Live Free Or Die Soft


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Scene Title Live Free Or Die Soft
Synopsis The Nightmare Man revisits the amnesiac war vet and brings him more than he wants to remember, and somebody else's secrets.
Date January 28, 2010

Fallujah, Iraq



Ash stinks, and heat raises another wave of offal particulate into the flare of his nostrils. Not exactly Dave's best grenade toss, and somehow he can remember that without remembering Dave's face, rank, or tendency toward citrus-flavored gum even before the artificial fructose scent wades saliva thick against the grime-streaked incline of his face. Dave is shaking him by the cement-colored collar of his jacket. Dave's helmet is skewed slightly, thanks to the half-severed spot of strap an inch below his left ear and cracked lining, makes him look like there's a turtle squatting squatting to take a dump into the top of his uniform. What was Dave's last name again? It stands to no particular reason that Buck can only remember his first. Typically, you go by your last name, operating day-to-day in the United States Army. Either that, or you rank.


Ungh. Must be one of Dave's worst tosses, really. It is probably better to think about it that way and then have a word with the kid later. The street fuzzes into view: Fallujah seems to be either all construction or parched neighborhoods that could use it, these days, though intellectually Buck remembers that can't be true. Just like the desert between cities can't really be punctuated every sixty miles by a solitary, skinny eleven-year-old boy walking alone, and not every shopping complex is drained of people except for a sniper squad and a screaming man garlanded with bombs; he just remembers them that way, stereotypes the geography, like too few memories stretched out and spread thin over too much time, filmwrap squeezed shut around decaying food. He's looking at a ceiling made of denuded stone and sewage is running from the ruptured wall in the other corner of the room.

Dave is trying to get him up. The next assault is going to come from insurgents, and chances are at least decent they aren't going to cave in a latrine.

"Buck—" doesn't have any of knowing the jolt of movement that goes through his prone limbs in the corporeal world, as the younger man yanks at him in the imaginary. "Fuckin' get up."

"Oh shit, my brains!" That's what Buck 'wakes up' saying, shoving fingers up under the back of his helmet as he starts to focus on Dave. Dave. He grabs Dave's hand and hauls himself up to his feet with a groan. He drops into a ready-for-action crouch. "Yeah, okay. On my feet. What's next?" He darts quick glances around, trying to get a handle on where he is.

The door is more of a rectangular hole blocked in and held in place by rebar, some of which is now poking out exposed from whatever trauma had knocked away the stone. His rifle is lying a few yards outside in the street, illuminated by the sterile white glare of sunshine, a few chunks of concrete sitting on top of it. "We're pinned down," Dave says. He flattens a hand on the back of Buck's helmet to help him rock upright, but it ends in an open-palmed clap on the back of Buck's head, comradely. His teeth show white against the dirty tan of his face. "It's like you said.

"Live free or die soft."

This gem of wit is punctuated by a yell that starts in his chest and ends with a fist in the air. He makes the short dive into the doorway, rifle up, its butt dug into his shoulder and finger on the trigger. Pops off a dozen shots of autofire at the building across the street, and the silhouettes wink out of the windows, taking cover, leaving Buck's rifle— for the moment— open to a snatch and grab, and the street unwatched.

"Fuck," Buck murmurs. "I hate this place…" He runs after Dave in the wake of his cover fire, grabbing up his rifle and getting his hands around it as he continues running. He's a lot happier when he's got a gun in his hands. A lot happier. Things don't seem nearly as gloomy or frightening with that in his hands. He keeps it aimed at the windows once he's got his hands on it, staying alert.

The window remains pleasantly (arguable) vacant, for a stranglingly protracted few seconds.

Dave comes tumbling into the sandy gulf of the empty thoroughfare behind him, his rifle bobbing left and right in sweating syncopation with the hearty pumping of his legs. It's always so fucking hot here. "Aaaah!" Which never stops a young soldier from raising his voice to punctuate the adrenaline push of imminent violence. He gets a few shots off down the street. Glass shatters: perhaps a vehicle, sheltering either somebody or nothing; Buck doesn't have time to look, because there's a twitch of shadow in the corner of his eye, the adjacent doorway, and a flash snipped out of the end of a dense black composite muzzle. Dust roostertails out of the concrete above Buck's shoulder and he sees the whites of a man's eyes. In the steep shadow of Iraqi afternoon, they look curiously gray.

