Having known his own mind for the last twenty or so years, Ehren could see the pattern forming in his routine. Staying in his apartment, cutting off communication with his friends, not talking to anyone. This was how it all began and it would only get worse from here. So his objective was to try and change a few of those things, to give himself a fighting chance at normalcy again. Talking to his friends or strangers was out of the question and besides taking a drunk man home, his communication with others had remained bare.
The library was always a comfortable place for him, even though the last time he was there a guard had assaulted him. He found a reading book relatively far away from everyone and sat down with a book. Only, he looked at the words on the page and even though he knew what they said, he couldn’t read them. All he could do was think about how he’d never be able to save anyone, he’d never be able to be with anyone, and all because of something he had no control over.
He thought about Dorian and how he’d completely messed up his only chance at intimacy on this island. He had used him, for comfort, to feel like he wasn’t a freak and Dorian caught onto it. He’d also given a girl a break up note of sorts the day after her birthday, which he’d only found out later. This was who he was, a user and he had to come to terms with the fact that he deserved to be alone.
The entire island had been in a tizzy recovering from the storm; damage had been less but still present and the residents seemed concerned with each other, with rebuilding, and moving on with what semblance of a life they masqueraded having.
Caspian was no different. He’d ventured out into the storm to find April and their family had made it through. While he’d lost track of Dorian for a bit during the storm through the mental bond they had shared for years each was able to convey their safety to the other and Caspian didn’t fret about his friend.
Little was there for his interests in the library. He didn’t visit often, mostly for that reason, but Caitlyn needed something to calm her nerves and so he had volunteered to get out of their home and go check on the condition of the building.
He had only just entered the library when his gaze fell upon the familiar stranger. A mind which was not new to Caspain but then again his first and only interaction with Ehren had been initiated with assumption.
Taking the seat next to Ehren quietly, Caspian settled down and turned to look at the other man with interest. “You alright then, love? You seem as if you’ve something on your mind.” He wasn’t peeking, of course, out of respect for the conditions laid out upon their initial interaction, but he was concerned if anyone he took a liking to was anything other than jovial.
Shocked by the sudden presence of another person, Ehren jumped a bit. During the storm he’d taken shelter at the facility. More than once he felt as if he were going to slip into a vision, because his anxiety was high, and his whole sense of being was still on edge about that. He wasn’t even really ready to talk to anyone yet so the presence of the stranger he’d met once over a month ago was a little off-putting. “Uh, hi.” He replied, shyly, closing the cover of the book he hadn’t even begun to read yet.
“I actually have a lot of things on my mind.” He said to Caspian but directed his eyesight down at the closed book. “Though I’m sure you could probably tell.” He added. Ehren had no idea if Caspian was in his head or not, but at this point, he wanted someone to be. He used to see Daryn at the hospital and she was good but she was always professional, and he wasn’t really sure if she ever actually truly listened to him.
He hadn’t meant to startle the poor fellow but there was some measure of amusement taken at the sight of Ehren nearly jumping out of his skin. He offered a look of apology in silent reply. “Hello, dear. You don’t look well, my friend.” He didn’t gather just from the sight of the other that the storm was the major occurrence on Ehren’s mind presently.
That surprised him a bit.
“Oh?” Came the inquiry, in a soft and patient tone. “You don’t seem to be in good spirits outwardly, other than that I couldn’t say for sure what might be weighing you down.” He didn’t pry, not on Ehren without invitation.
Caspian didn’t have to look up at the room to know how many people were there - the number of residents and guards, any in the adjoining hallways or rooms.
He chuckled a bit at that. Not in good spirits was an understatement. Ehren was far from even ok that he was beginning to think he might be going crazy. “Yeah you could say that. Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to even begin to touch on what is wrong with me because you’d be here a long time.” He blurted out, only now realizing how pathetic he must seem.
He sighed and looked up at Caspian, his face never quite making it to a full smile. “If you really want to know, I give you permission to root around in my head.” Which was risky but Ehren didn’t care anymore.
