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"Fine," Landon replied curtly, trying to catch the man's finger to prevent further prodding to occur. Watching Bell get comfortable was actually sort of weird. Like he shouldn't be flesh and blood -wasn't flesh and blood. A quick glance over to the desk confirmed Daniel wasn't making a reappearance and still, Landon would've preferred to face towards the room, rather than the back of the couch. There was no helping it though, with Bellwether wiggled behind him. If Landon wanted to get any shade of comfortable, he was going to have to spoon up to the man.
Not that was any punishment.
He'd just feel unguarded.
The feeling would pass -he was fine, right? Right.
So not seeing Daniel and all sorts of other shit. At least it seemed trivial as compared to what the goat-blood made him see.
"That your new pet-name for me? Sometimes you surprise me, Bell," Landon whispered in the man's ear as he shifted and laid down behind Bellwether. His knees found the space where Bell's were drawn up, and Landon wiggled an arm around Bell's waist, sticking his hand down a pocket for warmth. The other arm went underneath Bell's neck, and though Landon was fairly certain the arm would fall asleep after a few hours, it felt comfortable and snug then.
Maybe it was Bell's scent, the man's warmth or knowing that whatever was going to try and kill them was going to be fighting a goat in the worst case scenario, but Landon fell asleep almost straight away. Curled around the most dangerous goat of all; the one who scared the others into death. It wasn't a good thing. A bellwether wasn't supposed to know and the goats weren't supposed to know about their pending doom.
The balance had been disturbed. Mr. Pan could be blamed -Landon could be blamed.
At least things would change now.
It was the middle of the night when Landon started away, breathing rapidly. He'd been running through the park in the dream -in the dark, at night. Only a sliver of moon-light illuminated the gravel paths and in those shadows had been goats. Not just one, nor a dozen. But hundreds, maybe all of them -a thousand. They all squirmed like ants, tumbling and slithering over and through one another, plying limbs in unnatural ways, eyes haunting and empty, jaws slack and expressionless.
Landon blinked at the darkness without seeing anything. Slowly outlines became visible, and Landon prayed in his mind that they were merely human and plain furniture.
Landon was definitely acting weird. No doubt about it. And not normal paranoia weird, either, but full-blown mental-hospital weird. He grabbed Bell's coats, which was surprising in of itself--and not in a sexy way or an angry way but more like...possessive? Worried? He couldn't read it. It didn't make any sense at all to him. "Hey, uh, what're you doing--"
And then Landon stood, dragging Bell's clothes with him. Bell pulled against him, and his coat slipped free of Landon's hand; he leaned around the edge of the couch to watch as Landon crossed to the desk, looked intently at the blank surface, scowled deeply, and then swiped through the air as though knocking away a cloud of bugs.
"Uh, everything okay?" Bell asked, as Landon stomped back over and slumped back next to him on the couch. His mind flashed back to the meds Landon's woman had offered him, and suddenly he wondered if they shouldn't have taken the pills with them. Maybe Landon was seriously fucked up in the head.
[i Maybe?] Now that was a joke. Who'd come along with him, unless they were fucked up in the head?
But even so, it was worrying. He was living with Landon, fighting alongside him, occasionally fucking him. He couldn't just let it go. He'd have to keep an eye on that.
Having at this point made the assumption that Landon wasn't going to make a move, he laid down lengthwise on the couch and poked the other man, half raised so his head and shoulders weren't in Landon's lap. "Hey, lay down sideways if you're going to sleep, don't hog up the couch like that," he complained. Even if they weren't going to have sex, they could still share the couch and body heat.
Too impatient to wait for Landon to move, he wiggled down between the other man and the couch, his back to Landon. It was actually pretty warm and snuggly like that, since Landon was holding him up on the couch. Still, it wasn't as warm as it could be, so he wiggled some more to urge Landon on. "C'mon, couch hog," he grumbled, voice muffled by the couch.
