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26 January 2008 @ 02:25 am
Eli and Tennessee: Turn your love my way  
Who: Eli Stearns, Tennessee Williams, & Tallulah
Where: Tennessee's apartment, the hospital
When: Recently

Eli's phone buzzes on the table beside his bed, rattling against the wood. He glances at it and sets his book down with a sigh, reaching for it. It vibrates in his hand. Tennessee, according to the screen. He smiles and answers it, raising it to his ear. "Hey."

There's no response for a long moment, and then a voice that is certainly not Tennessee's speaks. "Ee-eye. You help daddy."

Eli sits up, brow furrowing. "Tallulah?" You help daddy. A little bolt of fear darts through him. "What's going on? Are you okay? How come you're on daddy's phone?"

Tallulah sniffles a bit, as if she's been crying. "Help daddy, okay? He be mean to daddy."

Eli slides off the edge of his bed, crossing his room and sliding his feet into his abandoned shoes. He reaches for his coat. "Who? Who's being mean to daddy? Where are you, sweetheart?" He's crossing his apartment, heading to the door. He grabs his keys on the way out.

"At... daddy's," Tallulah says, and then starts to cry again. She tries to force the bedroom door open, shaking the handle desperately. "Man be mean to daddy. Won' lemme out. Lemme out. Wan help daddy."

Panic. Someone's hurting Tennessee. Someone's hurting Tallulah. Eli's running down the hall to the elevator, jamming at the button. Faster, faster. "No. Tallulah, baby girl, listen, okay? You need to stay where you are. I'm going to be there really really soon. I'm going to help daddy, but I need you to stay where you are."

"He hit daddy," Tallulah sobs. "Ee-eye, help daddy. Mama say daddy gon' die."

On the elevator now. "I'm gonna help daddy. Daddy's not gonna die, okay? Not as long as he has me and you, kiddo." His stomach is seething. His chest feels tight. He sprints out of the elevator as soon as the doors open and signals to the guards to have his car brought around. "Are you staying where you are? Sit down okay? Can you sit down somewhere?" He's outside, waiting for his car. "Hey, sweetheart, what's your favorite color?"

Tallulah sniffles again, whimpering a bit. "Pink," she says, on a pout. "I sit down, Ee-eye. You come fast. Daddy yellin'."

"I'm coming really really fast." His car pulls up and the valet gets out of the driver's seat. Eli slides in and slams the door. He barely looks before he peels away from the curb, heading toward Tennessee's place. "My favorite color is red. Why... why do you like pink? What's your favorite pink thing?" He's trying to keep her distracted. And himself.

"Barbie," Tallulah says, sounding a bit more relaxed. "Daddy gimme Barbie. She got hair like Lulu. Ee-eye daddy sweetheart."

"Yeah, baby," he murmurs. He chews on his lip and turns a corner a bit too fast. Someone honks at him. He glances in his rear-view mirror. "I'm daddy's sweetheart." He swallows hard, hand tight around the wheel. "So your Barbie has hair like you? Bet it's not as pretty. You're the prettiest girl." He barely even knows what he's saying. He runs a red light. More honking.

"Ee-eye, he wan' daddy money," Tallulah says, still sniffling. "Daddy ain' got money. He lock me up."

Money. Eli feels for his wallet automatically, taking his hand from the wheel. It's there in his pocket. He has money. "Lulu, I'm going to be there really really soon, okay? It's going to be okay. Don't cry, baby. Hey, do you know your ABCs? Do you want to sing them with me?" He takes another turn. Almost there.

"I know in Spanish," Tallulah tells him. "Daddy taugh' me. Ah, be, che, de... e, efe. Daddy teach me."

"Okay. Okay, let's say those. Say them with me, okay? Ah, be... what comes next?" He goes through the alphabet with her. His heart is pounding. What if he's too late. He finally pulls up in front of the liquor store and parks his car, turning it off. "Hey, guess what, Lulu? I'm here. I'm gonna come up the stairs, okay? I need to hang up with you so I can talk with daddy, but I'm coming right up the stairs."

"Okay," Tallulah says softly. "Help daddy, Ee-eye. I in daddy room." She hangs up, and when Eli comes in the door at the bottom of the stairs, he can hear a man shouting, but no response from Tennessee.

