It had taken her a good few months to work up the courage to go through his things. She couldn’t even pack up properly when she moved into Harry and Esther’s; Harry and Bradley had to do most of it after she went to pieces at the sight of his bear. She told herself she was going to go through them as soon as she was settled, but she never got round to it. Harry and Esther had kindly put the boxes in their garage and told her that she could go to them whenever she was ready.
But the day she told herself she was going to finally go through them, her water broke.
Chloe took it as a sign she wasn’t ready yet.
Then the baby came. She loved him the second she laid eyes on him. He was the spitting image of his father and the last real thing she had of him; how could she not?
The weeks were filled with bottles, nappies, tears and laughter as Chloe learned how to be a single mother. Chloe shook her head as she grabbed a box and took it through to the kitchen, placing it on the table with a small sigh. She might be her baby’s only parent, but she wasn’t alone in bringing him up. His adoptive Grandparents helped whenever they could and loved him like their own. Bradley and Margaret, and even Diana and David were always on hand when she needed them. She smiled to herself. It was strange how she had gone from practically nothing to having her own little family. The only thing missing was her husband.
Sighing, Chloe turned back towards the small nursery, putting her hair up into a rough ponytail as she walked, but the brown ringlets fell to her shoulders even then. When she got to the nursery she leaned over the cot, smiling down at her sleeping baby. She couldn’t resist reaching out a hand a stroking a finger softly down his perfect cheek. He drew in a snuffly breath, but didn’t wake. Chloe straightened and picked up the second baby monitor, taking one last look at her child before walking out of the room.
Today was the day. She couldn’t put it off any longer; she was ready, and since nothing major had happened when she retrieved the box from the garage, the universe seemed to agree. She carefully set the monitor down on the table and stared at the box. Oscar was in that box. His life, condensed down to a cardboard box. It didn’t seem fair; he was worth so much more than that. Chloe swallowed hard and breathed deep, determined not to cry. He was a bright, funny, beautiful human being; he was so much more than a cardboard box.
A hand covered her shoulder and she turned quickly to face Esther. The older woman’s face was gentle and sympathetic as she spoke. “Are you ok, my dear?”
Chloe smiled and nodded, taking a deep breath before she answered. “Yeah, I’m ok.”
Esther nodded slowly, looking between her adopted daughter and the box on the kitchen table. Her hand slipped down Chloe’s arm, rubbing the bare skin there comfortingly, giving her support without words. The young woman smiled and covered the hand with her own, and they stayed that way for a few seconds before Esther turned and left the kitchen.
“Come on, Chloe.” She muttered to herself. “It’s time.”
Pulling a knife from the block on the sideboard, Chloe carefully cut through the packing tape that sealed the top of the box together. Replacing the knife, she went back to the box and slid her fingers under the flaps, stopping before she actually opened it. She took a moment to steady herself before finally lifting the flaps.
The first thing she spotted was the teddy bear. She smiled softly and picked it up, running slightly shaky fingertips softly over the nearly threadbare fabric. Not only had the stuffed toy been given a lot of love, it had seen a lot too. She laughed to herself quietly; oh that bear must have been traumatised. How many times had it watched them have sex? How many nights had it sat on the chair in the corner and listened to them talk about everything and nothing?
This was going to her little boy. “But no telling stories about me and Oscar, you hear?” She said to the bear. She snorted softly and set the teddy down on table beside the box.
The rest of the box was mainly made up of his trophies and other miscellaneous items that made up Oscar’s life. She pulled each item out of the box and stood it on the table, using the chairs when the space on the table ran out. Once those were removed, she found a pile of neatly folded clothes at the bottom. It wasn’t his entire wardrobe, just a selection of t-shirts and a pair of jeans that had lovingly been placed in the box by Esther no doubt. She picked up the black t-shirt on top and held it to her face, breathing in deep. It still smelled like him; like coffee and fresh air and something raw and powerful that she couldn’t name. She closed her eyes and thought back to when they first met, smiling into the dark fabric as she recalled his face through the window.
Chloe didn’t know how long she stood there for, but she finally took the t-shirt away from her face and folded it once more. Replacing it on the top of the pile, she reached down inside the box and gathered the clothes into her arms before carefully pulling them out of the box. There was a sharp slapping sound as she turned and Chloe frowned as she put the pile onto the seat of a free chair. When she turned back, something on the floor caught her eye. Chloe bent down and picked up the large manila envelope that had fallen to the kitchen tiles. It wasn’t sealed, but there was definitely something inside. Her frown deepened when she turned the envelope over.
Caleb, Pogue, Tyler.
No address; just three names written carefully in Oscar’s scrawling handwriting. One name she recognized, but the other two were a mystery and this did not sit well with Chloe. Slowly, she turned the envelope back over and reached inside.
Paper. A lot of paper. Different shapes, colors, sizes...all contained in one big envelope. Each sheet was covered in ink; black, blue, red...but whatever the color, it was still Oscar’s handwriting. The first piece of paper was folded over and her name was written on the front. Filled with confusion and apprehension, Chloe blindly sat down on the chair behind her and put the wad of papers in her lap. Picking up the one addressed to her, she unfolded it and began to read.
I know it won’t be long before you find these, so I might as well be prepared, right? I have no idea where I’ll be when you find them. Hopefully in the back yard, playing with our kids. You’ll probably be in the bedroom or the kitchen or wherever you find this, watching us from the window and carrying our next.
Chloe almost stopped reading at that point. Tears clouded her vision as she read about the future that could never be. She swiped at the wetness under her eyes and took a few deep breaths, reining her emotions in and making herself read on.
But before you carry on reading, you have to know that I love you. I loved you the moment I set eyes on you through the window at Jitters. I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you, buy a house, have kids; the whole deal. But there are things that I haven’t told you, things about my past that I kept from you. I wanted to tell you; I did, but I didn’t want you tainted by it. There are things that even you wouldn’t understand.
Fuck, I’m not making any sense.
She laughed at that, the sound thick and wet with tears in her throat.
These letters are to my...brothers, I guess you’d call them. Three people who were my whole life before you. It’s a journal I guess; of everything that I’ve been through since I left them. I might send it to them one day. I might not.
You need to know some things before you read them. First, my name isn’t Oscar. It’s Reid. Reid Garwin...
It was Harry who found her nearly three hours later, shaking with uncontrollable, gut-wrenching sobs. The only thing he could do was gather her into his arms and rock her back and forth, murmuring comforting words into her hair as she cried.
Three weeks later
“Hey, how far away are you?”
“Couple of miles. Ten minutes max.”
“Ok. You know where I’ll be.”
“How you holding up?”
Caleb sighed as he locked the car door. That was a loaded question, one he didn’t have an answer to. Too much had happened over the last five years and Caleb couldn’t help but feel like everything was destined to fall down around their ears.
“I’m ok.” He said as he walked up the drive. The large front doors were opened by the Housekeeper and Caleb spared her a small, wan smile as he jogged up the steps.
“’cause that’s really convincing.” Said the voice on the other end of the line.
Caleb snorted, “You want me to tell you how I really feel, Pogue?”
There wasn’t a lot Caleb could say to that. Pogue really did know how he felt. He entered the house and shivered at the sad atmosphere that washed over him. The door was shut behind him and the Housekeeper, Anna, motioned for him to follow her towards the office.
“This is all just...I knew it was coming, but it still...”
“Yeah, I know.”
He was just leaving his lecture and going back to his apartment when he got the call from the hospital in Gloucester. His mother had collapsed and there was nothing they could do. Liver failure. He had seen it coming, expected it to happen, but it still threw him for a loop. He may not have seen his mother in nearly two years, but he still loved her and her death hit him hard. Now he was back in Ipswich; back to the place that would forever haunt him.
Anna smiled sympathetically and handed him a pile of mail before leaving back the way she came. He sighed as he sorted through the letters and bills and other random crap as he talked to his brother on the phone.
“Jesus...I didn’t realised how long Mother’s list of friends was. I’m going to ha—”
He stopped mid-sentence as his eyes skimmed over the large manila envelope under the rest of the mail. He wouldn’t have given it a second glance if it wasn’t for the fact that it was addressed to three people, not one, and that there were two different sets of handwriting on it. One of which made his heart stop.
“Caleb? You ok man? Caleb?”
A shaking hand picked up the envelope and pulled it from the pile. He stared at the names in shock, not sure whether he wanted to believe what he was seeing.
