Man of Time

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Chapter 14- The Meaning of Family

“Blake!” I shouted, now on the roof.

Thunder roared in the distance. Blake’s posture held stiff before halting.

“What?” They clenched their fists.

“Are you, okay?” I fidgeted with my hands.

“I’m great.” They laughed, tears draining down their cheeks.

I reached for their shoulder, “Are you sure?”

My hand seized. An array of emotions burned through my palm, clawing up my neck. I gasped. Staggering back from the ardent sensation that latched onto my mind. I clung to my temples. An eradication of negativity forcing itself further into my consciousness.

Blake spun around, horror in their eyes. “I’m sorry.” They clutched my wrist, exhaling sharply. “I’m sorry...” They cried, the crushing invasion of negativity gliding out of my wrist straight back into theirs.

Their grasp loosen with mumbled words. They turned away, ashamed. Blake’s shaky hands shielded their eyes in an effort to maintain sanity.

“You did your best.” I stood beside them from a distance.

“Well my best wasn’t good enough!” They snapped.

The air around us pulsed with agony. “Where is this negativity coming from?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

A faint smile concealed my doubt. “I can try to.”

A breathy exhale released from Blake’s frowned lips, “I could feel her grief, Edith’s. Yet... I couldn’t do anything to fix it. I searched for something in Salena. Anything to bring back even the tiniest sliver of remorse...”

“You’re not a miracle worker.” I reminded.

“But I should be!”

I flinched. A growing pit hallowing my stomach as they fell further into despair.

“My powers,” Their tear filled eyes wandered to their hands, “Are supposed to help people. I can feel what’s wrong, and supposed to know how to fix it. That’s my job.”

“Having powers doesn’t mean you have to be a hero.”

Blake scoffed, “Then what’s the point of having this power if I can’t help people.”

My mouth parted, hoping to spread a glimpse of optimism but... I didn’t have any. How could I cheer up the person who’s always happy for others? Blake’s inspired me to find purpose with my light. Now how do I inspire their empathy?

“I’m useless.”

My stomach dropped. “What do you mean?”

Blake’s fingers ran through their curls, “Everyone here has a purpose.” Their hazy eyes wavered.

“I don’t.”

“But you’re finding yours.” Blake’s expression softened. “Despite your lack of confidence, you went on that rescue mission. You’ve only been here 3 weeks, I’ve been here 3 years. All I am is a money bank.”

“Blake...”

I engulfed them in a hug. Blake flinched, but melted into my embrace. Arms clinging to my shoulders with platonic passion. Blake’s body hunched over to accommodate our height difference.

“It’s true. It’s all I’m good for. No one needs me.”

I shook my head, “But I do. Ralph, Catori, the whole group needs you... Because you’re our friend.”

“A friend who’s got nothing to contribute.” They frowned.

“I don’t think that’s what friends are supposed to be for.” I shrugged, causing Blake’s brow to rise. “You are there to support. You don’t need to offer us anything but yourself.”

Blake folded their arms, a small smirk diminishing their sadness. “I get why Ralph never shuts up about you.”

“I try to be nice towards the people who will help me get home.” Warmth flushed to my cheeks

“Then why are you so nice to me.”

Blake’s smile dropped. Desolation conquering their hazel trance and filling their head with cynicism. I gulped, the air around us strained from Blake’s powers. But I couldn’t leave them like this. Even with the lightheadedness swirling between my temples.

“I can’t even bring someone’s memories back.” Blake wandered to the edge of the rooftop, resting their elbows on the railing.

“Do you know someone who can?” I asked, taking in the view of the city.

“No. But that’s not the point.” Blake insisted.

“But it is. You hold yourself to some unrealistic standard so you can be hard on yourself. And, you don’t need to.”

“Sounds familiar.” Blake focused on me, brow raised.

“I just want my family back.” I crossed my arms.

“I know.” Blake’s lips pursed in concentration. “But you’ve been pushing yourself, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing but I can tell you get mad when the others demonstrate their powers. Not at them, but because you’re not as good as them yet. And that’s okay.”

“Thanks.”

