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A Walk In the Rain - RBB fic

Title: A Walk In the Rain
Author: aunt_zelda
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 3,176
Pairing: Joanna/Jaeris
Warnings: panic attack, PTSD, acclimation back into home life, social drinking, alcohol.
Summary: Jaeris and Joanna return home and Jaeris acclimates slowly but surely with the help of Joanna.


The trip back home is short, but the minutes drag. Jaeris paces Joanna’s ship, going through corridors and up and down ladders into different areas.

“Anticipated arrival time at fifteen minutes,” SIERRA intones from the ship’s intercom. He was installed on Joanna’s ship, as Jaeris’ ship is being towed behind hers.

Finally, Jaeris settles in the navigation chair beside Joanna, fidgeting in place.

“You’re twitching like a club kid. You been using?” Joanna asks, peering at her husband sideways. There’s no judgment in her eyes, just concern.

“No. No drugs. I’m nervous.” Jaeris sighs heavily.

Joanna reaches over and grasps his hand in her own. She squeezes his fingers gently. “You’re going to be fine.”

“I haven’t been back in … so long, Joanna.” Jaeris’ voice cracks. “And I’ve spent a good deal of time back there, thinkin’ I was trapped, for good, never gonna see you again, much less <i>home</i>.”

“Well, we’re almost back, and you never have to leave again, if you don’t want to.” Joanna smiles, and turns her attention to the controls, which have begun flashing, indicating that they’re arriving in moments.

Fear seizes Jaeris, crawls up and grasps at his throat, clutching, strangling, cutting off his breath. What if it didn’t work, this thing Linkara’s pet scientist gave him,  what if it’s all for naught and he’s about to die and what if Joanna dies too or what if she dies and he watches her perish like the Nine did …

“Mistress, your husband is experiencing a panic attack.” SIERRA says, an edge of concern in his robotic voice.

“Jaeris!” Joanna is crouching beside him, holding his arm and steadying his head. “We’re going to be fine, everything’s going to be fine, I promise.”

People have made promises they couldn’t keep before, so many times. Jaeris wants to believe her, wants to trust in the anchor, wants to believe that what happened to the Nine will never happen again.

The ship shudders, breaking through into a new dimension. Jaeris braces himself, gripping Joanna’s hands tightly in his own …

… nothing happens.

The ship smoothly glides down towards the violet and amber planet below. No warnings blare, Jaeris can breathe just fine, and Joanna is showing no signs of physical distress. He runs his hands along her face and neck just the same, watching her breathe for several moments.

“I’m sorry,” he gasps out. “I just … the last time, it was so terrible.”

“I know,” Joanna embraces him tightly. “I know. And you have nothing to be sorry for.”

SIERRA guides them down to the planet below.

~*~

Adjusting is a tricky process. Jaeris finds himself staying inside for several days, unable to step outside their front door. Their old home was repossessed by the government and destroyed in one of the riots. He wanders unfamiliar rooms decorated with familiar possessions, running his hands over the old couch he had in college, the silverware his mother bought for him as a housewarming gift, the framed photographs of himself and Joanna on vacation what feels like lifetimes ago.

On the fourth evening, Joanna approaches him with blankets and a basket. “Come on, we’re going up onto the roof.”

Jaeris balks, but follows her, up the ladder into the attic, and up another ladder onto a flat section of roof ringed in a low railing. Joanna spreads out the blankets and leans against the chimney, staring up at the night sky.

Jaeris crawls out of the hatch and joins her. He avoids looking at the skyline, instead raising his head to watch the stars appearing one by one. Constellations his cousins taught him about at summer camp begin to take shape: the Archer, the Trio, the Seven Swords, the Cat and her Kitten. Xia, the first moon of the evening, curved at the halfway point, rises.

The first planet he spots is Marellen, a blue spec hardly larger than his thumbnail, just over the horizon. His family took him there once, when he was young, and he considered going to college there because of a music conservatory on their largest continent.

“When was the last time you were on Marellen?” Jaeris asks, eyes still on the planet.

