|Will the Watchman
Author: Maddy Carr PM
CHAPTER 7 UP! What does being a Watchman actually mean? Will is about to find out exactly what has been done to him. He is about the discover the real meaning of loneliness. This time, the battle will be all in his own mind.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama/Angst - Chapters: 7 - Words: 18,492 - Reviews: 45 - Favs: 18 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 10-27-03 - Published: 09-13-03 - id: 1518640
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer in first part.
A/N:Hey - 2 chapters in 3 days, how good am I to you! This chapter pretty much wrote itself…
As you've all probably guessed by now, I'll still trying to tie up loose ends from the end of SotT - you'll see what I mean when you read this chapter. I couldn't help wondering just what would happen to all those Old Ones in Will's village, if Will was supposedly the only one left! Will's starting to get a bit more resentful in this chapter too. Don't worry, he's our boy and will prevail in the end - but a bit of suffering is good for the soul…
A big thanks for all my lovely reviewers. I'll never understand why the DiR fandom isn't any bigger as we all know how fantastic it is. Never mind, it's people like you who keep it going, so Kudos!
BTW, if you've read, but not reviewed, I'd love to hear from you (hint, hint)
Kemenran:OK - here it is!
Silver on the Tree:I love Will's family - it reminds me of my own, only with fewer siblings! Will won't be able to forget stuff for much longer, though…
Norah-hunt:You must have read my mind or something - what have we got in this chapter but a Will/Paul confrontation. Yay! I love Paul, one of my favourite characters, so I couldn't wait to make use of him. He'll have a bit more to do later on as well. Sorry, but he's not going to remember anything about the past in this fic. BTW, congratulations on submitting your first fic!
Kalariah:I don't think even Will realises how much his family notices - he's going to have his work cut out for him fending off their questions for the next few chapters. He will stay strong though - except perhaps a bit too strong…(cue foreboding music).
Read and review, guys, read and review.
When the knock on the door came, Will merely lifted his head from his conversation with Robin and smiled vaguely in the direction of his father who had heaved himself from his comfortable armchair and padded towards the front hall. Later he would wonder why he had felt no alarm and supposed he had been too relaxed, but couldn't bring himself to regret a quiet evening at home.
"I wonder who that is?" James said vaguely, unmoving. He lay on the carpet with his feet up on the sofa; not a position made for comfort, but he seemed happy enough.
Paul glanced up from his book, amusement evident on his solemn face.
"If you can bear to wait for thirty seconds, you'll probably find out," he said dryly.
Mary, who was doing something mysterious involving a heap of paper and a stick of glue, looked up from the coffee table distractedly and yelled, "Mum! Someone at the door!"
Gwen was frowning, slightly irritated that she couldn't hear the television properly but knowing she'd probably have to turn it off anyway.
"It's quite late for visitors," she said, "I hope…" but broke off when male voices filtered out from the hall, approaching the living room.
"Come in," said Mr. Stanton ushering their guest through the doorway. Gwen immediately stood up and crossed to the television set, sighing quietly. Will had to crane his neck around her to see who it was.
Gwen moved forward to stand with Paul and Will caught a glimpse of a pink, jovial face. Mr Beaumont? What was the rector doing at the Stanton Farm? Not that he was an infrequent visitor, but not usually at - he glanced at the clock on the chimneypiece - a quarter to nine in the evening.
Mrs. Stanton emerged from the kitchen.
"Rector! How lovely to see you. What brings you here tonight?"
"Good evening my dear!"
The rector stepped forward, taking Will's mother's hand in both of his own.
"You have a full house tonight, I see."
Mr. Beaumont glanced around the room, taking in the faces of the eight Stantons in the room. He smiled at Will.
"Will, my boy. You're back? I hope you had a good trip. You were missed on Sunday - the fourteenth Psalm just wasn't the same without your treble."
The rector rambled enthusiastically, which was as usual, but Will had known the man for most of his life and noticed a touch of strain to his greeting. Glancing over, he caught Paul's eye and knew that his elder brother had noticed also. Will felt a faint stirring of something. A sort of - disconnection. Should he have been alarmed after all?
Don't start, he told himself firmly. His hypersensitivity had got him into enough trouble over the past couple of days. Was he going to start suspecting the rector now?
"What can we do for you?" Mr Stanton was asking curiously. Perhaps Will and Paul were not the only ones to have noticed something off-key.
The rector broke off and cast a half-questioning look towards Mr. Stanton,
"I'm assuming, since you are asking, that you haven't heard the news?"
Will's father frowned.
"Well, I thought not." Mr. Beaumont shrugged with a small grimace passing over his face, "I'm not surprised, hardly anyone in the village had heard about it this morning, and...well, I took it upon myself to be the bearer of sad news, I suppose. Pastoral duty! Such a pity..."
He trailed off again and Roger Stanton, understandably confused, glanced at his wife, then at his children. He blinked when his eye fell on Will and something seemed to occur to him so that his eyes widened. He turned quickly back to the rector, a question forming on his lips and Will, surprised and somewhat disconcerted, took a shuffling step backwards. Something clamoured for attention in his mind…
"Do you mean...has someone died?" asked Mr. Stanton
"Yes. Yes, that's it. I had rather a shock when I heard myself. It happened yesterday afternoon, I believe, while he was away from home as well which is what makes it so very...and only in his early sixties as well! I suppose..."
