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"Not misunderstood when they're biting you," he muttered. There was a note of a joke to it, though. He wasn't taking it seriously.
Daniel's lips brushed against his cheek. He glanced over, grinning a bit. He squeezed Daniel's hand back. They were like an ordinary couple for now. It wouldn't last for long, but he was happy that they could have these moments. They rested against each other. It felt like Daniel was relying on him like this. He soaked in the heat of Daniel's presence and quietly relaxed.
"Crocodiles are alright," he said. Crocodiles didn't do anything. They sat there like big fat logs. Still, they were no threat to him, and he didn't mind staying in the warmth a little longer.
He looked at Daniel. "You think there's a goat here?" he asked, then realized how dumb that question was in a zoo. Of course there were goats in a zoo. But not the way Daniel meant. He frowned. What if it was one of the animals? "I don't want to fight a tiger," he muttered to himself. But fighting a penguin wouldn't be very hard. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all.
Ahead of them, the crocodiles lounged around the edge of a small lagoon. They weren't doing much, just sitting around, dark eyes staring into unknowable depths. Bell leaned against the railing and stared down at them. How would he even know if an animal was a goat? Would it come up to him? Randomly attack? Or was it supposed to be another visitor?
He turned around, turning his back to the crocodiles. "You wanna head out into the cold again?" he asked. It was warm enough in here that he was actually starting to sweat a little. "We can find another indoor area when we get cold again." He started for the door, but waited for Daniel to zip his coat up and get ready before he opened it. Didn't want to freeze him out.
Out into the cold. There wasn't any guarantee there was a goat here, was there? Daniel could just be nervy. They'd just killed one the other day, surely they didn't come that quick on the tail of one another? Daniel wasn't even healed yet! He bit his lip. If they did find one, they'd be in trouble, wouldn't they? With Daniel this injured.
"Yeah, maybe, or they'll huddle and just do penguin-things," Daniel pointed out. He couldn't imagine any creature in the zoo to be surprisingly active, given they were fed regularly. If they didn't have to move for food, they probably wouldn't. It was nice and warm inside the reptile exhibit.
"Hyenas are one of my favourites, bats are fun too," he said, stretching out a little in the warmth of the large house. His side twinged, but other than that he felt okay. Apparently Lenny's little nap had managed to revitalize him a little. Bell-boy's face looked like he had an aneurysm.
"Not into reptiles, are we, Bell-boy?" Daniel teased light-heartedly. And then Bell-boy was there, hand in his. His smirk eased into a smile.
"Nah, they're just misunderstood," he corrected Bell-boy on snakes. They were simple creatures, most without any aggression. Defensive though. Wouldn't anyone be? Goats were similar to that, defensive when approached, when they brought them out. Some fought fiercely, but not a lot of them seemed to really aim for killing them somehow. It seemed as if most goats were resigned to their fate.
Daniel watched some of them slither about, only a couple. Most of them were hidden, awaiting the dusk of night. He caught a sliver of scales and then regarded Bell-boy again. They were alone. He stole a kiss from the man's cheek. This felt more like a date than any of the activities they'd done so far. Daniel rested against Bell-boy for a few long seconds, just basking in the presence of the other and then pulled away again.
"Let's see if they have crocodiles," he offered, pointing out the stream running down one side of the reptile house. It was humid and warm inside. Daniel unzipped his coat and moved slowly, just relaxing in the heat.
"Or you rather go outside and find yourself some tigers?" he offered Bell. Daniel waddled along some of the cages, having a look inside and trying to find the animals that inhabited them through the dense foliage. "Or a goat?" Daniel lifted his head to look up at Bell-boy. Going to a zoo... It'd been too random, too on point. Something was here, they just had to find out what or who it was.
Daniel thought so too? Birds were just so alive, flitting from branch to branch, bright, pretty things that caught the eye.
"They'll be really active right now since it's cold, right?" he said. It'd be fun to watch them swim around and be all active, instead of just sit still and be quiet.
