The Fallen Birdman
Disclaimer: Fox, Cameron and Eglee made them. I just like to play with them.
Summary: Another post-finale fic. Very short. Any more would spoil it.
Spoilers/Timeframe: Set after first season's finale (And Jesus Brought A Casserole)
He rings the doorbell, but there's no response, so he lets himself in. He is stepping into the apartment again for the first time in a week. It's only been that long since she died. Since he was sent away.
He carries the bags of groceries he's brought into the kitchen and puts them on the counter, followed by his jacket and keys.
When he opens the fridge to put the groceries away he's glad he brought food. He clears out the moldy leftovers and replaces them with the fresh groceries.
When he's done, he folds the paper bag and puts it away under the sink. It's still neat inside the cupboards, unlike the rest of the house.
He walks through the adjoining room, where a complicated set up of computers and broadcast equipment occupies an entire wall. It's the first time he's ever seen those computers shut down.
A metallic crash shatters the silence.
He rushes to the hallway leading off to the bedrooms. There is a wheelchair in the doorway of one of them. It lies on its side, the upper wheel still spinning slowly. The frame is scratched and dented where a metal-clad leg has kicked it. He stoops briefly to trace a finger briefly across the seat, making a black line in the faint grayness of dust.
Rising, he steps around the chair, and into the room from which it has been expelled.
A man lies prone on the bed, his face in his hands. He approaches and puts a hand on a trembling, muscular shoulder. After a long time the shaking stops.
"Go away." This to the pillow.
"No. Turn around." Dark hand on the shoulder, encouraging but firm.
The man turns around slowly to lie on his back. Blue eyes meet black.
He reaches out, takes the glasses off the stubbled face and wipes them dry on a corner of his shirt. The man takes them from him, puts them back on.
"What are you doing here?"
"Checking on you."
"When was the last time you ate?"
The man pushes himself slowly up into a sitting position, with a soft whirring as the exoskeleton covering his lower body bends his legs over the edge of the bed.
"When was the last time you took that thing off?"
Shrug. "Does it matter?"
"Take your trousers off and get back on the bed."
"Need my help?"
"No!" The man pauses, then complies with the instruction.
The other man looks at the figure lying on the bed before him and sighs softly. Long, wasted legs, hairy and pale, snugly encaged in a metallic frame. He releases the fasteners and gently pries off the orthosis where it has indented the skin. In some places flakes of skin peel off.
He watches as the man peers down at the red lines crisscrossing his skin. More redness, at the ankles, knees and hips, where bone and metal have chafed the skin between. Some areas of swelling and inflammation. The man looks back up at him wryly.
He shakes his head. "Did you plan on being an amputee and a paraplegic?"
He sees a slightly sheepish expression creep across the other man's face.
He turns to take a bottle of lotion from the shelf behind him, squirting globs of it at intervals onto the man's legs. He puts the bottle down and starts delicately massaging the lotion into the abused skin.
"Hey!" The man's hand on his arm, at once restraining him and using him to lever himself upright. "I can do that myself."
"I know." He remembers the long fingers, quicksilver on a keyboard, savagely kneading cream into atrophied muscles that could feel no pain. "I've seen you do it."
The man on the bed holds his gaze for a moment, then looks away. The hand falls from his arm. He continues to apply the cream, stopping when he reaches the ankles.
"You got any Duoderm dressing?"
"Is it that bad?"
"Precaution. Skin's broken here."
"Bottom drawer, I think."
He rummages in the drawer, finds the gel pads and cuts pieces of them, applying them to the bony ankles and securing them.
"There." He looks up.
Blue eyes catch black and hold them for a long moment.
"You hungry?" the man asks him.
"On whether I have to cook dinner."
He was hoping for a laugh, but gets at least a grin.
"Not if I have to eat it!"
He grins back, then returns to the hallway to right the abandoned chair. Wheeling it up to the bedside, he positions it and applies the brakes, then turns to speak.
"Hey, man, you want to watch the game tonight?"
"Sure, why not?"
"I'm going to pop over to the store and pick up some beer, then. Back in ten, okay?"
He leaves the room, goes to the kitchen counter and puts on his jacket, dropping his keys into his pocket. Opening the fridge again, he takes out the new six-pack of beer and puts it into a paper bag.
Whistling softly to himself, he walks out of the apartment with his parcel safely tucked under his arm.
He'd be back in ten.
Did you hear the one about the little girl who went to bed with her glasses on because she wanted to be able to see in her dreams?
The Fallen Birdman is a poem by Roger McGough:
"The oldman in the cripplechair
Died in transit through the air
And slopped into the road
The driver of the lethallorry
Trembled out and cried: 'I'm sorry,
But it was his own fault'.
Humans snuggled round the mess
In masochistic tenderness
As raindrops danced in his womb.
But something else obsessed my brain,
The canvas, twisted steel and cane,
His chair, spreadeagled in the rain,
Like a fallen birdman"
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