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There wasn't much going on in the end. He saw several cars stop by, get gas and move on. None of them were stocking up big, none of them looked to fit with the story Bell-boy had spun regarding the house. Daniel kept track nonetheless. When dusk came however, he moved from his perch, following in the kids' path several hours earlier. The city changed as the sun went down. For a short while there was a burst of people. Daniel entered the diner, but saw the serving lady's smile fall almost instantly when she noticed it was him. He got a nod to a booth in the back.
Daniel furrowed his brow in mild confusion until he caught sight of Bell-boy.
"Makes me wish I had a camera," he announced himself and sat down. After a day's worth of stalking useless people, he felt a little peckish. More than that, he wanted to go find those branches and get the fuck out of this shitty town.
It was too hot. At least he'd found some nice metal rod to pound away at some goat with. Surely once the first one was down, they'd steal a weapon or two and easily finish off the rest. Daniel wasn't even sure where his confidence came from, but he felt no fear whatsoever.
"No one at the tank-station so far," Daniel continued.
He reached forward and rifled through Bell-boy's pocket for the water, drank from it and took it to the toilets. Might as well get that refilled after he took care of business. The diner was nice, the lady even more so for allowing them to make it their new base of operations. That wasn't going to stay like that forever, but maybe she felt what they were there for on some level.
Wouldn't that be convenient.
He returned to the table and put the bottle of water down with a thud.
"Let's get out there," Daniel suggested. He felt like destroying something pretty. Like someone's face.
"I'm tired of waiting," he urged.
It was time. Daniel felt something tug, but then it was gone. For a moment he furrowed his brow, but like so many things lately, he simply lost his train of thought and any urge to know or remember was brushed under a thick layer of dust.
Daniel stole his water, which left both of Bell's hands open to tear apart the packet of pilfered peanuts. He tipped the packet back into his mouth. Nothing like some salt and protein. Beat dumpster diving, too, though he'd do that later. One packet of peanuts did not make up for a day's-plus worth of meals.
"Hand that here," he mumbled through a mouthful of peanuts, and washed them down with a swig of water.
Bell eyed up Daniel. "You sure?" And then he realized: this wasn't the real Daniel. The goatling wouldn't go insane or attack someone random or drown in his own delusions. He licked his lips and nodded. "Right, got it."
Money? He furrowed his brows. He doubted it came from the branch. But then again, maybe the branch had allied itself to someone with money--or more likely, taken over their body. It'd make sense how they were able to hang out in a big house, while he and Daniel--the goatling--were scrounging on the streets.
"Meet back up here, yeah." With a wave, he dismissed Daniel.
It was ideal, this situation. Idyllic, even. Him and Daniel, able to operate autonomously, no fears of Daniel hurting himself or someone else. Except it wasn't real. Bell sighed and raked his hair back. It was so easy to forget when Daniel was right there, but it wasn't Daniel. None of this was real. It was all a creation of the goatling's, who was probably enjoying watching his pain. But for all that he knew it was pure manipulation, he couldn't help but feel gratitude toward the goatling. It was better to have Daniel here than to be stuck on his own. Even if it was a fake.
It wasn't hard to find the dumpster. He cut open the nearest bag and poked through it. Plenty of half-eaten food, but most of it a bit too old for his tastes. Near the top, there were some scraps of bread without any mold and pieces of steak still clinging to a bone. Bell stuffed them in his mouth and kept on looking. [i Not bad, not bad.]
It didn't take him the full half hour to make himself a meal, so he wandered into the diner to cool off when he was done. Rather than make a nuisance of himself, he sunk down in a distant booth by the back door to rest. [i Maybe just a little nap.] He'd been up all night, after all. His eyes closed.
Daniel went inside the gas station only for the air conditioning and wasn't disappointed. He waited around while Bell-boy got them some water and watched the coffee-machine longingly. A nice cup of black coffee would definitely hit the spot right now. Bell-boy came back with a little more than just water, but Daniel didn't comment on it.
The man looked as if he needed food and they wouldn't be loitering for long if it was up to him. One more night at best, before they'd start to stand out. He reckoned the guards would be keen to new visitors to this remote place and loitering about the diner was going to get them fucked over by one of the locals sooner rather than later.
Daniel pulled the filled water bottle from Bell-boy's hands and took a sip.
