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She pouted. One literal second wasn't what she meant. He was being unreasonable.
So what if she'd been taken over? So had Bell. Twice. Boyfriend didn't seem to mind that, so why should she care? "I mean, don't--I just... can't I have a little fun?"
She took a deep breath and forced herself to calm down. Now was not the time to be emotional. She'd been through this before. Crying and screaming wasn't going to get her anything. No one was going to hear, and Boyfriend wouldn't care. No way he'd care, if he was boyfriends with Bell. Deep breaths. Calm down. It'd be okay. At least Boyfriend wasn't torturing her.
"He's not [i gone]," she protested. "I didn't take anything. He's still in here somewhere." She was just borrowing a little time. That wasn't anything horrible. Compared to what he'd done, it was nothing. At least Boyfriend was agreeing with her. She was the victim. That was the clear thing here. Even he couldn't ignore it.
"Ha," she said dryly. Well, she had, kind of. Gone missing in someone else's mind, thanks to some extra-dimensional alien creature. And then wandered around in a man's brain for years and years. Shitty existence, that.
She snorted. "What, he never told you?" she asked dryly. Great to hear that. "Rebecca. You can call me Becca or Becky. What about you, Boyfriend?"
It seemed like he was offering her a bone, at long last. Finally asking her name, listening to her story. She sighed and shifted a little, trying to get comfortable. The shed was just as drafty and uncomfortable as she remembered. Maybe moreso, even, what with the few years to get draftier and less comfortable. She looked at Boyfriend and gave her best smile. "I really won't try to run. If you want, you can take me back right now." She shifted, then glanced up. "I mean, my ass is freezing. Literally. Freezing to the ground."
It wasn't really a great chance, she knew that. Boyfriend didn't really care about her, much less her freezing ass. But she really wouldn't run. What was the point? She wasn't going to be out here long. It was only a huge pileup of coincidences that she was out at all. She knew that. She probably understood more about the freaky aliens than anyone else, right now. But she'd really rather be out there, living, rather than tied up in some shed like this.
"Run away," Daniel dead-panned. That's what she'd do to him. And finding her again, in that wide, wide world, was going to be a nuisance.
"You had your little second," he emphasised. The second of victory before he beat her down. Daniel didn't feel any regret, not even when the tears came. Here was the girl, the nuisance, that'd caused all of Bell's pain, caused him pain. Actually, the marks were still etched on his neck. He wouldn't forget easily what she'd wrought. Perhaps it was from a place of despair, but did she really think her psychological warfare had no impact at all?
"First a second, then a minute, now a day -or two? And then what?" Daniel said calmly. Bell-boy had picked the perfect place. No one would hear her scream here.
"A year, no, maybe ten -because you deserve that much, right? At least as much as Bell did, and then what? You realize your life was over the second it got taken over by one of them, don't you?" he countered her.
"We will go," Daniel shrugged. "When night falls. Don't want any trouble -someone might recognize you," he pointed out.
"Just in case you've forgotten, the world didn't exactly wait for the twenty or so odd years you were gone." He laughed. "Hah, your life, right..." Daniel shook his head. Living in someone's head wasn't a life. Lenny hadn't had a life. He hadn't. Daniel sobered. If there was anyone to understand how she felt, it was him, wasn't it?
"I know you've done nothing wrong, you're a victim, right?" Daniel offered. "Got your life taken twice and then decided Bell's was yours for the taking." He watched her struggle with the ropes.
Life wasn't fair. He didn't reply to that. They didn't have much leeway. Bringing out the goat was going to draw the wrong kind of attention too though, and Daniel knew he couldn't afford any mistakes. Not with the goatling out of commission and Bell-goat hiding out in a girl's body. She was trouble. Daniel had no idea how to contain her.
She wanted life. She'd run head-first into it and get herself into the first place where they dumped insanity-cases like her.
"They all think you went missing, which technically, you were," Daniel pointed out. She was young, but not too young to lack any sort of awareness, right? A little like Cat.
"What's your name, anyway?" he pitched.
Maybe they could help one another out. She could have her few days of fun, and see what a screwed up mess the world today was. He could have Bell-boy back when she tired of it. She was a goat. She was Bell-goat, the bellwether. How long would it really allow her to just persist in ordinary life?
