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Weird didn’t accurately describe what his arm felt like.
“Burns,” Daniel huffed. There was seemingly no escape from the pain, other than the painkillers. Heal? The goatling? If it could, it would’ve. Apparently that was one venture the goatling didn’t like dabbling in. It had though. At some point it’d helped him heal Bell-boy, but the way it’d gone about it was so outlandish that Daniel wasn’t sure it could do so unaided. Back then it’d just relied on his knowledge too. Like with the birds.
It hadn’t been perfect either, sacrificing matter to make up for the parts Bell-boy had damaged.
Maybe it could.
Next thing Daniel knew, Bell-boy was calling his name and tugged at his arm. The good one, at least. Thoughtful. Daniel blinked up and smiled at the man.
“’m comfortable,” he mumbled softly. He looked at the bed, considered It as an option and figured that might be even more comfortable still.
Daniel shoved his hand against the table and pushed up. The world did a tilt and spin, not unlike it had before. Drugs. Always lovely.
Daniel stared at Bell-boy through heavy-lidded eyes. He peeled his hand from the table and approached the man, straightening out his back. One finger caught behind Bell’s clothes, pulled them away from his neck and chest. The bruises were still there. And there were new, different, more earnest addition to add to the mix.
“No,” he concluded.
It was obvious Bell-goat wasn’t ready to come out. It’d be the easy way out. That or taking some time. But he wouldn’t risk Bell-boy’s live over something as simple as an injury. Maybe the goatling would learn and help. Maybe they would have some time now, where he could heal and stop being useless.
Daniel slowly shuffled towards the bed. It felt like he was wading through gelatine. He carefully picked his way and sat his ass down on the bed, feeling heavy for the exercise. Bell-boy was right saying he needed to just sleep in the bed. Hopefully the food would help steady him out a little. Daniel gingerly laid down and yawned for good measure. He wasn’t even that sleepy. Just drowsy. Floaty.
Maybe he’d ask the goatling to help heal him. Later. Once he’d slept off the worst of the drugs. Much, much later.
Bell sighed. "A no would've worked too," he grumbled. Daniel got so touchy about the weirdest things.
Like the whole addiction thing. At least he was familiar with Daniel to not fall into that trap anymore. Instead, he just stared until the other man did the unexpected and apologized. "It's fine," he said.
Bell twisted open the offered bottle and plucked out a pill. "Your arm's feel weird or something?" he asked as he handed it over. Daniel had been perfectly able to open the bottles earlier. He frowned. Maybe he should take Daniel to the hospital, after all. He'd been in a rolled car without a seatbelt. It wasn't even unlikely that he'd injured or reinjured something.
He followed Daniel to the table and sat opposite him. Daniel was droopy, that was the only word for it. Like he was melting where he sat. "No kidding," he muttered. He'd tried to get him to wear one before, but noooo. The way they drove, it was only a matter of time. And then it'd happened while he was already injured, just to make everything worse.
"Why didn't the goatling heal you?" he asked abruptly. It should be able to, right? Why hadn't it helped?
He glanced up, hoping for a response, but Daniel's eyes were glazed over and the crow was tugging busily on his pizza. "Hey, you. That's bad for you," Bell grumbled, waving at the crow. What else was it going to eat, though? They didn't have any birdseed. He sighed and let it eat the pizza. Good thing they didn't buy rat food. It'd be wasted on the ever-shifting goatling.
"Daniel, c'mon. If you're gonna sleep, get in bed," Bell urged him. He stood up and pulled a little at Daniel's good arm, afraid to hurt him. He'd rather not carry him for the same reason; that shoulder was a land mine when it came to manhandling.
He sighed out. "Should we try bringing the goat out?" he suggested. "Maybe it'll heal you." That'd be nice. Then Daniel would be back up to full strength, and everything would be gone again. Just one little hand-wave, that was all.
Okay? Daniel just lifted his eyes at Bell-boy.
"Do you want a lie?" he asked, exasperated. Did he look any shade of okay? He'd seen his reflection in the mirror earlier and it showed exactly what he'd been expecting; a drawn and pale face, with fine lines of pain etched near his eyes. Bell-boy was efficient about picking up the pills. Daniel watched the man and let out some air.
