Adventuring through twisted time.

He had grown used to this lifestyle after many years. He felt the vibration run through him as the name appeared upon the  scroll. His hand slipped into the inner pocket of his jacket and unrolled it. ‘Tyler Leon, Age 35, Estimated time of death 1:13pm, Time Square.’ Brandon gave a snort from his nose and looked up to the time. Twenty more minutes? It was strange to get such short notice on a death. He rolled the scroll back up and began to walk to Time Square. He wasn’t far from it, The reasons to be in New York lately were high. Death was busy in the city.

His eyes scanned the crowd around, landing on the male that made his sixth sense tingle like crazy. Hot Dog vender. “Damn shame.” He muttered as he moved closer to the man. He stood and line noticed the name on the badge was Tyler and sighed internally louder to himself. As the line moved he was in front of the man and gave an easy smile. “Tyler? Tyler Leon? Man it's been years. It's Brandon from middle school. Don’t you remember me?” He said casually as if he was meeting an old friend when he had never met this man in his life.

“Ah, Sorry Man, I don't remember you.” The hot dog vender said “Did you want a dog?” He seemed annoyed. Which made Brandon want to reap his soul and get out of there. 

“Well man, no, no dog.  It’s been good to see you.” He reached out and patted his arm pulling his soul out as he stepped out of line and crossed the street. He looked at his watch and when 1:13pm hit he looked up to see a piece of glass that was being lifted into place slip from its hold and the glass landed upon Tyler shattering. The panic that ran through the crowd made him sigh as he turned to look at the soul of the man beside him. 

“What happened?” Tyler soul asked.

“Well you died, mate.” Brandon replied as he turned back to watch the panic on others' faces. “I pulled your soul so you didn’t feel pain.” He said softer as he turned to start leading Tyler soul away from the area. When the buzz from his pocket came again. “Another one?” He questioned reaching to pull out his scroll. “Follow me.” He said to Tyler Soul as he started walking looking around for the next person that appeared on his list.

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The sting that etched into the lining of her heart from his words confirmed to her that their relationship would never be what it once was. “All these years…” she did not realize she spoke the words aloud as the revelation that the one person she thought would understand her because he raised her more than her father ever did would know her a hell of a lot better. Of course. Of course, what she believed was not the truth, it never really was in this field and it made all the consequences she faced after his death seem vain. It made her grief feel pointless and unappreciated it made her want to hide like her father always tried to do with her. All this time… all these years she thought her brother saw her, appreciated her, and respected her enough away from their father… her father as he was so keen at pointing out. 

Were we even family in his eyes or just placeholders? Or has death changed his heart? “Fuck our… My father!” The simple change of that one word in that sentence tasted vial and bitter on my tongue because all this time I thought we shared him. Whatever part my father would let me have of him. I knew more about him from the stories of others, especially Brandon's. I knew what his smile looked through, how people described it, and how the warmth of his love felt through what I was told of it. Except I never saw or felt it firsthand as I raised myself whenever I was alone which was almost always and when I was not well, I was with Brandon. “My anger. My disappointment. My emotions at this very moment have nothing to do with my father. So as I said. Fuck. Him! I am mad at you. Heartbroken by you! Disappointed in you because you agreed to that man's Plan to keep me in the dark. I don't care at this moment that he came up with such a scheme because right now I am focused on you going along with it! And here I was thinking you knew me well enough to know where to place my anger and emotions seeing as you were the one who taught me to regulate them.” I hissed as those hot tears rolled down my cheeks. “I will likely never get an apology from him but I do not need one because he is not the one who in this moment hurt me.” 

She closed the space between them for a second as she kept a tight lid on all her raging emotions. Bursting at the seams but as a New God with an aura that could affect the humans around for the worse, she held herself together. Not even for her own sake; never for her sake. “I forget I know death well. He was my first friend. So it hurts that I can touch you…” she gripped his hand softly and gave it a firm squeeze. “...walk and talk with you one more time before giving you a proper goodbye since we were robbed of that before and you probably never even considered that I would be all I would want. Or that you believed I would not understand or that you were protecting me. An unfinished goodbye will always hurt more than the chance to try our goodbye again.” Madeline knew she could have ended their argument better before storming but honestly, she really did need to get away from everyone and reset before she affected someone else or lost it herself. 

A few days passed and I had not seen Brandon. I was not sure how to feel on the matter either though I could say as the days passed so did my anger. I rubbed my face and yawned as I watched the sunrise on the Hudson River. This coffee was watered down and it made me miss the coffee of N’awlins. This black bean juice did nothing but sate my palette and keep me tired. My paintbrush glided across the tiny page and suddenly I caught myself capturing the sun kissed morning sky in a watercolor painting and froze. I could not recall the last time I painted on my own volition and I quickly set the brush down as it grew abhorrent and heavy in my hand. I often questioned why I traveled with the small art kit that I never used. Never had the muse or want but suddenly… a crisp chill brought me from my thoughts and I knew in an instant it was death. I doubt he was looking for me, in fact, I was sure he was in search of a lost soul but still, his shadow loomed and blocked my little bit of sun.

