He didn’t remember the drive home. Didn’t remember saying goodbye to John, didn’t remember getting the wristband removed at the gate. He didn’t remember anything past the clicking of the door of his—Oliver’s—new flat, and he wouldn’t even remember sitting on his bed with his head bent into his shaking hands if he weren’t currently living it. Kind of hard to forget the present. Hard, but not impossible.
He didn’t remember slamming the door, either, but by the grumbles of the guards outside, he got the impression it’d been excessive.
He didn’t care.
He didn’t care about anything—wondered if he would ever know what it felt like to care about something ever again, because despite the brave face he’d determinedly and exclusively allowed Oliver to see, the last time he’d been this broken was the day his father died. A close second would be his breakdown in Ally’s office, after strangling Eva and confessing to his therapist the truth about what had gone on between he and Lukas.
But it was about Derrick. It had always been about Derrick, hadn’t it? It’d always been about his fuck ups, his mistakes, his reasons upon reasons as to why he would never be enough for Oliver, never be what the boy deserved.
But this was somehow worse than his melt down on Allison’s threadbare sofa because he no longer had the option to drop a few doors down and bury his face and his problems in the slender crevice of Oliver’s neck. The echo of his heartbeat was already fading.
No one had ever told him there was a physical pain associated with separation. But now he felt as though tendons were spliced, organs left empty; he couldn’t tell where or which, however, as the pain seemed to be more or less evenly spread, though the sharpest sting of it was centralized. His core felt heavy, gutted, dry.
Logic told him the same things his calm and comforting tones had told Oliver time and time again just yesterday.
It’s going to be fine. You’ll visit, you’ll call, we’ll see each other and I’ll be out before you know it.
And even though he wasn’t sure about the being ‘out before you know it’ part, the rest still rang true. Logically, they could see each other, be in contact, and logically, they could handle this. Absence made the heart grow fonder, right?
But the problem was, that was fucking bullshit.
He didn’t need fucking absence, his heart had been plenty fond on its own, thank you very much. And now he didn’t know how to do this, how to handle this lack of faith in himself without the bright eyed sprite to keep him distracted, and healthily so.
Without Oliver around, there was no distraction from Derrick’s doubts in himself. Take away Oliver, and all that was left was Derrick feeling lost without him. Too sick, too broken, too fucked for a lovely, healthy kid like Oliver. Oliver home, free, looking for work. Derrick here, stagnant, consistently unstable.
The image was pathetic.
He’d have laughed hoarsely at himself if he wasn’t having such trouble breathing.
A nurse was knocking at his door. He knew it was a nurse because her shrill inquiries about his well being were evident, though muffled, through the density of it.
He didn’t bother answering. Wasn’t sure if he could have had he wanted to. No, he was not okay. No, he didn’t need anything. No, he didn’t want anything.
Nothing she could give him, anyway.
He had want for nothing but to be left alone.
Fingers threaded and pressing purple and white lines of strain into the back of his sore neck, he hardly noticed how folded he was. Wondered if it was possible to let himself choke.
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
There’s that place between awake and dreaming where you feel if you wanted to, you could just ignore the world and never return again, live forever in the fantasy of pleasant imagery your mind has concocted for you. The soothing touch of slumber, the sense of peaceful satedness that comes with waking happy, even though you can’t remember why, the dream already having slipped through the thin weaving or your consciousness.
That’s what the entire evening was for Derrick.
8 hours of nothing but Oliver. Oliver’s skin and scent and freckles and sighs. Oliver’s giggle, Oliver’s moan, Oliver’s shudder of pleasure and shock.
Complete with laughter and pancakes and bacon for dinner. Intimacy—again—with satisfied tummies, comfortably distended. Sheets once clean and fresh, now warmed by bodies, creased by passion and love and an avoidance of thinking about what was to come.
Time for pain later. Time for pain later.
