Raydorn: The War in the Black (Chapter 30)

“If there’s reason then it’s not madness, it just looks like it.”

Quintus Lato Equitus, 448 A.C.A.


As Jack walked over the hill, eating his sandwich, he caught sight of Sharda sitting by the edge. Mist from the water beat against the rocks below and made his skin sparkle with a smooth shine as well. With only a sleeveless tunic on, it made the definition in his chest and arms stand out… and it was difficult for Jack’s eyes to move away.

It was when Sharda turned and smiled at him that Jack remembered to keep moving.

“I hope I haven’t kept you waiting,” Jack said. 

Sharda shook his head, trying to speak in Rayne at first, “No, not really, I’ve…” but stopped as his brow furrowed, “<are you eating?>” 

“Yeah, who knew mermaid meat would go so well in a sandwich.” Jack kept biting into it as if nothing was weird about it.

Sharda laughed as he sat up, telling Jack at the same time, “<But we’re here to swim!>” 

Jack stopped, with a full bite still in his mouth. “I… thought we weren’t supposed to swim on an empty stomach?” 

Sharda held his stomach as his laughs only grew louder. “No! You don’t eat before swimming! <Haven’t you swam before?>” 

As Sharda would slip back into his native language, Jack tried to speak Uzuri too. “<I mean, a little, I know how, I just…>” but the language was still a struggle, “never got the chance to do much of it. Really, the only time I did a lot of swimming was at the Pain.” 

Sharda arched a brow at the namedrop but didn’t ask more yet. “<Oh my goodness, this is why we’re going before dinner.>” 

Jack looked at his sandwich and moved it away from his mouth, his tongue still wagging in his mouth for it. “Oh wow, my bad, is something going to happen?” 

“Nothing too bad, your stomach might hurt.” 

Jack offered the rest of his sandwich to Sharda. “Wanna help me out?” 

“And hurt with you? Why not?” 

Jack tore it in half as they both worked to gobble down the sandwich, agreeing that bread did indeed make mermaid meat go down better.

Sharda finished his half first, and as he did so turned back to a sack he had. From it, he fished out a pair of goggles and put the sack on his back. He offered the undersea goggles to Jack as he had his own.

“What are these for?” Jack asked.

“For down under the water,” Sharda said as he began to take off his shirt. Jack took a few seconds to look at Sharda’s solid stomach. There wasn’t a six-pack, but he was solid.

God, it’s been so long, Jack thought as held back the urge to drool. What the fuck’s wrong with you? You’re not a teenager anymore, Jack.

Before Sharda’s shirt went over his head, Jack began taking off his own, and Sharda took the chance to see how shredded Jack was underneath.

When Jack was shirtless, they found themselves staring at each other, which led to an awkward silence, followed by a quick laugh. 

As Sharda waited for Jack to get out of his pants, he asked him, “<You mentioned a thing called the…> Pain?

“Oh, yeah, it’s a place, I trained there to be a Stormguard.”

“Stormguard?”

“<Yes, Raydorn, they have…> elemental warriors,” he explained as he held open his hand. “<We join with> spirits, called Iligisia, <they let us do…>” 

Then from his hand the Wind blew. Sharda’s hair got twice as frizzy and stood straight up. 

He laughed as he patted it back down, and said, “That’s amazing, <truly amazing.>” 

Jack kept the bursts of the Wind going. The Iligsia made the Wind so dense that it rippled and blurred the light around it, but it was still weak enough for Sharda to put his hand over it and feel it. 

Whoa,” he said.

“Yeah, it’s weird the first time.”

“Weird? <More like amazing.>”

“You said that already.”

“It’s true, it’s… <amazing,>” he repeated before he looked up at Jack and said in Rayne, “you are… amazing Jack Starshield.”

Jack lost a bit of his concentration staring back, which let the Wind die down a bit.

“<But,>” Sharda said with a wag of his finger, “<I think I will show you something almost as amazing.>” 

Jack blinked a few times, chuckling to himself about nothing in particular. “I can’t tell if that’s a sweet compliment or a backhanded one.” 

“<Whichever one you prefer,>” Sharda said as he walked towards the cliff. 

“Now you’re just avoiding the question,” Jack called after him as he followed Sharda to the cliffside, and looked over the edge. They were three stories up, which wasn’t fatal, but…

This is hardly the most inviting fall, are those rocks down there or the shadows of the sharks? Wait, a minute…

“By the way, isn’t the way down over there?” 