“Hello again… brother. Or was it Brandon? Or Mr. LeCreaux?” Madeline did not mean for there to be such bite behind her sarcasm and the faint grimace that crossed her face was not just from this dreadful cup of coffee she was trying to endure. “The soul you want is close.” She changed the subject before giving up on the cup and placing it down. “I at least learnt that much from my trials before failing.” She looked over in a vague direction the soul must be but could not tell beyond that the where, what, or how of it all. The intrusive thought of taunting him to fetch did so ever cross her mind but regardless of how she felt he was still family and she could never be so cruel to him. So, Instead, she sighed and shook her head as it dropped before rising, packing the tiny art kit into her jacket pocket and then draping said jacket over her arm. “This is a residential area so your soul is likely still roaming around one of the Skyrise buildings and you will need someone to talk your way in. So let us go.” For a second she hesitated before walking because every fiber in her being wanted to grab his hand or wrap her arm around his but her heart still hurt so waited for him to walk instead.

✧ Death Find Us All ✧
The Maddie of today was different from the Maddie Brandon had spent a significant part of his life with. He wondered if he had made the wrong choice, yet he knew he couldn't change the past. Part of him wished Hades had dragged him into the river Styx at that very moment. He never saw this day coming; life seemed to love kicking a dead horse. The road to hell was paved with good intentions. Even though he had wanted to keep her from focusing on him and find a way to keep himself around, she had to endure her trials. The paranoia of when he would just cease to exist, disappearing without a trace, gnawed at him. The thought made his heart ache, but it was clear she wanted the other side of the coin.

He winced at her use of "my father." The words, though true, still cut deep into him. “I know you are mad; maybe sticking around would have been the better choice. I didn’t want you losing sight of your trials. I was shifted, I was foreign.” Brandon kept his voice level. “While your father had the idea, you are correct that choosing to go that route rests fully on my shoulders. I felt it was the right choice because you would be freed from the paranoia of our last days together. I had my own selfish reasons…” His voice trailed off as she closed the space between them. He would have preferred a slap across the face to seeing the pain in her eyes. It was what he had been avoiding all these years. He had been a reaper for so long, watching others serve their time and move into the afterlife.

He spent countless hours wondering what cosmic crime he had committed to serve as a reaper for so long. Perhaps keeping Maddie in the dark was his greatest sin, the lie that kept him tethered. Somehow, it hurt worse when she calmly explained what she wanted, what she would have done. He didn’t dare point out that they couldn't have known how things would unfold. She had time to grieve his death versus waiting for him to just disappear one day. The Irish goodbye was hard, but part of him knew he was protecting himself more than her. The empty ache that reverberated through him as she walked away awakened something inside him. He took a step after her but paused when his list lit up with new names. Sighing, he went back to work reaping souls.

Days passed as he was lost in the void, performing his duties without the cheerful demeanor he had when helping others pass on. Early one morning, he found himself scanning his list, rolling out of bed to his feet. Sleep was a distant memory for him. His eyes landed on an entry directing him to the Hudson River. In moments, he teleported to the river's edge. He took a few steps, then paused when he spotted a familiar tussle of dark hair—Maddie. Unsure if he should close the distance or teleport away, the choice was made for him when she started rattling off names she might call him.

All it brought out of him was a wince as he moved closer. “Whatever you wish, even if it’s dickhead,” he said, giving a sad smile to break the tension. His eyes drifted towards the direction where the death was to take place. He opened his mouth to ask about her trials, how she could have failed. This was becoming complicated. He wasn't sure how to act around her, what he could ask, not wanting to be a continuous cause of her pain. His gaze shifted to the small painting kit she was placing in her jacket pocket.

Confusion crossed his face for a moment before he understood that she wanted to help him find the soul he was to reap. He restrained himself from telling her he could go invisible, falling into step beside her towards the line of skyrise buildings. Letting the awkward moment stretch out, he finally cleared his throat. He had days to put together an apology, yet it felt like sand was stuffed in his mouth. “I’m sorry,” he managed to say, glancing sideways at her. “I wasn’t myself when I chose to follow your father’s plan. I was hollow, the wind was gone, the warmth of the sand in my veins gone. I was so cold, hollow, lost in confusion about why I was stuck in this in-between life. While it has gotten easier with time, I know I am not whole still.” Looking back to the path ahead, he continued, “I would like to think if I could do it all over again, I would run to you, but…” He swallowed back the tears. “I know I wouldn’t. I was in a dark place and quickly learned what happens when the job isn’t done.”

He frowned deeply before stopping in front of one of the skyscrapers where the tug was pulling him. “When you play with the laws of death, the souls become monsters, Gravelings,” he said softly. “They rebel and cause so many problems, trying to kill the world around them.” Finally, he reached out, pulling open the door for her to walk into the lobby, following behind her. “You don’t have to forgive me. I understand I hurt you. I acknowledge things could have been done better, but we cannot go back. Even if we could, everything would be the same.” He knew this was his fate. His eyes scanned the board listing the offices of powerful people, pausing at the name that matched his scroll: C. Quinn Law Firm.

“Thirteenth floor,” he pointed to the name. Falling into step beside her, he waited to see how she would get them to the office. He kept his ability to go invisible in his back pocket, just in case.

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Chosen Citizen

Citizen of the Realm Brandon LeCreaux

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