Genre: Drama, Romance. rated PG 13
Characters, pairings: Dan/Laurie/Walter
Universe and time period: Comic-verse, Clockwork Eden AU, some more obviously than others.
Word count: 350-650 words a piece.
Author's Note: Some little drabbles from the CE AU, 'Time' and 'As Is' and take place sometime after 'Nothing if not Human', when 'Platinum' is narrated is nondescript, but the events described are directly after those in the GN.
"I think we outta quit for today, Walt." Dan drags his forearm across his sweat slick brow. "It's just too damned hot."
Walter looks up from his work, lowering his hammer and twisting back to look over his shoulder, two long nails held between pursed lips. His flushed freckle spattered skin glistens in the golden sunlight that spills into the garage through gaps in the wooden walls. Dan fixates on a bead of perspiration that trickles down his throat, pooling in the deep hollow of his collarbone.
Walter dips his head forward and removes the nails from his mouth. "Still a lot to do. Said you wanted workshop functional in two weeks."
The hair along his jaw is almost long enough to be a short beard, a rough coverage of amber mixing with silver on the sides. Dan remembers when that was all he ever saw of him, when he would sit at the controls of his ship long after they parted for the night and try to build the rest of a face in his mind's eye. But it never worked. No matter how hard he'd try all he could see was ink.
"Daniel," Walter rasps sharply.
"Oh," Dan runs a hand through his moist hair and shakes his head. "Sorry, it's this goddamned heat, I'm really out of it."
"Hurm... Used to patrol in heat like this."
Dan rolls his eyes and chuckles softly as he gathers up his tools. "Yeah well, I was younger back then, and in better shape."
Walter's flat blue-gray eyes run along the soft curve of Dan's side and the corner of his mouth lifts slightly.
"Suppose that is true," he replies.
"And there's no rush to fix this place up, I'm just excited at the thought of having a workshop again. Really, we have all the time in the world." Dan closes the lid of his tin toolbox, and when he looks up Walter is on his way out of the garage, peeling off his thin sweat-soaked undershirt as he goes.
His body is so narrow silhouetted in the door frame, and as he stretches to pull the shirt over his head he forms a slim dark arch, moving with that eerie grace he always possessed, as far back as Dan can remember.
"Hey," Dan starts, and he is suddenly aware how tight his throat has become.
Walter turns slowly, lazy in the thick humid air. Dan feels a twinge of jealousy at the sight of his bare torso. Walter was so painfully thin when they moved into the farmhouse eight months ago, but now, though still very slim, he's filled out to a healthy weight and regained the deep definition in his chest and abdominals. Dan wonders enviously at how his partner's body shows every taut muscle, each wiry sinew, while his own always seemed to possess some level of softness no matter how in shape he was.
Walter moves towards him, back into the shade of the garage. His steps are slow and measured, easy, like a cat's. His jeans hang low on his skinny waist, slung higher on his right hip.
He stops s few inches away and when he speaks his breath is warm on Dan's throat.
"Second thoughts?" Walter tilts his head just so, a gesture that is as much a part of him as his hollow cheeks, his small short nose, or his crooked mouth. Dan knows that little tip of the head from the very first day they met, and he marvels at what the years have done to them, but how some things never change.
“You could say that,” Dan murmurs low, and slips a thumb through the belt loop of Walter’s jeans. “We have time now, You and I.”
I cut his hair, bleached out all the color, and he was ugly. Ugly like me. Faded and generic and that was what we needed but when I looked at us standing naked beside each other in the hotel mirror I felt like I had raped him. But then again, I hated the sound of the name he had given me.
I learned to drive the ship, the stars up there should have been beautiful, but I was afraid, and he hardly spoke at all during those first few weeks.
I booked our hotels. I ordered us takeout with my new name. I wasn’t okay, but I pretended I was well enough, because if I didn’t keep us together they’d find us for sure. We fucked more than we talked in November and it hurt because I feared that was all that kept him with me, but that only made me offer myself up more.
You’d have thought us both despicable.
In December I bleached our hair again, and as those little dark roots faded to silvery blond, I wept. Somehow I felt like I was killing what small part of us had, against all odds, tried to come back. It was then that he stood up, took me by the wrist and looked me straight for the first time since we found what was left of you in the snow.
“Laurie,” he said to me.
I had not heard my real name since he put my new drivers license in my hand. I loved him then and I resolved to stay with him as long as I still had breath, and also to never let him know that the day before when I told him I was going out for cigarettes, I was really on my way to the airport. I don’t know why I turned around just before the metal detector, why I went instead to the drug store where I purchased tobacco and hair dye.
I don’t believe in fate, or that things happen for a reason. I’ve only learned that sometimes it's best to admit to ourselves that we need each other.
He sometimes wakes them, unintentionally. At best they catch him while he is still in bed, suddenly upright, eyes wide, breath fast as if he has been running, or fighting. Sometimes his weight is gone beside them and they frantically search the house and yard until they find him wandering with no destination, talking to himself in circles.
There are times when they approach him and his awareness returns almost instantly, as if he just needed them to find him. Usually he is ashamed, hissing and cursing, bitter at his condition. Sometimes he just stairs back at them, blank faced and full of strangeness, before returning to some awkward normalcy, as if nothing at all had gone wrong. And then there are times when he comes apart, weeping and clinging on to them, full of terrible desperation; drawn out and defeated by the smoke and mirrors in his head.
Those are the easier nights.
It takes all of Dan’s strength to pin him down as Laurie turns the cold water on full spray with shaking bone-white hands. He screams and twists and Dan squints his eyes shut tight as the frigid water pelts them both, soaking through their night clothes. He cups a free hand over a matted mop of rusty hair, trying to keep him from banging his skull against the tub as he thrashes. His knuckles are smashed against the white ceramic, wisps of red drift and spiral down the drain. Behind him Dan can hear Laurie sobbing. He presses his face between two hard shoulder blades.
“Shh...come back, now. Come back. come back to us...”
By the time Laurie turns off the shower and wraps them both in a towel he is small and shaking, nothing more than little disaster between her and Dan.
He will never be like normal people. It hurts to know their love cannot save him from what has already happened, and they force themselves to accept, not unlike they did with another great truth, that they were simply too late.
But there are good days and nights along side the dreadful, and there is such preciousness in what they have stolen back together; so they endure every fit, every violent nightmare, because it is worth it to cling to that fringe; that fearful space they’ve come to know where sunlight and shadow shift and blend; a sanctuary, just along the breaking point.