The Boy With the Stars in His Eyes


At the time I was hurt that Lyn hadn’t taken me with him. But now I know it was because he and Bill had already seen what was to come. Nobody knows exactly what happened. The official story is that their helicopter must have crashed, either because they were hit by an RPG or… Well, that’s what happens when you fly a helicopter while you’re tripping on acid. All I know is that they’ve never been seen since. Like all shaman, they returned to the sky.

- Robert Wilton

 

______________________________

Now…

A loud burst of laughter broke the silence and Lyn jerked his head up. He leaned over the arm of the couch and around the doorframe to see Bill, coming in to the kitchen with the newborn kid in one arm and a sack of chicken feed in the other. His cheeks were red from the cold.

And just as Lyn anticipated, he glanced up, meeting Lyn’s gaze. They smiled at each other.

He settled back into the sofa cushions and opened the book. He’d lost his place, but it didn’t matter; he knew what came next. After all, he’d lived most of it.

______________________________

And Then…

***

They don’t crash in the desert. He thinks they might, even entertains a small, joyful shiver of a thought that if they do, at least they’ll go out with a bang. But, of course, Bill has a different agenda and by they time land five miles outside of Kuwait City, Lyn is glad they’re still alive.

***

They buy clothes from a vendor just inside the gates and change in an alleyway. His hotel reservation is good for another two weeks but when he tells the concierge that he’s going to need a cot, she gives Bill a dark look. Bill mutters that the place is full of the morally gray and maybe they shouldn’t stay the two weeks.

They end up staying one night. He retrieves his stockpile of cash and IDs from the hotel safe. Then talks Bill into eating at the restaurant down by the pool. They eat chicken machboos and drink beer and eavesdrop on the journalists at the next table.

Later on, unable to bear it any longer, he retrieves the morphine from the safe. He shoots up on the lanai. Bill is supposedly asleep on cot but Lyn, riding the cool rush of the drug, knows he’s really awake and watching.

***

From Kuwait they fly to Istanbul and then on to Rome. Lyn wonders if they’ll stay in Rome but doesn’t ask; he’s content to follow where Bill leads, even if it's to nowhere.

***

But Bill doesn’t lead him nowhere. He leads him to Paris. After Paris comes London, and finally, two weeks after leaving Bob on the desert floor, gaping up at them with shocked disappointment, they come home.

***

They manage to last three weeks in North Carolina. The first week is spent settling in to a rented house two miles from Fort Bragg. The next is spent trying to adjust to adjusting. On Wednesday of the third week, Bill disappears. Lyn waits in the kitchen, reading a Fanny Flagg cookbook he finds in the cupboard next to the sink. When he finds himself paying more attention to the front door than the recipes, he puts the book away and mutters to himself, ‘Where the hell are you, Bill?’

He tries to meditate, to chant, and even—when he gets really desperate—to dance. But every time he lets his mind loose he sees: Bill, in that fucking goat shed, hunched over as if he were a hundred not sixty-two, and he hears: ‘Hello, Lyn,’ as if from a dead man.

***

Bill returns the next day. At three in the morning, Lyn is awoken from a light doze by a bang. He creeps downstairs to find Bill in the kitchen, making a sandwich.

***

The following morning he shuffles downstairs. Bill is leaning against the kitchen countertop as if he hadn’t moved all night, gazing out the curtainless window. When he hears Lyn, he looks over his shoulder and smiles, then announces he’s had a vision. And that he’s bought a used Jeep and they’re going to New Mexico.

Lyn nods, then returns to his room to pack. When he’s done and Bill is out on the porch, waiting, he hesitates. He drops his bag, hurries to the kitchen and gets out the Fanny Flagg cookbook. He copies down the recipe for Lemon Ice Box Pie, stuffs it in his pocket, then picks up his bag. He goes to meet Bill and they’re off.

***

It’s another desert, he thought as he got out and looked around.

“Well? What do you think?” Bill asked, arm on the top of the jeep, smiling over at Lyn.

He shrugged. “It’s another desert.”

