This story somehow appeared after a Boxing day spent in a car for 12 hours driving home, hence it may not be my best.
Also, I just want to point out that when reediting some older stories I got rather annoyed at how overly-explanatory they are. I tried to tone it down here, it's just that I have certain concepts I want to express and am still learning how to do so subtlety. So I hope this isn't overly explanatory but that it is also clear, if anyone has advice on how I can improve in this (or any) regard, I'd love to hear it.
Anyway, hope you're all well and stuff. (Such eloquent words, I know.)
It's mighty odd, the things that make us realise we're loved.
People might say they're mighty things; great risks taken, great sacrifices made, but it's more often in the unseen little things.
This Freckle learnt in the police station.
To be honest, Rocky had actually already taken these great risks and made great sacrifices for Freckle that doomed night.
His scatter-brained single-mindedness on the safety of his little cousin during what would later be known by those in the know as 'The Gun Fight' which saw him taking even less regard for personal safety than usual.
Also, as difficult as it is for all those who have ever met, or indeed ever merely heard of, Rocky to take him seriously enough to consider if he was capable of self-sacrifice it cannot be denied that Rocky knowingly gave up his freedom that night so that Freckle would not be arrested and taken to the police station alone. Rocky did not know how much the police knew about the Lackadaisy but he did know that there was enough evidence in their immediate vicinity to throw either, or both, of them away for good. This evidence consisted largely of dead bodies. As far as evidence goes, it was pretty damning.
But these gestures actually went relatively unnoticed, the only possible witnesses being either the thugs, who were busy being dead, the police, who were busy arresting him, or Freckle, who was busy being unconscious.
Freckle didn't wake up for the whole ride to the police station, though Rocky could've done with the company as much as Freckle could've done with a doctor.
Indeed he didn't wake up when he was getting treated by a doctor, a surprisingly gratuitous allowance of the notoriously unsympathetic policemen. It probably speaks for the severity of Freckle's injury that the cops feared he would die in their custody enough to warrant getting him medical attention. (The paperwork! Think of the paperwork!)
Nor did Freckle wake up when he was locked into the prison cell with Rocky, who was looking a little more worse for wear then he had previously, even though previously he had already been looking like he'd been three rounds with someone much more adept at fighting then he (which he had.)
No, what gave Freckle an inkling of the hidden things in his cousin's head, things that seemed impossible in one as idiotic and disastrous as Rocky, came a few hours later.
Freckle had been unwillingly dragged into consciousness by his protesting body and was greeted by a partially undressed Rocky who was, at that time, experimenting with which item of clothing could be best used as a blanket for his cousin whilst minimising his own heat loss. They'd had a small exchange which largely consisted of Rocky being staggering relieved that Freckle was alive, followed by a short summary of the night's happenings which Freckle, in his currently concussed state, was having difficulty remembering.
Halfway through this explanation there was a bang on the jail bars. From his vantage point lying on an extremely uncomfortable wooden seat alongside the wall Freckle could see absolutely nothing. That is, absolutely nothing interesting; he actually had quite a good view of the ceiling. He had also learnt the folly of trying to move when one has been recently concussed, shot and thrown into prison, so he tried to surmise what was happening from the alarmed fluffing up of his cousin's tail and the flattening of his ears after Rocky had jumped and faced the source of the banging. It was a sign of how badly the night had gone, was going, that Rocky did not grin or make some highly unintelligible quip of some variation. He just stood there, upside down (well, right side up, but from Freckle's angle Rocky appeared upside down) waiting for something bad to happen.
"Mighty talkative now you're back with your gunslinger," a dry voice remarked. Something rattled and then the cell door squeaked. Wordlessly (for the first time in his life, wordlessly) Rocky stepped towards Freckle, to protect him or to be protected Freckle could not tell. The cell door squeaked again and clanked shut. Aware now that he and his cousin were alone with a none too happy man of the law, the law he and his cousin happened to have been caught breaking, Freckle thought it was high time he sat up. Gasping as quietly as he could he pushed himself up, clutching his bandaged side with one hand and Rocky's shirt (a.k.a his improvised blanket) in the other. Rocky had backed up until his legs were against the wooden seat next to him and if Freckle hadn't sat up he'd be getting a mouthful of tail-fur right about now.
