A Change of Grace: Chapter 31

Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 31 of 41
Author: Sheryl
Rating: PG-13
Summary:
Taylor ends up traveling back in time to New York in the 19th century. There he meets Kathryn, Benjamin, Joshua and Grace among many others. The story follows both Taylor’s adventures in the past and Isaac and Zachary’s search for him in present (1997/1998) time.

Chapter 31

“God I’m a moron.”
Taylor let himself in, terribly annoyed with himself. “All this time, all this work, and I screw it up like that…” He flung himself onto the sofa, mindless of the smoke, sweat, beer and various other detritus clinging to him, mementos of his overnight adventures. “I just completely ruined it. God knows what I said… what’d I have to pound ’em down like that for anyway? I don’t even drink, I’m an idiot…” He sighed, struggling for some kind of recall. “I can’t remember, why can’t I remember?!” Rubbing his burning eyes, he pushed his concentration to the night before. “So clear, it’s so clear and then it’s just… gone. God what’s wrong with me?! What did I do? What did I do…” He thought harder. He could remember feeling dizzy, sickish, and going outside. Some girl had been out there, he’d been making out with some girl… who was she? He thought about it… someone’s sister… she’d been all over him. And Grace. Grace had hit him. And hit Josh! He smiled a little… then frowned, frustrated. That was all. Nothing else. His brain stubbornly insisted that the night had ended at that moment. “Oh, man, what did I do?” He had an uneasy suggestion of song echoing in his mind. “Did I sing something? Play something? I just don’t know! Oh I’m retarded!” Agitated, he got up off the couch, stomping down the hall toward the bathroom, irritably wishing for a shower. “I stink too, how lovely, and I get to sit in a giant puddle of dirty water. Wonderful.”
Thoughts of home began to flash on him, places, people. Homesickness washed over him in a flood, freezing him momentarily. “I ruined it all, there’s no point in staying… I did something… something… and they know. I could see it in his eyes, he knows. I wasn’t supposed to let them know, I’m an idiot and I did. Whatever it was, doesn’t matter I can’t remember it. It’s all done now. I want to go home. They should have picked someone else…” His hand hit the wood of the bathroom door, his eye catching the sickly glow from the strand around his wrist. “This thing… what is it, a gauge of how well I’m doing this? Nothing should look like that…” He slid a finger under it, menage to rip it off, a wave of nausea assaulting him as he made contact. “No, huh? Can’t take it off. Nothing like being a slave to someone else’s rules. I’ve had it. I’m going home…” He glanced suspiciously at the door to the time room. Pausing, he frowned, eyes narrowed. Could he just go in there on his own? Could he send himself home? He thought about it for a moment, nodding. He damn well could. If he couldn’t send himself home he could at least look at the situation. He was here, stuck in the past, so homesick he could barely stand it… he could just check on things himself. If he had to wait for Kathryn he could be here another week.
Roughly, adrenaline surging as he realized what he was doing, he flung open the door and stepped inside. Almost unthinkingly he reached into the silver nimbus, instinct guiding his hand to the right threads. There. He had them. Contact dimming the anxiety, the involuntary detachment offering a brief respite, he gently ran a finger over the strands. Josh and Grace. Grace… lovely shimmering silver pink silk. He smiled a little. She was fine. He turned his attention to Josh’s. Not quite right, far brighter than it had been, a thin off color tint still staining it. “Not done yet…” He shrugged, letting them go. He really didn’t care. Josh’s was close enough, surely he could manage the rest on his own. “Makes no difference to me, he threw me out…” Hurt welled up in him, infuriatingly bringing tears to his eyes, and he shoved it away. “Screw it, let him fix his own damn problems.” He reached again into the glimmer and caught up another handful… his family…. God, how he wanted to go home. Tears of homesickness threatened to replace tears of hurt, and he stomped his foot in fury at himself. “I thought you weren’t supposed to feel anything in here! God Stop it!!!” He looked down at the glimmering mass in his hand. “God, I miss you guys…” He let himself tap into each of them, blissing a little at each of their “feels”, wishing he were really with them. “They’re all okay anyway…” He frowned a little as his hand ran over Jessica’s.
Something off… the shimmer a little dull. Newly awakened senses sought information, bringing him data… a minor illness, nothing serious. Irrational, he found himself frowning, anger increasing. “My sisters sick and I’m stuck here…” His eyes lit on Zac’s crimson strand. “Buddy you ever do anything to anyone like they did to me and I’ll personally kick your timekeeper ass…” He dropped the threads, sighing again. He couldn’t stay here any longer. He had to go home. The hell with Josh, he was on his own. He turned his back on the glow, leaving the room before he saw his own strand, finally an even toned white/silver, go a dank, ugly, swampy green. Had he seen it, he probably wouldn’t have cared.

