Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 37 of 41
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.
“It wasn’t a dream!”
Zac’s frantic insistence fell on deaf ears. His parents refused to entertain the notion that Taylor being lost in the process of trying to time travel, could be anything but a nightmare.
Frustrated, terrified, he flung himself into the seat across from Isaac, trying to still his shaking hands.
“Ike, you know it happened right?! Ike we gotta get him home!”
Isaac’s eyes gazed dully back at Zac, nod vague and half formed. Thoughts fragmented, unaware of the situation, his soul searched, reaching for the feel of his brother, there since his birth, unaccountably gone now. Trapped in an endless cycle of seeking, he shut out his other brothers pleas for his attention.
“Listen to me boy!”
That voice in his mind again, dogged, persistent.
“Imagining things, I’m imagining things, they’re right it’s a dream…”
“Not a dream, Zachary listen!”
Sudden calm, eerily not his own, pressing on him, forcing his attention.
Deep inside the boy, abilities meant to remain dormant for decades, suddenly blazed into life, urgency and panic lighting the final flames.
In the airplane seat, Zac suddenly went limp, head falling against the window as his eyes rolled back.
“Zac do you hear me!”
“I hear you.”
Latent understanding, unquestioned and unquestionable flared in him, and behind the mask of unconsciousness fierce intelligence dominated.
“What happened, how could you lose him?!”
“How doesn’t matter, we have to get him back. Zachary I can’t find him, I don’t know him. Here…”
His mind caught the thrown link, the part of him that was no longer exactly a human child processing it instantly. Images of weakness, panic, pain and then ultimate blackness filled his mind.
“Why’d they let him go! Are they stupid!” He reached into the darkness, disregarding danger. “He’s not in there! There’s nothing in there!”
“He’s there! Boy he’s there! Reach for his mind…”
“I am, and it’s not there!” Sudden realization, horrifying in its intensity. “I never linked with him! I won’t know him if I find him, I never EVER linked with him! Ike did! It’s Ike!”
In the guardhouse, George beat the wall in frustration. He had to get the boy out. Had to get him home. God alone knew what would be left of him, but they had to try. If Zac, keeper abilities in full heat, couldn’t find him, how could the other boy? He didn’t have the strength, he didn’t have the talent…
“If he has the link, could young Zac hold him? Risking them all, for one… I can’t do it. I have to do it. Oh but we could lose them all!”
Agonized, he let his mind touch the boys again.
“Ike. Ike pay attention.”
Zac’s thoughts reverberated in Isaac’s tortured mind.
“Wake up, Ike, and listen to me.”
Zac stilled, waiting. He’d know if Ike came around, he’d feel it. God, he was so caught, spinning in the emptiness that had been Taylor.
“That must hurt so much…”
Unaware of what he was doing, instinct as natural as breathing taking him over, he touched his brother’s soul, soothing the jagged pulsing edges of the tear, easing the pain, stilling the whirling chaos that had taken over.
He felt it happen.
Desperate, empty, the older boy reached, his mind linking with Zac’s with startled, frightened intensity, and Zac’s body trembled.
“You’re hurting me Ike, go easy. Listen to me.” No voice, but he knew his brother understood. “We have to get Tay, and we can’t find him Ike. YOU know him, you know what he feels like, look…”
He sent the image, sent the knowledge, and though Isaac’s mind was unable to speak to him, he again felt the silent understanding.
He felt for George, grasped him, breath stopping suddenly as the old man’s mind locked him down, pinned him, even as his own locked into Isaac, mind working effortlessly as sweat broke out on his unconscious face. A moment later, pulsing, agonizing waves of energy surging through him, he felt Isaac’s mind, and the great empty place reaching, reaching for that which had filled it, out… far far out into nothingness.
For Taylor there was nothing, everything. For all of time, for no time, freezing, burning blind, agony so great it eliminated feeling. Endlessly falling, shredded again and again by winds of always and never, feeling his bones flayed, feeling nothing. Consciousness, coherence gone, the insanity of the void all that was left of his mind, spinning…
Isaac’s breathing grew ragged as the strength ran from his body. The black vacuum of the void pulled, pulled, and he trembled violently, struggling against it. He could feel Taylor in there, he could feel him, he just had to catch hold. Pushing away the restraints of the anchors on him, he reached further.
