Author: Cruelest Sea PM
Does the next day come because it does or only because we let go of the day before? :Time-lapse; Secure the Shadow; Way Of The River; Tantalus; Comes and Goes; Wicker Man; Till Human Voices Wake Us; Oubliette; Flesh and Blood; Present Tense; Butterfly Effect; Child Of Stone; Bleeding Backwards; Homecoming; You and Me; Second Star To The Right; Smoke and Mirrors; Outside Of Camelot.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Friendship - Chapters: 18 - Words: 38,867 - Reviews: 19 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 03-16-13 - Published: 08-20-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7307318
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
You and Me
"When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful."-Barbara Bloom
He holds his hands up to the light, palms out, watching as they tremble, the blood long dried, darkening his skin. He's had time to wash them but he hasn't. It's foolish, he knows, but it's as if by washing them, by stripping that blood off his hands, he'll be washing away Doug's life, snapping whatever thread is holding him to it. As long as the blood is on his hands from where he held down on the wound he can feel like he's holding that life, keeping it inside him.
All this time and he doesn't know Doug's blood type, can only guess and hope that his own will save him. It's a chance, a huge one, but the only one he has, because he's lost far too much blood, and there's no one else willing to attempt a transfusion, the process risky and more often than not impeded by superstition and fear. They've no equipment to determine blood type, and the concept is years away from discovery. All they know is that it works sometimes and not others. But it was a chance, a slim one, and he took it, watching as part of his blood slowly ran into Doug's veins.
Now he can only wait, lying on the bed a few feet from Doug's, watching the pale face for a sign of hope, or the moment when his world falls apart.
And then Doug stirs, murmuring something unintelligible and his heart leaps up into his throat as the doctor bends over him, checking vital signs. When he straightens, he's smiling and nodding, telling him that he's been lucky this time, that it worked.
He isn't as surprised as he thought he would be. Maybe it's because they're like brothers, like two halves of a whole, so why wouldn't they have the same blood, or at least one he could share?
He doesn't question the odds of it. He's too grateful.
"Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive."-Josephine Hart
He didn't hold onto anything growing up. He had lots of toys as a child, far more than most children have, but they didn't fill the loneliness when his parents weren't around, and his father viewed attachments as a sign of weakness, a flaw he wouldn't permit in his only son.
As an adult, Doug was reserved with any contact, waiting for permission, hesitating before the simple act of shaking hands. Tony, tactile by nature, but years without allowing himself to even speak a thought to another person, changed that at the beginning, holding his hand out for that first handshake until Doug took it. A baby dies without touch, and everyone else shrivels up like a leaf in autumn, growing cold and lifeless inside.
Which is why he holds onto Tony a little longer than is necessary, a grasped shoulder, a support from falling, a squeezed arm to convince himself that they're still both here, still alive, still trying to get home. He's the first thing, the first person he's leaned on, held onto, in his entire life.
For all his money, his father didn't have a true friend in the world, not a single living soul who cared if he lived or died. And Doug has Tony, who would and almost has died for him, who keeps him going when he doesn't have any strength or hope left, and doesn't notice if he clings a little too much because he's never had anyone who didn't not notice.
In the end, money didn't do his father any good. A friend, he thinks, would have.
"The beauty of the world has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder."-Virginia Woolf
His eyes are still closed, hands motionless even after several hours, and Doug fights the urge to shake him, to shout his name and demand an answer.
He should wake up, the doctor says, as long as nothing is damaged in his mind - and Doug silently curses the primitive equipment and medical knowledge of 1901. He's hard-headed, Doug knows. Being shot twice in the head and escaping with only a couple scrapes should prove that. He's strong, and still young, and he bounces back, always. But this time it was a piece of steel pipe to the back of his skull, a worker with the others on strike outside the factory, and the wrong place and the wrong time, and Doug didn't see until Tony was crumbled on the ground, bleeding.
Doug clenches his fists against the sheets, studying the wrinkles in the once smooth fabric as it bunches around his knuckles, neat and pressed around Tony's unmoving hands, like a fallen snow over a man unstirring and slowly freezing to death.
He'll be fine, Doug knows. He always is. He just has to wake up first.
"There is a great streak of violence in every human being. If it is not channeled and understood, it will break out in war or in madness."-Sam Peckinpah
It started three months ago, the locals tell him. A virus of some sort, water, air, land borne, no one knows. All they do know is once infected it turns it's victims into monsters, not claws and teeth and zombie eyes, but all too human monsters, rabid, feral people who will tear their own family limb from limb, and don't respond to reason or even fear. There's no cure, except to let it run it's course. Twenty-four hours, and then the sunlight of the following day brings healing, some sort of natural cure, or the virus finally burning itself out in the victim's body with no apparent effects.
Only a few ever live to see that twenty-four hours end. The police, understaffed before and desperate now, along with those who have survived untouched or the lucky ones who've recovered, have turned vigilante, hunting and shooting down the infected before they can kill more, fear erupting into violence as it spreads out of the town and into surrounding cities.
Here Doug has found a church, long unused with cracking walls and smudged stained-glass windows, but easily barricaded from the inside, the old pews still strong enough to be piled up against the doors and windows for reinforcement as the shouting continues outside, the nighttime thick with horror.
