He was a puzzle with too many pieces, and someone was still trying to make them all fit. Edges overlapping, crushing, and breaking in ways they weren't supposed to, never supposed to. It was wrong. The splinters edging out in crimson tendrils and there was still nothing to rectify it inside himself but to pretend like it was not there. That the flashes of memories made sense, and that it was easier to not care than to face them the way he should, the way his subconscious fought to. So when the fire was in the back of his mouth and running hot down beneath his ribs, through his blood and catching in the edges of his fingers, the splinters melded and faded into fog and sleep and nothing.
It had not been so bad in the beginning, and what had been bad was pushed aside with words of reassurance that it would get easier, that it would all eventually even out, but no one could have known how broken he already was, and how a minuscule crack could spiderweb into this damaged, shattered hell he was trapped in. Too many memories. Too disconnected and never melding right. It had been heartbreaking for him at first, to feel everything every version of himself had felt. Every death. Every failure. Having been doomed when his best friend ran off to get himself killed while his other best friend was left stranded and alone; completely out of his reach. The feeling of helplessness when he lost contact with her.
Too much. Too hard not to care. Too young to know how to deal with it properly. His brother had prepared him, taught him how to fight, how to keep calm, but he never prepared him for that. How long had he sat there typing away into the pesterlog client on his iphone trying to get her to respond? Too long. Too fucking long.
When the game was over he had collapsed, every doomed version of himself that had ever affected the alpha timeline folding up into him and ripping him apart until he no longer knew which one he was anymore. He was all of them, and none of them, and whoever he had become remembered everything.
And everything hurt.
"Dave! Dave open up! It's me!" His head thrummed in time to her small hands flat palm to the door, banging to be let in. He loved how she did not think it necessary to actually announce who exactly 'me' was. It was probably because he did not have many guests those days, and she knew it.
"Calm you damn tits and just open the door already. You know I don't keep it locked." He heard a banging as she pushed her way through the door, the wood swinging back to knock into the end table that was situated directly behind it where a doorstopper should have been. It happened pretty much every time. That table was a piece of shit anyway. "I'm not insured for damages done by Hurricane Jade Harley so let's try and be a tad more delicate with the furniture, yeah? I'm trying to keep this place looking presentable but once you blow through here it's like I might as well not even try."
"Ooooh you make me so mad! I swear you keep that thing there just so you can give me crap when the door swings back on it! Psssshhhhh! It's not like anyone comes over here except me anyway! I think you shouldn't complain when the majority of your furniture is made of cinderblocks and old splintery planks of wood!"
"Hey, that's just my style. It's cool Jade, take note. You have not been paying close enough attention, I can tell. You fail the next quiz and I might do something drastic, give you detention, make you watch Con Air or somethin'." He heard her giggle at that and then immediately afterward another loud bump that made him cringe. He waited a moment in silence to make sure she did not sound injured and when he was satisfied she was alright he called out to her again, "Jegus Goddamn Christcakes what did we just get done talking about, Harley?"
"Shut up this place is so tiny and you have stuff EVERYWHERE, Dave. I don't know what you mean by clean this is not what I would call clean this is a DISASTER!"
"Don't you speak in all caps at me young lady. Grandpa Harley-bert would be aghast. Go all fisticuffs on your ass."
"Jake so would not Dave that is the biggest load of crap!" She was still in the other room, but the noises that followed her yelling let him know she was fast approaching the kitchen where he sat hunched on a barstool, a beer dangling from his left hand. He quickly ran his fingers through his pale hair and pushed his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose before she walked in. "Oooooh finally. That was an adventure!" Dave stared at her for a few seconds without saying a word, vision swimming slightly before becoming momentarily transfixed at the way her thin, floor-length jade sundress clung to her sinuous curves just enough to tease the hell out of him. She approached him and threw her arms around his neck, and for a moment he felt almost normal, like he could be like this all the time, but he knew it could not last, not when he had to pour poison down his throat to feel even a little right.
There was too much time, too much time to think and to talk and to remember in their dead-end timeline, and the days dragged on. The first time did not take long, the fire blowing through his veins like a demon. He was not prepared for the way it threw him around like he was nothing. He was control, he had spent his whole life learning that control, and the freedom that he felt with the liquor running through him was more terrifying than anything else. But he liked the way it singed the edges of his memories. It burned away the emotions he had no idea how to feel. Helped him move on, helped him get it out so that he could. Helped him forget.
But there was no forgetting anymore, just remembering.
And there was so, so much to remember.
He recalled the feeling of heat in his veins just as well as he remembered everything else, small bursts of pain that he could not fully comprehend. Too many memories that did not feel like his own, but at the same time so achingly vivid that he could not ignore them. Only half understood, only half reconciled. When it got worse, when it got harder to deal with the conflicting battle in his mind to block out the images that flashed through his head, he reached out for something that could dull it down. Trying to cull the memories that were years old but still somehow fresh as they filtered through the parts of his mind that had never experienced them before, the memories that one part of him understood while the others did not.
He did not know who he was anymore. They were all supposed to be the same person.
But he had only fractured.
Dave held three new bottles of beer between his fingers as he and Jade made their way to his bedroom. She was upset that he was drinking, but she never said anything. She knew a lot more than he had ever directly told her, had ever told anyone, because everything edged out in lyrics when they made music together. He never complained. He kept his privacy, and when he did talk to the others, he would act normal, joking the way he always had. It was almost enough to convince them that he might actually be okay, if it were not for the way he was always drinking.
