Rating: R
Disclaimer: Say it, don’t spray it.
Concrit/Feedback: I want the news, not the weather.
Notes/Spoilers/Warnings: Post-NFA by five years; oblique spoilers for Ats S5.


Written for the [info]spander132 prompt: busy.





At Last!verse


by
Beetle



Part One
The Beginning of the End




Saturday

“Don’t go,” Xander whispers as Spike shrugs on his duster.

The pause is so infinitesimal; anyone who wasn’t Xander would’ve missed it completely. “Have to, love. Have to.”

“No, you don’t. You could stay here, with me.” Xander’s tone is easy, reasonable. It’s the last thing Spike expects and the thing he’s least equipped to deal with. He turns to look at his boyfriend, shocked, as always, by the pallor and weariness stamped on the beloved face.

Xander smiles and there are tears in his eyes.

“Stay with me, William,” he says one last time, a shaking hand extended for Spike to take, to hold, to keep.

With every ounce of willpower in him, Spike turns away. “I’ll be back before dawn.”

“I don’t think you will.” Xander’s voice is soft and hopeless as Spike gently closes their bedroom door.


~*~*~*~*~


The club is a press of hormones, writhing, sweaty bodies and flashing lights.

Armored in a red silk shirt and painted on jeans, Spike slips easily through the crowd, his sneer and attitude parting the dancers as surely as a laser.

Once he’s reached the the epi-center of the crowd--the place reserved for those who want to see and be seen--he closes his eyes and starts nodding to the music. Slowly, as if there’s no one else in the world, the rest of his body picks up the rhythm.

The song changes once, twice. Spike changes with it. The press of bodies around him thickens, then thins.

By his fourth song, there’s only one body close to his own . . . clad in silk and leather, a distinct chill wafts off it. In the flash and strobe of the lights, Spike can make out a pale face, cruel smile and eyes like holes. Large, strong hands touch his body--hips, thighs, chest, ass--pull him closer, turn him.

Spike leans back into the marble-hard body.

“You’re very beautiful,” a soft, mildly accented voice says, cool lips brushing his earlobe in an ephemeral kiss.

“And you’re very dead,” Spike returns, grinding into the hardness pressed against his ass. The hands sliding up and down his chest still for a moment, then resume their wandering. The buttons on Spike’s shirt are slowly twisted off and cool hands flatten and spread across his chest.

“Ah,” the vampire says softly. And: “I see.”

“Do you?” Spike asks, shivering as icy fingertips brush his nipples.

“If you wish to be dead, as well, I would be honored to assist you.” A mockery of humanity and solicitousness, this voice and the caresses turn into pinches that are just this side of painful.

“Death? Been there, done that, came back with some lovely souvenirs.” Spike leans his head back on his dance partner’s shoulder; sees a flash of dark, amused eyes before the vampire presses his mouth against the damp skin of Spike’s neck.

“I could drain you in the middle of this club and my minions would dispose of the corpse before anyone even noticed you were gone,” those cool lips whisper on Spike’s jugular.

“You know what I want, Korely. You know I’ve been asking around.”

“And what if I do?”

“Then you know I’m looking to make a bargain, mate.”

Korely’s amused chuckle is audible over the repetitious stylings of the house DJ. “You are beautiful, but beauty is very common coin in this day and age. You have nothing with which to bargain.” Another soft, cold press of lips against Spike’s temple. “So good-night, lovely one.”

And just like that, Spike is alone, surrounded by strangers who’d instinctively kept their distance when Korely was on the floor.

“I can give you William the Bloody,” Spike says to the sea of humanity that surges and shakes around him. But he knows this is a lie. Korely probably knows it’s a lie, too . . . if he’s even still listening.

Either way, Spike’s rhythm is lost, now; he’s merely being pushed to and fro by the mob.

Off to the next club, then.


Thursday

This night, Spike gets home several hours before dawn.

He limps to their bedroom because his leg still aches from the throw-down earlier that night. He hasn’t been able to take one alive--so to speak--and he’s getting desperate.

