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"I'll get a newspaper tomorrow," Landon replied when Bell inquired about any more stops they'd have to make. Right now Landon didn't think he could even focus on the small font of a newspaper for longer than ten minutes on end anyway, let alone draw conclusions from the data presented to him. The darkened sky was something of a relief as it didn't force Landon to strain his eyes against the finicky sunshine as much.
Giving Bellwether a deadpan stare to try and find any maliciousness in the other's actions, Landon gave up and sighed. Apparently the other man had managed fine tending to the injury the other day and he'd just have to risk the jump. Rather some pain now than an infection later. That said, Landon was sure that even if the cut infected, it wouldn't hold them back too much. It wasn't a debilitating injury. He wished the headache would die down though.
"Out here on the street?" Landon suggested ludicrously, giving room for thought on finding a spot at least a bit more private and sanitary if he was going to be cleaning the blood away again. Not many onlookers would take kindly to that sight.
The bell's sound made Landon wince at first but he got used to the clanking noise, eyes flitting about nervously. It was as if the sound made Landon even more aware that anyone could be a goat -anyone except for Bellwether. Maybe that was why Landon demanded he stay with the man. No goat would kill its own, surely?
"I don't care where you want to go next -don't know where you've been," Landon confessed and shrugged. Numb hands fiddled with the phone and the small plastic bags, sealing the top shut. Experimentally trying out the buttons, Landon was satisfied that rain wouldn't get to it, even if they got soaked. The bandage around his head would be tougher to keep dry. At least Bell wasn't planning on them spending the day out in the rain.
"If we do get a car..." Landon thought long and hard.
Would it be smart? "It can't be in our names, and we can't ride one and the same vehicle longer than a month before ditching it," he mused while stuffing the phone away between the vast layers of clothes, tucked safely against his chest. It would be hard enough to keep off the radar if they did use Landon's money and credit cards. Any plastic could be traced. More so than the goats, Landon worried about authorities.
Having a car right then and there did sound like bliss though. It would also provide them with a place to sleep, but would be more expensive than train-tickets in the long run.
"If people start piecing together the odd string of animal-cruelty and random disappearances, we're in deep shit," Landon remarked. Bellwether had the alibi of having a doppelgänger at least. That wouldn't prevent any cop from shutting in a John Doe however.
Bell snorted derisively. "I'm no cross dresser, I've just got that mythical thing called a sense of style. Can't to you tell?" He gestured at his piecemeal and ragged ensemble, of which no two pieces matched another. With a wink and a grin, he left Landon behind and went to look through hats and shoes. Again, nothing ticked his fancy, and before long he grew bored.
At least Landon wasn't overly picky. Before long, he was paying and getting dressed in the little stall of the changing room. Bellwether wandered back towards women's clothes, mindful of the clerk's watchful eyes; he pulled randomly at the dresses, humming to himself and making a big show of looking. With his lower hand, the one out of view of the clerk, he slipped the satin shirt off its hanger and balled it up, then tucked it smoothly into a pocket. The whole range of motion was within the limited swing of his injured shoulder, which was just another bonus. Sure, Landon probably would've bought it for him, but he didn't want him to know he'd actually wanted it, let alone that he had it. He went on playing with the clothes until Landon emerged from the changing room, then went over to him.
Though he'd barely registered a change when he'd stolen the shirt, his heart started pounding when Landon asked if he looked attractive. Had he noticed after all? Had he--
No, that was stupid. He was just playing with him. Bellwether rolled his eyes in response and led him back out, winking at the clerk as he passed. She glared at him but didn't say anything, and he smiled to himself. Home free.
Outside, the sky was growing dark, threatening rain. He glanced at it, then nodded at Landon. "You have any other chores you wanted to get to, or did we get them all? We'll have to find somewhere before the rain starts, or head to the station and catch a train somewhere sunnier. Maybe even ferry to the mainland." He shrugged. It was all the same to him.
The bandage on Landon's head was starting to look really grody, and he gave it a hard look. "You sure you don't want me to change that?" he asked. "Infections aren't fun, take it from me."
He reached down and undamped the bell, kicking a leg out to make it ring. Now that they were up and dressed, they'd be alright to be looking for goats, though he doubted there were too many left here. Even the one who'd tried to take Landon's place had been a newborn, not an older, settled goat.
Well, that explained Bell's sexual frustration at least. Dazed eyes lifted to see what manner of clothes Bellwether offered up and he raised a single, unimpressed eyebrow at the bright colours. It almost hurt his eyes to see the orange and purple.
