* flashback *
"Dan, can we not-"
"Why?" The question is soft but insistent. Ryder sighs.
It’s the very worst kind of silence, air stagnant, a tentative quiet and dull heat filling the room.
"I wanted to die," he finally replies in the most listless of tones, unapologetically blunt, and is not the least bit surprised when the other man recoils. Tilting his head curiously, he asks, "Does that really bother you?"
Daniel splutters (well, the Daniel Ellis equivalent) as if he can’t believe what he’s hearing, eyes large and horror-stricken. It’s a good look on him.
"You’re damn right it bothers me, Ryder. You don’t even-" Abruptly cutting off, he shakes his head in order to clear it. Ryder notes with actual shock this time that his uncle is well and truly lost for words. In all the years he’s known him, Ry has never once seen him like this. Adam’s apple bobbing as he clings to his composure, Daniel looks… he looks achingly small.
And Ryder realises with a start that this is what it looks like to see Daniel Ellis’ heart broken.
Then, slowly - in realisation - his uncle’s eyes widen even further and he gives a muted, "You don’t even regret it... do you?"
Oh, boy. He clearly does not want to know that answer.
But Ryder feels he owes it to him anyway.
His scowl deepens. "How-what-Why?"
"I don’t know, Dan. I just don’t." He wouldn’t say his voice is cold, exactly, but undoubtedly chilled. Matter-of-fact.
"You must have some idea."
This is more difficult that the teen pictured it would be when he first awakened to find his uncle camped out on the hospital chair beside him, clothes crinkled and drawn features weary.
"No-one at school can stand me or my freakish brain. Mom and Dad died. None of this is fair to you." He shrugs. "I’m not worth it."
After all, it’s not a lie if you believe it.
Daniel pales, looking aghast.
“Ry, your Dad, he-he-” he stops, breathing in a ragged breath, before restarting, “I promised him that I would take care of you if anything ever happened to him and I..I meant it, okay? I know that I’m only twenty-eight and probably way out of my depth with all of this raising a hormonal teenager stuff, but I never would have taken you in if I thought I couldn’t handle it - you want to know why? Because it wouldn’t be fair to you, Ryder. Your parents wanted you to have the best chance in life and believe it or not, I do too. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without you. You’re my nephew, my only family.” His voice is cracking now. Burning gaze fixed on him, Ryder feels a cutting tightness in his chest as he realises for the first time that he’s not all alone, nor had he ever been. “I can’t lose you, too.”
He can’t face him.
It’s not the entire truth and Daniel is far from fooled.
"No, you’re not."
Ryder bows his head in acknowledgment, a sad smile gracing his lips.
"I want to be."
It must be the lightening in here because Daniel’s eyes could not be glistening. "I know you do."
* End of flashback *