There's a scream, and another shot rings out, the thud of someone striking the ground as the body beneath Doug twists sideways, grunting as he fights and struggles to get free, hands grasping fistfuls of air as he lunges for Doug's throat, falling short. Another person is dead out there, not because there was no hope for their recovery, but because there was no one who cared about them enough to hold them somewhere, to keep them until the virus runs it's course, and he's not letting that happen here, not as long as he has strength in his body and the blessing of a couple inches and several pounds on the person he keeps pinned to the floorboards.
"Easy." Doug whispers in a voice long hoarse from hours of pointless words, useless talking. "Only another hour. Just one hour and two minutes now."
The body beneath him whimpers, fists clenching and unclenching as another shot echoes through the darkness. Doug grits his teeth, digs his knees into Tony's back, and holds on.
"I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders."-Jewish proverb
It's nearly morning and it's still raining, hard and cold against the windows of the cabin he found, a long abandoned but still sturdy line shack in the mountains a dozen miles from nowhere. It's not stocked but the best he could find and he had to get Doug somewhere and dry after that fall he took into the river and the cough that's since settled into his lungs.
The fire crackles on the hearth, pitifully low on the bits of dry wood he could find, and he pushes another precious stick in, watching as if takes fire, slowly turning to ashes. There's no bed so Doug is propped up in his arms, bundled with the couple old blankets he found along with his sweater, too small but still warm.
Doug coughs and he wipes his forehead, grimacing as he feels the parchment dry skin of an unbroken fever. He shakes, turning his face toward the fire in his delirium and Tony stops him, supporting his head as Doug groans, unable to find comfort.
"My mother was wealthy." He hears Doug's voice, a rare unguarded moment when they were in a castle on Mother's Day, watching a woman sing to her son. "She never once sang lullabies.
"Mine did." Tony says quietly. "One of them, I can still hear it."
"Must have been nice." His tone is stiff, but he can hear the wistfulness hidden beneath.
Doug coughs again, a wet, thick sound as he shifts him higher, wrapping his arms over his shoulders to keep him warm. Tony blinks away the hot tears that gather at the back of his eyes, and starts to hum.
"Hush little baby, don't say a word, Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird."
"I don't know that there are haunted houses. I know that there are dark staircases and haunted people."-Robert Brault
He frightens him sometimes.
It isn't just the way he always seems to attract trouble like a magnet, or even the times he gets hurt. He's resilient, or impossibly lucky, because what man survives two shots to the head and a stopped heart and comes out with nothing but a couple cuts and temporary amnesia?
It's how he throws himself into danger, like a man walking beneath lightning, waiting for it to strike him. For all his skill at surviving, Tony Newman lives like he has a death wish, like he cares nothing for his own life, and only Doug's and those around him.
And that frightens Doug to death. Because for now he's here, able to drag Tony out of every scrape, to patch him up, to pull him away from his dead father, and shake the sense back into him, to carry him off a rack, and warn him when a spear comes too close. But he might not always be there. They live dangerous lives, and time is a fickle mistress, every transfer a chance that they'll come out days or even centuries apart.
So when they jump, he reaches for Tony sometimes, gripping his hand if only to ensure they arrive together, and sometimes, like the time he lost his memory, he knocks him around a little too hard, to make him fight back, to make him care about himself, to teach him to survive before it's too late.
But there's always danger, and he's always there, right in the thick of it, emerging with a smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes.
And Doug shivers.
"I have woven a parachute out of everything broken."-William Stafford
Tony doesn't make friends easily. It's not a dislike of people, or a lack of social skills, or even that he was bright growing up, far surpassing the other kids his age as he skipped grades and read ahead in all his textbooks. He had no ties when he first came to Project Tic Toc, no close family, no wife or even a girlfriend, not any friends at all, if he was being honest. He's lost enough people already.
His grandfather died when he was four, and he still remembers that was the first time he understood death, the finality and loss too large to fit inside his tiny heart as he screamed and fought his father when they lowered the coffin into the ground. His mother was next, and he didn't cry that time, because she'd been sick so long and he'd already cried all his tears, and his father needed someone strong to keep him together. He only sat very quietly, the Priest's words garbled and muffled in his ears, and stared down at the tops of his shoes, memorizing every line in the leather, the scuffed toes that no one had polished, and the knotted laces, double-tied like he always did that his mother always fixed before he went to church.
When his father died, there was no funeral, because they never found him in the rubble and confusion of Pearl Harbor, officially missing, even if everyone knew he was dead, because Anthony Newman would have gone to the ends of the earth and back before he would have abandoned his son. After that it was a shuffle of relatives, few of whom wanted to raise a seven year old, and none of whom had the patience for an endless stream of questions about life, death, and time. By the time he came to Tic Toc, Tony hadn't had a friend since Billy Neal, and no desire to find another.
It was Doug who changed that, a quiet sort of man not used to reaching out a hand of friendship, only accepting one already offered, who'd seen the loneliness and broken through, and even if Tony didn't respond instantly he'd warmed to the kindness over time. He owes him everything, he knows, not just for the friendship, but his life, countless times over, from the moment he followed him into the Tunnel and that locked room on the Titanic. He doesn't deserve a friend like that, he thinks, but then again, no one does.
Tony has lost a lot of people in his life. But he's not losing Doug, not as long as he has any say in it.