Seventeen minutes til midnight, Jack Caldwell, twenty five and a veteran of the United States military, cruised down the boulevarde of his home town blaring 70’s rock music and smoking something other than a cigarette. Jack sang along, enthusiasm leaking into his honey laced voice. The ladies loved when he sang and he couldn’t wait to take his little brother out the week after next. It was karaoke night, at a killer bar that allowed underage attendance with adult supervision. After tonight, Danny would be groovin’ to go out again.
He was a bit late, to pick Daniel up, but with a smirk Jack couldn’t help but think Danny would need those few extra minutes. The boy looked fly for his prom night. He was probably busy, right now, with a certain dark haired someone. Lips locked, tongues a dancin’ --
Jack slammed on his brakes, halfway through the intersection as some idiot tried to run the red light. He laid on his horn but the SUV swerved, barely braking, and kept on driving. Jack and the vehicles behind him crept through the intersection slowly, paranoid that some Final Destination shit was about to go down. Thankfully, nothing happened, and Jack was able to get into the Education District unharmed. There was barely any traffic, though a few stray vehicles whizzed passed him, though always south. Always out of the District.
And three and half minutes later he understood why.
Cavalier High was in complete devastation. The four main halls were destroyed with bits of roofing caved in here and there, stone columns crumbling, and fires, most of them small, everywhere. His heart stopped and for the second time that night Jack Caldwell slammed on his brakes. Tires squealed and the back end fishtailed to the right. He didn’t care. He jumped out of the truck, shrugged out of his jacket and started running.
The gym was saved from most of the havoc but a good chunk of the western side was gone. Trying not to think about what had occurred, Jack kept running, jumping over bits of concrete, flagstone and uneven ground. He saw the first body before he reached the gym, his second and third as he jumped the gates. Smoke and half baked fires filled the gym. Balloons floated up and out of a few holes in the ceiling he hadn’t noticed from the parking lot and the bleachers that usually lined the sides of the gym were destroyed. Pieces both large and small littered the building and Jack stood in shock, numb to the world and the realization that Danny had lived through the trauma of whatever happened here.
Jack scrambled through the caved in wall and started shouting, searching each body he came across to make sure none were Danny. The longer it went on, the more frantic he became until finally, overcome with emotion that took him back to his own demons, Jack screamed.
Danny Caldwell was not ready to die, despite the fact that he lay buried under the tangled metalwork beneath the bleachers that once made up half of the school gymnasium.
Danny Caldwell did not want to die, despite the pool of blood he lay in, his own, fresh blood.
And Danny Caldwell was not going to die, despite the burns on the left side of his body and severed limbs on his right. The fingers that twitched without any connection to his body, and the suit-clad leg that hung on with a sliver of muscle and skin.
Not today, anyway.
Prom hadn’t been miserable. Despite protests, Danny did appreciate it when his brother doted over him, straightened his tie and gave him advice. He'd almost managed to stick some gel in his hair, but that was a no-go. A boy’s gotta keep some of his pride, even if that pride entails the swept back bed head that does as it pleases. The edges of his left eye were tinted blue, a black eye that had yet to fully disappear. His knuckles were still purple.
Pick you up at eleven, Jack had said. Maybe if he'd come on time for once of his life, they would've avoided this mess.
No, Danny did not have any glossy-lipped girl waiting for him, with perfectly curled hair and shimmery dress that she'd spent weeks aching over. That had been a lie. Tongues danced, but in the back of the room, behind the bleachers. Not on the dance floor, not near the refreshments, not anywhere in the open. Because Danny and his rather close friend kept to the shadows, since neither of them were out. And hell if they'd ever be.
Still nice. Still so nice. Everyone was so wrapped up in their slow dances, no one spared a glance. A perfectly secret yet somehow public moment with fingers intertwined, where no one could pull them apart. Nothing. Except something did.
He wasn't numb, but he wasn't fully conscious. His own pain was a strange whisper in the back of his brain, calling out, begging to be heard, but not earning more than a sideways glance. Yet, he was awake. Awake enough to hear fires crackling, more and more pieces of the dreaded Cavalier High fall to bits. And Jack’s screams. His brother.
Danny opened his mouth to reply, but rather than words, blood spilled out. He coughed, and more blood came, what was left of his body shaking and convulsing with the effort, any effort at all. Through blood stained teeth, Danny managed to sound out the first two letters of his brother’s name, but could get no further. His eyes flickered, just for a second, a strange glowing green hue.
