Disclaimer: You should know by now.
A/N: Do me a favor, DON'T KILL ME. This story goes very, VERY slow but that doesn't mean I've given up on it. So just be very patient… I did finish the shitty first draft of CyberSeed though. Whee!
Kevin awoke with a start, shoulders trembling and her head throbbing with unpleasant memory. She blinked rapidly and turned over in her makeshift bed. She searched her mind for the Other, but he wasn't there. She found this oddly disconcerting. Swallowing hard, she debated silently over whether to bother trying to sleep again or not. With a heavy sigh, she forced herself to sit up. Kevin knew sleeping was out of the question. She couldn't remember what she'd dreamt, but whatever it was, it had unnerved her.
She glanced over at the pew where Liz had been… to no surprise, the woman had left. Maybe she'd gone to town and called the cab already. Kevin snorted to herself and drew up her knees under her chin. It was silly to be hoping for a way to Denver now, what with all this hocus pocus going on.
"I've heard you sing, though. You have a beautiful voice."
Kevin lost her balance and tumbled down to one side, squeaking in a rather undignified manner. Blushing, she glared at nothing as she pushed herself back up. "I thought you were… asleep."
"I was. I woke up. I've been feeling you… you had a sense of doubt and self-berating. I figured it was about your singing in Denver."
"How do you know so much?" Kevin asked breathlessly.
"I've been watching you for a long time."
The emphasis on the word 'then' wasn't lost on Kevin, no matter how soft it had been. There were possibilities of what he'd meant, but Kevin knew. She frowned. "Did you watch her too?"
"Oh," was all Kevin would say. Her eyes lowered and she drew her knees up again, burying her face between them and forcing her memories away. She didn't want to be sad now on top of everything else. The voice's emotions rushed through her meaningfully… he felt apologetic.
"Perhaps I should not have mentioned…" he sounded embarrassed.
Kevin glanced up and blinked, then smiled. "I didn't think disembodied voices could get embarrassed."
"I have a body," the voice said in a very dignified manner. "You've just not seen it."
Paling, Kevin's memory instantly switched back to the skeleton they'd found in the closet days ago.
"My body is alive and well… don't fret so."
"I'm sorry," Kevin shifted uncomfortably. "Do you know where Liz is?"
"Yes, but she requested I not tell you. She left you some food on the pew she slept at."
"Wait, she… talks to you?"
Kevin scowled and stood, brushing the dust from her pants. There was food on the pew, an apple and a small loaf of bread. It was no breakfast of kings, but the fruit was fresh and the bread far from stale, no matter how dry and cold. "I don't suppose she left anything to drink," she said with a stuffed mouth.
"No, but the rain left water outside if you are thirsty."
The image of drinking from a mud puddle filled Kevin's imagination and she grimaced. "Not so much." She used the apple for drink as well as food.
Stomach satisfied, Kevin suddenly felt out of place in the small church. Shifting on the pew, she glanced around at the dusty windowpanes and stained glass illuminating the room. Despite her fear of this place, she'd grown to feel quite at home here… comforted in a way by the uncanny silence. The 'magic' Liz had mentioned.
Kevin decided not to worry herself over Liz's whereabouts. She would end up coming back anyway, same as before. She humored the idea of Liz sneaking into town merely to use a phone to Denver, but the thought was silly. Liz would probably wait a bit, and certainly she wouldn't so something so brash in broad daylight.
"If you are bored, you may venture outside… no one will come near the church. You'll not be seen if you stay behind the building. It will do you good to have some fresh air."
Kevin considered a scathing remark about his mothering, but sighed and merely decided to agree… the air would clear her head of this morning mugginess. Pulling her jacket close around her neck, she pushed her way through the double doors of the church, inhaling the post-rain smell of the graveyard. The wind was soft, but cool and moist. Her skin rejoiced in the attention and her hair gently whipped around her face. She couldn't help but smile.
Liz clasped her hands around the warm travel mug. If she took no comfort from anything, at least she could rely on tea. The tomb was silent for now, the candles still glowing since that day Kevin had lit them. The warm glow lifted the chill from her bones and she found herself grateful for it. She stared directly into his eyes, moved by his intense stare.
"I don't suppose you know why I'm here with her," she said softly.
"No," he said, looking down to the ground and reaching to trace a finger in the dirt. "I remember the past ones mentioning a guardian… but there was no elaboration of the matter. If there was, I've forgotten."
