In Which Arthur Feels, Briefly, Very Heroic
Cod liver oil. For measles. Poor Sal, that must bring up horrible memories of her mum...
Arthur trudged through the soggy streets of Wellington Wells, pondering about his current venture to get the medicine that could save Gwen's life. It mostly involved pleading with one Mrs. Oliphant for a press pass, and getting into the facility via that. In order to do so, he'd decided to take on Gemma Olsen's report, and finding her house was proving to be rather arduous, what with the many, many Joy Detectors (tm), Bobbies, and the general populace blocking his progress at literally every corner.
At this rate, we'll all waste away to dust. There'll be nothing left of Gwen by the time I get back.
The thought must have turned his expression dour, because several Wellies stopped to stare at him.
One of them coughed and commented, "You're looking rather glum!"
Quickly forcing a smile and grating out, "Well, there you are!", Arthur swung his arms jovially and continued on. Remembering to act the part of a jovial Wellie was never fun to do with other, pressing concerns on the mind.
"Little Gwen, you would not believe what I've gone through today for you."
Arthur slipped off his shoes and placed them near the door (where they sadly squished onto the floor, reeking of motilene and sweat). Gwen gave a sad little cry upon hearing Arthur's voice, and he hurried over to her. Looking down at her, he could see the horried red spots marking her skin, her eyes bleary and red from fever. He mustered a smile for her before scooping her up and carrying her over to the bed.
Flopping down, he cradled her close to his chest, making sure she was secure before pulling out a warm bottle of milk for her.
"Are you hungry, Gwen? Ready for some lunch?"
Upon seeing the bottle, Gwen made a gurgling cry that could probably be interpreted as "yes". Gently, Arthur poked the bottle into her face. She grimaced and looked at him, offended that he would try to get her to eat when she was not feeling well. (So it seemed to him, anyways.)
"I know, I know, getting milk down when you're feeling all icky inside isn't fun at all. But, you need to eat something, please? Your tummy will be happier, I promise," he pleaded.
Gwen made a small noise of discontent and pulled away from the bottle. Arthur sighed and was about to put it down when she reached out and batted at it, tiny, pudgy hands attempting to grab it. Encouraged, Arthur held it closer for her, and she began to drink.
That has to be a good sign, right? Though you still feel terribly warm. I wish I'd set out sooner today. Could've had the cure for you by now.
After a few minutes, the milk was about halfway gone when Gwen began to fuss.
"Are you sure you don't want more?"
A single, short, unhappy wail met his question.
"Alright then," Arthur conceded, setting the bottle onto the nightstand close by.
Arthur leaned back, resting his head on the bed's pillows. Gwen sniffled by his side, a small, sad heater. Arthur peered over at her, frowning.
Rubbing a thumb gently on her cheek, he whispered, "We'll get those damn spots out soon, I swear it."
"Didn't your mum ever tell you not to swear?"
Arthur tensed, barely managing not to jump. Sitting up slowly, he watched as Sally, smirking at his measly glare, took off her own boots and settled down next to him and Gwen. Gently, she scooped Gwen up in her arms.
Arthur smoothly, and not at all ruffling literally the entire bed and at one point doing a shimmy akin to some sort of uninvented and never to be repeated dance move, shuffled over to Sally's side.
Sally eyed him for a moment, glanced back at the bed, and, ignoring Arthur's light blush, asked, "Did she eat anything when you got back?"
He nodded to the half-empty bottle on the nightstand, elaborating, "She ate a bit. She certainly wasn't happy about it, though, and let me know through some, mm, feedback."
Sally laughed, hugging Gwen to her.
"She certainly has a way of letting you know how she feels, even without words yet."
"I can only imagina how she'll be as a teen, if we were anything to go by," Arthur muttered, smiling.
Sally "hmm'd" and replied, "We sure made a lot of memories, back then."
She stood up, walking with Gwen over to the crib. Carefully, she set the now sleeping baby down into it. Arthur joined her, and they both watched her for a moment before Sally turned to Arthur and asked, "Have you had anything to eat?"
Feeling a certain pang, Arthur replied, "Now that you mention it..."
"I figure I'll be able to convince Ms. Oliphant tomorrow, about letting me into the labs," Arthur said over the soft sound of boiling yam and the crackle of sizzling potatoes and onions. God, how he'd missed having a kitchen!
