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Calm down? He was calm.
Giving Bell a confused look, Landon slowly took in their surroundings; crappy hotel-room. A tacky red carpet was underneath the lumpy bed, there was barely a door worth mentioning obscuring the bathroom and frankly, Landon didn't want to know what lived there. From the mould in the corner on the ceiling, it couldn't have less than four legs.
"I'm...fine," Landon said, as if stupified that an injured man would ask Landon that question. He pulled his face away to avoid the final few taps and carefully observed Bellwether's stride back over to the chair. It was funny, how slender and yet powerful those long legs appeared. Though Bellwether's hands had felt human.
Tired and defeated in more ways than one, Landon sighed out and deflated to lie back on the bed. Why was his face wet?
Had he been crying?
Betty's blood was doing weird things to his perception and Landon wished he could just fall asleep. He didn't feel safe enough to give in though. Something was moving underneath the plaster stuck to the ceiling. Alert, Landon followed its path.
"Don't we...have sleeping pills or something?" Landon asked. None of this was real. Maybe he'd imagined Bell accusing him of lying about his actual name. Maybe it would just say Landon as his first name on his ID-card.
If they had to go out again, Landon didn't think it would go well if he was left alone though, so asking Bell to get some was trivial. Landon ran a hand through his hair in slight despair, after which he pressed the palms of his hands against his eyes. It'd only been a couple of hours since Betty.
Whatever the blood had done, its potency was lost as Landon still felt his hip ache with bruises from their less than gentle landing earlier. If it was anything like Bellwether-goat's blood, it'd be another few hours to come still.
"Are you- okay?" Landon asked, in need of a distraction.
"...the bullet?" Was it still in there. Wait, no. Bell had walked over to the bed. Was it even Bellwether? What if it was someone else -what if that white room was reality. Just a nurse. But why hadn't they restrained him then?
More than a little confused, Landon propped himself up and narrowed his eyes at Bellwether-goat. The one sitting on the chair, raiding the take-away bags.
It was ridiculous -how could that be real?
"I need to find Bell," Landon stated with a mutter and got up from the bed. For a moment he just stood there, clueless and then Landon started to gather the duffel to get up and leave.
Not...? Not what? Not okay? But it had been an accident. There was no point beating his head over it. But then again, Bell might not be the best one to ask. He was a murderer, after all, when they came right down to it, many times over. A child was...it was worse than an adult, but it had still only been an accident. He shouldn't feel so guilty about it.
Go...find Bell? "I'm...right here," Bell said hesitantly. Could Landon not see him? Had he disappeared into the hallucination too? He tried to free his hands, but Landon's grip was surprisingly strong. Sedatives would've been useful, if they'd had any. Maybe he'd just hit Landon hard over the head and knock him out.
Bell sighed. "Hey, hey, lay down. You need to sleep right now, okay?" Landon didn't need to get up right now and chase after an imaginary Bellwether. He needed to sleep, sleep off these delusions.
And then he was back, abruptly, and offering more food. Exasperated, Bell freed his hand from Landon's grip just to push his hair back from his face. At this rate, he was going to get whiplash from all this back and forth. "I know," he sighed. "I have food still, if someone can calm down and let me eat it." He reached out and patted Landon's face. "You okay for now? Or should I tie you up first?"
He wasn't joking. At this point, it was for Landon's own good. He couldn't recognize Bell, he tried running around, he fell and didn't catch himself. If he got free, he'd definitely catch people's attention, and neither of them wanted that.
He stood slowly, freeing his other hand from Landon's grip, and retreated slowly to the table to finish eating. The whole time, he kept his eyes on Landon, ready to jump back up if he started to act up again. There was still another egg roll and some rice to get through. He had plenty. Probably. Somehow, a part of his hunger felt like it hadn't been sated at all, but probably that was just because he'd been so hungry to start out that he wouldn't feel full until after he'd finished.
Bell was there. Someone was touching limbs that weren't there. How?