"I mean, I'd rather not, if I have the choice," she sighed. Just... rather disappointing that she only got to see this much of the world, was all.
She glared at him. "What, don't I get a say? Locked in someone's head forever, don't I get a second for myself? Can't I do anything? Untie me, what am I going to do to you? I'm, like, half your size."
For a little bit, she struggled in place, but she gave up easily. She already knew it was hopeless. She'd done her best before, and it hadn't done her any good then, either.
Why? What had she done to deserve this? "Why can't I just live my life?" she snapped. "What's so wrong about that? He tortured me! He hurt me! But I can't even have a minute to myself? I'm not even allowed to stand on my own?" She struggled against the ropes again, trying to push upright, but she couldn't. "It's not fair! It's not right! I never hurt anyone! Just--why does everything hate me?" There were tears in her eyes suddenly. She sniffed, trying to hold them back. "Look, I won't... run, or make a scene, or anything, I just... can't we just go? Somewhere? Do anything?"
She didn't care, really. What would she get from making a scene? Her life was already over. Everyone thought she was dead, and she was way younger than she should be, anyways. As long as she could enjoy herself, and have a little fun, it'd be worth it. But it wasn't, was it? This guy was just going to lock her up, the same as Bell. Story of her fucking life.
"Look, I've stuck around all this time in hopes of--that maybe I'd be able to escape. I just... my life has been a nightmare for years, can't I have a nice day or two?" she pleaded, trying to catch the boyfriend's eye. "Please? I haven't done anything wrong. I don't deserve this. I'm not... I'm just a girl. Please?"
She pulled at the ropes again, then gave up and sat back, giving up. Her whole life was shit. She'd been stupid to expect anything else from it. Nothing ever went her way, not even for a second. Why did she even try? "It's not fair," she muttered. None of this was fair.
‘Boy-friend’? Well, he’d had worse nicknames. Daniel raised an eyebrow, unfolding his arms from where he’d held them crossed in front of his chest. The shed blocked a lot of the icy cold wind, making it almost bearable. That aside, the girl hadn’t been unconscious for very long. He snorted.
“No,” he muttered, voice skipping a beat.
Pee? Really? She could hold it in, or wet herself, those were the choices.
“Oh, I understand you well enough,” Daniel said calmly. Well enough to know he couldn’t do anything about her being out at the moment. Couldn’t bring out Bell-goat without knowing for sure that it’d recovered from vat-goat’s assault, couldn’t risk destroying the shell at his whim.
What he did? Bell-boy? Daniel sighed and shrugged. Did it matter? There wasn’t anything she could name that was worse than what he’d done together with Bell-boy. She sounded like a proper teenager, but what was more, he didn’t have to pressure her at all to tell him what she knew.
“Torture? I don’t see the need,” he shrugged. If he let her out in this cold, she’d easily freeze to death. Perhaps it was a kinder death than most. There was always Bell-goat’s symbol. Daniel wondered how much she knew about Bell’s life, about what they did.
He wondered whether Bell-goat would force its will upon her juvenile mind. More than that, Daniel worried about the repercussions of their actions. Them coming here was obviously not meant to be, even though it’d brought some type of clarity and closure.
“…but if it’s torture you want, I’ll happily oblige,” he chuckled, voice still hoarse. Made him wish he’d brought some alcohol. Just to keep warm.
“We’re waiting until nightfall to get the fuck out of this town,” Daniel laid out his plans.
“You’re coming with. Once I know it’s safe, I’ll keep the monster inside of you to its promise,” he explained. “Just got to…wait for the right moment,” Daniel said, kicking at a piece of wood.
“Until that time, you’re basically just a piece of meat, plied into the wrong shape.” He really didn’t care for this person. Just wanted Bell-boy back. “Did you really think I was just going to let you live your life, the way you are? Did you really think it was going to?”
She woke up to a blazing headache and a bad mood, not to mention a familiar sight. With a deep sigh, she looked around her. Same old shed. Slightly different angle. Spent what, twenty years locked in a memory, won her way free, and this was her reward? Getting bunged in the back of the head by her torturer's boyfriend, only to be locked up in the same damn place? Only it was cold, now, not the non-temperature of memory, and the ground was gritty and ice-hard under her ass. She was uncomfortable as hell, but she couldn't help but laugh. She was back! Everything was real! It felt so good to be out again.
