Garrick took a drink of the hot drink Keiran prepared for him. Red tea with a hint of vanilla. His evident smile widened. He was getting better at this.
Mug in one hand and pen in the other, the blond man returned to work. Back to the old grind. He thought optimistically. Having been away from home for so long, his return reinvigorated his focus. Strange, how a change in scenery can broaden a perspective.
When he paused to rest his hand, Garrick checked at the spoils of his labor. Still a few files to go, yet small as it seemed, he couldn't help but smile at the accomplishment. Man, it's really piled up. Guess I should take them in to Keiran soon…
His focus – and stomach – veered. He drove his eyes into his workload, face burning, and thinking hard to himself. Every freakin' time, that feeling comes back and messes with my head. How I kissed him like that, how he felt, I-
Quietly, Sylas stood in the doorframe, looking on at Garrick. "Keiran wants you." He chose ignorance of the mindreading he just overheard and played the role of the unquestioning messenger.
Feeling utterly interrupted, the man scrambled for words to regain his flustered composure, "What does he want?"
"I assure you, I don't know."
Garrick rolled his bottom lip in, giving it a nip while he contemplated abandoning his nearly-finished assignments. And perhaps more importantly, his tea. "Huh. Probably a travel mission, then. I'll see what's up." He slid his chair out from under his desk, rising sloppily, but didn't yet walk away. It's hot.
His tea. With an open palm, stretched fingers, and a little burst of fixated energy, Garrick decided to add a few ice cubes to his teacup. Gently, he reached to pick it up –ice cubes floating and clinking about – then he took a sip.
Sylas said nothing, but gave him a look as ever a Sylas could.
"Was getting cold anyways, and I'm in the mood for somethin' iced." Garrick innocently gave reason, but his grin gave it away.
"Don't keep him waiting. And your spell-casting… needs work. I'll have to give you more training if you get out of Keiran's office in a timely fashion." Troubling the other man no longer, Sylas turned and curtly exited the room.
A day-worn Treyston sat down across his partner at the table. Unwinding, he peered over at Cade, who attended his own business but with a strange, meaningful grin. This initiated a smirk from Treyston, who just had to ask, "Aren't you all excited. What's with that face?"
"Found this gig that'll make me filthy rich, that's what."
"And did this job come from the board across town?"
"Hmm," The mercenary rocked his feet back and forth under the table. "Maybe, maybe not."
Treyston's face squinted. Not the answer he wanted to hear, apparently. "Those jobs have shady and rip-off written all over them. I don't care how much they'd pay me."
When Treyston got up to retire, Cade stayed behind to set his plan in stone, It'll get me my plane, and that's all there is to it. Quick 'n painless.
"Ahh, Garrick, excellent! Come in, come in!" Keiran coaxed his subordinate loudly from the other side of the massive office. With pinky finger and weaker fingers curled in elegantly, twirling his hand about its wrist for effect, he said, "You must be working quite diligently; I haven't had a chance to see you lately! How are things?"
When Garrick drew closer to deliver his completed workload, Keiran took the papers graciously, set them aside, and then went shuffling through some less-than-neat papers of his own.
The blond responded with a "fine, good, fine" before cutting straight to the chase, "So, where are you sending me this time?"
"Oh, it's nothing major. But there's this particular town that's been driving me absolutely bonkers lately. Here, take a gander." Keiran pulled a specified sheet and handed it up to Garrick, who set down his cup of iced tea to look.
He hadn't read a single word, but the picture of a small map on the page made his eyes burn and sent a strong jolt to his memory. Cade's old hometown? Wow, how long has it been? Two years, Earth time? Feeling Keiran's eyes pressing his, he turned, brows knotting.
"This town was hit hard by the… drought that happened, and the well is emptying. I was thinking to cause a major storm there, but as you can see about – here, on the map – I don't want it to flood the smaller population. I'll have it rain, but I'm thinking some instant gratification is in order. And I believe this would be an excellent opportunity for you to get a better handle on your magic. Sylas has been good to you, I hope?"
"Er, he's great."
"Excellent. Well, then. Off you go." And with that, Keiran resumed to paperwork.
To Garrick, it was strange. To be dismissed just like that. Yet, it was all the more strange that he anticipated more. He stood still a moment, then swallowed, "Ohh, and Keiran, um-"
"Strictly business?" Keiran looked up at him, displaying a smile. He knew. But it was an interesting way to show it, or so Garrick thought.
The man agonized, "Fine. It's just- I-I dunno, it's been a while of us just… dancin' around each other like this-" Ahh hell, wish I could say all this without gettin' red in the face. The more he thought about it, the harder his heart pounded.
Garrick wished he hadn't seen the soft expression growing on the other's face. In a second, the eager man suddenly stood from his chair and brought his palm along Garrick's jaw, using his thumb to rub the eminent blush along his cheeks. Keiran came forward, and in the same moment, Garrick gave into a soft kiss.
It was like reliving their first time. The moment was brief, chaste, but Garrick lost himself in the warm contact that rang against his lips and enveloped his chest. He lost his breath as he had before. But this time, there was no confusion to hinder him. He wanted this?
Sincerely, tenderly, Keiran pulled away, and Garrick opened his eyes. Keiran's face lit a smile, but before retreating his hand, he toyed with the other's blond locks. "I'm so glad. I feel like the most special man on, well, Earth, I suppose the phrase would go."
