|Thick Smoke Rising - Lost - Boone/Daniel
||[Jul. 19th, 2008|01:44 pm]
where the daydreams reign
Title: Thick Smoke Rising
Word Count: 3950
A/N: Queen halfdutch requested Boone fic on her day and said that Boone/Daniel would make her laugh. I doubt if this is too laugh-worthy, but I had fun writing it – though I've probably twisted and mangled their time-lines almost out of recognition! Using for writing_rainbow's "Corpse" prompt.
Summary: "He can try to hide his curiosity behind the guise of needing to know for the wedding, but it's nothing to do with that: it's something stranger. Something he can't put his finger on."
His first wedding alone – he's nervous and giddy. Working in New York as a goddamn wedding planner isn't how he plans on spending his life – he wants to do something bigger: he wants to make a difference – but if he works hard now, if he keeps his head down, if he does this right… Well, maybe he'll get somewhere. Maybe he'll impress the right someone.
The bride-to-be sits opposite him on the veranda, a delicate coffee table separating them. He sips tea – never really drank it, never really liked it, but he'll take what he's offered – and listens to her as she giddily talks about her plans for the wedding: it's up to him to make this happen. He will. He can. He won't let his mother regret giving him this first step into her company. He'll make her proud, make them all proud.
He can just imagine what Shannon would say if she could see him now, but it hardly matters.
His attention is caught, captivated, when he sees a pair walking at the far side of the garden, beyond the swimming pool. The woman leads the man carefully, watching out for him, tending to him – but the male isn't elderly or senile. He's older than Boone, sure, but not that much. He frowns.
"Who's that?" he asks, though maybe he shouldn't. He can try to hide his curiosity behind the guise of needing to know for the wedding, but it's nothing to do with that: it's something stranger. Something he can't put his finger on. "That guy over there?"
Rebecca looks over her shoulder to the man and woman that Boone gestures towards. "Him?" Rebecca says. She purses her lips unhappily then shakes her head. "You don't have to worry about him."
Boone tries not to let his surprise register: his mother had always told him that his face was so expressive. Too expressive. Now his eyes trail the stranger on the other side of the garden: dressed in smart disarray, something feels wrong about him. He moves like his mind isn't there with his body – trapped elsewhere. Another land.
Rebecca sighs: his attention won't be so easily dismissed. "It's my brother," she says, "Daniel. Just ignore him, please. He doesn't like it when people stare."
"Oh," Boone murmurs. "Who's that with him?"
"His caretaker." She says it bluntly, staring into his eyes without flinching. Feels like some kind of challenge: Boone gets the creeping feeling that if this is a test he's failing miserably. "He had an accident at work a few years ago. Hasn't been capable of looking after himself since."
Boone's gaze flicks back to Daniel: he isn't talking to the woman with him, though she happily chats to him. Her hand lingers by his shoulder, guiding him as they walk. Careful. Watchful.
Questions linger on the tip of his tongue but he can feel that awkward tension in the air. He grabs his notepad and pen from the tabletop. "And will they be in attendance at the wedding?" he asks with a smile – all business again. Wrap that curiosity away.
Rebecca smiles too, shaky but sunny. "Of course he's coming," she says. "He's my brother."
Boone thinks of Shannon and the smile becomes more real as he writes down a few sentences: no matter what happened to her, how much she changed, how she acted… On his big day, she'd better be there for him. His bratty little step-sister. He looked up at Daniel again; planning this wedding, he could only hope they'd run into each other once more – properly this time.
The curiosity that burned needed to be soothed.
Weeks later – at a cake-tasting – Daniel turns up again: really turns up, really does, doesn't just make a flashing cameo. Boone's seen him here and there in the turmoil of getting this epic event organised, but never for long. Now as he enters the kitchen, clipboard in hand, he finds Daniel and his carer lingering by Rebecca's side.
"You don't mind, do you?" Rebecca asks, rubbing her forehead nervously. "I thought he'd like it?"
Boone finds it harder than he'd thought he would to keep himself from staring at Daniel: he's possessed by the urge to stare and study as if sight alone will give him the insight he's searching for. He looks down at the cake samples on the table instead and offers a smile and a shrug. "I don't mind at all. Who doesn't like cake?"
