|janecarnall (janecarnall) wrote,|
@ 2010-02-15 07:58:00
In The Mouth Of The Wolf: Part 8
The previous stories in this series (my Keptverse) began with The Games (six parts) and continued with The Network (one part), The Players (seven parts), The Gambler (seven parts), The Cripple (one part), The Pieces (seven parts), and End-Game (5 parts).
There are parts one two, three, four, and five, and six, and seven of "In the Mouth of the Wolf", the sixth and final section of this story. Part 9 to follow.
The story may be regarded as fanfic set in poisontaster's Keptverse. There is a species of cast list here.
Sorry about Sunday. I got distracted revising Part 9, which will be posted tomorrow.
Part 9 is the conclusion of "In the Mouth of the Wolf", and while I may be /am tempted to go back and write oneshots (in particular, backstory for Giles and Willow...) the main story is concluded. (Which is somewhat hard for me to believe, after all this time, but all stories have to end somewhere, sometime, and this one ends there.)
poisontaster made it clear that she felt I should have stopped writing non-RPS fanfic in the Keptverse at the point where she said she wanted Keptverse fic to be RPS-only, which was back when I was writing The Players. I couldn't have stopped then, but I could agree not to do another long story in the Keptverse (since mine would always be non-RPS). Her own long story, A Kept Boy, which I have been following enthusiastically for even longer than I have been writing this, is even now sweeping to its conclusion.
In the mouth of the wolf.
Not even the Vicodin tablets made the pain in his hands go away. What each tablet did, for an unmeasurable time, was make it possible for him to think about the pain and to notice the world outside his hands.
It was all out of his hands. The pain in his hands existed as a wide stripe of hurt that gnawed him to the bone. Out of his hands: the world had turned. He had never planned what he would do after the revolution. From where he was lying, he couldn't see Richard's hands.
Richard turned, every so often, and looked at him: and having looked at him, mostly he went back to what he was doing. Twice he came over and handfed Gerard another Vicodin tablet. Each time the touch of his hand on Gerard's mouth woke Gerard from a fog of pain: each time Richard's face looked more exhausted of expression.
“Mr Cowley, we're very pleased to see you. Welcome home.”
A nameless office, a grey-suited British official behind a wooden desk: an office with cream walls that looked too small: the only window looked out over a grey city.
“My associates,” Cowley said. “Rupert Giles and his wife, Willow Rosenberg.”
“Mr Cowley, would you say your mission was a success?”
A TV newscast: the interviewer had a British accent. The background wall had a logo with the letters BBC.
“Yes. Working with Americans who were committed to ending the practice of slavery, the powers of Department of Commerce were terminated. Those powers included the right to condemn to slavery for debt any minor child of an indebted person, or any person without dependents who owed more than he or she was judged able to pay: and the right to determine where in the United States any enslaved person should be bound to live.”
Gerard came awake again at Richard's hand, too rigid, touched his mouth, pushing a tablet inside: Gerard swallowed, trying to get it down dry, staring up at Richard's face. He was still holding the scalpel: he had not degloved. He smelt of blood.
Richard turned back to the table: the man who had positioned himself on it turned his head, alarmed, and said “Doctor Richard?”
Richard stared at him, with the same blank expression, and lifted his gloved hands, staring at them. He dropped the scalpel, and stepped back.
“Doctor Richard?” the man repeated “Are you all right?”
Gerard swallowed down the tablet, and said, hoarsely, “He hasn't slept in twenty-four hours.” It was a guess: it could have been more. He was more certain that Richard would have given him Vicodin at four-hourly intervals than he was of his own sense of time.
The man was staring at him, as if he had forgotten Gerard was there: Richard had turned his head as if he had been slapped, his eyes wide, all but asleep standing.
“You need to let him lie down and sleep,” Gerard said. He used his elbows to get himself sitting up. He had no idea if they would let Richard out of this room, but he thought the gurney would be easier to sleep on than the floor.
The door opened: a woman came in. She looked startled: the man said, without looking at her, keeping his eyes on Richard, “Lisa, something's wrong with Doctor Richard. Tell Doctor Greg.”
