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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2015 6:21 am GMT 
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He'd winced at the sound of the case being kicked away. A part of him surged with relief, another a sort of righteous anger-- it wasn't mine, he half wanted to say, it wasn't ours to break-- and at the same time it lurked in the peripheries, still winking through the cracked glass, casting little specks of light where it spun and fell still. He knew enough to know that if he got to his feet to reclaim it, he'd fall. His knees were shaking, and with each breath his lungs trembled.

A sort of silence was descending inside his mind, like a dust sheet cast over. Numb, his throat constricted tight, and at first he barely heard the words when he spoke them. Only felt his tongue move, press against the roof of his mouth, flit across his bared teeth.

"M-Marry? Really? Really?" His eyes flickered across to Han's, wide with some sort of wretched humour, almost manic. They may had been devoid of the fires of fever, but they still sat deep in a skull's face. "Are you even-- are any of you even--"

He lapsed again into silence, and his knotted fingers fell to the windowsill. His gaze wandered over to the view from the window. Little stray wisps of smoke hung over the houses, and even from this distance one could see the miniature shadows of people walking through the streets, with dogs on leashes and children in perambulators, and the odd taxi hurried by.

"I... I don't know why you're all putting up this mask."

He raised a hand enough to drag the pads of his fingers down the glass, as if wanting to plunge his hand through and snag the world outside.

"You're all talking as if I... As if I'm..." sweet boy, handsome young, colour right back in your cheeks, marry if you can, quite the popular The corpse-like mouth twitched. Normal. The mouth Jet hadn't seen in months.

"Han, I'm hideous. It's not my face."

His hand slid to the bottom of the pane, and his voice was quiet, and then it broke.

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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:28 am GMT 
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"No, it's not." The ease with which he agreed startled him, but Jet had been lied to enough. "Of course it's not. But I see you every day, and we talk, and I forget--particularly now, when you sound so much more like yourself than you've done for some time."

From his position leaning against the wall, he sank down into a stiff crouch, exhaling slowly through his teeth. He'd left the hospital with a stranger's face, after the war. It was the first time he'd seen a mirror in months--all that time shaving blind, or not bothering to shave at all, and suddenly he'd come face to face with some thin, haggard stranger. He recalled staring in unbroken fascination as the seconds dragged into minutes. A long time. He'd been shocked by the deep lines carved into his face, the ugliness of the scar on his cheek and how raw it looked still. Staring into the reflection of his own eyes, he'd seen something that unnerved him. In the end he'd looked away.

A fleeting thought: it was a wonder Frommholtz had recognized him at all.

"I'm inclined to believe it will pass, that it's more a question of when. The staff here seems optimistic. But if I've been blithe or careless, let me know. I'll take my cues from you."

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Last edited by i_heart_dvorak on Sun Aug 30, 2015 8:46 pm GMT, edited 1 time in total.

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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:08 am GMT 
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It's not my face.
No. It's not.


In theory the words should have hurt, and more out of a mechanised response than emotion did he let his eyes flicker to where Han now sat. He watched the faint wince around those dark eyes-- must be his knees, they gave him the worst trouble nowadays-- and something in him quietened. Like a sigh of a breeze passing over a lake's surface... Little ripples of thought and emotion, and otherwise quite still. His body still shook. That was with physical exhaustion. It felt good to hear someone say it. No, you're still not right. We both know that's not you.

The seconds dragged by.

"I don't want the nurses to see me. I don't want anyone to." Soft and quiet the words came, so soft you might have thought he never intended Han to hear them.

Then, clenching his jaw, he dragged a foot back and turned to awkwardly slump down the wall and sit next to Han, tilt his head back against the cool plaster and gaze up at the ceiling above them. His hospital pyjamas were loose on his shoulders, and with thin hands he pulled the material back over his collarbones.

He let his eyes fall closed.

"Sorry. I'm sorry." His pale lips twitched in the echo of a smile. "I'm getting greedy, suddenly."