"A story for another day then," said Liz, smiling uneasily at his wide eyes staring at the dirt as if it were a much more fascinating creature than it really was. "This will all be over soon. Kevin will come to know her purpose."
"But is that best?" He glanced up, his dark eyes glittering with the candlelight. Then he smiled. "I am sorry. Yes, of course it's best." His smile faded as he looked down again. "But the prospect of what she was meant for… what I am meant for. It daunts what is left of my spirit."
"Your spirit is brighter than anyone who's seen as much as you have," Liz said. "I admire your zeal."
"Do you worry for her?" His voice was strained and upsetting. Liz frowned.
"I worry for her, yes…" she said, looking down at her mug. "I worry a lot for her… mostly for her lack of bravery. She's been beaten into submission her entire life, whatever passion she's had has been trained away from her. My only comfort is in her scathing tones, her sarcasm… I hope then that she'll have the guts to go through with this."
"She fears me," he sounded broken.
"She won't," said Liz firmly. "She's a coward, but there is the spark of adventure in her somewhere. That spark will grow towards you."
"I've grown to care for her…" he continued, shifting his weight to balance himself on the floor. "More than I cared for the others. They were all so brash and certain of themselves. Kevin is timid, nothing like the others."
"Her difference is what may be a deciding factor in some of this," Liz shrugged. "But I know very little of the future… only what's been passed down. Prophecies are rarely one hundred percent… they are vague and often give confidence where there should be caution."
"Yes," was his quiet reply.
Liz found herself wanting to reach out and grasp his shoulder, but the sight of him… of what he was daunted her. She settled for smiling gently. "She woke you," she said. "That's a good start."
He nodded, but didn't lift his head. Instead he changed the subject. "You will take her to Denver this week?"
"Ah," Liz replied. "You were listening then. Yes, I think it will do her some good to get out of here for a bit. I'll go into town at night sometime this week, perhaps even tonight, and get ourselves a ride there. I have plenty of money, so a hotel and a few new outfits for the girl won't be an issue."
He didn't respond, or even move.
"Don't worry… we won't be long. You won't be alone again."
"No," he smiled suddenly. "I can still feel her mind, no matter where she is. And I can speak to her. She is growing used to my presence… I can even hear her sing at these semi-finals."
"You've heard her sing?"
"Her voice is a muse to me; I love to hear her … even more so in song."
"I can't wait to see her perform," said Liz, leaning against the stone wall. "I suppose her willingness to get up in front of hundreds of people should serve as comfort… it will serve as proof of the braver side of Kevin."
"Her heart is boiling with the stronger side of her," he whispered. "I merely hope she doesn't change too much when it is released."
"She won't," said Liz with conviction, though a small doubt lingered in her mind. She would hate for Kevin to be just like all the others with their arrogance and hate. She smiled to relieve the fear in her. "I should be going. Kevin is probably worried."
"She is frustrated with your absence," he confirmed with a grin. "She is asking me where you are."
"I'll tell her myself," said Liz, standing and brushing the dirt off her backside daintily. "But not right away. She'd flip."
"When will she come here? I can't move from here until she faces me."
"As soon as I get her out of this shell of hers… the semi-finals should help," Liz stretched. "We'll speak again before Denver."
He nodded and looked up at her. "Should I tell Kevin you are on your way?"
"No. Then she'll know where I've been. I'll tell her I was scouting at the edge of town for the nearest payphone."
"Very well, then… farewell, Elizabeth."
Liz bowed and left.
Kevin sat with her back against the high pillar of wood in the back of the church. She had no idea what this pillar was for, though the upside down "L" shape of it was foreboding. She knew she'd seen it before, maybe in a movie or something. But despite this, she still had no idea what it was. There was a thick rope tied to the top, and it looked surprisingly new for how old it must have been. The rope made her nervous.
Just as Kevin was about to nod off, she saw movement from the corner of the church. She looked sharply over as Liz walked out, smiling.
"Sleeping on the job, are we?"
"Oh… it's you."
"No worries, I shouldn't think anyone in this town would have the nerve to go anywhere near this cursed place."
"Don't sound so nervous," Liz grinned. But her face sobered as she looked up at the pillar.
"Oh," Kevin stood and turned, looking up at it as well. "This thing looks familiar, but I don't remember what it is."
Liz regarded Kevin with a mix of amusement and surprise. "Really, Kevin, your naiveté is almost frightening sometimes."