Sleeping with Oliver in his arms, delicate and mussed and beautifully so, in Derrick’s opinion, was both the best and worst moment of his life. Because Oliver slept—soundly, so soundly, which was in many ways surprising, but considering how thoroughly Derrick had physically and sexually exhausted the boy, it wouldn’t have surprised him if Oliver had slept for days—Derrick, on the other hand, did not for a moment rest. He lay there, lingering in this perfect inbetween, neither unconscious nor conscious, as these minutes ticking by—too fast, so fast—felt too hazily heavenly to be real.
A figment of his imagination. The gentle stroking of his fingertips on Oliver’s pastel skin never ceased, like brushes to a canvas. Only instead of the threads leaving impressions on the clean and pure surface, they were instead seeking to obtain impressions, take with them instead of leave behind. Because the second Derrick left his side it would be a second too soon. And despite his efforts to leave Oliver with pieces of him, to the tune of thousands of quid, he realized that none of that mattered because regardless of if he had spent ten thousand or ten pence, he still would be walking out that door no longer whole. He’d be leaving behind a healthy chunk of his soul and would be returning to Belvedere half of a man.
I love you.
He’d lost track of how many times he’d chanted it, how many kisses he’d left tasting of those three words onto the curves of Oliver’s body, but it was another number that didn’t matter as they they would never amount to enough. They would always be hollow in comparison, as hollow as his heart would be 37 minutes from now.
I don’t want you to wait for me.
It had been the hardest thing he’d ever had to say, but he knew, despite the promise of their futures together, he could not promise or predict time, or circumstance. He wanted Oliver to be a whole person, his own person, without Derrick. Regardless of what Derrick would be feeling back at Belvedere, he did not want that for Oliver. Oliver had a chance at a real life now and Derrick would not stand to see it wasted.
I don’t want you to wait for me, Oliver. I don’t want you spending every day worrying about me and waiting for me—for a release that I don’t even know when will be coming. As far as I know I could spend the next year there. I don’t want you to wait for me. Don’t, and I promise that the day I get out, I’ll be at your doorstep, and whatever the situation is, we’ll deal with it then. But I don’t want you to wait for me.
Wide eyes so beautiful, so layered and compassionate and in that moment Derrick found it ironic that it was his own compassion that Oliver seemed most in awe of.
I’m not going to be with anyone else, Derrick. I don’t want anyone else…
It’s not like Derrick hadn’t anticipated this reply, and he’d prepared the only answer he could give him, even though nothing but time and distance could change the boy’s mind—which, Derrick felt confident, it would.
If I mean that much to you, then you could find yourself a hundred new boyfriends between now and when I get out, and we’d still make it work. From what I understand, the real stuff is timeless. So with me now or with me later, it makes no difference.
Aside from the pain.
No. Time for that later. Time for pain later.
The conversation still bounced fuzzy and echoing in his head, and it was funny how it had happened some time in the middle of the night, and even though the sun was now rising, it felt like only minutes ago. Seconds. Heartbeats.
Derrick could still hear Oliver’s heart beating. Had decided to wait until the teen had dozed off peacefully, the blond’s lips still pressed to the hill of his shoulder, before taking his early morning leave. He had 12 minutes to be downstairs and escorted back to Belvedere, and he watched Oliver sleep up until the very last two, before leaving a pillow wet with tears to kiss a warm temple and slip out of bed. He didn’t have the heart to wake him. Their lasts moments together would be blissful and warm beneath the cover of a new comforter and a hazy sleep.
Time for pain later.
Finally down to the last 63 seconds, he writes a note for Oliver to find in the kitchen.
Get a cat. Name her Rose—you remember.
I love you, Oliver. Be good.
An asylum filled with mysterious and twisted underlying factors… You sure this isn’t the plot to a bad horror movie? Alright, alright, mental note-taking time… Cain… I think I’ve seen him around. Don’t know much about him, but he’s off-putting with the pinstripe suits and ridiculous floral ties… If he’s running the place, I guess that provides some reason as to why it’s so shady.
Stark… Stark… All that’s coming up is Tony and then Iron Man— Oh, right. Stark. Met him not too long ago… I believe we had an enthralling conversation about room temperature… Now that you mention it, I see where you’re coming from there.