He shouldn't have been alive. There was simply no way, with the amount of damage, with the amount of blood lost. But he still trembled on the ground, trying his hardest to murmur his beloved brother's name. His memories were in scatters. He couldn't clearly recall what had done this to him, to everything and everyone. But he could see Jack. That was all that mattered.
“Danny?” Jack coughed out, his hands shaking and knees biting into the uneven concrete as he tried to stand up, tried to see where the source of noise was coming from. “Danny?!” He scratched out again, albeit louder, wilder, more desperate.
Finally he managed to stand, bits of his palms, forearms, and knees riddled with random cuts and lacerations. He didn’t feel them. He couldn’t. Jack focused on the gurgling cough, a desperate call from his own demons beckoning him forward, eager for him to find something grizzly. Eager for him to fall into their waiting grasp. Jack took another hesitant step forward, goosebumps coating his flesh. “Danny?” He whispered, taking hold of a large metal frame and pulling it free of the metal cage that was once a set of bleachers.
He kept clearing a way to a body… a body he instinctively knew was Danny. Almost at the center of the metal cage, sprawled on his back… blood and limbs…
Jack cried out, his stomach threatening to empty itself as tears pricked fiercely in his eyes, all the while a growing beast deep in his chest bred fear and anger and guilt. If he’d just showed up on time, Jack thought frantically, almost tearing the metal and plastic construct to pieces as he made his way to his little brother. His heart flailed, dropped, spiraled.
He was still breathing.
Jack didn’t know how. But damn him if he didn’t thank God that he was.
He dropped to his knees, taking in the visceral sight of his Danny’s mangled body. There was so much blood… limbs were severed but somehow, somehow, he was still breathing.
“C’mon buddy,” Jack choked through a relieved sob. “C’mon bud, yer good, I’m gunna get you outta here.” But he didn’t know where to begin; basic field dressings, if he’d hurt him more to move, and getting him out of danger as quick as he could… Jack inhaled deep, gathering his wits. “Danny, hey bud, c’mon I need to know how yer doin. I gotta getcha out of here.”
As Danny struggled to reach the voice of his brother, the pain became more apparent. Every time he turned his head, squinted his eyes, tried to wiggle the fingers that were no longer attached, spikes of unimaginable, white hot pain would make themselves known. But his mind was still so clouded, so blurred, he could still ignore it.
He was here, he could hear him, if he could just grab his hand, everything would be okay. Grab his hand, Jack would pull him up, pat him on the back, say something like, "You're alright, slugger. Shake it off." And they'd walk home, Jack's big arm wrapped over his shoulder, Danny pulled tightly into his chest. They'd be fine.
Why couldn't he feel his hand?
With a wheeze and a grunt of pain, Danny turned his head to where his hand should've been. Except, it lay a good few feet away, fingers curled, frozen in time. He would've screamed, but more blood came up rather than the sound. That was when Jack came into view, that fear in his eyes, the same fear Danny had seen before, a long time ago.
“Danny, hey bud, c’mon I need to know how yer doin. I gotta getcha out of here.”
When Jack knelt down to scoop Danny up, that's when the pain finally exploded in his brain. Another choked gasp escaped him as he felt himself being lifted. "Ja...ck.." He choked, with his one hand left, grasping his brother's shoulder with a vice-like grip, his skin a pale blue color. "J...j...a..." He couldn't make it any farther. What was left of the boy's body shook, trembled. He was so scared.
So scared. I'm nothing. I'm not even a complete body, not like I was any better before. I don't have an arm anymore. Where's my arm? What happened? It hurts so much. So much blood. Jack.. just put me down. Then it won't hurt as bad. Jack, please. Put me down.
"Put the subject down and step away!"
From beyond Cavalier High, figures began to appear. A majority of them wore white lab coats, but despite the doctor outfit, they held giant shotguns and other strange looking, but very clearly deadly weapons. The center most one to Jack and Danny was clearly the one speaking, and seemingly the leader.
Run, Jack. If you want us both alive, or at least yourself, you'd better run.
He longed to wipe the blood from his brother's mouth, to ease the pain from his body. To make sure he never struggled the way he had when he returned from overseas... Jack let out a choked sob, cradling the body of his brother even closer. His grip was soft but rigid, nothing would cause him to drop Danny. Nothing what so ever.
