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Subject: Chapter 193 - Part 1

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Date Posted: Thursday, July 07, 07:07:58am
In reply to: KatherineGilbert 's message, "Dreams in the Dark - Chapter 193 and onwards" on Thursday, July 07, 07:06:24am

Dreams in the Dark (193/?)
by Katherine Gilbert

It was amazing how wrong things could go--especially when you were convinced that you had just avoided the bullet. A day ago, Nikita had managed to coax him back from the brink, had renewed his determination to live. It had all seemed so easy. He would never have imagined that, less than 24 hours later, he would see the terrible crevasse opening slowly before him once more; his sigh went deep, soul shuddering. If only anything ever happened the way it should.

This sort of dream wasn't coming true for Michael just now, however much he might wish it. True, the day hadn't entirely lowered him into the depths of despair he had only just escaped, but its ironies, and pains, were growing by the second. Every moment he spent in this room, looking over these people, made the torment worsen; his hand tightened slightly around his beloved's. He could only hope that the two of them would make it out of here intact.

Still, this hope seemed less likely all the time--every moment in his son's presence a flaming brand to his soul; his eyes gazed over him quickly before turning away. This was almost a trial for him, one he was losing; there was no way to deny it. Being near the boy was a punishment from God. And he was growing more certain by the second that he deserved every bit of wrathful judgment he received.

It was only his beloved who pulled him out of this dangerous thought, if only for a moment, her other hand running up along his arm. When their eyes met, he could see her belief in him, knew how deep her support went. In her mind, he had done nothing wrong, had no sins to answer for; his half-smile hid his sigh, as he looked away. If only he could believe that she was right.

He was struggling to now, wanted to understand this as the truth, but it was so terribly difficult. For 17 years, he had run from the knowledge of his crime, had tried to convince himself that there was no good in looking back. But he had been wrong; his gaze found his son. Whatever the current half-comforts of the boy's happy home life, whatever the love of his mother and supposed father, Adam was still *his* child. And there was no forgiving at all his part in the boy's creation.

Nikita was looking him over now, was only just managing to hide her worry; his hand squeezed hers more warmly, trying to comfort. But there was nothing he could say. Even had they been alone, words had left him. He felt empty; his hand squeezed hers more tightly. And he just wasn't certain whether she was going to be able to fill the hole within him this time.

This thought frightened him, made him pretend to pay more attention to the pleasant conversation before him--but even that did him little good. Nikita was discussing his son's recent prize, his scholarship, with Elena, the two of them holding up the conversation all by themselves--their partners having abandoned them; he would have felt guilty for his desertion, had there been anything left within him to feel. Still, the talk alone pained him enough. While glad that his son was doing so well, happy that he was clearly quite intelligent, that he appeared quite moral--certainly more so than his father could lay claim to being--he could take no credit for that. Any good qualities which existed in him were the result of his mother's influence. His heart sank. It would only be if the boy's life ended in disgrace that his own part in him would finally be seen.

These were dismal thoughts, were destroying him all over again, but he hadn't the will left to fight--his surroundings destroying whatever desire there might be. Although part of his mind, of his soul, saw the terrible darkness he was heading into once again, he was quickly losing the strength to conquer it; his sigh lingered. In another few minutes, he might well be back where he had begun.

He wasn't the only person in the room to understand this, though, both of the women near him worried as well; Elena's eyes penetrated far more deeply than the gentle, maternal persona she typically wore would suggest, a plan forming. While Nikita might be without the opportunity to soothe him just now, she might well know a way. Even if some of his obvious despair seemed to stem from circumstances of which she had no knowledge, the trigger for his fears was here in this room; her gaze landed on her son. And it was she alone who could calm that terror for him now.

She encouraged one of her younger children, then, prompting her to ask the questions the child was clearly bursting to--her delight over seeing the pair not diminished in the least from the moment of their arrival; her own eyes met her husband's for a moment, warning him to play along. As soon as little Rachel was breathlessly satisfying her curiosity, she came around to Michael, suggesting that they should discuss what the painting required for shipping; his sad, tired eyes told her that she had acted none too soon. Chuck might not like it, but he would aid her, for now. Even he understood how important it was for Adam's real parents to work out some history at last.

The pair made it away after only a few seconds, despite Adam's quietly suspicious glance, Elena leading her first lover along. Once they were in the room Chuck used as his studio, she closed the door, gaze meeting his, asking him to begin--but his look only dropped away, making her give a muted sigh. Men. They were all stubborn as mules, even the good ones. She supposed, then, that she would have to be the one to set his mind to rest.

Michael was staring sadly, fixedly, at the floor, when her first words came to him, but they didn't aid his failing soul. "We're both alright." His look returned to her reluctantly. "We didn't need you."

This wasn't the sort of assurance he wanted just now, as true as part of him knew it to be; his gaze found the floor once more. "I should have been here, all the same." A sigh moved from him. "Adam was my responsibility."

He made his way to a chair after this, was sitting down, his stare lost somewhere in a distant galaxy of the floorboards; she could only shake her head. "And mine," she pointed out, but no change came from him, forming her resolve. He had to come out of this, needed to finally put his guilt to rest. It might well be time, then, to try a harsher approach.

