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Landslide

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The following fic is set in the universe of the "Swamp Thing" live-action TV series. If you're unfamiliar with the show --and it's a 99% chance that you are-- please STICK WITH ME here; it's going to be okay, I promise -- I'm about to tell you everything you need to know in three sentences: Dr. Arcane is the evil villain of the show. Graham is his loyal assistant. Alec is just the real name of Swamp Thing. That's pretty much all you need to know. There! Wasn't that painless?
The ever-so-attractive and ever-so-British Dr. Arcane looks like this
His voice sounds like this (in the clip, he's saying, "Hello, ladies. What, all three of you? I don't know if I can manage it... but I'll give it a damn good try." (Ooh la la!))
It also sounds like this (He's saying: "What a conniving, manipulative sham. You are my kind of comrade, Carter!")
Graham looks like this
His voice sounds like this: (he's saying: "Uh, actually, sir, I-I didn't dispose of her... I let her go.") and like this: (he's saying: "I hate plants - and women!")
Just in case there are any people here that HAVE seen the series (*JJ glances around at the tumbleweeds rolling by, hearing a coyote howl in the distance*), this story is set after Season 3.

Landslide
by JJ Arrows ©1998

It had been a little over a week, and there was still no sign of the Doctor.

"Has Sheriff Andrews finished questioning everybody?"

"Almost," Stella responded. "The crew is almost done combing the first section of the swamp. Most of them have returned already."

Graham nodded wearily, rising from his chair. "Guess I'll join 'em."

The sun was on its way down as the last of the security team was scurrying back, not wanting to risk staying in the swamp at night. He was heedless,trudging on through the increasingly heavy greenery.

Pushing aside a few thick fronds, his eyes widened. "Doctor?"

The tall, imposing shape of Alec Holland sent surprised eyes at him, as his employer looked up from the ground upon which he was seated, seeming a little startled.

A huge, beaming grin spread across Graham's facial features. "Doctor, I --I'm so glad you're all right!" Well, perhaps "all right" wasn't the operative expression. The man's clothes literally hung off his unhealthily thin frame, stained with what could only be blood. "What, um, happened?" Graham ventured.

Graham couldn't be sure, but he could've swore he saw a *look* pass between Arcane and Alec Holland. "Just another run in with my, it seems myriad, enemies," Arcane replied with a weak grin, pushing himself to his feet. "Nothing too out of the ordinary... well, not for this cesspool of a town."

"I healed him," Alec added, giving a tacit nod.

Graham put an arm around the scientist gently, and removed it once he saw him flinch. "Well, let's just get you home and get you somethin' to eat." He cast a glance back Alec's way. "Um, thanks."

Alec nodded, troubled.

***

After a gradual progression from soup to solid foods, Dr. Arcane was back on his feet soon enough. Graham felt a little bad that Arcane hadn't told him any scrap of minutest detail of what had happened to him, but that was to be expected, he guessed. Still, it had been nearly a week without angry, vitriolic insults or vehement threats of torture, death, and mutation toward his
abductor, whose identity Graham still had no clue of. But an ordeal like that would take a little time to get over, he reasoned. Then again, in all other respects, the Doctor seemed normal -- well, as normal as his employer ever could be, anyway -- he brooded, he preened, he ranted, he raved; he still made further constant attestaments to his glory and greatness, he still grinned
like a shark, and he still insulted everybody in his immediate vicinity. Yep, pretty much back to normal.

Traffic was gridlocked as the two of them were driving back from a business dealing Arcane had with a senator involving the usual bribing and lies. Arcane sat in the backseat, the window rolled down, feeling slightly comforted as a cool breeze sifted through his hair.

A gentle index finger tapped him on the shoulder and the doctor turned to the window, startled.

A dark-skinned young woman with a neon tube top and painfully red hair in loose curls to her waist smiled prettily at him, cooing "Hey, sugah..." It was a practiced voice. "You look like you need some cheerin' up..."

Arcane smiled slightly, a shiver and a feeling of reflexive revulsion beginning to coil deep within his stomach. "No," he replied, cultured tones gentle but firm, "thank you." He rolled the window back up as the young lady pouted and flounced off to her next would-be customer, noticing that Graham was staring at him from the drivers seat. "Well, what is it?" Arcane sounded irritated.

Graham's jaw looked ready to drop. "Are... are you feeling all right, sir?" "I've more important things to attend to than an underdressed harlot," Arcane replied with even coldness. "Granted, my genius does warrant its rewards, but this is hardly the time or place!!"

