A/N- There is another bit to this story in Kai's POV- it's called Guardian Angel and was posted a few days ago. It's the story of the in between when Claire left and this bit. So if you didn't read it, please do, so you know what all happened.
Thanks so much for reading and following this for me. I'm sad its over, but I have this weird sense of accomplishment.
Enjoy. Yay for finishing my first long fic! Woot!!
I reached down and cupped the soft pudgy face of my son as I squatted to his level, thumbs pressing away his frustrated tears.
"Cameron, it will be alright" I murmured out, shaking my head and closing my eyes. Out of habit my fingers roamed over his face, something that I sadly did often when it came to my son. I couldn't help myself, with Kai telling me for years that he was the spitting image of Gray. But as hard as I could I couldn't feel any of it.
"But momma, if…if I don't have my hat, I'm not like my daddy," he protested stubbornly, and I shook my head, giving him a reassuring smile.
"I promise I'll find it before I get off the boat."
What memories I had, that I clung to so dearly, didn't agree with Kai. Perhaps when he was older I would know. When he reached his full height and his jaw became more defined. Would he have his father's pessimistic nature? I closed my eyes, pulling on those memories and trying to relive every one of them knowing I was so close
One thing about my son, I knew without a doubt that a lot of his actions mimicked that of his father. He showed a lot of his characteristics, such as the mild discontent he seemed to feel for his stand in father figure. Pretend as he might I knew that Cameron clung to Kai, as he was the only normal link to his real father. Kai had filled Cameron's head with an image, and though it was more real than I cared to believe I often wondered if I clung to the fantasy as well. Hearing about Gray from Kai's point of view made the man very much a legend.
My eyes opened slowly when I felt Cameron's hands on my face, his fingers mimicking my movements. I remember when I carried him, stupidly wondering if there was a chance my son would be blind. It had been a fear that gripped me because of a dream, and I had prayed that that it was only a nightmare and not a premonition.
"Are your eyes broken again mama? You've touching my face a lot," Cameron asked, his large blue eyes furrowed in a type of concern a child his age shouldn't have.
"No…mama was just thinking. Go ahead and help uncle Kai unpack," I said gently, ruffling his shaggy red hair. It was amazing that he could remember back that far. He had been nearly three before I had to go in for a second surgery, and the fact that he remembered my temporary relapse worried me. I would have come back earlier if that hadn't had happened, and…Kai was concerned it might happen again. But…whether it did or not didn't matter. What mattered was getting back and being able to see Gray at least once...
I began to look around the cabin when Cameron disappeared, wondering how he could have lost his hat in the small space.
Over the years I had been so selfish, I wasn't sure I deserved what I yearned for, to see the man I loved. I had left him, stolen his son away from him and hadn't even called the man to let him know anything. It had been fear of rejection that had held me back.
And I despised that.
Even if it was too late for me, for us, Cameron nor Gray had deserved for me to hide for so long. I had taken away the chance for Gray to hold his infant son, to see his first steps and hear his first words. I had left my own flesh and blood riddled with questions I couldn't answer about his father.
And then there was Kai, and the unforgivable thing I had done to him, asking the impossible and knowing that he was doing it because he loved me. I had tried to apologize once years ago, but Kai had interrupted me.
"I'm not a stupid man Claire. I'm not oblivious, and I'm not blind. I knew what I was getting into the moment you found out about Cameron."
I didn't deserve for anyone to forgive me, and I might never be able to get that. But at the very least I would be able to give my son what he had been yearning for. For him to meet his father.
I could only hope that Gray's anger at me wouldn't be transferred to our son.
I smiled to myself as I closed the journal, shaking my head and placing it on the small book shelf of my tiny home. A lot had changed in five years, but damn sure not that.
I had been able to save up enough money to have a small cottage built across from Jack's farm and close to the forge. I had passed my grandfather's tests and had finally been able to become a full fledged blacksmith.
Jack and Mary had young son who was nearly four now, and all the married my couples were expecting it seemed. Everyone was moving on, changing.
But yet I was still here, pinning over that woman. And I didn't want that to change. Even if I had long ago given up all hope of that.
After all she was with Kai still.
They hadn't come back since they left all those years ago, but…
A little over a year after they had left, I had gotten a letter with no return address. And inside of it had been a black and white photo of all things…
I glanced over at the dresser mirror, seeing that picture in question looking back at me. I couldn't help but to smile, even if it sealed the certainty of my loneliness forever.
