Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 35 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.
Taylor’s patience was fast running out. He felt he’d been waiting for days, every moment expecting the knock on the door heralding Josh’s arrival, and shortly thereafter, his own departure. The knock, however, stubbornly refused to sound.
“Where is he?!?!” He paced irritably, talking to himself. “Asleep probably… I wish I could sleep…”
It wasn’t for lack of trying, that was certain, but his thrumming nerves wouldn’t allow for a moments relaxation. He’d packed, checked, double checked, tried to eat, tried to sleep, tried to read… nothing worked. He was too tense, too anxious.
“C’mon Josh, get a move on…”
He dropped onto the sofa, eyes focused vaguely on the brass of the chandelier.
“Wow, I never even noticed that was there, who climbs up there and LIGHTS that thing?” His thoughts roamed to Grace. What kind of house would she and Josh have? Would they stay together? Josh wanted to marry her. “I wonder if I could sneak back for the wedding…” He grinned to himself, thinking about bopping back and forth in time to attend a wedding. “I could zap them forward to a show too… they’d hate it.” His grin faded as very genuine reality intruded. When he left here he wouldn’t be coming back, wouldn’t be here for their wedding, in fact would never see them again. He would miss them, and miss them badly. “Man, this sucks…”
He got up again, agitated, pulling his hair out of its loose ponytail, tying it back in, setting it free again. “I have to calm down, this is awful…” He reached up into his hair again, his eye catching the glittering silver strand braceleting his wrist. “Is that going with me?” He slid a finger under it, surprised to find it gave easily.
“Huh… hey Kathryn?” He wandered into the kitchen, eyes still fastened on the circlet. “Kathryn what exactly did this do?” The seed of an idea suddenly sprouted in his mind, and he glanced at her hopefully.
“What do you mean, Taylor?”
Kathryn felt his agitation, and herself wished the other boy would hurry. Holding Taylor here was becoming more and more of an effort, as his desire to leave became stronger.
“I mean, it obviously isn’t there just to look pretty. It did something…”
The woman nodded and gestured to him to sit with her.
“It supplemented your own strength, Taylor.”
He slid his finger back under it, watching it shimmer.
“With my strength.”
“Yours! Kathryn how? Would that work for someone else?”
She nodded, finger touching alongside his. “The threads hold the life essence of the people they belong to. The life force…”
“You mean our souls?”
She frowned, shaking her head. “No… I don’t believe souls can be kept, Taylor… no the threads hold the life energy that carries the person through their life. They reflect the state of the soul perhaps… perhaps they do that…” Her voice trailed off for a moment, and he touched her hand softly, bringing her back.
“How did you give me your strength, then, Kathryn?”
Smiling faintly, she rubbed his wrist gently, moving the strand a little. “I took from my own essence, my own life force, and bonded it to you. To give you the extra strength you needed to keep you here, to help you cope. The trauma of this is enormous, Taylor, we did know that. This helped you bear it.”
“Kathryn…” His voice took on an eager tone she wasn’t sure she liked. “Kathryn can I do something like this?”
She sat back, eyeing him thoughtfully. He never ceased to surprise her. Curious, she sat forward. “Whatever for, Taylor?”
“For Grace… and… and Josh. So I know they’re ok. I don’t want to leave them, Kathryn!” His voice rose in his distress, and she took his hand again. “Taylor, they’ll be fine. You don’t need to do anything like this.”
“Can you promise me they’ll be ok?” She shook her head, still smiling. “”Taylor, there is no way of ensuring that all runs well in anyone’s life, you know that. What will be, will be. ”
He was shaking his head emphatically. “Kathryn I want them to have something, something of me. Something… so that I’m with ’em, I don’t… don’t want to just leave them… I have to know that… that they have everything they can to make sure they’re ok. Something to help them. Can you understand? Something… something like this bracelet. Would that be possible?”
Sitting back, arms crossed, she thought about it, finally nodding.
“It’s possible. But Taylor… getting the strands for that exhausted me beyond all belief, you know that, and I am experienced. You are not. If you wanted this gift to have the essence of YOU, you would have to do the work to gain the strands. And if you did that, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for you to go home, until you recovered. You would simply not have the strength to go. I had thought you were ready to leave now?”