Reacquainting himself with his surroundings, Garrick let go of Keiran's shoulders and released himself of the grip around his waist – had he really gone and held him like that? "But there's work to do, right, and I'll get it done. Oh yeah, and you don't mind if I make a detour while I'm down there, do you?"
With a bounce in his step, Keiran whirled back to his desk. "You can do whatever you'd like, darling. I trust you'll see the mission through, so I don't care what you do during your breaks."
"Treyston, can I talk to you a sec? 'S really important." Cade had only just returned, and the moment his eyes caught his partner dining, he dropped his bag and jacket to the ground and began to speak.
It certainly seemed important by that anxious look on his face. "What is it?"
"I have enough for my plane. 'N they're offerin' me flight schoolin' if I make the trip. I… might have t' go."
What? Just like that? Treyston was certainly caught off-guard, but he played it off as coolly as he could manage, "Hey, that's good news! I'm happy for you."
"No, wait, aren't you- um." Cade struggled and swayed for quick words. By that look in his eyes, it was clear that he had something in mind. Something big. "I mean, I want you to come with."
"…Look," It was Treyston's turn to find the right words. Though he tried, he couldn't place them. Not after such a confession was made so… unexpectedly. And it wasn't as if Treyston misread Cade's intentions. "I don't really know what to say."
"Ahh, I know it's selfish, but-"
"…Say I agree. Then what? You get the plane, you take the lessons, but where would we live? What else would be out there for us, or for me? Cade-"
The bold man started to panic as his plan came crumbling apart. "Trey, we're mercenaries, for Gods' sakes! We go with the flow, that's how it's always been!"
Treyston said nothing. Taking a harsh, shaking breath, he got up from his seat – turning his back to Cade - to get something to drink. He needed water.
"You don't think I should go."
"I just want you to think, that's all."
If Treyston wanted it to end there, Cade would make sure it wouldn't happen this time. Carefully, he came around the table. While Treyston froze in place, feeling his presence, Cade leaned his head softly against his broad back. "Not sure I want to go, then. Not if it means leavin' you behind."
He had to finish this. "And I say you do what you want. You've wanted this for a while now; you shouldn't let feelings get in the way of that."
This startled Cade, as he hoped it would. He felt the head sink - caught and fearful of consequence - and lean deeper into him, Cade's shoulder pressing square in his back. "You… knew?"
"Had an idea, yeah." Quiet and removed. He let the words seep into the distance, choosing the far windowsill as his listener.
"Well, how do you feel about me? You fine with me goin' away like this? You don't care or nothin' if you'll ever see me again?"
Again, Treyston said nothing. Creaking floorboards beneath strong, fading footsteps assured him that was all the answer Cade needed. Instead of taking water, he reached for alcohol instead.
Arghhh, I can't believe I did that! A WEEK since I'd seen the guy, and I'm giving into him like he's got me in the palm of his hand! What's wrong with me?!
Amidst his lamentations, he trusted the direction of his heaven-sent phone to take him to his mission objective. Returning to that industrial warzone was like returning to a dream. He looked around and tried to recall things as he'd seen them before; the inn, the alleyway, the place they found Sylas… It all came back to him like a picture he held in his memory - though he still couldn't properly navigate through it.
But there was something darker about it this time around. Darker, drier, and there were times when dust would reach down his nostrils to raw at his lungs, forcing hard coughs.
He distinctly recalled this town's segregation between rich and poor. Back then, it struck a chord within him, but this time around, the difference was black and white. He moved on from cobblestone to dirt pathways. From green to decay. From uniformity to chaos. The people he passed by were few and far-between, but those that walked the streets wore masks - Garrick surmised, to help breathe.
At last, crunching along the dirt road, he stood before a quaint stone pit. The well. Here, he felt confident in his magic abilities; much more so than the last time he ventured to Earth.
He did as he was taught. Carefully collecting his thoughts and clearing his head, he pictured a strong rune, the one that Sylas showed him during lessons. He had it memorized, etched perfectly in the front of his mind until he channeled that energy into his arm, where his imagination and will strung together a precise flow of water from his palm.
His spell was weak still, but it offered just enough to continue a pour of rainwater from his hand and down into the well. Once the spell had been set, Garrick gazed down into the dusty hole in the ground, listening to the soft sound of his rain cast downwards, and watched the water rise slowly but surely. The Diviner cautiously looked around to make sure there were no passerbyers. He had to be careful when using his magic on Earth. Or at least, careful that he use it in moderation.
It's pretty amazing that I can do this. He thought to himself. I'd always thought it was just Keiran working his powers through me. But this time, I know it's me making it happen. Pretty amazing stuff.
Once the water level seemed sufficient, and Garrick's spell was beginning to die out, he took hold of a strong wooden board that lie beside the well and placed it on top of the formerly-hollowed pit. Taking one last glance around, Garrick stepped away and went off to sidetrack.
Direction was never Garrick's strong suit, but it still shocked him to find Cade and Treyston's former "hovel" empty. And not just empty, but sealed off with boards and concrete at the door.
His curiosity and nerves led him to his and Torrin's old house on the lake, hoping to find answers there. The house had been untouched, exactly as he painstakingly recalled it. Images of times better left forgotten exposed like apparitions before his eyes. The lake, the smells and sounds all strained his walk of purpose.
He approached the door - not caring to knock - and entered to an unfurnished, lifeless room. He called out regardless.