“Insane, he’s insane, Oh dear God…” George held on desperately, feeling through the older boy, the state of Taylor’s mind. They’d reached him, over and over, only to be shunted aside by a pinprick of consciousness that no longer knew them. “Too late, we’re too late…”
“No we’re NOT!”
Zac’s anger filled the old man, renewed him.
“As long as he is still in there George we are NOT too late! Ike can see him! Now help us!”
The voice clicked off and George felt the surge as the boy poured everything he had into his brother’s efforts, trusting him to hold on, to keep feeding them more.
“I’m an old man, boy, what do you expect of me?!” His frustrated query went unanswered as the battle raged on.
Deep in the void, the transparent whisp of soul that was Taylor spun endlessly, becoming less, becoming nothing, becoming whole as no time asserted itself. Far down in his mind a pinpoint of light.
The emptiness inside of Isaac found it’s target, drawn suddenly as if to a magnet. “There… there…”
“YES!” Zac felt it, felt the sudden flood of Taylor, and felt his SELF, his heart, his soul, rush past his older brother, following the link, joining his mind, disencorporate hands reaching into the void, grasping, slipping, grasping again, holding!
“We got him! George…”
George braced as the sudden involuntary surge hit, as animal as the bodies urge to push in childbirth, and as powerful, the combined minds of the two boys, strengthened by desperation, PULLED.
In the void Taylor’s soul screeched in agony as the spinning crashed to a stop, flying apart as hands pulled in every direction, suddenly focused, sinking into the top of his skull, ripping him from the void, insane parody of birth, screaming as impact snapped bones and drove hot, oily pavement into his face. Sudden shrieking filled his head…
“Oh my God did they hit him?! Zac did they hit him?!” Isaac bolted upright with a shout, arms suddenly full of Zac. “Oh my God he landed in the road, did they hit him?!?!”
Taylor’s eyes shut as a spray of road grit spattered against his face, tires screeching to a halt bare inches away. Smells assaulted him, thick and choking, throat grappling with the hot, filthy air, as his shredded mind tried to re-establish itself. Animal instinct brought him to his knees, shoving off the pavement with his one useable arm, still unable to understand what was going on. Heat blasted him, melting ice encrusted hair, as he cracked blistered eyelids onto an alien scene. Too much motion, screeching tires, shouting voices, hissing rumbling grinding cacophony of noise and stench overpowering his battered senses as his head spun…
“They’ll hit you, come on!!”
He yanked away from the sudden harsh grip, panic suddenly increasing a hundredfold, the urge to run almost overpowering.
“No, no come on!! Get out of the road! Come on!” The figure pulled relentlessly, another arm snaking around him, forcing him onto numbed feet, mindless of the pain as his broken ribs ground together.
His toes hit the curb, bringing a hiss from between blue lips, as shivering set in and his legs collapsed, only the intervention of the restraining arms keeping him from falling. “God, you’re Taylor!” The incredulous voice began to penetrate, bringing him to some sort of dim reality. “What happened to you?! God you’re so cold!”
The hands helped him down onto the edge of the curb, the hazy figure resolving itself into that of a young girl, as she sat beside him, slipping an arm back around him, futilely attempting to quell the violent shivering.
“You have ice in your hair, my God…”
Her hands rubbed his arms, bringing a thin cry as pressure met more fractures, and she pulled back quickly, eyeing him carefully, frowning as his eyes drifted alarmingly. “Taylor!”
He turned back to her, recognizing his name, finally taking in his surroundings. “Did someone throw you out of a car? How were you in the road? You need to call someone, the whole city’s been looking for you!”
He shook his head, reaching up to rub his eyes against the burn.
“Wait…” His voice was gritty and weak, and the girl frowned, reaching up to brush ice from his hair.
“Can you stand up? You need to get off the street.”
