“Well, if we’re not going shopping, I need to go see what we have left in the bunker,” Jeron stood up.
“You may still proceed with your food procurement plans. Perhaps Daniel would be willing to accompany you?”
Jeron sighed, “Kid needs some time with his dad and it’s been nothing but up and down. This might be a good time. He coming around yet?”
“He is beginning to think more rationally, but is now upset about how he handled the situation.” Qaitax paused a moment, “He is ‘pissed off’ at me for telling you this.”
“Oh good Lord,” Jeron sat back down, “Sylus, come back. It’s okay. Really. I’m sorry about what I said…”
“You were not the one who triggered this, Jeron.”
Qaitax sighed, “Saari is obstinate and afraid. It hit Sylus harder than I could have anticipated.”
“Ah… I see…” Jeron sighed again, “But I’m the one that started this… I…” he scoffed, “I know I could go alone. I know I can go and come back by myself. That’s a given. I’m an adult. I can drive. I know how to spend money, but… I…” another sigh, “People look at me weird. I think they can see the corruption sometimes…”
“So you want Sylus and Saari to draw attention away from you? Because they are far more visibly corrupted than you are.”
“I… I didn’t think of it that way… I only thought that if there were more of us in public, none of us would look that strange… I thought maybe if we normalized ourselves, we could get attention back on our crisis. I… I’m tired of living in isolation. You have to understand that, Qaitax. Right?”
Qaitax leaned back, folding one leg over the other, “Most of my existence was spent in isolation. I know that feeling well.”
“Then you understand why I want to go out there and get people’s attention. I mean,” he sighed, “He’s already been out and no one said a word.”
“Yes but you are asking him to go out completely exposed, but for as eager as you are, Saari and Sylus are not. They are at different stages of the very same path of isolation you are on. Saari is used to it. Much has changed in her life and it was all very sudden. Sylus would like to, but he is terrified of repercussions. Not just from other humans, but from himself. He is concerned he may wind up in a violent situation or turn a situation violent.”
“He can’t assume the worst, Qaitax. Someday, we will have to try. No one will ever be completely ready. None of us will be 100% okay with exposing ourselves to the public, but… I… I think Sylus and Saari should have more faith in themselves. Yes, I understand Saari is in the worst position, but she has nothing to lose! She has all of us on her side. Hell, all she really needs is you and I know you’d go to bat for her under any circumstance.”
Qaitax thought a moment, “A… Trust exercise, of sorts?”
“Exactly!” Jeron jumped from his seat, “We need to learn to trust each other.”
“But… You made certain to assure me that there is nothing I could ever do to earn your trust. Why should I bother trying?”
Deflated, Jeron sat back down beside him. “I’m the problem in all of this, aren’t I?”
Qaitax shook his head, “No. We are all the problem, but I do believe you and I are struggling with mixed messages and intentions.”
“Qaitax… I…” Jeron sighed, “You’re… Part of Sylus. I have to figure you out. I have to know if I can trust you. I was quick to say I couldn’t, because to me, you’re an evil aberration that has no place in this world,” Qaitax snorted, “But… Hear me out. I. Love. Sylus. I loved him before and, well, I love him now. He’s changed a lot, but… I want to get to know him better. This is obviously something he wanted. I want him to feel comfortable with himself. I want all of us to normalize ourselves. That’s all. None of us should be afraid of the world we live in. If anything,” Jeron scoffed, “Between Sylus and Saari, I’m sure they could utterly annihilate the world if they wanted to. And that’s actually kind of…”
“Cool? You see destructive tendencies as a good thing?”
“No. I see the potential and the control as a good thing. I know if things go to hell, you guys could easily pull the plug and end it all. On the one hand, yeah, that is a bit uncomfortable, but on the other? That power is on our side. Ultimately, we hold the reigns. It’s,” Jeron was grinning, “Empowering.”
Qaitax raised a brow.
“Come on, Qaitax. You have to understand what it’s like to constantly be in a powerless state. Always getting walked on and looked down on. I just…”
“You wish to ‘flex’ your power?”
“Flex?” Jeron snorted.
“Sylus suggested it was the appropriate term…”
“You listening in, then, Sy?”
Jeron wrapped his arms around him, “Welcome back.”
“I’m so sorry, Jeron…”
“I really thought everything was going to be okay…”
“You need time to adjust and then we can work all that other stuff out. For now, you’re safe and you’re loved. That won’t change.”
