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Gray Taylor

He is reeling, but he would never let on. Gray Taylor has been summoned, and now is the time to focus on Claire. He would not forget what had just been said, nor the place he had been put in. There is no way he might be able to ignore it. But he can focus, and he does. Letting himself into her apartment, he finds her easily and pulls her into a firm embrace, quietly shushing her and promising that it is okay.

He isn't quite sure who he is trying to convince.

Gray had been sure of himself, before. He'd felt like he knew where he stood, and that there had been some modicum of relief from his demons. Now, there is nothing but regret that stretches back nearly a year. He wouldn't take it back, though. Gray has one good thing out of all of this, and she is currently safe within his care.

Still, he is anxious, mistrust looming overhead at the thought of the one running this operation.

Quiet promises of fixing it would fuel their way out of the building and to the car. Gray would sit with Claire in the back of the car, arm wrapped around her shoulders while the other periodically checks her temperature. His undivided attention is afforded to her, this girl that has become a sister to him.

Despite the city disappearing and their entry into the English countryside, Gray insists that she trust him. Just a little further, he would promise. It will all get better, he swears. A text comes in, warning him of his own sister's furious trip to London, and he braces further. They have hours yet, and he is coming to realize that he never truly worked out how this would all end.

When they finally do stop, it is in the middle of nowhere. There is nothing but grassy fields and trees scattered about, with no sign of human life for as far as the eye can see. Gray has been careful of this, ensuring that they would be nowhere near any sort of civilization. Despite there being no cars nearby, he knows Jasper isn't far.

"Claire, it's okay," he whispers, helping her out of the car. There is no stopping himself as he brushes a stray hair from her face before cupping her cheek. He knows that she knows. He can sense it in the air between them, the dread building up within her just as it has within him. "Listen to me, Claire. You are going to grieve, now. Hear me? It's time. But I can't be here with you.."
June 08, 2019 11:01 pm

Claire Thompson

She had called for him because she had no one else.

Gray, her protector, her mentor, everything her blood brother could never be. When she had called him, he'd come immediately, and she broke down into tears of relief at the sight of him, as if she didn't anticipate his coming at all. "The pills aren't working," she'd told him frantically, clutching at his shirtfront and shaking feebly, "I'm feeling too much... You told me to tell you if..." But she couldn't finish, as he was already whisking her away.

Now, sat in the back of another car, Claire won't move from his side. He holds her securely, and her head rests against his chest as she watches the wilderness slip by the window, progressively faster as they exit city limits. Though he tries to hide it, the girl can feel his upset; it's electric intensity passes between through their shared contact, setting her skin to prickle in retaliation. Still, she doesn't react, too concerned with her own rise in emotion.

'They are up to something...' She waves Them away with a weak flick of her wrist.

I know, she almost responds, but what would be the point. Her energy is better spent elsewhere.

They stop, and Gray is out of the car before she can even get a word in edgewise. He leans back in to help her out, and she hesitates, hand coming to her chest as she sets a level gaze on him, calm despite the storm that brews just behind her dull stare. Begrudgingly, Claire lets herself be guided out, placing the last molecule of trust she has in the man, and knowing all the while that it would be crushed.

You are going to grieve...

She shakes her head, effectively knocking his hand away from her face.

It's time...

The girl gives him a pleading look, emotion welling up and leaving her breathless and clutching at him.

But I can't be here with you..

Claire freezes, then takes a step back, as if she'd been slapped across the face. Her mouth opens and closes in quick succession, even as the movement in her peripheries signals her dormant fear. Gray wouldn't do this to her; he would never leave her in the charge of someone so careless. She won't turn and look at him. Maybe if she didn't acknowledge him, he would go away.

She knows better, and only fool's grasp at hope.

Another step back is taken, her teeth gritting painfully as they both make a move as if to stop her. Her eyes find the ground, then search the vicinity, refusing to rest on either of the men that would deem themselves her keepers.

"Help me," she whispers, and They would always do their best.

But this time...

You have to let us.

We can do nothing if you won't allow it, Little One...

She begins to shake, and the girl heaves a mighty effort into bringing that dead gaze back upward. "Please," comes the croaking plea, aimed for no one but Gray, "don't leave me..."
June 21, 2019 04:33 pm

Gray Taylor

"Claire," Gray's voice is quiet, begging her silently not to run. There is no other way to go about this all, and he hates it. There is nothing more he wants to tell her than that Sarah will be okay. It is going to be okay, and she can do this without worry. The instructions had been clear, though.

