Dreams and memories.
EDIT! Checked once more. It wasn't FicWad's fault, it was mine.
Har. Har. Har.
Sorry, FicWad. I love you too.
She lied, perfectly still, for a few moments.
The dream was still there, so real she could almost touch it.
Her headache and her cramps were making breathing an excruciatingly painful and seemingly unnecessary, and feeling her legs sticky with blood was certainly not helping.
Mommy isn't happy.
She knew exactly what she needed, but wasn't so sure she could muster the energy to drag herself out of bed.
But you can. For a drink. Just one, a small one. It'll be all right. After that, everything will be OK.
She's started drinking a couple of days after the news had come, because it somehow helped her numb the pain, and it gave her something to do.
Some thought it had already gone a little too far, a little out of control. But it was the only thing she had left, the only defense she could muster.
She glared at the clock before realizing it was too dark to be able to actually see anything.
Her fingers danced for a moment in the emptiness, and then she managed to find the light switch.
The sudden explosion of brightness scorched her eyes and took her somehow by surprise. She buried her face in the pillow, waiting for her head to stop spinning. It took her a while, but then her breathing steadied down.
Her throat was dry. She hated it.
Alicia slowly but surely got to her feet, stomach retching every time she took a step and felt the blood flow. She looked at the clock.
She walked to the bathroom, swallowing and trying to produce some saliva. It proved useless, she knew she could've never made it without a drink.
Clean up first. Then the drink.
The soothing sound of the bathtub filling up somehow managed to steady her nerves.
She slipped out of her nightgown, stepped into the warm water.
She scrubbed herself until her legs were red; it stung and it burned, but she didn't really care. All she wanted was to get rid of the blood, of the grime.
Rip what remained of that terrifying dream out of her.
She leaned back, hands stained by her own blood. She shut her eyes again, listened to her heart beat and to the water dripping, and wished for him.
She wove the fabric of his being with her mind, imagined his skin against hers and his kisses, his sweet, sad eyes.
She lied there for a few moments, lingering between reality and freedom, more at peace than she'd been in a long time.
Until her brain buzzed all of a sudden and she remembered the drink with painfully stunning clarity.
Something snapped inside of her and a ferocious and desperate determination drove the mental image of Michael away, made her race out of the bathtub and look for a sanitary napkin to stuff down her panties. She didn't even stop to glance at the bloodied sheets: there was a hole inside of her, a deep visceral chasm that sucked away what little, feeble light was left.
Imagining Michael had done nothing but deepen it.
Imagining Michael had just made matters worse.
She rushed down the stairs, ignoring the bloodying cramps, driven my a desperation that was dangerously becoming tears. Alicia stopped in front of the liquor cabinet.
Hands shaking and heart aching.
Fill me up.
Set me free.
But the first drink never worked. It wasn't just one.
It would've never been.
One drink was never enough.
One drink alone would've never silenced the screaming.
Dreams of fire. He was the Father who had to protect the ones he loved. But he'd failed.
First Michael, then Frank, had been destroyed and burned to ash. He'd failed.
Gerard tried to calm the screaming, hysterical beating of his heart. His mouth tasted bitter and it felt as if he'd run a thousand miles.
A stone was jabbing at his back.
He'd managed to sleep another couple of hours or so, dreaming of cockroaches and clowns, confusing dreams that had left him with a crushing sense of loss.
He stretched out an arm, searching for the comforting warmth of Frank's sleeping body.
His fingers found nothing but grass, and dirt.
Frank was gone.
Gerard's heart started beating again. Faster, faster, faster.
He sat up, looked around him.
Maybe he's just gone for a walk. Maybe he just needs to be alone.
In the darkness he could barely make out the other men sleeping - his brain noticed but didn't acknowledge the fact that Toro was gone, too.
Where the fuck are you, Frank.
He stood up.
They'd decided to sleep in the town for a night, behind the church. Sleeping in those abandoned houses was the last thing any of them wanted to do.
Gerard tried to calm himself down. The nightmare had taken a major toll on his mind: he was still shaking, ever so slightly. He was probably exaggerating Frank's disappearance.
But he needed to know he was safe. He needed to know Frank was okay.
He started walking, quietly, hoping nobody would hear him.
He passed the church and the blood-stained walls, tried to not look at them.
The tree looked so different, now that the bodies were gone.
But there were five crosses planted in the ground under it, made with wood.
And someone crouched in front of them.
Ray lighted a cigarette.
Helping the girl hadn't worked. The guilt was still there, and her bloodied, pained face was painted right before his eyes.
