[center Sirens sound in the distance. Horns blare. Stoplights flicker, dim in the coming dark. People rush by on the sidewalks while cars cruise by, rumbling over dry pavement. The world is at peace.]
[center And yet it is not. A dark power crushes close, insinuating itself among humankind secretly. Velveteen claws are curled into places of security and power, sheathed only until they can strike once and decisively. Every institution has been infiltrated. The intruders are everywhere, hidden in plain sight. Until the claws are unsheathed and the trap snapped shut, even the infiltrators do not know what they are. Human in appearance, human in nature, in every way, from memory to appearance, a perfect replica of those whom they have replaced. ]
[center There is no secret organization to oppose them. There is no resistance to be had against that which does not exist. Those who discover the truth cast their eyes aside and claim they did not see, for to admit to have seen such horror is to admit insanity. ]
[center Their patience is boundless. They have waited for generations, for millennia, watched humanity claw its way towards the unknowable beyond, but now their waiting is almost done. The coil bends, the pressure plate dips, the spring is compressed. And when the trap is sprung, nothing will be left of this Earth but ash.]
The black goat's thousand young are among us, perfectly disguised, preparing their final assault upon the Earth. When the thousandth child arrives, then will their disguises be cast aside and Earth's dominion shall be transferred to those beyond human understanding.
We play a pair of humans who have been upset from their homes by imposters who are, impossibly, identical to themselves in every way, down to the very memories. My character has been displaced for some time, while yours has only just been replaced. In this time of confusion, your character finds themselves drawn to mine, and mine offers yours guidance, hope, and a way to fight. So long as all thousand are not on earth, the trap remains unshut. And we two are the only two who know, the only two who can oppose them.
I want this roleplay to be dark and mature-themed. The black goat's young cannot be told from ordinary mortal humans until after a vital blow has been struck. There will be paranoia, fear, uncertainty, and surest of all, death. This is a long, hard battle with no certain outcome, where anyone and anything might turn against us at any moment. This roleplay is strongly influenced by Lovecraft, as you might have guessed from the title. The black goat's young are beings that defy human understanding, but they can be killed, or at least sent back to the dark realm from which they come. Romance is not necessary, but I would prefer a heterosexual or mxm relationship, if you desire it. I am very much open to any suggestions you might have as to where the plot might go.
Feel free to ask questions. Please pm me the skeleton below once you are ready to apply. This is not first come, first serve.
[center [b Name: // Age: // Gender: // Personality: // Bio: // Physical description: // Picture: (illustrated) // Sample post:]]
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He caught the wince that passed across Landon's face when he jumped. It was hard not to; the man didn't make any attempt to hide it. Sharp movements were still a no-go. It just cemented what he already knew: they needed to lay low until Landon healed.
Landon's paranoia stopped him an inch from the door handle. Could be hunters. He checked his jacket and reached for his pipe, clenching it tightly. Couldn't forget that. He was happy to have Landon back, but if he wasn't careful, that wouldn't last long. "You stay back," he advised Landon. It'd have been more reassuring if the goatling had decided to be a big dog instead of a tiny rat, but for what it counted, that rat didn't seem too worried about what was on the other side of the door.
"Admitting it is the first step to recovery," Bell assured Landon. "It's just dinner. We'll be fine." And it if was hunters, he'd kill them before they could do much as last a finger on Landon. He glanced back to make sure Landon was out of the range of any potential danger, then opened the door.
On the other side was a busboy in a hotel uninform, holding a few plates of food. "You ordered?" he asked.
"Yep," Bell said. He released the pipe and reached for his wallet. "How much was that again?"
The busboy listed a number. Bell peeled off the required bills and handed them over, taking the plates in exchange. He let the door slam shut behind him and headed over to Landon, holding the plates aloft. "Your dinner, sah," he announced, in a very fake posh accent. "Here ya go. I'll eat what you can't finish."
