thisfatefulhour: (A small solemn smile)
[personal profile] thisfatefulhour
Thanksgiving at the Murry household, 1984.

It's not the first time since Charles' return that he's seen his siblings -- Meg made a specific trip to the country to see him, and Sandy came at the Fourth of July -- but it's the first time in a while that the whole family has been together. Charles knows perfectly well it's on account of him and his disappearance. He can't decide if he's glad to be bringing the family together or apprehensive about seeing them all.

Sandy and the O'Keefe-Murry family arrive first, having shared a car. Charles stands outside the house to welcome them, smiling slightly, hands in his pockets. Sandy is the first one out of the car, striding across the frosted grass with his usual bright, easy grin.



They hug, firmly, Sandy clapping his baby brother on the back. "Good to see you again."

(Charles can faintly hear uncertainty from him, and pulls back from the sense. To hear Sandy at all when he's not actively trying to is a mark of how open he still is.)

"Good to see you too," he murmurs, returns the clap on the back, and breaks the hug to look up at the approaching Calvin. "Calvin!"

Calvin gives him a considering up and down look, then a smile and a handshake. "Happy Thanksgiving, sport."

Charles grins. "Happy Thanksgiving. How was the trip?"

"Long," Calvin replies with a laugh. "But not too bad."

"We were traveling with three kids," Sandy points out. "Of course it was long."

"Of course," Charles agrees, smiling. "You brought all of them?"

"Of course," echoes Calvin. "Meg wouldn't have heard any differently. Neither would Poly and Charles."

Charles grins wider, ducking his head and brushing a hank of hair out of his eyes. "Do you have much luggage? Meg will want a hand."

He doesn't wait for a response before heading for the car, where Meg is working on bundling the children out of the car. She looks up as Charles approaches and smiles, warm, if a bit harassed. Xan is on her hip; Charles the younger is still buckled into his car seat; Poly is standing by the car door, watching her uncle solemnly.

"Hi, Meg."

"Hi, Charles Wallace." She takes his hand, briefly, then puts a hand on Poly's back. "Go on, Poly."

Poly balks, and Charles Wallace hunkers down to her level. "What is it, Poly?" She looks down shyly. "What is it?"

She mumbles something. (He catches -- fear, worry, uncertainty, embarrassment.)

"What is it?" he repeats, gently.

She gnaws on her lip, then finally mumbles, "Are you okay?"

He nods. "I'm okay, Poly."

"Where'd you go?"

He catches a burst of tension from Meg and looks up; she bites her lip, very like her daughter, and shakes her head apologetically.

"I went a very long way away, Poly," Charles Wallace murmurs, looking at his niece. "I can't really tell you where right now, because I'm not exactly certain where it is. When you're older and I have a better idea, I'll tell you, though." A small smile. "It was a good place, though. I made a lot of friends."

Poly watches him with six-year-old solemnity for a moment.

"Why'd you go?"

"Poly . . ." says Meg.

"It's all right, Meg." He brushes his hair out of his eyes. "I went because I needed to go there. I needed to meet the people I met there. I had to learn some things."

"Like school?"

"Yep." He reaches out and beeps her nose. "Only I didn't get any recess."

Poly giggles, solemnity finally breaking, and Charles straightens up to greet his nephews.


Thanksgiving dinner is its usual combination of frantically busy preparation and companionable conversation. Charles senses the same uncertainty from Dennys as he did from Sandy, but it's all overwhelmed by the family's happiness at being together. They go around the table saying what they're thankful for (Charles the younger whispers to his father, and Calvin relays that he's thankful that his uncle Charles Wallace came home for Thanksgiving), and Charles thinks that he's thankful that his family produces a goodmind all its own.

After dinner, once the washing up is done and the family is comfortably ensconced in the kitchen and the living room, Charles appears at Meg's elbow as she puts Xan to bed.

"Can you spare the time for a walk?"

She gives him a look. "Honestly, Charles, you have to ask?"

He grins. They grab jackets and slip out through the lab, like teenagers again. The snow is late this year, but they leave crunched green footprints in the frost on the grass as they walk out towards the orchard.

"Is Louise still in the wall?" Meg asks as they move through the orchard.

"I haven't seen her for a while. But it is winter."

"I know. How long do snakes live, anyway?"

"Depends on the snake, I suppose. And Louise is no ordinary snake."

