Aww, it's over! Part one anyway. I just want to thank all my reviewers and readers again. You really mean the world to me and kept me going through all of this, even when I thought this thing would never get done. Thank you so much for all your love and support. As a token of my thanks, here's the epilogue that I'm sure you'll all enjoy after all that I put these poor characters through. Hopefully this ties some things up as well.
2 days later…
Allan jerked awake, realizing the fire had gone down considerably since he must have fallen asleep. Sleep? If the dreamless drifting of his consciousness could even be considered sleep. He groaned aloud at the aches that erupted when he tried to move. Funny how he hadn't noticed them until now. But that was likely due to all the commotion that had him running on nothing but sheer will over the past couple of weeks. He rubbed the exhaustion out of his eyes and glanced at a shadow that hadn't been in the doorway when he'd settled down earlier. He was certainly more awake now.
"What the ruddy hell are you doing up?" he asked. Although he meant to chide the boy for his recklessness, he couldn't find the energy to put it into his voice. Tom was bound to still be in a considerable amount of pain, but some part of him was selfish enough to not see him back to bed. Seeing the boy, even in this state, up and moving on his own brought him comfort, gave him hope after all that had happened.
Tom reached out to steady himself as he stopped leaning against the doorway, keeping hold of the blanket around his shoulders. He slowly made his way over to Allan by the fire. "Too bare," he whispered. "Too cold."
Allan nearly cringed at the sound of Tom's voice, thinking that two days of rest had hardly done any good. The silence, however, would certainly be more oppressive than the sound of a broken voice…like the one he barely heard in that basement. Every time he closed his eyes he could see those dreaded stairs, leading down to the horrible truth he tried to deny while he was awake, while they were both awake.
For a moment he thought Tom hadn't heard him, because the boy continued across the room, past the couch and chair by the fireside, and chose a spot on the plush carpet, not a foot from the warmth the dying fire was still providing. Allan pushed himself to his feet and eased the boy as he knelt down, his immediate fears shooting to the unseen stitches and whether they were at risk of tearing. He watched for any sign from the boy that they were and saw nothing. That, above any other bodily pain would surely be difficult to hide.
And the presence of a fever was even harder to hide. If the blanket weren't enough evidence then the gathered sweat and overall pale appearance would put the matter to rest. The unavoidable truth of the matter was that Tom's fever had raged on over the past couple of days, even after a rigorous regiment of medicine and two ice baths. The delirium returned to rear its ugly head too, making the boy shout obscenities and alternately plead for mercy when he wore himself out. In all it was a rough experience on all parties involved.
They knew that Tom acted out only because he lacked the strength to fight back…but that didn't make it any easier. It was both a blessing and a curse because it gave them the freedom to help but it also brought the guilt of taking some sort of advantage of Tom when he was most vulnerable. Allan knew that Tom trusted him and that the boy would continue to do so. But he also knew how fragile that trust was right now. And if he wasn't careful, it would snap right in his hands.
"Wouldn't you be more comfortable in your room?" Allan asked.
"Here's good," Tom murmured, curling up on his side as if he were some poor wounded dog.
"Bloody American," Allan mumbled to himself. Cursing his own body, he sat down next to Tom after taking time to stoke the fire, settling himself in as he leaned back against the chair he just vacated.
Tom's head rose and he watched as Allan sat down. To the hunter's surprise, the boy pulled himself over to him, grabbing the fabric covering his knee and choosing to lay his head there as well. Tom didn't look up at him, didn't ask permission. So Allan didn't either, resting his hand and his assurance on Tom's shoulder. The boy flinched and clenched his fist for a moment but seemed to relax after some effort. There was age in the boy's eyes that had no business being there, and Allan wasn't sure he could help make it disappear as he had with the real villain. So he glared at the emergence of a foreign feeling in his own body but managed not to retract what he had freely given. The boy needed to know that nothing was wrong.
"You don't have to do this, son," Allan said. "If you're not ready-"
"No. I know it's you. Kn-know-i's you-"
"Alright. Just calm down and rest. You'll need it when Jekyll's figured out where you've gone."
"Let 'im," Tom murmured.
Allan's other hand was itching to brush back the matted and tangled mess that had become of Tom's hair, but he was afraid of scaring the boy further with any more physical contact. So, instead, he rubbed the shoulder of Tom's clean shirt with his thumb. Offering the smallest amount of comfort he felt he could give.
