TITLE: Two Steps Forward, No Steps Back
AUTHOR: Jos Mous
DISCLAIMER: I own none of these characters, I’m not making any profit out of this, blahblahblah.
PAIRING: Sam/Brooke seems most likely here, though it is not certain.
NOTE: In this part also little to no scenes with either Sam or Brooke. It would seem I suddenly developed an uncanny fascination with Nicole’s current situation in the story. Or something to that extent anyway.
Harrison sat alone in the cafeteria. His gaze was fixed on the table with his ex-friends. His arms were crossed across his chest and his mouth was nothing more than a small thin line. His eyes were narrowed slightly. His mind was swimming with dark thoughts.
((So I’m not good enough for them, eh?)) Harrison thought. ((I don’t deserve their friendship, do I? Well, we’ll just…))
Harrison woke from his thoughts with a start.
“I didn’t do it!” He yelled. “I mean… err… yeah?”
Harrison looked up. Two teens, a boy and a girl, were looking at him expectantly. There was a vague, uncanny glint in their eyes. The girl was carrying a bunch of paper.
“What do you want?” Harrison asked.
“How are you lately?” The boy asked.
“Pretty good.” Harrison lied.
“You don’t feel there’s anything missing in your life?” The girl asked.
“No. Not really.”
“Because, you do seem to be sitting here all alone. Doesn’t he Kate?” The boy said.
“Oh yes.” The girl agreed.
“What do you want?” Harrison asked.
“We would like you to read this.” The girl said. She took one paper from her pile and gave it to Harrison.
“What’s this?” Harrison asked.
“A small pamphlet explaining our beliefs.” The boy said. “Please read it. You may find it enlightening.”
“Wait a minute…” Harrison said, one tiny yet persistent thought entering his mind. “This says ‘Cult of Mary Cherry’!”
“Indeed it does.” The girl said.
“You’re two of those crazy people that hang around Mary Cherry!”
“We object to the term ‘crazy’.” The boy said.
“We just try to emulate Her thinking processes as best we can.” The girl added.
“You even have your own religious symbol!” Harrison exclaimed, looking back at the paper.
“Yes. The Holy Trinity of the Credit Card, the Fur Coat and the Bloody Axe.” The boy said reverently.
“You guys are completely nuts!”
“We object to that term also.” The boy said.
“But we really must ask you, will you consider it?” The girl asked.
Harrison looked up at the girl. His eyes were wide with confusion, bewilderment and a sense of disgust.
“Yeah, OK.” He said.
“Splendid.” The boy said.
“Excellent.” The girl added.
The two teenagers nodded friendly and walked off. Harrison kept staring at them, his mind frozen, the pamphlet still in his hand. After a few moments he started thinking again.
“Where was I?” Harrison asked himself. “Oh yeah!”
((So I’m not good enough for them, eh? I don’t deserve their friendship, do I? Well, we’ll just see about that. I’ll show them. I’ll show them all.))
There was noise, there was dust, there were a lot of guys. In other words: a typical day at the office for Edgar. The carpentry crew were still wrecking and tearing things down. It was fun. When it was time for a pause, Edgar decided to bring up a subject that had been haunting him for a while now.
“You know that girl in the wheelchair, right?”
“I’ve seen her. After all, we’re building a room for her, right?”
“Right. So… what do you think of her?”
“I dunno. Just some gal in a wheelchair.”
“She’s cute, isn’t she?”
“Yeah I guess. I don’t really pay attention to that kind of people.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well you know. If they’re something wrong with the body, there’s got to be something wrong with the brains, right?”
“Where’d that come from?”
“Oh come on. Don’t tell me you don’t know. Some of ‘em can’t even talk properly.”
“So everybody in a wheelchair is automatically Forest Gump to you?” Edgar said. “Jesus Frank, I expected better from you.”
“Look, the girl’s not thinking straight, all right? None of them wheelchair people are. They wouldn’t be in one of those things if they were after all.”
“I can’t believe what I’m hearing.”
