Genre: Drama, Romance. rated R, very strong R
Characters, pairings: Dan/Laurie/Walter
Universe and time period: Comic-verse, Clockwork Eden AU: part 5
Word count: 3800ish
Author's notes: This chapter is some of the darkest stuff I've written, so extra warning to the squeamish. Contains sex and some disturbing imagery.
She sits on the back porch and tries to explain to Dan what she found in the basement while he readies the charcoal grill for dinner and Walter showers. She tells him about in detail about the medical books, the unzipped jeans and dried semen, the open journal, the centipedes, and the emptiness in Walter’s eyes. When she finishes Dan is quiet for a long time. She lights up a cigarette, her first in weeks, while her husband carefully considers his response.
He stuffs a few wadded up balls of newspaper amongst the charcoal and lights it with a long matchstick before walking over to sit beside her on the stoop. She fans away the smoke from her cigarette.
“Sorry,…” she murmurs.
“It’s alright,” he replies gently and reaches around to pull her closer, squeezing her shoulder. “Just don’t go falling off the wagon over this, okay? I worry about you too.”
“Hey,” He lifts her chin with his thumb and forefinger. “I’m listening to you, and you’re right to be concerned, what you saw isn’t normal or healthy, not by any stretch, but there are some things you need to understand. I’ve known this man a long time, and sometimes he goes to very dark places. It won’t do any good to pester him about it. He’ll just start avoiding you, and that’s even worse.”
She knows there's logic in what her husband is saying, and she has already witnessed the way Walter pulls away whenever she presses him, but she cannot shake the tightness in her throat or the sinking feeling in her gut.
Dan rubs his hand up and down her back, sensing that she is still unconvinced. “If I told you some of the horror stories I have from dealing with him over the years, you’d understand what I am saying, but I think it’s best I spare you the gory details. Be patient and let him work through this in his own way. As long as he knows we love him things will be alright.”
His right front tooth is chipped and his nails need cut. Laurie is painfully aware of these little details as he clings on to her, biting down on her shoulder and digging his finger tips into her naked back.
“Nngh…harder, Daniel,” he begs out of the corner of his mouth, voice muffled into her skin, saliva slicked lips parting only enough to choke out the words.
“God,…Walter,” Dan pants.
The slim body in Laurie’s arms slams against her with brutal force, prominent collar bones banging into her chest. His muscles tense up in what has to be pain and he bites down, uneven teeth nearly breaking the skin.
“Fuck, Walter…” Dan moans.
Another unforgiving thrust and Laurie can hear every frantic breath sucked in and expelled in hot puffs against her neck. He’s strung so tight he’s shaking, and his speckled skin shines slick in the low light.
“Harder!” Walter cries out.
She squints her eyes shut tight and feels the full weight of Dan transferred through Walter’s smaller frame. The nails cut her deeper, and he's making some kind of high sound in her ear each time he is thrust against her, like he's biting back a scream. Her eyes tear; surroundings blur and run together like watercolor.
“Harder, go…harder…” He begs one last time, and his voice is reedy, quivering, and failing.
Laurie presses her eyes into the space where Walter’s neck meets his shoulder and holds his constricted body as close as she can while Dan finishes violently, pounding them both against the headboard.
Walter is gasping in the aftermath, shaking and still clinging to her as Dan slides off, and even with their bodies flush against each other she cannot seem to hold him tight enough as they sink down into the pillows together.
“God damn,” Dan whispers breathlessly from where he his sprawled out on his back beside them. “God damn…”
Laurie’s head clears as she eases down off the adrenaline, and she feels weak, limbs shaky. Walter remains latched on to her, his face pressed into her throat and she reaches up and strokes ruddy sweat-soaked curls, cradling him gently in her arms.
Dan turns over onto his side, sucking in long uneven breaths, still dizzy and reeling. He reaches for them both in that desperate needy way a man reaches out when he has pushed himself to the cusp of his sanity.
“Both of you,” he puffs hoarsely. “Let me hold you.”
He cups Laurie’s shoulder and pulls her down to lay beside him, wedging Walter’s small frame between their bodies. They don’t talk, instead lay wrapped up in one another, a mass of scarred twisted limbs and raw naked flesh, silent.
Laurie rolls over groggily and squints in the sunlight that cuts through the open curtains, white and blinding. She can tell by the brightness that it’s already nearly ten and her men are most certainly well into breakfast or even finished by now. She sits up and scratches her matted hair, taking note of how badly flattened and tangled it is in the back. Her memory of everything that happened the night before is cloudy, but there is a lingering sense of wrongness that her sleepy brain refuses to bring into focus.
