He dreamt of wide, open spaces. Of blue skies and bright green fields of grass. Of safety, first and foremost. Even in dreams his mind seemed to know how trapped he was, because everything imagined was freedom. But once aware everything changed, as dreams so often do, and blue skies and green fields evaporated, replaced instead by looming skyscrapers and grey cement.
The city was empty, barren, nothing but vast, empty streets and towering buildings. Even the skies were threatening; Darkened clouds for miles, rolling in over the city.
He looked up at the sky, only to realize what he thought was clouds were in fact giant waves washing in over the city. Terror flooded his system as surely as the water flooded the city, and he didn’t have time to suck in air before it knocked into him.
At least dreams don’t have to follow the physics of any normal world, because he stood as firmly as he ever did, even when the waves fell upon him and the entire world was submerged in water. It was a disorienting sight, seeing the surface of the water ripple above them, and the skyscrapers being distorted by the flow. Perhaps if he kept looking he’d see fish, and not just to the desolation of the empty city.
All of those thoughts came effortlessly to him, as natural as breathing, when he realized he could not, in fact, breathe. Even if he could stand upright, there was no oxygen for him to make use of. He looked up to the sky again, and with a sinking heart he realized he’d never be able to swim up all the way. Not in time. If his eyes watered, he couldn’t tell, but the dull pain in his chest doubled and tripled, and he realized he was trapped once more.
His brain was fighting it, trying desperately to deny the body what it so desperately needed, but he knew once he drew breath it would all be over. It burned, not just in his lungs, but his limbs and his head. It all hurt. He had read once that drowning was a peaceful way to go, at least once you let go, let in, and gave up.
So he did. He opened his mouth for a breath that wasn’t there, and realized that he was awake.
At first he couldn't open his eyes fully. He could see flickering lights through half-lidded eyes, like the watery skies of his dreams, but he couldn't tell where he was. His arms felt strange, cold, like they had fallen asleep. He tried to move them, but all he was rewarded with was a dull tug and slight pain in his wrists.
Waylon tried to open his eyes, but his vision was foggy, as if he'd taken a swim in a vat of oil. He couldn't move his legs either, and the pieces finally locked together in his mind.
It all came back to him.
All those horrible hours in that locker, forced to witness Eddie's horrendous treatment of the other patients, unable to help or escape. For a while he had thought it would never end. That the rest of eternity would be spent in that claustrophobic space, air damp and heady with the coppery smell of blood and the never-ending parade of screaming men.
Oh my God...
Waylon forced his eyes open, blinking furiously as he tried to look around the room. It was still foggy and the light was strange, but whether it was his eyes or the lights themselves he couldn't say for sure. He didn't close his eyes, he kept them open even as they burned and watered, forcing himself to regain focus.
A strange chill ran down his back as he looked down on himself and realized he was naked. Eddie, the man downstairs, the monster, the groom, had actually undressed him while he was unconscious and strapped him down, like a pig for slaughter, like all the other men.
It was unsettling. Waylon had been so far removed from reality that he hadn’t even woken up. It made him wonder what else the groom had been doing while he was unconscious. He shuddered when he remembered the pain in his limbs and head in his dream, and he wondered if the man had done anything to him.
What alerted him he couldn't say, but he was suddenly aware that he wasn't alone in the room. Perhaps it was the slight tightening of his scalp, or the prickling that suddenly ran down his spine, something left over from when man was not man at all.
Either way, someone was observing him quietly, radiating heat and something else. Something that made the primitive parts of Waylon's brain light up like traffic lights, screaming at him to run. He started thrashing, rubbing his wrists raw on the rope, panting and hyperventilating in an effort to get away. Because he knew who this someone was.
It was no use. With another tug at his restraints he let his head fall back on the wooden table, defeated and helpless. Whatever Eddie had done, or planned to do, there was no escape. Eddie must have seen his resignation as a sign, because he chose that very moment to emerge from the shadows, like something out of a nightmare. If he had been in Waylon’s dream, then he’d surely be a shark. Eddie smiled at him, with far too many teeth showing, before he tightened the ropes around his ankles and stroked his skin gently.
Waylon shuddered as goosebumps riddled his skin, but Eddie didn't seem to notice, he just started speaking, his voice mild and almost gentle as he complimented Waylon's skin. If Waylon hadn't already witnessed what this man was capable of doing, he might have found great comfort in his words, but right now they turned his insides into ice, a cold sweat breaking out on his forehead when he realized what was about to happen.
Eddie disappeared from sight again, and Waylon tugged desperately at his restraints. There was a slight give to the rope, but not enough, and Eddie emerged again before he could get a good grip on it. He returned right by Waylon's side, allowing Waylon to stare directly up at his face for the first time. Waylon had already seen what the machine had done to the man’s face, seen it tear and blister through the computer monitor, but it felt very different seeing it this close. It was inescapable this way, seeing the full horror of what that little line of code had caused.
"-endure. For my sake. For the sake of our-"
Waylon was fully aware that Eddie was speaking, but he couldn't focus on the words, terrified to the point where he couldn't move, couldn't form any words or look away. Because no matter how terrified he was, he couldn’t tear his gaze away from the figure leaning over him, eyes locked with the monster’s, Eddie's eyes a strange mixture of blood-red and pale blue.
Eddie made a swooping motion with his hands as he gestured towards Waylon's chest, his hands still gloved and strangely clean, considering the mess Waylon had been witness to.
"-Away everything..." Eddie leaned over his lower regions as he spoke now, staring at Waylon's penis before looking up at him again. "- Vulgar. A soft place to welcome my seed." He placed one hand on Waylon's thigh, letting it slide up until he almost touched Waylon's groin. "To grow our family."
Waylon knew Eddie was insane. He'd read the files, hell, he'd seen what he had done, yet his mind kept racing through his options. Maybe there was something he could say to get through to him. His brain kept flashing, and he realized he was too afraid to even form words. If he opened his mouth, inhumane sounds would be the only thing escaping, and then he’d truly lose his mind. He kept thinking that he’d end up like that horrifying display he had seen earlier, body twisted and shaped into something grotesque and inhuman. Something terrifying left for other men to stumble across, before they, too, met their ends. He hoped Lisa wouldn’t see him like that. Oh, how he hoped she wouldn’t.
As if Eddie knew what he was thinking, he fiddled with something in front of Waylon, starting up the unmistakable sound of a buzz-saw.
Oh my God.
Waylon's mind wasn’t just racing, it was galloping frantically and desperately, forming and unforming plans in his head, unable to keep his mind from just blinking numbly with white noise.
Eddie moved him closer to the blade, all the while with that strange, gentle expression on his face, forcing him closer, so close he could feel the wood shatter and splinter a mere inch from his private parts.
Holy fuck, holy shit, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.
Waylon shook his head rapidly from side to side, tears flying, but he didn’t care. He'd heard of others speaking of near death experiences, how life flashed before their eyes, but all he could sense were ice-cold panic and desperate nausea. His mind was blinking with danger, and for a second he thought the soldiers enclosing Eddie from behind were a figment of his imagination; Something his frenzied mind had conjured up to help him escape what was about to be done to him. At first he just stared at them blindly, not even calling out for help. His eyes were wide and empty, unblinking as one soldier raised his gun and hit it full force in the back of Eddie's head.
Confusion swept over Eddie's scarred face before he fell to the floor, and Waylon blinked at the soldiers wildly, tears of relief streaming hotly down his cheeks. He was just about to thank them when the soldier crossed over to him swiftly, raising his gun in the same manner as he had with Eddie.
There was a terrible, horrifying, sense of déjà vu as Waylon opened his eyes. He already knew he was trapped, but for a moment he couldn't tell where he was. The splitting headache thrummed through one temple on to the next and forced him to close his eyes again, the bright light harsh and blinding.
No, no, not again.
He fought his body to open them again, nausea rolling over him in horrible waves as the world swirled around him, his heart sinking as he took in his surroundings.
He wasn't in Eddie's workshop anymore, but he doubted the room he was in was much better. The floor was cold and hard against his sore body, and although the room smelled better than the rooms he had left behind, it still had a lingering smell of something foul. Someone had clothed him, thank God, but it wasn't much help against the coldness of the room; Cold metal bars against his back and cold concrete floors below him. The uneven surface of the floor was bloodied, like someone gave up trying to clean it years ago.
He was in a cage. Or a prison cell. A terrifying combination of the two. It even contained one of those horrible toilet-sink monstrosities he’d seen in prison documentaries. The far part of the room was flooded with bright light that reminded him of interrogation scenes from old film noirs, the bright bulbs turned towards him, making it nearly impossible to make out anything behind them. As he raised his hand, squinting at the harsh light, he thought he could see vague contours of chairs beyond it, but nausea forced him to look away.
Out of the ashes, into th-
A moan interrupted his thoughts, and he could feel blood drain from his face as he turned towards the sound.
Eddie was lying on his side, dried blood caked on his face from when his forehead connected to the floor in his workshop, his hair no longer neatly combed, but spiked out in awkward angles.
Oh no, no no nonono...
Waylon scrambled backwards, forcing his back against the cold bars. Eddie was unconscious, but Waylon knew it was only a matter of time before he woke as well. And then-
They weren't in the same cage, at least not directly, but it didn't make him feel any safer. The bars formed a barrier between the two of them, but they were extended from a slit at the top of the cage, and he followed the chain attached to it with a sinking feeling in his chest. The window wasn’t quite large enough, or maybe just angled wrong, because the light didn’t penetrate the room, didn’t light up what was beyond the still-bright bulbs aimed their way, but Waylon could tell the chain ended somewhere beyond it. He could still make out the slight outlines of chairs beyond it, and with the added knowledge of the chain, the sight made something icy form in the pit of his stomach.
It appeared to be some kind of grotesque entertainment center, some sick circus, a freak show. He knew he shouldn't be surprised, not after the things he'd seen, but this was really fucking sick.
It left very little doubt as to why they were put here. He didn’t want to think about what would happen once Eddie woke up, so he started making plans in his head, ways to escape, hell, perhaps even ways to kill Eddie before he had a chance to kill him.
Waylon was strong, although not strong like Eddie was, but he was faster. More agile. It probably wouldn’t do much in this situation, but if he could just find some weakness in the way the bars were constructed, anything, then maybe he could slip through and get away from here.
He couldn't tell if they were alone in the room, but at this point he didn't care, instead he let his fingers run along the bars, feeling for any weaknesses, but finding nothing. The cage was big enough to stand in, so he shakily got to his feet, eyes wandering wildly, fingers probing and pulling on anything he could, but came back to where he started without any luck.
It was a strange contraption, the sides of the cage was set in a metal groove which was bolted to the ground. He couldn’t figure out what that could be used for. He shook his head, and looked around the rest of the room again.
There wasn’t a whole lot to work with. The walls were made of whitewashed bricks, but turned splotchy with filth. The place must have had regular issues with moisture, because there were green streaks following the groves of the brickwork, with the occasional spatter of something darker. Waylon swallowed.
The only thing left to check was the narrow window far up on the wall, and he tried to stand on his toes to look out without success. He eyed Eddie anxiously for a moment, worried he might wake him up, before he tried some small awkward jumps to get a glimpse of where he was without causing further damage to his already damaged leg.
He sank down in the corner furthest away from Eddie, feeling resigned again, and just stared blindly in front of him with a sigh. He felt like a rat in a cage, and he made a mental note to start signing petitions against animal testing when he got out of this.
If you get out.
It was just a small little thought in the back of his head, but it chilled him to the bone.
"When," he mumbled out loud, as if saying the words out loud made them ring more true, and his eyes quickly darted Eddie’s way, but the man didn’t stir.
His mind started wandering again, wandering to bad places, so he got up again, pacing. If only he could get a glimpse out of that window.
The bars were too slippery to climb, and he'd always been horrible in any sort of sport anyway. He made another mental note to start exercising when he got out. He might have been able to climb on the toilet to get a better vantage point, but the toilets was situated by the bars in the middle, the divider carefully cut around it. Eddie would be able to grab him if he got that close. Waylon forced himself to look away.
When the solution finally dawned on him, he felt pretty stupid. The bars above his head formed natural monkey bars, and that was something that even he felt comfortable doing. With another hurried glance Eddie's way, he started doing the awkward little jumps again, his fingers grazing the cool metal, but always half an inch shy of getting a decent grip. Now if he could only-
"What the hell are you doing?"
Eddie's voice broke the silence, and Waylon landed awkwardly on his wounded leg with surprise, falling backwards with a whimper before scooting back into his corner.
Eddie sounded different. He was still slurring, but his voice was deeper and more graveled. More like the first time he heard him speaking, back in that awful chamber before all of this.
"I-I- Uh- I-" Waylon tried to keep his voice calm, but it was laced with panic.
Eddie looked half-dazed and very confused. He kept rubbing his hand on the bloodied part of his head, not paying much attention to Waylon at the moment.
"I'm terribly sorry, I-" Eddie's voice changed a little, back to the groom’s, and Waylon pressed his back further against the bars. "Where are we, darling?"
"We- Uh… The soldiers knocked us out and put us here," Waylon said, his chest heaving.
Eddie seemed to consider this for a moment, brows knotted together as he took in their surroundings.
"This is rather dire, isn't it?" he said, slowly, like he was weighing every word.
Waylon's mind was racing again, still desperate, but a little less frantic. He hadn't talked to the patient in the maze above Eddie's halls, the one he’d thought was at least three different people. What did the papers say? Dave? Dennis? It didn’t really matter. What mattered was that from what he'd heard of the jumbled conversations, the patient had helped Eddie with a steady supply of brides, yet Eddie hadn't harmed him as far as Waylon knew. Which meant that maybe, just maybe, Eddie could be reasoned with.
Waylon licked his dry lips and tried to figure out a way to word everything in a way that wouldn't anger him. God knows he’d seen enough examples of the aftermath of Eddie’s rage.
"Glus- Eddie," he started, hesitantly, and Eddie whipped his head up, eyes darting from the window to Waylon. “Maybe if we work together, then we can get out of here.”
Something strange fluttered across Eddie’s face, but he nodded slowly.
"I was trying to get a look out that window, to see where we are." Waylon pointed to the window, and Eddie followed his finger. “But I’m not tall enough.”
Eddie held on to the bars as he pulled himself up, his legs shaking a little as he stretched. Waylon had forgotten just how tall Eddie really was, his head almost brushing against the top part of the cage as he rose to his full height. He swayed for a moment, while he tried to smooth his hair back in place with both hands.
"Now, let's see, shall we, da-" He cut himself off as he looked out through the window without much difficulty, frowning a little as he did. "I don't recognize anything," he finally said, leaning his forehead against the bars and closing his eyes for a second.
"A-Are we not at Mount Massive anymore?" Waylon asked quietly, suddenly hopeful. Maybe if they were far enough away from that Engine, far enough from the place itself and whatever was in those walls, then its violent effects wouldn't have-
Waylon hadn't noticed that Eddie was looking at him, and all thoughts ceased when he realized.
"Darling..." Eddie whispered and a cold chill went through Waylon again. Any hope he’d had about reasoning with this man quickly dissipated.
In a move far too quick for such a large man, Eddie suddenly ran for the bars, stretching his arms through them, his big hands trying to grab a hold of Waylon from across the cage.
"Darling! Come to me, darling."
Waylon was still pressed up against the bars on the opposite side, tucking his legs in so Eddie couldn’t reach a single part of him. Not that Eddie seemed to give up, he just continued to press his large body against the bars, the divider swaying slightly from the pressure.
“Let me love you,” he grunted.
Waylon wondered what would happen if he just gave in to him, like he had given in to the water in the dream. Maybe it would be a quicker death. A more merciful death than whatever Murkoff had planned for the two of them. There were no saws or knives here, and he shuddered to think what Eddie would do to him if he got the chance. Somehow Waylon imagined he’d tear him apart, limb from limb, until he was nothing more than a spatter on the wall. Yet another tally for Murkoff to make.
It was strange, he’d had a life outside of Murkoff, but right now he couldn’t remember what it was. Who did he use to be before this? What did he ever do before Murkoff? What did he fill his days with?
Waylon sat in his corner, staring at the man desperately trying to claw his way to him, trying desperately to occupy his thoughts with other things.
You deserve this. You allowed and enabled torture on the criminally insane.
He shook his head.
I tried to help, he tried to reason with that darker voice inside him, but it wouldn't listen.
No one deserves this, he thought wistfully, not just thinking of himself anymore, but the damaged man in front of him who was still hissing profanities at him, fingers reaching through the bars trying to grab at him. That thought stayed, repeating through his head until he couldn't hear anything else: Absolutely no one deserves this.
Then he finally curled in the corner, covering his ears with his hands, hoping that he’d wake up the next day to find that this had all been a bad dream.
Waylon groaned as he slipped out of yet another nightmare, even if he couldn’t remember the specifics of it. He hadn’t slept peacefully even for a moment, and he woke up more tired than when he’d fallen asleep, joints stiff and limbs complaining.
There wasn’t a specific moment where he opened his eyes and realized with a pang where he was; No, he knew where where he was immediately. He knew the second he gained consciousness. Hell, maybe even in sleep, because he was still tucked into the safe little corner where he had curled up.
He was afraid to turn around, but he did, finding Eddie sitting on the floor, staring out the window. It was as if he knew that Waylon had woken up, maybe he’d heard him stir, because he turned right away.
Waylon cleared his throat, rubbing awkwardly at his eyes. He wasn’t sure what he could say to him. Wasn’t sure what he wanted to say, if anything at all.
Eddie stared at him, but different this time, his eyes clear and in the moment as he carefully regarded the expression on Waylon’s face.
“I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?” he finally asked.
Eddie’s manner of speaking was very different from the groom’s, and Waylon had to contain a shudder of relief. At least, at least until he remembered where Eddie had seen him before. He doubted Eddie would be too happy about that information. Waylon didn’t answer right away, considering his options while licking his lips.
“We met before. Yes. In the asylum,” he said and cleared his throat again. Good. No specifics, but not a lie.
Eddie nodded, eyes still fixed on Waylon’s face. Despite the nod he didn’t seem completely convinced, but apparently enough to drop the subject.
Waylon’s gaze flicked to the strange concoction around the cage again.
“Do you happen to know what these are for?”
Eddie reluctantly moved his eyes from Waylon’s face to the metal grooves, before moving closer to it. He trailed a gloved hand carefully across it before shifting his gaze to the ceiling, frowning slightly.
“I can’t tell you what the ones around the cage are for, but up in the ceiling there, see?” He pointed to it. “That’s definitely a pulley.”
Waylon had already figured out as much already, but he still stared at the pulley with interest. “Yeah,” he started, his voice wavering slightly. “Yeah, you’re right.”
There was a slight pause, before Waylon spoke again. “What do you think it’s there for?”
Eddie paused, and glanced at Waylon before refocusing on the pulley. “I think it’s for raising the middle divider,” he finally said, and although Waylon already knew, it made a chill go down his back. Somehow he’d hoped that Eddie would reach a different conclusion, to make his own less real.
“B-But-” Waylon started, feeling like a child who didn’t understand how the world spins. “But why?”
Eddie didn’t answer, but he shot Waylon a weary glance. Then he touched the middle bars, feeling the slight give of it, before walking back over to where he had been sitting.
Waylon considered asking again, but judging by Eddie’s stiff glare out the window, he figured it wouldn’t be a good idea. He was too distressed and restless to sit back down, though, so he started pacing, occasionally stopping to inspect the middle divider and the strange groves around the cage.
If he could just figure out why they were both put in this cage, and why the cage was shaped like it was, then he’d- Waylon kept on pacing while he chewed his lips thoughtfully. It wouldn’t really help him get out of the cage, but any sort of explanation would definitely soothe his nerves.
“Must you?” Eddie suddenly snapped, and Waylon found himself sitting down the second he spoke.
He didn’t sound angry, not directly anyway, more exasperated, but Waylon was terrified that he’d wake the beast if he didn’t do exactly what he said.
Eddie didn’t speak again, just glared at Waylon for another few seconds before going back to staring out the window. Waylon followed his example, although he wasn’t entirely sure what he was looking at. The world outside was completely grey; An unnatural, uniform grey that made Waylon wonder if it was raining. He couldn’t hear a single sound, though, like the room was sound insulated. The only thing he heard was the occasional sigh from Eddie, and his own labored breathing.
It was hard to focus on the lack of sounds, because it felt like it had gotten colder. Waylon tried to tuck his feet into his lap so he could rub some life back into them. Hadn’t Lisa once told him you could get a cold if you let your feet get too chilly? Perhaps it was just an old wives tale, but he didn’t want to risk it either way.
He wondered wistfully where his own, worn sneakers were at this very moment, and the stupid polka-dotted socks Lisa had bought as a matching set for the two of them. He’d give a lot to get them back and not just because they’d keep him warm, but because it would bring some normalcy into a situation that was getting more and more abnormal by the minute.
“Are you cold?” Eddie asked, and Waylon was ashamed to admit he gave a start at the sudden sound of his voice.
“Yeah,” he said with a chuckle, to cover up his own unease. “I guess they took my shoes and socks after knocking me out, because-” He realized too late that he had said too much, and he snapped his mouth shut. Much too late, he realized, because Eddie was already narrowing his eyes at him. None of the inmates ever wore shoes, and the only reason why Eddie was wearing them was probably because he had stolen them off someone’s corpse.
Something dark passed over Eddie’s face, and with a final, narrowed glare, his face smoothed over.
“Perhaps I could help with that,” he said slowly, carefully, like he was gauging Waylon’s reaction.
“How? I doubt your shoes would fit me,” Waylon inched back as far as he could. This soft-spoken, calculating version of Eddie was somehow scarier than the snarling beast.
“I might not be able to give you shoes, darling, but I could warm you up all the same.”
Perhaps he was unaware of the double meaning of his words, but judging by the slight smirk on his face, he wasn’t. Either way Waylon pressed his back further against the bars, pressed until it hurt, wishing he could be far, far away from this place.
“H-How?” Waylon asked, and Eddie held his gaze firmly as he started taking his vest off. “W-what ar-”
Eddie broke eye-contact at last, fishing out a needle and thread.
“Oh, you don’t have to…” Waylon’s voice died down when Eddie tore his vest in two. “Uh, okay.”
“What kind of gentleman would I be if I left you freezing?”
Waylon wasn’t sure how to answer that, so he didn’t, watching Eddie instead.
Despite how large his hands were, Eddie was able to neatly stitch the fabric together with ease, and Waylon watched in awe as he carefully transformed his torn vest into something that might resemble socks. A bit misshapen, perhaps, but Waylon wasn’t about to complain; anything was better than the cold concrete against the naked soles of his feet, and he knew that if he had given it a go, he’d most likely end up stitching himself to his pants.
If anything it felt nice being able to focus on something besides the terror, the cold and the ever increasing hunger he had been trying to ignore. It felt safer, too, with Eddie’s full focus on what he was doing and not on Waylon.
“Okay,” Eddie said after a while, holding up something that looked like patchy, blue mittens. “They might not stay up like regular socks, but they’ll keep you warmer, at least.”
He didn’t make any attempts to throw the socks into Waylon’s part of the cage, just dangled them in front of the bars like someone trying to tempt a kitten into coming closer. Waylon had no doubt that Eddie would try to grab him if he allowed himself too close, so he stayed put.
“Can you toss them over here?” Waylon asked thinly. “My feet hurt.”
“Not very appreciative, are you?” Eddie stared at him again, with that strange gaze that Waylon wasn’t entire sure was lucid or not. “Here I am, trying to provide for you, and what do you do?” He paused for a moment before he raised his voice. “You insolent cunt!”
Waylon was happy he had scrambled to the very edge of his part of the cage, because he swore he could see Eddie increase in size as his anger grew.
“I am grateful!” Waylon protested, and tucked his cold feet under himself. “My feet, they just-”
“Lies!” Eddie shrieked. “You all lie to me!” He tossed the socks aside, gripping the metal divider instead, shaking it furiously.
“I-I’m not l-lying!” Waylon stammered. “I hurt my leg, see?” He pulled the pant leg up far enough for Eddie to see the wound on his lower calf. That he acquired said wound when he was trying to get away from Eddie was something he wasn’t about to disclose.
Eddie stared at Waylon’s still crusty calf with a frown, which soon smoothed out into something akin to concern.
“Darling!” he exclaimed, although he didn’t sound distraught at all. “Who hurt you?!”
Waylon had to resist the temptation to tell him that Eddie had. More than once.
“I fell,” he said lamely instead.
Eddie glared at him for a few heartbeats more, until he pressed himself against the bars again.
“I saw you walking!” he snarled, and it surprised Waylon that he was lucid enough to remember, while still being so utterly lost in the moment.
“I-it got worse!”
“You lying whore!” Eddie shook the divider again, pressing his face against the bars. “Just wait until I get my hands on you, you-”
That’s as far as he got before they heard the unmistakable sound of a door opening somewhere behind the lights. Eddie made a sound Waylon swore was a growl and let go of the middle divider.
“Hello?” Waylon got up, which earned him a hateful glare from Eddie, and stumbled over to the bars. “Who’s there, what do you want?”
No one answered, but he heard footsteps. He wasn’t entirely sure if they belonged to a man or a woman, but they walked with determination across the floor where Waylon couldn’t see.
“Please help,” Waylon tried, and ignored the half-mocking, half-amused huff coming from Eddie’s side of the cage. "We're trapped here and we-" he sputtered, before pausing.
Somehow it felt even worse being ignored when he could hear someone walking and doing things beyond the light.
“What are you doing, why are-”
A switch was turned on somewhere on the other side of the room, the lights flickering as a great mechanical grumble rose in the room. Waylon could feel it in the floor and in the cage itself, and he pulled away from the bars as if burned. Then, with a shuddering groan, the mechanism around the cage woke to life. With a resounding metallic clank the edge of the cage inched closer, the metal going from one grove to the next, forcing the two halves closer together.
So that was their plan. Waylon felt himself go very cold, though this cold had little to do with the temperature. Then, as if they hadn’t been there at all, the footsteps disappeared and the door slammed shut.
Waylon stared at the mechanism with unveiled horror, but when he looked over at Eddie, his face was split in a triumphant grin.
“So that is what it’s for,” Eddie said, not sounding sorry in the slightest.
Waylon, on the other hand, was close to giving up. He wasn’t worried they would kill them by forcing the bars together, no, the toilet would make sure they couldn’t. Which made the alternative all the more terrifying. They wanted Eddie to reach him. They wanted Eddie to kill him.
And by the hungry glare Eddie sent him, he had come to that conclusion as well.
Day two in the cage started out much like the previous one. Or perhaps it was day three? Waylon wasn’t entirely sure anymore.
His head was pounding, of that he was certain. He had tried to drink some of the water from the faucet the night before, but the water had been more like tepid sludge than actual water, and he hadn’t dared more than a few drops. From the looks of it, neither had Eddie.
Eddie was staring at him when he woke up, just like the day before, his arms crossed over his chest. He didn’t speak this time around, but when Waylon sat up, he realized Eddie had tossed the socks he had made across the floor into his side of the cage.
“Thank you,” Waylon croaked, and carefully pulled the worn and soft fabric onto his feet. It didn’t matter if they didn’t fit right or stayed up on their own. They were warm, and that was all that mattered.
“You’re welcome,” Eddie said. Perhaps it was the dehydration that made Eddie placid, but Waylon didn’t want to question it too much.
Now using the bathroom, that was trickier. When Eddie was, well, lucid, then he’d tactfully turn away, but when he was lost in whatever was going on inside his head, then he’d stare at Waylon with equal parts disgust and hunger. Thankfully, so far Waylon had been able to do his business standing up, so he could keep an eye on Eddie just in case he suddenly decided to grab him. He shuddered to think how Lisa would have fared, had she been there.
To Waylon's relief, Eddie turned away this time, and he didn’t turn back around until he heard the toilet flush. He resumed his staring while Waylon tried to wash his hands, although the rust-colored water didn’t really make him feel clean. He considered trying to drink it again, but only managed one handful before he gagged and gave up.
So this was what he had to look forward to; slowly dying of dehydration before Eddie would inevitably reach him, and tear him apart. Unless he could somehow last longer than Eddie, make sure he didn’t suffer the effects of the dehydration, starvation or the cold at the same rate. But who was he kidding? Eddie was bigger than he was, well-fed and hard-muscled. He'd probably last longer than Waylon would. For once, the saw in Eddie’s workroom didn’t seem altogether horrible anymore. Perhaps it would have been better.
“We’ll need to work together to get out of here.”
Waylon wasn’t aware he had planned on saying the words out loud until he heard himself speaking. He glanced up at Eddie, who in turn stared at him without a word.
“M-Maybe we can pry open the bars, somehow,” Waylon continued, and glanced at Eddie’s bulking upper arms.
Eddie scoffed and let his gaze trail away, but he looked back just as quickly.
“Do you happen to have any supplies?” he finally inquired, and Waylon patted the prison suit with a frown.
He had no idea where his camera was, if it laid broken in Eddie’s workshop, or possibly in the possession of whoever had forced them in here, but he still had a couple of torn pages and a collection of batteries. He put them on the floor in front of Eddie, who stared unimpressed at the meager loot. Without saying a word Eddie reached into the pockets of his vest, pulling out a handful of safety pins, some spare buttons and a container of something Waylon was certain was lipstick.
“You’ve had safety pins all this time?” Waylon decided to ignore the lipstick altogether.
Eddie shot him a look. “I don’t see any locks I can pick, do you?”
And Waylon had to agree that he hadn’t.
“Okay, we can do this. God knows I watched enough episodes of MacGyver.” Waylon said, staring at the pile of random objects with a crease between his brows.
Eddie opened his mouth to answer, when the doors somewhere behind the light opened up and slammed into the wall. They hurriedly shoved their things back in their pockets without a word.
Whoever came through the doors didn’t speak either, but they heard the unmistakable sound of trolleys being pushed across the floor, more than one set of feet, and then loud bangs as something was being dropped on the floor. Dust trailed through the air in front of the bright lights from the sheer force of it.
Then, after a few seconds of silence, someone pushed a dozen or so sewing machines into view. All they saw were pale fingers and well-manicured nails, before the sound of shoes against the floor disappeared beyond the light.
Both Eddie and Waylon were too confused to speak, so they just stared out at the empty room.
After a few moments of perplexed silence, Eddie walked over to the bars, stretching an arm out. The nearest sewing machine was too far away to reach, and Eddie gritted his teeth in annoyance.
“Not sure what I could have done with it,” he explained, “But it’s heavy. Maybe I’d be able to do some damage.” He sank back on his heels with a sigh. “No luck.”