“I think you’re wrong. Completely, even.”
Frank shrugged. “Believe what you will then, doesn’t make a difference. But I’ll tell you one thing…”
“You try anything with her and I’ll knock your teeth out.”
“Don’t want you going around taking advantage of that kind of people. Someone’s gotta come up for them you know. They can’t do it for themselves after all.”
“You’re nuts.” Edgar said, while he walked over to the telephone, which had been ringing for a few moments now. He picked up the receiver.
*Who is this?*
“Oh, sorry, you’re speaking with…” Edgar paused. He quickly put his hand over the receiver. “Hey Frank! What’s the name of the guy who owns this place?”
“You’re speaking with the house of Mr. McQueen. Can I take a--- Hello? Hello?” Edgar looked at the receiver, then put it down with a shrug.
“Who was that?” Frank asked.
“I dunno. Hung up pretty quickly. Probably wrong number or something.”
“Oh. Well, let’s get back to work then.”
There was exactly one table in the large mess hall and it was almost completely filled as Nicole walked past the occupants carrying her filled-up food tray. It was theoretically possible to get her food brought to her room. Her mother had paid for that service, after all. But Nicole preferred sitting at the large, single table. Between all the ‘commoners’ as she would’ve thought of them at one time. And maybe she still did, but simply didn’t see herself as the divine being that stood above them any more. Nicole quickly moved over to an empty chair and sat down. Next to her sat a girl with long blonde hair. She looked intently at her food.
“Hi Liz.” Nicole said. “Are you with us today?”
The girl looked up and smiled at Nicole. “Yeah I’m here. It’s all fairly quiet at the moment.”
“I see.” Nicole said. “Quiet in what sense?”
“My mind seems to be fairly coherent right now.”
“But it’s just that--- Shut up! I’m not going to do that, you fucking moron!”
Nicole didn’t react to the sudden outburst. Instead she said: “Davis bothering you again?”
“Yeah.” Liz answered. “He’s been talking to me all day long.”
Nicole nodded. She knew perfectly well that Liz heard ‘voices’. Anonymous whispers that talked to her from the dark corners of her mind. She also knew that Liz had named each and every one of them. For some reason it kept the girl fairly sane. Or at least, not insane enough to be locked up in a proper asylum.
“Hey, do you smell fire?” Liz asked.
Nicole sniffed the air a few times. “Nope.”
“Oh. Must be me then.”
“Being a schizo sucks.” Liz remarked.
“Wow!” Nicole said. “You must be really here to realise that.”
“Oh, ha ha. Very funny, Nic.”
“I said ‘shut up!’, didn’t I? Oh, it’s you. Sorry. Yes I was going to ask that.”
“Sharon?” Nicole was starting to get pretty good at recognising Liz’ voices. It was probably something she should worry about.
“Yeah. She wants to know where you went yesterday.”
Nicole shrugged. “Where I go every day.”
“Oh, thanks, that helps.” Liz said sarcastically.
“I don’t like talking about it.”
“So I’ve noticed. You know you really sh--- Davis, go away! I’m not listening to you!”
Nicole quietly ate her food.
“Sorry, what were we talking about?” Liz asked, after yelling at Davis for a while.
“About you.” Nicole said. “About how you’re having one of your good days.”
“We were? Well, I guess so. You know how I am sometimes.”
Nicole smiled. “Yeah, I know.”
Harrison stared at the door. Behind him, the sun was slowly setting. Harrison had waited for this moment. Waited until the world was somewhere between day and night for this moment. He had a plan. And it was going to work. There was absolutely nothing that could go wrong. His plan was perfect. He took a deep breath, walked towards the door and rung the doorbell. After a few moments, the door opened.
“Hi Harrison.” The smiling face of Mike said. “What can I do for you?”
Harrison smiled back, grateful that Mike hadn’t noticed that his daughter and stepdaughter apparently, and wrongfully, hated his guts. “Hello Mr McQueen.” Harrison said. “Is Sam home?”
“Sure. Come on in.”