Not sure whether Bell was serious in his choice of clothes, Landon stared down at his hands and noticed at last he was looking through a rack of dresses. They'd be practical in certain situations, but not where they were going, nor on his hips. Lowering his hands, Landon clutched the rack and swung around to face Bellwether.
"Do you?" he retorted lamely, hinting at the other's obvious hesitation with putting back the purple cloth.
"They can't catch you with your pants down if you wear a dress," Landon muttered and sighed out, putting a little more effort into orienting himself and finding the male section. Some faded jeans wouldn't go amiss, and would be useful in general. Landon figured the amount of layers Bell wore was excessive, but two layers should do, and no one could rob the clothes off of your back without a struggle. Finding a formless hooded sweater and some shirts, one short-sleeved and the other long, Landon continued on to the shoes-section and found a pair of boots that didn't have the bottom falling out, but would at the very least manage to keep his feet from getting wet. That said, the thrift-store was lacking in certain necessities like underwear and decent socks, but Landon figured he'd get those when the weather truly turned sullen and cold.
Lastly he found some sweat-pants to complement the holes in the jeans and contemplated the coats. Most of the clothes were dull in colour. Standing out wasn't necessary much. Maybe the clerk would be kind enough to get him some plastic zip-lock bags Landon knew they used for the small change; to keep his phone dry. It would become an important item from here on out and the main source of their cash-flow. He smiled at the clerk behind the counter, who appeared less than intimidated by the impressive bandages covering his forehead. She returned the smile and raked up the tally.
Landon coughed up the money and pointed at the fitting-stalls, "do you mind if I change into my 'new' clothes straight away?"
At that her brow furrowed, and her eyes flicked to Bell for a moment, but she nodded at last. "Sure," 'knock yourself out', Landon mentally supplied the words she'd swallowed on account of being polite.
"Thanks," he said and took the clothes, assured Bellwether wouldn't go anywhere. The girl behind the counter hadn't reacted any differently to looking Bell in the face, so it was a safe bet she wasn't a goat. The thought felt alien.
Since when did he screen people for being 'goats'. They definitely needed a different name for them. The clothes were as ill-fitting as his ruined suit, but after some tugs and pulls, they were comfortable at least. Two layers of pants, three layers of shirts, one scruffy coat. Landon spotted himself in the mirror. His face looked gaunt -from the pain, he suspected- and so much unlike himself. Tired eyes glared back from underneath a thick bandage, which was slowly turning a deeper pink where the cut had been.
Maybe Bell's attempts at changing it weren't laced with malice after all.
It was hard to tell.
A day's worth of stubble made his cheek rough and Landon sighed. Given another few weeks the awkwardness of being a stray would sink into normalcy. What he really wanted was to get some rest. His concussed brain had trouble keeping up pace.
"Ready," Landon left the privacy of the stall and approached Bell, "am I attractive now?" he teased the other male. Landon hadn't even realized he'd been cold until he was wearing enough clothes to ward it off. Summer was already retreating to make place for autumn after all.
Pay the train fare...well, he supposed it wasn't outright a waste of money, but...he wasn't exactly used to the idea of being able to just throw money around like that. Trains could be expensive, especially for long rides, and it was relatively simple to avoid the fare.
Landon's advice to not spend it all in one place seemed fairly ridiculous when he'd been given twenty pounds; a meal at a crappy little diner like this would have to be something, to come to twenty pounds. "Couldn't if I tried," he returned, and hurried up to the counter to pay the woman, putting the change back in one of his many pockets.
"I don't want your woman," he replied playfully, keeping his voice studiously light-hearted. Lady-bits were weird and he didn't understand them. The less he saw of them, the better, though he'd learned on the streets it was often best to act as though they were the be-all end-all of sex. "But give it a couple of weeks and you'll want your woman. Then you'll understand why I kept bugging you. This life isn't exactly the kind that gets you good lays and committed relationships."
He followed Landon to a little consignment shop and gravitated immediately towards the leather jackets. There wasn't a large selection, and the two they had were both several sizes too small for him. Thin as he might be, he wasn't short, and with the bulk of all the clothes he piled on his frame, he effectively wasn't thin either. He gave up and drifted back to Landon's side, pulling at the clothes out of boredom. "Ooh, look at this!" he cheered, pulling out a neon-orange tracksuit. "Oh, or this." This time it was a purple satin shirt with rhinestones for buttons. He almost put it back, then paused and looked at it. He kind of liked it, and if he...
