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markwardo

February 2014

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unhealthy relationships ftw.



memory from the corners of my eye

"Toki," he shouts through the door. "Pick up the damn phone."

But the phone's still ringing when Skwisgaar's finished fumbling with his keys. It’s become not uncommon that he comes back filthy tired as he does tonight: cold, numb in the face. He’d had a desk job, the last time around, not that it’d turned out. Though, to be fair, they'd only sacked him after that one bitch secretary had had that STI scare. Final count said he'd "fraternised" with three girls. He was pretty sure it was at least sixteen (not all of them girls).

Not a personal record, or anything, but pretty good for a two week stint at a dentist's office.

So now he works the graveyard shift. At a graveyard. Digging graves. Toki'd picked it out for him, smile at his lips perfect and sweet as he'd slid over the highlighted classifieds, saying nothing at all except "I already called and said you'd be in next Monday. I hope dead grannies aren't one of your things."

It’s not his kind of work, really, and he could've probably found something else, but he'd taken it anyway. It's all appropriately morbid and everything for a guy in between death metal bands, at least. Plenty of gothic imagery to go around, lots of dead flowers, dead people. Lots of dead time, too, for him to stand around, fingering silent scales on the shaft of his shovel, though not actually the best sort of job for someone like him. His arms always feel like rubber, after, and his palms split and blister. His fingernails have taken on a permanent black crust along the beds. He looks like a crack addict, or a hobo.

He dumps his boots by the door, unhooks his scarf from around his neck, starts at his coat, except he's got maybe half his weight in grave dirt settled into the lining, so he shuffles outside to shake it out before coming back in. The phone's ringing is somehow becoming more insistent the longer he listens to it.

"Toki! Sonofawhoresonshit, get off me," tugging at his trousers which cling like a wet bitch to his ankles. "Toki, the phone! Also, I’m fuckin' starving. I demand beer and skewered meat, but not in that way, you animal."

He cackles at his own joke and tries to smooth out the static his hair has collected from under his woollen hat. There’s light coming from the other room, the distinct black-blue flicker of a television on mute. "Toki, get out here!" Skwisgaar calls. "I’m going to go shower."

The water's only lukewarm when he steps beneath the spray, but it stings like needles when thrown against the chilled skin of his shoulders and back. Skwisgaar hears the phone strangle off mid-ring and the muffled sounds of Toki talking to whoever it is on the other end of the line. He bends his head into the dribblier part of their crooked shower head, and everything disappears under the hiss of the water. It takes a truly stupid amount of time for his heavy hair to soak through, so he makes up for it by squeezing in enough shampoo to choke a pig.

Toki's still murmuring into the handset when Skwisgaar steps out of the shower, dries himself off and wraps himself in a towel. "Who are you talking to?" he calls through the door, picking fastidiously at his nails as his hair drips around him. As he moves to turn the doorknob, something clatters to the floor outside. There’s a scrambling sound, and just as Skwisgaar goes out into the common area, Toki snaps up straight like an epileptic marionette on a string.

"Who was that?" Skwisgaar repeats, squeezing at the ends of his hair with a handtowel.

"No one," Toki says brightly, still holding the receiver, though his eyes stay fixed on the floor. “You said you were hungry?”

Skwisgaar experiments with a sceptical eyebrow, but lets his face settle into a well-practised smugness. "No one? Well, that was an awfully long time you just spent, talking to no one." He saunters across the room with long, slow strides, and his feet kick at the clothes he'd left on the floor. There’s a tinny, helium voice still squeaking on the line, asking "Hello? Hello?" as if persistence alone could reanimate a corpse of conversation.

Skwisgaar reaches for the phone, one hand still on the towel around his waist, but Toki blushes high on his cheekbones and pulls it away, sneaking it behind his leg and turning his face so that his hair falls in front of it. "Honestly, Skwisgaar, it's no one important, just a wrong number. Don’t--"

He sounds like a cartoon mouse when he's embarrassed, Skwisgaar reflects, reaching around for the receiver, which Toki switches clumsily between his hands.

"Give it here, Toki, come on."

"No! Skwisgaar, don’t--! It’s not--"

"Is it a girl?" he teases. "Does little Toki have a lady friend? Oh, look who’s all grown up! I want to talk to Toki's lady friend!"

