I-i-i'm going to be allowed off the base?”
“Yes Icarus. You will be monitored that you get to where we are sending you. You are the first one we have selected so I don't think you'd like to let us down, would you Svlad?”
The young boy shook his head fervently. He had been in the same place since he had turned twelve and he had been itching to find out if the world really did look how imagined it or if it was like Riggins had said it was. A world without colour, and without help for people. The boy didn't quite believe that. Everyone needed some form of help surely? And if there was no colour, how could he see the green outside when he tried to sneak a few years ago when he knew no one was looking?
That attempt had left him with a a beating or two from Priest and an extremely disappointed sigh from Riggins although it didn't stop him from trying once or twice more. He couldn't help it if he wanted something other than grey day in day out and having to answer questions or having needles pinned and pricked into him every morning and afternoon. Couldn't help if sometimes he felt so alone he cried until he could give nothing back, not even to his usual nightmares. He thought this place would have been something better. Somewhere he could have understood why the universe treated him like a rag doll yet here he was. Beaten and bruised and sometimes knocked into unconsciousness and far far too thin and his brain constantly whirring unless he was having to focus on breathing after another panic attack because he had caught onto to something which could have resulted in him not being sedated and strapped down for an event happening too late.
The sixteen year old had known nothing else and maybe this was meant to be his path for being unable to predict his mother's death and his father's mysterious disappearing act. He'd hidden in his home until Riggins and Mr Priest had come to collect him a week afterwards curled into a ball crying on his mother's coat, holding his father's old watch. Both had been taken from him the minute he entered Blackwing. He hadn't seen them again.
A blade against his cheek brought him back into reality fairly quickly, the boy scowling as he did so, this action having being repeated at least daily whenever he went against Priest's orders to quiet and be the experiment he was supposed to. Riggins knelt down beside him. Blackwing wasn't kind and he didn't want to be here any longer than he could. Every thought he had grew worse the longer he was kept in his prison. Riggins had promised him that at the age of fourteen, he'd be free to go. He'd lied. He tried not to meet either of the adult's unfeeling but maybe feeling eyes.
“You are special Project Icarus, and we want you somewhere we can trust while you're learning. You will be able to learn how to help your hunches and us more afterwards, which I know you'd like, wouldn't you?”
Svlad nodded. Knew if he did anything other than that, he'd be left in the complete darkness. He didn't think Riggins would lie about that at least.
“How soon would I be going?”
“You have to sit the exams in 3 weeks in the school gym with a few others trying out for theirs as well, so you get to be familiar with your surroundings if you make your way in, so you'll be going then. You will have an intensive course with someone we bring in and you will listen to them to make sure you get into their sixth form. We will supply you with the needed school uniform and equipment and housing. You're bright and we will not waste that”
“And if you do, I'll be right here Icarus. Waiting. Oh baby I love this place” Priest chimed in as he glanced round before he was dragged along with Riggins outside of his door. Leaving the boy to his thoughts.
A file was placed down into Svlad's hands the next day describing who he would be, how he would look and how he would act. He'd be the most closed off person only focusing on his work and making one close relationship with someone. Only one. They were not letting his time outside the base be for anything but their results.
He had almost teared up upon receiving the file. He had been hoping for something more. Something....lingering.
Instead a person in a lab coat gave him the file and scattered as he opened it hoping it would be something really cool and adult! Somewhere where he could start afresh, be someone who he wanted to be not what they'd made for him!
Which is exactly what Blackwing had already done by the time he'd gotten down to the end of the first page. Who was he anyways away from Blackwing? Did they not think he might like to try that out? Why was he even doing this? Who cared? He just wanted something new!
The thought entered into his brain How are they going to know? They're not going with you. After they let you through the entrance exam, they're leaving you there. They're dumping you and leaving, not doing anything else with you....you could just...do what you want to. You don't have to do what they tell you too. You could decide who you are instead. Leave this behind when you pass the exam. No one decides who you are or what you do. Not anymore. Not Blackwing. Only you. New could be on the horizon.
For the first time since he had been brought into Blackwing, Svlad smiled. He shut the folder sliding it back underneath the door for the same lab person to take it back to whoever was keeping hold of it and lay down on his rather uncomfortable bed, mind clear thinking about who Posner would be. He was not being called Richard for a start. Or dying his hair or just being able to simply 'forget' his Romanian although he'd lost the accent fairly early on living on the base. He could keep it on the down low so they never knew though. Keep it as a treasured memory towards his parents.
He went across the alphabet not having any name come to him until he hit the D names and his eyes lit up. He spoke to Moloch about it during his last visit with him first apologising for leaving and the next that David sounded like a fun name! He'd heard it a few times across his childhood, an uncle or something maybe not that he could have remembered that, and from one of the projects the colonel had let him see once or twice before they had been blasted for running out of the CIA building by Priest. They'd fallen to the floor and then to ash. He focused back on Moloch.
David sounded nice. He'd quite like to be called David. It sounded fun in his head. And it went with Posner really well! That was unexpected! Knowing he wasn't being monitored somehow. he knelt across and attempted to give Moloch a quick hug even if he couldn't give it back as a form of goodbye. Something still felt odd there, didn't know what but Moloch felt a bit out of turn whenever he visited. He shook his head. He could solve that mystery later.
He had some packing to do.
Description of a panic attack! It's not very mild but it's also not incredibly severe so just be careful if you are reading!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sheffield wasn't exactly the brightest of places, in fact it looked quite drab and dull. The church across the way seemed to radiate something calm and the park wasn't too shabby and he himself looked as if he was not one day from keeling over due to his wright and somewhat nervous exterior, but he'd gotten through the entrance exams so here he was. He had just about gotten along with his tutor, if anything she seemed to feel for him and detest the colonel and told him to really study so he got out. The boy had really liked that lady. They'd been driving round in circles for what felt like two experiments in two days despite it being bigger than Blackwing and then the car just stopped. He was told to get out, had his bags, keys and pencil case thrown at him and the person had just driven away like he'd been told.
Guessed now was the time was to get used to being alone. At least more alone than he had been physically. Mentally...was different. He grabbed tight of the key going up to the lock placing to twist it round hearing it click making his way inside to the fairly spaced house. It could have been another cell for all this charm so this was nice! It was just here maybe if he took down that ugly shade of brown wall paper and change it to maybe a nice purple with some white flowers it would brighten his spirits. There must be a little bit of money the CIA siphoned across as a precaution. On the plus side, there was an entire place to himself! Project Icarus seemed to become non existent as he went deeper into where he'd be living finding odd bits and pieces and noting that thankfully all the appliances seemed to work. He didn't know how to work most of them, but he could learn. He hoped.
The teen took a deep breath in. Let the deep breath out. Today was the day he was assuming his role of David Posner. He'd cut his hair the minute he'd found the scissors in the kitchen, it had grown far too much for his liking and he hated the tangles all before then stared in distaste at the clothing they'd only just guessed the correct sizes for set on the hangers in his wardrobe. The bed however had given him of the best sleeps he'd ever possibly gotten. No lumps or pain in sleeping on something too small for him.
He pushed through some of the mismatched t-shirts and found his uniform. The white t-shirt and black trousers with a tie he'd have to figure out how to put on, walked to the next room grabbing his book-bag to stepping outside into the fairly hot sun and then it was a quick cycle to the school he'd been shown by the man who'd dropped him off yesterday in the car. Not knowing how to ride said bike, it was a few times before he could even balance without missing one of the breaks. Figuring he'd have to catch on quick, he donned the bike promptly falling off it again. David Posner needed to ride a bike. Not having it was not an option. The universe needed to comply. After a few minutes and one swear or two later again kicking it into the proper gear smiling as he pulled the book-bag behind him now setting off past the church, past the families walking with their children and past a weirdly enthusiastic and shaped bunch of boys all yelling and laughing over each other as they shoved one another into the road and into each other, but back before a car could seriously hurt them. As he rode a bit further he noted they were having a discussion about something called a revolution and South Africa's government turning into what Priest would call an argument but the Rowdies would call a debate. That was strange. Mainly because the 'debates' back in America used to be about whether or not he'd get to eat that day. All of this seemed so....embracing. Calm.
It must be nice to have that sort of thing the boy had thought as he took his mind off figuring out how to stop the bike met the ground fully ready to tell it off along with the rest of the universe for allowing him to take him off his easy journey when the earlier group of boys he'd passed not a few minutes ago had instantly rushed over towards him all looking various states of concerned. No one had ever pulled those faces around...never would. Projects were projects. One of the faces had pulled out a comb and started running it through his hair when he noticed the man on the ground's eyes had opened aware and alert hanging back letting his friends take over.
“Heya, you alright? Nasty fall. I've done that once or twice but never near these gates. Imagine braining yourself on them. Need a leg up? Guessing from the uniform you're new. Notice how mine actually fits like? Hector did mention we'd be expecting some stuffy know it all with a passion for giving him headaches. You don't look anything like by the way, and your tie is wonky, let me fix that for you before Felix comes round and scoffs. Be awful getting detention on your first day. I'm Adil. Adil Akthar by the way” He said as he nodded to the boys to help pick the bicycle, and for some of the others to help the boy up frowning when he flinched a little at the fairly gentle contact. The accent was also very thick. Almost like his father's. Before everything went south. It felt a little bit nice really. Even with his Romanian roots.
“Our Scripps does the same thing and you know it, no point trying to hide it! Is it a new bike by any chance, it doesn't look as if it fits your frame and the handlebars are far too far apart for you, you need them closer together, I can take you to the local shop if ya like later or I can fix it for you, shouldn't be too hard. Me dad's a mechanic even if it's to fit that dodgy tyre. He's a bit cheaper than the local. What? He seems as green as they come! Or we can at least whenever we're done listening on to Hector whinge on and on about the great romantics. If they were so great that no one else could get a word in edge ways, what's the point?"
“Ah shut it Jimmy! You know love learning about Byron and all the ways in his letters. I'm sure the kid can fend for himself, who cares honestly? Now can we go? We'll be late otherwise and I'd rather not stay any longer with this conversation. He's clearly fine and this is boring me” The boy with the comb then pocketed it and started walking away with the rest straggling behind afterwards, most of them rolling their eyes. Only one stayed behind shaking his head at his friend's.
“Hey. I'm Don. Donald” A hand being held out at the same time.
“But I thought they just called you Scripps?” He tried making his accent to fit the boys one's making his a little thicker than first planned. Hard going but he did it somehow.