Claire was holding a young child with barley any hair, its small pudgy fist gripping her index finger as she smiled down at it. She looked as I remembered her, only with much shorter hair for whatever the reason…
But the fact was she looked so content- so happy in that picture that I couldn't bring myself to feel anything but the happiness she must have felt holding that baby, and at the same time the pain she must be feeling of knowing she could never truly watch her child grow.
And for some reason I tended to hang out at the beach when I was off every summer since I had received that photo. I had hoped they would come back to Mineral Town, so Claire could visit her brother, and I would have the chance to see how happy Kai made her, and if I could really be alright with him being the one to hold her every night.
I was lost in thought when I left my house, and I was surprised when I was knocked slightly off balance by something that had evidently attached itself to my leg.
"Uncle Gray!" it shouted and I chuckled some, ruffling the dark brown locks of hair of the small child and smiling down into a pair of eerily familiar eyes that I had once upon a time been in love with, ironically behind and also eerily familiar set of thick lens glasses.
"Hey there, Mason, how are you?" I asked, gaze flickering up to see the young boys parents walking towards me, Jack once again weighed down with the essentials plus extra. Mary was always overly prepared.
"Fine, thank you," he said hurriedly, tugging on my hand and seemingly determined to pull me towards the pathway. "Come on Uncle Gray, we got to hurry to the beach. It will be bedtime if we don't," he said urgently, and I had to stifle a laugh when Mary chided the boy for pulling on me.
As we walked down the pathway to the beach a strong gust of wind blew my hat off, taking it swiftly over the white sand until it stopped rolling on the ground by hitting someone's small feet. I felt my eyebrows raise when a small child picked up the hat, looking wide eyed over to the direction it had came from. Evidently the sight of the four of us was intimidating and he turned his attention back to the other end of the beach, clutching the hat to himself and bursting into a sprint.
I watched curiously as the small strawberry blond boy ran off towards Kai's old shack, evidently gathering the attention of someone who was inside, who came outside to examine things. I felt my chest tighten some with anticipation when I saw that familiar worn purple bandana.
If he was here…then…
I blinked when the form of Jack rushed passed me, somewhat angrily and at the same time excitedly. He was shouting some at Kai, who seemed to shake his head and point to the pier. I followed his finger to see the ferry, and I summarized that Claire must be on it. Jack took off down the pier, and I sighed, watching as Mary and Mason followed him, the luggage for the trip forgotten somewhere behind me.
I had been waiting for this moment for so long…but now that it was here... I just didn't feel like I belonged.
I felt eyes on me and looked back to where Kai was. He seemed to be in thought as he knelt down, and pointed to my hat and then towards me. I blanched some when I saw the small boy look towards me as well, and to my surprise he started walking towards me. I blinked in confusion as Kai also took off down the pier, leaving me and the small boy alone.
I gulped when the small boy's intense stare refused to waver, and opted to kneel down like Kai had done so I could better examine the boy as he got closer. I could easily make out a few of Claire's facial features, one being the way his nose pointed ever slightly upward. The similarity only made me smile at the young boy, my hand reaching out for my hat. But to my surprise he put it on his head, and just glared at me as if daring me to remove it.
"He said I could keep it," the boy said softly, crossing his arms over his chest as if to pout, and I just stared at him in some type of stupid aw. I scowled and shook my head, hand reaching out to take the cap but rolling my eyes when the kid jumped back.
"I don't care what your dad said, that is …"
"He's not my dad. He's my uncle. Uncle Kai said I could keep this hat," the boy stated firmly, pulling the brim down. "Mine got lost on the boat. Mama is looking for it," he explained carefully, and watched me. "So Uncle Kai said I could use this one until she found mine."
" Shouldn't you be helping her look for it. It's not likes she can…Wait? Uncle?" I repeated dumbly, and the scowl on the child in front of me seemed to echo that. "If he's your uncle, then where is your dad?"
"Don't got one." He stated as if it was nothing, and then he seemed to think better of it. "Well Uncle Kai says I do…but I never met him before. Mama said I was still in here when she left home," he said, pointing to his belly and shaking his head. "She says that is where babies come from, but Uncle Kai says…"
I found that I wasn't really listening, because the moment he said the first bit about his father, I began to notice how damn familiar this kid looked, and just why his scowl seemed intimidating on him. Because it was fucking hereditary. He had it, my grandfather had it, and I had it.
And right in front of me was proof that what I had presumed for years to be a dream, was damn sure not. And no one had bothered to tell me. I wasn't sure if I should be happy or pissed off or what. But that was quickly decided
"…and when the man and woman really like each other, the man will take her into the bedroom,"
"What? He told you that?" I finally muttered, anger flashing in my eyes as I realized that Kai's explanation on babies had evidently left nothing out, and I stood up, glaring at the smirking face of the tan man. That damn sure wasn't something that you told a kid this age, let alone my kid.
