?

Log in

No account? Create an account
do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chimera/Rob Thurman Fic: From Theory to Application 2/2

February 3rd, 2011 (09:28 am)

A/N:  Post split to make LJ happy.  Part one is here.
 

-o-

Stefan slept.

It was a long and heavy sleep, the kind he wasn't prone to. Sleep just filled time, wasted time that he could use looking for Lukas. It was a necessary evil, like so much of his life. Only, in sleep, he was vulnerable to the memories, too often taken by dreams.

They were good dreams sometimes, memories of Lukas. Spending days together in the house, playing games or just driving each other crazy. Dreams of coming home from camp to be greeted with hugs and stories, Lukas talking so quickly that Stefan had to remind him to breathe before the kid passed out.

Other times, they were bad. Memories of the night Lukas died, the feeling of loss and desperation as Lukas fell into the water, his small, limp hand upturned on the sand.

Stefan dreamed of it all this time. The good and the bad, pleasant and painful. Lukas' smile, bright and welcoming, the world reflected in his bicolored eyes. Young and innocent, perfect and precious - his Lukas. There, in the place beyond sleep, Lukas was still so real, so vibrant, so alive. Stefan could almost touch him, almost feel him, like Lukas had never disappeared at all.

Only now, the dream took another turn, one he had made himself forget for ten years. Now he dreamed of the little body in his father's arms. The blonde hair peeking out from the blanket. The pale, blue features set in death, eyes never to open again. He dreamed of the funeral, private and quiet, no one but Anatoly and his closest men there to bury Lukas in a plot next to their mother.

There was no gravestone and there would never be a gravestone. Lukas died for nothing and he would be remembered as a lost child only. It was a tragedy, a fate so unbefitting for a little boy, a legacy so unintended for a child who had brought so much light to everyone around him.

But Stefan would always remember.

Stefan had never been there, for the funeral. He had never buried Lukas at all, physically or emotionally. But in the dream, in this dream, he was there, saw it all like he'd known it all along.

The sun was shining, high in the sky, warm and bright. The air was alive and fresh, cool with a breeze off the water. The family's burial grounds were as opulent as their living quarters, homes for the dead that still had a view of the water, for whatever that was worth.

Stefan was younger again, no more than fourteen, as he stood by his father's side. Anatoly was still larger than life, tailored neatly in a crisp black suit, shirt buttoned to the hilt even in the Florida sun. His father had no expression on his face, features carefully guarded, but Stefan could feel the emotions rolling off him, crashing over him like an unsettled surf on the rocks.

There was a casket, small and polished. It glinted in the sunlight, looking sleek and simple as two men lowered it in the ground. The men worked in silence, faces taut and movements stiff, because they understood what this meant. Even if Lukas was not their child, he was still very much their kin, and anyone who had ever met Lukas understood how wrong this was.

Except it wasn't wrong. It was right. The last ten years of denial had been the fantasy, the wayward dreams of a broken boy, and this was reality, so painful, so clear, that Stefan shook, goosebumps on his arms even in the throes of the dream.

It was almost over. The casket was lowered into the ground, and Stefan felt his heart lodge in his throat. But Anatoly stopped the men, taking a shovel in his own hands. He was above such manual work, but the men didn't question, didn't have to question. The pair simply departed, quiet and respectful, leaving Stefan alone with Anatoly and the casket.

It was time, Stefan knew. Time to bury Lukas.

The closure he'd never had. The goodbye he'd never said. The acceptance he'd always rejected. It was in front of him now, stark and unavoidable, and as much as he wanted to run, his legs kept him planted on the ground.

Even in the dream, Stefan cried, long and hard, sobbing next to the open grave. Anatoly was burying it now, shovel full after shovel full, long, hard work, and Stefan understood why now. Why this mattered. Love wasn't holding on too tightly. Love was trusting enough to know when to let go.

Anatoly was letting go. Anatoly was burying his son. Not forgetting, but accepting. Anatoly had no denials, had no memorials. He only had the raw grief that even a thirst for blood could never quench. Anatoly's way of coping was not perfect, but it was his, and Stefan saw for the first time; saw the way the grief broke his father, not with tears or delusions, but with a loss of light and hope that would mark him forever.

Stefan still stood, legs shaking, and took a shovel of his own. His hands felt numb, almost disconnected from his body, but he worked nonetheless. This was something he had to do, something he should have done ten years ago. The dirt was heavy, each shovel-full worse than the last. It hurt, the muscles in his arms, his back, his chest. It hurt deep within, breaking his heart a little more with every movement.

