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Just In Time

 
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Aurelia
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 01, 2015 5:20 pm    Post subject: Just In Time Reply with quote

The long distance phone call had come as something of a shock, considering it had come from Oxford, England, where Ian had grown up, where his mother had been buried, and where his father still lived in the family's estate - or so he'd believed until he received that phone call informing him of his father's declining health. What shocked him even more was the fact that his father had been asking for his only son in recent days, as though he knew the end was near. Was it forgiveness he wanted in his last days of life or something else? Whatever it was, for good or bad, Ian could not find it in his heart to deny his father this one last request, and so, he and Aurelia had packed their bags and boarded a plane to England with anxious hearts.

Traveling with an infant only one month old wasn't ideal, but Aurelia had outright refused to let Ian make this trip by himself. No wonder they had not been able to raise an answer when they had called after returning from Avalon; she couldn't help wondering how long Ian's father had been hospitalized before that family friend had made the decision to contact Ian in the first place. A well placed call to Rhys and Natalya had at least gotten them a direct flight in First Class, allowing them time and space, with the least amount of hassle, to prepare for whatever they were going to be walking into.

The flight across the ocean gave them both time to think, and Ian time to reflect on all the ups and downs of the rocky relationship he shared with his father. He had never quite been able to pinpoint what had gone wrong or why his father seemed so angry with him all the time, but he knew it had something to do with his mother's death some years earlier. That, and the fact that Ian had never quite been able to please his father, it seemed. The man had scoffed at his son's boyhood interests in King Arthur and he had not budged, even when Ian had chosen Medieval Studies for his Undergraduate Degree, eventually going on to earn a Ph.D. for his dissertation on Arthurian Lore. Even when Ian had been recognized as one of the foremost experts on the subject, his father would not budge or concede that he was proud of his son in the least.

As for Aurelia, she didn't know the ins and outs, the ups and downs. She only knew what Ian had told her, which was remarkably little for a man who was quite happy to talk for hours about any subject that interested him. But she knew it hurt him to be so estranged from his father. She could only hope that the news of his marriage, the birth of his first child, would be enough to close a little of the rift between them, before nature took its course and ended any hope of a reconciliation at all.

He hadn't managed to get much sleep on the plane, unlike Morgan who had slept like the angel she was. He knew the jet lag was going to be hell for all of them, but it couldn't be helped. There was a car waiting for them at Heathrow to take them to his father's estate where they could drop off their bags and get settled into the suite of rooms that had been prepared for them. Though it felt like the middle of the night, it was already mid-morning in London with the hustle and bustle of people on their way to work and school and daycare and breakfast.

What little sleep they had snatched would just have to do. It didn't take long to throw their bags into the rooms and return to the car that was waiting for them. Aurelia could understand the sense of urgency. A world of what ifs floated in front of them, but the worst was this ... what if they were too late?

The meager breakfast they'd had on the plane would just have to do for now. They could catch a bite at the hospital along with some much-needed coffee. Of the three of them, it was Morgan who seemed most content and least upset by their travels, but then babies were far more resilient than most people gave them credit for, so long as they were cared for. Ian had been quiet for most of the trip, a little lost in his own thoughts. Even now, as they gathered themselves once again for the final leg of the voyage, he was quiet, unsure what to say, unsure what he was going to find when they finally arrived.

At least they were headed to a private hospital. As much respect as Aurelia had for Britain's NHS, she had been relieved to discover that Ian's father was being cared for under private health-care. It meant less hustle and bustle, more privacy. It meant that Ian and his father would have a chance to talk without worrying about anyone overhearing them. And it meant that the hospital itself would not be a place of stress, not packed with overworked and underpaid staff who did the best they could. With Morgan tucked close in her arms, they entered the hospital together, directed up to one of the spacious wards and asked to wait while the nurses checked to make sure Mr. Evans, Senior, felt able to have visitors. Aurelia touched her husband's arm gently. "How are you feeling, mon coeur?"

"Tired," Ian replied, honestly. That one word seemed to imply so much more than he was saying. It wasn't just weariness of the body, but that of the heart and mind and soul. It had been a long trip, but it wasn't so much the miles that were wearing at him, but the worry and the grief. "Anxious," he added. "I'm not sure why. I'm a grown man, and he's ..." He trailed off, not finishing that thought. He's what? Old? Sick? Dying?

Shifting Morgan onto her other side, she wrapped her arm about him, touching her cheek to his shoulder. "Try to forget the words that went before," she offered him advice gently. "He has been asking for you, for his son. And you have been aching for him, whether you admit to it or not. You both need to see each other. Harsh words cannot dissolve the bond of blood, mon coeur. Whatever else you are, he is your father, and you are his son. Do not let him go into this alone. That is not the man you are."

"What am I supposed to say, Ree?" he asked, turning his glance to her, even as she rested her head against his shoulder. She was his heart and his soul and and his conscience there was no one he loved or trusted more. "I hardly know him anymore. After everything that's happened between us ... What does he want from me? Forgiveness?" Though he might never forget, was it ever too late to forgive?

