A/N: This was originally posted as a separate sequel to Helpless, but I gave up on that when, rereading them, I realised it would make it easier to just post it as a chapter two to Helpless. -sigh- Well, I hope it makes more sense than my previous posting mishap. Spot might be considered a bit out of character in this one, but as we're slipping behind the ever-present mask, I think it's perfectly fine for his to be a little out of character. I'm not making any sense now, so I'm going to shut up and let you read chapter two... Enjoy.
I am pounding through the empty streets of Brooklyn, not going anywhere in particular, just Away. I'm not running away, I'm running Away. Because Away is the only place to go, and it isn't even a place. It's a direction, like West or North. Away. It's where peace is, and quiet. It's only there in the rain—if it isn't raining, then there is no Away. I hate running Away. But Away is a direction I'm running in more often than I like to admit to myself.
Why don't you ever smile?
The words of the conversation I'm running away from echo through my head.
What trouble did a smile ever cause?
They fill the empty spaces around my footsteps like the raindrops, pounding down around me, threatening to make me slip and fall.
That's the point, you keep getting back up. You keep hoping again.
My heart pounds out a drumbeat that encourages the words to fall in counterpoint, accenting every other note in the music that is my soul, reverberating painfully through my body on every beat.
What about love?
I tear through the streets even faster, my feet flying over the uneven cobblestones, my breath ripping through my lungs in tight gasps. I'll have to stop soon or pass out for lack of oxygen. But I want to keep going. The words are still there.
What about love?
My side aches and my calf cramps with a sudden stab of pain. But I don't slow down. I can't. My momentum is too strong, and my heart hasn't reached its peak yet. And the words are still there.
What about love?
There is water in my eyes and it isn't the rain. My breathing becomes even more ragged as a sob wrenches painfully from my lungs. I stop cold, trembling, leaning back against a wall.
What about love?
What about love?
What about love?
No. This isn't happening. I don't cry. Ever. A second sob tears from me and I slide down to sit against the wall, my arms wrapped around my legs. I bury my face in my knees, trying desperately to cling to the last shreds of control that are slipping away from my fingertips. I'm not usually this poetic either. Shit. The words won't go away.
So what about love? I'm calming down now; the rain sliding chillingly down the back of my neck helps. It always does. I'm still crying, I think. I can't remember the last time I cried. Oh, yeah… the last time someone I loved died. See there it is, all spelled out and I just have to look at it properly. That's what about love: It hurts.
It hurts… so bad…
Had I said that? I lift my face up to the sky so that the rain is falling straight on me. I close my eyes as I manage to grasp control and reel myself back in. The painful ripping from my chest stops and I can breathe again. I'd forgotten how much it hurts to cry.
The drum line in my chest settles down to its normal rate and the rest of the music is back to the steady staccato beat that defines who I am: sharp, quick, but unchanging, and sometimes harsh. I have a thing for identifying people with music. Some people are andante: slow, steady, reliable; others are allegro: quick, moving, never in one place for long. Sometimes someone's music complements someone else's. People call that love. I call it sadness, and hurt when the melodies diverge into discordance again. That's all that's ever happened to me. The harmony turns to disharmony and then it hurts for a long time after.
I've yet to find someone willing to stay and keep up with a harsh, quick staccato like me. Actually, the only other staccato I know is the rain. Maybe that's why it's so good at calming me down, keeping me in control, washing away the pain. The rain drowns out all the other melodies in the world and if I close my eyes, all I can hear is the rain beating inside me, all around me. And if I can capture some of that cold, alone feeling that comes with the rain, then I can survive. If I can remember how I feel when it rains, then I can remember what it's like to be without pain, without fear. And then I can take whatever the world throws at me.
When it rains, nothing hurts, and that makes it bearable to live. Being cold is a small price to pay. The fires inside me that are put out by the rain are a small loss. I can be cold, I can be passionless, I can be harsh if it means never crying, never hurting.
Rain soothes. That's why I run through it, stand in it, drink it in. It washes away the past and the pain that goes with the past. It all washes away.
The rain washes away the pain.
I open my eyes and stand up. Raindrops slide down my face and I can feel the familiar, painless mask solidifying into place. I smile a half-hearted smile and begin to walk back the way I came.
So, what about love? I don't believe there is love. There is happiness for a few short moments—harmony for a few bars—and then pain—discordance again. My smile twists bitterly as I feel the rain washing away the memories of the warmth of love and leaving me with the knowledge of the hurt. So that's what about love. It hurts.
As I walk up to the door of the Brooklyn Lodging House the rain stops. My grasp on control is firm and steady. My staccato beat is already pushing me forward, moving on past this most recent crisis to the inevitable next one. I ignore the crying form on the floor of the bunkroom and continue to the roof to talk to the boys about what to do now. I'm ready to lead, now that the pain is gone.
But there is a nagging thought in the back of my mind that I almost refuse to acknowledge. Sure, the rain washes away the pain, but what if it washes away happiness and warmth as well? It washes away sadness, but what if it washes away hope and kindness too? It washes away fear, but what if it washes away courage? And what if, without love, happiness, hope, courage, without fear, sadness, pain—what if without all that, you can't be human? What if that's why the streets are always empty when it rains—because it washes away humanity?
I grimace behind my mask and push that little voice away into the box where bad dreams go, to be washed away in the next rain. I glare up at the lightening sky, watching the rain clouds shred themselves into long strips of darkness, like fingers across the pale sun. Shit. The poetry hasn't gone away yet.
I find the boys waiting for me in the alley below the fire escape. I jump down the last few rungs and smile as one of them pulls out a pair of dice. Gambling is what we always do when at a loss for something else to do—like waiting for Jack.
"We've been waitin' for ya, Spot," one says.
"Wet cobblestones is best fer throwin'," another adds hopefully.
"I betcha I can roll two threes," I say, flipping a quarter into the air. There's a rush of excitement as a pair of hands puts the red dice in mine. There, that's proof, isn't it? If I've still got excitement—and luck—I'm still human, right? I put this pleading voice in the box with the other worried one, a tight smile all that shows of my struggle with control.
No, I think as the tempo of my staccato hearts quickens minimally with the slight rush of adrenaline that pulses dully whenever I tempt Luck. I wonder if it would be stronger if I didn't wash everything away in the rain. No. Love is the emotion I got rid of first and I'm trying as hard as I can, using up any goddamn shred of hope I have left praying it doesn't come back.
It's better this way. Easier to live with the pain washed away. If I weren't cold like this, I wouldn't be Spot Conlon, right? Besides, no one else is staccato anyway. No one wants someone as broken as me. I'm stuck like this forever, washing away. What would happen to Spot Conlon if I felt pain, love, fear?
"To hell with it," I whisper, not even sure if I know what I mean. I throw the dice down to leave, maybe head to the Bridge, or to Manhattan to see if Jack's out yet. As I watch the red cubes roll away across the cobbles, I remember that I've already bet my lone quarter. The red dice stop next to someone else's white ones. The white dice show five-two. The red dice land three-three.
"Well, would ya look at that," I mutter as a groan goes up from the losing bettor. "Looks like the rain can't washed everything away, can it?"
But as I walk away, another voice joins the other two after asking if the rain really washes away anything, or if I'm just pretending after all?