Who: Sam and Daniel What: A meeting Where: Zee Hotel When: Before the current Murphy shenanigans Warnings/Rating: Some talk of suicide
Black had streamed from her hair for three days, and that had been weeks ago, but it was still dark as ink and night and shitty days where the sun hid behind the clouds. Sam thought maybe she'd strip it out eventually, but she hadn't done it yet. It had gone blonde two years earlier, so she could fit in better with her lost brother and sister, and now she had no fucking idea where she even stood with those people, yeah? No one wanted to tell her about Iris, and Lou acted like the slightest thing could shatter him. So, yeah, no clue.
But her hair was black, and she was home, and it was time to actually go the fuck outside for more than five minutes, yeah? Hit or no hit, she couldn't hide forever. It just wasn't her, and it definitely wasn't her now, when she wasn't scared of her own shadow. So she signed herself out, and she waited for the center's bus, and she headed toward the mall.
She lasted five minutes, a cane wobbling in her hand, and she really was shit with her grip. But a chair wouldn't have been any better, and she wasn't going to walk around with one of those old people walkers.
So, she left, and she hopped a bus to the hotel.
The ride was fucking endless, but she liked that about it, yeah? She didn't like public transportation, and maybe she should have been worrying about another gun to the back of her head, but was just glad to be out. She was glad to be walking with less of a lurch, glad that she could hold onto the bar on the back of the seat in front of her with more strength. She was just glad, and maybe that should have made her afraid, but it didn't. So, she didn't have the past few years straight in her head or whatever. So, everything was like she'd shoved it into a blender and mixed it up, and all the bad shit seemed to be missing, and she didn't need her shrink to tell her that was pretty fucking convenient. But all the mental exercises in the world hadn't made all those memories slam back into place, and she wasn't going to hide behind four walls until they did.
Anyway, she was going somewhere safe. She'd already been to the hotel once, and she knew what the Murphys looked like. It would be cool. So, yeah, she rode the bus, switched, rode another bus, switched, and then she used the sleek, black cane to make her way inside the hotel.
Her overalls were too big, and they were stained with the memory of paint and brushes that she knew she didn't own anymore. The wifebeater she wore beneath it was new, stolen from Neil and gaping in places, and her boots were heavy, the leather burnt over the metal at the toes. Her hair was thick, heavy black, and the tiny bandage behind her ear wasn't even visible beneath the waterfall of tangles. It made her look pale, all that black, and she kind of liked it when she looked in the mirror. Yeah, she didn't feel like belonging anymore. So, whatever, black.
“You look like hell.” Daniel’s voice was cracked and quiet in the dusty silence, his eyes without shine in the dying afternoon light from outside. There was something faintly nasal about the way he was speaking, made more pronounced because he sniffed against a wet cold gathering behind the center of his forehead, right between his eyes. He wasn’t sure if it had come on quickly, or if he just hadn’t noticed the feverish early stages because the whiskey always made him warm where his skin met his veins. It was fifty degrees outside in Vegas, but he wasn’t wearing shoes. His feet were as pale as his face, and the result was a strange pair of hovering spots in the old shadows at the edge of the roof.
Not keen on running into one of the other fools who inhabited the door of the Opera House, Daniel had been lurking some distance away, leaning against a banister on a side stairway, waiting for as long as he could stand to wait, to see if she showed up. It had been a few hours now, but the gold-gilt book was entertaining enough. “I almost didn’t recognize you. New Goth phase?” He didn’t know what he was saying, he was just talking, worried that she would be fragile and yet unable to treat her as if she was such. He moved forward a step on silent feet, to get a better look at her, squinting from under a couple stray dark curls. He didn’t come fully into view, still obscured by the curve of the banister as it completed its graceful, aged sweep down onto the edge of the hallway. He put one hand up and leaned there in mock elegance, one elbow out and his head slightly sideways, as if they were meeting on the street a hundred years ago.
Daniel was sure he looked like an escaped mental patient, and then laughed silently at himself at the coincidence of the metaphor. A small, dangerous smile impressed itself into one cheek, a pinpoint shadow under the cold sweat.
Sam wasn't expecting anyone, because walking through the hotel was always like walking through some dead fucking thing. There were never people around, despite the fact that everyone went in and out of the fucking place like crazy. So, she didn't expect anyone, yeah? Ok, so maybe she was a little fucking worried about Murphys, despite convincing herself she wasn't worried at all. And she was fucked up in the head, yeah? So, she didn't recognize his voice immediately, and she spun, and the cane fucking fell, and her hand pressed against the old and crumbling wallpaper for balance. But it was only a momentary thing, that look of deer in fucking headlights, because she recognized him. And she was worried about recognizing people, yeah? Sure, she'd recognized her family when they came to the nursing home or whatever, but she'd known them since she was a baby. It was different than remembering people here, but she remembered him, and she pressed her back against the wall and exhaled. "It's not like you look like you're ready for the catwalk or something," she said, looking him over with appraising eyes of inky blue.
"Shut up. The Murphys are trying to kill some little blonde, yeah?" she asked, because the hair thing was a good idea, no matter what he said. "And where the fuck are your shoes? It's cold outside." Which she knew because she was currently stupidly sleeveless, but at least she had good, thick boots on her feet. She stayed there, back against the wall as he moved forward, and she grinned a gap-tooth grin when he squinted. "Need glasses for those blues, baby? Come the fuck out of the shadows, yeah?" But she could see that dangerous smile from where she was standing, and it reminded her of a hotel room and chess, and she really wished she understood his entire story after that point, because she fucking didn't. Sure, she knew he was with Lin, but only because someone had told her. Though it felt right, yeah? Knowing that. But she wondered how much she knew, and she wondered if she'd been bummed when it happened.
