Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 14 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.
“N’no, it’s ok, really, it is, I’ll walk.” Josh did not want to get into a hansom with Benjamin. Something about him frightened Josh, made him nervous. Benjamin just didn’t feel right to him, didn’t feel like he belonged here, or anywhere, for that matter, or maybe everywhere? Whatever it was, Josh wanted no part of it.
“Hush, and get in. Now. Kathryn said to take you home, she wants you safe, must you always argue?” Benjamin, feeling Kathryn’s worry, and the disturbance in Taylor’s energy, wanted to finish this, and get back. He had no time for Josh’s skittish behavior. Pushing Josh into the cab, he pulled the door shut, and sat back. “Give the man your address, Josh.” Cowed, not wanting to argue with this odd man, he gave the driver the address, and pushed himself into a corner. “Maybe if I close my eyes, he won’t talk to me” Josh thought, letting the evening just passed run through his mind. The music, it was great. They had never sounded so good. They had been inspired, almost, by what he wasn’t sure, but the harmonies had never been so good. “What was the word Taylor used… sweet… that was it. We sounded sweet.” And the money! They’d made the agreed upon sum, and the pub owner tossed in extra! He’d never seen Flannery so happy, counting his money at the bar. “Yes, boy, that lad who did your talking, he knew what he was saying. Look at this! Look at the money you and your boys brought in!” “Me and my boys…” somehow that didn’t sound quite so good anymore. “They give as much as I, Taylor was right in that. He’s right about alot of things.” He replayed supper in his mind, touching on how well Taylor got along with his family. “He treated them the way I used to. What changed me? When did I stop talking with Ma? When did I start fighting with Da? When did I stop playing with the little ones? Why?” Sighing, he sank into the corner, suddenly weary.
The cab stopped with a jolt, almost throwing Josh on the floor. Swearing, wishing drivers would give warning before they did things like that, he glanced uneasily at his companion. The absurd notion that the man might bite, suddenly lit in his brain, and he found himself fumbling for the door. “Uh, thanks, Ben, thanks for the company home.” Josh almost flew out of the cab, his thoughts still spinning, and his discomfort almost palpable to Benjamin. Snorting, Benjamin gave the driver the Dakota address, as he watched Josh run up the steps of his building.
His family asleep, the apartment dark and silent, Josh very quietly went to his room. “No need to wake anyone, I’ll see them in the morning.” As he changed into his nightwear, he realized how atypical that was of him. “I usually just bang open a door, not caring. Why do I care now?” He laid on his bed, in the dark, his window open, feeling the breeze. The night sounds of New York were muffled by the thoughts skipping around in his head. “I miss talking to Ma. Sitting with the children. Being a big brother. Walking with Da in the evening. When did it stop? When did I stop? Did I change?” He saw, in his mind’s eye, Taylor’s interest in his brothers and sisters, his parents, in what they had to say. Questioning them, seeing them as people whose opinions mattered. How excited Taylor was to interact with them. The pleasure in his eyes, as he played with Ellie, even as she tried to rip out his hair. “And his face…” His smile at the memory brief and fleeting as more memories crowded him. The deference Tay had given to his father, even as he disagreed with him, about music, about dreams, about life goals. He racked his brain, knowing that he had been like that with his family, had asked their opinions, offered his own, but when did it change? When did he change? The answer came to him in a flash, and he rejected it immediately. “NO. It can’t have been the music. That’s my life, my dream, my future. How could my music have changed me so much?” Turning over, pummeling his pillow, he closed his eyes, seeing himself through Taylor’s eyes. He saw a boy, a boy with dreams, a boy with a future, he hoped a future including music. He saw this boy focus everything on his dream, excluding everything that didn’t involve music, or himself. Saw him throwing away other interests, other ideals. He saw this boy gain some success with his dream. And this boy thought he was IT. The pinnacle, the source, without him, it would not happen. He saw himself discounting his friends’ input to the music. As Taylor said, he thought of himself as “all that and a bag of chips”, whatever that meant. But he understood the sentiment. He saw himself flirting with the girls, passing off his betrothal as a betrayal of his dream. No, not a betrayal, but as the destroyer of his dreams. He watched himself alienate his family, his fiancée, and most of his friends.