“Oh, c’mon, Kathryn, how much MORE wiped could I get? ‘Sides, you and Ben would just let me go, and I’d zap home, right?”
“Taylor. Look at me. And listen to me carefully. Your departure from this time is more involved than you obviously realize. We require your help in getting you back, just as we required your help in getting you here. Yes, we are holding you here now, as you depleted your strength. But going back requires a certain amount of co-operation, and strength, on your part. If you are mentally exhausted, and physically spent, mistakes can be made, no matter what Benjamin and I do. If you “fall off” the track, well, you may not get home again.”
Kathryn took his hands in hers, looking him directly in the eye.
“Do you understand what I’m saying to you? You would HAVE to wait. You would not go home today, if you make this gift.”
He met her gaze, eyes boring into hers. “Will it work, Kathryn? Can I do this?”
“Yes, Taylor. It will work. But it will mean you must wait…”
“I’ll wait then.” He cut her off abruptly, shoving his chair away from the table. “Come on and show me how, because I want to give this to them.”
“I said I’ll wait, and I mean it. I’ll wait. I want to go home, I want to go so bad, but don’t you see? I have to do this for them, they’ve done so much for me, made me see so much… and I don’t want to hurt them any more than I already have, don’t you see?”
“How do you think you have hurt them, Taylor?”
Kathryn followed the boy down the hall, curious to hear his answer.
“Kathryn, I screwed up, I said and did things that are gonna stay with them, we both know that.” His direct gaze met hers. “There’s no whammy you can put on them to stop that. And I…”
“Taylor.” She took his shoulders firmly, stopping him at the door. “This is no game.”
“I know. Please…”
Her eyes flicked past him into the strand room, senses tuning to his essence. The thread that was his pulsed, energies in flux. Was this a turning point for him? He was sincere, she could feel it.
“You must stay another night, and recover, you truly do understand that?”
“No, no none. I’ll wait. I will wait. I’ll do anything you say I have to do.”
“Alright then… this is what you must do.”
“Look at it shine…”
Grace smiled happily, settling into the crook of Josh’s arm, admiring the slim gold band on her finger. Josh’s apologies that it wasn’t nearly lovely enough flabbergasted her. As far as she was concerned, it was the most beautiful ring she’d ever seen. All the more special to her that it had been Josh’s grandmother’s…
“Josh are you sure your mother wanted you to have this?” Her brow creased in a little furrow, as she considered who would be doing without because of her.
“No Grace, she didn’t want me to have it at all.” He tipped her head up a little, kissing her softly. “She wanted YOU to have it. As she wanted me to have my Grandfather’s, though I’ll be carrying it in my watchpocket I do believe.” He grinned, sliding the band freely over his knuckle. “Granda’s hands were a lot larger than mine… Grace… you’re not sorry, are you?”
“What about the ring?”
“No goose…” He grinned, resisting the urge to punch her on the arm. Somehow he just didn’t think wrestling like children was appropriate for a married couple. “About marrying me!”
“Married…” she giggled and held the ring up again, gazing at it. “It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? Why, a bare week ago you’d not speak to me! What were you thinking!”
“I don’t know… but you haven’t answered the question.” She glanced sideways at him, snickering a little to herself. “Well Joshua, I shall answer that question in a week.”
“When I’ve had time to decide if you’ll drive me to the asylum!” Her laughter floated out of the windows, mingling with the clipclop of the horse as they made their way up 8th avenue. “Oh, Josh! The Dakota! Let’s stop!”
“Stop? Why? You don’t want to see your new home then?”
“Of course I do, but Josh, I want Taylor to see it too. He’s done so much for us… I want to share this with him…” She stopped suddenly, wondering if it had perhaps been rash, suggesting he share his wedding day with another man in tow.
His smile reassured her. “I fully intend to bring Taylor out there, this afternoon, after you’ve seen it. Surely you want to see it first, make sure it’s presentable…”
Gazing longingly as they passed the building, Grace nodded. He was right, it would mortify her unto death to bring someone in, sight unseen, and find disarray. “You’re right. I’ll make sure it’s all well and THEN Joshua, you will go get him. You told me he was leaving…”
“Yes, but he assured me he would wait for me.”