They went back to silent contemplation, Waylon’s mind going in circles trying to figure out a solution to their predicament, not noticing the look on Eddie’s face at first.
Eddie stared at the sewing machines that were just slightly out of reach with a forlorn expression on his face, his fingers trailing the badly stitched clothing he wore.
“You-” Waylon started, clearing his throat. “You like sewing?”
Eddie nodded. “My mother... She was a seamstress. I fell asleep to the sound of her sewing machine.” Something stiffened in his expression. “Not that she had to,” he added, quickly. “She tended to the house and sewing was merely a pastime.”
Waylon studied the other man with interest. He remembered the document he’d found on Eddie’s tendencies for lying, and he realized that Eddie might just have revealed more about himself than Mount Massive had ever managed to pry out of him.
“Nothing more important than making a house a home,” Waylon agreed, watching Eddie’s expression intently. He thought he caught a slight twitch of Eddie’s lip, but other than that, Eddie’s face remained a stony mask.
Seconds dragged on into minutes, and minutes dragged on into hours. Outside, the world spun effortlessly around them, while they were terribly still.
Waylon was so hungry. It was a hunger different than any others he’d had before. This one was all-encompassing and terrible, making his thoughts loop on themselves. It would come and go, but for each relieved sigh of being free for a little while, it would return again with a vengeance. His mouth had gone dry as well, and no matter how much he bit down on the salty patch of skin by his wrist, it didn’t pass.
He eyed the tap again. He could survive for a long time without food, he knew, but the water was a different matter. He had been worried that the water would make him sick, and deprive him of much needed fluids, but he had reached a point where he no longer cared. Besides, if the water would make him sick, then wouldn’t it made him so already?
With a groan he got back on his feet. It had started getting harder and harder, his knees knocking together for each step. He felt pathetic. Even more when he felt Eddie’s eyes on him, who, even though they had been caged together here for an equal amount of time, looked disgustingly healthy.
Waylon turned the tap and watched as the water spat and sputtered. Unlike what he’d come to expect from the outside world, the water here never ran clear. It was as rust colored as the rest of this place. With a sigh he gathered a handful in the palms of his hands and tentatively drank it.
It tasted metallic, a slight tang reminiscent of skinned knees in his childhood, but unlike the previous day he gulped it down without a grimace. Eddie got up as well, mirroring his movements, but without the swaying. He watched Waylon through the bars, and his expression didn’t change when Waylon flinched away from him.
He, too, drank without a grimace, but kept his eyes on Waylon all the same. He had taken his gloves off, which seemed like an oddly human thing to do, and Waylon had to wonder how much was left of him, deep inside. Or who Eddie Gluskin had been on the outside.
There was no point in asking, he knew, but it still had him wondering.
Waylon kept his eyes on him this time, and sure enough, once Eddie was done drinking he pulled his gloves back on before resuming his position on the floor, facing Waylon.
Like the previous day, right when darkness started creeping in from the corners, the door opened and someone walked in behind the light in a steady fashion to where Waylon knew the mechanism was.
And then, like clockwork, the machine did a shivering rumble before the mechanism slid into the next grove. Waylon was too scared to count the remaining groves, too scared to find out just how many days he had left. Well, provided they kept it at the same pace, which he had no guarantees they would.
Eddie watched the back end of the bars move with a lazy sort of curiosity that reminded Waylon of fat house cats in search for mice to eat.
It wasn’t that odd, because Waylon realized how this game usually had to be played, and how different it would be with him on one side. Perhaps with the other patients they’d tear each other to shreds in equal amounts, which must be why both sides of the cage were being pressed together and not just the one Waylon was in. Eddie had nothing to fear, and he seemed to know it.
Eddie didn’t glare this time, or smirk, instead he kept his eyes trained to the light, perhaps hoping he could get a glimpse of whoever was there. He looked indifferent until the door shut, and then that familiar darkness fell over his face once again. Once he realized Waylon was watching him, he gingerly cracked his neck before getting to his feet.
Waylon watched him quietly. It felt strange, speaking with Eddie. They hadn’t exchanged a word in the vocational block sans Waylon’s desperate grunts and shouts, and although Eddie had spoken quite a bit, it felt awkward talking to him like a fellow human being.
“Why do you think they put us in here?” Waylon asked, watching as Eddie studied the dividing bar.
“I have no idea,” Eddie admitted, reaching up to touch the metal chain connected to the cage. Waylon swallowed thickly, but the chain didn’t budge. “But I don’t think it’s gonna be anything good.”
“You’re quite right about that, Mr. Gluskin.”
They both startled and turned to the unexpected sound of a voice beyond the light. They hadn’t heard the door opening again, or any sound indicating that there had been someone else there all along. The man was but a voice, someone in the light without a face.
“W-Who are you?” Waylon rasped, digging his nails into the palm of his hands to keep himself from begging.
“Oh, Mr. Park. In due time.”
Waylon stared blindly into the room. The voice seemed vaguely familiar, something about it making Waylon’s stomach tense up. Right now he wasn’t sure if he would recognize anyone’s voice with any sort of certainty, but judging by the familiarity in the man’s way of speaking, he guessed they must know each other.
His mind conjured up images of Blaire, and Andrew. Or any of the faceless soldiers that had brought them here.
“Why are we here?” Waylon walked up to the bars, trying to make out the form beyond it.
“Why, for my entertainment, of course.”
It wasn’t the first shudder that had gone down Waylon’s back, but it was definitely the most severe, and a cold sweat started forming on the top of his brow.
Eddie reacted a bit more stoically. Or maybe he just wasn’t as surprised. He stood as tall as he ever did, staring at the light with a frown.
“W-What kind of entertainment?” Waylon stammered and let his arms fall.
“You’ll know in due time, I can assure you.” The man didn’t sound amused as he said it. It was just a dry statement of facts, like he had given a weather forecast. "In time you'll see exactly what the beauty of this cage really is."
Silence fell over the room, as both Eddie and Waylon went very quiet. The man beyond the light didn’t speak again, but it still felt like a poignant moment.
Then the world surged back into focus, and Waylon called out to the man, demanding things he knew he could not demand, but the only reply he got were footsteps and the slamming of a door, and then they were alone again. The monster and the unwilling victim, except Waylon had started seeing Eddie as less of a monster and more of a victim as well.
At least until they both found out what the nature of the cage really was.
I'm so amazed when people make art based on my stories, and I just want to show everyone! Look at this adorable picture by Pikadoodle and this lovely one by peachycans! I absolutely love them, and I want to cry a little, honestly. Thank you both so much <3
After this fluffy opening note, then this chapter will undoubtedly seem a bit darker.
The next morning was different.
They were both silent, barely acknowledging each other. Not that they could have done much else, the lack of food even seemed to have gotten to Eddie at this point. They spent most of the day lying on their sides. They stared out the window, except for the few times Waylon found Eddie staring at him instead.
There was no fight left in Eddie’s eyes, though. No anger, no resentment, just tired emptiness. Waylon feared he looked the same.
They drank what they could of the tap water, but found that there wasn’t any water at all half the times they tried. Most of the time they were rewarded with little else than a weak trickle of red liquid. Waylon hoped nothing had crawled into the water tanks and died.
Waylon was certain this meant that something was about to happen. It wasn’t just because of what the man in the light had said the previous night, it was everything else. They clearly wouldn’t be much entertainment wasting away like this. No, something was coming.
The thought didn’t shock him into doing something; if anything the thought seemed distant and unimportant. Instead he rolled over to his back, watching the top of the cage, and the ceiling beyond it. He bet if he could just get his thoughts organized, then he’d know what to do with their supplies. If only he could think, then he’d find a solution.
The days hadn’t had much of a schedule, apart from the inevitable moment where they forced the cage closer together, but Waylon wasn’t entirely certain if it had happened at the exact same time both days. Perhaps if he caught a glimpse of the sun, then he’d know.
Lately he’d come to wonder if there was nothing outside the window at all. Eddie was the only one who had looked beyond it to the world on the other side, but he hadn’t said anything about it, other than that he didn’t recognize it. Perhaps there was nothing at all. Perhaps it was just prop, a grey backdrop with a fake light, because that uniform grey looked as wrong as anything else in here.
He wanted to ask Eddie what was out there, but at the same time, he didn’t really want to. He was honest to God afraid of the answer. If Eddie said there was nothing there at all, then he'd lose his mind. It was better to just imagine it being normal. He could escape to normal.
So instead of springing to action he waited, just like he was certain Eddie was waiting. Despite the long stretches of silence, neither of them startled when the door opened somewhere behind the light, footsteps closing in on them. Eddie and Waylon got up at the same time, as soon as they heard. They were trained animals at this point. If someone told them to jump, they probably would have, starving or not.
The man from the previous day didn’t waste any time, just started talking as soon as he was in position.
“Good,” the man said. “You’re both awake. Now, let’s get started, shall we.” It wasn’t a question, just another statement of facts. “Strip, Mr. Park.”
The laughter bubbled out of Waylon’s throat before he had a chance to contain it, and he caught the curious little sideways glance Eddie sent him.
“What?” he managed to ask, trying to sound calm so hysteria couldn’t overtake him. He didn’t even feel tired anymore, adrenaline surging through him in sickening waves.
“You heard me.” The voice hardened a little, but didn’t say anything else.
“No. No way. I’m not doing that.” Waylon tried to stand as tall as Eddie, raising his chin defiantly at the light.
The man didn’t say anything to that at first, just tossed a couple of pictures on the floor in front of Waylon, and if he had thought the previous chills going down his back severe, then the current one froze him to the very core.
Waylon leaned down on legs that felt more like noodles than muscle, skin and bone, and picked up the pictures through the bars with hands that trembled.
He’d hate to show any sort of weakness in front of someone like the man in the light, or Eddie for that matter, but he couldn’t stop his fingers from carefully trailing the outline of his son’s faces, and his wife’s curly hair. They seemed like strangers, somehow, like he hadn’t seen them for weeks and months. Longing shot through him like an arrow, and he clutched the photographs harder.
Then, without missing a beat, the man proceeded to read out Waylon’s address - his family’s address - and then a detailed description of their house. Once he started describing Lisa and the boys and their daily routines, Waylon lifted a hand and motioned him to stop.
“Strip, Mr. Park,” the cold voice commanded again, and this time Waylon moved trembling hands to unzip the uniform he was in.
Eddie had gone very quiet, observing Waylon with an unreadable expression on his face. He wasn’t the groom at the moment, Waylon could tell, and for some reason that just made it harder when he pulled the zipper down to his crotch and shrugged out of it.
Waylon gritted his teeth and pulled the olive undershirt off as well, before his socks and underwear joined the pile by his feet. He couldn’t see the person barking the orders at him, just a dark outline right outside his field of vision, but he covered himself up as well as he could with his hands.
Eddie raised his head, but he didn’t say anything and he didn’t move. Waylon glanced over at him, and saw his jaw move when he gritted his teeth, his fists curling and uncurling. Then, while he stared, Waylon suddenly became aware that the cage started rattling, before the divider between the two compartments started raising up.
This moment - Waylon’s mind went white with terror - was the moment he had dreaded. The moment he had waited for and had nightmares about. And here it was. There was no running from this. The water was gushing in, and there was no escape. It would drown him.
But, despite all the hungry and angry glares in the past, Eddie merely cast a disinterested look in Waylon’s direction, and made no attempts to move.
“It’s not gonna work,” he finally said, “You have nothing left to take from me.”
That sounded terribly depressing, and Waylon shot another, longer, glance at Eddie’s face.
“Oh, we don’t?”
Waylon gritted his own teeth when the man behind the light started laughing. The man kept chuckling, rustling through what sounded like a folder full of papers. For the first time Eddie seemed uncomfortable, shifting his weight and fidgeting with his hands.
“There’s some pictures here in your file, Eddie. Your case was made public, sure, but the pictures never were,” the man in the light finally said, and with a flick of his hand he threw one of the photographs on the floor in front of them. “If this comes out, Eddie, then all your lies will be revealed. If this comes out, then everyone will know what you did. They’ll know how weak you truly are.”
Waylon tried not to look, but he caught a quick glimpse of a young boy, naked from the waist up, with a sorrowful look on his face. Next to him Eddie charged forward like an animal, growling and shouting profanities while hitting the bars with everything he had.
“You fucking rapist asshole bastards! You fucks! I’m gonna fucking kill you!”
Waylon was reminded of the first time he’d seen Eddie. This anger was less terrifying than the quiet purr of the groom, but terrifying nonetheless.
“Temper, temper. Do as we ask, and nothing will happen.” Unlike Waylon, the man in the light seemed utterly unfazed by Eddie’s anger.
Eddie snarled, banging on the bars with a fury Waylon hadn’t even seen him exhibit down in his workshop, before all the fight seemed to drain out of him.
“And what is it you want me to do?” Eddie’s shoulders slunked a little, defeated, his fingers curling around the bars.
“Entertain us. You have free range with Mr. Park. Torture him, fuck him, eat parts of him for all we care. It would be best if you kept him alive, though, for the time being.”
Eddie stood completely still for a few moments, before the voice spoke again. “Now, Eddie. Or I can promise you the next twenty-four hours will be less comfortable for the both of you.”
Eddie’s head snapped in Waylon’s direction, and Waylon moved backwards until his body was flush up against the bars on the opposite side of the cage.
“Please,” Waylon said weakly. “Please don’t do anything.”
A flicker of something strange was on Eddie’s face as he moved forward, but it was soon replaced by grim determination.
God, he was tall. Taller than Waylon had realized. He loomed above him, and Waylon realized it was useless to try to fight him. He did what he’d done this entire time; tried to make himself smaller and hide himself from view, but Eddie didn’t back off, reaching his hands out for him instead.
“No! Get away! Wha-” That was all he managed to squeak out before Eddie grabbed his hips and yanked him down on the floor. For a second their faces were close - too close - and Eddie had his strange, pale eyes fixed on him. Not lost in whatever dreamworld Murkoff had created for him, but lucid and completely in the moment.
Then he pushed Waylon down further against the cold concrete floor, his big hands on Waylon’s hips so he could hold him down. Eddie cast a quick glance in the direction of the light, and the man beyond, before he turned back to Waylon. The look on his face was indecipherable and stony.
“What-” Waylon started, but that was all he managed to say before Eddie ducked down, licking Waylon’s flaccid penis with the flat of his tongue. Waylon gasped and tried to squirm away, but Eddie kept his firm hold on him. Behind the light he could hear the man laugh.
“I gotta say, Eddie, this isn’t what I expected. Not from you, anyway.”
Eddie made an unhappy sound in the back of his throat, the vibrations of it eliciting some interest from Waylon’s penis.
Oh, this was bad. Waylon knew it was Eddie right now, a man fully capable of horrors beyond Waylon’s wildest imagination, but at the same time, he was merely a man. The groom was something else entirely and someone Waylon didn’t want to wake up. Perhaps it was better to just play along. With that Waylon forced himself to go slack under Eddie’s hold, dropping the hands he’d put like claws across Eddie’s. Eddie gave him a quick glance before enveloping more of Waylon’s half-hard cock in his mouth, sucking in earnest now.
Waylon stared up at the ceiling, trying to ignore the wet heat of Eddie's mouth, trying not to shudder when he felt the occasional scrape of teeth, and definitely trying not to react to the way Eddie's tongue felt on him. It was surreal, that was the only word for it. A week ago he'd say he'd take starvation over this, but now he wasn't so sure anymore. Eddie watched him, though Waylon tried not to think about that. It was best to just float along, emptying his head of all rational thoughts. They couldn't hurt him, if he just relaxed and went somewhere else in his mind.
Sudden bright flashes of white light went off to the side of the cage, and Waylon tensed up again, hearing a low growl coming from Eddie between his legs.
“Yeah, there we go. This-” the voice exclaimed. “-Is going in the family album, don’t you agree, Ed?”
Eddie raised his head, wiping a hand across his mouth. If Waylon had thought his expression scary during the chase in the asylum, it held nothing to the current expression on his face.
“One day,” he sneered, “I’m gonna rip you to shreds.”
“Oh, Ed. I’d like to see you try.” There was another cruel chuckle and the click of a tongue. “Now, get back to your side of the cage before I make you.”
Eddie got up, avoiding looking at Waylon as he made his way to the opposite side of the cage, ducking under the divider that quickly fell to the floor behind him. Waylon didn’t waste any time, quickly putting his underwear and uniform back on, while the man laughed again.
Then, not as loud as his laughter, there was the sudden, unexpected sound of high heels clacking against the concrete floor, and Waylon thought he could make out a pencil skirt and pumps as someone came up to the cage, putting a tray of food just in reach. Then they moved back behind the light and out of view again. The situation was too absurd for him to really worry about the fact that more than just one had watched them.
Waylon stared at the tray. It was on his side, out of Eddie’s reach, but clearly meant for the two of them. He licked his dry lips again, eyeing the two bottles of water. From where he was sitting, he could see condensation form on them, lazy droplets trailing off the clear plastic. It was damn near erotic. It was clear too, blissfully clear. Like a babbling brook. Or a frozen waterfall.
At the same time, despite the tempting imagery, it seemed like a trap. Waylon kept his eyes glued on it without moving, ignoring whatever Eddie was saying next to him. It had to be a trick somehow.
“Your reward,” the man in the light chuckled. “It’s alright Mr. Park. You can take it.”
Waylon ignored the man as he laughed, crawling over so he could grab the bottles of water and the rest of the contents. Apart from the two bottles, the tray contained two medium sized snack bars, two double sandwiches in a triangle plastic wrapping and two bags of nuts. It wouldn’t last long, even if he rationed it.
“Oh, and before I forget…” The man walked off to the side, and flicked the switch that woke the cage around them.
Waylon didn’t notice, too busy with the bottles and food. He didn’t even notice when the man laughed and left, slamming the door shut behind him.
No, Waylon’s thoughts were on the loot in his hands. No doubt his reward for allowing Eddie to suck his cock, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was to quench the thirst and still the hunger.
They undoubtedly wanted to see if he’d share with Eddie, or if he’d let the man starve to death. Perhaps they even put bets on it. Well, there was no way they were making him as inhumane as they themselves were, even if it probably was the wisest choice. Not the kindest, but the one that might ensure his survival.
Without thinking about it further, he carefully divided the contents with trembling hands, before pushing it closer to Eddie’s side, just in reach of Eddie’s hands. Eddie stared at him in surprise when he did, eyes flickering between the food and Waylon’s face.
Avoiding eye-contact, feeling his cheeks burn with shame, Waylon moved back into his safe corner, unscrewing the water bottle with clammy hands.
If the sight of the condensation on the bottles had been erotic, then the feeling of the cold water trickling down his parched throat was orgasmic. He had to contain a groan of pleasure as he tried to limit himself to one quarter of the bottle. He ignored the sandwich and nuts for now, and focused on the chocolate covered fruit bar instead. He tried to remember all the things Lisa had taught him of proper nutrition, but her words were lost to him as he tore the wrap open with his teeth, eating half of it in one large bite.
He finished the second half in a calmer pace, but still struggled with saving the rest of the food. It seemed like his hunger had just grown with each bite, like a black hole gaining mass, and he curled up in the corner, trying to conserve heat and energy.
He promptly ignored Eddie whenever he tried to speak, falling instead into a restless sleep.
When he woke, he woke up icy cold with his hands tucked between his thighs and his body curled in on itself. It kind of felt like he was nursing the worst hangover in his life. Waylon groaned and sat up, cradling his head in his hands. The chocolate bar last night had definitely been a mistake, because he felt sluggish and dizzy.
Pale sunshine shone through the narrow window on the wall, but strange and muted, impossible to tell if it was dusk or dawn. Just like he had expected. Across from him, back against the bars and arms crossed over his broad chest, sat Eddie with his eyes glued to Waylon. Waylon almost got the feeling he’d been sitting like that a while.
“Hello,” Eddie said stiffly.
“Hi.” Waylon didn’t want to talk to him, didn’t even want to look at him, so he turned away again, rustling for the sandwich.
“Look, about yesterday-” Eddie started, but Waylon quickly interrupted him.
“Let’s-” He squirmed and got his sandwich out. “Let’s just not talk about it, okay?”
Waylon preferred to just pretend nothing had ever happened. It had been a few seconds of relatively harmless sexual contact, and even if it hadn’t exactly been consensual, he’d survived worse. In fact, he was pretty sure he’d survived worse from Eddie himself.
“What’s your name?” Eddie asked softly, a stark contrast to the violent imagery flowing through Waylon’s mind.
Eddie looked indecisive, but continued speaking. “Waylon, I don’t-” he paused and swallowed thickly. “I’m not sure I understand why you’d share your food with me.”
Waylon froze and gave Eddie a wide-eyed stare. Perhaps it would be a good question for anyone who knew what had happened down in the vocational block. But Waylon knew, deep down, that Eddie was as much of a victim as he was, despite his cruel and violent past. He wasn’t sure how to put that into words, wasn’t sure how Eddie would react to the sentiment at all.
“We’re in this together.” That’s what he settled for, and something flickered across Eddie’s features. He didn’t say anything to it, but gave a solemn nod. He was back to himself again, whatever that meant, and Waylon decided to give the plan another try, tearing off small pieces of the turkey sandwich. “I’ve been trying to figure out what we could do with our supplies,” he mumbled, chewing thoughtfully.
Eddie glanced up at him, not looking interested in the slightest, before he fished out his own sandwich. Waylon had to wonder if he had let the sandwich be until he could ask Waylon about the meaning behind it. It didn’t make much sense. Even if Eddie was himself again, then ‘himself’ wasn’t any better than what Murkoff had created. Waylon tried to shake the thought from his head.
“I’ve been thinking about the battery acid.”
Eddie still didn’t react noticeably, but Waylon kept on talking regardless.
“It won’t be as useful as, say, a car battery would be, even alkaline batteries could be of some use.” Waylon licked his lips before he continued. “Potassium hydroxide is corrosive, although I’m not sure how much they’d be able to-” He cut himself off, and knocked his knuckles against the metal bars with a crease between his eyes. “We’d probably have more luck trying to spray it into someone’s eyes.” Waylon sighed and took a few batteries out of his uniform and twirled them between his fingers.
Eddie stared stiffly out into the room, chewing carefully on his food.
“You could probably make soap if you mix it with the lipstick,” he finally said, and Waylon barked out a laugh before he could help himself. Although he meant nothing cruel with the laugh, Eddie still glared at him.
“So you know your chemistry, huh?” Waylon asked, and chuckled. “Soap sure would help me feel a little cleaner in this place.”
One corner of Eddie’s mouth hitched in a small smile, but he didn’t say anything else.
“I suppose soap shouldn’t be on our list of priorities.” Waylon frowned and looked at his hands. The water had left rust-colored residue in the creases of his palms and fingers, and he rubbed them across the uniform. He almost wished it could be on the list of priorities at this point. His nails looked like he had been digging around in a wound.
Silence fell over the room, and without their voices to permeate the quiet, Waylon’s heart stuttered in his chest as a sense of dread came over him again.
He had to believe there was a way out. He had to believe they would be able to escape. He glanced out into the room, or what he could see of it.
They hadn’t addressed the sewing machines at all, though Eddie still glanced at them from time to time. As the silence spread, the sewing machines started becoming the elephant in the room, something large and terrible and all-encompassing. There had to be a plan behind it, and Waylon felt his scalp tightening at the thought of it. He wasn’t sure if Eddie saw them in quite the same way, or if he found them foreboding at all. If anything he seemed restless; Every now and then he’d get up to pace, and Waylon caught him making weird, repetitive motions with his eyes and hands, like ticks.
Minutes passed like that. Hours, maybe, it was hard to say. Waylon only snapped back into reality when Eddie started humming. Waylon swallowed, and scooted back closer to the bars as carefully as he could, trying not to catch Eddie's attention. The humming started out deep and low in Eddie’s chest, but gradually turned high-pitched and out of tune.
At first Waylon thought he was humming that God-awful song he had been singing down in the vocational block, but at the end it sounded more like a siren or- Waylon swallowed again - the sewing machines themselves. He wondered if Eddie was even aware.
Probably not, judging by the wringing of his hands and the increasingly faster pace. His guess was that Eddie was going back into his own little world, and Waylon couldn’t blame him. If he had an escape, he’d take it too, no matter how horrible. Still, probably best to-
“E-Eddie?” he tried, but Eddie didn’t react. “Eddie?!” he repeated, louder this time.
“Yes?” Eddie turned to him, finally, but Waylon sort of wish he hadn’t.
He was long gone, Waylon could tell, his eyes glazed over and very far away. More unsettling was the look on his face, and Waylon pushed himself closer to the back of the cage.
“You were gonna help me figure out a way for us to escape, remember?” Waylon continued on when the look on Eddie’s face changed. “Together.”
“Yes,” he said airily. “Yes, of course.”
He made no attempts to move, but his eyes kept flickering from the sewing machines to Waylon’s face and back again. Waylon followed his line of vision.
“We can’t do anything about the sewing machines just yet,” Waylon said carefully, and something shifted in Eddie’s expression. “We need to get out.”
“Ah, yes, out.” Eddie stepped up to the bar and trailed his hand along the metal in a way that made Waylon incredibly uncomfortable. “My darling wants to go out.”
“W-With you,” Waylon clarified. “I want us to get out together.”
Eddie’s left eye did a curious little twitch, but he didn’t say anything. Waylon licked his lips and cursed himself, for he'd had a vague sort of idea that if he could just distract Eddie from whatever madness was seeping into him from this place, then he’d keep him from slipping back into the groom. Now he realized it was a feeble sort of dream. Whatever those sewing machines had set off inside his mind wasn’t something Waylon would be able to snap him out of. In fact, making Eddie aware of him at all had probably been a very bad idea. Eddie was staring at him now, unblinking, his mouth twisted in a grimace.
“I’m tired,” Waylon whispered. “I think I’m gonna go to bed.”
Eddie didn’t answer, but slowly curled his fingers around the bars. He had moved forward so slowly that Waylon hadn’t been aware that he’d done it until his face was pressed against the metal. The grimace was widening, and Waylon thought it might be intended as a smile. He felt like someone face to face with a tiger might feel; no matter how far up the food chain you might imagine yourself to be, there would always be a predator ready to take you down. It was a sobering thought.
“You should too, Eddie,” Waylon pleaded, but Eddie didn’t say a single word. He still wasn’t blinking, his gaze an inky void, and if Waylon had wanted to, he could probably have counted all the teeth in Eddie’s mouth for how wide his smile was.
Carefully, moving his limbs as calmly as he could, he shifted his body so he could lie down facing the wall. He hoped it would cause the least amount of provocation, especially since he seriously doubted he’d be able to actually sleep. Eddie didn’t say anything to it, at least, and Waylon tried to relax.
The room turned very quiet again, without the sound of their voices or the ruffle of cloth whenever they moved. Instead an uncomfortable, heavy silence fell over them, and Waylon felt the need to hold his breath, as it sounded ragged and terrified even to his own ears.
He had hoped that he’d hear Eddie’s focus shift; that he’d hear him walk away, or at least the sound of him moving an arm or a leg, anything to prove he wasn’t still standing there grinning at Waylon with those maddeningly empty eyes.
But he didn’t hear a thing.
Waylon imagined he could feel his eyes on him, feel him stare a hole right through the back of his head. He was certain that if he turned and looked, Eddie would somehow have managed to slip through the bars like a ghost, ready to strike.
It was a childish thought, something he imagined his sons would conjure up, but once the idea was in his mind, he couldn’t shake the feeling. He’d thought he’d seen ghosts in the building before, if they were indeed still at Mount Massive, so why wouldn’t it extend to Eddie as well?
Don’t turn around.
Perhaps if he just didn’t turn, then Eddie wouldn’t be able to get him. If he didn’t turn around, then Eddie wouldn’t get through the bars.
Waylon was actually sweating now, a sickly cold sweat, like he had a fever. Eddie still hadn’t moved, he was sure of it. He would have heard him if he had. No, Eddie was probably still standing with his face pressed against the bars, grinning like a madman, wanting to get in. The thought didn’t help ease Waylon’s nerves at all. In fact he imagined he’d lose his mind as well, if he turned to find Eddie still in that same position.
Without a clock, or the sun, to keep track of time, everything flowed together. Waylon wasn’t sure how long he laid there, too terrified to turn around, or how long Eddie stood there silently watching him. It was a bizarre game of Red Light/Green Light, except Waylon never turned, and Eddie never moved. An eternity of that, an eternity of them staying frozen to the spot. Until time sped up and the door to the room slammed open.
Whoever was there didn’t speak, and Waylon tensed his back up further when he heard footsteps crossing the floor. He wanted to scream, to cry and yell, but he felt too apathetic to even bother. What was the point of it all.
The switch was flicked again, and the bars started moving, pushing Waylon along with them. The shuddering of the mechanism that pierced the silence was almost a relief, at least as long as he didn’t think too much about the fact that Eddie would soon be able to reach him through the bars. The cage stopped moving, and the hum of the machine died down. Without the man in the light speaking, they soon fell into a silence that was just as deafening as the ones prior.
At least it didn’t last as long this time.
Waylon would have preferred that it did, for once, because the sound that broke the silence had him nearly wet himself in terror.
The divider between them was raised again, metal knocking against metal as it was hoisted up through the slit in the cage, and then the room went quiet again.
At least until Eddie started moving. For all the time he’d wanted to hear the sound of his clothes shifting, now he wanted nothing more than for it to stop.
Waylon kept his back to him, pressing his eyes shut so tightly he saw brightly colored lights behind his eyelids.
“Darling,” Eddie rasped. He was close, now, probably close enough to touch.
“Darling,” Eddie repeated, and this time he really did touch Waylon. Carefully, at first, just a stroke of Waylon’s shoulder, but when Waylon didn’t respond his hands turned cruel.
He dug his blunt nails into the meat of Waylon’s upper arm, tossing him around so they were face to face at last. Waylon had imagined Eddie’s face to stay as it had the last time he saw him. That it would be waxy and stretched out in wide smiles and empty eyes, but Eddie looked absolutely livid instead. Somehow that was easier to deal with.
“You whore!” he shrieked, sending one powerful fist straight into the hollow of Waylon’s stomach.
Waylon immediately gagged and gasped for breath, but Eddie punched him again before he could properly draw breath.
“You slut,” he hissed into Waylon’s face, so close that Waylon could feel his breath fanning over his face. “You think I wouldn’t find out!?”
