Lead the Dance: Chapter 6

Title: Lead the Dance
Chapter: 6 of 8
Author: Sheryl
Rating: PG-13

Other Info: Sequel to A Change of Grace
Excerpt: I knew someone could die, but my brain kept skipping away from who. I knew I’d screwed up big time, and that it was even more likely that I would keep on screwing up, my head in no state to do anything.
I had to find him.
Seems easy, huh? I dropped him off, I knew who he was, and I knew where he was staying. Shouldn’t have been a problem.
Ever try to just go visit a celebrity in their hotel? When they don’t know you’re coming?

Chapter 6

I forgot the other kid was a Traveler.
Like calls to like, and when you exist on the fringes of comprehended reality, it’s always good to gather your bets… but because I was one step away from out of my mind, I forgot.
Together, what a radically different situation…
I honestly didn’t know what to do.
Imagine just for one second being sick in bed with the worst flu of your life. You can only lay there and hope you die, and if you move even your eyelashes you have pain you’re sure will kill you.
Your brain feels like cold porridge on an ice flow, I mean, you are dead.
And then God comes down and tells you today is the decathlon and you better get moving. Lightspeed must be maintained at all times or your molecules will slam into reverse and you will cease to exist.
Imagine how you’d feel.
That should give you some idea of where I was.
Part of the problem of course was seeing all of the outcomes at once.
Normally it would have all been clear as glass, but in the chaotic state I was in, I couldn’t make sense of any of it. I could barely tie my shoes.
I knew I lost the kid. I knew he ended up in trouble and that for a while the entire cosmic reality teetered on the brink.
I knew someone could die, but my brain kept skipping away from who.
I knew I’d screwed up big time, and that it was even more likely that I would keep on screwing up, my head in no state to do anything.
I had to find him.
Seems easy, huh? I dropped him off, I knew who he was, and I knew where he was staying. Shouldn’t have been a problem.
Ever try to just go visit a celebrity in their hotel? When they don’t know you’re coming?

********************

“Zac? You up?”
No answer.
“Zac?! You up?!”
Still no answer, only the faint echo of an empty room.
Where was Zac?
Ike’s gaze took in the rumpled bed, clothes piled in a heap on the floor, smelled the faint warm scent of his brother.
He’d been here, very recently.
“Zac?! You in here?!”
Silence.
Frowning, he peered into the bathroom, taking in the empty showerstall, scratching his head in scowling confusion.
Where had he gone? After yesterday it seemed unlikely he’d have taken off again. Still, the evidence seemed to speak. No Zac. No note.
“Zac for godsake…”
Muttering irritably, he backed out of the doorway, wondering if he could somehow get out of telling his dad that Zac had disappeared, once again.
“What Ike?”
He uttered a small screech, heart suddenly in his mouth, spinning to stare at the sleepy form in the bed.
“Zac?! What the hell are you doing?! Trying to scare me to death?! That
wasn’t funny!”
“Huh?! Ike, you ok? Did you get enough sleep last night or what?”
“Where were you? You think it’s funny to hide Zac? Especially after yesterday?.”
“Right here Ike, or do you think I normally run around the hotel naked?”
He stripped back the blankets, proving that he was indeed unclothed, and
pushed past his brother into the bathroom.
“Zac, you weren’t there when I came in, gimme a break, I’m not blind.”
“Evidentially you are, Ike, because all your mumbling and cursing at me woke me up.” He grinned a little at his baffled brother, who had unthinkingly followed him into the bathroom. “Did you want to watch me shower or something?”
Isaac blinked, feeling stupid, fighting the fog that seemed to have settled over his brain.
“Zac, you weren’t there.”
But he had been hadn’t he? The voice in his mind nudged him hard. He’d been there, even his smell had been there.
“Ike, I was here. I was asleep.”
Yet even as he spoke the words, something similar to the voice that spoke to his brother, sparked inside him, furrowing his brow, bringing thin confusion.
Had he been here?  Had he been? Because… it seemed, for just a moment, just as he woke, that he’d been… elsewhere. Watching Taylor. With him at the window, watching the city wake up.
Impatience twisted his face into a scowl as he spun the water cold. Of course he had been in bed! Where else could he have been?
He yelped a little as the prosaic reality of ice cold water gushed over him, driving away the mists of sleep.

