He heard the footsteps coming up behind him long before she spoke, her heels clicking on the wood again. He thought she'd forgotten about him by now - everyone else in the world had - so why not her, too? He took a long drag off his smoke and flicked the butt into the water below. There was a time he never would've dreamt of doing that, but the world had screwed him, so screw the world.
Mally sat down next to him.
He glanced at her, then looked away, back to the water.
She dropped a paper bag on his lap.
"What's that?" he asked, looking at it as though it could contain a bomb.
He stared at her uncertainly, then leaned back from the edge of the pier, using his hands to drag his body back a few feet, so only the ends of his legs stuck out over the edge now. She watched as he unrolled the folded over top of the bag and peered inside. He looked up at her.
"You can use my shower," she said, "And my bathroom mirror."
He looked back into the bag at the package of razors, deodorant stick, bar of soap and a bottle of Axe body spray.
He looked up at her again. "Why are you being nice to me?" he asked.
Mally shrugged, "Not everyone in the world is mean you know."
He felt like he'd literally forgotten that fact. It seemed like everyone had been mean to him for the past four years. Ever since...
He rubbed his neck.
"Are you sure you want a dirty old shitbag like me at your house?" he asked. He laughed, but it wasn't a joke. Nor was it really funny. He was serious.
Mally nodded. "I'm sure."
Nick stared down at the stuff in the bag again. "Thanks," he said.
He held a pair of orange handled scissors in his hand and looked down at the beard. He ran his hands over it, like it was a pet he was about to kill. Thoughts of the last scene of Old Yeller went through his head. He locked his fingers in the end of it, tugged it out at full length away from his chin and held up the scissors. He closed his eyes.
Almost a foot of frizzy, matted, dirty hair hung from his hand, and quite a bit still remained hanging from his face. He hadn't realized it'd been that long since he'd shaved. Now he felt even more out of touch with reality, as though every inch of hair he had hanging off his face was representative of another failure.
He trimmed as much as he could with the scissors, getting the blades of the scissors as close to his face as he dared, until the cold metal scraped his cheeks and all that remained was a thick layer of stubble and mess.
Nick stared into the mirror in disbelief. The hair off his head, too, was long and matted and dirty and hung in limp clumps, like it had made itself into weather-beaten dreadlocks. He scowled and quickly lifted up a lump of that, too, shearing it off. Hair fell around his ankles like crazy. It looked like a littler of yellow labrador retrievers had collected at his feet on the towel he'd laid down to collect the mess.
It took a long time, a lot of work and wincing and pulling, but eventually he was staring at himself, stubbled and a horribly uneven hair cut, but it was him - Nick; no longer the blonde Hagrid that he'd been staring at.
"How's it coming in there?" called Mally through the door.
Nick stared at himself in the mirror. "Yeah," he said, because he didn't know what else to say. He couldn't really say 'good'. It just was.
"Are you hungry?"
Always. "Yeah," he said again.
"Okay. Well I'm going to make macaroni and cheese. Do you like macaroni and cheese?"
It reminded him of Brian. It made his heart ache. Made him want to throw up with incredible desire to cry. He took a deep breath. "Yeah," he answered.
"Okay. I'll do that, it'll be ready by the time you take a shower."
He didn't reply to that, but he heard her walk away from the door anyways so he didn't have to.
He ran a hand across his cheeks and down over his jaw bone to his neck.
His fucking neck.
He looked down at the mess and then back up at himself. His head felt lighter, and that was because he'd cut off all that heavy, crappy looking hair. He rolled the towel up and slid it into a trash bag he'd found under the sink.
The shower water felt amazing, he'd turned it on to super hot and let it soak over him. The white tile of the tub below turned a strange shade of brownish grey as the dirt rolled off his back and he watched his skin turn pink, a transformation that was shocking to him because he'd never noticed how dirty he was getting as it was happening. But now that the layers were washing away, and he saw what was underneath, he realized how bad it'd been. The soap sudded up on his skin and he rubbed it in, trying to erase the horrendous smell that had gagged people and made them choke and make fun of him and whisper behind his back. He rubbed it so hard under his arm pits that they ached by the time he was done, and he strained to reach his back, to scrub along the length of his KAOS tattoo.
When he was satisfied that he no longer smelled like crap, he ran a small drop of shampoo over the hair on his head and face.
He'd kept some of the hair on his face, not wanting to be completely clean shaven in fear that he'd be recognized.
When the water started to run cold, he frowned, not wanting the shower to end, and turned off the tap with a sigh. The water dripped away. He climbed out of the cubical and wrapped a towel around him. It was soft.
He dried himself off and looked at his dirty clothes in a crumpled pile by the door. He sighed and pulled them on, fairly certain that if he had successfully washed away the smell in the shower, the clothes were going to bring it right back. He looked in the mirror.
Mally knocked on the door, "The food's ready whenever you're done."
He grabbed the knob and pulled it opened.
The moment her eyes landed on him, Mally dropped the ladle she was holding and it clattered on the floor at her feet.
They faced each other for a long moment.
"Oh my God," whispered Mally.