Leon wanted to close his eyes.
He was fucking exhausted, and he had no idea how many hours they’d been wandering through the tunnels. They had to stretch for miles, connecting warehouses to bunkers to mostly-empty armories… he wondered how long this massive place had been abandoned. The very walls were saturated with the feeling of decay. He could almost feel it sticking to his skin, worming underneath his clothes and breathing down the back of his neck.
It scared him. He wasn’t above admitting that. With every passing second, he had to remind himself that he’d made a promise. He’d made a promise back when this whole situation first started going bad, and he intended to keep that promise.
We’re not dying here.
He shivered as he pulled himself around the crumbling pillar. Yeah, the place was creepy, but he reminded himself for the thirtieth time of the pressing need to ignore it. There was no benefit to panicking over the slightest breeze. Besides, if Leon went and lost his mind, then the gun he was currently clutching in his left hand would be perfectly useless. He was the only one who could shoot straight at the moment.
At least, he thought he was. He could be underestimating his companion.
Squinting against the dim but intact lights on the wall, Leon pressed his back to the pillar and slowly sagged down to the floor. His heels scuffed against the concrete, disturbing a layer of dust that had been sitting there for who knows how long. As the dust drifted in the air, Leon heard a cough from near his chest. His eyes flicked downwards and came to a rest on a surprisingly peaceful face.
At least one of us is getting some sleep, he mused.
Leon felt just a little bit better, knowing that Roman was finally asleep. The man had been scared to death for the past few hours, and Leon didn’t blame him, and he didn’t mind dragging him around even when he was essentially dead weight. Roman had stated a few times that he was useless. Leon had been quick to shut him up. Useless was not a word he would ever use to describe Roman. After all, without Roman, who was there to keep Leon sane?
A breath hitched in Leon’s throat as he tried to laugh, but his throat clenched up and the room remained empty of sound. He couldn’t find the strength to be amused by anything, despite how much he wished for a distraction. He refused to let himself close his eyes, so he was resigned to sitting on the floor, clutching another man tight to his chest.
Roman. What the hell was Leon thinking, bringing him along? Roman would’ve been safe and sound back at the base if Leon hadn’t wanted him to join to scouting party. Hennessey, SARA, and Captain Valentine were already coming with him, there really wasn’t a point in bringing anyone else.
Still, Leon had asked Roman to come. As a joke he’d used the excuse of not wanting the man to get bored waiting for them to come back. In reality he wanted Roman to be there just for the sake of having him nearby. Selfish? Absolutely. But no one minded at the time.
Leon grimaced, his fingers tightening around the grip of his gun to the point of whitening his knuckles.
He was the one who was supposed to be immune to all this the-universe-is-alive-and-actively-trying-to-kill-us shit. He was the one who could actually remember things and think straight when they got too close to a loose thread in the fabric of reality. How come he hadn’t gone into that room first? No, the good Captain had to be first in line. And now…
“Get out! Get the fuck out!!”
She hadn’t told them why, but they backed out. None of them entered the room. Barely a second later, they heard… they heard nothing. No scream. After she told them to get out, there was dead silence. Leon remembered pressing himself against the door, that heavy metal door, in order to keep it closed. There was something on the other side, something that felt… wrong.
Leon stared blankly at the concrete. For the amount of shadows in the room, his eyes might as well have been closed. He saw Valentine just as clearly as if her face was hiding on the back of his eyelids. He felt sick to his stomach, thinking about her… thinking about how easily it could have been anyone else, trapped in that silent room.
It could have been Roman.
Almost reflexively, Leon tightened his right arm around Roman’s shoulders, pressing him into his chest. The man’s brow rested on his collarbone, and Leon dropped his chin to his forehead. He could feel Roman’s breath on his throat, soft and rhythmic and finally relaxed. He was still alive… barely.
I almost got you killed.