********************

“Don’t tell me he’s not here, I dropped him off!”
The young man’s frustration was evident, and the girl behind the desk felt apprehension creeping over her.
So far there’d been no problems. The kids who were always hounding after the Hanson boys knew better than to harass hotel staff. But this man… this man frightened her.
His eyes too wild, his manner too… frantic.
“I’m sorry sir, there is no Zachary Hanson registered here!”
“Fine, I know, I know that’s what you’re supposed to say, you dig? I KNOW! But I DROPPED HIM OFF HERE yesterday! I already know he’s here, I just don’t know what room he’s in! It’s vital that I see him, I have to see him!”
“Sir…”
Her voice betrayed her anxiety, and she slid closer to the security button, hidden from sight beneath the counter. In all her years working here, she’d never had to touch the panic button, but she pressed it now, discreetly with the side of her knee, breathing a sigh of relief as it lit faint orange beneath the sheltering cover of the desktop.
“Sir, I don’t know what to tell you, there’s no…”
“The truth! Don’t you understand?! This is urgent!!! I know he’s here, why can’t you just help me!” This was getting old, and Nick barely restrained the urge to wring her neck.
“Sir, there’s no…”
“Are you human or some kind of robot?! Don’t you hear anything I’m saying to you? I already know, I brought him here myself, I know he hasn’t checked out, why are you being such a…” Nick bit back the run of curses, his outburst trailing into an incoherent
growl. “Ma’am… miss… listen to me” He forced his voice to a semblance of calm. “If you would just call his room and tell him Nick’s here, I’m positive he’ll have you send me right up. He tried to call me this morning but I missed the call, and…”
“Then I suggest you go home and wait for him to call again.”
The voice from behind was male, icy, and not at all apprehensive.
Nick turned and started into the cold eyes of hotel security.
“Oh terrific, a security goon. Listen, do you people not hear me? Am I not speaking English? I dropped the kid off right here, and watched him walk in! You’re lying to me!”
The man remained unperturbed.
“Son… go home. Wait for him to call you back.”
Nick’s frustration peaked, overflowed, tipping him into anger, virtually erasing his self control.
“You stupid, stupid moronic fucking excuses for people! Do you think I’d be here if it wasn’t important?! Do I look like some little sexpot fan in a tank top?! I need to talk to the kid, it’s more important than you’re even CAPABLE of comprehending and… let go of me!”
The man’s hand closed onto his upper arm like a vice, and he felt himself being propelled toward the door.
Unthinking instinct took over, his traveler’s senses already in chaotic shift, the man’s eyes widening in shock as Nick… blinked…
Stepped back in shock as his hand suddenly closed on empty air, disorientation complete as his eyes lit on Nick, now standing far to one side, breathing out anger in ragged gasps.
“Don’t you touch me again! Do you realize you’re playing your stupid little games with someone’s LIFE?! Now call his room and tell him I’m here!”

