Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 13 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.
“Come up for air, my son, breathe!”
Rough laughter, a sudden influx of hands, and the warm body and amazing lips that had been melted to his own were suddenly gone. “Aw man…” “Her color looks better on her…” Taylor absently wiped his face, glancing down at his hands. Red. Hmm. He looked up again, head spinning, at the pouting red head, just a few feet from him. “You didn’t have to interrupt did you? Is it last call or something?” He reached for her again, and her giggle as she slid into his arms made him laugh with her.
“N’no Kelly, there’s a good lass, you let him get about his business now.” The voice was jocular, filled with laughter, but there was no mistaking the eyes. She was leaving and she was leaving now. Taylor watched her go with real regret, glancing up at the boys as soon as the buxom beauty was out of sight. “What’d you do that for?”
“Had a few have you, Taylor? You want to be kissing up to gutter trash like that?”
Scowling, Taylor stuck out his lip. “She’s good enough for YOU isn’t she?”
Josh grabbed his arm and hauled him to his feet. “Hardly. Nor anyone else here. Oh she’s a looker alright, but carrying a good healthy dose of the pox I’d wager, and pimped by a goodly half of New York. We’ll buy her a pint and a meal if we can, and she’s well and good for play, but you’ll not want to be in a clinch with her, less you want to be charged for it. Come on now, it’s time we left.”
Frowning, confused, a little drunker than he enjoyed, Taylor followed the boys out onto the street. “Where we going now?” Josh glanced at him, wondering if he’d been mistaken, bringing him here. He didn’t look any too capable of getting himself home. “Well we’re walking Petey home, here, and Andrew…” He laughed and dodged a blow as Andy caught the hated name. “…will put himself on the EL and get himself back to his own bed. Mick’s already gone.” “What about you?” “I’m goin’ home Taylor, it’s 2 in the morning.” “It is?” Shaking his head, suddenly realizing that more time had gone by than he could account for, he stumbled to a nearby stoop, and sat down. Rolling his eyes, Josh shoved him, waited as he pushed over, and squeezed in next to him. “You’ll want to sober up a bit, I think.” “I think so too…” “What did you think? We came back to the table when we finished, but you were… occupied.” “You did?” Taylor for the life of him couldn’t understand it. He’d not had that much to drink, he certainly hadn’t had anything else. Why was the night so foggy? There was an odd, confusing slipping sensation in his head, that he didn’t much like.
“Well, my drunken friend, what did you THINK?!”
Taylor thought for a moment, the memory of the music suddenly welling clear. Josh’s band had sounded beautiful. Not the type of music he was used to, a type he associated in his mind, for some reason, with barbershop quartets, thought it held little similarity. Acapella, pure harmony, intricate and lovely. “Oh, Josh! Oh you guys were sweet!” Josh’s eyebrows raised, unsure what that meant.
“Taylor… sweet?” “Uh… sorry, Josh you guys were great! Wonderful! I can totally see why you want to do this professionally…”
“Taylor…” Josh’s frustration shone through. “We ARE doing it professionally.” “Well I mean… y’know… oh ignore me.” Josh laughed easily, not sure if this was drunkenness, or just Taylor being weird. “But you liked us then?” “I did! You were so good! But…” Taylor’s eyes narrowed a little. “Not JUST you. You definitely all sound really good as a group. You need the others though, just as much as they need you. Doesn’t matter who all is the one the fans like the best… you need to stay together and you need to respect each others talent. One person can’t be all that.” “What’re you talking about? Can you walk? We better get you home…” “I can walk.” Surprisingly, after a few minutes of fresh air, he found he could. “What I mean was… they all look at you as if you’re the leader. They told me today that if you had to go to work, and left the band, nobody would ever want to see them. Isn’t that right Pete? And that’s not right that they should think that.” Josh glanced at Pete, unsurprised to see him eyeing his toes. “I can’t do anything about what they think, can I?”
“Well no, I guess not, but just… do YOU think that way?”
Josh thought about it for a moment. Coming from anyone else this would have likely infuriated him, but from Taylor it had the feel of honest concern. What was it about him?
“I don’t know, maybe I do. It’s true it’s me that handles all the business… well except for you, today…” He grinned, and pulled a wad of bills from his pocket, flashed it at Taylor, and peeled off a note. “Here…” Taylor stepped back, puzzled. “What…” “Associate fee. You helped us with the payment tonight… you get a cut.” “No… no… that’s your money.” Pete stepped up, having clipped a bill from his own roll. “No, he’s right. You shook on it with the man. Here… you just take it.” His eyes were so sincere, and his hand so urgent, Taylor took the offered money, feeling somehow he’d offend them if he didn’t. “I… this isn’t mine… but okay. Thanks…” He slid it into a pocket, sighing. His high was wearing off, leaving exhaustion in it’s place. “Taylor… you may be right. I may step up as the boss too much. But it’s just the way it’s always been. The lads look to me…”
“Do you Pete? Do you want it like that?”
