When we hold each other, in the darkness, it doesn't make the darkness go away. The bad things are still out there. The nightmares still walking. When we hold each other we feel not safe, but better. 'It's all right' we whisper, 'I'm here, I love you.' and we lie: 'I'll never leave you.' For just a moment or two the darkness doesn't seem so bad.
The fire is small but it keeps them warm and casts enough light to chase the monsters away. Some of them, at least.
The reflections of the flame dance on Her hair, playfully shifting the colors from nearly black to dark red. It's almost impossible for him to resist the urge, and he lets his fingers tangle in the long, soft curls. It feels so familiar and so good that he ignores the acrid taste of uneasiness.
She grins, and She looks so radiant that he has to grin back.
The ground is cold and hard, even through the thick layer of palms, and he doesn't think he'll ever get used to it. Leaning against the tree, he pulls Her closer, until She tilts Her head on his shoulder.
"What's my name?" He didn't mean to ask; he never does. For a moment he fears She'll get mad, but She remains relaxed against him.
"We've been through this, sweetheart." Her hand is a warm caress on his cheek. "I can't tell you."
"Can't or won't?" he can't quite hide the edge of bitterness from his voice, and is instantly sorry for lashing out.
But She keeps Her voice even and calm. "Both. You have to remember yourself."
He nods even if She can't see it. Among the familiar now mixture of Caribbean flora scents, he can detect the hint of ozone, and he wonders how much time they have before the storm starts. There is another urge to ask what Her name is but he already knows that the answer will be the same. He isn't sure why She refuses to tell him but he trusts Her. Without his memories, his instincts are all he has left. More importantly, there is a possibility that if he won't do as She asks, She'll leave him and that's unacceptable.
Swallowing his anger, he rises off the ground and offers Her his hand.
"It'll start raining soon."
Her smile is a little sad, but She gets up, obediently.
"I love you."
The sting in his eyes still surprises him, even though it happens every day. He places a gentle, chaste kiss on Her cheek, and leads Her into the tiny shelter.
The shelter isn't particularly large or sturdy, but he is pretty proud of it. He built it himself, from palms and poles of cohune palm.
He has no idea how he knew the proper way to built it. He is even less aware of how he knows that the tree he used is called the cohune palm.
His name isn't the only thing he can't remember.
He wonders if She'll be there when he wakes up.
The birds awaken him early every morning. At least he thinks it's early because of the sun's position on the sky. His watch - black plated steel with one diamond and Movado insignia - work, ticking the time away with tiny movements of the gold hands. Time from which time zone, he's not sure, but he is pretty confident that it's not this one.
He doesn't complain; there are things that need to be done every day and he'd rather do them while the sun isn't burning too brightly.
He spends the morning looking for green coconuts. It took him a couple of days to learn how to climb the tall coconut trees, but now he makes it to the top in no time. Standing on the layer of palms, he looks down and sees Her lounging against the tree, staring up at him. He quickly chooses a nut and breaks the stem with a sharp twist.
"Hey! Watch it." Her warning reaches him easily but leaves him unconcerned. The salty smell of the ocean is stronger here than in the jungle and he considers going for a swim.
"Did you know," he starts conversationally, while letting another coconut fall on the ground, "that coconuts contain minerals that are really good for the kidney and the heart?"
"You don't say." A dry reply, and he can't blame Her. He gives the lecture every time he does this, but it keeps his mind off the fact that the trees are rather high and the ground is pretty far away. And it's nice to know that he remembers some things.
"Not to mention it's rich with lauric acid, which has potent anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties." Twist and drop. Almost absentmindedly, and falling is not one of his fears anymore. "Recent studies have considered coconut oil to be a possible method of lowering viral levels in HIV-AIDS patients."
"As amazing as this knowledge is, it doesn't make me like the taste any more." He can hear the disgruntled edge in Her voice, and he smirks. He hates the taste as well. It's too sweet, too... much to be eaten every damn day for what seems like a lifetime now.
"You should still drink more juice. It really is good for the heart."
"I have a heart of a race horse. I'll be fine. Stop worrying so much."
No, you won't be, he wants to say, and freezes. Why would he want to say that? Looking down, he sees Her reaching for some flower on the ground, and She looks perfectly alright.
"I didn't say you won't be. But you'll need the vitamins if you want to survive on this god forsaken island." The almost overwhelming need to protect Her is like a steel knot in his chest, but he manages to keep his voice light.
"I'd rather get my vitamins through sea grapes." True, but he doesn't know anything about sea grapes, except that they're edible, and that's not satisfactory.