His father bent over, ran his hands through the dirt and picked up a handful, squeezing it between his fingers. "For you, my son. Their blood shall be yours."

A promise, a vengeance; violence begat violence, and even now Stefan could understand the justice of his father's words. Because Lukas' blood was innocence. His life pure. That someone had taken it, accidental or not, was a crime that no courtroom could rectify.

But Stefan had no such anger. He could hold no such grudge. Not anymore. Lukas' legacy never should have been a trail of death and destruction. It should have been hope and light. Lukas was better than this life, and it was suddenly hard to imagine the trail of bodies that would have made Lukas cry, all killed on account of him.

Lukas never hurt anyone. He never would want to, even if he could. Lukas was light in the darkness, beauty in an ugly world. And the hardest part was that Anatoly wasn't the only one who forgot that, Stefan had, too.

Anatoly killed all his enemies, got his revenge.

Stefan killed every piece of joy in his life, and got his absolution.

Lukas wanted neither.

Lukas just wanted a happy life, a place where he could ride Annie into the ocean and laugh and laugh until the morning came.

Stefan wouldn't find that here, not in the dirt, especially not in the little casket beneath the ground. He wouldn't find it in his father's vengeance and he wouldn't find it in his own guilt. It just wasn't here, and it never had been, the illusion of it almost more damaging than the loss itself.

Staying here would kill him, just as surely as Lukas was already dead. So Stefan closed his eyes, let himself drift away. It was his only escape, fleeting and transcendent.

And like that, he was gone. Away from the cemetery, away from the weight of dirt as he buried his brother. He melted into the sunlight, letting it take him far from the green grasses and bleak gravestones. For a moment, he drifted like that, effused into the air, until his sense of touch returned.

To something familiar, something true. Coarse hair in his grip, a strong back beneath him. The restless twitching horse barely held at bay.

Harry.

It had been years since he'd been there, but the memory was so visceral that it seemed like only yesterday. With a deep breath, Stefan smelled ocean air, heard the surf on the shore, and he opened his eyes.

Harry was trotting now at an easy pace, hooves buried in the sand, water lapping toward them gently. Ahead of them, Lukas was perched on Annie, riding gracefully and freely, and Stefan could hear him laughing. This was how he wanted to remember Lukas, just like this, in these moments of happiness and freedom. When there was no mob, no secrets; just two brothers, sharing life as they were meant to.

But when they crested the hill, the fading sunlight was so bright across the water that it was hard to see. Stefan tried to go faster, but Lukas just pushed Annie harder, breaking her into a run. Together, Lukas and Annie danced together along the water, pulling farther and farther ahead. Somewhere, Stefan heard his voice, "Come on, brother! I'm waiting for you still!"

And Stefan moved to answer, but the sunlight was blinding now, bright and warm and encompassing, almost like a mother's embrace and Stefan could not find his way.

He heard Lukas laugh, fading and far away, and then there was no trace of his brother. Lukas was gone.

The loss was palpable, even in the essence of the dream. Nothing would replace it. But then, nothing ever had to.

From somewhere behind, Stefan heard another voice. This one older, more cynical. "I thought you said you would wait for me."

Stefan glanced back, and there was another figure. A blonde boy on a horse, sitting erect and stiff, as if he'd never been on one before. Michael.

There was a choice, to follow or to stay. Chase a ghost or stay with a family he'd made.

The light was tempting, as was the promise of seeing Lukas again. Knowing his brother again, being with him like when they were younger.

But he'd be there. He'd always be there.

Sometimes even the right choices hurt.

Sometimes letting go meant gaining everything.

Stefan twined his fingers into Harry's mane with new vigor, turning him back, away from the light. As he squeezed his thighs, urging Harry back toward Michael, he heard Lukas laugh, crystal clear and light, once last time before the sun disappeared below the horizon once and for all.

-o-

When he woke, it was morning. Daylight streamed through the windows, which were open to the ocean. A light breezed teased the white curtains, which danced in the sunlight in an easy, unpredictable cadence.

It was a beautiful, peaceful sort of thing. Even with the violence that made this life possible, Stefan had always known to appreciate the refuges of life. He had always liked the ocean. Lukas had, too. There had been something about it, something freeing, even in their gated lives. The vastness of the ocean, the way a breeze could trail in from nowhere and disappear off into the world with nothing more than a memory.

For a moment, Stefan took that for what it was. Peace. Refuge. Freedom.

