In the Absence of Faith

Chapter Four

Cause my shackles you won’t be
And my rapture you won’t believe
And deep inside you will bleed for me
And my laughter you won’t hear
The faster I disappear
And time will burn your eyes to tears


"Calm down…Zac…help…"



"Whatever…your fault…usual…"

The voices foggy, Taylor fought to distinguish them between the dream world and reality. Groaning, he felt himself lifted into sturdy arms, the sudden movement churning his stomach. Swallowing back the sensation, he felt the darkness covering over once again; eyes rolling into the back of his head, he heard no more.


Taylor opened his eyes. Blinking against the sunlight filtering through a torn curtain off to his right, the realization that he was alive crashed down on him. Choking, he fought back the tears, his vision blurry as his gaze fell upon a lone figure across the filthy room. "Zac," he whispered, his voice hoarse, his throat burning. "Zac!"

"Woah…what I’m here, what’s wrong?" Fighting to regain his bearings, Zac rubbed the sleep from his face, his gaze locking with that of his brother’s, a small smile gracing his lips. "Hey Tay, you’re awake, we almost…lost you last night, I didn’t think you…you were going to make it…" Ignoring the lone tear that trickled from his eye, he stood, the worn floorboards of the cabin creaking beneath his every step. Reaching his brother’s side, the tears returned, stronger in their intensity, his choking sobs cutting through the silence as he threw his arms around Taylor. "Why’d you do that to me Tay?! Why the fuck did you do that to me?! I don’t want you gone, I don’t want you gone, I don’t want…"

"Please…water." Lifting his head from where it rested on his brother’s shoulder, Zac stared blankly down at him, gripping the edge of the sheets, the muscles in his face tense. Licking his lips, Taylor glanced at his brother’s hand, watching the fingers pull at random threads. "If…if you’re not gonna help me at…at least move so I can get it myself."

"Fuck you Tay! That was the last fucking straw! You could at least PRETEND you care about me, you could at least FAKE a liking to me! You don’t hafta show it to my face HOW MUCH YOU HATE ME!" Opening his mouth to speak, Taylor thought better of it, shifting uncomfortably as he concentrated harder to keep his eyes fixed upon his brother’s hand, a dull pain throbbing in his temples. Shaking his head, eyes narrowed, Zac spoke barely above a whisper, his voice conveying the emotion that burned in his chest; painful confusion. "Would you like for me and Ike to leave? Would you rather us be dead? Is that what you want? Will that make you happy?"

"Shouldn’t I be the one asking you that?" Taylor was barely aware of his brother’s movement until he felt the strong grip on his shirt front, felt the warm breath against his face, felt the anger emanating from the hurt glare. Yet he did not care. He knew he had had no right to say that. But he did not care. He noticed the absence of guilt, the absence of emotion, the absence of regret. Still he did not care.

"Look at me! LOOK AT ME YOU FUCKING PRICK!" Emphasizing each syllable by slamming Taylor into the headboard, he released his hold as a glimmer of fear flashed in his brother’s eyes, not even sure if it was really there so quick was its departure. Satisfied that he had finally gotten full control of the situation, Zac got off his brother, sitting on the edge of the bed, wiping the sweat from his face. "I…I don’t know what I did Tay. I don’t know what I did to hurt you. Please tell me. I’ve only been tryin to help, I’ve only been tryin…please…just tell me."

Clenching his teeth against the pounding in his head, Taylor fought to refocus his eyes on his brother’s face, scowling at the pleading look. He could not understand his sudden invisibility to emotion, but somewhere deep within his consciousness he knew it did not exist, that his immunity to this reality was false. And he knew that he would pay for it, but not as immensely as his brother would. Sighing, he returned his attention back to the issue before him, the look on Zac’s face so like a child’s begging him to say that yes indeed there is a Santa Clause. "I…" he hesitated, unsure of where he was going with the initial train of thought that had come and gone without allowing him the time to speak it. "I can’t. I can’t Zac…you wouldn’t understand…I can’t, he continued, rolling over to face the opposite wall.

"You can’t what Tay? You can’t answer me? You can’t tell me the truth? Tay. TAY! What won’t I understand? Please Tay!"


"C’mon Tay…"



"I said NO Zac! Open your fucking ears! Leave…just…just get out of my sight."

"I love you."

"What?" Turning his head, Taylor stared at his brother, mouth agape in shock, having no clue as to why those words were spoken. Three words, three simple words, yet they reverberated in his head mockingly, their meaning suddenly clouded, complex; unfamiliar. A sudden stab in the pit of his stomach, enough to invoke a small groan to escape his lips, prevented him from drifting further into his thoughts. Crinkling his brow, he still felt the pain, unable to fathom where it had come from, so unlike it was from all the other pains he had endured the past few days. Then it dawned on him. The losing battle he had been fighting all along; the urge to surrender, the urge to allow all his walls to crumble, to reach out for Zac, to hug him, to cry upon his shoulder, to let everything out, to talk, to not have to hide anything, to reestablish the bond between them, to forgive and forget. It was at that point Taylor realized how much he wanted to lose to his emotions, to be the comforted and not the comforter. But the fear remained, and even though he knew very well that his brothers would never laugh, that they would only care and help and love, he could not bring himself to push the images out of his mind, the pictures that had plagued him ever since the plane; the illusion of his brothers laughing, the scornful sound echoing in his ears, growing louder and louder as he clamped his hands over his ears, whimpering softly as he squeezed his eyes shut.