They noticed my shortcomings when I trained with everyone else. Everyone’s skill and understanding of their powers astonished me. The level of control they had created incredible wonders. Wonders that I grew envious of.

“You’re a good friend. You deserve to have good people around- Why are you shrugging?”

“No reason.” Blake’s eyes wrinkled with tears.

My hand wavered over their hunched shoulder before committing to a placement, “You don’t have to keep it all to yourself.”

“I don’t want to burden anyone.” They choked out.

“You aren’t.” I tilted my head.

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.” I spoke gently.

Blake took a deep sigh, “I should be getting home.” They stood straight, positioning to leave.

“Do you want company?” I jumped up, unsettled by their rapid change in tone.

“Uh...” Blake played with their earring, “That’d be fun.”

We shared a mutual smile as we made our way back inside. The top floor remained empty as I gathered a coat from my room before heading out. Sliding through the fence of the factory, we walked several blocks to a nearby clearing where Blake called a ride.

As we waited, the chilling winds swirled above us. Textures of darkened gray foreshadowed another stormy night. When our ride arrived, the car created a stale void. We opened our mouths to speak but were silenced by the looming factor of our driver overhearing. Personally I wasn’t comfortable sharing vulnerability to a stranger. And referencing my situation may not have been the best strategy either.

When we arrived at their apartment, Blake pulled an umbrella from their purse. I glanced up at the sky, taking in the storm and the familiar building.

I have not been here since I arrived in 2020. That first night of fear, confusion, and disillusionment. Meeting a friendly face in a cruel world. So much has changed in the weeks I’ve been here. I’ve grown somewhat stable in this world, with the help of Blake. Their cheerful smile and encouraging attitude granted me comfort when I needed it most.

Poppy made me feel the same way. Whenever Mama would panic over the burdens of being a single mother during war, Poppy would visit me in the middle of the night for company. My room would be dark, indicating that I would be sleeping. But she knew the truth. She comforted the anxiety that kept me up at night. Sobbing on the floor with my vision distorted... But when she was around me, the world illuminated with joy. Giving her a light show was the least I could do to show my love for her.

I saw Poppy in Blake. Their smiles were identical. The wrinkles in their lids and around their mouths as their teeth glistened... Is this how Poppy looked when she thought of me after I left? Depressed. Isolated... Riding up from the elevator Blake had managed to suppress their emotions. No longer affecting the air around us.

The umbrella rested gently between Blake’s arm as they searched through their purse for a key. Frustrated, they handed the umbrella off to me as they completed a more extensive search. Once they found the key, they muttered to themself in celebration. Causing my lips to perk. But once they opened the door, that precious moment faded.

Blake held the door open, allowing me to go first. I happily obliged, unsure of the gender standards revolving their identity.

Standing in the room, I soaked in the scenery. After getting to know Blake, the aesthetic of their apartment suited them. The soft gray, minimalist room followed by little trinkets of gold and silver scattered about. Pockets of joy shielding the depths of their mind. I’ve grown so used to their compassion and laughter, that I had subconsciously dismissed the insecurities that bubbled at the surface.

Unlike me, Blake had already advanced into their apartment. Tossing their purse on their kitchen island and making their way to a luscious plant. The closer they came the more the leaves began to droop. It’s integrity failing as their fingertips brushed against it’s palms, causing the plant to wither.

I had seen this before, when they healed my wounds. But this time, it felt different. There was no soft smile of reassurance. Or even a witty remark. No. This was a side of Blake I had never seen before. Their face deprived of all contentment. Posture broken as they collapsed on their couch.

“Are you okay?” I asked, closing the front door.

“I’m fine.” They exhaled with gloomy eyes.

My fingers connected as the tension in my stomach rose. Scanning the room, my gaze fell to an odd looking kettle. An idea flickered in my mind as my body moved itself. The kettle felt smooth between my rough palms.

Now where’s the tea? My forehead creased trying to remember. Well it must be in one of these cabinets, right? I folded my thumbs over the cabinets in search, careful not to disturb Blake. Food... Cups. Useful! Plates... Oo! A tingle of excitement shivered up my spine upon finding the tea. Wait, which do I pick?

