Fandom: Harper's Island
Word Count: 2630
Ship(s)/Character(s): Nikki Bolton/Shane Pierce
Summary: Sometimes she feels a combination of guilt and relief when she thinks about how she made it off of the island.
Notes: Mentions of violence.
Sometimes she feels a combination of guilt and relief when she thinks about how she made it off of the island. She can’t possibly begin to imagine why it was that fate had decided to spare her life and yet condemn so many others. (She thinks sometimes that maybe it was just like flipping a coin. Heads you live, tails you die.)
She used to love to travel on the ferry into Seattle but when she rides away from the island- her home, her heart, her fear- she hates it. Before she would travel there for fairs; before she would travel with her best friend to go shopping. Before the ferry was an adventure, a way to a short, short vacation. Now being on the water in that boat feels like a rescue. (It makes her spine cold like someone touched it with ice cold fingers and froze it down to the marrow.)
She stays huddled on the deck with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, gazing out at the water. She thinks about all the days she spent there as a child; she thinks about all the fun she had with her friends. She thinks about the late night underage drinking parties on the beaches when they would pray not to get caught and the times she would sneak back into the house late at night so her father didn’t know she had snuck out to stay with friends.
She doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to step foot on that island again.
She tells the Seattle police (and the state police and the FBI) at least a hundred and three times what happened on the island, what she knows, repeating every little detail over and over again. (Yes, Henry had broken the window of the bar. No, she hadn’t known most of the victims. Yes, it was just like when Wakefield came before with the fear and the explosion and the panic.) She explains how she had gotten out of the bar before Wakefield came in. (Madison had seen him coming; Shane had sent them running out the window in the bathroom.)
She tells them how she split up from the group and ran and hid and how she still doesn’t know how Wakefield hadn’t managed to find her. (She thinks of a coin being flipped again. Heads she lived, tails she died.)
She starts to feel like she’s in a play and no one told her.
She stays in a hotel for the first week, finds a cheap apartment near the docks after that. (Realtors want to buy up the abandoned property on the island but she can’t bring herself to sell hers; can’t think about how horrible that place is to her now.)
She talks to Abby, talks to Jimmy, tries to find out if they’re alright. (She tells them she is but knows it’s a lie; tells them that she’ll be fine in time but knows it will take a lot of time and therapy and a lot of adjustment; knows that it will take a lot of nightmares and sleepless nights and alcohol to learn how to adjust to what happened.)
She finds a bar and gets a job there; puts on a smile even though she’s faking it the whole time. she tries to pretend that the world as she knows it hasn’t just been blown into pieces like the boats at the docks; pretends that she doesn’t dream of blood and screams and Wakefield’s face and his big blade and the people who would never leave that island, the people who would never get to go home or see their next birthday; the people who would never see another Thanksgiving or Christmas.
He shows up at her apartment one night, knocking loudly at the door just past midnight. She hasn’t seen him since the island, hasn’t even thought of speaking to him. He brings up bad memories, makes her think of the laughter that would never take place again; makes her think of fear and how Jimmy had looked lying on the couch of the Cannery with the scratches on his face; makes her think of her best friend hanging from a rope in her house, pale and dead. She hadn’t been able to bring herself to see him again but she lets him in. (There are so few people left from that place that she can’t bring herself to turn him away.)
He steps inside, presents the beer he brought, a silent offering of comfort and peace so that she can know that he has pain inside of him, too.
They sit on her couch, drink their beer in silence, neither one of them able to speak to each other just yet; neither one able to talk about what had happened to them, the fear that still grips them tightly around the neck and makes it impossible to breathe.
He stops by the bar she works at sometimes, plays pool and sits quietly in a dark corner. Back home he was loud and you couldn’t help but notice him. Here he barely speaks, like whatever it was that made him who he was had been drained away with every drop of blood that had been shed on the island.
