Wyl bolted upright and realized his mistake immediately as the room swam in and out of focus. What he could make out…. This wasn’t his room. Where in the…? Panic tightened around his chest as he tried to remember the night before. The last thing he remembered was… leaving the diner and--- A gruff, albeit amused snort caused him to whip around again, feeling his neck protest at the speed.
“Finally awake, are you. I thought you were going to sleep forever.”
His eyes weren’t clear, but he knew that voice. Quite well.
**You! What are you--? Where--?** His mind flashed fear he couldn’t mask to the other elf as he scooted back, away, still wrapped tight in the blankets, feeling the heat of the fireplace behind him, yelping as his hand brushed a hot stone. He let go of the blanket in favor of nursing his palm, and realized something else as it slipped from his bare shoulder. **Where re my clothes? What did you--?**
“On the back of the sofa. After I dried them.” Grenn cut him off, kept his tone even, ignoring the implication that had been in the send. The kid was scared, in an unfamiliar place. “I found you playing catch-me-catch-you with pneumonia out in the rain last night Dragged you here so you’d have a chance to warm up, maybe avoid getting sick.”
‘Too late…’ Wyl thought, eyes now focusing, settling on his hated uniform lain neatly over the back of the couch. Slowly the fog cleared enough for him to remember… **You didn’t have to do that. I would have been--**
“No, I didn’t. But I couldn’t just leave you there, the state you were in. You looked like a dog a step away from death. What were you thinking…?”
The tone was double edged, questioning and admonishing. What had Grenn seen in him that night? Had he seen how low he had been feeling? Or was he being a typical elder and trying to tell him he was stupid for trying to walk in the frigid rain through a bad neighborhood. Either way, he wasn’t in the mood for a lecture. He shrugged, choosing how he wanted to answer, and doing so aloud, knowing he could never mask the lie of where his thoughts were at that moment
“Wasn’t. Just wanted the day to end.”
Grenn wasn’t stupid. That the boy had switched from send to speech meant he was trying to hide something. Wyl’s expression when he found him looked like he wanted more than the day to end. There was an emptiness in his eyes that even now Grenn could see a shadow of. It dulled his pupils, greyed his irises. It was bad enough on the face of an aged mortal. On a young immortal, it was haunting. Elves who took that look so early in life…
“Let me guess. Life isn’t going the way you planned it? Not even close. Am I right?” Grenn looked at Wyl, saw confirmation in the eyes staring up at him, then went on, not giving him a chance to answer “That’s the nature of life, kid. You make plans, life laughs and does as it will. Mortal, immortal. Life’s got a way of coming in and messing with you. But you survive, and you go on, and you learn from it.”
**Yeah?** The boy’s lip curled a little **Maybe I’m tired of suffering because life as a fucked-up sense of humor.**
“Boy, you don’t know the meaning of the word. You may have a lot of disappointment that things aren’t all dreamberries and roses, but—”
**What do you know about what I’m going through? You don’t have any idea how much—**
Grenn had lived long enough to have buttons. And this was one, and one pushed oh-so-so often by the youth of the day, pretentious and privileged, the lot… He’d seen battles, wars… killed, nearly been killed, had friends—lovemates, lifemates—die in his arms. He’d lost everything and dragged himself back up from nothing. And here was this… this child saying he didn’t know…
He didn’t mean to go off. He really didn’t. Maybe it was being tired himself, or… one drink too many already that morning… He’d.. He just… imploded.
Wyl didn’t have time to react. Grenn was in his face faster than he could move, fingers tightly gripping his hair, grey eyes locked on his. There was something in those eyes that turned Wyl’s insides to jelly, the change as so drastic.
**You want to know what suffering is?**
Before Wyl could answer, a bombardment of images struck his mind. Scents. Sounds. Grenn’s memories open and lain out, and for all the horrors dreamed up in his own mind’s eye, none was like this. Grenn had lived long, and lived hard, and sometimes, lived hideously.
Grenn reeled back when Wyl’s own mind retaliated against his intrusion, the boy rejecting his visions, both shutting down and shutting out, before lashing back with an offensive as hot as fire, raking claws through his psyche. Forcing him to stop. He let go, leaned back, realizing what he had done as his eyes cleared of the red haze of anger to clearly see the young elf in front of him. Wyl was cowering back from him, curled dangerously close to the fire, an expression on his face like an animal in a snare trap. Then the boy surged to his feet, stumbling towards the sofa, where his clothes lay.
"H-Have to go… w-work..”
“G-Gonna be l-late…” He struggled with trying to hold the blanket around himself and get dressed at the same time, his fingers shaking visibly.
There was command in the send, and the boy whipped around, jerking like a disjointed marionette. Now Grenn could see the sheen in those copper eyes, barely held back even as the boy’s overly-tightened jaw kept his lip from quivering. Damn it…
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…” He saw Wyl shrug and rapidly turn back to trying to dress.
“What do I k-know? I’m jus-just a st-stupid kid. Get ou-out of your h-hair in… in a minute…” Hearing the stammer back in his voice, the way it always came back when he got overwhelmed was clanging to his ears, but Wyl couldn’t get it together to send if he wanted to, a wounded animal trying to hide the pain. "Don-Don’t ma-matter..." He didn't need Grenn to prove to him that his problems were less than the weight of the world. It wasn’t that bad, better than most. He knew full well that he could just pack up and go home, and his mother would welcome him with open arms, and he could be comfortable and cozy on the farm until time’s end.. but, dammit, that’s not what he wanted! He wanted… wanted… His fingers curled into his palms, digging deep grooves even as he bit into the inside of his lip, eyes closing tight.
Arms strong and smelling of suede and some sort of spicy soap closed around him, held him tight even though he struggled to pull free.
**You matter. You fucking matter.** A pause. **Maybe I've done a shit job of proving that I care what happens to you. I wouldn't even be making these screwed up attempts to prove it to you if I didn't.**
In sending there is only truth…
Grenn felt the struggles lessen, replaced by shudders as the boy’s body gradually went slack. He guided them both to the floor, cradling the younger elf still tangled in the blanket against him. A single tear slipped from between tight-closed lids… then the deluge began.
This time there was no pretending it was just the rain on his face, though water dampened his cheeks with the ferocity of a tempest.
And through the storm, Grenn never let go.