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Here We Go Again

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It takes longer than Rook wants to admit to work out that something's not right. He's already crashed a few cars by that point, been shoved off a cliff, been savaged by a wolverine, and fallen through a few - several - hails of bullets. He's walked away every time, sometimes after dragging himself stiffly, groggily, off the floor first. He hadn't really questioned any of it at the time. Since there are usually a lot of things happening at once, all of which seem to require his immediate and focused attention. He'd just bandaged the worst of it, popped a few aspirin for the headache and headed for the next potential explosion.

It's only after a Peggie shoots him point blank with a rocket launcher, that he realises something a lot weirder is going on than a doomsday cult taking over an entire county.

He's afraid to test it, because even with what might be considered strong evidence it's still insane. Who would be crazy enough to test something like that. But it only takes a few more raids to a cultist outpost, a few bullet holes in his shirt that he doesn't quite recall being that bad, and one unexpected and very unpleasant mauling by a bear. Rook's not naturally clumsy, it's just that this is a pretty stressful situation, and he hasn't had a lot of time to slow down and really think about it. Getting Joseph Seed was always supposed to be dangerous, so there'd been a plan, to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible. Only nothing went smoothly, and now he has no plan, and things have pretty much been constantly on fire ever since.

Once it does slow down a little though...that's when Rook notices, and then can't stop noticing.

Rook is starting to suspect he may be technically immortal.

It takes a long time to sink in. It takes longer for him to even take the idea somewhat seriously.

Rook doesn't really consider himself religious. The whole God/no God/maybe God? equation has been mostly irrelevant to his life so far. But he figures if God was going to send someone on a divine mission to take down a delusional cult, it probably wouldn't be him. There must be a bunch of true believers around here that are just as good at shooting at things, and driving over things, and dropping from zip-lines in the perfect way to break a man's neck - probably not that last one, he spent an awful lot of time climbing things as a child. But the others, they're not exactly rare talents around here. The only other alternative is that he's just a freak of nature, that it's not even an Eden's Gate specific situation, though that was definitely the point where it became noticeable. Maybe he's always been immortal, he's just never come this close to dying before?

He guesses it's hard to notice you're immortal when you're not being constantly shot at.

Rook kind of wants to hash the idea out with someone, but he's worried they'll think he's crazy. There are an awful lot of crazy people in Hope County, and he'd rather not be put in the same category as them, if he can help it.

"I don't think I can die," he says to the shape sat beside him. "I think I'm immortal."

The shape makes a rumbling noise that might be supportive, or a demand that Rook throw a ball.

Boomer doesn't care that he's immortal. Rook scratches him behind the ears, and watches his leg kick in the dust.

"Yeah, you're a good boy."

~

After a taxing morning spent blowing up shrines, and rescuing people held by cultists at the side of the road - seriously how does that happen so frequently - Rook spends the evening being non-consensually baptised. It's a traumatic experience, that isn't made any better by the fact that he manages not to drown during it. No thanks to John Seed's unnecessary enthusiasm.

The man is certainly dangerously enthusiastic when it comes to his hobbies.

Rook does not enjoy their introduction.

Joseph Seed is about an eight on the crazy scale. Just two points away from 'bag of cats,' since, scary as that man is, he can still fake normal if he tries really hard. Rook could do without the inappropriate touching, but all of the Seeds seem to think boundary issues are a problem for other people. Rook briefly worries that the man is going to sense something off about him. That he's going to know somehow about Rook's weirdness. But as far as he can tell he's treated almost exactly the same as the others.

His rescue isn't exactly a rousing success though. Rook is seventy-five percent sure that he dies in the crash, for the simple reason that everyone else does.

Still, Pastor Jerome looks really happy to see him, so maybe it's the thought that counts.

~

Eventually someone else was bound to notice.

"It can't be, I mean, it can't, right? People aren't - people aren't just immortal." Nick is still pacing at the back of the hanger, hat crooked. He keeps looking at Rook, in a vaguely pleading way, as if he wants him to protest, or tell him that it was all a joke.