“Yes, but Lyn,” Bill exclaimed, “Roswell is up there and your old stomping grounds, Area 51, is over there.” He waved vaguely, encompassing pretty much all directions. “There’s no telling what we’ll achieve in this cradle of psychic power. Besides,” he added, squinting up into the noon sun, “this is some of the most sacred land in the country, in the world. We can heal here.”

And Lyn, with his fingers still touching the handle of the car, felt his heart jump, just a bit.

***

They found a diner, one of those old-fashioned ones with a low bar on the left and a narrow strip of booths on the right. They sat down. The waitress was also old-fashioned—mid-fifties, dressed in a bright  yellow dress that clashed with her red hair and pink lipstick. But when Bill looked up and smiled, she blushed and somehow that additional color made it all work.

“Hi, fellas,” she said as she sat down two plastic-covered menus and two glasses of water.

“Hello…” Bill peered at her breasts for a moment. “Loreena. What’s good today?”

She smiled coyly and clicked her pen a few times. “The meat loaf is our specialty, but Reggie’s at his mom’s place in Hope, so I’d just go with the hamburgers and the fixings.” She leaned over and whispered, “Fred is cooking.”

“Then, hamburgers and the fixings it is.” Bill handed the menus back to her, like he was presenting a bunch of flowers or maybe the key to some far off kingdom.

Lyn had forgotten that about Bill. That he always made the most of every gesture. That when he looked at you, you kind of felt like he was looking at all of you and only you.

Loreena wrote quickly. “Anything else?”

She might as well have added, ‘like me?’ because it was there in everything she didn’t say. Lyn picked up his glass and gulped the water. It was too cold and gave him an instant headache.

“No, thank you,” Bill murmured. “That will do just fine.”

She smiled again, then left.

Lyn, rubbing his aching temples, called out to her retreating back, “No mustard on mine!”

It was rude and churlish, but Bill said nothing. He just wiped the moisture off his sweating glass and held the water droplet that dangled off his finger up to the light.

***

They ate in silence. Bill, because he was thinking hard about something and Lyn, because he didn’t like to interrupt when Bill was thinking.

Finally, when they were getting ready to pay the check, Lyn mumbled, “So, where are we gonna stay, Bill?”

Instead of answering directly, Bill looked around. “Loreena?”

She hurried over. “Can I help you with something else?”

Bill reached for her hand and held it in the two of his. “Sweetheart, we're searching for a house to rent. Do you have any intel on that?”

Lyn looked away.

***

Loreena had intel. She had lots of intel and she followed them out, refining her directions to a house that she said would be ‘perfect for you because it’s in the valley, near the river in the shade of a bluff and the hot springs is less than a mile away.’

She probably would have said more, but Lyn, unaccountably tired and beginning to feel a flicker—just a flicker—of pain, stomped off to the Jeep and got in the driver’s side. Then slammed the door.

In the rearview mirror, he saw Bill shake Loreena’s hand and give her a half-hug before trotting after. “We need to call a Mr. Carlos Ramirez. He’s the manager,” he said as he climbed in, looking down at a piece of paper.

“Where is this place?”

“East on 82 for three miles. We can’t miss it.”

“That’s what you say,” Lyn muttered as he turned the engine over.

“No, that’s what Loreena said.” Bill held the paper up and waved it. “East on 82.”

“For three miles.” He put the car in gear and pulled away from the curb. “Right.”

***

Bill called Ramirez who agreed to meet them at the house while Lyn drove, one arm on the frame of the door, unable to concentrate on anything but the pain that was no longer a flicker.

To make matters worse, the house ended up being something anyone would miss being off the highway about a mile. They didn’t know that at the time, though, and only found out by almost running a man over.

Lyn shouted his apologies as he backed up, head out the window, flashing on Bob and Iraq. It seemed like a lifetime ago.

The man turned out to be Ramirez, seventy-something, wearing a blue, white-piped suit and white cowboy hat. When Bill apologized for almost running him over, he smiled with patently false teeth and said, “Don’t worry about it, son. I can’t say it happens all the time, but I’m fine.” He climbed in the backseat and pointed the way.

The little wood-sided house lay at the end of the road, nestled in the shade of two big cottonwoods. To the left of the house was a generator on a short platform and behind, maybe a hundred feet away, a small barn.