Aw, hun, telling me not to mess with people is like telling water not to be wet. But, I’ll do my very best to be on my best behavior. Which, now that I think about it, isn’t saying very much, but I like living for the most part, so I guess my impending doom kind of deters me from going too far. Thanks for the heads up.
[laughs] I know, he’s quite a character. But if you think he’s a bad dresser you should have seen Tyde. He was king of the bad bowties. It was so bad it was almost impressive. [grins]
Iron Man… good film. Wouldn’t mind giving that a watch again sometime soon. You should give that a suggest to anyone who’ll listen.
Well, I’m not telling ya not to play by all the rules. You do what you want, lovely. I just mean try not to get caught, yeah? [Another gentle grin, friendly chuckle]
[She notices how his smile doesn’t quite reach it eyes, but she chooses to ignore it. Half-smiles seemed to be a common occurrence at Belvedere too.] Or maybe I’ll be the one doing to strangling. [She gives him a little wink in an attempt to lighten the mood, painfully aware of the truth in their jesting.]
I wouldn’t put it passed you—not because I know you but because I know it’s very unwise to underestimate the little ones who look harmless. They never are, are they? [grins]
Riley laughs.] Something like that, sure.
You’re so mysterious. I’m digging and digging here and you’re deflecting like a pro. What, patients the only one who’re allowed or expected to be open?
No, it’s fine, I just-
Don’t want to be a hassle, that’s all. Feel all awkward. ‘M sorry.
[He smiles gently.] You aren’t a hassle, okay love? Ever.
[Putting a hand on her shoulder, he tilts his head] You should get some rest, yeah? Be safe and we’ll catch up later, okay? You know where ta find me if you need me, yeah?
[Riley smiles. She is aware of her faults; she’s a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to certain things, a bit too apathetic to others. She has trouble looking at stacks of anything (papers, books, files) out of order or not at right angles. She spends ages studying the patient files to the point of memorizing them. On the other hand, she still gets lost sometimes in the hospital. Riley can’t help which things fall in which of her faults, but she manages to keep it under control most of the time. Yes, she’s a bit odd, but isn’t everyone? Of course this would all be too much to reveal to a patient.] Everyone does. But I think the most important thing is that we try to get better.
[chuckles] Oh yeah? Like what, lovely? Stir your tea too loudly? Bite your spoon? [He’s being facetious now, but hopes she doesn’t take offense to it.]
[Fawn lets out a little chuckle, though it comes out as more of a harsh bark. She supposes it’s a rather morbid thing to laugh about in a place like this, but it was funny.] Hating yourself if I kind of common around here, huh? Guess it comes with the whole insane thing, although you people aren’t nearly as crazy as I thought you would be. No one’s even tried to strangle me or anything.
[He smiles at her, hoping it helps to hide the painful irony he feels at the comment of strangling. He does not think of her. Will not. Don’t, Derrick. He swallows.]
Yes, well, don’t count your chicks before they hatch, yeah? Not that I’m threatening you, but in a place like this, that ‘yet’ is pretty significant. No one’s tried to strangle you, yet. [He grins to show he’s mostly teasing, despite the fact that there is some truth in the words.]
There was a tension that sort of vibrated through Layla’s thin, wiry limbs, and it was almost visible in the way she held herself, presented herself hard and stiff over him, refusing to sit or soften. It made him want to roll his eyes, but it was an action he refrained—that is, until she responded.
“Tell me something that doesn’t make me want to slit my wrists because I refuse to believe that in these few months of my absence, not one positive thing has happened to you.”
His reaction was possibly more audible than it would have been had he not resisted his initial instinct, but now, he’s cracked a bit—and whether that had been her intention all along or not, he’s not sure, but he’s officially showing a bit more irritation than previously. Then again, that had been the turn of their friendship all those months ago—he hadn’t been willing to put up with her bullshit during that first conversation. Hadn’t allowed her to walk all over him, and perhaps it was that that had demanded of her respect that she didn’t bother giving most.