Abruptly, a clattering sound came from the room beside him. Garrick jumped and watched the doorway, imagining an animal that gained entry. But he eased the moment he saw a familiar face.
"Treyston!" Garrick would have gone and hugged him if the man wasn't freshly-showered and in a towel.
The taller male's face grew in amazement but managed composure, "Garrick? Wh-What are you- hold on, let me get some clothes on-" He retreated, hastily throwing on whatever article of clothing he could find. "I'm sorry about all this! Had I known you'd be coming, I would have prepared-"
"Don't worry about it!" Garrick cast his voice towards the shuffling figure in the other room. Had two years really gone by? Some things just never seem to change. He had to smile a bit at Treyston's predictably apologetic behavior. "It's my fault for coming unannounced. Shouldda given you fair warning."
"How have you been? How's the boy? Er, Torrin?"
"We're all doing fine! He's as good as new, and everything's starting to come together, which is great." He finished his sentence, and a more suitable Treyston returned to face him properly.
"Great, I'm glad to hear it. He had me worried for a while there." The clearly-taller man motioned his guest to sit in the quaint kitchen area. While Garrick made himself comfortable, Treyston got up to collect drinks. "I have water and alcohol, too, if you're interested."
Garrick was never much of a liquor drinker, but the occasion - and company - felt right.
When Treyston returned to the table, he popped open his can and handed Garrick his. "So what brings you here, angel? Did you get kicked out again?"
"Luckily, that's not the case this time. I just had something to take care of down here really quick, but thought I'd stop by to see you two. Was a pain to find you. Sounds like you did a bit of moving around then, huh?"
"Something like that."
"Speakin' of the little devil, what's he up to? I hope he hasn't been giving you too hard a time."
Treyston grew quiet. A silence that Garrick knew better than to play guessing games with. The man's eyes dropped to the table, and he took a hitched breath to calm something that plagued him on the inside. Garrick's eagerness caused him to mind-read, 'Little devil won't be giving me any more hard times since he's dead and gone.'
Guilt, shock, and disbelief. The Diviner of Fate felt all the icy emotion wash down him like a cold, winter shower. What?
"He was killed."
Garrick's heart squeezed until it suffocated. Dead? He was just getting started, had so much life…! But now it's all-?! He thought of Treyston. He wasn't sure how the tragedy happened, but he couldn't lose it in front of him now. "Treyston…"
"You know how… he always wanted that plane? Well, he got enough money for it. Did a job behind my back to get it, I know he did. He… asked me to go with him and stay with him while he studied out there… But I was selfish and scared, and I didn't know what to say, so I said what was easy and wrong, and I said no."
"So I left him. He took off. It was supposed to be for one year, but then another year went by, and I just figured that he moved on or something."
Treyston spoke listlessly. Like he had no more tears to cry. Torn raw. Garrick wanted to say something to comfort him, but words never felt so powerless.
"But then, he came back. After two years. Turns out, they gave him everything he wanted, but after that, they forced him to fight for their military. They used him and tricked him. He escaped after a year to come back to me. I-I'm an idiot for leaving him. He gets his first taste of freedom, with his plane, with me, and they take it all way. Even take his life, too, the self-centered-"
The man swallowed hard but continued, "He came back to me for only one night. And the next morning, they found his plane and took him away. He died in that plane. Even after I promised I'd never leave him again."
There was a heavy burden that overwhelmed the room. Garrick, for better or worse, finally decided to speak, "I'm so sorry. He was… really someone special."
"He always wondered what heaven looked like." Hope returned to Treyston's face as he leaned in against the table staring clear into Garrick's eyes. It was a manner that almost resembled his partner's; with enthusiasm and light burning. "You're here to tell me he's up there and doing fine, right? Tell him that he should never forgive me. Tell him to hate me. And tell him that I'll always love him, even if I'll never deserve it. Would you please do that for me?"
It all depended on him. On-the-spot, the Diviner of Fate started to plan, "I can."
Another warplane? Sounds close this time. The deep, tremoring sound of an aircraft was all-too-familiar to Treyston.
He hated flight. Useless to fantasize about a war machine, he thought. Useless to dream.
The noise and rumble got louder, closer. Alarmed now, Treyston rose from his seat at the table to look out his kitchen window. He watched it hovering around in midair, coming inland from the lake. It was landing nearby.
"Goddamnit," he cursed, quickly thinking out his options. Should he warn the town? He had his alarm on the table, and it's situations like these that they issue these to civilians… Or should he go into hiding again? Too soon to tell… He ducked under the sill, watched, and waited.
The plane looked smaller than usual. That solider has a death wish. To land in enemy territory solo with no backup. It was like a beacon, the way it stood out, even attempting to use the seaside cliff as cover. He'll be spotted by morning.
The plane sat dormant for a while, until one solider – the pilot – stepped out of the plane. "Just one?" He whispered incredulously. "What's he doing?"
Treyston watched the man trek from his plane, across the beach, and when he spotted the house, he started to come closer. But just when Treyston thought to reach for his alarm for invasion, something taut in his gut. I… I know that solider. And he ran to the door.
"Treyston. He's a beaut, isn't he? Pride and joy."
Treyston couldn't move anymore, couldn't speak. It had been two years of regrets, slow wounds that had scarred over. But all those wounds ripped right open again as he stared in disbelief at the boy – no, nearly a man - in front of him.