This is something Buck can handle! He keeps moving as he squeezes off rounds at the man across the street from him, mouth twisting as he otherwise unflinchingly stares down his assailant while moving to the cover of the next doorway. "Sit down, motherfucker!" It doesn't have to mean anything, pretty much anything you yell while shooting automatic weapons is cool.

It's true: high-velocity rifle rounds speak louder than words, both in terms of noise pollution and emotional impact on the person on the other end. Two rounds rip through the insurgent's body, their entrance wounds a fraction of the size of the cone-shaped exit. Blood feathers chunky up the wall inside, the ligamenture of shoulder separating from arm, and the man's nothing but meat before he hits the ground in a flurry of dense, protective cloth.

Dave goes in ahead of him, his boots marking the dust in a steady trot. It doesn't smell like shit in this one, at least; whatever it smells like, his senses have already adapted to, leaving Buck with the distinct impression that all of the clouded pollutant in the air is perfectly inorganic. Possibly. Probably not. There's not a lot in here. Two and a halve chairs, a radio, a light. The radio crackles to life on Buck's vest. There's a cab driver out there making trouble at the intersection. Not his problem: what is is pushing into the next room. Dave stops with his shoulder against the doorframe, nods his head over. Deeper inside, there's a clangor like a pot falling. Retreat?

Buck runs into the room when he gets the nod, looking around as he's been trained to clear the space, and then he falls back to a corner so that he can cover the door to the next room with his rifle. "What was that?!" he asks Dave, knees bending so he's ready to charge or flee.

A shout floats down the chalky corridor. Arabic is not a language that Buck is well-acquainted with, but he's been called enough names to know that he's being called one he's heard before. "D'no!" Dave calls back. "I think they're ma—"

Mad. He's interrupted by an conniptive fit of a light machinegun going off, ripping up dirt and chewing marks into the wall in a line that races toward Dave's head but stops when the American's counter-fire drives back. Buck extrapolates two sources. Both from the right side, but it's hard to tell from the thumbprint smudges of shadows: there's less light up there, windows blocked off or something. There's a second, maybe two, until yellow light abruptly blanks in: two blurry silhouettes flickering across the far wall as they beat a hasty retreat.

Dave starts to press forward, gesturing with one sturdy-gloved hand for Buck to follow. There's blood dripping from the back and bottom hem of Dave's vest, but he doesn't seem to have noticed: he's been hit.

Buck follows, eyes skipping from drops of blood back to the targets that he's getting ready to murder. Shoot. Neutralize. He hunkers down into a walking crouch, ready to get down to business. He keeps his mouth clamped shut and pushes down natural human fear that wells up at the sharp scent of blood.

Adrenaline and endorphins play tricks on your mind, and sometimes those tricks save your life. Other times, there's a certain amount of backfire; Dave's seesawing slightly on his feet, and he stumbles backward, the heel of his boot jarring into a wall. His shoulder knocks into a shelf that probably used to hold something edible, but an age-chapped screw jostles into a roll and drops off it, falls flickering down, down, hits the floor with a click before Dave hits the floor with a thump.

He blinks; pushes his helmet back with a coarsely-armored palm. "Whoa," he says. "Lafferty. I feel kinda— light-headed. D'you…?" Without the dense shadow of the helmet squatted on his head, it's easier to see Dave's face and his face has an eerie familiarity to it. Memory lapses, seizures epileptically, grasps at straws. He's seen that face before: laid out horizontal, a linen-cased pillow cuddled up to broad cheek, but maybe it was also blood-streaked and popping sweat as his legs were broken, too, and Buck tried— failed— to answer the fucking question, or maybe he was one of the engineers. Repairmen. Box of tools in hand, but no soldier. Bastards couldn't get the shower to run at higher pressure than fucking drinking fountai—

Somebody collides into Buck's side, ending his reverie with a rib-cracking impact of chest, arms. Tackled out of nowhere, both the soldier and his attacker crash through drywall and out under Fallujah's baleful sun. One moment Buck has his back to the sky, the next to the ground: a flapping dervish of military-issue camo and stinking civilian clothes, spit flying, teeth exposed in a hateful rictus.

Stranger ends up on top, the hulking silhouette of a cement mixer massive behind him. A knife out, pointed down, and it's too close for Buck to get his rifle in.

"Shit, you're hit, you're hit," Buck says, staring at that face. "Da—ungh!" He's interrupted by a grunt as somebody takes him down. "Aw…" He groans, trying to jerk a knee up at the guy's crotch, or anything else soft he can find, one hand coming up to grapple with the knife. "You stinking terrorist son of a bitch," he grunts out despite the strain.

