A/N: Hey, guys! Sorry about last time's chapter. This next one is filled with plot. I hope the walls of text do not scare you away, and you catch the references. My only concern is that I'm moving too fast…I mean, after five chapters of stalling, I thought it was time to get things rolling. So thanks for waiting and like usual, please give me your feedback. :D
Denny wished he could walk like this forever.
He had pushed every negative thought, every doubt into a little corner in his mind to be shunned for as long as he could manage. With his hands shoved into his pockets, he ambled down the path in light, not-rushed steps. There wasn't a problem present in his head…in fact, not a single thought passed through him.
If only everything could be this easy. This carefree. If only he could walk forever.
He came into the farm clearing, an idle smile on his face. In his slow, contented stroll, he turned the corner behind the spacey farmhouse, a hello waiting in his throat.
The sight that met him was not pleasant. Chelsea was lying in the distance with her nose in the dirt, arms sprawled out at her sides.
He stopped walking.
It hurt. Chelsea blinked, but all she saw was black each time, inky clouds that wouldn't go away. How annoying. She struggled to get rid of the scary darkness, but to no avail. When she wasn't trying to fight the pain, numb and searing at the same time, she listened hard. There was slow breathing by her side and the faint sound of waves crashing against the shore in the distance.
She let out an unintelligible groan. She wanted to say something along the lines of a cliché "Where am I?" but all that came out was "Unnhhh."
The deep breathing by her side picked up and she felt warm hands touch her cheek. "You alive?" came a gentle, undeniable voice.
Chelsea felt red rush to her cheeks. Another moan left her lips, this time the context of her intentions unclear to herself.
"I found you passed out in your field," Denny explained, as if they were holding a perfectly normal conversation. "I freaked out and brought you to the shack. Can you sit up?"
There was a silence. Then, "Mmf…no."
He chuckled lightly. "Well, alright."
A long, pregnant silence ensued. Chelsea felt her consciousness slip away and pull back, like a child gripping the ends of his blanket in the midst of a nightmare. "Denny?" she breathed when she could no longer feel his appeasing presence.
Senseless mumbles tumbled out of her mouth, barely coherent to even herself. "Do you…believe in miracles?"
There was a short pause. "What do you mean?" She couldn't depict the background of his voice; her consciousness was leaning towards unconscious at this point.
"Denny…?" she uttered, sinking into the warm, comforting fingers she felt brush her cheek.
"What is it?"
It took a moment until she replied, her voice but a heavy breath from her throat. "Denny?" she heaved out of her lips strenuously, definitely slipping now.
"…I do." She burrowed into the relatively comfortable fabric that encased her. "What…do you think?"
"I think…" The empty consonant lingered in the air. "…That you should go to sleep. You're exhausted," he finished, rather disappointingly.
"No…" she mumbled, shifting when she heard a feathery sigh. "What…day is it?"
"Nearly the end of spring. You've been unconscious for two days, you know." His voice was thick with concern.
"Mm….I know."Not really.
Denny began to ramble out of nowhere. "Speaking of which…I hope it's a hot summer. There's nothing as good and cliché as nice hot summer sun on a soon-to-be thriving island…I mean, it's not like we've been having too much rain to begin with, but I have a feeling this season's going to be hot and dry. Don't you agree?"
Chelsea didn't have the strength to.
"I'll have that hard shell of yours cracked by then, promise. Midsummer at most. Must be pretty jarring to get tossed onto the shore of an island like you did, huh?" Strange, his warm, restful fingers were still connected to her cheek. She didn't so much mind. "You'll warm up to me by then. I mean, I know you think I'm annoying, but pretty soon you'll get used to it. Promise."
She heard another light chuckle and then nothing at all.
Chelsea used to think Denny was always right, but she - and he - were proved wrong.
As he hadn't predicted, spring rolled into the very humid summer like the rain that tumbled frequently from the sky, speckling the dirt in spots of dark brown. The first few days of summer had been hot, and uncomfortably so: Chelsea found her clothes constantly sticking to her back, finding the need to bathe several times throughout the day, with little time to waste. But soon enough, clouds began to roll thickly in front of the blazing sun and fat, invigorating globules fell, splattering against Chelsea's red cheeks and sticky skin.