“After the revolution, I went there, asking around about inter-dimensional travel. They set me on the right path.” Joanna smiles, and points to the left. “Look, there’s Rexus!”

The auburn sphere is indeed starting to become visible to their eyes. By the time the sky is completely dark and all the constellations are visible, and all four planets visible from their home, Jaeris looks at the city skyline.

It’s relatively unchanged, impressive considering the extent of the rioting as Joanna described it. The same buildings he grew up seeing as part of the landscape, the same familiar flickering lights. More numerous than the stars, but no less comforting to Jaeris. He smiles, and stretched out on the blankets, resting his head in Joanna’s lap. She runs her hands through his hair, unraveling his braid and carding her fingers through the strands.

“Is there a park near here?” he asks, as the second and third moons rise over the horizon. Joanna has begun several little braids at various points in his mane, various techniques and patterns, familiarizing herself with his hair again, after so long.

“Mmm, a couple blocks away.” Joanna pauses in her work. “You wanna go?”

“Yeah, I do.”

Joanna leans down and kisses him. His hair comes undone not long afterwards.

~*~

They go around noon, when the streets are relatively empty and the park isn’t too crowded. A few people recognize Joanna and wave to her or try to talk to her, but she waves them off, nodding at Jaeris, who clings to her arm like a drowning man. Soon he’ll be more acclimated, but for now, he can’t stand the thought of casual conversation with people, not after all he’s seen, all he’s done.

They wander pathways of the park, around an artificial pond. Flocks of purple long-necked birds paddle in the water, and flutter up to the trees. Children chase each other through groves of trees molded into hoops and slides. It’s peaceful, like there was never an oppressive regime that threw Jaeris in prison for reviewing music on the internet, that never drove his friends and family into hiding, that sought to rule with an iron fist and crush any sparks of resistance to the mass media corporations.

Jaeris sinks onto a park bench, holding Joanna’s hand.

“All this … like it never actually happened,” he waves his hand out over the sprawling fields and walkways. “Like I had a bad dream and woke up.”

“Is that good?” Joanna asks.

“I don’t rightly know, darlin’ …” Jaeris shrugs. “I suppose I’ll take it one day at a time.”

She leans her head on his shoulder. They watch the birds. It’s a good day.

~*~

The next week is a series of experiments, some successful, some not.

They go downtown to get Jaeris officially re-registered as a resident of this dimension, specifically this planet and country and region. The officials make Jaeris nervous and some of the sounds of the office dredge up painful memories. He grips Joanna’s hand tightly the entire time.

Grocery shopping goes much better. Jaeris stocks up on all the food he could never seem to find in other regions of space, nor cobble together himself with foreign ingredients. That night he and Joanna cook like they’re back in college again: salty green noodles and fried strips of blue leaves drizzled with red cheese flakes. They watch re-runs of an old TV show and toss capsules of ice cream at each other’s faces.

“There was something a bit like this on Earth,” Jaeris says, as the ice cream melts in his mouth with a tingling feeling. “Smaller though. And not as good.”

“Isn’t that funny, what stays the same and what changes,” Joanna muses, popping an ice cream capsule into her mouth.

Jaeris leans forward and kisses her, tongue tingling from her ice cream and not caring, not noticing. Joanna’s arm flails and mutes the television before they topple onto the couch.

~*~

They go to a bar, after a mixture of Joanna’s urging and Jaeris’ agreement that it would be good for him. First he hesitates outside, hearing the crowds inside. What if he recognizes someone, and they want to talk to him about the past few years? He’s not sure there’s enough alcohol in the multiverse to help him deal with that conversation tonight.

Then he hears the sounds of a band warming up, sound checking amps and testing instruments.

“Who’s playing tonight?” he asks.

“Local band. They’re pretty good.” Joanna smiles. “I think they could use a reviewer.”

Jaeris steps inside the bar, holding Joanna’s hand.

The place is crowded, bursting with people in various stages of drink. They push their way to the bartender and order, Jaeris letting Joanna do all the talking as it’s been far too long since he ordered a drink on his homeworld and he can barely remember what he liked back then, before. For the longest time he’s been drinking any distilled swill he could get his hands on, so long as it got him drunk he didn’t care what it was.