Eyebrows would arch at the statement, “Such a thing warrants a lot of trust. Are you sure you want a scoundrel like me traipsing around in your head?” The inquiry was offered with a bit of a grin, playful and dangerous.
It didn’t take someone with even the slightest bit of vision to see that there was indeed something awry with Ehren. Caspian has been there a few times himself in his lifetime. It was good to have others to aid in the darker times.
“And who says I don’t have ample time to sit here and share in whatever you have going on?” They may not have been friends, or known each other well, but everyone needed an ear from time to time.
He sighed and then laughed again. So he was going to have to recount it, to someone he barely knew. Maybe it was for the best. “There are private things I can’t tell you, but I’ll do my best to work around them.” Especially the bit about him having an ability. He placed the book on the end table next to him and turned to address Caspian. They were in a quiet part of the library without anyone close by so he felt safer than he might normally.
“I guess the point of it all is that I have panic attacks and they pretty much destroy my entire life. I can’t get close to people, I can’t function, I can’t even..” the next part was said barely above a whisper “...have sex.” Which was embarrassing to admit but Ehren had sort of lost his sense of pride lately. “Even when I thought I found someone I could be like that with, it seems like happiness isn’t meant for me.”
“You don’t have to tell me anything,” Caspian breathed, “we don’t even have to speak aloud. I can hear your voice in my head. Though you needn’t worry about being overheard even in the library. Nobody knows you or I even exist right now.”
The ability part was bound to creep up regardless of restriction. He wasn’t sure if Ehren had any mental abilities but if he had to wager on it Caspian would guess that he didn’t.
Upon hearing the plight he nodded and frowned some. “I see. That does sound like a predicament.” He didn’t know about panic attacks, he knew migraines and his abilities left him with a nosebleed if he used them too much.
“You’re young, darling, and so lovely. Sometimes you just have to be patient when it comes to matters of the heart. I waited eight years for someone, and trust me it was an entire lifetime.”
He shook his head. He knew it would take more explaining to make him understand, and he really didn’t have the energy for that. So instead of speaking he just thought the words to Caspian. I was interested in a girl named Meg and we were having a good time, but I had a panic attack each time we had sex. Then I went on a date with a man named Dorian, and maybe it was because of how we met that I had such an attraction to him. He saved me while I experienced a panic attack. We kissed before our first date and by the end of it, he said he didn’t want to see me anymore. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, other than the fact that I’m helpless and needy.
That was why, why things didn’t go well with Dorian. And Dorian had been his one fighting chance at being intimate with anyone.
He listened as those words floated into the forefront of his mind. It was clear there was something amiss, but Caspain didn’t believe it was anything to do with Ehren. At least not something the young man could control. The mind was a funny thing. And the look of surprise on Cas’ face was probably far less than expected considering how quickly the pieces fell into place with the confession.
Dorian was one Caspian refused to pry into beyond what they shared already and what they spoke about when the house was quiet. This was an interesting development, indeed.
“It isn’t you, love,” Caspian breathed, shaking his head at Ehren. “At least, not in the context of Dorian.” There was nothing wrong with being a bit helpless or in need of someone - that was human nature.
’What would you do if I told you that I could remedy your problem?’ Caspian set the inquiry into the forefront of Ehren’s mind for processing. It was a loaded question, one that would ask a lot of the other man as well.
He knew Dorian, but how? There were a lot of things Dorian never dared to share with Ehren. Was this part of his family that he wouldn’t talk about? Were they just acquaintances? It did seem like an intimate way to speak about him.
Before he could question their relationship, Caspian offered his help. “Help?” He asked out loud now, too flabbergasted to put his thoughts into it. “How?” He asked more, there were so many questions he could ask but these were the most important ones.
That was the beauty and the curse of questions, curiosity. It was a nearly unquenchable thirst and once you became afflicted with it you obsessed with the quest to slake it at any cost.
