[BIOSHOCK] Everyday Words



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Audo

press △ to sora
Joined
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  • Put That Thing Back Where It Came From
  • Key of Destiny
  • O, Purest of Hearts
  • Savage Nymph
  • Graceful Assassin
  • Come So Far


- EVERYDAY WORDS -

[RAPTURE]

[TABLE="class: grid, width: 540, align: center"]
[TR]
[TD]STORY TYPE[/TD]
[TD]TITLE[/TD]
[TD]LINK[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]CHAPTER ONE[/TD]
[TD]"World Weary"[/TD]
[TD][x][/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]SIDE-STORY[/TD]
[TD]"The Longest Day"[/TD]
[TD][x][/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]CHAPTER TWO[/TD]
[TD]"Ramblin' Rose"[/TD]
[TD][x][/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]SIDE-STORY[/TD]
[TD]"Any Human Warmth"[/TD]
[TD]AO3 ONLY[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]CHAPTER THREE[/TD]
[TD]"Dream A Little Dream of Me"[/TD]
[TD]TBA[/TD]
[/TR]
[/TABLE]

[HR][/HR]
For as long as Leland Wells and Danny Lapointe can remember, Rapture was their only home. Since growing up in the underwater city as children, now in their late teens, they have little to no memories of the world above. For the rich boy Danny, this is a blessing, as Rapture is the utopia everyone makes it out to be. Leland, coming from a working class family on the poverty line as the Big Daddies take out more and more work for his mechanic father, is beginning to see the cracks in the so-called utopia and how it treats its citizens that do not fall into the image of the Rapture Elite. This divide of realities is beginning to take its toll on their relationship, just as Leland's own conflicting deeper romantic feelings for Danny have seemed to become realized.

The two best friends' worlds are subsequently thrust into the great unknown as civil unrest grows in Rapture with Andrew Ryan's takeover of Fontaine Futuristics and the Fontaine Department Store. On the eve of Leland's eighteenth birthday, the two are set on a path that will irrevocably change their lives forever, and lead them both to question if true utopia even exists.

[HR][/HR]

This is essentially a repost of an older thread. I've decided to revisit this story and am going to start writing it again so I wanted to remake the old thread in a more consistent style and layout. If you've commented on the old thread, don't feel any pressure to make a new comment on the old chapters/side-stories. Always appreciate extra feedback but don't feel like you have to if you already have, haha.

I know the audience for this fic is going to be extremely small, being it based primarily on original characters, but... I don't know. This story is really personal to me and really important to me and I don't go more than a few days before thinking about it, and so, I want to finally come back and finish it. Comments are very much appreciated as they help spur me to right more, and it's just generally really nice to know you have people who are excited about the story and who want to read it. So any lurkers who read it and like it, please please please leave a comment saying so. It would mean so much to me. And hey, if you read it and don't like, say that, too! Generally, you won't need to know much about the plot of the games to get something out of this story I don't think (one of the benefits of OCs I guess), so even if you're not super familiar with Bioshock, please give it a try, you might find something you like.

Anyway, thanks. Here's to this story finally getting finished, three years after I started it, haha.


 
Last edited:

Audo

press △ to sora
Joined
Apr 29, 2015
Messages
5,367
Age
27
  • Put That Thing Back Where It Came From
  • Key of Destiny
  • O, Purest of Hearts
  • Savage Nymph
  • Graceful Assassin
  • Come So Far
world weary.
CHAPTER ONE
CONTENT WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULT,
HOMOPHOBIA, LANGUAGE​

RAPTURE
NOVEMBER 30th, 1958

—
"We are always participating in something larger than ourselves."
-Allan G. Johnson-
—

Noel Coward’s “World Weary” settled like dust over the hushed whispers that night at The Watched Clock diner. Leland sat in the red-cushioned booth next to the record player. Down on the floor, he could see the fingerprints of the diner’s owner on the old record’s slip cover. It had likely been stored away in some milk crate box not too long ago, until the rumours made their way down Rapture’s High Street and arrived at the diner’s doorstep. Beneath the music, most of the patrons swapped theories among themselves.

None of this really registered to Leland at the time, however. He was too aware of how his belly felt a little snug in the booth, and that he had to unbutton his vest before sitting down lest the fabric tear even more than it already had. The threading had begun to come undone in spots, but it was the nicest thing he owned. The unspoken dress code (and price range) for the businesses on High Street was often enough reason for him to keep his distance, but Danny insisted they met there that night. Leland’s eighteenth birthday was coming up and presumably Danny concocted some big plan to celebrate. There always was some grand notion with him; whether it was a birthday or a simple dinner, he needed to live loud. He could afford to, after all.

The door chimed and then -- Danny.

Shoulders back, standing tall, he stopped in the entrance and scanned the room. He, too, was wearing a black vest, but even from where Leland sat he could see it was in better condition, recently ironed, made of a pricier material. His pinstriped black slacks put his own to shame as well. In fact, the only thing that looked even remotely equal about them was likely the simple white button-up dress shirt beneath it all. Though Leland was sure that, upon closer look, even that would reveal itself to be above his own. But none of that really mattered, not anymore, because right then, Danny spotted him and grinned the most stupid beautiful grin. That was the thing about Danny, you just couldn’t help being drawn into his ridiculous crazy orbit and smile yourself stupid, too.

Danny slid into the booth with ease and rested his arms on the table between them. With both their sleeves rolled up, their skin grazed against the other’s. Leland looked down at the contact with the lightest of smiles, not wanting to let on too much. On the inside of Danny’s forearms chemical reactions were tattooed. Another of Danny’s brilliant plans. It took them days to pinprick tattoo his arms. He had suggested to Danny that they go to a professional — or whatever passed for one down here — but he wouldn’t hear of it. It mattered immeasurably to Danny that they be done by Leland’s hand. At least, that’s what Leland told himself as his partner never let on any real explanation. He believed he knew the reason behind the markings, behind himself being the one to mark him, but he didn’t dare ask if any of it were true. If it weren’t, he wasn’t sure he could bear it. So they both stayed quiet.

He felt so warm, though. Like the heat coursed through Danny’s veins, radiating the world around him. Even their slight touch now began to cause beads of sweat form around Leland’s brow. Normally such a thing would bother him, remind him of how large he was, how uncomfortable he almost always was, but not now. Not this time. No, now he wanted nothing more than to simply close his eyes, to feel tethered to no one in that diner but Danny, and tethered by nothing more than skin on skin, heat passing from one to the other.

Danny raised his arm off the table, breaking the connection, to flag a waitress. “Could I get a cola for the lad here?” He gave Leland a knowingly glance and a wink, and left it at that. Leland rushed to wipe the sweat away with the back of his hand, suddenly feeling embarrassed and present. Outside the diner, Leland could make out a couple looking out one of the large glass windows to the open sea. What must it be like above the surface, to look out the window of a diner and see the street, see outside, see birds and vehicles and insects, to see a breeze blow a man’s hat off and away? He wondered if, above the surface, he’d be the type to stare longingly for the sea, instead of longingly for the sky.

The waitress sat the glass down with a thunk. Leland thanked her and as soon as she left, ran his fingers along the condensation forming on the glass. He pushed it over to Danny who took a big drink, watched as his Adam’s apple bobbed with each sip, and that was when he noticed the large medical bandage on his friend’s neck. Leland hadn’t noticed it before now, as the colour of the bandage blended with his dress shirt, but sure enough, there it was, covering the left side of his neck and appearing to even continue along his shoulder a bit before disappearing under his clothes.

Danny caught him looking and grinned. “It’s nothing. Cut myself shaving. Can you believe it takes work to look this good? I can hardly believe it myself.” He pushed the glass across the table, back to Leland. “Enough of that though,” he said after Leland took a sip. “We got ourselves more important things.”

Leland rolled his eyes. “What brilliant plan have you cooked us this time, oh Danny boy?”

“Shut it.” He laughed. “I didn’t cook us anything. Instead I saw us an opportunity.”

“An opportunity,” Leland echoed.

“That’s right.” He leaned in close, voice dropping to a whisper. “Leland, what marks the difference between a boy and a man? Hm?”

Leland swallowed. “Don’t ‘spose it’s a simple birthday, eh?”

“Nah, nah, nah. C’mon, Lee. Ought’a dream bigger than that.”

“Bigger, bolder, brighter,” Leland muttered.

“Yes, in fact. All fantastic words.” His breath smelled of spearmint. “Alliteration is actually the name of the game tonight, my friend, as you and I are going to the Bottom of the Sea.”

Leland sat back in the booth, a confused look smacked on his round pale face. “We’re already at the bottom of the sea, mate.”

Now it was Danny with the confused look, almost hesitant, as if he had miscalculated. “You… really don’t know?”

