Summary: Tony's recovery from a brain injury following the bus accident, Maxxie's role in same, and the impact on their relationship.
Warning: The author is very fond indeed of slash, so it's best when reading any of her stories to expect same.
Disclaimer: I sure as hell own neither these characters nor Skins in any way, shape or form.
Note: At present, this is a work in progress.
Reviews: As always, desperately sought, greatly appreciated. Thank you.
TONY FROM SCRATCH
It's weird, living inside your head, inside this fuzzy unreality all the time. People visit you, sometimes for hours, and you can sort of make out some of what they say, sometimes, but can't open your eyes to see them, can't move, can't fucking ask for a glass of water. Pretty much defines 'surreal'.
They talk to you, though, no matter that you're lying here like dead fucking wood, no matter that they can't know if you can even bloody hear. Thing is, they don't even know that you'll ever wake up, for fuck's sake, so for whoever they are, it must sort of be like a desperate thing.
My hand is held a lot, I know that. Usually by small, soft hands, belonging I'm guessing to whomever my mum is, or maybe some girl, who knows, or a nurse, but I sort of doubt that. They do the dirty work- bathing me, emptying the piss bag, even shaving me, puncturing my fingertips for the millionth time for samples – which initially was something like 15 times a day. They hate me, I'm sure. Bloody nuisance – lanky bloke, almost too tall for the bed I've heard them say, and they struggle each time like mad to get me into the big hoist thing without dropping me, so I can be transported into a special chair for spastics, so that I'm not constantly on my back – you get bedsores otherwise, y'see, which are quite nasty things from what I understand, and then there's the ever present threat of pneumonia when you're lying down all the time. Bad way to go, that.
If I could only bloody wake up from this ... thing, wake up from being sealed inside my own frigging body.
Even if I do, I'll never be the same, was the quote, as far as I can tell, that I heard some male voice say- a doctor ? Or maybe it was said out of fear, a question, by some relative or friend. Fuck's sake, you'd think they'd know enough not to say such things right in front of me, though, huh?
I can't feel a whole lot, like, but I'm so plugged full of needles – as big as pencils, and slow drips and drugs and shit, I'm in so much of a stupor all the time that who knows if there isn't agonizing pain somewhere underneath it all.
I definitely feel emotions, like fear, and bewilderment, this sense that I'm floating – suspended in this fucked up unreal purgatory thing where no one can reach you and you can reach no one. Depressing. Hugely.
Who knows what the fuck happened – I have zero memory of anything, of who I am, how long I've been here, or why in bloody hell I'm even here. Who am I ? Where in fuck do I live ? If I were to wake up right now and walk out of here, I wouldn't know where my home was. Terrifying.
For a long while I didn't know my own name, and I'm still not entirely sure, though people keep saying this name 'Tony', which might belong to me, but I can't really be sure. Of course, I simply could have heard wrong. I have nonsense thoughts all the time, fuck knows, so I probably did.
Who the fuck was I before all this ?
My brain is on a continuous mission, circling itself for answers, trying to grasp 'normality', and it panics when for the millionth time, none come.
Or is it simply that I'm dead?
My dreams are incredibly intense, I know that, so no, probably not dead. I see faces I feel like I should know that I have some sort of pull towards, but can't for the life of me place. There's sometimes this girl, petite brunette, in a school uniform, who just stares at me and says nothing. Then some geek kid, with glasses and a wool hat. No idea who these fucking people are. So frustrating. I dream about violent shit too – blood, gore, being crushed, being smashed to bits. Once I dreamt I was a goat being slaughtered, just an innocent animal minding my own business, and I could totally feel fear, like, the horror at the knowledge that I'm about to be killed. I dream I'm in intense pain, sometimes, and I can't wake up from it. When I do 'wake up' out of the dream, I feel paranoid and freaked and sad.
Some time has passed, I guess, judging from the little snippets of conversation I can make out, which in itself is maddening because some bits of it I can grasp, and then the rest is total gibberish, or I can't hear cuz they're talking on the other end of the room.