He would totally give up the game, though. He put the shirt back with a sigh. "Anyways, what're you doing in women's clothes? Does Landon have a little secret?"
Shutting his eyes and leaning back as the coffee settled the pills in a less than favourable way, Landon peeked at Bell's smug face. Slowly blinking, Landon realized that when he'd said 'we', Bellwether had assumed they'd get suitable or new clothes for them both. Landon wasn't eager to spend the full pound to get clothes that would likely be messed up on their first intimate encounter with another goat. That said, there would be nothing like a 'new' car either.
"Towed," Landon muttered when Bell asked him about the other car. If the man had wanted to drive around in the vehicle, he should've made sure to bring it along in the first place. Landon hadn't even thought about how useful a car could be. Then again, a bloodied, messy vehicle would potentially just get them into more trouble. Never mind that license plates could easily be tracked and made them less under the radar than Bellwether's current method of travelling around.
"Cars are no good, and I can pay the train-fair," Landon mentioned, smacking his lips. The coffee was deplorable and left a nasty after-taste in his mouth.
As long as they were ahead of the goats killing their doppelgänger, everything would be fine -no one missing, murdered or whatever else. No suspicion raised. However if they were too late, things were different. Maybe that was why Bell had allowed his own alter ego to take over his life.
Resting his head in a propped up hand, Landon waited for the painkillers to do more than make him feel physically ill. When the pill finally did kick in, it couldn't suppress the spikes of pain stemming from moving too hurriedly entirely. Bell's giddiness over having his money to spend, or just money in general, made Landon cringe. Just how much hardship had this kid seen? He couldn't be older than twenty-five, so when had the goat taken over?
"Don't spend it all in one place," he muttered softly by means of advice and testing the waters. The painkillers managed okay.
"Also I'm done with my 'woman', so you can have her -you seem to take a massive interest," Landon said cynically. "Are you done eating?" he groused, getting up with no intent to pay. The other man had two tenners in his pocket, so he might as well pay for his own grub. The deal had never been for Landon to vomit money all over the place all the time. Of course, he wouldn't let Bell starve too much, if he could help it.
Aside from that, Landon had used cash to pay for most things and it was now starting to run thin. He'd have to either find an ATM or tear out the plastic. With the aid of the painkillers it was easier to get around, but still not pleasant. His eyes smarted in a weird way as they adjusted to the light outside and even the cars passing by sounded like roaring Harleys.
Without waiting for Bellwether, Landon looked around and recalled there was a second-hand shop around somewhere. Anything would be better than the ill-fitting suit. He'd keep the dress-shirt however, it would come in handy when he wanted to blend in at different places. He might have to settle some matters at the local bank for example.
Rows after rows of abused clothes were lined up in the musty and dark basement of the thrift-store. Less than amused, Landon figured out they were at least sorted by size and contemplated what would stand the onslaught of being outside most of the time while not making him look like something had ran him over into a tumble-dryer. It was hard remaining focussed. Landon caught himself zoning out several times, not even taking in what he was holding in terms of clothes.
He chuckled at Landon's deadpan response, then pointed a fork at him at the next statement. "You decided to join me, the fuck is yours?" He grinned, meaning it jokingly. The man didn't seem to have much of a sense of humor, but that was fine. He'd compensate for the both of them.
Landon stomped outside to make some calls, and Bell half-turned to keep an eye on him. No one approached Landon, and when his food arrived, he only kept him in his peripherals.
As luck would have it, it was Manny in the back. Everything tasted like shit; even the sausage was too greasy to really be enjoyable. But food was food. He drowned the pancakes in syrup and ate them quickly, wolfing them down so the taste didn't linger too long. The coffee was actually pretty good; he grunted when Landon returned and sucked it down, gestured the waitress over to refill his cup. She rather pointedly ignored him, and he stuck his tongue out at her back.
"Alright. Can't have you looking like some bum now, can we?" he asked, picking at Landon's sleeve. He broke into a smile and cast his eyes up at the man, looking at him through his lashes. "You aren't gonna try 'n make me look like a proper gentleman, are you? I wear this shit for a reason: cushioning. And it gets fucking cold in the winter. Though I could use a new jacket."
He stood and followed Landon out. "You get everything settled with your woman?" he asked, just to be annoying, then raised his eyebrows as a better thought hit him. "Oh! You figure out what happened to your car? We could use some wheels. I'll be moving on soon--we'll be moving on soon," he said, trying the word out. It felt weird on his tongue. "We'll be moving on, and I'd rather not ride the rails with a newbie like you." He usually hitchhiked or hopped on boxcars when he needed to switch towns, but both were dangerous, especially to people who weren't used to them. Besides, it'd be nice to have a car. Make everything that much easier.