Not too much. Just enough to wet his throat. Didn't want to waste it all. Water and food would become precious now that they didn't have any money. He wasn't worried, but maybe he ought to be.
It wasn't a big city.
"I can hang around here, you go visit the diner one more time, let's just keep on the move," Daniel figured. Not too much. Spurts of thirty minutes at best, conserve their energy, find a nice place to sleep and recover before they went in tonight.
"I think the locals are going to rip us a new one. Bet you their allegiance lies more with those men than with us. Wonder where they get their money," Daniel mumbled and stretched out. "Meet you back here," he offered and started to wander around town. There really wasn't much to it. Some buildings, some houses. People moved slower because of the heat, the ones that did brave the scorching sun. Most didn't.
They kept to themselves and their nice air conditioning.
Daniel envied them and didn't at the same time. He found a nice enough looking bench in the shade somewhere and sat down for a minute. He didn't feel like himself, but he did at the same time. The sensation was awkward. At the same time he felt amazing, pumped almost. Daniel didn't sit still for long. He wandered around until he found a build-site. Nothing going on around it now. Some kids were lounging around in the shade. Getting on the terrain was easy. Finding a make-shift weapon even more so. Daniel decided to take up perch there for the time being. Might make a good resting place during the day if they did decide to stay another day.
Bell paused. He didn't know. "Maybe? I haven't checked. Probably, though. I wouldn't imagine they relax their guard during the day." They were probably a little more subtle about it, since there were more people to see them wandering around with shotguns, but there were probably still guards.
"Where else would they go?" Bell agreed. The diner might be an informative place to hang out. [i Or a dangerous one,] a little voice whispered. If they knew what he looked like, they might attack on sight. Not that everyone was as bold as the hunters, but he hadn't been around these people long enough to know what their standards of secrecy were.
He nodded slowly. Daniel had a good point. All the more reason to loiter in the diner. He scowled when Daniel ruffled his hair and shifted away. "I'm not a kid," he muttered. [i It feels wrong to be touched by this Daniel. Dangerous.]
He knew it wasn't the real one, but he couldn't help that he was terribly attracted to him. [i I'm not going to do anything, but...] But Daniel was right there. It felt familiar, somehow, but he couldn't say exactly why. [i Was there a second Daniel before? Or no, not Daniel, but...] He furrowed his brows. He'd almost had it.
A water bottle? He patted down his clothes, then held one up. "Diner lady gave me one yesterday," he said. It still had some water in it, what with him being an owl last night. He chugged the remains and nodded. "Gas station it is. Then we can pop by the diner's dumpster and stake out the inside, see if she'll put up with us for a little while."
He still couldn't get over how good that initial blast of air felt. Bell closed his eyes and soaked in the icy cool of the gas station, then wandered the aisles some. A bag of peanuts vanished into his coat, and then he wandered into the bathroom to fill up the water bottle. It wasn't his finest moment, he reflected, watching the clear bottle fill up from the gross bathroom sink, but water was water.
When he was done, he found Daniel and nodded. "Hang out here or stake out the diner?" he offered. The men could very well grab food at the gas station if they were more partial to a quick snack than a full meal.
Oh? He'd already botched the deal with the laundromat then, eh? Daniel chuckled and shook his head. "Hungry, huh? Yeah, let's see if they'll take pity on us," he ventured. Without money, they'd have to make do, but at least they wouldn't freeze to death any time soon. For some reason, Daniel didn't put question marks around the whole 'been there, done that'-vibe he got from Bell-boy.
He'd hit his head apparently, so maybe he'd forgotten a thing or two. He felt good though. Better than he had in a long while.
Daniel folded his hands behind his head and followed Bell-boy back to the diner. Maybe they ought to find a place to hide out from the sun until the temperatures were more pleasant. Moving around in that heat couldn't be good for anyone.
Guards at night...
"So... what happens at that place during the day? They patrolling then too?" Daniel pitched. It'd be an opportunity. If three men walked the perimeter at night, they had to have a routine for the day-time too. And they'd have to run supplies.
"You think some of them come into town to get food?" Daniel tried. There couldn't be much else around. Most of what he could see was wasteland.
