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Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow



 
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Gideon Abernathy

“Three of the vans should be fine.”
“Are you sure? You said this place was pretty big…”
“They’re not all coming with me.”

Ryan stares in disbelief, as if he can’t grasp wanting to leave such a life behind. But he doesn’t understand, and Gideon doesn’t have time to explain. “Just get everything together, we’re leaving within the hour.”

The young twenty-something goes on his way, ushering to and fro to pack the necessities for the trip. Gideon had been explicit; there would be few stops, and they would be no longer than necessary. Unwilling to disappoint his newfound Shepherd, Ryan faces the task with a meticulous eye.

With a moment to breathe, Gideon raises a hand to rub at his sunken face. His beard has come back full-force, and his eyes carry dark bags that hint at his lack of sleep and newfound relationship with the bottle. Unseemly sights plague him at night, and the only way he can think of to beat them back is the harsh burn of whiskey. He’s fine; he can quit anytime.

That being said, he’s also used his lack of rest to push his agenda of getting the place together as quickly as possible. Ever since that fateful call with Quinn, he’s been even more unsettled, and he’d much rather have her by his side. He couldn’t have hit a better lottery either; distrustful as he is, these people seemed to follow him, no questions asked. So, when he’d told them to start building, they’d done just that.

And it’s coming along.

An hour later, and they’re on the road, Gideon in the lead. There’s a dull ache in his head, and he untwists the cap of the flask to take a quick swig. Feeling the amber liquid burn his esophagus on the way down, he lets his mind turn to auto-pilot. It isn’t lost on him that he’s going to owe Quinn an explanation, and there’s not a single part of him that wants to give it. The memory of that night, two weeks ago, is still etched into the forefront of his mind. At night, it’s all he sees…

Another swig is taken, and he caps the flask and tosses it into the back of the van. It clangs ominously, but it’s best if he doesn’t have it. No sense in jeopardizing the whole damn thing so early on. Instead, he breathes a heavy sigh and lets himself feel the sh-t he’s not ready to face.

They pull up to the commune around noon the following day. It’s a familiar sight to the man, yet it somehow feels so foreign. He hears the tell-tale sound of slamming car doors, indicative of Ryan and James exiting their vehicles, but Gideon can’t bring himself to follow suit right away. Instead, he stares forward, toward the house that held so many crushing memories.

Shaking himself, he extracts a postcard from his jeans pocket. It’s worn, slightly wrinkled, but the picture on the front is still discernible. The giant trees that would now house them would be a perfect indicator, and the only way to get his message across. Scrawling a quick message onto the back, he tucks it into his shirt pocket and exits the van.

“They won’t trust you,” Gideon explains to his companions, even as the Flock stops what they’re doing to scope out the newcomers. “It’s best to stay close.” He doesn’t miss the questioning look James casts to Ryan, but that’s a problem to be dealt with later. Right now, there are much more important matters to attend to.

Making a beeline for the Abernathy household, he manages to brush off any and all questions the Flock calls out to him with a simple get to the church. They do as they’re bid, some more begrudgingly than others. Normally, that might piss him off, but after today, it wouldn’t matter anymore.

He practically busts the door of the house down, and wastes no time upon entry. “Quinn? Come on, it’s time. We’re going home.”
May 27, 2018 08:04 pm

Quinn Abernathy

It had been a trying couple of weeks. Tensions, arguments, slights, and fights. All for her to resolve. It is her duty to Gideon to step up, and step up she did. It would serve no good to allow John to steal that spotlight back again. She cannot allow it. Instead, she takes up his place, addressing the Flock on Sundays and doing what she can.

That's probably why John is back in the house.
That's probably why Noli has been watching so closely.

Quinn had been washing dishes when the door is bust open and Gideon's booming voice brings her back to reality. A quiet, startled scream escapes her before she can stop it, dinner plate falling and shattering in the sink. She jumps back before looking at him with wide eyes, before finally letting out a quiet, adrenaline fueled laugh.

This isn't what she had expected. Not by a long shot.

It is only then, as she processes his very real and sudden presence, that she realizes that this damnable place has become home, no matter how much she despises it. Has she really become so caught up in the Flock that she had begun to identify with them?

A quiet sigh escapes her before she dries her hands with a towel and tosses it on the table as she makes her way to him. Small hands reach up, fingertips trailing over the length of his beard before she throws her arms around his neck in a firm hug.

"Gideon," she murmurs. "Just a second, okay? I missed you."

It is only then, as she holds to him, that she hears the footsteps and peeks over his shoulder to see the strangers. Dark eyes flit between the two and Quinn instantly tenses as she fails to recognize them. How could she? She's not heard a thing about anything or anyone, and now Gideon is here with people she doesn't know, after leaving due to another stranger holding all his secrets.

But, as uneasy as she is, Gideon does not seem surprised. That is the only reason she is not sounding the alarm, and the only reason she does not feel the immediate need to protect those she loves. It doesn't stop her from whispering to the man, a soft voice in his ear asking if everything is okay.