But then he remembered with painful clarity - Jericho on the beach, reliving Lukas' death, his father's last minute rescue, Michael bleeding out-

Michael.

The thought of the younger boy made him lurch back to full awareness, and he jackknifed in the bed, regretting it immediately. Pain cut through him sharply, darkening his vision and he gaped a wordless scream, fingers reaching out in vain to assuage the sudden throbbing of his leg.

"You're trying to undo all of Victor's hard work already," Anatoly said, his voice drenched with disappointment.

When Stefan looked up, though, his father looked like he had expected as much. Easing himself back, Stefan locked his jaw to keep the pain at bay. "A few stitches," he said, trying to sound nonchalant.

Anatoly's face registered bland amusement. He looked weary there, sitting in a desk chair pulled up to Stefan's bedside. His shirt was unbuttoned at the top, his jacket gone altogether. There were still bloodstains on it, and given his rumpled hair, it occurred to Stefan that his father had not left the room all night.

"A few stitches," Anatoly said musingly. "Major reconstructive surgery on your thigh bone. It was quite tricky. We are lucky that Victor spent years as an orthopedic surgeon or you may have been stuck with a limp."

The severity of it shocked him, and Stefan looked blankly at his leg. It was swathed with bandages and seemed to radiate with warmth. It made sense, he knew, because he'd felt the bone shatter, but hearing the extent of the repair work was numbing.

Anatoly sighed, running a hand through his hair. "You make me feel old," he said wistfully, but he smiled. "You feel better, though, yes?"

Stefan sat up slower this time, feeling his body out experimentally. He nodded. "Yeah," he said. "I do. Was I out all night?"

Anatoly quirked a hairy eyebrow. "Two nights," he said. "Victor thought it best if we keep you sedated. It's been over a day."

The timing took a moment to make sense of, and when Stefan realized what it meant, he felt his chest seize up with a fresh wave of panic. If it had been over a day, then where was Michael?

Anatoly laughed, more than somewhat tired. "Michael is fine," he said. "More than fine. Surprising thing, that one. Victor can't explain it and I haven't seen anything like it. Not even twenty-four hours out, and he'd made a complete turnaround. From death's door to sitting up and asking for a candy bar."

It was almost too much to process. Michael was at death's door, Michael was asking for sugar, Michael was... "He's okay?" Stefan asked again, trying to find the reassurance he couldn't quite believe.

"Better than you," Anatoly said. His eyes flicked toward the door. "Isn't that right, my boy?"

Stefan swiveled his head, seeing a shock of blonde hair peeking around the corner of the doorway. After a moment, Michael stepped into view, a little tentative, but standing upright, with no indication that he'd ever been hurt at all.

Michael hesitated, a smile twitching on his lips. "I'm fine," he said. "I tried to explain to the doctor that I simply have a great deal of luck when it comes to injuries."

Stefan almost wanted to laugh. A smile split his face so hard that tears almost came to his eyes. The last time he'd seen Michael, it had been with the possibility of saying goodbye. But, there he was, standing there, looking no worse for wear.

Anatoly cleared his throat. "Very lucky," he agreed, though the skepticism was evident in his voice. He knew better than to give voice to it. "I have tried to convince him that you have never been quite so lucky and would simply need a few days. The boy has been hard pressed to leave, haven't you, Misha?"

Stefan recognized the nickname, and even if it sounded forced on his father's lips, he appreciated its significance. Even in Stefan's unconsciousness, Anatoly had lived up to his end of the bargain.

Michael took another step inside, looking at his feet. "Anatoly has been quite hospitable," he said. He glanced up at Stefan, almost nervously. "And Peter plays a decent game of chess, but I do think Gregor could use some work."

Stefan had to smile. They were both trying: Anatoly to embrace Michael, and Michael to fit in. They were trying, and not quite succeeding, but definitely not failing.

"Just wait until you play Anatoly," Stefan said, with as much ease as he could muster. "Taught me everything I know."

Michael looked thoughtful. "And that's supposed to impress me?"

Anatoly laughed at that, pushing himself to his feet. He patted Stefan on the shoulder, shaking his head. "I will leave you two to catch up," he said. "Then, later, you and I will talk."

His gaze lingered on Stefan's purposefully for a moment, and Stefan understood.

Then Anatoly laughed again, moving toward the door. He paused next to Michael. "And you, young one. We have a date for chess, yes?"

Michael offered him a small, half-smile. "Yeah, sure," he said.