He only wants what is best for her.

A hand is held up abruptly, a wordless order for Jasper to cease his movements closer. The glare his previous person is met with is unparalleled to any he'd given others in the past. Unlike before, there would be no remorse in such a thing. Gray was and is only ever expendable, after all.

He doesn't trust him as far as he can throw him.

'Please, don't leave me...'

Attention snapping back to Claire, his heart snaps in two. It is far from clean. Messy, cruel, and impossibly painful. "I don't want to," he whispers.

Any other day, Gray would be sensitive to any feelings Jasper might have to their relationship. Not anymore. Claire isn't someone to be used for his own personal revenge, but he simply doesn't care enough to hide it. Pressing his lips together, he works to maintain his composure as he slowly approaches her once more. "You know as well as I do, that if I stay.."

He simply cannot continue. Gray finds himself incapable of speaking, instead moving to wrap her up in a tight embrace. She is so warm. Inclining his head, he would whisper to her, desperately trying to keep an even voice and failing.

"It has to be this way, Claire. I am going to be there for you on the other side of this. You are not being abandoned. You cannot keep going on like this. Your father would never have it." None of this is calming, and he can tell. Her anxiety is through the roof, and it is pushing him into an emotional state.

To her and only her, it might even appear that he is mourning his own sister already.

"I need you to trust me."
June 21, 2019 05:43 pm

Claire Thompson

Her demeanor is cool, though the heat emanating off her form might say otherwise. She is rigid in his embrace, careful to keep her arms at her sides as she internally works her walls back into place. He doesn't want to do this, of course not.. but it's what must be done, and she doesn't get a say in that matter. Sarah be damned, she almost spits, but it would have put her over the edge, and she knows it.

Your father would never have it.

No, he would never have her sacrifcing her sanity for the life of a meaningless girl. Claire just never imagined Gray would agree.

Trust is what he asks of her, and as she pulls away, her lifeless gaze searches his face. She isn't sure what she's looking for; a crack in his resolve, perhaps. But she doesn't dig past the surface expression before her emotions drive her elsewhere. It is too painful, this blatant betrayal of her own trust, and his request is only a gutpunch. Already, the steam gathers around her still form, and she breaks through the mist by turning away, offering nothing of her inner thoughts.

The mask cracks with a nearly audible sound as her sights fall to the proverbial executioner, and she sees her own hatred written across his face in the way his expression crumbles. With time and experience on his side, he is much quicker at beating back his physical cues, but not before she witnesses the pain that resides just behind his eyes. There's a moment of consideration, of quick but analytical deliberation; if she attacks him, right here, right now... He might kill her, just as he did their father.

And then Sarah would be safe.

"I'm not going to hurt you," he whispers, procuring an uncharacteristic sneer from the girl. The dark expression does nothing to dull the desolation in her eyes, though, and she can only shake her head.

"You never were a good liar."
June 23, 2019 01:59 pm

Mackenzie

They'd arrived at the abandoned farmhouse before Gray, and getting Sarah inside had been a challenge. The girl is angry, panicked, and Mackenzie understands fully why that is. That is why the minute she had attempted to run, force had been used. Slender fingers wrapped firmly around her current charge's wrist, grip unyielding, and Mackenzie forced her inside just as the car pulled up to deposit Gray.

It had been something of a battle in her mind as she watched Sarah pace about anxiously once inside. She could tell there was some half-baked scheme being conjured up with each step, but Mackenzie is prepared to do whatever she must.

There would be no coaxing her into preparing for Claire and Jasper's return from their fiery doom. It is as Gray was walking inside that Sarah made her move. Mackenzie had finally lost her temper, pushing the girl up against a wall and baring her teeth before hissing his warning.

"You are not the only person with a dog in this f-cking fight."

It had been enough to frighten Sarah into stillness. Her hand falls off, steps taken back as she stares at the younger woman. She is like a perfect mesh of herself and Jasper, without any relation. All passion and emotion, reckless and rash and strong willed. With a sigh, she looks at Gray before turning away and moving toward the window.

She is worried. Out there, Jasper is with a ticking time bomb and they are about to witness the fire from an assumed safe distance. He can withstand that. She knows he can, for that is his nature. What pulls her into her anxious state is what might be happening out there. What is being said, and done. Her husband, this perfect man, is tearing himself down just as much as he is Claire.

