Title: Once Before
Disclaimer: Don’t own them, enough said.
Universe: Modern day
Pairing: I had Ezra/Chris in mind but I guess it could be Ezra/anyone.
Summary: Ezra’s dying slowly and all they can do is wait.
Status: Complete, new, 2nd person POV.
Archive: Anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Warning: Yeah, it’s an M7 death warning, and it’s Ezra who’s dying. Oops
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. He’s dressed in jeans and a shirt; you’re in your shorts. It’s 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.
“I’ll take you home, I’m sorry.”
“No,” he says. He wonders away a little down the path, fingers trailing over the chain linking, like he’s playing a broken harp.
“I want another ice-cream.”
“Can’t, the store’s closed.”
He looks over his shoulder then away.
“Oh,” he says softly, sadly.
And I only wish that,
“I don’t know why that happens, it’s 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 he’s dying.
“It’s just every now and then I have these dreams. They don’t mean anything.” He hides a yawn; his hand is wet and foamy from the water, his features sharp.
“I know.” You’re 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.
He picks up a plate too heavy for him and drops it into the water with a clatter. He curses quietly, but the plate’s not broken.
“I love you,” you say softly.
“I love you, too.”
And I only wish that once,
“I think you should have this.” You look up and he’s holding up a box. You can’t see what’s inside but he’s holding it carefully, as if it’s priceless to him. “I want you to have it when… you know.”
“You don’t 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 I’d said,
When you find him slumped on his knees by the washing machine you know it won’t be long.
“I’m alright,” he says as you help him to his feet. He’s looks pale and he’s shivering under your hands. You can see tiny beads of cold sweat gathering on his top lip, at the corners of his eyes. “I’m 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 I’d said I love you,
“I’m feeling a little tired,” he says one night as you’re sitting together. He’s curled in your arms and he turns to look at you. He smiles softly. “I think I’ll 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.
“I’m tired,” he repeats. “I need to sleep alone, just for a little.”
And then you realise. It’s a shock, but not a surprise and you don’t 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 don’t 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 I’d said I love you before.
You walk around the empty flat for so long that you forget you were even waiting. It’s 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 he’s dying.
I love you,
The bedroom’s dark when you open the door and you can only just make out his weakened frame. He’s covered in the sheet, white and perfectly still.
“Ezra?” you call his name just once, expecting no answer.
You receive none.
As you walk to the bed the door swings shut behind you with a soft click. It sounds loud in the silent room.
Ezra’s face is relaxed, his features have become pinched with pain the past few months, you hadn’t 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. He’s too still, too silent, even his scent seems muted now.
“I love you.”
But it doesn’t seem right.