He realized suddenly, that he was crying, tears rolling down his cheeks, into his pillow, appalled at himself, “I’m crying! Me! A man! Crying like a baby!” Looked for the reason and found the ugly truth within himself. He had let his music, his dream, his future, ruin his now. Finding a certain bitter comfort, he let the tears fall, glad no one could see him, or hear him. He had not reckoned on a mother’s intuition…
Her unexpected touch startled him, and embarrassed by his tears, he pulled away. “Oh God, Ma… no.. go away!” He felt her hand, softly stroking his brow, and pushed it away. “Ma, I’m alright, really I am… please.” The hand that pushed her away involuntarily held on, as the entire day and night welled up in him. Tears of remorse fought with worry over Taylor, flashes of his friend’s face, and the strange place he’d left him. “Oh God, let him be alright…” Aftereffects of the beer amplified fear of the visions that seemed to have come from his friend’s mind, guilt at his treatment of his family, humiliation over the meeting with Mr. Simms at the paper, pain at the blows from his father’s hands, and the scorn in his voice… he loved him! Loved all of them, why was this happening? Inadequacy, an unfamiliar emotion, over his ignorance of Flannery’s idea for paying him, having been bailed out by a stranger from another place. “Another time, another time…” The impossibility of the idea… it spun, twisted, ached inside his head. His fatigue battled with it all… and he gave up. He couldn’t fight it all, not anymore. “Ma… I’m sorry…” He sat up, suddenly, arms wrapping around her, head on her shoulder. Sarah rubbed his back, not knowing what was wrong, only knowing that her son was somehow in her arms, needing her again. She held him, comforted him, not really understanding his odd mumbled words, until his sobs tapered off, and he slept. Gently settling him back, covering him, she gazed for a few moments at the now lax face. Did these tears mean anything? Were they the result of a simple matter of too much drink? Or were they from somewhere inside him? Could it be possible that Josh, her Josh, the boy she loved so much, was coming back? Sighing, she left him, taking care to leave his door, and hers, open.
Benjamin set the cool rag gently against Taylor’s forehead. His temperature was fluctuating wildly, dips that turned his lips purple and made him shiver, highs that evaporated the water Ben sponged his face with. Right now it was high, and God knew that was bad, but Ben could feel him steadying. Sensitive to the vibrations of the boy’s natural energies, he let himself relax as they settled into their normal rhythms.
“How is he?” Kathryn slipped in, her eyes carrying the glow from the strands. Benjamin shrugged, still cooling the boy’s forehead. “Too hot.” “Stable?” He nodded, turning now to look at her. “I told you. Bad idea. Bringing him.” Kathryn snorted, opening the window wider, letting in the cool breeze. “It was the only way. There was no way to foresee something like this.” She sat on the opposite edge of the bed, gently taking up a limp hand, letting some of the glow make it’s way from her eyes, to the boy on the bed. “He tried to go back, Benjamin. We should have realized.” Ben laid the back of his hand against Taylor’s cheek, and settled back, satisfied. His temperature seemed to be calming along with his vibrations. “Doesn’t know how, Kathryn. Where would he go? Nowhere.” “Yes, Benjamin, nowhere.” “That would have killed him.” “Yes…” “You’d kill him for this?” She lowered her eyes, knowing the truth of the matter was yes, they had risked his life, first in bringing him here, and now in letting him stay. Reflecting, she reviewed it all in her mind. So little rested on she and Ben. It was more dependant on Taylor than he knew. His own desire to know this time, his own passion for it, had brought him here. Deep, unspoken longing let him find the door, and answer their call. And his own energies, and acceptance of this time, kept him here. Held him in place. Their guidance, and the influence of the strands aided him, but his own strength did most of the work. And tonight, an even deeper longing, for his own home, and his own family, combined with the depletion of the sudden telepathic release, had dissolved his hold on this time. His strength spent, his emotions in turmoil, he’d simply let go. In his ignorance of how to find his way, no helping hands on the other side to guide him, he’d become lost, his exposure to the threads giving him the power to travel far, with no knowledge or control to direct it. The alcohol he’d consumed had deflected Benjamin’s, and yes even her own, ability to reach him, to help him, changing the chemistry of his brain to something unworkable, untouchable. Had she done as Benjamin had pleaded with her to do, ignored the the mental blindness caused by the alcohol, and reached into the dark of his mind, grasping what she could not see, she would have risked destroying his mind utterly, or worse, pushing him through, completely uncontrolled, lost matter crackling through the whorls and eddies of time and space, killing him, destroying worlds. If he were going to die, let him do it alone, and not grasping wildly at countless other realities. Simply trying to wake him up would have been all it would have taken, as he fought to go back, fading in and out of reality, into and out of darkness. He would never have found his way home… never. All they’d been able to do was ground him, hoping their touch would keep some sort of focus through the storm in his mind, until the chemicals in his brain returned to normal, and one of them could reach him. Even