“Know what?”

It was at that moment that another patron walked by their booth. An older gentleman with a stocky build came up to their table and eyed the tattoos along Danny’s arms. Something about the sweat forming along the man’s brows gave Leland the sense that he knew something that he didn’t, and that he had likely been listening to their conversation. The man barely registered Leland’s presence at all, as far as Leland could tell, as the man’s eyes set upon Danny’s like a hunger burned behind them. The man rubbed his chin before speaking.

“What those writings on your arm mean, son?”

Danny could barely hold back the eye roll. It was a question he had heard over and over, ever since they’d been completed. No matter how many times anyone asked however — no matter who asked, for that matter — he never let on their meaning.

Danny returned the inspecting look back at the older gentlemen, who it was clear now had been sporting some Plasmid upgrades. The man’s arms were muscular, far too muscular to match the rest of the man’s physique. There was also certain… evidence to suggest other appendages had been spliced, but Leland tried not to think about it too much. Danny, however, sized the man up, as if he was carefully rolling the idea of everything this man was in his mind, once, twice, thrice, before finally speaking.

“It’s the chemical reaction for f*ck off,” Danny said, his voice hardly matching the hostility of his words. He was, of course, grinning like a fool. Or a madman, perhaps. The two so often blurred.

The man’s fists clenched and his pale skin turned a deeper shade of blood. He looked over at Leland for what must’ve been the first time, as if searching for support, or, merely evidence that Danny was at all legitimate.

“That ain’t the way to talk to someone superior than yourself,” the man spat out.

“This is Rapture.” Danny reached for Leland’s glass and took a sip. “You ain’t superior to jack shit down here.”

When Leland didn’t seem to give the man the support he wanted he turned on his heel and left. Danny turned to Leland and rolled his eyes. “The world don’t belong to men like that,” he said.

Leland ran his finger in the watermark where his glass had been. Who did the world belong to if not men like that? Them? Every day it felt less so than the one before, though there was no telling Danny that. It often felt that it could be raining in Rapture, and Danny would simply choose not to notice it.

“F*ck that guy,” Danny said. “This is Rapture,” he repeated, though for whom Leland couldn’t decide. “My body is none of his damned business, is it? Everyone’s their own island under this dark sea. That guy does not deserve to be here.”

Leland reached over for the glass and took a drink. The idea of everyone being an island, separate from the others, caused a loneliness in his heart, and he knew not to mention it.

“Speaking of.” Danny reached into one of the pockets on his vest. “Look at the next disgrace to Rapture.” He pulled out a small poster out of his pocket, unfolded it and tossed it across the table to Leland. The poster was a stylized portrait of a man in a white button up shirt with suspenders set against a yellow backdrop. The man had his hand outstretched toward the viewer, and behind him a depiction of Rapture’s skyline, though the building were clearly deteriorating and corrupt. The text read:

RAPTURE: UTOPIA FOR THE FEW, NOT THE MANY

RECLAIM YOUR CITY!

JOIN ATLAS, THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE

“Can you believe that?” Danny shook his head like the very notion behind the poster was laughable. “Whoever this Atlas fellow is, he sure don’t know much about how Rapture works. Blaming his own shortcomings on the city. If he has a problem with his lot in life, he should work to change it, not just demand the city council to cater to him.”

Leland ran his fingers along the side of the poster, over the image of Rapture’s skyline. He could feel something click into place inside him, like an understanding buried deep within finally locking into its proper place, beginning to take notice. It was at that point that he was able to put words to the whispers he had been hearing around the diner. The whispers hadn’t been just idle chatter like he originally dismissed them as. No, now he could hear them for what they were. Worries. Concerns. The nationalization of Frank Fontaine’s business caused unrest among the citizens of Rapture’s so-called free market society, and word was that the City Council was planning something in the coming days. Even among the more well-to-do types of Rapture’s High Street, doubt about Rapture and about Andrew Ryan was beginning to spread. Was Atlas wrong? Or was Rapture not the utopia it claimed to be? Leland could tell Danny settled with Rapture. But himself… he couldn’t be sure.

He had always known that his and Danny’s perspectives didn’t line up quite right, like factory-reject jigsaw pieces. They looked similar, could even fit together at times if enough force was applied, but they would never actually connect fully. There would always be space between them — space that Danny simply couldn’t comprehend even existing, let alone the realities of what they were. He often tried to ignore the gap between them, tell himself he was overreacting, tell himself it didn’t matter or that he was imagining it. Seeing the poster, seeing those feeling put into words, brought them all back to the surface and made them impossible to ignore. If it came to it, would he and Danny fall on opposing sides in the fight for Rapture?

Danny ripped the poster from Leland’s hands, crumpled it up, and tossed it aside.

“Forget about that,” Danny said. “Don’t need to worry about that shit tonight, do you? We’ve got more important plans — what with you becoming a man and all.”

“Right.” He had almost forgotten about that after that man had interrupted them before. “You didn’t really—”

He tossed a small advertisement onto the table between them. With a trademark grin, Danny added, “After tonight, your virginity is going to be a thing of the past, my friend.”

Leland’s breath caught in his throat. The table pressed snug against his stomach, sweat forming along his brows, as he reached forward and picked up the small leaflet from the table. It was promoting one of the local bars here in Rapture. The image was of a shirtless muscular man with blond hair and a chiseled jaw. Hoisted on his shoulder was a large drill, and in his other arm was a diver’s helmet. The man looked at the viewer with a suggestive eye raise and shining white teeth. There was a noticeably over sized bulge, right above the words “Big Daddy” on the poster. Leland stared at the image in a mix of fear and shock. It wasn’t just any old bar, but a bar for homosexuals.

CELEBRATING RAPTURE'S MEN OF STEEL

"BIG DADDY" NIGHT

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA

The “Bottom of the Sea” that Danny had mentioned had been the name of a bar, and it seemed this was where his brilliant plan to rid Leland of his virginity was going to take place. He had never mentioned anything of the sort to Danny — that he was… like that — so why was Danny taking him here? His hands had begun to shake. He sat back in the booth as much as he could, trying hard to breathe. Who else had Danny told? Did Danny’s parents think he was like that? Did his own? Did everyone? He felt like an immense pressure was forming on his chest and each breath seemed sharper than the one before. This couldn’t be happening.

“You really didn’t know,” Danny said quietly, seriously, leaning forward, his voice more of a whisper. “It’s okay. You can relax. It’s not a big deal.”

“I never — why would — I….”

“I’m your best friend, Leland. Of course I knew.” He looks so serious, more than Leland could ever remember him looking. “All those times we talked about girls. You never were actually interested, were you? But you also never made it with a gu—” He paused, looking around the diner. “With someone like that. You never did anything about it. Never took action.” He reached across the table, put his hand on top of Leland’s. “Look, I’m trying to help you. It’s not a big deal if you’re… like that, okay. This is Rapture.”

This is Rapture, Leland repeated to himself. He looked up at Danny’s big gold eyes and felt warm. Danny believed in that, in this place, so much that Leland found it hard not to. Even though he knew that This is Rapture could only ever count for so much, it was hard not to be pulled into believing it by Danny and his enthusiasm and his faith for this place and what it stood for. So much so, that even though he had a countless list of reservations about Danny’s accusations, and his plans and going to this place and… losing his virginity, he found himself nodding his head ever so slightly.

This spread Danny’s lips into a wide smile and Leland wished so much that they could simply live in that moment. For Danny’s hand to never leave his, for his smile to always be directed towards him, for the soft music to always surrounded them, for the endless potential life seemed to have in that moment. But of course, life moved on, and Danny’s hand did leave his, and his smile slowly vanished, and the noise of the other patrons filled the air once more.

“It’s settled then,” Danny said, before tipping the glass up in a small toast before drinking what remained of the Coca-Cola they’d been sharing. “Tonight, you become a man.”



Leland fixated on his appearance in the cracked body length mirror he kept in his bedroom. Any minute now, Danny would be there to get ready and then they’d be off and nothing would be the same after. He still had reservations of course — too many to list even — and the mere thought of what might happen that night at the Bottom of the Sea made his stomach knot and acid rise in his throat. But Danny would be there, and if Danny was there maybe it would be okay.

Looking at himself now though, he was struck by how much he was. Too much, in fact. Too fat, too wide, too sweaty, too nervous, too bland, too featureless. Most of the time he could pretend he was none of these things. Through his eyes, he felt skinny and normal, like he couldn’t actually imagine what skinnier than this would look and feel like, but that illusion was tenuous, broken every time he caught his reflection, whether that be in shiny surfaces, or the looks and behaviours of others. The world was frequently reminding him that it was not built for boys like him. Every booth in every overpriced diner was too tight. All clothes too small. Each chair too rickety. Boys like him were nowhere to be seen in the advertisements, on the television, in the portrayals of the ideal, desired, Rapture Life.