Tears pricked his eyes as Danny tried speaking his name. Jack wasn't much better with his speech though... mumbling and sniffing and crying his eyes out, he simply made soft cooing noises and took a couple blind steps.
And then a voice shattered through his new reality. The reality that his brother might die. Might die in his very arms.
Subject? Jack thought slowly as he came to, his mind still reeling from the horror that was his brother. What subject?
He looked up and some carnal instinct overrode the strongest emotion he'd ever felt. They were slowly being surrounded. Jack could sense their malicious intent, just as he'd been able to do overseas. Goosebumps tickled across his skin and took a few careful steps backward. There was a hole not ten yards behind him...
Jack turned and ran, weaving and dodging just in case they dared to shoot. Leaping over one of the metal poles he had torn free to retrieve Danny, he tried softening the landing as well he could, but his main priority was getting Danny out...
Getting Danny to safety was all he cared about. More so than his own life.
"Everything's going to be okay Danny..." Jack said softly, repeatedly, desperately.
He wanted to scream but he couldn't. Danny dug the nails of his only remaining hand into Jack’s arm, biting through the cloth and even into the skin his grip was so fierce. Danny might have had somewhat of a pain tolerance, but not for this. For punches and kicks and hurtful words but goddamn, who had a pain tolerance for losing two limbs and being almost entirely burned to bits? How was he alive?
The stumps of his missing arm and leg tingled, trying to feel for them, twist the fingers and wiggle the toes. It burned, seared. Nothing there. Nothing there. Nothing there.
Every jostle, every step Jack took set his body aflame. Tears streamed down his cheeks as his body refused to let him verbally protest.
“PUT THE SUBJECT DOWN OR WE OPEN FIRE!”
Jack kept running.
The sounds of gunshots echoed through the remains. Bullets flew through the open air. Somehow, the majority missed their target. Jack’s weaving, dodging, bobbing, kept them alive. A bullet flew close enough to Jack to slice through the skin on his shoulder and let blood drop. Another grazed him in the back thigh. All were not enough to bring him down as he shielded Danny’s limp form with his body and ran through the hole in the wall that would hopefully guarantee their protection.
Jack swerved to run for his parked car. They were so close. The guns kept blazing, the lab coats kept advancing. But Jack jumped into his car, lumped Danny in the passenger seat, and slammed his foot on the gas pedal.
Strangely, he'd stopped bleeding. The stump that ended at his elbow was just a stump, not a bleeding one. As he lay slumped against the wall of the car, bones in his arm and leg began to show. Began to build, regrow, and replace the empty air. His lost limbs were growing back, bit by bit, bone by bone, muscle by muscle and skin after skin. His limbs were growing back. The burnt skin, bubbled and reddened, began to ripple, renew itself. Every part of him that was damaged began to heal, miraculously, on its own.
Deep breaths, Jack chanted to himself, calm mind. It had always been his mantra, never more so than this moment in time. Everything was happening so fast and yet so slowly at the same time. It felt like a dream, like a nightmareish haunting that his subconscious refused to let him wake from. Deep breaths, calm mind.
The entrance stood blocked with nondescript unmarked vehicles, so he had driven across the track and straight into the fields behind the gymnasium. In front of them, scattered here and there and alive still with fires, laid the cause of his brothers near-fatal injuries. Near-fatal because somehow… Somehow, Danny was healing. His little brother was healing right in front of him. The bewilderment and adrenaline of the situation furthered the suspicion he was dreaming. None of this could be real…
None of this could be fucking real.
“Danny…” Jack choked out, breath hitching in his throat. “Danny—are you okay? What’s happening?”
Weaving through the meteorite holes, Jack felt a pooling of liquid in the driver’s seat. There was pain in his right shoulder that he suspected was a bullet graze – but for a split second, he thought he had pissed his pants. Taking a hand off the wheel Jack wiped the back of his left thigh and winced in pain. Grunted and swore. He didn’t have to look at his hand to know it wasn’t piss; it was blood. Jack’s instinct rang true when he returned his hand to the wheel and his leather stained red.
Jack swerved hard to the right, cringing at how much it might hurt Danny to be jostling around the passenger seat. He didn’t even have a chance to fasten him in! Jack grunted, made another sharp right before glancing in his rear view mirror with despair. Two out of the seven vehicles blocking the entrance were after them. Two headlights in the smoky distance were all he could see… Slamming down on the gas, Jack turned down an old sandy back road rarely used outside of local traffic and let Suze fly.
