[identity profile] you-legwarmers.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] wl_fanfiction
Title: Ten Days (Day 7, version B)
Rating: R overall for violence and language.
Genre: Drama; angst, friendship
Characters: Colin, Brad, Ryan, Greg, Jeff, Wayne
Pairings: RyCol and Greg/Jeff
Summary: Surviving for ten days in the wilderness is hard for just one person. For six, it's next to impossible.
A/N: Cheers guys! Here, as promised, is the alternate Day 7. I personally like this MUCH better, so I hope you agree. Oh yeah, don't own anybody, no offense intended, blah blah.

It wasn't the volume of the screams that roused the group, but the sheer intensity. Or it could have been the shock of hearing a human voice that didn't belong to one of them. That fact was confirmed quickly, after a quick visual scan showed that all six of them were present and accounted for.
It gave Colin an instantaneous sense of relief, knowing they were all safe. But then the implication that they weren't alone in the forest sank in.

"I can't tell which direction it's coming from," complained Brad, wincing as another round of shrieks pierced through the air.

Wayne waved his hand in the direction opposite the sun. "I think it's over by where we found the food supply," he guessed. He hesitated, waiting for an affirmation or contradiction from any of the others.

"Are we actually going after it?" exclaimed Greg, eyes wide at the thought of anyone being so stupid.

"What choice do we have? There's another person out here!" Colin told him, although he shared the apprehension.

"Maybe it's just an animal or something," Greg said with very little confidence.
But they all knew it wasn't any sort of forest-dwelling animal making the noise. The screams were incontestably human.

"I should go," Wayne said reluctantly.

"Me too," Brad agreed.

"Be careful," said Ryan. "Seriously. Don't get into anything you can't get out of. We need you here."

Somewhat surprised at the sentiment from Ryan, Brad nodded. "We'll be back."

They walked slowly at first, trying to judge whether or not they were even heading in the right direction.
The screams sounded choked, strangled even. Oddly, the word that came to mind was "wet". It was similar to the way a kid would scream during a tantrum, with all the tears mixed in. Wet screams.
Dry dirt. Green layers of leaves. Tentative footsteps on the earth and twigs lining the path toward the noise. The path opened suddenly as the forest began to thin out. Past the clusters of foliage and berries, past the stream, their eyes perused the surroundings before landing on the source of the disturbance.

Brad froze; if he'd been walking any faster, he would have skidded to a halt. Wayne took a step backward, his breath catching in the back of his throat.
"Holy shit," he groaned, straining to keep his voice low.

The young man who was sprawled on the ground abruptly stopped screaming and jerked his head around to find Wayne and Brad looking at him in terror.
Well, they weren't looking at him. What attracted their attention was most likely the massive mountain lion. Blood coated the fur on its face; it had been quite busy with its victim. The man in question was in a panic, thrashing around, kicking in a futile attempt to scare the beast away. He never took his eyes off the two who seemed to appear out of nowhere.

"Help me," he begged over and over, unable to say anything else. His clothes were soaked in blood and shredded like he'd been through a blender. One hand appeared to be missing completely; pieces of scalp had been ripped off. A mangled leg was bent unnaturally.

The lion growled with feral hunger and looked Brad directly in the eye.

Shit. Am I supposed to stand still? he thought to himself quickly. No, that's just with stray dogs. Think fast. Throw something. He bent his legs just enough to reach a long, skinny stick on the ground.
Darting into motion, he leaped toward the huge cat with loud, exaggerated steps. The stick was a blur as he snapped it like a whip, trying to look as threatening as possible.
With a startled snarl, the mountain lion sprung off its prey, skidding away through the trees until it disappeared.

Brad dropped the stick, waiting for Wayne to say something that would give them some insight on what to do. The anonymous man, who couldn't have been more than thirty, had stopped screaming. The only sound within the area was his agonized gasps. No doubt he wouldn't even last through the hour.

"What are we supposed to do?" muttered Wayne, glancing at Brad to avoid looking at the unnamed victim.

"I don't know," Brad answered honestly. He hesitantly began to approach the bloody scene.