“Look at this,” Bill said as he got out and strode to the middle of yard. He put his hands on his hips. “Lyn, look at this.” He turned to Ramirez. “Does it come with chickens?”

“No,” Ramirez said. “No chickens.”

“What about rabbits?”

“No, no rabbits, either.”

“It needs some chickens. And rabbits.” Bill took off to investigate the back of the house. “And goats!” he called out over his shoulder.

Ramirez looked at Lyn as if to ask, ‘Is he always this way?’

Lyn didn’t have an answer, so he just said, “Can I see the inside?”

The house was the same inside as out—neat and tidy with an air of disuse that should have been sad but was actually anything but. He peered into one of the two bedrooms, then the bathroom, inspecting because Ramirez was watching, but not really needing to. His Level Two training had already told him what he needed to know.

He nodded to Ramirez and they went back outside. Bill was in the front yard, staring off into space.

“Well?” Bill asked without turning around.

“It looks good,” he said as he went to stand at Bill’s shoulder.

“Its own generator, a sacred hot springs less than one klick away and space for a hot tub,” Bill whispered. “Bravo Zulu, Lyn. Bravo Zulu.”

As if it were Lyn that had found the house.

***

They were moved in by sunset. Mostly because a Jedi warrior always travels light, partly because Lyn had left most of his belongings back in Arkansas and still needed to arrange for their transfer.

After dinner in town—this time the meatloaf because Reggie had returned from his mom’s place in Hope—they sat on the porch as Bill outlined his ideas for the rebirth of the New Earth Army.

Lyn didn’t say much and when Bill finally went to bed, he tiptoed to the Jeep and got out the kit he’d left stashed under a blanket in the back. He did the usual and then lay back on the seat as the morphine did its magic, legs sticking out the door, eyes closed to the dark sky above.

***

The next few weeks passed in a blur, the days soon gaining a rhythm: waking to the bright sun, gathering in the front yard to welcome the new day with the chant, then eating breakfast and going about their business.

Bill spent his days making friends and contacts in the town or sitting in the shade of the cottonwoods, writing up his plans for the Jedi. He went so far as to illustrate some of the notes. He’d show them to Lyn and Lyn, looking over his shoulder, couldn’t help but think that they were even better than the last.

Bill was happy—Lyn could see it in the way his eyes had brightened, the way he no longer stooped but strode about the place, firmly upright, shoulders back, every hair in place. He’d regained his sense of purpose and joy and seemed to grow younger every day.

But Lyn? He just kept himself busy. He repaired the barn for the chickens and goats that Bill bought from a neighboring ranch, put in a new toilet, repainted the two bedrooms; sunny yellow for Bill and soothing green for himself. He regrouted the tile in the bathroom and kitchen, resurfaced an old picnic table they found upside down behind the barn. And, three weeks after they moved in, built a platform for the hot tub that Bill special ordered from Albuquerque.

The pain from the cancer came and went—the morphine helped, but so did Bill. It was if his very presence was an anodyne or balm, and every time Lyn caught himself thinking that, ‘It’s because of Bill that it doesn’t hurt that much anymore,’ he quickly thought of something else.

They spent most of their evenings on the porch reading, sometimes to each other. When the hot tub arrived, they installed it and moved from porch to water, lazing about even though the evenings were still a little too warm for a hot tub.

Sometimes when he was repairing or floating in chlorinated water, or even just staring up at his bedroom ceiling because he was having a hard time sleeping, he would catch himself wondering why he was so unhappy in this place of peace.

Bill was happy—why wasn’t he?

The high from liberating the goats and the prisoners from the base had gradually faded and it was only now that he realized he’d assumed the grand, half-assed rescue would have a different ending. That he was still waiting for something akin to a super-nova that would release him from his self-imposed cocoon. That instead of growing out, he was growing in, sinking into himself. He felt so old.

So, Bill was happy, but why wasn’t he?

He had a feeling he wasn’t asking the right question, just as he also had a feeling he wasn’t ready for the right answer.

Bill tried to help. At least, that’s what Lyn told himself when Bill suggested a hike to the hot springs or a visit to a cave that was supposed to hold a sacred Apache burial site. Or the night he couldn’t sleep, when Bill tried to get him to dance. To a new CD he’d picked up in town.

