“Oh,” murmured Fred to the still mewling cat. “Here we go.”
George retched and Fred winced, only because the splatter of vomit wasn’t all that appealing to listen to. It was ok for a moment until the scent hit him, and he had to raise his arm and block his nose with the rain-wet fabric of his still-worn coat. Otherwise, he said nothing, nor did his eyes. He held no judgement towards George, because blimey, head wounds hurt. Having had his fair share in the boxing rounds, he knew the way they set you off-kilter. The way it made the world swim and make it impossible for you to wade along.
When George seemed to stop, Fred quirked a brow and shifted his wrist to keep the kitten still, squeezing its ribs just gently. It dug its claws into his hand in return.
“You wanna lay down, dude?” His voice was muffled by his coat, but his eyes didn’t waver from their lock on George.
For what felt to him like way more than just a second or two, everything had stopped again and it took a moment to realize he was being spoken to. Everything in his line of sight seemed to be vibrating and it made his eyes hurt, and he was hit with a slight pang like a small child would get when they throw up for the first actual time and they get scared because they’ve got no idea what’s going on, why it feels so gross and why they suddenly want to cry.
He spit into the waste bin sharply to try and rid his mouth of the taste of bile, albeit not very successfully, and he let go of it with one hand to grab the edge of the counter and hold on. Turning his head a little, he gave Fred a watery expression and nodded, wincing at the movement and taking another second to catch his breath. He wished they had paper cups in the bathroom, or something, so he wouldn’t have to lean down and take a drink straight from the faucet how he was thinking he was desperate enough to do, but alas; no cups.
It didn’t feel like he would need the waste bin again for a while, at least, and with a slightly shaking arm, he lowered it onto the floor and scooted it a little more to the side, tucking it in the nook between the toilet and the side of the counter. His hand found his knee again and he braced the other on the counter, moving to stand and finding that it’d be much easier if his limbs didn’t feel like fucking Ramen noodles. Despite how slowly he’d managed to move, the vertigo was instantaneous and he swayed on his feet, fingers scrabbling for a better grip on the edge of the counter and nearly losing purchase on it. He didn’t, though, and managed to almost steady himself by tipping a little sideways and resting his elbow on the counter, muttering swears at himself and cursing his misfortune.
His thumb sealed the gauze against George’s head gently, testing initially, before he reached for the gauze tape, pulling it onto his lap. He worked on cutting strips, mentally measured long enough to keep the gauze to George’s head, only-half listening as he went on. He sounded out of it, as if there was no grip on the words he was speaking. Task done, he turned to his twin, pressing the gauze to his head again and laying down the tape, always making sure his arm was very out of the way.
George’s color hadn’t really returned, and the brightness in his eyes hadn’t gone away, but he was still fluent in English and speech - save for the slight slur. He wiped his hands even though nothing clung to them, and leaned his elbows onto his knees, hands dangling between them. He blinked at George’s question, brows drawing together in slow confusion. What was he - oh! His eyes snapped to a widen. Shite. The cat.
“Blimey,” He leaned back, looking left and right before to his pocket, reaching down to pluck the little ball of fluff from it. The kitten gave a pitiful meow, probably bruised from being bopped around, and flopped around on the cradle of Fred’s hands. “I found a cat. Lookit it’s legs.” He curled his hand to surround the kitten, lifting one little stubby leg and waving the tiny paw at George. “Innit a sad sight?”
He’d let his eyes fall shut as Fred secured gauze to his forehead, wincing at the pressure and not bothering to try and hide it any longer, because what good would that do? Sure, there was a pride thing involved, a ‘tough it out, you fucking priss’ mindset he’d adapted over time when he suddenly had a reason to slump a little rather than tower over people he felt he should belittle. But, despite how sometimes that mindset was heightened around Fred, who better to crumble before than the only person who’s judgement was never a negative factor?
When Fred leaned away and the rustling of wet fabric being shifted reached his throbbing ears, George pried his eyes open to peer at whatever he’d withdrawn from his pocket, and they widened just a bit in surprise, shrinking back to half-lidded status when he couldn’t keep the expression any longer.
"Where the literal fuck did you find that thing? It looks like a friggin ball of lint.” He laughed a little, giving a small smile out of amusement, mostly, but also disbelief.