"Not..." Landon couldn't breathe and the word came out as a choked sob. It hadn't been just an 'accident'. No. Daniel had been drunk. He'd been drunk. And part of him had wanted it. Wanted to end all of it, taking Alice along with.
Landon tried to focus on breathing, listened to Bellwether's heartbeat and for once it wasn't just him stating the borders between reality and the hallucinatory world. Tears still slipped down Landon's cheeks but at least he wasn't in pain any more. For now.
Landon opened his eyes slowly. Hands. And arms. They were there. The floor didn't look like the carpet he could feel though, but at least something was there. Rather than tacky carpet, Landon saw white floors, white walls. Better than nothing. They were padded, like they had been at the isolation-cell of the hospital's psych ward.
But the goat-lump was there.
Or had that been a hallucination as well?
He got carried to a bed. A sterile white bed. Like a patient.
Well, he was insane, so there was that.
The nurse placated Landon. Why would he do that? Wasn't it better to just give him some sedatives? One uncoordinated hand tried rubbing the sleep from his eyes and found tears instead. Landon did feel tired. How was everything going to be better tomorrow? He needed to get out, find Bellwether.
Lost hands grabbed at the hand that was petting him, and confused eyes stared at Bell, unfocussed. Who was this man?
"I need," Landon started, trying to sit up using the man's arms as leverage, "I need...to find Bell," he confessed. Yes, he was tired, but he wouldn't be safe here. How did the guy know Robert was dead though? Was it a lie?
Then if there was a lie, this wasn't okay either. Of course killing Alice wasn't okay!
Landon managed to sit up, only this time his side and hip were stiff from the dissipating adrenalin rush and sitting still. His hands still clung to Bellwether's wrists and he caught sight of Bellwether's elbow.
Wait -this was Bell?
"You're hurt," Landon remarked.
"Are you still hungry? I can get more food, if you need it," he offered. What did goats eat anyway? Landon stared at Bellwether-goat's black square eyes, and then at the symbol. It was okay. Still Bell, in there, somewhere.
Landon's voice petered out. Bell waited, chewing on the egg roll, just letting his thoughts process through. It hurt to see him in pain. When had that happened? But it did. It hurt, now, like it shouldn't. Bell wanted nothing more than to comfort him, but all the same, what could he say? What could he do? He was no good at that. Better at pulling people apart, putting salt in wounds than mending them. And more than anything, Landon needed to face down his ghosts.
So he told himself. But Landon was crying. He wasn't okay in the least. Bell had known, damn it, he shouldn't have pressed the point, not while Landon was volatile like this. Bell started to stand, testing his weight on his bad leg, but before he could reach his full height Landon was already leaping up--then falling abruptly to the floor, somehow paralyzed. Bell's leg held, and he hurried to Landon's side, gathered the other man into his arms. His bad arm no longer hurt so much, though neither did it feel secure. "It's okay," he assured him. "It was an accident. It's okay."
What were those words going to do to reassure him? They were only words. Words he'd only heard a thousand times, in all likelihood. And his kid. This was his kid who'd died. Bell couldn't even imagine.
"You're not nothing," Bell said, taking Landon's hands in his, interlocking their fingers. "You're right here. I love you. It's okay. It'll all be okay."
What could he do? How could he...how could he help Landon? "Shh, it's fine, we're here, we're here in this crappy little hotel room and everything's fine. We beat Robert. Alice is going home. It's all okay."
With a bit of effort, he gathered Landon up and lifted him onto the bed, bad arm aching the whole five steps, then sat on the edge of the bed beside him, perfectly ready to use force to keep Landon in bed. The food was cooling, demanding his attention, but he knew what was at stake here. Landon could end this by cutting his wrists again, or worse. Thank goodness this country banned guns, so he hadn't come home to brains splattered over the ceiling.
"Okay, now sleep. You're real, Landon. Daniel. Both of you. Just...sleep, okay? Everything will be better in the morning." Bell reached out and petted Landon's hair back gently, trying to send him to sleep, or at least calm him down.