And this is not the first time Beauregard Lafferty has almost met his maker, but it is not an experience that he would much recommend or, frankly, cared to repeat.

This is just another fucking night in the life of Robin Milburn, isn't it? Minus the actual fucking, arguably. The evenings that he has to spend at Grand Central Terminal aren't exactly far and few between, but what's markedly rare and profoundly unpleasant is having one of his 'fugees get up and walk out in the dead of the night. It's brass monkeys out here, as Edmund would say, if Edmund were talking to anybody. He hadn't. The old man just crawled out of his sleeping bag, slid past two sentries and up twelve yards of staircase, staggered out into the snow-scabbed expanse of the ruins.

He hadn't even taken his shoes. Walked across broken glass, even: there's bloody footprints going out. Sentry found 'em, the boots, sitting together like toy soldiers, two minutes after he raised the alarm. That's two minutes' headstart.

A grim reaper is standing behind the terrorist's back, where the vaulting bulk of the cement mixer had loomed like a dinosaur a moment ago. Hallucination. Must be. Buck knows it's the grim reaper, despite the fact that his fingers carry no mortar, despite that there's a sneer on his face instead of an exposed bar of skull's teeth, despite that his robes are white instead of black and he has wings. In Islam, they call them jinn, and they do not take souls so much as they ruin them. They don't bring death so much as they usher mortals to bring destruction upon themselves. Buck knees the guy in the crotch, and the jinn's face acknowledges the subtle shift between sneer and smile.

Cold makes translucent vapor out of Robin's breath. Up ahead, he sees a whirl of fist, silhouettes twisting; low on the ground where curb slouches into tarmac. It's ridiculous: three AM in the morning and the refugee comes out, barefoot, to pick fights with the locals? There's a guttural groan, a scream: Edmund's been hit. He has someone pinned to the concrete. He has Buck pinned to the concrete.

Muscle against muscle. Buck's the weaker of the two, but then, he's been discharged awhile now, hasn't he?

The ruins of Fallujah merge in—

—to the ruins of Midtown. Blind-socket windows and pock-marked facades stare down at the struggle with impassive indifference.

At least Buck has his shoes. They scrawl crazy patterns in the frost as he scrabbles for purchase, shoving at Edmund, trying to keep his hands away. Of course, Buck wouldn't have any way of knowing that Ed's an osteokinetic and he's never needed his hands for that.

Robin's barely within earshot when he hears the first telltale crack of marrow and calcium, and a searing pang of pain razors into the kick of Buck's heart. Edmund screams: "Where is Mage?"

Ruins Of Midtown

Standing in the ruins of Midtown, it's hard to believe New York is still a living city.

There's life enough around the fringes — the stubborn, who refused to rebuild somewhere else; the hopeful, who believe the radiation is gone, or that they somehow won't be affected. Businesses, apartment complexes, taxis and bicycles and subways going to and fro — life goes on. Perhaps more quietly than in other parts of the city, shadowed by the reminder that even a city can die, but it does go on.

Then there is the waste. The empty core for which the living city is only a distant memory. Though a few major thoroughfares wind through the ruins, arteries linking the surviving halves, and the forms of some truly desperate souls can occasionally be glimpsed skulking in the shadows, the loudest noise here is of the wind whistling through the mangled remnants of buildings. Twisted cords of rebar reach out from shattered concrete; piles of masonry and warped metal huddle on the ground, broken and forlorn. Short stretches of road peek out from under rubble and dust only to disappear again shortly afterwards, dotted with the mangled and contorted forms of rusting cars, their windows long since shattered into glittering dust.

There are no bodies — not even pieces, not anymore. Just the bits and pieces of destroyed lives: ragged streamers fluttering from the handlebar which juts out of a pile of debris; a flowerbox turned on its side, coated by brick dust, dry sticks still clinging to the packed dirt inside; a lawn chair, its aluminum frame twisted but still recognizable, leaning against a flight of stairs climbing to nowhere.

At the center of this broken wasteland lies nothing at all. A hollow scooped out of the earth, just over half a mile across, coated in a thick layer of dust and ash. Nothing lives here. Not a bird; not a plant. Nothing stands here. Not one concrete block atop another. There is only a scar in the earth, cauterized by atomic fire. This is Death's ground.