He starts moving down the trunk, ignoring the fresh scratches on his thighs and chest. Once down on the ground, he looks at his dirty, ripped clothes with disdain.
Her sky-colored pantsuit still looks perfect, and he doesn't ask why.
Doesn't even think about it.
She shakes Her head at his rumpled appearance and tries to wipe something of his cheek. He ducks away, ignoring the amused tolerance sparkling in Her blue eyes. "You just say that because you don't want to help me take them down."
"Sweetheart, I would love to help you, but see, in Bali, women are forbidden to even touch the coconut tree. Because females and coconut trees both share the ability to reproduce, men fear that a woman's touch may drain the fertility of the coconut tree into her own fertility." She crouches, picking up the nuts off the ground.
He chuckles, taking the coconuts from Her. "In case you haven't noticed, we're not in Bali. For one, we're missing people. Which, in retrospect, isn't as much loss as Ayam Panggang Bumbu." He can almost taste the spicy chicken in his mouth and has to wonder if he'd ever been in Bali. "Have I ever..." He pauses. There is an image of Her, younger and laughing under the sun, and watching Her from a perspective of someone terribly young-a child even. It's startling and vague-a too-quick flash of a long-forgotten dream-and it's gone before he can manage to hold on to it or even grasp if it's a real memory or just wishful thinking. Swallowing the bitter disappointment, he turns away from Her. "We should check how much rain water we've collected last night."
He starts walking toward their camp before She can say anything. No use to ruin a perfectly good morning.
He thinks of whether She really was with him when he went to Bali and which food She liked.
Pepes Ikan jumps to mind.
He doesn't remember what it is.
He decides to go look for Conch after a nap.
The air is humid and almost shimmering with heat. A swim only helps while he's in the cool, bitter with too much salt, water, and he has to be careful even then.
He burns easily.
He heals fast too-usually he's fine by next morning-but be that as may be, itchy and flushed is an unpleasant way to spend an evening.
Spread in the shade, lazy from the heat, he inspects his hands.
He wonders how old he is.
One time he'd tried to go through numbers. He'd tried to think of a number and feel whether it fit.
Twenty-three felt better than the rest so he settled on it. For all he knows, he could be fifty but he doubts. He thinks he's young. His hands are young.
He doesn't feel very young.
He wishes he knew what he looked like.
The ocean doesn't reflect things well. Neither does water trapped in coconut shells. He knows the semblance of his face but he doesn't even know what color his eyes are.
He hopes they're the same warm shade of blue as Hers.
He has scars. Some that he can see, like the one on his shoulder and on his right leg. The first one is white and old and he traces it with his finger, obscure pictures of flashing lights and a terrified face of a girl in his mind. It's not Her, and the emotions he feels are confusing. Regret, guilt and dull pang of almost forgotten loss.
He thinks he cared for the girl.
He thinks he lost her long before he lost his memory.
The scar on his leg is long, red and still throbs with pain at times. It makes him wonder how he ended up here and he tries to avoid it.
He isn't sure he's ready to know.
There is a tiny scar on his lip that he can feel with his tongue. There is another under his chin-a thin imperfection he found with his fingers. They bring no memories, but he's pretty sure he didn't get them while shaving.
He has no idea why he's bold...no, not just bold. Hairless. Not exactly normal, but he can't gather curiosity about it so he figures that he's been like that for a long while.
His cheeks and nose feel tingly and too warm to the touch. With a sigh, he rolls over, hiding his face in his folded arms.
He can see Her in his peripheral vision, breathing softly and in deep sleep. There is a thin ray of light on Her face, coloring the small patch of skin golden.
She never burns.
He closes his eyes and wonders if he should ask Her secret.
It's his own fault, really. He knew that there were poisonous fish near the island and he should've been more careful.
At least the damn thing stung him when he was in the shallow water. He doubts he could've been able to swim back. He barely managed to limp to the campsite.
Lionfish aka fire-fish.
She isn't here and he's glad. He doesn't want Her to see him like this.
His foot is red and swollen, sharp waves of pain building at the wound and rolling up until he can feel them in his stomach. He doesn't know what's worse: the pain, the weakening nausea or the brief flickers of panic.
Lionfish belongs to the scorpion fish family.
He needs to put his foot into the hot water to improve blood flow and disperse the venom. Throwing more wood into the fire, he stares at it for long, terrifying moment. It's bigger than he usually makes it but he still feels cold everywhere above the right knee. He doesn't think it has anything to do with sunburn.