It was a band called Offspring and Lyn tried, moving awkwardly to the beat in the middle of their living room but gave up after the first minute, telling Bill he was tired from the day’s work. In reality, his heart wasn’t in it and he couldn't feel the music.

Or maybe the band was just crap.

Whatever—when things changed, they changed really fucking fast.

***

He was in the barn, trying to get what Bill had labeled, ‘the-alpha-motherfucking-hen’ to give up her eggs, when he heard the growl of an engine, racing up the road. He dropped the egg he’d just snatched back into the nest and went out to the yard, sucking on his finger where the hen had got him.

“Lyn?”

It was Bill, scrambling out of an unfamiliar car, followed by an unfamiliar man.

“Lyn!” Bill shouted again as he and the man rushed up. His face was tight and something in Lyn’s stomach twisted. “We’ve got a situation and we need your help. This is Michael Morales.” He gestured to the man at his side. “His little girl has gone missing.”

“Yes,” Morales confirmed with several rapid nods. He was younger than Lyn by about twenty years and dressed in a neat suit, had the look of a white-collar worker. “She was supposed to stay in the yard, but when my wife, Lisa, went to get her ready for school, she couldn’t find her. Normally, we wouldn’t worry, but…” He clasped his hands together, looking over at Bill.

“A little girl from Roswell was kidnapped, Lyn,” Bill said grimly. “Just last week. I was telling Michael here about your talent, that you can help.”

“Bill.”

“She can’t have gone far if she’s wandered off, and if she hasn’t—”

“Bill?”

“Let’s go inside and—”

Bill took his arm and he jerked it back, barking, “Bill!”

Bill finally stopped and looked at him. “What is it?”

He glanced at Morales, then back at Bill. “Can we talk? Alone?”

Bill nodded shortly and said to Morales, “Take a seat on the porch, Michael. We’ll be right back.”

Lyn led Bill to the front room, then to his bedroom when he realized their conversation wouldn’t be private, so close to the porch.

“What’s up?” Bill asked, arms across his chest.

“Bill, I can’t do it.”

“The remote viewing? Of course you can. We’re out of tequila, but I’m sure there’s some—”

“No,” he said sharply, cutting Bill off before he trotted out to the pantry for their spare six-pack of Dos Equis. “I can’t do it.”

“What do you mean, you can’t do it?”

He looked out the window, not wanting to see Bill’s expression when he finally admitted, “I lied. To you about the vision. I never had a vision. Scotty Mercer called and told me you were in Iraq with Larry. I lied.”

There was silence and then there was silence. This was the latter and it was thick and awful and shameful, but he had to look. He was a Jedi, after all.

Bill was watching him, arms still across his chest, but…

Not with condemnation or anger or pity. But with eyes that were too kind, too proud.

“I know.”

“You know?”

“Larry told me, but I guessed. Lyn…” Bill reached out for him and took him by the shoulders. “I also know you’re the best there is, the best there will ever be. And you’ll get it back, you just need to try.”

Bills hands were warm and he wanted to lean back as much as he wanted to lean forward. “What if I can’t? What if it’s gone for good?”

“It won’t be, but I’ll be there with you, just in case. Now, come on, soldier; a little girl needs our help.”

***

They ended up in the living room with the drapes pulled and the door shut. Bill escorted Morales into the house, instructing him to, “Be as quiet as possible, but if Lyn asks you a question, do your best to answer. We’re here to help him and it’s all about being open to the universe. We’re all in this together.”

Morales, if possible, looked more freaked out than ever, but Lyn just ignored him and sat on the sofa. Bill went to the kitchen and returned with an open bottle of beer and a boom box. He held his hand out to Morales and said, “Sir?”

Morales pulled a piece of paper out of his jeans pocket and handed it to Lyn. It was a photo. Of a little girl. Her dark hair was long and scraped back from her forehead, held in place by a couple pink bobby pins. Her expression was serious, but her head was tilted to the camera as if a grin was only a moment away and his stomach twisted again.

He rubbed his thumb over the picture. “What’s her name?”

“Angel, but my wife and I call her Angelita. Because she looked like a little angel when she was born.”