Josh looked up at the front of the newspaper building. “I won’t have to come here to work tomorrow…” His glee knew no bounds, exceeded only by overwhelming relief. “I have a job, a paying job, and in music… that’s it. I’m going in and telling them I’m not taking the job.” Before he could talk himself out of it, before the voice of reason could intervene, reminding him he had only the binding of a handshake, he stepped into the doorway…

Taylor gazed irritably into the mirror. The bath had washed away the grime, doing nothing to cleanse his disposition. He took in his reflection, clad now in his own things, liberated from the very back of the wardrobe. “Why do they SMELL like that?!” He’d noticed it immediately, though the clothes were clean. Sour, tainted, strongly chemical. “What is that?! What’d they do to my stuff?” It dawned on him dimly, that Benjamin had said something about this, about things from his own time smelling atrocious. “Too bad… I’m not showing up at home dressed like a geez. I’ll get used to it again, I never noticed it before anyway. For all I know he just rubbed something on them to be an asshole…” He looped the headphones around his neck and plugged in the discman. Time travel apparently had no effect on batteries, the low energy light wasn’t even on. “Good. I’m so outta here…” He took a last look at the room, its charm utterly gone. He wouldn’t miss it. Not even the wonderful Dakota could hold him here another minute. “I hope I never see this place again…” He slammed out of the room, running immediately and literally, into Kathryn.

“What on earth is all this?” Kathryn’s voice conveyed baffled shock, as she took in his attire.
“I’m goin’ home. That’s it, I’ve had it.”
His anger was plain, and she set a gentle hand on his arm.
“Did something happen? Come… talk with me, tell me what’s wrong.”
“No, you’ll try to make me stay. I’m going home, Kathryn.”
“Taylor, dear…” She took in the feel of him, sensing the hurt underlying the anger. And the guilt. No, she couldn’t let him leave like this, he was too reactionary. Her eyes moved to the strand on his wrist, reading it instantly. Somewhat sentient, the material had transmuted itself. It would not let itself be removed, a sure sign that something was very wrong. “Oh, Taylor, what did you do???” She kept the thought silent, looking into his eyes. “Perhaps, dear, before we do anything rash, you’ll tell me what’s wrong.” She let a bit of herself contact the silver strand, directly linked to his thought processes, allowing herself to influence him slightly. He was strong, slightly was the best she was going to get, she only prayed it would be enough.
Sighing, wanting to brush her off, he shook his head. “No, you’re trying to trick me…” Still, the urge to tell her, to get it off his chest, was very strong in him. “What would it hurt to tell her?” He shook his head, wanting to refuse, unable to. In spite of himself, he followed her into the sitting room.