From the couch, he saw Sally's arm come up, a can of grape juice in hand.
"Good news all around, then! You know, I do have that letter of transit you asked for."
"Ah." Arthur paused for a moment, a number of thoughts ramming through his brain like a train, jammed on high speeds and careening into the station with a screaming Percy on board, screaming his name, he could cut and run, he didn't need to get the cod liver oil, he needed to save himself, it was just self preservation an-
"That's good. Think it'll work for three?"
"Two. We'd have to keep Gwen hidden, and...no, I don't think they'd let me leave that easily. 'So long, bobbies, I'm off to never have to make you, or anybody else in this goddamned town, another batch of blackberry Joy!' No, no, that'd go over as well as a stripper at a funeral. That is, not very, and with righteous outrage from the audience."
Silence, sans for the simmering and bubbling dishes, pervaded. Once the food was ready, Arthur served them both on some cleaned metal bits, since Sally's entire porcelain ware had been destroyed. Walking over to the couch, he set Sally's plate down and went to sit on the far end.
They ate in silence.
Once finished, Sally stretched upwards and laid down on the couch, muttering, "God, my feet are killing me. Arthur," she looked over at him, her expression a mix of exasperation, relief, and pain that left Arthur's heart feeling a bit sore, "you're lucky you don't have to wear heels to conform. It's utterly demanding and actually a form of torture."
Arthur grimaced at the thought of wearing heels (he already towered over most people). Looking down at Sally, and in particular her cute, though probably sore, feet, he got...an idea.
Reaching down slowly, and scooting just a bit to the right, he picked up Sally's feet and set them on his lap. He glanced over at Sally sheepishly and she stared back. An eyebrow went up as he stared, and she laughed before nodding and waving her hand.
Shifting into a more comfortable position, Arthur got to work. Starting with her left foot, he began to slowly massage right under her toes, rubbing softly and lightly at first before pressing in deeper. He could feel Sally start to relax under his hands, and he gently trailed his thumb down the outside of her foot before pushing deeper, going in circles on the soft part of her foot. Her toes curled up as he got to her heel, and he heard her say softly, "Yes!" before she practically melted into his arms.
By the time he got done with her second foot, she was almost asleep. She smiled up at him warmly, strecthing out her feet languidly before pulling her knees in and sitting up. She scooted over to him, gracefully, and lightly kissed his cheek.
Arthur could feel the blush spreading. It radiated from where the warm, lightly wet kiss had happened.
There was a cough from unknown origin and a voice that said quietly, "Thank you, Arthur."
A small rustling sound, and Arthur started as Sally entered his field of vision. But she appeared to be heading towards the stairs, and he relaxed a smidge.
"Y-you're welcome, Sal. Um, uh, good night!" he blurted out with the eloquence of a honking goose, before adding quicky, "I, ah, I'm sorry."
Sally, already a few steps up the spiral staircase, looked back down at him. She seemed...Arthur couldn't tell.
"Good night, Arthur."
Feeling a bit like unwanted and uneeded scum, Arthur slumped over to the couch and got as comfortable as he could.
"Great job, Arthur. That was as close as you could get to just up and leaving her, wonderful job showing you're...well. You're not any good at this, are you? And I always thought myself a romantic and a bloody poet. Fat lot of good that's doing me now, innit?"
"Brill job back there, Sally girl. You really know how to terrify men, don't you? Not that that's a bad thing, mind, but when it comes to your best friend...agh, you're the worst."
Checking on Gwen for the last time for the night (still asleep, bless her), Sally climbed into bed and huffed. Settling herself down on the pillows, she stared at the darkened ceiling, resisting the urge to scream. At least her feet felt warm and relaxed, the tension and pain taken away, a faint tingling lingering from where strong, oddly soft hands had rubbed it all away...
Growling softly to herself, she twisted around, burying her head in the pillows and hoping that a good night's rest would fix the situation.
Unfortunately, Gwen was not cured in the morning, as she'd hoped, and her fluttering anxiousness about Arthur had yet to be absolved. Tending to Gwen helped ease her mind, but thinking about staying here, with the food crisis and the fact that they could be found made her...uneasy.
"If only there was another way...wait! That boat in the General's camp! I bet I could get it up and running with a little bit of help. I wonder if Dr. Faraday and her boys are still in town."