“Angelita,” he repeated. “Angelita. How tall is she?”

“Forty-eight inches. We measured her last week. It was her birthday,” Morales said.

“And how old is she?”

“Six.”

Bill leaned forward and said with a gentle smile, “She’s tall for her age, right?”

Morales finally cracked a smile. “Yes. She’s the tallest in her class.”

Lyn listened without looking up. He was concentrating on the girl, how she’d fill the physical space before him if she were in the room. How she might have a laugh like the sound of a swiftly flowing river and a smile like the sun.

After a few minutes, he held his hand up and Bill gave him the beer.

It tasted so good, going down, and he closed his eyes for a moment, clearing his head of everything but the girl. He lay back on the couch, shifting this way and that, trying to get comfortable.

Bill grabbed a pillow from an armchair and hurried over with it and said, “Sit up,” then slipped the pillow under Lyn’s head.

“Thanks,” he murmured, looking up.

They stared at each other for a short time, then he took another sip and gave the bottle back to Bill. “Mr. Morales, do you have any other children?”

“No, just Angelita. She’s all—” He broke off, his mouth working.

“Here,”  Bill said, guiding him to the chair by the kitchen door, “Michael, sit here.” He grabbed the boom box and sat it on the coffee table, then crouched by Lyn, one finger on the play button. “Ready?”

Lyn nodded and laid the photo on his chest, then tucked one hand behind his head. “Ready.”

And the first familiar licks of Tom Scholz’s guitar began to play.

***

Like kick-starting a bike that wouldn’t turn over, it was hard. Slipping out of himself, letting his body stay anchored while encouraging his mind and spirit to go where they would. It was something he hadn’t truly done in a long time and it was hard. Later on, when Bill told him what happened during the viewing, he was surprised to find the whole thing had taken barely five minutes. At the time he’d thought it had taken many hours because…

He follows the music, through the ceiling, the roof, and up. Leaving the road for the cumbersome cars and trucks, sluggishly riding the energy of the earth. Over the tan-gray land, rising when the earth rises in hills and spires and peaks. Falling when it falls, through valleys and canyons. All the while listening and feeling for her.

He’s flying faster now, over a vaguely familiar town, over a vaguely familiar street when he realizes he’s being pulled or pushed. Or maybe it’s both, following a whisper of energy that is penny-bright and young and scared. He slows and focuses. Then slows some more, unsure because it’s like trying to grab a feather from a gale force wind, but soon he’s got something…

“There’s a church,” he murmured as he tried to reach for details that kept disappearing as soon as they appeared.

“A church?” a man answered and it took him a second to remember: Morales.

“Yes, a church of red brick.” The vision solidified. “With a statue of a women on the lawn.”

There was no response, then, “There’s a church around the corner from us. It has a statue of the Virgin in the back, in the sanctuary.”

“Yes. Sanctuary.”

Sanctuary. There, in a secluded garden, there’s a door.

“There’s a door. In the wall. She’s—”

There was a rough scraping noise, breaking him free of the viewing and he looked over, blinking his dry eyes. Morales was up, pushing buttons on his cell phone.

“Are you all right?” Bill murmured roughly.

He was still crouched by Lyn, watching with those kind eyes and it came to Lyn that he’d missed this so much—Bill at his side or at his back, giving him the knowledge and freedom to be who he needed to be.

He nodded, his head and neck stiff, as if he’d been lying in that position for all eternity. “How long was I out?”

“Three or four minutes.”

He turned his head. “Only three or four? It felt like hours.”

Bill smiled, a smile that was too happy and Lyn wondered idiotically if he was going to cry. “See?” Bill said, “you’re still the best. There’s no one like you.”

“Sir? Major Django?”

It was Morales, holding up the phone and pointing to the door. “My wife is calling the sheriff. Can we—”

“Yes, of course,” Bill said as he pushed to his feet with a grunt. “I’ll go with you and make sure she’s okay. Will you be all right?”

Said to Lyn. He nodded and said, “I’m fine,” even though he really wasn’t.

“Good. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll bring dinner back.”

And they were gone.