Sending Bell a glare, Landon sighed and eased up a little, focussing on the can and tucking into the potato as he waited for Bellwether to hand over the can-opener. Landon was starving; a couple of sandwiches and a plate of egg really wasn't enough to keep him going all day, let alone recover properly from not having eaten for a couple of days on account of throwing up blood and whatever else. Was Bell more used to going for long periods without food? Likely.
Rolling his eyes, Landon snatched the can-opener from Bell's hands and started working on opening the can without burning his fingers. After a while, the metal gave and he handed back the opener. The beans were tasteless, as expected, and so was the potato, but they were warm enough for just about long enough.
"Dya have to piss in here? It's gonna smell like no tomorrow," Landon muttered grumpily as he moved out of the way, eyes lingering on Bell's fingers opening the multitude of flies. It wasn't as if the drums could catch fire anyway, the fire would just die out in the end. Whatever.
Crumpling the potato peel into the aluminium foil, Landon decided to head up first, not really interested in watching Bell take a piss. Settling on the couch, Landon pulled out his phone and read the latest news. Nothing on the burnt building any more -maybe they'd given up the search, or they had widened its span and they'd narrowly escaped getting caught in the nets. Lily had sent him more messages, worried ones, but ever since the global positioning was turned off, she couldn't locate him no more. In the end she'd stop.
Bell startled him by plopping down next to him and Landon looked up for a brief moment before turning back to the scrolling numbers on the phone. He'd need to charge the phone soon. If only he could actually trust Bellwether to not mess up a congeneal visit to a diner or restaurant for like two seconds, it'd be fine and a whole lot easier.
Shutting the machine down, Landon looked over at Bell and inhaled, wanting to say something, but he changed his mind.
They were both tired; it would be senseless to start something now. Well, Landon was tired at least.
His nerves were frazzled, that's all. If only that was all.
Daniel was stood at the desk, looking at something on its surface and Landon cared little for finding out what it was exactly. Nothing good, he could see that much. One hand unconsciously crept up on Bell and clutched the man's coat, clothes, whatever was up for grabs first. Landon's eyes kept trained on Daniel. The man turned around and grinned, leaning against the desk cockily.
[i 'Don't you want to see? That goat made you see -watch a little more, you seemed so fucking eager back then,'] he spat challengingly.
Without regard for how it would look, Landon got up and stalked the desk.
Pictures; not the ones they'd made, but of his own dead corpse. Closing his eyes, Landon listened to Daniel's laughter.
[i 'That man's gonna kill you way before you will be able to. Just leave the sucker to it, let's go, without that bitch, we'll be free to do anything,'] he whispered.
One swipe through the air made the illusion falter and fade.
Great. Just great. Returning to the couch, Landon rubbed at his neck and slouched down, legs splayed out in a repeat-performance of that afternoon. Sleep. He just needed some sleep.
Landon brought back a couple of cans of beans, and Bell stuck them in the fire. He settled back down to watch some more, but now Landon was being all jittery, and it was hard to focus. He kept glancing up at Bellwether, but then looked away again, as though he'd only just avoided saying something. And then it was peering into the shadows as Bell retrieved their food, and jumping at the slightest sound. "Something bite your ass?" Bell asked, annoyed more than actually asking.
"Yeah I do," he said, to Landon's question, and pulled it out. He wiggled it in Landon's direction, then gripped his own can in a coat-covered hand and started working on it. Only once he was done did he hand the metal contraption off to Landon. "Don't break it," he warned the other man.
From another pocket came a well-stained metal spoon, and he set about on the beans. In his experience, they usually went cold first, where the potato could hold its heat for some time. True to form, although they were scalding when he started, they were only lukewarm by the time he finished. The potato was palpably cool by that point in time, and he devoured it quickly, not really bothering to waste his time tasting it.
The fire had all but died by the time they were finished, until it was only a few glowing red embers in the depths of the white ash. He stomped it out as best he could, then nudged Landon away. "I'm gonna piss this thing out, go move somewhere else unless you've got a burning desire to see that." He wasn't about to waste precious clean water on it, and neither did he want to wake up in a burning building. He started undoing the various flies before Landon moved, to encourage the other into getting up now, rather than later.
