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Maybe it wasn't what he wanted to hear, but at least it was the truth. Daniel looked away, down, at the baby. Bell-boy's words summed up his life and most of the relationships he'd had. Sometimes he'd be stable for months and the medicine would work. And sometimes he'd go off them and be himself for a while, only for the world to unanimously reject his very existence. Bell-boy was no exceptions to that rule. He wasn't special. Their love was meaningless. It was easy to blame all of his behaviour on a lack of memories. Daniel wanted to buy into that side of the story, but fuck. He'd told Bell-boy what they were to one another and he'd just been tossed aside like a used condom.
"There's nothing we can do downstairs either," Daniel pointed out. Except that it'd be colder and harsher than the humid, clammy little floor up on top of this building. Exposed to the world, people and goats from Haven might find them once more. Hunters might give chase and try to kill them. Other goats would come to them, whether they hunted or not.
"Just leave me here," he sighed and shrugged Bell-boy off once they'd reached the door. Going nowhere wasn't going to solve any of the problems he faced, but Daniel just wasn't ready to deal with society's harsh reality after Haven's gentle indoctrination. There was something to be said for an empty mind.
His was overflowing with thoughts and feelings.
He looked at Bell.
"You'll only ditch me again later. Might as well do it now," Daniel said and rested his back against a wall. The baby in his arms was growing heavy. He needed to sleep and recover some of the energy he'd spent teleporting them out of that place. There hadn't been a city anywhere near by, so they had to be quite a distance away. Safe enough for Bell-boy to recover and pick up the fight with whoever he pleased again.
"I just-... I just need a moment," he excused and waved away any of Bell-boy's counter-arguments pre-emptively. There was no point for them to argue.
"I'll leave. I'll leave on my own," Daniel said, less certain than he wanted to bring across.
Bell nodded. Right. Of course his head would be fuzzy. He remembered it as well. Haven washed all the worries away. All the thoughts, too. Anything that wasn't convenient was wiped clean.
It was a goat? Bell regarded the baby. Why would a goat choose such a weak, helpless shell? It couldn't do anything like this. He handed the baby to Daniel, glad to be freed of it. Daniel could handle that thing as much as he wanted. Bell wanted none of it.
[i Maybe it was born like this.] If it was his and Lilah's, then there was every chance that it was a goat, by way of being the product of two goats. [i Seems weird, that human sex could lead to a baby goat.] Possible, he supposed. Goats were weird, and they did weird shit. He didn't pretend to understand them.
Bell looked at Daniel. "I made a mistake. I thought you'd be better off without me." He could see the look in Daniel's eyes: he wouldn't buy it unless there was something nasty mixed in, too. Bell sighed aloud. "And I was tired. I couldn't deal with it anymore. There was no getting better, Daniel. You just kept getting worse. There was no hunting. No... nothing. All I could do was take care of you. That's what it felt like, anyways."
"And I guess I didn't remember you enough to stick around. Is that what you wanted to hear?" Bell looked at Daniel. This is what he wanted, right? A confession of all Bell's misdeeds. For Bell to admit that he'd done everything wrong. It didn't matter, really. Daniel had already given up on him.
He shifted his weight and looked at Daniel. "Let's get downstairs. There's nothing we can do up here." He offered his shoulder to Daniel again, then started for the door. Hopefully there'd be an elevator somewhere they could use to get down to the ground floor. He was not up for a skyscraper's worth of stairs.
At least the baby had quieted down now. He shook his head. How was something so small so loud? Babies were the worst. He didn't want any part of it. Maybe he'd sneak away and leave it with Daniel, since Daniel didn't want him around anyways. Of the two of them, Daniel had a chance of keeping the stupid thing alive.
A game plan? Daniel stared at Bell-boy.
He'd had exactly ten minutes to think up a game plan and all he felt was anger. Anger at Bell-boy, at himself for stupidly staying in Haven and accepting their equivalent of 'help'. And then hurt. All this time, he hadn't felt anything other than the Lilah-induced peace. The silence she'd brought was deafening and Daniel was certain that he wouldn't have maintained a sense of self if it wasn't for the goatling.
