[s]Five Times[/s] One Time Herbert Held Dan With No Ulterior Motive
Warning/Contains: Death of a parent. Established relationship. Middle-aged Herbert & Dan (PG; language and make-outs). Sappy. Probably an AU where Beyond Re-Animator didn't happen.
It had come to him when he was lugging the body out of the car. Dragging these things on his own wasn't quite as easy as it had been back in his twenties, decades ago. But the exercise, the challenge, seemed to loosen his mind up, give him ideas that didn't tend to come to him otherwise. He was almost glad that Dan's back had been acting up, that he hadn't come with him tonight. He slammed the front door open. "Dan! Dan, I figured it out! Help me take this downstairs." His back wasn't that bad. "Dan?"
He heard low murmuring coming from the direction of the kitchen. Dan, on the phone. "Dan, hang up and help me out with this."
Dan was clutching the phone, staring out into space. "When- when did it happen?"
That look. That tone. So familiar to him. Someone was dead. Probably someone in Dan's family. He dropped the corpse onto the floor. There was a small crack, a squish. He'd clean it up later. This wasn't good. He'd be expected to provide support. Emotional support. Say the right thing, pat the right shoulder. Herbert swallowed.
Dan slid to the floor, the phone cord coiled around his arm. Just staring. "Was she taking her medication? ...Look, I know, Dad, I know. But it isn't like- Okay. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." He scrubbed his free hand over his face. "So... when do we start... making arrangements? All right. All right, we'll talk about it later."
Dan just let the phone fall, limp, to the floor. Just sat there, staring. Herbert walked toward him, haltingly. "Your mother?"
Dan's eyes were getting wet. Oh, no. No, no, he couldn't do this. It was easy when Dan's emotional crises were just another hurdle on the path to discovering new things about reviving the dead. But as the work stalled and their relationship... evolved, Dan's feelings no longer seemed like just an obstacle, something to be shoved over or quickly appeased as he marched onwards to scientific greatness. "Yeah," Dan said. "My mom."
He crouched down in front of him. Keep to the facts. Stall. "What happened?"
"Heart attack." Dan wiped his eyes. "I wasn't there." His voice shook. "I wasn't there. Shit."
"This morning." He looked at Herbert then, right in the eyes, dead-on, his stare huge and wet. Herbert froze. He should do something. Put his hand on Dan's shoulder. Say that he was sorry. Except he wasn't sorry. Not that he wanted it to happen, not that he wanted Dan's mother to be dead, not that he wanted Dan to be in pain- so did that mean he was sorry? What did sorry mean?
Dan stood, shakily, putting the phone, now bleating an "I'm dead" dial tone, back on the hanger. "I'll go."
Herbert knitted his eyebrows. "Go? Go where?"
"Just... somewhere else. I know you can't-"
He'd go off. Alone. Go off alone to grieve, like a dying dog. Because of his, Herbert's, failure. "No." He grabbed Dan's arms tightly, leaned in, kissed him hard. Pulling back, he stroked Dan's face. It was damp. "No."
Dan studied his face for a minute, eyes darting. Then, grabbed Herbert by the back of the neck and kissed him, just as hard, backing him up against the closest wall with a bump. Huh. Well. Grief came in many forms.
Apparently one of those forms was Dan tucking his hand under the crotch of Herbert's pants. "Dan- Dan!"
Dan just tugged him forward by the tie, into the hall, kissing him again, primal, tongue and teeth. Walking them backwards. Then, Dan stumbled. Stumbled over the body. "Goddammit, Herbert-"
The mood shattered, Herbert backed up. "It's for an experiment, I wouldn't have brought it if- I, I didn't know there was going to be-" He wrung his hands. "-an emergency!"
Dan's mouth twitched at that. He expected yelling, a lecture, but instead, Dan started to laugh. He clutched his stomach, laughing hard, loud. The laughs degenerated into sobs. He dropped to the floor, on his knees.
Herbert knelt by him. Pulled him close, holding him tightly. Tried to mirror what Dan had done for him many times. It didn't really feel all that alien. It wasn't that he'd never done this for Dan before. It was just the first time there hadn't been another motive. He started as Dan turned, buried his face in Herbert's chest. Sat there, in his arms, a foot away from the corpse of a tax collector, and sobbed.