He shook his head, more because he didn’t understand the question, than because he couldn’t stand, and rested his head on his arms, swallowing against nausea. The smells were horrible, he could almost taste them, oil, asphalt, chemicals, urine, gasoline, exhaust, some sweetish artificial smell coming from the girl beside him, and he gagged, turning away from her to spit out the mouthful of bitterness he’d brought up, feeling her hand gentle against his back. Struggling to breathe, feeling his lungs on fire with every breath, he shook his head again, needing to get out.
“I can’t breathe…”
Panic flashed in his eyes, and the girl slid in closer, holding on, eyes scanning the disinterested strangers, noting that the cars that had narrowly escaped hitting him, had simply driven on.
“Why doesn’t anyone stop?” Sensibilities those other than city, she found it baffling that this boy, obviously ill, clearly injured, and desperately sought after, could be so studiously ignored. His grating struggle to breathe filled her ears as her eyes lit, finally, on a cell phone in someone’s hand.
“Taylor, don’t move! Don’t move!”
She let him go, jumping to her feet to stop the man with the phone.
“Excuse me! Excuse me, hey!”
Nessa’s eyes rolled in exasperation as the man roughly brushed her off.
“Hey look! ” She gestured wildly toward the boy on the curb. “I need to call 911!”
“Ugh!” Stamping her foot in frustration, she shot a glance at Taylor.
“Not good, so, so not good…” What was wrong with these city people? She slid quickly through the doorway of a convenience shop, eyes never leaving the figure at the roadside.
“Excuse me, do you have a phone I could use? It’s an emergency…”
“No public phone, no public restrooms.” The clerks voice was wooden, robotic, and Nessa nodded, understanding he answered this question thousands of times a day. “Look, I’m very sorry, but it’s an EXTREME emergency! Do you see that boy? He’s sick, he’s hurt, I need to call 911 right away…”
“No public phones.”
“Well will you call then?! Look at him!” The clerk turned his eyes out the window and shrugged. “Sick kid, so what, so get him a cab home. Payphones down the block.” He dismissed her, turning back to the magazine held just below eye level, and Nessa felt her temper begin to fray.
“What is wrong with you people! Do you know six cars almost hit him and not one person stopped?!?!”
The bored looking clerk shrugged again. “Shouldn’t have been in the road. Want to get out of the way? People behind you in line.”
Infuriated, the girl left the shop, nervously taking in Taylor’s position. She didn’t at all like the way his hand pressed against his chest. “He really can’t breathe…” She saw crimson droplets on the sidewalk beside him, and the remains of her patience snapped. Very nearly unthinking, she snatched a phone from the hand of a pedestrian, pulling it out of reach at their cry of protest.
“Don’t mess with me!! Just stand there and wait!”
She dialed 911, eyes alternating between the steadily more irate phone owner, and the kid on the curb. Rattling off information for the operator, she saw the phone owners eyes suddenly widen in recognition as they lit on Taylor, clicking the off button just as the person started for him.
“Hey!” She grabbed the woman’s arm, shoving her phone back at her. “Here! Thanks so much you were so helpful!”
“Hey, the police are looking for that kid!!”
“No kidding, why don’t you go find one.” She slid between the woman and Taylor, rejoining him on the curb, watching as the woman trotted away down the sidewalk. “Good. Good, good riddance, and the more help the better. What a fun vacation this is turning out to be.”
Taylor eyed her, vaguely disinterested. He was dying, he could feel it. Awareness slowly returning, he knew, on some level now, that he was back in his own time, but he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stand the smells, couldn’t stop shaking. Pain wracked him head to foot, every blink feeling as though his eyelids were encrusted with shards of broken glass, head pounding from the fumes, coughing threatening to rip his chest apart. He saw blood dripping onto his leg, wondered distantly where it was coming from.
“C’mon, slow your breathing down, can you do that?” The voice in his ear was soft now, some of its frantic urgency departed. “Help’s on the way, you’ll be alright, but you have to calm down.”
He looked into her face, hand reaching blindly, touching her cheek, as his eyes filled, sudden despair wrenching a sob from him as her arms slid around him again.
“It’s okay… what happened to you, can you tell me?”
