Psycho Savior, qu'est-ce que c'est? by kalima
Summary: A young woman contemplates suicide by power steering fluid. "'Course you could just eat the gun like Cobain-- wait, what year is this? He done that yet?"
Categories: Ninth Doctor
Characters: The Doctor (9th)
Psycho Savior, qu'est-ce que c'est? by kalima
Chapter 1: Chapter 1Author's Notes: An attempt to subvert the fan cliche in which the Doctor talks someone out of suicide. Also goes to prove that given enough distance, events from real life make for entertaining fiction. Also, Nine strikes me as the Doctor who'd swear a lot, given provocation.
The trees are sweating, and far below, the creek crawls over rocks and pebbles like a slug. Even the air just sort of hangs in front of her face, too lazy to circulate without her breathing it in and out. Up here, top of the trail, sitting on the steps of Witches House, there isn’t a breeze.
Witches House. That’s what it’s called. Not even a house. The steps lead to something that might have been a porch once. Bit of foundation. A brick wall shored up with rotting timber. Another wall of crumbling plaster covered with graffiti. Metal rebar sticking out at odd angles. Broken cement pillars supporting nothing but sky.
There are signs of recent occupation — dirty blanket, sweatshirt, food wrappers — pretty much the same signs as there are whenever she comes up here. Sometimes the blanket is a different color of dirty. And, of course, the empty beer cans, or just-as-empty bottle of Wild Turkey. Lots and lots of cigarette butts. She’s adding her own to the pile.
It feels different tonight. A slow crawl of energy across her skin. Probably feels different because of why she's here.
Supposedly, this was part of a sanitarium run by nuns. But the legend, as passed down from high school senior to high school freshman, says it was an insane asylum run by evil nuns, and that the ghosts of serial killers escape at midnight to kill every stoner in the land. Which explains its popularity with the stoners. Probably explains why the homeless don’t use it much. Doesn’t explain why a former sanitarium run by nuns is known as “the Witches House.” She has no intention of solving that mystery any time soon. Or ever.
Dusk and getting darker. She smokes the cigarette all the way down to the filter, bottle of power-steering fluid clutched in her other hand like she’s afraid it’s gonna get up and walk away. Antifreeze might have been a better choice, but her car didn’t need anti-freeze when she went in to pay for the gas. Needed power-steering fluid. Because it’s a piece of shit.
Won’t have to figure out where she’ll get the money to fix it. Not after tonight.
The plastic jug has one of those trick lids you have to squeeze while turning. It’s frustrating, worse, because her hands are shaking a little. Underneath there’s this foil tab with another label advising her to peel back carefully to avoid spills. Caution. Hazardous.
She lights another cigarette. Reads the warning on the bottle one more time.
Danger: Harmful Or Fatal If Swallowed. Harmful won’t do any good. Sure as hell better be fatal. Fatal and quick–
“What if it takes days?”
“Jesus!” Nothing like a scare to get all the survival chemicals rushing around screaming I want to live! Fuck instinct. Asshole almost made her drop the bottle.
“Sorry,” the man says. Not gonna look up. Not gonna engage. “Didn’t you hear me coming up the path?”
“Kind of deep in thought here.” Go away now.
She can hear his shoes scuffling in dirt and dead pine needles as he moves closer. She peels away the foil carefully.
“Right. So, what if it takes days? Or years?” His tone is light and breezy and the accent familiar.
Oh, the bitter irony. He sounds just like Drew. Or close enough to make her gut flutter and clench. Has to look at him now. Just to make sure.
Nope. White guy. Dark hair cropped close, dark leather jacket, dark jeans. He’s hunched over a little. Hands in his coat pockets. And Drew is halfway to England by now. Back to Manchester, and his band, and his new, shinier girlfriend.
She looks down the trail, then up to where it disappears into the close dark of the trees. Not a jogger in sight. Just this guy. And her. She says, real calm, “You need to back the fuck off, man, because I am not in the mood for psychos or saviors.”
He snaps a grin like a rubber band. “Oh, I don’t give a toss what you do. Just thinking, all philosophical-like. I mean, what if it takes forever?”
“What if what takes forever?”
“You know.” He nods at the plastic jug, steps a little closer. “What if you have to live on and on, and every moment excruciating agony?”
He’s standing at the bottom of the steps now. Dusk, and getting darker.
“This is for my car,” she says. “It’s…broken.” Like my life. The smoke from her cigarette is suspended in front of her face. She waves it away. There’s this murky shadow behind the guy's head, like a halo in negative. What’s he got in his pockets? Knife? Pantyhose for strangling purposes?