His bladder empty, the fire well and truly out, he yawned and headed upstairs. He hadn't grabbed a water bottle earlier, and now he was feeling it; potatoes really would leave him parched, without something to wash them down. Though he'd been acting earlier, now that they were back and getting settled, he really was tired. Water bottle in one hand, he thumped down on the couch and twisted it open, chugging half of it down before he paused for breath. He had no idea what was bugging Landon so badly, but no way in hell was he initiating anyways. Despite his jokes, he wasn't actually that horny, what with yesterday. He could wait. Of course, if Landon did bring it up, that was another thing entirely. But honestly, he expected to go to sleep and nothing.
It was kind of mesmerizing to see how Bell could focus through ordinary chores -rather than bounce all over the place in an unstructured manner when there was nothing to do. They said boredom killed, and Landon believed it to be true now. Sitting down next to the crackling fire, he put his elbows to his knees and realized how cold he'd gotten wandering outside aimlessly. Not entirely aimlessly, but still.
The woman had genuinely appeared frightened. That fear; was what they were doing even helping, or were they a perfect case of the hero breaking it?
"What?" Landon blinked away to see Bell's expectant glance and his gaze went to the man's still hands. Oh. More food, right, that was probably a good idea, because there was no way just a potato would satisfy his hunger. Pushing to a stand, Landon stifled a few coughs from escaping and hauled himself up the stairs and sifted through the variety of cans they'd gotten. Beans was actually a pretty good suggestion and so Landon brought two of those down and lumbered on back down.
Had there been something up there?
Stopping on the middle of the stairs, Landon felt paranoia creep up his spine. Like there was someone behind him, except he knew there wasn't. He hadn't been paying attention. Had anything moved? Maybe Daniel moved some shit -just to get a rise out of Landon. Landon's knuckles were white around the cans, until he spotted Bell down in the work-area and swallowed. They were fine. Bell would've noticed if something was off, right?
Returning with the cans, Landon carefully placed them in the simmering ashes next to the potatoes. Crouched down, he peered into the burning embers, and then back at Bellwether. Maybe he should ask -whether something was off, but asking too many times got people suspicious. Briskly rubbing at his hair, Landon plopped back down on his ass and tried to push away the feeling of discomfort. He'd be the one sleeping with his back against the couch tonight, for sure.
Once the food rolled out of their fire, Landon took out his knife and carefully prodded the scorched foil, now black more so than metal-ish looking. It was hot, but actually smelled like proper food. Impatient, Landon almost burned his fingers trying to ply away the inedible wrapper.
"You got a can-opener, don't you?" Landon stated matter-of-factly, pushing a can upright with his foot. Was there a sound? Looking around, Landon listened for a while longer before cutting into the food and eating it -it cooled down rapidly in the factory. Weird, how cold became this indiscernible thing after a few days without heating.
Landon agreed easily enough, and they headed back. The walk back to the factory was uneventful, which he didn't mind at all--though he was careful not to retrace his steps or come within a hundred yards of the diner from earlier. He slipped past the plywood and almost immediately relaxed. Why did it feel so much nicer in here? Fundamentally, it wasn't that different from outside. There was no heat, no protection, no lock; but it was, he supposed, shelter. And nicer shelter than he'd been anticipating.
Still uncertain as to where Landon's mood sat, he largely ignored the other man, aside from a nod as he headed upstairs. "Potatoes sound good?"
He'd assumed from the start he was going to cook. He was the one who knew how to use a cookfire, after all, as opposed to Landon's spoiled self who'd be more used to a kitchen, or should he say, to a woman in the kitchen? He wouldn't let it stand forever, but teaching could happen another day. Today, Landon was moody and tired. If he tried to teach him today, it'd probably end in a shouting match.