Feeling a bit lighter with that plan in mind, Sally got dressed and practically bounced downstairs. Upon arriving at the first floor, she could hear soft snoring from the couch. Grinning to herself, she crept over to Arthur, crouching down in front of his face before saying, "Good morning, Artie!"
Arthur twitched, but didn't respond. Frowning, she reached over and pulled gently on his ear.
"Hey, Arthur, it's time to wake up."
The snoring stopped, yet the silence persisted before a hand sluggishly flopped over onto her face. Grabbing Arthur's hand and giving it back to him, Sally reached over and placed his glasses on his face.
Arthur didn't seem to register this, and yawned. Sally was forced to back away at the rather untempting smell of morning breath.
"G-g'morning, Sa-a-ally," he yawned again, attempting to cover his mouth before letting his hand and arm flop to the floor.
Smirking, Sally ruffled his hair before standing up and heading into the kitchen. She opened the fridge and pulled out two slices of semi-fresh and definitely not stolen (only borrowed!...permanently) pie. She went back over to the couch and placed a piece close to Arthur and took hers to the other end of the couch with her.
Arthur still wasn't moving much. She poked him in the leg and said around a mouthful of food, "You've got a pie to eat before heading out today, you know."
Arthur groaned in response and twitched a bit before going still again. Curious, and a bit worried, Sally asked, "Are you going to be okay?"
Arthur swiveled his head so he was no longer eating the armrest and groaned, "I think I'm dying, Sal. Tell Gwen I loved her."
Sally snorted and leaned down so they were at eye level. She raised an eyebrow, and Arthur turned back into the armrest.
Muffled now, he explained, "I got into a wreck with a Jubilator yesterday. Really threw me around, ya know, it was, it was basically like a car crash. I didn't. I didn't feel it until now, I don't think, it's just, my entire body hurts and moving any part makes it hurt tenfold."
Sally nodded, finished her pie, and stood up. Walking over to her bag, she pulled out her medicated balm and walked back over to Arthur.
"Arthur, do you think you can take off your shirt, or should I do it for you?"
Arthur practically spasmed at those words (Sally tried not to feel hurt at that reaction) and attempted to sit up. He trembled a moment before lying back down, replying shakily, "Are you-do you have healing balm, then?"
"Yeah, a bit better than that, I'd like to think," she replied steadily. "You could call it a 'Sally Specialty'."
Arthur chuckled weakly as he started removing his suit and shirt, replying dryly, "You always do make things better, Sal."
Sally mulled that over for a minute. "You're working from a biased and nostalgic perspective there, Arthur. 'Better' can translate to 'more effective', and being more effective doesn't mean it's 'good'."
Finally, after watching Arthur wincing and struggling to get out of his shirt, he laid down on the couch, bare backed. Sally was shocked to see how thin he was, noting his defined ribs and spine. Accentuating the protruding bones were bruises, welts, cuts, and what looked to be an electrical burn.
"Jesus, Arthur," she whispered, popping open the medicated balm and dipping into it liberally. "It looks like you actually got in a fight with a Jubilator, nevermind the crash."
Arthur gave a muffled noise of affirmation, rising just enough to say, "Yeah, I did actually get into a fight with a Jubilator. Had to get out somehow." His head flumped down onto the armrest, accompanied by a muffled groan.
Carefully, Sally started rubbing the balm onto Arthur's back. At first, it felt like trying to convince an eighty year old to change his mind about certain world views; stiff, a bit frustrating, and with little to no give. It didn't help that Arthur kept twitching as though she were going to suddenly turn violent with each touch.
After about five, long minutes, Sally could feel Arthur relaxing under her (admittedly already tired) fingers. She'd opened another balm, and now went back over the bruised areas, lightly ghosting over the painful spots while coating them with odd smelling ointment. Arthur shivered at that, and she could see goosebumps rising on his arms. Smiling, Sally reached over and dug her thumbs into his shoulders, circlng the muscles and winding her way down his arms, all the way to his hands. His palms rested in her own smaller ones for a moment before she rubbed at them, too, watching and feeling the skin warming at her touch.
Mission complete, Sally stood up. After another moment, Arthur let out a contented sigh and pushed himself up. Putting on his glasses, he looked over at her and beamed.
