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The Face Behind A Mirror

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When he woke up, everything was grey. He wondered if he had opened his eyes or if he still had them shut, before deciding that they must be shut. He lay still, listening to the light sounds around him. The house was silent, breathing with groans and shudders, fraying on the edges, just like him. In a way it was rather comforting: him and the house, both old and abandoned, shabby and crumbling, clinging into their existence by sheer force of their stubbornness.

It took a great deal of effort to force his eyes properly open and meet the day. The bleak morning light stung in his eyes and he sighed and squeezed his eyes shut again. He didn't really know why he should get up. He had no idea what day it was, only that it was late autumn. He hadn't been outside for several days, and the last time he had been, the air had been crisp and sharp, a slight sliver of frost floating around. The house had been surrounded by mist, the outside world disappeared and off, his whole being reduced to existing within the old house and the yard around it.

He had hardly slept, but that was nothing new. He had had trouble sleeping for several years now, ever since he had been released from the hospital. When he had been admitted he had been pumped so full of sedatives that he had been barely able to utter his name, let alone think about what had happened. He had accepted the medication offered him but had dumped it as soon as possible, choosing to feel too much and too sharply rather than float in the fluffy haze of overmedication his doctor had recommended.

It wasn't that he had nightmares - or at least not the traditional kind. No, he had far more pleasant dreams: the ones of future and promises; the kind that left him warm and content for a fraction of a second, until the reality rushed back in. And then he remembered it all, until he didn't want to anymore.

He had wanted to die. He still did. He couldn't understand why he wasn't allowed to have that; why he didn't get the permission to end his life as he saw fit. He had nothing or no-one, and he couldn't see a way out. The doctors, of course, hadn't understood. They had offered him lame words of consolation and pity, placating him with limp hands and flaccid arguments that encompassed the gaping emptiness underneath it all. He had watched them with tired eyes and resigned shoulders, had turned away from them and hoped they would never be in the situation he had been - still was.

His stomach felt empty and he thought he should probably get up and eat something. It had been... two days since he last ate? He couldn't remember, and honestly, didn't care. He sighed and turned to his side, then pushed himself up with his other hand and sat on the edge of the bed, hanging his head. A wave of dizziness swept over him and he shook his head to clear it. He gripped the edge of the mattress with his both hands and pushed himself up. The dizziness returned and he fought it down with baleful determination and walked wobbly to the bathroom.

It was chilly and the bare hardwood floors radiated coldness that creeped slowly up his shins, deftly heading to his knees. He didn't care, it was of no importance. He hadn't turned on the heater in the previous night and the whole house was a tepid pool of grey, matching his mood. The bathroom was even colder, the tiles almost freezing under his soles, and his naked skin rose in gooseflesh. He went to relieve himself, brushed his teeth and washed his face with cold water. He didn't bother looking into the mirror, knowing full well what would be staring back at him. He had no wish to meet his mirror image this morning.

He glanced down, eyes sweeping over his arms. The scars ran in ragged lines, tracing his skin in angry embossings, from the inside of his wrists up to his elbows. They were another mark of his failure, of his loss of control over himself and the right to decide for his own fate. He let his gaze slide off from them, shame and anger clouding his mind for a second. He had been so close, almost succeeded, only to be violently pulled back to the ruins of a life he did not wish to live anymore. The marks were a part of him now, a permanent feature literally carved onto his skin, calling him and mocking him, a reminder of his downfall.

For a moment he contemplated returning to his bed and going back to sleep, but the gnawing hunger in his gut was bordering uncomfortable. It would probably be better to eat something and then return to bed. Maybe he could avoid getting out for a couple of days then.

 


 

The clock on the kitchen table claimed the time to be 6:30 am. He glanced uninterestedly out the window to see light mist circling lazily over the grounds, painting the outside world with soft pastel colors. He couldn't see beyond his own yard, but as he knew there was not much to see: a narrow gravel road and woods on the other side of the house, a bathhouse and a lake on the other side. 