He limps sometimes from where Wakefield’s blade had sliced through his leg on his way out the window; he sits there sometimes with his eyes closed because he can’t seem to bring himself to look around at the people who sit at the bar without ghosts dancing inside of their heads. (He thinks of who he had been his whole life and wonders if maybe surviving was his punishment for being such an ass; wonders why he had been one of the people permitted to stay in this world.)
He shows up at her apartment a lot of the time, sits on the couch, watches crappy television with her, afraid to speak sometimes, afraid to upset her (and himself) with the memories of what happened.
He doesn’t tell her that he dreams of Kelly sometimes, dreams of the words tattooed on her side, the ink that begged for Wakefield to come back and take her. He thinks about how she had gotten her wish, feels guilty, that maybe he shouldn’t have put those words on her skin, he should have tried harder to help her heal instead of losing his temper, instead of bruising her skin and breaking her spirit. (He thinks maybe she haunts his dreams as revenge, that she found the strength in death to hurt him the way she couldn’t in life.)
It’s nearly a month after these nights of sitting in silence began when one of them decides to speak.
“I dream about her,” he tells her. He doesn’t need to say who he means. She knows as well as he does.
“So do I,” she admits to him. “Sometimes I don’t think she’ll ever forgive me for living when she died, for not protecting her.” She pauses, tucks her legs close to her chest. “I was always trying to protect her. Mostly from herself.”
“And from me.”
“And from you,” she agrees. (She never could protect Kelly from him though, never could get her to see just how volatile he always had been.)
“I know you hate me,” he tells her after a moment.
“Maybe I did,” she admits. “But I don’t anymore.” (He had been the one to get them moving to the window, after all; he was in the same boat as she was, a survivor of the island of death and blood.)
“You will again,” he tells her.
“Maybe I will.”
He gets a job on the docks, gets a job doing the only thing he knows how to do. It brings up memories of the island, of Jimmy and him bullshitting about girls and the other locals and thinks about the look he had gotten on his face when he had said Abby was back on the island. (He had never really cared for Abby, had merely tolerated her because she had dated his best friend but once said best friend got his heart broken by her the tolerance turned to hate.)
He barely talks to his co-workers, makes himself keep a distance from her. He only really talks to Nikki now and even when he does it's passive, quiet. (It's like he’s forgotten how to talk to someone after all this, like that simple task has become too hard to even try to entertain.)
They eat dinner together sometimes. She always cooks; he always sits in the living room. It's always simple food, always food that doesn’t take long. (She can’t bring herself to really cook anything complicated because it just seems so pointless now.)
She never goes to his place, he never asks her to. He very rarely takes care of his own place, leaves it a mess, does the laundry only when he really has to because he’s running out of things to wear that don’t reek of fish and the saltwater.
She doesn’t mind him spending time at her place, doesn’t mind the company at all. (She thinks without it she might go mad.)
He gets angry one night while they’re sitting in her living room in silence, angry that everything had happened, angry that his whole world had been shaken to the very core. He stands up, paces the floor, slams his fist into the wall, splits open the knuckles of his skin.
She takes him to the bathroom silently, a hand tight on his lower arm, cleans off his hand with peroxide, watches his nostrils flare as he tries not to flinch.
“I’m angry too,” she tells him. “I’m angry at Kelly for being dead even if it isn’t her fault. I’m mad at Charlie for not killing Wakefield seven years ago. I’m mad at Wakefield for living and coming back; mad at Henry for being his son and going crazy. I’m mad at myself sometimes for being alive.”
“I’m not mad that you’re alive,” he tells her, his voice quiet but toneless. “I’m glad to see someone else here that I know. Glad I’m not alone.”
“I’m glad I’m not alone, too.” If she were alone the anger would swell up and swallow her whole, drag her under the ice cold water of fear and despair and leave her there to drown. (Sometimes she can almost feel the water filling her lugs, forcing all of the oxygen out and suffocating her while she fights to get to the surface. And then she thinks of him, just as hurt and just as damaged as she is and she can breathe again. The water recedes, warms up. She thinks maybe she can keep her head above it all for just another day.)