A pill materialized in front of him.
"Catering to my addiction, are you?" Daniel teased with a grin. He couldn't just let it rest.
"Sorry," he said after a while. The semi-grin he'd attempted looked more like a grimace and so he gave up on trying. "Thanks," Daniel started and took the pill. Pizza? His stomach turned at the thought, but Daniel wasn't sure whether it needed food to settle or not. It might be wisest to have food. Couldn't exactly live off of painkillers.
And he needed to take the anti-psychotics still too. They'd make a fun cocktail together again.
"Really need to start spacing these out," he muttered, handing the other bottle to Bell-boy. His hands felt numb and shaky. It'd be easier if Bell handled the bottles.
He waited for Bell-boy to give him another pill, swallowed it down and then slowly waddled back into the room. As promised, there was pizza set out on the table, unopened and warm. Or so he assumed.
Daniel lifted the lid on one of the boxes and checked over the contents. Nothing exciting or new, which was good. He'd try, then.
If he got sick, at least he'd have something to throw up.
His ribs were going to hate him for it. Daniel sat down very carefully, feeling creaky and sore. "Remind me to wear a seatbelt next time," he hissed.
He reached for a slice of pizza and experimentally chewed on the end of it. The pain simmered, leaving him distracted. On and off it came and went, until the painkillers started to slowly take hold. Daniel abused that moment to eat something, before he'd be too drowsy to care.
That moment came quicker than he hoped. Barely a slice and a half in and he felt himself slowing down already.
Rather than eat, Daniel set his pizza down and simply propped his head up to watch Bell-boy. He'd sleep right here. It'd be fine. Couldn't feel a thing no more now.
The crow, seeing an opportunity, sneakily hopped from chair to chair to get closer to the pizza abandoned by Daniel.
He didn't sleep for long. In the end, he'd slept well through the previous night, and he hadn't been too active today, either. It was still today, he decided when he woke up. Dark, but the same day.
Daniel as sleeping. He was tossing and turning, but at least he was asleep. Bell patted Daniel's head and sat up, looking around. The crow was perched on the back of a chair, asleep. The room was quiet. Peaceful.
It was nice. Unusual with Daniel around, that it would be so quiet and peaceful for so long. Even if he wasn't acting crazy, he'd be mobile, up and talking or walking or something. The quiet was nice.
What did he want to do with it? That was the real question.
Bell checked the time, tilting the bright red numbers on the clock toward him. It'd be dinner time right about now. Yeah, and he was hungry. Moving quietly, he got up and checked out the pamphlets on the table. Always seemed to be a few of them in every good hotel. [i In the bad ones, too], he thought to himself with a smirk.
He ordered a couple of pizzas, then turned on the television and watched it on mute for a while. When the call came in, he shut off the television and ran out to grab the pizza.
Bell came back to the lights on in the bathroom and an empty bed. Daniel was up? "I got pizza," he called, setting the boxes on the table. The "Fuck!" he got in response was not what he'd expected, but then, he figured, it probably wasn't aimed at him.
He peered into the bathroom. Pills were scattered across the floor, and Daniel was leaning against the sink. "You okay?" he asked uncertainly. He knelt and started picking up the pills, sliding them back into the capsule with the rest. "Need help?" He offered Daniel one of the pills. He'd gotten tossed around pretty bad in the car earlier. The shoulder might've gotten worse. Bell frowned. It was worrying the way the goatling wasn't healing Daniel. His shoulder was never going to heal at this rate.
"I got pizza," Bell repeated. He glanced back at it longingly. "You wanna eat dinner?" They could worry about goats and injuries and stupid shit like that after food.
Settled sounded good. Daniel mindlessly followed Bell-boy towards the hotel where he presumed the man had gotten them rooms. He waddled after the man without any sense of direction or awareness. The only way he knew they'd arrived, was because Bell called out that it was 'naptime' and got cozy on the bed. Daniel sighed out. They were safe. Comfortable. He could relax now.
He gingerly sat on the bed, stared at his shoes for a short while and decided to leave them. It'd be too much trouble to get undressed and properly comfortable. Daniel set the crow on his lap and shifted the pillow, then carefully positioned his back against it so his arm wouldn't scream bloody murder every other second his heart beat.
