|Alex is just (thekidwhodies) wrote in repose,|
@ 2020-02-18 19:11:00
|Entry tags:||*log, alex white, audrey carpenter|
Log: Alex and Audrey
Who: Alex, Audrey, and introducing Nyx the Cat
What: Alex adopts a literal rescue cat
Where: Out by the Greyhound Station, then an animal hospital
When: Late Tuesday night
Warnings/Rating: Hurt animal :(
The main benefit of living in Repose proper (aside from, amongst other things, living rent-free) was that Alex now found himself closer to everything. It was a shorter walk to work, a shorter walk home, and even the library - where he'd been attending GED classes for the past month, was relatively close. Even on a cold February evening, past 10 p.m. with the wind seeming to blow right through his thin frame, Alex knew he could endure it, because it wouldn't be long before he'd be home, curled up in bed and under a very warm blanket he'd gotten for Christmas.
He was just approaching 314, the lights of the diner (the good one) shining into the night, when he found himself pulled up short by...something. It was the oddest feeling, like a wavering candle in a dark hallway, a...light that he couldn't see but could feel, flickering and guttering, drawing him forward across the highway and toward the Greyhound station, already dark for the night, the last buses come and gone.
Mew. Piteous, weak. Resolving from the shadows under a bench, a cat. A black cat, made of little more than the inky darkness, eyes and teeth and not much else catching the lights from the diner across the street. Raising its head from the pavement, the heaving of its side just one shadow moving against the others. That feeling was coming from the cat, Alex realized. He got down cautiously into a crouch, not wanting to scare it off, the backpack full of books hanging from his shoulders shifting as he did.
The cat laid its head down again with another weak meow. It wasn't...acting like a cat would around a stranger. It seemed completely uncaring that Alex was slowly stretching out his fingers toward it. Not curious, not...anything.
Then he saw the blood, pooled on the ground, the cat's fur matted with it, a dull shine in the lights as it moved. Alex inhaled sharply, looking around. Yes, a drop here and there, catching the light, a trail leading back toward the highway. Hit by a car, crawled under here to die. His breath caught harshly in his throat. "No," he shuddered out with a breath. "No." More firmly, resolved. Fuck, did Repose even have an animal hospital? He'd never seen one. And that candle feeling, it was flickering. The...cat's life, he could feel how weak it was, getting slowly, steadily weaker. He hiccupped back a sudden outraged sob and pulled his phone out. He needed someone with a car.
He pulled up his contacts, tapped the screen. Ring, ring. A connection. Before she could speak: "Audrey? 's Alex. I...uh, I need you to come pick me up. I found a cat a-and...I think it got hit by a car, or something an' I...I gotta help it." His voice was urgent, pained, desperate.
Audrey had been curled up on her chair with a book in hand, it was a peaceful moment, fairy lights dripped down her curtains twinkled from behind accompanied by a comfortable silence. Her bedroom wasn’t fully put together, not yet, there were still some unpacked boxes on the floor--but her shelves were up and her corner was put together and that’s what mattered. It had beckoned to her earlier, and even though she knew she still had so much to do she gave in and delved into a new read.
It didn’t last long though. Her phone lit up vibrating and ringing. She glanced down to see Alex’s name appear on the screen. Huh. What could he possibly be calling about this late? Setting her book down she swiped open the call and brought it to her ear. “H--” She didn’t even manage to utter a word when Alex’s voice came through the speaker as an urgent plea--a desperation she had never, ever heard from him before.
Adrenaline immediately plunged through her veins and she sat up the book she had been invested in thudded to the floor forgotten. Something about a car. Hit? A cat. He sounded worried and so … scared. “Where are you?” Something about the 314. The bus station. “Okay. I’ll be right there--just--I’ll be right there.” She hopped off of her seat and slipped on her shoes. Audrey didn’t even bother to change her clothes from the pajama set she was wearing. She did, however, manage to grab two fleece blankets from within her storage bin; red and blue respectively. One for the cat and one for Alex, who she knew was more than likely not dressed appropriately for this weather and probably freezing himself to sickness this very moment---oh, her adrenaline spiked at the thought.
