Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 36 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.
Breathy and weak, his words made Benjamin cringe. There was no way this boy could make it through. No way.
“Taylor, Josh is nearly here. Can you stand?”
Taylor’s eyes closed and he held up the locket, apparently not hearing her question. “It’s locked in with the rubies. I’m the only one…” He stopped, struggling for a breath, “…who knows the pattern. It won’t ever be opened…”
Benjamin stood, pulling Taylor with him, holding him up. “It will never be opened. You’ve done well. Come…”
He helped the trembling boy to his feet, bracing him as he gained his balance. He was
indignant, almost shocked at how wrong he had been about this boy. Taylor had depths to him that Benjamin had not seen. “Am I slipping, that I allowed my distaste for his time to overshadow my vision?”
Taking much of Taylor’s weight on his own small frame, he helped him to the sofa, whispering a soft apology. As he settled him, hoping against hope there was some way to get him home, he felt the boy’s hand on his arm and looked down into silver tinged blue eyes.
“It’s ok Ben, I didn’t make it easy for you either, and I’m sorry too…”
The words exhausted him, and he fell back, eyes closed.
Kathryn stepped into the boy’s path, frowning at the wide grin and boisterous manner. “Wait?! I’m waiting for what?! I’ve news for… oh.” His smile vanished and a look of heartbreaking disappointment crossed his features. “Did he not wait? Is he already gone?”
Kathryn sighed, wishing she could lie. “No, dear, he’s not yet gone. But he’s…” Her nervous glance flickered to the doorway, then back to a face stripped of its humor.
“Is he alright? Is he ill? What’s wrong…”
“He’s not ill… but he’s very tired…”
“Oh tired…” Josh waved her off, his smile returning. “He’s always tired, the boy has no stamina! Taylor!” He brushed past the exhausted woman and into the parlor.
“Taylor! You will never guess what we did today! You, my son, are looking at a married man!” He grinned broadly, as a look of surprised shock crossed Taylor’s face.
“Wha… when… how… Wow! That is just too too cool!”
Trying to sit up, Taylor felt an unobtrusive hand on his back, helping him move. Benjamin, sitting beside him, nodded almost imperceptibly.
Too excited to notice his friend palor and trembling, Josh perched on the edge of the sofa.”Yes, I married Grace this morning, she’s at our new apartment now, awaiting your approval. Get a move on, my son, Grace wants you as our first guest.” Excitement rang in his voice, happiness shone from his face.
His head spinning with Josh’s voice, and the loudness, and the very thought of moving *anywhere*, Taylor faintly shook his head.
“Out at Gabe Case’s… it’s a lovely inn, out past the seventies, why even further uptown than YOU in this ridiculous monstrosity! We’ve an apartment of our own! Now come, you have to come, Grace will make herself a widow if I don’t bring you back with me!”
“Oooh, no… Oh Josh…” Taylor shook his head, heart aching. “I can’t… I’m leaving… I was hoping Grace would come with you, I have something for her…”His voice was soft, tired beyond belief, he wanted more than anything to see Grace, and Josh, together as a married couple, but he knew it was beyond him. It was almost time to go, he could feel it…
Disappointment was apparent in Josh’s eyes, and the grin slipped from his face.
“Grace will be so upset if she can’t say goodbye Taylor. Are you sure? It’s just a short ride…”
“I’m sure, Josh, very sure. I can’t go with you. But you can do something for me…” He forced a tint of humor he didn’t feel, into his voice. “…if you will allow your wife to accept a gift from another man.”
He handed the locket, warm from his holding, to his friend, nodding tiredly. “Give this to Grace. It can’t be opened, it’s not that kind of locket… It’s really for you both, I wanted you both to have something from me… I don’t guess you’ll want to wear a heart pendant though.” He forced another smile, wishing he had more time. This was not the way he had envisioned his final meeting with Josh, but somehow, it was worth it. He knew now that they’d be okay.
Josh took the locket, holding it tight in his hand, feeling the warmth radiating from it, wondering how long Taylor had been holding it, for it to have taken so much heat.