“You know what, no,” he started, brows lowered over eyes dark with contempt. “That’s not how this works, Layla. You asked me to fill you in, so I’m filling you in. You don’t get to dictate what it is that I decide to open up to you about. So what if I’m complaining? The point of catching up with someone isn’t to just brag about how great you’re feeling to someone, regardless of whether or not it’s true. The point is to be open and honest with someone and have them listen and maybe be open and honest back. You want to play the friend card, Layla, you get dealt the entire hand, not just what’s convenient for you. You like being on my good side, then suck it up, otherwise you can take it or leave it as far as I’m concerned.”
He was of the belief that she was far too accustomed to getting what she wanted, whenever she wanted, purely because she intimidated the fuck out of people, and because she knew how to throw a temper tantrum when she wanted to. Not like Derrick was one to point fingers about losing one’s shit, but Layla did it in a different way than he did, obviously. She would purposely put people down and trample all over their faces in her shiny red stilettos—representation of her class and placement over you—because if she was unhappy, then damn right she would make you bleed and bruise with the soles of her own tired and dragging feet.
“I’m not just going to pretend like everything’s peachy keen for the sake of you having a happy fucking bedtime story to listen to. That’s not how this works and if that’s what you’re expecting than you can turn around now. I’ll tell you the truth and nothing astray from it. The bad’s the starting point because it’s the burdening shit, then we work our way up to brighter things, if you last that long. But don’t think you’d reap no rewards. You get to bitch to me too. About anything you want, anything at all. Which—”
He paused to look at her, his frown now turned into something of a cocksure grin, and again there’s amusement to be found in his eyes. “—which I know you love doing. Seriously, you should consider bitching in the Olympics. Go for the gold.”
He stopped, wished for a cigarette, ran his hands through his hair, and sighed. “So go on then, I gave you a rather thorough list, even iced it with a funny bit about hitting on Ascott under the influence. Now’s the part where you pretend to be interested in at least one or two of them, by asking for more detail. Don’t worry, I know you’re new to the whole, fundamentally considerate human being thing—I’ll walk ya through it.”
Two could play at this game of blunt and abrasive.
Listening to Derrick go off on his rant, Layla raised one finely plucked eyebrow. Finely plucked, because hard though she fought to escape her upbringing it was near impossible to shake off every shackle of that wealthy childhood.
She listened— the minimum respect that she offered to everyone. And it amused her, because however much fondness she has for someone it is always amusing to hear people embark upon similar fits of wordy irritation as Layla so often did herself. Always.
And when he was finished, quite finished telling her off for her lack of manners, she stared at him with something akin to peacefulness. “Derrick,” she said, slowly, as if trying to emphasis the importance of each syllable she spoke. Sometimes Layla thought she spoke too quickly. People might miss the essential profundity of her words. “I was making a joke. You needn’t get all up in arms about it. Evidently it’s been too long since we saw one another, because you seem to have entirely missed the point of my statement. While your speech was very pretty, it was unnecessary. I simply meant to lighten the mood a little, not suggest that your problems were worthless. If that was insensitive, then you have my apologies.”
Actually, it hadn’t been a joke. Layla had been dead serious: Derrick was being depressing even by her own standards. But this here, it was a joke. She was making fun of her own mannerless approach to everything including her friends. Or maybe it should be ‘friends’ in inverted commas, because while Derrick might be a prime example of how a good friend should behave, Layla was the opposite. She was rude, uncaring, self centred, an enormous number of things really that made her a terrible friend.
But here she was, trying to diffuse the tension and make a joke at her own expense, and if Derrick didn’t appreciate it then fuck him.
As a further act of defiance, Layla tossed herself carefully to be seated on the bench next to Derrick. She gave him a look as if to say, I’m not afraid of you. I can relax by you and not feel threatened. He’d given her no reason to believe that he thought anything remotely like that, but she was in the habit of jumping to the defensive like that.
Crossing one leg neatly over the other, although the elegance of the action was let down by the fact that she was wearing flat plimsolls, Layla sighed and tried to soften her expression. It didn’t entirely work. At this point, her features might as well be frozen permanently into a scowl and nobody would know the difference. When she was a great deal younger, her grandmother had said the wind’s going to change and then your face will stick like that, and Layla had thought it was bullshit.
