“Jeremy, you have to give this a try.” Daniel pleaded as he walked over to stand behind his son, “If you never fall into a deep sleep the time won’t jump like it does. There might be a hiccough when you drop the stones and wake yourself up, but compared to what we’ve been living with? That would be nothing! We could cope with that and, if it helps, I could do it with you.” Jeremy didn’t move. Daniel hesitated and then tried again, pouring weak jokes and reassurances into the vacuum that had once been his son.
“She’s probably fine you know.” He eventually sighed. For the first time Jeremy reacted, turning away from the window to face the wall. He settled with his back to his father and became still once more. Daniel sagged and rubbed his face, but stayed where he was.
“Seriously; if they believed her we would have heard about it by now, even hiding out up here. She doesn’t know how to contact us though, or she might be worried that they’d follow her. She’ll still be protecting you. That’s why we’re here – we needed to keep you safe…” He tailed off, choking back a sob as he sat down and lifted his unresponsive son onto his lap. He held him tight for a long time until the boy began to fidget slightly.
“Jem?” Hope rose and fell on that single word and he pulled his child deeper into the embrace. “Just sleep.” He murmured into the mass of blond hair, trying to settle him into a position where he might give in. “We can try the tray thing later. But right now, just sleep.”
Jeremy struggled out of his father’s embrace and regarded him with heavy eyes that eventually slid over to the chair. As though he was watching a wild animal, Daniel held his breath and stayed still. Then he gently slid his arms back round the boy and lifted him. He carried his son into the centre of the room and set him down there, putting the stones into his tight little fist and then backing away cautiously.
It took a long time but Jeremy finally surrendered. Daniel had fallen asleep in his chair for an hour or so, but that was a while back. They had fallen into an eerie companionship after that, each caught up in his own thoughts. Until the stones fell and time stumbled.
Daniel actually screamed that first time.
The change wasn’t as disorienting as the bigger leaps had been but the sudden lurch left him stumbling for the door. Gripping his belly he rushed to get outside before he threw up. Behind him, Jeremy collected the stones and, regarding them thoughtfully, settled back down into the chair. Hands gripping them tight, he dangled them over the tray and closed his eyes to try again. He ignored his father vomiting in the yard. He had been ignoring his father since he they had slunk away three months ago in the middle of the night, leaving his mother to her fate.