He's doing that thing with his hair again.
Slender fingers running back through the feathery layers, spreading out along the scalp and somehow trying to smooth out the headache that he has been trying to ignore for some time.
The hand clenches into a fist as he reaches the nape of his neck, gripping the last wavy strands of his stubborn, uneven hairline. His closed fingers rest there, providing comfort and pressing with gentle force on the acupressure point hidden within the nape of his slender neck.
A sigh of release. Let the tension go. Another deep intake of breath, holding for four and discharging for five. A technique Onaha taught him. She has the most expert hands.
But tonight it's not working. Tonight the aching in his head seems to have settled in for a lengthy siege. Tonight he needs more.
I watch him sink back against the chair, his stiff neck begrudging him the desire to just slump. Instead he positions himself gingerly, nestling his head against the soft leather headrest.
Unnecessary, he had called it. And his brother had been hurt. It was a gift and surely it should be received as such. That had brought pain to his eyes. The sight of his brother so very disappointed in him; he might not appreciate the offering but he could at least lie. Take not the gift but the sentiment that it represented; he was thought of, he was cared for. He was missed.
Installing the immense black thing was the only way to make it right. Enjoying the soft comfort of the chair was the best way to apologise.
But even the executive luxury of the time-softened leather cannot give comfort this night. He closes his eyes and lines of pain and weariness etch a pattern over his skin, leaving scars on a face that is already too old.
I want to help him but I've tried before. It's been too long. Time and distance have made the shielding around him a necessary defence. To many this makes him cold and detached but the truth is that he confines the warmth within and clings on to it tighter than could be possible.
Few have taken the time to try and breech that barrier. Even fewer have succeeded. I would perhaps share the sympathy of so many if I didn't understand him so very well.
He tries again with the massage, reaching his hands up to his face. Stroking back over his head, finding the tender spots where energy lines reach the surface and drawing out the negativity to release the tension.
Onaha had been so surprised. And so very pleased. Ever the scientist, she had assumed he would scoff at her philosophy and tease the whimsical nonsense she offered. But he had seen too much, knew too much to discount anything without proof. And to his delight he had found that this was one area where there was no verification to be had. It just worked. There was no doubting it. And he had smiled that especially reserved smile when she had suggested that it only worked because he believed.
He had nodded and muttered something about placebo effect. She had shrugged and let him be. His eyes told her enough. His acknowledgement of a potential scientific explanation was for his father's benefit. He had interrupted their proximity and broken the moment. But it had been enough.
She knew that he had felt the warmth of her hands and the affection in her touch. Her closeness and her concern had pierced through the shielding. And grateful tears of relief had gathered in those beautiful blue eyes.
I wanted to thank her for what she did but it felt wrong to intrude. The moment was hers to treasure and I let her keep it for her own.
I wonder if she knows. I wonder if she ever thought that he would feel this way. He retraces the steps of her experienced fingers and tries to recreate that moment. I have watched it often.
But somehow tonight it isn't helping. There isn't much that could. Comfort is unwelcome in his shielded, economical existence. Analgesics dull the workings of a brilliant mind. Charged atmospheric ions are a par for the course in a world such as his. And fresh air just isn't a possibility.
I step a little closer, wondering if tonight might be different. Perhaps he is at a point where he is too tired to resist. Maybe this time, if I tread carefully, he will let me in.
The noise is constant and I don't know why I've never heard it before. Up here, even the quiet is deafening. It's no wonder his head is pounding.
Even closer and I'm right behind him. I can see his reflection in the Plexi-glass shielding. For a moment I am stunned by the view beyond the ghostly image of him and am reminded why he loves it up here so much. The window is tinted against the naked intensity of the sun and yet the colours below us are still so vividly beautiful.
He moved down to this corner of the station to see this. It brings him calm. And I smile at the imagery; up here he is both the admirer and the protector of all that is turning slowly in the blackness.
A slight whimper and my eyes are torn from the wonder beneath us to the pain on a face seemingly so very pale in the glow from the rising moon. His hands are back at his temples, his ever awake mind busy and noisy and painful.
Too fast and he'll recoil like the startled feathers of an anemone. Too slow and it might be too late to prevent his surrender to the call of the painkillers in the med locker.
I reach out timidly, holding my breath, gently sinking my fingers into the soft blonde fringe. There is no shudder and I stroke through the layers, back along the top of his head and down under his ears, slowly and affectionately mimicking the technique I witnessed before.
Another gentle groan and I'm not sure if my touch is doing nothing or if he is subconsciously letting me in.
I move my hands up along the edge of his surprisingly soft face. Up over the gentle shape of his cheekbones. In amongst the slender fingers that press into his temples.
