It starts very slow, almost unnoticeable. He is an old soul anyways - he has always assumed some aches and pains would come with becoming human again. At times, his neck would be sore, or his joints would feel tender, and he passed it off as trivial, taking a drink to mask the pain. He does not mention anything to Andy, who he assumes would not care much anyways. They are barely even roommates, let alone friends. And Andy has problems of his own.
One morning, he can't quite get out of bed right away. He feels hot and shivers when he finally sits up, and he sweats and chills at the same time. His heart pounds erratically in his chest, but it goes away with a shot or two. He goes about his day, smoking more than he probably should.
A week passes, and a day comes again where he is almost paralyzed in bed. When he finally manages to sit up, he calls Tiffany. He tries not to sound too desperate, but he is beginning to panic. He does not want this to keep happening.
"I'll look it up," is what she says, "but that doesn't sound familiar in any way to me."
"Oh and you're the expert on transferring human souls, I guess?" he snaps, and immediately regrets it. He apologizes.
"I'm afraid, Tiff," he admits quietly. His back is aching so much. He can feel a fever coming on again. "I don't know the answers and I'm fucking pissing myself right now."
"I know," she replies, and then hangs up, leaving him alone again. He knows she still loves him, and she will try her best, but he also knows that talking to him is still a sore chore for her to do. He lays back down, rubbing his temples and wanting to cry from frustration. He doesn't.
Later that evening, when Andy comes home from work, he immediately notices. "You're acting different today," he sniffs, eyeing Chucky curiously. "You look different."
"You've been staring after me long enough to know, haven't you?" Chucky bites, almost whimpering at the pain just to speak. His jaw feels stiff and tender at the same time. He clenches his teeth and regrets it. Andy just stares at him, not responding with some equally biting quip for once. He doesn't say anything more though, and just turns on the television, lighting a joint.
Chucky goes to bed early. Andy doesn't ask after him. Which he wouldn't of course, Chucky knows this. His panic grows.
The next morning, he feels a little better, but he is still a bit woozy. He gets up and waddles slowly around the kitchen, when suddenly he feels a hot acid rising up his throat.
A multitude of heaving and retching later, he rushes for the phone as fast as he can with a sore stomach, dialing Tiffany again. She does not pick up this time. He throws the phone across the floor, watching it shatter. The noise causes his ears to ring, and he groans and collapses to his knees on the linoleum.
He is in bed before Andy comes home. His throat stings and his nose is running. Andy does not come in to check on him, despite the apartment phone still broken on the floor. He is alone in the dark, and he is terrified. He grips the sheets and the small moments of sleep he gets are fitful.
Things begin to escalate faster after that. Within days, he barely ever leaves the bed, except to painfully run to the toilet, every inch of his body screaming in pain from each move he makes. He thinks he may be dying, and begins to hope he dies soon.
Tiffany has no way to call now, unless she finds a way to contact Andy. He tosses this thought around a lot, and his anxiety rises. He sleeps less and less.
He starts to wake to a voice, raspy and pleading. "Please, please, please," it croaks, high-pitched and desperate. He looks around the room every time, but he never sees anyone. He is going insane.
He thinks he hears a knock on the door at some point. "Fuck off, Andy!" he screams, even though that is exactly what he does not want to happen. It hurts everything in him to say it. He sweats in bed while shivering. He sees and hears things around him constantly tormenting him. Saying his name. Saying Andy's name.
He dreams that he is healthy and fine, and wakes to hell each time. He dreams of other things too, but he does not like to think about it. It doesn't take long before he clings to those dreams, though, them being the only distraction he has from the exponentially growing pain.
It is a week later, but he does not know it. He is not keeping track of time. It feels like a lifetime. It is a week later when suddenly he's waking to the raspy voice again, and he realizes it's him - it's been him begging some unknown for mercy.
He should pray to Damballah. But he has no offering, and no way to give it even if he has it. He prays anyways, desperate. Helpless. Lost.
He prays, and then he is burning, and everything feels as if he is tearing from the inside out, and he is screaming. He couldn't stop it if he tried, or if he wanted to, and he finds that he doesn't want to stop anyways. It seems to be the only thing he can do. He is screaming and he is so imbedded in pain that he does not realize that he is crying.
He is convulsing, and he is screaming for mercy, and none comes. For a fragment of a moment of sanity, he thinks he may be in hell. This is what hell would be like, and it is what he would deserve.
He is screaming, and he has no idea what he is saying. He is out of his mind. He wants water, he wants to shower, he wants to be able to enjoy walking through the small apartment again, to hunger and to taste food, he wants something - anything. The touch of a human being. The coolness of sheets at night. Anything.
He wants to die. He wants the pain to stop.
The bedroom door opens, but he doesn't hear it. He doesn't hear much at all at first. And then barely, he can hear a voice, calling his name.
"Please..." he's hoarse, he's exhausted from screaming, he's reaching in the dark. This feels like his last hope. "Please, please - make this end. I'm begging you." His voice cracks. "Kill me if you have to. Just make it end."
Then he's screaming again.2
Kristen settles in the bed next to Jess, hair frazzled from work. "I'm not getting up until two, so don't you dare even think about waking me up before then," she groans into her pillow. She can hear Jess snickering under her breath before she feels slender fingers finding their way through her curls.
"You're not even going to shower, babe? You'd feel better," Jess chastises her. Kristen shakes her head, feeling Jess' fingers tangling in her hair.
"They're going to get lost in there," she grunts, and she's right. One of Jess' rings catch in a clump of curled tangles, and they're both giggling, despite Kristen's exhausted irritation.
"What're you still doing up anyways? Surely you weren't just waiting on me," Kristen asks when they finally disentangle, peering up at Jess critically.
Her girlfriend shakes her head, tapping a small book. "You know I'm always awake for you, lady-love, but alas, you're right. I'm writing our next single for the band. We're opening for a show in Boston next Friday, and it's my hometown so I thought I'd do something special."
Kristen smiles up at Jess dopily. "That's so exciting, Jeevie," she slurs out. It is true; Jess has worked hard and is very talented at what she does, and Kristen believes she deserves the world. But now, she is beyond exhausted from closing at her small cafe, and she yearns for sleep. She yawns heavily. "I love you. Good night."
She lays down again and Jess turns off the lights, save for a small desk lamp. She feels the dip of the mattress and Jess' hand scratching her neck and back gently as her girlfriend settles back down, scribbling away.
Moments later, her phone vibrates, and it shakes her awake. She ignores it at first, but when it continues to buzz under her stomach, she finally pushes herself up on her elbows, aggravated.
"Merda, quem é isso - tome no meu cu," she curses under her breath, and Jess laughs. Kristen wipes her eyes, feeling mascara and eyeliner smear. She should have showered. Shaking the thought away, she blinks at the harsh light of the phone.
"Oh- it's Andy," she murmurs aloud. "I wonder what he wants at this time of night?"
"He's finally decided he wants to dick that doll of his down and he needs our help, since we're totally dicking-down experts," Jess states, eyes not leaving her page. Kristen gives her a look and shoves her.
"He'll never decide that, turd, unless he's suddenly possessed by his own repression," she huffs. "We'll be in walkers swapping fake teeth when that happens."
Jess snorts and keeps writing.
Kristen swipes the phone open, ignoring any of Jess' further snarky commentary and holding the phone up to her ear. She can feel her eyes closing again already. "Andy?" she croaks into the phone. She can hear a lot of noise in the background, but it's muffled. "What's going on? You know it's like," she checks her phone screen, "almost three in the morning, right?"
"You've gotta help me - I don't know what to do!" Andy's panting into the phone, and the last time Kristen had heard him like this, he had been on the bathroom floor, crying his eyes out. Immediately, her maternal instinct comes into the fray, clawing anxiously in her chest. "Please, I- I don't know what's happening and I don't know who else could come..."
"Okay, okay, I'm coming - you're not hurt are you?" she asks, alerted to the severity of the mystery situation. She lowers her voice, despite Jess not being entirely naive of their old friends living situation. "Did he kill someone near you?"
There's a shuffling sound. She can hear more now. Someone is screaming in the background. She and Jess share a look, and Kristen is already up, throwing her shoes back on. Jess snaps her book shut and jumps out of bed, grabbing the car keys from the chair Kristen had thrown them down on earlier.
"Andy?" Kristen asks again, panicking. She can not seem to tie her laces fast enough.
"I'm fine- it's not - he isn't hurting anyone," Andy finally responds again, and she exhales loudly in relief. He sounds worn out. "It's him. He's hurting. I don't know what's going on - but he won't stop screaming and... Kristen, he looks terrible... I don't know what to do."
