Do Not Let This Parting Grieve Thee
Disclaimer: "The Dark is Rising Sequence" does not belong to me in the slightest. I'm just playing in the sandbox created by Susan Cooper, and I will return everything, including buckets and spades, to the owners when I'm done. No money has exchanged hands in the production of this fic.
Summary: …The end is nigh... You have to be in the right place for you, even if it hurts.
Rating: PG-13 for a coupla naughty words…
A/N: There's a bit of Welsh in here, but it's deliberately quite painfully obvious ;)
There's a sound in the air. Will thinks it sounds almost like good-bye.
"When I get hold of that Mitohin character, I'm going to kill him." Roger Stanton, one hand on his wife's arm, looked fiercely around at everyone, before dropping his gaze lightly to the hanging window in the sky. "Sorcery that was, or my name's not Roger."
"Sorcery?" Alice Stanton's eyes widened, and she looked at him with pale-faced fright. "But that's just-"
"Stories?" Roger shook his head. "Stories don't do what they were doing, Alice. Stories didn't get us here."
"That sphere did." Paul spoke up, sounding oddly nervous. Will abruptly sympathised with his perceptive brother.
Bran extended the hand that held the sphere. "He gave it to Will."
"He called you Watcher, Will," Mary commented, her voice holding some brittleness, as if she was just starting to awaken from some deep stupor.
Suddenly every eye was upon Will. He looked back, sadness open on his face.
"The End is Nigh," Will said, looking beyond them into the realms of his power and knowledge and seeing only grey. He forced himself to look upon the reality in front of him; the questioning faces filled with fear and distrust, the bleak landscape that stretched on for ever (and ever) with only some grey shrubs and plants dotted around, the only things breaking up the barren view.
"You being poetic again, Will?" Paul smiled tentatively. "Last time you said the Dark was Rising."
The voice was high, soprano, almost unearthly high, bringing forth sweet syllables and gently caressing each word before letting them echo around the room. The words themselves floated in front of his face, almost tangible, tasting sweet and sugary in the small room. Will finished the song, his round face intent, and his hands deep in his pockets, while James looked at him admirably.
"You're too old for that kind of singing," James said, half mocking, half commending his brother.
Will shot him a baleful look. "Not my fault my voice hasn't dropped yet."
"No. You haven't dropped anything yet, have you?"
Will was sure that last jibe was a taunt, and was almost tempted to delve into his Gramarye knowledge for the answer, but decided to remain innocent for just a little bit longer. "Shove your head down a toilet, Jamie."
James scowled, but kept his tongue in. "Ah, such an original insult."
Will shot him a look, but instead focussed on packing up his hymnal and sheets of music. "Well, I guess I'll just have to make the most of my voice while I have it. You, on the other hand…"
"Moi?" James had recently taken up French at school and enjoyed rubbing it in. "I have a glorious tenor voice that I'll have long after you lose your girlish squealing."
"Girlish squealing? You wouldn't be talking about me, would you?"
The two boys turned almost guiltily to the doorway. Mary was stood there, slim and forbidding in the shadows of the doorway. Mary had gone through puberty in an astonishing rate of time, losing the puppy fat of her youth and managing to come out of it slim and curvaceous, a beauty which many boys had admired at school, and many boys had been scowled at by the army of Stanton boys ready to defend their sister's honour. "You two are late. Tea's ready."
"I was talking about Will and his astonishing inability to grow up," James commented off-handedly as Will busied himself with closing his music book with a thud, pushing it with an alarming lack of organisation into his already rumpled haversack and starting work on the metal music stand, collapsing the intricate structure that Robin had made him for his fifteenth birthday.
"Sickening," Mary agreed. "Our very own Peter Pan. Bet he could fly, and all."
Startled, Will blinked at her owlishly over the corners of the folded up stand, before grinning impishly and sticking his tongue out. "Bet it's just waiting for something to happen. It'll happen soon enough," he said morosely. "Uncle Bill said it took him until sixteen before anything happened. And then I'll be stuck as a banal baritone while you cause tremors in the music world with your lovely tenor."
"Ah, don't be too sad," James said, shuffling his own sheets of music into a folder while Mary stood, looking on disapprovingly at their lethargic tidying up skills. "There'll always be music in a Stanton's life."