God. The body’s such a betrayer. All this “fight or flight” crap when the mind can’t be bothered.
“Seriously,” he says, too close all of the sudden, voice lazy and soft “Think about it. Could take a long time. Pages and pages for the end to come, like, you know, Emma Bovary after she shoveled arsenic into her stupid gob. Now there was a piece of work. No, really, brilliant piece of work, that book. You know she never confesses. Thinks it’s all gonna disappear once she’s committed to the act, but we all know better don’t we? Cos what happens then, well then comes the actual dying part, which is quite a bit different from death. Believe me, I know. ‘Course, you could always eat the gun like Cobain– Wait, what year is it? He done that yet?”
Yes, you crazy mofo, Kurt has eaten the gun. What planet are you from? “Go. Away.”
He shrugs, a creak of leather. “Free country. Or so you lot still want to believe.”
“You have no idea what I believe,” she says. And even saying it, it’s like he’s just taken a little stroll through her head. Hitting on the right metaphor to give pause. Flaubert’s dear little cow eating arsenic.
The water in the creek goes glug glug, and the air around them sits real still, holding its breath, waiting.
She knows a messenger when she sees one. It’s not like she’s passing on the boat or helicopter — whatever the hell he thinks he is — in favor of God’s personal limo. She hasn’t asked to be saved. Doesn’t want it, and the first angel touches her, gets it in the balls.
“Oi!” he cries, affronted, hands flying to protect his man parts.
Her breath catches in her throat. Even the way he’s protected his balls tells her he’s not the least worried. And she’s pretty sure she didn’t say anything out aloud. She watches him watching her, his head cocked, tiny mocking smile quirking his lips. Reading her mind and mocking her thoughts. Fuck you, she thinks as loud as she can, and in a kind of toast, raises the bottle to her lips–
Suddenly, he’s snatched the jug, toasting right back at her then chugs the bottle of Harmful-or-Fatal-if-Swallowed like a frat boy at a kegger.
“Oh my God!”
He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and tosses the bottle aside. “Ha ha,” he says. “Drank your death.”
“What the hell? What the hell?” she screams, a million questions in that question.
“Yeah. What the hell? What. The. Hell. Am. I?” His teeth are a white slash in the gathering gloom, a grin that sears her retinas. She gasps, stumbles back, falling against the steps, barely aware of the scrapes and bits of stone embedded in her palms as she scrambles to her feet again. “I’ll give you a hint,” he says, and his eyes are very blue. She can see the whole of creation unraveling in them. “Run.”
And she does.
Down the broken steps, and onto the trail, into the heart of Forest Park.
She can hear him pacing her, can hear her own breath puffing out, hear the stumbling, rolling rhythm of her feet pounding over jutting roots, and sharp stones, as he pursues. Branches whip at her face, arms, bare legs. He’s fast but not in a hurry. When she falls, scrambling through brambles, and stumbling back to her feet, he’s got her. One blink, one breath, and he’s jerked her close, closer, wrapped up tight. Arms pinned to her sides, her back flush against his torso, he slides his other arm across her throat. Her legs run in place like a cartoon mouse.
“Feel that?” he murmurs, right next to her ear. His breath is cool on her sweaty cheek. “Heart pounding, fast and hard. The tiny hairs on your flesh quivering, standing at attention. Every nerve in your body focused on this moment, right here, right now. That’s life talking to you, sweetheart.” He squeezes her hard, hard, and all the air in her lungs leaves her mouth with a grunt. “But I can give you a real exciting death, if that's what you want. Much better than petrol chemical goop. A death with meaning and mystery. All I have to do is press my arm into your throat a little harder–“ He does it, just enough to make her gag.
She wants to say let me go, please, please. She wants to say, no, fuck you. She wants to say, go ahead, do it then, you bastard. Her fingers scrabble at his thighs, the only part of him she can touch at will, clawing at the denim.
His voice, scary soft in her ear, “I could do all the things bad men do before they kill, and you’ll fight me hard. Cos that’s what bodies do. They fight, hard and furious. Indignant and full of rage. The last moments of your life would really mean something then, yeah? And tomorrow morning some jogger’ll come across your body. Police everywhere. Miles of bright yellow tape. People who barely acknowledged you in life suddenly become your best friends in death. Your estranged mum and dad clinging to each other for comfort.” His voice has gone singsong, rocking her in the cradle of a vice grip. “No one will ever know who killed you. But they’ll wonder and remember and think of you often. And I could give you that…significance.” He lets go suddenly and she puddles at his feet. “But I won’t.”