"I... I'm sorry, Doctor," Graham stammered, turning back to the wheel. Arcane fidgeted with his hands and played with his wedding band as traffic eased.

***

Arcane drew a small amount of warmth from the coffee mug nestled in his shaking hands, resolute on staying awake. Glancing at his watch, the numbers turned from 9:59 AM to 10. He'd been awake since six, unwilling to go back to bed and surrender to the wretched night terrors. He gave an involuntary violent shudder that threatened to see the mug crashing to the floor.

The doctor closed his eyes, rubbing his right temple as a cringe wrinkled his smooth face, forcing the unbidden memories down with a hot swallow.

"Doctor?" The lab entrance opened. "Are... are you all right, sir?"

"Yes, Graham," the scientist responded in a dull voice.

"You're, um, up," the assistant stated the obvious, noting he was fully dressed. "I just guessed you'd be asleep, or more busy."

Arcane settled a hawk's glare on his assistant. "Can't I sit and enjoy a moment's silent contemplation without you staggering in and inflicting your nauseating concern upon me?!"

Aching to remedy the situation, Graham quickly added, "There's a guest here for you sir -- a reporter from SCIENCE NEWS requested to do an interview."

Arcane raised an eyebrow. "The last time you brought a reporter in to me, my work was decimated and I was nearly killed."

"Don't worry, he's not a relative of Sunderland's," Graham smiled slightly,"I promise."

The doctor took another sip of coffee. "Bring him in." Taking another long draught of black java, Arcane blinked, trying to put some semblance of awakeness into his face. If there were photographers, it wouldn't do for him to look like a bloody zombie!

Graham escorted the man through the hissing of the doors. Fairly average-looking guy, from his build to his height to his squarish face and short sweep of russet hair. They hadn't exchanged many words; Graham didn't much like reporters. They all seemed to have a predatory glint to their eyes, and this guy had it doubly so. "Doctor--"

Arcane stood up to greet the reporter, the smarmy smile instantly wiped from his face as his skin drained of all color. Dimly, he heard the mug shatter into fragments.

At the look on his mentor's face, Graham hurriedly rushed the reporter back into the elevator. "He, um, hasn't been well, side effects of his hard work and genius and all," Graham explained very quickly, "really sorry about this, maybe another time, huh?" As the reporter nodded and strode out of the elevator to the exit, Graham almost thought he saw a barely visible smirk cross the man's face. Feeling unnerved, he pressed the button and went back up.

Re-entering the lab, Graham saw that Arcane was still standing there, trembling violently. "Dr. Arcane?" he asked softly. "What is it?"

Arcane reached behind him shakily for the chair and sank down into it stiffly. There was an expression on his face that Graham had never seen before. "You have an incredibly fatal handicap when it comes to picking out reporters, Graham."

"You know him," Graham asked with urgency, unable to wipe the image from his mind of the smirk on the man's face and the naked fear in his employer's eyes. "Right? Who is he?"

Arcane was clenching his hands into helpless fists. "The bloody nerve of that grinning *monstrosity*... abducting me and now having the insufferable ARROGANCE to even set FOOT in *my lab*..."

Graham's blue eyes went wide. "Oh God." He grabbed the phone. "Security? This is Graham -- the SCIENCE NEWS reporter, I want him apprehended *immediately* and put in a maximum security cell on the fifth--" Graham started as Arcane tore the phone out of his hand.

"Belay that. I want him shot on SIGHT, do you hear me?! First his stomach, than his legs, his shoulders, and his groin, in THAT order!! You're to make that vile waste of life *suffer*. I want him *writhing* in *unimaginable* depths of *pain*, do you understand?!" He slammed the receiver down, shaking in barely repressed fury. A look of sickness washed over his face. "He's been in my lab," the doctor whispered. "He's seen my lab."

Graham put a comforting arm around the man, but Arcane shrank back from it, sitting in his chair again. "He's gone now," Graham soothed. "He'll never get out of the perimeter alive."

Arcane turned away from him. "I... must be alone, Graham. Leave me." Graham obliged.

***

His employer's behavior puzzled Graham. This whole situation wasn't entirely new to the Doctor. It wasn't exactly the first time one of his enemies had dealt violently with him. The man had been tied up, chained down, handcuffed, beat up, drugged, cursed, shot at, and nearly blown to smithereens on more than one occasion and he always managed to bounce back. Never once had the assistant seen him act like this. The terror invisibly streaming off his employer scared him. Then again, the Doctor had never been kidnapped, starved and brutalized by a psycho before. Still, Holland *had* healed him completely, and Graham would've at least thought that Arcane would've wanted to see to his abductor's torture himself.