"It could be that he wants to be certain for himself that you are looked after, that you are well-placed," she said gently. "Or, yes, he could wish for forgiveness. There is much to forgive on both sides, words that should not have been spoken but for the pain that urged them into the light. You have wonderful things to tell him, Ian. About your friends, and our marriage, and your daughter - his grand-daughter - such things are good news, even if there is little time to enjoy them. Try not to focus on the discomfort of before. Look back to the good memories you both share."

Good memories? When were there ever good memories? Before his mother died, perhaps. She'd been the one who seemed to have held the family together. It was only after she was gone that everything had fallen apart. "I suppose," he admitted grudgingly, though it was hard remembering that far back. It was as if his mother's death overshadowed all those happy memories.

Aurelia smiled gently, leaning over to kiss his cheek. She could understand the difficulty - her relationship with her stepmother had been awful, and after her father's death, she'd left that house for good, never looking back. But there were good memories from her childhood there, if she looked for them.

There was a knock on the door, and a smiling nurse greeted them. "Mr. Evans? Your father would like to see you."

He was at least glad he had Aurelia there to be his voice of reason and to lift his spirits when they were down, but facing his father again after so many years and so much conflict was something he had to do on his own, at least this first time. He nodded acknowledgment to the nurse before turning back to Aurelia. "Will you wait for me here?" he asked her, knowing she would.

"Of course, mon coeur," she promised him affectionately. "It is about time I fed her again, anyway. We will pass the time without you." Her hand caught his, squeezing gently. "And we will come, when you need us to."

"Soon," he promised her with a strained smile, giving her hand a gentle squeeze in return. "He should know he has a grand-daughter." He leaned over and kissed both his loves - Aurelia on the lips and Morgan on the forehead. "I won't be long," he promised before moving to his feet to follow the nurse to his father's room.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 01, 2015 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The hospital was quiet, at least. No rushing feet or the sound of machines bleeping excitedly in the background. But it was a quiet that felt morbid; a quiet that was made for people to die in, as peacefully as they were able. The room the nurse led Ian to was spacious and warm, dominated by a bed in which his father lay, propped against pillows. Ian Evans, Senior, looked old and frail, a shadow of the man he had been, dwarfed by the bedclothes and the book lying over his legs. He looked up as the nurse showed his son into the room, a weak smile crinkling the skin around his eyes.

And suddenly all Ian had to do was see the weak smile on that old familiar face and everything he and his father had ever argued about seemed insignificant and unimportant. "Hey, Dad," he said as he stepped close, reaching to take hold of his father's frail and wrinkled hand, mirroring a weak smile of his own.

"Ian." Even the voice was nothing to what it had been, weaker and starved of energy. Life and its complications had taken their toll on the old man in the bed. Perhaps it was just as well that phone call had been made, after all. "It's been ... too long."

"It has," Ian agreed, wondering if there was any truth to the saying that it was better later than never. He supposed it was, but he wished he'd swallowed his pride a long time ago - he wished they both had. "Are they treating you well? Are you comfortable? Is there anything you need? Anything I can get you?" he asked, a flurry of words that betrayed his anxiety.

His father shook his head slowly, frail fingers tightening on Ian's hand as though to make sure he wasn't about to hurry away again. "You're here," he said, his voice cracking painfully as he drew in a struggling breath, an unpleasant rattle in his throat as he breathed out. "That's all ... I need. How ... are you?"

Ian dragged a chair close and settled himself in it, never letting go of his father's hand for a second. "I'm good actually. I, uh ... You're a grandpa. We named her Morgan Viviane. She's outside if you'd like to see her." He didn't bother to explain the name, feeling no need. Whether his father approved or not no longer mattered. "Her mother is a wonderful woman. I think you'll like her."

A rattling laugh wracked the toast-rack chest for a moment, amusement sparkling in the tired eyes. "You had a ... a child?" he asked, surprised by the news, but not surprised that he had not been told. "And married? She must be ... a special ... woman. I remember a boy who said ... said he would never get ... married."

Ian chuckled a little, giving his father's hand a gentle squeeze. "You can't very well hold me to that. I was six, and I thought I'd never find anyone I loved as much as ..." He broke off for a moment, hesitant for a moment to mention the woman they had both loved and whose death had broken them both so deeply that their own relationship had never been the same. "As much as Mom."

The smile faded from his father's face, but for once, there were no recriminations, no angry words. Just a low sigh, and the suggestion of tears in an old man's eyes. "She was a good woman," he said quietly. "I miss her."

"I know you do. We both do," Ian replied, not wanting to make an argument or a contest out of it. His father had loved her like a husband and a best friend and a lover, and Ian had loved her like a devoted son, equally but differently. Ian said nothing for a long moment, his chest aching with guilt and grief. He'd noticed the tears in his father's eyes and knew how much pride it must be costing him. "I'm sorry, Dad. I should have called. I should have kept in touch."

"That fault is mine," his father insisted, coughing for a long moment as he struggled to catch his breath, his free hand scrabbling for a box of tissues that was just out of reach. "I was ... too proud, too ... stubborn. I shouldn't have ... said the things I said."

Ian reached for the box of tissues and handed his father a few, feeling a mix of pity and guilt and sympathy for the man he had been angry with for so long. The apple didn't fall far from the tree, it seemed, and he suddenly felt foolish for holding onto his own stubborn anger for so long. Why did it take his father's mortality to finally draw the two men back together? "What's done is done. It doesn't matter anymore. You're still my father. Nothing will ever change that."

