Under the Bone Tree - Saving the Vorwuls since 3289 a cage!
Under the Bone Tree
When I first got my h/c bingo card I started to chew over a personal challenge where I'd go for a blackout using ficlets set in the pink Jeep verse. For a few reasons, that the verse seemed made for h/c, lots of characters to play with, and also that I wanted to stick to ficlet length, and figured prompts for those stories could be relatively self contained. Okay, and I'll admit when I saw the surgery prompt I started to think of Dr Gabe having to operate on someone in the hideout.

This is the first of those ficlets. To use the actual title, this is a story set in the And the Embers Never Fade universe. If you haven't read that it's basically MCR GSF where I wanted Bob to be one of the Killjoys.

Title: Under the Bone Tree
Prompt: hidden illness/injury
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1752
Warnings: None
Notes: Thank you to themoononastick for the lightening fast beta, and for always reminding me of that vital c in h/c.
Summary: When Bob gets shot he runs off and hides. That's just what he does, what he's always done.

The thing is, Bob knows he’s been stupid.

It’s hard not to when he’s hiding under a cluster of bone trees, curled up with his gun in hand, dirt under his cheek and sap dripping around him, deep crimson droplets that bleed into the ground where they land.

Bob’s covered in sap too. He can feel it on his skin, sticky and thick, smeared where at first he tried to wipe it away.

“You look like something that should be featured in Murder.”

Instantly, Bob aims, his gun held steady even as he curses himself for not hearing someone approaching. He drops his arm when Mikey ducks under a branch and crouches, his head dipped to avoid the spiked canopy of needle-like leaves. “I should take a picture and submit.”

Bob pushes himself up and bites back a groan at the feel of pulling raw flesh, blood starting to trickle once more. “If you do I’ll shoot you.”

“No you wouldn’t, and you’re out of charge anyway,” Mikey states. He drops to one knee and carefully pulls at the shreds of Bob’s shirt, his brow furrowed as he examines the wound underneath. “That needs cleaning.”

“Already has been.” Bob taps his fingers against the empty water bottle that’s lying close to his thigh. “I’m not stupid.”

A muscle twitches in Mikey’s jaw, the first indication that he’s anything but calm. “Except that you really fucking are.”

In the circumstances it’s a fair comment, but not one Bob’s going to let go unchallenged. “I can look after myself.”

“So you keep saying.” Mikey’s hair has fallen forward onto his face. When he pushes it back there’s blood on the pads of his fingers that transfers to his hair so he ends with red streaked against blond. “The others are out searching. I can go get them or you can ride back with me.”

“I’m not riding bitch,” Bob says, offence easier than truth. “I’ll get back on my own.”

“That’s not one of the options,” Mikey says. A pause and he reaches out, resting the back of his hand against Bob’s forehead. “You’re not running a fever.”

Bob indulges the touch for a moment, and then pulls back, pushing Mikey’s hand away. “It’s not infected.”

“Yet,” Mikey says, and sits completely, his legs crossed as he drags two fingers through a droplet of sap. “This shit can’t be sterile.”

“Some plants have antibacterial properties,” Bob says, trying for distraction as he ignores how his arm is starting to tremble. “The Chemists in zone A....”

“I don’t give a fuck about The Chemists,” Mikey cuts in. “You ran. You got shot and you fucking ran.”

Mikey’s not yelling, and that’s saying everything, because Bob’s heard him yell, loud and at length. Bob knows that mood, and knows how to counteract it with one of his own -- but this level of monotone leaves him uneasy. It also leaves him aware that while he knows Mikey, has been travelling with him and the others for almost a month now, he’s still learning his tells.

“You ran and we don’t do that.” Mikey’s mouth is twisted, turned down at each corner. “We don’t.”

“But I do.” It’s become a point of pride that Bob stays upright, and he wills his arm to stop shaking so he can face Mikey head on. “I got hit but I got up, the patrol got nothing.”

“You think it’s about that?” The monotone breaks, shattering as Mikey makes an abortive gesture, barely stopping himself impaling his hand on the spikes. “Ryan had to tell us you’d been hit, he had to use the codes to tell us about the zone runner who got spotted by a patrol, but escaped when they disabled his Barbie pink Jeep. And then you never came back, or stayed where we could find you.”