“No thank you. I just need to ask her something and then I’ll be on my way again.”
Mike shrugged. “Sure. Whatever you say.” He turned around. “Sam, honey! Someone at the door for you!” He looked back at Harrison. “She’ll be here at any moment.”
“Thank you Mr McQueen.” Harrison said, the smile frozen on his face.
Mike nodded once, his smile still genuine, and turned away from the door. Harrison’s smile turned into a far more sinister one.
Soon. Very soon. As soon as Sam reached the door there would be no more resisting. To anything.
The door opened and Sam looked at him.
“Oh, it’s you. I thought it could be someone I might theoretically want to see. Like Mary Cherry.”
Harrison ignored it, going over his plan one more time.
“All right, Sam.” He said. “I came here to apologise once and it didn’t work.”
“So I’ve decided on something a little more different.” He said.
Harrison fell to his knees and held up his clasped hands in front of Sam’s face.
“Please forgive me!” He begged. “I’m begging here, please! I’ll do anything! Just forgive me, please.”
Sam quirked an eyebrow. “Wow. When you’re pathetic, you really mean it.”
“Come on! I’m on my knees for you here! I’ll do anything as you long as you forgive me.”
Sam smiled. She half turned her head towards the hallway. “Brooke!” She yelled. “Come over here and bring the camera!”
Harrison looked at the empty hallway as well. “What?”
“Well, I have to have a reminder of this moment, you understand.” Sam said, smirking.
“Now, now. You said you’d do anything.”
“Yeah well, I didn’t mean that… I mean, I thought you wouldn’t really ask me to… I mean…” Harrison said stammering as he got back to his feet again.
Brooke arrived, carrying a camera.
“OK, I’m here. What’s there to see?”
“Oh, nothing.” Sam said simply. “Just a lot of hot air.”
Two seconds later, Harrison was staring at a closed door again.
“Uhm… What went wrong?” He asked the door.
The door didn’t answer.
NOTE: Lately (as in: a few days ago) I started playing Final Fantasy 7 again. As a result I have less time to write AND an almost overpowering urge to make a cross-over with that game. I even have the beginning of a plot-line for this cross-over in this fic where Mary Cherry’s position as most popular suddenly gets threatened by the arrival of a certain Rufus Shinra. But, since I want to keep this fic clear of any cross-over-y type stuff this part is both very short and has nothing to do with Mary Cherry.
“So what do you think?”
“It starts OK.”
“Yeah. But it rapidly gets worse after ‘Dear Brooke’.”
“I mean… there’s no real feeling in it.”
“What? How can you say that?”
“Oh I know you put feeling in it, but it doesn’t show.”
“I think you just summed _me_ up.”
“And anyway, I’m not really the person you should ask for advice about this.”
“But you’re the only one. Who else can I show it?”
“How ‘bout Liz?”
“I can’t. She doesn’t know anything about what I did or who I was. And I want to keep it that way.”
“OK, that’s understandable I guess, but I still think you shouldn’t ask me.”
“Well… why not?”
“Well for one thing, it’s my death you’re apologising for.”
“I know! I know! It’s just…”
“I don’t know… I mean… I feel like Anya in ‘The Body’, you know? I have all these feelings and I can’t deal with them since I never had them before. I’m… I was… so emotionally dead that I… I mean…”
“I get what you mean. Feelings can be very tricky.”
“No, you don’t. You always had feelings, you grew up with them. I didn’t. I didn’t grow up in a loving family. Nor did I grew up in a uncaring or abusive family. I grew up in a cold one. One where emotion simply doesn’t exist. No anger, no fury, no love, no care, nothing! Do you get what I mean?”
“I think so. It’s no wonder you had no conscience.”
“Well, it’s true, isn’t it? You were practically a sociopath.”
“I… suppose… Hell, I probably still am.”
“No, that’s where you’re wrong.”
“Yeah? Why do you think _that_?”
“Well for one thing, you wouldn’t be seeing me. The only reason I’m here is because of your feelings of guilt. Take them away and I’m gone too.”