He hadn’t meant to frighten her, and the shape of his mouth tightened into an uneven line of uncertain control. He would have done pretty much anything he asked for to make up for the mistake, his eyes finally catching a gleam as he moved obediently forward into the center of the hall, and he paused there, his gaze directed downward at the cane lying sideways on the carpet. Unexpected swaths of color turned Daniel’s typically wrinkled, corrupt form into something shaped, normal, all strong lines with absolutely false youth and ease. It was Lin’s jacket, and smelled of him, swatches of nailpolish in the sleeve and fast talking, and it didn’t fit Daniel quite right in the shoulders, but it was long enough to conceal a body ill-prepared for the quick ravages of his personal poisons.
Daniel looked down at his feet. “I forgot when I Ieft. A car brings me, I don’t have far to go.” It sounded lame even to him, and his voice became slightly rough, vaguely apologetic. He shook his head and touched the curls growing wet against his forehead. A cough cleared his throat and then he moved forward, not quickly, leaving a substantial amount of distance between them still, when he stopped. The smile was gone, and now he looked tired, sick, and intently curious. “I like brunettes better,” he said, and it was fairly true. The blue jacket made his red-streaked blue eyes even bluer, and even in the poor light their pale intensity shone with the personality he had not yet conquered.
“What are you up to now?” he asked. The question was all-encompassing, and did not focus particularly on her trip to the door, but asked a more general question that wanted more from her than she’d yet given him. His eyes flicked to her face, her hairline, then dropped down to her hands.
She was too busy looking at that jacket to notice the tightening of his mouth, yeah? She didn't remember a whole fucking lot, really. She kind of remembered a lot of nothing. She remembered fucking him in some hotel room, and maybe in some bathroom. And she kind of remembered talking shit with him on a couch or something, maybe with a photo album. She knew she'd had something to do with him and Lin getting together, but she didn't know why the fuck she would have done that. And, somehow, she knew that jacket wasn't his. It wasn't just that it was some hipster thing, but that it was wrong somehow, and she assumed it was Lin's, even without seeing the streaks of nailpolish on the fabric.
She looked down at his feet, his bare toes, and she glanced up again when he coughed. The cane was still way the fuck over there, but she left it, and she slid down along the wall carefully, her back helping her with the balance as she slid down to the ground, knees bent up and those too-lose overalls gaping at her hips to show striped boxers beneath. She tapped the musty floor beside her. "Get your ass over here," she told him, because she wasn't going to duck into the door, not with him there. "I was going to go see you, yeah? But you and Lin always make me feel fucking dumb when you're together." Which she had no idea how she remembered, but she did.
Closer now, she could tell that he looked sick, and she wondered if she should know about that shit. As for her, she looked like she'd been shot in the head, yeah, but her eyes were clear blue, and she wasn't heroin-emaciated. She had meat back on her bones, and she wasn't thin anymore. She was getting back to normal, and even she could tell that things were changing when she looked in the mirror. And, as she often did lately, she wondered how the fuck she'd lost control of her life so impressively.
She was a gap-toothed grin when he asked what she was up to. "Oh, you know, learning how to hold a spoon and write with crayons or whatever. Normal shit for a girl that's about to turn twenty-three." She looked at him a little more seriously then. "What's wrong, baby?" Maybe the answer was a lot of shit you already know about, but maybe whatever had him looking so fucking sick was brand new. And to take the severity away, she let her grin widen. "You aren't into me, blonde or brunette."
He didn’t close the distance and settle down next to her as he had done once before, he just stood back and watched, maintaining the distance and finding another lean in the circle of light under a drooping wall sconce. “I’ve got a cold,” he said, with an ironic arch of his brow at the sheer vulnerability of his old normal human body. A cold, just some extra suffering, and still just a drop in the bucket. Nothing permanent, nothing useful. And it made him feel stupid. He hated feeling stupid. Drunk and useless was one thing, but he liked pretending his choices were deliberate and private both, despite the realities of the situation. It was only Sam and Lin who ever saw, and their eyes rarely offered any mirror. “Not going to give it to you, you not even any good with crayons yet.”
He rolled his head to one side, eyes sleepy, ignoring Henry’s interfering chatter with the deliberate application of his will--and an extremely Lin-like tactic that involved singing “Henry VIII I am I am” in his mind over and over until Henry shut up. (Daniel had, in fact, seen at least one Swayze movie, despite how much he abhorred television now that his youth was gone. Never tell Lin.) “I remember being into you several times.” He flashed her a wicked smile that was as perfectly honed as a shallow diamond. It vanished quickly before it could even begin to cut, too brittle for much use these days. He didn’t actually want to take it all the way into an offer because 1) he was fairly sure she would say no, and 2) he didn’t want to risk anything so fragile as her body and his pride.
There was also the disturbing regularity with which Lin kept showing up in every damn train of thought that tried to leave the station.
“How’s the family?” Daniel enjoyed watching Sam’s extended family scrabble around like starved wolves on the journals every now and then.
