It took Ark a bit to find words to answer Josh, longer than he’d thought he’d need. He shifted back and forth a little on his feet, mostly to keep moving, trying to get his brain working again that way. He was still so nervous - what if Josh was going to remember? Maybe… maybe he shouldn’t do anything, maybe he should let Josh remember, maybe he deserved that much, and whatever would come of it.
He tried to at least start speaking, in the quiet aftermath of Libby’s shout and Josh’s question, but couldn’t follow it up. So he tried again, looking Josh in the eye, and when he saw the shake running through his companion’s body, Ark found his strength again.
Right. He was needed, and things were as simple as that. Things could come later; right now Josh was expecting him. He hurried forward to the others, closing the distance between them. That, at least, could help. He reached out and took Josh’s hand again, knowing it’d help steady him.
That took care of that. Libby, though… Ark had no idea where to even begin. She’d gone from super sad to super mad and frankly it scared him a bit - what if Josh went like that at some point, too? That idea really scared him, and he went swiftly from just holding onto Josh’s hand to mentally fighting Hilda for the right to hold onto him. His arms wrapped around Josh’s shoulders, holding onto him more for his own selfish worries than he wanted to admit.
He looked up to Hilda and then to Libby, and then back to Josh. He was guilty, or that was sure how he felt, and for that reason stayed quiet.
Oh hell no! Hilda’s reaction to Wes’ actions was complete and instantaneous. She was suddenly hyper-aware of all three children by her. She gave Josh’s shoulders a squeeze both as a protective reflex to Wes disgusting threat and in response to the emotional turmoil she swore she could feel radiating out of the boy. Olivia was there too suddenly, and soon enough she felt Ark slip into the group. Letting go of Josh, she stepped around the three kids to put herself between them and Wes. She paused only to put a hand to Josh’s cheek, and in turn Ark’s, trying to let them know it would be okay, before she turned back to Wes and let her anger, a kind of rage she hadn’t felt since she was a teen, consume her.
It was bad enough he showed up unannounced on her doorstep, bad enough he was evasive in their conversation, bad enough he was abandoning a little girl for whatever stupid reason, bad enough he was simply the most untrustworthy scum she’d ever have the honor of being thrown together with… but this? How dare he… How dare he come into her house and threaten her children… Her lips curled down as a snarl escaped her throat. Wes was already leaving, but she didn’t even care, she wasn’t about to let him escape so easily. Not like this…
Hilda stormed after Wes as he reached the door, Fitz was right back at her feet once again, growling loudly, and Scarlett, who had taken Bertie away, took her place beside the furious young woman sensing just what was about to take place. Hilda reached Wes and grabbed his arm, pulling hard to force him around. Faster than a blink and with a full swing of her arm, her open palm connected with the side of his face with a sickening loud slap.
“GET THE HELL OUT OF MY HOUSE, YOU BASTARD!” She screamed at the top of her lungs. “Get out and don’t you FUCKING DARE ever show your face around here ever again, don’t you ever come near me or any of my family or I will FUCKING END YOUR SORRY PATHETIC ASS! GET OUT NOW!!!”
“…” He was struck, though he hardly flinched. It had been a while since someone had slapped and yelled at him; the last one was Rui, someone he was all too glad to be rid of now. The familiarity kickstarted his mind into overdrive.
“I’d have been gone a minute ago, if you’d stopped interrupting me.” He didn’t even raise his voice anymore, and after how loud Hilda had been his low volume sounded more like an irritated whisper than anything else. “Now let go of me, or—”
There was a flash in his head, and a grimace of pain crossed his face. There. There, for just a goddamn minute, ther was something. He thought he’d remembered something. It was gone again, though, just like that; and he’d been so close… but why?
“…Why do we know each other?” So quietly spoken, that he doubt even Hilda would hear it.
It was going to drive him nuts. That, and the hundred other things nagging at the back of his head. He shouldn’t be here. He had more important things to do; there was still someone who needed to be tracked down, and he still owed Cail an explanation, and—…he shouldn’t be here? Why the hell did those words just repeat in his head. Was there meaning he was missing; something he’d forgotten?
First, though, he had to get away from these people. This environment was over for him, all things considered. Two people whose very existence pissed him off; two shouting they hated him as though their opinion of him actually mattered to him.
So without another word, he left, determining he’d slug one of them if any of them seriously tried to stop him again, because he was getting of it.
This wasn’t right… This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Libby stood still as she held Josh, clinging to her hero as everything seemingly fell out from under her. She could feel him shaking and it only made things worse. This wasn’t right at all. Josh was Nate, he was supposed to team up with Hugh, no Ark, no… No, this wasn’t a movie, how silly and needlessly dramatic of a thought When did she start thinking that in the first place?