Taking the tissues, the old man wiped his mouth, disguising the phlegm as best he could. He hated that his body had let him down so badly; that a lifetime of little more than books and dusty libraries had brought him to his before he'd reached eighty. "Morgan Viviane, you say," he said, leaving their apologies to one another unsaid. They weren't really necessary, not now. "Arthurian names."

"Yes," Ian replied, unable to deny that to the man who knew him so well, who knew of his lifelong interest in the subject. As much as he wanted to, he had a feeling revealing Avalon's secrets would serve no purpose. It was unlikely the Lady would allow him entry and even more unlikely his father would ever believe him. Was his father disappointed that they not named their daughter after Ian's mother or did he understand the reason Ian had not suggested it? "They're good names. Noble names," he said, trying hard not to sound too defensive.

His father smiled faintly, his free hand moving as though to calm him down. "I meant no ... no criticism," he assured his son. "I've been ... following your career. I ... I am not surprised you would ... name your daughter that way. I am ... am very proud of you, Ian."

"Have you?" Ian asked, looking as startled as he sounded. He had no idea his father might have been following his career, despite his initial and very outspoken feelings against it. They were both scholars, after all, with their own specialty and interests. "Dad, I ..." He trailed off, unsure what to say, unsure how to make all the lost years up to him in a matter of a few minutes or hours or days.

Ian Evans, Sr, pointed toward a chest of drawers set under the window. "Top drawer," he said with an almost wry smile. "Wooden box. Scrap book." It was strange, to hear him speak in such short sentences, a man who had once addressed lecture halls filled with hundreds of people without even needing notes to hold them spellbound for hours at a time. That painful rattle was back in his throat as he breathed slowly, each breath shallow, gradually regaining his composure. "Where is she, then?" he asked mildly. "Your wife."

It was heartbreaking for Ian to see this once vital, once robust man broken, his health failing, but no one lived forever, after all. He laid his father's hand against the bed and moved to his feet to go to the chest of drawers as instructed, unsure what exactly he'd find there - a scrap book of Ian's accomplishments or family memories of happier times. He pulled open the drawer and took out the box that he found there, just as his father had said. "She's here. You can meet her, if you like. Morgan, too. We thought it would be better if I ... if I saw you first." All things considered, that seemed understandable enough. They'd had no idea what to expect when they got here or how cognizant his father might still be.

The old man smiled, nodding in understanding. In Ian's shoes, he would have done the same. Their past relationship had not been the best it could be, after all. "Tell me ... about her," he suggested, watching as his son pulled out the scrapbook in which his father had kept every newspaper clipping, every certificate of achievement, every mention and article from peer-reviewed journals. Everything that touched his son's career was there, carefully contained within those pages.

Ian flipped slowly through the pages in the scrapbook, his back to his father in part so he couldn't see the tears gathering his his son's eyes. He recognized most of what he saw there. He didn't have to read every article or peruse every page to know there was a nearly complete record of Ian's many accomplishments stored within its pages. Despite their differences, despite the fact that his father had not supported Ian's choice of study, he was deeply touched that his father had followed his career so completely without ever telling him so. Ian said nothing for a long moment, not trusting himself to speak. "She ..." he started, unsure again where to begin and having trouble keeping his voice from breaking. "Her name is Aurelia. She's from Belgium," he said, returning the scrap book to the box for safekeeping.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 01, 2015 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"And?" There was a surprising element of mischief in the old man's eyes as he watched and listened. A name and a place of origin didn't tell him what his daughter-in-law was like, or how Ian had met her. It didn't tell him how a man he had thought was a confirmed bachelor had been persuaded into marriage and children in the first place.

There was a better way to explain to him what Aurelia was like and that was to have the old man meet her for himself, but Ian wasn't sure if he was quite ready for that yet. "Do you remember a long time ago when I insisted I'd never get married, you told me that someday I'd meet the right woman and know without a doubt that she was the one?"

His father smiled at that memory - a good memory, just as Aurelia had told Ian. They did exist, if you looked hard enough. "I remember," he nodded slowly. "You didn't believe ... me."

"I believe you now," he said, closing the drawer to keep that scrapbook safe, more for his father's benefit than his own. He brushed the stray tears from his face before turning again to face the man who had raised him. "You were right," he said, smiling at the irony in that statement. "I bet you never thought you'd hear me say that."

His father laughed; a rasping, painful sound, but clearly a laugh, despite the coughing fit that followed it. He patted the bed, inviting his son to join him again as he wiped his mouth clean once again with a shaking hand. "I have been ... wrong ... about many things, but ... glad to ... know I was right about ... that."

Ian frowned as he retook his seat beside his father and reached once again for his hand. He frowned at the cough and the way his speech was strained; he frowned that his father felt the need to explain and to apologize for things that were part of the past. "Dad, don't ..." he started. "It's not important anymore. We were both wrong about a lot of things. What's important is that I'm still your son and you're still my father, and nothing is going to change that."