“Taylor, what can I say…”
Taylor reached for his hand, gripping it hard, the knowledge that this was the last time he’d see this boy tearing at his heart.
“Josh, I’ll never forget you, know that, ok? You changed me, more than you can ever know. Love Grace, love your music, love your life.” Tears gathered in Taylor’s eyes, threatening to slip down his cheeks, and he found he didn’t care.
Josh, blinking rapidly, knuckled his own tears away. “Thank you, for everything. We’ll always remember what you did for us, and what you’ve given us.”
Taylor brushed him off, trying to smile. “I didn’t do anything Josh…”
“You’re so completely mad, I knew that… that’s proof, that you could say that…” Josh stood suddenly, pulling Taylor to his feet, not noticing his unsteadiness.
“Goodbye my friend.” Words failed him, as he hugged Taylor tightly. “Come back, if you can…” His eyes caught the absence, suddenly, of the little silver circlet on his friends wrist, and he held him tighter, knowing inexplicably that he would never see him again. “Please…” His voice whispered in Taylor’s ear. “Come back with me… just now… I won’t keep you… just to say goodbye to Grace…”
Taylor’s arms tightened around him, but the answer was as he’d known it would be.
Josh pulled away then, unable to stand it any longer, wiping tear blinded eyes as he headed for the door. He turned back once, stepping out into the hall, to see Taylor, one hand raised in farewell, tears glistening on his own cheeks. He returned the wave, stepped into the hall, and Taylor blinked, eyes now focused on the empty doorway. Josh was gone.
Isaac closed his eyes, wishing he were anywhere on earth, instead of in this car full of lunatics. If they got any louder, he swore, he was going to climb out the sunroof, and travel on top. Cracking his eyes open slightly, he glanced out between his lashes, watching his mom’s hands fly as she shouted Zac down.
“She’s gonna move forward just once more, and crack Dad right across the head… as she’s aimin’ for Zac.” He pushed himself farther back into the corner of the seat, wishing again for normalcy in family life, and listened to the fight of the century.
“MOM, WE CAN’T GO, WE CAN’T… HONEST TO GOD, HE’S COMING BACK TODAY!”
Red-faced with anger, Zac shouted again to his increasingly hostile parent, banging on the back of her seat for emphasis.
“You. Do. Not. Speak. To. Me. Like. That.” Her words clipped, Diana attempted to regain control of her temper. “And stop. Pounding. On. My. Seat.” The urge to throw him out into traffic was almost too much.
“No, you haveta turn back! You…”
“Zachary, you shut your mouth, and you shut it now. How in the HELL could you POSSIBLY KNOW IF TAYLOR IS COMING BACK? TELL ME THAT!!!!! And I’m damn well sick of your moaning and shouting about obscure ‘secrets’ you ‘can’t tell’.”
Walker lost his temper completely.
“YOUR SISTER IS IN SURGERY! WE HAVE TO BE THERE FOR THE PEOPLE IN THIS FAMILY WHO NEED US NOW ! NOT THOSE WHO *MIGHT* NEED US. HOW SELFISH CAN YOU POSSIBLY BE?!”
“Ah, my cue…” Isaac sat up, opened his eyes, and let loose with a ear splitting whistle. Stunned into silence, three sets of eyes met his, bewildered, but all of them thankfully silent. Mouths open, they stared.
“Zac is being exactly as selfish as you and mom are, and you DAMN well know it. You
made a unilateral parental decision, you didn’t talk to US about it. You didn’t ask how WE felt, or if we wanted to stay with Chris, back at the Trump. Did you even THINK of THAT option?”
Isaac took a deep breath, controlling his anger, and he clasped his hands tightly together. Shaking his hair back off his face, he continued.
“I tried to talk to you, back at the Dakota, did you stop to listen to me? No, it was more important that I packed Zac’s dirty socks. I tried to talk to you AGAIN, in the elevator. Did you listen then? No, it was more important that Mom call Aunt Jean, AGAIN,
to tell her what time we’d get in. Dad, you know we love Jessie, for God’s sake, she’s our SISTER! Family is *everything*, you know that! But tell me, what can WE, me and Zac, do, while you’re holding Jess’s hand? ANSWER ME THAT!”