Quinn pulls back to look up at him. Two weeks, and so much as changed. Being here, on her own, has forced her to level with the community in ways she had resisted since her arrival. Her hair is slightly longer, and fuller, her eyes a little brighter with the end of her 'morning' woes. And, of course, the most obvious is the slow growth of her stomach.

It doesn't take very much for her to realize that something is deeply wrong, and Quinn lets her gaze rove over his face before meeting his eye. He looks so different, and so much the same. And as much as he's changed, she admires him so. She makes the decision not to press about that night. What good would it do right now?

"When are we leaving?"
May 27, 2018 08:57 pm

Gideon Abernathy

Without hesitation, he returns her embrace, letting the scent of her hair ease some of his stress. Even as the new pair enter the house, he won’t let go; he can feel her tense and his arms only tighten infinitesimally around her. Her whispered words finally cause him to pull back and he meets her gaze with a small nod.

However, he can’t hold the eye contact for much longer. He can feel her scrutiny, and he’s not exactly proud of how he’d handled everything. His transgressions are etched into his facial features, and now, under the keen eye of his wife, he feels small. For now, he’ll latch on to the elephant in the room and hope for the best.

Turning, he waves a hand idly in their direction. “This is Ryan and James,” he offers, indicating each one respectively. “We ran into each other on the road, and they’ve decided to join the commune. Along with quite a few other people.” The explanation is offered in a hushed tone, as Gideon is perfectly aware that his father is listening.

His gaze then finds the newcomers, Ryan with a warm smile on his face, James looking more than a little uncomfortable. “This is my wife, Quinn.”

The more timid of the two, James merely offers a bow of his head with a hesitant smile. Ryan, however, takes Quinn’s hand in both of his in a soft show of greeting before releasing it unobtrusively. “It’s a pleasure. You must be the Messenger, yes? We’ve heard so much about you.”

“To answer your question,” Gideon continues, as if the lull in conversation had never even happened, “as soon as possible. In fact, we’re going to go address the commune. Anyone that will be making the journey with us will pack their things and we’ll be on our way.”

A noise of disbelief escapes James’ throat, procuring a sharp glare from Gideon. Before he can retort, however, Ryan is rushing to remedy the situation. “Are you sure? I just worry, you know, the three of us have been driving for over twenty-four hours, I don’t know that we’re in any condition--”

“I said we leave as soon as possible.”

“Of course, if that’s what you think is best…”
May 29, 2018 05:58 pm

Quinn Abernathy

Reading Gideon is like reading a book, and as she reads him, she gently shakes her head. Quinn loves her husband, and while she is sure he is unhappy, they will know happiness. She is so certain of that. So, when he directs her attention, she follows.

Far more relaxed now, she is as mentally prepared as she can be.

Quinn offers a smile to the two as Gideon introduces them, though she remains at his side. It is easy to assess the two. Ryan is sweet, eager, and if she were anyone else, she would consider him pliable. But she isn't, and Quinn is quick to return the sentiment as he greets her. Gideon's note of several more is not missed, nor is his hushed tone. She nods in understanding, stopping herself from glancing in the direction of John's bedroom.

And then Ryan takes her hand. It takes her by surprised, not used to these kinds of gestures anymore. The cult is not warm and accepting, but cold an hard. They may pretend to be the latter, but it is rarely heartfelt.

"Hi. Yes. I am. I can't wait to get to know you both." And, as if committing them to memory, she quietly repeats their names and looks at them in turn as she does with a pleased smile.

Gideon powers through, as if nothing ever happened, and she is immediately tearing her gaze from the strangers to look up at him. "Okay."

Just. Like. That.

Her answer is resolute and accepting, and escapes her at exactly the same time as James' vocal disagreement. Even as Ryan works to fix things, Quinn is quickly assessing the situation. Gideon is displeased, James is displeased, Ryan is doing exactly what she would expect of him.

James, she has decided, is a free thinker. He is not quite selfless, but not selfish, either. Logical, personally driven. She would be nervous about driving again, after spending so much time on the road. But, if they have spent any amount of time with her husband, they should have been prepared for this. At the same time, it is unfair to expect this sort of pilgramage without some rest.

'I said we leave as soon as possible.'

Chewing at her lip, Quinn glances between the three men and looks up at Gideon for a moment before slipping her hand in his. "It'll take a little time for everyone to gather, and word to travel, since people are still working. Why don't I get you all something quick to eat? You must be starving."

She doesn't even wait before giving Gideon's hand a gentle squeeze before slipping away to the fridge. Right now, she is so grateful that she has leftover stew readily available. There is no hesitation as she sets to work, glancing over her shoulder at the three men.
May 29, 2018 06:43 pm

Gideon Abernathy

Gideon’s dark gaze narrows; it’s a knee-jerk reaction, and he has to ease his mind with a breath. As much as his wife’s offer annoys him, it isn’t necessarily fair of him to expect these newcomers - who have, admittedly, already done quite a bit - to foot another day long journey without some semblance of a break.

He, however, will not be joining them.