The officer was exactly how one least likes to see an officer; angry and looked so angry he could've breathed fire if it wasn't for the smoking cigarette stuck between clenched teeth. He probably lit it by spitting fire, Freckle surmised woozily.
"Why've you shut up now?" The officer demanded of Rocky, getting closer and puffing more angrily.
"You were getting right chummy with your little partner in crime, would you like to share with me and the boys what exactly you two've been chatting about?"
Freckle had learnt that when the doctor had been treating his injuries Rocky had made the acquaintance of 'the boys,' who had taken a rather different approach to prisoner hospitality. Actually it was the complete opposite approach. Rocky hadn't said this, but with his newly bleeding nose and black eye to match his other black eye he hadn't had to. His nose and eye also indicated the chat hadn't gone to 'the boys' liking.
With a vague idea of taking some of the heat off Rocky (the policeman was so close now Rocky was at real risk of receiving singed whiskers) Freckle tried to say 'Nothing.'
He said 'Nhnn,' and nearly passed out again. The cop didn't even glance his way. Freckle was just a delirious prisoner who had spent most of his arrest bleeding profusely, making him an unsuitable candidate for a robust interrogation. (Well, making him an unsuitable candidate for a robust interrogation for a cat who wanted to keep his job, that is.)
"Were you by chance chatting about the mess you and your friend made back there? Were you by chance thinking of some explanation as to why you were at the scene of a triple murder and why you're here friend was holding the murder weapon in question?"
The thick set man pushed Rocky hard in the chest. Already having backed up to the seat Rocky had nowhere to go but down, so down he went. He tried not to, he put one hand out to the wall but he had no room to twist and catch himself and so ended up sitting down hard on his tail. He winced.
(There was, in fact, a very good reason as to why Rocky and Freckle were at the scene of the triple murder, and for once it actually wasn't their fault. The three thugs had been sent by a rival gin joint and much of Freckle and Rocky's actions had been done in self-defence. However this explanation wouldn't fly with the police, with gin joint's being illegal and all. These cops also happened to try to enforce justice in a rather questionable fashion, so neither Freckle nor Rocky supposed the 'self-defence argument' had much potential anyway.)
And here we get to the point where Freckle realised the gravity of what Rocky had done even more so than Rocky did himself.
Rocky did not smoke. He did not drink and he did not smoke. He saw both as rather uncouth behaviour and wrinkled his nose at the rankness of them. Sure he'd happily sell spirits to people, but he'd just as happily make elaborate, multi-syllabic remarks of disdain afterwards to anyone in his vicinity. Freckle knew this and hence realised the significance of Rocky's inaction when the policeman learnt down, pulled the cigarette from his lips and exhaled smoke into Rocky's face.
After a night of life and death and flight and capture it was a small thing; Rocky's ears flattened down even harder, his eyes squinted closed and his chin ducked down to his chest and he waited for the smoke to stop.
Rocky had never been one for violent outbursts (outbursts of craziness, yes, outbursts of pyromania, yes, but outbursts of maliciousness or an actual desire to hurt someone? Never.) He wouldn't have been able to stop the cop without making the situation worse anyway, so the gesture of tolerating the smoke wasn't what struck Freckle. It was more of the fact that he'd put himself in a position where he had no choice but to tolerate it that made Freckle suddenly realise what had happened and what his cousin had done.
The cop leaned closer, bracing a hand on the wall above Rocky's right shoulder.
"You weren't by chance thinking of a lie you and you're here friend could pull over the eyes of the law? You weren't thinking of trying to fool me, were you?" The cop's tone said that he thought the opposite. Freckle flattened his expression pointlessly but the policeman continued to act like he was invisible.
Rocky shrank down lower and avoided eye contact. Really, all he wanted was to not get hit.
