The camp was finally behind them, and they had been moving for a few days now. Innocence was eager to get home, and it made Roy smile from time to time. The kid would get into sudden bursts of stories about his childhood, his family, his neighborhood, but then he would go silent abruptly, looking at Roy with shame burning on his cheeks, as if he thought that Roy was bored and didn’t care. In fact, he enjoyed the stories, little bits of normal life he himself had never had.
They were full of colors and light and laughter, and it was good, Roy thought to himself, it was good to see the light returning into Innocence’s eyes. Besides, he wanted to know more about the kid and keep these memories safe. But the closer they got to the kid’s home, the bigger was getting a cold stone in Roy’s chest. He understood that they would go separate ways after that. Roy would make sure Innocence retrieves his life, but Roy himself didn’t have anyone waiting for him.
Well, someone did wait for him. The Technomancers, both from Aurora and Abudance now that he had killed Sean. He was a fugitive, a dangerous weapon on the loose, but to Innocence he was nobody, just a crazy guy who helped him out of the POW camp. Just a Technomancer guy.
He would fade into the shadows and run again, for Innocence’s sake at least. He was a nobody and it should remain so.
Still, the cold stone was growing bigger and heavier, making it hard to move and breathe and pretend. He wanted to leave something, a proof that he actually existed. He was used to being a nobody but it was… exhausting. He tried to deflect the kid’s questions, they would inevitably flesh him out for Innocence, turning him from a shadow into a man and this would lead to a disaster, but he was unreasonable jealous of the people Innocence had been talking about with such light in his eyes. Nobody would ever tell stories about him. Innocence would never tell stories about him.
He would never leave a mark on anything, as if he had never existed.
They managed to get Innocence new clothes, more appropriate to a citizen of Aurora than his old prisoner rags, and looking at the kid in his new jacket and pants and long half-gloves, Roy had a sudden idea.
It took him a few hours and asksp but he finally found what he wanted and went to Innocence who was on the station, waiting for their next train. He was on a bench, writing something in a leather notebook that Roy often saw in his hands.
“Keeping a diary, huh?” he asked, going to the kid. The journal was full of additional scraps of paper, peeking from between the pages, and even if Roy wanted to ask about it, he didn’t want to violate the kid’s privacy.
Innocence raised his head from the notebook and smiled at Roy, open and honest, adding a bit of weight to the stone in Roy’s chest. “It helps me to sort things out in my head,” he answered, “and maybe my notes will be useful sometime in the future.” He closed the journal and moved on the bench, making room for Roy to sit. “When is our train?”
“They say, it’ll be here in an hour.” He remained standing, trying to kill his nervousness with casual tone, “It’s going to be windy and, you know, dust and sand, not good for your health, you should wear this just in case.” And he held out the scarf.
Innocence blinked at the simple red fabric, and Roy was starting to think it was a terrible idea, poorly concealed by his excuses, but then the kid took it from his hands, his face lighting up with a smile, and wrapped it loosely around his neck.
“Thank you, Roy,” he said quietly, his cheeks almost the color of the scarf.
Roy sat down beside him, awkward, fumbling with the strap of his bag.
“Let’s wait for the train, then,” he said, gathering all his will to stop staring at the kid shining with delight. “You’ll be home soon.”
Innocence nodded, his hands never leaving the ends of the scarf. Melting the stone in Roy’s chest.