05 March 2012 @ 07:08 pm
 It all happens in an instant.

The good thing about the link is that it allows instantaneous action. Partners work to protect each other as one cohesive unit, and this makes them formidable.

It can also make them weak.

Ellis saw an opposing soldier raise his gun, finger tightening on the trigger. He felt the automatic tense of Aidan’s muscles and his fear in a burst; then his arms wrapped around Ellis. How often had he felt that warm embrace? Not often enough. Aidan pulled him out of harm’s way, forming a human shield. He knew the second the bullets tore through Aidan’s flesh and felt the ripping, searing agony with him.

          —…Love you-

He sank to the ground, pulling Ellis with him. So many emotions. Fear. Pain. Love. He thought about his family and remembers one holiday when his dad burnt the turkey. His mother’s laugh. His hopes to one day introduce Ellis to his parents. Oh, they would have loved him. On Ellis’s end, only panic. Desperation.

                —Don’t do this, Aidan. Aidan, please! You promised! The tears ran hot down his face. He never had been a very stalwart catholic, but now he pleads with every kind deity and devil he can conjure. Don’t take him away from me, I beg you!

                —...Kiss me?

Ellis pressed his lips to Aidan’s, clutching him tight, the blood staining his hands.

“Somebody please help! Nurse!” He screamed, but there was only a chorus of gunshot in reply. There are too many emotions flooding through their bond, crashing in giant tidal waves. Aidan is projecting his love to Ellis, and Ellis begged him to hold on.

None of it worked.

Aidan’s hands went cold. Ellis can’t remember his last thought. It got lost in his sweeping agony. To realise the person you love most in the world is not going to survive is to destroy everything on earth which holds you together. To lose them is to realise just how frail and fleeting life is.

Everything went unbearably silent after that.

They had to drag him away when the fighting was done. For hours, he had simply sat there, cradling an empty shell in bloody arms, willing death to come for him, too, or for the sounds to come back, the strong serenity and comforting stability of his link with Aidan to emit a short static burst and then for the signal to heal itself, like there was nothing in the first place. Aidan’s arms would hug him, and he would kiss Ellis’s cheeks and call him pet names, and balance would be restored. He doesn’t even notice when they amputate his right arm, using a useless stump at his elbow. The man didn’t even notice he was being shot.

His neighbours exchange knowing looks when they pass his room and hear only muffled sounds coming from behind the door. Some of them have partners, too, and they could not imagine ever losing that steady connection.

He isn’t the first to lose his partner, and he certainly won’t be the last. The ones who survive often don’t last long.

Commanding officers keep an eye on him, but he drags by listlessly. He was unable to attend the funeral. In a few weeks, he packs a bag and promises he’ll be back. They watch him leave and wonder if he meant a word.

 

The house is exactly as Aidan had described it. White, quaint, cheerful, well-maintained. Ellis walks up to the door and rings the bell. He tries to stand tall, but there is a perpetual heaviness to his shoulders, and if he can force those straight, the sorrow in his eyes cripples everyone he meets the eyes of. They have to turn away, ashamed. Of what? They do not know. The door opens, and a middle aged woman peers at him. She looks cheerful, with a bright gleam in her eye and a smile communicating some remnant of mischief on her face, the same copper hair, only streaked with silver. He sees so much of Aidan in her; Ellis was trying to be strong, but as soon as he sees her, his resolve crumbles and he hangs his head, shoulders shaking and tears tumbling from his lashes. Aidan’s mother’s eyes fill with concern. There is only one reason there should be a soldier other than Aidan on her doorstep, and if he’s crying…

“C-could I come in, please?”

After a strained introduction, Stella Bramley puts on some tea and brings it out for Ellis. “What’s your name, dear?” She asks. Clearly, this man is haunted by his time in the army. She sets the teacup in front of him and he thanks he quietly. He has stopped his tears and reaches toward the cup with his right arm. He pauses after looking momentarily confused and switches to his left hand. He forgets a lot of the time that he has lost his dominant hand. A limb he can live without, but he lost something much more important, much more precious…

“Ellis Wellington. Fifth unit.”

Fifth unit. That was where her son was. Her heart sinks, but she must be certain. “Don’t they usually send an officer and a letter?”

Ellis stares at his lap, slowly sifting through his mind for the words. “I didn’t want that for you. I wanted you to find out from someone who cares about Aidan.” She catches his use of present tense. “I felt I owed it to you. He… He was protecting me. I was his partner. We were linked.”

