Holy fuck, Waylon thought, I’ve finally lost it.
It wasn’t the best thought to have at 4 AM, struggling to sit up in bed, damp with sweat and suddenly very much fighting the urge to scream . . . or cry . . . or both.
And yet it was the only thought Waylon’s brain seemed capable of screaming on repeat, because it was the only response he could think of, because he felt so extremely vulnerable in such darkness, because, right now, he was completely, wholly, terrified.
Because there was someone in his room, watching him.
Well, not exactly, but he could sense someone watching him, hidden in the corner of his motel room, concealed by darkness too deep for him to perceive. He was being watched by shadows, he knew it.
He sat up in bed, quivering, for what felt like hours but in reality wasn’t even 30 minutes. Eventually, he worked up the courage to act on his fear. Not even daring to take his eyes off the looming darkness of his room, Waylon reached a shaking hand over to his nightstand, blindly attempting to recover his phone. He finally gripped it and pulled it into his lap, his eyes momentarily flicking down to swipe for the torch app before raising the device as if it were some enchanted talisman to ward away demons. And, in a way, it was, in the moment. The phone’s harsh light shot through the dark, a strong beam of white aimed straight at the shadows. Yet the beam hit nothing except stained wallpaper. No nefarious figures hiding in the dark after all then.
Waylon allowed himself to let out the breath he’d been holding, suddenly wanting the room to be far less quiet than what it was. He breathed heavily, letting the sound fill the room, it was shaky but it was something. Proof that he was alive, for now.
He closed the torch app and dropped his phone onto the bed. Waylon then let his hands clamp onto the sides of his face and began to massage his temples.
“Shit.” It felt like an adequate response, and it felt good to just talk, even if it was just to himself. He had anticipated episodes like this since he went on the run three months ago. It was expected. Weeks at a time spent in total solitude, barely saying a word to anyone except service workers and the occasional ‘agent’ sent by Simon to supply him with the keys to a new car, an envelope with a whole new identity and an address to his next hotel waiting in the glove box. He was in Nevada right now, he had another day or two before the whole thing refreshed and he had to be on the road again. The goal was to get him out of the country and into Canada. Whatever came after he crossed the border, Waylon tried his best not to think about. A day at a time, Simon said, thinking too far ahead will only make you more paranoid.
There was a lot that Waylon thought best not to think about nowadays, but his mind still wound up neck-deep in the same topics it always did. When he wasn’t thinking about Murkoff, he was thinking about Lisa and his sons. He didn’t know which he’d rather spend his time on, ideally neither. A minute didn’t seem to pass when he wasn’t blaming himself for the effects of one for the other. God, if he’d just accepted his paycheck and kept his mouth shut— no, enough. He’s been here enough times before to know that as hard as it was, wallowing in the past wasn’t going to heal anything in the present. Shoulda-coulda-woulda. He’s royally fucked up and now he’s going to try everything he can to keep Lisa and the boys safe. Divorce or no divorce, he owes it to her and their kids to keep them safe. Lord, he doesn’t even know where they are right now. He remembers some tidbit from Simon, about securing them someplace in Easton, Washington. Waylon didn’t really care where there were, they could be in Antarctica and Waylon wouldn’t mind, so long as they’re safe and away from this shit show.
Waylon groaned, raking a hand through his hair; it was dripping with sweat. Going back to
sleep was no longer an option, not before he at least showered. New topic then, his head suggested as he slid out of bed and trudged towards the bathroom, think of something different. Something better.
Try as he might, Waylon found himself drawn back to the chilling notion that the darkness was watching him again, and yet when he looked over his shoulder, still there was no figure, no ravenous beast, no faceless assassin sent from Murkoff to cut out his tongue and snap his neck. Of course, Waylon was initially grateful for this lack of a killer in his room, but then there was the creeping suspicion of what it could mean for his mental state if he was seeing something where there was nothing, or rather, not seeing anything at all but feeling that there was so immensely.
Yep, definitely losing it .
He flicked a switch to his right and the dingy little bathroom’s fluorescent lighting spluttered into action. He chose to leave the bathroom door open wide, the image of the room framed inside the smudged mirror over the sink.
Stripping off his soaked undershirt and boxers, Waylon stepped into the shower, drawing the curtain closed with more force than was probably necessary. The first thirty seconds of the shower was spent standing under a completely ice-cold spray, but Waylon welcomed the way it woke him up. He let his lips part a fraction and pretended he was underneath a waterfall, away from it all, breathing in the cool air.
Once the water warmed up to something more manageable, he began to move, scrubbing over his body with some of the cheap body wash provided by the motel. It smelled more like vegetable oil than the ‘Jasmine and Honeysuckle’ it claimed to be, but it’s better than reeking of his latest night terror.
Done showering, Waylon turned off the water and stepped back out into the bathroom, grabbing a large towel and wrapping it around his shoulders like a shawl. He stood there for a while, letting his eyes slide shut for a moment, droplets of water rolling off his hair and down his face, feeling the steam that had begun to gather from the shower and the weight of the towel hold him like a vague embrace. He exhaled through his nose slowly, the warmth of the shower and his own fatigue beginning to catch up on him, causing him to sway slightly from the effort of staying upright.
Sleep had been hard to come by ever since he blew the whistle on Murkoff. He had slept alone before he went on the run, he had learnt to adapt to the absence of a body resting beside him ever since Lisa left him, And yet now, after three months of near-total isolation from any other living soul, Waylon had only recently admitted to himself how hard it was to cope with his loneliness. He’d have horrible nightmares, he’d be back in Mount Massive, running for his life until he’d trip or his attacker (the Cannibal, or the Soldier, or . . . or . . .) finally got close enough to grab him or strike him with their rusting weapon and he’d wake up in a cold sweat with no one to talk to or comfort him but himself. He missed the ability to just call somebody and vent; he was never ‘popular’ but he’d had friends, good friends that would listen to him if he could only just call them. But that wasn’t an option, not now, maybe not ever. The same went for Lisa and the boys. Maybe ten or so years from now, when Murkoff was finally gone and he could go find them. Would Adrian even recognise him? Would Malcolm? He had just turned three before the riot . . .
Waylon shook his head, causing water to fly across the bathroom, he needed to stop thinking like this, as much as it pained him to regard it as such, thinking about his family was a distraction. He had to remain focused, at least until he crossed the border.
Working up the courage to dry himself off, Waylon put everything back the way it was and gathered up his clothes and dumped them in a duffel bag by his room door. He fished around for a new shirt and underwear and pulled them on before heading back to his bed.
He stared at the bed, looking at the dents his body had made in it from tossing and turning all night. Placing a hand over where his back had been, he grimaced at the dampness of the duvet.
Not wanting to put himself or the cleaners through another three-to-five hour’s worth of sweat-soaked sheets, Waylon went back into the bathroom to retrieve another towel to sleep on.
He put the light back on grabbing two towels before briefly turning to look in the mirror.
His hands dropped the towels immediately to instead clamp over his mouth, to save himself from screaming.
The mirror mostly depicted the sight Waylon had expected: his face was a little more sunken in that how it used to be (blame it on a diet consisting of shitty room service and a severe lack of sleep), and his eyes were more watery than how he’d remembered them and his hair had grown an inch or two since he went on the run. His expression was also pulled into one of sheer terror, and rightfully, so because his visage wasn’t the only thing the mirror showed.
The Groom. The Man Downstairs. Eddie Fucking Gluskin. The main event in nearly all of Waylon’s nightmares and trauma. And he was in Waylon’s mirror. Leaning against the fucking bathroom doorway with his arms crossed over his chest as if he was just waiting for a bus. Yet it seemed like Gluskin is as equally surprised at the fact that Waylon sees him as much as Waylon is petrified that he can. His eyes are wide and his scarred eyebrows are raised as if he’d been caught where he shouldn’t be. And, well, he isn’t where he should be. He should be rotting in the gymnasium where Waylon left him. Not standing in the dingy bathroom of a $40-a-night motel in Ely, Nevada behind the guy he’d tried to castrate and make his fucking wife.
Gluskin doesn’t look any different than how Waylon last saw him; scabbed and covered in blood, still in his patch-work shirt and waistcoat. His eyes were still heavily bloodshot, and there was even dried trails of blood from his mouth running down his chin. He looked tired. The most horrific aspect of Gluskin’s look, however, was his stomach. Looking as fresh as the moment it was pierced by a 10 ft long metal road, Gluskin’s intestines hung out from the gaping hole in his waistcoat like they were some twisted accessory. Gluskin didn’t seem bothered by his obvious evisceration though if the way he remained casually leaning on the doorframe was anything to go by.
They stood there, just staring at each other, until Waylon finally freed his mouth from his hands, managing to say as much as “How the fuck-” before whirling around (in either an act of astute bravery or stupidity, Waylon was presuming it was the latter) to face his attacker; only to be met with an empty doorway. Gluskin was nowhere to be seen.
Venturing back into the main body of the room, Waylon still found no trace of Gluskin, and when he looked back into the mirror (his heart hammering in his chest the entire time), there remained no sight of his attacker.
Waylon went back to the sink, his knuckles blanching from the effort it took to grip the porcelain as he hunched over, his breathing heavy. He felt like he was going to be sick, his head suddenly feeling far too heavy and his mind too crowded. Memories flashed up out of nowhere, things he thought he had buried were rearing their fat ugly heads and clawing up to the surface: The elevator shaft, the buzz of the table saw, the sound of Gluskin’s honeyed voice complimenting him and cursing him in the same cry, the smell of blood and sweat and all other manner of things Waylon gagged at the thought of.
The thought of it all was enough to make him want to cry, the scar of where the wooden splint had jammed itself in his leg all those weeks ago ached at the memory. He looked down at the scar, Simon had seen to it that he got some medical attention, but no amount of painkillers could erase the wave of dread that overcame him whenever he so much as looked down at the scar.
No. Leave it, let it die. Gluskin is DEAD. You saw him die, right in front of you. Get some damn sleep.
Waylon’s legs felt just about ready to collapse from underneath him, so without leaving any room for thought, he quickly ran the tap, splashed his face with cold water, gathered the towels back up and made his way back to bed.
Spreading the towels over the duvet, Waylon climbed back into bed, staring up at the ceiling. Eventually, exhaustion overpowered the drive to stay alert and Waylon allowed his eyes to fall closed. He rolled over onto his side, the outline of Gluskin’s image burning behind his eyelids before he slipped into the sweet oblivion of sleep.
Feel free to leave a comment. Constructive criticism is welcome!
Chapter 2: Ghost Pokes
Fixed a problem so now everyone should be able to see text that wasn't there before - sorry!
After three hours of more-or-less undisturbed sleep, Waylon woke up to the sound of something tapping. At first, Waylong thought it was just something happening outside, or in his head, as his subconscious struggled to find the motivation to function for the morning, but as he yawned and stretched and buried his face further into his pillow, the tapping continued, if not more fervently.
The incessant sound soon became too much to bear and Waylon, groaning as he did so, rolled over and squinted at his room; no sign of life beyond himself. Reaching out for his phone, Waylon saw the time was a little after 7:30 AM. He set the phone down and turned his attention back to his room. Nothing had changed from how he left it during the night, save for the fact that the tapping sound seemed to be coming from his laptop.
The laptop in question (an item Waylon had requested from Simon; nothing flashy, but it was appreciated) was currently sitting on a small wooden desk against the wall near Waylon’s bed, Waylon remembers closing it after he had turned it off, yet it sat on the desk open, still turned off, but the screen was upright. The tapping was coming from the laptop’s keyboard. Something was causing the keys to move as if someone was trying to type something out. Waylon couldn’t decide whether he’d be better off trying to go back to sleep, or investigate, but before he could even decide his body was already pushing him out of bed and onto his feet. Warily, he made his way over to the laptop, the keyboard still going haywire. When he finally stood to the side of the small chair tucked underneath the desk, the pacing of the keyboard didn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
“Woah, woah, woah . . . easy, slow it down will you?” Was it utterly ridiculous to be talking to an inanimate piece of technology? Yes. Was Waylon only talking to said piece of inanimate technology because he’s pretty sure he’s finally gone off the deep end and is looking for any excuse to talk? Probably. It wasn’t like this was new though; talking to machinery. Lisa used to poke harmless fun at him for treating devices like wounded animals like he was some sort of computer-whisperer. He misses Lisa’s teasing, how she’d laugh between her little quips and end it with a kiss to his forehead, saying she didn’t mean anything bad by it, not that Waylon ever minded. Bringing himself back into the present, Waylon’s eyes widened as he watched how the keys did, in fact, seem to pace themselves more between each movement. Waylon had never faced something like this before. The keys that were moving seemed to be picked less at random now as well, causing Waylon to inch closer to watch which ones were being moved. He even found himself muttering the letter out loud:
"I . . . N . . . E . . . D . . . D . . . I . . . E . . .—"
Waylon only got that far before his stomach dropped and he slammed the laptop shut barely a second after his brain pieced the letters together. He jumped back from the laptop as if it had bitten him. He pressed the heels of his palms over his brow, trying to steady his breathing.
“Shit . . . shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.” He didn’t know what else to say. This had to be some sleep-deprived delusion, right? Weeks on the run, his mind and body fuelled by paranoia and shitty motel coffee, this was just a product of his anxiety. A very large part of him wanted to break the laptop over his knee, eradicate the source with the hope of eliminating the effect it caused. The only problem was, Waylon doubted his physical strength at the moment, feeling faint enough to fall to the ground.
He clenched his jaw, feeling his teeth grind against one another. “Fuck this,” he spat, managing to step back towards the desk, pulling out the flimsy chair seated before it and sat himself down before the laptop. He wrenched the device open and braced his arms on either side of it, fists clenched. He stared at the keyboard, daring the keys to move again. “C’mon, do something.” He felt ridiculous, goading his laptop to talk —or was ‘type’ the more accurate term?— to him, whilst he sat in his underwear. But he needed proof, proof that he wasn’t as insane as he thinks himself to be. If something was possessing his laptop then he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to at least double-check to make sure. Maybe this was Murkoff’s plan, somehow hack into his laptop and drive him mad until he slips up and gets himself caught. Quit it, his brain begged. A few more minutes passed and the keyboard remained immobile. Waylon let his head drop, taking his head into his hands and sighing. He needed to get out of here, now, before he slipped any deeper into insanity than he already was. He pushed his chair out and got up to get dressed, walking over to his bag to find a pair of jeans a shirt that smelled the freshest.
Suddenly feeling very exposed, he went to change in the bathroom, with the door firmly locked.
Spraying some cheap deodorant underneath his shirt as he went, Waylon exited the bathroom a few minutes later. He retrieved a backpack from underneath his bed, it contained all the standard stuff: wallet, car keys, fake passport, etc. He then moved over to the small safe beside the nightstand. He entered the passcode and door clicked open. Waylon reached inside and pulled out a small pencil case, unzipping it to reveal that it was full of SD cards. He counted them all up and zipped the case back shut, stuffing it into his backpack. He reached inside again and pulled out a camcorder. The camcorder. Simon had recommended destroying it, but Waylon had made a case for keeping it. He didn’t try explaining why, not when he didn’t truly know the reason why himself. He supposed it was because it was his testimony, proof that he’d made it through Hell and survived. It was his good luck charm. He turned it over in his hands, tracing the scratches that littered its plastic body with a finger, before stuffing it in the backpack along with all the other stuff.
He got back up to his feet to leave, planning on heading down to the dinner next to the motel. He barely got his hand on the door handle before something caused him to freeze.
The sound of tapping.
It was like something out of a third-rate horror movie, the way Waylon turned his head over his shoulder to watch the laptop’s keyboard move again. He would have laughed at the absurdity of it all if he wasn’t emotionally paralysed all of a sudden. The tapping was far more aggressive now, almost accusative, if something as trivial as typing on a keyboard could ever be perceived as such. Waylon was too far away to see what keys are being pressed, but it didn’t seem like anything was being written intentionally from the pace at which they were going. Swallowing the lump in his throat, Waylon commanded his body to follow his head and turn around. He got about within three paces of the laptop before the thing slammed itself shut, or whatever was controlling it closed it, probably out of frustration. Waylon waited for a moment before huffing, marching over to the desk and grabbing the laptop, shoving it into his backpack. Whatever was trying so damn hard to get attention was gonna get it, Waylon would allow it that much.
With that, he took one last look around before gripping the door handle and leaving the room.
The diner wouldn’t be serving breakfast until eight today, but the lone waitress (‘Susie’ her name tag read) working there was nice enough to let him wait inside until it was time. Waylon found a booth furthest from the counter and wedged himself out of sight, answering with a shaky “Yes” when Susie called out asking if he wanted coffee while he waited. Whilst Susie brewed his coffee, Waylon unzipped his backpack to pull out the (potentially literally) cursed laptop. He opened the laptop and switched it on, setting it on the table in front of him as he waited for it to buffer. Susie came over and poured him his coffee. Blowing his coffee, Waylon watched the screen come to life. He opened up a word document and leaned back in his seat, swirling his coffee idly.
“Go on then, say your piece.” He didn’t know if attempting to communicate with whatever was possessing his laptop in a rundown diner whilst he was on the run from a major sinister corporation was the best thing to be concerning himself with, but nevertheless, he found himself watching the laptop eagerly, sipping his coffee in anticipation. But it wasn’t just like some random spirit had gotten stuck inside of it and just needed a quick exorcism and all would be well again; there was a chance (an unnervingly high chance) that whatever typed out Gluskin’s name was either from the Asylum or Gluskin himself. Waylon’s guts churned. He dreaded to think what being haunted by Eddie Gluskin would connote. But why now? After three months since his death, what’s triggered it?
Waylon must have watched that screen for a while, because he finished his coffee and the waitress came over to take his order. Casting a quick glance at the menu and ordering some french toast and more coffee, Waylon was left alone with the laptop once more. And he was getting irritated. He soon grew tired of waiting for something to happen, and he pushed the laptop away from him having it face the seat opposite him. The waitress came back with his french toast and coffee, and for a while, he had managed to find some humour in the situation.
Out of all the ways to take the pressure of being chased across the country by a company that wanted him dead, imagining demons in his laptop was certainly not something he was predicting. He was just about to drain the last of his coffee and call Susie over to pay, when he heard it. Tapping. He couldn’t see over the laptop, but it was definitely the sound of the keys. Waylon was afraid to turn it around, in case touching it put off whatever was trying to communicate with him and he was left alone. Again.
The tapping sounded far more attentive now, as if whoever was typing was choosing their phrasing more carefully. When the sound seemed to cease, Waylon set his coffee down and reached a hand out to spin the device around, holding his breath as he did so. On the screen, read the words:
Waylon didn’t know if this confirmed his insanity or cleared it. Still, whatever entity watching over him was nice enough to greet him by name. “Uh, hi.” It was a good enough response as any, Waylon didn’t really know the etiquette for such a situation. When nothing more was typed, Waylon hit the enter key —just in case ‘they’ might want to start a new line— and gingerly pushed the laptop back around, holding back a squeak when he heard the keys move. When it stopped, he turned the device back around.
You saw me
“Saw you? I’ve nev—” a chill ran down Waylon’s spine— “wait . . . Was that you, in the mirror? Last night?” His hands shook as he turned the laptop and waited. The message waiting for him made his stomach drop:
He pushed the laptop away from him. “Holy shit,” he hissed. So he was being haunted then, and by none other than Eddie Gluskin. Too many questions invaded his train of thought, questions with answers he’d really just pretend there were no answers for. He was so caught up in his own internal mess that he barely heard the sound of the keyboard being used. Waylon looked up from the table, raising his gaze just above the laptop. Was Gluskin sitting right in front of him, in his blood-soaked suit with his intestines pooling in his lap? Or was he in a more fluid form, floating above and around him? He grabbed the laptop and read Gluskin’s message feverishly.
Move over its easier if i set next to you
Ah, so he was most likely in the same form as when Waylon saw him in the mirror. He blushed at the stupidity of the situation; shuffling over in his seat to make room for Gluskin. He intially had half a mind to tell him to fuck off and stay seated where he was, but he wanted answers despite his best efforts to pretend none of this was real and didn’t matter. Plus, it seemed like Gluskin wasn’t in the mood for conversation, if the curtness of his messages were anything to go by. Sitting closer to the corner of the booth, Waylon placed the laptop to his right and grabbed his coffee, frowning when he realised that the remnants of it had been reduced to a thick cold sludge. “Hey uhm, can I get another coffee?” Waylon asked out loud, drawing Susie out of her work at the till. She smiled sweetly, chirping: “Sure!” before turning around to the coffee pot. Waylon watched her work between glances at the seemingly self-typing laptop and felt unnerved at the idea of Gluskin watching her as well, but it appeared that Gluskin had other things to focus on, such as asking:
S o what now
Waylon had to bite back a laugh, suddenly feeling very bitter. ‘What now’ indeed. “How about we start with me asking you how long you’ve been fucking haunting me.”
Hardly haunting if youve only noticed me now
Sarcasm wasn’t exactly on the list of things Waylon presumed a ghost would be capable of; least of all the ghost of Eddie Gluskin. “Yeah well maybe you’re just a shit ghost.” It was a risk to get riled up this soon, he still didn’t know what Gluskin was capable of now that he’d shuffled off the confines of mortality, but he figured that if Gluskin was taking minutes at a time to type one sentence, then possessing his body would require a level of energy he can't summon the strength for. He scratched the back of his neck. “So how long have been uh . . . with me?”
Since you let me die
That got Waylon’s attention. “What do you mean by that? You think that's something I ought to feel bad about? May I fucking remind you that you were the one that chased me through half of Mout Massive just to tie me down and try and drive a saw through my—” “One coffee - you okay?” It was Susie with his fresh cup of coffee. Waylon balked, “Yeah, yeah I’m fine, just er . . . didn’t get much sleep last night.” He traded his old cup for the new one, Susie smiling at him as she did so, until she glanced down at the laptop, which was going a hundred miles an hour. Gluskin had a lot to say all of a sudden. Waylon just grimaced, muttering: “Sticky keys,” as some bullshit excuse. Thankfully, Susie just smiled politely and left him to it. He watched her get as far as the counter before looking at the screen.
You let me go and now im stuck with you
“It’s not like if I held your damn hand you’d still be alive, you’d think that— y’know what? Not important right now.” He took a deep breath and thought about his next question. “So you’ve been with me since you died? Why didn’t you try and get my attention sooner?”
Tried but was too weak
Pretty sure the mirror was a fluke so i tried this
The thought of Gluskin being too weak to do anything, let alone press a few buttons on a keyboard was something Waylon found rather difficult to imagine. And 'this' probably referred to Gluskin trying to type out his name earlier. “I’m not sure where we go from here . . . do you need to take a break?” He asked softly, not wanting to come across like he was daring Gluskin to try anything beyond his capabilities and wind up with a broken laptop because of it. No
“Well, then can I ask what you mean by being ‘stuck’ with me? You’re a ghost, can’t you just go wherever you want now? And why do you need space to type? Surely it’d just be easier to go through me or the table or whatever . . .”
Cant go more than 10 paces without ending up right back next to you
And it doesnt work like that
Going through things hurts so I try to avoid it
“So you’re not just some cloud in the air like you have a body?”
“Do you . . . do you ever sleep?”
“So what do you do when I’m asleep?” He didn’t take to the idea of Gluskin just staring at him until he woke up. Maybe that’s why he felt so exposed last night, he could sense Gluskin watching at him.
Wait for you to wake up
“Oh.” A few minutes passed before Gluskin typed some more.
you never go anywhere
Waylon huffed out a laugh. Infamous serial killer Eddie Gluskin, who’d probably been in and out of prisons and mental institutions his whole adult life couldn’t handle a few months of cabin fever. “Yeah well I’m not about to head out and risk getting spotted just because you’re getting twitchy.”
At least turn the tv on or by a couple books
Anything is better than nothing
Waylon let himself chuckle at that, the way the words sounded like they were coming from one of his sons, not Gluskin, who'd probably be more than capable of breaking his neck the moment he became corporeal. “I’ll see.” He sipped his coffee, thinking about what kind of books Gluskin even liked to read. He shook his head; why should he do anything for the man that wanted him hanging by a rope three months ago?
Im going now
“Er, okay, sure.” He didn’t really know how to say goodbye to someone that couldn’t exactly leave him. “I guess I’ll talk to you later?” Gluskin had probably reached his limit for today, but hopefully he could talk to him some more later on. They still had a lot more to discuss.
With that, Waylon closed his laptop, but not before clicking ‘save’ on the document. He left it untitled for now, but made sure to attach it to his desktop for future use. Looking around the diner, Waylon let himself breath and drink some more of his coffee. Based on the way Gluskin typed, he wasn’t in his ‘Groom’ headspace, which was a good sign. He was still a prick, but Waylon could manage that. He leaned back in his seat and watched the diner’s carpark through the window, still at a loss for what to make of this latest revelation. Gluskin was a ghost, and it appeared that through some ethereal joke, he’s now tethered to Waylon. He rubbed his eyes. Just add it to the already mile-long list of things to worry about.
The thing that unnerved Waylon most however, was how that small conversation had seemed to relieve some of the tension that had been building up within Waylon ever since he went on the run. Even if who he was with wasn’t exactly the most enlightening company, Waylon couldn’t help but feel less alone. He let out a long sigh, looking to his right where Gluskin sat —and may still be sitting— beside him. Whatever this thing was between them, they were both going to have to learn to embrace it for whatever it was.
Chapter 3: Mea Culpa
After the whole thing at the diner, Waylon’s plan was to just crawl back into the safety of his motel room and wait until Gluskin felt able to talk again, or one of Simon’s people came to find him.
And yet just as he was about to climb the rusting steps up to his room, something stopped him. He was perfectly fine staying inside all day alone if it meant he was out of Murkoff’s line of sight, but then he thought about how he wasn’t alone, in fact, he never was alone in the first place. Not since Gluskin. The thought of Gluskin sat twiddling his thumbs while he waited for Waylon to do something more than the bare minimum made Waylon feel more uncomfortable than actually interacting with him. But they couldn’t talk 24/7 since Gluskin could barely type for fifteen minutes without needing to take a breather and Waylon wasn’t really one much conversation either, especially between a deceased ex-inmate of now one of the most infamous asylums in America.
It wasn’t like Gluskin was asking for the earth, just something to occupy himself with. Maybe if he was more entertained he’d be more willing to put in the effort to talk more in depth. He could always turn on the TV. But all that the room’s TV played on its five channels were infomercials and crappy daytime shows, and if even that was a step up from nothing, Waylon thought Gluskin would rather have something to read, something with substance.
Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to humour Gluskin a little and get him a few books. Though how Gluskin expected to pick a book up and turn the pages, Waylon supposed he’d let Gluskin worry about that. At least he could say he made an effort. Plus, it’d be good to venture out further than the motel car park.
That was why, a little more than an hour later, Waylon found himself standing in front of a wide array of books inside the nearest supermarket he could find. He’d go to an actual bookshop, but he didn’t exactly have the biggest budget, and Waylon didn’t want Gluskin getting ideas that he was going to buy him hardback classics or anything fancy. He scanned the shelves, biting his lip as he tried to think what Gluskin would like. Waylon guessed that Gluskin was standing behind him right now, probably screaming suggestions that Waylon had no chance of hearing. The thought almost made Waylon smile. Almost.
There were tonnes of crime novels, but Waylon wasn’t going to go buy Gluskin anything that surrounded the theme of murder, in case it put any ideas in his head. There were a bunch of crappy romance novels too. Would Gluskin take to those? He seemed like the type who’d read garbage like that. There were autobiographies too, mostly by C-list-and-below celebrities who were trying to make ends meet with their shitty 300 page-long diaries, not exactly books of substance. Besides, Waylon highly doubted Gluskin would even know who half (if any) of the authors were.
He was about to give up, close his eyes and reach his hand out and pick the first three books he touched when he heard something thud to his side.
His head naturally turned to see what had happened, thinking someone had just dropped something, but he was met with an empty aisle. And yet a book was lying face-down on the white terrazzo flooring.
