A/N: YO! Thanks SO much for the reviews! Sorry this update took so long, I had to take a mini-hiatus. And XD, don't worry, this thing is terrifying me too. Btw, I have no idea how 'being in shock' works in the medical sense, so bear with me here lol. THANKS FOR READING!
The eyes, swamped in blood and time, darted from faded wall to vibrant brick to Lucy, never staying in one spot for longer than a second. He shivered, he trembled like a bomb ticked right below his feet, and his shuddering slithered onto Lucy as he gripped her wrists.
"Lucy?" He bit back at how his own voice cracked, curling away from her and loosening the death-grip, before climbing back and squeezing tighter. "Wh-where are we?"
"You don't know?" Lucy asked, like asking if a child really didn't know the answer to a very simple problem. No woman could look at the lifeless glint in his eyes, feel the icy touch of his hands, breath in the scent of dust and time he had endured, or listen to that raspy, cracking, dry voice without wincing, without making some sort of repulsed face, or showing some of the disgusting pity that lay beneath the surface.
After a pause, Rex vibrating his head in a way of an answer, and his grip growing ever tighter, Lucy nodded, like she understood. She nodded like she knew what he meant. She nodded like she knew what to do. Ha! How could she know what to do? He was broken. He hated her. She could do nothing except make it worse, like she had always done.
"It's going to be alright, ok?" Her voice had dropped, not in tone, but in volume, as though some monster lurked, crawling and plotting against them beneath their feet, and she continued whispering to him, "I'm here, you don't have to be afraid."
"I'm…n-not…" The lie almost tasted good on his tongue.
Even as tangible night covered her, Rex could still make out the smirk, the smirk she tried to smile through. "I can see that."
No words came to mind as she gently, like a mother, rubbed her hands around his wrists, caressing and smoothing over the rough scars of time, her hands warm and soft. "It's ok," she kept whispering, shushing him occasionally, as she continued to rock him closer and closer to sanity. "I'm right here."
"Y-you…" He tried to tell her, he tried to voice his protests, he tried to tell her that for years she hadn't been there, that she had abandoned him, that now, it made no difference if she was with him or a thousand miles away. If he had changed, lost his life, lost her, what was the difference if she provided a few words of comfort now?
"Shush, it's ok." Lucy words ran smoothly over the dust and musk of the air, and her hands slid up his wrists to his shoulders, where he froze, hard as a plank, until she gently, carefully, inched him closer to her. At first, he eyed her like a puppy in a new home, shaking his head through his quivering frame. His teeth chattered as he froze harder. What was she doing?
Her hands pressed against his back, and his eyes shot open, like an adult who had no affection as a child finally getting a kiss on the cheek. Was this…affection a good thing? Was she going to grab his wrist and slam him to the ground in a second? "L-Lucy?" he questioned her motives, but she merely shushed him again, and tugged him closer until he pressed up against her, her arms around his torso, and his arms lazily at the side.
"It's called a hug, Rex. Remember this?"
No. No, he didn't. He didn't remember what a hug was. When people aren't hugged in years, they forget those sorts of things.
The grip around his waist was arm, tight and soft, and for some reason he didn't want to know, he liked it.
Before she thought better of it, a premise he assumed very plausible, Rex reached his arms around her thin frame and hugged her as tight as he could without breaking her.
Emmet, Emmet, Emmet. Nothing had been the same since she met that man. Other women led normal lives. She led a life of crazy adventures, alternate-timeline boyfriends, and friends who married shapeshifting queens. She lived in a house with a double-decker porch swing, a cat-unicorn with temper issues, and a boyfriend who could cook every master chef out the building. Other women got married, stayed home–
Lucy clutched Rex tighter, digging her hands into his side and burying her head into his shoulder.
The human contact – even his human contact – gave her something new. Something she didn't have. It gave her a broken individual to hold to comfort, someone who needed her help. Someone who looked up to her.
Tearing away from the hug, Lucy swiveled around to find Emmet embracing her tightly. She stared at him.
"Are you ok?" His voice clouded around the dust as he held her tighter, and Rex stood, some ways off, watching. Lucy stared at him.
Emmet's warm, comforting hands rubbed against her back, and she leaned into his touch, resting her head on his shoulder. Like resting in bed before school started, the longer she lay in his arms, the more she never wanted to leave. Her arms curled around his neck, and she held him as tight as she could, where he couldn't see her blink her tears back.