"You trying to kill it or something, keeping it in there? Your pocket, what are y— what are you think—…”
And with that, he was thankful for the plastic waste bin as he swiveled where he sat (away from Fred) and leaned forward to retch, aiming well enough but not so thankful for the harsh pressure the act put on the pain in his head, raising the discomfort level back to splitting. Coughing, he made a face and gasped, hunched forward over the waste bin and blinking blearily at the crease between the wall and the floor that stretched along the hallway he could see through the open door.
“There ya go,” Praised Fred, thumb stroking the unharmed temple. “Suck it up, Buttercup.” His hands moved with a gentler stroke now, intending to soothe since George had grown used to the nipping peroxide. He cleaned the site, rather pleased with how little blood there actually was but none too content at the goose-egg that had grown. Because of it, he was careful not to press any harder than he needed, a sympathetic cringe stuck on his face. “You gonna be okay?” He tossed the browned wipe into the bin in George’s lap, turning to his line up. He snagged the gauze, and tickled his fingers in an unusual tap beneath George’s chin to get him to raise his head.
“No puking?” He leaned in to blow at the wound, mostly to dry what Peroxide was left over. He moved to sit on the tub ledge, cutting out a patch small enough to fit it. There was a dull thud as his coat pocket banged into the tub’s side, but his focus - again - was not on it.
He had started tipping a little forward when Fred let go, his head ducked a bit over the waste bin. For a second, most everything had started to drift away and it took him a moment to realize Fred had asked a question. He opened his mouth to speak, and a moment of confusion crept over like a magician sticking a handkerchief in his assistant’s ear and pulling it straight out the other side. He shook his head slightly, not in response but rather in attempts to clear it, detesting how it only seemed to make it worse.
He blinked and it stung as Fred gestured for him to lift his head, and he did so with almost a reluctance born from the desire to just sleep and wake up only when this was over. “Sounds like you want me to, you freak.”
He swiveled where he sat so Fred could reach his forehead better, clutching the waste bin and blinking slowly. “M’pretty surprised I haven’t al- ahem, already…”
His stomach was still sloshing uncomfortably, with the warning, but he’d held it down this long so why not the next few minutes it took for Fred to clean up the mess he’d made of his face? Few minutes, can’t be that hard.
"Never answered my question, though." He added, slightly slurred. "Whadja’ find?"
“Whatcha fell over for, ya dummy?” Although the words could sound harsh to other ears, they were with great affections for George. He moved him back, having noted the way a leg had moved to brace an uncoordinated body, and guided him to sit on the toilet. He didn’t relinquish the grip on his twins’ biceps until he was sure George wouldn’t suddenly keel over. He still looked unsteady, yeah, but Fred kept close - in reach to catch him in time. “So what happened?”
He pulled away to open the mirror cabinet, doing a quick gaze-scan before coming up successful with the med kit. He pulled it free, turning to George. His brow snapped up in question, trying to hurry his twins’ answer, full well knowing George would be sluggish and slow. Head wounds were a bitch, after all. His coat swung against his legs, but the weight of the cat didn’t register. As far as he was concerned - the cat could suffocate and Fred wouldn’t notice so long as George was still sore, bleeding and out of it. His deft fingers flicked the compartment open, prying peroxide wipe packets, gauze, the scissors and gauze tape. He lined them up along the rim of the sink, picking up the plastic trash bin on the opposite side of the sink to hand it off to George.
“If you puke, do it into that. If you get it on my shoe, I’m beating you with it.”
He ripped a packet open, pulled the wipe and flung it out so it fluttered. His other hand tilted George’s head, palm against the unharmed side of his head and turning the wound to the light. It wasn’t…. so bad, not really - or at least any more. He frowned anyway, because at some time George had hurt. Was he still? Fred’s lips fell into a comical state of a frown, brown eyes flicking to the wipe in his hand. Well, he was still in for a world of hurt. “Sorry, mate.” He shrugged, and with a deep breath gushed out in a blow - pressed and wiped to try and clean water, dirt, and whatever else was in that head cut.
Shuffling backwards at being pushed, George didn’t fight it, though his knees seemed wonky at the joint and one had locked back when he went to bend them and sit, and he let his foot slip on the ratty tatty rug in front of the shower with the decent sized hole in it in order to sit right. He closed his eyes and made a face at how the light, as dingy as it was, still seeped past his eyelids and stung even when he blinked, those tiny blips of time when he figured he could have just a split second of peace and a duller darkness that didn’t ache.