He was gone from the world before the pain and nausea could become nuisance.
That peace didn't last particularly long. Daniel woke in a sweat, dazed and confused. Heat prickled on his skin, his head felt like it'd been dipped in the ocean and the water had been left behind to slosh against the inside of his skull. He shook his head; a fruitless endeavour.
At least he felt more grounded. More like himself.
No more disconnect between his body and his thoughts, at the very least. He sighed out and rested back. Pain thrummed at his back; a steady presence in a roiling reality. Some of his other body-parts were sore as well; bruises, he suspected. From their little tumble with the car.
Time to take his pills. If not the painkillers, he'd still have to take the anti-psychotics. Daniel wiped the sweat from his face and wrestled out of his coat. Too cold. He could instantly tell it felt too cold. It'd gone dark outside too. The crow he'd left on his lap -the goatling- had moved while he slept. Daniel surmised he'd been too restless maybe. He scanned the room and found the bird roosting on a seat.
Daniel felt his age when he finally started to move. He kicked off his boots, one by one, and then got up to explore the facilities. His stomach had settled some, but if he moved about too much, the sharp pain in his shoulder was going to wear him down again. Fuck. It'd better not gotten worse.
No. Daniel refuted the idea. He'd not had a dose of painkillers at the appropriate time, that was all. Shaky hands messed with the bottle of pills.
"Fuck," he mumbled.
Why did they make the caps so finicky?
He felt it give. The bottle did too. It fell to the floor with a clatter and the contents fell all over the bathroom floor tiles.
"Fuck!" he groused. Daniel rested heavily against the sink and tried to compose himself.
Got sucked in? Bell quirked an eyebrow at that. Sucked in to what? Even as he wondered the question, he found his eyes drifting to the crow in Daniel's lap. Had to be the goatling, right?
"Weird," he said. What else could he say? Teaching someone--some [i thing], he reminded himself--how to be a bird wasn't exactly an every-day situation.
He just nodded his agreement to Daniel's statement. Whichever one he meant by it, crow goat, the goatling, he agreed.
The lady behind the counter at the hotel gave him a hard look, one which Bell was inclined to ignore. She sniffed the air and pulled a face. Bell quirked an eyebrow. Shit, did he smell like smoke? Hopefully she'd just put it up to him being a smoker... though nicotine smelled a bit different than woodsmoke. "Yes?" she asked.
"King bed, two adults," Bell requested, pulling out their chunk of cash. They'd gone through a good bit of it, but there was still plenty left over. Enough for one night at a cheaper hotel like this, probably.
With a bored expression, she exchanged the money for key cards. Bell hurried back out to Daniel, cards in hand. Daniel was upright, which was heartening. After being thrown around and passing out, he was worried the guy might be seriously damaged. Luckily, looked like he'd pulled through okay. A little bumped up, but compared to what he'd been fearing, Daniel looked fine.
"C'mon, let's go get settled," he encouraged Daniel. The way he held the bird cradled to his chest was kind of adorable, he had to admit. Everything about the goatling was adorable. It was weird; he'd expected to be grossed out by it, or at least repulsed by the fact that it was a goat. Instead... he didn't know. It was a tiny creature, and tiny creatures were cute.
Their room was on the third floor, far up and away from the cold outside. As soon as the door shut behind them, Bell plopped onto the bed and closed his eyes. "Naptime," he declared. They could go get food and stuff in a minute, but first he needed a nap. Daniel [i definitely] needed one.
Passed out? Shit. Well, it'd look that way to Bell-boy, wouldn't it?
"Got sucked in," Daniel mumbled softly. He hadn't ventured opening his eyes a second time. What was the point? They burned with dryness the second he'd shut them and it felt like he was already several levels deep down into sleep. Bell-boy's voice started him back to a higher plane of existence.
Daniel opened his eyes to thin slits and glared at the world as if it'd done him some grievous injustice.
The car spun? A bit?
Daniel raised an eyebrow at that.
"Spun?" No. It hadn't spun. It'd flipped over entirely. "Oh, I remember," he said softly. "Taught the goatling what to be if it wanted to be a bird," Daniel muttered softly. He didn't feel like he was making a lot of sense. His sentences were badly constructed, but Daniel didn't feel adding much was going to improve matters. Instead, he shifted in a poor attempt at taking some of the pressure away from his sore shoulder and failed.