“I don’t know…” The few words set him coughing again and he felt her grip tighten, holding him up, wincing as her grasp rubbed the edges of his broken ribs together. “You’re so cold you’re blue…”
The purple tinge to his lips wasn’t fading, nor the shivering, and the girl felt real fear. His skin was icy, bluish as were his lips and nails, the tips of his fingers gray and bloodless looking, ice thick in his hair, sending rivulets of red tinged water down his face as it melted in the heavy August heat.
“You’re really bleeding…”
She untied the light overskirt she’d wound around her backpack, wadded it up , reached for him, pulling back slightly as he winced away from her.
“It’s that cut on your head, you need to stop the bleeding…”
His hand went up, came back to eye level, and she heard his sigh at the sight of the blood. “It’s probably not that bad, but you should put this on it…”
He took it from her, finding the cut only with difficulty, watching for her nod.
“Yeah that’s it. Taylor, what happened to you?” He shook his head, sighing again, each breath ending in a cough.
“I don’t know. I got lost…” His eyes wandered the towering buildings, tearing, though from fumes or emotion he really didn’t know. Blind panic had faded as memory and awareness settled back in, and he knew he was home. But to what? “God it’s so ugly…”
“Taylor, can you stand? We have to get off the curb, or someone really is gonna hit us…”
He nodded vaguely, accepting her hand up, biting his lip again, fighting the pained cry that rose to his lips as he moved, leaning more than a little on her shoulder.
“C’mon, there’s tables and chairs over there…” She led him to a tiny outdoor cafe, shooting a death look at the proprietor. “Don’t you tell me we can’t sit here!”
The man shook his head, hands up to signal his lack of interest in war, and approached cautiously.
“He’s freezing, sit in one of the sunny spots, I’ll go get him something to wrap up in.” “Oh…” Before she could thank the man, he’d disappeared back into the cafe, leaving Nessa amazed and relieved that there was at least one helpful person in the city. She watched approvingly as he returned, draping a blanket around the shivering boy’s shoulders, peering into his face.
“What happened to him?”
“I don’t know, he was just suddenly in the road…”
He tipped Taylor’s face up, forcing eye contact.
“Is there someone I should call for you? You’re the one they’ve been looking for all week aren’t you?” Taylor pulled away, not sure, nor caring, what the man was talking about, hearing Nessa answer for him, faintly grateful to her. It was all he could do to keep breathing, never mind talking. Her hand reached out and squeezed his gently as she moved to sit next to him, and he felt a smile, faint and brief, cross his face. Sighing, coughing, fighting to keep his swollen eyelids open, he let his head rest on her shoulder, a faint sickly doze stealing over him as, in the distance, the sound of sirens grew.
Chaos, as usual, reigned in the Hanson household. Kids jumping on parents and brothers.
Phones ringing. Answering machines picking up. Questions asked loudly of each other, to each other, about each other. Radios blared. TVs shouted the news.
The cacophony and riot, normally dismissed as business as usual, in its way comforting, now seemed strident , stressful.
Diana, gratefully cuddling her baby in her arms, smiled gamely, trying to tell herself it was good to be home, heavily distracted thinking of Jessie, waiting for her in the hospital, and Taylor, needing her God knew where.
She glanced at Zac and Isaac, suspicious. They’d been nearly impossible to wake, on landing, and even now maintained zombielike states. Hoping they weren’t coming down with anything, set her bag, and the baby, down. As much as she’d missed home, missed her children, her nerves wouldn’t let her hang around here. She’d flown home for Jessica, and that was where she was going.
“Walker, just leave the luggage, we need to get to the hospital. Ike, can you wake up enough to help Jean with the little ones?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Still foggy, Isaac nodded his agreement, not entirely sure what he was agreeing to, who he was nodding to, or why, but it was easier to agree than to try to understand. His mind still felt just the slightest bit out of control. He vaguely watched his parents out, the flock of younger sibs around them striking him oddly. “Looks like a flea circus…”
He turned at his aunts voice, rubbing his face wearily.
“Yeah, I’ll help you with…”
“No.” Her voice held mock severity. “You go to bed. Zac, move it. I don’t need help. Go.”