Bob’s head is aching, a dull throb as he tries to think how to explain, that he needed time alone to heal and lick his own wounds. It’s what Bob does, but in the end all he can say is, “I would have come back.”

“You should have come back straight away.” Mikey curls forward, his jacket pulled tight on his shoulders, “We’d have looked after you.”

Which is the heart of this problem. Where Bob’s still unsure of his footing, and it’s easier to run than accept help, no matter how freely and unconditionally it’s offered.

Mikey rubs at his knees, tracing scars that Bob knows remain angry and red. “Ray’s got that new burn salve he wants to try out and Frank will bring you coffee in bed. He likes to play nurse.”

“I bet he does,” Bob says, and pictures Frank helping Mikey, bringing him food, meds and water. It’s something that seems to come naturally to Frank, to them all as they take care of each another, something that lately, has extended to Bob too.

It’s something that Bob tries to remember, and reminds himself that it’s okay to accept. Like he does now, and Bob lets himself down, his breath caught in a gasp as he tries to relax while flexing his fingers, willing the trembling to stop. “That salve smells like bog gas.”

“You’re not going to eat it,” Mikey says, his mouth curling into small smile, and then, “You’d fall off my bike, I’m going to get Gerard.”

Bob lets his eyes close, says, “Unlike you, I’ve never fallen off of a bike.”

“That wasn’t my fault.” There’s the sound of Mikey moving, shadows flitting across Bob’s face, and then he feels Mikey’s hand on his shoulder. Bob opens his eyes, and sees that Mikey’s right there, his face inches from Bob’s. “I’m coming back, if you go somewhere else I’ll kill you.”

“You’d have to find me first,” Bob says, and then Mikey’s even closer, his mouth over Bob’s.

“We’d find you,” Mikey says, and his words are a vow, one that he seals with a kiss. “We’ll always find you.”

And that’s something Bob’s starting to believe.


Someone's shaking Bob's arm, and instinctively he goes for his gun. Finding it's not there, he opens his eyes, and finds himself looking up at patched canvas.

"You're in the tent, we hauled your sorry ass back," Frank says, and shakes Bob's arm once again. "You've been sleeping forever, I thought you'd be thirsty."

Bob blinks and rubs at his eyes, wincing when the movement pulls at the burn on his chest. "You woke me for that?"

"Yes I woke you for that." Frank sits back on his heels, kneeling on the edge of the sleep-mat. "So, do you want a drink? Some coffee or water to replace all the fluids you bled out."

"Water's fine," Bob says, and tries to work out the time by diffused sunlight alone. "Mikey found you."

"Of course I found them." The opening to the tent is pushed to one side, and Mikey steps into view. "I said that I would."

"And when he did we got back and you were passed out and half dead." Frank gets to his feet, snatching up one of the tin mugs from the floor and scoops it through the container of water. "Here, drink this."

Bob starts to push himself up, but his arms feel unsteady, and he flops back into place. "Head rush."

"I wonder why?" Frank mutters, but he puts down the mug and sits next to Bob, sliding his arm behind his back and helping him sit up as Mikey arranges pillows into a messy pile. When he's finished Frank eases Bob down, and picks up the mug, holding it to Bob's mouth.

Bob takes a drink, then says, "I can manage myself."

"Didn't we just go through this?" Mikey glares as he sits at the foot of the sleep-mats, his hand on Bob's ankle. "We know you can manage, but you don't have to."

“Because we’re a family, we look after each other.”

Bob sighs at the sound of Gerard’s voice, and looks around until he sees his shadow through the wall of the tent. “Are you lurking just to eavesdrop?”

“No.” Gerard steps inside, his face screwed up when he holds up a tub of Ray’s salve. “I was getting more of this from the Trans Am. It’s the coolest place to store it.”

It's also where they keep a lot of their supplies now, and Bob's looking forward to the time they have a permanent hideout, one with walls that are thicker than canvas. "You should keep it locked up, it reeks."

"It also helped save your life," Gerard points out, and puts the tub down close to the door. "That and Mikey finding you, and if he hadn't you'd have died, under a fucking bone tree. That's not a dignified way to go, not that you get to go at all. What you get to do is tell us if you get hurt, or if we're not with you to find us or stay in one fucking place, not run off like some kind of wounded animal. That's just stupid, and I know you're not stupid. Except when you really fucking are. Seriously, what the fuck were you thinking?"