A solemn shake of his head was all Landon would give Bell; both on the food and the eyes. Bellwether's eyes were there, actually, the man was frighteningly accurate and solid, compared to the rest of the hallucination. Landon's fingers curled around the armrests and the force with which he held on turned the knuckles white.
Landon's eyes travelled towards Bellwether.
He'd given his real name?
Wait? He wasn't real?
"What are you talking about Landon is my real..."
The wallet was in the bag.
On the bed. A distance of at least five footsteps across nothing. Was it still though? Daniel hadn't wanted to live knowing he'd killed Alice and so Landon was created.
It was the other way around!
The accident with his father had created Daniel!
No. That was Daniel.
Daniel all along.
Landon felt sick to his stomach. Tears leaked from his eyes and Landon pressed his thumb and pointer-finger against the outer corners of his eyes, brushing away the liquid.
"Daniel...killed Alice..." Landon said finally.
"...and then. And then there was Landon," he said as though toying with the thought. Was that how it was? But now Landon and Daniel were one person, so that didn't matter any more, did it?
"And now, I remember everything so..." Landon's breath hitched.
"Now, now there's nothing." Landon looked down at his hands and they started to fade away. Like the black goat's blood coming into contact with air, his skin evaporated, until he was bleeding from his hands and fuck, it hurt! Hurt as much as when the guard broke his hand and then that too stopped. Next was flesh, and then bone, slowly it crawled up. He had to run, escape from it.
The pain was worse than the sensation of falling when met with the lack of floor, only he was caught after all. And then Landon's leg crumpled under him, disappearing too. Landon landed on his hands -the ones that were gone? Wait. This wasn't real. It couldn't be real. How could he be nothing?
"I didn't mean to kill her," Landon choked out.
"Didn't lie, I'm Landon...I'm Daniel -both," and didn't the ID point out that exact fact? Just that for Daniel it had always been reality while for Landon, the card was twisted to show his own name first, with the 'D' as initial for a middle name.
Bell looked down. He was fairly certain there was a floor, which meant Landon was hallucinating. Not really news. Or surprising.
"I think the ceiling will take care of that," Bell said, glancing up at the ugly off-white stucco. Did Landon think he could see the sky? Worrying. But at least it wasn't any kind of harmful hallucination. Actually sounded a bit fun. He was floating in midair, huh? Would be nicer than the nasty old carpet.
"That's unpleasant," Bell commented, moving on to the next container. Egg rolls, bonus! "Sure you don't want any?"
"Are my eyes gone too, then?" Bell asked, a bit curious. Then again, maybe he shouldn't have asked. Might've triggered something in Landon's hallucinations. Well, whatever. He could handle whatever Landon could dish out. Probably.
The next confession was enough to give him pause in his eating. He felt almost relieved for a moment that he hadn't taken a child's father away from her, but then it hit. Landon had had a kid, and she'd died in front of him. And then she'd come back, only it wasn't her, not really. He leaned back and swiped a hand over his eyes. "That's...I'm sorry," he said, shaking his head. What was he supposed to say to that? What could he say to that? He couldn't imagine how Landon must be feeling.
Landon...which reminded him. Not the best time to being it up, though. But when would be? Landon seemed to be in an unemotional mood right now. Maybe he'd give Bell a straight answer. "So...I didn't know your real name either, huh? Were you ever going to tell me?" It wasn't like it was a really big deal, but for Landon to demand his name and lie about his...it was hypocritical, to say the least. He shifted and leaned back, eyeing Landon. Rather than quizzing him, he ought to be putting the guy to bed.
He sighed again. He'd like to go fuck away Landon's delusions and go to sleep, but not with this body that wasn't happening. He didn't have the painkillers anymore either, which would've at least knocked Landon out. Another sigh. How long til Landon was alright?