She’d seen their exhaustion. The kids were done in, and she’d certainly managed this long without their help. Briefly hugging each boy, she sent them up the stairs, shaking her head. Bad times in this household, bad times.
“Zac, what the hell happened?”
The boys sat on the floor, in Isaac’s room, not willing to be parted. Groggy, yet too anxious to sleep, they’d somehow settled into hesitant conversation. Familiar objects and scents surrounded them, giving comfort to their confused souls.
Zac had grabbed Taylor’s pillow, on the way to Ike’s room, and held it close to him, periodically snuggling his face into it, inhaling the scent of his dearly missed brother.
“I’m not sure, Ike…”
Time passed, doing little to clear their confusion. The only thing they were completely
sure of was Taylor’s return. They both knew something had happened, something astounding, but the details had faded as dreams, leaving them baffled, confused, and, as their exhaustion finally faded, filled with the urgent need to return to the city.
“Ok, we need a plan. I mean, they won’t just let us get on a plane. If they would have, they’d have left us with Christopher…”
Zac broke off as his stomach rumbled loudly, glancing down at it in shocked surprise.
Isaac laughed, shaking his head. “Hungry much?”
“Man, I’m starved!” Zac’s voice held unbridled enthusiasm, and he pulled Ike to his
feet. “Aunt Jean’s gotta have something cooking, she always does. We can get on the phone while we eat. Someone’s gotta have reported a kid in the street!”
Zac’s words were indistinct around the mouthful of sandwich, but his gesture was unmistakable. Ike’s eyes followed, catching the red blink of the waiting message light on the phone.
Tipping his chair back, he hit the playback, shrugging the receiver to his ear as he buttered bread with both hands.
Zac’s eyes widened in alarm, when Isaac’s hands suddenly dropped the knife, face paling noticeably.
“Ike, what! Ike!” Zac shook him roughly, bringing the chair back down on four legs “Ike!”
“My God… he’s in the hospital…” Isaac’s voice, a faint whisper of sound, trailed off
against the repeating message on the answering machine, as he set the receiver back in its cradle, the voice message now playing out the speaker. Dark eyes met as the message played again, FBI, Taylor in the hospital, “injuries sustained during escape”. Speechless, they let it repeat again, looking up into the concerned face of their aunt.
“We have to get back there!”
Jean shook her head gently. “Zac, sweetie, I’ll call the hospital and tell your Dad about the message, but…”
“Aunt Jean… we have to go, he needs us. Come on…” He pulled Isaac from the chair, eyes determined.
Isaac shook the keys a little, the jingling comfortingly sane. “Ok, we’re set…”
It had taken little over an hour to contact his father, demand his permission, and make the arrangements. Commercial flights to the city were certainly not hard to find seating on, and it had been accomplished with a minimum of hassle.
“Isaac, you’re honestly meeting your father at the airport?!” Jean suspected a plot, unwilling to let the boys leave.
“Jean, call him right now, I’ll wait. He’s got the car phone. Go ahead.” Isaac struggled with his impatience. They had to go, and Jean was stalling him.
“You would really stand here while I call him?”
“Yes, but hurry up, we need to go!”
“Go. Just go. Good luck…”
Nodding shortly, Isaac clapped his brothers shoulder.
“C’mon Zacman, lets move…”
George sat gasping, his bleeding hands held limply in his lap. Broken glass sparkled in the summer sun, bright red droplets scattered like small rubies amongst the shards. Traffic hummed in the background of George’s thoughts, passing voices a counterpoint harmony.
“He’s back, we did it, he’s back. But where? And with his mind?”
Too tired to think, fatigue numbing his body, George sat, blood dripping silently from
his fingertips. Exhausted by his shared ordeal, he dozed lightly, startled awake by his grand daughter’s voice.
“Grampa! What in the hell…” Kathy stood there, eyes wide with shock, spilt coffee at her feet, mixing with the shattered remains of the window of the guard house.
“Don’t cuss, Kathleen, help me to my feet, please.”