He smiled at Daniel's suggestions. "Jellyfish? Are they even animals?" he asked. None of those, though. "Tigers. I've always liked tigers the best. What about you?" He nudged Daniel gently, careful to avoid his ribs. "Jellyfish?" Was that why Daniel had suggested them? Oh wait, or was it... "Hyenas?"
An indoor exhibit? "Sure," he agreed. Even with their winter gear, it was a bit chilly out here. He followed Daniel inside, into a dark, warm space. Bell blinked to clear his eyes and shook his hands to warm them. So where had they ended up?
A sign hanging from the low ceiling welcomed them to the reptile house. In lit boxes around the edge of the area, snakes slithered and frogs hopped. Bell pulled a face. Ugh, snakes. He wasn't afraid of them, but he wasn't the biggest fan, either. Slithery little things could put a lot of hurt on a man, if they put their nasty little minds to it. He'd been bitten once, out on the country. He still remembered how badly it--
Bell blinked. Wait, he remembered? As soon as he realized it, though, the thought crept out of his reach. He scratched the side of his head. How annoying.
There was no one else in the reptile house. Most of the zoo was abandoned, and the reptile house was no exception. He scooted a little closer to Daniel and reached out for his hand. It was a date, right? Maybe, just for a little while, they could act like a couple. At least while no one else was watching.
"Snakes are nasty little creatures," he complained, sticking close to the middle of the room. He didn't want to mess with them. Looking at them in a zoo felt like playing with fire, something he shouldn't encroach upon. There were spiders, too, but spiders weren't so bad. Easier to kill, less likely to bite him in the process.
Birds first. Daniel chuckled at that; for a man who liked dick, Bell-boy did seem to appreciate birds. They were colourful for sure. He wondered whether Bell-boy would admit to his penchant for shiny, purple and pink things at some point. This new Bell might not steal, but bring it in the open. Couldn't be gay on the streets though. Not in their line of business either. Didn't have the time or luxury. It might be nice to see Bell-boy like that though. Some tight-fitting pants, a nice shirt to show off those muscles Bell kept hidden extremely well underneath the shabby coat.
He snorted at himself, thoroughly distracted, and wiped at his face. The pills were doing his head in.
"Yeah, they look nice and fluffy, bright little creatures," Daniel said with a nod. "Penguins though, Bell-boy? Hadn't pegged you," he waved with a smile. If Bell-boy wanted to see penguins they could. Maybe they'd be feeding them or there'd be some sort of talk about them or whatever they did in zoos. He went slow, glancing into the exhibits, taking it all in. Bell paused at the wolves. They looked a bit meagre compared to their wilder, more ferocious counter-parts they'd had the pleasure of getting close to, but no less mystical. Daniel rested his arms on the railing and looked down, then back at Bell-boy.
For a second he wanted to say something, but the words died on his lips. Everything was stupidly numb inside and Bell-boy seemed to genuinely enjoy seeing the animals. Why mess with that?
"So which animal's your favourite, Bell-boy?" Daniel pitched with a smirk. "Monkeys?" He ran his eyes up and down the man, "jelly-fish? Wolves?" Daniel tried with a nod at the animals down below. It'd be a little cliche, but they were pretty creatures to look at, tempting humans with their downy fur to come a little closer and become their prey. Maybe it was the structure and pack they had that made it interesting for people too. Wolves had family, like humans did.
Daniel pushed up and wandered to the next enclosure.
"Hey, want to go inside for a bit?" he pointed out a large building. If all the animals were hiding indoors, then why shouldn't they?
It was Daniel, after all. He smiled a little wider. Good. It was better to go with the guy he'd made the plans with, after all.
"We'd have to go east to hit Kansas," he commented, stretching. A little lazy, he followed Daniel at a slower pace to the ticket office. Even from here, he could smell the familiar zoo-smell of animal musk and hay. Made him feel like a kid again, just a little.
