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Voices filtered through -one in particular; Bellwether. And after he'd asked the guy to be quiet for a while too. Pain. It throbbed with each meek beat of Landon's heart. His pallor was gaunt, a sheen of sweat covering his skin, and his hand felt so heavy it might fall off. The lights were still so bright. Curling up a little tighter, Landon tried making sense of Bell's question -was it even a question?
A hand touched his forehead, brushed back hair. A comforting gesture?
Landon wanted to talk, say something, tell Bell about the pain and how it was impossible to get away from it, no matter how hard he tried. Landon wanted to ask for help. Someone. Anyone. Just. Help.
Landon's breathing was jagged and rough, gasps and grunts mostly. Grunts which were meant to be screams and shouts of agony, but came out voiceless. Landon wasn't exactly the most cooperative sack of shit, but somehow a couple of arms managed to get him lifted and on something only slightly softer than the floor.
The jarring of his hand nearly made Landon pass out and somehow, he wished he had. At least then there would be nothing for a while.
After what felt like infinity, there was a strange warmth pressing against his back. Landon wanted to tell Bellwether about the access-pass he'd snitched off of the guard. Surely the man would be proud.
And then there was oblivion.
When Landon came to, it was to the sound of a pathetic whine.
Oh. That was him. Landon's hand felt like it'd fall off, but the lights were less bright now -night-time, his mind supplied matter-of-factly. Not just less bright, less like they were piercing through his retina. So the goat blood's effects had finally wore off. That was good, because the hand was a mess of hurt, balling up tightly to encompass nearly his entire world. Nearly. Landon tried to turn onto his back without aggravating his hand, which was in itself a precarious endeavour.
Shit, his voice was gone.
It hurt to talk. Hazel eyes peered around the cell and finally slipped shut again. He couldn't let Bell heal him, couldn't allow the goat to. Part of Landon knew Robert was far from finished however. The sadist would beat Landon within an inch of his life to get what he wanted. Either Robert truly hated goats or he envied their strength. Men with power always sought more.
Landon was tossed in unceremoniously, gasping in pain. He landed and curled up, pressing his hands against his chest, and Bell jumped off his bed and ran to him. After the first two steps, his legs gave out and he fell heavily to the floor; as the guards slammed the door shut with an almighty clang, he crawled to Landon's side. Once there, he hovered, afraid to touch. What was wrong? Where had they hurt him?
"I'll kill you!" he shouted after the guards, as they walked calmly away. "I'll get out of here and when I do, I'll kill every last one of you fuckers! There's nowhere you can hide, because no matter where you go I'll find you, I'll find you and I'll murder you--"
Someone slammed against the wall of his cell from the adjacent cell. "Shut the fuck up!" they snapped, annoyed.
Bell glared at the cell wall, but already the guards had retreated. Clenching his teeth out of fear of what he'd see, he looked down at Landon.
At first, he couldn't pinpoint what had gotten hurt. His body looked fine. There was no blood on his face, no bruises. None of his limbs were visibly broken. "What's wrong?" he asked quietly, hands hovering over Landon, afraid to touch.
That was when he saw the hand.
Landon's hand had been destroyed. Mangled beyond repair. It barely looked like a hand anymore; he doubted there was a bone unbroken. It was already swelling, and showed no sign of stopping. The nails were black, the skin mottled purple and blue; his hand hurt just to look at it. "Fuck," he breathed, grimacing. He gently pushed Landon's hair back from his face and found his hands were trembling--trembling with barely-contained rage. He wanted to kill someone. Anyone.
[i Why not yourself?] a little voice asked. If he died, the goat would come out, right? It'd heal Landon and everything would be fine. He cast around for something to kill himself with, something that wouldn't take too much effort.
"Alright, let's get you back on your cot," Jim said, and reached down to pick Bell up. Bell struggled, however weakly, and to his surprise, Jim let go. "If you're going to be an ass, I won't help you," he warned, and picked up Landon instead, carrying him with some effort back over to the bed. "Whoa, they fucked him up," he said, and for some reason he sounded startled.
"Kill me," Bell demanded.
"What?" Jim asked, taken aback.