"Could try to take one of two down while they're here, make it easier to go to the place, the house," he waved a hand. "What's going on in that head of yours, huh?" Daniel ventured and ruffled Bell-boy's hair with a grin. "I'm fine, no worries, right? Let's find something to eat."
Daniel kept to the shade to protect his skin, though it'd tanned from their journeying outside. Even that tan couldn't work up against the sweltering heat cooking the pavement in town though. Daniel licked his lips. Could use some water, actually. Maybe they could find an empty water bottle and refill at the gas-station's toilets. So long as they had water, they ought to last for quite a while, actually.
"Do you have a plastic bottle?" Daniel ventured.
"Could get some water at the gas station," he pitched his plan. Food was secondary for him, he actually felt pretty sated. "Also, are they going to put up with us loitering around all day? We're not actually buying anything..."
Should they be going in like this? Bell glanced back at Daniel, eyebrow cocked. Did he think they had a choice? He'd screwed up, so there was no more resting or waiting or grabbing a bite to eat. They had to move soon, before he got weaker.
Ask for a new card. Bell paused and glanced back, overcome by a moment of weakness. [i If this Daniel asks for a card, then I can have the money without all the inconvenience--] He shook his head. No, that was stupid. He wasn't going to steal from the real Daniel like that. [i Inconvenience. Is that really all I see him as?] Daniel was much more than an inconvenience. Sometimes he was annoying to deal with, but other times he was everything Bell needed.
[I Shouldn't have left him behind,] he realized with a tired sigh. He'd been so stupid.
Steal a weapon. It sounded ludicrous, but what was new? Their plans always sounded insane. And Daniel was the goatling, this time. If he got shot a little, it wasn't as big of a deal. He glanced back and shrugged. "Alright. Should we rest up during the day? There's a laundromat around... No, nevermind," he stopped himself. That wasn't an option anymore.
"We could go back and hang out in the dinner," he suggested instead. "I could certainly use a run through their dumpster." They looked like the kind of place that didn't throw bleach on their food, and in this dry heat, anything that wasn't dairy would keep a little longer.
He took one last look around, then started back for the dinner. [i Worst case, I'll just give him my pipe and charge in bare handed,] he decided. He glanced back at the goatling. Unless the goatling wanted to transform again? It'd be easier to find food and shelter, but more disgusting. He didn't have the power to choose his own form, so he had to follow its lead.
[I Not that I really want to,] he added silently. He'd had enough of body-swapping lately. Besides, the goatling had Daniel now. Would it even want to body-swap? Or was it happy to watch from the sidelines, like the rest of the goats?
Fever raged through his body in waves as the goatling's core rewrote his very DNA-structure. When there wasn't the fever, his whole body was encompassed by a crippling pain as it recovered enough for the next bout of change. For most of it however, Daniel was blissfully unconscious, unaware of the hurt his body was put through. And then when his fever finally went down, he slept like the dead, recovering from what felt like a marathon run through hell.
They walked? Daniel blinked at Bell-boy and furrowed his brow. He faintly recalled walking, somehow.
"Right," he accepted Bell-boy's answer without much further thought.
Crashed the car? That too made some sense. It sounded like something he'd do. It also explained why Bell-boy wasn't a hundred percent.
"Should we be going in like this though?" Daniel pitched. Bell-boy wasn't telling him the full truth, was he now? A weapon.
He'd probably be doing the heavy lifting for once, going off by Bell-boy's pale face. The heat compounded on them, oozing into every nook and cranny of the road and buildings around them. Daniel slowed his pace to conserve his energy and stopped talking. Rather than that, he followed Bell-boy down into town. Or what was left of it. There weren't many buildings. There was a long street with some shops and bustling, then a few taller buildings Daniel assumed were factories of some sorts that benefited the heat. Might even be power-farms, if anything.
There was even a gas-station.
Shame he'd lost his card. "Should ask for a new card," Daniel offered up as a thought. They couldn't just go about scrounging their way about indefinitely. Actually, how had they walked through the desert without anything to them? Daniel tried to remember, but then blinked. What was he-?
He'd lost his train of thought.
A make-shift weapon against shot-guns though? Shit.
Actually, where was the goatling when you needed it? He could feel its presence close by, but it wasn't reacting the way he'd become used to. Maybe Bell-goat had done something more than just heal him this time around.