And now he was meant to go to a club where all those feelings would be cranked up to eleven. Where the boys were fit and muscular and good-looking. Where he would be too big for the bar stools, too warm for the climate, too ugly to be noticed. If he even wanted to be noticed that was. He still couldn’t tell if he was reluctantly going for himself or for Danny. He couldn’t voice any of these concerns to Danny anyway. He had before in the past, but the responses were always the same — an enthusiastic denial of Leland’s reality in favour of his own. How he wished he could live in that world of Danny’s himself, where nothing was too tight, too awkward, too small. A world designed for boys like him, where he could click into place with ease. He knew he never would — that was a world built for boys like Danny — but he would also never stop trying.

Leland lifted his shirt and looked at his chest in the mirror. He ran his fingers along the blue and purple stretch marks that framed his body. The skin was raised and smooth like scar tissue. It riddled his skin like a treasure map to nowhere and he sighed. How would he ever face someone like this? Be vulnerable like this? The demands of such relationships felt like an immense and inescapable pressure. Not even with Danny could he be this exposed. The few times they went somewhere it would be required, like the swimming pools, he either made an excuse not to go, or refused to take off his shirt. It wasn’t that he feared Danny would make fun of him — he was even pretty sure Danny wouldn’t think much of it at all — but he cared too much himself to buy into Danny’s philosophy. Perhaps everyone had parts of themselves they wish they could hide away from the world. But then again, everyone else in Rapture had already spliced them all away.

He pulled down his shirt when he heard the sound of the front door opening. Acid rose higher in his throat as he took to staring himself down in the cracked mirror. This was a terrible idea and he knew he should just tell Danny that, tell him that he didn’t want to go to the bar and he didn’t want to have sex and he didn’t want to do this. But soon Danny would be there with him in his room. Danny would come up beside him and look into the mirror and it will be as if they are looking at completely different images. He’ll make Leland feel like all of this is actually possible for boys like him and that he could be normal. Soon he’d be agreeing to the idea, maybe even excited for it, somehow, as if he never had any real choice in the matter. Danny’s pull was powerful and relentless.

Danny entered the room like he lived there and plopped down on Leland’s bed. He was already made up and ready to go, swapping out white button up from earlier in the day with a rich red one. His tie was red and black houndstooth and he looked like a force to be reckoned with. In his hand was a boutique bag from Maison Vosges and when he saw Leland looking at it he cracked a big grin.

“Gotta look nice on your big night,” he said. He tossed Leland the bag and watched him as he emptied it carefully on the end of the bed.

“This is too much,” Leland said as he looked over the expensive clothes Danny had picked out for them. Each of them still carried their price tag and Leland wondered if it was because Danny wanted to know how much he was spending on Leland, or if Danny really didn’t have any idea the financial discrepancies between them. Were the price tags left on to remind Leland, or because Danny was really just that oblivious to why they would make him uncomfortable?

“It’s nothing,” Danny replied. “It’s an event.” The smile faded slightly. “You’ll remember tonight forever.”

Leland took a deep breath, tried to calm himself down, as he looked over the clothes once more. They were the nicest things he ever owned. But it all seemed pointless. All of this, for one night, for one moment. He picked up the slacks and marveled at the stitching, and the quality of the fabric. His own had far too many little knicks and tears, so many broken seams having to be stitched back together by hand. It was hard to resist it, to let himself fall into the night. To feel glamorous and worthy. So he let himself. It was all pretend anyway. Tomorrow he would wake up and be back to his normal life. Back to loose threads and tight shirts. Back to being bland, unremarkable Leland.

He unzipped his ratty pants and let them fall to the floor. Danny’s eyes were on him, he could tell, but he tried not to let it bother him as he slipped on his new slacks. They felt so smooth against his skin and he wondered briefly if this was what rich felt like. Leland looked at himself in the mirror, and already he could feel himself start to change. It was still him, of course, and he was still fat, but now there was something else he couldn’t put his finger on quite yet. When he turned around to grab the shirt, Danny was watching him attentively.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Danny replied. “I’m glad they fit.”

Leland rubbed the fabric of the shirt between his fingers. Rich and smooth. “Can you close your eyes?” he asked nervously.

Danny looked hurt, briefly, as if upset that Leland didn’t trust him. But he did what he was asked and closed his eyes, even covered them with his arm. Leland gave a weak smile and began to unbutton his old shirt. He hesitated before removing his shirt, worried that Danny would spring forth and take in the monstrosity that was his body, but he never did. The scratchy white button up fell to the ground unremarked and Danny held to his word. They stayed there frozen for a moment together: Danny with his eyes still covered, and Leland with his body exposed. He considered for a moment what it would be like if he told Danny to open his eyes. To let himself be vulnerable with his best friend, to let him see the scars he tried so hard to pretend didn’t exist. But then he saw the price still left on his new shirt, and remembered that Danny was of a different world. He slipped on the new shirt, buttoned it up, and tore the price tag off.

Leland tucked his shirt in, tore off the last tag from his pants, before telling Danny he could open his eyes. Danny seemed to light up at the sight, but didn’t say anything. He got up from the bed and walked over to Leland. His grip was firm but comforting as he took both of Leland’s shoulders in his hands and smiled. There was still the matter of the vest and tie before the illusion was complete. Leland slipped on the vest while Danny readied the tie. The vest was dark with an intricate design and, unsurprisingly, it too felt expensive.

Danny began to tie Leland’s tie for him. Their bodies were close and he could feel Danny’s breath against his skin. He smelled of cinnamon and old spice. For a moment Leland considered embracing the illusion, the pretend, completely. In this make believe world where he was rich and glamorous and worthy, would they not be together? Would he not lean forward and close the distance between them? Would they not be happy? An intense draw existed between him and Danny, he was sure of it, but the question remained whether Danny felt it, too. But maybe even in Danny’s world, the reality of Leland’s body was an obstacle. He did not lean forward.

“There,” Danny said as he pulled the last knot tight and straightened out the tie. “Dapper as f*ck,” he said, spinning Leland around to look into the mirror.

And there it was. The image of themselves together in that cracked reflection. Danny beaming bright and intense and Leland… He understood it now, what he had seen earlier in the mirror, that quality about him that he couldn’t place. Leland looked like both himself and not himself. Decked from head to toe in expensive luxuries, he realized that in this world of pretend, he could afford to look like he did. With enough money, even someone like Leland could afford to be fat and dull. It felt not unlike a magic spell had been put over him and he could feel himself fall into the night and the make believe and the idea that he could be normal. All magic comes to an end eventually, that he knew, but for now, he could breathe a little easier, could feel a little more comfortable in his own skin.

“I’m worried,” he began, “about to—”

“You don’t need to worry,” Danny dismissed him. “I will be there. I will make sure everything is alright.”

“Promise?”

“Of course I promise.”

They looked at their reflections once more. Danny wrapped his arm around Leland’s shoulder and held him tight. If Leland squinted, he could pretend that they were together.

“Tonight,” Danny said, “you’ll remember forever.”



Leland and Danny left his room to find Leland’s father sitting in the living room just beyond. His face covered with dirt and grime, he took a swig of the fresh beer he grabbed from the fridge just moments prior. Leland’s father worked as a mechanic and engineer charged with maintaining Rapture’s integrity against the sea. It was a job that was becoming increasingly obsolete for many as the Big Daddies had begun to take on the majority of the work leaving little for the human workers to do. His father had survived the latest rounds of layoffs but the same couldn’t be said for many of his friends. How long his father’s employment would last was a frequent concern and tension — one that Danny would never comprehend or notice.

“Hey Mister Wells,” Danny said casually, not skipping a beat.

“Danny,” his father replied, though his eyes were on Leland. “Why are you all dolled up?”

“That was me,” Danny said. “I’m taking Leland out for a little get-together with friends at the Fleet Hall. For his birthday.”

His father took another drink of the beer, gaze not leaving the two of them. “Is that so?”

Danny nodded and began to walk towards the door, seemingly completely unfazed by the climate in the room. He motioned for Leland to follow him, but Leland stayed in his dad’s sight, unsure if he was needing permission or not before proceeding. The two stared each other down for a moment. Under his father’s watch, he began to believe how stupid he must look. His father sitting before him in his soiled work clothes, having to work tirelessly to keep the family fed, keep their renting situation afloat, while he was wearing a collection of luxuries whose monetary value would have been better spent towards food or rent or… anything, really. His cheeks began to burn and he considered calling the whole thing off right then.

“How late are you going to be?” his father said.

“I, uh, I think I am just going to stay over at Danny’s after, after the show.”

He took another swig. They both turned to look at the door to his mother’s room. It had been a few days since Leland had last seen her.

