Fandom: Bioshock Infinite
Length: 2787 words, part 1/1
Characters: Booker Dewitt, his parents, Anna Dewitt, Robert Lutece (very briefly)
Warnings: Severe alcoholism/alcohol dependency, violence, racism, language, emesis
Type: ANGST FUCK YEAH, flashbacks/hallucinations
Summary: Booker DeWitt struggles to end his alcoholism, but the resulting horrors may prove too difficult to face.
Booker DeWitt stared blearily at a blank wall.
He couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten. There was only a dull rumble in the area of his stomach to suggest that something was missing. His head throbbed more urgently, and he closed his eyes to avoid the double vision. His hand wrapped around the neck of an empty bottle.
This was it. He was done, fucking done, with alcohol. He was tired of the hip flask, heavy on his leg, that rested where he could keep another weapon. He was tired of the way it ate and ate at the little he managed to make. He had wanted another apartment for how many years? He was so goddamned tired of staring at these walls and remembering what used to be beyond them.
So he was finished with the acrid burn in his throat, and the bottles littering the dusty floor.
Booker sighed. He’d heard how bad it could get, letting the bottle go. He didn’t think it would be quite as bad for him – he was functional, he could still get a job done with how much he drank – but a thread of fear uncurled itself in the back of his mind. The fear of failure, familiar to him the way nothing else was these days.
He lurched to his feet and stumbled from his chair to the bedroom, pulling off his boots and shedding his clothes as he went. He flopped onto the bed, landing on his back, and his right hand came up to rest on his forehead. He closed his eyes to avoid seeing the AD stamped into his flesh. Maybe that was familiar to him, too.
The watch on the nightstand ticked accusingly. He shoved it to the side. Time to sleep. Morning might bring something better.
He was a boy, again. He had been small for his age, with a lean, pinched look that did not abate until his teen years. He dreamed of water, and when the chores were done, he was always charging into the ponds on the property. He splashed and swam. His mother smiled. She called him her little gnašká, her little frog. He argued that he was a tadpole instead. She laughed at him, gently.
He only remembered dimly his father. He’d had a job, Booker never knew what kind, in the city. He left for months. He was tall and broad-shouldered and had green eyes that always seemed so much colder than his mother’s. It took him several years to realize his father was a white man and that that was something different, something better, than his mother’s family. It explained why Booker and his mother always spoke together in one language, and why they always used a different one when his father was home.
When he was eight his father had to go away for a long time, longer than normal. His mother took them in a horse and buggy to a place he had never been, on the banks of a running creek. The families lived in teepees and Booker chased the other children, his breechcloth so much cooler than the stiff woolens he wore at home. The other children didn’t mind that he was much paler than they were. The women laughed and called him gnašká like his mother.
Booker sat up, trembling. The skin on his arms began to prickle, drenched in sweat. He shuddered, a wave of nausea overpowering him.
“Fuck,” he hissed, seeing sunlight gleaming on the window blinds, which he usually took care to keep closed. The light set his head pounding. He got up, wavering a little on his feet, and walked unsteadily to the kitchen. He drank and ate something, it did not seem to matter what it was, only that it was not alcohol.
Alcohol. God, he could use a drink. But that was the whole point of this exercise, wasn’t it?
He caught sight of his hand as he set down his glass of water. He looked away. The nausea was easing, now, a little better than when he had first awoken.
Though it was morning, he had little desire to stay awake. He knew that the shakes often got worse before they got better. He shambled to the bathroom and used the toilet, then made his way back to the bedroom, the urge for alcohol only growing stronger.
The girl’s eyes were blue, so blue.
He smiled at her self-consciously. Booker still felt unfamiliar in this grown shape with broad shoulders, hands swinging at his sides, taller than most of the people in the room. He felt like a hulking giant, like everyone stared at him. Now she was staring at him, but in a way that felt almost warm. It was a strange feeling.
She smiled back, and his throat croaked a question in that gravelly voice that he had come to realize was his own. “Would you like to dance?”
It wasn’t really a dancing kind of place but the girl in his arms made it so, and feeling her pressed against him was enough to send things stirring, things altogether different than rage and shame. It was unfamiliar. He wanted more of it.
Later he kissed her, hard, and she kissed him back. The feel of her body against his was an electric shock, some kind of salvation different and better than anything a river could ever offer.
She was with child, body changing, her face open and honest, somehow loving. Loving him. He never told her about Wounded Knee. He didn’t want this little apartment crashing down around him, empty and soulless. It needed someone here to keep the walls from closing in.
But the doctors said there was nothing they could do.