They're out the door, Jess opening the car and Kristen jumping in beside her. She keeps Andy on the line, asking whatever questions she can think of and assuring him she's on her way. Jess peers over at her every once in a while, worry crossing her face.
"Dude - what's going on over there?" she asks carefully when Kristen hangs up. Kristen just turns to her, wide-eyed and speechless. Jess reaches over to squeeze her hand, feeling the pulse of Kristen's heartbeat in her palm. Kristen shrugs, the background noises still echoing in her head.
"I… I don't know, Jeevie," she whispers, finally. Then, "He sounds absolutely miserable though."
She sits back against the chair, trying to focus on the hum of the car. "For once, I won't mind if you speed through here. Just… get us there…"
She can hear the screaming and crying just outside Andy's door when they arrive, Jess reassuring her to go on ahead while she parks the car. He's opening it before she can even knock, eyes wide and red from lack of sleep - or from crying himself, she doesn't ask.
"Where is he?" she asks, and he waves his hand weakly, walking back to his guest room, which she supposes is where he has let Chucky stay since their strange arrangement. She has not been here to his apartment in a long time. Not since Chucky had moved in.
She walks in the room, and she can smell the fever. The vomit. It smells very much like death.
On the bed, Chucky is convulsing, in a spasm, and upon coming closer to observe, she can see harsh and ugly bruises along all of his joints. His eyes are wrecked, red and bulging with dark circles underneath. His nose and mouth are bleeding, and he's babbling, only managing a single human word every once in a while. He is the epitome of a mess, as if he were breaking and reforming continuously in a loop, mangled.
Beforehand, she had been wondering why Andy had even cared. After all, Chucky has his fair share of comeuppance due. She definitely has not changed her mind about him; she still distrusts him and would rather him out of their lives. But this - this is beyond what she would wish on anyone. And looking over at Andy's tear stricken face (he has been crying, she can see it better now), she can see that he feels the same, conflicted about his heart breaking for someone who he has years of hurt and hatred for.
He is at his wit's end, calling her for help. And she does not know what to do either.
"We can't- we can't take him to a doctor right? This isn't any kind of disease..." Andy is babbling to her. Out of the corner of her eye, she can see Jess with a bottle in her hand, coming over to pour Andy a drink and rubbing his shoulder. She smiles, hoping her gratitude to her girlfriend radiates through her demeanor, just happy that she has a partner who has her back.
"No," she says finally, looking back at Chucky. His screams have subsided, but merely because he is wearing out. He's still crying and pleading to no one in particular, gripping at the air with mangled fingers.
"He's been like this for how long? Just since earlier tonight you said?" she asks. She touches his forehead. He howls from her touch. He is burning. She can see veins pulsating madly just beneath his skin. "
She feels his wrist, gentler this time, but he still whimpers and jerks under her touch. He's very tender, his skin molds under where her fingers are, and the impression of her touch is still embedded in his wrist when she removes her hand.
"It looks like... he's literally growing human parts," she murmurs after a while in quiet observation, looking up at Andy and Jess in soft awe. "I can see his veins - the blood going through them."
She gives Jess a look. "Can you get some water?" she asks. "I want to try something."
Jess gives Andy one last comforting squeeze before disappearing. Chucky starts to twist and scream in bed again, his cries growing. Andy's face contorts, and he lets out a soft whine, covering his face and kneeling over in the chair he's pushed close to the bed. Kristen puts her arms around him, resting her cheek on his head.
"I'm sorry this is happening," she whispers, despite still feeling animosity towards the doll-turning-human. "We'll figure out what's wrong- we will. We'll help him."
Jess returns with the water. Kristen lifts Andy's face. "Can you help me with something?" she asks softly. Andy nods weakly, shaking himself into action.
"It might hurt him a bit still," she warns. "But I think - look at him with me." She points at his skin. "He's dehydrated. He didn't need a lot of sustenance before, as the doll, but now that he's... I don't know, forming a human body I guess? He needs nutrients. Starting with water."
She bites her lip. "Maybe," she adds. She is not entirely sure what he needs. But they have to try.
She waves at his head. "Lift his head up a bit," she tells Andy, who is shaking but gingerly cradles Chucky's head in hands. Chucky cries, begging in pain.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry..." Andy is chanting under his breath. His eyes are watering, his lip quivering. His voice trembles. "We're trying to take care of you, I promise..."
Kristen is not as apologetic. She's more interested in propping his mouth open to pour water in slowly. Chucky seems to vaguely register what's going on, swallowing in between moans. He coughs through most of it, but eventually takes all the water down, mouth open and panting in desperate wait for more.
Kristen turns to Jess. "Get more," she directs her, holding out the empty cup, "and get a lot of it, please."
Jess rushes out the door. Kristen puts a hand on Andy's shoulder, trying to steady him. Chucky still cries, head nestled in Andy's hands. He is still babbling incoherently, but certain words are coming through: please, hurt, stop, die. And then: Andy.
Andy looks as if he is going to break when he hears his name. He kneels down weakly, Chucky's head still in his hands, and puts their foreheads together.
"I tried," Andy says softly, almost unheard with Chucky's sobbing. "I tried to get him to talk to me, to get him to drink, or eat. Everything seems to hurt him."
"I know," Kristen replies, as gently as she can. "He's going to keep hurting if we don't push him now though."
"But how do you know this is going to work?"
She doesn't. "I don't," she admits. "But we have to try. It's better than nothing."
Jess returns, water jug and cup in her hands and a look on her face. "There's someone at the door," she says, eyes searching Kristen's face. "Should I... open it?"
Kristen nods. "Check who it is first," she says, then takes the water from Jess' hands. "And check around the kitchen. Look for anything like soup or broth that we can push down his throat."
Jess nods, looking as pale and panicked as Kristen feels. But Andy has been dealing with this for hours already, and somebody has to be strong. It looks like it is going to have to be her. She sighs and forces Chucky's mouth open again, slowly pouring in more water.
Andy looks up after a while, wide-eyed. "Wait - wait, give him a break," he pleads, gesturing with his head frantically. "Don't drown him."
Indeed, it looks as if Chucky is struggling to swallow the water. Kristen blanches, and puts the water down to pull Chucky's limp body up.
It's a serious mistake. It's as if Chucky is literal putty in her hands, and if they'd thought his screams were loud before, they are insane in that moment.
Kristen and Andy share a horrified look. "He doesn't have any...?" Kristen starts, alarmed.
"Bones, no. Well not really yet, anyways," a voice, low and smooth, interrupts. Andy and Kristen turn to see Jess at the doorway, with another woman by her side. Her coat is pulled tightly around her, and she is already tying her hair back, ready for work.
"Ms. Valentine?" Andy barely gasps out, immediately recognizing her.3
Tiffany looks at the scene before her, bracing herself for how long the night is about to be.
Chucky, head nestled against Andy's chest at this point. A young woman with dark curly hair and wild eyes, with a cup of water in one hand, and Chucky's arm in another. The woman next to her who had let her in, a box of broth in her hands. Everyone looks about as lost as she feels.
She sighs and adjusts the books in her arms. "I brought the twins," she announces to Andy, who nods numbly. He looks worn out.
"That's fine," he rasps. His hands are threaded in Chucky's hair, she notes, but she doesn't say anything about the sudden unexpected intimacy. She just holds her itching smile and approaches them.
"Here's the broth," the taller girl says, holding out the box. The curly haired one stares at her in disbelief.
"Well, warm it up, babe!" she says, a bit exasperated. "I might hate the guy but I'm not a complete bitch."
The girl behind her stifles some kind of snort, and then she's gone. Tiffany watches in amusement as the curly haired girl continues to gently pour water in Chucky's mouth. If it weren't such a dire situation, Tiffany would find it all rather endearing.
"You were on the right track," she reassures, in an attempt to alleviate the terseness and anxiety in the room. "He is turning human- so now he does have human needs."
The girl looks at her in relief. "What's your name?" Tiffany asks, curious. She seems to have a strong head on her shoulders, fiercely independent and confident despite the situation. Almost as if she innately knew what needed to be done in the moment. Tiffany finds herself drawn to her almost immediately, despite knowing little to nothing about her.
"Kristen," the girl sighs out. She finishes giving Chucky water and lets him relax back in Andy's hands. "And you're Tiffany, right? Andy's mentioned you before."
Tiffany nods. Kristen grins half heartedly. "Sorry we're meeting like this," she says, gesturing to everything around them. "It's not how I expected to be introduced to you."
At this, Tiffany shrugs. There's not much they can do about it now. There's no helping the situation. She places a hand against Chucky's neck, and he moans, tossing a bit and almost trying to sink into Andy's hands.