Rook is sympathetic, honestly he'd probably had the same conflicted, disbelieving face at the beginning. Immortality isn't something people should be able to just take in stride. Especially not when it was happening to you. Though Rook is taking the opportunity, while Nick is freaked out, to drink all his beer. It's only fair, he's been the one dying all over the valley after all. If he'd stayed dead they probably would have drank one for him anyway. It's beer that would have been drunk either way.

"That's just crazy," Nick continues. "That's like made up TV stuff. Comic book stuff. People are not immortal in real life, damn it."

"Pretty sure he is," Grace offers, from where she's perched on one of the toolboxes, feet kicked up. "I didn't believe it either, until I saw him fall off a radio tower."

Which, as evidence goes, is pretty damning, those things are really fucking high.

"I think I was actually shot off the tower." Rook feels like he has to make that point. It had taken him ages to grapple up there, and he'd been annoyed about it when he woke up in the dirt. He hadn't even had time to rifle through the backpack and weapons crate he'd found up there. Or appreciate the view, check for zip-lines. He's getting far too attached to the zip-lines, sometimes he does it just for the hell of it. Even if he doesn't have to be anywhere it's going.

"People have survived shit like that though, right?" Nick says, pointing at Rook. "Freak chance, one in a million."

"He landed on his head," Grace says flatly.

Rook manages not to wince. Even though he hadn't really felt it, just a rush of air, and then soreness and a lot of complaining afterwards.

"And you saw him get shot in the head by that Peggie fuck."

"I thought I saw that." Nick rubs at his eyes under the glasses. "It was bright, I wasn't exactly -"

"You touched the goddamn bullet hole," Grace reminds him.

Rook pulls a face at him, because he hadn't heard that part, and he feels like that's the sort of thing he should probably call someone out for. People's dead bodies shouldn't be molested if they needed to use them again.

"I really thought that part was a hallucination," Nick finally says quietly. "See a lot of weird things if you stare into the sun for too long. A lot of things which turn out to be a trick of the light later."

"I've seen him get up enough times when he shouldn't have done." That seems to be the end of the matter for Grace.

Nick drops heavily into a chair. He's clearly having more trouble with the concept. He says nothing for a minute, just shaking his head slowly and cracking open his own beer, drinking a third of it, then half, before setting it down.

"So, are you on some sort of divine mission from God or something?"

Rook pauses with his own beer halfway tilted up, carefully lowers it.

"I really hope not," he says slowly. Because he's thought about it more than a few times now, and that's a little too much pressure for him. He'd rather be a freak of nature, if he has any say in the matter.

"Probably best," Nick says, nodding. "Never really ends well for them does it. Plagues of things, pillars of salt and all that."

"So you just randomly can't die?" Grace doesn't sound quite as convinced.

"Grace, would you want to wake up one morning and find out you were on a divine mission from God, and an entire county was relying on you to prevent an apocalypse?"

Grace stares at him for a moment, before she sighs and picks up her own beer.

"Fuck no," she says finally, and finishes it in one pour.

Nick smacks Rook to get his attention.

"What does it feel like when you die - not die, the not dying part. When you go...wherever it is you go. Do you see stuff, bright lights and everything? Does anyone talk to you?"

Nick looks like he's bracing himself for something. Rook doesn't think he really wants to know the answers to any of those questions.

He shakes his head.

"Nope, I don't see anything, half the time I don't even notice I've died. Sometimes I know that there's time missing where I'm fairly sure I was dead, or should have been dead." Rook sets his beer down. "It's not like I wake up healed. I'm still all bruised and grazed and bloody. But it's like anything that happens to me that's debilitating or permanent, just gets, I don't know, fixed."

"Have you always been like this?" Grace asks.

Rook opens his mouth, and then shuts it again, and really thinks about it. He remembers scraping up the skin on his knees and shins, losing a strip off his hand jumping into a river as a kid. But he doesn't remember busting an arm or a leg, doesn't remember anything that actually broke him. He honestly doesn't know the answer to that question.

He shrugs.

"I don't think so. Probably not. I mean I would have noticed before now, right? That's the sort of thing you'd notice? I think it's just since I came to arrest Joseph."

There it is again, that unpleasant connection to Joseph Seed that he keeps rubbing up against.