Pete shrugged. In honesty, he was glad Josh took so much of the lead. He didn’t care for the pressure, himself. “It’s okay by me, it’s not something I care to do. But we do all sing… and we do all have our part…” He shook his head. “I don’t know, I’m tired, I’m drunk, I’m not going to think about it.” Grinning, he stepped up into his own doorway. “I’ll bid you gents goodnight then, and see you in the morning.” He tipped his hat, and in a blink was gone, the door snicking shut behind him.
Taylor’s gaze went up, up above the rooftops, to the stars, so unfamiliar in his own New York. “Josh… you don’t have to walk me home. I know the way.” Josh cuffed him lightly, the feeling that he was somehow responsible for this boy strong in him. “I’ll not leave you to walk home alone, through the streets of the city, at this hour. You may as well not bother to chin it, I’m not changing my mind.” He fell silent, watching the boy beside him gazing up into the night sky. What was he thinking? Who was he?
“What? What…” the sudden sharpness of Josh’s voice startled him.
“Taylor… why are you here?”
“What? Josh I told you, I’m just visiting friends…”
Josh shook his head furiously, the nights alcohol intake dimming his caution.
“No, you know what I mean. Who are you? Where did you come from?”
“Oh HELL!” Josh shoved him a little, quickening his pace to outdistance him. “You’ll tell me you’re visiting friends, that you’re here from OKLAHOMA, well…”
Taylor waited, keeping back a few paces as he walked, knowing he couldn’t tell him, not really caring, his mind too numbed from drink and exhaustion.
“Taylor… is it alright?”
The question surprised him, and he suddenly found himself overwhelmed with affection for Josh. He stepped closer, and impulsively, unthinkingly, hugged him, feeling the older boy tense a little, before returning the embrace. He pulled away a moment later, swiping at his eyes, laughing. “Josh I’m too damn drunk! Yes it’s alright. I promise you… it’s alright.” Josh stared into his eyes for a moment, braced unconsciously for the onslaught of visions, received none, saw only the emptiness of eyes missing everything they knew and loved. “Not so alright for you, is it, Taylor?” Taylor shrugged, smiled, and gestured up the street. “Not if I don’t get home before I fall over.”
Josh, refusing to be jollied out of it, held him back for a moment. “Tay… just where is home?” Taylor took Josh’s face in both hands, staring seriously into his eyes. “For now… uptown.” He let his friend go, started to walk, listening for the other boy’s footsteps, nodding in satisfaction as he heard them. “Josh?”
“Did you call me Tay?”
“I… did I?”
“I think you did. Why did you do that?”
“I don’t know… it’s a stupid nickname”
“Yeah…” Taylor sighed. “It is… but it has a way of sticking…”
The boys walked on, silent now, each buried in the weight of his own thoughts.
“Step lively now, did you want to get there before dawn?” “I’n care…” Taylor’s voice mumbled vaguely back at Josh, and he yawned hugely. He knew he was dragging his feet, but, God, he was so tired! “Come on, Taylor… you have three more blocks.” Josh slid an arm around Taylor’s shoulders, pulling him a little faster. He wasn’t sure but that Taylor wasn’t about to simply faint dead away on the sidewalk. It was with great relief that he saw the doorway to the apartment building, looming in front. Smiling, he nudged Taylor, who sounded suspiciously as if he were snoring, and gave him a little shove. “Home sweet home, m’lad, and aren’t you glad?” Taylor mumbled again, vaguely realizing he was home, not particularly caring. He smiled faintly and started unsteadily up the steps, stopping once to yawn, twice to sit down. “Oh, here, here!” The new voice startled Josh, and he spun… not sure what he was expecting, coming face to face with the elderly gateman. “Here, you… boy! You help him get in there, see that he gets to his door! Are you hearing me?!” Josh, eyes wide, nodded. “You want me to take him inside?” “Aye, I want you to take him inside, and up, and right to his door and in. You make sure he makes it all the way in, won’t do to leave him out in the hall. Avoid large places at night, stick to small, you don’t want to leave him out in the open. Now you get him in, and step lively with you!” Jumping, Josh nodded, grabbing Taylor by the shirt collar, accidentally getting a handful of hair, causing the sleepy boy to yelp. “HEY!! Lemme go Josh, geez!” “Uh sorry… c’mon, lets get you upstairs…” Eyeing the little man as if he might bite, Josh prodded frantically. “You got a key Tay? Hurry up… that guy’s staring at us!” “S’only George…” Taylor’s voice slurred, and he fumbled the key, dropping it, swearing softly. “I’ve got it, why do you sound drunker now than you did an hour ago?” “I d’know Josh, but I feel it too… you unlock it…” Josh