|Once a month, Atticus is (gnawed) wrote in doorslogs,|
@ 2013-08-14 01:02:00
|Entry tags:||beast, cheshire cat, gwen stacy, norman osborn|
Who: Daniel, Lin, Neil & Sam
What: A hospital visit that could not possibly go worse
Where: A hospital in Henderson County
Warnings/Rating: This is miserable. And there are inferences of terrible things. And everyone cries at some point. So, yeah.
The Henderson County Police Department had called Turnberry Place directly. They'd waited while the guard on duty got in touch with Daniel Webster, who was listed on Samantha Alexander's SAMHS admission documents as her financial backup. They'd informed him that they'd utilized photographs provided by Neil Donovan to identify the badly bruised and unconscious young woman who had been retrieved from Ian Russell's suspected residence outside Las Vegas' city limits. Could he come, they asked, to sign financial paperwork, and to speak to the doctors about who was considered Samantha Alexander's healthcare surrogate, if there was next of kin to make medical decisions until she woke, and did he know Neil Donovan? It was short, cursory, matter of fact. A police would escort to them to the hospital, which was being left unnamed to avoid excessive coverage as the manhunt for Ian Russell continued.
The hospital was thirty minutes outside the city. It was small, unimpressive, and the police had gone to considerable effort to keep it out of the public eye. Police cruisers dotted the curved entrance, and identification was required to enter the building for any reason. The nurses looked nervous, eyes glancing this way and that, and two of them whispered in the corner about wanting someone to walk them to their cars when their shift ended. Ian Russell was whispered from around corners, fear taking over the small community Ian had decided to set up as the headquarters for his house of torture, and these same women watched all new arrivals with the wary interest that came from being caught in a nightmare that still retained some element of curiosity.
To get into the wing that held Sam Alexander, police interview was required. Names, driver's license checks and a check for firearms. The two head doctors handling the highly public case were young men, worried looks in their eyes and annoyance at the way the police insisted on getting in the way of their jobs. But they stood by and watched until clearance had been given, a representative from the District Attorney's office accompanying them when they finally led the visitors down the long and quiet hall to the private rooms in the empty wing of the hospital.
The situation, they described briefly, looked physically worse than it was, and they urged whoever intended to visit the patient's room not to show their distress. There was internal bruising, a significant amount of external bruising and swelling, and the patient had not yet regained consciousness, which they attributed to attempts at suffocation and trauma to the head. They expected some level of memory impairment, but no brain damage, and there was no physical reason, however, for the patient not to wake up at any moment. The drugs in her system were being flushed out, but they were concerned for the mental condition of the young woman, once she woke. That was their primary concern. Who was responsible for the young woman? They would send someone to help with the healthcare surrogate paperwork, and the DA promised to expedite the case. Was her husband accessible, parents? She had listed Daniel Webster and Neil Donovan, both, as next of kin during various hospital stays, and there would be follow-up care to consider, which could be discussed at a later time.
With that, the doctors and the DA left the three men in a comfortable waiting room, indicating they would give them privacy to discuss.
Neil didn’t arrive out front in thirty.
He was outside Turnberry in ten because he’d run red lights and gone excessively over the speed limit, but somebody upstairs must’ve finally taken pity on him because there were no flashing lights and sirens to uphold the rules of the road. Part of him remembered Lin saying something about Daniel, but predominantly he wasn’t very concerned with anything but Sam; everything else was filed as insignificant and slipped into the back of his mind for a time when his hold on sanity was a little more secure. He just wanted to go. He didn’t care what happened to Ian, didn’t care if someone finally killed him or if the cops got there first just so long as the bastard got what he deserved one way or another. He waited and waited and he didn’t say a damn word once they finally got moving, thirty minutes of silence with a police escort while he stared out the window and wished fervently that this was a nightmare he’d wake up from. Yeah, they’d found her. Yeah, she was alive. But Ian had fucked her up, he knew that, and god help him he wasn’t sure if her mental state was strong enough to get her through this. He wasn’t sure if his was strong enough either, because he was a really shitty support system even on a good day, everyone knew that. But those were thoughts for later. Later, when he’d seen Sam himself.
There were a lot of cops, and he didn’t like the way the nurses looked at them when they were finally allowed entrance into the hospital. Too many people and too much goddamn talking, and he felt like it took an eternity just to get past all the security. Which was a good thing, he knew that, he’d wanted that; he’d thrown a fit and thrown around money to rope in the media and the cops and light a fire under their asses, but his patience was shot to hell and he was seconds away from snapping and screaming at everyone in sight. Once clearance was given and they were led down the hallway, Neil heard what the doctors said without really absorbing any of it. On some level he did, but he couldn’t keep up, all their talk of next of kin and finances and paperwork and follow-up care bleeding over into a mess of words and sounds he couldn’t separate just then. Whatever Sam needed, he would do. He’d fucked up so many times in the past but not this time, not now. This time he’d get it right.
Finally, finally, all the people were gone. Neil sat in one of the waiting room chairs and stared at the ground; Lin and Daniel might as well have not been there for all the attention he paid him. His usual animosity towards the latter was lessened by his concern for Sam, and the fact that he didn’t feel entirely connected to reality just then dulled the hatred too.