They spend time tasting flavours, licking icing, giggling like school-kids – and, yeah, as jobs go this is pretty cool – but Daniel doesn't make a sound the entire time. Not a word, not a laugh, even his breathing seems quiet. If it wasn't for the faintest hint of a smile that sometimes tugs at the side of his mouth, Boone would have started to wonder if he was really there at all.
He is – but not for long. "I should take Daniel back to his room," his carer says, placing a hand on his shoulder. Daniel looks up at her: it's almost in slow-motion. "It's been a long day."
Boone glances to the clock. It's barely mid-afternoon. He bites his tongue and just waves when they walk away again; doesn't ask if Daniel wants to stay a little bit longer. Wouldn't make a difference if he did, he supposes. Daniel wouldn't answer.
"I hope you don't mind me asking," he says cautiously when the doors close behind the pair, "but what is it that…" He trails off and doesn't know how to finish.
Rebecca looks up at him, fiddling with the crumbs of the cake. "What happened to him?" she finishes for him. He struggles not to wince as he hears the sad, lonely sound of her voice. "I don't know. Nobody does. He went off to work one morning, completely fine, and didn't come home: they found him in his office, sitting at his desk. All the rats were dead and he just… He hasn't spoken since."
"Yeah. My little brother – one of the greatest minds of our time. Or he would've been. Should've been." She pings a finger at one of the crumbs and watches it ping across the table, soaring through the air. "I keep hoping that one day he'll be himself again…"
"How long's it been?"
"Not long, I suppose. A few months. Feels like forever: I just want him back." She sighs and reaches for another fork to take a bite from one of the last remaining cakes: luscious, oozing chocolate. Probably unsuitable for a wedding, but it makes her close her eyes and moan. "This one," she says around a mouthful of chocolate. "Definitely, definitely this one."
Boone grins and takes a note, nodding to the nervous cake-maker standing nearby. That's one easy decision taken care of: he wishes that they could all be so simple.
The day he walks into the kitchen and finds Daniel sitting there alone – no Rebecca and no carer in sight – is exhilarating enough to make his heart race irrationally. Boone swallows and looks around the room. Empty. There's a plate full of food in front of Daniel, untouched. The cutlery is spotless.
Boone frowns and moves forward, moves towards him like there's something drawing him in. He'd talked to Shannon on the phone yesterday – a rare event: she's always so busy – and had apparently mentioned Daniel a few times too many. You're such a freak, Boone, Shannon had said. This is kind of scraping the barrel even for you, isn't it?
It's not about that, Boone thinks as he notices a wet, sparkling line down Daniel's cheek. He just wants to help him – however he can.
"Are you okay?" he asks. Those glittering lines are tears. Crying. The poor bastard's been left alone, abandoned, with tear tracks down his face. He doesn't look up at Boone when he takes a seat beside him: his gaze vanishes into the distance, locked elsewhere. "Daniel? Why're you crying?"
Left alone, taken for granted, treated as nuisance… Is it really any wonder he cries? Boone reaches out for him, takes his hand in an attempt to force a connection that would ground them, and—
Daniel looks at him, eyes bright and attentive instead of hidden behind clouds. Boone's breath freezes and stutters in his chest: he grips onto Daniel's hand tightly, unwilling and unable to let go.
"Boone?" Daniel asks, his voice slow and croaking as if he's breaking out of a deep sleep. "Boone Carlyle? How are – we, uh – what's…." He looks around the room, gathering in the details. "Are we in my sister's house?" he asks eventually. Boone's mouth is dry: he nods. Daniel seems to pale in front of him. "Oh. Oh. This really isn't good. Really…"
"What are you saying?" Boone asks after clearing his throat. "Daniel?"
"I'm, uh, I'm not supposed to be here. Supposed to be now."
Boone feels like shaking him, like there's a time limit and Daniel's wasting it, like Daniel's still hiding behind a screen. "I don't understand."
Daniel looks forwards him – his eyes are startlingly alive – and he gives a quirked smile. "I know. I'm really – sorry. I'm trying."
