The rain was coming down hard, and everyone finally had to call it quits on their various chores. Bertie volunteered to go and fetch Roger, bringing a cup of hot chocolate and an umbrella. Etta teased him as he left, and he stuck his tongue out at her with a laugh.
The rain was even louder outside, the ocean gray and churning and endless, the stormy sky streaking with lightning and thunder so loud it made Bertie’s ears ring. Bertie walked against the wind, already planning to wrap Roger in blankets and cuddle him close to warm him up. He smiled softly to himself when he saw Roger working diligently away on the ladder leading up to the big light, managing to look elegant despite the sheets of rain and the crashing waves. Bertie opened his mouth to call out over the rain, but a wave chose that moment to rise above all the others, dark water crashing into the cold, unyielding metal of the Bridge.
Roger lost his footing, letting out a shout as he slipped. Bertie’s throat closed, choking off his scream as Roger fell. He saw him hit the railing with a sickening crunch. He saw his neck break as it made impact. He saw the blood trickle past his lips as he lay there on the cold metal, prone and motionless and dead as Bertie just stood there frozen in horror, eyes wide and wild and knees trembling as his lips formed soundless words.
No. No no no no no, not Roger, please not Roger, he couldn’t lose anyone else. Not like John. Please don’t let him lose Roger like he lost John, he couldn’t lose the man he loved for the second time, not again-
And then Roger got up.
And then Roger got up.
Bertie stared in abject shock as his supervisor lifted his hands and felt tenderly around his neck, prodding at the bone until he found the break and shoving it back where it belonged, wincing a little and rubbing the spot. He held it there for a few moments until he apparently felt it was safe, and then he was back to work. Like nothing was wrong. Like his own crimson blood wasn’t being washed into the sea by the uncaring rain. Like Bertie’s entire worldview hadn’t been turned horribly upside down in a few nauseating seconds when he’d watched his supervisor, his friend, his Roger, die.
And he had died. He was supposed to be dead. No one survived and injury like that.
But there he was. Alive and standing and occasionally rolling his head as if to crack some uncomfortable tension, like it was no different than cracking knuckles. And here was Bertie, staring at a creature far more terrifying and beautiful than even Bob. Staring at a person he still loved so fiercely, despite everything, despite this.
Roger still hadn’t noticed Bertie. He took the chance to take a deep breath, mind whirling and gut churning. He called out, half expecting Roger to disappear, to collapse like the crest of a wave. But he didn’t. Roger smiled at him, and Bertie finally saw the abyss in those dark eyes. As the enigma that called itself Roger Kaplan descended the ladder and approached him, the last of the blood was washed away from the deck, leaving no evidence of what had transpired just moments ago. Roger took the coffee with a word of thanks and started back towards the warmth and dryness of indoors, giving him an odd look when he didn’t immediately follow.
“You okay? he asked, and Bertie had to blink away the memory of blood on those lips.
“Yeah.” he said, and that was enough for Roger. They walked side by side, and as Bertie closed the door against the rain, he saw the beginnings of bruising on the back of Roger’s neck. He wondered how he intended to explain it away.
He wondered how things could ever be normal again.