There was nothing more spellbinding than hearing his voice again. Why would that voice grace him, now and today? He was fighting the war? His uniform was cleaner yet unkempt. He stood a little different, bore a few new scars, and his blond hair was shaved. Even the way he walked had changed; strange of him to remember such things after all the time he neglected him, he thought to himself.
But something had changed him. Was it time? Could two years do that to someone like Cade? Though his dirty, freckled face seemed fatigued, it still bore that radiance of a soul lit on fire. No, he hadn't changed. But what had they done to him?
Noticing the way he was being watched, the blond youth spoke again, eyes shining and smirk widening like the cat that caught the canary, "You… Probably want some explanations. Or maybe you don't, fine, but if you're willin' to listen-"
"Cade." Just the name alone made Treyston realize how tight his throat had been. It came out weak and hoarse. "You - you know for two years, I thought… you'd made another life somewhere else. Found your calling."
"Not a life I chose for myself. And you didn't try looking for me, then?"
Guilt had eked its way out of Treyston's core, and his battered torment came rushing forth, "Who was I to do that? I didn't- don't deserve you anyway, after what I've-"
Cade's face furrowed, and he stepped closer. "Trey, don't-"
"Why would you come back like this?!"
"It… really should go without sayin', mate," he said with clear insinuation. Blunt, per usual; blunt force strong enough to force the other into surrender.
Treyston came forward to the other and entered the kiss already breathless.
At last, the inning Cade had been looking for. Finally able to lash out long-awaited desires, he responded quick and instinctive, encouraging the desperation with a fierce embrace and an even deepener kiss that sent blood coursing through his partner's body. They were so close, so pleasingly tight together, wrapped up in a mesh of swollen lips and hot breath.
Anticipation scorched as Treyston guided him to the edge of his bed. Awkwardly, yet voice hinted with soft laughter to accompany his grin, Cade leaned back but pulled Treyston by the shoulders down on top of him, urging him to take control. Bedsprings groaned under the sudden weight.
Panting wonderfully, they laid that way for a blessed moment; eyeing, craving, and feeling each other in a new light. Treyston then climbed gently over his small partner. On his back, Cade spread sweet streaks with calloused hands up Treyston's sides, brushing at the muscle and rigid bones underneath a thin shirt, pulling him in for another strong embrace to soak him in.
Treyston couldn't help but notice how Cade shifted against his leg, ever-so-casually… Both of them could feel what was about to happen. Both men felt the other quiver with anticipation, and they watched each other intently.
But then Cade looked back up at him, gracing him with the sweetest most sincere smile, and Treyston thought his pounding heart would stop. Those eyes, damn that look. I don't deserve this, Cade.
At last, he brought his hands to cup Cade's face delicately, to which Cade smiled softly and nuzzled against Treyston's palms. "I missed you. And I swear I'll never leave you again – if you decide to stay." When tears threatened his eyes, he hid in the other's shoulder to whisper, "I'm not much, but I want to be yours, and I'd like you to be mine. I want to get to know you, every part of you. Will you allow me? Please?"
Cade choked on the emotion caught in his chest, and he hissed pleasingly, "Fuck, Trey. I love you, too. 'S good to be home."
This was it; a dream within reach. Cade always had a way of surprising Treyston. Having Cade with him, being able to hold him like this, and more… How he didn't question or blame him, welcoming him again into his life. The hope that Treyston left behind two years ago now chose to love him and even bed with him, despite everything. It overwhelmed him. Made him go crazy. Especially when Cade's hand traveled downward, devilishly giving his thighs a good squeeze.
Of all the words exchanged that night, Treyston made many a promise to his lover. There would never be an opportunity between them wasted. He would learn to accommodate, anything and everything, he claimed. He would learn how to love him as proper as ever a man could. And that Cade would never know a day without him. But surely, neither of them knew that it would only last so long.
Like nothing else in the world mattered, Garrick strode into Keiran's office to demand justice, "Bring him back. This isn't fair."
No further explanation was needed, as Keiran always kept a close eye on his Diviner when he ventured the dangerous world below. He left his window to greet the always-welcome intruder. "Life's not fair, that's the thing, darling."
"Hmm…" It's not as if Keiran was unsympathetic. He just had a nasty habit of bending for any request of Garrick's. "Well, I suppose I can. But it's really not in my nature to do something so… unnatural."
But then Garrick made a face that Keiran was ready to bargain with, "How about this? Do me a favor first, and then we'll talk."
"I'll do whatever you want, but bring him back first."
That's the response he wanted to hear. Keiran nodded appreciatively and offered the heated one a seat and a few fresh snacks compliments of Sylas.
When hope started to flicker into the situation, Garrick calmed a little. The two sat face-to-face from their familiar seats –one taking the sofa, and the other on his chair.
The issue was pressed. "I don't know why you let that happen to him, it wasn't fair," Garrick said. But then he paused to rethink his track and switched suddenly, "There is no such thing as karma, is there? Or at least, he has a really loose way of doing things."
Keiran's paternal instincts flared. "Don't blame Sylas for the way the world works. We need him just as much as he needs us. I'll have you know, unlike the rest of you with your earthly lives, I've always been here. Alone. Until Sylas. He wanted escape from Earth, and I grew quite fond of watching him… That, and let's face it, I needed help up here. Earth became a much bigger place than I originally imagined, and more situations arose where I didn't know what to do. So I took him. I suppose I'm quite selfish."
Garrick huffed, "Yeah, I'll say."