The damage will never truly heal.

"You want to be there for her, you wait. You're not going to do anyone any good if you go out there now. You will endanger yourself, us, and Jasper. You want that? For this all to be for nothing? He's doing this for you, just as much as he is for her." Over her shoulder, she casts a cold glare before her attention would return. A deep breath is taken, and Mackenzie fidgets with the chipping paint of the windowsill.

Gray's approach does not surprise her, and one sideways glance has her whispering a single question as he stands beside her.

"What's wrong?"

Swallowing, she prepares herself.
June 28, 2019 09:35 am

Jasper Thompson

They walk in silence, her gait so sure and direct that she maintains the lead, leaving Jasper to trail after with the weight of his thoughts heavy on his shoulders. Every move, every word, every aspect of this had been planned out meticulously in his mind, but here, it all seems to fall apart, the light showing glaringly through the cracks of his misgivings. No more than a glance is afforded upward to her tiny form before he is scowling back down at the ground that moves consistently beneath their feet.

"You are not weak." The words come before he can stop them, and he can see the line of tension up her spine tighten all the more. Teeth gnash together, but he continues, already having stricken his path and commiting to throwing the plan to the wind. Surely, it wouldn't take much anyway. "I had more than my fair share of breakdow--"

"You are weak."

It isn't often that Claire exhibits her dark nature, so when it happens, it always takes Jasper by suprise. In the flash of a singular blink, she has spun around and gotten into his face, and involuntarily, he takes a step back. This procures a shadow of a smirk from the girl, and he scowls in response. For a moment, the siblings are two statues locked in a staredown, and he can see the wheels turning in her mind as she considers all facets of her next move. She wants to attack him, but he's not such a fool to think it's out of anger. Claire is not capable of letting fury guide her moves, and while it makes for a very levelheaded adversary, it also renders her very predictable.

A new approach then.

Jasper grins, making a tactical retreat in the guise of contemplative pacing. He blazes a path around her, taking note of the subtle twitches of her tightly wound form. The hands, especially. Her fingers twinge and jerk, but in such a way as to indicate her touching something. What had Gray said about that...?

"Can you see them?" Coming around to face her, he meets her questioning gaze, and he waves idly to the air around her. "Your... friends, so to speak."

Steam rises steadily off her bare skin, but he can see the shock and pain cross her visage, try as she might to keep her exterior hardened. There is a guilt in throwing Gray under the bus, but... It's necessary, and this isn't about him. Her mask is replaced, but half-heartedly, and her arms come to wrap around her middle protectively. "He wasn't supposed-- I didn't know--..."

An answering hum sets him to pacing again, but only to hide his own crumbling resolve. He wants to make this as quick and painless as possible, and in the same token, it must be as drawn out and brutal as can be.

"I know you think I'm dependent on Mackenzie, and I know you see that as some kind of weakness. The truth is you're right, I rely on her for a lot of things. But it's in our nature, is it not? Dependency. And you, on such... lesser beings, that make it known they simply use you for sustenance. Weakness, indeed."

She stiffens, and by now, he can feel the heat emanating off her, though they stand feet apart.

He clicks his tongue. "Our father must have been.. proud."

He is expecting her to lunge at him; what he isn't expecting is the abhorrence that is raked across the length of his face diagonally, brow to jaw, and the blood that gushes forth from his eye.
June 30, 2019 04:03 pm

Sarah Taylor

Being shoved into a wall does nothing to shake her nerves, and Sarah would glare steadily at Mackenzie. Stubborn, persistent, she refuses to allow herself to be subdued. Wide hazel hues would set upon the ice of her assailant, and the clever girl can practically see the wheels turning. It is thought that she has the handicap in this situation, but Sarah knows better. For all the threats, Mackenzie is all bark.

She remains there, not daring to look at her own brother but instead watching the other woman begin to crack. Each movement, each word, gives way to the tremendous pressure and weight upon her slender shoulders. She likes to see this. Even as she gives reason to behave, Sarah can only grin. It's humorless, and dark.

Claire needs her.

The two at the window go unwatched as they whisper between each other. There is something different about Gray. His shoulders are curled defensively, and yet slumped, defeated. She can read him like a book, and she can tell something isn't right. Guilt, she chalks it up to. And he should feel as such for he played his part in this.