A heavy sigh and his fingers relax, hands dropping gently onto the arms of the chair. A lump rises in my throat as suddenly I find myself inside the barricades.
And there it is. The frown has finally released its hold on those delicate, arched eyebrows and a small smile is dancing on his thin lips.
A gentle moan and I can almost sense it drifting from him. All that he keeps locked safely away. All the concern for those who are blessed to be loved by him. All the weight of the responsibility he is all too pleased to carry.
He lets me lift the load from him for a time. Long enough to breathe with ease. Long enough for tears to congregate beneath eyes that seem to become not so tightly closed.
It is a precious moment. I savour each nanosecond that passes by the two of us entwined. I swallow back the lump that has gathered in my throat and watch the anguish fade from his softening face.
"I'm here." I confirm softly, carefully.
His smile grows an almost undetectable amount and dewy beginnings of tears sparkle on his lashes. And I know he understands.
I am always here. I am in the beauty he sees beyond the wide view-port. I am in the wonder of the stars that he loses himself in for hours. I am in the concern of a younger brother wanting somehow to always be with him. I am in the gentle hands of another who he may one day look on as he once looked upon me.
And I envy her that day. Maybe it has already passed. Maybe she knows. Maybe he feels some kind of loyalty and will never acknowledge how he feels.
And then I chide myself for being so selfish. This is not about me. This has not been about me since the day he came alone to my gravestone and tearfully said goodbye.
This is about the beautiful soul nestled deep within him. The soul that I can somehow touch while he sleeps.
All expression seems to have left his face. He is finally at peace and I smile in contentment. I move back from him, not wanting my hunger for this moment to somehow tarnish the experience by lingering too long.
He grasps my hand as I make my retreat and I gasp in surprise. I glance up at the reflection of him in the window and confirm the lack of interruption to his slumber.
"Stay." He whispers softly.
My vision is suddenly clouded with tears and I nod in slow agreement, cherishing the irreplaceable joy of this moment.
"Stay just a little longer."
His words are hushed and laced with sleep but to me they are a symphony. I step timidly around the chair and am suddenly facing him, seeing clearly the wondrous man that my quiet child has become.
I kneel down beside him and watch the steady rise and fall of his chest, my eyes then moving to the strangely ethereal meeting of his fingers with mine.
I don't know how long this will last. I have no idea as to how long I can stay. Or when the next emergency call will rouse him from his sleep. But I'll take an ocean of nothing for just one drop of this.
"I love you." I whisper softly, seizing the moment and basking in the wonder that he knows that I am here.
"You should go see, Dad." John mumbles almost inaudibly. "He misses you, too."
I smile in affection for the son that is forever thinking of everyone but himself, putting the needs of others before him even in moments like this.
I stand slowly and nod in understanding. Wanting to walk away by choice and not have the moment wrenched from me by some unforeseen interjection.
I leave quietly and see him still cradled in his serenity as I fade from his thoughts. I still don't really know how this works, even after all this time. All I know is that I am here and all I can guess is it's because I am needed. And I can be with them in the twilight hours of their slumber.
I'll head for the island and check in on Jeff. I'll sit quietly at the bedside of the men that I have watched grow from the children I once held so tightly. They'll dream of me and I'll watch them smile as they remember.
And then I think I'll spend a moment with the woman he has chosen to fill the gap that it has taken him so long to even realise was there. It's not a sensual attraction. Not the part of the jigsaw that only a lover can provide. But a closeness that only a mother can understand.
She found him once before. When the world around him gave up hope on the withdrawn, grief-stricken teenager that no one seemed to understand. She heard the careful crying in the middle of the night that none were supposed to hear. And she held him while he unloaded a world of pain through his tears.
He would resist her at first and beg her to leave him alone. But she persisted. She hugged him despite the strong arms that tried to push and thump her away. She held onto him and kept him close, refusing to ever let him lose himself in his sorrow.
He had thanked her one day. Years later. Always too shy to show any of the profound affection of his louder siblings. But a few words in Bahasa Melayu spoke volumes and she tearfully understood.
So now I'll tell her how to step even closer. I'll tell her the secrets to unlock my son's private kingdom. And I'll know she'll keep them safe.
Hey guys. The muse took me to a deep place with this one but it was a fun journey and I kind of figured that it was worth taking the chance that someone out there might enjoy the read.
I wanted to explore a character that is barely touched upon in the movie and yet has an interesting place amid the verse. And was inspired by an expression that lasts only a micro-second of screen time but was enough to get me thinking. Which is sometimes a good thing. (I hope).
And if anyone was intrigued, 'malaikat' is Bahasa Malaysian for 'You are an angel'.