Title: The Other Choice
Characters/Pairing: Will, Bran [sort of], OC [sort of] (Will/Bran [sort of])
Summary: Will hadn't been to Wales since Bran's death, but...
Wales. He hadn't been to Wales in years. Maybe decades. The years had started to pass in their own obscure patterns, passing Will by. He looked twenty. Acted twenty, when acting was required. He felt a million years old -- and of course, in some way, he was. Ancient and ageless.
By other standards, he must have been about a century old. He tried not to think about that.
He hadn't been to Wales since the death of Bran Davies: he'd had no reason to, and he'd learnt early on that there was no comfort in looking at graves. He couldn't even comfort himself with the idea of some kind of life after death, because he knew there was one, and he knew that Bran wouldn't be there. At least not in his version. But lately Wales had been pulling on him, like a lodestone, and so he'd had to go. It could have been his imagination. It could have been something significant.
It felt like something that should have been dead and buried. Or, well -- someone.
Tywyn looked the same. It was if there was a hand over that valley, still, keeping things more or less the same. There were some new buildings, and new faces, and there was more English spoken there -- but sometimes, if you stopped to listen, you could still hear someone speaking in Welsh, and the accents hadn't changed a bit.
The grave looked older. Plants had crawled over it; lichen had crept up over the dark stone, a spreading stain of sickly green. But the letters were still plain enough. The names, the dates. Bran Davies. Will leaned forward, pressing his forehead to the cold, damp stone. "Bran," he said, softly. "I miss you."
He expected to feel something, then. Some kind of release. An end to the tugging that had brought him here. But -- nothing.
"You can't have known him," someone said. The voice was still a boy's, but there was something... Will turned quickly, still half-crouched beside Bran's grave. A boy stood there, head lifted high, dark-haired and dark-eyed. But for a moment, he'd sounded...
"I know," Will said, shrugging. He smiled at the boy. "I'm too young."
"How can you miss him, then?"
"You wouldn't understand," Will said, at the same moment as he knew the boy would resent that. Boys always did. No matter what the time, no matter how young the boy, they thought they could understand everything. "I mean -- not without knowing me. It's a long story."
"I'm Dafydd," the boy said, pushing his hands into his pockets. The name didn't fit him, somehow. Will looked at him, and saw... something else. Someone else. "Spelled the Welsh way. D-a-f-y-d-d. 'F' is 'v' in Welsh, you see."
"I know," he said, with a pang of remembrance: Bran on the hill, on the day they met, teaching the part of him that was an English boy how to pronounce Welsh words. "I'm Will."
"I feel like I recognise you." The boy looked up, his dark eyes fixing on Will's. "But I know I've never seen you before. I get that a lot, though. I used to think I had second sight, or that I was one of the Tylwyth Teg, switched for my parents' real baby when I was born, but I've grown out of that now."
"You're a dewin," the boy said, carelessly, "aren't you? And that's how you knew Bran Davies."
"I -- "
"I feel like I know him, too." The boy took a step closer to Will and the grave. "I know he was an albino, and that he had no mother. He had a dog with silver eyes. But I don't remember anyone telling me that. And now I know that you were his best friend. Will... Will Stanton. I know that he was twenty-nine when he died, but that's on his gravestone."
Will said nothing.
"When I saw you, I thought you might be able to tell me why I know these things." The boy looked at him challengingly for a moment. "Can you?"
"No," Will said. He touched the grave one more time, running his fingers over the letters, and then he stood.
"You can, but you won't," the boy said, to his back. Will said nothing. He just walked.
Despite himself, he went back. When the boy was fifteen, he went back. Nobody disturbed him when he crouched in the graveyard, his hands on the cold stone. But he found the boy all the same: this time, up where Bran had buried Cafall. It could have been a dark-haired Bran sitting there. Will's chest felt tight.
"This is where he buried his dog," Dafydd said, as if they had just walked up there together, as if it hadn't been three years since Will had walked out of the graveyard. "He called him Cafall. I remember that, now. Cafall. Cafall was King Arthur's dog, too. In the stories. But I don't think he had silver eyes."
"You've grown," Will said, stupidly.
"Boys do that," Dafydd said. He stood up, brushing the back of his jeans off, but his dark eyes were distant. "Even Barney Drew did, in the end. Ended up taller than me... than Bran, I mean."