He no doubt expected an answer, one Waylon couldn’t give with how deflated his lungs felt. The next punch was to his face, and the world exploded into sparks of white. There was an insistent ringing in his ears, and a nausea he couldn't fight.
Then red started bleeding into the white from his peripheral vision as he felt himself starting to slip away, and there was a moment where he thought it was Eddie’s eyes he saw. Then he lost consciousness.
He woke up disoriented. Disoriented and warm. The word safe was in there too, somewhere, but Waylon refused to acknowledge it with the amount of pain he was in. He was nowhere near safe, he knew.
The world was too bright for him to open his eyes, so he kept them close, surveying the damage as best he could without sight or touch. He could barely feel the punches to the stomach anymore, but his face felt like it had swelled three times its original size, and pain pulsed through the swollen flesh in inescapable waves.
Eddie was holding him, he realized, cradling him like a child might a doll, or a parent might their child. Perhaps like Waylon himself had cradled his own children when they had a fever. The thought made Waylon feel ill.
“Darling,” he whispered, and something hot and wet fell to Waylon’s face. “I said I’d be better for you, I said I’d-”
“Don’t-” Waylon sounded a bit like he had a mouth full of cotton, and he reached up to pat Eddie’s hand. “It’s okay, Eddie.”
It wasn’t okay. Nothing about this was even remotely okay, but Waylon didn’t want to antagonize Eddie further. Instead he forced himself to open his eyes, blinking away tears and blood, and took in his surroundings. He was laying in Eddie’s arms, draped over his chest. Eddie’s face was just inches away, and Waylon was surprised to see tears on his cheeks.
“I’ll be better,” Eddie said, and grasped Waylon’s hand. “I’ll be a better man, I promise you.”
Waylon saw the opportunity in front of him. He’d be stupid not to.
“Thank you,” Waylon croaked, and twined his fingers with Eddie’s. His heart was trembling in his chest, but his hand was steady as a rock. “You’re so good to me, Eddie.”
Waylon thought he could hear a snort behind the light, but he ignored it. It didn’t seem like Eddie could, because his eyes flickered over to the light, before refocusing on Waylon’s face.
He sounded uncertain when he spoke again. “You won’t leave me, will you?”
“Never,” Waylon whispered, even though all he wanted was to get away as fast as he could. He’d had so many honorable thoughts about Eddie, and how he was a victim and a product of Murkoff, but right now he hated him more than he’d hated anymore before in his life. Being touched by him had Waylon’s flesh crawl.
“Take care of you,” Eddie slurred. He brought his hand down towards Waylon’s face, and Waylon flinched before he could help it. Eddie gave him a brief, agonized glare, before repeating the motion. He had a strip of wet cloth between his fingers, Waylon realized, which he dabbed along the corner of Waylon’s mouth. Waylon ignored it when it came back bloody.
Waylon watched Eddie as he washed blood off his face, though how well he was able to clean without rinsing out the cloth, Waylon couldn’t say. All he knew was that Eddie didn’t seem quite as far gone as he had been, even if he wasn’t fully in the moment at all.
“Take care of you,” Eddie repeated, looking down at Waylon with a look of total adoration. He ran his fingers through the tangled mess of Waylon’s hair, and tried to brush it over his forehead. Then, to Waylon’s horror, he reached into his pocket and retrieved the lipstick.
Waylon squirmed in his hold, but Eddie held him firmly in place with one arm. Waylon almost resented how easily he was able to subdue him.
Eddie uncapped the lipstick with his thumb, letting the top of it fall to the floor and roll away. Eddie didn’t seem to mind, his focus was on Waylon’s face. He adjusted the lipstick until the stick itself was visible to Waylon, and Waylon flinched at the bright red color. Eddie started humming again, not that high-pitched manic humming from before, but something soft and calm. Then he carefully started filling in Waylon’s chapped lips with oily dye.
“So beautiful,” Eddie murmured, and Waylon had to keep himself from laughing. He very much doubted he looked beautiful at all, and he was thankful there weren’t any mirrors around. The laughter felt like a madness, bubbling right below his collarbone.
Eddie had that madness as well, because his pupils had blown up in the time it had taken him to cover Waylon’s lips with the stuff. “Beautiful,” he repeated.
It wasn’t just his eyes that revealed his desire for Waylon, no, Waylon was suddenly all too aware of Eddie’s erection that had started straining against his back. He squirmed again, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the best of ideas. Eddie’s eyes fluttered for a moment, and when he refocused on Waylon’s face, it was with a widening grin.
He leaned down to whisper in Waylon’s ear. “Such a minx,” he teased, tightening his hold on him. “You like it when I take care of you.”
“Uh-huh,” Waylon managed to squeak out, trying desperately to see if there were anyone beyond the light or if they had simply decided to leave Waylon to whatever Eddie might do.
Eddie’s hand slid down Waylon’s arm, over his abdomen and down one of his thighs.
“You like it when I touch you.”
God, Eddie was so warm. His hands felt like they were a few degrees short of singing a hole in Waylon’s clothing. For the first time in days Waylon didn’t feel cold.
“Just hold me,” Waylon whispered, pressing himself closer in an effort to derail Eddie’s desire.
“I’ll hold you,” Eddie murmured, and Waylon thought he could hear faint amusement behind the words. Eddie wrapped his arms completely around Waylon, enveloping him in a warm hug, and Waylon was ashamed to admit he clung tightly to that heat.
The man, or the people, behind the light hadn’t said a thing, apart from the earlier snort, and Waylon had to wonder what they wanted. He’d been so sure they wanted a show, but he doubted the embrace would be enough to quell them. Waylon rested his head under Eddie’s chin, holding him how he imagined Eddie wanted to be held.
“You wouldn’t hurt me, would you?” Waylon said thinly, although he doubted Eddie could give a proper answer over his own insanity. Not that it mattered if he did, Waylon supposed. It wasn’t like he could trust him even when he was lucid.
“Never,” Eddie said, moving his fingers from Waylon back to his hand, and he laced their fingers together again. Waylon resented the man for how small he made him feel; even Waylon’s hands were dwarfed in Eddie’s hold.
Waylon tried to look anywhere but Eddie’s face, and he looked at the bright light in front of them. He tried to put his hate for them into one, single, scowling expression, but he doubted it did. The cage was shortened quite a bit at this point, and Waylon’s gaze trailed to the nearly depleted stack of food with a sinking heart.
“Are you hungry?” Eddie murmured, and Waylon was amazed that he’d managed to interpreted as much from his look alone. It was easier to see Eddie as a monster without empathy at all, and to think he had any, real or false, just added another layer of fear for him.
“Yes,” Waylon whispered back, holding him.
“Wait here,” Eddie said, nuzzling his face into the crook of Waylon’s neck, breathing him in. “I’ll feed you.”
For one disturbing moment all Waylon could think about was that Eddie was using a euphemism Waylon really didn’t want him to use, until he realized that Eddie meant it literally. Eddie deposited him gently on the floor, before turning towards his own part of the cage. Waylon knew he should be happy that his focus was elsewhere for a moment, but all he could think about was how cold it was.
On Eddie’s side, near the middle back where Eddie always sat, was the rest of his food. Unlike Waylon, he hadn’t touched his snack bar or nuts, and he was no doubt retrieving it for him. Waylon almost felt a stab of a guilt at the thought. He knew he couldn’t allow Eddie to give away what meager provisions he had, no matter how much Waylon resented the man.
Eddie turned to him, and despite how far gone he was, there was nothing malicious in the way he regarded Waylon. “I’ll be careful,” he said, and Waylon didn’t have it in him to correct him.
Then, with what Eddie undoubtedly meant as a comforting smile, he ducked under the divider and leaned down for the energy bar. Just as his fingers graced the plastic, the metal divider slammed back down behind him, crashing into the floor.
Now, despite how quickly the divider came down, Eddie still whipped around and charged for it, like he could somehow turn back time.
“You insolent whore!” he cried, shaking the bars. “You tricked me!”
Waylon sat quietly, mouth agape, too shocked to say a word. All this time he’d thought they wanted some sort of show filled with nudity and blood, but this was the moment where he truly realized that their true objective might be. To put them against each other as much as they could. Or perhaps their true goal, the true show, was what would happen after a lifetime of this. Waylon shuddered.
Eddie was snarling and spitting like an animal, pushing himself against the bars, and Waylon found he preferred this to the quiet, never-ending stares from before.
“I’m gonna kill you!”
And Waylon didn’t doubt that he would. If the man behind the light merely wanted to Waylon to die, then he’d accomplish that in a heartbeat if he raised the divider again. But he didn’t. Of course he didn’t. Instead another pair of high heeled pumps clacked against the cement floor and placed another tray of food for Waylon to take. Yet another treat for a dog who did his tricks.
Waylon barely glanced at the content before he pulled them to safety, ignoring Eddie all the while, adding them to his own diminishing pile of mostly wrappers and garbage. He was still gonna share with Eddie - he wasn’t a monster - but he didn’t want to get too close to Eddie’s side of the cage just yet.
The water bottles they had given him were icy cool, and he pressed one to his swollen eye, groaning in equal parts pain and pleasure.
If their plan were to antagonize Eddie and Waylon during the hour or so they spent in the room with them, then Waylon would have to be vigilant in the hours they were alone to make sure that didn’t happen.
Waylon had never been manipulative in any way, and his hands shook as he rolled the bottle down over his cheek and neck by the mere thought of it, but if he were to make it out of this place alive, then he’d have to be. He’d have to get Eddie to his side, no matter the cost.
To survive he’d have to be as calculating as the people he wanted to take down.
Perhaps it was the food, or perhaps it was Waylon’s newfound convictions, but he woke up feeling better than he had in a long while.
His face still hurt, and he was certain his mouth was still covered in fatty lipstick, but for the first time since he woke in the cage, he felt motivated.
One of his eyes had swelled shut during the night, and he prodded his face carefully with his fingertips. Apart from the eye and a split lip, the rest of his face didn’t feel too bad, and he decided he was gonna count his blessings where he could. Lisa always said that, an old proverb left over from her grand-aunt, no doubt. He'd always scoffed at it, but now he found it oddly comforting.
He had fallen asleep with his back to Eddie again, and it struck him how strange it was that he felt safer that way. He moved his neck gently from side to side, before wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his uniform.
Eddie was sitting with his back to the bars across from him, as usual, but at the sight of Waylon’s face he startled, before his expression smoothed out. It occurred to Waylon that he might not even remember hurting him the previous day. In any case, he didn’t greet Waylon like he normally did, just stared at him while Waylon gathered up Eddie’s share of the food and stuck them quickly between the bars into Eddie’s side.
Without the imminent risk of death, Waylon could take a moment to look over the new rations. There was another bottle of water, another triangle shaped pack with two sandwiches, a small bag of potato chips and a chocolate bar. Waylon shook his head and decided to finish off his already opened pack of nuts and the rest of the previous bottle of water he had been saving.
Once the bottle was emptied out, he went over to the sink and tried the water again. He managed to fill it one-thirds with the rust-colored water before it sputtered and died. He wasn’t entire sure what he could do with it, and he swished it back and forth in the bottle with a frown. Flecks of something danced around in the discolored liquid and Waylon grimaced at it. It really looked revolting when he could look at it closer, and he was amazed he hadn’t gotten sick from it.
“Are you going to build an aeroplane with that?” Eddie finally broke the silence, and he cleared his throat when Waylon turned to look at him. “You said you’d watched a lot of MacGyver,” he continued when Waylon didn’t answer, but then he trailed off with a sullen, “Nevermind.”
“No, that’s funny,” Waylon croaked and managed a weak chuckle. “I just didn’t think you’d watched the show.”
Honestly, he just hadn't thought Eddie had been listening to him at all.
“Only a little,” Eddie said, and retrieved his own bag of nuts. It was a strange habit he had, Waylon had noticed. He only seemed to eat whatever Waylon had eaten right before. Perhaps he was worried about being poisoned, and wasn’t that the funniest part of it all? Waylon hadn’t even thought about the possibility of the man in the light tampering with their food.
“MacGyver was my hero,” Waylon mumbled, going back to the empty triangular casing for the sandwiches. The edges were sharp, but maybe if he-
“I used to sneak books from the library home with me,” Eddie murmured, so softly that Waylon wondered if he had meant to say it out loud at all. “Read them under the covers with a flashlight.”
“I thought kids only did that in movies,” Waylon said, and tried to smile.
Eddie didn’t smile back, he just watched Waylon’s face with careful scrutiny. “I’m so sure I’ve seen your face before,” he said after a pause, and Waylon tried to hide the way his back stiffened.
“You might’ve,” Waylon stammered. “In the hallways or something.”
“I don’t think so.” Somehow Eddie’s voice sounded even more threatening than when he was shouting at Waylon to die, even if his tone was soft as honey. “Whenever I look at you, I get a pain here-” He tapped his temple.
This was it, then. Waylon’s first shot at being calculating. What to say to him? Waylon imagined his neural pathways like a simulated neural net; a database with endless cashes to access, and edit. Endless possibilities with endless functions to call. He needed Eddie to trust him. He needed Eddie to-
“I didn’t want to be the one to tell you,” Waylon heard himself say. “But you did meet me, in your workshop.”
“My-” Eddie’s stony expression changed ever so slightly. “Where?”
“You don’t remember what happened?”
Eddie finally stopped looking at Waylon’s face, his eyes moving at random as he undoubtedly searched his mind to remember. Waylon doubted what he did remember was pleasant, because his forehead scrunched together more than once. In a brief moment, so brief that Waylon would have missed it had he not been looking at him so intently, Eddie got an expression of such wounded vulnerability that Waylon almost felt sorry for him.
“There is something,” he mumbled, voice suddenly scratchy, but he did not elaborate.
Hopefully, of all the things Eddie might remember, he’d recollect the things going on in his lair, and not Waylon’s face behind the glass, refusing to help him.
I didn’t refuse, Waylon argued. I did try to help, just not right away.
Like that would soothe the beast. Waylon tried to conceal the tremble in his hands by opening the bag of potato chips. He imagined it now, trying to convince Eddie that he’d tried his best, even if his best had resulted in Eddie’s scarred face and broken mind. Another stab of Waylon’s conscience, sharper this time. If he’d only-
No point thinking about it, he chastised. Had I tried to stop them at that moment I’d be shot, and then where would we be?
Waylon looked around them and wondered with a sardonic half-smile if they’d perhaps be better off.
“You’re smiling,” Eddie observed quietly, his voice taking on a suspicious edge. “Why?”
“Every time I try to imagine why they’d do this to us-” he lied. “- my mind goes blank, because I can’t imagine any reason at all.”
“Does it have to be a reason why?” Eddie got to his feet, stretched, and wandered over to the sink. “Sometimes people are just evil by default.”
Waylon looked up at him, wondering if Eddie was talking about himself, but Eddie interrupted his thoughts before he had a chance to really think it through.
“Hey, give me your bottle.”
If it had been the previous day, then Waylon wouldn’t have wanted to get within ten feet of the metal divider, but when Eddie was lucid it felt safe enough. Waylon had to wonder if all the women Eddie had murdered had felt the same way. He handed Eddie the bottle through the bars, and Eddie walked over to the sink on his side and filled it with more dirty water. Waylon still wasn’t sure what he could do with it, but if nothing else it could prove useful if the man in the light decided to cut the water altogether.
Waylon started looking over the bars again, touching the welded joints. The cage’s door that was situated right in the middle, halfway blocked by the divider, looked reinforced. Waylon thought he remembered that any welding had the potential of weakening the metal, so it might be worth a shot to try something. “Can you look over the ones on your side?” he asked Eddie, pressing his finger against the metal hinges.
“What am I looking for?”
It struck Waylon, when he looked up at Eddie’s gently questioning face, that Eddie could be very charming when he wanted to be. Like Ted Bundy, he supposed. Paired with his height and bulk, he guessed he wouldn’t have much trouble tricking women into his bed for slaughter.
“Look for any signs of rust,” Waylon instructed. “Or anything else out of the ordinary.”
Eddie nodded and started looking over the bars, touching the metal gingerly.
“Iron and steel rust when they come into contact with water and oxygen,” Waylon mumbled, mostly to himself. “Prisons often use steel in their constructions since it’s cheap. If we could find a spot that’s already weakened, then maybe we could-” He trailed off and bit his lower lip, not even noticing the sting of the wound.
“Maybe we could what?” Eddie asked, and Waylon startled. He hadn’t been aware that Eddie had listened to him at all.
“Unless you licked the inside of the bags of nuts, then we’d have enough salt to mix with water. Iron and steel rust faster in salt water.”
“I see,” Eddie said, and continued his search for corrosion.
“If we had something magnetic, then we’d know what kind of metal we’re dealing with. Or it would narrow it down at any rate. Not that it really matters.” God, it was hard to think. Waylon pressed the heel of his palm against his head, like that would encourage his brain to function. What he remembered from chemistry was that salt was a good conductor and that the reactions should tremendously accelerate corrosion. But how fast? Perhaps it would take a year to give an effect, even if they found a weak joint in the cage.
Just the thought of it made Waylon dizzy. He wouldn’t survive a year here. He doubted he’d survive another week.
“There’s a spot here,” Eddie exclaimed, sounding excited. “I don’t know if it’s rust or blood, but it’s something.”
Yeah, Waylon thought, something horrible. Even if it was rust, then it would just mean horrors in some other way. This wouldn’t take a few days. This could take weeks or months. Years. That’s what kept looping in Waylon’s mind. A fucking year of this. Maybe more than one. Eternity like this. If they managed to get out alive, then maybe his youngest son would have learned to walk and talk. The thought was as terrible as it was inescapable.
“Put some water in the empty bag of nuts,” Waylon instructed weakly, his head suddenly feeling far too light, like it might float up to the ceiling at any moment. “Try to pool the salt water over the spot you found.”
“What about you?” Eddie suddenly asked.
“What about me?”
“If this works and the metal rusts enough for me to break loose, then what about you?”
Just the idea that Eddie wondered had Waylon’s mind grind to a halt.
“What’s important is that one of us is free,” Waylon said after a pause, even if it wasn’t true. “If I escape, then I get you out or get help to do so. Same for you, right?”
“Right,” Eddie said, and seemed soothed by the thought. Waylon watched as he carefully doused the corner bar in the salt water solution, watching it intently like he somehow expected the bars to rust while he watched.
Waylon was just soothed by the idea of doing something, even if it felt futile and pointless. He copied Eddie, except he tied the bag of salt water around the hinges. He didn’t want to dwell too much on the length these people would go to. Not could go to, he’d personally seen what they would let happen if the mood struck them.
No, they needed more ideas. Not just for Waylon’s peace of mind, but because it was better not to put all their eggs in one basket, so to speak. Another one of Lisa’s little proverbs. But it was true, the more ideas they had for escape, the better.
“If we could just trick one of them into coming closer to the bars,” Waylon mumbled, and on the other side of the cage Eddie nodded.
“They can’t have much fun with us if one of us is dead,” he said glumly, his past excitement long gone.
“You’d be the safest bet,” Waylon started, shooting a poignant look to Eddie’s physique, “But they’ll be expecting that. If I can just get them down on the ground, then maybe you can catch them.”
“It’s worth a try,” Eddie offered, though he didn’t seem very convinced.
The leg Waylon had curled under the other had gone completely numb sometime during the past half hour. If Waylon’s assumptions were correct, then they had cameras in the room, and they’d see right through it if he suddenly keeled over the second they entered.
So instead he’d tried to summon his inner actor, clutching as his chest, coughing and falling to his knees in agony. He had to ignore the scoffs from the other side of the bars, where Eddie was observing him with his arms crossed over his chest, but he felt it had been believable enough.
Waylon tried to shift his leg a mere quarter of an inch, and was rewarded by what felt like equal parts tickling and needles poking his nerves. Waylon gritted his teeth in annoyance, daring to crack open an eye to see what Eddie was doing.
Eddie had his back to him, moving slowly along the perimeter of the cage, checking every joint of metal for another weak spot. Waylon was almost tempted to say they’d already done that about a dozen times over, but he supposed anything was better than lying lifeless on the floor with a leg that was quickly declaring war.
He was just about to give up and crawl back into his corner where he could sulk, eat the rest of that day’s ration and nap, when the door opened.
Waylon had his eyes closed as soon as he realized, forcing himself not to perk up at the sound. Across for him he could hear Eddie shuffle and shift, and in front of him he could hear the sound of more than one set of feet.
“Very amusing, Mr. Park,” the man in the light said, and this time Waylon was almost certain he recognized it. Then he heard the sound of two sets of feet, walking up to them far closer than they ever had before.
This close up he could smell expensive cologne and hear the subtle creak of leather shoes. The combination seemed perverse in here, like flowers growing in open wounds. He swallowed thickly and waited.
“Go check on him,” Waylon heard the man say, before another man spoke.
“But I’m not a doctor, I wouldn’t know what to-”
“You do know how to check a pulse, don’t you?” the man in the light snapped, and after a moment’s hesitation Waylon heard timid footsteps approaching.
He waited until he could see the shadow of a hand reach for his neck before he lunged forward, shooting his arms through the bars and wrapping them around thin shins with a triumphant shout.
The man looked familiar to Waylon, and he wondered if it was the scientist who had licked his face earlier, and he shouted something Waylon couldn’t hear through the sound of his blood rushing in his ears. He thought the man’s name might be Andrew, and he twisted his arms forcefully and was rewarded by a scream and a dull thud as the man fell to the ground. There was something almost hysterically hilarious about the cold hearted scientist as he scrambled on the dirty floor to get away from Eddie’s side of the cage. Smart man, because Eddie seemed ready to tear his head off. The man cursed and tried to kick at Waylon’s hands to get him to let go.
Waylon knew he was many things. He was smart, dedicated and loving to his friends and family. But the one thing he knew he didn’t possess was the sheer brutality of strength that Eddie exhibited. Yet, for those precious few seconds, he was the strongest man in the world. No force on this earth could make him lose his grip on this man’s legs. Suddenly he understood how people were able to lift cars when their adrenaline surged through their bodies. Waylon felt like he could lift the whole damn cage up, had it not been bolted to the ground.
Beyond the light, dulled down by the blood in Waylon’s ears, he could hear the man in the light yell for the man in Waylon’s grasp to get away.
“Get him!” Waylon shouted at Eddie, who had his face pressed painfully into the bars so he could stretch his arms out a little further.
Eddie was like a damn animal at this point, lips drawn back from his teeth in a violent sneer, grunting as he pushed his body into the bars. Waylon knew their plan was flawed. At this point, Eddie would kill Andrew if he got his hands on him, there was no doubt about it, and even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to escape the man in the light, the man who might be God for all they knew. Yet, at this very moment, that didn’t even matter. A harsh punishment seemed like a small price to pay if that meant the death of this man.
How quickly humans turn into beasts, Waylon pondered in the back of his mind, while his body clawed and clamped down on flesh almost on its own accord. He’d been so horrified at the actions of the other inmates, not even realizing how he had quickly become one of them. Those thoughts hung like an echo in the back of his mind when Andrew got something from his pocket and shot his hands down to Waylon’s hands.
There was a sudden, dull sort of pain, and Waylon wasn’t aware of what had happened until he saw the blood.
Then suddenly he wasn’t the strongest man in the world anymore as his hands retreated in panic when he saw the blade Andrew had broken off near the junction of his wrist.
“Waylon!” Eddie shouted as Waylon scooted back, using his undamaged hand to clutch at the wound on his right. Blood gushed out between his fingers like someone had turned on a faucet and he pressed harder, trying to encourage the bleeding to stop.
Andrew scrambled out of harm's way, throwing the damaged blade across the room, and Waylon stared at him from his position on the floor.
“Well,” Andrew said slowly, his relaxed tone not quite convincing because of the rapid rise and fall of his chest, “I wasn’t aware you two had gotten so chummy.” He spat the final word.
“Indeed,” the man behind the light said lazily. “Might have to do something about that.”
Waylon didn’t have time to lull those words over in his mind, because Andrew disappeared behind the blinding light and they heard the tell-tale sound of the door closing.
As soon as the door closed behind them, Waylon let out the cry of pain he had been holding back.
“Darling, you’ve hurt yourself!” Eddie was reaching through the bars on Waylon’s side of the cage now, trying to get him closer.
Waylon clutched his wrist harder, fighting the nausea that was rolling off him in waves at the sight of the blood, while simultaneously trying to ignore the nickname. Eddie didn’t seem altogether there, but he didn’t seem angry either. At least not with Waylon.
“Fucking shit!” Waylon groaned, and on the other side of the divider Eddie cinched his eyebrows together and clicked his tongue.
“Language, darling, really!” he huffed indignantly, and Waylon had to release a puff of laughter that sounded more hysterically than anything else.
“Eddie, you’re a riot,” Waylon wheezed, “But right now I might be dying.”
“Stop being such a baby, and get over here.” Eddie gestured for Waylon to come closer, while pulling out a thread and a safety pin from one of the pockets of his slacks.
Eddie warmed the pin in his hand for a second before he started bending the metal until it resembled a hook more than a needle, and he secured the thread to one end by pinching the metal shut around it. Waylon stared at it in horror.
God, he was gonna die of blood poisoning, wasn’t he?
Even so, Waylon scooted over to the divider and obediently reached both hands in front of him, still clutching it fervently, allowing Eddie to survey the damage.
Without a word Eddie got the piece of Andrew’s broken knife out of the wound before he used what was rest of his first bottle of water to rinse the wound. Then he leaned closer, resting Waylon’s arm on his thigh, while keeping pressure on the wound.
“You might...” he started before glancing up at Waylon. “You might want to look away.”
Waylon blinked at him wide-eyed for a few heartbeats before he nodded and turned for the window. He kept his eyes on the faded light from what he hoped was the outside world, jaw shut tightly as he felt the needle enter his body.
“Really nothing to it, darling, it’s like sewing a dress,” Eddie cooed while he pulled the thread through the middle of the wound, tugging sickeningly at the skin to pull it taut. “Even if skin behaves a bit-” Eddie trailed off, focused at the task at hand.
Waylon shot him a terrified stare, careful not to let his gaze stray to the reddened mess in the bottom of his vision.
“Wait, you’ve never done this on a human being before?”
“Hmmm?” Eddie hummed, and Waylon got the distinct feeling that he was trying to buy time.
“This. Suturing. Is this your first time?”
“Well,” Eddie started, crossing the thread a few times on itself before securing it tightly, and moved on to the next suture. “I’ve done this before, but there wasn’t quite this much… bleeding.”
Waylon felt all the colour drain from his face, and he turned his head back the way it was, eyes fixed stiffly on the window. So the only practice Eddie had with suturing was on corpses, was it? For some reason that didn’t make Waylon feel any better.
At least the persistent ache from the wound itself kept his brain too preoccupied to notice much of what Eddie was doing. Right now it didn’t feel too bad. Eddie’s hands were warm and strong, and he held Waylon firmly, but carefully. Without meaning to Waylon found his eyes drifting over to Eddie so he could study his face.
“Does it hurt?” Waylon asked softly, and Eddie shot him a quick, confused stare before re-focusing on Waylon’s wrist.
Something stiffened in Eddie’s expression, and he shifted uncomfortably.
“It hurt at first,” he mumbled, securing the final knot on Waylon’s wrist. “Now it’s just itchy. Okay, all done.”
Waylon was confused for a second, before he pulled his wrist back through the bars and studied the stitches.
“Wow,” he breathed. “This looks great.”
And he wasn’t just humouring Eddie at this point, the stitches did indeed look good, secured neatly and evenly spaced. He glanced up at Eddie to find him beaming back at him. The fragile truce between them seemed solid then, and Waylon smiled back until he remembered who he was dealing with.
Waylon’s smile died on his lips, but before Eddie could notice he looked down on his hands, stretching his fingers out so he could wiggle them experimentally. Perhaps this was the best that could have happened. Eddie seemed almost protective of him now, which could be a help in their very uncertain future.
Look at you, Mr. Park, a voice that sounded suspiciously like Jeremy Blaire said in the back of his mind. Already faking it.
“I’m sorry the plan didn’t work,” Waylon finally said, putting his hands in his lap.
“It wasn’t bad for a first try. Besides,” Eddie reached his hand through the bars, dropping the barely two inch long blade into Waylon’s hand. “Now we have something new for our pile.”
Waylon offered him a lopsided smile without any real mirth, although he appreciated the sentiment.
“No, not bad for a first try,” he echoed, staring at the blade in his hand.
The blade was like the cage. Small, in the grand scheme of things, but at the same time so terribly large. Waylon sighed and closed his fingers carefully around it.
Now he would just have to figure out how to use it.
Of course the next day brought punishment. How could it not? For once they hadn’t done what Murkoff had expected of them, and Waylon knew, in the back of his mind, that something horrible would come. He just didn’t know what.
The day started like any of the other days, except they didn’t talk much, not even when Eddie poured more salt water over the metal. Waylon kept to his own method, trying to permanently keep the hinges in a weak dilution of the stuff. Their voices seemed off in the vast emptiness of the room, like it had suddenly gained an echo, or like everything outside of them had disappeared. Every time they started talking, they both cringed at how loud their voice seemed in the room, no matter how softly they whispered. Finally they just gave up and kept their thoughts and ideas to themselves.
Waylon unwrapped one of the sandwiches, munching on it while trying to think of what he might be able to do with their supplies. It was amazing, he thought, how much better he felt with a full belly. His thoughts might still be laced with desperation, but it flowed better, if nothing else.
Eddie was doing sit-ups on his side, no doubt trying to keep himself busy. He did so effortlessly, barely even breaking a sweat, and Waylon felt like a slob when he reached for the chocolate bar instead of following Eddie’s example. It was one of the caramel-filled ones that Waylon really loved, and he watched Eddie while eating it. Eddie’s shirt had untucked from his pants, Waylon observed with unease, showing each roll of his powerful abdomen.
If they were ever forced to fight, which they undoubtedly would, then Waylon knew he wouldn’t stand a chance. He looked away, focusing on his hand instead.
It was aching today, and splotchy around the edges, but it didn’t seem excessively swollen or hot to the touch, so he was just gonna assume it was gonna be fine. Not like he could do anything about it if it wasn’t, anyway. He wiggled his fingers, watching the skin closely.
He was just about to pay Eddie another compliment on his suturing skills, when the door slammed open.
They both looked in the direction of the light, knowing they wouldn’t be able to catch whoever it was anyway. It took a few seconds, but then someone with dainty little heels came in. The heels clacked against the concrete floor, and they followed the sound as she crossed the floor. Then came the unmistakable flick of a switch.