"Rex?" Emmet's voice reached the top of the bin when he saw his alternate-future self, and he froze in Lucy's arms. The warmth drained from his skin as he pulled away, and though she tugged lightly on his sleeve, he pulled back.
Don't leave me.
"Rex, you're ok!" Emmet exclaimed, running to his Vest-friend and tackling him in a massive hug. Rex merely lay there, cold as a corpse and death in his eyes. Emmet paused and waved a hand before his unresponsive friend's face. "Uh, are you ok?"
"He's in shock, I think," Lucy muttered, her voice weighed down by thick tears she had to swallow down. Her hand ran over Rex's arm and down to his wrist, before crawling across to his palm, where she paused. She couldn't. Not with Emmet here. But, was it something to hide?
"Hey," Emmet whispered, gently tapping her shoulder. Her gaze lifted from Rex's glazed eyes to Emmet's sparkling, dark-chocolate ones, and he gently mumbled, "I think he'd like if you held his hand."
Immediately, possibly too soon, Lucy nodded and let her hand fall into Rex's. It was rough, cold and worn from whatever he had endured down here. However, as Lucy opened her mouth, Rex's hand curled around hers, tight and unrelenting.
Emmet giggled. "Aw, he likes you!"
"Yeah…" Lucy replied, her words but a murmur through her unmoving lips.
As if the sun had lifted the lid itself, a sliver of clear-cut, fierce, immense sunlight shot through the dust and darkness, pushing it away bit by bit until burning away at Emmet and Lucy's eyes. They looked away reflexively, but the voice, much like one would imagine the Sun's voice, hollered out to them, "Come on, we're throwing down a rope!"
Again, through the crack in the night sky above them, the end of a rope descended, landing neatly in Lucy's lap. "I guess we climb, huh?"
Nodding, Emmet stood up, cracked his back with a smirk, and replied, "Stand back, little lady, I've got this."
Laughing like a child, Lucy leaned forward and planted a quick kiss on Emmet's lips, as she often did.
Emmet's dazed face only gave her more reason to smile. "Uh, what was that for?"
"You're adorable, that's why. Now come on, help me build something to get Rex up," Lucy said, motioning to the deep, murky, solid ocean of bricks and pieces they stood on.
A sigh muttered from Emmet's side. "Can we do it?"
Her hand around his was warm, he noted, as she grasped comfort around his wrist. Emmet looked from their hands, their interlocking, promised, bonded hands, to her eyes, the same eyes that looked at him every morning and every night like he was the most special person in the world. "Of course we can do it, Ems."
After a brief nod, a kiss on his cheek, and a moment of blushing, they muttered their count and set off to work. Emmet couldn't fail her. Not because it would embarrass him, not because he would lose her, not because he had trained repeatedly, but because it wasn't a choice. He could not fail.
Brick after brick, colorful pattern after vivid contrast fell around the rope, building a tub or box of sorts, with the thin cable as an anchor. Even in the flashes of milliseconds when their eyes locked, Emmet found the space to smile, and as his girlfriend blushed her smile back, he nearly started to cry. But he didn't, because he still had some dignity left, after all, and if he was going to cry, it would be best to do it when they were alone, when Lucy could kiss him and make it better. That was his favorite time to cry.
Lucy placed the last brick down, clicking it into place, before a large sigh of a hard-moment's work breathed over her lips. "That may be our fastest one yet, huh?"
"Twenty-three seconds, which almost beats twenty-one point five." At his girlfriend's dumbfounded expression, Emmet shrugged and mumbled, "I keep track."
She offered him a well-meaning smirk as they moved to help Rex, still unmoving and in a dreamy, lost-land state of unconsciousness, into their creation. "Where were these great math skills when I had to do taxes?"
"Remembering numbers is a lot different than whatever that tax stuff was, besides, we have Unikitty for that!" Emmet laughed. He stood back, helping Lucy step into the booth, one hand on her arm and the other on her back, gently guiding her in. "You ok?"
While she nearly told him that she didn't need any help, Lucy shrugged and replied, "Yeah, thanks."
After Emmet hopped in after her, she shouted up to Unikitty they were ready, and wrapped her arm around him, Lucy muttered, "I honestly did not think our vacation would go like this."
The enclosure rocked as it kissed goodbye to gravity, wobbling with uncertain confidence as they lifted higher and higher, tapping the edge every moment. Lucy reached her hands around Emmet's middle and leaned stiffly into his chest, but his kiss on the back of her head told her she had not succeeded in lying. "We'll be ok, I promise."