Smiling back, she picked up her plate and took it into the kitchen. She heard the clinking sound of Arthur picking up his own, and a garbled, "Thanks, Sal. I owe you one," followed it.
Washing the balm off in the sink, she stretched before heading towards the door and her bag. Once at the entrance, she turned back towards Arthur, who was just now pulling on his shirt.
Clearing her throat, she announced, "I might have a way out of this damned place. A boat. I think I can fix it with Dr. Faraday's help, but I'm afraid the bag I can use to carry Gwen out won't be finished until tomorrow. And I wouldn't want to leave until nighttime..." she paused, then added quickly, "I left the Letter of Transit on the dresser, near your shoes. Good luck, Arthur. Perhaps you can owe me tonight"
With that, she departed without looking back.
Getting to the top floor of Haworth labs proved a difficult endeavor (one Arthur was grateful had gone mostly bloodless). The bobby dressed in white lay on the ground, breathing heavily. Trembling slightly from the adrenaline rush, Arthur leaned "The Help" against his leg and pulled out an odd smelling healing balm. Dipping his fingers in the smoooth mixture, he gently daubed at the swelling bruise on his cheek.
"At least it won't scar," he thought glumly.
Moving on (and past another layer of employees), Arthur opened the door to see a man with stylish white hair desperately shouting "Sergeant! SERGEANT!" into his intercom.
"Well, this man sure looks like someone important. Or at least someone who wants to look important, at any rate."
"Lovely day for it, if everything wasn't currently going to shit," Arthur greeted cheerily, waving to the white-haired man as he stepped in.
The man, for his part, took a deep breath and muttered into the intercom, "I'll have to call you back, Sergeant, I've currently got a very unwanted visitor here. Ahem. Proceed with Code Red Coats."
After the click of the man putting the intercom down, he shuffled a bit, straightened his tie, and faced Arthur down with the most dour expression Arthur had seen on a man, possibly one that could immediately sour a grape and produce a most bitter wine.
"What are you doing, coming in here like you own the place?"
Arthur coughed, politely, and stepped forward into the office, scanning the room for potential threats and finding it mostly harmless. With a bit more bolster upon seeing the other man flinch at his approach, Arthur said, "As a citizen of the Wells, and a part of the news team, it's within my rights to know what you're doing about the Joy in our people's systems. We're currently fracing starvation, the plague, an-"
"Hah! That has nothing to do with me," the man scoffed, scooting a bit futher away from Arthur. Arthur stood across from him, noting the nameplate and making the connection at last.
"I'm not so sure about that, Dr. Verloc," Arthur mused, pushing the nameplate and smirking slightly as Verloc's face flashed with irritation. "Sally's been telling me the part you've been playing in all of this, and let me say, it has not been looking good for your record."
Verloc's (rather poorly put together) mask of cool authority vanished as the mention of Sally's name, brow pinching together as he snarled, "What the fuck does she have to do with some paper boy?!"
Arthur leaned over the desk, leering at the man who threw Sally out in the rain and would probably leave her for dead if he saw some benefit to it.
Verloc's hand flashed beneath the desk and Arthur's body spasmed as electricity poured from hidden sensors into him, jolting his limbs and sending him thrashing to the floor. His arms slammed against the desk painfully, his left elbow hitting the edge in such a way that his entire arm felt as though it'd been set aflame.
Spasming on the ground, Arthur looked up as Verloc stomped over to him, face contorted and pinched in rage. He barely had time to react before Verloc's foot stomped onto his leg, once, twice, before he could reach out and stop him. Arthur, gritting his teeth against the pain, grabbed Verloc's foot and wrenched it towards him, upending the other man and sending him ass over kettle.
With the wind knocked out of Verloc, that gave Arthur enough time to grab onto the desk and pull himself upright. Before he could do much more than stand there and take a few deep breaths, Verloc scrambled up, away, and into one of the pneumatic tubes. With one last nasty glare sent Arthur's way, the white-haired man was gone.
"So much for getting revenge on him. Feels like he took it out on me, more like. Ow."
Taking a glance at his leg underneath his pants leg revealed a mottled, purple mass. Arthur, leaning against the desk as he was, gently put some weight on it and hissed sharply and the pain that shot up his leg.
"Broken. Possibly just fractured, and definitely not feeling fantastic. Great bloody bollocks."
