From Darkness

When did we lose our way?
Consumed by the shadows
Swallowed whole by the darkness
Does this darkness have a name?
Is it your name?

-Disclaimer: This story is a sequel. Summary quote from One Tree Hill.

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5. Chapter Five

I didn’t move for a long time, but I couldn’t get my eyes to stay closed. Every time the rocking of the quiet car made me drift off, I would see that same living darkness that would suck the life out of the people around me. I’d jolt and wake up, and Bucky would do nothing but glance at me to make sure I was okay and not going to swing at him again.

We didn’t speak. Sometimes he would stop the car to give me more water or more chunks of the chalky protein bar. Every so often he’d reach around the back and poke at Russell just to make sure he was okay or ask for directions. Eventually, he concluded that I wasn’t going to overdo it with the water or the food and set them both on my lap. He didn’t take his eyes off the road after that.

The sun was beginning to rise when we reached a dirt road. It seemed to wind on forever and there was nothing to look at for a long time but the trees on either side of us. When we finally reached the clearing at the end, it was morning.

Russell sent us to a small farm. The house itself sat far off the main road and was surrounded by wandering animals. Dogs barked as Bucky turned the car, and several goats bounded around the side of the house. Bucky brought us right to the house, scaring a bunch of chickens before we came to a halt.

“Let me go first,” he said as he reached for the handle and stepped out.

I just wanted to get out and help Russell. My head still hurt, and my body still felt weak. I hadn’t stood on my feet for a while, so I wasn’t sure if I was capable of holding myself up. But I couldn’t sit still and wait for him to make sure we were clear. So I unbuckled my seatbelt and moved to climb out. But Bucky had his back to me, and he wasn’t moving. He stood in front of me as if he was blocking me. So I peeked around him to see what he was looking at.

A woman was standing no more than a few feet away from him. She had an old rifle pointed at his chest. The expression on her face told me she wasn’t accustomed to visitors. If she knew who he was, she probably would have already fired.

I popped the door open and stepped out onto the hard frozen dirt. The wounds on my feet stung and my legs wobbled. I probably looked like a mess with blood caked in my hair and stuck to my face. I was wearing a tank top, so my scarred shoulders were exposed and visible.

The woman immediately cut her gray eyes to me. She was barefoot like I was, but dressed for hard work. We must have caught her by surprise. She moved the barrel of the gun in my direction, but Bucky quickly stepped to the side to block me from her. He held his hand out as if he’d have to stop me from moving around him.

It was getting easier to sort out the difference between what memories were real and what weren't. There was some clarity to some memories that I couldn’t find in others. I was almost confident that I had done that before. Walked around him when he tried to block me. So I guess he had every reason to try and stop me from doing it again.

When she opened her mouth to speak, I couldn’t understand the language. But Bucky apparently did and had no problem slipping into the same tongue to answer. She kept her eyes on him and didn’t even glance at me when I peeked over his shoulder. She also didn’t lower the weapon.

“Dana,” I heard a voice croak from the open car door behind me. I could hear him tap his knuckles on the glass, so I turned and yanked the back door open. I hopped in at his side so she could see him and I could make sure he was okay.

“Ivan?” she asked. She finally lowered the gun and took a step to the side to see into the backseat.

“They’re with me,” he explained. “You can trust them. Both of them.”

“He needs help,” I told her now that I knew she understood English. She nodded quickly and gave Bucky another skeptical once over.

“Help me get him into the house,” she demanded. “We’ll put him in my room.”

Bucky reached in and held his hand out to me. I reluctantly let him pull me out of the car, so I could get out of the way. I couldn’t help much since I could barely stand, so I stood back and watched the two of them work to get Russell out of the car without causing him much pain. I was useless.

Another woman stepped out of the house while I watched them. The younger woman had to be in her late forties or early fifties, but the second woman was much older. She had the same gray eyes, but while the younger woman’s hair was light brown and almost blonde, hers had faded into a dusty color that must have been the same shade at some point. She looked us all over before her gaze turned back to me.

“Dziaŭčyna,” she said, motioning to me. “Come.”

“Go,” Bucky told me as he hoisted Russell up under his arms. “We have it under control.”

I wanted to help. It was my fault, but there was nothing I could do anyway. I could barely stand, let alone try to carry someone. So I carefully held onto the rail and walked up the steps toward the strange woman. She immediately pulled me to her. She lifted my hands and looked me up and down like she was studying me. Her mouth was pinched as she examined the scars and then moved down my arms to where she had my wrists locked in her hands.

“Mm,” she said. “Bones.” Then she put her hand on my shoulder and gently nudged me toward the door. “Come.”

The front door opened to a small kitchen. There was a room connected to it on the right. She flicked the light on and dragged me into it. Then she got to work pulling back the covers of the bed. I jumped in to help her make room for Russell. I had to do something to help. Bucky and the other woman carried him through the door once we were finished pulling the sheets back. He was awake, biting his lip and trying very hard not to scream.

“When did this happen?” the woman asked. Russell called her Dana.