“She’s fine,” his father explained. “And she wishes you a happy birthday. But you know how she gets.”

“Yeah.”

“Really, Leland, she—.”

“I get it.”

His father’s shoulders slackened and he set his beer down on the table beside the armchair. He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, fingers woven together. Leland had always remarked his father’s eyes, a cool steel grey, and wondered why it was that he had been settled with brown himself. Unremarkable, average brown. Even now, his father’s eyes gave his serious expression an added weight, and added sense of import to every word.

“Okay. Have a good time,” his father said. Hidden beneath the words was an added message — be careful.

Danny grinned and opened the door, leaving it open behind him as he headed down towards the exit of the apartment building. Leland’s father listened for Danny’s footsteps to fade down the hallway before turning his attention back on his glamoured son.

“Watch him, son,” his father said, leaning back into his chair. “If you’re not careful, he will take you where you don’t want to go.”

Leland didn’t know how to respond to that and simply nodded before hurrying out the door.



The door of the bathysphere shut with a loud clank and a wheeze as it adjusted to the atmosphere and pressure. Leland sat down in the corner farthest the door and watched as Danny set course for Fort Frolic where they would eventually make their way toward the Bottom of the Sea. Danny turned to look back at his friend with a trademark grin as he pulled the lever to their desired destination. The bathysphere gave a jerk before descending down into the tunnels. They watched themselves slowly submerge, water rising against the glass.

Danny sat down beside Leland with an energetic plop. He nudged him with his elbow and a smile, either not noticing Leland’s subdued attitude or ignoring it completely. Leland scootched over on the seat, suddenly aware of how much room he was taking up. He tried to force a smile in return but it was of little use. His ears popped a little from the change in altitude as the bathysphere continued to fall.

“Your dad really doesn’t like me, eh?” Danny said after a moment. “Like really doesn’t like me.”

“He likes you fine,” Leland lied. He rubbed the fabric of his dress shirt between his fingers. “It’s me he doesn’t like.”

Danny looked over at him, but said nothing. He began playing with a ring that Leland had never seen before. On his ring finger was a silver and black band. The middle black piece rotated freely from the rest of the band and Danny was spinning it back and forth almost absentmindedly. When he clued in to Leland’s intrigue he smiled and closed his fist.

“New ring?”

“Old ring,” he replied. “New inscription.”

“Can I see it?”

Danny shook his head. “It’s a secret.”

Their gaze locked for a moment and Leland considered pushing the issue forward, but he knew Danny well enough to know that if it was a secret than it would stay one. That was the one thing he could always count on when it came to Danny. Regardless of how unreliable he felt, how spontaneous, how loose and wild and unpredictable, that would always remain constant. Danny knew how to keep a secret. Often they were Danny’s own, even if that meant destroying himself in the process. Every now and then the negativity inside Danny would reach its breaking point and it would come out in unexpected ways. Leland could only know of the times it occurred when he was around, but he was certain there were far more. The appearance of new scars along his skin was evidence of that.

“You’re excited for tonight, right?”

“Why is tonight so important to you?” Leland asked. “I didn’t say I wanted to do this.”

“You never want to do anything, Leland. If I weren’t here, what would happen to you? What would you do? You’d’ve stayed in your room all night for your birthday. If I don’t push you, you just stand still. Don’t you want this? Want to live a remarkable interesting life? Meet new people, get with them, fall in love? That’s what tonight is about. We are going to go the Bottom of the Sea and I am going to be the best wingman you’ve ever had, and we are going to get you laid, and who knows, maybe you’ll even fall in love. That sounds like a good night to me, doesn’t it sound like one to you?”

Leland remained silent. He tried thinking about what he wanted and what others wanted from him, but could never quite come up with an answer. Every time he tried it was like water escaping through the cracks of his fingers. Perhaps Danny was right. Perhaps this is what he wanted, this night was what he wanted. Everyone seemed to want these things. It was all anyone ever talked about at school. Dating and sleeping with each other and losing their virginity and sex and conquests. But for whatever reason, whenever Leland heard those conversations or thought about those things for himself he felt a darkness inside him like slowly being submerged in ice water. Was he just scared? Or was he not like everyone else?

He trusted Danny, didn’t he? Danny wouldn’t knowingly put him in harm’s way. They had known each other almost all of their lives and while it had certainly gotten him into trouble here and there, it never felt like it was with malicious intent. Maybe all he needed to do was try it, just once, and the feeling would go away, this feeling like he was broken inside, that he could drown. It could be that he was just scared, scared and nervous about this great unknown and all he had to do was take the plunge and then he’d resurface a normal boy. Just like everyone else.

“Fine,” Leland said. “I’ll do it.”

Danny grinned. “I’m glad to hear that.” He said it like it was already a foregone conclusion. That it would be the endpoint to that conversation whether or not Leland approved. As if Leland didn’t really have a choice in the matter at all whether or not they would go to the Bottom of the Sea, whether or not they would try and get him laid, whether or not he was even friends with Danny in the first place.

Of course he didn’t have a choice.

Danny was a force and often Leland wondered if he even decided things on his own at all, or if Danny’s influence was truly inseparable from his own actions.

The bathysphere pulled into the station of Fort Frolic. They waited for the vehicle to stabilize and emerge from the water. With a hiss the pressure locks came undone and the glass door swung open. Danny jumped out and took in the sights and sounds of Rapture’s entertainment street with a particular energetic enthusiasm. He wheeled around and faced Leland with a contagious grin. Leland could feel himself fall into it once again, this magnetism that Danny exerted. His stupid draw that pulled you into his worldview and made you believe everything was alight. It was something else, of course, but Leland was beginning to suspect that he was not the only one being pulled into this, but perhaps Danny himself, too.

Danny led them down the street, heading towards the bar. There was the sense in the air with Danny that he was not unlike certain dogs, completely confident in where they are going even if they have no idea. Danny exuded this quality in everything he did. With enough confidence, you could convince the world of who you are, even if you had no idea who that was.

Eventually they found themselves on the top floor of Poseidon Plaza, outside Rapture Records. Danny was checking the Bottom of the Sea flyer for signs of an address, a location. He knew it was a part of Fort Frolic and the Poseidon Plaza, but try as hard as they might, they could find little sign of its existence anywhere on the streets. No advertisements, no directions, no listings. Eve’s Garden, the strip club catering to the men of Rapture meanwhile was everywhere. Signs and advertisements inviting the patron to come “bite the apple” and see its star Jolene were never far from sight. The Bottom of the Sea, in comparison was a ghost, a shadow, hidden from all public view.

While Danny brazenly asked around for directions for Rapture’s gay bar, Leland took to browsing the music store. He had always loved music, but, especially now, his family could never afford to buy records or a gramophone to play them on. It was only on his excursions with Danny or when he stayed at Danny’s near-mansion that he could really take the time to enjoy it. At the moment his favourite was a French song called “La Vie en Rose”. Whenever it came on when he was out with Danny, no matter what else was going on, both of them would immediately fall silent, close their eyes and let the song wash over them. Leland loved these moments. Loved being with Danny when he heard it. They never talked then, of course, and with their eyes closed, one would think it was just like being alone, but it never was. Even in the darkness, he could feel Danny with him. And it was in those moments that he believe maybe Danny felt the same way. There was always something a little off about Danny, a sense that he was always both himself and not himself, but as they listened to that song, even Danny couldn’t keep pretending. Or so Leland told himself.

He came across a poster advertising an upcoming record. On the poster stood a beautiful woman singing into a microphone, with the notorious Sander Cohen beside her. It announced that Sander Cohen’s newest songbird Elizabeth had recorded a song — “You Belong to Me” — and that it would be playing over the Rapture airwaves soon. Leland barely registered all of that though, instead he was taken aback by the expression on the woman’s face. Something in her eyes made Leland pause. She seemed so incredibly alone.

Danny clasped Leland’s shoulder, shocking him from his thought. “After a lot of strange looks, I found it,” he said. “C’mon. Your big night awaits.”

Leland reluctantly left the record store and followed Danny to an elevator at the end of the plaza. They entered it and Danny punched the button for the basement. As the elevator rickety descended, Leland couldn’t help but think back on that woman. He wondered what her story was. Who she was. Something about her stuck with him even as the elevator doors opened and he was met with a neon glow at the end of a large corridor. It was the glow from the Bottom of the Sea, hidden away from even the accepted scandal of Fort Frolic.

They stood outside the bar, faces awash in the glare from the neon sign. By the door was a blown up version of the flyer Danny had shown him back in the diner. It was clear at this was it and that the door marked a threshold. Danny, as per usual, was plastered with a grin, but Leland was anything but. Even now the doubt crept inside him. Everything was telling him that this was something that he didn’t want, that he didn’t want to cross forward into the establishment, that fancy clothes could never really make up for who he was. And then there was Danny. Danny with his stupid beautiful grin and his stupid possession of his heart. He looked at Danny hoping that for once he would see Leland as he really was, but again, Danny refused. The space between them was too wide a gap to bridge, and Danny was convinced of the world they lived in.