"People are shooting at you on a daily basis now," Nick agrees. "That's a lot of potential to be hitting the dirt. You've been making friends all over the map."

"The kind of friends that shoot at you, I'm not so fond of," Grace says firmly.

"If we refused to talk to everyone that took a shot at us we'd have -" Nick catches Kim looking at him from across the room. "Probably one less friend, or two, no more than three."

~

Rook has never been as popular as he is right now. There are posters of him, though he has no idea how or when anyone took that stupid picture of him. He looks like the world's worst outdoors wear model. He's going to chalk it up to Eden's Gate's creepy ability to know everything that goes on in the region. Almost everything, he's pretty sure he's killed all the Peggies who've seen him die at this point. He's not looking forward to what happens when they find out they have to try extra hard to get him to stay dead.

Even the thought of it is more than a little unsettling.

It seems safe to assume that Dutch has seen him die, though he hasn't mentioned it in any of his terse messages. Maybe he doesn't think it's important. Maybe he just figures it was a drunk hallucination? Or maybe the grouchy old bastard has gotten to the stage where nothing surprises him any more. Hell, Rook's a few decades younger than him and he's close to hitting that stage himself.

That's what getting your throat ripped out by a bear for the second time will do for you.

~

Rook's second meeting with John Seed goes even worse than the first.

Though there's less potential to be drowned, there is instead the threat of immediate physical violence. He also can't help but notice the restraints, the uncomfortable boundary issues, and then the personal stories with more than a hint of underlying sexual frustration. Cult membership doesn't seem to be working out all that well for the sadomasochist with poor impulse control. Huh, who could have ever guessed.

Rook is not loving the selection of tools strewn across the table. Since torture is, after all, a focused and determined effort to make sure someone doesn't die. And Rook's powers do not extend to being able to tear himself out of very competently tied restraints.

John turns around very briefly, slips something off the table and then comes close.

In far too little time, there's a screwdriver point settled at the meat of Rook's waist, sharp edge turning slowly against the cotton of his shirt, bunching the fabric back and forth. Rook can see the length of the thing, and all his stomach muscles pull in at the thought of it.

John feels it, he feels that crawling tension and smiles.

"The whispers I've heard about you. The things you've made people believe." John shakes his head like Rook is a child who's disappointed him.

Rook can't think of anything to say that's going to make John not do what he's about to do. He's pretty sure he's going to do it anyway no matter what.

He takes a breath and he waits.

John sees it, and shrugs, like it makes no difference to him.

"But lies are easily disproved by the truth." The metal stops turning. John's hand tightens until the metal digs in, and then he pushes, slowly, because he's a fucking asshole. The world goes all bright colours of pain, once John is through that second of resistance. Rook makes a noise, loud and deeply unhappy, catching when his lungs are empty.

Before he's breathing clear again, and the screwdriver is right in front of him, slick red almost to the hilt. Rook can't quite remember how to act like he's horribly wounded. He leans into the memory of an ache and tries his best.

John smiles at him, like this is his favourite part of the day. Which, considering how their interactions have gone so far, it just might be. Rook is not happy to be a participant.

Unfortunately John is the kind of man who likes to get his hands on other people's weaknesses. He tugs Rook's shirt out of his pants, draws it up, and Rook doesn't need to look down to know that the skin is bloody but whole again. Debilitating wounds never stay. John presses his hand there, finds nothing but blood, and falters.

He ends up staring between Rook and the bloody screwdriver with a sort of confused bewilderment, and that shouldn't be funny in such a fucked up situation, but it sort of is.

"You...I stabbed you." John doesn't sound certain. You'd think John Seed would be a man who'd remember a thing like that. "No, no, no that's not possible."

John makes a noise, uncertain, and then determined, and the screwdriver angles upwards.

"Don't," Rook says, instinctively, because he'd rather not get stabbed in the chest, immortality or not.

John gets a grip on his hair and pulls his head back, so Rook has no choice but to look him in the face.

"Why? Because you'll survive it? Because you'll bleed but you won't die. That's what they say. I don't know how you managed to make them believe that, I punished them. I punished all of them for their lies. Because how could that possibly be true. Hmm?"