“And then I can get out of here.”
“Oh, is _that_ it?”
“Is that what?”
“You know, I was wondering why all your attempts to contact Brooke didn’t work out.”
“Yeah and now I know. You feel safe here. You like it here.”
“What? That’s crazy! You do realise this is a mental institution, right?”
“Yes, but only for very light cases. Here you have your own little room and a schedule completely worked out for you, but with more than enough personal time. Furthermore, everyone takes care of you, but it isn’t the distant care of a butler or maid. You are also far away from the great, big, scary real world. A world where you can only function by nixing all your emotions. And last, but not least, you have a friend. A very real friend who likes you for you and not out of some sort of social obligation like you had with Brooke.”
“Certainly. And of course, the biggest reason that you mess up your letters and phone calls is because you know just as well as I do that I’m gone when you find your forgiveness.”
“Now what’re you saying? That I don’t want to be forgiven?”
“No. I’m saying that you want me around as a constant reminder.”
“I think I can remember what I did without you here.”
“Yes. But that memory might fade, right? And I think you’re petrified about what would happen then. I think that you think that you’d become the cold being we’ve all known. So it’s best to stay here. In this nice, guarded environment with the embodiment of your conscience next to you at all times.”
“That’s not true! I don’t need you! I can… I can…”
“You can what?”
“I can write that damn letter without you!”
Sam smiled. “Well what are you waiting for then?”
Yes, I'm sort of back. For how long? Who knows. But after seeing that Aeryn has removed my name from the monthly PopularSlash cover something inside of me snapped. I just had to get back there, so I came back.
Well... that and the fact that my muse for this fic has been kicking and screaming for quite some time now.
Nicole sat alone in her room. Objectively speaking this statement isn’t entirely correct. In one corner of the room, sitting on a chair next to the window, sat Liz. She wasn’t exactly muttering to herself. She was talking to the people that existed in the confines of her own head and was entirely oblivious to the world around her.
At first Nicole had felt sad when Liz became like this. But after some time she had come to the realisation that this was simply the way Liz was. Despite all the doctors trying to make Liz a healthy, contributing member of society, Liz was still and would probably forever talk with people that were not entirely real.
It was just who she was.
And without those people inside her head, there was no telling who Liz would become.
So now Nicole simply ignored it until the din inside the blonde’s head cleared up enough to notice what some like to call the real world.
Then there was a polite knocking on the door.
Which was odd.
Nicole’s door was always open, except at night, and people usually just walked in when they wanted to.
Nicole looked up and saw her mother standing in the doorway.
“Wh- What brings you here?”
“Can’t a mother visit her own daughter?”
“You’re right. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“But still the question remains… what are you doing here?”
“Checking up on you? How are you?”
“Pretty good.” Nicole answered. “Still seeing things, but hey.”
“I see. No progress then?”
“Well I don’t suddenly start screaming in the middle of the night because Sam is standing over me while pointing at the blood on my hands.”
“So you _have_ made some progress then.”
Yeah, I guess.”
Sitting in her corner, Liz giggled. “I wonder what they eat?”
Both Nicole and her mother looked at the girl.
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Her name is Liz, mom.”
“I don’t think that’s her problem, dear.”
“She’s a schizophrenic.” Nicole admitted.
“Ah. And why is she in your room?”
“She’s my friend.”
“You have a friend who not only hears, but also talks to voices inside her head.”
“From what I’ve heard most schizophrenics do.”
“That’s not the issue, Nicole. People are already talking as it is!”
“I… I mean…”
“What are they saying? That I’m nuts? Well, you know what, they’re right! So who cares!”
“Nicole! We have a position to think of. It’s already badly shaken as it is and your friendship with this lunatic is not going to help.”
“She’s not a lunatic! She’s schizophrenic!”
“And the difference is…?”
“Hey, you’re right!” Liz exclaimed as if she had suddenly had a grand revelation. “She IS like Selina.” Then the blonde pointed at Nicole’s mother. “So that makes her Doskias.” She added with some venom in her voice.