The skin around Lin’s fingernails was irritated, red and tight with astringence, from the day’s constant stripping and re-application of nail polish: deep green with gold hexagonal gold glitter, matte purple pleather, a neon yellow that could overstimulate photoreceptors so much that even microsaccades are ineffective, Illamasqua’s satin matte in a sort of greenish one might see in a Model T, pink glitter, and on and on, until the final and current silver chrome look on all eight fingers and gold on the thumbs. Acetone and lacquer were his coping mechanism of choice when it came to stress—at least when it came to the type of stress that was so overwhelming that even reading was beyond him—and he had spent literal hours focusing his galaxy of musings into constellations of application of colors to keep his thoughts from traversing the unending expanse of anxiety with only some success. There was so much to worry about, from Sam, to Louis, to Daniel, to Neil, to Ella. The boy’s usual air of playfulness, his buoyant grin and graphic tees in bright colors were all conspicuously missing.
Traipsing down the antiseptic white hallways of the no-name hospital, past security checkpoints that made TSA look weak, Lin was fucking tired, like emotionally and physically. Like, metaphysically. Like, mentally. His sleep had been terrible at best and it showed in the washed out sand of his face and the plain black t-shirt he wore that was flurried with kitten fur. Whatever care he showed for his nails, it was unapparent everywhere else. He walked in step with Daniel, behind the loom of Neil, and peered around at the eerie cleanliness and the small doors that stood closed like teeth in a mouth. But he was happy. He was optimistic, even after everything, that Sam was the person found, and that she would be okay. Maybe not right away, but eventually, because she had no other choice. Fuck Ian.
And too, despite everything, there was a hint of curiosity in his eyes. He’d never met Neil before now, and though the man was distracted and worried and hardly acknowledging the existence of anyone, Lin looked for the attributes Sam had named—the accent, the gorgeousness—whatever it was that drew her to him like a small Jersey moth in overalls to excessively rich flame. He sat in the seconds before the doctors came to explain and watched the man carefully. He didn’t bother acting as a physical barrier between him and Daniel, as neither seemed in the mood to spit at one another, but his muscles were coiled tight around bones, ready if they were needed.
He listened very intently to the men in white coats and nodded along, understanding, very aware that he was likely the only one currently capable of actually taking in information. It was only once they left that he pressed palms to his eyes and sighed before turning in his seat to face the two men who hated each other and, in their own ways, loved Sam.
“Neil,” he said, choosing to speak to him first, taking note of the glaze-eyed gaze and the tension apparent in every cell of the dude’s body. Lin blinked. “Do you need a hug or something?”
Daniel was a frenetic shadow out in the larger world, a shrunken reflection of the large voice that figured so huge in blue ink on the page. Even in his own small frozen realm he was bigger than this, and now extracted from the careful shell he constructed at the top of Turnberry Place, he seemed without reach and without any real presence at all. Even if he stretched out a hand it wouldn’t touch anything, and he made absolutely no attempt. Lin was the one that answered the phone, Lin was the one that wanted to travel, and it was Lin that got in the car and was positive enough to assume there was still a Sam left to be identified.
Daniel was so drunk that the scent of whiskey was strong enough to repel unsuspecting hospital staff, who all looked relatively impressed he was still standing, much less comprehending. He was wearing a thin, time-worn white shirt and black slacks flecked with cat hair. The dark curls were a solid mass against the pallor of his face and, particularly next to the larger Neil and the vibrant Lin, Daniel’s diminished physique made him look loose on his feet, without weight. Though he moved forward where he was told, he stayed in a general orbit around Lin, as if the boy had more gravity than anything else.
Despite the liquor haze, Daniel was twitchy as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. He moved back when people approached him, as if expecting them to scream into his face, and he was rigid with the effort it took to appear capable of talking to anyone. He signed the forms that were pushed at him, but otherwise folded his arms closely against his chest, expression pinched.
Daniel sat down next to Neil, ignoring the sheer impossibility of even being in the man’s presence. Neil disgusted Daniel, obvious because he looked at him with an expression of such contempt it superseded any other emotion. When Lin spoke, Daniel snarled silently, but did not comment. Who the fuck cared what Neil needed?
It took longer than it should have for Neil to realize he was being spoken to. The fact that this was his first time meeting both Lin and Daniel was completely lost on him, and even if he’d managed to comprehend it he wouldn’t have cared. He looked up, unfocused gaze and dark circles beneath his eyes, days worth of stubble along a jaw that was usually kept neat and trimmed. “What?” Little things began to creep in, then. He looked at Lin, and he looked at Daniel, the strong smell of booze both tempting and revolting. He might have disgusted Daniel, but the feeling was mutual. At that moment, however, he didn’t give a damn what Daniel the drunk thought of him. He practically looked through him, in fact, and returned his gaze to his knees. He didn’t want a hug. He didn’t want anyone touching him. He just wanted Sam, and he wanted her to be okay, and he wanted all of this to have never happened at all.
“No, I don’t need a hug.” His response was hollow, an indication of how very little he cared about himself and everything that wasn’t Sam just then.
