Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 32 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.
Kathryn took his hand, halting his agitated pacing.
“Are you sure that’s what you want? You’re not completely finished here… and Taylor… if you wish to leave simply over hurt feelings, do you feel you’re justified?”
“Justified?! YES! I would have been JUSTIFIED in just going right back the same day you brought me here! There’s nothing more I can do now! Josh threw me out, there’s no way I can help him anymore, and he doesn’t even NEED my help!”
“You don’t know that, Taylor… there may yet be things you need to do for him… or for yourself”
“Myself… I need to go home.”
“Sweetheart, you’re very tired. You’re still suffering the aftereffects of drink… you’re upset and hurt. You’re in no condition to make such a decision.”
He barely resisted the urge to strike her, outraged at the calm tone, knowing she was trying to control him.
“I’m not stupid, Kathryn. I’m capable of thinking. I know what you’re trying to do! You think you can… hypnotize me or something! I want to go home. I’m GOING home…”
“Taylor, if you give it till tomorrow, you may find Josh is no longer angry. He too suffers the same effects you do, and he’s very confused. If you said things to him that are difficult for him to understand, he may simply need some time to digest them.
“You told me I wasn’t supposed to tell him. I did tell him, Kathryn, I know I did and that’s what he won’t tell me!”
“So this is motivated by guilt, is it?”
“NO!” He pulled away from her, unable to stand still. “It’s not guilt! I just want to go home! And I don’t CARE if he gets over it! He’s dead! He’s dead and buried and has nothing to do with me! Don’t you understand, the longer I stay the more I’m gonna miss him?! Don’t you care?! God I hate you people!”
Empathetic, she reached again for his hands, gripping them against his resistance. He’d said so much he didn’t realize. “I cannot send you home like this. You MUST give yourself time to calm down.”
He yanked away again, utterly furious. “I don’t need you! I can do it myself! Zac! He’s one of you, isn’t he?! He’s my brother, he WANTS me back! I can reach him, and HE’LL help me, I don’t need you!”
Realizing he could very well do this, seeing the danger involved, Kathryn put sympathy aside. IT was time to act. Shrugging off the mantle of human emotion, her call for assistance went out, immediately received.
“I’m falling asleep here, on a bench, on the street. I really must go home…” Josh stood, stretched, feeling a little foolish. Dozing off on a park bench. He grinned, yawning, glancing west toward 72cnd street. Taylor on the brain. Shaking his head, he headed back downtown, determined not to give in to impulse. It was best to just let it go. “Long walk home…” He eyed the hack line, wondering if he could justify the money spent on a second cab that day. “No, you can’t do it old boy, just walk… won’t do you harm.” He struck off, his eye suddenly caught by an odd looking figure in the distance ahead of him. “And I thought Taylor was strange…” He watched idly as he walked on, closing the distance between them. Long hair in disarray hanging down her back… disheveled, ill fitting clothing… men’s clothing at that…
His eyes narrowed a little as something nagged at his consciousness. His attention now suddenly sharply directed. What was that she was dragging? Something big… too heavy to carry… what an odd woman…
His steps carried him closer, the irritating nudging at his mind becoming stronger. Did he know her? There was something familiar… “Should have worn my specs…” He squinted, trying to focus, as the weird figure suddenly looked up, and shouted his name.
The boy glanced up, glaring as he recognized George.
“Right, look… if you’re in on this with her, don’t even bother…”
His words cut off as the older man took his face gently between both hands.
Gray eyes captured his, held, as his mind surrendered to the stronger will.
Silence held sway for a few moments, as the man read the situation, his expression pained. “Does Benjamin concur?” The woman shook her head. “Not here. But you see, if he does as he threatens…”
“Yes… I see.”
With that much rogue energy, the boy would never make it through. If he enlisted the aid of his brother, activated years before his time by the unsuspected link that tied him to Taylor, it was a virtual certainty that they would both be lost. Nodding, agonized resignation stamped into the seamed face, loathing what he was afraid he would have to do, he released his hold, and felt the impulsive rush of anger. There would be no time to reason, this boy was going to follow through with is threat.