But anyway, ya, some time has apparently passed. I heard someone say something about two months, then later it seemed that's how long I've been here, out cold like a zombie. Two months ! Christ, it's so shocking. How much longer will I be like this ? Six months ? A year ? How long until they finally give up on me ?
See, it's these paranoid terrors that especially suck. A part of me knows they're not 'rational', cuz, I mean, somebody obviously cares enough to see that I'm bathed and lying in clean sheets and all, but still, I live in terror of that day – that it could be any day now, in fact, and for a variety of reasons – medical, financial, bureaucratic (dead blob taking up a hospital bed when others need it), that their patience finally runs out ...
Believe me, pondering this on any sort of frequent basis fucking well wears you down. I have to talk to myself like I'm two years old, to get past it.
Why the fuck couldn't my brain have turned off until I wake up? If I ever do ? Why leave me in this pathetic suspended state where I'm such a fucking mess ?
Somewhere past the two month mark, I gather, it happens. My eyelids, I suddenly realize, it suddenly clicks, are actually something I can control. On my own. Wow! So easy – why didn't I try this before ?
So ... I go and fucking well do it. I swear I can feel the nerves in my brain sending the signal, and then the receptors receiving it ... obeying my request ... and then it fucking well happens - just because I wanted it to - my lids open, a bit ... only it hurts – like fuck. Damned intense daylight flooding the room, blinding, so I shut them immediately. Scary. Everything from here on is going to be really fucking scary.
At some point later – it could be minutes, it could be days – it's the particularly maddening thing about coma – all sense of time is shattered – two or three months or however long it's been by now, feels both like minutes, and years.
At any rate, at some point later I try it again ... just open my lids a tiny bit, then a bit more, and once I adjust to the light I see this woman I don't know, sitting by the bed, quietly reading. She looks drawn and tired. I don't want to draw her attention just yet – I don't think I could handle anyone freaking out on me right now, if she's a relative or my mum or something, so I simply shift my gaze and look round the room without turning my head. Hospital, for sure. Ugly gray walls and the stench of antiseptic or something – wow, so apparently my nose is working, too. Fuckin' hell. I focus my gaze downward and see something sticking out of it, some tubes that are clearly shoved up my nostrils, which means they're extending down into my lungs, which, shit, is a bit unnerving. How bad am I that I can't breathe on my own?
I'm aware that my back is dead sore – undoubtedly from months of pressing into this mattress. I move a hand against it, the bed, and it feels bony to the touch, like a cheap cot.
Okay, well, the movement caught her eye and she's covered her mouth and is running from the room shrieking "NURSE !" over and over at the top of her lungs.
So now is the really weird part. A room full of smiling strangers, undoubtedly family and friends, ... and I know not one of them. Not one ! It's so fucking distressing and weird, I can't tell you – can't even begin to describe waking up on some other planet and you're an alien freak - you know nothing, can't speak the language, don't know the customs, don't know a soul, and you're entirely alone in this. Even if you could speak, no one would understand the gibberish coming from you. All your connections, all your memories completely bloody fucked. As far as you're concerned you are one hour old, yet trapped in the body of a semi-adult.
It can't be helped; too fucking overwhelming. Like an absolute tosser, as people watch, I have a bit of a fit and start to cry. Great. Terrific. Thankfully the nurse quickly shoos everyone from the room and I have a good old fashioned private sobbing bawl.
People keep visiting me, in ones and twos, now, so as not to overwhelm the brain damaged nutter. Yes, that's what I've overheard, brain damage. Something about a bus – as in, I was hit by one, I gather, some 3 months ago, I think. Grisly affair; numerous broken bones, several surgeries, pins lodged within to keep parts of me straight which then later had to be removed. Sounds excruciating. It was a fairly gruesome scene at first, I gather. Lots and lots of blood, but the irony is, as I lie here, I look normal – no scars except those on my torso from surgery. Through some miracle my face was left intact, however directly behind it is the problem: my damned brain, on top of which sits a nice sizable threatening bag of blood, which may or may not get absorbed with time, I'm sort of piecing together, though no one is about to tell me the truth.
