Author’s Note: Sometimes the worst news will only bring everyone even closer together.
Despite the urgency of the situation, Diwa felt guilty for making Kaffi fly all the way to Griffin Park. It was about the same flight distance as the city center, but this was over ever-changing terrain and constantly changing winds. Were they wasting their time and energy? What if their fathers had gone elsewhere? What if they were already returning to the estate? But Kaffi had not complained once, and his constant push to reach top speed was his own choice. They were most of the way to their destination when he signaled for Kaffi to land so they could take a break. He didn’t want Kaffi to overexert himself, and he’d had to check his phone, as it had buzzed and gone to voicemail.
They found a small neighborhood with a central public landing pad near a shopping district and dropped in for a landing. Kaffi immediately put on his headset and dialed up his manae, glancing at him with worry. Diwa checked his own phone and listened to the voicemail. It was Anna-Nassi; she’d gotten a hold of Cole and they were both on their way to Griffin Park. Both their parents had informed the tenant’s committee of the situation, and that everything was quiet and calm back at the estate. He called them back to tell them where they were, and that they’d be in the center of Griffin soon.
Diwa couldn’t shake the doubt he felt. They had no proof that Samuel and Graymar had gone in that direction. Everyone at estate was counting on them. On a hunch.
Kaffi waved him over quickly. “Dee, I just spoke with Iliah,” he said. His voice was low and rumbling; he was angry and scared. “They took it.”
“Took—” Diwa shivered. It was just as he feared. “Eiyah, Pop…” he groaned, turning away and waving his hands in frustration. Why had he gone and done such a stupid thing? “Ano bang kagaguhan ang iniisip mo?”
“She noticed it missing,” he growled. “He’d put it down in storage after he’d grounded himself.” He pulled off his headset and stuffed it back into his satchel with more force than necessary. “Once we took off, she went down there to confirm what you’d thought. They definitely headed up to Griffin.”
“Wide open space,” Diwa said, trembling. He and Kaffi had done the same exact thing just months ago. They had gone for the peace and tranquility and the privacy…and the companionship.
Samuel and Graymar were going for the same reasons. Perhaps for the last time.
“Kaff…?” he started but realized he couldn’t go any further.
Kaffi growled and ruffled his wings. “I know what my paddir is doing, Dee,” he said. He dropped back down to all fours, waiting for him to climb back into the saddle. “Come on, let’s go. We can’t waste any more time.”
“Ai!” he snapped. “We need to go now!”
Surprised and chastened for the first time by his best friend, he could only nod in response, and prepared himself for a ground takeoff.
They reached the center of Griffin Park twenty minutes later and headed directly to the park entrance. Kaffi fretted nervously and moved fast on his hinds, leaving Diwa to double-time it to keep up. He’d also refused to take off his saddle but had not explained why. Diwa called home on the way to check in again; his mother was maintaining an even calm with Shahney, with Iliah and Mari in tow. They’d chosen not to call Aldrine just yet, at least not until Samuel and Graymar had been found. They had everything under control at the estate and repeated that he and Kaffi did not need to worry about them. Then he called Anna-Nassi to let her know they’d made it; she and Cole were only three stops away and would arrive at the town center in the next twenty minutes. They stopped at a street side food stall to get something to eat on the way in; they were too wound up to have an appetite, but it was better to have something in them in case they needed to take to the air again.
“The park is big,” Kaffi muttered as they headed towards the park entrance. “They could have gone anywhere.”
Diwa gave him a reassuring pat on his shoulder. “I know,” he said. “That’s why I’m betting they’re going to the same clearing we went to. It’s our paddir’s favorite spot, isn’t it? It’s got the best views and the best winds for flight. And if they go up high enough, we’ll be able to see them.”
Kaffi grumbled and wrung his hands with deep worry. “Dee,” he said. His voice low and subtle. Afraid.
Diwa caught his distress and felt a pit in his stomach for the second time today. “Kaff, what’s wrong?”
Kaffi let out a small whine, turning his snout away from him. “There’s something I need to tell you,” he said, his voice quiet. Too quiet. “About paddir. About his wing. We found out last night. He must have told Samuel by now.”
Kaffi took Diwa’s hands and squeezed them tightly. Another small whine, followed by a high distressed hum. “Dee…” he said. “The doctor confirmed it was cancerous. He’s had it for a while. It metastasized to his other wing and his muscles over the last few months. Final stages.”
Diwa’s stomach dropped a third time. “He’s…”
“Seven to eight months,” he said.
“Oh…” he shivered. “Oh god. Kaff.” He felt hot tears in the corners of his eyes. Samuel and Graymar weren’t up here to joke around. Or to play. Or to get in trouble.
They were here for one final bonding. Before Graymar passed on.
“Dee,” Kaffi said, and stood up to full height with his hands now slack at his sides and his wings flat against his back. This was a tintrite sign of open and complete vulnerability. Diwa had never seen him show it to this extent, and it terrified him. But right now, even as he towered over him, Kaffi was the most comforting sight in the world. He pulled Diwa into a soft embrace. “Dee,” he whispered, and said no more.
They stood there in silence, saying nothing but completely bonded.
“Let’s go,” Diwa said shakily after a few moments, and pulled away. “Let’s go find them.”
Kaffi hummed in agreement. Soft and quiet. Acquiescence.
“Ano bang kagaguhan ang iniisip mo?” (Tagalog) — “What the hell were you thinking?”