"Hey, boyfriend," she called, loud enough the guy would hear her wherever he'd gone. She didn't know his name. There was a limit to what she'd been able to see, able to know. If Bell hadn't brought it into her dream, she couldn't see it at all. "Wanna let me up? I have to pee."
Twenty years of the shed, of constant torture. It'd worn on the mind at first, driven her nearly insane as she'd been forced to face the same scene over and over and over, but then she'd realized that it was just a dream. There was no pain in dreams. After that, she'd been the one in control. The one with power. Whenever Bell came to visit her... she'd been prepared, able to fight him on even footing.
She shifted and sighed. And now here she was. Victorious at last, but tied to a damn pole in the same damn shed. It was enough to make a girl go insane. "You know, I really get why you two are together. You've got the same exact thought process. Something I don't understand? Let's bang her on the back of the head and tie her up. You could've, like, said hello first. Asshole."
Then she smirked. "Hey, don't you want to know what he did? I've got all the dirty details. It's all carved into my memory. Ha, carved." She shifted, then looked at the boyfriend, or where he should be. For a second, she hesitated, but then she giggled. "He tried to fuck me, you know? Couldn't get it up."
"So what're you gonna do? Torture me? I'm super over it, dude. I'm like, so over it. Twenty fucking years or so of torture, give me your worst," she said, more blase than she'd even meant to be. But hell, what could he do? Nothing worse than the original.
She was a goat? Daniel furrowed his brow. That made sense. What didn’t make sense, was where that left the girl. One of the goats had to have one that battle. And not just any goat. Bell-goat would’ve won. Bell-boy shivered, hand clenched to the door frame and Daniel stepped forward hesitantly.
Black. Bell-boy shifted in a familiar way, black welling just underneath his skin, crawling and contorting the man’s frame. The girl. It was the first time he’d seen her. It all clicked then. Like vat-goat, there’d been a battle of wills and somehow, Bell-boy’s persona had come out on top. Or perhaps Bell-goat had chosen it to be that way, locking away the memories of that fight and time, to make sure it had a useful shell to perform its every whim and desire.
“Yeah?” Daniel snarled. “Welcome back,” he said ominously, and then struck the girl over the head with his bat. It was a measured hit, one to make sure she wouldn’t die, but would just lose consciousness. For a moment he just stood there, watching her crumpled body leaving a print in the snow.
Fuck. Daniel pulled a hand down his face. Now what?
He hated to sound like Bell-boy, but he had to restrain her. Bell was in there, somewhere, and they’d made a bad choice by coming here. Bell-goat wasn’t able to maintain whatever it’d done to keep Bell-boy in charge the way it was now and they’d exacerbated the problem. Maybe. No. How could it even be like that?
Was it the weakness in Bell’s persona that allowed the girl to persist? Either way she knew. He’d get it out of her.
Daniel pulled the girl up from the snow and slung her over one shoulder. At least she was lighter than Bell-boy was by miles.
Back to the car.
A motel. Somewhere remote. Somewhere she wouldn’t know. He needed rope, or something to restrain her with while he drove. Part of him was inclined to bring out Bell-goat, but Daniel knew it wouldn’t be remarkably pleased. Either way he was curious. But he couldn’t go now. It was light out. People would see them. Daniel looked at the chair. It was too flimsy to hold down much of anything. Instead, Daniel put the girl down in the corner of the shed and tore the restraints from the chair and tied her to a sturdy pole -perhaps the only thing keeping the meagre shed standing. They'd be waiting until nightfall. It’d be safe then.
Bell got up slowly. He hadn't registered Daniel's retreat at all. It was just him and the snow and the shed. And her. She was there. Not [i there], but inside his mind. Waiting. Waiting for him to realize.
Realize what? He frowned and staggered towards the shed again. Something about it seemed to jog his memory, but he still couldn't remember what had happened. How it'd ended. Had she died? Was that it? Why couldn't he remember? He put his hand on the chair, and it almost cracked under his touch, too old and damaged to hold any weight anymore. Was she a goat? Was there no body at all? But then... wouldn't there be more damage? There should be marks. Places where it'd attacked. Gashes in the wall and the chair. Nothing. There was nothing.
