The Problem With Waking Up
Tell me the truth –
can I take back what I said?
Not in words, but in actions,
whose meaning you read.
I don't know if it's a first step
or an ending instead.
I think you'll have to remind me.
I can't keep these things in my head.
The first thing that Tim noticed was actually the second sensation he registered – it was simply that the first one was oddly familiar.
It was the warm and wet feeling near the collar of his shirt that his subconscious disregarded. It did, after all, remind him of something… Someone? Yes, there was a definite pang of memory. He simply had to concentrate and grasp it more firmly. He tugged at the intangible thread, drawing it closer to realisation.
Daisy. That was it. Daisy was drooling on the front of his shirt again. She must have been curled under his arm once more, sleeping in his half-embrace. A comfortable state of affairs, if there ever was one. Although his shirt probably didn't appreciate it, and neither would he once he started moving and the wetness clung to his skin. Ah, well… These things happened.
But, no, it was most definitely the second sensation that caught his greater attention. Unless he was badly mistaken, something (someone?) had died in his mouth. The taste was indescribably foul, and whatever it was that had died must have been extremely absorbent in life, because there was no more moisture within his maw than there was in freeze dried food. He needed a drink of water in a bad way, and he'd do about anything to get it. In this case, that meant moving. Daisy would just have to move with him, protest though she was sure to. Waking her up was always an adventure – she was like Colin lying in the sun, limp and intently oblivious.
But he really needed some water. It was that need which finally jarred him into wakefulness.
Tim woke up on the couch in his flat in just about the worst sleeping position that could be conceived. If prior to his wake up someone had shown him a diagram illustrating the position, he'd have said it was physically impossible, and no one could achieve it without first dislocating something. He was curled into an awkward ball with his legs kinked at painful angles over the edge of the sofa, his arms flattened beneath his side and head, and his chin tucked against his chest, where he had drooled all over himself (disappointment in Daisy's absence swiftly followed. If he was going to be drooled on, he'd prefer it to come from her). He realised, with a sense of resignation, that as soon as he moved the feeling would return to his limbs and back, bringing an acute pain. As much as he tried to avoid thinking about it, he just wasn't as young as he used to be.
That was cheering. He decided to move before he became morbid. Tensing his neglected muscles, he spasmed in a rough approximation of the act of sitting up, trusting in a lifetime's worth of muscle memory to get him upright. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work as planned. Instead of rising to a sitting position, he fell off the couch.
And that was when he rediscovered his head.
Or, rather, he rediscovered what was wrong with his head. The jolt he received upon landing on the floor sent such a blinding pain shooting through his skull that he went limp where he lay and let loose a sound that was the bastard child of a shriek and a moan. He would have writhed if he were able.
"Fucking hell," he gasped when he eventually caught his breath. The pain made him want to breathe hard, but his stomach told him that if he did, he'd surely vomit; instead he took short, tight breaths through his nose and waited for the room to stop spinning like a carnival ride. He wanted to get off and go home.
Unfortunately, despite his lack of motion, the room continued to sway in a worrying fashion. Deciding that any further attempts to regain horizontality were risky at best, Tim took advantage of his position and gingerly raised one stiff, uncooperative hand up to touch his face. What he found was a throbbing mass of battered nerve endings. His lower lip was crusty and sticky, and he knew that it had to be badly cut. His left eye felt like it had been removed and replaced with a solid bruise, fat and heavy. The pain was immense, but he tried not to wince and aggravate it further.
It was inexplicable. Lowering his inexplicably swollen hand, he tried desperately to recall how he had come to be in such a state. Judging by the horrid taste in his mouth, his memory loss was most likely due to drinking; which was good, since the alternative would be brain damage (unless it was both). Still, as he had so pointedly reminded himself earlier, he wasn't as young as he used to be, and he hadn't gotten himself really pissed in quite some time. There were a variety of events that had recently occurred which could have driven him to such a thing… but he fuzzily remembered that he had achieved some sort of inner peace with that. Yeah, he had been talking to Mike at breakfast and Daisy's supposed 'Zen' had been brought up...
Daisy. Of course. Whatever had happened, it almost had to have something to do with her. No one else could have set him off like this.
Tim just hoped it wasn't something that would crush him all over again.
He had to think, dammit, no matter how much it hurt. He dredged up flashes of a bar, a park, the pavement, and not necessarily in that order. There was a big bloke, too. Someone he hated… How many people did he hate? People that weren't fictional characters, that was. He hated a lot of fictional people, but that didn't help him.