“Oh aye! You're more than a bit green no matter how much you're trying not to be! There's no hiding here, at least not with me if you like. Well there's no time like the present to learn, there will be time I assure ya. As for the name thing, my first name is Donald but I go by my surname Scripps a lot. It's just easier. There's a lot of Donald's around right now according to my mum and honestly when anyone calls me Donald, I assume it's a telling off. I've been Scripps to my friends since the lower years and I imagine I'll be known as Scripps until I die. Listen, I have to go into class before Hector decides it's hilarious to start an ongoing tangent about how we're all being stunted by a curriculum with no joy in learning into a fairly hopeless lust-less career but seeing as you're new, you need to go visit Felix. Our headmaster? Jesus, how green are you?! He's down the corridor as you turn right into that first building and it should be by the stairs. You can't miss it, not when it's got his blasted name on it. I imagine you'll hear him before you see him. Put your bike with the lock here and it should remain untouched by the end of the day. Listen I really have to go but it was nice to meet you even if it was on the ground. Don't be a stranger now!”
Felix wasn't at all like he was expecting. His new head reminded him a bit too much of the ways of Blackwing. He had the same glint in his eyes the way Riggins had. The results were the most important thing to gather and keep and the rest would be sod all. He felt all jittery.
The minute he'd been given his time table and a speech about the wonderful schooling he'd receive and not to mess any of it up, he'd had to go and have a quiet moment outside alone. It was all happening so quickly. How had he thought he'd be so prepared earlier, this was......something else. Keeping up the accent, keeping up the appearance all while thinking that this was the time he'd be having his blood taken or having Priest kick his shins when he got a question wrong. Could still feel the universe swirling round his brain wanting him to go this way and that and not letting him rest at all. Only stopping when the boys started to talk to him, kept in a mannered way. And yet....he was in a school corridor waiting to go to a lesson in clothing that apparently only just about fit him, and the only bruises he'd gotten was his pure embarrassment from falling over early this morning. The people had seemed nice, but nice never really cut it. The labs proved that daily.
He had to take a breath, he needed to take it now. He couldn't be David Posner if he couldn't start getting rid of Project Icarus. Of Blackwing. If he couldn't get at least try to get rid of the faces of the people who'd wanted to hurt him for so long. If he couldn't get rid of...of...Svlad Cjelli.
Despite the hands shaking, the glance at the timetable showed that at 10am, he had a lesson in History with Mrs Lintott and it was all the way (if he was reading this map right, if at all, it was quite flippy as well, he could easily have ripped it, what was the point if it was flippy?) across the building.
The shaking had to stop, he'd break the paper at this rate and he had to breathe as he now leaned against the cool brick of the wall not thinking of the way that if Priest was here, he'd have had his head bashed against it.
A hand bracing the shaking arm brought him out of it along with a person asking to follow their breathing.
“Jesus. We leave you alone for an hour and all of a sudden you look as if you're going to be making way for the funny farm!”
“I know it's hard because you're so accustomed to it, but you don't have to be this much of a tosser this early in the morning Dakin”
“I..i believe I got lost looking for Mrs Lintott's classroom. I don't suppose you two know where I happen to be going?”
Scripps and Dakin shared a look between them at the avoidance at what had just happened, at the fact the boy seemed to be calming down with the kind and constant reassurance then onto the fact that they were all going to be sharing a class now. Thank God it was people he'd met earlier. He sent a silent thank you up the sky. Dakin – the boy who'd had the comb earlier, and honestly if he looked further it was quite nice hair which shaped his face a little nicely, that looked very nice actually – snorted as Scripps' face started to turn more towards concerned than bemused.
“Hand us your time table then. Yep thought so. Wouldn't be with us lot if you weren't bright at least despite your prat falls. We have the same class, you can follow our lead. Well come on then Donald, help our lost lamb find his way. At least this way if you start quoting something, there's another person who might actually want to listen”
“And they say love is dead”
“Only mine for yours. Hurry up, I don't fancy getting yelled at twice in one week! Even if it is to help this one”
“We'd be there already if you'd stopped yacking. Honestly Stu. Come on then....uh sorry I don't think I..we actually caught your name earlier”
The weirdness between the two talking had made him slightly confused as he attempted to calm down. Was this all people talked in the outside world? And how were you meant to respond? Only his first day and already he'd failed most of it. And Scripps had called Dakin 'Stu', what did that even mean? Another surname thing? Then all of a sudden they'd been asking for his name. What was his name? He knew he had one, the other one. Lying seemed to be of the essence. The present staring him in the face. The very horrifying tricky present.
“My name's David. David Posner. Some of the people where I was before used to call me Pos. And didn't you say we'd be late if we don't get a move on? I'd quite like to go to one lesson at least today"
Ahh look the boys have just met! I'll be honest, this might be one my favourite scenes to ever have been written. God bless them History Boys. Which is your fav out of the boys?
Bit hot in the UK right now, isn't it? Anyone else melting like the wicked witch of the west?
Mrs Lintott was...interesting. At least he thought interesting was the correct word. No nonsense, and there were no tricks with her as far as he could tell, and he'd know about tricks after all. She'd welcomed him into her classroom, hoped they'd get along and provide sensible answers with allowances to be thoughtful, engaging, critical and to please take a seat.
He'd liked Mrs Lintott instantly.
He took the one in the front row and watched as Scripps and Dakin sat next to each other bashing each other's elbows as they took out their books and pencil cases out switching when they noticed one of the other needed a
spare ruler or had the other's textbook. Without even having to speak a word. The boys from the group with Scripps and Dakin earlier also started to filter in nodding to the teacher settling down ready to listen taking out their own school items. Akthar came and sat down right next to him pulling his book out and sticking his pencil behind his ear smiling at him asking if he had been all right making his way round so far. All the new boy could do to answer that question was make an attempt to smile and ignore the flailing in his chest that he did not have any of this equipment.
“Mr Posner, do you not have your books with you?”
With a small pep talk to himself about trying to really get into the role (and save himself from a bashing) he thought of what his fake persona would say if found in this position. His fake persona who he was discovering he maybe wanted to be. David Posner seemed like a person who actually had friends, some form of style and hopeful to be able to have the discussions he had heard earlier. Hopefully with his natural ability to pick things up study wise, he'd be able to get catch up with anything he'd missed having not had a proper education, all in all he didn't feel as ready for it as he did this morning, maybe it was late nerves popping in. Maybe it was the way the teacher stared reminding him of where he had been not a few days ago. He squirmed a little as he met her eyes spilling out his sentence.
“I....my parents didn't have enough time this morning as we arrived only last night. Only my uniform was here on time. I'll have them by tomorrow at the latest”
“Very well. I am aware you are new so I will let this slide once. However don't let it happen again. We are organised, ruthless and prepared in my lessons and not in the least willing to give way to whatever our esteemed headmaster wants. But if there is anything I would wish for you to walk away with – and I say this for all my boys as the rest of you well know – it is for your head to be held high, acknowledge the truth, listen to your instincts, and look out for your fellow classmates. We are not one left behind, we are a unit. Long may it reign. Now, today we are going to talk about Rome, Pompeii and a whole host of other things that the school boards believe I should be teaching but are so far nowhere near your exams that I want to let you all learn about art and the movements of Galileo himself instead, and no Mr Crowther you may not quote me on that”
“God, I thought today was never going to end. Thought I was going to go barmy” Came the voice of the person now known as Jimmy.
“You are barmy”
“Oh, score one for Rudge! He got you good Jim! Get in my son!”
The eight of them were walking out of the school gates loosening or losing their ties round their necks and flinging jackets over themselves walking towards some sort of white van tossing each other round again. Back in Blackwing, the boy knew that if you heard a van, it usually meant you were being carried round to the closed off part of the facility. Sound proofed. No one could get in or out without a key. He had to stop his hands balling into fists.
“What's wrong? Only the ice cream van. It's bloody boiling, and seeing as you haven't got basically anything on you and I think that extends to cash, do you want one? Don't even have to pay me back”
“I-i-i....I don't think I've ever really had ice cream. At least if I have, I can't really remember. I think I was quite young the last time”
Scripps stared at him. In shock or horror he really didn't understand. He grabbed Akthar by the shoulders.
“Oi, oi, what are you grabbing me for? I was just about to get mine!”
“He's never had ice cream. Never!”
“You what? How have you? How? It's almost like a kid's treat...well unless you count the fact that basically every adult goes for one. Don't let Scripps buy you one though, you'll end up needing less than you thought. He keeps asking for extra, the man's always sighing. Lockwood, oi! Jim! Get one for Pos!”
Akthar moved towards Lockwood to explain as Scripps rolled his eyes moving to make way for the other passer's by, and to make more conversation with 'David'.
“So, first day alright? I take it after we've eaten these - and don't wolf it down by the way, don't need you getting ill for your second day - I imagine that you'll be needing your bike? I need to get mine as well, I accidentally left it there yesterday after I got a lift back. Chain and all. Actually I think I live near you but you zoomed past us before I could ask. Past the church and up the hill right? Left or right side? Oh come on, tell us! We can go up and walk together tomorrow morning”
“Yes quite alright I believe. Can't imagine how I got in so late I forgot to get my other school stuff. That'd be nice, I'm still having trouble with getting on it so it'd be good to have someone if I fell. I'm not really one for many people. Actually this might be – even if it's only been one day – the most I've ever really hung round others. Especially one's who've decided to be around me willingly. It's nice. Yes I live up the hill since you asked. Left the minute you've finished the climb actually” The boy hadn't thought about worrying how to shape his new identity since Mrs Lintott's lesson but it seemed to be coming out fairly easily without even thinking about it again. So long as they decided to keep their pulling each other around by the collar away from him and asking what roman emperor was defeated in whatever year, he was happy with his first day.
“Here ya are Pos. I can call you that right? No offence but David sounds like a really old name, refined but not what I'd see you as. And since I'm the one who came up with it, only fair I get first rights and all”
'David' tried not to laugh as he was handed the ice cream over towards him from Jimmy ignoring the face's Scripps and Dakin were making since he had been told he'd been called Pos earlier, all of them sitting down on a wall near the entrance of the school. No one had come to test him, no one had come to beat him and the outside was beautiful. The sun was beaming down on him warming him gently focusing on the nice texture of vanilla and strawberry and now the voices calming him down making them familiar matching up the names to faces in his brain. No raised voices, no needles, no electrocutions or guesswork besides the ones in his English Literature and Psychology classes this afternoon. Thankfully being in a class with Akthar and Scripps in each so he wasn't on his own. Like he had wanted all this to be. Riggins could shove it. The world was lovely, and so were some of the people he'd managed to fall in with. There were others in the classes who'd taken to him as well however these boys....they seemed to be caring the most. Almost as if they had taken him in no matter what he said and just integrated in like they'd never been out of step otherwise.