“Yesterday,” Bucky explained.

“What happened?” His eyes had found mine before he got Russell onto the bed. He never answered. Just took a step back as Russell twisted in agony on the bed. I jumped to his side and pulled at the jacket tied around his waist. Dana propped pillows beneath him and tried to help him get comfortable.

“Don’t worry about me,” he said through clenched teeth. “She hasn’t eaten. She was bleeding.” Dana turned her eyes on me.

“I'm all right,” I told her.

“You don’t look good. Where were you bleeding?” she asked. I shook my head.

“I don’t know. But I wasn’t shot in the stomach either. So I’ll be fine.”

“Johanna,” the older woman said. She was standing by the door now, twisting her fingers in front of her and staring at me with wide gray eyes.

“How do you know my name?” I asked. She tapped the side of her head like she was letting me in on a secret.

“I know.”

“She doesn’t speak very much English. She knows individual words, but has trouble with longer sentences,” Dana told me as she pulled the sheets up over Russell’s legs. He was dressed like I was. Simple clothes almost like pajamas. No shoes. “We knew Ivan when he was young.” I went back to work, yanking his shirt up so I could examine the entry wound.

“I need towels,” I told Dana. “All the medical supplies you have. Sewing supplies too. The environment isn’t sterile, but it’ll have to do. Has it been twenty-four hours?” I shook my head. “It doesn’t matter. I need to see how bad it is. It was close range. Through and through?” I glanced at Bucky, and he nodded once. I took a deep breath.

“Let me do it,” Dana suggested.

“No,” I snapped. I didn’t want anyone else to touch him. I didn’t know these women, and I didn’t know if they’d be able to do it right. It was my fault. I had to fix it. Bucky was right. I was the expert. Those memories were real. The instincts were real. I could do it. “I’m fine. I’m trained for this.”

“My fingers aren’t shaking and covered in dirt and blood and scratches,” she protested. I finally looked down at my hands. I hadn’t paid much attention to them before, but she was right. My fingers were still trembling and weak. And they were disgusting. Scratches scattered my skin and the bandages around my palms were frayed and hardened with dried blood and dirt. My nails looked broken and caked with dirt.

“Just let me clean up. I can do it.”

“It’s fine, Jo,” Russell said. “I trust them. I’ll walk them through anything they don’t already know.” I looked back up at him. He was propped against the pillows now. His salt and pepper hair was messy. He looked older and thinner than I remembered. There were dark circles under his eyes.

“I don’t. I don’t even know who they are.”

“I’ve known them a lot longer than I’ve known you. I trust them with my life. I trust them with yours. Which is saying a lot because you know I like you more than me. Go get cleaned up. Get some rest. You’ve been through a lot.”

“I can do it.”

“If you go anywhere near him with anything remotely sharp you’re going to shred through him like tissue paper,” Bucky remarked.

He was standing across the bed by Dana now, watching me trying to reason with them. I sent him a glare. I didn’t care that my hands were shaking and I felt like I could barely move. I couldn’t stand back and do nothing. Not when I had the ability to fix my mistake. At least thinking about medical procedures helped me keep my mind straight and narrow.

“Look,” he said with a softer tone. “I know you’re good at what you do. But now is not the right time. He doesn’t have enough time to wait for you to recover and you might do more harm than good. They wouldn’t let you do an invasive operation with shaking hands. You know that.”

I sighed and gripped the blanket. He was right. I was too weak. Too shaky. I probably wouldn’t even stay awake long enough to do a good job. Even without dirty hands that wouldn’t stop trembling.

“I can walk them through what to do,” I argued anyway.

“We will.”

“You said I was the expert. Russell will pass out. He won’t be able to tell them what to do.”

“Ivan,” he said from the bed. “You know I hate when you call me that.”

“I can do it,” Dana assured me. “Trust me. It wouldn’t be the first time.” Bucky moved around the bed and gently put his hand on my arm. I looked up at him, begging him not to make me leave. But he gave me the same sad expression.

“Please, Jo?” he said. “It’s for the best.”

“But it’s my fault,” I replied.

“It’s not your fault. They’ll do everything they can. Let me help you.” I looked back at Russell—Ivan—and he gave me a reassuring smile.

“Go,” he said. “It’ll be a cakewalk.” I sighed heavily and Bucky seemed to realize I was giving in. His hand was warm on my arm and it was keeping the panic from rising in my chest again. He helped me onto my feet and then wrapped an arm around me when I wobbled.

“I’ll do whatever I can,” Dana assured me as I walked tenderly to the door. The old woman reached out for me again, but I didn’t make it very far before my knees wobbled again and I slipped. Bucky quickly scooped me into his arms, and she led us back out into the kitchen. I rested my head against his chest so I could hear the sound of his heart beating.

 

 

I meant to update this sooner in the week but I got sad about stuff and then didn't. So there's that.

Anyway, happy holidays, my friends. This year I received the gift of a brand new niece, who also happens to be very squishy and very cute.

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