They have distinctive red, maroon, and white stripes; fleshy tentacles above eyes and below mouth; fan-like pectoral fins; long separated dorsal spines.
Uninhibited islands don't come with metal buckets or pots.
Lionfish stings can cause nausea, breathing difficulties, paralysis, convulsions and collapse.
He has no way to heat the water.
It may take several months for a full recovery and if the sting is left untreated, gangrene may develop.
Uninhibited islands don't come with antibiotics to prevent infection and gangrene either.
Gangrene takes time, but he can almost see the flesh around the wound start turning black and fill with pus.
He doesn't want to die from a fucking fish sting.
He doesn't think he has the guts to chop his foot off, so it's probably a good thing that it wouldn't make much of a difference.
He pours the cold rainwater over his wound and wonders, as the clear liquid turns pink, if the power of will is enough to save him this time.
He touches his scars afterwards and speculates whether he has any lives left.
Waking up is like being thrown against a wall. His entire body is spasming with something that extends beyond pain, and he hopes that this isn't real, that he's dreaming. Deep down, he knows that this is more real than anything that has happened to him in the last months, and prays to the gods he doesn't believe in.
He isn't sure if he's praying to survive, or for this to just be over, any way possible.
He's burning up. Freezing and shaking from a fever so high he's losing grip on his surroundings. His head is heavy, throbbing, and every time he tries to take a simple breath, there are spikes of bright pain shooting behind his eyes. Side effect of poison or infection, and it wasn't in the handbook. Then again, he can't remember his own name, so what the fuck does he know?
He tries for a bitter chuckle and regrets it almost immediately. This is... he can't even say that it's unfair, because it's very possible that he deserves this and not being able to remember why doesn't make any difference.
The sky is dark, a strange shade of burgundy, and the moon looks... strange. He strains his eyes and sees blood-red spots on it. There was a legend, or tale of sorts, he remembers. Whoever sees blood spots on the moon won't live to see the next morning.
He doesn't believe in superstitions. Seeing spots on the moon is nothing more than a trick of light.
He doesn't want to die.
This isn't right. A little venom is nothing. He is stronger than this, and he can fucking will it away. He's young and healthy, hell, he never gets sick. But his typically strong immune system hasn't completely recovered from days spent drifting in cold water, barely supported by a small life ring, with no food or water... and what the hell? Now he remembers?
He wants to get pissed at his own fucked-up mind, but his chest clenches tightly, hurtfully, and he can taste bile in his mouth.
He manages to roll off his bed of palms, raising up a little on his hands. He can't feel his leg at all, and he'll panic later, but right now his world is too brightly focused on the pain and the burn in his throat. His arms shake, too weak to keep him up, and he falls to his side. The sharp stench of vomit is the last thing he remembers before blackness reclaims him.
He awakens some time later, disoriented and distressed, but at least this time he is more lucid. He is hurting now and he thinks that's a good sign. His head is pounding, his mouth is stale and tastes like vomit, and he shudders. He isn't sure when the rain started, but the cold wetness numbs the pain a little, and cools down his overheated body.
It's too light to be night and, take that, bloody moon.
He pushes up on unsteady arms, leaning against the nearest tree, when he notices that She isn't here. But someone else is.
Completely impossible, but what in his life isn't?
The newcomer looks a lot like Her, and that startles him. She's tall and beautiful, with long, wavy hair, though the hair is a lot darker than Hers. Her long, purple negligee should be completely out of place but strangely fits. The wet silk clings to her body, and he can feel the fine fabric under his fingers without needing to touch it.
"I know you." The nausea is still there, making the jungle around him swim from the easiest effort, and he tentatively reaches for one of the water-filled coconut shells within his reach. He takes one tiny sip despite the dryness in his mouth and waits until he's sure that he can keep it down before drinking some more. The water is tepid, and tastes like crap, but it's water and that's all that counts.
The newcomer smiles at him; a charming, beautiful smile that reaches her eyes and feels like an omen.
He hates her. It's sharp and sudden, like a gun wound, and he knows he fucking loathes her.
She tilts her head and says something he can't distinguish. Doesn't care. Rage, like fire burning in his veins, almost enough to distract him from the pain, and he finds strength to get up. The world tilts, and he has to lean against the tree to stand.
"Why are you here?" Something bubbles in his chest. It could be tears, but he thinks it's laughter. If he starts laughing, he won't stop until he passes out. He wraps his fingers tighter around the sharp rock in his hand.
Thin hands with long, perfectly manicured fingers reach for him and if it weren't for the tree supporting him, he'd take a step back. Refusing to give her the satisfaction of seeing him flinch, he grabs one of her hands.