Just the words he wanted to hear. How was Garrick so good at that? Sighing deeply as would a hopeless romantic, Keiran locked his eyes to Garrick's. "If I could just lock you in a dungeon and keep you to myself, dearest Garrick, I would."
"Maybe. Or maybe I just really love you."
Ah, that face. A rare look that none see grace Garrick's face, save Keiran. Garrick had averted his gaze to lower his head, breathe a little snicker, and then smile hotly up at Keiran to say, "…Or that."
Since when had Garrick become so comfortable in his office? Keiran certainly had no complaints.
"It's just… life doesn't seem fair, right?"
"Oh, you're just learning this now?" The red-headed man jabbed playfully, voice lifting to patronize the man before him, "So young, so naïve."
His flirtatious air and smile must have been contagious, because Garrick was quick on the comeback, "No age jokes, or I'll give you something to think about."
"Bad things happen to good people. Why?"
"That's a mystery of life, my dear. I'm not all-knowing. But I think that life means constant change. If something doesn't change, that must mean it's not living. Change and everything that comes with it – feelings, experiences, happiness, and suffering – is life."
"But if something happens to a person that is completely undeserving…?"
"Whether a person is deserving or not, the world sees no good or bad." Keiran leaned forward to put a reassuring hand to Garrick's knee, patting at the fabric. "We see good or bad, but all we can do is our best. To help out and change things around as we see fit."
"Be nice to actually do something really big instead of a bunch of small things, you know. Not sure how much of a difference I'm making sometimes. You could change things if you wanted to, right?"
"Please, I'm flattered you think so highly of me. You think it possible for me to fix the whole thing with a snap of my fingers? If every human has their own idea of happiness, how do I – with one solution - accommodate them all? It is no longer within our power to change the entire makings of the universe. It's set, and I'd be messing with a lot of people's lives if I… well, you know how my executive decisions turn out." He added at last, backing himself to his chair again and setting his eyes to his favored window.
Garrick stood and became silent. He listened, to be sure, but Keiran couldn't tell if his answer satisfied him.
But trivial talk could wait, and Keiran wasn't about to give Garrick any time to delve too deeply into things. "Anyway, if you want to make this thing work, I can bring him back. But you need to go back to the In-Between to talk to someone. And if he asks, tell him I sent you. Ask our beloved Sylas to help you make the portal, won't you? Not that I doubt your skill but… You'll definitely be needing him."
While he strategized with Keiran, it never dawned on him to ask where he might find Sylas. These were horrible times to be lost in the manor of Runawynd, and he felt like every second spent opening doors to empty rooms was more wasted time.
Garrick's conclusion: Sylas was most definitely not in the house. And just as he was about to head back upstairs to question Keiran, the thought occurred to him to check outside first.
Out the unnecessarily massive entrance doorway he went, feet nearly tripping down the first steps as he had reacquainted himself with this less-traveled territory. He was mainly accustomed to staying inside or traveling to earth; whatever got the job done. Outdoors was more or less Sylas' territory, where he tended the garden-
The garden. So many memories of that garden. It brought a quiver up his spine just to think of it. It was dead, cold, lifeless… That's where Keiran was, in that darkness…
He breathed in and shook his head with strong resolve as he looked at the garden ahead of him. Warm and full of life. This was his reality now.
There, in the patches of hydrangea, he found not only Sylas tending the bushes, but little Torrin, too, sitting on the bench, joining him. They were talking, and Garrick noted with the utmost parental pride how Torrin was able to make anyone – even the stoic Sylas – smile and laugh.
I'm not the guardian angel. Garrick thought, smirk widening as it occurred to him.
"I'm your angel, am I, Garrick? How romantic." Caught. Torrin's voice repeated lightly and laughed at the sheepish reaction he earned. Even Sylas, too, chuckled a little at Garrick's expense.
"Torrin," Garrick said, finally walking over to the two after eyeing them for a good ten seconds. "What are you up to?"
"Moral support. Keiran has Sylas working on the hydrangeas today, and since hydrangeas are my favorites, he's showing me how to change them from pink to blue. Look, he's even made some colors of his own!" The Diviner of Dreams pointed out with wonder, eyes shining and sunlight hitting him in all the right places. Definitely an angel.
"He does a damn fine job, doesn't he." Garrick complimented, patting Sylas on the shoulder. Of course, how could he have doubted him? He gave the shoulder a squeeze unintentionally, causing Sylas to swipe him away.
Removing his dirt-clad gloves, Sylas got up from his colorful display to say, "And what can I help you with, Garrick?"
Garrick almost wished he hadn't asked. A knot in his throat made him stop to clear it before speaking, "I need you for a sec."
Garrick heaved for oxygen while he watched the portal spell finally come into shape. To Sylas, it must have been amusing, because while he watched Garrick trying to tough out his exertion to no avail, Sylas merely gave his vertebrae a little crack, and waited patiently for Garrick to recoup and enter.
As always, Garrick was grateful for Sylas' help. Even with his magic replenished in Runawynd, he recognized that building a portal took a lot more manpower and someone with a keener wit for spell-casting.
While he regenerated, wiping sweat from his neck and face as he went, Garrick had to ask, "Purgatory, the In-Between… Now when Keiran says, 'the man won't have a problem', who is he talking about?"
"You mean the man working there? I can't say."
"You can't say, as in, you know but can't tell me?"