Caspian merely smiled at his new friend. “Indeed,” came the casual reply. As if it were nothing. “You could simply forget that you have anxiety in the first place. Never have to worry about that nasty side effect again. Don’t have to hold back anymore when it comes to matters of the body or the heart.”
Ehren couldn’t speak, could barely think. This had to do with his abilities, a sort of mind control of sorts. The idea was appealing, no anxiety, no visions, just peace of mind. Yet there was something else that came with that, his inability to help the faction. If he couldn’t produce a vision then what use would he be to them? None, as far as he could tell. It was all just a cruel catch-22.
He looked over at Caspian, a battle raging behind his eyes. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s linked to something else, something I don’t know how to do without it. And I know it doesn’t make sense, but it could save lives. Or merely drive him crazy when he didn’t know how to.
For a moment he studied the other man carefully - there was something there between the lines aching to get out and thrive - blue eyes narrowing some as they looked at each other. ’Something else? Like what?’ He had an idea of what might be lurking there just beyond closed lips but he wanted to hear it from Ehren first.
’Whatever happens, it’s not permanent. I can reverse it if it is not to your satisfaction.’ He wouldn’t have tried to do anything permanent regardless. It would take getting used to, and whatever this perplexing addition was could be dealt with accordingly.
’Why don’t you think about it, then? Mull it over. Sleep on it. Figure out what’s important to you, yes?’
Ehren couldn’t say it out loud but he had to know, before he could trust this person rooting around in his brain. What if he really just wanted to gather information from Ehren. So he asked the one question he needed before answering Caspian in any way. Because Dorian had taken his secret with him and if he could trust Caspian, he knew he’d take the help.
Does Dorian trust you? he wondered to Caspian who seemed almost too friendly at times. How close was he to putting himself in danger?
’With his life.’ The answer sought was given without any jest or untruth. Caspian had killed for Dorian, and Dorian had taken life for Caspian too. They had an unspoken bond and have for what felt like ages. He would respect Dorian’s privacy, there would be no divulging information to Ehren because it was not his story to tell, but he was sure Dorian would give what information he felt was important and no more or less than that.
If the rumors on the streets of New York were true then Ehren would have to decide for himself just how deep he was willing to tumble into this rabbit hole.
He nodded at Caspian’s immediate answer, and that was all he needed to know. He may not have known Dorian long, but he knew that he was a good person. I can see the future, but I’ve only ever seen it during a panic attack and...climax. which was something he didn’t want to admit to an acquaintance but it was necessary, and if getting rid of his anxiety made that go away too, he couldn’t risk it.
An eyebrow would arch. A person who saw the future. So many questions threw themselves at the seal of his lips begging to be expelled but he fought the interest back. Whatever answers he sought would be found in time without a word even being spoken about it. ’I am a man of quite a good amount of secrets’ Caspian offered, nodding at Ehren, ’and I have no reason to let on to yours. However if you do decide that you no longer value our friendship, please do let me know.’ Knowledge was power, after all, and Caspian was a good person. Not always a nice person.
’As far as your ability, I can work around it. Treat the symptoms, not quite the problem, since it seems your visions are spurred on by high emotion. You won’t experience them the same way. Perhaps as enlightenment or enrichment, but I can’t make promises. I have to be in there to see what I’m dealing with, and if it’s even possible to spare your gift.’
Ehren considered his options. At the very least it wouldn’t hurt to have him look, especially if someone like Dorian trusted him. A nod of his head would be all the confirmation he’d give and finally he spoke again, so as not to arouse any suspicion. “When can we do this?” He asked, even though he’d do anything to have it be done now. He could live the rest of his life without so much fear. He could be a confident person who wasn’t constantly ruining his love life.
Or he could end up disappointed but he wouldn’t know unless he tried. “How do I contact you?” He asked to be more specific.
A shoulder would be shrugged.