Having a sneaking suspicion as to how the book got there, Waylon walked over to it and picked it up, turning it over to see its cover. It was a collection of some of Roald Dahl’s adult short stories. He went over the blurb, which spoke of the anthology most being composed of mysteries and dark comedies and science fiction. It looked harmless enough. Hell, Waylon might even give it a go once Gluskin was done with it.
“This the one that you want?” He was glad that the aisle was empty, as muttering to the air didn’t seem like the best thing to be caught doing when he wanted to maintain an extremely low profile.
As expected, he got no answer, but he weighed up the likelihood of the book just happening to fall versus Gluskin’s dire want for something to read and felt like he was in the clear.
“Okay, two more and that’s it. Choose wisely.”
He could almost picture Gluskin waltzing along the shelves, his eyes bleeding as he scanned each spine for something of interest. Remembering what he said about being unable to walk more than ten or so paces away from him, Waylon made sure to walk slowly up and down the aisle, not wanting to stress Gluskin out.
The next two books didn’t fall onto the floor but instead were just jolted in their place on the shelves. One of them was another anthology —F. Scott Fitzgerald this time— and the last one chose was something Waylon couldn’t stop his eyebrows from raising at once he read the title: ‘Less Than Zero’, by Bret Easton Ellis. He stuffed the other two books under his arm to flick through the pages of the last novel. He’d read it himself during college and was struggling to see its appeal to Gluskin. Graphic talk of sex and drugs and concerts didn’t really seem like Gluskin at all.
“You sure this is what you want? They’ve got some Nicholas Sparks books further down, they seem more like your kinda thing—” He was only joking, but he suddenly felt the Ellis book jump in his hands. Looks like Gluskin was already sold on his choices.
Waylon nodded and headed over to the checkout, but not before heading down the stationary aisle and grabbing an A4 lined notebook and a pack of biro pens. He barely made eye contact with the cashier expect to wish them a good day and he was heading back to the car. When he exited the store, a dog tied up outside immediately began barking towards him, but it seemed to be barking more so at something to his side than directly at him. Waylon just walked faster.
After heading to the vending machine below to restock his snack supply, back in his room Waylon found himself sitting cross-legged on the bed, his back against the headboard. Housekeeping had been in whilst he was out, the sheets were fresh and tucked in neatly, the pillows were even fluffed. The laptop was switched on and within arm’s reach, the document with their conversation from the diner loaded up on the screen. The notebook he bought this morning sat open on a random page in front of him with one of the biros from the pack (he took the liberty of removing the cap) nestled between the pages. He took a bite out of his energy bar, chewing in thought. He looked over to the end of the bed, where he hoped Gluskin had taken the hint and sat down across from him.
Waylon was about to take another bite out of his energy bar until he saw the keyboard move.
Whats the notebook for
Waylon didn’t know what to make of how his stomach fluttered upon reading those words. He pushed it aside for now.
“Uh, I figured you’d like to try your hand at writing since you’re strong enough to knock books off shelves now, apparently.”
It was one book
The laptop paused for a moment.
But thank you ill try
Thanks for the books as well
Now that wasn’t so hard, was it? Waylon mused. “No problem, I don’t know how you plan on reading them though if it takes so much to just move them. One thing at a time, I guess.”
Waylon finished his energy bar and got up to chuck it in the bin. When he made it back to the bed he saw the pen wobbling gently on the notebook. He chuckled, picturing Gluskin moving it around with his finger, his scarred face pulled taut with concentration. Gluskin must have heard him laughing, as the pen stopped moving in such a way that it almost seemed like an accusation. Waylon held up his hands, “Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt.” He sat back down and watched the pen move across the notebook. Occasionally the pen lifted a half-inch or so from the paper until a second later it dropped back down onto the notebook. Waylon didn’t hear it but he could sense the grunt of frustration from Gluskin as the pen was knocked across the paper and off the bed. Waylon stretched over the side of the bed to retrieve it and place it back down on the notebook but it remained motionless. Gluskin instead went back onto the laptop.
This is useless
“Well if you want to read those books then we gotta start somewhere.” You could just read to me Not like you got anything better to do
Its true though
Youre just as bored as i am
Waylon opened his mouth to respond with some snarky comment when the words got stuck in his throat and he remained silent. Something, as if out of nowhere, surged inside Waylon upon reading those words. The remark was said so plainly by Gluskin that it reminded Waylon for just how long Gluskin had been ‘with’ him. Gluskin, in his blood-soaked suit with half his internal organs hanging out, sat across from him and spoke to him as if they were something akin to friends. Gluskin, the psychotic Mount Massive patient responsible for the countless deaths and mutilation of both men and women, wanted Waylon to read to him, suggesting it like it was obvious like it was nothing. And, in a way, it was precisely nothing, it was just a simple request, and yet the idea that things had already become so familiar between them that Gluskin didn’t even hesitate to say it. Waylon wasn’t aware of Gluskin until very recently, but Gluskin’s been very much aware of Waylon ever since Mount Massive Asylum. Gluskin’s seen everything; he watched Waylon try to smother his laughter as he stared at Gluskin’s impaled body, he was there when Jeremy Blaire stabbed him, he followed Waylon outside the asylum and into that red jeep, he saw Waylon make the crushing decision to push Lisa and his sons away from him and go on the run from Murkoff. He’s seen all of it. He’s seen every nervous breakdown, every night terror, every time Waylon cried himself to sleep and screamed until his voice broke. Gluskin has seen Waylon at his absolute worst and Waylon didn’t even know until now. This fucking psycho thinks he knows him. He thinks he can request something like that so easily, like he never tried to slaughter him, like if so long as it was never brought up, all was forgiven.
Waylon suddenly hated himself for ever letting things get so casual so quickly between them. He had to remember last night, in the mirror. Gluskin was dead, sure, and he could barely lift a pen but he was still connected to Waylon through some great spiritual joke that he didn’t find funny one bit. Gluskin was one of the sources (if not the primary source) of his trauma and it would take more than some post-grave bonding to resolve that. He wasn’t Gluskin’s ally, he was his host, and Gluskin was the blood-sucking parasite. If he could get rid of Gluskin and send him on his way to whatever was waiting for him in the afterlife, then he would do so in a heartbeat. And Gluskin probably felt the exact same way.
“Now why would you think for a second that I would do anything of the sort, especially for you, huh?” He felt sick with rage, feeling his face already turn red. “Do you even remember what you did to me, in the asylum? I don’t have to do anything for you, getting you this shit was just me being a decent fucking human being. You said you wanted books, I got you your fucking books, how you read them is your problem.”
He stopped to breathe. He didn’t want to wait around to see what Gluskin was going to type in response, if he was even going to respond, instead he got up and walked over to the desk, picking up a plastic bottle of water. He unscrewed the cap and drank a quarter of it, wishing it was something alcoholic instead, anything to numb the weight of what he just said. But he didn’t hear anything coming from the laptop, and nothing was being thrown across the room. If Gluskin wanted to give him the silent treatment, then so be it.
He walked over to the laptop, then looked around the room, hiding his smirk behind the bottle as he raised it to his lips. “Got nothing big to say? Fine . . . Asshole.” It was juvenile, he knew it, but he was tired and just wanted this whole thing to end. Barely a moment later, before Waylon could even lean away from the bed, the water bottle was snatched out of his hand and sent careening through the air. It was almost comical, the way Waylon could only helplessly watch it fly through the air, water spilling from it in looping spirals, until it finally landed; right on to the laptop. Whatever water was left in the bottle poured straight onto the keyboard. Waylon couldn’t move fast enough.
He immediately grabbed the laptop, jamming a finger onto the power button and shutting it off. He picked it up and carried it to the bathroom like it was a dog that got hit by a car. Covering the laptop in towels, Waylon cursed as he tried to dry what he could of the keyboard.
“Mother fucker . . . you do realise that if this thing breaks we’re back at square one, right? Fucking arrogant ass . . . Can’t pick up a pen but somehow manages to summon up the fucking strength to launch a water bottle at your only source of communication . . . Consider yourself lucky that I can’t strangle you . . .” As he swiped a towel over the keyboard, the laptop’s screen suddenly clamped down on his hand. Looks like Gluskin still wasn’t done with him. Waylon just growled and wrenched the screen back up. “Go rot in Hell where you belong, bastard!”
Waylon was left alone after that. No doubt Gluskin wasted all his energy on his outburst, not that Waylon gave two shits, he hopes the bastard passes out from his exhaustion and stays that way forever.
After twenty minutes of trying his best to salvage it, including holding the motel hairdryer over the keyboard, Waylon left the laptop to dry on its own, swaddled by towels on the bathroom floor. The rest of Waylon’s day was spent uninterrupted. He dumped notebook and pen onto the desk and the water bottle was thrown in the bin. Waylon went back to the bed and crawled underneath the bed sheets, even pulling them up over his head purely because he didn’t feel like letting Gluskin glare at him hours on end.
When he left his bed to go down to the diner for dinner, that too was spent without anything getting tipped over or pushed around. What made the situation so unbearable, however, was the fact that Waylon couldn’t just leave Gluskin in his room. Gluskin was most likely sat right across from him, watching him eat. He remembers the look of fury on Gluskin’s face as he ran from him in the female ward, he wonders if he’s looking at him that way now, as he occasionally glanced up from his plate to stare at the seemingly empty space on the other side of the table.
After dinner, Waylon —just like every other night since the riot— ended up staring straight up at the ceiling in bed. When the ceiling got too boring, he turned his head to stare out into the darkness of the room, perhaps he was even staring right at Gluskin. Was he sitting at the desk? On the floor? Was he leaning against the wall like how he did last night? Was he watching him from at the end of his bed? Waylon looked back at the ceiling and rubbed his eyes, not wanting to think about anything to do with Gluskin anymore.
Two hours passed. Waylon tossed and turned non-stop, he tried sleeping on his side, on his front, on his back, he turned the pillows over; nothing was working. He didn’t care if he fell asleep only to wake up a few hours later to yet another night terror, so long as he got some damn sleep. But it was useless, his mind kept going back to his outburst at Gluskin. And when he wasn’t going back over that, he wound up thinking about Lisa and Adrian and Malcolm, and the feeling of loneliness hit him in wave after unforgiving wave.
With a groan, Waylon sat back up in bed and reached for the lamp on the nightstand. In the soft orange glow, he saw the plastic shopping bag with Gluskin’s books in them. He stared at the bag for a while before getting up. What the hell, he figured, pulling one of the books (the Roald Dahl anthology) from out of the bag. He got back into bed, opening it to the first story. But, before he read anything, he looked back up to the room. Nothing happened, nothing moved. What the hell, his mind echoed. Waylon cleared his throat before reading out loud:
“‘Man from the South’, by Roald Dahl . . . “
He read the entire story out loud. He went slowly, letting the tension of the writing build until it came to its unsettling conclusion. In the back of his mind, he was reminded of how he’d read to Adrian and Malcolm at their bedtimes. How he’d exaggerate his voice for each character, how his sons would always giggle at a character and pout when the story ended and it was time to sleep. Adrian, at the age of seven, thought himself a bit too grown up for bedtime stories, but Malcolm sure didn’t, begging his mom and dad to read him a different book (but ‘The Rainbow Fish’ always remained his favourite, if Waylon remembers correctly) every night. Waylon wondered if Lisa was reading to Malcolm right now, hundreds of miles away from him.
He got about three-quarters of the way through the second story (‘The Sound Machine’) before he began to feel his eyelids droop over his gaze, clouding his view of the pages. A quick glance at his phone told him that it had been almost an hour since he started reading. He tried to press on, but he kept yawning restarting the same lines. It wasn’t long before he sunk down into the bed, the book slipping from his grip and dropping of the bed and onto the floor. Soon the only sound in the room was the faint sound of Waylon snoring. A moment or two later, some invisible force had managed to flick the switch on the lamp, bathing the room in darkness once again.
Chapter 4: God Knows
Thanks for the wait! This chapter took a bit longer than the rest so I hope you enjoy reading it :^)))
When Waylon woke up, he realised two things:
There was sunlight on his face, which meant that, for the first time ever, the room’s curtains had been drawn
He had drooled onto his pillow
Whilst the second thing was more of an inconvenience than anything else, Waylon looked over to the window, letting his eyes adjust to the sudden flood of sunlight that had fallen into the room. For a moment, as his sleep-addled brain struggled to function, he almost forgot where he was. Until a minute later it all came crashing back down onto him.
Oh, right, on the run from an all-powerful billion-dollar organisation whilst simultaneously being haunted by an ex-patient of said all-powerful billion-dollar organisation’s insane asylum. Standard stuff.
He took his time getting up, not wanting to rush anything. He groaned; he really couldn’t find it in himself to move past what happened yesterday. The second he swung his legs around and his bare feet touched the wiry carpeting, it like being turned upright after spending hours upside down, with all of the rage and guilt that melted away in his sleep flooding back into his memory. Waylon threaded his fingers through his hair, pulling at random strands as he stared at the floor, psyching himself to get up.
Eventually, he got up and made it towards the window, the newly-parted curtains hanging on either side of the glass like earrings. He didn’t pay any attention to the view outside of the window, which was pretty shitty anyways, but instead, he let his eyes slide closed, letting the morning light move deftly across his face.
Waylon sighed, his vision slowly cracking back open, the sleep that was still hiding in the corners of his eyes making them itch. How much longer was he going to have to do this? When Simon told him that he was to go to Canada, Waylon hadn’t expected it to take this long. Every trip from one hotel to the next took three times longer with all the back roads he had to drive down. Simon explained that he couldn't just leg it to the closest border crossing, that he’d have to go quietly and somewhere where they wouldn’t be waiting for him so as to ‘avoid detection’. Waylon understood that, but it didn’t mean he didn’t hate every minute of it. The cars Peacock got him were run-down and cramped, everything he ate was stale and every bed he slept in was rigid and he didn’t have a single soul in the world to complain about it to. Well, that’s not necessarily true now though, is it?
Waylon turned around and grabbed some clothes before heading into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. The laptop was still sitting on the lid of the toilet seat, still layered with towels, exactly how he left it last night. Waylon was afraid to turn it on, in case it didn’t work, so he lifted it off the seat and placed it further away from the shower. He turned the shower on and washed briefly, more for the sake of waking himself up than needing to be clean. He got out and dried himself off before pulling on his clothes. He grabbed the laptop and headed out of the bathroom.
Seating himself at the desk, Waylon settled the laptop down before him and stared at the black screen, his finger hovering over the power button. He shouldn’t be this nervous, the laptop didn’t contain anything important, just some vague drafts of his will (just in case) and some emails from Simon and his associates. It also had the document containing Gluskin’s ‘first words’, but Waylon didn’t want to worry about that; he really didn’t want to feel the way he was currently feeling at the thought of losing that document.
To his side, something slid quietly across the desk towards him. Waylon looked down to his right and saw the notebook, inching slowly towards the laptop. Waylon retracted his hand from over the laptop to plant it across the open pages, stopping it from moving any closer. Between his fingers, he could make out the words:
The handwriting was neat but extremely shaky, the looping between each letter was messy and the flourish of the pen on the ‘g’ was flimsy, nevertheless, there was a certain charm surrounding the words. However, Waylon could see more words underneath the simple greeting, poking out from underneath his hand. When Waylon lifted his hand, he read:
I trust that you slept well
He must have read those words at least ten times. Looks like Gluskin is more willing to be civil than I thought. Waylon looked up from the notebook, staring into the space above him and to his right, where he assumed Gluskin was staring down at him. Jesus, I keep forgetting how tall he is, what was it? 6 ft 5? 6 ft 6?. Waylon just nodded, mumbling to the room, “Morning . . . and yeah . . . I guess I did.” This shouldn’t feel so . . . familiar, Waylon thought. This all felt too much like how he and Lisa would greet each other in the morning after a fight, before they split. “Looks like you figured out how to use a pen then,” he said, gesturing to the biro that lied on the desk not far from the notebook.
Almost immediately the biro pen jumped into the air, flying briefly before it started scribbling something onto the notebook paper. Waylon moved his chair back to give Gluskin more room to write.
The pen moved shakily and occasionally slipped back onto its side before it got picked back up, but sure enough, Gluskin managed to write down a response.
After you fell asleep I spent the rest of the night practising
“Congratulations . . . looks good.” Waylon was trying to be indifferent, but even he had to admit that he was impressed at Gluskin’s rapidly improving abilities. Plus, it was sort of . . . endearing, in a way, how Gluskin seemed to write with such pride. Waylon shook his head in an attempt to lose the thought of finding any aspect of Gluskin ‘endearing’. He cleared his throat, “So, uh, were the curtains you too?”
The pen spun in the air. Now he’s just showing off. Waylon scoffed but if Gluskin heard it, it wasn’t brought up.
I’ve been thinking
“Oh?” Waylon didn’t mean for that to sound condescending (sort of), but it didn’t matter, because before he even responded Gluskin had resumed writing.
I don’t know why you saw me the other night, but ever since you did I’ve been able to do things that I couldn’t before, like touch and move things. Only inanimate objects though.
Gluskin stopped writing, waiting for Waylon to make some indication that he was following, Waylon just nodded, prompting him to continue.
I think the more we interact, the better I get
Waylon leaned back in his chair, “Uh huh,” was all he was capable of saying back.
There’s more though
“Uh huh,” he repeated, suddenly feeling rather sick. The thought of interacting with Gluskin until he was corporeal enough to strangle him didn’t seem like the best idea.
I’m healing, physically
Waylon sat back up in his seat. “‘Healing’? How so? You’re dead, what does a ghost ‘healing’ even look like?”
My guts are back inside my body for one thing
That actually made Waylon chuckle for a second, “Great, bet that’s a weight off your shoulders.”
There isn’t even a scar. My clothes aren’t even ripped from where the rod went through them
Waylon furrowed his brow, “Wow, that’s . . . actually pretty good, did you feel yourself heal?”
No, I didn't even notice it. I was too caught up trying to hold the pen, I just looked down and everything was back in place
The thought of Gluskin being so engrossed in trying to lift a simple biro pen that he didn’t notice his own internal organs retracting back into his body made Waylon laugh. He soon stopped though, realising that, once again, he was making things too warm between them. Boundaries, Waylon, half of his mind warned, whilst the other half wondered, what Gluskin sounds like when he laughs. Maybe one day you’ll get to hear it for yourself, at the rate he’s improving. He’ll be possessing you in no time. Waylon was about to speak, but he was interrupted by a buzzing sound coming from the nightstand: His phone.
Waylon bolted out of the chair and clambered over his bed to grab the phone in time. The number shown was unlisted but that was to be expected. Waylon answered it, “Hello?”
The voice on the other end wasn’t one Waylon recognised, but since only Simon and his team knew about this phone, it was safe to say that it was someone Waylon could —more or less— trust. The voice was quick, “Is this Waylon Park? You at the Sun Motel right now?”
“Yes, yes I am. I’m right in my room.”
“Meet me in the parking lot. Now.”
They hung up before Waylon could even say anything, not that Waylon would, he’s learnt that in situations like these the less said, the better. Waylon got off the bed and grabbed the room and car keys, stuffing them into his back jeans pocket before he made it for the door. As he left the room, he held the door open for a split second longer than usual, remembering how Gluskin said he'd rather not walk through anything if he could avoid it. Done waiting, Waylon slammed the door shut and locked it, jogging down the steps to the motel parking lot.
Waiting in the parking lot by a car (presumably the one they arrived in), Simon’s agent greeted him with a curt nod. They didn’t waste any time explaining them being here:
“Hey, plans have changed, Peacock wants you to cross over into Canada tonight.”
Waylon felt like he’d been dropped into freezing cold water. “Tonight? W-how? I’m miles away from the border . . .”
The agent wasn’t very sympathetic, “Yeah well, it’s either you make a break for it or wait around for Murkoff to come murder you. They’ve already picked up some of us, only a matter of time before they connect the dots and figure out where you are.”
Waylon blanched; the idea of getting caught by Murkoff this far down the road was unthinkable. Lord knows what they’d do to the guy that started all of this mess. “Okay so, how would I even do that, I mean, it’s not like I can just drive off if I have no idea where I’m supposed to go from the bord-”
The agent was already one step ahead of Waylon, they opened the door of the car they were next to, taking out a thickly packed envelope from the glovebox and throwing it to Waylon. “The closest crossing is Piegan–Carway Border Crossing,” they gestured to the envelope, “in there is your new passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, all of the papers to say you’re moving to Canada. They’re gonna ask you your business and search your car, all you have to do is just sit there and try not to panic, if you look sick then they’ll pull you aside. Be polite and only speak when spoken too.” Waylon opened the envelope and looked through the items, everything was accounted for. The agent continued, “Your goal is to get to a place called Haines Junction, in the Yukon, there’s a map and directions in the glovebox as well, along with the rest of your money, it’s already been converted, don’t worry. You still got that credit card?” Waylon nodded. “Good, try not to use it while you’re still in the US.”
The agent approached Waylon, making sure their next instructions were understood. “When you get to Haines, you need to find a guy named Will Bennett, his address is with the directions; he’ll show you where you’ll be living.” The agent backed off and held out a hand, “Gimme your car keys.” Waylon fished the keys out of his pocket and handed them over, whilst the agent handed over the keys to their own car. At least this part of the exchange was something Waylon was used to, but he still felt deeply troubled. Murkoff was much, much was closer than he thought.
With the exchange over, the agent told him the last of the instructions. “The crossing closes at eleven tonight. If you manage to leave in—” they flicked their wrist and looked at their watch— thirty minutes or so, you should make it to the border with little over an hour to spare.” They asked Waylon which car was his and started to walk away. Waylon, still clutching the envelope and car keys called out to them. “Hey! Thanks . . . for helping me, means a lot.” The agent just waved goodbye, calling out over their shoulder, “Good luck, Waylon Park. Try not to get killed, yeah?” With that, they got into Waylon’s car and drove out of the parking lot.
Waylon felt more queasy than ever but managed to steel himself. He knew he had little time to spare, he’d let himself freak out later, right now he had approximately thirty minutes to pack his shit and check the fuck out if he was to make it to the border in time.
He ran back to his room, forgetting to hold open the door this time, and scrambled around trying to dump everything into his duffel bag. He emptied the safe and put the camera and pencil case in his backpack. He counted up what was left of his money (a little under $200) and double-checked his wallet. He was so caught up trying to make sure he had everything (the laptop, his pile of vending machine snacks, Gluskin’s books) that he barely heard the rapid scribbling coming from the notebook. It was only when he passed the desk that he happened to glimpse Gluskin’s hastily written scrawl:
If you go now you’ll never make it!! It’s too far away, you’re better off staying in a room in Montana and waiting till tomorrow to cross over
Waylon just kept packing, “Not happening Gluskin, if I stay in the US, all it does is give them more time to find me. I’m crossing the border tonight, not waiting around for Murkoff to come smother me in my sleep and dump my body in the fucking Missouri River.” The second he stopped talking he heard more scribbling coming from the desk behind him, but he didn’t exactly have the time to read whatever bullshit Gluskin was spouting. “Gluskin, just leave it, please. I’m doing this now and nothing is changing that.” He got up and slung the backpack and duffel bag over his shoulders. “Plus, if Murkoff kills me, where does that leave you, huh? Limbo? Hell? Not that I care, but do you really want to find out this soon?”
He waited a full minute for a response, and when the pen remained in the air before finally dropping back onto the desk, Waylon tried his best to hide his smirk. “Good, now c’mon let’s go.” He went over to the desk and grabbed the notebook and pen, stuffing them under his arm. “You can write more in the car,” he offered. Even if Gluskin disagreed with him, it’s not like he could stay put.
Waylon searched the room three more times before confirming that everything was packed. He’d have to forgo breakfast in exchange for some off-brand chips from his snack collection but it was a small price to pay if it meant he made it across the border in time. He’d worry about finding a place to stay once he crossed over into Canada. With that, he walked out of the room, holding the door open for Gluskin.
After checking out he made his way over to the car (where he also opened the front passenger door open for Gluskin) and got inside. The car was a little better than his previous vehicles, such as this car actually had functioning air conditioning and seats that weren’t locked into place an inch from the steering wheel. He threw the duffel bag in the trunk and put the backpack in the backseat. His food was in a plastic bag by his feet and Gluskin’s notebook and pen lied on the dashboard.
Whilst looking at the map and reading the directions to the border, Waylon heard he notebook and pen and looked up to see what was written.
I know you’re in a rush but please drive carefully. We can’t afford you getting pulled over and losing precious time
Waylon was too busy trying to hide his stress to bother concealing the small smile that spread across his face as he read those words, raising his eyebrows at the use of the word ‘we’.. “Don’t worry about it, I’ll be fine.” He looked towards where he thought Gluskin’s head would be and hoped he was looking into his eyes. “We’ll be fine.” Waylon started the car and drove out of the motel and onto the road.
They were not fine. Waylon especially. He’d been driving for eleven hours with minimal breaks and he’d been showing signs of losing consciousness over an hour ago. It was the middle of the night and he still had two and a half more hours left to go before he got to the border crossing. Throughout the journey, he’d hear the occasional scratch of pen on paper and look to the dashboard, only for Gluskin to flick a page over whatever he was doing. Whatever he was writing, he clearly didn’t want Waylon to read it. The thought of Gluskin wanting privacy when he’s literally been with Waylon for three months, seeing and hearing everything he’s gone through should have made Waylon feel bitter but in his sleep-addled mind, it was just something to chuckle about.
The car journey itself was uneventful. Montana was a remarkably flat state which had very little in it, and Waylon was growing desperate in trying to find things to keep him occupied. He’d tried turning on the radio, rolling the windows down, even trying to strike conversation with Gluskin several times (but Gluskin shot him down each time, quickly writing how he’d much rather Waylon watched the road instead), but it was all in vain, he still wound up feeling completely ready to pass out.
But it was getting damn-near impossible. Pretty soon his eyes started screaming from the strain of keeping them open, so much so that he had to slap himself around the face a couple of times to shock himself into staying awake. At this point he was solely powered by the need to keep driving, to keep moving until he got to the border and then some. Canada was the goal, if he got there then he stood a real chance of slipping out from underneath Murkoff’s feet. He had to do this, if not for himself then for Lisa and Adrian and Malcolm, in the hope that years and years down the line he’d have a shot at seeing them again, maybe even reconnect with them. But it was so fucking hard to stay awake. All he wanted to do was close his eyes for a few minutes, sleep like how his sons would, in the backseat when they’d go on those long car journeys, with Lisa driving and Waylon in the front passenger seat, talking and making Lisa laugh quietly throughout the night until they got to their destination.
He could close his eyes for a few moments, just for a couple of seconds. It was so dark outside, and the Summer air was so warm, and the roads were so long and empty that it would hardly even matter if he just let his eyes shut for one . . . small . . . second . . . just . . . just until . . . he . . . he . . . h—
He barely had time to think, someone —Gluskin? It sounded exactly like him, back in the asylum, when he was chasing his ‘bride’ through the Vocational Block— had screamed his name and there was the immediate sound of a car horn. His eyes shot wide open, he was too shocked to do anything, all he saw was a pair of hands grip the steering wheel and swerve them out of the way of a car racing in the opposite direction, still blaring its horn. The voice didn’t say anything else, but when Waylon’s eyes followed the hands on the wheel up to their owner’s face, Waylon shrieked when he saw Gluskin’s panicked expression as he wrenched the wheel and steered the car off the road. Finally, Waylon’s body seemed to connect with his brain and he helped Gluskin take the car off of the road slow it down to an abrupt halt.
Waylon stayed seated in the car, shell-shocked, staring out into the silent night through the front window. Through his slack gaze, he saw Gluskin take his hands off of the steering wheel but when Waylon blinked and turned his head to where Gluskin was sitting next to him, he was invisible once more.