The man behind the ticket booth looked a little uncertain about letting him and Daniel through, but in the end, money talked. He followed Daniel in, looking around at what the zoo had to offer. Straight ahead was a big display full of birds, some outside, others enclosed in a heated room. "Yeah, we caught up a little," he said, heading towards the birds. A toucan stared back at him from the first cage, huge beak bright against the darker foliage. He whistled at it to try and get its attention, but the bird was onto him and ignored him.
"They probably do," he said. He turned away from the birdcage and scanned the paths ahead, looking for a signpost. The areas of the zoo were marked off by their animal highlights; lions this way, gorillas that way, wolves, penguins, bears. "Ooh, penguins!" They'd be active right now, when it was this cold out. The other animals might be sluggish in the cold, but penguins would be right at home in it. He glanced back at Daniel with sparkling eyes. "Let's go see the penguins. Maybe we'll pass the hyenas on the way there."
"You like hyenas?" he asked, as he led the way through the pathways towards the penguin enclosure. He took it slow, stopping every few feet to look in another exhibit. Most of the animals were being lazy in the cold; some of them were even tucked away into their indoor habitats rather than outside. A few were active, though. A leopard prowled by as they passed. Two tigers regarded each other from the far ends of a huge enclosure. A squad of flamingos huddled together in the corner of an open lawn.
He paused at the wolf exhibit, regarding them. He'd seen one up close. Or, well, the goatling turned into one, but it was nearly the same. It really had gotten everything right, down to the very last detail. Bell leaned against the railing and stared down into the enclosure below. They were such handsome creatures, wolves.
A nudge. Daniel scrunched up his face, but the aches at his ribs and particularly his arm snapped him into reality. He looked up at Bell-boy with a bleary-eyed gaze.
"What?" he indulged Bell-boy's enthusiastic inquiry. A zoo? Out here? Daniel looked outside and raised his eyebrows, a hint of a smile on his face.
"Well, what'dya know," Daniel said, impressed Bell-boy had found this place. He sat up a little, noticed a bottle of water and drank some of it to wash away the cotton in his mouth in what he wished could be done for his brain. Unfortunately the water had no such properties. Shitty pills.
He climbed out of the car and waited for his body to catch up to being up and awake.
"Good ol' Danny's back," Daniel pointed out. As if Bell-boy hadn't noticed yet. The man was getting better at distinguishing between the two of them. Couldn't be hard, they were different after all. Wasn't as if they hid it. Lenny might though.
He stretched as far as his ribs would allow and shook himself, then zipped his coat closed. Where the hell were they even? Less snow on the streets at least.
"We in Kansas yet, Bell-boy?" he teased and started to the zoo's entrance. Might as well enjoy themselves while they were there, though Daniel had a feeling they'd find more than exotic animals in there. Maybe some goats. Hah, now there'd be a new one. A goat disguised as an exotic animal. They'd have a lot of fun killing that one, for sure.
Daniel strode up to the guy behind the booth and gave him his best smile. The bruises from the fights he'd been in and the bandages peeping out at his wrist gave off a weird vibe that he saw reflected in the man's face, but he failed to care at this point. He bet they smelled worse than some of the animals too. Well. Just their clothes, to be honest.
"Two tickets," Daniel started and flashed his credit-card to pay for them. Soon as he had, they had a couple of tickets to get through the entrance and get their fill of watching some strange animals.
"You and Lenny catch up on something nice, did you?" Daniel started conversationally. He was pleased Bell-boy and Lenny were slowly patching things up.
"Think they'd have hyenas?
He shrugged. Maybe it was the goat making him remember it, and not the Haven-people, then. He didn't know. This stuff was too complicated for him, honestly.
Bell hummed to himself and nodded, adding [i waterpark] to the list of things to look up at the next library. There was no rush. It'd need to warm up before they could start thinking about a waterpark. But it was nice to have goals to look forward to, rather than wander aimlessly.
So he did kind of remember that. He nodded. Daniel, maybe? He couldn't help Landon there. Could've been either of them. Could've been Lilah, quite frankly.