Getting sloppy.

Xander is a still, diminished lump under heavy blankets, too weak to toss, some nights. Too tired to turn, others. It’s painful to watch him sleep, but watch Spike does.

And after nearly twenty minutes of silently contemplating his mate, he limps to the bathroom, trying not to wince and groan at his myriad aches and pains. A hot shower helps somewhat, though Spike thinks one of his ribs may be cracked. Rather than go to the emergency room, he takes eight or ten aspirin--no point in keeping track, anymore--and crawls into bed next to his slumbering boyfriend.

“Spike,” Xander sighs and almost smiles, snuggling instinctively against Spike.

“Shh, I’m here, pet. Safe and sound with you.”

Paper-thin eyelids struggle open and dark, pain- and exhaustion-glazed eyes meet Spike’s own.

“Sweetie-pie.” Xander smiles sleepily at the face Spike makes, stretching like a cat under the assault of reassuring nuzzles and caresses.

“Only you could get away with that, whelp.”

“All talk. . . .”

“I’ll show you all talk,” Spike mock-growls and kisses Xander gently. He ignores the bitter taste of sickness and mortality, seeking the sweetness that is simply Xander.

He doesn’t have to seek for long; he never has.

The kiss deepens, as it hasn’t in what feels like years. Soon, Xander’s hand is slipping down tentatively Spike’s chest and abdomen.

“Don’t, love,” Spike pulls away, catching Xander’s hand.

“I know I’m not exactly hot stuff right now. Or ever, really, but I need you, Spike.” Brutal, naked honesty that makes Spike feel like exalted pond-scum.

He pulls Xander’s hand up to his lips and kisses it. “You’re beautiful, pet . . . but I can’t. Don’t wanna hurt you.” Spike isn’t crying, but they both hear the unshed tears of frustration in his voice.

“Baby--at this point, there’s really nothing we could do that would make me any worse. It’s been pretty down-hill, since this whole mess started. I’m not getting any weller.” Xander’s eyes twinkle with their old humor. “So, just close your eyes and think of England, old boy . . . make love to me.”

“I miss being in you, miss touching you, miss tasting you.” Spike holds Xander closer and smiles. “Miss that stupid face you make when you come--”

“It’s not a--stupid face . . . it’s . . . unique.”

“--but I won’t put you at risk just to satisfy my bloody libido.”

“So, by us not fucking, what do we gain? An extra hour? Two, maybe?” Xander scoffs.

“Love--” Spike rolls away from temptation, sitting up. And despite what Xander may think, temptation’s exactly what he is, even now.

“Okay--how ‘bout I stroke you off and lick my fingers when you come? I’m willing to compromise.”

Spike shakes his head no; he has no doubt Xander’d just use that to twist him into knots till he got his way.

“Fine. Fine,” Xander snaps. “If you don’t want me, you should just say so, you know. A little rejection never killed anyone. Oh, wait a minute.”

Spike tenses and the breath he’d been holding explodes out of him. For long minutes, they sit in uncomfortable silence. As usual, Xander’s the one who’s brave enough--dumb enough--to break it.

“Spike--I didn’t mean--”

But Spike’s already out of their bed and throwing on clothes.

“I’m sorry, Spike, I didn’t mean that . . . I’m stupid jerk, just--don’t leave me again,” Xander pleads, though Spike leaving is a foregone conclusion.

“You know why I’m doing it, Xander. All of it.” Spike winces at the harshness in his own voice.

“You already went out once tonight, Spike--God, you’re covered in bruises and limping! Haven’t you had enough!” Xander sounds like he’s about to cry. Spike doesn’t want to see, doesn’t want to know, if he is. He laces up his Docs quickly.

“Doin’ this for you.” Which of them he’s trying harder to convince is up for grabs.

“No, you’re not! I told you, I don’t want--”

“I can’t live without you,” Spike growls. “I bloody-well refuse to. The end of you is the end of me.”

“Don’t say that. . . .”

