|janecarnall (janecarnall) wrote,|
@ 2008-11-20 08:20:00
|Entry tags:||gambler, keptverse|
The Gambler – Part Two
This is the second part of the third story (first part) that began with The Games (six parts) and continued with The Network (one part), and The Players (seven parts)
The story may be regarded as fanfic set in poisontaster's Keptverse. It is being written as part of wrimowrimo. I also updated the cast list here.
It had been nearer two in the morning than one when Gerard went to sleep (warm solid bony body next to him) and he should have been able to sleep for eight solid hours, if nothing new woke him.
By the clock, it was just after four when Gerard woke. Four in the morning. He didn’t want to be awake but he undeniably wasn’t asleep. Richard was still lying next to him – still and quiet – and shouldn’t be any more wakeful than Gerard was. What the hell had woken him – ?
Richard had moved. Not stirring in his sleep, definitely conscious movement. Slowly, cautiously, evidently still thinking Gerard was asleep, Richard was trying to get away.
That first Sunday morning, Richard had done something like this, and had headed directly for the kitchen – had certainly been looking for knives, more likely for suicide than for murder. He’d tried to jump Gerard, he’d tried to fight – and then, by Sunday night, he seemed to have given up fighting. Seemed.
Through the week, Gerard had seen Richard’s cooperation – however resentful, however unwilling – as a sign of his eventual submission. Turned out none of that had been compliance, still less submission.
Nothing Richard did or said could be trusted or counted on. All of it had been in the service of Richard’s own agenda, and they were lucky that that this agenda had merely been insane.
Gerard was too tired even to think of cursing: he lay still, all his nerves on edge, wide-aware, a stream of wordless rage and hate flooding the back of his mind at Richard for making him wake up again.
Richard had reached the edge of the bed. Gerard waited: Richard hadn’t even sat up yet. Carefully, slowly, Richard slid himself over the edge of the bed, and must have gently settled himself to the floor. Gerard lay still a moment longer: he expected to hear Richard get up, or at least begin to move – did he think he’d be less conspicuous if he crawled out of the bedroom? – but nothing happened.
Gerard gathered himself and moved. Fast: he didn’t know what Richard had planned. He was standing poised for a fight, when he realised Richard was simply lying on the floor: had been curled up, protecting his face and belly, but was now twisted over, looking at Gerard. His face showed white in the dim light: expression was hard to read.
“What the hell?” Gerard took two long steps back to the nearest light control, and brought the lights up full, closing his eyes momentarily to avoid the dazzle. Richard was blinking and shaking his head when Gerard could see him again, and Gerard lunged. He was seriously beginning to believe he would kill Richard for a decent night’s uninterrupted sleep.
Richard convulsed, briefly, his face distorted in the dim light – “Son of a bitch!” Gerard snarled, the slave was trying to fight, but Gerard had leverage and weight, he was kneeling on Richard, and the man could not throw him off. What if he’d leaked about tonight’s delivery? Gerard grabbed Richard by the ears and jerked his head up to bring the back of his skull down against the carpet, a moment’s sanity keeping himself from too much force – enough to daze, not concuss.
“Now you listen to me,” Gerard said. He was gripped with rage and exhaustion. He felt all the weight that had rolled off him when Adam and Ray and Benton came in the door unharmed had piled right back on. “I am tired. I am not in a good mood. Are you paying attention to me now, Richard?”
Richard gasped and nodded. He was shaking violently, but no longer struggling.
“I want an answer from you. Now.”
There was a moment’s silence. “Yes,” Richard said.
Gerard bent close. “Where the hell did you think you were going?”
“Nowhere,” Richard said.
“Nowhere,” Richard repeated, as if the problem was that Gerard might not have understood him.
“You were getting out of bed in the middle of the night to go nowhere?”
“I didn’t know I’d wake you…” Richard’s voice trailed off, evidently seeing that was not the best thing to say to Gerard right now. “I wasn’t going anywhere.”
“Just getting out of bed so you could lie on the floor?” Gerard kept his hand from slapping Richard’s face: he was not confident he could hold the blow. “Try again.”
Richard stared up at him. He looked completely beaten. “I can’t,” he said. His voice was dazed and shaking. “You’re going to send me back there. I don’t – I’m not going anywhere, I know I’m not going anywhere. I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t know I’d wake you. I wouldn’t have left the room, I knew that would wake you. I didn’t want to wake you.”
“What were you trying to do? Go to the john?” A man moved by that need wouldn’t try to crawl, wouldn’t try to get there surreptitiously.
“No. I …” Richard made a noise as if he was choking. “I wanted … to lie on the floor. I thought I could sleep. If I wasn’t on the bed.”
“With me?” Gerard frowned.
“Last time when I woke up I thought I was home,” Richard said. He sounded almost wandering, indescribably lost and weary. “I didn’t want to sleep…” his voice trailed off. “I thought I was home,” he said again.
“Oh, Jesus Christ,” Gerard said, seeing it suddenly. Richard hadn’t slept in an ordinary bed, with a mattress and sheets and blankets, since… the night of his arrest. Or the night before his arrest. He stared down at Richard. Except that night nearly a week ago. Waking in an ordinary bed, with a companion to share it, not the half-nightmare life of white boxes and blood for a slave in the arena but ordinary rooms and what must seem like ordinary days: Richard was in shock.
He’s not one of my kids.
No. But he’s mine.