"Kill me," Bell repeated.
"Fuck no," Jim said. "I don't want one of those creepy things anywhere near me, they're terrifying. And they've got a propensity to murder people. That's putting aside the fact that you'll fall into a coma if it comes out again while you're like this."
"So what?" Bell said. Landon was a real person. So what if he fell into a coma? So what if his goat killed Jim? He didn't care.
"So, no one's killing you," Jim said. He walked back over and made a second attempt to pick Bellwether up. Again Bell struggled, and this time, Jim threw his hands up. "Fine, have fun on the floor," he muttered, and retreated to his cot.
Bell crawled--slowly, laboriously-- back over to Landon's side, though he didn't have the energy to climb onto the cot when he got there; instead, he leaned against it, head propped against the thin mattress, one hand pressed against Landon's back to reassure him, to let him know Bell was there. Bell was there, and when he got the chance, he was going to murder every last idiot who'd dared lay a hand on Landon.
Landon didn't realize what was happening until the first blow struck his left hand. Hands restrained him, there was a loud noise -Landon's own voice, shouting, screaming in agony- and he bucked involuntarily against the pain. Angela bit her lip and glanced away, but then forced herself to watch. She'd seen Robert harm goats before but they had never established Mister Turner to be one and all her observations lead to one conclusion Robert too had already drawn: the man was overly sensitive to every sensory input right now -including pain. The screaming didn't stop.
They were guttural screams and sounded like an animal in pain.
It just turned up in volume whenever the hand was struck, whenever a bone was broken and quieted down only when Landon either passed out momentarily and finally when the man's voice gave out.
By that time Landon was a shivering mess, still screaming, only silent now.
Angela recognized the symptoms of shock; they might kill the man prematurely if they continued, with the man dying from a heart-attack.
"Stop," she commanded through the speakers.
Robert paused, slightly annoyed, but also pulled back from his private little world of sadistic pleasure. The guard heeded Angela's command immediately. Landon's hand was a clump or contorted flesh and bones. The man himself appeared to be convulsing now.
Nodding his consent to the guard to back off, Robert brushed down his shirt and turned away.
"Take him back to his cell, we'll continue this another time," Robert promised. Landon was too out of it to acknowledge the threat. His entire world consisted of pain, darkness, more pain, bright lights and agonizing heaviness. The guard unlocked the manacles -there was only one. Lifting Landon by one arm proved insufficient. Landon sank through his legs into the guard.
"Ramon, c'me ere, bring a stretcher," the guard bid to the man posted outside.
Together they put Landon on the gurney and rolled him back to the cell. There was no escaping the pain. Landon literally writhed on the gurney, trying to somehow scoot back away from his own hand and of course, that proved a useless exercise.
They stopped in front of the cell and methodically dumped Landon's body behind the bars.
Landon curled up in a foetal position almost immediately, hands both pressed close to his chest, shivering, breath coming in short gasps and silent screams.
He wanted the pain to stop. Landon would do anything to make it stop.
At least he'd gotten the access-card off the guard. Fuck them. Now they only needed a way out of the cell and a way to fight the guards.
Again, sleep washed over him like an ocean, pulling him deep into its depths. There was no goat this time, nothing waiting for him but [i her]. She smiled, sweet as sugar, but Bell turned away. "Fuck off," he told her. He had bigger issues.
"Hmm?" she asked, coiling arms around his neck--lovingly, in the usual deadly way. "Don't you want to know?"
"Know what?" he asked.
"They're hurting him," she said, and she grinned widely, licked his neck like a wolf taking a taste before she bit. "They're hurting him. The one you love. And there's nothing you can do about it."
"Fuck off!" Bell snapped, flailing at her. But as in life, his limbs in the dream were weak; weaker, if anything.
She barely seemed to feel his blows, and merely slid her arms along his to clasp his hands, stopping them effortlessly. "Hmm, but why? I like to watch you writhe. Isn't that how you say you love me? Isn't that how I said I loved you?" Her legs twined around his, and her teeth caught at his earlobe just like Landon's had.
"Stop," he growled, uninterested. She and her dreams--they were the last thing he needed to deal with right now.
