next to you
That’s all I want; all I wish for.
And sometimes I think I would sacrifice everything just to see you again…
“If…you decide that, you no longer wish to be a part of DOGOO…we will accept that decision. The choice has, after all, been yours and yours alone.”
How long had it been since Saint-Germain had given him that option–a way out, so to speak? Hours blurred into days, not that he noticed much; he only knew of awake and not awake, the blinds having been mostly shut for the entire time so far. Only by counting the fading numbers on a paper calendar hanging on the kitchen wall did he calculate it had been a little more than two weeks at this point.
Even though he’d probably slept more than he had in all his previous years combined, still whenever he woke from his feverish nightmares, it felt as if he’d never stop being exhausted. If he wasn’t reliving that dreaded moment where she fell asleep forever, it was running in an endless abyss, always fearing that shadow that he could never escape from…
“Tou-san, can we go out today? I wanna see more birdys…”
It seemed like forever since he’d stepped foot outside his room, much less the house. In the beginning he had no choice but to rest, troubled as his dreams were his body was physically unable to stay awake for so long. But now, with his wound finally starting to heal and the rest of the damage slowly beginning to repair itself, he was running out of excuses. At least, in his mind anyway.
“…Sorry squirt. Maybe…go ask Grandmum, yeh?” For some reason that desire to experience life, to simply live…it wasn’t there. It wasn’t the same as being suicidal or the self-harm tendencies he often grappled with in his youth, but just the feeling of only existing, going through the motions of life rather than really living it…
“…tha’s what you said last week…” A frown and a look of disapproval, or as close as one could make as a three-year old.
“I know, I know; I’m sorry, it’s just…” Every time he even thought about stepping outside into that vibrant world that Sio was no longer a part of, something in him shut down, turned off.
The lights are on, but nobody’s home.
“Come here love, Grandmum needs someone to help her with the laundry. Afterwards, why don’t you and I take a nice stroll by the river? I’m sure the swans will be out today.” Perhaps sensing his anxiety, his mother came to the rescue, distracting the young toddler with promises of fresh air and maybe even a chance to spot those birds he was enamored with.
He couldn’t take this anymore; as soon as both were outside in the yard, chattering gaily and laughing as they chased after the linens, he slammed himself back into his room. Fuck; what was wrong with him? How was it that he still couldn’t pull himself together, to be a father for his son especially given his own lack of a father in his childhood?
‘Sio’s not dead, she’s still around, there’s still a chance…!’ No matter how many times he repeated this mantra to himself, it didn’t lessen the pain in his chest. So heavy, the burden of loneliness; each beat a painful reminder of that day he could no longer forget.
“Uwaaa…” A faint cry from the other room, and suddenly he realized that the baby was awake now. Silently did he cross the room, gently picking up the infant who was now becoming more and more active each day, squirming restlessly in her crib and always attempting to pull his silvery locks each time he held her.
“‘Ey there, squirt number two…y’know, you look just like your mum…” She blinked those enormous maroons at him, the words no doubt meaningless at this age but she recognized his voice; a happy gurgle while she grasped his hand with tiny fingers, babbling in that baby-talk and drooling all over the blanket. “Make that more than just look like her…” he muttered while wiping up the spit.
It never ceased to amaze Adam at just how it was that humans could create life; a new being, born into this world and something that he literally helped to make; could not be made without him.
“Humans really are…amazing, aren’t they?” She’d whispered on their wedding night, after what was probably the best sex of his life–passionate, sweaty and tender.
“Even when we get beaten down, we just get back up…and keep living.” Tracing that scar, as she always did each time their bodies intertwined, while he observed her with half-lidded eyes, being lulled into a trance.
How was he to know that dreams could not last forever?
“Adam. Are you feeling better today?” He’d been so lost in his thoughts that he missed his mother coming back in. “If you’re up for it, perhaps you should come with us…get some fresh air, sunshine…”
“…No, I…think I’ll pass…” Tenderly he put the infant back down, her eyes shut for a nap.
“…All right then…” Though she didn’t press the issue anymore, he could sense her disappointment. But even his own mother couldn’t press him into going out, to pull him from this haze that he now found himself trapped in.
Perhaps his daughter had the right idea in taking a nap, though it seemed that was all he really found himself doing these days. Screw it; what was the point of keeping himself awake if he really didn’t want to do anything? Shrugging out of his sweater, he wrapped himself up in fresh bandages, still wincing from the pressure before lying down again and falling into a state of half-lucid dreaming.
“…Yes, he’s recovering, albeit slowly…no, there hasn’t been much change on…that front…”
What…who was speaking? Blinking, the silver-haired man slowly raised himself up, glancing at the clock–past 19:00 already–before turning his attention again to that voice outside the door. His mother…but who was she speaking to?
“I understand…but it’s just–he…” A pause and though he simply could’ve just walked out and asked, something inside him told him to hold back, to just listen. “…He hasn’t gone out at all this entire time. No…I’m lucky if he decides to come take his meal in the kitchen with us.”
‘Yeh, ’cause I’m a worthless piece of shit,’ he thought bitterly to himself, although his emotions were so dulled that even his usual self-loathing had little affect.
