Lines on his face told stories that would never be heard from his own lips. Sadness around his eyes spoke of sorrows he'd never been able to leave buried in the past. The salt-and-pepper color of his hair betrayed his age, something that even his best friend didn't actually know for sure. His eyes traveled down his neck, his bare chest. The hair there was silvery now, and sparse. So different from his youth.
Further down to his hands, hanging at his sides. How old they looked. How wrinkled. He was still fit, still muscular, but his skin was marked. Each scar hid stories of pain and grief. Of torment and sacrifice.
He closed his eyes as a violinist wove his own tale through the room's speaker system. The track was new, yet the music as well-known to Meor Kyrano as the fables his mother had shared when he was a small boy. He smiled as her face filled his mind. How sweet her countenance. How kind her eyes. How uplifting her laughter.
A few years of bliss by her side, though, had been followed by a lifetime of fear.
The man in the mirror was suddenly a stranger, as though he were an amnesiac waking to discover he knew nothing of himself. This past week when so much had nearly been lost, he had started questioning his logic and reasoning. His beliefs. His heart.
The soft sound of the bedroom door hissing open pulled him from introspection. He watched the shadowed figure standing just outside in the hallway. He'd never let Jeff see him this way. Found his heart racing and sweat forming over his brow at the thought of doing so now.
As much as he had prodded his closest friend to open himself to others over the years, Kyrano had always kept the largest part of himself hidden away from the world. From his own daughter. From the Tracys.
But nearly losing Tin-Tin in childbirth, and then almost losing her and Alan's twin sons due to them having been born so early...it had brought so very much to the surface for them all.
Scott and Virgil remembering the horror of their own mother's death.
John thinking of the conjoined twin he'd known only in the womb and for a few brief hours after their birth.
Gordon barely surviving the hydrofoil accident.
Losing their grandfather and just under a month ago, now, their grandma.
Jeff's memories of his beloved Lucy.
Tin-Tin's mother, murdered.
With Death at the forefront of everyone's minds, Kyrano had found it mentally overwhelming. Once assured that his daughter and first grandchildren would live, he had retreated to the island, hoping to rebuild that which had begun to crumble the moment Tin-Tin had stopped breathing.
The music selection he was playing ended and a new track began. Once again the sad and lonely strains of a violin filled the air. As the melody reached an early crescendo, Jeff stepped inside the room, the door sliding quietly closed behind him. He moved without a word to stand behind his friend.
Kyrano watched eyes as gray as storm clouds flick in staccato movements up and down his back. It took all of his willpower not to tremble under such laser focus. When at last Jeff's eyes rose, they met his in the mirror.
The always self-assured billionaire looked haunted. Frightened. And yet within his dilated pupils dwelt the spark that always meant Jeff. His strength. His wisdom. His loves and his losses. Over time, Kyrano had come to know him so well that it occurred to him now, as their eyes held one another's, that he knew Jeff better than he knew himself.
Shame heated his face and he looked away.
When Jeff spoke, his deep voice was surprisingly soft. "Mother always said that for every life that's taken, another is brought into the world. She said that's what'd happened with Lucy and Alan." He waited until Kyrano's eyes met his again. "Instead of making me feel better, it always made me wonder when my other four would be taken from me."
"But they haven't been," Kyrano noted. "Even given what they've dedicated their lives to."
Jeff nodded and then, as though responding to an internal dialog, shook his head. "I'm glad Tin-Tin and the babies are okay."
Kyrano felt his throat close up when the reality of how close he'd come to losing his only child slammed into him like a tsunami wave battering a lone tree. Tin-Tin had only been gone for a handful of seconds when the doctors had gotten her heart beating again. Those seconds had stretched into an endless black eternity from which Meor had been unable to escape.
He realized, as Jeff placed his hand upon his shoulder, that this man understood being mercilessly assaulted by grief. Punctuated by Jeff's rumbled, "I'm here."
Tears sprang to Kyrano's eyes. A smile tried to appear, but it slid back into the features of his face as though it simply hadn't enough reason to try harder. He averted his gaze. Before he could stop them, words tumbled forth from his lips in a voice that shook as much as his insides. "What do you see?"
A long moment of silence stretched between them. Slowly, Jeff's hand slid away, the corners of his mouth curving slightly upwards. "I see someone who's spent so long taking care of all of us that he's forgotten to take care of himself."
The truth in those words hit home with such force that it felt like he'd been roundhouse-kicked in the solar plexus. A whoosh of air as he bent forward, hands gripping his thighs painfully.
A hand palm-flat on his back. "Mirrors don't lie, Meor."
The tremors slowly abated as energy flowed from one man to another, a feedback loop forming, binding, strengthening.
Kyrano took a deep breath, forced himself upright and grabbed his robe from the nearby love seat where he'd carelessly tossed it hours before. He shucked it on and as he was tying the sash, looked at the mirror again.
Somehow, with Jeff standing there beside him, the lines in his face didn't seem so pronounced. The sadness around his eyes faded away and rather than making him feel old, the color of his hair made him proud of the fact that he'd survived long enough to see it change from the jet-black it once had been.
"Come on." Jeff gestured toward the door as he reconstructed his own protective walls. "I'll take you out to breakfast in Auckland and then we'll visit the hospital."
Kyrano nodded and as the door swished open, whispered, "Thank you."
Jeff stopped, turned and gave him a small smile, then continued on his way. When the door had finished closing behind him, Kyrano looked at himself in the mirror once more. His daughter was alive. He was the grandfather of two beautiful baby boys. As the violin slowly slid from its final crescendo into the wistful strains that would bring this piece of music to a close, Kyrano knew that he could no longer hide. Not from Jeff. Not from his daughter.
Not from himself.
It was a time of joy now. A time of new beginnings. And not just because two newborn Tracys awaited the arrival of their two grandfathers. Kyrano realized in a stark moment of clarity that he'd never stopped running even after coming to live in the sanctuary Jeff had offered him all those years ago. His body had stayed put, but his mind and heart had both continued to flee the horrors of his life.
Finally, he could begin to let it all go. And in his face now, as this new knowledge permeated every cell of his being, Kyrano saw something he hadn't seen in longer than he could remember: peace.
*Just a note that Meor