"Oh, I'm not sad." Will hopped down self-consciously from the stage, padding over the small music hall to his siblings. "There's always the 'Cello, and I'm almost getting the hang of it."
"The hang of it, he says," James muttered, rolling his eyes in mock-horror to the ceiling, aged with its peeling paint and spots of grey where the roof had leaked from the early autumn storms. "Grade 6 in three years and he says he hasn't got the hang of it yet."
"Paul reached 8 on the flute in three years," Will said as they left the hall, pausing while James locked up the small outhouse building and the three of them started on the ten minute walk home.
"Well that's Paul," Mary said. They all knew what she meant.
"I'm just saying it's not that remarkable, is all," Will explained, keeping his head tilted forward so his thick brown hair slanted over his eyes.
"What's for tea, then?"
"Liver. Bacon. Onion. Mushrooms." Mary smiled mischievously.
"What?" James looked disgruntled. "Bad enough we have to have that sort of thing in December, let alone-"
"I'm kidding, you oafish prat." Mary shoved James good-naturedly, and James cheerfully shoved her back. Will let his wander restlessly as his siblings prattled gaily and play fought along the path home, brooding about the silence of the world. It was nice that nothing happened, of course, for the world's sake, for life's sake, for everyone's sake, if a bit boring. And Will was going to have to get used to a little boredom every now and again.
A small refrain of music caught his ears, and Will stopped suddenly, stiff, ears pricked. It took James and Mary a moment to realise Will was not following them, and when they did, they hurried to him in concern.
"Will?" Mary's voice was soft, husky against the autumn breeze. Will acutely saw her face, every strand of her golden hair lifting in the wind. "Are you all right? What is it?"
Will brushed off James' concerned hand on his elbow. "It's- it's nothing."
"Ruddy hell it isn't," James countered, folding his arms and staring down his younger brother protectively.
"I think I'm hearing things," Will said, toeing the ground with his still too-stiff new school shoes, not yet worn in by a few proper months of school. "I could have almost sworn I heard Paul playing his flute." His round, amiable face went vacant for a second. "Was lovely. Greensleeves."
"Paul's back at college now," Mary said. "Wishful thinking. Why, the other day I could have almost sworn I could hear Gwen's singing in the kitchen."
"Ah, that was probably Will's singing," James said glibly, slinging an arm around Will as they started off home again. "Sings like a girl, you know."
"Don't remind me," Will said gruffly, embarrassed. The sounds of bells twinkling still rang in his ears.
"Come on, we'd better get a leg on, or the chicken pie will get too cold," Mary chided, increasing her pace. James' head flew around.
"Chicken pie? Why didn't you say so?" James started to run, looking back at the other two with a grin. "Come on!"
Will shook his head in amusement, winked at Mary and started running as fast as he could to keep up with James.
Will stands, holding his hand. His breathing his heavy as he looks at them, casting their images away forever. He raises his hand into a five-pointed star, and Bran realises what is going on. Their eyes lock. "No, Will!" Bran yells, Will, not Old One, but it's too late. The words are spoken and the spell cannot be taken back once cast. But Bran still begins to run.
"Delff." The Welsh word slipped out affectionately from Bran Davies' mouth, caressing the air with the fondness in his tone. After losing Cafall, Bran hadn't thought he'd ever feel the same way about any dog ever again, and when he'd first seen Lynn, tiny and brown, yapping and minuscule in John Rowland's arms, he'd felt almost like he was betraying Cafall by the way he fell completely head over heels for the little mongrel.
Look at you, you daft idiot. Cooing over dogs like this. People are going to think you're married to the damn things.
Lynn tripped over his own paws again, landing in a heap in the dust, and Bran laughed again. "Croten." Bran picked up the dusty little dog, patting his head lightly while its tongue lolled out in the heat.
It was an Indian summer. That much had been predicted by John Rowlands when the winter had dragged on unbearably. The summer had been weak, the sun hiding behind the clouds, almost as if it were too scared to come out. Now it had come out, and was shining in full force on the rolling Welsh mountains. Bran sat on the grassy hillside, red tie half undone, shirt unbuttoned at the top, resting and biding his time until he went home. If it hadn't been for Lynn's company, he doubted he could have lasted this long.