With that, he laid into the chicken fingers, devouring them as if they were the first thing he'd eaten all day. The breaded chicken tasted like childhood, reminding him of many kids meals he'd had when he was half his age. It'd been a stressful day, but at least he was able to unwind here at the end of it.
He finished his off in record time and sat back, one hand on a full stomach and a satisfied expression on his face. "That's good eating," he declared to no one in particular. He looked at Landon, then gave him a nudge. "I'm gonna shower, you gonna stay out here?" It'd probably be more hassle than it was worth to try and get in together with that sling and his various other injuries. Not that he'd turn Landon down, but it just seemed like he'd rather sleep. "Shout if you start seeing things." .
He was lying. Bellwether was lying about being fine. He wasn't. Landon knew Bell wasn't and the man was stubborn about it too. And then Bell reached out, brushed his hair back tenderly and all the thoughts he had, all the frustration and anger, just melted away. Or dwindled to a simmer anyway. Bell scooted back and took him into his lap. Landon felt confused, but Bell's scent was so familiar, so reassuring. He was fine. He'd be fine.
"Months, wasn't it?" Landon supplemented softly.
They hadn't seen one another in months. He'd been in a tube, experimented on by the stupid hunters and then freed from the goatling apparently.
The goatling that was now living it up as a rat. Landon started at the noise and hissed. Okay. The painkillers worked if he kept calm, not if he chose to jerk his arm this way and that.
Landon grunted in agreement to Bell's comment.
Everything felt unhinged and unsure. Bell's health, them being together. Hunters might appear at any time, his mind might give up dealing with reality at any second. His shoulder felt like it was broken beyond repair.
Bell left him to open the door.
"What if they're hunters?" Landon suggested. He already pushed up. Where was his bat? Bell's pipe? Did they have weapons? Guns?
"Bell, what if they're hunters?" Paranoia danced like electricity across his skin. Landon climbed to his feet and scanned the room for a weapon. He blinked. No. Wait, this was just room-service, right? Bell had ordered them food just a moment ago. This was expected. Normal.
His feet ached.
Landon hesitated then. His free hand twitched, flexing and relaxing, as if grasping for something: a weapon, a concept. Anything and everything.
"I'm confused," Landon admitted. He wasn't seeing things, exactly, but he was definitely confused.
"I just- there's food, right? They're bringing food. That's. Okay, I guess," Landon mumbled, more to himself than anyone else. Daniel was there, arms crossed, leaning against the wall next to the door. Landon watched the man. He wasn't real.
They were with the two of them. No one else was there. It was all in his head.
Maybe Bell wasn't even there.
Ah, the old "I don't care" meal. Bell scoured the meager menu, looking for something even a hotel kitchen couldn't screw up. Chicken fingers and fries, surely that couldn't go wrong? And hmm... Yeah, a second order of the same for Landon. He'd eat two orders of that, worst came to worst.
He caught Landon looking at him and flashed a grin. He looked really tense right now. Still struggling with reality, was he? It'd been too much to hope that the pills would be a panacea. Maybe this was all the better it got. He wasn't killing himself, though, so it was definitely a step in the right direction.
Bell moved closer to the bed for the phone. He sat down beside Landon. "Hmm? No, I'm fine," he said. It didn't hurt all the time. Just every now and again. This was why he'd wanted to keep it from Landon. The man was way too paranoid about these things.
He called down to the desk and placed their order, with a promise to pay cash upon delivery. When he hung up, he looked at Landon. So worried and tense. He shouldn't be. They were okay, for the first time in forever. He was back together with Landon. Bell reached out and brushed the man's hair back, then scooted back in the bed and took him into his lap. "You're so pretty," he said. His hands played with Landon's hair, found his head and started kneading gently. "So pretty. It's been so long, you know, since I've seen you. I missed you a lot."
He sighed out. It'd been a long time. Even longer, if he considered that this was Landon. Just having him here in his arms, not fighting or screaming, felt like heaven.