With that, Anatoly left, and Stefan let out a breath, smiling widely at Michael. "So, the miracle genes pulling overtime," he said. "You sure you're okay?"

Michael moved closer. "You worry too much." He lifted his shirt, showing his chest. There was a rippled scar on his ribcage, red and puckered. It looked like it still hurt, but considering what it had been, Stefan knew it was a miracle.

Michael lowered his shirt. "Like Anatoly said, I'm fine."

Stefan shrugged. "I'm a big brother," he said, settling himself back against the pillows. "Worrying is part of my job."

Michael lifted his head at that, meeting Stefan's eyes hopefully. "You worried me, too," he said, almost suddenly, as if it surprised him.

Stefan didn't like the thought of worrying Michael - it went against his desire to protect him - but it made sense. "That's the way it works, being brothers," he explained.

Michael seemed to consider that, nodding thoughtfully. "You know, just because I jumped in front of you, that doesn't mean I remember."

Stefan paused at that. There was no way Michael could remember - the memories weren't his. "So what changed your mind?"

Michael's brow furrowed, his mouth pulling into a frown. "You were going to die for me," he said, and there was something of awe in his voice as he looked up at Stefan again. "Right there on the beach, you were going to die for me."

Stefan remembered, he remembered well. He remembered the sand, the sharp grass. He remembered the feel of Jericho's gun pressed between his eyes, the way his heart had skipped a beat, his only hope that Michael would get away.

Michael cocked his head, analytical and vulnerable all at once. "Part of me knows logically that you are probably mistaken. But in all the movies, all the books, I have heard that the love of family can be one of the most overpowering sensations. Seeing you, on the beach, ready to die for me, it was a feeling I'd never had. The desire to protect you - it was greater than anything else I'd ever known. Family is something you're willing to die for, and when I was willing to die for you, I knew it must be true. Somehow, despite all logic, you and me - we must be brothers." He paused, eyes going wider for a moment, filled with need. "We are brothers, aren't we, Stefan?"

The question was innocent, hopeful and yearning. Like a small child searching for reassurance from his parents.

And Stefan had a choice. Lying to Michael was hard - he did not relish it. But it wouldn't be a lie. Not when Stefan believed it like he did, not when Michael believed it like he did. Maybe family was more than blood, maybe it was more than memories and stories. Maybe it was this, right here. The connection that neither one of them could deny, that they couldn't explain.

Stefan nodded, resolved and unwavering. "Yes," he said. "We are brothers. Misha, you and I - we're brothers."

The conviction in his voice was strong, steady, and even though every part of him ached, it all dissipated as Stefan watched the tension ease from Michael's face. The fear, the doubt, the uncertainty - it all melted and showed Michael for what he was: just a boy, a younger brother. My Misha.

Stefan grinned, unable to hold it in. "Now, are you sure you didn't stick around because you needed a source for your sugar addiction?"

Michael blushed, lips quirked into a smile. "Well, that certainly didn't hurt," he said. He regarded the room with vague interest. "Anatoly is quite generous. I wasn't sure if it was appropriate to eat so much of his food considering how he finances it, but he had Three Musketeers."

Stefan snickered. "You're already compromising your morals over candy," he said. "If only Jericho had known it was that easy."

Michael flinched slightly at the sound of his name.

Stefan regretted his words, his smile fading. "He's gone," he promised. "He won't find you again."

Michael nodded, but there were still traces of fear. "There were others," he said. "They will still look for me."

Stefan knew that. He'd been so preoccupied with getting Jericho off their asses, that he hadn't thought about anything else. But it was all more complicated than he thought - Michael was more complicated than he'd thought. And if getting Michael out had been hard, keeping him safe was going to be a lifelong goal. "So we pick a place to hide. Plush beach houses aren't the only way to live."

Michael didn't look as certain. "But your father-" he cut off, swallowing hard. "Our father-"

"Has enough hiding places in the world for him and for us," Stefan said.

Michael was still not convinced.

Stefan kept his gaze earnest. "We don't even need one of his, though," he said. "We just need a little money, a few ins, and we'll make our own way."

Michael's mouth opened, then closed. "But. How can you be sure?"

"Aw, come on, Butch," Stefan cajoled. The kid just needed a push, and Stefan had taken him this far, he had to believe they could go the rest of he way. "Aren't you ready to jump off that cliff?"

The reference was not lost on Michael, who smiled, eyes twinkling. "Butch and Sundance died in the end."

"We don't know that for sure," Stefan countered.