A quick trip up and down the stairs later, and he'd retrieved a pair of potatoes, now wrapped in aluminum foil. The fire Landon had built was haphazard and far too large for cooking, so he took it apart. Using about a third of the wood, he built a log cabin, of sorts, stacking the kindling at the bottom and in the center, and building up, smaller sticks at the bottom, medium sticks in the middle, to the larger "logs" on top. Scrambling through his all-purpose pockets, he found a lighter and flicked it until a flame came up, held the flame to the twigs until the kindling burst into fire. Then he sat back and watched, huddling close to the flame for what little warmth it produced, until the bright red-orange flames died down to mere flickering, ash piling up black-white-and-gray in the bottom. Only then did he put the potatoes in the ash, occasionally feeding the fire just enough wood to keep it alive but not enough that it burst back into vibrant life. As opposed to the leaping fire, there was less heat, but the heat it produced was more intense. Where the first fire would have burned the potatoes, the second one would bake them through.
"If you wanna put anything else in--beans, whatever--now's the time," he said, glancing back at Landon.
It felt like a lifetime from the last time he'd built a cookfire, and in some senses, it was. That had been back in America, before this godforsaken island or Landon or any of the craziness, back when goats were just goats and not megalomaniac cult leaders. He sighed and poked at the fire with his designated fire stick, slightly bored but aware there was nothing else to do. He had to watch the food, or the food would burn, and they didn't have enough money to buy more from the way Landon was talking. He didn't think that Landon would take well to soup kitchens or dumpster diving for their meals, either. The man was used to good, wholesome food, not searching for scraps or swallowing his pride along with his meal.
"...ah, food's done," he said at last, and rolled the various foodstuffs out of the fire with a few precise and practiced pokes of his fire stick.
His perspective was more screwed up than Bell cared to know, most likely. Landon still counted himself amongst 'they' as well; having only been freed from the shackles of corporate society for a couple of days after all. And yet so much had happened, that going back would become a very odd experience. The luxury, the money, the needs and desires they were supposed to have were all meaningless when juxtaposed the basic drives. Perhaps that's why Bell's drive to main and kill was emphasised; because there was no social control. Fearing Landon would fulfil that place was probably setting the man on edge unconsciously. Landon liked to believe he didn't care for that, but he did. A volatile Bellwether wasn't someone he could stand up against quite yet.
The difference in strength was simply too great.
And at the same time, Bell was trying to pose being normal, that there were lines even he wouldn't cross -bullshit of course.
When Bell started the theatrics, Landon was about to call the man out on it, until he realized that'd just be cutting his own fingers. At least Bell was being considerate, in his own way.
"Sounds good," he confessed. They still had a walk ahead of them simply getting back to the factory, but Landon felt relieved they wouldn't be straying much further either. Bell could make dinner tonight -Landon couldn't be arsed to do so.
Funny, how quickly a dump became 'home'.
Maybe a car wasn't such a bad idea after all, but they were better off buying one on the main-land anyway: less cost in transportation and cars were cheaper. Rubbing at his eyes, Landon took a few deep breaths and tried to recall which way they'd taken -might as well take a different route back. They'd have a bigger chance of running into something else weird or funny.
The nice houses ended a couple of streets down, turning to large apartment-complexes and smaller houses, all set in neat little rows. It was getting late in the afternoon, more crowds gallivanting out on the streets, more people going home.
It was frightening, being free like that. Like being in free fall, separated from everything else with nothing to hold on to. Nowhere to go home to. Landon watched Bell's back as they walked back to the factory and figured that Bellwether could be a new home, because those feelings were there, misplaced and ugly as they were. If only their personalities got along the same way their bodies did in bed. Or on a couch, or whatever.
"Maybe," Bell allowed. He didn't really think so, though. They'd just gotten unlucky lately, running into all these wacko goats. Normal goats were still out there, it was just...none of them were around him right now. He gave Landon a look. Maybe it was his fault. It'd changed when he'd picked up Landon, after all. Maybe Landon attracted weird goats. And then he cracked a smile. No, that was completely ridiculous.
"Yeah?" Bell asked, when Landon commented about his work. He really didn't care, he was just being polite.
"Dunno, I think she'll probably go home and feel awful for profiling us handsome homeless men as being dangerous, or maybe she'll forget it even happened, or maybe she'll convince herself she got scared for no reason and we won't even be here tomorrow. I mean, she might take a new route. But usually they don't. At least, for the second time. If she sees us again, though...two strikes and you're out!" He mimed slashing a knife over his throat. "We'll have to be careful tomorrow is all."