When Fred let go of his arms, he leaned a little forward to rest his elbows on his knees and hang his head again, trying to duck into the shadow cast by Fred’s tall figure and maybe steer away from the light. He shook his head very slightly, the simplest of movements like biting down on aluminum foil, and flicked a hand at the wrist like a wave of dismissal. “I don’t know. There was some douchebag and a car and a sidewalk and then a shit ton of pain.” He groaned, reaching up to wipe his eye again with a curled fist, exhaling sharply in what would have been a laugh at Fred threatening to beat him with a shoe.
"I’m not gonna p— hey, watch it!"
He cringed as the light was suddenly at a new angle to shine through his eyelids and his head was moved painfully enough to make it feel like he’d ground his teeth enough to make them vibrate in their sockets. His expression might have wilted if not for the blinding sort of pain that followed in the form of stinging pressure right where he didn’t think anymore pressure was necessary, thank you very much,— “Fuck!" — and he jerked back in response, turning his head away from the touch and whatever made it hurt so badly. The stinging pressure that conjured quick bursts of white behind his eyelids that was so much brighter than the dim light of the bathroom, and suddenly brought back the dizzying nausea that made him rethink what he was about to say before about not needing the trash bin.
He didn’t get very far in his protest, though, as Fred’s hand on his head was steady and he might have tipped over onto the floor had he not been bracing him how he was. Swallowing hard, and with a bit of difficulty that worried him, he sat back up again and bit his lip before turning his head again in Fred’s favor so he could tend to the wound like he knew he had to let him. His fingers found the edge of the counter and latched on, the act of holding his breath to keep from cursing again making the rest of his head throb.
His night had been… intriguing.
It had begun with a cruddy bout of rain that water-logged his fags and him in the process. Then a pretty blonde thing with tiny tits invited him up for tea and proceeded to lounge around, in his presence still, naked as the day she was born. It certainly had been something to scoff at, seeing as he didn’t particularly fancy the wiles of women and their bits and bobs. He didn’t fancy anyone’s bits and bobs. He even lacked such a care for his own (and yet still groomed). Either way! thought Fred with a deep sniff, tucking his neck down into his soft jacket a little more. It was still a little damp, and therefore rubbed uncomfortable against the stretch of his neck - but it was a small price to pay to keep the rain from coating it.
It had been a long walk without the car. His pants were soaked to mid-calf from the size of the puddles and the ignorance of passing cars, and his misery stemmed from that alone. It wasn’t the walk he minded; it was the weather and people. People who earned themselves a flip of the bird was they doused him on their way by. A few choice words. Dirty whore-cunt muncher amongst them. In reality: the favourite. But once he managed to duck through the wrenched open diamond-wired fence into their shitty excuse of a parking lot, he was scot-free of stupidity amongst the human race.
The car was still parked where he had left it after an afternoon excursion to the grocery store the day before, which gave the obvious answer that George was most likely home. Unless he went out the way Fred did, in which case was cool too. He broke into a run, thinking of the Mars bar somewhere in there, maybe under the seat, that he had forgotten. There was a gnaw in his gut - not of hunger, but of emptiness that needed filling. He didn’t particularly get hungry, and if he did it was rare. He wasn’t, by far, a junkie but the drugs had done their job in robbing him of an appetite. There were a few new scratches, Fred noticed once he reached the car, in the paint job but vandalism wasn’t foreign here. At least they hadn’t hot-wired the car. He curled his fingers under the handle to yank it open when a soft mewl broke his attention, and his head snapped towards the source.
A furry thing was hanging from the top of the wheel.
Frowning, Fred relinquished his hold and stepped back. The furry thing flicked, and his brow jerked up like it were metal and a magnet had beckoned it. His hair was flattened, plastered to his forehead but he pushed it back as he crouched, cracking at his bending knees. Under the shelter of the hub cap, curled into a ball on the considered-flattest was a flurry-thing! Wait, no, not a thing, he rationalized, squinting through the rain-blur of his vision. Oh. That was a cat. Kitten! Kitten, not cat - it didn’t look adult. Big yellow eyes, when Fred focused into the world again, were returning his gaze and without a second thought, he scooped the thing up and tossed it into one of the rather large pockets of his coat.
