Author’s Note: This chapter is also about love: the kind that hurts, even when it’s the strongest you’ve ever felt. We finally see that Samuel and Graymar’s bond is just as strong and unyielding as Diwa and Kaffi’s. They too are unsure how to navigate this kind of overwhelming emotion.
“I’m telling you Gray, you need to stop being so damned stubborn!”
“And I’m telling you, Samuel. I can handle this.”
“You’ve been grounded by the doctor, Gray—”
“I’ve not been grounded. It has been suggested that I limit my flying. There is a very distinct difference between the two. And I am not about to stop flying.”
Samuel unclenched his fists again and turned away, moving towards the new office window. It was currently open and letting in a warm breeze, reminding him of their most recent flight and setting him even more on edge. Ai, why was Graymar being so obstinate? The twitch in his right wing had gotten significantly worse over the last two weeks, and no amount of massage or ointment was going to help him this time. He didn’t want Graymar to stop flying either, but he could not continue being his ride if he was going to be flying injured. And he absolutely hated having to admit that. It was too painful. It reminded him too much of how Akkree had suffered. And how much suffering Daniel had taken on afterwards. He felt a lump in his throat and fought it down.
“Gray…” he sighed.
Graymar grumbled at him.
“Gods, you’re not making this any easier,” he sighed, and returned to the couch, dropping heavily upon it. Graymar stood before him, his snout low and his hands at his belly, one on top of the other. His wings were currently stone still against his back. He couldn’t tell if he was angry at him or just being stubborn. “Being a pedant is not a good look for you, Gray,” he said, raising his eyes towards him. “But you’re right. I can’t stop you. I want you to…well, not stop completely. I want you to get better. I want you to heal.”
He took in a shaky breath, dreading the next few words. He could not avoid it any longer. “But I will not be your ride when you remain injured.”
Graymar blinked slowly and huffed out an extremely long breath through his nostrils. No humming.
“Gray…” he continued, feeling the tears in the corners of his eyes. He could barely get his own words out, but they so desperately needed saying now. “You know how much it pains me to say that. But I just can’t do it. I won’t take this chance. It’s too dangerous for both of us.”
“Samuel…” he said, so quietly his voice barely crossed the space between them.
Samuel reached out, taking hold of Graymar’s long fingers. Graymar clutched his hands tightly, and finally let out a long, low guttural hum. Distress. Sorrow.
“I understand,” Graymar said after a moment. “This is my pain that I need to chase away, Samuel. I will not lay this burden on you. It would not be fair.” He leaned over, resting his snout against the top of Samuel’s head. “I accept your decision, aking kaibigan. I would love to keep flying, even if it is just to exercise my wings and keep them healthy, but I shall not overexert myself. This I promise you.”
Samuel hummed in response, squeezing Graymar’s fingers.
“Please,” he sniffled, his voice a whisper. “Please do what you can to heal.”
Diwa entered the office room later that afternoon, as he often did now that renovations had been completed. They’d spent even more time together, working in tandem on the paperwork and other estate errands that needed constant attention, and soon enough he would be taking it over on his own. It was nearing the end of the month and they had started gathering the documents needed for the trip to Panooria, and they’d been looking forward to completing this month’s batch together for the first time. Diwa had picked up on all the paperwork processing quickly and with little problem, much to his delight, and this would be the last training session before he handed it all off to him. One less thing he’d need to worry about soon enough.
But right now, his semi-retirement felt anything but positive.
And Diwa had noticed. “Pop, are you okay?”
Samuel looked up from his desk; he’d been staring into space for the last few minutes, still thinking about his earlier conversation with Graymar. Embarrassed, he pushed himself out of his slouch. “Yes, I’m fine. Just a few things on my mind right now.”
Diwa sat down on the new couch and leaned against its back. He’d taken to that new piece of furniture as his favorite spot in the entire room. “Is Graymar doing okay?” he asked.
“As well as he can,” he responded.
Diwa frowned in annoyance. “I was talking with Kaff earlier. We know Graymar has had issues with his wing, Pop. You had an argument about it today. I could hear it from down the hall.”