I made my way past the now silent child, determined to wipe that smirk off that arrogant bastards face. He had taken Claire off, and hadn't brought her home when they found out she was pregnant. And…they waited five goddamn years to come back. I paused, looking back at the small child, who since I figured it out looked more like a clone of myself than I had realized before.
And watching his curious gaze I found that there were more important matters at hand than explain to Kai while at this young age that the stork was perfect substitute for the sex talk.
"Hey…what is your name?" I asked the child, turning back to him fully and even offering him a smile. He blinked at me and opened his mouth right before a familiar shout carried through the air.
"Cameron! I found it!"
The young boy seemed to forget I was even there as he looked behind me and then took off as fast as he could back towards the pier. I blinked at the empty space in front of me before I realized just whose voice that had been. I spun around, and it was almost as if the wind was knocked out of me when I landed eyes on the woman.
She was waving at the direction of the incoming child, in her hand clutched tightly was a green hat, and as soon as the young boy reached her, he tore it from her grasp and replaced it. I glanced past them to see Jack and Kai in a seemingly heated conversation, and I locked my jaw knowing that soon enough I would be part of it, though if Jack and I would be on the same side given the fact that Claire's son was mine was questionable. My son….Cameorn… handed her my larger hat, and pointed over to me. I raised my eyebrows when she nodded, and holding her hand he lead her to me.
It must be hard for him to have to take care of her. If he was anything like me, then he had a strong sense to protect those he loved. I wonder what it was like for him, growing up with a mother that couldn't see…
"Hello," Claire's warm voice said softly, and I met her eyes, my own widening at the fact that she appeared to be looking right at me. I blinked and watched as she offered me the hat, and I took it warily, still trying to figure out exactly what had happened. But then the pieces seemed to click together. That picture Kai had sent me…Claire had very short hair. She…must have gone through with the surgery.
I hesitantly took the hat, twisting it nervously in my hands and looking between the two, afraid to say anything. I didn't know whether to shake and scold her or to hug the damn woman. She seemed to falter under my intense gaze and pushed some of her hair behind her ear.
"It's not polite to stare," the small voice beneath her snapped, and she yanked on the small boy's earlobe. Well at the least I knew he did his best to protect his mother.
"It's rude to speak that way to an adult," she said firmly, narrowing her eyes on the child. He sulked some and looked up at me, giving me a death glare.
"You'll have to forgive him. He's been this way since we left the city. He didn't want to come here…" she trialed off, looking at me as if waiting for me to say anything. I opted on nodding and just stared between the two.
"Uncle Kai said we should have stayed longer. The Doctor said so too," the young boy muttered, his small tennis shoe clad foot kicking up the sand. She patted the top of the small boys head, looking down at him fondly as she spoke.
"Mama left home a long time ago. I feel that I've been away long enough as it is. It doesn't matter if we stay or not Cameron. There is nothing for anyone to do if things go bad again…and besides. There is something important I have to do here." she absentmindedly brought her hand up to her chest, fingers fiddling with something. It took me a moment to realize what.
I watched as she played with the golden key, running the tip of her finger over it. A thoughtful smile came over her face and she seemed distant for a moment before realizing that I was still there and watching her.
"I'm sorry. That was rude of me," she began, her hand resting on her chest. "I'm …"
"Claire," I stated quietly, the sound of my own voice foreign and strained. She blinked at me before turning her head to the side curiously.
"Yes. As you can see…I'm not the same as I was when I left, so you'll have to forgive me for not knowing you…" She stopped talking when I reached out, brushing over the small key pendent and stepping closer to her. She was watching me warily, but at the moment I was in another time- another place.
I heard her let out a small gasp when I took her hands and placed them on my face, pressing them against my cheeks and closing my eyes for a moment. It was silly. She wouldn't be able to know it was me this way. I opened my eyes and looked down into her forget-me-not-blue ones. She seemed confused, and somewhat uncomfortable as I released her hands, opting to pull her flush against me and rest my chin on top of her head. She remained silent for a moment, and then I could sense her shift, relaxing into me.
I was about to protest the man's grip on me, and I could see Cameron reading to kick the stranger in his shin if he didn't release me. But suddenly an all too familiar scent invaded my senses. I could smell earth and smoke, and my eyes shut as my trembling arms came up to wrap around him.
"Gray…" I whispered out, feeling his grip tighten on me all the more. I tightened my grip on him as well, wondering if I had hit my head on the boat and if this was some type of sick dream. I moved my hands up, holding his face and feeling over it before opening my eyes.
