Lifeline gave the small kitchenette table a quick wipe before tossing the sponge into the sink and turning off the tap. It was dark out, he and Billy having eaten a late dinner, the medic cleaning things up while the Marine had retreated to the main room. Opening the refrigerator, Edwin removed two bottles of beer from the carton resting on the top shelf and shouldered it closed. Holding the bottles by the neck in one hand, he grabbed something from the counter as he moved out into the main room.
Billy had settled in the couch, and looked over as Edwin joined him. The Marine had been lost in thought off and on all day, ever since he'd caught himself staring at Edwin with something that went beyond the simple comparison of one male form to another. And he wasn't sure if he was okay with that or not.
The medic offered up one of the bottles to Billy before settling down on the couch as well. "Thanks," Billy said, taking one of the bottles and settling back again. Lifeline smiled faintly at the other man before tossing a pack of cigarettes into the Marine’s lap.
Billy blinked as the pack landed in his lap, clearly surprised by the gift. "Well, that's a surprise," He said, then looked at Edwin with a smile. "Thanks."
“Just so we’re straight,” Lifeline pointed at Billy with the neck of his beer bottle. “I can’t really condone smoking for ethical medical reasons, but then again I can’t really deny somebody one of the few pleasures they seem to have either.” The medic smiled once again, “I was in the store buying beer anyway.”
That drew a sincere, rich laugh from Billy, and he shook his head. "You really didn't have to do this...but thank you."
Edwin waved off Billy’s thanks before putting the bottle to his lips for a drink. He couldn’t help wincing slightly as he felt a small twinge in his still sore shoulder. "You sure you're okay?" Billy asked when he saw the wince, setting aside the cigarettes for the moment.
“It’s still just a little sore, nothing that won’t fade in another day or so. Must be getting old,” the medic said with an exaggerated sigh. “Happens to the best of us, unfortunately.”
"Happens to the rest of us, too," Billy said with a nod, smiling a bit.
Smiling, Edwin took another sip. “One of the hazards of being human, I guess.”
Billy chuckled and took a sip of his own drink, before studying the bottle in his hand. Edwin's remark got him thinking about his own mortality. It seemed sometimes like it was just yesterday that he'd broken out of Umbrella's Training Facility and had been given a chance to be free again. But there was no denying the silver creeping into his hair whenever he looked in the mirror; or the lines in his face that just didn't quite go away anymore, even when his expression was neutral. Lifeline regarded Billy, noticing the introspective look that seemed to have come over the man. “Didn’t mean to throw a wet blanket over you.”
"Just thinking about time again," Billy admitted, smiling a little and taking another sip of his drink. "It's amazing how fast it gets away from you....Seems like I was just a kid....now I look in the mirror and it's startling."
Edwin nodded and sighed a little. “Yeah, seems like just yesterday I was going into basic training, all revved up to do something great in the world.” The medic looked down at the bottle in his hand. “I wasn’t even a kid then. I’d already finished college, paramedic school, and been working for a year with the Seattle Fire Department.”
"Holy shit, you've got one hell of an education behind you," Billy said, his tone clearly impressed. "I barely graduated high school."
Lifeline felt the faint blush that warmed his cheeks. “I only went to college because I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life. Plus it got me away from home.”
"Even so," Billy said. "Seriously, Edwin, that's a hell of an accomplishment."
“Thanks,” the medic said, feeling slightly embarrassed. “It’s kind of nice that somebody else besides me thinks so.”
Billy nodded and smiled a bit. "I know what I went through just to get the mandatory schooling out of the way. I can only imagine what you went through."
“I didn’t really take it seriously until my second year. I was working a couple of part-time jobs and taking stuff that I knew I could breeze through, kind of seemed like a waste of my money when I thought about it.”
"Did you enjoy it?"
Edwin thought for a moment or two. “Actually, yeah I did. “ He couldn’t help smiling slightly. “But I’ve always been like that – curious about things and wanting to learn more. A typical nerd.”
"Then I don't think it was money wasted. I wonder sometimes what I'd have been able to do if I'd been smart enough for college," Billy replied with a smile. "But I opted to join the military instead. To prove I could do something, I guess."
The medic took a drink. “There are different kinds of smart, you know. I bet you know all kinds of stuff I haven’t got a clue about.” Edwin smiled a bit, “People like Gung Ho always surprise me with the things they know. He never got out of high school, but he’s smart in a lot of ways that school could never teach.”
"I guess there's that," Billy assented with a nod, then smiled a bit. "All of the knowledge I have is like that. Pretty much all hands-on experience."
“Nothing wrong with that; a lot of times practical experience is more useful than anything out of a book.”
"I wish more people felt like that."
