John raced through the meadow, his dark eyes burning as he threw himself through the line of trees, his body landing noisily on the grass that did little to nothing to cushion the blow. Pain rang through his entire body, his teeth clenching against the fire-like sensation that roared through his body. Finally, he picked himself up, staring at the ground with tears bubbling in his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he whispered to the ground, his eyes darkening as they burned with humiliation and a soul-deep ache that made him seem years older than he actually was.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t good enough …” he whispered brokenly, throwing himself against the sliver of cloth that he’d pinned to the ground on his last visit. He clenched the silk between his fingers, inhaling deeply as he committed her scent to memory. It was faint; the smell of sunlight and roses that hit his glands was weak, but it was still there, and it still made his throat tighten and his eyes water.
Behind him, the trees rustled cautiously, a slight breeze sending them swaying in one direction before the sound of a twig snapping made John tense almost instantly. His muscles were contracted, and ready, his hand itching to pull the knife that was hidden in a holster on his belt. “John… what’re you doing here?” the familiar voice made John collapse onto the ground again, both his hands and the dark cloth on his knees staining at his almost clumsy movements.
The man that walked out of the shrubbery was just as pale as John, his pale hair glinting in the sunlight as he turned bright green eyes to the younger man who had yet to shift from his position on the ground.
“What do you want, Kieran?” John’s voice was hoarse as he stilled; his back to the older man as he spoke. “You can’t continue like this …” Kieran was firm as he approached the younger man, one hand reaching down to yank the slumping figure upwards easily. John gritted his teeth against the pain as he was pulled up, staggering to his feet when the older man released his collar suddenly.
“She wouldn’t want you to be like this …” the voice that was speaking to him had softened considerably, and the arm that had pulled him up rested on his shoulder bracingly. “If I wasn’t such a failure … she would still be here …” John’s voice was desolate as he looked up to the man.
Personally, Kieran hadn’t yet seen a person who had eyes like John’s. His pale brown eyes had darkened to a dark chestnut; and the orbs that had once shown the cheerful smile his lips could not, were blank. It was almost as if he’d pulled the curtains to hide the turmoil that was surely brewing inside of him, and the comparison made Kieran want to rip his hair out by the roots.
“John … I don’t want to see you at the house anymore … take a trip … get away from nature,” the bond man’s voice was firm as he spoke, and a small part of John wanted to thank him even when the rest of him burned with anger and sadness.
“But …” John tried to argue, but his lips stopped moving at one glare from the honey-haired man. “No arguments … John … I can’t see you like this anymore … and I know that no one else can as well,” he put a firm hand on his shoulder, and led him out of the shrubbery, plucking the scarf from the ground and pushing it firmly into the other man’s arms.
“We’ve never stopped looking, you know …” the normally-harsh man’s voice was almost soothing as he spoke to John, leading the former-Protector out of the darkness and into the sunlight that burned, and almost blistered his pale skin. “Thank you,” John mumbled as he stumbled away from the man and towards the large building that was veiled with vines and trees that appeared to almost meld with the stone structure.
“It will do you some good,” Kieran muttered as he watched the younger boy nod to a few people in greeting before he scrambled out of the sun and into the shade.
John stepped cautiously off the platform, his over-sensitive ears still ringing from the shrill whistling he’d had to listen to on his journey. Looking up, he read through the boards before heading down to a set of stairs, one hand clenched tightly around his bag and the other holding the front of the over-sized coat he’d managed to wheedle out of Kieran closed to keep the cold out.
He slowed down when he reached the roads, his eyes widening when he caught sight of the smooth-walled building that towered over him. One glance at the building beside him told him that it would be almost impossible to climb bare-handed, and another glance to the noisy street in front of him told him that he was in a situation where he’d be seen hundred times over.
John shook his head before he was shoved aside, a semi-bald man glaring at him before a torrent of people flooded around him. Calming himself, he took a deep breath and stared around the area, taking in the over-dose of sounds, images and smells that thundered through his senses.
“Better late than never,”