“It’s alright bud, we got this. I know where we can go. Just gotta get away from these bastards. How ya holdin’ up Danny?”
Jack's words were like whispers. He was a crumpled, broken body in the passenger seat of his brother's car. Bone and skin began to rebuilt. He let out a moan, head lolling with every turn Jack made. Wake up, Danny. Wake up. WAKE UP.
The car swerved, and Danny's head collided with the window. His eyes snapped open and he became rigid as he blinked furiously, trying to understand the situation at hand. His hand. Which he raised to eye level as his finger tips had just finished rebuilding themselves.
"What. The fuck." He hissed, another sharp turn causing Danny to nearly hit the window again. It already had a swipe of blood on it from his last encounter. He frantically buckled his seat belt, looking at Jack, utterly confused, and then at the rear view mirror, eyes widening further at the sight of the cars speeding after them.
"What's -- what's going on? Dreaming, right? This is a dream. Fuck. I've been watching too much Fast and Furious." The parts of his body that had just healed were perfectly clean, albeit missing some clothing -- where was his shoe? -- but the rest was entirely covered in blood. Couldn't be his blood, could it?
"So much bl.." He turned to Jack again, and gawked at the red steering wheel. "Why're you.. bleeding? Why are we being chased? Jack? What's going on?" He was at an utter loss, and found that he had barely any recollection of what had lead up to these events. Obviously, then, if he didn't remember anything, it was bound to be a dream. But the way his heart was practically bleeding in his throat, the stickiness of the blood that clung to his suit.. his.. suit. Why was he wearing a suit?
And then it hit him.
"Where's -- Nessie?" Couldn't say his name. Couldn't. "Jack, we have to go back, we can't leave them alone, oh god, what happened? No, no, no, no. Go back. Go back!" He ripped his gaze from his brother, only to see a block in the road coming at them full speed.
“I see it.” Jack mumbled, swerving hard to the left and driving up and onto the shoulder of the road. Another sharp turn and they were back on the dirt. For a minute it was nothing but the rumble of Suze’s engine and the terrified silence of the two Caldwell’s running for their lives. Swallowing hard, Jack finally conjured enough breath to answer his brother.
“Danny we can’t go back. It’s too late. I didn’t see anyone alright?!” Jack hesitated, biting his lip hard enough to draw blood. He wouldn’t lie to Danny though, especially over something as difficult as this. Those were his friends, he deserved to know the truth.
Just like his battle buddies revealed the aftermath of his own… meteor shower.
“At least no one breathing, Danny. None of them were Nessie though, I’d recognize… her face.”
Behind the truck two headlights grew brighter. In response Jack slammed on the gas, back tires getting a bit squirrely. “Got your seat belt fastened?” Jack whispered, his eyes alternating between the road and the rear view mirror. In less than two minutes they’d hit pavement. An old, barely inhabited neighborhood behind the mall would blossom… and hopefully the chance of losing these thugs.
He had never felt so helpless in his life. Despite being nearly fully healed, his breath was caught in his throat. He felt like he could hardly breathe. His life, his world, had crumbled beneath him. Gripping the edge of the seat tight enough to turn his knuckles white, Danny's breaths were audible and irregular. He was gasping for air like someone was taking it from him.
"You're lying," He said between breaths. "No one.. breathing? You walked by 'em...d-dead?" Danny was not anywhere near a part of the popular crowd; he had perhaps two people he interacted with on a daily basis. The rest he hid from. But goddamn... the whole place had been mascaraed. Shock coursed through his body along with the adrenaline of the chase. They were.. kids. They were dead. Nessie. Tears brimmed in his eyes.
"Y-yeah.. yeah, my seatbelt's on. What.. what happened? Did someone.. someone shoot the place up? A bomb? Jack, please.. please, why're.. you.. you're..you're .. you're bleeding all over the place." He turned around in his seat, breathing slowing as he saw the headlights of the cars chasing them fading in the distance. He brought a hand to his forehead, and it came back covered in blood, though slightly dry. "Am I.."