I cupped his cheeks, taking in everything about him. He was a lot taller than me, the top of my head probably coming up to his collar bone, and his shoulders were broad, his arms bigger than I could remember- more than likely from his work. I pushed back some of his familiar unruly red hair, the same shade as Cameron's, and but my lip to notice the same light colored skin. I felt my hands begin to shake as my thumbs brushed over some fading freckles, very similar to the ones on our son, and I bit back a sob.
Cameron looked near identical to him.
I moved my fingers slowly over his face, memorizing it like I had Cameron's when my vision had been receding a few years ago.
His bangs were messily covering his forehead, the tips brushing past his eyebrows. He had a well defined jaw line, not the baby face that Cameron possessed, and his lips weren't too thick nor to thin. I blushed some as I remembered those lips kissing mine the last time I was in Mineral Town, and remembering then thinking that he simply must have just been a kissable man.
But the thing that amazed me the most was his eyes. The deep sapphire blue looked so different when I saw them on this man. These eyes were burning, and I was fairly sure that if he wanted he could very much pin me with a stare. They were looking at me intently, a fair mixture of shock and irritation written on his face. But there was something else in that look, a type of relief and another emotion that I wouldn't dare call love. I didn't have the right to claim that emotion.
I don't know how long I looked at him before finally burying my face in his chest, content to just cling to him.
"Stupid woman…its was stupid of you to leave for this…and then not come back for so damn long," I whispered in her hair, feeling her shaking hands fist in my shirt sleeves. "And…you never bothered to think to call…to let me know anything."
"I was scared." She murmured quietly, her face turning to look down at the obviously uncomfortable young boy. "I knew everyone would try to talk me out of it…and then when I found out about Cameron…I just couldn't imagine going through life not able to see him….I had to." She seemed to be trying to hold back her tears and she pointed towards Kai, and the child took off towards him. "So much has happened since I left…"
"Obviously," I muttered, watching the disappearing child and feeling her tense some.
"He is your son…"
"I figured as much. He looks just like me," I hissed, my anger flaring as more outraged thoughts entered my mind.
"Kai always said so…but…" she pushed back and looked up at me. "I never understood how much till now…" she looked down at the sand and shook her head. "I know you…are probably angry and may even hate me…"
"Five damn years Claire. Five years…and you come back with that boy. You robbed me of watching you grow…of seeing him grow…"I interrupted angrily, muttering to myself, pushing back some to look at her in my frustration. "I didn't deserve that!"
"No…but I thought…" she shook her head, pushing back from me as well.
"Did you think at all about how I might feel? About anything but yourself?" I questioned angrily. What if she hadn't made it out of surgery. Then our son would have grown up without a mother. Did she even take time to consider what might happen to her or to me? And if something happened to her how it would affect everyone?
"Gray…there is no excuse for what I did. I didn't have to keep the pregnancy from you…but…what the hell was I supposed to do? Have Kai show up with him after he was born, and tell you he was a product from a night you were too drunk to even remember? What was I supposed to do if I came back and you were taken with Mary again?"
"You should have came back her so I could help you, so I could be with you. I would have gotten you through it all. I wouldn't have done that…I wouldn't have gotten back with her, even if Jack and her hadn't worked it out," I muttered darkly, grabbing her chin and forcing her to look up at me. "Because you were all I wanted. Hell woman, you are still all I want," I said the latter quietly, even offering her a small smile. "I love you…"
"I know you do…I've known that all the time," she said tearfully, wiping her eyes and shaking her head. I frowned and blinked at her in confusion.
"Then why did you leave?" She closed her eyes, her hands coming up to cup my face before she opened them back, her cheeks tainted a lightest shade of pink. I watched in some type of weird fascination as she blinked tears out of her glistening eyes.
"Because you wanted me to be able to see the way you look at me. And I wanted that too….more than anything in the world. You said…I could be as selfish as I wanted when it came to you."
I pulled her tightly against me as she buried her head in my chest, my eyes shutting as I remembered the words I had said the night before she left.
"I wish…you could see the way I look at you Claire."
"What would I see?"
"I don't know…"
If I had known...she was going to leave I would have answered...
"I...I should have told you back then," I muttered, opening my eyes to see a small group of people observing us from a distance. I could make out Kai, holding a rather large looking book in his hand as he approached. His other hand rested on the shoulder of the small boy, and as he got closer he looked down at him, smiling.
What was I supposed to do about this? What would be the best way to explain to this young child that I was his father? It didn't take much for Kai to take matters into his own hands.