"Normal as dirt to me. Your perspective is just screwy," Bell said. "Mundane life, what the hell. Who needs that? They're all just a bunch of stuck-up ignorant gits anyways."
He narrowed his eyes at Landon's next comment. "I was unconscious, thank you very much. So sorry my unconscious body didn't help much." He crossed his arms indignantly. He'd been unconscious since the man knocked him out with...well, it had to be chloroform, right? By the time he was awake, everything was over with and Landon was babbling about him being killed, which was still absolute nonsense. Probably in the heat and stress of his first fight alone, he'd mistaken things. It happened. It'd happened to Bell, before. Even now, he had a hard time remembering what had happened, exactly, in those first few fights.
He noticed that Landon was starting to fall behind and waited for the other to catch up. He looked exhausted, absolutely beat. Maybe he should've left Landon behind to take a nap, after all. The guy was still recovering from his flu, wasn't he? A part of him wanted to press on anyways, but common sense overrode it. What if they got into a fight now? Landon would be worse than useless: he'd be a liability. And Bell didn't want to face Warthog's friends and protect Landon at the same time, mostly because he was pretty sure he couldn't handle both.
"Ah, I'm tired," he said, with an exaggerated yawn. "Let's go home. We found a goat, that's enough. If we find another goat, it's not like there's anything we could do about it, anyways. We'll come here tomorrow, see if she shows up again, how's that sound?"
With that, he turned and headed back towards the factory.
"Maybe things have changed," Landon spoke cautiously -how far, no, how much could he say before the Bellwether-goat stepped in for a late-night visit and a funny little story, told in sharp pain and agonizing impressions?
"Eh, well, work wasn't exactly exciting in the way you prefer it to be," he said, "neither did we bash each-other's heads in." Most of the time Landon had spent sitting behind large screens glaring at colourful little numbers scrolling by. On occasion there'd be cheering and anger, but no real flying-mugs, bash-your-face-in kind of ordeals.
"If she comes back at all -maybe we spooked her into taking a different route for a while," Landon offered up, kicking at some small rocks. The later it got, the colder the air surrounding them, it appeared. It didn't help that the sun was glaring low at the horizon.
"Relax, I was just joking -put it in perspective, would you? On a scale of mundane life and goats, how normal are they, exactly?" Landon quipped, eager to pick a verbal fight with Bell after their prolonged silence, it seemed.
Act in a certain way -right.
Landon didn't know. All he knew was the three or four experiences he had, and so far they'd all seemed to vastly differ from what Bellwether was used to. Except maybe for the old lady.
"Hmph," Landon snorted when Bell started on Mr. Pan. He rather not go there at all. Allowing for Bell to explore what really had happened, coupled with the early mistakes Landon had made in terms of letting things slip, would only lead to Landon's subsequent demise.
"Yeah, well, next time I'd prefer it if you weren't goofing off," Landon muttered sourly. The knife plunging down Bell's chest still gleamed in Landon's mind, as if the image was scorched onto his retinas. One would think, or hope, that the following chaos had drowned it all, but that simply wasn't the case.
It was likely the woman was a goat -they would be scared, knowing Bell's secret. Again Landon was left alone to ponder when exactly the change had taken place. Bell knew about the goats, so had he escaped the first attempt at being replaced, but failed the second -or third attempt? Was the attempt even made by the same goat? It could very well be that Bellwether-goat had slaughtered the first, only to take its place in impersonating Bell. Where did that leave the real Bellwether though?
Still alive, or dead?
If only the man wouldn't be such an ass about his name, Landon could check some registers and search around. This neighbourhood was kind of nice, Landon noticed with mild interest. He was really starting to run out of puff though, dragging his feet a little as they continued their trek through town. A car would be nice. Hell, they ought to have a huge-ass broad-caster on top of a lovely ice-cream-van to draw more attention. That'd get them money too.