“What? That when you’re gone, there’s no point in me hanging around, being miserable?” Spike snorts and stands up. Pats himself down, not for cigarettes, but the several small daggers he’s taken to carrying.

Check and double check.

“God, you’re a heartless bastard, sometimes.”

If this is an argument, then Xander’s broken voice has just declared Spike the winner.

Funny . . . he doesn’t feel like a winner at all.

He shrugs on his duster, again, and turns to look at Xander. He’s laying on his back, staring up at the ceiling, tears running down the side of his pale, grey face and into his ear.

“Do you just--not want to be here when I. . . ?” Xander swipes at the sides of his face. “I understand if you can’t be here when it happens, but please, don’t be reckless with your life. Please come back.”

Spike opens his mouth, wants to make a promise he knows he won’t keep. Instead he makes the one he has kept for the past week. For the past century.

“I’ll be back before dawn, love.” The same gentle and implacable voice he’d used when Dru was at her worst.

“Stay with me, William. Please. It’s . . . close.”

Spike looks away. “Could get Red or the Slayer--”

“I don’t want them, I want you!” Xander whispers fiercely, turning his head just enough to see Spike. “I can’t live without you, either and I don’t wanna die without you. Please . . . don’t let me die without you.”

“Before dawn,” Spike promises again. Then he’s gone.



Friday

It’s been seven nights since Xander was infected.

Six nights since he had the near-orgasmic pleasure of putting an end to the bitch responsible.

But this is only the fifth night Spike’s trawled the alleys and secret ways of the city.

He doesn’t know if it’s a leftover bit of sixth sense from before or if the man he’d been, once upon another century, had possessed a psychic twinkle, but he’s still got a nose for the weird.

Whatever the explanation, Spike has used that sense ruthlessly over the past seven nights, nevermind the danger, nevermind the migraine building in his skull this very moment. Nevermind that his body is now one constant ache when he gets home.

Xander is awake when Spike peers into the bedroom.

“You’re back early,” he says, in a voice that’s too neutral to be real. In the faint light from the hallway, his eyes seem to glow like coals in a forge.

When Spike steps into the room, his left arm in a sling and cast, the facade of neutrality falls away.

“Sweetie, c’mere!” Xander’s shoving back the blankets, trying to stand up. Spike rushes to his bedside.

“No, don’t get up, love. I’m--I’m alright, just got myself a busted wing. E.R. gave me some painkillers, so it doesn’t hurt much,” Spike lies smoothly.

Xander lets himself be pushed back into the pillows and turns on his bedside lamp. Bright, pain-filled eyes regard Spike’s bedraggled countenance from bruised looking hollows.

“Oh, Spike . . . I wish you’d stop doing this.”

“Don’t start, pet, please. . . .” Spike sits tiredly, but carefully on the edge of the bed, burying his face in dusty hands. Xander’s fingers brush the nape of his neck, then settle on his shoulder lightly, tentatively. Spike can feel the unnatural heat of him through the duster.

It’s still Xander-heat, so he loves it . . . there’s just too bloody much of it and it’s starting to look like Spike won’t be able to do anything about it.

“Can’t bear this,” he whispers, shaking his head. “Hurts too much.”

“Babe. . . .” another too-warm hand, touches Spike’s back and he’s being pulled back into Xander’s too-warm embrace.

“It needs a living body to possess . . . a soul to consume. If I coulda turned you, you wouldn’t have either to give it. It would wither and die before it’s even born.”

This had, once upon a Thursday, been Spike’s hope.

“The price is too high, Spike.”

“You’d rather see your soul consumed than lost to you?” Spike demands angrily--more angry at himself than he is at Xander--turning to look at his ashen-faced lover. “I know what this thing will do. Seen it firsthand. Poor Fred. . . .”

Xander’s too-warm nose touches the crown of Spike’s head. “Spike . . . I just don’t believe this thing can destroy something that’s infinite. How could it? How could it end like that? We helped save the world more times than I can count--it can’t end like that for me or for you.”

