Summary: Looking at him makes her think about hotel rooms and rooftops and caramel apple suckers that taste like ash in her mouth anymore. He doesn't even bother to make eye contact with her because it burns too much to see his brother's reflection in her eyes. Dick and Mac. Oneshot.
Disclaimer: If I owned them, things would be very different. I assure you.
A/N: Just because angst makes life fun and I haven't written Dick/Mac in a long time. Too long, actually. Enjoy.
Parker cries herself to sleep at night, and it reminds Mac of how she was just after it happened. It, the event that everyone refuses to mention around her because they're convinced she's going to crack and shatter at their feet. Mac doesn't really understand the caution that her friends have around her now, though she thinks she'd like to be able to crawl into their minds and figure it out for herself.
Her own head is filled with dusty corners and noises that she can't escape, static and lint and cling because dryer sheets don't exist in the world of quiet insanity. None of what she thinks makes any sense anymore, and if she could feel then her emotions would probably be just as incoherent.
Numbness is nice, but the accompanying nebula is not.
When Parker's tears finally subside into quiet sniffles and her breathing evens out aside from the occasional hiccup, Mac crawls out of bed and slides her feet into slippers that she's had since her freshman year in high school. It's the little things that are comforting to her now, and she cherishes them with everything in her because otherwise she really will break.
And proving Logan Echolls right would be too much of a crying shame.
Vodka. Tequila. Generic beer. Jack Daniels and Captain Morgan. Dick has preferred methods of coping, and thanks to the faithful staff of the Neptune Grand he's never out of stock of his favorite friends. Logan tends to ignore the alcohol that fills the refrigerator in the suite and Dick thinks it's pretty frickin funny that a few months with a blonde detective has turned his friend into the Patron Saint of Sobriety.
Of course, that same little blonde told him that his brother killed a bus-full of kids, raped her, and was molested by Woody Goodman the day before she got back together with Logan and then took off for a week in New York with her dad, so. It's an interesting sort of dilemma that he has.
But he doesn't really have a problem with Ronnie, so he's cool when she comes over and he's cool when she leaves. When he sees her around campus he catches up to spout off some random shit that'll annoy the hell out of her so that he can see the pupils of her eyes dilate under the pressure of trying not to scream at him.
There are other people that he doesn't like to talk to because of that night, but he spends time with her anyway simply because it calms him down. And he can be sober when he's around her, or drunk, because she never responds to his comments and it's sort of like having his own little punching bag.
It's quiet on Hearst campus at one in the morning. At least, the quad by the science building is, and she's perfectly okay with never seeing a Safe Rides cart ever again. From the stories that Parker can't remember and the faces that she recalls even less, Mac is fairly certain that college life is nowhere near as safe as she thought it might be.
Though, this is Neptune. And Neptune is dangerous no matter the area of town.
"You come out here every night, and you never do anything but sit there," she says after a moment. He turns toward her, though he doesn't really look at her, and Mac rolls her head on her neck to ease some of the tension in it. Dick snorts and stands up ungracefully, stumbles toward her and plops down on the ground when he misses the free space of the bench that she's sitting on.
"And you'd prefer I do … what? Throw a party in the quad?" he asks rhetorically, feeling the cement under his fingertips and idly wishing he had the clarity of mind to smash his fist into the ground. It would feel so much better to have something, like, broken. Other than his heart, which he's pretty damn sure won't be healing any time soon.
"Rock on," she whispers softly, offering a generic smile that she knows doesn't reach her eyes. She keeps them locked on a point just past his head, a patch of cement that has a small crack in it despite campus beautification efforts.
"Well then whaddya say, Mackey?" he slurs drunkenly, giving up on his efforts to regulate his speech patterns so that he's somewhat understandable. "Wanna bring sexy back?" he rotates his hips slightly and she rolls her eyes, pulling her feet out from under her and resting them on his knees to still the movement. No need to scar her retinas in addition to everything else with this experience. Mac rather likes her twenty-twenty vision.