The room didn't have walls. Or windows. they were actually floating several feet above the ground. On nothing. Landon hadn't really been given a choice, since Bellwether had seemed really adamant about entering the room and taking away the food. When Bell offered he eat, Landon glanced over. Hunger? He shook his head lightly. The food was wriggling and Landon was fairly certain living stuff was in there.
"No thanks, there's no floor," Landon mentioned, as if that was the reason for declining food.
Setting their things down on the bed, Landon found another chair and sank down it. That was better, to some extent. At least the furniture appeared to float naturally.
Landon felt guilty for pushing away Alice, but he would've felt worse for keeping her around and actually hurting hybrid-Alice. Even if she was just a hybrid, she brought back too many memories.
"Do you think it's going to rain?" Landon asked, looking up. A dark and clouded night-sky stared back. Would it really become wet if it rained? What if it snowed?
Would he freeze to death?
It was kind of cold, but going to the heater to turn it on seemed like too much effort. Bell's blood, which had drained into his pants from carrying the man started to itch against the bruised skin.
Landon felt the side of his face and it smarted, though hadn't bruised just yet. Too fresh. Was Robert really dead?
It was hard to believe almost.
At least Bell was still alive and...doing better now.
"I- I'm...there's no floor and the people don't have eyes," Landon replied on whether he was doing 'passably'. What kind of question was that anyway? Passably?
Pass for what?
"They've been gauged out," he said calmly. There was a couple fucking in the next room over, looking at each other without eyes. Dark blood dripped onto the woman's face where the man leaned over her.
Landon had a hard time tearing his eyes away from them and tried to focus on Bell instead. He was getting tired. Continuously resisting freaking out had worn Landon down.
"She's dead you know? Alice." Landon said.
"Got her into an accident with the car a couple years ago -she died," he confessed plainly.
Alice just watched as they limped away, tears slipping down her face. Just as they left the alley, she disappeared, speeding away to somewhere unseen. Bell looked away. Thank goodness she was gone. Kids shouldn't be here with them. Hopefully she'd go to Lily, as Landon had suggested. She deserved a good life.
They took the back alleys and side roads. A few of the few people they passed gave them funny looks, but Bell glared them down until they looked away. Landon wasn't holding up well; he was limping too, Bell could feel it when they were so close like this. And he kept staggering and glancing at things that didn't exist. They both needed to get somewhere safe and let these effects wear off.
At last Landon guided him into a real dump of a hotel. The stairs were difficult; Bell had to pretty much hop up them one-footed. At least it was only one flight. The place didn't seem to have a elevator, sadly enough.
"Not at all," Bell confirmed, sure that whatever Landon was talking about wasn't real. The door opened before the key, and he put in more effort than before to hurry to the nearest chair. He reached out for the Chinese food and took the bags out of Landon's hands, then tore open the first container he came upon. Some kind of chicken dish; perfect. Honestly, it didn't matter what it was, he would've eaten raw cat if that'd been what was in the container.
"Hungry? C'mon," Bell said after a moment, gesturing. Landon probably needed food too, unless he was still in the puking phase of goat's blood.
Everything was over with at last. The hybrids had been freed, Robert had been killed, Alice was gone. The goat lump was still out there, somewhere, but with any luck it and the guards would kill each other, and it'd end up being moot. All they had to do now was drink, eat, and relax. Maybe hunt some ordinary goats for a while. Wait for him to grow back up. It'd only be another two days before he'd be legal in America, five days before he was back to twenty-one again. Wait for Landon to stop hallucinating; that'd be another day or two.
Already, the food made him feel warm, made his arm feel better. The bullet was pushed out of his leg as the wound sealed shut, and he reached down and yanked the bandage off. "You doing passably?" he asked Landon, aware that he wasn't going to be okay with the blood in his system.
Wow. Bell's body worked fast. As long as there were base materials within reach, it mended. It made Landon pause and wonder whether it'd do to put Bell's injuries in reach of stuff like water. When Bell made sense enough to express his desire to get out, Landon stood and hoisted the duffel on one shoulder, finally reaching down to lift Bell up into a stand. Landon positioned one of Bellwether's arms around his shoulders.