Lin cared what Neil needed. They were about to walk in and ID the unconscious, very fucked up body of his kind of girlfriend and the dude was fucking stretched taut, a string too tight to scream on the neck of a violent violin, and if the shit would help him, if a hug would offer some comfort or ground or anything, Lin was more than willing to comply. In the end, it would help Sam, because Neil snapping and throwing chairs would probably not improve her situation in any way were it to happen. —But, the man didn’t want a hug, which he indicated with a dearth of emotion and apparent comprehension, it was a stone falling into a cavern one once thought full of water. Lin could only frown at that. He stood and placed his hands on his hips as he paced toward the door of the breathless, little room.
Lin paused briefly and bounced on the balls of his feet, before twisting back around to face the two men in their neighboring chairs. Both looked miserable, both looked glass-eyed and dim, and the fucking tension, if somewhat wan under the circumstances, was palpable enough for the boy to draw closer. Normally, he was a generally understanding, live-and-let-live, emote-and-let-emote kind of guy, but this was ridiculous.
In two short snaps of skin on skin, Lin clapped his hands together in front of Neil and Daniel’s faces. He gave them both a severely disapproving look.
“Jesus Christ, get a fucking hold of yourselves, you assholes. We’re about to go in there. Maybe you think focusing incessantly and obsessively on Sam is what the situation calls for, but it’s not. It won’t help her if you fucking can’t think or listen to the shit people say to you. God knows she’s not going to be able to, so you have to do it for her. And it’s not going to help her if you deny your own fucking existence in exchange for hers. Shape the fuck up. Both of you need to acknowledge the fact that we’re here and be fucking present while we are.” Lin spoke quickly, snappishly (an indicator of lack of sleep on his part), but he was absolutely serious. The current outward-peering, but dull-eyed worry taking up all the air in the room was going to drive him crazy and then suffocate him, maybe not even in that order. Somehow. It was fucking hard enough propping people up and attempting to give them what they needed in a fucking crisis, piece-of-shit situation like this, but for the fucking people themselves to be uncooperative and dickheads was just a fucking cherry on top of the cake that Lin did not want. So he threw it at floor and stomped on it and gave it a stern talking to. “Capisce, bros? If you can hear me blink twice or, idfk, use your fucking words, maybe.”
When the impact of Lin’s hands rang through his ears, Daniel started so violently that the reaction rocked the sturdy hospital chair sideways and cracked the wooden curve of one arm against the neighboring one. He felt like his whole spine was an old rubber band and it had just rebounded against the back of his neck. Only the kitten made noises that loud in Daniel’s house, collapsing bookcases or batting half-filled tumblers off the kitchen counter, and the hospital waiting room had been relatively quiet.
Daniel said, “Fuck, Lin!” in an exclamation of mingled surprise and mounting anger. He lurched to his feet and shoved one shoulder into Lin’s as he put distance between himself and both of the other men, his pinched expression now cracking into red irritation. Daniel was not a strong person to begin with, and Lin’s reminder that they were going to be visiting drop sharp railroad spikes of paranoia down through his chest. “She’s not going to want to see me,” he said, very harshly, almost aggressively, drawing back. He didn’t want to see Sam hurt. It scared him, and he was resisting. He broke Lin’s gravitational field on him with a sharp abortive twist in the direction of the door.
That was not what Lin meant by using one’s words, turns out. He was kind of hoping the dudes would go more the way of ‘yes, capisce! We understand, Lin, you wonderful unicorn’ than his name with the word fuck preceding it. The explosive startle and following curse were not totally unexpected by way of reaction coming from Daniel, but Lin still would’ve preferred otherwise. He stuttered back a step with a squeal of rubber sole to pristine tile from the impact of shoulder to shoulder, and pivoted on his heel to follow Daniel’s body with his eyes. Partially out of curiosity and partially to make sure he wasn’t about to keel over—at least they were in the right place for such, if he did, right? And at least the move didn’t frighten him now as it once would’ve.
“Daniel,” began Lin, stepping across the room as the man veered toward the door. The boy in black acted quickly and wedged himself between the escape artist and the way out. Hopefully a doctor wouldn’t come in and hit him in the ass. That would be unpleasant. Lin put a hand to Daniel’s chest and pressed, trying to push him back into the room. “She is going to want to see you. She might want to be alone eventually, I don’t know. But, seeing the—haha...—smiling faces of people she cares about is not a bad thing. You know, if you don’t actually want to go into the room, you can stay in here. Or do you want to hold my hand?”
The still-coming offers of physical contact were Lin’s way of attempting comfort to whomever appeared needy of such. Hugs, hand-holdings, cuddling, presence made him feel better, and, understandably, he tried to extend others the same courtesy. So even if he smiled as he held his left hand up and waggled his fingers, he spoke sincerely.
The loud clap inches from his face didn’t have the same effect on Neil as it did on Daniel. Oh, it startled him, enough to flinch back against the chair, but he didn’t curse and he didn’t get up and he didn’t start having some sort of panic attack. He was wide-eyed, clarity slipping back into focus and shame hot on his heels. Yes, Lin was right. Of course he was. Wallowing in self-hatred and closing himself off in a bubble wasn’t going to help Sam. Maybe he was a failure and maybe he made things worse more often than not, but he’d be ten times more pathetic if he didn’t so much as try to be there for her. He wasn’t the one who mattered; Sam did.