"I know," Meg repeats, and falls silent until they reach the star-watching rock. They settle in, shielding themselves from the chill of the stone with their jackets, and gaze up at the sky for a while.

"You can never see this many stars in New York," Charles eventually murmurs. "Not with all the light pollution."

Meg glances over at him. "I know. Are you going to go back there? Go back to school?"

"I don't know, Meg." He sighs, bringing his gaze from the heavens to the earth, brushing his hair out of his eyes. "I suppose even with . . . all this time off I could get my degree in a semester or so. But I don't know. I don't know if I want more schooling when I could be . . ." He trails off, uncertain how to finish the sentence. "I don't know."

"When you could be what?" Meg prompts, gently.

He looks over at her. "Fighting."

He sees the flash of alarm in her eyes, the concern -- and he hears the immediate certainty that she knows what he's talking about, and the wistful hope that she's mistaken. "Fighting?"

"You know what I mean," he confirms, a little sadly, and waves a hand at the sky. "It. Them. Meg, it scares me, but -- I think I'm supposed to be. Or if I'm not supposed to be, I feel like I ought to be."

Meg looks at him for a long, long moment, then shifts her seat so that she's facing him.

"Charles." She takes one of his hands. "What happened to you? Where did you go? You haven't said anything to any of us, and you haven't told me."

He brushes his hair away again with his free hand, hesitating -- then cups her hand in both of his. "Can I kythe it to you?"

She squeezes reassuringly. "Of course you can."

So he does.

(the smell of something rotting, putrid -- a shadowy shape -- he reaches out in a panic to tesser and everything shatters -- a high triumphant screech -- vacuum -- then earth and grass and air and the weight of the minds of Milliways)

He ends there, pulling away from the memory, unwilling to inflict it on Meg. He opens his eyes to meet Meg's, wide and shocked.


When she moves forward to pull him into a hug, he moves with it, unresisting and grateful.

"Oh, Charles," she murmurs. "Where were you all that time? Where did you land?"

"The End of the Universe," he answers, with a shaky almost-laugh. "As far away as you can get." Then he laughs again, with no almost about it this time. "I did spend a little time in New Mexico, though."


He pulls back, smiling. "Taos, New Mexico. In a different world, in the year 2007. I met a woman, her name's Charlie McGee, she works with -- oh, here." He takes her hand again; kything is easier and more complete. He shows her the facility, the kids--

Meg draws in a breath. Zillah!

He grins, delighted. I know.

And he shows her his conversation with Charlie, and a glimpse of his confrontation with Sylar, and finally ends the kythe. When he opens his eyes, Meg is frowning.

"And that's why you think you need to be fighting."

"They started it," he points out ruefully.

"But what are you supposed to do?"

"I don't know." He sits back, looking up at the stars. "I don't have the first idea. Not this time. I wish someone or something would tell me, but . . ." He laughs. "Lord, I am spoiled, aren't I. People spend their whole lives wishing Heaven would give them a sign, and here I am complaining because it's only given me an assignment twice."

"And made you a battleground once," Meg points out. "Maybe you've paid your dues. Maybe you're not expected to fight any more."

"But if they come after me again . . ."

"Oh, Charles," Meg says, helplessly. "I don't want you to be in danger."

He looks over at her, sad but solemn. "I know, Meg. I don't exactly relish the idea myself. But I'd rather be dealing with trouble on my own terms than waiting scared for it to find me."

"Just -- promise you won't do anything stupid."

He half-smiles. "I'll do my best."

"Good." She returns the smile. "I want all my children to know their uncle, after all."

A niggling sense he's had since she arrived suddenly clicks into place.

"Meg, you're not . . ."

She grins. Charles throws his head back and laughs.


"Don't tell anyone," she warns him, laughing herself. "Calvin and I want to tell Mother and Father ourselves."

"Do the kids know?"

"Not just yet. We didn't want them to spill it to Mother and Father."

"My lips are sealed." He gives her another hug. "Meg, that's wonderful. And" -- he pulls back and stands up, offering her a hand -- "doesn't that mean you should get inside? It's cold out here."

"Oh, don't you start," she complains, accepting the help. "I'm not made of glass, you know."

"No," he agrees. "Something far stronger than that."

She laughs at him, and he grins, and they make their way back to the warmth of home.

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Charles Wallace Murry

September 2009

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