Walls Fall


devon2_icon.gif graeme2_icon.gif

Scene Title Walls Fall
Synopsis Loss makes even the toughest walls crumble.
Date June 7, 2011

A Park

After a stop through a mom and pop's, a quaint store that specializes in all matter of oddities, like ski beanies in the middle of June and sunblock in February, Devon called Graeme. It was an unknown number, one of the young man's purchases having been a disposable phone. His own had been turned off and stowed elsewhere. The other purchase was a red and gray knit ski beanie. Odd to see when the weather is 80-something fahrenheit and sunny. But coupled with the rest of his garb, baggy shorts and a faded black t-shirt displaying a vintage Star Wars logo that's layered over a gray long sleeve thermal shirt, it doesn't seem too out of place. Besides, it is New York City. Plus, it hides the damage to his ear. The bruise on his face and split lip he can't do much about.

That the teenager had called from an unknown number might not be a surprise. He's supposed to be flying under the radar right now. His tone was vague, only requesting to know where he could meet the teacher. The park, or what had been a park some time during the past, wasn't unknown to Devon, and he didn't need directions. He'd arrived well ahead of when he should, on foot and with no where else to be. He sat in the shadow cast by a rusted slide, the ladder gone and the structure leaning with threat to fall. A newspaper sits on his lap, folded open to a page littered with local news. His fingers have laced between each other and together rest on the crown of his head, crushing the knit hat into his hair while his eyes bore into the page facing him.

Graeme's been here since well before Devon called. And he lets Devon a bit, watching the teenager before he comes over, skateboard in hand, jeans and a teeshirt and the signs that someone who knows the teacher might be able to interpret as anger. Not that there are many of them, but they're there, in the tightness of the grip he's got his skateboard in, in the tension in his shoulders. There's a nod to Devon, as Graeme drops to sit on the skateboard on the ground at the teenager's level. He's silent for a moment, but the teacher's smart enough to be able to make some guesses. "It's not your fault." The words are offered quietly, without regard as to what the teenager may say afterward.

He doesn't look up, doesn't acknowledge the teacher's approach. And when the older man speaks, his eyes squeeze closed. "I heard some people talking first," Devon says first, some long moment after Graeme's spoken, "I heard… and then I found yesterday's paper." His voice cracks, causing him to stop speaking and draw in a steadying breath. It quivers on exhale, while he pulls his hands down from his head and presses his knuckles against his brow. "I shouldn't have… Her choice or not I should have told her not to come."

Devon sucks in a short breath, the inhale catching reflexively before being forced out slowly. There's a tightness to it, a barely restrained swell of loss and hopelessness. "I knew…" He tries again, the words falling short. His head gives a shake, slow, detached from the feelings he's trying to otherwise contain.

"You can't control her choices, Devon," Graeme says, gently. "And it doesn't make it your fault." The teacher's voice is steady, calm, but not at all belittling the teenager. "I'm sorry. Someone should have told you rather than let you just find out. They were looking for Mel, when I got to work yesterday … I called Liz, let her know, when I was sure I hadn't been followed back to the bookstore." Graeme reaches, sets his hand against Devon's knee, just listening.

Devon's teeth catch his lower lip, pressing into the flesh until the split is pulled open anew. "It's my fault. I should have done something, kept her out of it. Somehow. Junie's…" Trembling, he presses his hands against his face, letting out a quavering breath. "She's dead because I didn't speak up. Because I didn't… It's my fault. I've ruined Melissa's family."

Graeme shakes his head. At this point, he's insistent. "No, it isn't your fault, and she's not going to blame you — she chose to go, knowing it was meeting with Humanis First, knowing there could be consequences, Devon. You can't make her choices for her, and you couldn't have changed said choice. I mean, she's more stubborn than I am." There's a quiet sigh, and Graeme moves his hand to Devon's shoulder, still being as steady and reassuring as he can manage, before just pulling the teenager into a hug until the teenager chooses to push him away.

"It's my fault," Devon states again, voice nearly a whisper though it speaks in volumes of emotional pain. He stiffens slightly as he's pulled into a hug, choking back a sob of grief. His shoulders shake, first from the effort of restraining everything, from keeping the hurt bottled where it can be managed. Then to the silent wracking shudders accompanied by a quiet, convulsive cry in anguish and anger.

"No," he says, but he doesn't push the issue further. It's another thing filed away for Graeme to bring up with Liz, something that Graeme recognises he probably doesn't stand much hope of actually helping the teen deal with. But he can be there, and the hug doesn't cease. For once, the fact that the teacher isn't often the wordiest conceals the fact that he's at a loss for what to say.

Several minutes pass before the young man burns through some of the guilt and grief, a hand raising to more guide himself to a measure of distance from Graeme. The other hand raises to pull the knit cap lower onto his head while the first hooks against the back of his neck. His mouth works, jaw shifting slightly as words are felt then abandoned. He gives up after a third try, instead catching his lip between his teeth again, nostrils flaring with a mournful exhale.

When Devon pulls away, Graeme lets Devon have space, for a moment, moving back to sit on the skateboard again and rolling back and forth slightly, almost but not quite restless. "You can't beat yourself up over this," he adds, still quiet. "Take the time and space to grieve however you want, but no beating yourself up for something you couldn't have known would happen."

"She told me Heller was there when the social worker came to take Junie." Devon's eyes lift slightly, slanting toward Graeme though still partially hidden beneath his hat. "Tell me it's coincidence. Tell me… Tell me it was some… something random. That it had nothing… to do with…" He leaves the words to hang, unable to finish what he doesn't believe to be true. It's too much to be coincidence, that the same night, hours after he, Melissa, and Remi had made a failed attempt at getting information from Valentin, the house where Junie and her grandparents were killed in a fire. The teenager drops a hand to the newspaper in his lap, fingers curling to crumple the newsprint while the image of his actions turns hazy as he watches.

Graeme nods. He was told that too, but the teacher's anger is kept far more controlled, under wraps. Now is not the time, the teenager doesn't need to see it, and Graeme can vent whenever he sneaks some time with Liz next. "I can't tell you that, Devon." There is definite grief reflected in the drawl of Graeme's voice as well, if muted, kept controlled. "That doesn't make it your fault. But come on. You came all this way, I'll at least make sure you get back to the safehouse, and we can talk more. Or not talk more." But he's not giving the teenager a choice about accepting a ride.

Swallowing against a lump in his throat, Devon stands along with Graeme. He loosens his hold around the paper, giving it a look mixed with hatred and sorrow before letting it fall to the ground, the article cast away but no less easier to accept. Hands freed of their burden, the teen pushes them into the pockets of his shorts before falling in beside the teacher. It's a solemn walk back to the older man's car, filled with a heavy silence that doesn't change when the two begin the drive back to the safehouse.

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