“Don’t call him, Taylor. You don’t know what you’re doing.”
Taylor flashed him a look of pure hatred, stepping back, halted by the wall behind him. “Don’t tell me what to do…”
George felt the mental flex, sighed in resignation, and reached out quickly, his hand pinning the boy’s head against the wall, stepping in quickly to catch him, as the sudden flood of nausea and dizziness brought him to his knees.
Josh stared, open mouthed as Grace told her story. He’d known it would be bad, but not… not THIS bad.
“Grace, they didn’t listen to you at all?”
She shook her head, and he saw how tired she looked, his heart going out to her.
“Aw Grace… but to run away!”
She shrugged, looking up at him. “What was I to do? You don’t understand, Aunt Miranda’s… she runs a workhouse, Josh. In Chicago. An orphan asylum. She beats them, they’re half starved, always underdressed, always too cold… they sleep in shifts, Josh! They take in laundry for most of Chicago… their little hands are always so red and swollen… I was there once… I swore I would never go back. It was just so horrible!”
“They wouldn’t really send you there, Grace! They were just angry… I’m sure..”
“They’ve made the arrangements. Miranda told them she’d “knock the nonsense out of me.” I’m supposed to leave on the morning train.”
Josh shook his head, baffled. “How could they just send you away Grace? For going out one night?! It’s unfathomable!”
She sighed, gazing past him into the distance. “They said the entire church knew about it this morning. They’re completely scandalized, Josh…” He glanced at her uneasily, expecting tears, finding none. Resignation and exhaustion aplenty, but no tears.
“They said the only alternative was to marry me off immediately, and not to you…” She turned to look into his eyes. “They told me I was never to see you again, and that when I came back after a year with Miranda I would be married sharp to someone of their choice”
“So you just left? Grace, isn’t that a bit rash? You might have talked to them…”
“What else was I to do?” Her eyes searched his. “I tried to talk to them, they refused to listen to a word I said. I can’t go to Chicago… I would kill myself if I had to watch her abuse those children that way… not that I would be much better off…”
“You think they won’t have calmed by morning?”
She shook her head strenuously. “No, Josh, I do not…”
Her voice faded as she watched his face. Would he have her? Was she wrong to have come to him?
Josh stared back, feeling his heart surge with love for her. And sympathy, she looked so terribly tired… he wanted nothing more than to take her home and tuck her in… but could he take care of her? He’d just declined the job at the paper… and all he had on the other was a handshake… nothing on paper. What if it didn’t go through? How would he make sure she was alright?
Grace caught Josh’s hesitation and her heart sank. She’d been wrong. He didn’t want to be saddled with her. Still so young, and so ready to do his music… he didn’t want the responsibility of a wife, not yet… and certainly not a runaway. She nodded to herself. She would make it on her own. If only she weren’t so tired… still… tired would be remedied, eventually, with sleep, and if Josh didn’t want her, well it was high time to get off this bench and find herself someplace to stay. She started to rise, stopped by Josh’s hand on her arm.
Unaware of her feelings, he grinned up at her. “Grace, I can’t make you any promises. We could be eating potatoes and onions today, and onions and potatoes the tomorrow. It will be an awfully frugal life for you, I know you’re used to the best… and some day, Grace, I mean to make sure you have it.” He hugged her tightly, running his hand over her hair.
She pulled away, shocked delight in her eyes. “Josh… you mean it?! You mean you… you’ll have me? I’m not just a… a bother? It’s… it’s alright that I came to you?”
“A bother? Grace, of course it’s alright!” He hugged her again, wanting to reassure. He understood why she might think otherwise. They hadn’t exactly been friends of late. Well, whatever happened, whether she could deal with his crazy life or not, he would take care of her now, and the rest would be up to her. But where to go tonight? His Da… he’d be none too likely to agree to Grace staying there again.
