I know I said there wasn't going to be another chapter, but I think this is gaining steam, so why not add another chapter? I hope no one is offended.
Disclaimer: Not mine
Warnings: Possible triggers, and implied abuse of a certain Cubi, mentions of abortion
SPOILERS: Just read the books, okay? There are spoilers, but nothing terribly intricate. You'll just be confused as hell if you haven't read far enough. :) If you are concerned about spoilers, PM me and I will send the ones that correspond to whatever book you are on. I added four new snapshots...they weren't enough for another chapter, so they were added here. :) Again, I published more shots, but they weren't enough for a story chapter (as stated above).
He counted his breaths. He knew the day was coming, and when he was there, on the ground, his vision fading, he counted. Five. He couldn't feel anything. Four. He thought it was the end. Three. He remembered his Jane. Two. His breath was stolen from him.
He knew he was lucky. He wouldn't dare say, or think, the word. In his eyes, he had survived. He didn't acknowledge the fact that he had the chance to be a father again. That even though the children were a pain, he adored them, and would protect them no matter the cost. He had made a silent oath to himself when he was first given the role, that he wouldn't be his father's son. That he would never wish the abuse he had inflicted on him to another. That he would be there on their birthdays, wherever they were at the time. He could promise them that much. However, he supposed it didn't matter. He could promise anything. People still died. His years still dwindled. Life went on. The world kept spinning. He counted his breaths.
He was asked once if it stopped. He had laughed bitterly. He knew the answer. He still prayed that it was some mistake. He still drank away her memory until he could hardly speak. He still found himself thinking about her, even though it had been decades. He still regretted the decision he made. He still hated that even after leaving her, for her safety, he was the reason she died. He knew the answer. It never stopped. The pain never stopped.
He didn't once consider an action in reply. He was well aware it wouldn't change a thing. He would see her on the streets. She would never be there. He would drink himself away. Her voice would echo in his thoughts. He would still have to put up a front. She would have a son. He would still have a responsibility. She would never come home. He would still be coping. She would still be dead. Reciprocating wouldn't change a damned thing.
Macon would lie, if the question was valid. Of course, he didn't think it was. Some nights he would think he'd lost his mind. Others, he would embrace it. Whispering touches would dance across his skin. A ghost of a kiss against his lips. A murmur that barely caught his ear. A hand, still warm, the heat radiating against his cheek from the proximity. Fingers deftly carding through his hair, brushing over his scalp. A pressure on the back of his neck, the contact almost burning. He could imagine them to be specific. The hand was catching unshed tears. The dance was similar to hers in its patterns. The kiss was a fragrant memory. The murmur would form his name. Her name. The fingers were passionate. The hand against his neck urging. Some nights he thought he had lost his mind in those touches. Other nights, he was grateful for the chance at memory.
He could remember everything about her. The way her eyes tightened when she smiled. The way tears brimmed, catching slightly on her eyelashes. The way her cheeks flushed at his slightest touch. He could remember everything he had said to her, every thought, down to saying goodbye for the last time. He could hear the tremor in her voice, the faintest shiver at his name. He could feel the drag of her fingertips across his cheek. He could still make out her scent lingering in the air of a memory. He remembered every detail, but when faced in saying her name, he faltered. Lila Evers. Of course the correction came, as expected. It hurt more than imagined. Evers-Wate. He made his apologies and was about to duck out of the room when the boy's voice interrupted him. You knew my mother? He would have laughed if Ethan hadn't resembled her in that moment. Knew her? Gods, he was in love with her. La doeleur exsquise, as his mother would describe it. Only through her work. He could remember every detail about her. He couldn't remember her last name.
Macon would admit he was torn, if asked. Was it safe to shelter the children? Would the shock of the real world, the war that never ceased, ruin them? He had known the pain of life long before he understood his name had damned him. Silas had ensured that to both of Hunting and himself. The shock to him was the reason, the motive, of war. It had changed many times throughout the years. He learned of that in his first week as an Incubus, when the light had shifted to him and his act of treason. Of course, he could never imagine Reece killing her sister because of something completely out of their control. He couldn't visualize that light dimming in her green eyes. He couldn't, and yet that was the reality. It was a possibility, a very real one, that kin would turn on each other during the course of the next few months. He knew that. However, the parallel of teaching them how to kill had struck him cold. It led to far more questions than answers. When to start? What Casts were acceptable? Could the children call upon those Casts if need be? Would they hesitate? How would that affect the outcome? How do you explain the chances of survival to a child that can hardly understand why you were damned? Would you tell them that you would protect them? Or would that crutch hinder their urgency? He hadn't the slightest of clues. Times such as these, he wondered if Ravenwood were a sanctuary or a death sentence.