A cold? Yeah, ok. He was kind of pasty or whatever, but it wasn't like she was going to break or something. "Crayons and a cold don't have anything to fucking do with each other, yeah?" she said. Because what the fuck? "The crayons are because my brain is fucked or whatever." Like that needed saying, but he was way the fuck over there, jacket and no shoes and she was sure there was sweat dripping from one of those black curls. "Sit your ass down, baby." And she had no idea if he would. She didn't remember all that much about her interactions with Daniel, but she had a feeling he was nothing like Neil. Neil let her shove and push at him, and he eventually gave into whatever she wanted, even if it was just to avoid continuing an argument. She suspected Daniel was the kind to dig his heels in. Just a feeling, but she was pretty sure she was right.
When he said he'd been into her several times, she rolled her eyes. "Don't fucking smile like that Casanova," she chided, but she was smiling. And yeah, ok, so maybe she didn't actually know who Casanova was, but she knew what the reference meant. "You know what I meant." Because she knew that he did, even if he was being a fucker about it. She had no idea that he was concerned about his pride. Whatever ideas she had stored away in regards to him, they had nothing whatsoever to do with hurt pride. As for her body, that had been a lot worse than it was right then. Even without her memory, she knew that.
And she had no clue about his Lin issues, which explained why her, "so, what did you think of your Valentine's Day present?" came as an easygoing question, one without even a hint of concern. The love letter, she thought, was a really awesome fucking gift. She only hoped Lin had managed to write it. No- strike that. She hoped that Lin managed to write it without it turning into a Golden Girls jingle on paper or something.
His question about her family sobered her a little, though, and the gap-tooth grin that had blossomed as she thought about love letters wilted. "I don't know. They're all fucked up about this Murphy shit, and none of them like Neil, and I don't know what the deal is with Iris, yeah? It sounded like her and Neil were fucking, but he says no, and she says all kinds of fucked up shit that makes no sense or whatever." Her family, in a nutshell.
He didn’t sit down, probably just because she had asked him to, leaning his weight more fully against the wall and locking one knee against the joint so it was all gravity and marrow keeping him there. He smiled slightly at her, not the roguish smile but just a hint of the impish little boy that carved his name into heirloom tables just for attention. He lifted one hand and scratched one unshaven cheek, working his fingers down her jaw until the touch slid away and dropped heavily to his side in a flash of uncharacteristic blue, perfectly vivid in the strange half-light. “You just spent a lot of time in the hospital fighting to keep yourself healthy. Let’s not make it harder.” He sniffed and drew Lin’s sleeve at the wrist across his nose. He looked down at it. “Mental note to wash this.” He sniffed, then sniffed again.
Daniel gave a wolf’s grin when she said that no one liked Neil. He hated Neil with a unique passion that he usually saved for things that lurked in sewers, and he liked hearing that no one else liked him, or that he was unhappy. Fucking Neil. Useless bastard. He sobered up like a lamp coming unplugged, a sharp emptiness. “Iris has not been a friend to you, Sam. Stay away from the selfish bitch.”
Daniel tipped his head at her question about the love letter, as if he’d been waiting for her to ask. He knew that letter pretty well by now, and it was folded up and hidden in the gilt-edged journal, where it would always come back to him. His eyes seemed to luminesce as he leaned nearer in her direction. He had no fear that she had helped Lin write the thing, it had been utterly and uniquely Lin, total and complete, intense and obscure. “It was dangerous. Do you remember what it is like at my house?” He simplified his words to bring up a child’s term for home, as if aware of who he was talking to, and wanting her to understand the problem in the most real terms. “You really want someone like Lin there? It does… things to you… being there alone.” He shifted on the wall and slid two inches toward the floor before he caught his balance and propped himself up, attempting to clear his throat again. Troubled, he pulled at the sweaty curls at the back of his neck.
"You're such a pain in the fucking ass," she said fondly, before he even opened his mouth to refuse to sit beside her. Yeah, she might not remember shit, but that impish little boy smile was something she'd kind of gotten to know while growing up with eleven brothers. She rolled her eyes, but she didn't pat the ground again. "Yeah, it would totally fucking suck if a cold killed me after all the shit I survived." And she might not remember all of it, but she knew the time she couldn't remember must have been really fucking hard, yeah? There were signs of that everywhere. And she barked out a laugh when he used the sleeve of the jacket to clean his nose, because how fucking little boy could someone get? "You're pathetic when you're sick. I think that's a universal guy thing, though. You should be home with Lin force feeding you soup or something, instead of running around here without shoes, baby."
She would have kept offering advice, like she knew anything about anything at almost twenty-three, but his comment about Iris stopped her dead. People talked around shit with her now. And, yeah, so maybe she'd said she didn't want to know anything. But she'd just woken up then, and everything had been really fucking terrifying. She wasn't all alone in a hospital room anymore, and she was back on her feet, and maybe that was why she'd gone hunting for things on the internet, yeah? Anyway, he was direct in a way no one else was, and her eyes were serious and somber blue when she looked up at him. "Yeah? What did she do? Everyone thought she and Neil were fucking, and that they hired someone to kill me."
"I remember shit being dusty," she said of his place, and she thought about what he said, about shit happening to someone who was there alone. "I think I'd want to be anywhere the person I cared about was, yeah? I'd probably try to make the place better, but I think there's shit that's more important than what your space looks like. And he's not alone if you're there, baby." Which she thought he might disagree with. She stopped talking when he slid along the wall, and her expression went worried. "Sit your fucking ass down, and maybe I should call him, yeah?" Because pneumonia could be serious; what if he had fucking pneumonia or something?
