In the Shadow of Stanton

Disclaimer: I didn't come up with Simon, Bran or Will (although you all already know that so I really shouldn't have to say it)

There will be slash (though not in this part). 'Nuff said.

***

Part One: Simon

From the moment he had appeared at the top of the hill above Aberdyfi a year ago, the sun reflecting off his hair like it was a mirror, Simon had been curious about Bran Davies. He was curious about other things surounding that vacation too, such as the way Will Stanton always seemed to emit an air of age and authority even though he was technically younger than Simon himself, and how the sensation always seemed to make Simon feel as if he had forgotten something. These things were indeed puzzling, and he thought about them often, but Bran was somehow involved in all of it too, and it was to his pale face and startling eyes that Simon's mind always returned. He possessed some of the same presence that Will had, but it was also very different. His sense of age was not the tired one that Will had, as if he had seen many generations of men making the same mistakes and fighting the same fights over and over again. Bran's sense of age seemed more like that of the Welsh hills he lived in, belonging to nothing more than the land. Simon supposed that this was partly because Bran was a shepherd, and there had been shepherds in Wales about as long as there had been a Wales to herd sheep in. But Bran's connection to the land seemed more intense even than anyone else's, as if in a way it belonged to him just as he belonged to it.

Simon was a thinker. As he had gotten too old for make-believe adventures with his younger siblings, he had replaced them with silent contemplation and books. He could almost never be found without a book nearby, but it took him a long time to finish them. This was because he spent a lot of time just sitting and thinking, staring off into space with the book lying forgotten at his side. Some kids made fun of him for this, and had given him the nickname the Buddha, but he didn't really care. He no longer fantasized about being a ship's captain or a doctor when he grew up, as he did when he was younger. Nothing seemed totally out of the question, but nothing especially held his interest either. At this point he had little idea what he wanted to do with his life. He had gotten good marks in all subjects throughout his first year of high school, but had not been recognized for superlative work in anything.

When his English teacher noticed in class one day that he looked paler than usual, she thought he had just been spending too much time indoors. The school was an old building with, as far as she was concerned, far too few windows. When she dismissed the class, she called him up to her desk. "Drew," she said in her concerned matron voice, "why don't you take off the next period and go outside. You look like you could use some sun and fresh air. What's your next class? I'll write a note to the teacher..." She paused, pen poised just above a blank slip of paper, and looked up at Simon.

"Must I go outside?" he asked. "It's only April and it's cold out there. Besides. I don't feel too well."

"Well put on a sweater," she replied. "The cold air will do you good. Now go, or you won't have any time."

"Yes, ma'am." Simon turned and walked slowly out of the classroom. Only then did the teacher remember that he hadn't told her his next class. Oh well, I'll have to go look it up myself. She also made a mental note to keep an eye on Simon. He had said that he didn't feel too well- it could be that he really was sick.

Simon wandered down the dim, empty halls aimlessly until he found himself at a door leading out onto the back lawn of the school. He hadn't bothered to get a sweater. He pushed open the door and was confronted with a gust of air that was cold even for April. Then he set out across the newly green grass, hearing a soft thunk as the door closed behind him.

***

"Oh my God, he's blue!" the girl shouted to her boyfriend who was walking with her in the woods behind the school. "At least... yes, he's breathing! Quick, go get a teacher!"

***

...ten, eleven, twelve. There are twelve holes in one row on one of the ceiling tiles. The tiles are square, so the total number of holes in one tile...

"...twelve squared, which is forty... no. One hundred and forty... something..."

"Shhh, he's talking! I can't hear... good Lord, he's doing math problems." The principal leaned over the hospital bed and shook him lightly. "Simon, listen to me! What are you doing?"

"Counting the holes, sir. In the..." Simon trailed off as he gradually realized the inanity of what he was saying. More coherent thoughts began to form in his head. "Where am I?" he asked quietly. He looked around the room and it dawned on him that this probably wasn't such an intelligent thing to say either. The flowers, pastel colored furniture, and IV pole sent a pretty strong message about his location.

"You're in the hospital, son," said the principal, trying to sound comforting and almost coming close. "You collapsed in the woods behind the school this morning, and you've been unconscious. The doctors say that you're going to be fine, but you need plenty of rest to get your strength back. They suggested a trip to somewhere where you won't have to worry about all the obligations and other things in your life. Your parents are on their way from their holiday in London, they should be here very soon."

"Okay," said Simon, and drifted back into sleep.