Far away from Dave and Siri, a young blonde man sat on the edge of his bed and contemplated his death. He'd been dead for over fifteen years now, and remembered little of how he'd actually ended up in this place. This dump. Might as well have been Hell, for all he cared. His eyes were cloudy and distant. His eyes knew far too much.
"Hey." A hand on his shoulder disturbed his thoughts. "Are we gonna do this, or what?" The blonde sighed, wondering for the umpteenth time what the hell he'd gotten himself into, this never-ending situation. The beefy, tattooed man behind him grunted impatiently, and he turned to face him.
"Mike," the blonde murmured hesitantly, but then stopped. He was having second thoughts, but then again, he always had second thoughts. Back when he'd been alive, he'd slept with men just like Mike; strong, surly trucker types who'd never admit to being gay, but were constantly on the lookout for a hot, young piece of ass. Sometimes these men had paid him money, and sometimes they hadn't. Sometimes, he'd even enjoyed himself.
He didn't enjoy himself anymore.
"Hey!" Mike grunted again, growing more and more impatient by the nanosecond. "This was the deal. You're good for one fuck, that's what Jeremy said. Jeremy said I he can pay off his debt by letting me fuck you."
That's what Jeremy said
And he was really beginning to hate Jeremy...
"Well, was that the deal, or wasn't it?"
"Yes." His voice was low, and Mike almost missed the word. He wanted it said again. He wanted the satisfaction.
"What did you say, boy?"
"Yes, I said!" He lifted his head, and fixed Mike with an icy stare so piercing that it bordered on intimidating. "If Jeremy said that was the deal, then I guess that's the fucking deal!"
"...Oh." Mike seemed a little lost after this. He hadn't expected Jeremy's companion to be so... passive aggressive. "Good. Well, then..." His gaze darkened with lust and he towered over the blonde. All traces of possible intimidation were gone now, obliterated by Mike's impressive bulk. "Let's get this started."
He threw the blonde down against the bed, hard enough to wind him. He grinned when he felt all the resistance leave the smaller man's body. Ah, yes, this was how it was supposed to be. He loved the feeling of weak, helpless flesh.
The blonde turned his head away, trying not to register what was happening to his body. It was just easier that way, to disconnect from reality, and pass it off as nothing, later on.
His mind wandered into space, and he recalled the time when he'd first met Jeremy Gates.
"You're very gorgeous, don't you know." The dark-haired man was flirtatious, but Kurt didn't want flirtatious. All he wanted was a way. Fucking. Out.
"Great. Now can you leave me alone?"
"What's your name, beautiful?"
"Nice to make your acquaintance, Kurt. Now, how about telling me what's troubling you?" He eyed the little blonde with keen interest. Kurt tossed his head, agitated and alone.
"You wanna know? I'll fucking tell you. Two days ago I decided I didn't want to live anymore, because life was just to Goddamn awful to put up with at this point. So I stick a shotgun in my mouth and pull the fucking trigger, and blow my BRAINS out!" His voice was infuriated, and his eyes were on fire. "And then, then I fucking wake up and cough up the Goddamn bullet, and then some girl with brown eyes tells me that I'm dead, and, and that this is the fucking Afterlife!" Riled with electric frustration, it was hard to form sentences. "A-all I wanted to do was end it, and now I have to go through the whole thing all over again! Only now it's worse, because I don't even have heroin to help get through it, and I can't die. No matter how much I want to, I can't even fucking end it..." His voice tapered off as he bowed his head, trying to relieve some of the painful pressure building between his ears. The dark-haired man looked on, temporarily speechless.
"Hey, Kurt. Oh, hey." He patted him on the back gingerly. "Listen. This place isn't so bad, once you get used to it." Kurt could only shake his head, eyes overflowing. "Hey now." His voice was soft, and reassuring, and Kurt couldn't help but listen to it. "You're alone here, and I understand how scary that can be, but it's okay." He smiled warmly. "My name's Jeremy, and I'll be your friend, if you'd like. I can keep you company."
"Jeremy." Kurt repeated the name. "Like the Pearl Jam song, right?"
Jeremy laughed. "Yeah. Like the Pearl Jam song. Only, like you and the kid in that song, I didn't commit suicide." Talk of death sparked of Kurt's interest, and he glanced up, the tear tracks already drying on his face.
"How did you die?" he asked with open, child-like curiosity.
Jeremy laughed again, but was more than willing to share. He said, "I was headstrong and stupid. Owed some of the wrong guys a shitload of money. So I welshed out of the bet. Skipped town. And they came after me."