“He just needs some sleep,” Gerard said. “He hasn't slept in twenty-four hours.”
The man looked at him, briefly, and turned his attention back to Richard. “Doctor Richard, would you sit down?”
Richard stepped back again, his hands spread wide, away from his body. There was no indication on his face that he had heard or understood anything that had been said to him.
Sitting up made Gerard feel dizzy: he wondered if he could stand. Aside from the burns on his hands, there was nothing actually wrong with him: but he hadn't eaten or slept – or had coffee – since...
Since the world went out of his hands. He looked at his hands and the pain, which seemed to have distanced itself, came sweeping back over him: he was conscious of the room swaying with it, like underwater tide swaying weeds.
The gimpy slave – Greg – was standing in the doorway, leaning on his cane. “What is going on here?”
“He needs some sleep,” Gerard said, wondering if he'd said that already.
“I don't know,” the other man said. “He dropped the scalpel and he walked over there and just stood there, like that – ”
Greg turned his head. He raised his voice, almost a shout. “Who was responsible for making sure Doctor Kimble got some sleep?” There was a pause, not quite a silent one, and he shrugged, and turned his head back to look at Gerard.
“Have you been in here ever since Doctor Kimble started taking chips out? How much sleep has he had?”
“None,” Gerard said. “He had a long day before he got here – ”
Greg shrugged again: his mouth twitched, almost a smile. “We all did.” He turned his head again, and shouted “Clear the nearest intern's room. For Doctor Richard.” He looked at Gerard. “Can you walk?”
“I don't know,” Gerard said. The floor looked a very long way away. He started to put his feet down, and realised he was about to fall forward: the gimp moved. It wasn't far, only three steps, but no one as lame as he was should have been able to move that fast: he shoved a hard hand into Gerard's chest and pushed him back on to the gurney. Other people were arriving at the doorway: Greg turned his head again and gave rapid-fire orders, and several people were moving himself on the gurney, and Richard slumped in a wheelchair, down the corridor to another room, with a single bed built into the wall. Someone else arrived with a sleeping mat they unrolled beside the bed.
Richard got up out of the chair, moving like a sleepwalker, took Gerard's upper arms and pulled him off the gurney. He turned Gerard and pushed him on to the bed, lifting his legs up and pulling his shoes off with two quick tugs. He tugged off the surgical gloves he had still been wearing between the first shoe and the second, letting them fall on the floor. He pushed Gerard to lie flat, and folded himself down on to the sleeping mat, going to his knees and lying down on his side and – when Gerard pushed himself up on one elbow to see – curling himself into a sleeping position, head tucked down.
Very quietly, Greg said, “Can someone check if Doctor Richard is awake? Don't touch him.”
Someone else went down on her knees, and got up again a moment later. “He's fast asleep.”
“He hadn't slept in over twenty-four hours,” Gerard said again.
“It won't surprise you,” Greg said, looking at him, “that these people meant you to be lying on the mat, and Doctor Richard to be asleep in the nice comfy bed.”
It wasn't particularly comfortable, but Gerard didn't say so. “I'd be happy to change places,” he said.
“If you can do it without waking him up,” Greg said, “let's take this somewhere else.”
Richard stirred in his sleep, rolling over with what sounded like a groan of protest. Everyone in the room froze and stared down at him. Greg shrugged. “Or not. Get me a burns specialist. Whatever we've got. And then close the door.”
With the room emptied and the door closed, Greg leaned his weight on his cane and looked at Gerard. “Deputy US Marshal Samuel Gerard,” he said, and added, with a wide-eyed stare that looked sarcasm, “Retired?”
There were not many times in Gerard's life when he had regretted being a smartass. “Who wants to know?”
“Just about every slave in Chicago who ever knew a runaway, would want you dead,” Greg said. “But then every slave in this hospital right now wants 'Doctor Richard' to have whatever he wants so long as he keeps taking chips out.” He paused. “And apparently, even in his sleep, he wants you.”
Gerard let his weight down, and rested his gloved hands on his stomach. He stared up at the ceiling. Only to kill me himself. After a moment, he said it out loud.