“I’m going to go pack.” It’s a mumbled statement, and he can hardly tell if it’s coherent, but his stepping out of the room will punctuate the thought.

At the bottom of the stairs, he stops. To the right of the steps is a door that Gideon hasn’t opened since arriving back at the house. In fact, since his childhood, he’d only opened it one other time. Absently, a hand reaches up, and his thumb traces the edge of the postcard that suddenly weighs heavily in shirt pocket. Now’s the only time. John’s in the house; he’ll hear you if you wait. He can at least thank Quinn for the opening.

Silently, the door to the basement is pushed open, and he descends the stairs with a quick step, taking care of the meticulously memorized creaks in the process. The space is dimly lit by dust-covered windows, but he still needs a moment to allow his eyes to adjust. In that moment, his gaze falls to the center of the room, and a mirage of memory permeates his mind. So many times he’d taken his punishment in the center of that floor; whether it was a beating or something far more sinister depended on his crime and the will of his father.

Shaking himself, his eyes rove over the place until he pinpoints what he’s looking for. It’s camouflaged perfectly, with no one but himself - and one other person - knowing of its existence. A loose brick at the base of the wall, perfectly hollowed out in Gideon’s childhood. But this memory wasn’t from childhood…

”Hurry up, Gideon, I have a bad feeling about this.”
“Welcome to every day of my childhood.”
“Let’s just get the fvck out of here… Wait… They’re here. Come on, we have to leave!”


He’s not sure when he sat on the stairs, but maybe that had been a knee-jerk reaction, too. The memory was crystal clear, and it caught him off guard. It seemed so long ago, yet just like yesterday.

These people are twisted, Gideon. They tried to kill us. Did you forget?

Clearing his throat, he rises once more and obtains the loose brick from the wall. The postcard looms up at him, and he can’t help the smirk that pulls at his lips. Signing away his life had been so easy; Eiji could find this tomorrow, or he could find it years from now, or he could never even bother. None of it mattered, only that he be given the tools to locate him when he’s ready. A simple message, an invitation: See you soon, old friend.

Back upstairs, James and Ryan have been seated at the table since Gideon’s departure. There’s no denying the hunger pains that plague them, but they won’t complain. Pushing his long hair out of his face, the friendlier of the two strikes up a conversation with their newfound messenger, even as he hears her husband finally ascend the stairs to pack.

“We really appreciate you doing this for us. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a homecooked meal. Gideon’s a lucky man. A great man, too,” he adds, though James quirks his brow. “How long have you been with the community?”
June 03, 2018 08:13 am

Quinn Abernathy

Quinn is setting large bowls of steaming stew before the men as Ryan speaks, and just out of the corner of her eye, she sees James’ expression once more. Though she smiles at his grateful counterpart, it troubles her. It causes her stomach to twist angrily at such an obvious show of doubt in her husband. In her eyes, he is faultless. In her eyes, Gideon is perfect. Some might say that she wears rose-tinted glasses when she looks upon the man, but Quinn would forever be honest. She seeks the good, and finds it easily.

In Gideon, she finds balance.

“I’m a lucky woman.”

Again, it strikes her how much has changed. Quinn has fought against accepting this life, and now, she defends it. But a large part of that, she knows, is her love for Gideon. He needs this, and so, she does too. However much he needs it, she does long for their early days that were enjoyed without worry. They had all the time in the world, and were able to really enjoy one another. Here, they were separated almost all day, pulled apart to do their duties and only left alone when their heads reached the pillow.

“I arrived... it feels like forever ago, honestly. I never knew my purpose before Gideon found me.” Unwilling to commit to a specific time, Quinn knows the count by heart. In her own mind, she recites months, days, nights. Her first impression had been terrifying, and rightfully so. She had known at that time how deeply she felt for Gideon, but had yet to voice it. In hindsight, she regrets doing so the way she had. It should have been sweet, and simple, and private. A moment just for them. Instead, it was hasty and public, coated in dread. Still, it is theirs, and no one would ever be able to take that away.

Quinn takes a seat with the two, glancing between them, before looking at James. Though her feelings on the matter are quite different, her voice is gentle as she addresses the man. “I realize this is probably new to you, and that you are tired. I understand that. But he is a great man. You would do well to show him that respect. Trust him. You have no idea what he has done for the people here, and what he will do for you.”

She presses her lips together, she raises her brows as if silently asking if he gets the message. Quinn wants nothing more than to tell James to get it together. Accept it, ride the wave, and come out on the other side. His wordless reactions grate at Gideon, and thus herself. But instead... she remains diplomatic. Or as much as she can be.

“I should help him. There is more in the fridge. Help yourselves.” With that, Quinn stands, giving them one last smile before parting ways and making her way slowly up the stairs. All she wants, more than anything in the world, is a minute alone with him. Truly alone. By the time she reaches the top, she finds herself almost breathless. Yet another thing she has grown used to in the past couple months.

Though her steps are light, she knows very well that Gideon would hear her approaching. And, once she reaches their room, there is no helping the small smile that appears at the sight of him. Without a second thought, she approaches. Quinn isn’t foolish enough not to realize that Gideon would be displeased with her actions downstairs, but... she also knows he is a reasonable man. “They seem nice.”

