Chapter 19 - Wednesday - December 19th, 2012
Rowan checked his phone one more time as he parked across the street from Wendy's house.
Agnes still hadn't replied to his text message.
He assumed she lost it again. For all he knew, it could be buried under a pile of fabric in her second closet, or stuck between the mattress and box spring.
That didn't explain why she hadn't called using the house phone, or logged onto messenger, or talked to him in person.
'She probably got caught up with helping Wendy plan her party.' he told himself as he got out.
Rowan looked up at the sound of voices. A few girls were gathered on the sidewalk, arguing with someone he couldn't see. He walked closer, resisting the urge to roll his eyes as they backed off, going inside Wendy's house when they saw him approach.
He watched the girls go, before he focused his attention on the person they had been arguing with.
The hood of his jacket hid his face as he leaned against a car. "Didn't think you'd be here," he muttered.
"Agnes invited me." said Rowan, "What was that all about? Are you okay?"
L shrugged, crossing his arms over his stomach. "Stupid shit. It's nothing. I'm fine."
"It's always something. You're obviously not fine. Look at me."
He pushed Rowan away when the brunet grabbed his hand. The heat seared his flesh, reminding him of how cold it was.
As he tried to pull back, his hood slipped off. Rowan let go, staring at the bruises on L's face. "That doesn't look like nothing." he said, looking the twenty-year-old up and down.
"I told you, I'm fine," L insisted. He yanked the hood back up.
"Dude, come on. At least tell me if you need to see a doctor,"
L ignored him. He curled his hands into fists, taking a deep breath. "You don't have to take me to the hospital." he said as Rowan checked his pulse with one hand, and his temperature with the other.
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't."
L knew what Rowan didn't say. 'Your heart rate is too slow. You're too cold.'
"Because I need you to trust me." his voice wavered as he spoke, "For once, please, just trust me. Please."
Rowan rested his hands on L's shoulders, trying not to superimpose the memory of those hands around his neck as he did. "What's going on? You never act like this."
"If you say it's nothing, I'm taking you to the emergency room." replied the brunet.
The pressure on his shoulders caused them to ache, even though Rowan was barely touching him. "I don't want to talk about it,"
He turned around, sighing in relief when Rowan dropped his hands to his sides. L didn't expect him to wrap his arms around him and hug him from behind, as he fumbled with the car keys in his pocket.
L let the keys slip through his fingers. He looked at him over his shoulder. "Rowan-"
The brunet kissed him.
He inhaled sharply, breaking the kiss. "What are you doing?" he whispered.
Rowan shook his head. "No matter how far I ran, I couldn't forget about you. I'm not running anymore."
"Are you serious about this?"
"I'm serious. You were right. I didn't try last time, because I was terrified of what might happen if I stayed. What if I killed you?"
L smirked. "You couldn't kill me if you tried."
"After that night, I never wanted to put you in a position like that again."
"Being choked during one of your episodes - and no, what you did wasn't abuse - hurt less than you walking out the door and not coming back."
Rowan held him tighter. "I'm sorry."
Trembling, L slumped against Rowan's chest. His vision blurred, and then darkness surrounded him.
When he woke, it was to agonizing pain as air from the heater blew across his skin. He sat up slowly, blinking in confusion. "What happened?" he asked as Rowan drove them somewhere.
"You passed out." said the brunet, features illuminated briefly from the headlights of passing cars.
"Where are-" L yawned, pausing mid-sentence. The gritty texture in his mouth wasn't just dehydration. He coughed, expelling whatever it was into his hand.
"You okay?" Rowan asked while he pulled into a gas station.
The man shook his head, coughing a few more times. "Mmm," he grumbled, opening his hand as he flicked on the overhead light.
A small pile of black sand glittered in the palm of his hand. "Oh, that's disgusting." L exclaimed, and brushed it off onto the ground after rolling down the window. He licked his lips, still feeling a few grains of sand that he hadn't spit out.
Rowan stared at him for a moment, then got out to fill up the tank.
"Get me something to drink while we're here, oh my gods, that was not normal." the auburn-haired man complained loudly. "It didn't even taste like sand!"
"You can tell the difference?" Rowan said neutrally, trying not to laugh, and failing.
L glared at him through the back window. "You know what? Shut up." He slouched in his seat, wiping his mouth. He would drink himself unconscious just to get rid of the aftertaste.
In spite of the heater, and Rowan's jacket draped over him like a blanket, he was still freezing. He listened to the brunet pay for the gas, then walk into the convenience store.
He must have dozed off. One second, he was staring at the dashboard, the next, Rowan was back. He turned the heater up, before driving away from the gas station, to the main road.
L blinked tiredly, reaching for the plastic bag that was between them. He grabbed a bottle of soda, twisted off the cap, washing down everything that weighed heavy on his tongue.
Vague impressions flowed through him. Smoke, dark, noxious, foul, old, terror. Run, escape, freedom, air.
He didn't know why he felt what he was feeling, just that it was wrong. He drank the whole bottle, and still tasted the black sand underneath.
"So are you gonna tell me what happened? You've got more bruises than the ones on your face."
L slouched further in his seat. "Gods, nothing gets past you, does it?" he sighed. "You checked while I was unconscious."
Rowan nodded. "I wasn't going to, but I had to be sure."
"I told you I was fine. If I had any life-threatening injuries, I'd say so."
"You don't always tell me, even then," Rowan pointed out, "What the hell is going on? How am I supposed to trust you, when you haven't given me a reason why?"
"Dude, since when do you need a reason? You believe in me, right? Shouldn't that be enough?"
"Of course I do. I just... whatever it is you're doing is dangerous. You have symptoms of hypothermia, and you're still walking around where people can see you?"
L tilted his head back, catching Rowan's gaze. "Yeah, willpower is amazing." he drawled.
"You're being reckless!"
"It's not like I'm going to die, all right? Is that what you're afraid of? Because you really ought to know me better than that."
"I know, but-"
"But what? Till death do us part, remember?"
Rowan smiled softly as L grabbed his hand, lacing their fingers together. "I remember."
"Good. Can we go home now? I want to sleep in a bed."
"You're not off the hook, you know. You still haven't told me what you're up to."
"No, nope, not saying shit. You can't make me. My lips are sea- oh my gods, don't kiss me! Keep your eyes on the road!"