They had been in the final, epilogue-esque stages of a project before Dr. Arcane's abduction, so Graham didn't really have much work to do. As the evening drew to a close, he finished up the rest of his paperwork and made for the swamp.

***

Alec appeared in the grove after hearing Graham's plaintive cries for his name. He surmised that he could have entered from behind and scared him a little, but he chose against it. "What is it, Graham?" he asked evenly. "Has Arcane attempted to kill you once more?" There was a lightness to his voice.

"Well," Graham started tentatively, fixing his gaze on the mutant, "I guess this isn't exactly urgent, but, uh... what really happened to Dr. Arcane? You said you healed him, so he must have been hurt."

Alec seemed uncomfortable. "Yes."

"So how bad was it really? I'm trying to figure out what I'm dealing with. He's been acting strange."

"As opposed to..." Graham shot him a black look, and Alec sobered a little as the memories of the man's injuries resurfaced. Yes, Arcane was his nemesis, but every fiber in him told him that he couldn't leave the man like that, not even his absolute adversary, not like THAT. "I assume he would. He was abused very badly."

"But HOW badly? He's been hurt before, and it's never been like this!" "I do not think you really want to hear the answers to the questions you're asking," Alec warned harshly.

Graham repressed shivers. "I know he wasn't fed. What else did the guy do to him?! I'm trying to figure out what would make him act so strange. You know what happened to him, Holland. You healed him, so you know the extent of the damage."

Alec weighed Graham with a very heavy look. "You are not to know. No one is." The assistant stared. "I gave my word. Unlike your employer, my promises mean things." Alec had an extremely uneasy look on his face.

Confused, Graham just walked back in the direction of the Industries.

***

The moon had risen and Graham racked his brain cells. What could be so bad that Alec Holland wouldn't even tell him? If he had just been beaten up, even badly, Arcane would never have sworn him to secrecy. He must've been humiliated... but how? It wasn't like he'd had to parade through Houma in pink lingerie with a "kick me" sign taped to his ass. (Graham quickly buried that bothersome piece of mental imagery.)

Graham screwed his eyes shut. Alec Holland hated Dr. Arcane more than anyone in the world, yet he promised not to tell anyone what happened to him. He ran through every terrible situation he could think of, short of Arcane dying, and tried to match it up with his recent behavior, wishing he hadn't slept through the PTSD lecture during Psych 100 back at Kent. The flinching and hyper-alertness, Graham expected. But what the hell could this sicko have done that would make Arcane so afraid that he couldn't even face his assailant to exact proper revenge, could make him swear his worst enemy not to tell anyone? For God's sakes, the man had even refused casual, uncommitted sex!!! *It's crazy. I mean, for the Doctor to be like THIS, that guy would've had to have--*

Graham's eyes widened. "Oh no. Oh no." It was that minute that he stumbled into the bathroom and started throwing up.

***

The doctor tossed in his sleep, moaning unintelligibly. With a rocky jolt he gasped awake, eyes darting around in their sockets at the dark room. HIS room. Safe. Safe.

A black figure silhouetted in the doorway.

With shaking hands, the scientist put two fingers to his cartoid artery to make sure his heart hadn't stopped.

It got closer.

"NO!" he whispered, the cry lost in a croak strangled within his dry throat. The ability to scream seemed rent from him. "Oh... oh n-no... you couldn't have returned... this isn't happening... don't!!" Hot tears caught on his eyelashes. He couldn't breathe. "Please *please*, anything but THAT, not THAT, anything, I'll do anything..."

"Sir," Graham entreated, "it's just me, it's Graham, I'm not gonna hurt you."

"GRAHAM?!!!" Arcane shouted hoarsely, embarrassment sending a surge of red to his cheeks, unnoticed by Graham in the darkness.

"I was just, uh, well, I heard you cry out, and I wanted to see if you were okay."

Arcane drew his covers around himself. "You heard me through the doors?" he asked, a little quieter.

*Actually, I was going to come in no matter what like an idiot, without remembering that I'd probably scare you to death.* "Yeah... kinda."

Arcane groaned and swung his legs out of bed, wrapping a robe about himself. "Might as well get up," he grumbled. "Since a good night's sleep seems too much to ask for around here."