"I should probably take a shower before we leave," he muttered, thinking aloud. It'd been a long time on that end, too. He probably stunk to high heavens. It was a miracle that Landon was putting up with it.
Across the room, something clattered and thudded to the floor. Scamper emerged from a pile of remotes and other small bits and scurried away behind the television to continue exploring. "At least someone's having a good time," Bell muttered. A hotel room had to be like a playground to the rat.
A knock came from the door. "Room service," a man called out. Bell carefully set Landon back on the bed before scooting off. He jogged over to the door. Alright, food was here!
They’d been sleeping? Landon opened his eyes back up. Whatever instability he felt only increased with the darkness behind his eyelids. He didn’t feel safe. Dinner? Confusion set in like a slow-working alcoholic drink. He blinked at Bellwether, as if trying very hard to figure out what was going on. In the end, nothing worked out for him. Nothing was quite the same. He was confused. Disjointed thoughts coursed through his mind, changing direction with each blink of his eyes.
He watched as Bell produced a menu, stolen from the fangs and paws of a white lab-rat. The goatling. Landon watched its beady eyes and felt reassured for some reason. He’d have thought it’d make him feel less secure, but it didn’t.
“I- I don’t know,” he managed.
Food. It wasn’t on his mind, but he had to eat something, right? He hadn’t really eaten anything he could remember. Actually, he could remember fairly little to begin with. How had they ended up here anyway? A hotel. Just another hotel. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
Landon’s eyes looked at Bell imploringly, searching for the answers. Lost didn’t even get close to how he felt.
It felt like drowning.
Landon closed his eyes. He didn’t want to drown. He didn’t want to get caught by that cold water or that strong current. Landon swallowed thickly and pushed himself up to sit. Okay. Okay, he could do this. He was safe. They were the only two people in the room, bar the rat.
“Just… order me something, I don’t care,” Landon started.
He watched Bell, feared the familiar image of the man might suddenly change, looked away and then back again. If he did change, he wanted to see.
Nothing happened. Just a hazy sensation of surrealism taking over his world.
“Are you still hurt?” Landon asked. The thought had sprung up out of nowhere and he wasn’t even sure where it came from. Bell had been hurt, hadn’t he? No. In pain. Not hurt. The goat was hurt and there was nothing he could do but watch Bellwether die, eaten from the inside. Rotting on the inside.
Landon watched Bell and the solid image that wouldn’t change and realized that he wouldn’t be able to see anything that happened on the inside of Bell. Unless he opened the man up. No.
Landon dismissed the thought. It hadn’t even sounded like his own thought. It was someone else’s. Had to be.
Sure, sure, he'd seen Landon take them, but they certainly didn't seem to be working, did they? He sighed. Maybe this was normal. He'd never really known Landon on the pills. At the start, he hadn't known the signs well enough to know if he was hallucinating or not, and now, well, he'd been acting up, but he'd quieted down faster than usual. Maybe that was the pills. He didn't know.
"Yeah, we [i were] sleeping, you know," Bell muttered to himself. Of course Landon was tired. That was the whole point of sleep. He waved away the apology. If Landon apologized every time he hallucinated, they'd never get anything done.
He was okay now? When were the hallucinations ever that convenient? It seemed to be true, though, and well, he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. "Yeah, alright. Hey, shout every time you start seeing shit, alright? It'll make things easier on me." He smirked a bit as he said it, half serious. It would be a help, for certain.
Landon was about as fine as he thought Bell was. No one was fine, really. They were all just held together by quickly-fraying threads. It was the only way they knew to live, at this point. Bell smirked. [i At least we're used to it.] So used to it, that it almost seemed normal.
"What, you're just going back to sleep? No dinner?" Bell asked, glancing at the clock. It was a bit late for dinner after that first nap, but there was still plenty of time before the shops closed down. Landon seemed pretty sure about the whole sleep-thing, though. Bell sighed out and stood, rubbing the back of his neck. There was probably a menu around here somewhere with the takeout options, right? Or should he just order room service? He didn't want to leave Landon alone for a second.
