Prologue The Funeral
A group of people stood around a small grave.
It was dark out, and cold.
The three people closest to it were all male, and, eventually, all but the three turned and left quietly.
"I'm sorry," Jeb said softly, Jared and Ian standing on either side of him with expressionless faces as they looked down at the grave.
"I'm sorry, Melanie, and Wanda.. And, wherever you are, I hope that you know that.. I-"
The older man finally just shook his head, casting one last uncertain glance at the two younger men before he to left.
Jared didn't move, his face so cold, but Ian crumpled to his knees in front of the grave, bowing his head as though he had not the strength to hold it up, his fingers digging into the sand on either side of his legs as tears started to fall from his eyes, his shoulders trembling as he wept soundlessly.
After several long moments, he felt a warm hand cover the back of his neck, but he didn't pull away from the touch, needing something to focus on besides the mind-numbing grief that was threatening to destroy him from the inside out.
He flinched when the hand tightened roughly, but he just kept crying inaudibly.
"Ian," Jared said sharply, not releasing his grip on him as he went to his knees as well beside him.
"You have to let her go. Let it out. Keeping it inside will only make you ill."
"You're one to talk," Ian sniffled, rubbing at his eyes. "You haven't said anything since it happened.."
"I did my grieving already. In private. In the river room, where no one could hear me. I screamed for hours. I screamed until I couldn't scream anymore. But it won't bring them back. We have to let go, or the grief will kill us. They wouldn't want that, for either of us."
"I know that you're right, but.. I'm not strong like you, Jared. I have to have something.. A reason to keep living. If I let her go.. I won't have that reason anymore. I just.. I just need something. Something to take the pain away. I just wanted someone to love me.. To need me.. Is that so wrong? I just wanted love.."
Ian started to sob now, the sobbing escaping him in harsh, broken sounds, his entire body shaking as Jared drew him close against his broad chest, rubbing his back to soothe him as he shuddered against him.
Ian whimpered unconsciously, staring up at him now, his face tear-streaked, lower-lip quivering as they locked eyes, gasping softly while the air seemed to throb now with something potentially dangerous.
Suddenly, the comforting warmth of the other male's body was gone, and Ian slumped over onto the cold ground, curling in on himself as his weeping intensified again.
At first Jared stared down at Ian's crumpled form in disgust at what the other male had been asking him for, but his shivering and pitiful cries of agony softened him, knowing that Melanie, and Wanda, wouldn't want him to leave him there lying in the fetal-position on the cold ground, believing that it was only the man's grief that had made him suggest it.
Jared bent down, lifting him up gently, trying to ignore how his slim body felt in his strong arms, how Ian curled into him so trustingly, tears still clinging to the exhausted man's closed lashes as he fell asleep, Jared carrying him back down to the caves and to his room carefully.