Daniel grunted when Bell-boy picked him up, but he was too sapped to resist. An exposed ladder awaited and Daniel shrugged free from Bell-boy's grasp to slowly climb down it. His arms were trembling by the time his feet touched the ground. It was clammy and humid on the floor they'd entered. Maintenance, it seemed. Probably the finer machinery governing the air-conditioning and elevators and shit lived up here.
He let go of the rungs he'd clung to when Bell-boy's feet came close. Daniel shuffled to the side a little bit, watching the man.
"I haven't been able to think straight," Daniel explained belatedly. If he had, he wouldn't have stayed at Haven. Even now, shit seemed too much, too fast. At least it was nice and toasty inside.
"It's a goat," Daniel said regarding the child. He found a nice place to sit down and motioned for Bell-boy to hand back the baby. He'd quiet it down. There was no place they could go while the infant wailed as it was. Teleporting was probably just as confusing to it, as it was to them. To reassure the baby, Daniel sent it a few haphazard images of comforting things. The scent of milk, the sensation of dry sheets against the skin, the feel of being bounced on a leg. Simple things.
It seemed to work, to some extent. Some emotions came over. A sense of nausea.
Daniel pushed them away. He didn't want to feel that twice.
They needed money.
Supplies. The child would grow hungry soon. Daniel looked at it and sighed out. Shit. They had nowhere to go. Leaving the child was not an option. Haven's people would certainly try to find it again. In a sense, they were fortunate it wasn't closer to them than it was to him.
"Why did you even come back?" Daniel started. Regret? He didn't believe a word of it. Maybe if Bell-boy didn't lie about it, he would at least accept Bell-boy's side of the story.
"I wouldn't..." He looked down. How could he say that for sure? He'd abandoned Daniel once. There was every chance he'd do it again.
His kid. He stared at it. Hard to believe. He'd never wanted a kid. Nothing changed now that he was staring it in its tiny pudgy face. It screamed at him. Bell tried holding it differently, up against his body. All that did was put himself in the range of its tiny little fists. He made a face. [i Great.] This was his new companion, huh?
[i Really did not swap up.]
The goat--? Bell glanced at Daniel, then sighed and wiped his face. It wasn't over, was it? They still had to go back. [i I have to go back.] Daniel was free.
He glanced at his leg. It was bleeding. Not too badly, but it didn't look great, either. He'd only just gotten out of the hospital too, on top of being a bird for a while.
"So what's next for you?" Bell asked. He didn't know what to feel. It didn't feel real, yet. None of it felt real. Daniel couldn't be leaving him. He could still fix this, except he knew it couldn't. There was no way to fix it. It was all over. "I mean, what's the game plan for you? Heading home?"
He pushed up and staggered to the roof entrance hatch. It lifted at his yank and creaked backwards, revealing a dark, cool square into the skyscraper. Bell walked over to Daniel, slid his arm under the man, and hoisted him up. He wasn't about to leave Daniel alone on top of a skyscraper. There was only one way that could end, and it wasn't well.
"You're leaving me anyways, so what does it matter? As long as you're happy." So what if Daniel wasn't the same? He didn't want to be around Bell anymore anyways. [i I'm the only one who really knows him, so it won't change a thing.]
He waited for Daniel to climb down the ladder on the inside of the hatch, then followed. It was slow going with a baby in one arm. He paused once he was on the slats, then pulled himself close, grabbed a lower rung, and stepped his feet down.
[i What's next for me?] He looked at the crying baby. He didn't have the money to take care of the kid, let alone the desire. [i Should probably figure out where to leave it for adoption.] Anyone else would take better care of it than he would.
It was almost cathartic , seeing Bell-boy flail with the child in his arms, clueless on what to do with the wailing baby. Lilah was dead. He could think. Thoughts tumbled over one another, but unlike previously, they didn't overwhelm. They just were. A mistake, huh?
"Sure it was a mistake," Daniel snapped. "And you'll make it again, and again, and again, each time you forget," he said. Twice now that'd happened. Once he'd been able to convince Bell-boy to stay. Once he hadn't. He looked at Bell-boy clumsily holding the child with disdain.