"Nothing?" The man growled. Rocky didn't turn his head away, didn't look up nor look down, didn't move at all. He just sat and, as he had most of his life, relied more on someone's choice to not hurt him than in his ability to stop them.
With a snarl of annoyance the man stood up straight again.
"Don't think you're silence will protect you boys," he said, "you'll be dealt with in the morning."
Neither Freckle not Rocky moved. They hadn't held their breaths (to become too still would ask for a hit as much as too much movement) but they waited as they were, eyes averted, breathing quietly, until the officer left.
Rocky coughed, blinking his swollen eyes open again, and Freckle sighed unhappily. He'd never wondered much about the future when he started moonlighting. He'd never much had a head for hypotheticals. Some could wonder for hours about just which way a cat would jump given a certain situation, but Freckle was not one of them. He'd wondered a little about himself, about his own possible behaviour, but hardly ever about others.
Right now, if he was honest, his cousin just seemed too all over the place to contain much in the ways of seriousness or sacrifice. But here he was getting beat down and locked up just for Freckle. Here he was tolerating indignities such as cigarette smoke when he should've been miles away fretting about his imprisoned cousin. His imprisoned cousin who he was not with.
He hadn't even done it to protect Freckle, not really, which somehow made Freckle feel worse. Rocky hadn't come with him to put himself into a position to save Freckle from the law or stage some great jail break. That wasn't Rocky. Admittedly, give him a stick of dynamite and point him in the right direction and he could probably achieve the equivalent of a jail break. But that still wasn't the point.
Rocky had come with him merely so Freckle wouldn't be alone.
Now he thought of it he could imagine many people doing many things for him, making sacrifices on the probability that they would pay off, on the chance that a small loss now could equal a big gain later. But not like this. If Rocky and he were getting out of this it was by no action of their own.
"Lay back down, Freckle," Rocky was saying. As Freckle had been thinking Rocky had stood to check the policeman had gone before returning to the bench, wringing his hands.
"I don't know anything about gunshot wounds but lying down seems like the best course of action to me," said the fellow with a bullet hole in one ear.
Freckle agreed with that logic, as unlikely as logic was to come from his cousin, and stiffly rearranged himself on the bench.
Rocky paced once around the room as Freckle tried to keep his vision from swimming.
"Maybe…I dunno…Wick would pay the ransom…if Ms. M asked him to…" Rocky spoke as he paused at the end of his lap. He didn't sound like he thought much of the idea of Wick being their knight in shining armour.
"We're not being ransomed…" Freckle rasped. His exercise (that is, sitting up and lying down) had helped him regain his breath enough to speak, "He'd be paying bail."
"Ah…yes…" Rocky said vaguely, resuming pacing, "that too."
Freckle was in too much discomfort and pain and far too weary to feel fear, but by the sounds of it Rocky was doing enough of that for the both of them. He had the vague wish that somewhere, right now, Ms Mitzi and Ivy and the rest of the remaining Lackadaisy crew were thinking of how to get he and his cousin out of this terrible mess, maybe by planting false evidence or by thinking of what would have to be an extremely good explanation. The wish wasn't very substantial; it seemed more like an obligatory attempt at optimism then any real hope and hence it wasn't much of a comfort. It certainly wasn't as solid and tangible as his cousin putting himself on the wrong side of the cell bars for Freckle.
Rocky was still Rocky, doing things single-mindedly as well as thoughtlessly, in the bizarre way that only Rocky could really do. Rocky wasn't trying to reassure Freckle, nor by appearances was he trying to reassure himself. He and Freckle were a team, were partners. It probably hadn't even occurred to Rocky to abandon Freckle, he probably hadn't even consciously chosen staying with his wounded cousin over fleeing the scene. But he was an idiot, he wasn't stupid. He would've known what he was doing, he would've known of his choices even when there was no choice to make.
Freckle didn't need Rocky to show great motherly concern (as if he hadn't enough of that) to know his cousin loved him. The fact that Rocky had decided, thoughtlessly, deliberately, instinctively, to be here in prison getting breathed on by smoking policeman just so that his cousin would not have to face the world alone was testament enough to that.