He was annoyed to be called pathetic, though even he was ready to admit that he was probably more pathetic than he was anything else, if only to himself. “Don’t call anybody. I just walk through the door,” he said, half-turning and gesturing a pale hand in a vague direction back the way he had come, “and the Beast will fix it for me.” His eyes went a little too bright, a little boy getting away with definite mischief. “He fixes everything. Too bad you can’t turn into a cursed monster when you walk through the door.” Daniel lifted three fingers and touched his mouth, accustomed to having something to occupy hand and mouth and feeling raw and dry without the glass nearby. He coughed a few more times, shifted in his stance, and then cleared his throat.
“I don’t know about Neil, but you definitely can’t trust her choice in men. The last one was a real piece of work.” Only Daniel could say such a thing and master the understatement so poignantly that the shadows and the ground glass of his voice took in the darkness contained in his knowledge. More pretty things he would prefer to forget, maybe even worse than what he knew about himself. “Lin wouldn’t go outside for a month.” And there he was again, turning up in every conversation and every debate. Daniel sighed, the congestion hissing through his lungs.
“It’s not what the place looks like,” he said, with obvious impatience. He looked at her as if he couldn’t be sure if she was being intentionally thick, or if it was a sham to make him react. He was used to Lin and the boy’s verbal traps. Rubbing at his chest where it met his shoulder and driving an ache away with his knuckles he said, “I don’t want to make it better for him. I want him to leave so it doesn’t make him worse.” Daniel stared at the ceiling for no discernable reason.
Yeah, Sam had grown up in a loud family where everyone said the shit they were thinking. Calling him pathetic was just part of that, and she'd only recently figured out that some people were sensitive to shit. Like Lou; fuck, Lou was sensitive to everything. "I don't think your Beast can fix pneumonia," she said, but she wasn't really sure. Could fairy tale dudes catch diseases like that? She had no fucking idea, and she sounded uncertain. Bravado was something she was good at, but she knew she wasn't smart enough to be saying that shit with any book smarts or anything. "No, I turn into a little French songbird," she said fondly. She liked Christine, man, and she always had. "When I was using or whatever, I tried not to go through the door," she said with a careless shrug. "I didn't want to fuck her up. My shit shouldn't be her shit, yeah?"
She filed away his unspecific comment about Iris. Maybe she would just have to break down and ask Lou to spell it out for her. Lou liked saying shit with lots of fucking words; he wouldn't mince words. And no one seemed to like Iris but Neil, so, yeah, something to think about or whatever.
Concentrating on Lin was easier, and she shook her head when he said Lin wouldn't go outside for a month. "That's bullshit, baby. Lin doesn't go outside because you don't go outside. If you're worried about that shit, take the boy for a walk." And, somehow, she knew Daniel didn't go out much. Yeah, so she'd met him out, but she knew that wasn't something normal anymore, even if she didn't have any point of reference.
She was busy frowning at the congestion she could hear when Daniel took a breath, and she almost missed the impatience in his tone when he talked about the apartment. "You don't want him to leave, or you would have told him to leave. You can be a really cruel motherfucker when it suits you, baby, and running people off is something you're hella good at. You want him to fucking stay, but you're worried. Ok, that's normal, yeah? So, do something the fuck about it. Let some sunshine in, add some cable television. It won't hurt you, and it'll make shit better for him. I get that you're hiding in there waiting to die, yeah? But shit has changed since you made that decision, and maybe it's time to fucking rethink."
Daniel knew Henry well by now. He understood the spell and even understood that it probably had more to do with who Henry was than some ridiculous castle mojo, but he realized, with the perspective of someone apart from the situation, that Henry would just have to figure that out on his own. In the meantime Daniel was also well aware that Henry was what was keeping him pretty, maybe even what was keeping him alive, after a solid year of fully intentional self-abuse. He highly doubted that he would have the ability to keep Lin even vaguely entertained in bed without the curse’s healing ability, and he quite selfishly did absolutely nothing to assist Henry in his little conundrum. It wasn’t going to last, Daniel knew, because now there were too many people in Henry’s life for even the Beast to ignore. He was obsessed with the red-head, and that one wouldn’t let him sit there and wallow forever.
Daniel smiled slightly. “The Beast can do it. He heals. He doesn’t get sick, doesn’t stay hurt. Immortal, you know. He’ll handle it. Within minutes.” He rubbed his nose with the flat of his arm again, and then leaned back into the wall again, pale. “He can handle my shit. A stupid cold. Half of what he’s there for. Don’t worry about it. I want to talk to you for ten minutes, stop--” The cough was wet and scraped down across his lungs, and Daniel thought for a fleeting second what a good thing it was that he was true. “...Harping on me.”
He didn’t like hearing that Lin didn’t go outside out of some bizarre sense of camaraderie. Daniel didn’t think Lin was there for anything like companionship, there was too much isolation in that apartment, even with so many rooms. He didn’t think it was Lin’s natural habitat at all, and he didn’t like hearing that it was his fault the boy was there. Even if it was. The scowl went deep and darkened everything from his eyes to the hollows of his cheeks. He refused to respond.
