Disclaimer: I own nothing. European but still not Irish
Sorry for the delay I had computer trouble. Hope you like the chapter!
Chapter 3: Misplaced guilt
Conor woke up in his usual spot, up on the roof, that morning when the sun rose up in the sky. He hadn't bothered going inside after the flight choosing instead to just crash there, fully clothed and with his glider close.
That's why he was surprised upon entering the tower and finding a tasty breakfast waiting for him. Linus came into the room just then and laughed at his eagerness. When Conor asked how he had known to prepare it Linus simply answered that, for a blind man, his landing on the roof in the middle of the night was akin to the machinegun noise for everyone else.
Of course, Linus had heard all about the hero of the Saltees, news travelled fast, the telegraph had reached the Saltees and now communication was almost instant. So he cursed Conor for not trying to contact him. They had been sick with worry. Him and Uncle, for the kid was still around .
Conor relaxed at the familiar surroundings and a deep sigh escaped him. It was half relief half confusion. Linus looked at the teen and shook his head. He had it coming for a long time. Trying to escape his past had never been a brilliant idea. But he wasn't about to let him wallow so he started to play his music. Not too long after that Conor shook himself out of it and started tweaking the craft's original designs. After a couple of hours of their routine, Uncle appeared, still as dirty and smelly as before, but also still deeply interested in Conor's work. So instead of asking questions to Linus and get music answers he had to answer Uncle's questions. Despite the fact that most of them were very basic and were making him loose time, some of the boy's questions were deeply insightful and reminded him of things he had forgotten.
By the afternoon he was reasonably proud of the new design, on paper, but he only had a motor left so he had to build a few models to test the aerodynamics. Before building a faulty full-scale plane, crash it, and had to wait for more materials.
He took a bit to eat and went straight back to the project. Linus and Uncle kept coming around every once in a while and the kid kept bugging him to let him fly his glider, which he had no intention of ever allowing . And Linus sat by him and told him tales about his life before prison. They were subtle prods to talk about what had transpired because if there was a thing Linus could not resist, it as information, specially court gossip. He was a spy after all.
Emboldened by his success, he continued working on his models for the following days. Uncle had loved the activity and used the failures to brag in front of his friends. Word had gotten around that he was back and the villagers now knew he was Airman but many of them were grateful for the end of Bonvilain's power and chose to show it in discreet ways. A couple pies had appeared one day at his doorstep and when he had gone to buy more fabric for the model's wings the tailor at the store had refused payment.
Conor was grateful for all the things they were trying to help with but what he was mostly grateful about was the solitude they allowed him. There weren't villagers coming up and congratulating him or girls clinging to his arms. Very much unlike the castle in Great Saltee. He was ready to admit he had become a loner after the years spent in prison.
Linus was worried about the boy. He knew how hard it was to adapt to yourself again after keeping a charade a long time, he was not sure anymore where Linus Wynter ended and his various alter egos started. Conor had become Finn and reverting the change was taking its toll, he had buried himself in his designs hoping to escape his internal conflict but every once in a while he would get a wistful on his face and stare off to space for a long moment. Linus could almost see his brain squashing the longing and forcing itself to concentrate on the science.
Four days had passed since he had fled. He was feeling guiltier every day that went by, he could only guess the disappointment his parents must have felt the following morning. He had had trouble realizing that both his parents and Isabella had really missed him, his Finn persona had taken root only after he had convinced himself that they hated him, having been proven wrong had shaken him. On top of that other feelings were starting to grow: he was angry at them for giving up on him, for being so trusting and not looking for his body. He felt angry and betrayed, mostly at his dad for not recognizing him. He was a mess and the only clear thing in his head was that the machine had flown.
It was probably the first manned heavier-than-air machine that had flown a controlled flight although he had by now admitted to himself that he hadn't really controlled the flight, the winds flew towards the sea when he had taken off and kept pushing him the right direction, he had managed to steer enough to make small adjustments in his flight but, now, empty of the desperation that had filled him then, he could acknowledge that any slightly powerful gust of wind would have steered him of his path and into the sea. He had been lucky and reckless that night and his design had been good but his models proved him that the weight wasn't evenly placed and that the screws had rattled all flight long, he counted his lucky stars that the hastily rebuilt machine had kept itself together for as long as it had. Even with the adjustments he and his mom had thought of the machine still leaned heavily whenever he blew softly on his models mimicking lateral winds.
He was at a loss on how to fix the weight problems, every combination of weights he had found caused the plane to veer down or the thin wings to snap. He was not happy with the results.
Late that night Linus found him looking out from one of the windows of the tower. The shape of the Saltees clear against the starry night. The old man chose to ask the question that had been plaguing Conor's mind: Why are you here?
-"What do you mean? Don't you want me here?"