"You dramatic little bitch," she teases, but her voice is tense. Then she looks at Kristen. "He's burning up. You were smart to give him water. But unfortunately, from what information I gathered, we can only try to make the process easier. We can't speed it up. He will be in pain until it is over. In fact, right now is the hardest part, if my understanding of the text is correct."
"So how long will he be like this?" Andy asks. Tiffany had almost forgotten he was there, he had been so quiet. His head rests on the pillow next to Chucky, hands still cradling him as if he were the most fragile thing in the world. Given the situation, he probably is currently. She gives him a sympathetic glance.
"I'm not sure - it was a little unclear," she admits. Andy's eyes fall, and he seems to forget himself, pushing his nose against Chucky's ear, eyes screwed shut. It pains him, she can tell. She's not sure if it is because he truly cares about Chucky now for some reason, or because they're all facing this storm together. Either way, he is hurting, and it almost appears instinctual, the way he grabs for Chucky in the same way he probably had when he was younger.
The other girl returns, bowl in hand. "It's not too hot," she says, and Kristen holds out her hands for it.
"Alright, lets see how you do with this," she mutters, taking a spoonful of the broth. "Andy, lift his head again."
Chucky's still crying and moaning, but it seems that for now, the pain has subsided. His voice is smaller and weaker, and he seems fine enough to have his head lifted when Andy positions himself just right so that Chucky is leaning against him. His eyes are opening, but it doesn't appear that he is recognizing that there are people in front of him. Tiffany can see the glassy shine in his eyes; he has the look of someone who, mentally, is very far removed from the current world around them.
Kristen pulls his jaw down again, tilting the spoon into his mouth. "There," she asserts, a little self-satisfied. Tiffany is slightly amused at her almost calloused way of handling him, despite feeling a bit guilty about taking pleasure in it. "And if it doesn't bother him, we'll give him some more."
The girl behind Tiffany grins. "He seems a little, well, not so tortured now," she finally settles on.
It is indeed hard to describe. Now that he is calmed a bit, Tiffany can see his bruises and swelling all over his body, and the dried blood from his nose. It seems the blood and mucus is coagulating around his nose and mouth. She can see the trail going down his chin and neck, staining his shirt.
"Poor little thing," she muses aloud. She turns to Kristen. "We should clean him up, don't you think?"
Kristen nods. "Jeevie, come help me find some stuff to clean him up with," she says to the other girl, who is quick to take her side.
"Do you need me to help?" Andy asks. Kristen begins to speak, but Tiffany responds first.
"I think you're helping a lot actually, just by being right where you are," she says, her tone insinuating something behind her words. She doesn't know Kristen or this Jeevie at all, but the look the three of them share feels as if they could communicate like old friends would. She wonders if they see what she sees, if they know what she's known. If they've been friends with Andy or Chucky long, she can't imagine they wouldn't already be aware.
When they walk out in the hallway, her two twins are eyeing them worriedly, Glenda more than Glen. Glenda twists their hair anxiously around their finger. Tiffany had almost forgotten she had brought them here, and is surprised that they hadn't run into the room earlier. She walks towards them, putting a hand on their shoulder.
"Is Dad okay?" Glenda asks, their eyes a pure storm.
Tiffany doesn't know how to respond. She doesn't want to frighten her children, but she also doesn't want to lie to them. They have had enough lies in their life for her to bear to add anymore.
"Hey, you guys like dominoes?" Jeevie's voice cuts in, throwing everything for a loop. She kisses Kristen and gives her a comforting squeeze before approaching Tiffany's children with ease. "Why don't we go to the kitchen and play a round?"
The twins seem significantly calmed and satisfied for the distraction, already clambering after this intriguing woman with tons of questions. "Did those piercings hurt?" Glenda asks, already reaching to touch Jeevie's ear. The woman leans down with a grin so Glenda can reach. "Not much - just a pinch," she replies, and Tiffany knows that Glenda will be begging for piercings like those later. She heaves a sigh of relief. A little more time to get a better idea of Chucky's situation.
She follows Kristen through Andy's apartment, helping her gather things they might need. Kristen is stone silent. Tiffany can tell there is a lot on her mind. She has already observed a little bit about her - that she is one of Andy's dearest friends, that she is strong willed, and most importantly, that she harbors an animosity for Chucky. Understandably, Tiffany thinks to herself, as she has the same feelings sometimes towards her ex-husband. Doing this must be hard for her as well- to care for someone she wishes was not even here to begin with.
"It's very kind of you to help him," Tiffany instigates carefully, trying to be subtle. Kristen gives a small grin, but Tiffany can feel it. There's something underneath, dark and powerful, twisting and growling. Something ancient.
Chucky has told her before that this girl Kristen intimidates him. She feels it a little bit when they lock eyes. There's something about her she can't place, but it makes her fear to make the wrong step.
"To be honest, I'm only doing it because I'm helping Andy," Kristen murmurs, and her face twists. The conflict is written throughout her expression. She pauses, as if debating if she should continue. For a brief moment, Tiffany feels as if a storm is about to crash through them, from just a twitch of Kristen's fingertips.
"Listen, I know he was like, your lover and all, but I'm sorry - I don't... I don't like this situation at all. I don't trust him."
Tiffany folds up some towels she's found. "You're talking to someone who had to deal with his shit for years," she responds. The air changes. It's crazy how she seems to feel that just from this girl's demeanor. "I hope you can trust me when I say, I find it hard to trust him too. I find it hard to like him some days."
Andy seems intimidated by her too, she noticed, and they have been friends for a while now. She wonders what it is, what hides underneath this girl. She doesn't do anything particularly violent, and that is observable now. She has every right and opportunity to smite Chucky and say it is for Andy's good - which if very well might be - and yet, she does not. It's something within and around her, something almost electric.
Tiffany wonders if Kristen even realizes this, her power. Her influence. It's more than likely that she does not.
Kristen seems to calm around her though, and she wonders what she has done to so quickly gain favor. All she said was words - this girl has no way to know how much she means them. "I guess you're right," Kristen concedes. She picks some rags out of the hallway closet. "I just - I know that it's hurting Andy, for some crazy reason, to see him like this. And I don't want Andy to be hurt."
She sounds a little bitter. "He's had enough pain," she adds. Tiffany can only nod dryly, knowing now is not the moment to pry. Especially with another more pressing task at hand.
"Well, then," she replies, shaking the invisible weight from around her shoulders. "I guess we better get to it. How about this: I'll explain everything that I know, and then we help Andy find a routine to follow during this process?"4
Andy is, to say the least, sick and panicking.
He should have come in to check on him earlier. That's all he can think about. He should have come in sooner, despite their awkward and tense relationship. The first time he heard the slightest moaning, he should have come to see what was going on. Hell, he should have come in when he started seeing less of Chucky. It hadn't been normal for him to not be around, but he had chalked it up to him being out and about for some reason. He should have known better. He should have known better.
Chucky whimpers, face scrunching in pain. Andy can see just from his posture that he's worn out from crying and convulsing, but his body moves on its own. At the moment, Chucky is a slave to the process. They can only hope for mercy throughout it.
"I don't know what to do, buddy," he croaks out, and for a brief moment he thinks that this is the first time in a long time he's spoken so casually with Chucky. But the thought is quickly overtaken by his worry again. He slides further up on the bed, now only half sitting in the chair. "I don't know how to make you stop hurting so much."
"I can't make the pain go away," he stutters out, and his eyes are watering, and he's tired and dizzy. And this is beyond pain that anyone should go through, right? Surely this is why he hurts so much for the man near him. Otherwise, he would not care so much.
Otherwise, he would say this is what Chucky deserves and leave it at that.
But deep down, logically, he knows that technically Chucky deserves this, and yet, he can't help but feel all kinds of heartbroken about it. He tries not to focus too much on this though, and instead burrows deeper into the pillow. Chucky immediately turns into him, his cries growing again. His hands twitch, as if he is trying to clench his hands around Andy's shirt, but there is hardly any movement; it is merely the attempt.
"Andy..." Chucky is whimpering, eyes open, looking right at him. Andy doesn't know if he really sees him or not, but he's looking at him - tear stained face, bruised and bloodied. "Andy, please..."
"I wish I could, I'm sorry!" Andy gasps out. He doesn't know why he feels guilty. He didn't bring this on him, and he doesn't have the power to stop it. But oh, how he wishes he could. It seems a never-ending nightmare. There is a strange crunching sound that makes his ears curl, and Chucky is screaming again, body contorting helplessly.
Kristen and Tiffany appear then, and not a moment too soon, he thinks.
"I can't," he wheezes out to them, falling apart. He feels as if he is going to explode into tears. "He's screaming my name and begging me for something I can't give... I... I can't! I'm not strong enough..."