"Or can you just buy a new one? I don't know. I'm not used to having money." He grinned up at Landon. It felt nice, being able to buy things. He wasn't used to that.
"Don't break any ankles prancing around in those high-heels," Landon dead-panned, attention mostly focussed in the small yet bright screen of the phone. It was annoying to look at, never mind to make sense of the words and he pinched the bridge of his nose, shutting his eyes for a moment. He only opened his eyes to give Bell a stare regarding the food. Why did the man insist on testing the waters over and over. Sadist was right. He must enjoy seeing Landon in pain or angry. Actually, the only time something reasonably 'normal' had come from the man's mouth was when he was explaining his ridiculous tactics in finding and dealing with these goats. Landon would've dismissed the man as a conspiracy-freak before figuring the man a beggar.
"You asked me to join you. What the fuck is your problem?" Landon asked before getting up from the table and putting the phone against his ear. He didn't go far, but the diner's bell jingled as it shut behind. Outside was no better than inside the shoddy place and Landon leaned against the stained window, unconsciously keeping an eye on Bellwether for reasons he rather not address at that time.
Richard was late in replying, addressing someone else on the background. The office didn't appear any different than usual, and Landon was sure that by now he was the talk of the town. A real hero. Hooray.
"Landon!" Richard started, pausing, evidently stumped for words.
"Hey buddy," he started softer, more careful.
"Don't give me that crap, Rich, I need you to take care of a couple of things." Landon broke off the 'this man must be crazy let's all walk on eggshells routine' rudely and curtly. What he asked next was short and to the point: message Lily with an okay, get the house renovated and ready for sale, the cash to be wired to his account in China. They would stop their current 'disappearing-act' of Fairwater's money and he'd cash out his share, that was to be sent to his account in Russia.
"Okay, okay," Landon could hear Richard scribbling madly. "I just need a little time -two weeks tops," he speculated. "The regular fee?"
Landon closed his eyes and tried to think passed the blinding headache, "yeah, no, give yourself a percent extra, just make sure it's all in order."
"If it's not...in order..."
Richard chuckled softly, "hey, you know me?"
"That thing won't be the only thing having a visit from a baseball bat, got it?" Landon said plainly and hung up.
Leaning his head back against the glass, Landon put his phone back from where it came and went back into the diner to sit across from Bell. The scent of greasy food wasn't improving matters. Reaching over, Landon took the plastic bag and searched the contents for the box of painkillers.
"We'll get some clothes next," he offered and pressed out one of the pills, washing it down with Bell's coffee, or what was left of it.
Getting a new phone took less time than Bell had expected. He lurked outside and slightly around a corner, leaning against a wall at the mouth of an alley where the shadows made details a little fuzzy. The few people who looked his way quickly disengaged their eyes and hurried past, their strides widening an inch or two when they drew close to him. He smirked at the few who dared meet his eyes, but there was no glimmer of confused recognition in any of their faces. Not that he'd expected much. He was starting to suspect he'd cleared the immediate area of goats, or at least near enough that it wouldn't be worth his while to stick around; it was very nearly time to move on. He wondered how Landon would react to that. The man had seemed to take everything in stride so far, much better than Bell had expected, but leaving might be different. After all, as long as he was here, he could still turn back. Once he left...that was it. He was gone forever.
Landon emerged from the store clutching a shiny new glass rectangle, and Bell slid smoothly from the shadows to join him. "Diner it is, then," he said, and took the lead once more. At least Landon wasn't a control freak, he reasoned. In fact, the man was fairly malleable, all things considered. Not a yes-man by any means, but...easily led. He liked that in people. Made them easier to control.
The diner itself was a run-down little box of a place, a small, dirty standalone that crouched on a corner like a toad thrown in among stately herons; the other shops gave it a little distance, as though they feared their flawless facades would be damaged merely by touching the squat building. A bell rattled against the glass door as he opened it, and the waitress grunted at the sight of him. She recognized him, but he wasn't exactly a favorite customer. He reeked of poverty, not money, and rarely bought more than the cheapest plate.
But today he was here on Landon's dollar. "Pancakes and coffee, please, and a side of sausage," he said, sliding into a seat at the bar.
The waitress glared at him until he nodded at Landon. "Got myself a rich john last night," he said, winking. "Felt generous, wanted to buy me breakfast like I'm a real classy lady."