Waylon couldn’t explain why, but he began to feel tears prickle in the corners of his eyes and before he even knew what was happening, he was sobbing into his hands. He tried to bite down on his lip and keep the sound choked but it kept bubbling out of him in pathetic little spasms. He didn’t know what was wrong with him, he was fine a few moments ago, he was a little tired, sure, but it was nothing so emotionally horrendous like now. Waylon cried and cried until his whole face felt raw and stiff from all of the tears drying on his cheeks and down his chin. “Shit,” was all he could choke out in between sobs. That same, familiar wave of loneliness washed over him again, this time not in waves but in one giant tsunami. He was alone, maybe not physically (if you could even call a spiritual presence like Gluskin's 'physical') but mentally. He was alone now and he’s going to be alone in Canada, in the Yukon with nothing to do and not a friend in the world. He has no one, and he will have no one. “SHIT,” Waylon cried, “God fucking damnit . . . “ it felt good to swear, to let it all out if only in such a small, trickling way. He’d punch the steering wheel but he just felt so fucking weak and sick and tired that trying to hit anything was just going to make him feel more stupid than he already felt.
After what felt like forever, Waylon let his hands fall from his face and he straightened back up, staring back out into the darkness of the night. He just breathed, and breathed, and breathed until the last of his tears dried and he felt somewhat capable to talk. His voice was cracked and hoarse but he didn’t really care.
“Gluskin . . . you still there?” He asked the silence, hoping for a response, for something to move or flinch or flicker. Fucking anything.
“Please, Gluskin, just . . . just answer me.” His ears hurt from the strain of trying to listen for some kind of sound indicating that Gluskin was with him, that he hadn’t suddenly left.
“Please, Eddie, I . . . I don’t want to be alone right now.”
Then there was something, it was so faint that Waylon first thought he was just imagining it: A thudding, coming from the side of the car, near the passenger side door. Like a madman, Waylon flung himself across the passenger seat, his arm diving down the gap between the seat and the door to where the thudding was coming from.
It was Eddie’s notebook, the pen tucked into the spiral binding; it must have slipped off the dashboard when the car swerved. Waylon reached down, his hands just small enough to fit in the gap and retrieved the notebook. He realised too late that he was sitting exactly where Eddie was and was probably causing him a severe amount of discomfort. “Shit, sorry,” he mumbled, moving back into the driver's seat.
He opened the notebook to a random blank page and held the pen out for Eddie to take. Eddie —gently, so gently that it almost made Waylon cry again for some unknown reason— took it from his hand immediately and wrote in the notebook, which sat balanced on the edge of Waylon’s lap.
I’m here, Waylon. Are you alright?
Waylon felt his throat tighten as he tried to breathe evenly. He nodded slowly, trying to focus on his breathing. “Yeah, yeah I’m good, I’m alright. Jesus Christ, Eddie, I didn’t know what I was doing, I-I’m just so fucking tired.”
I know. Just try and breathe. Now is not the time to throw everything away, we have to keep going
There's that 'we' thing again . . . “Yeah, I know,” Waylon sniffed. “I just . . . I don’t know if I can do this right now. I mean, what’s the fucking point? Drive all this way just be some loner in the fucking Yukon.” He hated how whiny he sounded, but he couldn’t stop the words from tumbling out of his mouth.
But you won’t be alone, Waylon
Waylon let out a shaky breath. He tried to smile, to believe those words, to fool himself into thinking that whatever he had with Eddie was something decent, that Eddie, through some sort of fucked up friendship, could support him, that they could support each other.
“I guess you’re right . . . kind of,” he chuckled, it was a small sound but it made him feel a little bit better, just a little bit less useless.
Even if I wanted to leave you, I’m afraid that I can’t . . . Looks like we’re stuck with each other for now
Waylon chuckled again, this time more loudly, more confidently, “Yeah, looks like it.”
The pen moved slowly across the paper.
I really think you ought to rest, Darling
Waylon froze, and suddenly he was finding it hard to breathe for a whole different reason. It took Gluskin a moment to realise what he’d done, as a few seconds later the pen stuttered in the air as if Gluskin flinched upon reading what he just wrote. Neither of them moved until Waylon wiped the snot from his nose with the back of his hand and reached for his phone, seeing that he didn’t have long until the border closed.
“Crap, uh, we— I need to get going before it’s too late.” He chucked the notebook back onto the dashboard and the pen followed it. Gluskin was writing something but Waylon just started the car back up.
“Just . . . just save it Gluskin, yeah?” He pleaded, “We can talk in the morning after I get some sleep. For now, can you just let me do this, please? I’ll be fine, I promise.” He watched the pen lower back down onto the notebook. “Thank-you,” he muttered, taking one more deep breath before reversing the car back onto the main road and headed towards the border crossing.
Chapter 5: Black Hole
The border crossing was, thankfully, uneventful. Waylon amazed even himself, somehow soldering through 13+ hours worth of sleep deprivation and managing to cross the border in a little under ten minutes. The weary crossing guard was too tired to even take notice of how much Waylon was sweating and even wished him ‘goodnight’ and waved as he drove off. Waylon was so giddy from actually managing to get across that he waved back, if a little bit maniacally, but he was too far away from the crossing to even care.
Not all of Waylon’s anxieties washed away after the crossing, however. He was in Canada, great, but he was still about ten seconds away from passing out behind the wheel, and he wasn’t going to risk Gluskin having enough energy left over from the last time he had to save him from crashing to do it a second time.
By the grace of God, there was a town ('Cardston', the welcome sign read) about fifteen minutes away from the crossing, and Waylon wasted no time in knocking on the office door of the shittiest/cheapest motel he could find, paying for the night, taking his key and almost tripping over his own feet as he made it to his room. He was so tired that he missed the door’s keyhole several times, but some magic force took pity on him and grabbed his room key and jammed it into the lock for him after his tenth or so attempt to do it himself.
He dumped his stuff by the door —which seemed to close by itself— and stripped out of his clothes until he was left in his underwear. He cursed his jeans, as they seemed completely set on staying wrapped around his ankles (most likely because he still had his shoes on) and tripping him up. The battle between Waylon and his jeans soon came to a thrilling conclusion, however, with the jeans coming out on top and Waylon ending up on the floor. Waylon wriggled out of the last of his clothes and realised that the bed was too out of reach to bother crawling all the way over to it. Plus, the carpet was more or less cleanly (once you got over the infernal smell of dish soap and vinegar), besides, Waylon was really all out of fucks to give at the moment.
As he let his fatigue finally, finally, take a hold of him, through his bleary line of sight, Waylon saw something that would have made him laugh if he had the energy: Gluskin, looming over him and looking down at him with a look of . . . concern? Waylon tried to tell him that he was fine and that he should just fuck off and let him sleep, but any sound that came out of him now was guttural and muffled from how half of his face was pressed into the carpet. Gluskin left his sight a few seconds after and another few seconds later, Waylon felt the bed’s duvet be draped over him and that was the last he could comprehend before his exhaustion sent him straight into a deep sleep.
After nearly ten hours of blissful, dreamless, uninterrupted sleep, Waylon woke up feeling like he’d just been resurrected after being dead for centuries. He was lying on his front, his limbs surrounding him at all angles and he could feel his hair sticking in a hundred different directions. It took him a while to realise that he wasn’t actually in a bed but rather spread out across the floor. That explains why his back was beginning to cramp, and the array of markings covering his body from where he lay most heavily on the carpeting.
Pushing himself upright, Waylon looked around the room, blinking through his cloudy vision to see that some things had definitely happened without his knowledge while he was asleep:
For one, his laptop was sitting on the flimsy plastic table by the front window, not only that, it was open and the screen was on. And Waylon certainly doesn’t remember having the energy to take it out from his bag last night. Still, nice to see that it still works after Gluskin’s tantrum at least, his brain mused.
Secondly, there was a slip of notebook paper on the floor beside him, which read in a familiar scrawl:
And when Waylon picked the note up, he saw that on the other side of it was written:
Not knowing what to make of those last two words, Waylon just scoffed and crumpled up the paper, letting it fall out of his hand and onto the floor.
And lastly, the bathroom door was open, and Waylon was willing to bet his own life that it was closed when he walked in last night.
It wasn’t like Waylon suddenly forgot the only way these things could have happened, but it didn’t mean he was fine with Gluskin going through his things; no matter the intention, especially if it was all some elaborate apology for some trauma-infused Freudian slip.
Slipping out of bed, Waylon padded the few feet to the bathroom. He didn’t know what he was expecting when he turned to look inside the bathroom, but he certainly wasn’t expecting to see Gluskin looking at himself in the mirror, tracing his jawline with a finger. Gluskin’s attention to his reflection was soon abandoned when he noticed Waylon standing behind him, dishevelled and confused.
There was a beat shared between them, where neither of them moved nor said anything to one another, they just sort of spent those few seconds looking at each other in the mirror.
It looked like Gluskin had healed even more than Waylon thought; the scabbing that covered over half of his face had begun to heal, leaving behind a multitude of small scars but it was better than what it was before. Waylon didn’t know what to make of his eyes, which were now almost completely drained of blood but at least now they were more piercing than they were harrowing.
Seeing him now in a healthier state, Waylon realised that Gluskin was actually handsome. Waylon had never thought much of the looks of men; obviously, he knew what normally constituted as a good-looking person, but he’d never outright admitted when he found someone attractive. Lisa was rather pretty, but Waylon preferred her for the way she made him laugh rather than her appearance (though she was always beautiful to Waylon). Naturally, he’d ‘experimented’ with both men and women in college, he even had a boyfriend for a couple of months before he met Lisa and broke things off, but since those few encounters years ago, Waylon had never really acknowledged the looks of another man. And Gluskin, with his cheekbones and striking blue eyes, was someone Waylon —maybe in another life— would have maybe called his ‘type’.
He figured Gluskin’s body must be in some bizarre fugue state where it forgot to do anything other than heal, as his hair hasn’t grown since he was alive and despite not eating or drinking anything he remained the same formidable size that he was back in the depths of Mount Massive Asylum. All the blood that had soaked his make-shift suit seems to have evaporated as well. Overall, if it wasn’t for the patchwork waistcoat and shirt, the average person would never even know if Gluskin was ever a patient of an insane asylum, or that he ever chased Waylon with the sole intention of mutilating him and stringing him up like a slaughtered pig.
Seeing Gluskin now, Waylon realises that he severely underestimated his height in his memories of him. He was easily over a head taller than him and twice as broad. He was so tall that he had to hold the sink to lean over to see himself in the mirror. It was funny, but Waylon really didn’t feel like laughing, especially after what happened in the car last night, especially after ‘Darling’.
But Gluskin didn’t seem alarmed, in fact, he seemed thrilled, his mouth breaking into a wide smile that threw Waylon right back into the Vocational Block, nearly making him retch. When Gluskin saw Waylon’s gaunt expression, his smile faltered but remained present on his expression, even as he spun around to look at Waylon face-to-face.
What happened next was a blur. Gluskin took the half-step it takes to cross the bathroom (perhaps even less so with Gluskin’s legs) to the door until he was standing right before Waylon, causing Waylon to have to crank his next back at a 90° angle to meet Gluskin’s eyes.
There was another beat, this one far more terrifying than the first one. A million thoughts were flying through Waylon’s head: Dear God fucking run go leave now get out get away from him he’s gonna kill you he’s gonna strangle you he’s gonna break you in half for Christ’s sake what aren’t YOU RUNNING YOU DUMB FU— but that all stopped when Gluskin’s raised his gloved hands and went to grab Waylon’s arms. Waylon had forced himself to keep his eyes open, to show that he wasn’t going to cower and cry through whatever Hell Guskin had planned for him.
And yet, all that happened was Gluskin’s hands went straight through his arms, like a knife through melted butter. Waylon watched, stunned, as Gluskin frowned and tried to hold Waylon’s arms again only for his hands to go right through him.
After the third attempt, Gluskin gave up. “Shit,” the ghost sighed, taking a step back from Waylon, “Still not corporeal yet . . .” He turned around and went back to the mirror, muttering to himself as he went back to his reflection.
Waylon didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so he went for the middle of the two extremes and did neither, opting instead to just whisper.
“You . . . You’re . . . Gluskin, I— I can fucking see you.”
It was quiet, and it was so stupidly obvious that Waylon felt like kicking himself the moment he said it, as if he’d just walked in on Gluskin while he was in the shower, not just merely standing there and looking at his reflection for probably the first time in years (Waylon couldn’t recall many mirrors being around at the asylum).
Waylon knew that this wasn’t the first time he’d seen Gluskin, it wasn’t even the first time he’d heard Gluskin talk since his death (the way Gluskin had screamed his name before he grabbed the steering wheel still echoing in his subconscious) but this was definitely the first time that Gluskin had tried to reach out and touch him. It didn’t work and yet the breeze-like sensation Waylon felt when his hands passed through his skin still lingered on and in his body. He barely suppressed the shiver that followed the thought of Gluskin walking through him and if it would freeze him to the root from the cold.
If Gluskin was mad, he didn’t look it, in fact he looked over his shoulder to smile at Waylon again, in the morning light that managed to worm its way into the bathroom, Gluskin’s smile looked far less menacing and more charming, like he was one of those 1960s illustrations in magazines ones that advertised for cigarettes or dress shirts.
“I know, I’m struggling to believe it too,” he said, his eyes lighting up as he spoke, visibly proud of himself. “Took me the whole night to try and even see my reflection.” He turned back to the mirror and ran a hand over his face, prodding at the scarring over his cheek and nose. He continued talking, his voice was airy and relaxed. A bit too relaxed for Waylon’s liking.
“I can’t seem to be visible and touch things at the same time, but at least I can talk to you, for now at least. I’m not quite sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up but I should be alright for another few hours.” The way he looked at Waylon in the mirror made his stomach churn. Pretty soon Waylon could feel himself growing frustrated, the same bitterness he always regarded Gluskin with creeping into his thoughts. Oh, so he just thinks he can write some flimsy apology on a piece of paper, smile and pretend everything’s just peachy? The fucking nerve of this piece of—
Letting himself forget the absurdity of the situation (of having an actual ghost check himself out in the mirror while the one they’re supposedly haunting watches in the background dressed in only their boxers), Waylon folded his arms over his bare chest and glared at Gluskin’s back.
“So what’s with the ‘I’m sorry’ note, huh?” Trying to sound vaguely curious but knowing deep down that he just sounded petty. And maybe he was, so what? He didn’t like the idea of Gluskin not knowing the damage he caused last night by not thinking before he speaks . . . or writes . . . or whatever the fuck.
Gluskin shrugged, “For last night. I wanted you to know how I felt.”
“And what about how I felt? Was you triggering a severe relapse in my trauma just something you’d apologise for now and worry about resolving later?”
“I said sorry . . .” Gluskin sounded exasperated, like he didn’t know it was going to take this much effort to move on. It was such an unexpectedly small tone that Waylon almost held back the rant he had lined up. Almost.
“Yeah well, sorry doesn’t make up for what you did to me at the asylum. Maybe that’s why you’re the way you are now, stuck with me, your victim. Or your ‘Darling’, if that’s how you still think of me,” he spat. Waylon saw Gluskin’s expression shift into something darker, not rage but something like pain. Gluskin was hurt by what Waylon was saying to him. Waylon could have laughed right in his face at the thought, but that was for later, right now he has more to say.
“Y'know, maybe you don’t struggle with moving on from your actions Gluskin, but I sure as Hell do. It’s been months and I still lose sleep over what happened in that shithole. So maybe just consider that before you start writing whatever comes to mind.”
Gluskin raised an eyebrow, his expression finally turning angry. “I was just making sure that you were alright. Need I remind you that if I didn’t intervene you probably would have crashed in the middle of nowhere? I couldn’t exactly have called an ambulance for you.” His tone was biting but reserved, like trying to keep a lid over an overflowing pot of boiling water.
“I didn’t ask for your help though. Maybe you should have let me crash. If I died then it might have freed me from having to live with you being around me 24/7. I have enough problems on my plate, let alone having to lug your spirit around with me everywhere I go.”
That made Gluskin pissed. “Well, now I know never to help you ever again. Here I was thinking you enjoyed not being alone for once. I should have just stayed silent if I knew interacting with you was going to be this impossible, like walking through a damn minefield,” he sneered.
Waylon could have screamed at the seemingly endless supply of Gluskin’s ignorance. “You’re calling me ‘impossible’? YOU WERE GOING TO SAW ME IN HALF! I’m not asking for a fucking miracle here! I don’t even want you here but I’m stuck with you so we need to learn how to handle this shit! All I ask is that you watch your step and you’re calling me a ‘damn minefield?! You know I read your file, from the asylum, I read what your father and your uncle did to you, I thought you’d understand even just a little bit of what I’m going through, but apparently you’re so wrapped up in your own damn trauma that you can barely recognise it in the one person your soul has been tied to for the past three months.”
Waylon knew he that took it too far, but he didn’t stop. He should have, but he didn’t, and the result was plain on Gluskin’s face, reflection in the mirror. Waylon might just as well have punched him.
Gluskin once again turned to face Waylon, moving to lean back against the sink before realising that he can’t and suddenly moving to stand back upright, cursing silenty to himself as he did so. Waylon scoffed, making Gluskin look even more like a kicked puppy. Gluskin shifted his ‘weight’ (Waylon doubted non-corporeal ghosts even had any weight, so to speak) on either foot while he spoke:
“Waylon, I need you to understand that what happened last night wasn’t intentional. I just—” he ran a hand down his face, whilst Waylon just stood there, waiting— “it just happened, I didn’t even know I was writing it until I re-read it.” He looked down to the floor before peering up to meet Waylon’s eyes. It was difficult to tell if he was being genuine, or if the quiet, collected tone he now spoke with was just some way of mocking Waylon. Either way, Waylon hated it.
Waylon was determined to not seem so forgiving. Gluskin had triggered something real and something that had hurt Waylon. It wasn’t just one word, it was a word that had plagued Waylon’s every waking moment, with that word came everything else that followed it. That word was like walking through the bowels of Mount Massive Asylum all over again, and Waylon would be damned if he didn’t let Gluskin know the exact effects of what he said on Waylon.
Waylon sighed, looking around the room before looking back at Gluskin. “How much do you remember, of Mount Massive?”
Gluskin perked up at the question, but he looked pained as he summoned up an answer, “Yes, not all of it but . . . I remember you, and what I did and Waylon you have to know that I—”
“Just quit it with the ‘you need to understand’ and ‘you have to know’ shit, will you? Jesus, I don’t have to ‘understand’ anything. If you remember anything of what you did to me then you know that I don’t have to forgive you. Ever.” He managed to calm himself down enough to lower his voice, suddenly remembering that he might have neighbours that are still asleep before remembering that he has no idea what time it is. “Now get out of the bathroom, I need to shower.”
Gluskin exited the bathroom wordlessly, ducking down to avoid sending his head straight through the low doorway way. “Thanks,” Waylon mumble, going to his bag for some relatively fresh clothes before switching places with Gluskin, making a point to close the bathroom door with more effort than usual.
In the shower, Waylon tried fooling himself into thinking he was alone. That he didn’t have a ghost on the other side of the door, probably pacing the room and thinking of things to say or stuff to break. He tried to imagine himself in his home, the one he bought with Lisa when she was pregnant with Adrian. He tried to imagine himself in a world without Murkoff, without Mount Massive and most definitely without Eddie Gluskin. He tried so hard to imagine that he was literally anywhere else, under any other circumstances, haunted by the ghost or literally anyone else. And for a moment it almost worked, until he heard a voice call from outside the bathroom.
“I’m sorry . . . for everything” he sounded miserable, but who was to say it wasn’t just some convoluted act? Like the way he’d charm doctors and nurses back at the asylum, how he’d smile and pout and apologise until he got his way and all was forgotten.
“I mean it.”
“Can we talk about it more when you come out? I have more to say.”
I fucking bet you do, asshole. “Maybe.”
Waiting a minute just in case Gluskin had more to say, Waylon then let his head drop into his hands, letting the water roll down his body. He was torn. Gluskin, for a madman, didn’t seem to be very mad. And though his memory wasn’t perfect, he seemed to remember enough to know that, try as he might, Waylon wasn’t going to suddenly forgive him and be his friend.
It was more than just Mount Massive though, Gluskin was a killer before he was arrested and put away for good, he had a past, and an atrocious one at that. He’d killed and mutilated and suddenly, through some perverted form of redemption, he’s all better now?
No, Waylon wouldn’t let a few ‘I’m sorry’s twist him into being sympathetic. Vindication or not, Waylon wanted Gluskin to know the full extent of what Waylon thought of him before they moved onto anything else.
When Waylon left the shower and exited the bathroom, he didn’t see Gluskin anywhere. “Come on, you don’t have to hide. You can disappear when you’re tired,” he was supposed to sound aggravated, but he just sounded jaded.
He heard something shuffle behind him and when he turned around he was met with Gluskin, just standing there with his hands behind his back, his expression so alarmingly neutral that it scared Waylon with how much he just wanted Gluskin to react, to be angry or something that made him seem more alive. Well, not really 'alive', since he wasn’t alive to begin with, his brain chimed in.
Not wanting another staring contest, Waylon moved back to the bed and sat down. Gluskin followed him, but only by a few paces, opting to remain standing up.
Waylon was the first to break the silence.
“Look, I know you didn’t mean to do what you did last night. You just wanted to make sure I was alright and it just . . . slipped out or something. I get that.”
Gluskin just nodded slowly, Waylon kept going.
“But what I don’t want, is for you to think that just saying sorry will solve everything. I’m sorry about a lot of things too, Eddie, but I can’t fix them with an apology. It’s just not enough, you have to correct yourself too. We fix things and then we move on, not the other way around.” He felt like he was talking to his sons, like when Adrian took things too far whenever he and Malcolm would play flight. Waylon would pull them into a hug after they made up, but he didn’t think he was quite ready enough to hug Eddie. Especially if all that would happen is that Eddie would just fall right through him. One step at a time, Park.
Whatever Waylon was spouting, Eddie seemed to be taking in, his expression softening the more he listened. When Waylon was done, he nodded to Eddie, indicating that it was his turn to speak.
Eddie cleared his throat, one of his hands coming up to scratch the back of his neck. It was such an innocently human gesture that Waylon had to stop himself from laughing at the idea of Eddie being nervous about anything, let alone about getting chastised for his behaviour. Before, the idea of making someone as imposing as Eddie feel flustered would probably have Waylon feel powerful, now it just makes him feel muddled, or whatever emotion is tied to the feeling of having thousands of grasshoppers simultaneously leap around in your stomach.
Eddie spoke gently, “I know what I’ve done is . . . beyond unforgivable. A lot of the things I did when I was alive don’t even come close to the possibility of forgiveness. In the Asylum, I had all the time in the world to think on my past crimes, the women, my mother, my . . .” he trailed off, Waylon watched his throat constrict as he tried to get the words out and immediately regretted ever bringing up his childhood in front of him, “my father and my uncle. But after the riot, after what I did to you, all I’ve had is time to think about my new mistakes, the new horrors I’ve created, for you, and your wife, Lisa . . . and your children, Adrian and Malcolm.” Waylon furrowed his brow, to which Eddie quickly explained, “You say their names, sometimes, in your sleep. Sorry, I can’t help but hear.” Waylon just nodded his head, lowering his gaze to the carpet.
Suddenly, Eddie entered Waylon’s vision, as he knelt on the floor before him. The action was so intimate Waylon’s brain malfunctioned for a split second and he could feel himself blushing before Eddie spoke again, looking up at him with those insanely blue eyes. How many women looked into those eyes and fell in love? Did they know that in doing so they walked straight into their own graves? Did Lisa ever look at him like this? No, don’t bring her here, this is between you and Eddie, please don’t bring her into this, not now.
“Waylon, when I first learnt of who you were and what had happened to your family, I thought I was cursed. I still do. But I deserve it. And I’m grateful.”
Waylon opened his mouth to interject, but Eddie just raised a hand, silently pleading with him to let him keep going. Waylon did.
“Following you across the country has been torture in ways I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t expecting to be so useless, to only be a witness to what you’ve gone through in these past months. I can live through all of the boredom, the trauma, but what I’ve discovered that I absolutely cannot bear is watching you feel alone.”
Waylon wanted to believe that this was some rehearsed speech, that the way Eddie spoke was just some act he gave juries and guards, that the words he said weren’t genuine, that they were just a ploy to lull him into a false sense of security, to trust him and forgive him. But God fucking damnit Waylon was struggling to see it that way, not with the way Eddie was looking at him, not the way Waylon himself just felt so tired of being hateful, of having to constantly be on his guard and, above all else, of always feeling so lonely.
And Waylon knew that of all the people to reach out to, to find some form of solace in, the ghost of a serial killer wasn’t the best way to go, but who else did he have? What other option was there?
“Waylon,” Eddie didn’t stop, “I’m sorry I’ve hurt you, but you don’t have to be alone, through whatever path brought us together, why bother pushing each other away? Do you really want to live in the Yukon with no one to talk to but yourself?” He shuffled closer to Waylon, a few inches from where he sat slumped on the bed. “Like it or not you need me and . . . I need you. We need each other.”
When Eddie leaned away from Waylon, he felt something like dread wash over him. Dread from Eddie leaving his personal bubble. “Fuck,” Waylon breathed, bracing his arms on his thighs and letting his head droop. He hated this. He hated that Eddie was right, that for the first time since he’d went on the run from Murkoff —in fact for the first time since he landed the job at Mount Massive Asylum— he’d found something to make him a little less lonely and that something was Eddie fucking Gluskin.
Fuck it, worst case scenario this is all a trick and he snaps your neck in your sleep - at least that way you avoid being tortured by Murkoff.
“Okay, okay, alright,” it was barely audible, but if the way Eddie grinned at him when he raised his head was anything to go by, it was heard loud and clear.
Eddie got back up to his feet, but when he did he swayed. Without thinking Waylon got up from his place on the bed to steady him but when he went to grab Eddie’s arm his hand just went clean through. Eddie laughed breathlessly —it was, arguably, not a particularly bad sound— and managed to stay upright by himself. Waylon smiled despite himself. “Need to make a note of not to try and reach for you in the future,” he joked, causing Eddie to chuckle and goddamn if that didn’t make Waylon feel some type of way.
“I’m afraid I have to go now, but I can still write to you if you want to talk . . .” Eddie looked at him in such a warm way that it was suddenly becoming increasingly difficult to recall a time when they were ever hostile to one another. Pace yourself, Park. He’s not in the clear just yet.
“Well, I’ll let go then. Oh and, uh, Eddie?”
Eddie stopped walking around the room and turned to look at Waylon, “Yes?”
Waylon chewed his lip before waving a hand dismissively, “Thanks for apologising, and for saying what you said. Means a lot, I guess.”
Eddie scratched his next again, smiling softly at Waylon. “You’re welcome, Waylon.”
“See you later, Eddie,” Waylon smiled.
“See you later, Waylon,” Eddie grinned, and the moment Waylon took to blink, Eddie was gone.
Chapter 6: I Tried
This is where it gets real gay real fast, folks
Over the course of their journey to Haines Junction, Waylon realised just how much he and Eddie really did need each other.
After their ‘truce’ (as Eddie fondly referred to it as) in that dingy Cardston motel, the next week or so was spent in alarming comfort. Waylon was always anxious that Murkoff was right behind them, but after crossing the border, his tension had definitely eased up, especially with constant reassurance from Eddie, who he was becoming more and more open with as time went on and the hostility that once ran between them like electricity slowly fizzled out.
In their rooms in Edmonton and Fort St. John, Waylon spent most of his time watching Eddie try to pick things up whilst remaining visible, resulting in a few successes with books and one apple but later failed miserably with one vase that Waylon had to pay to replace.
Eddie was definitely improving though, that much was certain. Waylon would go out to shop for supplies (his anxiety easing the further away they got from the border and closer to the Yukon) and, if the coast was clear, Eddie would appear and they’d walk side by side until they reached somewhere with other people.
It seemed that, other than Waylon, only animals could actually ‘see’ Eddie when he was invisible, like when they were strolling through a park and a woman’s dachshund nearly choked itself on its leash trying to break free to growl and snap at the air around Waylon. Neither of them knew if even when Eddie was actually visible if anyone could really ‘see’ him, but Waylon didn't mind the idea of Eddie being something just for him, for his eyes only.