“Oogie, that’s what this is… just oogie…” Zac looked at the receipt, faded ink fairly screaming at him. “He took delivery of ice, in the summer of 1883. Figures, he had no cash on him, he had to sign for it. That’s what he does best.”
Giggling, Zac sat back on his heels, surrounded by boxes of papers. Dust flew as he smacked a hand on a pile of books, chortling to himself in spooky delight.
Isaac, watching Zac’s antics, was not nearly as amused. This was just too freaky, considering his dream, or whatever it was, of the night before. There was too much here that seemed to be going on around the edges of reality. He held the receipt carefully, checking again to convince himself that it really was Taylor’s signature.
“It’s his writing. But how… and why… Ok. We’re gonna keep this. Put that stuff back in the boxes, I need some fresh air. And stop with the dust already, Zac!”
The boys hurriedly stuffed the remaining paperwork into the boxes, Zac trying not to laugh as the dust started a sneezing fit for Isaac. It wouldn’t do him any good to be stuffed into one of the boxes, along with the old rent receipts. Satisfied that they’d picked up enough, futilely trying to brush the dust off themselves, the boys squinted as they emerged into the sunlight, Zac heading immediately for George, in his gatestand.
“Zac, why are we going there? I need some shade, and some cool air. I want to go to the park…” Isaac’s head was starting to ache. “No wonder…” He rubbed between his eyes. “Between the dust up my nose, the heat, and all this STUFF, anyone would have a headache…” He watched his brother dancing around in front of him, impatiently waiting for something. “What, you gotta go to the bathroom Zac? What…”
“Ike! Don’t be dense, gimme the paper, I want to talk to George for a minute. You can head over to the park, if you really think you haveta lie down in the shade or something…” He giggled and ducked a poorly aimed cuff at his head. “I’ll be there in a sec, ok?”
“Whatta you want to talk to him about?”
Zac shrugged, not sure what to say. He knew he had to ask George about this, wasn’t sure why, only knew, the way he knew his eyes were brown, that George had the answers. “And no one ‘questions’ better’n me” he grinned to himself. Most people answered him out of self defense, once he really got going on them.

“Okay, I’ll be in that… that grotto thing, where we ate. Don’t bug George, ok?” Isaac
headed off, across the street, knowing telling Zac not to bug someone was an exercise in futility. “Poor George…” He thought briefly about going back to help keep a lid on Zac, heard the shade calling his name, and aimed a little wave over his shoulder. “Good luck, George buddy…” He looked back, noting the very determined expression Zac had on his face. “You’re gonna need it…”

Josh let himself wander, not sure where he was going. He’d stopped and told Petey about the offer, wearily pleased to note the other boy’s enthusiasm, counting on him to spread the word to the rest of the boys. He was just too tired to make the rounds to all of those houses. The hangover had finally retreated completely, the pounding in his brain and churning in his gut letting up, leaving him feeling battered. He took in the lengthening shadows, remarking wryly to himself that he had certainly outdone himself for duration of misery. This morning after had lasted into early evening. “You need to learn temperance, old man…” He yawned, sinking onto a bench. Taylor. His mind was once again on Taylor, and how tired of it he was! He’d hurt his feelings earlier, he knew that. But things were just too strange… “I don’t need to be thinking of him… Why is he always in my mind? I will NOT go over there… seems like I’m always running over there…” He sighed, suddenly terminally tired. “I just want to sleep. Sleep all night and all day tomorrow, and just put everything aside… I just need to breathe…” He dropped his head into his hands, unable to understand his confusion. Everything was going so well, yet he was so exhausted. “What a night it was… I hope Grace is alright. Her Da…” He sighed again, thinking how much more lenient his own Da was, and even so he wore his share of bruises. “If he touches her…” He swallowed the anger, shaking his head. If she needed him, she’d let him know, and he’d be there. Simple as that.

In the timeroom, lost in the glowing silver whirlwind, Josh’s thread suddenly sparked blue white, the silver sheen taking on a new brightness…

“Hey George, how’re ya doing?” Zac sauntered casually up to the guardhouse, watching as the older man set down his coffee. He leaned against the wall, watching carefully, as George matched his wariness. “It’s showdown time at the OK corral” Zac thought to himself.
“Pretty cool stuff down there George.”
“Oh, yes? And did you find anything interesting?”
“George, it was a blast. Really. You’ll never guess what we found. Maybe you could explain this to me?” He handed the receipt over, intently watching for reaction.
“Hmmm.” George eyed the receipt mildly. “Strange, isn’t it?” Face changing not a wrinkle, eyes as calm and serene as always, he handed the faded paper back to Zac.
Frustrated, Zac frowned slightly. “Any ideas about how this could be, George?”
“How would I know, Zac? I’m not so old as to have been there…”
“George, it’s not funny. My brother, my BROTHER George, who was born in 1983, signed for some ice, here in THIS building, in eighteen hundred and eighty three, George. I know you know. And you know I know. I just don’t know HOW I know.
Wanna explain that?”