"Where's Skinner?" the boy whispered.
"…Had some business he needed to take care of." Allan was careful to mask his emotions with that one. He hadn't been surprised once he found out, but he also knew that it would do no good to add to the situation they already had on their hands. He was happy the invisible man was gone. It would save them both the trouble of any unforeseen accidents. And it would save Allan the trouble of searching for the right person to take out all his anger and frustration on. Without said person close by, life was easier at present.
Both lapsed into a comfortable silence for a while. Allan was lost in his own musings and had thought that Tom had fallen asleep. But once again, the American surprised him. "Dreamed about this," he whispered.
"We'were home…with my aunt. Can almost hear her hummin' to herself….while she's makin' somethin' atthestove."
"I can imagine the trouble you must have given that poor woman."
Tom started shaking, but it was to Allan's relief that it was nothing more than laughter. "She…tanned my hide good."
The corners of Allan's mouth itched upward when he allowed himself to think of the possible scenarios. "I'll bet."
"First sight'a tears though…an' she'd smother you til they're done."
"Sounds like you miss her…"
Silence reigned again, bursting into every corner and crevasse of the room as if it were winter's chill, finally coming to call. Tom's breathing increased, as if it were hard for him to catch his breath. But what kept Allan from speaking up was the fact that there was no panic in the American's eyes. Tension rose in his small body, to a point where words spilled out like fresh rain from the sky after a long humid day on the savannah.
"I'm sorry-nevertoldyou-I was afraidan'stupid-I didn' meanforallthis-"
Allan winced at the sound of that tenuous voice. "Easy now. What's this all about?"
"It's my fault-"
"What is?" Tom's hold on Allan's knee tightened, fabric captured between bony fingers that begged for some stability.
"Everything," he whispered.
This was not the first time that Allan took a moment to curse the day that Richard Harding had been born. This was not the first time that he wished he had pulled the trigger in that basement and ended something that never should have been. But he honored the boy's request for justice. And here they both were with what remained in the aftermath of it all. And it made his blood boil.
"You'd better have a good reason for saying something as foolish as that," Allan said. "Because I'll tell you right now that it's far from the truth."
"Explain to me how you think this is all your fault."
Tom let out a shaky breath, ignoring a lone tear that escaped his left eye. "You were right…about me…being like him. Didn'tell anyone. Didn' let anyone-in. He…he was-right…I triedtofight but…I was afraid-too much of a-a-coward…I…I deserved-it-"
Allan was shocked…to put it lightly. Incredulous may have been a better word because he didn't even pause to consider his actions when he grabbed that shoulder and twisted the boy around to face him. "Are you even listening to what you're saying?"
Panic was what he saw. And it cooled the fire that had erupted in him so suddenly. He was scaring the boy. He knew this, but he couldn't bring himself to back off and find another route. Disturbing rationale such as this needed to be dealt with at the first sign. It needed to be pulled out, roots and all, no matter how deep they ran. So Allan had no choice but to cut deeper than he wanted to.
"Since when have you murdered and raped for your own satisfaction?"
Tom's eyes widened and he looked as if someone had just slapped him across the face. "Wh-what-"
"That man is a monster that threw his life away to pursue his own greed and lust for more. He fulfilled his own desires at the expense of others, without a care for their wellbeing or existence. He is, in every sense of the word, a selfish man who isn't even worthy of being considered a human being. Tell me something. Why did you leave the League to go after him alone?"
Tom stared at him, tears leaking down the sides of his face.
"Answer me, son," Allan said, softer. "Why did you leave?"
"To save you," Tom breathed. "All of-you…he-he said-"
"It doesn't matter what he said to you. You are nothing like him and you never will be, not if I have anything to say about it."
"You'd stay? After all this?"
"I would. And I am."
Tom's trembling lips quirked up into a half-smile before returning to a frown. Allan eased the hold he had on the boy's shoulder and boldly used his other to brush back the tousled mess of hair that was partially hiding those eyes that used to shine so bright. They were dark now, pleading for someone to bring them to life again. But that wasn't what brought an enormous amount of relief and hope into his tired body. It was the fact that he felt the fever break and the skin begin to cool.
"Your fever broke," Allan said with a smile.