“Yeah, you’re right.” It was a quiet admission, and he rubbed at his eyes with the heel of his palms and sighed. Frankly, he didn’t want Daniel there and he wouldn’t give a damn if the other man did bolt, so he contributed absolutely nothing to Lin’s attempt at keeping him in the room.
Daniel very rarely smiled and he could not imagine any particular point in time when Sam would ever want to see him. He was, momentarily, stymied by the idea she had put him down as an emergency contact, and that alone had pried him out of the apartment and put him here so he could sign things. It had been a very brief confusion, and he had recently solved it. “She is not,” he argued, after a brief bizarre moment in which Lin was pushing and he was walking and neither of them went anywhere. “She only wanted me here to do paperwork because this fucker,” (and here he jabbed a finger in the direction of Neil), “threw her out on the street.” This was a gross exaggeration, and Daniel didn’t care.
The acetone coming off Lin’s abused fingertips made Daniel feel even more lightheaded than before, and he swayed away, back toward the general center of the room. The extra space made him look even smaller and paler, and he did not reach for Lin’s offered hand. Daniel was not used to drawing comfort from other people, physical or otherwise, courtesy of a cold marble upbringing, and he had not yet decided if Lin’s magnetic tendency to cling to him was just Lin, or Lin around him. The blue gaze followed the neon glow from side to side and narrowed.
Lin was like, two seconds away from taking the trigger-happy, bloodless finger that accused Neil and wrenching it out of its cradling socket with one angry tug. He glared at it as if offended by the very pattern, the swirl of raised ridges ringing in nonsense teased into DNA, of the fingerprint and the besotted identity it revealed to the world in its exposition. The look of black-brown eyes extended to Daniel and to the flat line of Lin’s mouth. He watched with arms crossed as the man tottered back into the safety of the center of the room.
But, he looked away from the salt blue and its curling brown marshes to the muted lightness of Neil’s eyes. There was a new focus there, the soft determination of a kamikaze pilot, and Lin really wished this whole thing was over. They did need to be there for Sam, but why the fuck did it have to be made out to be about 12,000x harder than it should’ve been, with accusations flung wide in limestone and moody gentlemen with Scottish brogues. They should be fucking supportive. They should fucking walk in and ID Sam and maybe cry a little and then leave her to get better. This was ridiculous in a bad way.
“Will a game of I-Spy distract the two of you from your dick-measuring or, like, should I leave the room and find a ruler to settle this once and for all?” Lin lifted his eyebrows in with an overinflated innocence, stalking to the wall opposite the occupied chair and the teetering Daniel.
Very, very slowly, Neil lowered his palms and looked up at Daniel when he spoke. He was already in a bad place, on the razor’s edge of sanity, and quite frankly it was a miracle he hadn’t snapped already. Or maybe he had somewhere between Ian’s taunts and the pictures and the waiting, and just hadn’t realized it. There was hatred in his gaze when he looked at the other man, pure and ice cold. Lin’s words washed over him like nothing, sound he registered and was aware of but didn’t actually pay attention to. He rose from his chair with sudden swiftness, his posture tense and blatantly threatening, and it looked very much like he intended on attacking Daniel right then and there. He’d broken Louis’ nose without meaning to; imagine what he could do to Daniel intentionally.
But he stopped himself, gripping the arms of the chair so tightly his knuckles turned white. “Fuck you,” he said, jaw clenched and each word painfully clear. “I didn’t come here to listen to your bullshit, Daniel. I came here for Sam. For Sam,” he repeated. “So just-- just shut up. You hate me, I hate you, but this isn’t the fucking time.” His voice rose near the end, but he cut himself short before he could actually start yelling. He took a deep, shuddering breath and turned away from the two, finally breaking his death grip on the chair to rub his forehead, shoulders slouched as he struggled to compose himself.
While Daniel had fallen back from Lin like a fragile sapling in a strong wind, he made absolutely no move when Neil made to get out of his chair. It was because he was watching him, all but ignoring Lin while he waited for a reaction to his statement. Unbeknownst to most of those who knew him only as long blue lines of gel ink, this was much the expression he wore while waiting for the other little scribbles to respond to his more specific jibes. Most of Daniel’s life these days was simply that: waiting for reactions. Daniel dropped his arm abruptly but kept his feet glued to the ground, holding suddenly rock steady where a moment before he had been swaying idly under the influence of the alcohol. It was obviously an effort for him to stand still, and Daniel expended that effort, his expression becoming mulish as he waited for Neil to complete the movement into actual violence.
When Neil sat back down again with obvious restraint, a flicker of something new made its way across Daniel’s pale features. It was a fast expression, a lightning movement of slackening mouth and lowering eyelids. Disappointment.
Then it was gone, and the stubborn disgust was back again. He didn’t say anything in response to Neil’s outburst, nor did he manage any delayed response to Lin’s question, though the latter held a plethora of opportunities for sarcastic commentary. The sway began again as he let control go of his knees, and Daniel put a hand out and steadied himself on the nearest wall.