Now she wasn’t so sure. Maybe that old wive’s tale wasn’t a literal thing. Even as a young girl Layla had had a sullen face, and she never made any effort to brighten it. The winds did change, gradually, as her mother’s abusive behaviour escalated and her father backed out of the picture.
And her face really had stuck like that.
The thought probably should have saddened her, because it occurred to her that she couldn’t remember the last honest, wide, carefree grin that had crossed her features. But it didn’t make her sad. It didn’t make her anything. It just was.
“Tell me about your ordeal with Oliver.” she said, still without the tension truly sliding from her face. A mental replay of all of the names Derrick had mentioned, and this one stood out because Oliver was his boyfriend. “I will assume by ‘not careful’ you weren’t referring only to forgetting to use protection. So what exactly was so upsetting about it? I don’t mean to be crass, but surely fucking your boyfriend is a cause for celebration,”
This time she was careful to school her tone, keep any unneeded aggression out of it so that Derrick would know that she was being serious now, not making fun of him, not making fun of herself, but trying her best to show concern for what troubled him.
Her response was, in its own way, even more orchestrated than her previous stand-offish rant had been, only it came from the opposite pole. But Derrick was able to recognize this as a genuine concession, birthed from something of a real apology. That she was backing off at all was a grand statement in and of itself, so the fact that it was expressed in a show or sarcasm and condescension was really no surprise. And to be honest, knowing and loving Layla, was all about being able to see through her bullshit.
And Derrick saw.
So he offered her a smile equally as tight and pained as the one she offered him, but the funny thing was that there was actually a unique kind of affection found in hard curve of them. An understanding. They were leveling with each other in the most curious of ways, but with Miss Mansfield, it seemed worked. And Derrick was okay, really, with maintaining friendships that demanded work and effort, because he felt like a true friendship with him demanded effort as well, though perhaps of a different kind than Layla. So he would do unto others and he would have them done to him, but not out of obligation to morality or God, but rather out of the very empathetic workings of his weakened in shield, but steady in beating, heart.
And then Layla settled first on the subject of Oliver. And for a man who had spent so much of the past two seasons talking about a certain doe-eyed fawn, as he liked to refer to him as, Derrick for once didn’t want to talk about Oliver.
He had to laugh. After she’d made a point of setting aside her irritating pride to inquire about something she probably cared very little about, the thought of telling her that, just kidding, he didn’t want to talk about it, was simultaneously horrific and hilarious. He could practically see the remnants of her brain all over the garden now, the after effects of the explosion of her huge head.
Oh, fuck, the irony.
Shaking a bit with the exhaustion of his laugh and knowing full well that Layla was probably staring him down and preparing some kind of sniping retort demanding to know just what the fuck he was laughing at, he rubbed his face with his hands, rougher than necessary. Then, with a heavy exhale that came out more like a groan, he tried to explain.
“M’sorry. Sorry… it’s not that I don’t want to talk about him, or it… it’s just that so much has happened and there’s still so much… in the air… that I feel almost like the subject is irrelevant now. I have new things I’m worried about, you know?” He offers her an apologetic grin. “But I know, I know, I brought it up. It’s, um, less of an issue than it was, but still a concern, I guess? I don’t know. Basically the very fact that I’ve used sex for the past five or six years as a coping mechanism for my disorder has made my reality of shagging, episode related. So… by that I mean that I so often released my aggression in a rough shag or five over the years, that now shagging is actually a trigger. Which is… ironic in the cruelest way actually.
“I was real concerned ‘bout hurting him for a long time, and I don’t just mean physically, but mentally too, yeah? What with his disorder and how certain things, especially violence, can trigger his panic attacks and well, it’s a bad combination you can imagine.”
