Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 18 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.
Isaac signed offline, and closed up the laptop with a sigh. Jittery. Just too antsy to sit and read. Glancing around, he noted with no little annoyance, that the rest of the family had no such problem. Mom in the chair, coffee cup dangling from her fingers, eyes closed, Dad snoring in the other lounge chair, drooling slightly. “Huh. It IS genetic, not just a Tay thing, I guess.” He glanced down at Zac, sound asleep on the floor, face on his book, twitching slightly as he dreamt of who knew what. “They’re all so peaceful, so quiet, why do I feel like I’m crawling out of my skin? HOW is it they can be so relaxed?” Shifting restlessly, uncomfortable, he thought back over the past four days, his mind inexorably going back to the moment he’d seen Taylor disappear. “Vanished… he did… no, he couldn’t have, it was just a figment of my imagination… the smog playing tricks with the humidity, but how do I explain that static charge, the smell of ozone…” His thoughts tumbled like Chinese acrobats around his stressed mind. Why couldn’t he just let it go? Why did he have to keep replaying it? Over and over and over, it was driving him crazy.
Lying back on the couch, irritably pulling his hair out of his face, he closed his eyes. If everyone else could sleep, maybe he could too. At least it ate up the time. It didn’t take long for him to come to the conclusion that just because his eyes were closed, sleep would come. “For that I need to relax, and I just can’t see it happening… why won’t my head stop! And what is that noise?!” He listened for a few moments, puzzled, when a sharp pain in his jaw brought him the answer. He was grinding his teeth. “Man, I have GOT to calm down…” He had thought he felt better in the Dakota, he’d been able to sit with the laptop and chat with a friend for a while, but he’d kept losing track of the conversation. His head was just so jumpy, nothing seemed to make sense. His worry, his fear, his confusion all combined to increase the guilt he already felt. Being in the Dakota, a balm at first, seemed now to shout “Taylor!” from every corner. He turned over, found it even more uncomfortable, and turned back. on the couch, not sure why he was so fidgety. He felt wound up, stretched to the point of breaking, and the voices he seemed to be hearing didn’t help, getting in the way of even the simplest functions. Everything he tried to do was left to drift, as his wildly careening thoughts drew him away from it. “I need to do something… anything.” He sat up suddenly, bare feet thumping onto the rug a bare inch from Zac’s face. “I’m gonna go get a coke and go for a walk…” He headed for the kitchen, eyes suddenly drawn to the molding around the ceiling. “Pretty…” The thought that Taylor would have appreciated that, appreciated being here, filled his mind, and he winced, trying to push it away. No go, it was there, and he heard that horrible creaking as his teeth ground together again. He forced himself to relax, leaning against the wall. “What was I doing? Where was I going?” He thought for a moment, frustrated. “OH! Coke… I want a Coke, but I can’t even think long enough to go get one! This is insane, I’m insane… I can feel Tay here… I can hear him… that IS insane, why are they sleeping???” Raking his fingers through his hair, he pulled his shirt away from his skin. “God, even my shirt feels wrong. Nothing is right… I’ll be committed by morning if I don’t get a grip…” He wandered to the window, gazing out at the busy street below, traffic noises muted by the soft hum of the air conditioner. The absence of sound gave the whole scene a surreal quality, that did nothing to ease his sense of disorientation. “Look at them down there, going on with their lives, totally happy and unconcerned, while my life is falling apart. I’m falling apart. I’m nuts.” Unreasonably angry at the hapless strangers below, he jerked away from the window, trying to arrest the irrational hatred he suddenly felt for all of them. “GET a GRIP!” He wandered into the bedroom, eyes falling on his guitar. Music. Maybe music… Attempting to stifle, or at least reconnect, the thoughts running rampant through his overstressed brain, he tried to play, tried to compose. Tried to mute the voices in his head, the ones telling him Taylor was dead. The ones telling him it was his fault. The alien set that seemed to be warring with the voice of his on conscience, telling him that Taylor would be back. What the hell was going on? He tightened his grip on the neck of the guitar, forcing the voices to be silent. It lasted all of six seconds, before the voices returned, louder, more insistent. He tried to ignore them, tried to focus on his playing, as they circled and circled, an insane babble of sound, making his head ache. His teeth ground together again as he muttered back at them. “Shut up…” His words whispered into the silent air of the room. “Just shut up…” The voices ignored him, the loudest one seeming to have settled into a psychotic chant of “Taylor is dead, Taylor is dead, you killed him, Taylor is dead!”