Edwin sat quietly, nursing his beer, his dark eyes glancing periodically at Billy. It had been a long time since the medic had spoken so openly with anyone other than Bree; and Lifeline found himself wondering why. True he and Billy were isolated from anyone else, but there was something about the Marine that made Edwin feel comfortable around him and enjoy his company.
Billy's own expression remained pensive, but after a few moments, he shook his head a little and smiled faintly. After everything he'd been through with his unit, the court-martial, and everything else, he'd truly had no one to trust in years. It was a depressing reality, but one he'd been willing to adapt to, if it meant he stayed alive. Now, having met Edwin, Billy was finding himself relaxing, and opening up in a way he hadn't since his prison time. It was cathartic, to say the least.
Lifeline pulled his legs up onto the couch, shifting a little until he was sitting Indian-style. Before starting dinner, he’d changed into a pair of loose track-style pants and a t-shirt, the well-worn red cotton fitting snugly over the muscular planes of his upper body. The night air was just about perfect – not too warm and not too cool, and he’d left his shoes off as well. Closing his eyes for a few moments, Edwin listened to the sounds of the night as they drifted into the cottage from the open windows.
The shifting on the couch drew Billy's attention and he found himself studying the medic again. He had to admit, Edwin was in way better shape than most of the medics he'd dealt with over the years. Instead of the kind of tone that came with half-assed attempts to take care of one's own health, Edwin was made of real muscle -- the kind that bunched and flexed and drew the eye in either jealousy or lust.
Billy blinked at that thought, and shook his head sharply, some tiny place in the back of his mind wondering which of the two it was. He shushed that part savagely, and tried to turn his thoughts toward other things. It was a losing battle.
“I think I’ll have to come back here the next time I take leave,” Edwin said quietly as he slowly opened his eyes, breaking Billy from his thoughts. “Maybe during fishing season; the guy at the rental place said the trout in the lake were some of the best around.”
Billy dropped his gaze as Edwin's eyes open, and nodded. "Not sure what I'll do, provided I ever manage to get myself cleared."
“When you get yourself cleared,” the medic corrected. “Mainframe is doing some unofficial digging on Umbrella. If there’s anything to find, he’ll find it.”
"And if there isn't?"
“Then we’ll just have to look elsewhere. They have to have a weakness somewhere; we just have to find it.” Edwin’s tone was firm.
Billy smiled a little and nodded. "Guess it's just hard for me to keep up my hope after so many years on the run from them."
“I’m a hopeless optimist,” Lifeline said with a faint smile. “I always want to believe that good will always win in the end, now matter how bad it looks.” Edwin’s dark eyes were intent on Billy behind his glasses. “Even if I have to keep you hidden for the next five years, I will do everything I can to expose Cobra and Umbrella.”
It was Billy's turn to blush softly and he looked away from the medic, raking a hand through his hair. "It'd be nice to not have to run...for just a little while."
“You don’t have to run right now, so just sit back and relax – doctor’s orders.” Edwin flashed Billy a grin before putting the bottle to his lips and taking a deep drink. Lifeline could feel his cheeks flushing slightly from the beer. He very rarely drank and didn’t have much of a tolerance when it came to alcohol.
"You're the doc, Doc," Billy said, leaning back and taking a deeper swallow of his own beer.
“And don’t you forget it,” Edwin said jokingly as he set the near empty bottle on the table next to him.
"So...what now?" Billy asked after he sat in silence for several long moments.
Lifeline’s brows quirked together, puzzled. “Now what?” He asked as he unfolded his legs, leaving one still tucked while the other slid down to the floor.
"I dunno..." Billy was silent for a minute. "I'm not used to idle time like this anymore....do we at least have a plan B if Umbrella or Cobra manages to hunt us down?"
“Somehow I don’t think that’s too likely. I used Mutt’s name to rent this place and Mainframe’s to rent the Jeep. There is nothing tying my name to anything that someone could trace.”
"Y'know, five years ago, that might have been enough to set me at ease....but I've been running a long time."
“It’s the best I can do short of locking you up in the brig at Joe Headquarters and putting you under twenty-four hour guard,” Edwin said, his gaze on Billy as he spoke. “And somehow I don’t think that would appeal to you very much.” Billy shuddered, but said nothing. “We’re as safe here as we can possibly be for the moment, so try to relax.” Edwin started to reach out towards Billy, but pulled his hand back. “Mainframe and the others know where we are and if I don’t report in by a certain time they’ll be here in a flash.”
"That makes me feel a little better," Billy admitted quietly, before downing the last of his beer and setting the empty bottle on the coffee table.
Lifeline smiled, “That’s good. You know, it’s a doctor’s job to make people feel better.” The medic’s dark eyes were locked on Billy as he spoke, his skin faintly flushed from the beer.
Billy glanced over at the medic, smiling a bit, and letting the gaze linger for a few moments on the other man's face. "In general, yeah."