He shuddered again. It was tingling in the back of his mind, the memory just barely there. What was it? He remembered tying her up. Remembered hurting her. Remembered...
"It was you," she said. She was suddenly there, right beside him. "You're the one who got killed."
And then he remembered. He'd tortured her. Brought her down to nothing. Bloodied, bruised, her heart had stopped, her blood had run cold. For a second, he'd thought that he'd made a mistake, but he hadn't. Black had spread over her features, mutating her shape.
"She was a goat," he breathed to himself, relieved.
But the memory didn't end. She lunged at him, struck him down. He felt the tendril go through his body, felt blood well up. He'd died. He'd died, and she...
The scene took on a different angle. Two goats, fighting. Only... only the girl's was huge and dark and intimidating, and his was small, showing its anger in its swiftly undulating surface. The larger goat struck down the smaller and-- and [i ate] it. He watched on in horror as the other goat was torn apart. But that was him, right? That little goat... it'd come out of him.
"Right. So give me back my body," the girl demanded.
Bell shivered, shuddering in place. His hand clenched the doorframe of the shed, and then he sunk to his knees, body squirming all over, shifting. Pale skin replaced his sun-burnt hide, short brown hair growing longer, darker. Just like when vat-goat had been invading him, his limbs went slender, weak. Exactly like then, Bell thought. They were the same limbs.
Then there was no more Bell to think.
The girl stood up, looking over her body. She laughed, touched her face, and laughed again. "I'm back," she said, triumphant. Everything was going her way. It'd taken decades, but at last, she'd won!
Shit. This was where Bell-boy was going to fight dirty, wasn't it? If it wasn't for the snow, Bell-boy's weight would've had much more impact than it had. He nearly lost grip, but then Bell froze entirely. Some recognition dawned on the man's face. Bell relaxed in his grip and Daniel sighed out.
"She was what?" he said hoarsely, but Bell was already distracted, turning to look at the shed. Daniel slowly let go.
If Bell-boy had really killed her, then what'd happened? That night, Benjamin had a run-in with one of the creatures and it'd made a copy of him. Distraught, and in the knowledge that there were doppelgänger, Bell, the newly born, had tricked his best friend to come to the shed. There, he'd proceeded to torture her, probably up till the point of death.
It didn't look like people had ever found the shed or recognized it for what it was, but the girl had remained missing, as Ben told them. Benjamin knew it was his copy that'd made the girl go 'missing'.
It left to guess what Bell-goat had done to the girl.
Or what the girl even was.
"Hey?" Daniel piped up when Bell twitched at something unseen.
"Will you get off?" he complained.
His face expressed his concern for Bell-boy's welfare, but there wasn't anything he could do to help the man, other than provide an anchor to reality. Daniel wasn't sure he wanted Bell-boy to be there though, because reality didn't seem to simplify matters and he was pretty certain the answer was stored in Bell-boy's memories.
He wiggled free and got up, beating the snow from his pants and coat. If he'd warmed up before, the snow was doing a good job chilling his muscles.
Daniel didn't take much time to try and beat the snow off. It wouldn't take much to trigger Bell-boy into a new fit, would it? Rather than interfere, he just watched, ready for the next heart-attack inducing pounce.
His eyes landed on the dilapidated shed. Come next year's autumn-storms, it'd be falling apart altogether. The tools, the chair, the plastic and wrappers. All the evidence of this ever happening would've been gone with a few more years.
And Bell-goat had made it pretty clear it didn't want them there. Nothing to stop Bell-boy now that the goat itself was resting up from being near-invaded by vat-goat though. Did they defy the odds and pick the perfect opportunity?
They thumped down into the snow, powder flying as they landed. He wrestled with the man, struggling to reach for his throat, but the man was stronger than him. Firm hands caught his wrists and pinned him in place, so that no matter how hard he struggled, it was all useless. There was nothing he could do. They'd find out, they'd find out, he couldn't beat this man!