He moved her away from him gently, reaching for her suitcase. “Come on, Grace, I think I know someone who can help us…”
In the time room, unseen by any watching eyes, a silver thread flared blue white brilliance, as its light settled, once more and for all time, into its fated order.
Isaac rubbed his eyes, tired beyond belief. Body and mind, toasted, he thought. “Just like a bagel…”
He leaned back in the huge tub that would have comfortably doubled as a small swimming pool, the steamy heat, and pervasive late evening quiet finally letting him relax. His parents had power shopped all day, trying, he knew, to take their minds of their anxiety. “Too bad for me…” he thought, rubbing his aching muscles. Shopping with them usually meant chasing after the little ones, in this case only Zac, but enough work at that, and acting as dray horse, lugging everything everywhere. They’d stopped piling packages on only when they’re annoyance at his continual dropping of items made them open their eyes and see he had in fact traded in his other six hands. Their apologies had been brief and perfunctory, and he’d been hard pressed not to snap at them.
They had checked in with the FBI, back at the Trump, as well, further increasing his irritation. For the amount of money they were being paid by *someone*, they sure weren’t doing much work. The phones had rung once during the hour they had been there, and while the agents had mobilized rapidly, they still knew nothing.
He sighed, and sank beneath the water, his hair floating on the surface. Eyes open under the water, he watched the floating hair, unconsciously taking himself down, letting his mind float as his hair did. Searching, searching, what was he looking for? There… there it was. Deep within his mind, a spark, a glow that was Taylor-tinged. He could feel, taste, the essence of his brother, and knew that Taylor was alright.
He surfaced, taking a breath, shoving wet hair away from his face. Alive. Taylor was alive, and he knew it as well as he knew he, himself, was breathing. How he knew he wasn’t sure. He’d always been very aware of his brothers, and they’d often joked that there was no need to talk, when they each always knew what the other was thinking. They’d always explained it away as simply knowing each other well, but this… this glow, this spark, whatever it was, was new, since the dream/trip.
He sat up, wiping off his face with his wet hands. The spark, in his mind, was still there, even when he wasn’t concentrating on it. “How weird that is, almost not natural…” But the comfort it gave him was immeasurable, and it was rapidly becoming a part of him.
Kathryn gently sponged sweat from the Taylor’s face, eyes mirroring the pain she knew he was feeling. She’d never enjoyed intervening in this way, and it disturbed her now.
Between the headache, more severe than any he had ever before, or would again experience, and vomiting that threatened to bring his insides up, he was on the last vestiges of strength. Anger had vanished under the onslaught, as intended. Demands to be sent home replaced with whispered pleas to make it stop. Relentless, the symptoms continued, Kathryn’s sympathetic attentions no balm for the misery he suffered at her will.
Ben’s step in the hall drew her attention, and his disapproving face looked into the bathroom. Frowning, shaking his head, he reached down, resting one hand on Taylor’s back… seeking… finding. He pulled his hand away, eyes flashing anger at Kathryn. “Enough. Do you wish to kill him then?” She shook her head, gently smoothing the sweat soaked hair back. “No, only to keep him from harming himself, Benjamin.”
“It’s enough, Kathryn.” Nodding, agreeing that the fight had gone out of Taylor, she sent her slight signal to the man in the guardhouse, who loosed his hold as she did. “Take care of him…” She left the room, guilt no part of her makeup, only regret that she’d had to cause pain to one she’d come to care for. Behind her, Benjamin saw to his young charge, praying the ordeal was nearly over.
Josh left the pub, secure in the knowledge that Grace was safe. One room, one night, Sean McGuire owed him that much, after all the business he’d brought in for him. “We’ll worry about tomorrow, when tomorrow comes…” He walked towards the Dakota, his thoughts full of his Grace, and how she’d encouraged him to talk to Taylor. The love in her face, the glow, when he’d asked her if she minded being left alone. Yes, having her with him was worth it…
Taylor, the urge to talk to him was getting stronger and stronger. “He’s leaving, I know it…” He broke into a run, dodging sauntering couples, needing to reach the Dakota…
He cut across the park, steps hurried. No, no voice of reason in his mind tried now to warn him away from Taylor. He had to talk to him, had to tell him. Tell him he was sorry. Tell him about Grace!
