Ehren had been skeptical of Caspian’s offer. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe him, it was just that he didn’t know what the results would be like. Would he be the same? Would he even be able to use his ability anymore? It was hard to say but if it meant that he could live a relatively normal life, then he had to take that risk.
He pulled out his phone and sent a text to Caspian, hoping the reply was swift. “I’d like to meet up.” He read, and then he added. “ASAP.”
The softness in the kitchen gave way to the buzzing sound - vibrations would shake upon the flat countertop. Screen would light up and then fall black again.
Caitlyn peeked at her father’s phone as it sat abandoned, forgotten. “Da!” She called softly, looking around at the house. “Da? Your phone, Da.”
Caspian sighed. Moving into the kitchen from the laundry room, basket of things in hand he set the little vessel of folded towels aside to pick up the mobile device. “Blasted things, these are,” he said to his daughter in a playful tone. She laughed, running off to play with April again.
Seeing that the message was from Ehren, and that it was urgent, he sent a telepathic word or two of his own to his wife and then made to pull on shoes.
’Where are we meeting?’ went the reply via text.
A reply came swiftly and he checked his messages to see that Caspian had written back. He began to type, deleting a few of them before finally sending one. “In front of the library.” That seemed like as good a place as any, and the only place the two of them had ever spoken.
He put his phone back in his pocket and waited for an affirmative reply. While he waited he grabbed anything necessary. His wallet, his keys, and a bottle of water. He wasn’t sure how long they’d be at it.
Be there soon. was typed back quickly.
When he had all of the necessary things he headed out, making his way to the Facility and then the library. The entire way he was cautious. Nobody would recall seeing him there, though the camera footage would always capture the comings and goings in and out of the building.
He reached the library and waited patiently for Ehren to arrive.
After a response was given he put his phone on the counter and made his way out of the apartment. Caspian must have been closer to the library than him because when he showed up, Caspian was already there.
He made his way up to the other man and offered a smile. “Hey, shall we?” He asked, gesturing in the general direction of the woods, where they would out of sight and out of earshot.
Promptness was not something he would compromise unless it was absolutely necessary. As he waited, Caspian watched the people coming and going. Here and there he plucked things out of their minds without them even being aware he had been there at all.
When Ehren appeared in his line of sight - felt before he saw the other man - Caspian smiled. “Hello. We shall,” came the reply coupled with a nod.
Following after Ehren, they travelled into the wooded area. “Ah, I always did hate camping.”
Ehren was surprised by that. “Really? I love it.” He replied, making his way through the thicket of trees. “There’s something so calming about being out in nature.” He added as they found a spot far enough away to be found but close enough to get back easily.
He turned around to look at Caspian. “So how does this all work? What is it you do to me?” He wondered aloud, since he wanted to be pressed for what was to come.
“I’m not partial to critters,” he explained, shaking his head. “The bugs, the crawly things. I’d rather be inside than outdoors finding things to occupy my time.”
As they wandered in search of a spot he paused in a small grove where the trees made a canopy. A chuckle would come as Caspian paused. He looked at Ehren. “You won’t feel a thing, darling. It’s painless. You may forget a few things, but this is not intended to be hurtful or harmful. I could if I wanted to, but I don’t have the desire.”
He placed himself in a good spot and motioned for Ehren to follow. “I recommend sitting down. It won’t take long.”
He took a deep breath and found a rock to sit down on. He didn’t know what it was supposed to feel like, missing his memories. Would he remember his parents? Would this whole thing completely change the person he was? There was no way to tell.
Quietly he nodded to Caspian. “I’m ready.”
He found another rock to sit on so that they were close but not touching. Shoulder to shoulder, the barest of space between them and yet enough distance not to be distracting. Eyes would fall closed and he opened his mind to find Ehren’s, latching on to the open, willing thoughts.
’I want you to take this,’ Caspian said into Ehren’s mind. A small, glowing orb shone brightly. It danced, it bobbed up and down seemingly on nothing at all. ’It’s a gift for you. It can be anything you’d like - a person, an animal, a thing. I want you to focus on it and do as you please.’
It was an exercise to help Ehren focus but also to distract him. Caspian needed clarity and to work efficiently without interruption.
Once that was done he began the task ahead - opening up the channels of Ehren’s mind. Vivid were the memories. Caspian could filter through them like a spectre through the walls of a home. They felt real, as if he were there in the memories with Ehren. All sorts of things were seen, information gleaned. What was the Faction? Who was that striking blonde fellow? All questions with answers he would find in the storage of memories.