"Normally, it's not so extreme...usually there's no emotion involved, just a kind of...pause and curious look," Bell said, rubbing his chin contemplatively. "No one's ever been afraid of me before." He paused, considering what he'd just said, and shook his head. "I mean, no goat has recognized me and been afraid already." Plenty of people had been afraid of him, after all.
[i Like the way she'd flinched...]
Shoving those thoughts forcibly aside, he yawned. It seemed like Landon's hissy fit had calmed down, as evidenced by the way he'd opened his mouth and hadn't gotten his head bashed to bits. And thank goodness. He couldn't have taken much more of that. Even this much had been too much.
Bell shrugged helplessly at Landon's joke. "I dunno, could've been. I dunno what your work was like."
She had disappeared by now, completely gone from their field of vision, but Bell had made a note of which way she'd gone and ambled in that direction, not interested in directly following her but rather in getting a feel for the part of town she'd fled to. It looked like a fairly nice part of town, all new apartments and trendy bistros. He and Landon would stand out like sore thumbs. It'd make tailing her a pain in the ass, anyways.
"Probably," he muttered in response to Landon's rhetorical question. People were creatures of habit. "We should get here earlier, find an angle to stake her out where we won't spook her." As scared as she'd been, she'd probably recognize them if she came back.
He gave Landon a hard look at his next question. "There is a baseline of normal for goats, you know," he said as though it was obvious. "You remember those first two? They were normal, for goats. Mr. Pan was weird, though I don't think I need to tell you that. And what just happened right now, if she's a goat, that's weird too. They aren't [i normal,] but they do usually act in certain ways. If I'd run into another Mr. Pan before you showed up, it probably wouldn't have ended with me getting out alive," he said, shaking his head. "You had big game for your first solo kill, huh?" It was honestly pretty impressive. If he hadn't been there himself, he wouldn't have believed it.
"You tell me," Landon shrugged -he hadn't really been paying attention to how the older goat responded to Bellwether. Maybe this one had gotten sight of the memories from Mr. Pan and concluded a Judas amidst their perfect little flock ought to be feared rather than challenged. That said, Mr. Pan had already known, and wasn't as fearful of handling Bellwether at all. Mr. Pan hadn't expected Bellwether-goat however, nor its strength. Goats did not hunters make, with the exception of one.
Rolling his eyes at Bell's assumption, Landon raised his eyebrows in a silent 'really?'
"Yes, that's it! I'm the bane of my colleagues' existence -that's why she looked so frightened," he mentioned sarcastically, but there was something to it. Landon didn't know the woman, he was sure of it, and yet she seemed slightly familiar. Like a movie-star made unrecognisable under a dozen layers of paint.
What other ways did they have to discriminate a goat?
Landon shut his eyes and took a deep breath -their blood. Drinking a goat's blood would lead him to see things, whereas a human's blood wouldn't do anything. They didn't actually have to kill; maiming sufficed. Yeah, great alternative right there.
"Yeah, I'll recognize her a second time," Landon confirmed he'd gotten a good look at the woman's face. They'd stared at one another for some time after all. That was the clincher, wasn't it? So it only took three goats for them to all recognize Bellwether was no longer flying solo?
"What're the odds she'll go through the park again tomorrow?" he questioned no one in particular and took note of the time. Perhaps she worked nearby or lived close -at the very least there was something forcing her to cross the park. If she was genuinely spooked enough to remember and not have the experience suppressed by the goat, she'd likely take a different route next time. Just a little detour.
They ought to scout the streets and roads surrounding the park to see whether there was a place she'd likely work. Her attire had been semi-formal, so Landon assumed she'd work somewhere with other people. Like behind a desk or some other service.
At least he hadn't been the only one to notice, now that'd be awkward.
"Wait, goats are supposed to be normal?" Landon inquired, looking at Bell, conveying 'are you insane?' The look faded rapidly when Landon found his own answers to that. Tucking his phone back, Landon prepared to continue their little hike -they still had day-time to burn after all.