Audrey ran down the stairs like a small, thundering tornado of pastel bunnies and black hair. She swiped her keys from the hook along with her coat. “I’ll be right back!” She was even sure if Hannah or Si were even home, but it was better to call out than not. Slam! Went the front door. Click! Went the keys when she locked it. Slam! Car door. Rrrrroooom! The engine. She didn’t normally ever speed, but tonight she was definitely pushing the boundaries of what would be considered over the limit. She didn’t like that sound in Alex’s voice--her friends voice. It was a helpless, frightened sound like being a child all over again, when something was wrong but there were no real words to put into it--just tone. Trembling tone.
She must have been on autopilot because she found herself pulling up to the 314 before she even realized it, headlights piercing through the fluorescent lit darkness and washing over the blonde boy and whatever was currently bundled in his arms.
As soon as he'd hung up with Audrey, his anxiety drained very slightly away. Help, help was coming. He always needed help. But, no, this time it wasn't for him. And maybe the thought would prick him later, like: he couldn't even help without getting help. But that was for future Alex to worry and fret over; right now, he had more important things on his mind.
Alex put away the phone and got down on all fours, inching toward the cat again, holding out his hands. Again, not much of a response, just a baleful, dull stare and a soft mew of pain. Very, very carefully, Alex slid his hands under the animal, knuckles grazing across asphalt and gravel. Warm. The cat was still warm, but he could feel his hands getting wet with tacky blood. Blood had never bothered Alex; it was the pain that cut him deep. He could feel the wrongness in the lower half of the cat's body. Something, many somethings, probably, broken. He could feel a little flare of that...that candle feeling. It was holding steady. But the sense of it was so, so strong, as soon as he'd touched the cat.
As carefully as he could, Alex extracted the cat from under the bench, all the while, speaking softly. "We're gonna get you some help, kiddo," he said. Not pet talk or baby talk, just like he was talking to a friend. "'s all gonna be okay, you hear?" He was heedless of the blood that stained his hoodie and the cuffs of his sweater as he pulled the cat into the crook of his arm. He had no idea how old it was; definitely older than a kitten, for sure. Maybe five or six years old? Impossible to tell given the lighting and the way it just laid there in his arms. He wasn't a cat expert. "It's gonna be fine." This poor animal was not going to die.
Cradling the cat in one arm, he unzipped his hoodie most of the way and gently placed it close to his chest and stomach, hoping that it would stay as stable as it could for the ride into town. He risked petting the cat's head, but it didn't react very much at all to the touch, just a slight turning of its gaze, acknowledging him. Another soft mew. Alex zipped up his hoodie around the cat, feeling the warmth against his body, the wetness of the blood. He could smell it, coppery and earthy, taste it like pennies in the back of his throat.
He turned as Audrey pulled in, walking in the direction of her car before she'd even parked, an urgency to his steps that definitely was pretty much never there, going around to the driver's side as she rolled down the window. "Thank you," he said first thing, brushing his hair out of his eyes with bloodied fingers. "I-I should probably get in the back, I think. C'n you help me off with my bag?" He didn't want to move his hands from the bundle in his hoodie for anything, if he could help it.
As Audrey slowed Alex’s shape became but a silhouette in the blast of her headlights; his shadow stretched on skinnier and frail until it melted with the dark. Alex’s rushed gait made Audrey’s stomach flip flop as he approached and she came to a full stop her window came down just as quickly. The instant he came close she also could smell the blood and she had to swallow back the nausea forming in the pits of her gut.
“Y-yeah, of course--I brought blankets.” She was already getting out of the car before he could completely finish his sentence. Audrey took in a breath, despite the blood soaked scent wafting around her friend and the poor animal in his jacket. His jacket--there would be no saving it. It was stained to hell. No amount of lemon water, vinegar or bleach would be its savior. Another breath. She needed to calm her nerves and be of help, not a jittery useless bundle.
“How on earth did you find the poor thing?” She whispered, her eyes glancing to catch just enough of the cat’s pitiful face and the matted fur. Who knows how long it was out there and if Alex hadn’t found it. Her brows knit and she worked to remove his backpack and opening the back door she tossed it in then crawled forward. The red blanket was laid down on the backseat for comfort and to avoid stains--and the blue one was fanned out and then wrapped around Alex like a cloak. Audrey was so tiny she could barely put it around Alex since he was so much taller--it would have been a comical sight in any other circumstance.
“Go on, get in. I’ll shut the door. I...don’t think Repose has an animal hospital, I’ll have to Google one on my phone.” Her eyes drifted back to the helpless bundle curled against her friend.