“I’ll be by your side the whole time,” Danny said. “I promise. I’ll find you someone good.”

“You promise you’ll stay with me or you promise you’ll find me someone?”

“Both,” he smirked.

“Danny, I really don’t th—.”

“Leland, look. I know this is scary, okay? I know. But you have to trust me. This is what everyone wants, right? This is what normal boys like us do. They party. They have sex. They have a good time. Don’t you want that? Don’t you want to be normal?”

Leland felt a coldness nip at his feet, slowly rising. “Okay,” he said. “Okay.”

“Everything is going to be fine,” Danny assured. “This is Rapture. We can become whatever we want so long as we fight for it.”

“I said okay.”

Danny smiled. “Okay.”



Before entering the bar proper, a man at the front stamped both of their hands after Danny paid entry for the two of them. It became clear quickly that the Bottom of the Sea was by no means a well-off establishment. Immediately upon entering, Leland was hit by how sad and lonely everything seemed, no matter how many flashing lights and layers of neon tried to cover it up. The bar was more packed than usual, Leland assumed, given that there were more bodies than the seating allowed. He supposed this was for the “Big Daddy Night” that was being celebrated. In the center of the bar was a stage upon which three men dressed as Big Daddies were stripping to the amusement and titillation of the litany of men sitting in front of and near the stage. It wasn’t so much the bar itself that caused Leland to regret agreeing to this, but rather its inhabitants. Nearly everyone in sight was spliced beyond belief. Men whose muscles had been genetically altered to be beyond human recognition, looking more and more like brutish monsters than men. In the corners, hiding in darkness, faces crudely covered with cheap masks were ADAM junkies who had been without a fix, their faces disfigured and their minds slipping. Whether it was even safe to be near them, Leland couldn’t hazard a guess, but no one else in the room seemed to notice them. It didn’t end there of course. No matter how hard Leland tried he couldn’t find a single soul that didn’t sport some sort of modification to their genetic makeup. From bigger muscles, to firmer asses, to giant packages. It was like everyone’s insecurities were alight in neon, too, and not just the bar itself.

There was no one who looked like Leland to be seen. No one fat and unspliced. Any larger than average man were large simply because of the ballooning of their muscles, veins bulging. There were many men who looked like Danny. Fit and beautiful and charismatic. Even they however showed signs of splicing if Leland looked hard enough.

Leland felt the cold sensation rise up his legs as he pressed forward into the crowd. He tried to find some place to sit, to take a breath, to regain composure, but most were filled. There was no way that this night was going to work out, even if he had wanted to do it. Even if he agreed enthusiastically from the start, standing around with these people, Leland knew that none of them would ever want him in that way. How could anyone so aware of their own insecurities that they injected themselves with ADAM to change them fall for someone who was the very flaws they were so terrified of to begin with? They all wanted to so desperately to be fit and thin and masculine how could they let themselves go for someone who stood in the face of all that? Surrounded by their fleshy bodies, crowded, suffocating, Leland worried — if he could afford to, would he be just like them? Was he fundamentally against plasmids and splicing for ethical, moral reasons, or was the only thing keeping him from it the lack of funds? If he could, would he become them?

He turned around to tell Danny that he had enough, that he wanted to leave, that he couldn’t breathe and that he felt like crying, but Danny was nowhere to be seen. From every corner he was surrounded by the grotesque misshapen patrons and splicers. The band’s music was too loud. The screams from the men for the strippers to take it off rang in his ears. The cold reached his hips and sweat began to fall from his face. Leland needed out of this carnival, away from these house of mirrors men.

Forcing through the crowd, he was able to make his way toward the bathroom and practically burst through the door panting. He thought about hiding away from it all in a bathroom stall, but in his anxiety over the evening had forgotten to bring change with him and wouldn’t be able to pay the stall toll. Not that it mattered anyway, from his position in front of the sink and mirror, he could make out the sounds of men f*cking from the stalls themselves. Either in one or underneath between two he couldn’t be sure, but he didn’t want to know. The coldness rose up his chest. He splashed water on his face, tried to remain calm, but it was to no avail. Each breath hurt more than the one before it. Where was Danny?

“I remember you,” a voice said behind him. “You were with that cocky f*ck back at the diner.”

Leland looked up to see a man in the reflection of the mirror. It was the older man from the diner, the one who had come up to them at their table. He realized now why the man had looked flustered back then, it was because Danny had been talking about the Bottom of the Sea, that was why he came up to them. Because he thought they were like him.

“Where’s your little f*ggot pal?”

Leland shook his head, not even being able to form the words through his breathing. The man pressed up behind him and Leland could feel the stranger’s dick press against his back. Coldness reached Leland’s heart. Terrified, he tried to run toward the exit but the man grabbed him by the collar and tossed him back into the open stall he had emerged from. His shirt tore from the force and Leland stumbled backwards onto the toilet, back aching from hitting the pipes.

“Gonna teach you a lesson about respecting your f*cking elders,” the man said, closing the stall door behind him. He grabbed Leland by the hair and yanked his head back. “You’re going to regret being friends with that piece of shit, you fat f*ck.”

Tears ran down Leland’s face as the man kept his grip firm. He unzipped his pants and pulled out his monstrous dick, spliced beyond human means. Leland shut his eyes from the sight, and tried to pull away, but the man merely gripped tighter on the back of his head. He smacked Leland’s mouth with his cock and pushed it against his lips. The coldness reached his throat and he felt like he was drowning. He wanted to scream, to call out, but no words left him. This was it.

“Leland?” Danny called out. “Are you in here?”

“Da—.” The man muffled Leland’s mouth. Leland struggled against him, trying to make noise, any noise, so that Danny would stay, would find him. It was clear to the man that Leland wasn’t giving up, and in a hastened attempt to cover up the evidence, began tucking himself back into his pants, loosening his grip on Leland. He jerked free of the man and kicked him hard in the groin. The man cursed and crumpled against the stall wall just enough for Leland to push past him and out the stall.

Danny’s gold eyes were wide at the sight of his friend. Leland’s face was stained with tears and, seeing his reflection behind Danny, he now realized blood. The luxurious clothes Danny had boughten him were torn and ruffled and riddled in blood and dirt and tears. The spell had broken.

“Leland… what’s going on?”

Leland pushed past Danny and back into the bar proper. He forced his way through the crowd and out the door. From his reflection he knew he was still crying, but he could barely feel it now. Everything felt numb and cold and frozen like he had been submerged. His head was ringing and he could faintly make out the sounds of Danny calling out for him behind him, but he never stopped. He kept running as fast as his sore body would take him. Upon entering the elevator at the end of the hall he pressed the button for the plaza and watched as the gate closed in front of him. Danny ran towards him shouting something, saying something, but Leland could barely make it out. The elevator cranked upwards and soon Danny was gone.



This is Rapture, Danny would always say. This is f*cking Rapture. It doesn’t matter who you were or are, all that matters is that you work hard, that you fight for what you want at any cost and screw everyone else over in the process. With the sweat of your brow, Rapture could become your city and its wealth and capital and opportunities yours in return. Leland thought about his father and his friends, struggling to pay rent, to buy food, to support their families. He thought about this crummy bar and the people within it, hidden away in Rapture’s basement like a shameful secret, splicing themselves stupid trying to reach an impossible ideal. He thought about himself, a fat, dull, boring boy who would never amount to anything in this city, who would never be normal, who would never belong, who would likely become homeless and starve as Andrew Ryan’s Big Daddies took all the available work and then be blamed for it. Perhaps Atlas, whoever that was, was right.

Rapture wasn’t a utopia for boys like Leland. Was it really a utopia for anyone?
 
Last edited:

Audo

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  • Put That Thing Back Where It Came From
  • Key of Destiny
  • O, Purest of Hearts
  • Savage Nymph
  • Graceful Assassin
  • Come So Far
So, this is a side-story I wrote to help flesh out the characters a bit. It focuses on Danny a few years before the main story starts. I feel like it helps illuminate his character a lot, and am thus sharing it. I have another Danny side-story already written but it's a bit explicit so I don't know if I can share it here or not. For now, here's the first one.