"Alright. Goodnight," he said. He patted Landon's head. A few times, he glanced over, unable to resist the urge to watch Landon doze off. It was incredibly cute, the way he gave in and snoozed away so defenselessly. It was hard to resist the urge to touch him, just to see if he'd twitch or react.
The road rolled on away ahead of him. He drove on, toward the horizon. An hour passed by, but he let them sleep. As long as they weren't doing anything, they might as well get as much nap in as they could.
A sign caught his attention. Bell navigated towards it, easing the car off the highway and to a stop in a vast parking lot. He reached over and nudged Daniel and Landon once he'd parked, grinning a little bit. "Hey, guess what?" he greeted them. "I found a zoo! C'mon, let's go." It'd be a bit chilly, but they had their winter gear, so it should be just fine. There was no more snow on the ground here and the temperature was above zero, what else could they want?
[i Actual warmth,] a little voice in his head muttered. Bell dismissed it. They'd get to warmth eventually. Maybe even by the end of today, if they were lucky. Not heat, but at least warmth was definitely possible.
"Is it still Landon?" he asked. He got out of the car and stretched. It'd feel good to get up and actually do something today, instead of sit in the car and rot. His muscles were sore from so much sitting. "Or is it Daniel now?" Either one was fine by him, now that Landon was okay with the zoo.
"But you knew you could," Landon pointed out. If they'd made Bell remember so he wouldn't escape, then why allow him to cling to the knowledge that he could survive out on the streets, no matter how shitty? Maybe in comparison to Haven, it'd seem like a bad deal. Landon stared out at the grey pavement and darker grey road and cringed. Yeah, as if Bell would want to go back to that. Haven had seemed a pretty nice place in comparison. A memory popped up, unwanted and ill placed. Bruises. Bell's stomach had been bruised, like he'd been beaten. And back at his apartment, Bellwether had been apprehensive about how to deal with his moods, other than to let himself be a punching bag. Haven hadn't been that good. Bell would've been better off taking his chances out on the streets.
Swimming. Landon smiled. Yeah, he could've guessed that.
"Maybe," Landon acquiesced. "Why not?" Another yawn threatened and Landon gave into it, settling down a little. Usually he slept after taking the pills. He'd take them in the evening, before bed, but they always caused him nightmares. It'd felt safer to take them during the day and just be clear or suffer insomnia during the night.
Now he regretted that decision. Maybe he'd do better with someone there beside him during the night, but changing his schedule now was sure to cause trouble.
"Yeah, it stopped and we kissed," Landon confirmed Bell's suspicion. "Might've been Daniel," he added in a softer voice. Landon closed his eyes and gave in to the gentle whir of the car, the dull noises and the safety of Bell's presence making it easier for him to just give in and give up on being awake. He fought it, blinking back to the world. Sometimes they managed to fight through it. Landon crossed his arms in front of his chest, chilled despite the heater's hard work.
Daniel usually fought through it. He wasn't sure. Sluggish eyes drifted back to the front window, taking in the dreary surroundings.
"I'm going to take a nap," he alerted Bell with an apologetic glance in the man's direction. "Just wake me in an hour or so," Landon said. Though he might not be able to keep grounded. It might be Daniel waking up and this time, Landon didn't feel so bad for that. He'd work on his relationship with Bellwether slowly, on his own terms. On Bell's terms.
He smiled at Landon. Good. This was progress. They were getting to know each other all over again. "Alright then, it's a plan," he decided. Regardless of who it was, they'd go to the zoo together.
"I'll see if I can nose us up toward beaches, then," Bell said. Deserts were nice too, in his opinion, but not everyone had the same feelings towards the warmth as he did. Landon clearly had an upper limit, and he thought he could remember Daniel indicating similarly.
Bell glanced over. Landon was curious? He'd thought the guy was still in the denial-phase of dealing with his memory loss. "No, it's alright. I remember some of it," he confessed. "Enough that if I ended up back on the streets, I could probably make a go of it. Survive."