"But it's the truth, you know. He's in so much pain..." she shivered, and Bell felt something wet run down his shoulder, hot from being inside her--blood, thick and red, dark enough to be mistaken for black.
"Get off!" he shouted, and elbowed with all his might, flailing against her with every last iota of his strength.
She melted away, and then he was only fighting with the cot. He stopped, then laid still, panting. He felt hot, now, overheated, and achy, sticky, nasty--sick. But some of the weakness was gone. He sat up, looked at the food; it almost looked palatable now. He stared at it for a long time, then finally stuck the spoon in and picked up a clump. Just as he was lifting it to his lips, the now-familiar thump of boots came down the hall, and he sat up sharply. "Landon?" he asked, not sure enough of his feet to rise from the cot. [i Please, let it be Landon,] he begged silently. [i Let him be okay.]
Rough hands tilted Landon's head back by his hair, a set of larger hands jerked the manacles down and they were slotted in place somewhere, linked to the table. Landon pinched his eyes shut and tried to wriggle free and failed. Being restrained even more made it possible for Robert to shine a pin-light into his eyes, which scorched a hole in Landon's retina.
"What did it give you?" Robert asked calmly.
Landon's pupils were dilated, like those of a junkie currently high on a fix and slightly uneven because of their sluggish response. Robert made a gesture and Landon was released, though remained shackled to the table. Leaning his head down, Landon tried to hide from the onslaught of light and sound.
Robert moved over to the door and gestured for the guards outside to switch off the light. Surprised by the sudden disappearance of light, Landon slowly blinked up at his current tormentors and swallowed, slumping into a daze. Robert's curt slap against the cheek forced a startled yelp from Landon's lungs, who then cringed at the sound.
"What...did it...give you?" Robert asked, slowly, articulating carefully and it was softer than before, not louder.
Landon followed the words with some effort and finally smirked, as if reading a letter than had arrived after a two years' wait and after the sender had died. Another slap, this time Landon was expecting it more and simply jerked on the shackles. Everything was still too much. Robert gave a signal.
The lights came back on.
"Tell me what it gave you...what did it do to you?" Robert whispered, asking quietly.
Landon tried to shirk away from the lights but he could sort of make out the question Robert asked. Angela was observing from behind the wind-shield. There was another woman, her assistant, taking notes.
"A headache," Landon muttered, eyes pinched shut.
"You don't know the definition of a headache!" Robert shouted.
There was nowhere to go. The table clattered under Landon's reaction, but remained standing. Fuck, he had to do something, escape, break free, now was his chance -was it? There were at least four guards, if not more. Landon hadn't seen how he'd gotten to be here at all.
What could he do?
Robert calmly regained his posture.
"What did it give you -was it blood? Mister Turner, was it blood?" Robert demanded Landon's attention refocus, grabbing the man by the chin to face up.
"Useless," the man spat at Landon when he didn't react.
"You can't take it..." Landon said slowly, ever so softly.
"It disappears...you can't catch it," came the garbled reply.
Robert realized this was true -so it was blood. Was it blood? They had never been able to confirm goats had any type of bodily fluids even closely related to blood, but this man had thrown up a foreign substance. Something they could research. With Bellwether in stage three, there was little Robert could do now to force the doppelgänger into 'healing' its so carefully tended to subject.
"You're one of them...I can hear it," Landon piped up, eyes open to mere slits, looking at Robert. The man showed no sign of recognizing the mad-man's ravings.
"Let's give subject four-oh-seven some reason to give Mister Turner some more 'blood'," Robert gestured to the guard. "After a few days," Robert whispered into Landon's ear, "you'll be so close to death, it will have no other choice."
"Give him back!" Bell demanded as the guards dragged Landon away, and then he gave up and fell down flat on the floor. "Fuck," he muttered, then slammed his fist into the ground, hard. Too hard. It felt almost like he'd broken his hand, though he knew it hadn't been that hard.
A shadow fell over him, and he looked up. Jim was standing over him. "Alright, let's get you back up," he said, reaching out matter-of-factly, but Bell slapped his hands away. Jim retracted them, though it had to be out of surprise rather than pain; Bell hadn't had it in him to hit hard.