His head tilted a little, enough for him to look at the other man out of the corner of his eye. The lines on his lines, the strength of his jaw, the old and familiar scar on his cheek. He remembered when they were all so new to him, when-- in the early days-- he's considered slipping out of the apartment and never coming back. There had to be a catch, after all. There was always a catch, and something it wasn't worth sticking around long enough to see what kind of dagger they'll slip into your back.

Jet looked away.

"... This.... reminds me of that alley. Remember? I'd met you only a few days earlier." The sun moved across the walls, and the light shifted and danced with each wind that stole through the trees. "You watched me break my knuckles on some wall, and scream God knows what at you. This dirty little brat who you just happened to bump into on the street." His fingertips smoothed over the skin on his knuckles, remembering the blood and the feel of his throat as it screamed. "And you decided to save my life. Because of some gut instinct."

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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:55 am GMT 
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He kept his eyes on the shifting patterns of light on the opposite wall. Confronted by his own good deed, he couldn't help but feel embarrassed. Just another reminder that there was so much Jet didn't know about him. He could still see the wariness in Jet's eyes, telling him I can't stay. I can't. I'm contagious, or did you forget? And in spite of that he'd been so hopeful. Han had seen it stamped all over his face.

Of course he'd known. He'd thought about the thick layers of dust building on his windowpanes, about the war, dropping to his knees at a man's side in the dark and the mud to staunch what he'd thought was a bullet wound to the stomach before his hand sunk straight through the wet uniform into soft guts torn apart by shrapnel. He'd thought about walking the empty streets of New York with his collar turned up against the cold. About a house in South Africa, its gray windows glaring down at him, dark and pitiless and vacant. He couldn't remember what he'd screamed then as he split his own knuckles against the unyielding door.

It was too late to say it, that it hadn't been Jet's life he'd been thinking about then. Or how each time he'd woken up before dawn after a restless night with a new wheeze in his chest he'd listened to himself breathe and thought, This is it.

Instead he just let the words wash over him. The corner of his mouth quirked up into a smile. "I remember you showed your gratitude by bringing me a steaming hot cup of tobacco broth. We've both come a long way since then."

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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2015 2:09 pm GMT 
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"Have we? You know I'll probably do it again given half a chance."

And had we really changed till a few months ago? Till a few days ago? He couldn't help but ask the question to himself. After all, little had changed when they lived together... Grown a little more kind, a little more open, and cautiously begun to weave the bonds of family, perhaps. But Han grew more tired, and though both of them never lingered too long, Jet had grown thinner. But they had been happy, hadn't they? Or they'd started to be.

And then all it took was one dreadful catalyst to send their already worn-down world crashing to the ground, like dried pottery. And when they had tried to retrieve it the clay had crumbled to dust in their fumbling fingers-- the desperation in Han's hands and the dying shake of Jet's lungs. And things still didn't quite change, only that the natural process of time sped up a notch. The already dark circles beneath Han's eyes darkened. As for himself, well... Jet just tipped the scale and entered the last few miles of the road called death he had walked on for years.

Then something had happened. Some strange and fleeting figure Jet had barely seen, but perplexed him still.

"The fever made everything a blur. To be honest with you I barely remember half of what went on, especially at the beginning. I remember..." He paused, squinting his eyes a little as he tried to recall names through a dark and lonely haze, beneath thick sheets and sweat. "I think I remember... The ship-- no, before the-- ah." He stared at the floor a little dazedly. "It's surreal. I can't tell you how we got South Africa. Did I go to hospital? Was another man in the apartment one time?"

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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 1:03 am GMT 
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Han's brows drew together as he too struggled to remember. Everything had gone by him at a breakneck pace, the events themselves a blur, until suddenly the spinning world had deposited him, still dizzy, on the shoes of his ancestral home. "I'd be surprised if you were remembering a hospital. I brought you home, that first morning, and after that we didn't go back."

