rating: nc17 eventually
pairing: "Norman" (Norman Reedus in "Dark Harbor") and "Jeremy Reed" (Sean Patrick Flanery in "Powder")
disclaimer: I am taking two characters from movies and altering their pasts and storylines. This is done without permission of their creators.
Norman leaves a handsome tip for the waitress, even though he doesn’t like the way she treats Jeremy. He secretly hopes, though, that the tip will be enough to maybe make her a little nicer the next time Jeremy comes in.
“How far is it?” Norman asks, slipping his arms into the straps of his worn army knapsack. He hefts one of the grocery bags into his arms before Jeremy can protest.
“About three miles,” Jeremy says. “You don’t have to carry that. I’ll be fine.”
“What’s three miles?” Norman asks with a smile. “I’ve walked hundreds. But, uh, I was wondering if we could just take a few minutes…I need to get some supplies.” He nods towards the small store on the corner, too big to be a drugstore and too small to be called a department store.
“Of course,” Jeremy says. “There’s a bench around back. I’ll sit there.”
“You can come in with me…it’s okay,” Norman says, but Jeremy shakes his head.
“I don’t mind. I’m used to being alone,” he gently reminds Norman, and Norman’s heart cracks a little at the tone of resignation in his new companion’s voice.
“I won’t be long,” Norman promises as they head for the store. He gets Jeremy settled on the bench, and the other man is munching away at an apple when Norman finally goes into the store.
There are metal shopping carts at the front of the store, but they look as if the wheels might fall off without a moment’s notice. He snorts as he picks up a red plastic basket. Some things about small towns don’t change, no matter what the geography. Norman walks through the aisles, dropping things like toothpaste and deodorant into the basket. He lets the basket fall into the crook of his left arm as it gets a bit heavier, making sure not to take out a few of the shelves as he wings through the rows.
“Can I help you, son?” An elderly man on a ladder calls. Norman winces. Not that he really cares, but he’s thinking maybe someone that old and frail shouldn’t be up that high.
“No, thanks,” he calls back. Once his basket is full, he slides it onto the cluttered counter. The man starts his slow descent from his shaky perch. “No, I’m not ready yet,” Norman says quickly. He doesn’t want to give the man a heart attack. He heads back to the piles of jeans and other clothing. Most of the t-shirts are faded shades of green, grey and blue, and advertise things like animal feed and farm machinery. He picks out a few shirts, tossing them over his shoulder. He then holds a pair of jeans against himself, going through three pair before finding an appropriate size. Only then does he return to the counter. “M’ready now.”
The man hobbles to the register. “You’re not from around here.”
“No, just passing through,” Norman says. He wonders why people in small towns feel the need to try and make conversation. If you’re just wandering through, what’s the use? He’s not one for small talk, himself. He hands over the correct change without attempting to continue the discussion further. The old man’s brow furrows, but he hands over the bags without trying again.
Norman finds Jeremy on the same bench, hat pulled down over his pale face, sunglasses over those intense blue eyes. His head is bent over a dog-eared paperback, one hand idly picking at a crease in his pants. He looks up as Norman approaches. “I thought you only needed a few things. I would have come in and helped you carry them.”
“They’re light…and we’ll just distribute the weight,” Norman says, shuffling some bags around. He makes sure to take most of the burden, though; he’s used to long walks with a bag on his back, and Jeremy just looks so damn frail.
They’re a mile or so down a dirt road before Jeremy speaks again. “You like to travel.” It’s a statement, not a question.
Norman shrugs. “I guess m’not real good at staying in one place. Hate feeling tied down.”
“I envy you,” Jeremy says, though there’s no jealousy in his tone. Just a simple fact, as if he were commenting on the weather, or complimenting Norman on his shoes.
“Well, maybe you can come with me sometime,” Norman says, and actually stops walking for a millisecond once the words are out of his mouth. He doesn’t travel with anyone. He also barely knows this man.
Jeremy almost bumps into him, but moves just in time. “Thank you, but no. I’m not very good company,” he says.
“I don’t know about that,” Norman replies, and Jeremy gives him a tiny smile. “You live alone?” Norman realizes Jeremy hasn’t mentioned anyone else.
“Yes. The house came to me when my grandparents died. It’s nothing fancy, but it keeps out the sun and the rain,” Jeremy says. He points to a dot on the horizon. “That’s it there. There are some nice trees…oldest in the county, I’ve heard. They give good shade when you just want to sit out and listen.”
“Listen to what?” Norman asks, a bit confused.