"Really?" The question escapes in their mother tongue, and she watches as Mackenzie bows her head as if trying to decipher it. "You were supposed to protect her, Gray."

Slowly, she steps forward, closing the distance between herself and her brother at a snails pace. It takes him three paces to face her. "I didn't agree to this. This isn't the gift I wanted to give her."

His face is blank, and her own mask is an equal play. Inquisitive, judging, Sarah stops just before him. Once more, she would open her mouth to speak, but this time - she is halted. He beats her to the punch. This time, in that ugly, flat American accent.

"Your impatience will be your ruin. Stubborn, proud. You're not so unlike me, you know."

At this, she blanches. The comparison is completely off based, and yet, Sarah knows he is right. It brings her to still, a slow exhale escaping. All at once, she comes to realize what she is staring at. Her brother, the one person who saved her from it all. No matter how much he let her down, he still got her out. She lived more life than most of their ilk, and now she is meant to kill him.

A shiver runs down her spine, eyes welling heavily before closing and breaking the dam. Several deep breaths are taken as she attempts to steady herself. Claire is suffering. Jasper betrayed her. Mackenzie betrayed her. Gray is her price. "I.. I can't do this.."

Within seconds, she can feel herself pulled into him.

She does not resist.
June 30, 2019 05:09 pm

Claire Thompson

The anger recedes as quickly as it had risen, and she turns away from him, shaking violently. Her hand is still held outward, away from herself incriminatingly, as if it had acted of its own accord. And that's what it had felt like; Claire had never been submissive to her own emotions before. But right now, they undeniably hold the upperhand, and only seem to be gaining ground on her.

'You are strongly outmatched here, Little One, surely you know that...'

Breathing slowly in a futile attempt to regain control, she shakes her head, though to what, she can't say. With her back to Jasper, she can't see the way he struggles, holding his massacred face as the blood pours freely over the skin of his hands, but she can feel it. His own wild emotions reach out to hers, meshing and colliding and forming a great beast of a thing to contend with. Her legs give out, and she crumples to the ground, forehead coming to rest against the earth with the errant hand still stretched out in front of her, like she can't claim it as part of her being any longer.

Both Beings come to rest on her back, but she shakes them off, his words still spreading their poison in the back of her mind. As much as she hated him in that moment of brutal honesty, she cannot deny it for what it was: truth. She is dependent, and her father would've thought her weak. Even now, in his grave and whatever afterlife is afforded to their kind - if such a thing even exists - he is witnessing her breakdown.

And Jasper thought her hatred was aimed at him.

"Kill me."

She is so close to the edge, teetering over a freefall that would spell Sarah's end, and she can't face it. Nor can she stop it, and that it the most sickening of all. Her last chance resides solely in her own death, and it is the only thing bringing her any kind of solace.

Slow steps bring her brother around to the head of her, his blood staining the earth before soaking into its dark confines. Claire lifts her head infinitesimally, but only to turn it so her cheek rests against the ground. "Please," she would whisper, pushing herself up onto her knees. Unable to go any further, she rests back on her ankles, staring up into his marred face with a twisted expression. "I can't do this anymore, Jasper, I can't..."

But he's shaking his head, his one good eye staring at her with what she can only assume is purposeful indifference. The anger rises in her, driving her nails into the skin of her palms until her own blood joins with his in the mixture of the earth. "You- You- You fvcking monster..."

It's coming.

And she can only succumb.

Damn her weakness.

I love you, Sarah... I'm sorry I didn't tell you then...

In a last ditch effort, she is on him again, punching and clawing and gouging, all in a pathetic attempt to end this. She screams obscenities at him, dives as low as possible, wanting nothing more than to fuel his own anger and drive him to act. Claire wants to die, but Jasper has never been in the business of giving her what she wants. Quite the contrary, in fact.

And this would be no different.

With a wail that rips her very being in two, she collapses into his awaiting arms, where she finds tenderness and love and a steadying grip; all the things she doesn't harbor herself, for him. Still, the fire explodes around them, just as much his as it is her own, and as Claire loses control, composure, and the love of her life, she clutches at the one who caused it all by ripping her from her father's home.
June 30, 2019 05:55 pm

Gray Taylor

Gray can feel it all. He is assaulted both by his own emotions and Claire's, his arms wrapped tightly around his little sister as she cries out her frustrations and sorrows. He desires nothing more than to let her know it would be okay, but he can't. He will not lie to her, knowing full well that things hardly ever turn out the way we desire. Even with this in mind, he realizes it is best to try to be optimistic.