He hadn't bothered to venture to the woods nor go for a swim in his years in this house. He barely left the building, preferring to stay inside, mainly to stare at the wall or the ceiling while filling the void inside him with music. The only things to force him out were his compulsory grocery shopping and his monthly check-up. He loathed especially the latter, but as it was the sole reason he was allowed to stay in the house and be left alone, he gritted his teeth and went on with it.

The pantry was almost empty, which meant that he would have to venture out at some point in the days to follow. It was a chore, both literally and figuratively speaking, and he wasn't looking forward to it. It was an hour drive to the nearest town with his sad little car, and it would take him the whole day to drive there, do his shopping and drive back. The only highlight of the trip was the prospect of a possibility of visiting the music shop to check if his order had arrived.

Despite their peculiar ways, the humans who owned the shop were pleasant enough, treating him with as much - or little - regard as they did everyone else. Majority of the town residents knew who and what he was and let him do his business in peace, but there was always some individual brave or stupid enough, someone who thought that pestering a lone wolf would be a rite of passage, a show of manhood and a proof of character. To this day he had never lost his temper, the impassive stare of his eyes enough to drive the brave and foolish away.

Coffee. That would probably be a good idea. There were still some rice and beans in the fridge left from a couple days earlier, and they would give him enough sustenance to get by. He had no milk, but he preferred black coffee anyway. He settled in making the brew, scooping cold rice and beans from the bowl with a spoon, not bothering to heat the food. It tasted bland and would have benefited from a speck of salt, but he didn't bother. It was fuel for his body and he had no need to savor it.

The coffee was nearly done, when he heard the crash. It reverberated through his being, traveling across the house and shaking him as it passed on, a ringing silence on its heels. He stood frozen, spoon halfway to his mouth, and listened intently. He could hear nothing; no cries for help, no footsteps on the driveway, no engine running or the sound of tires signalling the car driving away. He lowered the spoon and bowl to the kitchen counter and turned to look at the door. He almost expected a knock on it, but there was nothing. The silence was deafening.

After several minutes he lowered his head and closed his eyes, drawing a deep breath. He would have to go outside, to check the car and the driver. No matter how much he wanted to be left alone, the reality was that if the car was spotted, his privacy would definitely be invaded. He would be questioned, and most likely also demanded to go to the police station to give his statement. No, better to bite the bullet, he sighed, straightened his posture and went out.

The car had crashed into an old maple tree just outside his property, right beside his mail box. The impact had caused the front of the vehicle flatten around the tree trunk with the right side more damaged, which had probably saved the driver's life. The front seat was sprinkled with shards of glass from the windshield, decorated with red and orange maple leaves. When he peered inside the car, he saw that the driver, a male in his early thirties, had banged his head on the steering wheel, and was slumped unconscious on his seat. The car seemed to have no seatbelts, which was both irresponsible and dangerous. The driver was lucky the road was so narrow that the car couldn’t go too fast, but his head looked ugly in any case, and he would develop a massive bruise in his forehead and temple later on.

He stepped back to think. What should he do? He couldn't leave the driver there, that was obvious. Should he transfer him to his own car and drive him to town, to get him properly treated for the concussion he most likely had? Or transfer him to his house and wait if he regained consciousness? He was torn with indecision, forced to decide things for someone else than himself for the first time in a very long a time.

He decided to start with removing the driver from the car. He opened the door, which squeaked painfully, giving a low groan of resistance over the movement. He bent carefully over the unconscious driver and-.

His scent.

He frowned and cocked his head. The scent was painfully familiar, but disturbing at the same time. He studied the driver's face more carefully. His features were delicate; straight nose and plump, soft lips, his hair light brown with streaks of gold. The man was undeniably attractive, and his breath hitched despite himself. A scent like that was biologically designed to draw him in and with a conscious effort he took a step back and breathed shallowly through his mouth to clear his head.

What was an omega doing there, in the middle of nowhere? Alone and unbonded? How was he even unbonded, with his looks and the scent?