"Where the fuck is it?" Tennessee's door is open at the top of the stairs. He's just inside, slumped on the floor against the sofa, his face bleeding from the punches. He looks up when Eli comes to the door, and his eyes widen. He shakes his head. Trouble.

Eli swallows hard around the lump in his throat. He sees Tennessee shake his head, but he comes in anyway, slipping through the door. He wants to go to Tennessee immediately. He wants to sink to his knees next to him and kiss his bruises and wipe the blood off his face, but he doesn't. He clears his throat softly, getting the attention of the other man. The man who'd hurt him. His hands are curled into fists at his sides.

The man turns, and narrows his eyes. He's a pretty scary looking guy, and there's a gun tucked into the back of his pants. "Who the fuck are you?" he demands. He'd been rifling through the drawers of a desk in Tennessee's living room. "Get the fuck out of here."

Eli sees the gun. His hand is in his pocket, wrapped around his phone. He has 911 dialed, thumb poised over the call button. "How much?" he asks softly. He doesn't take his eyes away from the guy.

"Don't," Tennessee mumbles, his voice a bit hoarse.

"Shut the fuck up, Williams," the man snarls. He looks back to Eli, and smiles slowly. "Your friend here owes me quite a bit of money, thanks to a card game gone all wrong for him. He cheated me, y'see. Out of four hundred dollars."

Jesus. It's better than four thousand, but Eli doesn't have four hundred dollars on him. "I... can give you two hundred today. The rest tomorrow." It's so hard not to look at Tennessee.

"Mm. I'm not falling for that shit," the man says, laughing slightly. "You don't have it, and he doesn't have it. Makes me think I'm going to have to take something else," he smirks, glancing towards the bedroom door, kept shut with a chair.

Something hot and furious rises up in Eli's chest. He moves, moving between the man and the bedroom door. He'll have to kill him first. Eli takes out his wallet without taking his eyes off of the man, reaching in and pulling out some cash. One hundred, a fifty, some twenties, a couple fives and ones. He takes off his watch. A gift from his brother for Christmas. He holds them all out to him.

The man moves in and snatches the watch from Eli, narrowing his eyes at it. It's clearly a nice watch. He seems to think it a fair enough bargain, because he pockets it and the money, and then glances over at Tennessee. "I better not see you in my bar again," he says, and then walks out of the apartment.

Hardly four hundred dollars. Probably more like two thousand, really. Eli doesn't care. He doesn't even fucking care. He turns, pulling the chair away from the doorknob, and pushes the door open. "Lulu, sweetheart, you can come out." It hardly even sound like his voice. He turns numbly and walks to the door, shutting it against the cold. He rests his forehead against it.

Tallulah comes out slowly, her face wet with her tears. She doesn't appear hurt, at least. Tennessee is very beat up, though, sitting on the floor by the sofa. "Lulu, baby," he says, in his hoarse voice. She goes to Eli instead of him, though she doesn't take her eyes off of Tennessee. She tugs on the hem of Eli's shirt.

"Daddy hurt," she says.

He slides the door lock into place and sniffles. His eyes are a little too bright when he looks down at Tallulah. "I know, baby. I'm gonna fix it, okay?" He reaches down and tousles her curls, then moves past her to the bathroom. He doesn't look at Tennessee as he walks past him. He comes back out with some towels and damp washcloths and kneels down beside him.

Tennessee turns his face to Eli, lifting a hand to touch his cheek. "Hey, freckles," he murmurs. "Think you saved my life or somethin'. 'Least merits a real good kiss."

Eli swallows around the lump in his throat, blinking. He shrugs away from Tennessee's hand gently, raising his too-bright eyes to his and lifting a damp wash cloth to gently dab at the blood on his face. "I think you need stitches." It's barely above a whisper.

Tennessee shakes his head and closes his eyes. "Can't let my baby girl know I'm hurt," he whispers. "Tell her I'm just fine. She ain't gota be scared."

"She's already scared," he whispers back. "Because some big scary guy with a gun came in and locked her in your bedroom and beat the shit out of you." He dabs at a cut and sits back on his heels. "You need to go to the hospital."