"NnGRGH!" Buck growls fiercely in protest at the pain of…whatever just happened to him. His teeth are gritted, and visible, his lips peeled back in a grimace. "You motherfucker, I'm gonna…" He gets a little distracted as he looks at the New York midtown landscape that has replaced Iraq. It's far less familiar than Fallujah, especially from this angle.

Robin stops cold for mere second. What the hell is Buck doing here? Much less here and fighting with Ed. He runs up to the fight, yanking at Ed to get him away from Buck before things get uglier than they already are. Once Ed is away from Buck, lying on the ground and breathing heavily, Robin focuses on Buck. "Hey, hey are you alright? Are you awake?" He keeps glancing at Ed, wondering how this started between them.

Buck grabs at his chest, because he can tell he's in pain, but he isn't really sure what's hurting him yet. "I don't know!" he shouts, looking relatively distressed. "I don't know!"

Hauled up and off his quarry, the old man snarls his fingers at empty air and shows his teeth to the winter, but there's nothing there, suddenly. There's nothing there. There's no one— except for Robin, whose voice reverberates into his head and strikes some chord of familiarity. Enough that the dream world fades from behind his glazed eyes, and his lined features begin to screw tight into a blink. He tries to clear his vision with worn hands to his face, taking a deep breath of cold air.

"Where am I?" Edmund's voice sounds like it's gone through the wringer, and he isn't the one with an osteokinetic wound herniated in his body. Robin's never seen anything quite like this before.

Rubbing a hand over his face, Robin grimaces at the state of Buck's arm, and the fact that he now has two distressed men to deal with. He helps Buck sit up, rubbing his back in small circles, careful not to jar the broken arm. "Alright, calm down. We'll figure out what's going on." Pulling out his cell phone he dials one of the sentries, telling them to bring Ed's shoes so he won't have to walk on any more glass. "Ed, you're not too far from home." And that's about as much as he can say without spilling the safehouse location to Buck, something he's definitely not planning on doing any time soon.

"Aw…" Buck groans as the pain finally crystallizes in his brain, focusing with laser accuracy on his left arm. "Shit…" He sits up with Robin's help and takes in a deep breath. "My arm hurts," he tells Robin, looking up at him dully to see if he's going to do something about that.

Chilled air funnels down through the oldest man's lungs, and he blinks pale eyes unsteadily in the wan shadow of the evening. This street is familiar, yet not; it's been a long time since the Ferrymen deemed it wise to shepherd their charges out into the street during the blackest part of the night.

Water-weak sentiment struggles behind his face; the veins stood out in his forehead are beginning to slacken back to smooth under his thin, the faint speckling of liverspots there. "Where's Humanis First!?" he asks. He sweeps eyes blind with dismay down, onto Buck and his arm, but only the faintest curdling of recognition registers there. Edmund doesn't yet know if this is more real than whatever burning wreck of a dream he'd just awakened from. "Is he them? Oh my God— where are my shoes? Where's Mage? Where's Mage?"

"We'll get you fixed up, Buck, there's a clinic not too far from here. Just keep that arm still." Robin keeps an arm around Buck even as he tries to calm Ed down. "Humanis First! isn't here, they're nowhere near here. And Buck is definitely not one of them. I promise you that." He isn't sure what Ed was dreaming, and he's also not sure if telling him the truth is a good idea… but he has to go with his gut. "Mage is gone, Ed. She has been for a while… I'm sorry."

Buck looks up at Ed with some suspicion, but he definitely doesn't look like a terrorist, so there's nothing Buck's going to do. Buck lowers his head rather animal-like to bear the pain.

It takes time for pain to filter into Edmund's under-dressed frame, numbed by as much cold as it is. The fingers of his left hand end up cradled on his right, but he only stares with insipid absence at his wrist. It's the wrong shape and wrong size, matches the unevenness to his limp as he he slumps down to sit on the frigid concrete. Three carefully-maintained yards from where the ex-soldier is huddled: whatever Buck is, he certainly isn't one of them.

There's a clopping and shouting in the distance: Robin's cohorts coming up, one of them with a pair of brown boots hanging out of his broad fingers. "What happened?" The question's a holler, pitched over the stiff winter's wind by the leading man. A few years younger than Robin, he's stick-thin, raw-boned, his skin dusky from some indistinct mongrelling of ethnic descents. "Who's this?" The boots are unceremoniously thrust at Buck's head, before the Ferryman stoops to get Edmund shod. Blank-faced, Ed lets him. "They didn't radio in about anybody transferring in tonight."