Lyn didn’t get up. He leaned over, turned off the music, and picked up his beer. He drank a bare mouthful, then lay back, bottle on chest, eyes closed.

This time he rises easily out of himself, up again to follow Morales’ car, to ride Bill's gold energy all the way into town where Angelita waits.

***

He was asleep when the slam of a car door woke him. He got up and rubbed his eyes. The living room was dark, the kitchen was dark. He reached for the lamp and turned it on, then looked at his watch. Eight forty-six.

He was still standing there, trying to remember why he was asleep at eight forty-six in the evening when Bill came in, grocery bags in both arms.

“Good. You’re up.”

“I fell asleep.”

“Good, Lyn. That’s good.”

“What happened?” he asked, only then remembering the course of the afternoon’s events.

“We found her. Just as you said.”

“Where was she?” He followed Bill into the kitchen and turned on the light.

“In what turned out to be a potting shed. It was covered with ivy and roses. The rector had forgotten it even existed.”

“Oh,” he said.

Bill sat the bags down and glanced over at Lyn. “Did you have any doubts?”

Asked too bluntly and he skipped around the question by reaching for one of the bags. “What is all this? We just went to the store on Saturday.”

“They’re not groceries. They’re from Michael’s neighbors. For thanks for finding the little girl. These,” he pulled out a bag of frozen lumps and held it up. “Are from Loreena. They’re her famous chili verde enchiladas.”

Lyn peered into the bag, ignoring the sharp twinge of jealousy. “How do you know they’re famous?”

“She told me they were, and these are Mr. Ramirez’ canned peaches. Hmm…” Bill held the can to light. “They look a little funky. Maybe we’ll give them a pass.” He sat the jar down and began to pull everything else out. “I tried to tell them that the New Earth Army isn’t around for monetary gain, but they insisted. It seemed rude to not accept.” He pulled out another jar, frowned again, and set it down. “Are you hungry?”

“Some,” Lyn lied. What he was, was in pain, worse than ever before. Maybe the remote viewing, for once successful, had inflamed the cancer? Was that even possible?

He rubbed his forehead—his skin was slick with sweat. “I think I’ll…” He waved vaguely to the bedroom and turned to go.

“Lyn?” Bill said.

“Hmm?” he answered, head down.

“No, Lyn.”

He stopped. And looked over his shoulder. “What?”

Bill was standing there, head back, a jar of salsa or spaghetti sauce in his hand. “I said, no.”

“No what, Bill?”

“No more drugs. Well,” he amended with a shrug, “not the kind you’ve been taking. They’re not working.”

“What do you expect me to do, Bill?” Lyn asked, a surprisingly hot something burning his chest.

“I expect you to heal yourself the right way, the Jedi way.”

He turned in a sharp circle. “I can’t do that. You know I can’t.”

“Yes you can.”

He reversed directions, wanting to hit the cupboard door that was always swinging open by itself. “I’m still cursed, Bill. It’s the dim mak. I thought the job in Iraq would—” He shook his head and turned in another circle, repeating, “It’s the dim mak.”

“It’s not the dim mak, Lyn,” Bill said quietly. “It’s me.”

That stopped him. “Huh?”

Bill smiled sadly. “It’s me.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Yes, you do.” Bill put the salsa or spaghetti sauce down and skirted the kitchen table, then clasped Lyn’s shoulders. “You’re wounded and it’s not because you killed a goat or because of that prick, Larry. It’s because I left you on your own to face the dark side.”

Lyn opened his mouth but no words came.

Bill shook him gently. “I left you alone and for that I’m heartily sorry. It was wrong and I’ll never do it again.”

“It’s okay, Bill,” he managed to say.

“No, it’s not, Lyn. I was arrogant. I can see that now.”

Lyn hesitated, then muttered, “You’ll never leave again?”

“No.”

“What happens if Larry comes up with another offer?”

“I’ll tell him to fuck off.”

“What happens if the army wants you back?”

Bill shrugged. “They won’t, but I’ll tell them to fuck off, too.”

“You will?”

“I will.”

Lyn nodded. “Okay.” He nodded again, like one of those dogs he used to see in the back of people’s cars. “All right…” He pulled away from Bill’s grasp and went to his bedroom and crawled onto the bed. He didn’t know quite what to do, so he turned on his back and stared up at the ceiling.

