It was raining. Bernadette didn't care for the rain. Coober Pedy, in all its harsh, unforgiving backwardness, had been reduced in a matter of minutes to a spit of red slop in the middle of the outback - the downpour hammering at the windows, having come on suddenly. The entire evening had been sudden; a sudden attack on her mind and senses, between the antics of Felicia - the younger queen lay in a snivelling heap in the bed beside her own, - and the imminent culture shock (Sydney had its downsides, but was still very...liberal; Broken Hill had been a little worse, but at least they'd been moderately civilised - at least they'd pretended not to hate them; Coober Pedy...as Bob had said, the lot of them were down a hole blowing shit up from first thing in the morning to last thing at night, and it showed. In their intolerance and their violence, dear god it showed.)
Tick, in his anger, had trudged back to the bus with the intention of sleeping there, alongside Bob; as he'd said, he simply couldn't stand the sight of Adam at that moment. Really, he had every right to be angry. The stupid little bastard had snorted Colombia off of the map judging by the size of his pupils; only to strut out, dolled up to the nines and acting like a bitch in heat, and...well, the rest was history, wasn't it?
This had left her to deal with Adam by herself, initially to her unending chagrin - coaxing him into the shower; wiping away his makeup; investigating the state of his face, and confirming that she was quite sure he hadn't broken anything; trying her level best to comfort him...it had introduced her to a side of him that existed beneath the fieriness and campiness and annoying little habits; someone scared, and clueless, and unsure of what exactly he had gotten himself into. Someone who reminded Bernadette a lot of a person she had used to know.
A person by name of Ralph, to be precise.
She remembered the days when that name had still been hers- she couldn't have been much older than seventeen or eighteen; and the night had been much like this one. She'd stumbled out into a foreign place dressed up like sex on legs, and then had to deal with the consequences much as Adam was doing now. After that had happened, she got smarter; if she could avoid it, she went nowhere in drag, and during the early stages of her transition, nowhere alone either. She kept her head down, and her mouth shut, and her keys like knuckledusters between her clenched fingers. That night in Sydney had been a freak accident - brought about by her forgetting her rules, and dropping her guard...and of course by the dickhead who had actually beaten her up.
Felicia had told her he was going to sleep, but in spite of his attempts at hushing himself, she could hear him crying regardless. Bernadette had practically thrown herself down onto her bed - still in the same outfit as she had worn to dinner, her makeup smudged and hair in disarray. The sound of the rain, which once upon a time had signalled a calm in the chaos for her, now only made her anxious. It had connotations; fourteen years on, and she still wasn't quite able to let the past go. It was hard - she wanted to purge herself of the memory entirely, but that would never happen. She still saw him in dreams on occasion; waking up with her pyjamas sticking to her with a cold sweat - often terrified; sure that she was back where she had started, soaked and suffering in the gutter.
The injuries had been cataclysmic, and the recovery period awful; she'd had her collarbone broken in two places; her jaw in three. Four cracked ribs; one fractured, and a collapsed right lung. She'd had a crack in her skull running from her temple to her crown, and an enormous concussion to boot; twelve stitches and eight staples in her head and face. Ah fuck, her face had been in such a state that she'd scarcely been able to stand the appearance of her own reflection until she'd gotten her nose job about two months later; she'd needed seven teeth capped; and six screws in her clavicle. She has planned to retire completely after that incident; she'd handed in her notice to Les Girls, but within about a year she'd gotten bored of not doing anything, with herself, and she itched to perform again - even if not quite in the same extreme way as before. Eventually, after a stream of shitty dive bars and such, she had stumbled upon the Imperial, and thus upon Tick, - recently having left this wife he spoke of if her calculations were right - and later Adam. Truthfully, if what had happened hadn't actually happened, she wouldn't be where she was, but she didn't know that this was a good thing.