[HR][/HR]the longest day.
SIDE-STORY: DANNY
CONTENT WARNING: N/A

RAPTURE
JUNE 21st, 1955

—
"The sun isn't shining, but they don't notice.
If anyone were to ask them later, they'd swear that it was."
-David Levithan-
—

Danny Lapointe was fifteen and riffling through his mother’s makeup. His hair still wet from the shower, he dripped on the plush carpet of her bedroom floor. A trail of water droplets had followed him from the bathroom to his mother’s vanity where he now sat in nothing but his silk pajama bottoms. He slicked his hair back out of his eyes and wiped his now wet hand off on his pants. With a tube of vicious red lipstick in hand, he looked up at his own reflection. His hand was shaking ever so slightly as he popped the cap off of the slim gold tube. Practically mesmerized he twisted the tube and watched as red appeared from within. Considered himself foolish of course, but looking at that red so vibrant and striking, he thought that little gold tube had contained his heart.

He checked over his shoulder for signs of life, chest pounding, before turning back to his reflection. Ever so carefully he raised the lipstick to his face and began applying it to his lips. Danny watched himself change before him as his lips reddened. It wasn’t perfect, by any means, he had drawn outside the lines, so to speak, at particular parts of his mouth, but he could see his heart, fierce and bright, peaking through his skin. The finishing touches were being applied when he heard a voice behind him.

“I’m afraid that’s not really a day shade,” his mother said from the doorway.

He jumped at the sight and sound of her, now clear in the mirror’s reflection, and smudged the lipstick in a thick red line off the corner of his mouth.

“Ce n’est pas à quoi il ressemble. Je ne fais rien,” he muttered quickly, trying to wipe the smudged lipstick off his face with the back of his hand. It only made matters worse, as now his entire mouth looked positively bloody, as if he had just eaten the flesh of an animal. Tears, sharp and painful, rushed to his eyes as he hid his face in his hands. His mother’s heels were soft against the carpet, but he could hear them all the same, bracing for the words he feared. Rejection. Anger. A ringed hand striking his mouth. Instead he felt her hand squeeze his still damp shoulder, her skin warm against his.

“Ne t’inquiète pas, mon cher.” She kneeled down beside him and placed her hands over his. “Laissez-moi voir ton visage.” His mother pulled his hands away from his face. She let out a gentle sigh, like her own heart was expanding at the sight of her son in front of her. With her thumb she carefully wiped away his tears, before planting a small kiss on his cheek. “Oh, mon beau fils….”

“Je suis désolé, ma mère.”

He buried his face into his palms once more, as fresh tears began to form. His mother took her hand off of him and rose to her feet and left the room. Danny thought that was it, that was the moment his mother no longer loved him. His throat began to burn as he forced sobs to stay down, contained, concealed. He should’ve known better, he told himself, better than to have let them know. The heat rose in his throat and he couldn’t keep them down and he began to sob.

His mother returned to his side. A small clink, nearly drowned out by her son’s cries, came after she set a bowl down on the vanity top. She soothed the boy by humming a familiar tune. Soon the cries subsided and he looked up from his hands. The bowl contained hot soapy water and washcloth. His mother smiled at him, took the rag, wrung it of the excess, and began wiping the lipstick from his face. “Now, now,” she said quietly. “Nothing we can’t fix.” He struggled to meet her gaze and instead watched as the water in the bowl turned from a murky white to dull rose. She never let the song fade while she washed the red away.

He caught his reflection in the mirror, looking much more like how he was expected to. Eyes a little sore, lips a little rouge, but a strapping lad all the same.

“What did you mean by ‘day shade’,” the boy whispered.

She smiled. “It’s a little meaningless down here,” she began, as she got up from the floor and headed towards the record player. “But up on the surface, certain shades of lipstick were reserved for night time. More muted, softer shades and colours were used for during the daytime so as to not draw too much attention to oneself. During the war, materials for lipstick — everything from the metal in the cannisters to the ingredients of makeup — became scarce.” After digging through the record collection, she picked one out and placed it on the player. “Everything had to go to the war effort — to making bombs and artillery and medicine and rations and so forth. Because of that, metal canisters and deep reds became symbols of wealth and extravagance as only the most affluent could afford the high quality stuff.” She started the record and Edith Plaif’s La Vie En Rose began to fill the room. “Still, most kept that colour for the night, for special occasions. Even for those like us, flaunting your fortune in wartime was seen by many as in poor taste.”

She walked over to the vanity and pulled out a duller pink. “And so, day shades.” She dropped the lipstick back into mahogany box that housed them and it clinked amongst the other shades. Danny glanced over at the box before turning back to his mother who had smoothed out the covers of her bed and sat down on the corner nearest him. “Your father and I came from Old Money. We had a lovely manor in Rosedale back in Canada — back on the surface, I mean — much bigger than this. During the war, I hated it. I hated not helping, not working with those other women. Everyone was making sacrifices and here I was, wearing silk stockings and walking around the house in red lipstick, asking for meals from the help. It wasn’t right, I knew this, but no one else saw it that way.”

“So what did you do?”

“I snuck out,” she said, with a near childish grin. “Every day I would make up some excuse so that I could work down at an ammunitions factory. Of course I was still so foolish then. I still wore my silk stockings and my red lipstick, and the girls there hated me for it. It took a lot of work for them to see me as one of them. I’m not sure they ever did, not really. That’s the thing about class and money, Daniel. It will always separate people, even when you don’t want it to. Their lives would never be mine. Their experiences forever different from my own. Most of the girls lived in rundown apartments together. Rooms the size of shoeboxes with one bathroom for all fifteen of them. I may have snuck out, and I may have worked hard and I may have become friends with those women — those soldiers — but at the end of the day I would fall asleep in my mansion, and I would always have those rich shades.”

She reached out and motioned for the red lipstick. Danny handed it to her sheepishly. “Come here,” she said, patting the spot on the bed next to her. Slowly, he rose from his spot and sat down beside her, head still low for fear of reprimand. “Look at me, Daniel.” He did. She cupped his chin in her hands and began applying the lipstick to his lips, correctly. She did so delicately, as if she pushed too hard she might break the boy. “That boy you are always with.”

“Leland?”

She held the canister back, just in time to avoid a mistake. “Yes. Leland. You need to be careful with him. There are things about him you will never understand, try as hard as you might. He is different from you and you from him. You understand that, right?”

Danny did not understand, but he nodded anyway.

“Do you know what today is, Daniel? Up above the surface? It is the Longest Day. After today, every day gets shorter and shorter and every night longer and longer. We used to celebrate it by going to the beach. Feel the sand and sun on our skin. The wind in our hair. I still remember the sounds of the waves against the shore. Sometimes I think that’s what my heart sounds like.” She blushed slightly at this. “Your father actually proposed to me then. It was so silly, but so him, back then.”

“Do you miss it? Miss the surface?”

“Everyday,” she said immediately. “But,” she was quick to add upon the look on her son’s face, “this is where we’re meant to be. This is where we have our best chance.”

It didn’t sound real to Danny though, as if it had been something she had told herself repeatedly over the years, like a skipping record. Eventually it drowns out the other sounds.

“I’d like to go to a beach once,” Danny said.

His mother caressed his cheek in her palm, but said nothing.

The record stopped.

She popped the cap back onto the lipstick. “Could you be a dear?”

Danny nodded feverishly and bolted from the bed to the record player in the corner. He set the needle back to the beginning, back to his mother’s favourite song, back to la vie en rose. On his way back to his mother, he caught his reflection in the vanity mirror. He was perfect. Lips shaped elegantly. Heart so fierce and bright. All at once he could see himself. His cheeks burned but he didn’t care, for there he was, staring back.

His mother kneeled down behind him, her face appearing next to his in the reflection. “You look so beautiful,” she said.

“I look like me,” he replied.

She took a sharp breath, and in the mirror, he could see tears form along her eyes. “Je t’aime,” she said. “Je t’aime toujours.” His mother took his hand in her own and placed it over his chest. “You don’t need it,” she said, as a tear fell. “You can feel it. Your heart, pounding in your chest, straining to get out. You don’t need it. Tu est très belle. But you don’t need it.” He touched his lips. “You will show it to them in other ways, mon cher. Every step, every word, every action and your heart will burn brighter than it ever has. They will see it there, in the way you smile at them, in the way you live.” She tapped his chest, hand still under hers. “They will feel it, too.”

She stood up, and rested her hands on his shoulders and squeezed gently. Together they looked at the young boy in the reflection, heart so rich and red.

“Darling,” she said. “Darling, don’t forget. The nights only get longer from here on.”
 

Audo

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  • Put That Thing Back Where It Came From
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Excluding the aforementioned side-story I don't know if I can share or not, this is the last finished piece for this story. I'm going to restart work on Chapter Three this week though, so soon I should have entirely new stuff to share in this story. I'm real excited about getting back into this and finishing it and I hope people here will be too.