********************

The coffee burned agreeably on the back of his throat, and the old man sighed in pleasure. The scent tickled in his nose, overwhelming the smell of the toast on the plate beside him.
Coffee in the morning. The world could go to living hell, and by the sound of the news broadcast he watched with weary eyes, it was doing just that.
But as long as he had fresh coffee in the morning, he felt he could deal with just about anything.
He relaxed back against his chair, body arranged familiarly around its years old lumps and hollows. In some dim recess of his mind he supposed he could get a new one, but this one just fit him somehow… and after all, who was here to see it but him?
He eyed the morning news with the same vague disquiet he normally did, wishing, not for the first time, that the Keepers could do something about the sorry state of affairs mortals always seemed to get themselves into.
God knew, in his time of action he’d tried.
Now he was nothing but an old man.
“Maybe it’s just as well, everyone need some time to… for the love of GOD?!?!”
He sat forward, coffee clunking down onto the scarred table to his left, eyes riveted to the TV, ears tuned to the voice of the broadcaster, lovingly, gleefully reporting the disturbance uptown, at that fancy hotel,
the Trump tower.
Nicholas. That dratted, tatty looking Nicholas of a Traveler, making a scene trying to get at that Hanson boy! Was this live?!
He thumbed the volume as the newsclip blipped off, their coverage of the ruckus in the hotels lobby finished.
“Oh that upstart irres…”
He broke off as long relaxed sensors in his brain activated with an almost audible click, gripped the chair arm as his balance slid for a moment, felt the nauseating and disorienting shift as the traveler jumped his own time for another, coming back nearly instantly, only to jump again…
“What the bloody hell is he doing?!”
Felt another ragged, panic stricken signal strobing at his brain.
That boy, that boy, the one he’d lost in the void… wide awake and agitated, struggling to hold reality, and then that other boy… the young Keeper, the one who’d suffered his false awakening, thankfully back asleep… awake! Awake and frozen in his panic, slipping, out of time, back, out of time, back, a pulsing that flooded the old man’s body, took him over, reverberations sent out along the ether, galvanizing the interlink of Travelers and Keepers.
And nobody, not a soul, was doing anything about it.
“Oh you miserable good for nothing sons of BITCHES!!!”
George threw the coffee cup square at the television, jumping to his feet with an agility that belied his apparent age, deftly scooping the cell phone and jamming it into his coat pocket, door slamming behind him as he ran, with the eternal vigor of a Keeper, for the street.

********************

“Zac! Zac wake up!”
“I’m up, what!”
Zac’s disembodied voice floated through the room, freezing Taylor where he stood, eyes searching for the source.
“There’s some big deal downstairs, some guy… where ARE you?!!”
“In the bathroom, geez Taylor, is it ok if I put clothes on?”
“Hurry up! Security called up, some guy’s making a scene in the lobby, he’s saying he has to talk to you, it’s a matter of life and death.”
Zac opened the door in a wash of steam, toweling his hair.
“So what? You don’t think I’m gonna go down there if some psycho is down there do you? You nuts?”
“Zac…”
“Zac nothing, if you want to go play with the lunatic, Tay, go for it.”
Taylor felt it first, the blink in the fabric of reality that signaled for them the end to all things mundane and normal.
Nothing much at first, just a little mental blip, a vaguely sickening feeling of sideslipping, inside his mind, coupled with the random thought
“He stepped over.”
Puzzled, he looked up at Zac, meeting a gaze as intense as his own.
“You feel that?”
“Yeah.”
“Zac…”
But from Zac there was nothing, his gaze frozen, eyes focused on something Taylor could neither see, nor sense, his mind sending a whirling maelstrom of chaotic knowledge as Nick’s unplanned step out of time reverberated in his head, setting free lifetimes of pent up knowledge.
“Zac?” Taylor watched the flickering eyes for a moment, as the sensation of reverb
faded from his mind. “Zac!”
Nothing, the boy was locked in, immobilized as he had been a day earlier when Nick’s mind crashed with his own, creating the backlash he was even now not recovered from.
His eyes locked with Taylor’s, and Taylor felt his soul turn over.
Visions of spades digging up brain matter, blood pooling in the torn depressions. Spinning stars in icy blackness, soul freezing. Taylor saw it all, catching a breath,  fighting the shock that tried to take him over.
Autonomic systems kicked in, heartrate speeding, breathing so fast it was nearly enough to black him out, not panic, more refined than panic.
Hyperdrive.
Realization complete and inescapable. Zac was awake, the time was now, and his mind was crashing under the onslaught.
Gut instinct told him in an instant that he couldn’t help, this was beyond his league. Hyperdrive, shaking him, moving him, showing him, something in the back of his eye, blinking blue.
Traveler.
He wrested his gaze from Zac’s, flooded in dual reality more honest than anything he had ever known, on his feet without though, hitting the corridor at a run.
The Traveler was here, and Zac was falling.