Nothing happened at first, and Waylon almost breathed a sigh of relief. He had almost forgotten the sewing machines that had been fashioned in a half-circle around them a few days ago, until they woke to life.
There was no fabric between the needles and the metal, and the harsh, repetitive sound ricocheted off the walls. They never changed pace, just an endless chuka, chuka, chuka as the needle tried to puncture fabric that was not there.
It wasn’t so bad, and Eddie and Waylon exchanged glances with a shrug. Waylon had expected something more serious, after all, Mount Massive had given him more nightmare fuel than what a few sewing machines could manage.
Five hours later, Waylon wasn’t so sure if he had encountered anything worse. If anything on this planet was worse than a sewing machine, because this was torture.
Waylon couldn’t breathe. He had started pacing somewhere around the third hour, curling his fists while he fought to keep his breathing even. He no longer felt like a rat in a cage, now it was more like a rat in a car engine, slowly being suffocated to death.
The endless chuka, chuka, chuka had been fairly easy to ignore the first few hours, but now it dominated the room.
The sewing machines were droning on until there was nothing else. Even when Waylon pressed his hands against his ears, he could still hear it. The droning filled the room. Filled Waylon’s head. Filled their entire existence. Somewhere next to him in the dark he could hear Eddie shouting for them to stop.
This was too much, it was too much, and Waylon started screaming as well. At first they were screaming words at the light, first demanding them to stop, then begging, then it turned into guttural nonsensical shouts of horror. Waylon wasn’t even ashamed at this point, his mind blank with terror.
They finally disappeared into unconsciousness like that, hands pressed against their ears, eyes staring lifelessly into nothing until they finally passed out from exhaustion.
The room was quiet when Waylon finally awoke, but somehow the silence was tremendously loud, his ears ringing with sound that was no longer there. He sat up with a start, realizing Eddie was awake, sitting apathetically with his hands in his lap.
He wasn’t entirely sure what Eddie had done, but the cuts on his forehead had opened up again, and blood had dried in stripes down his face.
“The fucking cunts decided to give us food,” he finally said, and Waylon couldn’t stop the laughter from bubbling in his chest.
At this point he wasn’t sure why he found it so amusing, maybe it was the strange contrast between the various personalities Eddie displayed, or maybe it simply was the relief of food and silence. Eddie turned to look at him when his laughter turned hysterical, raising one eyebrow. His gentle indignation just made the whole thing even more surreal, and Waylon had to wipe the tears from his eyes, still laughing at something he wasn’t sure what was.
“Have some fucking cake, Waylon, you’ll feel better.”
Waylon’s head fell back as he started laughed in earnest, and next to him Eddie smiled a little.
“I wish I was kidding, but I’m not,” Eddie continued. “They have us locked in a cage and they figured a cake is just what we need, take a look.” He nodded to the floor by Waylon’s side.
And Waylon looked for the first time over at the tray of food by the side of the cage, roaring with laughter when he did.
It contained the usual sandwich, water and assorted nuts and fruits, but also a twinkie. A fucking twinkie. It was like the perfect imagery for everything that was wrong here.
“You’re right, let’s have some fucking cake, Eddie,” Waylon reached through the bars for the twinkies, tossing one to Eddie who tried to hide a smile.
It had been late September when Waylon decided to send that fated email to Miles Upshur, and he wasn’t sure if Fall had arrived with a vengeance, or if the sadistic assholes had found yet another way to torture them, but the room was freezing. He kept trying to sleep, but his teeth were rattling so severely in his mouth that he doubted he ever could.
Apparently he was keeping Eddie awake as well, because there was a sigh from the other side of the cage. Waylon cracked open an eye to study him, and found him lying on his side with his arms around himself in an effort to stay warm.
There was little relief from it. The bars were like ice, the floor so cold that it almost hurt when naked skin touched it.
“I hate to say it,” Eddie started. “But sharing body heat might be a good idea in this situation.”
Waylon pinched his eyes shut. Now, logically, Waylon knew that Eddie was absolutely correct in that assessment. The heat lost from one person to the next was lower than the heat lost from one person to the environment around them. He opened his eyes again to watch Eddie. Reducing the amount of surface area exposed to the environment would mean reducing the heat loss. Waylon chewed on his bottom lip. He had no idea what the temperature of the room was, but he knew they’d both be fucked if their body temperature dropped far enough.
Sure, getting warm again would be grand, but snuggling up to a psychotic killer wasn’t really that appealing. Waylon didn’t say as much, just shrugged and closed his eye again. Silence stretched out between them for a minute before Waylon’s teeth started chattering again, a few violent tremors shaking his body.
“How am I supposed to escape this place if you go and die on me?”
“I’m not gonna die,” Waylon sniffed, and Eddie scoffed.
“Well, I’ll lie down here if you change your mind.”
Eddie’s voice was neither the groom or the Eddie Waylon had met down in the underground lab. This was the charming Eddie, the Eddie all those women had undoubtedly met before their demise; with a soft voice and kind words.
Waylon didn’t open his eyes to look at him, but he heard Eddie shuffle a bit in the darkness before it got quiet again. When he was sure Eddie had indeed moved into position, he cracked open an eye again.
Eddie was lying on the opposite side of where the toilets were, his back pressed firmly against the bars. Ideally, they’d strip down naked and huddle together for warmth, covering themselves with blankets, but they didn’t have blankets, and there was no way Waylon would ever get naked around Eddie ever again. Hell, if he’d had a blanket, he’d be in the opposite direction of the cage, as far away from Eddie as he positively could.
As it was, though, he didn’t. He had nothing at all. Waylon hesitated for only a second before he quietly got up and slunk over to the bars, where he tentatively laid down next to Eddie. Heat radiated out from between the cold bars and Waylon inched his back closer, until their backs were resting against each other.
God, Eddie was so warm, almost too much so, like he had a fever. And Waylon was so cold. Was it a slip of character to nestle up to him? A weakness to curl in on himself, back pressed firmly against the person who had tried to kill him? He did it anyway, ignoring the voice in the back of his mind screaming for him to run away. He wondered vaguely if Eddie had been cold at all, or if was just a ruse to get him closer.
At least Eddie stayed quiet, in fact he hardly even breathed, and Waylon felt himself relax slowly, his limbs getting warm and heavy as he drifted off to sleep.
This is where those scary tags starts coming into play...
For the first time since he was shut in the cage - How long had it been? A few days? A week? A month? - Waylon had a decent night's sleep, and when he woke up he didn’t immediately recoil in grim realization of where he was.
Instead he was reminded of slow Sunday mornings with Lisa, except just a little bit off. The light coming in through the window was too muted, the window too grimy, to belong in their pristine apartment, and the arm currently across Waylon’s waist was definitely not female.
Judging by Eddie’s slow, even breathing, he was still asleep, and Waylon just laid there in stunned silence. Eddie was spooning him as well as he could through the bars, arm possessively around Waylon’s waist, fingers twitching slightly in sleep.
Apparently Waylon wasn’t the only one confused by that night’s events, because the door slammed open, followed by a humourless laugh.
“Well, well, well,” the man in the light laughed, and Eddie made a sound of surprise and scrambled to his feet behind Waylon. “This isn’t at all what I expected when we put you two in here. I mean, sure, I saw how chummy you had gotten, but this, oh, this is something else, isn’t it?”
Waylon and Eddie were both standing near the middle of the room, far apart, like they had gotten caught something they shouldn’t have. And perhaps they had.
“Nevermind all that,” the man said pleasantly, all previous venom wiped away. “I came to tell you, Mr. Park, that you’re not like the other ones here.” He said this like it was some grand revelation of sorts. Have you heard the good news, and all the other things that Waylon couldn’t remember anymore.
Waylon glanced over to Eddie, who had his eyes narrowed, listening intently.
“You’re not like Edward Gluskin.”
Waylon considered his options carefully, not saying a word. It was obvious what the man in the light was trying to do, in fact it was so obvious that Waylon thought there might be another plan altogether.
“Do you know what he’s done?” the voice paused. “Do you know how many he’s killed?”
Eddie didn’t flinch or say a word, but his expression changed.
“We feed only you,” the voice continued. “You don’t have to give him a single crumb.”
Waylon tightened his jaw and clenched his fists. He didn't know what was worse; How easy it was for the man in the light to even suggest something like this, or that they thought it was that easy for Waylon to let go of his principles and humanity.
“If you agree to stop feeding him, we’ll bring you twice the rations.”
Waylon didn’t answer, couldn’t answer, instead he stared stubbornly at the light, and the man beyond it.
“If you agree to kill him, we’ll let you go.”
Waylon glanced over at Eddie, who was watching him intently with some inexplicable emotion on his face.
“If you kill Edward Gluskin, we’ll let you go back to your wife and children.” There was a slight pause. “Will you agree to kill him?”
“No,” Waylon said, chin held high, and Eddie made a low sound in the back of his throat that almost sounded like a whimper. Perhaps it was stupid, but Waylon didn’t have it in him to do something like that, even if it meant escape.
“That’s too bad,” the man in the light said, although he had simply gone back to sounding bored. “That’s really too bad, Mr. Park.”
There was a bang of the door as it slammed into the opposite wall, and the sound of three sets of feet coming into the room.
Waylon instinctively cowered back as three heavy set men came emerging from the light, pressing his back against the bars as they opened the cage door.
The first two entered Waylon’s side of the cage, while the third stood guard by the door carrying what looked like a high powered electric cattle prod. When Eddie took a step towards him, he simply raised it as a warning, and they both heard the crackling coming from the tip of the prod.
The other two were advancing on Waylon, faces void of any emotion. They didn’t look quite as scabbed over as the other variants, but they seemed off all the same; vacant eyes and mouths hanging open. They reminded him of the twins, in some ways, but less grotesque.
Waylon raised his forearm to protect his face when they got closer, but the biggest of the two merely pushed his arm away like it was a twig, before landing a fist squarely in his stomach.
The impact had Waylon doubled over, gasping for air and gagging, leaving him open for more attacks. He was immediately awarded a knee to his chin, and for a sickening moment Waylon was certain he was gonna spit teeth.
“Waylon!” Eddie cried on the other side of the cage, rushing forward to get a grip on his attackers, but they laughed at him. “Get away from him! You fucks! I’m gonna kill you!”
He didn’t catch any of them. As soon as he had his arms through the bars, the man with the cattle prod hit it against the cage, electricity sparkling. Eddie hissed and retracted his hands, yelling something Waylon couldn’t hear through the sudden ringing of his ears.
The biggest one of his assailants started tearing on his clothing, and at that moment Waylon’s entire mind was blown away by white noise. Surely they wouldn’t..?
Instinct took over, and Waylon thrashed in their grips, roaring like an animal. He fought against them with everything he had, grinning with bloody teeth every time he heard a grunt of pain coming from the two. He was getting quite a decent few hits in, before one of his attackers forced his arms back. He tried to kick, using the weight of his attacker to shoot his legs out, but the angle made it awkward. They chuckled, like he was nothing more than a misbehaving child, before unzipping his jumpsuit all the way down to his crotch.
The bigger one, the one in front of him, was grinning at him, face sickeningly close. Waylon was free to study every detail of his face, from the two missing molars to the scar cutting through his eyebrow. They started caressing his chest, running dirty fingers across his skin, pinching his nipples. He shouted something at them, only to receive another blow to the head. Waylon shut his eyes against the blinding light, only to open them back up to him lying naked on the floor. He tasted blood in his mouth and wondered how long he had been out for. Somewhere in the background he heard Eddie shouting at them to stop.
Waylon barely had time to get his bearings on what was going on, before a flash of light went off above him.
“Spread your legs,” someone with a gruff voice demanded, before kicking Waylon’s legs apart. He wore steel toed military boots, and Waylon shivered by the implication. “Show off for daddy.”
On the other side of the cage, Eddie made a strangled sort of sound; Somewhere between a growl and a whimper.
“Wha-?” Waylon tried to cover himself up, only to be kicked in the ribs by the second assailant.
“Spread for daddy.”
“Listen to your superior, kid,” the other one said, kicking in him in the ribs again.
Waylon kept his hands flat on the ground, forcing himself to breathe through the pain and the panic, but spread his knees just an inch.
“Further.” Another push of a leather boot against his inner thigh. Another flash of the camera.
It was repulsive. Disgusting. Vile. All the negative words Waylon could muster, but he still started spreading for the two strangers.
“Good boy,” one cooed, taking another picture.
The other kneeled down on the floor by Waylon’s head, and Waylon froze as the man started fiddling with the fly of his pants.
“Open for uncle,” he murmured, and Waylon thought he could hear the other one, the one who called himself daddy, laugh.
“Stop it!” Eddie cried. “Leave him the fuck alone!” This time he actually stormed the man with the cattle prod, only to be greeted with a strike to his face. Eddie fell to his knees, groaning, cradling his nose with both hands.
“Eddie!” Waylon called out, raising himself up on his elbows only to be pushed back down by a boot to his chest.
“Get back!” The man slammed the cattle prod into Eddie’s ribs, and Eddie reluctantly scrambled back.
Waylon had been so focused on Eddie that he hadn’t realized the man next to him had taken his cock out until it was smeared across his mouth.
He immediately gagged, pushing the man away, only to be rewarded by a sharp kick to his groin.
“Don’t disrespect your superiors, son,” daddy said, taking another picture. “Bite and I’ll gut you like a pig.”
Another strange sound came from Eddie’s side of the cage.
Waylon’s groin felt like it was on fire, and he tried to breathe around the tight restraints of his lungs when uncle shoved his cock back against his face.
He didn’t gag or pull away, but allowed uncle to rub it against his closed lips.
“That’s it,” the man panted, and the other man, the one who referred to himself as daddy, laughed a short, humorless laugh. “Lick uncle’s cock nice and clean.”
Waylon shut his eyes tightly, and opened his mouth a mere quarter of an inch, gasping in surprise when uncle shoved his entire length into his mouth. He couldn’t stop the gag this time, tears prickling his eyes, but he wasn’t punished for it.
“Hot mouth,” uncle groaned, thrusting against Waylon’s mouth. His cock tasted of dusty fabrics, and salty, clammy skin.
The man above him, daddy, kneeled down between his legs, pushing them further apart.
“Look at that,” he breathed, using his thumbs to spread Waylon’s cheeks apart. “Got ourselves a virgin. Don’t think anyone’s even touched his little hole.”
Waylon gasped around the mouthful of cock, trying to press his knees together, but daddy merely pushed them back apart like it was nothing.
“I’ll enjoy fucking you, son,” daddy groaned, thumbing Waylon’s ass. “But not just yet.”
Not just yet. Waylon fought panic again. But soon. They were gonna keep doing this, worse and worse, until he buckled and did what they wanted.
Daddy kept taking pictures. Waylon heard the clicks from the camera, and saw the flashes of light behind closed lids, and when he dared glance up at him, he realized daddy had his cock out, jerking himself off.
Uncle kept fucking Waylon’s mouth, and somewhere in the middle of it all, Waylon had just let his jaws go completely slack, allowing the man to do as he pleased. Tears had started streaming down his face in an effort not to gag, but wasn’t like it mattered, anyway.
When did he last kiss the top of Lisa’s curly hair? Hear the laughter of his sons? He didn’t remember, and furthermore, their features had faded a bit from his mind. Replaced by this. Replaced by cattle rods and sexual assault. It was almost funny, was it not so terrible. These things didn’t happen. These things couldn’t happen.
Uncle groaned and came while deeply rooted in Waylon’s mouth, and the rhythmic spurts of briny spunk caught him completely by surprise. Daddy came as well, rubbing his cock against Waylon’s own, spurting all over him, marking him like a dog.
They pulled away, but not before taking a few more shots of Waylon’s abused mouth, now covered in blood and semen. Then they buckled their pants, and laughed as they started leaving.
The tall one, daddy, spat in Eddie’s direction, before they slammed the cage shut again.
It was silent for a few heartbeats. Waylon was too shocked to do much of anything, except staring out into space.
“Did you like that, Eddie?” The man in the light broke the silence, sounding like he was trying not to laugh. “Do you see what happens to people when they try to protect you?”
“You shut your whore mouth,” Eddie growled.
“Your mother tried to protect you, didn’t she?”
Eddie went pale by the words, and obviously at a loss for what to say, because he opened and closed his mouth a few times, but didn’t speak..
“Did it sound familiar, Eddie?” the man in the light continued, and Waylon realized that this hadn’t just been torture for him, but for Eddie as well. “Do you remember all those times in the basement of your house? All those time you had to open up for daddy?”
Waylon was too stunned to move, and he waited for the man in the light to speak again, but he never did. Instead the footsteps faded, and the door shut behind them.
The room was silent. So silent that Waylon heard nothing but the rushing in his ears, and his own wheezing breath.
“You okay?” Eddie suddenly asked, and Waylon startled.
“What do you think?” he snapped, harsher than intended, and Eddie didn’t say anything to that. In fact, he tactfully turned around when Waylon used the rust colored water to rinse his mouth and wash off the worst of the splatters of semen over his genitals and abdomen.
He dressed with trembling hands, his stomach churning. He gagged and spat a few times, but he thought he could still feel the heaviness of uncle’s semen in his stomach. He stood there, in the middle of his cage, on legs that trembled as much as his hands. He felt completely and utterly helpless and alone.
“I-I’m sorry,” Waylon stammered, his voice thick. He had to remember the game.
He tried to convince himself that he was still playing, that he was still trying to manipulate Eddie, but when Eddie turned around again, there was something in his eyes that Waylon was surprised to find there.
No matter who Eddie was, and what he’d done, it wasn’t right for Waylon to blame him for this. He just had to remember it.
This time, they didn’t say a word. They didn’t have to speak at all, they just curled up against each other through the bars, and although Eddie didn’t make a sound, Waylon thought he might be crying.
Morning arrived early, muted light dancing over Waylon’s eyelids.
He blinked warily, his face just inches away from Eddie’s, who was still sleeping soundly. Their limbs were intertwined, Eddie’s warm body pressed as close to Waylon’s as possible, and he took a moment to observe Eddie’s face quietly.
So this was the beast.
In the pale sunshine, he looking anything but. Muted light was filtering over his face through the dirty window, highlighting the scabs littering his cheeks. His face was slack in sleep, his eyelids quivering slightly.
Despite the voice in his head urging him to run, Waylon stayed put, finding some strange comfort in the heat and safety of another human being. It was so bizarre it almost made him smile, except he was worried what might happen if Eddie woke up to find Waylon grinning next to him. It was just so hard to imagine he’d be so starved for companionship that he’d willingly lay in the arms of the monster that had stalked the halls.
The sores and scabs on Eddie’s face had started to heal, pink, newly formed skin dotting the edges. Waylon knew his face would never return to what it had been before the engine, but it pleased him, somehow, to see him get better. Perhaps, in time, they’d both heal from this.
Just then, Eddie blinked against the light, opening his eyes slowly to look up at Waylon’s face. Even though the broken blood vessels in his eyes had started healing like the scabs, Eddie’s eyes were still shockingly blue, and Waylon found himself unable to look away. Eddie sucked in a breath and held it, looking at Waylon like he was the only person in the world. And Waylon realized that in a way, he was.
They watched each other in silence for another few heartbeats, before Eddie pulled away. They didn’t address their sleeping arrangements, just quietly disentangled.
Another tray of food was left by Waylon’s side of the cage, and Waylon hesitated for a moment before pulling it in. He hated accepting it, but if accepting it meant gathering strength for the moment where he could escape this place forever, then he was going to do just that.
He divided the content dutifully, ignoring the look on Eddie’s face when he pushed his share through the bars.
Eddie accepted the food, but there was a moment where he simply sat with the loot in his hands, looking at it with a crease between his brows. If Waylon were to guess, he’d say Eddie felt remorse or shame about what happened the previous night, but it seemed unlikely that someone like Eddie could harbor feelings like that. No, if anything, he was probably worried about the amount of water they had left.
It was easier after that. Waylon started talking about something or another, he no longer remembered, and the shift seemed to knock Eddie out of whatever melancholy he had been in.
By some mutual understanding they both started dousing the bars in more salt water, filling the empty water bottles with more of the murky liquid from the sinks. Afterwards, safe in the knowledge that they’d done something, they sat down together to eat.
Things seemed better in the daylight. Not as terrible. They talked about nothing and everything, while eating the other half of their twinkies.
“I remember the first time I had a twinkie,” Waylon said, watching while he pressed his fingers around the soft cake, licking the cream that escaped. “I was five, and decided it was all I ever wanted to eat.”
Eddie scoffed, but when Waylon looked up, he didn’t at all look unfriendly.
“I don’t think you understand just how much I loved them,” Waylon said, sitting up straighter. “My dad made me sign a contract saying I’d spend my very first paycheck on nothing but twinkies.”
“Did you?” Eddie looked like he was fighting a smile.
Waylon laughed. “Of course! Except my dad felt bad and reimbursed me in the end.”
“How large was your paycheck?” Eddie had a strangely endearing look on his face, like he couldn’t quite decide whether to be shocked or amused.
“Oh, I dunno. I was a teenager, and it was a small paper route, so not much.” Waylon smiled wistfully at the memory. “Sure was a lot of twinkies, though.”
Waylon fell silent for a moment, studying the cake in his hand. “Come to think of it, I ate so many I’m not sure if I had them again after that, until now.” He paused. “I’m not sure I’ll ever eat another one in my life, if we ever get out.”
There was a moment where it felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room, like Waylon had crossed some magical barrier. At least until Eddie cleared his throat and shifted his position.
“I think I had my first twinkie after I ra- moved away from home.” He cleared his throat again, probably in an effort to distract Waylon from his near slip. “I was scrawny and poor, and a very nice lady took pity on me.”
It struck Waylon, again, how very different their upbringings had been. He tried to imagine a small and vulnerable Eddie, but he found that he couldn’t.
“How old were you?” he asked softly.
Eddie seemed to ponder it for a moment. “I want to say fifteen, but I might have been younger.”
In comparison, Waylon had only moved out to attend university.
“I have a hard time imagining you as scrawny,” Waylon said lightly, and this time Eddie did laugh. The sound of it caught Waylon off guard, and he realized it was the first time he’d ever heard Eddie laugh. It almost seemed to startle Eddie as well, as if the action was alien to him, and the sight of it had Waylon’s heart clench.
“Well, believe me when I say I was,” Eddie finally said and his face darkened, weighed down by whatever memories the conversation stirred. “I was utterly defenseless and weak.”
There was nothing weak about Eddie now. Nothing noble or good either. Waylon had to wonder if there ever had been, and if anyone had bothered to look for it. Eddie was watching him again with narrowed eyes, like he could guess which route Waylon’s mind had taken.
“Kind of like I’ve been all along,” Waylon joked, and watched as Eddie’s face smoothed out.
Then he lowered his gaze to Eddie’s hands, currently resting in his lap. He still had a hard time understanding how those hands - scarred and burned and cruel- could so intricately stitch both fabrics and skin together. Hold Waylon so gently and so carefully during the nights. And how, at the same time, they could have murdered so many and hurt Waylon so terribly.
Waylon looked down to his own. In comparison his were graceful, or had been, once. The only heavy labor he’d ever done was carry groceries from the car and into the house. He was so out of his elements here. He realized again, with sickening clarity, just how dependent he was on Eddie to make it out of here.
Dependant on some crazed lunatic, who had probably racked up the highest body count of anyone in the asylum.
Except now Eddie almost seemed normal. There were occasions where he’d disappear into himself for a moment, his eyes glazed over, but Waylon seemed able to bring him back to the present with a well-placed question. The few times his eyes seemed dulled and dark, Waylon simply retreated to his corner again, not addressing him until Eddie came back on his own.
They hadn’t addressed the elephant in the room, concerning all the things that had happened the previous day. Waylon was still trying to make sense of it, but in the light of day it seemed surreal. Impossible.
And in some bizarre way, he felt like the whole ordeal somehow had been more intimately damaging for Eddie, than it had been for himself. He couldn’t make sense of it. He couldn’t make sense of how evil someone would have to be, to use childhood trauma as punishment.
Eddie no doubt saw the direction Waylon’s thoughts had taken by the expression on his face, because there was a strange look of pity in his eyes when Waylon looked up. It was funny, considering it probably mirrored the pity Waylon suddenly had for Eddie.
“We’re gonna get out of here,” Eddie said, his voice surprisingly clear and in the moment, no traces of the groom or that other darkness in him. “They aren’t gonna win.”
Waylon nodded, even if he didn’t quite believe it. This whole situation was messed up, and he had started losing faith that they’d ever be able to leave.
“I’m sorry they-” Waylon started, but cut himself off. “I’m sorry.”
Eddie shot him a sobering sideways glance, his mouth thinning. It almost seemed like a shadow had gone over his face, and he didn’t say anything. Waylon knew he should shut up. He knew it, yet he still licked his lips and spoke again.
“I grew up in a lower middle-class household, but my parents still gave me everything they could. I can’t-” He swallowed thickly. “I can’t imagine. I really can’t.” He looked up at Eddie, who was staring coolly at him in return. “Maybe it’s easier for me to deal with this now, I mean, I’m an adult, I have a good foundation, but you-”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” There was a clear warning in the tone of Eddie’s voice. It had gone quiet and soft again, which it always seemed to do before he had another violent outburst.
“Yesterday- They…” Waylon ignored the warning. “They used your past against you, against me, I-”
“You think you know me?” Eddie cut him off. “You think you know anything about me, just because we’re both stuck here?” He was sneering and spitting the words, but he was still Eddie, still someone to be reasoned with, to some degree. “You think you know me, just because of what they’re telling you? Well, you don’t!”
Waylon considered his options carefully, before continuing.
“Maybe that’s what these people, this place, does to us,” he said tonelessly. “Twist our stories and personalities into what they need us to be.”
Eddie’s shoulders lowered a fraction, his expression still guarded, but softer.
“Yeah,” he said quietly, staring into the room. “You’re right.”
“They’re trying to turn us against each other,” Waylon continued. “You know that, right?”
“Do you think I’m stupid?” Eddie fixed Waylon with another icy glare. “They’re not exactly being subtle.”
Waylon chuckled and shook his head. “I guess not.”
They didn’t speak for a moment, both staring stiffly towards the light.
“Do you really think the salt water is gonna get us out of here?” Eddie suddenly asked, and when Waylon turned, he found Eddie staring at him again.
Waylon chewed on his bottom lip, considering his options. He could tell Eddie it was a long shot, that it would take far longer than probably either of them had, but- Waylon looked at Eddie again, and he’d gotten an expectant sort of look to him, like he was trying not to let it show how much he was banking on this to work.
“In theory it will work,” Waylon said. That wasn’t a lie.
Apparently that was the right thing to say, because the last of the tension drained from Eddie’s shoulders, and he slumped a little. “Good,” he mumbled.
“We’ll get out, Eddie,” Waylon said softly. It was funny, how they went back and forth on trying to soothe the other.
“Yeah,” Eddie said, his features mild, like he was thinking the same thing.
It was strange, this brief truce. Perhaps it wasn’t as brief as Waylon wanted to imagine. Eddie wasn’t his enemy anymore, except there was little doubt that he still was. It was just hard to see him that way now, not with the way Eddie’s eyes seemed so lost sometimes. Sometimes it looked like he wasn’t sure what or where he was.
Eddie’s lips were turned in a half-smile, but it was brittle and unsettlingly timid, totally unfitting for such a monster.
And what was equally unsettling and unfitting, was the fact that Waylon smiled right back.
Despite the man in the lights’ rather erratic schedule, Waylon had started being able to guess just about when he’d appear. He’d stare at the window, and around the time the lights behind it dimmed just a fraction, he’d know it was time.
Waylon had been determined to be brave, but when the door handle rattled and the door opened, his insides turned to ice. It was amazing, really, how his heart rate could accelerate like a race car. He felt sick.
Two sets of shoes - one sounding like dress shoes, the other like high heels - clacked against the floor, until one paused just past the light, the other continuing to the far end of the room. Waylon had tensed his abdomen and back without knowing, but he kept his ground.
The mechanism that moved the far ends of the cage together rumbled to life, and the cage walls groaned and shook, before sliding to a stop an inch or so away from its original position.
That was when he heard the distinct click of high heels move forward and a familiar tray of food was placed near the edge of the bars, before the footsteps retreated back into the bright light.
Waylon stared down at the tray, startled to find the usual selection quite a bit smaller. There were small aluminum wrappers with crackers, single serving tubs of cream cheese, and, thankfully, two bottles of water.
The other pair of feet hesitated for a moment, probably observing them, before both sets of feet left the room and slammed the door shut behind them.
“That was weird,” Waylon mumbled, and moved forward far enough to grab the food and pull it into the cage.
Eddie hummed in agreement, and stared at the tray of food with a crease between his brows, which only deepened further once Waylon started dutifully dividing the food between them.
“I feel like some kind of trained animal,” Waylon confessed, and Eddie sent him a sharp look. “Do what they want and receive twinkies, give them no entertainment at all and receive stale crackers.”
“Give them the ultimate show, and you might be let free,” Eddie murmured after a beat.
Now it was Waylon’s turn to frown. “That’s not who I am,” he said decidedly, to which Eddie gave a small chuckle. It was nothing like the previous, hearty laughter, but cold and sharp.
“Sometimes I wonder how people can be as naive as you are,” he said. “Who people are can change in a heartbeat, like that.” He snapped his fingers for emphasis, and Waylon flinced.
He had to bite back a snarky comment on how he couldn’t understand how people could turn out like Eddie, but truth was that he did. Eddie might not want to admit to it, but there had been enough to piece together a probable reason for why Eddie had grown up to be such a monster, further broken down by Murkoff and their machines.
In lack of a response, Eddie continued. “Really makes me wonder what you did to end up here.”
The temperature in the room seemed to drop considerably again, unless it was just Waylon’s insides turning back into ice. He forced his breathing not to accelerate the way his heart did.
“It must have been something really terrible,” Waylon said quietly, knowing that it was the truth.
The answer seemed to catch Eddie by surprise, because he deflated. Then he gave one solemn nod before getting up to pace. Waylon couldn’t blame him, he felt restless as well, but his ankle hindered most of his movements.
So instead of following Eddie’s example, he pulled up the hem of his prison uniform and studied his ankle. It looked alright, or at least as alright as it could in a place like this. Despite that, it worried him that he couldn’t put a lot of pressure on it. He hoped it wasn’t permanent.
When he looked up, he found Eddie staring at his ankle with a frown, and Waylon got a terrible feeling it meant that Eddie was remembering how it happened.
I hate to think of you suffering without me.
Waylon shuddered. Well, they were certainly suffering together now. Past Eddie would be pleased, but judging by the look on present Eddie’s face, he was anything but.