After this, she would have Claire. They would be fine. Her hands are clean, she's done everything she could for her, and saved them both. If it were not for Sarah's methods, he might even be proud. She'd played dirty, though, and Gray still does not know what this has cost her. Knowing Jasper had been with her does nothing to ease his concerns.

In the midst of all this, there is some satisfaction. Every second that is delayed is another second of agony for Jasper. No matter how much he truly, deeply loves that man - he wants him to understand. Gray wants him to feel even the tiniest bit of his own pain, and he knows that Claire is fierce enough to ensure it.

The windows vibrate, the rotting floorboards shake and creak, and Gray would slowly turn himself to watch out the window, never once letting Sarah out of his arms. If anything, his hold becomes tighter around her, supporting her all the more.

In the distance, there is light on the horizon.

He can feel the room tense, and it drives Sarah to turn around and face the music.

Minutes tick by, how many he is uncertain, but it finally begins to fade. The destruction is ebbing away from them, and it is with a quiet word that Gray insists they begin to move back to the car. Each one of them gives off their own energy, but the women are both anxious. The only difference is that one is alone, and there is nothing he would do for her.

She is the cause of all of it.

The ride is slow, stops made as they edge in closer to where they would ultimately find Claire and Jasper. More than once, he squeezes his sister's hand and begs her patience. More than once, she insists that it would be okay. She would be okay. She can go out there, and it would be fine. He doesn't quite understand, but he assumes that this is merely her anxiety speaking.

"We've gotten this far, Sarah. Two more minutes, alright?" The look upon her face is one of disbelief, but she ultimately concedes, and a quiet conversation is had between them before they would finally make it to their destination. Outside, Claire and Jasper. Fire dispersed at random, chaos everywhere, devastation that can only match them both. Two blankets are taken, one passed to Mackenzie.

Gray Taylor would step out of the vehicle first, immediately feeling sweat bead upon his brow as his nerves get the best of him in the heat of Claire's fire. Whatever the case, she is his focus now, just as he is sure Jasper is Mackenzie's.

"Claire..." He frowns, incapable of truly looking at her. "I'm sorry.."
June 30, 2019 06:34 pm

Claire Thompson

Claire is a puddle on the ground, marring the desolation and charred earth with her pristine, white - well, angrily red - skin. Ash floats all around them, leaving the odd feeling of early Winter snowfall, even amidst the barren, hot wasteland. Behind her, Jasper sits against a lifeless tree trunk, sparing her as little mind as she, him. There's no telling who had separated from whom, or when, but no sooner had they fallen together than the chasm between them had widened. Irreparably.

There will be no coming back from this, and they both know it.

A tentative hand reaches up to touch the hair she knows is gone. Yet, when her fingers graze smooth skin, the tears start anew, and she hates herself for it. She is not vain; it's just another thing, and for a standalone moment, she is almost grateful that Sarah wouldn't have to see her this way.

She hates herself even more, just for thinking it.

Oblivious to the dirt and ash, Claire pushes her face into the earth to suppress the hollow sob that pulses forth from her chest. It wracks her body, digging deep into her core and dragging out the rest of her sorrow, front and center. Deal with this, it almost seems to say, it's not as though we have anything else left to lose. And she can't argue; Jasper has taken everything from her, save the one thing she no longer wants.

This acrid, meaningless, wasted life.

It's in the throes of her misery that Gray comes to her, and the blanket falls to her sensitive skin, protecting her modesty and itching at her nerves, physically and otherwise. "You betrayed me," she responds instantly, without feeling, as if merely stating a fact. And she is, because what else could his actions have been. "I have nothing... and no one." There's a biting edge to that last bit, as if driving the last nail into their relationship's proverbial coffin.

A soothing shush comes from above her, and for a moment, Claire almost lashes out at the man. How dare he try to quell her emotions, as if he hadn't forced her hand in all of this, effectively ending his own sister's life. But as the familiar weight of not one, but two unseen entities settles onto her still form, she comes to a realization...

They were her liability.

And she failed...

Sitting up, she feels each separate weight shift to accommodate her even as she adjusts the blanket over her naked form. Wide-eyed and trying desperately not to hope, she stares up at him, a pleading look in her gaze. "I still have them." There's a question in there somewhere, unspoken.