“Well… fine then.” She settled back again, thoughts of Taylor retreating at the feel of Josh’s arm around her. “My husband…” She giggled again at the thought, and his arm tightened around her, one hand gently stroking her hair. The feel of his hand sent a warm tingle through her, and she tipped her face toward him for a kiss. “You know Josh…”
“Hmm?” He kissed her again, and felt her smiling. “What Grace…”
“Perhaps when we get home…” She blushed and ducked her head into his shoulder for a moment. “Perhaps when we get home you don’t have to rush RIGHT out to go get him…”
“No…” He shifted a little, forcing her out of hiding. “No..I don’t think I will.”
Diana gently placed the receiver back on the phone, and counted to ten. Her eyes squinched closed, her face less than serene, Walker knew something was very wrong. He unobtrusively moved the crystal ashtray from within her reach, and waited, watching her fists clench and open again repeatedly. When she was sure she wasn’t going to scream, Diana turned to face her husband.
“That was Jean. We have to go home, Walker. Jessie’s sick, the cold turned out to be strep throat.” She took a deep breath, this feeling of helplessness almost killing her. “Dr. MacGuire put her on the usual antibiotic, but this time… she had an allergic reaction to it. He said that happens sometimes, when a kid takes Amoxil so regularly. Anyways, they’ve got her on stuff to take the swelling down, but they’re afraid of
her airway obstructing, considering her tonsils are the size of oranges, just ’bout. They’re taking her into surgery just shortly.”
She sank onto the couch, grabbing a throw cushion, and holding it tight to her chest. Tears fell from her eyes, landing on the soft silk. She felt so torn, her little girl was having surgery, and needed her mom, and her second oldest was missing, and she HAD to be here, just in case… NO, *when* he needed her.
She looked up, wiping the tears from her eyes, to see her husband on the phone. He held up his hand, forestalling her questions, until he placed the phone back on the hook.
“The flight is booked, do you want me to get the boys moving and packed, or do our packing?”
“No what-if’s, Di, not now. I’ll call Christopher, he can tell the FBI and the police where we’ll be, the flight isn’t that long, home isn’t that far away. We can be back here within a few hours if need be. Now, grab that other phone, and call down to George, tell him to tie Zac down, we’ll grab him on the way out.”
He hugged his wife with one arm, and kissed her soft hair.
“It’ll be ok, hon, it will, I promise.”
“NO, I’M NOT GOIN’ NOWHERE!!”
Zac struggled against the relentless force moving him towards the waiting limo, the force named ‘Dad’.
“He’s comin’ home today, Dad, I know he is, please… don’t make me leave! George?!? George you know! Tell him!! Help me?!””Zac, Zac, it will be fine, honestly. Go, I’ll take care of everything.” He smiled apologetically at Walker’s puzzled frown, communicating his clear bafflement at Zac’s odd words. “You have my word, if he should come back I will keep him here and call you personally. Now go on…”
“But George you know! What if he needs me… what if he…” He broke off as his father’s hand squarely met his chest, forcing him into the back seat.
“Zachary, it will be fine!”
He shouted over the din of the others, all shouting at the boy at once. Half smiling, shaking his head as he watched the car pull away, he sighed with relief. Thank God. Oh he knew how worried Zac was, but he had despaired getting him out from underfoot, out of the way. He’d need all of his wits about him when the other boy came through, enough all on its own, impossible in his opinion, with someone like Zac nattering away.
This, difficult as it was for the family, was something of a Godsend. Still, the boy had looked so upset.
“Well, when young Taylor returns, I’ll make all of the phone calls and put him on a plane myself…” Somewhat mollified, he returned to business, smiling at incoming residents, awaiting the call for his more unusual services.
“Oh no, no stop!”
Ben’s precipitous entrance into the time room brought no reaction from Taylor, so immersed in his task he never heard a thing.
“Now! You have to stop now! Oh why did you take this on without thought?!” His distress drew Kathryn away from the deeply focused boy, and she led Benjamin out into the corridor.
“What is it now, Ben…”
Her annoyance was clear, and the man’s face drew into an angry scowl.
“Once again, Kathryn, you make hasty decisions with no thought. He must stop and stop now and even so it may be too late! We must leave here Kathryn. The boy is leaving today, the strands are as complete as we can make them. Our time here is finished! Did you not think?”