Ah, there it was. He lowered his head, ashamed. He’d hoped that Diwa hadn’t been around for all that. “We did,” he said quietly. “I apologize if we upset you.”
Diwa waved the apology away, pushing forward and resting on his knees, moving closer. This was a new side he hadn’t noticed in his son before: active movement, sensing when things were wrong. He must have learned this from Kaffi, maybe even Graymar. “This isn’t about me, Pop,” he said matter-of-factly. “This is about you. Please tell me the two of you patched it up.”
Did they? He hoped they had. “Yes.”
“Good.” With a grunt, Diwa pushed himself up and walked towards the bay window, not quite distressed but clearly irritated. He looked outside, distracted by the trees in the rear of their building. “Did you get someone to do the Panooria flight next week?”
“Yes, we did,” he said. “I knew the two of you were busy. Graymar’s cousin and his ride will take care of it for us this weekend.”
“Pop,” he said quickly, turning around and waving away his words. “I’m not mad about that, if that’s what you’re thinking. Kaffi and I understand. It’s just the way of things. We’ll take it next time. I just…” He stopped abruptly, rubbing his temples and letting out an grunt of annoyance. “Urgh…! I wish you’d talk to us!” He started pacing the room, waving his hands as he went. Samuel felt even more ashamed than before, seeing his son so angry at him. “We know something’s wrong with Graymar, Pop. All of us can sense it. I had to ask ina and Iliah and Shahney just to figure out what the hell has been going on between you two! You’ve got to remember, he’s our family too! We know he’s hurting. We’ve heard what’s wrong. But you need to remember that we’re here too, ama! Reach out to us! Tell us when you need help. Both of you!”
Samuel blinked at him. This definitely wasn’t the same Diwa from just a few months earlier. “Okay, I can do that,” he said, thoroughly chastened. “What brings this on, Diwa?”
That, unfortunately, had been exactly the wrong thing to say, and it sent Diwa into another handwaving circuit around the room. Eventually he slowed down, standing at the window again, debating whether to face him or turn away. After a moment his shoulders drooped and he glanced in his direction. “Nakakairita ang ganitong drama…” he sighed. “Pop, I get the bond the two of you have. Honestly, I do. It’s definitely not the same as mine and Kaffi’s, or anyone else’s around here for that matter, but it’s there. I can see it. But you two are always…I don’t know.” He twirled his hands in the air again, this time in frustration. “The two of you dance around each other all the time. Never quite connecting. Except when it counts? When it does, the two of you attract each other like magnets and that bond becomes unbreakable. I’ve seen it. You don’t show it all that often, but I’ve seen it.” He slowed to a halt, wiping at his eyes with the heels of his hands. Pleading, Diwa looked him straight in the eyes, tears be damned. “I want the two of you to keep that strong bond, Pop,” he sniffled. “Huwag mo itong ilihim sa amin, tama ba?”
Samuel pushed himself out of his chair, joined him at the window, and embraced him. Oh, why hadn’t he seen this before now? He’d been just as damned stubborn as Graymar! He had to stop this before it got any worse. He couldn’t run from this any longer. “Okay,” he said, his own voice catching in his throat. “Maraming salamat, Diwa. I really needed to hear that. We’re trying. I truly love Graymar, you know. He is my bond and my friend. I’m doing all I can to keep that connection true.”
Diwa nodded, laying his hand over his father’s.
“Just…don’t let it go like that anymore, yeah?” he said, wiping a tear away. “It wouldn’t be fair to him. Or to anyone.”
Samuel understood this all too well.
He promised himself he would never hide this pain from anyone ever again.
aking kaibigan (Tagalog) — my dear friend
“Nakakairita ang ganitong drama…” (Tagalog) — “I am so sick of this drama…”
“Huwag mo itong ilihim sa amin, tama ba?” (Tagalog) — “Don’t hide this from us, alright?”
“Maraming salamat, Diwa.” (Tagalog) — “Thank you so much, Diwa.”