Both those gnarled hands gripped his one as his father breathed in and out with difficulty, emotion just one of the many things that could make it hard to take a decent breath in these days. But just as before, he didn't linger on the apology not quite spoken, changing the subject back once again. "So what makes this one ... the one?"

"It's hard to explain," Ian said. He couldn't very well tell him that she had bewitched him, and that wasn't true, anyway. "She's just special. I, uh, I met her through a friend. I'm not sure I'd say it was love at first sight, but there was a mutual attraction."

"When did you ... know ... you wanted to marry her?" his father asked. Like father, like son; getting details out of Ian was occasionally like getting blood from a stone. But then, he only had himself to blame for that. If they had been closer, perhaps he would have known at the time. Perhaps he would have been at their wedding.

"Honestly?" Ian chuckled. He hadn't really thought about it much until his father mentioned it. "I think I knew almost from the first moment I met her. I know how ridiculous that sounds. She's the first woman who seems to understand me."

"Doesn't sound ... ridiculous ... to me," his father assured him with a smile. "Sounds like she's a ... very special woman, indeed. And a daughter ... how old is she? Can't be very ... last time we spoke ... you were still a ... confirmed bachelor."

Ian frowned again, mostly at his father's obvious difficulty speaking. Though he knew there was still a lot to discuss, he thought the best way to explain how his life had changed was to introduce him to the wife and daughter who had stolen his heart. "She's about five weeks old."

There was a soft cough as his father laughed a little. "Tiny," he said quietly. "And you ... brought her all this way?" The why was unspoken; a question he was afraid to ask, afraid to know the answer to. It hadn't been said aloud, not yet, but they both knew his time could be counted in days.

"Babies are more resilient than most people think," Ian said, especially at that age. All Morgan really needed was her mother's milk, clean diapers, and a place to sleep. It would prove more of a challenge as she got older, but they didn't have to worry about that yet. "Would you like to meet her?"

For the first time since Ian had walked in, there was genuine surprise on his father's face. He blinked, his brows rising high above his eyes as he considered his son. "She's here?" he asked, truly surprised, and touched, that his son had not only rushed his small family from America, but had brought them with him to the hospital as well.

"Yes, of course, she is. We came straight from the airport ..." Ian replied, startled to see the surprise on his father's face at what Ian thought had gone without saying. "They're both here. Aurelia was going to feed her." He wondered if he should get up and go check on Aurelia or wait a little bit longer.

However rocky their relationship had been over the past decades, it seemed as though there was still a heart inside Ian's father. The old man was crying suddenly, deeply touched that his son still cared so much for him that he would go to such lengths just to come when his father needed to see him. "I would be honored to meet your family, Ian. Deeply honored."

"Dad ..." Ian started, giving his father's hand a squeeze, his father's tears breaking his heart. Whatever had gone before no longer seemed to matter. "I-I want you to know ..." he continued, having a hard time getting the words out, words that needed to be said, that hadn't been said in a long time. "I hope you know ..." He paused again, before continuing. "Do you remember that day we flew the kite? How old was I? Six? Seven?"

In the midst of his tears, his father nodded, remembering that day very well. It had been one of the few in Ian's childhood when they had spent a day as a family, and not merely a loose collection of strangers tied together by a surname. "I remember," he nodded, wiping his face dry.

"Remember how high it got and how worried I was that we'd lose it?" Though he had grown to manhood, somewhere inside him was the trusting little boy who'd believed anything his father would tell him. "You remember how you told me that if I let go, it would fly up to heaven? That nothing ever really disappears, it just changes?"

"That even if ... we can't see it, it's ... still there," the old man nodded, holding tightly to his son's hand as he tried to calm himself down. He wasn't used to such an outpouring of emotion these days, unable to hold enough energy to weather such a storm any longer.

Maybe the metaphor wasn't clear enough. It had taken Ian years to accept it and understand it - that even though his mother had died, she wasn't really gone, not so long as he still remembered and loved her, just as his did his father. "I love you, Pop. I just want you to know that." He gave his father's hand another squeeze, letting him know he was right there and would be there with him until the very end.

Clinging to Ian's hand, his father blinked through his tears. He could never have envisioned a moment when he would ever hear his son say those words to him again. Their last parting had been filled with angry words and tempers, filling the years between then and now with stinging silence. "I love you ... too, Ian. Always have ..."

"I know," Ian replied, leaning close to touch his fingers to his father's cheek and gently brush away his tears. His own eyes mirrored those tears, but he was smiling now. It was a high price to pay for this moment, but maybe it really was better late than never. "Let me introduce you to my angels," he told him quietly.
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Aurelia
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 01, 2015 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The old man's smile returned at the prospect of meeting not only the woman who had apparently changed his son's views on matrimony, but also the granddaughter he might never have known existed, were it not for his own weakening health. He patted Ian's hand, nodding. "I should ... very much like that."

Ian thought it should probably be him patting the old man's hand, rather than the other way around. He wasn't a boy anymore, and the tables seemed to have turned somehow, but no matter how poor his health was or how his son had matured, he was still Ian's father. "I'll be right back," he promised, leaning close to touch a fond and slightly protective kiss to his father's brow, for the first time ever.

"Take your ... time," his father assured him. He wasn't going anywhere, after all, and he needed this small reprieve as much as Ian did. It had been a very long time since he had felt like a father, as much due to his own faults as Ian's. He didn't want to disgrace himself in front of his new daughter and grand-daughter.