Caspian took Ehren’s memories back as far as he could - he sought the onset of the other man’s ability in its infancy and manifestation. From there he gathered snippets from other memories to plug into the ones sliced up, sewing the memories together seamlessly. This was not the first time he had ever done such a thing. It was child’s play.
Ehren accepted the gift and before he even had time to consider it, it became his dog, Daisy. She was always so good, even as a puppy she rarely misbehaved. As he focused on that there was an odd sort of calm that went over him, like Caspian rooting around in his head was the most natural thing in the world.
He’d find a lot there, the death of his parents, the constant look into the future that he couldn’t control. All of his anxiety and fear made it impossible to have any control over his abilities. It was a cage that limited his range and it was the one thing that kept him from ever doing the things he wanted or needed.
All of that anxiety would be forgotten, concealed with a blanket of confidence. No longer would the young man be crippled, paralyzed by those overwhelming sensations. But with that, like anything, came a cost. A few memories were not salvageable but they seemed insignificant enough to Caspian to erase them from memory all together. That was better than shards of broken pieces being filtered to the surface, sharp like glass and confusing.
For the ability, Caspian rewired the memory so that the manifestations connected to something else. What that was, he couldn’t really say, but he hoped that would solve Ehren’s problem when it came to coupling.
He had witnessed the episodes with Meg, the small snippets with Dorian, and a few more things in the past.
Somewhere in the distance he could hear a dog barking. How strange. How lovely.
’Daisy...yes?’ the voice would inquire. Memories would be drawn up of the canine and Caspian watched her as if he had been there all along.
The mind was a truly powerful, dangerous thing to tamper with and yet he did it so easily, so freely.
Yes. She was a good girl. he thought to Caspian as the processing was going on. If he had been smart, he wouldn’t have let Caspian into his head, to find out the Faction’s secrets, but Ehren could be selfish, and this was something he was not willing to back down on.
He pet the imaginary dog, wiggling her ears as the pup licked his face. She was always so good, so sweet.
’We had a dog, just before we came here. Just a puppy, it was.’
It had been given to someone in the neighborhood when they relocated from Hell’s Kitchen to Destruction. Traveling with the dog had seemed burdensome, Caitlyn had been upset but she had gotten over it fairly easily once they’d arrived here and acclimated.
’What is the Faction?’
Those memories were glazed over - he could see the faces of the members as meetings were held, listened to the topics of discussion.
Can’t you see? It’s a secret organization to look out for the interests of residents on this island. The government is corrupt and they watch and listen wherever we go. They want to use us. It all came out of him easily, which would have been frowned upon by the members.
But Caspian was the only person he ever told, outside of the others that were in the faction too. The dog was a comfort and it almost made him forget that he was divulging very private information to somewhat of a stranger.
He could see it. But he wanted Ehren to tell him what he wanted to know. Prying it out himself was easy. The memories were intriguing, though. ’I had a feeling that was the case.’ Now he had things which needed to be done. ’I won’t let them hurt you. Do you understand?’ He would take care of Ehren as long as the other had his interests at heart.
The idea behind the dog was just that - it was designed to distract, to be appealing.
’You are free.’
Slowly he began to detangle himself from Ehren’s memories, though he did leave a signature behind. Something that would come apparent to any with mental abilities in an effort to ward away those with ill purpose. Keeping up with his word was something he was proud to do.
Once he had removed himself from Ehren’s memories, Cas’ eyes opened. His head ached. Blood was running from his nose, but he felt all the wiser for it. An arm would lift. Sleeve would graze across his nose where it was moist with essence. “Oh dear. Well, that’s not uncommon, is it?” It wasn’t. Not for this type of work.
When Ehren opened his eyes he saw Caspian’s nose bleed and he stood up to go take a closer look. “Are you hurt?” He asked with concern, kneeling down in front of Cas to get a better look at the damage.
“Is it still bleeding?” He asked, because if it was they needed to stop the bleeding.
Ehren didn’t feel like he was different because all of what he felt before was gone. He couldn’t even remember how he thought anymore. What mattered most right now was that Caspian was alright.
“No, no,” he breathed, shaking his head, “Perfectly fine. It’ll stop after a while.” Mental abilities had their drawbacks. His were lethal but he’d been using them for ages.
His sleeve would be bloody but he was fine. “Really. I’m fine. This is normal. Are you alright?”
He thought about that for a moment. Was he? He couldn’t really tell. “I feel ok. I mean, I don’t know, I don’t feel any different.” He sort of shrugged his shoulders but from an outsider's perspective he was clearly more comfortable than he used to be.
