He wakes up to the sound of the morning count alarm. He rolls out of bed, rubs his eyes. He walks to the sink, splashes water on his face, and then moves to the door, hearing the strange sucking sound that signals the lock opening.
He leans against the wall, watches the CO walk down the line, calling out pairs of ID numbers and names.
The hack - some new guy, he doesn't know, or care to know, his name - gets to him, "97A413, Alvarez.", and moves on. The single ID is strangely jarring. He's still not used to it.
Afterwards, he heads for a quick shower. The routine of the day has started, and he feels resigned. He skips breakfast, not hungry, and heads to the infirmary, to start the mostly monotonous drudge orderly work.
He helps the nurse exercise Toby's muscles, a task they do almost everyday. They stretch arms and legs, roll and shift him so he doesn't get bedsores.
Afterwards, the nurse walks away, but he stays. He always stays for a little bit, not as eager as the nurse to get away from the depressing, unchanging sight in front of them. He presses his hand to Toby's chest, reassuring himself that a steady heartbeat can still be felt. He savours the slight contact.
He watches the chest rise and fall slightly, lungs taking shallow breaths. Sometimes he thinks that if only Beecher would breathe a little deeper, he might wake up.
He resists the urge to press his mouth over Toby's cracked lips, to force air in, make those lungs expand a little more, maybe kickstart a series of reactions. Instead, he continues to watch, fingers pressing lightly into Toby's skin.
A surge of anger comes over him. Fuckin' Beecher. Always making things so goddamn difficult. Can't just *wake* up, move on. No, he has to fuckin' lie there all day, everyday. He presses his fingers harder.
Figures his podmate would take the hard way, the dramatic way. He suddenly wants to reach out and shake the motionless body in front of him, smack it a little.
The irrational thought plays itself out, and he feels vaguely guilty. He removes his hand and looks at the pale ovals left behind. He watches them fade and then moves away.
His dreams are filled with shades of blue. Toby's eyes, shifting as the light changes. He wakes up with a start.
The bed above him is still empty. McManus hasn't filled Beecher's absence, and this is vaguely soothing to him. Someone else continues to have a little hope. Or maybe it's just perverse stubbornness for McManus, an unwillingness to give up on the enigma that is Tobias Beecher.
At least he doesn't have to share the pod with some fuck asshole.
His mind wanders, and hits on a late night request for Spanish lessons. He remembers not taking the request seriously, brushing it off, forgetting. Toby didn't bring it up again. He feels a small tinge of regret.
He turns onto his side, and tries to get back to sleep.
The next day, after the exercise session, he stops to whisper a few words in Toby's ear. He remembers being told that even in a coma, people can hear. Maybe if he talks to Beecher everyday, the man will remember some of the phrases when he wakes up.
He stands straight and ignores the smirks of the other patients and orderlies. Fuck them all. He doesn't care. For once in his life, he just doesn't give a shit what anyone else thinks.
Beecher's parents have brought a lawsuit against the state, trying to get their son released to a private hospital, where he could get maybe better care.
The lawsuit causes conflicting emotions in him. Part of him knows Toby deserves better care. Another part is selfish, he knows. He wants his podmate where he can watch him. Where he can continue to reassure himself that, even if Toby isn't getting better, isn't waking up, at least he's not getting worse.
He needs to be able to go to the infirmary everyday, hoping that maybe those blue eyes have opened during the night.
He turns away to go back to Em City. He only half registers the presence of the priest, the concerned look on the face of the doctor.
He knows they worry.
He doesn't care.
He keeps moving. He's got shit to do.
Night again and he stands in front of the mirror, looking at his face. He traces the scar along his cheek, silvery in the dim light. His gaze moves across his body, and he takes inventory of the various marks. He remembers Toby teasing him for being self conscious about the scars caused by Guerra's knife.
The memory brings a twitch of a smile.
He moves to the door, and stares across the quad. He presses his forehead against the glass, watches the dim figures of the hacks moving slowly, waving flashlights. He remembers watching Beecher do this, night after night. The guy could never sleep.
/Shit Alvarez. We're quite the pair./
He turns with a smile, the voice momentarily so real. Then he remembers. He sighs and heads to the bed, lies down and waits for sleep to take over.
The days blur, the way they did while he was waiting for Keller to get of the hole. He doesn't bother to keep track of time with days and nights. Instead he notes little things - how many meals since his last conversation with O'Reily, how many times he showers between the priest's attempts to get him to talk about how he feels.
How he *feels*.
He doesn't feel. He's in a state of limbo.
He doesn't want to admit to the surges of anger, the clinging tendrils of hope, the washes of frustration.
He doesn't want to tell the priest that he's waiting. That he doesn't even know WHY he's waiting. Why he can't just move on.
It's easier to float on the tides of routine. To do what he has to do, but not to care. He tries to vary his patterns occasionally. He still has a sense of self preservation. He's not too distant to forget that.
He hauls sheets to laundry bags, leads prisoners to exam areas, hands out glasses of water. Body on automatic, he slips pills into pockets for transfer to O'Reily later. No one notices him. He's cultivated an inconspicuous way of moving. It serves him well.
The shift ends and he heads to the kitchen. He knows he's got to eat, even if he's never hungry.
And then it's lockdown again, and he's in the pod alone. He lies on the bed, and waits for the lights to go out.
Wake up at the alarm. Brush teeth. Shower. Skip breakfast. Head to the infirmary, wondering what he'll find. Knowing he'll see the same thing he sees everyday. No change, eyes closed, breath shallow. Fearing he'll find nothing. Bed empty, breath stopped, Beecher dead. Hoping he'll look into blue blue eyes, see a small smile, maybe hear some garbled, badly accented Spanish spoken to him.
He walks through the door, and before he turns towards the bed, he sets the little smile he saves for this morning ritual. He knows the grin always slides off his face almost immediately. But, he hopes that when he turns he'll see dry, pale lips return the expression. So, he takes a deep breath and relaxes his posture.
He turns, moves forward and he smiles.
Continued in Discord and Distractions