"Tay, what’s wrong? Oh God, Tay, please, what’s wrong? Talk to me! Please, for Christ’s sake TALK TO ME!"

"No," he whispered, shaking his head furiously. "Leave Zac, now…leave before I do something you’ll fucking feel for a week." Blinking, Zac stared at his brother’s back incredulously, lower lip quivering as he tasted the salt of his tears on his tongue. Unable to stay any longer, he leapt to his feet, running for the door. Without a second glance, he slammed it shut, leaning against it. Slowly sliding down to a sitting position, he rested his head in his arms, confusion numbing him to the world outside his head.

The sound of the splintering door ringing in the room, Taylor did not move, remained facing the dirty white wall, sheet pulled tight under his chin. As the minutes ticked by, he lay still, not quite sure as to what he was feeling, a discrete emptiness settling over his mind. Closing his eyes briefly, memory slowly returned, the events of the afternoon sweeping over him, he too weak to stop them. "Zac," he moaned, his voice guilt-filled, his tone regretful. A few lone tears trickling down his face, he reached up, wiping them away, only to bring more to his eyes. Dropping his hand, he allowed for them to fall, pulling his knees to his chest and burying his head in his arms. Surrendering, his body shook with sobs, growing louder with each one even though muffled through the folds of his shirt. He no longer cared who heard him, he no longer cared about winning or losing the battle within himself, he was only aware of the painful tears, the tears that choked and stung and burned.

He did no know for how long he had cried. Sniffling, he stared at the closed door, a sick feeling forming in his stomach that he had not only shut his brother out of his room, but had shut him out of his life. His eyes slowly drifting shut, he gratefully gave into sleep, his vision fading into the blackness that is the nothingness of the dream world, a few rays of sunlight glistening off the meandering trails that ran down his cheeks.


 "So now are you on my side?"

"I never knew there were any sides Ike," Zac mumbled, cheek pressed against his knees, dried tears framing his red and puffy eyes. Peering up through the sweaty hair matted to his forehead, he trembled feebly at the defiant look on his brother’s face.

"C’mon…get up." Grabbing his brother’s hand, Zac stood stiffly, drawing in an unsure breath. Wiping his sleeve across his nose hastily, he met his Isaac’s eyes hesitantly, suddenly wrapping his arms around his brother’s neck. Stumbling backwards from the weight, Isaac held him tightly, his face softening as he whispered soothingly into Zac’s ear, unaware of moisture seeping into his top. "Shhh Zac, it’s okay…I’m here…it’s okay…"

"Why…why do…doesn’t he…want my…h…h…help, Ike?" His voice hitching in his throat, Zac slowly let go of Isaac, silently begging for his brother to answer that Taylor did want his help, that he did still love him, and that nothing would ever change that, that nothing would ever destroy the bond between them.

Rubbing the back of his neck, one hand placed firmly on his hip, Isaac slowly paced the hallway, shaking his head. "Look Zac, I don’t know, I don’t know what his problem is, but he hasn’t been fair to me…to us. Now do you see the shit he’s put me through the past few days?"


"No Zac, listen to me. He’s being a stubborn asshole and I don’t feel like dealing with him anymore, I’ve suffered enough. I’m not gonna let him drag me down with him. I’m sorry I’m obligated to love him right now." Crossing his arms, Isaac looked down at the shocked look on his brother’s face, smiling slightly.

"Ike…you’re not obligated…"

"Yes I am, he’s family, remember? God…family…music? The Hanson motto? Can’t let the fans down now can we?"

"The fans?! Since when did they have anything to do with this? I think you’re being a bit cynical Ike. Just hang in there, I think we’ve hit rock bottom, it’s only up from here."

"Think what you want Zac…" Stopping suddenly, Isaac stared hard at the bedroom door, listening closely. Watching his brother peculiarly, Zac turned when he heard it too, the weak sobs drifting through the wood. Reaching for the doorknob as the cries grew stronger, Zac clawed at his brother’s hand as it fought to wrench his grasp from the metal.


"Fuck no Zac! He needs to be alone, he needs to let it out. God knows how long he’s been holding it in." Placing an arm around Zac’s shoulders, Isaac carefully steered him down the hallway, away from the bedroom, glancing back only once. Cringing, he tried in vain to push the fear from his mind, the fear that the worse was yet to come.

************************************************************************* Musical credit given to Vertical Horizon for "Shackled."

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