[HR][/HR]ramblin' rose.
CHAPTER TWO
CONTENT WARNING: N/A

RAPTURE
NOVEMBER 30th, 1958

—
"Aren't you afraid of the future?"
"What's to be afraid of? The future doesn't exist. It's the past that frightens me."
"Why?"
"Because it can't be undone, and it can never be known."
-David Leavitt-
—

Leland stared his reflection down in the bathroom mirror. He picked apart all of the things he hated about himself and considered the ramifications of splicing them all away. To get rid of his eye colour, his hair colour, the fat on his cheeks and neck and chest and body and everything. Considered whether or not it was possible to splice himself into something normal — someone who didn’t feel like this. Someone who would fall for the right people and have full normal relationships with them. Become respectable and respected. A true member of the Rapture society. Someone his parents could be proud of. That Danny could be proud of.

Danny.

Leland grumbled and turned away from the mirror, resting his back against the counter-top. It still hurt a little, but in a way he was glad to be able to feel it now. Glad that the numbness had passed and now he was alive. It struck him that perhaps Danny didn’t even realize all that had happened, all that he had been put through and had put himself through for him. Maybe now Danny was thinking of how glad he was to be rid of Leland for good. That someone as dull and big as Leland was cut from his life. Couldn’t make it. Couldn’t be normal. Couldn’t go to a bar and get laid and feel good about it and himself. Maybe that was his intention all along.

He changed into his pajamas, back kept toward the mirror, not wanting to see himself in it again for as long as he was able. It wouldn’t be long before the clock struck midnight and it would officially be his birthday. It was certainly not how he imagined he would be ringing in his eighteenth. Sad, alone, crying. No presents, no celebration, no Danny. What was his life going to look like after tonight? What would his life look like without Danny constantly in it, brighting up the place? As mad as he was at him, he couldn’t deny the positive affect that Danny always had on his life. He was right when he said that stuff back in the bathysphere — if it weren’t for Danny constantly pushing him, all he would do was stand still. Stagnate. Yet another barnacle to be cleaned from Rapture structure.

It was pointless to think about it now. After tonight his universe would be different. Wasn’t anything left to do but wait.



He left the bathroom to find his father sitting in the armchair in the living room again, waiting. There was another beer on the end table, already opened. His father must have heard him come in and come to check on him. Leland considered brushing past him, trying to sneak by into his room unnoticed and just go to sleep, try and forget it all, but he knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Sam looked up at the sound of the bathroom door shutting. “You’re home early. Did something happen?”

Leland took a breath and weighed the truth. “I had a fight with Danny. It’s been a long night.”

His father considered this, rolled it around in his mind, and then stood. He motioned over to the couch by the window — the one window in their house that actually looked out into the sea. “Sit,” he said.

Leland did as he was told, not wanting to face his father’s disapproval on top of everything else that had happened that night. He could hear the sound of the kettle going behind him but he didn’t bother to look back at his dad or say anything to him while he waited. Instead he turned his focus to the sea just beyond the window pane. The light of their apartment and the others on the street created little pockets of visibility in the otherwise calm darkness. Fish would swim in and out of the light, there one moment, gone the next, as if they stopped existing in the darkness altogether. Eventually his father returned and sat down beside him on the couch. He passed his son a mug of hot cocoa and Danny took it without hesitation. It burnt his tongue a little upon first sip, but he was grateful for the warmth.

They sat like that for a while. Leland could tell that his father was thinking about starting a conversation several times only to decide against it. The same internal battle was happening in his own head. He thought about asking his father about Danny, about love, about what it meant to be normal and if he would ever love him if he wasn’t. But he knew these were things best kept to himself. Even though it seemed to be an unspoken rule, Leland knew it was a rule all the same that it wasn’t quite right for him to feel the way he did about another boy. It was something to be kept hidden, deep down, like Rapture’s basement.

If he could though, he would think he would ask his father for advice. Advice on what to do when you have fallen for someone that you’re not supposed to have. That you shouldn’t have. He was beginning to feel that way about Danny, that he shouldn’t be in love with him like he was. For Leland this had little to do with Danny being a boy though, and more to do with his burgeoning realization that Danny cared for little but himself — and maybe not even that. The only thing Danny truly seemed to care about was Rapture.

“Dad.” Leland almost had to clear his throat before continuing. “Why… did you come to Rapture? Like, why here?”

His father’s steel eyes focused on him, hard, until they fell down Leland’s arm and landed on his hand. Still there, a deep black against his pale skin, was the stamp for the Bottom of the Sea. He had forgotten to try and wash away the evidence of the bar, so focused on washing away the evidence of the stranger, of the fight, of the entire night. Sam didn’t look puzzled at the logo, but rather, it was a look of recognition, and then, sadness. He slackened in his seat and fell back into the cushions. Bringing the beer to his lips, he took one, two, three swigs before speaking.

“Your mom and I…,” he began. He watched the fish enter and leave existence through the window. “I ever tell you how we met?” Leland shook his head. “It was on a train. I was heading back to my folks in Vancouver when an elk — it’s type of animal with four legs and these antlers, lived in the woods mostly — anyway it came onto the tracks. The train screeched to a halt to avoid hitting the poor sucker and it ended up flinging the carts around a little. Your mother fell off her feet and right into me. Her bonnet came undone and her brown hair was all over the place. Once we were steady she whipped her hair back and stared at me with these big brown beautiful eyes. She blinked and said, ‘Oh, you’re actually quite cute’ and then immediately turned redder than the caboose when she realized what she said. And that was that.”

“That’s pretty stupid.” Leland took a sip of his cocoa.

“Yeah.” His father chuckled lightly before taking a sip of his beer. “Yeah, it kind of was. But that’s all it took, really. We were just one dumbstruck deer away from never having met.” He smiled at this. “After that, we got to talking. Made a few dates. Went out for dinner. Went dancing.”

“You can dance?”

“Boy, I can dance.” Sam looked over his shoulder at the door to his wife’s room momentarily before facing the sea once more. “We practically fell in love on the dance floor, truth be told. That was our favourite thing to do. Anyway, it wasn’t too long before we were married, and then, you.”

“So… why did you guys decided to come here? It sounded like life was… perfect.”

His father took another drink. A long time seemed to pass before, after one great exhale, he said, “I fell in love.”

“With… someone that wasn’t Mom?” His father nodded. “Who was she?”

After a moment, “My best friend,” he said. His voice was softer now, quieter, as if he didn’t even really want Leland to overhear. “When the war broke out, we all went straight to work. Most of the men enlisted in the army, of course, but I didn’t want to leave your mother behind and I knew I could help out back at the home front. Someone still had to help run the businesses, run the artillery factories, make sure everything worked. I was a trained mechanic and engineer and I had also helped run the family business. I was an asset. So your mother and I both took jobs at the local factory. Spirits were still high then, and with women entering the workforce it was clear things were changing. Some of the men and women didn’t approve, but I knew your mother. She was a soldier from the start and wouldn’t take anyone’s no for an answer. I loved that about her. When she fought, it was with her entire heart. I loved working with her, seeing her everyday, in her element, helping to make change. She was always passionate. I could tell she belonged with those other women and I sure as hell wasn’t going to hold her back — not that she would have let me anyway.

“One day though —.” His father stopped and got up from the couch. Behind him, Leland could hear the sound of another beer being opened and soon his father was back beside him. “One day, I don’t know what happened, maybe she was distracted, or tired, or… something, but…. diddly.” He took another drink, and another, before continuing. “One of the hooks that was meant to carry the bombs to the next stage of production got caught in her hair and she was pulled up, off the floor, kicking and screaming. We managed to stop the machines, but she was still stuck. Before we could get her down safely, she—” Another drink. “Part of her scalp was torn off and she fell to the floor like a doll.” His father wiped away a tear with the back of his hand. “She was in the hospital for weeks. With the war going on, they almost didn’t help her aside from sealing her wounds. Resources were scarce and most of them had to go toward the soldiers. Thankfully, the floor matron and I fought for her and convinced the doctors that she was a soldier. They would fix her as best they could, but it meant she was going to be in the hospital for weeks, surgery after surgery.

“I didn’t know what to do. I was beside myself at the time. One of the people working with me, Alex, was there for us, for me. Cooked meals. Visited the hospital. Tried to keep our spirits up. Helped me take care of you. Even covered shifts for me here and there. As the weeks went on, among my guilt I found myself falling for Alex.” His father’s grey eyes were on him now, for what felt like the first time. “Do you understand?”

“Danny’s mom said that the women and the men were always separated in the factories. That the women made the bombs while the men did other work and that they weren’t really allowed to work together. How could Alex work with you, and cover your shifts? She wouldn’t—.”

“Mrs. Lapointe is right.”

“But—.”

“I had fallen—,” his father took a deep breath, but chose to look at him and not away. “I had fallen for another man, Leland. Like you have.”