With a sigh, he carded his fingers through his own thick tresses. “Anyway, our first time was…” Then, as though remembering who he was talking to, he paused and glanced her way. There’s a moment of hesitation before he waved the topic off. “You know what, it’s not important. It’s a general concern but I mean, we’re managing thus far. But that, combined with all the other ways in which I’m terrified of hurting him… it’s just given me a lot to think about. I mean, I love him, I do. Very much. But first there was this thing with Lukas… which I never told Oliver about, by the way… and now there’s… something else. With a friend. I mean, it’s nothing, but it’s not nothing, you know? It’s just… ‘Cor, I’m worried I don’t know how to do this. I swear to God, I love Oliver as much as I know how to, but I still… I don’t know what it is about me, I’m just very physical and I think I must be broken in there somewhere—”
On the phrase, his hand loosely hit his chest a couple times, as though gesturing to his own body helplessly, not understanding it.
“—because the rest of my feelings are all mixed up. Hard to clearly split and separate. Things with Oliver feel different than they do with anyone else, sure, but I also am beginning to discover that I don’t think I know anything but physicality? Like… love, anger, happiness, whatever, all my emotions just translate into being physical in some way and… fuck I don’t know. I find myself wanting… things. And it’s confusing and fucked up and I feel like I can’t do this. I can’t offer him what he deserves because I stand here, loving him, wanting to be with him—but meanwhile realizing that there are others I love in different, but equally significant ways, and I can’t seem to… control that.”
Oh, blimey he’s been rambling. And he was pretty sure he’d made very little sense. Both his palms came up to meet his face again. “Ugh, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Layla, I’m not making any sense. I’m just sodding confused and a bit lost, and I know this isn’t your problem. I intended to bitch a bit but I swear I didn’t think it’d get this complicated to fast.”
And it’s funny, because such was true about his current situation—his very life, actually. He’d had no idea when he walked through those doors, that things would get so complicated, so fast.
“Do you think that maybe isolatin’ yourself from the people that matter isn’t necessarily the best option? I mean… you’re very self deprecatin’, Derrick. You know that.”
Derrick almost laughed. In fact, he did laugh, one of those airy, barely-there ones that came out as mostly breath, skepticism expressed by a bitter exhale and an ironic puff of amusement.
Yes, he knew that. Of course he knew that. And yet, he didn’t know how to be anything else. There were times that he did know certain things about himself—that he was better than his father, that he was kind and loving and passionate to a fault—he knew those things. But they simply did not and could not erase in his mind, all the things about himself that buried the good. Sure he cared a lot more than his father ever did, sure he wasn’t a raging alcoholic or an intentionally abusive maniac, but that didn’t take away all the mistakes he’d made, people he’d hurt. It didn’t make his wrongs rights.
“… I get the feelin’ that the problem isn’t that you’re hurting people with your anger— it’s that you’ll find a way to make yourself believe that it’s your fault they’re hurt….”
He swiveled to look at her her, sadness in his eyes. He wasn’t sure if this was new information or old. It felt vaguely familiar, so alike to the many ‘its not your fault’s that he got from his therapists over the years, but perhaps expressed in a different way. Perhaps it was Ava’s lack of being a doctor, a judging, writing, observing psych major, but instead a sweet, slurring nurse with a lovely face and an even lovelier disposition.
It occurred to him then that maybe truths about himself simply sunk in easier when they were coming from people he didn’t see as his authority. As the white coats who would determine his fate and his health. He was beginning to see a pattern.
Did he do that then? Did he take blame where it wasn’t his? He didn’t necessarily see it that way. Deep down, he knew Bailey’s assault wasn’t his fault persay, but he also could not just up and remove himself from the equation. This thing with London, to be honest, wasn’t entirely about his problem with his anger, but more to do with his tendency to put his trust in the wrong places. So was this the problem then? That it wasn’t just his anger he hated himself for, but also a list of many other things that in his eyes made him a hazard to anyone and everyone around him?
He buried his face in his hands, groaning lightly. Great, because he really needed more reasons to feel inadequate. No, inadequate wasn’t right—inadequacy was when one felt like they weren’t good enough. Derrick mostly felt like he was beyond that, that he was wrong in so many ways.
