Just a Dream, Dear
“Sweet when he’s sleeping, isn’t he?”
Blinking languidly, the doctor looked up from the sleeping face of his beloved, curled up against his side as though latching onto an anchor. Always clinging desperately, arms around his waist, fingers fisting into fabric if he wore pyjamas – like he was terrified that he would leave him if he didn’t wrap around him like Velcro.
Sitting at the edge of the bed, looking down at the other sleeping so serenely, was Cooper. He was staring down at the gunman with a little tilt to his head and a tiny smile – practically secretive. Cooper always seemed to be keeping a secret, though; Allen had noted that the first time they had…met.
A flush flourished up the back of his neck and behind his ears at the thought, hands twitching carefully over Zebediah’s hair.
“W-what are y-you doing here, C-C-Cooper?”
“A guy can’t visit an old friend?” Cooper smiled, looking up at him with those ice blue eyes, before they flickered down to Zebediah again. “I met him, you know. Before I met you – gruff guy. He’s got a short temper, and an even shorter leash on it. Rough with his hands.” The iceman lifted his own to demonstrate, twiddling his fingers with a quirky little smile before dropping them back into his lap. “I don’t think he likes me much.”
“O-oh, s-surely not…”
“Nah, I’m pretty sure he hates me. Our first meeting didn’t go so smoothly – and I left him in a rather uncomfortable situation. He’s been bitter since.” Cooper paused, then, shifting in his seat on the bed and leaning back against the footboard, crossing his ankles lightly. “Sometimes, I swear, when he looks at me? He sees some disgusting little rodent under his boot – and he’d like to crush me until I can’t move again without screaming. And he could do it, too, you know. He might not be the biggest guy – but he’s big. And he’s compact. That’s all muscle under that scarred skin.”
Allen frowned, looking away from the younger man to the shop keeper, pale fingers trailing over faint lines that bumped and nicked his skin – stories Zebediah never talked about. Stories he didn’t dare ask about.
“And he’s a cautious guy, you know – he’s always looking for danger. Always thinking there’s someone behind his back, gonna shoot him or stab him. It’s like he’s waiting for someone to betray him or whatever. Like he doesn’t trust anyone, you know? You ever get that feeling? That Zebediah doesn’t trust anyone?”
The doctor opened his mouth to deny he ever had, but his words caught in his throat as his mind got to working. Zebediah was wary of others. He always kept things to himself, even basic things like his family, and he didn’t answer questions unless you wheedled the answer out of him. But those were just quirks, weren’t they? Little, insignificant quirks that Allen rarely paid attention to, for what importance did they play?
“I bet you’ve never seen him with his back to a crowd.”
Well that was true, but Westfield was a bit crazy these days, wasn’t it? People getting shot and hurt and struck by strange bolts of lightning, and drinking strange potions and other such things. That only made sense.
“Did he tell you about the gun he keeps hidden under his shirt at his back?”
No, but he’d felt it. It was impossible not to feel the bulk of a firearm when you wrap your arms around your lover’s waist during some moment of affection. He’d never mentioned it, of course – that was Zebediah’s prerogative. If he felt safer with a gun tucked away on his person than not, then let him have the gun. It wasn’t as though Zebediah would ever use it against him – that was completely against the other man’s nature. Gruff he might have been, but he was a gentle soul under all those scars and calluses.
And Allen could not forget that.
“You’re really gonna trust a guy like that? Someone who has a concealed weapon? Who keeps secrets? Who trusts people as far as he can throw ‘em? Seriously? Why would you even bother, it’s not like he’s some harmless lamb.”
“Z-Zebediah w-w-would never h-hurt anyone, C-Cooper, and y-you’re being r-r-rather rude towards t-the man I l-love.”
“The man you—ah, I see. I get it.” Cooper grinned, the expression off in some way, but Allen couldn’t put his finger on the how. “You’re gonna do that whole ‘ignoring the faults of someone ‘cause you love them’ shtick, right? ‘Cause you love them, and they obviouslylove you, and they’d never hurt you.” The iceman paused, then, drumming his fingers over his stomach idly. “Zebediah doesn’t have a lot of luck when it comes to the safety of loved ones, though. I mean – his kid died under his watch, yeah?”
“How do you—”
“Rumour goes around, and Zeb’s never left Westfield. There’s bound to be old stories. You know, some people think that Zebediah ignored his kid’s crying on the intercom. There’seven word that Zebediah went up to the crib and smothered the kid himself, ‘cause he was just so sick of being responsible for the little shit. He couldn’t do anything – he was tethered to a baby and a wife. So he killed him. And then he divorced his wife.”
Cooper sat up, then, leaning towards Allen conspiratorially. “Has he ever told you aboutBen?”
“…ohh, you gotta ask about him. I can’t spoil a good story like that. S’too rich, you know?” Leaning back, Cooper gave that off-kilter smile, head cocking to the side. “But it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?”
“What Zebediah sees you as in his life – well, besides his boyfriend. It’s got me curious, and I’m not even a part of the equation. How long is he going to see you as the best thing that’s ever happened to him? How long’s it gonna take for him to see you as some kind of tether? How long is it going to take for him to severe that tether?”
No longer looking at Cooper, grey eyes fixated on the scarred arm that wrapped around him securely – assuring Zebediah that someone was there (but why did he have to be assured?) – listening as the iceman got off the bed and onto his feet. He listened as footsteps stepped closer to him, and a chilled hand that had introduced him to many things touched his temple, brushing back hair carefully – practically motherly.
“I’d think about that if I were you, Al,” Cooper whispered against his ear, lips brushing a high cheekbone as he pulled away. “I’d think on that long and hard.”
Sucking in a breath, Allen looked up to say something to Cooper – only to find himself staring at his bedroom roof, cold and shaken to his core.
Just a silly dream.
A silly, insignificant dream…