The innocence faded into an analytic stare. "It was implied by the-"

Stefan groaned. He had no doubt that Michael could psychoanalyze the characters, explore the filmmaker's motivation, and explain the acute cultural response to the film. That was what Michael could do. Explain something away until it lost its magic. "You're missing the point," he said.

Michael stopped, almost surprised. "The point?"

"It's not about the ending," Stefan said. He sat up a little, looking keenly at Michael. He needed Michael to understand. "It's about the possibility. We never see them die. We just know how awesome they are together. We believe in that, even when it goes against logic."

Michael seemed to consider that, the thoughts plainly evident in his bi-colored eyes. Then finally, he nodded. "So we jump then?" he asked.

Stefan had to smile. Reason had given way to emotion, to trust, to family. "You think you can handle it?"

Michael returned the smile, teenage confidence swelling in him. "In theory."

Stefan chuckled. "Let's make it a reality."

Michael nodded. He shifted on his feet, rubbing absently at his neck. "Well, I suppose I can live with that."

"You suppose?" Stefan asked, mockingly indignant.

Michael's response was confidence and warm. "Well, at least I can count on the fact that your feet will hit first."

Stefan snickered, shaking his head, relishing the feeling of familiarity, the resonant quality of being connected. "Little brothers never change."

"I hope big brothers never do either," Michael added, and Stefan knew he was feeling it, too.

"Don't worry," Stefan said, and it was a promise. One he'd made the night he'd broken Michael out and one he wouldn't break for as long as he lived. Which, if Anatoly had anything to say about it, would be a very, very long time. "I've got a lifetime to prove it to you. And I'll buy you all the chocolate you need until you believe it."

"I've never been to Bolivia," Michael said and there was something naive in his voice. Something hopeful. Something of starting over, something of giving in. Something of acceptance. Something of family.

Stefan laughed, happiness swelling in him. This was what he'd fought for. This was what he'd sacrificed so much for. This feeling, this completion. And even with his throbbing leg, his numb shoulder, he'd never felt better. There would be more trials, he knew. His own recovery was likely to be painful and long, and running to Bolivia would not be a picnic. But they were changes Stefan couldn't dread, didn't know how to dread - not with Michael by his side.

"Neither have I," he said to Michael. "But I hear it's pretty nice. In theory anyway."

Michael grinned, looking just like the teenager he should be, even rolling his eyes, just for effect. As if Stefan needed any more reminders as to what he'd just gotten himself into. "I think I'm getting pretty tired of theories," Michael said.

Whatever it was, whatever the future held, Stefan didn't regret. Not one minute of it, not anything about it. He had his brother, and he didn't need anything else.

"You and me both, little brother," Stefan said, and he let his body relax, eyes still holding Michael's. "You and me both."

end

 

Comments

Posted by: sendintheclowns (sendintheklowns)
Posted at: February 4th, 2011 01:45 am (UTC)

So Stefan finally made peace with Lukas. That and thinking of Harry made me very sad but it's in the past and I like that Stefan is reading to move forward finally.

Michael's sense of humor is great here; you capture it so well.

This is the perfect missing scene to me. Thank you for writing it and then posting it so we could all enjoy it :)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 13th, 2011 08:00 pm (UTC)
tucker breathless

I really, really like these characters. Sometimes I forget, but then I get back into them and just remember why I fell in love :)

Thank you for reviewing--and buying me the books to begin with!

Posted by: ghostfour (ghostfour)
Posted at: February 9th, 2011 01:25 am (UTC)

Thank you. This is the part of the book I most regret not having, and now I do. The part when Michael get's to be MICHAEL and not only Lucas' replacement. And where Stefan gets to say his good-byes. He needed that. and on the other side of that? Brothers. Awesome.

and plenty of H/C extra points for that. :)

Thanks for sharing

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 13th, 2011 08:01 pm (UTC)
geekboy

I always get a little disappointed when books/movies/show cut out the key h/c moments. I know I've got a bit of a thing for such moments, but they really are so much fun :) Which is why I had to write this--and why I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

Thanks!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: November 29th, 2011 07:26 am (UTC)

Just so you know, this fic totally blew my mind. ;) It was exactly the h/c that book needed at the end!!

Also, I totally plan to print this out next time I'm on campus, so I can print it and keep it *in* my book. Because this is now cannon to me.

Just wanted to let you know. ;D

~ sgs09

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 7th, 2011 09:28 pm (UTC)
billy guitar

I'm so glad you liked it so much! I'm always looking for fic worth rereading so I'm flattered this did it for you :) Thanks!

6 Read Comments