The doctors there had wanted to keep him, but once he'd pulled off the unlikely feat of surviving the night, Han had insisted on taking him home. He'd known Jet's feelings towards hospitals, enough to suspect it would be even less likely that he'd recover there than at home. That, and--though he'd wanted to sink into the earth because of it--he couldn't afford to fund a prolonged stay.

"It was about three weeks later that the letter came. It was as big as a novel, all hand-written, splotched with water or mildew or whatever else. From Dr. Cohen, describing the medical trials he'd been preparing for the last five years or so. Well, in truth the trials were only a small sliver of the whole. Most of it was reminiscences of our time at university, an extremely detailed account of what he'd been up to since, ethnographic and botanical sketches--most of them horrible--and even some poetry, which I'm moderately certain he wrote himself. I've still got the whole thing is all boxed up back in Saint Louis. You'd be welcome to read it, if you like."

Then he paused. Whereas before he'd been glancing sidelong at Jet, now his eyes wandered up to the ceiling, to the far wall, never quite meeting the gaze of his charge. "The man you're thinking of... that was probably Dr. Frommholtz. David mentioned him, in the letter. In passing, of course. In fact he was, quite literally, a footnote; once David had tracked me down through the Embassy in search of a mailing address, he'd thought it a notable enough coincidence to mention that one of his most prominent consultants for the study in question would also be coming from Saint Louis for the trials. That man was Dr. Frommholtz. So I tracked him down, called at his house--abysmal manners, my mother would be mortified--and asked to see the research. And he agreed. And asked to see you."

He frowned. Stared down at his fingers, interlaced and callused, thickened with time and manual labor. These were the hands he'd been ashamed to offer in handshake to Septimus Frommholtz--Lord, Doctor, Englishman--with his pale, slender hands the temperature of ice. He still remembered the frantic, fearful energy with which he'd cleaned the apartment. Everything, from top to bottom, even temporarily evicting Jet from the bed to change the sheets. Jet had been barely conscious, too exhausted to walk. Han had carried him. He was not surprised Jet didn't remember.

"That was when he told us about the trials. Three days later he'd bought us tickets and we were on the ship. A week and a half after that, and we were here."

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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 1:51 pm GMT 
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" 'He bought us tickets'? "

The first repetition was soft, the second full of sharp disbelief. With an abrupt look at Han, his pale skin flushed slightly, and his tone became almost defensive. "You mean the trial funded us. Cohen or some-- some trial administrative-- What do you mean?"

Over the course of the weeks-- littered by invasive procedure and the dull ache of injections and drawn blood, so frequently he had a semi-permanent bruise in the crook of his arm so often put there by those bloodless hands-- he had grown to hate him. That strange, aloof, passionless man. Han had hated him too, he knew that much. At first his own hatred had started out almost impersonal, automatic almost. Han-- his point guard, his signpost and saviour-- disliked him. To despise him was therefore nothing short of obvious. Personal dislike had grown on its own. He had a vague recollection of him once bottling a bloody handwork hoed, and the fine pin-points of cold skin where they'd held against his jaw and cheek, helping him as he hacked up the bloody contents of his lungs. He'd hated that touch, through the gloves. Those fine and blue eyes full of apathy as he spoke, and, fuelled with prejudice he'd convinced himself that to this scientist he was nothing more than a diseased bag of blood.

Gradually the suspicion has grown. At some points-- like the time after he'd scratched Han's wrist, when he could barely remember his own name he half-started to believe it.

"The man was some sort of psycho-- you practically said it yourself one time."

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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:59 pm GMT 
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He fell silent then, debating whether or not to tell Jet about the war, about those fleeting half-memories. Septimus Frommholtz had been a ghost in the hallucinatory twilight of Han's fever dreams long before he'd appeared in Jet's. And were it not for that frigid specter of a man, Han's lungs would have betrayed him nearly a decade before he'd stumbled across a dirty, coughing urchin in some alleyway and decided to keep him breathing no matter the cost. And yet, even as he debated, Han already knew what his choice would be. Some things were simply too strange to be believed.

