carried the limp body of his friend across the threshold newly wed style, and carefully laid him down on the white sheets of the cot. Chow’s head lolled back to the side, glasses slipping halfway down his face. They were cracked, and as Finn reached forward and plucked them off, he briefly remembered the last time they’d been removed by his hand. No . . . no distractions at the moment. Couldn't afford it- worry later, play doctor now. "When did he black out?"
"After the call. He just kinda went all blah, and fainted." Ratso’s voice held the tiniest of tremors, invisible to the untrained ear. "Valmont said he might be bleeding. You know- inside."
"Oh, Christ." Finn said softly, more to himself than anything. "Christ. We don’t have what it takes to fix that." He peeled Chow’s jacket off, the leather slick with clotting liquid from a few superficial head cuts that would do nothing but pump blood. Beneath it was Chow’s thin black shirt, also quickly removed, ignoring the mewling of pain that escaped his mouth even in unconsciousness. The pale skin of the small Asian man’s chest was spattered with bruises that were all colors of the rainbow, looking like a Pollock masterpiece. One in particular was splashed over his protruding ribs on the right side.
"How did this *happen*? This isn’t Chan’s style. Has he had trouble breathing?"
Ratso looked confused, scratching his head nervously, eyes never leaving Finn’s hands as they, soft as a downy feather, probed the largest bruise. The body beneath them jerked sharply. "Chan?"
"Yes, Ratso, Chan. Because you know I care *so much* about that asshole." Verdant eyes did not roll, but there was definitely the implication of such an action in the thorny words. "Chow."
"Nuh-huh. He’s been breathin’ fine. I think." The sallow-skinned man scratched his nose nervously, pausing a moment to fidget with the Band-Aid perched there. There was an expectant silence, like the milieu of a funeral home, where Ratso looked on while Finn carefully wrapped Chow’s damaged torso in bandages. When the redhead pulled away, there was impatience on his face.
"So . . ." He urged, staring at the only other conscious face in the room, which blinked.
Finn swallowed an exasperated sigh, and replied with as much honey in his voice as possible. "What." He asked quietly. "Happened?"
"Oh." Ratso’s garnet eyes pulled away from Finn’s, and rested on Chow’s battered face. "We were on the water tower. He got knocked off." Mind moving surprisingly quicker than it usually did, he decoded Finn’s shocked expression and answered the soon-to-be-asked question. "He landed in a mattress factory. ‘Kept him from being killed. I fell too, but I landed in a big thing of nougat."
There was a heated quiet. "Nougat."
"Uh . . . yeah."
"You . . . you idiots, and your goddamned direct telephone line to Lady Fortune. Do you know how lucky you are? If you’d been a couple of feet to the side, either of you-"
"Uh-huh." Ratso nodded far too cheerfully, and slapped his hand against his thigh. "Splat! Enforcer pancakes."
Finn didn’t respond, but he did pause in his actions for an instant, half his bottom lip disappearing into his mouth as he chewed on it in perturbation. When he looked back up, there was a subtle anger painted on his pale face. "Valmont shouldn’t have made him go. He should have taken Hak, or me. He *knows* how terrified Chow is of heights."
Ratso nodded sadly, looking dejected, as if the past and present situation was caused by a personal blunder. "You shoulda seen him in the car. And Shendu had to force him up the ladder."
"Asshole." The whispered malignancy could not have been heard outside of a radius of ten feet, but Finn had a sudden fear that the dragon demon had somehow sensed that curse. Ratso looked nervous, too, and a mutual vision of fiery doom left them both staring at the door with an obsessive intensity, begging it wouldn’t swing open. It didn’t. Feeling stupid, Finn cleared his throat, and pulled out some other medical supplies. "Right. Well, all that’s left is a splint for his leg. And . . . if he’s bleeding internally, I guess we’ll find out sooner or later."
"You mean, if he dies?" Ratso looked strangely frightened, like a little boy without his nightlight for the first time. "He’s not gonna die, is he?"
Finn felt a cancerous bulge of premonition bloom in his abdomen, shoving aside flesh and marrow to make room for a horrible glut of fear. He shrugged absently, reaching up to brush the hair out of his face with a free hand. A combination of all day wear and his anxiety-induced workout earlier had freed the copper strands from their gelled shell. He wanted a comb.
"You guys were fighting, right?" Ratso asked quietly, eyes locked on Chow’s still form. Finn didn’t even pretend to be surprised at the question. He just nodded, slowly, like his head was too heavy for such a frail neck, and compulsively wound and unwound the gauze from its roll. But as honest and casual as he seemed, a thorn of wintry fear, colder than a witch’s tit, had dug itself a little burrow under his skin. And for the very life of him, even though he knew Ratso would *never* find out what occurred last Saturday, Finn couldn’t make it melt. "What about?"