“Oh I know safety won’t last forever, but I have to make sure…”
“Stop. Daniel and I have been through some shit. We can really handle ourselves…”
“Y-you don’t need me then…”
“It’s not that we don’t need you. It’s that together we could be far more powerful than we are alone. Trust us, Sy. We can do so much together. Don’t underestimate us.”
“See, that looks good on you.”
“Smiling. You wear your smiles really well now. Before, they always looked painful. Like you weren’t sure if you were doing it right. But now?” he paused a moment, “You really look like you mean it.”
Sylus raised a brow.
“It’s in the eyes.”
Sylus’ smile grew. “Thanks, Jer.”
Daniel cleared his throat at the top of the stairs.
“Saari and I want to say something.”
Jeron and Sylus turned to face them as they stepped down into the living room.
“Can Qaitax listen in?” Daniel cleared his throat.
“Sure,” Sylus smiled.
“Okay…” he looked to Saari who was twisting the fabric of her robes between her fingers. “Well. Saari and I talked. We have a lot of things we want to say, but we’ll try to keep it brief.” He looked up to Saari again still nervously playing with the fabric of her attire. “First. We want to have personal Dad time. Saari needs her dad as much as I need mine, so we wanted to ask if Qaitax could maybe pick a day or two to be in control.”
Sylus turned to Jeron who gave him a shrug.
“I believe we could work something out,” he grinned.
“Okay, good.” Daniel looked to Saari again. She was biting her lip now. “Two, uh, we want everyone to be more open and honest with their feelings.”
Sylus grin faded.
“Everyone is hiding something and we all know that, but it’s making us all sick so we need to start talking rather than getting hurt until we can’t take it anymore.”
“I feel personally attacked,” Sylus muttered.
“It’s not just you, Dad. Jeron has his breakdowns, too. He’s just able to hide them better. And,” Daniel sighed, “I do too…”
Sylus sat upright. Jeron put a hand on his shoulder.
“I get really scared sometimes… I try not to show it, but… I just…” his voice began to crack.
“We are all very afraid,” Saari finally spoke up. “We are all in a place we do not understand. We must all learn to trust each other.”
“W-with m-more than j-just,” Daniel’s voice kept hitching in his throat, “Being reliable o-or whatever… B-but… How we feel, t-too…”
“Oh Dan,” Sylus dove off the couch, taking his son in his arms. “I’m so sorry…”
“I’m sorry, too, Dad,” Daniel sobbed as he embraced his father.
It was refreshing to not hear the usual ‘don’t be’ when it came to being apologetic. It had always been something Sylus saw as a chance to make him feel better without causing any reflection. He was sorry and to know that it was okay to be sorry somehow felt relieving. Even if it was his son, it felt good that they were both finally truly expressing their feelings in a controlled environment. Devoid of the darkness of collapse. Just mutual understanding.
“I, too, am most apologetic,” Saari added.
“Why are you sorry, Saari?” Sylus slowly stood up.
“B-because I am the root of much of everyone’s concerns. I am the one instigating the most change and discomfort. You are adjusting your lives to include me in them.”
“That’s family, Saari,” Sylus sniffed.
Saari shook her head, “I must make an effort to adjust my life to fit into yours as well. It must go both ways.”
“You go at your own pace,” Jeron leaned forward, “We all do.”
Saari shook her head again, “No. One thing Lord Qaitax taught me when I was much younger was that if we are to overcome our fears, we must face them. It is how I took control of the Brotherhood. I faced my accusers and stood against their wrath. I did not want to do it, but upon doing so, I was freed of so many fears and doubts.”
The room was silent.
“I would like to try to see your world, Sylus, though I am uncertain of how much I will actually be able to observe…”
Daniel took her hand. “I’ll take you wherever you wanna go,” he smiled.
Saari’s head sank to her chest. “I am very handicapped here…”
“And that’s okay,” Sylus chuckled, “We’ll stick together. When the time comes, we’ll stay with each other and make sure…”
“The time is now,” Saari announced, “I cannot keep running. Even if I feel as though I am not prepared, I must take the leap for I will never truly be prepared if I continue to wait until I am.”
Sylus turned to Jeron.
“Alright then,” Jeron slapped his knees as he stood up, “Road trip!”