"What is it?"
"Called gallows," said Liz. "It's where they hung people."
Kevin yelped and jumped back from the gallows, her eyes wide with revulsion. "What is it doing here, so near a church? How terrible!"
"It would not surprise me if the church doubled as a courthouse," said Liz with a shrug. "Or maybe it was for the more religious hangings… witches and such."
"Witches?" Kevin gave Liz a sidelong look.
"This is hardly a time for a history lesson," Liz said, her grin returning. "Listen, I've been scouting the edge of the town looking for the nearest payphone. I found one, but I'll wait till tonight to get to it. The cab should be here by tomorrow morning."
"Oh," Kevin sounded so downtrodden that Liz gazed at her in surprise. "I didn't know we were going so soon."
"That way we'll have time to look around the city… shopping and looking at boys and such," Liz winked. "You'll need a pretty outfit for your performance…" she suddenly frowned and tilted her head. "Are you nervous about performing?"
The response surprised the woman. "No?"
Kevin flushed. "It's odd, I know, but performing is one of the few things that don't affect me at all. Whenever I sing, I feel… comforted I guess. I don't even notice people listening."
"That's good," Liz was grinning. "That's very good. Wouldn't like the idea of your stage fright or anything."
"So I suppose we just hang out here doing nothing until tomorrow morning," said Kevin, frowning again at the gallows.
"A little, yes… which I guess is silly."
"You could explore the church more," said Liz innocently. Kevin shot her a look.
"If you think I'm going down those creepy stairs again, you have another thing coming."
Liz grinned and shrugged. "Forgive me," she said. "I've always had that sense of adventure… I've wanted to explore again down there for a while."
"Then you can go, but I think I'll stay upstairs where it's a hell of a lot quieter."
Liz only smiled. "You know… there's a convenience store right outside of town. I think I'll go get us some food. It's not too long of a walk if I cut across the graveyard. You can go inside again if you want. I should only be a couple of hours."
"Inside," said Kevin, glancing again at the gallows. "No problem."
Liz stretched. "Good day for walking… its just warm enough not to chill the bones, but cool enough to not overheat." She laughed. "I'll be going. Don't leave the church."
"You won't have to worry about that," Kevin assured her.
Kevin lay back on the pew, staring at the arches in the ceiling. It really was surprisingly pretty in here, despite the layers of dust hiding the probably once lovely painting. The strong sense of comfort the place brought her let her rest without worry. She knew her father was probably in a rage worse than ever, but the church rendered her calm about this fact. All the men looking for her… the church wrapped its invisible arms around her, warming her mind.
Her thoughts trailed to Liz briefly, and she smiled. "You could've told me where she went, you know."
"She asked me not to," said the voice, as if he'd been waiting for her to speak.
"Still, scouting for a payphone? I could've known," Kevin shifted on the pew. "So, how does she talk to you…?"
There was only a brief hesitation. "The same as you do," he said. "Although she does not hear me back."
"Oh," said Kevin. She frowned, but realized there was really no reason to doubt what he was saying. In a way, the fact Liz couldn't hear him gave her a small flicker of pride. She wouldn't have liked the idea of Liz hearing him too… this voice was special, and Kevin like the fact that she alone could hear him in her head.
Smiling with a tint of pink on her cheeks, she sat up. "What's your name?"
A wave of his amusement filled her. "It's not important."
"I want to know."
"I will tell you when we see each other… we shall have a proper introduction."
Kevin suddenly had a surprisingly feminine moment, a fantastical image of herself in her head, with a handsome man kissing her hand and smiling so warmly she wanted to melt…
Blinking and blushing furiously, she shook her head from the image. Stupid, she told her self… he could be some old, fat, sixty-year-old with a harelip!
"What's wrong?" The voice was alarmed at her blast of emotion.
Kevin's blush resurfaced. "Its nothing," she said quickly. "I just let my mind wander a bit too much. I'm fine."
"Your heart is racing…" he sounded very concerned.
Kevin wanted to hit herself, but she clasped the seat of the pew to resist. "No, no, I'm all right… really."
"Very well," he didn't sound convinced at all.
Like I'd tell you… Kevin thought to herself.
"You could if you wanted to."
Kevin shrieked in surprise. "You heard that?!"
The voice emitted confusion. "You spoke."
"I thought! I didn't say that. You can hear my thoughts!"
"No…" he sounded and felt even more confused." Not unless you were to direct them at me. I suppose you did."