She looks around the room, taking in everything she can. There is so much that has been taken for granted, and despite where they are, Quinn feels as though she did not appreciate all this place has done for them. They live here. They got married here. This is his childhood bedroom, and now, it is theirs. Despite the bad, she seeks the good, finding fond memories within these walls to look back on. And there are many.

Quinn sits upon the edge of the bed, sights moving to Gideon. Really looking at him, she can see just how tired he must be. Finding a new place, building a new home, traveling so long… she cannot fathom the exhaustion.

“I can pack, Giddy. You should rest for a couple minutes. Lay down, close your eyes. Tell me something good.”
June 03, 2018 04:34 pm

Gideon Abernathy

At the scolding, for lack of a better term, James’ face reddens, and he instantly averts his gaze. It’s clear that he hadn’t meant for Quinn to see his expression, but it doesn’t make his doubts any less prevalent. Still, he merely nods in acknowledgment, wondering how deep this rabbit hole really goes.

As she makes her way upstairs, Ryan addresses his companion with an obviously annoyed tone, though he keeps the words between them.

Gideon had toyed with their belongings, had even managed to get bags set out to put everything in; however, he’d made no headway. When Quinn enters, she would find him in the middle of the room, gazing forlornly at the wall and remembering everything this place had been to him. The more recent good, and the ever-haunting bad.

They seem nice.

In spite of himself, he chuckles. “They’re a fvcking handful,” he corrects, though there’s a hint of gratitude in his tone. Whatever problems they may cause in the very near future, he wouldn’t have been able to get back so quickly without them. Hell, he might not have made it back at all.

It doesn’t take much for him to heed her words. Sinking down on the bed beside her, he opts instead to rest his head in his hands, elbows propped on his knees.

Tell me something good.

Gideon forces the bile back down his throat; the thought of something good seemed too heavy a burden to bear in the present moment. But his pregnant wife deserves something after his ghosting, and he certainly doesn’t want to rehash the truth of his departure. Donning a soft smile that isn’t quite met in his gaze, he picks his head up and takes her hand in his.

“You’re going to love it,” he offers in hushed tones, careful of any lurking wires, “it’s beautiful. Maybe even better than Wyoming.” There’s a sad lilt to his voice, as they both know that’s not true. But they also both knew that their home in a field of flowers had just been a pipe dream, and reality is far less kind to them. “We’ve already started building, and there’s others that are continuing in our absence. We can really make it our own, Quinn.”

The smile melts from his features as he drops her hand and sighs. “I know I can’t give you everything you want, and I’m so sorry for that. But… I really think that this could be good. A new start. A better chance.” He nods resolutely; it has to be.
June 07, 2018 08:05 pm

Quinn Abernathy

'They're a fvcking handful.'

Quinn lets out a quiet laugh, her brows raising with a soft nod of agreement. They definitely are, and she can see that easily. One, more than the other, but they would both come around eventually just as she had.

And as he grants her a smile, and takes her hand, she leans in and listens. What he receives is a smile, steady and true. Of course, they couldn't have Wyoming. And despite it only ever being a dream, Quinn would always hang onto that shared dream. Even when his smile fades, hers remains. Quinn reaches her now lonely hand upon his shoulder, arm bent behind his back, and leans to rest her head there.

Silence consumes her as she thinks over his words, and a soft kiss is placed upon his cheek before she sits up once more. "Gideon, you've already given me everything I want. I have you. You remember that night when we camped out? You told me everything, and I told you that wherever you went, I went too."

Another quiet laugh escapes with her next words, recalling the tense conversation easily. "You tried to tell me no. But here we are. Things rarely turn out as we plan, but... that doesn't make it bad. That makes it ours."

A soft squeeze upon his shoulder, and Quinn stands, pressing her hands into the small of her back before she crosses the room and begins to gather their clothes. "So, while you were gone... I may have done a thing." By the tone of her voice, it is clear that Quinn regrets nothing.

"There was some opposition in the church. And I corrected it. Reminded them of everything you have done for them. Aside from that, and John's illness, things have been okay. A little fighting in the beginning, but since then - quiet."

When it comes to Gideon, there is nothing she wouldn't do for him. If that means stepping up to the plate, then so be it. This is likely why she hadn't been allowed to be aware of what they were doing to him when they had first arrived. It was clear from the get that she would do just about anything, and if she saw that happening.. it wouldn't have ended well.

So, as she folds their clothes into the bags that sit upon the bed, she glances at him with a content smile. He is here now, and everything will be okay. They just need to get over this one, last hurdle together, and they will be free.

"Let's let those two nap while everyone packs, after we address the church. It won't be much, but... it'll be better than nothing. And you, too. You need rest, Gideon." Sighing, she zips the first bag and moves on to the next. Mixed in with their clothes, personal items are placed as well. A couple of his books, a few of her own. Her camera. The photos she brought with her.