Gimpy and gimp for sure. Landon's immediately concern was with the way reality twisted and started becoming less docile in nature, but that didn't mean walking was easy still. Betty's blood had healed some of the bruising at least, so there was that.
Leaning over, Landon grabbed the bag of Chinese food and pondered Alice's request. She was probably more useful than he was on a regular basis. Given she had powers Landon didn't have. Except of course for his immunity to the electrical discharges Robert's men enjoyed using to detain goats.
It wasn't about feeling useful though.
Landon, as a father, didn't care for Alice seeing any more carnage as she already had before. That and they were both unpredictable. Bellwether because of the girl, and the nightmares she triggered upon mention and Landon because -well. At this rate he was under the influence of something more often than not.
Landon looked at Bell and then back at Alice.
It wasn't responsible to bring a kid along. Sure, she was a hybrid and special, but still a kid.
And not his. Or Bell's. Deny though she might, Alice was Robert's. And Angela's.
"No one's out to get you, babe," Landon soothed Alice's tears. Even goat-lump appeared to agree that the hybrids were okay to have a go at life.
"You're strong," he told her. Landon resorted to thoughts for the rest. There was Lily. She would instantly accept Alice back into her life. Until Bell and Landon had everything sorted, it was best to wait some place safe. They couldn't fight if they had to worry over her.
Despite that, Alice appeared to cling to Bell the most.
Landon closed his eyes and tried to recall the turns he'd taken to get at the hotel. Without waiting for what Alice would do, Landon started out of the alley, dragging Bellwether along. Alice, his Alice, was dead. Bellwether still didn't know that part, huh?
Reality kept churning, but Landon kept focussing on moving rather than anything else. Before long they were at the place he rented a room at.
"Back door," Landon instructed, guiding the two of them down the side of the building. He nearly had a panic-attack right then and there when Bellwether's presence seemed to all but evaporate from his grip. No. Bell was still there. He was still there.
"It's not real," Landon muttered, opening the door.
It was the only thing standing, actually, in Landon's perception. There wasn't an elevator in the crummy establishment and the lady heard their arrival but didn't so much as twitch when they scaled the stairs up one floor.
Bell picked up the soup as soon as it was set down and started to suck it down, abandoning his rants for a moment. It scalded his tongue and throat and he didn't really taste it, but it felt warm in his stomach. There were bits that slipped down his throat without chewing. Egg drop soup? It was great, but he wanted more. More than just soup. "More," he demanded bluntly, but groaned and shifted. He was cold, too. They needed to get out of the cold. For Landon, at least. Daniel, whatever.
His arm creaked and resumed healing, taking the new input from the soup and putting it to use. But it meant he'd be back to lying down helplessly again soon, too. They'd have to get somewhere safe, where he could eat in peace. "Done for now," he said, raising his hands for Landon to help him up. He could probably walk right now, with a little help.
"I wanna come with you," Alice requested, puppy dog eyes in full effect.
"Go away," he grumbled. With a kid around, it'd be more difficult to do everything, from intimacy to fighting. He didn't want a kid. Hell, wasn't that one of the bonuses to being gay?
Alice looked up at them, tears in her eyes. "Where should I go?" she asked, crying through her words. "I don't wanna go anywhere else!"
Bell looked at Landon. She was his damn kid anyways, even if she'd gotten it into her head that Bell was her mom somehow. Let him handle sending her off. He was too hurt and hungry for this.
"Let's go already," he muttered. Before he got delirious again. Or started dreaming some more. Not good right now. Though honestly he was more likely to hurt himself than Landon like this.
"Take me with you? Please?" Alice begged, grabbing on to Bell's clothes. "Please! I don't wanna be on my own! It's scary! I'll be good! I'll help!"
Bell looked at Landon. What was he going to do? They couldn't take a kid with them, could they? She was starting to wear him down. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. I mean, look at those eyes. How could he send her off? But--no! He had to send her away. What the hell would they do with a kid along anywhere?
