Author's Note: EDITED. The villain/bad guys for this story totally got reworked into something I like considerably more, so it's not that a LOT has changed, more like keywords.
So fighting writer's block on my other Lucifer story and my Left Behind request fic, I accidentally wrote this. My bad, yo. I should also probably try and sleep at some point...
Pfft. Sleep is for the weak.
It was cold. He didn't remember it being so cold. It invaded his senses, permeated his skin and leached into his bones until he felt like he was made of ice. His teeth had stopped chattering long ago, which was a welcome respite. His jaw still ached.
He tried not to think about it. He only had energy enough for one thing, and walking was considerably more worthwhile than concentrating on the various other things that should still hurt but don't.
He didn't think about it, and his mind went blissfully blank.
The lights of the city twinkled in the distance, barely visible through the low hanging smog even though it was the dead of night and he thought he'd never seen anything quite so beautiful in his life.
His bare feet hit with a slight slap with every step, uneven and arrhythmic on the pavement. It was probably a good thing that he'd lost feeling in them around the same time his teeth stopped chattering. They looked more like raw meat thanks to the unforgiving scrub of vast desert he'd awoken in. It had taken him ages to find the road. He'd lost track of how many times he'd fallen, tripping over something in the dark that brought him to his hands and knees, only barely managing to catch himself before he wound up face first in the dirt.
He'd seen few sets of headlights in the hours he'd been trudging alongside the road, but he'd stayed far to the side and out of sight every time he heard the approach of a motor. He didn't really understand why there was a sudden, gnawing and nameless dread that settled in his head, making it spin dizzyingly at the thought of being found. Didn't understand, but listened anyway.
So he kept walking, eyes fixated on the distant city lights that were growing closer with every passing hour.
He was concentrating so hard on the necessary mechanics of walking, of making sure he picked his feet up high enough so that he didn't drag the tops of his feet against the road, trying to force each individual muscle to contract and expand and move and propel him forwards that he didn't hear the car when it made its first pass. He hardly even registered the red taillights, like glowing embers in the darkness as they started to move away from him, heading in the same direction of the city.
There was a familiar chirp of a brief siren and a flash of blue lights, and taillights disappeared as the police car slowly swung around.
The crunch of gravel made him wince. The car hadn't continued on. Which meant it had stopped for him. He'd come so far. He didn't think he could do it a second time. He stumbled to a halt, his foot dragging slightly behind him as he tried to keep his balance.
The city lights that seemed so close minutes before seemed to stretch out to the end of a black void – he'd been so close. He didn't even know why there mattered, but it did. He needed to get to those lights. He could've made it if he hadn't stopped, but now that he had…all he could think of was how bone tired exhausted he was.
He didn't even have the energy or strength to lift his hand up to block the sudden spotlight in his face, awashing his vision in radiant white.
There were voices. Two of them. He thought they were speaking to him but they came in garbled, like half a transmission and he had no idea what they were saying.
Someone stepped in close, briefly blocking the all-consuming brightness, and he couldn't help the half step backwards. He would've gone further, but he didn't think he could.
Besides. He'd spent the whole night moving forwards. He wasn't about to walk any further away from his goal than he had to, because that meant he would have to take that many more steps.
And he was so tired already, he didn't dare close his eyes, even to shut out the light.
He felt himself sway.
"Sir, can you hear me?"
The words were clear, but the person wasn't.
"Sir, are you okay?"
He actually laughed at that, or tried to at least. It came out as a weak chuffing noise, more air than sound. As his lips curled up in a smile, he felt them split and tear, and he cringed. They were dryer than he thought.
"He looks like he's on drugs," a new voice said from behind him.
He took offense to that. He was not on drugs…at least, he didn't think…
"No, Tom, come around here. Take a look at him," the blur in front of him said. "That's not drugs, that looks like shock. And look at his feet." A thin blob moved away from the larger one and gestured at his feet. He shifted self-consciously.
"Jesus, he barely has any left."
"What the hell is that on his hand?" First voice again.
"I can't tell. See if you can approach him, I'm going to call for an ambulance."
He didn't really want an ambulance. Home was just a little further. If he could just start walking again, he could keep going. He would make it before dawn. At least…he was fairly sure home was in the city.
"Hey, buddy, you're going to feel my hand on your right, okay? I'm not going to hurt you, I just want to see."
While he had been looking over at the horizon where he could see the city in the distance, the blur had moved closer. He didn't really mind though. It didn't hurt so much anymore…not with all the other things that seemed to hurt just a little bit more. And they weren't touching it. Touching it hurt. Especially when he tripped and had to catch himself.
Cautious fingers gently grasped his wrist, turning his hand palm side up and towards the floodlight behind him. It was a slightly awkward angle, but it didn't hurt.
"What the hell is that?"
"It looks like…a brand?" the second voice was back, but it was standing behind him. "What did he do, escape from a cult? Cattle rustlers?"
"There's nothing around for miles, where could he come from?"
"I wouldn't touch it until the paramedics get here. Who the hell knows what it is? It looks…painful, anyways. They're gonna have to debride it when he gets to the hospital."
The blur moved his hand again, turning it over so it was palm down, before reaching for his other hand. It was the same gentle grip, like they thought he was going to shatter. He thought that was a fair assumption. The longer he stood, the more tired he became. He started to sway.
"Whoa, there buddy, don't fall. You'll hurt yourself even more," the second voice said.
"Can you sit down?"
He blinked. Could he? He didn't have much time to ponder the idea, his legs apparently decided they didn't need his input before they tried it. His knees collapsed, his legs folding in on themselves. He was sure he was going to hit the ground, but the grip that was formerly gently gripping his hands were now underneath his arms, holding him up.