She felt her stomach twist with guilt as she stared at Adam lying beneath the covers; a trembling, whimpering heap. After these things happen, it is usually so that there's little else to do but cry. You cry for a lot of things - the pain; self-pity; anger; sorrow; worry (because face it, when your career lies in performance, having a presentable face is important) - it was just unavoidable. If only she had made him come with her and Tick; if only she'd gotten there sooner; if only she had stopped Tick from being so harsh on him. The 'if onlys' were flying around again, and she cringed.
But then again, what if she hadn't noticed him running past? What if she hadn't arrived when she had? While it felt bad to sit and watch him cry, the crux of the matter was that if she hadn't done what she had done when she'd done it, they wouldn't have him reasonably in once piece in the safety of the hotel room behind a locked door; they'd only have found his corpse in that junkyard the next morning.
"Bernadette?" The pile of blankets adjacent to her own bed spoke; a weak, tear-thickened whinge. She rolled her eyes; taking out her earrings and abandoning them on the nightstand. He grew impatient waiting for the answer that never came, and spoke again - sharper, and more insistent. "Bernadette?"
"Go to sleep, Adam," she groaned, pulling her shirt over her head and throwing it into the corner of the room in a ball; she'd deal with that later, but night now she wanted sleep. Only problem being Adam barring her from it.
"Go to fucking sleep! After almost getting yourself spread against a garage door an hour ago, I've not got all that much patience for you."
"Bernadette, please," he still hasn't shown himself; still hunched under the duvet like a child.
"Okay, fine. What is it?"
"Thank you," he sniffled; still hiding from her. He had experienced the full force of her anger before, but he'd dealt with it snarkily and without much seriousness or taking it to heart. But tonight was different. He had no real business sassing her when she'd literally just saved his life.
"What was I supposed to do? Stand there and watch that boozed-up lump of testosterone castrate you? It's basic human decency, Adam - don't bother thanking me," she sighed, kicking her shoes off.
"No buts. Sleep. You need it," she shot him a look; his head was sticking out from beneath the pile of sheets like a tortoise, his lip swollen and jaw bruising already. His eyes were puffy and bloodshot; face damp. The feeling that came over her was almost maternal - even although he had been giving her hell for everything he could possibly give her hell for for the last week and a half, she felt for him. Maybe it was a sense of knowing what he was experiencing; the conflicting feelings, and the hurt. Maybe it was just her own projecting; trying to give him the help that she'd never gotten - even if that meant it was given in her tough-love, brusque manner. She didn't know. But whatever it was, it was there regardless of whether she understood it or not, and she couldn't shake it. She gave a weak smile, pulling back the duvet from her own bed and climbing in, still donning little else but her trousers and bra. She had pyjamas with her - they'd lugged their cases out of the bus - but no part of her could be arsed digging them out. She wanted sleep - she wanted this nightmare of a day to be over - and she wanted it now. "Trust me; you'll thank me for it later. Let's just put what happened today to bed for the rest of the night - let you sober up. Get your head straight. You can deal with the consequences in the morning." Adam made a soft noise of acknowledgement; Bernadette laying down with her hands behind her head, letting out a heavy sigh. There was a scar to her shoulder - old enough to have faded, but still so long and deep that it was visible quite clearly nonetheless; a raised white line scoring the centre of her collarbone. She was more than a touch self-conscious about this; just another insecurity for her to worry about - something else for people to ask her irritating questions on, and to bother her when she looked in the mirror. At least it wasn't on her face. But counting one's blessings only goes so far, and the fact of the matter was that she detested it.
Ah well. You live and learn. Adam's breathing had grown less shallow and sporadic; she was wont to assume that he was now asleep. Thank heavens for that. However, sleep wasn't coming to her, and that was annoying her. She was too antsy; somewhat in shock regarding the evening's events, and struggling a little to cope as the memories resurfaced in waves of that hideous night in August fourteen years ago. There was diazepam on Priscilla, but she wasn't about to get up to go and get it; Tick would ask for context, and Bob - oh dear god, Bob...there was no part of her willing to admit anything to either of them. Tick knew a few sketchy details from drunken conversations at stupid o'clock in the morning years ago - or at least he'd been told them; whether or not he remembered anything was another matter entirely. But Bob was aware of next-to nothing; having met him a mere few days ago, her fondness for him was overwhelming, and the last thing that he needed after the abysmal last forty-eight hours was her emotional baggage.