He laughed out loud, excitement stamped across his fine features as he stepped out onto 8th avenue.
Benjamin watched Taylor carefully, eyeing the faint tremble that still lingered in his hands. As much as he disapproved, he had to admit, the sudden illness, horrific as it was, had had the desired effect. The insane anger had guttered out, leaving the boy exhausted, but noticeably more rational. His enraged demands to be allowed to leave had, for the moment, been replaced by lucid, if subdued, conversation. He felt a twinge of unusual sympathy, listening to the boy’s words.
“Ben, someone here has to be on my side. I wish you could understand, it didn’t work. It just didn’t work. I’m dumb, I messed it all up, it’s over, and I just want to go home.”
Rare affection stirred in him, and he found himself reaching to touch Taylor’s shoulder. “You ruined nothing. You will go home, but you must be ready. Can’t go home tired, hungover, angry. Won’t work. You could end up anywhere.”
Taylor looked up wearily, sipping shakily from the cup in his hands.”Speech is not your first language, is it Ben?” His words were flippant, his tone was not. Images had flashed in his mind as the man spoke, showing him what could happen. “It’s not like taking the bus I guess, is it?” He smiled a little, starting in surprise as he felt Benjamin’s arm go around him.
“The bus it is not. You will go. But first, you rest.”
“I know.” He sighed and put his head down on the table as drowsy warmth stole over him. Utterly drained, unable even to think, he doubted he even had the strength to leave. All he wanted was sleep. “Why did they do that, Ben?” He knew the answer, suddenly had to hear it anyway.
“To save your life. And that of your brother.”
“Zac… he’s one of you… I would have used that, Ben. He’s not ready is he?”
Ben shook his head, mutely reading Taylor’s eyes.
“It would have killed him…”
Ben nodded. “Yes. It’s possible, if he did not know. So you stay, not ready yet to leave. When you would NOT use someone, then…”
“Then I’ll be ready to go, I know… Ben I miss my family. So much, you can’t imagine…” He looked up, trying to read the man’s inscrutable face. “Doesn’t it matter to you? Or to her? That I miss them so much?” He felt tears then, and a terrible, hard pain in his throat, and swallowed hard, not wanting to cry in front of anyone. He put his head down again, shoving the cup away absently, suddenly hearing Zac’s voice, muffled and sleep slurred. “Red strands mean time… helpers? Silver are everyone. What are blue ones? And how come Tay’s is oozing, and green? Oh, y’think he’s got an attitude?”
Groaning Taylor shoved his chair out. Zac in his head he did not need. He slipped the headphones, still around his neck, over his ears, pressing play. The music of his world beat into his head for a moment, harsh and grating. “Did it always sound like that, Ben?”
Ben smiled blankly, having no answer. He hated Taylor’s time. Its sounds, its odors, its people.
“When can I go home, Ben?”
“Come with me.” He took Taylor’s hand, and pulled gently, leading him to the strand room. He stepped in behind him, and guided the shaking fingers into the glow. “There. Your friend.”
Taylor pulled out a glowing blue white strand, utterly lovely, completely unflawed. “Josh…” He breathed the name, staring in amazement. “This is as it was… before.” Taylor looked up in confusion. “It is? It wasn’t like this earlier today…”
“Then… why can’t I go?”
The man shrugged, and reached in. “Your body. Won’t take it. And… this.” He showed Taylor another thread, dull, dark, greenish gray. Shot through along its length Taylor saw pulses of the same blue white, it appeared the thread was at war with itself. “You, Taylor. This is you.”