"He's not gonna live," Wayne told him in a quiet voice so as not to frighten the injured--dying--man.

"Yeah, I know," snapped Brad. Blood was still flowing, bones bright white and exposed. "No point in trying to bandage anything, is there?"

Shaking his head, Wayne offered a questioning glance. They both knew what it meant: was it their moral duty to shorten the man's suffering? Or could they, by some miracle, help him?
Neither option was particularly appealing. Even if the man were to live, which was unlikely, he'd be at the very least missing a hand and part of a leg for the rest of his life. And the scars, physical and mental, would be unbearable.

As it turned out, it was the man himself who broke their ambivalence. He struggled for a moment before managing to remove his backpack. Before either of them could register what was happening, the man pulled a large serrated knife out of the pack. With a deep and agonized groan, he thrust the knife into his own chest. In less than a minute, he was still, the remains of a cry left on his ruined face.

Brad and Wayne could only stare in horror. Someone had just ended what few minutes might have remained of his life without blinking an eye. How much pain would you have to be in for an instinct like that to win over?

"Jesus," Brad spoke suddenly. "Now what the hell do we do?"

Wayne blinked, shaking his head numbly. "We can't just leave him out here." As much as Wayne dreaded touching the bloodied body, the idea of leaving the poor man exposed to the elements (not to mention any other hungry animals) was just inhumane.
There wasn't much to work with. They had nothing to dig with. Leaves and branches were the extent of the covering materials.
Wayne looked around. "Maybe there's something useful in here." He picked up the backpack, feeling guilt gnawing inside him before he even looked inside.
You just witnessed someone die in front of you, he told himself, and you're not even waiting five minutes before you steal his supplies?
But even with that in mind, it made sense to utilize whatever was left inside. There was no reason not to take whatever chance he could to help him and his friends survive. It was too late for the dead man, but they still had a chance. Wayne didn't have a clue what kind of a person the man had been, but he hoped it was the kind who would want to help others out. Either way, it wasn't his decision anymore.

He opened the bag gingerly, hoping for one of those ancient transistor radios, or at least a map of some kind. What he found instead was a large hiking-trip-sized water bottle (half full), three protein bars, a small box of matches, a light hooded sweatshirt and a miniature version of the first-aid kit they'd had at the beginning of the trip. The supplies from theirs was quickly depleting, so he decided to keep it, along with the water, the matches and the protein bars.

Brad unzipped the jacket and spread it across the unfortunate victim's upper body, covering the head. He told himself he did it out of respect, but truthfully it was a relief not to have to look at the mauled face anymore.

It could have been any of them, he realized. Or all of them. Shaking the useless thought away, he turned back to Wayne. "It's all we can do, I guess. Let's head back."

--------------------------------------------------------------

The others were, predictably, thrilled at the acquisition of new supplies, no matter how small. But once the full story was revealed, a wave of hesitation washed over each of them.

"Look, you did the right thing," Ryan reassured. "How much help could you have been for the guy anyway?"

"If we had found him an hour earlier, we could've helped him," moaned Jeff. "Or better yet, he could have helped us. And maybe we'd be on our way home by now."

Everyone glared at Jeff for rubbing in the fact, except Greg, who offered a reassuring hand. "Fate's a bitch indeed," he told him.

"So what's in the bag? Anything good?" asked Colin. He shrugged. "I mean, we have to put it to good use. Otherwise that guy died for nothing."

"We didn't kill him," Brad snapped, still somewhat recovering from the shock of it all.

"I know," Colin said more apologetically. "It's not your fault."

Wayne pulled the small first-aid bag out of the larger backpack. "Look. There's aspirin in here." He looked around at his friends, four of whom were in considerable pain. "There's only two though. Sorry."

Greg glanced at the others. He swallowed hard, biting back the urge to beg for whatever small comfort the aspirin could provide. "Somebody else take them. Wouldn't make a difference for me." He smirked, pretending that his wounded side and chest didn't hurt as much as they did. Let Jeff think he was healing. No need to worry him; he'd been through enough.