Some of my speech has returned – some, which in a way is worse than if none had, as I'm able to stutter out maybe one in every seven words that comes into my head, and even those are so often dead wrong that I stop trying as it's humiliating ... but the bloody nurses won't let me – they keep saying I need to "exercise my cerebral cortex" which I'm told over and fucking over, is responsible for shit like language and memory.
Just small inconsequential stuff, then.
Eventually I'm informed this condition in my brain is inoperable – too risky to cut me open and vacuum out the blood, as is done in some cases, so exercising it's the only path to recovery, which scares me so bad that I go on blathering, even to myself, over and over, horrifying as it is to hear yourself utter complete nonsense – sounds, some of the time, like I'm some fucking ape, but then suddenly somewhere in the middle there will be a real word, only it'll be 'plant' when I mean to say 'chair', or 'bus' when I mean to say 'bed'. Seriously, you can't imagine the frustration of seeing the word in your mind, so clearly you can fucking taste it, and then sending the signals to your lips and tongue to speak it ... only to have it come out bloody 'car' or 'black' or 'arse' - anything but what you meant.
I've taken to throwing fits and stuff. I'm hardly steady on my feet, but when I'm frustrated, which is like, always, I'll grab, or rather, knock over anything around me (seeing as I have neither the motor skills, coordination, nor strength to really 'grab' anything.) I once managed to pull off my own threadbare hideous nightshirt thing, which fucking leaves my arse bare, I keep trying to tell them, and stumbled naked down the hall in a pathetic attempt to run from this place, only of course, to fall, and then have the humiliating experience of three oversized orderlies, or whatever they call them, drag me, as if I'm in some mental ward, screaming and crying like a complete nut case, back to the fucking hellhole room.
When one of these incidents was unfortunately witnessed by the woman I'm told is my mum, she burst into tears and ran from the place herself.
Can't exactly blame her.
Okay, it's some time further down the road now, and I'm making good progress, I'm told, as far as language, and shit, and though the faces that return with any regularity are becoming familiar, these people's identities are still mostly blank, to me.
The girl who says she's my sister sits with me the most, and she's a bit of a nutter herself. She tells me she barely spoke a word, for some reason, for like a year, prior to my accident, but anyway, she's helped a lot. She reads to me and makes me repeat sentences back to her, and she won't let me quit. I beg her sometimes, yell at her just to leave me the fuck alone, and she yells back and calls me a whining, obnoxious bastard and a self-pitying pussy ... and it's so shocking that is sort of shames me into doing it.
At some point, many weeks into these daily speaking exercises when I'm getting across maybe 70% of my words, which let me tell you feels like a fucking miracle, I ask her, for the fiftieth time, about the accident ... only she refuses to talk. I snap, as best I can, that I don't care if she doesn't wanna talk about it, that I have a right to know, and then I stupidly call her a bitch – which, yes, is shitty of me considering how often she comes – every day, signifying that she obviously cares a great deal or she wouldn't, but at the same time, you have to understand that my emotions are so on the surface that I can't help it; in a way the accident has left me with the attention span as well as patience and emotional maturity of a three year old.
So, she throws the word drill book right at my face, yells at the top of her lungs, 'fuck you, motherfucking cunt !' and storms from the room. Boy, she's got a mouth on her.
When I'm told later that she witnessed the accident – was the sole witness in fact – saw her only sibling run over by a bus and left bruised and broken in the middle of the street with blood pouring from his mouth, and that she thought she was looking at a corpse, I have more of an understanding.
Others visit, not just the girl who says she's my sister. (Not that I don't believe her, but I don't know the bloody girl, so it feels weird calling her "my sister", especially when I'm told we were close, and here I sit feeling virtually nothing for her ...)
There's the woman who I'm told is my mum, and the bloke who says he's my dad. It's always a bit of an emotional scene – for them, I mean, so in a way I sort of dread them coming. Also, I can't believe when I sit here looking at them, that I feel zilch for these people, and they're my fucking parents ! Talk about a mind fuck – the hugest one imaginable.