"Dafydd -- "
"I won't make you tell me anything," Dafydd said. "I don't want you to run away again. Let's walk, though. Up to Craig yr Aderyn. Alright?"
"Alright," Will said. He took a deep breath. "Okay."
"Come on, then." Dafydd turned and went diagonally, finding his way to the path. Will caught up with him, walking an awkward meter to his side, a pace behind him. Dafydd turned to look at him, his expression unreadable. "I don't bite, you know. Not unless you want me to."
Will nearly choked. "Dafydd -- "
The boy laughed. He looked different, then: entirely boyish, less distant -- more real, somehow. "You should see the look on your face right now."
Despite himself, Will laughed too. "I wasn't expecting you to say something like that."
Dafydd shrugged. "I suppose not. Bran would have said it, though."
"Every year, I... remember more and more of what he was like. It feels like remembering. Like..." He shrugged again. "I don't think I like it."
"I don't, either," Will said. He didn't look at Dafydd. "I always thought there'd never be anyone in the world like Bran again, and I was happy. He was... very lonely. Very lonely and full of destiny and -- it should never be done to someone again. The time for that has gone. But you..."
"You're lonely," Dafydd said, softly. "Lonelier than Bran was then, I think."
"Dafydd -- "
"Come on. If we don't hurry up, the minute we get to Craig yr Aderyn, I'll have to go back down. I live in Tywyn with my mam, you see. I'm different to Bran -- I have a mam, but I don't have a da." Dafydd quickened his pace, not looking at Will. "I never really came up here to explore until after I met you. But it was like I knew it all already -- like I was homesick for it."
"Bran was always up here. His da didn't let him go out much -- not down to Tywyn, at any rate. He barely had any friends."
"He had Cafall, though."
"Yes," Will said, looking back down the way they came, to the spot where he'd met Dafydd again, where so long ago, Bran had sat, red-eyed and furious at him. "He had Cafall, until I came."
"He didn't really blame you," Dafydd said, almost absently. He turned quickly to look at Will again. "When you go again -- you'll come back, won't you?"
Will meant to say no. "Yes," he said, anyway.
Dafydd was not Bran. He was in danger of forgetting that, sometimes -- in danger of slipping back a century, to be at the side of a boy who could have ruled the world. A boy that he would have done anything for. But Dafydd was not Bran, and Will should probably stay away, because everything he did and said would bring more of Bran back to haunt this boy, who should be a normal boy, who should have that that Bran had never had had.
"Yes," he said again, and his heart contracted at the look on Dafydd's face then, even though he had no idea what it really meant.
"I should have asked for your address, last time," Dafydd said, the minute he saw Will. It'd been two years, three, and even right until the moment he saw Dafydd, Will hadn't meant to come.
"I don't really have one. Not a fixed one."
"A phone number, then. If you're enough in this century to have a mobile phone."
He was smiling. Just a sight of Dafydd and he was smiling. He was eighteen now, or maybe nineteen already, and he'd grown -- he was about the same height as Bran had been, Will thought, and then hated himself for it, for trying to make Dafydd into Bran. He didn't look as much of a farm boy as Bran had been, anyway: his shoulders weren't as broad as Bran's had been, and he had less muscle. There was something about the face that was both the same and different -- as if, maybe, Dafydd smiled more than Bran, even if he was given to the same kind of brooding and, perhaps, the same arrogance.
"Well, you can give me your number, then." Dafydd stood up from the step he'd been sitting on, stretching a little. "I didn't think you'd be coming back."
"Neither did I," Will said, quietly. "I don't think -- "
"I missed you."
"Don't tell me you didn't think of me."
"I did, but..."
"Bran loved you, you know," Dafydd said, quietly. His eyes were suddenly intense -- much more like Bran's all of a sudden, Will thought, uncomfortably. "Not as a friend. More than that. Why did you never do anything with him? He'd have given anything -- "
"He didn't know what I was," Will said, stiffly. "And I couldn't live a lie."
"He knew once. You could have told him."
"He chose not to remember. He chose his father, and a mortal death, and to forget." Will turned away, abruptly. "I told you I shouldn't have come."
"Will -- "
"I'd better go."
"Don't. Please." Dafydd took a deep breath and caught Will's arm, making him turn back round. Will jerked back from the touch -- the first time Dafydd had ever touched him, he realised, and he shouldn't have been so aware of that, and there was surely no real spark in that sudden touch. Dafydd's eyes had Bran's intensity still. "You're the only one who understands me. Please."