Electric blue drinks in hand, Jaeris and Joanna weave through the patrons towards the stage. They slide into an empty booth with a good view of the stage, Jaeris sipping at his drink nervously.

The alcohol helps, a little. Then the music starts, and that helps more than anything else. Live music, right in front of him, thrumming through him and making his bones ache in the good way. Jaeris smiles, closes his eyes, and lets the music wash over him like waves. He went to a planet once where sounds were tangible; he spent a full week submerged in a concert, drifting out to sea, before returning to himself.

“I don’t know if I can ever leave this planet again,” Jaeris says suddenly.

Joanna puts down her glass and focuses on him.

“But if I did, I’d take you to this one planet I found once. It was right after I … with the Nine … after all that.” Jaeris grips his glass tightly to keep his hands from shaking. “It wasn’t like anywhere I’d ever been, before or since. The air was … different. Heavy. Like before a storm, but not about to be a storm. Just … it was like walking through water you could breathe. I laid on this beach for … days, I don’t rightly know, time moved there in ways I never fully understood. The light shifted, but it never went away entirely. And there were these … aftershocks, I guess, when the waves of the ocean crashed onto the beach. And they would rise up and ripple through the air, sloshing into me, pushing me back and forth …” Jaeris rocks slightly in place. “I always wondered what it would have been like to play a song there, what that would have done to the environment.”

Jaeris ducks back to his drink and says nothing for the rest of the evening.

As the band finishes their set and begins to pack up, Jaeris leans over and kisses Joanna, knocking over his empty glass in the process. He doesn’t care, and neither does she. She leads him out of the bar and back home, as quickly as they can. Once home they barely manage to lock the door before they start getting tangled in each other’s clothes.

~*~

It becomes something they do every weekend, sometimes two or three times a week, going to bars and listening to live music. Jaeris scribbles notes on napkins but throws them away when they leave the bar. It’s a start, he can feel himself sliding back into his old self, but he isn’t quite ready yet. Once the alcohol and gentle ache of the music in his bones leaves, he still gets the urge to barricade himself in the bedroom and never leave again. He still dreams, sometimes, of the government coming to take him away. Police cars on the streets make him anxious. He worries that this will never leave him, he’ll always flinch at the sound of a siren, always feel guilty and subversive by disliking a corporate song on the radio.

Joanna invites friends over, one and two and three at a time, so as not to overwhelm Jaeris. Her friends and his friends, and their friends, from before. Most of them seem to understand, treating Jaeris respectfully, not asking about where he went or what happened. Some have scars now, where they didn’t before, or are missing eyes or fingers or limbs. Some have children now. And some … some are gone.

Jaeris puts up a good front for them, and even finds himself relaxing among a few. The gap between himself and the people who stayed is closing, inch by inch, every day.

One night after joining an impromptu mosh pit in one of the rougher bars, Jaeris leads Joanna off the dancefloor and into one of the bathrooms, a surprisingly clean place considering the clientele. He locks the door and pins her to the wall, though she soon has him against the wall instead. They’re both sweaty from dancing, and there’s a fresh bruise on Jaeris’ arm from a wild elbow shove, but they can’t keep their hands off each other.

“We’re not teenagers anymore!” Joanna pants, as they hastily try to get themselves presentable afterwards.

“Just making up for lost time.” Jaeris says. It’s a lie and the truth, all at once.

~*~

The band finishes early that night, though they were quite good. Jaeris and Joanna cheer wildly, and make notes to buy the recordings later online.

Some of the bar staff set up microphones and monitors onstage, and one unfurls a banner from the ceiling: Karaoke Night.

Joanna looks at Jaeris, eyes alight.

“Oh no, nuh-uh darlin’ …” Jaeris puts up his hands in protest. “That ain’t a good idea.”

“Isn’t it?” Joanna beams. “Been a long time since I heard you sing.”

It has been. Far too long. Jaeris remembers one night, deep in unfamiliar space, singing to SIERRA, and crying. Was that the last time he sang? Really?

