CONTENT: Angst, hurt/comfort, nonbinary Zenith
Zenith's got a lot on hir mind. Dak doesn't sleep much. It's hard to get privacy on the road, even in the middle of the night.
(Prior to Fyre Tower, but otherwise of no particular set time/place. Ostensibly part of the Lost In Transit continuity, but 100% viable outside of it too.)
You've been standing outside for at least fifteen minutes. You've been awake longer, and you keep telling yourself it was just because you needed to take a piss (the grody truck stop bathrooms make Xanadu feel close to godliness), but you're still standing here, and you're not peacefully enjoying the summer air and crickets. Being alone with the same thoughts that woke you from a restless sleep isn't helping.
Thing is, you risk waking up Pox or Tech on your way back in. Coupled with the fact that you feel like you might come apart at the seams at the slightest provocation, you don't trust yourself to be able to utter even a few words to them without completely unraveling.
Aaaand that’s when you hear it:
"You okay, there, Z?"
You look up, and, of course, who else but Dak Rambo comes sauntering out of the darkness, cat eyes glinting in the neon light from the store signage. In one hand, a joint you can smell from all the way over here sits between his fingers; the other is tucked loosely into his pocket.
"Yeah! Yeah. Hi." Everything is normal and you are not plagued by disturbingly realistic visions of merciless homicide. "Just, you know, wanted some fresh air. We should get the cabin cleaned properly at some point. No offense, but it stinks in there."
"Hey, that's just part of her character. Trust me, there's some smells in there that no amount of cleanin' is ever gonna get out."
"Gross." You laugh, but you're painfully aware of how hollow it sounds. Dak says nothing more. It's like he knows. Like he's waiting.
Well. If anyone would have an answer to something like this, it's him.
Doesn't make it an easy question to ask. The tension is palpable for the full minute you spend trying to swallow the lump in your throat before you can finally form a calm, coherent sentence.
"What do you do when you feel like you might hurt people you love?"
Dak stares pensively; first at you, then off into the distance. The smoke from the cigarette resting between his fingers curls upwards and around his jaw. For a split second, you can feel him teetering on the edge of vulnerability.
"I ain't done nothing but hurt people I love, Z. You're asking the wrong guy."
"Where's this comin' from, anyway? What's got you so worried all of a sudden?"
He looks back at you, and you look away, noting the distinct dryness in your mouth as you stare down at the ground instead.
"I dunno. I was just. Thinking about it."
"About hurting us? You're not about to flip and start putting bullets in us, are you?"
"Don't. Dak. Don't." He nailed it in one and he doesn't even know it. The tears you're only barely managing to keep at bay might not be an immediate giveaway, but the tremor in your voice certainly is. You're trying, hard, so hard not to let your cool-headed veneer slip, but for all the effort, it's a battle you're losing fast.
"Hey, hey, I'm kidding, I'm kidding–"
"But what if I do?" It's supposed to be a bark, angry, aggressive, but your voice breaks mid-sentence, reducing it to a muted whine. "I keep getting these–seeing these things in my mind, where I'm doing that exact shit, and I keep asking, like: what if it actually happens? What if I lose control and someone ends up dead?"
The words just keep coming. You wish they wouldn't. An uncomfortable, anxious heat rises under your skin despite the relatively cool night, bringing with it a wave of nausea that makes you glad for once that you haven't eaten. When you face Dak again, you deliberately blur your vision so that you don't have to see the expression on his face. He's looking at you, you think. He brings his joint to his mouth, takes a pull, exhales a billowing cloud of heady smoke.
"I don't think you're gonna kill any of us, Z."
"Yeah, because you can predict that–"
"Zenith. Zenith." Dak claps a heavy hand on your shoulder, and the weight of it knocks the rest of the sentence out of your mouth. "Listen. I don't know what the hell’s going on in your head, all this 'losing control' stuff, but I know you. Just 'cause you're thinking it, doesn't mean it's gonna happen, alright? You wouldn't let anyone else hurt us, and I don't think you'd let yourself hurt us, either. And if you did, well–whatever put you into that state, we'll be right there tryin' to pull you back out."
You tentatively let your vision swim back into focus, but the moment you see the rock-solid conviction on Dak's face, tears start to blur it again. (He has faith in you, so much faith in you, not knowing what you've done, what you can do, what you might do again.) He gently pulls you forward, towards him, and you barely need the invitation; you fall face-first into his chest and sob weakly into his shirt. He smells like weed and sweat and oil and there's maybe nothing else in the world more comforting right now, save perhaps for the hand gently rubbing your back.
"Easy, now, buddy, easy," Dak murmurs softly. The depth of his voice resonates into you through his chest. You coiled your arms around him, it seems, snaked them under his jacket to cling loosely to his vest. He's probably getting ash in your hair. You don't care.
"I just don't want to lose this," you manage to croak. "Don't want to lose you. Any of you. And I don't want it to be my fault."
"Yeah. Yeah." Dak lifts his hand slightly to stroke the back of your neck. Underneath you, his chest heaves a weary sigh. "Welcome to the club."
You stay like that for a while. You don't know how long. You aren't keeping track. Dak's hand remains on your back and you're grateful for its presence, for his presence. For him. For Pox and Tech, too, hopefully both still sleeping and not silent witnesses to your little episode. You've had friends before, but not like this. Not ones you've felt so personally responsible for and not ones who you'd tell your deepest fears to in the dead of night.
Not ones you love.
"Hey." Dak nudges you gently; you open your eyes to see the stub of his cigarette smouldering on the ground by your feet. "You good there?"
"...Yeah." You don't know that that's true, but you do feel a little bit better. Just a little bit. You lift your head and straighten up, sniff, wipe the tear residue off your face. "I. Um."
"S'all good, Z." Is it? You have more you want to say to him, after the admissions he let slip. But Dak pats your cheek, almost playful, and it’s disarming enough in the moment to make you forget. "Go on back inside, now. Get some sleep."
"Uh huh." It takes several seconds for you to recollect yourself, but as you're prying the cabin door open (as quietly as possible; you'd still rather not wake the others), you pause, one foot on the step.
"Love you, man."
He chuckles under his breath, and you wonder if he knows how much you mean it.
"I love you too, Z."
You crawl between the seats when you're back inside and carefully slot yourself back in place, tucked between Pox and Tech in the nest of mismatched blankets you found in the trailer. If they're awake, if they noticed you were gone, they barely show it; the only clue they give is the way they both burrow back into you, pressed close against you on either side. They’ve become such a familiar presence, and you're glad for the reminder that they're here, real, alive. Safe. You with them, and them with you.
Maybe Dak is right. Intrusive thoughts, as unwanted as they are, are not clairvoyance. You're not predicting the future. You're seeing glimpses of the past entangling themselves with your current state of mind. Yeah. That's it.
...That's not actually comforting.
But Tech's leg kicks against yours, and you think about holding him, bloody and unconscious in the back of the truck. Pox drapes one arm over your chest, and you feel the prickling, defensive anger rippling under your skin when you think about her dad, and how gut-wrenchingly evil he is, and how you'd love to get your hands on him and–well, this train of thought isn't exactly assuaging your fears. But there's a point to it.
If there's one thing you know for certain, beyond all else, it's that you'd fight tooth and nail to keep these people safe.
You fall asleep with Pox's hair in your face, in a cabin that smells like pot and blood and dirt and worse, knowing you'll ache in the morning from your shitty bed setup.
You wouldn’t let anyone take this from you.
Not even yourself.