Ehren stood and looked around the woods. “I guess we should be heading back.” He said, wondering what exactly was the purpose for them to be there in a first place. Caspian needed to get into his mind for some reason but he couldn’t remember what.
“You have to test it out to really know for sure,” Caspian replied. “Trust me, you’ll notice the difference.” And then he smiled. “Why not that blonde fellow you seem to fancy?” It was clear that Ehren had a thing. He felt it as if it had been his own yearning.
Moving to stand, another brush at his running nose, Cas nodded. “By the time we leave here I’ll be right as the rain. Let me walk you home? The guards, you know.”
A slight blush came to Ehren’s face which always made his freckles stand out. “Oh, yeah, him. I don’t know if he’s ready to do something like that. He seems, guarded. Anyway, I don’t even know if he’d be interested.” He seemed to be a bit when they last saw each other, like he was actually enjoying Ehren’s company, but who knew in these situations.
“I’m patient.” He said, mirroring the words he had said to the other man. “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be:” He added as they made their way back toward the library.
“All the better to break those walls down, love. You can do it.” Sometimes things took work that were worth it. “It took me almost ten years to find what I wanted. I waited that long for the right person. We have a saying in the Irish language - acushla - it literally conveys to the blood pumping through your heart. We use it as a term of endearment. The lethal, literal blood in our veins. This is what translates to love. Find your lifeblood.”
“I believe in you. I’ve seen the depths of you, love. You have it in you.”
A turn and Caspian wandered alongside Ehren. Once they’d reached the break in the trees the blood had stopped, but the paleness remained.
A smile came to his face as Caspian said that, a sense of joy he didn’t remember having before. Clearly something was different, he just couldn’t put his finger on it. “Well thank you, for everything.” He replied, a calmness settled over him. He still had secrets to keep, he still had things to worry about but everything from his past was like a dream. He knew it happened but he didn’t feel it like he used to.
“I want to find it, but I don’t know if it’s worth searching for. I spent so much of my time before thinking about every person being the potential ‘one’ instead of doing things I want to do.” It all seemed to be flowing out of him now. “I need to know me, this new me, before I can even think about searching for someone to complete me.” And that was the most positive thing Ehren had said in his life.
“Not worth searching for? Darling, if you’re not seeking how shall you ever find? I don’t mean bed everyone you see unless that’s what you’re into, but after being in your head I don’t think that’s what you want. What you’re after. The search is what teaches you what you’re after. What you want.” Always search. It was Ehren who just said he was patient, and that if it was meant to be then it was.
“Live while you’re young, dear, but what you seek shall come after too long.”
He was glad for Ehren though, who seemed to have a new lease on life. “You should come for dinner, meet the family. Would you be alright with that? I feel like you’re one of us now.”
Caspian seemed wise beyond his age and who knew if he was right, but Ehren would consider it. If he had a family, then he probably understood love more than Ehren. The offer of dinner surprised him. Had he known that Dorian was a part of this family, he’d have probably turned Caspian down. Not necessarily for his sake but for Dorians. There was no way that it wouldn’t be awkward between them.
“Sure, that sounds good. When?” He asked, wishing he had his phone with him to check his work schedule, though he’d grown used to leaving it behind in favor of carrying it around.
He and painful amounts of experience. Fighting with Laura for so long had taught him a lot about himself. He’d been in love with her from the moment he’d laid eyes upon her but he needed time to realize just how stupid he’d been. It was better now.
“I’ll have to speak with my wife about it,” he breathed, shrugging. “I’ll let you know. You aren’t allergic to anything?” He hadn’t seen any occurrences but it didn’t hurt to ask.
Dorian was a bigger person than that, he’d been through a lot. And Caspian carried a lot of weight at their house. Everything had its purpose. “I won’t interfere with anything you have, of course.”
As they reached the library Ehren shook his head. “No allergies no. I don’t even really know how to cook very much so I always appreciate what’s put in front of me.”
It was something his mother had taught him growing up. Try everything once, especially if it scared you. “Thank you, again. I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me.” He added as they came near his apartment complex.
“Well, you’ve no worries there. We love to cook. I’ll be in touch,” he breathed.
“You’re welcome. Don’t forget our agreement, nor me. Please, do let me know how you’re feeling tomorrow. Alright?”
He let Ehren head toward the apartment, lingering to ensure that the other man made it inside safely - as promised - and then he was off to his own home.