Ian rose from the chair and stepped back out of the room, reluctant to leave him, if only for a few minutes. He needed a moment to speak with a doctor or nurse, as well, and find out just what his father's condition was.

When he was done with that, Aurelia was easily found. She was still in the waiting room, Morgan's feed done, swaying next to the window with their daughter leaning on her shoulder. Her voice was what drew him to her, the soft cadence of a quietly soothing song keeping their daughter from startling awake as she had a tendency to do and screaming just because she could.

"Ree," he said quietly as he found her, keeping his voice down so as not to startle their daughter. "He wants to meet you and Morgan," he told her quietly with a small sigh that said more about his father's health than any doctor's explanation.

Her voice fading, Aurelia turned to him, reaching out to pull him in close. She didn't need him to tell her how bad things were; she could feel it, in the energy of the place. This was where people came to die, and his father was no exception. Holding Ian close, she stroked his back gently. "Then we will meet him," she told him softly. "And you and Morgan can stay with him while I find us some food. It has been a long time since we ate anything decent."

He nodded his head in quiet acceptance, allowing her to take care of him this once. He wasn't sure how he'd get through this without her. It wasn't just about reconciling with his father, he realized. It was going to be about putting him to rest, too. "You don't mind staying until ..." Ian broke off, not quite ready to say the words that sounded so final in his mind. This was not the place where people came to be healed, but to die quietly and in peace surrounded by those they loved.

"Of course not," she promised him softly, brushing her lips to his cheek. Better late than never, certainly. She was glad he had this opportunity to spend a peaceful time with his father, be it hours or days. Old wounds needed to start healing before there was no chance of ever applying aid. "Come, mon coeur. Let us introduce your father to the next generation of his family."

He had vowed not to name any son of his after himself or his father. He thought it too egotistical, too conceited, but now that he was facing his own father's mortality, he was starting to have a change of heart, at least as far as secondary names were concerned. He said nothing of it to Aurelia, for now. This wasn't the time or place for that discussion, but filed it away in the back of his mind. If they ever had a son, perhaps Arthur Ian would be a good name. He took hold of her arm very gently to guide her back toward his father's room, where the old man was waiting. "He's not doing very well, Ree. He's having trouble talking and he gets winded quickly," he warned so she knew what to expect.

"His clock is winding down," she said quietly, letting him lead her through the hallways to where his father rested in his own private space. "He does not need to talk to Morgan, or to me. We will not mind." She smiled gently, stepping into the room in his wake, a little shocked by how little personality had been stamped on the space. It was an old man in a hospital bed, with no reflection of the man himself at all.

Ian hadn't really noticed that. It took a woman to notice, but perhaps they could do something about that while they were there - make his father feel more at home in the space where he would spend his last days. Once inside, he pushed a second chair near the bed so Aurelia could sit close enough that Ian Senior could get a good look at his grand-daughter.

Just as before, when his son had come into the room, Ian Evans Senior lit up when his son brought Aurelia and their daughter into view. The woman was beautiful, yes, but it was not so much her looks as the sense she brought with her of utter confidence and peace that made an impact on the old man as he met her smile with his own.

"Bonjour, monsieur," she greeted him, moving to lean down and kiss the paper-thin skin at his forehead without needing an invitation. "Here is your grand-daughter." She didn't give either man the opportunity to object - Morgan was laid down in her grandfather's lap to flail and gurgle, blinking up at the aged face that looked down at her.

As Aurelia stepped back to take Ian's hand once again, his father looked down at the tiny baby, utterly charmed at first sight. "Ian, she's ... beautiful."

Ian watched silently as Aurelia charmed her way into his father's heart - it was like love at first sight again, at least as far as their daughter was concerned, and he couldn't help but feel proud at the praise given the tiny baby. Of course, she was beautiful. She was her mother's daughter, after all. "She takes after her mother," Ian replied, smiling warmly, glad that Aurelia was here with him and giving her hand a squeeze to tell her so.

"And her father," Aurelia interjected, kissing Ian's hand before releasing him. She wanted to explore the room a little, to see whether or not Ian Senior had brought anything with him that might give this space some of his own personality.

The old man seemed utterly enthralled by his grand-daughter, tickling her tummy as she gurgled up at him. "Truly ... lovely," he complimented his son. "Both of them."

Ian let Aurelia go so she could explore, though he wasn't quite sure what she was up to exactly. He could have told her about the box in the dresser drawer, but he didn't want to draw attention to his father's private possessions. Instead, he reclaimed the chair closest the bed, leaning close to let his baby girl grab hold of his pinky finger, still beaming that smile of fatherly pride, a trace of tears in his eyes at the bittersweetness of it all. He'd vowed not to cry, not here, not now. He'd cry later, when his father wasn't there to witness his tears. "I'm a very lucky man," Ian agreed as they both beheld the young child before them, wriggling and gurgling with life.

"You are," his father agreed, letting Morgan suck on his fingertip as he smiled down at her. He'd never really thought of himself as ever having the chance to be a grandfather, and though some men might have been disappointed that their first grandchild was a girl, he couldn't have been more pleased. "You're staying on ... on the estate?"