Kristen is shaking him. "Stop, stop Andy," she hushes him. "It's not your fault, it's not. He's in a lot of pain, and you're here, that's all." She presses her forehead against his, and he tries to focus on her breathing. His grip is still on Chucky, who's now buried into his chest, still sobbing uncontrollably. "You're just going to have to be here for him. It's all you can do."
She leans back, holding out a wet cloth. "It's all we can do." She's grimacing, and he knows why. He knows she doesn't like Chucky in the least bit, and it pains her that he is so pained by Chucky's suffering. He wonders if she would care at all, if she were in his place. He finds himself defensive for Chucky suddenly, and almost laughs at how crazy he is. How crazy he's become. He blames it on the lack of sleep and the events before them.
"Go on, Andy, it's alright," Kristen is coaxing him. She ushers the cloth again in his direction. "Wipe him up a bit, now. The rag is warm. Do it before it gets cold."
Andy twists inside. Moving Chucky in anyway is only going to hurt him, but as Kristen and Tiffany have both mentioned, he will hurt either way. He takes the rag and begins to wipe Chucky's face and neck, trying not to let his screams discourage him.
Tears are forming in the corners of his eyes. This time, he lets them come. He cleans the blood away, and the dried vomit from the corners of Chucky's mouth, and he cries.
When Kristen and Tiffany leave him in the room, alone with Chucky, he doesn't notice. He slides himself completely in the bed next to him, tossing the dirtied rag to the ground. He encases Chucky in his arms, holding him as he trembles violently. The crunching noises continue, a strange crushing and breaking sound. Chucky's face is pressed against his shirt, screaming into it as if his life depends on it. Perhaps it does, he wouldn't know.
Holding him tightly seems to help the convulsing, though, and he tries not to lose himself as he watches more bruises from and grow. He shuts his eyes and tucks Chucky into him, murmuring whatever comforting things he can. Hoping that he can hear any of it.
When Kristen returns, he is falling asleep, and wakes to her tucking them in together. He almost feels ashamed that she is having to mother over them when he is not in nearly as much pain as Chucky is, but his attention is still concentrated on the way Chucky's cries grow and subside, and on how he can ease him in some way.
"Here," Kristen yawns out. Her hair is a mess. Her eyes are bloodshot. Andy sits up slowly, arm still around Chucky, who is clinging to his shirt hoarsely weeping. He puts a hand on her arm.
"Thank you for, uh… for everything," Andy whispers, eyes downcast, sheepish. "I know you couldn't care less if he rots or not - so I know this is for me. I'm sorry..."
Kristen makes a face. "You're right, I don't like him," she starts stiffly, crossing her arms. "But…" her expression softens, "...this is insane. I can't watch a person in torment like this either, regardless." She flinches as Chucky howls, screaming again. She hands Andy a piece of paper.
"Listen, I have to open in the morning, and Jeevie has to meet up with her band. I think Tiffany is going to stay for tonight, but I think she's leaving in the morning," she says. Andy takes the sheet and opens it, seeing Kristen's neat handwriting. It is a drawn out regimen of sorts, with times and descriptions and explanations.
"It's a list, for you..." she explains, as his eyes peruse the words. "...while we're gone. I know I can be back around tomorrow afternoon, but until then… just something for you to follow. We don't think it will make this process any kinder for him, but we're pretty sure he won't die."
Andy pales at this. "You're pretty sure?" he asks faintly, already tightening his grip subconsciously. His heart rate increases, panic flashing through him. Kristen gives him a sad squeeze on his shoulder, and there is genuine pain in her eyes.
"Just take care of him as best as you can," she says, watching him for a moment. Watching them. It looks as if she wants to say more, but does not, instead merely adding, "You can't control everything."
Almost as if on cue, Chucky is writhing again, and Andy steadies him, holding him still. His grip controls Chucky's movement, calming the convulsions. Chucky does not cry as loud this time, and Andy likes to think he has helped in a small way. At least this way, with Chucky's body imprisoned in his embrace, he does not shake so violently.
"Yeah," he murmurs, smiling softly up at Kristen. "I'll just do my best."
He can feel the crumpled up paper in his hand from where he had been clenching. He had not realized. Chucky quivers against him, but other than this, things are unexpectedly calm. Kristen inhales sharply, but holds her tongue from whatever it is she is going to say. She leans in to give him a hug, and then she is gone again, leaving the door open only a crack.
He turns his face onto the pillow. Chucky is bleeding again; this time, also from his ears. He is blubbering and twisting. Andy sighs heavily, heart in his throat, and pulls Chucky's already ruined shirt off slowly, carefully. Wincing through his hoarse and weakened screaming. He wipes at the blood with his shirt, tossing it on the floor as it subsides.
"I'll do my best," he whispers to him, pulling him close again, even as he drools and his nose runs against his neck.5
It is unbearable. He feels barely sane, consciousness hanging only by a thread. He does not have the energy to speak, but screams against his will anyways, when they grow inside him. The bones of his victims. He feels their creeping hands underneath his skin, sharp and cracking. Tearing him open against his will. It does not end either, pausing only for a brief heartbeat and then starting again.
He feels when hands bandage him. Tiffany? He thought he'd heard her voice. But he hears many voices, and it is hard to tell what is in his head and what is in the world above him, so seemingly far away. Whoever it is, they wrapped him tightly, and now it is harder for the bones to take him so much. It still hurts, but the growling has subsided. He knows he will not be able to escape it for long.
If Andy were dead, would his bones be here too, clawing at him until he burst?
"I'm sorry..." he wails, when the pain grows again. His tongue is dry again. He had felt the presence of Ayida-Weddo, her stern but merciful face granting him water while he burned. He felt her hands forcing him up from the dead, dragging him out of his fiery misery, and for a moment, the crisp freshness of the water rushing through him gave him hope. But then she was gone, and the hope went with her.
His fever is rising again. He feels as if he is suffocating. Someone wraps him tightly again, and he realizes he had been shaking once more, the growth on the move. His fingers are twitching, and he can move them at last, gripping onto whatever he can. He can feel smooth fabric; and to feel anything other than immense pain is wave of relief. The fever still rages, but he clutches the cloth, sobbing and clinging to this one piece of salvation.
"Help…" he barely makes out. His jaw and teeth cut through his gums. "Please… saveme…"
Cool hands are touching his face, pulling him up, and he grits his teeth through the pain, still whining at it despite his efforts. He can feel arms around him now, his skin prickling at every sensation, both painful and wonderful.
Something brushes at his lips again, and he feels water once more. He turns to look for Ayida, but she is not there.
He does not look too long though, as he is parched and desperate for anything. The water slides down his throat, thick and cool, and he feels it spreading through his entire body. His body falls against a soft cushioned surface as he drinks, the water never enough even as it comes. His cheek is malleable; he can feel it molding to the surface it is on. He does not know what this means. It does not seem to hurt the way he hurts on the inside, the cracking and stretching continuing.
"It's going to be fine," he hears, barely. The voice is soft. He has to attune his ears towards it, focusing only on it. He wants to believe what it is saying is true. "Everything is going to be alright."
He feels something being urged into his mouth again. Warm. Filling. Some sort of sustenance; he cannot tell what it is. He takes it anyways, just hoping it will help in any small way. There is someone holding him; he is sure of it now. Supporting him as he swallows. He is still overheating, but the warmth from the arms around him is still cozy and welcomed. Penetrating despite the overwhelming pain he still feels.
"This should help," he hears. He knows for sure it is not Ayida now. It is a man's voice. But it is not Damballah either; when he looks up he only sees wings and the brightest lights. At times, Damballah comes in the form of a serpent, but he does not feel the scales of a snake. He feels human hands, human skin, human clothes - all brushing against him.
An angel, he thinks. But the Loa are not angels. Perhaps they have sent someone for him, and heard his prayers after all. He does not know what he has done to deserve it, but the gratitude that grows inside him is immense. If he ever truly escapes this perdition, he will be in a deep debt. He wants to thank this angel of mercy who holds him now, gently nursing him to health, but he does not know his name, nor can he see his face. And his pain grows again, and he is once again rendered mute by his involuntary crying. So he clings to him and weeps, and hopes the message is translated.
When the angel's wings close around him, he wants to believe it is.
This does not mean that suddenly he is graced with all of his pain taken away, unfortunately for him. A sudden burning acid rises up within him, and he retches out everything that had just been put in him. Fear, an intense biting fear, grows and stretches. He has dirtied the angel. His one ticket out of this pestilence he is suffering from, and he has greatly disrespected him. He has soiled him with everything contemptible and depraved from inside himself. Surely, he will be left behind now. He is doomed to this anguish of his own design - trapped in his deserved Gehenna. If the Loa have sent him this angel as a last chance, he has ruined it now, and they will assure his reincarnation is nothing but despair.
