Title: The Idiot's Idiom
Pairing: Dorian Gray/Tom Sawyer
Summary: Honestly, Dorian has no idea what Tom is saying half of the time.
I pat myself on the back for the title. Hahaha. I seriously love it.
Long time no Tom… and Dorian. It takes me a while to write these, you understand. Especially when you incorporate all of the procrastination. lol. Then, of course, I let it sit on my hard drive for a year. Proofread it a couple of times with a month or so in between each reading. Takes a while. I actually started writing this one two years ago. Wow.
I sit my book down upon the circular table that stands so resolute in its fated position near my chair. My home could stand for a bit of remodeling after all of these years, but, at the same time, I find that I am quite content with the way things are. As long as every surface parallel to the ground— and the occasional odd and infrequent angle— isn't blanketed by a thick coating of dust, I am complacent enough to simply ignore my furniture entirely. Let it all stay where it was first sat decades ago, for all I care. I find it fitting that everything remains as it was, my house as frozen in time as the features of my sublime face.
The chilling metal of the poker slides through my fingers before they wrap around it, lifting the iron rod and placing it into the dying fire. It's quite cool in here. However, I suppose it is to be expected for early March weather in London. Cold winds never seem to take the hint that a change in the season is on the way. They stay well past their welcome, like some unwanted houseguest.
Though I am not overly fond of it, the cold doesn't bother me as much as it once did. So, it is not necessarily for myself that I stoke these flames and add another piece of firewood onto the already glowing logs.
Dusting the tiny shavings of wood from my palms, I let my left hand rest against the molding of the mantel, supporting the brunt of my weight. My right holds the poker and stirs the blaze around to a satisfactory level. This fire is for Tom.
I'm not being kind, and I would thank you to not assume such a thing. If anyone else knew just how terribly annoying his complaints can become when within my drafty house, they themselves would build him a flame to rival a king's funeral pyre. He whines and he moans and he whimpers like some starving infant. But instead of milk, he demands heat. Every winter, I begin to tell myself that if he keeps such protests up, he won't see the spring. I'll kill him first. And yet here he is, three winters later, still alive; it truly is a miracle.
Or rather… here he is not. He left several hours ago. I didn't bother to ask where he would be, and he did not tell. We have both, by now, reached some sort of silent agreement that he doesn't need to tell me where he's going. He's not a child, despite my often voiced opinion to the contrary.
I simply wish that this one time he had told me when I should expect him back. I'm wasting firewood. Well, that was the last log I'll sacrifice to the gluttonous flames, let me tell you. The boy can come back to a dark and chilly house. I believe that I shall send him out to get more wood tomorrow as well. How rude of him, leaving and staying gone for hours and hours. Whenever he gets back I'll…
I stop short in my thoughts— tirade or justified frustration, think of it what you will— upon hearing a subtle, but heavy, banging. The sound has all the grace of an old man falling down stairs, and I can tell just how loud it actually is from its far off source: my front door. Oh, goodness.
Placing the poker gently back into its cradle on the hearth, I push myself away from the mantle elegantly and find that I am in no real hurry. After all, saying that I am without my guess as to what is producing the noise would be only a half-truth.
The wooden stairs groan tiredly under my unwanted weight as I descend them. The rotting handrail trembles under my fingers, barely supported on the few bars that remain to bear it. I round the corner and begin toddling down the next flight of the old worn-out things. Where some might speed up after seeing their target in sight, I decline the obligation, even if that means I must continue to be assaulted by the insistent and tuneless knocking.
I step on a loose, creaking floorboard, then several that are still in good condition, before reaching my destination. A minute is the time I take in pause, making the predictable causer of the knocking wait even longer in the cold.
After my sixty seconds, a reasonable facsimile of pity festers its way down my arm and towards my fingers, forcing them to wrap around the cool doorknob. Looking out the eyehole's grate is something I don't even suffer through the process in doing. It isn't as if I don't know who's out there.
And, of course, there in the chilling night air, displayed against dark, crumbling buildings and rolling fog, stands Tom. 'Stands,' what an unfitting word. The boy is leaning into the wall, face buried in the bricks and his cloaked arm stretched out towards me, ready to bang on the wood of the now opened door again.
"What is it this time?" I chide dully, holding the door with one hand and running the other passively through my hair. "Forgot your key, lost your key, or can't remember how to open a door?"
