I'm struggling a bit with my next chapter of 'Finally Belonging', but I managed to bang this out in the past two days. Granted, this is a lot shorter than my chapters in that story, but still.
Well, this man being alive, by seemingly impossible odds, changes everything, Bruce thinks. The man doesn't need a funeral now, he needs a doctor. The car may have run over "John's" ribs, before stopping while crushing his left arm and knees. Hopefully any broken ribs didn't puncture something vital and cause internal bleeding.
Actually, a funeral doesn't exactly seem out of the question for this unfortunate man's future.
Bruce finds himself calling the man "John" in his head, because John Doe- or variations, such as Jane or Johnny Doe, depending on the person's gender or age- is the generic name given to anonymous people back in the U.S., whether they be purposely kept anonymous in court, unconscious patients who are unable to give their name in hospitals, or in the worst case, unidentified corpses.
Or unconscious corpse-like people in the middle of the street, although Bruce is on the other side of the world from the U.S.
"We need to lift the-" Bruce doesn't actually know the Hindi word for car, so he just gestures towards the offending vehicle that's crushing the man, making lifting motions just in case he said something wrong. He'd almost forgotten to speak in Hindi in the first place, and had actually started the sentence in English. Some of the people here understand it, but with random passerby's like now, he doesn't know if he'll be understood.
He vaguely hears the driver continuing to say that the man had simply appeared, and some of the other onlookers are mentioning that they hadn't seen this mysterious man anywhere before the incident. Bruce tunes them out and returns to more important matters.
They're definitely going to have to get him out from under the car. Ordinarily, it would be preferable to have a crane lift the car up, since rolling the car off "John" will only cause further injury. However, lifting up the front and dragging him out from under the tire is likely to injure him more, as well. It's generally a bad idea to carelessly move injured people.
A couple men, including the driver, move to the front bumper of the car, to try and lift it. One of them almost accidentally kicks "John" in the face, but he doesn't even blink at the foot that's right in front of him.
The only visible sign "John" isn't dead is the fact he's breathing, because otherwise he looks like death with his emaciated body, extremely pale skin, and unseeing green eyes. Bruce briefly checks to confirm "John" has a pulse on his radial artery of his right wrist, since his left arm is still pinned under the car with his knees. He skips checking the man's heartbeat for now.
"We're going to help you, okay?" Bruce tells "John", even though he's almost certain he won't get a response.
Unfortunately, Bruce doesn't have a stretcher with him at the moment, and simply picking John up without one could worsen whatever injuries he undoubtedly has.
It's not a perfect solution, but Bruce grabs a blanket from a stall, murmuring a quick apology and promise to return it, although the person is too busy watching to get annoyed. He lays spreads the blanket out by "John", hoping he won't cause further harm when transferring him to the makeshift stretcher. The men prepare to lift the front of car.
Before the men even begin to lift, "John" starts thrashing with a shocking amount of strength, considering how incredibly fragile he looks. Bruce's earlier assumption that he'd lacked the energy to try to escape is the crushing force is promptly proven incorrect.
"John" somehow manages to yank his left arm and knees out from where they'd been pinned under the car tire. There's no way he should have been able to do that, since the men hadn't started lifting it yet, so the weight of the car was pressing down on him from that tire. The car falls back onto all four wheels with a loud thump, the tire he'd been pinned under barely missing "John's" head by mere centimeters.
Bruce doesn't have much time to ponder the shocking feat of strength as "John" thrashes more, seeming to try and scramble to his feet, and almost seeming surprised that there's ground beneath him, and even more confused when he hits the underside of the car, like he's not really sure where he is. By the time Bruce has realized what's happening, the man is already sprinting- or more accurately, staggering- away on rather unsteady legs.
Bruce supposes that "John's" knees aren't broken, or he wouldn't be able to do what he's doing now. How is he able to run, or wriggle from under the tire? How are his knees not broken?
He doesn't get very far, or even seem aware of obstacles in his way. Bruce watches as John runs blindly through a crowd and collapses against a building.
Bruce hurries after him, and thankfully the stall he'd borrowed the blanket from is in the direction "John" had headed, so he wordlessly returns it while heading to the mysterious man.
When he reaches the slumped form, "John's" green eyes are as vacant as they were before. He doesn't react at all to Bruce approaching, but his chest is still heaving with quick, panicked breaths.
The unexpected fire of life- for the feat he just pulled should be called more than a spark- has died. Bruce isn't sure if he collapsed out of exhaustion, or if he's mentally checked out entirely. His mind seems very far away, and Bruce almost wonders if his sudden movement had actually been related to his situation under the tire, or something in his mind.
"John's" sudden spark of life had happened when Bruce was taking his pulse, but there's no enough data to tell if it was a coincidence or a response to Bruce's touch. No, that sounds like something out of a romance novel or fairy tale, someone magically waking up after being touched.
Bruce slowly reaches out to touch "John", gently prodding his left arm. It doesn't seem broken, although the weird gold armor is covering some of it. Maybe that had prevented a break? But his equally bone-thin knees aren't armored, and those don't seem broken either.
