This is Issue #7 of DeathWatch, Book II: tentatively called Heart Of Ilona, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find DeathWatch, the first in the series, or start from the beginning of Book II!
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“He spoke of me?” Danival said, his expression full of wonder. Tiny lines showed around his eyes; they deepened as his mouth shifted into something of a smile.
“He loved you,” Sha said solemnly. “Near as I can tell, anyway,” she noted.
“He liked your beard,” Kieron blurted, tears coming. He put a hand over his mouth and doubled over, somewhere between nauseated and so stricken with grief he couldn’t stand. “I’m sorry,” he said. “He had a tattoo. He was… He had a heart. It was because of you.” He put his hands on his knees, bent over, struggling to breathe, to find his equilibrium.
“Brody,” Garrett said, concerned, reaching out a hand.
“Don’t you touch me!” Kieron snarled, standing, pointing an accusing finger at Garrett. “If you hadn’t stopped me, I could’ve caught him! I would’ve had him! Instead, you interfered, like you always have to–”
“That’s not a fair statement, Brody, you–”
Kieron stood up so quickly, his knees and spine crackled like a young sapling iced over in an early frost. He swayed, panting. “Yeah?” The rage on Kieron’s face was startling to both Sha and Danival; the boy looked positively sick with it. “Who helped Jet follow me, huh? If you had just made him stay, helped him understand it was important that he stay,” Kieron said, almost choking on the words. “But no, you probably drove him to the airfield yourself, didn’t you? You promised me you’d take care of him!”
Garrett’s cheeks burned. He looked down at the floor, struck with shame. It had all seemed reasonable. It had all seemed like something he could accomplish, without worry, without fear, without having to notify anyone, without having to face the shame of looking Ellison Brody in the eye and needing to say the words ‘I’m sorry — I let your son go off to die,’ without having to stand beside the casket and watch them fold the Centralis flag into its sad little shape, and be handed off to a grieving mother. Had he really been so arrogant as to think he could fix such a grave mistake, by himself?
Kieron stood before Garrett, taller, leaner, harder — he had no round baby face anymore. He had no softness anymore. He was made of muscle and fury and grief, and he simply couldn’t contain it. He looked as though at any moment he would tear himself apart
“Brody, I–” Garrett began, lifting his eyes to look at the young man he’d tutored. The young man who had come to him in the night to confess his plan. The young man who’d come in the wee hours, to confirm he was leaving. The young man who’d proven he could see Death, and so Garrett had finally taken him at his word.
“What,” Kieron growled. “What’ve you got to say to me?” His babyblue eyes stared down Garrett, one pupil tiny, they other swallowing the iris. His expression was almost monstrous in its fury, in its misery.
Sha watched Kieron snarling at Garrett, and could not help but feel a sense of righteous anger. Was it true? Did Garrett stop Kieron from saving Nate? If so, why? What could it have accomplished? What was it that Kieron could have done?
“I’m sorry,” Garrett said, looking defeated. “I’m sorry, Brody. I didn’t want you to die, as well. I didn’t want to lose you. I thought there was no way you could’ve reached him, but that if you did, you’d just end up going over the edge with him,” he said, looking morose. He ran a hand through the tangles of his dark hair, and rubbed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose, wondering where he put his glasses. “I’m sorry. I picked to make sure you were safe, and it meant I didn’t pick you or pick letting you have your own choice, and now–”
“And now Nate is fucking dead because of it,” Kieron said, pale, his fists clenched. “Now he’s fucking dead, and what, so is Jet?” Kieron stepped closer, got in Garrett’s face, his teeth clenched, nostrils flaring, eyes narrowed.
Sha moved to get up, and Danival tensed, but Garrett lifted a hand to wave them off. Shut up. Don’t interfere. He’s not wrong.
“Jet’s probably dead too, because of you,” Kieron said, letting the realization hit him, letting the possibility of it sink in. For a moment, his whole world tilted, and he looked ashen, and like he’d be sick, then and there. No. Not him. Anyone but him. The whole world, not him.
Garrett watched it rock him, and he felt his heart break, for the thousandth time, for all the wretched loss endured by those who grieved dead love, from his boyhood, and beyond, until that moment — and all the ones to come. He watched Kieron sway with the roll of the ship, and let the boy stay close, even in his fury. Within arm’s reach to punch also meant within arm’s reach to catch him, should he stumble, in his misery.
“Nate’s dead,” Kieron snarled. “And Jet’s dead, and what do you have to say to me?” His voice rose in pitch and volume; he struggled to rein himself in, knowing damned well he was far too out of control to be reasonable. He wanted to set fire to the world. Jet, dead? No. It couldn’t be. It can’t be. I won’t let it. “What do you have to say?” Kieron shouted, reaching to grab hold of Garrett’s shirt with both fists. “Sorry? Sorry isn’t good enou–!” The end of Kieron’s words were choked off; he sagged, his eyes going glassy.
“Brody?” Garrett said, looking concerned, reaching up to take hold of Kieron’s shoulders. “Kieron?”
“No. No, I’m not done. This isn’t over–” Kieron slurred, fighting it back, struggling to keep from going under. He clutched at Garrett, weak at the knees, and ground his teeth, crying out in frustration as the pull of it overwhelmed him, and try as he might — he slipped.
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