Title: The Dying of the Light
Pairing/characters: Connor, Becker
Warnings: Character death, language
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 2330
Summary: There’s too much blood.
AN: For anyone who is interested, here’s the full poem from which the title is taken.
“Becker! God, Becker, it’s okay, I’ve got you.”
There’s too much blood. Connor tries not to think about that, and just wraps his arm around Becker and pulls him out from under the predator that is still twitching despite the gaping shotgun wound in its head. He drags him upright until Becker gets his feet under himself and can make an attempt to put one foot in front of the other under his own steam.
Connor doesn’t want to think about the blood. He tries to ignore the way that Becker clings to him, his fist twisting the shoulder of Connor’s jacket until he’s sure he can hear stitches popping and fabric tearing. Connor doesn’t want to think about that, because Becker never holds onto anyone like that. Becker never needs anyone.
By the time they find shelter in a half burnt out building, Connor is fairly certain that he’s carrying most of Becker’s weight. Well, dragging would be a more accurate word, but he doesn’t want to admit that, and Becker doesn’t seem to be commenting on it either, and maybe they can just brush it under the carpet once they’ve sorted out all the blood. Maybe they can laugh about Connor’s sad attempt at manly heroics later when Becker isn’t-
No. Connor refuses to think about that, as well.
Connor finds the bandages and the water and the antiseptic in the rucksack. He has no first aid training, and Becker isn’t in a fit state to talk him through it, so he makes it up, based on stuff he’s seen on TV. It can’t be that hard, besides, Connor knows he has the easy job. All he has to do is clean the wounds, cover the torn flesh, stop the bleeding, bandage everything up so that the blood stays on the inside and the dirt and infections stay on the outside.
Connor has the easy job. All Becker has to do is not scream.
“The anomaly closed.”
Becker seems to be concentrating quite hard on just breathing. He eventually nods, and then looks like he wishes he hadn’t done that
“It’s been opening on and off for weeks. It’ll open again, I’m sure of it.” Connor is faintly aware he’s starting to babble, and clamps down on the words before they become even more pointless.
“Where’s my gun?”
It’s the first full sentence Becker has managed to say since the attack. Somehow Connor is not entirely surprised at the man’s priorities.
“Your handgun is still here, in your holster, like it’s supposed to be.”
Connor takes Becker’s hand and carefully moves it until Becker is touching his pistol.
“I didn’t have enough hands,” Connor admits. “I mean, with you, and the bag, and the running. I couldn’t bring the shotgun as well.” He pauses and then adds, “Sorry.”
Becker closes his one remaining good eye, the frustration evident on what is left of his face. Connor actually contemplates going back out there and searching for the shotgun for all of ten seconds, until he remembers what else is out there.
“Where are we?”
“I don’t know. A building. It’s mostly intact, and I’ve barricaded the door and windows as much as possible.”
Connor doesn’t admit that he did that after all the bandaging, not so much for security, but more because he couldn’t stand to watch Becker’s desperate fight to remain silent and bury his pain where the predators wouldn’t hear. Connor had to occupy himself with something else, something productive, because he never, ever wants Becker to be associated with words like ‘vulnerable’ or ‘frightened’ in his head.
“Double check. Everything.”
Connor has no idea how Becker can still be thinking of defensive strategy right now, but he nods, and gets up and scrambles over and around the wreckage to double check the barricades that he already knows are solid.
He tries to pretend that when he’s finished Becker will be back in control, and that the words like ‘stoic’ and ‘calm’ will be back in their rightful place in Connor’s mental categories.
He tries to pretend it’s okay when that isn’t the case.
“Here. Drink this.”
Becker pushes the bottle away from his lips, and Connor tries to ignore how feeble the gesture is.
“Don’t waste it,” Becker says.
“There’s plenty,” Connor lies, and puts the bottle back, gently slipping his other hand under Becker’s neck and lifting his head enough that he doesn’t choke when he finally admits defeat and drinks.
“It’s been a day.”
“Is that all?”
“Sorry,” Connor murmurs, as if the passage of time is his fault.
He thinks perhaps they ought to be talking more. Quietly, of course, in case of predators, but still. Surely he’s supposed to keep Becker talking, to keep him awake and alert and take his mind off the situation? But Becker, never the most talkative person to start with, seems intent on taking the art of conversing in monosyllables to new heights, and there’s only so long that Connor can listen to the sound of his own voice before it starts to annoy even him.
He can’t help but worry about the fact that Becker isn’t telling him to shut up any more.
Connor wakes from one nightmare into another. He stares into the darkness for several seconds, convincing himself that they are still alone, that the predators haven’t found them, and waiting for his heart rate to slow back to normal.
When he isn’t being deafened by the pounding in his own ears, he starts to hear something else. Connor lies very still, listening.
It takes him a while to realise that what he is listening to is the sound that Becker makes when he’s trying not to scream, when he thinks that no one can hear him.
“Yes, Connor. You don’t have a choice in this.”
“This isn’t a debate, Connor. I’m not asking for your opinion. I’m telling you.”
“No. I am not leaving you to get ripped apart by predators.”
“If we are found, we both know that I can’t escape. There’s no point both of us dying.”
“I’m not doing it, Becker.”
“You don’t have a choice.”
This is the first time they have this argument. Connor knows it won't be the last.
Becker looks like he’s going to deny it for a second. Then he says, “I’m cold.”
Connor retrieves the survival blanket and tucks it up around Becker, careful to avoid putting any pressure on his left arm, or that side of his chest. Well, careful of most of Becker’s body, to be honest, but he knows those are the places to really avoid touching.
He looks back up, and sees that Becker’s face is covered in sweat, and his eye is squeezed shut.
“Sorry. God, I’m sorry.”