“I’d love to, if I understood what you’d just asked me, young Zac, but there were a few too many “I know’s” in there.” George grinned down at the boy, who was scowling at him in annoyance. He knew this boy had the knowledge deep within him, activated decades too soon by the disappearance of his brother. No one had realized the bond between the three of them, the connection, the link, that had spanned time. Now it was up to them to protect him from his own fledgling knowledge. He wasn’t ready.
Still, George was old hand at shifting attention. He knew he could keep Zac on edge, off topic, and given enough time, he could confuse him enough to stop him asking too much.
Still, eyeing the boy, he knew Zac was willful, smart, and powerful. It would be a challenge, no denying that. He grinned as Zac switched tactics, moving smoothly from straightforward accusation of knowledge, to begging.

“C’mon George… pleeeease explain it all to me. I’m dyin’ here!”
“Explain what? I’m sure I don’t know what you want from me, Zac.”
“Aw… c’mon George, I know you can do it. Pleeeeease, help me.” A faint whining tone entered Zac’s voice, and he grinned to himself. This tactic generally worked well, people giving in just to get him out of their hair. “Please please please???” He sidled up to the man, nudging him slightly, tugging on his sleeve.

George switched the coffee cup to the untugged hand. “Zac, I had five children, and I have eight grandchildren. Whining will get you nowhere. I have no answers for your questions. Accept that.”

Zac knew it was time to change modes. What next? Wheedling didn’t work. Whining didn’t help any. He knew George was the key, he knew the man had the answers. But how to get them out of him? Zac screwed his face up, thinking hard.

“Ok. I have a business proposition for you, my fine man. I can swing a good deal for you, on coffee for a lifetime. How’d you like your coffee delivered, 4 times a day, with a smile? All paid for, of course?”

Carefully setting down his current cup of steaming aromatic coffee, George struggled not to laugh out loud. “This boy is good” he thought to himself, biting his tongue to keep from smiling.
“Mr. Hanson, while I appreciate a good business deal, I must inform you of one item. I already get my coffee delivered to me, free of charge. Six times a day. My granddaughter owns the coffee shop around the corner. And SHE provides a Danish with three of those coffees. Can you beat that deal?”

Crestfallen, Zac gave up on bribery. He didn’t know how he would have accomplished free coffee delivery anyways. Tinges of anger burned at the back of his throat. George had the information he needed, he knew it! And he wanted it! It was his brother they were talking about! Didn’t this guy know it wasn’t a game?!

“George, don’t play games with me. I know. And you know. It’s a time deal, isn’t it? He went back in time. And he’s coming back soon. HOW do I know this???” Faint confusion
marred the scowl on Zac’s face; how DID he know this?

George, seeing the play of expression on the boy’s face, frowned in sympathy. “I’m not playing games with you, son. How do you know what?”

“Argh… George, you’re holding out on me, man, I know it. He’s coming back. And you’re here to help him come back. ”
George smiled gently, patting the boy’s hand. “Where did you get such an idea, Zachary?”
“‘Cuz you know where he is! Just admit it! Stop playing with me, I’m not a KID!” Angered at the lack of co-operation from George, Zac’s voice rose. Face reddened, he stomped his foot, eyes shooting sparks. “You know where he is! You knew as soon as he was gone, that’s why you brought us here! You’ve known all this time, while we’ve been going crazy! And now you won’t tell me!”
“Zachary Hanson. Are you accusing me of knowing where Taylor is? And not telling anyone? Are you really doing that? These are not very nice accusations. No, they are not.” Indignant, George’s voice lashed lightly at the boy. “For someone claiming to not be a child, you are certainly acting like my youngest grandson. Go on with you now, go find Isaac. I have work to do, and you are interfering. Off with you.” George turned his back on the sputtering boy, heading towards a small crowd of sightseers intent on
setting foot on private property. He shooed them away, feeling vaguely guilty. There was no sham in the boy’s upset. He was worried about his brother, possessed of frightening new knowledge, and afraid. If only it were up to him, he’d have given the boy the comfort he needed so badly. “Ah, but it’s not up to you, old man. So you just keep shut.” He’d circumvented the boy’s questions for today, and knowing that Taylor was due back very soon, George was sure he could keep Zac at bay until his questions were no longer an issue.
He watched the child’s frustrated and forlorn figure making it’s way through the knots of traffic, heading across to find his brother. “Soon now, young Zac, it will soon be over, God willing, and everyone can rest easy again…”

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This fictional story is hosted at The Gifted Ones,
with permission from the author, Sheryl.

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