Eddie had healed tremendously, his wounds not only resolving entirely but the scars fading completely. He looked healthy, radiant even if Waylon was being poetic. Eddie looked even better when he smiled, which was a frequent occurrence whenever he and Waylon were around one another. They’d talk about random things and watch old movies on the small glitching TV in their room, with Waylon sitting on the bed and Eddie choosing to sit in a chair (during which time ‘Gone with the Wind’ came on and Waylon discovered that Eddie knew all of the lines from the film, not realising he was muttering along until he heard Waylon chuckle and immediately stopped, brushing off Waylon’s teasing and hotly insisting that he was not blushing). And even though he was more than capable enough to pick up things by his own now, Eddie still insisted that Waylon read to him, merely shrugging and saying “It’s just better when you read it,” when Waylon asked why.
He frequently saw Eddie writing in his notebook (the front half of the notebook’s pages being their ‘conversations’, whilst the rest was for Eddie to do with as he pleased) and as much as Waylon didn’t want to pry, that didn’t stop him from teasing Eddie about what he could be writing about that was so private.
Overall, Waylon was amazed at how quickly they had fallen into a sort of routine around one another. Even when Eddie wasn’t visible, Waylon had developed a sort of sixth sense as to where he could be and would throw various objects across to see if Eddie could catch them. 7/10 times he did, and then he swiftly threw them back at Waylon (never hard enough to cause any bruising, not that Waylon thought anything of it).
Occasionally Waylon would wonder if it was normal (if ‘normal’ could ever be applied to something like this) for things to develop this quickly; not just Eddie’s abilities but their connection, which seemed to prove Eddie’s theory that the more they interacted the stronger Eddie became. Waylon couldn’t find it in him to complain about it, though. At this point, he was just glad he had someone to talk to. He had become dependent on Eddie, he was his rock, tethering him to the present and always reminding him that they had to keep going. Eddie’s help was welcomed, Waylon would be a fool to turn it down at this point out of mere stubbornness. He always reminded Eddie that he had yet to forgive him —that being if he ever would forgive him— but the ghost seemed to understand well enough. “I’m just here to help, I suppose. Anything is better than being thin air,” he once told Waylon during the night.
They were in Toad River now, in a cabin, a little over halfway on their journey to Haines Junction. The summer was in its final stretch and coming to a warm and sleepy close and even though the sun was well on its way down the horizon, it was still hot enough to have all the windows open, the small breeze that passed along occasionally disturbing the lace curtains. It was peaceful, the rest of the lodge being practically abandoned save for the owners and Waylon. And Eddie, if he counted as a physical presence yet.
They were sitting on the floor in the bedroom now, legs crossed and facing opposite one another while the TV droned on in the background (some generic crime show, nothing special but it served as good white noise to fill in the silence that was brewing between them). The lighting was low and overall the atmosphere was sort of muted, as if being on the seafloor.
This was all Eddie’s idea, naturally.
Whilst he’d more or less mastered the art of remaining visible while holding various objects, Waylon could see how it irritated him when he’d try to reach out to touch Waylon’s shoulder only for his hand to fall right through. So when Eddie suddenly appeared and asked if they could try some things out to test his corporeality, Waylon agreed without a moment's thought. It’s not like he had anything better to do.
So here they were, facing each other like they were preteens that were just dared to kiss. It was a pretty funny and stupid situation, and Waylon was about to comment on it, but Eddie seemed too busy trying to concentrate on remaining present to listen to whatever shit Waylon had to spew.
Only when Eddie opened his eyes and glanced towards him did Waylon move. That was his signal, meaning that he was ready.
Waylon slowly lifted a hand and leaned forward a few inches as he moved towards Eddie’s arm. Eddie watched Waylon’s hand with such a fierce intensity that Waylon thought they both might spontaneously combust from the tension. He had to make sure Eddie was prepared enough, otherwise, he risked his hand just going straight through him and they’d probably have to wait another ten minutes for Eddie to psyche himself up again. They had all night, at least, but Waylon could see how much Eddie wanted to do this and prove himself. It was kind of sweet, if he was being sentimental.
Finally, after what seemed like years, Waylon fingertips actually touched Eddie’s arm. They both held their breath, audibly gasping as they watched Waylon’s fingers, then his palm, then his whole hand rest on Eddie’s forearm.
Waylon didn’t know what he was expecting. Eddie’s skin was neither warm nor cold, but perfectly neutral. Occasionally his hand would go through the odd arm hair but apart from that, they were actually touching. Waylon slowly —ever-so-slowly— ran his hand across Eddie’s arm. Temperature aside, it sure as Hell felt like the real deal. Holy shit. Is he getting goosebumps?!
Waylon looked up momentarily from his hand on Eddie’s arm to look him in the eye. It took Waylon a minute to realise just how wide he was smiling, and Eddie was just as every bit as enthusiastic with his own grin.
“You okay?” Waylon whispered, afraid the smallest noise could distract Eddie and they’d lose this moment. His own heart was hammering away in his throat, he just blamed on second-hand excitement. He was happy for Eddie. He was actually happy for the first time in a really, really long time. Eddie didn’t say anything in return, just nodded, silently consenting for Waylon to stay.
Going out on a limb, Waylon wanted to test Eddie’s strength even further. “I’m going to grip your arm, yeah? Just let me know if it’s too much and I’ll let go . . .” he waited for Eddie to nod again and watched as he steadied his breathing before giving Waylon the signal to go ahead. Waylon smiled softly at Eddie before carrying out his plan:
Applying the smallest amount of pressure, Waylon tightened his grip around Eddie’s wrist, his eyes flicking from his own hand to Eddie’s expression, watching carefully for any sign of discomfort from Eddie. When Eddie seemed to be alright, he slowly lifted Eddie’s wrist and brought his gloved hand to meet Waylon’s free one.
As Waylon set about delicately interlocking his hand with Eddie’s, he caught glimpses of Eddie watching him. His expression was hard to define, but it definitely seemed pensive, enamoured even, as his eyes followed Waylon’s to their —now interlocked— hands. With his left hand united with Eddie’s right, Waylon clasped his other hand over their joined hands, brushing his thumb over Eddie’s knuckles. Lisa used to do that whenever he was nervous, but that little memory seems so fleeting as compared to now, being here, with Eddie. Waylon never felt this way before when Lisa held his hand, but instead, now he felt his heart stop the moment he felt Eddie’s hand grip Waylon’s, squeezing lightly, testing out the pressure. It was so minute, so gentle that Waylon found himself worrying that Eddie would have to disappear again soon. But Eddie seemed fine, if the way he tore his eyes off their hands to meet Waylon’s was anything to go by.
The more they stayed like that, the more Waylon could swear that Eddie’s body temperature was rising, slowly but surely until it matched Waylon’s, who was trying not to think about how much he was beginning to sweat.
For a brief moment, Waylon wondered if it was right for things to be this . . . simple. Waylon was finding it harder and harder to despise Eddie for what he did, especially in times like now, when Eddie looked so happy with himself that memories of the asylum seemed like they happened in another lifetime, in some nightmare that he was already losing sight of.
The next hour or so was spent in almost total silence, with the two of them slowly reaching out to one another. Waylon touched Eddie’s shoulder, his knee, and brought their hands back together several times, trying not to think about how small and perfect his hand felt in Eddie’s. He really was trying.
To truly test out Eddie’s newfound ability, Waylon instructed him to close his eyes and see if he could remain corporeal without knowing where Waylon was going to touch him. Of course, he gave Eddie plenty of time to get ready, his hand slowly inching closer and closer to him. He watched as Eddie tensed up, his brow so furrowed in concentration that it looked like it was hurting him to focus so much. Waylon stopped moving his hand, “Hey,” he said softly, “Relax, we don’t have to do this tonight if you’re not ready enough . . .”
Eddie opened his eyes, and Waylon felt that all-too-familiar sensation in his stomach all over again. For a dead man, Eddie sure seemed alive, and Waylon’s hands ached to touch him once more.
He wanted to hate himself for letting things be like this, for letting things suddenly seem so easy, that all he wanted to do was to get closer to Eddie.
Eddie shook his head, his expression smoothing out into something calmer, “No, I want to do this, I’m tired of not being able to do everything that I know I’m capable of doing.”
Waylon’s mouth twitched into a small smile, understanding Eddie’s frustration. “Okay, then close your eyes and try not to think so hard; you look like you’re trying to explode me with your mind.” It was a pretty lame attempt at a joke but it made Eddie chuckle nonetheless, and that was enough to make Waylon’s heart jump all over again. Focus, Park. This isn’t about you.
With Eddie’s eyes closed once again, Waylon resumed moving his hand towards him.
He was initially going to reach for Eddie’s shoulder, but all it took was to watch Eddie’s brow twitch, the way the soft orange lighting of the lamp reflects upon his pale skin and the fact that, if Waylon concentrated hard enough, he could actually picture himself forgiving Eddie for what happened all those weeks ago, and all of a sudden Waylon realised that he had placed his hand over Eddie’s cheek.
Neither of them knew how to react. Eddie, after he opened his eyes, looked like a deer caught in headlights, and Waylon was willing to bet that his own expression was the exact same. He tried to apologise but all of the logical words he was attempting to say were having trouble leaving his mouth in a way that made any sense.
“Shit, sorry, I uh—”
He went to remove his hand from its place on Gluskin’s face, already casting his glance away from Gluskin’s whilst mumbling some mindless litany of curses and ‘sorry’s, when he suddenly felt Eddie’s hand grip his, keeping Waylon’s hand pressed firmly over his cheek.
Waylon’s eyes snapped back to Eddie’s, now doubly unsure of what to say. Eddie’s grip on his hand was secure but not unyielding, leaving enough room for Waylon to retract his hand if he wanted. Which he didn’t, not one bit.
Before Waylon could even comprehend what he was going he was shuffling close across the floor to Eddie, their knees touching as Waylon placed his other hand over Eddie’s other cheek. A small, breathless laugh escaped from Eddie as he leaned into Waylon’s touch, probably just as amazed as Waylon that he was able to get this far without disappearing into thin air. Waylon laughed too, impressed but also out of fondness for the way Eddie seemed to radiate warmth now that he’d managed to remain solid.
Feeling brave, Waylon brushed his thumb over Eddie’s cheek, which only seemed to make him melt further into Waylon’s hold, his weight a relieving presence in Waylon’s palms. Don’t feel flattered, it’s either a trap or he’s just happy he can feel something that’s alive, his mind spat, causing Waylon to frown, but Eddie didn’t see, his eyes so heavily lidded Waylon doubted he could see anything that wasn’t more than three inches from his face. He pushed the thought aside, for now, not wanting to dwell on it. If this was just an act, Waylon wanted to let it play out for another few moments.
Not wanting to wait another minute just for Eddie to dissolve into nothing for five hours, Waylon was determined to carry out the last ‘test’ he had lined up.
Taking away his hands from Eddie’s face —which resulted in Eddie looking at him like he had just stabbed him and twisted the knife, which in turn made Waylon’s heart ache— Waylon pushed himself towards Eddie, closing the handful of inches that were between.
He tried his best to move slowly, but his excitement was causing his heart to beat like it was about to explode and he ended up pressing himself against Eddie without giving him enough time to prepare. So when he tried to slide his arms around Eddie’s waist, Eddie flinched and Waylon’s arms cut right through him.
“Fuck!” Eddie hissed, clutching his stomach whilst Waylon practically flew backwards trying to give Eddie enough space.
“Goddamnit, Eddie, are you alri—”
Waylon was already kicking himself for not giving Eddie enough of a warning and ultimately hurting him, but he barely got through his question before Eddie locked eyes with him and, without a single word, lunged for him.
Waylon’s first thought was: Oh God he’s going to actually kill me, this is it, and tried his best to scramble out of Eddie’s way.
But it was futile. He had hardly managed to lift even a finger before Eddie was on top of him, his body alarmingly solid and heavy as he pinned Waylon down to the floor with his bodyweight and . . . hugged . . . him?
It took a second or two for Waylon to unfreeze and reciprocate, but when he did, he could practically hear Eddie purr as he wrapped his arms around his waist and ran his hands across his back, rubbing circles through the thick material of his waistcoat.
Waylon would never consider himself a very creative person, but he would never, not even in a million years, ever imagine that he’d be here, embracing the ghost of a madman in a cabin in the middle of British Columbia whilst on the run from a near-invincible major corporation.
And yet he was, and he found himself very quickly becoming very partial to the idea of staying like this with Eddie for the whole night. Eddie felt remarkably comfortable and —he would later blame it on the pair of them being severely touch starved, with Waylon not being with anyone like this since his divorce with Lisa and Eddie being incarcerated for God-knows-how-long— Waylon caught himself giving in to the temptation of burying his face in Eddie’s neck. As he did so, he breathed in but was sad to learn that though Eddie was now tangible, he wasn’t present enough to give off any scent. He could hear Eddie trying to breathe (not that Eddie really breathed anymore) him in as well, pressing his face against the side of Waylon’s head.
He vaguely recalled Eddie mentioning to him before that other than his sight and his hearing, the rest of his senses were quite numb, requiring some energy to ‘feel’ things properly.
Probably recognising that if he stayed on top of Waylon any longer he may crush him, after a while Eddie started to push himself off of Waylon, both of them knowing the other was silently mourning the loss of contact.
That was until, before Eddie’s weight lifted off from him entirely, Waylon threw his arms around Eddie’s neck and wrapped his legs around his waist, bringing Eddie back down to the floor and pressing their bodies flush against one another.
There were both surprised, but not unpleasantly. They stared at each other for a while, wordlessly daring each other to do something. During this little contest, Waylon had noticed that their faces were seemingly gravitating closer and closer together until their noses were practically touching.
Waylon’s head was screaming, one half listing the countless reasons why he shouldn’t be doing this, especially with Eddie. The other half was just saying one thing, one thing that seemed to be Waylon’s only prayer since he met Eddie: Fuck it.
Without allowing another moment to second-guess, Waylon leaned in and delicately pressed his mouth against Eddie’s. It was a small, chaste kiss but good God if it didn’t feel good. It was over as quickly as it started, but when Waylon moved his head back to lie on the floor he chuckled at the look on Eddie’s face; his eyes wide but grinning wildly. Eddie’s smile was so infectious, Waylon caught himself mimicking it just as fiercely.
Eddie was the next one to initiate the kiss, only this time it was far deeper than the mere peck on the lips Waylon first gave him. It wasn’t long before Eddie managed to tease Waylon’s mouth open, giving the ghost permission to deepen the kiss even further until Waylon was moaning each time Eddie’s tongue explored a new part of his mouth. One of Waylon’s hands found their way into Eddie’s hair, his fingers idly playing with the dark locks as he sighed into the kiss. Every sound he made was swallowed by Eddie as if he wanted to drink Waylon in.
Soon enough, Waylon had to come up for air and had to —reluctantly— break apart from Eddie, who chased his lips when they separated but gave Waylon enough space to let him gain his breath back. As Waylon’s head lolled back, Eddie took the opportunity to explore Waylon’s neck, taking his time with each inch of newly exposed skin. Waylon smiled and laughed breathlessly, biting his lip as he felt Eddie start to suck on a patch of skin underneath his jaw.
“Jesus Christ, what am I doing?” he asked aloud, the question followed by a moan as Eddie ran his tongue over the mark he made on Waylon’s neck. He could feel Eddie smirk against his skin. Bastard.
Eddie made his way back to Waylon’s mouth and resumed their kiss, taking his time to talk between each kiss as he did so.
“We . . . can stop . . . if . . . you need a moment.”
Waylon chuckled against Eddie’s lips, threading his fingers further into his hair, knowing that Eddie will probably scold him for messing up later.
“That’s rich, coming from you . . . ‘Least when I get tired I don’t evaporate.”
Eddie hummed against his mouth, sending shivers down Waylon’s spine. Shifting back a bit, Eddie gathered Waylon up into his arms and moved up until he was sitting on the floor with Waylon seated comfortably in his lap.
“So is that a ‘yes’?” Eddie asked airily, raising a brow as Waylon squirmed in his lap.
“Fuck no,” Waylon whined, diving back into the kiss like a dying fish diving back into the water.
“Language,” Eddie chastised, grinning while Waylon tugged at his bowtie, wanting things to go much faster than they already were. He didn’t know what had gotten him here, he thought he hated Eddie, and he knows he should hate Eddie, Lord knows that he’s told Eddie more than enough times that he doesn’t owe him anything . . .
And yet here they were, kissing on the bedroom floor like their lives (or rather, just Waylon’s life, if he had to be technical) depended on it. Perhaps he was than just lonely, perhaps he had wanted this more than he was prepared to admit. Whatever the cause, Waylon couldn’t find it in himself to feel guilty. Lisa always said that he’d find someone better for him, he just didn’t know that that ‘someone’ was Eddie Gluskin.
With Eddie’s bowtie now loose, Waylon set about unbuttoning his shirt enough to expose his neck, which he promptly buried face in, nuzzling and pressing kisses to the skin beneath his lips. He felt Eddie’s skin getting hotter, revelling in the newly formed heat that Eddie’s body was giving off and pressed himself deeper into Eddie’s hold, almost mewling when he felt Eddie’s grip on his hip slip down to his ass and squeeze him through his jeans.
Eddie saw Waylon’s desperation and took it upon himself to help rid Waylon of his T-shirt, throwing it across the room the second Waylon was free from the garment. The room was more than warm enough but Waylon was already so sensitive that his nipples were already hard, to which Eddie —upon seeing Waylon’s obvious need for attention— immediately decided to descend upon his chest, tasting his collar bones before travelling further down to roll each nipple between his teeth, only just biting down with the lightest of force, just enough to have Waylon whining Eddie’s name like a prayer.
Looking up from his chest for a moment, Eddie tenderly watched Waylon’s face as he writhed eagerly in his lap, his eyes closed and mouth agape as he started to grind his hips against Eddie’s stomach, his arousal straining for attention from inside the confines of his jeans. Eddie’s own arousal was becoming unbearable as well, groaning quietly whenever Waylon bounced in his lap, bearing down on the sizable bulge straining through Eddie’s pants.
Neither of them would be able to last much longer like this, but before Waylon could do anything else to move things along, he was stopped short by Eddie reaching out and cupping his face in his gloved hands, guiding his gaze to lock onto his own.
Eddie watched Waylon, both of their views clouded with lust but there was something stronger lied underneath Eddie’s stare, something that made Waylon blush. Seeing Waylon turn red, Eddie couldn’t help but fawn over him, peppering his face with butterfly kisses until Waylon felt more confident to look him in the eyes properly. Once Waylon looked towards him, Eddie let one of his thumbs brush the corner of Waylon’s mouth, prompting Waylon to open his mouth and lick at his thumb lewdly, his eyes never leaving Eddie’s as he did so.
Eddie looked at Waylon like he hung the moon and stars and Waylon was going crazy because of it. Lisa never looked at him with such burning intensity, not even on their wedding day.
Deep down, Waylon knew that this was more than lust, that this thing between them was something more profound than that. When Eddie died, his soul ended up connected to Waylon, and Waylon hoped with all his might that it would stay that way. Forever.
The thought of being left alone now, after all he’s been through, was enough to bring tears to his eyes, which soon started to trail down his cheeks and onto Eddie’s hands, where he brushed them away with a finger like they were nothing. Eddie brought him closer and pressed their foreheads together, muttering sweet nothings to him as he wiped away the last of his tears and felt somewhat calm again.
Waylon hugged Eddie’s neck, the hand playing with his hair still slowly toying with a lock or two. His voice was so quiet that even he had trouble hearing it.
“Never leave me. Please. Promise me, that you’ll never leave me alone.”
Eddie softly pressed a kiss to Waylon’s forehead, the gesture was so gentle that it was almost enough to make Waylon tear up again.
“I promise, Darling.”
Eddie froze the moment that he said that word; that word that was both forbidden and sacred.
He opened his mouth to apologise, but before he could, Waylon kissed him with everything he had and then some. It was a desperate, needy, lonely kiss but Waylon wanted it more than anything he’s ever wanted in his life. That word still stung, sure, but it was nowhere near as hurtful as it was thrilling, the way Eddie spoke it made it sound like a word meant solely for Waylon’s ears and sent chills prickling all over his body and sparks of arousal straight to his aching dick.
Just as Waylon dropped a hand to rub at Eddie through his pants, the next moment that followed consisted of Waylon falling forward through their air and onto his front, barely escaping smashing his teeth on the floor.
“God fucking damnit,” Waylon groaned, slowly pushing himself off of the floor and onto his knees, running a hand through his hair.
“Eddie? You there?” he asked the air, smiling softly when he heard the familiar scribbling sounds coming from the bed where Eddie’s notebook lied. Getting up to his feet, Waylon wandered over to the bed and saw what Eddie was writing:
Sorry, Darling. I think our little union took more out of me than I thought it would. You were very enjoyable, however.
Waylon couldn’t even see Eddie’s face but he could sense the smirk that accompanied those words as he wrote them. “Yeah? Well, you weren’t too bad yourself,” Waylon smirked, folding his arms over his chest. “Mind if I take a shower? I’ll read after I get out.”
Stripping out of his clothes and stepped into the shower, Waylon was still very much hard from his little session with Eddie.
After he washed, he took his time jerking himself off, biting his lip in an attempt to suppress any moans that Eddie may be able to hear. Waylon, amidst his ecstasy, wondered if Eddie could hear him nonetheless, or better yet, if he was in the shower with him right now, silently watching as Waylon rubbed himself raw. Soaking his fingers under the shower, he let one hand travel behind him to his ass and traced his entrance with a finger before working himself open. Pressing his chest flush against the hot shower tiles, Waylon gasped and whined as he buried his fingers deeper in his ass and tightened his grip around his dick until his knuckles turned white. He imagined that Eddie was with him, filling him up while he pumped him dry, his body a solid constancy for Waylon to grasp onto as he fucked him into oblivion.
By the end of it, all it took was for Waylon to imagine Eddie whispering ‘Darling’ into his ear and Waylon was coming so hard that he thought his legs may give out from underneath him. He just about steadied himself in time, his dick still dribbling out a small stream of his spend while he washed the remains of his release off the tiles.
Shutting the shower off, Waylon got out and towelled himself off, the warmth of the shower and his orgasm making him feel more than ready to fall asleep. He wanted to read to Eddie first though.
Walking back into the bedroom, Waylon grinned when he saw that Eddie had managed to move one of the chairs in the room towards the bed, where he was no doubt planning to sit while Waylon read to him. His notebook and pen were perched perfectly on one of the chair’s arms, allowing Eddie to write whatever secret passages that filled the back of the notebook’s pages while he listened to Waylon read.
Waylon now had no holdups in getting changed for bed in front of Eddie now, knowing perfectly well that the ghost was watching him as he stretched and went over to his bag to pull on a new shirt and pair of underwear.
Turning off the TV and picking up one of the books from their small pile on the nightstand, Waylon made his way over to the bed and climbed in, sighing as he let his head fall back onto his pillow. He thumbed the book’s pages for the bookmark and once he found the last place that they left off he resumed the story.
He only managed about forty-five minutes, before the idle sound of Eddie moving his pen across the notebook paper had succeeded in lulling him to sleep. He managed to close the book and put it away, slurring “Goodnight” to Eddie before exhaustion took hold of him and he was out like a light in the next minute, a smile tugging at his mouth as he slept.
As the room stilled, Waylon could just about make out sounds of the bedroom window being closed and the curtains drawn before he truly went under. What he didn’t sense, was Eddie managing to appear just long enough to brush back Waylon’s hair from his face and kissing his forehead, earning a small hum from Waylon as he slept, before he disappeared for the night.
Chapter 7: Winter Is Cold
This is so mushy lmao, I ain't sorry though ',:D
Waylon woke up from what felt like a lavishly long sleep, the kind that made your limbs sing when you stretch them and made the morning light filtering through the window curtains seem like some rare luxury. It took a few seconds for Waylon’s memories of last night to fully render in his mind, and when he did he felt like pulling the bed covers over his head and sleeping for another century or so. But no matter how much he tried to twist and warp it in his mind, there was no hiding what had happened: He kissed Eddie, enjoyed it, and then he fucking jerked himself off (and then some) in the shower over it afterwards.
“Oh God . . .” Waylon groaned, burying his face in his pillow. It wasn’t like he could pretend he or Eddie were drunk (Waylon doubted that Eddie, in his state, could even get drunk), there was nothing to blame that kiss on. He dreaded getting out of bed and eventually seeing Eddie. How were they supposed to navigate this? If Waylon just kept his damn hands to himself and wasn’t so pent up from spending so much time on the road— Forget about it, you’re both adults, handle it like adults. No one said you had to marry him because of it.
Besides, it wasn’t like it was a particularly bad experience. Sure, it had been a while since Waylon had kissed someone, and he’s pretty sure Eddie hasn’t been that intimate with anyone in years himself. Nevertheless, Waylon still traced his lips with his fingertips as he remembered the kiss. Fuck, was all he could sum up his feelings with. Perhaps he’d better just chalk this one up to severe loneliness. It made sense; the only other person he’s kissed in the last year and a half was Lisa and that was just a short peck on the lips to reassure their kids that ‘No, guys, Mommy and Daddy are perfectly fine with each other.’
They were both just touch-starved. That was it. No need to put labels on anything over some stress-relief disguised as a kiss. As for the shower stuff, well, Waylon would just have to push all of that into the back of his mind and hope it rots away with every other memory he’d rather just forget.
It took Waylon a minute or two to realise that the room wasn’t completely silent. In fact, he could hear breathing— no, snoring. It didn’t sound particularly unbearable like some snoring, but it was certainly audible. It sounded like it came from the floor, a few paces from his bed.
Sitting upright before getting to his feet, Waylon craned his neck to look over his bed and saw, sure enough, with his arm pillowed underneath his head and everything; Eddie was asleep on the floor.
Waylon couldn’t believe it. He was so caught up in the sight of Eddie snoring quietly on the carpet that he barely realised that he had padded over to the ghost and sat down beside him. Waylon briefly wondered if Eddie did this every time Waylon was asleep and he had nothing better to do other than watch him. He should feel like a creep. This was probably the first time Eddie had ever been able to sleep since he died and Waylon was spending it sitting mere inches from him.
Ever since his initial revelation on Eddie’s looks, Waylon had accepted that he found Eddie attractive. Undoubtedly so, especially in regards to how Eddie looked now:
He was corporeal enough for the slithers of sunlight that wormed their way into the room to surf over his face and Waylon watched, mesmerised, as the slices of light slipped over his features, softening and highlighting them. Waylon couldn’t help but smile at the notion that Eddie apparently frowns in his sleep, his brow twitching on occasion. Perhaps he’s dreaming, Waylon thought, the idea making him grin. Eddie’s vision occasionally flickered, like TV static but softer. It looked like Eddie wasn’t visible on purpose — maybe this was a sign that he really was getting better and remaining corporeal. Waylon remembered what Eddie said about improving the more he spent interacting with Waylon, did their kiss help him? Don’t get your hopes up too much, he’s already pretty strong even without you, his brain supplied. However, Waylon still felt a small twinge of pride at the rate Eddie was improving.
But how long would it take until Eddie didn’t struggle at all? Would he be alive then? If he’s sleeping, then that means he can feel properly tired now, so what about everything else? He said he never felt hungry and could barely taste anything (they tried this a while ago with a bag of jelly beans, and the ones that didn’t fall straight through Eddie were described as tasting ‘like sand’ and were promptly spat out).
Feeling brave, Waylon rearranged himself, from kneeling on the floor beside Eddie to lie down beside him. He shifted on his side, frowning at the stiffness of the floor. He wished Eddie had taken a pillow from Waylon’s bed for himself, the floor hardly being a place of total comfort. But then again, according to Lisa anyways, Waylon was a renowned cover-hog, so maybe trying to take a pillow wouldn’t be the best idea while Waylon was asleep.