Kevin made a note to never think at him again. She hid her face, which was hot with embarrassment. "Never mind, okay? Uhm… I want to sleep now."
"I bid you goodnight then."
Whimpering and dubbing this one of the worst feelings in the world, Kevin curled up on the pew and forced herself to fall asleep.
Kevin was asleep when Liz returned. She hid the food in her bag and very quietly ventured downstairs. The sun would set in an hour or two, and this was probably the only time she could manage to speak to him before the cab came in the morning.
The hallway was well lit as always, and Liz found comfort in the complete silence. Only her footsteps made noise here… even the fire refrained from its usual crackling sound.
When she arrived in the tomb, he was sitting in the middle of the floor, drawing on the dirt. He glanced up, his face holding no surprise for her appearance. "Hello," he said.
"Are you all right? You seem a little unsettled."
"I heard Kevin's thoughts earlier."
Liz stared at him a while, trying to register why this was a bad thing. "Yeah?" she ventured.
"She must have inadvertently directed her thoughts at me, and I heard them," he sounded slightly embarrassed. "I responded and she seemed very unnerved. I am afraid she may be angry that I invaded her thoughts like that."
Liz refrained from giggling, and settled with a smile she could pass as being merely comforting. "It's okay," she said. "She's probably just alarmed, that's all. She's sure to calm down. I suppose it wasn't anything that upset you?"
"Not so terribly," he said, his white cheeks flushing unnaturally with color. "Though it reminded me what it feels like to blush."
"You've not blushed since you woke up?"
"No. I used to, before I taught my mind not to watch the others while they were dressing or bathing."
Liz chuckled appreciatively and sat down, offering him a wrapped sandwich. "You must be hungry."
"My body has grown used to being hungry," he said, though he happily accepted it from her. "Thank you, Elizabeth."
Liz watched while he ate, and wondered his feelings about Kevin. He seemed protective of her, which was natural she supposed… he'd been watching her since she was six years old. Such a personal connection was sure to bring on almost parental affection, but something about how he spoke of her suggested a schoolboy crush. Liz smiled to herself, knowing that it was probably nothing of the sort.
"She asked my name."
"Did you tell her?"
Liz hesitated. "You want to tell her in person, do you?"
"I told her we would be properly introduced… that's when she suddenly had an increased heart rate. Her emotions were too wild for me to understand," he stared at the remaining bits of his sandwich. "I never felt the others' emotions."
"Well, no doubt you're not the first man in history to be puzzled by a woman's emotions," said Liz, hiding a smile. "I wouldn't worry."
He hesitated, then shrugged and continued eating.
"We'll leave by tomorrow."
"I know. You told Kevin."
"We won't be gone long."
He concentrated, and then shrugged. "Today is Wednesday… you will be gone until at least Sunday."
"The performance is Saturday night… we'll be back the day after, yes."
He smiled. "Not too long then." He frowned then, and tilted his head. "Kevin is waking."
Liz uttered a rude word. "She'll get suspicious if she sees me coming from the stairs."
"It's all right. She's gone outside to wash her face."
Nodding, Liz jumped up and brushed herself off quickly. "I'll be going now then. Perhaps we'll speak again before tomorrow, but I've no idea how likely that is."
When Kevin returned inside, she was surprised to see Liz sitting and bringing food out of her bag. "You're back? I didn't see you."
"I was resting on one of the pews," said Liz. "I heard you get up though. Here, have a donut pack." She grinned and handed the small chocolate pastries to Kevin. Kevin accepted them and sat down across from the woman.
"These are bad for you," she said, though she didn't hesitate to eat.
"We're young; we're allowed to indulge a bit."
Kevin smiled at this idea and took a more eager bite. "I slept too long… the sun will set soon and I'm not likely to rest much tonight."
"You should… but if you must wait until midnight, then you must. I plan on the cab meeting us before daybreak… Denver is two hours drive from here."
"And… you want to shop."
"Not right away, but yes. Does that bother you?"
Kevin's hair was slightly frizzy, but its weight kept it relatively straight, curling with slight dampness around her face. Her skin was slightly browned with hours in the sun, and her blue eyes were characteristically bright. She flushed slightly. "I've never really been shopping before."
"No worries," said Liz. "We'll have you looking prettier than all the girls you're facing in this competition."