"Then what happened?" Kurt's eyes were wide with morbid fascination. His tears were forgotten now.
"They caught up with me in the end. And shot me in the head."
"How did you go?" Jeremy asked all-too innocently as Kurt entered the room. Kurt scowled darkly. He was limping a little.
"I suppose you'll be pleased to know that you're once again debt free," he muttered icily, making Jeremy smile at him. Once upon a time, that smile would have done wonders for him. Now... not so much. Kurt sighed, and scratched at his wrist idly.
"Thanks, babe. I knew I could count on you to help me out."
"Yeah, well, next time, would you mind checking if you have a sufficient amount of money before you go on a gamboling spree? I'm sick of waking up in the morning with blood soaking the back of my underwear."
"Come on, babe." Jeremy's voice was sugary sweet. "You know I try. I just happen to have the teeniest, tiniest gamboling problem..."
"It's what got you killed."
"Yes, well, thank you at any rate. I don't know what I'd do without your fine, young ass to get me out of trouble."
"You'd get your legs broken," was Kurt's testy reply. He hoped that, if only once, the prospect of consequence would scare Jeremy enough to make him ease up on the gamboling. But it never did. Instead, Jeremy smiled, and approached Kurt. The small blonde man knew what was coming, and after his encounter with Mike, he felt less than up to it. But he knew he had no choice.
It was just like Jeremy told him, time and time again. If Kurt cooperated then everyone was happy, and everything was good. But if he didn't, then Jeremy would have no choice but to Let Kurt Go. And then Kurt would be Alone.
And when people were Alone... Kurt shuddered.
Jeremy kissed his neck.
Kurt closed his eyes, and let him.
"Siri," Dave tentatively began. His voice was hoarse after the tears, but he felt a little better. A little. "When people die, do they all come here?"
"Uh-huh," Siri's voice was absent; her mind was elsewhere. "For the past sixteen hundred years, at least."
"Then what happens to them?"
"Well..." She pondered it for a moment. "They sort of just... wander away, I suppose. You wouldn't know it from inside this little room, but the Afterlife is a big place. Positively massive, to be blunt. When people die, they wake up in the time and place which bests suits them." And then, she actually grinned. It looked fantastic on her. "Obviously, a medieval knight who dies on the field of battle would feel slightly out of place if he woke up in a 1970's disco." Dave couldn't help but chuckle at the mental image that gave him, which was exactly what Siri had been hoping for.
"So, where am I? Where did I, er, wake up?"
She smiled. "You'll find out when you get there. But just to let you know, I can tell what you're thinking. This isn't exactly Heaven, okay? You can still, how should I put this, have fun. If that's what you want."
"Fun?" Dave tested the word like it was totally new to him, and sighed. The last thing he felt like he could do was have fun. "I don't know. I just..." He stopped, re-thinking a trail of thought. "If you split people up, I mean, is there any chance of me seeing my family again?" And his eyes, which had been dry for a mere ten minutes, began to fill with tears again.
"Listen... They still have a long way to go before they end up here, and when that happens, if you're still thinking of each other, then it's possible you could be reunited one day." Then Siri hesitated, and Dave could clearly read her hesitation. There was something she wasn't telling him.
"You, you have to understand, Dave. Your mind works differently here than it would back home. It's rare for even the most in-love person to retain memories of his or her life for more than six months or so."
Dave was breathless. "W-what are you saying?"
"If you saw Jordyn even a year from now, you wouldn't recognize her."
"I'm sorry, Dave. That's just how it works."
"B-but." He worked hard to control his voice. "But I love her." Siri gazed at him sympathetically.
"I know you do. Of course you do. But it's a part of dying, and it's one that's bound to hurt you. Ask anyone who's been here for more than twelve weeks what they did as a job when they were alive, and they won't be able to tell you. Anyone who's been here for more than five years is bound to remember nothing. Save their own deaths." She smiled sadly. "You'll always remember that. It's like the opposite of being born, almost. People are vaguely aware they've left loved ones behind. But that's about all they're aware of."
"Oh God..." said Dave, softly.
"I'm sorry, Dave," she said again. And she really was sorry.
Kurt gazed tiredly up from the bed and watched Jeremy dress. He was exhausted, and sore all over. First from Mike, and then Jeremy. And Jeremy had gone twice. He shifted on the mattress, and winced. His insides felt scrubbed raw.
"Where are you going?" he murmured up to Jeremy, and the dark-haired man turned to him.