"What happened to you?" Boone asks in a rush. He should be yelling for help, for someone to come and check that Daniel's really alright. "Just tell me what happened to you."
Dead rats; not speaking for months. It doesn't add up.
"I can't." Daniel looks away again and stares at his cold dinner. Every movement he makes is filled with fidgeting anxiety. "I just… I can't." He's slowing down again: disappearing. Another tears spills, thick and heavy down his face.
"Daniel?" Boone says, tugging sharply at his hand. "Daniel, say something. Daniel."
Nothing. Nothing. Fucking nothing.
He lets go of Daniel's hand and watches him return it to rest on the table-top in steady slow-motion. Zombified. "Fantastic," Boone grumbles. He'd thought…
He sighs at himself. God knows what he'd thought.
He sits with Daniel for the short time that passes before his carer reappears. "He talked to me," he says – words bounding forth in an excited rush as he stands from his chair like a schoolboy when the headmaster enters the room. "A moment ago. He looked at me, knew where he was, who I was…"
The woman looks at Daniel where he is sitting numb and non-responsive. "That can't be right," she says. Her hand brushes over his face, ridding him of the wet tear tracks. "Daniel, can you hear me? Can you talk, Daniel? Daniel."
No response. He doesn't even blink.
"I swear," Boone insists, fighting with the pointless resentment in his chest, "he was talking to me."
The carer looks up at him: despite her warm, kindly face her eyes are cold and cutting. "That can't be possible, Mr Carlyle. You must have made a mistake. Misheard, maybe. Daniel can't talk to anyone."
He talked to me, Boone thinks. He has to force himself to look down and shrug. Until he can work out why, he doesn't think that he wants anyone to know. Not any more. "Yeah, you're probably right."
The woman places a hand on Daniel's shoulder: it looks too tight and Boone has to stop himself from scolding her for it. It's hard to remind himself that he has no connection to this man: they're strangers, really.
"If you're looking for Rebecca, she's in the front room."
"Right." Boone nods a lot – can't stop – and takes a hesitant step towards the door. "I think his food's cold," he says, looking over his shoulder. "Just so you know."
Her eyes are like steel knives by now. "Thank you," she grits out. He wonders if she's ever said those two words to anyone before – but he doesn't dare to ask.
His phone rings that evening at seven o'clock exactly and he knows who it is before he crosses the room to answer it. "Hey, Mom."
"Hello, Boone," she says. She sounds rushed off her feet and busy, as always, and in the background he can hear the television grumbling: his step-father must be there. "Thought I'd better phone to see how things are going."
"They're fine. Great."
"And the wedding?" she asks. She doesn't even attempt to hide her nosiness. "How's that coming along?"
"You don't need to check up on me," Boone says – though he knows it's a lost cause. She's never going to trust him with something this important. "It's going really well. I think Rebecca's going to be happy with it."
"Of course she will be – it's her wedding day. She has to be." Sabrina laughs: her mingling, fake, business-like laugh. "But you're enjoying yourself?"
Thinking of Daniel and all the mysteries there, Boone smiles. "I am. I really am."
"Excellent." She sounds proud of him. He holds onto that emotion, keeps it recorded and locked in his mind. "Well, we'll see how it goes then."
If this wedding runs smoothly, he might find himself bumped up the rungs of the company in no time at all. Boone smirks as he lies down on his couch. His socked feet sit on the arm-rest. "Is Shannon there?" he asks. He wants to talk to her about the breakthrough with Daniel today.
"She's out," his mother answers. "Some dance class or other. You know what she's like."
"She's really good, Mom," Boone insists – but this is another lost cause. "You should have more faith in her."
Never going to happen, he knows.
Not a million years.
He waits until he knows that Daniel's carer is asleep before he visits him again. He shouldn't even be in the house this late: Rebecca had given him a key – too trusting, way too trusting – so that he could easily get things set up for this weekend. This weekend… It's hard to believe that the weeks have flown past so quickly. His first wedding is close to being pulled off.
