Amsterdam Vallon knows Bill the Butcher's really sick for good and all, like any other man, when the Butcher turns over in his rucked bed, knife up, at he and Jenny Everdeane's approach--but just slow enough so's Amsterdam can grab it from the older man's hand, before Bill quite has time to flick it in.
Which goes far towards finally proving his long-doubted central thesis, to Amsterdam's mind: //See, you awe-struck fool? He AIN'T the Devil, not after all. Just a man, old and wounded, as like to die as any other...//
By Amsterdam's hand, in other words, or by the fruits of his own mulish stubbornness-same quality keeps him fighting Jenny's brisk search of his forehead, soaplock hair plastered down flat over his brows with sweat rather than fancy grease, as though he could somehow will away the obvious fact that he's burning up with fever by simply avoiding her touch. The shot he took at Uncle Tom's Cabin hasn't closed right, or maybe hasn't really closed at all; Jenny picks away at the bulging stiches with a pair of tiny gold scissors in the shape of a crane, the blades its long, sharp legs, and draws an inventive string of curses for her troubles.
"Looks like he's headed for Saint Terra," Amsterdam says, leant over her shoulder, as he strains to keep Bill--still vaguely flailing, all long limbs and sharp teeth, in the net of his sickbed dreams--pinned to the mattress with almost all his strength. Jenny glances up from her work and laughs at the sight, shortly.
"You think?" She asks, with a mocking lilt to her voice. "Man's got the constitution of a dray-cart horse, never worry over that-might be they'll have to carry him inside one of these days and bury him upright, only quick enough so he don't figure out what they're doing." //Snip.// "But today's not that day, not yet."
Hesitant: "Well, you know him best of the two of us, t'be sure. I'm just thinkin' a doctor might do more good than more whiskey in the wound and a pipe to keep him quiet, maybe..."
Jenny snorts, her eyes suddenly gone //very// blue and twice as narrow, hot and cold both at once like a sulphur lucifer's flame. Snapping, in reply-
"Sure, I've only known him my whole damn life, but why take //my// word for it? You're holdin' him down, after all-so go on ahead, try an' make him do what he won't, and see just how far it gets yeh!"
Doesn't surprise Amsterdam much, for he thinks he knows her well enough now to finally be able to conjure where she's like to jump, most-times. Knows, at the very least, that she doesn't often bother to think about what she can't alter: It's the whore's way, the Points way; Bill's way too, come to think. And no great surprise in that, after all...
...seeing he's who she learned it from.
But: Then it's later--long after the whiskey, just after the opium, with Amsterdam still somehow holding Bill down, while Jenny ministers to him. "Restraining" him, as she puts it...like the Butcher ain't the Butcher nevertheless, ill or whole. Like he's anything can really //be// restrained.
Yearning aimless up towards her now, eyes glazed and moustache limp, like her face just swam down a score of years towards him through the opium haze he floats in, leaving all that's passed between them behind. And Amsterdam can see the change it makes in him already, the extra jut and angle in his garish trousers' cut, while Jenny stares down at him, caught; strokes at his "new" waistcoat with one knifester's hand, his black-rimmed nails trembling oh-so-slightly. And says, hoarse-
"Light-fingered Jen...went and mended it, didn't ya? All neat and tidy, so's you can't even see the mark..."
Jenny swallows, slightly. Then, with equal throatiness: "Thought that was what you'd've wanted, Bill."
"Oh, sure...sure." He trails off, squints at nothing; takes a full moment yet to wind back up to only half-speed, a dropped watch keeping only ill-set time. "...kind of defeats the point that way, though, don't it? This sort of trophious display, what you want is...the rest've the world to be able to tell what it's //for//..."
And this is where their eyes meet once more, stare sparked by stare like flashpaper in a penny music-hall magic show, so close now that Amsterdam can //feel// the heat of it fair singe his eyebrows.
"I could always do it again," Jenny says, breathless. "Make it more...obvious."
Bill: "Aw, it's nothin' to...cry over..."
His hand covers hers, grips tight-Amsterdam sees their knuckles knit,
whiten, twist in unison, as if they'd never stopped touching. And then
Bill's kissing Jenny deep and fierce, for all the world as though they're
still cock and hen; like he can't even recall what's happened between 'em,
with the baby and everything. While she falls straight back into it with
such effortlessness and passion, even though the man she's now involved
with is not only right there in the same room, but propping her former
lover upright enough so's he has access to her lips...as though it's only
natural, nothing more or less. As though she couldn't fight against it
even if she wanted to, and why would she? Why would-
For the Butcher is the Butcher still and always, sick or not: Born illimitable. There's nothing-no //one//, it comes to that-in this whole vile garbage-heap of a place he's incapable of doing, if and when the fancy takes him.
Oh, for the dragon's wing //is// warm, that's just the bitter, bitter truth of it-no matter the rushing river of his kinsmen's blood it's fanned to boiling in its time, the smoking trail of careless ruin it's left behind it. And it's in the full knowledge of all this, tangled to his fingertips in the very root of his awful sin, that Amsterdam finds himself took under yet again, and again, and once more again: Gets the wet bloom of Jenny's sweet mouth on his own as well, in between, while she kisses her way down Bill's long torso; eases back with Bill flopping out 'cross his lap and spreads his own legs just as wide, so's her pickpocket fingers can work their ill with both their breeches in unison. Drawn down strong as the Hudson's dirty current, her red hair a bloody spray all over him, her one steel-capped tooth tapping impatient at the buttons of his fly—
Her lips on Bill, so dreadful hot and wicked, while her breath heats Amsterdam where no breath ever should; then the full weight of her shifting only to him, to lick, to nurse. Then back on Bill, then on him-then, somehow, on them //both//. And //then//...
...out of nowhere, he's drawn down yet again (so fast and hard and Goddamn awful //far// at once, it's fair like to drown him completely) by the full weight of //Bill//'s mouth, too: Swift and careless, his poison tongue a scorpion's sting, paralyzing in its immediacy, impossible to deny entrance.
Drugged breath eddies up like smoke into Amsterdam's lungs, dry heat, gin- and tobacco-scented; Bill's one eye fixes and gleams like a cat's at night, throws back the fire again, like it's comin' from somewhere deep inside of him. And Amsterdam can feel himself all but melt at the mere sight of it, his misgivings running away like wax under the pressure of this unrepentant murderer's touch.
Croaks, mouth too dry for more'n a whisper: "Bill..." And sees that cold glass eagle narrow at the sound, blind yet avid, //searching// for something in the sound, something he can't quite find, no matter how he might try. Something he never could, not if he was to search another fifteen years or more.
"Thought you was another man entire," Bill remarks, at last, leaning his slick cheek against Amsterdam's, so their stubble grates together—but that can't mean much after all, for it don't stop him drawing him back to him, tight enough to hurt. Or kissing him again, and again, and again...
Yes, the Points is a stew, all right; it's dark everywhere down here, to the very last particular; Hell is hot, and gaping wide. Which must be why, when the Butcher wraps him close, Amsterdam finds he comes far more willing than he ever dreamed he would, or could...not even with his father's sad ghost at his ear, keening in a way that seems almost jealous, or would if he let himself listen closer. And certainly not with "his" gal there to see him go, her skirts raised high and her white thighs flashing wetly, gladder by far than anyone un-Damned should ever seem-given the circumstances—
—to be caught in between.