"I'm a real bad father," he says quietly. "I'm real... real bad. I wanna be good for her so damn bad, but I'm no good."

Eli is so angry. He's angry at the man, he's angry at Tennessee for giving him a reason to come. He's angry for himself for even caring. He gets to his feet, dropping the washcloth, and walks over to Tallulah. "Hey, do you want to go grab some toys? We've got to go on a little trip to the doctor, okay? Daddy's gonna be just fine, he just needs some bandaids."

Tallulah nods, and she shuffles to the bedroom and gets a stuffed dog, hugging it to her chest. She's wearing a pink dress with white polka-dots, and she goes to Eli and reaches up, wanting to be held.

Eli crouches down to her level. "Do you have a coat? Can you go get it for me? Don't want you to freeze your pretty curls off." He reaches up and tugs on one of her curls, letting it loose, then turns his attention to Tennessee. He goes over to him and stands up, holding his hand down to him. "Come on."

Tallulah goes to get her coat, and comes back struggling into it. Tennessee takes Eli's hand and stands, clearly not in shape to walk on his own. He sways a bit, leaning into Eli. Tallulah grabs onto the hem of his shirt, and it's clear they're both dependent on him currently.

Eli wraps one arm around Tennessee and takes Tallulah's hand with his other hand, leading them both slowly to the door. He lets go of Tallulah's hand to open the door and then takes her hand again as they walk through. He shuts the door. Leads them down the stairs. He doesn't know whether to laugh or cry or scream.

"Ain't you sweet," Tennessee mumbles, and nuzzles at Eli's ear, getting blood in his hair. "An' awful pretty. Think I'm gona keep you." He's incoherent, and Tallulah is sniffling into her stuffed dog.

Eli closes his eyes briefly at the nuzzle, then opens them again. He leads them out to his car, where some ratty-looking kid is leaning up against it looking tough. Eli glares at him and he skitters away, glancing back at them. The rich boy with the gigantic, bleeding guy and the little blonde girl. What a mess. He leans Tennessee up against the car and opens the passenger door, pulling his seat forward and helping Tallulah into the back. He buckles her up. "You stay good and buckled up, okay?" He bops her on the head with her stuffed dog and hands it back to her, then puts the seat back into place and helps Tennessee in. He shuts the door. Circles around to the driver's side. He slides in and starts the car, pulling away and heading in the direction of the hospital without saying anything to Tennessee.

Tallulah sniffles in the back seat, and Tennessee is mostly on the verge of passing out. He can hear her sniffles though, and he turns his head towards the back seat and starts to sing. "You're my blue sky, you're my sunny day..."

The hospital isn't all that far from Tennessee's apartment, but it's still further than Eli wants it to be. He glares at the red lights that stop him, flips off a driver who dares to honk at him. He doesn't know whether he wants to punch Tennessee in the face or kiss him all better. He listens to him sing, glances over at him-- the darkening bruises on his face, the thick blood. His throat tightens and he shakes his head. He doesn't know how to feel. He doesn't know whether he should have a crush on the rough, reckless cowboy or the sweet, singing father, and he doesn't know how to reconcile the two. He finds himself singing along absently, barely making a sound-- "Lord you know it makes me high when you turn your love my way. Turn your love my way..."

"Lookit, freckles knows your song, baby," Tennessee murmurs, looking over at Eli. "Tha's 'cause you're my sweetheart, ain't ya, darlin'?"

Eli glances over at Tennessee. The look lingers for longer than he means it to, and he nods, looking back out the windshield. "That's 'cause I'm your sweetheart." He reaches over for Tennessee's hand.

Tennessee's rough thumb smoothes over Eli's hand, and he closes his eyes, his face turned towards Eli. "Awful pretty, darlin'," he mumbles, slipping into unconsciousness.

Eli looks over at him again. "Hey." He shakes the hand he's holding, then reaches up and pushes on Tennessee's shoulder. "Stay awake. Stay awake, Tennessee." He might have a concussion, and Eli knows that means he's not supposed to sleep. "We're almost there, baby. Just stay awake a few more minutes, okay?"

Tennessee nods, cracking his light eyes open. "M'wake," he mumbles. "M'wake, goldielocks." Just barely. Tallulah sniffles in the back seat again, hugging her stuffed dog.