“What is she talking about?”
“I think…” Nicole stopped. She had almost said ‘I think she’s talking to Pete’, but saying that didn’t like a very wise move right now. So instead she settled for: “I think she’s comparing us to videogame characters.”
“A character from a computergame. Is that what you are to her?”
“No mom. Normally she pretty… well… normal, it’s just that she isn’t quite here today.”
“And that makes it all so much better?”
“I wonder who Maya is.”
“Mom. I’m going to say this one more time. Liz is my friend. And I don’t care that she happens to be schizophrenic.”
“This is outrageous Nicole. Surely you see that.”
“But in her case, there’s more likely to be a Corgan somewhere out there too.”
“No, I don’t see it. In pretty much every Hollywood movie, friendship is regarded as one of the highest things one can attain. So why am I not allowed to pursue the American Dream?”
“You had friends, Nicole. Better friends.”
Nicole laughed. “Better friends she says. Gee, let’s see. I tried to run over Brooke after she declared to hate me and Mary Cherry is even more insane than anyone here. Liz on the other hand genuinely likes me. Yeah, better friends all right.”
“Enough of this. You’ve clearly been here for too long, it’s affected your thinking. I’m taking you home again as soon as I can.”
“You’d better buy ear plugs then, because I’ll start screaming into the night again. And if it isn’t Sam pointing an accusing finger at me, I’ll fake it.”
“And there comes the lava monster.”
“You wouldn’t dare…”
“Oh I would. You know I’ll do anything to get what I want. After all, you taught me that.”
“And what you want is to be locked up here?”
“At the moment, yeah.”
“Well then, in that case I should be grateful.”
“For the fact that the rumours are even more true than anyone thinks.”
“And she attacks with a Silence spell!” Liz yelled, laughing so loud she could barely get the words out. “But Nicole simply shrugs it off.”
Nicole’s mother glared at the blonde girl in the corner, then turned around and left.
Nicole looked at Liz as well.
“OK, how long have you been back enough to be eavesdropping?” She asked.
Liz smiled. “Somewhere around the ear plugs. That was interesting.”
“Was it now?”
“Oh yeah, but those Septerra references. They were all Pete’s idea.”
“I figured as much.” Nicole hesitated. “This Selina person… who is she?”
“Oh, she’s such a tragic figure.” Liz said solemnly. “Torn between her loyalty for her lord Doskias, but at the same time wrecked with guilt for everything that he does and for what she does in his name.”
Nicole nodded. “Pretty accurate I guess.”
“Hey, I may be a schizophrenic, but I’m not a lunatic. Unlike you, of course. I mean, dead people pointing an accusing finger at you?” Liz shook her head. “You’re really nuts.”
“I never pointed at you, you know.” Sam said, leaning against the wall. “I think it were your nightmares that really started the screaming. I just happened to be there.”
Nicole looked at Sam, then back at Liz.
“Liz, could you leave me alone for a while.”
The blonde laughed. “You want to be alone with your own personal voice?”
“It’s OK. See you later then.” Liz stood up and left the room.
Nicole waited until she was pretty sure that Liz was out of earshot.
“Why are you here?” Nicole asked.
“I think…” Sam started slowly. “That you should know who Corgan is.”
Brooke didn’t look too well. And not in the way that she looked sick, but more in the way that she looked like an ancient Greek demigoddess of vengeance. Her eyes were narrow and ablaze with anger, her mouth contorted to a thin line, her hands like claws. Between those narrow slits Brooke’s eyes went from left to right several times. And each time she had finished going from left to right her anger seemed to increase even more. After she was done she folded the offensive piece of paper. She took the upper right corner of the paper in her right hand and the upper left corner in her left hand. Then she moved her right hand towards her and her left hand away from her. She put one of the two pieces of paper atop the other and repeated her action. After having done this several times she walked over to the waste bin and deposited the remnants of the paper into it. After that she walked out of the room with fast, determined strides. She ignored Sam, who tried to greet her, and walked up the stairs towards her room. A few moments later Sam heard a very loud sound. Like a door that slammed shut.