The moment the booth hit the open air, sunlight unleashed its full wrath on the trio, burning away at skin and heating the bin's plastic like a trap for unsuspecting passersby. "Remind me that I like cold climates, Ems." Lucy shielded her eyes from the sun as the gang shifted their rope-system, swung the booth to the right, and began lowering them to the ground. Their staircase stood, cracking at the seams and wobbly, but still standing, though Lucy would never understand the physics why.
As their friends crowded around them when they collapsed on the ground, Emmet exclaimed, "Lucy, I think he's coming out of it!" Emmet tugged at the back of her hoodie, and she flipped over, with a moment's hesitation. She looked down at Rex. He was broken. Cold, tired, afraid, pathetic. He gripped Emmet's hand in his half-conscious state, like when one doesn't know what they're doing in the first breaks of dawn, and end up grabbing onto a stuffed animal. Embarrassing, but the most comforting thing in the world.
"Rex?" Emmet shook his friend by the shoulder, and Lucy switched her gaze from Rex to Emmet. His eyes, red and blinking rapidly, betrayed his set jaw and clenched shoulders, like he had something to prove, something to lie about. She needed him to be weak. She needed him to fall apart, at least a little. She didn't want him to be strong, not now.
Then she wouldn't be the only one.
"Lucy, it's ok." Emmet sweet, sugary voice gently woke her form her dream, like a mother rocking an infant awake, and he wormed his hand into her clenched fist. His warm, gentle, strong hand clutched as she gripped him, tighter than she thought he could stand, but not tight enough.
"Woah, is that…Rex? Unikitty skidded to a stop as she poked her head out from behind MetalBeard, Batman, and Benny. She stared at Rex like she had just walked into an advanced algebra class.
As Unikitty's confusion melted, Rex twitched in his almost-sleep state, his hand failed in Emmet's grip, and he began to mumble like reading from a diary, "Lu…Lucy…"
Lucy slammed her eyes shut.
It's your fault.
Rex stirred, shifting against the hot plastic.
You did this to him.
His eyes creaked open.
You were supposed to protect him.
Lucy's breath hitched.
Her eyes reignited like a wild fire in the forest, and she searched for Emmet's eyes, the only ones that wouldn't judge her.
The words had not come from Emmet, and when she looked to her boyfriend, he merely tilted his head towards the left where Rex lay, like a patient waiting, expecting, accepting death. His dark chocolate eyes, they were too similar to Emmet's. They looked exactly the same, every shade and every tint, every tilt of his head and twitch of his hand, every mannerism and motion, she had seen Emmet do it all. Caring about her was just another similarity.
"Rex, how do you feel?" Emmet asked, one hand holding onto Rex's wrist like a lifeline, and the other running along Lucy's forearm, steadying the jumping nerves that lay just below her veins, pricking her skin with an itching vengeance. He had to keep them safe. The both of them.
Emmet looked to Lucy.
He shifted it back to Rex.
Wiping his eyes with his sleeve, Emmet promised himself:
I'll take care of them.
"Ugh, my head hurts, but other than that, I feel pretty ok," Rex replied, raising his voice a little as he searched Lucy's desolate, unresponsive face, watching a dimension no one but her could see. He recognized that face. She was brooding, but why? Hadn't she given that up? He had assumed she would, after all, if she had Emmet, why did she need to brood?
"Uh, are you sure you feel alright?" Unikitty's eyes darkened like a dense, evening storm cloud, and she stuttered backwards, bumping into MetalBeard, whose face did not provide any comfort.
At her words, Rex looked down at himself. "What, I feel–"
Clear, slimy, mystical liquid entrenched Rex's leg, fizzing it out one minute and reviving the next.
"ACK, REX, LUCY, GET IT OFF ME!" Emmet screeched, and his hand tore from Lucy's as he desperately tried to scrub the substance, or lack thereof, off his right leg. As his hand fell through the space where his leg had once lived, he screamed and backed away from his flickering appendage like it was a rat with five legs. "Lucy, Lucy, LUCY!" He hollered for his girlfriend like a child for his mother.
"Emmet, calm down!" Lucy's prized, warrior instincts kicked into high-gear, stealing the controls away from her weary heart. She picked up Emmet's leg as it blinked in-and-out of reality, accelerating the time between fading, as Unikitty looked over Rex's.