He sat back, he had said his piece. God only knew what would happen now…
Silence was his only answer for a long while. His parents wouldn’t, perhaps couldn’t, meet his eyes.
“Guys, me and Zac can’t do anything back at home… and now we won’t be able to do anything in the City…”
His words were cut off as the car jerked to a stop. Putting the window down slightly,
he saw porters unloading their luggage, and officials rushing to lead them through the airport.
“Now, let’s all put on our public faces, and get the hell onboard.”
They rushed through the airport, only a few people recognizing the harried family of four surrounded by airline officials. Feeling a tug on his sleeve, Isaac looked to the side, to see Zac, an expression of awe on his face.
“Ike, man, that was… just… wow… you are GOOD.”
“You. Just don’t talk to me. That fit you threw was in the Mackie category of tantrums. Where’d it get you? Totally nowhere. I swear to God I had to be adopted. I don’t scream. I don’t throw things. God…”
Isaac threw himself into a chair, turning away from his family. He closed his eyes, and ran his hands through his hair. He had to calm down, he was too agitated. He carefully ‘felt’ around, and found the soft glow in his mind, the glow that was Taylor. Was it just slightly dimmer, he thought, trying to touch it with his mind. He just couldn’t focus clearly enough, his remaining anger blurred his concentration, and he gave up, content to know that the glow was still there.
“Alright Taylor.” Kathryn brushed the boy’s hair back a little, loath to see him leave. That he should be at such risk had never been part of the plan. She could feel anxiety radiating from him, knew how frightened he was. For all of his brave words, he didn’t want to die. “Listen carefully, sweetheart, alright? You can do this…”
He glanced, uncertainly she thought, toward Benjamin, who nodded tightly. The boy was exhausted, drained, but his desire was strong. It was just possible that his need to be home would draw him, in essence allowing him to “fall” into his own world.
“If you listen… and we have help.” He nodded again, reaching out now to touch the boy, atypically emotional. Eschewing words, his mind touched Taylor’s, far more fluent, bringing a smile. Taylor’s stance straightened then, as determination took hold.
“Okay. I guess it’s now or never… once I’m gone… how long are you staying?”
“Not staying.” Ben shook his head, gesturing toward Kathryn. “Listen to her.”
“Yes Taylor… listen well. When we let you go, you’re going to fall. You’ll feel it. Very important, don’t panic. This transition won’t be as easy as the one that brought you here. You’re tired, your strength is low, and…”
“I know. Kathryn, I know. Just tell me what to do before I chicken out and spend the rest of my life here.” He smiled a little, but he was scared, and she knew it.
“I want you to see your own world Taylor, your family. Fill your mind with it, and let yourself go. Fight nothing that you feel, not the sensation of falling, nothing. We have a friend in your time, who will be waiting. When we let you go, he is going to take hold and guide you. You may feel something pulling you, that’s going to be him. Just let it happen. Don’t fight, don’t try to return, there will be no doorway open for you here. WE will not be here. Do you understand?”
He nodded, eyes trying vainly to read her. She seemed so calm… so… businesslike. Was this really so dangerous?
“Kathryn…” He reached for her hand, needing contact. “Please…”
“Don’t. You made your choice. And here it is. Are you ready?”
He dropped her hand, sighing. “I’m ready.”
Nodding, praying, though he never knew that, the man and woman let him go, sighing in unison as before their eyes, his figure vanished.
Zac set his sketchpad down with a sigh. Nothing he wanted to draw would come out right, everything seeming to look antique, as if he were drawing from the past. His eyes turned to the window, eyeing the tiny toy-like structures far below.
“So high… so far away…”
He sat back, feeling the soft hiss of air on his face from the overhead valve, letting the whir of convection fans lull his troubled mind.