"Yes, if that's all right," Ian replied, a little tentatively. He hadn't been to his father's estate in years and it felt a little strange to be back. He didn't want to admit that he didn't really have the money to stay very long in a hotel, though he knew Rhys and Nat would have happily put them up in the best hotel in town, more than happy to spend their fortune on friends. He didn't want to admit to his father than sometimes happiness wasn't all about money, and while the college paid him decently enough, he wasn't getting rich anytime soon.
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Aurelia
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm


Joined: 23 Feb 2010
Posts: 130
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Can Be Found: Huntingdon, PA
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 01, 2015 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Of course it is," his father nodded. "It is ... your home, Ian. Should have been a ... better home. But it's yours. What's the good of ... having money ... if you can't ... look after the ones you love?" The staff on the estate, though their numbers had been cut to the bone in his infirmity, would be more than happy to look after Ian and his little family, for as long as they stayed there. "Have you ... eaten?"

Aurelia looked up from her inspection of the bare wardrobe with a faint smile in Ian's direction. Was he going to admit to just how much of a hurry they'd been in?

Ian frowned a little, mostly at the difficulty his father was having saying those few words, the effort it cost him, but at least, they were talking. His brows crinkled further at his father's question, wondering why he was worrying about them when he should be worrying about himself. "We're fine, Dad. We ate on the plane," Ian replied, though he knew Aurelia was likely hungry. At least, one of the three of them seemed content.

"If you can call it food," his wife added in a comical tone, earning a wheezing laugh from the old man in the bed. "I should go and find us something that does not taste like cardboard." She kissed Ian's temple, moving to leave the men to Morgan in search of something edible for them.

Ian's father coughed, turning his face away from the baby on his lap as he grinned. "I like her," he informed his son cheerfully. "What does she ... do?"

Ian knew better than argue with the woman, and besides, he was hungry. He just hadn't realized it until now. He smiled gratefully up at his wife, watching as she turned to leave the room, before looking back at his father to contemplate an answer to his question. What does she do? Good question. He couldn't very well tell him the truth. "She takes care of me," he replied, though he knew that was not what the old man meant.

His father smiled, reaching out to take his hand as Morgan dozed off with a little sigh. "It is good ... to know ... you're taken care of," he admitted reluctantly. "I should have ... done that myself."

Ian looked back at his father with regret in his eyes. He did not want either of them spending his father's last days regretting a past that couldn't be changed. He gave his father's hand a fond squeeze, holding on as long as he wished it, remembering a time when he was small and his father would take his hand in his, fond and protective of his only son. How had he ever let them lose touch? "You did. You were a good father. I was a stubborn son who needed to find his own way in the world. Can you forgive me?"

"Oh, Ian ..." The regret and guilt in the old man's eyes was powerful, a sadness that seemed transcend his fragile state as he clung to his son's hand. "There is ... nothing to forgive. You and I ... we're too alike ... too similar, but ... you have always had ... your mother in you. I was jealous ... of that. I couldn't ... let go of her, and ... I pushed you away for ... being like her. For loving myths and legends, and ... If I could take it back, all of it ..."

"Dad, don't ..." The younger Ian pleaded, tears threatening again. He thought perhaps he should trade explanations with one of his own, more profound and more honest than any other excuse he had given before. "When Mom died," he started, taking a deep breath before going on, shaking his head as if the rest went without saying. They'd both been devastated by her death, but instead of it bringing them closer together, it had torn them apart. "She was right, you know ..." he told his father quietly. Maybe he would choose not to believe him, but here, at the twilight of his father's life, he thought the man at least deserved to know the truth. "There is magic in the world, if you only open your eyes to see it."

"I know." A strange thing for a man who had always been fixated on provable facts to say, perhaps, but there was clarification in what he said next. "I saw it when she looked at you. I ... I see it in the way ... you look at your wife. And in ... this little darling. Magic is ... where you find it. I never ... never let myself look."

"Yes, but there's more, Dad. I mean real magic. There's so much out there that we don't understand, that we don't know about. There's good and evil in the world, Dad. I know it sounds crazy, but it's all real. All of it. Every myth, every legend ... It's all based on truth, and it's all there to see, if you only look for it. I know because I've seen it with my own eyes. And death? It's nothing but a door to another world, another life, another state of being," he said as he leaned closer, hoping his father would take his words to heart and find comfort in them, not dismiss them merely as wishful thinking.

His father did not look convinced. "All my life ... I've needed proof," he told his son, too old, too worn out to be angry or offended. "I may be ... running out of life ... but I still need proof, son. Your mother ... hated it." He smiled a little at that, wishing he'd ever had even half the childlike will to believe that Ian and his mother had shared.

Ian could not prove that there was life after death. He could not open a door to the afterlife and give his father a glimpse anymore than he could take him to Avalon or summon his mother's spirit to come and take his hand, but there were other ways to prove that life wasn't only defined but what could be seen and heard. "I might be able to give you that, finally," he told him with the hint of a smile that was almost amused.

The old man chuckled, one hand resting on Morgan's stomach as she sighed in her sleep, sucking on her own fingers now. "Proof of magic," he mused through his smile. "At my time of life ... seems like a good way to ... go out with a bang."