Daniel is lying on his back, eyes closed, when Boone enters. The room is dark and dusky: though he checks, there is no lock on the door. No privacy. He'll have to make sure he's quiet. Explaining to anyone who comes to investigate the noise why he's here, why he's with Daniel would just be too hard.
In all honesty he can't say that he himself knows why he's here – he only knows that Daniel has preyed on his mind since the second he first saw him in his trance-like silence. It's something that has only increased in intensity since Daniel broke that silence for him. Just him. Just once.
"Dan?" Boone whispers. He sits down at the side of the bed but Daniel doesn't stir.
And that's okay, Boone reminds himself. That's what he'd expected: no response to verbal input.
He looks down at Daniel's hand, sitting still and corpse-like on the bedspread. Clears his throat, prepares himself, waggles his fingers – and grabs onto Daniel's hand. He holds on tight, so tight. Daniel's fingers are freezing but his palm is hot.
The life doesn't snap back onto Daniel's face this time. He doesn't blink and look around in confusion, doesn't start muttering in strange, disjointed sentences. With a touch of his hand, Boone had hoped to reawaken him.
He shakes it – just for good measure. Doesn't do much good.
"Damn it, Dan," he mutters. He'd been starting to let his daydreams to take him to beyond-ridiculous places: he'd been imagining that he could get Daniel back to normal, give Rebecca her little brother back in time for the wedding and be a real hero for once. Should've known better, he tells himself. The real world doesn't like it.
He lets go of Daniel's hand and softly brushes the hair from his forehead. Our very own sleeping beauty, he thinks, refusing to be wakened by a…
His thoughts stall and his fingers freeze in place. That wouldn't work, would it? He couldn't do that, right?
He looks down to Daniel's lips: dry and cracked. Buried in his subconscious he wonders if Daniel has ever been kissed even before the accident. A reclusive Cambridge professor… Someone like that – someone smart, someone bright, someone who didn't need their Mommy's purse to survive – couldn't have had the rampant social life that both Boone and Shannon had indulged in.
"You're losing it," he murmurs to himself – but he leans down anyway, lips to lips. Near-parallel lines barely touching: he can feel Daniel's breath hot on his lower lip. His hand rests at the side of Daniel's pillow, close to his head. If this doesn't work then he really doesn't have a plan B.
He feels it, though, the exact moment that Daniel's breathing hitches, changes. He'll have opened his eyes by now; he'll be wondering what's going on and where he is. That should be Boone's hint to sit up. It's done the job – Daniel is himself again – but he can't make himself stop.
His hand moves, scared and nervous, and the edge of his knuckles brush over Daniel's clean-shaven jaw. Feels unreal, this all feels so unreal – and it takes another large step into unreality when he feels Daniel surge against him: closer, closer, seeking any inch of contact. Their lips spill open, wet and welcoming.
He isn't thinking any more and he doubts that Daniel is either as his wriggling fingers struggle to find the hem of Boone's shirt but he makes himself stop for a moment. He catches Daniel's wrist – his hand fits snugly around it: it's been a long while since he's been with a man physically smaller than him – and listens to him whine. "Daniel," he asks, words gasped under his breath. "It's you, right? Really you, not…"
Not the empty corpse that took the place of the man in this bed most of the time.
Daniel pauses, frowns. His wrist doesn't struggle in Boone's grip, as if he's perfectly content to just let Boone own it. "I- I think so? It's, uh, it's pretty complicated, but – well – we think we've got it sorted now. Probably."
"Yeah. Me and – some people. People I can't talk about."
"Sounds mysterious. Why?"
"'cause I'm kinda supposed to forget them. I will, eventually. Or, well, I should. I should or we're…" He laughs a little but he doesn't sound amused. "We're pretty much in trouble if I still remember everything in the morning. All that… All that – um – knowledge, I guess. I shouldn't have it yet. So just… Keep me distracted tonight. That's- Yeah. That's for the best."
Boone looks down at him, silently stunned in the room's shadowy light. He'd hoped his curiosity would be soothed once Daniel had recovered – but it isn't. Not at all. "Where have you been?" he asks.