"It’s not a lady friend!" Toki's turned away from him, has the phone pulled against his chest, huddling around it like it's a soft toy. Skwisgaar's right hand goes around one of Toki's wrists to keep him still while the other tries to wrest his fingers from their death clutch around the receiver.

"No, wait!" Toki wails, just as all the fuss dislodges the towel from about Skwisgaar's hips. It slumps to the floor. Toki makes a choking noise and his hands fly up to his face.

"Haa!" Skwisgaar crows, pivoting on his heel and neatly swaying away before Toki can recover. He lifts the receiver to his ear and drawls, "Toki Wartooth's virgin house of virginal virginity, have you helped to a virgin today?" Toki hasn't followed him, but Skwisgaar sees him out of the corner of his eye, frozen in spot, a stricken look paling his face.

It is a girl on the line. Skwisgaar recognises the voice. He’s been expecting this call. "Skwisgaar? Skwisgaar, is that you?" she's saying. "Hello? Who was that Norsk kid? Is he retarded or something? This is the third time I’ve called, but he kept telling me you didn't live here and --"

Skwisgaar turns his face fully to look at Toki who has gone so grey he is beginning to disappear into the wallpaper behind him. His hands are scrunching furtively in and out of fists and his eyes are cast so low his chin touches his chest. His shoulders are up impossibly high.

Skwisgaar turns back to the phone. "I’m sorry," he says slowly, "I’m afraid you have the wrong number. There is no one with that name at this residence."

"What? Skwisgaar, are you--? Hello? Skwisgaar? Hey, what the fu--" her shrill protestations die with a click when Skwisgaar places the receiver back into its cradle.

Silence holds in an airless pause, broken only by the dull hum of the radiator grinding on in the background. Toki’s shoulders have begun to shake. A moment more and he erupts, "It wasn't my fault! She just kept calling and you weren’t home and I didn't know you wanted..." He trembles himself to a halt like an artery running suddenly dry. In a final trickle, he manages, "Please don't make me leave."

Skwisgaar's not. He doesn't. It's not fair, makes it through, and then radio silence. "I’m going to," Skwisgaar starts. There are half a dozen things he should probably say, but none of which he knows how to. "I’m going to get dressed," he decides on. "You should. Pick this stuff up. Yeah." He kicks his towel towards Toki, but Toki just stands there, mousy hair drawn like a curtain in front of his face, turning his cheek away and flinching with his whole body when the terrycloth hits him just below the knee, like he's been slapped.

Skwisgaar pads into the bedroom with a rigour characteristic of neither muscle stiffness nor fatigue and shuts the door. He feels rather than hears Toki finally break from his paralysis and skitter about just outside; the floorboards vibrate with every urgent stumble of his socked feet. Skwisgaar digs around through his drawers for pants, finds a pair shoved behind a wadded up t-shirt he hasn't seen Toki wear for nearly a year and a half, and goes to the closet for trousers.

He emerges fifteen minutes later, wearing a pair of tracky bottoms and his drying hair bound back messily by a rubber band. Toki’s stirring a pot of something on the stove and the smell of cooking food stinks the air. Skwisgaar pulls a chair away from their fold-up kitchen table; the other one is draped with the clothes he’d left by the door, and the floor has been swept clean.

"What’re you making?" he asks. His fingers reach towards the little pile of rubbish that has slowly accumulated over the months and emerge with a dilapidated packet of fags someone had left; he doesn’t smoke, usually, but his hands are want of something to do.

He’s absorbed in getting the lighter to spark, but he catches Toki’s wince as he turns jerkily around and then back. "Um, soup." He reaches for the can. "Soup with … svamp*. Um."

"What?"

"It’s nothing. Sorry." Toki goes back to stirring, head down, shoulders hunched.

"What nothing? Are we going to do this again? Let me see."

Blue smoke trails from his lips and fingers, and Toki coughs, muffled into his sleeve. Skwisgaar picks the can from Toki’s fingers, reads it, then puts it back down. "What do you think that says?" he asks, drawing smoke from between his knuckles. Toki glances up at him as the tip flares.

"Um," he says, voice strangled and thick. "Like a thing that soaks up water. To do dishes. Or floors."