“Caleb!? What the fuck’s going on?”
The older man swallowed thickly, voice thin when he finally answered. “There’s a letter for the three of us.”
“Me, you and...and Tyler.”
Caleb could practically hear the pain in the pause on the other end. Even after two years it still hurt to think about it.
“That’s not all.”
“I’m going to regret asking what, aren’t I?”
“It’s got two sets of handwriting on it.” Caleb breathed in, staring down at the envelope in his hands, “One of them is Reid’s.”
There was a heartbeat and then Caleb could hear the bike roar to life over the phone.
The line went dead.
Pogue hadn’t changed since the last time Caleb saw him; still with his bike, still in his leathers, and still completely untameable. He hadn’t really changed since they left Spenser six years ago. God, he felt so old now. They’d all been set to go to college; Caleb and Tyler had been accepted into Harvard, Pogue was going to Boston and Reid to Brown.
Then it happened, the event that started the horrifying chain reaction that would last for the next six years.
One day he was there and the next he was gone, leaving everything and everyone behind him. No note, no explanation; no Reid. They’d gone out of their minds searching for him, exhausted every method they knew of; even using the Power to the point it nearly killed them. He watched Pogue dismount the bike and pull off his helmet, running a hand through his hair. Caleb’s eyes fixed on the strip of pure white hair on Pogue’s left side. The Power had marked them all in one way or another.
“Hey man.” He said softly as he came to stand in front of Caleb.
The other man nodded in reply, staring at him for long moments. Neither knew who moved first, but it didn’t matter. They held each other tight, clinging to each other like they were the last thing on earth. It had been a long time for both of them. Too long.
“Welcome home, Mister Parry.” Anna said from the doorway. “I’m sorry it’s under such unfortunate circumstances.”
They pulled apart slowly, “Come on.” Caleb said, “You eaten?”
Pogue shook his head, “No, but I don’t think I can eat anything until after...”
Caleb nodded, “Let’s get this over with then.”
They silently made their way through the house and up to Caleb’s bedroom. It hadn’t really changed since he’d left it. He supposed Anna sometimes cleaned, but it was essentially left as it was. He had to stop when he walked through the door, unable to block the memories that washed over him; Pogue threatening to kill him if he ever pulled a stunt like that again, Reid sleeping on the sofa when Tyler kicked him out that night, Tyler...Tyler crawling into his bed when he was twelve after a nightmare. Himself, sitting in the middle of the bed and completely breaking down, only to have Pogue find him and help him through it.
A hand touched his back and Caleb was pulled away from the memories sharply. He turned and caught Pogue’s understanding gaze; he wasn’t the only one affected by the memories. With a sigh, he led him towards the worn in sofa and handed him the envelope.
“That’s definitely Reid’s writing.” Pogue murmured as he sat down. He pointed to the address. “But who’s is that?”
Caleb shrugged, “I don’t know. I don’t think I want to know.”
“What? Why not?”
“There must be a reason why Reid didn’t write it himself.”
Pogue turned back to the envelope and didn’t reply. After a minute of silence, he finally spoke, “There could be a million reasons why he didn’t write it himself, Cay; don’t assume it’s the worst one.”
The older man let out a bitter laugh, “Pogue, where have you been for the last six years? It’s just been one bad thing after another.”
“We’re not starting this again.” The leather-clad man said firmly, “It can’t go on forever.”
Caleb didn’t argue any further, but he was reluctant to believe him. Too much had happened; too many things had crashed and burned and Caleb didn’t think this was going to be the turning point. He wasn’t sure if there was a turning point anymore.
“We won’t know until we open it.” Pogue said softly.
He was silent a moment longer and then he sighed heavily, nodding slowly. “Yeah.”
“You wanna do it or should I?”
Caleb held his hand out in answer and Pogue handed over the envelope. His stomach twisted and fluttered with what seemed like a million butterflies, all trying to burst out of him. He closed his eyes for a second, taking a few breaths to calm himself, and then opened the top of the envelope carefully.
Caleb just stared at the wad of paper in his hands. Each sheet seemed to be different, but there was no mistaking the familiar scrawl of the author on each one. A hole had been carefully punched into the top, left hand corner and the letters were held together with a piece of string, creating a makeshift book. There was a second envelope on top of the papers, their names written in black ink on the front.
"He wrote us letters." Caleb said quietly, picking up the second envelope in his free hand and handing Pogue the 'book'. The long-haired man took it from him in awe, flicking through the pages gently. The first one looked crumpled, like it had been screwed up and then smoothed out again.
"Shit...there must be fifty, sixty letters here." He looked up at Caleb in shock. "How come we never got these?"
The dark haired man stared at the small white envelope in his hands, a troubled expression on his face, "He never intended to send them. He didn't send these." He transferred his gaze to his brother and held up the envelope. "Someone else did. It’s the same handwriting that's on the other one."
Pogue looked at the white rectangle in Caleb's hand, "We gonna find out who or are we just gonna sit here?"
Caleb frowned at him but turned the envelope over in order to open it. His eyes were caught by the writing along the top.
Read the letters first.
"We have to read the letters first." He said distantly.
"What, all of them?" Pogue asked, looking back down at the paper book in his hands.
"Yeah, I guess."
They looked at each other, silently debating how they should do it. An agreement was reached two minutes later, and Caleb took the papers from Pogue as the other man shrugged off his jacket and got comfortable on the sofa. Caleb couldn't resist the smile at his actions and settled himself into the corner of the sofa, pulling his legs up and crossing them. He took a deep breath and started to read aloud from the first letter.
"I don't even know why I'm writing this. The paper and pen were just there on the counter and I'd picked them both up before I realized it... "
Reid watched Tyler sleep, numbers from the clock casting a strange red glow over the younger boy's face. Reid sat there chewing the skin from around his thumb, wincing when he made himself bleed. It was oddly appropriate though, to be bleeding even a little on the outside while he felt torn to shreds on the inside. His 18th was days away. Days. They all knew what was coming. Death or worse. He stood slowly, carefully and pulled his clothes back on. He shivered as the coolness of the cloth came into contact with his heated skin, still warm from being wrapped around Tyler. This was going to hurt. So bad. But he knew why he had to do it. He considered leaving a note but thought a clean break would be better. Besides, with Pogue's newly ascended ability to pick up people's thoughts off their possessions he thought it best not to leave the older two a way to track him. He planned and practiced until he was sure they wouldn't feel him anymore. So they wouldn't have to see, hear, or feel what was coming. He leaned down and pressed a desperate, soft kiss to Tyler's slack mouth and walked out the door.
I don't even know why I'm writing this. The paper and pen were just there on the counter and I'd picked them both up before I realized it. So I started writing.
God, I'm so bad at this letter shit.
You're probably wondering why I left. Or not. Whatever. You're never gonna get this anyway, so I might as well just tell you.
My family hasn't got the best track record with the Power. You know it, I know it; we all know it. Dad died when I was three and Mom... Well; the less said about her the better. Hell, you all know the Garwins were the first to go; the Book tells you that much. And I was going the same way. I was following in their footsteps. Don't even try and tell me I wasn't, because you know it would be a lie. I mean, fuck! I was already past the point of no return when I Ascended, you really think I was gonna get any better?
So I left. I saved you from having to look at me while I aged. I saved you the hassle of having to clean up after I killed myself. No more lectures, no more fights, no more Reid. So now you can carry on and live your care free lives; get married, have cute little witchy babies, forget all about me and my problems, yeah?
Only just... Tell Tyler I'm sorry. I didn't mean... I never wanted to leave you. I had to.
Reid stared down at the paper in his hand and wondered what the fuck he was doing. He'd finally done it though. Worked up the courage to leave. To get out. He had one regret in all of it and that was leaving Tyler behind. Caleb and Pogue would get over it. He hadn't mattered that much to them. But Tyler. God, Tyler. Tyler'd loved him. For real and truthfully. And Reid loved him back. But he couldn't stay. He was going to die, sooner rather than later. He couldn't, wouldn't put Tyler through that. Better to leave him now than to make his lover watch him fade out. He sighed and jerked when the ambiguous electronic voice announced the arrival of his flight over the airport intercom. Being all the way across the country should stop them from feeling him until he figured out how to block that soul deep connection he and Tyler had developed.
He blinked away tears and stood, shoving the 'letter' into his pocket angrily. 'Don't try and find me. And don't let yourselves miss me.' He thought, walking away and not looking back.