How did this man's bones not snap like twigs?
Bruce is starting to think maybe "John" doesn't need a trip to the hospital. Not really sure what else to do, he decides to take "John" to his own place. He'll probably be able to help more than most here, hence why he's making a living being an unofficial doctor.
He isn't really sure what he expected, but "John" doesn't react at all when Bruce gathers his bone-thin frame into a sort of fireman's carry. The onlookers have slowly started to turn away and move on as Bruce carries the man towards his home, which is only a few minutes' walk from where he'd found the man he's playing good samaritan for.
"Welcome to my humble abode." He says as he enters.
Bruce's home really isn't much. It's a tiny, one room apartment with a kitchen area shoved into one corner and a window that offers a view of side of the building on the other side of the street, which Bruce currently has covered with a pink cloth acting as a curtain. Bruce hasn't done much in terms of furniture- just a mattress on the floor (he decided not to spend money on a bed frame), a beat-up old couch, a small coffee table, and a rug.
He could be forced to leave at any moment and leave everything behind if he has another incident, so there's not really a point in having much. It's not like he could bring a bed frame with him, or a mattress. He actually has a sleeping bag for that very reason and hopes, if he does have to leave suddenly because the military finds him, he'll be himself instead of the Other Guy. He also has an emergency bag of clothes and cash.
Bruce has a few trinkets, gifts from some of his patients, that he's collected during his stay. He doesn't exactly have a lot of money to spare on decorations or even books.
He locks his door behind him- it's nice having a lock. Bruce had been robbed a few times before, especially when he slept in the streets. One time, a mugger had him at knifepoint and well, he'd been... discouraged from that endeavor when the Other Guy came out. Bruce isn't at all happy about that incident, both because of the violence from the Other Guy and because his pants tore when he Hulked out, so he lost all his money in them anyways.
"I'm Bruce. You don't really seem like a John, but you're not giving me anything else to work with, so..." He trails off with a twitch of his lips as he lays "John" down on the mattress. The couch is too short for the tall man, his legs would hang off the edge, so Bruce supposes he'll be sleeping on the couch himself for the foreseeable future.
"You are not at all dressed for the weather here." Bruce murmurs wryly to "John", in English. "John" continues to stare unseeingly at the crack in Bruce's ceiling, the brief spark of life totally gone. Bruce doesn't know if the man's hearing a word he's saying or not, but he acts as if he is. "What were you thinking? I'm not sure how you survived this heat in those until now."
Well, he's not sure how "John" survived a lot of things, namely severe emaciation and getting hit by a car. Plus the heat. There's no way that the poor guy should be wearing leather here, especially black leather since it absorbs even more light. He's already sweating like mad, possibly more than other people would in those clothes.
"I'm going to get you into something more appropriate for this heat, okay?" Bruce fetches a spare set of his own clothes, and briefly holds them up before the man's glassy green eyes. He's honestly not sure if "John" is at all aware of what's going on. He might be, and is simply unable to show it, or he could be totally oblivious. Anyways, it would be weird to not talk to him, as if he was a mannequin or something. "I'm going to need to take your clothes off, though. I'm not going to take them or sell them, I promise."
"John" doesn't even blink. Bruce sighs and decides to just change the man's clothes without consent, as the guy seems incapable of giving it.
Bruce finds himself fervently hoping that "John" won't suddenly become alert during the process, because that would be exceedingly awkward. Bruce wouldn't even blame "John" if he hit him in that situation. Coming to awareness when being undressed would lead to some very terrifying assumptions for anyone in that situation, things people really need to give consent about.
It's probable the Other Guy would come out if Bruce was unexpectedly punched, and an encounter with Bruce's big green alter ego certainly would set "John" back a few thousand miles on the road to recovery, if such an encounter didn't kill him entirely.
Bruce is starting to wonder if he made the right call here, bringing "John" into his home.
Thankfully, at least in that regard, John remains completely still and seemingly vacant when Bruce starts to try to liberate him of the stifling leather.
He quickly finds out it's not as easy as it looks. There are a lot of buckles, straps and ties. And the golden bits of armor... Bruce isn't certain, but he has a feeling they're actually gold. Where on earth did this guy get so much actual gold?
The clothes are completely incongruous with "John's" deteriorated state, as is the fact that the clothes are clean (aside from smelling slightly like body odor) and pristine, whereas Bruce's own clothes- and those of most of the other people here- are somewhat ragged.
If the armor is indeed real gold, it would be enough for a small fortune, and even leather sells for a fair amount. "John" must have been pretty well off in order to buy the stuff he's wearing, unless he stole it.
Regardless, why hadn't "John" simply sold some of the armor to buy food, if he doesn't have the funds his clothes seem to indicate? Even the greediest person would trade their riches for food rather than starve to the point "John" is, since food is a more basic need.
This doesn't make any sense.
Also, these clothes are really heavy, especially the armor, so it's a bit of a shock "John" could walk in them, but then again Bruce still has no idea how he'd gotten out from under the car. Still, he clearly hadn't been able to go far. How was he wandering around Kolkata, especially in all this heavy leather and metal, in order to fall in front of the car? Why is he starved when he's dressed in something seemingly high-class?