To tell the truth, Bran was feeling restless, something which unnerved him. For a long time he hadn't really wanted to stray from the well-trodden paths he knew in Wales, pathways he could walk in his sleep, emblazoned in his memories from the long list of memories, of all the summers he'd spent wild in the hills.
Now school was back, back with a vengeance, with Shakespeare and algebra and Welsh history and art and music, and Bran put down his restlessness to the dreadful time he was having with his return to the ysgol gyfun, where all the same kids went to, and more, all with the same jokes and the same taunts.
Last year he'd barely heard them. Somehow he'd been in a world of his own. Learning your father wasn't really your father changed things, and losing your best friend was the same. Best friends, Bran thought bitterly. In a way, he'd lost Will as well. He'd seen neither hide nor hair of the smiling Stanton boy since that summer. Not a letter, nor a phone call, nothing. He supposed it must have been one of those things, he'd been there as a matter of convenience, someone to talk to in his visit to an alien country…
He'd thought Will was different, but perhaps he'd been wrong.
"Lynn. Lynn." Clicking his fingers and whistling, Bran straightened up and called his new dog over to him. Lynn obeyed immediately, almost tripping over his own front paws, to be with his young master. "Let's go home," he said softly to his dog, the English words sounding almost bittersweet.
Whistling as he walked, Lynn hugging close to his heels as he leisurely made his way home, Bran's thoughts lingered on Will Stanton for a few moments, something that shocked Bran slightly until he realised it wasn't particularly Will he was wanting, although having Will there wouldn't be so bad. It was someone to talk to, properly, and get a response from that Bran craved. Conversation wasn't all that common at home at the moment.
Night wouldn't fall for a long time yet, long, hot autumn days were a benefit and curse of an Indian summer, but the Davies' small household looked dim from the outside, and not exactly cheering. Sighing, Bran opened the door, automatically taking off his boots, smiling softly as Lynn bounded off into the kitchen to where he knew his food was. Knowing where his da was, Bran moved to the small sitting room, bathed in the warm amber tones of the sunlight filtering through the window. There Own Davies sat, by the still and cold fireplace, head bent over some book or other, his farm tasks finished for the day.
Bran looked up at the sound of his name, but Owen hadn't move. He didn't need to move, to look up, to see the freak of a son that wasn't even really his at all. "Ie?"
"Ble mae'r pensil?"
Bran restrained the sigh that threatened to bubble forth. Owen's pencil was clearly by the glue pot. Either his father was barmy, or needed his eyes testing. "Wrth y glud," Bran said, keeping his words short, clipped.
That seemed to be the end of the conversation. Bran had to admit, it was better than the usual, Owen's brief: "Mae'n braf" and Bran's soft: "Ydy." Bran wasn't totally convinced that conversations about stationary and the weather really made conversation. What was it his English teacher called that type of conversation? Phatics? Whatever it was, it wasn't making Bran feel particularly safe or wanted.
After waiting expectantly for Owen to say something more, and being disappointed as usual, Bran headed upstairs and flung himself onto his bed in frustration. As usual, he tried to stop the tears falling. As usual, he failed.
Pushing his weary body upwards, Bran looked around his small, functional room through his blurred vision. Angrily wiping his tears away, his gaze landed on the narrow desk Owen had built him for his eleventh birthday, and the pretty cardboard writing set Jen Evans had given him for his birthday, the birthday his da had forgotten.
He didn't know whether it was a good idea, or not. His ideas usually weren't fantastic at the best of times. He stumbled out of his bed, fingers scrabbling for a pen and a sheet of the crisp, white paper. He sat down in the small carved chair that accompanied the desk, that year's Christmas present, and started to write.
He know they have to forget. It still doesn't make it any easier. Bran is looking at him with wide eyes, an "I've just found you" expression. Will looks away. That might make it easier than if he looked at Bran.
"Last time you said the Dark was Rising."
"Funny of you to remember that," Roger commented, his voice light with an almost dreamy quality as he looked between his sons. "I was just remembering that before the... before we arrived here."
"It did Rise," Will spoke softly, twisting his body to glance around the landscape. Something awoke deep within him, a whisper of knowledge that he couldn't quite hear. "And then it fell, and should not have returned."
"Maybe it fell too far," Paul said, his voice hesitant. Will turned on him, blue-green eyes blazing fiercely. Paul locked eyes with Will. "Maybe it broke something that shouldn't have been broken."
