A/N: I expect this author's note to be fairly long-winded, but I'd appreciate my readers taking the time to get the gist of what I will attempt to convey.
Firstly, I understand that the idea alone of a No Country for Old Men fan fiction can be particularly controversial. I think it's because the both the film and the novel (particularly the film) purposely leave many things ambiguous, yet the plot allows itself to be taken very seriously and as such many people have very firm stances on their interpretations and are not open to any ideas that might contradict their own. I hope that you will keep an open mind when reading this, even if the plot described sounds completely out of the realm of possibility.
I don't know exactly what it was that gave me incentive and/or inspiration to write this in the first place. I'm not above admitting that it might simply be my crushes on Javier Bardem and Kelly MacDonald that created some sort of subconscious porn-scenario twist on the end scene and that a larger plot was simply born out of that fantasy. But instead of writing some one-shot, aggressive/forceful, spontaneous sex scene and being done with it, I felt I'd do both McCarthy and the respective actors more justice. Also, I'd feel extremely uncomfortable writing a smut, lose all self-respect, and feel as though there were only a thin-veil between me and the profession of cheesy romance-novel author. But I digress.
This is most definitely a "what-if" and possibly AU, if that makes you feel more comfortable with the subject matter. Nonetheless, I take this challenge seriously and will do my best to keep both characters in-character and respect the original literature and film. I will later say more about my interpretations of all the characters of consequence to the story, but for now, I'd like for the first chapter to simply be read and digested. I would also love some very nitpicky, critical feedback. Seriously.
The open box lay tellingly on the nightstand, seeming almost to be hiding behind the tissue box in humiliation of its true identity and purpose. He could see it, however. He could see it with unwavering clarity from his seated position across the room. It was justification enough for him to rise slowly and make his way calculatedly over to the object to affirm its purpose. He was too distracted with the act to notice her flinch in her seated position on the vanity stool, observing him with eyes that deepened in fear and hopelessness.
"What's this?" he asked, hoarsely, his back turned to her.
She could tell the question was not induced from an ignorance of what something on the nightstand was, but rather, an almost parental demand that she admit what it was, whatever it was, so as to own up to her own guilt. What she was guilty of, other than being the former wife of the man she chose to marry, apparently, she wasn't sure.
"What is what?" she replied back, trying her best not to sound too defiant. It wasn't her intention to be wittingly rebellious, yet she suspected he thought she was anyway.
He turned around gradually, eyeing her with accusatory suspicion.
"This," he stated firmly, producing the empty, palm-sized box.
She gazed disbelievingly from the box to him, the realization dawning on her coupled with unavoidable shame.
She opened her mouth as if to say something, anything, but the words failed to materialize in her throat. Instead she gaped a bit like a fish, her eyes searching desperately for anything to stare at besides him.
She was too preoccupied to notice him glance briefly in the direction of the hall bathroom, and so it came as an especially startling surprise when he suddenly grasped her firmly around the wrist of the right hand, yanking her to her feet and dragging her behind him down the hall, her shoes dragging against the plank wood floors as she struggled for stable footing.
When they reached the threshold of the bathroom, he released his clasp and left her in the door way as he broached the tiny, pink trashcan that sat beside the toilet. She watched him as he studied it, noticing how ridiculously out of place he looked in the mostly pink and flower themed bathroom, his towering, shadowy form contrasting almost amusingly with the salmon-colored shower curtain that provided his backdrop. In any other setting, she would have giggled. Given that her life was at stake, however, she found it particularly difficult to see anything as entertaining.
It was then that he looked up at her, his hollow, cavernous dark eyes meeting with the vulnerable, frightened sea-green of hers. There was an unintelligible emotion to his features, one that she couldn't easily qualify. He seemed almost amused at some form of situational irony that only he was aware of.
"You're pregnant," he stated finally, breaking the silence with a matter-of-fact tone.
Her eyes shifted uneasily, eventually floating down unwillingly to her womb. She twisted her fingers around one another and slightly shuffled her feet.
"Yes," she admitted, softly. "At least I think so, anyway."
"Ten tests," he responded. "All positive. You're pregnant."