"I can't say, as in, I honest-to-goodness do not know." Sylas sighed and brought his fingers to his hairline. Did he have an itch or was he wiping a bit of sweat from his forehead? "He's a Diviner, too, like us. But I'm afraid he can never leave his position. Unlike us. I heard Keiran call him 'The Diviner of Souls' once. But I can't say I was ever curious enough to ask."
"Huh." Was all Garrick mustered. Picking himself up onto his feet again and stretching out his back and aching arms, he strode into the blue, swirling doorway, giving Sylas one more nod of appreciation on his way out.
The air tightened around his stiff body as he stepped through, but Garrick was unable to move until it finally gave way in a puff of glimmering smoke.
As soon as the portal drifted into nothing, darkness, emptiness, and an intense loneliness crept over him again. It was In-Between Runawynd - the dark, mirror image of a place he held dear.
Garrick explored. He traveled from room to room, taking in the oddities and calling out for someone to answer, until at last, he heard the voice. And it made him nearly jump out of his skin.
"Oh, it's you again. Hello, Diviner of Fate. How are things?" So calm, so quiet; whispering out of nowhere and coasting around Garrick's head like a sloppy mind-read.
To no avail, Garrick turned around to try and get a look at his listener. "I'm here to get someone that doesn't belong here."
"Hmm. The name of the victim?"
"Oh, that one. Would you like to see him? I doubt that you'd be able to revive him as is your desire, but you may visit him in the quarters." No sooner had the final word dispersed that a door closed and opened itself from behind. "Follow me."
Those words. Garrick took a step out the room and felt as if he was truly pursuing an invisible wraith. At first, the pace he set was a bit slow for his guide's taste. Even after the doors had opened before him, Garrick almost feared entering.
The said Diviner of Souls let out a laugh that sent a soft, warm breeze from behind Garrick's back, as if luring him forward. "Your walk is not one of purpose, Diviner. No need to be afraid."
"I'd be nice to know who I'm dealing with, is all." Garrick confessed. Confidently, he sped pace, and the voice gave another subdued snicker.
The doors led him down his familiar hallway, down the grand stairway, past the kitchen and dining area, and through to a door beneath the stairway that Garrick had no recollection of. Perhaps this was a new addition to the In-Between that can't be seen in Runawynd?
Garrick squeezed through the tight space beneath the stairs. The path narrowed, darkened, and for a moment, he wondered if the walls were closing in around him. He pressed on, hands being his only source of sense of direction in the dark, until at last, he heard the creak of another door being opened ahead of him.
It brought light, but yet even more uncertainty. Garrick entered and was surprised to find a whole room filled with chambers and doors. One of those nearest him gave off a faint glow like a bulb about to go out, and Garrick's eyes turned. But he froze in place when he swore he caught the image of a human form opening the door in a flash of light.
When all signs of the apparition dispersed, Garrick sprinted to the door, grabbed the knob, and tugged it open it.
This small room revealed bars made of dim light. Like a cell. Through the bars, Garrick saw a body sitting upright against the far wall in the back. Battered and covered with blood and dirt, the body would have been unrecognizable, if it weren't for the small muddy face that peeked out from beneath the mess.
"Ahh, Cade…" Garrick felt weak. His body shook, and he had to firmly plant his feet to the ground. He wanted to close his eyes and open them to a new Cade, but he couldn't take his eyes away. "Why's the blood still…?"
"He's one of my newest additions. And I would say he's looking much better than when he first arrived here. It takes time for a soul to be ready for its next cycle, you understand. I can take you this far, to this door, but I cannot open it."
"And what if I told you Keiran sent me?"
"Even he knows the terms. There are rare – if not any – exceptions to work such as mine."
Garrick kept his eyes on Cade. He had to get him out. "Then what can I do?"
"Humm… Is there no one that could persuade him?"
Garrick was granted permission by Keiran to do the following: Bring a mortal to Runawynd. Bring a mortal to the In-Between. Have the mortal meet a passing soul. And essentially, bring that soul back to live a mortal life.
Highly unnatural by all means, but these sorts of requests – such sympathy for others and deep-rooted concern for them – was a part of Garrick that Keiran happened to love dearly.
Sylas knew this. It had always been that way ever since Garrick was brought to Runawynd, really. In a way, he almost felt envious of such an attachment. After all, the bond he shared with Keiran had always been one built on duty and blind affection.
But he knew that no matter what should happen to them, Keiran would see to their happiness, as well. And through it all, Sylas would see to his.
Sylas aided in Garrick's second portal of the day. Surely, this had been a rough few lessons of spell-casting for the rookie. This portal set Sylas, Garrick, and Treyston through to the door that led to Cade's prison. The tall, dark one was afraid. Surely, they could all feel it. But Sylas believed they would have their ending yet. He never was particularly optimistic, but Keiran had their backs, and that was enough blind faith to keep Sylas believing.
Garrick was the first to reach for the doorknob again, but he didn't open it all the way. Instead, he stopped to let Treyston enter when he was ready. Garrick gave him a little warning, then Treyston nodded and pushed the door open.
From behind, Garrick and Sylas watched and waited to see if he could get Cade to react. And all it took was Treyston to call gently from the other side of the bars, and the lock gave way.
From his unmoving position against the wall, Cade's eyes snapped towards the intruder. He looked at Treyston for a moment as if he was the only one present, paying Garrick and Sylas no mind.