Kathryn, unruffled, kept her tone even. “Benjamin, you panic needlessly. By morning he will be fit to…”
“By morning he will be here alone! Trapped! Now stop him!” The tone of command in his voice galvanized her. Leaving now? Unheard of, absurd! It could not be, yet his eyes told her the truth. It was.
Hurried, yet careful not to startle, she moved to Taylor’s side.
“Taylor… Taylor!” Her hands, sure and gentle, moved his from the glittering swath he held, and she smiled a little at his small moan of regret as he let them go.
“Taylor you must listen to me carefully. Are you clear?”
Taylor, who felt perfectly fine, though not a little piqued, nodded impatiently.
“Yes Kathryn, I feel fine, why did you…”
“You must stop, Taylor.”
“But I’m not…”
“Listen. Benjamin has told me that he and I must leave this place. Now. Today. We are the only way you can return home, and must send you back today. You won’t be able to stay long enough to recuperate from the work you’re doing. Even at this point it will perilous to send you home. You must understand, even NOW you may be in danger, though we will do everything we can to make sure you get home safely. But you MUST stop.”
He looked into her eyes, then past her shoulder, at Ben.
“Is that true, Ben? I might not make it home?”
“Yes, true. Minimal at this point, stop now, go home, should be fine.”
“And if I finish?”
“You cannot!” Kathryn’s outburst annoyed him, and he stepped away from her, scowling.
“Just tell me what happens if I finish…”
“Taylor what are you putting into that?”
The stubborn look on his face concerned her. A simple talisman, as he had suggested, was of no great import. Yet this boy was considering risking his very life, she could see it. Tentatively she reached, contacting the threads in his hand, reading the information there with a groan.
“Oh my dear, too much. Too much, you cannot afford it!”
She turned to Benjamin, despair in her eyes, as he nodded, affirming his understanding of the situation. The boy had already put so much of himself into the work that sending him back without someone on the other end would be impossible.
“If he stops now, George can bring him. If he continues…”
Taylor’s mind suddenly flashed with images of cold, darkness, crushing weight… worlds in Ben’s eyes. Pulling his gaze away, he stared at the softly glowing matter in his hand. Not finished. He knew what he was doing, it was for Grace, and Josh. It would do more than Kathryn’s little silver band. It would protect them, keep them, they would be safe. He understood he couldn’t shield them from life, but life would be a great deal easier, and he was not going to stop.
“No… I’m not done. If I’m already so wiped it’s dangerous, it doesn’t matter anyway.” “Taylor, we’re talking about your life.”
“My life… Kathryn! What I’ve done for them is nothing compared to what I’ve done TO them! I could have destroyed Josh’s mind, do you realize that? I may have! I couldn’t control any of it, and I hurt them! I contaminated them with things from MY OWN TIME and I’m not stupid! I know it’s gonna make it hard for them… I looked… I looked Kathryn, and I saw.”
“Oh…” Her voice held deep sorrow, as she realized how much he’d done without her. “If it costs me my life, to undo the damage I’ve done, Kathryn, I don’t care. I’m going to finish, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me… and you know it.”
His gaze shot to Benjamin, daring him to do something, and the man nodded, backing away.
“As you wish.”
His eyes traveled then to the great glittering mass that comprised the air of the room, as Taylor’s eyes glazed, his concentration dropping back to his task. Beneath his hands, unseen by him, his own thread flared blinding silver white.
“His redemption, only to die…” Benjamin left the room, heart heavy.
Benjamin’s eyes rapt on the boy, watching his soul pour into his gift. In the peculiar manner of his kind, his thoughts ran over his feelings about the child, reflecting.
“I was wrong about you, Taylor…” His regret ran deep. This child was worth saving, he’d been fighting the wrong battle all this time. A soul capable of such selfless love was worth ten of his own. So caught up was he in the work of the boys hands, he nearly let him fall as, energy completely gone, he collapsed where he stood.
Trembling, shaking with reaction, Taylor sat on the floor, Benjamin’s arms holding him upright. Coherent thought next to impossible, his eyes closed, he held the locket tight in his hand. A simple gold locket, shimmering strands entwined inside, locked with a pattern of tiny rubies, glowing faintly from the energy within.
“Taylor, can you hear me?”
Kathryn’s voice came in faintly, and he turned his eyes to her, the small movement almost more than he could stand.
“I hear you…”