A hiss escaped his lips.
Bell-boy didn't fight him on the hotel at least. He probably looked exactly like he felt. Daniel slowly let the air from his lungs escape and started to focus more on his breathing to help soothe the deep pain. He hoped there wasn't anything more damaged than healed in his shoulder. Hopefully it was just sore from being jostled around.
Seatbelt was pressing against the injury too and it wasn't exactly helping.
"Pretty powerful little fucker," he commented.
Bell-boy pulled off the interstate the first opportunity he got, something for which Daniel felt grateful. The second their car pulled to a stop, he undid the seatbelt and searched his coat's pocket for the pills. Good. Both were still there.
He put them back and opened the car's door.
Rather than wake up the goatling, Daniel just picked up the bird and cradled it to his chest. Getting out was another challenge entirely. His legs felt like wet noodles. Aches and pains started to make themselves known in more creative areas of his body than just his shoulder as he moved and Daniel had a hard time keeping his stomach where it belonged. Fuck.
That little 'spin' had really done him over.
After such a long gap of silence, the groan made him jump. Bell turned toward Daniel. The man was moving, yes, making noise, yes, but no intelligence yet. It struck him suddenly that if Daniel [i was] going to leap up and start acting up, maybe putting him in the front seat was the wrong idea.
There was no need for him to worry in the end. Daniel turned toward him and muttered a question. "You passed out and scared the crap out of me, that's what happened," Bell muttered back. "I'm fine. What happened with you? You okay?"
On either side of them, the bland landscape that surrounded highways everywhere in America drifted past, uninspired stands of trees that weren't quite forests mingled with stretches of development. "Yeah, crow-goat's dead," Bell announced. "Goatling did most of the work, but I finished it off."
Bell sighed out. "Look like it, too," he confided. Daniel looked boneless, that was the only word. Worn out and boneless, like a pile of flesh just slopped there on its own. "We... the car spun a bit, when I was fighting the crow. So... yeah. There might be a few bruises." He knew he was hurting from them. Not seriously, but there was one on his hip that made sitting still uncomfortable.
"Aight," he agreed to the hotel. He was tired, too. Always felt tired nowadays. He'd been blaming it on Daniel and Landon but he was starting to have the sneaking suspicion that this was on him. Maybe he'd been tiring out earlier than usual for a while now, and having Daniel and Landon back and on a semi-regular schedule was pointing it out to him, where before he could just sleep whenever he needed to.
Or maybe it was his boyfriend's tendency to stay up all night, sleep all day, wake up at random hours and try to make a run for it every other waking moment that was getting to him. One or the other.
He pulled off the interstate at the next exit ramp. There were a few hotels and motels advertised at this exit, but rather than browse, he just pulled into the first one. He was tired and hungry, so they might as well just take a rest. "I'll go get a room while you wake up the goatling," Bell said, climbing out of the car. Hopefully Daniel wouldn't do anything rash in the five seconds Bell was gone.
They were moving. Daniel's eyes fluttered, but as soon as instinct stopped and his consciousness took over, his expression turned into that of an ill content frown. Pain. He was sluggish, tired. His dreams had been weird; convoluted. Daniel found it hard to open his eyes and keep them open. Each time he tried, his eyes threatened to sink closed again. What the hell? A groan.
Shit, that was him, wasn't it?
He was the one making that noise. Daniel tipped his head back, tried to crack open his eyes again and only managed halfway. The car. A crow. Huh? No. No, it was the goatling. Bell-boy was there too, bloodied and worn, but he was right there.
"Hmm, 's happened?" he slurred. Shit. He felt so tired.
"You okay?" Daniel's eyes drifted to Bell, but other than the superficial injuries they'd suffered at the hands of the crows, the man looked to be in one piece. Well enough to drive them at the very least. Not that that meant he was okay.
Daniel shifted again and grimaced. He felt like he'd been wrestling with an oncoming train. His shoulder in particular burnt like hell. The more he woke up, the fiercer the pain he registered.
He felt sluggish despite of it, but the pain made it easier to stay awake. A crow. No. The goatling. He'd already gone there.