Great, just what he needed, for Bell to become delirious. Landon crouched down near Bell and took a good look at the man. Could be because of the blood loss; dehydration, or even hypothermia. Apparently food was foremost at Bell's mind though and Landon figured he'd have a better time hoisting the man back to their crummy little hotel-room if Bell was at least somewhat satisfied enough to hold his complaints. Else Landon figured he'd just knock Bell out. Wouldn't be that difficult.
Not sparing a word for Bellwether's insulting rants, Landon started to unwrap some of the canisters and figured he'd start Bell off on some soup to get his temperature back up quickly. Frankly, Landon hadn't even noticed the cold until he realized opening the stupid cartons was kind of difficult. Landon managed, tried not to stare at the contents -surely it was food, it just didn't look like it to him- and set the things in Bell's range.
Leaning over, Landon plucked his phone from where it was stuck in Bellwether's pocket and put it in the duffel. They would have to move soon.
He hadn't checked if there was a back-entrance to the bloody hotel either. Landon ended up sitting close to Bell and wiped at his face. The wall's bricks were moving. Behind Bellwether. Some fell into the building, showing the people inside. Rather than moving out of surprise, they sat stoically and almost...dead, just staring at something invisible.
Their eyes were gauged out.
Oh. Well, that explained the staring then.
More brick walls started to collapse. Shit.
Landon wouldn't be able to find his way to the hotel if everything was going to hell.
"Shouldn't you be going?" Landon told Alice.
The hybrid blinked and there was some hesitation. If she thought they were her mommy and daddy, they had another thing coming. Somewhere, deep inside, Alice had to know that wasn't true. Wait -if Bell was mommy...then had Robert managed to take Bell's DNA somehow? But how would the kid know anyway?
"...the other kids..." Maybe they'd stick together, those kids. Or maybe, like the adult goats, they would disperse and disappear among the crowd.
Landon focussed on Bell.
"Done eating?" He could get more after they'd gotten to the hotel.
Bell was set down on the cold ground. Hands pushed at his injured leg, and he pulled his leg away, but couldn't escape the hurt. He wanted to go back to sleep. Or eat. Not be awake and hurt. A warm weight settled over his body as Landon put his coat over him. It helped the cold, but didn't stop the cold emanating from under him. He shivered and clutched the coat closer.
Landon tapped his face, demanding attention. Bell gazed blankly at him and didn't much register what he'd said. He shifted again under the covers, then kissed Landon back, not expecting the affection. Landon was going? Where? Why? He didn't want to be left on his own. He reached out too late; Landon was already gone.
Alone and cold, he slipped back to sleep. She was waiting for him, and the rope; he tied her up quickly, hands forming deft knots like he'd practiced for so long. She shifted a few times but never woke up. He'd knocked her out well. So she wouldn't hurt herself. Or anyone else. Would it be enough? Would any rope hold against those monsters?
He waited, then, crouched in the darkness of the shed, alert and aware of every last sound. The crinkle of squirrels running through leaves were the feet of huntsmen. The twitter of birdsong seemed to be the voices of his pursuers. Were there even pursuers? Had anyone noticed they were missing yet?
In the chair, she shifted again, harder this time, then blinked and cleared her throat, pulling at the bonds, afraid. Then her eyes met his, and she rolled her eyes and relaxed. "There's such a thing as going too far, you know," she said, smiling. "Haha, funny joke, now set me free."
Bell twitched. He couldn't. Not now. Not ever. He had to watch her. For the rest of his life. He had to.
He woke up sharply, back in the alley, in pain and freezing cold. Bell sneezed and groaned, sitting back. What had woken him? He felt awful. He...