"It's your child, Bell-boy. You killed its mother," Daniel explained. Money. That was a good one, actually. Daniel looked around and sighed out, light-headed and drained from the jump or teleport, or whatever it was they did. Displacement.
He didn't have anything other than the clothes on his back either. Oh, how the tables had shifted.
"You knew what you were doing very well, Bell-boy," he corrected the man's words. "You fucking abandoned me," Daniel said, with less energy than he wanted to. Rather than fight more, Daniel walked to the ventilation system and sank down, just to have something supporting his back. He'd stay here for a while.
From his perch on the floor, Daniel stared at Bell-boy mistreating the child. Not that it mattered. It was a goat. If the shell died, it'd adopt a new one. Another copy? Daniel tipped his head back. Sometimes he wished he didn't have the connection to the goatling that he did. Then he wouldn't have had to know about his copy and its non-existence.
"It's not dead." He sighed out, "the God-goat in Haven. It's not dead."
Bell-boy had his hand extended, but even if he wanted to take it, Daniel didn't feel like moving another inch. He'd moved enough in the span of a second to last for hours. He closed his eyes and tried to rest up enough to actually move. Get his shit back together after Haven.
"Well, it worked," Daniel said with a slight snort.
"The goatling went virus on me and changed my DNA," he dead-panned. "I'm not even the man you left."
Daniel hung his head.
"You should just go."
Alone. What was the point? Bell-boy was a shell. A bad copy of what once had been an ordinary young man, moulded into a murderer.
A hand grabbed his, and then everything went sideways. Bell came out the other side dizzy and discombobulated. He stumbled towards the nearest edge to puke, and only registered after his puke was streaked down the windows just how far up he was. His hands clenched at the edge, white-knuckled. [i Holy shit. How are we going to get down?]
He pushed back. It took physical effort to let go of the edge. He ripped each hand free and jumped back, as though it might bite him. Daniel snarled something, and he turned in time to grab a baby.
"What--? Daniel, wait," Bell begged. He held the child awkwardly by the armpits, not really sure what to do with it. [i I don't want a baby.]
"Daniel, it was a mistake, it was all-- I couldn't remember, I thought you'd stabilize if I just left you alone, I thought I was the one ruining your sanity, but--but I was wrong, Daniel, I was wrong, I-- please don't leave. Please."
He looked up at Daniel, not even sure the man was listening. But he had to try. He couldn't be alone. Not with a baby. What was he even supposed to do with it? Raise it? He couldn't even keep another grown man alive, how was he supposed to raise a kid?
"Please, Daniel, I can't, I can't support a kid on my own. I don't have any money. Are you going to leave it on the streets with me?" He swallowed, nervous. He'd never gotten anywhere pleading with Daniel. Never once gotten his way. It wasn't going to end well this time, either. He already knew, but he couldn't shut up. "Please, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't know what I was doing."
The kid was crying. Bell felt like crying too. "Shut up! Shut up," he snapped. It didn't listen. Of course it didn't. The kid didn't know he was its father. It had no way of knowing. "Daniel, you can't leave me alone," he tried, even though he knew it was stupid to say when he'd been the one to leave Daniel.
"At least off the skyscraper. At least down to the streets. Come on, please?" He held his hand out. If Daniel took it, he'd never let go. No matter what. He'd have to be knocked unconscious before he'd let Daniel get away.
The head of the snake was gone. Dead. Lilah. A tremor coursed through the collective, long enough for Daniel to break free. His victory wouldn't be long-lived. The baby's wailing increased. They had to get out. Kill the goat? God-goat? Now? Bell-boy's voice brought clarity: let's get out of here. An extended hand. Daniel scoffed at it, but not for long. He couldn't. The group was recovering. Daniel saw Bell-boy step outside, then back. He rushed up to meet the man and then reality warped. He'd never teleported with two other people in tow. The ride was sickening.