"I can get up on my own," he snapped. He pushed himself into a sitting position. Jim raised his hands and backed off, returning to his cot and ignoring Bell. Bell got his legs under him, gathered himself, and pushed hard; his legs shook madly, but they held. He started to tip forward and threw his weight backwards instead, falling against the cot. It took some finagling and wiggling to get up onto the cot, and then he laid there for a minute, exhausted, catching his breath, every fresh bruise throbbing loud, demanding his attention.
"You shouldn't fight them," Jim advised him. "It doesn't stop them. You'll only get hurt."
Bell flicked him off and groped around for something to grab; he slipped his fingers into the gap between the wall and the bed and pulled himself up further, with all his strength. From there, it was just a matter of sliding his legs up, but he had to rest again before he could attempt that.
He must have fallen asleep without realizing it, because he woke up to a sore back, lying in the same position as before. It took him a minute to figure out what had woken him until with a clatter, a set of trays were sent in the door. He stared blankly. Was this his life now? Lying in a cage, getting fed like an animal, shivering in fear of who was next in line for their nasty little experiments? He couldn't accept that.
Jim took a tray over to him silently, and he ignored both Jim and the tray, though he did finally pull his legs onto the bed. "You should eat," Jim advised him.
"And who the fuck are you, my mom?" Bell demanded.
Jim raised his hands. "Only trying to help."
"Well, lay off, no one asked for your 'help,'" Bell spat, and turned his back to Jim. He still didn't feel up to eating, and didn't want a repeat performance with the vomit-bowl.
Bellwether's affection sent shivers down Landon's spine. At least Bell was being gentle about it, because Landon didn't know if he could've tolerated anything more rough for an extended time. As it was, the actions soothed Landon's distracted mind and distraught body. Landon could hear by Bell's slowing breaths that the man had succumbed to sleep -just as well; they needed to recover.
Landon was about to follow suit when familiar heavy steps approached.
Alert, Landon pushed up and flinched at the brighter lights out of their cell. Barely able to keep his eyes open, Landon sat up further and listened intently -the steps stopped in front of their cell. Two, no, three pair of feet; one heavy breather, one shallow. Robert's voice was a monotonous humming, but at least Landon could grasp at the intent now.
Even if Landon hadn't, the guards quickly made it clear.
Meaty paws grabbed at Landon's arms, jerking him away from Bellwether's comfortable company. Bell's voice sent daggers through his ears and Landon flinched, wanting to bring up his hands to stifle the noise but felt he was being restrained from doing so. The manacles felt heavy around Landon's wrists, and each time they were jostled, cut into his skin -not actually, probably. But that's how it felt.
At least they hadn't taken Bell.
The lights were harsh and Landon had a hard time adjusting to the brightness in the hallway. Fuck, why was there so much of everything? Still?
They couldn't have had peace for over a couple of hours. The effects were waning, but the new situation wasn't making Landon's predicament any more pleasurable. Without remorse, the guards pushed Landon staggering down the hallways, into a secure room. Inside was a table, a couple of chairs and some one-way mirrors. For observation. Landon wondered whether they'd killed Bell here before. If they tried to do the same to him, he was fucked. No goat around to rescue his hide this time and Bellwether was in no state or shape to transform a third time so quickly in a row. Even Robert had to acknowledge some limits there.
"Fuck dya want?" Landon said meekly, trying to keep his voice barely above a whisper. It sounded weak. Finally, Landon just covered his eyes using a hand. The lights were killing.
Robert observed his subject, cocking his head.
Landon nearly imagined whispers originated from Robert in the same fashion the goats kept whispering. That would be ridiculous.
Landon's head felt like a boulder on his chest. Bell panted for air, swallowing down pained moans with each breath. Oh god, it hurt. He was not prepared for this. He couldn't move, couldn't do anything but lie there and try to breathe, pain growing deeper with every passing moment. How come Landon hadn't noticed? "Move, move," Bell muttered urgently, and after a beat, he did, snuggling up to Bell's neck instead. He sighed with relief and laid there, just catching his breath for a moment. Landon was high as fuck, and it was not good for either of them right now. He chuckled just a little at that. His body was blown but his mind was fine; Landon's mind was off in lala land somewhere, but his body was fine. Put the two of them together and you got one complete person.