"Dorian!" he exclaims joyfully, the corners of his mouth turning up until they meet those rosy cheeks. "Dorian Gray, right here in the immortal flesh."
"I do live here," I scoff in return, grabbing his arm. "Come inside before someone sees you doing something stupid."
"Don't have'ta tell me twice. Cold as a well digger's ass in January out here." I only have a second's luxury to ponder what in the world that could possibly mean before he's spinning his arm around until it's him grabbing mine and then shoving me into the door. "Yer so beautiful." The words are caught in some unpleasant realm located between slurs and drawls. And as if that bolstered accent of his from southern America wasn't a big enough tip-off, there's always the fact that he smells like the inside of some cheap bottle of alcohol to tell me that he is undoubtedly drunk.
"Yes, thank you. And to what do we owe your inebriation this evening?" I try pushing him away enough so that I'm at least able to shut the door, but he seems resilient in resisting me. Long, coarse fingers pass through my hair, thoroughly destroying the order I had created there.
"Warmth, Dorian," he whispers in my ear. The fact that he's trying to rile me up to whatever level he's on is laughable. As if his drunken state could ever make me desire him.
"Get inside," I demand, pulling on his blond hair from behind until he straightens up and backs away.
"I's fixin' to," he sulks. It is short-lived though, and as soon as I have at last managed to close the door and turn around, his stupid grin is back in place.
"Go sleep off your drunkenness in the library. You're not coming to bed with me tonight." I begin to walk away and the boy is fast on my heals. As if it would ever be that easy.
"That ain't very nice. 'Specially after you good as kicked me out earlier. Wouldn't light a danged fire if there's icicles hanging off the ceilin'. So I went to the first bar I saw smoke risin' outta. Had to buy a drink to stay though."
Given the fact that Tom is continuing to follow me, I reason that I might as well take him to the library, where I intend to leave him. "And since you were there for hours, I imagine that they received a fair amount of patronage from you. I'll have you know, however, that I started a fire in the library almost as soon as you left."
"Dorian," he coos, a blurry running together of syllables, "yer so sweet." From behind, he quickly wraps one arm and then the other around my frame, pulling me into his muscular self. "And so beautiful, perfect even. Like… like one a them Greek statues."
"How flattering the intoxicated ramblings of a drunk can be. Now get off of me," I hiss, attempting to rid myself of his hold. My surprise can be imagined when he actually lets up so that I'm allowed to pull myself to freedom. "Are you hungry?" I ask passively, more concerned with getting something in his stomach to absorb, what must be, copious amounts of alcohol than if his appetite is wanting. After a second or two of no answer, I ask again in a more harsh tone, accompanied by the amplified volume that usually comes with it. When still there is no reply, I look back behind me to see him leaning against the dilapidated wall, his eyes closed and posture restful.
Dear God, provided you have not forsaken me entirely for my past deeds, please give me the strength to not kill this idiot. "Tom!" I shout, pushing him backwards at the same time. I can see his eyes open halfway down, and as quickly as their lids reveal them, they turn to a confused fear as he falls back without reason.
I hear his head hit and shake a hollow thump throughout the floor and its old boards. He looks around himself for a moment before those light eyes land on me, the lips following them in action, pulling into a smile. "Dorian," he beams.
"Imbecile," I answer. However, I suppose he is a blessing to these silent halls— a happy little thing under the frequent guise of a curse— so I assist him, giving him a hand up and back onto his wobbling feet. "Come along, my drunken oaf." For some reason, he feels that is an invitation to lean heavily on me, wrap his arm around my neck for support, and pant his liquored breath even closer to my face.
I do draw the line at hauling him up the steps when we reach them though. He goes before me, so I may catch him in case the obligatory action becomes necessary. I watch his progress, mentally divorced between laughing at the sight of him crawling on his hands and knees— finding slight purchase on each stair— or making a point to loudly scoff at the disgusting spectacle of it.
When he at last reaches the landing and the stairwell's halfway point, Tom makes a pathetic show of insisting on a quick rest. "Geez," he grunts, his head lolling back onto the floor. "Feel like I done been rode hard and put up wet."
"Yes. Whatever that means." I nod, trying to walk around him and get off of the purgatory in which I wait between two stairs. "Some might take a lesson from this; others most definitely would when the impending headache descends upon them in the morning. But not you, Tom. Oh, no. You are special."
"Hey," he objects, a drawled word straight out of the creeks of Missouri. "I only been this bad off once before in… in my whole life."
"Do tell," I smile, goading the story out of him.