"Stuff. I did and said some shit last Saturday that pissed him off pretty bad." He replied, not lying so much as veiling the truth.
"No kidding. I saw some of the looks he was giving you." His friend ran his hands over his arms like he was rubbing the cold out of them. "Brrr!"
Finn smiled half-heartedly, but averted his gaze. The two of them sat quietly for a few minutes while he expertly splinted his friend’s shattered leg, seemingly hypnotized by the sound of Chow’s slow and slightly wheezy breathing. He twitched in his sleep, fingers flittering on the sheets, and emitting the tiniest whispered suspire. Dreaming, obviously, though Finn couldn’t guess about what. Maybe a falling nightmare. Chow used to have those a lot, especially after the time where, in the middle of a firefight, he was trapped on a defective catwalk whose cables had one by one slowly snapped. Ratso had caught him on a lower platform, luckily. But though physically safe and sound, the experience had cemented his crippling acrophobia, and permanently gave him bad dreams.
The quiet broke like a crystal wine glass dropped on concrete. "Did you say something about Adam?" Ratso’s question was quiet, but in Finn’s mind it went off like a bell of Notre Dame. He stared at the other man, brow knit in confusion and curiosity. Adam? Who in the world was *that*? Finn knew a lot of guys, and a one or two of them might share that name, but no one who had any importance in Chow’s life.
"Uh-oh . . ." Ratso clapped his hands over his mouth, doing a remarkable impression of the ‘speak-no-evil’ monkey. "Crap. I don’t think I was supposed to say that." He squeaked unhappily.
Finn narrowed his eyes in a carefully exaggerated mask of ire and suspicion, a look that he’d perfected from years of working with Ratso. His friend was a good criminal in most respects, but broke so quick under the right kind of pressures it was almost humiliating. And *this* glare could snap a redwood. "Who?"
Ratso twiddled his thumbs, and managed to look as miserable as the human face allowed. "Aw, Finn, c’mon. I *swore* I wouldn’t tell anybody, and Chow would be so pissed at me if I did he’d beat the crap out of me. You know what he’s like when he’s mad."
Finn crossed his arms, and droned in a sarcastic tone "No, Ratso, wouldn’t have a clue."
Third time's a charm, and Ratso gave up the puppy eyes and sighed, a mournful Frankenstein moan. "Don’t tell him I said anything, alright?"
"Dude, duh. I’m totally trustworthy."
Ratso’s tiny eyes flickered back and forth like ruby fireflies, and then he leaned in conspiratorially, his terrible breath making Finn wrinkle his nose. 'Note to self,' he thought, 'buy more mouthwash.' "Don’t say a *word*. Alright." The hulking Enforcer whispered. "You know how Chow’s always had nightmares, right? I mean, not just since the space thing, but always. And not the ones about heights, or flying, or stuff. The ones he’d wake up from yelling and wouldn’t tell us anything?"
"Kinda hard to miss." Finn felt a wonderful but guilty rush. He’d had an insatiable hunger for gossip since he first learned the meaning of the word ‘eavesdropping’, and now the sudden burst of a clandestine piece of knowledge being exposed to his waiting ears satisfied him like a crack-addict’s best fix. "Go on."
"Well, remember that time that you were out with Valmont, setting up the business deal with the Japanese guy who wanted to sell the illegal shellfish in his country? The one that smelled really bad and squeaked when he said his tees?"
"I remember, dammit, get on with it."
Ratso looked incredibly insulted, placing a hand over his heart and effectively pouting. "I was only trying to help you." He muttered defensively, but quickly changed his tone of voice when he saw Finn’s irritation. "Alright, alright. Anyway, Chow had a really bad one that night. Not a bad shellfish. A bad nightmare. An’ he woke up just screaming, I mean, *wow*, he was going nuts, and I was the only one there because Reno and Lani didn’t want to stay at HQ that night. So I had to help him, cuz Finn, he was *crying*." The man raised his bushy brows at the last word, stressing it, and Finn had a sudden memory of a pale face coated in wet trails, begging him with glittering eyes to make the pain go away. "Well . . . he started talking about it, and about the stuff that he dreamed before. And he told me- he told me he, he used to . . ." Ratso trailed off, so uncomfortable that he was bouncing his leg at a million miles per second. The white-suited enforcer across from him furrowed his brow.
There was an instant of quiet where Ratso chewed his bottom lip to a pulp. Then, he spoke with downcast eyes and a salmon flush tinting his olive skin. "He said he used to, you know, do things with other guys for money. An . . . an not always cause he wanted to."