She rolled her eyes and retreated to give the short-order cook in the back the order. Bell smirked at Landon, wondering if he'd be too soft to pick up the insinuation; johns were what the prostitutes called their clients. "You sure you don't want anything? The food here is passable, so long as it's not Manny in the back."
"So, you got your phone. What else, Suit? Wanna pick up a shiny new sportsjacket, or you gonna call up that bird of yours at last?" He waggled his eyebrows at Landon. "Gonna pay her a little last visit? Bring her along?"
Less than impressed by Bell's dismissal of any broken bones, Landon shrugged, soon realizing any sympathy might be misplaced and energy best spent elsewhere. The order of things was a bit confusing to Landon, whose concussed brain tried to store all items with less than their usual success. Breakfast, phone, different clothes, diner? At least the bell was silenced and Landon surmised that while Bellwether wouldn't ever admit out loud, there was a caring streak in the man yet.
Outside was far brighter than Landon expected and he slowly blinked to adjust, reaching in an empty pocket only to recall he'd left his sunglasses in the car. Squinting at Bell, Landon wondered why he was letting a concussed man make judgement calls, but shrugged it off. Hunger wasn't exactly on the forefront of his mind, or his stomach's. Actually, he would sooner be sick again than keep anything down. That option scratched, that left Landon with purchasing a new phone and get his lost phone reimbursed.
There was a faint awareness of where they had landed which hadn't permeated his mind the day before. He took a moment to orient himself and finally gestured they should move along the road.
"Phone," he groused, visibly bothered by the sunlight.
Despite the early nature of the breaking day, shops were opened and people were giving him odd stares. Pointedly ignoring any looks, Landon slipped into a store and put on his best smile, not even bothering with asking Bell to wait outside. He'd gotten used to that being the case yesterday. Of course any charm would be undone by Bell's handiwork wrapped around his head, but whatever.
"How can I help you, sir?" the clerk started out nice enough, but Landon could practically call out the moment the other man's face turned sour at the potential problem he was going to have on hand. Landon had a smooth talk however, though made less by his fragmented focus. At last, Landon had a new machine in hand, tied to his old records, and smiled demurely as the device started pulling data from the back-up he'd made ages ago. Phone-numbers and missed messages started to pile in.
Leaving the device to do as it had to, Landon took care of the business end of the deal and reunited with Bellwether. Actually, it hadn't cost him a dime to get a new phone. The insurance also covered loss. Landon stood just outside of the store pondering Lily's distressed messages. As much as Bell's snarls were grating, Lily's voice would be even worse because if its high pitch.
She could wait.
If any love truly had remained, she'd have been first on his list of things to do. But she hadn't.
That much told Landon enough.
At some point he'd have to call her however, if just to let everyone know he was fine, just away, and oh -he was going to rob her of house and home soon. Landon's hazel eyes lifted to watch Bellwether. He could still turn back. But really, he couldn't.
Landon didn't have to walk the streets like Bell did, and would never allow himself to slide down that low -didn't have to. He was the single Landon Turner on the planet and that came with perks Landon was positive non-existence didn't hold.
"You pick some place to eat. I'm not hungry," Landon admitted plainly.
"You sure?" Bell asked, a hand on the alcohol. "I'd hate to see it get infected. An infection that close to your brain would be nasty business." All viciousness aside, the bandage probably did need to be changed. If not now, then soon.
But the man seemed adamant, so he just sighed and packed the bag back up again. It was really too bad.
In the daylight, cleaned up and in clean, if somewhat natty, clothes, Landon was an attractive man. He pressed his lips together, musing over it as he pulled a pair of sweatpants over the gym shorts, topping it off with a huge pair of jeans and a cheap cloth belt that had probably come from a woman's outfit. Physically attractive, sure, but the personality left some things to be desired. At least was stuck with eye candy; it could have been worse. Landon could've been ugly and an asshole, instead of just an asshole.
He glanced up from contemplating how exactly he was going to wriggle into the shirts without wrenching his shoulder when Landon mentioned the phone. "Sure thing, it's your money, boss," he said dryly. "Just give me a minute over here..."
"Oh yeah, let me just examine this shoulder with my M.D. over here." He pulled the collar of the t-shirt down to look at the bruise. It looked pretty nasty, the bruise on the back of his shoulderblade crawling over the top of his shoulder to stain the front. "Hmm, X-ray vision says everything's peachy," he snarked. He didn't need Landon's sympathy. "I've had worse before. It's fine."