********************

Isaac looked at the phone, at the number in his hand. George. He wasn’t sure why, wasn’t sure what was prompting him, but the urge to call the old man was overwhelming.
Dim memories of warnings to leave the man alone echoed, unheeded.
Have to reach him…” His finger touched the keypad, hesitated, and his hand closed with a jerk as he gasped, sudden pain flooding his head.
Horrifying feeling of something digging, sharp and relentless, at the very matter of his brain. His brain? Taylor’s brain… Zac’s?
“Oh my God…” Pain froze him in place and he fought it, swallowing nausea as the sickening feel of slippage filled his mind.
“Oh what the hell are you doing?” His own agonized whisper drew his attention and he pulled away from the pain, feeling gingerly for the links to his brothers, finding the separate glows, sparks that now tasted like brimstone, blazing furiously, incinerating heat, agonizing cold, sparking along nerve endings.
It’s coming from them, it’s…” Understanding hit and his eyes widened in shock, panic fighting its way in as he recognized the precarious brink they teetered on.
Absolutely not!” Steely eyed, he reached grimly for the links, resolutely shutting them down, separating himself from the psychic pain trapping his brothers… and another. One other… who???
Didn’t matter, he had to block himself out of the loop, or there wouldn’t be anyone left who could think… oh but it tore at him, that extra presence! Who was it?
Traveler, it’s a Traveler… George!!” Hesitation vanished and he tapped out the number on the phone. “Ok George, we need you now…
It answered on the first ring.
“George, it’s Ike…”
“I’m in the street outside the hotel, Isaac, I already know. Gimme five minutes to gather up the lunatics, we’ll be right up. Have coffee ready.”
Cut off, Isaac hung up the phone, heading resolutely to the kitchenette.
Thick, filmy, unnatural calm enveloped him, and he nodded a little at the vague perception of being controlled.
Somebody… somewhere…
It faded, leaving him with the automatic motions of mundane morning life, make the coffee, wait for everyone.
He’d have been extremely surprised to realize that the person muffling the psychic maelstrom was himself.
Methodically, keeping his thoughts to himself, blocking the world at large, he started the coffee brewing, realizing somewhere inside that this simple action was a tool, a tool to keep himself separate.
He breathed deeply, eyes following hands, scoop, coffee, filter, water, switch… feeling the links continue to sink back, become more manageable.
Slamming behind him made him jump, perhaps not as badly as he would have had not this odd self hypnosis been in effect, and he saw the blur that was Taylor, running headlong through the room, down the hall…

********************

Zac was frozen, stuck in the knowledge loosened by the timeslide… all time, all place, all when and where and why and how, universal and cosmic everness, existence as a whole, all at once, bombarding him, sensory overload complete, pulsing with his heartbeat, in time, out of time, inky blackness and gripping cold…
Himself, on a stage, grown to manhood.
Taylor, running in the hall.
George, eyes turned upward in screaming agony.
Nick, stepping out of time and into… into… everness, and it hurt!
He groaned, hands gripping the sides of his heads, hard, squeezing, fingers tugging the hair, bringing blood he never felt, trickling down his face. It hurt more than death, more than anything imaginable in life, all of time, all of reality, all of existence, awake and aware in his mind… crashing, crashing… the pain peaked… crested… and his eyes went blank, hands falling limply to his lap, vision filled with the shimmering, pulsing, alive motions of the silvery strands of everything.

15 floors below him, and old man strode purposefully into the lobby, one hand, old and spotted, possessed of immense strength, gripping the shoulder of the young man who’s eyes flashed rhythmic silver.
“Nicholas stop now!”
His voice, supplemented as it was with a mental probe that deadened the young man’s psychic signals, had the effect of a switch, shutting off the hideous din of chaos that had filled the lobby, distorting time and awareness for all of the mortals present.
With a little help, they’d remember none of this.
He nodded greeting at Taylor, who’s flying entrance to the lobby had been brought to a skidding halt at the sight of him.
“George! Zac…!”
“I know, son, I know. Nicholas, get yourself together.”
Nick, grateful for the interference, his own ability to hold reality too badly frayed to help him at all, nodded, staggered a bit, and steadied, thankful to take the guiding hand the boy at his side offered. Together, the three of them went upstairs, forgetful normalcy returning to the lobby, patrons and staff shell-shocked and headachy, wondering.