"Up to the club," he explained, shrugging on a coat. "There's some action happening up there at the tables, action that I don't wanna miss out on." Exasperated, Kurt flushed.
"Please, just don't go making any more bets if you can't afford to lose." Jeremy grinned charmingly, and slicked his hair back.
"Don't worry about it, babe. I've got a good feeling about this one. I'm not going to lose." He noted Kurt's disbelieving expression. and a frown line creased the skin between his brows. "I'm not going to lose," he said again, loudly. "Have a little faith in your man. I'm gonna hit the jackpot today, and you and me can get the apartment you've always wanted, right up above everything..."
"You hate heights."
"A mansion, then. I'm not picky."
"Uh-huh. Whatever you say, Jeremy."
"Just trust me," Jeremy crooned, and adjusted his collar in the mirror. "And stop worrying."
"I'll see you later."
"Uh-huh." Kurt's voice was grey and dull. Jeremy seemed as if he meant to add something else, but then he merely shrugged, and strode out of the room. Kurt raised his head to watch Jeremy leave, and once he was gone, he fell back against the bed, moaning a little in pain. It was unlikely Jeremy would be back for at least a few days, and Kurt was looking forward to his rest. He'd been ridden as hard as ever, three times in one day. He only hoped Jeremy would play it smart and delay losing anymore major bets for awhile.
Like it's ever going to happen.
He brought a hand up to eye level, and inspected the small tattoo etched into his wrist. It had been itching more and more frequently for weeks now, and Kurt was worried. He checked it carefully for signs of fading, but it seemed as dark and as vibrant as ever. Still, he knew in the back of his mind that he was becoming more and more fed up with Jeremy's behavior, and that if he kept up his attitude, eventually the tattoo would begin to fade. And then-
Everybody always finds someone.
Then She would come. And take him away.
Kurt shuddered, and vowed he would re-learn how to tolerate Jeremy. He had to.
He had no choice.
Siri walked Dave down the spotless white hall, their footsteps echoing crisply. To Dave, they seemed to echo straight through his heart.
"I don't think I'm ready for this." It had been three days since Siri had woken Dave up; the allotted time for preparation.
"You are. Trust me."
Dave hesitated. "Alright."
"Remember, Dave," she said as they approached the door at the far end of the corridor. "Remember how important it is for you to find someone. I know you're sad right now, and confused." Siri smiled a little, but her large, brown eyes remained serious. "Just trust me, the best thing for you to do right now is to find a friend. Someone alone. Like you. And that way, neither of you will have to be Alone anymore." She said 'alone' in a curious way, as if it meant something significant. Dave frowned as they drew closer to the door. It was made of a thick, heavy metal, and he could hear distant, rhythmic noises from somewhere on the other side.
"I don't understand," he replied, still frowning. "Why is it so important for me to find a friend?" And why do they have to be alone?"
"It's best for you just to trust me, okay?" And Siri's voice was so severe that there was no room for argument.
"Y-yeah. I promise." Dave felt confusion.
"Good then." Siri smiled, and the severe atmosphere vanished right there and then. "Now." They stopped in front of the door. "Let me show you a much more enjoyable side of the Afterlife." And with that she grasped the handle of the impossibly heavy looking door, which Dave was pretty sure wouldn't budge no matter how hard either of them tried to open it. It gave way like butter in her grip.
Dave blinked with dumbfounded surprise as a familiar torrent of sights and sounds washed over him.
"It's... it's a night club," Dave murmured, his eyes sweeping across the room before him. It was and it wasn't. It seemed to stretch on forever, with club lounges and bartenders, alcohol and tables upon tables of roulette, card games, and various other activity, where crowds of people were laughing and pissing away their money. Dave eyed this with interest. "Wow," he exclaimed softly.
"Yeah," Siri stood by him, smiling. "It's good, isn't it?" But Dave couldn't take his eyes off the massive room before him. He was trying on a smile, and his eyes were cautiously enthusiastic. Siri gave him a slight nudge forward. "Go on," she encouraged. "Go on, have some fun. You've earned it. And try to stop worrying, while you're at it. Everything's going to be okay." Dave took a step forward, and Siri was glad to see he was on his way to adjusting. "Find a friend, Dave," she murmured, and touched his back gently. "Good luck. Not that you're going to need it."
Dave finally tore his eyes away from the scene in front of him as Siri slipped something into his hand.
"Siri , I-" But he cut himself off, frowning. Siri was nowhere to be found.
He stared at the wad of money she'd given him.