Alex, of course, didn't care about the jacket. He didn't care that he stank like blood, didn't care about anything but the little heartbeat he could almost feel, so close to his own. He thought of that candle feeling, thought of feeding it like a flame. Not that it was doing any good that he could tell, but at least, getting the poor thing out of the cold should help to some degree. "Was his eyes," he said, once he was settled in the backseat, and Audrey back up front, the warmth of the blanket around his shoulders and which Audrey had shown in coming out here for him reminding him of the cold which had seeped into his bones. He'd been cold. Not anywhere near freezing to death, and he had died that way before. All things considered, it wasn't an awful way to go. "Saw 'em shinin' back at me, saw the blood, and..." He trailed off, dipping his head to study the little bundle in his arms, letting out a shuddery breath.
"He's gonna be okay though," he said, voice a little stronger. Convinced. randomly picking a gender for no good reason other than he didn't want to call the cat "it." He'd find out later, when other things weren't more important. "So, thank you," he said. "Whatever you gotta do and wherever we gotta go. I'm...I'm sorry if I freaked you out." It was true, he was a little calmer now, though clearly still anxious and shaken. There was a guilty piece of him, wondering if he hadn't overreacted, but how do you not, to something that's dying? He was glad he wasn't the one driving. "Thank you, Audrey. I...din't know who else to call who like...has a car."
Audrey cranked up the heat for Alex as much as the cat. It was a chilly, chilly night, and she had half a mind to tell Alex she was going to buy him a proper coat and that jackets were for cool weather--not this, but she didn’t. She kept it to herself. It was the worry, the anxiety causing her to fret over everything. The last thing he needed to hear was about the fact he should have a coat. He probably didn’t have the money for one. The fact that his jacket was ruined. He would need a new one. Or the fact that he had a poor dying cat huddled against him. All of that had to stay in her head, keep him calm, this wasn’t about her. He needed her to be strong at this moment and so she planned on it.
She tried to imagine sad little eyes staring out from the darkness, how that would feel--and she ached for the two in the backseat. It was a blessing, hopefully, if she was fast enough.
“He’s lucky you saw him,” if Alex was going to call the cat a boy for now so would she. She clicked her phone quickly, her eyes scanning the screen and then she clicked the first 24 hour animal hospital she saw. “...There’s one about 20 minutes outside of town. I might be able to get there quicker considering there’s not really any traffic. Please buckle up if you can.” She reversed the car to get them on the main road and on the way. She heard a small mew from Alex’s shirt and her heart sped up ever so slightly. The poor thing had to be in so much pain, and despite the calm Alex was exuding now...she had heard the trepidation in his voice before, she knew that sound.
“You didn’t freak me out.” Complete and total lie, but sometimes white lies were necessary--no need to make him feel guilty or hesitant to call her again if he needed to. “You can call me anytime you need me, Alex. Including if the sole reason is for my car, okay?” Now that? Was pure truth. She turned left at the direction of the GPS. “...are you warm enough? I should have brought more than two blankets. I think… I think that I have water bottles in the cooler behind the passenger seat from when I moved, they’re left over and should be cold all things considered.”
She winced. “...Don’t worry, little guy. We’ll be there soon.” She glanced at Alex from her mirror. “We will.”
Alex knew there was a certain sense in buckling up in a moving car, even if he was in the backseat, but he didn't want to do anything that would jostle the cat. Those little whimpers of pain were tearing at his heart enough as it was. So he just held as still as he could for the moment. "Okay," he said, reaching out to sense that little feeling again. It was fading, but slowly, like an hourglass running out. Problem was he couldn't see the thing to know how much time was left. But there was little more he could do at this point, but keep the cat comfortable, try to feed whatever he could into that little spark and hope it was enough. Still, he bit his lip at his general helplessness.
"'m warm enough," he said, and not a little white lie. He stopped himself from thanking her again; he knew he'd be doing it often enough pretty much forever. "I been worse." Which was not a lie, either. That was the thing about being first poor and living in a shitty little trailer in Idaho, in the winter, and then later being homeless and hitching and...well, in other ways making his way across the Upper Midwest. You dealt with it.