“It’ll get easier in time,” she tells him, thinks she just might be lying, lifts up her hand and runs her fingers over his hair, thinks she can’t help but need the contact and maybe so does he. Maybe he needs to feel connected to something just as much as she does.
He goes to leave one night at nearly one in the morning. She puts her hand on his arm, asks him quietly to stay, can’t stand the idea of being alone that night. (The nightmares were strong that week, each one draining her more and more than the last.)
He doesn’t ask her why she needs him to stay, figures maybe she just needs someone there to keep her sane for the night, lets her lead him to her room, kicks off his shoes, climbs into the bed with her, watches her in the dark until she’s asleep before he lets sleep take over him as well.
She wakes up that night around four, sits with a start, almost screams, bites her tongue to stop from doing so.
He wakes up next to her, puts his hand on her back, between her shoulder blades, watches her panting, listens to her uneasy breathing. She tries to remember how to breathe properly, tries to calm her heart down.
“You’re alright,” he tells her quietly. “You’re going to be fine.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever be fine again, you know?”
“Sometimes I feel like I’m in slow motion,” she tells him one day. “Like my life is trying to move on but I can’t bring myself to do it. I feel like I’m still on the island and I’ll never leave it.”
“You’re not on the island, Nikki,” he tells her, reaches over and put his hand on her arm, squeezes down. His hands are rough against her skin; his hand are so big that if her arm wasn’t resting on her leg he could wrap his fingers around her arm entirely and then some. (It makes her feel almost like a little child in comparison to him.)
“How can you be sure that I’m not there still, Shane?” she asks him quietly. “How can you be sure that this isn’t all just a dream? That this isn’t all just something we’ve made up in our head?”
“Because I know,” he tells her. “Because we’re real. This is real. We’re not on the island anymore.”
“Stick around for a while,” she requests.
He sticks around a lot more as time goes on, eats dinner with her a lot. He drives her to work sometimes; sometimes he picks her up. He spends the nights, comforts her when she has nightmares. She comforts him when he has his own. They’ve come to depend on each other to survive this, to make their lives seem to be in order all over again. (He doesn’t know if anything will ever even close to normal again; doesn’t know if life will ever seem to be in order after what they saw and what they went through. The world doesn’t seem to be even remotely normal again.)
Her nightmares get worse, send her into a state akin to panic. He wakes up when she does, puts his hand on her back, reminds her to breathe. She cries sometimes. He pretends not to notice; she’s thankful he ignores it. (Even now she wants to pretend that nothing gets to her, that she’s tough enough to handle it all when she knows she isn’t. It was easy to be tough on the island, here it just seems ridiculous.)
He sits up on the bed one night when she wakes up, rubs the spot between her shoulders, hopes she’ll stop crying soon. (Tears remind him of the island.)
“We’ll be alright,” he tells her quietly. “We’ll be fine in time.”
She turns to him, tears shinning in the moonlight. He pretends not to notice, she pretends to think that she believes that he doesn’t. “When?” she asks.
“In time,” he repeats.
She reaches up, brushes her palm against the scruffy skin of his cheek, meets his eyes in the dark, tries to remember how to breathe. “I hate being so afraid.”
“So do I,” he admits.
Her hand stays on his cheek, he leans forward, presses her mouth against his, urgent and scared and needy. He kisses her back in the same way, takes comfort in her the way she’s taking it in him.
“Don’t ever leave me alone, Shane,” she begs. “Don’t make me do this by myself.”
“Ain’t gonna happen, Nick,” he assures her. “Not plannin’ on going anywhere.”
“I don’t mean tonight,” she tells him. “I mean at all. Don’t leave me alone, Shane. I need you to stay.”
“As long as I can,” he promises her. “I’ll stay as long as I can.”
She believes him.