From then on, Chelsea, as grateful as she'd ever been in her life, didn't need to worry about getting up at six in the morning to water her new summer crops everyday thanks to the timely weather. She found that the only time she spent at her farm was occupied either by lazing around idly in bed, or by feeding (and flagrantly ignoring) Douche, who was beginning to show generous signs of growth, evolving from a pompous yellow chick to a white-feathered, beak-held-high hen, constantly strutting around like she owned the place. The change was good and bad; good, because she had begun to produce small white eggs, little in size but eggs nonetheless, which Chelsea would be sure to leech off of as efficiently as she could; and bad, because Douche was hard enough to deal with as a little chick.
Also, given the extra free time, (Chelsea had sent up a thank-you to Lady Luck as she left her farmhouse each morning), she now had a wide, free space available to herself in the mornings and afternoons. When she wasn't staggering around looking for those oh-so bitter herbs she revolted in the refreshing drizzle, she was either fishing or hanging out with Denny. Both activities seemed to correspond with each other; when she fished, she fished with Denny. When she hung out with Denny, they fished. They also talked, sometimes their conversations casual and joking, and sometimes intellectual and controversial, but they both managed to pass each other's time contentedly.
Denny had been right about one thing: he was definitely starting to loosen the invisible ropes that Chelsea had wrapped herself in the moment she was stranded on the island, hopeless as a hamster in a cage. She found herself smiling a lot more, laughing a lot and speaking louder and more frequently than she usually did.
The island, also, was becoming less like an unaccustomed refuge and more like…well, while she still couldn't call it home, it was becoming more like something that resembled it. A few of the absconded buildings had been rejuvenated, Taro and a burly woman Chelsea had remembered meeting once only because of her boisterous and jovial attitude - Mirabelle, if she recalled - had been fixing up the houses together, along with Taro's two grandchildren, Elliot and Natalie, who had been doing more arguing than fixing.
One afternoon, Chelsea had stopped by to say hi, just out of politeness, since she couldn't elude Taro forever, and also because she'd decided that disliking him was petty and unnecessary on the small island. With hope and light clear in his eyes, he'd seated her down at a table and gotten a kind woman named Felicia to boil her some crap-tasting tea. Chelsea had sipped it, and sipped it, as in she sucked in the acerbic essence that emitted the liquid until it seemed to evaporate into the air inside her mouth, as Taro rambled on about his plans for the future.
He'd make posters, get people to stick them on great billboards in the bustling city, write advertisements and put them in the newspaper. He'd attract to the island a bunch of people both urban and rural areas, some just to fill space (Chelsea had coughed politely at this point, but the subtle action had gone by unnoticed), and others who felt like retiring from their renowned occupations. There would be pop stars coming to reside on the island, a lineage of famous gastronomists, and some people that would also help benefit the farm, he had added, probably just for Chelsea's sake as she nodded every few minutes, smiling whenever he'd suddenly be struck with another lightning bolt of inspiration.
And after the long day of listening to an old man's chatter and hopes and dreams, she had walked down the path and to the beach. Her muscles wouldn't be sore and aching and tired like they usually were after lugging around water and tilling soil everyday, but she felt under-worked and restless, which was definitely new for her. Then she would see Denny sitting at the edge of the dock, looking like he might fall off, he was so close - sometimes he would be accompanied by Charlie, the kid of the shopkeeper. Other times there would be birds flanking him, white ones, black ones, ones that ornithologists might never have named, that would just flap around his head and he'd nonchalantly regard.
However, today - specifically, this drizzling midsummer afternoon - was different. As Chelsea ducked under the encroaching fog that surrounded the wide path leading into the beach, she surveyed the area. To her surprise, the purple-clad fisherman was nowhere to be seen. She walked all the way up to the dock, just about to call his name, when she heard a tinkling voice from behind her.
"Hey, Chelsea. Come here… shh, you might scare the fish away."