His hands itched to touch him, his fingertips longed to trace the harsh angles of Eddie’s cheekbones, the slope of his nose, the curve of his forehead. It was something he did with Lisa when their relationship was in its infancy. Waylon was always the one to wake up first, running a hand or a finger over her face and body until she woke up.
Waylon shook his head, not wanting to dwell on the past, especially if it concerned Lisa. She’s gone now, Adrian and Malcolm too. Instead, he should focus on being in the present. And he gladly welcomed the sight before him.
It was hard to dismiss what happened last night as just touch-starved-induced passion, especially when he was really looking at Eddie properly. Neither of them knew what was supposed to happen once Eddie reached his full potential as a ghost; whether he’d pass on or continue to stay with Waylon was a coin toss that neither of them really wanted to see the outcome of. All Waylon knew right now, in this very moment, was that as much as it warped his mind to say so, he refused to be left alone. He needs Eddie with him, now so more than ever.
Letting his eyes drift away from Eddie’s face, Waylon saw that Eddie had managed to loosen his bowtie and open a few of the buttons on his shirt and waistcoat. Waylon held his breath as Eddie shifted in his sleep, his eyes widening as Eddie stretched out his arms and folded them underneath his head, his shirt collar opening just enough to expose the ghost’s collar bones. Waylon had to close his mouth before he started to drool. Jesus Christ, keep a lid on it, Park.
Not wanting to get any more desperate than he already was this early in the morning, Waylon averted his eyes, suddenly feeling very flustered, and drew his eyes to the ceiling, opting to think on the rest of their journey.
After Toad River, came Whitehorse and then Haines Junction. It all seemed too good to be true, to make it this far without Murkoff catching them yet. A horrid road trip consisting of bug-ridden motel rooms and stale diner food and crappy coffee was about to come to its lousy conclusion. Well, maybe not completely lousy, it wasn’t all bad, what with Eddie to keep him company in the final stretch of their journey. He felt like pinching himself but didn’t want to in case he woke up and it turns out he was back at Mount Massive, tied to a table, about to be sawn in half by—
“Fuck!” Waylon swore, jumping. Eddie must have woken up while he was lost in his thoughts, and on top of that, his outburst must have surprised him too, as Eddie swore as well before disappearing into thin air and quickly reappearing seconds later.
They looked at each other, alarm still all over their faces, before Eddie began to chuckle and Waylon found himself joining in. Pretty soon their chuckling turned into giggling, then full blown laughter. It felt good to start the day like this, laughing, just the two of them. Waylon can’t even remember the last time since he properly laughed with someone. And once he started, he couldn’t stop. Eddie’s laugh was rich and honeyed like his voice, and Waylon could see himself listening to it forever if he was able to. Waylon laughed so hard that he snorted, and he pressed a hand over his mouth in horror, only for the both of them to laugh over it right afterwards.
When they finished laughing, Eddie propped his head up in his hand and Waylon felt like he could melt through the floor from the way Eddie looked at him.
“Uh, good morning . . .” Waylon started, his voice trailing off as Eddie yawned and watched Waylon dreamily. He was suddenly finding it very hard to focus, particularly with the way he noticed that Eddie was getting closer and closer to him, until, before Waylon could even fully render it, Eddie had looped an arm around his waist and pulled them together.
Eddie had certainly made improvements in becoming corporeal, and in such an insanely small amount of time, if the way Waylon was able to play with his shirt collar was anything to measure his progress by. If Waylon concentrated hard enough, he could swear that he could smell Eddie; it wasn’t anything particularly flowery or whatever, but it was so warm and intrinsically Eddie that Waylon basked in it nonetheless.
“Good morning,” Eddie replied, his voice still tinged with enough sleep to make it rumble in his chest and send a dull shiver down Waylon’s spine. Oh, Waylon thought, his brain short-circuiting. Now it was getting increasingly impossible to push last night aside.
Whilst Eddie set about planting kisses along Waylon’s neck and jaw, Waylon realised that if he didn’t say something quick, Waylon doubted he could stop things from escalating.
They didn’t say an awful lot to each other after their kiss last night, and Waylon was unsure where they really stood. He didn’t know how to make things work with his own wife, who he’d been married to for years and had had children with and he couldn't even make that work. So how was anything between him and the ghost of an insane asylum inmate that thought he was a woman mere months ago, supposed to function?
At least Eddie seemed to be enjoying himself, taking his time with a particular spot on Waylon’s neck that Waylon just knew was going to blossom into the more egregious love bite. Can ghosts even give love bites? Would it just disappear after a few minutes? How is this whole fucking thing supposed to wor—
“You’re thinking awfully loudly, Waylon,” Eddie murmured against his neck, drawing Waylon out of his head and into the present. “Care to share what’s on your mind?” Eddie had left Waylon’s neck alone, for now, to look him in the eye, his scarred eyebrow raised in anticipation.
Waylon shrugged, which was hard to do from the way he was lying on the floor, cradled in Eddie’s grip but he felt that it was a necessary gesture. “You were asleep, and visible . . . I could hear you snoring.”
Eddie’s expression went from one of surprise to one of embarrassment, a light blush dusting his cheeks. It was hard to forget that Eddie was supposed to be dead when everything indicated that he was so alive.
“I snore?” It was strange to see Eddie look sheepish, but it was certainly a lot nicer than seeing him angry or frustrated, like how he was when Waylon first saw him. Waylon just smiled, cupping Eddie’s jaw. “Yeah, a little bit,” he laughed, chuckling at the way Eddie grimaced and buried his face back in Waylon’s neck. “But more importantly, this just proves that you’re getting better at being corporeal. I mean, you even do it in your sleep.” He felt Eddie smile against his skin.
“Even more important though, you were asleep, Eddie. I thought you said that you couldn’t sleep.”
Eddie pressed one last kiss to Waylon’s neck (the skin so sensitive it was almost enough to make him gasp) and looked him in the eye. “I don’t know what happened. After you went to bed, I suddenly felt tired. Normally I’d just have to stay invisible for a while and it would reside, but before I knew it, I was lying down and must have fallen asleep. And now you tell me that I snore!” He leaned away from Waylon to press the back of his hand to his forehead and sighed dramatically. Waylon couldn’t help but laugh, the sight of Eddie looking so mortified being told that he snores was so bizarre that it was . . . strangely adorable.
When his laughter died, Waylon pushed himself off from the floor and got to his feet. If he stayed on the floor with Eddie any longer, he didn’t know how he’d be able to maintain what little distance was left between them. Even with his back to him, Waylon could tell that Eddie was watching him from his place on the floor. He called out to him over his shoulder while he rummaged through his bag. “Aren’t you uncomfortable on the floor?”
“Not really, everything I feel is just . . . numb. Almost like when you lean on your arm for too long and can’t feel it properly afterwards. ” Nevertheless, Eddie got up and walked over to Waylon, his arms encircling his waist and pulling Waylon’s back flush against Eddie’s front.
Waylon froze at first, suddenly finding it extremely hard to breathe with the way Eddie’s body felt so solid behind him. Even with Eddie becoming increasingly more visible around him, Waylon must have forgotten just how severe the height difference between them was.
“Uh, hi?” Waylon didn’t know what to say, but he had to admit that the weight of Eddie’s arms around his waist was enough to make him want to go back to sleep. Eddie just chuckled, the same rumble in his chest vibrating against Waylon’s back; it was enough to make Waylon lean back into the hold, his head resting against the firm pillow of Eddie’s chest. They swayed a bit where they stood, the movement making Waylon put more of his weight on Eddie. Eddie didn’t seem to mind though, which made Waylon scoff. “Do I weigh anything to you?” Waylon asked, his hand going up to touch Eddie’s jaw. “Not at all, Darling. Still, it would do you some good to stop eating so much junk— ou, ou!” Eddie broke into laughter as Waylon spun around and started batting at him. “Okay, okay!” Eddie laughed, holding his hands up in surrender while Waylon folded his arms over his chest.
“You know, you’re quite endearing when you’re angry,” Eddie teased, flashing a smile. Waylon just rolled his eyes and delivered one more weak punch to Eddie’s shoulder. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fucking adorable,” Waylon muttered, still eyeing Eddie suspiciously but was finding it hard to take him seriously as Eddie just stood there grinning at him. “Indeed,” Eddie smirked, his eyes roaming over Waylon’s body, making Waylon squirm.
“I’m going to go take a shower, think you’ll be able to live without me?” Waylon asked, grabbing some clothes as he headed over to the bathroom door. Behind him, he heard Eddie sigh dramatically. “I suppose,” Eddie replied.
“Oh, get over yourself, I’ll be back before you know it,” Waylon joked, waving a hand as he left the room to go shower.
After Waylon showered (he managed to refrain from touching himself this time) and got dressed, he walked out of the bathroom and into the bedroom to see Eddie lying on his bed. Waylon shook his head fondly, seeing Eddie slowly opened his eyes and smile when he noticed that Waylon had entered the room.
“You comfortable, sire?” Waylon teased, drying his hair with a towel. Eddie just hummed and closed his eyes again. “Your spot on the bed was vacant, so I took it upon myself to fill it,” Eddie yawned, “If I concentrate hard enough, I can feel your body heat still.”
Waylon watched Eddie sink into the bed and went over to tug on his arm. “Oh no you don’t! We need to leave soon if we have any chance of getting to Whitehorse before it’s pitch black outside.” It took some strength, but Waylon managed to move Eddie a few inches off the bed and pull him upright. Eddie groaned but still complied, his eyes still screwed shut in refusal though.
Taking advantage of the situation, Waylon just sighed before cupping Eddie’s face in his hands and landing a kiss on his lips. It was over in seconds, but it was enough to make Eddie’s eyes shoot wide open, a smile growing wider and wider on his face, making Waylon blush. “That wake you up?” Waylon asked quietly. Eddie nodded, “Quite.”
Waylon dropped his hands away from Eddie’s face and walked away to pack his stuff away. “Good, so help me pack up so I have time to eat something for breakfast before we leave.” Eddie didn’t need to be told twice and set about helping Waylon pack the few objects they had spread across the room back into Waylon’s bag.
The car journey was lovely, their time together spent with them mostly just talking and joking around with one another. After a while, however, their conversation swerved into more personal matters, at least for Waylon anyways.
Waylon told Eddie about Lisa and his kids, how he’d most likely never see them again. How he took the job at Murkoff because the paycheck was astounding and he figured the workload would be enough to take his mind off of the divorce. He talked about how terrified he was in Mount Massive after the riot, how he didn’t think he’d make it out alive. And Eddie just listened to it all, he was so quiet Waylon often looked to his side to make sure he was actually there and hadn’t disappeared into the air.
But no, Eddie was there, watching him, his eyes glossed over like he had so much to say but couldn’t say any of it. Waylon felt that way too. He hoped that someday, Eddie would feel comfortable enough with him to talk about whatever was on his mind, be it about the past or present. They had all the time in the world, at least.
The rest of the journey was spent in comfortable silence. Waylon turned the radio on to some random station that played a couple of songs that he recognised, while Eddie got out his notebook and spent his time scribbling in it. Waylon still couldn’t figure out what Eddie was putting in the notebook, but he knew better than to pry. Maybe one day, in the near future, he’d show Waylon.
Waylon noticed that Eddie’s shirt was still unbuttoned, his bowtie still hanging around his neck, he nodded to it before pulling his eyes back towards the road. Their journey so far had consisted of nothing but rivers and forestry with the occasional car passing them on the otherwise abandoned road.
“You can do that now? Take your clothes off? I mean, can, can you—” He didn’t mean for it to sound so . . . perverted. And sure enough, Eddie picked up on the innuendo, chuckling as he closed his notebook and leaned into Waylon’s space.
“Why, I didn’t know you were so observational, Waylon. Or perhaps it’s only in regards to myself, hmm?” Eddie laughed, watching Waylon start to blush out of awkwardness.
“Don’t flatter yourself, I was asking ‘cuz I thought it might be time to get you some new clothes,” he answered hotly, gripping the steering wheel in the hopes the sensation would drain him of the colour in his cheeks that Eddie was teasing him for.
Eddie shook his head, leaning back in his seat, “I’m not sure if that would be possible. When I first died, I tried to take my waistcoat off and leave it on a chair; the thing was still sticky from all the blood— “ Waylon saw him wrinkle his nose out of disgust from the memory— “but not ten minutes later it wound up back on me. The best I can do is undo a few buttons, but even they end up doing themselves back up sometime later.”
“Not when you were asleep though, your shirt was unbuttoned and your tie was undone too; you must have done that before you fell asleep? Maybe you can take things off and leave them now. I mean, no offence, the whole patchwork-style looks fine, but maybe you’d prefer clothes that aren’t made of scraps?”
Eddie shrugged. “I made these myself, though,” he mumbled, his tone brinking on whining. Waylon just laughed, patting the ghost’s knee reassuringly.
“And they’re lovely, really, uh, fitted. But there’s still spots of blood on them and I just think you’d be a lot more comfortable in shit that wasn’t fashioned from jumpsuits and stolen clothing.”
It felt weird to try and joke about Eddie’s time in the asylum after the riot. But it was something to genuinely think about. If Eddie was getting better and better at being less dead, and if he was supposedly tied to Waylon forever (or at least for the time being), a change of clothes was definitely in order. Nevertheless, Waylon’s mind wandered back to the same place it always did with Eddie: Mount Massive Asylum. Did Eddie kill for what he was wearing now? And what about all those makeshift wedding dresses that littered his lair in the Vocational Block? Where did he even fucking find all of that shi—
Eddie waved a hand across Waylon’s vision, snapping him out of his thoughts and back to watching the road. “Thanks,” Waylon sighed, reaffirming his grip on the wheel. Eddie sighed too, looking out of the window to watch the trees whirl past them.
“I miss sewing,” Eddie murmured, just loud enough for Waylon’s still-clouded mind to perceive.
“Oh? Did you sew before . . . y’know.”
“My mother taught me,” Eddie answered breezily enough. “She was the unofficial seamstress in our town when I was a boy. She had plans to open up her own tailors; she saved up all the money in these coffee pots full of change. She said I could be her assistant, that she’d leave it all to me when she died. She was about to buy this small store near our house until . . . “ Eddie trailed off, Waylon watched his expression darken and it made his heart ache. Waylon really didn’t want to make Eddie feel like he had to talk, but he also didn’t want to come off as uninterested. Eddie was making a genuine effort to be open with Waylon, and after all he listened to Waylon ramble on and on about, the least Waylon could do is show that he cared.
He put his hand back on Eddie’s knee, brushing his thumb over the fabric of his pants. Eddie managed to take his eyes off the scenery outside of the window and offered Waylon a small smile, placing his own hand over Waylon’s and squeezing gently.
“Look,” Waylon started, keeping his voice quiet, “You don’t have to say anything you don’t want to. I mean, there’s no rush. I guess I just don’t want you to feel like you can’t talk about this stuff. You’re not in Mount Massive anymore, you don’t have to say whatever you think is gonna make you safe. And-and I know that I’m not exactly a doctor or a therapist or whatever but if you ever wanna talk then you know that I’m—”
“Waylon?” Eddie interrupted him, but Waylon didn’t mind. He was grateful that Eddie interjected before Waylon started rambling more than he was already. God, he was bad at this. “Yeah?” Waylon responded, slowing the car down a bit so he could look at Eddie better.
Eddie just smiled at him and squeezed Waylon’s hand again. “Thank-you,” he said. “And as for my clothes, can we worry about them later? I doubt I can remain present enough for them to not fall straight through me anyhow.”
Waylon snorted at the idea of Eddie wearing new clothes, only for him to suddenly disappear and the all clothes fall into a pile where he once stood. They still had a lot more to figure out.
Waylon nodded, looking back towards the road. “Hey, could you reach in the back seat and get that map? Maybe find out where we are? We can’t be too far from Whitehorse now.”
In his peripheral vision, he saw Eddie lean around and reach for the map. “And don’t sweat it about the clothes,” he continued, “we can get you some when you’re stronger and can take off the ones you’re wearing.”
The rest of the car journey was spent easily enough. Apart from Eddie taking them down the wrong road a couple of times, they were making good time and Waylon figured that if they kept it up they’d end up in Whitehorse before it got dark.
As they got closer and closer to Haines Junction, Waylon couldn’t help but wonder just how life with Eddie was supposed to work. Sure, right now they got along fine. But the more ‘alive’ Eddie became, the more they’d have to be present around one another. Would Waylon have to hide Eddie forever? And when, if ever, the time came that Murkoff dissolved and Waylon could go back to America, should he find Lisa and the kids? How would Lisa react to what he’d tell her about Eddie? She’d probably have him check into a mental institution. The thought was supposed to be funny, but Waylon didn’t feel like laughing.
Looking over briefly to his right, Waylon saw Eddie rest his head against the car window, his eyes closed and his eyelids fluttering as he rested. Looks like all those nights Eddie spent awake were finally catching up with him.
The thought of losing Eddie made Waylon’s guts churn. He didn’t want to lose Eddie, ever, that much was certain.
Waylon sighed, looking back out onto the road. Whatever happened, at least Waylon could be certain of one thing: So long as he had Eddie, and so long as Eddie had him, they’d be okay. They didn’t have anyone else to hold onto besides each other.
Chapter 8: Streetlights
More fluff (and some badly written porn) cuz next chapter is gon be angstyyy
Their time in Whitehorse was brief but, overall, nice.
Waylon was confident enough to venture out of his hotel room and go into town for dinner; nothing fancy, but it sure felt good to eat something that wasn’t drowning in grease or came from a packet. He partly did it because Eddie pestered him about how good it would be for him to get some air after being cooped up in the car for long. When he first sat down for dinner, Waylon kicked out the chair opposite him, so that Eddie could sit across from him if he wanted too.
After dinner, as he walked back to his room, Waylon felt something brush against his hand but upon looking down to see what had touched him, he saw nothing. And yet, now looking at his hand properly, the sensation returned and this time stayed, a sort of pressure wrapping around his hand and occasionally squeezing, the force strong enough to move his fingers slightly and grip the air that held his hand. Waylon looked up above him, knowing perfectly well what was going on now. He smiled up at Eddie, not seeing him but knowing exactly where the ghost was and curled his fingers around Eddie’s grip. Sure, to the people passing him on the street, he looked a bit odd, but Waylon didn’t mind.
He took his time walking back to his room, the pressure in his hand leading him down street after street, walking him around until the sky turned from blue to navy to black. It was still too early for Eddie to appear, and Whitehorse was just too slightly small a city for complete privacy. Nevertheless, Waylon enjoyed Eddie’s company and was impressed that he was able to touch him like this whilst invisible.
Back at the hotel room, they didn’t bring up the whole hand-holding thing, in fact, Eddie only let go of his hand when Waylon had to reach into his pocket for the room key for the door. Despite the chill that had dominated the night’s temperature, Waylon still grimaced upon realising just how sweaty his hands were and hoped to God that Eddie didn’t feel just how slippery his palms were.
The second Waylon closed the door, Eddie —like some kind of delayed magic trick— appeared, yawning. It was funny to see Eddie, who had been awake for three months with nothing to do other than stare at Waylon and walk around him in circles, suddenly become so tired so quickly. He made his way slowly to the bed, murmuring to himself as he fiddled with his shoelaces and tore his shoes off. He was like a big cat in the way he seemed to settle and stretch himself languidly across the room’s bed and let his eyes fall closed. Waylon hadn’t even taken his jacket and he could already hear Eddie’s breathing (is was bizarre how, despite not needing too, Eddie still breathed as if he needed to in order to live. When Waylon asked him about it, he just shrugged and blamed it on muscle memory or something of the like) mellow out as he began to slip into unconsciousness.
Rolling his eyes, Waylon made his way over to the bed to stand over Eddie, the glimpses of moonlight that made its way through the windows adding to his already pale complexion. How long had it been, before he died, since he’s seen sunlight? Waylon wondered, and his heart dropped a little. He knew that he still had to brush his teeth and get out of his clothes before he could even consider going to sleep, but Eddie was already taking up three-quarters of the bed and Waylon figured that if he manoeuvred himself cleverly enough he could fit in there as well.
The voice in his head —the only bit of logic that seemed to still reside in his head nowadays— reminded him about something along the lines of this being Waylon’s bed, so why should he have to put up with Eddie? So Waylon hovered over Eddie and placed a hand on his shoulder to rock him back awake. It took some doing, with more force than Waylon had anticipated, but Eddie finally stirred and blinked a couple of times before his gaze landed on Waylon. The sleepy smile that bloomed across Eddie’s face when he saw him made Waylon grateful that he had yet to turn the lights on, less Eddie should see the slightest hint of a blush tint his cheeks and neck.
“Hey,” Waylon greeted, it was stupid, but they hadn’t spoken in hours and he didn’t know how else to start things off.
“Hello,” Eddie greeted back, that damn smile still playing on his lips.
“Y’know that this is my bed, right? And you’re uh, well, in it.” It sounded like a childish argument, but there was only one bed and Waylon didn’t want to have to deal with Eddie suddenly disappearing and have Waylon accidentally roll over and ghost right through him.
“Am I?” Eddie asked, looking around as if he didn’t know damn well where he was. “Well, you know Waylon, that you could always just share your bed for tonight. I, personally, don’t fancy sleeping on the floor,” he mused, stifling a yawn before letting his eyes fall shut once more.
Waylon just sighed, straightening back up and watching Eddie before muttering “Asshole,” and going to the bathroom to brush his teeth. When he returned, he stripped down to his undershirt and underwear and set about shoving Eddie around (but not off) the bed until he could sit upright against the headboard. He wasn’t that tired yet, so he thought he’d continue the tradition and read to Eddie regardless of whether or not he was awake enough to hear him. But, as Waylon reached for one of the books on the nightstand (their collection had mounted by five or so more novels; all classics, ‘A Room with a View’ by E. M. Forster being their current favourite), he felt something shift in the bed and then a pressure on his lap and realised that Eddie had rested his head on Waylon’s stomach, inhaling the fabric of his shirt with his arms encircling his waist as he lay between his legs. The sudden movement was impossible for Eddie to have done whilst asleep, but the weight of Eddie’s upper-half in his lap was so present that Waylon gave up the image of shoving Eddie off him. He didn’t bother asking Eddie if he were awake, he probably was, but there was little point in accusing him of anything. No harm was being done, and it sure did save up a lot of space on the bed for them to be arranged like this.
So, Waylon read ‘A Room with a View’, and got as far as the part where Miss Lucy Honeychurch is kissed by George Emmerson in the Florentine countryside amongst a field of violets before it dawned on him that whilst he read the novel in one hand, his other had gone to thread his fingers in Eddie’s hair. He probably would never have known what he was doing if it wasn’t for Eddie humming in his sleep at the touch and emitting the most silent of whines when Waylon’s hand stilled in its movement. Waylon felt like he was being pinned down by a lion that wouldn’t eat him so long as he kept petting it, so he carefully put the book down and slowly —ever-so fucking slowly— managed to shift himself further down the bed until his head was on the pillows and Eddie had graduated from snoring in his lap to snoring into his chest. Yet Waylon’s hand stayed in Eddie’s hair, toying with the dark locks and tracing small circles into the ghost’s scalp until Waylon finally slipped into the sweet cover of sleep.
When Waylon woke up, he was alone in bed. He stretched his limbs, looking up at the ceiling before pushing himself up in bed and seeing Eddie’s waistcoat resting on one of the chairs by the door.
Getting out of bed, Waylon walked over to the chair and picked up the waistcoat. He had never seen Eddie not wearing it. He picked at the coarse stitching that united the scraps into the waistcoat’s shape. It was stiff and scratchy and how Eddie put up with wearing it (no matter how ‘numb’ his sense of touch was), Waylon had no idea. It hadn’t even occurred to Waylon yet that, though his waistcoat was currently clutched to his chest, Waylon didn’t know where Eddie was.
That was when he heard the bathroom door open and Eddie say “Ah, there it is. Must have left it out here on accident,” Waylon turned around to be met with the sight of Eddie standing before him dressed in only a towel that was wrapped dangerously low around his hips and his hair dripping wet over his face. He had his hand held out and it took Waylon a full minute to comprehend what he was asking for his waistcoat, which, when it clicked into place, Waylon practically threw back at Eddie as if it had bitten him.
Waylon tried to look anywhere but Eddie, but it was extremely hard to do when Eddie took up about 70% of the space in every room he’s in. All of that talk about being adults that Waylon’s brain spewed the other morning had completely flown out of the window now, especially with the way Waylon tried to look at anything and anywhere other than Eddie. Don’t look don’t look whatever you do don’t look— Dear God he’s fucking built how did he even manage to get like that while he was in Mount Massive Jesus Christ he could pick you up and throw your across the room like it was nothing if he wanted to— Shut up , Waylon pleaded internally, wanting nothing more than to melt into the floor and pretend that he imagined everything when he resolved.
If Eddie noticed how much Waylon was trying to avoid his eyes, he didn't bring it up ( Thank God ) and just made his way back to the bathroom. But not before Waylon’s curiosity got the better of him and he called out to Eddie before he could close the door to get dressed.
“Hey, uh, Eddie?”
“Mm?” Eddie responded, looking over his shoulder. God, even his back looks insane— SHUT. UP.
Waylon folded his arms as if he was the more underdressed one out of the two of them. “Why did you shower? Thought you said that you don’t need to . . .”
“I don’t really know, I guess I just missed the novelty of getting clean, of having water wash over me. Especially since I'm getting better at properly feeling things. I could even feel you last night, as you read to me, it was a miracle that I managed to scrape you off from me to go shower,” Eddie answered, shrugging like it was no big deal but his response made Waylon’s guts whirl. “So you were awake! You bastard! Come back here!” Waylon exclaimed, but Eddie was already closing the bathroom door to shield himself from Waylon’s shouting. Waylon could hear him laughing behind the door.
Eddie did eventually emerge from the bathroom, his clothes back on and his body dry. Waylon went in after him and washed as well, the whole time trying not to think about Eddie’s body and how much his own body seemed to like the idea of Eddie in the shower with him. He managed to stave off any arousal long enough to wash and got dressed in record timing. He came back into the room to see Eddie scribbling something in his notebook but quickly snapped it shut when Waylon came in. Waylon just snorted, saying, "What is it with you and that thing? You writing a biography for scientists to study a thousand years later after you pass on?"
"I'm doing it because, as fascinating as you are, Waylon, I have other things on my mind that you're not exactly the best person to talk to about," Eddie retorted, his expression light and his tone joking but it was enough to shut Waylon up. Almost.
"Okay, well, lemme know if you need a publisher or whatever when you finally decide to release your memoirs," he teased. "Come on, I want to eat before we go to Haines."
They went out for breakfast nearby, Waylon feeling Eddie’s hand on his thigh the entire time which made it extremely hard to chew his food properly without it all falling out of his mouth. Waylon was well and truly torn. Eddie, as he became more and more present and corporeal, seemed really attached to the idea of intimacy, namely intimacy between himself and Waylon. Waylon, meanwhile, was unsure of just where he stood with Eddie. He had kissed him and thought about him sexually enough to get off to the thought of him, that much was certain, but everything else was just so grey between them. And as the days went on, and Eddie only ever seemed more and more like something akin to a lover (or, at the very least, a very liberal ‘friend’), Waylon found it harder and harder to see Eddie Gluskin and The Groom as the same person. Of course, they were the same person, but Eddie had never shown any indication of being like how he was all those weeks ago in the asylum; apart from the occasional slip-up of ‘Darling’, but even for that, Eddie had apologised profusely for.
Waylon knew that if they were going to live together, then they’d have to establish something between them, even if it was just a superfluous label that neither of them cared for. Waylon hated all of this tip-toeing around the subject of just what exactly were they?
Waylon decided, that after much thought over breakfast, that he’d be better off just post-pointing such questions until they got to Haines Junction; then they’d have all the time in the world to figure it out between them and/or until Eddie disappears for good and/or Waylon dies himself out of frustration. In the meantime, he’d except all of Eddie’s little displays of affection (if you can even call them ‘displays’ when only Waylon —and maybe dogs— knows they’re happening) and hope that he didn’t catch any more feelings than he already had festering away in his heart.