“Are you saying that to convince me you're suicidal, or that Doctor Kimble's murderous?” Greg sounded only mildly curious. “Because it's not important either way. You won't be allowed to kill yourself. Nobody cares if Doctor Richard wants to kill you. So whoever we've got who's functioning as a burns specialist is going to come here and check out your hands personally, just in case whatever he wants you for requires functioning hands.”
“I doubt it.”
“So do I. But it's not like you don't have a choice.”
The cane lifted, tapped: Greg came closer. Gerard didn't move.
“Oh wait,”Greg said. “It's exactly like that. How does it feel to know we can do anything we like to you, Deputy Gerard?”
“It's out of my hands,” Gerard said, keeping his gaze fixed on the ceiling. “I didn't expect to be alive right now.” He was wishing for another hallucination of George bringing Giles and Willow home, or Ray and Benny, or Dana, something comforting and vivid to tell himself his kids had survived so far, might live to see the end of this, even to see the next beginning.
He wanted to believe. His hands were beginning to hurt past the Vicodin again. He would never know for sure who had lived and who had died: if he lived long enough to know that Commerce was gone, that was longer than he'd ever expected. To ask if his kids were alive would be to draw the wrong kind of attention to them: to ask if – the others had escaped: safer not to remember their names. Cowley would have got them out. Gerard glanced at the gimp, still standing there, leaning on his cane, looking at him – assessing him, more intently than owner to slave.
He was kneeling on a man's shoulders. He could feel the man shifting beneath him, not struggling, not trying to get away: just trying to keep his airway clear so he could breathe. He knew the feel of a man doing that.
The boy who had served in the Marines with him, who'd been killed in the line of duty twenty-five years ago, was standing over them both, looking young and drunk and angry: the others were laughing. He was unshipping his belt and Gerard knew what was going to happen next: the boy-man said “I'm gonna make that sucker scream,” and Gerard lifted his hands to stop the belt coming down, and saw them gloved and helpless: I'm gonna make that sucker scream, the voice said again, but this time it was his own voice.
He knew the feel of a man trying not to scream, and the vibration of pain through a body restrained so that it cannot move. He knew what it was like to feel something, really strong, to really want something more than he'd wanted anything before or since in his life, and to know that he was a complete piece of shit for wanting it.
The woman who treated his burned hands spoke to him hardly at all: she kept looking down at Richard. Gerard's hands were immobilised again inside cages of plastic. “You'll probably need surgery to get back full use of your hands, but you're healing normally,” she said, finally, and glanced at the gimp. “When do I get my chip out?”
“Sometime after Doctor Richard wakes up,” Greg said. “Unless we get another doctor back.”
“The President says we're all free,” the woman said. “Commerce can't touch us any more. They're saying the Commerce building was blown up.”
Greg nodded once to each statement.
“So why do I have to wait?”
“Because we're all cowards,” Greg said. “Are you going to take anyone else's chip out?”
The woman stared at him, her mouth open. “I'm not a surgeon – ” she said, after that long moment.
“I watched Doctor Richard. Doesn't take a big-shot surgeon.” Greg went on looking at her. “I'll ask around,” he said finally. “Maybe someone will. Cheer up: if Commerce wins, all of us are probably dead anyway.”
“Ma'am,” Gerard said. His mind was drifting off into a haze of Vicodin and tiredness, but he had to ask: “Is that right? The news says all slaves in USNA are free by Executive Order, and Illinois is one of the liberated states?”
They both looked at him: he could see if he squinted. “That's right. What do you know about it?”
“Then the governor – ” though he's probably not the one we woke up with the other day “ – and the state Congress, and the police and ambulance, and the fire services, they're not answerable to Commerce any more. Commerce are the rebels. So is everyone on their side.” Gerard let out a breath of relief tempered only with weariness. “Everything's going according to plan.” He wanted to know if his kids were alive, but above and beyond that, he could see clear through to the goal he had lived and breathed for, sinned and shoved for: the mountain he had sworn he was going to move was on the slide. “You can tell them.” Sleep came for him. He couldn't remember finishing the sentence.
to part 9