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The Jarring of my Heart

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The Jarring of my heart, a Duke Crocker tale by Spanked by Spike

(song-fic working with Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri)

 

I know I can't take one more step towards you

'Cause all that's waiting is regret

 

Duke was floored! Evi was here, mere feet from him, and at the sight of her a world of nightmarish memories assailed his overstimulated brain. He closed his eyes for a moment and then looked at the crows with dread. A visible sigh of relief passed his lips once he saw the vision was gone. These fucking troubles were making him see things!

Not only was he there to give moral support to Nathan, and risk his life once again for the down-to-the-wire saving of the world that seemed to be a weekly necessity now, but he also had to be somehow helping Audrey to cope with the potential loss of her partner and of trying to defuse the situation to save more lives of people that might not even be thankful.

Duke was just plain fed up… And what was that about a blue cooler?

Between the fears they all just experienced at the very real possibility of losing Nathan to this new play on the biblical plagues, and the line being drawn on the sand between factions of his community, now was not the time to get revisited by ghosts of his previous life.

He was doubly relieved at this point because he had thought he had his fill of problems to manage until an apparition from his difficult past showed him how much more screwed up he could get.

He focused back on Audrey and Nathan, still unnerved by the tension present in the crowd, and also by stray thoughts as to how involved things could get with the Rev.

And then the sky fell upon his head. She was easing towards their little group, all smiles and open expression.

 

Don't you know I'm not your ghost anymore

You lost the love I loved the most

 

Flustered wouldn’t even start to cover how Duke felt. He was heartbroken all over again, unhappy about the turn of events and lost as to how to connect his present world with the part of his life he had worked so hard to bury and forget. One he had kept hidden with a determination people don’t even imagine he is capable of. Most knew he is secretive, they imagined the worst of him but they couldn’t understand the punch that was his separation from Evi, and the strength it had required from him to hold his head high and find the drive to put a foot in front of the other, until Duke had found the will to live for himself again.

 

I learned to live, half alive

And now you want me one more time

 

He could feel cold sweat running down his spine and as Evi presented herself to his friends and they looked at him baffled, he felt sick to his stomach. They all had these expectant looks on their face and he lost his train of thought. What could he possibly say? No, he didn’t have a sister…

 

Who do you think you are?

Runnin' 'round leaving scars

Collecting your jar of hearts

And tearing love apart

You're gonna catch a cold

From the ice inside your soul

So don't come back for me

Who do you think you are?

 

Today was another day in the fucked up life of one Duke Crocker. He barely slept, busy as he was reminiscing. Sure he drank, not his sorrows but his memories away, it didn’t help. Evi was now in town, in his turf, putting her inquisitive mind to work and probably ready to unravel the life he was finally getting to appreciate.

There was a certain level of sluggishness to his thoughts he couldn’t shake; too much alcohol in his addled brain... Then again, he was close to breaking down, he had created a good life in this little corner of the world, this was his family’ place, the one he called home. Having a little ball of mess that could destroy his world faster than any trouble was not part of his short term plans.

Thinking about the abuse of trust was something else altogether. He didn’t want to put that experience in words, he refused to give it the weight it would if he did, and he was eager to take a stand and distance himself from this past.

 

I hear you're asking all around

If I am anywhere to be found

But I have grown too strong

To ever fall back in your arms

 

There was much said about the impetus of his youth, about the hard work it took to battle his own demons and grow into the mature man he became. What? He made mistakes, like everybody else that choose to live their lives instead of letting life happen to them (okay this jab at Nate was unfair), and in hindsight some of his choices were certainly questionable; Evi being one of them.

 

I've learned to live, half alive

And now you want me one more time

 

But he wasn’t a kid anymore, he wasn’t even a lost young man. Duke Crocker had a life to enjoy, a boat to call his own, a restaurant that made him responsible for other souls than his own and even people that oddly enough somehow cared about him too.

But he never really found love, the one people sing or write sonnets about. What his life amounted to was a series of mishaps, calamities, lost opportunities and misfortunes that set him apart from others and transformed him into a pariah.

It was a few good lessons that taught him to rely on himself above all else, to never lean on anyone else because they would use him and abuse him and discard him once his usefulness was exhausted.

And at the end of the day, it also gave him adventures and courage, resilience and bravery; incredible memories and so many opportunities.

 

Who do you think you are?

Runnin' 'round leaving scars

Collecting your jar of hearts

And tearing love apart

You're gonna catch a cold

From the ice inside your soul

So don't come back for me

Who do you think you are?

 

She was smiling and whirling around in his city. Inquiring and appearing in his place of business. Insinuating and leaving half-truths hinted at, others spreading like wildfire, and he, Duke Crocker, was playing defense.