Treyston calmly entered. He was shaking and excitement almost got the better of him when he asked, "Do you recognize me?"
Cade did not respond, but he watched.
"I- I might not get this chance again. I want you to come with me."
The battered youth attempted to rise, but Treyston quickly took him and brought him back down, kneeling down to face him. "Easy, easy…" He didn't look down at the blood that kept seeping and soaked into his sleeves. He didn't look down at the broken legs or crushed shoulder.
Cade's nose whistled when he took a soothed breath. Treyston was careless enough to have his hand within reach of Cade, who put his fingers across his. That touch – soft, genuine, yet thrilling – put Treyston at his wits end. He wanted to spill everything, and he was about to, "There's so much I want to tell you-" but couldn't here. He wanted so badly to hold him and love him and take away his pain. But he couldn't here.
Cade ran his fingertips against Treyston's knuckles, watching him all the while, as if to test him. A shuddered voice came from his mouth, "You're beautiful." Blood leaking onto the muddy pores on his face, his mouth twitched a grin. "Who're you?"
Try not to reawaken any of his memories while he's here. Just get him out. Minimal touching. Don't give him your name, and don't say his. He started slowly, "I can't say, but I've always been on your side. And I can tell you once we get out, I promise."
"Why say this… to someone you don't know?"
"I- oh god, you're making this ridiculously hard for me." Treyston whispered a laugh to him. He had to laugh. If he didn't, he'd be crying. And he most definitely didn't want to scare Cade.
Cade sat and listened, but it was clear that he didn't understand. His eyes started to close lightly, and when his head started to loll to one side, Treyston began to panic. Tenderly, he reached behind his ears to keep his head up, wiping blood from his skull as he went. "Don't fall asleep. Don't leave."
"I won't leave if you don't leave." Cade mumbled quietly, the smile on his face diminishing slowly.
"Then let's stick together, all right?"
And with that, the worn soul managed an "all right", and the deal was done.
Then the Diviner of Souls – whoever he may be - took the matter into his hands. He authorized for everyone to leave him alone with Cade, so that he could return his soul and body to living again.
"His body has a greater chance of regeneration in Runawynd. The two mortals will stay until Master Keiran bestows us further direction. In addition, the Master has secured his aircraft and has also graciously given them the option of choosing where they will live their next life."
"Mortal, he will not know who you are, and realization may or may not come in the future. While it is possible for his memories to be regained and his body fully recovered, only time will tell. Luck and the Diviners are on your side. Quite apparently." From there, he promised Treyston could find his body sleeping in Runawynd. Away from the In-Between. "Until next time." He added.
"And you, Diviner of Fate. Master Keiran respects you, and I, too, grant you authorization to do with these two souls as you permit. He must really love you."
Leading Garrick out of the doorway, Sylas set up a new portal – what a day for magic it had been. It looks like I might have to start training a few new students. They've seen Runawynd. It can't be helped. And Treyston will need the healing out of necessity now. But I wonder about Cade. Cade falls from heaven, thanks to us angels and one very special mortal, he thought to himself.
This would be their new reality. Though Sylas considered that moment between them to be private, it was good to see things through.
There is a morning haze, and there is a point in the late afternoon - just before the sun really goes down - when everything is clear. Maybe it's the way the light hits everything just then.
And when the sun goes down, do you keep your resolve?
Garrick tried not to bother Treyston. Crossing the hallway as quietly as he could, he could see in the dimmed room a man sitting patiently while his lover slept. The dusk light trickled in through a crack in the drawn curtains. The air seemed anxious, but he could tell they were at peace. Treyston has a lot of work to do… He thought woefully, as he looked at the dark spots and casts along the bandaged body. And he may never get him back…
But he did what he could. And most assuredly, Treyston deserved that second chance.
It made him think, and for the most part, Garrick liked things that made him think. But this scene left a horrible, bittersweet taste. Cade tried so hard, and now Treyston will work even harder.
I've been lucky. He's always been here for me, through everything. Still, can't imagine what he has in store for me with this 'favor'. He thought, looking down at his 3-day-worn pajamas and letter in hand.
He stepped into Keiran's bedroom without knocking. Uncharted territory he had only entered on very rare occasions. But no occasion was such as this.
From his seat on the bed, Keiran turned to see Garrick shutting the door – and was that him locking the door as well?
"I got this letter on my bed." Garrick said, handing the paper to Keiran, who merely looked at it knowingly and smirked. "It says, 'Meet me tonight in my room. Bring your pajamas.' It's got this cute, little heart after it, too. See?"
"Goodness, that sounds particular." The redheaded man patted on the bed next to him.
Garrick took the hint, seating himself on the rather comfy mattress. "Um, Keiran… first, I just wanted to say, um. That I'm glad that, I, uh, have you. I mean, I've always had you, and I'm really grateful for that, and I'm really lucky, I think. To have you. So. Yeah, there's that. And second, um." He shifted around, keeping his hands tight to his wrinkled jammies. His voice dropped as did his gaze. "I don't know what I'm s'posed to do or say here, I guess."
"Garrick." What a heartfelt moment. Too bad he had to break the news. "You'll just be staying the night. No reason for that."
A visible weight was lifted from Garrick's shoulders. He looked over at Keiran, "Take it slow?"
"You know I'd never force you…"
Garrick's mouth twisted, and he raised a brown eyebrow, "I wonder about you sometimes…"
Keiran pulled back, forcing a little laugh with his "ouch pain" as Garrick rose from the bed.