Scamper was in the middle of eagerly nibbling the corner of the menu when he found it. "Hey, that's not food," he said, snatching it away from the rat. It gave an indignant squeal; Bell rolled his eyes back. "Right, you want anything, Landon?" he asked, reaching for the phone. He'd just order room service. Anything else sounded like too much effort.
A hand grabbed his arm. Daniel? Landon's eyes shot open, searching wildly around the room, only to land on Bellwether. Pills? "You don't-... it was," Landon turned back, confused. Daniel had been there, he'd been talking and there'd been whispers. Where were they even? Bellwether's voice snapped him back to focus on the man. No one else? He couldn't hear anyone any more either.
"I took them, you, you saw me take them," Landon started softly. He'd taken the pills. Did Bell think he wanted to be like this? It took a while for the drug to kick in. In fact, they tended to make things worse until they caught on and he evened out.
Landon lifted his hand to wipe at his brow. Confusion still clouded his thinking, but Bell was right. There was nothing there. Just a bad mix of painkillers and anti-psychotics. He was fairly certain they shouldn't be mixed too often. Maybe he shouldn't have taken them so close to one another. Landon decided he needed a better schedule.
"Tired," he breathed.
"Just- sorry," Landon put out there. He didn't even know what was going on anymore. He ran his hair back and blinked up at Bell.
"I'm okay now, sorry for waking you," he said. Confusion still messed with his perception, made it easy for a shadow to turn into a creature and a flickering light to become something else, but things remained a hotel-room for now. Steady.
He could do steady.
He had to, for Bell. The man was hurt, despite being adamant he could 'handle it'.
"I'm fine," Landon stressed.
He searched the room, as if seeing it for the first time, and slowly picked his way back to the bed. Bandages? Were they Bell's? Landon searched Bellwether's frame, but found the source of the bandages to be his own feet. The red lines were still caught in his skin, soles of his feet sore and sensitive.
He sat down and pulled one of his feet closer.
So what had happened there exactly? Landon let go of the foot, sighed and let himself sag back onto the bed.
Now that the world had returned to some type of order, he felt tired all over again. And still it felt like things could start back up at any second. He didn't feel stable. Landon reluctantly closed his eyes.
Words interrupted his sleep. Bell grumbled and shifted, rolling over to get more sleep. Whoever it was should shut up, because it was naptime, and he was sleeping.
The bed shifted. Bell cracked an eye open, ready to admonish whoever it was that was interrupting his lovely nap. Landon. Oh. So he'd woken up. Good. Bell closed his eyes again. He'd nap a little longer.
"Just get out."
Something about the way Landon said it jerked Bell back to consciousness. He blinked up at the other man. Sitting bolt upright, staring at the wall... not great signs here. No violence yet, but it'd come soon.
Bell sat up and looked at him. He'd undone the bandages on his feet? Why? At least those cuts had mostly healed.
Landon punched the air out of nowhere. Bell flinched back, surprised. "Whoa, whoa, what's going on?" he asked. "You skip your meds or something?"
No response. In fact, Landon closed his eyes and ears up. "Hey!" Bell protested. What a little shit! And he thought Daniel was the one who acted like a toddler. "Landon, don't you do this to me." Unless... was it Daniel? It could be, right? Landon had been out since he'd tried to kill himself, but there was every chance Daniel would come right back out any moment now. "Daniel?" he tried.
No response. He grabbed Landon's arm to get his attention, pulling it away from his ear. "You take your pills?" he repeated. He really should've memorized the frequency with which the pills had to be taken. No way could he trust Landon to do it for himself. Actually, was this going to go south? Should he go find something to tie up Landon with? The bindings... had been left behind in that empty building. Well, shit.
