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You Can't Stay Here

by tarsh

[Story Headers]

You can't stay here.

It's a chant in the back of your mind, constant and unchanging. And impossible to ignore.

Most of your concentration is elsewhere, though - your eyes watching, fascinated, the tiny sparks that knit your flesh together. You reach for the napkin, wipe away your blood, find unblemished skin once more underneath. Somewhere beneath your focus, the words repeat again and again, a mental monotone.

You can't stay here.

The razorblade slices into your forearm for the twenty-third time, deeper than you meant it to - the scotch you've been consuming between experiments must finally be having an effect - and you hiss as pain floods slowly in through the alcoholic haze. It builds to a crescendo, dulled yet swelling, then fades before it crests as you're distracted, entranced by the sparks beginning their dance over your flesh once more.

You can't stay here.

Drink, cut, watch. Are the little sparks limitless? If you sit here, drinking and slicing and watching, will they eventually run out and the healing come to a standstill, like your car run out of petrol? Can you recharge them, if they do? They don't seem to be any slower about their business now than they were for the first cut, but how are you to know? You don't know where they came from in the first place. You're not sure why they're here now. You don't know why they came, or how long they will stay, or how they work. About all you know is that they certainly weren't inside you yesterday.

Are the sparks all that's keeping you alive?

You can't stay here.

They think you're dead. All of them, your friends and your boss and your landlady. Your friends declared you a figment of their imagination, brought about by the drunken wake, and swore off drugs forever. Your girlfriend - ex-girlfriend - just stared at you with tears welling in her eyes, and chanted prayers meant to ward off ghosts.

You'd never heard her pray before.

You'd even tried your landlady, but she just pretended not to see or hear you, and hmphed to the air about the backrent you owed her that she'd never be able to collect, now.

They all think you're dead. All of them.

You're pretty sure they're right.

You can't stay here.


"You can't stay here, laddie."

Ninety-six. You reach for the bottle, take a swig, eyes never leaving the sparks swarming dutifully over your skin. They crawl like eerie little worms now that the dull afternoon light has at last given way to night. When the last spark fades, you put down the bottle, reach again for the razorblade.

It's not there. You're sure you put it down on your thigh, same way you did the previous ninety-five times. It's not there now, though. Perhaps it fell off... you scrabble through the dirt, looking for it by feel - what matter if you cut yourself finding it now, after all? The sparks will only show you where to look.

The dull beat of your headache finally registers itself with your attention, several minutes behind its onset. Aren't you supposed to get the headache after you stop drinking? That's the way it's always gone before... But maybe that, too, is different now. Or maybe you're simply running short of sparks, and the headache's a warning signal. Only one way to find out if that's the case... You grope after the blade again, running hands over dirt and stones and other things better left unidentified.

It's the shoes that bring your scrabbling to a halt. Dark shoes, scuffed and worn. Brown, maybe. Maybe black. Hard to tell, here. Leather.

Not yours.

Belatedly, you realise that the last voice you heard came from outside your head.

You look up. Light-coloured trousers, darker shirt, jacket. Leather, again? It looks it, but it's difficult to tell, in this light.

He smiles. "That's more like it, laddie." The man crouches, looks at you. You wonder how long he's been there, what he thinks of the sparks, if he even saw them. At least he doesn't seem to think you're a ghost. And your headache's vanished as fast as it came, too. Does that count as a good night now, you wonder? No one thinking you're a ghost, and no headache. No razorblade, either, but you can always get another one of those, and you've still got the remainder of the scotch...

"You don't mind if I join you for a few minutes, laddiebuck, do you?" Not waiting for an answer, he shifts to sit beside you, back against the cold concrete of the overpass. He's smoking a pipe, has curly too-long hair, colour indeterminate in this light. Eyes amused and somehow, it seems, inviting you to share the joke.

You're abruptly aware that you're still on your hands and knees, and very probably staring. You change position, a little too fast, lose your balance and sit a little harder than you'd quite intended. You wonder if the sparks come out for bruises; the thought makes you smile, but given the location of said bruises, it's a little difficult for you to check, just now. If you remember, you'll add it to the list of things to experiment with, when you finally sober up. If you ever sober up.

