Genre: Drama, Romance rated R
Characters, pairings: Dan/Laurie/Walter
Universe and time period: Comic-verse, Clockwork Eden AU: part 5
Word count: 3100
Notes: This one is actually NOT a giant fluff ball like my recent fic has all been. Some light sexual themes in this one, and a lot of reference to early Clockwork Eden stuff, even more so in upcoming parts. So if you have not read how this AU started you might miss things later.
She returns from the bathroom, mouth tasting of spearmint, and enters their bedroom as quietly as she can manage. She pushes the door closed in one smooth motion to keep the hinges from squeaking and turns the knob slow as to elicit only the faintest click of metal on metal.
Dan looks up at her from the bed where he is laying on his side, propped up on his left elbow, his right hand gently stroking the length of Walter’s naked spine. Walter is on his stomach, his forehead against Dan’s broad chest, snoring softly. Laurie sits down on the bed beside the two men, and smooths the careless graying ginger curls back from Walter’s hairline.
“It’s still so surreal,” Dan whispers, his eyes fixed with a kind of heartrending fascination on the slim figure pressed against him. “To have him here with us, and to have him like this.”
Laurie smiles warmly and relaxes along Walter’s right side. She kisses the top of his head before reaching over his limp form to run a hand over Dan’s shoulder.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the world.” Dan leans across Walter to meet his wife’s tender mouth. She takes him in a long full kiss, her dark lashes fluttering closed as she welcomes his tongue. When he pulls back her eyes again drift to the snoring man between them.
“He looks completely spent,” she murmurs, idly playing with Walter’s unruly hair. “I think we wore him out.”
Dan chuckles softly. “Probably, but it's so good to see him like this, feeling safe enough here with us to sleep so deeply… I just,…I feel I’ve finally managed to do right by him.”
Laurie is quiet for a moment, still thumbing Walter’s ruddy tufts, before she replies with a little nod and stretches to shut off the light.
With the warmer weather making it more bearable to take on renovation projects about the old house, Dan has drafted an extensive list home improvement tasks which Laurie and Walter feel obligated to help out on with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Today it is cleaning out the basement.
The dank cellar is full of a myriad of forgotten objects, some have likely been there for decades. The mess mostly consists of farming equipment and dilapidated household items. All of it falls into one of two categories: junk to be thrown away, and junk that Dan fancies. Laurie could really care less about any of it and the same could be said for Walter with the exception of a sturdy hatchet he finds under a pile of otherwise broken gardening supplies.
“Just needs to be cleaned and sharpened. Still good,” he rasps and hands it over Dan who receives it with a nervous smile.
“For chopping firewood. We have a fireplace, Daniel,” Walter clarifies coolly.
Laurie snickers from her corner of the mess and moves to pull some busted wood shelves away from the far wall, when something skitters out from the shadows and nearly crawls up her arm. She springs back with an entirely uncharacteristic shriek, snatching her hand up to her chest and gasping at the sight of an enormous centipede crawling swiftly to the floor. She cuts it off before it manages to retreat into darkness beneath the shelves and stomps it flat.
The two me jump up, startled by the comically girlish squeal and Dan breaks into laughter.
“Was it a big spider, sweetie?” he teases affectionately.
Laurie glares at him, sharp eyes flaring.
“Fucking huge centipede!” she spits. “And I’m not afraid of them. Little bastard just crawled out so fast. It startled me,” she adds, her pride wounded, and turns back to the shelves with a huff. She continues to seethe as she clears them away, until her attention is caught by a wooden door that had been hidden by the decaying shelving.
“Dan, come here! I found something!” she calls over her shoulder.
Her husband is there in seconds, his soft features beaming with boyish curiosity, followed closely by Walter, who as expected, wears an expression of cool suspicion.
“A door,” Dan remarks, leaning in to touch worn dusty surface. He gives it a light press and there is some give, but the hinges are rusted and refuse to cooperate. He pushes his glasses up the bridge of his curved nose and leans in to investigate the lock.
“Broken,” he derives quickly. “No need for a key, it’s just…stuck.” He pushes a little harder but the solidified hinges continue to resist, that is until Walter cuts between Dan and the door and strikes the weathered surface with a quick concentrated kick. The upper set of hinges give and the lower shatter free of the frame, scattering rotted splinters about the trio’s feet. The door hangs defeated on its remaining hinge, swinging sadly in the wake of Walter’s assault. Dan lets out an long exasperated sigh.
“You always were good at that.”
The corner of Walter’s mouth quirks up as he turns to investigate what lies behind the busted door.
A ghostly shaft of light spills in through a dingy window near the ceiling in the far corner. It looks to be just meeting the surface level outside. The room is about ten by ten feet with a dirt floor, uneven stone walls, and a coating of wispy cobwebs. There is an iron shovel propped up in the left corner, but otherwise it is stark and empty.
“I think this might be the coal bin,” Dan infers as he makes his way slowly around the perimeter of the dismal space.
“Looks like a medieval prison cell,” Laurie replies, glancing up at the spider webs dangling above her head.
“Ah well,” Dan shrugs. “More storage. Damn, I was hoping for a secret passage way,” he chuckles.