He gulped. "'M not dead, am I? We're not dead, right?" Danny shook his head, not even waiting for an answer from Jack. "Fuck. Jesus christ. Shit fuck. Everyone's dead and I'm dead too. Fuck, if this is like my trial period and I'm in purgatory or - fuck! Fuck, Jack! I was not fucking ready to die! I haven't even - I haven't even fu--"
A sharp turn onto the pavement caused Danny to be thrust forward, seat belt tightening and catching him before he went flying into the windshield. Once again Danny strained for breath, pulling the seat belt away from his chest after being rubbed raw, "Jesus fuck," He groaned. "Have we.. lost 'em yet? You need to.. go to a hospital, man. if there's a hospital in purgatory or some shit."
"Danny! Listen to me - we're not dead, okay? We. Are. Not. Dead. No way in hell we're dyin' tonight, you hear me?"
Wincing, biting back a groan of pain, Jack glanced over at his younger brother and for a second, his life flashed before his eyes. Danny, no bigger than two loaves of bread, gnawing on a piece of jerky. He'd given it to him, thinking he looked hungry, and they shared a laugh, the two of them, before his mother and their nanny came strolling into the nursery. Him and Danny on the playground, zipping through the metal jungle gym, up and over and around the swinging bars, breathless and pink cheeked as they chased each other around and around and around...
Deep breaths, calm mind.
"Danny, breathe, deep breaths, alright? Focus on breathing and watch our six. You've... healed, but this isn't over yet. Keep your head down but keep watch. Let me-"
They hit another pot hole, jolting the cab and his injured leg. Swearing, Jack took a hard right, nearly fishtailing Suze.
"Danny, you know I won't lie to you, right? Everyone was dead. Dead or already had left. When I f-found you, I thought you were dead too. It broke my heart.I swear to fucking god I don't know how you're still alive. But fuck if I ain't grateful.
Danny fell silent in the seat beside his brother. Everyone was dead. He breathed hard through his nostrils and gripped the leather tight, the leather that was turning red. “I healed?” Danny whispered.
He remembered it now. It came back to him like a punch. in the gut, knocking the air out of him. The sudden falling of stars, the explosions in every corner of the school. He remember he screamed for Jeremy, and then he screamed for Nessie. Then the bleaches tipped over and fell right on top of him, the impact slicing through flesh, through muscle, ‘till his hand was a few feet away from his body and his leg dangled by a thread. He remembered trying to wiggle his fingers and toes but nothing moved.
“Ease up on the gas,” Danny whispered. “I think we’re far enough away and I can’t breathe.”
For a little while they drove like that, Danny entirely silent, attempting to process what had just occurred as they drove into the night. There were no sounds of chase behind them.
“There -- there’s a hospital.” He could see the red cross up head, blazing in the darkness. He stared expectantly at Jack, waiting for him to pull over. Danny stared at the wound on his brother’s leg, thinking about how damn high his pain tolerance must be, when he realized Jack was still staring straight ahead.
“Oh, fuck no.” Danny hissed, reaching over from the passenger seat and yanking the wheel to the left, Suze’s screeching wheels turning into the emergency driveway. The moment they had gotten close enough Danny swung the door open.
At first he almost fell and crumpled to the floor. His right leg felt entirely new, like he’d never walked on it before, and Danny barely saved himself from kissing the pavement by grabbing onto the car door. No time.
“C’mon, asshole.” He hissed in Jack’s direction as he swung the driver’s door open and slung his brother’s arm around his shoulder and tugging him out of Suze, supporting his weight as best as possible as he dragged him into the ER, blood trailing behind them.
“HEY! MY BROTHER NEEDS HELP!” He shouted angrily, and staff rushed to take Jack away from him. That was the part he didn't like.
Nobody liked hospitals. They were sterile halls filled with death and sickness. Nobody came to the hospital for good reasons, except babies. And even babies screamed like hell. Danny hated hospitals for other reasons.
He hated them for he cold nights he had spent at Jack’s bedside, making sure he was there when he woke up. If he was ever going too. Skipped school to come, stayed until visiting hours ended. God forbid his parents show up to see their perfect son unless it was for a segment on the news. A tragedy, their beautiful boy! They had cried. They oozed money for him and flaunted their paycheck as they donated it to every charity imaginable in his name, but they never sat by his side.
Dany hated them with every shred of their being, because it had been only him when Jack had finally woken up. Took them an hour to get there because they were in another county, and with them came a whole team of reporters. Danny had slapped a camera out of one’s hands.
