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Feb 18 2013, 05:00 PM
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for a shield from the storm, for a friend, for a love
<br>to keep me safe and warm, i turn to you
<br>for the strength to be strong, for the will to carry on
<br>for everything you do i turn to you

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nary + jade ;; post-stab post-hospital <br> flangsty nicsolow feeeeeels

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Harlow was thirteen years old, too old to be carried about like a baby by his fathers. Especially in public, where one of his friends might see, and then he'd never hear the end of it.

<p>A week ago he would have cared about all that. Today he pressed his face into the dark folds of his papa's wool coat and refused to face the world. Healing cuts and bruises ached, and Dr Rex had said he wasn't to walk on his leg if he could help it. His fathers took that as, "He is never to set foot on the ground," so here he was being carried even the short distance from the car into the house. He couldn't pretend that he minded, though. Couldn't even put up a pretense of wounded adolescent dignity. He'd lifted his arms to wind them about his father's neck and consented to being carried indoors.

<p>From counting the number of steps over the flagstones, Harlow knew they would be approaching the front door soon. His dark head lifted from his father's broad shoulder and red-rimmed eyes turned to look at the entrance drawing near.

<p>There was his house. His home. The townhouse with its white-washed panels, buff-colored bricks, and cheerful blue door. Although his pallid face could not manage a smile, he felt lighter (a minuscule amount, but it was there) at the sight of it. He was home, his fathers were with him, he was safe.

<p>As soon as the door was closed (and locked, under Harlow's uneasy stare), Sam set about making them all a cup of tea. Harlow asked not to be taken to bed, so he settled on the living room sofa with the blanket wrapped around him. He pulled the soft knitted blanket tighter around him and watched Sam move about the kitchen through the doorway. He was content to sit quietly and reacclimate himself with his home, taking in all the familiar furniture and clutter with wan blue eyes.

<p>He turned down the suggestion of lunch when it was offered. <span style="font-family:georgia; font-size:10px; font-weight:bold;">"I'm not really hungry,"</span> he demurred, burrowing deeper into the blanket's protective folds.

<p>He'd mostly pushed food around on his plate in hospital. The nurses had gently scolded him, but it all fell on deaf ears. He was sorry for being disobedient, but he couldn't bring himself to care that he wasn't eating properly. He picked at the weave of the blanket, unconsciously hunching his shoulders and feeling morose. Which was stupid. He was home, he should be happy. But really he just felt tired and drawn. And apologetic, for the great sin of making his father cry.

<p>It twisted like a knife in his gut to see his dad so anguished. He'd been awash with tears ever since ...after... and Harlow had felt useless to do anything about it. He'd lain listless in the starched white hospital bed, unable to do anything for himself, much less help his father... And then were the moments (growing more frequent as Harlow recovered from his injuries) that Sam looked at him so earnestly, through eyes bright with tears that may still be shed, searching Harlow's gaze for any requests that could be read there, anything Sam might do for him, make him feel more comfortable, anything. Harlow felt guilty that he could not meet his father's compassion with anything useful. He could not even contrive an artificial request, his imagination having fled with much of his personality. He was numb, and his eyes were blank and flat like pale blue glass. Everything was hidden inside, even though he felt hollow, as if there were really <i>nothing</i> inside.

<p>Harlow felt the weight of someone settling next to him, and looked up from where nail-bitten fingers (a new habit he'd picked up while in hospital—he was waiting for when his fathers would remark upon it and scold him) plucked at the soft pine-green yarn of the blanket. He quailed a bit at the look on his papa's face, but was still glad for his presence beside him...

<p>Ever since ...they found him... his papa's face looked as if it could have been carved from marble, hard and unforgiving. Harlow was sorry. It was because of what happend that his papa looked like that. He'd never seen that look before, even counting the times when Harlow had first come to live with them, and Nic would sometimes cast a disgruntled look at Harlow for upsetting the equilibrium of the household or something. Those looks had faded the longer Harlow had stayed, and he began to feel more comfortable living with them.

<p>Now there were signs of his presence everywhere, he thought, and this made him pleased but sheepish at his untidiness, because his dad was ever after him to put his things away properly, or at least confine the mess to his room. There were little gadgets he'd made on end tables and unfinished projects in the form of little piles of gears on top of books that had been left out and now could not be moved. That was his favorite navy jumper with the grey stripes on it, folded over the back of the chair at his father's desk. There were drawings and doodled schematics of his taped to the refrigerator door, and on the kitchen counter was a pancake-flipper he'd invented for Sunday breakfast. In the upstairs bathroom was a red toothbrush with a bulky battery pack strapped to it connected to a separated bristle-head that made it vibrate against your teeth for more efficient tooth-brushing. There was "Harlow" in all the corners of the house. He lived here. It showed. This was his home. This was him.

<p>Those long hours with that man, that was not him. That was not his life, what his life is like. This— Harlow felt his dad sitting on his other side; Sam must have joined them at some point, and now Harlow leaned against his father and pressed close to his side, seeking warmth despite the blanket around his shoulders. <i>This</i> was his life. Between his dad and his papa, Sam and Nic on either side like great sentinels, always protecting him... Harlow shuffled deeper within his blanket, pressing closer to his father's side, and tried to ignore the feeling of cowardice gnawing at his core.

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