Do I still have her?
July 12, 2019 05:36 pm

Gray Taylor

Gray barely pays any mind as Mackenzie exits the vehicle, careful as she moves around random patches of fire as if fearful she might erupt into flames just for existing in this space. His attention is transfixed on Claire, and only Claire. "I know I did. I had to," he whispers, taking the heat easily.

He had betrayed her in so many ways, doing what he thought best. He wonders when she might realize the full extent of his utter bullsh-t.

I have nothing... and no one.

He tries not to let it get to him. He does his very best to let it roll off his back, knowing how untrue that statement is. If the roles were reversed, he'd say the same. A terribly similar circumstance had taken place just before all of this, and the outcome so much the same.

Nothing, and no one.

So he ignores the man slumped against the tree, remembering easily the first time he'd seen him in such a state. Naked mole rat, he'd proclaimed himself. And it had been fine. He'd made it better. What a goddamn lie.

The energy shifts, and Claire sits up, testing some unseen water before looking up at him as if he might hold her entire world within a crushing grip.

"Yes," he whispers. She still has them, and she still has her. The lie had never been his idea, but he played along. Only Sarah had failed to desire to be part of such an atrocious treatment for Claire's pain. He can only hope it worked.

Carefully, he fixes the blanket around her, standing an extending his hand to her to help her to her feet.

"I wanted to tell you."
July 12, 2019 06:22 pm

Mackenzie

There wasn't a plan to be made, here. Mackenzie and Gray both know what they would do when getting to the scene, and it is predictable. As Sarah is begged to stay behind, she waits to tell her why. Just to make sure it is over, she promises. I'll tell you, she says, exiting the vehicle with the blanket in hand.

She wastes no time, gingerly stepping onto the hot earth and around tiny little heaps of hellfire. It takes no time for her to spot Jasper, her priority and concern.

One quick glance around, nerves one edge, she wonders briefly if she would be consumed by fire at any moment. There is no telling if it is truly over, though Mackenzie trusts that their presence is enough to ward off their demise.

"Jasp.." Try as she might, there is no hiding the worry in her tone. Mackenzie is looking over him, draping the blanket over his lap as she crouches down beside him. Sucking in a deep, shuddering breath, her attention is fixated on his face.

His eye.

He'd been so sure..

Jasper had been adamant that Claire wouldn't attack him, and she'd warned him of what a broken heart is capable of. As if he'd needed warning. It is now that she realizes he was mostly quelling both their concerns over the entirety of situation.

"F-ck. Okay. It's okay."

There isn't a single ounce of hesitation as she lifts her wrist to her lips, ripping into her own flesh and bringing forth a swelling of her own blood that is immediately offered to him. "Please, baby.." she would beg of him, quiet and fearful. Her other hand would find a home at the back of his neck, supportive yet seeking just the same.

He seems so far away, and Mackenzie understands wholeheartedly why. "It's done now."

As if remembering, she glances over her shoulder toward the car, giving a soft nod before returning her attention to her husband. There would be no mind to the young woman exiting the vehicle, or the quick and careless steps that bring her further into the scene with a single name upon her lips.
July 12, 2019 06:45 pm

Jasper Thompson

It isn't like any time before.

They'd never lost it... together...

After all is said and done, it takes him a moment to remember why his vision is off. Pain doesn't register. Rather, the physicality of it is dwarfed entirely by the emotional aspect. They'd both let it all go, and while it hopefully lessened the weight on Claire's shoulders, it rests the world on his own.

Elias, Gray, Claire, even Sarah... They are all gone, not just pushed away, but destroyed by his hand. Now, emotionally spent and with nothing left to give, he must simply contend with it, empty-hearted and lower than he's ever been. As if to drive that point home, a low, muffled wail breaks through his psyche, procuring no reaction but settling deep in his soul, to reconvene with him in his dreams.

I'm so sorry, Little One... It's on the tip of his tongue, but his voice has rebeled against him.

The pair remains motionless, even as the car approaches, and Jasper finds no solace in its arrival. Mackenzie follows Gray out, making a beeline for him, but his eyes never leave the spot they've settled on, far off in the distance where nothing demands anything from him.

F-ck. Okay. It's okay.