His father finally looked away, out the window. Leland didn’t know what to say or do or think. How had his father known about himself? And what was he really saying now? He fell in love with another man? What about his mother? And how did any of this have to do with Rapture anyway?

“I was ashamed,” his father said. “Not just for being… like that, but for also falling in love with someone else while your mother lay in that hospital bed. I loved her so much — love her so much — and I couldn’t bear what I was doing to her. Once she was better and out of the doctor’s care and the war had ended, I made a vow to change. To try and change. To be the man I was supposed to be. And I…. I thought I could be cured. At the very least, I had to try, for her. For you. For my family. So I committed myself to some special doctors who said they could help. Who could cure me of this… perversion, as they called it.”

“Did it work?”

His father gave a weak smile. “No. No, it didn’t work.” He finished the rest of his beer, and let it hit the table with a loud clink. “They locked me up. Strapped me to the bed. Forced me to watch images of men while injecting me with medication to force me to vomit. I wanted out, but they wouldn’t let me. I was trapped there, they said, until I was cured. And when their other methods weren’t enough… they electrocuted me.” His father pointed to two spots on his head, one on either side. “Strapped me up and turned up the heat until my mind began slipping. I could barely speak, or think. Memories slipped out of me like water in a cracked pipe. It was like dying but knowing you were still alive. Drowning while still breathing.”

“What happened?”

“Your mother,” he said. “Your mother the soldier happened.” He was crying now, not even bothering to hide it from his son. “She saved me. She fought them at every level, made clear that she would not leave without me, and somehow, she managed to convince my parents — the only ones who could truly approve my release — to let me go. I don’t even know how she managed it, as my parents had considered me a blight from the moment I told them. But she did it. She saved me.

“Now it was my turn to be under care. It took a lot of time for the effects of their ‘treatment’ to be reversed, and even now there are still gaps in my memory, still demons in my soul. We tried to go back to how things were, but your mother wouldn’t have it. She told me she accepted who I was, that her love would fill in the cracks. For a while we were happy, the three of us. I love your mother so much, and I always will. But we both knew there was a part of me that would never go away.

“One day we found a strange advertisement for a new… community. One that promised that for the select brightest a utopia awaited. One where the only thing that mattered was the work you did, the effort you put in. That in this new land everyone could compete on equal ground with everyone else. A world free of religion, and government, and parasites, it said.” He chuckled lightly. “It sounded too good to be true, but we took a shot. Rapture, it was called. A city built under the sea where even people like me could belong.”

“So that’s why you did it? That’s why you brought us here? Because you’re… like that?”

“I thought it would be better if it was just me. It was a scary prospect, leaving everything we knew behind. Our families, the surface, the sky. But they told us that we either came together — the whole family — or we didn’t come at all. I was prepared to let it go, to deal with the people above, but your mother insisted. And when she gets an idea in her head, she is a force. So we came here. They needed a lot of workers to help build the city, and maintain it. For a long time, it really did feel like a happy ending, and your mother seemed content. We had each other, and we had you, and now, we had Rapture. And maybe we were just foolish and hopeful enough to think that would be enough.”

“It wasn’t though, was it?”

“No. It really wasn’t. The thing about people, Leland, is that they are tainted. You can hide away a city at the bottom of the sea, and fill it with people you think are best and brightest. But those people were born on the surface. Raised on the surface. That society and that world had already imprinted on them. You can make your city, your utopia, but there ain’t such a thing as a utopia when there’s people. Andrew Ryan can ban religion down here. He can say we’re all equal. Men and women. White and black. Straight and homosexual. But that’s not what everyone grew up in. You can’t separate people from themselves, from their upbringing.

“Andrew Ryan is no different. He can talk pretty about equality, but stop and listen to the speeches he makes, to the banners he posts and the radio announcements he produces. ‘No God or Kings, Only Man’. ‘A man must make of his life a ladder that he never ceases to climb — if you’re not rising, you are slipping down the rungs, my friend’.” His father shook his head. “Your mother had to fight just as hard, if not harder, down here to be treated with the same level of respect as any lesser man than she. And even then it was not enough. You’ll find similar stories everywhere in Rapture if you bother to look. The downtrodden from above are just as below. It might not be as out in the open, but that just means the hatred and bigotry sleeps in more insidious ways.

“You must have seen that yourself tonight.” He motioned to the stamp on Leland’s hand. “On the surface level, Rapture is better than above. So long as you don’t bother anyway, they won’t bash you if you and your partner walk together on the street. But it’s a comfort that comes with a price, and a threat. You step out of line, and you’re back to the shadows. It’s still a blight for so many, and some, with the right capital, can afford to be themselves, but for everyone else…. You can see the way Rapture society changes these men. The way the way they change themselves. It is because of shame, Leland. And shame is a dangerous thing. Don’t let it rot your soul, too, or you will become just like them.”

“Do you regret coming to Rapture? If it’s just as bad down here…. At least on the surface you could go where you pleased, right?”

“What do you remember of the surface? Anything?”

Leland thought hard about it, tried to dig back into the recesses of his mind. He was still just a kid when they first came to Rapture. After years under the sea, there was little he could recall of where he was born. “I just remember… a lot of light. It was always so bright.”

His dad seemed to consider this for a moment. They both turned back to the fish in front of the window, swimming in and out of existence, in and out of the light.

“Maybe there’s a world out there where we chose differently,” Sam said. “Many worlds, really. Coming to Rapture. Going to the ‘cure’. Taking that train ride back to Vancouver. Any one of those would have played out incredibly differently, our lives incredibly different. Some of them, you wouldn’t even be there. You have to be careful with such thoughts, Leland. You think so much about what could have happened, what some other you might have done or said or chose or lived, and you end up wasting the only thing you really have.”

“What’s that?”

“Right now. This second. This moment. It’s the only one you’ve got. The only guarantee. The future is just an idea, it doesn’t exist, not really.” He nodded forward to the glass. “That window could shatter and we could drown. Right now. And then what will you have had? Dreams of what you might’ve done? Regrets of what you have? What about now?” Leland watched the glass. “In some other universe maybe I would have chosen differently. Maybe you would’ve. But that doesn’t matter here, now, in this one. We have the lives we have. We have each other. And we have Rapture. Best to just make what you can of it.”

His father got up from the couch and took Leland’s now cold mug to the kitchen. Leland rolled the thought over in his mind a few times, the only accompanying sound being the clinking of dishware in the sink. When his father returned, he placed a hand on the back of the couch and looked down at his son. There was the faint ghost of a reassuring smile hidden in his weathered skin.

“I’m gonna head to bed. If you were smart, you would, too,” his father said. “Tomorrow, we’ll make up for it. You, me and your mother will celebrate your birthday right.” He leaned over the couch and kissed Leland on the top of his head. “Night, kiddo.” He began to head back to his room, turning off some of the lights along the way.

“Did you ever tell him?” Leland asked. “Alex.”

His father stopped at the hallway, hand resting against the wall, back to Leland. A moment. “Be careful, son. With Danny. A boy like that… he is more than he claims to be. He will always leave you doubting. And he will never quite understand what it’s like to be a boy like you.”

And then he was gone.



Leland lay on his bed, mind replaying the night and the conversation and everything else, over and over again, record skip after record skip. How was he to make the most of his life in Rapture? He, like everyone else, was stuck here, forever. Buried at Sea. His father was right. This was the only world he had, and he had to learn to make it at least bearable for himself, somehow. But what did that even look like for him? He knew he didn’t want to become like the men in that bar, but did that also mean he could never be happy and open himself? That he would always have to battle shame? Rapture was meant to be a world of freedom. Freedom from religion, from government, from parasites. But what freedom was there for boys like Leland? What did it even mean to be free?

Just then something hit Leland’s bedroom window. It seemed almost a flash of something. He cautiously rose from his bed and over to the window. Down below, on the street, stood Danny. If Leland hadn’t known better, he would have said that it looked like Danny had been crying. But he did know better. Danny never cried. He opened the window and looked down at boy below.

“Hey,” Danny said awkwardly.

“What do you want?”

“I’m sorry, Leland,” he said. “I’m sorry, okay? I never should have… I never should have left. I never should have left.”

“Why did you?”

Danny looked away. “Let me make it up to you, please.”

“You can’t?”

“Can I at least try? After everything we’ve been through, just… let me try to set things right, okay?”

Leland looked back into his room, considered closing the door, considered shutting Danny out of his life forever. This was it, he realized. One of those moments where your universe splits into two. A choice. Stay, or go. His family, or Danny. This world, or whatever new world was about to be created.

“I’m sorry, Leland,” Danny called out again. “Let me make it up to you.”

Leland thought about all of this, about the present moment, about the choices he would make. About his father, his mother. About Alex, about Danny.

And he hesitated.
 
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