She chews at her lip, glancing at him as she thinks on this room. This has been their place. This is where everything began for them. Everything. So many defining moments, some tender, some intense. Exciting, and sometimes upsetting. But it is as though their whole universe, their true selves, are wrapped up right here.

Soon, they'd have one of their own making.

"Are you happy, Gideon? With us? Our life? Our future? I am. I wouldn't trade the world for it."
June 07, 2018 08:36 pm

Gideon Abernathy

“Yes, I remember. I remember how persistent and mentally unstable you are,” he teases, a glint in his dark gaze.

...that doesn’t make it bad. That makes it ours.

Similar words had been spoken to him by the village elder, at least, with the same connotation. That just means you’re really living. A smile pulls at the corner of his lips.

He’s pulled from the rather pleasant reverie by Quinn’s next words. His brow furrows in anticipation, though he doesn’t miss the hint of - what was it, pride? - written all over her face. Still, he tenses.

There was some opposition in the church.

Every muscle in his body reacts to her words, and he can feel a hot fury rising in his face. It isn’t as if he wasn’t expecting it; there is merely a dam in his psyche that has been broken. He’s living on borrowed time, and he finds the need to be cautious hard to come by anymore. As such, the urge to end John, there and then, is intense.

And I corrected it.

Gideon visibly deflates, and there’s no hiding the shock that flashes across his features. It quickly melts into a prideful expression of his own, and he laughs lowly. “And who’s the leader of this godforsaken cult again?”

Underneath the laughter, however, is the guilt that racks him. There’s a part of him that wants to tell her, but what can he say? My days are numbered… You’ll be stuck with the cult, to do with as you wish… You’ll have to raise our child by yourself… And yet, what if Eiji never came? This is something he doesn’t want Quinn constantly looking over her shoulder for. They should enjoy what time they have, to the fullest extent possible.

One less thing to worry about.

He’s so selfish…

A grunt is all he offers to her suggestion. He doesn’t want to rest, he just wants to get out as soon as possible. But even he can’t deny his need for rest. It’s written in the dark circles under his eyes.

As he’s laying back on the bed, she poses her question. Staring up at the ceiling, he breathes deeply, pondering his response. It isn’t as if he’s discontent; there’s just a lot to consider. Realistically, they are leaders of a cult, and that has never been more true than in that very moment. This was the life he’d never wanted for himself, much less Quinn. Even so, he feels whole in this damned place, and undoubtedly would feel even better when they were out from under John’s thumb.

And, of course, he loves his wife. He’s even growing used to the idea of the being growing in her stomach. She has proven herself over and over, going so far as to adapt to conditions that would drive anyone else mad. There is no one better suited for him, and no one he would rather spend his life with.

All in all, he is happy.

But his happiness has always come with a looming shadow.

“Yes,” he finally breathes, eyes drifting shut, “I couldn’t be happier.”
June 07, 2018 10:54 pm

Quinn Abernathy

'Yes. I couldn't be happier.'

And she knows it is true.

Thirty minutes. That is how long it took Quinn to settle their affairs in their one-roomed world. That is all the time it took for her to comb through everything and ensure that all that is theirs is packed. Everything important, everything meaningful. All the while, she works to remain as quiet as a church mouse, stepping carefully about the room with bare feet just to make sure not a sound would be made.

Gideon needs rest. As well as everything went on his trip, she can tell he is stressed. Moreover, she can tell he has barely slept. Truthfully, her own had been fretful, as well. Being apart from him is something she has learned to be taxing.

He would wake up to kisses being rained down upon his face, soft and gentle. "We need to go to church..."

In the minutes it takes Gideon to wake up and ready himself, Quinn takes the time to do one last sweep. Satisfied, she takes his hand, walking down the stairs to find Ryan and James half asleep at the table. Be it the sound of their footsteps or her quiet chatter about the baby, they rouse easily and are on the feet. James, a little more reserved this time around.

Quinn gives them both a sweet smile before leading them out with Gideon. It is funny how, when they first arrived, they walked everywhere hand in hand. It was fear that drove them, then. Fear of separation, fear of the unknown, fear of everything and everyone outside of their unit. Now? It is solidarity. There is still fear, but that fear has evolved.

The commune is eerily quiet, but they can hear the chatter as they approach the church. Surely, they are talking about the newcomers, Gideon's return, and what would come. It is the day that had been promised upon his departure, and as they step inside, it is already clear who would be leaving with them.

Dark stares from the few, and what could only be described as anticipation from the rest.

And then, there is John. Who, despite his sudden and prolonged illness, still found the strength to find his way. Quinn meets his grassy gaze, and she can feel a latent defiance build up within.

This is not the life she wanted. Not by a long shot. When she was a child, she never dreamed of being a cult leader. This had never been on her apititude test results. She had never even truly considered cults before. But here she is, and if this makes Gideon happy, she would find peace in that.

She only releases his hand when they reach the front, and Quinn takes a seat as one of the youngest of her students finds their way to sit next to her. "Hey, Sam," she whispers, draping her arm around the small girl's shoulders. A mere seven years old, it would be a lie if Quinn did not consider her to be her favorite. Unfortunately, she is also the child of one of John's closest friends.