"Landon, hey. Stay here with me," he said, trying to catch Landon's attention. He'd just try his best, then. "There's no one else in the room, just us two. You can ignore it. It's not going to hurt you." Just them, all alone in a hotel room. Everything was fine. No one was in danger. No one was threatening them. If he just managed to coax Landon into calming down, it would all be okay.
Bell's protest set him at ease some, not that it mattered. Within seconds, Landon's consciousness wavered and sank to the depths of sleep and beyond. He didn't even dream or shift. His body was spent, trying to heal the injuries. Without the goatling there to speed up the process, it took some time. A normal, human, amount of time.
For the second time that day, the soft tickle of fur and scratchy nails of paws woke him up. A rat.
Landon's hazel eyes stared at the furry creature, trying to decide what was going on. It wasn't anywhere familiar he was at. Not the hospital. Or the car. Bell was there, but everything else was obscured in shadows. He could hear voices, whispers of words which meaning remained just out of reach.
"Who's there?" Landon tried.
He shifted. Pain coiled in the depths of his chest, around his ribs and shoulder. It was dulled, only just obscured, like the voices were. Landon felt like he was stuck under water. Slowly, he sat up. Landon whipped his face about, but there was nothing there. More darkness. His feet were bandaged. Why?
He reached down with his good hand and started to undo the bandages. Cuts. Shallow, mostly healed cuts revealed themselves. Some were still yellow around the edges where the antiseptic had disinfected the injuries. Someone had been taking care of the injuries then. It felt weird. Sore. Sensitive.
'You don't remember shit, do you Lenny?'
Landon's eyes shot to the corner. Daniel. He rose up and reached out. Nothing.
'All those months of being with Bell-boy, being the perfect version of the man you never was, and you remember zero,' the man sneered.
"Just get out," Landon grumbled under his breath.
'He's dying, Lenny,' Daniel whispered in his ear. 'He's dying and there's nothing you can do to stop it.'
He swiped, but hit nothing. Only air. It was all in his head. Landon tried to calm himself, tried to ease his breathing. He closed his eyes firmly, but the whispers wouldn't go away, neither did Daniel. It was as if he could feel the man's presence, breathing down his neck. Landon reached up with a hand, tried to close his ear, tried to dismiss the sensation but neither would go. More than the whispers and Daniel, he feared the water however. It'd drown him. It would.
It could be any second now.
Bell flinched. See, this was why he hadn't wanted Landon to know. It was fine, but the man was blowing things all out of proportion. A little pain wasn't anything he couldn't handle. He kept his mouth shut, though. No point in having an argument over something that stupid when Landon was the one actually hurt. It'd just feel like he was needlessly stealing attention.
Landon didn't take his hand. Bell let it fall and stood there awkwardly instead. Go on ahead? He should be saying that to Landon. Argh. He should've been sneakier about it. Maybe if he'd... gone to the car. Then the rat wouldn't be able to follow. He glared down at it, but it was hard to stay angry at such a cute face.
"... Alright," he said reluctantly, heading back into the room. He crawled up the bed and plopped down, just breathing and letting his body unwind. It was okay. Landon was making a mountain out of a molehill. It was what he did. He shouldn't let it get to him. It'd all be okay in the end.
The bed dipped as Landon joined him. He took the offered hand, scooting closer. "I'm not dying!" he protested softly. Honestly, Landon could be so ridiculous.
But what if he was? The thought sent shivers down his spine. Was this what having a dying goat attached to you felt like? What if he was rotting from the inside out, and this was what it looked like? He wouldn't know. They'd never seen a goat die slowly before. Maybe that [i was] what was happening. He shifted uncomfortably, suddenly wide awake. He wasn't dying. This was just Landon being his usual paranoid self. Daniel would come out and laugh at them both for even thinking about it. Dying, ha. How ridiculous.
Unless it wasn't.
Bell rolled over and looked at Landon, watching him for a bit. No point thinking about it. If he died, he died. At least he'd freed Landon first, gotten the goatling out of danger. He'd done what needed to be done.