He probably wouldn't enjoy his life, sure, but that was living on the streets. He remembered enough to know it was infinitely preferable to be here with Landon, or even tucked away back in Haven. "They probably let me remember that so I wouldn't run away," he commented, meaning Haven by they. "You know, since I knew how shitty my life used to be."
They were holding an actual conversation. It was kind of nuts. No one had lashed out at anyone else yet, either. [i Apparently it is possible,] he thought, a little stunned. Who'd've thunk?
"Oh, me? I wanna go swimming," he said. Nothing like hot summer heat and ice cold water to dive into. He'd been swimming with Daniel, but it was different in a heated pool and an icy atmosphere. He nodded to himself. "Swimming in the ocean. Or maybe just a pool, I dunno. Hey, maybe we could find a waterpark down south after that zoo!"
He looked over at Landon. A fair. Salty ocean spray whipped against his face, while neon lights burned away the night. It was there, then out of reach. "Did we kiss at the top?" he asked. He kind of remembered that. It was like a dream, though, where all the details were blurry. Like who was beside him, and exactly what they were doing there. Was it Landon, then? Landon, and not Lilah?
"I don't intend to," Landon said sourly, plucking at the bandages. The wound itched underneath them and Landon wasn't sure whether it was because the cut was healing up or infecting. He took the water Bell offered and washed down the foul taste of medicine before replying.
"I haven't been in ages," Landon pointed out. Zoos weren't something he'd done after landing a fairly prestigious job. Before he might've taken out a lady or two. And now Bell, apparently. He snorted. Landon bet Bellwether wished it was Daniel instead of him. No. Landon pushed the thoughts away. Why couldn't they all enjoy something like that? It wasn't complicated or anything.
"I wouldn't mind going," he admitted after a second thought.
"It might be nice to do something different." Something that didn't involve the stress of killing people and or goats. Or both.
Landon stared at the road ahead and sagged a little more in his chair as the pills started to kick in. It felt like a filter was placed in front of his senses, dulling any input. In a sense it was comforting and if it'd been discomforting, he wouldn't have been able to really feel it anyway.
"I'd rather beaches than desert," Landon pointed out. "Seems a bit too much, a desert," he mumbled softly. That said, if Bell felt the need to go there, they should probably heed that decision. Right now, even a desert would be nice. He despised the dense grey atmosphere outside of their car. The only good thing about it was the car's heating and the fact that it was working.
"Do you remember any of it? Living on the streets? The fights?" Landon started. After a long stare, Landon pulled his gaze away and blinked sluggishly. "I shouldn't ask, sorry," he excused his curiosity.
"Is there anything you'd like to do?" he ventured into more neutral territory. He knew Bell liked sunnier regions, swimming and playing outdoors, but other than that he had no clue. Bell's shall had been such a well-constructed presence, that it was hard to tell where Bell ended and the goat began. Even then, Bell's memories had been spotty.
"We've been to a fair once," Landon pitched, drowsier now because of the medicine that he should be. "Went on the Ferris Wheel."
Bell nodded. "Me too," he agreed. Sunny weather and a summer breeze. Nothing could beat that. Hey, look at that! They did have something in common.
He glanced over. Oh--huh? "Yeah, uh, you're welcome," he said. He hadn't expected to get thanked for that. It just seemed like something anyone would do. He pushed his hair back. That'd been so frightening, watching him bleed out, feeling powerless to stop it. He swallowed and managed a smile. He'd rather not talk about it, honestly. It made him nervous thinking about it. "Don't do it again. Please."
"Yeah, I mean--do you like zoos? I'll take you there too, if you feel up for it," Bell said casually. There was a difference between taking someone who didn't want to go and someone who did. If Landon was up for it, then why not head to the zoo regardless who was on top?
Landon's watch beeped, and like clockwork, he popped his pills. Bell glanced over at him, then fished around in the back blind until he found a water bottle. He held it up to Landon. Pills probably didn't taste too good, so better to wash them down.