“Never say never, love.”

“Just think,” Xander exhales warmly, dryly in Spike’s ear. “One day, we’ll be in heaven, eating pizza and drinking beer and I’ll be gloating over how right I was and you’ll be calling me a wanker and hogging all the pepperoni. . . .”

Xander sighs happily. “Heaven. We deserve nothing less.”

“You may not deserve less, but I--” Spike shakes his head again. “I’ve done so many terrible things . . . don’t think I’ll ever get into heaven. I’d be lucky to slink my way into a bad neighborhood in Purgatory.”

Another saharan breath stirs Spike’s hair. “Well, you may not deserve heaven, Big Bad, but I sure do. And my idea of heaven involves you, naked and hard for eternity. Kinda impossible for me to be in heaven if you aren’t there, too, hunh?”

Spike smiles sadly. “Doesn’t work that way, pet. . . .”

“Does, Spike. Does. Trust me on this.” Xander’s using that soft, unshakable voice Dru had used when the stars had been at her. It’s a voice time has trained Spike not to discount.

“Trust you on everything,” he admits. It feels like giving in; like sticking Xander with a death sentence.

“Then don’t go out, tonight. Stay here with me.”

Spike closes his eyes and lets Xander hold him as tight as his weak arms will allow.

“Alright.”


~*~*~*~*~


“Sing it.”

“What?” Xander’s breathing had been so soft and even, Spike thought he’d fallen asleep.

Xander sits up a little so he can look Spike in the eyes, his own dancing. “You know what, faker. Sing it.”

“Xan--”

“It’s my last request, Mister. You have to grant it--”

--Buffy and Angel’s wedding: Xander blushing, stammering, asking Spike if he could have this dance; the two of them ducking into the reception halls coatroom before the song even finishes playing;

a terse non-argument on the long drive from Los Angeles to New York City, Spike turning on the radio just to drown out Xander’s calm, clipped voice and the song,
their song is playing, hanging between them like an armistice;

this same song playing on their stereo when Xander opened up a package with no return address. Just a little wooden box with a snootful of dust is all it was.

A spring mechanism launched the dust into Xander’s face and he gasped, inhaling it--

--then looked at Spike surprised, irritated.

Amused.

“That was the lamest practical joke ever. Spike, I’ve gotta say--you’re slipping in your old age,” Xander sneezed, then snickered. Spike had been frozen to the spot, newspaper slipping from nerveless fingers as Xander put the box on the counter and dropped the wrapping in the trash, already humming along with their song--


Spike blinks away the memories and glares at his smiling boyfriend. “You’re a heartless bastard, sometimes.”

“I learned from the best.” That smile . . . it’s the one thing that hasn’t diminished; in spite of everything, it’s still big, still bright, still beautiful.

The backs of Spike’s eyes start to sting, so he looks away, at the clock. Four-seventeen a.m.. The last four-seventeen a.m. Xander will ever see, though neither of them have acknowledged that directly.

At last,” Spike begins shakily, his voice hoarse from weariness, heavy from the memories this song calls up. “My love has come along. . . .

Xander lays back down in Spike arms with a contented sigh, snuggling into his favorite position. He sings the second line softly, but with a different emphases than Etta had: “My lonely days are over. . . .”

And life is like a song. . . .


~*~*~*~*~


The end, when it comes, is bad.

It’s really bad.

This--thing is hollowing Xander out, clawing its bastard way out of him. Though wracked with pain, the most Xander can do is silently toss, trapped in dreams that burn like fire.

He’s brittle, and painfully hot to the touch, but Spike holds him, nevertheless.

Holds him till dawn. Then Xander opens his eyes and lets out his last, tortured breath. There’s a smile on his face when he does.

Just like that, it’s over. Xander has lasted far longer than Spike would’ve thought--and six days longer than Fred had--but not nearly long enough. And now it’s over.

Not with a bang or a whimper, but a sigh and a smile.

