Toxic Vol. 1 Susceptible States Part 21

For the third day in a row, DeMarcus Dodson stands outside his apartment, his keys in his hand, unwilling to go inside. He knows nobody’s home. He watched Jesse leave this morning, sitting inside the coffee shop across the street wearing a terrible disguise. The disguise isn’t needed. Jesse won’t stop to look inside. He can’t stand those corporate places. DeMarcus wears it anyway.

The second whatever government organization was holding him decided he wasn’t a threat and he could go home he planned to rush to his boyfriend’s side and wrap him in his arms. That was the plan until he was across the street and looking at what’s supposed to be their home. As soon as he saw the place he couldn’t do it. Something about going through that door makes it real. Everything he’s gone through and everything he had to do to make it back here.

There’s bound to be an uncomfortable conversation as soon as he walks through that door. The people who held him for weeks told Jesse he had a major injury and needed surgery across the country. On it’s own that wouldn’t have been so bad but since they weren’t able to produce him they said he wouldn’t see or talk to the man he loves until he was done healing. That wouldn’t go over well with many people and Jesse isn’t an exception.

When he isn’t standing outside this door, trying to convince himself to go inside, he spends his days looking in on the people he knows made it out of Secure Solutions Chemical. People ranging from his friend Layla who he locked securely in a lab, to Jerry, the voice on the phone who saved him and who may or may not have sold him out. They’re both in good shape. Bobby and Kelleigh who he works with are a lot worse but they’re both alive. That’s better than he hoped they’d be at one point. The girl he plucked from a pile of bodies, Alexis, is doing worse. Physically she’s fine but the brain isn’t meant to process watching all of your coworkers be slaughtered in front of you and then having to hide under their bodies for hours to avoid death. She’s alive though. Even Officer Grady who talked him through the experience is doing well. He’s run out of people to look in on.

He considers approaching some of them but ultimately decides against it. What can he say to them? Do they even know he’s alive? Most of them are out of a job as the company’s decided to relocate across the country to try and outrun the stigma of this attack but other than that they’re doing as well as can be expected.

Watching Jesse from afar feels invasive but the only alternative’s approaching him and he can’t bring himself to do it. Not yet. He’s been staying in a cheap motel, using his credit cards to pay the bills, put clothes on his back and food in his stomach. His cards were already run too high and they’re quickly nearing their limits. He doesn’t have much longer to come up with a plan.

If anything his hesitation has made him feel culpable. He couldn’t do anything about the government lying to Jesse but he’s the only one to blame for their not being together the last three days.

His hand trembles as he moves it closer to the door but for the first time since he’s been free it doesn’t stop a foot or two away. The key finds the lock and he’s able to insert it. He tells himself he can still run if needed. Jesse won’t be home for hours. At the very least he can grab a shower, get a change of clothes, and not have to buy more outfits. Even as the thoughts pass through his head he knows they’re lies. Jesse would notice the changes, the missing clothes. If he leaves after that without saying anything they’ll be over and he’s not ready for them to be over.

The key won’t turn. He tries wiggling it but there’s not even a slight give. He looks at the apartment number to make sure he’s at the right place but even before he sees the 27 he knows this is it. He hasn’t been gone that long. Their rubber duck curtains are hanging in the window to his left. This is his home, or at least it was.

He wants to swear, to throw something. The locks were changed. He knew Jesse would be mad but he never thought he’d go that far. He tries to think of other reasons Jesse might have changed the locks. Maybe he lost his key? The office would have made him a copy though. That isn’t the reason and he knows it.

Any semblance of a plan he’s come up with goes out the window. He hoped to tell Jesse the letters he got from the government were actually from him. That his head was messed up and he didn’t want to risk lashing out. It’s not true and it isn’t fair but the alternative’s explaining that he was effected by a mysterious chemical which let him control people with his voice. It’s absurd. There’s a good chance Jesse will think he’s lying and throw him out anyway. Now he has to try something other than the story Jesse’s already heard. That’s the story that made him change the locks.

Considering his options doesn’t take long. He could go to the office and ask them to let him in. He’s almost certainly still on the lease; he’d have had to sign something to be removed unless they thought he was dead. They must have some idea what’s going on though, Jesse would have needed them involved to change the locks. They might call him at work to have him come rushing home. He’d spend the entire drive working himself into a furor which would be hard to overcome with any sort of logical explanation.

Leaving’s always an option. He’s done that for days, no reason he can’t do so again. Is he strong enough to come back again though? Especially knowing what’s waiting for him now, he’s not sure. He could go get some food or something to drink but he has hours to wait. With a sigh, he decides to go visit one of his few friends who lives in the area. It’s not a far walk. She lives only a building away after he recommended this complex to her and without a job there’s a good chance she’ll be at home this time of day.

He pounds on her door and listens. He can hear a small barking inside and something skittering around. That’d be Beast, her little Chihuahua. He’s a sweet dog but full of energy. Something else moves on the other side of the door. It’s slow at first but after a moment there’s a desperation as the chain’s removed and the deadbolt turns. The door’s flung open and Dr. Layla Kanish practically jumps into his arms. She wraps her arms around his waist and he lets out a sigh. Finally he feels at home.

Part 20

Part 22

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