He woke up vomiting. He heaved and heaved, his guts forcing out the small breakfast he had made himself eat hours ago. Luckily he had had a split second to roll to the side instead of vomiting all over the bed. The spatters against the wooden floor only made him more nauseous, and he retched until nothing came from his mouth but saliva stringing against his chin. He shook, clumsily wiping his mouth with the back of his left hand.
His skin rippled, the saliva shining on the back of his hand and forming strange patterns. “No… no, no,” Booker slurred, holding out his hand even as the skin continued to writhe. His mind flooded with images of insects – great beetles marching solemnly, termites rustling, ants writhing in a pile, wasps and bees. He slammed his hand into the wall, smashing the insects out of it, panting as he did so.
The girl with the blue eyes smiled at him, though she was pale and tired, paler than she had ever been before. Her lips and gums were white. He reached out to her but she was still, and a baby’s wail reverberated in his head.
“Anna,” he gasped. “Anna, please…”
Blood on his hands, blood on his hands. It found its way in streams and rivulets to the cuts he had sustained. Dirty blood mixing with his own, the way it already had. His face burned to remember a little boy in a breechcloth. “Your family tree, it shelters a teepee or two, doesn’t it, son?” Those white faces and light eyes staring, mocking. He was his father’s son. The only way out was denial most irrefutable.
Fire in the grasslands, and blood on his hands.
All he wanted was a whiskey, fuck, just a glass of whiskey… a shot… a drop. Was it too much to ask?
Hard union men with justice on their side, it didn’t matter when Booker had his fists and his gun. He knew too well what teeth and bone against a fist felt like. He knew too well the recoil on his pistol. It was all familiar liturgy, religious fervor in saltpeter and smoke. They called him brute and he shrugged. He was what he was, and the crows followed him.
His father’s face was terrible, those green eyes flashing in the sun. He screamed, spittle ringing his mouth. He screamed in English that his son was no goddamned Injun, his son was white! He beat Booker until his buttocks were blue and black, until he cried to pull tight woolens back onto his legs. His mother cried, too, the bruise on her face more painful to Booker than his own. She apologized ceaselessly, sidling up to his father and begging his forgiveness. Dark faces stared at them from the shadows of the teepees.
Booker threw the breechcloth into the fire, watched it burn. His father looked down at him with a tight approving smile. They were men together, his father said, true men; and Booker nodded, wanting nothing more than to please him, nothing more than to be him. “Yes, Papa,” said Booker. He pitied his mother and the way she cried quietly in the back of the wagon, and yet he hated her.
He turned back around to watch the horses pull them forward, and he left the plains behind. He thought.
Booker didn’t know what was happening. His body swam, disconnected from his mind, caught in some mad undertow. He wanted to vomit again, but there was nothing more to take from him. His heart thrummed, quivering like a wounded animal.
He thought that he grabbed the blankets like a life raft, but maybe it was only air grasped in his twitching hands, the fingers playing an invisible piano. He gazed at them in bemusement. They were not his own. He was glad of it, for there was too much on them that could not be removed.
He slid to the floor, holding on to keep from falling. Flame below beckoned him, New York in ashes, and he did not know what force held him, frightened, in the air.
Booker grunted, his knees buckling. Another blow slammed into his belly, another hit his face. He felt the skin over his eyebrow split, and red flooded his vision. He groaned, trying to breathe through the spiraling ache in his solar plexus. Rough voices laughed and hands shoved him against the wall.
“A little warning, DeWitt,” one of the voices chuckled. “They’ll give you a week to pay what you owe. Ain’t nobody gonna welsh on Mr. Jones.”
A foot slammed into his side, once, twice. He coughed, tasting metal and dirt, and flailed weakly out, unable to effectively fight with six… seven whiskies in him. His pistol was forgotten somewhere in the bar.
“I’ll get the money,” he wheezed, curled in the dust like a C. “Jones’ll get his money. You just have to give me more –“ He spit out a blood clot. –“time.”
“A week. Or that baby of yours gonna wind up in an orphanage.” Footsteps left. Booker slowly forced himself up to a sitting position, chest heaving. He leaned against the wall, closing his eyes, fighting the panic flickering at the edges of awareness.
Baby, a voice hissed. Your baby, you gave up your –
“Shut up!” growled Booker. “Leave me alone!”
Anna, the voice called, derisive, pitiless. It seemed to fill the small space of his bedroom, ringing around him, some kind of devil’s sound. What did you do to Anna? You gave her away. What kind of man are you, DeWitt? Give us the girl, and wipe away the debt!
Sweat drenched him as he waved the voice away. It was quickly replaced by another one, this one in a language he had not let himself dream for over twenty years. Little gnašká, what have you done? A woman’s voice, soft and crooning, but colder than Macha DeWitt’s had ever been.