“Fuck,” Spike exhales, hugging Xander’s poor body close, burying his face in hair that smells singed and lifeless. “Oh, fuck.”

The sun’s first rays shine through the window, promising a day too bright and California-perfect to be Xander’s last. Spike turns them both, so his back is to the traitor-dawn. The body in his arms is heavy, hollow and unbreakable.

“You better wait for me, git,” Spike whispers, tears running unnoticed down his face. “Don’t go takin’ up with some angel, or saint, or some bloke who actually deserves you . . . you just better wait for your Spike. Wait for me--”

Xander’s body twitches once, violently. His eyes flutter and . . . change, from a soft, warm brown, to a virulent, glowing crimson. Crimson that flashes and spreads down the stiff, obsidian-hard body in Spike’s arms, leaving bronzy skin and red-brown armor in it’s wake.

Then Spike’s flying through the air and hitting the wall opposite the bed at thirty, maybe forty miles an hour.

It hurts. Quite a lot.

Not nearly as much as losing Xander; Spike reckons few things would.

Consciousness decides it’s not going to let Spike go just yet, even with the riptide of pain flaring throughout his body--broken ribs, shattered vertebra, fractured pelvis; it ain’t pretty, but Spike doesn’t care--so he starts laughing.

Blood bubbles and drools out of his mouth, but Spike is laughing harder than he ever has.

The creature that has appropriated Xander’s body sits up, stands up and regards Spike curiously, tilting its head in an oh-so-familiar--oh-so-expected--way.

“Welcome back, your Highness.” Spike is nearly giggling, now, blood running down his chin and neck in thick, sluggish rills.

“You are my Qwa’ha Xahn?” The interrogative in its bright, breathy, stolen voice is almost impossible to pick out. But Spike knows that voice better than his own; better than this thing ever will.

He smiles coldly. “See--that’s the thing, mate. I’m not your little lackey. I’m just the bad, rude man that wrung the bitch’s neck.”

The thing frowns, as if it doesn’t quite understand what it’s just been told. Spike considers repeating himself slowly and using smaller words, but that turns out to be unnecessary.

“Why did you kill my Qwa’ha Xahn?” It inquires; not angrily, not anything but mildly perplexed.

Spike shrugs--feels rib and collar bones scrape some things, and pierce others. “Seemed like the thing to do, at the time. ‘Sides, you killed my Xander. Couldn’t exactly pay you back in kind, but I did what I could.”

It blinks, frowns; Xander’s beautiful face, worn by an unkillable monster. Spike wonders if it’s sifting through Xander’s memories, or merely wishing there was a nice potted fern around for it to commune with.

"You will be my Qwa’ha Xahn, then,” it decides, trying on a smile. Though it’s a mirthless, anemic curve of the mouth, in comparison to Xander’s smiles.

A sudden wave of grief overwhelms Spike, makes him moan.

It’s smile grows bigger, sharper as it stalks over to Spike, dark and deadly in red and bronze. There’s no compassion, no humanity in it. No gloating, even. As alien as Illyria had been, this thing is much, much stranger.

“You will be my Qwa’ha Xahn, Spike,” it tells him, kneeling less than a foot away. This close, Spike can see the metallic sheen to it’s skin is flecked here and there with bloody crimson light. The heat baking out of it is alarming. “I will heal you and you will serve me until I am familiar with this world again. Then I will send you to join your mate.”

Spike no longer allows himself the luxury of hope. “Out of curiosity . . . what happens if I don’t help you?”

The thing abruptly tilts its head to regard Spike from another, only slightly different angle. “There were once dimensions of torture, unimaginable by humans and half breeds. Places where, when the body died, the soul was held, outside of time and visited by agonies that were never-ending.”

As the thing speaks, it’s voice takes on a note Spike could almost call fond . . . wistful. All that keeps him from shuddering is the extent of his injuries. “Cheers, pet. No place like home, is there?”

Comes that inhuman smile again; bright, wry, amused at it’s Qwa’ha’zhon’s bravado.