He felt Landon's breath on his neck, warm and moist, as he spoke, and paid almost more attention to that than to the words he said. "Mmm," he replied, rolling onto his side so they were facing one another, and gently played with Landon's hair. Everyone else could be jealous, but blondie was his. No speaking, huh? That was going to be a hard one. Or maybe not so hard. He was already half asleep again.
Eyes fluttering shut, he craned his neck and kissed the top of Landon's head. He caught Jim's eye and grinned; Jim made a disgusted face and turned away. Maybe the guy really was straight. Either way, he wasn't getting Landon.
He toyed idly with Landon's hair as he fell asleep, finally nuzzling his face into it and drifting off buried in Landon's scent. It felt safe.
But that was only falsehood.
He felt Landon move in his sleep, and tried to grab him closer; in his dream, Landon fell through his fingers like sand cascading down, his arms too weak to hold him. The harder he grasped, the quicker Landon fell, until at last he woke up and found that Landon really was being pulled away, that the guards were in their room, Robert standing outside.
"Let go!" he shouted, and one of the guards backhanded him. He fell back onto the cot weakly as they yanked Landon away. No! They couldn't take Landon! He reached out and snagged one of the guard's shirts, and the guard yanked it out of his reach; pulled off-balance, he tumbled off the cot and onto the hard floor.
"We're only taking him for some questioning," Robert said calmly. And then he frowned. "He really is at stage three. Angela was right. No discipline anymore, how pathetic." He shook his head disapprovingly.
"Give him back!" Bell demanded, but they were already marching away with Landon, leaving him sprawled helplessly on the floor.
Just the gentle conversation sounded like shouts, garbled, disjointed cries of agony and Landon's face was pinched at the experience, though eased when finally the talking was done. Bell's voice was in a lower-key next, but still didn't make much sense to Landon, who sighed. From the look on Bellwether's face he could see the other was concerned and Landon literally waved it away, running a hand across his face. It'd be fine after a while, surely.
Sitting down on the cot they'd shared for the better of the night and day before, Landon plied himself to lie down next to Bell, curious, and put his head against Bellwether's chest, just listening. The contact, cloth to cloth, skin to skin, was a little painful, but eventually Landon got used to it and merely got absorbed by the swooshing of Bellwether's heartbeat.
Landon could literally hear the air filtering in and out of Bell's lungs, the way his blood rushed by through the veins and arteries and then there was something else, something resembling the goat's heart-beat more.
Narrowing his eyes, Landon tried listening more intently, but the more time progressed, the duller his senses got. It was just as well, Landon supposed. The overload of sensory input was wearing him down.
Repositioning himself so Bell wouldn't have to sleep with his head pressing down on his chest, Landon hid his face in the crook of Bellwether's neck -fuck the guards, or their cell-mates. He was; they both were, feeling pathetic and there was nothing like physical comfort, considering that was the only thing they had in this stinking hell-hole.
"I'm fine," Landon breathed softly, the whisper barely more than an exhale. "I'll be fine," he said once more before slipping into another daze. He was tired, but couldn't sleep. One, they'd already slept for a long time and two, there was too much going on still to properly let go and give in to oblivion.
"Just don't talk for a while," Landon implored. There was no to little sense he could make of sounds right now, and everything he could see was too crisp, too zoomed in on. Even touch was bigger than life. Fuck him if this was the goat's way of preparing him for having off-spring writhing about in his body. Bell's scent was everywhere.
It was comforting.
Bell was adamant he should decline the goat's offer, but Landon wasn't so sure he would listen. For one, it'd get them out. Dead or alive. And frankly, if Landon had to die, he'd rather take down a whole lot of these people along with him. Somehow they'd become the enemy, simply because Landon wasn't so sure the goats' intents could be any crueller than these people were treating them.
Goats fought, yes, but not like this. And yes, they experimented, but Bellwether-goat had kept his interactions to observations, sticking to threats to keep him in line. Should sympathy even be applied to a goat?