He can feel the bones rattling again, and the voices grow, screaming, howling. Signaling his impending doom. He has never cried so much in his entire life; ironically, it is as if every tear he had never shed and should have are ripped from him now, and he is heaving sobs, eyes dry but voice wet with sorrow.
"I'm sorry…!" he wheezes out. But the angel is gone, and he is alone again, surrounded by only his suffering.
He cries out anyways, just in case. He cries out because his life depends on it.6
Andy did not want to leave him, especially not after hearing the way he was crying after him, voice so broken, a fawn left alone in a harrowing forest. But his shirt is ruined, and Chucky is a mess. He has to find a way to clean them both up. This is an absolute misery.
He looks at the list Kristen had left him, and he does not see bath listed anywhere. But the smell is becoming too much, and even if Chucky is too far gone as of now to smell it, Andy is not. It reeks. He has to rid himself of it before he goes insane himself.
Tiffany is still in the kitchen, hands around a steaming mug. She perks up as soon as she recognizes him in front of her, her eyes full of questions. "I assume the little shit is still in pain?" she asks, joking weakly. Chucky's crying does not come through the walls for Tiffany to hear them, but Andy feels as if the sounds surrounds him, still echoing in his mind. He nods, and Tiffany puts a hand on his arm.
"The kids are asleep," she says, and gestures her head down the hall. "I let them sleep in your bed; I hope you don't mind. Your friend Kristen said it was alright."
Andy doesn't respond to this. It is perfectly fine, of course, but his mind is away on other things. "We have to clean…" he starts, then waves helplessly towards where he'd left the room. "Just… all of it. Everything."
Tiffany grimaces. "You want to do that now?" she questions, her face twisting. "How does he look? Does he seem like he can move at all?"
"He's starting to," Andy replies, thinking. Chucky really hadn't been moving much, but he seemed more solid in his arms just before he'd let him go. "He was gripping my shirt like … I don't know. Like I was pulling him out of perdition."
At this, Tiffany snorts. "You probably were," she muses, before shaking whatever thoughts she had away. "Well, if he's able to hold onto you, he has to be forming some kind of skeletal structure, so I can't see why we can't at least try it. I've got to leave with the kids; it'll be Monday and I've got to send them to school, but I'll help you out this first time, just so we can see what it's like."
Andy sighs in relief, knowing for at least a little while longer, he won't be entirely alone in this strange journey. Tiffany pushes her mug aside and rolls up her sleeves, leading the way as Andy stumbles behind her, awkward and unsure, and into the dark they go, where Chucky is as miserable as he has been, still beside himself.
Tiffany wrinkles her nose. "You weren't kidding - he smells like he's been dead for days," she manages between coughs. She flips the light on, taking in the damage, before sighing and rubbing at her face. Andy can see lines of anxiety slowly carving into her forehead and corners of her mouth. As much as she appeared to know, it is clear she is just about as lost as he is in this situation.
Andy moves before she does, unbedding Chucky from the comforter and sheets, which are ruined with blood and sweat and other unmentionable excretions. Chucky is already thrashing about, almost as if attempting to force his body upwards. It is to no avail, as it is apparent his body is still molding into a solid structure of any sort. He collapses back again, but Andy has caught him and lifted him from the bed, holding his limp body out towards Tiffany. He waits for her approval to move forward.
"My angel…You, Pitya, Pitya, I'm sorry - I'm so-sorry," Chucky is gasping, hands already clutching at Andy's shirt.
Tiffany's green eyes are sharp on him, and Andy exhales heavily. "He's been saying crazy stuff like this since last night," he explains, gently shrugging Chucky onto his shoulder. Tiffany moves to fold up the sheets and comforter on the bed, switching between fascinated and downright disgusted.
At her ambiguous expression, Andy feels himself growing uncomfortable and itchy just under his skin. "I- I assumed it was some kind of Voodoo thing…?" he stammers out finally.
Tiffany snorts at this. "There are no such things as angels, really, at least not in how we practice Voodoo," she starts, then hums under her breath thoughtfully, mood changing swiftly. She hoists up the sheets and blankets in her arms, face crumpling at the smell. "He is muttering something in Haitian, though, so we can only assume there is some kind of connection there."
And he is, babbling just one word, over and over- pitya, pitya. And then, angel, my angel. He cannot make out enough words for anything he says to make sense, but Andy feels a rising anxiety screaming at the core of his Adam's apple. He has to bite his lip to make sure he is not actually screaming himself. He turns towards Tiffany, to ask for assistance, for guidance, but she has already traipsed out of the room, muttering to herself and leaving a scented trail of Virginia Slims behind her.
He is left again, with Chucky folded in his arms, and on the precipice of panic.
He should have filled the tub first. He should have prepared ahead of time. Now he has Chucky again, and his arms are tied and Tiffany seems uninterested in participating. He cannot even call Kristen - although he is not entirely sure she would be gentle. He has a sinking suspicion she would not be. Kristen has had the hunger to tear Chucky apart since she first knew he was in the apartment with him. He has heard it rattle from her tongue. The desire to eradicate him.
He does not blame her. He knows his compassion - his pity - is otherworldly. It is alien. A foreign language even to himself. But he speaks it anyways, carrying a dripping, molding, poor excuse for a body into his dimly lit bathroom, dropping to his knees, ushering Chucky into the tub, removing his soiled clothing. Trying not to let the maddening rise and fall of his sobbing drive him away.
He tosses the clothes away, and now he can truly see underneath Chucky's skin, the layered bruising and bloodiness of what Tiffany and Kristen had accurately guessed as the formation of bones. He can eye out a rib cage, a sternum, the hints of a pelvis. What is the most striking is how contorted it all is still; the femur and fibula in particular, almost as if they want to protrude right through the skin and grow eternally. He sucks in a deep breath and tries not to drown, and turns on the water.
Slobbering, Chucky is still moaning for him - or for whoever Pitya is. Andy wonders if his soul is in Hell, and he is wandering back to them. He probably would have never been one to believe in the supernatural if it were not for his childhood with this very same person. But it is hard to imagine what else was occurring deep down, for Chucky to be saying what he says. It is as if prayers of a most fervent kind are falling from his mouth, and Chucky is not a begging man.
The water is already dark. He sighs and drains the tub, and tries again. Chucky seems to calm when the water touches his skin, thanking him. Making promises that he suspects are empty, but perhaps they are not. He does not know. It doesn't matter much anyways, he is here nonetheless, to get the job done. He cups warm water and wipes at Chucky's face, seeing where his past scars have reopened. He supposes he will have to tend to the wounds as well, following this.
"What do you want? I'll give you anything."
It is the first complete sentence he has spoken in a while, and his voice is slurred. Andy, out of a morbid curiosity, nudges his upper lip up with his index finger and sees his gums, his teeth. Still inflamed, but not bleeding. He gently hoists Chucky up on one arm and wedges his mouth open, prying and feeling. His tongue is lacerated, possibly from him biting it in his agony, and he can see that even there, it will need stitching.
Chucky whines, and Andy removes his fingers quickly, hot. He should not have done that. He doesn't know what he's doing. He could have made things worse.
"I'm sorry," he stutters out.
"It hurts," Chucky whimpers.
"I'm sorry," Andy says again. "I wasn't trying to hurt you." He's flushed, and he feels like an idiot. He grabs a washcloth off the bar and fights with his soap before lathering the dirt and blood away, watching it pool into the water. Chucky hisses every time he rubs at any tender blossoming muscle, so it is an encore of apologies and soft cries. Andy does not realize how tense he is until he speaks again, and his jaw unclenches.
"Let's get you dry," he murmurs. He wants to feel relief at how Chucky seems to have finally passed through the valley, but he is afraid that it will only start again soon. The stench of Chucky's clothes still poison the air. He decides to leave it for now.
He lifts Chucky from the tub, forgetting to drain it this time. Not worrying. Trying not to worry about anything. Chucky shivers and soaks his clothes, sputtering. Andy walks by the guest room, and never thinks twice, letting his goose-prickled naked body down on his own bed instead, trying not to think too much about it. He pries Chucky's fingers off of his sleeve before hunting down a towel, drying him up. Seeing his fingertips pruned like true human skin.
And then Chucky blinks at him as if seeing him for the first time.7
"Andy?" Chucky chokes out, a wellspring in his throat. He is aching, he is spent, he feels as if every part of his body has been mutilated, but for once, the cracking and piercing and moaning has stopped. There is a hushing silence as Andy stares back at him, rounded hazel eyes doused in exhaustion. As if he had walked there with him in the shadows, and ripped him from it and brought him back home.
