The worst thing you'll ever read - enjoy!
Tam bit his bottom lip, holding his arms as he took a small step back. "I don't know if I'm safe."
Keefe looked behind him. The others - including Linh - weren't anywhere near them and if Tam freaked out again, he'd have no one to save him that time.
Stupid Neverseen and stupid Gethen and stupid mind implant things.
He turned his attention back towards the Shade. "It's over. The Neverseen is gone."
"That doesn't mean my brain is healed," Tam mumbled. "They may be gone but Gethen's programming could still be in there..."
"Well, how do you feel right now?" Keefe asked with a sigh.
Tam hesitated to respond. "Scared, I guess."
"But not evil, right?" The word 'evil' was a gross underestimate of what Tam could've been experiencing, but Keefe didn't really want to get too far into that at the moment. "Your brain isn't giving you a billion tips and tricks on how to kill me right now?"
The boy shook his head, but continued to stare at his feet. "But that could be a decoy. It could just be a cover up Gethen put in because of what happened last time."
Keefe winced. There were two reasons and two reasons only he wasn't dead. The first being Sophie's inflicting and the second being Tam's scary amount of willpower, but even then he could barely hold back long enough.
"I doubt it," he said firmly. "You'd feel something other than just fear right now."
"You don't know that." Tam pulled on his bangs which were back to a black color. "They did some... crazy stuff to my head. What if you get too close and then I loose myself?"
"Then at least we know that we tried." Keefe said, but the other clearly wasn't buying it. "Come on, Tam. I can take you in a fight."
"You can take me in a fight." He clarified. "But you can't take it."
It was common knowledge by that point that Tam had resorted to calling the shadowflux an 'it' rather than it's actual name. Linh had earlier guessed that it was because it freaked him out too much.
"And you really shouldn't even be here. Terigan banned you from the property until we could be sure that I was all better."
The Shade hadn't been allowed to be closer than twenty feet with anyone, but Keefe was a serious exception. After all, he was the main reason they'd messed up Tam's mind so badly in the first place.
Keefe sucked in a breath through his teeth as a gust of cold wind hit him. "Come on. Aren't you cold? You look like you could use a seriously long hug."
Tam didn't say anything. Just continued to stare at the ground.
"Please," Keefe hushed. He took a few slow steps forward and Tam looked up in mild alarm. Keefe realized this might've been the closest anyone had gotten to the boy since he was freed. "It'll be okay. It's been three months and you haven't done a single thing to even suggest that you might still be under their control."
Tam took another step backwards, staring at his pale and black hands where the shadowflux had infused with his skin. "Keefe, you've only taken three steps towards me and it already wants to act up. Please just stop. I'm fine."
Keefe didn't keep walking, but he didn't move backwards either. "Then control it. That's what you spent a year learning how to do, right?"
"No buts. Just keep a hold of it. You're the boss here." He took a few more cautious steps. "Tell it to go die in a pit of sparkly poo."
Tam closed his eyes, his breathing becoming slightly irregular. "I'm trying."
"Trying isn't good enough though."
Keefe didn't say anything back until he was only ten or so feet in front of the other. "How are you feeling now."
"More scared." Tam said quietly, letting out a shaky breath and flexing his hand muscles. For a moment it looked as if the trees around them had gotten darker, but then the light peaked through them again.
"But not dangerous?"
Tam shook his head. "I don't know."
Keefe would take it as good enough, he decided. "Just keep your eyes closed."
He tried not to make a sound as he approached even farther. And soon, he was just five feet or so in front of his almost-murderer.
The two of them stood there for a moment, neither of them saying a thing.
The Empath held his breath as he walked the last little bit until he stood directly in front of Tam. "Are you okay?"
He couldn't tell if a tear had slipped out of Tam's eye or if he was seeing things as the other shook his head again. "I'm really scared." His voice was down to a whisper. He never said things like that as far as Keefe knew.
"We're okay though, see?"
"But for how long?... You should get away from me. We've completed your little experiment for the day. Please go."
How long had it even been since the other had received physical contact from another living elf of any sort?
Keefe didn't breathe as he hesitantly wrapped his arms around the other.
Tam's heartbeat picked up to what could have been a thousand miles an hour and his body became extraordinarily stiff.
"You know, Bangs Boy," Keefe said with a small smirk, "I know you've never been used to hugs, but this is a new level. I'll remind you what to do. You wrap your arms back around me and then you stand there."
If it was possible, Tam's humming bird heartbeat picked up in pace as he did what Keefe told him to do. He sniffled before turning his face into Keefe's neck.
Keefe rubbed his back. "See? It's all okay."
He could tell Tam was trying very hard not to cry - and was very much failing - as he bobbed his head up and down, burring his face in the other's neck even farther.
Grinning, Keefe pulled away slightly to give Tam a quick peck on the side of his head. He wasn't normally one for giving out kisses, but then seemed like a special occasion. He leaned back a bit, forcing Tam to stand up right as he looked him over. He moved his hands so that they rested on Tam's cheeks. The Shade's eyes were already puffy and somewhat red and he was biting his lip so hard, Keefe was sure there'd be blood sometime soon. "Linh is going to be so jealous, you know that?"
Was it weird to think that someone was cute when they cried? Because, if so, Keefe was super strange. Tam reminded him of a chipmunk - for some reason his cheeks seemed more puffed out than usual when he cried.
The Shade's hands continued to grip the back of Keefe's shirt and they stood just in front of the forest, both swaying against the wind.