“Okay.” He slid a hand behind Richard’s head, checking it over: there was going to be a bump there where Richard’s skull had thumped against the carpet. “Okay. Stay where you are.” He got up. “Can you take aspirin?”
Richard stared up at him. He nodded.
“Good.” Gerard brought four aspirin and a toothglass of water, and made Richard sit up and swallow the aspirin: he did, obediently enough, staring at Gerard in apparently-complete bewilderment. There was space on the side of the bed Gerard usually slept on, between bed and wall, and a spare comforter and two blankets tucked away at the back of the closet: Gerard folded the three together to make a kind of padding, roughly Richard’s length and width, and made a trip to the holding cell to retrieve the blanket. It took less than five minutes, start to finish, and Richard was still sitting there, staring, looking so dazed that Gerard would have thought he was concussed except he knew he hadn’t hit hard enough for that.
“Okay. Lie down here.” Gerard flipped the blanket over him. “Let me know if that doesn’t work.” I can’t believe I said that. Don’t wake me up to let me know. Just – “Go to sleep.”
He lay down himself, Richard at least within arm’s length, and at a thought, picked up his phone and shoved it under his pillow. He had been tired before. He hoped to hell Richard could sleep now.
Gerard woke, lazily, not long after ten: Richard was still asleep on the improvised mat beside the bed. Still there, still asleep, which was better than last Sunday. Gerard sat up and looked at him. Richard slept on, the blanket huddled round his shoulders, his feet poking out the bottom.
I didn’t kill my wife, Richard had told him. A one-armed man did it, he’d told the police, according to his arrest record, but this was an invisible man, that none of the staff had seen, no one had found any evidence of, no one believed existed. This defense hadn’t even used it at the trial: there was no evidence any stranger had been in the house.
But Richard had evidently convinced himself the man existed. Richard had expended almost all the communication time he’d so recklessly stolen, at such risk to himself, on locating – and apparently making phone calls to – a large selection of the one-armed men on Cook County Hospital’s medical records: Dana said that Cook County Hospital saw pretty much every amputee in Northern Illinois, certainly every one in Chicago.
That was okay. Gerard didn’t need Richard to be sane. Either about his murder of his wife, or about anything else. But he did need Richard to be willing to lie down next to him and let him get a night’s sleep. And he didn’t want to have to beat Richard into submission every night. Any night. He just wanted Richard to give in.
Last time when I woke up I thought I was home.
Gerard rolled over on to his stomach, leaning on the edge of the bed, and contemplated Richard from close up. He was handsome enough to have been a trophy husband for Lady Helen Waverley: his distinguished career might have pushed him into the ranks of entitlement even without his wife’s money and family status. All cut off because, in rage, jealousy, hurt, greed – no one was ever likely to know, probably Richard himself couldn’t remember any more – he had decided to kill his wife. It might not have been quite the impulse of the moment, but it evidently hadn’t been done with much time to plan. The events of the past week seemed to demonstrate that for a smart guy, Richard was quite capable of taking really stupid risks. Maybe because he believed he’d get away with it. Maybe because he just didn’t give a shit.
Maybe given a few days to cool down, Richard would have been smart enough not to kill his wife. But again, who knew how badly Doctor Kimble had wanted his wife’s money?
Last time when I woke up I thought I was home. It was like being in a nightmare. But I couldn’t wake up.
Gerard propped his chin on his hand. What he could see of Richard’s face, half-hidden by blanket and hair, was more relaxed than Gerard had ever seen it. And last night was the first time he could remember that Richard had actually talked, more than five words at time. When he’d decided they needed a canary, he had been looking for a convict who had committed a single murder and had been condemned to the collar for it; criminal justice statistics from outside USNA suggested that a person who had killed one person they knew well was the least likely of all murderers to kill again – less likely to commit another murder than someone who had never killed. Criminal justice statistics inside USNA were too deeply affected by the distortion of slavery to be worth much.
Buying from the arena, so that Gerard could say he’d picked out a convict as a bodyslave because he’d been attracted by their looks – and let anyone who liked suppose that the danger was part of the attraction – had seemed like the best kind of cover story, one that arranged itself. And Richard had been available. Maybe Richard had been sane when he was sent there. But after three years sorting bodies in the triage room, knowing what was outside the doors, would anyone be sane? Maybe you had to believe in something to get through that alive, and Richard had chosen to believe in the one-armed man.
You’re going to send me back there.
Yeah, he’d told Richard he would. That first morning. Pull a stunt on his team, send him back to the arena. He’d been thinking of Richard attacking one of them – well, hell, specifically, he’d been worried about Dana or Willow. Willow was just a kid, and Dana was cool enough with a gun but not much of an ace at close-quarters fighting. Benton was soft enough to let Richard get the drop on him, but good defensively and hard enough if anyone wanted to hurt Ray; Ray and Giles and Adam were all pretty good close-in fighters, and George was just plain scary.
Gerard didn’t care if Richard was uncomfortable around every person on the team except for Gerard himself: and the stunt Richard had pulled on them this week had pretty much guaranteed that they weren’t going to like him much. Richard was too bright for a simple good-cop/bad-cop routine to work well… but anyone, no matter how smart they were, was vulnerable to living in isolation with only one source of comfort. That was how Gerard had figured this would work, and how it could still work, if Richard were convinced he couldn’t pull any more stunts like this one.
to part 3