Home. He has begun to call Andy's apartment home too many times now. But after what he has just been through, this does not frighten him as much as it used to.
Andy dabs at him with a towel, and suddenly he realizes that for the first time in what felt like a century, he feels cold. There is no burning from within, no brink of death conundrum. Just very human hunger, thirst, tiredness, cold.
He cries, but for the first time it is of sheer relief. He cries and he clings to Andy's shirt, sobbing in gratitude, thanking Damballah, thanking Pitya, thanking Andy. He feels Andy awkwardly putting his arms around him and rubbing his back, but the warmth of a human is more welcomed than he'd ever imagined it could be.
"It's okay, it's okay," Andy murmurs, and he believes it. "You're going to be okay now. It's over - I think."
Chucky shivers and sneezes in Andy's arms, and it tears in his ribs, but nothing more happens, other than his low groaning and runny nose. He knows for sure he has some sort of fever, and there is still a nausea grumbling at the pit of his stomach, but for the most part, he feels it is over. Perhaps. He sees a light at the end of the tunnel.
"I don't have any other clothes for you…" Andy is muttering, up and now digging through his drawers. Chucky feels an odd tingling just beneath his skin. A phantom itching. Andy turns with a t-shirt, coughing awkwardly.
"I guess we'll have to stitch all these up first," he continues, gently plopping down on the bed next to him, touching his scars. Chucky shivers again, a little less from the cold, a little more from the pain and intrusion. Andy winces apologetically. "It's going to hurt though."
Chucky laughs until he coughs up blood, and Andy is wiping away at the corners of his mouth.
"D… don't tell Tiffany about this, okay?" he finally sputters out, gesturing to all of him. Andy grimaces.
"She's already been here, through the worst of it," he admits. He's back to shuffling around in his room, returning with a sewing kit. Chucky leans back against the pillows moaning in a low pain. It is a relief when it is not as strong as everything he had felt. Andy snags a bottle off the table and takes a large swig.
"So my hands don't shake," he explains. Chucky just watches, a little amazed that this is something Andy seems to understand. He shouldn't be surprised, he supposes, considering that Andy has had to patch himself up before. Andy is threading the needle, and Chucky finds himself wondering just how far Andy had gone for him. How much had he cared for him while he was away?
His heart flips. He swallows. It's hard to do. Andy lightly taps his fingers against the first scarring that has split open, starting from the inner side of his ankle and climbing up his leg. He's looking at Chucky with the most tender expression in his eyes, and Chucky cannot quite fathom the reason why until Andy threads the first stitch and he inhales sharply, wincing.
"Oh - you'll probably want this too. I'm sorry, I didn't think of it before," Andy says suddenly, handing him the bottle he had just drank from. Chucky feels an eternity of gratitude, and he feels as if he owes Andy a very deep blood debt. Even more so now than before, when he'd awoken to life again with Andy Barclay - of all people - by his side.
Andy's fingers are very dexterous, carefully pulling tiny stitches through his skin, over and over again. Chucky cannot stop his skin from humming every time Andy touches him somewhere. His gentleness is appalling. The thread appears delicate compared to the work he'd had done on him before, and as much as it hurts, he is drunk and fascinated enough to keep watching. He can clearly see them still, but they are not as pronounced and loud.
Quite the opposite of Tiffany's work, although he was sure she had just been eager to put him back together after years alone in search for him. Back when their lust was high and the nights seemed forever. He can still remember the first time he saw her face when she brought him to life, glowing in the candles of their old trailer home, and he smiles wistfully.
"You gonna ask me to marry you yet?" Chucky chuckles out, lost in memory. Andy flushes and gives him a perplexed look.
"What?" he asks.
In hindsight, it probably wasn't a good joke to make aloud. Andy would have had no context to it. Chucky just coughs awkwardly and takes another swig. "Nothing, nevermind…" he mutters, looking away, cheeks heated. He is fully human now and he can feel everything. He thinks he might hate it. He can feel shame again, pooling through his veins, to the point he worries a stitch will pop loose again.
Andy pricks a wound in his lower stomach, and the pain shocks him. He grunts and chews his lip, shaking hands grasping for the bottle again. The needle squelches through his skin and pinches and stings. God does it sting. The thread is just as intrusive and cruel. He whimpers and clutches at Andy's sleeve, panting, and whimpers again as he continues the sutures.
"Just breathe, just breathe," Andy coos softly, and Chucky doesn't know if he is talking to him or to himself. Andy pauses his threadwork for a brief moment, and cups his cheek - although Chucky does not know why. They have never been remotely close to being kind to one another, and Andy is behaving in an exceptionally tender manner. Their eyes connect too long, and Chucky tears his gaze away.
"Just… just get it over with, kid," he grunts out, stuffing his hand into his mouth when the next stitch goes in.
"It's almost over with," Andy responds, and the tone of his voice is a soothing distraction from each prickling jab of the needle. "This one will hurt the most, but it's almost over, I promise. Just breathe."
Chucky rolls his eyes. It's cliche; he feels as if he is on a poorly produced telenovela where he's a patient with amnesia and an attractive doctor is nursing him back to health. The kind of show Tiffany would get him drunk to watch with her, despite him giving out biting remarks every couple of minutes, until she got aggravated and shooed him away. But here he is, and he feels safe - with his worst human enemy, of all people. He feels safe and weak and he wants to lie down, but he is still a bit damp and unclothed, and Andy is still stitching him back together again.
After a grueling couple of hours, Andy has finally finished most of the sutures, and he's looking over his handiwork, and Chucky follows his eyes, feeling cold and exposed. Andy touches his stitching, presumably checking to see if everything is tight and sturdy enough so that his wounds will heal, but his calloused fingertips brushing against his skin leaves behind a trail of lightning, and Chucky quivers despite himself, exhaling sharply.
"I'm sorry… you're probably freezing," Andy whispers, gathering up one of the t-shirts he'd taken out of his drawers from earlier. He's already dressing him despite Chucky's protests, tugging the shirt over his head and pulling his arms through the sleeves.
"I can do this myself, you know," he near growls. But his heart is pounding fast. Too fast.
"I don't want you to tear your stitches," Andy says to him, and there's that look again. As if Andy sees him as some wounded baby animal. Chucky wonders just how he was behaving, when he was being rebirthed like some kind of caterpillar to butterfly, to make Andy behave like this around him so suddenly.
"Or some kind of moth, more like," he mutters aloud, amused.
And then Andy is giving him that look again, as if he's lost his mind. He probably has. He knows he can't be blamed though, all things considered.
Andy is tapping his nose, and he's shivering at his touch again. He doesn't understand it. He blames it on the fact he is fully human, finally, and every sensation feels like fire. He wonders if this is what newborn babies feel like, sending everything for the first time, and as he tears up yet again, thinks that must be so. That must be why babies cry so much. Everything is so intense.
"This one shouldn't hurt as much, but it will still be uncomfortable," Andy explains, as he's threading another needle, and Chucky realizes he had forgotten his face. His ruined, beyond repairable face. He chuckles bitterly, choking back the disappointed and despairing sobs. He truly is an eyesore, he's sure. His ugly sins have made their way to the top, for all to see. This is his comeuppance.
Then the needle pokes into the skin on his face, and he screws his eyes shut, breathing heavily. He knows he is tearing up, but he focuses more on not making any noise. He has been through hell and back, he can handle this. Surely.
Andy wipes his tears away with his thumb, and for some reason, that makes him want to break down more than the needle piercing back and forth through delicate, hyper-sensitive skin. Everything is so bizarre. He wants to find counsel in Damballah. He does not understand anything right now.
"Last one," Andy says, and he looks vaguely uncomfortable when Chucky looks at him. He doesn't know why. If anyone should be uncomfortable if should be himself. He is the one in someone else's home, wearing someone else's clothes, letting someone else touch him and care for him and nurse him to health. And that someone else is his - claimed - worst enemy.
Andy shifts awkwardly, and Chucky watches his hair fall over his eyes. Has Andy not cut his hair during this whole time? His beard is thick too. He has the appearance of a savage forest animal; a bear awoken from a winter's slumber. He's fumbling with the needle; these same hands that have hurt him and maimed him in the past are here now, mending and caressing. From tough to tender.
What happened? he wants to ask. But his tongue hurts so much to move it, and he feels it bleeding still. What did I say that made the whole fucking world spin backwards suddenly?
"I… you're gonna need to give me your tongue," Andy coughs out, scratching the back of his neck. Chucky blanches, mid-thought, mind screeching to a halt.