Jeremy stops walking and looks at him, his eyes hidden behind the dark sunglasses. “Everything. You can hear if you listen.”
Norman nods, though he doesn’t understand in the slightest.
The house is worn, almost as pale as Jeremy himself. It’s a tired-looking building, which seems to have seen many sad days and lonely nights. Norman wonders if it looks that way simply because the sun is so bright and the sky above it so blue. He follows Jeremy up the wooden steps. The screen door opens with a rusty creak, and the inside door is unlocked. “I don’t have anything worth stealing,” Jeremy explains, and once Norman is inside, he sees Jeremy is right.
The rooms are large, the way farmhouses were always built, and the furniture is sparse. “It’s big,” Norman says, and his voice echoes through the curtainless rooms.
Jeremy removes his hat immediately upon entering the house, hanging it on a peg by the door. “I don’t even use the upstairs,” Jeremy says, taking the groceries into the kitchen. “I do some odd jobs here and there to keep the electric running, though I really only do that for the stove and the refrigerator.”
Pale green wallpaper brightens the dreary kitchen, and Norman helps unpack the bags. “It just seems so…”
“Lonely?” Jeremy looks over his shoulder. “I’d think the same about walking around the country with no place to go and no people to visit.” He shrugs and turns back around. “But it’s home. It’s all I know.”
Norman realizes he cannot really form an opinion on this. He has no home to speak of, and wonders if he ever did. “Like you said, it’s a roof over your head, right?”
“Right.” Jeremy folds the brown paper bags into neat rectangles and slides them between the refrigerator and the counter. “Would you like to clean up a bit? Then you can sleep or whatever…I won’t bother you.”
“Bother me? I’m the guest here. I really appreciate you letting me come here,” Norman says, and he means it. He has met very few genuinely nice people on his travels, and he almost feels nervous. He’s not sure what to say or do, and he does not want to offend his host.
“Well, let’s get you to the shower, then,” Jeremy says, leading the way out of the kitchen.
“Oh, wait,” Norman says, putting a hand on Jeremy’s arm. Electricity seems to sizzle through him, and Norman lets out a soft gasp before slowly pulling back. He feels an instant of intense longing, of passionate wishing, and then the feeling is gone. Jeremy turns to look at him inquisitively. “I got you something. At the store.”
“You got me something?” Jeremy eyes him suspiciously.
“Yeah. You know, like a gift or something. I thought that’s what you guys did in these small towns. You come to visit, you bring your host a gift?” Norman tries to joke as he paws through the shopping bags. He finds the bag he wants and shoves it at Jeremy. “Here.”
Jeremy stares at him for a long moment, and Norman shoves the bag at him again. Jeremy opens it and pulls out two pair of jeans and three t-shirts. “Clothes?”
“Well, you, uh, I hate to say it, but you sorta stand out with what you’re wearing. You’re about my height, so I guessed on the jeans, and t-shirts fit everyone. You dress like an old man,” Norman teases, feeling very self-conscious. He’s starting to get angry with himself for even making the effort. “Thought you might want something that fit better, that’s all.”
Jeremy smoothes his hand over the folded pile of denim. “These are an old man’s clothes. All I have here are my grandfather’s old clothes…some suits and things. I felt strange going in and trying things on…the way they look at me when I’m in town.” He looks up at Norman, and his eyes are swimming with tears. “This is one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done for me. Thank you so much. You’re so…it was good of you.”
Norman has rarely heard the word “good” in any sort of combination with himself, and he blushes furiously. “It wasn’t a big deal. Like I said, just wanted to repay you for your hospitality.”
Jeremy pulls out one of the shirts and a pair of jeans, setting them aside. “About that shower…” He goes back to the hallway and towards the wooden stairs. Norman quickly grabs his knapsack and follows him.
“You said you don’t go upstairs.”
“I said I don’t use the upstairs,” Jeremy gently corrects, clomping up the steps in his heavy brown shoes. “But I thought you’d like to use the shower. I normally just clean up at the sink downstairs.” He stops at a small closet, obviously added on to the hallway. “Here are towels.” He hands Norman a pile of towels, which once were flowered, but now are faded spots of color. “You can use as much hot water as you want. And when you’re ready to lay down…” Jeremy opens the door to a large bedroom. A clean but faded blue and white quilt is folded at the bottom of a large bed. “This was my grandparents room. I clean it every week.”
Norman holds the towels to his chest, trying to press away the unfamiliar ache he is currently experiencing. “Thank you,” he whispers.
“I’ll be outside if you need anything,” Jeremy says, going back downstairs without another word.