He sighed, shaking his head. “I don’t know anymore,” he started. “I mean, you’re probably right. But I don’t… I don’t know. I know what London did to Bailey wasn’t entirely on me, but I just… I hate that I’m so… I’m so desperate to fix people, to care about people, that I’m so fucking weak, that I trust in all the wrong places, I guess. I mean, I was skeptical about her at first, but I… I softened like putty in her hands and I shouldn’t have because look where it got me. I s’pose you could say this particular thing isn’t just about me being—” a lopsided shrug, “—violent or whatever, it’s about me being a fucking idiot. Ava, I just… I don’t know myself, anymore. Just when I think I’m doing something right, something I can be proud of myself for—seeing the good in people, giving them benefit of doubt because maybe that’s what I need to—it just comes back to bite me in the ass. So I think maybe I’m just deluding myself. That the few things I think I’m doing right, actually aren’t right at all.”
It saddened Ava that Derrick saw his ability to trust people, even if that trust was misplaced, as a weakness. She thought that it might be the most beautiful thing about him. It took a certain sort of person to possess trust as a basic instinct, something that people had a right to rather than something that was a privilege.
Innocent until proven guilty—
But the world is cruel and people proved the misplacement of Derrick’s trust again and again. Whether it was his father, a figure that should implicitly be kind, abusing him, or a tentatively made friend simply throwing the trust back in his face, there were a dozen people that seemed to have hurt him for every one that hadn’t. Ava didn’t know how he did it. Maybe it was just good luck, but she had never been treated with too much cruelness.
Oh, there had been the odd happenings. The sideways looks that came with being gay in a little Southern town, and the similar glances that followed her throughout her modelling. The occasional mocking comments at school when she had been young and her body had developed more quickly than the other girls, the way the boys would snap her bra strap. But nothing out of the usual— nothing like what the patients here had put up with. Ava would be the first to tell people never to compare their problems with others, because problems simply aren’t comparable. There was a clear difference here though: nobody had ever maliciously tried to hurt Ava.
So who could really say— if she had led the life that Derrick had, maybe she would be as resentful of her natural ability to put trust in anybody, however undeserving. Maybe if he had led the life that she had, he wouldn’t have the problems that he did. In fact, there was no ‘maybe’ about it.
There wasn’t any point in maybes and what ifs, however. They were here, and it was now, and Derrick was hurt. Ava stood up and placed a gentle, tentative touch to his shoulder. The view that he had from the window wasn’t beautiful, but the leaves were turning and that always seemed bittersweet. It had always been a nice time of year for Ava, when the leaves turned. It meant the harvests would be coming in, and there would be family dinners and petrichor evenings and mudding on wet afternoons and the hot smell of cinnamon. Yet there was some sort of overarching sadness to it, because everything was dying.
It would be reborn come the spring, but it was still dying now. Leaves wouldn’t grow on the trees, wheat wouldn’t grow in the ground, and the sun wouldn’t stay in the sky for quite so long.
“Derrick,” And her voice was soft and genuine, “Seein’ the best in people isn’t a weakness, not at all. When they betray your trust, it’s not a weakness on your part for havin’ thought they were kinder than that. It’s a weakness on their part for not being as kind as they should be. I know that not much I say is gonna help right now, but I honestly think you’re very strong. It takes a lot to trust people even in spite of their best efforts to prove you wrong. It’s just my opinion of course, but I think it shows how strong you are, not how weak,”
Fingers moving from his shoulder and back to her own side, she didn’t quite move back yet. No, she stayed at Derrick’s side and looked at the menagerie of green and yellowing leaves that the tree possessed.
Derrick wanted to believe her, but he couldn’t help but think that her words were idealistic, naive.
“When they betray your trust, it’s not a weakness on your part for havin’ thought they were kinder than that.It’s a weakness on their part for not being as kind as they should be.”
Part of him wanted to retort, ‘but that’s not how the world works!’ People are unkind. They kill, they cheat, they steal. It was simply human nature. But at this point he was too exhausted to bother. He felt like even if he tried, he would get part way through his intake of breath and loose steam long before the first consonants even formed. All he had left now were vowel sounds, and a few remaining grunts of his hoarse throat.