“You can call me Pos, I don't mind. David actually happens to be a long running name in our family, and I know. A lot of people have said I look like a much different name but they never quite know what. Thank you for this by the way, it's lovely. I think I quite like it!”
“Yeah yeah, whatever. New boy and all that. I'm only doing it the once mind, well unless you get hazed out by any more of our teachers. God some of them can be right bell ends”
This time there were grumblings of agreement.
“So, David? Where are you originally from anyways, don't hear many Posner's about really” Crowther asked gently starting to lean gently on the wall making his way through his own sweet treat.
The quick thinking came into play once more as he tried to form the quickest backstory he could muster. Still smiling. Still eating something that had been gifted without hesitation or backlash. Tried not to eat all of it in one gulp fearing what Scripps would have to say after being told not to.
“I come from a Jewish background. We lived in Israel for a short while. Then my family decided we wanted to live somewhere else. Father got a job, I can't quite remember the details. It took us a while but eventually we wanted citizenship here. Thankfully passed the test after the five year mark. My father especially after the first job wanted somewhere less country like. Needed a place where he knew people existed he used to joke. He has better choices here anyways. There was some problems with where we were. Lot of anger. So I lived in Leeds until I was about ten or so. We all agreed on the moving fairly easily. I think I'll be happier here anyway. I think I'll miss the routine I had built up back there, but nothing else”
“Does this mean you speak Hebrew then?” Piped up Dakin now wiping his hands on the napkin he'd had his ice cream cone on.
“One would assume so” (He did have Jewish ancestry after all, his father spoke the mixture of Hebrew, Romanian and English regularly. It was the one thing he told his son to be proud of. His family and his history and to keep the words in his memory even when far away, He may not have been able to practise most of his Jewish faith before the world became so blackened towards his family but he was not ever going to forget. Blackwing never got to hear a thing, not even when colonel Riggins tried to taunt him about how his mother would be so disappointed, so disappointed Project Icarus)
“And now you're here. You poor daft sod” Rudge spoke up shaking his head.
“Alright lads, I'm finished and off, mum said last time if I stuck around too long I'd be kicked off the stairs without my pants on. Shame she didn't understand that was how Rachael's dad found me and her yesterday. It was only a kiss!” Exclaimed Timms.
“I'll come with you, I need to get home early tonight, it's my turn to do dinner. Pos if you bring yourself and your bicycle, I'll have dad look at it all on the weekend, just means you'll have to cope a little while longer. Don't get yourself tucked into the chains now. See ya tomorrow lads!”
The boys waved the pair off as then Crowther's mother appeared telling him to get his backside home, laughing as they went and offering Rudge a lift as well which he accepted with little grace.
“Dakin and I are planning to go the same way back today, are you going to be alright getting home you two?”
“Don't be too long back, I don't want your mum ringing mine up again because she's and I quote 'lost Don' when actually you were sitting outside your house with a book forgetting to bring your keys out or knock. Try to get our new kid home without corrupting him”
Scripps rolled his eyes, clapped both of his friends on the back watching them go before they went back through the gates to collect their bikes and setting off for home their separate ways.
That week passed by fairly quickly, quicker than expected. He hadn't expected to settle in so easily or start adopting mannerisms akin to Scripps or his sudden crush with Dakin. The fact he stopped being able to meet his eyes so easily turned into the biggest problem since he mixed up Marzanna with Mona.
And all of a sudden it had turned into three months somehow.
They turned into the best three months of his life so far.
He had some friends in each classroom with all his three subjects picking up the texts easily and completing his homework happily all ready for the next day's discussion. He found a Saturday job in the local bookshop which he now aptly hopped on and off his bike to, before cycling to the church on Sundays to meet up with Scripps and go for a quick go round the town or off to his house for the rest of the day including meals. The teen really hadn't wanted this term to finish. Yet couldn't wait for the next one to begin. He may not have ever understood why Hector's helmet was tossed from one boy to another though awkwardness abound. Something tugged at him there for no reason. Not a good universe tug. Mystery for another day.
The group of boys turning into his tiny family always saw him on the way into school, sat near him in History and hung out after school when they were free. Sharing their lunches or let each other into their lives until they had to force themselves to go home. Weird.....just chatting, usually meant they were chatting to get information out of him, but here it was comforting somehow. Trusted information. Life, laughs and gentle teasing. It had taken a while to stop flinching or taking things so personally but he had learned. Just. He'd have to, these boys would pick on anyone and anything. The only thing that was ever off the table was their sexuality and each of their own personal religions.
They'd thankfully never asked more about his background but more about what poems or book he appreciated, and if he liked whatever he heard on the wireless. He was asked about his opinions during class, now finally having gotten to the level of his peers (thank god for those books and the willingness of his neighbours to help educate him, and his sort of quick thinking on the spot) and he felt...calmer.
Calmer in a way he never imagined he would be. There was still some underlying panic some days, some days where he faked being ill to be able not go in because he was so trapped within his memories, hands shaking, mouth whimpering and tears forming but never falling but he had been doing better. Those days the boys either with each other or on their own would without fail appear looking every bit the concerned brother taking in his appearance barging their way in making sure he laughed at least once before going away again.
The eight boys had come to regard him as the youngest of the group that needed looking after and shielding. Scripps most of all, even going so far as turning up at his house to make sure his homework was done and he'd eaten something only every two days of the week. Only all of it was drowned within the constant teasing and swearing saying they still loved him really. Maybe because he was so comfortable with who he was either pretending to be or because it was some form of defying who Blackwing had made him be.
There wasn't any of that surrounding him. Hadn't been for a long while. The waiting game he played with himself growing longer and longer, they weren't keeping tabs on him. No one had been saying projects or Icarus. No one was saying his birth name. Hadn't thought it for a week now himself.
Maybe it had been time to let some of his past settle round him, like dust. Trying to let it go. After all, there was no one else to stop him. Focus on these people around him. The people making him feel like a person not a plaything.
He could focus on just getting an education and enjoying having friends while it lasted. On the care and love instead of resentment. Just enjoy his life. Even the universe seemed to settle down understanding for once he had the grounding to keep going. At least he hoped there were no cases here, and the universe wouldn't punish him in future for staying in one place too long. He could be David now. He was going to be Posner until he physically couldn't.
Time to stop being nothing.
“I'm honestly glad to be out of that lesson”
“Why? Hector as per usual did bugger all” Chimed in Dakin slumping down with his bag next to David who'd just spoken.
“Seriously? End of the year per chance? No more summer exams? Or did you not want your holidays?”
“Shut it you, I bet you aced the exams. Didn't even need the extra tutoring, utter cock”
David grinned at the praise shuffling a bit closer towards Dakin without noticing. The end of the first year of A-Levels had been a fairly stressful time for all of them, especially when the stress coupled with David's other thoughts that he heard familiar voices around or the day right before the exams ended up having one of the worst nightmares of his life so far. There were only so many times he could dream being taken away from this band of boys he'd grown so very happily accustomed too attempting to erase his former life. Of dreaming away the poets and books he'd been tossed recommendations from all his teachers and Scripps by.
Scripps had told him right before they'd gone into the gym to sit them that it would have passed. Everything to them was stress. Things like forgetting your textbook happened. The mantra saying it would pass lasted all the way into when they sat in their seats to take the test. Thankfully it had. The day after had been freely devoid of anything Blackwing and hurtful. Now it was a week after and the two boys sitting down next to him on the floor of Dakin's house were discussing holiday plans and waiting for the heat to settle down a little to get on their bikes back home. The others had all gone with their families already to other places.
Least they'd gone willingly.
On reflection David hoped he passed, he really didn't want to not be here lying down groaning as the two other teens next to him talked about the importance of keys to pyramids if they'd had them in that era. He'd rather be watching Chris act than now listen to the topic of the conquest of Fiona they'd moved on to. David really wished for the next year to come already, he knew there might be a decline in students if they had not met the proper standards, something they'd heard from Felix in the corridor but he hoped it wasn't too bad. So long as his friends were there, there'd be no complaining. The start of another topic brought him back out of his head.
“You going to Rudge's match in two weeks?”
“Oh I dunno. Have to see what mum and dad think. If anything's to be believed, it's the fact I don't get out enough. They'll most likely say yes specially when they realise it's nothing that will cause them upset. I think they'd faint at the chance to see me anywhere besides a library. You going to come Pos? You're the same as me”
“I...think..i'd rather not. And not just because my parents think I need more of a social circle”
Both the boys sat up straight, Scripps nudging the edge of David's socked feet. He'd gotten used to the causal touches now.
“You have to go! We're mates! Rudge would be devastated if you weren't there!” Scripps continued with Dakin nodding a little wildly.
“How would you be able to tell? He keeps the straightest of faces I've ever seen!”
“Pos! How would you feel if you had a concert coming up and us lot didn't turn up to support you”
Ah yes, his well crafted lie of saying he liked music so much he wanted to be able to sing it, and then having fallen into his own trap of actually enjoying it, his blonde haired friend joining in with piano accompaniment. The thought was there thinking about his daft but carefully concealed friend. Peter Rudge was one interesting character and that said a lot for someone who used to be experimented on.
David eventually stopped wondering if he'd be left behind. Especially when the teen had gotten really badly wrapped Christmas presents from the seven of them, and he'd had to figure out what to get each of them. He'd missed the Christmas Eve rush instead crafting them a quick story or poem with a little overly emotional message about thanking them into their special group. They'd all teared up a bit. Not that they'd ever tell him, he'd seen their tears himself. He got more hugs than ever before from that. At least the hugs before shoved into the hellhole that was the CIA. But he'd been told by Riggins that he needed to be there; it hadn't been safe out in the world for him at such a young age, the consideration that people would want to do much worse than they would in order to figure out how he got his psychic powers. Now only realising the lies told to get him to stay there for their own amusement, the grey filtering back into his world for a minute.
The door knock drew them all out of their thoughts. Rolling his eyes as Dakin made no move to get it, David got up to answer.
Stood on the step was Rudge himself.
“Speak of the devil and he shall appear. I thought you were on holidays?”