When Bill had left, all those years ago, he’d fantasized about him coming back. About seeing him march through the gates of Fort Bragg with his hair a shining long braid, a confident smile on his lips, practically daring anyone to fuck with him. About how he’d kick Larry’s ass, tell Holtz to shove it, then collect the Jedi and leave. Off to take part in some secret mission, or—in a pot-induced version—off to some distant planet, with Lyn in his arms.

The fantasy always ended there because above all, Lyn was a super-soldier and if the New Earth Army had changed hands and direction, well, there was no use crying about it.

‘You’re wounded…’

He felt his belly, then his chest. He didn’t feel wounded, just a little weird, the sense of disappointed anticipation only increased. His super nova had turned out to be a streaky falling star and he didn’t know if he could stand it, not ag—

“I’d got it wrong, you see.”

He jerked around to see Bill, standing in the doorway, just a tall, dark blob. “What do you mean?”

“All that I just said? That was all bullshit. Well,” he shrugged, “some was right on. But I got the rest wrong.”

Bill’s quiet voice was deep and grave and something inside Lyn perked up. “What did you get wrong?”

“I thought it was all about you; that I was bringing you here to heal. But it was really about me. And what I’d let myself become.” Bill took a step into the room. “You never lost your faith, Lyn. Not like me. You still believed and you came to find me. Not because you needed me, but because I needed you. Do you know how many men out there have that kind of strength, that kind of integrity?”

Bill stepped even closer and Lyn thought his heart was going to choke him, so hard was it beating. “No.”

“Just a few, and you’re the best of them all. Here…” He dug something out of his pocket and held it up. It was a four-inch feather on the end of a leather cord. “Sit up.”

Lyn sat up. His face was on fire and he felt like he had before he’d killed the goat—like he was going to either explode or throw up.

“Rank, medals,” Bill quoted as sat on the bed, his hip to Lyn’s. “These things mean little to the Jedi, but the eagle feather is mark of love, of gratitude, and ultimate respect.” He slipped the necklace over Lyn’s head.

Lyn touched the eagle feather reverently, then stared at Bill. He’d been at this place before, on the brink of some new discovery, the universe at his feet, the stars in his eyes. Only the last time, he’d been surrounded by clapping soldiers, encircled by the invisible weight of the army and his father—

But not now. Now he was alone with Bill, in his bedroom where no one would see and it was perfect. He was perfect and he leaned in and cautiously kissed the corner of Bill’s mouth. Then his lips when Bill sighed and turned to meet him.

So much for freaking super novas was his main thought as Bill lay him down, as they exchanged kiss for kiss, his mouth watering, his mind blown, because super novas had nothing on Bill—he was like the earth and the moon and Lyn couldn’t get enough.

“Lyn,” Bill murmured, when they were somehow mysteriously naked either by Jedi powers or Bill’s own hands.

“Yeah?”

“I’ve met a shaman that I want you to see. He’ll help you draw out the cancer.”

He didn’t argue, didn’t doubt. He just asked, “Will you be there?”

Bill leaned down and kissed the sacred eye over his sternum, whispering, “Of course.”

And that’s all that was said until the very end when they were mashed together almost sideways on the small bed, legs laced, moving as one. Lyn grabbed Bill’s braid, a jumble of words tangling his tongue. Then he remembered he didn’t need to hold back, not anymore. “I’m dancing,” he whispered to anyone that was listening. “We’re dancing.”

***

They had sex three more times that night.

The first time in the hot tub because Bill confessed he’d been fantasizing about it for a while. Then on the couch when the hot tub sex proved to be okay, but not great, and Lyn couldn’t wait until they got to the bedroom even though it was maybe ten feet away. Then, at dawn, when he woke to a still-dark world and Bill chanting, “…you’re my connection to the Universe and all that comes after…”

Lyn wanted to join in with, ‘I am yours and you are mine,’ but he had an aching moment of clarity that stopped his words: the he he’d been twenty-four hours earlier was no longer—even the boy who had stood in confused shame after hearing, ‘Stop acting so fucking queer!’ was gone.