“I… I’m… I don’t know…” She said quietly in response to Josh’s question. Ark was with them now, his arms circled around Josh, vying for space against her own arms. She felt sad again, there was no anger left, like she had been quickly drained of it and it left her confused as to why she had lashed out. She loosened her grip on Josh, but did not let go, suddenly feeling out of place next to the two boys, especially when Hilda acknowledged them (and not her) before—
Libby stared in horror at the older woman’s actions. No, no, no, this isn’t right at all! Hilda was screaming and Leo barely did anything and then he was leaving, for real and… and she had just said she hated him! No! No that wasn’t true, was it? It wasn’t, it couldn’t be, she was certain… Why oh why had she said that? She let go of Josh then and ran to the door, pushing her way past Hilda outside into the cold. Mind racing through everything, she hesitated. Leo wasn’t who she thought he was, not in the slightest, but… but he was still… he was… something to her.
“Goodbye! …Leo.” She called after him, her voice catching thanks to a gust of wind. She didn’t wait for him to respond, immediately turning back inside, clutching herself to block out the cold. She felt certain she didn’t want him to respond, and after the things she had seen tonight, she knew he wouldn’t anyways, but… but she had to say goodbye proper. It had to be done.
Josh couldn’t help but lapse into his own little world, and no matter how much his heart wanted to care for Libby his mind had other plans. He felt Ark grab his hand and he gripped it back, holding it up between their hearts until he was completely and tightly wrapped up in his embrace.
He couldn’t do much else but hug him back and bury his eyes into the dirty collar of his jacket as his vision was stolen by what he could only assume was a memory. It was scary, really scary. It was like abandoning your body and slipping into something that he didn’t know, it could be a panic-enduced flashback or a genuine memory flooding his senses, but he wouldn’t know anything until he rode it out.
A smaller, brown-haired boy pushed the hospital doors open with all of his tiny might, his heels digging into the neat concrete to budge the heavy front door open. The receptionist seemed heartbroken to see the little boy, and the point of view hazed into a cocked head, and he was swiftly carrying himself down a hallway.
It was like a dream, a confusing one where he could sense things he couldn’t see, but didn’t physically feel in reality. He knew he was carrying something, but he still felt his arms wrapped around Ark. The boy turned the corner, with a skip still in his step, and saw the crystalline white walls and sheets, and the tiny muddy paw prints. Following them, he saw the dishevelled bed and open window, the drapes flowing softly in the breeze.
He felt his heart drop, and the onset feeling of crying bloomed from a place unknown, but all he could think of was Ark. The next thing he knew he was looking out over the landscape, his legs hurting from standing too long and his arms raw from the cold metal, but he just gazed placidly over the world with a miserable feeling in his heart. He got a quick flash of fighting arms much bigger than his own, trying to get free and run away down route 1.
And then he was older, in his room, studying. Looking out of the window with a startlingly similar feeling in his chest. Not so much wanting to run away, but wanting… something. Again, his mind was infiltrated with images of Ark, the feeling of being by him and the innate wonder he held.
And then it was over, and he was gripping Ark’s jacket like it was the last thing on earth, simply crying. Not sobbing, or weeping, just a full-on bodily reaction and Josh didn’t want to stop it. They were tears pent-up over years and years of questions and confusion over the answer he never got.
Ark left. He left without saying goodbye, like Leo left Libby.
Josh couldn’t hug Ark tight enough, he felt a million miles away even if he was as close as a person could get. He didn’t want to believe what his mind just spat in his face, he really didn’t want to think it was possible and he didn’t want to see anything else his mind wanted to show him about the subject. As faithfully as ever, his chest heaved and he let out a quiet sob into Ark’s shoulder. Of all the things he could have relearned he had to learn the most painful and frightening thing imaginable.
His legs just gave out from under him, and he was almost completely leaning on Ark. Josh was too stricken to do anything about it - the denial and shock and overall emanating heartbreak had hit him hard and he couldn’t do anything, it was like he wasn’t even in his body at this point.
All he could do was cry and hold on, and it was pitiful at best but his mind had violated him and he didn’t know what to do.
The best he could do was whisper into Ark’s neck a single sentence.
“You left… You left.”
A small, glimmering part of him wanted to break away from him and just pound on his chest, and scream and just be a big wrecking ball of hurt - but he didn’t have the energy for it. At best it was a whisper that he dutifully ignored. It was something his memories wanted to do, but… he felt the need to draw a line between who he was and who he is.
“Don’t leave” he heaved between sobs, “Please don’t leave, ever again.”