Sharda laughed at him. “<You think we’re walking? No, Jack, we will not walk,> we will jump.” 

Uh…” 

“Is the Starshield afraid of heights?” 

Jack puttered out a sound before he managed to scoff at the idea. “First off, I am a Starshield, not the Starshield. Two, I use the Wind, I’m not afraid of heights.” 

“Oh, my apologies, a Starshield.” 

Jack stared at him before saying, “You said that wrong on purpose.” 

“<Follow me and maybe I’ll stop.>” Sharda stepped to the edge, literally hanging over it, to the point that Jack nearly reached for him on instinct. 

“Well, first, is the water even-” 

Sharda jumped, cackling like a mad man all the way down before Jack finished. 

“-oh my fuck.” 

Jack watched Sharda hit the water, but started to count the seconds until he came up. He started to back up from the edge before Sharda surfaced.

“Why are you waiting?!” he called up to him. “<The water is really deep, you’ll be fine!>”

“What about the shark mermaids?!” 

“<They’d scrape their bellies on coral, they don’t come over here!> Come on down! Are you chicken?> Bwak! Bwak!” Sharda tried to do the motion with his arms but immediately took on water trying, which made his date chuckle at his expense.

Never had a date call me that before. 

Jack stepped back, and then stepped back some more. 

He thrust his hands behind him and decided, Not to be outdone. The Wind culminated under his palms for only a second before shooting at the ground, letting him hop nearly ten feet in the air, up and straight down into the pool.

As he fell, Jack let the Wind wrap around him as he brought his legs to his chest. 

When he hit the water there was this loud Pop! followed by the big wave of a cannonball. 

A pleasant way to drown your date.

Jack and Sharda surfaced seconds apart, and flapping their arms to keep their heads above water as the surface still rolled up and down.

“<You amaze, Starshield,>” Sharda told him as he sputtered out water, “<but now I must amaze you. How long can you hold your breath?>” 

In a rather husky voice, Jack replied, “<Longer than you.>” 

Sharda’s teeth shined before he accepted Jack’s challenge, “We can test that,” and then he dived under the water. 

Jack was quick to follow him.

Jack was wearing the goggles when he cannonballed into the water, but being surrounded by bubbles blinded him to the shapes around him. Going under now, he could see everything.

There are two things you can see under the water at the coast of the Golden Plateau. Seaweed and sand. There’s critters underneath both, but you never saw them unless they were stuck to you.

What colors do I not see now?

It was as if a painter would dip a new brush into a new color of paint, and press down on a blue canvas. Coral came in all shapes and sizes, appearing like flowers from above, and then eldrich beauties up close. 

Jack could swim, but for once, it was good that he was slow as shit at it, because it gave him more time to look around, and catch sight of the fish hiding in the coral reef. 

I must have scared them.

A long, yellow eel, with the face of something he’d eat for lunch, had eyes that looked half closed as it hid from him. Jack kept swimming to keep up with Sharda until a school of yellow and blue striped fish got between them. 

These fish could not give a fuck about me.

When they were gone, and Jack saw the water getting darker, he almost lost Sharda. He started to speed up to catch up to him as he surfaced. Jack’s arms got heavier at the idea of going to the surface, but he wasn’t about to ruin the rest of whatever Sharda had planned.

The ex-Stormguard managed to catch up to Sharda. His awkward but quick limbered paddles would have made Lucy laugh underwater.

He felt the sand beneath his knees as he surfaced, lifting his head out of the water to an underground cavern, with a sand floor, and light coming in from a hole in the top.

After taking his first breath, the sight of the cavern around him took his breath away. After erosion by wind, water, and something else, so much of the wall had become crystallized. Rather than the overload of colors that lied underneath the water or under his ancestral home, this was one that surrounded him. 

It’s a simpler sight to take in.

“This is beauti…” Jack said as he turned around to see Sharda still taking heavy breaths. “Are you okay?”

Sharda waved him off. “Oh me? Me fine, very fine… you? You <really can hold your breath.>” 

“I was honestly worried about you for a little while there.”

“Ah, you tease.”

Sharda walked up to Jack and took his fingers in his hands to take him to the middle of the cavern, just below where the light hits. He laid down and Jack let out a nervous laugh as he laid down with him. Then he looked up.

The white crystallization, when touched by light, became an aurora of psychedelic colors. It was mesmerizing to the eye, they could look at nothing else.