He hadn’t slept at all, spinning back into that god awful time. A bottle wouldn’t drown his pain; just make the nightmare more vivid.

So, having Audrey stopping by with pastries wasn’t a bad deal. It meant not to have to think, not having to make a food run or have to help for a few blessed hours. If she was here, no Troubles were destroying his town; no one was going to be moseying around his secret world for awhile. Audrey Parker was as awesome as he knew she would be, not asking stupid questions but letting him know she was there nevertheless.

 

She managed to make him laugh even though she brought up Evi in passing… And she didn’t wait for an answer, she didn’t even looked him in the eyes, she simply reached for his hand as part of the conversation, and went right up to catching him up on the latest at the station. People were right to see her as a Trouble whisperer, she was the best at grasping the situation and helping anyone through it.

 

It took so long just to feel alright

Remember how to put back the light in my eyes

I wish I had missed the first time that we kissed

'Cause you broke all your promises

 

It wasn’t too hard to find Nathan’s truck. Duke had only three spots in mind for where his friend could have gone to say goodbye to his father. It’s not that he had much to say about the old Chief, he wasn’t too involved in his business but Nathan’ father had certainly been a thorn in his side and a contributing factor to the greater divide between Nathan and Duke.

Nevertheless Duke was apprehensive over the sudden appearance of Evi in his hidden corner of the world but not as much of a jerk not to realize his friend had the week from hell. So, yes he would help him anyway he could, even if that meant digging a grave or listening to him reminisce about the good old days with his old man. Days he couldn’t exactly relate to but understood meant the world to Nathan.

 

And now you're back

You don't get to get me back

 

Nathan had a warm coffee in his hand when he boarded the Rouge the next day and a stupid smirk on his face. It was a bit irritating how much it put Duke’s mind at ease.

Nathan  even made him laugh, listing some of the stupid shit they managed to survive before reality forced them apart, before his career path separated them, and the troubles threw them back together for a spin.

One could see the strain at the corner of their eyes, in the half smiles splitting their weather rugged faces, and their exhausted bodies spread over the sofas. It didn’t matter though, Nathan had someone that knew him to spend this key moment with and Duke didn’t have to face meeting up with Evi as long as he stayed put at home. It had to count for something.

That special moment put his life in perspective in an odd way. Duke had grown up here and he was already stronger for it. He didn’t give his trust easily but life had been good nevertheless, he had a boat that he called home, and a business that allowed him to help whoever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Evi could add to his trouble but not to his pain anymore, because she clearly now belonged to his past.

 

Who do you think you are?

Runnin' 'round leaving scars

Collecting your jar of hearts

And tearing love apart

 

There were unshed tears behind his scrunched eyelids as he tried to breathe in through the strong emotions that were threatening to swallow him whole at this moment. The card in his hand suddenly became the most precious of mementos, the words able to soothe the deep-buried pain, reminding him that rising like a Phoenix had been possible.

 

Who do you think you are?

 

And now in the care of Audrey and at some level Nathan, as the dawn of a new year appeared, he knew the scars had long disappeared, fading off his skin, replaced in his mind by the dreams of a better tomorrow. Glancing at the sympathy and condolence cards friends left  on the table in front of him for Nathan and the Chef no one was ready to say goodbye to, he paused recognizing the writing on a note meant for him...

 

Collecting your jar of hearts

And tearing love apart

 

For so long he was convinced he had no heart to give or to lose and as the Troubles settled into town he finally found that it was just misguided thoughts. Now, thanks to this simple card, he felt like one of those astonishing albatrosses he admired so much.

Feeling like his whole body was soaring in flight, the swooping falls and rises over the wind currents giving him the freedom to simply be, not weighted down by fears, by bad memories, by regrets but instead reaching out to the essential dynamics that were purely him.

Everything that was captivating to him, that brought him enchanting pleasures and allowed him to be intrepid was finally unlocked. He finally could look forward, nothing holding him back.

 

Don't come back for me

Don't come back at all

 

He looked past the card in his hand to the fire burning in the chimney. The sparks allowed shadows to change the warm luminosity of the room. The glow from the hearth was the perfect counterpoint to the way his heart felt; safe, scintillating, happy and eager to reach out to the ceiling, to the sky, to the unlimited abilities he knew he had.

And it didn’t matter that soon it would die, left to sparkling embers disappearing and living behind smoldering smoke, because he had found who he really was; a better man than his former self, someone who wasn’t afraid of finding his own nobility, of opening up to the ones his heart chose, of helping those that had nobody else to touch them, to help them and understand them...