Daniel reached out with his good hand and stroked the animal's feathers. It was fast asleep. He'd been that bird, hadn't he? Been it and then something greater.
"Is it dead?" Daniel tried. Crow-goat? Had they defeated it, or were they running to get back to it later? He couldn't really find the energy to care. It felt as if someone had allowed all of his blood to seep out of his body and had replaced it with water.
"Feel like shit," he confessed and closed his eyes. The pain wouldn't go away. Ignoring it didn't help matters one bit. No sirens. No fire. Guess they'd gotten away far enough at least. Daniel debated taking another one of the painkillers, but the way he felt, it wouldn't sit well.
"Let's get a hotel." He wanted to stop feeling the motion of the car. It didn't feel right. He didn't feel grounded at all. It felt like half of his being was still stuck somewhere in between it all.
The goat was dead. The goatling was gone. Daniel was--who even knew. Bell wiped the pipe clean of goat-goo and sheathed it. At least the police weren't up their ass and the crows had dissipated. Two good things to counter the two bad.
He walked back over to Daniel. "Hey," he tried again, lightly tapping the man's face. No response. Bell grimaced and looked away, then forced himself to look back. Was Daniel breathing, at least?
It took him a few moments to tell, wound up as he was, but eventually the thrum of anger and excitement quieted down enough for him to watch the slow rise and fall of the other man's chest. Alive, but comatose. Bell breathed out and ran his hair back. Was he fine in there? Was he going to regress? What had even happened? Was this some kind of side-effect from all the drugs he'd been on? Some kind of seizure? Was this going to be common, now? [i Fuck.] Too many questions and not enough answers.
Bell huffed out. At least he could do one thing. He pushed Daniel's body into place and fastened the seatbelt around it. There. Safer.
Just as he thought that, a crow fluttered into Daniel's lap.
"You mother-fucker--" Bell started, pulling the pipe back. He hesitated. [i The other ones went for the eyes. Daniel said the goatling became a bird. What if this was the one?] He watched the crow hop and pull at Daniel's jacket, push at his body carefully with its beak. If it was going to hurt him, it was playing the long game.
"You the goatling?" he asked, putting his pipe down. The crow cocked its head at him. It seemed harmless, at least. After a moment, it nestled into Daniel's lap, and Bell sighed out. Probably. Probably the goatling. And if not, it was one crow.
He reached out and stroked its head. It was a truce for now, assuming it wasn't the goatling. "Alright," he sighed. "Let's get out of here."
Wiping the blood off his forehead one last time, Bell settled behind the driver's seat and started the car. Despite the damage to the machine's body, it started without a stutter. [i I should make a note of the brand,] he thought to himself. And then he drove off, Daniel sleeping away in the seat beside him, a crow cozied up in his lap.
It floated there, watched carefully as crow-goat fell and landed in a stretched out pile of black. For a moment there was only quiet. Bell-boy's temper finished the goat as it was writhing on the floor. Daniel chuckled at that, but found he couldn't. He had no control over the goatling's actions. Within seconds, he'd been reduced to a spectator.
It almost felt as if the goatling was pushing him out, severing the connection that had made one out of the two of them. It hurt only for a split-second. A flash of white, same as he'd felt when they'd connected and he was elevated above his body.
He didn't wake up.
His consciousness wasn't ready for it and neither was his body.
The goatling receded. Black leathery flesh contorted and shrivelled up to tightly package away into the shape of a crow's. Like this, it wouldn't stand out. Sirens resounded. Red vehicles swerved down the empty roads, past the brown and grey coloured buildings, to the one that was a fiery, burning red.
It watched, with its beady black eyes, as the humans scrambled to get the fire under control before it jumped towards the other abandoned plots.
Another turn and it slowly descended towards the car and Daniel's fallen body. Another flutter and it landed next to Daniel. Experimentally, it pulled at Daniel's coat. Nothing. It hopped to the other side, pushed with its beak. Nothing.
The other crows had since dispersed, confused about their actions and regressing to their usual, instinctual self. It cawed. Nothing.
Had it damaged something? Human minds were fragile, but that didn't seem to be the issue here. Perhaps it had tired the human out or it had been damaged during the car-fight. There was a steady rhythm to how Daniel sucked in air and released it again, so it decided it wouldn't have to do anything more.