He shook his head in wonderment and approached the omega again. Now that he knew what to expect, the scent didn't take him by surprise, but it was strangely off somehow. He couldn't put his finger on it and decided to put it out of his mind. Instead, he maneuvered the man gently from his seat into his arms and lowered him to the ground, took a better hold of him and carried him into his house. He was not a small omega, but tall and muscular, and most likely had a height and weight advantage over him. Added to the fact that the omega was completely limp in his arms, he was actually glad for his alpha strength for the first time in many, many years.

He lowered his burden carefully onto the couch, mindful with his head. There was a flashlight in the kitchen and he retrieved it to check the pupils and sighed in relief, when he got an appropriate reaction out of them both. He put the flashlight to the floor and arranged the omega into a more comfortable position, which caused his shirt trail up a bit. When he reached to pull it back down, he saw a glimpse of scar tissue from the narrow gap between his shirt and jeans. He knew he shouldn't, but his curiosity got the better of him, and he raised the hem of the shirt and blanched at the sight.

A massive scar tissue covered the omega's lower abdomen, the worst being on the left side of his hip. It looked like something had burned across his pelvic area, and left behind a scarred mess of tissue. That must have been incredibly painful and affect the man on several physical and emotional levels. He stared at the plains of marred skin, suddenly overcome with an urge to touch. The omega shivered slightly, goosebumps spreading across his skin, and the alpha averted his eyes in a haste, hurriedly covering the exposed skin. He got up and went to turn on the heater, a decision he didn't dwell on too closely. He retrieved a blanket and covered the unconscious man before going back outside.

The sun had gone up and washed away the mist hanging over the ground. He glanced up to the clear sky and absently noticed a wedge of cranes flying over him. With unhurried steps he walked over to the car, turned off the engine and closed the door that had been left open when he had eased the driver out. He frowned and walked around the vehicle. It was a beautiful specimen, raw power coiled in a metal frame. It was black with chromium details and black leather seats. He could understand how someone might describe it as an erotic car, nevermind that he didn't see it that way.

The car wasn't that far from his yard, and all of a sudden he decided to push it from the side of the road to his yard. He went to the front, shifted the car into neutral and after a couple of tries was able to get the car moving and push it away from the battered maple tree. By the time he had managed to push it to the front of his house, he was shaking and sweating profoundly, his lack of exercise more than obvious. He stopped and leaned on the hull of the car to catch his breath before he went to check the driver's belongings.

The insides on the car smelled of desperation and urgency, and apart from empty soda bottles and a ready-to-eat-sandwich covers, there was nothing personal. The glove compartment was empty but a box of cassette tapes and a handful of fake ID's with names even he recognized as suspicious. The back seat was empty as well, despite a threadbare blanket, and after a bit of fumbling, he found the latch to open the trunk. There was a sole duffel bag half full with mainly dirty clothes, along with a paperback book by Vonnegut, a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste.

He didn't need the input from the injured omega, since it was painfully obvious. The omega was on the run.

 


 

He went back inside and carried the duffel to a spare bedroom. His house wasn't big, with only two bedrooms, as well as a kitchen, living room and bathroom, but it had always been enough for him. Something in the back of his mind tried to point out that he had just carried a strange omega into his house and was ready to offer his spare bedroom to him, but he pointedly ignored the voice. He had no interest in the omega, hence it was of no importance. Besides, he was too broken, irreparably damaged himself.

He prepared the bed for his guest, checking the sheets with a care that surprised himself, too. He took the liberty of emptying the duffel from dirty clothes, put them to the washer and turned it on. He went back and placed the Vonnegut on the nightstand, leaving the heap of fake ID's in the duffel. His guest could deal with them later, if he so wished. He retracted the covers from the bed and went downstairs to get his guest.

It was easier this time, to carry him. He knew what was to come, and, not surprisingly, it was easier to lift the omega from the couch than from the ground level. He took his time and care on the stairs, as it would not be that good to trip over and cause injury on them both. They reached the bedroom without incident, and he lowered the omega gently onto the bed, turned him to a recovery position and covered him with blankets. He went to fetch a glass of water and placed it on the nightstand, right beside the Vonnegut. He thought that the sight of water and the familiar book would calm the omega once he woke up.