Then there's the people who are apparently my friends. Like the black girl- can't remember her name. Jane? She doesn't say much, but one time shows me her trombone, or flute, or whatever it's called, and even plays it for me a bit. She's good. Seems like a nice girl.
There's the blonde airy girl, skinny as a post, called Charlie, or Chrissie, I think, who gushes and smiles a lot and says 'wow' all the time. She doesn't seem to know what to say, but then no one does. She talks a lot about food, but never eats, apparently.
There's the goofy looking lad Chris – for some reason I can remember his name but not my own sister's. He dresses weird – funny, ugly knit hats and goofy high pants. He talks a mile a minute; most of the time I can't keep up so I just sit there, dumbly staring. He's offered me some sort of druggy cig a few times, but I'm too afraid of it. Life for me right now is surreal enough- the last thing I need is some hallucinogenic freakout experience on top of everything else.
There's a pretty curly haired girl whom I sort of have a vague recall of, though it's entirely muddied. Nobody says it, but I'm gathering she was maybe my girlfriend. I will emphasize 'was', as she visits less and less, now, and can't seem to stand the sight of me in my sorry idiot state. Once again, I can't find myself blaming her. I am a pathetic mess.
There's an Indian looking kid, skinny as fuck, who talks even faster than Chris, and goes on to me constantly about the nurses, only one of which, for me, has even registered as being reasonably attractive, but this kid doesn't see it – all he sees is the bounty of womanhood. He's clearly sex-crazed, but I'm not one to point fingers – it's not like I have any sexual impulses or thoughts, ever. Someone mentioned something about my apparently being a 'player' at one point, sort of like a ladies man, even, which to me right now is inconceivable. I'm convinced they're taking the piss. Certainly in my present state, sex does not cross my mind, ever. What would be the point ?
Let's see ... there's that geek boy with the hat and glasses. Sam? He, like the curly haired girl, I seem to have some recall of, but it's useless to me – too vague. I gather we were maybe close at one point. Dunno. He, like her, seems awkward and the conversation is semi-stilted, like he's partly here out of duty, or it's just too painful for him, which feels uncomfortable and shitty.
It seems the closer people were to me before, the harder it is for them to stand being around me now. How depressing is that ?
Finally, there's this bleach blonde kid called ... Marcus ? Michael ? Can't recall. Blue eyes, likes to wear scarves. As far as frequency, he visits second only to my sister, and reads to me and talks to me lots, and helps me practice speaking, and shows me his sketchpad. He's really talented, and is apparently also a dancer, and I gather, gay. He's mentioned some boyfriend, or they've just split up, or something. Can't recall. He's probably the most interesting person who visits and in truth, I look forward to his more than anyone's because he wasn't apparently as close to me as some, and so consequently it's less of a strain for him to see me this way, which overall is a lot easier on me.
Somehow, too, even moreso than my sister, the kid gets me to open up about things (as much as I can), which I guess I need to do. Maybe cuz he's here so often, he's worn down my defences a bit. He also, like my sister, isn't afraid to yell at me when I'm being impossible, which honestly, I can't help but respect. It means they aren't treating me like a kid, like the way Helen Keller was treated by her parents at first – allowed to get away with everything, out of fucking pity.
Christ, just the thought makes me boil. It's what I don't fucking want and absolutely can't stand – people with fucking pity in their eyes. It makes me insane, possibly because, as they say, the thing you hate and find least tolerable in others is the thing you recognize in yourself ... meaning ... I've got well enough self pity to go around as it stands, folks. I can't bloody take it in anyone else.
"What happened ?" I ask my sister, whose name, I've finally mastered - "Effy"- is somehow the short form for her real name, Elizabeth.
She stops and puts the book down.
"Fuck off, Tony."
"Why can't you just tell me what happened ?" is what I mean to say, which, in my agitated state, comes out:
"Sell me happen !"
She stands quickly and shouts.
"You know what happened ! You were run over by a bus, arsehole ! Right in front of my eyes, okay?"
"How ? Why !"
"I thought you were dead ! Blood everywhere ! And I had to call the ambulance, and I tell mum and dad !" She shrieks, then bursts into tears, and mutters bitterly, "happy, now ?" as she storms from the room.