It was onto this scene that the doctor stumbled, the DA on his heel. The man was the younger of the two doctors that had presented themselves earlier, and he had a chart against his chest with "Jane Doe" printed on the neat sticker that folded itself over the corner.
The DA, a woman, was the one who spoke. "Have we given you enough time to make your determination?" she asked about which of the men present would be signing on the dotted line for healthcare surrogacy or, possibly, if someone else should be contacted about the matter. Her lips were pursed, and she had an air of impatience about her. "I'm sorry to press, but there are decisions that must be made," she explained, giving the doctor a look, one that served as a visual cue to proceed.
The doctor motioned to the door, then to the hall beyond. "She's rousing. It shouldn't be long now," he said, opening the door from the waiting room and letting the long hall lead them down. "As I said before, there is significant bruising and swelling, enough to be disfiguring. We don't know yet what she'll remember, or what her mental state will be. Just remain calm. Don't press, and understand that she might not be receptive to visitors. In which case, we'll ask you to leave. But seeing her reaction upon waking is beneficial to us," he explained. He had a kind voice, and his expression matched his tone.
The DA's heels clicked to a stop outside a room with pulled curtains and a slightly open door. It was dark inside, and she regarded Daniel and Neil in turn. "Your answer, gentlemen?" She looked like she didn't actually feel the word gentlemen was merited, though she said nothing about the scent of alcohol in the hall or the questionable appearances of the three men gathered.
It was probably for the best that the DA arrived when she did. While Daniel had wisely not responded, Neil didn’t have complete faith in his ability to keep himself from throwing at least one punch out of sheer frustration. He stared blankly for a moment before the words sank in, and right, yeah, they were supposed to be making a decision. He hesitated briefly, shooting a sidelong glance towards Daniel as though wary that he might answer first, and he'd just opened his mouth to beat him to it when the doctor piped up instead.
All remaining color faded from his face, leaving shades of grey with darker purple from lack of sleep, and he followed the doctor down the hallway in a daze as he described Sam's condition. It was a nightmare, pure and simple. He could only nod; yes, doctor, no pressing, just remain calm. It was the DA's repeated question that yanked him back to the real world, and he didn't bother consulting with either Lin or Daniel before responding. "I'll do it," he said with surprising firmness, as though daring anyone to challenge him.
Daniel wanted little more than to go home. He didn’t want to be there, even if it meant he could express his eternal hatred of Neil in person. He didn’t want to make money decisions, he didn’t want to be in the hospital with the DA’s disapproving gaze staring at the top of his head, and, most of all, with an abhorrence that was bordering on panic, he did not want to see Sam hurt. He was aware, in an academic sense, that Sam had been tortured, not only from this recent kidnapping, but before and since. She kept checking into mental hospitals and saying terrifying things in ink at him, and he had not been able to do anything about it except listen and sign checks. Daniel had two people in the world he cared about at this point in his life, and though he had sought neither, they were both firmly present. One had fucking neon nail polish, and the other one was behind the flapping hospital curtain.
Though he had trailed down the hallway warily, mostly to hear the doctor’s explanation about her current state, Daniel stopped well short of the entry into where Sam was lying, just out of sight. Daniel’s imagination was fully colorful, and needed no assistance. He had gone chalk white again, and the only sign of his previous anger was when Neil actually spoke. Daniel made a sound halfway between a snort and a hiss, all derision, and yet, rather than directly dissenting, he looked at Lin.
Lin followed the group down the hallway, scuffing shoes on the tiles for entertainment and a way to relieve himself of his own lingering nerves. It didn’t much help, but he did it anyway. He listened closely to the varying clicks and tromps of five widely different sets of feet scuttling toward Sam. There was the DA’s commanding tick of heels, the doctor’s soft steps on orthopedic shoes for long shifts, Neil’s expensive, but rather drudging gait, Daniel’s uneven reluctance, and Lin’s own squeak and scuffle on rubber composite. The DA surveyed Neil and Daniel with skepticism.
Neil volunteered with a vehemence. His words held a certain cement weight to them, a challenge almost. To Lin’s mind, it had never been much of a question. Daniel was terrified and unwilling and Lin’s name wasn’t on any forms. Neil was the one that was supposed to tell her he loved her, wasn’t he? The boy blinked at Neil, wondering and hoping the man wouldn’t scare Sam, were she to wake up. Her history with dudes was obviously not good, and post-Ian? Who knew. Lin frowned, casting a glance over his shoulder where Daniel had stopped short and all but hissed. There in the man’s rarely used shoes was a ghost, obviously stricken, flitting there on the edge of the white curtain, away from the door.
“Rock it, girl,” he said to Neil by way of agreement, circling back toward Daniel. He caught the man’s arm with his own, warm skin to cold marble, black shirt to white, lightly. He pressed forward. With a tip of his head toward Daniel, and with as much reassurance as he could muster, he spoke quietly. “We can stand by the door.”
Inside the room, the young woman on the bed was waking up, completely oblivious to everything that was going on outside her door.