The two sat quietly for a few moments, their eyes locked on one another. Edwin could feel the heat rising in his face and it was he that dropped his eyes first, the action taking much more effort than he would have thought. Billy raked his hand through his hair, and shook his head, swallowing hard. His heartbeat had nearly doubled for the span of the few moments their gazes were locked, and he took a slow, soft breath to try and slow it again.
Lifeline found himself swallowing as well. “S-Sorry . . . I uh, I uh don’t usually drink . . . one beer and I’m done for . . . “he said, the embarrassment he was feeling leaking out into his voice.
"It's cool...I figured you probably weren't a drinker," Was the quiet reply, Billy doing his best to keep the slight tremor from his voice.
“A real wuss . . .” the medic responded with a forced laugh, his eyes everywhere but on Billy.
"You always so hard on yourself?"
Edwin looked up at the other brunette. “The truth isn’t being hard on yourself.”
Billy met Edwin's gaze and smiled a little. "I don't think you're a wuss."
His dark eyes still locked with the Marine’s, Lifeline swallowed, his ability at coherent thought and speech seeming to have fled from him.
Misunderstanding the prolonged silence as a cue for him to keep speaking, Billy went on. "It takes a hell of a lot to stick by your guns, so to speak. Especially when it comes to things you believe in. That's rare in people, and damn admirable...."
The medic felt the flush on his cheeks deepen. “T-Thank you,” he managed to get out, finally finding his voice.
"You're welcome," came the quiet reply, Billy's gaze the first to drop this time.
The two once again lapsed into an awkward silence, the only sounds in the room were from the frogs and various insects outside. Billy swore silently to himself, running a hand through his hair again. He had no idea why he was so tense; it was eerily reminiscent of being around a girl he liked, but didn't have the courage to ask out, but that couldn't be right, he decided firmly. I really don't want to address this...not here, not now....not ever....damn....
Feeling even more uncomfortable in the lingering silence, Edwin reached for the beer bottles. Straightening out his legs, he rose from the couch. “D-Do you want another one?” He asked Billy, his voice shaking silently.
"Yeah," Billy replied quietly with a nod.
After a slight nod of his head, Lifeline silently padded to the kitchenette. Setting the empty bottles in the sink, he then splayed his palms counter top and closed his eyes for a moment as he took a deep breath. What’s wrong with me, sitting there staring at him like an idiot? He exhaled slowly as he opened his eyes. He probably thinks I’m hitting on him or something. The medic’s eyes widened. God, he probably thinks I’m some kind of pervert! Edwin took another deep breath. Don’t think like that. It’s just the beer, yeah, it’s the beer. Pushing away from the counter, Lifeline moved to the refrigerator and retrieved another bottle for Billy. He took another deep breath before stepping back out into the main room.
Billy wasn't in the living room; he'd moved out onto the front porch to indulge in a cigarette, hoping to calm his nerves. He'd left the front door cracked, however, so that Edwin would know where he'd gone. Edwin frowned slightly as he looked around before his eyes fell on the slightly ajar door. On silent feet he moved towards the door, pulling it open just as quietly, spilling some of the warm light from inside out onto the porch. The door made a soft sound as Edwin opened it, and Billy looked back over his shoulder at the medic. "Well, hey there."
Lifeline managed a small smile as he handed the Marine the bottle, glad that there was no light on the porch, the two of them shrouded in shadow with only the light spilling from the open door. Billy took the bottle with a nod of thanks, and took another drag off his cigarette. Like the medic, he was grateful for the darkness that hid his own flushed skin.
Edwin let his gaze travel around the perimeter of the porch although he was unable to see much of anything. “Great camping weather,” he said softly, as if speaking to himself.
"Yeah it is...." Billy agreed with a nod. "Just warm enough to let you stay up late; and just cool enough to make you want to crawl into a sleeping bag with someone warm and comfortable..."
Lifeline glanced at Billy, feeling the heat rise in his face once again, grateful for the shadows that partially hid it from view. Another silence stretched between them, and it was Billy's voice that once again broke the silence. "Reminds me, Doc....got a question for ya..."
“S-Sure, what is it?” Edwin’s eyes were on the shadowed outline of the Marine’s face.
Billy was silent for a good long time before he spoke again. "I'd appreciate if you didn't sock me for this if I'm outta line, but....are you....y'know...."
Lifeline’s dark brows furrowed, a very perplexed look on his face. “Am I what?”
"Bi?" The word was very, very soft as Billy braced himself for either a punch in the face or a protest. "I mean, maybe I'm reading too much into shit....I know I've been away from normal social contact for a damned long time..."
Edwin blinked, obviously surprised, his brown eyes wide as they looked at Billy’s shadowed face. “Well that – that wasn’t what I was expecting.”