nodded, eyes still darting to the gatesman. He wasn’t sure just what it was that had scared him… The door fell open soundlessly, and the boys slipped inside, Josh remembering to breath only when it had shut behind them again. “Taylor…” “Did ‘e scare y’? “Yeah he did a little. Straighten up, you could talk a few moments ago. Where’s your apartment?” Josh’s tone was harsh, almost angry. Suddenly, for all of his curiosity about this place, he didn’t want to be here. Something here felt wrong. “All th’way up. I know I could, I’m just tired…” Nodding, he headed for the stairs, the elevators suddenly reminding him too much of mouths. Flight after flight, the boys climbed, Taylor sleepy and mumbling, obviously fine here, Josh screaming nerves and jitters, feeling as if he were about to be eaten. “S’over there…” Josh let his breath out in a rush, sudden relief flooding him. Taylor’s door. Thank God. “You want me to unlock it for you?” “Yeah…” Taylor leaned against the opposite wall, and for a split second, Josh fancied he could see the wall behind him. “What the… oh man, I’m as bad off as you…” He pushed the door open, and reached for Taylor’s hand, almost expecting his hand to go through it. “Come on, old man, let’s find you your bed…” Taylor giggled, at what he didn’t know, and stepped into the apartment.
Josh watched the woman as she laid a hand on Taylor’s brow, here eyes dark and worried. “How much did he drink? You’re Josh, aren’t you?” “I’m Josh. I’m not sure how much, I was singing. But he was fine just an hour ago.” “He’s had nothing since then?” “No, since before then, actually.” He understood her worry, Taylor seemed more confused and sleepy with each passing moment. “He says he’s just…” “”M’ just tired Kathryn…” As if to prove his point, he yawned another bonecracking yawn, and laughed. “Goin’ t’ bed… Josh…” He yawned again, and shook his head, smiling. “Yeah… goodnight, Taylor…” Josh watched him stumble down the hall, and turned back to the woman. “Is he alright? You’ll make sure?” She nodded, face serious. “I’ll make sure. Quite likely he is, as he said, only tired. It’s very late. Benjamin…” Her voice rose slightly. “Benjamin, take Joshua home. Josh… thank you for seeing him here safely.” Josh nodded, wary, not at all sure he wanted to leave Taylor here. Something in the very air here was making his body tingle, and all his hair feel as if it were standing on end. Something just wasn’t right. “Are you sure… I can bring him home with me…” “Oh don’t be silly. He’s home and perfectly safe. Off you go with Benjamin now… off with you.” She hustled them out the door, and hurried down the hall. Josh was not her concern. Taylor was.
“No…” Taylor, far from rational, shoved Kathryn’s hands away. Cold. He was so cold, so sore… “I wanna take a bath, Kathryn, I’m cold, get out…” His voice was breathless, whiney, irritable, and she frowned. This was worse than she’d thought. Why was this happening so quickly? “Not tonight sweetheart, not tonight. Here…” She touched his forehead, fingertips warm against his brow, and he felt himself relaxing slightly. “Let me help you change, and we’ll make sure you’re warmed up…” She knew the cold he felt had little do do with the sultry August air. Taylor, images disjointed and senseless floaring in his mind, felt the woman’s fingers unbuttoning his shirt, and groaned, something sharp and painful… a memory? surfacing in him. A night, hot and sticky, pain in his throat, pain in his head, hands soft and sweet helping him into something so soft… “Mom…” the word whispered before the thought completed, there and gone, replaced with the image of the chesty redhead from the club, flashed into nonexistence with picture of the girls at the Trump. “Oh, God, what’s wrong with me?!” His eyes flew open, seeing Kathryn, for just a moment reality in his grasp.
“Kathryn… what’s…” “Hush baby, hush. Put your arms out here…” He did, and she slid the soft nightshirt onto him, smiling as he goggled down at his bare feet. “Where’s m’shoes? What happened to my shoes?” “I took them off dear. Here…” She gently eased him down into bed, stopping for a moment, stroking his hair back. “I’ll be right back.” He nodded, eyes turning up at the ceiling. Slowly, as he watched, it began to rotate, and he smiled. “Trippy. Very trippy…” He could feel the bed under him spinning in the opposite direction, and the alarming idea “I’m gonna be pulled apart!” sent him bolting upright. The spinning stopped, and he dropped his head into his hands. “God…” “Taylor, here… I want you to drink this. It will help.” “Am I drunk, Kathryn?” “Slightly I believe, not terribly. Drink please.” He did as she asked, the bite to the hot liquid making him wince. “What is this?” “Something to help you.” He nodded again, feeling his head clear as the spicy drink burned his mouth and throat.