“I’ll have to help you once we get out,” Eddie said tonelessly, still staring at his ankle.
That was, of course, something Waylon had tried very hard not to think about. He knew he’d have to depend on Eddie, hell, he’d been trying to get close to him for that very reason, but Waylon had hoped he wouldn’t have to for long. That Waylon could hide in a vent somewhere, while Eddie did- Well, he hadn’t thought that far, admittedly.
“I’m sorry,” Waylon mumbled, and Eddie’s eyebrows immediately drew together.
“I can’t imagine what for."
“I’ll be a liability,” Waylon whispered, as if the words would be less true as long as he didn’t say the words too loud. And God, it felt worse with the words out like that. Eddie had probably known all along, but Waylon couldn’t stop the horrible, sinking feeling that he’d just made Eddie aware of the fact.
“I’ll protect you,” Eddie said, in a strange voice. His face took on a peculiar, dreamlike quality, and he stared at Waylon like he was only now seeing him for the first time. Or perhaps that he was now seeing him in a different way. It was unsettling, in any case, that sudden shift.
“You promise?” Waylon murmured, forcing himself not to cower back in a corner. He felt like he was dripping blood into shark infested waters.
“I promise.” Eddie sank down on his knees in front of the bars, and there was something strange about the look in his eyes, another moment where it didn’t look like he fully knew who he was.
Waylon hesitated for only a moment before he closed the distance between them, until their faces were just inches apart.
“Who are you?” Waylon whispered, placing a careful hand across Eddie’s cheek. “Who are you, really?”
There was a terrible moment where Eddie’s eyes darkened, and Waylon was certain he’d awoken the groom, but then Eddie simply put his hand over Waylon’s, his eyes going from dark and narrowed to wide-eyed confusion.
“I…” he started, but it didn't seem like he knew how to continue, so he shut his mouth instead.
"It's alright, Eddie," Waylon murmured, fully knowing that it wasn't. Even so, his words seemed to calm Eddie, who deflated again.
Then, like the previous night, they just wordlessly curled up around each other through the bars. Waylon kept trying to tell himself that it was purely for body heat and nothing more, but he wondered if that was entirely true for Eddie, who currently had his nose nuzzled to the back of Waylon’s neck.
And what was sad was that Waylon considered that a win.
Just realized I haven't linked to my tumblr. Come say hello! :)
They woke in pretty much the same position the following day, but this time it took longer to disentangle. Waylon couldn’t say if it was the shared warmth, their fragile truce, or the fact that his limbs had gone numb during the night, but more than anything he just wanted to lie there a little longer.
It was absurd, of course, and Waylon knew that more than anyone. Still, the truce was there, and considering the amount of time it had been since Eddie displayed any violent tendencies towards Waylon, Waylon had almost started relaxing a little.
Which was a mistake, of course. He should have known that the second he lowered his guard was the second the man in the light would strike him down.
Unlike the previous days, the morning light didn’t stay.
At first Waylon thought he imagined the subtle change in the light beyond the window. That he had finally lost his mind, but when he glanced over at Eddie, he realized Eddie had noticed it as well. Then he wondered if they perhaps had lost their minds together. The thought wasn't a comforting one.
It seemed like Eddie’s thoughts had taken a similar route, because he was frowning at the light, looking unsure. Waylon couldn’t decide whether to say something about it or not. Somehow he didn’t want to call attention to it. Everything seemed more real in the cage once words were spoken.
They stayed like that, in silence, until the door inevitably opened back up. Neither of them moved or even startled. Waylon felt sick, though, and they stared towards the light without seeing a thing, waiting for the man to address them.
He didn’t. Not at first. No, he let them stew for a long, suffering moment, before he finally started speaking.
“Mr. Park,” the man said, and Waylon glared at the light even if he couldn’t see a thing beyond it. “You’re not like the other ones here.”
A cold sweat broke out on Waylon’s back. He hadn’t told Eddie about his involvement with Murkoff. He really didn’t want to, but he suddenly realized it would be ten times worse if they were the ones to break it to him.
“You don’t belong here and you never did, isn’t that right?” The man sounded amused, and Waylon dug his nails into the flesh of his palm. “I’m going to try again,” the man continued. “Waylon Park, will you agree to kill Edward Gluskin?”
“No.” The coldness inside Waylon had to step aside for a fiery hatred he felt he couldn’t contain for much longer.
“Really? You enjoyed the last time you said no?” The man laughed. “I wouldn’t have pegged you as the sort.”
Waylon scowled at the light, gritting his teeth.
“Well, then.” The man snapped his fingers, and the door opened again.
Waylon expected uncledaddy - Waylon thought of them as one entity at this point - to make another appearance, but it was the high heels again, clacking against the cement floor. Even if she was better than uncledaddy and the man with the cattle prod, her appearance still hadn’t ever meant anything good in the past.
She stepped up closer to the cage than ever before, and Waylon was startled to see her face. She was wearing a mouth mask, like he and Eddie had some kind of infectious disease. She didn’t look at him, just laid a bundle of cloth right outside his cage, then stepped back.
It was creamy white, and he thought he saw a few pearly beads and silver threads.
“Put it on,” the voice commanded, and Waylon pulled the silky fabric through the bars with shaking hands.
He knew what it was, he had ever since he saw the color, and in the corner of his eyes he could see Eddie stiffen as well. Waylon froze with the bundle of cloth in his arms, sweat running down his back.
Vaguely, somewhere deep in his subconsciousness, he remembered his own wedding day. Remembered how he’d snuck into Lisa’s changing room for a quick kiss before the ceremony. He didn’t care that she had smacked his arm and scolded him, he was so in love that the stolen little kisses had felt like nourishment. He had trailed his fingers across the white satin with reverence, drunk with love. And when she’d smiled gently at him before leaving, he knew he was forgiven.
Very far removed from his current situation.
He started pulling the dress over his head, when the man in the light clicked his tongue.
“That’s no way to dress for a proper lady. You’ll have to take your clothes off first,” he scolded.
“And if I refuse?” Waylon asked, jaw tense.
“Then I have a group of people here who’d love to make your acquaintance.”
So once again Waylon pulled off the drab prisoner uniform - he refused to even consider them to be anything containing the words hospital attire - adding the olive underskirt to the pile in front of him. Then he, far more carefully than the situation warranted, slipped the sleek fabric over his head. He had to work a little to get it down over his chest, but once he did, the rest of the dress cascaded around him.
“You make a beautiful bride, Mr. Park.” the voice said, the mirth unmistakeable. “Don’t you agree, Eddie?”
Eddie had moved closed to the bars without Waylon noticing, and Waylon was startled to find Eddie looking at him, eyes focused intently on him in an unblinking stare. His lips were drawn back from his teeth slightly in something between a grimace and a smile, and Waylon’s stomach sank down to the soles of his feet.
Out of all the things they had done, this seemed the cruelest, feeding into Eddie’s delusions like this. And what was worse; what was on the other side of the bars was no longer Eddie. No, this was another creature altogether. This was the wolf, the monster in the halls, the man downstairs. He couldn’t reason with this version of Eddie, and he had nowhere to hide. Waylon resisted the urge to cower. It was of no use. He had nowhere to go at all.
“Oh, right. Where are my manners.” There was the sound of something being dragged across the room just beyond the light, then a slight shuffling before the room was filled with a familiar, rhythmic crackling sound. Then the first notes of a song started up, and a chill went down Waylon’s back.
He recognized it immediately, of course, and on the other side of the bars it seemed like Eddie did the same, because he started humming. It was all wrong. Too cheerful, too happy, too… Waylon swallowed. It had no business being in this place at all.
Once the old record started playing the music seemed to fill the room, just like the droning of the sewing machines before it.
Waylon wasn’t even surprised when the divider between them raised again, and Eddie stepped willingly through into his side of the cage. Waylon resisted every urge he had, standing tall with his chin raised when Eddie closed the distance between them.
“Darling,” he slurred, face split in a definite grin now, trailing his thumb along Waylon’s jaw. “There you are.” Then he wrapped his arms around Waylon, pressing him to his chest in a crushing hug.
Eddie was as warm as he had been the previous nights, and Waylon wondered again if it was a weakness to cling to that heat. He did it anyway, ignoring Eddie’s contented sigh.
Somewhere in the distance of the room, muffled by Eddie’s arms, he thought he could hear a snicker of amusement. He felt too cold, too abused and too distraught to feel angry, to feel anything but resignation at his fate. It wasn’t like being locked in Eddie’s workshop. The air wasn’t thick and heady with blood, but with something that was almost as bad; Desperation. Both Waylon and Eddie’s desperate need to get out, and the man in the light’s desperate attempts at breaking them down.
During the fight in Eddie’s territory, he’d felt Eddie’s hands on him, felt them pull and claw and drag, but they felt different now, molded to his hips in a caress. Waylon had no place to run, nowhere to hide, and he wondered if this was better, if Eddie would be easier to handle if Waylon just avoided making him angry at all. Maybe if he played along with it, then Eddie would leave him be.
He didn’t think anymore, just folded his arms around Eddie’s broad back, feeling the powerful play of muscles under his fingertips.
“I’ve missed you, darling,” Eddie murmured against his hair, stroking it gingerly. “Oh, how I’ve missed you.”
“As I’ve missed you,” Waylon mumbled, pushing himself closer to Eddie’s chest.
“You’ve been such a sly little girlie, haven’t you, darling?” Eddie scolded gently, pushing away a lock of hair enough for him to place a kiss on Waylon’s temple. “Always running away from me.”
“I just wanted you to catch me.” Waylon choked on the words when Eddie placed a kiss on his jaw.
“Such a naughty girl,” Eddie purred, before he pushed Waylon’s face up with his thumb, trailing Waylon’s lower lip as he leaned down, eyes so far away and so close at the same time.
Then Eddie molded his lips to Waylon’s, and Waylon gasped into the kiss with surprise. Eddie misinterpreted the sound, and opened his mouth further, licking into Waylon’s mouth. Waylon whimpered and tried to squirm away, but Eddie held onto him firmer. He thought Eddie’s lips tasted vaguely of twinkies, and Waylon sobbed into the kiss.
It was their first kiss, but not what a first kiss ought to be.
Eddie groaned against Waylon’s lips and dug his fingers into Waylon’s hips, yanking him closer. Like before Waylon tried to squirm away, and the man in the light, seemingly bored with the kiss, decided to prey on the situation.
“She’s a whore,” he said, and Waylon felt Eddie stiffen. “A dirty whore. See how she’s trying to get away from you? She’s planning on leaving you, Eddie.”
Eddie pulled away, holding Waylon an arms length away, watching him. Waylon would have said he was studying Waylon’s face, but his eyes looked glazed, like he was looking straight through him without really seeing a thing.
“You wouldn’t leave me, would you, darling?” Eddie whispered.
You all leave me! Waylon remembered those words, and it was easy enough to imagine what Eddie wanted to hear.
“I wouldn’t, Eddie, I would never leave you.”
“She’s lying, you can see it, can’t you? She’s just like your mother.”
Eddie’s expression stiffened a little, and he regarded Waylon’s face with eyes that were out of focus and far gone. Then he snarled something unintelligible, taking the words of the man in the light as truth, and swiftly pushed Waylon down to the floor. Waylon tried to say something, but his face was shoved into the filthy floor, and his wrists were restrained around his back.
“Whore!” The anger in Eddie’s voice was unmistakable and Waylon knew there was no turning back from the violence that would undoubtedly ensue.
Eddie had beaten him more than once in the past, but yet there was no way for Waylon to steel himself for what was to come. This was gonna hurt, no matter how many times it had happened before. Waylon still tried to let himself go slack in his hold. Wasn’t that a thing? Didn’t drunks get out of car accidents without a scratch because they managed to stay limp?
Then Eddie did something Waylon hadn’t expected; He paused, letting go of Waylon’s wrists so he could use both hands to pull the wedding dress up above Waylon’s hips. Waylon’s mind went blank for a moment, wondering why Eddie would- Then it hit him with surprising, nauseating clarity. The thoughts of staying limp were long gone, and Waylon kicked and scrambled desperately to get away, only to be pulled back by his leg.
“Please, please, Eddie, no, please,” Waylon begged in blind panic, but Eddie was too far gone to even acknowledge his pleas. Instead he pulled Waylon’s underwear down his thighs and pushed his legs apart with his knee, just like uncledaddy had before.
Waylon went absolutely rigid with fear, panting against the floor. He’d been ready for violence, as ready as you ever could be, ready for Eddie to punch him again. But this? This he wasn’t ready for. Eddie was breathing down his neck, whispering something Waylon couldn’t make out before slobbering on his neck.
Eddie had both of Waylon’s arms pinned behind his back, holding him effortlessly with one hand, while rubbing the length of his cock along the crack of Waylon’s ass. Waylon blinked, eyes opened wide, and realized with a sickening pang just how massive Eddie really was.
Then the thought was gone as Eddie pressed his cock against Waylon. It felt impossible at first, like there was no way he’d ever fit inside of him, that he might as well be pressing his cock against Waylon’s thigh or stomach. Then there was a sickening tug as Waylon’s body gave and granted Eddie access. It hurt in a way a fist to the face didn’t. It hurt deeply, the pain blooming like fire far deeper than any pain should reach, and Waylon screamed and gagged against the floor.
Eddie stilled once he was fully sheathed in Waylon’s ass, panting something vulgar against Waylon’s shoulder before biting down. After the initial scream, Waylon didn’t scream again. Not when Eddie bit him and not when he pulled out and forced himself back in. Didn’t even scream once Eddie started fucking him in earnest.
He was vaguely aware of flashes of light, and he’d cover himself or bury his head under his shoulder, had it mattered, or if he could. Eddie didn’t care about the cameras or the pictures being taken. Eddie didn’t care about anything, not even when each thrust of his hips scraped Waylon’s face on the dirty cement floor. The arms locked behind his back prevented Waylon from shielding his face, whether it be from the cameras or the floor.
Then Eddie gripped his hips like a vice, lifting him off the floor to fuck into him better. Waylon shouted something garbled and desperate when he did, before Eddie put a hand over his mouth. Waylon would bite if he could, would scream and kick and kill if he could. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t do anything but take it.
So take it he did, and, sooner or later, he let himself go completely slack. The sooner Eddie got done, the better, but somehow he didn’t think that that would be very soon at all.
Now this next part was strange, because Waylon couldn’t remember falling asleep. He couldn’t remember a single break in his line of consciousness, yet when he looked around, he realized he had to be sleeping.
He wasn’t at Mount Massive anymore, shit, he didn’t even think he was in Colorado at all.
The room he was in was narrow, and when he looked out the window in front of him, it wasn’t impossibly small and high up the wall; no, it was large, giving a wide overview of the scenery outside.
For miles there was nothing but compacted sandy dirt, raising up into mountains far away. Waylon turned around, far too slowly, like he was moving in water, and with a startled shriek, he saw his family.
Lisa was sitting on the sofa with her arms raised stiffly out from her body, her face frozen in a wide, toothy smile. In front of her, on the floor, sat their sons. Their faces were turned towards the TV, where nothing but static were showing, grinning wildly with empty, drawn-on eyes. Waylon wanted to call their names, but there was nothing there. It wasn’t his sons, and no matter what he said, they wouldn’t reply. He felt like he was drowning in icy cold water.
“Lisa, please,” he said, but his voice came out garbled, like he really was below water.
Lisa still looked like a badly made mannequin, but her grotesque, painted on features suddenly looked afraid.
On the wall in front of him, behind his family, he could see his own shadow, see it increase in size and grow dark and etched into the wood itself. He turned, dread filling his lungs like cold water, only to see nothing at all through the window. Not a sandy field and not the mountains and sky beyond it. The whole world had gone white, before it dimmed, and he saw a massive cloud expand and grow. It puffed up like a mushroom, revealing its black insides, and Waylon felt his heart sink. If he didn’t knew better, he’d say it was the sun itself crashing into the earth’s crust. The ground rippled and tore beneath the smoke, like it indeed was an actual, physical object hitting it, and not just the power of the blast itself.
He knew what it meant, and all he wanted was to protect his family. Wanted to use his own body to shield them from the blast, but he knew without looking around that it was too late.
Mommy’s broken, he thought he heard one of his sons say. And we’re broken too.
He shuddered and instead of turning, he watched the nuclear blast with unblinking eyes.
I’d be blind if this was real life, he kept on telling himself. None of this is real.
Except it felt real. Oh, it felt so very, very real. Not just the burning of his retinas, but the pain in his chest at the thought of his broken family.
Something emerged from the cloud before him just then, as a siren started wailing in the background somewhere. At first it was just a vague shape, but as it came closer, he realized it was another human being. It puzzled him, but vaguely, like you often do in dreams, before he accepted it as truth. The shape grew in size as his shadow had before, and he realized with a start it was Eddie making his way to him.
Waylon didn’t feel too worried about it, comforted by walls around him, and he watched Eddie coming closer because he had no other ways to look. It was Eddie of the leftovers of his family, and there was no way he’d willingly look back at the aftermath.
So he stared at Eddie as he walked. It had started raining outside, and Waylon knew he should open the door for Eddie before he was drenched in the stuff, but he felt frozen to the spot. The droplets of rain hissed when it touched the ground, etching holes like acid, and Waylon wondered if they etched holes through Eddie as well.
In a heartbeat Eddie was up against the glass, peering in at him. He looked normal, like he had before the machine broke his face as much as it had broken his mind, and he watched Waylon with pleading eyes. Rain was running down the planes of his face, dripping off his nose and chin, his hair in disarray.
Like in the control room so long ago, Waylon felt frozen to the spot, unable to help him at all.
Eddie wasn’t shouting or banging on the glass this time, he was merely staring with rain dripping down his face. He looked pitiful, like a beaten puppy at the pound.
Waylon couldn’t put his finger on what had changed at first, couldn’t put his finger on what was wrong, and the hairs on the back of his neck started raising like hackles on a dog. Even if he couldn't put his terror into words, his whole body was reacting to it.
It happened slowly at first, so slowly he barely noticed, until it sped up. Rain was indeed running down his face, but Eddie’s face was running with it. It looked like a carnival mask of some kind, skin dripping like melted wax. His eyes ruptured and ran like tears down his cheeks, until there was nothing peering in but black voids where his eyes used to be.
Eddie leaned forward, then, resting his forehead against the glass with the empty voids angled up at Waylon’s face. The glass buckled under his forehead, warping until Waylon was sure it was gonna shatter. Then Eddie placed his hand against the glass as well, and Waylon watched in morbid fascination at how his skin glowed and etched through the glass like a molten knife through butter.
Waylon heard the siren once the window started crumbling, loud and piercing and all-consuming, while Eddie started pressing himself against the glass, forcing his way in.
Jesus Christ, Waylon thought wildly. Jesus Christ, I hope this is a dream.
Eddie’s face had melted in a grimace, and he stretched his hands out for Waylon, feeling for him blindly. Waylon took a step back, but froze again when he bumped into someone’s arm and he heard it crumble to the floor like wet sand.
He was stuck. Stuck between his dead or dying family, and Eddie. And yet again, he chose Eddie. He reached for Eddie’s face, trying desperately to mold his face back together. Eddie’s skin was warm like hot candle wax, and Waylon started scooping Eddie’s eyes back into their sockets. Or tried to. Perhaps if he could just put his eyes back, then Eddie would recognize Waylon for what he was; an ally, a friend. Eddie was wailing along with the siren, which only made Waylon work harder, trying to salvage what was unsalvageable. Eddie was wrong. Waylon was wrong. They were all wrong inside.
It’s just a dream, Waylon thought, trying not to laugh with his hands full of eyes and skin. It has to be. Real life don’t work like this.
Waylon shut his eyes tightly, and then opened them back up. And just like that he was back in the cage.
Real life don’t work like this either, Waylon thought and caught himself before he laughed out loud. Perhaps if he just shut his eyes a little harder, then he’d wake up in his apartment instead.
No matter how many times he blinked, though, he was still there. Still lying on his side in a tattered bloody wedding dress, curled in on himself while his lower regions burned like they were on fire. Stuck here as well.
More than that. Their truce was broken. Their uneasy alliance over. Not allies anymore, and definitely not friends.
Waylon kept his back to Eddie despite the cold, too humiliated to reach out for the food he knew was left for him. If he accepted the food, then it meant forgiving what they had done to him. He’d feel like he had sold his own body for it. It was more than just humiliation that kept him still, the pain was unbelievable, burning through every single nerve ending in his body.
Eddie seemed to know better than to speak, to which Waylon was thankful. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to handle whatever Eddie might say at the moment.
The cage seemed very different now, without someone to talk to. It was suddenly painfully desolate, and Waylon found himself trailing the solid concrete floor with his fingers, watching the dust trail up around him. He focused on each glimmer of it, breathing through his pain until it started subsiding.
More than the shame, he felt sick wearing the wedding dress, and as soon as his body felt up for it, he forced himself up on his knees. He panted wildly while pushing himself up, clenching while having the wild idea that his intestines might fall out if he didn’t. Once there he pulled the dress back over his shoulder, turning it inside out in the process. He didn’t care if he broke it, didn’t care if Eddie was watching, he just tore the damned thing off and chucked it in the corner, trying to ignore the blood that had seeped into the satin.
The prisoner uniform wasn’t any better, he supposed, but better than what the dress represented. At least his underwear had escaped most of the blood, but he still winced when he pulled up back up. He hoped it didn’t contain traces of Eddie, but he supposed all of him contained traces of Eddie, at this point.
At least the man in the light, or uncledaddy, hadn’t taken his stash of food away, which meant he wouldn’t have to accept the food that was left outside his cage. Not yet, anyway.
Small favors, Lisa, he thought like he had before, ignoring the sharp pain in his chest while doing so. Lisa, his wife, the mother of his children… He was having trouble recalling all the features that made her her. Sure, he remembered the color of her hair and eyes, but not her facial expressions or even her voice. He could recall pictures of her, like the one he had carried in his wallet before it was taken away, but that didn’t feel the same. Right now he couldn't even think of her without imagining the broken mannequin in his dream.
Everything in his life was condensed down to these walls, this floor, these bars and Eddie. He could pinpoint every small detail of Eddie’s face by this point, the specs of near silver in his eyes and the small crease between his brows. Waylon chewed on his lip and forced himself to think of something else. To think of survival.
There was still a decent amount of food left, but he supposed he ought to finish the sandwich first. The nuts wouldn’t spoil, but the egg sandwich certainly would. He brought the half-sandwich to his mouth, fighting the nausea, and took a bite. It didn’t taste like much to him right now, but at least it got easier to eat the more he managed to swallow down.
His mind wandered while he ate. He thought of his supplies. Batteries, knife, paper, satin. He stared at the leftovers of his food, at the sharp plastic containers, plastic bags and tin foil that had once contained chocolate. There was something there, wasn’t there? Something he forgot.
Think, Waylon, think!
Could he use anything as a weapon?
Batteries, knife, paper, satin.
He stared at the items until his eyes started watering. He was sure there was something here, he just had to assemble it correctly.
It was funny, in a way. He had thought the halls of Mount Massive horrible, but at least then he had the option to hide. There had been plenty of air vents and old lockers he could crawl into. There was nothing here, unless he found a way to squeeze into the toilet.
Something clicked in his head just then. The toilet!
Waylon sat up too quickly, all the blood rushing to his head in a sickening wave. The toilet had running water, and that meant a sewage pipe. Maybe if he was able to get to the pipes underneath - Waylon licked his lips. There weren’t a lot of inches required to connect a toilet to the sewage pipe. Probably no more than three or four inches, but that might be all he’d need.
He scrambled for the back of the toilet, where he was pretty sure they wouldn’t be able to see from whatever cameras they had put in front of them, and next to him he could hear Eddie finally say something, though Waylon paid him no mind.
His fingers were shaking as he started touching the bottom of the robust metal toilet, and almost yelped in surprise once he found the small metal colored plastic caps covering the bolts near the bottom. If he was being honest, he hadn’t expected to find anything at all. He started ransacking through his pockets, tossing the batteries on the floor before he got out the blade he had wrapped in a candy wrapper for safety.
He dropped back down, carefully cutting off the plastic caps so he could squeeze the metal blade into the bolt head. It was easy enough to unscrew it, like it was brand new, and wasn’t that a surprise? Who knew anything in this shithole could be new.
With fingers that were still shaking a bit, he undid the two screws he found, and put them in his pocket. Then he quietly retreated to his safe corner, and pulled out one of the remaining chocolate bars. He ate it slowly, trying to think.
If he managed to unscrew all of the bolts, then maybe, just maybe, he’d be able to push it over. The toilet was placed conveniently close to the bars, so he might be able to brace himself against them and use the added force to tip the toilet over. Well, it could work. In theory, anyway. Eddie no doubt could.
Now, admittedly, the chemistry classes he'd taken was more than a few years ago, but he hoped he still had some basic understanding of the chemical reaction he'd need.
The fire triangle, now, that he remembered. Oxygen, heat and fuel. Heat and fuel would be the real problem. He was hoping there would still be combustible gas in the sewage pipes, even if the chances were slim, since that was the most obvious solution. Modern sewage systems had valves to release these gases, but this place wasn’t modern. This place was falling apart, so chances were there could still be enough methane gas to blow the sewage pipe, making a way out.
It could work. Waylon licked his lips again. It could actually work.
Admittedly, they could also blow themselves to high heavens, but even that didn’t sound so bad. The worst would be if he managed to get to the sewage pipes, and nothing at all happened. But something could happen. It could work.
He didn’t want to think about it. He didn’t want to believe it. His hands trembled. Freedom. It was right out of reach. Close enough to touch, close enough to-
For the first time he looked over at Eddie, startled to find him staring at him in return. Waylon quickly looked away.
“Waylon,” Eddie immediately pleaded.
“Don’t.” Waylon pinched his eyes shut, fighting the rolling nausea. “Please don’t talk to me right now.”
“I don’t remember.” Eddie’s insistent tone had gotten a strange tilt to it, something anxious and broken and reminiscent of the Eddie roaming the halls.
You all leave me! Waylon thought he could hear him, like an echo in the walls, something dark and cruel and-
“I wake up and you’re-”
“Please, Eddie,” Waylon whispered, his throat burning. “Please don’t.”
Eddie looked torn, blinking a few times before he spoke again.
“Did you want to talk about it after your father raped you?” Waylon barked. He tried to keep his tears at bay, but he was so frustrated it was getting increasingly more difficult. “Did you want to discuss it with your uncle?”
Eddie looked stricken, his jaw slack and his eyes opened so wide it was almost comical. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, wanting to speak, but clearly thinking better of it.
“Yeah,” Waylon said after a beat, not without some triumph. “I thought as much.”
He knew fully well that what he had in mind would require Eddie’s help, but the thought of conspiring with him at the moment made his stomach churn.
No, in this very moment, he was completely and utterly alone.
No one came that day, or the day after.
They hadn’t come to force the sections of the cage together, they hadn’t come to torture them and they hadn’t come to taunt them.
Waylon should have been happy for it, but the sudden loss of a routine, no matter how horrible, had his mind reeling. Which, come to think of it, was probably their intention. Because now, as well as trying to figure out a way to escape, his mind also provided him with terrible snapshots of what he could expect next. Uncledaddy would undoubtedly come back at some point. It was funny, he’d thought the previous arrangement torture, but the things his mind conjured up were far worse than anything they could ever do to him.
At least he hadn’t had to depend on Eddie for warmth. He had used the sleek satin wedding dress as a makeshift blanket, and he pretended not to feel bad when he heard Eddie’s teeth clatter in the night.
His supply of water had dwindled down to almost nothing, despite his attempts at conserving it, and his supply of food wasn’t doing much better. Waylon had yet to collect his earnings from that day, but now he had taken to eyeing it.
They had spent the past days in relative silence, doing their own routine in lack of the darker one. When they did speak, it was in hushed, polite tones, and solely about their daily dousing of salt water on the metal bars. Waylon hadn’t found it in him to include Eddie in his still very half-baked idea of escape, and he had a feeling Eddie knew. He’d taken to watching Waylon silently, with a crease between his brows and his jaw working. Whenever he tried to ask, though, Waylon simply ignored him.
Waylon absent-mindedly picked on the scabs on his calf, while staring at the small amount of food he had left. Next to it, in a much larger pile, was the empty wrappers and plastic from what he had already consumed, and he tried not to think about how much larger this pile was.
Waylon had kept filling their empty water bottles with the rust colored water, and Eddie had quickly followed his example. But now it had been hours since the last time the sinks had given any water at all, and Waylon had stopped checking, knowing they had probably shut it off for good.
Eddie’s supplies weren’t any better than Waylon’s, and for the past day and a half Eddie had taken to smoothing the wrappers and foil out with his hands, folding them neatly in stacks on the floor. Anything to pass the time, Waylon supposed. Anything to keep the panic at bay.
Panic. Starvation. Neurosis. Cabin fever. Terrible words, and the only suitable way to describe their situation.
Cannibalism. Another terrible word. And the final taboo, wasn’t it? Perhaps that’s what they were hoping for; to starve them to the point of insanity and then raise the divider. They’d no doubt be feral by that point. They’d put on a good show that way.
Waylon stared at his supplies again.
Batteries, knife, paper, satin. He creased his forehead. Tin foil, lipstick, paper, paper, satin, salt and even more paper. He wanted to cry. There was something there, he knew it, but for the life of him he couldn’t remember what.
And the food, Jesus, the food. There was so little left. So little water.
He watched the food outside the cage again. There were two bottles of water, two triangular packs of sandwiches, two bags of nuts and two energy bars. No twinkies this time.
Waylon licked his lips. So much food. So much water.
And here was the sick part: for a moment he considered not sharing. For a moment he considered hoarding the food and the water for himself, and let Eddie rot on his side of the cage. There was so much food and water for him to feast on, and conserve. And hey, if he finally agreed to killing Eddie, directly or indirectly, then they’d let him go, right?
“Please don’t,” Eddie suddenly whispered.
Waylon turned his head to find Eddie staring at him. For the first time since they were put in the cage, Eddie almost looked afraid.
“What?” Waylon snapped, ashamed that the desperation and deceit no doubt had showed on his face.
“Not like that,” Eddie said flatly.
“You didn’t listen when I begged you,” Waylon mumbled sullenly, folding his arms across his chest.
Eddie didn’t seem to know what to say to that, so he went back to just observing Waylon closely. It was mortifying, really, that Eddie could read him as well as he could. Waylon wondered how long he’d been able to.