********************

Isaac set his cup down carefully, eyes intent on Zac.
Too still, too withdrawn, too gone.
“Zac…” His voice stayed low, one hand moving to rest against his brother’s hair, stroking it softly.
Nothing.
“Aw, Zac, c’mon…”
He knelt in front of him, eyes struggling to meet Zac’s flickering gaze.
That pulsing… so unnerving, so unnatural. What was wrong with him?
His hand stroked soft hair, even, comforting, slipping into a rhythm without realizing, other hand gripping the younger boy’s shoulder.
“Zac, you’re in there I know you are…” His voice slid into the pattern of his hand, rhythmic, steady, as his mind re-opened the link he’d closed, lending energies he wasn’t aware of to his efforts.
“What happened Zac, what happened? Where are you? You don’t want to stay there, do you?” His words had little meaning, carriers for the ebb and flow of energy, suddenly flowing from some long untapped source, streams of golden warmth against channels frozen in fear.
Unthinking, he followed those channels down, down, his steady stroking motion never wavering.
Felt for it… found it.
A core, deep deep within the boy, a center of chaos, spinning tangle of entropy and existence, encircling Zac’s thoughts, wending it’s way into the warp and weft of his being, digging through his brain, changing and mutating the normal human patterns
into something unrecognizable.
Chaos… and something else. Knowledge, the knowledge of eons, awake and screaming to be heard, rushing over the storm of fear and confusion, overpowering, drowning.
Pain, it was causing pain. It hurt him, basically and fundamentally, nothing esoteric about it. It was too much and it hurt, it hurt a lot, and it was hurting Zac.
“Aw no…” He breathed the words, sending new tendrils of energy after the pain, unaware in this overwhelming new state of being, that he was working, chasing the chaos in his brother with his own innate power.
“Zac, c’mon back Zac…” He tried to block it, intercepting it with his own warm colors, tried to wall it in, shield Zac with his own essence, tried to dig it out, remove it… to no avail. It was immovable. Unchanging. Zac. It was Zac.
Isaac shifted tactics. If he couldn’t block it, couldn’t remove it, maybe he could ease it. Ease the hurt, warm the burning ice overtaking his brother.
Softly, his mind reached out again, still in pace with his gentle words and touches. Gently, deftly, he smoothed the edges, blunted the razor sharp crystals of power relentlessly tearing their way. Thawed the freezing numbness in the areas already laid waste, unknowingly encouraging warmth, and life where only fear and pain existed.
In his own mind, he only talked to Zac, only continued to stay in contact.
In reality, his mind reached beyond the trauma of torn channels and abrupt awakening, healing damage at an expense to him he never realized.
Gasping, pulse racing, perspiration soaking his hair, unaware of his own exhaustion he worked.
Breathed life back into a mind killing itself with fear, soothed  the psychic pain of awakening, unaware and unknowing, he just did it, flawless instincts taking the pain into himself, neutralizing it within his systems, reflex telling him what to take, what to leave.
His hand stopped moving, sliding to take Zac’s other shoulder as he heard him catch a shuddering breath, felt him tremble, looked down into tear filled brown eyes, eyes as frightened as his own, no longer frozen, still pulsing with that unnerving red light.
“Zac?”
“Ike?”
Zac’s arms slipped around him, hectic fever heat and cold tears pressed against him, and he hugged him back, for the first time feeling the sweat running down his back, feeling himself panting, as out of breath as if he’d run miles.
“It’s ok Zac, you’re ok…”
He wasn’t sure how he knew, only that he did. Somehow, he’d known what to do.
He leaned his cheek against the younger boy’s hair, inhaling his scent, grateful to whatever powers that be that he’d gotten his brother back, looking up only slightly as the door opened, George, Taylor, and a stranger bursting in.
“Ike, he’s ok?!”
Taylor’s frantic query met a nod, as Isaac hugged his brother tightly.
“Yeah… he’s alright.”

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

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