There was a quick conscious shock that was nothing like the fucking books said. Shit didn't slip back slow and easy, and there wasn't a hazy period where everything was cloudy and ok. No, that shit didn't happen. Sam sat up with a jerk, a scream on her lips that ricocheted against the walls of the hospital wing, and a barrage of memories in her clear and undrugged mind. Everything was fucking lucid, clear, pristine water in a glass and she could see all the way to the fucking bottom. Vignettes crossed behind her inky blue eyes, and played themselves out against sclera and black. Ian's hands, Ian's belts, Ian's body. And words. So many fucking words that she had to slam her hands over her ears to keep them out. Iris, and his body over hers. And you're nothing like your sister and dirty, and heat against the back of her neck and pain fucking everywhere.
And then it blanked. Everything fucking blanked, and it was all gone. Every moment with Ian, and she didn't understand about shock or PTSD or the mind's way of protecting itself from overload. Hands in her hair and yanking, and then her fingers relaxed, because she couldn't fucking remember. She looked at her wrists, as she dragged her hands away from her face, and she wondered at the bruises. The doctors whispered, and she looked over at them, lost eyes and looking small on the bed, despite the swollen bruising that covered nearly every visible part of her body. She was mottled, a broken lip and so many broken blood vessels beneath her eyes, and she caught her own reflection in the mirror that was a sliver of visible glass through the bathroom door. She didn't recognize herself, and then she noticed the movement at the door.
And then panic set in. "What happened? What the fuck happened? WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED?" Louder and louder, and her voice was almost nothing, and yet it resonated somehow. Scream-hoarse and like sandpaper scratching on itself. She looked to the doctors, and she looked to the door, and she tore at the blankets and IVs that held her prisoner on the bed.
To hell with what Daniel thought. Neil didn’t want or need his approval, and while he didn’t need Lin’s either a certain sense of relief came with his agreement. Oh, he would argue if he needed to, he’d throw anyone who got in his way out of the damn hospital itself, but it was so much easier to not have to deal with resistance. Neil completely ignored Daniel, spared a nod for Lin, and then he turned towards the curtains and the door. He remembered what the doctors had said, to be calm and to not push, and the instructions became a silent mantra he repeated to himself with each step he took; be calm, don’t push. Calm. No pushing. He worried he’d have more trouble with the former, since he didn’t ever push and was in fact often the opposite, stationary and frustratingly unmoving. But calm, he wasn’t sure he could fake calm very well, though he’d have to try.
She screamed before he’d even put one foot over the threshold, and the sound made him flinch. He almost stepped back, away, but no. No, he couldn’t be a fucking coward, not now. So he steeled himself and he made himself go into the room, where the doctors were whispering and looking concerned and--
He’d known it would be bad, but nothing the doctor had said prepared him for what he saw. Sam was still Sam, of course she was, but bruised and broken and just thinking about what Ian must have done to cause such damage made him feel sick. He swallowed heavily and tried to keep his true emotions out of his expression, lest it only upset her further. “Sam,” he started, but his voice was weak and so he tried again. “Sam, hey, calm down. It’s okay.”
"I don't remember anything after your visit, Neil," she said, clear and looking straight at him through black-ringed and swollen eyes. But she stopped trying to scramble off the bed like it was on fire, and she glanced over his shoulder at the hallway and noticed one of Lin's arms, and one of Daniel's worn shoes. Her gaze snapped right back to Neil with enough intensity to make the room spin, and she noticed how he stayed, how he didn't move forward and how his adam's apple bobbed in this throat. She glanced back to that sliver of visible mirror and, oh, god, she didn't want him here. She didn't want any of them here. She didn't.
Except she did, but she didn't want this fucking memory for any of them. She didn't know what had happened, and she didn't know why it had happened, but she knew she wanted them gone. Gone, gone the fuck away where there wouldn't be yet another thing that made her a complete fucking screw-up in their eyes. She took in the messy hair on Neil's face, and a glance to the door and quick eye-contact with Daniel told her he was unbelievably fucking drunk. And she didn't look at Lin. Lin, who tried to fucking fix everything, but who she was pretty sure was completely fucking small and scared on the inside.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. She rubbed her hands over her face, despite the fact that it fucking ached, and she tried remember, and she tried to cry, and she tried not to fucking shake. None of it worked, and she finally lifted her head and looked at the uncomfortable man in the room, weak voice, and she knew him so fucking well.
She swallowed hard, and it was like nails against her destroyed throat. "You look like shit, baby," she managed, hoarse and only breaking into a million shards. "And your girlfriend wouldn't want you here. Go. Take them with you." Chloe, of course. She didn't know anything about missing babies, and Ella was just a small other in the back of her mind. And it was something she remembered. Something she didn't have to fight to get clear in her head. And, yeah, she would have kept going, but fuck if she had more in her than that. And if her inky blue eyes were saying something completely fucking different, well, she didn't get that. "Yeah?"
She'd ask, once they were gone. She'd scream once they were gone. Because if all three of them were there? If Neil and Daniel were in the same fucking space without anyone bleeding, then whatever had happened, it was bad. And she knew she'd lose it once they told her, and he wasn't going to be there to fucking see it. Not again. He had scraped her off the fucking concrete so many times already, and she couldn't stand to do it to him again. Even there, with everything fucking hurting, she remembered about Chloe. She fucking remembered.