He didn't want the water for himself, but very carefully reached over and flipped open the cooler to pull out a bottle. He knew it wasn't going to be perfect, or even much, but he opened up the bottle and poured a little bit into his cupped hand, holding it close and as best as steady as he could to the cat's mouth. It looked at him with those glazed eyes and sniffed a little before the rough tongue was lapping up the water from his palm. "Yeah, that's it," he encouraged in a soft voice, pouring out another tiny amount, trying to keep still with the normal shifting and rocking of a car in motion.
Warm enough was good enough for now--as for him having been worse, her mouth formed a thin line. That was tucked away. Now was not the time. At least the little encouragement she heard from him to the poor animal was a positive, right? If it was drinking it meant that there was hope. Her heart hammered a little less now, but her foot was still lead on the gas, driving steady and quickly, focused on the road ahead. “When we get to the animal hospital you should probably message your roommates--friends, so they don’t worry too much that you haven’t come home, okay? I’ll stay with you there.” She didn’t ask him if he wanted her there--and yeah, she knew she was supposed to be working on assumptions and thinking what she knew was best--which honestly, felt laughable at times because she was normally so unsure, but in this case? She knew what she wanted and it was to be with her friend and the poor cat that needed support.
The road was pretty dead for this time of night and they passed maybe only one or two cars the entire drive. The air was cool, fogging over her windshield as tiny droplets they cast glimmers of light along the seats like constellations, and the tires hummed beneath them. No music played. Just the sound of pavement and wind whipping by.
When the animal hospital came into view the breath Audrey hadn’t been aware she was holding released silently and along with it a bit of calm. “We’re here...wait...right there.” She pulled into the nearest parking spot and yanked her seatbelt off hurrying to the back. She opened the door for Alex and along with it her hand and a tiny smile, her brows knitted up. “Let’s get this little guy all fixed up, okay?” Her words were puffs of warm mist in the air.
"Yeah, I'll...I'll do that when we got everythin' taken care of with this little guy." The water seemed to help, or maybe it was just his imagination and wishful thinking that it was helping. Hard to say, but he wanted to be hopeful. It was really easy to fall into despair when things went bad; Alex knew that well enough. And yet, even that, the things he'd been feeling when he'd been tied to that bed, or locked up in that facility, they seemed dull. Like remembering that you remembered something. He didn't tell Audrey that she didn't need to stay, and was in turn grateful that she hadn't asked what had been worse.
By the time they'd gotten there, though, the cat had stopped drinking from Alex's hand. He seemed to be flagging again and Alex couldn't find it in himself to match Audrey's smile; worry had settled in to crease his features once again. "Yeah." He took her hand, thinking it was kind of unnecessary - but sweet - and got up out of the backseat, still cradling the cat with his other arm. "C'mon, kiddo," he whispered as they walked up to the front door. "Time for you to get better. You just keep strong, you hear? You've made it this far. Just a little bit more."
Once they were inside, there was a brief flurry of activity as the cat was whisked away to be fixed up, with promises of information from the staff as soon as they had any sort of update. Alex and Audrey were left to the waiting room, dim and dull, furnished in polyester and vinyl, with an old stack of magazines left on a particleboard coffee table, and a clipboard full of forms for Alex to fill out. Shit, he was going to have to pay. He could afford it...probably. He'd been saving up, since living at Mal's, but...well. What else was better to spend it on? "Thanks," he said again, holding on to the clipboard and really noticing the mess his shirt and hoodie were. "I...uh, I should probably get cleaned up." Which felt impossible. "At least wash my hands."
Audrey didn’t like the idea of hospitals in any capacity. Yes, logically she knew this is where people and animals went to get better, but they still unnerved her. The death, the smell of sterility, the frantic rushes between the moments of atypical quiet. She held it down though, especially when she saw Alex’s face when they took the cat away. “...he’ll be okay.” She promised quietly, assuring. “You saved him by finding him and you did everything right.”
He thanked her. Again. She looked up at his washed out face and behind his eyes she could see worry beneath the surface in the form of cogs turning and turning.
“You really don’t need to thank me,” she told him amidst the silence of the waiting room. Her eyes did drift to his clothes, blood stained and shivering. She frowned. “Hold on. Just. One moment.” Audrey went back to the window and tapped on the glass. A stout woman with bifocals answered, tilting her head over at Alex as Audrey talked and gestured to her own clothes. The woman tutted empathetically, clearly impressed with Alex’s heroics--she vanished only to return a moment later to hand some things to Audrey. Audrey smiled back at her and hurried over to the lobby.