For a split-second, Daniel feared he might be chased, interrupted, but the voices stopped and only then did he release. They teetered to a stop on the top of a large sky-scraper. He'd been expecting a drain, but sank through his knees regardless, spent. Lilah was dead. He could think. For the first time in a long while, he felt what he was supposed to feel. And he had no energy whatsoever to act on those furious emotions. Daniel tried to catch his breath, and used what air he blew out to shush the child he'd inadvertantly put through the ringer. At least it, unlike them, wouldn't remember.
"Shh," he hushed the little one.
"Stop your crying already," Daniel groaned. Tight little angry fists clenched his white garb tight, snot and mucus seeping into the clothes. It was colder out now. Harsh and colourful. Dreary. He closed his eyes for a second and focussed on breathing. On just being who he used to be. It was too harsh a contrast, but unlike Bell-boy, he still remembered. Better still, he was 'cured'. But they weren't together no more, now were they. And now he was stuck with a child. Actually.
Daniel teetered to a stand.
"Fuck it," he decided.
"Have fun," Daniel snarled and handed Bell-boy the baby. He wanted nothing to do with the man who'd abandoned him and left him to rot in Haven. It'd been his own doing. Daniel ran his hair back and took a deep breath. So cold. He had nothing now. Just his sanity. Shit had been better when he wasn't fully aware of what shit-show they were actually in.
He heard a heavy blow behind him, but felt no pain. Bell turned to find Daniel there, barely recognizable under the sheath of goat's flesh. "Daniel!" he shouted, but a flash of black brought his attention back to Lilah. Her leg scythed past his face, drawing a sharp red line.
[i Just--kill her!] He grit his teeth and pushed forward. Legs snapped down all around him. Bell whirled and sidestepped. His clothes were caught, his skin cut, but he managed to avoid any vital blows. [i But I can't hit Lilah like this, either!] If it kept up like this, he would lose. He could already feel exhaustion setting in. He was slowing down.
He jumped, but his leg refused to put out all the power he needed. It was bleeding where Lilah had bit it earlier, his pant leg red with blood. Lilah lunged and dug her teeth in again. Bell cursed. He slammed the pipe down on her head, then turned it around so the short end was pointing down. The goat's strength welled up in him, almost without having to think about it. He speared it down, through Lilah's head, into the concrete below.
Lilah squealed and squirmed like a stuck bug. Bell yanked his leg free and abandoned the pipe to beat her with his bare hands. He dug his fingers into the cracks in her armor and yanked them apart. Black blood welled up underneath. He kept digging. Her legs flailed wildly. Sometimes they caught him, but he paid her no mind. Deeper. Further. Until her body began to turn to dust.
He yanked his pipe out of the concrete and staggered back. "Daniel, let's get out of here," he said, extending his hand. Then he hesitated. [i Daniel hates me.] Would he bother to help him out of Haven?
It didn't matter. He started to limp out, past splotches of black. Goats lurked around every corner, waiting to strike. [i There's no way I'm getting out of this on my own,] Bell realized. It was up to his goat, or Daniel's intervention.
A goat lunged at him. Bell shut the door on its face. [i I can't leave the house.] Outside the door, the goat started beating on the house. He could feel the structure shake. Dust flew as cracks formed in the drywall. The door dented in around its blows. [i I guess this is it.] Bell held his pipe up at the ready. He wasn't going to die without a fight.
No. Bell-boy's fighting was going to bring down the whole herd upon them. Anger exploded in his chest when Bell said the words that he did. Love? What did he know about love? Bell didn't have the right to love him. He'd been abandoned. Daniel hitched the baby up on one shoulder and approached the goatling. It circled around him, as if greeting a lover, and became another limb, an extension of who and what he was. It was as if this was what it had been waiting for all those months.
Goats approached. Daniel knew them all.
The goatling screeched, tearing at the connection these goats had to Lilah. He had to protect Bell-boy for as long as was needed. For as long as it took to kill Lilah. Reality contorted around them, tore at the tendrils that came at them and broke the goat's essence apart. Another goat tried to tackle him, hurdling at him with break-neck speed. He shifted, displacing himself and the goat rushed right past into someone else.
They merged and became a bigger something.
Daniel watched each and every single one of the goats. The murmur of talk amongst them was almost deafening now that the connection to Lilah was severed. Some remained loyal. Or maybe they were branches too. Parts of the goat they had failed to defeat all that time ago.