“And that concludes our grand tour of the city.”
“Already? I thought it’d be longer.”
“Well, it _is_ a big city out there. We just went to see the parts that I could go to as well.”
Edgar the carpenter and Sam the wheelchair-bound moved over the sidewalk in silence. It had been a pretty nice afternoon for both of them. Yesterday Sam had finally given in to Edgar constant attempts to go out. So today the two of them had went out and Sam had showed him the sights. Well, some of them anyway.
In short, they had fun.
But nothing more, really.
Which bothered Sam somewhat. She had a vague feeling that Brooke was already hearing wedding bells and that the blonde had already went out to buy the wedding rings for the big day where Sam and Edgar would finally get married.
Figuratively speaking, of course. Or so Sam hoped.
“Can I ask you something?”
“How did you deal?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well… your entire family still seems to be pretty uncomfortable about the entire idea, but you don’t seem to have any problems with it.”
“Yes, you do. So how come?”
Sam shrugged. “I dunno. I just realised I had better things to do than moping about it all day long.”
“OK, fair enough, but… don’t you… you know… miss walking?”
Sam smiled sadly for a moment. “Sometimes. But I’ll tell you a secret if you promise not to tell anyone else.”
“OK, what is it?”
Sam leaned in closer to the young man. “I can fly.”
“Oh yes.” Sam said confidently. “You see, people in wheelchairs are really angels.”
“Of course they are. I mean, think about it. Angels live up in Heaven where they do nothing all day but frolic between the clouds. And then one day God, or whoever is in charge up there, decides to send some of His angels down to Earth to keep and eye on things. But of course, those angels have flown all their lives and when the come down here their wings are taken from them. And then they fall to the ground since they don’t know how to use their legs, so they end up in a wheelchair.”
“So not only do you miss walking, but you also miss flying?”
“Nah. God isn’t such a bad guy. Each night the angels get their wings back. They’re lifted up from the ground, soar through the sky, chase each other over forests, play hide and seek between the rooftops of the cities and dance in the light of the Aurora Borealis. And when the night fades again their wings go as well, and they have to return to their wheelchairs. But they don’t mind. All they have to do is wait half a day until the can fly once more.”
“Wow. I never thought about it that way.”
“Nobody does, that’s the whole problem. They look at us and all they see is the wheelchair, the muscle spasms or the weird way the arms move. And then people start to see us as objects. Objects that need to be taken care of, but objects all the same.”
“And all this time you’re really angels.”
“But… isn’t it just another way of saying that you simply dream of flying each night?”
“Well… yeah. But it sounds nice, doesn’t it?”
Meanwhile, at the Cherry Cherry mansion…
“How do Ah look?”
“You look like a grand epitome of perfection, Oh… Grand Epitome of Perfection.”
“Ah want to hear tha truth! Not some weak excuse for flattery!”
“You… look like… a grand epitome of perfection… Oh Grand Epitome of Perfection.”
“Ah do, don’t Ah?”
“You most certainly do, Oh Great and Honourable One.”
“Now then, enough about me. How’s tha plan going?”
“Splendidly, Oh Magnificent Nightmare of Plastic Surgeons. Phase One is all but completed.”
“And phase 2?”
“Proceeding smoothly as well, Oh Sweaty-Naughty-Feelings-Causing One.”
“Excellent. All right, get me the Laugher!”
“At once, Shining Star of Justice.”
A few moments later…
“You called for me?”
“And how can I serve you today?”
“Ah want something sinister and loud.”
“I see. How about ‘Buwahahaha’?”
“Fair enough. Some ‘Muwahahaha’ then?”
“Much better. Ah’d do it mahself, of course, but Ah can’t risk harming mah throat.”
“Quite right, you should leave it to the professionals.”
“Just give me a moment to prepare…”
“Oh, splendid! Just what Ah had in mind.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll send you the bill as soon as possible.”
|Section 4||Jos Mous||Popular||Main Index|