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Home Is Where The Heart Is

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He's running. He's not quite sure how he got there, what he was doing before, but he knows where he is. He's back somehow, it's Varadero, the small beach town's streets as familiar as the waves he'd spend hours surfing just a few miles away. The bright midday sun beats down on his head, but he doesn't stop, he can't stop, he realizes as sweat pours off of him. As he runs, he looks around, he's left the large hotels and spas far behind him, and he's more into the residential area, his sneakers pounding against the concrete road. It's an instinct, a muscle memory nothing could erase, the way back home, to his Abuelita's house. That's when his dark ocean blue eyes widen, because he realizes as he's hit the area where children should be playing, mothers gossiping, the steady thrum of the town's heartbeat is gone. Everyone seems to be gone, and that's when he speeds up, thinking he should have been aware of that earlier, after all he's running in the middle of road. Never mind that he doesn't quite know when earlier was, doesn't know how long he's been running, what came before, can't even recall passing the house before.

He starts to yell then, to call out, a seemingly endless stream of names overflowing from his lips. "Anita! Rodrigo! Chris? Where are you? Mama? Dondé estan?" Cold silence met him, and it wasn't just the humidity and the physical exercise that caused him to sweat. He's pushing himself to the limit now, screaming as loud as he can given how his lungs are already working overtime. "Por favor! María, Teresa!" It's as he's racing that he starts to pick up on things he didn't notice before, from the corner of his eye before they disappear as his feet swallow the road. The houses he passes are old, decrepit, and falling apart, the vehicles on the side of the road are rusted, tires missing on many. The road itself has cracked several times over, breaking itself against merciless earth as it went along, turning slowly into a dirt road, as he turns down the side road to his family's ancestral home by the ocean.

He shoves the small iron gates open, ignoring the rusted, twisted fence, the overgrown orange trees that were barely yearlings when he last was here, the molded and decaying children's toys that he tripped over, and the waist length grass that had even overtaken the walkway. He comes to a hasty stop right in front of the broken down door, the door handle miraculously looking intact, the door having been dislodged in its frame. He's frozen there, hand raised to knock on the door to his Abuelita's house, his home, the sense of wrongness that dogged his footsteps a heavy shadow that's taken residency in his gut. He gasps, trying to breathe, and not drown in storming emotions that tug him every way, that drag him in a rushing undertow. It's maddening to be this close, and to be so hesitant, though he knows he won't like what he's going to see. He leans against the door for an immeasurable amount of time, before pushing on it, roughly, harshly, putting his entire heart into it, because that's what's really on the line here anyway, he thinks absently.

Emptiness. The air is stale, and dust floats in front of sunbeams from where the roof and upstairs have caved in. The furniture seems to have been retaken by the weeds that flourish between the cracks in the floor, the walls press in and out in an inconsistent pattern, he can't even see through to the kitchen but he sees it. He sees what it was, how the whole family would gather in the living room to watch a movie every Friday night, how everyone would gather in the now collapsed dining room after his grandmother and mother, and he and his eldest sister María would make dinner for everyone on Sunday, the laughter that would rise up and warm the house from his elder brother Rodrigo when he and Chris would get into an argument and wrestle to determine the winner, never mind that they all knew Chris usually would win. He can smell how the house would reek of pan dulce, from his grandmothers constant inability to refuse her youngest grandchild his favorite dessert, a secret between 'just the two of us, hm mijo?' that everyone knew. Feels the blanket he and his sister Anita had knitted together that would keep the two of them warm in the winter, after she convinced him that he would enjoy the hobby, she always was right, he reflects, a small stray paintball catching his eye, and he can recall when Teresa and Rodrigo taught him how to shoot. How the family marveled at how the youngest McClain-González was a natural shot, with a paint gun, at laser tag, and when he was older, with the real guns his sister Teresa would one day work with. His feet begin to move once more of their own volition, his body and mind numb, unflinching from the spider webs that caress his arms softly, nearly a ghostly whisper or sympathy, for one day they too, must lose what they have, for fine bonds of silk cannot withstand the tides of time without one day dissolving.

He moves sweat soaked, brown hair from his eyes, his bangs are longer than they were when he was last home. He can't help but feel that it he's the one who changed the most, between the two of them, the survivors of the ravages of the war of time, the house and the boy still lost among the stars and the waves. It's an alarming superstitious thought he gets then, that it was because he changed that everything else did as well, that through his actions he has brought this calamity upon his family, his home. That seems the only word for what has happened here, calamity, or a storm the likes of which his peaceful town had never faced before. He's shaken from his detached, dark musings by the sound of a small bell ringing, and he finally looks back up, to see that he's in front of what he knows in his heart to have been his room, and that the soft tinkling of the bell is coming from beyond it. It calls to him, but he knows what it means even without its siren song. It means an irreversible change, and it means he has lost them, his family, forever. But he cannot resist, even though his heart screams from its cage not to go through the door, that he isn't ready, will never be ready, that there must be a mistake, somewhere, somehow, because this just can't be happening. He turns the doorknob, ocean eyes closed tight, and steps through.

A soft breeze ruffles his hair lightly, and he can once more feel the hot Cuban sun direct on his skin, the sunlight behind his eyelids coaxing blue tide pools to open and reveal the life within. He chokes on nothing, drowns, lungs unable to bring in air as something in him falls and shatters where it hits the graveyard dirt. He stands before the familiar family plot, where they put his grandfather to rest and wait for his beloved wife when he was but 5 years old. Where generations of McClains and González's have laid in peace undisturbed. That isn't what destroys his soul, and makes him realize what he's been pushing away the entire length of this odd journey, what he's been refusing to accept, even when he knew what the state of the house signified. How it hadn't been lived in in a long time, how no one had even tried to keep the place up. Because in front of him, are 7 new graves, each marked with their name, and the date of death on each matches. It was the day he left, the day time seemed to slow, and infinity became something he saw first hand.

He whips around, and there she stood, golden eyes lit up, silent as the depths. His heart was pounding, tears falling from his eyes rapidly, and he crashed into the Earth. "Blue..." His voice cracks, drowning with the strength of his broken heart, a choked whisper before the sobs that shook his shoulders took over, leaning over his bent legs, hands clutching desperately at his face, as if he's mindlessly trying to put a false smile on his face once more. Except unlike with the others, he can't even bring himself to think of others, everything else but this moment, of Blue, of what lays behind him under the midday sun, she is the only one he never needs to hide behind a smile from. He was lost at sea, all because time has sped up for his family, and he was left adrift outside of time. Her jaw opens, unhinges as she lowers herself till her magnificent face is as close to him as she could get. He was screaming now, losing himself, drifting away from hope, from family, from home. 'Wake up Lance.' The compassionate, gentle voice crashes through everything, ripping away the fabric of cruel, immense space, and forgotten time.

He lunges forward, right arm outstretched, as he reaches for something light years away.