The whisper deep below turned to a dull roaring in his belly. "Maybe it is the creative ones who can See the best," Will breathed, a small smile curving his face even as his eyes faded to become unreadable.
"Will! Post for you!"
"Hnnnnhh?" Feeling as if his eyes were glued together, Will forced his eyes open and sat upright with a downright surly expression on his face. The smudge of red at his doorway blurred further then became clear. Mary blinked at him, waving a small white envelope at him.
"Post for you," Mary duly repeated.
The words sank through Will's frazzled early morning senses, and he struggled to push himself against the headboard into a more upright position. "Post?" He dully repeated.
"Honestly. I thought you said you could wake yourself up nowadays," Mary chided. "Post for you, from Wales."
"Wales?" Will shook his head, as if that would clear it faster. "Oh." Childish confusion splayed on his face. "But I never get post."
"Wake up, Will," Mary said cheerfully, yanking his curtains open. Bright light spilled across the floor, illuminating the room more brilliantly than the faint puddle of light from the skylight had done. She deposited the envelope on his bed. "Breakfast will be ready in half an hour."
She turned to leave. Will twisted, staring at her in confusion, the letter gingerly in his hands.
Mary turned back, an amused look on her face. She tossed her golden hair prissily. "It's a Saturday, Will. I'm doing a fry up."
Will narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "If this is to convince mum and dad to let you apply to Newcastle, you'll…"
"Probably get what you want," Will admitted, sharing a conspiratorial grin with his sister.
"So who's it from?" Mary asked questioningly.
Will squinted at her. "Does it look like I've opened it yet?!"
Mary laughed. "Love letter, then, eh?" And before Will could stop her, she pelted down the stairs, calling as she went: "Oy, everyone, Will's got a secret admirer!"
Will groaned, hiding his head in his blankets for a second, before taking advantage of his privacy to look at the letter. The postmark was smudged, unreadable, and the handwriting wasn't familiar to him.
Turning it over, he pushed his finger under the flap, pulling it up as carefully as he could. A sheet of blue-lined notepaper peeked out at him, and he pulled it out, opening up the single sheet.
Will read the first couple of lines, then skipped to the bottom to read the signature. His breath caught. Bran.
Startled, he splayed one hand over his mouth when he realised he'd spoken the name quietly. Glad that Mary wasn't in the room, he looked back to the top of the page.
"Dear Will. I haven't heard from you in ages, so I figured maybe your letter got lost in the post. Obviously I'm blaming the English post office, as the Welsh version is clearly much more reliable. Anyway, you're probably wondering why I am writing, because I haven't before. Maybe you were waiting for me to write before, I don't know.
I heard from John Rowlands that your half-term holiday coincided with ours this autumn term, and was wondering if you wanted a break away from that awful country of yours. I've got a new friend I'd like you to meet.
Ring your Aunt Jen with your answer if you think it would be safer than your English Post Office. Although, if you're reading this, then maybe they're not so awful. We don't have a phone at home, see, and it's awfully quiet.
Will looked away from the letter as he finished it, eyes downcast. He knew exactly why he'd been avoiding Bran, avoiding the Drews, avoiding John Rowlands. Too damn painful for him. He cursed his own thoughtlessness. Bran's words were cheerful, but 'and it's awfully quiet' struck something deep within him. Aloneness radiated from the page, resonating with Will's own corresponding despair.
"What's this about a love letter then, eh?"
A female voice broke through his reverie, and Will looked up in shock to see his mother lounging in the doorway, already dressed and ready to face the world. Will blushed slightly, although he refused to analyse why, and his mother looked amused at his response.
"It's not," Will defended automatically. "It's an invitation from Bran Davies. You know, the boy I met in Wales a few years back. Wanted to know if I wanted to spend the hols there."
"First time you've got a letter from him though in, what, three years?" Mrs. Stanton looked thoughtful. "Do you want to go?"
Will looked up, surprised, at the question. He'd expected a little fight to have to go. "I-" He thought over the question. Did he want to go? Re-open his old wounds? Had they ever been closed wounds, Watchman? "He sounds so alone," he finished lamely.
The answer was enough for Mrs. Stanton. "Okay. You going to write back and tell him, or-"
"He suggested phoning Aunt Jen," Will said.