Quinn glances over her shoulder to the back of the room where the newcomers stand, uncomfortable and unsure of what is to come, and then casts her eyes forward to Gideon.

You got this.

Her silent, barely whispered message to the man who holds her heart.
June 07, 2018 11:42 pm

Gideon Abernathy

He wakes up from the nap he’d never intended to take with a pounding headache that alludes to the nights of heavy drinking. Thirsty as all hell, he excuses himself to the bathroom and unbecomingly slurps from the faucet until he’s had his fill. As he’s wiping his mouth with a towel, he meets his own gaze in the mirror. Unable to hold for too long, dark eyes fall to the cut that is scarring beautifully on his face. A constant remind of what is to come, and what he’d lost. With a grimace, he turns away.

The walk down to the church is quiet, the silence growing between them only broken when they’re outside the building. “Should we… wait outside?” Ryan’s inquiry in uncertain, and Gideon turns to him with a soft grin.

“No. They need to see the hope that you’ve brought them. You’ve done a lot in coming here.”

The assembled grow eerily silent upon their entry, but Gideon has a sure gait. He won’t look around, instead keeping his hard gaze primed on the podium before him. Each step brings him closer to the fate that he’d never wanted and in the seconds before he takes that stand, he has to address his own concerns. Is this really the path he would take? Being the leader of a cult had potential to make him a high profile wanted man if anyone of these people decided to make a misstep.

Yet, even as he considers all of this, he knows that this is what he wants, regardless of what everyone had wanted for him. There isn’t much time left, and he can only stomach that by doing what he’s good at.

By now, he’s before the crowd, and dons a pleasant smile toward the upturned faces. A pregnant pause stretches almost unbearably before he finally speaks.

“The day has finally come, and we don’t have much time. With the help of our new friends,” he says, nodding toward the two men leaning against the back wall, “I have found us a new start. Our family has grown, and even now, they are eager to be united with you.”

This is greeted with mutterings and murmurs, and he suppresses the urge to roll his eyes. If there is anyone more distrustful than he is, it’s this lot.

“These people,” he adds, a harder tone to his voice, “are busy building your homes and your gardens. They are preparing for your arrival with nothing more than the faith that we all share.” They grow quiet, shamefully shifting in their pews and casting sideways glances toward each other.

Pressing on, he relaxes himself, and the commune relaxes with him. “I told you all that you have a choice, to be made upon my arrival back here. I won’t ask you individually, as I don’t want to pressure your decision. Listen to your inner voice, the one that guides you, the one that brought many of you here in the first place. There will be no hard feelings, no ill wished on you. I merely want you to do what’s best...for you.”

He stretches his hands toward them, visibly passing them the gauntlet, before they fall back to the podium. “You have two hours, those of you coming with us, to pack any personal belongings, but I caution you to pack lightly. Everything you need will be waiting for you in our new home.”

Taking his leave, he offers Sam a warm smile as he pulls Quinn from the pew and leads her out. Ryan and James follow immediately, clearly unsure of what to make of the events to come. They make their way back to the house, and Gideon prompts them to pack their belongings in the van that he would be driving.

He then ushers Quinn inside and breathes a hefty sigh in their momentary solitude. “Each second we’re here, I feel something…” He trails off, shrugging his shoulders lightly, as if it would ease his worries. “Maybe I’m just restless. I just want to get us the hell out.”
June 12, 2018 11:19 am

Quinn Abernathy

She rubs at Sam's arm as Gideon speaks, giving the girl strength just as much as she takes strength from her. Quinn is uneasy. She supports her husband, willing to follow him, but leaving this place had never been part of the plan. In the past several months, she has come to find that she controls very little of her own life. Especially now. Especially in this environment, and most definitely not where having a child is concerned. Advice flows to her like water from a faucet of plenty, and she agrees with little.

So, when she is pulled from the child and walked out of the church, Quinn would look over her shoulder to see John as the first to rise. Funny, how things work out that way. Strange, how a man so ill would be so capable.

Inside the house, alone, Quinn lets herself fall into him. Slim arms slide around his middle, her heavy head finds purchase upon his chest, and tired eyes slide closed as she nods in understanding. Noli had told her countless times that something is coming. Something bad. She could feel it, too. But for Quinn, that something bad already has come.

Her husband is in danger.

He wants out. He wants out. It is a step in the right direction, and she would take it. But in her dreams, getting out had been just the two of them. Not a whole community. Not to escape one cult only to start another. Still, she trusts him, and that trust is unwavering. "Soon. We'll be gone, soon."

One day, she tells herself. One day, they will have a normal life.

This is how she copes.

A gentle squeeze, and she lifts her head enough to place her chin against his chest, chocolate depths looking up at him adoringly. A lazy smile is presented to him, and Quinn wants nothing more than to cart him off for another nap, but she knows better. This is the home stretch, and there would be no rest for her sweet Gideon.