***

*Stupid, STUPID Graham!!* Graham was still kicking himself the next day. *The LAST thing he's gonna want is to be around another guy!! Especially in his own bedroom!! Yeah, if only you'd figured it out sooner... ALL the signs were lying there right in front of you, but you were too stupid to figure it out in time!!* He shook his head, as his brain continued with bitter mordacity, *Yeah, 'cause that kinda thing just doesn't =happen= to =guys=.* Graham raked a hand over his hair. *And now you know better. But whoops, it's too late.*

Although it hurt, he tried to avoid him as best he could during the next few days, just for the time being. He didn't want to make the Doctor even more uncomfortable than he probably already had. *Yeah, just have Stella deal with him. She's gentle, and nice.*

After about three days of Graham having something to do out in the field, or leaving early, or shutting himself up inside his office, Arcane approached him. The man was on the side of the lab farthest away and opposite him, fixing a broken microscope. "Graham?"

"Yes?" Graham asked, trying to go for a casual, friendly sound.

Arcane seemed unusually puzzled, his eyes pensive, as if trying to divine something. "Graham, you mustn't worry about your entry of my quarters the other night. While I'm not entirely happy about it, it is your job to make sure no danger befalls me. I'm not going to punish you."

"Um, thank you, sir," Graham stuttered. "Honestly, I, uh, hadn't been really... thinking about too much."

Arcane just nodded, seeming even more puzzled and deep in thought than before.

"Carry on, then." He began to pace around the lab a little as silence ensued. "The reporter!" he suddenly declared, making Graham jump. Arcane fixed his grey gaze on the assistant. "It's the incident where you brought in the reporter, isn't it? Because you let him in."

"Sir??" was all Graham could think to respond with.

"For the sake of the Fates, Graham, I bloody forgive you for that." Arcane sounded exasperated. "You didn't know what my assailant looked like. 'Course,the event infuriated me greatly, but it's no more than I've come to expect from your usual record of bumbling incompetence. I'm not going to roast you over an open fire, man."

Graham kept himself busy with the microscope. "I, I know, sir, I mean thank you -- I'd expect you would've, well, done it already, if you'd wanted me dead."

Arcane closed the gap between them. "Then why the hell have you been avoiding me?!"

Graham widened his eyes innocently. "Avoiding you, sir? What would make you think that?"

The doctor folded his arms, eyebrows raised in ultimate skepticism. "Really, Graham." He grinned. "I'd almost expect you to be in league with that butcher if it weren't for the fact that I doubt your rather limited mental capacity would be able to handle that sort of duplicity."

*Gee, thanks.* "I'd never try to knowingly hurt you, Doctor."

Arcane clapped him on the shoulder. "Good chap. Almost done?" Graham nodded.

*Great,* he mused as Arcane wandered over to the other side of the lab. *If I stay away from him, he gets suspicious. If I stay near him, I'll probably trigger a frigging flashback.* He closed his eyes and breathed in. *Don't go to either extreme. Just give him his space.* But despite his cheerful facade, Graham knew he wasn't back to normal. He didn't seem like he was getting
hardly any rest, and he went the rest of the day barely saying a word. He entered the lab the next morning, his ears greeted by a sharp succession of thudding noises.

Arcane rammed his fist into the wall, snarling, his knuckles raw. "Stupid bloody monster," he growled hotly under his breath, turning and delivering a vicious line of kicks into the wall. If it had been plaster, there would have been several holes in it a long time ago. "Bloody wretched cruel sodding..." He punctuated each word with another savage blow, kicking the wall again for good measure.

"Er, Dr. Arcane?"

The doctor spun around, his teeth bared and his eyes and hair wild. "What the hell do you want?!!"

"The senator's on the phone."

"Tell him to fuck off!" Arcane barked.

Graham's eyes widened. "But I thought you wanted to--"

"Can't you see I'm *busy*?!!?"

Graham fidgeted a little. "But what if he--" He dodged to one side as a test tube was hurled at him and smashed against the wall beside him. Graham backed inside the elevator, shutting the door quickly.

***

Later that afternoon, when Graham was feeling brave enough to go back into the laboratory, he noticed that the Doctor was asleep at his desk. *Great.With the mood he's in, I wake him up, he crucifies me. I let him sleep, he wakes up later, berates me for not waking him, and =then= crucifies me.* Sighing with a weariness that didn't belong to a man his age, he went with what he hoped was the lesser of two evils and jostled his employer's shoulder very gently. "Doctor..."

Arcane peeked his eyes over his suddenly so comfortable and pillowy arms. "Whuh?"

"You, ah, fell asleep." Graham cringed, bracing himself.

"So I did," Arcane slurred. "Goway."

"Well, I kinda thought you wanted to call back the senator, and--"

"Not now. Leeme 'lone. Bugger off." Arcane nestled his face in his arms again,
sighing gently.

Graham shook him again, sending a surge of irritation through the man. "How much sleep did you get this week?"