They sure did enjoy playing games, and didn't get the concept of mercy, Landon thought. Though Mindy had let them go once before. Was there a thing like honour they did comprehend then?
After a moment, Landon clued in to what was happening and helped Jim carry Bell. And he was being carried; as little as he liked to admit it, he wasn't able to carry his weight right now. The three of them made their way to the toilet. It was cold, the slightest disturbance of the air cutting straight through the thin jumpsuit like it was nothing--or maybe that was only his perception, the fever making everything else seem icy cold. Landon shifted to give Bell the freedom of movement he needed once they'd arrived. Jim cast his eyes away, and Bell snorted, slightly amused.
"This's the first time I've pissed for an audience," he commented.
Jim rolled his eyes. "Get it over with already."
Bell grunted. After a moment, the trickle faded to silence, and then he zipped his jumpsuit shut again. The three of them turned and made their way back towards the cot, though Jim was honestly the only one with any real directional input. Whatever had happened to him, Landon was way out of it.
Jim angled him so he could sit on the cot, then knelt and swept his legs up. Bell laid down; after sleeping all night and half of yesterday, he hadn't expected to be tired, but he felt as exhausted as though the trip to the bathroom were a marathon. "You're being awfully helpful," he said, staring at Jim from under his lashes. His voice sounded slightly suspicious even to him; he was too tired to fake it.
"Not in particular," Jim said, shrugging. "It happens to all of us. I'd expect the same from you or your loverboy or Thomas if I were the one sick."
Bell didn't have the effort in him to shrug, so he didn't.
Jim shook his head and retreated. Bell turned toward Landon as best he could. "You feeling alright?" he asked, his voice a low murmur. "This's the blood, right? The scientists didn't do anything weird to you while I wasn't there?" He didn't put it past them, quite frankly. Who knew what was going through their strange little minds. He needed to get better, and fast, so that they could escape.
Jim's voice was like a razor cutting at his ear-drums and Landon almost failed to recognize the noises as human voices. The whole conversation between Bell and Jim registered, but no comprehension or call to action dawned. There was just the water, sliding down the palm of Landon's hand, encompassing his world momentarily, until Landon felt his scratchy shoes, the fabric of cloth rubbing against sensitive skin and everything in the cell. The smells, the noises, it was all too much.
Landon longed to go back to that senseless world, where he'd just been drifting without seeing, feeling or hearing anything. Finally it dawned on Landon that he didn't want to keep standing, that sitting down was probably better, or lying down even. Sleeping was better. Landon turned to find Bellwether in Jim's arms and furrowed his brow.
What the fuck?
Well, more like hanging limply in Jim's grip.
Trying to shake the sensations assaulting him, Landon made his way over to Jim and Bell, taking one of Bellwether's arms and nodding for Jim to take Bell's other side. Bell was burning, the heat, it was comforting actually. Together they made their way towards the single metal gap that served for a toilet in their cell and Landon momentarily spaced out because of the weight of Bell's arm resting across his shoulder.
Dipping from underneath the arm, Landon kept a tight grip on Bellwether, though allowed him enough free range of motion to unzip and man the helm himself. Landon's fingers tingled with sensation, so close to pain that he almost felt scared to put any more pressure into his grip. What the hell?
It seemed like the over-exaggeration of his senses coursed through his body like a wave though, passing, like electricity making lights brighter and dimmer as it passed.
Once Bell was done -the weird loud trickle stopped- Landon waited for Bellwether to make himself decently presentable and they made the entire journey back. Jim was doing most of the steering, realizing how distracted Landon was. Without the blood to weigh him down however, Landon felt a lot better. The nausea was mostly gone now.
The lights were still dim as well at least. Landon didn't want to know how he would've felt if they were exposed to 'broad daylight'. Or another of Robert and Angela's lovely questionings.
The goat banished him back to wakefulness with a flick of its hand, and for a second he just laid there blankly, breathing. Landon shifted against his back, and he grimaced; his skin was too tender, too sore. And then Landon jumped up all at once, leaving him alone in bed for the millionth time, and dashed over to the toilet. By this point, watching him vomit up blood was a fairly standard experience, though right now, it made his stomach lurch in sympathy, and it felt as though he were dangerously close to throwing up again for real. With considerable effort, he swallowed the rising bile back down, uninterested in more dry heaving, and clamped his eyes shut, trying to block out the sound.