He wanted to thank Bill for helping him make that last step, but settled for rolling on top of him and stopping his prayer with a kiss.

***

Later, whenever he thought about the days after he found the Morales girl, he viewed them as a golden time, almost halcyon.

Not much had changed on the surface; they did the same things as before. He fixed; Bill planned.

But now when they went to bed at night, they went together. Now, when they danced, it was raw and purposeful and always ended with hugs and kisses and sex.

He knew Bill felt the same. Because he told Lyn, day after day. How happy he was, how he’d always wanted Lyn but didn’t want to fuck his path up with fucking.

Even the treatments with the shaman were joyful, if a little boring. They consisted mostly of chanting, ingesting a few herbs, and meditation. Bill was beside him all the way, holding his hand when he needed it, watching from afar when he needed that.

And little by little the pain began to diminish. At first he thought he was imagining it because a very, very small part of him was skeptical. But no, whatever he was doing was working. He told Bill he’d need to see an oncologist just to be sure, half expecting him to dismiss the concern. But after a moment, Bill nodded and said, ‘Yes, just to prove it to the representatives and disseminators of Western medicine that they’re completely fucked up.’

The locals began to make pilgrimages to the house to ask for Lyn’s help. Sometimes they said yes, sometimes no because Bill became the gatekeeper, guarding Lyn and his talents like he was some precious jewel.

Lyn thought it a little hilarious at first—he could, after all, take apart any of their visitors with his bare hands and he still had the Predator somewhere about. But it made Bill happy, so he just mentally shrugged his shoulders and thought, ‘Oh, well.’

Because he had other things to occupy his time, now that he was feeling better. He closed his dance studio and bought a storefront in Artesia with the idea to not only teach dance, but also yoga and meditation. And then there were the goat and the chickens and the rabbits—

So life had changed, but not everything was wonderful. There was one thing missing, one tiny thing that he couldn’t help wondering about, worrying about.

***

“When is the wood coming for the new pen?”

Lyn rubbed his cheek against Bill’s chest. “Supposedly tomorrow, but I’m counting on Thursday. Walter is always late.”

Bill murmured, “Good.”

Lyn sighed because he knew that tone. “How many did you buy this time?”

“Just two.”

“I hope they’re not both bucks.”

Bill barked a laugh, making Lyn’s head bob up and down. “No, does. I won’t make that mistake again.”

Lyn snorted; the bucks had spent their time mounting each other. And like Bill said, that was cool, but they were really looking forward to a bunch of kids in the spring and that wasn’t going to happen without the does. “When are they going to be delivered?”

“Wednesday.”

“Bill—” he sighed again. “That’s today.” Barely, though—the windows were still grey—it couldn’t be more than six. “I thought we talked about this. I won’t have the pen ready before Friday.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve got it all figured out.”

“I’m not worried. I just know who will be running after a bunch of goats if the old gate doesn’t hold again.”

“Relax,” Bill said again, this time into Lyn’s hair because he’d bent forward to kiss Lyn’s ear. “I asked Mike to help me finish the pen. You’re going to be too busy tomorrow. Er, today.” He settled back down.

Lyn glanced up. Bill was staring up at the ceiling with that faraway look in his eye. “Why? What’s happened?”

“I had a vision last night, Lyn.”

“A vision of what?”

“The boy. He’s finally had enough. He’s going to start his Hero’s Journey and soon, now that winter is almost here.”

It took Lyn a moment to realize what Bill was talking about. “You mean Bob? Bob Wilton?”

Bill nodded. “He’s coming and I want you to find him. Help him find his way to us.”

“Now?”

“Now.”

Lyn nodded. And turned on his back to lie against Bill’s chest. 

Bill stroked his arm and shoulder. “Do you want me to get you a beer?”

He shook his head. He no longer needed booze to send him flying; he had Bill and that was enough.

“Then find him, Jedi.”

So he just took Bill’s hand and cradled it close to his chest, to the eagle feather. Then he thought of their missing piece and closed his eyes.

And slipped away.



fin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Story notes:
Lyn Cassady/Bill Django
The Men Who Stare at Goats
6,600+ words
A different take on the ending.
All characters belong to people and organizations that are not me.