Part 31

Sep. 26th, 2006 08:32 pm
[identity profile] posting in [community profile] if_i_trace
Leaving isn't necessarily the easy part.


Keiran was still standing beside Tessa, his hand on the open door, when reality shattered.

Tam... He turned -- blindly, instinctively -- knowing the distance was too great and steadily increasing.

oh Ran

oh god i'm sorry....


The world tipped as his anchor was torn away and he flailed both hands out blindly, barely feeling the pain as he banged his hand against the edge of Tessa's door. There was no stable ground beneath him; everything was shifting, whirling, dissolving around him. He trembled like a leaf, curling in on himself slowly until he bumped into Tessa again and managed to fall gracelessly onto the driver's seat.


It hurt too much to cry, hurt too much to breathe... everything was shattering, broken shards caught in a whirlwind around him.

Tessa cooed. The sound vibrated along his bones, and he grabbed for it, for the wave of solidity amid the chaos. Fumbling, he managed to close the door and get the engine started before slumping against the steering wheel.


The wyvern sat idling, waiting. But when Keiran didn't respond to her increasingly concerned sounds, it was Tessa who shifted the engine into gear and rolled slowly toward the garage door. It took her a moment to decipher the radio frequency to talk to the door, but then it was rolling up, out of the way, and she pulled out onto the road.

Keiran was hurting. Deep hurt. And there was only one person Tessa knew that could help.

She darkened the tint on the windows, hiding Keiran from the world, and headed for the highway.

Even if the cops had still been looking for a silver-white Wyvern, they wouldn't have caught her. She was a streak of light on the highway, miles blurring by beneath her wheels as she headed back to a place that felt more like home for both of them.


It was nearly three hours later when Tessa arrived in the small coastal town, retreat of rich retirees and tourists, where Kieran and Tamsin had grown up. She passed by the road to Dr. McCullach Sr.'s house on the hill without even slowing, continuing on half a mile (it had been a quick bike ride for a boy) to a small cottage where a black man named Aaron Davies had been running a pottery shop for most of the past twelve years.

The cottage had been an unlikely regular haunt for Keiran McCullach as he was growing up. Despite their vast differences in age, experience and perspective on life, Aaron and Keiran had become friends. As time passed, Aaron had quietly encouraged Keiran to build an identity and a life for himself that was not completely subsumed by being Tamsin's twin. This never sat well with Tamsin, though he never could quite bring himself to ruin Aaron's reputation as utterly as he could have. He knew Keiran would never have forgiven him and his twin mattered more than anything in the world. In turn, Aaron had been wary of Tamsin's possessivness of Keiran, but had extended offers of friendship to Tamsin nonetheless. They had never established more than an uneasy truce, however, despite the bond between Keiran and Aaron.

Tonight, Aaron hadn't been able to sleep; haunted by a restless, nameless unease. When he heard the sound of tires crunching on the gravel of his driveway, it was almost with relief that he rose and went to the door.

He recognized the car, of course. Since its inception, Keiran had rarely travelled in anything other than the wyvern, and had usually driven it to visit Aaron on those few occasions when he'd made time away from his research. But it was the middle of the night -- or ridiculously early in the morning, depending on how you wanted to look at it -- and Tessa had pulled in the driveway by only the dim orange glow of her foglights.

Standing by the door, Aaron waited. Every passing moment added a disproporionately heavy weight to the night. It was unlike Keiran to sit in the car so long. Perhaps he was on the phone, or gathering his belongings, but....

Aaron's hand rose, pushing open the screen door as the wyvern's driver finally emerged. He couldn't see Keiran's face in the dark, but he could see that Keiran was paler than he should have been.

Ghostly, he thought, and his heart thudded heavy and dull against his ribs.

Keiran wove across the short distance like a drunken man, unsteady and halting as a colt testing its legs for the first time. Aaron waited, door held open, while the young man stumbled his way up the steps.

When he could finally see Keiran's eyes, he didn't need the words of explanation that Keiran couldn't speak anyway. There was only one word to describe it -- broken -- and there was only one thing that could have caused it.