He knew the chances of him being The One Who Was Two were real. In the end, he didn't give a damn. He couldn't find the presence of mind to deny it. Even if it were true, he was glad. He had lived every day to its extent. He had more touching moments with Lena. She could move on with Ethan. Macon would never have a regret, except for the fact he wouldn't see her wedding. He supposed he never should have hoped for that. Never should have crossed his mind. However, now that he was back, he couldn't shake the thought from mind. He wouldn't be able to walk her down the isle. He wouldn't be able to see her in her wedding dress. He wouldn't see any of it, and it was his regret.
Somehow, he hoped he was the One. He knew Lena would recover after his death. She had before. Any of the others, Ridley, Amarie, Wesley, Olivia, Ethan...she would be beside herself. She would forget him. He would be the One. His name would fade from memory. His memories would remain unheard. He was fine with the possibility.
He had been speechless for the first time when he was beneath a spreading oak's branches. A woman with brown hair and eyes, normally plain to anyone else, had caught his stare. She then smiled and continued her stroll across the campus. He couldn't think of a single thing to reciprocate. He could only replay the memory of her grin. He ignored the fact he smelled her from meters away. All that mattered was her. Her and how he was going to pursue their budding relationship. He dug through his thoughts, trying to pick up on her name from American History. As the clock tolled, it came to mind. Jane. Jane Evers. The girl who answered quickly and confidently. He knew her now, of course. There was no way around that. For the first time, he was speechless.
Months later, he found her on the street. The rain had came, and he had captured her lips in a passionate kiss. He couldn't stay away. He tasted the tears streaming down her face. He could smell the scent of adrenaline thrilling through her. He held her close, just keeping her there, as if afraid she would blow away. She had broken apart in his arms, and for the first time, he wished he could cry.
In the end, he was there, in the middle of Gatlin's cemetery, staring at the grave of her. In the end, he had accomplished nothing from leaving. No matter the precautions he put up, he still killed her. He could cry, now. He had been caught speechless more frequently. But standing there, staring at the only thing left of his Jane, he felt another pang of hurt. Not for the first time, he wished it was him in her place.
He figured there were as many ends as there were beginnings. There was the last time he was abused. He was nearly old enough to leave Ravenwood. Silas' eyes were dark with fury. His rough hands had gripped him to bruises. Macon had been pinned against the wall, his wrists held above him. His father's drunken breath had whispered into his ear. You look so much like your mother. In fact, I'm pretty sure if I just... A strangled noise had escaped him. Fear flickered in his eyes. Mmm...I bet you scream like her, too. Should we test that theory? His father had, of course, multiple times. It turned out he was correct. When in extreme pain, they did sound similar enough for Silas to imagine it was Ariela.
He could remember the last time he saw Lena. He could barely see. He had murmured her name as loud as he could manage. Emmaline's only response was for him to hush. He knew he was weak. He knew there wasn't much time. He had wanted to see her, if only for the last time. He convinced Emmaline to tilt his head to the side enough to watch her. She was still standing, her ebony curls rushing in the wind. Her eyes were positively green, there was no doubt in his mind. She was beautiful in her fury.
The last time he breathed. He had known it was coming. It was inevitable. It still caught him off guard when the breath was stolen from his lungs. Fear latched onto him, deep and fathomless in its totality. He felt a coldness inside him that he couldn't shake off. Lena's figure faded. Emmaline shook him. He couldn't help but be glad.
The last actual conversation he had with his brother was out of pure chance. The man had arrived in a tear, the air rippling with the force. "Brother," he snarled quietly. Macon had turned at the noise. His answer was softer.
"Hunting." Surprise colored his voice, carefully concealed under his composed mask. The addressed had stepped forward hastily, his façade breaking momentarily. "This is treason. Betrayal on both of our loyalties...especially this far into the war." He had shook his head and breathed a sigh. "What do you need?"