It's such a comical statement that a hollow laugh bubbles forth, carrying eerily across the desecrated clearing. Yes, it's okay; more than, in fact. This is exactly the outcomes they'd longed for, best possible scenario. He only wishes he'd done more to prepare for what exactly that entailed.

"I'm going to have to wear an eyepatch." Jasper is smiling, trying to find the humor in the situation, but once more, his voice stands in open rebellion, cracking with emotion. Not toward his own vanity, contending with hair loss and heinous eyewear. No, this emotion was fraught with loss and all his betrayals, and learning to live with his self-hatred again.

She offers him her wrist, and he only accepts to appease her.

He drinks for mere seconds, pulling away and taking her hand, if only to stop her from bringing it to his lips again. Stormy eyes search her face, and grateful as he is to her and for her, he hates this next bit. "I have to go away for a while. I have a lot of catching up to do, and our crew deserves some leadership."

Also, I just need to be alone. But that goes without saying.
July 12, 2019 07:08 pm

Claire Thompson

Yes.

A minute shake of her head is all that begs him to not play with her in such a way. She wants to trust him, just as she had before all this, but all this is a lot, and the bond has been badly damaged. But when he stands and offers his hand, coupled with a whispered profession, the dam breaks. Her small face crumples, scrunching into a defiant expression, somehow conveying disbelief and hope all in one twisted mask.

Claire is pulled to her feet, gaze already being called to a ghost's hurrying form by name.

Her knees buckle, her grasp upon Gray tightening that much more, if only to keep her standing. An inhuman sound - one of desperation and overwhelming relief - shakes her small form, and it's all she can do to not fall into another abyss of emotion. "What did you do," she repeats over and over, even as quaking legs close the distance between them. With no attention to modesty, she throws her arms, blanket and all, around Sarah, closing them both in her cocoon of heat and collapsing into a fit of near hysterics. A fragile leaf in her embrace, Claire is mindful to let her companions work, not daring to test the boundaries of whatever had let Sarah live in the wake of her meltdown.

Pulling away only slightly, the girl takes that lovely face in her hands, smiling with blatantly limited understanding through the tears. "Oh, sweet Sarah, my darling girl..." But she is crying again, pulling her back in as if afraid to let go for too long. "I do love you so, and I won't be so naive again to not tell you every chance I get..."

However limited that time may be...

"Do I get to keep you?" It's a whispered question, denoting all her fear and worry toward the possibilities. Claire may be young, not even of this world for a singular decade, but she has experienced far too much loss to think Sarah couldn't be taken from her at any moment.
July 12, 2019 07:34 pm

Sarah Taylor

Sarah had been watching, waiting impatiently, for some form of allowance to make her move. Fingers fidgeting in her lap, she watches the scene unfold as both siblings are tended. It is Mackenzie who gives her the go, and Sarah immediately propels herself from the vehicle. "Claire!" Her name is practically choked out, ash upon her tongue and falling into her hair. Her perfect girl's question is far from lost, but she cannot answer.

She simply does not have one.

How does she tell her what she has done?

Instead, Sarah crashes into her, wrapping her up in a desperate embrace as stressed tears immediately begin to fall, mixing with beads of sweat as warmth consumes her.

"I missed you so much, sweet girl," Sarah would move to duck her head down, intent to bury her face into that perfect space between neck and shoulder, when Claire is pulling away. Instead, her face is taken and Sarah would rest her forehead against hers only momentarily before being enclosed once more in a far too warm, far too comfortable, perfection.

The words that come next only bring forth a choked sob, and she finds that space she'd been seeking. There, hidden away from the rest of the desolation, she cries out all her love for this sweet, quaking girl.

Do I get to keep you?

A moment of silence, gaze lifting just barely enough to catch her brother's retreating form.

"Just this one time," she whispers, arms tightening around her small frame as she lifts her head. A soft kiss is pressed to the pink flesh of Claire's cheek, a moment of preparation had as she tries to decide on how far to even go. There is nothing more that she wants than to tell the truth, whole and complete. But she is scared, and ashamed. "This one time, everything stays the same. And no more worries about small burns, sweet girl. It's okay. You won't hurt me."

It is such a strange thing, to be sorrowful and grateful all at once. Sarah wishes she could shield Claire from such a thing within her gaze, but it is impossible as she meets her eye. "I love you, Claire... I didn't know what else to do. But it's okay. I promise. It'll be okay. You're okay. We are okay."
July 12, 2019 07:59 pm
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