One of them lunged for Bell-boy and the goatling displaced itself, took the brunt of the attack without questioning the need for their sacrifice. Misplaced loyalty. Daniel's thought resonated inside the goatling, even as it tore apart the attacking goat. Another tried, and another. They'd settled on a new tactic, learning quickly from the mistakes of the ones before.
The goatling deflected the blows, but it seemed tearing apart the attacking goats' matter had become more difficult now. Claws and teeth ripped at flesh and bone. Black essence evaporated in the air, creating a black stain on what was normally a white Haven. The baby started to cry. Daniel backed up, forced to by the onslaught. More goats came at him now. At him and Bell. They'd have to leave soon. Even if the connection between these goats was hampered, they repaired quickly. They learned with frightening speed, similar to the goats they'd met back in his home country.
He glanced at Daniel. Fear sparked in his stomach again, waking him from the peace he'd almost sunk into. [i Daniel's gone. They destroyed him.] He was just another citizen of Haven, now, an automaton. A doll. [i No! I have to get him out of here.]
Jaws closed around his leg. He looked down, startled, but it was the goatling. The goatling wearing a form he'd never seen before, but undeniably the goatling. Bell reached for his pipe and backed away from Lilah, put himself between her and Daniel, who was still holding the baby. "No. Not this time."
Daniel echoed his sentiments. He looked at Daniel. This time, there was a spark of life in his eyes. Of anger. Of sorrow. But life. Emotion. Existence. [i They didn't ruin him after all!]
"Haven has no place on this earth," Bell said, and swung at Lilah.
Her body shifted as he swung, hips rotating back so her head flew out of his reach. Black burst out seconds later. It tore through her white dress, through her pale skin. Lilah's goat leaped. Midair, a mouth split out of dark flesh, and then it was on top of Bell.
He jammed his pipe up just in time to catch the upper jaw as the mouth closed in on him. The goat screeched. Bell kicked it back. It scurried away, black spider eyes following him. He chased it a step forward and smashed its leg in. The goat backed out of reach, injured leg held high.
All throughout Haven, he heard the bone-cracking, skin-tearing sound of goats emerging. Bell's stomach clenched. [i That's a lot of goats.] He glanced at Daniel. "If we don't make it out of here alive--I love you, and it was a goddamn mistake to leave you for a second."
Then he charged at Lilah-goat, his pipe held high. It raised a pair of limbs to parry the blow, so he kicked instead. Spider eyes burst under his boot. It screeched. Fast as lightning, it darted forward and bit him, latched onto his leg. Bell beat it as hard as he could, using every second it held onto him to get another blow in.
Heavy footsteps sounded upstairs. Something blocked out the sun behind him. Bell clenched his teeth and hit Lilah-goat again, harder. [i Damn it!]
Out of here? Where to? Daniel let himself be pulled up docilely, offering no real resistance, though it would be harder to tend to the child's needs if they left. Lilah was there then. Daniel was still stood, feeling hollow and empty, like a spectator. Some messages of curiosity were pushed across, but Daniel felt they were distant now that Lilah was here somehow.
Lilah pressed a hand to Bell's face. Daniel felt something twinge then, anger? Jealousy? The baby reacted to the emotion, felt it out. The goatling resonated it. Neither took action. Daniel remained still. Dirtied?
Cleansed. Oh. Right. Their God. It could cleanse Bell. He would forget all.
Bell pulled him along. Daniel let him.
And then Bell-boy hesitated again. He didn't offer anything up to Bell but an empty expression. He wasn't sure what they were doing or where they were going. It hadn't been that long ago; the goat's adjustments to get rid of his mental instability and the sickness that brought about.
"You... need to be... cleansed," Daniel murmured softly.
He hadn't spotted it at first, but behind Bell an animal tread from the shadows, black as night. A hound. It stood behind Bell and pulled at his leg, near enough bit it. The resonance within him increased. Daniel blinked and shook his head. Every cell in his body felt as if it was shifting painfully, clicking in place now that the rest was here. He saw himself through its eyes and it watched through him.