No, he hadn't lost yet. The man tried to twist under him and buck him off, but he had the more stable grip, knees locked in the man's coat rather than the slippery snow. He twisted, trying to free his arms. He wasn't going to lose like this!
Bell? What? Who was... no. He was. So how did this man know? He had to stop him! Couldn't let anyone know! He pulled upward, then slammed his weight down on the man, trying to break the man's grip. One hit. If he could just knock him out, then it'd all be over! One hit--
Wait. He froze, staring down at the man. He looked... familiar. Like maybe he knew him from somewhere. Knew him really well. Knew him...
Shit! Right, Daniel. Right. They were just going here to... look at the shed. Only he'd fucked up, hadn't he? Like he'd known he would. He relaxed and moved back, letting Daniel decide when to let go. "Sorry," he muttered. "I, uh, I got... I thought she was..." he shook his head. How was he supposed to explain? It didn't make any sense.
Bell turned back to look at the shed. It was real. At the very least, he knew that much. His memories were real. He'd really... really... hurt her. Killed her.
Or... had he killed her? There was no body. And he didn't remember burying her or carrying her away. Then... was she a goat? He put a hand on his face, trying to remember. Everything about those days was fuzzy. Was the goat interfering, for some reason? But why?
Something pulled at the back of his memory. Something... wrong. He shook his head again and squinted, trying to clarify it. If he could remember, then... then he'd know for sure. But somehow, he felt like he shouldn't remember this.
"Remember me already," she whispered, close behind his ear. He twitched. It felt like she was right there, just under his skin, so close to the surface. Like she was a part of him. Inside him. His skin shivered, and he frowned. Something was wrong. This--he shouldn't remember. Whatever it was.
Bell-boy quickened his pace. Daniel followed more slowly, still weary of where to put his feet with all the snow and ice. The shed was in a worse state than he imagined: barely left standing. Actually going in would probably be a hazard, but that didn't stop Bell-boy from practically kicking in the door. Daniel lingered at the door, hands on the frame to get a good look inside.
The chair was the most bone-chilling item in the shed, but closely followed by the tools Bell-boy had to have used to torment the girl: a hammer, pliers, sheers.
All had rusted down due the ages. Daniel was surprise no other kids had found this place. Maybe they had. He imagined several ghost-stories circulating in that high-school regarding this shed.
Suddenly the air changed. Daniel caught sight of Bell-boy tensing, but the man's charge was still unexpected. He'd forgotten how quick Bell-boy could be when he wanted to. Bell barreled into him. The ground rushed up to meet his back. Daniel wasn't entirely unprepared. And there was snow.
He managed to keep his head relatively safe from hitting the ground and the snow dampened his fall. The creaky door swung on its hinges.
"Fuck," he chewed out tersely, hands already going up to intercept Bell-boy's. Daniel twisted his hips to try and throw Bell-boy off. His sunglasses were lost in the snow in the heat of their struggle.
They'd talked about this. He was stronger, right? Unless Bell-goat stepped in, he was fine.
"Bell!" Daniel snarled, managing to keep Bell-boy's hands from locking around his throat. Snow was soaking through his pants. He shook the man.
"Bell, it's me," he said more evenly, staring the man dead in the eye. He had a firm grip on Bell-boy's wrists, holding the man's hands there, between them, so it'd be harder to do him in using a headbutt.
Daniel tried to turn the tables around, but the snow didn't allow for very good grip and he could feel it shift underneath his feet and legs. Last night he'd been too hungover to deal with much from Bell, but now wasn't that much different.
Icy cold tricked down his neck, into his coat. Daniel snarled and tried to sit up, push Bell-boy off, but at the same time he didn't want the guy to rush off, looking for a nightmare that only visited him during sleep.
It came up suddenly, almost too suddenly. Bell hurried towards it, almost feeling the weight of the girl's body on his shoulder. This was it. Where he'd taken her. Where he'd hid her away. A run-down little shed in the middle of the woods, where no one would ever look.
The shed was even more run down now than it had been then. The roof was bowed inward at the middle like an old horse's back, and the whole thing leaned to the left, one wall broken halfway down and sagging outwards. In places, the aluminum exterior was kinked, sharply bent instead of gently sagging, done in by the elements and time. The door was closed, warped with the frame, but it didn't look locked.