After taking way too long to decide, I carried the kettle to the sink, tapping the facet to corporate. This tapping turned into smacking. From all angles... A random press sent the water shooting from the facet, causing me to jump.

“What are you doing?”

CLANG! I dropped the kettle on the stove, sending water everywhere. Blood rushed to my face as I frantically ripped towels from a nearby container.

“NOTHING!”

Frantically cleaning up the mess I made, I slid the kettle onto its stand. Plugging it in and looking down at the buttons.

“I’m trying to make you some tea. But I have no clue how to use this machine.” I confessed, perplexed by the assortment of options.

“You don’t need to.” Blake giggled.

“You know, I think I will just boil some water.” I swerved through my mess, “It’s the same thing right?” I pulled a pan from a nearby drawer.

“Same thing.” Blake shrugged through a smile.

Their expression encouraged me to continue. A thick, tranquilizing scent filled the room. A cool draft wavered when I scanned the fridge for sweets. After finding what I was looking for, I carried my items to Blake, who hadn’t moved.

“Can I ask you a question?” I sat on the luxurious couch.

“Go for it.” They nodded, cooling down their tea.

My sight faltered to my hands. Trembling from burning curiosity. I parted my lips, eager to speak but I hesitated. Shifting away from Blake’s contact.

“Why do you help us?” I asked. “You’ve lived in this time all your life. And live in luxury. Why waste your time on people like me?”

Blake’s features grew cold. Their eyes glancing up at mine, reflecting vulnerability. “Because I’m a Forgotten, just like you. My life, despite my accomplishments, has no value. I learned that when the corporation kidnapped me 3 years ago.” A pained smile consumed their complexion. “Existentialism aside,” They forced a chuckle, “You guys are my family. I need you guys in my life because you’re all I have.”

“You don’t have a family?” Now that I thought of it, Blake’s never mentioned any relatives.

“Yeah, but you guys are my family. My relatives and I don’t get along too well.”

“But family’s family though right.”

“I hate that phrase.” Blake shook their head, “Sharing blood hasn’t ever meant anything to me. It’s all a bunch of bullshit...” They stated aggressively, looking over to see my reaction, then immediately back tracking. “Sorry, I know you’re close with your family. I’ve just never had an attachment to mine.”

“I was never close to my father. He... He lusted for power and superiority. Hurt anyone who stood in his way.”

I thought back to the several letters father sent me shortly after left. Telling me it was my patriotic duty to fight for my country. For my rights. And for my freedom.

I had resisted violence for so long. All of my life war disgusted me. But now look where I am. Caught between a war of time. I could turn around and start a life of ignorance. Repress my past and start over. But what good would that be?

What would stop the corporation from finding me again? I’d be all alone, living a life without purpose. At least in this timeline, my actions might help more than just myself. I could bring freedom to my friends and return to my light.

If I continue down this path, will I have to admit that father was right?

“Did he hurt you?”

Will I have to succumb to the horrors of war?

“Ray?”

Will I turn into the man my father always wanted?

“Raymond.”

I looked up, glimpses of sorrow flickering between Blake’s lids. “No... Not physically. Threatened to- I was a stupid kid.” I shrugged.

Blake’s eyes widened as an odd sensation clouded around us. Their soft hand placed gently over my knee with tears glossing their eyes. “Just because he didn’t physically hurt you, doesn’t mean he wasn’t abusive.”

“I wouldn’t call it that.” I dismissed, pulling away.

“Abuse comes in many forms, not just physical.” They locked eyes with me.

“I suppose.” I turned away.

“The worst kind of abuse is the mental kind. It fucks up your thoughts, eats you alive until you’re choking for freedom.” Their speech became passive before they closed their eyes to reset. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“It’s okay Blake. You had a rough day. You don’t have to be cheery all the time.”

“Thanks.” They nodded.

“Do you need anything else? I know it’s late.” I looked outside.

“No, but thank you so much for being here for me. It’s really means a lot, Ray. Thank you.” They leaned over for a hug. “Let me call a ride to get you home safely.” They reached for their phone.

“Thank you.”

“Anything for my best friend.”

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