Dick stills when she rests her bare feet on his knees, and he crosses his legs Indian-style so that they're a little closer. He avoids eye contact, just like he does every night, and she rests her head against her palm as she stares down at him. But her eyes aren't really focused on him, just on the ground surrounding him, and the reason is simple.
Looking at him makes her think about hotel rooms and rooftops and caramel apple suckers that taste like ash in her mouth anymore. Memories burn and incinerate the dust of the corners of her mind and she knows from experience (with him, with him, with him) that flaming dryer sheets smell like death in an abstract definition of the word.
"He, like, talked about you, you know."
The comment comes out of nowhere and finally she looks straight at him, head on, and even he looks a little startled at the sound of his own voice. It's crisp in the southern California midnight air and she thinks it's the most sober he's sounded since school started last month.
"Yeah," she murmurs, and tries to get his eyes on her with only the power of her mind. It doesn't work, which doesn't surprise her, and it probably wouldn't even if she was at full mental health. "You told me that already."
Snorting, he falls back on the cement and stares blankly at the tree above their heads. "Do this shit too often, start repeating crap. Damn."
"Every night," she agrees, and digs her toes into the material of his jeans when a chill flies down her spine. He lifts his head and stares at the bench beside her curiously, refusing to sit up fully. Way too much effort as far as he's concerned: once he's down, he's down. And out, if he could be.
Unfortunately he can't, because hanging with her every night means being coherent enough to talk. Or, like, listen to her breathe when she's about to cry and he doesn't want to say anything that'll push her over the edge. He's not good with girls when they cry.
"What the fuck?" he asks suddenly. Mac blinks, once, twice, and then cracks a smile that's sort of fuzzy in its interpretation. Dick draws his gaze to her mouth when she bites her lip and inhales sharply. He doesn't even bother to make eye contact with her because it burns too much to see his brother's reflection in her eyes. And when she does that, that nervous nibbling thing that she does all the time, he hears his little brother in his mind which isn't much better.
"She bites her lip when she's nervous," Cassidy said suddenly. Dick furrowed his brow and frantically hammered on the controller, slamming his little brother's player into the ground and claiming victory on screen.
"Dude, why do I care?" he asked, shoving a handful of popcorn in his mouth. Cassidy rolled his eyes and leaned forward to press reset on the console, settling in to play again. He didn't say another word for the rest of the night, even when Dick tormented him about his girl.
"What the fuck what?" she asks when he doesn't continue his proclamation. Dick starts and she clenches her toes again, steadying him against the ground as he sits up. He rests his hands on her feet and focuses on deciphering the skull pattern she has on her big toes, frowning slightly at the black color of the polish underneath.
"Dude, when did you get a pedicure?"
"Last week," she's startled by the question, and it shows in her expression. She watches as he scoots back on the pavement, slowly but surely, and she sighs as she slips off the bench to sit in front of him. Pulling her knees to her chest, she lets him put her feet up on his lap to continue expecting the job that Parker did during their movie night.
"I thought poor chicks couldn't afford to be all fancy," he spouts off. His mouth shuts a second after the words leave his mouth and he frowns, finally making eye contact with her as he apologizes.
She shrugs, "I don't. Parker did them for me."
"Whoa. Parker has the attention span to sit down and draw..." he points at her big toe in awe, "that?"
Another shrug, "We were having a movie marathon. She didn't want to leave the dorm room." Dick blanches at the blatant allusion to her roommate's rape and suddenly he's feeling way too sober for comfort. The tiny little bottles that usually stock the mini-bar were gone when he got home this afternoon, so he doesn't have anything he can pull out to bring on the oblivion again.
It's pretty frickin depressing.
"Edward Norton?" he asks, and she doesn't have to ask what he means. She shakes her head slowly back and forth and sighs quietly, resting her chin on her knees and staring past him again. Dick keeps his eyes locked on her face, determined not to see his dead little brother when he looks at her, and Mac takes a deep breath.
"If we're watching Fight Club then we're watching American History X, too," she told him matter-of-factly. Cassidy laughed and then nodded, acquiescing to her request without an argument. Grinning, she kissed him softly and rolled over to grab her keys off his nightstand. She stood and straightened out her shirt, tucking an errant strand of hair behind her ear.