The rest of the goatling. Of course.
Feelings, emotions, coiled just underneath the surface. When had he stopped fighting it? Daniel shook his head again, faltering. The near empty bottle of milk tumbled to the floor, forgotten. In and out. That's how he'd gotten Bell-boy out the first time. Bell couldn't make the same mistake.
"Be gone," he told the goatling. It had to leave. Leave and take Bell with it. Leave for safety.
It shifted then. Black broke out from underneath dark fur. Eyes unfolded itself and it spread a wide jaw of razor-sharp teeth. Daniel looked at it, with more clarity he'd felt in months. They were of one mind. Connected. The child in his arms tentatively explored the connection between them, but it was easily shoved aside by the goatling. Daniel turned his focus on Lilah. If they weren't fleeing, they were fighting.
"It's time to end this."
[i Your] child. Bell blinked. He couldn't--he didn't... [i Lilah.] He stared. Now that he was looking, it did look like him. It had his eyes. Lilah's hair, but his eyes. And the little jowls. It looked at him, whites showing under its little round eyes, then leaned toward Daniel. He didn't know what to feel. What to think. Here was Daniel, holding his child. Not their child. His. And Daniel. He swallowed. He couldn't--what was he supposed to do? Supposed to think? It was all mixed up inside. Nothing made sense.
He couldn't finish what he was saying. Bell looked at Daniel. His eyes were empty. This wasn't him. It wasn't really him. He hadn't gotten angry. Hadn't reacted at all. This was Haven. He needed to escape.
Okay. Plan. He needed a plan. First, he'd get Daniel out of here. Then he'd figure out what Daniel wanted to do. Bell nodded to himself. Sounded good.
"Daniel--Shh!" he said. Daniel did not need to call Lilah over here! "Let's get out of here. Come on." He pulled at Daniel to stand. Bell glanced at the kid. It stared back at him, angelic and adorable and--it couldn't be his. He couldn't create something like that. "Leave the kid behind. Come on."
He grabbed Daniel's arm and pulled him toward the door.
"Bell! You came back."
Bell stiffened. [i No.] He glanced up. Lilah beamed at him from the doorway. Her blonde hair was longer, but otherwise she looked exactly the way she had when he'd met her. As though she hadn't aged a day.
"Daniel, come on," Bell repeated. He backed away from Lilah.
"Where are you going?" Lilah frowned at him.
Bell paused. Where [i was] he going? He was in Haven. He'd been happy in Haven. He should stay.
Lilah moved closer. A soft hand pressed against his face. She looked over him, then furrowed her brows, concerned. "You've been dirtied. We need to cleanse you again."
Fear sparked through Bell's gut. [i I'm not going back in that room.] He backed away, taking Daniel with him. "I have to go. We have to go."
Lilah shook her head. "Why? You don't have to go anywhere."
Bell hesitated. [i Why do we have to go?] He looked at Daniel. Everyone was happy here. He could stay. Right?
'Daniel'. He turned around at the calling of his name. Bellwether. Something sparked inside of him; anger, something volatile, but as easily as it rose, it simmered into the white noise that was the 'peace', that doused all extremes into one level.
For a moment they were both frozen.
Daniel blinked, then looked at the child.
"You've come for your child," he said plainly. It wasn't even a question, because Bell wouldn't be coming here for him. He'd abandoned him. Maybe this was just a dream and he'd wake up from it soon.
"Lilah said it was your child," Daniel started and then faltered. Whatever other words he wanted to say died on his tongue. Small hands patted his wrist, trying to signal him that the milk he thoughtlessly held should be brought closer. And when that didn't work, there was another sort of jolt; the jolt of a goat's will. Daniel slowly looked down at the demanding child and brought the bottle closer.
Happy was just a word. It carried no meaning.
"I am-" peaceful? He couldn't even speak the words. They'd shut him up, made him deaf and dumb. Not that it mattered. Daniel gave up on trying to speak and that brought back the peace. He didn't have any worries. Haven would take care of him. He didn't have to concern himself with anything.
Daniel focussed on the child and turned away from Bell. He was asking difficult questions. Besides, he was probably there for Lilah and the baby. Which meant he ought to go.