"Oh, it's been more 'an a coon's age, Dorian," Tom replies in a cryptic and confusing sentence. "Me and Huck," the boy I now know to have been his childhood friend, "followed Muff Potter down to a moonshine still once. Waited 'til nobody was 'round, and then we had our fill. That stuff really is white lightning… Dorian. That's how it goes down. Not like that… drink in the bar." He laughs at himself, some secret joke hidden in his subconscious, I suppose. At last though— one, maybe two, minutes later— he speaks through his lingering chuckles. "Aunt Polly," he snorts again. "She paddled the blood outta my legs with a hickory switch… when I came stumbling in the next morning. Like the pain in my head weren't bad enough. Couldn't sit fer darn near a week." A laugh, a chuckle, a snicker, and then he stills, perfectly quiet.
"Homesick yet, Tom?" I ask seriously, but without any real care. He is or he is not, neither is very important to me.
Tucking his arm underneath himself, he rolls onto his side, staring at the steps remaining until the library is reached. "Not yet, Dorian," he says solemnly, a flawless impersonation of sobriety in his voice. "Not yet."
"Then get upstairs and to the library," I mutter, chagrinned. "I won't wait around all night long to be your safety net."
Once more he pulls himself up onto his knees, feeling around until he grabs a hold of the banister. Struggling, Tom attempts to pull himself to standing, but thinks twice when he feels the unsteady and quivering state of the rail.
"Here," I huff, pulling him up by his arm. Again, he leans heavily on me. His breath, his weight, his warmth become the reoccurring burden to my senses. Never mind shaking him off this time, however. It's simply faster to heave him up the stairs myself.
"Thank you, Dorian," the boy smiles when I all but throw him onto the battered couch that I had earlier moved closer to the fireplace.
I don't respond to his thanks, only feed another couple of logs to the fire. There is tranquility, a composed serenity, to be found in toying with flames. You hold its short life in your hands, deciding which movement will allow it to thrive. But since it is such an unimportant existence, there is no real burden or pressure, should you fail in your duty.
Warmth and light slowly flow into the room before I feel my job is done. I am about to return to my chair for a bit of reading before bed until I become aware of Tom and the stupid grin settled happily onto his face. It is not that, however, that specifically draws in my attention.
"And where," I ask, knowing that whatever he may answer cannot be good, "did you get those bruises?" Two litter his face, one of them a swollen mass on his eye that I can only see now in the bright luminosity of the fire. There's another on his chest that I can see through the low neckline of his shirt, caused by torn fabric and missing buttons. His knuckles are red on his left hand and almost purple— from what I can tell around the dried blood— on the right. "Tell me now if there's some fine I have to pay or policeman I have to worry about showing up on my doorstep."
"Nothin'," he responds, kneading his fingers over the skin of his eyes, to stop a headache or coax the room against spinning no doubt. "It's nothin'." As if he could really deter my questioning so easily.
"Where," I begin again, crossing the length of the rug that lies between us, "did you get them?" Grabbing the dirtied and bloody hand off of his stomach where it rests, I inspect for any sign that it may stain my sofa. But it is all dried and matted into the cracks and torn skin of his knuckles. "Tell me," I growl at his continued silence, unable to believe myself a bargainer, "and I'll get you some first aid for it all."
"Fight," he replies at last, as if that had not been obvious to me. "In the bar."
Dropping his filthy hand, I rub at my own head as if it ached. "And did you even think of me in all of this?" I scoff. "What kind of message does that send people if they know the boy I keep in my company goes off brawling like some common street thug?"
"Ain't like I wanted to," Tom tries to defend. "That guy's just lookin' for a fight. Reckon he'd argue with a fence post if he thought it went and offended him somehow."
"I know it's not in your low class blood, but did you ever consider simply abstaining?"
He doesn't respond for a long moment, and instead of expediting the matter immediately, I choose to wait through my overabundance of time and walk around the room. I take some almost melted ice from the drink tray and wrap it in my handkerchief. Ice, such a luxurious item and here I am using it to press on a black eye. There's a dirty strip of cloth laying on the edge of a bookshelf from where Tom stopped not even halfway through dusting earlier, and I throw that into the tin of liquefied ice water.
"Sit up for a moment," I order when I have him back in my sights. Obviously, the boy is curious to my actions because he had already raised his head so as to follow me around. Slowly, he pulls himself up before I sit down and pull him none too gently backwards, his head resting in my lap.