Landon seemed coiled up as tight as a snake ready to bite, and about as dangerous and potentially venomous, too. It was so hard to keep quiet, but he was determined to do it. It might even be that this was some backlash from last night, now that he was thinking about it. At the time, everything had seemed fine, but Landon had mentioned wanting to top. Maybe he had more of a problem with catching than he'd let on. Ah, damn, he just couldn't figure it out! At least he was straight-forward. He got pissed, you damn well knew the reason. Landon was like a woman, getting pissed out of nowhere from some nothing that'd happened hours or days ago, something Bell couldn't even pinpoint.
Though he didn't know it, his sentiments were somewhat aligned with Landon's. He wanted a fight, wanted one bad. But the world seemed determined to deny him. The park was so beautiful and quiet, ordinary people going about their ordinary lives in peace...boring, boring, boring. And he couldn't even screw around with Landon, with the man ready to kill like he was. Muttering something uncomplimentary about the man to himself, he kicked his jacket hard and made the bell ring out, attracting the attention of everyone nearby--and absolutely no goats.
Landon grabbed his shoulder and spun him, suddenly, and Bell turned limply with it. A young woman was staring at them openly, and when their eyes met, hers widened with fear. She spun sharply and hurried away, and Bell blinked after her. That had been a reaction for sure, but...not the kind he was used to. That was way more severe for a simple goat.
"What the hell was that?" he asked quietly, breaking his vow of silence. He tensed afterward, for just a heartbeat, then let it go. It was never going to last. Everyone knew that. Eventually he'd say something. "That's more than just a goat. Did you know her, Landon? Is she--" [i another ex,] he was going to ask, but stopped himself. Normally, yes. Right now, however, he had no burning desire to get his head smashed in. "--someone from the office?" he finished instead, and internally congratulated himself. Yeah, smooth. That'd been good. Landon shouldn't have noticed a thing.
"Did you memorize her face?" he asked, watching her go. "She looked spooked, I don't think it'd be good to follow her now. She's probably a goat, but..." [i but I've never seen one react like that before,] he finished silently. Outwardly, he shrugged. "That was just weird."
It was boring. The town was boring. The people were boring -the mother-fucking silence was boring already! Running in to Warthog would actually be a nice change of pace. Landon might've enjoyed the park at some other point in time but now it just provided a much unwanted lack of stimuli. Each person staring back at them with a mixture of mild disgust and pity received a foul look in return. Screw them all for being so condescending! They didn't know any of the circumstances and frankly, Landon hadn't either -maybe that's why Bell'd been such a royal ass-hole in the beginning. Not that it'd improved much.
Stuffing his hands deep down his coat, Landon kicked at invisible rocks as they meandered down the park's gritty roads. Runners passed them by, nose haughtily stuck in the air -mothers with strollers, nose down, pace picked up. People with dogs tightening their hands on their pet's leash gazed at them suspiciously. Young children looked over with curiosity. Not one in recognition.
Landon was getting tired, but after having been so rudely woken from his nap, he cared little for admitting that. He was almost better after that sodden flu, but still recovering. It wasn't fair to measure his recovery alongside a goat's one.
And then Landon noticed it.
It wasn't just a stare. The young woman didn't just stare. She was captivated and mildly fearful. Furrowing his brow, Landon reached out for Bellwether and grabbed the man by his coat, turning him by the shoulder to face the woman. Her eyes went wide, then lowered and her pace quickened.
There was something about her -was it an ordinary reaction?
Landon felt like he recognized her from somewhere.
From one of the visions.
It was faint like a déjà vu, no more pronounced than gently shimmering heat above a concrete road baking in the sun. Maybe in one of the gruesome scenes there'd been her face -the face of a dying human being brutally killed and replaced by a goat. It couldn't be though, right? Was he just seeing things? It didn't help that Daniel had been back at the factory.
The man's presence put question-marks on nearly everything.
Maybe she'd just been scared of being noticed.
Landon let Bell's shoulder go. At some point, out of all the kills Bellwether had made, there simply had to have been a mistake. At some point, Bell turned from a victim to a goat to a murderer.