She squirmed around in an attempt at getting comfortable; alongside the horrendous decor and barely-functional bathroom, the beds in that place were fucking awful. They'd have been better off staying on the road, on all counts. Then Adam wouldn't be shaken up and swollen-faced, and Tick wouldn't be fuming at him; Bob's relationship with his mates wouldn't be in pieces; and Bernadette would have been able to get a decent night of sleep, both because her bed on Priscilla was a hell of a lot more comfortable than this thing, and because the rancid memories of that night outside of the club that had been home to Les Girls wouldn't have resurfaced.
She was still very...nervy, for want of another word, after that whole incident, loathe as she was to confess to it. Mind you, a week in the hospital, and a laundry list of broken bones was enough to do that to anybody. She lay there, staring at the ceiling, just wondering what part of her the balls (if you'll pardon the pun) to do what she had done earlier had come from. She didn't like to overthink things - overthinking was impractical; all it did was make you weep for the past and fear for the future - but she was stuck.
She worried a lot. A lot about strangers, for one; about what conducting herself wrongly around other people could do, or about letting her guard drop. But a lot about herself; she had never used to be this way that she was; uneasy, and snarky, and bitchy, and...Bernadette. It had all been a knock-on effect from that one night. And the worrying thing was that she had started to notice it rub off on others; as Tick had lost his shit with Adam earlier, all she could think was that she saw herself in him, and not in a good way. Knowing her had changed him; she was unwilling to admit it, but it was the god-honest truth. Once upon a time he had been a lot more mellow; whilst exceptional circumstances surrounding this wife he had stashed away out in the sticks had something to do with it, that sort of outburst would have never been seen from the Antony Belrose she had met seven years ago. That worried her. It also made her kick herself in frustration and anger; it was all her. She let her negativity brush off onto other people, and it wasn't pleasant...
She was desperate to shut her brain up, and go to fucking sleep. But that wasn't happening. She was at least ninety percent sure that it was the rain's fault.
She really didn't like the rain.
A sleepless night in Coober Pedy had put Bernadette in a stinker of a mood the following day; but on the plus side, thanks to his jaw, Adam had been rendered basically mute. It was seven o'clock in the morning; they had checked out at six - her dragging all of her own, Adam's, and Tick's crap behind her (Adam's bag having been thoroughly searched for any additional dope) and the younger man trailing at her heels - and they were already on the road. She couldn't bear the thought of hanging around for any longer than she had to; though she'd have to wake Bob up eventually regarding the whereabouts of this bloke with the gas tank.
Adam had crawled straight into his own bed in Priscilla and hadn't surfaced since - Bernadette was beginning to worry that he had died in there; but it would make for a quieter remainder of the journey, and worst come worst, they could attempt to get Bob into a pair of heels and a frock to take his place. The thought amused her, but not enough to illicit a laugh.
Bob himself was still occupying Bernadette's bed - snoring gently, and showing no signs of stirring, even as the bus jolted and came worryingly close to crapping out every few minutes. She was in the driver's seat; Tick sitting on the floor by her side, cigarette in hand as per usual. They hadn't spoken a word of what had happened the previous night so far, or indeed really a word at all. She suspected Tick was still cooling off - or already had, and was unwilling to mention it in case she blew up at him. Her knuckles were white as she clenched her fists on the wheel; dressed in the same outfit as the previous day, with her hair lazily ponytailed at the nape of her neck.
Still without anything even slightly resembling a word, Tick leaned forward, hitting 'play' on the bus's radio. As the familiar bar or so of guitar riff played, Bernadette froze, doing everything in her power not to floor the brake.
"Life is a mystery..."
She hadn't even thought about that song for the last decade and a half - most certainly hadn't listened to it if she could help it. And by god, after the night she'd had, she was not about to start now.
"Turn it off."