Benny bent down by his friend, but his words crashed through the whole city, "It's…it's the same one that's disappearing on Rex!"
"Wait, I think they're morphing!"
"That's stupid, they're dying!"
"No, you're both wrong, they're COMBINING!"
"SHUT UP!" Lucy screamed. She had no reason to lift her gaze up at them, they understood her tone at first holler, and she swallowed down her temper for her boyfriend's sake. "Emmet, how does it feel?"
"Like…like it's coming back," Emmet replied, a ghost of his voice whispering through his lips. He paused, still separated as far as possible from his limb, and the moments of silver, eerie vanishing grew farther apart and shorter. Lucy looked to Rex, where the same phenomenon took place, and by the time she turned back to Emmet, his leg had stabilized in the real world.
Rex wiggled his leg, paused, and stretched it. "It's good."
Emmet winced. "Blah, that was disgusting!"
"What…what was that?" Batman asked, more towards Lucy, as if she would know.
Rolling her eyes pointedly at her ex, Lucy replied with a grit scratching her throat, "I wouldn't know, Batman, I'm not a space-time continuum scientist!"
"This be very, very bad," MetalBeard whispered. He towered above everyone, like impending doom, and for a moment, Lucy assumed he was.
"What, what's bad?" Emmet asked, his hand clutching Lucy's once more. He shifted in his spot towards his girlfriend, curling up against her lap and burying his face in her hoodie, still weary of touching or using his leg.
Lucy hated emotions, she decided, as her cheeks lit on blazing, unquenchable fire at the sweet, calm feeling of her boyfriend snuggling out of fear into her, clutching around her waist. Her hand ran over his back in a gentle motion, partially for her own nerves, in circles and fantastical shapes, an act he had told her soothed him.
Now, you have to understand, her eyes had not meant to fall on Rex, it just…happened.
He stared at her like a boy, no older than eighth grade, watches his first girlfriend kiss another boy on the cheek, and not just any boy, but his best friend of seven years.
The purposeful, firm, clear glance down at her hand shot a rocket through her throat.
His gaze lifted up to her. Can I? Please?
Lucy looked up to MetalBeard and clutched her boyfriend tighter as a way of an answer.
"Wh-what's the bad thing?" Emmet repeated, trembling from his girlfriend's embrace.
Metal Beard sighed. "It just be a pirate legend, it might not even matter…"
"Have these other pirate legends come true?" Lucy looked down at Emmet. The only one who had ever truly loved her for her. She had hurt him, she had hurt him repeatedly, yet he still cared for her, deeper than before. She had often wondered what 'true love' was, then ignored the thought like a dirty idea. It must have been a marketing technique used by card companies, right? True love was too good to be true.
Lucy, even in front of the crowd, bent down and pressed a slow, warm kiss to her boyfriend's forehead. "I'll protect you. I promise," she muttered, quick enough as she kissed him that no one would hear, so it would be their secret, so she would have to keep it.
Coughing, MetalBeard waved his hand. "Well, yeah, sorta every time. I have the legend here."
The group watched, silent as an abandoned home on the tip of a forgotten forest, as MetalBeard pulled out a large book, no thicker than an inch and covered in dust, where it formed a thick, even coat right over the edges. He began to read from it, his voice quivering and cracking in his throat, "There will one day be a man, who will fall in love with a woman with hair of teal and magenta–"
Emmet smiled and broke in, still weary and buried into his girlfriend's arms, "Hey, Lucy, that sounds like you!"
Metal Beard did not hush him, instead looked at him like one looks at a child going to get a shot that the doctor promises 'won't hurt a bit,' even as he sobs. As the space quieted around them, and even the dust settled, Metal Beard read without looking at his friends, "…In an alternate world, he will lose her. These two alternate men will one day meet, and one will fade away again, bitter and cold. If the first finds and saves the alternate from this fate, the woman will suffer, and have to choose between them.
"One will love her for her, love her for everything she is, but hesitate and hate for doing it. The other will love to be loved, love to love, but cannot live without her. She will have seven days, 168 hours, to choose. The unchosen will fade The Can of Gar-Bage, never to be seen again, to be killed. If she chooses neither, both will fade and perish, and she will live her life alone."
Lucy tore away from her boyfriend, the one she promised to protect, ripped away from her friends, the ones who promised to protect her, ripped away from Rex, the one she had failed to protect, and ran as fast as her battered feet would carry her into the city, Emmet and Rex trailing behind.