"You should get that looked at," Jim commented dryly to the puking Landon. Bell snorted. He didn't know the half of it.
He felt considerably less crappy now, which was good, as it turned out, because Landon started running the sink and staring into it, as though hypnotized, and while Bell didn't share his fascination, the running water made him realize how much he had to pee. He twitched, and found he could move, though slowly; he laboriously pulled himself upright, straining with every last ounce of effort. Jim noticed, and glanced at Landon, but Landon was still intent on the running water.
Bell slid his legs off the edge of the bed, manipulating them with his arms when they refused to move nicely, and suddenly Jim was there. "Alright, that's far enough. Lie back down before you hurt yourself."
"I gotta pee," Bell protested, and Jim pressed his lips together, then sighed.
"Oy, lover boy," Jim called, but no response. "The hell, is he high on something?"
Bell shrugged and pushed off the bed. He'd never seen this reaction to the goat's blood before, but then again, it had a history of making Landon act funny. And right now, it didn't really matter. Landon or no, he had to take a piss.
His feet hit the ground and took his weight for half a second before his knees gave out. Eyes flying wide, Jim caught him, then sighed. "I'll walk you over there. Don't want this cell to smell more like piss than it already does," he groused.
Sound returned first; whispers were like shouts, the clatter of murmurs which had been amiable at first were now screams of agony and Landon shifted uncomfortably, half awake. That in itself brought a whole world of awkward experience with it, touch, sensation was agonizingly amplified and Landon tried to block out the noise. His own heart-beat filtering back and against the palms of his hands was louder than a beating drum. Burrowing his face into Bell's back didn't much help that the red of his eyelids, made darker by a lack of light flooding in, was still a sickeningly bright and richly colourful sensation. Nausea flared up and it created a whole new spectrum of awareness.
He had to move.
Every bone, every fibre of his body creaked as he shifted. Colours swirled even in the darkness of the dimmed lights and Landon staggered from the cot, unsteadily over to the toilet and hovered there, overwhelmed and sick. The blood that came up was black and didn't come out in one go. Thick, slimy strands of rotten black stuff came up ever so slowly and Landon was left experiencing the whole endeavour as if he was a newly born, no longer used to human input.
At some point Landon noticed he'd fallen to his knees. Still he was heaving. After what felt like a century, he could finally grasp some air. His body was shaking, cold sweat running down his back. The sensation that everything was too much had lessened to some extent at least. Breathing was good. It felt smooth.
The taste of the blood in his mouth however was enough to make Landon gag when he thought about it.
Coughing and spitting up the last of whatever had happened to the blood inside of his body, Landon reached up and flushed. The noise from the water being slurped down aggressively was enough to make him cringe. Jim was awake, so was the other guy, Landon's sensitive senses could spot the reflection of what little light bounded from moist retinas.
What the fuck?
Landon knew Bellwether-goat had made a new 'formula' with its blood at some point. More effectively healing him and keeping down the goat's voices, but this side-effect was unexpected and fucking unpleasant. Finally finding the strength to move, Landon stood, swayed and clutched the sink, leaning down heavily to drink the water and rinse his mouth. Water felt good against his hand -so weird.
Enthralled by the sensation, Landon just kept running the water.
"Or if you're dead," Bell muttered back. Even as a last resort, he didn't want that. Being alone without Landon...he didn't want to go back to that life. He'd been angry, bitter...lost. If he got out, if the goat got out--it was meaningless. He wasn't a real person. Landon shouldn't have to die for him. He couldn't agree with it.
He appreciated it when Landon stood in between him and the woman--for half a second. And then fear gripped him. What if Landon had to fight? He didn't want Landon hurt again. If the goat came out now, it was more likely to harm than help.
But they left without any conflict.