"Barely any. Bloody nightmares. Why'm I telling you this? Goway." Sleep once again caressed his tired brain.

"About the abduction?"

"No! Buzz off!!"

*He can't go on like this.* "I know what happened," Graham said evenly, firmly.

Arcane stood straight up, raw betrayal in his eyes. "He told you!"

"No, he didn't. He wouldn't. I figured it out on my own." Graham watched as Arcane walked away from him, staring at the floor, looking very very small and very very shaken.

"He was an old interrogator of Sunderland's," the scientist said slowly. "With Sunderland gone, he was unemployed and furious. I suppose if he was more agreeable or had more contacts, he'd have found a job fairly easy for the CIA-equivalent of some dictatorial country, but as was the case, he just wanted revenge on me." Arcane folded his arms. "Bloody typical for this sodding
place! Might as well draw a large red X on this town and be done with it!! Everyone seems to know exactly where I am!!" He didn't notice Graham move closer concernedly. "I expected the mistreatment, the malnutrition, the physical abuse, obviously. How could I not?" Convulsive shudders coursed through him like electricity. "After all, it does seem to be the most popular sport around here, tormenting me." His eyes closed. "...should've gone back to England..." The words began rushing out. "Stupid disgusting wretch!! Even with all that, I never expected him to, never expected it, so many bloody times, perverted sick deviant vermin." Graham was taken aback by the soft, cold vehemency of his words.

The doctor jammed his hands deep into his pockets. "I'm a bloody MAN, Graham!! This does NOT happen to MEN!! Except perhaps in some wretched prison, and I've paid Andrews handsomely to keep me well away from there!!" He spun around, snarling accusatorily at the man. "This is all YOUR bloody fault!! You weren't careful! You weren't watching!!" The rage threatened to choke him. "You... you bloody let him in the complex, MY complex, afterwards!! How in hell could you be such a bloody MORON, Graham?!" Arcane's eyes were almost pleading. "And for once I don't mean that as an insult, I *mean it* as an actual question! *HOW*, Graham?! Have I been THAT ineffective as your mentor that I haven't been able to coax at least a SEMBLANCE of life out of those few brain cells you hold claim to?! Could you have been so dense as to not check the man's credentials, a resume?!!"

"I did," Graham insisted softly, "it was all intact."

"DAMMIT, GRAHAM! YOU let him back in!!"

"You even pardoned it -- I didn't know what he looked like."

"You should have!"

"You never told me, Doctor."

"You *should have known*," Arcane growled.

"Yeah, you want me to read your mind."

"You should be able to by now!!!" Arcane barked in utter despondent fury.

Graham tried to meet his eyes. "I don't really know what to say. I'm sorry."

Arcane was pacing. "He would have stolen me again... would have--" He was forming the word, and couldn't. "He would have done it again."

"You know I'd never let anything bad happen to you," Graham soothed him, standing close. "Not if I was there and could prevent it." He started as Arcane swayed and collapsed backwards. Graham scooped him up by the shoulders. "Doctor??"

The man's eyes fluttered open weakly. "So 'xausted..."

"Okay. Okay. Let's just get you to your room."

***

As Graham helped him onto his bed, even his own bed, Arcane couldn't suppress a reflexive tremor of fear.

Snuggling beneath the blankets, still in the clothes he had woke up in, he called out as Graham's form began retreating. "Graham!"

The assistant turned. "What??"

"Stay with me," the doctor entreated in a voice that was so pitiful and quiet and tired that Graham couldn't refuse unless he'd been threatened bodily. Arcane weakly propped up one of the many extra pillows that were next to him. "Just... just stay right here... make sure no one..."

Graham stroked the man's hair gently in one of the only really comforting gestures he knew of as he climbed onto the bed and sat on top of the covers. "No one's going to get you."

"'Night," Arcane muttered, turning on his side as blackness began lapping at his mind.

"Sleep tight."

A sleepy smile spread across Arcane's face. "Stupid," he grinned and immediately konked out.

The minutes and hours ticked by as Graham just sat, watching Arcane breathe. Sometimes, a night terror would clutch at him, but Graham would just murmur stuff to him quietly until it passed.

***

Arcane opened his eyes lazily late in the next afternoon. Spying the body lying on top of the blankets next to him, sound asleep, he raised an eyebrow. *Best not wake the sod.* Stretching catlike and closing his eyes again, he turned and snuggled against the other body comfortably. The man was like a big German Shepherd or something; strangely comfortable to sleep against. And anything beyond that, Anton Arcane was too tired and peaceful to ponder at the moment.

-end- :)