It's almost like a picturesque moment. We are some doting couple, gauging their affections by how close they can be, petting and loving one another. In a quick motion to remove such drivel from my mind, I slap my ice laden handkerchief onto his already sore eye. He releases a quick yelp before I hush him. "Give me your hand."
I wring the filthy cloth of its surplus of water before applying it to the fist and its fraying skin. I dab and then I rub, increasing the pressure until Tom is gritting his teeth together, his one visible eye clasped shut in secret agony. He tries to hide this pain, of course, but I can see it.
"Shoot fire and save matches! It was rainin' Dorian," he exclaims, hoping that I will ease up on my rough treatment if he answers me. I do. "Couldn't leave. Comin' down so hard outside. Sounded like a cow pissin' on a flat rock."
"Poetic," I sneer at his choice in words.
"Thas one Huck used ta say," he smiles. If his alcohol induced longing for America weren't obvious enough in his return to its tongue, his constant dwelling on old ghosts and faraway relatives— more frequent now than ever— is as clear to read as a schoolbook taken from a small child. What a simple boy he is. "I's cold when I first walked in, so I went and sat down right next to the big ol' fireplace they got. Ain't no time though I started sweatin' like a whore in church."
"Do you actually have any of these sayings that would be acceptable in pleasant society?"
In answer, he only grins and shakes his head. "So I mosey on. Go over to this other table and start chewin' the fat with these sailor guys already sittin' there. Nice buncha guys righ' there. They taught me a song. How'd it go…"
"Don't." I shake my head, in positively no way wanting to hear the sort of tune sang by drunk sailors in a bar.
"Well, then after it started to rain, I couldn't well leave. So I stayed a little longer. After awhile, in comes this guy from the rain, soaked to the bone and lookin' like he ain't got a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of." Tom takes a minute to snicker to himself before continuing, all the while leaving me to my own machinations— wrapping the old rag around the slightly reopened injury along his knuckles. Perhaps I did rub just a bit too hard. "Throws his coat up on a peg, then he's on me like white on rice. Apparently… I'm sittin' in his seat, and he very much wants me to get up. But I'm enjoyin' talkin' to my sea farin' friends. And, well I mean, this guy's wearin' rags sewn to rags, and I don't see him as the type to have a regular seat, ya know. So I tell him, I said, 'Why don't you go and want in one hand an' spit in the other. Sees which one fills up fastest.'"
"Yes," I sigh, stumbling all over the knot I was attempting to tie in the makeshift bandage as I am completely overcome by his stupidity, "clearly this fight was unavoidable."
"Yeah," he slurred. "'Cause then he said we should 'take it outside.' Guess he thought he could take me on account of the fact I's already drunk."
"I'm guessing that only helped him a little bit," I comment, picking up the handkerchief on his eye long enough to wipe away the melted ice pooling in the swollen socket.
"Didn't really wanna go outside an' get wet," he said sullenly. "But then he grabbed me by my collar and dragged me out the door. You know, Dorian, this really is the kinda guy who'd cut his own nose off to spite his face. Already had me outta his seat. Guess he just wanted me to beat him up."
"He was no doubt a masochist." I grin, finding the turning movement of my lips odd. Any man should rightly assume that he can beat up another who is already in a drunken stupor.
"Darn near slick as owl crap. And tough as a pine knot to boot. Kind of guy just lookin' to stir it up. Got a couple punches in 'fore I could stop him." I don't really feel up to interrupting Tom to tell him that it was no doubt slowed reactions on his part due to the watered-down grog he'd been drinking. "And then… What happened next?" he asks himself. "Oh, the sailors had followed us out and tried to break it up. When that guy stood still long enough to argue with them, I finally got a punch in. Got him right in the ear," he says, trying to tap at his own ear and finally managing on his forth attempt. "Then he goes to holdin' the side of his head and runnin' around like a chicken with its head cut off."
"I wasn't aware they still lived afterwards," I said oddly, fixing him with a stare.
"Yeah, and then after that I was all over the guy. Beat him like a red-headed stepchild. You coulda went to town on the swollen lip I gave him." He taps his fist lightly against my own mouth in a replication of the punch.
"These stories always leave me feeling so proud I consort with you," I groan, rolling my eyes. Idly, I begin running my fingers through his hair, still vaguely damp from the rain. One finger finds the beginning of a small mound on the side of his head, hidden in the blond strands of hair. "You wouldn't go and do something troubling like getting a concussion, now would you, Tom?"