“Me? But…” The final straw, the sight of that thread, Taylor felt his eyes welling up uncontrollably. “Ben, it could take YEARS to fix that! I want to go home…”
Ben nodded, giving him a gentle nudge out into the hall. “Could. Won’t…”
Josh pounded up the stairs, suddenly certain Taylor would be gone when he got there. Anxious adrenaline shot through him as he sped up, excitement giving over to distress. “Oh, please don’t be gone, please PLEASE don’t be gone…” He didn’t now why, but the certainty was there. Taylor wouldn’t be here much longer, if he was still here at all. Anxiety erased etiquette, and he hit the top floor at a dead run, skidding to a halt in from of Taylor’s door, slamming it open without the whisper of a knock.
Taylor jumped, letting out a small screech as the door crashed open, choking a little on tears, backing away in confusion. What the hell was going on now?! Wiping his face, struggling to focus, he heard Josh’s excited babble before he was even entirely aware of him.
“You’re here! You’re here, I was afraid you were gone! You… are you crying?”
Taylor suddenly found himself in Josh’s embrace, heard the quick words, “What’s wrong, why are you crying?” Before he was suddenly let go, Josh’s overexcitment too strong to hold any shred of other emotion for more than a moment. “I need a song! Taylor I need a song, it’s of vital importance I must have a song tonight, that nobody has ever before heard, and… Good God!”
Having finally taken a breath and a look, Josh felt the thoughts driven immediately out of his head. Yes this was Taylor, but…” My God, WHAT are you wearing?! And what’s THAT?!?!” Quick fear ran through him as he took in the discman, the backpack, the wristwatch…
He backed up a step, bumping into Kathryn who’d quietly moved in behind him. The last thing she wanted was for the boy to bolt.
Stricken dumb, Josh had no such thing on his mind. For the moment, he had no mind, shock freezing him to the spot. Taylor’s helpless glance held Kathryn’s, and she nodded, gesturing for Ben to take his leave.
Her fingers gently caressed Josh’s hair, her touch fogging his senses, her voice soothing. “My dear Joshua, all that goes on here will remain a blur in your mind. The very faintest recollection, as of a dream… do you understand me?” Josh nodded, mumbled, dreamy and vague, and Kathryn smiled in satisfaction.
“Taylor, tell him anything you like, when he sets foot from this apartment, he won’t remember a moment of it.”
“Just send him home, Kathryn…” Taylor swiped at his face again, completely unable to control his runaway emotions. He was too tired, too worn, too everything.
“No, Taylor. He came here because he needs you.” She shut the door Josh had left standing, and slipped away, leaving the two boys alone. Taylor waited, eyeing Josh carefully, watching the animation creep back into his face. He’d come to the conclusion that he didn’t much like Kathryn.
“Wake up, Taylor!”
“Oh, man…” Taylor groaned, eyes travelling out to the darkened sky.
“Josh, man, I’m beat, it’s the middle of the night!”
The boys had talked long into the night, Taylor finally free to unburden his conscience, telling Josh anything he wanted to know. That his friend would remember none of it seemed to make no difference. It was being said, and that was enough. Josh had scoffed wildly at a lot of it, amusing Taylor no end. That the guy could accept, without question no less, that he was from a hundred years in the future, yet stuck at the thought of girls wearing jeans… well it boggled the mind. Amusement aside, it had come to him, over the course of the evening, that when he left in the morning, as he had already decided to do, come hell or high water, he would be leaving a good friend behind, a loss that already pained him.
Josh’s shock at the situation hadn’t lasted long, instead a certain satisfied comfort had seemed to settle on him, as though long held suspicions were finally being confirmed, and, Taylor supposed, they were. No, the shock had worn off quickly, and Josh had gotten a good look past the clothes and the gadgets, to Taylor’s frightfully pale face, and tears. He’d offered to leave, if Taylor felt too ill to talk, and Taylor had very nearly thrown his body in front of the door to keep him here. No, tonight he needed this, he needed a friend from who’m he had no secrets, needed to know that there was someone who knew…
His recalcitrant emotional control, completely refusing to co-operate, had failed him numerous times, sending him into laughing and crying jags that phased Josh not at all, the crying fits prompting sympathetic, unperturbed hugs, the laughing jags only raised eyebrows.