Nothing’s very fun anymore
And I can feel one of my turns coming on
Sometimes, Vyvyan hurt himself.
And sometimes it was obvious. Sometimes he headbutted his way through doors and ate exploding bricks. Tried to set off atom bombs and strapped sticks of dynamite to his head. Sometimes he drank until he made himself ill, or banged his head against the wall until he could barely see. But those were all regular occurrences - behaviour that defined him as a punk, as a person, as Vyvyan Basterd . No one batted an eye. Not even Rick. Not at first, anyway.
Don’t look so frightened.
This is just a passing phase.
One of my bad days.
It wasn’t so much that he hurt himself. True, it was a problem - one that often made Rick almost sick with worry. But it was difficult for Vyv to see it as a concern since, thanks to a lifetime of abuse, he struggled to comprehend that physical harm was not something he deserved . It had sort of become part of his life, like brushing his teeth or gelling his hair in the morning. A grim necessity - something that made sense. No, it was the feeling he sometimes got that bothered him. A dark, sinister kind of mood that engulfed him every so often. A heaviness in his chest, a persistent sense of despair and self-hatred. Sometimes when it was really awful, he could sleep it off. Stay in bed until the pressure eased and he could breathe again. If he was lucky, it would only last a day or so. Occasionally he could shake it with some aforementioned self-destructive behaviour. If he broke through enough walls or had enough fights with Rick, it would gradually recede and melt into the background until he barely noticed it again.
But sometimes it hung around for weeks.
I feel cold as a razorblade
Tight as a tourniquet
Dry as a funeral drum
And it was when it hung around for weeks that Vyvyan’s “behaviours” became more noticeable. Less chaotic, more sinister. It was only after they started seeing each other that Rick finally got an explanation for the burn marks on Vyvyan’s hands and arms, and for the funny symmetrical scars hidden under his cuffs. Rick couldn’t quite understand it, any more than he could understand why Vyvyan sometimes crawled into his bed and cried streams of steady, silent tears until he drifted off. Vyvyan had long since given up trying to explain it. How could he, when he didn’t even really know what the problem was? It wasn’t that he was unhappy - he had nothing to be unhappy about. Especially not since he and Rick stopped sleeping across the hall from each other and started sharing a bed. He thought that might’ve made his odd turns go away, and it had certainly helped to a degree, but they never really went. Not properly. He had guilt about it, too. Contrary to popular belief, Rick did have a life. He had things he liked to do when he wasn’t with Vyvyan, like go to poetry readings or meetings with the Anarchist’s society. And sometimes, if Vyvyan disappeared into his room with a packet of cigarettes and a full bottle of vodka, looking bleak and not-quite-there, Rick would cancel his plans and stay in bed with him. If there was blood by the time he got there, he’d clean it up. If there were new burns, he’d soothe them. If there were tears, he’d wipe them away. It was a lot for one person to put up with. Vyvyan wondered when it would wear thin.
Run to the bedroom
In the suitcase on the left
You’ll find my favourite axe
“Vyvyan? Vyvyan, let me in!”
“I told you to piss off!” Vyv snapped. The argument was a stalemate - they’d been going round in circles for ages.
“No! Why is this door locked? Vyvyan!”
“Look, bugger off, would you? I’m busy!”
“I most certainly will not!” Rick pounded on the door with both fists, shaking the frame and making one hell of a racket, “You open this door right now, young man! You’ve been in there for ages! You’re scaring me half to death, you know!”
Vyv groaned. Rick was a stubborn bastard at the best of times - if he thought Vyv was in trouble, he was bloody insufferable. He got up from his spot on the bed, stiff and sore and slow, and slid the deadbolt back with a great deal of reluctance. This wasn’t the worse turn he’d had, but it would be the worst Rick had encountered. If the punk was ever going to scare him off, this would be the time.
Would you like to learn to fly?
Would you like to see me try?
Would you like to call the cops?
Do you think it’s time I stopped?
Rick’s expression was unreadable. Entirely blank. He stepped into Vyvyan’s room, shut the door, slid the deadbolt back across. Vyv looked him up and down, took in his clothes, his hair, his shoes. Yellow dungarees. Christ.
“...We’re having a party tonight.” He said.
“It doesn’t matter. Give me your hands.”
“You should go,” Vyv said. He kept his arms firmly behind his back and tried to stay in the shadows, so Rick couldn’t see.
“I’d much rather stay here, thank you very much. Where’s your special medical box?”
“Right.” Rick crossed the room with an alarming degree of authority. He was no stranger to this. It had become a routine. Vyv shuffled back towards the bed and sat down, hands still behind his back and firmly out of Rick’s view. He didn’t feel too well, in all honesty. A bit lightheaded. It probably wasn’t a good sign.