She doesn't fight it, just leans closer, until her hair brushes against his cheek. The strands are cold and wet, making him jerk away. "Why won't you just die, Lex?"
His movements are automatic; he doesn't even realize what he is doing until it's too late and he stands alone.
Shaking now, though probably not from the cold, he stares at the motionless body at his feet.
There is always sound when he cracks open the nuts. Bones are harder than nuts. There should've been a sound.
He didn't hear anything.
There are large, dark stains on his hands and his chest. He can feel something trickling down his face and tries to force the image of what he must look like from his mind. The blood should smell. He knows it, remembers the scent well. Remembers how her blood smells. Salty, with a metallic edge, but he isn't surprised that he can't smell anything now.
Completely unsurprised that the only feelings the dead woman at his feet brings up in him are pity and satisfaction.
More surprised that he is still standing.
There's a ring on her finger. Three carat princess-cut diamond solitaire set in the platinum Tiffany setting. Flawless quality. He should know; he bought it.
He remembers the sickly-sweet smile of the jeweler and writing the check.
He remembers trying to control his hands from shaking before asking her the question, the warmth from a fireplace and how even the strong Dolce Vita couldn't completely cover the scent of hospital in her hair.
He remembers being happy when she said 'yes' and making love to her afterward.
The taste of bile is like acid in his mouth, thicker at the back of his throat when he tries to swallow, but he keeps it down.
This isn't real. Can't be, no matter how real if feels.
He isn't sure it matters right now.
Because it could be.
He feels cold and numb and weak. Sliding down on the ground, he realizes that he is still clenching the rock and forces his fingers to release.
Memories force themselves into his mind, glaringly-painful and unavoidable, like water into his lungs and he is drowning all over again. Tries to push them off because it's overwhelming, too fucking much, and he already isn't certain of what's real. Sanity, barely within his grasp, or maybe not even that anymore. Like standing on the edge, breathless, terrified and tempted, and isn't that a story of his life? Always on the edge, waiting for a push. And fuck, so many people offering their services with sweet, deceitful smiles.
So many pretty liars; so little time to rip those smiles off and watch them bleed.
Rain drops, cold and cutting like slivers of ice against his skin, and he tilts his head to let them scrape off the non-existent blood.
There is an urge to throw his head back and howl, and he curls his fingers into fists, pounding them into soft, mucky ground until they hurt.
He closes his eyes and concentrates on breathing. Concentrates on thoughts of Her and it works, brings him down back to at least where he can breathe.
In. Out. In and out.
He doesn't think She'd approve. He's surprised to realize that he actually cares and tries to cling desperately to it. He doesn't think he has the strength to hold on.
Even if he doesn't... it's still almost enough to make him feel better. How screwed up is that the only person in his life whose approval still matters has been dead for years?
Her fingers are cool against his burning forehead, and he shivers. She's humming softly; something slow and familiar. It takes a few minutes for him to remember and he can feel a smile bloom. "Mom, I love you but if you won't stop singing Leonard Cohen, I might be forced to jump off the nearest cliff."
"There is nothing wrong with Cohen." Her lap under his head feels warm and familiar, like the most cherished dream ever, and it gives him the strength to open his eyes.
Night again, and how many had passed since the poison started its impressive work? Since the last time he ate? Time, as something that should be important, but isn't. Not anymore.
"Careful, mom, you're showing your age."
He sees the gentle swat more than he feels it, and there is no desire to duck from it. "Hey, I don't appreciate that statement, young man. Your father is right. You are a spoiled brat. No respect."
"It's your own fault. Freken Bok warned you what would happen if you wouldn't let her spank me."
She frowns, but he can see the smile in Her eyes. "Frulein Schaeffer, Alexander, and I'm starting to believe that maybe her methods of raising children were rather appropriate after all."
"I especially liked the 'warm scotch before bed' rule. Helped me sleep, that's for sure." Of course he kept the entire house up because he kept singing in his sleep. Almost the entire house. His nanny, who used the same method on herself, slept very well and nothing short of an earthquake could wake her up.
He forgot that.
"You would. I bet if we'd kept her instead of hiring Pamela, you'd be perfectly behaved now."
"Either that or she'd be wasting whatever's left of her sanity in a nice rehab." Probably the latter. A child from hell is a nice way of describing the annoying, menacing hooligan that he'd been. Lex may have been too smart to admit it back then, but he definitely deserved some of the spankings he'd been threatened with.
He thinks She knew it as well.