And he wasn't dying. For sure he wasn't. He closed his eyes resolutely. He was fine, and he'd be fine. That was all there was to it.
At long last Bell pulled away and sat up, a look of embarrassment on his face. “Don’t be,” Landon said. Sorry? Honestly? It wasn’t Bellwether’s fault that the goat got hurt somehow, was it? Maybe it was. Either way this pain wasn’t Bell’s fault. Landon shook his head. Bell didn’t make eye-contact. How long had this been going on? Questions buzzed around in his head. Just exactly what had happened? Bell wouldn’t know, would he? The only way to find out was to bring out the goat and that was the last thing they should do if it was truly hurt.
But maybe it needed help.
If the goatling couldn’t, then what did he plan on doing anyway?
A while, then.
“It’s not okay, Bell. You’re not fine,” Landon bit, more fiercely than he wanted to. His patience was thin because of the pain already, never mind that Bellwether was playing down something that looked pretty serious.
He deflated. There was nothing they could do right now.
A heavy silence hung between them. Bell was the first one to break it. Nap. Rest, right. Landon pulled a face, sighed and then got up as well. He wanted to help Bellwether, but he had trouble getting up himself. He reached for the sink and hoisted himself up. It was still awkward to balance himself, with the sling keeping the weight on that side close to his core.
He ignored Bellwether’s hand. The way he looked, he’d be more likely to pull Bell over.
Landon pulled a hand down his face and looked down at his shirt. It’d soaked through. Bell’s sweat and tears. He couldn’t be bothered changing it though.
“You go on ahead then,” Landon offered and brought out the painkillers. He’d take one, sleep, eat and then settle in for the night. Hopefully they’d last that long.
Landon swallowed the pill down with water from the tap and then rose to waddle back to the bed. He laid down gingerly, aware of his shoulder and sore ribs. It didn’t take long for the painkillers to kick in on an empty stomach. Landon dozed.
Things slowed down in his head too. His concern for Bell was still there, but the man was where he could see him. At least Bell wasn’t going to suffer through things alone no more. Landon reached out and just held Bell’s hand.
“You better not be dying, Bell.”
He was aware of a warmth against the side of his head, the softness of a cotton shirt, the scent of Daniel. Bell turned his face into it. He didn't want to be seen like this. He didn't want Daniel to know, but he didn't want to push him away either.
[i Landon. It was Landon, now.]
He didn't care. He loved them both. His hand curled in Landon's shirt, the other grasping his hand back, hard enough his knuckles went white. It would pass. It would pass. It would all pass.
Slowly, it did.
He felt embarrassed first, before anything. Bell retreated from Landon and wiped the sweat off his face, looking away. "Sorry," he muttered. Hadn't meant to get clingy. There were sweat stains on Landon's shirt from where he'd pushed his face into it. Tear marks, too. He grimaced. Fucking embarrassing. Hell, embarrassing didn't cover the half of it. "I uh, was trying not to wake you." Hadn't exactly panned out the way he'd imagined it. It wasn't like this was his first rodeo. He'd been fine on his own, without Landon there. But it was nice. He had to admit, it was nice to have someone to hold him. Even if it was stupidly embarrassing afterwards.
He sighed and glanced down, not quite willing to make eye contact. He could already feel the weight of Landon's concern. "It's not--I didn't want to worry you," he muttered. "It's not a big deal. I'll be fine. Been going on for a while and... and I can handle it."
There was an awkward pause while he waited for his body to figure things out. He stared at the ground, unwilling to make eye contact. It was bad enough just being here. Having Landon watch him struggle was unbearable. And the aftermath was no good, either. His legs felt weak and shaky, and refused to respond for the first attempt or two to stand. The third one, though, they twitched, then shifted, and then he managed to get them under him and stand upright. Didn't even wobble that bad. He offered Landon a hand up. "Let's go nap again?" he offered. Hell, he was tired now after that nonsense. His whole body felt weak. A little nap sounded right up his alley.