Rick sat down on the bed in front of him, armed with Vyv’s so-called Special Medical Box , and began to take inventory. It was times like these that Vyv thought Rick would have done alright as a med student. He lined up the necessary materials with care and expertise, and though he might not have known the proper names, he knew what every piece of equipment was for, and how best to use them when cleaning up Vyvyan’s messes.
“Show me,” Rick muttered. His face was the picture of concentration - brows furrowed, tongue between his teeth. Vyv shook his head.
“Nah, you’re alright.”
“Vyvyan Basterd, you will show me your hands, or I will march downstairs and ask Mike and Neil to come up here and take a look at them!”
Vyvyan stiffened, “You wouldn’t.”
“I blimmin’ will! And then the three of us will get you into your car and drive you down to accident and emergency!”
“You’ll do that anyway.” Vyv’s tone was accusatory, as if rushing him to hospital would be a great betrayal. Rick’s gaze softened.
“Have I ever?” He asked.
“You will if I show you.”
“Well, that depends how bad it is, doesn’t it?”
“...It’s quite bad.”
Rick put his hand on Vyv’s thigh. It felt warm and clammy through the denim of his jeans, but it was soothing.
“Then let me help.” He whispered. Vyvyan relented. His hands came out from behind his back and rested palms up on his knees. There were burns on his arms that needed attention, but this was the worst of it. He waited for Rick’s reaction. Horror, disgust, the shrill screaming he’d received from his mother the first time he’d had a bad turn. Rick gave nothing away.
“That is quite bad.” He agreed.
“...I’m sorry.” Vyv muttered.
“It isn’t your fault.” Rick might not have understood it, but he understood that much.
“Are you gonna grass on me?”
“Well, that depends.” Rick replied, “You’re the medical student, Vyv, so I’m trusting your opinion. As a doctor, not as a patient, do you think you need to go to the emergency room?”
“...It's been worse than this before.”
“No. I don’t need to go to the emergency room.”
Rick stared at him intensely, searching his eyes for any sign of a lie.
Rick moved quickly, his fingers ripping open packets of adhesive strips, antiseptic wipes, and bandages with practiced expertise. He dressed the wounds firmly, but not too tightly, just like Vyvyan had taught him. The kisses - one on the palm of each hand - were not as Vyvyan had taught him. They were extra, and Vyv usually scoffed at their inclusion. That night he took them readily, even savoured them. He wasn’t sure why Rick put up with all this, but as always, Vyv was glad he did.
Day after day, love turns grey
Like the skin of a dying man
And night after night
We pretend it’s alright
“Are there any others?” Rick asked. Vyv hesitated, then nodded. He put his palms down to show the new burns. Rick got out the cream and dabbed it on his arms as gently as possible, grimacing whenever Vyv moved or flinched.
“I’m not gonna break, prick. You don’t have to be so bloody poofy about it.”
“Shh.” Rick muttered, “I’m doing this my way, alright? When you’re fixing me up, you can do it however you like.”
Rick wiped the excess cream off his fingers and put his hands on Vyv’s cheeks.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Vyv shook his head, “Same old shit. Doesn’t bear repeating.”
“Alright, well. I think that’s bedtime, then.”
“Don’t be stupid. Go to the bloody party.”
“Absolutely not.” The first aid kit went under the bed, and Vyv’s vest went to the floor with a little prodding from Rick, “I’m tired, you’re tired. We’re going to bed.”
Vyvyan relented, fell backwards, and was quickly wrapped in blankets. Rick fell on top of him, wriggled a bit until he got his dungarees off, and then snuggled down until it was impossible to tell where one of them ended and the other began. Vyv side, his arms throbbing, and rested his cheek against Rick’s forehead.
“You don’t have to put up with this.” Vyv muttered.
“I’m not putting up with anything, Vyvyan. I love you. It’s no trouble.”
“Don’t say that.”
“ That .”
“ What ? I’m not putting up with anything? It’s no trouble?” He paused, “I love you?”
“Well, I can’t bloody help it! I love you. You know I love you. I’m never going to stop loving you, alright? And this .” He touched the hem of the bandage on Vyv’s wrist as gently as possible, “Is starting to get out of hand.”
“How do I help, Vyv?”
“I don’t know.”
“Have a think.” Rick said, “Because I’m never going to stop trying to help you, either.”
“...Okay.” Vyv hesitated, “I love you too, poof.”
Rick smiled, “I know. Go to sleep. We’ll talk in the morning.”
Vyv yawned. He didn’t want to admit it, but he was exhausted. Drained was probably a better word for it. And when he closed his eyes, instead of all the horrible flashbacks of his mother, his old house, his long string of questionable uncles and all the other terrible things that happened to him as a child - things that shaped him, changed him, and convinced him that he wasn’t good enough, would never be good enough - only one thought crossed Vyvyan’s mind. It ran through him repeatedly, loud and intrusive. Amplified by the smell, feel, and sound of Rick.
Why aren’t you running away?