“I was. I mean I am, I will be but I wanted to make sure you're coming to the match in a few weeks. Yeah one minute mum! I'm just talking to Pos! Posner? David?! I've told you about the new kid! No I know it's been a year, he still counts as new! Anyways getting back to it, I want to make sure you're coming with us, wouldn't be the same without everyone there”
“But...why? I mean not that I'm not grateful for the offer but -”
“You're my mate, aren't you? Mates support mates if I remember. Don't really know where you get all the energy but I'd quite like it if it was in the stands cheering. I gotta go but I expect to see you there, alright? Have a good hols”
He clapped David on the back and walked off yelling at his dad that he was getting in. David tried not to let the tears build. Emotions had always come easily to him. The colours easing back in as the sound of Rudge's car left the street. Scripps smirking in a told you so way as Dakin rolled his eyes.
“Alright now we've got our happily ever after moment, can we please get back to talking about the fact that I have still not got a double date for Saturday”
Moment over then.
David lay back down on his bed that evening wondering how his life could possibly be this nice right now. He was happy. Really truly happy.
He got his exams done hopefully going through to the final year of his A-Levels with a good set of teachers he could rely on, a job at the bookshop helping him get money to afford food and drink, a nice place to live in (thankfully paid off from Blackwing, no cause to stress out about that at least) and he had a good set of people surrounding him.
Those seven boys were something of a saving grace. They'd let him in. He let them in. He took the time thinking about the ways in which they showed their own ways of friendship to each other not bothering with reading his on loan Persuasion book from Scripps. According to him it was one of his favourite books and needed Pos to read it. A few pages in, he understood why, wondering if he could get his own copy from the bookshop.
Always planning something Lockwood and Timms. Always. Anything to be able to get a rise or a laugh somewhere along the line. Timms always picking up something from the corner shop because no matter what people said, despite his rough edges, he was quite gentle when the time called for it. David bet if he told anyone that they wouldn't believe him.
Always making up 'Endings' for Hector to guess and always losing money. The happiness he was feeling actually being taught by someone who liked teaching their subject for Totty, and just enjoying their regular lunches together. Akthar always ringing his landline somehow just knowing if his friend needed a moment to collect himself and chat because he felt lonely knowing he was often alone in the house. None of them had picked up on the fact his whole family were false. Or that having such an empty place was a stark contrast to the overly crowded base. Amazing they'd known he was often alone despite said false family.
Sometimes Stu – which he had thankfully learned was short for Stuart a few months in hearing it from his mum in a huff once or twice – would leave them to go chase after someone he fancied leaving David confused as to why it wasn't him, or they listened to Crowther speak his lines in his first play, all of them cheering the loudest and hearing Jimmy talk about what the proper working wage should be or how they were all systematically being shunned because of their age, class status and all other things Lockwood thought the government had tried to fuck themselves out of.
In school with Scripps they'd trade songs for serious conversations only stopping once it got too much and they had to raise their concerns. The moment David had accidentally added a y onto the very end of his surname made him freeze. The young boys so focused on trying to win board games against the others, he'd tripped up. Scripps had smirked, said he could use it if he wanted to. After all he'd also said that David was actually one of his best friends now. 'Pos' according to all of them needed looking after.
Scripps ended up becoming one of the closest people he'd let in since his mother.
David fairly unsure how to feel about that.
The sun had finally set leaving the darkness to surround the bedroom as David's mind started to switch off. Only the lingering memory that next morning that things were shaping up to be okay. They were all seeing over each over the summer holidays and opened up his letter in the next month to see he passed to get through to the next year of Cutler's. He glanced over it taking it in for more than he needed to as if he couldn't believe it, his brain still trying to process it. The facts were there. He wasn't moving. He was staying at Cutler's. Another year with these people. With this education. David started to hold the paper tighter moving to hold it against his chest smiling wider, jumping when hearing a knock at the door and a voice through the letterbox.
"Oi Pos! If you're in there, we're all going out to dinner tonight to celebrate us getting into next year, i imagine you've got in to, so we'll see you at seven! Oh and don't forget to dress up nicely, according to Donald, he wants pictures. I told him to stuff it but you know once he's got something like that in his head, it doesn't leave. Either Adil will come pick you up or I'll get dad to come this way from the shop. Just be ready by then yeah? Alright, see you then Pos!"
David was fairly sure that Jimmy could hear his barely concealed laughter at how loud he was being and the bows he gave as he passed the strangers by on the street.
"Guess I should start finding something to wear then...or maybe I after I finish this chapter of Persuasion...oh why is the phone ringing now? Oh hello Mrs Dakin, no Stu's not here right now, of course I will, no i'm okay thanks, yes I know I'm definitely seeing him later...."
Very happy to say that heatwave has passed a bit and I'm back to feeling like a person once again. Back into this verse we go. Aaand Strictly announcements have begun in full force, I'm so excited!
The exams had proved to see people leave as predicted. The history group turned into just his group of boys and his English and Psychology were down to just ten people instead of the thirteen. David had suddenly started to see what happened when lifts were given home by Hector and couldn't decide how to go about getting rid of the ridiculousness of getting into a university. Didn't understand the jealously when during their final term to make sure they got into Oxford or Cambridge they got another new teacher but otherwise grateful when halfway through he had noted that he looked at Dakin as much as he himself did.
Couldn't understand the note he got through his door the other day, tried to ignore it, Breathed in and out a couple of times. This changed some things. Knowing the place was being shut down but still feeling the pull of the universe put him into a numb state. He put it in his pocket shutting his door quieter than he ever had then jumping when Scrippsy appeared right in front of him.
“Heya. Noticed you scarpered fairly quickly out of class yesterday. You know sharks aren't out to get you, you know?”
“I am aware of my social, relationship and situational status, thank you Don”
“Don't be a prat. Irwin could be worse and you know it”
“Suppose so. I know I've been....distant since the term started -”
“Distant is not the word I'd use”
“Well what word then?”
“Standoffish you mean?”
“No! I mean the fact you never really talk to the boys as much as you used to. I know we sometimes go a bit far but we haven't done anything have we? Jimmy's practically up in arms worrying he's nicked your favourite book”
“I....I've had some trouble lately”
“What do you mean trouble?”
“You are the only one who I feel like I can tell absolutely everything to. Right now, I mean. I know the boys have an inkling I'm...but the town, could you imagine what would happen?”
“It's not the dark ages”
“Sometimes it feels like it is”
Scripps let out his breath his face going from annoyed to concerned.
“Any one says anything, we'll protect you. All of us. That's what friends do. I don't know what's going on with you, especially right now but please let us in David. Before something happens and we can't get back to you”
David nodded at that a little bit taken aback by the sincerity. Shouldn't have expected anything less. Still didn't want to say what exactly he was scrunching in his pocket tethering him to this moment.
“Listen I have come here for another reason. Picnic in the park. All of us, come on before we have to face the dreaded next week of Stu fawning over Irwin, at least with Totty we get some sense”
“And with Hector we get the great poets and loss of money. Wonderful. I'm coming with you, and you are right, I have been less myself. I think it's the loss of Sheffield coming up, maybe even the threat of losing each other to different uni's so I've been trying to push away so it doesn't hurt as much and now it's hurting more. I'll make a bit more of an effort, we've only got so little time together properly left. I'll even say sorry” That got a laugh out the pair of them as Don clapped him on the shoulder ready to walk ahead.
Friends almost like family if he really wanted to make that leap and something worth having if the looks of surprise and relief were to be believed, including the almost too tight hug from Akthar and clap on his back from Timms, Rudge and Lockwood. Things were going to be okay. He'd go from school to university, he'd get his degree and while he'd miss some of them he'd still keep in contact. Just David too much in his own head again. They'd all be okay. He was going to be okay.
Things were not okay.
Things were definitely, definitely not okay.
The lying to get into Cambridge.
Actually being in Cambridge away from comforting presences. Familiar faces. Enjoying what he wanted to study.
This stupid Sheffield accent he couldn't get rid of. Unsure whether he'd like to.
The lying to still be being someone else even if he was happy to have been it last year. Things had changed. They'd changed so suddenly.
That stupid, STUPID, corner pulling them all into stunned silence.
Everyone David cared about. Gone. Wrong. Left alone. Again.
GBBO, Strictly AND Celeb Masterchef all on soon? Are ya kidding me? Sometimes it's the little things to look forward to. Like knowing even if only for a week, you get to witness Seann Walsh dance live in sequins on TV in front of a nation. Pure, pure joy. Hopefully like this chapter. Enjoy!
David had given up. Dark circles shaped his face, and he never bothered much with clothes or keeping up appearances in societies much now either. What was the point after all? He'd been alright up until that accident. (As alright as a former Blackwing project could be). Until studying History and making up all sort of things that weren't true finally got to him. All the things Mrs Lintott had stated back in school were turning out to be true. People could be as heartless and cruel as the CIA. Rudge's point staying with him a year or so on. After all his life had become been one thing after another. Had since the boys started to fall out of touch with each other slowly but surely despite reassurances. According to Scripps, that sometimes happened with people. They flitted in and out, and it was rare to have someone being in your life all the way through. How was David supposed to know that? Even if he was too in himself to notice they still tried to get him out with the pub invitations, only when they got there he felt as if he had faded into the background. Maybe he'd been enjoying life until his brain had decided to fall in whatever it was with Stuart bloody Dakin and lost all vague hope.
The nightmares came back.
So did the panic attacks.
The complete and utter breakdown he hadn't seen coming. He'd lost what he thought had been his stable grip on the world. Lost the people he'd grown to call friends. Second family gone. Memories of hearing about the accident from Mrs Lintott with the boys repeating round and round. Ignoring who he was; having tried to run from it, he got Irwin injured and Hector killed. Dakin wondering on the what if's. Only a handful of them to Cambridge, the others to Oxford doing their own thing. Even his books that he'd been writing in started moving from his vision as he collapsed to the ground crying having not slept for two days running. Everyone left him in the end. No one wanted to be around someone who constantly spouted maudlin quotes and gave in so easily to mood swings. No-one wanted to hang around with someone who was fairly jumpy and always on the look-out for escape routes. Who knew that everything he was made up of was wrong. Wrong, wrong, WRONG. David finally giving in to the universe's telling off. As if he'd ever be allowed to remain in a kinder environment, with people unwilling to destroy him.
He needed an out.
In hindsight this maybe hadn't become one of his best ideas. Stupid connection to the universe.
The exams coming up looked vaguely familiar to him. Weirdly familiar. His tutor last week had set some extra exam prep and he was sure that he'd seen it in the one he was delving into now. Patterns matching up. Or sleep deprivation. Be easy to get a sense of what the upcoming ones would look like. Just guesswork. David was great with guesswork after all. He needed somehow to get a handle on things again, bring something back to himself that wasn't his hunches.