Happy birthday baby boy. I guess I can't call you that anymore, huh? 19. Which is 1 away from 20, which is 5 away from 25 which is a quarter of your life right there, which is 25 away from 50 which is half your life gone. And that's not at all depressing. Nice job, Garwin. But there's a kind of point there. It goes by quick. Don't forget that. Don't focus on what can't be changed about this.
I do gotta admit, baby boy, it sucked to have to leave you. But I couldn't stay. Didn't want you coming with me either, seeing me turn into my father- into your father. That's not fair to you, but I'm sorry I left the way I did. But you have to know I couldn't stay. You have to understand. and then, eventually, you have to forgive me. I don't want you hating me, Ty. I don't want you living with that kind of ugliness in your life. It's part of why I left the way I did.
I can only hope that Caleb or Pogue have gotten you good and drunk at least once by now. Have some fun without them around too. Don't follow them. Be you and do what you want with your life. All that other self help crap that shouldn't mean anything but really does. Enjoy your birthday. (Get laid or something!)
Be happy. (Try. For me. I'll always love you. The best way I know how is this way though. And I know that doesn't help much.)
PS. I'm keeping the bear.
Caleb looked at Pogue, eyes impossibly old. “Oh christ…” he breathed, fingering the edge of the letter. “He wrote this before… Before…” he trailed off; it hurt too much still to say aloud, but Pogue knew. Reid was still trying to get forgiveness from Tyler and congratulating their baby boy on his nineteenth birthday. They’d celebrated that birthday quietly, still reeling and hurt from Reid’s disappearance.
Pogue looked at Caleb, knowing the other man was thinking of the next three- the last three birthdays they spent with Tyler, a mash-up of hope, tears, anger, frustration and resignation. He nodded at the older man, survivors of despair and anger acknowledging what the other went through.
“He knows. He has to know.” Pogue said hoarsely, less convinced than he showed. “He knows.” Because it was too painful to think that he didn’t. He dashed away tears angrily and resettled on the couch.
“Yeah.” Caleb said quietly. “Course he does.” He turned to the next letter, trying to ignore the trembling of his hands as he read on.
I think I hate you guys. I can't be sure because my head is pretty fucked up from that last hit but you know. I'm pretty sure I do. Almost as much as you hate me, I bet.
Reid wiped his nose and stared down at the white powder residue spread over the glass table top. The music and voices and other background noise from the current party he'd stumbled into sounded faded, like he was listening from under water. He hated that. He never swims anymore. Too many memories. Too much that shouldn't mean what it did. He reached over and grabbed the ink tube, from the pen his latest buddy had taken apart to snort the drugs, and scribbled the furious words onto the back of someone's beer run receipt. Once he was done he shoved the crinkled, half wet paper into a pocket and turned back to the girl currently trying to climb onto his dick. Stupid fucking cunt. Did she know he wasn't interested by now? He stood and watched dispassionately as she fell to the floor. He stumbled his way back to the 'bar' and set about forgetting everything, at least for another night...
It's your birthday. Don't expect a present from me.
I'll be with you in spirit, and by spirit, I expect you to be knee deep in a bottle of cheap tequila looking for the worm at the bottom. It's your 21st birthday Caleb, you better be drunk. Pogue better've treated you right. Hell, you should be celebrating with Pogue and Ty right now. I can't be there. I can't. I hope you get laid at least once tonight. Like you'd even have to try that hard. Fucker.
I need another hit. You probably can't read this. My hands kinda fucking shaking. A lot. Yeah. I traded one addiction for another. Might as well die on my terms. If I do, I wonder if you'll know. Will you feel it? Or does it not work that way. You didn't feel Chase. But then again you blamed me for half the shit Chase did so maybe you just learned to tune me out. Eh, fuck it. This is supposed to be a birthday letter, not another 'hi asshole' note. You know, I think more than half these 'notes' end up addressed to you. Maybe because I know you're the one I'll never send any to. You won't understand them. You only understand what you want to.
Anyway. Happy fucking Birthday, Asshole. Don't expect anything from me. Then again you never did.
Caleb sighed, lost in the memories of that particular birthday. It should have been like Reid described; drinking and laughter and partying all night until they fell down half dead the next morning. Only it wasn't. Caleb's twenty-first passed quietly. No party, no drinking, no laughter. They had both spent that day in the hospital with Tyler. The youngest Son had tried to convince them to leave and go out and celebrate, but they couldn't. Not without Tyler. Not without Reid.
He remembered sneaking back into Tyler's hospital room that night. The other man was thankfully asleep and Caleb had softly pulled the chair over and sat next to the bed. His hand found Tyler's and his fingers wrapped around the pale, thin ones under his as he lay his head on the side of the bed. He stayed silently at Tyler's bedside, watching the other boy sleep as the minutes ticked down to the exact moment he was born.
"Not exactly how we spent your twenty-first." Pogue said quietly.
Caleb read the letter again, silently this time. Did Reid really hate him that much, or was that just the drugs talking? He was hard on Reid, he knew that, but he never blamed Reid for what Chase did. Did he? Did it really sound like he was blaming Reid for all that? His stomach twisted into knots and he swallowed reflexively. He hated feeling like this, like he'd done everything wrong and maybe, just maybe, if he'd treated Reid better, then this wouldn't have happened.
With a sigh, he flipped the page.
My hands shaking so bad I don't know how much of this you'll be able to read. If you ever read it. I don't know where to start or how to say it so I guess...I overdosed. I OD'd. I fucking killed myself. Or almost did. I'm not too clear on details at the fucking moment. We always thought the power would do me in.
Oh, how wrong we were. And even now I can feel the need for more. I want it. I'll do anything for the next hit, the next high. I'm that pathetic. Hell, the things I've done for it. I'm a whore and a drug addict. I traded one addiction for something so much worse. Because at least I wasn't ashamed of the fucking power. I'm ashamed now. Me, the original Mr Shameless. Fucked up doesn't really touch how bad this shit is.
Caleb, Pogue. If one of you gets this first...don't tell Tyler. Don't let him know what I've become. What've I always been. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't see what you saw all along. Guess you knew me better than I knew myself, huh? I'm a weak fool. And I'm going to die young.
The first thing Reid was aware of was something stuck down his throat. He coughed and gagged and then wished he hadn't, since the second thing he was aware of was the near excruciating pain centered around his abdomen. But he couldn't stop and the more he tried to breathe, the more he panicked when he found he couldn't.
"Ok, sir," A voice filtered through the haze of pain and drugs and panic, but Reid could make it out very well. A hand gently pushed on his shoulder and pinned him back to the bed, but it wouldn't have taken much effort to keep him there. He couldn't have fought back even if he wanted to. "Calm down. We need you to stop fighting it, sir, so we can take the breathing tube out. Can you do that for me?"
It was hard, but Reid focused on the nurse's voice and tried to follow her directions. He forced himself to calm down and lie back as she gently extracted the tube. It was a strange sensation, one he really didn't want to have to go through again. Once the tube was free he panted a little, trying to calm his already shot nerves. He tried to ask the nurse where he was, but his throat felt like sandpaper and he couldn't get the words out. He swallowed, but that was even worse.
The nurse took pity on him, "You're in the hospital, sir. You overdosed on Heroin."
The nurse checked a few of the machines before leaving the room again, telling him she'd be back with a doctor soon. Reid lay still between the starched white sheets, trying to piece together the events of the night before. He'd been out of his head for most of it and Reid frowned as he tried to differentiate between hazy memories and colorful delusions. Another party, another drink and drug binge to help him forget. Only, it never worked. The memories and the hurt and the pain all lingered on. Sometimes he thought he'd never be able to escape it; that it would be this way forever.
Only now he'd got himself addicted to something far worst than the Power.
His mind was filled with jumbled images and feelings, out of order and not entirely his. The sting of the needle as it was pushed into his skin, the rush of the drugs as they entered his bloodstream, the feel of Jimmy slamming into him over and over again as he screamed and cried. His stomach rolled and Reid had to fight hard to keep the meager contents of his stomach actually in his stomach. Jimmy. God he hated him, but he was the only dealer who had the good stuff. He got him hooked, and then refused to give him more if he didn't pay him back. Reid was desperate and so far gone that he swallowed his pride and agreed to become Jimmy's bitch, trading sex for the drugs. It was the worst decision he ever made, just after the one where he decided to leave Ipswich for good.