Sighing, Arthur winced and limped his way around the room, searching for somehwere that might be hiding the cod liver oil. It thankfully didn't take him long to find a button that let him into a truly strange laboratory filled with odd devices that seemed more fiction than reality, and edged more towards cruelty than, say, Sally's almost playful and curious experiments.
There, though at the end, he found it. Cod liver oil. With a sigh of relief, Arthur snatched it up, giving it a bit of a shake and finding it filled with the sloshing, disgusting liquid.
Don't worry, Gwen. You'll be on the way to recovery soon.
Arthur, in agony from his leg and barely managing to keep his balance while walking, finally saw Sally's sign, "Planetary -_-"
"I wonder what would have happened if I'd seen that sign first?"
Hunching down, he crawled under the hole in the alley's fence and opened the way inside, making sure to lock the door behind him. He could hear Gwen crying loudly upstairs.
Getting up the steps proved to be quite the hassle, what with the broken leg and all. Using mostly his arms, Arthur pulled himself up. Making his way into the kitchen, he prepared a bottle and began the trek up the spiral staircase, Gwen's continued wails prompting him to hurry.
Upon arriving in Gwen's room, Arthur immediately recoiled at the smell wafting towards him from Gwen's direction.
"Oh, no. Oh, God. This might actually prove to be the death of us both. I wonder if I should put on my gas mask?"
Cautiously stepping forward, Arthur peered down at Gwen and tried not to breathe deeply. Gwen looked up at him, small tears in her eyes. A pang of sympathy went through him, and he reached down to pick her up.
"I'm sorry, Gwen," he apologized, setting her on the table nearby. "This will only take a minute. I'm sure we're both sorry your mum isn't here to do this..."
Sally jogged along as fast as her heels would allow her to do. The meeting with Faraday had gone well, and all she needed now was the key. Located in General Byng's HQ. Wiping the sweat from her brow, she hurried down the tunnel, picking up her pace upon seeing the exit sign for St. George's Holm.
"This had better fucking work, Dr. Faraday, or I want my money back."
Ascending the ladder, she made her way out into the evening light of town. She could see citizens hurrying home, a few nodding and mentioning to her that she should hurry back home thanks to curfew!
Mindlessly, she returned their greetings and did, indeed, hurry back home. Worry panged her suddenly, hastening her pace, her heels clicking against the painted cobblestone.
"I hope Arthur got the cod liver oil. I hope he's alright. I hope Gwen's alright. Wy do we have a goddamn rule against fucking running here?!"
Trying her best not to sprint, she rounded the last corner before she knew her home would be in sight, and froze. Ice pierced her heart, hair rising on her arms as she saw what lay ahead.
Two doctors lay in wait at her door. They seemed to notice her immediately, heads swiveling towards her, widened grins showing far too many threatening teeth to be welcome guests. One even had the audacity to wave at her.
Taking a deep breath, Sally strode forward confidently, greeting them with a cheery, "How do you do, boys? It's gettting rather late for house calls, don't you think?"
"Oh, not at all, Ms. Boyle!" one (the waver) replied cheerily, the words dripping slimily from his mouth. "No, it's never too late to be a doctor detecting Downers in Wellington Wells, Ms. Boyle. I'm afraid we've caught the scent of one, one who may have made it into your house!"
"Yes," the other sneered. "I smelt him from a mile away. Seemed to be moving awfully slow, and I watched him slink into your back door. We told a Constable, but he laughed us off and told us you'd left earlier, and to wait for you to return. 'Wouldn't want any accidents in Ms. Boyle's labs, would we?' he said. Didn't he, Dr. Croup?"
"Yes, yes he did, Dr. Vandemar. I think we owe Ms. Boyle the benefit of the doubt. We'll gladly rid you of this pest, Ms. Boyle," Dr. Croup lingered on her name a second too long as he leaned over her, his grin seeming to widen a touch too far.
"That's...too kind, really," Sally took one step back, two to the side, and was already heading inside. "But it's rather late, and I'm sure you've just seen a close, ah, client of mine, whom I've given the key to get into my house. He's probably waiting for me, and I do so hate to keep my clients w-"
"We insist, Ms. Boyle," Dr. Croup growled, pushing her roughly to the side and prowling forward, sniffing loudly. He turned and eyed her once, saying softly (too softly he knows he knows he), "There've been talks of loud, wailing noises most associate with Downers coming from your, ah, abode."