The statement seemed to momentarily hover in the air between them as she searched with futility for something decent to say. She didn't like his assured tone of voice, as if he would known this fact better than she, as if he was her doctor. She wanted to correct him, to remind him that he wasn't her healthcare provider and was instead the figure potentially responsible for killing both she and her family. What right did he have to enter her house and invade her privacy? Murdering her was one thing, lecturing her, another.
"Yes, and?" she finally retaliated defensively. "What concern is it of yours if I am or if I ain't? "
He inhaled deeply, swallowing slowly as he turned to stare at his reflection in the mirror. From what she could tell, he had arrived at a personal moral crossroads, unable to be decisive in his final decision for her fate.
"I promised to kill his wife," he began quietly, continuing to focus on himself for confirmation. "Not his child. It wouldn't be fair."
He then shifted to look at her, his demeanor changing entirely to one of urgency.
"I was never here," he said simply, and then gingerly pushed past her to the hallway.
Though something told her she shouldn't have, she watched his dark figure begin to be swallowed by the shadows of the hallway as he approached the kitchen, presumably to exit back through the way he had come in. She nearly couldn't bring herself to believe that what had just happened had actually happened, that not moments ago she was in a logical debate for her life with an unsettling stranger, and now he had turned on his heel and left- just like that.
It was surreal to think a psychopathic killer, as he obviously was, would make such an exception for her. She figured she understood his mentality, or rather, the expected mentality of any sadistic murder- kill as much as possible, show no mercy and for no other reason to slake a lust for blood. Yet this man had defied her assumptions from the beginning. Instead of killing her on sight he explained why he felt he was obligated to do so, why she was accountable even though she hadn't been a partied to any of the former chaos. He had even offered the chance of the coin toss, and while she found the idea of her life depending on a heads or tails disgusting, it nevertheless went against anything and everything she thought she understood about men like him. He was detestable and frightening, yet he seemed to have some kind of twisted ethical code that he followed with steadfast loyalty. In the end, how could she fault for him doing what he perhaps perceived as right?
It was then that there was gunfire, loud, and thunderous, that shattered a few windows in the bedroom. Startled, she nearly fell to the ground, holding on to the banister of the bathroom doorway for support as she slowly lost stability in her knees. Her palms instantly became moist with the sweat of fear, a fear that she had harbored since the night her husband came home with a gun and satchel of unknown origin and that now had blossomed to greater heights, stronger, even, then how she felt when she saw him sitting in the corner.
Two firm, rough hands suddenly inserted themselves under her arms, hoisting her up roughly and with surprising ease. She leaned against an unfamiliar chest as she attempted to regain the strength in her legs and the figure behind her tried furtively to assist.
"There are group of them who think you have it," the sickeningly familiar, deep accented voice explained as he straightened her out. He didn't need to clarify for her that he was talking about a group of the Mexican pushers that had been tricked out of the fated bag of money.
As soon as she was able to stand he reclaimed his grasp on her wrist and pulled her forcefully towards the kitchen. Before she could ask any questions they had reached the open window, and he had already begun to hoist her upwards towards the sill by placing one hand underneath her foot and another on her upper back.
"Wh-what're you doin'?" she managed to sputter out, feeling completely bewildered and lacking anything better to say in request for clarification.
His glittering dark eyes narrowed at her in bitter frustration, and he clenched his jaw as he pushed her foot upwards.
"Get out the window," he demanded through gritted teeth, while in the background the sound of the beating attempt to knock down the front door resonated throughout the house.
Trying not to think too deeply about any of the present activities, she propelled her upper body out of the window by pressing her hands against the sides of the sill. He provided the rest of the necessary action, tossing her legs and lower body out behind her. The fall wasn't in the least bit steep, being, at the most, a four foot drop. Nevertheless, she felt the pain of the impact as she tumbled head over heels into the grass.
He soon followed after, landing on his feet with a feline precision despite his otherwise imposing form, proceeding to take hold once more of her wrist, pull her to her feet, and drag her along behind him. She hardly noticed when she lost a high-heeled black shoe, as it happened simultaneously with the sound of the front door finally caving to the pressure of the Mexicans' beating.