“I did tell him to leave. I did tell him I wanted him to leave. He didn’t.” Daniel put his weight on both feet and shifted guiltily, the uncertainty written all over his face. He had done those things, but he also hadn’t tried very hard. In fact he could remember a couple hazy nights where he had most certainly tried to seduce the boy, and when that hadn’t worked, he’d manipulated Lin into trying to seduce him. Neither one had really succeeded with flying colours, but that wasn’t Sam’s point. He hissed impatiently through his teeth, angry at her, at himself, and at Lin. “Nothing has changed.”
Sam had been through two girls - Christine and Gwen - and she didn't have a dependant type relationship with either of them. Gwen had tried to meddle all the time, yeah? But she hadn't actually managed to do much that was proactive. Ok, so maybe she gave Neil the address of a few drug parties, which he subsequently crashed and saved her ass at, but that wasn't the same as the kind of shit that was going on with Daniel and the nice fucker from the hallway. "Hey, Henry's nice, yeah? We talked about all kinds of shit. He's sweet and fucking knightly or something." She might have kept on, but he started coughing, and it sounded like a horrible fucking thing, all wet and like the mold in the hallways of her rents' building in New Jersey. "You need to get some fucking antibiotics," she added defiantly. But, yeah, ok, her expression said that she was willing to listen to whatever the fuck he wanted to say. Ok, fine, listening.
She waited a few seconds, to see if he clarified that scowl. Her feet tapped against the old carpet, kicking up dust, and she watched as that fucking scowl of his went impossibly deep. She was about to ask him what the fuck was wrong, but then he started talking. "You don't want him to leave, and he doesn't want to fucking leave, yeah? Baby, you can't control what Lin wants, and he wants your ass. All you can fucking do is try to make shit better for him. And before you give me some fucking line about how you don't want to, I'm calling bullshit. We wouldn't be having this conversation if you weren't worried about him, yeah?"
As for nothing having changed, Sam scoffed. "Bullshit again." But she didn't keep going and explain all the ways she saw that shit had changed. Daniel was smart; he knew when he was talking out his ass. Instead, she cocked her head to the side, hair a tumble-tangle of fading black. "Baby, what the fuck are you so busy beating yourself up over? I thought it was the dead chick, yeah, but I don't think so anymore. So, what the fuck makes you think you deserve to be alone and sick with drunk all the time?" Maybe Lin knew. Maybe she should have just asked Lin. But, no, she wanted to hear it from Daniel. Because whatever, he couldn't drink himself to death. She wasn't going to let that shit happen, so someone needed to prod. "Did I ever ask that before?" she asked finally added, and fuck it. So what if it made it clearer just how much she didn't remember. This shit was more important than her pride or whatever.
Daniel waved away the idea of medication. He hadn’t seen a doctor in years. “It will go away as soon as I go through the door. Stick around and see, if you don’t believe me.” Sighing, he pulled at the sweaty curls on the back of his neck and then just let his arm hang there, elbow sticking out strangely in its sheathe of blue fabric. The illusion of athleticism it provided was entirely ruined by the rumpled angles of shoulders and hips. He kept glancing down at his bare feet, as if surprised at the sensation of dusty carpet and frigid air. “Henry is only knightly in manners. He talks pretty. He thinks like any other man, and he’s more selfish than most. Maybe even me. Definitely more dangerous. Sometimes his outside matches his inside, and if he thought you had the witch who cursed him in your head, he would not hesitate to tear out your throat with his teeth.” This was a long speech for Daniel, especially since it was given in the nature of a warning, with nothing in it for him. His tired blue gaze met Sam’s. “Be careful with him.”
Daniel watched a curtain of uncertainty settle over Sam’s expression with a combination of dread and pain. The idea that she couldn’t remember what she’d done or said seemed more of a shame with her, she who had tried so hard to shake off the drugs that had been obscuring reality. He remembered the pills she had when he had first met her, and remembered not objecting to her downing whatever she wanted. Daniel had tried to remain separate from the suffering of the people around him, done what he could to pretend everyone he read about was a figment of the mind or an actor in a play. It didn’t work as soon as they showed up in person, clad in reality that hit him like a punch, all of it in the colors they wore, the way they moved, and the little flickers of expression when they looked at him.
If those pills made an appearance today, Daniel would have literally fought Sam to take them away. Given how hellish he felt and how dubious she looked, he figured even odds.
Daniel dropped his gaze to his feet again, but his expression twisted into something black and grotesque, like crude oil. “It’s not your business, or Lin’s. I live how I want to live, die how I want to die.” There was a split second as the vision of it tried to intrude, how pissed Lin would be if he did die, how Daniel could never make Lin be the one to discover a body, under any circumstances. He shoved away from the wall in a short explosion of anger that came from nowhere. He didn’t move toward her but away, pacing like a ragged lion to the opposite end of the hall and dragging his knuckles across the wallpaper as if he was trying to find a weak spot to tear into. “Leave it alone! I don’t want to talk about him. What’s the point? It’s done. Past.” He whirled again, unsteady on his feet, and wedged blunt nails under a piece of peeling paper. He yanked. “Don’t make me...” He now seemed to be talking to himself, or someone that wasn’t there, peeling the paper down with confusion so intense it was focused down to a point. “I don’t need you to know me. I can do without it. I will. I can.”