Leon tried not to think about that. Instead he tried to find something positive. So far, the only consolation was that Hennessey and SARA had gotten out of this hellish subterranean landscape and back to the jeeps before all the lifts to the surface stopped working. By now they were probably back at the base, telling the rest of the team what had happened on what was supposed to be a simple scouting excursion.
Something slammed in the distance. Leon’s head shot up, and his neck burned as he twisted the nerves the wrong way. He didn’t care. For about a minute he listened, trying to pinpoint where the sound came from. All he could figure out was it was far away… and then he remembered that the sound mean absolutely nothing. That was the problem with whatever had been in that room with Valentine. It didn’t make any sound to indicate it was there. Whatever that sound was, it was unrelated.
There wouldn’t be anything to give Leon a hint as to where it was. The only way he would be able to know if the thing was coming was if he looked for it. He supposed that was the beauty of its existence. Whatever that creature was that killed Valentine… when it had come after them, Leon had figured out a valuable fact about how it hunted.
If you didn’t see it, it didn’t see you. If your eyes were closed, it wouldn’t find you. Leon had no idea how that worked, or why it worked – the universe just loved toying with him and his friends – but there was a drawback. The thing was silent, so the only way to figure out where it was was to actually see it. And if you saw it… Leon thought of Valentine. She was only able to scream long enough to warn them.
Back then, when they were first running away from the creature, back to the surface lifts… SARA had wondered something aloud, which was unusual for the android. Normally in emergencies she kept her thoughts in check and only spoke when she really needed to. But this time, she whispered something, when they were ducking through the tunnels. Her words were still stuck in Leon’s head.
“What happens when it finds us? How does it kill us? How did it kill Valentine?”
Hennessey had been confused. He’d asked what she meant by that. After all, how did anything kill anything? It shouldn’t have been too hard to figure out.
SARA had just shook her head. “I scanned the room when we left. There was nothing. No life signs. No movement. Valentine’s body was gone. So was that… thing. It got out of a closed room. It’s not living. So what is it? How does it kill?”
“Better question, sister. How do we kill it?”
They’d never really figured that out, had they? As far as Leon knew, they’d only figured out two things. First of which, in order to hide, you had to close your eyes.
Secondly, Leon was immune. The creature, whatever it was, couldn’t see him even if he was staring directly at it. That should have given him some kind of an advantage, but apparently not. Maybe the creature wasn’t even consciously aware of what it was doing, but it was making it very difficult to hide, and was because of Roman. Leon was immune, yes, but Roman wasn’t. If he saw that thing, he was as good as dead, and every time it was nearby, the man just… panicked.
Leon knew why. It was the silence. The mind-numbing silence that signified if the creature was nearby. Every time it got close, the silence grew so monumental that the only things either of the men could hear were their own heartbeats, and their own terrified breaths. Leon knew that Roman had been screaming, but he couldn’t hear him.
All he could do was hold him close, hold him and make sure he didn’t open his eyes. If Leon let Roman see, then he would lose him. Forever. That scared him far more than the creature.
He pressed his cheekbone against Roman’s forehead. The man’s skin was warm, warmer than the cracked concrete that surrounded the two of them. Leon tried to match the rhythm of Roman’s breaths as he moved his hand up the man’s shoulder and gently started dragging his fingers through his dark hair. Anything to keep him comfortable, and asleep.
He jumped. Dammit. So much for asleep. Lowering his gaze, Leon lifted his head up slightly, just enough to see Roman’s face. His eyes were still closed, but he still shifted in Leon’s arms, brushing his face against his bare arm. “Hey, Roman.”
“How long was I sleeping?”
Leon shrugged. “Don’t really know. Half an hour, maybe? I wasn’t keeping track.”
He felt Roman sigh heavily, his chest expanding and then collapsing. Leon then felt the warmth of Roman’s hand as it shifted and moved up against the fabric of his t-shirt. Roman’s fingers clenched slightly, nails digging down through fabric and reaching skin. Then the fingers flattened over Leon’s chest, and laid there for a minute. The presence of Roman’s hand over his heart made it flutter.
