Title: Once Before
Author: PBS
Feedback: phantom_b_sheep@hotmail.com
Disclaimer: Dont own them, enough said.
Universe: Modern day
Pairing: I had Ezra/Chris in mind but I guess it could be Ezra/anyone.
Summary: Ezras dying slowly and all they can do is wait.
Status: Complete, new, 2nd person POV.
Archive: Anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Warning: Yeah, its an M7 death warning, and its Ezra whos dying. Oops

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And I,

He inhales slowly, carefully. His eyes are closed and his hands rest on the armchair, skin pale against the red cushion. You sit opposite, pretending to watch the television but really watching him.

You look tired, you say. He opens his eyes.

I feel tired.

You should sleep.

No, he shakes his head. No, not yet.

He closes his eyes again and you go back to watching the television, though the sound might as well not be on.

And I only wish,

You can feel the sweat on the back of your knees cooling. It tickles as it drips down your leg and you wipe it away. Hes dressed in jeans and a shirt; youre in your shorts. Its hot but looking at him makes you feel cold. You look away.

The ice-cream he dropped before melts into the terracotta cracks of the path and spiders out under your shoes. White with a swirl of brown under a wafer cone.

This was a stupid idea, you say suddenly. He shakes his head.

I liked it, it was fun. He rests his head in thin hands, the chain fence bows a little with his weight against it. Behind him a tiger suns itself on a rock; its green eyes watch the two of you lazily.

Ill take you home, Im sorry.

No, he says. He wonders away a little down the path, fingers trailing over the chain linking, like hes playing a broken harp.

I want another ice-cream.

Cant, the stores closed.

He looks over his shoulder then away.

Oh, he says softly, sadly.

And I only wish that,

I dont know why that happens, its silly. He has his back to you as he washes the dishes. The evening light plays over the creases of his shirt, exaggerating the bones underneath. He looks frail and weak, like hes dying.

Mmm,

Its just every now and then I have these dreams. They dont mean anything. He hides a yawn; his hand is wet and foamy from the water, his features sharp.

I know. Youre sitting at the counter, feet perched on the top rung of the stool. The kitchen smells of cooking food but the rest of the flat smells empty.

Im sorry.

Dont be.

He picks up a plate too heavy for him and drops it into the water with a clatter. He curses quietly, but the plates not broken.

I love you, you say softly.

A pause.

I love you, too.

And I only wish that once,

I think you should have this. You look up and hes holding up a box. You cant see whats inside but hes holding it carefully, as if its priceless to him. I want you to have it when you know.

You dont have to do that now.

No, he agrees. But I want to.

You never talked about it before.

He places the box back in the drawer with a sigh. It takes him a moment to answer.

I never wanted to before.

But you do now?

He shrugs and chews on his bottom lip. I have to.

And I only wish that once Id said,

When you find him slumped on his knees by the washing machine you know it wont be long.

Im alright, he says as you help him to his feet. Hes looks pale and hes shivering under your hands. You can see tiny beads of cold sweat gathering on his top lip, at the corners of his eyes. Im alright, he says again. I just felt dizzy for a moment.

His voice shakes and a tear catches in his lashes. You hug him close, wrapping your arms tight around his shoulders and resting your head against his.

Shh. You breathe in his scent mixed with detergent, subtle and sweet. Gradually, he begins to hug you, you feel his hands on your arms, they move to your back and down to your waist.

Love me, he whispers, pleads. Here, now.

So you kiss him.

And I only wish that once Id said I love you,

Im feeling a little tired, he says one night as youre sitting together. Hes curled in your arms and he turns to look at you. He smiles softly. I think Ill go to bed now.

Ok, you say. You help him up and lead him into the bedroom. He watches you with that same secret smile as you help him undress. You put his night shirt on for him, sharing a kiss as you fasten the top button.

You start to undress too but he stops you with a gentle hand on your chest.

Im tired, he repeats. I need to sleep alone, just for a little.

And then you realise. Its a shock, but not a surprise and you dont know what to say or do. He acts for you. He takes your hands into his and gently guides you from the bed to the door.

I love you, you say quickly, desperately.

I know, he nods. You dont want to leave but you let him nudge you out of the door.

I love you. He smiles and closes the door.

And I only wish that once Id said I love you before.

You walk around the empty flat for so long that you forget you were even waiting. Its small but cosy, filled with photographs of you and him. He looks happy in them, strong and everything you remember him to be.

The more you look at them the more you forget how he is now. You forget the bones, the limp hair, the tired eyes. You forget that hes dying.

I love you,

The bedrooms dark when you open the door and you can only just make out his weakened frame. Hes covered in the sheet, white and perfectly still.

Ezra? you call his name just once, expecting no answer.

You receive none.

Once before,

As you walk to the bed the door swings shut behind you with a soft click. It sounds loud in the silent room.

Ezras face is relaxed, his features have become pinched with pain the past few months, you hadnt seen it before but now, the pain is made obvious only through it being gone. You stroke a hand down his cheek. His skin is still warm to the touch.

Rest now, you whisper gently as you bend to kiss his brow. You linger there, just feeling him close to you for a moment but it feels wrong. Hes too still, too silent, even his scent seems muted now.

I love you.

But it doesnt seem right.

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Fin.

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