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20 September 2013 @ 06:06 pm
{fic} Split Ends  
Title: Split Ends
Summary: For a man who speaks little, there are always few things to say in the end.
Genre: tragedy
Characters: Tony, Doug
Pairings: none
Warnings: character deaths, dark themes, violence, post-series

Split Ends

"O Lord, if there is a Lord, save my soul, if I have a soul." -Joseph Ernest Renan

They say your life flashes before you when you die. You taste every tear, and feel it's saltiness on your tongue, like blood dripping from somewhere deep inside you, a mute cavern walled up years ago. But you don't speak to any of the memories. You were never as good with words as he was, never as quick to speak when silence would suffice.

Run with ghosts and you become one yourself. You wither and fade and turn to dust like everything around you, crumbling and shattering into exquisitely fine pieces that no one - least of all you - can put back together. You're old, so old, broken, and discarded. You believe you're lost, and then realize that you have been since you started, all those eons go.

There's blood etched beneath your fingernails, painfully crimson half moons that have long dried. At first you wiped at them frantically, motions teetering on hysteria. Now you simply ignore it, like a dread monster locked in an iron cage that you've walked around so many times that you can no longer fear it. It isn't your blood, you remember, and that makes it far more terrible.

You fall forward and die inside again, body surrendering to the labyrinth of color and sound, the awful feeling as time sucks at the marrow of your bones, draining you dry until have nothing left to give. You tell yourself you can do this again, once more, a hundred times even. You can survive because you've forgotten how to do anything else.

All this and it still doesn't feel real. It's only a dream because there were no words when you felt the rush of air as the knife left the man's hand, not even a muffled groan as you fumbled at your clothing and found no wound. You didn't need to speak to turn and see him standing there, on his feet, but staring downwards, as if transfixed by the silver tip exiting just between his ribs, the blade forced to the handle through the other side. You didn't need words when you felt his pain like a shockwave, nothing but your terror as he breathed blood, the scarlet dripping from his mouth in a steady trickle that began to run faster.

You needed no sentences, no eloquence to clasp a rock in your fist and slam it against the side of the man's head as he bends forward to examine his victim. He thrashes beneath you as your knees press his face into the dirt, hand breaking away from your mind as you bring the rock down again and again until the side of his head has a strange, foreign dent you can't quite comprehend, and your hands are stained with blood and something you don't want to identify. You don't speak, because you don't need words to become an animal, no words to stagger back to the man who's dropped to his knees.

You must have been sick then, even if you don't remember, retching as you caught him in your arms and started begging. You must have been dreaming, or someone else, as his eyes glazed over, still fixed on you, and you sat there, cradling a corpse until he was stiff and cold in your arms.

You think you buried him, but you didn't say anything over his grave. You went on, or you must have, because you were inside the Tunnel again and then out of it, a loose thread carelessly pulled from the fabric of time.

After that was the first time you saw him, and you didn't call his name or even speak to him. You only looked because he was just a child and you'd frighten him, even if your eyes burned with tears and your mind told you that it was a hallucination, a boy who only looks like him. But it wasn't, it was him, because the Tunnel, ageless creature that it is, is cruel like that, artistically cruel and twisted in a way a mortal could never be.

You ache to speak, to call to him and beg him to never go to Tic Toc, to never meet you, and to never have anything to do with that accursed Tunnel. But the words cling to your throat with salty barbs and you cannot force them out.

It's eleven trips later and two years more when you find him again, a chubby toddler stepping off the curb into the street. You move this time, instinct perhaps winning out from habits long formed. You lift him into your arms and he's so light, like a feather, not the lifeless weight you dragged into a shallow grave. You hand him back to his teary-eyed mother the instant you can, as if your touch would seer his flesh if you waited for even a second longer.

He looks back at you, black eyes wide and trusting, and you practically choke on the taste of fire and ashes in your mouth and the feel of death in your lungs. You want to scream, to claw at the blood that's long peeled from your hand, taking bits of skin with it. But you don't. Because you already know everything that's going to happen to him, like you know your own history, from his father's death at Pearl Harbor to his own somewhere in the Arabian sands. You know because you closed those innocent eyes yourself in the face of a man much older but not much changed.

It's that day that you stop looking for him and instead look for yourself. No, not look. Stalk. Whether knowingly - can a machine, a device think? - or by the always cruel hand of chance, you have all the opportunities time and space can offer. You relive them all, year after year, from your parents's deaths to the day you came to work at Tic Toc, even the day you met him, every memory as time loops like a skipping rope tangled around your ankles. You live a strange form of immortality, split into two bodies, as you watch yourself. You are Tithonus, but even he never suffered as much.

Now and then you try to change things. Words, even weapons. You don't listen to yourself, or anyone else it seems, and whatever glue holds time together refuses to let you kill your other self, so after a while you simply give up.

Once, yet again in the Civil War, you hold a boy as he dies. He looks something like him, same dark eyes. But not like him, too, because his eyes were alive, glittering and dancing like sparks from flint, right up until the end, not empty and hollow like this boy. He asks you, so quietly, if it hurts to die, and you tell him no, as his blood runs out of his chest and stains your hands, so much blood you know it will have to wear off rather than wash off, as before.

You feel nothing when he dies, because you've surrendered feeling ages ago, along with everything else, it seems. He's not the first man you've watch die, and he's certainly not the last.

When the end comes for you you're alone, of course. You're flat on your back with a sea of stars swimming above you and the cool grip of the night tugging at all exposed flesh, and your head is tipped back, throat exposed and vulnerable. You don't say anything, not even then, because you don't need words to slowly bleed out, to feel the broken bones strain against your skin, every frail piece broken from your fall, and know you've stopped being a ghost and finally found your rest.

You lied to that boy so long ago. It hurts, deep and probing, stretching into the corners of every nerve and cell and eating them alive, inch by agonizing inch, and you want to call to him until you remember that he's been dead so much longer than you have, and you can't clearly picture his face anymore, and even his name tastes strange in your mouth, like sand baked by the desert sun.

So you say nothing. You don't need words to die.

 
 
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