Reid frowned. Where had that come from? Wha-
He screamed and clutched at his head as wave after wave of emotion crashed over him. Pain, fear, anger, confusion; it swirled inside his head like a hurricane and hurt so bad he thought his head was going to explode. He didn't notice how all the equipment in the room started malfunctioning, or how the the doctor's swarmed in to try and placate him. He screamed in pain, pleading with them to make it stop.
The sedative worked quickly, and within a few minutes the screaming stopped. His head swam as he was lowered gently back to the bed and his eyelids started to fall again. His last thought was of his brothers and he wondered what had happened to cause such a reaction in them, but exhaustion overtook him and he slipped back into unconsciousness.
The second time was easier than the first. For one, he wasn't choking on a breathing tube and two, he was in a better room. After dealing with the doctors once more and a round of questions from the cops, he settled back and felt weight of the situation press down on him. He'd been so stupid. He wondered what the others would think if they saw him now. Reid snorted, Caleb would lecture me, Pogue would agree and Tyler...
Tyler. It still hurt to think of him, even after all these years away from his brothers. He looked down at his hands, watching the fine tremors increase with his rising need for more. It was going to kill him if he carried on. Maybe that was what he wanted?
There was some paper and a pencil on the side table. He started reaching over for them before he even realised it. Scribbled down another note to add to the ever growing collection, giving his mind something to focus on. He still couldn't explain why he wrote them, or why he kept them. He knew he wasn't going to send them.
He had a feeling though.
A feeling that he was going to need these letters someday.
I'm sorry. But not really. Would you care if I meant the apology or not? Or do you just want me to admit you were right and I was wrong. I don't care. I don't want to be here. I don't want to be there either though. I don't want to be anywhere.
I am so sorry. I can't even say how sorry I am things ended this way. Tyler- Ty baby I didn't know. I would have come home. I would have come home in a heartbeat. I'm so sorry baby boy.
I love you so much. I would have come home. You have to believe that...
Tyler'd been sick since Christmas, doing his best to help Pogue out at the shop, but invariably spending most of the day curled up on the couch in Pogue's rarely-used office. Caleb and Pogue worried about it in heated whispers in the afternoon when Anna sent the eldest brother to Pogue's shop with her special broth. Their conversations ended only when Tyler yelled tiredly at them to stop or they heard him stumble to the toilet to throw up.
Tyler spent New Year's and Pogue's 20th birthday wrapped up in blankets on Caleb's couch, having successfully won another argument about seeing a doctor.
"It's the flu. I'm just glad I got it on break."
"You look like shit." Pogue said, looking at Tyler, pale and shivering despite the pile of blankets he had.
"Yeah well, after two weeks of the flu, I'm not going to look like Mary Sunshine."
"That's our point Ty. It's been two weeks and you don't look any better. And none of us have caught it which is weird considering how long we've been hanging around your sick ass."
They argued again and Pogue and Caleb won out by virtue of being healthy, and the family doctor agreed to make a house call. Their doctor, a sometimes demented older man, showed up the next day, finishing half his exam before Tyler awoke. He took blood samples, promising results in a couple of days.
Tyler slept those days nearly straight through and the older boys argued again about just taking him to the hospital. And about Reid. Neither was sure who brought him up first and Pogue blinked, pain and anger hitting him hard.
He staggered over to a chair and sat down hard. "Oh god... What if there is something really wrong? What're we gonna... We can't even find Reid now. What.."
"Hey, hey, easy." Caleb soothed, squeezing Pogue's shoulder and hiding his own worry and fear behind the mask of the calm leader. "We'll worry about it if it comes to that."
It came to that. Caleb opened the door the next day to their doctor. His heart dropped to his stomach and he exchanged glances with Pogue, both knowing that whatever happened next wouldn't be good. They led him up to Tyler, apprehension growing with every step.
"Hey baby boy..." Caleb gently shook Tyler awake, brushing the unruly hair back from his face.
"Hey... What?" Tyler saw Pogue and the doctor hovering in the doorway and frowned, sitting up against the headboard. "Oh. It must be bad if the doctor came back and Caleb's calling me baby boy again." He said quietly, trying to diffuse his brothers' worry as well as hide his own.
"We don't know yet Ty. He just got here." Caleb sat next to Tyler on the bed, fidgeting with the pillows until Tyler batted his hands away from the fabric only to grab hold of them tightly. Caleb gripped back just as tightly, eyes fixed on the doctor, convinced that the world couldn't give them any more bad news.
"It would unfortunately appear that Tyler is correct. While running the blood tests, we discovered some ...anomalies that led us to further testing and have brought us to a preliminary diagnosis of leukemia."
Caleb paled, gripping Tyler's hand tighter while Pogue cursed and whirled out of the room, anger exploding in the back of his head. Tyler himself only nodded and sent the doctor a wan smile. "Thanks. I.. um. What do we need to do now?"
After two years away from the older boys, Tyler was still the youngest, but no longer the quiet overlooked baby boy. "Hey Caleb," he greeted, smiling wanly at the older man.
"Hey yourself. How're you feeling?" Caleb forced a smile and took a seat at the end of the bed.
Tyler shrugged noncommittally. "Been better. Oh. Hey. Before I forget, tell Pogue to quit messing with the carburetor of that GTO and do this." he sifted through a pile of papers on the sliding tray and handed over a detailed engine schematic.
When Reid left, the other three had floundered, not really sure of each other without Reid acting as a buffer. Tyler and Pogue had found a common interest and bonded over grease and engine parts. Caleb and Tyler had bonded simply by getting to spend time together in the few weeks they had left of summer break and then driving up to Harvard together. It was funny how they practically grew up together, but never really knew each other. Caleb just wished it hadn't taken Reid's disappearance for them to figure it out.
"Yeah, sure." Caleb said and slid the paper into his pocket.
Tyler had been steadily declining for too long now. Caleb stared into the now familiar hospital room as the youngest of them tried to rest. He could hear Pogue pacing and growling somewhere behind him. He sighed and ran tired fingers through his already messed up hair. "The doctors look grimmer every time they bring news or test results. So many tests, Pogue, shouldn't they have an answer by now?"
"He needs a donor." Pogue muttered, voice flat and eyes heated. He stomped over and sat down in one of what were quickly becoming 'their' chairs. Caleb swallowed and walked over.
"He doesn't have a donor. Reid's the only one who would've been a match for Tyler," Caleb said numbly, dropping next to Pogue and scrubbing his face with his hands. He'd gotten the doctors to look over their records to maybe find a match for the youngest. It'd nearly broken him when the doctor came back, with more energy than they'd seen him with in a long time and asked if Reid Garwin would be willing to donate.
Pogue closed his eyes in silent denial that the world could be so cruel. "How's he doing?"
"Well you know Tyler. So... Not well, but he'll be damned before he tells either of us that." Caleb sighed and tipped his head back. "All this. We went through all this worry and all these problems and when we would have needed it the most, goddamn powers can't do shit."
Caleb swore when he was upset and Pogue nodded, squeezing the back of his brother's neck.
"I'm going back in there. He thinks if he just keeps looking, he can find Reid. And not because of the donor match. The doctors haven't told him yet." Caleb took a deep breath. "I haven't told him yet."
"It's not your responsibility to tell him Caleb." Pogue said, glancing through the door to see Tyler still sleeping fitfully. "The doctors should tell him."
Caleb shook his head, throat tight. "I was the one who brought it up, got his hopes up. I should be the one to tell him that... That it could have worked. If Reid hadn't left. As if it hasn't fucked with his head enough!"
Pogue blinked hard. It was difficult enough seeing Tyler pale and too-thin, joking about being more streamlined after losing his hair, but it was another thing to see Caleb on the verge of losing it altogether. He made up his mind and stood. "I'm going with you when you tell him. It's not your fault." If anything it's Reid's and a biological fuckup that turned Tyler's strong, beautiful body against itself he didn't add, but knew that Caleb knew.
Caleb nodded and pulled Pogue into a rough, close hug. They both ignored any tears that fell and entered Tyler's room together.
Caleb stared at Tyler in shock. "W- what are you saying exactly?" he asked, unable to believe what he'd head. Unwilling to believe what he'd heard.