Jade looked at him differently when they played their music, like he was real in a way he never could be away from the feel of a record beneath his fingers and a rhyme on his lips. She brought him records that she made with John and Rose, bass and piano and violin all compiled at various points in time. Dave liked to work with her individually. Once he found out she could sing.
Jade watched him mix as he was getting the feel for the music she had brought him that time around. If there was anything that worked half as well as alcohol, it was making music with Jade. Once he found his rhythm, he began spouting out lyrics, weak at first, about absolutely nothing, but as he fell into it the words were confessions he would lose himself to, letting the fracture ebb away to replace it with something better, channeling it all into that moment. It was at this point Jade began strumming on her bass, picking up words that felt the most important and weaving them into tunes, her voice braced with feeling but still high and sweet. He would sing sometimes as he began to understand her pattern, his voice low and breathy, full of aching emotion as he made harmony with her before going back to freestyle.
It went on for hours with little to no interruption, the beers he had set next to the tables mostly forgotten. Their music was a better poison, but it had a worse hangover by far. He would let out everything and once the music stopped it would smother him. Once they ran out of lyrics, once Jade had played her fingers ruddy and her voice had nearly gone, it all hurt again in a way he could not deal with. Jade leaned over to Dave and put her small hand over his own, his free hand twitching toward the unopened beer bottles.
"Talk to me. You have to talk about it sometime." He looked at her and pressed his lips together, bringing his free hand back away as the bottle balanced precariously between two lithe fingers and the table. He stared at it and squeezed Jade's hand before looking back to her. It was easier with her there, but his mind was flooding with awful memories and his exhaustion was showing clearly in his features despite his carefully controlled expression. His fractured mind was sure of one thing, though, and it was her. He could not have her the way he wanted. Not when he knew he was so beyond repair.
That did not keep him from being completely, unironically in love with her.
She looked up, her bright green eyes staring into the space where his red ones should be behind his shades with intense concern. Looking at her brought displaced memories into his mind, her screaming his name after she cut him down with her rifle, the first time he had kissed her on the golden ship two years into their journey, the feeling of helplessness as he tried to contact her just moments after he knew a meteor had been barreling toward her home. All the times he failed to save her. Helpless, lost, irrelevant. Gone.
Without thinking he took his hand from hers and reached for the beer, unwilling to deal with the memories anymore; still too much for his mind even after two years. Getting worse. Need an escape. Jade looked sadly at the bottle in his hand as he popped off the cap and threw half of it down in one go. It was disgustingly weak and warm, and he could not understand why he bothered with it, but in another few seconds it was gone and he was reaching for the second bottle. Jade stood up and walked to his bed, sitting down and keeping her eyes away from him. "I'm worried about you! You're gunna kill yourself if you keep going like this." Jade finally said.
"M'fine Harley, don't waste your worry on me. Got this shit under control." Dave answered her, taking another long swig as he began to feel the heat rising in his cheeks, the burn coursing its way through his body. He barely ate, and so it always hit him fast. He liked it that way. Made it a lot easier to lie. She knew better, though.
"Dave don't play games with me, I'm not stupid." She stood up from the bed and leaned over him, putting her hands against his face. He shuddered at her touch and stared at her wide green eyes, his hand gripping the neck of the bottle. He stayed perfectly still as she leaned down further, brushing his hair away from his forehead and pressing her own against it. His heart thrummed as he felt her breath against his skin, and it took every ounce of self-control he had not to move to touch her back. "You're already half-drunk, Dave. How much did you have before I got here?" He averted his eyes and frowned beneath his glasses, shrugging as his head spun to let him know that she was not wrong. Her face was still against his, and her hands were moving over his shoulders and it was too much. He turned his head to face her and moved so that his lips where an inch from hers, aching to press himself against her, the memory of the last time they had kissed burning against his mouth. "I just want to help. Please," she breathed, voice shaking a little.
Dave gritted his teeth and gently pushed her away, bringing the bottle to his lips to finish off the last of it. Jade looked at him with sad eyes, and it hurt him to see it but he was not about to drag her down with him. She was happy, she deserved to be happy. She deserved better than him.
"You should go, it's gettin' late and I'd feel bad for any asshole stupid enough to try and mug you." She straightened up and turned away from him for a moment, letting a small sigh escape her lips before she turned back to him with a smile that was more than a little forced.
"Yeah! I guess I should. You… keep in touch! We'll have to get together again."
"Mhm, 'course." He grinned at her and she could not help but flash a real smile at the sight of it. It was the smallest thing but it made her happy. Dave stood up, a little uneasy on his feet but balancing himself quickly, and let her pull him into a tight hug. Afterward, Dave walked Jade partway to the door and listened the rest of the time until there was the familiar click of the latch.
Without hesitation Dave moved to the kitchen and reached for the cabinets with trembling hands. It had taken all of his strength to keep steady in the long moments before she had left, but he was on the verge of a breakdown and the meager bottles of beer were nothing and he needed more.
twist the cap,
and drop to the floor.
His throat burned. The fire spread through his limbs like a blanket, but he continued to shake, so many visions of his friends dead, ones he had never recalled before. John and Jade and Rose covered in bright red blood as the time tables spun beneath his widened fingers. His own death, over and over. The feeling of swords in his gut and bullets and blood and pain. He gripped at his sleeves and pulled pointlessly, digging his nails into his skin through the fabric.
It was too long before the intoxicant finally kicked in, and he felt every second of it.
Inspired by the song Blame It On The Devil by Benjy Davis Project