By the time Jeron got home, he found the house quiet. A single warm light emanated from a table beside the couch. Jeron smiled. He put his cans of chicken soup and what was left of the canned vegetables in one of the many empty kitchen cabinets. It could wait.
He took off his coat and hung it on the rack just inside the door. After years of not going anywhere, all this driving was wearing him out. But it was worth it. They had someone who could help them medically now. With the way things were in the Mist, that was a relief.
He sat down heavily on the couch as his mind wandered in thought about the countless other people scattered throughout the tainted land. He knew not everyone could afford to flee. There had to be thousands scattered about if not millions considering the substance had made landfall in Asia. For a fleeting second, he had the idea that they should all come together to care for themselves. If the world had truly abandoned them, all they had left was each other. But he was quick to shake the idea from his mind. A million mouths to feed? A million lives to protect? He scoffed. They could barely protect themselves. Maybe someday the people of the Mist would find a way to unify, but it wouldn’t be his job to figure it out.
With a deep sigh, Jeron let his eyes slide shut. He was on the brink of sleep, but it was slow to come. Anxiety whirled through his mind about what life was going to become. What was next? Life in the bunker had been so simple. Terrifying, but simple. They lived under looming threat of assault, but that made a structured life easy. They couldn’t do certain things at certain times and this was accepted as law. Life was rigid, but the objective was easy: Survive. Now it felt like there was room to do more than just get by.
With Sylus’ return, Jeron was fearful that he’d grow complacent. That he would lose his edge. That he’d grow soft and become useless. His eyes opened in the dim light of the room. The stronger Sylus got, the less he’d have to do. He knew his abilities would pale in comparison to a near god-like being. He knew there was little he could offer compared to that kind of power. He closed his eyes again. But he refused to ever be useless. He refused to ever do less than he was capable of. But in turn, would he become the burden? He couldn’t think like that. He knew Sylus cared about him more than that.
Soft yet heavy footsteps made their way down the hall.
“Jeron?” Sylus stood at the top of the hallway steps.
Part of him really didn’t want to deal with this right now. He just wanted to keep his eyes closed and pretend he was asleep. So he did. He could fee Sylus staring at him a moment longer before wandering away. Jeron relaxed. Interaction averted, but just as he was about to open his eyes again, he heard the shuffling footsteps approach once more. With a quiet growl of annoyance, he resumed his faking his slumber.
A pillow was gently placed behind his head and a blanket was draped over his body. It was gently tucked in behind his shoulders to keep it up in his seated position.
“There,” Sylus whispered.
With that, he slowly ascended the steps and shuffled back down the hall.
Jeron opened his eyes. He found himself staring at nothing and devoid of thought. The tingling sensation of tears building up made him feel things he didn’t want to. Turning to the ceiling, he found himself on the brink of sobbing.
“Goddamn you, Sylus Synclaire. Why couldn’t you stay dead…” he whispered to no one but himself.
He wasn’t ready for this. He wasn’t ready to go from a life of barely getting by to being taken care of. It was too sudden. Too abrupt, but what could he say? Tell the man he cared about to stop caring for him? He honestly welcomed the small show of affection. One he knew Sylus knew would go unnoticed. And then he remembered all the times he wrapped Sylus in blankets to cut the panic attacks. All the times he sat with him while he choked on his very breath. Was he just returning the favor? Jeron had never done any of that out of wanting something from Sylus. He did those things because they were the right thing to do and he just wanted to see his friend smile again.
Slowly, and through his tears, Jeron found himself smiling. It was a sad, tired smile, but it was a smile nonetheless. There was a tint of joy behind it, but it was melancholy through and through. Once more life had changed drastically. Once more he found himself struggling to figure things out. But maybe this time, it would be a bit easier because this time, he wasn’t alone.
Like Sylus said, they could sort out feelings later. Right now, they just had to go with the flow and figure out what their next steps were. Live in the moment and not worry too much about the doom the future held. It was inevitable and one day they’d have to plan for it, but for now?
Jeron sighed gently as he laid himself down on the couch.
Everyone was home. Everyone was together. This once small and empty house was now full of life and love. Jeron couldn’t ignore that. He couldn’t dismiss how alive everything had begun to feel. How that fading sense of hope he’d all but given up on was slowly coming back to life. He wanted to cry again, but not out of desperation and confusion. He wanted to cry out of joy, but the looming sense that this was either all a dream or that it would all fall apart sooner than later kept nagging at the back of his mind.
But all that blood… That couldn’t have been a dream. Seeing Sylus there, dying… That was far from anything he’d even remotely classify as a dream, but he knew, from Sylus himself, what these creatures were capable of. Henley himself had tried to tear Sylus apart through a false sense of reality. What if that was what was happening here? How could he tell it was all real? What if Henley or Qaitax was crafting this world in his mind and feeding him the attention and comfort he craved so badly?
Despair came creeping back.
Was he even alive right now?
The warmth of the blanket settled in. It felt so real. It felt so right. Could he really accept that everything was okay now? That things going forwards wouldn’t be as terrifying as they had been? Could he truly rest now without fear or worry?
He wasn’t sure he had much of a choice. The sheer comfort he felt in this moment was enough to dull his senses. Part of him screamed not to give in, but the rest of him was more than comfortable enough to do just that. Would he regret it later? Maybe, but he was willing to take that chance. Comfort had become a commodity he wasn’t sure he’d ever feel again to the point that he questioned whether or not he deserved it.
But he did deserve it.
After years of hell, a few hours of comfortable rest was more than earned. So he did.
Jeron Miles closed his eyes with a smile and drifted off to sleep hoping to wake up the next day to find the world was still as it was today and that he wouldn’t wake up from a greater deception.
Peace was all he wanted. And right now? He had it.
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