The softy, being sympathetic for him! It was disgusting. He clenched his teeth and yanked on the shirts one after the other, hissing with pain when his shoulder had to move too far. He put the injured arm in first, using his good arm to slide the sleeve into place, then shrugged the shirt over his head; wash, rinse, repeat a few times, and he was fully dressed. In the t-shirt and shorts he'd looked gaunt, muscle pressing through skin, bones and sinews sharply outlined, not a scrap of fat on his body; once all the layers had accumulated, he looked much thicker, more filled out. The leather jacket went on last, and he winced as the weight of it, loaded with bell and pipe, settled into his shoulders.
"Breakfast, then phone," he said. He considered, then damped the bell with the usual clip. "Other nice thing about the bell's that I can turn it off."
He led the way out of the motel, then waited for Landon to take the lead. "Bets are your car's gone, but we can take a look. I dunno where you'd get a phone, so take us to wherever that store is, and we can find breakfast by that. Or, if you like, there's a little diner just down the road thataway." He pointed in the opposite direction from where Landon had abandoned his car. It was the kind of place that catered to truckers and locals; he wouldn't look out of place, though Landon would. Right now, though, he got the feeling Landon would stick out anywhere, in the state his suit was in. "Your call, bossman."
Survived. Not victorious, scared or anything else. Just 'survived'. Landon's tortured brain didn't take more than two seconds to draw its own conclusion: Bellwether's doppelgänger was still out there. The sharp retort on Bell's part couldn't override the thought and Landon ignored the young man's protest. Landon shouldn't care for Bell being out there, but the same courtesy ought to be reciprocated. Popping his head through the shirt when Bellwether's second 'ass-hole' filtered into the air, Landon merely sighed and slowly got up from the bed, stepping into his shorts and fishing through the remainder of his clothes to get properly dressed. All articles were clean, ruined, and his shoes were still a drama.
At least they had dried up over night.
Narrowing his eyes at the man as he suggested the bandages would need changing, Landon wondered whether there was something else behind that face. Now that Bell was no longer a blurry vision, Landon started noticing more details. Something jaded in those eyes, something damaged and very, very angry.
"Save it for the goats," he sighed eventually, deflating and gathering his things from the night-stand, including the keys. He might have to sell the house if they were to go on with this. Landon had someone he trusted to oversee the transaction, but they would want the other key. And he'd still have to call Lily. Account Manager was just something to appease Lily; frankly, Landon had gotten through college being a stockbroker. All he'd need was the daily newspapers and a proper phone. There was some regret at being stupid enough to stumble and drown the previous device.
"I need to make some phone-calls after breakfast, and get a phone to do so," Landon mentioned, stepping closer to Bellwether, looking straight at the man. No one enjoyed being underestimated, and while Landon would be the first to admit he had gotten used to a certain level of comfort, he also brought a different set of skills to the table aside from play-pretending to be the Hulk and smash everything to bits.
Either way it appeared as if he'd done the majority of berserking last night, what with Bell's arm the way it was. Landon was a planner. This much was obvious to anyone who knew the man longer than a week. Something softened about Landon's gaze and stance.
"Are you sure nothing's broken?" he voiced his concerns. Swelling could happen because of a number of things. Chipped bone could get infected internally. There were still a number of questions Landon wanted answers to. A bell or facial recognition was nice as a method to find goats, but twenty-five to thirty finds and kills, when the odds were a thousand goats and a couple billion people was just close to miraculous. And then there was the goats motive, and how they managed to copy everything about the original.
Landon doubted Bellwether knew more than he did at that point. Striking up conversation with those things wasn't something high on anyone's priority list.
He glared at Landon. "I'm not a stripper, you don't have to fucking throw it at me, asshole," he grumbled, but picked up the money all the same. He'd been on the streets too long to let any pennies slip through his hands. So he'd insulted the poor softy. So what? He was being completely serious. If he could go back, he would. And he wasn't sure Mr. Suit And Tie would survive long on the streets, anyways. It'd be nice to have someone paying for his food, for his shelter.
But then again, he'd been the softy, once. And he understood the need to fight these things with your bare hands.
Even so, what he wouldn't give to be in Landon's place...
