Clink. Clink. Clink.
Jeron stepped across the pebbles carefully. It wouldn’t be much trouble, but he really didn’t want to trip now and crash his head against the side of a sharp rock. He picked his way across the stones, knowing it was probably a futile attempt and Skyler wouldn’t be there anyway.
Why am I even looking for him?
The bed of rock eventually gave way to a soft, fine sand, the surface bleached grey by the moonlight. He could hear the crashing of the waves now. He had made it across.
He squinted and scanned the horizon. There was no sign of him. Skyler wasn’t here.
Jeron sighed. After the fight, it seemed like everyone had piled all their celebrations on him. At first, he’d accepted it, but then realised that Skyler was missing. He’d been searching for the boy for hours, but to no avail.
This beach was the last place that Skyler would probably come to. Jeron had heard him mention it once before, but he’d never been here.
It wouldn’t do any harm to look around.
He strolled across confidently, his eyes searching through the darkness for any sign of movement. Skyler was probably here, just hiding, not wanting to show himself. He was probably afraid.
Then Jeron chuckled. Skyler has nothing to fear now.
His shoes shovelled into the soft sand, leaving deep impressions in the powdery beach. The sharp smell of sea salt stung in his nose, but he ignored it. He’d been through worse. Besides, the seawater wasn’t splashing into his hair yet.
If it wasn’t so dark, he’d probably have noticed him. But then again, Skyler was much more a person of the night than Jeron was.
“Where are you going?” broke a sharp voice.
Skyler suddenly appeared out of the fabric of the darkness, some distance away, his figure blurred and distorted. For a moment, Jeron thought his eyes were deceiving him, but then the image wavered and focused and he realised that Skyler was actually hiding himself.
“Looking for you,” he said. That sounds so cheesy.
Skyler was crouched down on the sand right before the shoreline, his legs pressed against his chest, feet occasionally tapping the surface of the water in front of him. Jeron noticed that he had thrown off the jacket he always wore, and it was now lying next to him on the sand, wet from the bash of the waves. It was unusual to see Skyler like this — for the first time, Jeron appreciated him for who he really was. Just a growing, confused teenager. Albeit one that was approaching seven hundred years old.
“Oh,” said Skyler, his voice hanging in the air. “Don’t you have some parties to go to?”
Was that bitterness Jeron could taste in his voice? Why? Why would Skyler be so bitter about releasing the curse? He should be happy. His race was resurrected. Why…?
Jeron sat down next to him and sighed. “Are you okay?”
Skyler sniffed, but didn’t say anything.
Skyler, sniffing? Something’s wrong.
Jeron stared out into the distance, and watched the stars blink into existence in the night sky. One. Two. Three. Four. Without realising it, he began counting, until the silk of darkness was filled with individual sparks of bright light and they all merged into one, beautiful canvas.
“Stop wasting your magic. It’s not going to help me,” snapped Skyler.
The voice drew Jeron out of his trance. He shifted and turned toward his friend, searching… searching… he had to know why Skyler was acting like this.
“Jeron,” said Skyler, his figure still and frozen. “You should really be going. You’re late.”
“Why are you forcing me away like this?” asked Jeron softly.
He saw Skyler hesitate. The other boy was going to say something. And Jeron somehow knew, just somehow, deep inside him, knew what Skyler was going to say. He could feel it.
“Jeron… all this time, I’ve realised so many things. I watched you grow. And it took me so long to realise what I was doing to you,” said Skyler quietly. “I knew that I had to help you achieve your destiny. But now that you have fulfilled it, it is my time to leave.”
The single question echoed into the distance.
“Why?” repeated Skyler. He lay back and spread on the sand, and for a moment, looked like the world’s prettiest angel. “Because my place is not here. Not next to you.”
“Skyler, you’ve helped –”
“Jeron! You have to understand. I can’t. I can’t place myself next to you.”
A fragile silence fell between them. It was a silence of pain, of frustration, of unspoken thought. It was the silence of a six-hundred-year-old’s troubles.
Crash. An especially strong wave hit the shore and splashed up the beach, engulfing Skyler and Jeron in water. Jeron watched as Skyler’s trousers and shirt were soaked, then, as the water pulled away, he was half-buried in sand. He knew the same had probably happened to him, but he didn’t care. He was too deep in shock.
“Skyler…” said Jeron, not knowing how to help. He could see Skyler struggling to find words, but he didn’t know how he would say it himself. But he knew he would. He knew he should.
“Jeron… I don’t want to let people hurt you. But I know… I know the person who hurts you the most will probably be myself.”
“No,” denied Jeron. “It’s not true. You’ve helped me. Encouraged me.”
“And look what you’ve become,” said Skyler. “Look at yourself. I want to keep you for my own. But how can I? You belong to the people now; and you always shall. And I… I have searched for six hundred years. I don’t think another century or two will make much difference.”
“How could it not?” said Jeron hoarsely. “A century. Then another century. Skyler, how many centuries will you endure before you actually settle down and find someone to love?”
“How do you expect me to?” he retorted. “Everyone just ages and dies. But not me. How many people in this entire universe would live as long as I do? How many people will endure?”
Not a lot, actually.
“Skyler, just because you’ll endure over others doesn’t mean you don’t deserve the same things others do.”
Another silence. But this one was warmer, more welcoming. Jeron could feel Skyler’s control slipping away. He was keeping everything inside him for too long.
“Jeron… even if I did, I don’t think it’ll happen.”
“Why not?” demanded Jeron.
“Because the person I love… is you.”