“You were close?”

“A bit more than that, I’d say.” There is a hint of wry humour to the way he says it, but that flickers and dies in the next moment.

“What was it like? The psychic link.” Stella will do anything to cover the dull tick of the clock, the creaking upstairs of her husband going from room to room. Every sound drives further home the fact that life goes on. Clocks keep ticking and not even for a moment does time wait for you to stop grieving.

“It was the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. At first, he tried to hide things from me, but he realised later that it was futile. To see what he saw and feel what he felt… Intoxicating. Part of me fell in love with the vibrancy in which he perceived things, and the other part fell in love with the rest.” He hesitates. “Now that he’s gone, I… There is nothing. The silence is the worst part.”

Every morning he expects to wake up and feel Aidan’s arms around him, and to be able to rest his head against Aidan’s chest. Instead, there are cold sheets where Aidan always slept and the remnant of nightmares hidden as tearstains on his pillow. “There are moments when I hear something, and it’s like he’s trying to talk with me. Like he could somehow break through the heavens and contact me for one fleeting second.” They’re what are called ghost images, and he knows that they happen because of the link trying to connect and ultimately failing. Some things flicker through, a common thought the person had, recounted from before their passing. They aren’t new, but they seem so real. “And it’s moments like that when I don’t feel so alone. They’ve stopped now.”

Stella understands now. This is Ellis’s way of sealing the loose ends. There is nothing in his tone to indicate that he wants to continue as he is. She could not imagine having to live without her husband, but Ellis has seen his beloved torn away from him, and the reminder is in his head. He can live somewhere else. He can leave the army. He can move to the other side of the world, but he will never be able to rid himself of that feeling of emptiness. “I’m sorry. I should go.” He stands. He hasn’t finished his tea. Stella stands, too, and reaches her hand out to catch his.

“You know he would want you to live.”

“I’m trying.” He gives Stella a smile. In it she sees nothing but pain. Before he leaves, he turns to her and grasps her hand. “I am very pleased to have met you, Mrs. Bramley. I know how Aidan wanted me to meet you.”

“Please, call me ‘mum’.” She gathers him into a hug and he cries into her shoulder. She sheds a few tears, too, and then he turns away and leaves. Stella doesn’t think she’ll be seeing him again.

She looks back at her little home and it hits her, hard. Ellis was right. The silence is the worst part.

 

Ellis is tired. Every reminder sets him off, and there are a lot. He does his best to be a soldier, but with one arm missing and a hole in his heart, it’s not easy. Every time he comes back to his room and hangs up his weapons belt, he recalls with a sigh that the army is providing him with the tools; he just lacks the courage to use them. Tonight is particularly lonely, and the silence was deafening. He worried about something like this, but he had always held some idealistic fantasy in his heart that they were destined to be together, and that would pull them through in the end. It was always Aidan and Ellis; they were the ones with the unwavering trust, they were what others desired to be. After they started getting close, Ellis realises, people stopped thinking of them as two separate entities, because where one went, the other followed.

          —I love you.

Ellis sits on his bed with his head in his hands and sobs. Of all the things to ghost through, it had to be that. I love you too, but where am I now? What am I supposed to do with you gone?

Aidan would want him to live, but there is always the fact: Aidan goes, Ellis follows. He’s probably somewhere better now, causing trouble. How is he going to get out of it without Ellis there with him?

He feels so painfully alone. With Aidan, he was never alone. He knew when Ellis was happy or hurting, and he always knew what to do. They were less like two people and more two halves of a whole.

He doesn’t want to be alone anymore.

I’d apologise, but at this point, I don’t have anyone left to apologise to. If I don’t find Aidan in heaven, hopefully I won’t have to remember losing him.

-Ellis Wellington

 

He opens his eyes. He doesn’t even remember death.

Aidan is in front of him, and it knocks the air from his lungs.

“I wanted you to keep living, you know,” he says. Ellis’s arms wrap around him.

“I missed you,” he says in a broken whisper.

“I know.” He strokes Ellis’s hair. He thought there would be no more connection once Ellis joined him, but he was mistaken. Ellis’s pain and relief and love are tremendous. Aidan shares in his sorrow; after all, he watched as the love of his life wasted away. He didn’t want Ellis to do it, but what’s done is done. Ellis is here now, and that’s all that matters.

“I love you.”

“I know. I love you, too.”

 
 
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