He carried out fishing his Mars bar from the car before running around to the buildings’ entrance when the rain hurried down, harder, again. The small lobby wasn’t very warm, but he didn’t stick around long enough to focus on it. He turned left down the hall that would lead him to flat 93, jostling his hand around his pocket while using his teeth and other to rip open the tab of his chocolate bar. He paid no heed to the walls or what wasn’t him, spitting out the flab of plastic once it gave. The smell of chocolate and caramel was taunting and he didn’t wait to take a bite, wrestling his messy link of keys out before coming to the thought that if George was home, he wouldn’t need them.
The door swung open easily and the kitten mewled with the shriek of the old springs. “George!” Called Fred, eyes landing on a discarded jacket that was most certainly George’s. But why ever was it on the floor? He frowned, regarding the couch, a good amount of centimetres apart. Maybe it had slipped off. “Where are ya, scoundrel? You’ve gotta see what I’ve found.” The cat squirmed in his pocket and he gave it a firm pat, earning a few mewed grunts.
“George?” He spun in a circle, coat billowing, before heading down the hall to see if George resided in his room. But he wasn’t there - he was in the bathroom. “Blimey, George, if you’re going about your business you could shut a door or two - oh shite.” George wasn’t taking a leak in the loo. His head, though, was leaking and fear spiked in Fred’s own blood and pumped through his heart like the wrong sort of adrenaline. As it were; it was just that. “What the fuck happened to you?” He stepped into the bathroom, turning George’s head with a firm, kind hand, narrowed gaze zeroing in on the cut. “What sucker fuck gave you this?”
Creaking hinges, footsteps, and a voice reached his ringing ears and George looked up from the sink, blinking at the door past a fogginess in his eyes that was more cloying on the left side, as red tinted water still trickled down his face. Even as the water stopped rolling in droplets off the tip of his nose and the hem of his clothes, the blood was becoming a little thicker, it seemed, without the mix of pouring rain to thin it. He thought vaguely, maybe he should have reached for a towel at some point? Brought the damned first aid kit out, clearly. Something other than the back of his hand ought to keep it out of his eye, eventually staunch the flow that still seemed utterly ridiculous to him. It was such a thin cut, it shouldn’t bleed so much.
The all too familiar voice grew louder as its owner drew closer and George winced at the sound, because it echoed and mingled with the still loud as fuck drumming on the outside walls of the apartment and slapping against the windows. It seemed that every unpleasant thing he had to deal with on a regular basis had been amplified today, whether it be deafening sounds, or idiots in the street, or rain, or all of it. Bullshit.
Suddenly he was being turned slightly, in a way Fred must have thought was gentle-ish, (or at least, as gentle-ish-ly as Fred could manage,) and he winced again, swear words bouncing off the inside walls of his skull and vibrating the bone, sending unpleasant zings down and around each and every column of his spine. The very faint scent of chocolate wafted in front of him and mixed with the copper; it was a thoroughly sickening component and he felt his stomach flip.
"…I, um," he began, his voice a bit tight. "I think it was my fault, actually. Fell. Or… d-uh, s-somethin’." He would have screwed up his eyebrows if not for the bump that already obscured his forehead, because despite the blood he’d look a mess. Be one. He kept his grip on the edge of the counter and moved one knee in a bend to rest against the dingy cabinet beneath the sink, partly for balance.
He blinked at his brother, gaze drifting to a random spot on his shoulder without him meaning to. A surge of relief overtook the sick, though, and a twinge of curiosity clambered its way to the top of the priority pile; he blinked again, raising his eyes back to the general direction of Fred’s face.
"Said you found somethin’? What is it?"
The window of the cab was cool on his temple, cool enough to soothe just a bit. Not soothe the lump on the other side that he could feel just above his left eyebrow, or the sting in his eye that came from the colors of dingy crimson and copper, but rather just the knowledge of the fact that there was something wrong in his head. How the thing that sat upon his neck and shoulders felt pressured, how the earplugs he’d just bought would do nothing to alleviate the ringing in his ears, and how the movement of the vehicle he was encased in was nauseating.
He was on a boat again, but not the massive ship caught in a storm he was on before, being knocked about by not only the wind and rain but the tentacles of a sea monster, batting at it and throwing it off course, trying to tip it over and drown the mariners on board. No, now he was on his back in a plastic raft, rocking with waves that were just a step up from gentle, after being tossed off the ship of course, so he was tired. He’d just been floating on a piece of drift wood that used to be a door or a table and had managed somehow to clamber up on a raft floating by. Why was no one else on the raft? Where were the other rafts? There were other people on board, so why was he alone?