“I have a wash rag, a trash bag to put your hoodie in and um, she--Joyce-- had a scrubby shirt--apparently some of the staff keep extra. It might be a little big but it’s something.” She held up the items, the shirt in question was lavender had little yellow duckies all over it; it would be rabbits and ducks tonight apparently. “The bathroom is right in there and there should be soap. I’ll hold the clipboard and blanket for you--okay? We may be here for a bit so it’s better if you’re a little more comfortable.”
Amazingly, Alex hadn't spent a lot of time in hospitals. Or, time that he remembered. Point was, his injuries were usually of the fatal variety. It did remind him a little of the facility where he'd been kept; though where that had been sleek and modern, this was old, faded, dull, tired. And yet, they sort of had that same feeling of something sterile and impenetrable. Clinical. "Yeah," he agreed softly, his voice tired.
He did need to thank her, but he wasn't going to argue the point, all right? Because it was important that he did, but she would keep saying the same things in return, that he didn't need to, and they'd just go round and round on that all night. He felt another surge of gratitude as he watched Audrey talk to the woman at the desk who'd been so kind when he'd brought the cat in, and when she came back he even managed a little smile of thanks, though he didn't say it again, because he was going to just let that sleeping dog lie.
His mind was still on the cat, though, hoping he was getting the best treatment, getting fixed up and not dying while they were doing whatever they needed to to try to save him. If Alex reached out, he could still feel the cat, that faint pulse of life, but it was strangely...muddled. There were a lot of little signals here, if he felt for them. Some stronger, some weaker. It's the animals, he realized suddenly. He could feel them somehow. Feel how alive they were, how--
One of them snuffed out. The feeling just gone like a blip on a radar disappearing, an inaudible screeching echoing in his mind. He'd handed over the blanket and clipboard, and had just reached out for the new top and the other things Audrey had procured for him when his hand dropped to his side and his head turned in that direction like he was listening to distant music. It hadn't been his cat, but...something. "I, uh..." He shook himself. "I need a smoke. I really should do that before I change. I'll, uh, be right back." He fished his cigarettes out of his jeans pocket and was heading for the front door in his almost usual slouch, but definitely moving quicker than he normally would.
He lit up as soon as he was out the doors and slunk down into a little corner in the front facing of the building where two corners of decorative brickwork met. What the fuck had that been? He'd felt something in there die. He took a shaky drag and honestly hoped Audrey wouldn't follow, that she wouldn't have questions. That she would just chalk it all up to coming down from the anxiety he'd been riding for the last half hour.
Alex was right. It would have just been back and forth, back and forth between them as the night wore on. He’d thank her, she’d shrug it off and it would go, so on and so forth and no one really wanted that. Audrey saw his face as he took the items from her hands… he looked ashen, a bit sick even. Her lips thinned into a worried line as he opted to go smoke instead of change. “Oh, um, okay---” but he was off moving quicker than she knew how to catch up with.
Audrey stood still. It was a momentary sensation of awkwardness she couldn’t quite place. Part of her heard Noah’s voice in her head about boundaries and when people wanted and needed help. Overstepping. Alex had said he wanted to go smoke and he more than likely wanted to just have a moment to be alone. To decompress and have some time to himself before returning to the waiting room. It must have been difficult, scary to find the poor cat in such a condition, to hold it in his arms and feel the fragility of its being against his chest. She tugged at the hem of her pajama top, shifted and then toyed with the ends of her thick hair. Shift, tug, fidget. Shift, tug, fidget.
Uggghhhh. No. No. She was not going to let him sit outside in the cold by himself after what he just dealt with.
Audrey marched after him huddling herself within her coat as soon as she stepped into the cold night air. She glanced around and soon her eyes fell upon the wispy, hunched form that was Alex, there was a stack of smoke rising up above his head like a makeshift halo catching and blurring the lamplight spilling from above. Quietly she walked up behind him until she was directly at his right side and crouched down so her hands rested on her knees. He looked anxious, frightened, this furrow of worry digging at his fair brows. She should say something. Something to make him feel better, right? Her mouth wanted to open and offer words--but she couldn’t.