"That?" He winces when I touch it again. "Nah, that's just a little bump. Nothin' to worry 'bout, Dorian."
"Worried? No, I never said I was worried. I only said it would be troublesome. Because you know I'm not in the mood to stay up and look after you all night."
"Say what ya like," he coos in reply, letting loose a great yawn afterwards.
"I will, thank you." I push on the spot again just to make him cringe from the tenderness of it. "Don't go getting such high opinions of yourself, Tom. You're an amusement to me, nothing else."
"You know," he grins, eyelids closing from want of sleep, "my Aunt Polly used to say she never understood a person who'd rather climb a tree and tell a lie, than stand down on the ground an' tell the truth."
Abruptly, I stand up from the couch, letting his head fall to its cushion with a slight bounce. "You should know better than to think of me as one who tells lies or climbs trees. I have no want, nor need, to do either."
"Of course, Dorian." His reply is passive and his movements sluggish as he tries to wriggle up the couch and place his head on the armrest. It doesn't escape my notice either that he's using his muddy boots for leverage, getting their grime all over the nice cushion.
"Take off those filthy shoes," I bark, angered when he just smirks at me, eyes closed.
"Could ya take 'em off for me? I'm 'bout as much good as a bump on a log right now, probably less."
"I most certainly will not. And stop speaking with your little mottos. It's getting on my final nerve." It really is. Sometimes I find the little sayings, at best, endearing but right now and with so many on his tongue at once, all I find myself wanting to do is wring his neck and throw him out the door.
Although, there is one ridiculous little southern phrase of his that I don't completely detest. Though I can never remember it. So I suppose that I don't exactly like it enough to care either.
"If you do it for me, I'll give you a yankee dime," he beams slyly, eyes still shut to the spinning world around him.
"What is that? Some sort of American currency?" I ask, feigning only a passive interest. Oh, how he loves exploiting the collector inside of me. What a cunning boy.
"I ain't gonna tell ya until I give it to ya. And I ain't gonna give it to ya until you help me with my boots." Tom's really high on himself now. I should just leave him, alone and disappointed. But there is still the matter of my couch…
"All right then," I growl, stepping forward to work off those muck encrusted shoes of his. I untie one, getting its wetted dirt on my fingers and wiping it on his own pants. When I start in on the other, I can hear him start to chuckle to himself. Somehow I know it's meant for me, and all I can say is that he'd best not be playing me. "There," I say upon completion, tossing the filthy things over onto the brick by the fireplace. "Now where's my dime?"
"Well, ya gotta come here," he says, unhappy about my being several paces away. "I can't give it to ya all the way over there, now can I?"
I step nearer with a groan, and when I'm standing before him, he only motions that I should lean down even closer. By the time he is satisfied, I'm only about a foot from his face. "Well?"
Apparently, at least part of his drunkenness is an act, because a man as inebriated as he's playing would have had trouble grabbing me as fast as he does. But grab me he does, and with one hand around my neck and the other wrapped around my back, he pulls me down for a disgustingly wet kiss, the whole thing reeking of rum and spices. I linger for just a second because it's in that instant I remember what a 'yankee dime' is. Yes, I remember now his use of that kiss as payment before, the underhanded dog.
"You think you're just so clever, don't you?" I say, pulling off of him and wiping my mouth with the sleeve of my jacket.
"It'd be a lie to say I didn't."
How content he is with himself. Laid back like he is with his arms across his chest and a big, fat smile on his face, I'm surprised I don't hear any tweeting from his stomach. For he is every bit the cat who ate the canary.
Hurray for me somehow making a sweet ending in an LXG fic while keeping Dorian in character. Sometimes, I amaze even myself. Haha. Just kidding.
I'm from the south, and though I don't personally use these phrases, I have at some point in my life heard my grandmother use every single one. Every single one. A dinner with her inspired this fan fiction. I'm not sure how many of these are heard outside of the south (or my own family), but I thought that using them for Tom would be funny. Poor Dorian. No idea what he's talking about. He's learned to just nod and carry on.
My mom always used to get me with "yankee dime" as a kid. She would ask me to get her something or do something and then bribe me with a yankee dime. And every single time, I'd have forgotten what it was, and I'd do what she wanted, all excited. Then she'd give me a kiss. Because I don't know what it is, but the power of the yankee dime is that if you space them out enough, people will forget what it is. Hahaha.