I swear, I'm not trying to be a jerk with Arche, letting out scraps. Honestly, I don't even know what it is anymore. I mean, the world it's set in is very nebulous to me. Tobin and Abby took control of the plot for awhile, until I remembered the whole point I'm trying to make is in Gerry and Jander's twin crises, so I'm trying to wrangle it back that way. It drives me crazy: Three years---four years now! It's Arche's birthday!---I should know what the hell I'm doing. But no, it's all on the other side of this ravine, and I'm not even close enough to peek over the ledge, much less figure out how to get across.
Anyway, hey look, a snippet. I'm just letting the characters out to play a little, stretch their legs a bit. But it's more canon-y than The Hand, that's for sure. I didn't even bother making it read pretty. Just getting it out of my system. (It's amazing how easy it is to write when you don't bother with quality control.)
In my mind, Jander's dream was a comic, but it was all hands and light sources and bla bla bla and please note I am an art wuss.
Written to Orion.
Monday the First
Gerry was certain she'd be the first one in. She couldn't sleep the night before. Something indistinct had nestled in her chest, waking only when she slept, running in loops under her ribs and burning away in her chest. So instead of sleeping, she dressed; and out she walked, through the dark, empty streets of Chilton. And there was her office, third to the right, down the steps. Can't miss it.
Quietly, she opened the door. She'd beaten the milk man again. Hell, she'd beaten the newspaper: she heard the distant stomp and shake of the press overhead. But she had not beaten her employees. She smiled at Michelle, who disappeared into the kitchen to make tea. And there, asleep on an open book on the desk, was Jander. It was clear he had not left at all since the day before. He had not even moved from when she had seen him last. The only thing different at all was he was slumped forward, his cheek pressed against the text, his glasses digging into his nose.
She stood at the other end of the table. Watching him softly. Her heart beat in her chest, a steady beat to time her motions. Carefully, gently, she reached across and slid off his glasses. Folded them. Set them to the side, where he might find them when he woke.
She slid off her jacket, folding it up into a square. Slowly she pulled the book from beneath him, and put the jacket in its place; ever careful not to touch him. He made a distant noise, but did not wake. Just turned into her jacket, and breathed.
She checked the book: a history of South Street. She wouldn't think South Street would merit a volume, but there the book was, solid and heavy in her hands. She closed it to put away, but some words stayed with her: Rain. Quiet. Morning.
The book slid easily into place on a shelf. She stepped into the kitchen within heartbeats.
There was a hill, all soft green grass and damp earth beneath him. He'd been sitting there long enough that he could not remember a time he wasn't high above it all, cradled by the earth, watching the world below. He saw the town, small buildings in the distance. In each building and all between, he saw them moving, all the people with a faint glow, the glow shining through the buildings and into his eyes. Clear and clean and simple. Unaware of the light.
He sat on the hill, dark and cold and heavy, watching. Hiding.
Gerry thanked Michelle for the offered cup. "There's muffins for the taking," Michelle said cheerily. Gerry took that as well. There they sat, warm in the tiny office, the door closed so their talking would not wake Jander.
Gerry stared at the wall, the word tumbling out casually. "How long as he worn glasses?"
"Who, Jander?" said Michelle between bites. "Forever." Her nose wrinkled in a grin. "He doesn't wear them much around us."
Gerry cupped her hands around the tea. "Why is that?"
She shrugged. "A weakness? He's got to be our Resident Man, after all."
Gerry smiled, and watched the wall behind them. She had always hated the pattern of the wallpaper. It struck her as so antiquated, all overdone flourishes in a sea of light, faded blue. So lacking in subtlety, so predictable at every turn. But now she traced the swoop of the line with her eyes, the pattern pulling her all across the wall, and she found something there she had not seen before.
She rested her head in her hand.
Michelle let out a polite noise of interest.
"I think that if I'd let myself touch him just now, I think I would have kissed him."
Her companion choked on her muffin, but Gerry was lost in the turn of a line.
"I don't know what it was. I've seen him sleep before. I think the first time met him, he was asleep." She smiled at the memory. The line took a dive. "But, I don't know. He was just so exposed, awash in the words, and glass just a touch from his quiet eyes. And easy, easy breaths, small but enough. But enough. And I could not bring myself to touch him. But I wanted to."
Michelle took a slug from her tea to wash away the offending crumbs.
"It isn't like I like him. Well, I like him. But I... I loved Matthew. I did. Bless us both, and try as I may, I still do. But I never wanted to touch him, never wanted to kiss him." She squinted as the pattern started again with a clean stroke. "He was what he was, and that was enough." She took a careful sip, felt the liquid in her throat and the movement of her eyes. "But Jander isn't Matthew, is he."
Michelle gave her a look. "No."
"Jander is something else."
He wanted to walk with them. He burned for it. He felt it in his feet, the walk down the hill; moving onto gravel; and then to solid stone. To walk among them, to bathe in their glow.
But he did not have the strength. Not the courage.
He pulled his jacket closer around him, and began to rock slowly, the empty sky staring with him at the lights down below.
"I don't know what to do. I don't know what this means. This isn't who I am at all. I'm not supposed to be here. But here I am." Her heart beat was in her fingertips. She felt it shimmer across her tea, sending out waves across the surface. "But what does that make me? What does that make him?"
The line stopped with a halt when she ran out of wall.
Michelle reached across the table and squeezed Gerry's hand. "Aw, well I'll be."
"Our Gerry's becoming a woman."
Gerry smiled around her cup. "You're fired, Michelle."
He didn't see her come up the hill, but he felt her. He felt her as she closed the door to her house, and walked across the cool stone. He felt the stone turn to gravel beneath her feet, the gravel to grass. He felt the wind tug at her as she climbed, playing with her light as it danced all around her.
He felt her as she walked up behind him, and her hand touched his head, tousling his hair slowly. He smiled at the touch. But the pressure changed: he felt her come closer, one hand becoming two. Moving down his head, cupping his shoulders.
No, he thought vaugely, firmly. But her hands moved down, her body closer to his back.
But it was done. She grasped at his jacket, at the shirt underneath, and pulled. He tried to hold her hands, to keep her still, to keep himself hidden; but his hands were gone. He pressed down on her arms, but her fingers were nimble. And his chest was exposed.
In the center was a handprint, pulsing with a faint light. Strongest at the fingertips. Five beacons, blinking with a morning glow.
No, he cried, but it was too late now. The glow grew stronger, from a faint light to morning dawn. She cupped it lightly, her head on his shoulder. Giving him strength. Giving him wisdom.
And it was barely enough.
He rose, his very being protesting the motion; but she was there, always behind him. So he stood, and the light was not morning but day. It lit up the world, brighter than the glow of the townsfolk, brighter even than her light so close beside him. It burned away at his body, but he realized now that it would never consume him. It would not be easy, but it could be managed.
Was that so hard? He felt her smile on his neck, her arms around him, the hand glowing through them both, filling the earth and sky with light.
It had to happen some time.
She shook his shoulder gently, her voice a low coo, the one she had used on the children in the mornings. "Jander? Jander?"
He didn't stir. His eyes just opened, all slow blinks and small noises.
She smiled at him between heartbeats. "Good morning."
He smiled back, feeling her fingers on his back. "Good morning."