Just like his blade.

No matter where Jack went, his old love haunted him as if it were the victim of his own hubris. Each time he felt a bit more comfortable branching out, it snuck around him. Even as he looked at the aurora light above him, it was slowly consumed by blackness and the sharp edges of a knight wielding a fearsome sword. 

“<You have the thinking face of a man begot by color itself.>”

Jack’s eyes blinked several times, unable to decipher the words he assumed Sharda spoke. “What?”

“<You hadn’t blinked in a while.>”

“Oh, oh yeah.”

Sharda moved up onto one arm before he asked, “<What are you thinking about?>”

“I’m trying not to think at tall.” 

That made Sharda chuckle. “<Yes, this place has that effect.>” 

Jack made an attempt to live up to his word as well. “You must show every special friend this place.” 

Sharda’s smile weakened into a fine line as he stared down at Jack’s lips, up until Jack turned his head up and found himself doing the same. “You, would not be the first… <but you could be the last.>” 

Whoa.

Jack laid down as Sharda stared down at him, still as can be, his heart slowing in his chest, all until Sharda leaned down.

It happened so fast for Jack. Sharda was looking down one moment, and then the next he felt Sharda’s lips caressing his. 

He tasted like salt, but at that moment salt had never tasted better. Jack reached up to grab the back of Sharda’s head to pull him closer, as if he wasn’t already as close to him as he could be.

Sharda’s hand ran down Jack’s side, to the waistband of his trousers, as Jack held Sharda’s head in both hands. The moment Sharda’s finger gently brushed underneath Jack’s shirt, there was a zap of electricity that made Jack open his eyes and he didn’t see Sharda there. 

It was for a brief moment that he saw the face of his first kiss and first love. Only for a moment, but a moment was all he needed to jump away.

“I-I, I’m sorry,” Jack said, his heart thumping in his chest as he threw sand everywhere to sprawl away.

Sharda leaned all the way back before falling on his bottom, wide-eyed and confused. Before the Hotun man knew it, Jack was stumbling to his feet, wiping sand off his pants.

Sharda held up a hand, apologizing without knowing why, “I’m… I’m sorry, if I move too fast, that’s… <that’s how I am.>” 

Jack desperately pulled on his goggles as he stared at Sharda. There was but a moment’s delay before he shook his head and stuttered his way through his words.  “No-no, it’s-it’s nothing you did, I… I… I just…” Jack’s hands clenched in front of him so hard they turned red. “I’m not ready for this yet, I’m sorry, I… I have to go.” 

Before Sharda could say another word, Jack was running for the water, leaving Sharda with his hand raised out, and his mouth quivering in sheer shock. 

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, oh god, what is… I… I don’t… I don’t even know… Jack thought to himself as he dived into the water. His heart was beating in his chest, and his body kept buzzing with this desire to move and his brain with nowhere to go. This is it? Is this how it’s always going to be? I’m with one and I’m done forever, forever alone, forever seeing him there, him everywhere. 

Love is truly death.

*****

Depending on who you ask, the shadows are no one’s friend, not are they anyone’s enemy. Even a master of their surroundings, who spent years upon years training to hide with their environment, can find themselves caught dead to rights by someone who was just quiet enough at the right time.

Despite that, Sigma took it personally when Quintus stuck up on her.

Quintus rested his hand down easy on her shoulder, as the masked assassin spied on the cult from the shadows. Hiding behind a pillar of rock, she thought herself invisible from all directions.

When she felt Quintus’s gentle touch, her whole spine spasmed, screaming for her to run. She managed to control herself and slowly turn around to face him. She couldn’t speak as her heartbeat so fast, and the smirk on his face wasn’t helping much.

In a whisper as to not distract from Astrid’s storytime with the children of the Raze, he asked her, “Is there a reason you’re spying on them? I hardly think a bunch of children and a storyteller are worth spying on.”

Truly, Malum has this girl wasting her time, he thought to himself.

He waited for her to answer, before he noticed how slow her breathing was. 

Oh, I scared her pretty bad. 

“Uh, please, take your time.”

Sigma waved off his concerns. “No, I… I should have heard you, should have realized you were coming up behind me.”

“Possibly, more importantly even, you should answer my question.”

Sigma’s hand stayed near the mouth of her mask. It was a striking design to Quintus, two crescent moons that swirled together at the lips. With the back of her hand near it, she looked properly offended.