"And then we can order delivery and laze around until morning," he said. Sounded like a plan to him. And a nice way to forget all about this stupid ...thing.
He waited with baited breath. At long last, the door unlocked. Another 'it's fine' slipped from Bellwether's lips, but Daniel ignored it. How could Bell say he was fine when he was writhing in pain on the bathroom floor? Landon sank to his knees next to Bell and tried to see where the pain stemmed from. There was no single point of origin. It became clear very quickly it was the goat as well; the black veins twisting on his neck lead Landon to believe they were elsewhere as well. What were these? The death-throws of a goat?
Just how badly injured was Bell-goat?
There was nothing he could do at this time. No. Maybe he could.
The goatling could give its blood. They'd done that before. He thrust the message onto the creature, who now always seemed close. Landon reached out for Bell and pulled him to rest on his lap. He held Bellwether's hand. What else could he do?
They didn't make much sense.
Limitations. A one way street. Did that mean it could only receive? Was that how Bellwether-goat had primed him all that time? Readied his body to receive the goatling? But surely it was now larger. It was grown.
It could alter itself to be a giver now.
It would pass. Surely it's originator could mend itself.
Landon's face was a contortion of concern and worry. What if it couldn't?
He sighed and waited. It seemed to be a passing thing, something that rose and faded like a tide. How else could Bellwether have hidden something like this. Landon wished he could be of more help, but with only one arm, there was little he could do to help Bell get more comfortable.
"It's okay," Landon soothed. "I'm here now. We'll figure this out together," he promised softly. Not that he cared whether or not Bell could hear and or understand the words. He'd seemed to, because the bathroom door had been opened, after all.
Landon bit his lip. He didn't want to see Bellwether like this without being able to do anything to make it better. He'd have to find out what'd happened, but it didn't seem as simple as mending the shell this time. It was the goat that'd been hurt. That'd only happened one other time and back then it'd been fine to just leave it alone and not bring it out. That also meant they were in a vulnerable position.
Ah, shit. He'd been found out. Bell grimaced, digging fingers into his arms to try and distract from the more acute pain crawling through his chest. Damn it. Landon had always been so damn perceptive.
A little squeak from ankle height alerted him to the possibility it wasn't just Landon. He peeled and eye open and glowered at the rat. Gone and ratted him out, hadn't it? Damn.
The pain arced through him, as if taking advantage of his distraction to cut deeper. Bell felt his body twist, his back arc with pain. It hurt, it hurt, it hurt. He felt knives dig into his chest, sink past his ribs and push through his lungs, felt the cold of blood spurting from him, ice shivering down his spine and through his bones. It wasn't real. It wasn't real. Fever heat burned into his forehead, eyes dry, hot marbles that rasped against his eyelids. None of it was real.
The pain faded for the moment, though he knew it was just waiting in the wings for the next chance to strike. He caught his breath, sagging forward. Argh. He'd just wanted Landon not to worry, that was all. But there was no point hiding now. Landon would only make it worse in his head. Reluctantly, he reached up and unlocked the door, then slid to the side, letting it open. "It's fine," he said. "It's just--"
The black veins twisted through him, surging under his skin like acid, marking his chest, his neck, across his back. Bell fell silent and tensed with the pain, biting his lip to keep from crying out. He wasn't that weak. He was fine. Had to be, for Landon's sake. At least his clothes would hide the marks. At least Landon wouldn't have to--it bit deeper, sinking into his stomach until he felt sick, nausea mingling with the ache, acid tingling to the tips of his fingers, burning hot in his chest, ice running down his back and spine. [i It hurts, it hurts, it hurts!] He balled up tight, trying to hide his face, body shivering from the pain. [i Don't look, don't look, don't look,] he chanted silently, eyes shut as if it'd make Landon turn away. It was pathetic. He didn't want to be seen like this.