Gently, she took his elbow, guiding him past the glass. The fresh breeze ruffled his hair, and touched on the still oozing cuts on his hands, making him wince.
“I’m thinking I need some suturing, Kathy. Could you call a cab for me?”
“A cab? I don’t think so. I’m driving you myself!” Kathy pulled the chair from the guardhouse, seating George again. “Don’t you move, I’ll be right back with my car.”
She gently wrapped his hands in her clean apron, and shot him another look. “Don’t move, I mean it, Grampa… and you can explain all this on the way.”
“Just like her mother… bossy…” he thought fondly, as he watched her race around the corner. He sighed heavily, not knowing exactly how to explain “all this”. He wasn’t entirely sure HE understood it.
So fast, it was all so fast, and so loud!
Taylor shut his eyes, fighting dizziness.
“Please, please, just go away, just leave me alone, please…” The thoughts ran in his head, unspoken. There were so many people talking to him, shouting at him, hands all over him, pulling, poking, prodding, testing, voices demanding answers, smells… it was too much, and there was nobody he knew. No familiar faces, just strangers, yelling, yelling, and they all smelled so godawful bad!
His eyes opened again, crossing slightly, trying to focus on the THING that was coming at him. His good hand flashed out, knocking it away as he turned his face out of range. “Get away from me!” The shout cost him, and the wracking cough started again, bringing a flurry of activity from the men around him as hands grasped the back of his head, and more hands pressed something over his face, cold, misty and stinking of plastic.
“Taylor!! Leave it, it’s to help you breathe!”
Defeated, the press of hands too much for him, his eyes moved up to the one face that seemed less strange.
Nessa, still hovering, uncertain. Not wanting to be in the way, loath to leave him. Catching his fearful glance, she smiled as assuringly as she could, reaching through the working hands to grasp his again, wincing a little at his panicky grip. His voice came then, muffled through the oxygen mask.
“What? I’m sorry, I…” He shoved it away impatiently, still holding her hand. “Don’t leave… I said don’t…” He stopped, struggling to get a breath, and the EMT frowned, scowling at him.
“Leave that on!” He slid it back over the boy’s face, and Nessa smiled, shrugging.
“I’ll stay till they kick me out.”
Taylor’s nod was weakly apprehensive, the beginning warmth of the thermal blankets, and the haze of whatever medications they’d shot into him, beginning to fog the panic… perhaps the panic itself taking its toll, and his eyes closed again, a misty sort of doze slipping over him, the warmth of the girl’s hand on his comforting.
Nurses were moving fast, setting up the cubicle next to George, adding supplies, and blankets. He sat patiently, watching, waiting for the doctor to finish suturing his hands. “Must be something big coming in, eh, Doctor?” He asked the young man sitting across from him, seeing several men in dark suits enter the Emergency Dept.
“Hmm? Oh yeah… some kid on 2nd Ave, broken bones, and frostbite! Weird, isn’t it? It being summer, and all? They say he just suddenly appeared in the middle of the street, in lunch hour traffic… must’ve been pushed from a car…”
The doctor carefully continued suturing the multiple lacerations on George’s right hand. “You’re lucky, you know that, right? You could have done some major damage here…” He lifted his head, to look at George, and found the older man staring blankly into space.
“Sir? Are you ok?”
“Frostbite you said? A kid? How old?” His voice urgent, George had a feeling, a certain knowledge that he knew who was going to arrive at the next cubicle. The men in dark suits… they were FBI, he realized, and then he saw the police joining them.
“Oh God, he’s hurt…” he whispered.
The automatic doors whispered open, a stretcher rapidly moving through them.
All he could see was a dark haired young girl, pretty little thing, holding onto someone’s hand. He pulled his hands away from the doctor, ignoring his protests, and moved off the chair, towards the next cubicle. Was it him? Was it the boy?
“George?” Taylor pulled the mask off his face, using Nessa’s hand more than
his own, staring in wonderment at the man beside him.
Tears ran down George’s cheeks, Taylor recognized him, his mind wasn’t gone, he was going to be ok.
“Oh God… it’s you. You’re back, we did it. Taylor, you’re home.