A warm breeze is coming in through the window, carrying with it fragrance of new leaves, fresh grass and spring flowers. Slowly the feeling of dread disperses and she decides it’s a perfect day to drive over to the lake, an idea to which she is sure Dan will agree. Walter might grumble, bit he’ll come along and enjoy himself, even if he’ll insist on acting like he doesn’t.
Feeling slightly energized, she tosses aside the covers and moves to get herself up and out of bed, only something snags her attention, and she stops just as she is about to step onto the floor. She reaches down timidly and moves aside the pale gray sheets, revealing scattered dark red spots across the fabric.
It's not hers. She is like clockwork.
She swallows hard, and the night crystallizes in her now fully awake brain. She is suddenly aware of the stinging cuts on her back where his nails dug in, and the sore welt on her shoulder where his teeth pressed down. Sickness washes over her and she tears the sheets up off the bed, twisting them into a ball and throwing them in the laundry basket followed by the rest of the bedding. She then hauls the basket into her arms and heads straight for the laundry room, all her delusions of a carefree spring day evaporating with out a trace.
‘It was hardly anything. Nothing serious, these things happen. Calm the fuck down Laurel Jane.’
Laurie tries to force herself to eat the breakfast that Dan set aside for her, but the food tastes like ash and her stomach twists restlessly. If she isolates the incident it means little; just a rough night, they got carried away, but it instead clicks into place like a corner piece in the macabre puzzle unfurling around them. She pushes the plate aside.
‘He wanted to be hurt,’
She grabs her Zippo and heads out onto the front porch. As she lights up she can hear Dan around the corner of the house giving Walter a proud tour of his new vegetable garden. She rolls her eyes and inhales.
She’s on her second when they come around the corner, and Dan gives her a little smirk of disapproval to which she sticks her tongue out in her very best attempt to appear playful. Dan shakes his head, and she doesn’t miss the legitimate look of disappointment on his features. “Last one,” She grumbles as they pass her to go inside, but just before Walter lets the screen door swing shut behind him, her hand flashes out to catch his wrist.
“Are you,…” Words fail her. There is no right way to ask him the questions she wants to. No words she can conjure that won’t have him pulling away from her. “Are you,…feeling alright today?” she manages clumsily.
“Fine, Laurel. Not sure what you mean.”
She sighs and lets him go. “Just checking, things got a little rough last night, I wanted to make sure you are okay.”
He blushes deep pink, an uncontrollable trait of his, one of the many things about him that is so outwardly unattractive but for some reason she has come to find endearing.
“mm-fine.” He nods stiffly and shuffles away, the screen door tapping shut behind him.
She sucks down the last of her cigarette and sinks onto the crooked wooden porch steps.
‘He wanted to be hurt, just like he wanted imprison himself alone in the basement covered in dirt and centipedes,…’
She draws her knees up to her chest and folds her arms across them, resting her chin on her forearms.
‘Leave him be, give him his space. Dan knows him best, he will work through this and everything will be alright,’
She can hear Dan inside telling Walter about his plans for a new workshop. He’s talking cheerfully about building the hover scooters again.
‘Leave him be…let him work it out on his own,…’
She lifts her head slowly as Dan continues to chatter on with innocent enthusiasm, and a memory creeps up out of the black forbidden spaces of her mind. It is of the last time she saw Dan’s hover scooters, the night they trudged wearily out of Karnak, and how it took every last scrap of fortitude they had to haul the contraptions out of the red snow.
Laurie's lips move soundlessly: “We let him walk out there alone,…we let him…"
She holds Walter's journal in her hands, closed. It was setting on his desk by the window, on top his stack of library books. It was not hidden, and it sickens her to think that it is because of trust that he leaves it in the open. She remembers how he sprung to life when she laid one hand on it in the basement.
She had slithered out bed as quietly as she could manage and hung outside their bedroom door for many long minutes, making absolutely certain she could hear Walter’s quiet steady snoring before she padded silently down the hall into his room, but she still fears he could come in at any moment.
She knows what she is about to do is a thing of pure treason.
‘With understanding comes solutions.' She remembers Dan telling her once.
She parts the pages with her thumbs, and opens to an early entry.
Nov. 15th, 1986
Sick today. Worse than yesterday. Cannot eat, consequentially am becoming very thin. Weak. Shameful. Wondering if my decision to return was a mistake. Daniel is very nervous, borders on paranoid. Laurel continues to be patient with me. I expect her to hate me, tolerate me at best, but her behavior is baffling. This morning she purchased grape juice for me out of a vending machine while Daniel put gasoline in the vehicle and I laid in the backseat; too sick to get up. Nobody instructed her to do this. Am finding myself growing vaguely fond of her. She continues to press Daniel to stop this running, is a less compromising person than I once believed her to be. Admirable.