And now, he stood helpless in the lobby of the ER as Jack was thrown onto a gurney and rushed away. A nurse approached him gingerly. “Do you need help as well, sir?”
Coughing into the crook of his arm and trying to slow his breathing, Danny shook his head. “N.. no. It’s… his blood.” The nurse put a hand on Danny’s shoulder, which he instantly yanked away with a snarl. The nurse frowned. “Sir, it’s mandatory with all gunshot wounds we call the police. You may want to sit down. I’ll get you some water.”
He gritted his teeth and made his way to the waiting area, almost stumbling again, struggling with his entirely new leg. “Sir? Are you sure you aren’t hurt?” Called the nurse. “I said I’m fuckin’ fine!” He shouted and sat down, tapping his foot and chewing off his nails.
What if Jack went into a coma again? Could that even happen? Should he tell the nurse he was in the army, that he’d been hurt before? No, fuck that nurse. Jack was strong as shit. But.. the fucking police? His parents would be called, and who were those people who gunned them down? Was it even safe to stay here?
He sunk further into the seat and stared at his ragged tuxedo, laughing hoarsely to himself. What a fucking mess.
"...For the fiftieth time, I'm alright. Jesus Christ, they were only fucking grazes -- What?! Seriously, how long is this going to take, I got shit to do and people t-"
"You're injured, Mr. Caldwell. You were shot. It's mandatory that we-"
Rolling his eyes, Jack Caldwell stood from his hospital bed intent on finding his little brother, kicking his ass, and then finding a way out of town. But instead he wavered on the spot, his sketchy nightgown flapping open, and with a worried frown, plopped back down on the bed. A headrush was one thing, but...
"I said I'm alright." Jack said through his teeth, his bearings falling back into place.
"Very well," The doctor, a man in his late fifties by the look of his salt-n-pepper hair, shook his head and exited the room with a sigh.
Just fucking great.
Alone in the examination room, Jack shoved his face in his hands, nearly rocking back and forth. Whoever they were -- the people back at Cavalier High -- they'd be after them. And where would be the first place they'd look? The hospital. The goddamn hospital.
And where did Danny force them to go? Yeah. The fuckin' hospital. Fuckin' Danny.
Glancing around the room frantically, as if his brother would materialize from thin air, Jack stood and ignored the shake in his muscles and the fog in his head, only to be snagged back by the IV in his arm. Frowning, he reached down and plucked the needle from his vein, wincing slightly as blood trickled into the crook of his arm.
Jumping slightly, Jack glanced up at the nurse who had just walked in and covered his... sensitive bits as she walked closer. "Uhh.."
“I was just coming in to check your pain levels, though, without your IV it seems pretty useless, hm?” The woman continued forward, though the hesitancy in her eyes were telling. “Why don’t you just take a seat and…”
“I’m sorry, I really can’t -- I need to go get my brother and-” Glancing down, he saw his clothes and reached for them, wincing slightly as the bandage around his thigh stretched.
“Sir, I’m going to need you to-ALL MEDICAL PERSONNEL PLEASE REPORT TO THE ER-”
The voice over the intercom caused both of them to jump in fear. Jack recovered faster, however, and by the time the nurse had her wits, he was dressed and slipping on his boots. Ignoring the nurses protest, he raced for the door and peeked his head out. It was pandemonium… Nurses and doctors ran up and down the halls, and from somewhere beyond, Jack could hear a symphony of sirens.
If there was ever a godsend… this was it.
Seizing his chance, Jack dashed out of the room and down the halls until Danny was in sight.
Anxiousness only increasing as the pandemonium in the ER became apparent, Danny pulled himself up over to the front desk once the last nail had been chewed. The nurse was frantic, flipping through papers and being ambushed by calls, but he didn’t seem to care much.
“Was Vanessa Prewitt admitted?” He pressed. “Or Jeremy Whittier?”
The nurse hastily shook her head as she picked up another phone call. Danny’s stomach churned. If he had woken up with half his limbs yanked off, what happened to his friends? Maybe they’d be as lucky as him. Maybe they’d woken up with the same healing powers.. and a big brother pulling ‘em out of the rubble. God, was he thankful.
As he was headed back to his seat Jack appeared out of nowhere. Relief washed over him, especially at how.. normal Jack seemed. Not like he’d just been shot in the leg or anything.