“NO!” His fist clenched involuntarily, ripping the strings from the guitar, and he winced, sudden pain bringing a moments relief from the cacophony in his head. “Oh shit…” He opened his hand on several shallow scratches, where the strings had cut in. “Way to go, Ike…”
Sighing, flinging the guitar onto the bed, wondering if it would be easier to perhaps just hang himself from one of the broken strings, he laid back, tracing the thin pattern in his palm. “I’m losing it, that’s it… I’m losing it.” He slid his hand behind his head, closed eyes welling up with tears he refused to let fall. “No…”
Since the whole fame thing had begun, they’d lost so many old friends. Most of the time, all they had was each other. They pulled their collective strength from each other, they leaned on each other. He’d move the world for his brothers. His brothers, and his family, WERE his world. Now that world was shattered, an integral piece missing. How was it possible to exist with him missing? He imagined his life without Taylor. Would he be able to survive that? Did he want to survive that? Did he want to live in a world that had no Taylor? Isaac wrapped his arms around his body, racked with sudden chills. Anguish, guilt, dread ripped through his chest. Taylor was gone. Was he dead? Would he ever be back? “Were the last words he heard me say “I wish you were dead?! Did he think I meant it?! Why did I say that? Did I mean it? NO. I did not mean it. I did NOT mean it! I Did I drive him away? Did he leave because of me?” An image of Taylor, out there in the city, alone, afraid. “Did he run away?” A more horrible image, images, of his brother in various forms of death. “God, stop it! Stop it!” Confused, scared, shaking with guilt and fear, he contemplated his world. “Is it my fault he’s gone, maybe dead?” Isaac bit his lip, struggling with the tears again, feeling them run down his face. “What’s wrong with me?!”
Diana’s thin sleep dissolved, and her eyes blinked open. Something, somewhere, was wrong. Stretching slightly, she looked around the room, placing her cup on the table, eyeing her sleeping family. All seemed fine here. Seeing the abandoned laptop on the coffee table, she frowned. “Where’s Isaac?” A sound down the hall, muffled by the thick walls, caught her attention. “Isaac. It’s him that’s wrong…” She got up quietly, tiptoeing out into the hall. As she moved closer to his door, she heard the guitar, the sudden hoarse shout of denial and the discordant clash of interrupted music.
He wasn’t holding together, she knew that. He needed something, someone. Needed his brother. “He needs Taylor, what on earth can I do for him? He needs to talk… NEEDS to get this out. But not him… no, not him.” She tapped on the door, heard no answer, and opened it gently, forcing back the alarm that sounded in her at the sight of him. Entering quietly, she joined her eldest, sitting beside him on the high old-fashioned bed. He felt the give, looked over at Diana, and turned over to face her, his hand reaching for hers. “Mom, I’m crazy. I am. Put me away. I hear voices in my head. They’re telling me that Tay is dead.” His voice, stress filled, frightened, cracked and broke. “What voices, Ike?” “Telling me it’s my fault that he’s gone. That I killed him. And the other voices, the voices I don’t know. Not my voice, not mine… Tay’s voice, saying he’ll be back, not to worry. A woman’s voice telling me Tay’s not dead. I’m insane. I’m insane, why is there a convention in my head?” He sat up and laid his head on his mother’s shoulder, knowing he was crying, unable to help it. “Mom, why do I feel like Tay is here? Why can’t I find a Coke? Why can’t I play? Why isn’t music helping me? Mom? Why? And… IS it my fault? I don’t know if I can live with him gone, Mom…”
Diana held her trembling son, knowing he was on the edge. For him to say that much to her, reveal that much of his inner torment, to cry in front of her, well, frankly, she was afraid. More than afraid. He was in crisis, and she wasn’t sure what she could do for him. She smoothed the softly curling hair from his forehead, whispering words of comfort, wiping the tears from his cheeks. “Sweetheart, I feel him here too. I don’t know why, I can’t explain it. I can sense him here, feel a vibration of him. Maybe because he loves this place so much. Maybe because we feel safe here, like he always did.” She rubbed his back, softly and rhythmically. “I hear voices too. The voice that tries to make me think it’s time to go home, that he’s not coming back. The voice that tells me he’s alright, to sit tight, he’s coming back to us. And the voice that tells me that YOU are not insane. Isaac, it WILL be ok. I don’t know why, but I know it will. It’s not your fault, it’s not anyone’s fault.” She moved his head from her shoulder, looking him in the eyes. His tormented, much loved face looked to her for comfort, for answers, answers she didn’t have. She wiped the tears from his face again, “Ike, we have to think only that he will be back. He will come home. We can’t give up hope yet.” She sighed heavily, as Isaac shakily pulled away, moving off the bed to put his guitar away. “Mom, I haven’t given up hope, but the voices have. At least some of them. I can HEAR it mom. Screaming at me. “He’s dead, you killed him!” Did I mom? Did I kill him?” She shook her head, mute, words stolen by the raw desperation in his eyes. “Ike, no… he’s not dead. He is NOT dead! And you did NOT kill him.” He nodded, shrugging, wiping his eyes with his sleeve. “I guess I’m just tired.” Isaac visibly pulled back into himself, the strain on his face hardening into a mask. He waved out into the hallway. “Let’s get the droolers to bed, I’ll help you.” He rubbed his swollen eyes as he left the room, knowing his mom had tried. He just wasn’t able to explain his conviction, his total belief, that he was insane, that he could hear Taylor’s voice, that he could feel Taylor’s presence. And his unshakable guilt… HE had driven Taylor to leave.