Passing her in the hallway comes the blonde gay kid.
"What happened ?" he asks me.
I don't respond for a minute. I feel guilty over upsetting this girl who cares about me, who must love me, in fact, who had to witness her big brother getting creamed in the street, but at the same time, I have a right to know specifics of the event leading to my being in the predicament I'm in, from the one person who was there, without it becoming a huge scene. Why does she never consider how I might feel about it ? How I'm desperate to understand that day, that moment that has irrevocably changed my life, probably forever ?
"She ..." I pause, searching for words ... "I plant ..., no, no, I ask, I ask about it – the bay, that day, the ... the wall, no, the bus, fucking bus, and she freaks."
He sits back.
"What do you wanna know about it, Tone ? What haven't they told you ?"
He smiles. He nods.
"Tone – it's short for 'Tony', just a nickname."
"Is that what car – plant - no ! What people – what people called me ?"
He nods again.
"Called you and still call you. Anyway, I'll tell you what I know about it, if you want."
"You were talking on your mobile, to Michelle, your girlfriend – the curly haired brunette-"
"-Duz ... dozen ... Doesn't visit."
"Huh? She doesn't visit ? Really? Are you sure ?"
"Yes," I snap, indignant. "Why would I not glove ? ... No ! Sure ! Why would I not be sure ?"
He holds out his hand.
"Take it easy, mate. I didn't mean anything by it. It's just, I assumed she was here all the time."
I shake my head.
"No. Been weeks."
He takes a breath and looks shocked.
"Wow. Sorry. I think she's just, y'know ..."
"What blue – what does - What does it matter ? Don't even know her." I look at him. "Don't even know you."
"Okay Maxxie. Tell me."
He proceeds to explain that I had been talking to my girlfriend and apparently couldn't get a good signal on my mobile, so in a move of catastrophic stupidity, I walked right into the middle of the street, at nighttime, not a well lit street, and proceeded to be plowed into, head on, by a city bus. Effy, who was sitting in a nearby car, saw the whole thing and came running and screaming and was understandably traumatized by the whole experience.
"So who was I?"
"What do you mean, Tone?"
"Who was 'Tone'?"
He looks a bit disturbed by my question.
"Who is Tone, you mean. You're the same guy."
I laugh bitterly.
"Fuck you. Don't fucking bike ... pike ... want you here if you're gonna bullshit me, Mark !"
"Tell me the truth !" I snap. "Or leave ! Who was I ?"
He looks uneasy.
"Alright, alright ... Look, you were ... you were sorta, I don't know what other word to use, Tony; unique, special. Top man."
"I'm telling you the truth, arsehole ! You were first in your fucking class, pretty much your whole life. Dead smart. Devious."
He pauses again.
He clears his throat.
"You could sing – still can, I'm sure. Good enough to be in a choir. You were a bit of a health nut – you ate well, you exercised and lifted weights, you liked tai chi – the traditional Chinese slow movement thing. You read tons – nothing ordinary; difficult shit. You were really well spoken. You like, had girls, constantly."
"Girls ? Michelle ?"
"Her and tons beside. You fucked around on her all the time. You weren't very nice. Like I said, devious. Manipulative, I guess would be the word."
"But ... I walk – park - had friends. I had friends."
"Whom you treated like shit. Your best friend, your girlfriend, me."
"What stick – no! What do I did ? What did I do ?"
"It doesn't matter, Tone."
"Matters to me !"
He fidgets a beat.
"Look, you were just a bit of a cunt, okay ? Let's leave it at that."
Fuck, these people who feel they somehow have a right to keep information about me from me ?
"No ! Tell me !"
"Okay, okay, christ. Thing is ... how can I put this ? You sorta liked to control people and fuck with their heads, okay? But you were very cunning and smooth about it, very charming." He laughs. "You were a real fucker."
I'm astonished over all that I'm hearing. Also a bit horrified.
"But ... why ?"