“Indeed, there is not. But I shall endeavor to change that.”

Spike had been expecting this one to be as disoriented as Illyria had been, and for at least as long as Illyria had been. He understands, now, that he’s been wrong. So very wrong. Instead of being unfocused and overwhelmed by the changes time had wrought, this thing came to town primed and loaded for bear.

God, if I was wrong about this, how many other things am I wrong about?

“Not a damn thing like Illyria, are you?” Spike’s laughing again, and sobbing. “Not a bloody, damn thing.”

Narrowed eyes flash a baleful crimson, but the smile is as sharp as ever.

“Illyria,” it says softly, thoughtfully. “I put her in her coffin once. I will do so again, if need be.”

“Just like someone once put you in yours, Majesty?”

A small, delighted laugh, as if Spike’s just impressed the teacher. “I can seal the Deeper Well with a thought. I will not go back . . . sweetie-pie. And I will allow nothing else to come out.”

The thing reaches out and touches Spike’s chest. Heat flushes through him, first like a fever, then like being cooked alive from the outside in. As Spike writhes against the wall, he wonders brokenly if this is what Xander’s last moments had been like. . . .

When the heat slowly ebbs, Spike realizes he has been picked up, is being carried.

“I believe you will make an adequate Qwa’ha Xahn,” the thing says, sounding immensely satisfied.

Dawnlight and a breeze hurts Spike’s sensitive eyes, his sensitive skin--even his sensitive teeth. They’ve gone outside.

He whimpers.

“Yes. I, too, find the light of this middling star unacceptable. Perhaps . . . perhaps that will be the first thing I change,” it muses.

Healed, but weak and dehydrated, unable to snark, let alone struggle, Spike closes his eyes. Almost immediately after he does, there’s a sensation of falling and a rush of stingingly cool air on his scorched skin.

It’s just stepped off the balcony of the apartment.

Lost in grief and pain, Spike can’t even dredge up a thimbleful of anxiety for this disturbing development. He is, however, momentarily jarred out of his daze by landfall.

Sorry niblet, sorry Red . . . sorry Buffy . . . I couldn’t do it. He asked me not to, and I couldn’t. . . .

It’s stride is brisk and quite nauseating in Spike’s current state. The only thing less pleasant is the song it’s singing:

'Mid pleasures and palaces
Though we may roam. . . .


This time, there’s no Wesley to tame the beast, no Wesley to invent a clever ray-gun that can render this thing--mostly--harmless.

No Drogyn to talk some bloody sense into it.

Be it ever so humble,
There's no place like home.. . . .


Most of Spike’s hope had died with Xander.

All that’s left now is the faintest dregs of hope that the time-bomb ticking away in his lover’s corpse goes off, and kills them all before this thing gets a chance to redecorate.

Darkness swallows him then. Not the unconsciousness he desires so very much, but something else entirely.

The sun has just turned black.







Part Two
A Place Where Time Isn't



Pain

existence is no more and no less than this

memories arise

flames cut through him
like knives

his skin is crawling
itching
burning

and she is too far away to offer coolness
and comfort

teeth so sharp
they are surely fangs
breach the pale
fragile skin over his jugular

he is wracked with pain as a sword
is driven through him
not for the first time
and not for the last

he is consumed by flames that cleanse
as they kill

and she doesn’t love him
even now

heart is beating
oh god
beating

at last
it is beating
at last

started

just in time to stop


~*~*~*~*~


dead

he promised--

dead

dead

he’s

dead


he
is

HE’S DEAD

the worst pain of all
the worst
the killer

the one that is eternal

the one that is punishment

the one that is redemption

the one that is key

--as in

key knowledge
to have at hand--

is this fact

he is dead

memory is all

and all is pain

pain obliterates everything he is
pain purifies him
pain makes him clean
makes him worthy--

at last

worthy?

at last


~*~*~*~*~


and then there’s nothing but burning hurty darkness

for millennia
for thousands of millennia
for time out of time
the burnyhurtydarkness shrieks it’s empty
windblown silences
from all directions

so. . . .