"Mr. Beaumont!" Mrs. Stanton's voice broke through the rector's characteristic ramble, "Who has died?"
Will, rigid with shock and alarm heard their voices as if from a long way away. He didn't need to be told who had died.
He knew already.
The knowledge had entered his mind as though it had been there all along. Perhaps it had? Will wasn't sure, but it was part of being an Old One seemingly. This had happened before - a moment when a door in his mind swung open and in one dizzying, disorienting instant, as though Cafall were looking into his eyes, he knew everything…
The Old Ones. Oh my God, the Old Ones.
Knowing didn't help at all. He shuddered in shock, ignoring the exclamations, the swirl of voices around him.
How could I have forgotten? I should have anticipated this…
Self-loathing seethed in him - at his stupidity, at his inability to understand the implications of his situation. He was the only Old One left. He knew this, but had never grasped the reality. Images floated in his mind like memories - but not his memories. Other people's memories. Implanted memories.
Miss Greythorne - she had been on the train. She had smiled at him - that charming, youthful smile. Miss Greythorne who everybody believed had died last year.
John Smith and his wife. They had retired and moved to Bournemouth in the spring. No one had heard from them since.
Frank Dawson. Who had helped him, who had made his birthsign with his capable hands and far-seeing eyes. Who had died yesterday.
But Old Ones didn't die. Did they? For one brief, panicked instant, Will wasn't sure. But no, they couldn't die. They were journeying somewhere. Like Merriman and like Arthur. Their work was finished and some had served for so long…
Had any of them planned their own departure? Had Merriman taken care of it? Why had he not known this until now?
Had someone called his name?
Starting back to the present, Will turned instinctively towards his brother's urgent whisper. Paul was staring at him in alarm, a hand hovering over his youngest brother's shoulder as if to hold him upright.
"Are you all right? You're as white as a sheet!"
Will stared stupidly back, hardly understanding the words.
Paul bit back another exclamation, and glanced over at the rest of the family. Will automatically followed his eyes and saw them clustered around the rector. His mother looked upset and Mr. Stanton stood with his arm around her. Soft, solemn voices were asking questions - being answered…
He felt a tug on his arm. Another. Paul was dragging him towards the kitchen and he stumbled after automatically, his mind still seeing the shocked, grieved look on his mother's face.
But he's not dead…
He began to come back to himself, started to resist his brother's firm pull, but everything was happening too quickly, the after-shocks of revelation still felt in the trembling of his legs. Paul pushed him into a chair and thrust his head between his legs before he could protest, those long-fingered musicians hands strong on his back and head. Blood rushed to his head and he took a deep breath. Shame rushed through him.
…twice in as many days?…
Then a heart-sinking fear of repercussions. He was not some shrinking, cowardly idiot to be doing this any more! He struggled, wrenched his head up, tried to pull away from the clutching hands.
"What's the matter with you?"
That Paul's normally calm voice should sound so jagged with alarm was not to be borne. Will closed his eyes and forced another deep breath into his lungs, driving the tension out of his legs and trying to calm the sudden fight-or-flight panic that had overtaken him.
"Sorry…" he cleared his throat, steadied his voice and tried again, "Sorry. I'm all right now. Sorry. You can let go."
Paul must have understood that he had felt trapped for a moment, for the hands lifted away slowly and Will opened his eyes and looked into his brother's face. Paul watched him cautiously.
"Are you sure?"
Will nodded. Paul let out a breath and shifted away, leaning back on his heels.
"You scared me! I thought for a moment…"
Paul bit his lip and looked at Will askance as though assessing him.
"You're not ill are you?"
Will felt his eyes widen and hurriedly said,
"No! No, I'm fine. It was…the shock, I think." He grasped at the explanation David Evans had unwittingly given him just the day before.
Paul nodded slowly, brow furrowed.
"Yes, well I thought so. Shocked us all silly, I think - came out of the blue a bit didn't it? Poor old Mr. Dawson."
Will thought about moving again, but Paul had always seen too much and he knew he would not be allowed to get away so easily.
"It must have been a nasty moment for you, " Paul began hesitantly. Will sighed and raised his eyebrows questioningly, still not fully trusting his voice.
"Mum told us that someone you knew in Wales had died suddenly too."
The statement finished in a slight interrogative note. Paul was inviting his brother to talk about it, but Will, although partly relieved at the simple explanation for his behaviour, found himself hesitating in his turn. How could he explain to Paul that it wasn't the deaths, it was the… circumstances surrounding them? He would have to lie again - to Paul who was so concerned and so kind. Paul, to whom he had lied before and who so little deserved such treatment.
"It wasn't that…" Will began slowly, attempting a half-truth, but stopped at the surprise on his brother's face.
I can't! How can I possibly explain? It's impossible.
He lapsed into silence, sighing.