“‘Ey, buddy! This your stop?”
Blinking, the sea went away and he jerked back from the coolness of the window. Fingers were snapping in front of his face and he squinted to focus on the hand they were attached to, the arm and the body it led to, recalling that — shit — he was in a cab, and it was parked outside the corner store a block away from the flat.
He flung his hand up in a bend at the elbow to reach for the handle, curling his fingers around it loosely, but enough to make it click and open the door. Still leaning pretty heavily on it, he’d half fallen out of the damned cab when it opened, and he righted himself enough to get his foot down in another ankle deep puddle that made him fire off a string of unintelligible curses in one low breath. He caught the cab driver drumming his hands on the steering wheel in impatience, though George couldn’t afford to be put off by how rude it was. As if he wanted to be so slow. As if he didn’t wish he hadn’t had to take a damned cab in the first place. As if he didn’t wish he was upright enough to have never had to leave the flat at all.
After a second of leaning out the door, he murmured a quick, 'oh,' and reached for his pockets, those on his pants and his jacket, patting them down for any money he might have on him.
"No, no, your pal back in town square took care’a that. Don’t worry about it."
George paused, squinting at the puddle his foot was submerged in, watching the ripples and splashes from the still-pouring rain, disturbing what he wished was stillness because it’d be easier to tell if his eyes were playing tricks on him if everything would just stop moving. If it was tunnel vision or just the natural order of things, inky blackness creeping around as time went by and London sank further into night, or if it was just him.
He swung the door closed without looking back, pleased to hear the bastard drive away, but less pleased at the sheet of muddy water the tires kicked up and shot at him to drench his back. “Fucker,” he seethed, clenching his fists and trudging up to the store and stopped, teetering a little and pinching the bridge of his nose to ground himself with some sort of pressure that was purposeful. Which direction was he supposed to go, again? He looked around, the rain coming down so fast and so heavy he could barely see. After a moment it clicked, though, and he started down the street until he got up to the apartment building. It was a long walk, especially with him feeling more and more like he was floating out at sea, clinging to a life preserver hoop now, while questionable fish nudged his legs as they swam by and he didn’t know when a shark would come by to just bite him in half and stain the water.
By time he got inside and down the hall, — he’d lost track of how long it took him to get there,— he pressed a palm flat to the wall for balance, in turn smearing red tinted water all over the tacky, peeling wallpaper. It took him a few tries, squinting at the numbers on the doors, all the while fumbling in his pocket for his key ring. There were locks on their door that could only be locked from the inside, (sliding locks, twisting locks, etc.) and he’d left them undone except for the few that would take keys. Finding his door and unlocking it was a trial, as it came with heaps of frustration on top every time he stuck a wrong key in a keyhole. But, he did it and slipped inside.
Shrugging off his jacket, he left it crumpled in a folded pile of muddy fabric with the plastic bag, dirty water pooling around it in drips and streams that seeped into the floor, headed straight to the bathroom to check his reflection. It was a ghastly sight, even in the shadows made by not turning on the light, and he blamed the rain for pushing the blood down his face far worse than it would be if he’d been otherwise dry. Or maybe not, head wounds always bleed the most, even if it’s a thin cut.
It looked like a relatively thin cut, and it was the least of his worries. What worried him was the seasick feeling that came in waves, like the waves he felt like the floor of the flat were riding on. The kind of big, crashing waves that knocked over swimmers trying to stand and turned fishing boats over before the captain could get a grip on the wheel or the crew could run to one side of the boat to try and tip it the other way. What worried him was that he was trying to hold onto the concept of staying upright, and it was about as good as holding onto a splintering mast; trying to decide if it was worth it to hold on tighter and get sharp shards of wood in your hands or let go and roll to the end of the deck to hit the edge of the boat, risking falling over the edge and into the water.
Gripping the edge of the counter, he hung his head and focused on breathing evenly, keeping the sick down and holding onto that splitting beam. It was a lot to focus on, and it worried him that he thought so, but he had to work with what he had and just… wait for Fred to get home. He only hoped his brother wouldn’t come home to find him sprawled out on the floor, or with his head in the toilet, so he remained where he was, drenched and clinging to a broken mast.