“What other reason do I need… other than that my master told me to,” she said, turning her head away from him.

You’re already wearing a full-face mask, you don’t have to hide your gaze.

Quintus was all groans with Malum’s acolyte. He waved his large finger in her face as she looked away from him. “Just doing what your told is a cowardly excuse to do what is wrong. Astrid is a leader of our band, it is not your place to be watching her.” 

“That is not for you to-”

“It is tonight,” Quintus growled, his hand grabbing hold of the rockface behind her, and slowly squeezing until it cracked. “Now be gone from my sight, I will not have assassins stalking children, no matter who tells them their bedtime stories.”

“I-”

He did not give the assassin a second chance to speak.

“I will not ask again, the next time I will do what all assassins of the black fear, I only need to raise my voice to do it.”

Sigma was deathly still looking up at him. It was easy to forget that the teddy bear of the Black Legion could, in fact, be a bear from time to time.

“You could join us!” Astrid called to them from the fire, surrounded by her followers and the children of the Raze. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together. 

Quintus waved Sigma away, and she disappeared into dusk rather quickly.

The man of red cracked his neck and put on his usual smile before stepping out of the shadows to wave hello to everyone. “Sorry to intrude, I didn’t want to interrupt, but I couldn’t resist storytime with Astrid.”

“She tells good stories,” Hana said from her spot between the Pennies, along with the other children surrounding the fire in their cave. 

As Quintus came to sit with the children, he left his back to the followers on the outskirts of the circle. 

Astrid arched her brow at him but seemed amused at the sight of him. “I didn’t take you for a sleuth, Quint,” she said, hiding nothing from those around them. 

Quintus gave her an awkward smile in turn. “I… I did not mean to, I didn’t want to interrupt… as I said… it all seemed quite private.” 

Astrid grinned from ear to ear as she told him in a lowhusky voice, “Nothing’s private on this island, the Islanders taught me that early on.” 

Next, Quintus was the one to arch his brow. “What do you mean?” 

Astrid immediately raised both hands, and put her pointer finger through a circle made with the fingers on her other hand. Some of the other kids laughed as Quintus groaned out loud.

“I don’t get it,” Hana said with her head tilted.

Astrid patted her head. “Oh, that’s more than okay, sweet child, poor Quintus though…”

“Poor me?” 

Astrid nodded. “Yes, we’ve finished with storytime, now we will do something else, something I have long promised our two Pennies.”

Both of the teenagers lit up like fireworks. “Really?! You’re serious?!”

“Don’t pull my leg, are we getting them now?!”

Astrid pulled up her sleeve on her right arm and nodded her head. “Would I lie to you?”

In almost perfect unison, the children and Quintus said, “Yes.”

Astrid glared at all them, before sticking out her tongue. “Liars, all of you.”

When one of Astrid’s disciples brought out the needler and the black ink, Quintus made the connections. 

“No, they’re children,” Quintus said, as if he had a say.

“No we’re not!” Hana yelled at him, which drew a weird side eye from the Pennies and Astrid.

“Well, you are,” Penelope told the little child.

“Uh-uh!

“No, seriously Hana, if you got the tattoo, it would warp once you get big,” Penance tried to explain to her, “do you want it to warp?” She was met with a blank expression. “By ‘warp’ I mean it’ll bend and not match with our tattoos.”

Hana made a ‘oh’ face of understanding before shaking her head. “Nuh-uh.

Uh-huh,” Penance told her as the disciple laid down a blanket and gestured for the girls to lay down their arms.

Astrid laid her arm down and told the Pennies, “Face me, then lay your arms down on either side of mine.”

No!!!” Hana whined as she threw her head back and forth, making the other kids giggle around her.

“No, is right,” Quintus said again, “this is too far, this is-”

“What religious freedom looks like, Quint,” Astrid interrupted him as he stood up and towered over her. “Who are you to tell us that the ways of the Raze are wrong?”

“You know that’s not what this is.”

Astrid’s smirk formed a fine line. “Don’t act like you do.”

Astrid felt two little hands tightly grip her bicep just before her disciple laid down the stenciled fabric on her arm. When she looked down she was met by the widest eyes and the biggest quivering lip she’d ever seen.

“That’s all you got?” Astrid asked.

Hana’s puppy eyes went to the max, mocking tears.

Astrid rolled her eyes before leaning down to whispering in Hana’s ear. “Listen to me, this is a map, remember? Where does it lead?”