"That's because there isn't anyone coming in tonight. This is a friend of mine." Robin's tone of voice should hopefully shut down that topic. He shrugs off his coat, draping it around Buck's shoulders. That leaves him in a long sleeved t-shirt a hoodie but its better than Buck's plain t-shirt. "How did you two get out here anyway?" Ed he can understand, but Buck? Is a ways away from his home.

Buck hunches his shoulders at Robin's question, looking down at the paving under him. "I dunno," he mumbles softly. "I don't really…know where we're at right now…"

The kind of answer you hope is going to shut down a line of questioning inevitably is going to be the kind that runs the risk of inciting more questions. Instantly, suspicion riddles the faces of Robin's cohorts; as one, all three men's eyes move at Buck, before skirting restlessly away. They don't ask their questions, though. Not if Robin doesn't want them to, and certainly not in front of Buck himself.

"A'right." The dusky-skinned lad who brought the shoes pulls Ed's arm over his neck, makes quiet assurance that all of his injuries will be seen to. First, they'll check he can still walk. Osteokinetic like him: fixing his bones can't be all that hard, can it? There's no real question that they're going to leave the old man to see to Buck's arm, no matter how obviously, starkly wrong the angle of its hang is. Not yet, anyway.

"Meet you back at the house? Before morning?" Another operative asks this, glancing between Robin and Buck, but he's already pulling away, tracking his steps backward across the snow and glancing down at the footprints he leaves with doubt. Though Bureaugard Lafferty hardly seems like a threat now, Mage wouldn't be dead if life were that easy.

"You'll see me after breakfast." Robin says matter of factly. He's glad the questions are at least going to wait until tomorrow, though that probably means Neil will be in on them. Which sucks. When Buck moves and winces in pain, Robin asks a question of his own before Ed gets too far away. "Ed? Want to work some magic here?" He nods towards Buck's arm, hoping Ed will, as it's a lot more convenient than going to a hospital.

Buck keeps his mouth shut, partly because he's lost in trying to put together what just happened— or didn't happen —to him, and how much of it is dream and how much recovered memory. If any of it was either.

There's a shallow gesture of Edmund's hand, so faint it might have been a loose-hinged swing of a hand in syncopation with his step. Buck feels it more than he hears it, but it's like hearing something through his skin, the grinding click of hard parts shifting underneath his skin.

Pain flares through Buck's skin, skitters his finger like a poisoned spider on the pavement beside him, but dies away the next instant. Leaves a steady, throbbing sore, of swollen muscle, strained ligaments, and the imperfect knit of bone laying heavy inside the sleeve of his skin, but it's better than nothing. Arguably better than the hospital. All this, without a word. Within another shuffling step, the old man's out of range to do more, and Robin's comrade is giving him an inscrutable look over his shoulder.

"See you tomorrow then, Rob," says the last man, finally, lifting a hand. "I think your friend's gonna be all right." A beat's hesitation. His breath curls white over his shoulder. "Your hospital contacts should be able to get the bone reset if it needs to be, fewer questions asked." St. Luke's Hospital, he means, but it's on Robin: whether or not the Ferry's civilian medical resources be known to the stranger on the curb.

Robin waves once as the men leave, taking Ed homeward. He's quiet, mulling over the idea of taking Buck to St. Luke's. So far Buck has been in the dark about any details, and Rob knows it really needs to stay that way. "We'll figure it out, thanks for taking care of Ed." Once that's said he pulls Buck into a careful hug. "Hi babe. See? Even when you don't call I show up." He's aiming for levity but falling flat. "Want to go home?" He's sure Buck has a dozen questions, and Robin has a few of his own.

Buck grits his teeth at the pain of his bone sliding back in place, and he turns a little pale, but he bears it without making noise. "Yeah, I wanna go home," he mutters, only putting one arm around Robin. "I'm not sure where we are right now." He sounds pretty miserable about that.

“We’re in Midtown.“ Robin replies, getting at least one question out of the way. “Probably the last place I expected to see you.” Keeping an arm around Buck’s waist he steers them towards one of the working subway stations. “Come on, let’s go home, then we can try to figure this all out.”

Buck lets Robin guide him toward a subway station. "I don't remember comin' here," he mumbles, frowning deeply. But that's as much as he says, walking down the stairs to the subway.