"Better to go out with a bang than a whimper, don't you think?" Ian countered, with a bittersweet smile on his face. It wasn't triumph he was feeling so much as a desire to give his father some comfort in his last days.

"Do not go gentle into that good night," his father quoted quietly, a wry smile on his aged face. "Old age should ... burn and rave at close ... of day; Rage ... rage against the ... dying of the light ..." He smiled faintly. "Wise words."

Aurelia's voice interceded as she returned. "Only for men who are not at peace," she said, slipping back into view with a tray loaded down with sandwiches and snacks. She shrugged apologetically to Ian Senior. "They told me not to let you have any, I am sorry."

It made Ian's heart ache to know his father felt that way about dying, and yet, he thought anyone would feel that way, if they weren't ready to go yet, if they didn't feel at peace or that their life was complete. How many people were not granted a time like this - to prepare, to make amends, to say goodbye - he wondered. Was it better this way or the other? He blinked out of his reverie as Aurelia returned with something to fill their empty bellies. "I didn't want to complain, but I'm not sure what we had for breakfast could be called food."

His father waved a hand briefly. "I don't ... have the energy to chew," he admitted, ashamed of this fact but accepting it as an inevitability of his life coming to an end. "Eat ... you look as though you ... need to."

Setting the tray down on the table nearest to Ian, Aurelia claimed a ploughman's sandwich for herself, taking her seat beside her husband as she glanced between the two men with a smile. "You seem more comfortable."

Ian grabbed a sandwich, not really caring what kind it was. He trusted Aurelia to know his preferences well enough that she wouldn't have bought something he hated, and he wasn't eating for the sake of enjoyment, but necessity. It felt rude eating in front of his father, but if they didn't eat something soon, it was likely the might both collapse from hunger. At least, Morgan was content. "I was just telling Dad about magic," Ian told her, hoping she got the hint that he was trying to be as honest as he could with his father without telling him more than he needed to know.
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Aurelia
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm


Joined: 23 Feb 2010
Posts: 130
See this user's pet
Can Be Found: Huntingdon, PA
9771.16 Silver Crowns

Items

PostPosted: Sat Aug 01, 2015 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aurelia caught the look in his eyes, smiling faintly. "Ah, magic," she nodded. "The real thing, that flows through my veins."

Ian's father looked at her as though she'd grown a second head. "Your ... veins?" he asked, glancing at his son. Maybe his first impression of his son's wife had not been the right impression. "But ... that would mean ..." He looked down at Morgan, sleeping on his chest.

Aurelia smiled gently, nodding. "Your granddaughter is a witch, a true witch, monsieur. As am I."

Ian was a little surprised that his wife had chosen to be that honest with his father, but it was her secret to tell, not his. "Not the kind with green skin and warts," he added with a wry grin, nor was she the kind who rode a broom or had ever gone to Hogwarts. "She hasn't shown any signs of it yet. She's too young," he continued, regarding their daughter.

His father looked between them, torn between incredulity and fear. Aurelia rose, setting her sandwich aside as she sat down on the bed, reaching for his hand. "Magic is not good or evil," she told him gently, trying to explain before he panicked. "It is a force. Like electricity, or water. Some people have the ability to use that force, naturally." Her eyes met his, warm and sincere. "I will never hurt you, monsieur. But I can show you real magic."

Holding to her hand, the old man looked over to his son worriedly, not entirely sure what Ian had got himself into.

Ian went about eating his sandwich, as if the idea of his wife and daughter possessing magic was the most normal thing in the world. He met his father's gaze, however, and offered a reassuring if slightly amused smile. "It's all right. She's my wife. You can trust her," he assured the old man.

"Watch." Aurelia raised her free hand, palm up, and concentrated. For a brief moment, there was a suggestion of that transparent blue sphere that was her shield around her hand, before the energy coalesced into a collection of dancing blue lights, hovering over her palm. "Real magic comes from within. It is who I am that shapes what I can do."

Ian's father stared, transfixed by the dancing lights he had seen just appear above Aurelia's hand. He didn't know what to say, how to react, and yet his son was completely relaxed in the face of such a wonder. Even his grand-daughter had roused, watching the lights with familiar enjoyment.

"It's nothing to be afraid of," Ian assured his father further, knowing the first proof that magic was real was likely to be something of a shock to the man, especially to a man who had always scoffed at such things. They weren't showing him these things to frighten him or even to prove him wrong, but to give him insight into a world of wonder and comfort that there was more to life than just birth and death. "You can touch it, if you like."

Lowering her hand from beneath the dancing lights, Aurelia let them move toward the old man's hand as his fingers rose toward them. It took a lot of trust, a lot of courage, to reach out and touch, to feel the gentle tingle of real magical energy against his skin. He let out a breath, fast and sharp, shocked and astounded.

"It's real," he breathed, glancing between Ian and Aurelia quickly. "Magic is ... is real."

There were a lot more things in the world that his father might find astonishing besides magic, but there wasn't enough time to share them all. At least, there was this, and once one believed in magic, it opened the door to so many other possibilities. "Would you believe me now if I told you I met an angel?" Ian dared.