"I need a decent plan. We need you on our side. The Incubi are torn on whether to follow or stray, no thanks to your decision." Hunting had closed his eyes momentarily, barely longer than a blink. "Father is expecting me to live up to his reputation, since your 'alliance' has practically erased you from lineage." When his eyes met Macon's, the older nearly felt the burn of fire nestled in his dark depths. "Damn it, Macon. I..." he had trailed off before taking a deep breath. "I can't help you. You're alone in this, don't you understand? They'll overwhelm you. And I...I'll have to stand, and watch, as though I don't care that the dying man in front of me is my brother." His fists had tightened at his side. "Do you understand what your giving up? I could...I can...do something to let them take you back in." Macon understood in that last message that his fate was sealed. He gave his answer and Hunting had left. Hunting turned more to alcohol and nicotine. The brothers avoided each other until it was needed. Until they inevitably collided. Until one of them had to die.
His dark eyes snapped to the moon, awaiting another minute to pass. With a soft click, he checked his pocket watch, and tried not to linger on the feel of worn metal against his fingers. A small smile was illuminating his face. February eleventh. Memories flashed across his mind, muddling his already impaired judgement. Raven hair against paley flushed skin. The thrum of her heartbeat, quiet and terribly prominent. A quick kiss on his cheek, the heat still lingering. He had shaken his head gently. If he remembered correctly, she was in Barbados. His fingers were drumming against his thigh, waiting for the one moment when he could finally leave. A whistle had broken the silence. "Leah," he breathed. His sister had strolled out of the shadows, the darkness clinging to her form.
"Brother dear," she had responded. Her lips had not been pulled into a bright smile. Her eyes had been slightly clouded. Her red dress had hung limply on her body. "I had to see for myself. Word in the Tunnels is that you Bound yourself to the Light." A small grin had tugged at her lips. "It's about time." He hadn't known whether she was referring to his ties to the Light or his current endeavor. Abruptly, arms had wrapped themselves tightly around him. In the brief moment he hesitated, she had whispered softly, "It's about damn time."
It could have been simple. They could have Cast a curse to the unborn child. Neither mother nor child would have noticed. Of course, the latter was disputed. Killing the babe would have been the answer. It would have been quick. It would leave the family intact. It would leave them intact. He supposed that was where the problem was rooted. They were willing to gamble their lives away for the chance at ending this war. Of course, they couldn't be logical in their actions. However, he also knew he had nothing to live for. He had no complaints other than the possibility of Light losing the fight. That theory relied on the child growing attached to him, though. He promised himself he would never let her close enough for that. He was only one man, albeit a major player in the battle. He was only one man, and no simple mistake would change that.
He wasn't a hero. He was revered as such when he had died, of course. However, he imagined it was all in the light that he had died for Lena. That he had sacrificed himself for her. To their credit, they had been right...to an extent. They hadn't taken into thought the numbing sadness that had forced him into alcoholism. They forgot that he had never stopped loving her, the woman who slipped through his fingers. That he hated how he could hold everything together and still lose her. How he had woken up that first night, the first time he had slept well, and her name was on his lips. Her name was on the tip of his tongue. They didn't take that into account, though. No, they simply wrote him off as a hero, for the wrong her. It didn't mean he loved Lena any less. Quite the opposite, in reality. He loved her like a daughter. Given half the chance, he would die for her. But that night, with the embers stoking the sky, those hauntingly familiar eyes staring back at him, eyes that had been lurking in memory for decades, he wanted to die for her.
When he chose the Light they had assumed it was for Jane. The decision was rushed on his part. He was teetering on the edge of insanity when he Bound himself. He needed the thoughts to stop. The constant push and pull of instinct and sensibility. Part of him wanted to kill, the other reasoned that it wouldn't stop with one kill. Three weeks. He had lasted three weeks when an old memory stopped him cold. A memory that he couldn't recall now, but knew it was centered around his father and what that man was. He rushed the decision, hellbent on salvaging at least some of his humanity. Thinking back on it, he could have said it was because he wanted control over his instincts. Over when he was going to lose his sense. Over who he harmed. Over when he lost himself once a night, when the urge to kill was the strongest. In the end, all he wanted was to control one aspect of his life.