Eventually Becker relaxes a little. Then he opens his eye and pins Connor with a stare that shouldn’t possibly be that intimidating coming from someone with half their face covered in gauze padding and bandages.
“You’re trying to keep me alive. Don’t ever apologise for that.”
Connor fiddles with the edge of the survival blanket until he’s sure that Becker isn’t looking at him like that any more.
“Are you still cold?”
Connor lays down next to him and crawls under the blanket and shuffles up against Becker’s right side, the side that isn’t as badly damaged.
“Is this okay?”
Becker sighs quietly.
“Yes. This is okay.”
Becker’s skin is burning. Connor hasn’t noticed it until now because he was trying so hard to not touch him in case he inadvertently ended up hurting him again. But now he has noticed, he’s scared. Scared of the things that they daren’t speak of. Fever. Infection.
Connor needs the anomaly to open right now, because he’s pretty sure he can’t do this.
“Stop being so fucking stubborn, Connor. If it comes to it, leave me.”
“What, you seriously expect me to just leave you behind? To run away while you get ripped apart by those bloody creatures?”
It’s the third time they’ve had the argument now. Although it’s not so much an argument, and more Becker demanding and Connor refusing, round and round in circles until one or other of them gives up.
Becker sighs quietly. “You’re right.”
“Wait, what? I am?” Connor can’t believe he’s won so easily.
Becker looks him right in the eye.
“You shouldn’t just leave me to be eaten alive. I’d appreciate it if you could shoot me first, and then leave me.”
Connor has absolutely no answer for that.
Becker begins the inevitable slide into delirium on the fifth day. It starts innocuously enough. Connor notices that he’s no longer trying to hide the quiet whimpers, and while that worries him, he has to admit it isn’t entirely surprising. Even Becker’s pain tolerance must have limits.
Connor does what he can to keep Becker’s temperature down, even while the man shivers and murmurs about being cold. Connor doesn’t tell Becker about the fact that his skin is starting to look discoloured around the edges of some of the gauze pads and bandages. It’s not as if knowing the truth will make him fight any harder. Connor knows that Becker is already hanging on with everything he’s got.
Eventually Becker asks him to talk, just talk about anything to give him something to focus on. Connor somehow manages to find a stream of pointless words about pointless things, because there’s nothing else he can do to help. Besides, the sound of his voice means that Becker’s pain isn’t the loudest thing in the room, and deep down, Connor suspects that’s the reason why Becker really wants him to talk after all.
He only stops talking when Becker comments that it’s getting dark early. Connor glances up to the sunlight still slanting in through the hole in the roof, and back down to Becker’s eye, swollen and bloodshot, and his words dry up for several minutes.
Then, because there’s nothing else he can do, Connor starts to talk again.
Becker is mostly incoherent by the sixth day, yet still stubbornly conscious. In his more selfish moments, Connor wishes that Becker would just slip quietly into unconsciousness, so that he wouldn’t have to listen to the almost constant moans, whimpers and random words. He hates himself for thinking that, knows that as long as Becker is conscious then it means he’s still fighting. But Connor has no idea how much longer either of them can keep doing this.
The pistol feels heavy in his hands. He’s fairly certain that Becker didn’t notice when he slipped the gun out of its holster, although the soldier’s right hand twitched at that moment. It could have been coincidence.
Connor checks the safety, and takes a deep breath before he very gently presses the gun to Becker’s forehead.
He had spent all of last night lying next to Becker with his hand pressed over the man’s mouth, smothering his cries, begging him in desperate whispers to keep quiet, and promising it was going to be okay. He can’t cope with another night like that.
Becker wouldn’t want to die like this, Connor tells himself. Surely there can’t be any hope of recovery now? Better to end his suffering as quickly as possible.
Connor closes his eyes and lets his finger settle against the trigger.
This is what Becker would want. This is what Becker all but asked for in one of their bloody arguments, for god’s sake.
But what if?
What if the anomaly opens again five minutes after he does it? What if there’s still chance for a last minute rescue? What if Becker can somehow keep fighting long enough to recover?
What if this isn’t what Becker would want?
Or what if he, Connor, is just too much of a coward to do what has to be done?
The noise of the gun hitting the floor is briefly the loudest sound in the room. Connor curls into a ball against the wall and for the first time since the anomaly closed he allows himself to cry.
The inevitable happens on the seventh day.
The hand held anomaly detector goes off as the sounds of movement outside get closer and louder.
Connor knows the rescue, when it comes, will be too late. Becker finally stopped fighting and fell silent in the night. Connor isn’t sure whether the predators are being drawn to this building by the scent of death, or whether it’s just coincidence. Either way, he’s out of time.
Much as he doesn’t want to accept it, Becker was right about one thing – there’s no point both of them dying here.
Connor hangs his jacket outside the door as a marker, and picks up the gun. Then he does the one thing that he promised he would never do.
He leaves Becker behind.
When the world comes back into focus, Danny is sitting at the side of his hospital bed.
“Hey, mate.” Danny’s smile is genuine, but there’s sadness in his eyes. “Thought we’d lost you for a while there.”
Memories begin to return, until he remembers enough to ask the most important question.
Danny shakes his head.
“He didn’t make it. I’m sorry.”
For a moment Becker wants nothing more than to plunge back into the darkness and never return.
Danny is speaking again, and he tries to concentrate on the words.
“Best we can tell he was trying to distract the predators, lure them away from where you were. He’d left enough signs pointing to the place where we found you, but by the time we got to him...” Danny hesitates for a moment. “He saved your life, mate.”
Becker closes his eye and lets the darkness welcome him back, for a little while. He’s not ready to do this yet.
He had been prepared to die for Connor. Now Becker knows he has to do something far harder.
Now he has to live, for Connor.