Title: Terrible Fate
Ever since, he hasn't been able to sleep.
The smoke shall continue to haunt him, make him weep at night and wonder if things could have been different. Secretly, he is a believer in fate, but whatever fate is –– a religion, state of mind, being –– he hates it. Loathes the controller who seems to play with his heart because every waking second, lying in bed, is torture. He feels alone, cold and alone.
Every night, he looks forward to the morning. He dreams of a morning, of a sun, of a smile, of love, of tranquility, of beauty.
Both hopeless children discover an abandoned hut. Within contains unused material, belongings that have been thrown aside and forgotten. Entering, they begin to grin, or he does anyway, because finally there is excitement. Pieces of Old Tech fall into his hands, and he stashes his pockets with history.
They stay there for the evening, they are exhausted warriors who have only pretended to live. When he asks if she'll be okay, she confirms she will be, and he searches for somewhere comfortable to sleep. The Jenny is an appealing choice of warmth, but the boy has adventure in his heart, and sleeps amongst the crumbling architecture, inhales the scent of ash and war.
... he still can't sleep.
The ceiling is cracked. Lines are painted above him, and he follows them, some meet, some disappear, others join with the wall. He sees stories in these cracks, of journeys and horrors. He sees deaths, of loss and heartbreak, and he sees love, of a chance happening, of something which isn't supposed to occur, but did. He sees fate.
And his heart races.
He remembers light, of smiling faces and laughs, of people he knew. He remembers a girl, so sweet and wonderful, remembers the dog who was always at her heel, the guard. He remembers a man, a hero, yet the devil in disguise. He remembers a queen of the sky, of a martyr. He remembers the taunts, the glares, the compliments, the cheers of London's victory.
Then a sweet tune. A lullaby. It soothes his mind and makes him squeeze his eyes shut, cures the sting, remedies the pain, how much he wants to cry, to forget. These faces shall never leave, and the sweet tune continues. He swallows, and remembers, imagines, imagines his mother, rocking him to sleep, while the tune plays. It plays and plays...
He breathes. It is a long, slow exhale, and he clenches his fists, as if suddenly clinging onto these memories. No, he cannot leave them behind. Too many. Red... now he sees red, it is a vibrant shade, and the colour frightens him at first. He wants to run away, run away from what he first perceives is evil.
Gradually the harsh redness fades, the colour becomes brighter, and he sighs in relief, reaches forward and removes the colour. Wipes it away, and soon monsters haunt his mind but he fights them off, yet he still has to keep removing this redness, it's so red, so dark. It doesn't have to be here.
They don't have to live amongst the beasts anymore.
Sitting upright, the boy closes his eyes and listens to the music. He never wants it to stop, but every key played makes his heart shatter every time. It pulls at him, taunts him, but he can't get enough. More, he wants to beg, but he wants her to listen. To listen to this masterpiece. To listen to peace and solidarity.
It then occurs to him it is not his mind which plays the tune.
It is the girl he thinks about.
When he walks, his movements are smooth, the floor is soft, and he wonders if he's dreaming, or flying even. Yet the Jenny isn't this calm in her flight. Nothing compares to this, this awe, but not one of shock or amazement. It is an awe which he can't define. Following the melody, he brushes a hand across the wall, feels the past bow as he moves onwards.
The room is dim, but he can see her silhouette. Although he can't see her face, he knows it's her, and he stands in the doorway, listening. The song she plays makes his heart ache and he struggles to breathe. He wonders how... how can anyone learn such a destructive melody? Standing there, he realises her appearance isn't the only part of her which has been damaged. Her soul bleeds, is bruised, and she considers her soul irrelevant. She is damaged, and he is the remedy which attempts to fix the cuts.
But the cuts are too deep. Much too deep, and his presence is too late. It upsets him. It upsets him because he isn't the hero. He is too late. A hero isn't too late.
While her fingers are light on the piano (her touch is so gentle, so unlike herself), he steps closer, is quiet, he doesn't want to disturb her, doesn't want to miss the talent she has hidden from him. For days, months, he has wanted her to remove the shield, to hold his hand and follow him, but she remains distant and cold. He wants her. It is an undeniable fact that he has fallen in love with her.
Nothing has ripped him apart so easily.
Under the candlelight, he watches, stands behind her, like a soldier, watching, observing, admiring. They both realise she is aware of his presence, but no one speaks a word. She doesn't wish to hide any longer. Not now.
Then he looks at her, looks at her face, and although she doesn't look at him, he can still see her. A sad smile stretches across his lips, and he notices how she has changed. The piano has transformed her: the demons that control her have vanished, her past no longer destroys her, and she is a child again. The piano has been her cure for a very, very long time, but it is not permanent.
A pause in her performance.
'Beautiful.' One word, that is all she needs. He says the word with passion and awe, but it isn't necessarily directed at the sounds she can create. Everything about her is what he perceives to be beautiful.
He knows she doesn't believe him, she still doesn't trust him, but she says: 'While Shrike took care of me, he owned a piano. Taught me a little. It... was a good distraction.'
'You miss him.'
'I know you have many to miss as well.'
Tom kneels beside her, takes her hand, and he feels her tremble from his touch. The candlelight shadows her shattered face. All he sees is the untouched side, the side which hasn't been ruined, and he doesn't recognise her. He doesn't want to see half of her wonderful face.
'You're right,' he whispers. She is right, her words have never felt so true, but–– 'I have you.' And that's enough. That's all he needs. Because even though he clings to his sheets at night, begs the memories to fade, whenever he is with her, he can smile. She is his only source of happiness now, and she must stay with him.
It is a dangerous confession, and she can't respond at first. Hester rises, squeezes his hand and then leaves him be. The candlelight flickers, and her absence blows it out. Tom is stranded in darkness and he escapes the room, returns to where he previously lay, and now all is silent. She is not here, the tune she plays is not here, and soon memories fog his mind.
Cackles and grins haunt him, and he rolls onto his side, allows a tear to escape. He remembers more faces, more people who used to live and breathe like he did. He is a survivor, a warrior, a warrior wounded by betrayal, hatred and a fierce passion.
When the moon decides to reveal itself, the room is brightened, but only slightly. He shivers, the air is cold, and he can't sleep.
The door opens. Silent footsteps. He feels her move, near him, and then she lightly presses a hand against his chest. She is close and he wants to see her, but his eyes are shut and he can't open them. So he cries, sobs quietly, and she wipes away his tears, kisses his cheeks, kisses his lips and he kisses her, he kisses her, and he refuses to ever let go.
Arms tightly around her waist, he promises to follow her everywhere and anywhere. And his promises make her heart bleed but she clings to them, loves him for his promises, and loves him for everything. He is everything.
Her voice is a whisper, the voice of a broken angel.
'I love you, Tom. I love you so much.'