"I can trust your discretion, of course." It wasn't a question. He was already lowering his voice as he spoke. The war had been over for twenty-five years, and yet the wounds, for many, were still raw and fresh, the pain anything but dulled with the passage of time. "Look, my father was born into a family of Trekboere, as hard-line as they come. He was around your age when blacks killed his family, younger even maybe. During the First War of Independence, he was a commando, one of the freedom fighters who took to the veldt and gave the British Army its first real walloping since the American Revolution."

It would be the first time Jet had heard him speak of his father with anything but venom, or at best a sort of impenetrable coldness which made it clear those memories belonged to another time, and were not something he was looking to discuss. Now as he spoke, he grew more animated, though his voice remained at a low volume. Was this how it had been then, during the days of his boyhood?

Jet, it seemed, was not the only one whose father provoked a deep-seated conflict of fear and loyalty somewhere near the root of his soul.

"Then he struck it rich prospecting and opened a diamond mine. Married my mother--Cape Dutch, monied, educated in Europe, her family only a generation or so distant from the Continent itself. And suddenly found himself in a society where most of his peers and business partners were English, whether entrepreneurs or gentry. By the time I was born, my family already had one foot each in two very incompatible worlds. And five days before my eleventh birthday, war broke out again. This time, my father refused to take sides--and in doing so, as good as came out in favor of the British. Pretoria has always been a Boer stronghold, so we fled with the rest of the English refugees. I spent the night of my birthday on the floor of my great-aunt's house in Cape Town."

He took a deep breath, then. He'd been talking for what seemed like a very long time, and his throat was beginning to go dry. "This time, the English had learned from their past mistakes. So when the commandos took to the veldt, they rounded up the women and children left behind in the settlements--burned the homesteads, poisoned the wells--and put them into camps outside the city. I used to go with my mother when she went to distribute soap. And it was..."

Another deep breath. He'd seen nothing, really, to compare. Bony limbs, bulging stomachs, sunken eyes gone dull with hunger or disease, and everywhere the nakedness and poverty, everywhere the stench. The War he'd fought in had been a different kind of horror. There had been boys in the trenches, but no children. No infants. This, furthermore, had been personal.

"I suppose what I'm trying to say is that there's a long and tangled history here. I will agree that Dr. Frommholtz's manner is not what you'd call endearing. More than anything, though, I'm afraid I let my own prejudices cloud my judgment. I'm not looking to be excused of this, I'd just like you to understand why."

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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 4:39 pm GMT 
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Somehow it had never occurred to him that this had all been bigger than two men with personal grudges- that wars fought so long ago and in such far-flung places could have haunted some man's private house an ocean away, and that with an accent a man could be so reviled. He could only guess at what a "camp" meant; he imagined tents and log cabins, the sort he'd seen advertised in boys' magazines with depictions of rosy-faced youngsters dressed smartly in shorts and caps and looking suitably responsible. Cast against this image was the look in Han's eyes. For whatever reason, Jet felt a nameless sort of fear run through him and down his spine, and he had to look away.

He was struck, suddenly, by the thought that Han must have seen monstrous things in his life.

"... I see. At least, I... well, I think I do." He was keenly aware of how foreign he was in this, how removed from the acute misery suffered here. The pain gouged into the earth as deep as Devil's Peak towered. He may be a demon, but not the one we both thought he might be.

Jet had a creeping, unnerving feeling that he had begun to wade into depths he wasn't old enough, or wise enough to appreciate. There were some thing left firmly in the realm of the adult. There was something about Frommholtz' and Han's faces he couldn't quite understand. In hindsight, perhaps it had been the ravages of war.

"Next time I see him, I'll try not to be as snarky as I usually am. How's that for rebuilding bridges?"

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 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 8:02 pm GMT 
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He started to smile, then paused as the doctor's words came back to him. In his mind's eye, he saw Frommholtz toppling sideways from his chair as though in slow motion, remembered lunging forward to catch him and prop him up. He was a pale man, and yet even what little color he possessed had drained from his face as his heartbeat guttered, slowed. His own scramble for the oxygen mask had been so clumsy, and he'd found himself wracked with sudden fear, affected in a way he should not have been. They'd said their goodbyes, parted with a handshake. And by the time he'd arrived back at the room with a Columbia application in his pocket, he'd had to clasp his hands to control their trembling. Swearing in a low hiss from between clenched teeth.