“Right where I left her.” Danny said. pointing his thumb outside. “I tried.. askin’ bout Ness, and my friend Jeremy.. what if those guys got them too? We.. we gotta go.” Danny murmured. He grabbed Jack’s shoulder, just to try and support him, and sped-walk outside the wretched place, glancing around him nervously.
“Gotta stick it out at some motel. Hide out. Do you have any cash? Where are the keys?” Danny felt his breath quickening. “Gimme the keys. I’m driving.”
He was hardly allowed to kick his feet up on dashboard much less drive his brother’s prized possession, but this was obviously an exception. Blood had dried against the seat and on the carpet but they didn’t have much of a choice. Once the keys had been handed over to him, he slid them into the ignition. Danny didn’t have his driver's license yet, but of course, Jack had been showing him the ropes. He had been set up to get his license a few months from now. Too bad.
Pulling Suze out of the lot, Danny and Jack Caldwell cruised into the night, always trying to leave their troubles behind them.
Sitting in the passenger seat of his own truck felt wrong. Or maybe that was the drugs.
Uncomfortable, in more ways than one, Jack alternated between staring out of the window and biting his tongue. Danny drove just a little too fast when he needed to drive slow, and slowed down when he should have sped up... But he was happy, proud even, that his little brother managed to catch on to driving a manual so quickly.
When they were a fair distance away from the hospital, Jack turned to Danny and cleared his throat, pointing towards a coming road sign.
"We should make our way downtown, Danny, and stick to all the main roads. We gotta blend in... Become the shadow." Reaching into the glove department and shuffling through the content, Jack turned back to Danny. "Don't worry about cash, I always keep plenty on me. We should find something to eat as well."
With an uneasy gulp, Danny focused his gaze ahead of him. "A-alright. I figure if we keep to the highways enough we can find a motel when we hit city limits?" His grip tightened on the steering wheel. "Some grub sounds good. You need something in your system. I guess I do too."
"Yeah.. yeah we'll find a place." Distractedly, fighting against the lull of the pain medication they had given him, Jack tossed a few twenties in Danny's direction before totaling things up. "Should probably get some extra for the morning. Wanna lay low for a bit before we move again."
Danny nodded silently, letting out a sigh as he nervously looked at his brother and scoffing at the money he threw his way. "I'm driving, shithead." He muttered. A feeling of worry came over him, and he sucked in a shaky breath. "A-Are you.. alright?"
"Mmm yeah, just tired, a bit woozy. I probably counted wrong, so remind me later... but there's a few thousand here, enough to last us a bit. We shouldn't use our cards, Danny. Cash only. Remember that."
Danny laughed dryly. A few thousand dollars in his damn car. He knew Jack was playing it all off, the situation they were in, the bullet in his damn leg, the money hidden in his glove compartment. "What are we, Jack?" He murmured. "Fugitives? Stowaways? What about mom and dad? What stunts are they gonna pull?"
"At the moment? Survivors. Especially you." Turning his head sharply, he breathed through his nose and glanced out of the passenger window, just as lost and confused. "We're brothers, Danny. Brothers trying to stay alive... As for mom and dad, who knows what the hell they're gunna' do. Oh! Is that a burger joint right there?"
Survivors. Brothers. He was always on the edge of the law but never quite crossing it. He liked to piss people off, liked to break school rules, but that was just school. School meant nothing. This was.. the real world. A real world where he suddenly had superpowers. "A burger does sound fucking good." Danny said, an empty smile plastered on his face as he pulled into the lot.
As Danny pulled up to the drive-thru speaker, Jack leaned over and squinted at the menu. He ordered a bit of everything-- a triple stack bacon supreme for Danny, with a side of large fries and a matching orange fanta. For himself he ordered a handful of double cheeseburgers and a few apple pie pastries. Then a dozen more burgers for later... and a half dozen more pastries.
"Your total is thirty eight dollars and seventy two cents. Please pull up to the second drive through window."
One hand on the wheel and the other on the burger, Danny and Jack cruised through the night, Suze's engines humming along the darkened highway. It was late at night, and it wasn't long before daylight that Danny flipped on the radio just to drown out his thoughts. Because there were so many doubts.. so many worries.
What was he? Some sorta supernatural person? Those were bedtime stories. But fucking hell.. he had seen his hand five feet away from him. His foot was on the gas without a goddamn shoe. He had lost limbs, lost so much blood.. and watched his bones grow back, rebuild themselves. And here he was with his brother in the passenger seat, after having just been shot by.. who?