"My kidneys are gone Caleb. You knew that." Tyler said quietly, twisting his fingers together in the hospital blanket. Pogue and Caleb had taken to bringing thicker blankets with them when they came, to store in the youngest's room for when they inevitably were covered in some bodily fluid. "The dialysis isn't working. There's really nothing else they can do."
Caleb fought to keep from breaking down there and then, balling his hands into fists. He crossed the room quickly, cupping the younger man's face in one hand. Tyler closed his eyes, jaw working silently as he tried to keep from falling apart. Caleb railed at the unfairness of it to a universe that never cared about his little family. "I... Shit baby boy." he said softly, voice strangled as he tried to keep it steady.
Tyler looked up finally, at Caleb's soft touch and frowned. "Where's Pogue? I... I didn't mean to just spring that on you. I just... had to tell you guys before I lost my nerve." He looked up at the older man, exhaustion written in every move.
Caleb shook his head, swiping a thumb over Tyler's too-prominent cheekbone. "Nothing to apologize for Tyler. That's... Why didn't the doctors wait? They know we're here every day."
Tyler shook his head, jaw jumping as he still struggled to control himself. "I don't- I don't know. I can't... Will you tell Pogue?"
Caleb nodded and composed himself, stopping the long haired man at the doorway, speaking to him softly as Tyler watched and quietly wiped up a nosebleed.
Pogue paled and was stopped in his headlong rush from the room by Caleb's hand on his upper arm. "Leaving's not going to help anything," Caleb said quietly, one eye on the youngest as he watched worriedly.
"Tell it to Reid." Pogue snarled and tore out of Caleb's grip, striding from the room. Caleb swore under his breath and turned to Tyler, letting Pogue go for the moment.
The youngest was pale and shaking on the bed, trying to hold back sobs with a hand over his mouth. Caleb gently manhandled him over and slid up onto the bed, gathering Tyler into his arms, recognizing the habit he hadn't been able to break from high school.
Tyler let go of his shattered remnants of control and wept, face pressed into Caleb's chest. Pogue crept back into the room, nervous and shamed, settling onto the bed by Tyler's legs.
"It's not fair." Tyler said for the first time, trembling.
"No baby boy, it's not fair. And I'd do anything to be able to trade places with you, you know that." Pogue said, gently threading his fingers through Tyler's skeletal ones.
Tyler nodded, eyes falsely bright with tears.
"I know I don't say it enough Tyler, but I love you. You're my brother, more my family than my family ever was." Caleb said, Pogue nodding agreement.
It was downhill from there. Tyler got steadily worse; bouts of lucidity and consciousness mixed in with the bad days. The doctors kept him on a steady morphine drip; resigned that they were going to lose him no matter what they tried and not worried about a possible addiction. Caleb called in and took a semester’s leave from Harvard and Pogue closed the shop as they settled in at Tyler's bedside.
All they could do was watch and wait as their baby boy slowly died, killing them in the process.
The sunshine mocked them as they stood in the cemetery, listening to the Priest as he conducted the service. Pogue fought the snarl; he didn't want sunshine and light and warmth. He wanted rain and clouds and cold. At least then it would reflect their mood. They were burying their youngest, how could they possibly be happy about that?
Pogue looked around the small gathering; that was another thing that made him angry. A few of Tyler's friends from Harvard, along with a handful of mutual friends and three Professors from Spenser made up the congregation. And that was it. No relatives, either. Glenn Simms had died long ago, and his mother...well, Pogue doubted the Institution would have granted her day release. Not after last time. Except for himself and Caleb, there was no-one else. It was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. There should have been more people than that. Tyler was worth so much more than this.
The muscles in his jaw tightened as the casket slowly lowered into the fresh grave. The one person that should have been there - more than anyone else - wasn't. There was an empty space on his right, reserved for their other brother. Reid had been missing for four years now and still Caleb set out a chair for him, in hopes that he would come home. But he didn't. Anger and pain swirled like a hurricane inside him; Reid should have been here. Reid should have never have left.
Pogue stood and stalked away from the service furiously. He didn't care that it wasn't over. He didn't care that Caleb was calling his name. He just...didn't care anymore. He all but tore off the suit jacket and tie, throwing them on the roof of Caleb's car as he passed. He needed to get out of there; away from the death and the gloom and the sadness that threatened to drag him under. Jumping on his bike, he kicked it into life and tore out the cemetery as fast as he could.
He didn't know where he was going and didn't care either. He just followed the road and let it take him wherever it wanted him to go, but he couldn't shake the memories of the younger man from his mind. Happy and grinning like an idiot when he was nine, nervous at swim tryouts, sickeningly, sweetly in love with Reid, depressed and scared when Reid didn't come back, sick and way too thin in a hospital bed. So many different images of the same boy, the same man.
The same man he'd never see again.
The wave of grief that hit him over that thought nearly sent him and the bike to the ground. He skidded in a half-circle and stumbled off the vehicle, barely even shutting it off before he pushed it to the ground. He didn't know where he was, but it didn't matter.
It wasn't fair.
"It's fucking not fair!" Pogue screamed into the silence. Before he even realised what he was doing he'd called up the Power and sent it towards the nearest tree. A loud crack sounded as the wood fractured and split, igniting with a spark and burning fiercely with his rage. But it wasn't enough to satisfy Pogue and a second later he sent another one into the tree. "Too young. Too fuckin' young!" Another bolt of Power. The tree groaned as if in pain and Pogue watched the flames grow higher and burn hotter with his rising fury. Pretty soon it was going to spread and if it wasn't stopped it was going to destroy the whole town. He was destroying the landscape just as Tyler had been destroyed.
"Screw you!" He shouted into the air, not sure of who he was speaking to and not caring either. "You had no right to take him! He's not yours! He's ours!"
And then Pogue fell apart. He fell to his knees in the short, almost dead grass, the grief pressing down on him like a weight. He didn't resist when his body swayed forward, only just managing to catch himself with his hands.
"He's ours...he's ours." he choked out; chanting the words like a mantra as if it would magically bring Tyler back. Eyes squeezed shut, tears rolling down his cheeks, and nobody but the wind heard the howls of pain that tore from his throat.
And just like Pogue's anger, the fire burnt itself out; leaving desolation and destruction in its wake.
I'm going into rehab. I should have been there. I should have been able to do something.
But you don't care about should haves anymore, do you baby boy? I'm getting into rehab. I've got a friend who's sister is a social worker and she's got me a place in one of those live in places.
I don't know that there's anything left anymore to want to be clean for, but I'm doing it this time.
This sucks. It's been three weeks and I still got the shits so bad I think I'm gonna find my stomach in the toilet bowl. That's the shit they should tell you to keep you away from drugs. You'll spend three days outta five cramped on the toilet seat wanting to blow your brains out.
The therapist said I should keep a journal while I'm in here, skanky whore that she is, but I damn well won't write to a god I don't believe in and I feel like a goddamned idiot for writing to myself. So here we are. Also you aren't getting one of those sparkly pink journal things that ten year old girls like. I gotta have standards, even here.
This is going to be a long fucking night. I can tell because I can't keep my eyes open but my brain won't shut the fuck up. Too bad Caleb's not here to knock me the fuck out. I bet I could get him to take a swing at me. Riling him up way always too fucking easy. I say fuck a lot. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Ha. Can this be over now? I swear if I go to one more group session I'm going to strangle the dumbfuck that sits next to me muttering to himself the entire fucking time. Jesus. Caleb, where are you when I need you? You're the oldest. You're supposed to watch out for us and not let us fuck up this bad. Why the hell didn't you?
Caleb swallowed down the bile that was creeping up his throat and stood up quickly, not-so-gently dropping the book of papers on the sofa. Reid was right. Reid was so fucking right. Where the hell was he? Because he certainly wasn't doing his job. He wasn't there for them. For any of them. He put some distance between himself and the journal. God, he'd been a goddamn asshole to Reid. No wonder he had left when he did.
"You know what Reid's like, Cay." Pogue said quietly, the slightly nervous tone not going unnoticed. "Next letter?"
Anger swelled within him and in a fit of rage he pulled his leg back and kicked the nearest object. The leg of the desk cracked at the sudden hit, making the table wobble dangerously. Caleb watched, breathing hard as it started to fall, uncaring of the mess that it would eventually make. Just as it was about to fall, the wooden leg started to knit back together. Splinters reformed and the crack slowly disappeared, leaving the leg unscarred and the desk steady. A hand gently covered the tense space between his shoulder blades.