"Oh, he's Owen Davies boy. Yes, that's right, I remember. You know what, I'll give her a call and talk to her about it, get her to tell him. I really wanted to talk with her anyway." Mrs. Stanton smiled. "I'll do that. You get dressed. Breakfast'll be ready soon. I really am surprised at Mary's sudden helpfulness around the house…"
Will buried a smile and watched her go.
"Will, you're scaring me."
Will looked up at his mother, and did not disguise the look. It was the look of an Old One, not the look of a child. No innocence in that blue-green gaze. "For that I can only apologise," Will said softly, twisting his body back to the horizon. His gaze settled on a nearby bush, and he listened to the memory as it suddenly became clear in his mind. As suddenly as the memory became real to him, the bush shook alive. Grey bits of fluff swirled into the air, shaking the bush until it remained still. The swarm of what looked like fluff soared upwards, a cloud of faint winged creatures.
"Plume moths." Stephen's eyes were slightly glazed, as if he was now the one awakening from a long dream. "Plume moths." His eyes brightened, as if he was remembering something important. "Legends say they take memories away."
"What's taken away can be returned." Bran stared half-fearful, half-exhilarated, at the cloud of plume moths and only had time to blink before the moths were before them.
"Don't hurt them." A curt order, probably from Will, and obeyed by all present. Will watched doubtfully as the plume moths swirled and danced away, and then felt the abrasive liquid course down his body again, down his spine, as they looked up at him. Anguish. Fear. Doubt. Pain. Bitterness.
"So who was the love letter from?"
Will scowled at James. "Wasn't a love letter," he growled, for the fifth time that morning. He'd only been up half an hour, and he was still vaguely on the grouchy, defensive side. "It was a letter from Bran Davies."
"Oh, that moody kid I met a few times at Aunt Jen's that time?" Mary questioned, serving mushrooms up straight from the pan onto their plates. "What did he want?"
"He asked Will up for a holiday," Mrs. Stanton said, coming into the kitchen and sitting at the table. "Although I just got off the phone with Jen. She'd had a word with Owen, and he suggested sending Bran here instead."
Will looked up at that. "It sounded in the letter like Bran and Owen haven't been getting on too well," he mused.
"That's what Jen said," Mrs. Stanton said, sounding a little upset. "Apparently he's been having a bit of a rough time at school too."
Will looked at her unhappily. "Sounds as if it might be good if he moved here permanently. Our school isn't so bigoted."
James arched an eyebrow at Will speculatively. "Are you sure it wasn't a love letter, Will?"
Will scowled. "Jamie."
"Don't be ridiculous," Mary sniffed, tossing her hair. "Bran's a boy's name."
"Will had that crush on Donny Osmond," James said airily.
Will was about to scowl again, and instead aimed a kick at James instead.
"OW! Okay, okay, Will. I take that back. I take that back!" James howled.
"No kicking at the breakfast table," Mr. Stanton said, sternly, having been watching his children's interactions with quiet amusement.
"There's nothing wrong with liking Donny Osmond," Mrs. Stanton broke in with a wink at Will.
Will thumped his head into his hands. "I had to have the liberal family, didn't I?"
"Well, you were conceived in the sixties, darling," Mrs. Stanton added mischievously. Her three children just groaned.
"I-I remember." Paul was the first to be shaken out of the reverie. He had the least to forget, after all. "There was a creature. In the church, and you-" His mouth fell open, and his dark eyes were wide with astonishment, then a smile curved his face. "I knew you were mixed up in something!" Proof of his suspicion blazed openly on his face.
"You saved my life." Mary's mouth slowly started to work. "Not just once, either."
"And yet if I had not been there, you would never have been a target," Will said.
"Only if you had been dead," Bran spoke softly, his voice ghosting reverently over the words. "And people like you cannot die. People like-" His voice broke. "You knew, Will. You knew who I was and-"
"He kept it hidden for your sake." Stephen spoke, his temperament as ever of compassion and understanding. His anger at the removal of the memories was evident in his eyes, though.
"You renounced your heritage anyway," Will said. "You didn't go with him. You are no longer a creature of the High Magic."
"Nor a tool." Bran's eyes were bright. "Although, maybe a tool of the Light, maybe one more time."