“Grape juice, I remember that…,” she whispers, her eyes growing warm. She brushes the page with her finger tips and chews her lower lip.
She sniffles and skips ahead to more recent entries, hands shaking. When she opens to the entries dated May, 1987, the pages begin to become warped and are no longer scrawled with text alone. There are also drawings.
Quivering line work forms spidery images of a gaunt, hollow eyed male, always drawn sinewy and decaying, the mouth agape and full of rotting teeth and sometimes insects, or just scribbled over as if to be silenced. On some pages he is missing parts of his anatomy; eyes, hands, a tongue. In one image his entire left arm is gone, only to be drawn attached to the hip of another figure a few entries later. He is naked in every sketch, his genitals rendered grotesquely with hard angry lines that cut deep into the paper. His body is almost always opened up in the middle, cut from chest to groin, sometimes his skull is split as well, and in one image his forearm is slit and his veins are pulled out, illustrated in red ballpoint like little worms. The drawing skill is shaky and childish, but there is an eerie attention to anatomical accuracy, or the purposeful lack of it, for in some of the drawings the man is opened up but the cavity of his abdomen or skull is empty. Nearly illegible text is scrawled right over many of the illustrations, as if they are simply a backdrop for the entries.
It is like some nightmare version of a De Vinci sketchbook, and as she turns the pages the drawings get darker and more chaotic, the abuse to the poor recurring figure compounding with every entry. By the most recent page he is gazing up desperately from a water-warped page with huge black eye sockets that bleed ink, lips peeled away from a skeletal jaw, his rotten and distorted body pulled open, disemboweled, and riddled with flesh eating insects. There is only one sentence, written along the bottom edge of the page in black ink, and it takes her a moment to decipher the scrawl.
‘He is dead, and I am nothing.’
Laurie holds the book open for a long time, her unblinking eyes fixed on the six terrible words, so blunt in their meaning, until finally she sets it down, sinks slowly onto the bed, and weeps helplessly into her hands.
Dan stirs uneasily, waking with vague awareness that the warm weight against his left side is gone, and the sheets are cool. He sits up slow, careful not to disturb Walter who is curled up like a cat beside him. He’ll never understand how a grown man can sleep in a fetal position like that.
The floor boards creak under his weight and he glances back to see if he's woke his sleeping partner. Walter shifts slightly, but remains curled under the blankets, the curve of his body rising and falling gently. Relieved, Dan toes into his slippers and shuffles into the hallway. Warm yellow light is peaking out from under the door to Walter’s room, and he moves quietly towards it, head tilted curiously.
“Laurie? What are you doing in here?” He says in a slow careful voice as he presses the door and steps into the room, half expecting to discover her guiltily devouring another cigarette in secrecy.
She looks up from her cupped hands with the sudden movement of a person who has been caught doing something very wrong.
“Dan,” she starts, her voice hoarse and cracking. She crosses the room to where her husband is standing in the doorway and wraps her arms tight around his soft waist.
“He’s in trouble. Going to do something horrible to himself,… he’s going to cut himself up, pull out his organs, and..” She sobs quiet bitter tears against Dan’s broad chest, her voice rambling and only partially coherent.
“Shhh,” Dan strokes her dark hair, uncharacteristically tangled and matted. He hugs her tight. “What are you talking about? He’s going to cut himself up and pull out his organs? Laurie, where--”
“I looked in his journal, Dan. I didn’t know what else to do. You wouldn’t do anything, and he wouldn’t talk to me, and I needed to find answers somewhere. I-I know I shouldn’t have, but…Dan, there are drawings in there, horrible drawings of himself all chopped up and coming apart.” She crumbles like a guilty seven year old girl, confessing an innocent minded crime to her parent. Dan holds her quaking shoulders and steadies her.
“You shouldn’t have done that Laurie,” He shakes his head disapprovingly, but his expression softens when he sees a second wave of tears rising up in her eyes. “But I know why you did. It’s going to be alright, we’ll take care of him. Don’t worry. Did you put it back where you found it?” He asks her gently, wiping a stray tear away from her cheek with his thumb.
“No…not yet, it’s over on the bed,” She sniffles, regaining her composure.
“Put it back and come to bed, We’ll all talk in the morning, but be very careful not to mention what you saw, okay?”
She nods shakily and goes to retrieve the journal from the mattress. Dan watches her, his expression taut and nervous. As she picks up the book and turns to take it back over to the desk where she found it, she stops short, eyes fixed on the doorway, wide and terrified. Dan knows without looking, and he winces, sucking in a long breath through clenched teeth; this is bad.
“hngh,….Laurel,” Walter utters her name in voice that short and clipped, the syllables catching in his dry throat.
They stare at each other, and she knows he must have been listening for a while, for his eyes are only on her; he knows Dan had no part in this.