Deeply ingrained habit got them both indoors, out of sight, before Keiran collapsed against him. It was overwhelming, after so many years, to suddenly be engulfed with touch so long denied. There had always been so many reasons to keep their distance: the difference in their ages; the propriety of a small overwhelmingly white town; even the uncertainty of Aaron's own health in the first years after they'd met, so soon after his diagnosis, and the doctors' uncertainty about how contagious his condition was. He had to focus on his own breathing, struggling for a moment to be the strength Keiran needed to lean against.

This was not the kind of separation he had ever wished for the twins, not through all the years of quietly encouraging Keiran to live his own life.

He did not bother to offer soothing, hollow words. They wouldn't have been heard over Keiran's ragged sobs regardless, but he would not offer false comfort. Instead, he coaxed Keiran over to the couch, letting the young man cling to him and cry like the lost child he was until exhaustion claimed Keiran and he fell into an uneasy sleep.


When Keiran awoke a few hours later, the cottage was dark and quiet. Rubbing sleep from his eyes, he made his way to the kitchen, where a single candle burned. Aaron was sitting at the kitchen table, hands wrapped around a teacup. Sinking down onto the other chair, Keiran watched as Aaron poured tea from the pot into a second cup and passed it to him. He accepted it with a nod, cradling the warm cup in his palms.

They sat that way, sipping tea in silence, until Keiran had finished his.

"I can't be here," he said quietly.

Aaron didn't reply.

"I... whatever trouble... the cops.... I can't..."

"Breathe," Aaron murmured.

Keiran's knuckles were white around the teacup. He set it down, carefully, and laced his fingers together on the table in front of him. Fixing his gaze on his hands, he took one deep breath and another shallow one. "I can't be here," he repeated absently, as if reminding himself. "They can't think I ran away... I should... I can't... I shouldn't have come here."


He glanced up, met Aaron's weary, deeply understanding gaze reluctantly.

"You are strong enough to get through this."

He tilted his head to one side, trying to sort sense into the phrase. "Alone," he said finally. His voice sounded hollow and childish.

"You're not alone," Aaron countered, gently.

Keiran took a deep breath, scrubbed one hand across his face. "Only in the way that matters most."

"You can live without him. You have been."

"It's not the same," Keiran began. Hearing the whiny tones in his own voice, he checked the words and took a shaky breath. "I knew where he was. I could have... could have gone... why didn't I? Why did he have to be such an idiot...."

Tears burned in the corners of his eyes and he rubbed them with his knuckles, harder than he needed to. "Damnit, Tam..." he whispered. Folding his arms on the tabletop, he rested his forehead on them. "It's like I forget how to breathe without him," he said, words muffled by the curve of his arms. "I can't deal with this... mess."

"You have lawyers to deal with his mess and keep it from becoming yours. You can get through this."

Keiran tilted his head sideways enough that he could peer at Aaron. "I want to run away."

Aaron's gaze was calmly implacable. "Run away after you make arrangements. Don't make this harder than it is."

Keiran sighed and closed his eyes again. "I don't want to...."

"Don't be so selfish," Aaron said, earning a sudden sharp scowl from Keiran. "The wyverns," he reminded him, and only Aaron had the right, the authority, the knowledge of their secret to demand Keiran not betray them. Only he knew them as intimately as Keiran did.

Keiran's momentary anger dissolved at that. "Oh. Calder...." He couldn't afford to give the government any reason to investigate his research. Couldn't risk having them uncover the full details of what he'd done to make the hybrids live as fully as they did. Couldn't jeopardize Aaron's life like that.

Cold fear clenched his stomach and he pushed himself upright, professional mask settling over him easily but not comfortably. "You're right, of course," he replied. "I need to take care of them."

Aaron nodded slightly. "You'll find something worth living for, until you can live for yourself."

His fragile self-control almost shattered again at that, but he forced the pain down with a deep, careful breath. "I... can't promise that," he whispered.

"I'm not asking you to promise," Aaron corrected mildly. "Do what you have to, but try not to get lost."

"I'll try," Keiran said.


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