“Zac, c’mon buddy…” Hoisting the half asleep boy upright, Isaac pulled Zac towards the room they shared, helping him pull his shirt off, throwing it on the floor. He tucked him in, pulling the light covers up, listening with faint amusement as Zac argued with someone, he had no idea who, “I’m tellin’ ya, it was PINK! And it had FOUR antennas!” “Go to sleep, Zac.” He smoothed his brother’s hair back, wincing as his fingers caught in tats and knots, and pulled him up again, hugging him a little longer than necessary. He just needed to feel him close. “Don’t you leave me, Zac…” Zac’s eyes fluttered for a moment, as he clumsily hugged his brother back. “Lemme go now, I’m sleepin…” Smiling a little, Isaac released him, watching him for a moment, for just a moment his head blessedly silent.
“Mom, you get dad into bed?” He wandered down the hall, to see his mom pulling off his dad’s shoes. “Yes, he actually walked, now he’s helpless.” Diana grumbled, head down. Meeting his dad’s eyes, seeing his wink and grin, Isaac smothered a laugh. “Ok, see you in the morning, love you both.” “Sleep well, Ike, we love you too…” Diana hugged him briefly, all he would allow, and gazed into his eyes for a moment. “If you need anything, please…” “Yeah, I know. You’re right down the hall. Night dad…” Walker instantly feigned a half asleep demeanor, mumbling “love you, g’night…”
Blessing his dad for the laugh, Isaac went on to his own room.
Isaac reluctantly settled into his bed, throwing his shirt on the floor with Zac’s. He wrapped his arms around his pillow, wishing his mind was as quiet as the apartment now was. Jumbled thoughts, voices half heard… Music, half forgotten old hymns softly sung in harmony mixed with never known Irish lullabies… Exhaustion overruled confusion, and he drifted off…
Sleep claiming him, he settled into dreams of Taylor… in a tub… wearing a cap… in pain… at a piano with a pretty girl. Restless, he tossed and turned… mumbling “Tay, I need you home… I didn’t mean it…”
“I’ll die if you don’t come back…”
Cold sweat running down his face, Isaac bolted upright. A dream, a nightmare, another one. He leaned his head against the wall. God he was tired, his sleep the last few days almost nonexistent, short snatches when exhaustion overcame him. Sleep always broken by dreams. Exhausted, confused, Ike wasn’t really sure anymore what was real, and what was a nightmare. Was he even awake? Everything had a fuzzy, dream-like quality to it. “It’s quiet, too quiet. No noise. Only voices in my head.” He wandered out to the living room, turning the TV on quietly. He flipped through channels… “No, not M*A*S*H reruns… no, no French movies… not Leno… nothing is on…” He left it on MTV, moving back to the window, the view of the park calling him again. He couldn’t stop staring at it, as if somehow, his gaze would cause Taylor to appear. But no… no Taylor out there. Cars, people, noise, this city was always moving, always alive, always awake. But no infuriating, exasperating, desperately loved blue eyes face looked back at him. He looked into the darkness of the park, knowing he wouldn’t see his brother, looking for him anyways. His hot forehead pressed the cool glass. “Where are you? Tay… Where are you?”