The cane, the pills.

In London, the snows would just have begun to melt.

"We may not see him again. It seems he has business in England." Outwardly, he was calm as ever. As the enormity of it all came thundering down on him, he felt himself growing distant, his emotions compressed into something molten and intense deep in the core of him. How was it he spoke so evenly? The words rang foreign on his ears, as though they'd spilled from a stranger's mouth.

That first winter, the hospital had been so cold.

He took a deep breath, let it out slowly. He was filled with a sudden sadness, vast and deep--longing for something he'd never possessed, didn't even think he'd particularly wanted. It had never yet occurred to him that his careful facade might not be as impenetrable to Jet's scrutiny as he'd always assumed. As such, when he spoke, he somehow carried on as though everything was as before. As though it would be alright.

"...but I'm sure that, if we do chance to see him, he would appreciate the gesture. Though somehow I doubt he'd show it."

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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Wed Sep 30, 2015 2:17 pm GMT 
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It would be too much to assume that somewhere in a laboratory, or hospital bed, or cabin in a ship destined far north there was a man suddenly drawn to that same melancholy. Even if there was, who was there to say it was one solitary man with a scar on his cheek who inspired it. They all passed so quickly, after all, each of these strange moments, suspended in resin. There was no one left to say whether Han really was anything more than a scribbled footnote in another's life.

It was far too much to assume that Jet could even guess at it. Instead he found himself still wrestling with that quiet unease that came with Han's alluding words to shared pasts. There was an air of finality about Han, when he spoke of the future-- and whilst now some rational part of him respected that strange ice-painted figure, or more cynically his wallet, he couldn't help but feell an instinctual wash of relief that he was gone. Never again would he have to feel the cool press of those fingers on his pulse or watch him bottle those hated gloves. He had never quite shaken the suspicion that, had he died, Septimus Frommholtz would have smiled in anticipation at the thought of his autopsy.

"Well in that case I'll... Well, I'll do my best, come Hell or English manners." He dropped his head, lacing his fingers a little painful at the nape of his neck and searching the floorboards with exhausted eyes-- bewildered, and still a little hoarse. "We're a funny trio, you, me and him. None of us were probably ever meant to meet."

He cracked a smile.

"I'd have died or... won the lottery or something that winter. And you'd... Oh, I don't know. Fattened up on all the porridge I ended up eating. Or got a dog. And he'd have stayed wherever he was in the East and won a Nobel Prize for something, by the sounds of it."

Jet didn't know why, but he was suddenly posssesed to raise a hand and briefly rest it on Han's shoulder.

"It was too much of a coincidence to meet once, you know? So we're all bound to meet again. One day."

For a moment there was stillness, apart from the dust mites and the lazy rise and wall of the shadows on the wall. And then Jet drew back and started to push himself up from the floor.

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 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Thu Oct 01, 2015 12:51 am GMT 
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"Well. Who am I to argue with such infallible logic?" He returned Jet's smile, his own dry and crooked. The depths of his own weariness were just visible through the cracks and rough edges of his customary mask. But the brush of a skeletal hand on his shoulder brought him back to earth, as always. He exhaled a slow breath, the air hissing out between his teeth, and as he did so he willed the ghosts of the past out with it. It was time to be present. If not for his own sake, then for Jet's.

He didn't relish the prospect of getting up any more than Jet did. These days it only took a minute's rest for his knees to stiffen. As he started to rise now, they crackled audibly and he muttered a few curses under his breath. He'd had to censor his language more carefully here, surrounded as he was by potential Afrikaans-speakers who might actually understand what he was swearing about. Still, he managed to stand before Jet was fully upright, and extended a hand to the boy.