Rook's eyes flick to Hudson, still tied up on the other side of the room.

"Answer me, or I'll put this through her hand and then ask again," John says quietly.

"Yes," Rook says, because what else is he supposed to say?

John nods for him to continue.

"Yes?" he prompts.

"I'll survive," Rook says flatly. Because it's the truth.

John stares down at him, expression conflicted and angry. It's the look of someone who's been explicitly told not to kill someone. But Rook gets the impression that Joseph's probably very firm command is now butting up against John's own personal flavour of crazy. Which seems to take an issue with Rook's refusal to bleed for him.

Rook is honestly not sure which one's going to win.

Until John smiles a wide and slightly terrifying smile

"Let's both take a leap of faith."

The screwdriver moves very fast, and life is very painful for a second - before it's not.

When the world swims into focus, he has John's Seed's hand pressed to the side of his face, warm and unpleasant, eyes watching him from far too close, he's breathing very deeply. He looks caught somewhere between fascination and awe. It's a disturbing combination. He has good eyes, very blue, Rook would have said they were his best feature, if he wasn't a raving psychotic.

"It is true," John says thickly, and Rook can feel the smear of his own blood when his fingers move. "You can't die, you can't die, you can't fucking die." John laughs and then abruptly stops laughing, shakes his head and leans uncomfortably close. "My men said you were special, said you couldn't be killed." John exhales, the screwdriver hits the floor next to the chair, rolls away, and now both hands are on Rook's face, tight and faintly tacky. "But how could that possibly be true? Who could blame me for not believing."

Rook catches a look at Hudson's face behind John's shoulder, and her eyes are wide behind smeared make-up. The rattled stillness of grief turning into confused disbelief.

"But now I do." John sinks to the floor before Rook's chair, as if to share secrets. "Now I have seen it with my own eyes. I should have known better." John breathes another laugh that seems more delight than amusement.

Rook thinks he may have broken him.

"What does it feel like? What does it feel like to be reborn over and over? To be Chosen?" John asks. It's almost a whisper, and the rehearsed salesman is completely gone from his voice. Now it just sounds throaty and desperate. "What are you here for? Did He send you? Did you come to join us? Did you come for Joseph? Did you come for me?"

"No," Rook says simply, to all of those questions.

John shakes his head, a flat refusal to accept that answer. Rook suspects he's just making up his own at this point. John crowds in close, presses his forehead against Rook's, and much as Rook would like to push him away he's still tied to a chair.

"Am I the one who's supposed to show you the way? Now you've died at my hand. What else am I supposed to show you? What else am I supposed to do?" John seems to be talking to himself now.

He moves Rook's shirt out of the way, staring at the line of red that's now the only proof he killed him. He lays his clean hand there, and it's warm and uncomfortably familiar, faintly sweaty.

"You could hold everyone's sins, could bear them all and come through whole," John says breathlessly, and he smiles up at him.

"Uh," Rook says uncertainly. Because he thinks this is going somewhere strange and unsettling, and he's the one that just got stabbed in the heart.

But John seems to get something else entirely from Rook's quiet noise of discomfort. He turns his head back over his shoulder.

"You're right. This isn't a moment for witnesses." John stands, shoes grating on the floor, he moves over to Hudson, and grips the back of her chair.

For her part Hudson still looks like she has no idea how to react to any of this. Rook can't blame her, he's been winging it so far, if he's honest.

"I'll be back," John promises him, something delirious in his smile, and Rook knows he's probably not going to like anything that happens when John gets back. Whether it involves sharp implements or not, he's not going to like it.

The moment the door shuts behind him, Rook starts awkwardly moving. He doesn't want to leave Hudson, really, he doesn't. But at this point it seems prudent to get the fuck out of here. He slides his chair backwards until he finds the stairs, and takes a painful dive all the way down them. He can't tell if it kills him, but he ends up winded and aching at the bottom.

He finds a Peggie.

Takes the Peggie's gun.

And with that Rook escapes from the crazy man, and back into the - it turns out - extraordinarily dangerous wilds of Montana.