"You would have me let you off that easily, Bran Pendragon?" Will's tone was light as if with humour, but his flat gaze belied that tone.
Bran's head tilted with a familiar arrogance. "You think I'd let you off that easily, Old One?"
"Move there? Permanently?"
Bran could hear his own words sounding hollowly in the small kitchen, even sat there on the rickety seat, Lynn in a box on his lap.
"School thinks it may be best for you," Owen had said gruffly.
"But I don't want to leave you."
Owen, slightly surprised, but still feeling guilty. Still feeling as if Bran was his own child, and he'd broken God's law. "I need you to be in the best place for you. Will Stanton might be good for you."
Owen was smiling wryly for some reason. Bran flung himself into Owen's arms, and for a second it was like there was nothing wrong between them. "I love you, da."
"I love you too, Bran, but this place is destroying you. There'll be a home for you here whenever-"
And apparently that had been too much for Owen Davies, as he'd turned around and stalked back into the house, leaving Bran with his belongings and Lynn, alone. John Rowlands had grabbed him into a too-welcome hug, muttering that it was just Owen's way, that he didn't want to have Bran see him cry.
"He's still ashamed of me, isn't he?" Bran had asked. John's silence had spoken it all.
Now he was sat, speeding away to an unknown future with a boy he knew wasn't quite what he'd always thought he was. To another family that wasn't his, that never would be.
"I don't understand." Will looks at his mother, and casts his head away, before lifting it up, tilting it with an arrogance born of the knowledge of a million lifetimes.
"You don't have to," he whispers. He twirls the sphere in his hands. The grey light spins a rainbow through it, lighting up the landscape. "Good-bye," he says, and holds up his hand.
"When's he going to get here, then?" James asked. "I can't stand waiting around for things like this. Boredom completely bores me."
Will shot him an annoyed look from his position by the window. "Haven't got a clue, have I? Train was due in half an hour ago, but traffic's murder at this time of the day."
James whined, tapping his fingers on the table. "Oy, it's my turn for the window."
"No it isn't."
"Yes it is."
"No it isn't."
"Yes it is."
"No it isn't."
"Yes it is."
"No it isn't."
"Yes it is."
"No it isn't."
"Yes it is."
"No it isn't."
"Yes it is."
"No it isn't."
"Yes it is."
"No it isn't."
"Yes it is."
"No it isn't."
"Yes it is."
"No it isn't."
"Yes it is."
"No it isn't."
"Yes it is."
"Yes it is."
"No it isn't."
"Told you it wasn't," Will said glibly.
James frowned at his younger brother. "You're a git, do you know that, Will Stanton?"
"I'm a git who can see the car coming," Will said, slithering off the windowsill and pelting for the door.
James made a loud clucking noise in the back of his throat. "Asshole," he said brushing past Will. They clattered together onto the driveway. Will was taut with a queer mixture of excitement and trepidation. It would be weird, he knew, being so close to someone he'd experienced so much with, someone who could never remember…
"Oy, Paul, Mary, Bran's here!" James yelled up into the house.
Will was vaguely aware of his brother and sister clattering out of the house as the car slowly drove up. Stephen and his mother got out first, and started pulling boxes out of the trunk. His father hopped out, then opened the door for Bran to step out.
"Nice to see that everyone's here," a male voice said.
Will opened his mouth to say something, probably something vaguely confused, and then snapped it shut. It was not Bran that had spoken.
"Hello, Watcher," said the voice again. A shadowy figure stepped out of the undergrowth. "I'm glad you're all here. All who are close to you, Will, isn't that what leaving requires?" Light hit the shadowy figure, revealing the familiar face of Mr. Mitohin.
"Mitohin!" Will's father gasped, gathering the nearest child, Bran, behind him.
"How-" Will started.
Mitohin held up a sphere. "This object has kept me behind for- a little while. It will not last much longer. May as well hurt you one more time." Mitohin weighed the object in his hand like a bowler with a cricket ball.
"No!" Bran screamed as Mitohin threw the sphere at Will, hard. A rainbow of colours flashed through the air, and Mitohin laughed as the sphere left him, even as the shadowy figure of the Dark dissolved into nothing, but it didn't matter because the whole world shifted from beneath them.
Spells can't be stopped, but they can be paused, and Will did so as Bran ran forwards. His white hair shone brightly against the dull landscape.