They arrived at Haines Junction at around midday, and neither of them knew how to find this ‘William Bennett’ guy. So Waylon started off walking around and just asking random strangers (who were few and far between in a village you could probably clear in under five minutes) if they knew the guy. Everyone seemed sort of wary of him (he didn’t exactly fit the trucker stereotype that frequented such a place) but were helpful nonetheless and after around half an hour Waylon saw someone matching Bennett’s description sitting at the bar of some local near-empty bistro (though it was more like a shack; how Waylon was supposed to live here without going insane, he decided to worry about later). He didn’t know how best to approach the guy, he looked tall —not as tall as Eddie, though it would take a lot for anyone to be anywhere close as tall as Eddie— and the greying beard he sported made his face seem severe. Waylon considered just walking out and waiting outside until he emerged until a force (Eddie, obviously) pushed him further into the bistro and towards the guy, Waylon hoped against hope was Bennett.
He tapped the man on the shoulder, who turned abruptly around with a short grunt which Waylon took as a “Yeah?”.
“Uh,” Waylon started, feeling just about ready to bolt before he felt a pressure that held his shoulder firmly; a reassurance. Waylon steeled himself, continuing, “I’m Park . . . Waylon Park? I was sent here because some people you know said you had a place for me here?” He spoke quietly (in case the barmaid — who, all things considered, looked like she couldn’t care any less about the nature of their discussion but it's better to be on the safe side— overheard them), but if his tone was any indication of discrepancy, Bennett didn’t pick up on it.
“Huh, yeah, Peacock sent ya, didn’t he? Yeah, there’s a cabin for you not far from here - up near Pine Lake,” he confirmed, his voice loud but not exactly friendly. He finished his drink (some dark concoction Waylon thought looked like motor oil) and pushed himself out of his seat and to his feet. The pressure on Waylon’s shoulder migrated down to his arm; Eddie obviously didn’t like this guy, but he’d have to put his concerns aside if they had any hopes of finding out just where they were supposed to be living for (possibly) the rest of their lives. Well, for the rest of Waylon’s life at least.
Bennett got up close to Waylon, looking down at him with a scrutinising look that made Waylon simultaneously feel pathetic and pissed off. A moment or two passed and finally, Bennett broke the tension before Waylon —or more likely, Eddie— could grab an empty beer bottle from the bar and smash it over the guys head. “Let’s go then. I’m assuming you drove here, so get in your car and you can follow me up to the lake,” he said gruffly, fishing in his coat pocket for some bills to slam onto the bar before shuffling away and out the door, leaving Waylon with no other option than to follow.
The drive was only a few minutes or so up to Pine Lake; some pretty adept driving was required for the dirt track that lead off the road and towards the cabin that Waylon’s car had some trouble getting across (he made a mental note to invest in some gravel to speak across the track to make the journey a lot less rocky in the future) but after some luck he managed to pull up in front of the cabin.
Waylon got out of the car, leaving the door open a fraction longer than normal for Eddie to slide across and get out; a habit that had become commonplace now and was hard to forget in the presence of another living being. Bennett did look at him strangely, but just shook his head and continued on up to the cabin, groaning as he bent down to flick the doormat up and retrieve the key to open the front door. Waylon would have offered to help him get the key, but Bennett didn’t strike him as the kind of guy to accept help from the likes of Waylon.
With the door open, they stepped into the cabin and took a look around, Bennett bluntly showing him each room.
“Here’s where you’ll be sleeping - there’s only one bedroom, mind you, but Peacock said it’d just be you so I doubt there’s any problem with that,” Bennett said. Waylon just nodded. The bedroom was nice enough: a double bed with a couples wardrobe and an en suite, there were even sliding doors that lead out onto a porch outback.
Overall the cabin was more than what Waylon was expecting; especially coming from the likes of Bennett. There were even cutesy knitted throw cushions sat on the couch in the living room and a functioning fireplace with a fur rug laid out in front of it. Bennett told him about all of the cabin’s little practicalities: where the fuse box was, how to turn on the hot water, how there wasn’t any internet in little under a two-mile radius but the bistro they just came from had free wifi as well as a couple of other diners, where best to stand in the cabin to get cell phone reception, how to get to the lake from the back of the cabin and how he’d need to cut his own firewood for the fireplace. He even drew him a crude map of Haines Junction, circling the small grocery shop and department store and then the few restaurants that had internet.
“It all looks so nice - thank-you, for all of this,” Waylon thanked Bennett as the tour dwindled to a close in the kitchen.
“Don’t thank me, thank my wife - this was her passion project. We were supposed to live here ourselves - before the cancer got to her,” Bennett replied, his blunt response making Waylon clear his throat out of sheer discomfort. “Well, she did a good job,” was all he could say back. Bennett just nodded, resuming his instructions, gesturing to the fridge. “I stocked the refrigerator up for ya, nothing fancy just some cheap shit until you go grocery shopping. Speaking of which, Peacock got you a job working at the pub back in the village. You weren’t expected here for another week or so, but now that you’re here I’m sure Dinah won’t mind it too much. If you head down tomorrow she’ll put you to work the day after. Nice woman, but if you’re ever late you’ll have the Wrath of God on your hands. Also, rent is $650 for the end of next month and so on. I pass through every four weeks or so, so I’ll come to you when it’s time to pay. If you need anything that you can’t get here, you can always call me and place some orders for things; clothes and appliances and whatnot. My number’s on that note on the fridge. Any pressing questions you got, you can talk to me for - but don’t waste my time with dumb shit like how to start the fireplace up or something. You can figure that out on your own.”
With that, Bennett threw him the house keys and made for the door. Waylon thanked him and gave his condolences towards his wife, to which Bennett just nodded and left the cabin.
It wasn’t until the sound of Bennett pulling his car away from the cabin and off down the track faded that Eddie joined Waylon in the kitchen. He was smiling excitedly as he walked around the room, muttering about how as nice as the place was, a clean-up was definitely in order, before turning to Waylon and noticing his clouded expression. He stepped over to him. “Waylon?” he spoke, his voice quiet, Waylon didn’t respond, just looked out to the room, his eyes glossed over with something like uncertainty.
“Waylon,” Eddie repeated, placing his hands on Waylon’s arms and gripped him strongly; not to cause any harm, but more to ground Waylon in the present. “Waylon, you did it. You’re here, you made it,” he breathed, turning Waylon to look at him more. Waylon finally broke, a smile appearing on his face but his eyes brimming with tears. Eddie’s hands went from his arms to his cheeks, cupping them and bringing their faces closer together.
Waylon’s hands went to Eddie’s wrists, using his presence like an anchor. “We made it,” Waylon said, looking up to Eddie for reassurance and his eyes watering when he saw the way Eddie was looking at him with such affection. “We made it,” Eddie repeated, kissing Waylon’s forehead before taking a step back from him, his hands slowly slipping off from where they cupped Waylon’s face.
“I’m going to go search for a broom, yeah? See if I can’t get this place looking a bit more presentable,” said Eddie, “you okay on your own? I’ll help you put your things away in the bedroom later if you’d like.” Waylon just smiled in response, afraid that if he tried to speak he’d break down entirely.
Waylon watched Eddie leave; the house wasn’t big enough for Eddie to suddenly reappear next to Waylon. In fact, with all that Eddie had been improving, they had yet to test out whether or not Eddie could venture further away from him. Waylon didn’t want to do that, not yet, he still very much liked the idea of Eddie always ending up beside him if he went too far or got sidetracked.
Looking around the cabin, hearing Eddie open the storage cupboard in the near distance, Waylon let himself breathe. His breath was shaky, and he felt like he was standing on the edge of a cliff that he had been slowly heading towards for the better part of four months, but now they were here . Waylon had made it, and survived. What’s more, he was here with Eddie. It was a funny, insane thought, that he had grown to rely on Eddie so heavily in such a short amount of time; how they went from despising each other to now . . . this. This weird sort of dynamic they’d built, like something one could call a relationship.
That did it, that was the last straw that sent Waylon over the edge and off the cliff. Waylon wept silently in the living room, tears running down his cheeks and fell from his chin and onto his shirt. He should feel stupid, he’s been so strong all this time and to crumble now, when he fianlly made it just seemed ungrateful, in a weird sense. He barely heard Eddie re-enter the room if it wasn’t for the sudden feeling of strong arms wrapping around him and holding him close to an equally strong chest. Even if Eddie had very little purpose now that he was dead, he was certainly useful as Waylon’s support system, merely holding him so close that Waylon thought he might suddenly fall through Eddie from the amount of energy he must be using to hold him so dearly. But Eddie remained solid, holding Waylon and saying nothing other than a few kind words.
Waylon lost track of how long they stood like that, but when they did eventually part, Waylon saw that Eddie himself was crying. Waylon raised a hand to wipe away the thin trickle of tears that poured down Eddie’s scarred cheek and said quietly: “I didn’t know that ghosts could cry.” Eddie laughed, shakily but it was a sound Waylon adored so much he wished he could listen to it forever. “Neither did I, but you seem to have that sort of effect on me, Darling.”
Waylon didn’t even flinch that time, maybe he was just too exhausted to care; still riding the high of finally making it and being where he could never see himself. Or maybe, just maybe, there was the chance that he was letting himself become undone; having slowly unravelled all the time and now finally giving in. So, pushing all of the ‘maybe’s aside, he pressed himself against the only certainty he had: Eddie. And Eddie was more than happy to be Waylon’s single constancy, in their roaring sea of uncertainty.
It was way past the evening time now. They had spent the whole afternoon cleaning up and organising what little stuff that had with them around the cabin, with all of Eddie’s books taking pride of place in the spare room/study that had yet to be given a proper function.
They took their time getting settled into their new home. They didn’t bring up the problem of there only being one bedroom, apart from Eddie briefly mentioning that he’d sleep on the sofa while Waylon made dinner (Bennett had left enough ingredients over to make some spaghetti). Waylon just shook his head, dismissing Eddie’s offer completely, saying, “You and I have spent months on the road in shitty motels with hard floors and even harder beds and chairs - the least we deserve is a decent bed. Besides, it’s more than big enough for the two of us. I warn you though, I take no prisoners with my hoarding of bed sheets, so you might wanna turn off whatever part of you can feel the cold ‘cuz you’re gonna be frozen solid if you think I’m sharing the covers with you.” He got about halfway through his warning before he felt Eddie hug him from behind and kiss his next, no doubt adding to the love bite he gave Waylon a few days ago that had just started to fade.
With his dinner made, Waylon walked over into the living room and started to eat on the couch whilst Eddie added some logs into the fireplace to keep the fire going. The room was already bathed in a soft orange glow from the low lamp lighting dotted around the room and the fire already made Waylon feel ready to fall asleep; the emotional toll of the day finally weighing him down.
Dinner went down easily enough, along with half of the wine that Eddie found in a cupboard in the kitchen, leaving Waylon feeling even warmer. Eddie had turned down Waylon’s food and drink, joking that it would only fall right through him anyhow.
Waylon, his stomach full and his eyelids heavy, was now under a mountain of blankets that Eddie had retrieved from all over the cabin and layered over him. Eddie was sat on the floor, on the rug, as close as he could possibly be to the fire, basking in what little of its intense heat he could feel. Waylon watched him, half-asleep, half-awake, as Eddie watched the flames, the occasional flicker of light dancing over his severe features, softening them and yet also enhancing them.
As Waylon watched Eddie, his mind began to wander. It wandered to the most dreaded place it could possibly go: Mount Massive Asylum. Waylon saw flickerings of memories; of when he first saw Eddie, banging and screaming at him through the glass, begging Waylon for his life and how Waylon did nothing , and how, hours later, like some sort of sick joke, how Waylon and Eddie were ‘reunited’ in the Vocational Block. But it wasn’t Eddie Gluskin that was chasing him, no, it was The Groom , in all his gentlemanly horror, who chased him and tied him down and tried to mutilate him. The last memory he had was when The Groom tried to hang him; stringing him up like a pig and making some bitter joke about his weight and their anniversary. And then, in his final moments, how The Groom called them “beautiful”, his gloved hand gripping Waylon’s before he died; impaled on a metal rod in such a Godforsaken place with no one to care accept Waylon, who laughed at the sight.
“Waylon? Are you alright?” Waylon was brought out of his mind by Eddie, who had abandoned watching the flames to look at Waylon instead. Was this really The Groom? The Man Downstairs that had chased him through Hell and hated him so avidly? Was this who Waylon was really trusting, or even worse . . . loving?
The tears came back, and this time they came even more freely than they did when they first arrived. But, just as before, Eddie was there, moving up to join him on the couch and cradle him like something so dear and delicate that the notion that this madman was capable of such affection only served to make Waylon weep more. And all that Eddie did was pull Waylon down along the couch until he was lying on top of Eddie, the ghost’s hand on his neck and back and his nose in his hair as Waylon sobbed into his shirt.
“I’m so sorry, Waylon,” whispered Eddie, making Waylon falter in his emotions to lift his face up to Eddie’s. Eddie looked as broken as Waylon, the firelight making the tears in his eyes and on his cheeks sparkle like grieving stars. “I’m so sorry,” Eddie repeated, his voice so broken that it made Waylon’s heart feel as though it may split in half. What could Waylon say? What words could he possibly combine that could ever—
“I forgive you,” Waylon said. “I forgive you and I need you - God , Eddie, how I need you.” It was broken and shattered in its delivery but the amount of truth in which Waylon said those words frightened even him. He watched, beyond terrified of how Eddie would perceive what he said, only to see the ghost’s expression melt from one sorrow, to shock, to joy and he tightened his grip around him even more as brought him further up his body to kiss him.
Waylon melted into the kiss, gasping quietly only to have every sound that he made be swallowed up by Eddie, almost devouring him in the hopes that he’d be able to consume all of Waylon’s grief the longer they stayed like this.
After what felt like years, they finally broke, Waylon breathing in deeply while Eddie resumed his ongoing assault on Waylon’s neck, the skin so sensitive over time that all Waylon could do was bite his lip and try his best to smother every moan that left his lips. It had felt like millennia had passed since he and Eddie first kissed, and when Eddie bit down on the multitude of marks that he had left on his neck Waylon was already seeing stars.
It wasn’t until he felt Eddie’s hand snake up under his shirt that Waylon said his first coherent sentence for a while.
“Eddie . . . your gloves . . .”
Eddie hummed but eventually left Waylon’s skin to look at the object of Waylon’s attention. He wasn’t wearing the fingerless gloves which had practically been glued to his hands ever since he died. “I must have taken them off in Whitehorse and forgotten to put them on . . .” Eddie mused, his tone neither upset nor pleased, merely pensive. He took his hand off from under Waylon’s shirt to hold it above his head, moving his wrist and flexing his fingers, chuckling at his newfound ability to actually be undressed for longer than a few hours.
Waylon found himself quickly losing interest in the subject of the location of Eddie’s gloves, right now all he wanted was Eddie’s hands back on him before he went insane.
“Eddie,” Waylon whined. Eddie growled at the sound of Waylon’s voice and reunited their mouths, placing his hand back under Waylon’s shirt and moving his other from Waylon’s neck to his ass and squeezing hard enough to make Waylon groan. Between kisses, Eddie growled to Waylon:
“Darling, we’re in the middle of nowhere, you don’t have to hide all of your pretty little sounds from me.”
That just made Waylon even more desperate, he took Eddie’s advice and moaned loudly as the hand Eddie had on his ass pushed down to press their bodies even closer together, grinding Waylon’s groin against Eddie’s stomach and pressing Eddie’s own arousal against Waylon’s thighs. Waylon felt far too hot now, with his clothes sticking to him and feeling far too restrictive.
It was as if Eddie could read his mind, as the hand on his back gripped Waylon’s shirt and all but ripped it off from him, the sound Eddie made as he did so was so animalistic that it drove Waylon even crazier with want. “Eddie!” Waylon keened, wrapping his arms around Eddie’s neck as Eddie then set to work tearing off the buttons on Waylon’s pants and yanking down the zipper until the only think Waylon was still wearing his underwear.
Waylon bucked his hips against the rough fabric of Eddie’s waistcoat, his mouth hanging wide open as he did so, letting Eddie explore his mouth as much as he desired with his tongue, occasionally biting Waylon’s lip and kissing the corners of his mouth sloppily. Waylon could feel his underwear get wetter and wetter the more he was left humping against Eddie and knew that if he left like this any longer he’d come before Eddie even got undressed.
“Eddie,” Waylon gasped, gripping the back of his shirt collar and tugging. Edde seemed to get the message, pressing a chaste kiss to Waylon’s temple before sitting them on the couch. Waylon didn’t wait for Eddie to even undress, instead, he took it upon himself to undo Eddie’s bowtie, reminding himself the entire time to enjoy the moment and to not rush things. Eddie seemed to take great joy in the sight of Waylon trying to control himself, his hand leaving Waylon’s back to grip Waylon’s dick through his underwear and squeeze . Waylon moaned, shallowly rocking his hips into Eddie’s unmoving fist as he finally wrenched that God-awful waistcoat off from his body and sent Eddie’s dress shirt flying with it, just narrowly missing the fireplace. Waylon tried to fuck himself harder into Eddie’s fist, but the pressure was too much and Waylon could barely move from how tightly Eddie was gripping him. Instead, he ran his hands down Eddie’s body, practically drooling when he got the solid muscle that adorned Eddie’s stomach and wanted nothing more than to spill himself all over Eddie’s abs.
Waylon felt Eddie’s cock twitch underneath him, the fabric of his pants too thick for any proper contact but it was enough to make Waylon start lightly bouncing in Eddie’s lap, making the ghost growl. A few seconds later Eddie had managed to rid himself of his pants and joined Waylon in being stripped down to his underwear. Waylon sighed dreamily, pleased with the far more intense feeling of his skin gliding against Eddie’s, and even more so at the thin stretch of fabric that was separating the both of them from being fully naked.
Waylon’s dick was straining so much in the confines of his underwear that it almost hurt , whereas Eddie didn’t even feel fully hard and Waylon was already wondering how on earth Eddie was supposed to fit inside him; if they even got that far before Waylon climaxed.
Waylon ran his hands over Eddie’s body and moaned at the feeling of the abundance of muscle rippling under his touch. “ Fuck ,” Waylon breathed. “ Watch your tongue, Darling ,” Eddie remarked, pressing kisses along Waylon’s jaw as his hand left Waylon’s dick to join his other hand in kneading Waylon’s ass. At the sound of that damn pet name, Waylon bounced harder in Eddie’s lap, not knowing how much more he could take of this before he well and truly went over the edge.
“Ah, Eddie. Need . . .you . . . now ,” Waylon begged, “ Please ,” he finished, remembering that Eddie had a thing about manners. Eddie smirked against his skin, biting just over Waylon’s Adam’s apple before one of his hands left his ass and he traced his fingers over Waylon’s lips. Waylon didn’t need to be told what to do, his mouth automatically opening and inviting Eddie’s finger’s inside. Waylon sucked on Eddie’s fingers like his life depended on it, the tears that left his eyes not long ago still fresh on his face and streaming down his face; though if such a gesture was from grief of happiness, Waylon couldn’t tell. Eddie’s other hand left Waylon’s ass (which caused him to whine from the minute break in contact) to inch down Waylon’s underwear, finally freeing his dick to strain between their stomachs instead. Waylon moaned around Eddie’s fingers, the sound muffled but all the more lewd for it.
“Gorgeous,” Eddie whispered, watching Waylon writhe in his lap and suck loudly on his fingers until they were dripping with spit. Waylon blushed from the praise, which only goaded Eddie on more, causing him to whisper sweet nothings and words of awe and praise into Waylon’s ear until he was gasping with each utterance of “Darling” and “My love.”
Satisfied with the work he did, Eddie slipped his fingers out from between Waylon’s lips —catching his mouth in a languid kiss as praise for Waylon’s dedication—, and slipped Waylon’s sopping-wet underwear off entirely. Waylon was at Eddie’s complete and utter mercy; the tip of his dick was so red and leaking so profusely that it dribbled onto Eddie’s stomach and was smeared into his skin as Waylon fucked himself against his abs.
Gripping one of Waylon’s thighs in his hand to still him, Eddie pushed Waylon up in his lap, giving him enough room to slide his freshly slick-up fingers across Waylon’s hole.
Waylon yelped, the sensation bizarre but not unwelcome. It had been a while since he had done this but he trusted Eddie entirely, knowing that the last thing he’d want for Waylon is to cause him any pain or discomfort.
Eddie teased Waylon’s hole gently, tracing a single finger around it before pressing into the tight ring of muscle down to the first knuckle. He gave Waylon time to adjust, waiting momentarily for Waylon to give him the go-ahead.
Waylon breathed steadily, his eyes opening and closing as he waited for his body to get used to the sensation, bracing his hands on Eddie’s shoulders and putting his weight on his thighs. When he finally nodded, telling Eddie it was okay to go deeper, he gasped as Eddie slowly sunk his index finger all the way in.
With Waylon comfortable, Eddie worked his finger around inside Waylon, lightly pushing in and out until eventually curling his finger up and brushing a spot of muscle that made Waylon throw his head back in pleasure. Eddie chuckled, the sound resonating from deep within his chest.
“Adorable,” he cooed, clutching Waylon’s thigh tighter as he began to thrust his finger in and out, making sure to always now brush that little spot inside his Darling.
It wasn’t long before Waylon was begging for something more . Eddie teased him for being greedy, to which Waylon responded, “Greedy for you,” which set something primal and guttural off inside Eddie, making him work a second, then a third finger inside Waylon until he couldn’t take anymore.
Waylon’s hand travelled down from Eddie’s shoulders and traced the harsh, flexing lines of his muscles before finally reaching his cock; which still resided in the confines of his boxers. Shifting back to give him more space, Waylon tugged the waistband of Eddie’s underwear back and watched as Eddie’s cock emerged and throbbed against Waylon’s own dick.
“Jesus Christ - you’re so fucking big ,” he sighed. It was no understatement, Eddie’s cock was easily ten inches long and then some. If Waylon felt small beside Eddie before, he felt positively pathetic when he saw just how much bigger Eddie was than him; in every sense of the word.
“We don’t have to go all the way if you’re not ready,” was all Eddie said in response, his fingers slowing down slightly inside Waylon to make sure his consent was clouded over by lust. Eddie wanted him to be positive about this, Waylon could see it in the way that he looked at him.
Waylon smiled blissfully, his hand reaching up to cup Eddie’s jaw and kissed him deeply before saying: “Eddie Gluskin, I appreciate your concern - but if you don’t fuck me right this fucking second I will fucking scream - and not in the way you want me to.”
That seemed good enough for Eddie, who let Waylon push him down a bit so that he was lying further along the couch, his arms resting along the top of the sofa and his back against the armrest as he watched Waylon sit before his cock.
Licking his hand, looking Eddie dead in the eye as he did so, Waylon grabbed Eddie’s cock with both hands and worked his grip up and down until Eddie’s cock practically throbbed in time with his movements. Waylon watched —his eyes so heavily lidded they were almost closed— as Eddie grunted with Waylon’s actions, his muscles tensing each time Waylon tightened his grip and moaned his name as he rubbed his dick against Eddie’s.
Done with waiting, Waylon lifted himself up (with Eddie’s help) and graciously lowered himself down onto Eddie’s cock before letting himself sink down to the hilt. It hurt at first, Waylon biting his lip until it bled, but seconds later a wave of pleasure overtook him as he felt Eddie fill up every bit of him and throbbed against his prostate.
Waylon started riding Eddie, his voice getting higher and louder with each bounce. He could feel the fat head of Eddie’s cock leak against his insides, making each thrust be followed with a disgustingly audible squelching sound that only made Waylon more aroused than he already was. Eddie continued his litany of praise, his grip on the couch was turning his knuckles white as he fought the urge to touch Waylon, wanting to see him come undone on his cock alone.
Neither of them could handle it for very long, though, before Eddie —practically snarling as he did so— gripped Waylon’s thighs so hard that it would no doubt cause some serious bruising later and pushed Waylon onto his back at the other end of the couch. Waylon, quietly thankful for Eddie’s intervention, for he didn’t know how long he could keep going before his legs gave out, let Eddie pushed his legs back until he could hook them over his broad shoulders and began to pound into his relentlessly.
They were both a mess, kissing each other wildly as Eddie’s hips pistoned into Waylon’s entrance like it was all either of them was made for. Waylon had never felt so full and Eddie seemed unable to stop talking about just how “ tight ” Waylon was.
After what seemed like ages, of Waylon constantly being pushed to his limits before Eddie suddenly eased his movements and made Waylon scream for more; Waylon finally came, his voice all but gone and his cock so raw from sliding between his and Eddie’s body that his spend all but erupted in slight spurts across his and Eddie’s stomach and chest. Eddie soon followed in his released, groaning as Waylon’s insides clenched around him and pretty much milked him. As Eddie pushed deep inside him, Waylon’s whole body seemed to flutter at the feeling of being filled to the point of overflowing. He just sighed, humming as Eddie pressed butterfly kisses all over his face, neck and chest before eventually pulling out.
Waylon whined at the feeling of being ‘empty’ once again but could forgive Eddie as the ghost gathered him up in his arms and pulled a blanket over them.
“Never leave me,” Waylon yawned. It wasn’t a request. He truly did need Eddie. He felt Eddie kiss his head, “Of course,” he answered, pulling Waylon closer to him.
They lied together, wrapped up in each other's arms and watched the fire burn before the embers faded and orange warmth was exchanged for the blue chill of night. They fell asleep soon afterwards, comfortable in the notion that from now on, they would always have each other.
Chapter 9: Lost Feeling
This is it, everybody! Thank-you all so much for reading this far and leaving such supportive comments <<<33333
Five years had passed since they came to Haines Junction. Five years. Waylon couldn’t believe it. Five years of him and Eddie. Five years of sharing a bed, of Eddie making breakfast for Waylon almost every morning, of sitting in the doorway together and watching the rainfall, of playing hour-long sessions of board games and card games, of Waylon reading to Eddie (a tradition now that neither of them ever grew tired of), of just existing beside one another.
Five years of kisses and tears and embraces and arguments and apologies and something that Waylon could no longer deny: Love. There was no other way to describe it. Even as time went on, and Eddie discovered that he didn’t have to be at Waylon’s side 24/7, (it was an accident how they found out though. They went on one of their late evening walks and Eddie got sidetracked. It wasn’t until Waylon got back to the cabin that he realised Eddie wasn’t with him. They didn’t realise how panicked they both were until they practically ran straight into each other, later laughing at how worrisome they’ve become over one another) they, if anything, became even more inseparable than they started off as.
Waylon’s job at the pub downtown was simple enough. Bennett’s warning about Dinah was well warranted though; he was eternally grateful that she took a shine to him, as her bad side (only ever shown when rude customers belittled Waylon when he worked the bar) was enough to terrify even the sternest of truckers. The pay wasn’t anything spectacular, but then again, they didn’t need much.
Waylon didn’t try to bother Bennett very frequently with requests for things. He only ever asked for certain items when it was nearing Eddie’s death day (both of them felt the day of Eddie’s death was more important to them than his birth. Both were still well celebrated, but Waylon always went the extra mile on the anniversary of his death). Last year he asked for a record player, and they spent the evening slowly swaying one another around the cabin, whilst Billie Holiday played in the background (‘Crazy He Calls Me’ was their favourite song).
By now, Eddie was in full control of his ‘abilities’. He’d still occasionally make himself invisible and go to work with Waylon, just to make sure he wasn’t overwhelmed when he worked afternoons and weekends. Dinah would often try to question him how it seemed that he was able to work as if there were two of him, but Waylon would just shrug and joke that he had some sort of alcohol-centric guardian angel to help him.
Eddie also no longer needed to sleep so often either, his body apparently done with its once endless need for rest. However, Eddie never turned down an opportunity to cuddle Waylon within an inch of his life during one of their ‘naps’ (which were supposed to only last an hour max, but ended up lasting more like three hours. Even four or five, if they grew bored of napping and moved onto something more . . . exciting).