"We’ve been in Sweden three months and you still don’t know ‘mushroom’? Idiot."

Toki says nothing, only pulls his chin in til he's lost his neck, stares even more intently into the pot like it’s offering the answers to life.

Skwisgaar puts the can down next the sink where it makes a hollow sound against the fraying laminate. He feels time trip over him, break open for a crack where words would fit, but then the moment leaves and he does too, slumps back down at the table and sucks his breath from the bitter end of his cigarette.

Toki ghosting past to bring him a bowl and spoon is the next recognisable marker in the uncharted silence. He retreats back to the stove just as quickly, begins trying to surreptitiously slurp from the pot with a serving spoon. Skwisgaar fixes his eyes onto Toki’s turned back as his soup steams before him, untouched.

"Toki," he tries. Toki visibly cringes, slowly moves to set the pot down. Skwisgaar crushes his cigarette into the side of a glass that has been left out and dips his spoon into his bowl, but his hands seem to have forgotten what to do next. "Sit down and eat," he says at last, and sips imperiously. "Only dogs eat standing."

He can nearly feel the relief that dissolves into the air besides him as Toki shuffles dutifully over and takes the chair with the clothes cluttered behind it. They eat and Skwisgaar keeps his gaze studiously set on the wall in front of him, though he can feel Toki's eyes upon him in two spots of heat fixed upon his face.

Skwisgaar leaves his dishes when he's finished with them and withdraws back to the bedroom. It's in moments like this that he wishes he hadn't had to pawn off his guitar. They needed the money, running from Norway, but his fingers itch for arpeggios, mindless motions instinctive to his flesh with distinct right and wrong. He strips for bed instead, stretches out on his stomach, face away from the door, just as the sky begins to pale. Skwisgaar shoves his hands beneath the pillow as if, if only out of sight, they'd grow stupid and forget their craft. The heater's gone off again, and the room is cold. His nails are growing in.

The air in the room brightens as the door creeps soundlessly open, greased on its hinges by vegetable shortening and bated breath. "Skwisgaar?" he hears. "Are you asleep?"

Of course not; he hasn't had the chance yet, has he? he wants to say as snideness battles with lethargy for the chance to trip from his tongue. "Hnn," wins out, neither yea nor nay, but Toki seems to like his chances and shuts the door behind him.

"You shouldn't sleep with your hair up. You'll just hate it in the morning," Toki mutters, close behind him, yet Skwisgaar hasn't felt the mattress take his weight yet.

"Hnn," he replies, which Toki apparently takes as an invitation to fold himself in besides Skwisgaar and to begin plucking his hair from out of its rubber band.

The bed isn't big, and Skwisgaar hasn't exactly bothered to take only his fair share of it. He can feel the soft press of Toki's breath against the bared arch of his shoulder as Toki sets about untangling his hair with his fingers. It's a familiar and soothing sensation, having his hair pet and played with.

Finally Toki speaks, quiet as the dark. "I’m sorry I spoilt your date." He’s still smoothing Skwisgaar’s hair out flat, where the wet ends leech cold onto his back. He asks, "Are you still going out in the morning?"

Skwisgaar grunts. "Breakfast dates like that don't grow on trees, you know," he replies. "You don't know what you cost me. Arse like a whale, on that one, hoo." Toki's fingers still.

Skwisgaar makes a displeased noise, then he says carelessly, "Don’t worry, I’ll find someone. Skwisgaar Skwigelf is never lonely."

His hair must be straightened now, though Toki keeps drawing his fingers through it. Little random patterns, fingertips he can feel against his skin. Toki remarks quietly, "The last one was old and skinny."

"So? I fuck who I fancy."

Toki huffs, steady motions still steady. "Is there anything you don’t fancy?" He's getting better at this. There was a time he would have said just what he meant.

"Dildos," he answers. "Little kids. Dansk. Those weirdos who like to play with poop."

"There are people who like to play with poop?"

"There’s everything out there, little Toki." Toki hates it now, when Skwisgaar calls him that, though he hadn't minded at first. Skwisgaar's noticed, but that doesn't make him stop.

There is a moment, and then Toki offers, "I don't like to play with poop."

Neither of them speaks for a time, though Toki's fingers never stop their stroking. Skwisgaar is lulled by this, and he is tired. He's nearly dropped off when Toki says faintly, "Do you have to?"