She began on her new tack, needing to break him from this pattern; she hadn't asked for such a response from him--then or now. "We didn't want you, Michael." This won her his eyes, if not much else, pushing her on. "Neither of us needed you."

Her words had won his attention at last, but the sorrow which was building in his gaze would soon swamp them both; she had to make him see--quickly. The two of them couldn't waste too much time back here, would be summoned out soon enough; Chuck couldn't keep Adam's curiosity at bay too long--her oldest child the only one mature enough to see how odd her retreat had been. Besides, as besotted with Nikita as her boy clearly was, it wasn't a good idea to leave him near her. The fantasies he already possessed were more than enough.

She moved to stand before the stubborn man, then, her look hard in its truth--wanting him to see, needing to finish this, once and for all. "We were kids, Michael, both of us. I wanted you, and you wanted me." Her laugh was ironic, the memories still strong. "That was all there ever was to it."

Lord. In some ways, he knew she was right, that she always had been, but that wasn't the whole of it. Having her absolve him of his responsibilities didn't make them go away; his look went deep. And, even if she were right, even if the pair of them *had* been better off without him, there were just some facts which couldn't be ignored.

He was about to speak, wanted her to know, but she only shook her head; her arms were crossed in front of her, her look almost maternal in its exasperated knowledge. "It was just a . . ."

"Mistake?" he finished, gaze boring into her, making her close her eyes; when her long sigh was over, she found a chair beside him, not yet looking at him. He could only shake his head in the silence, as his soul sank a little, finally telling her what he had wanted to a thousand times before. "I never meant to hurt you."

She was sitting there, her hands entwining over and over, her gaze on the floor, but a smile stayed on her still-quite-feminine lips. "I've known that since the beginning." Her look found his, a sad bit of irony there. "In fact, that's why I never told you."

This wasn't a statement he could understand, his eyes crinkling in a way she found quite charming; he really had only improved with age. She smiled, as she looked back to the floor, making her confession at last. "Would you have slept with me, if you'd known I was a virgin?"

"No." The answer was immediate, was just what she had expected; her eyes found his once more, smiling at him--but his look became all the more guarded. "Do you mean . . .?"

She just laughed, glancing back to the floor. "It wasn't a sinister plot, Michael." She was still laughing. "I just knew that I wanted you, knew that you wouldn't take me, unless you thought . . ." She gave up explaining, smiling back at him. "It wasn't like I was expecting any of this."

He spent a second just looking at her, before anything else left him, his surprise eventually melting into resignation. "No," he murmured finally, staring back into space. He had never suspected anything else--but he had also never imagined that she had purposely misled him; his head shook. It was a little hard to know where he was left.

His look moved back to her, the thousand thoughts obvious there, allowing her to continue, resting his mind. "It was a different time, a different society. You remember." He nodded, gazing away, letting her explain. "We got told so much garbage by our parents--who we could talk to, who was good and who bad, which groups were hurting the world." She shook her head, knowing he remembered it all. "Had I believed them, I never would have talked to Rene, or Charlie. I probably wouldn't even have talked to Chuck, being one of those 'dangerous artists.'" She heard him laugh slightly, smiling as well. "There was a lot of stuff we learned not to believe." Her sigh went deeper, gaze sinking to the floor, voice following its path. "It made it so much harder to know when they were telling us the truth."

He was looking back to her now, had clearly misinterpreted her last words, but her smile was tender, when their eyes met again. "I don't regret that night we had together, Michael. I don't really regret any of it, except the pain we all went through." Her head shook. "Our mistake wasn't my desire, or yours." There was a shrug, her gaze moving away. "It was just that I didn't take the consequences seriously."

His voice was tender beside her, his soft look touching her. "Neither did I." But her smile in return absolved him yet again. "I just . . ."

His eyes were in the distance again, the sadness so clear; she could only shake her head, letting him know the truth. "I've already told you; I don't have any regrets. Not about that night, or the pleasure you gave me," his eyes found hers again, "or being given Adam." Her smile was healing, told him so much. "I discovered what I wanted then." Even if she hadn't known it at the time--her focus on one of her husband's paintings. "I wanted a man who could give me pleasure, a child I could love, and a home I could bring joy to." The look she turned to her old lover went deep, so much happiness there. "I wanted what I have now." The smile grew. "And whether either of us knew it or not, you gave it to me that one night."

Lord. It was almost impossible for him to take this in, overturned so much recrimination and regret--so many years of self-castigation. It had become a habit, seemed impossible to give up. To know, to accept, that he *hadn't* ruined her all those years ago . . .

This truth was overpowering--the breath he took deep, life-giving, in many ways, although he didn't know it at the time--her words allowing him to start to forgive himself; it was what he had needed for his sanity's sake many, many years ago. He was smiling tentatively, as his hand went to her shoulder, thanking her. It was a miracle--and it was the first time he had ever really begun to understand that neither of them had cause for regret.

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Subject Author Date
Chapter 193 - Part 2 (end of chapter 193)KatherineG.Thursday, July 07, 07:09:37am
    Welcome backcrhuntThursday, July 07, 05:44:30pm
    Hi Stranger. Welcome back! (NT)MichellebFriday, July 08, 07:36:23am

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