Enthralled by the dancing lights as they played over his skin, it was a long moment before his father answered, but the answer that came was assurance enough that one step in the right direction did not change everything in an instant. He eyed his son in amusement. "Was it called Clarence?"

He had, in fact, met two angels, if he was counting Rhys, but that wasn't who he had in mind. Ian chuckled a little at his father's reaction, thinking that might have been pushing his beliefs a little too far. "No, his name is Zach." He let it go at that, letting his father take all of this in in small doses. It was probably hard enough for him to believe his daughter-in-law and grand-daughter were possessed of magic, much less anything else.

"Zach ... of course." The old man chuckled, turning his face away as he coughed once again. The lights fled from his hand as he reached for a tissue, wiping his mouth carefully. "Your mother ... she would have ... liked to know that ... magic is real."

Smiling gently, Aurelia slipped from the bed back to her seat, glad she had been able to help just a little in giving him some peace, at least.

Ian exchanged a look of concern with Aurelia as she retook her seat, knowing there wasn't much they could do for the old man's suffering that the doctors and nurses weren't already doing, except make sure he wasn't along and bring him what comfort they could. "She knows now," Ian said quietly, before he could stop himself. He didn't believe death was final, and he hoped he could help his father find peace in that belief, even if he didn't share it. "Death is life's greatest adventure," he murmured quietly, though he wasn't quite ready for that last adventure himself.

"She would have ... loved to know ... that her grand-daughter is a ... a little witch," his father chuckled, taking a long moment to regain his breath before he spoke again.

Aurelia caught Ian's glance, gentle sadness in her eyes. At this point, there was nothing that could be done but to make sure that his father wasn't in any pain. She could help with that, if she had access to the right herbs.

"Think I'm ... about ready for that ... adventure," the old man said quietly, his expression close to loving as he looked at his son. "It's good to ... see you, Ian."

"I would have come sooner, had I know. I should have come sooner," he corrected himself, reaching for his father's hand once again, now that his stomach was satisfied enough to hold him a while. But he didn't want to wander into the the realm of guilt and remorse and regret again, not now when they were so close to forgiveness and reconciliation. Why did it have to come to this for that to happen, he wondered with a pang of regret. "When you get there ..." Ian trailed off a moment, finding it difficult suddenly to find his voice, to form the words. "Tell Mom ..." He turned away a moment as he struggled for control of his emotions.

"She knows, Ian." His father's smile was sad, but understanding, letting his son hold his hand for as long as he needed to, however surprised he was to find himself in the role of comforter. "If she knows ... about magic ... she knows ... our hearts."

It took a few minutes before Ian was able to answer, but he nodded his head in response and wiped a hand across his face to dry his tears. Aurelia would no doubt see more of that later, but for now, he was trying very hard to be brave - to be English, even; to make his father proud. "I suppose she does," he admitted. "I envy you in a way, but I'm not ready to go with you."

Quite suddenly, his father's grip was vice-like, a sharp burst of strength to underline a point. "Don't make the mistakes I made," he warned Ian, his voice rough with the need to be heard and understood. "Don't lose yourself to your work and forget to live. You deserve ... you deserve better, than to die a lonely old man ... who didn't even think ... his son would care that he was ... dying."

Startled by the man's unexpectedly strong grip, coupled with what was almost a scolding, Ian's eyes widened, taking his father's words to heart, a little surprised to know the man had thought his son no longer cared. "Dad, not a day goes by that I haven't thought of you. Aurelia can attest to that. And ..." He looked briefly to Aurelia for confirmation. "I don't think you have to worry about me ever being lonely." Not so long as he had Aurelia and their daughter, but this wasn't about him. It was about making his father's last days memorable, enjoyable, peaceful. "We have a lot of time to make up for. I hope you don't mind listening to me talk because I have a lot to tell you."

His father relaxed back against the pillows, glad to have said what needed to be said before he ran out of time and energy to do it. "Be happy," he told them quietly. As for listening, it didn't seem as though he would have a problem with that, smiling at the enthusiasm with which Ian seemed so eager to share his life with him once again.

"I am happy," Ian assured him, giving his hand another squeeze, coupled with a warm, reassuring smile. It was as honest an answer as he could give him. No, he wasn't happy that his father was dying, that they had waited too long for this moment, but he was happy he was at peace, happy he could bring him that, and happy he had Aurelia and Morgan to share it with them both.

"Tell me ... everything."

Aurelia's smile grew at the old man's suggestion, urging Ian to draw his chair closer to his father and just talk. All they needed now was to talk, to share what needed to be shared. They might be running out of time, but they still had a little time to reconnect. It wasn't much, but it would have to be enough.

Ian smiled at his father's request and pushed his chair closer. There was a lot to tell him and not a lot of time, but he got the feeling his father would wait to hear all of it over the next few days and maybe it would fill the emptiness in him, help him to understand his son better, and bring him some peace in knowing he was leaving behind this small legacy that was his family. A small legacy that would remember him as their patriarch, with fondness and warmth, even as they went on to spread true magic through the world with each generation that was to come. When you got right down to it, that wasn't such a bad way to be remembered.

((Sad, but happy. Bittersweet, I suppose. Just you wait ... there's sadder to come! But huge thanks to my partner in crime!))
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