Laurie flips up her wrist to check her watch.
“It's almost three, we need to go to the grocery store, and didn’t you want to get over to the library before it closes? We better get cleaned up and head out.”
“Shit, yeah. Alright. Lets get going,” Dan replies, dusting himself off as he pushes aside the broken door, exiting the newly discovered room. Laurie is already on her way to the stairs when they turn back almost simultaneously, sensing that they are missing someone.
“Walter?” Dan looks over his shoulder, and Laurie bends down to peer back in direction they came from.
Their partner lingers in the empty space, bathed eerily in the silver light filtering unevenly through the clouded rectangle of glass. It catches and shines on the tips of his wiry hair, the harsh outline of his profile, and on the little particles of dust that float weightless in the air about his thin figure as he stares up, transfixed by apparent nothingness.
Laurie feels something grow cold inside her.
“Hey, buddy, snap out of it!” Dan’s bright cheery voice shatters the stagnant moment.
Walter twitches, and turns slowly to face them, his gaze blank and fixed for an uneasy span of seconds before he shakes his head and follows.
Laurie showers first, and turning the master bathroom over to Dan, she pads out into the hallway, wrapped in a fluffy terrycloth towel, her limp wet hair hanging loose and straggly about her shoulders. Dan hurries in after her.
“Hey.” He grabs her arm before she wanders out of reach. “Go see if Walt wants to come with us, and if he does, try to convince him to get a quick shower after me, or at least change his clothes. We got a little grimy down there in the basement.”
Laurie nods in reply and Dan shuts the bathroom door hurriedly.
She makes her way first to her closet to throw on a pair of blue jeans and a tee-shirt before crossing the hall to Walter’s room. Even though he sleeps huddled in bed with her and Dan every night now, Walter still prefers to be alone for large portions of his day and appreciates having his own room to retreat to.
She approaches his door, which is closed but not locked for the knob is broken and missing. She reaches out to knock but halts. She can hear an odd reedy moaning emanating from behind the door, and there is something twisted and deranged and downright eerie about it, something reminiscent of the sounds stray cats make in dead of night.
She goes from startled and to concerned in moments, and without a second thought, presses the door without bothering to knock.
“Walter, are you alright?---OH.”
He stares back at her in stricken horror from where he sits on the narrow twin bed, his jeans around his ankles, underwear pulled down over hips, a quivering left hand grasping himself between his spread thighs.
“Oh my God, Walter, damn it, I’m sorry, I’ll um--err, I’ll--” She flounders, not sure if she should be looking at him or not, and regardless of the tenuous intimacy they have achieved there is still something far too personal about what he is doing. Her skin is all at once on fire, and she should get out, she must get out.
She backs up clumsily, nearly tripping over her own right foot as she steps back out through the doorway. His eyes remain fixed on her the entire time, his expression frozen in a state of mortified shock. She shuts the door as silently as she opened it and collapses, back to the wall, her heart still slamming into her sternum in sharp reverberating pulses that she can feel from her chest to the tips of her extremities.
It is not as though she has never seen Walter exposed before. He slowly opened up to sex with Dan just after their trip to New York in March, and now, a little more than a month later, he has begun to accept her as well. It has only been four times that they have made love together, but it is still something very new for the both of them and there are countless boundaries of modesty yet to be crossed. It has always been dark when they were together for one thing, and Dan was with them and participating, holding Walter firmly in his familiar embrace, serving as a gentle constant to a man who’s entire world is being shattered and reassembled.
As she comes down off of her shock and bewilderment it is not what he was doing that hangs heavy in her mind, it is instead the thought of his twitching lips and runny nose, his blotchy face and bloodshot red rimmed eyes, and that awful strained moaning that sent her scrabbling blindly into the room in the first place. She waits, listening to jingling sound of shaking hands fumbling with a belt buckle, and eventually the high creak of the floorboards as he slides off the bed and onto his feet. She waits until the door opens just the slightest crack before she slips swiftly inside, blocking Walter’s exit. He backs away from her, face flushed with bitter humiliation.
She pushes the door closed behind her and waits for him to accept that she is there before she speaks. He shifts anxiously, taking halfhearted steps left an right like a cornered cat testing escape routs, but after a few minutes of this awkward dance he backs up against the wall and slides down onto the floor, his head in his hands.
“Honey, it’s alright,” she begins as gently as she can manage. “You don’t need to feel embarrassed.”
“Just leave me, go--”
“There isn’t anything wrong with what you were doing, but the fact that you were sobbing while you were doing it worries me.”
“Was not…sobbing,” he lies, trying to cling on to what little dignity he has left given the situation.
Laurie raises an eyebrow with that knowing look that tells him he isn’t fooling anyone. She crosses the room to where he is slumped against the wall and sits down beside him on the cool hardwood floor.
He shakes his head and looks away from her, chewing his lip and squinting his eyes closed. She says nothing, but reaches out to sooth him, her smooth hand running gently over his hard shoulder blades.
“I’m disgusting,” he manages eventually. “I…I don’t know what is wrong with my body. I am filthy. I-I want Daniel, and, you…constantly.”