"He didn't mean it." Pogue said gently.
"Yes he did."
"Not in the way you think."
The anger flooded out of his body, leaving him with nothing to feel for a few seconds. Then the guilt set in. He closed his eyes and covered his mouth with a hands, a habit that had stuck with Caleb since school.
"I know." He said through his hand. He left it there for a few seconds before dropping it. "I know. But he's right, you know? I should have been there."
"You were there."
Caleb turned to Pogue, expression filled with pain. "Was I? Was I really there for you?" He shook his head. "I could have done more, Pogue. Should have done more."
Pogue made a frustrated sound in the back of his throat and reached out to grip Caleb's upper arms, "There's nothing more you could have done. You did everything you could." Caleb opened his mouth to argue but Pogue got there first. "No, Caleb. You've taken care of all of us; kept us in line. Reid's just angry and lashing out at the closest target."
"I was still too hard on him."
Pogue shrugged, "Maybe, maybe not. You can't change it now." Caleb didn't answer, "Besides, I think you should take a look at the back of the note."
The other man frowned at his brother, but followed him back to the sofa anyway. Pogue picked up the book and thumbed through the papers until he found the note again. He handed it to Caleb silently, watching and waiting as Caleb flipped over the page and read the words that Reid had obviously tried to scratch out but were still visible on the back despite his attempt to take them back.
I love you so fucking much I hate you, Caleb. Why couldn't you see that?
Caleb stared; eyes soaking in the harsh, almost desperate words beneath the quick angry scribbles. His knees gave out suddenly and it was only Pogue's quick reflexes and strong grip that kept him from hitting the floor. The long-haired man pushed him gently back to the sofa and Caleb didn't resist, sitting heavily on the soft, cushy material.
"Shit." he said so quietly Pogue almost missed it. "Shit..."
One sentence. That's all it was; just one sentence that nearly brought him to his knees. It hammered home Reid's need and anger as well as Caleb's failure to notice what was going on with Reid. He could have prevented all of this, he could have-
"Stop." Pogue said quietly, but firmly into Caleb's ear. The other man hadn't even realized he'd moved that close. The warm, comforting weight of Pogue's hand settled on the back of his neck and Caleb dropped his head forward, sniffing and coughing and trying to reign in the overwhelming emotions. "It's not your fault."
Caleb laughed humorlessly, the sound sticking in his throat. "I wish I could believe that."
I have no idea why I'm doing this. They say it's good to get shit off your chest, right? So why the fuck not. I'll never send this touchy-feely crap to you anyway so it's not like you'll read it. First, you were right. Yes, you just read that. No, I will not ever repeat it. Second, you're a bastard. In the worst and yet best ways. (No, this doesn't have to make sense. It's about my feelings for once, not how you think I should feel but how I really do.)
You were right, when you said I should grow up. I should've. Maybe if I had, well, maybe things would've been different. Maybe I could have been there for Tyler. Or you could have been there for me. Instead of this hate-hate relationship we ended up with. Except I could never really hate you. God, or whoever the hell is in charge of the universe, knows I tried. You made life hell there for a while, Cay. You think I didn't know what the power would do to me? Reread the Garwin family part of our history. I knew how bad it was going to be. Why do you think I left? I still can't believe you thought I was the one making Darklings in my spare time for kicks. Yes, I'm still bitter about Chase. Aren't you?
You're a bastard in the worst way because you made me face myself. Dragged me out into the light and made me look in the mirror. And that was fucking terrifying. I'm not a nice person. I'm not even sure I pass for a not-bad person, let alone a good one. And after the drugs and shit I did to get them I know I'm not anywhere near the white side of the line. God, Caleb. I needed you. I fucking needed you. You know why? Because you made me depend on you. And then you treated me like shit. Like I was the weak link. Whether I was or not isn't the issue, you understand. It's just...I don't even know.
You're a bastard in the best way because you did that. Because you helped make me, me. And you know what? I'm gonna get over this. Because I can. Because I watched you and if nothing else I'll fake that strength you had in spades until I believe I have my own. I'm not going to let this kill me. I didn't die by the power and I'm not going to let the fucking drugs finish me off either.
Maybe one day you'll get to see what you helped make me become. Maybe someday I'll have the strength to come back and face the
threetwo of you. Maybes are all I have right now.
Hey. Writing for no reason again. It's becoming a bad habit I think. I'm so tired. But I think I have a job. Which might get the Bat off my back for awhile. As long as I stay out of sight. I already told you how much fun he has beating the shit out of me when he's drunk (which is all the time. So much for rehab.) But he lets me have a roof over my head and I've got no where else to go.
Anyway, the job. It's not much. It's just part time at this off the wall coffee shop. But the guy who owns it, Bradley, he seems decent. Of course I thought the Bat would be decent too, so you know my opinion is for shit. I think it'll be good. I hope it'll be good. I need this job. I need something.
I still can't believe Tyler's dead. The only thing I want to do is curl up and tell him how for shit this being on your own thing is. And that doesn't make me at all a girl. I miss him. I miss him so much it hurts all the time. All the fucking time. And it keeps running through my head that I could've been a match. And if I think about that too long I'll go catatonic or some shit.
I'm so lost, guys. So fucking lost. I'm the closest to regret I've ever been. But then I think of how much worse it would've been if I'd stayed and...
Guys, the unbelievable has happened. You might wanna sit down cause what I'm about to tell you will blow your fucking minds.
I'm in love.
Yeah, you actually read that right; I'm. In. Love.
I swear to you, it was fucking fate! She just looked through the window and our eyes met and Jesus Christ, it was like...shit, I can't even describe it. You guys know I didn't believe in the whole destiny crap, but...I don't care that that sounds like fluffy romance novel shit. It's true. Fucking Boy meets Girl at it's finest.
Her name's Chloe. She's fucking beautiful, man. Intense, passionate, funny. She looked into me, like she could see everything. And she doesn't fucking care that I'm not worth giving the time of day to. That she should turn around and walk the fuck away right now. She won't. I can tell. She's going to stick with me. Someone loves me. I never thought after Tyler...oh god, Tyler. She's so much like him. I wish I could've introduced the two of them.
She's...she's gonna be everything. And you know what? Fuck you. We're going to be happy.
Oh, shit. Oh my fucking jesus. Guys. She proposed. I mean, she proposed! I know we'd talked about it, but I expected I'd do it eventually. She just...she walked in and woke me up from a nap and then she asked. And you know what? Fuck what the movies and books say. It was perfect. So perfect. Just like she is. I- well, I can't wait. It's gonna be soon.
I won't have a best man. And she won't have a maid of honor. But we'll have each other. Up there in front of God and everyone. I should be terrified. But I'm not. This is the most at peace I've been since I left. Since Tyler. Fuck, I miss him. I won't have a best man because the best man I know is dead. But I might've asked one of you. Maybe.
For a while there, after I found out about Ty's death...I wished I was dead too. I wished the OD'd killed me. But it didn't and I got Chloe. Don't ask me how that works, because it makes no fucking sense. I don't deserve her. I never even deserved you guys. Or surviving rehab, or getting the job. But you know what? I have. And I'm going to keep on surviving. Just. I won't be alone anymore.
PS Pogue could've caught the fucking flowers. Does he still have the long hippy hair? Such a girl. I hope you guys found some kind of happiness. I did.
Caleb snickered as he turned the next page. He could tell from the first line that this was going be the glorious return of bitchy Reid. Pogue looked at him weirdly.
"What? What's up?"
"Looks like another birthday letter." Caleb said.
Pogue laughed a little, "Oh, it's actually a letter this time? Not just another 'Happy birthday, bitch'?"
"No, definitely not another one of those." He answered, looking up from the papers to his brother. "He called you Christopher."
Caleb could see the exact moment when Pogue's amusement turned to irritation. Reid knew exactly which buttons to push with his older brother and even when he wasn't physically with them, he still had a knack for flipping their moods.
"Bastard." Pogue muttered
Caleb chuckled a little and began to read.
Pogue. Dear Christopher, I already wrote to Ty and Caleb. I guess you should get your own official letter of bitterness and pain too. Oh hell, I'm getting maudlin. And do not mock my vocabulary. There's not much to do but read in rehab, asshole. But first... I don't know why you never trusted me the way you trusted Caleb, or even Ty. It's really not fucking fair that we never got to know each other the way we should have because you'd rather-" Caleb stopped suddenly, eyes reading the rest of the paragraph.