So instead she just rested her head on his shoulder, lightly. It was a quiet weight and warmth she could offer at least. It was frigid out here. The smoke from his cigarette smelled awful, but she stayed bundled up beside him and was just …. there. If he wanted to talk he would. If he didn’t, well, she couldn’t blame him.
She was quiet, but of course, he heard her. Wasn't anything supernatural about that, just that he'd kind of expecting, listening for her. Yeah, he hoped she hadn't, but he wasn't exactly sorry she had, either. And maybe he did need some space, and he'd had it for a couple minutes. The nicotine had calmed his nerves and straightened out his thoughts a little, like if she'd followed him immediately? He might have been unable to stop the sort of crazy words from spilling out of his mouth. How he could feel the cat dying, how he'd felt some other animal in the hospital die. He couldn't feel her though, not that way, and that was a relief. He didn't need to feel people that way, to know when they were going. But the time she'd hesitated, it was enough time.
He wasn't surprised when she got down beside him, but a little surprised when she rested her head on his shoulder. It was comforting, sure. Reminded him of a much better time, sitting watching a vampire movie with Mal, resting his own head on Mal's shoulder. Just a thing that had happened without either of them speaking a word of it. Automatically, he adjusted so that he wasn't blowing smoke in her face. But also, he didn't stop smoking, just on her account. He knew that if she didn't like the smell of alcohol, she had to hate the smell of smoke. And blood. "I smell like blood and smoke," he said quietly. Almost to himself, but not quite, thinking that should deter her. But also he didn't really want to, just wanted to make sure she knew was she was stepping into with eyes (nose?) wide open. "I just needed a minute. I got to thinkin' that there's gotta be lots of other animals too in there like..." The cat needed a name. "Like Nyx." Considering his reading as of late, the goddess of night seemed a fitting namesake for the inky black cat. Even if "he" did turn out to be male. "Just...it's been kinda a lot tonight. Sorry."
She would deal with the smell of smoke mingling with the copper of blood. People dealt with uncomfortable things for the sake of others. Right now, she was here for Alex and all of those minor discomforts fell to the wayside. She stared out at the parking lot as they sat side by side, her eyes transfixed themselves on the glow of lamp posts over the metallic sheen of the few cars scattered along the way. He hadn’t shoved her away, he had his minute, and this was okay. Her shoulders sagged in relief that was almost undetectable all things considered. Audrey didn’t know what was going on in his head, unfortunately. She couldn’t possibly know what he had felt in that building, or how frightening it was. No, all she was aware of was the now--his discomfort now--and what she perceived to be from finding a cat mangled and near death. How was she to know he could feel the life slipping away? How much worse that must be? Audrey’s hands rested on top of her own knees, rubbing the fleece of her pajama bottoms pensively.
Audrey’s head lifted slightly as he talked, he talked about blood and smoke, about time and the fact that he named the cat---the cat who was undoubtedly now his. Her right hand rose up from her knee and took his, the one without the cigarette and she squeezed, delicately, barely a presence--but it was there nonetheless. The action spoke far more than words could at the moment. The grasp of fingers said: it’s okay, you don’t need to explain, I understand, I’m here, you’re not alone. It was a simple act of friendship that could come so naturally at times and yes, it was so much easier than fumbling for words on the cold, dimly lit sidewalk. But.
“Nyx is a good name,” she quietly agreed.
Her hand was warm; Alex's was cold. Still no gloves, no proper winter coat. He didn't take the best care of himself and it was really for a lack of a proper example in that department. Sometimes he didn't think about it until it was too late. Like, oh, I'm cold, I should really do something about that, and then it slipped away after the next few thoughts once he was somewhere warm again. It was how it always happened with him, always reactionary, and he'd tried to be better about planning things out in advance. He'd get there; he was still young, still learning. In many ways, he was still that fifteen-year-old who'd never left home.
But, he squeezed her hand. It seemed so small compared to his, and his was not exactly large on its own merits. He could understand some of the things she was saying with the gesture. Physical comfort wasn't a bad thing to have. He almost reached for the shadows, to draw them around the two of them. The only way he knew to protect anything in his life was to hide it from view. He stopped himself at the thought, though. He didn't want to scare Audrey, didn't think she deserved to be drawn into his weird shit the way he'd done to everyone else he'd come to care for in Repose. Let her stay innocent. Protect her that way.