It's an impressive speech, and Bob waits for Gerard to take a breath so he can attempt a reply, but it seems he's not getting that option.

"You're one of us now, if you hurt we hurt and we'll be there for you always. But you have to let us, and that means no running away. It means you stick around and let us help, you help us, you helped Mikey, why don’t we get that right in return?"

"Okay, fine," Bob yells and holds up his hand, cutting Gerard off. "I get it, no running away again."

“Did I miss the lecture?” Ray sounds disappointed as he comes inside too, crowding into a space that’s too small for five men. But as always they make do, fitting together as Gerard sits next to Mikey, and Ray on the other side of Bob.

It means he’s surrounded on all sides, and it should be uncomfortable, suffocating even when Bob feels so weak and unwell. But somehow it isn’t at all.

Mikey tightens his grip on Bob’s ankle, says, “No more running and hiding?”

“Promise,” Bob says in reply.

Also posted at Dreamwidth. Reply where you wish.

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17 mutant blasts or blast me
greedy_dancer From: greedy_dancer Date: June 21st, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Awwww, Bob! <33

I'm curious to see what you're going to do for the next squares! This verse is so perfect for h/c ...
turps33 From: turps33 Date: June 21st, 2011 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Bob doesn't get that they love him and want to look after him!

It is perfect for h/c, and some of the prompts fit perfectly. Others not so much.

Though I suspect themoononastick will have to demand more comfort often, especially with prompts such as torture *g*
themoononastick From: themoononastick Date: June 21st, 2011 10:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Please see my comment below for my thoughts on comfort and the needing of more of it.
themoononastick From: themoononastick Date: June 21st, 2011 10:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Bob, one day you will learn that it's okay to accept help when you need it. <3333

I just checked out your card and it really is perfect for the Pink Jeep 'verse, although I do foresee a lot of typing the words "NEEDS MORE COMFORT" in my future *g*
turps33 From: turps33 Date: June 21st, 2011 10:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
He'll learn, through the powerful combination of love and lots of sex.

Isn't it? So, will you shun me if I say the forced to hurt someone square made me think fuck or die? *g*

But I am looking forward to the 1k of torture and 100 words of after-care.
themoononastick From: themoononastick Date: June 21st, 2011 11:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Huzzah \o/

Yes, yes I will shun you. Also, I just rolled my eyes in your direction so hard it hurt. For me that square made me think of Ryan the undercover Drac and someone, ooh let's say Mikey shall we, being forced to shoot him so that his cover isn't blown. Because that would provide an excellent opportunity for some Ryan/Mikey comfort :D?

Only 1k of torture? That seems a little short for you. Are you feeling okay?

Edited at 2011-06-21 11:12 pm (UTC)
turps33 From: turps33 Date: June 22nd, 2011 05:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Sigh. One day I shall get that fuck or die.

But yes. Yes I like that thought. Mikey having to shoot Ryan is a good thing. This challenge is going to be awesome.

Obviously I was too tired. Let's say 2k.
hammerhead22 From: hammerhead22 Date: June 22nd, 2011 03:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Ohmyheart. I think you just about killed me with this one. Bob needs to let them love him, damn it! I ♥ you!
turps33 From: turps33 Date: June 22nd, 2011 04:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes he does!

He needs to learn he's important to them and doesn't need to go all lone wolf now.

x_dark_siren_x From: x_dark_siren_x Date: June 22nd, 2011 11:46 am (UTC) (Link)
“I don’t give a fuck about The Chemists,” Mikey cuts in. “You ran. You got shot and you fucking ran.”

Mikey’s not yelling, and that’s saying everything, because Bob’s heard him yell, loud and at length. Bob knows that mood, and knows how to counteract it with one of his own -- but this level of monotone leaves him uneasy.

Ugh, I kind of love this bit a lot, for how much it says about their relationship, how it's grown, but also just how well Bob knows him. That and the fact that I can just hear it, in my head, and it's almost scary, because the last thing you want is a pissed off Kobra Kid. But then I love how Bob isn't really thinking like that, doesn't really have to think like that.

I also kind of love the fact that you pretty much know who's talking before Gerard's name is even mentioned, but that may just be my own bias showing. ^___^
turps33 From: turps33 Date: June 22nd, 2011 02:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
But then I love how Bob isn't really thinking like that, doesn't really have to think like that.