She wanted to ask him what the fuck happened if he got a different person in his head. Fuck, she'd switched and switched back again, and lately Christine had been a fucking nonentity, yeah? Quiet, like she wasn't even there at all, and that was one of the reasons she'd come to the hotel in the first place, because maybe going through the door would wake her back up or something. But the fact that he was letting himself get this fucked up, all because he was counting on someone else to fix him? That was just a fucking trainwreck waiting to happen, yeah? She wanted to ask- no, she wanted to fucking tell him, but she waited. He was still talking, and she didn't want him to shut the fuck up until he was done saying whatever he had to say. He was kind of like a turtle, and she was worried about scaring him right back into his fucking shell. She did roll her eyes when he told her to be careful with Henry. "Baby, however much of a player your Henry might be, he's nothing compared to the fuckers out here." Because that was true enough. Yeah, sure, he'd been charming, but she wasn't exactly the kind of chick to get bowled over by charming.
And, ok, so maybe whatever clouded his features next worried her. She hated not knowing what the fuck his reactions meant, especially when she felt like she should know, should understand what the changes in his face indicated. She wanted to ask him, bluntly, how well they knew each other. She thought the answer was something along the lines of really fucking well, but that was just a hunch, and her mind was a fucking swiss cheese minefield of hunches lately, and she didn't like it at all.
When his expression turned black, she straightened her shoulders against the wall, like the old wallpaper could give her strength or some stupid shit. Then she reminded herself that she didn't need strength, because however darkly he glared, he wasn't going to hurt her. That she knew, even if everything else was a fucked up mess in her head. "It is so our fucking business. I care about you, so I get a fucking say, yeah? Just like you wouldn't want to see me fucking myself up. And don't be a hypocrite or whatever and tell me that I'm wrong. My memory might be swiss cheese, but I know that's true. So, yeah, it's my business, and it's Lin's business, and you're just going to have to fucking live with it, baby, because we're not going to let you die or anything like that." And maybe she was wrong to speak for Lin, because she had the feeling that Lin would take whatever path kept him in Daniel's good graces, which was probably the path of least fucking resistance. But whatever; she didn't mind pissing Daniel off for his own good.
But then he was whirling and screaming about a him, and Sam was absolutely fucking sure that him wasn't Lin. "Daniel, I'm already here, and I already give a shit, and I already know you. Now, fucking talk, yeah?"
Daniel looked up at her, the distance between them now something like ten yards, and his voice was hoarse with effort and the struggle of his lungs against the cold air. “You are going to let me. There’s not a choice involved.” He let his volume seep away with his energy, and most of it seemed to drain out of him in an abrupt rush, sliding out from his fevered brain and down his spinal card to splash down into the soles of his feet where his weight dug his body into the carpet. He could feel the tacky strip of the wallpaper as it crumpled under the assault of his grimy fingers, and he kept pulling, slower now, drawing out the pain in one long, delicious metaphor. “It’s taking a long time. I’m not…” He took in a sudden wet breath, a sob going backwards, and held it down at the top of the throat and until an explosive cough ripped it back out of him. “I’m not good at it.”
He hacked a few times, not hurried about it, just coughing to get the tickle free. Abruptly Daniel dropped to his heels and finally pushed his feet out away from his hips, letting his weight fall sideways against the newly-bared wall, the strip of paper still grounding him there as he slowly crinkled one end against his palm. “Scared of it. You’re scared of death too, you know what I mean.” He gave her a meaningful look that had gratitude in it, twisted, grateful that he was not alone in this either. There was no happiness in his smile, no real life in his gaze, just the dim glow of old ice gone tired in oncoming spring.
“You want to talk about it? Talk about how they’re handling it, or Fucking Neil, even. I’ll even hear about him. Tell me whatever you want.” He looked at her, eyes rolling to the edge of their sockets, expression faintly pleading.
"Bullfucking shit, yeah? I can give you hell as much as I want to. I can sit on your fucking doorstep if I want. And, if I'm worried that you're actually trying to off yourself, I can call the fucking cops, and they'll admit you for observation. You'll get the DTs, and they'll realize how much you're drinking, and they'll sober you the fuck up in a hospital, where you won't fucking die from it. You're talking to an addict, baby. A fucking loco addict. I know all about being admitted to places because I almost died on something." She yelled it all, the Jersey getting thicker and thicker in her voice the longer she went. She was almost entirely round Os by the time she finished, and then she realized that she had no fucking idea how she remembered that shit. But she did remember it, and fuck it, now just wasn't a good fucking time.
She remembered a motel room, something cheap and dingy and roadside. It smelled of sweat, salt and weed and mildew. Some by the hour place that hadn't gotten fresh bedsheets in like five guests. She remembered being on the phone, Neil's Scottish accent familiar through the receiver. She remembered a razor, a blood, needles and pills. She remembered sadness, and she blinked all that shit away, because not fucking now.
"You're not good at it because you're not fucking doing it!" she yelled, and she pushed her shoulders against the warped old paper and forced herself to standing. She looked at him - she really fucking looked at him. Man, she was so fucking pissed at Lin just then. How often did she even see Daniel? She had no fucking clue. But Lin saw him all the fucking time, and he wasn't blind, yeah? And all it took was a little scratching at the surface of Daniel's pallid skin to get suicide wishes to come spurting out like fucking blood all over the old carpet.
And fuck his distance, and fuck her cane. She walked up to him with a lurch and grab to the bannister, and then she was crowding him with a body that was plumper and healthier than it had been in a year. "You're not fucking doing this anymore, because I'm not fucking letting you." Bravado, maybe, but she had a fucking phone, and she knew how to dial 911, and she could make the biggest fucking stink about him telling her that he wanted to die. And, hey, it wasn't like he could run very fucking far. "I love you, you stupid motherfucker. That means you don't get to die." And she was still young enough to believe shit could actually be fixed, even after all the crap that was starting to plug those swiss cheese holes in her brain.
