Even I thought this story was abandoned for a while, but I guess not.
Bruce turns on the light, and sees "John" trembling slightly, moan escaping his lips. It was timed remarkably well with Bruce turning the light off. Perhaps it was a coincidence?
Then, "John" slowly stops moaning, his trembles dying down once he's bathed in light. His green eyes stare at the flickering bulb as if it's a lifeline. That can't be good for his eyes. Bruce doesn't have any sunglasses to give him, unfortunately.
"You don't like the dark?" Bruce asks, not expecting an answer. "John" doesn't even look at him.
Bruce tries to turn the man's head to the side, so he's not staring at the light. "John" turns his head right back. Obviously he's not totally lost in his own mind, he's reacting to the environment around him. That's good.
"That's okay. I was terrified of the dark when I was a kid." Bruce continues. Well, "John" definitely isn't a child, but Bruce would be lying if he said there were some nights where the darkness didn't seem all-encompassing, seemed to swallow him up.
At night, Bruce is often troubled with thoughts of the Other Guy showing up, so sometimes he doesn't like the dark much either, just like he'd hated it as a kid.
"Okay, from now on, we sleep with the light on." Bruce says to his new companion, and lays down to sleep.
"John" doesn't exactly change Bruce's routine much.
He still goes to work, and he takes "John" with him. While he doesn't necessarily like the idea of exposing "John" to all the illnesses present in the clinic, he can't exactly let the man sit by himself in Bruce's apartment, either. He gives "John" a face mask to protect a bit from germs.
Lugging "John" around is pretty awkward. The guy is heavier than he looks- he looks like a pile of skin and bones- but he's a lot taller than Bruce and kind of unwieldy. Not to mention all the stares Bruce gets when carrying a tall, emaciated, unresponsive man. Bruce generally tries to avoid attention, and unfortunately, "John" attracts a lot of it.
Bruce basically treats the man as another patient. Well, that's pretty much what he is, except unlike Bruce's other patients, "John" lives with him.
One little boy named Arjun takes a particular interest to "John". The boy is clutching a toy dalmatian dressed in a sharp red shirt and black pants. The toy is missing its left arm, and the spot paint job on its head and three remaining limbs is chipped and cracked.
Arjun shows "John" the toy with pride. "John" listens with about as much of a reaction as the toy dog does when the boy talks to that, but the boy doesn't seem to mind.
Bruce also catches Arjun playing with "John's" long hair, and the boy explains he's practicing for his sister. Bruce sighs and sends the boy to rest, because he needs to heal and shouldn't be standing behind "John."
So while Bruce spends the day treating people, "John" spends the day slumped against the wall or lying on a mattress. "John's" green eyes and face remain completely blank as he stares vacantly into space.
Bruce has seen proof of "John" being aware of his surroundings. He reacted to being hit by a car, and he looks at the light sometimes, but most of the time, "John" acts like a life-size doll that Bruce cares for. Bruce thinks of those dolls people make that really eat and wet themselves. He could never fathom why anybody would buy their kid such a thing.
"John" is sort of like that, except he's a real person. He gives off the impression of being an empty shell most of the time, but he's not. There's got to be stuff going on in that mind.
Bruce almost jumps out of his skin the first time "John" starts shouting, almost right in Bruce's face, since Bruce is about to start feeding "John". He has to take a few deep breaths to fight down the Other Guy from the shock.
"John" is thrashing, shouting incoherently. He's clearly lost in his own mind, and doesn't even hear Bruce when he tries to calm him down. Bruce cautiously lays a hand on his shoulder, and quickly learns not to touch him during these episodes, although "John" never reacts to being touched at any other time.
As if the emaciation wasn't bad enough, it's clear from this that "John" has been through something horrible.
"It's okay, you're safe now." Bruce says, abandoning the task of feeding the man. He waits, speaking soft words, until "John" finally quiets down.
"John' makes progress. He actually gains weight extraordinarily quickly, much quicker than Bruce thought possible. He's still quite skinny, but no longer looks like a skeleton with skin stretched over it.
Bruce can position "John's" limbs, rather like a doll. Bruce tries putting him in a chair once, since he's been able to position "John's" limbs recently, but "John" just ends up falling over, obviously having so little control of his muscles that he can't even sit up. Which is strange, because he had managed to run a few steps when freed from under the car, although Bruce has no idea how the man accomplished that in his state.
Some nights, Bruce and "John" don't go home. If Bruce has an overnight patient other than "John", they'll stay in the clinic.
"John" actually starts looking at things for short periods of time before his eyes glaze over once again. But as the days go by, the time spent watching his surroundings increases. He seems to watch a little girl at the clinic, and his eyes track the spoon Bruce is feeding him with once. And, of course, he looks at the light.
Yet he'd reacted to being pinned under the car, and has reacted to something in his own head, it seems. At least, his reactions don't really seem to fit what's going on around him.
Bruce smiles the first time "John" looks directly at him.
Despite making progress, some problems persist. The incoherent shouting happens often. Several children cry in fear when "John" starts screaming and thrashing in the clinic, even though it's not exactly uncommon to hear screams or moans there. Arjun just says that "John" is having bad dreams, and watches, hugging his dog. Bruce has seen the boy wake up with nightmares, so Arjun clearly understands.
The screaming is particularly bad when it wakes Bruce in the middle of the night, and he's halfway to letting the Other Guy out before he realizes what's going on and forces the monster back down.
Bruce starts to wonder if he should be caring for "John".