"But… the money…"
Liz snorted. "Believe me, I have enough to buy Denver dry. Now lets hurry and eat… I need to go to the payphone soon. I won't be long. Your voice can keep you company."
Kevin flushed again, this time a mixture of embarrassment and resentment. "Do you think the voice is real? That I'm not just going crazy?"
"Of course I believe it."
"He says you speak to him."
The look of blank hesitation wasn't wasted on Kevin. She was about to question Liz, when the woman smiled. "Oh. That. I didn't think it listened to me, really. Idle talk to the church walls. I suppose he hears more than I realized."
Kevin frowned, still uneasy about Liz's hesitation to reply, but shrugged and sighed. "The sun's almost down."
"I'll wait until it's good and dark."
The cab was to arrive at five in the morning, which Kevin wasn't too upset about… she'd gotten up even earlier than four to have a walk outside before her father got up. But now was different… she was getting up to leave Old Town… to go to Denver. She'd never been outside the town, or had much of a desire to. As much as she was hated, she was attached to the town and had never attempted to leave.
She and Liz packed what they could, including some now cold food that was barely good. They cut across the graveyard, as the cab was to pick them up at the convenience store. Liz wanted to be early so they could buy some snacks for the road.
Kevin whispered at the church before they left, "I'll be back."
She smiled as she and Liz continued on their way.
It was a silent walk, which Kevin was grateful for. Not even the voice spoke to her, but she felt his presence in her mind. It was somewhat comforting in the midst of her fear. Her shoulders trembled while they traveled, even though it wasn't cold out. Liz did not point this out. She too looked uncharacteristically uneasy.
It didn't seem long before Liz spoke up, her voice cracking from lack of use, "Ah, here we are."
The convenience store was surrounded on either side by lush green trees. The store was simple, and seemed old despite new white paint and light blue trim. Two gas pumps waited empty and the lights on in the store revealed the various posts and ads for cigarettes and lottery tickets plastered on the window.
"Seems charming enough," said Kevin carefully as they approached the store, new fervor in their steps.
The cashier was a sleepy-looking young man who couldn't have been older than nineteen. He had traces of an acne problem recently faded, and his eyes blinked too much. He waved halfheartedly at them and Kevin nodded back. He wasn't from Old Town, and this comforted her.
"Do you like spicy things?" Liz asked offhandedly, looking through the chips section with a scrutinizing frown.
Kevin eyed the shelves of cheap, unhealthy food with a sigh. She'd give a limb for some fruit. The cashier glanced at her while restocking soda bottles. "Looking for anything particular?" he asked, his voice sounding much older than he looked.
She shrugged. "Something with less sugar than most everything in here would be nice."
He grinned toothily. "We have deli sandwiches."
Kevin nodded and looked toward Liz, who shrugged and got them some sandwiches from the cooler in the corner. Kevin found herself wondering how old they were. She sighed and got herself bottled water and a couple of mints. The cashier rung up everything- Liz had gotten quite a bit of junk food- and they left the store to wait outside.
The cab arrived early, much to Kevin's delight. The trip to the store had been too brief. She was tired and would probably spend her time in the cab sleeping instead of eating.
The driver was pleasant enough, but Kevin was too tired to care how friendly he was. He was a jovial, thin man with dark skin and a smile too white for her taste. She listened only briefly to him before leaning on Liz's shoulder and falling asleep.
"Is she asleep?" The driver asked.
"Seems so," said Liz, putting her half-eaten box of donuts back in the paper bag.
"This is foolish," he said, his voice dropping all the kindly-old-driver business. His eyes took a sharp look. "Taking her out of town! You know as well as I that she should…"
"I know," said Liz firmly, her voice letting him know the argument was finished. He pursed his lips and watched the road. "She needs a boost of bravery, Robert. This trip will help her. And we will get back into Old Town."
Robert snorted. "I don't understand why she can't know I work for you."
Liz glanced down at the sleeping girl. "It's not so much her I'm worried about."
The man looked alarmed for a second, staring at her in the rearview mirror. "It's true then?"
He hesitated. "No. Have you actually… seen him?"
Liz merely nodded once as she looked pointedly at the scenery they were driving past. Robert caught the intention of this gesture and returned to driving in silence. The rest of the drive to Denver was wordless, and Liz appreciated this.
A/N: End of Chapter Six! Next chapter, Denver, the contest, and possibly more! And LOOK! HE appeared… albeit not to Kevin… but it is coming, my precious… you must remain patient.