"What do you mean?"
Will looked down at his hands.
"Nothing. I don't know."
An exasperated sigh. Paul leaned forward again and nudged Will's chin up with his hand.
"Will, is there something bothering you?"
Will shrugged, still reluctant to lie so blatantly.
Paul's lips tightening.
"You do like your secrets, don't you? I never know what's going on in your head these days."
You're not the only one
But Will had just about enough sense left to know he couldn't possibly continue like this. He needed time to sort everything out and establish exactly what sort of alternative history it was that everyone seemed to remember. A strange emotion seemed to wash through him and his hands trembled with the force of it.
Anger. I'm angry?
He hated this. Hated not knowing things until it was almost too late, as though being an Old One was a switch that turned on; that he was expected to forget all about being Will Stanton when it did. Hated that he understood the need for it too - he was complicit in every cold, necessary decision the Light had taken. Trouble was, no one had bothered to tell him how he was supposed to cope with this double life. Strangely, it hadn't seemed to be a problem until now.
And his family… He looked at Paul's earnest face. Of all the Stanton brothers, they were most alike in temperament and Paul saw deeper into Will than any of the family. He also had memories of his brother that were precious to him - moments that he held close to himself, that seemed to define their relationship. Like the flute…
Will suddenly, desperately, wanted to know if Paul still shared the same memories. He needed so badly to know he wasn't alone.
Will swallowed, then said in a rush,
"Why do you have Miss Greythorne's flute?"
Paul gaped at him, completely nonplussed.
"What in the world…?"
"Please, Paul. Tell me."
"Will... are you sure you're all right? Why…?"
"How did you get it?"
Paul blinked at him, curiosity and concern warring for dominance in his face. He shook his head suddenly in disbelief and squinted appraisingly at his young brother.
"I don't suppose you're going to tell me why you want to know…?"
"…Which would be pointless, seeing as you were there when it happened."
"Tell me anyway."
His brother sighed with exaggerated patience. Will wondered if Paul thought he was having a joke at his expense.
"She left it to me in her will."
Will felt cold sweat break out on his forehead.
"Yes. You remember - the lawyers brought it over to the house, with a letter from her and everything."
He didn't remember. He could only see Merriman, smiling, with the package in his hands and Paul's quiet joy at the loan of the beautiful instrument. He'd been so happy in that moment, so proud of his accomplishments and so glad for Paul.
But Paul apparently remembered it differently.
Will felt like crying. He couldn't bear to ask any more questions. His connection with his family suddenly seemed strange, twisted, out of shape - like a drawing with no perspective. Someone (Merriman?) had changed the memories in his brother's mind. It was like a violation…
Nausea hit suddenly and hard. Breathless, desperate, Will shoved Paul aside, staggered across the kitchen floor and vomited into the sink.
Several awful minutes passed before he became aware of the arms supporting him, a gentle hand rubbing his back. He was crying weakly, the tears of sheer physical misery washing away in the gush of water from the tap. He was suddenly so tired; completely drained, and fine tremors shuddered their way up and down his arms.
Paul must think I've cracked
He couldn't bring himself to care much. He just wanted to sleep now and not to dream.
Paul's quiet, tentative voice. A hand swept his damp fringe out of his eyes. Will nodded weakly.
"Have you finished?"
He nodded again.
"Do you want me to get Mum?"
Will shrugged but couldn't say yes. He was unused to asking for help and was uncomfortable with feeling so vulnerable.
"Will? Paul? Are you in here? The rector is leaving."
Mrs. Stanton's voice drifted over from the kitchen door, leaving Will's ambivalence redundant. He felt relieved and ashamed in equal measure.
"Over here, Mum," said Paul, "Will's not very well."
Will, still leaning forward over the sink, didn't bother to protest. His mother couldn't fail to notice his damp, pale face and the faint acrid smell lingering, in any case. He kept his eyes closed through the quiet exclamation, the quick footsteps on the tiled floor, Paul's muttered explanation. He was so tired…
Mrs. Stanton gently turned him round and felt his forehead. He blinked up at her business-like face.
"Do you need a doctor?"
"No." Said quietly but with certainty.
She believed him. She had enough experience with illness to know symptoms of mild shock when she saw them. She nodded understandingly, then pulled him into a brief heartfelt hug.
"You've had a long day, love. Why don't you go to bed?"
He nodded again, flooded with relief. His fringe was treated to yet another caress.
"We'll see how you feel in the morning. All right?"
She brought his head down to kiss his hair, then guided him towards the stairs.
"Go on then. Call me if you feel sick, again."
He smiled at her, then glanced over at Paul who stood quietly by the table with concern in his face and a calculating look in his eyes.
"I'll see you in the morning."
There was no answer to that loaded statement, so Will escaped abruptly and dragged himself up to his attic bedroom.
He was so tired, he couldn't even be bothered to undress, so flopped down on the bed as soon as he entered the room. The only light came from the moon through the skylight and Will stared at it blankly until he felt his eyelids droop and sleep claim him.
I'll do better tomorrow. I'll try harder.
Coming soon: Chapter 8: Gaining Control