All the screaming was a little more than Daniel could handle. He felt terrible in the most pure, physical way, just because he was sick, and he’d been sick before and he knew what it felt like. It was a stomach-churning feeling, hearing his blood going through his head just behind his ears, and even if it wasn’t lethal he wished it was over. It was a humanizing experience, and he knew that everyone got sick at some point or another. It made him feel grounded, maybe a little more real than he had felt a few hours before. He brought one hand up against one side of his head, not blocking his ears, but betraying an impulse to shut out her words. Her abrupt motion brought his attention back up to her. He’d wanted to maintain distance, and that desire was abruptly physical, panic-stricken physical.
In a burst of clumsy movement, Daniel rolled over his hip and up to his feet, backing away from her, fevered brain tinged with orange certainty that he would somehow give her a little cold that would knock her over and send her back to the hospital and blunt crayons. His eyes went wide, as if her shrieks were blatant threats to end him in torture rather than polite societal ignorance. Mouth pressing into a line, he stumbled backwards down the hall, avoiding her as if she was flammable and he unpredictable spark.
“I’m not doing anything,” he insisted, in direct contrast to what he’d just said moments before. “I’m not. I said Henry was handling it. I’m fucking fine. I probably don’t even count as an addict. It goes away as soon as he--Sam, stop it. Get the fuck away from me.” He tried to ward her off with outstretched fingers, but was afraid to touch her, certain she might crumple without the use of the cane and bright eyes jumping to either side in a vain hope for unexpected rescue. He realized quickly he had said too much, and that she was taking it personally. Weary of his own idiocy, Daniel’s jaw went tight and he tried to find a way around her down the hall, angrily pulling his arm across his wet nose.
She watched his clumsy retreat with surprise. Ok, yeah, so she wasn't really surprised that he wasn't taking what she'd said well, ok? But she was like 5'4 and nothing. She couldn't even fucking walk right, so what was he scared of? But something in her mind said Daniel freaked around her a lot, and she couldn't remember if that was because she was too fucked up for him to deal with, or because he was too fucked up himself. Either way, she didn't pursue when he backed away, and she didn't get that he was concerned about giving her some fucking cold. After all the shit she'd been through, she wasn't scared of a cold, yeah? But she didn't get it, and her expression went from being fiery and determined, to being something sad and young. It was stupid to get emotional, especially when she'd deliberately run her fucking mouth, but she was kind of unpredictable lately, and the shrink said that was normal. Whatever, it made her sad, and she watched him without any move to pursue.
"You're a drunk. I'm an addict. Neil's a drunk. You can't fucking bullshit me, baby. Maybe you didn't start out as a drunk, yeah? Maybe you started doing this shit on purpose to off yourself or something, but your body's addicted to the booze now, and there's no fucking point in pretending you don't know that, because you do fucking know that," she said, but her voice didn't have the strength from before. And that get the fuck away from me, that kept her from making even an abbreviated move forward. Yeah, ok, she wouldn't stop him, but she wasn't going to let this shit go. She told herself that just then, even as she hugged her arms around herself and looked at him with blue eyes that were way too fucking old for her face. She'd tell Lin. She'd tell Neil. She'd tell Lou. She'd tell anyone who fucking listened, and someone would help her to help him. She really believed that shit, and it made her a little calmer, yeah? Ok, so they'd let this go too fucking long, yeah? And she had to be partially responsible for that, and fuck Lin, but she'd made sure it got dealt with now. She wouldn't shut up until something changed.
She moved back. "Go. I couldn't grab you even if I fucking wanted to, and we both fucking know it." Her shoulders were against the wall again, and she stared at him, waiting to see if he made it to his fucking door. She wasn't even sure he'd manage that one, and she wasn't sure Henry could cure fucking pneumonia or whatever. And she was scared. For the first time since waking up without a memory of anything bad, she was really fucking scared, and it wasn't even for herself. "I just don't want anything to happen to you," she added, round vowels lost in the unusual softness to the word.
Daniel’s face twisted in true ugliness as she compared him to Neil in three bland words. His features were almost unrecognizable with that amount of loathing in them, the thin mouth slashing upwards, the cap of dark curls becoming nothing but heavy shadows over his eyes and a shield over the glistening forehead. “I am not Neil.” He said it with such venom that it was a surprise not to see poison dripping out of his mouth. His slid his tongue outside of his mouth and tried to wet cracked lips that stayed dry.
His breath hissed in his lungs as he tried to contain his temper, the fear turning into rage and burning somehow hotter. “I told you I was sick. You don’t need this, it’s fucking terrible. Trust me. Cough drops won’t cut it.” He tried with all he had to stay calm and remember that she was fragile, even if she didn’t look it. She had a wild look in her eyes that he recognized, and it went a long way toward pushing him into that calm. He breathed deeply again, through his mouth. He didn’t back away farther, coming away from the door again to the center of the hallway, hovering there like a sickly ghost.
The blue eyes sought hers, uncertain whether to feed her a better lie. “You don’t need to worry.” Daniel was always better at lying with his words (and sometimes his body) than his face. His expression was wary, waiting for her to shatter or scream again. He was trying to close off again, having discovered that she was a little more aware than he expected her to be, more sensitive, and more attached. He had not even revealed himself to her in all their conversations, some of them the anonymous guise of a hotel plaything, and in those he had been even more intimate. He shuddered to think what kind of bond she might have made then. “You can’t love me. You’re… confused.” He looked closer at her face, trying to divine the source. “You don’t know me.”