Fairly dismayed with how things had been going, he took the opportunity. He started selling the papers, showed what the students were prepping for. If he needed to get away, he would have the funds to do so. Quite amazing they all believed it. Even more amazing as he kept getting paid. He kept that money hidden in his suitcase buried underneath other jackets and the like.
It lasted a month before someone up top found out. Wondered who had ratted him out. All the people who had gotten their answers beginning the claim that he must be psychic (which he was not! He was not!) and being sent down the minute they got wind of it.
Another week before he was sent to prison.
David had run out of tears to even care the room looked just like his Blackwing one. Minus the window.
Cared even less when he found out that he was being let go after a week, all of them giving him a look of fear mixed with suspicion. David knew that look, understood it even. Only the CIA had that pull over him.
They marched him back towards St Cedd's around eleven in the evening and knocked on a door known all too well before they cuffed the back of his head stating that seeing as he had messed up so badly, they were planning to get Priest to take him back. The other not being too bothered about letting it slip that actually wasn't the place shut down? The more experienced man pushing his elbow into the ribs. They left him there after having knocked twice again annoyed they hadn't got an immediate response. The elder almost yelling at the CIA operative asking if he really was that stupid, Priest asked for him so he got him and no just because the place was shut down did not mean he got to yell about it!
The door opening far too quickly. The two men leaving saying they'd be back if he wasn't careful.
The man behind said door biting his lip in worry looking even more haggard than David felt.
Scrippsy was going to kill him.
“What in the actual bloody hell fire did you do Pos?! Have you heard the talk round the shop? Don't answer that actually because I suspect you bloody well do”
“And what's that then?” Came the flippant response as Don shut his door circling towards his mate rubbing his hands over his face and mussing up his hair in agitation.
“They're saying you've been sent down after selling answers to the history exam and that you...you were sent to prison last week! Do you know how much I've wanted to fight you to get a proper answer on this? Yet you've been no-where to be seen. I've been defending you saying that although you were green as they come, that you were someone I trusted. Implicitly. Someone who wouldn't do such a stupid and unnecessary thing! Because unlike some of them in the class, you actually have a brain and ye knew how to use it! I know the last year has taken its toll on you, David, on all of us in fact but this is something else. Please tell me I was wrong and haven't looked like a complete and utter berk for the past week” Scripps started pacing the room.
David came down to sit on his best mate's bed from the doorway. Ignored the exhaustion lingering as much as the hurt. He avoided the eyes.
“I thought you were against taking the Lord's name in vain”
“No, enough of this! Enough! Tell me what the hell you did! And why! You know how to use your brain, so why haven't you?! I know you still don't see reason to keep in touch even with what I said last year but I've had all the boys running round asking if you've needed help getting out of trouble. Please. Just tell me Pos. I just need to understand why”
Scripps stopped pacing. Face falling. Hands coming out of his hair, down his face to rest on his hips. David kept staring at his hands and speaking to them instead of his friend. If he was ever going to be honest with someone, it'd be Don. It'd always been him before. He'd come a long way from being the broken sheltered boy. In some ways he was still the broken boy but he definitely was not sheltered. The Cutlers boys had fully seen to that. In the most disgusting and ungodly trials. There just needed a way to fix whatever, however he was and then he'd be fine. Away from the trails of the universe. Away from making terrible decisions and having to walk away from people he loved. Be better. If only there had been a way to do that. However nothing. Stuck like that no matter what. He'd tried to disconnect himself from the not psychic ways but not getting anywhere from it. Scripps still standing going to no nonsense arm folded waiting.
“I had these ideals. What living or studying here would be like. None of them really got me going in the end. I think I wasted my chance here. And my time”
“You wasted your time? You've screwed your life up!”
“My life was already screwed up before I came here!”
“What, because of university or because of Dakin?!”
“Because of Blackw- No. No, you don't need to know. I have had many things happen to me and prison was by far one of the easiest to get through. None of you noticed that I was going downwards, you just cared if I kept up with the matches or dating stories or the next moment where we all attempt to figure out a conversation that doesn't start with Sheffield or watch Dakin's eyes fade out a little further. I've seen them, don't deny it Don! I'm not in love with him nor have I felt tied to him for a while but he is still hopefully a friend, and I haven't known how to help. How else are we meant to say look what happened to the eight of us when we're the only ones who actually understand because we lived through it? How we barely talk any more or that we're none of us are studying something we actually don't want to really because our headteacher turned out to be a self backstabbing hypocritical tosser?! I've been alone for most of my life and I thought maybe that was finally over. But these past few months? They've shown me that it's not. I'm destined for this, always have been I suppose. I always end up wrong and alone because that's how this works Don. The universe is just going to take me somewhere new. The only choice I get to decide on is how I adapt to it”
“You're not making any sense David! You aren't alone! We've all been there literally and figuratively, I swear we have, and not just because we wanted to keep an ear on the ground. We've all had those moments but we've reached out and helped. You always seemed so stable that I think we noticed what was happening too late, we knew you had been spiralling since Irwin and we never just talked, and we should have seen you. I'm seeing you now Pos, even if it's just a shadow staring back”
“I need a place to stay this evening”
“I just want my mate back. I want to be able to talk to you like we used to, go into the music rooms and muck about. Spout nonsense quotes, laugh at things. I miss him by the way, case you hadn't noticed. It's like you're someone else these days. I just want you back unharmed”
His friend blew out a breath walking from his position opposite sitting down next to him.
“How'd you even get out of serving the rest of your sentence?”
“I just need a place to stay. Scripps. Please”
“Pos.....David, why aren't you answering me?”
“No, you're not. Not the ones that need answering. But I will let it go. Only because you look like death warmed up. Just...Please don't start hiding things like this from me anymore”
The minute Scripps fell asleep, David started packing. Shoved the money in with the suitcase. Blackwing or Mr Priest or whoever were not going to get him or his friends. Blackwing were not not above blackmail. Wasn't even going to give them the chance. He'd heard Wilson's voice when they bailed him out before she sent the two men to walk him back. Heard that Priest wanted him even if the CIA had made the wise if too late decision to shut that place down. He needed to run. Earlier than he had planned. He should have run the second he was bailed out. Hopefully the universe would comply in a line he could see for once. Shouldn't have stayed with Scripps. They'd be questioned. So would the other boys. Blackmail repeated in his mind like a worn mantra. His old school friends were not going to be tortured by someone who had defied the universe to be there. Blackmail round and round. They deserved better than that.
England. They'd be looking for him in England. Meaning he'd have to fly somewhere else. Passport intact. Could easily slip past the deans. Different name, different haircut and wardrobe. Different persona. Needed a different persona. Not something where he lived in the sadness of himself. Where he felt compelled to make up for deaths and injuries. No matter about the family he had gained, just had to leave it behind. David deserved to disappear. He couldn't keep himself tied to this. Even as he had attached himself to David Posner, the universe and his past found a way to ruin it all somehow. Maybe one day he would be able to go along peacefully with the name and the life but not now. Not now.
He found a pen and paper – Don always had one near due to his journalism – and wrote down what he needed to before grabbing his rucksack and coat, slipping out of the grounds and into the blackened night.
Don't come looking for me.
No, I mean it Donald. And I used your full name so you know it's serious.
I'm okay. I mean at least I hope I am.
I had to get away. This was all just a wonderful dream but I fear I dreamt too far. If I couldn't get away from myself, then at least I could make myself get away from you. From the boys. I hurt others and I always have. I don't think I can any further.
I'm sorry to walk away like this. It had to be done. My life is on the line. So was yours.
I hold out some form of hope I'll see the seven of you again when my life is steady. More able to breathe. but then I never really get what I want or in the way I want it (the universe making me do it's bidding I imagine) so I suppose I'd have to say wish me luck as you wave me
Short but sweet! Hope everyone who is going/gone back to school this week has a lovely term and remember to ask if ya need help whether it's for homework or another issue you might be going through. (Never forget the time I got lost trying to find a room and ended up being 10 mins late...it was the second week as well. Goodness sakeee). <3. Xx
Dirk noticed Farah scribble 2018 into her notebook as Todd tapped his own pencil against the table staring out at the open window.
Wendimoor had only been a year ago but still sometimes felt as if it was a month ago. The ups and downs had taken a toll on them all. Then Todd and Farah stayed, built the agency with him. Unbelievable. Quite frankly thrilled that he got to keep Todd and Farah with him, the last time he had felt like this had been – no – Dirk cut off that thinking fairly sharpish, there was no need for that right now. He spent enough time back then to now looking up what they were doing, wondering at least twice a day how they were and if they'd forgotten him. Having broken down a few times when he was back in captivity really needing to hear their voices telling him to not back down intermingled with Todd's sentences about them being friends. At least he knew the universe had let them meet in the first place. Maybe the universe would let him run into them again, just hopefully not near the agency. Not when just last week they'd all solved the mystery of the missing grinning hamster!
The detective swivelled round on his chair enjoying it as he made his way away from those trains of thoughts. Things were really good lately, calm at a stretch waiting tentatively for the other shoe to drop. Which it did in quick succession. The universe really did like to make it's move at the most inopportune times.
The phone next to his assis-friend rang out loudly shocking them all out of their quiet stupor and pages of paperwork. Todd answered it after a few rings then started to frown a little as he he listened to the caller.
“If you could slow down enough for me to take your name down? What do you mean you don't want to be named? No we are not the yellow pages for non-business, what even is that? No, we don't have a David or a Posner here. Is that even a real person? I only ask because the name sounds ridiculous. Whoa! Okay it's a real name, I'm sorry. May I ask why you're calling if it's not relevant to what we handle? Do you have a case for us to handle or not?”
Dirk sat up in horror shaking the effects of the room spinning from one too many go rounds on the chair. Started to stand and make his way round towards Todd only stumbling once. They couldn't have him. Needed to listen to the potential voice, that was the only way to know who was pulling this dark prank on him. Only a few knew that name and one of them happened to very muchly dead! Very, very dead!
“No I am very sure there is no David here....hello? hello?! Wow he sounded fun, you okay Dirk? You look as if you've seen a ghost, ghosts don't exist do they?”