Chow stirred almost imperceptibly, his hair slipping over his mouth as if chastising it for liberating the awful secret it had held for so long. Ratso flapped his hands in panic, appearing to be a rather ugly seal in a pinstripe suit. "Shhhhh!"
Finn almost swallowed his tongue. If Ratso was saying what he *thought* he was saying, then that meant Chow had a very good reason to be ticked as hell. The kind of stuff that happened last week had happened before. Except before, other guys didn’t stop . . . "Jesus fucking Christ. So who’s Adam, what did he have to do with this?" Before the question was even out of his mouth completely, Finn knew the answer, and it made him feel sick. "Dude, was he his, uh, his . . ." It was unpleasant, voicing the word. It was something that made of think of his old home back in New York, and the girls that liked to hang out in front of his apartment, knowing that they could get a good night in if he came home with a larger that normal paycheck. He wondered, briefly, what had happened to those girls. "His pimp?"
Ratso ran his fingers through the back of his short hair, making it stick out. "He called him his ‘employer’."
Horrified didn’t begin to explain how Finn felt. The truth of what Ratso had said hit him like an iron fist in his stomach, and he wanted to just throw up at the thought that Chow had been forced to do some very bad things to some very sick people. Vaguely, hating himself for even wondering, he speculated what Chow’d been made to do, how far he’d been made to go. Avoiding Ratso’s gaze, he looked down at his Asian friend’s slight form, suddenly seeing it pinned beneath a sweaty and forceful body. Jesus, who the fuck would be ill enough to do something like that? "God, I never knew . . ."
"I know." Ratso sighed. "I had nightmares after that, too."
They sat in absolute silence, each lost in their own thoughts and staring at the medical cot. Outside, a dog barked, a ship sounded its eerie horn, and they heard Valmont down the hall, arguing with Shendu again. His voice was strained, and almost desperate. It sounded like he was begging, for what, the two Enforcers did not know. Maybe for sleep. Chow began to shiver as a cold breeze from an unknown source whisked across their faces. Ratso made a move towards him, his large gorilla hands reaching for the thin blanket crumpled on the floor, but Finn reached out a grabbed them softly. "Don’t bother, Ratso, I’ll watch him tonight. Go to bed, get some rest." He said tiredly, his gaze worn and ragged with some distant emotion. "Chow wasn’t the only one beat up today."
The black haired man nodded, and smiled, half timidly and half sadly, his grin that of a disproportionate marionette. "Thanks, man." He shuffled his feet. "I feel like we should hug or something."
Finn mock recoiled, and chastised severely, "Try and I’ll break your nose, dude. Love ya and everything, but that’s just weird. Go on, get out of here."
"Yeah, yeah, sorry." Ratso pulled open the door, wincing as the thrice-decade old hinges whimpered. "G’night, Finn."
The Irishman waved fraudulently, his expression forced cheer. "Night Ratso."
Minutes later, after the door had closed and he heard Ratso moving around in his room, turning on the shower and cursing as it iced him over, Finn returned to Chow’s bedside and pulled the flimsy blanket over the man’s quivering chest. The effeminate man nestled into it without waking, sighing the soft sound of a person too deep in dreams to care what went on in the outside world, his bruised and battered face calm as a mid-winter lake. There was something innocent about him, even with the overlay of black and blue, even with the stain of his previously cloudy hell of a background. Like a lost son, constantly searching for his place without ever admitting that he cared.
Someone hurt this. Someone awful, and depraved, and all those other words you heard on the news when talking about terrible people, and it pissed Finn off so much that he just wanted to tear the entire building down with his bare hands. Everything about Chow- his severe phobias, his cast iron exterior and his unquenchable fury that drove him to do some really risky and stupid things- Finn suddenly understood them, the meaning behind them and the way the were used to protect the terrified and wounded man smothered under layers of these defenses.
It wasn’t until a small dark spot appeared on Chow’s blanket that Finn felt a slippery trail on his face. Wiping his cheekbones clear in solitary embarrassment, he blinked away any other wet that might fall. Chow would punch his lights out for being so sappy.
But before he moved away, he felt one more urge knocking in his head. Quietly, cautiously, feeling dumb and timorous, the man leaned down near Chow’s ear, and whispered so quietly that the words were barely more than fluctuations of air.
(AN #2: Heh . . . yeah, I know, there should be more. Really, this story is just a filler for the next one, which YES, will happen . . . though I don’t know when it will come out. But be prepared- the next one will VERY MUCH earn an R, maybe NC-17 rating for some seriously scary, nasty, and not in the least bit sexy stuff. Just a warning.)