"Dafydd," Will said, and the name came awkwardly to his tongue. "Dafydd, the more time you spend with me, the more you become... like him. I don't think that's what either of us wants."
"I don't know what I want," Dafydd said, quietly. He looked away. "The more I remember... the more I feel like this is how I'm meant to be. Bran couldn't have it both ways -- he couldn't have both his fathers, he couldn't have this world and yours, he had to choose. But... I don't have to choose. There's nobody here that I can't say goodbye to. And maybe... that's the way it's meant to be. So I can make the other choice. One they couldn't offer Bran fairly. Let me come with you, Will."
"Dafydd," Will said, again. And then, moving closer, reaching up as if to touch Dafydd's face and then letting his hand drop. "Dafydd, you shouldn't... You have a life in this world. In your world. The world where Old Ones like me don't really belong. You have your mam, you must have friends, you -- "
"Mam's dead. And... death is catching, I guess." There was a twist to Dafydd's mouth that recalled Bran all over again. "Everybody's kind, but... Will, I want to come with you. That's how it's meant to be. You know it too, right?"
Will's heart twists in his chest, stalls. "Dafydd -- "
"Sometimes you look at me and you see him, don't you? And sometimes you almost say his name."
"You're not him, though."
"No, but -- Will, I want to be. I want you to look at me like you looked at him. I want -- "
"Dafydd -- "
"I've wanted you since I was twelve!"
Will took a deep breath. "Yes. Since you were twelve. We met when you were twelve. And since then, I haven't aged a day, in appearance. But I'm over a century old and you're -- eighteen? Nineteen? And when I'm two centuries old, you'll be dead. This... it just can't happen, Dafydd."
"So you're just going to walk away from me again?"
"I didn't think it would be so easy."
"It's not easy," Will said, quietly. He turned away from Dafydd then, unable to look at his face any more. He couldn't help but remember how many people had walked away from Bran, couldn't help but think about Dafydd, alone and wanting. But he turned away anyway.
"I'd let you say his name," Dafydd whispered. When Will whipped round to look at Dafydd again, his eyes were closed. "Will. I'll be him for you. Just don't walk away."
"Don't ever say that," he said, snapping, before he could help it. "You are not Bran. You are Dafydd. You might share his memories, his heritage, in some way that I don't understand. But you're not Bran. You've had a different life. You didn't walk through the Lost Land with me, you didn't win and wield the sword Eirias, you didn't cut the silver blossom from the tree at the last. You didn't make a choice. You are Dafydd. If I want you, it's because you are Dafydd -- not because you are Bran."
"Will -- "
"But when I walk away now, it's not because you aren't Bran. It's because I couldn't stand to have you and lose you, like I lost Bran. It's because I believe you'll be happier without me. Dafydd. Try to be happy, okay?"
"Come back again," Dafydd said, but he still hadn't opened his eyes, and his voice was flat.
"I will," he said, gently. "Just to see if you are happy."
"And if I'm not?"
Will didn't answer. He turned his back and walked away from Dafydd, again, and wondered why he felt like a coward to be doing so, when he knew he was doing the right thing.
Will wasn't exactly surprised, somehow, when he felt a hand on his shoulder, turned, and found Dafydd standing there. He was afraid for a second to meet Dafydd's eyes, wondering what he'd find there. But Dafydd was grinning. "You don't make yourself easy to find, do you? I always meant to see Europe, but... this might have been a bit over the top for a first trip. Belgium was nice, though. Was it always famous for chocolate?"
"I wasn't happy," he said, quietly. He hadn't let go of Will's shoulder. "And I couldn't wait for you to come back. I missed you. And I know what you did was for the best, but -- I know you were wrong. This is meant to happen."
"You have his eyes, now," Will said, wonderingly, instead of anything else he might have intended to say. "You have Bran's eyes."
Dafydd nodded. He watched Will carefully, watched his expression, met his eyes steadily. "But I'm still not him. Not really. Is that still okay?"
"Can I kiss you, Will?"
Will took a breath. His heart hardly seemed to be beating at all. "Yes."
"Not worried about what will happen later?"
"There... have been men who lived longer than their given span, for the Light. Would you -- "
"Yes," Dafydd said, and he pulled Will closer, rested their foreheads together. "I'll do anything, Will. Didn't you understand that already?"
"Then kiss me," Will said, and he kept his eyes open as Dafydd moved closer.
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