Then he remembered a face – the face of Duane Benzie. Now that just couldn't be right. He hadn't seen Duane in months, thank fuck. As far as he could tell, the prick had vanished off the face of the earth, and Tim couldn't have cared less. A life without Duane was a happier place, indeed.
So why was the image of Duane's fist so vivid?
Oh, fuck. Maybe if he banged his head against the floor really hard, he'd die, and then he wouldn't have to come to terms with the fact that somehow, at some point, he had gotten into a punch up with Duane. Whatever stupidity had led to that point, Tim wanted no part of it. The knowledge could disappear into the festering depths of his liquor-soaked brain as far he was concerned.
Ignorance really did seem to be, in this case, bliss.
"Wha…?" Tim rolled his eyes upward towards the sandalled feet that appeared near the top of his peripheral vision. The feet were attached to a pair of smooth, tanned bare legs that somehow managed to stir a faint lust in him despite his dire condition. That fact alone was enough to clue him in to the identity of their owner.
Daisy looked down at him with an expression that said she felt sorry for him, but was also holding back laughter. It was a look he was accustomed to receiving from women, though Daisy had replaced the usual pity with a much kinder sympathy. She always had been good for that. "Are you all right?"
"No," he answered honestly.
"You look awful," she told him. She bent down and gingerly prodded his bruised eye, which elicited a groan from Tim. "It wasn't this swollen before. Come on, get up and I'll get you some ice. Up, up!"
With Daisy's hands on his shoulders Tim manage to push himself up into a sitting position and from there crawl feebly back onto the couch. Daisy retrieved the throw pillow from the nearby chair and placed it under Tim's head (making it the first time he had found any use for the cushion besides flinging it across the room). "Thanks," he said hoarsely.
"Do you remember much?" she asked him as she bustled off towards the refrigerator.
Should he lie? He still wasn't sure whether he wanted to know what had happened. "I remember enough," he temporised.
"That's good. You did get knocked in the head pretty hard."
He had figured that out for himself, funnily enough. "Yeah."
"Here." Daisy carefully placed a folded rag with several pieces of ice in it over his swollen eye. Tim groaned at the pressure, but obediently took hold of it and kept it there. "Shite, that looks terrible," she said, wincing in empathy. "I probably should have taken you to the doctor."
That raised a whole new question. "How'd you get me home, anyway?"
"I had to call Mike to come carry you, no way I was lifting you on my own." Daisy knelt on her knees next to the couch and carefully refolded one corner of the cloth. "I don't know how we staggered back in here without waking up Marsha – Mike must have hit your head on the door at least twice. I'd have had him put you in your bed but I reckoned you wouldn't want to get your sheets bloody. I know how much you hate washing them."
It was really Daisy who hated washing the sheets, but Tim let it pass without comment. "Good on Mike, then."
"He was really worried about you. You don't know how bad off you looked," Daisy told him.
"I don't think I want to," Tim groaned.
"I told you about Duane, right?" Daisy asked, a malevolent gleam appearing in her eyes. "I'm pretty sure you broke his nose, maybe even in more than one place!"
She said it like she expected Tim to grin and cackle with her, but since he couldn't really remember breaking Duane's nose (and since he was beat all to shit) it didn't feel like much of a victory. "Christ, he'll come looking for me if I ruined his face."
"Oh, fuck him," Daisy said dismissively. "He doesn't even know where you live."
That was a cheering thought. "That's right. He doesn't."
"And I certainly didn't tell him, the prick," Daisy said with that same rancour.
Her meaning, however, momentarily made Tim forget the pain he was in. "You talked to him?"
"Yeah, on the way out of the pub. Well…" She trailed off and smirked. "It was more like yelling, really."
Tim started to frown before his swollen eye none too gently reminded him that he couldn't. "Did he yell at you?"
Daisy smiled down at him, though he wasn't sure why since as far as he was concerned there was nothing funny about what they were discussing. "No, I yelled at him. Some of the other blokes there were helping him up from the floor and I went, 'what did you do to Tim?!'" Daisy piped out in a high-pitched imitation of shouting in a crowded place. "I don't know if he heard me, I ran out the door to find you after that."
"I seem to remember that I hadn't gone far," Tim said weakly, recalling the sensation of being flat against the pavement.