"What?" Pogue asked, frowning. Caleb looked up and stared at the other man. "What? Because I'd rather what?"
"No, carry on." He said, seemingly on edge and waiting for something. Caleb hesitated. "I can take it, Cay, just fucking read the rest!"
"Ok, ok." Caleb said, taking a deep breath. He was still unsure, but he knew Pogue wouldn't let it go until the rest of it had been read out. Although, how far he'd get before the other man blew up was any body's guess. "It's really not fucking fair that we never got to know each other the way we should have because you'd rather take Caleb's word for law than have your own opinion on some things. And you're a hypocrite. You'd use like hell with us but the second Caleb started in on me you were all, "Yeah, Reid, what he said." Fucker."
"Fucking bastard!" Pogue growled, "Like fuck I'm a hypocrite!"
"How can he say I sided with you over him all the time? That's bullshit!"
"POGUE!" Caleb barked.
"What?!" Pogue yelled back, swinging round to face the other man still sat on the sofa. There was silence between them for a few moments before Caleb calmly replied.
"I think you should let me read the rest of the letter."
"For what? So he can carry on chewing me out?" When Caleb didn't reply, Pogue let out a frustrated sigh, "Fine. Carry on."
Caleb turned back to the letter, "And the worst part is I'm really disappointed that I'm missing you now. Happy fucking 24th. I know it's not a milestone or anything but hell, son, it counts right?" Pogue snorted at that, but Caleb ignored him.
"I already wrote somewhere in this mess of a journal, thing, about Chloe. And now I'm adding to that. She's-" Caleb stopped a second time, shock passing over his face. Pogue waited for him to continue, having calmed down somewhat from his earlier ranting.
"She's what?" Pogue asked. He didn't get an answer, "Dude, she's what?"
Caleb looked up, brown eyes still wide and filled with an emotion Pogue couldn't place. "Pregnant." he answered in a hushed whisper.
Pogue blinked. "What?"
"Pregnant." Caleb repeated, looking back down at the letter. "She's pregnant. I'm going to be a father. Jesus, it gets better every time I think it. We're having a child. Someone to love and cherish. Hopefully, eventually, more than one someone. I wanted to ask one of you to be the godfather. I still remember some of my religious upbringing. Despite what you might think. My first choice is Tyler of course. But we know that being dead doesn't leave you much room for anything else." Caleb winced a little at the callous tone to the sentence, but he knew Reid and how he dealt with things. They knew from previous letters how Reid had reacted to the news of Tyler's death.
Do you think I'll be good at it? I guess that's my way of telling you that I want you and Caleb to be there for him or her. If something happens and I'm not here to explain about the motherfucking power. Don't let Caleb be too harsh about it though. Hopefully he'll have mellowed with age, gotten laid a few more times or something." Caleb chuckled at that. Bastard, he thought affectionately. "Try not to freak Chloe out too much. And if I'm not there for them...well, be good to her. Please be good to her. Harry will look after her. I know he will. He may not know it yet. But, well, I got a feeling." He looked up at Pogue, who was just in the middle of an eye roll. Caleb laughed, "Don't roll your eyes at my 'feelings' either, asshole. You know as well as I do my feelings have a way of coming true." Pogue half smiled at being caught out.
"Keep an eye on them for me. Ha, you know. This probably won't happen and I'll never send this. But it helps. I guess you weren't completely useless after all. Happy birthday, old man."
A stunned silence followed, neither man knowing what to say. Caleb looked up just as Pogue looked down.
"Reid's a father."
Pogue shook his head in amazement, "Would you look at that." He said, "Reid...with a kid. God, never in a million years did I expect..."
"I mean, out of the four of us, I expected Tyler to be the first to settle down." Pogue smirked, "Or you."
Caleb's eyebrow quirked, "Me?"
"It was a tie." He said with a shrug. "Reid was the playboy, I wasn't interested; that left you and Tyler."
Caleb couldn't argue with his logic. There was a time when he had been close to settling down, getting married and having children of his own. If there was one thing Caleb learned during the last six years, it was that things didn't always go according to plan.
Pogue sighed and sat back down on the sofa again, next to Caleb instead of on the other side. "How many more did the little bastard write us anyway?" He nudged Caleb, trying to show that he was in control of himself again. He had to hand it to Reid. He always did make it hard to stay mad at him.
Caleb looked at the blank page that was serving as the back cover of Reid's 'book'. He swallowed thickly and looked at Pogue's face. "Apparently that's the last one." He glanced back at the envelope and pulled out the letter left inside, actual stationery paper this time. He didn't want to read it. If for no other reason than what he knew it would confirm.
"Well, then." Pogue's mind was blank. He didn't want to read it anymore than Caleb, but he had to know. So he scooted over even closer and read the pretty delicate handwriting over Caleb's shoulder. Caleb sighed and gave in and started reading too. This one was different though. This one they both read silently. Neither wanted it said out loud. Not yet.
That was the last letter he wrote. Or the last he had a chance to write. I don't think he would've ever stopped talking to you though. I'm going to add my own to his collection. What you do with these is entirely up to you. But please give them - him - a chance.
I found these in Oscar's things. I don't understand everything that's going on in them. Most of it just seems to be random streams of consciousness. He left me a note too, but it felt wrong to keep these to myself. They are - they always will be - for you.
I don't really know how to say this but
Oscar Reid is dead. He died in April. A congenital heart defect, or so the doctors told me. Maybe it was as simple as a broken heart though. But I know Oscar loved me all he was able to and I know I loved him with all my heart. He just wasn't whole here. I know now that was because of you three. He missed you. More than he let on, I think, but it's important for you to know that he wasn't wanting for people that loved him here. He died surrounded by friends who did all they could to keep him alive. I guess it just wasn't meant to be.
I didn't know Reid, but I knew Oscar. I don't think he wanted to leave you, I think he needed to; for his own sanity as well as yours. No matter how many times he said he hated you, I know that he didn't. His letter to me described you as the "the three people that were my whole life" before me. I think that tells you how much you meant to him, how much it hurt him to leave you. But he had courage. And you should be proud of that. And even if you're not, if you can't get past that, there are people here who are. Who know what it took for him to become the man he was. So I guess either way, someone's proud of him. He deserved to know that. I'd like to think he did.
You'd think I'd be angry, wouldn't you? My husband had a past. A past that he lied about. And it hurt to find out like this. It hurt that he didn't share it with me. It hurt that he made up a life he didn't lead. But I understand why he did it. He knew that I wouldn't have understood everything about him when we first met, and I hope that he would have told me in time. About his life, about this... Power. About you. About Tyler.
That was a surprise. I knew there were others before me, but I wasn't expecting his one and only serious relationship to be with a guy. What surprised me more was that I didn't care. He loved Tyler and Tyler loved him. That's all the matters, isn't it? He deserved to be loved. It wasn't always easy to do, but it was always easy to feel.
I gave birth to our baby two weeks after
Oscar Reid's death. It was a boy; Tyler Kenneth. We'd decided on the name a month before, but I didn't know what it meant then. Now I do. I want you to meet him. OReid never got to see his little boy, but I think Tyler would like to meet his uncles. I'd like to meet you too.
He was happy. At least, I think he was. I hope he was. We were happy together and I like to think you would have been happy for us too.
PS Our address is on the back of this page.
I'm writing our phone number down as well if coming in person would be too difficult for you.
Just...keep in some sort of contact, okay? I think he would've liked for his two families to meet.
~Chloe and Tyler
Pogue's forehead fell to Caleb's shoulder heavily, but Caleb was too numb to feel it. Another of his brothers; gone. He wondered distantly why he was so shocked about it. He knew, deep inside he knew what had happened. There was still that sliver of doubt though. That little nagging voice that kept saying I could be wrong. But he wasn't. Now he had proof; written down on paper for the world to see.
Reid was dead.
"Why?" Caleb said suddenly, not realizing he'd said anything at all. "Why us? Why does it all have to end with us?"
Pogue didn't answer. There wasn't one to give.
"At least we know now." Pogue said into to silence, voice hollow.
"Do you think he would have come back?" Pogue's head lifted as he looked at Caleb, slightly taken aback by the question. The other male stared straight a head. "You think he would have contacted us?"
"Yeah." Pogue answered, although he didn't sound quite sure.
"When? After the baby was born? After their second? Third? Did he even think about sending the letters?" Caleb shook his head. "I don't think he would have."