Lin’s heart had just begun to settle, if only tenuously and in the most cursory fashion, in the cradle of his chest when Sam started screaming. The sound scared him. It rattled his bones together like the most salmagundi and ragtag of bandstand bands and his elbow locked around Daniel’s, tightly. Neil disappeared around the crest of curtain and Lin’s expression went worried and the blacks of his eyes went wide, brimming over brown, flooding his retinas with so much light, it hurt.
The sweep of air that sucked through the long, white corridor shifted through the room and fluttered the Berlin Wall that kept Sam safe in the iron fist of impersonal communism, and in an instant, Lin could see Sam—Sam?—on the bed, a girl with the same blonde hair, soft from a recent wetting, and the same small bones fluted together like a bird’s. He saw the gappy teeth shining in light as she spoke to Neil. But everything else was disproportioned, swollen, and colored in a nauseating palette of blood beneath milky skin and veins smashed open. Whatever Lin had been expecting, somewhere, deep down, past the self-imposed mandate of never expecting anything, this wasn’t it. This was so fucking not it. This was fucking, motherfucking Play-Doh coming from fucking wallpaper cleaner. Just the sight of her fucking throat brought tears to the rim of black lashes of his eyes. Stricken but conscious, he forced the freeze of rust from his joints, loosening his arm around Daniel’s, though he still clung, afraid to let go completely, and peeped at Sam.
A pained smile cracked on trembling lips and Lin had no time to wonder if he was actually crying or if his eyes were stinging because they were just stupid fuck-ups.
“The gaping,” he interrupted with a broken gesture and a cough to make his voice work. Fluorescent lights cleaned the room of shadows and washed Lin’s face wan. The words came out with a shattering sincerity; and though they didn’t form the sounds of ‘I love you and am terrified,’ that was what they meant. “It’s all a part of the next theme song I wanted to teach you. It’s serendipitous as fuck that it should be wordless. You remember the show ER, right?”
Daniel would not ever be drunk enough to handle this, and he knew it. The screaming had scared the hell out of him too, but it had also, for the first time in at least an hour, made him unbelievably angry, so angry that his flinch had been toward the room and not away from it. There had been no thought process involved, and if asked he would not have been able to tell what he’d been planning to do once he actually got hold of whatever Sam was screaming at. He hadn’t seen her in person in a very long time, and the movement got him and Lin out past the edge of the curtain just far enough to get a good look at the bed.
The screaming stopped, and so did Daniel. He looked at the battered creature in the bed and he had absolutely no recognition to offer. He didn’t know her, didn’t know who that was under all the bruising and the bluish skin, and once past the initial terror of actually seeing her, he didn’t want to look for the things he knew would be familiar. She didn’t have any of the smiles or brash expressions Daniel wanted her to have, and without those, she had taken herself out of his ability to help. He didn’t want to know her. He couldn’t do anything for her while she was lying there, and he knew it. The realization took a chunk out of the piece of him that still wanted to care about what was passing in the world around him. He didn’t want to care. It was her fault he did. His face slackened under her eye contact and he broke the gaze with sudden, unrecognizable gravity.
The pressure on Daniel’s arm eased as Lin inched away, and Daniel went the opposite direction, pulling from the room. He twisted his elbow entirely from Lin’s grip and took a step toward the door that almost ended with him on the floor, but he caught himself and disappeared around the corner of the doorframe, the hasty scrape of his shoes soon disappearing in the scuffle of medical staff.
Sam had managed to just keep it under control long enough to make the request for them to go, and then Lin moved or shifted. Something, she was sure he did something before he talked, and her gaze was drawn to where he was standing. She'd tried not to fucking look at him. She'd tried. But there he was, all intake of breath and a smile that looked like a fucking kid about to sob, and her chest began to hurt in a way that had nothing to do with the fucking bruises on her body. Even his voice, when he finally managed to get it going, was so broken-cough destroyed that she couldn't even fucking pretend it was anything but tears and shaking sincerity. She didn't want that shit. She didn't want anything that drove home the fact that something terrible had fucking happened, something just out of fucking reach that she didn't want to grab and look at. But fuck him, because he was talking, and she had no fucking idea was serendipitous meant, and the mention of a fucking television show just made her start sobbing, and she didn't want to fucking unravel, she didn't want to fucking unravel.
And maybe she could have kept it together. Maybe she could have calmly repeated her fucking request, so long as she didn't look at Lin again, and so long as she didn't look over at Neil's obvious discomfort as he stood in the room that they'd obviously sent him ahead into like a sacrificial fucking lamb. Maybe, but Daniel's appearance in the doorway arrested the request. She didn't stop crying, but it was impossible not to stop and look at him. She was clearheaded, no drugs lingering after the unconsciousness, nothing to get in the way of that look he gave her, like he had no fucking clue who she was, and like he didn't really want to deal with the shit that was staring him in the face. She had no fucking clue what had happened, but Daniel's expression told her everything she needed to know. It didn't fucking matter that she didn't have the pieces to the puzzle. Whatever the fuck had happened, whatever the fuck they knew that was hiding just in the shadows for her, it was enough to change everything. It embarrassed her, it shamed her, and it made her want to fucking hide and ever come out again. Even confused, she knew what that look meant. When his face went slack, it was too fucking much for her, and she was turning over on the bed and giving them her back by the time she heard Daniel's sneakers on the floor. She was shaking sobs as she fought awkwardly with the blanket, pulling it high over herself.