help me, someone please--

less than a voice
but it’s his it is his own
a different thing entirely from the howling darkness
that has been absorbed

even into his deepest self

. . . again?

never do it again don’t know what I’ve done swallowing me

william???

swallowing me

william . . .

help me

love
like a smile
like a touch
like salvation
like benediction

yes
at last


love like a shroud made of light
and cool water
and golden song
that covers and extinguishes
all burnyness
all hurtyness
all darkness

love

eternities-deep

unending

saves him

love
with wings to bear him away--


~*~*~*~*~


crewe

at last

we meet

we

again?

William oh at last--


grass that tickles his bare feet

sky that tickles his hair

love that tickles his soul

forgive me
time
is hard to get the knack of
linear time
is especially hard to get the knack of


blood rushes to william’s head
as if he’s just turned a cartwheel

that voice is strange
and strangely familiar

so . . . we meet again?

turns
his entire being
is giddy
is a flower seeking sunlight
at the call of that half-remembered voice

the white
the light
the eyes
the laugh

the welcoming smile approaching from across the field of
daisies
roses
pillows
green grass william finds himself in

i’m--i’m afraid
you have me at quite a disadvantage
sir
for I don’t recall our first meeting

and frowns taste rather melancholy
rather like rain

and the smile
the sphere of white light
the young man
is here

he’s here
so william says:

everything shifts
i can’t make out anything
or make it stay solid
or make it hold still

Yes

and

This place
is consistent like that
when I first arrived--


the smiling young sphere of white light laughs and
it’s such a happy carefree sound
that tastes like lemon gumdrops
or caramel apples

or the color periwinkle

william’s own smile
is easily drawn forth
to fly away from him
and chatter with the birds
and mingle with the sky

the white energy is

walking
wanting
meeting him halfway

when i first arrived
i didn’t even remember
who i was
i clung to joyce
and tara
and ahn
like something penicillin wouldn’t shift


amusement like the earth sighing
and

but they were sweet about it
and eventually
it all came back
the good stuff anyway

who i was

where i was

where i
am

they are close now
to each other

william is close enough to smell the young man’s scent

to smell ripe sun-warmed apples
to smell freshly cut grass
to smell sunshine

and where are we
sir
pray tell

here
there
everywhere
nowhere
it’s hard to explain

we

are

a brief flash of mischievous dark eyes

a glimpse of serene brown eyes
and William feels a flush spreading
throughout his being

i am

the glowing young man admits
in tones
the color of self-effacement

william is perplexed
and it tastes like
porridge

you are?

yes

momentary joy
that tastes like verdi
but sounds like puccini

call me xander
if you care
to call me at all


alexander harris
william knows

and says certainly

it earns him a ripe peach of a chuckle

william holds out a hand he doesn’t have
it is gripped
and held
by warmth he cannot see

but he can feel

and it resounds
and it solidifies

the world

the field around him is grassy and thick with daisies
and a young man
with dark hair
is shaking his hand

dark gentle eyes mean everything to william and
at the same time
they mean nothing to him

do i
have i
known you

yes

the smiling young man
who can’t decide if he wants to be a ball of white light
a mist of swirling rainbow colors
or some odd breed
of dog
looks down into william’s eyes

warm days and pleasant nights

his voice is low and intimate
like honey

william shakes his head
to loose it of such niggling thoughts

and the world explodes into light
darkness
the strange-grey
of in-between places

it staggers him
and fells him

he doesn’t realize he’s cowering
until strong arms pull him up

you walk in beauty

william whispers
to the arms
to the eyes
to the energy that laughs
like delighted rainbows

because he is lost again
he knows he won’t be found

he is quite alright with that

because xander walks in beauty

“Like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in your aspect, and your eyes
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy Day denies”

william declares
in a voice
that could crack the dome of the sky

but doesn’t

xander’s laugh
is like freshly peeled oranges
tart
and fragrant

william crewe
the poet


xander doesn’t seem
to be enamored of letting go
of william’s hand
or of william’s being
in the immediate future