Truth be told, he just wanted to sleep.
He appreciated the effort though, and the fact that she had stayed longer than she’d needed to, purely to show him kindness. Her presence was a comfort, because the reality was that Derrick hated being alone. He often sequestered himself to it, but he didn’t like it. He felt that in solitude he wilted and withered, limbs growing stiff and shoulders sagging with a laborious weight that would take days to lift.
The touch of her hand had meant more to him than she probably even realized. Physicality, after all, was the only thing he knew, the only thing he understood or related to.
Arms folded across his chest, wrapped in a way that was akin to hugging himself, he turned to her just slightly, gaze leaving the window. There was a gentle smile touching his lips and when he spoke, he caught her lovely gaze, then glanced down.
“Thank you, Ava. For everything.” A hand, slow and smooth so as not to startle her, approached her face as non-threatening as possible. He had a feeling that even after what she’d just witnessed, she couldn’t be afraid of him in this moment. It had to have been obvious how languid and weary he was. Calm. The monster inside huffed out and falling into an angry slumber, Derrick trying in vain to piece himself back together on the outside.
His finger touched her chin, a very soft gesture of affection. He couldn’t allow himself any more than that. She was probably not scared, but there was a limit to even the most generous of forgiveness, and even he knew that. “I owe you one, love.”
Holding her gaze a moment longer before dropping it with a sigh, he turned slowly on his heel, running his hand through his hair. “I think I need to catch some shut eye, yeah? This shite exhausts me.”
And as he started to drift off, head and shoulders sinking into the pillows that felt much more soft when he was this tired, he wondered how he might repay her for her kindness. And whether or not it would continue to be this vicious cycle of being rewarded forgiveness, desperately trying to make up for it, then buggering it up all over again.
He honestly hoped not. Because he was getting really tired of seeing the look of fear in innocent eyes.
You’re not a guard, you know. You don’t need to act like one.
‘M fine, mostly. Honest.
[Derrick frowns, unsure if he feels dejected or put out, or what] I know… I’m sorry I was just…
[He trails off, backing away from her a bit with a sigh] Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry. I’ll stop being a protective berk. Got it.
Course. Your absolute favorite pushy twerp. [She gives him a shy grin, muscles stretching after having been unused for so long.]
[Bailey shrugs absently.] She was okay, I guess. Doesn’t mean the new head’ll be nicer.
[He flashes her a charming smile] ‘Obviously.
Try not to think about it too much. It is what it is and I promise it’ll be fine… just stay away from London and… come find me if you ever need me okay? I’m just a stairs away, yeah?
Oh man, I haven’t ever had the coffee here, but I vowed to myself that I’d never step foot into the cafeteria again after a bad experience with one of the muffins.
Just thinking about it now makes me cringe. Though the pasta isn’t all that bad…or I’m just suppressing bad memories. Either or.
Mmm, I should get you some of my roomate’s coffee. She makes it the absolute best…also she used to be a Starbucks barista so I suppose that helps quite a bit as well. Am I even allowed to give you things like that?
Muffins? Or, wait, do I even want to know? [grins, but it’s pained] Probably not, yeah? Since I’m still eating them and everything…
[Derrick is so thrilled at the news he feels his shoulders hunch a bit and his chest concave as though aching for a craving.] Bloody hell, Zo, I swear if you get me real coffee, I will fucking snog the shit out of ya. Or, well, I’d do anything. Literally. Blimey I think I’d die.
[shrugs] Someone once brought in McDicks for a friend. Not even sure who [he did actually, but he shouldn’t say just in case] but yeah I mean, I don’t think it’s a huge deal? Unless I was an addict of some kind.
Want a bet, mate?
[Bones. Bones everywhere and a spattering of dark hair, a treasure trail expanding into something wider, just over the waistband and fuck this was BEYOND unfair.]
Um, Sydney. I kind of hate you. Yes, I hate you.
-He groans loudly- Such a fucking cockblock. I guess I’ll have ta’ take care of my boner myself.
You do not have a boner you fucking blagger!