"You're… we really gotta do that too?" he finally croaks out. It's not just that it's going to hurt. He knows it is going to hurt, and he can accept that. He'll brace through it and be grateful. But he does not feel like the stitches will hold, and he does not know if he will be able to hold still long enough. It is intrusive. Something that Andy has been almost the entire time since he's first come back to life.
Not that he's meant to. Chucky is aware of this as well. Despite that knowledge, he still hesitates when Andy nods, finally grunting in consent and leaning forward.
Andy catches him before he falls completely over. "It'll be easier for me if you're leaning forward, but if you feel tired, just hold onto me," he says, not looking at him. The air is incredibly tense. Andy threads the needle one final time. Chucky resists his offer for a fraction of a second before immediately resting against Andy's knees, eyes shut again, unable to watch. They're too close and Andy is too gentle and this is all wrong. He feels mortified and fate is cruel.
Chucky is bracing himself for the first puncture of the needle. He hears Andy take a deep breath as he takes ahold of his jaw with one hand. "Okay, just let your tongue hang out as far as you can," Andy murmurs, and his voice sounds strained. He sounds unsure. "I just want to see how much I actually have to stitch."
Chucky complies, mentally rolling his eyes, but his heart is pounding. There is a shuffling. And then a soft chuckle that Chucky recognizes and immediately feels his heart leap.8
"Jesus, should I give you two some privacy? I leave to get the brats together and wash your dirty sheets for a few minutes - you're welcome, by the way - and you're already getting down to some kinkplay while I'm away, huh?"
Andy squeaks and drops the needle, cursing under his breath, and Tiffany snorts under her breath. Chucky cracks open his eyes are her, scowling, but he doesn't reply. She assumes it is because he is still weak.
"Ms. Valentine… I'm trying… to do something very nerve-wracking right now," Andy grits through his teeth. His cheeks are flushed, like she has actually caught them in the act. Two schoolboys in a back hallway between classes. Chucky seems in a much better state and things don't seem quite as dire as they had earlier, and so she allows herself the liberty to snicker mischievously.
"I take it you're not lost in your own personally deserved hell, huh, Sweetcheeks?" she asks Chucky, who mutters something colorful and contrite. His speech is slurred and sloppy, and she takes notice of the way he still grips onto Andy's shirt. He clearly does not have any intrinsic strength yet, and by the tinting across his face, he is still under a heavy fever. But other than this, the worst of it seems to be over, and she is free to leave whenever she pleases. Which she hopes to do as soon as possible.
"I'm sorry, Andy my love," she says, with still the sweetest lilt in her voice, but she means the apology for much more than teasing him. She is leaving him in the den alone again, to nurture none other than his worst enemy. The lion to the mouse. She has no interest in being around Chucky long though, as much as somewhere in her heart, she still loves him. It still stings being around him, hearing his voice. She remembers the words he's said to her, and the biting tone he's held against her before, and she is instantly repulsed. This is who she is leaving Andy with. This is why she is apologizing.
Andy, however, has no earthly clue that she is undergoing this inner-turmoil. He is muttering to himself nervously and dedicating himself to the task of stitching up Chucky's tongue, apologizing profusely every time Chucky hisses in pain and jerks his tongue away.
"You've got to try and keep still, or this is going to take longer," Andy presses. He's patient and enduring; Tiffany suspects he's also lucky Chucky is not at full strength in any way, shape or form. "All of the worst parts will be over after this."
She sighs and rolls her eyes affectionately, reminiscing. Although Chucky had not been conscious when she'd patched him together, she can see that same amount of meticulous care and tenderness in Andy's handiwork.
It makes her question just what Andy's feelings for Chucky are, at this point in their time together. He surely does not hold quite as much animosity as he had once, that is clear. Chucky would have been left for dead, if that were the case. There has to be an amount of attachment or care of some sort for him to be treating Chucky the way he does now. In their time together, something has changed. Whether they admit it or not, they are not merely enemies anymore. Something grows underneath their hateful thicket, blossoming within the weeds.
"I just came to say," she finally speaks up. Andy hums in response, worrying his lip while stitching. "It looks like things are much better now, and I've got to be taking the twins to school tomorrow, so I'll be leaving out soon. I made myself at home in your kitchen - I hope you don't mind. I left food for the both of you as well."
"Thank you," Andy pauses his work to turn and grab her hand, squeezing. He catches her eyes and it's as if he can finally rest. As if they now they can all rest. "I know I can handle it from here. You were a lot more help than you realized, just by being here assuring me."
Chucky grunts, but he can't make any quip with Andy's thumb and forefinger gripping his tongue. Tiffany sticks her tongue out at him as soon as Andy turns, and then she leaves them, finding it hard not to smile at the way they bicker softly, even after everything they have just endured for the past several days.
"Is Dad okay?" Glenda barrels her with questions as soon as she steps into the kitchen, with Glen just behind. "Can I see him? Does he look all mangled? Is he going to be a hunchback?"
Glen doesn't add to it, and Tiffany highly suspects he would rather just leave without even looking at Chucky, but Glenda's morbid curiosity is high, and they are both dashing into the room before Tiffany can even protest for Glen's sake.
"Dad, you look like shit!" Glenda screams, and Tiffany hears Andy's breathless laughter and Chucky's weak retort, letting Glenda know the twins got half of their looks from him, so they look like half-shit. She huffs and gathers her things, knowing it will only be more of a scene if she does not go in to pry them out soon.
"Glenda, you know you can't say those kinds of words," she directs, only to have Glenda turn their blue-green eyes on her with a wicked smile. "You and Dad say it," they respond. Glen nods in agreement. Tiffany takes note of how they hold onto Andy's sleeve, against Glenda going straight to Chucky to antagonize him.
"You're going to take care of our dad?" Glen asks Andy, in a soft, quivering voice. "Are you going to make him all better?" They tug at at Andy's sleeve again, round eyes watching and waiting for a response. Tiffany wishes she knew which reply Glen wants - for Chucky to be okay, or for him to finally pass and leave them all alone. It is hard for her to love Chucky when she sees the mental scars he's left on their child.
Andy looks conflicted as well, unsure of what to say. "I'm just… I'm just doing what I can," he finally settles on, and Glen seems satisfied with this answer. Tiffany notices how they do not acknowledge their father in any way, and it is only Glenda who interacts with him. They're poking and prodding at all of his stitches, much to Chucky and Andy's horror, who both plead with them to stop.
"Alright, alright, you saw him. Let's go so you can be rested up for school," Tiffany interjects finally, deciding she needs to relieve both of the men. Glenda growls out their disapproval, but huffs dejectedly and complies in reluctance, tugging at Glen to follow along.
"C'mon, we gotta go before we make Dad cry again," they say, to which Glen finally manages a small smirk and Chucky just buries his face away in Andy's chest, no doubt holding in a threat. Glenda is the only one of the twins who has the brass to tear Chucky down; Glen is still weighed down a timidness and trauma that Chucky passed down. Tiffany chuckles softly and ruffles Glenda's hair, putting her arms around both of them and ushering them along.
"Good luck," she hollers to Andy over her shoulder. He nods wearily, fingers threaded in Chucky's tangled hair. If she did not know better, she would say that they had both been through hell together, and just barely escaped. At this point, she knows it's best that they're left alone to cope, without any sudden distractions or commotions. She can take away two red-headed ones.
She hands the twins their backpacks, tucking in Glen's various stuffed animals and Glenda's copic markers in their fore and side pockets. The apartment has an eerie aura settling into it; it is almost hauntingly quiet, considering the hellion screaming that had echoed in its walls for the past few days. She shoulders her own things, and with one last look around the apartment, she nudges the twins out of the door and slides it behind them, shuffling through her keys as they clamber down the stairs.
The drive is chaotic, with Glenda antagonizing Glen in various car games, cheating and denying it. Tiffany finally snaps at them, adjusting her rear view mirror to glare at them until they quiet down.
"Pick something to watch, Glen, and put it in the DVD player," she commands, gripping the wheel. "And Glenda, leave your brother alone so we can get home in one piece. I'm not playing nurse for anyone else for the next couple of weeks." Her knuckles are white. Glen shuffles in the back, and then she can hear the sound of a Studio Ghibli film beginning. Glenda mutters something under their breath, kicking the back of the passenger seat, but settles after a time, begrudgingly watching the film with Glen, arms crossed and mouth pouted.
Tiffany sighs in relief, but her mind still wanders, worrying. She wonders if she should have stayed a bit longer and kept the kids out of school. She is sure the worst is over, but she has never seen a full transition once a soul has been transferred. Chucky was always the more knowledgeable one on this sort of thing, and it seemed even beyond his expertise. Way beyond.