Without anything better to do, Waylon started folding the empty wrappers and foil, just like Eddie had done. His hands were shaking. That moment had been the most startling thing about this entire situation; That he’d be so willing to shed his principles and his humanity. And for what? Waylon felt like laughing and crying all at once.
They had finally found a way to break him.
Though, there was one thing they hadn’t thought of. Human beings were nothing if not resilient, and Waylon renewed his promise not to let them get their way. Perhaps just as much so he could prove Eddie wrong. It definitely wasn’t because he wanted to save Eddie. Any thoughts he’d had concerning that were long gone.
After folding the empty wrappers and foil, he started arranging them in neat piles. He still had a decent amount of paper, and he placed those in piles as well. Then he started placing his other items out in rows, thumbing a battery with a crease between his eyes and his teeth firmly embedded in his bottom lip.
What was the science behind an explosion? Nothing but a rapid increase in volume, and an equally rapid release of energy. If there were no gases down in the sewer, then he wasn’t sure how to do it at all. He needed a catalyst, but maybe there would be nothing at all.
He’d thought about the cattle rod a lot, too, if there was any way he could use it against his attacker. He eyed the rust colored water with a slight nervous tick. Even if he splashed water on the cattle rod, then the handle was no doubt made out of plastic or something else that didn’t conduct electricity. A dead end.
In an effort to distant himself, he started peeling off the plastic covering on one of the batteries, and carefully inserted the knife into the top. Then he pulled back the steel casing far enough so he could get at the metal cap and pull out the pin from the middle of the battery.
Perhaps he could use the battery acid to- Waylon shook his head. These were alkaline batteries, which meant they’d burn little else than his skin, if he remembered correctly. He tossed the broken battery to the corner of the cage, cursing under his breath. Another dead end.
Waylon wasn’t sure why he was postponing the plan, or why he tried to think of new ones. Except he did, he just wasn’t ready to admit or face it. In all of these long hours in silence, he’d come to the very stark realization that this was his only shot. And he’d need Eddie’s help for it. It was easier to pretend it wasn’t. Easier to pretend he was no further than he’d been the previous day. Because if they did this, if they really did this, and it didn’t work, then he’d lose his mind completely.
He shook his head. He was a coward.
“What are you trying to do, exactly?” Eddie asked, and despite the narrowing of his eyes, he posed the question calmly and quietly.
It was as if Eddie had read his mind again, and Waylon licked his lips. Perhaps he should go back to his previous plan of manipulation. God knew he needed Eddie’s help.
“I’m trying to figure out a way for us to escape,” he tried, but Eddie’s eyebrows immediately knotted together, as if he saw through it straight away.
“Are you now,” he said instead, not posing it as a question.
“Yeah, I am.” God, it drove him mad when Eddie was like this. Calm and collected, almost like a real human being. Waylon ignored the voice in the back of his mind that tried to remind him that Eddie was, in fact, a real human being. It was easier to see him as some rabid beast. Easier when he acted like one.
“And what ways have you found for us to escape? More water on the bars?” He didn’t sound particularly cruel whilst saying it, but tonelessly, like he was bored.
Waylon immediately bristled at the mere implication that his plans were bad, even if he knew very well that they were.
“I haven’t seen you come up with any plans,” Waylon gritted.
Eddie must have been waiting for that very moment, because as soon as the words were out of Waylon’s mouth, Eddie shot up.
“Fuck you!” Eddie shouted, and slammed his hands against the bars. “You think I wanna be here? Think I wanna let those fuckers do what they wanna do to me?”
God, he was a hulking beast of a man. Waylon swallowed thickly, thankful for the metal divider between them. Eddie grabbed the bars, shaking them, and Waylon tried to avoid thinking about those hands on his hips. It was almost easier to think about how it had felt like when he’d beat Waylon instead. Violence was easier.
“You were all too eager to do what they wanted,” Waylon spat, getting to his feet as well. The thoughts of manipulation were gone, the code discarded, the error messages flashing through his mind. “I’ve been wondering if you’ve just waited for a chance to do what the hell you wanted with me.”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Eddie sneered, showing off teeth. “You’re not that special.”
“Oh no?” Waylon laughed. “‘You have such beautiful skin. Such beautiful bone structure. Let me love you, darling’.”
It would be better to stop. Better to call it quits and retreat to his corner, but Waylon couldn’t stop now. He just continued with a cruelty that was beneath him, but that had been itching to get out ever since Eddie crossed every line of their fragile alliance.
“‘Don’t leave me, I can’t be alone!’” Waylon mocked. “‘I’ll be the father I-’”
“You shut your whore mouth,” Eddie said, his voice pitched low and more terrifying than his previous screaming. He pressed himself closer to the bars, staring down Waylon in a way that had Waylon frozen to the spot. “You think you know me?” He jerked his head in the direction of the stack of papers. “You think you know who I am judged on the filth you’ve read here? You think you’re so God-damn smart, don’t you?”
Waylon opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out.
“Lemme guess, you got some fancy college diploma? Nice house in the suburbs? Think that makes you better than the other freaks in here?” Eddie spat. “He said you weren’t like the others, and I’ve been thinking about that a lot. You almost slipped up the first day, didn’t you?” The unease was no doubt showing on Waylon’s face, because Eddie chuckled. “Yeah, that’s right, I remember.”
It had been such a tiny slip-up. Just an off-hand comment about his shoes. Waylon hadn’t thought that Eddie would have remembered it, least of all put any importance to it. What was sad was that Eddie was probably right. Despite being locked up like the all the others, Waylon had still thought himself different from the rest of them. Better, too, if he was being entirely truthful.
“I saw the way you started sweating whenever you thought he’d spill your secret.” Eddie’s eyes were wide and manic, shining as though he had a fever. “That’s it, isn’t it? You’re one of them.”
“N-no,” Waylon said weakly, completely frozen to the spot.
“You’ve been taking their fucking blood money, and all the fucking while thinking you’re better than us.” Eddie banged his fists against the bars, making the divider sway a little. “You’re the worst one here!”
Despite the fact that his accusation was probably true, Waylon still started laughing before he could stop it.
“I’m the worst one here? Do you hear yourself?” Waylon’s laugh was all wrong. “You’ve killed people, you mutilated them! You’re a goddamn rapist!”
“I didn’t mutilate them!” Eddie yelled. “And I didn’t take their fucking money!”
“You did, and before Murkoff ever experimented on you!” Waylon yelled right back. He scrambled for his pile of papers, tossing them around until he found the right one. Once in his hands, Waylon started reading it out loud. “‘He refuses to discuss his victims, both categorically and specifically. When I showed him pictures of the women, he would not admit that they were dead or mutilated.’” Waylon looked up. “Does that sound sane to you?”
Eddie started laughing, wringing his hands around the metal bars like he might Waylon’s neck if they were in the same room. Eddie’s laughter was as wrong as Waylon’s, lacking humor while being completely unhinged.
“You kept saying you wanted love, but you mutilated men to satisfy your own need to kill.” Waylon laughed. “You created women just to murder them.”
“I should have killed you when I had the chance, you slut!” Eddie shrieked, and this time Waylon actually took a step back. “I’m gonna rip your treacherous heart out, you whore!”
“You justified everything your father and uncle ever did to you, by raping me!” Waylon yelled, and he was ashamed by the tremor in his voice. “You’re no better than they were!”
“You ungrateful little shit!”
“You thought they were making you better,” Waylon choked out. “You probably told them whatever they wanted because you thought they’d let you back out. And what would you do then, huh? Go right back to killing more?”
Waylon swayed a little, and fight started draining away. The lack of food was starting to get to him and he pressed a hand to his own forehead. It didn’t matter what they said to each other, it didn’t matter what they did. Nothing mattered.
Eddie was in a strange, in-between state of whatever Murkoff had made him into, somehow both semi-lucid and entirely deranged. It was the scariest Waylon had ever seen him, but he lacked the strength to be afraid.
“You’re sitting there, making plans!” Eddie continued shrieking. “Don’t you think I know what you’re thinking? Don’t you think they all know what you’re thinking? This place sees into your soul, you dirty, fucking whore!”
Waylon licked his lips, looking from Eddie to the light. Was he right? Had they anticipated this? Planned it? Given him the tools to get out the way they wanted him to? The cold chills were like a straitjacket, and Waylon was trapped in it.
Fire. He needed fire. Even if it was just to burn this whole place to the ground.
He needed to get out of here. Waylon sank down in a crouch, tugging on his hair. He needed to get away from this place. He needed to see his wife and his children, even if their faces were lost to him. They didn’t belong here, in this filthy, terrible place. Sometimes he wondered if he ever could return to them, even if he got away. He felt touched, tained, ruined with whatever was in these walls. He pictured that illness spreading. Not into his wife and children, but their home, their friends, everything. Even if he managed to escape, would he ever be free of this place?
Eddie hadn’t stopped yelling, but Waylon tried his best to tune him out. He’d had as little food and water as Waylon, and he’d tire himself out eventually.
Waylon regretted saying a thing. Waylon regretted not just taking the pain and bottle it up. Airing them out never accomplished anything. Just like that email to Miles Upshur. If Waylon had just had a bit more ice in his belly, waited for a better opportunity, then he wouldn’t have been locked in a cage with a murderous psychopath.
Nothing had changed. And unless he did something soon, nothing ever would.
Eddie did eventually tire himself out. It just took a lot longer than Waylon had anticipated.
He had banged on the bars, screamed and cursed, until the fight had finally drained from him as well. He had let himself sink down on the floor opposite Waylon, and he had gone back to just silently glaring with his jaw set.
Any shot Waylon would have had manipulating him were gone, but perhaps this was the best shot Waylon had at convincing him they had to work together. Convince himself, more like it.
“You’re right,” Waylon said, his voice cracked and sore from the previous screaming.
Eddie didn’t acknowledge him at all or give any indication that he’d heard him at all. Waylon knew he had, though, by the slight tick of Eddie’s left eye. The way his jaw set just a fraction more.
“I have been making plans.”
Still no tangible reaction.
“If we’re to get out of here, though, we have to work together. I can’t do it on my own.”
“And what is this masterful plan of yours, Mr. Park?” Eddie asked, his voice back to silky and terrifying.
Waylon ignored it, and continued. “If we trigger an explosion in the sewer, the force might be enough to either blow the floor open, or the sewer line itself.” Waylon licked his lips. “Crawling into the sewer might not be the most comfortable option, but anything’s better than this place.”
“What do you need me for?” Eddie asked, although Waylon thought he probably already knew.
“If we manage to tip the toilets over and drop like a lit match or something of the sort…” he trailed off. “If we can just get to the sewer opening.” He sank back. “If we can just find a way to make fire.”
Eddie lifted his head and stared at him for a moment, before he started chuckling and shaking his head.
“What?” Waylon asked, suddenly feeling more than a little defensive. Truth was that he’d imagined Eddie being at least a little bit impressed. Or relieved, at the very least, at the possibility of escape. “What?” he repeated when Eddie didn’t stop laughing.
“If you’re so fucking smart,” Eddie finally sneered. “You should know you can create fire with those batteries in front of you and a piece of that foil you’ve been folding for the last half-hour.”
Waylon stared at Eddie in dumbfounded surprise, too startled to say anything. Then he tore his eyes off of Eddie, and stared down at the worn foil in his hands. He was right, of course. The foil would conduct electricity if positioned right. It would create fire.
“Are you sure you didn’t watch MacGyver too?” Waylon asked, awed, and to his surprise, Eddie actually chuckled.
“Despite what you might think, I did go to school,” Eddie commented. There was a slight sullen quality about his tone of voice, despite his apparent amusement.
“I never doubted that,” Waylon said.
“Right,” Eddie scoffed, and that was the last that was said about the subject.
It had been hours since they discussed the plan in more detail, and they had yet to do a single thing. Waylon wasn’t entirely sure what they were waiting for. His own nerves, probably, seeing as Eddie seemed ready to go at any time.
Thing was, this had to happen quickly. Waylon had considered lighting a fire to make a smoke screen in case there really were cameras there, but there was always the risk that it would make them come even quicker. Or set off a fire alarm or a sprinkler system.
No, this was it. Waylon stared at the toilet, and at Eddie who was waiting for his okay. There was no going back now. Nothing to lose.
Except he had everything to lose, and he knew it.
There was no point dwelling on that. This was his only shot, and he couldn’t afford to act as if he’d already lost.
He gave a short nod, and Eddie immediately sprung into action. He braced himself against the bars, and placed his feet against the metal monstrosity they’d called a toilet. He grunted with effort, his hands slipping on the bars, and Waylon felt sweat forming on his own brow just from watching.
Eddie’s face had taken on a red tint from the strain, and the low grunts turned into a long, drawn out cry that sounded more like a wounded animal than a man.
It wasn’t gonna work. They’d be stopped yet again, and this time there would be nothing to help them. No one would come for them, and they’d starve to death in their cages like gangly dogs.
He wanted to scream too, along with Eddie. Just scream and scream and scream until that dam in him finally broke.
But then something else broke instead.
It started out slow; just a slight creak to accompany Eddie’s wails. Then it picked up speed, like a thunderstorm. And slowly, so slowly that Waylon wondered if he was imagining it, the toilet started tipping onto its side.
Eddie’s scream was one of triumph now, and he roared as the toilet tipped completely over, exposing a narrow opening that let out into the sewer. Such a tiny thing. He couldn’t stop staring at it, and Eddie finally had to snap him out of it.
“Waylon,” he said, panting and wiping sweat off his brow. “Do it, come on.”
Startled, Waylon got a battery out and laid it next to the bundle of documents on the ground before smoothing out one of the strips of tin foil with trembling hands. With a glance at Eddie’s still red face, he twisted the tin foil, attaching one end to the negative side of the battery, and the other to the positive.
He didn’t expect it to work. Not since the part with the toilet had worked. They didn’t have that kind of luck, and his stomach felt tensed and sickly. But there, as soon as he attached the other end, a flame appeared as if by magic. Waylon shrieked in surprise and almost dropped it, but quickly angled it to the paper and watched as it smoked and caught fire.
Fire. Actual fire. Waylon laughed out loud, suddenly realizing how ancient man must have felt the first time they’d conquered it.
He lifted the burning documents, in the moment not concerned that he was burning the evidence of Murkoff’s crimes, and tilted his hand back and forth to get the fire to spread.
He watched Eddie again over the flames, his face distorted for a moment by the heat and the smoke.
“Are you ready?”
Eddie didn’t answer, just nodded and moved back into the corner furthest from the exposed sewage pipe. Waylon stuck his hand through the bars, and dropped the burning paper into the small hole before following Eddie’s example.
Everything was so quiet. Waylon had his palms pressed against his ears, his head tucked down. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, if time had slowed down, or if anything had happened at all. He felt his own heartbeat; they had felt rapid and sickly just moments before, like a war drum, but now it was barely beating at all. Maybe that was it, then. Time was still.
And then the ground rattled beneath him, the explosion deafening even through the palms of his hands.
Many thoughts went through his mind at that moment. The first, which was a scary one, was that he’d open his eyes and realize that nothing at all had happened. An explosion without an impact. The second was that the explosion had killed him. That would explain the sudden feeling of falling out of himself. Thirdly, and perhaps the most terrifying of all, was that it had worked.
He opened his eyes first, then slowly moved his hands down from his ears. He blinked, and looked across the cage, to where the toilets had once been.
It was worse, and better, than anything he could have imagined; It had actually worked. The routine was broken, the cage, both the safety and the dread of it, in tatters. He had no words to explain the utter terror and relief he felt looking at it.
The explosion had blown out most of the floor on Waylon’s side of the cage, creating a long crevice that extended from Eddie’s side of the cage to the very end of Waylon’s.
And there, right fucking there, was an opening. The concrete floor had warped and ripped like tissue paper, and close to the furthest most wall, was a narrow gap between the bars of the cage, the mechanism that slid the sides of the cage together, and what was left of the floor.
Waylon yelped in surprise. “It worked,” he croaked.
“It worked,” Eddie echoed, although it hadn’t, really. Not for Eddie anyway. The crack might have started on his side, but most of the impact had happened on Waylon’s side. Eddie was still very much trapped.
“We have to- I have to-” Waylon couldn’t finish his train of thought. He just stared at the opening, too numb and shell-shocked to make a move. “It worked.”
An alarm started blaring somewhere in the distance, and Eddie said something to Waylon, though Waylon couldn’t hear it through the sound of water in his head.
“Waylon!” Eddie shouted, cutting through Waylon’s mental fog. “You gotta move!”
Waylon startled out of his apathy enough to run for the ruined hole in the ground. Concrete was covering some of the opening, so Waylon started digging his way through it, ignoring how it cut into the palms of his hands and the tips of his fingers. No, he didn’t let such petty things concern him, he just kept on digging into it as if it was sand.
If they came back now, if the guards came and- Waylon shook his head. No, he didn’t want to think it.
Once he’d gotten most of the debris out of the way, he crouched down and eased his way through the hole on his stomach. It was less of a tight fit than he’d feared, and it didn’t take long before he was on the other side of the cage. He allowed himself a few moments to look at the cage, startled to find how different it looked from the outside. How small, and insignificant.
Eddie was standing near the divider, staring at Waylon in a way that was hard for Waylon to decipher. He’d probably already decided that Waylon was gonna leave him.
It might be bars separating them this time, and not glass, but Waylon couldn’t help but be reminded of their first meeting, and how Waylon had walked away from him. He’d self-righteously thought he was a better man, but sometimes he wasn’t sure if that was the truth.
You! I know you can stop this!
Maybe he could stop it this time. Maybe he could make things right again, for the both of them.
Waylon stood there for a moment, just looking at Eddie. He was different now, than he had been behind those glass walls, but Waylon wasn’t sure if it was for better or worse. Honestly, Waylon had considered leaving Eddie behind. Hell, he was still considering it. The world would no doubt be better off without the likes of Eddie Gluskin roaming the metaphorical halls. Waylon tore his eyes away and walked across the room on trembling legs, beyond the light.
The light had been such a mysterious thing, a creature in its own right, and from beyond it Waylon realized that it was more than just some mysterious creature. It was monstrous.
There were chairs placed on the other side of it, like Waylon had made out on the first day. Rows of them, in fact, the kind you found in schools with a small desk on the side for making notes. Near the back were large dispensers. One for soda, and one for sandwiches. Just in case someone got hungry while watching people getting tortured, he guessed. Waylon swallowed thickly, and moved forward.
The control panel for the cage was mounted on the far side of the wall, and it didn’t take Waylon long to discern what did what. His hand hovered over the lever controlling the divider in the cage, and he broke out in a cold sweat.
It would be the right thing to leave Eddie in there, just as it would be the right thing to let him go. With a flick of this lever, he’d release the beast back into the halls. Then again, wasn’t this what he should have done on his very first day? Wasn’t that what he had beaten himself over ever since he left that control room?
Waylon set his jaw, and pulled the lever down. And then, before Eddie had the chance to even move into Waylon’s side of the cage, Waylon had already darted across the floor and slipped through the door.
Once outside, in a hallway that seemed a lot cleaner and modern than what he’d seen of Mount Massive, he took a few, deep gulps of air.
And then he started running.
Waylon ran like a startled rabbit down the desolate hallways, the siren wailing and ricocheting off the walls like bullets. He ran like he could somehow outrun the bullets, and all the insanity in this place.
He wanted to scream. Just scream in equal parts relief and terror, just because he could. He felt like he was a child again, running down fields that seemed ever-green in almost total freedom. He wanted to run simply because he could. He could! He was out of that cage. But he kept quiet, knowing that even though he was out of the frying pan, he wasn’t out of the fire. He was free to run, and to scream, but he wasn't free at all.
How long had he been in that cage? A month? Two months? Half a year? He wasn’t sure, but his body was quickly letting him know that the inactivity had taken its toll on him; his lungs were burning, and his body weak and powerless. Still, he didn’t slow down.
The hallway was lined with doors, but he paid no mind to them, just ran and ran, looking for some kind of exit sign, or a staircase. Hell, even another window for him to jump out of.
He ran until black dots started swarming in front of his eyes, and for a few, terrifying, moments, he thought he was back in the engine. He thought he could see doctors in sterile, white uniforms, and imagined he could hear Eddie calling for him somewhere behind him, and he forced himself forward until he couldn’t move another inch.
With rasping lungs and trembling legs, he started feeling the doorknobs of the doors lining the hallway, until he finally found an open one.
The room was decorated like a standard doctor’s office, with a wide desk and a privacy screen for undressing. Waylon immediately dove in behind the screen, panting. He had a clear view of the window on the wall, but the world was dark beyond it.
At least he thought it was night, but then he looked closer and realized it was no window at all. It was a window frame, with what looked like a light fixture behind it to simulate night and day. He blinked in surprise. Another blow, as he was itching to find out where he was so he could form a strategy on how to go home.
Home. Such a faraway word, but closer now than before. So much closer.
It was hard to try to calm his breathing. Everytime he tried to slow down his deep gulps of air, his diaphragm spasmed and his body greedily tried to suck in air until he started wheezing instead.
He covered his mouth with his hands, trying to mask the desperate sounds he was making, while listening for anyone or anything in the hallway.
Eddie must have gotten out by this point. He was a big man, but the hole would accommodate him, Waylon was sure of it. What he wasn’t sure of, was how he’d react to Waylon outside of the cage.
Had it been a few days ago, when it had felt like the two of them against the world, then Waylon was sure they would have escaped together. At the moment, though, he had no idea how Eddie would react to him, especially not after the last conversation they'd had. Then again, he probably wouldn’t know how he’d react even when they had been friendly. Waylon had read the papers. Eddie’s tactic was always to tell people what he thought they wanted to hear until he had the chance to strike them down. It was a dangerous thing for Waylon to lose sight of that.
The terror of the day had quelled any thirst or hunger Waylon might have had, but once relatively safe for the time being, his stomach clenched painfully. He wished he’d thought ahead and brough some of the supplies with him, or even used one of the vending machines.
No use crying over spilled milk.
Waylon tried not to, but he grinned wildly to himself. If he ever got out of this, he’d tell his wife how much those silly little proverbs had saved his sanity in this place. It was true, though. There was no use in him being angry over what he could have done. His focus needed to be on what was to come. He’d had this idea that getting out of the cage was the only obstacle to freedom, but he’d had a tough time escaping the asylum even before he was put in that cage.
A deep sense of melancholy set over him at that moment, one that nearly crushed his spirit completely, but he quickly tried to pull himself together. He was going to get home to his wife and children, and that was that. There were no other alternatives.
At first Waylon thought he was imagining his name being called out in the hallway, yet another hallucination brought on by hunger and stress. Then the voice was close enough for him to recognize it, and a chill went down his back.
Waylon shrunk back against the wall and tried to peek out through the gap in the privacy screen, at the narrow window in the door. He stared at it until his eyes watered, wondering if he'd truly lost his mind.
It was a lot closer than before, a lot more frantic, and Waylon pressed himself closer to the wall, trying to make himself as small as possible. He’d thought that the previous dark hallways in Mount Massive horrible, but it was a lot easier to hide in the dark than it was below these bright fluorescent light bulbs.
There was a flash on the other side of the door; something dark and fast rushing past it, and Waylon was almost certain it was Eddie, and not some apparition brought on by this place.
He wasn’t yelling his usual chant of darling and whore, but Waylon still didn’t want to take the risk.
Despite that, despite the knowledge that Eddie was danger, there was still a slight stab of guilt at the anguish in Eddie’s voice. Waylon tried to calm his breathing while simultaneously trying to rid himself of that ridiculous guilt he suddenly felt riddled by.
It was only natural, he figured, after spending so much time sharing the same grim circumstance, that he’d feel some strange kinship with Eddie. He shook his head in an effort to shake those thoughts, because it was a dangerous path to take. His escape would be without Eddie, it needed to be without Eddie, and any ideas concerning another way around that had to be nipped in the bud.
With a heavy sigh he rested his head against the wall, giving himself five minutes of rest before he continued on. Eddie wasn’t the only danger in the halls, he knew, and the longer he waited, the larger the risk would be. At the same time, he wanted as much distance between him and a prowling Eddie Gluskin as possible.
He dared to close his eyes while he counted slowly. First to sixty, then he started over. He started on his third go, but realized he had to get up and get going. Staying was just giving the guards a better chance to find him, and the anxiety that had started bubbling up in him was worse than actually going back out into the hallway. He got up on shaky legs, stretching first his arms, then his legs, his back cracking when he stretched in earnest. It was better, he figured, to be as limber and ready as he could be before going back out.
The small window in the door didn’t offer Waylon much, so he dared to crack open the door just a little. The hallway was empty, and even the siren was silent now. Waylon wasn’t entirely sure when it had been shut off, but the realization was startling. Just how long had he been in that room?
He shut the door carefully behind himself, checking both ways, before moving in the direction Eddie had ran in what felt like just minutes before. Unlike Eddie, though, Waylon crept forward carefully, watching the desolate hallway with wide, unblinking eyes. He found himself more than a little thankful for Eddie’s homemade socks, which allowed him to move soundlessly down the corridor, and down a flight of stairs.
It seemed very different from the wrecked halls of Mount Massive, but the sterile, well-lit environment he was in seemed somehow even more unsettling.
The place looked like any modern hospital, just empty and quiet. Waylon couldn’t hear Eddie anymore, and he wondered where he might be. Maybe just around the corner, waiting for him like some kind of predator, or perhaps he had been taken by the Murkoff guards. Considering how much Eddie had yelled the first time around, though, Waylon kind of doubted it. The idea that Eddie might be hiding in waiting should terrify Waylon, but he found himself relieved by the thought that he probably hadn’t been caught again.
Despite how slowly he was making his way through the hallways, the silence was so encompassing that his breath and the beating of his heart seemed entirely too loud and frantic. He pressed the heel of his palm against his chest, feeling his heart pulse against his hand like a frightened animal. He supposed he was, at this point.
He kept looking for cameras, listening for sounds, anything that would betray the presence of another living entity, but so far he found nothing. It was as if he was alone in the world.
That thought chased through his head just as he turned a corner, only to shatter as he froze to the spot. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
It… Waylon swallowed thickly. It was a window. And this time it was real, with a view. A tidy courtyard, trees and jagged mountains towering above it all.
The sun had started rising in the distance, painting the sky with pinks and blues. Colors Waylon hadn’t seen in what felt like years. He stepped closer and put a hand against the cool glass. He wanted to cry, laugh and scream all at once. There it was! It had always been there, just out of his reach, but close. So close. It made the word home seem not as far away.
With all his focus on the world outside, Waylon didn’t pick up the sounds behind him, until the footsteps were unmistakable and entirely too close.
He didn’t have the chance to turn around before the world went dark yet again.
The world had changed, just like it seemed to do whenever Waylon closed his eyes.
He was sitting on a grassy knoll with Lisa by his side, and he didn’t have to look around to remember this place. It was an area that had once been as familiar to him as the back of his hand. It was a green slope by their local high school, and they had frequently come there to eat their lunches together during sophomore year.
Lisa smiled and said something, but Waylon felt too uneasy to pick up on what she said. She didn’t look right, that much he knew. He could tell it was supposed to be Lisa. It had her general characteristics, like her reddish hair that curled in the neck on humid days and heart shaped face, but her features didn’t contain her. Not the parts that made her her.
He tore his eyes away and looked over the horizon.
Unlike their high school that overlooked a mini mall and a park, this place overlooked nothing but wide, empty farmland, which was entirely too flat for it to be in Colorado.
It happened slowly, at first. Just a purple smudge on the picturesque scenery in front of them. Just a quiet rumbling somewhere far away. Inconsequential and unimportant. But only for a moment. After a brief pause it started growing. Despite his unease he still moved closer to Lisa, keeping his eyes on the growing mass in the horizon.
“Do you see that?” he asked her.
“That’s normal,” Lisa said, her tone so light he realized she really had to mean it.
But it didn’t look normal.
The mass grew, spikes of electricity shooting out from it, and the wind seemed to be sucked into it, feeding it, making it grow larger and wilder and more terrifying by the minute.
In hindsight there had been a peculiar smell in the air that day. In hindsight there had been a lot of signs.
“I think we should go,” Waylon said, his voice sounding like he had his mouth full of mud. “I think this is bad.”
He turned to Lisa, finding her with her face tilted up to the storm above, eyes and mouth opened wide. She wasn’t screaming, even if her expression indicated as much. Her eyes had glassed over, and as he watched, her mouth started widening.
Waylon scrambled to his feet, head whipping back and forth between the storm behind him, and Lisa’s face in front of him. Her mouth was widening further, the howl of the wind mingling with the creaks of her bones as they tried to accommodate the extreme angle of her jaw.
Waylon tried to reach out for her, fully knowing he was unable to stop it, unable to stop any of it, just like before. God, Lisa, I’m so sorry, he thought, I’m so fucking sorry. He never should have taken that job. He never should have come here.
There was a sickening crack as her jaw broke, her mouth stretching across her entire head. There wasn’t anything left of her face, just a mass of bone and darkness, and the wind was picking up speed.
Waylon fell to his knees, feeling sick, feeling broken, feeling like nothing would ever change.
Then the siren started.
At first he thought it was his own screams, and he didn’t look up from where he had his head between his hands on the ground. But it was familiar, this siren. He remembered it from his childhood in - no, I grew up in Colorado, this isn’t right. But the siren. It was familiar in a way he couldn’t explain.
The tornado siren rose in pitch, and fell again, and Waylon got to his feet once more. There was a shelter in the school, he remembered, and he turned on his heel and bolted across the front part of the entrance and down the empty hallways.
The wind was howling behind him, and the walls creaked like Lisa’s face under the weight of it.
He didn’t want to turn around. The mere act of it would take entirely too long, and he didn’t have the time. Furthermore, he really didn’t want to look at what was chasing him. Instead he ran down the hallways, the sound of his shoes against the linoleum and his harsh breaths the only thing to rival the storm behind him.
He followed the large signs showing which way to go, and he finally saw the stairs leading down into the shelter. He didn’t stop. He simply dove down the basement stairs, and his heart grew lighter at the sight of the opened bunker doors. It was just an inch, but enough. It’s enough, he thought wildly as he dashed across the doorway, the storm nipping at his feet.
There was a man already in there, wearing an old fashioned suit and slicked back hair. He turned when Waylon shut the door behind him, smiling. If he was surprised to see Waylon, he didn’t let it show. If anything the man looked pleased to see him, like he was not only expected, but anticipated.
“Darling,” he said. “You made it.”
“There’s a storm,” Waylon panted, hands on his knees and his head hung low. “It’s coming.”