"No." The other man said, turning hard, angry eyes on his brother. "No. He wouldn't have bothered to let us know he was ok. Six years, Pogue. Six long fucking years in which he could have picked up the phone or sent one of these goddamn letters!" He threw the book onto the table in front of them with a look similar to disgust and stood up once more, anger swirling around him "We worried ourselves sick over him. Fucking nearly killed ourselves over him, did he even think about that?"
Pogue stood too, trying to calm Caleb down once more. "Caleb, he didn't know-"
"Because he didn't think!" He whirled around to face Pogue once more. The other boy nearly stumbled at the fury and desperation in his gaze. "He didn't bother to check, he didn't bother to call, he didn't bother because he was a selfish bastard who only thought about himself-"
Now it was Pogue's turn to get angry. "-Hey, don't you dare-"
"-Don't I dare? Jesus, Pogue, he didn't even bother when Tyler died. I would have thought he cared enough to come back for that."
"Didn't you fucking read that letter, Cay?" Pogue barked, "Damnit, he cared."
"Not enough to come home!" Caleb yelled. Pogue watched as the fight left him and Caleb stared him down, pain and sorrow reflected in his dark eyes. "He didn't come home."
Watching Caleb break down was a rare, beautiful, and heartbreaking event. Pogue had only witnessed it twice before; when Reid had gone missing and when Tyler had died. Silent tears fell down his cheeks and he cursed, raising his eyes to the ceiling and covering his mouth with his hands. Pogue stepped forward and curled a hand around the back of Caleb's head, bringing it down and pressing their foreheads together. Caleb's hands gripped his shoulders and he could hear the older male's breath hitching as he suppressed the sobs.
"I want him to come home."
Then he let go. His whole body shook with his sobs and Pogue could do nothing more than move forward and wrap his arms tightly around his brother. Fingers held on to him in an almost bruising grip as Caleb buried his face into Pogue's neck.
"I know." he answered quietly, unable to hold back his own tears. "Me too."
"You're making the place look untidy."
Chloe smiled, ducking her head in slight embarrassment. She dropped the curtain and turned away from the window to face Harry. The dark man's mouth was turned up into a soft smile and his eyes twinkled at her.
"Sorry." She said, stepping towards him. "I'm just...nervous, you know?"
"Whatever for?" He asked, tilting his head a little as he regarded her. She shifted uncomfortably under his scrutiny and wondered if his son, Aaron, also felt like he was six years old under that gaze.
"I don't know." She said, hoping that it would be enough for her adopted father. It wasn't. She sighed, eyes showing her worry, "What if they don't like me?"
Harry chuckled quietly and walked towards his daughter. He stopped in front of her and placed both hands on each arm, looking down on her fondly.
"They are going to love you."
"They were important to him." She said, meeting the older man's eyes. "They were so important to him, and I don't want them to think-" She stopped and shook her head.
"Think what?" When the young woman didn't answer, he pressed again. "Chloe?"
"That he could have done better."
Harry sighed and pulled Chloe to him. Her arms automatically wrapped around his waist and her head settled on his shoulder. "He couldn't have done any better than you, Chloe." He said, "You loved him so much. Even when you knew what was coming, you didn't let it stop you. You loved him, you married him and you had his child. Anyone else would have run a mile, but not you."
She'd sent the letters to their intended destination a month ago. She doubted his brothers knew what had happened, or if they did, they had no idea where he was. Chloe felt it was her duty to tell them; to give them a piece of their friend that he hadn't been able to give at the time. Since then it had been a tense few weeks. Chloe was the first to pick up the mail in the morning, looking eagerly for anything from her husbands family. Harry had caught her disheartened look on many mornings, but she tried to hide her disappointment with bright smiles. The phone was usually picked up on the first or second ring, and it was always Chloe that answered. As the weeks dragged on, Chloe became less and less enthusiastic and started to take their silence as their wish to never be contacted again. She didn't give up hope though, and she still checked the mail every morning and answered the phone with the hope it would be one of them on the other end of the line.
Then two days ago, the phone rang. It was the call that Chloe had been waiting for.
Chloe had been a nervous wreck since, but she never showed it. On the outside she had been all smiles as she straightened things out and got stuff ready for Oscar's...Reid's family's arrival. Inside, she had been worrying herself half to death.
Harry held her close for another minute before pulling back and looking her in the eye. "They are going to love you."
Chloe nodded and didn't answer.
The doorbell rang.
Pogue ran a hand through his hair and scratched at the back of his neck nervously as they waited on the porch. Next to him, Caleb all but exuded calm and confidence, but Pogue knew that he was just as bad as he was inside. Neither of them had pressed the doorbell yet.
"What if they don't like us, man?" Pogue murmured, turning and looking down the rest of the street. Suburbia; all green and carefully shaped. He felt vaguely out of place, with his scruffy jeans and long hair.
Caleb didn't answer. If he was honest with himself, he'd been thinking the same thing. This was the woman that Reid loved; the woman that he married, had a child with. This was major. Reid just didn't settle down for anyone. They had to be something special for him to stick around long enough; and Chloe was just that. Special. Even with the letter she wrote to them, Caleb still half expected her to tell them to not go near her child. They were tainted.
The older of the two jerked around to look at Pogue, pulled out of his heavy thoughts. Pogue was watching him carefully and Caleb nodded to a question he wasn't asked. He turned back to the door and swallowed, taking his hand out of his pocket.
"Here goes nothing." he muttered and pressed the doorbell.
When the door opened ten seconds later, both men stared in shock at the woman standing in front of them. Whatever they had been expecting, she was not it. Long, dark, curly hair fell down the front of her body, caught only by an elastic tie-band by her neck. She was the girl next door, wearing denim cut off shorts and a white summer top. This was Chloe; the exact opposite of Reid's type in every way. And she was beautiful.
"Hey." She said quietly, looking between them anxiously.
Pogue mentally shook himself and smiled at her, "Hey."
There was a stand off for a minute as they stared at each other, slowly getting over the shock. Chloe moved back and opened the door wider. "You wanna...come in?"
They smiled and nodded, entering the warm house for the first time.
It was awkward; Caleb didn't kid himself. Conversation was stilted and patchy until Chloe literally said 'fuck it' and started asking them questions about Reid's childhood. Caleb laughed and they explained about the Power and their lives in Ipswich. He was surprised by how well she took it; nodding sagely when they told her how it worked. She, in turn, told them about how they met and their life together. They couldn't deny the sting of tears as she told them how Reid died.
"How have you been coping with that?" Caleb asked.
Chloe sighed and shrugged, "It's been hard. There have been bad days, but the good days outweigh them. I've had help from Harry and Esther, and our friends." She smiled fondly. "And I have Tyler."
"Can we-" Pogue started, leaning forward in his seat a little and unsure whether he wanted to ask. "Can we see him?"
Chloe smiled and stood, beckoning them both to follow her. They stood and made their way through the house towards the beautifully decorated nursery. The young woman walked forward towards the cot in the center, but something in the corner of the room caught Caleb's eye. He started walking over to the large rocking chair in the corner of the room. As Chloe bent over and picked her baby up, Caleb reached down and plucked the old, treasured bear from the blue cushion. He held it carefully in his hands, blinking back tears as he stared at it. Tyler's bear. Reid's bear. He looked up just as Chloe walked over to Pogue, who was still standing awkwardly by the doorway and glancing between the baby and Caleb.
"Tyler, meet your Uncle Pogue and your Uncle Caleb."
The baby in her arms looked at them quietly, as if he was sizing each of them up and figuring out if he was going to like them or not. Pogue stared at baby Tyler with soft eyes, marveling at just how much he looked like Reid. Chloe snorted out a small laugh and with a smile, handed the baby to him.
"Hey, what-I've never-" Pogue protested, looking shocked as Chloe moved Tyler into his arms.
"You're ok, just make sure you're supporting his head." She said quietly, amused at Pogue's floundering.
Then Caleb felt it. He watched as Pogue held baby Tyler, looking down at him with a surprised, but loving smile as Tyler gurgled at him. He watched as his hand stroked carefully over the soft, wispy blond hair on the child's head, shaking fingers passing over soft skin.
"Hey Baby Boy." he said softly, strong emotions breaking his voice.
And Caleb felt it, deep down in his soul. The exact moment when everything changed.
Their turning point was finally here.