"I'm going straight to bed then, I think. In that case, I mean. Should I change in here or in the bathroom?"
"Whatever you want."
"I'll do it here, then. It's quicker."
"Would you rather me close my eyes, then?" Keiran quirked, his interest peaking though he did his best to hide it.
"Whatever you want."
Garrick spun around, unbuttoned his shirt, and pulled an arm from its sleeve (disapproving at the smell that came from a hard day of spell-casting sweat), but then stopped a minute when he felt something light in his gut rise. He could hear Keiran getting undressed from behind him, and why he felt tempted to turn around, he didn't know. But he did, and sure enough, he swallowed hard when Keiran peeled off his worn shirt.
He wasn't exactly built, but he was well-toned, and Garrick's eyes couldn't help but trace along his shoulder blades to his arms with interest. The way his muscles tensed and flexed when he bent to let his shirt drop to the ground. Red hair fell loosely and for a minute, Garrick wondered what it would look like trimmed. That was, until he abruptly had the notion to run his fingers through it; he discovered maybe it didn't bother him all that much.
But it was all so nonchalant. Like this was just a part of his nightly ritual. As if Keiran was just minding his own business and no one else was in the room with him.
When Keiran went down to undo his pants, Garrick gave a swift turn. That's enough Keiran for one night.
Keiran must've felt the intense gaze (or read his thoughts), because he twisted around to meet Garrick's eyes. And there, he smiled. Disconcerted, Garrick found himself smiling back a bit. It was plain to see; familiarization was coming on as slow and easy as possible.
Garrick didn't wait for approval, but rather, he took a side – because he most definitely had no side of his own - of the bed, ruffling around with the blankets, moving around into a semi-comfortable position. Absentmindedly, he tugged underneath his shirt to give his stomach an itch. Funny, he never realized he did it so much until he was conscious about the person next to him.
"Do you always move around so much?" Laughing, Keiran had to ask.
"Gotta get comfortable. Do you always leave your clothes on the floor like that?" Garrick swung a thumb at the edge of the bed, pointing out the mess.
"I have Sylas take care of it in the morning."
"Ha haaa, he better not come in and see this tomorrow morning." The unfortunate man gestured this time at the entirety of the bed, signaling 'the two of them' could be an issue.
Keiran snorted, apparently finding the comment amusing.
They laid that way for a while. It felt like a long while. A long while of Garrick laying there, trying not to move or touch himself or make any noises, but to just listen to his breathing and soft noises from outside – every once and a while, hearing Treyston pacing a few rooms beside theirs.
When he was still and relaxed, forgetting about the presence next to him was impossible. It breathed slowly and felt so warm. And it smelled good. Nothing overbearing or apparent, just worn and… good.
A strange giddiness grabbed ahold of him, and he wasn't sure when or how it got there. He couldn't place it. He'd slept with Sylas and Torrin before, so what made sleeping with Keiran any different? The attraction was infuriating.
As quietly as he could (which wasn't notably quiet for an awkward Garrick), he craned his neck to see how Keiran slept. On his back. Eyes closed. God, I could never sleep like that. He thought, not noticing how he'd started laughing.
The longer he watched him – peaceful, open, and alone - the stronger he felt an urge to get closer to him. But he dared not kiss him. Not before bed like this.
Garrick had a question he thought twice about asking. He asked anyway, "Hey. You awake?"
Those tempted lips curved and mumbled, "How can I possibly be asleep right now?" When Keiran shifted suddenly to lay on his side and face him, Garrick twitched and instinctively put his hand a barrier between them - just at Keiran's waist. "Yes, Garrick?"
Damn, what was I going to ask? I'm sure it was reeeally important. Oh yeah. "Why did you decide to make things the way they are? Like, why does the sun rise and fall like it does, or dew; how it hits things in the morning so perfectly? Or like how the snow sparkles when it falls? You know, stuff like that?"
Keiran exhaled deeply. "Oh, I don't know. Because it just felt right? It just happened that way? Not sure what sort of answer you want. How about spending some time downstairs and hearing some theories the scientists have. Or how about this answer," The man – despite himself and his apparently very limited restraint span – leaned in closer and finished, "It's because I like to keep you guessing."
Garrick recalled the position of his hand and thought to pull it back. But no, if he did that, Keiran might take note. Maybe he doesn't notice? Then again, how could he not notice the way his fingers curled inwards against his stomach.
When Keiran turned, Garrick wanted him back around, and for the life of him, he wasn't sure why. Maybe it was the nerves. He called back in a voice that was as unnecessarily husky and rough as could be, scratching and reverberating from his chest up, "Well if I've got you, then I should get firsthand info."
With a jumble of the blankets and a quick motion that brought him just above Garrick's face, Keiran bent down to plant a kiss on the forehead of his beloved. He stopped a moment, as if taking in the sight, then sent a breath across his nose and cheeks and reaching all the way into Garrick's soul in a way that he knew his words to be true. "You make me so happy, Garrick."
He couldn't speak. Maybe he was tired or maybe it was the nerves again. Either way, Garrick basked in the closeness, the timidness, and watched his hand brush up against the other's collar and neck, but when he felt a pulse under his pads, he scooted away embarrassed and caught up.
Though he often discounted the recurring thought, this time, he let it linger and held onto it with a heart that opened unexpectedly with care and patience. He thought, I could get used to it.