"Poor Tim," Daisy sighed, fussing with his cloth again. "You were really out of it, weren't you."
Poor Tim? He certainly wasn't about to complain when it came to Daisy's help, but she was demonstrating a level of… of what? Consideration? Compassion?…Tenderness? Whatever it was, she hadn't shown much of it before. Well, okay, that wasn't really very fair of him. Daisy had always been one of his greatest supports, and he had leaned on her more than once. She just hadn't shown it so openly.
And while it was true that he probably looked even worse than he felt – which was reason enough to elicit sympathy – he began to harbour the thought that there was more going on than met the eye. Which meant that there was more going on than he could remember. Not necessarily surprising, seeing as he could remember so little, but...
It still worried him.
Perhaps ignorance wasn't quite so wonderful after all. "Daisy…"
"Hmm?" she hummed in response, gently relocating some of the ice to rest more directly on his bruised eye.
"…I don't remember why Duane hit me," Tim confessed.
Daisy leaned back and looked down at him, an odd expression on her face. She pursed her lips and rocked on her heels.
"I must have been pretty pissed at the time, obviously," he added.
"Tim," Daisy said slowly, "you hit Duane first."
Tim had been prepared to hear and accept any variety of solid reasons as to why Duane might do him physical harm. The list wasn't substantial, given their lack of contact, but it wasn't like they were on any kind of polite terms. Perhaps Sarah had said something about Tim, maybe even something complimentary. That would have been enough to get Duane going, no doubt. And Tim had shot him straight in the bollocks. Not an easy thing to let go. But Tim striking first?
That hadn't been a possibility he had considered.
"Jesus Tapdancing Christ." Tim put his hands over his face and kept them there, shunning all light and rationality.
"You were right pissed," Daisy explained, "and the Twiglets didn't help any. But still, you had a good reason!"
"Insanity," Tim groaned into his hands. Twiglets? Bloody hell.
"No, he really did deserve it!"
Tim dropped his hands and gave Daisy a resigned look. "Let's hear it."
She hesitated. "You're sure you absolutely don't remember? … Nothing at all?
"Daisy, if I did I wouldn't be asking you." He had come close to not asking regardless, preferring to remain unaware of the full extent of his own stupidity, but he left that unmentioned.
"Well, you weren't very clear about it when you told me, being drunk and all…" Daisy began, though she was obviously stalling.
Tim wasn't having any of it. He was already in enough pain, a little more wouldn't make much of a difference. "Daisy. Just tell me what I said."
She sighed. "You said Duane was taunting you about Sarah and Sophie..."
Tim blinked. That was it? Of course Duane would taunt him over Sarah and Sophie (though that begged the question of how Duane had found out about Sophie in the first place. Word, apparently, got around). Indeed, such topics were to be entirely expected. Duane would never have passed up the chance to rub Tim's face in both disastrous relationships. It was practically fucking routine.
No… No, even taking into account the booze and the Twiglets, Tim just couldn't believe that he'd take on Duane, who was several inches taller and fifty pounds heavier than Tim, over nothing more than the usual bollocks. It didn't add up.
Tim tried to raise a sceptical eyebrow in Daisy's direction, but his tumescent flesh prevented it, so instead he settled on a scoff that sounded more like a raspy cough than the sound of derision he had intended it to be. "You've got to be joking," he said, interrupting her. "I got my arse handed to me over that shite? I couldn't have been that drunk – I don't have that kind of money. C'mon, he hit me first, didn't he."
"No, Tim, you pounded him!"
"Why?" he demanded, becoming aggravated. It didn't make any sense and he was tired of trying to understand what a moron he'd been. "What the bloody hell could I have even been thinking?"
"I wasn't finished!" Daisy said, raising her voice above his. "Let me finish!"
"What? What else did he say, then?"
"You said that he was talking about shagging me in our flat!" she told him triumphantly.
Tim's mouth dropped open slightly and he stared back at her, gobsmacked. His question had been answered, and all of a sudden his physical condition made a great deal of sense.
After a long moment of silence he managed to say, in a strangled sort of voice, "Yeah, I guess that would have done it."
Daisy smiled down at him with an adoring expression, the kind that he might expect to see if he had given her a bouquet of flowers. "You were very brave, Tim."
Very pissed, Tim mentally amended. "And now I'm very hurt."
