Summary: This is a short vignette set early in the first season. No plot or any real dialog, just a glimpse into Grady's emotions as he settles in to this new life.
Grady Jamison ran, refusing to look behind him at the approaching danger. The steamy jungle of Vietnam tore at him during his head-long flight, shredding clothes and skin with equal fierceness. He ignored the small stings of vines and thorns –minor hurts drowned out in the pounding pain of overexertion.
"Run!" his entire body and soul screamed at him.
Unable to quiet the relentless voice, Grady simply pushed harder, commanding his exhausted limbs to pump faster and faster still.
Just when he felt sure he could continue no longer, an icy-cold hand reached out and grabbed his shoulder. The hand jerked hard, forcing Grady to break stride and tumble to the ground. Suddenly, a host of black-shrouded figures swarmed over him, pinning him to the ground with superhuman strength. Countless hands reached toward him, tearing away clothes and caressing skin. Grady tried to fight back against this – his greatest nightmare – but the hands were everywhere.
After a long but fruitless struggle on Grady's part, one of the shrouded figures leaned close, catching Grady's face in a bruising grip. The hands were so cold they felt as if they were burning him, the long, bony fingers cruel in their strength.
Slowly, the figure shook back his cloak, revealing his face to his prisoner. Grady's heart stuttered – though the face was stretched thin, almost as a skeleton, he still recognized an all-too familiar visage. The eyes were sunken, cadaverous in the gray-tinted face. The figure's mouth was misshapen and oversized, filled with rows of teeth sharp as razor blades. Grady knew that if those teeth touched him, he would be lost.
Finding a last reserve of strength, Grady shoved his body upward as hard as he could. Instead of dislodging the dark figures as Grady hoped, the effort seemed only to amuse them. Dark laughter arose as they increased their assault on Grady's body.
The once-loved visage of the largest figure holding him firmly in place stretched his lips in a macabre parody of a grin. Leaning ever closer, he brought his razor smile close to Grady's face. With a final putrid breath, the familiar creature pressed his lips to Grady's, laughing along with the young man's muffled cry of distress.
With a heaving gasp for air, Grady Jamison lunged awake, flinging the cloying wrap of sheets away. Darting a frantic gaze around the room, he relaxed only a margin when he realized he was in his small room behind Malloy's bar. Sliding his legs off the side of the futon, he dropped his head into shaking hands.
This particular nightmare had plagued Grady many times over the years; the young man had hoped it would fade after his reunion with Beaudreaux a few months ago. Finding B and being unexpectedly welcomed into the older man's quirky little family had provided a balm to Grady's battered, lonely heart. However, that balm was but a bit of aid to wounds far too deep and painful to ever truly be healed. He sighed wearily, tying to shake off the feel of the hands and the look of Beaudreaux's face laughing with maniacal glee as he sealed Grady's fate with that ghoulish kiss.
The largest demon from this grisly nightmare had changed faces over the years. Mom. Dad. Tran. Lo Duc. Guards. Prisoners. Soldiers. Nigel. Too many others added to the stream of people who had hurt, terrorized or been torn away from Grady over the years. It sometimes felt as if this dream was a gruesome version of a twisted and bizarre "This is Your Life."
The face had only been Beaudreaux's a few times, usually only after something terrible had happened to Grady. When faced with the pain and loneliness of living the life of the forgotten, he often found that Beaudreaux was the leading star of his nightmares; it was as if the younger man channeled his rage at the former soldier's broken promise, allowing his hurt at being abandoned to paint his supposed savior as a villain.
Grady had only seen Beaudreaux's distorted face twice since finding the older man, both times early in their tenuous reunion. He wondered at the sudden appearance now of Beaudreaux as a threat. Things had been going fairly smoothly – for once, Grady acknowledged with a brief, ironic smirk. Beaudreaux had fallen quickly into the role of big brother and Malloy had embraced him as a friend sooner than Grady would have assumed. Even the prickly introduction of Miguel Mendez into their circle had smoothed a bit as the two younger men found an unexpected friendship slowly blossoming. Each recognized in the other a kindred spirit, their bond formed through the shared experiences of brutality and survival.
Sighing again, Grady staggered to his feet, still weak-kneed from the icy terror of the dream. Grabbing a random set of clothes, he tottered unsteadily to the tiny bathroom to rinse away the shadow feel of the cold, unyielding hands. He knew he had only a short time before Malloy and Beaudreaux would be in to start the day. He needed to gather his thoughts and collect the masks he used to protect himself from their kind, yet cloying, concern.
He would take time later, in front of his meditation wall, to sort through the dream and see if he could determine why he was suddenly seeing Beaudreaux as the fiend of his nightmares. For now, though, he knew he needed to hide his inexplicable fear and the fathomless level of brokenness he kept hidden most of the time. Both Beaudreaux and Malloy were relentless when worried, neither accepting gentle – nor even the not-so-gentle – reminders that his past was none of their business.
If they suspected even a small portion of the terror and panic this particular nightmare induced, they would push and push, refusing to accept his assurances that he was okay. Grady could not bear for that to happen, for he feared their reaction if they saw his true self. Grady knew that he was broken beyond repair, scarred and warped from just too many hurts and trials. While his head knew that Beaudreaux and Malloy cared deeply for him, he was too used to rejection and abandonment to trust that his new family would stick with him if they knew the depths of his past. He was also too unaccustomed to family to truly believe that they would not someday decide his burdens were simply too heavy to bear.
So, he pulled on the carefree and funny masks just as surely as he did slacks and a shirt. Glancing in the mirror, Grady breathed deeply a few times, allowing his face to lose the shadowed, lined appearance making him seem so much older than his years. When he was sure that his unease was undetectable, he headed out into the bar area.
Just as he twisted the doorknob, he heard the bell above the main door tinkling, followed by laughter as Malloy and Beaudreaux walked in.
"Right on time," Grady thought with a fleeting smile. Taking one final soothing breath, he pasted a bright grin on his face and headed out, ready to face another day. It was show time.
"Hey, guys! How are you doing this beautiful morning?" With his jovial façade firmly in place, he gently shut the door, leaving behind – at least for a little while – his darkened, shadow-filled room.