Who were those people.. why had they wanted him, why had they shot Jack for him? Was it because of these powers? How could they have known so soon? Known even before he had? How.. how many other people had abilities like him? Was this a new thing, was he one of the first people ever to save themselves from death.. or had all those freak stories, the tales in the tabloids.. been.. true.
The sky was already turning light when Danny felt they were sufficiently far enough from Millennium. It was a breath of fresh air to be away from their parent's territory. Unfortunately, this breath of fresh air wasn't very fresh at all.. since they had a whole new bout of worries to think of.
"Hey, Jack." Danny murmured, nudging him awake. Meds must've knocked him out. "Motel one mile out.. I think it's time to regroup, yeah?"
Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Jack stretched as best he could in Suze's small cab, wincing at the throb in the small of his back and the dull ache in his leg. Glancing over at Danny, he stared bleary eyed and confused until finally comprehension dawned. Nodding, rubbing at his eyes once again, Jack motioned towards an oncoming paved shoulder, used to pulling over or turning around. "Might be a bit suspicious, a kiddo drivin', eh? Especially into a motel?
"You should pull over, I'm good to drive now."
Less than thirty minutes later Jack walked out of the lobby of the surprisingly nice motel, hopped into Suze's drivers seat once again and gave his brother a cheeky grin. Everything had been paid for in cash and the sweet old lady behind the desk hadn't even asked for his ID.
A fuckin' miracle, really.
But as thankful as he was, anxiety kept crawling it's way back into his chest. He tried his damnedest to keep it from showing, but Danny had always known him too well regardless. As he shifted the truck into reverse and pulled into the back of the complex, where the rooms were condo-esque and even offered a small, enclosed garage -- perfect for hiding Suze -- he couldn't help but glance periodically down at Danny's leg.
He half expected to see it bloodied again, nothing more than a stump.
How many times had he seen that? A fellow brother-in-arms losing a limb, be it a leg, arm, hand... For what? The honor of a country who didn't honor them? Jack closed his eyes briefly, shifting into neutral as he pulled into the garage and put it in park. In his mind's eye he couldn't stop seeing severed limbs, bloodied stumps, gunshot wounds...
Stop it. He needs you more than you need to fret over this.
"C'mon buddy, let's get inside."
They had cash. Nearly three and a half thousand, thanks to Jack's obsessive stashing of fifties.
They had food. Not enough, of course, but enough to last them a few days without having to leave the motel room.
And they had each other.
But there was something eating away inside him and biting the bullet, not for the first time that night, Jack finally asked. "Danny, what the hell happened at that school...?"
Jack sat cross-legged on a bed opposite Danny, a few of those reheated, greasy cheeseburgers sitting on a table tray untouched in front of him.
"I mean... Are you okay? I mean... Y-you look okay, ya know, but I- What the hell happened last night?"
The first thing he did getting into the room was hop into the shower. The water pressure was kinda shit but frankly, it didn’t matter to him much. He would’ve stayed in there hours, scrubbing at his skin even after all the dried blood was gone, marveling at the fact that there was no hair on his presumably new leg. He searched the smooth flesh for any of his tell tale scars - the cut he had earned in third grade after climbing highest on the biggest tree.. none of the awry scraped or bruises.
He threw on the new black hoodie and jeans that Jack had picked up on the way out of Millennium. He flopped on the bed that would be claimed for his own and shook water out from his ears, stretching out the fingers on his new hand as he avoided Jack’s gaze.
“I don’t know. I swear to god I don’t know.” Danny muttered, swallowing uneasily, the horrifying images coming back to him. “I-I.. I was behind the bleachers.. and there were screams, and they just.. fell.”
He held out his arm to Jack, scrunching up the sleeve of the hoodie. “No scars… no hair. You saw it Jack, didn’t you? You saw that I was.. I was a bloody fucking stump. I watched the bone grow back. It’s not possible. It can’t be possible.” He didn’t want to believe it.. or did he?
Did he want a new chapter in life, a reason to be someone or explore something? His whole life had been about his parents, about some stupid act of rebellion, but at the end of the day he was barely passing his class. Barely going to graduate. He had no dreams, no aspirations, no skills.
Maybe this meant something. Because if it didn’t, he was still on the same path to nowhere.