"Lilah? Bell is here," Daniel called out softly, without energy. He sat down in a chair and focussed on feeding the child, making a game of sending impressions to the young goat. In return, he got a few uncoordinated messages, opinionated and without nuance.
'Who was the stranger?'
Curiosity. It was new. Another person. It was curious as to who this one was. Was it closer than some? Daniel confirmed it. To it, this one was closer than most. Like he was closer than most. In a way, they were almost brothers. This a child of Bellwether's, the goatling inside of him a child of the goat.
Motion down below. He peered over the branch. [i Daniel!] The man was sitting quietly. He looked happy. Looked...stable.
Bell fluttered closer. There was a child. Pain stabbed into his heart. [i How could Daniel--] But he'd done it too, hadn't he? When he hadn't known what he was doing.
[i How long was I a bird?] He inched closer, then took off and fluttered to the roof, caution thrown to the winds. This wasn't right.
Or was it? Daniel was stable. He had an ordinary life; a kid, a woman. Was it fair to lay claim to him, to tear him out of everything he could be out of Bell's selfish desires? It didn't feel right to make a move. But he didn't want to sit here, either.
[i Maybe... if I can talk to him. Say goodbye.]
No sooner had he thought it than his body changed. There was a rush, an uncomfortable squirming, and then Bell was crouched on the edge of the roof. He jumped and lost his balance. Bell threw his weight back against the roof, but the roof didn't have enough friction to hold him. He slid down and fell, into the waiting bushes.
Bell made a face and blew a leaf out of his mouth. [i Great. So smooth. No one will know you're here.] But that just meant there was no time to waste. He was in Haven, if the white in all directions was any indicator. If anyone knew he was here, he'd never be allowed to leave.
Daniel sat just inside the window. Bell stared at him for a second, then rushed around the corner and opened the door. It was unlocked. Doors were never locked in Haven, except where there were secrets to hide. "Daniel," he greeted the man, and realized he had no idea what to say. Bell froze, hesitant. [i I shouldn't have come. I shouldn't have come to speak to him. Should've just left him be.] But how could he? This was Haven. Daniel wasn't safe.
"Daniel, are you happy?" he asked at last, not sure what else to say. "Are you happy here?" If he was, he wouldn't bother the man. He'd leave like he was never here. Go be a bird. Let the goat find a new shell. Nothing mattered anymore, if Daniel could be happy without him.
Daniel sat staring ahead of himself, a lifeless expression on his face. Whenever there was a break in routine, it felt as if his thoughts simply shut themselves off. It was nice out now. Sun lit the white buildings that were scattered about. The child resting against his chest stirred gently, squeezed its little hands into a fist and fell back asleep. It was closer then some. Unlike Lilah, who connected to the others, Daniel hadn't felt the same connection to anyone other than the small child. It looked human enough, though it wasn't.
Again his thoughts faded.
A jolt sparked action into him. Daniel got up and did as he was asked; make food for the child, who had now woken up. Lilah was there, smiling at him. No emotions sparked at the sight. Sometimes he would cede to the pull and be in a different place. Sometimes he'd be out in the desert, occasionally he'd see Bell. Sometimes there would only be black and the goatling would be there.
He'd wanted to leave at first. After the goatling had infested his body more thoroughly, after it had painstakingly altered each individual strand of DNA to correct the defect that made his mind fray. But then Lilah had convinced him to stay, to help take care of the baby. That it would be the closest he could get to Bellwether without actually finding the man, who obviously abandoned him. Daniel hadn't wanted to agree at first.
But he'd caved at some point and he'd been weakened by what the goatling had done. Strength he easily recovered.
He didn't even remember how or when he'd given in.
Another jolt. The milk was warm enough now. Daniel took it and fed the child, patiently, calmly. Without joy or emotion.
Each motion was orchestrated by something other than him. Daniel felt like a puppet whose strings were pulled and he failed to care. His life wasn't his own; he'd abandoned it the second Bell-boy had left him. He was. Content.
Whether he lived his life like this or out in the real world, it made no difference to him. It was all the same.
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