“I know,” the man said. “But you’re safe here.”
And Waylon actually felt it. The wind outside didn’t penetrate the thick walls, and he could barely smell the sickness of the air anymore.
The man, Eddie, held his hand out for Waylon, and after a brief pause, Waylon put his hand in his. Of course it was Eddie, of course this was where he’d end up.
“I was waiting for you,” Eddie said, and he didn’t let go of Waylon’s hand. “I was waiting for you to come back for me.”
“I wouldn’t leave you,” Waylon said, allowing Eddie to pull him closer. “I was always gonna come back.”
“I know,” Eddie said, his teeth glinting in the low lighting in the room when he smiled.
Waylon halfway expected them to sit down in one of the many seating areas in the room, but instead Eddie pulled him closer, molding his hands to Waylon’s hips. Before Waylon could say a word, Eddie covered his mouth with his.
Conflicting thoughts ran through Waylon at that moment. Lisa was out there, unprotected, but Eddie… Eddie was right there, body warm and strong against Waylon’s.
Eddie licked into his mouth, holding his hips, oh so firmly, and Waylon finally groaned and pushed himself closer, pressing his entire body to his.
“Let me be with you, my darling,” Eddie breathed against Waylon’s lips, and Waylon could do nothing but nod in agreement, everything else drowned out by the rushing of blood in his head.
Eddie moved his lips from Waylon’s mouth to his jaw, then further down his neck, biting where neck met shoulder. With a gasp Waylon tilted his head back, allowing him full access.
For the first time in God only knew how long, Waylon felt at ease. And for the first time in just as long, he felt safe.
In a move that was a hazy and dreamlike like everything else, Waylon found himself on the floor, Eddie straddling him.
“You’re beautiful, darling,” Eddie murmured, awed. “You have amazing bone structure. Such soft skin.”
Something about those sentences made Waylon uneasy, but he couldn’t quite say why. Then Eddie unbuttoned Waylon’s shirt, fanning his hands over his chest, and the thought was gone.
“I can fill that emptiness inside of you,” Eddie said against Waylon’s lips, and Waylon arched his back with a low groan.
Everything felt undeniably erotic, with Eddie’s strong hands feeling every inch of Waylon’s body, his lips hot and demanding. Yet, something about the things he said, the undeniable difference in power and statue between them, had anxiety pulse through Waylon all the same.
Then time skipped and writhed as much as Waylon now did under Eddie, whose powerful body was poised between Waylon’s legs, his cock pumping smoothly and slowly in and out of of Waylon’s body.
Waylon groaned in surprise, his cock bobbing at the sensation, and Eddie stared down at him with dark eyes. His lips were parted, showing just enough teeth for his face to take on a slight predatory edge.
Ignoring the twinge of fear, opting instead to wrap his arms around Eddie’s shoulders, Waylon met Eddie’s slow, rolling thrusts.
“Eddie,” he gasped, and above him Eddie grinned.
“Is this what you wanted?” Eddie whispered, closing the distance between them so he could bite down on Waylon’s neck, before kissing the skin tenderly. “You wanted me to ravish you?”
And yes, this was what Waylon had wanted. No violence, no pain, just the rhythmic movements of two naked bodies, intimacy blinding and all-encompassing. He looked down at where their bodies were connected with a moan, before Eddie pushed his chin back up so he could kiss him again.
It had been so long since Waylon had felt like this, and when Eddie reached down to move his hand over Waylon’s cock in turn with his thrusts, that tightened coil inside Waylon sprung free immediately.
Letting his head fall back, Waylon rode out his orgasm, reality fading in and out as his stomach clenched and his cock jerked in rhythmic bobs. Eddie cooed and mumbled something nonsensical against Waylon’s lips all the while, fucking him through the orgasm, not stopping when Waylon was spent and overly sensitive. Waylon was too dazed to reciprocate right away, too blinded by the orgasm, and Eddie hoisted him up into his arms, cradling his head with one hand to deepen the kiss.
His lips tasted sweet, and sweeter still when their tongues moved together. Despite the orgasm, the arousal hadn’t burned out and he whimpered against Eddie’s lips. Without the insistent pressure of the orgasm, he was feeling light as air. He wrapped his legs around Eddie’s hips, pressing himself ever closer.
Eddie growled against his mouth, deepening the kiss even further. Waylon felt like he was being devoured completely by Eddie, whose arms had gotten vice-like around him, his body turning towering and threatening.
The tongue in his mouth was starting to feel intrusive as well, not acting like a tongue at all. Waylon whimpered and tried to pull back, only for the tongue to hook itself to the back of his teeth and yank him closer again. Waylon tried to speak, but he was muffled by the tongue that suddenly seemed to cover the entirety of his mouth. Waylon’s eyes went wide, and he tried to look at Eddie, only to realize it wasn’t Eddie at all.
It was something shadowy and large, like the tornado outside had materialized as something humanoid, and it currently had both its hands inside his mouth.
It started out as a tongue, or as hands, but it quickly turned liquid, or the feeling of getting blasted with too much air, because it was running down his throat, constricting air supply and his chest did a curious sputter as he tried to draw breath.
He could no longer close his mouth, it was being pried open by the creature, forced apart like other things he no longer remembered, but couldn’t forget. He tried again, but his jaw kept protesting. He was stuck. He couldn’t move his limbs anymore, his head held back by something unseen.
This thing was more than the desolate loneliness of the first dream. More than the realization that Eddie wasn't just a deranged patient in the second. This monster was something out of his own personal nightmare. He couldn’t even express how terrifying this thing was, or maybe even understand it himself.
He had tried so long to escape the reality of what he’d been apart of. Tried to escape the feelings of disgust, interest and strange kind of kinship he had with the man who had beaten him down and raped him. Tried to escape his own feelings of inadequacy and apathy.
This was it. He had to face it all. Had to stare it down to escape it.
With a grunt he forced his eyes open further, staring down the tornado in front of him; stared into eyes that weren’t fixed at him, a grin that wasn’t really there. Except it was. He knew he saw malicious intent behind both, even if things were hidden.
Then he gasped and escaped the tornado, only to be yanked right into another storm.
There was something in his mouth, but it was actual human fingers and not some shadowy creature. Waylon blinked tears, trying to bite down on the offending digits, only to be met with tight resistance.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk, Mr. Park, manners.” Jeremy Blaire was standing above him, currently drawing lazy circles on Waylon’s tongue with the pad of his index finger. Waylon tried to move, but found he was tightly tied to something he couldn’t see, his head fastened firmly in place, restricting any movement.
Waylon couldn’t tell what was keeping his jaw from closing, but it felt sore, like his lower jaw might dislocate entirely.
“You’ve been quite the little shit, haven’t you?” Jeremy asked. What baffled Waylon more than anything else, was how clean he looked. He looked like he always did; his suit sharp and his mustache neatly groomed. For some reason Waylon had thought that whatever sickness lingered in the walls would permeate even him.
“Do you know how many people we’ve kept in that cage? Hm? Close to thirty pairs.” He’d stopped drawing on Waylon’s tongue, and pressed down as he asked the question. “Do you know how many escaped it?”
Waylon tried to speak, but he couldn’t do anything but gargle something nonsensical. He was no longer in control. He was simply there for the ride now.
“None, Mr. Park,” Jeremy said. “And here you go not only escaping it, but fucking ruining it completely in the process.” He added another finger and slid them along Waylon’s tongue. It didn’t feel like a tongue at all anymore, but like someone had shoved a dry piece of meat into his mouth. “And I think to myself, what can I do to make this man listen.” At that he added another finger, shoving them so far back in Waylon’s throat that he gagged.
It was a pathetic thing, and Waylon tried to move again, only to be tugged right back into place. It was a sick, mirrored event from that first day here, when Eddie had him in his clutches. What was sad was that Waylon found he’d much rather be with Eddie than Jeremy, who was currently leaning over him with something sharklike and predatory in his expression. Where was Eddie now? Waylon tried not to think about it.
“And what were you planning to do, hm?” Jeremy started caressing Waylon’s teeth, counting them gingerly one by one. “Were you planning on contacting your little journalist friend again?” His finger caught on Waylon’s canine, and he prodded it gently. “How can I shut your mouth?”
Waylon stared up at Jeremy with horror he couldn’t hide, giving up on fighting the tears of frustration running down his cheeks.
“I warned you, didn’t I, Park?” Jeremy asked softly, moving to trace the outline of Waylon’s lips. “You signed those confidentiality papers, and you willingly took the job, yet here we are.” He leaned forward and spat into Waylon’s mouth, giving his fingers an easier slide as he went back to prodding his teeth. His spit tasted vaguely of something acrid and artificial, like he had been sucking on painkillers shortly before.
Waylon gagged weakly again, his diaphragm spasming, but Jeremy just chuckled.
“Don’t like what I give you?”
Waylon garbled something unintelligible and tried to shake his head to no avail. The acidity of Jeremy’s spit somehow fueled Waylon’s own spit production, and he tried to let it run down the sides of his mouth so he wouldn’t have to swallow it. Jeremy smirked.
“You really don’t like it, do you?” he said, scooping up the spit with his fingers so he could feed it back to Waylon. “And here I was trying to make things more comfortable for you.” He clicked his tongue. “Ungrateful, Mr. Park.”
Jeremy moved his fingers in and out of Waylon’s mouth, and his previous shark-like expression gave way to something that was far more disturbing. His eyes were glazed over when he looked into Waylon’s eyes.
“I really thought you’d stop feeding him, you know. The man downstairs.” Jeremy laughed at the expression on Waylon’s face. “Yeah, I know what they called him.”
The knowledge that they had known, that they had still allowed Eddie to mutilate and murder countless of people...
Waylon blinked up at him, anger and confusion no doubt showing on his face, because Jeremy stopped laughing. He glared down at Waylon. “You’re not the first disloyal employee we’ve had, but damn if you’re not the one I wanted to hurt the most.”
He moved out of sight for a moment, something metallic being moved just out of Waylon’s field of vision.
“Did you know torture is absolutely useless in terms of interrogations?” Jeremy said jovially, pushing a metal tray in front of Waylon, giving him a good view of what it was. It was filled with various tools, from pliers to scalpels, and Waylon’s skin started to crawl. “So know whatever pain I inflict on you now is not because I want anything from you, it’s because I want to hurt you.”
Waylon closed his eyes tightly in defeat, sinking back against the restraint. This was it. There was nothing left he could do.
But if he survived this, he thought, it would soon be nothing but a memory. And if he didn’t, well, then he would be that memory.
Either way, it would be over soon.
Blood. So much blood.
Things were hazy, and Waylon kept catching glimpses of things he couldn’t quite make sense of. Someone’s fingers splashed with blood. An indented, pearly white rock that seemed eerily familiar. Shiny metals that seemed too bright and clean for this place. They all too soon came back bloody, though.
His left eye had swelled shut, and the right one didn’t seem to focus quite right. Things were hazy, dreamlike, but too sharp to be a dream at all.
A bright flash of light suddenly went off in front of his good eye, and Waylon thought for a moment that he was back in the cage. He thrashed weakly against the restraints, groaning with the effort. He tried to speak over the blood in his throat, before finally sinking back. He forgot. He kept forgetting. He was there for the ride. There for the ride, and nothing more.
“You fucked up, Mr. Park,” someone said, and for a moment Waylon wasn’t entirely sure who the person was even talking to. “You tried to take on something bigger than yourself, and now see where you are.”
Time had bled together. In some ways it was like being back in the cage, but more immediate. Here, with the pain, it was a lot less abstract. Even so, even if he sometimes floated out of himself, the reality of the situation would tug him right back in, further punctuated by the flashes of bright light that came in regular intervals. He knew where he was. He knew who was speaking. He blinked blood out of his remaining good eye, and focused on Jeremy. He was standing over the tray of tools, seemingly unaffected. Blood had splattered over his hands and forearms, but not a drop was spilled on the rolled-up sleeves of his dress shirt.
Waylon groaned, and tried to lull his head over to the side to escape the bright light, but his head was still firmly secured to the chair. At least Jeremy had unclasped the device that had forced his jaw open, but that was a small comfort. He had a vague feeling that it was only taken off to make further entertainment easier, although that at least meant that Jeremy wouldn't pull any more teeth.
“What I find amusing,” Jeremy murmured while pressing his thumb to the blunt side of a bone saw. “Is how you probably thought Gluskin was coming back for you.” He laughed, the laughter shrill and humorless. “You fed him, but there’s no reward. No pig for slaughter.”
The terrible thing about it all was that Jeremy was right. Waylon had looked for Eddie to begin with. Then the world had bled together as his eye swelled shut, and it began to be hard to look altogether.
“I read that email you sent. Touching, that you find these animals worth saving.” Jeremy smiled down at the saw, no doubt seeing himself in the stark reflection. “Like they are anything besides a worthless waste of space. At least we gave them a purpose.” Jeremy turned to Waylon, and under the harsh lighting he looked absolutely deranged. “Just like I’ll give you a purpose.”
Maybe what was soaked into the very walls had finally moved into Jeremy as well, infusing him with even more cruelty than what was already there. Waylon wasn’t sure, and he realized it didn’t matter anyway.
“Fuck you,” Waylon spat, although it came out too garbled for it to really make sense. It seemed Jeremy got the jist of it, though, because he chuckled and shook his head.
“You got fight in you, I’ll give you that. Didn’t think you’d last five minutes with Gluskin in that cage.” Jeremy looked up at Waylon. “Especially not after how you two ran around each other in the vocational block.” Jeremy stalked closer with the bone saw, humming the same tune Eddie had been singing on down in those filthy hallways downstairs.
He had seen. He’d been there, if only through flickering security cameras. He’d seen it all.
The humming gave way to a sharp whistle, and suddenly Waylon wasn’t just tied to a medical chair surrounded by sterile equipment meant to marr and maim, he was simultaneously strapped to the filthy table by Eddie, like he had been a lifetime ago. He could almost hear the buzz-saw between his legs, and he wondered for a moment if he had lost his mind.
Like before, he was forming and unforming plans in his head, albeit sluggishly. Darkness had started seeping in from the corners of his eyes, dulling the white noise that had edged ever closer.
Jeremy leaned over Waylon with that strange, docile facial expression that was marred by the look in his eyes. He pressed the bone saw against Waylon’s wrist, before moving it further up his forearm.
“I’ll make sure you’ll never write another email for as long as you live, Mr. Park,” Jeremy whispered. “I promise you that.”
Waylon tried to shake his head, tears streaming down the sides of his face. It wasn’t quite like being strapped to the table in Eddie’s workshop. His mind wasn’t blinking with danger this time around, just a strange, apathetic anger.
Eddie had stood above him just like this a little while ago, but now he found he’d do anything to see Eddie there again. Jeremy was right. Waylon had tried so hard to get Eddie on his side, for protection, and none of it had paid off. And the sick part was that the only accomplishment was Waylon feeling bad for thinking that way at all.
Despite it all, despite everything that happened here and in the past, Eddie was a human being. Broken in every sense of the word, but human. Murkoff had almost made him lose sight of that.
Interrupting his thoughts, Jeremy purred, “So what do we think?” Jeremy moved the saw from Waylon’s forearm, down to his wrist again, before resting it on his knuckles. “Where should I start?”
Waylon tried to lurch forward, tried to yank his hand away from the cool metal, but Jeremy was unrelenting.
“Maybe wrist?” Jeremy moved the saw from his knuckles back up to the junction of his hand. “Might make a bit of a mess, though.” Then he barked out a laugh. “I guess it’s gonna do that either way, huh, Mr. Park?”
Without commenting on it further, he started sawing through the top layers of skin until blood started welling up between the blade and the skin. Waylon just washed in stunned surprise, seeing the blood before he actually felt any pain. He didn’t even start squirming until the saw hit actual bone, and started grating against it.
The vibrations of it seemed to send a jolt to Waylon’s brain, finally, and he thrashed, too shocked to really scream out.
“Doesn’t feel good, does it?” Jeremy conversed pleasantly. “Being lied to. Betrayed.”
Waylon’s head rolled back, and his eyes with it. He was gonna pass out. He felt sick and the shadows in the corners of his eyes had started pulsing and contracting in red flashes. Yeah, he was definitely gonna pass out. He tried blinking the shadows away, tried to snap himself out of it, because if he passed out now, he wasn’t gonna wake up to anything good.
He stared at the unfocused, pulsing shadows until it resembled a human being emerging from the darkness. Waylon fell back, staring stiffly at it. It reminded him of the creature that had stalked the halls, the shadowy creature he hadn’t quite gotten a grasp on what was. No matter what, though, it was better than focusing on what Jeremy was going to do to him.
“Or maybe fingers first,” Jeremy said brightly, yanking the saw out of his wrist, before forcing the teeth of the saw down just above the second knuckle on Waylon’s ring finger. “Then this will last longer.”
Waylon was barely even paying attention at this point, his good eye wide and unblinking. The creature had just stood in the doorway for a long while, almost as if it had been listening to Jeremy speak. But now, oh God, now it stalked closer, growing in size. It was like a swarm of ants closing in on them. Filling each inch of the walls and floors with darkness.
Jeremy was too focused on Waylon to realize. He just started sawing down on Waylon finger, and although Waylon knew what was happening, could see it happen, he felt oddly detached from it all.
The strange thing was how quiet everything was. He couldn’t hear the creature come closer, couldn’t hear Jeremy although his lips were moving, couldn’t hear the saw as it inevitably cut through bones and tendons. He couldn’t even hear the blood rushing in his head any longer.
Perhaps the suffocating stillness of the first dream, the nuclear fallout, the tornado had all come back to haunt him. Perhaps they all had been a premonition for this exact moment. Not just so he’d finally understand Eddie, but so that he’d understand it all.
Like before he stared at it until his eye watered, stared at it until Jeremy finally looked up at him, only to find Waylon staring stiffly at something over his shoulder.
The fog cleared. The stillness ended.
Eddie’s wide shoulders were angled forward, his whole body positioned like a predator hunting for prey. Waylon’s heart stuttered in his chest, and for a moment he couldn’t say if he was relieved or terrified.
He wasn’t looking at Waylon, he was looking at Jeremy, and in the short period of time where they had been apart, blood had splattered over Eddie’s face and shoulder.
“What are y-” Jeremy started, but Eddie stopped him midway by grabbing on to his neck.
No matter how Waylon felt, Jeremy was definitely terrified when he realized what had come for him.
See, on the other side of a glass wall, a desk or bars, Jeremy held all the power in the world. But here, face to face with the real apex predator, he was nothing at all.
The realization must have hit Jeremy as well, because he lost his footing, the bone saw clattering to the ground.
“Inmate,” Jeremy shrieked, his previous authority brittle. “Step back in line.”
Eddie was yet to say a single word, but his lips had parted slightly, baring a tiny sliver of teeth. It was hard to tell by the look on his face if he was lucid or not, and Waylon squirmed against the restraints.
“You fuck,” Eddie finally gritted, his voice pitched low. “You miserable, rapist fuck.”
In a brief moment Jeremy looked at Waylon, probably wondering if Waylon could stop Eddie. Even if Waylon had wanted to, though, he didn’t have time. Because Eddie hoisted Jeremy up like a ragdoll, before slamming him into the ground with a horrifying crack.
It was deathly quiet for a brief moment, before Jeremy shrieked in pain. Waylon was surprised he could scream at all.
“Shut your mouth, you filthy slut,” Eddie hissed, ignoring Waylon all together. Instead he pressed the heel of his boot against Jeremy’s dainty little calf, until something gave with a dry crack.
Jeremy’s shrieking howl was cut short at that moment, replaced by a sound halfway between a gasp and a hiccup. Then he went quiet. Eddie sighed, and as an afterthought he kicked the bone saw away, before finally turning to Waylon.
“Darling,” he murmured, far too gentle than Waylon’ had came to expect from him. His voice wasn’t the only thing that was soft and unexpected. He touched Waylon’s throbbing cheeks, his jaw, his thumbs brushing over the swell of his left eye.
And despite the fear that should be overpowering him, Waylon still blinked up at Eddie, tears of relief streaming hotly down his cheeks.
“Eddie,” he near sobbed, anxiety draining from his body. “You came.”
“I wouldn’t leave you,” Eddie said softly, although he was frowning when he stroked Waylon's face. “I was always gonna come for you.”
Waylon looked at him, lips parted. It all felt so familiar, and he couldn’t say what made him say the next part, only that it felt right.
There was a change in the room. A change in Waylon, perhaps, but a change all the same. He could feel it in his bones, in the air, in every single part of his mind.
There should have been a moment of hesitation; a moment, no matter how brief or lengthy, where he wondered if Eddie was really going to release him from Jeremy’s bonds. The sane thing would definitely be to wonder, even for just a second, if Eddie was just going to pick up from where they had dropped off in the cage. From where Jeremy had been interrupted, perhaps.
But that change was immediate and overpowering, and Waylon didn’t doubt him at all.
Perhaps it would have been more poetic if Waylon just finally gathered the last of his strength and walked out of there. Left everything behind, even Eddie. But once free, Waylon stumbled into the confines of Eddie’s arms, pressing himself against Eddie’s wide chest.
Eddie stood stiffly while Waylon hugged him, probably shocked that anyone would touch him willingly, and not because he had scared them into it, or because they were begging for their life. But then, after a few moments of hesitation, he finally engulfed Waylon in a tight hug.
Conflicted emotions ran through Waylon’s mind, but mostly he just clung to him, sobbing into the crook of Eddie’s neck. All fight left his body, and his legs finally gave out beneath him.
“Shhh,” Eddie cooed, kneeling along with Waylon. “It’s alright.”
It wasn’t alright. It wouldn’t ever be alright. It wasn’t the past hours that made Waylon cry. Hell, it wasn’t the weeks before that. It wasn’t even coming here, taking a job he didn’t really want in the first place to support his wife and children. He wasn’t even sure when he’d cried last. Probably at the birth of his sons, although the catalyst then and now had very little to do with each other.
“I should have saved you,” Waylon choked against the soft, worn fabric of Eddie’s shirt. “I should never have fixed the code for that God awful machine.”
Eddie stiffened, but he didn’t speak.
“They broke you, and I-” Waylon sniffed and held on tighter, afraid that if he didn’t, then Eddie would revert back to the groom, and whatever madness and violence he could inflict on Waylon then. “I’m not sure if I could ever fix you.”
Behind them, Jeremy made a weak, bubbling sort of laughter.
“I wish I’d done something.” Waylon clung to the fabric of Eddie’s shirt with both hands, soiling it further with blood. “I was a coward.”
“But you did,” Eddie said, but instead of addressing more of what Waylon had said, he pulled away so he could get an overview of Waylon’s injuries. “Can you stand?”
Lost in the endless hallways of Mount Massive, Waylon had been too terrified to think of Eddie’s looks as something more than monstrous. Now, so close together and worry apparent in every line of his face, Waylon realized something; Eddie was no longer haunting, no longer the creature roaming the halls, but startlingly familiar. That realization was more shocking than Waylon wanted to admit.
“I- I don’t know,” Waylon finally confessed.
Eddie stared at him again, before getting back up on his feet and holding his hand out for Waylon to take. Like before, there was no hesitation, and the second Waylon’s hand was in his, Eddie pulled him easily to his feet.
There was an immediate rush of blood to Waylon’s head, and he staggered for a moment before he regained his composure, Eddie holding him all the while. He felt weak and his tongue kept prodding the empty spaces where his molars used to be, tasting copper, but he was able to stand on his own two feet.
“Y-yes,” Waylon whispered. “Yes, I think I can.”
There was a look in Eddie’s eyes just then, not doubt, exactly, but something close to it. He didn’t say anything, although his mouth was nothing but a thin line.
“At least we didn’t have to escape through the sewers,” Waylon tried to laugh, but it came out shrill and unfamiliar. “I’ve crawled through enough shit.”
Eddie looked torn between being appalled and amused. “Don’t be crude,” he chastised, but his lips relaxed into something milder.
It was strange, but at that very moment it didn’t feel like they had gone through an endless amount of torture together. They weren’t patient and whistleblower. They weren’t the groom and the bride, but something stranger. Eddie was still holding his hand, the other clutched lightly around Waylon’s wounded arm. It felt peaceful. A peace Waylon hadn’t anticipated feeling ever again.
What was it Lisa always said? Don't count your chickens before they hatch?
Waylon had been so focused on Eddie. So focused on the fact that they were almost free to pay close attention to Jeremy.
Jeremy who had spent those moments cowering like a dog, making himself smaller in an effort to be undetected. Wounded Jeremy, who despite being like a persistent stink in the room, still managed to go under Waylon’s radar.
Well, not anymore.
For a moment it was just a glint of steel and a wet thump of flesh and a sick feeling.
Things suddenly happened so fast that Waylon’s mind was reeling, while simultaneously going so slow that he could see every little detail of Eddie’s face. First was the look of shocked surprise, then his mouth twisted in some undefinable emotion before he bared his teeth in anger.
“Eddie, wha-” Waylon started, before he looked down between them.
At first he couldn’t make sense of what he was looking at. The slight glint of steel again, and a tightened fist between their bodies. Waylon blinked.
It wasn’t until Jeremy yanked the knife out of Waylon’s side, blood spurting as he did, that he realized what had just happened. He was too startled to notice the pain straight away, and he covered his side with a detached sense of dread, blood seeping through his fingers at an alarming rate.
Time sped up as the pain registered and Jeremy went in for a second time with an undignified roar, knife aimed for Waylon’s chest. Time was spinning out of control by this point, and he realized he had no time to do anything but shut his eyes and brace for impact.
Things went very still, but no impact came.
When he finally dared to open his eyes, he blinked in surprise at the sight of Eddie’s solid back in front of him.
“Eddie…” he said, weakly.
Eddie didn't reply, and Waylon couldn’t make sense of what had happened until there was a curious sound, akin to a boot being pulled from a muddy riverbank, before Jeremy stumbled backwards, his knife bloody.
Eddie was breathing heavily, and when he turned back to Waylon, blood had seeped out from the corners of his mouth. All this time Waylon had tried to manipulate Eddie into protecting him, and he released a huff of surprised laughter when he realized that it was the worst thing that could have happened.
“Are you alright?” Eddie asked breathlessly, one hand clutched across his shoulder.
“Eddie, you’re bleeding-” Waylon stretched a hand out.
“Are you alright?!” Eddie repeated, his voice tinged with urgency.
“I think so, I-”
“I don’t remember killing any of them,” Eddie whispered, and Waylon was confused before he realized Eddie was speaking to Jeremy who was cowering against the wall. “But I’ll remember killing you. I know I will, because I’m gonna savor it.”
“Park!” Jeremy pleaded, while he awkwardly tried to push himself closer to the wall. “Control him!”
How much was a life worth? Waylon swayed in place, hand still firmly planted at his side to quell the bleeding. Despite everything, despite everything Jeremy had done, a part of Waylon still considered stopping Eddie. Past conditioning perhaps, that life was sacred, no matter what.
But he said nothing, just watched in silence as Eddie closed in.
“Inmate! Gluskin! Stop! Don’t you remember how you asked- no, how you begged Waylon Park to help you?” Jeremy shrieked, his voice having gained a pleading, hysterical edge. “And he didn’t listen! He didn’t listen!”
Jeremy was waving his knife, but despite that Eddie moved closer still, so quickly that Jeremy didn’t have the chance to utter another word.
Then… Waylon squeezed his eyes shut before opening them again. The sick feeling returned as the two remaining men launched into motion.
Things had blurred. Waylon could see Jeremy’s knife between the two bodies, could see Eddie’s raised fists, but he couldn’t make sense of it. The steel reflected off the light until Waylon felt dizzy and sick with it. His heart clenched, and he realized not for the first time, how much he wanted Eddie to be safe and how little he was able to do to ensure just that.
Then something cut through the confusion. Eddie’s voice, growling something too low for Waylon to hear. His forearms were riddled with shallow cuts, blood dripping between him and Jeremy, who was waving his knife around, trying to get a decent opening.
It was as futile as a horse against an armored train.
Despite the fact that Eddie was more capable, and that Jeremy didn’t stand a chance, Waylon still stood to charge in between them. The clattering of the knife on the ground, sharp as skates against ice, and the thumping of flesh broke his rhythm and he froze in his tracks. Things stilled, then, and he saw Jeremy’s face, pale and bleeding and he realized Eddie had punched Jeremy square in the face.
Despite how tranquil Eddie had been with Waylon, that madness, that darkness, came back full force at that moment. Because it didn’t stop there. Eddie didn’t stop there. Eddie had Jeremy pinned by the neck with one hand and used the other to punch his face repeatedly. Jeremy couldn't stop him. He could only try to pry the hand crushing his windpipe, or try to soften the blows to his head, but Eddie was stronger and Jeremy didn't seem able to choose how to protect himself. He was like a ragdoll, getting weaker and more disjointed by the minute. Despite their own experiences, it was still startling to Waylon just how much the human body could withstand. A part of Waylon had expected to feel happy, or sad, but he felt nothing. Perhaps there was a bit of disgusted glee as Jeremy spat out a few teeth of his own, but the feeling didn’t linger.
“Park!” Jeremy shrieked again, a string of bloodied drool hanging from his bottom lip. “Please!”
They stared at each other, and the times Jeremy’s head snapped to the side from the force of Eddie’s punches, his gaze still found Waylon’s. He looked so utterly pathetic, like a beaten dog.
“Eddie,” Waylon said softly. “Please stop.”
Eddie did stop for a moment, long enough to glance over his shoulder with his fist still raised and bloodied. His eyes were glazed over, hazy almost, like he was slipping under again. “Why?” he slurred.
It was a good question, why. Waylon licked his lips, calculating his options.
“Because,” he started, and in front of him Eddie was blinking sluggishly, his breathing labored. “If we wanna get out of here, if we wanna move on from this, then we need him alive.”
Eddie seemed to consider this for a moment, blood dripping from his closed fist, but his posture didn’t change.
“If we wanna know why,” Waylon tried. “Then we can't kill him.”
This time there was a glimmer of something in Eddie’s eyes, and he released his hold on Jeremy.
“Thank you, thank you,” Jeremy gasped with his hands pawing at his throat, while still maintaining his strained posture against the wall.
“Don’t thank me,” Waylon spat. “I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing this for us.”
Eddie turned his head and looked at Waylon at that moment, and Waylon was startled by the look in his eyes. He looked - hopeful, and the sight of it caused Waylon’s heart to clench yet again.
“Us,” Jeremy echoed, interrupting Waylon’s thoughts. Although he didn’t laugh out loud, the mirth was unmistakable. “Us!” he repeated, a foam of blood and spit seeping at the corners of his mouth.