"I been reading that book," he said, glad to take his mind off of everything for just a few moments longer. "It's the goddess of night. Though like...if he's a boy cat I guess I'll keep the name anyway. And...and him, too." Because there was really no question of that. "I kinda wanted a cat anyway, just, like...not like this, y'know?" But of course she did. He checked in again, reaching out for Nyx. Still there, maybe a little stronger? He was so glad he could focus on just the one animal. A little too far away to tell more than just a vague impression, but it helped some of the tension drain out of his spine, just maintaining that contact. With both Audrey, and the cat.
That book. Oh yes, the one about Greek Mythology he had asked her about. Audrey nodded slightly, glad he was reading it. “I think it’s a great name, besides, goddesses are amazing. It’s powerful for a girl or a boy.” Down with gender norms in 2020, right? She was still staring out at the parking lot just sitting, just being, trying to be an anchor for a friend and not certain if she was doing it right, but he hadn’t pulled away, he hadn’t yelled or become uncomfortable. So this was okay, this was good.
And yes, maybe she was ‘innocent’ in the grand scheme of things. Maybe she didn’t know the deep hardships of others and had it relatively well, even if she buried sorrows and discomforts down in the storm of anxiety that was always wanting to brew into a maelstrom. It was just better that way for everyone at least--that’s what her mind told her--and something she was still working on, especially since moving out. Noah had said she was allowed to feel how she wanted--she just needed to believe it.
However, right now, it was not about her. It was about her friend, it was about the fact he was far more sensitive than he let on, it was the fact that he probably had his own secrets and storms he was dealing with. She didn’t pry. She knew all too well how prying could sometimes cause a person to retreat further back like a cornered animal, she knew because she did it too.
“I also think the cat will be perfect for you, and I think you did an amazing thing to rescue them. You were meant to find Nyx.” Her voice was soft in the illuminated dark. “I think maybe that poor cat will finally have the love it deserves.” Her fingers squeezed his and yes, they were small in comparison, but they were warm--he was always so chilled. She’d prod at him later about layers. Maybe drop a box off at his house with hoodies and gloves, because he deserved them. Because no one deserved to feel cold or forgotten.
Audrey was doing more than she knew, and Alex appreciated it far more than he could say at the moment. She was, like so many had in his life in the past year, tying him down to reality. There'd been a time - a long time - when he'd worried about not being real. About being a ghost, or worse. A placeholder for who or whatever "Alex" had actually been, before he'd died that day at the lake. A replacement, a shadow. That bits of him had been chipped away each time he died. But no, he was himself as much, even more than ever, even though it had only been a year ago that he'd been let go, allowed to be free of the cycle of dying over and over again, just to satisfy someone's curiosity.
"Powerful," he repeated. Agreed. Not that he expected the cat to be anything but a cat; not in the way Alex was anything but a normal human. But he did feel, well, a little more useful. For the first time, something that he could do, something not "normal" had actually saved someone else. Even if it was "just" a cat. No, it wasn't pulling someone out of a burning building, stepping in front of a bullet, but with any luck, and the skill of the veterinarians in the hospital, he might have just saved a life tonight. He felt at that connection with Nyx and sent a burst of love and warmth toward the cat. Maybe it was only his imagination, but he felt a weak echo of it bounce back at him. He smiled, faintly.
"He's gonna be the most spoiled cat in all of Repose," he said, his voice a little more sure, lighter, the smile made manifest in his tone. He put out the cigarette, feeling calmer now, the combination of nicotine and hope doing its work. "C'mon," he said, getting up to his feet and tugging Audrey up with him by her hand. "I, uh...I'll owe you a hug later, but I should really get cleaned up first," he said, feeling a touch shy. He just...well, he didn't hug. It was awkward, to be touched in a way that hadn't been taken or paid for. He was still getting used to it. "And Jesus, if I ain't said it enough, thank you."
They returned inside, and Alex got cleaned up and changed. So yes, purple duckie scrubs it was. And then, they waited. And waited. Alex started dozing, though he maintained contact with Nyx until he was certain that the cat would pull through. Eventually, sometime much later, Joyce called him back over, after a long talk with a vet wearing a white coat. Nyx was going to be all right. He (and he was a he) needed some rest and recovery, and would remain at the hospital for a few days. They would check to see if he was microchipped - which pained Alex to hear - but if an owner didn't turn up, Nyx would be free to go home with Alex in a week or so.