"Should probably just get the jump on one of them and steal their weapons," Daniel said, kicking at a stray rock on the road. "We'll be better off moving after sundown too, Bell-boy," he protested their insane quest.
Lilah just smiled and watched him. It was his job to make the decision. She hoped he wouldn't choose wrongly to stay a faulty human, but in the end, no one could force peace upon him. All the teachings and suggestions in the world wouldn't matter if he didn't choose peace for himself.
And then he toppled like a felled tree.
Lilah didn't try to catch him, pregnant as she was, but the villagers were there in the space of a thought. Many hands caught Daniel and carried him back to their room. He would need time to recover.
Lilah smiled. In the end, he'd chosen peace.
Better than ever. Bell flicked Daniel's hand away from his leg before he could worry a hole in it. "Glad to hear it," he said lightly.
Car? He shook his head. No car. No card. "I'm just a little hungry. I can check the dumpsters later."
Questions, questions, questions. All questions he couldn't--or didn't--want to answer. He sucked in a breath. How to explain? "We um. We walked. You..." What would make sense? What would be realistic? "You crashed the car. We lost the card somewhere along the way. The goat healed you, but I guess you hit your head really hard." He glanced at Daniel. Would that be enough for him to stop with the questions? It was all based off of things that had happened before. [i Daniel really shouldn't be allowed around motor vehicles.]
"Crashed the car... Just a little while ago, so it wasn't too far to walk. Let's get you a weapon," Bell cut himself off before he could dig the hole deeper. [i Why'd the goatling have to make him that realistic?]
Back into the heat. He felt himself wilt some in the sun. It hadn't been so bad when he'd been used to it, but now he was thirsty and hungry. He huffed to psych himself up and looked around. First things first, a weapon for Daniel. "Let's go this way," he decided, heading into town. There'd be construction, or even just garbage at the gas station. Weapons weren't too hard to find, as long as he wasn't picky about what constituted a weapon. Bell never was. Hopefully Daniel wouldn't be either.
Have to want to be cured. Yeah, shit. The goatling could change his genetic makeup, make an entirely different human being out of him, one that was 'complete', one that would betray all that he was now. One in which Lenny and Daniel would no longer be. There'd be someone else. The person they'd been while the goatling had grown inside of them. And he'd rejected that too, then. Instead, the goatling had left him, unaltered and original. Human.
"It'll change who I am, wouldn't that be the ultimate betrayal?" Daniel ventured. Doubt rang clear in his heart, but he couldn't be like this no more either. Yeah, sure, in Haven it'd be fine. Or somewhere they doped him up to his eyeballs. He wouldn't be himself then either. Unable to move. Unable to think.
Had it left part of itself behind for this very reason?
Daniel clenched his teeth. Yeah, shit they'd learned. Stuff they couldn't comprehend, stuff that was too complex. Humans were simple creatures when compared to goats.
They were both Bell-boy's rejects now. Daniel chuckled at the thought.
He ran his hair back with both hands and turned away from Lilah and the madness she suggested. When he did reach out to the goatling, he found rejection. There was something it didn't want him to see. Some kind of sick mental poetry his heart wasn't ready for, most likely. Daniel prodded it again several times, but all he got was a wall. Images of a desert. A crow. An owl. Nothing that made sense.
He couldn't stalk Bell-boy like that forever. He needed to be sane.
His fingers clawed at where Lilah had placed her hand. Fuck it. What did he have to lose? His humanity? It was bullshit anyway. Being human sucked balls.
This time when he reached out, it wasn't beyond himself, but inside of himself. At first there was nothing there but a faint ache, but soon there was a thrashing heat. Daniel grimaced in discomfort as the heat settled in his bones and limbs. When the heat finally did reach his head, his eyes rolled back and he passed out.
Probably mostly goat. Lovely. He loved it when Bell-boy had a plan. The goatling-made-Daniel stared at the napkin and raised his eyebrows. Oh, sure they'd had a plan. 'Enter front door, kill everything', was the gist of it.
"Mostly, probably," he repeated, unimpressed. "Yeah, I'm alright. Better than ever, actually."
Daniel took a deep breath and sighed out, still worrying the skin on his leg. Whatever had happened, he'd lost a good chunk of time. Or maybe the goat had healed him somehow. Given him some blood maybe.
Shotguns, well shit.
"Do we have the car still?" Daniel offered.