Well, someone has to, the man would certainly die on his own, although somehow he survived up until Bruce found him. And survived being hit by a car. But he wouldn't have been able to eat on his own, so surely he would have wasted away.
But maybe it shouldn't be Bruce caring for him. After all, the Other Guy almost came out.
If the Other Guy comes out, Bruce's new companion "John" would be in terrible danger. He's even more helpless than a baby in his current catatonic state, although somehow he's a lot more durable than most healthy people, let alone his emaciated state. Bruce still has no idea how the man, as fragile looking as he is, escaped from under a car tire.
Unless "John" has super-strength and durability like Captain America once did, he probably wouldn't be able to survive the Other Guy's rage.
Wouldn't that be something, if "John"- or someone he knew- somehow managed to recreate Erksine's super-soldier serum. When Bruce tried, he created the Other Guy...
The Other Guy grumbles slightly in Bruce's mind whenever Bruce thinks about his alter-ego, but doesn't try to push towards the surface.
Even if the Other Guy wasn't a danger, things are still complicated.
Bruce could be forced to flee (yet again, because of the Other Guy) at any time, if the government ever catches up to him. He's not delusional, surely he's still being hunted. The fact that he's gone a whole hundred and seventy days is huge relief, but what if it doesn't last?
Traveling with "John" in his catatonic state would make everything more difficult.
Plus there's still the risk of the Other Guy.
Yet, as pathetic as it sounds, "John" is almost the best company that Bruce has had in all the time he's been on the run. Bruce has been telling his silent companion about, well, anything, really. Sometimes he talks about Culver University, and once slips and mentions the Other Guy.
Bruce shakes his head. He's treating his silent companion like some kind of therapy doll. How sad is that?
But "John" actually seems to be listening, even when he's not looking at Bruce. Or maybe that's just Bruce imagining things? And it's so nice to have someone to talk to.
He's being selfish. He should get the man as far away from him and the Other Guy as possible, and yet he doesn't.
Bruce is at a loss for how a piece of "John's" armor ended up in the man's hands. It had been tucked away under Bruce's bed. Granted, if someone broke into Bruce's apartment, they'd probably find it anyways, but it was at least better than leaving what seems to be solid gold out in the open.
He still has no idea where "John" got solid gold, but right now he's wondering how the armor got into his hands. There isn't enough space between the bed and the wall to reach down to grab it. "John" would have had to climb out of bed, get on the floor, grab it, and climb back into bed.
"John" certainly can't do that in his current state, but then again, it's not like the armor could have jumped to his hand.
Thankfully he lets Bruce take it from him and put it back under the bed. If they'd gone out with that in his hand, they would have certainly been robbed.
Either that, or the robber would be very sorry once the Other Guy came out.
On the fifth day, Bruce hears "John's" voice for the first time. His real voice, not just screaming, although it's quite hoarse.
The man still seems lost in his mind as he mutters bitterly to himself in a hoarse British accent. It's so quiet Bruce can't really make out the words, but he thinks he hears the word monster.
"Well, you've got a monster right here, buddy." Bruce mutters with a sardonic smile. "You haven't seen him yet, but trust me, you won't want to hang around when you do."
Nobody does, after all.
For a second, "John" looks at Bruce when he says that, and Bruce swears he sees confusion or sympathy in the man's eyes, but when he looks again, the man seems to be staring past Bruce.
He really needs to stop projecting on the man.
"Don't go," Bruce tells him, but the man's already staring through Bruce at the wall.
"John" keeps ranting to himself over the next several days, but most of it doesn't make sense. Monsters, blue monsters, come up a lot.
Bruce doesn't know what these blue monsters are. Is "John" hallucinating in his head? Is he reliving something from his past? What on earth are blue monsters, anyways? Sharks? There's something about giants in one of his ramblings, too. Maybe the Other Guy could be considered a giant, but "John" hasn't seen him. Thankfully.
Sometimes "John" rants about other things. A prince and a king come up several times, and it seems "John" thinks he should have been king.
He always seems unaware of his surroundings when he rants or screams, but he spends more and more time watching things, taking things in. He watches Arjun talk to him.
"John" still hasn't spoken a word outside his baffling ramblings.
He keeps building up strength. He can sit up unassisted now.
"John" takes the spoon from Bruce's hand once and tries to feed himself. At first, he dumps the contents, so Bruce takes "John's" hand in his and guides the spoon to his mouth with "John" still clutching it.
Being fed like a baby when one is a grown man has to be humiliating, Bruce realizes.
After several repetitions of having his hand guided, "John" successfully brings the spoon to his own mouth. Bruce smiles at him. He looks rather thrilled about this bit of autonomy.
Since "John" can now sit up and feed himself, Bruce tries to get him walking. After all, even when he first showed up, he somehow ran when released from the car.
"John" is unsteady at first, like a baby taking its first steps. Bruce doesn't know how "John" got to the street where they'd crossed paths in the first place. He's starting to wonder if the people who claimed the man appeared out of nowhere are getting at something.
"John" starts being able to walk more and more. He walks across Bruce's apartment, although that's really not far at all. Eventually he crosses the clinic.
When Arjun is having a bad dream, "John" goes to him and smoothing the boy's hair down with a pale, long-fingered hand. He hums something almost like a lullaby, gazing down at the child.
And then, on the tenth day since Bruce found him, as they're walking to the clinic, "John" looks at Bruce and asks, in a perfectly clear British accent drected totally at Bruce, "What realm is this?"
Arjun's toy dog is a toy I bought last week. I named him Barky Barnes, but he's not named that in this.