"You sure?" Jeff asked him, hazel eyes widening with concern. Greg nodded. Talking in long bursts still left him out of breath. Whatever hell had ravaged his lungs the day before wasn't completely vanquished.

"Col, take it," Ryan offered, although he knew full well that Colin wouldn't take the painkillers. "I mean, you're still recovering and all."

"I can handle one more day of being sick," he told Ryan. "Why don't you and Jeff each take one?"

"That'd be a waste," Jeff told him. "We'd each need three if this were any regular day. One each isn't going to do shit." He sighed. "Take it, Ryan."

Ryan wasn't going to argue. His leg was swollen and red around the ankle and purple and black up to just below the knee. And it throbbed constantly; moving made it a hundred times worse. Whatever relief the painkillers might bring, he'd take it. He gulped both aspirin down with a bit of water.

"What else is in that thing?" Greg inquired, hoping for something to aid his injury.

Wayne fished through the kit, producing a small roll of gauze. "Here," he said, tossing it to Greg. "Oh! Here's some antiseptic stuff." The tiny tube was snatched from him gratefully.

"Let me help," Jeff offered. Greg winced as Jeff's hand brushed his side, carefully applying the antiseptic on the worst-looking areas. He took the gauze, wrapping it as gently as possible around the wound to form a makeshift bandage.

"Thanks," said Greg sincerely, laying a hand on top of Jeff's. "I mean it," he whispered. "Anybody else would be so fucking done with me by now." He kissed him so quickly that nobody was sure whether they'd actually seen it or they just really wanted to.

Colin looked at Ryan, a mischievous glint in his eyes. "Suddenly, I have an injury too," he murmured, attempting to look seductive and failing miserably. It made Ryan laugh, just like it always did. But of course it wasn't a joke this time.

Ryan kissed him, teasing and lingering. When they broke apart, he spoke directly into Colin's ear. "You really think you need that for an excuse?"

Wayne and Brad exchanged glances. Brad's shit-eating grin made Wayne shake his head, laughing at the implied suggestion. "No way."

Brad shrugged. "Worth a shot." The physical affection that was normally played for laughs seemed quite...genuine, all of a sudden. It didn't really surprise him; in fact, it had been something he'd been waiting to see. Working with the guys as long as he had, Brad was used to improv getting the best of your somewhat deeper desires. There had been plenty of instances when things had gotten a little too heavy and intense. But those times had been onstage, where everything still felt real, where the players could ease themselves out of the worlds they created.
This was different. They hadn't created this and couldn't be certain they'd be able to leave it. There was no one to impress. Just them, and now.

Greg spoke up suddenly, his voice strangely heavy with sorrow. "I want you guys to know that whatever happens, I mean whatever happens with me now, you know...it's not your fault."

"Don't talk like that," Jeff told him, fiercely gripping his hand. "I mean, you're going to be fine. Right?" His eyes had a desperate glimmer, begging for answers, for the one answer he needed to hear.

"You never know," said Greg with a wary smile. "I'm doing my fucking best here, that's for sure. But don't blame yourself, no matter what happens."

"Now that's just not fair," Ryan interjected, startling the rest. "You fucking sound like you're giving up, you know that? Nobody told you you could do that. Not yet."

"And telling us not to blame ourselves? That's like someone disappearing without any warning and leaving a note for his friends saying not to worry," Colin added. "It's the only thing people have to hold on to sometimes. When someone's gone, for some reason the only thing you want to do is the opposite of whatever they asked. It's fucked up, but that's how it happens." He shook his head, frustrated at the flow of words that somehow still weren't saying exactly what he wanted.

Greg went quiet, compelled by the friends whom he didn't think would be much worse off without him. Sure, they all cared about one another, sometimes more than they were willing to admit sober. He knew they loved him; he loved them right back in his proud, unspoken way.
But in a weird way it was as if the rest of them had developed their own ways of performing, of living, without him.
Ryan had his theater. Colin and Brad had their thing. Wayne had his music.
But what about Jeff? Especially after Chip had taken off for Nashville, Greg and Jeff had found themselves leaning on each other more and more. Sure, they could stand just fine on their own, but they were stronger as two despite being practically polar opposites.