She was waiting for him. He reached out and grabbed the handle. Twisted it. The door wasn't locked, but it stuck in the frame, and he had to lift his foot and pull to yank the door open. It sprung open wide, hinges screeching as they were used for the first time in years.
Inside was exactly how he remembered it. Dusty, but nothing was moved an inch. There was her bag, on the floor. The trash from the food he'd brought, bottles and plastic bags littering the floor. A rusty pair of shears laid abandoned in the corner, next to the pliers; a hammer laid on the floor by the opposite wall.
And in the center stood the chair. Just the way he remembered it, belts and robes hanging from the object, ready to take their next victim. For a second, he could see her sitting there, but then the moment passed, and the chair was empty.
Fear spiked through his stomach. She'd gotten loose. She'd gotten away! He staggered back, spinning his head from one side to another. Where was she? She couldn't have gotten far.
A man. Bell's eyes went wide, and he charged the man, throwing the whole weight of his body into him to knock him to the ground. He had to stop him. No one could see what he'd done. He reached for the man's throat, trying to choke him out. He had to knock him out. Then-- then maybe he could ask if the man knew where she'd gone. He had to find her--!
It didn't take much to pull Bell-boy to the here and now. Daniel trudged after Bell up the hill, puffs of white air dispersing from his mouth. Other than their breathing and the crunch of snow under their feet, Daniel could barely here anything else. The snow dampened most other noises. He couldn't decide which was worse: the snow or the darkness he submerged himself in willingly each night.
Both were synonymous to death somehow.
He slowly caught up to Bell-boy and reached the top of the hill. There was a lot to see from this vintage-point. The school was laid out on the field below them, the road along it winding down into the distance. Trees on the other side. Daniel took it all in and nodded.
This was after Bell-boy had turned into a goat already. Bell's first real memory. The first moment he diverged from Benjamin and became his own person. If anything, this was where Bell-boy was born.
For a while they stood there in silence, and then Bell-boy started down the other side of the hill. This part was easier, but also trickier. Didn't want a repeat of yesterday. Daniel took care where he put his feet to prevent from slipping down.
Bell-boy moved as if possessed. Daniel felt like breaking the trance, but at the same time realized he was just a spectator in this memory. He hadn't been around back then. Didn't have anything to do with this part of Bell-boy's life. Intruding upon that felt like sacrilege almost.
More Lenny then.
Daniel wiped down his face and loosened his collar a little more.
He wondered whether the girl had accompanied Bell-boy to the shed voluntarily. The thought put him on edge. If she had, the danger lay not in him following the man, but in arriving at the shed. Once there, Bell-boy's memories might lead him to enact the compulsions he had back then. All of it made Daniel question why Bell-goat had programmed Bell to behave this way. There had to be something about the girl.
Maybe she had been a goat after all. He wouldn't be surprised. If she was however, chances were she'd still be alive. He wondered what Bell-boy hoped to find. A corpse?
The instruments of his torture?
Through the woods Daniel thought he saw some kind of structure. A shed?
Was this the place? He tensed, ready to fight back in case Bell-boy lost it.
Even with winter tires, he wasn't too confident with his winter-driving abilities, but he decided not to inform Daniel of that. The man would probably only tease him for it.
A hand to his shoulder startled him, but it was only Daniel. He looked at Daniel, then nodded. "Yeah, that way," he said quietly. It almost seemed impossible. The scenery was so serene, with the snow blanketing the ground and laying heavy in the branches of the trees. Daniel's footprints were the only things that broke the perfect smoothness, the man a blotch of color amongst the utter white like a stain on a linen tablecloth. It was mesmerizing, the whole thing somehow unreal.
Daniel spoke and startled him from his thoughts for the second time. "Yeah, I'll... show the way," Bell said, hurrying through the snow to catch up to Daniel. He headed up the hill, slipping on the snow-covered grass, only just catching himself once or twice when his feet slid out from under him. They didn't need to go up the hill, but he couldn't stop himself. He had to. It was the way he'd done it.
At the top, he paused and looked back. From this angle, he could look down on the top of the school. "This is... where I told her to come," he said quietly. In the utter silence of the snowy day, his words seemed to echo, far too loud to his own ears. "We met up here, and then I took her back."