Burned them, burned them, she sang, and the flames rose all around him. What kind of man are you, Booker? He lay there on the floor, shivering and unable to answer.
The uniform sagged on his frame, too short in the arms and legs, baggy in the chest and crotch. He was a gangling thing with awkward proportions, just starting to come into his man’s growth in the past year or two. Whiskers, still half-unfamiliar, scratched his cheeks. He looked at himself in the mirror, and liked what he saw; a man prepared to fight, a dangerous man, a man to be respected. His mother died years ago. Was he not his father’s son? A man to be respected…
The respect was snatched away, though, by a few piercing words from a man who knew little of what he had set in motion. Your family tree… The camaraderie, the warmth of men united in a single purpose evaporated. Suspicion returned to their faces, and he felt it, burning him from the inside out.
Screams in the plains, smoke roiling, dogs baying. The horses thrashed to the ground like fallen broncos. His chance, his chance. It came in the screams ripped from his own throat, battle blistering his veins. His hands – oh god, his hands – if only he could reach back and stop them –
Bullets hailing from his gun, a frenzied storm. So many seemed to crumple before him, tall and small alike. A fallen knife shone against his palm, scraping as it severed scalp from head. The blade dulled before his eyes against the skin of old men and young women, a boy his age. They formed a gruesome pile, their dirty blood staining the ground, staining his flesh.
Shouts from the teepees roused him. Hide, hide! they wailed in Sioux. They could not hide from him. The fires still burning from the morning cooking, they shone in his eyes.
A torch burning in his hand, held to crisp white buckskin as he shouted victory. A face shrieking inside the darkness, horrified in a shock of recognition – gnašká, gnašká, no – and he held the torch as steady as ever it was.
The madness slowed. It could not go on forever. Men began to collect and catalog the dead, elbowing each other, making jokes. A dizzy coldness grew within him, but the men saw what lay next to him, and they clapped him on the shoulders, shaking him with their honor. The blood and hair so crusted his hands that he could scarcely bend his fingers. They pressed a bottle to him, raising their own in celebration, and he drank. He never stopped.
Water swirled around his legs, gently lapping. Questions bloomed like water lilies but Booker could not answer. A little liquid was immaterial.
Liquid. He remembered foggily, desperately, how he could end this. His heart vibrated painfully, and his breaths came fast and ragged, his lungs seeking air like a drowning man’s. He got to his hands and knees and crawled weakly across the floor, to that other room.
Sometimes he sat there, next to that dusty crib; sometimes he might not finish the whole bottle…
He pushed the door open, the action taking nearly all of his strength. His teeth chattered, reverberating in his skull. The crib in the corner stared at him.
The dust clung to him, rolling over him. It squirmed into his flesh and his face and his eyes. Something stung him. “I tried,” he said into the empty room, and his voice was flat and strange. “I tried, goddammit.” But no one answered him.
Under the crib was a small pile of bottles. Energy flooded into him for the first time in days. He tore at the pile. Empty. Empty. Empty. The last bottle, there – behind the leg of the crib – it still had a cap on it. He grasped it. Felt the smooth glass beneath his fingers. Felt the weight of the amber liquid within. Relief engulfed him.
Booker pulled the cap. The bottle swam before his eyes, blurred and hazy, but the smell was true. The stinging feeling increased. He lifted the bottle to his lips and tilted without a second thought. Burning liquid filled his mouth, his throat, his belly.
The room began to steady, slightly. The queer jittering of his heart began to faintly improve, its mad pulse becoming less possessed. His breathing slowed to a manageable level, and he exhaled, the liquor strong on his breath. He drank another long pull. But the stinging feeling continued to increase.
Slowly Booker began to recognize what the stinging meant, centered as it was around the upper half of his face. It was a phenomenon that happened, sometimes, when he had failed.
He touched his right hand to his eyes and scrubbed clumsily at them, wiping away the moisture there. No need to fucking cry about it.
I'm LoonyLupin on AO3 and fanfoolishness on tumblr, where this story has already been posted.
Thanks to http://www.sageandsweetgrass.com/dictionary.aspx for the name of gnašká (frog). I wanted something that indicated metamorphosis and change for Booker/Comstock, and the association with water.
Dorkily, I tried to include every Vigor in some way or another, I’m sure it was stupidly obvious.
My head canon is that Booker’s mother was half Lakota Sioux, half white; her mother had been impregnated by a white man, but she was raised culturally as a full Sioux. Booker was pale enough to pass for white, but his mother tried to impart much of her history to him; his father did love his mother but was also ashamed of being married to a Native American, which no doubt helped lead to many of Booker’s problems.
also this man is one angsty motherfucker amirite omg seriously