She could hear the amusement and the verge of laughter building up in his voice at her startled reaction. "Denny?" For some incomprehensible reason, she was whispering, feeling silly. "Where are you?" She turned around imperceptibly.
"Over here. Get off the dock and go right."
Instead of following his rudimentary directions, she followed the sound of his voice, which drifted along the rocky wall that permeated the ocean brine. She took slow, deliberate steps, jumping when she saw the exuberant face that came into view.
"You'll never guess what I found," he exclaimed, his fervent volume in contrast to Chelsea's whispers catching her off guard. The usual fishing rod was slung carelessly over his shoulder.
"What did you find?" she asked, looking over cautiously, almost expecting to see a severed human head, or something gruesome. But she saw nothing. "Denny?"
"You're looking on the land." She could feel his eyes on her, amused, as usual. "Look in the water," he hinted finally.
She met his gaze briefly, puzzled, and he grinned back at her. She turned her head and looked into the water, where a beat-up aluminum boat rocked in the gently recurring waves. It looked like a forcibly elongated tin can.
"So? What do you think?" He was ecstatic, obviously. Chelsea continued to stare at the…thing. After the struck-by-lightning-and-stranded-on-an-abandoned-island incident, she hadn't been very fond of ships and all its relatives.
"Well?" Denny pressed, almost anxiously.
It rocked again, waving at her.
"It's…um…modest," she managed at last, a similar grin playing on her lips when Denny burst into understanding laughter.
"So harsh," he joked, and started for the boat, Chelsea trailing a few steps behind. "But this isn't what I wanted to show you. Not exactly."
"What? Is there a giant, writhing shark inside the boat?"
Denny rolled his eyes, letting out another breathy chuckle instead of answering her. He leaned over the boat and hoisted out a heavy-looking, chunky rectangular prism, stuffed to the point of bursting.
"Denny, tell me that isn't fish you put inside…" She eyed the opaque block he had lugged onto the sandy surface warily.
He rolled his eyes again. "Open it," he commanded briefly, ignoring her sarcastic comment and shoving at the baggage lightly. It landed horizontally, nearly flattening Chelsea's toes.
She gave him another cautious, yellow-light look, before squatting over. She scanned the odd-shaped bag and found a silver, slightly rusted zipper lining the sides. It had been a while since she'd seen a zipper. She followed the jagged teeth with her finger until she found the paperclip-esque handle. She tugged on it slowly, the light rip of the opening process making her insides tingle with nostalgia and discreet familiarity.
The contents of the prism made her breath hitch in her throat.
It didn't take a severed head to make her react this way. And Chelsea was not a screamer, not a little girl at heart, not a squealer - but when she looked inside, she had to bite back the urge to let out the highest, girliest of piglet squeals.
"My luggage," she managed, her pitch high as soprano. She stared at all the clothes she'd packed, all the trivial knick-knacks as well, like photographs and eyeliner and books and - she wanted to sob - soap. "How the…the firetrucking hell did you manage…manage to find my luggage?" she stammered.
It took Denny a few seconds to answer. "The same way I found you," he answered at last. "Stranded, collapsed onto its side, and a little rusty around the edges. I just needed to drag it back down to reality. Told you I could crack you eventually, didn't I?"
Instead of answering, Chelsea stared at her believed to be lost things, fully beaming. Rooting through her poorly-organized belongings, she noticed they were damp, but still rather dry for a suitcase that had been afloat for weeks. "Jeremy!" she cried suddenly, hugging a small black device to her chest.
Denny raised an eyebrow. "Who?"
"My iPod," Chelsea explained shortly, not looking at him as she sighed and stored it delicately back inside the suitcase. She stopped digging through her belongings when she remembered Denny still existed, and looked up at him gratefully. "Thanks. You have no idea how much I owe you after this."
Denny simply grinned and threw a firm, gentle arm around her. "Can I make some suggestions?"
A/N: Yeah, I'm pretty aware that the ending was rather abrupt and choppy. But...my muse was found and it's telling me to just shut up and make do with what I have, so that's exactly what I did. xD Nonetheless, feed me crit.