"Power trip, I guess. Remember what I told you the other day, but you didn't believe me - you're one of those people with a hugely high IQ – this is documented. You could be a fucking scientist, but because your parents aren't rich, you've gone to regular schools which bore the shit out of you cuz you're so bloody far ahead of everyone – that's my theory, anyway. So you cook up these devious little games, just out of sheer boredom, I guess, for entertainment, maybe."
Fuck, absolutely fascinating ! I feel like I want to meet the guy I was. But in a way I'd be too chickenshit.
"You said 'you'. What blue – what do – what did I do to you ?"
"Nothing," he says too quick and nervous. So then I have to know.
"What did I do ?"
"Tony, it's not ... it's not, it's not a big deal." He reaches for the book. "Why don't we get to your word drills - I don't have a lot of time today-"
"-Fucking black me - tell me, arsehole !"
"It was a long time ago, Tony ! It doesn't matter !"
"Matters to ME !"
He looks at me, sympathetic, but unhappy.
"Tell me. Please. Relay - rely - relying on you to fill in the bags, the blanks, Maxxie."
He sighs and looks at me a moment before speaking.
"Okay, okay, but look, I don't want this to like, freak you out or anything, right ? It was just a one time thing – bear that in mind. Here's the deal." Big sigh. "We were on a class trip, and at one point, even though you're completely straight, you were bored, and ... you sort of like ... took advantage of me, or tried to, when I was a bit drunk."
I look at him, stunned, convinced I've misunderstood.
"Don't under ... understand."
"You initiated sex, Tone."
I'm absolutely floored.
"With you ?"
"-We sex ? We had sex ?"
"No, not exactly. You tried to-"
"-Am I goo – gay ?", I blurt, in a panic.
"No, like I said, you're completely straight, Tony, I promise. You were just ... fucking around. You liked to fuck with people. That's what it was about. Nothing more."
I sit back, astonished, horrified, fascinated to hear of my former wicked self.
"People know ?"
"Did people find out about it, you mean?"
"Ya," he answers.
"What happened ?"
He looks down. He fidgets a beat.
"Well, um, I'm sorry to say it, um, was sort of instrumental in you and Michelle splitting up. Sort of like a last straw, as far as she was concerned."
I look off for a minute pondering this. I don't know why, but, even though I feel basically nothing for the girl, it still sort of hurts.
He looks at me with agitated concern.
"But then you two were heading towards getting back together."
I look at him, oddly hopeful to hear of a nice ending to this story even though it feels, in every way, as if it happened to someone else.
"So did we ?"
His face falls. He clears his throat.
"Cuz - the accident happened." He sighs. "Bad timing."
I sit back, feeling genuinely depressed.
"Why don't we talk about something else, Tone ?"
I ignore him.
"People know ... what I was ... about ?"
He looks at me.
"Sometimes. Sometimes not."
"Ya, I knew."
"So then high ... how ... the sex ? What happened ? Tell me."
"It was nothing, Tone. I promise you - it was over before it started."
"Tell me !" I snap. "The truth, fucker ! And stop making me fucking beg !"
He speaks carefully. He seems uncomfortable.
"Fuck's sake, okay. It was just ... were were in Russia. We were sharing a room and ... I was drunk. I was stressed out and upset. My best friend had just sort of dumped me out of the blue for being gay, and when I walked in the room and told you that ... it was just part of the power trip thing, Tone. The control thing. It's sort of what you were about."
"What was ? What did I do ?"
He forces a nervous smile.
"You fucking offered me head, to quote unquote, make me feel better. To try something new."
I squint. Slang terms are still mostly a foreign language to me.
"That's a blowjob, Tone."
My eyes widen in horror.
"I didn't actually-?"
"Well - I mean, not really. You tried it for a few seconds, but it fell apart pretty quick."
My mouth hangs open.
"I did ?"
He speaks quickly.
"It's not a big deal, Tone, I swear. It was nothing. You were just fucking around - doing your power trip thing. Like I said, totally over before it started."
I look off, freaked at first, a bit scared even, over this, over all that I've been hearing.
"So then, why does people, why do people visit ? If I was such a plant – cunt ? Why do you ?"