I assumed it was some kind of Voodoo thing, Andy had said. She hums thoughtfully. Pitya, pitya. She's not sure what the word means. It does not sound familiar, except Chucky had cried it in such reverence she is sure it has a significance somehow.
She has never seen him in such a broken state, and they have known each other for many years. Despite the rift in their relationship, she feels a dark shiver running down her spine imagining what he must have seen and felt. She wonders if it will haunt him. A part of her hopes it does.
Her thoughts turn to Andy, who is left to clean up this mess, as he has been countless times before. She has left her job to him. Somehow, she feels like he is better equipped. Especially considering that he has a close companionship with the girl who's aura reverberated a deep and ancient whisper. Somehow, she knows as long as Andy has her, things will be alright. They will survive, all of them there.
Maybe one day she will have the courage to visit Chucky again, when she has done some healing of her own. She prays she will find him a better man when she does.9
He can count the days now, despite a continued pain that lingers beneath his skin. He can count the days and he can enjoy food and drink, and Andy comes to him after work and cares for him in gentle ways that he wishes did not imprint on him so much. He can count the days and he can count how many hours Andy cuts out of work to make sure he is home to take care of him. He cannot quite get out of bed on his own, as his body is slowly regaining strength, and even with Andy's assistance it feels as if he will never be able to be independent again. But he knows he will, and he knows that if he had become parapalegic at the end of all of this he would deserve it.
It does not change the fact that there is a looming and weary misery that hangs around his neck when he is alone. He does not like where his mind wanders, and against his will, he begins to yearn for the sound of Andy turning the knob and coming home, just to have a conversation with another human being. Just to hear another voice besides his own.
And Andy's voice is so soothing. There is something about it he had not noticed before, but now notices quite often, uncomfortable as this revelation leaves him. He notices the way it does not seem to change in energy, and while he had found it emotionless at first, the more Andy visits with him and swaps stories with him, the more he realizes that Andy is simply a calm storm. His ways of dealing with turmoil are steady and determined. Even his laugh is low and gentle, never changing.
A hole begins to form in his stomach whenever Andy leaves again, and nothing he does seems to fill it. When he is alone, his thoughts wander into a tangled and desolate place, dry and screeching.
He feels a fever looming over him, an assumed side effect of his transition. It is not nearly as serious as it had been when he had been just beginning, but it worries him all the same, trauma and stress pooling into sweat. He had been hoping he would not have to feel so weak anymore, but clearly, this strange, ritualistic process is not done yet.
By nightfall, he has a headache, and everything aches. He has fever-ridden shivers running up and down his spine and the backs of his arms and legs, and he is cold and sweats at the same time. Andy comes in to check on him, and while it makes him sink into incomprehensible dread, he has no choice but to lay back against the pillows Andy props up for him.
"I brought some soup," Andy says, appearing just about as uncomfortable as he feels. He sets it on the side table. "I need to check the stitches though, especially in your mouth."
Chucky grimaces, but relents, as it is obviously the thing that needs to be done. Andy tends to his stitches again, checking them scrupulously with knitted brows, when finally the idea of the hole seems unbearable. Andy is dabbing at his wounds, changing his shirt, brushing his hair - things that still leave him intensely tingling - and despite how warm it all feels, he cannot help the growing dread. That when the door closes, he will be alone again, and the screams will take over while he tries to sleep. The angel has not visit him in any of his recent dreams. He dreads the dreams that may come next. He fears he will not have the strength for them.
"Andy…" he croaks out, his tongue still sore and awkward from the stitching. He tickles the roof of his mouth whenever his tongue brushes against it. Out of the entire process of healing, he thinks this part may be the most aggravating.
Andy hums, but his mind is trained on the work between them. Chucky feels his heart stick in his throat watching him. It hurts almost, the amount of care that Andy puts into this. Into him.
"Andy, listen, this is gonna sound so weird and awkward, but…" he chokes, voice cracking, feeling a true flush heat him from the inside out. It should not be hard to do this, after what he has been through. But he feels dry nonetheless. Andy turns his eyes on him. Bright. Something about them is a familiar comfort. He chalks it up to the fact they've lived together for a while now.
He reaches for Andy's arm. His skin feels so cool. He shivers. "I… I really don't want to be alone…" he murmurs, looking down. He feels dizzy. He wants to lie down. Just not yet. Not here. Not alone.
"... Can you… can you stay here? At least until I fall asleep…"
He sounds so small. He hates it. But he can't help it. He pushes his palms into his eyes, frustrated and conflicted. The dreams are so harsh. And he is so weak. The fever is raging; he can feel his face, flushed and hot from it. He is dizzy. He can hear a faint rattling of bones, and he is not sure if it is his imagination or something more. Andy tenderly touches his stitching with cool and calloused fingertips, causing him to shudder and whimper into him.
"I'm cold…" he whispers, voice shaking, despite the heat. "I'm so cold, Andy."
Andy doesn't move at first. But then Chucky feels his arms wrap around him, and he feels as if he's arrived home after a long and grueling journey, and cannot hold in the exhausted and relieved sigh as he clutches Andy's shirt, feeling tears prickle at the corners of his eyes.
"Please don't leave me," he pleads, words gushing out despite himself. "I'm so scared…"
Andy tightens his arms around him, hushing him. "Of course, of course," he coos quietly, taking Chucky into his arms. Chucky wants nothing more than to hold onto him, to pull him so close he knows for sure Andy will not - cannot - leave him. But he has no strength still, and can only ask and hope that Andy grants it.
Fortunately for him, Andy has chosen to be merciful. He is not sure why, only that he is grateful.
Then he feels himself lifting, and Andy is carrying him through the apartment, cradling him in one arm as if he were a small child. He should feel ashamed, he should feel angry - but none of those feelings manage to come. He is only relieved, thrilled even, that he is here, and he is safe.
Andy gently lowers him onto the couch, adjusting the pillows and a quilt that Chucky is sure Karen had bought for him. The way Andy tucks him in only leaves him more emotionally vulnerable than before.
"You… don't have to do that… fucker," he manages weakly. Andy grins at him, work shirt crumpled and sleeves rolled, and bags under his eyes. Chucky feels everything inside him melting. Something has changed, and he is not sure he is ready. He feels like crying again, and he does not know why, and he is just not ready…
Andy is wiping at his cheeks, and he's sobbing out loud, the sheer desperation and relief wafting out of him. The dam is broken, and he is damned and broken. Andy settles next to him, remote in hand, and turns the television on, only to set the remote down and stroke his hair, and it is the most wonderful feeling in the world, and it breaks his heart.
"Shh - It's okay," Andy whispers, pulling him closer with one arm. "You're going to be okay. It's over, buddy."
His tears dry, and Andy goes to retrieve the soup from the guest room, and while Chucky has never known Andy to be a cook, the taste is welcome, and warm, and Andy has let him rest his feet on his knees. He's wearing Andy's socks, so they slip and threaten to come off, but Andy adjusts them and spoon-feeds him the soup, prattling on about work, or his mother, or anything.
They fall asleep together on the couch, and it is the best sleep he's had since he's come back to life, swaddled in blankets and tucked beneath Andy's chin. He falls asleep to Andy's heartbeat, steady and calm and real. A reminder of where his reality is.
He sees him that night dressed in white and at the edge of a river, where the sun sets just in the distance.
"I need to thank you," he calls, voice hoarse. The angel turns to him and smiles, soft and warm.
"Of course," is all the angel replies, and takes his face in his gentle hands, and kisses his forehead. Chucky wakes against Andy's chest, drooling from a well-needed heavy sleep.
The next couple of weeks he falls with a heavy fever, and Andy is beside him then as well. Kristen and Jess come along every once in a while, but it is Andy who stays with him, bathing him and feeding him and tending to his wounds, slowly nursing him back to health.
A month later, he can finally rest again, the pain at last gone, but his mind runs amok. He has sleepless nights and dream-addled days, and each time, the same reverie revisits him; he is in perdition, and the gen-pitya angel comes to him, liberating him when all hope seems lost.
He remains alone when Andy is away at work, and he sketches often as he slowly heals, and it is Andy's face at the end of his pencil every time, with sympathetic-doe eyes and the wings of a dove. He tries not to think too much about what this means, but he cannot stop drawing him, even if he wanted to. It is a constant subject in his sketchbooks, and he keeps them hidden, unsure and insecure about how it all connects.
His hand cramps from it though, and he knows that he is human. His heart beats, and he feels hunger, and tiredness. He can feel his own heartbeat, a phenomena he did not think he would ever care too much about, but cannot help the few tears that slip out when he feels it. He presses his hand against his chest more often than he cares to admit. There is a warmth when he touches his pulse, feeling it beat steadily under his skin.
He is alive, and every waking moment, he can tell how alive he is.