"Daddy gon' be okay, Ee-eye?" Tallulah asks, a bit watery.

"Yep, Lulu. He's gonna be just fine. He just needs some bandaids." Eli takes Tennessee's hand again, squeezing it and shaking it every now and again to make sure he stays awake. They arrive at the hospital before too long. Eli pulls right up to the front, doesn't bother with parking in the parking lot. They can tow his car if they damn well please. He lets go of Tennessee's hand and gets out of the car, circling around to open Tennessee's door. He stoops and slides his arms under Tennessee's arms, pulling him out of the car. "C'mon, Tennessee." He wraps one arm around him to keep him upright and flips the seat forward with his other hand. "Okay, Lulu. We're here. Can you unbuckle yourself and get out?"

Tallulah nods, her long curls a bit tangled, and struggles momentarily with the seatbelt. She climbs out, reaching out for the hem of Eli's shirt, hanging on. Tennessee leans on Eli, his eyes keep sinking closed and then flashing open again as he fights off unconsciousness.

Eli shuts the door with his foot and walks through the sliding doors of the ER, staggering a bit under Eli's weight. He walks up to the triage station, reaching down to take Tallulah's hand and waits until the nurse at the station looks up. Eli has Tennessee's blood in his hair. He looks a little ashen. "Help," he says softly.

The nurse's eyes widen and she shouts for some help from the back. A moment later, a male nurse comes out with a wheelchair, pulling Tennessee away from Eli and sitting him down in it. Eli reaches down and picks up Tallulah, holding her on his hip.

Tallulah holds on tight to Eli, sniffling, her face wet and her nose red from crying. Tennessee looks up at her, and lifts a hand to blow her a kiss. "I'm gon' be fine, darlin'," Tennessee mumbles. The nurse starts wheeling Tennessee into one of the rooms down the hall, telling Eli that he can wait in the hall or in the lobby of the ER, and that a nurse will find him once they've treated Tennessee.

"Les' wait by daddy," Tallulah says softly, whispering to Eli. She cups her hand to Eli's ear, and murmurs. "He don' like doctors, he gon' get mean."

"We'll wait in the hall," he tells the nurse, who nods. Eli hitches Tallulah up on his hip and follows to the room where the nurse had taken Tennessee. He lingers outside the open door, looking in, his eyes locked on Tennessee, barely hearing anything the nurses are saying. He sways slightly, rocking Tallulah.

Tallulah watches Tennessee too, her arms wrapped around Eli's neck. Her hands are clammy, and she pulls one arm off to wipe her nose on her sleeve. "Mama say daddy gon' die, jus' like him daddy. Mama say daddy no good."

Eli shakes his head. "Daddy's not gonna die, Tallulah. Not for a really really really long time." His voice is soft, almost absent-sounding. He pulls his eyes away from Tennessee to look at Tallulah. "Do you think daddy's no good?"

Tallulah shakes her head, her fingers curling into Eli's shirt at his shoulder. "I like daddy best. Don't tell mama. And I like Ee-Eye better than mama's sweetheart."

Eli smiles faintly at her, reaching up with one hand to tousle her hair a bit. He kisses her cheek gently and then looks back at Tennessee. His view is interrupted every now and again by a nurse crossing in front of him as they wash the blood from Tennessee's face, but Eli doesn't take his eyes away. "You're my blue sky, you're my sunny day," he sings softly. "Lord, you know it makes me high when you turn your love my way..."

Tallulah leans her cheek on Eli's shoulder and closes her eyes, her cheeks stained from her tears. With Eli's soft singing and gentle swaying, she slips into sleep in his arms, curled up against his shoulders. In the room, they wrap Tennessee's sprained wrist in a brace and give him stitches along the left side of his brow and his jaw. They clean him up, and then one of the nurses comes to the door. She speaks quietly, so as not to wake Tallulah.

"We're sending him to a room upstairs. We'll keep him overnight, keep an eye on him," the nurse says. "You can stay, or take her home and come back tomorrow morning. It's best for him to rest."

Eli nods. "I'll stay." His arm aches from holding Tallulah up, but he doesn't let go of her. He doesn't stop rocking her. "Can we stay in his room? I'm sure she'll sleep for most of the night, and I'll be quiet. We won't wake him."