Jia! That’s why I want it!” the kid yelled in her face.

“But it’s made to fit together only when the four of us are together. If you get yours now, and it warps, it’ll be all messed up, and you know what we can’t find then?”’

Hana’s eyes opened wide for real that time. Astrid couldn’t have told her something worse.

“Don’t you want to go together some day?” 

Hana’s neck craned down as she struggled keep her head up. In the quietest little voice, she whispered, “Yes…

“You wouldn’t want to ruin it because you got it too early, would you?”

No…

“Then I promise if you wait, it’ll be perfect.”

Hana pursed her lip as she wore a glare that nearly melted Astrid’s heart. “Fine.

Astrid felt two arms bump against her own and turned to find the Pennies ready and waiting. “Guys, don’t get too excited, what are you a bunch of masochists?”

“Astrid!” Quintus berated her.

“Like these kids know what that means!”

It became a feral argument between Quintus and Astrid… and the children. They repeated over and over again lines of freedom and tales of age. It was really the children who went feral listening to the adults talk in circles. 

In fact, they were hissing and growling like panthers.

Quintus had to stop and stare in shock. Most of the children stopped because they couldn’t help laughing, but the few who kept snarling had Quintus aghast. By the time he snapped himself from his daze, Penance was halfway done with her tattoo.

He waited outside, arms crossed, his back against the pillar, wishing he had gone to eat dinner with everyone else instead. Mermaid meat would be better than this uphill battle. How am I always alone with the adult who lacks sanity?

“Are you still moping?” spoke said adult. 

She stepped out into the moonlight, standing in this little hole in the wall where she could look down on Quintus for once in her life.

“I don’t know what I have to do, Astrid, but I’m not going to let you induct these kids into your cult.”

Astrid’s eyes looked to the sky as she gestured to it with outstretched hands. She was caring for Quintus, she was looking to the stars and all that lied between. 

“The future is up there, why am I caring about you down here?” she said to herself.

“Excuse me?” Quintus said. Has she gone mad?

She was still shaking her head as she sat down in the cave hole. Suddenly, she found herself nearly at eye level with him.

“You don’t really get these ‘kids,’ you know that?”

Quintus narrowed his eyes at her. “Why did you put emphasis on ‘kids?’”

Astrid ignored him, “You just go on every day, thinking you’re good at things that you’re not.”

“Okay, this is beginning to feel like a personal attack.”

Astrid gestured behind her with a thumb over her shoulder. “You know, these kids were starting to doubt us, I wanted- no, had to do something that made them want to stay rather than steal a boat- a thing I know they were planning to do.”

How would they even…?

Quintus shook his head as he turned to face Astrid. He gave her his full attention as he leaned against the rock and asked her, “What are you talking about?”

Astrid watched the way he crossed his arms. She smiled for a moment before he gestured for her to continue. “You are so impatient,” she said with a shake of her head.

“Do you know what leaving the Raze means to the people who lived there?”

Most would expect a sarcastic answer, like, “I don’t know, food and drink,” or something like, “Improved chances of survival?”

Quintus thought about it, and said, “No, how could I?”

There was a sneaking hint of a smirk that Astrid tried to hide as she spoke. “Leaving the Raze meant giving up the most important parts of life. Freedom, belief, belonging, you think these kids feel like they belong when everyone treats theym like kids?” 

Quintus cracked a bit, as he let out a condescending laugh. “Well, they are kids?!” 

Are they? They raised themselves and each other, they taught each other right and wrong, they didn’t get to be kids. How do you expect them to find you and everyone else anything other than patronizing?” 

The biggest man on the island began to feel very small as he tried to put himself in their shoes. He mumbled as he looked away, struggling to make sense of it. “They did fine with Jack.” 

“This may shock you, but Jack told them off and treated them harshly… just like the world always has, and they appreciated it because he–while being a dick–treated them with respect. 

“You don’t, so I’m picking up your slack and showing them that their belief doesn’t have to go away either.” 

How is it possible for something to sound so wrong but feel so profoundly correct?

As he slowly rested half of his face in the palm of his hand, Quintus admitted, “I… I don’t understand these kids.” 

Astrid reached over and rested a small hand on the big man’s shoulder. “Nobody understands kids, Quintus, nobody understands each other. If we did, the world wouldn’t be the way it is, and we wouldn’t be hiding out from a world war.” 

