Just a very short update, to get back into the swing of it. It was the only way this was ever going to be continued, because this section has been written and deleted at least thirteen times already. So I've got this out just to set up the next bit and hopefully unblock myself. Apologies for it taking so long!
Summary: There's some thinking to be done
Disclaimer: Do not own Jack and Tony, no money made, blah blah
Chapter I,Chapter II,Chapter III,Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VI, Chapter VII Chapter VIII
* * * * *
He wondered how Jack stood this. Lying on his back, staring at the stars, Tony just wanted to move. There was sand in his hair and he could feel it sticking to his elbows as they rested on either side of his body, his fingers interlocked over his stomach. It was dry and loose under the soles of his feet as they lay flat to the ground, but still, the idea of this stuff being all over him when he stood up made his skin crawl.
He didn’t move though. Tony hated clichés but was forced to admit that, once again, he was in the middle of one. It really was possible to be numb, feel empty, have nothing inside. He’d learned it a long time ago, a few hours after discovering that Nina had betrayed them all. Not straight away. But afterwards, yes, when work was finally over and he was told to go home, when Jack had been sedated and was in the clinic, sleeping his way through grief…then there was nothing left. He’d gone home and taken a shower and stared at nothing, felt nothing, thought nothing, until his body took over and he woke up twelve hours later. To nothing.
It wasn’t the last time he had felt it. In the years that followed it had happened again and again, through injury and fear and Michelle and then, of course, prison. He’d learned that he couldn’t have the luxury of being numb in that place though, because if you were caught unawares then you’d be made to pay. If you tried to detach, you were brought back with more brutality than ever. You had to stay with it. And maybe that was why, when he’d got out, he couldn’t stop feeling cold. He’d felt himself withdrawing as he’d walked through the prison towards supposed freedom and by the time he stepped outside the gates, sweat was chilling all over his body. He’d forced a smile for Michelle but he barely felt her body as she embraced him. And as he discovered soon enough - day after day after day, there was no waking up from it. Every day became exactly the same and they were all as meaningless as each other.
Until eventually, there was a spark of emotion and it got nurtured by his wife, and Jack, and he was brought back to the land of the living. And then Jack had ‘died’ and…well, he wasn’t so numb anymore. Quite the opposite actually, because after that, he knew that he wanted to see him again, and more often, and couldn’t stand the thought of him being set adrift in the world. He’d made the decision to hang on.
Why are you trying to cut me loose Jack?
And now…it was back, that familiar feeling that he couldn’t bring himself to hate, simply because there wasn’t enough in him to allow that much feeling. He stared at the sky, listened to the sea as waves broke again and again and again, and wondered if there would ever be a time when he could just feel like normal people did. He thought he’d managed to get there, and hold it, and keep it, so many times – and he always ended up right back here again. Never before because of Jack though. It was a hurt he’d never prepared himself for and he wondered if there was any way back. Or whether this had undone all the work of the last two years and put him right back where he started.
Tony lay in the sand, hating it and wanting to be free. For the first time in a long time, he seriously considered whether that meant getting up now and walking away. And simply never coming back.
* * * * *
Anyone looking would think he’d fallen asleep. The tears had stopped, he hadn’t shed many. His body simply wouldn’t allow it, it was too tense, too full of everything else. One tear too many and the whole thing might unravel and he couldn’t afford that. He couldn’t allow himself to be picked up by someone else because he’d just fall again when they went away.
So he sat, locked in that same posture, arms wound tightly around his legs and head rested on his knees, eyes closed. The waves were as rhythmic as ever and he tried to breathe as they hit the shore, borrowing their rhythm to support himself even though his lungs were squashed under the force of his own grip.
His mind was empty, even though he tried to get it to focus. He’d been in this situation before though, where things were just too much to process all at once. Many times in fact, usually while at work. Then, he’d always got on with the next desperate task, pushed everything aside and carried on with things, leaving all the emotions to be dealt with later. He’d always paid the price for that at the end of the day but it was the only way to keep going. Like the time he thought Kim was dead, or the time he’d watched those guards die in the prison because he’d ordered the prisoners loose or the time he’d been willing to sacrifice Kate for the microchip. The time he’d let Paul die in front of his wife, to keep a criminal alive.
Here though, there was nothing to do. Nothing he could do. There wasn’t anything to latch on to that could divert from how much this hurt, no way to push his attention elsewhere. The only hope he had was to keep sitting like this, legs cramping and back aching, hands going numb from the pressure of locking together because the alternative was focusing on Tony and what he must be going through right now. Or the other one…to let his mind go back to Colombia and that bed with its sheets stained with blood and sweat and the smell of sex in the air that he could never seem to get away from, no matter how long he left the window open for. His thoughts kept getting interrupted by the deep chuckle in his ear, the voice that told him he was nothing but a fucktoy and the realisation, on some nights, that that was true and he was failing at his mission because the only way to deal with it was to use heroin to take him away from it and let him function at all.
Will I be forgiven for the things I’ve done?
He wondered about that too, some nights, when he sat out on the broken-down back porch and pulled at a beer because it was better than giving in to the lure of the whiskey. It crossed his mind now, out of nowhere, and it didn’t surprise him. Because this was almost as bad as some of the other things he’d done. Another person hurt by him and the choices he’d made.
Almost as bad? Worse. Because it was this person.
And as he sat there, thinking of nothing and concentrating on the sweat running down his neck, making the thin and paint-stained T-shirt stick to his back, it occurred to him that unlike all those other times, maybe he didn’t have to worry about forgiveness at the end of it all. Maybe he had to think about forgiveness now. And there was only one person that could give it to him.
His eyes remained closed. It meant…doing something he didn’t want to do. But ultimately, it might be worth it for the good it would do.