That smile remains when the door opens, wholly at peace with his presence. The only thing that even begins to wipe it from her face are the words spoken in a familiar, articulate voice.

"Such a shame, to see you go."

With a sigh, Quinn shifts to press her forehead where her chin had been. There is simply no detatching from Gideon. Not yet. Not right now. Especially not right now.

"And with my only grandchild."

Quinn chews at her lip for a moment, thinking over the room. John stands out of sight, a man who is meant to be infirm but still seems to be capable of a highly twisted venom. Gideon, in her grasp, only having just returned to gather her and those that would follow. And herself. Put to ease at the thought of never seeing John again, and yet... not quite comfortable.

But something just... clicks.

"Yea," Her muffled voice becomes clearer as she lets her arms fall, turning enough to look at the older man. "What a shame."

But John merely smiles. It's that dreadful, sickening smile she has come to know and despise. But this is the last of it. The final two hours of coexistence, and they would soon know peace. Her warm depths raise to Gideon, refocusing with a breath on the only person that matters.

Two hours. Harrowing, yes, but Quinn does her very best to turn her husband's head and ease his worries. It is never difficult to do, even less after two weeks apart. And, as they would ready to walk out of the Abernathy house for the very last time, Quinn would once again remind Gideon of her love for him with a sweet whisper.

The minute they step outside, a tiny little figure comes running toward them, bag in hand.

Sam.
June 16, 2018 05:32 pm

Gideon Abernathy

Even John’s attempt at getting a rise out of them can’t dampen the fact that they would shortly be leaving this place behind forever. They have a new home waiting for them, sans his father, and nothing the man can say could darken that for Gideon. This is their chance to start over, to do things right.

At least, they can hope.

His darker thoughts are pushed from his mind by the distractive workings of his wife. Never failing to garner his attention, they while away their remaining time in this makeshift encampment in bliss. All too soon, and somehow never soon enough, they are packing up to finally depart.

A halting conundrum presents itself in the form of a tiny, red-haired girl, and Gideon is faced with a hard decision. Despite everything his father and his cronies had put them through, he wants nothing more than to leave as peacefully as possible. It’s the only way they can get as far away as possible, as quickly as possible. Stealing one of their children is surely grounds for reaction, and they’d be running right back into the same cycle they are trying to get away from.

However, her saucer-shaped eyes stare up at him pleadingly, and in them, he sees his own childhood mirrored back at him. Her father is cruel, bruises still yellowing on the poor girl’s arms. California could give her the restart she needs just as badly as they do. But does he care? Would he really jeopardize the life of his wife and unborn child, his life, for that of a child that holds no real bearing on his mental state? He would surely forget she’d ever existed in a week, tops.

One glance at Quinn, and he’s sighing deeply.

He waves Ryan over and pulls him in close. Details aren’t given, just a strict instruction, life or death. “Hide her in the back of my van. They can’t know we have her. Her life depends on your ability to do this.” Cruel? Perhaps, but it makes it no less true.

Not ten minutes later, and they are approached by Sam’s father, amongst a group of the people that would be staying with John. The man spits fire, but the rest seem less sure. Gideon meets his gaze stoically.

“Where’s my fvcking kid? I know you have her!”

“Sam? I haven’t seen her since the Gathering this morning. You’re sure she’s not out playing with the rest of the kids?”

“I KNOW YOU HAVE HER, YOU SON OF A B-TCH!”

“I can assure you, I don’t. But I should advise you to go look for her instead of standing here accusing me of kidnapping. It’s not in your best interests.”

“DON’T FVCKING THREATEN ME, I DON’T GIVE A SH-T WHO YOUR DADDY IS, YOU MEAN NOTHING HERE NOW.”

At this point, the man is making a move toward the vans, where Ryan and James are helping people pack up and get settled in. The ones that have opted to leave are looking over their shoulders cautiously, as if expecting some sort of retaliation, and as the girl’s father approaches, it’s clear their worst fears are confirmed. Some of the men grip makeshift weapons, their grasp tightening at the potential threat of attack. Even Gideon tenses, prepared for a fight.

It’s Ryan who quells the tension.

“You can check the vans, sir, I promise, the Shepherd is telling the truth. She can’t fit anywhere but in plain sight, there’s too much stuff and too many people. Check all three, if you have to.”

He does, and only grows more furious when he doesn’t find what he’s after. Not without a snide comment about his parenting abilities from Gideon, he storms off, yelling obscenities and cursing the poor child’s name and telling her exactly what he’d do to her when he found her.

Packed up and finally ready to set out, Gideon pulls the newest pair to the side for their final set of instructions. “We split off on the road. Make sure you’re not being followed. Be cautious and prepared. Say nothing of the destination. Give them no information, just in case they’re bugged. Also, where the fvck did you put the kid?”

A grin splits Ryan’s features, a contagious laugh precursing his response. “Remember when we needed to change your tire on the road, and we couldn’t find where they kept the spare? She’s in the floor, where the tire used to be. She fit perfectly, it’s like God knew it was going to happen, and knew we’d need a place to hide her. I’ve set it up so that the bag are easily movable to let her out, once we’re far enough away. The girls sitting back there have been filled in, and they can set her free.”