"Sure," Daniel said and stood. Bell-boy's face paled. Daniel reached out and raised an eyebrow. "You alright?" He pressed a hand against Bell's forehead. No fever or anything. Maybe some dehydration. It was a mother-fucking desert after all.
"How did we get here anyway?" Daniel ventured and started out of the diner. Time to get a weapon and deal with these branches. It'd be better if Bell-boy remembered more. "And what happened to my card?"
Lilah watched the razor blade fall. She released his hand. That was better. They could be civil about this, after all.
"We can cure you," she insisted. "But you have to want to be cured." She looked up at him and smiled. She couldn't force peace upon him, as much as she might try. He had to welcome it in himself. "We've learned so much. About them, about ourselves."
She pressed a hand to his chest, palm open. "There's still some in you, isn't there? Some of your child. Let it fix you. Reach out to it and open yourself to the possibility of a cure."
"We made a plan for that underground facility, remember? Up north?" Bell paused and frowned. And he remembered that now. Weird. It was like it had always been there, but at the same time, he knew it had only just fallen into place.
Bell shrugged, taking a look at his napkin as though it hid all the secrets. "I don't know. Could be." Separate. He twitched, but caught himself before he went into a full blown flinch. "Yeah, separate them, good point. Uh, probably mostly goat. Don't know for sure, though. They've got shotguns, at the very least."
Daniel suddenly grabbed at his leg. Bell furrowed his brows. "You feel alright?" he asked. He usually didn't act weird like this when he wasn't having an episode. [i Would the goatling copy that?] he wondered, frowning. It might. There was no way to know until something happened. It seemed unlike the goats to copy something defective, but then, they tended to be perfectionists at heart. Maybe it was a perfect copy of Daniel. All the way down to--
He stifled those thoughts before he could think them and sighed. Plan. He had to focus on the plan. His stomach grumbled again, another distraction. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair and bit his lip. Now was not the time. He'd eat later.
"So, uh, first order of business, let's get you a weapon," Bell said, pushing to his feet. A wave of nausea settled over him as he stood, and he unwound a hair. If he was that hungry, he'd be over the hump soon, and then it wouldn't hurt so much anymore.
Her grip was tight, unnaturally so. Is this what it would be like? To have a child born from two goats? In a way Daniel felt curious, but another part of him wanted to kill it already. It wouldn't be Bell-boy's, but the goat's. A half-sibling to the goatling. Daniel let go of the razor blade and it tinked to the floor. He'd lost this fight, obviously. Even if he wasn't the sparkling definition of a weak human, he still didn't have Bell-goat's strength or the goatling's aptitude for mucking around with reality. In the end he was merely the vessel for the goatling's core, while the rest of its essence was who knew where -with Bell-boy somewhere, hunting. Doing all the shit he wasn't good enough for.
They'd learned from Will.
And Daniel realized he could evade Bell-boy. The other wouldn't know where he was, but he could, through the goatling, pretty aptly tell where the man was.
Except when he lost his sanity again.
"You can't cure what ails me, can you?" Daniel surmised, almost disappointed. Maybe he'd be better off dead.
"Just kill me and get it over with."
A weapon, obviously. Daniel nodded, watching the waitress and her food pass by. He wasn't as hungry, but from the looks of things, Bell-boy was. A napkin was used to draw out their master-plan, something they hadn't really done before to this extent. Multiple people.
"Since when have we ever made a plan?" Daniel started, waving a hand and sitting back. He watched as Bell-boy laid out the plans, dispassionately committing the sketch to memory. Two men, at night. They'd be tired during the day.
Then another two inside, probably, including their main branch.
"They all branches?" Daniel started.
"We'll need to separate them," he mumbled. Maybe distract the perimeter guard. Pick them off one by one. Make it easy on themselves. They'd be expecting something, obviously. Just how long had Bell-boy been watching these men?
Bell-boy was lying or omitting. It became a more fun game to deduce which than listen to his wild plans about taking four men on by themselves.
"Are these goats or human?" he ventured. It'd be a different game. "Weapons?"
Because after their last little stint in the hangar, they really needed another one of those unannounced shitty things where he got shit in the-
Daniel felt his leg.