Now that the other goat was dead, it would rest.
It tilted its head at the action of its originator's shell, then climbed on top of Daniel's body and made itself comfortable in the male's heat. It plucked a little at the man's coat, out of compulsion birthed from the crow's natural curiosity, but that soon settled.
There was a great whoosh of air against his back, great wings cracking behind him. Bell turned in time to watch as the goatling lifted into the air, black wings beating at the sky. The crow-goat drooped from its grasp, helpless against the goatling's seeming mastery of the air. And that was it, wasn't it? For all that this goat had surrounded itself with crows, it had no wings. It could not fly or soar like the goatling.
[i Have I ever seen a goat fly before?] Bell wondered, and realized he had no answer.
The crows soared after the crow-goat, following it into the sky. Some simply left, drifting away. Others wandered about, plucking at the fallen birds. Bell stared upward, watching the two goats spin into the sky. Like this, crow-goat looked more like an octopus than a crow. An octopus, far out of its element, thrashing against the sky.
The two vanished into the sun. Bell winced and rubbed his eyes. Gone. Was it going to come back? Was this it?
Daniel! Shit, how was Daniel? He turned towards the car and ran towards the passenger seat. "Daniel!" he shouted. No response. The man was slumped against the wall of the car, limp. No seatbelt held him in the seat; Bell grimaced. There'd be some bruises from their little spin earlier for sure.
He opened the door carefully and caught Daniel as he fell out. "You alive?" he asked. Not that he expected a response. Bell's hand went to Daniel's pulse, but his heart was racing too hard for him to find it. Shit. What if Daniel wasn't--what if he wasn't--
Something thumped to the ground with a thick, wet plop. Bell spun. A clump of goat-essence writhed on the earth behind him, smoking heavily and already falling to pieces. He carefully put Daniel down, then stomped over. He needed to kill something. With a growl, he lifted his pipe and beat it to nothing. It hadn't needed the help, but he'd needed to let out his aggression. What was wrong with Daniel? Was the goatling coming back? "Fuck!" he snarled, beating the goat-goo into nothing. Damn it all!
Flesh shredded, bone cracked under the force of his beak and claws. Daniel felt the satisfying squishiness of innards leaking in between each of his talons and he tore at it to further the decaying of the crow-goat. Fumes and vapours washed off of his opponent's body like a fog. He didn't stop. While Bell-boy beat down the drones following the crow-goat's commands into death, Daniel forced the goatling to be even more vicious, even more ravenous and ferocious in its assault.
For a split-second, it allowed the emotion to overwhelm them both, before reason and logic seemed to slot back in place. The goatling ripped free a claw from the crow-goat's belly and shifted its weight. Spread claws reached out and grabbed hold of crow-goat's head, its face, and squeezed. It shrieked and shifted, thrashing to try and get him off. He refused. Large wings pulled themselves free from the tentacles and Daniel's knowledge inspired the goatling's choice for what came next.
Even as his wings broke free, they gained traction. With force it beat against the air, lifting them both up into the sky. The goatling pulled the crow-goat up by its nearly crushed head. Long, slender limbs seemed to dangle from crow-goat, tentacles reached out to the goatling, trying to get it to stop. To relent. It only wanted to- Only wanted-
It didn't get through.
Those thoughts were like mosquitoes against a wind-shield. Trivial and meaningless, easily dismissed with a simple flick of a finger.
The goatling forced them into the air. Higher and higher, above it all. The crows, lost and now without guidance, flew around aimlessly. They tried to get closer to crow-goat, but feared repercussions. Their animal instincts were overpowering the goat's will.
It went up even higher. Houses became small, organized flecks in the distance. The sirens that echoed before were repeated again. Lights flashed down the road, signalling the arrival of the firemen called in to deal with their burning mess.
Crow-goat struggled against his hold. Tentacles reached out, flailed, curled around his talons and clung tightly. Desperation oozed from its actions. A dark cloud bellowed from its intestines, quickly dispersed in the winds jostling their flight.
And then the goatling thrashed. It claws and freed itself. It moved erratically to shake off its opponent and it managed. The crow-goat, too wounded to quickly reform, fell from the sky in a quivering, ever changing mass. It had never been made to fly. No matter how hard it had tried. He let out a victorious cry; crow-goat would not likely survive this fall.