The warmth of Landon's body against his once more made him happy--simply happy. The pain seemed to simply radiate away, driven out by the warmth; after a minute, his shivers slowed to nothing. He peered out, on the verge of sleep; Jim had turned and was engaging the other man in quiet conversation, neither of them looking at him and Landon at all. He could relax.
Again the sensation of falling. Again the square-pupiled eye looking down at him. "Hey," Bell said. "What the fuck?"
[i I will not languish here forever,] it replied.
"You aren't using Landon to get out," Bell snarled.
[i You cannot stop me,] it told him.
"I--" Bell fell silent. What could he say? "I won't let you! I won't!"
The goat's eye blinked. And then it was eye to eye with Bell, ugly and black and leathery. It put its hand out, and Bell staggered back to avoid it. In the dreamscape, it made no difference. The goat's hand gripped his jaw and held him tight. [i You are my creation. I can change you as I like.]
Bell's body twisted. His chest swelled. Something receded into his body. Her body. Hair grew down to his shoulders. "Stop! Stop!" he shouted. She shouted. Her voice ratcheted up. And then she felt her memories twisting, softening. Who was her mother? Her father? "STOP!" she screamed.
[i We can escape,] the goat told her. [i If I use him.] It showed her a blonde man, handsome.
"Why not?" she asked. "Hell, if it's our only chance." She had to get out of here. She couldn't possibly stay.
The goat blinked. Bell stood before the goat again, and his eyes widened. "Don't you dare," he breathed. "Don't you dare."
[i Then give up. I will make it as easy for him as possible. Or you could find a way to leave on your own.]
"I will," Bell assured it. "I'll get out before your creepy--whatever the hell." He wasn't going to let it touch Landon--or change him! He didn't--yuck. He didn't want to be a woman.
The words were spoken so earnest, Landon stopped in his tracks and carefully observed Bellwether. What was going on? Was this the sort of emotion the goat found 'interesting'? During the time they were connected, it'd been plain to see Bellwether-goat regarded them as curious and the connection of love a thing to explore.
Bell was against the idea -of course he would be. Landon wasn't too keen on having alien growth ripping through his body from the inside out, but what if it was their only option? Crouching down near Bell, Landon closed his eyes for a short moment -saw the cogs- and then opened them again: reality.
"Look...I can't be yours if you're dead," Landon emphasised.
If Robert kept up his curious drive to research them, that was exactly what was going to happen. Or at least suffering. Landon couldn't stand being unable to do anything. "Goat said there's a chance -it'd do what it could to prepare me. It may heal me -hey, it's a last resort, okay and we don't really have much of a choice. It's going ahead with its plan if it's provoked again any time soon and they pair us up again. Robert's sure in for a ride then."
Landon's voice trailed down.
When the click-clacks approached Landon stood and turned, back towards Bell, standing between Angela and Bellwether. They were not taking Bell without a fight this time. Screw that. Couldn't they see he was in no shape for another death?
Apparently they could.
They had the fortune of Angela's finer senses and she dismissed the reckless idea of sending Bellwether in for another prod at his goat. Stage two? Stage three?
Landon glanced back at Bell. Was that how they quantified it?
Without realizing it, Landon released a held breath when Angela dismissed them leaving the cell for at least a week. Finally they'd have time to explore the facility and regain some of their strength. Catching Bell's closed eyes, Landon debated lying down next to the man -Bell sure looked like he could use the additional heat. Jim's eyes were averted, staring at their opposite cell and saying little. Even his goat was quiet and not whispering. Same for the guy in the corner. Landon didn't want to fall asleep for fear of the strange behaviour he'd express. It'd get them into trouble.
He was tired though.
Finally Landon sank down next to Bell and simply spooned up against the man, pressing his chest against Bellwether's back. Bell was warm. Without meaning to Landon fell asleep almost immediately.
There were more cogs than Landon could have imagined. The eye was there, square, staring at the twisting and churning mechanism and then Landon felt watched, felt how the cogs twisted and deformed to become something else entirely. They moved and shifted in the darkness, reshaped into a mouth with blunt teeth.
When the lips moved a sound came, thrashing through every fibre of Landon's body and then there was nothing. Like someone had switched off his vision. His hearing. There was just nothing. Not even time.
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