He stood there a second longer, seeing not the snow, but a grassy hill, the girl hurrying up there with her books clutched in her arms. [i "What's wrong?" ] she'd asked, brows furrowed with concern. She'd seen it on his face, somehow. Seen a glimmer of his own doubt, his fear. And then...
Bell turned and headed down the other side of the hill, away from the school. He moved almost as if in a trance, following a path that was visible only to him, one that he'd traveled a million times before in his dreams. At the end of it would be the shed. He could almost see it already, in his mind's eye. She'd be waiting for him. He'd been away too long.
Daniel relaxed in relief when Bell-boy accommodated him by choosing to walk. Icy roads? Oh.
"Not confident to drive in that, are you? The car has winter-tires," he informed Bell. "Shouldn't slip as much as the truck or the vans did." And it hadn't. Of course, he still needed to temper his speed whenever, but that was a given. Getting into another car-crash was the worst of all options, so Daniel just nodded and followed Bell-boy down the side-walk.
He regretted not taking the car after a while. The side-walks were worse than the roads. Ice and snow intermittently covered the tiles, forcing him to pay attention. Bell-boy's gloves reminded him of his beanie, and Daniel pulled the wool over his ears to protect them from the cold.
Still, the crisp, fresh air made him feel a lot better.
"Suppose," Daniel agreed. "Have to get used to it some day," he muttered hoarsely. Since they'd be out more than in once they got to driving around again. No point in getting a hotel every night if they were taking turns driving.
Soon enough Bell-boy's old high school loomed up and Daniel held his pace to give Bell a look. The man was staring at that building as if it was going to swallow him whole. It wasn't about the building though, but what experience lay just across from it; the shed.
Daniel sniffled, then brushed a sleeve by his nose and eyes. If they were going to stand around, the cold wouldn't be that friendly no more.
He put a hand to Bell-boy's shoulder to break the spell.
"Did you say it was that way?" Daniel offered. He cautiously started in the direction he'd caught Bell-boy staring the other day, when they'd stopped by with the car. Another hill. Maybe there was a clever way around it. Either way, if they slipped off of this one, at least there wouldn't be a river at the very end of it to drown in.
He huffed out some air, freeing up some space near his throat. He'd kept his coat closed up high to prevent looks, but all the lumbering about through the snow was making him warm too. Untouched snow cracked satisfyingly underneath his boots as he climbed up. After a few steps though, he looked back at Bell.
"This the way?"
Bell looked at Daniel. Walk or drive? It was a bit of a walk from here. But either way, they'd have to walk some in the end, through the forest. There were no roads to the shed.
But just because they would have to walk eventually didn't mean they'd have to walk right away. And they'd only get more miserable the longer they walked. But then... Daniel was in no shape to drive, was he? And Bell wasn't at all comfortable with his driving abilities on ice-coated roads.
"Let's walk," he decided. Neither choice was a good choice, but they were both better than standing here thinking about what to do. He glanced at Daniel. "We can always turn back, but... the roads are pretty icy right now." They should probably not drive like this. And it wasn't that long of a walk.
"This way," he said, gesturing. Moving confidently, he led Daniel down a sidewalk on the side of the road. The snow underfoot alternated between powder and trampled-down icy tracks, one puffy and easy underfoot, the other a mix of textured and slippery that made walking annoying, if not exactly hard. His hands started to freeze in the icy cold, and he stuffed them into his pockets, then hit fabric. He raised his eyebrows. Oh, right! Gloves! Smiling to himself, he slipped them on. Instant, wind-safe relief. Perfect.
Though the cold was biting, icy enough to leave his nose dripping, the longer they walked, the warmer he got, exercise serving to warm him up. Eventually, he found himself loosening his collar to cool off a bit, overheated in two layers of jacket. "It's not so bad, once you get used to it," he commented, rubbing his nose. Aside from his frozen nostrils, he was doing okay, overall.
His high school loomed up before he knew it. Bell paused, looking up at the building from outside. He hadn't... been thinking about anything this whole time. The cold had been enough to distract him. But now he was here. And the high school was the way it'd been back then, almost exactly the same. He shivered, but not from the cold. So close. He was so close.
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