"Please, go," she repeated, and there wasn't any fucking screaming this time. This time, there was just a quiet, broken-down plea that made the doctor nod toward the hallway and usher with a long arm that wasn't going to let itself be pushed away. She didn't actually want Neil to go, not really, and she was scared, but she didn't want any of them to see her like she was, not after that.
Once in the hall, the doctor looked in the direction Daniel had gone, and his expression was stony. "I'll call should something change," he said, looking at Neil with enough doubt on his face to make it obvious he was reconsidering anything that had been decided.
The DA was watching Lin, as if she expected waterworks at any moment, and then she turned her professional demeanor back on a moment later. "There will be protective custody until Ian Russell is apprehended. We can discuss those once the papers come back tomorrow," she told Neil. "You should find your-" pause, "friend, before one of the officers notices smells the alcohol on him."
Lin didn’t wait. He didn’t watch Sam break down. No. No, no, no. He was wound far too tightly to stand still for any real amount of time and had been shifting from foot to foot with anxiety. He knew as soon as he spoke, he was turning a screw already stripped, a screw buried deep enough to dimple skin out in protective swelling and to bore through bone and marrow, beading blood far too dark. He didn’t wait to see what would happen, he didn’t want to. Sam wanted them to go. Before she said it, he watched it grow in her, the want, amid confusion and fear, elbowing both out of the way, and as it happened, Daniel’s weight left his side, the hardness of bone under puckered skin torn away from the inside press of his elbow, and Lin was alone on polished tile in broken sneakers. He didn’t even look at Neil. He looked at the floor.
If Lin had been acting as a pillar, it was as a shoddy one, one with marble that trickled down as dust, one that barely managed to keep itself (heh) erect. The wall of PROBLEMS! ALL THE PROBLEMS! just happened to collapse in such a way that the column caught the weight and bore it, but it was still a strain. A very, very real strain. He wanted to be there for Sam and for Neil, but he caught the look on the DA’s very comely, professional face, smooth and high octane, and he knew what it meant. He frowned at her with more violence than his face had seen in years. He peeled out of the room at breakneck speed. He probably could have launched himself into orbit at the rate he was going. But today was not his day to become Earth’s second, better-looking, maybe sobbing a little bit in public satellite. Lin decided he was going to find Daniel and he was going to drag the man back to Turnberry, tuck him into bed with a small white cat, preferably deaf, and go fucking cry under a blanket and read Eudora Welty short stories until he fell asleep or his heart throbbed less or found the pieces it was missing.
The boy might have waved at Sam and he might have said something as he went, but sound traveled so slowly, it never really arrived.
Neil didn’t believe for a second that his visit was the last thing she remembered. He felt a pain in his chest just thinking about the fact that she had to lie, and it was so, so hard to stand there. Part of him wanted to leave. Part of him wanted to stay. But all of him hurt at seeing her like this, and god, he had no idea what the fuck to do. Everything seemed to have slowed, like throwing time perception of was a coping mechanism his desperate mind had thrown together, and it took him longer than it should have to register that she’d said something about his girlfriend not wanting him to be here. It didn’t make sense. He thought, for a moment, that maybe she was referring to herself in the third person. “My girlfriend?” The words were slow confusion and his gaze lacked comprehension entirely. He looked at the doctors, maybe they understood what the hell was happening. “What?” He sounded pathetic to his own ears, but he couldn’t keep up. He was falling further and further behind, and he began to shake his head, no, he couldn’t leave her. He was scared and he wanted to shatter into a million pieces but he wasn’t going to leave, he couldn’t just walk out on her.
Daniel and Lin were afterthoughts, barely even that. In the hospital room they might as well have not existed; he didn’t even register the sound of Lin’s voice. He didn’t turn, didn’t even glance in their general direction, but instead watched Sam’s reactions like he was incapable of looking away. He watched her start to cry and he knew he couldn’t fix this, he knew he couldn’t, and then everything went blurry and fuzzy and he heard her ask them to go. Right. She didn’t want them there. Neil thought that made sense. Maybe. He didn’t want to go, but somehow he was moving and he found himself in the hallway, blinking, trying to figure out how the hell he’d gotten there. Everything was cracking and shifting and he was so goddamn useless that he was just dragged along for the ride. “Sam,” he said, belatedly, and then he realized that Daniel was gone, that Lin was gone too, and the doctor was looking at him like they were all fucking insane and Sam deserved better.
Which she did.
He nodded. Right, yeah, he’d call if anything changed. “Okay,” he agreed. And then, Neil turned to the DA and “Okay” was repeated. A pause. “He’s not my friend.” With that, he turned and wandered down the hallway. Sam didn’t want him there. Ash was gone. Louis was fucking crazy, Ella’s baby was missing, and Chloe, Chloe never crossed his mind. He had no one. There was nowhere to go. Home was empty and not home at all. He should go there, though. He should.
But he didn’t think he would.