Eddie’s entire appearance had practically healed over as well. He was free of blood and the scars that governed nearly the whole of his face. His right eyebrow didn’t look like it would ever grow back completely, but that was the least of his worries, saying that it gave him “character”. Though Waylon would always love Eddie, scars or no scars, it was nice to see the ghost look in the mirror from time to time and genuinely smile and finally seem so comfortable with himself. Waylon just wished that he could take pictures of him, but it seemed that ghosts and cameras just don’t mix. “I don’t see why you need to take photographs when you live with the real thing,” Eddie would point out, making Waylon feel better enough to do without a camera and just be content with “the real thing,” as Eddie so eloquently put it. Eddie seemed fine with a sketchbook and pencils in place of a camera anyhow, drawing up loose designs for dresses and suits in the pages. His favourite subject, however, was Waylon. It wasn’t odd to wake up to see Eddie sat up in bed, smiling down at him before showing him the sketch he drew of Waylon whilst he was asleep.
Aside from sketching, Eddie found his own little ways of keeping himself entertained. He’d go on walks, skip stones, even cut wood for the fire whenever they ran low. He was far better at cooking than he was at baking, but Waylon never complained when he was offered a pile of misshapen cookies to nibble on.
Yet, despite everything else, he still writes in the notebook Waylon bought for him all those years ago. Waylon was amazed that he hadn’t filled it up entirely (it was so worn with use that Eddie had to fashion a new cover for it out of a piece of cardboard and duct tape, a bold ‘E’ written in cursive wish sharpie on the front), but whenever he tried to look over Eddie’s shoulder to see just what he was trying to put down, he’d get swatted away and told with a small smile that “One day you’ll find out, Darling.”
Oh, yeah, there was still that name. Neither of them pretended that the word didn’t carry any weight to it. Waylon still had his night terrors, he still woke up trembling in the middle of the night. Granted, it happened less and less often nowadays, however, there were still some nights where all he could do was cling to Eddie before one of them got up to make coffee and talk about anything and everything until the sun rose up through the forestry that surrounded them. They both still had their traumas, Waylon especially, and he suspected that he always would. But Eddie would always call him “Darling”, that was certain; not as a horrid reminder of what was once between them, but as a sort of keepsake. A souvenir that Waylon can hold in his mind and remember how far they’ve come.
Overall they were . . . fine. Sure, they weren’t perfect; Eddie, alive as he seemed, still seemed to be stuck in a sort of bodily limbo where he doesn’t need to eat or exercise and his hair never grew any more than how it was when he died. It was sometimes difficult, finding out the limits of Eddie’s condition, but at least now he can properly taste things, even if they have no nutritional value whatsoever. Waylon sometimes found himself wishing he too was dead if it meant he could eat as much as he wanted to without gaining an ounce of weight. He once grumbled his jealousy out loud one morning, only for Eddie to just smile and say that he loved all of Waylon, regardless of his weight. “It’s just more of you for me to love, Darling. How can more of you somehow be less lovely?” Eddie would say as they lay in bed together, his tone playful as he pressed kisses to Waylon’s increasingly less firm stomach. Waylon would just pull a pillow over his face to hide his embarrassment, until the red tinting his complexion was for a very different reason as Waylon felt Eddie’s mouth trail further down than just his belly.
Sex was another factor that Waylon still found himself struggling to wrap his head around. It was tricky to share a cabin with someone who seemed unable to wholly function without —at the very, very least— having their arms wrapped around you like some kind of clingy boa constrictor. There were several incidents at work where Waylon found an insistent and (thankfully) invisible force holding him from behind as he stood behind the bar. And, in some extreme cases, said invisible force would rub up against him until Waylon couldn’t take it any more and he’d have to excuse himself and hide in the storage closet, where Eddie would appear and ravish him against the shelves of cleaning supplies. They had yet to get caught (there were times where Waylon’s gut lurched at the thought of someone opening the storage closet, and Eddie would impulsively disappear, leaving some poor soul to see Waylon braced against the shelves of dish towels and aprons, caught with his pants literally down and a horrified expression on his face. But, again, all of that had yet to happen), and no matter how many times Waylon later scowled at Eddie for feeling him up during work, all the ghost would have to do was go on some over-emotive spiel about how he could “—disappear at any given moment, Darling! Do you really expect me to spend my allotted time on this earth not ravaging every inch of you? I’m supposed to just sit and wait until you come home to love you? How can I possib—” but he got about that far before Waylon threw something at him to shut him up, knowing full well that it’d never hit Eddie and watched as the ghost just raised a brow as let whatever Waylon threw at him just soar right through him. They tended to drop the argument after that. To be quite honest, Waylon never really cared about it, he just wished Eddie wouldn’t always do it during goddamn rush hour , where he was trying to not come in his fucking pants as he served people their beer.
Another thing that Eddie was grateful for, was that he could now wear something other than the ensemble he created for himself back the asylum. He now had a whole section of the wardrobe to himself; the clothes he died in (now free of blood) were burnt ages ago, on his death day a few years back. Neither of them really missed the pieces, but Eddie still whined to Waylon about how he missed being able to sew, dropping hint after hint (though Waylon didn’t know why he bothered labelling them ‘hints’ when it was just Eddie flat-out telling him) that he’d love to be able to make some pieces for Waylon. It wasn’t anything new. Waylon had gotten Eddie some basic sewing essentials: needles and thread and a few yards of material every month or so. It had become commonplace for Waylon to listen to Eddie hum along to the record player, delicately stitching up a hole in a Waylon’s shirt or adding another flower to the bunch of embroidered pillows that dominated the couch. Eddie would occasionally confess that it pained him that he couldn’t do anything for Waylon’s birthday and yet he did so much for him on his death day. All he could offer was homemade cake (which, the more he practised, the better they tasted each year, if only by a fraction) and repairs on his clothes. Waylon, at that point, would smile at the ghost softly, cupping his face and kiss his cheek, promising him that birthday cake, a few seams keeping his shirts together (and a hearty amount of birthday sex) was all he needed from Eddie.
But Waylon knew that what Eddie really wanted was a sewing machine. Not just to make better items for Waylon on his birthday but just to give himself something to do. Yet whenever Waylon asked him about it, the ghost just shrugged, saying that he didn’t mind if he had one or not, saying that it was more therapeutic for him than a creative outlet. Waylon internally called bullshit on that, so he later asked Bennett if he could get him a sewing machine; nothing flashy, just something that works and is, ideally, from this century. And, purely because he felt like Eddie deserved it, he asked for some extra things to complete his gift: proper sheets of fabric, pricey ones that Waylon hoped were worth the money. Rolls of ribbon and lace in almost every colour, along with a sizable cookie tin of buttons and a small bag of filling in case Eddie wanted to make his own horrendous throw cushions. He even asked if Bennett couldn’t see if he could get a mannequin to totally complete the collection.
Waylon couldn’t believe how much his heart seemed to sing at the thought of Eddie seeing what Waylon had done for him. Just the thought of seeing the ghost’s expression was enough to make him grin to himself. God, he was whipped.
He counted down the days until he heard Bennett’s truck roll up into their driveway. Waylon would have cringed at the speed in which he wrenched the front door open and bolted down to meet Bennett if the reason for his eagerness was for anything other than Eddie. He thanked his lucky stars that Eddie was still in the shower when Bennett came, and he wasted little time in paying Bennett and moving all of the supplies out of the back of his truck.
“You, uh, into sewing then?” Bennett had asked before he drove away. Waylon smiled sheepishly. “Yeah . . . someone I knew used to do it to wind down. Thought I’d give it a go.” His answer seemed good enough for Bennett, who merely grunted about seeming him next month or so before heading down the driveway and out of sight.
It was tricky getting the bulky sewing machine and all the other materials into the cabin without Eddie noticing. It ended up living underneath a sheet of tarpaulin in the shed next to the cabin for nearly a week, whilst Waylon wracked his brains thinking of a way to effectively execute his plan. His first plan was to down a 5-Hour Energy and wash it down with an espresso and then fuck the life (or rather, death) out of Eddie until the ghost had no choice but to go to sleep long enough for Waylon to move the sewing machine into the spare room and get it set up. But that was scrapped when Waylon realised that Eddie had recently become a light sleeper, so the sound of Waylon cursing and groaning as he hauled the sewing machine across the cabin was bound to arouse suspicion.
Eventually, Waylon concluded that his best bet was just waiting for Eddie to get antsy enough to go on one of his long walks and haul ass while he was out of the cabin. He bided his time, and, sure enough, Eddie announced that he was heading out around the lake before dinner. Waylon just smiled from his seat on the couch and said to come back before it got too dark and to stay invisible in case some hikers or dog walkers saw him. He stayed in his spot as Eddie went to kiss him goodbye and walked out of the cabin. Waylon then counted a full minute before he sprang up from his seat and got to work.
He was just adding the finishing touches in the spare room when he heard Eddie call out from the front of the cabin, announcing his return from his walk.
“Uh, gimme a second! Just don’t come back here right now . . .” Waylon called back, closing the door behind him just in time, as Eddie was already in the hallway. The ghost smiled at him but tilted his head in confusion when he saw Waylon’s face; just slightly red from the rush of trying to not get caught.
Waylon saw Eddie’s confusion and waved a hand around, vaguely gesturing to the spare room-turned-workshop. “Sorry, I was just . . . uh, cleaning,” he fumbled, his other hand still on the door handle.
“Oh?” Eddie replied, raising a brow, a smirk tugging the corner of his mouth. He had been around Waylon long enough to know when he was bullshitting. “May I see? Normally I’m the one that does all the tidying up.” It was true. Eddie was in charge of cooking and cleaning, accepting Waylon’s help when it was offered, but overall the cabin’s level of cleanliness was all down to him. He moved closer to the spare room, expecting Waylon to move aside and show him, but stopped walking when Waylon suddenly braced himself across the door.
“No!” Waylon exclaimed, cringing when he listened to himself. “I mean . . . yes, you can, but not right now . . . it’s a surprise.” He watched as Eddie’s expression changed from jovial suspicion to pure delight. There were times where Waylon felt like he was living with a child, not a dead insane asylum patient. Ex -insane asylum patient.
“A surprise?” he echoed, his voice rising an octave in excitement. “Whatever for?” he asked. His death day was months ago, and Christmas (though they hardly did anything besides fall asleep in front of the fire and watch shitty Hallmark movies on the barely-functioning TV) wasn’t for another six weeks.
Waylon scratched the back of his head. “I dunno . . . guess I just thought it’d be nice,” he answered, thinking his response was dumb but if anything, it seemed to make Eddie’s smile widen. Waylon found himself smiling too, feeling less and less ridiculous as Eddie pulled him from the door to wrap his arms around him and lift him off the ground.
“Woah there - I haven’t even shown you what I got you yet. You might end up hating it,” he laughed.
Eddie shook his head, “It doesn’t matter. Anything from you is something worth cherishing, Darling.”
Waylon rolled his eyes. “Jesus, do you have to be such a sap sometimes?” His tone was grumbling, but the way he angled his head to kiss Eddie deeply was enough to say that he was far from ungrateful for having someone so loving like Eddie. He can’t recall ever having a partner that ever valued him so highly. Lisa had her moments and whatnot, yet, like with most things in Waylon’s life nowadays, it was hard to find anyone that even came close to Eddie. He would joke that Eddie’s seemingly endless support would only serve to inflate his ego, but he didn’t care enough to voice that microscopic concern.
When they broke from the kiss, Eddie gently set Waylon down and looked over to the closed door to the spare room. Waylon knew what he was about to ask before he could even speak the words, so he pressed a finger to Eddie’s lips to stop him. “You’ll find out what it is after we eat,” he promised. Eddie pouted momentarily before Waylon lead him back towards the kitchen and helped the ghost to make dinner.
Dinner couldn’t have gone by fast enough. Eddie practically wolfed down his food, blushing at the accusation from Waylon that it wasn’t very gentlemanly of him to just shove food down his throat.
“Sorry, Darling,” Eddie apologised, smiling sheepishly. “Just excited.”
After desert, and an excruciating amount of time —for Eddie at least— spent washing the dishes, it was now time for Eddie’s surprise.
“Okay, close your eyes and don’t open them until I say so, got it?” Waylon instructed.
“Got it,” Eddie grinned, obeying Waylon’s commands.
They stepped inside the spare room. Waylon took a brief second to rearrange a few things before he told Eddie, “Alright, open your eyes.”
Even Waylon had to admit, the room was pretty great. The old oak table had was now the home for the sewing machine, with the bookshelves (that weren’t housing all of Eddie’s novels) now lined up with reels of ribbon and lace and large glass jars of buttons and some beaded and sequined appliques that Bennett managed to retrieve for him. He used an old umbrella stand to hold the thinner rolls of fabric, with the more substantial rolls being fixed on wooden dispensers He had repurposed an old dresser in the spare room into a sort of second workstation, the draws now used to hold various needles and types of thread and one of those tomato-and-strawberry pincushion thingies, with an entire coffee pot of scissors sitting on the dresser’s surface. The headless mannequin stood near the window, a tape measure wound around its neck like a scarf and in the corner stood three mirrors with a small stool sat in front of them (Waylon had adopted that particular feature from binging ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ with Eddie; it was one of their guilty pleasures). Overall, it looked rather impressive.
Waylon left Eddie’s side to show him the room, getting lost in his own explanation.
“I thought you could do with the space. Lord knows you’re more than capable of doing more than fixing tears and decorating some pillows - not that I won’t ever need you to fix my things for me,” he added, looking over his shoulder to see Eddie just staring at him, his eyes glossed over with some emotion Waylon couldn’t name.
He cleared his throat and kept walking around the room. “I didn’t really know what you wanted, so I kind of went overboard. But Bennett swore to me that the sewing machine was more than functional, even though it’s apparently, like, vintage.” He ran a hand over the machine, straightening its position on the table with intense care.
“Oh, and uh, don’t kill me, but I went through your sketchbook to see what sort of materials you wanted to work with. I think I got everything, but Bennet could only get a bolt of silk that was twenty yards, so you might have to eke it out a bit before I can restock it - you don’t mind, do you?”
He looked back over to Eddie, who still hadn’t moved from his place in the doorway. Waylon shuffled his feet, suddenly feeling like he stepped out of line or something. Did he overestimate Eddie’s want for a workshop? Did he go overboard with the materials? Was him going through his sketchbook too much of an invasion of privacy?
“Look you don’t have to use any of this, I . . . I just thought it’d be good to use this room for things other than storage, and you don’t really have anywhere for just you. If you don’t want to sew than I could buy a few art materials and you can use it to paint or whatever it doesn’t matt—”
He was cut short by the feeling of Eddie suddenly walking over to him and pulling him into a bone-crushing hug. They stood like the for a while, before Waylon grew concerned.
“Eddie? You alright?”
Eddie broke the hug a fraction, his arms still tightly wound around Waylon’s waist. He looked down to him with a look of such intense devotion that Waylon didn’t know whether to blush or laugh nervously. He ended up doing both. Eddie pressed their bodies back together and leant down to kiss Waylon within an inch of his life. When they eventually broke, Eddie smiled down at him.
“I love it. I love it all, Darling. I love it and I love you,” he sighed, leaning back to look around the room, his smile never faltering. His joy was infectious, and it caused Waylon to smile as well, his chest swelling with pride at the knowledge that he had made the right call.
“What do you think you’ll make first?” Waylon asked.
Eddie shrugged. “I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll fashion you an entirely new wardrobe, since your current one consists of the same three shirts and a pair of jeans that’s more hole than denim,” he mused, his smile turning coy. Waylon gently shoved him. “Yeah, yeah, I deserve to be locked up for crimes against fashion. Sue me,” he laughed.
“You want me to leave so you can get settled in, in peace?” Waylon asked.
“Hmm, not yet, Darling. I would like to take your measurements first, if you don’t mind. For future reference, of course,” said Eddie, his eyes sweeping over Waylon’s form as his tone lowered suggestively.
Waylon caught on easily enough. “Oh, yeah, naturally. Will I need to strip for you to measure me?” he questioned sweetly, already stepping back from Eddie to take off his shirt. He felt a little bit ridiculous, but Eddie didn’t seem to think so, if the way he seemed to be devouring him with his eyes alone seemed like any indication.
With his shirt off, Waylon watched as Eddie’s gaze darkened as he looked up and down Waylon’s bare chest. “Well, it is not a total requirement, but if you insist, Darling ,” he all but growled, not wasting anymore time in scooping Waylon up bridal-style and carrying him off to their bedroom. It looked like the measurements could wait for a while. As he laid Waylon on the bed, he whispered into his ear: “Thank-you, for the room. Thank-you for everything.” Eddie’s voice against his skin made Waylon keen as he wrapped his arms around the ghost’s neck.
Later, as they lay in bed together, with Waylon resting on Eddie’s chest while Eddie ran his hand along Waylon’s side, Waylon remembered Eddie thanking him, “for everything.”
“I should be thanking you, too,” Waylon said, disturbing the post-orgasm silence that had settled between them.
“Hmm? Whatever for?” Eddie’s voice rumbled. It was a good enough question. Eddie, in the past, had been the source of a lot of terror for Waylon. When he first appeared and it became apparent what was happening, Waylon likened to torture; some severe punishment for not blowing the whistle on Murkoff sooner. But, as mentioned before, that was in the past. The Groom had died in the ruins of the asylum, now it was just Eddie Gluskin. And Waylon Park.
There was no point trying to weigh up the suffering each of them experienced at the hands of Mount Massive Asylum. What mattered was what they had done with themselves since then, in life or in death.
Even after all this time, Waylon didn’t know if Eddie’s haunting him was proof of a God, or a Devil, all he knew was that he wasn’t alone. And Eddie would never abandon him, and nor would Waylon ever leave Eddie, there had been too much isolation in their lives to try and go their separate ways. They were all either of them had, and that was more than enough for either of them.
“Just . . . for being here. Being with me. And staying,” Waylon admitted, peppering kisses over Eddie’s chest as he spoke. Eddie petted Waylon’s hair, laughing lightly as Waylon loved him. It was moments like these ones that convinced Waylon that Eddie’s soul, coming to him when it did, was never a punishment at all. They were bonded beyond what had caused their tie in the first place. If Waylon was to get any more philosophical, he’d call Eddie’s presence a blessing. And there wasn’t a day that passed when Waylon didn’t feel blessed to have him.
That was then. That was before. Before Eddie started to disappear.
It didn’t start off with him disappearing, of course. No, it began with Eddie dropping a mug as he was drying it. The sound was loud enough for Waylon to hear from the bedroom, and when he went to investigate, Eddie had already started to pick up the broken pieces and throw them into the trash. The ghost just shrugged it off, saying that he probably just wasn’t paying enough attention and his focus slipped up. Nothing more, nothing less.
Then there was another time, roughly a week after the first, when they were in the shower together, washing off the intimacies that had resulted from spending the morning together. It took a moment to realise, but he noticed that Eddie’s body was . . . faltering. Like when he first saw him, his image trembling like sunlight on a lake. He then saw that none of the droplets of water was actually landing on Eddie, and merely fell straight through him. Eddie had his back to him at the moment, and Waylon slowly reached out a hand to touch the muscle in front of him. But his hand went straight through Eddie’s skin, and Eddie didn’t even fully notice until he turned around, looking down to where Waylon’s hand floated in his chest.
Waylon then retracted his hand as if it had been burnt, looking up to Eddie, worry clear on his expression. But, again, Eddie dismissed his fears, saying that he was simply tired from their earlier ‘activities’. His tone was light and joking, and yet Waylon didn’t feel like laughing. Dread chilling his blood as he watched Eddie’s image continue to flicker in the shower.
There were other times soon after that. Moments, flashes where Eddie couldn’t push down the pedal on his sewing machine, couldn’t feel the morning chill on his skin, couldn’t taste the banana bread that he and Waylon had made together. Each and every time something like that happened, Waylon felt his heartbeat like it was about to give out and implode; he was sacred- no, terrified . But still, each and every time, Eddie would laugh it off, and explain that he was just ageing along with Waylon, joking that as Waylon got older, Eddie himself grew more “spiritually infirm”. Waylon tried to laugh with him, and nine times out of ten, he always did. Nevertheless, none of Eddie’s excuses silenced that voice in the back of his head, the one that grew louder and louder every day, the voice that only ever seemed to chant: It’s happening, it’s happening, it’s happening .
It only ever seemed to get worse. Sometimes a beer that Eddie sipped would dribble right through him and onto the floor, other times they’d be holding hands as they walked around the lake and Waylon would barely feel like his hand was clinging onto anything, and when he squeezed Eddie’s palm, for confirmation that he was still with him, he couldn’t even feel the pressure that Eddie gripped his hand back with.
Eddie went from not needing much sleep to never needing to sleep, unable to do so much as close his eyes for any moments longer than it took for him to blink; not that he even needed to blink any more recently. He would ‘malfunction’ (as Waylon called it) in ways that never happened when he was starting to appear to Waylon five years ago. There would be instances where he’d be visible, solid, but when he spoke no words came out, like he had been muted. And when he could speak, Waylon would have to strain his eyes to hear him, sounding as if he were in fact miles away from him, even as they lay right beside each other. The worst times, though, would be when Eddie wouldn’t be able to appear for hours at a time (the longest being an entire day, leaving Waylon with nothing to do other than sit on the back porch and just hope and pray that this wasn’t it, not yet, please, not yet) and when he was able to briefly manifest himself long enough, his visage was faint and weary. Now the excuses had lost what little effectiveness they used to have on soothing Waylon’s (and Eddie’s own) worries. Now the voice — it’s happening, it’s happening, it’s finally happening, you knew, deep down, this wouldn’t last and now it’s happening, it’s happening — had gone from a quiet whisper in the back of Waylon’s mind to screaming in the front row seat.
They’d have arguments. Bad ones. They’d yell at each other so much that Waylon was glad that they lived in such a remote area.
Eddie had buried himself in denial, swearing up and down the wall that “Nothing is wrong with me, Waylon!” He rarely called Waylon ‘Darling’ any more. Maybe he thought it was a name that resembled permanence; something he no longer associated with them. “I’m simply just . . . changing. I’ll be back to normal soon enough. I’m fine. This is just a small blip. It hasn’t even been two months and you’re already planning a life without me . . .”
That would make Waylon angry. Not because he thought Eddie couldn’t see what was happening, but because Waylon knew that Eddie could tell his time was growing limited and it scared him . It scared Waylon too. He was angry that some higher power had suddenly decided that what they had built for themselves wasn’t worthy of permanence. He was angry that, as sympathetic as he was trying to be, Eddie refused to acknowledge it, even if he knew . He was angry that Eddie still smiled at him as if nothing really was wrong. He was angry at how just how fucking much he wished that everything was going to be alright, that this was just some sort of hiccup that would get worse before it got better but would still be better . He’d scream at Eddie, saying that he wouldn’t be imagining life without him if the ghost “just fucking tried harder” to be with him. It was an ugly thing to say, Waylon knew it the second the words left his mouth, and yet he couldn’t stop. It was cathartic, in a way, but only served to deepen his grief right afterwards.
Neither of them would back down. Waylon would throw things. Cushions, mainly, but not often as it was just another punch in the gut to see them fly right through Eddie as if he wasn’t there. He wasn’t there. Eddie would be furious with him, accusing him of wanting him gone, of his disappearing being a result of Waylon not caring about. He’d make heartbreaking claim after heartbreaking claim, his voice faint but terrifying in its ferocity, his searing rage immediately throwing Waylon back into Mount Massive, and by then they’d both have tears streaming down their faces because they’re supposed to be better than this. They were supposed to have left all of that shit behind them, to rot away into nonexistence.
Waylon would sink to his knees and sob into his hands. Eddie tried to comfort him, lowering himself onto the hardwood floor with Waylon saying apology after apology and that he didn’t mean a word and how much he loved him but it was so hard to hear him when he sounded so far away and the chill Waylon felt when his hands ghosted over him only made him weep harder.
There were days where neither of them left their bed. Waylon couldn’t even summon up the courage to open his eyes, because there was always that fear that he’d open them to find Eddie not next to him, not watching him with the insane level of adoration that he always did. And when Eddie could manifest long enough to plead with him, to convince him to eat, to shower, to go out for anything other than work, Waylon always overdid it. He ate too much, he sat in the shower for hours, he would ask Dinah for extra time, not for the money but to just have something, anything, to take his mind off what waited for him at home. And then when it was time to close the pub and head back, he would go on these long, winding walks, sometimes even walking miles in the opposite direction, his hand just slightly out to his side for Eddie to take, just in case. Eddie could barely walk more than a few paces from him now, and Waylon felt like he was some sort of prison for Eddie; a prison that he couldn’t walk away from.
And when he’d eventually come home, as the sun started to rise and the sky was painted such glorious colours that it pained Waylon to have to imagine not having someone to share such shades of lilac and gold with, he’d not even have the energy to make it into bed. So he’d fall onto the couch, on his front, with his shoes still on, and let exhaustion take over and hoped he woke up with a blanket over him, or a glass of water, or just a scrap of paper with a heart drawn on it. A sign that he still had him.
Cut to them now, after five months of this. Waylon, sitting on the old wooden bench that took up a corner of the porch out back. Eddie was there too, but barely. Today he had managed to summon up enough energy to lie across the bench, his head in Waylon’s lap, his eyes closed as Waylon threaded his fingers in his hair, tracing mindless little patterns around his scalp as he did so. Waylon knew that Eddie couldn’t feel his touch, not entirely, he had been numb for weeks, but still, he kept his hand in Eddie’s hair, drawing circles and stars in ways that he hoped were soothing, even if Eddie was unable to fully render them.
It was just gone midday, the weather grey and rapt. What little light pierced the heavy clouds and the dark canopy that shielded the earth was meagre and tiresome. It was less like sunlight and more like repurposed moonlight, as if the night had told the day to rest and trust it with this afternoon.
It was raining, too. Not intensely enough to usher them inside, but light enough for them to hear the radio over. It was a miracle that, in such a climate, the radio was picking up a signal today. It was on some generic radio show that seemed to be playing back-to-back Elton John. ‘Your Song’ was playing currently, before it was interrupted by a news report. Waylon was still drifting in and out of consciousness before he caught a report that made his heart stop:
“ . . . the highly influential Murkoff Corporation is in the news today after facing serious proof of severe mistreatment of patients under their supposedly charity-supported insane asylum branch in Lake County, Colorado. The institution was reopened by Murkoff Corp. as a charitable act to help rehabilitate mentally ill patients, only for a whistleblower to leak several video recordings documenting the horrific riot that resulted from a system malfunction in an underground lab found directly underneath the asylum. It appears that Murkoff has tried to conceal the recordings from reaching the public eye - trying to take down and erase any site where the footage had been uploaded and fighting a highly private legal battle for the past five years.
Since that time, it has come out that Murkoff’s actions have forced it under serious surveillance from government authorities. Reports recovered from third parties that had scoured the asylum have said that Murkoff’s treatment of the patients was ‘monstrous’ and required ‘immediate action that would result in the dissolving of the company’s assets and involvement in matters beyond the asylum.’ The whistleblower that leaked the footage of the riot has yet to be identified and is speculated to have left America for their own safety when they released the video recording five years ago. It is unknown if they will ever reveal themselves at any point in the future . . . “
Both Waylon and Eddie listened intently to the report. It was childish to hope that Waylon’s footage would ever be enough to take down a tycoon like Murkoff. Much of him was happy to hear that all of his sufferings had made an impact, even if it only emerged half a decade after the riot occurred. The rest of him felt nothing. In a way, he had made his peace with what had happened to him. Whatever happened to Murkoff now, he wanted no part in it. He couldn’t see himself coming forth as the whistleblower anytime soon, not after all the Hell he went through before everything came to light.
He looked down to Eddie, who had managed to open his eyes and was looking up at Waylon. Smiles broke across their faces; small slithers of teeth that broke into grins so wide it looked like they hurt. They didn’t care. It was —more or less, for them at least— over. It was a huge story, so huge that it made Waylon’s head spin to think about the monumental measures Murkoff must be taking to protect themselves. It didn’t matter. Let them throw their money around, the two of them had heard the report, and so would other people. Even if it would all blow over in a few months and another scandal would take its place, they didn’t care.