Friends. Performers. Drunk or sober, romantic or platonic, sexual or nonsexual, it didn't matter to him anymore. What mattered was that at last he had somebody, after years of feeling almost like a third wheel to Ryan and Colin's dynamic duo (both onstage and off). Greg realized he needed Jeff as much as Jeff needed him.

He opened his mouth, meaning to say something. It might have been an apology, or perhaps not, but he found he couldn't say anything after all. Instead he turned to Jeff and simply let himself succumb to the emotions that had built up over the past week. With such abandon it physically pained him, he finally began to cry.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

"You know how I knew I was in love with you?" Ryan asked Colin.

Colin rolled himself over; he didn't know how Ryan always knew when he was awake. "How?"

Ryan didn't answer for a moment. He concentrated on studying Colin's face instead. It was just to add effect; he already knew that face better than anybody else did. Years of being pressed up against him by countless strangers' hands would do that.
"I don't actually have one answer," he admitted finally. "I thought I'd have one specific moment to remember, but the all the years I've known you kind of blur together."

"Thanks a lot, Ry," Colin deadpanned, wanting to see his best friend fluster a little.

He did. "No--that's not how I meant it--". Seeing the glint in those wide, earth-brown eyes made Ryan laugh, realizing Colin was only screwing with him as usual. "No. I mean, it's stupid to try and pick one instance. That would be like saying 'here's the reason I still put up with you after all these years'. For me, I could never pick just one. It's everything."

Colin was watching him carefully during his rambling, searching for a sign of hesitation. There wasn't one; hadn't been one as long as they'd known each other, practically. Smiling the kind of smile he almost always reserved for Ryan, he let their lips coalesce, gliding across each other with warm intensity.
Like everything else they did together, it was in perfect synchronization.

"Promise me," Colin spoke breathlessly as they separated. "Promise it's going to be different now. When we get out of here, I'll need you more than I ever have. Do you really think we can make it work?"

Ryan didn't hesitate. "I promise, Col. I've waited my whole fucking life for you, and I swear I'm not changing my mind. I love you. The rest of the world can just deal with that."

His words eased Colin's mind. He'd been fighting with himself ever since that first kiss-- was it for real this time? Or was it just a matter of needing an attachment in the midst of all the chaos?
He loved Ryan. Always had, always would, but only recently willing to admit the true depths of his feelings. It wasn't a question of whether Ryan loved him back, but rather if he was willing to start over at this late point in life. After all, they had wives (both of whom Colin was sure had their suspicions already).
Could years of playful sexual tension and not-entirely-acted romance really prepare their families for a confession that it was, in fact, all true? Colin wasn't sure, but right now it didn't make a difference. Ryan was his deciding factor, and if he had faith in their relationship, then Colin did too.

"Guys?" said Wayne, addressing the entire group. He and Brad were the only ones standing, signaling to the rest that they'd been forming a plan of some kind. "So, we're going back to where I found the river. Maybe that one hiker guy was part of a group, and if they're out looking for him..." Trailing off, he shrugged. "Well, you know. It's better than nothing." Wayne looked tired; usually the optimist of the group, he no longer seemed as confident about the river being their chance at rescue.

"Take the matches," Colin told them, not seeing any point in trying to make them stay. "Signal us if anything turns up. Or if anything bad happens." Not that he knew how to find them if anything did happen. "Let's hope nothing does."

"We will," Brad assured. "Don't expect us back for a day or two, though."

"Be careful," Jeff told them. It was becoming the group mantra. Be careful. We can't just wait here. It's better than nothing. His head ached.

They left. Four men-- really, two pairs of men-- remained. The fire was dangerously close to extinguishing itself. The smell of rain stirred in the air once again, so there wasn't a point in trying to relight it.

Colin gave up trying to rest, walked over to the backpack, examined the pitiful supplies, and selected one protein bar for himself and Ryan to share. He tossed another at Jeff and Greg; it hit Jeff in the head, startling him. When he saw it was food, he immediately brightened, tearing the wrapper open and splitting it in half. Greg accepted his half listlessly.