She grabbed ahold of his arm. An ordinary human like him would never be able to break free of her grip. "No," she commanded. It wasn't ready. It wasn't time yet. He wasn't going to cut her open here. Not until the child was ready. Not until the time had come.
He didn't know. How was he supposed to answer these questions? He glanced back. To some extent, he'd expected it to mostly be the goatling--the same way it was when it turned into an animal. Dealing with Daniel--a fully realized, living, breathing Daniel--was too much.
He flinched involuntarily when Daniel asked if he'd hurt Bell. [i No. I hurt you.] "No, not at all. It's fine."
Nothing? Bell furrowed his brows at Daniel. [i The hell was the goatling thinking?] No money he understood, to some extent; it'd keep them from getting distracted. But no weapon? "We'll have to find you something," he said.
They took a seat in the diner. The waitress dismissed them without even bothering to pop by and ask for their order. She already knew he didn't have any money.
"Yeah," he said, nodding. He didn't want to spend a second longer than he had to with this grim imitation of Daniel. It only reminded him of everything he'd done wrong, every misstep he'd taken so far. [i Will Daniel even want me back? If I went back, would he--] No. Bell shook his head. It was pointless to think about it. Daniel was--he'd abandoned him. There was no way Daniel would ever want him back. So being here with the fake only made it more painful, to be reminded of everything he'd given up, everything he'd never find again.
He sucked in a breath and closed his eyes, slowly opening them. [i The sooner we take this branch out, the sooner this creepy version of Daniel is gone.]
"Okay. So." He heaved in a shaky breath. "We need to get you a weapon. Shouldn't be too hard. We can check out a few construction sites, find you a piece of rebar or something. Then..." He pulled out a napkin and used his thumbnail to depress a line in the surface of the paper. "Here's the house," he drew a box. "Two men patrol it at night, at the very least. I think there might be three total, including our branch. Someone came after me..." he flicked his eyes at Daniel and hesitated. [i It won't mess him up if I refer to the past, will it?] "...while you weren't around," he compromised at last. "So they might know I'm here. Might've been a lone branch, though; he came at me alone."
"So I'm thinking, two guards, two of us. Each of us takes out a guard at the same time, and then we go jump the main branch." He pushed the napkin toward Daniel. "What do you think?"
The delicious, sweet scent of syrup caught in his nose as the waitress walked by with a plate of pancakes. His stomach growled. Bell pressed his fist into his gut. [i Now is not the time.] It was his mistake for not eating last night, though the idea of gulping down raw mouse was still unappealing.
His child, huh? Daniel looked at her face, then down at her pregnant belly. It wouldn't be human. It was too big already to be human. The goatling he'd 'raised' had simply replaced organs to make a place, but this one didn't have to because of the female anatomy. Daniel smiled, broadly.
"Let's have it come out," he whispered softly and pressed the razor blade against Lilah's stomach.
Bell was there. Daniel searched his memories, but it felt like the goatling was stopping him around every corner. His heart, his chest felt different somehow, lighter. Mended. What had happened? Before he could ask, Bell-boy started to lay down some clues as to what was going on. Another branch. In the desert.
A forced smile.
Daniel narrowed his eyes at Bell-boy.
"The fuck happened?" he spat. They were walking up to a diner and Daniel followed, even though he already knew he had nothing on him. No cash, no weapon, nothing. Had he somehow lost it again? Was that why Bell-boy's smile was so strained.
"Hey, did I lose it again? Did I hurt you?" Daniel tried, reaching for Bell-boy's arm. He caught the man by the wrist.
"I don't have any money," he hissed.
"I don't have anything on me," Daniel said. "Did you take it?"
That'd make sense, right? If he was losing it. Speaking of which, why was he wearing such a thick coat if they were in the desert? Daniel started to wrestle out of his coat, thoroughly confused. No medication either, though he felt alright. Clear-minded, for once. Something was different. He wasn't entirely sure what. No drugs.
Not even his usual one. He didn't feel impeded, just his normal self. Not even Lenny or a mix. Just.
It was uncanny.
Daniel rubbed a hand by his neck and dismissed the sensation as that of transitioning into a colder space.
"I'm a little confused, Bell-boy," Daniel said. At least he could do that much, if it did blow up into an episode. Even though it didn't feel anything like that.
"Are we... are we going in on the house today?" he asked, trying to focus on the things he did know. It felt easier when he did. Less like he was wading through syrup.