“Whenever you would prefer,” he breathed softly. It wasn’t like Caspian had taken a job. He watched his daughter and gathered intel, but otherwise he had plenty of unoccupied time on his hands. Laura was always the one who liked to keep herself busy with a task. He was used to biding his time.
His mobile phone was taken out of a pocket and offered to Ehren, “If you’d please. As little information as possible, keep it vague. We can come up with a meeting place outside of where those listening and watching cannot overhear. Do you understand?”
This was something he was used to. For a good many years, up until they relocated to the island, he and Dorian had burner phones.
Ehren cautiously took the phone and added his numbers into it before handing it back to Caspian. He knew all too well what it was like to go somewhere that the government couldn’t hear him. He’d done it so often that he began to believe he’d live better in a tent in the woods. He nodded his head assertively, reaching in his pocket for his own cell phone. “I understand, completely.” He replied, resolutely.
It seemed as if they were on the same page about the discretion in which this meeting would need to take place. It wouldn’t do to host it in a public building or a residence considering the eyes and ears about, but they’d think of something once things settled down. “If you need anything, anything at all, you can reach out. I might not get back with you right away, I have a nine year old child, but I’ll do my best.”
He was interested to know what Dorian had to say about this one considering the dynamic of the relationship and its beginnings. As of that moment Caspian assumed that Dorian’s gift was what this one had been after, but he doubted that was the full intent. There had to be some feelings there. He felt as if Ehren was a lot like himself when he was younger - selfish, ambitious, perhaps a bit reckless.
A small genuine smile formed on his lips as he thought about the possibilities. It was the kindest thing anyone had ever offered him and he could see why Dorian and him were so close. “Thank you.” He said, honestly, as he pulled his phone back and slipped it into his pocket. He wasn’t sure how he deserved all this kindness, since he’d never done anything selfless for anyone else.
“I’m not sure how I could repay you.” He offered, a mild look of confusion on his face. To him, receiving help meant he owed someone something in return. Money, attention, control, it was all too easy to obtain from someone who was desperate.
Numbers had been exchanged. That wasn’t something he offered so willingly as he didn’t like to be remembered if he could help it. “You’re welcome. A friend of Dorian’s has potential to be a friend of mine. I trust him and his instincts. He doesn’t allow himself much, but when he finds someone to befriend please know that you are special. Even if it didn’t go further than that.”
“Whatever intel you can gather will suffice. Your loyalty and honesty is all that I ask. Being in your mind I shall see a lot of things, and considering I can read your mind being deceptive isn’t recommended.” All of this was said kindly but the implication was there all the same. He couldn’t help that.
There was nothing to do with money here. Caspian had oodles of it stashed in Swiss accounts abroad that was inaccessible here. What he needed was people to rely on.
Ehren nodded to all the agreed terms, although at this point he wasn’t sure that Dorians instincts toward him was going to help. “I promise there will be no deception.” He agreed, feeling the hope inside build. It was obvious that this was risky for Caspian too so he at least felt safe in that regard.
“I just want to be normal again.” He pleaded with Caspian, thankful that he took pity on Ehren.
“What is normal?” Caspian inquired, amused. “This? Anything? Normal is a general term, love. You are normal, but I understand what it is that you are after. I’ll do what I can to aid and not much more than that.” Right now he wasn’t certain it would even work. But what was the harm in trying.
“Shall I let you get back to wallowing?” He teased lightly.
A laugh bubbles up from Ehren’s belly and he grabbed his book from the side table. “I think I’ll have better luck reading now.” He concurred since instead of complete fear of being alone forever, he felt some sliver of hope enter into his mind. Even the idea alone, regardless of whether or not it would work, was somewhat comforting to him.
“Thank you, again.” He added, a genuine smile playing on his lips.
“Indeed,” came the reply of agreement. Caspian would nod at the other, moving to stand up from the seat he had taken beforehand. “I hope to hear from you soon, then.”
With that, he bade the other man a silent farewell and disappeared from the library the way he had come.