"Thanks," Ryan said when Colin offered him the bigger piece. It tasted okay, especially after a full day of not eating at all. Hunger itself wasn't really the issue anymore, though; it was the stabbing pains that accompanied it. Ryan hadn't known it was possible to lose weight as rapidly as they had over the past seven days. It was scary, actually.

"Fuck it." The speaker was Greg, who sat up as much as he could with Jeff's help. "I'm not sleeping. I'm bored out of my skull." A cough punctuated his sentence, but he seemed determined to fight it off. "Let's talk about something that's got nothing to do with the forest or our current situation."

"Sounds good," agreed Ryan. "I'd almost forgotten that other topics existed."

With a crooked smile, Jeff teased, "Well, there's four of us. We could do a Hoed--"

An adamant "No" rose simultaneously from the other three, most predominately Ryan.

"I was mostly kidding," insisted Jeff after receiving a halfhearted kick from Greg.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

The rain held off until sunset. Colin worked on setting up empty containers to catch whatever water they could hold.

Greg was noticeably tense. Even without the lightning, fuzzy memories of the previous rainstorm assaulted him. It made Jeff so restless that he kept changing their sitting location so they'd be out of the was of trees. It wasn't an easy feat to accomplish, being in a forest and all. Finally, Greg snapped at Jeff for bugging him, putting a chilly distance between the two.

"You two bicker like fucking teenagers," Ryan commented, earning a glare from Greg.

"I do not bicker," he said as pompously as he could manage. "All I did was ask that Jeff quit acting so damn childish, to which he responded by giving me the silent treatment, which I might add is the very epitome of childish behavior."

"Watch your goddamn syllables there," muttered Jeff. "You'll choke on your words and this time you can't blame me."

"Fucking priceless coming from the guy who can't quit fawning over me. Really, Jeff? One minute you adore me and the next you're all but sending me a death wish?" Greg was pushing it and he knew it. His tone was too cold to be called snarky; one might have called it mocking.

"That's enough, guys," said Colin, trying to keep the peace. He too was experiencing flashbacks to the last storm's catastrophic events. Because that had started with a fight, too.

"Fine by me," snapped Jeff, deliberately positioning himself away from Greg's stare. Greg rolled his eyes, inching away from Jeff.

Ryan felt Colin shiver inches away. "Cold?" he asked him. The temperature had dropped once again. Between the rain and the night air, it couldn't have been over forty. Ryan dragged himself just enough to close the centimeters-wide gap between him and Colin. Even that shot a pain up his leg.
Neither was any warmer than the other, but sharing body heat was a psychological comfort if nothing else. They took turns rubbing each others' hands, pressed together so closely that they wouldn't have noticed if they suddenly morphed into one single being.

Greg sat cursing silently to himself. Despite what he'd accused Jeff of, it was he who was the fickle one. Just hours ago he'd been reveling in the epiphany that he was needed by someone at last. Now he'd driven the wedge between them without even thinking.
What are you so fucking scared of? he asked himself. Just let him in.

As if sensing the pride that kept Greg from moving, Jeff finally sighed and returned to his side.

"You look cold," Jeff said. Greg didn't answer, but Jeff knew he heard him, and continued. "I mean, maybe not. But I'm freezing my ass off. If for no other reason than to stay warm, do you mind if I join you?"

A stiff hand shot up and grabbed Jeff's shirt, yanking him down beside Greg without a word. Jeff complied, snuggling in close and grinning to himself. "For the record, this is for body heat only."

"Oh, quiet," Greg mumbled, barely audible since his face was buried in Jeff's shoulder.

Just before falling asleep, Jeff planted a kiss in Greg's soft light brown hair.
Apology accepted.

7B

Date: 2015-07-29 06:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greenfrogger.livejournal.com
Yep - keep it. You didn't kill Greg! Now where are the idiots that put them in this situation in the first place - the producers??? LOL. I'm sure they'll be rescued soon. Can't wait for 8!

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