You're still staring, apparently. He's looking back, somewhat quizzical, and you've no idea how you can read his moods so clearly in the miniscule amount of light under here. Perhaps the sparks improved your eyesight, too? Maybe your hearing, as well, and your other senses - don't the humans who come back no longer human always have enhanced senses, in the stories? It's a little hard to tell, just now, between the man's pipe - rather overpowering, now that you've noticed it at last - and the traffic overhead. Well, and the level of alcohol currently swimming through your bloodstream hardly makes you the most observant person in the world just now either, you suppose...

He nods towards the bottle you've somewhen retrieved, and the impression you get from him this time appears somewhat wistful. "I don't suppose you'd care to share a wee dram of that, would you, laddie?" he asks.

After a while, it occurs to you that your nod got lost somewhere between the impulse and the action. Slowly, trying to gauge distance accurately on a suddenly inconstant measure, you uncurl your arm, pass the bottle more or less to him. He takes it, drinks with a cheerful toast.

"Good taste in booze, at least," he announces. "This has a nice flavour." He peers at the bottle, adds, "Although the quality of the label appears somewhat at odds with the surrounding locale."

You tilt your head, wonder vaguely if you're supposed to respond. Apparently not, since he pauses only for another drink before continuing. "Myself, I generally prefer a nice table on the sidewalk, in a city where the women all wander by to admire and be admired. Greece, say, where filmy fabrics drape soft and loose to hide almost as much as they reveal, with the sun hot on your skin and the remains of good drink and better food on the table in front of you." He pauses, reflectively it seems, for another swig from the bottle. "Or this little village in Spain, where the women walk by with long rustling skirts and laughing eyes, and they brew beer up in the hills like you've never tasted in your life, laddiebuck. Stories in front of a warm fire with good friends makes for pleasant evenings, as well." A cheerfully lecherous smile lights his face, then, as he continues, "Although it's such a shame to deprive all those women of my potential acquaintance, I'm as likely to pull them out to tell tall tales by that sidewalk table, come to think of it. Or a good bar, with friendly patrons and perhaps a dartboard for the odd game or two."

"Diversions, laddie. There are far more interesting ways to pass the time than what you were up to. And you've rather a lot of time to pass, you know. You'd be best to start by learning how to have some fun."

He rambles on, and you slide your head back against the concrete, listening. More or less. Perhaps the actual words get a bit lost, but you like his voice, strong and mellow, rich with undertones and smoky flavour. Rather like the scotch, actually. Which, you notice finally, he's offering back to you. "Not that I don't think you've had plenty of this already, laddie, but it would be unconscionably rude to show up and drink all your remaining scotch without at least trying to offer it back."

You take the bottle, and a drink, and hand it back to him as the alcohol slides smooth down your throat, leaving a trail of peat-smoky fire and flavour for you to savour. He tilts his head, studies you. "Name's FitzCairn," he says. "Fitz, to my friends, or Hugh, although you're welcome to call me whatever takes your fancy. What do you say to a warm pub and a bit of music, lad? We'll flirt with the women, dance a little, maybe throw a dart or two. Enjoy ourselves some fine food and wine." He leaves it open, for a moment, and swallows the last of the scotch, from the way the bottle tilts. "In the morning, I'll tell you a tale or two, a few things you need to hear. But what I've got to say can keep 'til you're awake and you're sober; and in the meantime, there are lovely women out there who could be enjoying our company."

He stands, holds out a hand, and eventually, it occurs to you that he's waiting for you to take it. After a little negotiation between your brain and your nerve-impulse and your muscles, you do. He pulls you up, and you sway a moment, supported by his hand under your elbow, while you try to recall the trick to managing gravity.

"That's the ticket, laddie," he says. "The scotch will wear off faster than you think. A splendid evening of wine, women, and song awaits." His rambles seem to have painted a picture in your mind, and you can almost see the evening unfold, filled with cheerful lechery and appealing companionship. You're dubious about how fast the scotch will actually wear off, but it seems the easiest thing in the world to go with him, if you can just remember how to walk.

After all, you can't stay here.

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Fandom:  Other (Highlander)
Title:  You Can't Stay Here
Author:  tarsh   [email]   [website]
Details:  Standalone  |  PG-13  |  gen  |  9k  |  05/21/04
Characters:  FitzCairn, OC
Pairings:  n/a
Summary:  So: why *aren't* you dead?
Disclaimer/Other:  Highlander and the concept of immortality in this form is the property of Panzer/Davis. One of these characters is also theirs. The other is mine. Originally written for the Dec 2003 Highlander Lyric Wheel 'The End is the Beginning', and finally being released into the wild. Thanks to Rhi for the beta.

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