A bachelorette party stumbles forward, all tipsy, and shoves one of their number up onto the stage. She teeters through a rendition of a pop song from when they were all children, her friends cheering her on and singing the chorus. Joanna bobs her head to the beat, smiling in challenge to Jaeris.

“Ok, fine,” Jaeris laughs, getting up after the bachelorette stumbles off the stage. He claims the microphone and queues up a song, a classic rock tune he used to sing in college at karaoke parties. The words come back to him easily, he barely has to read the viewscreens. Emboldened, he sways slightly in place, pointing at Joanna during key moments of the song. Joanna blushes, the bachelorette party squeals and whistles at them. The bride, urged on by her friends, shyly approaches the stage and slides a hundred dollar bill into his pocket before half tripping her way back to her friends. Jaeris, flustered, finishes the song to applause from the bar, and returns to Joanna’s side.

“How much did she give you?” Joanna is laughing.

“Uh … wow, a fifty.” Jaeris stares at it. “I should probably give it back, right?”

“No way, that was well-earned!” Joanna grabs his hand and closes it over the crumpled bill.

“You about ready to go, darlin’?” Jaeris asks, face still red.

“Just about,” Joanna stands up. “My turn, though.”

She picks an old ballad, one given a jaunty new cover by a band Jaeris doesn’t recognize. The rest of the people in the bar seem to know it though, and cheer as Joanna hits the proper notes all the way through. Jaeris raises his glass to her and she blows him a kiss. He can’t remember if they’re on their third round or their fourth, but it’s probably a safe bet to call it a night after her song.

Joanna finishes, stumbles into Jaeris’ arms, and kisses him messily. “Take me home, before I make even more of a fool of myself.” She’s smiling.

As they make their way to the door, one of the patrons at the bar turns and warns them “It’s raining out!”

They glance at each other.

“Should we call a cab?” Joanna asks.

“We’re not that far away, let’s risk it.” Jaeris squares his shoulders.

It’s not a downpour, but it’s not a drizzle either. They weave through puddles and under awnings, making their way slowly but determinedly towards their home. Jaeris leans on Joanna and she leans on him.

The rain increases in intensity. Though they’re only a few blocks away from their front step, it doesn’t take more than a mutual look to decide to duck into the nearest bar for momentary shelter.

This bar is less crowded, less noisy. A man and a woman with folk instruments are perched on the stage, strumming a classic song. Joanna buys two beers from the bartender and she and Jaeris weave their way to a wall, leaning against each other and sipping the beers.

Someone props open the door, the sounds of the rain drumming the street mingling with the music. Jaeris feels like he could drift to sleep right here and now, clinging to Joanna, his hair dripping water down his face, alcohol buzzing in his veins.

The folk singers finish their song, and the bar applauds and cheers.

“Hey, the rain’s letting up,” Joanna whispers, nodding at the doorway.

“Let’s just stay for another song,” Jaeris murmurs, hugging her tightly.

Joanna nods, and relaxes against him.

The folk singers go through another song, some of the crowd joining in on the chorus and waving their arms in the air. Jaeris sways and Joanna sways against him. They set down their empty beer bottles and move into the crowd, swaying together. Jaeris spins her, and then she spins him. Soon they’re too dizzy to do more than hold each other and sway in place, but that’s more than enough. They dance through the third song, and the fourth, and the fifth, before remembering that they were supposed to be heading home.

On their walk along the last few blocks, they’re stumbling into puddles. They loop around lampposts and dash across the streets. Their clothes and hair are soaking wet by the time they make it to their front door.

“Thank you,” Jaeris whispers against Joanna’s neck. “Thank you for tonight. For all the nights.”

“There’ll be more. For as long as you want,” Joanna promises.

She leads him inside, upstairs. Together they strip, toss their wet clothes into the bathtub to dry out. Then they crawl under the covers, warm and dry again.

The next morning, Jaeris begins writing the script for a vlog review.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
twistdfateangel
Dec. 17th, 2015 03:03 pm (UTC)
*sniffle* I want to hug them both!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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