He cast his eyes away at Landon's softer remark. "Yeah, I survived," he said quietly, but that was all. He hadn't won. He hadn't understood what he was up against. He'd survived, and then he'd ran, ran until he couldn't run any further. He'd been terrified. Memories flashed back: the way his family had screamed when he'd walked in the front door, bloody and battered, meeting eyes with the thing that had taken his place as it hugged his mother tight, protecting her--protecting her from [i him.] From him! His father had gotten the gun, and he'd taken off and never gone back. Somewhere, something who looked just like him was finishing college. Maybe he had a girlfriend, a job lined up. Bellwether couldn't go back. Not now, not then. The goat had insinuated itself into his family, and he was--unnecessary. Even if he went back, he'd be a disappointment, now. The homeless bum who never finished high school, compared to the shining student he was sure the goat had been, who'd finished high school, who'd attended college? He knew which one his family would pick. If he went back, he'd only be rejected again.
That goat would be the last one he killed.
"But so what?" he asked sharply, recovering. "Someone needs to fight them. Why should you care why I'm out here?"
He glared when Landon mentioned his arm and hugged it a little closer to himself. Probably not. It had swelled up during the night so that even something as simple as putting his t-shirt on or carrying the laundry back was difficult and painful.
"Asshole," he spat. Then his eyes glittered darkly, a thought coming to him. "I think it's time to change that bandage of yours," he all but crooned. "Come on over here. I'll try to be delicate, but I've only got one arm right now."
"Breakfast," he said, as he pulled another roll of gauze from the plastic bag and waited for Landon to come closer, "comes after. We'll go together. We'll have to stick together from here on out, so no one tries to replace either of us while the other isn't looking."
It felt like dealing with a petulant child and Landon would've snorted, were it not for Bell's staining bruises covering one shoulder and his own headache. As it was, Landon sighed out and glanced away from rescuer's naked form and after a while laid back down, hand to his head as if trying to block out all stimuli. It wasn't even so much the headache, but more so the sensitivity to loud noises, such as the slamming door and Bell's voice. When he returned, things didn't really improve and Landon lazily slid his eyes over at the man, who appeared to have had a change of heart along with a change of clothes, because he finally replied his earlier questions.
"You were awake," Landon remarked when the other told him he wasn't a morning person. He'd heard by Bell's breathing that he hadn't been asleep. Sleeping next to Lily for so long made him able to tell the difference.
The clothes were tossed at him haphazardly and landed somewhere on the bed. Landon failed to care.
"Ugh, nothing aside from a splitting headache," Landon groaned at the bell's jingling, as it pierced through to hit the back of the skull and ricocheted there a couple of times. An impatient expression started growing on his face.
When Bell's griping was finished, Landon glared at the other. This was what? The second time he was questioning his resolve? Well, Landon supposed that was just as well, but the man had worked on his nerves.
"Just because you're the only person who knows how to deal with these goats doesn't give you the right to be an ass-hole to anyone willing to help you," he called him out on his behaviour. "You know what?"
Landon reached for his wallet and pulled out those two tenners Bellwether had mentioned before he should give up, and then just go back to his 'oh-so-perfect' life.
"There you go, get breakfast, and when you decide that should happen more often in your petty battle to save the world all by yourself, you'll find me here," Landon reasoned as he crumpled up the notes and tossed them into Bell's general direction. After that Landon more so slumped back on the bed than anything else because his actions aggravated his concussion and he breathed in slowly, trying to calm down.
"And while you're at it, stop breaking down my life into convenient 'blissful' parts; you could've chosen to make something of it yourself after you survived the first assault," Landon argued in a softer tone of voice. If Bell countered that he hadn't been able to, then what was the difference with Landon? Either way it would be interesting to learn.
Putting a hand to his forehead, Landon pressed down on the injury, as if pushing the stitches into his skull would alleviate the deeper ache in his head. It wasn't like him to fall out. Angry people was what he dealt with on a daily basis. And Bell was angry, maybe even jealous and mistrusting.
"Can you even lift that arm?" he sneered finally, looking at Bell as if sizing him up properly. Swallowing away the dryness in his mouth, Landon sat back up and slowly made sense of his own little pile of clothes, pulling the white shirt over his head.
He was woken by a question. Not truly woken, because he'd only been dozing to start out with; he'd been feigning sleep since dawn, in the hopes that if he faked it long enough, it would become real. Even so, it wasn't the most pleasant way to return to full consciousness. For the second time of what felt as though it would become too many times, he regretted bringing Landon into this.
With a loud groan, he sat up and glared at Landon. All the aches of the night before throbbed, asserting themselves on his consciousness, and he winced and moved his left arm a little closer to his body in an attempt to lessen the pain. "Fuck," he said, by way of answer, glaring at a point about six inches ahead of his face. Then, in a sudden movement as forceful as it was awkward, he climbed out of the bed, paying no mind at all to his nakedness. Still pointedly ignoring Landon, he slammed the bathroom door and got ready for the day, dressing in his clothes from last night. They were a little stiff, but at least now they were dry. He slid into them and hurried back out through the room, out to the laundry, and collected their clothes; once he had wrestled the unruly bundle back to their room, he finally felt ready to face Landon's questions. He sorted Landon's suit easily out of his cheaper clothes and tossed it at the older man.