Landon was really touchy today, wasn't he? Couldn't take a single joke. Was he on his man-period? Bell considered commenting on it, but immediately decided against it. Given the way the rest of his jokes had been going, that one would probably be enough to tip Landon over the edge into bashing his head in.
"I was joking, goddamn," he muttered, when Landon flipped him off. Seriously, what the hell? Why were Landon's panties so far up his ass right now?
Was it the episode at the diner that'd pissed him off? It'd be understandable, but...it didn't feel right. He'd been happy enough under the bridge. Was it some kind of offshoot of his weird paranoia? Could be, but then why would he be taking it out on Bell?
Landon's growl was indecipherable from downstairs, but he could hear it plainly enough, echoing in the big room. Bell flinched. Whoa. Okay, he'd pissed Landon way the hell off somehow. Damn, why did it seen like they had to take turns being happy, sometimes?
A part of him considered bolting, just taking off and making a run for it, coming back later, maybe, and asking Landon blithely what he'd done all day as though he hadn't run away. But no, no, as enticing as it sounded, if he ran away now it was sure to piss Landon off even more than he was already pissed. Maybe even enough to get him to leave, if Landon thought his joking threat had been serious. And maybe he should've taken Landon's threat more seriously in the first place. The guy clearly had some pent-up issues or something towards him. So instead of running, he waited awkwardly in the big foyer, scratching the back of his head absentmindedly.
He led the way out into the streets without a word, keeping any and all comments to himself. If everything he said pissed Landon off, then he wouldn't say anything at all. He didn't feel comfortable until they were some distance from the factory, and even then not until he was far from the diner where they'd had their run-in. Warthog would probably still be in the hospital, but his buddies would've heard of it by now, and they might be on the prowl already. At least he didn't see anyone giving them more than the usual dismissive look, for the most part. Disappointingly, there were still no goats, as far as he could tell. No one showed the slightest hint of recognition.
The town had a little park, and he led the way towards it. Parks were also good places to catch goats--though as he and Landon both knew, now, not exactly the best. There'd be a lot of people out, though, which meant he could vet them as goats faster. And if it was too early, then he'd just hang out and wait for the after-work crew to come by.
The whole suit-deal wasn't why Landon had chosen to accompany Bell, but Landon decided Bellwether had enough material to bust his chops already. Why the man had to be so aggravating at times, Landon couldn't fathom. Bellwether's apology was about as genuine as a woman's tears and he shook his head, sighing out. Maybe it was because of the paranoia that Bell could get on his nerves so easily. It shouldn't be so bloody easy.
Then again, should he be ready for an attack from the people he ought to trust every single time? Yes. Plain yes, period. Bell was a goat. He ought to -and not just verbal. Landon couldn't get sloppy by letting his guard down.
"Fuck you, Bell. If it's sex you want, go about it a different way," Landon told Bell off with a flick of a certain middle finger. He wasn't about to get threatened into doing anything -one of the perks of not having an employer-employee relationship. Hell, there wasn't even anything defined from the get-go.
The only preparing Landon planned to do, had nothing to do with making love.
For all Bell had raised his hackles, Landon knew splitting up was a bad idea, especially now. Warthog would have Bell's guts when left alone even quicker, though was that true? Bellwether couldn't die -the man didn't know this, but it was a fact. Would the goat murder humans? It probably would if it had been seen for what it was. It'd killed Jessie without pause or remorse and Landon wasn't sure he'd survive another encounter with Bellwether-goat himself. On the other hand, it was a chance to get more of the drawings, more insight into what lay behind the cogs.
It was clear there were white and black cogs; the white ones weren't inside a human yet, the black ones were. As it stood, the division was fifty-fifty, give or take.
And they were learning.
Each time a goat died, they shared the information of the dead goat. The second Bell died, killing the goats would become that much harder. They were of course, all assumptions.
Scratching his head, Landon let out an aggravated growl and looked Daniel straight in the eyes. "And what the fuck do you want!? Piss off!"
With that, Landon left their luxury abode and stomped down the rickety metal stairs, following Bell back outside.
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