Quintus turned back to look at her with an arched brow. He stared at her as a smile slowly wreaked havoc across his face until it formed a full-on laugh. “You know, you’re making a scary amount of sense.” 

She threw her arms up in celebration. “See! There’s method and reason to my madness.” 

“If there’s reason then it’s not madness, it just looks like it.” 

Astrid tilted her head and pursed her lip. “Aw, have I ever told you you’re my favorite?” 

“Be careful, your followers may get upset.”

“More upset than him?”

Astrid pointed across the beach as one Jack Starshield shuffled across the sands, swinging his arms back and forth and throwing them in the air. They could hear him yelling at himself, but couldn’t make out what he was saying.

“I see the date didn’t go as well as planned,” Astrid bemoaned, “I’ll  start taking bets on whether it was Jack or Sharda who messed things up.” 

Quintus stood off the rock and started walking. “I’ll go asks him.”

“Don’t scare him, Malum did that and got sent fifty feet into the air!”
Quintus’s brow pursed in confusion. Fifty feet? She must be kidding, the drop would have killed him… unless he landed in the water. The Isles are surrounded by water.

Quintus shook his head and focused on catching up to Jack who was still stumbling down the beach. 

As Quintus caught up to him, he called his name, but Jack didn’t respond. “Jack, Jack!” When Quintus touched his shoulder Jack whipped around and swatted his hand away. Quintus could see how red and watering his eyes were, while his cheeks were blisteringly dry. “What’s wrong?”

Jack didn’t look Quintus, he looked to the ocean and the sky, and the sand, everywhere he could but someone’s eye. “Him!” he screamed to the high heavens. “He’s what’s wrong!”

“What did Sharda do?”

At that question, Jack just started shaking his head, muttering, “No, not Sharda…” his face dipping into his hands as he tried to keep from crying, “he did everything right.”

“Then who’s he…” Quintus muttered as he tried to keep up.

“Me, I…” Jack mumbled as saliva connected his lips, and his face grew beat red, and yet he still fought it. He fought back what had welled up so deeply in his chest. “I fucked that up, I can’t handle it, I can’t…” Jack squatted down with his face in his hands, as he whispered in a voice that Quintus shouldn’t be able to hear, “I can’t handle being with someone whose not… him.” 

Oh… Quintus thought as he kneeled down next to Jack.

“What’s wrong with me?” Jack asked him. “I’m just going to be stuck on the same man who broke my heart forever?”

Quintus reached to lay a slow hand on Jack’s shoulder. “You haven’t grieved, Jack, you have to-” 

His hand was slapped away before it landed.

He’s not dead, he left me!” Jack yelled as he shot to his feet and stomped away through the sand. Quintus slowly stood back up as Jack turned back around and beat his chest as he yelled, “He was taken. From. Me!

“But the relationship is gone,” Quintus tried to tell him, “he’s been under her service for so long… you need to grieve what you had.

Jack stomped up to Quintus and growled up towards his chin. “I’ve been grieving.”

“You’ve been sulking, hanging on, hoping without hope, I know that feels a lot like grieving, it looks a lot like grieving, but it lacks all the parts that are supposed to make you eventually feel again.”

Jack mocked a laugh as he stumbled back. “Oh, and what are those parts? What’s supposed to make me feel better, Quint?!

“Acceptance, friends, sympathy for yourself.”

“Huh, right.” Jack rubbed his sniffling nose and threw his hands around as if he were trying to throw Quintus’s words out and into the ocean. “Interesting theory there, and just how do I get all that?”

“I don’t know,” Quintus said as he stepped up to Jack, and before Jack could pull back, Quintus grabbed him by the shoulder. “I only know the tears you’ve been holding in are helping you any.” Jack tried to pull away but Quintus’s grip was that of iron, and his words were hit upon Jack as if they were stones. “Grieving necessitates letting it all out, not stalking the shores and sleeping it away. You’re only hurting yourself, killing yourself from the inside out, and you don’t deserve that.”

Jack raised his fist and punched Quintus’s chest, as he said, “You don’t know anything,” and did it again, and again, and again. “You don’t know anything, nothing, anything… anything…” 

Quintus stood and let them bounce off him as if Jack were a small child until Jack’s knees began to give out. Quintus wrapped his arms around him, and let him keep beating his hand against his chest as he held him. He let him keeping hit him with his little taps as Jack let out his heart.

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