They ran across backyards, jumping fences, and weaving through houses. She made a point of not looking back, not thinking of the intruders that now swarmed her mother's house and defiled everything within while looking for a satchel that was never there to begin with. That life, her former life, was no longer sacred. She knew at the point, following her would-be killer as they navigated through the bowels of the neighborhood, that she would have to leave that existence behind and accept graciously whatever was given to her after that, be it death or otherwise. She wasn't in possession of an abundance of options, after all.
They eventually reached the street that ran parallel with one that obtained her mother's former house. He led them to a green sedan that sat unsuspectingly in front of another matchbox similar to the one they had just escaped from. He unexpectedly brought her around to the passenger side, quickly opening the door for her, before rushing around to the driver's side, throwing himself in, and proceeding to rev the engine.
She did the same, devoid of any time to once more ponder his otherwise gentlemanly act before he floored the acceleration and sped out of the neighborhood.
There followed a period of rather uncomfortable silence as both of them struggled to regain a steady breathing pattern. It was a feeling of near relief for both of them, yet she couldn't easily shrug off the acknowledgement of whose company she now occupied. She couldn't restrain her curiosity long enough to keep from asking him,
"Why'd you do that?"
He didn't look over at her or make any other recognition of her question other than an audible exhale through his nose as he focused devotedly on the road.
"I promised you'd be accountable," he reiterated. "Not your child."
Her eyes drifted away from him, still not quite grasping his otherworldly ethics. In the process, she managed to glance at herself in the rear-view mirror, appalled by the wretch that now looked back at her. Mud was streaked over her cheeks, her hair had been blown into unmanageable tangles by the wind, and her mass of clumped strands had managed to harbor a few stray blades of grass. When she then looked down at her dress, she noticed that her panty hose had been ripped to near shreds and her faded black mourning dress had been torn at the lower hem, as well as the upper sleeve.
She could only wonder what she was now in the process of becoming. What had one mistake on her husband's behalf transformed her into? What would be the final product of her evolution? And what of her child, expected in nine months to be born into a world with no father and an unemployed, emotionally torn mother?
She hadn't cried since she learned of Lewelyn's death, and even then it had been a good five minutes of weeping before she was able to restrain the flow of tears and force herself to be strong. But at this moment, stuck in a car en route to an unknown destination with the man who had inadvertently caused her husband's death, she felt the overwhelming need to unload a great surge of emotion that had been festering within her this entire time.
She leaned back into the leather interior, allowing the tears to burst forth and run copiously down her cheeks. She couldn't stifle the loud weeps that emerged from her lungs, as she buried her face in her palms and began to rock back and forth slightly.
He, meanwhile, remained unchanged, continuing to drive with unflinching resolve and no evident remorse.
Her eyes fluttered open to the violet flash of low twilight.
She soon discovered that her heavy weeping had induced sleep, and she lifted her head from the cushion of the car door to survey her surroundings.
Through blurry eyes she saw laid out before them an endless expanse of desert. She recognized it as the familiar route from the border of Texas into New Mexico, and she guessed they had more than likely already crossed state lines as in the far distance was the unmistakable outline of mesas and the Guadalupe mountains, a sure indication of New Mexican soil.
"Where're you takin' me?" she queried groggily, making her best effort to sit straight in the seat.
As had been the case since they set out, he made no physical acknowledgement of her or her question. His stiff face, as though it had been carved from rock, remained steadfastly still and with the same expression of an unyielding frustration or subtle anger, she had yet to decide which. His eyes stayed on the road before him, his hands in a contrastingly gentle, relaxed grip on the wheel.
"Carlsbad," he replied simply, his voice noticeably more husky from not having spoke for an extended period of time. "There is a motel there where you'll be safe for the time being."
Irritated, but once more at a loss of words, she leaned back into the seat with a forceful plop, crossing her arms over her chest and twisting the corner of her mouth to one side.
"Whadda you care if I'm safe er not," she grumbled, fixating on the scene from outside her car window.
This time, however, he didn't answer her.