Who is this guy? That's the real question. Does he have family looking for him? Is he from around here? It doesn't seem like he is, judging from his clothes.
Finally, Bruce gets the heavy clothes off the poor guy, who thankfully is wearing undergarments, although they can't exactly be called underwear, at least not like boxers or briefs (Bruce probably shouldn't be surprised that said undergarments are made of silk, but he is). "John's" emaciation is even more prominent now, all jutting bones and stick-thin limbs that had been hidden from sight by his leather outfit, although it had seemed quite big on him.
While "John" is stripped to his silk undergarments- Bruce certainly isn't going farther than that- Bruce briefly prods his ribs and knees. He somehow appears completely unscathed from being hit by a car and crushed by the wheel. He's not even bruised, somehow, and while he's sweaty, he's surprisingly clean, except for his greasy hair. If he was homeless, he'd probably be a bit dirtier.
"Well, you seem oddly indestructible." He comments and once again gets no response. Honestly, the fact that this guy evidently hasn't been injured by the ordeal makes him seem like Captain America or something. "What have you been up to?" It's almost a rhetorical question. He honestly can't imagine how this guy could be so malnourished, or why he'd be stumbling around Kolkata anyways. Although, according to the onlookers, he hadn't been walking down the street, and he would definitely stand out even in the crowded street, with his height, odd clothes, and current extreme gauntness.
Bruce shakes his head in bewilderment as he dresses the man.
Bruce's spare clothes don't fit "John" particularly well, especially the pants, since John has reallylong legs. But in terms of width, "John" is practically swimming in them. He looks more starved in Bruce's clothes than he had in his own leather ensemble, even though his odd clothes had hung off his painfully thin frame as well.
Bruce sets the man's clothes aside, still wondering about the golden pieces. Hopefully "John" won't sweat as much now he's in appropriate clothes.
Okay, now for food... Bruce still needs to eat himself, but he when he's bustling around his tiny dwelling, he's focused on trying to figure out how to feed his new... charge. Patient? Guest isn't exactly the right word, even though Bruce technically brought "John" into his very modest home.
Bruce doesn't exactly have many options for food himself, and basically buys what he can afford after paying rent for this place. Plus he pays for any food he happens to feed his patients, and he honestly has more food there than here.
Eventually, he ends up making a variation of Jhal Muri, with rice, some onions and tomatoes, and a bit of seasoning, although not the type of one would find if buying it from a street vendor. For "John", he has a sort of broth made from some of the vegetables he hadn't used in his own food- given the guy's emaciation, his stomach would probably rebel if given too many solids at the moment, or possibly any solids whatsoever.
Lifting "John" up from the mattress once again makes Bruce realize how painfully light the man is as he moves him over to the couch, positioning him so he's sitting. At least "John" can be repositioned, instead of freezing up like a statue in an awkward pose like some catatonic people.
While he's not exactly unconscious, Bruce isn't entirely sure if "John" is aware enough to eat or if Bruce may have to try and acquire a nasogastric feeding tube somewhere.
Slowly, he spoons a bit of broth into John's mouth, feeding as one would with a baby (although Bruce obviously doesn't make airplane noises like most people do with small children. That would be ridiculous).
He holds his breath as "John" just sits there with the broth in his mouth, which at least stays closed rather than hanging open and spilling food everywhere. The rest of his body is so limp it wouldn't be surprising. For a while "John" doesn't make a move to swallow, as if he's not sure if there's really something in his mouth.
When he blinks, Bruce thinks it almost looks like he's savoring the broth, but he's probably just projecting that onto the man, since "John" still seems totally out of it. He hasn't even made a single sound yet, not even when he was scrambling from under the car's wheel.
Bruce is about to try and cup the man's jaw and move it in a chewing motion, wondering if that will spur him into the action of swallowing by association, when he sees "John's" throat twitch in a swallowing motion.
Bruce slowly feeds him more broth by the spoonful, being careful to watch and make sure he won't throw it all up, although it's hard to know if or when such a thing would happen. He makes pointless small talk to the man just to break the silence, telling him he's doing a good job and that he won't be starved anymore as long as Bruce can help it.
Bruce can't exactly promise safety, though.
Finally, Bruce finishes feeding him and turns to his own Jhal Muri, which has grown cold, and eats, studying his silent, still companion.
He'd seen a definite fire of life in "John" and hopes that wasn't a one-time occurrence. What could have happened to "John" to make him shut the world out like this? Bruce has a feeling it's more than just getting hit by a car. Right now, he's guessing it's somehow linked to "John's" starvation.
After washing the dishes and pots he'd used, periodically checking on "John", who hasn't moved at all, he moves "John" back to the mattress serving as a bed and covers him in a blanket.
Then, Bruce grabs a blanket for himself and turns out the light.
He's about to settle on the couch to sleep when he hears a keening, panicked noise of coming from the mattress on the other side of the room.