"...'got a dog.'" he quoted after a moment's reflection. "I hadn't really considered the possible benefits until now. A dog could be trained to fetch me my slippers on command. Too late to swap, is it?"

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 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Thu Oct 01, 2015 1:11 am GMT 
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"Well I don't want to take that prospect away from you." Jet's hand clenched his tightly, though that manic strength fever had leant him was gone, and so was the heat. "Ah, I don't know, you could probably pawn me off on Cohen somehow. Or Lewis. To be honest, I think in the wilderness Cohen might forget I exist after a couple of months..."

On his feet now Jet swayed a touch, and then came back to himself. He threw a look down at the clasped powder, and his mouth tightened in shame, and he looked away. Even as he drew back from Han to approach it, crouch down, gently lift it up off the floor his feet stirred the loose powder that scattered, and rekindled that rose scent. He'd tell her tomorrow, how stupid and infantile he'd been, how he was sorry, and how it had never been his to break. He didn't even have the defence of a feverish mind. It was slipped into his pocket.

"Physio tomorrow and all that. I should rest up."

He began to back track towards the room with that uneasy, slightly staggering gait from wasted muscles- but his eyes were trained forward, and his jaw was set.

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 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2015 8:03 am GMT 
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Han stood and did not move, and watched him go. He looked so fragile, stick-thin and unsteady on his feet. But by God, he was on his feet. In that moment, Han was seized with a sudden prescience: Jet would live. At least for now, he would live. The two of them had that in common, and it was a legacy that Jet would carry as surely as though he'd been Han's biological son. Survivors and castaways.

Han had known a great many people in his life, though he'd kept most of them at arm's length. The only one he'd ever really done right by was Jet, and even then he'd made so many mistakes. They made for an odd pair: the boy, almost a man, emaciated and staggering, sharp-faced and dark-haired and pale; the man, broad shoulders stopped with weariness, ruddy and sandy-haired, soon to be gray, with a face like eroded stone.

When Jet had gone halfway down the hall, he would hear the soft drag of heavy footsteps coming up behind him, accompanied by the faint tobacco scent that announced Han's presence. A hand took his elbow--not to carry him, but to steady him as he took those weary steps for himself. That was the sort of father Han had always been.

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 Post subject: Re: Old Ghosts (( Dvorak! ))
PostPosted: Sun Jan 17, 2016 9:25 am GMT 
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It was afternoon in the garden.

His footsteps had led him here. His mind was elsewhere, wracked with bittersweet grief. He had never known a garden quite like this. For a long time, the gardens of paradise in his mind's eye had resembled Al-Fayed's. He'd had no other point of reference, and had never known a place could be so green. The jungle had changed his mind about the latter, the gardens of Koh Tao about the former--though their memory was tainted. They too carried a bitter taste. And the jungle was no man's garden. Wild and fierce, it filled his fever-weakened mind with dreams of an Eden long-since abandoned, filled with ghosts and whispers. And then he'd gone to the city, he'd crossed the ocean, he'd found himself a gray little box in a world of gray boxes. If there were gardens in Saint Louis, he hadn't taken the time to seek them out.

This garden, though, was unlike any he'd ever seen. His feet carried him down winding little paths between flowering bushes, under the branches of carefully tended jacarandas and orange trees. His fingers brushed over furled leaves and they unleashed fragrances sweeter and stranger than anything he'd known in his previous lives. All around him, the scent of earth and greenery and living things rose up from the ground and wrapped itself around him and dulled the knife edge of his pain. The sky overhead was a sweeping bowl of cloudless blue which faded to white as it disappeared behind the ridge of the mountains. He almost felt that if he walked long enough, and prayed hard enough, he might find her here waiting for him. His fingers twitched in the absence of prayer beads.

A wind stirred the branches; the garden murmured to itself in a language older than time.

_________________
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"Because studies have shown that dvorak's a genius" - Dass
"On a side note, dvorak, looks like the Pope is recognising your authority in Sainting people. Can only be one person representing God on earth at a time" -TFP


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