Or, if he woke up.

He wore a light frown on his face while he walked to the kitchen. His coffee had gone cold, but it wasn't like he needed it anymore, he was very much awake. He placed the bowl of food back to the fridge and pondered for a moment before taking a ready-to-bake casserole from the freezer. He had bought a heap of them at one point, figuring it was only a sensible thing to do to stack his freezer with food to save for a rainy day.

He poured the coffee away and rubbed his face with his hand. If the omega was on the run, the first thing to do was to hide the car. He didn't know much about them as they were only a means of transportation to him, but he understood enough to realize that the black car was nothing if unforgettable, and combined with its driver it was almost certain to leave an impression. It would only be reasonable to give the man a chance, at least until he was able to actually speak for himself and tell what he was running from and why.

The most logical solution was to drive his own car away from its spot, push the black car there and then cover it. There was an old tarp stacked somewhere and he fought a moment of frustration before he found it from a closet under the stairs. He snagged his car keys and went out. His small Ford protested, resisting the need to move, but he was adamant, and the vehicle bent to his will eventually. The black car mover pliantly, like it was resigned to its fate, and he parked it and covered it with the tarp. He used rocks of reasonable size to lock the tarp in place before he drove the Ford closer, blocking the bigger car partly behind it.

Satisfied, he went inside and decided to have a shower. It had been several days since the last time, and the exercise of pushing a car around had left him sweaty and smelling. The house was warmer now, the heating kicking in, and the short trip to the bathroom was almost not-unpleasant. He didn't look at his arms nor his face in the mirror this time, either.

After his shower he dressed himself in khakis, a long-sleeved tee and a cardigan. He didn't put on his shoes because he liked to be barefoot or in woolen socks when inside. He knew that his appearance was anything but alpha-like, but maybe it would be of advantage. Waking up in a strange alpha house after an accident was likely to frighten the omega, and if he could ease his mind with his style of clothing, he would gladly do so.

The omega was still unconscious. His forehead was bruised and a little bloody, but the alpha was satisfied to see there was no blood from his ears or nose. Of course, it still didn't mean the man wouldn't have a serious brain injury, but it was a small comfort at least. The whole effect of the crash would be seen in the days to come.

He leaned forward a little before he could stop himself. The scent was more concentrated in the warm cocoon of the blanket; tantalizing and warm, but it was splashed over with strong doses of stress, desperation and exhaustion. Behind it all there was that disturbing undertone of offness and wrong he had smelled when he had first approached the omega in the car. He couldn't pinpoint the taint or dissect it from the other aspects of his scent, because it was submerged and intertwined within his scent, like it belonged there. The alpha had never in his life met a were with a taint in their scent, and he couldn't believe his own nose. The unconscious man smelled like an unbonded, fertile omega but also like an old, post-menopausal beta, with no traces of chemical alterations. That should not have been possible.

 


 

It was already well past noon and to his surprise he started to feel hungry again. He stopped for a moment, amazed by the sensation, until he remembered what he had done. Pushing around a car of respectable size might leave one a bit peckish, especially if said one has had a habit of disregarding his bodily needs. He shrugged at himself and went to put the casserole into the oven. Maybe the smell of cooking would wake his guest and he could get some answers he found himself wanting.

He rummaged the cupboards and pantry again and found coffee, tea, sugar, honey and some cookies he hoped weren't too stale. He found some rice and canned beans as well as pineapple and pickled peaches and decided that as far as he was concerned, they weren't going to starve. It had been years since he had had a visitor and therefore he was in no way prepared to have a second mouth to feed. He would have to go to town very soon.

He made a fresh pot of coffee and sat at the table, savoring the mug between his hands. He stared at the inky black surface of the brew and wondered what on earth was he doing. Why had he carried the omega back into his house and hid the car? Why was he so keen on meddling in somebody else's domestic quarrel, which this so very obviously was. On the other hand, the omega wasn't bonded, and, by their own laws, he was in his rights to interfere. On the other hand, he probably should've just stayed out of it, since domesticity wasn't always what it seemed to be. He should know.

