Johnny stands in the fitting room of an East Village thrift shop and stares himself down in the mirror. He's half undressed and hasn't progressed any further, too distracted by his reflection.
He used to have a lot of tattoos. He remembers having them. He was working on the beginnings of an abstract-patterned sleeve for his left arm, and he had the branching vortex on his right wrist, and the compass on his left hip, and something on his back. Didn't he have something on his back? He doesn't remember now.
What he sees there instead are the three long scars, clawed in by whatever it was that attacked him - or didn't. Hadn't he imagined it? Had he, really? Things like that are too, too hard to remember.
But there's no ink on his back, not anymore, if there ever was. And there's no sleeve either. Just his burn scars, stretched and fading. The wrist tattoo has improved and shifted to his other wrist, as he'd previously discovered
, and... is it growing? It seems bigger than he remembered.
The compass is still there. It's the only one in the right place.
He starts to unbutton his pants, and he sees the ink carry down further, down his left leg. When did that happen? Why hasn't he noticed
this before? He hasn't been undressed very often, he sleeps in his clothes half the time and tends to enter a trance state whenever he showers, but still
He strips his jeans and stares at the monstrosity curling around his thigh, all the way down to his knee.
No. No. No.
The compass is still there, but it's just the anchor point, the origin for this horrific architectural mess that has sprung out of god knows where. It's a hack job, not very detailed, mostly just simple dark lines running at jagged perpendicular angles, spiraling around his leg. He stares at it until he starts to feel sick.
When did this happen? How
did this happen?
He doesn't care. Rather, he can't care. He has too much on his mind to care. He pushes it out, excises it with a heavy, abrupt exhalation. He tugs on the clothes he pulled from the rack. They fit. They're boring. He'll blend. They'll do.
Twelve dollars for the pants and five for the shirt. Not bad. He dresses himself in his old clothes and steps out of the room, away from the mirrors, to make his purchase. Can't move into a new place without clothes, right??
What is he even doing?
He hasn't decided yet if he'll take Gabe up on his offer. It's stupid not to, he knows that, it's a free deal, even if he's not sure how much he trusts the guy yet, he's in no position to be choosy. He'll relent. He knows that too.
But he needs time first, to do whatever the hell he's doing today.
After he buys the clothes he continues walking, unwilling to return to the hotel just yet. He needs space from everything and everyone he knows. He needs to just hide for a while.
It is with this in mind that he enters the first open bar he finds. It's just after noon and he was supposed to only use the rest of the money Jodie gave him to get clothes, but he doesn't really need more than two outfits, does he? Not right now, anyway. What he needs is alcohol. So he curls up into a booth in a dark corner of the room, sets his bag next to him, and orders "something cheap and strong" from the sleepy-eyed waitress. Turns out "cheap and strong" is a really bad vodka tonic. It'll do.
He nurses it for a while, lowering his head into his hands. His skin feels electrified; the movement of ink across his body, the fading scars he's been trying to forget, and the dreams. He had a nightmare last night, he remembers it too vividly, dying in a bed of butterflies, inside the TARDIS
. He wonders if any of it was real, and if she's okay.
Too many dreams lately. And the first was the worst. He still feels the itch, the sting of Zagreus
, something he left behind, branded into his head. Jodie said Aiden took him down, but did he, really? It's still so familiar, that burning fear and hostility, the feeling of being invaded and watched. What if he's still there? What if he'll always be there?
Shit. Stop it, Johnny. He downs his drink much too fast, coughs loudly enough to get the waitress's attention and orders another.