He looked around. No zoos in sight. "Next time we stop, we can pop by a library and see if we can find a zoo real quick," he suggested casually. Then he could actually drive towards one instead of wander randomly until they found something--which seemed to be their default setting, honestly.
It was slowly getting less snowy outside. Instead of pure white, tall snow, it became short, patchy splotches of white among the brown mud. The heater still chugged along, but at least now there were signs that spring might be coming eventually. The quicker they headed south, the quicker they'd find it, too. "Looks like we might be headed into Arizona," he commented. "Towards the desert. We could try and pull up towards California instead, hit the West Coast for some beaches."
It was all the same to him, honestly. Beaches were nice, but all he really wanted was heat. No more snow, he'd had enough of that for now. Maybe later.
Go somewhere? Ice-cream. Landon snorted. "Better off getting hot cocoa," he mumbled and sighed. Bell was trying, he knew the other man was really trying to give a best effort and like him, probably at Daniel's request, but hey. Landon dreamed away staring out the window at the sour weather out and tried to think of somewhere he wanted to go. Maybe these were the first steps. Small steps. A date. Somewhere they'd go and talk, except there wasn't anything for Bell to talk about because he'd forgotten everything.
"Not this kind," Landon said with a smirk.
"I prefer sunny weather, nice summer's breeze," he started. Not quite unlike Daniel, except they enjoyed the different sides of that sort of environment. He'd enjoy just resting up on the beach, playing some ball or swimming, whereas Daniel preferred the night-life, flirting and drinking himself into a stupor.
"Thank you," he picked back up the conversation. Hazel eyes flicked to Bell and regarded the man in the driver's seat with a soft expression.
"I don't even remember cutting myself," Landon explained just exactly what he was thanking Bell for. "I'm guessing you saved my life," he gestured at the wrappings. At the very least Bell cared, even if it was just for Daniel. No. He'd probably care, but not love. Or just be confused in general about how their relationship had ever worked, because most relationships typically weren't splits across multiple personalities.
Landon yawned, the monotone drone of the car's engine and the heat inside making him sleepy. Somehow, he felt Daniel might not have gotten much sleep last night. Perhaps he'd been trying to postpone the inevitable switch.
"Didn't you guys wanted to go to the zoo or something?" Landon piped up. His distant gaze betrayed just how aware he was. A sudden beeping started him back to reality and Landon mechanically fiddled with his watch to stop it, then proceeded to get out the pills he was meant to take.
There was no water in the car he could see, so Landon swallowed them dry and grimaced at the bitter taste they left behind. At least he was on time to take them, despite his hatred for how they made him feel. It'd be a little easier to stick to just being him with them in effect though. A little easier to control the hoard of emotions always threatening to pounce on him.
They drove. Landon turned up the heat before he could. He felt it burning his eyes before long, trying to dry them out. Bell rubbed his eyes and yawned. He kind of wanted to sleep some more. Moving was better. He didn't want to stand still. It made him feel like he was useless. At least if they were moving, he could drive the car. Do something. Move towards something. He didn't know.
"Yeah, we probably should," he said vaguely. Clothes. It seemed so mundane. But hell, life was mundane. Of course they needed to do the basic maintenance stuff.
He sat up and yawned again. "There anywhere you wanna go? Anything you wanna do?" he asked. It didn't really mean anything to ask. They both knew by now that it wasn't going to happen. But they could shoot the breeze. Just chat about nonsense. Compared to talking about the past, the future seemed a little safer to talk about.
No, wait, hadn't he asked Landon this earlier, and it'd triggered a tantrum? Shit. "Like, uh, get ice cream or something," he threw out there. Short-term goals, not long term. He already knew that long term was impossible, so maybe they could go ahead and discuss the short term stuff. "I can drive anywhere, y'know."
Mostly south though. It was too cold up here. Somewhere warm and cozy was where he wanted to be. Somewhere the sun shone down and the water was warm, and the ocean lapped at the shore of a golden beach.