He was sitting in his study, his head in his hands. He had no doubt he would be crying if his body would have allowed it. He could hear Delphine's quiet sniffles across from him. He closed his eyes before taking a shuddering breath. A sob started in his sister's chest. He could feel his mind shutting down, the emotions being closed off. Between the two of the lay a leather bound book, opened wide for both to see. They had thought there was a loophole, some minor slip in the specifications, some trip, something they could use to their advantage. They weren't wrong in that hope, but they didn't accept the conclusion as help. At least, Delphine didn't. "One of us..." Her voice was trembling. "One of us is going to-" she broke off. He breathed a sigh. One of them. One side. One family. Half damned by chance, the others by name. Half saved by fate and a curse that spanned generations. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair. Then again, he never expected it to be either of those. He raised his head to rub a tired hand over his face. Stubble rubbed against his palm. *Remember to shave immediately after she leaves.*
The next time they discussed their imminent demise was on their niece's fifteenth birthday. They had passed each other in a hall, he had arrived minutes before expected and stayed a few minutes later than planned. The encounter was a few words, hushed and rapid in nature, completely on the whim of thought. Macon was convinced she wouldn't hear. Delphine proved him wrong with a quick retort. Lena, however, hadn't heard a word.
They never talked about it again. They had alluded to it many times and both of them had caught each reference with the best of graces. That night they exchanged a quick embrace. He had whispered in her ear, soft enough for no one else to hear. Thank you, Delphine. He didn't elaborate. He didn't have to.
He could hear her in the rain, when he focused. It hurt worse than her leaving. The pounding down his house would legitimatize into a cry, a memory, a breath. Into something he swore to forget but couldn't bear the consequences of. He would imagine what he remembered of raindrops. How they soaked into anything. How they snatched his feeble breath. In his eyes, the rain was beautiful. It represented an innocent love, the mind of a young child, the punishing tread that hadn't quite set in. He loved it. It reminded him of his Jane.
He didn't know when it dawned on him. It wasn't a brilliant epiphany. It wasn't a burst of knowledge, a sudden realization. He knew what it was. The end. The beginning. It was a cry. A rush. A baited breath. It was everything he wanted. Everything he didn't. It was the unraveling of a sweater and the construction of a much grander tapestry. It was one door closing. One door opening. It was a promise. It was a threat. It was a truth. It was a slander. It was a lifeline. It was his death. And damn him if it didn't scare him.
He felt the dread for a brief moment. It was when he was dressing for Lena's party. He had caught a glancing look of the night before him. It terrified him. He had always known what was next. What would happen to him. How this entire story would end this night, not too far from his home that wasn't a home, in the place his step-mother's family and his had collided. It was history repeating itself. Tearing apart everything in its path. Even his Jane, who never should have known he existed. Who wouldn't have, if he had been more careful. However, what was after this, what was past the limits of mortality, was vague at best. He knew he was going to his equivalent of hell. It wasn't a hard concept. He was confident. He was sure. It hit him then, much different than his dulling prospect. He swore he could feel death's hand burning through his suit, tightening with every second. It was an illusion, of course. He shouldn't be dying now, when he was in his prime Cubi years. He had a century and a half to live, actually *living*, not rushing around to skewed meetings or drinking his wits away. He took a deep breath and left the room, shaken by the touch.
He didn't feel it again until he was there. His thoughts were slow and his eyes were closed. It was the end. There wasn't a doubt in his mind about that. The only doubt was if he made the right choice. There wasn't a chance of saving himself now, he knew that. If he had made the wrong decision, if this wasn't what Lena needed to push her into the Light, he didn't know what would happen. He knew the chances were slim. He was the only incentive for her to join the Dark. Eliminating himself was theoretically the only option. It didn't cause him excessive pain though, the act of dying.
It was a basic thought. It hurt worse than the pulsing death rolling through him. He wouldn't be there to comfort her. He wouldn't be there to see her cry. To pat her on the back and brush her tears away. He wouldn't be there to help her. It scared him that she wouldn't need him anymore. However, she needed to be independent. He knew there would be more than this challenge for her to face. She would have to find a way to cope. It was only logical. He told himself that a few times before giving up and letting his thoughts drift to nonsensical ramblings of a woman long lost, and how that Wate boy was her son through and through. He allowed himself to watch the rain until darkness pulled him under.
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