Lilah never took her eyes off his face. Nor did she run, or jump, or feel her heart beat faster. She was in control. There was no need for fear. No need for anything but this moment.
What did she want with him? "He should be here for the birth," she said. "The birth of his child," she added, because she couldn't resist a tiny jab at the man in front of her. It wasn't as if he could hurt her. She didn't need to fear him. And she was in the right. It was their child. He should be there to see its birth.
Bell watched the bird shape into a man. It was unsettling to see it happen, delicate bones pushing through skin as they firmed, the skin leaping to join them, muscles contorted like the worst contortionist ever, and then Daniel was there. Just the way Bell had left him, as if nothing had ever gone wrong.
Despite asking the goatling to transform, somehow, he wasn't ready to see Daniel. Bell heaved in a shuddering breath. It hurt. It hurt to see him. To be reminded, so viscerally, of everything he'd been foolish enough to throw away.
And it felt wrong. This wasn't Daniel. It looked like him. Felt like him. Spoke like him, had all his memories, but it--it wasn't Daniel. Nausea washed over him. Bell looked away and swallowed.This wasn't right. It wasn't right, but he needed the help.
"Yeah, we uh, we found the branch," Bell said. He forced a smile. "We're in the desert! We found him. You ready?"
[i It's not Daniel. It isn't him. Not really.] He walked on toward the diner, figuring Daniel needed a moment to get his legs under him.
"The house is right up ahead. There's at least two people guarding it," he explained, not sure how much Daniel knew. The diner's door rang as he pushed it open, and the lady behind the counter gave him a smile. "What do you think? We can discuss it over food," he suggested, and then stopped. Did this Daniel have access to his money? [i How deep does the goatling's copy go?] Goats could access their shell's bank accounts, but this was a copy, not a shell. Was it different?
It was that sad look in her eyes, that pity, that made Daniel pull a face in disgust. She was looking down on him. Not an inch of fear was on her face, not even after what he'd done. Because now they knew what they were -he'd awakened them, somehow. Daniel narrowed his eyes. And they thought he was human. Good. So he still had that edge. And he was free to go. Just how 'free' was up for grabs, but there was a lot more he could do once he was outside. Out of Haven. The second Lenny would be back in control however, he'd be back in another facility, drugged up and held down. She was doing something. Daniel felt his anger ebb away, but it made him no less determined. If anything, the serenity paved the way for his intellect to take control and make a more educated decision.
They wanted something from him.
That much was painstakingly obvious. If Lilah wasn't afraid for her life, it was possibly because she knew she was a goat and it wouldn't die that quickly. He had no weapons. No real weapons to harm a goat with and he sure as hell was no goat himself. It felt like he was being watched.
Daniel looked at Lilah, stroked her neck with his thumb, watched her emotionless eyes. Oh, how he'd like to use the razor blade to cut some emotion onto her face. Paint it with a bigger smile or maybe some pain. He almost felt aroused at the very thought.
What else could they want from him, but either the goatling or Bell-boy? She'd talked to Lenny about Bell-boy. Daniel was sure she didn't know about the goatling. Not enough to know what or who it was, anyway.
And he was fucked either way again, wasn't he?
Either he left and they'd follow him, wait for Bell-boy to remember it all and start caring -good luck there- or wait for Bell-boy to come to Haven to come get him out. And this knowledge made them cocky. What the fuck would they want Bell-boy for anyway? Just an extra addition to their lovely parade of abnormals?
Daniel pressed a finger against Lilah's lips and mushed them apart.
"What do you want with him, little puppet?"
It landed and shifted. It wasn't a graceful shift. Bones contorted and bent, broke and reset, until there was a bigger form than there once was. At first the outlines were unrecognizable and uncanny, but they quickly turned to the familiar shell it'd become so accustomed to while growing inside of it. It stretched fingers and arms, groaned and then opened its eyes.
"The fuck?" He felt hazy. Daniel gave Bell-boy a suspicious look.
He tried to search his memories, but it was hazy.
"You left..." Daniel started, accusing Bell of leaving. But he hadn't, because the man was right there. But he remembered the note. Daniel searched his pockets and came up empty.
"I had the weirdest dream," Daniel concluded with the ease only a goat could askew a memory. "Where are we?"
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