The nurse nods, smiling at the sleeping girl and then back at Eli. "Yes, of course. I'll have someone bring you blankets and pillows," she says. She steps out of the way as the other nurses wheel Tennessee out, heading towards the elevator. They lead Eli to the room, lay Tennessee in the bed and bring in blankets and pillows for Eli. There's a cozy-looking armchair in the room, and a smaller chair near Tennessee's bed. "Just call us if you need anything," she tells Eli.

Eli nods and smiles faintly at the nurse, then looks back at Tennessee lying on the bed. He turns away, walking over to the armchair to lay Tallulah down. He tucks a pillow under her head and pulls a blanket over her, tucking it snugly around her. He smoothes her hair and then walks over to the chair next to the bed. He pulls it close and sits down, watching Tennessee. Settling in. Turn your love my way. He won't be sleeping tonight.



* * *




Tennessee stirs slowly, early the next morning. Tallulah is still fast asleep, curled up on the armchair. He opens his eyes slowly, narrowing them and looking around. "Fuck..." He pushes up onto his elbows, and then looks over at Eli. "What..." He lifts a hand and touches his sore face. "Did... you take me here?"

Eli jerks upright as soon as he hears Tennessee move. His arm is tingling from being held upright for so long and his cheek is flushed from resting against his fist. He's been dozing off and on, snapping awake whenever his head starts to nod. His mouth is dry, eyes bloodshot and bleary from lack of sleep. He clears his throat and brushes his wrist under his nose. "Yeah." His voice is rough, crackly.

Tennessee clears his throat and lays back down, seeming pacified by that. He nods, looking at Eli. "Lookit you, darlin'. Didn't get no sleep in that chair." He looks over at Tallulah in the armchair, and then shifts his heavy body over, making room on the bed. "C'mere, get a little shut-eye."

Eli toes his shoes off and stands, sliding onto the bed and slipping under the covers. There's not much room. He's turned on his side, pressed against Tennessee's side. He slides an arm carefully over his stomach. "Wanted to make sure you were okay. How are you feeling?"

"Mm, like a busted-up old bastard," Tennessee smirks, and leans in to press a kiss to Eli's lips. "Thanks for takin' care of me, darlin'. An' my baby girl." He glances towards Tallulah. "How's she doin'?"

"She's fine. She woke up a couple of hours ago and started crying, but it was just..." He yawns. "Just 'cause she had to go to the bathroom." Eli's eyes drift closed-- stay closed for longer than he means for them to. He pulls them open with some effort. "She's tough. Like her daddy. Kiss me again?"

Tennessee nods, leaning in for a longer kiss, one with more substance. He feels good. Besides the fact that his whole body aches. Eli is... Tennessee doesn't know what he is, but this kiss is excellent. His lips kiss off after a bit, but he keeps his face close. "I did real wrong by her. 'Cause I ain't no good. He coulda' hurt her."

Eli rolls a bit, half-laying on top of Tennessee, curving one leg across his and tucking his head against his shoulder. "Let me know if I hurt you," he mumbles. He sniffles a bit. "You just... you need to be more careful. You can't just... you got people to think about, you know?" It's all a bit slurred, sleepy. "You gotta be careful with yourself."

Tennessee nods, his arm wrapped around Eli. He kisses the top of his head, his hand moving under Eli's shirt, resting against his bare side. "What are we?" he whispers. "You an' me?"

Eli's sinking into sleep too quickly. He pulls himself out of it with a deep breath and lifts his head, looking at Tennessee with boyish, tired eyes. They're just fucking around. Just having a good time. But Eli had spent the night in the hospital next to his bed, had held his little girl and tucked her into bed, had waited all night to be able to crawl onto the bed and curl up next to him. He shakes his head. "I don't know."

"Neither do I," Tennessee says quietly. "But I like it." His thumb brushes against Eli's skin on his side, and he closes his own eyes. "You get some sleep now, goldielocks," he murmurs.

Eli nods. He leans in and kisses the corner of Tennessee's mouth gently, then settles against him again, curling up and finally allowing himself to drift off to sleep, lulled by the steady rhythm of Tennessee's heartbeat.