"What were you expecting?"
“I – I’m not sure, but I don’t think that was it.” The medic answered, his heart beating a bit faster in his chest. “Look Billy, I uh . . . I uh don’t want you to think that I was h-hitting on you or something . . .” Lifeline’s cheeks were flaming and it was all he could do to keep himself from trying to cover them with his hands.
"So you are, then?" The words were softly spoken, the man's tone neutral.
Edwin looked at Billy silently for a moment before turning his back to the other man. “It – it was just once, m-my last year of college . . .” the confession was softly spoken, Lifeline’s voice barely more than a whisper. Billy said nothing, trying to pull his own thoughts together, and make sense of the whole picture before he said anything more. “I – I haven’t thought about another guy in that way since then.” The medic’s voice whispered. “I – I’m sorry if . . . if I uh freaked you out, I – I didn’t mean to.” With that, Edwin moved back towards the open doorway and went back inside the cottage.
Billy finished his cigarette before walking into the cottage to look for Edwin. He hadn't meant his questions to cause the other man to seemingly panic, and he felt like he owed the medic an explanation.
Lifeline was across the room, leaning against the frame of the window next to the bed, his back to the front door as he seemingly gazed outside at the dark night. He’d extinguished most of the lamps, leaving the interior of the cottage with only a faint glow of light. "Edwin?" Billy said quietly, not wanting to startle the other man if he could help it.
The medic closed his eyes, a feeling of dread settling over him. “It’s okay,” he said, his voice shaking slightly despite his best efforts.
"Relax," Billy said quietly, his tone as soothing as he could make it.
Edwin continued on, as if he hadn’t heard Billy. “If you’re uncomfortable with me being here, then I’ll go in the morning. I’ll have somebody come and pick me up. I’ll leave the Jeep in case you need it.”
"That won't be necessary," came the quiet reply.
“I see.” Lifeline’s head drooped forward a bit. “Despite what you might think about me personally, I was sincere in wanting to help you. I didn’t have any ulterior motives other than to see Cobra and Umbrella stopped.”
"I believe you..." Billy said, reaching out after a moment and laying a hand on Lifeline's shoulder. Edwin started a bit at the touch, surprised by the action. "Look, if you'd wanted to take advantage of me, there were plenty of times before this you could have gotten away with it and I wouldn't have been able to stop you. So quit freaking out . I've still got some questions."
Lifeline took a deep breath before opening his eyes and turning around to face Billy. He looked at the Marine for a moment before quickly glancing away.
"So...who was he?" The words were barely a whisper.
Edwin blinked, a little surprised by the question. “A – A guy from school . . . we’d had a lot of classes together and became study partners.” He fell silent for a few moments. “It just kind of happened.”
Billy nodded, his hand falling away from Edwin's shoulder slowly as he stepped up to stand beside the medic. "I...grew up in a pretty intolerant little town....and then I went into the military....but y'know..."
“It kind of died out as graduation got nearer. We tried to keep in touch, but . . . it just didn’t work out.” Lifeline’s voice was still soft as he spoke. “Like I said, I never really looked at another man that way since then. I just chalked it up to one of those youthful indiscretion things and shoved it in the back of my mind.” Edwin turned his face away, unable to meet Billy’s eyes. “I’m sorry; I really didn’t do it on purpose. I wasn’t trying to make a pass at your or anything.”
The Marine's next words were so soft, they were almost impossible to hear. "It's okay....I'm kinda flattered, really...."
If Billy had not been standing as close as he was to him, Lifeline never would have heard his words. The medic turned to look at the Marine, his dark eyes glancing at the other man’s face for a moment before dropping once again. When Billy looked over and saw Edwin still staring at the floor, he reached out, and very gently turned the medic's face, forcing their eyes to meet. Edwin silently met Billy’s dark gaze, swallowing nervously as he did so. Billy offered a tiny smile. "You've got nothing to be afraid or ashamed of..."
“It – it won’t happen anymore,” the medic said softly, his eyes still trained on Billy’s.
Billy didn't look away. "Don't worry about it...." he said gently. "It's...really not a big deal..."
Edwin remained silent for a few moments before slowly nodding his head. Billy's hand remained cupping the man's face for a few moments longer, before he suddenly seemed to realize it and dropped his hand, blushing darkly and coughing nervously. Lifeline felt his cheeks flame as well and he took a stepped back from the Marine, suddenly feeling the need to put a little distance between the two of them. The Marine retreated back a step as well, his hand shaking a little as he slid it into his pocket. He was doing his best to beat down the blush, but wasn't having a lot of luck with it.
Edwin put his hand to the back of his neck, and rubbed it little. “It’s uh . . . it’s uh been kind of a long day,” he said nervously. “I uh – I think I’m going to uh turn in for the night.”