"I hope your children will turn out exactly like you. Then you'll learn."
He considers sitting up, but his attempts falls through when he can barely move his hand. At least he doesn't feel much pain anymore. Doesn't feel much of anything, honestly. He laces his fingers with hers instead. "That implying that I manage to find a wife who won't try to kill me before we're married long enough to have children. Not to mention I'll actually need to survive this little ordeal. Neither of which is highly likely, I'm afraid."
"You'll survive." He wishes he were half as sure of it as She sounds.
"That would be infinitely more convincing if it weren't coming from a hallucination."
She is quiet for a moment. "You'll survive. You're going to be a legend, Alexander, remember? You can't die until you achieve immortality."
"Oh, is that all you expect of me? Let's see if I can whip something up from empty coconut shells and some wilted palms."
"Smartass. Julius Caesar. Alexander the Great. Napoleon. Everyone knows their names and who they were. This is how you achieve immortality, Lex."
And not only for themselves. Would anyone know who Charlotte was if she wouldn't have been Napoleon's mother? A flash of anger but... understanding too.
He wants that too.
"Everyone knows how they ended up as well. Caesar, stabbed by one person in the world he thought he could trust. Napoleon... well, poisoned on an island, and I don't think I can handle the parallels at the moment so let's pretend they don't exist. At least he had billiard to pass time. What happened to 'you can do anything that will make you happy?'"
"We both know that it's not my desires or your father's wishes that give you the dreams and goals, sweetheart. You want the world at your feet more than I wanted to give it to you. And you won't be happy until you have what you want. Some people aren't born for mediocrity."
There is someone else at the campsite. He can see the shapes in the dusk and hear the voices, but pretends he doesn't.
"Sometimes I want other things too."
She smiles, sad, regretful curve of lips, pale under the weak moonlight. "I know."
"Mr. Luthor? Mr. Luthor?" Male voice and there are hands touching him. It feels strange and less tangible than Her thigh under his cheek.
"They're real, aren't they?" She nods, and there is surge of urgent alarm making his heart beat faster. "You're going away again."
"We're not going anywhere, Mr. Luthor. Not without you." He thinks he's being moved but he doesn't see it; doesn't feel it.
All he can see is Her face. She doesn't answer but She doesn't have to. "I am not crazy. I don't think I had much brain damage. And hallucinations that occur because of extreme stress generally stop after the cause is removed."
It would be funny, really, if it weren't so sad. Maybe he is crazy.
"Mr. Luthor, did you say something? Can you hear us?"
If he answers, it'll mean that he believes that they are real. "Yeah, I can hear you. I'm delirious, not deaf." He refuses to look at them though. They will be important, but not yet. In the background he can hear talks about him being responsive and requests for helicopter yelled into walkie-talkies.
"They're saving your life." The soft reprimand in Her voice is clear, but they are here and still will be here.
"They're taking you away again." He whispers; some things shouldn't be overheard, even if they will never understand what he says.
Someone jars his leg and the pain is a surprise that makes him hiss.
"Mr. Luthor, are you allergic to any drugs? Morphine?"
Now that is funny. Too bad he doesn't have enough strength to laugh.
"I can assure you that I'm not allergic to anything in opiate family." He is surprised by how firm his voice is. He wishes he felt as strong as he sounds. They're talking again, but he doesn't think they expect him to reply so it's ok not to listen.
He can feel the needle slide underneath his skin, and he almost rejoices at the thought of no more pain. It takes little time for the drug to start working and he feels the world to start slipping away.
Her hand is still wrapped in his, and he squeezes tighter. "Sing for me."
He can feel Her squeeze back, and there is sad mischief in Her voice. "Tony Bennett?"
Gathering whatever energy he has left, he forces himself to smile and shake his head. "Have mercy, mom."
He raises his free hand and jerks Her sleeve, doing the best impression of a petulant ten-year-old he can manage. "Sing."
"If blood will flow when fresh* and steel are one; Drying in the color of the evening sun."
The world is reduced to darkness and undistinguishable noise, Her face the only entity illuminated by the moon. Opiates always did bring out the dramatic side of him.
"Tomorrow's rain will wash the stains away; but something in our minds will always stay."
He slips farther away, slowly, lulled into acceptance by his mother's voice.
"On and on the rain will fall like tears from a star; On and on the rain will say how fragile we..." </I>
PASITHEA was the goddess of hallucinations and hallucinogenic drugs in Greek mythology. It is also a name of a flower in a Lily family.
The lyrics used are from Sting's "Fragile"
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