He steps back, looking down on her as she inhales great big gulps of air between sobs. “Don’t know why I thought your species worth saving,” he says. She hears his shoes turn in the gravel, walking away.
She should get up. Should be getting up. Run like hell while his back is turned.
“You really should,” he tells her. He’s standing on the bank of the creek looking down at it, shoulders hunched, fists clenched, his voice cold and quivering with quiet rage. “Go home, Emma. Have a cup of tea. Call the police.”
She can’t seem to move. She’s still crying and she hates it, hates that she’s useless and stupid and he hurt her and she’s still there. Her voice comes out raspy like she’s been screaming for hours. “I don’t want to be here anymore. Can’t you understand that?”
He starts laughing. He laughs for a long time, his back to her, but his shoulders are shaking so hard after a while that she starts to think it isn’t laughter at all. He takes a few deep breaths then heaves a sigh so weighty she feels like Earth’s gravity just got a lot heavier.
“You’re a bloody stupid ape, aren’t you?” Whirls, pointing at her. “No. You’re a stupid cow, is what you are! Boyfriend left you? Didn’t get into grad school? Boo-fucking-hoo. I’ve got actual legitimate pain, and you don’t see me trying to off myself.”
“Dude! You drank power-steering fluid! What’s that about? You save me from myself then try to kill me–“
“If I wanted you dead, you wouldn’t be sitting there giving me lip about it.”
“And you’re still sitting there like I’m not.”
She slaps the tears off her face and sucks in a wad of snot. “Full of shit too. You’ve got savior written all over you.”
“Huh. And here I changed my outfit and everything.”
“You drank poison!” For some reason this bothers her more than the things that should be bothering her.
He blinks, ducks his head, and scratches behind his ear. “Yeah. Well. Not exactly human, me.”
“I'm telling you I can’t die from it. Ha. If only. Wouldn’t be fatal to you either, probably, if you got to hospital quick enough. Mind it’s very bad if you aspirate it. Don’t recommend inducing vomiting.”
“I’ll remember that next time.”
“Fine. Go home and kill yourself. Oh, and leave a note so everyone can read how stupid your reasons are.”
“What the hell makes your pain more legitimate than mine?”
“It’s much much bigger."
“Bet you say that to all the girls you don’t kill.”
“Had my arm to your throat not five minutes ago and you’re arguing quantifiables with me. You people are so fucking infuriating.”
“You’re the one who started it. You’re some kind of... what? Psycho immortal like in those Highlander movies?”
He scoffs, “Pretentious tossers.”
“What are you then? Huh? Reading my mind, telling me what I’m thinking, that I’m stupid for it, but not, not seeing me at all —“ Tears come, choking off her words for a second. “I mean, I hurt, okay? Bad. I’m alone, and I feel like nobody loves me, and I’m not good enough and I’ll never be good enough. And you just think I’m stupid. But I’m really tired, okay? Tired of…hoping, and I can’t seem to stop. Yeah, this time it’s going to be better, this is my big break, this is the opportunity, the cure for my life, the one— the one who loves me back. Hope just keeps kicking me in the teeth, fucking me over.” She bends low to the earth, arms wrapped around her stomach, trying to hold onto the little bit of hope she has left, and she doesn't even know why.
“Yeah,” he says, after what seems like forever, “I get that. But you… you have to learn to live without it.”
“How do you live without hope?”
“Dunno. Still learning. But, listen, listen to me now, Emma. Not hope I’m giving you here, just the facts. You’re twenty-three and that's so...so young. This time next year you’ll be in a fancy graduate school program that probably doesn't exist right now. You'll meet some new idiot boy to boff. Several. Er…you need be careful though, cos they’re all idiots when it comes to sex. As for the piece of shit car– “ He breaks off and glares, like he's furious at her for making him offer this comfort. “You can take the goddamned bus! There’s a perfectly good transit system here and — ah. Ah. Oh.” His eyes scrunch up, and he’s hissing through his teeth. “Ow.”
She’s on her feet, reaching for him as he folds at the waist, hand still pressed to his gut. His other hand comes up like a stop signal at crosswalk, warning her off. “Yep. This is going to be disgusting. Appreciate it if you'd look the other way now--"
A second later he starts to heave. Violently. He's vomiting up the power-steering fluid, which she's pretty sure he told her you weren't supposed to do because of some reason she can't remember on account of being suddenly, horribly worried he's going to die.
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