“I would hope not. I am not dealing with ghosts right after what we just have. Dirk, I think Todd's right, you look....do you want to sit down? I think you should sit and just...uh...follow my breathing because you seem to not be doing that”
At a guess he mused, it sounded like Timms but Timms was busy doing.....something back in England surely? He knew they most likely met up in Sheffield on a weekend often living their lives like how they were supposed too; looking at Christopher Crowther's Facebook confirmed that as a start. It was either him or Hector and it was in no way him. No, he was not investigating a potentially life revival of his former history teacher who hurt the lives of his students. Something he used to wish for, but had learnt seriously from. Once he'd even thought about punching his general studies teacher if he had been alive.
Who would have a need for David anyways? He ditched him long ago. The only person who kept trying to search for him was Donald tutting inadvertently out loud when it came to his vague mother henning friend - even Jimmy used to tell him to ease up before he got his knickers in a twist - Both Todd and Farah still trying to get him to copy Farah's breathing.
Now someone calling Pos? ( a mixture both filled with elation and regret) No. He would fight that with everything he could. The boys were not to be involved. Dirk's life had only just been let off the wire he'd been tip toeing across. He wouldn't be jumping back. Even if some small uncertain part told them to snatch the phone from Todd and say hello.
No-one had to know about who the broken teen he once used to be or what led him to America, or from it even quicker. No, Todd and Farah were not to know about David either, they'd wonder why they didn't spring Dirk out of his shell sooner, or they'd get territorial. Jump for joy. Whoever had made the call to make him think about his lost not lost Cutler boys – to use a favourite term of Timms – was an absolute wanker.
“That wasn't me, that was weird right? Like, not just usual weird but weird. The insistence that the man could be here was insane. And like maybe I shouldn't have said anything about his name but my point still sounds, it just sounds unrealistic, made up. Like, he just kept asking, Farah. Do you think we could, I don't know, find him on the internet, see if the story is real? Facebook page maybe? Twitter? What do you think Dirk?” Both of them locking eyes on the man standing noting he still looked pale. Paler. Dirk certainly had to get them off of this.
“I think maybe we leave it. The man clearly sounds a bit deranged and I think we have had enough of madmen for the time being, don't you?”
“Dirk, this is clearly something” Farah chimed in.
“What if it's not?”
The pair then just stared at him folding their arms in perfect synchronicity.
“Okay so it might be something because yes, odd! I just don't know whether now is the time to start investigating it! No clues, no hunch, no symbols! No universal imbalance! I...There's nothing. I suggest we leave it for now”
“Are you serious, you never turn down a case”
“That you know of”
“No I know you don't”
“What else do you expect from me? You're always expecting the utmost from me, I can't do it all the time! The hunches don't work like that, you know this! 'Lord, what fools these mortals be!' We're not fools! Hopefully we never will be. We don't take on unnecessary things! I just don't want to investigate the case right now!”
“Did you just quote Shakespeare at me? You literally just quoted Shakespeare at me. You've read Shakespeare? You, Dirk Gently? You don't know what bringing a knife to a gun fight means but you know a quote from a Shakespeare play?!”
Dirk clicked his mouth shut at Todd's reluctance to accept he at least knew some things. Brought his head down a little. Expected to have heard a 'Yes, Shakespeare,very nice' or moans from the other boys. Felt a bit lost. Clearly jumped the mark a bit. Just a bit. Maybe a tad. Definitely more than a pinch. Retreating back seemed wiser. Retreating always seemed wiser. That never led him to moments like now.
“Are we going to finish the paperwork or?”
“Hey Dirk, you wanna go for a coffee run instead? I think I'm losing my mind a little, Farah can keep up with anything for now. That okay?”
Dirk lifted his head nodding as he grabbed his jacket bolting out the door fingering the place on his jacket where the boy's grammar school's logo would have been without looking back at the pair, Todd's shared concern with Farah as he trailed behind.
One hell month they'd landed here.
A month since they'd gotten a case having to ship it to England. More specifically bloody Sheffield. Couldn't escape this place if he tried, could he? And he had tried! Something creeping in the back of his mind that this must have something else to do with Blackwing. He couldn't be here for a simple returning of a jewel thing, there was always something more because it could never ever be bloody simple for him, could it?! The fact he kept smiling at some of the areas he'd used to go biking or walking past some of his old friend's houses happened to be something totally different. The other part feeling ill knowing if today was one of the groups pub days and they spotted him. Dirk's face shape hadn't changed that much since uni. His personality had gotten brighter while his voice still held the tiniest bit of the regional accent so there was really no escaping that. He'd just have to act as if he went here on a case or holiday once, not two years or so of schooling. Other than that nothing exactly separated David Posner from Dirk Gently.
Todd had instantly packed up ready to go with him muttering that of course they'd have to go England, of course they had to because what else was this weird in their life so far although brightening at the fact they were getting to take an actual flight on an actual aeroplane instead of a magic channel or whatever . Farah not joining stating she wanted the office's open and ready to help any other people coming through their doors. They'd started to gain a reputation. A good one thankfully. If Farah's assistance could help then they could always ask her to come over but for now she preferred to keep herself in a comforting and familiar place.
Dirk drinking Sheffield in. Breathing in the new. Trying to ignore the old. Todd in his vision watching his every move. He'd heard him and Farah talk about his calmer mood or looking up to see Cutler's on their website to see if it still existed. Didn't spare a notice for where police signs used to be or that the school still seemed to be standing. The warehouse they'd stumbled upon turned out to be a blessing. No hotels would stand for the amount of time they might be for. The fact the warehouse stood near the church where another friend stood waiting for their friend bared nothing to the non psychic. The smiling having to disappear at the sight of Todd's questioning eyes again. Smile stopped.
Todd clearly baffled at how close the houses were built together and at how old some of them were and hang on were those dust mites or something? Why was it so cold? Dirk tried not to snigger. Todd and not having an AC if they were here for that long would be something priceless he was sure.
They'd settled within a few days but now Todd missed home. He missed Farah, he missed his apartment and he missed their office's. More than that he missed how Dirk behaved in America. Not that he was completely different here but there was something going on he'd noticed. Even before they'd landed, nay left America the detective had started to waver from his persona that Todd knew so well. With the people he cared about, he recognised when something was off. Something Dirk wasn't telling him. Evasive. First case jitters again. Kept looking at things as if he knew them, people waving at him as if they knew who he was. Smiling before noting Todd then turning away turning it off. A calmer version who apparently swore more and kept dragging the pair to bookshops and coffee shops, recommending different books and quoting before looking like he shouldn't be doing those things and reverting back to quiet every time his friend asked where he knew all this from. He didn't believe Dirk actually had a calm version. The assistant wished he knew why.
“Todd, I feel like maybe we've been doing this completely wrong. I think maybe we should go to the local pub this evening”
“The...pub? I mean I could do with a drink actually, it feels like this has been going nowhere. Wait....are we actually going to go in or is this just something else?”
“I don't know. Just a -”
“- Just a hunch. I got it. If that's the case then can you mind if I call 'Manda real quick? She wants to know about what we've been getting up too. Not that there's been anything for a fucking month and a half”
“Of course not, and it's only been a month Todd. You know this. You are so prone ton exaggeration. Honestly! Oh! Tell her I say hello!”
“I'm all set. So you ready to go?”
“Yes Todd, quite ready. No need for the map. We can just wonder round and I'm sure we'll stumble upon the location” Praying Todd wouldn't pick up on the fact he knew the route once more. As they walked on Dirk's thoughts found him to be reflecting on different memories. Like for this street corner that they used to see Mrs Lintott watch her Cutler boys from on their days off with her shopping bag and a wave, all the boys cheering her as they either asked if she needed help or let them walk off in their own direction with a cheerful quote. Totty had always been so welcoming. Dirk had all too often wondered what history was. He missed her.
It only took about ten minutes for them to reach their destination, Todd dazzled at how quickly they'd gotten there. Dirk stopping in the middle of the road as he stared at some of the figures exit out of it. They looked faintly familiar. Too familiar really. Maybe he needed another close visual to completely identify. He stood there until they came into full focus. Names coming to faces then blurring all too quickly together. Throwing him off kilter ignoring Todd's words asking what was up.
Dirk needed to move now.
However the men seemed to also stare back. They seemed to start recognising him. Clearly very happy about that fact too.Not good, not good! Incredibly very not good! Todd taking a step back.
Then something useful happened. He might have hated the universe more than not but at least this time it came in handy to well, run away from this rather awkward moment. Another hunch. He took off like a shot forgetting the group of lads and followed the universe's nagging. Todd had to follow him down the third alleyway he noticed a few minutes ago picking up a strange coin at the start of it. Just lying there on the street. Hmm...important Dirk thought handing it over for Todd to put in a spare pocket. They could ignore the pub for now, this seemed a tad more urgent than first guess. They could go to the pub after they'd sorted this out. Oblivious to a group of people trailing behind stunned. Faces vaguely hurt yet intrigued.
“Okay so what are we looking for Dirk? Tell me. There's a reason we have the coin, tell me I have not been carrying this for no reason!”
“I think there might a be a soul within it but to break them free, we have to find maybe something that will unlock it first! Then we can give the coin back to our client all normal and not destroying their furniture. Souls can be tricky business. One never knows when they'll crack”
“How are you more melancholic than in America. How is that even possible? What is happening? Honestly you've been concerning me for more than a week. You never have to tell me anything you don't want to but is everything okay? Okay, you don't want to tell me. That's fine. Hang on, this coin, Dirk how about this? Maybe the thing would be like a coin or plug socket?!” The realisation hit Todd in a wave as he started to scan the wall for one. Right in the middle of the wall and of the brick he found it. He pulled the coin out of his pocket slotting it in as the brick opened before twirling it round and releasing two more greeny purple light beams appearing to be portals. The soul entered out of the coin after all this showing some form of gnome person waving to Dirk and Todd and then stepping into the other portal all of them closing instantly, both of the boys high fiving each other. Dirk now putting the coin through a different slot hopefully sending it back to the person it belonged to. Magical travel happened to be very capable. Dirk then getting an unsettling urge he was being watched ready to turn round.
“Another hunch? Already?..Dirk what? Whoa, Dirk? Dirk?”
Dirk couldn't move. Stuck to the ground. Eyes not wondering any further than what he had started to look toward. Todd standing in front prepared to attack whatever it might be.
He just didn't anticipate the attack being seven boys.
I've ended up doing/planing a few rewrites to this story seeing as I wasn't completely happy with it so updates may end up being a little bit slower than I first thought so sorryyyyy in advance <3. Either way thank you very much for all your kind comments and kudos, they make this one writer a very happy bean! Hope this chapter is as fun as it was to write!