"Hey," he grabbed her hand and pulled her back for one last kiss, nearly making her topple back onto the bed. "Don't take forever this time, huh?" She laughed and kissed him again before leaving to retrieve the movies from Blockbuster.
"She likes chick flicks," she explains quietly. He nods, almost in approval, and quirks his mouth slightly. They sit there in silence after that and Mac presses her tongue against the roof of her mouth to keep from making a stupid comment that will ruin the peace and quiet of the moment.
Fidgeting, he plays with a loose strand on his jeans and idly contemplates the shitty manufacturing that created this pair. The people in China or Indonesia or wherever-the-fuck should really put more care into making his clothes, because while having his pants fall down would make an awesome excuse to be naked, his professors totally don't support nudists. Or their colonies, for that matter, a fact which makes Dick extremely skeptical of how much they're going to be able to teach him this year.
"He looked up to you," she whispers finally, and she almost chokes on the words. His name never falls past her lips, hardly enters her psyche because it hurts too much to let roll around in her head. "I…" she swallows thickly and takes a deep, shuddering breath. "He only ever said it once, but he tried to emulate you so much."
Blinking, he gnaws on the inside of his lip and brushes his fingers across the curve of her foot. She jerks backwards and pulls her feet underneath her, shooting him a fiery glare that completely dissipates the tears that were in her eyes just a moment ago. With a shrug, he taps his fingers against his knees and nods knowingly. "I'm pretty cool, dude. It's hard not to love somebody like me."
Mac snorts and presses her mouth into a thin line, breathing in and out through her nose. Dick stares at her seriously and then shrugs again. "Guess I didn't teach him very well, huh?"
"It wasn't your fault."
"Liar," he cuts her off before she can even finish the final syllable of the sentence and she remains silent, tracing patterns in the pavement with the tip of her index finger. She watches the movement intently, oblivious to the thoughts running through his head, and he watches her finger as well until his hand clenches into a fist.
Then he smashes it into the ground and nearly chokes when he hears the sound of his knuckles cracking. Mac looks up, startled, and automatically leans forward to reach for his hand. He pulls back his arm and puts enough momentum into his swing that she can't stop him from nailing the ground again and it feels good.
"Fuck, Dick," she groans and pulls his hand into her lap, inspecting the bleeding knuckles carefully. He hisses in pain when she strokes her fingers across the broken flesh and she shakes her head slowly. "I don't think you broke anything." His hand rears back at the words and she lunges for it, grabbing the other and holding them together in her much smaller palms to keep him from hurting himself again.
She's nearly in his lap from the action and he stares up at her curiously, a little tempted to find out why his brother was so into her when he was still alive. Mac pulls back abruptly when he leans closer to her and stands up, dropping his hands unceremoniously back into his lap. Weird moments like that keep happening and they make the static in her head buzz like honeybees on a hot summer day.
And Mac absolutely despises white noise.
"Go home. Find out where Logan keeps the first aid kit and get those cuts cleaned up," she whispers, painfully. The lump in her throat clogs her speech so that it sounds like it's slurred, but she isn't drunk and she never has been. Dick stares down at the blood on his hands and thinks about the black Lexus that was sitting outside of the Grand that night. The window turned so many pretty shades of red when Beaver fell on it. The cracks in the glass were filled to the brim with blood that would have looked almost black in the night if it weren't for the fluorescent lights above.
Turning to leave, she folds her arms across her stomach and puts on her slippers without another glance at him. He huffs loudly and lays back on the cement again, letting his arms flop uselessly to his sides. "Hope Parker gets to use you longer than my brother did!" he shouts after her and closes his eyes tightly, the sound of his raised voice making his head pound. He prefers bringing her down than crumbling in front of her, anyway.
She doesn't look back at him and she keeps the tears at bay until she's back in her dorm room, where they fall down her cheeks as she falls into bed. Parker doesn't wake and Mac clutches her pillow to her chest, wishing she could find comfort in something bigger than little conversations with her dead ex-boyfriend's drunk brother.