Kathryn watched, and when the cup was nearly empty, she took it from him, laying him down again. “Do you feel better now?” He nodded. He did. He was sleepy, but the sickening sensation of slippage had ceased. “Tell me what happened tonight, Taylor.” “Happened?” “You’ve done something. Tell me what it was.” He looked at her for a few seconds, closing his eyes as her hand, soft and gentle, caressed his cheek. “Josh knows what I’m thinking, Kathryn. He… see’s my memories.” “How do you know that, Taylor?” He sighed, reaching up, clasping her hand in his. “I saw it in his face. He saw…” Blue eyes suddenly opened, pouring into hers. “He saw my world. He saw me. He saw Isaac. He saw… and I couldn’t stop it…” She could feel his agitation building, and set her palm on his forehead again, knowing she was pushing, knowing also she had no choice. “Sweetheart, it’s alright.” “I can’t tell him, Kathryn. I can’t tell him. I didn’t mean to… but he knows. He can read my thoughts…” “I know he can.” “Is it okay?” “I don’t know yet, Taylor…” He looked up into her eyes, searching. He was afraid, suddenly, as the world tipped and spun. “Kathryn…!” “It’s alright…” Her voice, suddenly gone, the room suddenly empty, cold… echoing. “Where are you?!” “Right here…” “Where were you?” “I never left, sweetheart. I’m right here.” “I couldn’t see you…” “I know sweetheart.” He gripped her hand, hard, struggling to focus. Nothing would stay, he couldn’t make anything real. Eyes moved to the ceiling again, vision caught by the blowing curtain. “What is it…” His fevered mind saw ghosts, clouds, the mist of ages, and he dug in, not seeing her wince as his nails drew blood. “It’s all right, Taylor…” She looked up, as Benjamin came in, eyes sharing her worry. He took in Taylor’s form, limp and flat on the bed, sweat beading his brow, eyes panicky, darting, breathing labored. Wordless, he approached the bed, taking his place opposite Kathryn, resting a hand on the boy’s chest. “Not breathing right…” His hand grasped Taylor’s firmly, and he shook it, hard. “Taylor, look…”
Taylor looked, seeing in Benjamin’s eyes galaxies shot through with stars, echoing blackness, everything and nothing. The blackness filled his sight, obscuring man, woman, room, filled with glowing prismatic color. He reached for the color, hand outstretched, touched flesh and felt the darkness dissolve as his fingers entwined with Ben’s. As he watched, Ben’s face became Isaac’s, and he gazed in near rapture. Isaac, so loved, so missed, so real and solid in front of him. His hand came out again, brushing the skin of his brother’s face.
“Kathryn!” Benjamin’s voice raised as he gripped the boy’s hand. Taylor seemed to be growing thinner, paler, insubstantial. “Kathryn help him!” Kathryn, voice calm and unruffled as always, barely glanced his way.
“There’s nothing to be done, Ben.” She nodded, as the boy’s form seemed to solidify again, his color becoming more substantial. “Taylor… open your eyes dear…” His eyes opened, taking in her face, watching, horror stricken as it melted before him, rejoining itself briefly as the face of his mother. Choking out a sob, his arms went out, wanting her, needing her, crying out in pain as her face dissolved, twisting into something alien, a spirit of worlds, of times, a being of silver thread shot through with crimson and cobalt. A voice of ages filled his head then, inside, all around. “All this, Taylor… all this…”
Too much for him, his exhausted and panic stricken mind let go, giving up, and the man and woman felt him go limp beneath their hands.
“You have to wake him…” Ben gazed in agony at the boy on the bed. Limp and waxy, breathing so shallow it seemed nonexistent, he looked dead already.
“Benjamin, he’ll wake on his own.”
“With a mind?”
“I don’t know. He’s very strong.”
“Kathryn, for the love of God, wake him! Do you want him to die?!”
“It’s for the love of God, and all he has created, Benjamin, that I do NOT wake him. Should time stop, Ben? Should everything cease to be because of one boy?”
“One boy who never asked for it, Kathryn!”
“One boy who accepted it, Benjamin! And I could not wake him now, even if I chose.”
Her eyes bored into his, the calm replaced by deep dread. “Because, Benjamin, it’s already too late…”