“That’s not filthy,” Laurie starts but Walter interjects fiercely:
“No, it is unacceptable, I--” He flushes darker scarlet and the words catch in his throat; they are still so hard to say even though he means them entirely. “Love,…Love you both…so much, but my body, it makes a perversion of every thought, constantly, aching, lusting, more than is humanly normal. Wanted to be with Daniel for twenty years, but now that I can, feels like I cannot control myself. And you. I never even knew how much I could…want…This is not right. It’s too much. Dirty, disgraceful, should not, should--”
“You’re normal, trust me. You’re just in the early stages of an intimate relationship, it’s normal to feel like you want it all the time. Eventually things will even out. You’ll see. This is all just new for you.” She tilts her head down to try and catch his response but he avoids her eyes.
“You and Daniel are not like this. Not despicable whores.”
She sidles over a few inches closing the narrow gap between their hips. “You are not a whore, and you know,” The corners of her mouth turn up playfully. “You’re not the only one here who’s been struggling with desire.”
Walter finally looks up at her, drawing all the nerve he can find to meet her penetrating gaze.
“We want you, more than you know. We were afraid of coming on too strong. Afraid it might be too much for you.”
Walter swallows hard at this; his Adam's apple feels huge and heavy in his throat, and again there is that heat in his belly driving lower, making him want to do things that he cannot bear to bring words too. Things that make him feel wretched; that make him feel like he has cheapened this unimaginable gift they have given him.
Laurie catches the miserable desperation that touches his worn features and leans in to kiss him sweetly on the mouth.
“Walter, we want you, just like you want us, so there is nothing to be ashamed of.”
His brows are knit tight and he sucks his lower lip as if guiltily trying to savor every lingering trace of her kiss.
“Still don’t understand, why you want me. Not searching for compliments. Just don’t understand.”
Laurie sighs and smiles. “You know, I don’t entirely understand how this happened either. But it did, and I’m glad for it.”
Walter nods, but there is still something sad and uncertain in it, and Laurie’s eyes narrow.
“These sexual issues you are having, they’re just the tip of the iceberg aren’t they?” she says slowly, all the playfulness draining from her voice.
There is a pause before he answers, and when he does it sounds as if he is speaking to himself as much as her.
“Am fine, Laurel. Not crusading to murder people. Eating three meals a day. Letting you and Daniel love me. Have never been this way. I,…I have never been this healthy before.” He replies quietly, his eyes fixed on his scarred gnarled hands resting in his lap.
“Are you sure? You can talk to me or Daniel if--”
“No need to worry, Laurel. I am sorry to have upset you with my disgracefulness. You are right. I should not be ashamed.”
She can sense him backpedaling; saying what he thinks he should to please her, avoiding the bigger questions, and closing up. She wants to press him further, but she knows him well enough now to know when pushing will do no good.
“Do your want to come to the grocery store and the library with Dan and me? You like the library.” She changes the subject, hoping to convince him to join them, nervous to leave him alone in his current state.
He pauses for a moment and his eyes drift over to where his journal rests on the desk in the corner by the window.
“Yes. I think I will come along.”
They go to the library first. It is roughly a forty minute drive, much of which is winding mountain back roads. Laurie lets Walter take shotgun without a squabble, making a little more effort than usual to be nice. He is even more quiet than is common through the ride, and makes no protest about Dan’s choice of radio station as he is often wont to.
When they arrive, Dan goes about returning the large stack of books he had checked out, and Laurie wanders over to the new fiction section in hopes that the Stephen King novel she has been waiting on is finally available. Walter heads to the card catalog and slides open one of the drawers, the strong smell of old wood and aged paper stinging his nose. A young librarian, very obviously pregnant, approaches him with a jovial smile.
“You should use the computer, sir. That’s out of date.”
Walter stares at her, vaguely confused.
“I can show you how, right this way.” She shuffles over to a table with three computers and pulls out a chair. Walter stares blankly for a few seconds as a feeling of nervous insecurity creeps up inside him. He thinks this woman should not be pulling chairs out for him, not when she looks like she could have a baby in a few weeks, and he can’t help but feel somehow annoyed that he has to socialize with her. He reluctantly walks over to the computer, hoping that by cooperating he can be free from her pestering sooner.
When she asks him what his name is he hesitates as he always does, afraid he’ll trip over his tongue and sputter out ‘Walter’, or even worse; ‘Rorschach’. For some reason it is often still the first name that comes to mind. He succeeds however, as he always does, in replying quietly with the name Daniel chose for him: ‘Thomas Sullivan’.
The librarian goes over the basics of how the search interface works, all the while leaning over him closer than he likes. Her youthful modern demeanor grates on his nerves and he finds himself tuning her out. Across the room he can hear Laurel complaining, in a voice far too loud for a library, about the unavailability of the book she wants, and Daniel calmly asking the man at the front desk if there is a reserve list for new releases. When he is satisfied that he understands well enough how the search engine works, Walter dismisses the librarian as courteously as he can manage and turns to the screen with a long exhale.
He hesitates for a few seconds, glancing up to be certain that there is nobody hovering around him before typing the word ‘dissection’ into the search bar.