“Yes, you’re right…at least he’s resting, but…the nightmares…I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard him just…crying out for her…” A sudden tightening in his chest and the scar pulsed in pain, forcing him to lie down until it passed over. “I read your instructions…but, the dosage…don’t you think it’s rather…high? That’s nearly twice the usual amount–no, I know his genetic structure has changed as an e-gene holder, but still…Mr. Hunter, please…”
Hunter? Of course, DOGOO would still want to keep tabs on him during his convalescence. For some reason it made him angry, that even during this supposed period of recovery, he still couldn’t be rid of them, this accursed fate–
“–Are you sure it’s really necessary–Adam–!” Without warning did he take the phone from his mother, ignoring her shock as he addressed the man on the other end without any sort of greeting.
“So, I see you guys can’t ever bloody leave well enough alone, can you?”
“I–Adam! Shite, ye dinna know how good it ’tis t’ hear yur voice…” Despite the surgeon’s tone of surprise, he could hear sincerity in there, as well. “How’re ye feelin’ mate?”
“…I’ll live.” Truthfully, Adam wasn’t really in the mood for small talk–whatever it was Hunter had called to find out, he might as well just get it over with in person. “What d’you want?”
“…Just checkin’ in on ye, ’s all…” A surprised sort of hurt, though well-disguised–and if it had been anyone but Adam, it would’ve slipped them by entirely. “Yur Platoon’s been askin’ fer ye for quite some time…”
No surprise there; he was sure that Jess and Mahesh were concerned, yet right now, their concern only served to irritate him further. What did they know, they hadn’t been the ones who who held her when she fell limp…and after all, they still had each other. “Tell ’em I’ll be back; soon…”
“I–tha’s not what I’m talkin’ ’bout, mate. I mean, you, personally…bloody hell, I know it’s not been long since, ye know…but–”
“–Didn’t I just say I’ll be back?” Why were they bringing this up now? If this was Hunter’s idea of subtly attempting to play the therapist, then this call was ending right now. “Just get to the bloody point, or I’m hanging up right now.”
“All right, calm th’ fuck down…dinna know ’f I should be glad or not that yur temper still seems intact…” Another muttered curse, but it made him seem more real, the anatomist more genuine than he had been earlier. “Th’ Second Platoon’s holdin’ it together…well, as best as they can with only half their numbers now. But they’ve got faith, man…they’ll wait ’til the end o’ th’ world fer ye.”
Such blind faith; even now, Adam could still be caught off-guard by the amount of trust he commanded, the loyalty of others. “…I don’t know; I mean, how do you think you’d feel…losing someone you love, for the rest of your life…?”
Silence; maybe he’d finally managed to shut up the Scotsman, until, “…I’d feel bloody horrible, tha’s fer sure. Maybe even think about…ye know, dark things…but I also know ye ain’t th’ type t’ just take this lying down, like some coward. Ye’ll come back…won’t ye?”
“…” For some reason, for all his bravado and bitter remarks, now when faced with the reality of this possibility of not taking it…he didn’t know what to say.
“…Adam? Ye still there mate–” Click. Disconnection, no longer knowing what to do, as his mother stood there, having listened this entire time.
“…If you…want to leave, you know you’re always welcome here."
To never go back to DOGOO, to just run away and live out the rest of his life simply, with his two children in the English countryside…would that be so bad? Was it so wrong to simply even think about that option?
Suddenly he was doubling over in pain, a searing sort of hurt that he hadn’t felt before but it gripped him with a vengeance. “I–!” Ignoring his mother’s look of concern, he stumbled back into the darkness of his room, shutting the door behind him.
“Hnng…n-no…” As he gripped the edge of the windowsill, breath coming in short pants, he realized it wasn’t about the physical state of his body; no, this was about his heart, about forcing himself to realize that he had to carry on, with or without her. “Wh-why…ugh!”
‘My heart..it feels like, it’s breaking in two…!’ It squeezed him so powerfully until he was sure he was suffocating, even as he continued to gasp for air. Why did it hurt so bad…wasn’t he supposed to be recovering now, his body repairing itself?
It’s painful, isn’t it?
‘Wha–N-Nightingale?!’ He hadn’t been expecting her at all, much less to appear outside of his dreamlike states.
But your heart is proof of your humanity. Proof that you are still alive.
‘Alive? You call living like this alive?!’
Would you rather have died then?
‘I–!’ For hadn’t he contemplated that once, wondering what was the point if she wasn’t going to be around? ‘…Is this about my returning to DOGOO…or rather, lack thereof?’
…Your fate was decided the moment I awakened in your blood. Suffice to say, whether you wish it or not… She didn’t have to finish that last part, for Adam knew what she meant.
Either you return of your own will, or I shall force your hand.
Harsh words, Adam Muirhead. Of course she could read his thoughts, sense his animosity towards her. But it is what it is. You understand…don’t you?
Understand? What did she take him for, an imbecile? As if he wasn’t tortured by the weight of this decision, day by day…not for the first time, he cursed her existence, his own misfortune of being who he was, throwing what could be considered a temper tantrum in his own mind against the other part of his soul.
‘So you would tell me that Saint-Germain was lying when he said that I had a choice? You’re a bloody hypocrite, aren’t you…’ He absently grasped the sheets, nearly tearing them in half.
I care not what the immortal offers; my purpose at least, when Dogoo approached me, was to ensure the survival of our species and this planet. I have given everything to achieve that goal…and you are a vital part of it, whether you accept it or not.
Once again that feeling of helplessness, of just a puppet rigged with invisible strings and controlled by an invisible master. Was there anything that was ever his own…had it even been his supposed fate to fall in love with the sniper, only to be torn apart?
…Even puppets have their wills, you know…
A single whisper in his mind as he felt the energy drain from his body again, their prolonged communication taking its toll.