"Finally." Tom turned his head away and sighed, closing his eyes for a moment. But Allan wasn't done. He tapped Tom on the shoulder and brought those eyes back around to finish what needed to be said.
"I mean it now and I meant it before. I will not abandon you to this. It's not going to be easy," Allan continued. "But I am going to help you get through this. We'll find our way. We'll make one if we have to."
Tom averted Allan's gaze. "You shouldn'have to."
"Hey. Leave that alone. You're alive and on the mend. That's all that matters to us, and to me. If you wanted anything otherwise you shouldn't have been so damn likeable."
Allan averted his gaze, having made his point…until Tom asked one very important question. "Why did you come back, Allan?"
He sighed, wondering when this question was going to come and regretting that it had come so soon. "Truthfully? Because of you."
"Why me?" he asked, voice getting raspier with every further use.
"Because you saved a part of me before I died, a part that I thought would never again see the light of day…not after Harry's death."
"He was the one who brought me back."
"I don' understand-"
"I didn't either, but now I think I do." Allan paused to take his hand away from Tom's cooling forehead. "I lost myself when he died. When I met you, you reminded me of him…too much at first. And I felt something that I hadn't felt in a very long time. I didn't understand what it was because I'd forgotten it. When Harry sent me back…I remembered, through you, in that basement when you asked me to let the law punish that man instead. So many before you have tried and failed to bring me back from that dark place, Tom. You succeeded."
What Allan left unsaid was the fact that he now believed it was his responsibility to see the boy back to who he was before this whole mess. Tom had saved him and now it was his time for him to return the favor. Perhaps this was what Harry meant when he said that helping Tom was the only way he could help him, now that he was at rest. But was Harry at peace? He had done as Harry asked. He had found a way to find the peace that Harry wanted him to find. Now, he supposed, it was just a matter of achieving that peace.
"What happens now?" Tom asked.
"Ground rules," Allan said after a moment's thought.
"Well if we're going to try and figure this out together, especially with your stubborn-streak-"
Allan paused and looked down with slightly raised eyebrows. "…as I was saying, some rules would be a good idea."
"Sorry," Tom mumbled.
"First rule: No apologizing."
"Gonna break that-" he muttered with a glum look.
"I don't care. It's a still a rule."
"There are none."
"The hell's a rule-without…consequences?"
"A guiding hand instead of an iron fist. Second: No isolating yourself. If there's something we need to talk about then we talk about it. No hiding. No bottling it up. Gonna break that one?" he asked, almost as if he dared the boy to say yes.
"Don't. And third: Every time you decide to share something personal with me, I share something with you. You ask, I answer."
"Anything," Allan confirmed. "Those seem acceptable to you?"
Tom nodded his head while he eyelids started drooping. He almost gave in to the need for sleep but he snapped himself out of it and burrowed deeper into the blanket that Allan was adjusting around him.
"Whendo these rules start?" Tom asked, biting back a yawn and a wince at the stinging in his throat.
"As soon as you agreed to them."
The hunter waited patiently for the boy to talk, and was rewarded without having to wait long for the first of their obstacles. "'m afraid-start dreaming."
"Go ahead. If I see something, I'll wake you. If Jekyll manages to find you, he'll wake you. Either way you're going to wake up."
Tom looked up one final time before giving in to his body's needs and closing his eyes. He let out a single breath that held all of his insecurities and fears because he was in a safe place. After the hell he'd been through he was where he wanted to be. And even though something told him that the ordeal had just begun, he couldn't bring himself to think ahead, to worry about tomorrow. All that mattered to him now was this moment, this surreal moment of feeling safe…and dare he think, loved. He just hoped, prayed rather, that it would last.
I think I'm going to take a little break for a while and get the bulk of this sequel done before I even think of posting it. Expect the sequel to be more centered on Tom and Allan than this one was. I'm curious as to whether the sequel can stand a T-rating since the extremity and graphic nature of the subject has already taken place in this story. But we'll see. Le sequel, An Angel's Requiem, will commence soon, so keep your eyes out.
It was a pleasure writing for all of you. There are some things I'm not happy with as far as the end product goes but overall I am happy with it as a whole. Thank you for bearing with me through it all, reviewers and readers alike! Leave a review on your way out if you can! T'was an honor.