He heard Roman snicker, though it sounded like it was half a snicker and half a cough. “Hope I’m not distracting you, Lee…”
“Nah.” His voice came out more choked than he would’ve liked. “Distract all you want. Just don’t open your eyes.”
Roman went silent for a moment. At first, Leon assumed he’d just fallen back asleep, but then the man’s grip tightened on the t-shirt, scrunching the fabric against Leon’s chest. His whole body was starting to tremble, and on instinct Leon wrapped his arms tighter around the man. “Ro, what is it?”
“If that thing finds us, I’m opening my eyes. I don’t care.”
Leon’s eyes went wide. “Why?” he whispered uncertainly.
Roman’s lips twitched into a smile. “I’m not dying blind if I can see your face instead.”
Sappy bastard. “I’m not sure if that’s romantic… or just really bad worst case scenario planning.”
“Probably both,” Roman chuckled softly before going quiet. Then, his voice returned, barely louder than a breath. “You know I don’t want to die, Leon, but it can’t hurt to plan ahead. So that’s my plan, and I’m sticking to it. Promise me that if I fall asleep again and it finds us, you’ll wake me up before we’re dead?”
“…sure.” That way he would get to see Roman’s eyes. Even when he was scared to the brink of insanity, his eyes were still beautiful. They reminded Leon of opals, specifically fire opals. Beautiful, and they had a glow to them. Leon had no intentions of watching that glow disappear, not now. Not here, in this wretched tangle of hallways and flickering lights.
His voice again. Hoarse like sandpaper. He was scared… terrified. Leon shuttered his eyes for a second and then looked down at Roman’s eyelids. He felt Roman shudder and curl inwards, flattening himself against Leon as if he was retreating into a cocoon. “Leon, I can’t… I can’t hear. Can’t hear anything.”
Leon saw Roman’s lips moving, but soon enough he couldn’t hear anything, either. A heavy silence settled into the atmosphere, leeching at the combined warmth of Leon and Roman’s bodies and crawling at their skin. Leon cradled Roman to his chest and gently pressed his lips to the man’s forehead. He then stopped thinking about speech and words and started translating the weight in the air and the shivers from Roman’s muscled frame.
Twisting his wrist around Roman’s face, Leon pressed his palm down over the man’s eyelids. One way or another, Roman had to keep his eyes closed, and Leon wasn’t sure if he could do it on his own. The creature… the only way you could know if it was there was to look for it, to see it. The silence gave you a warning that it was close, but that wasn’t enough to know.
Leon worried that the fear might get to Roman, that the urge to open his eyes and know where the danger was would be overwhelming. The only way to keep Roman safe was to make sure he didn’t see the creature. Leon was immune… the creature couldn’t see him. He was the only one who could keep Roman safe.
His left index finger tightened around the trigger of his gun. The creature was close and the silence was deafening. In his head, Leon repeated two promises, over and over. He’d promised Roman he’d let him open his eyes, if the creature found them. He promised that Roman wouldn’t die blind.
Leon had also made a promise that he would get Roman out of here, alive. Of the two, he was more inclined to keep his second promise.
The silence remained, and Leon held Roman tight. He whispered, despite the fact that neither of them could hear the words, we’ll survive.
It wouldn’t find them. It wouldn’t find Roman. Leon wouldn’t let that happen. He wouldn’t let Roman open his eyes – not out of desperation to find the creature, not out of fear of the crushing, mind-numbing silence, and not out of love and the need to see Leon’s face. Leon was just as scared of the silence, but that wasn’t about to stop him.
He kept his promises.
I promise you, Ro, in this silence… we’ll survive.
Just a little thing I’ve been working on recently. I’m not sure who these two characters are or what story-world they belong to, but I like them, so I drew and wrote them into a Rather Unfortunate Situation. You know you went wrong somewhere in your life when you find yourself fighting demons that hide in the silence and can’t be seen unless you look for them.