Yes! Oh man, Bob. He's hurt and not thinking clearly, and even if he doesn't know all of Mikey's tells, he knows enough that he's reacting to Mikey and not Kobra Kid. There's a difference, and hopefully that makes sense.

Ahahahaha. I'm sure Gerard talks about being a family often. I like to imagine him dropping into one of his rallying speeches, which is fine, but they've all heard them a thousand times before. So he gets distracted with sex *g*

Thank you ♥
crowgirl13 From: crowgirl13 Date: June 22nd, 2011 01:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I did a little dance of glee when I found this on my flist, no lie. It was a very flaily dance, accompanied by high-pitched eeeeee sounds. AND WITH GOOD REASON. This is excellent!

Oh Bob. You ridiculous, ridiculous man. Apparently one month is long enough to forget the 'all in this together' lessons from before. I'm glad Mikey talked sense into you. I love that conversation. I love how strongly visual it is, how Bob feels his way through by watching Mikey and how shocking the image of Mikey absently streaking blood through his bleached hair is. The crowded tent at the end is so happy-making.

But... Bob lost the Barbie jeep?! OH NO!

I am fascinated by the title. There's something very evocative about it; possibly because I didn't realize that bone trees were an actual thing, so I took it metaphorically. But man, it's a good title.

How excited am I that you're using your h/c bingo to write Embers 'verse? SO EXCITED!
Do the more metaphysical/ magical squares have to be literal? I can easily see 'dealing with demons' to be a Korse interaction, but I'm not sure how you're going to swing some of the others in this 'verse. Though I have every faith you'll figure it out.

In short: YAY TERRI YAY!
turps33 From: turps33 Date: June 22nd, 2011 01:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm so glad you liked it! When I write Bob I always do so while thinking of a few specific people, and you're one of those.

I think if Bob had actually had time to think he would have gone back to the others, but instinct is a powerful thing and he's spent a long time looking after himself and pushing people away when he's injured or sick. Add in the adrenalin rush of getting caught by a patrol and then getting shot, and he'd have been up and running without a second thought. Then he's crashing hard, hurting a lot and probably feeling pretty scared deep down. So he takes refuge in behaviour he knows well, relying on himself instead of the others. He still has lessons to learn about being part of a group, one of those being that acceptance, want and love ( well, for some, it's still too early for the deep stuff for everyone, but it'll get there ) is something he has at all times, even when he can give nothing in return, and in fact needs looking after.

Oh man, I love the image of blood in Mikey's hair, which maybe I shouldn't, but I was trying to show that it is casual. Blood being spilled isn't a huge deal for them, and Mikey doesn't even register that he has blood on his hands.

Can you imagine them all packed in a tent? As much as they do like, love and respect each other it would end in chaos at times.

No, the Jeep is all shot up and scorched but was still at the side of the road. That was a last minute addition so I should clarify that more. I couldn't have Bob lose it completely, it's almost a OC in its own right.

Do the more metaphysical/ magical squares have to be literal?

Nope, well, I'm not taking them that way anyway, because some wouldn't work in the verse at all if I did take them literally. Like trapped between realities. I was unsure about that but then decided it could easily mean someone like Ryan or Pete who're working/were working from the inside. Forced to tow the official line on one side while having one foot in rebellion also.

Thanks for that yay, and for listening to me babble on ♥

(Deleted comment)
turps33 From: turps33 Date: June 22nd, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's a lovely thing to say. Thank you <3

I do love this verse a lot, so I'm glad other people do too.
ina_pok From: ina_pok Date: June 28th, 2011 09:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
aww BOB! Stop running away from comfort and love!
Awesome addition to the verse. (reading your story on my phone before heading to bed in the hostel - comfort ♥ )
turps33 From: turps33 Date: June 29th, 2011 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
He needs to stop already! Silly man, he's not a lone wolf anymore and needs to get that into his head.

Thank you :D
(Deleted comment)
turps33 From: turps33 Date: June 29th, 2011 06:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree. He needs a minder, and someone to call him on being an idiot when it happens.

Thank you for the comment, about this story and the others. I don't mind you friending me at all, I always enjoy talking to new people ♥
17 mutant blasts or blast me