He tipped his head. Well, maybe not all that. But at least some of that. At least the warmth part. It wasn't snowing here, at least. A small improvement. Less snow on the ground, too. Maybe they'd eventually hit no snow on the ground, and then, maybe, they'd hit warmth. It seemed unlikely, as cold as it was right now, but surely somewhere it was warm.
"What kind of weather do you like?" he asked Landon. That seemed more neutral. Surely no one could take offense to that. He preferred the heat, but who knew, maybe Landon liked the cold. He didn't seem to be complaining their flight south, so he was probably fine with it.
A nod. Yeah. Back on the road. Maybe that was better for them both. Bellwether seemed calmer somehow, less aggressive about being unable to tolerate his very presence. Landon sighed out and stood, then followed Bell outside. Snow whipped around them in a flurry, sapping away the heat he'd absorbed back at the hotel's breakfast area. Landon shivered and was quick to follow Bell to their car. He almost made the mistake of going for the driver's seat. Oh.
He wouldn't be driving. Of course not. That would be stupid. He was injured and even if he wasn't, who was to say he'd keep sane for long enough, the distances they were driving? Landon corrected his mistake and slipped into the passenger's seat. Secretly he was grateful for not having to drive. Despite having just woken up, he didn't feel very rested. If anything, his body felt worn and tired. Breakfast had only pushed him away from that by a small amount, if anything. Landon sagged in the seat a little and had half a mind to put on a seatbelt.
He glanced over at Bell, wondering whether the man even knew where they were going. Why even bring him? He was a liability. His head wasn't screwed on right, but Landon knew better than to point out the obvious. Either which way, he didn't want to leave Bell alone. It'd be betraying all the promises they'd made between the two of them. He was fairly certain Bell had asked him at some point not to abandon him, no matter what and Landon wasn't planning on breaking that promise.
Even if Bell himself failed to remember.
Landon brushed his hair back and put up the heating a little. He slowly melted into it and shook the chill that'd taken hold of his muscles on the short walk outside. There was very little to actually talk about between the two of them, wasn't there? He didn't want to talk about Daniel or have Bell try and help fill in the missing parts. What else did they have in common? The goats? Sure, lovely topic right there.
"Should we get our clothes washed?" Landon tried some neutral ground instead. Practical stuff. Mundane stuff. He could do stuff like that.
They were already--? Right, yeah. He nodded, biting his lip. Yeah, he'd realized that. It was why he'd been so hesitant. He should've kept realizing that and not given in to his weakness in the moment. No playing around with Daniel. Only a full commitment or nothing. Yet, if he went out and played with someone else, there was no question: they'd get pissed at him. It was a pain in the ass.
"I don't want to cause problems," Bell said. It was fine, huh? He looked away, his brows furrowed. Somehow, he hadn't wanted to hear that. It would've been easier if Landon had cursed him out and called him a bitch. Why? So he could say, hey, Daniel, sorry, but Landon doesn't want us doing anything, so let's chill it, okay? Was he looking for an out? He kneaded his forehead with one hand. He didn't know. It wasn't like he didn't like it. It was just that--it was a bad idea. A mistake that he shouldn't repeat. He wasn't ready for everything the two of them wanted him to be, and he regretted taking the next step.
But Landon didn't want to be the stone in their way, huh? He nodded silently. None of his business. Fair enough. "Okay," he muttered. Guess that meant getting in the way was for Bell to handle, too.
Landon pushed his plate away, and Bell felt done now, too. He stood, waiting for Landon to join him. "Let's hit the road," he suggested. It sounded a little tired, like they'd sounded all morning. It was wearing on them, wasn't it? Wearing on both of them. The stress of being together but not being together. The stress of living up to everyone's expectations.
Cold air whipped around the building as he stepped outside, the floes of air momentarily visible as the wind picked up tiny particles of ice and snow from the roof and flung them into the air. Bell shivered and did his jacket up tighter. They needed to get into the warmth already. He hurried over to the driver's side and slid into the seat. No way was Landon driving today, or ever again. Not until they were way more stable than they were.
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