Jolted from the edge of sleep, Skwisgaar asks, "Do I have to what?"

"Go out."

Skwisgaar shifts onto his side, turned against the rising light. "What do you propose I do instead?"

"Don’t go out."

Skwisgaar's not stupid. He could be brighter, but he gets it. And he can tell that Toki's on the verge of something, some decision he needs to make soon but doesn't yet know how to. Skwisgaar can't make that for him. He's caught between with him.

Til then, he doesn’t know how to be what Toki wants from him, but he does know how to be whatever it is he’s been that has kept Toki under his roof and under his wing for what’s going on fifteen months now. He thinks he’s got good at that. He can’t see why he wouldn’t have.

So he says, "Oh? Is little Toki scared of being left in the house alone all day? Does he need a nanny? How about a bottle?" He lets his eyes go narrow and shallow; he's teasing, but it's meant to bite.

Toki's expression goes lidded as he shrugs away to hide his indignation. "Screw you Skwisgaar! I’m nearly sixteen; I’m not a baby!"

It’s easier to talk in the dark. The dark makes everything closer and further away at the same time, like whatever happens doesn’t count as real. So Skwisgaar lifts his head from the pillow and, through the cage of his loosened hair, he looks, properly looks at Toki for an age. His face is planing out and his shoulders are calibrating to angles which will one day be square. He's lost something of the quavering softness that had once edged against feminine. His hands are still rough.

"No," Skwisgaar says. "I can see that."

Toki's eyes widen, and suddenly seem to be looking everywhere at once. The night is breaking, just beyond the window at Skwisgaar's shoulder, and in the shadowed half-light, Skwisgaar breathes.

Toki's eyes are the coldest thing about him. Skwisgaar forgets that sometimes, between the whining petulance and wavering awe. That he is a build of contradictions - soft hair dark as wet earth and a body of a young birch - and that there is live steel there, glinting behind the colour of a winter sky. He’s not sure he wants to see it drawn.

Skwisgaar bats at Toki's hand, whose fingers still twist absently in the long strands of his hair, splayed like a sunshower around them. "Don't get too attached," he tells him, settling against the sheets. "I'm going to get it cut."

Toki frowns, though he continues twisting, perhaps more thoughtful than before. "Why?"

Skwisgaar pulls at the blanket til nearly all of it is on his side of the bed, though most of it he doesn't use, just hugs into his chest. "No good for a gravedigger," he replies, curling down, "having long hair. It just gets in the way."

Toki smooths over his hip what blanket he’s been left. "You're not a gravedigger," he tells him from somewhere above his head. "And besides, what about your music?"

Skwisgaar snorts. "What about them? I'm a guitarist without a guitar. I'm useless."

Toki makes a quiet noise, as if he's about to speak again, but Skwisgaar interrupts, "I’m going to get some sleep. Don't wake me til after noon." He’s warm, though he feels nothing.



* Gratuitous language porn: it's why I write this pairing, along with the hair fetish.



Also: DVD extras! Includes director's commentary, extra meta, and a mood-breaking, teeth-melting, flufftastic epilogue!

Comments

There's a feeling of quiet to this that I really like. It says a lot without really saying it. Thank you for sharing it!

And thanks for that link about the languages! Good to know!
Thank you for commenting!
I really rather liked this. Everything from the word choices to the subtle underlying tension you built. It feels very real to life, as if it could have been a slice of their history. The language links were interesting.
Thanks for the comment!
Your writing can even make phone calls sound interesting...awesome. Love all the detail to little actions like "smooth out the static his hair has collected from under his woollen hat"...so lovely~

Is it weird that arpeggios looked weird to me? I've heard the word millions of times at the piano, but never seen it in written form...

Lol ya the epilogue is like a 180 turn from the rest of the story. Might as well add a sparkly gay unicorn jumping over rainbows. :P
YOU'RE A LOVELY GORGEOUS PERSON AND I LOVE YOU

thank you for reading; i really didn't expect you to actually do it but I'M REALLY HAPPY YOU DID <3 <3 <3
Thought I'd just post this fanart for posterity~

Fanart of gravedigger!Skwisgaar

Second piece is forthcoming...
Here's the second piece~

Toki looks like a woman