He decided to go and check on his guest again. He had done it meticulously every two hours, cataloguing his level of unconsciousness, counting his breath frequency and heartbeat. He hadn't wanted to check his pupils again to avid disturbing his rest, but he thought that would follow as soon as the omega was awake again, as well as other concussion tests.

The house creaked around him, like it had hard time adjusting to another occupant after years of silence and solitude. It was a reliable, sturdy house, but well on the twilight of its time. The floorboards squeaked quietly when he rose the stairs to upstairs, and the sound of it was suddenly too much, vibrating all around him, echoing from the empty walls back to him. Like a side note commenting 'yes we know you are here, and yes, we don't give a damn.'

He reached the guest bedroom and peeked from the doorjamb. The omega had turned to his back, but he couldn't see whether he had his eyes open or not. He knocked softly and the man turned his head to look at the door. He opened the door and stepped carefully inside, keeping his moves calm and pointedly placating. The man didn't react but for a slight narrowing of his eyes, his scent sharpening with alertness. There were no signs of an unbonded omega reacting to the proximity of an unbonded alpha. Or, not an unbonded alpha as such, but he knew his scent would represent as such. But there was nothing. The omega regarded the alpha like he was a human and not an alpha of virile age, his pheromones instinctively reacting to an omega in distress.

"Hello," he said quietly and kept his hands relaxed on his sides. He knew that his tee and cardigan covered his arms, but he still felt somewhat self-conscious and didn't turn his palms towards the bed. "My name is Castiel. Can you tell me your name?"

The omega turned his head a fracture and looked at Castiel. His eyes were deep green and sharp and Castiel found himself transfixed in their stare. The silence rolled around and over them and Castiel held his breath, too wound up to breath. Then the eyes lost their intensity and clouded over and the man closed his eyes.

Castiel licked his lips. "I need to come closer and check you, alright?" He walked slowly to pick up the flashlight and then went to kneel beside the bed, keeping the flashlight on display the whole time.

"Please, keep your eyes open. This will only take a second." He raised the upper eyelid of the left and then the right eye, flashing the light, satisfied when he got the right responses from the pupils. He stood up and backed from the bed. The omega had his eyes open again, following him with a narrowed stare. For some reason, Castiel felt quite nervous to be the object of the intense scrutiny.

"Do you know what day it is?" He said, trying to coax an answer from the omega. Then he blinked. "Actually, that's not a very good question since I have no idea what the current date is." He frowned and tried to think something else to ask.

"Twenty fourteen and Obama." The voice was deep and velvety, but it had a quality of one that had not been in use for some time.

Castiel looked at the man in surprise.

"Those would've been the next logical questions, right? Year and the current President."

Castiel blinked again. "Um. Yes. And I think your answers are correct."

The omega cocked his brow and a small twitch of smile ghosted on the other side of his lips. "You think?"

Castiel decided to skip answering that. "Do you remember what happened to you?" He asked instead.

The eyes lost their focus again and the omega turned his head aside. Castiel took that as a no.

"You crashed into a tree right beside my house. That's where you are now, in my house. Your car is safe and all your belongings are here, except for your clothes that I took the liberty of washing for you. You banged your head onto the steering wheel, that's the reason for the bruise on your forehead. You might feel nauseous, dizzy, tired and have trouble concentrating and remembering things, because you most likely have at least a medium concussion. Otherwise it seems you are physically fine." His eyes darted to the omega's midsection before he focused his attention back to his eyes.

"You are welcome to stay here, if you like. There's a lock on the door if you wished to use it. Bathroom is on the other side of the hallway, kitchen and living room are downstairs. I have some food in the oven, if you feel hungry. I'll bring you a towel and some clean clothes, but I think you should stay in bed today, just to be sure."

He turned to put the flashlight back on the top of the drawer and walked to the door. Before he left, he turned back to look at the omega, who was again staring him.

"Do you remember what your name is?" Castiel repeated the question.

The omega turned his gaze to the back wall.

"I- think my name is Sam," he answered hesitantly, and Castiel knew he was lying.