Broken Wings
by s.a.

When John left the hospice, Bruce gave him a cane. John hated it. He thought of it as the "old man cane," which, while not being particularly original, expressed exactly how he felt about it. He didn't share his feelings about it with Bruce, or with anyone else for that matter.

He went home to his big airy house and immediately started hunting for something he remembered from a lifetime ago. It took him a few days to find it; a few days where he hobbled around on the old man cane, pretending it was sleek and black and attractive, damn it. If he was going to run around Portland with a permanent limp, he was going to look sexy doing so.

Sexy as a person can be when half the town's scared of him.

John had searched the entire first floor with the help of an amused Bruce. ("A sexy cane? John, you're even nuttier than I thought you were. Which, I might add, is saying something.") They'd even made progress on the second floor, but the searching stopped when John had a vision after touching the chair by the flight of stairs leading to the attic.


And he was sitting down, tapping his cane against the chair, humming lowly to the tune of "This Little Light of Mine." His bones were old, creaky, achy. He knew what it felt like to want to stay completely still so his arthritis wouldn't flare up again.

He heard a pounding in the distance; a kid running up the stairs. Thunk-thunk-thunk. He started tapping his cane with the beat of the noises, and felt a smile spread on his face as he realized who it was.

"Grandpa!" the kid squealed, throwing himself into waiting arms.

He pulled back and said, "Hi there, Johnny. How's my favorite grandson?"


With an almost imperceptible start, John was back in his own body and treading up the stairs in a shadow of his five-year-old self. It was slow going, especially when Bruce found him and followed him, spouting words of caution as they went. He could get up the stairs by himself, damn it.

Thunk-thunk-thunk, and he was at the attic door. It creaked open, and a small cloud of dust escaped from the little-used floor. John pushed aside boxes, making a path that cut straight to the back of the wide room. He nudged the end of his cane into a dark corner, dragging out a faded cardboard box.

A flash of pain shot up his side as he knelt down, forcing his legs into place. He heard Bruce come beside him, though he didn't look up as he dug through yellowed newspaper and broken ceramic to find the badly wrapped treasure he sought.

John tore the brown paper from the cane and ran gentle fingers up its side.


He was in a small, dusty shop. He breathed in the air -- it smelt of cigars and wood, with a metallic scent woven in. He glanced at the counter, sweeping over the sign in the background that said, "McGulley's Woodwork." With another twist of his head, he saw a variety of wares lining the walls.

His attention was drawn to the man coming from the back room, a big smile around the fat cigar in his mouth. He was holding out a box lengthwise in his hands, nodding for him to open it and inspect it.

Two clicks and the box was open, revealing an ebony cane with an intricate silver knob atop it. He ran his fingers over the smooth grain, admiring the feel of the wood. He pulled it from the box, and set it on the floor. It made a satisfying click as it hit the hardwood, and he nodded happily.

He put all his weight on the cane, pushing himself out of the chair. He hadn't realized he'd been sitting down. Click, thunk thunk. Click, thunk thunk. What has three legs in the evening? The old riddle came back to him, quirking the sides of his mouth.

"How does it feel, Mr. Smith?" asked the shopkeeper.

He turned his head to face the man. "Just fine, Mr. McGulley. Just fine."


John felt the same smile light on his face as he put the unfaded ebony to the floor; it made the same pleasing sound when it hit the hardwood. He pushed himself upwards, putting all his weight on the cane, echoing his grandfather. He waved off Bruce's attempts at help, grunting at the effort of getting himself up.

Click, thunk thunk. Click, thunk thunk. Three legs, indeed.


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