Robin nods once, and quiet while they take care of tickets and getting on the right train. “Like you don’t remember getting in the tub full of water.” It’s more a statement than a question, and Rob slips his hand under the coat Buck’s wearing hoping the closer contact will help calm him. “Can you tell me what happened in the dream? When we get home?”

"I think I'm losin' it," Buck says mournfully, shifting over a little closer to Robin, though he still seems pretty upset. "I don't know what's goin' on. But…yeah, I remember it again."

“I think what’s happening is fucked up,” Robin pulls Buck even closer. “But I don’t think it’s you. Do you remember what I told you? About a …dreamwalker invading people’s dreams?” It’s a good thing it’s so late, their car is deserted, which makes having odd conversations loads easier.

"Yeah," Buck murmurs unhappily. "He an Evolved?" Maybe he's feeling less well-inclined toward Evolved than usual at the moment, having just had his arm snapped by one, the healing notwithstanding.

Robin winces slightly at the tone of Buck’s voice, but it’s not like he can get on his soapbox and defend all Evolved, not that he even wants to at the moment. “Yeah, the few people I’ve talked to about it think it’s an Evo.” He shakes his head, “No one knows who, or how he picks his targets, or what the hell he’s trying to accomplish.”

"Well, maybe if he'd o' registered, we'd have a shorter list," Buck says a bit caustically, reaching to rub his arm. He hisses quietly through his teeth. "What's some dream-fella want with me, anyway?"

“Not a clue,” is the only answer Robin can give. “Though I’d love to find out.” He touches Buck’s arm lightly, “Is that bad enough to need to be reset? We can stop at one of those walk-in places. Give them a story about a bar fight or something.”

"I don't know," Buck says. "It hurts, but I can't tell whether it's healed wrong or not. Guess I'll get an X-ray sometime. We'll be waiting all night if we go in now."

Robin kisses Buck’s temple, “You’re right, and I’d rather get you home that sit in some waiting room all night.” They pull up to their stop and Robin keeps his arm around Buck’s waist as the head to the street level. “You warm enough for the walk to your place?”

"Yeah," Buck says. Cold is the last thing on his mind right now. He looks at Robin's face, finally, then nods. "Okay, let's go," he says. "Can you stay for awhile? I don't feel too good."

“A while?” Robin squeezes Buck gently. “I’m staying the whole night.” He reaches for Buck’s uninjured arm, twining their fingers together as they walk to Buck’s place. “I’d stay longer but I have to be back at the house after breakfast.”

"Yeah, okay," Buck says, maybe a little reluctant or unhappy, but not about to fight over it. "God damnit," he says through teeth now clenched against the cold. "He coulda snapped my neck. Couldn't he."

Robin's blunt about it. "Yeah. He could've, but he was as fucked up as you were. If you'd had a loaded gun you could've shot him, couldn't you?"

"Yeah, well, I don't have no more loaded guns, 'cuz you have all my ammunition. An' anyway, I wasn't even awake enough to know I have a gun. It ain't even on me!" He doesn't look too happy with Robin right now.

“There’s a reason for that, isn’t there?” Robin’s staying pretty calm about the whole thing. “So you wouldn’t shoot me if you had another dream, one that you remembered or the other kind.”

"Fuck!" Buck explodes, stopping on the street and waving his good arm. "I already told you I wouldn't shoot you, god dammit!" His face twists unpleasantly.

Robin gives Buck a moment then catches the hand he’s waving around. “I know you wouldn’t. On purpose.” He takes Buck’s hand and puts it around his own throat, mimicking the chokehold that Buck had him in during the aftermath of one of the early dreams. “Don’t think I don’t trust you. It’s a precaution, that’s all.”

Buck looks away from Robin's demonstration, teeth on edge and face burning. "I never shot somebody wasn't s'posed t' get shot," he mumbles, but he's quiet about it now, and walking back toward home at a fast clip again.

It’s a good thing Robin’s got legs as long as Buck’s or he’d quickly be left behind. As it is, it only takes him a few seconds to catch up and walk beside Buck. “I believe that, but you haven’t had anyone messing with your head like this before.” He stops as they get to Buck’s door and asks, “I still want to stay the night. Still want me to?”

"Yeah," Buck says, frowning. "You think I wanna fistfight more fuckin' old men tonight? C'mon in an' babysit me, then. I gotta get some sleep." He fumbles to unlock the door and then pushes it open, going inside and leaving it open for Robin behind him.

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