Daniel shakes his head. "It doesn't work like that. Not, well, not exactly." He frowns when he notices that this isn't going to be enough to satisfy Boone – he hooks a hand at the back of Boone's neck and kisses him again. As a distraction, it works pretty damn well. Boone had been wrong – this isn't a first kiss. Daniel's isn't nearly as sweet or as innocent as he'd thought. Maybe nerds had more of a life than he'd realised. Maybe there's a boyfriend lurking in Daniel's past that taught him how to kiss dirty.
He fights back an irrational flare of jealousy at that thought as Daniel pulls him onto the bed, over him, and it's all he can do to breathe. Out of his depth, confused, lost, Boone gasps against Daniel's mouth – "You're going to tell me everything, okay? Later."
Daniel laughs silently through his nose as his lips brush over the soft pulse-point in Boone's neck. He nuzzles against his skin, nose cold and startling. "No," he breathes, "I'm really not."
Too late to argue, though. Smothered in this room, all rational thought fades and finally dies at the touch of Daniel's hands finally on his bare skin.
Daniel never does tell him the full story: Boone needs to creep out of the house before the sun rises so that they won't be discovered. He leaves Daniel dozing on the bed and gets an excited, giddy report from Rebecca later that afternoon about the miracle that's brought her brother back to her. It's hard to stay silent about his part in it. He doesn't see Daniel again until Saturday when he corners him at the open bar of the reception.
Daniel's sitting with an untouched drink in front of him: a soda and nothing stronger Boone would guess. His carer is distracted, talking to the best man at a nearby table, but her mere presence nearby is enough to unsettle Boone. "Hey, Dan," he says when he reaches his side. He's never been too good at the morning-after scenario. It should be awkward – but the slow, confused way that Daniel looks up at him is so much worse. "Is everything okay?"
Daniel blinks and looks down at his drink. "I… I think so," he says. He speaks like he's trapped in his own separate time bubble. It's a long step from the way he'd spoken nights ago, fast and giddy.
No, no, no, no, no.
"Yeah." Daniel nods steadily. "That's me. I think that's me."
It's not him, not really him at all. Boone feels caught in blind horror – and he's cemented to the spot when Rebecca appears, slipping her arm over her brother's shoulders. Dressed in the lavish white dress that Boone had helped her to find, she looks beautiful. She kisses the top of Daniel's head. "Isn't it amazing?" she says. "He's talking again!"
"Yeah…" He needs to conjure up some more enthusiasm. "That's really fantastic."
"It's like some kind of miracle!" she burbles. Both arms move around Daniel so that she can squeeze him tightly. He smiles and half-glances back at her before his attention falls back to the counter and his untouched drink. "This is the best wedding ever, Boone! Thank you so much!"
He tries to smile: he's supposed to feel good about this. The ceremony had gone smoothly and everyone is enjoying themselves. This is an achievement – watching Daniel, however, it feels hollow.
"Thank you," Daniel mumbles too, trapped half-way between his silent state and his true one.
Maybe he'll get better, Boone tells himself – because he can still remember everything from the night they'd spent together. It had been a long time since he'd felt anything that intense. Thinking back to it now – slow and shadowy, shiver-inducing – he can't believe that Daniel's lapsed back to this. Not quite stage one, but it's depressingly close enough.
"You're welcome," he says to both of them. He can stick around, he reminds himself. He's not going anywhere fast, sticking in New York for a long while yet.
He can wait – and he will. When Daniel is fully back to being himself again Boone will be there, arched eyebrow demanding answers.
But it doesn't work out like that, does it? For Boone, these things never do. One week later he is on a plane to a funeral, running late. There's a numb, tingling feeling all over him – he can feel his future shifting and changing around him – but he has to pull himself together.
Shannon, think of Shannon. She needs him right now. Adam is gone: Boone needs to be her big brother now, needs to offer her a shoulder to cry on, needs to be a pillar of strength. By comparison, his own wants – his own needs – pale dramatically. He closes his eyes and breathes the plane's stale air: he's got to forget about Daniel and rearrange his priorities so that Shannon ends up on top.
He tells himself as the plane whistles through the air that he's not missing out on a thing.