Twenty-one – 01

[This post is from Phelan’s point of view.]

“Uncle Phelan,” Tory said, brows knitting.  “What are you doing here?”

“Meeting my nephew.”  Phelan smiled wryly and closed the door gently behind him.  He stared across the room at the pale young man propped up in bed, leaning against a girl with dark hair pulled into an artfully messy braid—though the art to it was likely careless, the messiness more born of haste than artifice.  He could see a reflection of himself in the young man’s features, a reflection of his sister and their long-dead parents, but he could see Gray Miller’s features there, too, despite only having met the man briefly so many years ago.  “Jac said that she checked in on him earlier and he was awake, so I thought that perhaps it was time I met him.  It’s only been…what, seventeen, eighteen years?”

“Eighteen,” his nephew murmured.  “I—I’ve only heard stories.”

“Probably unflattering ones.”  Phelan shrugged and moved away from the door, offering a reassuring smile to Bryant as he started to cross the room.  He leveled a censuring look at Lin as he passed him.  “You should be in bed.”

“I wasn’t going to let Tory come alone,” Lin said.  “I’m fine.”

“You’re not, but thank you for reminding me of another Thomas Ambrose I’ve known.”

Lin winced and Phelan patted his arm gently, mindful of where the camazotzi had gotten pieces of the teenager.

He’s more like his father sometimes than he knows—and not just in looks.  It was all he could do not to shake his head as he moved on, gently punching Tory in the shoulder as he passed him, too.

“It is my fault,” Tory murmured, seeming at least mildly contrite.  “I showed up like some kind of barbarian and demanded answers that he didn’t necessarily have.”

“Answers that I have,” his nephew said, looking down at his hands.  “Ones I haven’t—haven’t quite given them yet, either.”

“It’s all right,” Phelan said.  “They’re patient enough to wait a few minutes more, I think.”  He stopped next to the bed, studying both his nephew and the girl—Isabelle, if he was remembering right.  “So.”

“So you’re my Uncle Phelan.”

“And you’re my nephew.”

He nodded slowly.  “David.”

Phelan laughed.  “An easy name.”

David smiled faintly.  “The way my father tells it, he wanted to make sure I had a first name that was easy for everyone to pronounce.  And, you know, normal.”

“Growing up with a name like Gray, I’m sure he could appreciate that.”

“I think so, too.”

“The middle name is worse, isn’t it?”

David choked on a laugh and just nodded.  “How did you know?”

“Because I know my sister.”  Phelan smiled.  “What is it?”

“You can’t guess?”

Knowing her, it could be any number of things.  Phelan shrugged slightly, waiting.

David shook his head.  “My full name as my mother gave it to me is actually David Cíar Dubhshláine O’Credne Miller.”

Phelan’s throat tightened.  “She named you after our cousins.”

“I guess,” David said.  “I never—I never had the chance to ask.”

“It’s all right,” Phelan said around the lump in his throat, blinking back sudden, stinging tears.  “I can tell you their stories if you want.  There will be time.”

I will make sure that there’s time.

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