"First," he grumbled, "I'm not a morning person. Give me at least a minute before you start asking dumb questions. Second. You don't."
He walked over to the nightstand where he'd set his battered bell the night before and shook it at Landon. "That make you feel anything?" he asked, then pulled his jacket out of the mess of cleaned clothes and strapped the bell to it. "Right. It doesn't. But the goats...I think they've got a shared memory of sorts. Picked this bell up a few years ago when I got tired of looking everyone in the eye to see if they'd react to my face. Because they remember me. All of them do. Even the ones I've never seen before. I think it's a subconscious thing, something that the disguise won't understand. So fake you, for example, would've given me a real funny look just then, like he'd heard that bell before but didn't quite remember where, or why, or what it meant. Kinda like deja vu." He shrugged. "So I look for the people who react funny to my bell, or who do a double take when they look at me." It wasn't a hundred percent guarantee, but it was better than before, when he'd been constantly getting jumped, forced to fight a defensive battle.
He reached out and popped another pair of painkillers, then walked into the bathroom and stuck his head under the faucet to wash them down with a gulp of water. "You sure about this?" he asked, exiting the bathroom. "You could work your day job and bankroll me or something. You don't have to get your hands dirty."
Lily hand't slept at all. The flash of what she'd seen in that split-second the flash-light tumbled from her frightened hands still tortured her mind. And not so much because of the black animal that had invaded their house, but because of Landon. She couldn't reconcile her husband-to-be with the desperately ravenous monster she had seen. Sure, she knew Landon kept a bat in with the fuses, but never did she think he'd ever use it.
"-..am? Ma'am?" the police officer kindly smiled and offered a mug of coffee. Her sister's house was that much more pleasant than their apartment right now. Which left her to question where Landon was.
"We found your fiancé's car. It's parked on a quiet road facing the ocean, seemingly abandoned," he stated very matter-of-factly. Lily swallowed.
The police man squirmed a little in his seat and licked his lips.
"Miss, technically your husband isn't missing and we have no reason to believe he was taken against his will," he explained. A sigh escaped his lips. "He was recorded on camera at a pharmacy not far from where the car was left," the officer went ahead to say. "The clerk said Landon probably suffered a concussion, but didn't appear distressed or confused enough to be lost." A moment of silence passed.
"He may try to call you, ma'am, we have a search out for him," he smiled reassuringly and hinting at her phone's proximity. "He'll be home soon."
Lily nodded absent-mindedly. Why hadn't Landon called?
Each time she tried the number it disconnected, saying the number had no service. Was his phone broken? It had to be. He would call her soon, she just knew it.
He had to. Landon just had to.
Landon woke up a couple of times during the night but never long and each time drawing the same conclusions: he had a thick bandage covering his headache, the sheets were scratchy and too hot and there was someone else in the room. Each time Landon came to realize it was only Bell, and unless some goat had strangled the man in his sleep, he was safe with him covering his back. Each time the headache and lingering painkillers drew Landon back under in a dark, exhausted sleep.
This time he woke to find there was some light to actually see beyond the dark. It made the conclusions come quicker -quicker than any of them had last night. Blinking up at the unfamiliar ceiling, Landon tried piecing together what had happened. He'd walked home from the celebratory dinner, then passed the alley and from there on out things got weird. He'd fought against himself, watched as his own head was bashed in with a metal pipe and then the mad dash for his home.
The memories from that time were more fragmented, but Landon could paint a picture of what his hallway looked like in the dark with how sharp the image had burnt into his head. Apparently the burn left behind some hurt because his head still ached fiercely. Landon recalled the ocean and shaking hands with Bellwether, agreeing to aid the man in killing more 'goats'. Reaching up with one hand, Landon felt for the source of the pain and met with gauze. What time was it anyway?
He felt like he'd slept for hours, yet still managed to feel utterly drained.
"How do you recognize them? Or find them?" he asked softly, trying not to aggravate his own headache, but needing to know. Landon looked over at Bell's bed, licking his dry lips. Actually, he did feel a bit thirsty. Last night's consumptions had tasted better going down than they were coming back up. Slowly Landon sat up, the sheets pooling around his waist. He wouldn't really get much done today, that was for sure.
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