"My father pushed me away because he didn't like what I represented to him," Bran says breathlessly. "He sent me here so I wouldn't feel rejected all the time."
Will looks at him wordlessly.
"So don't do the same to me now," Bran commands.
Will recognises it as a command, and shakes his head. "Bran," he says, simply, but so heavily, "were you still Pendragon and Lord, then nothing on earth could have prevented me from following that. But you- you are a child."
"So are you!" Bran blusters back immediately.
The smile on Will's face is gentle, beatific… a smile of an old man. "Bran, I don't want you hurt. Any of you." He looks up at his family, his face drawn. "But it would hurt me more to keep you. Mitohin thought to hurt me, sending me here, forcing me to cut your memories of me out of you, but it will hurt less in the long run."
"No buts," Will says forcefully. "I love these people, and you will too. This is the best place for you, I think. Now go."
And Bran looks up at Will, ready to disagree, but sees the pain in those eyes like the sea. "It's still the best place for you too," he says instead, staunchly.
"Perhaps," Will acquiesces. He pauses. "I shall miss you all," he says.
Bran raises his head sadly, and Will smiles at him, for the last time.
"Oy, Bran, gerrof!"
Bran chuckled and shoved James with great aplomb off the sofa. "Haha, the remote's mine now! Eat cushion, wrongdoer!"
James squeaked as Bran walloped him with the cushion.
"You can't wallop me with the cushion and have the remote," James complained, sitting cross-legged on the floor. "It breaks all the rules."
"What rules?" Bran scoffed. "Turn the TV on for me, there's a darling."
James stuck his tongue out. "Nah."
"Oh right, you're Welsh. It's English, for not a chance in hell, miladdo," James explained.
"Ah, I see," Bran said, getting to his feet and exchanging a grin with Mary, who had entered the room for that last exchange. He padded over to the TV set, watching James with a grin as the boy stole his seat. He shook his head, and reached over to turn the set on, but stopped. He pulled back, and cocked his head. "What's that music?"
"What music?" Mary asked, tilting her own head round the corner. "Radio's not on."
"Paul's at uni, can't be him," James said. "Hang on, I hear it too."
The three of them stopped still like statues.
"It's Greensleeves," Bran breathed in disbelief. His feet moved as if on their own towards the door, and Mary and James were close behind. He opened the door and stepped outside, the autumn breeze moving against his cheek. It felt like a last caress. Infinitely saddened, Bran turned his head to where the lilting melody came from.
"It's so beautiful," Mary whispered, and the voice – for voice it was – sang the melody. The voice was unearthly high. Soprano.
Bran turned his head upwards, letting the melody wash over him like a wave from the sea. He closed his eyes, and behind his eyelids a thousand images crashed over him at once, but so fast that he could not pick a single one out fully, even though they seemed oh so important! He could almost make out the brow of a ship, a boy's delighted grin, a gleaming sword, and-
The music trailed to a stop, and the air rang with the abrupt silence.
"Weird," James breathed. They waited for another song to start, but it did not. Bran looked at Mary and James, completely speechless. Mary looked to be in the same state.
"That felt-" Mary breathed, unable to finish her sentence.
"It felt like good-bye," Bran said, his eyes locking with hers before moving as one in the direction the song had come from. The landscape was empty, with no sign of the singer or the song.
"Yes," Mary agreed.
"It was a bloody good distraction whatever it was," James butted in. Bran and Mary looked at him curiously, the mood dispelled. James waved the remote control at him. "Haha! Mine!"
The song forgotten, Bran rolled his eyes at Mary and chased his foster brother back into the house. Mary looked longingly at the empty hillside once more, and then went in to join her brothers, into the happy household that had nothing missing from it.
Will held the last note of the song, and then snapped his mouth shut. He tossed the sphere, now dead in his hands, before dropping it into one pocket and striding away. They did not remember, Bran had settled into a loving family, and he had said his last good-bye.
Will clenched one fist, and made a promise to himself as he walked to never have to say good-bye to anyone ever again. It hurt too much, and he suspected it would never stop.
"You did the right thing," a voice from the past tells him, and Will opens his mouth to reply, and finds his voice broken. He stomps on.
He wanders the earth, watching. It's all he'll ever do. He will never sing again.