The hand that Waylon didn’t have in Eddie’s hair cupped the ghost’s cheek. Waylon angled his head down to kiss Eddie, their smiles still too wide to do anything other than a few chaste butterfly kisses. When they pulled back, their smiles remained, if in a softer form. Eddie placed a hand over the one Waylon held his cheek with. The amount of energy he must be using to remain so present must be exhausting him, but Waylon fears that bringing it up would jinx things and he’d disappear into the air for another day or two.
“You could go home now, you know,” Eddie said, his voice quiet, hesitant even. “Go back to Lisa and your sons. Adrian an . . . and Malcolm.”
Waylon frowned slightly at that, looking down at Eddie solemnly. “I could,” he agreed.
“They wouldn’t . . . look for you now. Too risky.”
“I doubt they cared enough to keep the chase up after all these years anyhow,” Waylon scoffed quietly. He tore his eyes away from Eddie’s, looking out into the rain that fell over the forest; their garden. It was getting cold, yet Waylon didn’t want to move and disrupt Eddie. “It’d be nice, I suppose. To see them. If they’d even recognise me after all this time,” he mused. “Malcolm would be in the third grade by now, I think.”
He heard Eddie hum. “You could . . . drive down to where they live. Washington, wasn’t it? East-something.”
“Easton,” Waylon corrected, his voice breaking just a fraction. “I could go. Once you’re better. I don’t like the idea of dragging you along, might mess you up if you leave home.”
“Home,” Eddie repeated. Waylon felt the faint sensation of him bringing his hand to his lips. “You’re my home, Waylon,” he whispered between the kisses he pressed to Waylon’s fingertips. “Where you go, I am destined to follow.” His tone wasn’t sarcastic, merely factual. It was the truth.
Waylon shook his head, swallowing the lump that suddenly formed in his throat. “Still, I’d rather go when you’re better,” he managed to say without choking on his words. This was supposed to be a happy time for them. Murkoff was gone. He could go see Lisa. See his sons. Eddie would finally get to meet them, though they’d probably never meet him. One day, maybe, once Waylon found a way to explain it in a way they’d understand.
He looked away from the rain, and back down to Eddie. He had closed his eyes again. His body not moving with the need to breathe as Waylon’s did. Back when he was more ‘alive’, Eddie would breathe, not because he needed to, but because he wanted to. It was the same reason why he blinked and ate and opened doors. Now, none of that happened, now he really did look like a corpse just waiting for death to tell him that it was time to go. Well, it isn’t time. It never will be .
Soon enough Eddie had to vanish, pushing himself up and kissing Waylon with as much force as he could before reducing himself to nothing, and Waylon was left alone to watch the rain until it got too cold and dark and he had to move inside.
Another month of torture. If they were lucky, Eddie would be able to show himself to Waylon once every week. He couldn’t even lift a pen to write ‘Hello’. Waylon took up talking to himself. Well, not to himself - to Eddie. He’d say whatever came into his head, and then he’d just ramble, just to fill in the silence of the cabin. He still read out loud. He always would. He’d read out the local newspaper, the labels on the back of packaging, the subtitles of the movies he watched. He felt like he was going insane.
So when Eddie finally, finally , appeared one morning, Waylon wasted no time. He announced that they were going on a picnic, and packed a blanket and walked out along the path that leads from their cabin towards the lake, constantly looking to his left to make sure Eddie was still with him. He walked slow and hung on every syllable that left Eddie’s mouth.
The weather had been kind to them that morning, the sun was out and the chill wasn’t quite biting. It was a dry sort of cold, not that Waylon minded. He was certain he was immune to the cold by now. They found a spot by the lake, a quiet spot hidden behind a large pine tree. Waylon vaguely recalled that they had made love here, back when they could still hold each other without fear of having to let go. Back when they both felt so alive.
He rolled out the picnic blanket and settled himself down beside Eddie, their shoulders just touching. Eddie sat with his knees clutched to his chest, looking out across the bright undisturbed water before them. They stayed silent for what felt like ages, simply watching the clouds rolls and the water ripple. At one point, a flock of geese flew past them, five of them in a lopsided ‘V’ formation.
As they flew away, Eddie spoke: “It’ll be any day now.” Waylon knew what he meant, and it killed him.
“You don’t know that,” he replied, continuing to watch the lake, for once not wanting to look at Eddie.
“ You don’t know that, Eddie ,” Waylon insisted, his voice harshening.
“And if I do?” the ghost rebuked, his tone rising before he caught himself and sighed. It tired him to even be angry.
“Waylon, can you please look at me?”
Waylon obeyed, slowly turning his head to look at him. He hadn’t changed at all. Where Waylon was a mess, he remained exactly the same. Always the same handsome face, the same rich laugh, the same smile. The same man, dead or alive, that Waylon loved with so much of his soul that he didn’t know what else he was supposed to do with the pieces of him that weren’t devoted to Eddie.
“When . . . when I go,” Eddie started, “I want you to go find your family. I don’t want you to remain here, waiting for me. There is a life after me, and I want you to spend it with your sons. They need to see you.”
“And if they don’t want me?” Waylon asked devastatingly. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do if I ever see them again, Eddie. It’s been so long, I won’t know what to do, o-or say, or tell them, or tell Lisa. Oh God, what am I supposed to say to Lisa ?” He sounded desperate. He was desperate. He didn’t know what to think and, oh, the way that Eddie was looking at him like he didn’t know how to help was enough to make tears gather in his eyes. Tears came far too easily to him nowadays.
“I don’t know how to be alone, Eddie,” he confessed. “You promised . . . you promised that you’d never leave me.”
Eddied nodded slowly. “I know I did. I don’t want to go, Waylon. If there was anything I could do to just stay another minute longer, I would do it. But I’m . . . scared, Waylon. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what’s waiting for me when I go.” He glanced over to the lake. “I don’t know what’s at the other end. Maybe Hell, maybe Heaven, maybe nothing.” He inched closer to Waylon, their proximity forcing them to look each other in the eye.
“But what I absolutely can’t bear, is the thought of you just wasting away here, hoping that I’ll come back when we both know that may never happen.”
“But you promised ,” Waylon repeated, hating how childish he sounded but it was all he could muster. He had so much to say but also nothing to say at all. He wanted it to be over but also for it to never end. He wanted to go with Eddie but also honour his request and stay for him.
“I know I did, Darling,” Eddie whispered back, the pet name heightening the cool rush of tears streaming down Waylon’s face. “I know I promised. And if I never leave your side, and have to watch you every day, then I will try every second, of every minute, of every hour to reach out to you. But . . . but if I can’t, then I need you to keep going. Leave this place, find your kids and love them and . . .” Eddie trailed off, his gaze growing distant before refocusing with new vigour, “and give them what my family never gave me.”
Waylon couldn’t take any more. He threw his arms around Eddie, sobbing when he sunk right through him, but not before Eddie surged back towards him and pinned him down. Now Waylon sobbed for two reasons. It felt so good to feel Eddie again, but somehow even worse for him to feel so alive . Eddie was crying now too. His spirit working into overdrive as he used every single modicum of energy to hold Waylon. He kissed Waylon madly, as if it was the last time he’d be able to, which it might just well be. Waylon tried his best to keep up with Eddie’s as they kissed, but he ended up giving up with a half-destroyed-half-elated sob as he let Eddie deepen the kiss, licking and biting with such brute force Waylon thought he might die from the passion in which Eddie loved him with.
It didn’t take long for them to undress one another, tearing off each other's clothes like things possessed, not knowing how much more time either of them had. They kissed and gripped as much of each other that they could get their hands on, their senses frying as they ground against one another. Waylon thought he’d go mad, every inch of him feeling as if it had been drenched in gasoline and set alight. Tears stained his cheeks and spit ran down his chin as Eddie finally entered him. Neither of them was afraid of being seen or heard. They could have a crowd surrounding them and they wouldn’t even notice. All they could see was each other, as Eddie widely rutted into Waylon, and Waylon moaned loudly into their kisses.
Eddie couldn’t stop talking, speaking against Waylon’s lips frantically whilst he could still be heard. “Darling, Darling, Waylon, my Darling, my love, promise me, promise me, you have to live without me, I don’t want to go, I can’t leave you, but you have to go, I have to go, Darling, Darling, Darling.”
Waylon was no better. “Eddie, Eddie, please don’t go, not now, not ever, please hold on, Oh God, what am I supposed to do? Eddie, please.” They both sounded pathetic, but they were too heartbroken to care about what they must sound like.
In the back of Waylon’s mind, buried under layers of sorrow and lust and love and grief, he realised that, in this very moment, Eddie didn’t just feel alive; he was alive. He was breathing against his lips , his body heat was electrifying, Waylon could feel the sweat that dripped from his skin onto his body, his mouth tasted just so intrinsically like Eddie , the pulse that thrummed in his neck and cock was so strong that it caused Waylon to shake with each new heartbeat, his voice was deep and thunderous in Waylon’s ear that he thought he may just go deaf from the pleasure of hearing him speak so clearly and so lovingly.
Eddie Gluskin, for the first time since he died, was alive.
Waylon came screaming, his orgasm making him writhe on the dirtied picnic blanket and stray items of clothing underneath him. Eddie was quick to follow, biting down on a previous love bite on Waylon’s neck as he spilt deep inside him. They stayed still for a while, Waylon terrified to have Eddie move out and away from him, in case the spell broke and he was gone for good. He ran his hands over Eddie’s back, feeling the muscle ripple underneath his touch and mourned the idea of never being able to see feel him this way ever again.
Soon enough, the sound of the wind and the lapping of the lake’s timid waves and Eddie softly breathing against as he held him against his chest, was enough to send Waylon to sleep, smiling softly as he felt Eddie kiss his cheek and tell him to rest. Waylon muttered something about promising to do something when he woke up, and he let sleep take him.
He woke up in the middle of the night, back in bed, with the curtains drawn and moonlight pooling into the bedroom. He blinked a few times, still groggy as he turned to his side to see Eddie leaning over the bed, his elbows propping him up as he watched over Waylon.
Waylon, in his sleep-addled state, reached out a hand to touch Eddie’s jaw, smiling when Eddie leaned into the touch. In the night, Waylon whispered:
“Come to bed.”
Eddie shook his head, gazing longingly over Waylon’s form before resting his eyes onto Waylon’s. He turned his head and kissed Waylon’s palm, threading their fingers together. “I can’t, Darling. I have to go.”
Waylon frowned, his brow furrowing drowsily. “Go?” he repeated, still lethargic with sleep and the sweet tinge of pain that accompanied the faint memory of their coupling hours prior.
“But . . . I need you. I can’t be alone.”
“I know, Darling. But don’t worry, you will never be alone. But I still have to go.”
“You’ll come back though, right?”
Eddie smiled at him, not responding. Something about the smile seemed broken. But Waylon was too tried to question why. All he knew was that he didn’t want either of them to be alone so late at night. This all felt too much like a dream. Or a nightmare. He couldn’t tell yet.
He moved to get up. “I’ll come with you.” He declared, but Eddie leaned over and pushed him gently back down until he was lying on the bed once again. “No, no, my love, my Darling, you need to go back to sleep,” Eddie hushed him. It was hard to argue when he felt so sleepy.
He smiled sleepily as Eddie brushed some of his hair back to kiss his forehead, before pushing himself off the bed and moving towards the sliding doors that lead out to the porch. As Eddie opened the doors, Waylon called out to him:
Waylon studied him in that moment. The purple moonlight framed his features so perfectly. His perfect Eddie, a ghost unaffected by time and toil. How he needed him.
This all still felt too much like a horrible dream. But he was terrified of waking up.
“I love you,” Waylon whispered, his heart fluttering like it always did when he confessed his love to Eddie.
“I love you too, Darling. I love you so very, very much. Please never forget that,” Eddie replied, looking at Waylon as if he was the sole thing in this world that mattered, not just for tonight, but forever.
“I won’t. I promise,” said Waylon. “Be careful about how you go. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Eddie smiled, the moonlight making his eyes gleam. “I will, goodnight, Darling.”
“Goodnight, Eddie,” Waylon said, watching Eddie leave and close the door. He watched the space where Eddie stood in the doorway moments beforehand, before sleep overtook him and the purple darkness, and silence of the forest and the warm, sacred knowledge that he was so loved lulled him to sleep.
When Waylon woke up, the first thing he saw was a piece of paper sitting for him on the nightstand. It was folded horizontally, with the word ‘Darling’ written in a neat scrawl on the front. The note sat on top of Eddie’s notebook.
Waylon reached for the note, his arm trembling as he did so. He sat himself up in bed and opened the piece of paper.
I swear to you that you will never be alone.
Forgive me. I love you,
What happened after he finished reading the note (a second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth time) was a blur.
He shot out of bed and nearly shattered the sliding doors as he pulled them open. He flew off the porch and sprinted through the woods, unaware that he was only dressed in his boxers and white undershirt. But he didn’t know, he didn’t care, he didn’t care about anything or anyone. The only thing that ran through his mind, hollering in time with his rampant heartbeat was Please no, please God no, not now, not now, not like this, not this way, not —.
He ran through the forest, catching and scratching himself of branches and rocks. He tripped several times, one time bloodying his face in the process. But he didn’t care, he got up and kept running. He ran for his life, the whole time screaming his name.
He ran until his feet were lacerated with cuts, until his limbs were black with dirt, until his muscles begged him to stop, to rest, to just slow down. But he kept going, blood and snot flowing from his nose and fat, ugly tears rolling down his face. He screamed his name until his vocal cords were mauled from the effort, and even when all he could do was hiss and croak, still he yelled his name, his ears aching from the harsh wind and the strain of listening for the slightest response.
He tore down the beaten paths and wild forestry, through mud and puddles of filthy rainwater. His skin was stained with earth, some of it kicked up into his mouth and eyes from how furiously he ran. He looked mad. He was mad. He was alone.
He eventually stopped when he came to their spot by the lake. He searched and searched and searched but there was nothing, not a single indication of him. So he waited, he sat on the lake’s edge for hours, turning his head at the smallest of movement, hoping against hope that he would suddenly emerge and laugh at how silly he looked, and would wrap him up in his arms and sit him in front of the fire and make him something to eat.
Then he wondered if he was actually just back at the cabin. And so he sprinted back, riding on a new hope. He was wrong, though. The cabin was empty, devoid of all life except himself and the plants that tapped on the windows outside.
So he went back into the bedroom and went to the closet and pulled out one of his shirts. And when one shirt didn’t feel like enough, he brought down another, and another, until he had the entire half of his wardrobe as a pile on the bed. He lied down among them, holding a shirt to his nose and inhaling deeply, tears soiling the impeccably tailored cloth. The shirts didn’t smell of anything. It had been too long since he’d been able to wear them, and when he could it was when he was fading. So they served as pillows, and blankets, swallowing Waylon up as he grabbed the note off from the floor and reread it for the millionth time, searching and scanning for some kind of hidden message, some encryption than when pieced together, may reveal where he was. There was no such message. He then memorised it, then traced the letters with a finger. He pressed it to his lips and kissed it and held it against his cheek, trying his best not to ruin it with tears.
He lay in bed for hours, maybe even days. He couldn’t tell any more. He replayed everything he could remember, right from the beginning up to the present, then panicked, worrying that he had missed a detail, and rewound it and started it all over again. He cursed himself for being greedy; these memories were sacred, and he was squandering them, soon enough he wouldn’t have anything to think back on. He was already forgetting his face. How light were his eyes? How full were his lips? How bright were his teeth? It was starting to flee his mind, and the tears came back once more.
More hours, another day ruined. He considered falling asleep again before it hit him. There were still memories. The notebook.
He read their first few conversations that were in the front of the notebook. It all seemed so distant now, but Waylon didn’t struggle to fill in the blanks of what he said to evoke each and every one of Eddie’s responses.
When I died, it felt like waking up from a dream that had only lasted a few moments, but had actually spanned the entire night. When I woke up from such a dream, I was met with the sight of you, bloodied and fatigued, staring at my corpse.
You were trying to conceal your laughter. I can’t say that I wasn’t angry at you for taking my death as some sort of sick joke, but as I’ve been granted the time to reflect on my mistreatment of you, I can’t deny that what you felt towards me at that moment wasn’t valid.
After my initial plan to stay in the asylum, only to end up appearing right beside you the second you strayed too far from me, I caught on pretty quickly what had happened to me. I’ve told you this story before, of how I would make a fool of myself as I tried to gain your attention. Upon reflection, I am glad that you were unable to hear all the vulgarities I called you as you went about your journey across the country.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t immediately feel connected to you; beyond the initial bond that some divinity thought it best to form between us. When you released the footage of the horror you went through in that infernal place, I was deeply worried for you, partly because I was selfish enough to not want to consider where I would end up if you died, but also partly because I knew what you had sacrificed to unearth the atrocities that Murkoff had committed. I know that you and Lisa were divorced long before you took the job at Mount Massive, but still, completely cutting yourself off from them to protect them is as heartbreaking as it is noble. I will always admire you for caring so much about your family, it’s one of the many reasons why I love you.
In the three months before you saw me, I was bored and lonely. Isolation wasn’t anything new to me; I had undergone more than my fair share during my time in Mount Massive and other institutes of the like, but I had never felt the need to reach out to someone else during those times. Except you. Only you.
I won’t pretend that I never watched you as you slept, watching you frown and sweat in some two-bit bed in a desolate motel so far away from anywhere familiar. I can’t count the times where I didn’t want to reach out to you, to hold you, to tell you that you’d be okay when I had no idea if that was ever going to be true.
In a way —and in the least disturbing way I could think to phrase this— I was . . . studying you. There wasn’t much else I could do other than look at you. Even though I was the one that died impaled and haunted the earth with my intestines leaking out from my body for the better part of three months, it wasn’t hard to see how much you were hurting. I knew that I was a contributor to you hurting, and, though I’ve no doubt that I have told you this a million times before, I swear to you that if I undo the pain that I caused you, I would.
When we first started ‘talking’ to one another, I wrote briefly to conserve energy and though I was frustrated at how much effort I needed to do so much as lift a pen, I was spurred on by the deep-rooted need to speak to you. To interact and, possibly, help you. Though, I confess, I didn’t go about it in the best way at first. I was bullish, you were hurting. Despite my attempts to remind myself that you needed time to adapt, I was still ignorant to you trepidation. I had gotten to know you and care for you months before you were even aware of my presence. I had to tell myself to wait, that eventually, you’d understand.
As time went on, and I fell more and more in love with you, and you slowly began to warm up to me, I started to see our bond less as something of ‘death’ sentence and more like a means of recovery. Though death may have undone some of the damage done to me, it was you that truly made me want to be better, if not for myself then to prove to you that you didn’t have to fear me any more.
Waylon, these past five years of during my death have been more kind, warm, loving and transitional than any of the years I underwent when I was alive. Though we met under dark and harrowing circumstances, I will always be infinitely grateful that I died when I did. In death, I was . . . reborn, and I would die a thousand times in that asylum if it meant that it ended with you I together, in our cabin, and I could watch you sleep as the sun rose over our lake, and my heart would feel like it was beating, fuelled by the need to love you and be with you for all eternity.
I never wanted to leave you. I never wanted to go. But I couldn’t hold on, Waylon. And I knew that the longer I stayed and fought, then the more hope it would give you that I might someday recover when I knew that such an outcome just wasn’t possible. It felt like I was dying all over again as I left you. It killed me more than any torture ever could.
But I want you to carry on now. You have to. For me. For your sons. They need their father; I have kept you to myself for far too long, now it's time you went back to them.
So call Bennett, call Peacock, pack your things and drive to them. You do not have to forget me, to be honest, I do not think I want you to, but you do have to move on. You can grieve, but you have to heal also.
The rest of the pages in this notebook are a memoir of sorts. The truth, or at least what I could remember, of what I went through, right up until this moment. There are somethings in the following passages that you will know about, just as there are passages that I never sourced the courage to tell you. Forgive me, but I hope that you will read the rest of these pages and not hate me for not telling you everything about my childhood. Some things in life are just too painful to talk about, even for ghosts. You can use the pages regarding the asylum against Murkoff if you wish, say that you found them in the wreckage of the asylum. Or, you can keep it all to yourself, just for you. Whatever choice you make, I know that it’ll be the best one for you.
I love you so much, Waylon, Darling. In death, I lived for you, and now I hope that in your own life, you’ll live for me as well.
You were never alone, Waylon,
Waylon reread and reread the words before him. For the next day and night, he then read the rest of the notebook. He read about Eddie’s childhood, the horror he suffered at the hands of his father and uncle. He read about his young adulthood, his struggle with mental illness (bipolar, depression, schizophrenia and eating disorders, just to name a few of his conditions), how he couldn’t afford therapy with what little he made as a tailor’s apprentice. He read about the murders, the woman, his insanity, their innocence. He read about his trial, his sentencing to life imprisonment before it became apparent that he wasn’t mentally sound enough for a regular prison. He read about being moved from institute to institute, the assault he underwent from doctors, nurses, guards and fellow inmates. He read about being moved to Mount Massive, and how, instead of getting better as they promised, he spiralled even deeper into his insanity, until he could barely tell up from down, truth from lies, reality from fantasy. And then he read about the riot, and what little of it Eddie still remembered, and how he saw Waylon, his insanity steering him towards him, terrifying Waylon and everyone else that was damned enough to walk into his territory.
Then he read about his death, and when he was reunited with Waylon, and how he came to love him. There were paragraphs dedicated to snippets of their time together, of Eddie just writing about how Waylon looked as he drove, as he read, as he slept. There were pages full of love, love, all for Waylon. The final page contained nothing but a single heart; the kind that Eddie would leave at the end of notes for Waylon, or would stitch onto the inside of any item of clothing he made for him.
Another week passed. By the end of the seventh day, Waylon looked up at the ceiling, from his place in bed. He had been simultaneously waiting and moving on. Descending and ascending, breaking and mending, becoming empty and then becoming whole. In the silence of the room, he said his first words in days:
“I think . . . I think I’m alone now.”
He sighed, exhaustedly clinging to the notebook that he held so dearly to his chest, the small note tucked between the final pages. It took hours, but sure enough, Waylon summoned the energy to put his feet onto the floor. And soon after that, he pushed himself until he was standing up. Then he gathered up all of the clothes that he pulled from the wardrobe and put them back on their hangers, trying to smooth out their creases with his hands as well as he could. Then he showered, ate some stale cereal for breakfast, brushed his teeth, and packed. He packed light, only his own clothes and what little possessions he first arrived with. He didn’t pack anything of Eddie’s, apart from the notebook, he didn’t think he’d be able to leave if he did.
Then he took his bags and put them in his car. He went back inside the cabin, standing in one of the few spots that still had reception, and called Bennett. He asked if he could keep the cabin. He’d still pay rent, but he wouldn’t be staying here any more. He didn’t want anyone else living here. Bennett was confused but didn’t turn down the money. Then he called Peacock. Peacock didn’t answer, one of his ‘people’ did instead. He asked them for Lisa’s address. They gave it to him.
Then he cleaned. He brushed the floors, put away all of the dishes, placed books back onto their shelves and records back into their box. He made the bed. Their bed. The bed. He walked into the workshop, forgetting that he didn’t have to knock before entering any more. He tied up, put the sewing machine away and hid the sketchbook in a draw.
As he walked around the cabin, his heart screamed to stay, but his mind begged to go.
With everything tidied up and put away, he headed towards the door. He gripped the handle and opened the door. The world had never looked so vast and cold, but also impatient.
He turned around and silently surveyed the inside of the cabin. He waited for something to fall, to jump, to move. When nothing happened, he nodded.
“Thank-you,” he whispered, his voice barely coherent. He walked out of the cabin and closed the door.
Two years later
“Hey, hey! Both of you slow down. Jesus, it’s like herding cats trying to get you guys to run in the same direction,” Waylon scolded but the words lacked any serious weight. Lisa was always better at getting them to behave. He hauled their bags out of the car as his sons raced to the cabin’s front door.
This was supposed to be a relaxing Summer getaway before school started up again. Waylon wondered how he was supposed to get through two weeks without either of his boys going completely feral on one another. He chuckled to himself; he’d worry about that later, right now they weren’t so much as chewing each other’s legs off as they were bouncing on their feet waiting for him to open the door.
“Come on , dad!” Adrian whined, Malcolm nodding furiously with him.
“Alright, alright, let me just get the key,” he made a show of slowly bending down to lift the doormat and retrieve the key. All the time the boys were getting more and more desperate to rush inside and explore the cabin.
He just about got the key into the lock and nudged the door open before his sons sprinted inside, yelling from room to room about what they found. Waylon noted that Bennett had set up two small beds in the living room. The boys immediately saw them and called dibs on which one they wanted, even though they were identical.
“Okay, now you two get settled, and I’ll see if I can’t get us a pizza from that diner we passed,” Waylon called out to them, setting their bags in the living room. “Thanks, dad!” Adrian and Malcolm cheered, their sheer enthusiasm over pizza making him smile. He reached over and ruffled their hair, making them giggle.
“Hey, why don’t both of you go out back and see what the backyard looks like? But you have to promise me that you won’t go out too far, okay? Stay where you can still see the cabin, yeah?”
He watched as both of their faces lit up with the mention of a backyard. They scrambled over one another to get out onto the back porch, spewing promises to follow his instructions about staying close to the cabin. Waylon heard them go “Woah!” together, then, “So cool! Bye, dad! We’ll be back in time for pizza!” from Adrian. He smiled to himself, then looked around the living room. He picked up a throw cushion, running a finger over the highly detailed rose that adorned its surface. The craftsmanship was impeccable.
He cuddled the cushion for a minute or two before placing it back on the couch and getting up. He walked around the cabin. Everything was exactly as he had left it. Bennett had kept his word about not changing too much. He opened all of the curtains and windows, letting in the cool afternoon breeze.
He found himself wandering over to the workshop. He ran a hand over the door, before reaching for the handle and entering the room. Nothing had changed.
As if on autopilot, he made his way over to a drawer and pulled out a sketchbook. The sketchbook. Eddie’s sketchbook. Held it deftly, like a priceless artefact, before sitting at the desk nearby and opening it.
The pencil work had been well preserved. Beautiful illustrations of dresses and suits, with the occasional page dedicated to a stunning drawing of Waylon. Somewhere of Waylon sleeping, others were of him smiling, there was even one of him naked. Each one detailed better than any memory. Something dropped onto the page; water- no, a tear. He was crying.
He wiped his cheeks clean with the back of his hand, drawn out of his brewing grief by the sound of Adrian and Malcolm laughing in the backyard. He got up from his seat and cracked open the curtains, laughing gently at the sight of them marching through the forest. They had found large sticks, and were using them like wizard staffs, making spells fly from them with a cacophony of sounds they made up on the spot. Lisa was right, a trip to the country would be good for them.
There was another sound though, something that wasn’t coming from outside, but from inside the workshop. The sound of a page being turned, then the sound of pencil on paper.
Waylon turned around, his gaze immediately falling to the sketchbook.
A pencil —from the pot on the desk— hovered over the cartridge paper, then descended, writing in large, looping in a painfully, delightfully familiar scrawl:
Welcome home, Darling
In the hand that wasn’t clamped around his mouth, in an attempt to muffle his cry, Waylon felt a pressure wrap around his palm, then a force that seemed to consume his whole body, like a body pressed against his own, enveloping him in warmth. He closed his eyes, praying that this wasn’t a dream.
Waylon sobbed, his arms reaching around the force that held him, only for his hands to immediately touch fabric. A shirt, with muscle underneath it. He opened his eyes, his face buried in someone’s chest. He looked up.
“Eddie?” he gasped, his hands shaking as he reached up to hold that handsome face. Eddie, solid and real, smiled softly, tears brimming in his eyes and his leant into Waylon’s touch.
“I’m here, Darling,” the ghost whispered, holding Waylon like he’d never let him go. And, God willing, Waylon hoped he never would.