"Jesus!" the voice grunted near his ear, and despite his efforts, he couldn't move his head to look at the face that went with it. His assistant would have to remain faceless.
"Look at his arms." The second voice sounded in awe. No, shocked was a better phrase.
Now that he was sitting, albeit on the sandy shoulder of a highway, exhaustion hit him full force. Now he knew he couldn't make it home tonight. There was no way he could rationalize to himself that he could get up, let alone take another step.
The blur hadn't moved yet, their arms still firmly around his back, supporting him in the awkward position, one leg folded underneath himself and the other stuck out to the side. It was nice, just to sit there with his head against the other's shoulder. If the blur hadn't moved away, he was pretty sure he would've fallen asleep right then and there. As the body moved away from him, he made a small noise of protest without even thinking about it.
"It's ok, I'm not going anywhere. I'm gonna look at your arms again, ok? You're going to feel my hands on your lower arm again, ok? I'm not going to hurt you."
He nodded, but immediately decided that was a bad idea when the world suddenly swam out of focus, even more so that before. The city lights in the distance swirled insanely for a moment, and he shut his eyes against it.
"Hey, stay with us, ok?" the first voice was back. "The paramedics are on their way, you can sleep then, all right?"
He inclined his head slightly in response. The dizzy feeling still hadn't gone away and he didn't think throwing up on the blur trying to help him would've been that appropriate.
"What the hell are those?" the second voice asked. There was a feather light touch on his wrist. "Those are some spectacular bruises."
"It looks like he got into a fight with Mike Tyson and the bad guys from all four Rocky movies. Holy hell, buddy, did you at least get in some swings of your own?" There was a pause. "Looks like he took a blow to the back of the head, too. That's…a lot of…uh. Yeah. You're going to be fine, buddy."
"He's abrasions on his knuckles, too. Least he probably fought back…might be able to get something from underneath his nails."
"Least we know he didn't do it to himself," the first voice said. "Where the hell are those paramedics? They said they were only five minutes out."
He could feel himself drifting. He'd allowed himself to go so long without considering what shape his body was in that the list of his injuries were beginning to worry him.
The next thing he knew the first voice was back again. "I can't get him to wake up fully. He was conscious, but not really aware of anything when we first got here. He hasn't reacted to anything we've done so far."
Behind closed lids (when did he shut his eyes?), he could see swirls of red and blue. The motion of the colors was oddly comforting and strangely familiar.
"He looks in rough shape. You say you just found him walking along the highway?"
"Yeah, we drove by at first, we didn't see him that far off the side of the road, but my partner caught something out of the corner of his eye, so we stopped and turned on the spotlight. We called it in, and you know everything else."
He felt a well of laughter bubbling up again, but he didn't even have the energy to crack a sardonic grin. Oh how wrong they were.
Or perhaps how right.
He didn't even know what he was doing in the desert in the first place. It was simply the first thing he could recall – lying face up, staring at the slowly darkening sky above him as night fell and the temperature plummeted, the sand leaching the warmth from his skin.
"Sir, can you speak?"
He licked his lips, tasting sand and salt and copper and his mouth remained dry as the desert he'd crawled out of.
"Did you offer him any water?"
First voice spoke again, and he idly wished he had a name to go with it. "He didn't seem like he was with it enough to drink anything without choking."
Ouch. Harsh words. He wasn't that bad, was he? He bit down sharply, tasting blood and wetting his lips even as the voices shouted in protest. He moved his lips, ignoring the sting of newly torn flesh as he tried to speak but still managed only a puff of air.
Perhaps whetting his lips was not enough to have a voice.
As the ground suddenly dipped, it occurred to him that he was lying flat. Not only was he lying down, but he was on something soft. Ish. There was a clack of metal, and he felt himself moving without any effort on his part.
There were more voices than before, and he only had one name. It was going to be hard keeping track of them now. At least there were only two before. Now there was voice one through four.
"Did you find an ID on him?" New voice.
"No, he doesn't even have pockets." Tom, former voice number one.
"What's our ETA?"
Okay, that was too many new voices, and he didn't like how their shadows were hovering over him. The light was bright white now, and it reminded him of a place he'd rather forget entirely.
He tried to move his left arm, but someone grabbed it and pushed it down gently.
"Try not to move, sir, you'll disturb the IV."
His eyes flew open. White light blinded him, and he couldn't see, but that didn't stop him from struggling to pull his arm loose.
"Sir, calm down!" a new voice ordered as a rough hand grasped his flailing arm.
That nameless dread that told him to stay off the roads seized his heart, and there was a sudden screech of something electronic.
The crippling exhaustion was gone, replaced with a sudden rush of adrenaline that had him surging up, pulling away from the restraints that had held him down. There were too many lights, too many hands, and too many voices and he couldn't remember why so many of them were bad.
He needed darkness. He was safe in the dark and he lunged forwards, hands clawing at the doors that trapped him in the terrible, blinding light.
Hands on his shoulders tried to push him back, but he was stronger, driven by the will to live and a primal, visceral need to get away from the invasive light.
Something sharp pierced his thigh through the flimsy hospital scrub fabric, so unexpectedly that he yelped in surprise.
The hands he'd so easily shoved away before now pinned him back against the gurney, the adrenaline that fueled him ebbing.
"There we go," a voice said, trying for soothing and sounding relieved instead. A hand patted his thigh where they'd stabbed him moments before and he flinched.
"Don't worry," the second voice assured. "Once we get you the hospital, we'll be able to call your family."
The bright lights above him started to dim, and he hazily tried to conjure up a memory of someone he called family.
All he could see were those damned lights, blocking everything out.
He felt like he was falling, and strangely enough, that was the closest thing to familiarity he'd experienced since waking.
The disturbing thought followed him into the void.