Oh. Landon. Or was it Daniel? Which was he, which was the real one? He giggled, strangely amused by it. "Who're you?" he asked, laughing, waving a hand at the approaching man. Was that food he smelled? Food. Oh man, he'd kill for food right now. "Daniel," he accused, then laughed again. Why was this so funny? It wasn't funny. "Gimme the food, whore," he demanded, then laughed some at his own joke. Food whore, haha. Though wasn't that more his description? He shook his head. "Give this whore the food," he said, correcting himself.
Alice had her hands clapped to her head. That was funny, too. Everything was funny. He was so hungry. He needed that food. He stretched out his good hand and made grabby gestures. Food.
Alice's question wasn't quite enough to get Landon out of his impaired reality, though Bell's struggle was. Landon's already precarious equilibrium got him knocked into the wall. His shoulder took the brunt of the collision and Landon had to stand still to prevent from sagging through his bruised leg. In the end the point was moot. Looked like he would have to set Bellwether down anyway -get food, arrange lodgings and then sneak Bellwether inside somehow.
That meant they would either rent a very expensive or extremely cheap hotel to evade questions.
Landon kneeled and slowly let Bell slide off his back. He turned, propping Bellwether up against a wall. Just a kid. Sliding the duffel from his shoulder, Landon rummaged around for a shirt and hit the sharded remains of his laptop -broken. Figured, after their little tumble.
"Sit still," Landon instructed as he shredded a shirt using his teeth.
Pressing a square of cloth against the injury, Landon then tied it down with the strips. It wouldn't do any good in the long run, but for now it'd slow down the bleeding. He'd have to leave Bell behind to get them situated.
Landon took off his coat and spread it across Bellwether. Another search through the duffel got another sweater and Landon pulled than on over what he was already wearing, hopefully masking most of the blood. It'd just have to do. No way was he going to change into different pants right now.
"Bell?" Landon tapped the man's cheek.
"Hey...I can't bring you with -I'm gonna get food, okay?" And that would be a challenge and a half already. First off, he'd have to find an establishment that just didn't care serving a haggard street-rat and two, it'd have to all stay within the precarious confines of reality. Something Landon was steadily losing grip over still.
Taking out the bullet now was a bad idea. Bell could heal it. Landon wondered whether goat-skin could push out the bullet. Worst case, Bell would turn goat on the spot without him actually there to contain the damage. Would Bellwether-goat leave? Very likely.
"Okay," Landon said, more to himself than anyone else.
He looked over at Alice.
"Make sure he stays, okay? I'll be right back, thirty minutes tops," and Landon filtered through his pockets, stuffing the phone with Bell.
At least that way he could call the man if they got separated.
Landon kissed Bell's lips and sighed. Okay. He could do this. Easy as pie, right?
The end of the alley was daunting. Street-lights contorted into grinning faces, people's stares became haunting. Landon pulled up his hoodie and ducked through the people who were still out on the street, of which half probably weren't even real.
Getting another room just took ten minutes; getting a meal forced Landon to sit and wait. Still, the Chinese woman didn't spare him a second glance when she handed over the plastic bags and Landon was grateful for it, rushing back to the alley with fear as his motivator. Should've also gotten medical supplies. No. He could get that after he'd gotten Bell something to eat and out of the cold.
"Bell? Alice?" he called out, back where he left Bell behind.
She was carrying him. No, that was wrong. He ought to be carrying her. He ought to be, but unquestioningly he was the one being carried.
She was rushing through the woods, branches breaking across her chest, nettles snagging at her feet. No, he was. He was carrying her and running through the forest; there was no one behind him, but he glanced back anyways, checking, making sure no one was following him. Every last sound seemed to be that of pursuers crashing through the underbrush, people crying out. Thorns tore at his arms; he stumbled, and she shifted and groaned uncomfortably.
He looked down sharply. She couldn't wake up yet. Not yet. It wasn't safe. Further. Further.
He pushed through the trees and burst out into an opening, stopped short. Oh. A shed. Already? It hadn't been far enough. But this was the shed. She stirred again, moaning this time, and he hushed her gently.
