Oh, The Places You'll Go

Up Where the Air is Clear

Notes: Inspired by an image from 'The Kite Runner' - a magnificent book by Khaleid Hosseini. If you haven't read it, you should. Also written for phoebesmum who repaid me by providing the title. I suck at titles. It was supposed to be a couple of hundred words. Oh well. Could come anywhere - pre, during, post-canon. No spoilers.

"Come fly a kite with me," Danny says. He is in one of those moods, restless and edgy, straining at the leash. His faraway gaze holds open fields, sun and blue sky, running on long, easy limbs.

"You don't have a kite."

"I'll get one. Come fly a kite with me." His hands stretch toward you, pleading, beseeching. You are helpless before his passion. You say yes, of course, when?

"Now, Casey. Let's go now." You begin a string of excuses; cite lack of preparedness, other commitments, pressures of time and of work. He lays a warm hand against your arm and opens his eyes wide, the melted chocolate irises almost obliterated by the blackness that exposes him to you. You can't resist this, you can never resist this. You mumble your agreement and let him draw you up from the couch and out of the door.

Danny unpacks his kite, chattering eagerly, years dripping from him with every bead of sweat the sun entreats from his skin. He looks at you, laughing. His back to the sun throws his face into shadow, but it is impossible to hide the light shining within him. Your own eyes hidden by dark glasses, you know he cannot see the secret you carry. Have carried for so many years.

You help him fit the crosspieces together and your hands brush together. You feel the electric shock that stops your heart no matter how many times you touch him. Your hands tremble, his are still sure and steady. Did he not feel it too? How can he not feel it too? There is a warm breeze in the air, not enough to sway the tall trees in the distance but enough to bend the lissom stalks of tall grass that edge the field, a living picture frame. The kite is ready. It is a simple red diamond. Uncomplicated, easy to fly. It is the right kite for Dan. You feel like a stunt kite, difficult to manoeuvre, crashing repeatedly, exertion far outweighing enjoyment.

Danny's kite settles effortlessly in the sky, bobbing gently, asking for more string, begging to go higher, further to explore the wide blue void. Dan pulls and releases, pulls and releases, feeding the line into the wind, taut and slackening, he seems to understand instinctively what the kite needs. He concentrates the entirety of his being on this kite. You could leave now and he would not know. You won't leave.

You lie in the warm grass; hands tucked behind your head and watch him. You see the muscles moving in his arms, his shoulders, his back as he responds to the kite. You see how he balances on the balls of his feet, calves tensed and ready to react. You see the dark stain of sweat forming on his singlet, and the droplets gathering on the back of his neck. You tell yourself sternly that it would be unwelcome and inappropriate to lick them off, no matter what your tongue is imploring you to do, craving salt, craving warm salty skin.

You fly Danny the same way he flies the kite, you decide. He runs ahead full of joy, exploring, searching, discovering and you let him. For a time. But then he is too far away and you get scared that this time he won't come back to you so you pull on the string, you tell him she won't make him happy, you don't pick him up on a mistake in an interview. And sometimes he strains against the reeling in, and sometimes he comes quietly, softly, sadly. And each time you gather kite-Dan into your waiting arms and pack him away until you're ready to let him fly again. He has moved across the field now, chasing the waning breeze, the kite hangs low in the sky but his eyes are still fixed. You could leave now and he would not know. You won't leave.

You shift your position; the sun has made your hair hot to the touch so you grab the hat lying next to you, pushing it onto your head. But now you can't see him so you sit up. You don't want to miss a second of his happiness. How many years has it been? Was there ever a day when you didn't love this man, want this man? And had there been a second since that had not been tinged with the unique torment of love unrequited? The birth of your son, the most joyous occasion of your life, touched with sorrow because he should have belonged to you and Danny. His mother, your wife: incidental. You flinch at the cruelty of the thought and bow your head in thanks for the end of that conflict. Brutal though it was you were relieved to surrender, to accept the burden of guilt.

The kite starts to dip and Dan starts to run, zig-zagging to catch what is left of the breeze. He is failing and it is falling. He is coming towards you but does not look in your direction. He stumbles, a rabbit hole, and you unconsciously put out your arms to steady him though he is still far away. He stops suddenly, reaching up to tug sharply once, twice, on the line. The kite swoops and stutters then starts to ascend once more, Dan paying out the line as fast as he can. You do not have to see his face to know he is smiling. You could leave now and he would not know. You won't leave.

The breeze is stronger, wilder. You can hear the whisper of leaves growing, you feel the warm air shifting across your sweat-sheened body and though it is not cold you shiver, goose-bumps prickling your skin. Dan is still far away and his arms reach high up into the sky, the kite has reached the end of its line and still it pulls. Is Danny wishing that he could follow it into the sky? And then Dan is moving, slowly at first, then faster and faster, further away. The wind gusts and Dan's hands are empty, scrabbling about for purchase on a plastic rod that is out of reach. He turns to you, arms upraised in a gesture of defeat. You know that sign, you've used that sign, felt that emotion and you can't bear to watch it happen.

You are on your feet and you are running across the field, towards Dan but you're not looking at him, you are watching the red kite in the sky. It is not lost, not yet. And you hear Dan call as you pass him, but you ignore the words and keep running, running, the entirety of your being concentrated only on the kite. The air is thick as you cut through it with long strides, the wind drops and the kite begins to sink lower and lower. You calculate the distance and arc with the precision of an expert sportsman and you veer left. You can hear footsteps and laboured breathing behind you but you don't turn round. The wooden gate ahead has a latch but you bound over it, gravity non-existent and keep running. You run behind a small group of trees and stop, panting for breath.

You see Dan as he rounds the trees and motion for him to stop, some distance away. He looks at you quizzically but does as he is told, bending forward and resting his hands against his knees. He opens his mouth to speak but you put a finger to your lips. You wait, then you see it, drifting down over the tree tops. You take a single step sideways and the red kite floats silently into your waiting arms. Dan is smiling and shaking his head. He is walking towards you, asking questions, eyes dancing and you hold the kite out to him, an offering. He takes it, then kneels on the ground untangling line and dismantling crosspieces as carefully as if it were a living thing. You could leave now and he would not know. You won't leave.

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