this is a constant
more reliable
more believable
than the theory of evolution
or of gravity
which william is beginning to have serious doubts about

poet
my dear sir--
only if one
were to go by the most general meaning of the word
could one such as i
be labeled ‘poet’

william’s chagrin tastes like old coins

because william
is such an awfully bad poet
terrible
really

yet
the word effulgent spring to mind
when he tries to recall his own works

neatly sweeping away the fact
that until he’d said it
he’d had no idea of his own artistic leanings
william blushes

it feels like being wrapped in woolen blankets
that don’t itch
but have the potential to

well

comes the dark chocolate of xander’s voice

i don’t know much about poetry

and the warm
sweet
scent of his breath

but I know what I like

that warmth surrounds william
fills him

i like what you write.

approbation wraps him up
and carries him away

i like you

a sphere of rainbow colors envelopes him like a mantle
a smiling young man embraces him
a dog settles contentedly at his feet

xander

you are

beautiful
sweet
lovely
unattainable
perfection
too kind

sir

william stammers
and basks

xander’s regard is like floating on air
or on water

but i know my own shortcomings
william adds
with a touch of melon-flavored melancholy

though william expects one
there is no token protest
of the sort that is only made
out of kindness

--for xander is a kind man
above all else
william senses this--

xander merely ducks his head

as you say william

agreement
like the prick of snowflakes against his face

and william
can’t help but feel
that xander vehemently disagrees with him
is only humoring him
as william's peers are wont to do

this time
however
william is in on the joke

shall i write you an ode
then
or a sonnet
perhaps

yes

shall i write you something
give you tangible proofs
by which you shall be shown
the folly of misplaced faith

william looks down
at his feet
the dog yawns
and grins up at him
and laughs at him
for being such a fool

the silence is long

--feels like taffy
but tastes like scones--

and eventually william looks up
into xander’s handsome face
catches a look of intense longing
and hope
on xander’s friendly face

I would like that very much
william


then i
shall endeavor not to disappoint you
sir

you never have
you never could
because i love you


there they stand
holding hands
and smiling at each other

for at least half an eternity

neither of them
notices the time passing

perhaps this is because
in this place

time

isn’t


~*~*~*~*~


in a place
where
time does not pass

in a place
where
all times are now

in that place
that word place
makes less sense
that a toddler’s giggle

but in that place
william remembers the good
and the pain slips away
lost
but not forgotten

it is deep
a part of him
it shapes him
it does not define him
any longer

in this time
that is not

in this place
that is not

william becomes whole again
becomes himself
is all of himself
but not

he
is also something else entirely
he thinks thoughts
that are not his own

and the place that is not
in the when that is not
is another set of nots
entirely

not:
what he thought

not:
at all

heaven

he reflects
petting his dog
holding his young man
and basking in the sphere of rainbow light

is nothing like i imagined
pet

nothing?

nothing

william smiles
and says

they let me in

heaven let me in
so
it is nothing like i imagined

a taste like:

beer
pepperoni
fondness

i
told you so

you are here
you have always
been here

you will always
be here


xander's laugh
shoots
through william's being
like raspberry-flavored lightning
smug
and infinitely good-natured

william's dog grins
william's young man grins
and the light that shines on them all
flashes
like polished brass

a voice

strong
deep
golden

a voice
clear
shining
ephemeral

a song that is first snowfall
first cherry blossoms
first love

first reciprocity

a song that is theirs

and many other things
besides

it fills eternity
completes it

william smiles

so
here we are

yes

this place
is nothing more than the smile
xander bestows upon him

here we are

in heaven

william thinks
knows
is amazed by

warm agreement that tastes like pizza
like twinkies
like an issue
of The Uncanny Xmen--

in heaven
and you are mine
mine
mine


--that's still in the original plastic

permeates him

at last

and warmth surrounds him

and it is perfect

and he is worthy

at last.




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