The goatling and the crow-goat tore at each other. The black intermingled, two creatures mixing together and becoming nearly indiscernible from one another. It looked like the goatling was--was eating the crow-goat? Bell made a disgusted face. Goats and their cannibalism. It was so gross.
Tendrils lashed out at the goatling. Bell jumped back into action and beat them down. No one was going to hit the goatling. Not on his watch. But it was hard to hit the damn goat with the goatling on top of it!
Crows darted down all around them. Claws shredded at the back of his neck, beaks snapped at his hands. Bell batted at the crows instead. He caught one on his pipe and felt the satisfying crunch of bones breaking as a little bundle of black feathers went flying. Another crow raked the back of his neck; he spun too late for that one, but the next crow to swoop down met a pipe of cold, hard steel. "Hurry up and kill it!" he snapped as another crow swooped down at him. He couldn't hit the crow-goat well with the goatling in the mix. All he could do was beat the other crows away. Keep it safe.
It looked like the goatling was winning, at least. He kicked a crow out of the air and swatted another one down with the pipe. "Kill it already!" he grumbled. Another crow bit at his ear, at least until he smacked it away with the pipe. "Shit!"
And he didn't even know what was up with Daniel. A sick feeling twisted in his stomach, a fear he didn't like thinking about. What had happened to him? He'd just dropped dead in the car. Was he even still alive? "Fuck," he muttered, swinging wildly at another crow. He missed. The crow darted at his face and bit at his eyes; he managed to swat it down after a try or two, all his eyes still intact. "Damn it!"
Another bird hit the floor. Bell panted, wiping blood from his forehead. How long did it take to kill the dumb crow goat? Black feathers zoomed at his face. He ducked the crow, and it slammed into the goatling. "Hey! No!" Angry, he jumped at the crow and batted it away from the goatling. He wasn't going to let them hurt the goatling. Not if that was all he had.
It was prepared this time. Talons lashed out, tentacles latched onto his wings to cripple his flight, but he wasn’t easily caught. Though they’d taken the appearance of a bird, Daniel nor the goatling felt confined to that shape. Skin contorted where feathers once were, flesh buckled and reshaped, until they were entwined close enough to be considered one form. Bell charged at that moment. He brought down the majority of what had been his wings to displace the air, to make sure the back of the crow-goat faced Bellwether.
Another caw resonated in the air; powerful like the goatling’s voice had been. Underneath his powerful claws, the crow-goat struggled and fought to find purchase. It pierced his flesh, only no blood poured out. Daniel simply shaped themselves around it, forming new skin, new flesh. It felt gratifying to be this powerful and at the same time overwhelming. Like he was not himself.
The realization came sudden. Had this been his ‘self’? When had this become self?
His inattention brought about the goatling’s instincts. Using its beak, it started to tear at the flesh writhing underneath him. Without hesitation, it consumed the other goat’s flesh. Daniel felt it enter their being as a foreign entity; felt how it resonated somehow, as it had with the crows.
A voice was heard, died down, and was countered. The whole process lasted only a few seconds, before the goatling repeated. Like a vulture, it violently shredded the quivering and seething mass pinned down by his talons.
The crow-goat wasn’t docilely taking the battering either.
It formed new limbs, tentacles and claws, feathers and a mesh of beaks, to defend itself. The smaller crows that had been hovering were slowly reaching a new height of panic. As if in a frenzy, they came down upon their entwined shapes. It fought to be freed from the goatling’s grasp, but Daniel knew the importance of holding it down. Bell would get hurt. He couldn’t allow Bell-boy or Bell-goat to be hurt.
Again and again they tore at one another. It didn’t hurt. Daniel realized it didn’t hurt. Or he wasn’t feeling it. Either way it was fine. His consciousness felt small and insignificant in the shadow of these two fighting behemoths. The only difference between them was the degradation. Daniel made sure that they had barriers. Skin, flesh, bone. Whatever worked to keep them safe.
It didn’t matter. The core was not within them. It was in the lifeless body, now unconscious, battered and slumped in the passenger’s seat of their abandoned car.
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