His anxiety about leaving the city had begun to fade as he considered it logically. George was right there, he’d take care of Tay when he got back, and Christopher was there too… it wasn’t after all, as if they were leaving him alone…
These thoughts, mixing with the gentle white noise of the air, drew the boy down into light sleep, pencil slipping from his grasp, to clatter softly to the floor, as his hand went limp.
Isaac heard the tiny click, eyes flitting toward Zac, smiling slightly as he took in the sleeping boy. Poor Zac, he’d worn himself out with all the hysterics.
Himself, he was beyond tired, they all were. Too much stress, too much anxiety… they were burned out worse than they’d ever been.
For the first time, Isaac really allowed himself to consider a world without Taylor. Calmly, without hysteria, he thought of life with only two brothers.
His eyes closed, he reclined his seat slightly, and allowed his thoughts free rein. No Taylor. No one singing in the shower, using all the hot water.
No discussions, in the middle of the night, about all that was important in a 16 year old’s life. No three part harmony. No Taylor…
He shuddered, and reached out instinctively, looking for the glow, the taste of Taylor that always shone in his mind… there… he ‘touched’ it lightly, comforted. Sighing softly, he kept a mental touch on his brother’s essence, letting it soften his frustration and anxiety as his weary body shifted into sleep.
Taylor saw the world go dim, felt the floor suddenly disappear from beneath his feet, panic seizing him as he grabbed for balance. “Oh God…!”
Sickening sensation, falling, falling forever, as darkness closed in, awash in burning cold… seized suddenly, hard… “It hurts, oh God…” twisting away, shout of denial ringing in his ears, roaring nothingness stretching, twisting, stealing his mind, the weight of time immemorial crushing him, all time, no time, he spun out of control, images of worlds shredding his mind, all worlds, all times, all of everything and nothing as his sanity fled, eyes icing over, body stretched to transparency, crushed compact, bones snapping in his own ears as the winds of nowhere stripped the flesh from his bones. In the void, there was nothing.
George’s hand crashed through the glass of the guardhouse window, his scream of outraged horror nearly as loud as the breaking glass. He’d had him, HAD him! Had him and then lost him!
“Oh, how could you lose him?!” He shouted at himself, ignoring his bleeding hands, reaching again. He’d felt him come through, felt the two loose their holds, and he’d had the boy a moment later, in his grip, taking him through. Something then… something had caused the boy to pull away, pull away hard and he’d lost his grip, the boy in his panic falling into… into whatever was out there. Gripping the edges of the broken window, glass digging into his palms, pain sharpening every bit of power he had, anchoring him, he moved out into the howling chaos, knowing already that it was too late.
Isaac dozed lightly, that deep part of his mind that linked to Taylor resting against his brother’s essence, comforting as the thumb of an infant securely corked into a sleeping mouth. Always sensed, never noticed, the warm pulse of blood to blood, soul to soul.
Deep within, the pulse suddenly shifted, panic driving from one mind to the other, tearing him from sleep, terror choking his throat, as the glow flared, burned, and went out, his mind left touching nothingness, emptiness.
Color draining to white, he clutched the seatback, gasping struggle to breathe as his mind hit, over and over, the raw wound that had been Taylor. Where was it? Where was he? He was always there, HAD to be there!
Reaching, again and again, soul searching for soul, finding instead of the warm familiar presence, cold, aching emptiness, nothingness. Gone. Incontrovertibly, irretrievably gone.
Shaking, shock beginning to take over, he barely heard Zac’s startled cry, as the younger boy bolted upright, eyes wild.
Zac was on his feet in a heartbeat, pain flaring out of control in his brain, incoherent shout of anger and denial, hands clutching the sides of his head. Inside, the voice, louder than anything he’d ever heard, irrepressible, screaming for help. Desperate to block it, to get away, he jerked away from the seats, screeching again in shock as strong hands suddenly gripped him, shook him roughly.
Panic stricken eyes looked up into the face of his father, and he heard his own voice, issuing forth words beyond terrifying.
“He lost him! He’s in here and he won’t stop screaming! And he lost him!”
…and in the void, spiraling winds of nothingness disintegrated into endless time… forever and never..