Lee & Ben
"I'm not so good, Lee," Ben said - his voice was so fine, so frail, passing almost under the grasp of Lee's hearing, and the adult hobbled by the throbbing absence of his arm loped around to slide down the paint-dappled brick wall to sit with splayed legs at the boy's side.
It was crisp up on the roof, despite the bright white light. The wind tousled the youth's hair atop the humble hung head, the threadbare ends of his sweatshirt. It strung the wet of the end of where Lee still felt his arm.
Very theatrically, Ben opened his hands to empty air, actually grasping for words, and gasped at last utterly mirthlessly, "do you have to ask?"
Lee didn't. Arranging his arm on the array of his knees he nodded, deeply, acknowledging and then merely moving himself, making a tempo. He was subtly aware of Ben watching from under his disheveled fringe.
"I ruined everything." Ben whispered, as if speaking a confession.
"You made mistakes," Lee said after a silent instant as tense as a sprinter, and moved his hand across Ben's shivering shoulders soothingly. "We all do. Kenny has. I did."
"I killed people."
"So has Ken. So have I," Lee smiled bitterly and looked the youth exactly in the black liquid center of his fair round eyes, so much younger than the rest of him, the only honesty on his face. "I killed a man. A human man. Did you know that?"
Ben stared, astonished.
"I've killed more people and things that were people than I can count. I killed with my hands and I killed with my words. I killed with inaction. I've killed in every way possible. My hands," without considering it, Lee turned his head a little towards Ben's, holding his shoulder, a paternal gesture which perceptibly stilled the simmer of distress between them, and the elder continued in a quieted tone, with lamblike words, "my hands are red, Ben. They'll never wash clean."
Ben looked at the knuckles of his spare white hand crumpled in his lap. He looked exactly ahead of him, into nothing.
"This world gets into people. You get older and you become harder," Lee was saying, softly, sadly, and he felt now he was talking to something else, to the sky, to the future Clementine, "you become mean. You don't care. That hasn't changed. It's always been that way - you become something of the world.
"But not you.
"You are your own. You got something, Ben," Lee said. His hand on the child - really, he was only that - patted him less brusquely than it ever had. "You got something rare. You have ... integrity like grown men only dream of. In the end - " Ben's expression was collapsing - he would begin to cry - Lee put his arm gently around his back and Ben found a little fire and iron and looked with wet eyes Lee in the eye, and Lee smiled.
"In the end," Lee finished, very quietly, "you tried to do what was best for us - what was best for other people - even though it was hard, even though it scared you, you did the best thing you could of done."
Ben did cry. He pulled up his knees and his hood and closed like a butterfly in the cold.
Lee felt the impulse to hold him, which he defeated. Ben, he calculated, was just a little too old for that.
Instead he pat and pat and pat the boy's back and felt him cry and felt a tenderness for him, that impossible, asinine boy, not even ten years older than Clementine.
Did his weariness, his shock at the end of his arm soften him? Once he had wanted to strike the kid. Now he could almost cry for him. It was so strange to be at the end of his life.
"You're a good kid," Lee hushed.
"I'll watch her, you know." Lee was surprise to hear his voice, sturdy, sure, adult as he had ever heard it come from the kid. "Clementine. I won't ... I'll protect her."
Lee looked into the sky. He didn't feel well - numb - he felt only shivering apprehension and the cold air against the heat of his gruesome wound afloat on the ocean of his pain - but he saw as clearly as if projected before his eyes his girl alone somewhere in that mess of carnivore, in that horror, and he saw Ben's small white clean hands, and saw that they looked like hers.
"I know," Lee said finally, and was surprised to find Ben had sought out his own hand and squeezed it once.
"It'll be okay," Ben said, and smiled.
a/n: ... i don't think i care for this chapter lol
i'll probably rewrite it a little later but now i just want to get it up and get on with my life