Gideon merely quirks a brow, smirking at this man’s antics.
June 26, 2018 01:20 pm

Quinn Abernathy

It is clear as day what Sam desires when she looks up at Gideon with that willful, doe-like expression. Please take me, it begs. No words required. Quinn chews at her bottom lip, glancing between the child and her husband, and those motherly instincts are already flaring angrily. It is taking everything she has not to take her small hand and lead her to the vans herself.

When Gideon glances her way, she catches his gaze with her own and lifts her eyebrows, imploring him with a heartfelt expression of need.

Quinn needs to get this child out of here. She has to. There is no way she could leave Sam here.

He moves into action, and she knows instantly that it will be okay. Taking a breath, she looks down at Sam, allowing Gideon to handle Ryan while she attempts to soothe and encourage Sam without attracting attention. Ryan takes Sam, and Quinn's hand finds purchase within Gideon's. A gentle tug, and she places a grateful kiss upon him.

Minutes later, it all goes south.

Her father, angry as he always is, is bellowing at Gideon and her Gideon, strong and brave as ever, handles it like a champion. But when the man makes a beeline for the vans, Quinn can feel her heart sink.

It doesn't matter. She is fully prepared to do whatever she must for the sake of the child.

"Frank," she tries. But he doesn't listen, and there isn't a point in trying.

But Ryan comes to the rescue. The vans are checked, not an unaccompanied child to be found. Quinn wishes she could hug the young man for this, but that would only bring trouble back to them. No. It could wait. So, while Gideon gives his final instructions, Quinn helps the last of those joining them into the vans.

She does not give those left behind a second glance. They made their choice, and if they chose John... they chose a life she could only describe as inhumane.

It would be an hour on the road, having branched off and away from the other vans, when she would start getting antsy. Quinn chews at her lip once more, staring into the passenger side view mirror as she watches to see if they are being followed. Her hands remain folded in her lap, but her knuckles are white as she grips as though attempting to contain herself. Occassional glances would be given to Gideon, and though she remains quiet about her obvious desires.

Each passing second is one more second with Sam hiding somewhere in the van, and it makes her wild.

Finally, unable to handle the torture any further, she looks at Gideon and quietly inquires.

"...Where is she?"
June 26, 2018 08:06 pm

Gideon Abernathy

Time stretches out before him, much like the road ahead. He rolls the window down in an attempt to stay awake, the wind smacking at his visage with a consistent force. The days without sleep are catching up to him, and the small moments of rest he’d stolen at the compound seem almost counterproductive now.

Gideon flinches as the weight of the Siamese cat makes his shoulders sag. Eclair, refusing to be encased in a crated prison, takes her favorite perch stretched behind the man’s neck, her curious gaze watching the highway speed by. Idly, he reaches up to scratch behind her ears, drawing from the small creature a comfort of sorts. In return, she rubs her face against the scruff of his beard and relaxes, occasionally digging her claws into his skin. In hindsight, it might have seemed strange for a cat to be able to read his exhaustion, but now, it seems pointless to question it. She is merely keeping him awake.

Quinn’s discomfort at their current situation is palpable as she shifts and fidgets, disturbing the Golden Retriever curled up at her feet. Her question instantly causes him to press a finger to his lips, procuring a stern look and a shake of his head as well. There’s no telling if, in his attempt to search their vehicles, Sam’s father had planted a wire. John had used such tactics before; in fact, it’s what got them in this predicament to begin with.

Glancing in the rearview, a smirk takes purchase on his face, and he jabs a thumb over his shoulder. When she turns around, she’d see the small redhead deeply asleep with her head lolling against Mary’s shoulder, a protective arm encasing her to hold her upright. It amazes Gideon, to this day, the lengths to which these people would go, and the understanding of the danger they still faced, even with the growing distance from the Flock. No words needed to be exchanged; they know the value of silence.

The drive passes with little event. Occasionally, upon her insistence and his growing exhaustion, Gideon would switch to the passenger seat, if only to satiate her need for him to close his eyes for a while. Any rest he acquires is fitful and uneasy, but it at least passes the test and he’s allowed to drive once more.

There is little talk from the backseat. Their nerves are tangible and real, and more than once, Gideon looks back to see tears flowing freely. Were he a different man, he might feel more for them. As it is, it sets his teeth on edge, for reasons he can’t quite place. Perhaps he is bitter; perhaps he feels, should they be keeping score, he and his wife have given up much, much more…

It’s in the small hours of the morning that they finally arrive, and Gideon has to gently rouse Quinn from a deep slumber. It’s incredibly dark, the moon having set for the night, but the stars shine brightly above them even as the redwoods stifle any sound they make. Never has he felt more welcome in such a place, and a quiet calm - despite everything - settles within him.

“We’re home.”
July 09, 2018 06:56 pm
1
Actives (4) Fresh Blood (2) View All The Fallen (5) Graveyard
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