their ground had been a struggle, their holds on his hands tenuous at best, as his body faded away to almost nothing, countless times, pulled back by God knew what. Them? His strength of will? His fear? She didn’t know. Her reverie was broken by a mumbled word from the bed, and to her relief she saw motion behind his eyelids. “Dreaming… Benjamin, can you reach him?” Ben nodded, having already done just that. “He’s here. Has been. Strong will, strong life, he doesn’t want to die. Kathryn, this is bad. This is wrong.” “Bah!” She stood, tension evident in her walk. “It’s not wrong, Benjamin! It’s not without danger, but it is not wrong!” “Was he told? Did he know of the danger? THAT is wrong, Kathryn!” “Do you think he would have refused, Benjamin? Given all of the risks, do you think he would have refused? Just for the chance to be in this time he would have taken that risk, and so much rests on it! This boy…” She gripped his hand, tightly, not noticing his wince, in her agitation, “This boy has a spirit that would never let him refuse someone in need. We need his help, and he is giving it of his own free will. That is NOT wrong.” “Giving it… played upon his wishes, bribed with his desires. Manipulation, it’s manipulation.” His anger filled the room, the static charge making her hair stand up. “You’re a simple creature, Benjamin. You see in black and white. There are times black and white do not exist. There is no right, and no wrong, only what MUST be done…” “Hey… hey…” The mumble from the bed drew their attention, cutting them off. “Obiwan… Yoda… you wanna fight over s’mone else’s body? ‘M’tryin’ t’sleep…” He tugged his hand away from Kathryn, not the least concerned with their moral dilemma, and hugged his arms around the pillow, natural sleep taking him over again, and down. “You see? He’s alright, Benjamin.” “No thanks to us. We were helpless, Kathryn. Helpless. If this boy had died… or worse…” Their voices went on, breaking the thin wall of Taylor’s sleep, and his eyes blinked open once more, shock and surprise taking his breath away. His ears heard Ben and Kathryn. His eyes took in glowing beings of shimmering silver light, formless, beautiful. “Whoa…” His mind, suddenly shot through with the same galaxies he’d seen in Ben’s eyes, visions of spaceships dancing in his head as the images of another world mixed in, sleep stealing him again. “Use the force… Luke…” He grinned, giggling a little, watching the silver shimmers as sleep, deep and healing, finally closed over him.
“Oh ow! Oh man, what is that?!” Taylor’s eyes shut tightly, one arm coming up to cover them. Something… nails, needles, driving into his eyeballs. Coming to a little more, he realized it was light. “Oh man, turn it out… turn it off…” His groan brought Benjamin, who’d strayed no more than a few feet from his side throughout the night. “Turn what off, Taylor?” “Oh, God, that light…” Benjamin chuckled, and gently drew the boy’s arm down. “That’s the sun. I can’t turn it off. How do you feel?” Blinking up at the man, Taylor stared dumbly. He didn’t know how he felt. His head felt stuffed full of sticky cotton, impossible to think through. “I don’t know…” He shook his head a little, rubbing at his eyes. He’d slept hard, he could feel it, his whole body ached. “Everything hurts…” Benjamin nodded. He wasn’t surprised. He’d put himself through a lot the night before. He rested the back of his hand against the boy’s forehead, winning a puzzled frown from Taylor, as he shoved his hand away. “Don’t do that. My mother does that. Am I sick?” Ben sighed, shaking his head. “No… I don’t think so. You were last night… do you remember anything?” “No…” yet even as he shook his head, he thought he might. Flashes of darkness, of nothing. Pain, cold, dizziness and longing… stars. He thought he remembered stars… and something about Kathryn… Shaking his head, distress visible on his face, he gripped the edge of the blanket, trying to shove the odd thoughts away. “Ben I don’t…” “Hush. Kathryn will explain it to you. Be quiet for a moment.” Taylor conceded, watching as Ben set his hand first on his head, then his chest, feeling the tingle he’d come to associate with the man. The faint tingle became stronger, almost a thrumming. Giddiness suddenly flooded him, and he giggled. “Tell me the truth Ben, you’re just one giant light bulb dressed as a person, aren’t you?” “Did I just ask you to be quiet?” “You did. Yes you did. Did you know I dreamed about Star Wars?” “About what Taylor? Will you please stop talking?” “Obiwan Kenobi and Yoda were arguing over me.” “Taylor. Be quiet.” Pouting a little, the boy complied, watching with interest as the man examined him. “So am I gonna live?” Ben snorted, and pulled his hand away. “This time. Don’t get up yet.” He left momentarily, appearing again with a pitcher of water and a glass. “Here…” “I’m not thirsty.” “You will be as soon as you take a sip. You’re completely dehydrated. Just don’t drink it too fast, it’ll come right back up again.” “No it won’t, I feel okay…” He sat up quickly, and immediately rethought his last statement. “Oh… no I don’t feel okay…” “I know.” Ben handed him the glass, watched him drink it, and gestured for him to lie back down. “Just stay there for a little while. Don’t try to get up yet.” “Not a problem…” Taylor watched the man leave, taking inventory. From head to toe, everything ached, his head most of all, the pain driving in just above his eyes. Weak, shaky, the slightest motion broke him into a sweat. “Man… how much did I drink last night? Am I hungover? God…” He flung his arm over his eyes again, shutting out the evil light, dozing again within minutes.