Waylon scrunched up his nose in disgust. Even when they clearly had the upper hand, Jeremy still acted like he was in control. He wasn’t, though, and Waylon was gonna make damn sure he knew it.
“Eddie?” he asked, and two pair of eyes snapped to his; Eddie’s, dark with anger, and Jeremy’s, opened so wide Waylon could see the white all around his irises. “How much was left of the cage?”
Eddie’s lips twisted in a smile. “Just enough for one,” he said, his voice steady despite it all.
“Perfect,” Wayon concluded, reveling in the way Jeremy’s expression melted away to one of bleak hopelessness.
At the sight of the cage, a multitude of feelings went through Waylon’s body.
Anxiety, first and foremost. He felt sucker punched by the sight of it, his heart beating so rapidly he had to support himself against the wall. There was more than that, though, more than anxiety, fear and disgust. There was a sense of deep sadness. He felt like the old Waylon had died in this room, died behind those bars, and nothing he could do would ever bring him back.
Then, a deeper thought, so deeply embedded in him that he wondered if it had been there all along, through it all. A primal illogical fear that he would be sucked right back in. Forced to do it all over. It clawed at his brain.
Again it struck him how insignificant the cage seemed from the outside, when it had been so monumental on the inside. Would he be just as small when he got forced back in?
No. He caught himself. He wouldn't be put back in the cage. He couldn't be, because he wouldn't survive. None of them would. That thought was the last to register, but the one that lingered the longest.
“No! Park! Don’t let him do this, please!” Jeremy shrieked, startling Waylon out of his thoughts. Eddie dragged him by the back of his shirt to the cage, all the while Jeremy tried to claw himself out of Eddie’s steely grip. “Please, I-”
“Save it.” Eddie forced Jeremy through the narrow opening at the bottom of Waylon’s side with his unharmed arm, before he finally just gave him a solid kick to get him all the way into the cage. “Get the lever,” he said over his shoulder.
Too lost in his own head, it took a moment before Waylon even knew what he was talking about. Then, licking his lips nervously, he stepped up to the control panel behind the light.
He’d half-way expected Jeremy to fight against it, but Eddie leaned closer and said something to Jeremy so quietly that Waylon couldn’t hear him. He could see Jeremy go pale and flinch back, though, before moving into Eddie’s side of the cage.
Then, with a loud bang, the divider between the two cages fell down. It felt poignant, the air vibrating with how the cage had fallen even as the room fell silent.
Waylon stood silently, watching the cage. He tried to imagine how it had felt for Jeremy to watch them like this, but he couldn’t replicate the feeling. All he felt was sadness.
Once the divider was down, trapping Jeremy, Eddie moved over to where Waylon was standing, and Waylon was struck again with how much he should be fearing this man, and how little he did.
They watched each other quietly for a moment, before Waylon turned to Jeremy.
“It’s time for you to spill it, Jeremy,” he said, more confidence in his voice than he really felt.
“What do you want me to say?” Jeremy spat blood on the floor and wiped his mouth. “What do you want?”
“There’s a million questions I’d like to ask,” Waylon said, his voice wavering. Despite that, he walked closer. “Like why you decided to use people as test subjects and-”
“Criminals, not people.” Jeremy said, some cockiness back in his voice.
“-and why you thought you could get away with it,” Waylon continued as if Jeremy hadn’t spoken. “But mostly I wonder what made you put us in that cage. If we were nothing but test subjects to you.”
Waylon chewed on his bottom lip, waiting for Jeremy to continue. As if Jeremy had sensed the shift of dynamics, he took his time before he answered, studying Waylon’s face like a viper about to strike.
“You feel it, don’t you?” Jeremy asked, his voice slick. He wrapped his hands around the bars, staring at Waylon intently. “Everything’s ruined because of that email you sent. Countless people have died. Your journalist friend was killed-” Jeremy paused at the stricken expression on Waylon’s face, before he smiled and continued. “- and Gluskin’s mind is broken. And you know what? All of it is your fault.”
“That’s-” Waylon swallowed. “That’s not true.”
“Isn’t it?” Jeremy blinked. “If you had just kept your mouth shut like your contract said, then everyone would be alive. People wouldn’t have been raped and murdered in the halls.” He laughed. “Did you see Gluskin’s tally in the gymnasium?”
Waylon glanced quickly at Eddie, before looking back to Jeremy’s triumphant face.
“I had security guards outside the door while I was interrogating you.” Jeremy chuckled, but quickly winced instead. “I guess all that’s left of them are the smears on Gluskin’s shirt.”
Waylon knew that, of course. It had been hard to ignore how empty the hallways had been, or how bloodied Eddie was.
“All of it is your fault.” Jeremy suddenly looked up at Eddie. “Isn’t that right, Gluskin?”
Waylon glanced at him as well, and he was unsure if the look of disgust on Eddie’s face was directed at him or Jeremy.
“You begged him to save you, and he just walked away.”
Eddie’s jaw was working, and he tightened his fists.
“Eddie,” Waylon pleaded.
He saw everything stretch out in two directions. Firstly, the one where Eddie did listen to Jeremy’s words. Where Jeremy was able to turn Eddie against him. Not that it would do Jeremy much good, because if Waylon died, then he’d surely die as well. The other was the one where Eddie wouldn’t listen, and together they could-
“Don’t listen to him,” Eddie interrupted with a growl. “Nothing here was your fault.”
Waylon had to close his eyes at the impact of those words, and he swallowed thickly a few times. When he opened them back up, he was startled to find Eddie studying his face.
“Just tell me,” Waylon said after a pause, uncomfortable with the intensity of Eddie’s stare. He shifted his gaze to Jeremy. “Why?”
“What is it you want me to say?” Jeremy’s face was pale beneath the quickly blooming patches of welted, bruised skin, but he still held his chin up. Still haughty, even after all of this. “That we were doing experiments on you? That we made money off of you? That this was all part of some bigger plan?”
“I just want an explanation,” Waylon said, trying to ignore how tacky his hand and uniform had gotten.
Jeremy seemed to debate himself for a moment before he replied. “I bet you want to hear that I did it because I hated you, because I still hate you, right? That I wanted to see you lose against him?” He nodded in Eddie’s direction. “That I wanted you humiliated?”
“Anything!” Waylon’s voice had gotten a hysterical edge to it. “Fucking anything to explain why we were stuck in that fucking cage, getting raped and re-traumatized!”
“We did it because we could!” Jeremy shouted, and it suddenly felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room.
“Because y…” Waylon choked on the words.
The world had tilted on its axis, and Waylon swayed. That was it? All of this, for nothing? No greater plan? He clutched his head.
Behind the safe confines of the cage, Jeremy had started laughing.
This wasn’t right. This couldn’t be right. It didn’t happen this way. All the blood had left Waylon’s face and thoughts looped inside Waylon’s mind until he felt faint with it. It couldn’t end this way.
“All of this,” he whispered. “Just because you could?”
“Not what you wanted?” Jeremy asked. “Want me to convince you that it was for the greater good? Maybe it was, but then again, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe I was just bored.”
So that was it. No neat bottom line or clear justification. Nothing at all. Nothing would have made any of it alright, but with an explanation why he’d at least have some hope of healing. He clutched his head harder, to the point where he got a sickening idea that if he’d just squeeze a little harder, then his head would rupture in his hands like an overripe pumpkin. It would be better. Anything to escape the resounding echo of why inside his head, shooting back and forth without any hope of ever getting resolved.
I’m gonna scream, Waylon thought to himself. I’m gonna scream, and scream and scream until I lose my mind and I won’t have to worry about any of this any longer.
For the first time, Waylon felt like he belonged at the asylum. And in that moment, lost in a muted, impotent anger, all Waylon wanted was for Eddie to open the cage and beat Jeremy to a bloody pulp.
With a sickening pang he realized that it would only mean that Jeremy truly had won, and that perhaps this was the closest they’d ever come to winning within the confines of this place. The thought didn’t bring him any satisfaction.
“This isn't gonna make you feel any better,” Eddie murmured, startling Waylon out of his thoughts. He spoke so quietly that Jeremy couldn’t hear, and Waylon felt his eyes prickle with the consideration.
He swallowed a few times, not trusting his own voice. No, this didn’t make him feel any better. It hadn’t been cathartic, like he had hoped. It wasn’t like lancing a boil. He wasn’t even sure what the sight of Jeremy trapped like a rat in a cage made him feel, only that it didn’t help. Jeremy’s experience wouldn’t be anything like what Eddie and Waylon had been exposed to; There wasn’t anyone there to terrorize him, but Waylon realized that loneliness might be worse.
Jeremy didn’t look resigned to his fate, though, like Waylon had expected. Instead he stared at Waylon without a word, his mouth stretched in a grin. He looked as deranged as Eddie had in that first moment they had met.
“No,” Waylon finally concluded. “It won't.” He turned his head so he could look at Eddie. “But I’m not gonna tell Jeremy that.”
Eddie scoffed, and when Waylon looked up at him, he realized one corner of Eddie’s lips were hitched in an almost-smile. His face still had a pained drag to it, and Waylon glanced at Eddie’s wounds, remembering his own in the process.
“We should find somewhere to get stitched up,” Waylon said, nodding in the direction of Eddie’s shoulder.
Eddie didn’t answer straight away, and Waylon had to glance up to him to see if he had been listening at all. Eddie looked troubled, staring at the cage without really seeing it. Then he seemed to shake out of it, and although he didn’t reply, he still shot Waylon a short glance before he moved towards the door.
Waylon followed him, but froze before he could make it through the door.
“Hold on,” he said, before turning back around to the vending machines. Eddie said nothing, just leaned against the door with one hand clutched at his shoulder, but from the look on his face it was clear he knew what Waylon wanted to do, and what he thought of it.
Without missing a beat, Waylon smashed the front of the vending machine, and grabbed as much as he could of both bottled water and cheap snacks while still applying pressure to the wound, before crossing the floor and dumping them in front of the cage.
“When all of this is said and done,” Waylon said. “Don’t forget that I made sure you lived.”
Jeremy looked up at him, some unidentifiable emotion flitting across his face, before it settled on disgust.
“You and your trained monkey,” Jeremy hissed under his breath. “I’ll make sure you both rot in hell.”
Waylon bared his teeth in a grimace. “You forgot this,” he said and pulled the phone out of his pocket and waved it in front of Jeremy’s face. “You were kind enough to record most of everything you did on here, which will be a nice addition to my own tapes. You really think you’ll ever be free again?”
Jeremy went very pale, and his jaw very tight.
“That’s right, I took this earlier,” Waylon grinned, although it lacked any humor. “And I’m gonna bring all of you down with it.”
And with that, despite his lack of answers, Waylon finally found some feeling of completion. Not the one he wanted, but this way he could, if nothing else, prove that this hadn’t broken him. He made his way over to Eddie, to the door, and whatever was beyond it.
He was about to say something to Eddie, when Jeremy broke the silence.
When Waylon turned to him, it was to the sight of Jeremy flashing teeth streaked with blood.
“Even if you escape,” Jeremy shouted. “Even if you manage to take us down, it won’t matter!” Jeremy paused for a moment before he delivered the killing blow. “Perhaps the beauty of the cage was the fact that you’ll never escape it!”
Those words hung in the air for a few moments, before Eddie finally slammed the door shut, not allowing Jeremy to see the devastated look on Waylon’s face.
The small medical room, with its neat little rows of medication, bandages and sterile equipment in small pouches, seemed so bright and clean that he had to blink against it. It was a shocking and perverse contrast to the filth and the depravity of the other room.
Eddie didn’t acknowledge it, just like he hadn’t acknowledged what Jeremy had said, but to be fair, neither had Waylon.
“Sit down,” Eddie said, the first words he’d spoken since leaving the room.
Even if Waylon had wanted to fight it, he was too tired to argue. His face felt tight and throbbing, like the skin had shrunk, while one of his fingers was barely attached at all. He’d tied a strip of fabric around it, but now that the adrenaline had worn off, the pain was getting harder and harder to ignore. The more pressing wound was the one Jeremy had inflicted last, and Waylon looked at the blood covering his uniform and wondered if he’d live at all.
While his brain tried to process all of it, Eddie was busy washing his hands thoroughly. Waylon only saw the side of his face, but he saw how his jaw worked, his eyebrows pulled together tightly. It was a strange thing, watching him. He looked… human. Normal, almost.
While drying his hands on paper towels, Eddie looked over the medical cabinet, before taking an array of items out and placing them next to Waylon.
“Take your shirt off,” Eddie said next and tore open a sterile pack of physiologic saline solution and a few packages of sterile dressings.
And Waylon, God help him, complied. It should have felt awkward, terrifying, even, but Waylon didn’t feel any of those things. At the moment he couldn’t even name what he felt.
In front of him Eddie watched quietly while he undressed, his expression briefly looking scandalized before it smoothed out. Then, as Waylon rolled the fabric off the cut on his side, his eyebrows pulled together in what Waylon could only interpret as concern.
“How does it look?” Waylon asked, and his voice sounded hollow even to his own ears.
Eddie seemed to debate himself for a moment, before he finally answered.
“It could have been worse.”
Waylon let out a shattered bark of a laugh, before he dared to look down.
Droplets of blood seeped out for each rise and fall of his chest, and it had started drying in tacky rivets down his hip. It was both worse and better, than what Waylon had expected. The knife had entered at an angle, which at least meant that his internal organs were spared, but the cut was long and gaping.
“We’re-” Waylon worried his bottom lip with his teeth. “We’re not equipped to deal with this.”
“We are,” Eddie gruffed. “And we’ll be out of here soon anyway, right?” He shot Waylon a long glare, before opening one of the packets of sterile dressings.
“Yeah,” Waylon said. “Yeah, we will.” He said it mostly to comfort himself, but Eddie gave a long exhale that made Waylon think he’d also wanted the confirmation.
He still wondered what Eddie would do with the wound. He’d seen enough medical shows to know the basics of what they were supposed to do, but at this point he didn’t know if it would even matter. He’d rather run away and address it later.
Eddie only took a moment to form a plan before he held some gauze against the hem of Waylon’s underwear, emptying a small saline bottle over the wound and rinsing it as carefully as he could. Once he was satisfied with it, he pressed the rest of the gauze against the wound with both hands, putting pressure on it. Then, moving away, he unzipped a bigger case and surveyed the contents.
Waylon stared at the curved needles and thread. This was different than allowing Eddie to suture a small cut on his wrist. This was far too close and intimate. He was literally putting his life in Eddie’s hands, and he felt dizzy with the thought of it.
Eddie doesn’t help people, Waylon thought wildly. Eddie maims and tortures. Eddie kills.
Eddie’s pale eyes were on him, studying his expression intently when Waylon looked at him, as if he knew what Waylon was thinking.
Waylon didn’t say any of it out loud or allow his face to betray his thoughts. He just watched as Eddie rinsed the wound once more, before he glanced back up at Waylon’s face.
“Ready?” he asked, and Waylon gave a single, grim nod.
Like before, the needle entered his body, and Waylon groaned against the pain.
At least things felt easier to handle when he had the pain as a distraction. Focusing on the physical wounds gave him time to push everything else to the back of his mind. Those problems were for another day. Perhaps for another Waylon. A new one, pure and unsullied.
That thought had something bubble in his chest, and he focused on Eddie to keep himself from laughing out loud.
At the sight of Waylon’s blood still flowing from his side, Eddie’s eyes had gone hazy again, all of him trembling slightly as he was working carefully, suturing the wound shut. Waylon wondered with detached curiosity if he was worried about Waylon’s wounds, or fighting the bloodlust of the groom inside him. There were no bars to separate them now, no safety for Waylon at all. For some reason, the thought didn't frighten him. In fact, when he had seen Eddie over Jeremy’s shoulder, looking bloodied and feral like some kind of animal, he had been startled to find a big shift in their relationship; that even if Eddie had murdered his way to him in a frenzy, too many things had changed for Waylon to fear him.
“What were you hoping he’d tell you?” Eddie suddenly asked. He tied the final knot securely, before pressing fresh gauze against it. Then he fastened it with medical tape, but he didn’t move his hands away from Waylon’s skin.
“What?” Waylon asked sluggishly, too focused on Eddie’s hands against his waist.
“You asked why we were put in the cage.”
The haze had disappeared from his eyes, nothing there but anger. But despite that and the slight twist of his lips, his voice was steady.
“I don’t know what I wanted, I-” Waylon shut his eyes. “Maybe I thought a why would help.” He gave a huff. “That it would take it all away.”
“Take it all away,” Eddie echoed, but his voice was too flat for Waylon to decipher.
“I thought that maybe, just… If Jeremy had just told me why, then it would be easier to carry on somehow.”
“Most people don’t get a why,” Eddie said, glancing up at Waylon. “We don’t get an answer why someone hurt us, or didn’t love us right.” His jaw clenched.
Waylon stared at him, startled, and Eddie didn’t look at him when he continued.
“In the end it doesn’t even matter. It’s not the right thing to ask.”
“Then what is?”
Eddie shook his head and bared his teeth. “Think I’d be in here if I knew that?”
Waylon didn’t know either, and instead of answering he watched Eddie in silence. There were cuts and welts and bruises all over Eddie's skin, no doubt a combination of Jeremy's guards, and Jeremy himself. A thin trickle of fresh blood oozed out from the protective wounds on Eddie's arms, diluted by the water still clinging to his skin. Without thinking he hovered a trembling hand directly over one of the welts, too scared to actually touch. In contrast to the still-bleeding wounds, some of the cuts were almost healed, merely muted tones of yellow and blue. Perhaps that was how it would all go. Perhaps the memories would fade in time as well.
“You look so worried,” Eddie said, breaking the silence that suddenly felt palpable. He moved a hand up to Waylon’s face, pressing the tips of his fingers ever so gently against Waylon’s skin. Waylon paused briefly, unsure, before he leaned into it. Once Waylon rested against the touch, Eddie curled his hand along Waylon’s cheek.
“I don’t want anything to happen to you,” Waylon said, startling himself with the honesty of it.
“Nothing will,” Eddie said, and pulled Waylon closer.
Waylon thought for a few horrifying moments that Eddie was going to kiss him, but he angled his head down and pressed his lips to the pulse on Waylon’s neck instead.
“The things I’d do to you,” Eddie murmured against Waylon’s skin, before letting out a long, shivering sigh. When he spoke again, his voice was rough. “The things I’d do for you.”
Waylon wanted to believe Eddie; wanted to believe he really was special, not just another face among a million others, not just another body to mutilate and kill. He couldn’t, though, and he knew that. Despite that knowledge the low rumble of Eddie’s voice against his neck made him move closer, and he folded his arms around Eddie’s neck.
“Would do anything,” Eddie said, and Waylon closed his eyes.
In another life, then maybe this would have been enough. In another life, they might have been able to move on together. In a life that wasn’t tainted with everything that had happened, before and after the cage.
They pulled apart, Waylon with more reluctance than he wanted to admit. Eddie’s face was still so close to his and his eyes had gotten that strange, glazed over look to them again, like he was in two planes of existence at the same time. His gaze flickered lazily down to Waylon’s lips and then back up, and Waylon’s insides somehow turned glacial and fiery all at once.
“Darling,” he breathed, lifting Waylon’s chin with one hand. “Waylon.”
It would be so easy to give in to him, and the madness of the place. A madness Waylon could still sense simmering right below the surface, and still see in Eddie’s eyes. Eddie was still cradling his face, and he had moved closer. His lips were slightly parted, his breathing quicker. Another inch and Eddie’s lips would be on his, and then what?
Thoughts looped. Over and over and over again.
He didn’t know why they had been in that cage, despite what Jeremy had said. He couldn’t accept it, because he didn’t like the answer that it might all have been for nothing. And that wasn’t the only question he was fighting. He didn’t know if he should be as comfortable around Eddie, or trust him as much as he did. He couldn’t figure out what was going on in his mind.
Eddie had grown close, and familiar and warm. If he asked himself why, why he trusted Eddie, why he’d grown so close, would he like the answer?
“We should finish up and leave,” Waylon said, his lips not even an inch away from Eddie’s, and he shut his eyes tightly in defeat.
No. He wouldn’t like the answer.
When he opened his eyes back up, Eddie had closed his own as well.
“Fine,” he breathed, leaning his forehead against Waylon’s. “Let’s go.”
After everything, after all the tension and adrenaline had drained from his body, Waylon realized he could barely walk. And despite everything, despite his own wounds, Eddie supported Waylon as they made their way down the endless hallways.
It was touching. Humbling, even, that such a monster would help him along. Although, looking up at Eddie’s face now, it was hard to still think of him as a monster, even with Jeremy’s goons littering the hallways.
There was one thing that had plagued Waylon ever since Eddie had appeared during Jeremy’s torture. He wasn’t sure if it was wise to bring it up at all, lest it trigger Eddie’s madness, but he had to know.
“I’m surprised you’re helping me, considering.” Waylon cleared his throat. “You were so angry, back when we were...”
There was a slight twitch by Eddie’s eye that told Waylon he’d didn’t appreciate the shift in conversation, and Waylon halfway expected him not to reply at all.
“You could have left me there,” Eddie finally said after a pause. “But you didn’t. Despite-” Eddie let the sentence hang in the air.
Waylon watched Eddie’s face intently, realizing that it would probably be the closest Eddie would ever come to admit what he’d done in the cage.
We don’t get an answer why someone hurt us or didn’t love us right.
Those words had stuck with Waylon ever since Eddie had spoken them. The papers he’d found concerning Eddie had all said the same thing; that Eddie wanted to pretend. Pretend that his life had been easy and carefree, wholesome in a way that only old TV-shows could be, despite every shred of evidence saying otherwise. He’d used those words against Eddie in the cage, and he hung his head with the weight of that shame. He wondered if Eddie would ever find a way to deal with his childhood trauma and subsequent murders enough to fully admit what had happened and what he’d done, even if just to himself.
Hell, he wondered if he would ever find a way to deal with all of it.
“I thought that…” Waylon trailed off, unsure how to continue. “I thought you’d believe what Jeremy said,” he finally mumbled, ashamed.
Eddie scoffed, but stayed quiet.
“I thought you’d accept what he said about me. That you think that’s who I am.”
“I know you’re not,” Eddie said after a beat.
But that was another thing, wasn’t it? Another thing Waylon had read in those papers. That Eddie Gluskin could not be trusted, because he told everyone what he thought they wanted to hear. Waylon chewed on his bottom lip, staring at the linoleum floor without really seeing it.
“You’re not like that, Waylon.”
The sound of his name on Eddie’s lips startled Waylon out of it, and when he looked up at Eddie he realized Eddie was watching him intently.
“It’s hard not to feel responsible for everything,” Waylon said slowly, looking away. “He’s right, it is my fault that so many people are dead.”
“I think you know deep down it’s not.” Eddie watched him though the corner of his eye, lips pulled down at the corners. “When you’re out of here, you’ll know it’s not.”
“I hope so,” Waylon mumbled, uncomfortable.
“Do you remember what you said back there?” Eddie asked, and Waylon looked up at him. “You said that these people twists our stories and personalities into what they need us to be. And Jeremy wanted a scapegoat.” He looked at Waylon. “A patsy.”
It made sense. Somehow Eddie Gluskin made total sense. Waylon gave Eddie a tentative smile, but a part of Waylon still wanted to keep prodding, keep receiving confirmation and reassurances, but he knew Eddie was right. He just had to get out of here to clear his mind.
Something occurred to Waylon then.
“What did you say to him in there?” he asked.
Waylon got the feeling Eddie knew exactly what he meant.
“In the cage, when you got Jeremy to go to the other side.”
“Oh,” Eddie hummed and although he seemed pleased by the change of topic, he still paused so long that Waylon almost repeated the question. “I told him I found the cattle prod,” he finally said. “And that I’d make sure to give it a proper home unless he moved.”
Waylon sputtered out in an undignified guffaw, causing even Eddie to chuckle a little.
“No wonder he did as you said,” Waylon managed, holding his stomach as a round of pained laughter shot through him. He pictured Jeremy, in his fancy suit and carefully styled mustache, with a cattle rod up his backside. He was lost in shrill hysterics, laughing so hard he was crying, until he realized he was simply just crying.
Eddie didn’t speak, but his mouth had thinned.
“How are we gonna get out of here?” Waylon asked wildly. “We have no way of getting away.”
In their quest for freedom, Waylon had pocketed both his beaten up camcorder and Jeremy’s phone, and stuffed as many of Murkoff’s documents that had survived their escape as he managed in the shallow pockets of his uniform. But one thing he hadn’t done was prepare for the outside.
“You underestimate me,” Eddie replied, before he pulled something out of his pocket and dangled it in front of Waylon’s face.
“You-” Waylon started laughing again. “You stole Jeremy’s car keys?”
“I did,” he confirmed, and gave a small chuckle of his own before his expression turned sombre. “I haven’t driven a car since I was twenty-nine.” He said it offhandedly, his tone light, but Waylon’s stomach ached all the same.
“Like riding a bike, right?” Waylon managed.
“Right.” Eddie gave the briefest of smiles.
Waylon hadn’t even noticed, but during the course of the conversation they seemed to have hit the end of the line. The hallway had opened up into some kind of lobby, with an impressive reception desk and a wide pair of double doors. The realization had him stop dead in his tracks.
He could see the outside. See a staircase leading down into a gravel driveway. He could see trees. And what struck him was that it was just like when he’d seen the opening in the cage. This place was terrible, but at least it was familiar. He knew this place, and he’d come to realize he no longer knew the world beyond it.
Perhaps this was the point. The point after which you could not go any further.
He had meant it in a vague, metaphorical way, like hitting a glass ceiling, but he realized it was more than that. This was a glass cage, and although their shackles couldn’t be seen, they were still there.
“What if there’s nothing there?” Waylon asked, gripping Eddie’s arm harder. “What if we open that door and there’s nothing but a painted image of freedom?” He looked up at Eddie, who in turn looked down at him with a frown.
“Darling, you say the strangest things.”
“I can see it, though.” A cold nausea welled over Waylon. “The world has changed out there.”
“It hasn’t.” Eddie held Waylon tighter. “And I will prove it to you.”
Despite how much Waylon tried to hold him back, Eddie still firmly pulled him along to the wide double doors, and with one glance down at Waylon’s face, he opened it.
The outside was so bright that Waylon couldn’t see anything at all for a moment, and he covered his eyes with one hand.
The first thing that hit him was the smell. A fresh wind. He smelled the trees and that unmistakable scent of recent rains. It was a far cry to the stuffy air in these God-forsaken buildings, and it felt like he could only just now inhale properly. He lowered his hand and the first thing he saw was light filtering through the trees. Then the sky itself, stretching endlessly above them. There was nothing artificial about the colors of the leaves or the grass or the sky, and Waylon could have sobbed with the realization.
“We escaped,” he said slowly, tasting the words as if he couldn’t quite believe it. “We did it.”
Eddie didn’t reply, and when Waylon looked up at him, his heart sank. This wasn’t an escape for Eddie. Not really. He wasn’t free, and he probably never would be. More than that, this wasn’t the world he’d seen last.
The world had changed for Eddie.
Waylon studied Eddie’s profile. Studied the harsh angles of his face, the angry lines of his brows and the fullness of his lips. Then, without thinking, Waylon grabbed the front of Eddie’s shirt and pulled him down so their faces were almost level. Eddie startled and looked down on him, and it was such a strange thing to see. He looked completely unguarded for a brief moment, and Waylon chose that time to press their lips together.
Time froze for a second, before Eddie’s scarred lips softened and opened up, and they kissed, slowly, softly, all previous desperation gone.
It was nothing like the kiss preceding this one. Nothing like that first kiss that had been so entirely wrong, long ago. This was warm, soft and familiar. Safe, even.
Eddie wrapped his hands around Waylon’s body and pressed himself closer, groaning into the kiss. There was a brief surge of helplessness shooting through Waylon's body, a slight rush of something he couldn't name, but then Eddie angled his head so he could deepen the kiss and Waylon's head swam until nothing made sense but the two of them. Eddie’s mouth was insistent and warm, and instead of fighting it like he’d always had, Waylon melted into the embrace, accepting it at last.
What he accepted, he couldn’t even say.
When they pulled away, Eddie’s eyes were dilated, his mouth soft and inviting. As he watched him, his heart pounding, Waylon realized he’d never felt that connected to anyone in his entire life. It was beyond lust or any other romantic emotion. For all they had experienced together, all the trauma and all the horror, they had somehow survived together.
Eddie smiled at him, a brief, bittersweet thing, before he kissed him once more. Then he pulled away as if it pained him, and Waylon was startled to find he felt the same.
Was this why he trusted Eddie? Was it more than some feeling of familiarity, or safety? Waylon shut his eyes tightly. Truth was that Waylon didn’t know what to do with the information he was holding, and everything he was feeling. Would he be okay knowing any of this?
Suppose it was like Eddie had said, and why wasn’t the right question to ask. Jeremy had given an answer, but it still wasn’t enough. He felt like a child, startled by the revelation that anyone could do terrible things, sometimes for no other reason than because they wanted to. Could he move on from that? Never knowing why?
He realized he would have to.
That first step out of the building was as monumental as anything in Waylon’s life. He was reminded of a time he had gotten sick as a child and by the time he had gotten better, seasons had changed. The gravel crunched underfoot as he made his way forward, and he stumbled with the impact of his freedom.
Eddie was right there, as he had been all along, putting an arm around Waylon to support him. Waylon didn’t even realize, too busy frantically scanning the treeline. From this side of the building, Waylon could see the roof of Mount Massive, and he realized just how close they had been this entire time.
Ignoring his own injuries and Waylon’s protestations, Eddie hoisted Waylon into his arms, bridal-style, the irony of which wasn’t lost on Waylon. Still he settled against Eddie all the same, slowly relaxing until his head was on Eddie’s shoulder.
Eddie looked down on him, his eyes startlingly clear and in the moment.
“This is it,” he said.
“This is it,” Waylon echoed weakly. It wouldn’t seem real to him until they were actually on the road. Probably not even then.
But right now it didn’t matter. All that mattered was freedom, and Waylon looked up at the clear sky above them. He was boneless, floating through the air, slowly being dragged under by sleep. And just like that, carried in the arms of a killer, Waylon fell into a blissfully dreamless sleep, the first one he’d had in weeks.
No dreams, no nightmares. No endless desolation and no great apocalyptic event. Just rest, surrounding Waylon like a soft blanket.
For anyone watching, it would look as if the groom had finally gotten his bride.