"Oh, and your ice is all melted," she noted. She gathered up his cloth and hurried over to the refrigerator again. "Shit, we're out of ice," she said, her voice sounding hollow as it echoed back out from the freezer. She turned back to him. "Will you be all right if I pop out to get some?"
"I'm not going anywhere."
"No, I guess not," she agreed sympathetically. "All right then, I'll be back in half a mo'."
"You know where to find me," Tim said. His swollen mouth made him sound drowsy, but in fact his mind was moving a mile a minute as Daisy put on her shoes and went out the door.
In retrospect, he might have figured it all out if he'd given it some more thought. But he'd been so certain that Duane had hit him first… Well, the other possibilities were implausible in comparison.
That son of a bitch. Duane was a twat in the first degree. His problems were with Tim, not Daisy, and he should have left her out of it. That he would stoop so low as to insinuate... Regardless that Daisy would never, ever sleep with that prick… She hated him too, the fucking poof… Though, as Tim recalled, the reason Daisy hated Duane was because of what the man had done to Tim, which said a lot for her loyalty. That backstabbing arsehole had no right to bring her into things…
Tim was actually a little surprised that, even when wounded and well after the fact, it still made him quite angry. His increased heart rate was making his head pound. He took a deep breath and let his bruised fists unclench, wincing at the sensation in the inflamed knuckles. Either Duane had a head made of rock (likely), or Tim could hit harder than he thought.
A knock at the door distracted him from his furious ruminations. "Come in!" he called to whomever it was.
The heavy stomp of military grade boots across the floor immediately clued Tim in to the identity of his visitor. "Feeling better, Tim?" Mike asked his invalid friend.
"Relatively speaking." Out of the corner of his blurry vision Tim watched Mike seat himself in the chair opposite the couch. "Daisy said you brought me home last night. Thanks, mate."
"I'd never leave a wounded man behind," Mike said.
"Of course not." Tim closed his eyes again, trying to dispel the ache behind them with darkness.
"I heard you gave Duane a beating. Good show, soldier!" Mike sounded just about ready to burst with pride.
"Somebody did. Apparently I happened to be behind the fists at the time."
"That's my boy, Tim. You gave 'em hell!"
"And got it, too."
"No war is without casualties," Mike said seriously. "But you're alive, and that's what matters. You'll live to fight another day."
Tim sighed. "I appreciate that."
"I thought you might not be conscious this morning, all things considered. You didn't wake up at all when I carried you back here."
Tim winced as a particularly bad burst of pain went throbbing through his eye. "Can't imagine why."
"At least you're awake now, if not mobile. You know, Daisy was telling me why you attacked Duane…" Mike's voice changed tone from congratulatory to something else that Tim couldn't quite recognise.
Tim opened one eye and fixed it on his friend. "Oh yeah?"
"I knew it had to be something serious to make you bring the fight to the enemy, and an unwarranted attack on Daisy's character certainly demands a strong offence," Mike said, temporarily sliding into the stiff demeanour of the military, "but unless I'm mistaken it seems like you really took it to heart."
Tim tried to frown, gave up again. "What are you talking about?"
"Come on, Tim," Mike said conspiratorially. "You know."
No, he really didn't. "No, I really don't."
Mike leaned forward in his chair. "Right, sure you don't. That's why you were so quick to defend her."
"What? What are you on about?"
"You fought for Daisy."
"I was drunk!"
"Yeah, but you still did it."
Tim stared at him. "So?"
"Come on, Tim," Mike said again. He leaned forward so far that Tim thought he might fall out of the chair. "We both know you like Daisy."
With a little effort Tim was able to repress his immediate response of 'like, or like like?'. Something about conversing with Mike took him back to primary school. It was just as well that he took a moment to reconsider, because he didn't have the patience to play word games. "Mike, whatever you're trying to say, mate, just say it."
Mike blinked, looking confused. "Well… You do love Daisy, Tim."
Tim still didn't understand. "Of course I do. She's my best mate. I could hardly hate her, could I?"
The expression of confusion on Mike's face increased. "What? No, that's obvious. I was talking about the other obvious."
Since when was 'obvious' a noun? Tim put one hand over his battered eye, blocking the light from it. His head hurt too much to try and figure out what Mike blabbering about. "Mike, I honestly have no fucking idea what you're on about."
"Tim, you're in love with Daisy – remember?"
The amazing thing was the way he stated it like it was the most blatantly evident fact in the world.