‘I’m fine’. Paired with a reluctant push away from the bed, Landon grew suspicious. When the bathroom door locked, the deal was sealed. Landon stared ahead of himself, unsure of what to do. Obviously this wasn’t something Bell wanted him to worry about, but why? What was the point of not telling him?
Landon rested there for a long moment, then felt his world shift. His vintage-point was lower, far lower. Tiles as big as concrete slabs created a weirdly surrealistic slippery surface. Interesting scents littered the air and Landon experimentally sniffed. Bellwether. He recognized the man instantly and urged the goatling a little closer. Pain was written across Bellwether’s face.
The words echoed through his head. Bell was not fine. Landon snapped back to his body, brought there by the sick feeling in his gut that came with the love and concern he had for the man currently suffering alone in the bathroom.
He peeled himself from the bed, teeth grit against the throbbing ache extending down his back and through his chest. Landon steeled himself. He could take the painkillers once Bell was situated and comfortable. It probably wasn’t a thing that happened all the time. In waves, maybe. Crippling waves, judging by the looks of things.
“Bell?” Landon tried.
He’d inched towards the bathroom door and pressed his good hand against it. A short fumbling with the handle taught him Bell had locked the door. Asshole. Suffering in silence, was it? If he could rely on a rat to open the door, he would, but he’d seen Bellwether resting against the door would prevent any such thing.
“Bell, you’re not fine, open the door? Please?” he ventured. What else could he say that might compel Bell to open the door. If the man could even move. Was it the goat? Had it been hurt? If so, there wasn’t anything they could do. Perhaps the goatling could, but there were the hunters to consider.
He’d take that chance. If it’d help. Hopefully, all Bell needed was time. Landon tried to recall whether or not he’d seen Bellwether eat, which was usually how he replenished his and the goat’s energy, but he hadn’t seen anything special happen.
So was it different this time?
“Bell? Please? Just let me be there for you,” Landon pleaded. He couldn’t do much, but he could be there.
With their foreheads pressed together, Bell watched every little expression Landon made, every twitch and shift of his muscles. He was tired, that much was obvious. Tired, but happy. He closed his eyes for a second, relishing in their closeness. This was right. How things should be.
It wasn't a surprise when Landon stopped moving. Bell's eyelids dipped in concert, but opened again, half-mast, watching Landon breathe. He saw the other man stir before he moved, body shift, face twitch to life, eyes flutter open at last. The hand pressed harder against his chest, and their eyes met. "I'm fine," he lied, brushing some hair away from Landon's face. He was fine compared to Landon, anyways. That was what really mattered.
Hazel eyes dipped shut again. Bell watched him sleep for a while, giving Landon the closeness he clearly craved. And it was nice. Daniel didn't like to cuddle so much, not the whole one or the one that showed up when Landon was around, so he had to get his fill with Landon.
He felt it coming this time. The chills were his first hint; the perfectly-warmed air wouldn't feel anything like [i that]. Bell grimaced. [i Shit.] Just when he was finally getting to be with Landon, it had to happen. He laid there for another second, resisting it, but there was no use. He could feel it climbing in his veins already, poking around for a way out. His breath caught. Reluctantly, Bell pushed away from Landon and headed for the bathroom.
The rat scampered past; he had to watch to make sure he didn't catch it underfoot. At least the bathroom wasn't any distance from the bed. He shut the door and locked it, then slid down it, putting his back to it. No way would he let Landon see this. He was stronger than that. And it didn't matter anyways. What could the guy do? Nothing.
There was a mirror opposite him, the sinks opposite the door. Bell caught a glimpse of himself in it and flinched at the sight. Fuck, he looked awful. Just pathetic. The first wave of pain burned through him, coiling around his chest like a serpent, and he watched himself gasp for air, cringing at how pathetic he was. This wasn't him. He was stronger than this. But there was no denying the mirror. Bell bit his lip and closed his eyes, and waited for it to be over.
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