Navigating the handle was a little difficult with her in his arms, but he managed it. Inside, it was much the same as he'd found it. There was a chair in the corner; he set her down in it, then relaxed and stretched his arms. She was a lot heavier than she looked.
She stirred again, and he jumped. Now was not the time to daydream! The rope, where was the rope? He'd been practicing knots since he'd found out, since he'd seen. His arm hurt, though, and it wouldn't move right. How was he going to tie the knots with one hand? She'd wake up any second now, and then everything would be pointless. He'd go to jail. The creatures would never be...
He woke up suddenly, gasping for air. Where was she? He struggled against the arms that held him. His leg hurt, too, throbbed with each heartbeat, he couldn't run, he couldn't struggle well. The--the police! The police, they'd come and taken him, he was going to go rot in jail forever, no, no--
"Mommy? What's wrong?" Alice asked, bringing him back to reality. He stiffened, then relaxed. Oh. Landon was holding him, that was what was happening. Not the police. He shifted, then winced. His leg...It felt like something was still in there, moving around. "Landon," he breathed, tired, starving, "Landon, I'm hungry, I'm...there's...I think there's...my leg, bullet." He shifted again, trying to get a good look at reality while it wobbled and drifted in and out of shadow. Where were they? Was there food nearby? "Hungry..." he muttered, on the verge of passing out again.
He'd had better ideas. Landon felt himself being pulled away from becoming a pancake on the floor of some deranged facility, and then Bell did the lightning-speed on him rather unsuccessfully. They tumbled onto the floor and Landon felt how Bell's arms wrapped around him to protect at least the vital parts of his fragile human body. Neither Landon nor goat-lump had considered he was merely human and therefore hardly distinguishable from an ordinary guard.
When they finally skidded to a halt, Landon shook his head clear. Maybe the hallucination was fuzzy? Or was that just his vision? Not that it changed much about the slaughter taking place behind them.
Landon turned and felt for Bell.
He wasn't really moving.
"Bell?" Landon gathered Bellwether into his arms, head resting in the nook of Landon's elbow. Yeah, he had trouble staying conscious. Apparently that inhuman speed and strength were costly to abuse. Landon got up and nearly teetered back down. Something was wrong with his hip. Hell, his entire side felt like it was on fire.
Looking down, Landon didn't see any noticeable breaks or bleeds and he could sort of rest his weight on his leg, if he was careful about it. Good enough. Fortunately Bellwether was smaller than his usual size what with his being barely sixteen-years-old in appearance. Crouching down to hoist Bell onto his back, Landon staggered for a moment, looking back at the chaos. Didn't look like any of the hybrid children had been left behind. By now they'd be storming through and out of the hospital, much like the earlier stampede of adult goats. With Robert dead, they would hopefully not see a repeat of that.
Landon's hand grew slick with Bell's blood.
Ah, so that had crashed them.
They'd have to go some place safe. And quick. Landon figured Bell could heal himself as long as he either died and turned full goat, or had a good meal. Only a few paces in, Landon ran into Alice. She bit her lip.
"Go on," Landon urged her.
She hesitated and then instead of running, led the way. Before Landon knew it they were back at the morgue. Rather than trying for the elevator and front-entrance, Landon figured the morgue would have its own little exit for corpses and the likes.
The lock was all but crushed under Alice's grip.
They weren't quite there yet though; they were sort of a mess.
Breathing hard, Landon tried to remember whether they still had the hotel-room. They did, didn't they? But then he'd gotten admitted to the hospital and Landon wasn't sure. Reality still did funny things and so Landon resorted to just making sure the hospital was far behind. With some luck the goat-lump would find its way down the other exit; the one in the woods Bellwether and Landon had found the first time.
Or maybe it would take the time down in the facility to become something whole.
Either way Landon didn't want to stick around for it. Alice took the lead once more, calmer now rather than fearful, and she guided them through dark alleys, despite clinging to Bell's clothes.
Shops; food. A safe place.
Nothing was safe though. Betty's blood assured everything was grotesque and dangerous.
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