The pub seemed quieter than usual. That was weird. Usually there was a lot more people in there and music blaring as people yelled for their orders over another person. People bent over pool tables to watching football on the TV and others cheering or yelling at the ref. A brawl or something happening as someone then told them to take it outside. A proper Friday evening yet tonight it was only them a and a couple of other proper dedicated patrons. The seven boys crowded round their Friday night table (they hadn't had to fend anyone else like the past few weeks, a fact they'd been petrified and significantly satisfied with) drinking their beers while play fighting as they caught up on each of their weeks. Their university life had taken some of their time from each other as they moved forward with new lives, new relationships and new friends. They didn't have time for meetings only a few texts with plans that mostly fell through. Then a few years on from none of them seeing each other for two years, Dakin himself - the absolute prat as Scripps kept calling him when he kept phoning him until he answered seeing as they'd been the most in contact since or rather the devil on his shoulder he couldn't flick off much to Donald's bemusement - had called them all up inviting them all to come to the old pub in their home town and not taken any no's for an answer.
A routine they'd been settling into easily since then with allowances for family emergencies only. The group shoving Dakin as he'd said that. So here they were on Friday evening with drinks in their hands, eyes almost closing as they winded down from their busy work lives only rising as they traded worried glances as the journalist of the group kept grasping for what they thought wasn't there anymore.
“Have you seriously never thought about it then? Never?! It's not impossible! I know it's not! ” Scripps stated as he threw his arms up in the air almost whacking Anthony in the face, who whacked him back in the process as he gulped down some more of his beer
“No, I can hand on heart say that I never ever have had psychic or fortune telling nonsense in my life. It was just pure luck that Jade and I were in the right place at the right time. It's nice you believe there's something out there that controls the fates but it's not logical really is it? Fate doesn't just happen, the universe doesn't work like that. People control what they do and where they go. Besides we know you're only saying this to get us to talk about you know who!” Akthar glared at the boy as he downed the rest of his pitifully empty pint before his eyes softened nudging Peter to place a hand on his arm as he was closer. For a logical chap, Don could be the most fanciful of the lot.
“He's got to be somewhere! A person like that does not disappear off the face of the earth. People choose where they go and so does the universe! The universe is a...a...a helping hand. There's never one option or the other! Don't tell me you don't feel the same any of you! Or that you're still worried about where or how he is! You can't say that something has been missing since then, you can't! I'm not to going to be the last of us to just forget or ignore him. He was part of our group and damn him all to hell, he still is! Rudge, I'm not going round the twist, you don't have to put your hand on me arm!”
“Don, maybe we should start using our inside voice? Just because he left a weirdly phrased letter does not mean we should start canvassing the area like we're MI5. For all intents and purpose's he's fine but like us a couple years ago dropped off the grid and we have no contact. We feel it too, but we can't stop our lives to worry about him. You'd have to be vaguely stupid to not see that” Dakin had become used to soothing Don when things became just a little too much.
“Maybe he just became another part of history”
“Oh piss off Peter bloody Rudge, we're trying to help not depress him further! Honestly your middle name should be changed to unhelpful”
“Stuart's right. It's rare I say that so you can be amazed at how much I believe him. Maybe we should say that it's not hard to choose conclusions when it comes to the fates and signs. Maybe it happens, maybe it doesn't. Don't you remember? 'once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen'
"Thought you weren't a big fan of Emmerson?" Timms cut in grabbing the boys other glass and downing it for him instead as the others kept up their habit of looking round the room when things got a little too uncomfortable even for their liking.
"Am I making a point here or am I just a voice you're choosing to ignore? What I'm trying to say is either make a decision now or later but know it'll be helped in some way or other.We can argue for the rest of the night about how big a part the universe plays on other people but it doesn't change the hardcore facts. Pos would have found us if he wanted us by now or he has indeed just lost contact and is somehow trying to find us in his own tragically unique way. We know you two were closer than all of us combined. We all miss him, always will and it hurts. Especially for those of us who never actually got a proper goodbye. But unless something sensational happens within the next year, I think maybe we should, I don't know, move on? For good this time? It has been a while since, we shouldn't be living our lives through someone missing Don! Come on now. Anyways - '”
Lockwood never got to finish his sentence as a woman in a baby blue jumpsuit with some form of black orange logo on it entered growling as she walked up to their table speaking with a weird American accent. The pub now quiet in entirety. They watched as she approached one of their old English teachers, grabbed something from behind the bar and instantly stabbed them. The boys getting up to go run out of the place and preparing to dial 999, when the woman stood in front of them. All seven cautiously deciphering if they could get safely to an exit.
“Listen, I know what you just saw must have been scary for you but I'd rather you not do anything, I already got the cops on my tail, I don't need no more. Alright? I don't know if the universe don't want me to kill none of you or all of you. At least I don't think it wants me to kill you. So you better go before the universe says that I then gotta kill ya and it turns into a whole killing...thing”
“Sorry, you want us to move otherwise you think the universe wants you to murder us even though you just murdered two other people?” Dakin sniped.
Seeing the opportunity to actually get out alive, Crowther took it.
“Alright lads let's go then before this lovely murderous lady actually gets more murdery somehow”
“Thanks, I mean it. Don't come back” Came the gravelly voice once more as she grinned turning round grabbing one of their empty glasses and smashing it into one of the bartender's faces.
“Bloody hell! Get out quick!"
“That weren't me, that was insane” Rudge crossed his arms as he walked further away from the entrance.
“She's insane! That was something else! Hey lads, were we the only ones out here? Only asking because well remember what we were just saying about...well he's over there! I swear I'm not going barmy! Look!”
On command, they spun round from each other to the figure looking exactly the spitting image of their old classmate looking quite grown up in a very colourful jacket. The former staring back like a frightened animal. Both groups now staring at each other in bewilderment. All of this as another person came into the picture following behind him. Then the pair just took off! The man most definitely being identified correctly as Posner had stared, realised who they were and taken off! That left the lot of them fairly in lower spirits, all the while wondering what he was up to and him being actually there leading them to wanting answers. Proper ones.
“I don't know about you but that was certainly unexpected” Dakin started as the boys watched the space for a few minutes until they nodded in agreement as they took off after them.
There was no denying it, the man who had stared at them was David Posner. The frame, the voice and the huffs of laughter. It had to be David. Surer than they'd ever been. Walking ghosts of people did not exist. This was David in the flesh.
Only Posner appeared to have gone fully off the deep end as he and this other man started to start touching up the walls trying to find something. Both of them grinning as one of the bricks opened glowing and something else leaving into a different brick thing.
This was something explainable for sure.
The boys noticed the high five and wild grin that sported David's face. A grin they rarely had ever seen on him. Or at least during that last year of Cutlers to Cambridge.
Another shared look between the boys was enough for them to wait it out. They could be patient. Sometimes.
The waiting paid off as David and the other man went to walk out the alleyway noting them, the smaller one stepping a bit in front as if to protect him with a short wave of confusion. David's eyes bulging, his shoulders dropping as if he had been anticipating this but hadn't really wanted to admit any of it.
I'm still working on sorting out the rewrites but here we are guys! The boys have finally reunited! (It's a blooming miracle)
"NO FUCKING BLOODY WAY"
"OI! I get first dibs! Pos you absolute berk! GET OVER HERE YOU!"
The boys sprinted towards their old mate hugging him, ruffling his hair and in the case of one Donald Scripps, slapping him on the arm and cursing not losing sight of him fearful that if so much as blinked, the man would disappear. In all honesty the detective had forgotten how truly noisy they could become. Dirk kept trying to shove them off of him - whether as a chance to pretend that he didn't know any of these people or as a sign of affection to not wanting to let them go again and the universe all of a sudden complying to all of Dirk's wishes over the past couple of years head fighting over heart - all of this happening as Todd took a step back to assess the situation and the weirdo's calling him different names and listening to the different accents within the group, worrying instantly.
He didn't like the camaraderie between this blond haired bloke and Dirk. Nor a fan of the way Dirk's eyes had lit up as the boys had circled around him.
“Don't you ever do this to me again. Ever! Leaving like that was either the strangest thing you've done or the dumbest!”
Todd couldn't believe what he was hearing from this guy, no one talked to Dirk like that! Yet Dirk was letting him get away with it so easily, what for?! These guys seemed to almost be circling him like prey even if they were being pretty friendly noting that for now he couldn't actually get a word in edgewise throwing his hands up in the air in frustration wondering if Dirk would respond or deflect.
“I think we can all safely agree it might have been a good mix of the two, I had told you not to come after me for quite good reasons, you know. I didn't exactly plan what I was doing that much or to expect you to find me right now either! I was meant to be just not there anymore. I hadn't wanted to cause anyone any harm. Honest!”
“No harm?! NO HARM?!”
“You know I do like having my hearing intact!?!”
“Do you know how worried I – we've – been? You just taking off like that with just that note? Just because you suddenly decided you were off did not mean we suddenly thought you were a ghost. You have always been in the back of our minds you heathen! You've been nowhere to be seen for years on end with no way of reaching ye! I've been looking all over since! Christ, David! I thought you were dead!”
“I thought you were against taking the Lord's name in vain?” Came the incredibly now meek response hiding the tiniest of smiles at not being forgotten.Or at Don's vocab that needed updating quite badly. Heathen? That should have been left back in Sixth form. Attempting to reach Don to either hug him or pat or find some way to say sorry for what he'd gone through just knowing that nothing would actually be enough. A wave of David Posner came crashing back over him as he huffed crossing his arms and started to sulk. What he hadn't realised was how much he'd ignored Todd throughout this disconcerting discussion.
Then during a lull in the conversation, the outburst happened.
“You know these people? Like actually know them? Not as in a I know their favourite colour sort of thing but as in a I know everyone of these people's secrets because I know them so well they trust you and they've done the same for me sort of thing? Like that sort of knowing?”
The head stayed bowed, so Todd knew he got his answer. Everything started to twist seamlessly together in a rush. Between the evasiveness of Dirk getting the call from that shady character. Since they had set up shop here. The way his eyes had lit up before dimming in some of the shops and the park as they had walked round the city. The church he'd both wanted to walk into the entrance of while simultaneously almost bursting into tears as he traced the brickwork. The waving passer by's. The bookkeeper and his kids who'd embraced him pulling out a book or two for him. An old history and poems. The way he brushed most things off to do in the town saying the universe never wanted them there. The name. He'd done it all already. How these people in this group were reacting to him. A different personality starting to shine through, a more relaxed one. God this person had friends. Close friends. The name. Jesus did Todd even know the real Dirk at all? How did he even have time to meet these people?
