RvB Song Prompt: Braille (Regina Spektor) AU Part 1
She was lying on the floor and counting stretch marks
She hadn’t been a virgin and he hadn’t been a god
So she named the baby Elvis
To make up for the royalty he lacked
CT was never sure if she should tell him, and her indecision ultimately answered itself. She left without a word to Wash, and she convinced herself that it was better this way. What would he do in this project, with scoreboards and life-but-mostly-death missions and AI, what would he possibly do here with a kid.
She wasn’t sure what she’d do with a kid, either, but all she could think of was that it was his, it was Wash, and it was whole, which is more than she could say for the father.
"You have to get me out, now. There’s a physical in a week." She tried to record the message without her voice shaking, but she finally conceded that it was impossible to do. She sent it, and the response was immediate. Tomorrow. Be ready for extraction.
That night she said goodbye.
He looked at her oddly, probably caught off guard by the civility of the conversation.
"Turning in for the night?"
"Yeah. Hey. Thanks."
"For making this bearable for so long."
"You’re welcome," he said oddly, but didn’t think more of it.
Her skin was flawless. He had expected freckles, he wasn’t sure why, but when he saw he face up close, there was nothing but smooth skin.
For some reason he had this thought that her long sleeve shirts would hide birthmarks and blemishes and moles and, somehow, scars. As she took the shirts off in the dark of his room at what passes for night time out in space, his fingers traced the skin gingerly and found nothing. It was smooth, much smoother than he’d ever thought.
He relied on this tactile experience to get to know her body, the idle thoughts of imperfections now desperate desires to find them, but all he found was smooth, soft, tingling skin.
The morning she left, she pushed a small piece of paper under Wash’s door, the location of the thing he’d spent every on again, off again meeting searching for. It said “small blemish, behind right ear lobe”. She didn’t sign it, and she knew she didn’t need to.
She could run her fingers over the tight skin on her stomach now and close her eyes and pretend it was still silky and smooth. She felt him kick underneath the skin, stained with white veins of stress, worry, and love running on the sides of her body.
She had toyed with the idea of naming him David. She thought it’d be fitting, or poetic, or something, but in the end when she heard him cry the name “Elvis” slipped out, slipped out because for the past eighteen hours she’d been humming the very first song Wash ever sang to her - Love Me Tender.
And from then on it was turpentine and patches
From then on it was cold Campbell’s from the can
They were just two jerks playing with matches
'Cause that's all they knew how to play
She had her baby in a small town hospital with mediocre doctors and tired, weary nurses. She held onto the bed railing as they asked when her husband would be coming and she stared at them until they stopped talking. She had two months after this to recover from the birth before she shipped out for the insurrection, baby boy with her.
He was small and alien and for a second she was glad he didn’t look like Wash, but she saw that light hair color in small curly wisps on his head and knew it was only a matter of time. Elvis. Middle name Wash.
She had to wonder what kind of childcare they’d offer. Would she have to build a compartment into her breastplate to keep him safe? She knew they were being so lenient so understanding, because of all the information she gave them about the project. But it all came at such a price.
She remembered the way he hesitated when he saw her, the retrieval mission everyone had been sent on. Retrieve her. Dead. She remembered how his finger was on the trigger and she couldn’t say anything but he didn’t shoot anyway, he couldn’t shoot, so she ran. She ran with a hand over her stomach and she wondered if he’d figured it out then. If he hadn’t shot because it all clicked in place.
But then a shot rang out and there was pain in her leg as she realized it was just a hesitation because it was her. A hesitation and a head start, and even injured that’s still all she needed, and much more than she deserved, leaving him there.
She never had another encounter with the freelancers. The Insurrectionists kept her hidden, they moved her often, and Elvis learned to sleep past the sounds of gunshots and the lack of his mother’s embrace every night.
She would convince herself the next mission would be the last, and as Elvis grew in height and understanding, she repeated the words to him, too. He was raised at the hands of whoever she could befriend at the new base, whoever he could win over himself. He was much better at it than his mother.
He’d smile in that disarming way and ask small, shy, silly questions. He’d talk in whispers and secrets and he’d fill the space between people with his thoughts and giggles. He’d run a hand through his light hair just like his father always used to, and he’d laugh at the same awful jokes she retold, telling the boy that it was his father’s favourite thing to do - laugh at jokes. Especially bad ones.
He was old enough to ask “do you have to leave?” with that same vulnerability that always kept her in his father’s arms for a little while longer, and she’d echo back “I have to, I have to do what’s right.” It felt just as hollow the second time around.
And it was raining cats and dogs outside of her window
And she knew they were destined to become
Sacred roadkill on the way
And she was listening to the sound of heavens shaking
Thinking about puddles and, puddles and mistakes
She thought the desert would be easier. She thought that Elvis would be alright away in the village, and she’d do this simple mission. A recovery mission. Go to a temple at Sandtrap and work with the aliens, recover what was needed and retire. That’s it.
Spend every last moment with Elvis and tell him of his war hero of a father who always fought for what was right, and never for the cause that just fell into his lap. She fantasized of lying to her child every night because it was easier than thinking about telling him the truth - that she left his father, that Wash doesn’t even know he has a child.
That if he did, he’d be here, right now. He’d make sure they were a family, a proper one. That he’d never let her have to budget between food and smiling. That he’d swallow her up in his hug until she could calm down. That he’d sit there with Elvis next to him, running a hand through his own hair and encouraging the boy to follow in his footsteps.
If Wash knew, he’d be the best damn father she’d ever thought of, let alone seen. If she’d told him instead of cultivating a tragedy and a broken family, a son that barely sees her and a pain she’s reminded of every time her fingers run over the remains of her pregnancy, written on her skin.
She knew it’d all have to come down eventually, that Elvis would figure it out. He’s bright, like his father, and annoyingly persistent, like her. She knew this storm would fall on her, that she’s biding her time in the very eyes of it and following along, desperately avoiding it all.
She didn’t even know if Wash was still alive. Last she heard, he had a reaction to Epsilon. The kind they lock up for. She wished he was dead, that he’d never know how she lied to him. That he’d never prove to her son what kind of a woman his mother is.
But a part of her still wished he was here, in the cold and barren desert, to wrap an arm around her and to say something corny that she’d tease him about. To run his skin against hers trying to find imperfections.
To find them, to kiss them, to love the source of them.
Sometimes as the desert dropped in degrees and light and humanity, she wishes she could get lost with it and live in her fantasy. Live with her family.
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