- "You know I appreciate your insight but I was wondering why did you choose this windblown tower over the palace and the queen you could have back in the islands"
-"I don't have the queen" - A blush had risen all the way to the top of his ears at the thought. Linus laughed at his embarrassment.
-"That blush tells me otherwise"- It was a joy seeing the boy peek through the cracks of the persona he had created
- "It's not about Isabella. The palace is just too much"
-"You're probably the only seventeen year old boy that wouldn't bask in the attention. But you're being selfish"
-"I'm being selfish? Isabella organised an affair on my name without asking and my parents kept trying to smother me"
- "They thought you were dead. They just got you back, they are going to be a little over the top"
- "But what about me? I can't just slip back into my routine from three years ago. Too much has changed"
- "Yes, I know. However: Do they?"
-"No way I'm going to tell them all I've been trough they wouldn't understand it and they'd pity me and feel horribly guilty. I can see my mum weeping and Isabella flying into a rage"
- "But if they don't know. How are they going to know how to treat you? Besides you've changed what has happened to you has shaped who you are now. They will need to know the present you at some point or you plan on avoiding them forever?"
Now that he knew he was welcome he did want to go back to his mother's embrace to his dad's words of encouragement and to Isabella, the girl she had once liked. But she was now Queen and he didn't stand a chance, his mum had another baby to hug and he wasn't sure what to feel about his dad
-"No. I want to go back but they've changed. They didn't hover as much before"
- "They've changed? That's the pot calling the kettle black, they knew you as a gangly, mischievous teenager and they find you all grownup: taller with wide shoulders and a beard. With an attitude to match. They see you are jumpy and untrusting. Withdrawn. It must be confusing as hell to them. They don't know why you grew up so fast. Until they do and understand that their hovering makes you uncomfortable, you won't like it there"
-" But I had to change I didn't become like this because I wanted you yourself told me to do it, told me it was necessary."
- "I did and you did a remarkable job of becoming ruthless Conor Finn twenty-something year-old ex-soldier and head of the Battering Rams. You grew up fast and left your childhood behind. You have to realize your not Conor Finn. Part of him has become part of you but you're Conor Broekhart who was Conor Finn."
-"I've learned a lot being Conor Finn and frankly it was easier"
-"Easier? Maybe but you also thought you had no one in the world waiting for you. Tell me do you plan an leaving your parents and Isabella and fleeing to the States?"
- "NO! I wouldn't do that. I cant believe you thought I'd be so ungrateful!"
-"I didn't think you would do it even for one second, you see that's what family-less Conor Finn would have done"
-"So I have to revert to who I was before this nightmare happened? They would surely appreciate it"
- "You wouldn't be able to, even if you tried you'd only success in being more nervous"- Said Linus shaking his head- "You can't revert back to Finn either."
-"The key is moving forwards, not backwards, you have a design that worked badly, you introduce changes and it goes even worse but you don't go back to the first model you keep trying to make the changes work. That's the only way we grow. The answer is in neither of the two people you've already been it's in finding a third one, one that mixes the seriousness of Finn with the loving Conor Broekhart and become Sir Conor Broekhart, Airman, Hero of the Saltee Islands. You see Airman is a great part Conor Finn but Finn wouldn't have risked his life to protect the Queen."
Sensing he had given the boy a lot to think about Linus left the room quietly.
Conor didn't sleep that night. He spent it like he had spent that first few nights in jail so long ago, creating who he was going to be. He was smart enough to realize what was good from Finn and made an effort to include it in what he had left behind. He also realized that while organising his attitudes was a step in the right direction it wasn't nearly enough only time would heal the quirks he had acquired in jail. He was unlikely to enjoy being in large crowds anytime soon but he could fight to control the urge to flee.
When the sun rose he stretched his back and started his daily routine. The Rams had taught him how to keep fit in an enclosed space and even after escaping he had maintained his exercises. If you are in better shape than your enemies you have an advantage. He had missed his sword training so one of the first things he did when free had been to buy a new one, it had been expensive but it wasn't easy to find a well-balanced sword in the black market.
Uncle showed up just as he was finishing and was in awe of Conor's skill. He spent the full day begging for lessons which Conor denied. He had no business teaching him how to fight. The kid was sure that he could be more stubborn than Conor but he underestimated Airman. Conor had developed a very long patience while making plans in jail and the overexcited kid would never be a match.
Later that night Conor was much too preoccupied with trying to figure himself out to sleep so he lay in the roof awake. It was a stormy night and he could hear the waves crashing against the shore a lone figure cloaked in black walked the path up to the tower and Conor was on instant alert. He grabbed one of his muskets and readied himself to take down the stranger if needed.
It wasn't necessary, a gust of wind blew the hood off the stranger's face. In the moonlight Conor saw the glint of blond hair the tip of a regal nose. The man coming to the tower was none other than Declan Broekhart, his father.
AN: Slight cliffie! So... up next the emotional father-son talk and Conor trying to put his life back in order.