And the dream he had had made him want to slip away and die and never come back, never breathe again.
Cease living because the embarrassment and the shame was too much to bear.
He covered his mouth with his hand, rocked back and forth.
His dream was playing in fast forward in front of him, over and over. Unable to stop it.
He whispered it to the night, whispered it to himself.
To Frank and Michael.
"I know, we should've met some other way. You might've even liked me - he giggled softly, sad – And maybe I could've managed to not ruin our friendship some stupid way. I apparently tend to do that, and then people hate me. I just have a special gift for it, I guess."
He looked at her cross. Her record (the Schubert one) was leaning against it.
"You liked music, didn't you? Or maybe it just helped you. God, who knows. But music helps me too, you know? It--it gives me clarity."
The cross obviously didn't answer. He'd actually half expected it to do so.
Ray started tugging at a blade of grass.
"...yeah. I guess music's pretty cool. Like jazz--I'm a big fan of jazz. You know who else loves jazz? - Loved jazz - My best friend."
He paused for a moment, remembering afternoons spent with Michael James Way listening to records even older than they were.
"You would've liked him, I guess. I mean, everybody liked him. He was sweet and kind and immensely talented. And he was smart, too." His voice stared to break. "He was an amazing person, and I miss him. I miss him so much."
Ray started sobbing.
"And he's dead because of me, you see? He's dead because I wasn't fast enough and I couldn't keep my Goddamn hands still. I was so scared of losing him, so I didn't concentrate. He's dead and he wasn't supposed to die and neither were you."
He swallowed and cleaned his face from snot and tears with the back of his hand.
He took a few breaths, rattling, desperate breaths that shook his whole being.
"You were such a beautiful, sweet person, Mikey. You were so amazing and there was so much we were supposed to do, together. God, you're--were my best friend. And I miss you. And I can't even stomach looking at Gerard because he reminds me of you."
He didn't care that the grave in front of him wasn't Michael's.
"But he'll never be you, because you were my buddy, y'know? You...you were Michael."
Ray smiled, sad. He'd pulled out entire chunks of grass without even noticing.
“Do you remember--when you first pitched the idea of doing something together, like a band, since we both loved to play? And somehow we dragged Frank and your brother into it too. And they didn't want to, at first. But they just happened to be really good—like you. God, you were good. You were so fucking good. And you were there. Always. No matter what. For me, or for your brother. For Frank. For anybody, actually.”
“And the times we'd fuck around aimlessly, and how you'd push your glasses up the ridge of your nose using your index finger before you'd say something important.”
Remembering somehow filled the emptiness. It filled the silence.
“Or smart. Or funny.
Or like the one time we didn't go to school. We walked along the railroad tracks, along the bit that goes right over the creek. The bit everybody – even us – thought wasn't being used anymore. But it was, really rarely, but it was being used. And I almost got run over. We both did. And you lost your glasses and you got hysterical about it.”
He crushed the cigarette butt.
“Or the one time Frank and Gerard threw you off the porch. For your twentieth birthday. And the night you met Alicia. And your wedding day, and you were both so fucking happy.”
Knowing that those little things were gone forever made his eyes well up once more.
He clenched his fists, brought them up to the side of his head.
"I wish I could be able to let you go. I wish I could just snap my fingers and...and--"
He couldn't bring himself to continue the phrase: he was sobbing too hard.
Ray took a swing from the bottle of wine he'd found in one of the houses. It burned the back of his throat.
"...And forget you, I guess."
Or bring you back.
He lighted another cigarette.
Suddenly, there were footsteps behind him.
He didn't move, didn't care who it was.
Toro looked up at whoever had spoken.
Gerard was standing beside him.
He sighed, looked at the crosses.
For a few moments, they didn't speak.
“You did a good job with these.”
Toro had spent the entire afternoon crafting them.
Gerard looked down, then away from the tree and the graves and his friend.
“I miss him too, you know.”
Ray didn't respond. He felt uneasy, being caught in such an emotional moment.
He decided to hand Gerard the bottle.
Way took a swing, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“And you are right—my brother was an amazing person.”
More silence. Heavy, uneasy, unnecessary.
Gerard didn't know what to say. Niether of them did.
But Ray was there, and he'd just spent a half hour talking to his brother. To whatever remained of his brother.
Doing something he was supposed to do.
He'd killed a girl because it had been the most human solution possible to a hopeless situation.
He'd desperately tried to save Michael, no matter what.
“You're a good man, Ray Toro.”