The two stalked forward, noses thrust in the air like bloodhounds on the scent. Sally followed, fingering the knock out syringes she kept in her sleeves, mind racing for ways to disable them both and get her and Gwen and Arthur away safely and none of them were good enough, none of them were going to work fucking fuckity fuck in a bucket.
As they started towards the first flight of stairs, Sally took a deep breath and shouted, "I SURE AM GLAD TWO FULLY ARMED DOCTORS ARE HERE TO CLEAR OUT A DOWNER. I'D HATE TO FIND OUT HE'D GONE THROUGH MY NIGHTSTAND AND FOUND MY SUNSHINE-Y JOY TO POSSIBLY EAT IT."
The doctors turned back to stare at her. She coughed and chirped, "Ah, yeah, tinnitus sure is a pill to swallow! Just wanted to make sure you know how much I appreciate you being here!"
She could've sworn Dr. Vandemar growled at her before they opened the second story floor.
"A fan of tinned milk, Ms. Boyle?" Dr. Croup observed, prodding at the emptied can on the counter.
"I sure am! Ha ha ha, can't get enough of the stuff!" she agreed, sliding over to the spiral staircase.
Dr. Vandemar sudden, loud sniff sounded right next to Sally's ear, startling her.
"I smell something rather sad in this general direction. I think we've found our mark."
"Excellent!" Dr. Croup preened, practically dancing towards the stairs. "Excuse us, Ms. Boyle, but we must be seeing this possible D-"
"Oh, lovely, ah, evening for it!"
Walking (no, limping, shit, he's hurt!) slowly down the stairs came Arthur, smiling ear to ear with his mask on. Dr. Croup, again, roughly pushed Sally aside.
Inhaling deeply, the doctor lurched forward eagerly, purring, "Ah, here's that bitter, sad little- wait."
He sniffed again, like a hound dog who'd just lost the scent of a cunning little fox who'd tripped him up. The man's face twitched, hard, yet the overbearing grin remained. Arthur smiled up at him cheerily, leaning against the railing.
"No sad little men here, I'm happy to say. Jolly good of you to stop by! I suppose dear S-er, Ms. Boyle has nothing to fear! Thanks for stopping by, though." Arthur gave them a winning smile, enhanced comically by the "happy face" he wore.
The two doctors circled him for several more seconds. Dr. Vandemar took a bit too long sniffing at Arthur's right shoulder and glancing up the stairs. Finally, Dr. Croup sighed and, doffing his hat, bowed slightly to Sally.
"Thank you for your time this evening, Ms. Boyle! You'd best be getting some rest, I fear-"
"Hold on," Dr. Vandemar paused at the steps. Dr. Croup looked at him curiously.
"I smell something rather peculiar. Something...sour, sweet, almost like cabbage."
Sally could see the two tensing up, nervous excitement thrumming through them. She glanced over at Arthur and could see the same panic she felt reflected in his eyes. Then something changed. A sort of resolve took over him, and he gave her a brief nod before turning back to the doctors leaning over his shoulder. He leaned back a bit, then...
Shoved them both back down the stairs, scrambling over the two and yelling, "It's me, a Downer you smell, you bloody fucking vampires!"
Sally leapt out of Arthur's way, then "stumbled" forward in front of the doctors.
"Oh, a Downer?! I'm going to faint!" she screeched, melodramatically swooning in front of the two.
Sally dodged the hands aimed at her and backed up, letting the two Doctors sprint after Arthur while she...
She stood there for a moment, letting it sink in.
"Well, that's one way of chasing away your best childhood friend, Sal. Get the whole damn town to chase him to his death. Fine. Fine! We'll figure this out, or, or I'll figure this out. Shit!"
Acting fast, she ran to the doors the runners had left wide open, closed, and locked them. She sprinted back up the stairs, checking in on Gwen (and noting a cod liver oil and milk stained shirt lying on the bed it's Arthur's, fuck, it's Arthur's) before grabbing her emergency atomizer.
"I'm sorry, Gwen, but I have to leave again," she cooed to her daughter, pulling her up for a bit of cuddling. She immediately noticed the fading fever, and that Gwen was nearly fast asleep again when she put her back down into the crib.
"Mummy's got a bit of rescuing to do."