"Todd maybe you should take a breather"
"And what? Go back in time to find out how much else you're hiding?"
"I know you don't mean that. All I'm saying is the Rowdies are no-where near us and you just said that you're almost out of tablets. You know I don't want to waste them and this would be a waste of them. Could you maybe shut up and just please listen!"
No Todd definitely didn't know Dirk. Acting all weird and shouty and whatever. But he hated the fact his friend was right. His attacks did worsen under some pressures like this. Yeah they snuck up on him but this would bring it on and he was not going to bring it on. No. No way. Not when all of this was unfolding in front of him. He forced himself to calm down.
"So you really know these people that well? In the way that I said"
“Maybe? Cheers mate! Not like we spent some of the most important times in our lives with you!”
“Jimmy, I...oh! Where have you all come from anyways? Something's beginning to tell me it might be important and I think we should definitely start heading that way. I'm not trying to get out of this but I seriously think we should be walking to where-ever you've come form so let's do that!”
“Excellent. Which one?”
“What? We came from the pub. You know how Sheffield is. Not like you to forget any of these places. For all it's faults and flaws it hasn't actually changed that much. Seeing as you've most likely been here long enough, you should remember the way. Or did you suddenly forget after your breakdown?”
“Breakdown, Dirk what breakdown?” Todd focused on the end rather than the overall tone of these people.
“Not important Todd”
Todd had just been about to step in for his friend dazed at the speed of which the blond haired one did it for him instead. If the detective didn't look so happy every time he spoke, he would have tossed him out the first window he saw.
“Stop being such a bell end Stu. Clearly you can take Dakin out of Sheffield but apparently you can't take the Sheffield out of Dakin. More's the overall pity. We came from the pub round the corner. Bit odd though. This woman came up to us, said the universe wanted her to murder some of the people in there, told us to get out and not come back so we bolted it. Think she might have been not all there. David, while I'm incredibly pissed off at you, you've actually gone a bit pale. Paler than you ever have. You alright?”
“No, I mean yes! Don, you are still as brilliant as ever! Todd, we really do have to go back to the pub!”
“Yeah I kinda guessed that, you jackass. Let's go, I guess you all want to come with us because I am not putting up with being followed. I get that enough already. If it's anymore than half an hour though, I swear my actions will be justified!”
The pub littered with glass shards and broken stools lay across the floor, there was blood staining some of the walls and on the woman's shirt. The woman tossed her hammer back behind the bar. Dirk taking a step back.
“What in the bloody hell's happened here, I swear we only left for ten! This looks like a disaster area if a disaster area had another disaster” Chris couldn't believe the carnage.
"I think we can safely say goodbye to our beer evenings!
"Don't you think there's more things at stake here? Or have you not noticed the state of things?!" Akthar yelled over the top of Timm's moaning.
“I'm sorry, you know a murderer? Do you know she is one by the way? Or would you like to take a look at the floors? This is stupid even for you Pos” Akthar folded his arms attempting to copy his mother's glare. Dirk glaring at the others who pretended not to have done anything as he turned back to talk to Bart knowing the universe needed this interaction for whatever reason as Todd kept trying to ignore how readily Dirk had accepted these people back into his life, and at how easily they all fell back into step. However this was the second time someone in this group had told his friend off, and if they kept up he knew he'd have to talk to them.
“I told these people not to come back, so I'm guessing these people yours?” Bart sensed something, took out a gun from somewhere and shot the man about to shoot her without looking smiling as she heard the sickening crunch of a body hitting the counter to the floor turning back to continue the conversation.
“Yes, these are people I knew from A-Levels”
“Oh what are those, is that some form of torture or something?”
“It's definitely a type of torture, I assure you”
“That, haha, that sounds kinda cool you know. For a weirdo”
“Yes well, thank you I suppose. Bart, what exactly and please describe in as much detail as possible, are you doing here? I thought you decided to stay in America. You know where it's safer?”
“Oh! I was busy taking care of business”
“We can see that!”
“Ignore Dakin. I know it's terribly difficult but one must do what one must I suppose. What were the people doing that invoked the universe to put you in England?”
“Universe is back to protecting me, don't gotta hide. Just gotta do what I gotta do again. The one I just shot looked at you kinda funny like. They just like popped up on the TV police report thing, so I started walking. Now I'm here. The small people in the TV said they ran illegal rings or something so I stole this guy's ring! I might give it to Panto!”
“That's because...because they used to be my English teacher. Not a very good one though, you should have seen his notes on my essays about Poe which means they must have been the ones to place the soul in the coin and planned to do more until well we arrived if my hunches are correct... Hmm”
“Well whatever, this is boring me and I gotta get. More places to go, people to kill, I'll see you Dirk”
“Yes quite. Safe travels I suppose”
“Well that was fairly normal for Bart, you think she's going to get back okay? And not that I am ever going to force you to talk about whatever happened to you Dirk but A-Levels, I've heard about them, it's an exam board isn't it? I've been putting it all together in my head and most things fit easily but this doesn't. You these men from going to school? How did you even go to school when you were with well, you know? And I thought...I thought we were past lying to each other”
“I know these boys from sixth form yes. I have not been lying! I...okay maybe I have. But only because this time my intentions had nothing to do with anyone except me and I didn't even know you then! Quite frankly if you'd known me back then I assure you, you would have understood. This lot kept me from falling when I thought it wasn't possible to fall further"
"Yeah. And then you did Pos. Didn't you?" Rudge's monotone cutting through to the core of Dirk's heart. He had to somehow rescue this trying to forget they were still in a pub with bodies on the ground.
"It had been a difficult year or so. As you well know. There were things tumbling out of control, people out of control and the universe had been cloying at me to get a shuffle on but I also...faltered. So....I estranged myself for a while if you must have a proper answer for how I know them Todd. They weren't above blackmail, in fact that was how I had landed here in the first place really and we'd witnessed a few bad things during our schooling let's say. I'd been going through some things as well. I just wasn't going to bring them all into this and I'd rather not have these two lives crossing but the universe rarely takes into account what I want and now it apparently wants us all to collide! Which I am subsequently ready and not ready for! Not that I'm not exactly complaining because I have missed you all, I'm thrilled I've been allowed to meet with you all again but I'm also just not happy about it because of course it would have to happen on a case! I escaped to give you all a better chance so you were never fodder! Or it was because of me you were that. Or for you to have the opportunity to understand who I became. The universe just can't leave well enough alone! As if I haven't suffered enough. Are you...mad at me?”
“No I'm not that. I'm something but I'm not that. More confused I guess. You're giving me information overload here. I know you said it's not part of Blackwing and you wanted to protect them but did this come after or?”
“I just told you. Don't you think you should be ringing Farah? It's coming up to our usual check in time”
“Fine. Fine. You're not getting away with not talking to me this time. Okay?”
He made sure he got a proper nod before bringing his phone out dialling his friend's number walking away from the group that now steadily got louder. He prayed that Dirk could get through it. They seemed concerned about him but also angry. Weirdly angry.
“Hey Farah, yeah just checking in. God, you are not going to believe what bullshit Dirk has gotten us into this time”
The minute Todd left, the cacophony happened.
The second minute, the questions kept hurtling back and forth with no answers. Why was his name different, why was he acting different, what happened to his accent? Who were Todd and Farah? How were you so calm with Bart who by the way just killed a bunch of people? What was Blackwing? Why did they need protecting? Why had he never got back to them? Did he know how much they missed him? Why did he run? Did he know what havoc he caused by doing all that? Was he aware that Scripps constantly berated himself for not looking after him, not finding him quicker?
The third minute, he found it hard to breathe. There were far too many questions happening. Questions that needed answers. Couldn't focus on their voices first, their faces next all of it blurring together again. Breathing heavier. He couldn't answer about Blackwing either, that went too far and he knew they missed him. He up and left without anything besides a note, of course they'd be worried, stupid Dirk! Always thinking of himself and not his first ever friends! Of course the universe would throw them all in each other's way again as if to make up for him being so catastrophically naïve that he could just leave his past behind him. Leave these boys behind him. Be able to walk away from his mistakes. From these boys, always getting them into trouble! Be away from anything that tethered his connection to Blackwing. Stupid, stupid, stupid Dirk!
The boys stopped their questions in their tracks just standing there not knowing how to help. Not even Scripps who Posner had told him he thought he was on the verge of breaking down and he should figure out how to help if he had another panic attack that or nightmare. In the panic of all this he just stood there with his boys worrying about making it worse if he did go into the fray.
Dirk sank to the floor holding his arms round his chest now taking ragged breaths, chest feeling tight.
He only just registered a voice calmly if a bit shakily telling him to follow his breathing bringing him back to the ground and himself.
“That's it Dirk. You got it. Keep following my breathing, you're doing great. You're just with me, nothing else. Keep on breathing. You're totally safe here. Awesome. In....out...You with me?"
Dirk after five minutes or so had come back into his own gently hugging his assis-friend knowing from past experience it helped a little while muttering a thank you. Still shaking a little but on stable ground. It hadn't felt as harrowing as his last one but near for sure. In either case he'd been about to apologise to his school mates when Todd told him not to. Instead he shuffled a little closer into the American's space.
“Farah's got everything covered back home. Okay you know what, I think this place might not be helping. At all. So do you think you can move? I do know you. So I won't ask until we're back in the warehouse. I think we need all the answers we can get so you'll need to actually give me the truth. I know you don't want to tell. But you might have to. This seems like you actually had a good reason for keeping this and I'll.....I guess I'll try and be as open as possible seeing as these are actually your friends and not nut-jobs. None of this, any of this is pre-destined. They're probably not going to run at the first sign of trouble seeing as they're for some reason for whoever they're thinking who you are still here, or that Blackwing will just suddenly appear to whisk you out of here. Ready?”
Todd held out a hand which Dirk took to help himself up as his friend leaned back into him not ready to peer into his sixth form friends eyes both embarrassed and terrified to see what they just watched not knowing they couldn't look either.
“If you guys could follow us then that'd be great. I can't believe this is my life. Honestly one day I'd just like one case where I'm not running from dimension to dimension or entering weird mazes or meeting my friend's estranged weird ass English friends”
Dirk let out a light laugh as they made their way out of the pub again not sparing a glance backwards. Posner may have had a flair for the dramatic but Todd took more than the cake sometimes. He tuned in to hear if the group were actually following him letting out a breather hearing them. The Oxford and Cambridge boys slightly unnerved at seeing someone who was once so put together be so torn apart.