That was a whole lot of fucking hate, yeah? And Sam already knew that Neil hated Daniel, and now she knew that Daniel hated Neil, and why the fuck was that? She knew Daniel wasn't in love with her or anything, and she knew Neil wasn't either, so it couldn't be fucking jealousy. She decided it had to be like when her brothers would fight over a fucking toy that neither of them really wanted, yeah? Well, no, to be fair, she was pretty sure Neil wanted her more than Daniel did, but it was close to the same fucking idea. "Yeah, you're not Neil. Neil would at least call a doctor when he got sick. He has a stronger sense of self-preservation than you do, baby." Which was true. Neil might be apathetic about everything, but he took care of himself. Well, when he wasn't drinking he took care of himself.
"I go to the doctor like every fucking week to make sure my brain isn't swelling in my head. If I get a cold, they'll fucking antibiotic me up or whatever. Calm the fuck down," she said, unworried. Seriously? She was so not worried about a fucking cold. And she had no fucking clue that his approach had to do with the fear in her eyes. She was just glad that he wasn't backing the fuck away again. But, bullshit, when he said she didn't need to worry. She didn't believe that for a fucking second. Did he think she had amnesia or something? Ok, so maybe she did, but it wasn't like she'd forgotten the shit he had JUST said. She gave him a look that said as much, and all she wanted just then was for someone to fix this for her. Lin, Lou, Neil, someone. Someone would fix this shit, because she was going to scream at every last one of them when she left the hotel. Any plans to go through the door were fucking gone, and her priorities had completely fucking changed.
"Calm the fuck down. I said I love you. I didn't say I was in love with you," she clarified, assuming that deer in headlights look was born from misunderstanding or whatever.
Daniel’s hatred of Neil was simple that it could only be called pure. Neil had only to reach out his hand, and all Daniel had loved in the prime of his life would find a duplicate there, and for the last year all Daniel had to hear about was how Neil hadn’t bothered to stick his fingers out and grab it. It was like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and Adam lying there like a motherfucking insolent teenager, while the rest of humanity stares up there from the crush of the crowd in the middle of a Roman Holiday and wonders why they’re suddenly so embarrassed to be human. Neil’s constant willful failures drove Daniel made with the need to affirm and fix, so much so that occasionally he pulled himself out of the bottom of a bottle just to scratch that itch. Fucking Neil.
Daniel didn’t believe a word she said about being unconcerned about a cold. When she got to the word “brain” his eyes practically bulged from their sockets and he actually retreated several more steps, as if he might somehow set her insides on broil by sheer proximity. Daniel, at least, was not fooled but the apparent health and the midnight hair. He had his own blinders on, and the world as Daniel saw it was a fragile tower just waiting for a fuckup like him to destroy it. Daniel didn’t think he could stand doing that again.
“You have some kind of weird friend versus lover thing defined in your head?” Daniel asked her, perplexed.
Sam had no fucking clue about his Neil thoughts, though she wouldn't have been surprised. She'd always known Neil wasn't proactive about shit. She'd known that when she'd gotten involved with him, and maybe she found his apathy hot or something? She definitely liked that lazy I don't give a fuck thing he had going. She didn't know if he'd gotten better in the past few years, but she wasn't counting on it. She didn't remember, but she thought she knew him well enough to get it.
So, yeah, no clue about the way his brain was ticking, and it was only his retreat a few seconds later that registered. She had no clue why he'd retreated, because she wasn't associating the brain thing with anything that would scare him. After all, everyone knew her head was fucked up. It wasn't like it was some big mystery. And maybe he was right about that fragile tower thing, but she'd been hiding that shit good, and she didn't realize he could see it. And it wasn't a cold that she was susceptible to, but there were memories constantly threatening to overwhelm her, and every time she found out something new about the Murphys or Iris, well, shit just got more tense. But, yeah, no, she wasn't scared of his cold.
His question wasn't what she was expecting though, and she was inky confusion as she looked at him. "No, but guys generally freak out about the fucking love thing, yeah?" That struck some cord, something about Neil not saying it back, and her gaze went unfocused for a second. "Yeah, well, the point is I'm fucking worried. And I'll let you through the door so Henry can fix you or whatever, but this shit isn't over." Nope. She was still going to tell everyone she knew about his suicidal bullshit; there was no stopping that now.
She moved aside.
“The love thing,” Daniel repeated after her, at a loss. He literally had no idea how Sam could be in love with anyone, except maybe stupid Neil and his fucking uselessness. Perhaps Sam meant a warmer concern thing, the way Daniel felt about the white cat back at the apartment. It made a little more sense to him, especially since they’d slept together once. Physical proximity, something like that. Recent brain surgery no doubt played some sort of factor.
Daniel fixed her with a confused stare, most of the deeper, darker stuff completely submerging under the shallow workings of his mind as he tried to figure her out, like she’d just begun talking in another language. After a moment’s hesitation he drifted down the corridor, not necessarily pulling away from her, but turning his head so he didn’t breathe in her direction. His wet, hoarse breaths accompanied him down the hallway, and he paused at the corner, whereupon he looked back at her, began to say something, and then just shook his head and moved off into the dark.