“Walter, please. I was trying to help you,” Laurie starts and takes a slow step towards him, her heart twisting at the look of pure hurt painted across his hollow features. “I’m worried about you.” The journal drops from her slack right hand and lands noisily on the hardwood floor, pages open.
“Had no right.”
“I know, honey.” She is only a yard or so away from him now, and her eyes dart warily between strained bloodshot eyes and his bony hands which clench and unclench nervously at his sides.
“No right at all. Trespasser,…filthy trespasser,” he spits through dry quivering lips.
Laurie bites back the sting of his words and very cautiously lifts a hand to touch his shoulder. “I’m sorry Walter. I am,”
“No…not you. Not sorry. Not at all. No respect for anyone,” Walter growls and steps back out of her reach, shaking his head in sickened disbelief before turning swiftly to disappear down the hall.
Laurie stands in the doorway for a few seconds, silenced and bewildered, mind blank.
“Laurie. Come here,” Dan says sternly from where he still stands in the middle of the small room.
She cannot bring herself to turn and look at him.
“Come here, Laurie. Don’t you--”
She bites down hard on her lip and shakes her head before taking off down the hall after Walter.
“Laurie!! You get back here now! You’re only going to make things worse!!” Dan yells after her.
“God fucking damn it,” Dan curses bitterly under his breath and moves to chase after her, but stops, suddenly distracted by an object at his feet.
He leans over slowly, eyes narrowing as he takes in the gruesome ballpoint pen rendering of an emaciated red haired man, blood and entrails pooling around his disproportionately large feet, digging his own heart out of his open chest cavity. The drawing, dated only three days prior, is scrawled feverishly across the pages of Walter’s journal, laying spread like a dead moth on the floor.
Laurie can see him at the edge of the field near the big maple, and she breaks into a run, oblivious to the small stones, thorns, and twigs that snag through her socks and cut her feet. The moon is high and nearly full in the clear sky, bathing the land in its blue otherworldly light.
He has stopped at the edge of the woods and stands with his narrow back to her.
“Leave me, Laurel.”
“Where are you going?!” she pants raggedly.
“Walter, Please…we’re going to have to get past this, you and I. If we're going to live together--”
“I can’t…I can’t see you now.”
She pauses, fearful to consider the meaning behind those words.
“I’m sorry. You have to believe me,” she pleads, ignoring her better judgment and approaching him again. “I wanted to help you. That’s all,” She reaches out to him.
A line is crossed and he lashes out in a blur of motion, the back of his hand connecting sharply with her wrist as he swats her away.
“Do not touch me, Laurel!” He snarls, whirling around to face her. “Have gone too far this time!”
“I fucking did it you! For you!” She replies fiercely, spurred on by the stinging pain wrist. “You should be glad someone cares that much about you!”
“Self-righteous excuses. Thought better of you. Convinced myself of your integrity. Wrong. Disgraceful spoiled woman.” Walter mutters under his breath, every word trembling and laced with venom.
“I was afraid you were going to kill yourself!” She cries, frustrated tears streaking her cheeks.
He is quiet for a few seconds, standing silent as the breeze whispers through the wide maple leaves, and for one desperate moment she thinks she might have broken through to him.
“Doesn't matter. Let you trick me, same way you tricked Manhattan, same way you tricked Daniel. Tricked me into thinking better of you, thinking you are more than the filth and rottenness that bred you. Was wrong. Despicable. No better….no better than a whore.”
His words cut with all the certainty of a surgeon’s scalpel, the blow delivered with such cruel precision that only the most primal and desperate reply finds its way to the surface as she draws her arms up around herself.
“But I love you.”
Walter says nothing, and refuses to give her even the slightest glance as he stalks away, disappearing into the inky depths of the forest.
She shivers, her head bent, as the breeze stirs her hair around her face making it stick to her wet cheeks. Her admission of love hangs on her lips, and she feels foolish, vulnerable, and alone. Across the field she can hear Dan’s voice and heavy angry footfalls approaching.
“You just don’t know when to stop, Laurie!” He shouts, full of exasperated frustration. “I told you to leave him alone! Why couldn’t you just listen to me for once?!”
She can’t find anything to say and instead squeezes her upper arms tight to her chest and clenches her teeth, unable to face him.
“Damn it, Laurie. You are so fucking stubborn! You never listen!” He paces around her furiously. “Now what?! It’s the middle of the night and he’s run off into the woods, and we’ll be lucky if he’s back by morning, Hell, if he comes back at all!”
Every wound she ever willfully sealed feels like it is fresh and bleeding all over again, and she wishes desperately she possessed the strength to yell back, but her spirit is drained away and all she can do is stand and shiver, bitter cold in the warm spring night.