"Cameron...this rather scary looking man, is your daddy."I blinked at Kai and then looked at Claire out of the corner of my eye.
"He's not very scary to me," the child said with a shrug, his eyes examining me. "He looks like me, and I'm not scary," he said adamantly, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring up at Kai. "Mama says I'm very handsome."
The statement had Kai snorting and covering his mouth to hold back laughter, and I shook my head before looking in between the woman my arm was still protectively wrapped around and the man that had acted in my stead the last few years.
Between the two of them we had a lot of catching up to do…
Two years later…
"How much longer, Grandpa?" I asked the old man next to me, returning the glare he was giving me through his bushy eyebrows. He sighed and shook his head, choosing to ignore me.
"Cameron he told you five minutes ago he doesn't know."
I rolled my eyes at the voice, glaring at Uncle Kai, who was hugging Aunt Popuri tightly, his hand resting on her big belly. I slid off the chair, stumbling some when I hit my feet and walked over to them. I touched the large belly myself, having been used to it since mama was always touching hers. I thought maybe I could feel it move, but when I didn't feel anything I let out a big sigh and sat next to Uncle Kai.
"You think it will take this long for Aunt Popuri?" I asked, trying to get someone to talk to me. This was just so boring. I didn't understand why I couldn't go in there with mom and dad. It was totally unfair.
"I hope not. It didn't take this long when your mama had you," Uncle Kai muttered, his large finger rubbing over the gold band that he had daddy make for her last year.
"This is taking entirely too long," Uncle Jack finally said loudly, standing up and beginning to pace. I bit my lip to keep from laughing at him, because mama had told me it wasn't right to laugh at Uncle Jack's temper. I instead ran past him and to the now open seat by Aunt Mary.
"Why couldn't Cousin Mason come?" I asked with a pout, and the dark haired woman smiled and patted my head. "Because he is with his grandparents today."
I looked at the small baby in her arms and sighed. "Why didn't cousin Jace go too? I can't play with him yet," I muttered dejectedly, and stuck my tongue out at Uncle Jack when he picked me up out of his seat.
"Get out of my seat, squirt," he said teasingly, and I let out another sigh when I once again found myself on the floor, with no one to play with, no one to talk to and no TV to watch.
I turned my back to the people in the room, choosing to ignore them like they did me, and began to count the square tiles on the floor.
I let out a small cry when I found myself being lifted up, rather highly and my arms wrapped tightly around the neck of my dad, seeing him grinning at me and spinning me around. He looked around the room and even though he was in this stupid looking blue sheet thing no one was laughing at him.
"It's a girl," he said loudly, and I don't think I had ever seen my dad smile so big, even when I busted my first boulder in the winter mines. "Claire's fine, the baby is fine…I'll bring her out after Cameron sees her," he said quickly, turning and carrying me into the room I hadn't been allowed to go in earlier.
I pushed back and made a face at my dad, grabbing his face and turning it to me. "A sister?"
He chuckled some and nodded his head. "Yeah…but she's going to need you to look out for her, you know? You have to make sure no one picks on her. Just like you do for your mama," he said quietly as he stepped inside a small room of the side and pulled back a smelly curtain. I blinked down at my mama, and narrowed my eyes at the small blanket she was holding.
I was about to tell dad that I didn't see anything when a tiny hand came out of the blankets, causing me to lean down to get a closer look. Mama smiled at me and pulled the blankets back so I could see the small baby, and I narrowed my eyes some what worriedly.
"She's a lot smaller than Jace was. Is she sick?"
"No. She's just small. Girls are smaller than boys," Dad said, ruffling my hair. I glared at him and pushed it back to its proper place, wishing that I had time to grab my hat before dad had rushed us over here. But when I had went to the living room and shook him awake on the couch he had been in a big hurry when I told him mama had said her water broke.
"What is her name?" Daddy shrugged and looked at mama, who was looking down at the baby like she did at all babies.
"Gracen?" she whispered out, and Daddy nodded, leaning over and brushing a finger of the small chubby fist. I mimicked him after he pulled away, and my eyes widened when the hand caught my hair. I nodded firmly, looking at the baby as I spoke.
"I'm going to call her Grace for short," I said firmly, and heard my dad laugh at me. I turned back and looked at him angrily, crossing my arms over my chest and shaking my head. "She's a pretty baby, even if she is a girl. You just…try harder to get me a brother next time."
I continued to glower at my dad, even when he started laughing and was joined in by mama. I didn't see what was so funny, but I was determined to have a brother. No matter how many times my daddy had to try.