|Worth Waiting For
Author: Spurious PM
M/M slash yaoi. Nathan is dying from a brain tumor, and on his deathbed, he makes his lover promise him something...Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Words: 4,199 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 25 - Follows: 3 - Published: 03-21-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2649731
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
New story! Well, oneshot, really. Sorry for not posting anything in ages.
This one's a bit different than what I normally do. It's 1st person POV, for one. I never do 1st person POV... There is also character death, and general sad stuff. You have been warned.
All characters and ideas in the story belong to me. Story contains homosexual relationships. Don't like, don't read. That is all. ^___^
"Don't you worry about me, love," he said as I clenched his hand, 'cause he didn't have the strength left to do much more than place his in mine. My knuckles were white from the grip, his white with the paleness of disease. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that it must've hurt, but he didn't complain. Or maybe there was too much pain elsewhere to worry about a mere hand being crushed. Maybe the painkillers blocked it all out.
I wouldn't know, I'd never been sick like this. Heck, I usually didn't get sick at all. So I was terrified. Scared out of my mind, worrying about the one I loved, lying in that bed with skin as pale as the sheets, giving me a weak smile, probably meant to be reassuring, but really. Nothing could really reassure me at this point, except a doctor coming through the door saying there'd been a miracle; that the tumor was gone, that he'd be okay again.
But no matter how many movies and TV shows like that I'd seen, I knew that kinda thing didn't happen in real life.
My eyes left his for a moment, scanning the green and white room in between blinking the moisture from them.
"Love," he said, his voice demanding I look at him again. Taking a deep, shaky breath, I complied. There were tired wrinkles around his beautiful, blue eyes, that looked duller than the wonderful gems they'd always be in my mind.
"I know it's hard on you, but I'm the dying one, not you. Don't let yourself die as well, please. Live your life to the fullest, love as much as you can. Nothing you can do will betray my memory, or anything like that. Be happy."
I choked down a sob. "How can I be happy without you? I love you."
"Don't be so ready to give up. Give life a chance, take your time," he continued gently. "All I'm asking is, please, don't forget me. I'll be waiting for you over there, for as long as it takes, so don't go before you're ready. And promise me you'll have all sorts of stories to tell of your life when we meet again."
My eyebrows knit together. What was that supposed to mean? He smiled weakly, and for a split-second, I could feel a slight squeeze of my hand.
"I want you to live, dear. Don't let me be a weight pulling you down and away from people, okay?" he said. It sounded more like he was begging. "Don't shy away from love, either. I said I'll be waiting for you on the other side, but it's enough for me to see you happy, when we meet again. If you find someone else you love more..."
He hesitated, and the pain in his eyes was obvious. He took a shaky breath.
"I won't mind. As long as you're happy, I don't need anything else."
I shook my head in denial. The mere thought of finding someone else... He was my life, and now, he was leaving me behind...
There was another slight squeeze of my hand. Although even calling it a squeeze was exaggerating. It could've been put down to my imagination, it was that weak.
"Promise me, love," he begged. "Say you'll keep on living? Say you won't give up? Please?"
"You're all I've got," I protested. "What's left for me?"
Spring breeze fluttered the green curtains, replacing some of the smell of sickness with the deceivingly cheery scent of flowers and fresh grass. Outside, there was spring. Inside me, winter was settling its sharp and strong claws, ripping me to shreds, leaving me cold.
"Don't give up!" he insisted "Give it time, and you'll see. There's so much more than me out there, please. Maybe I'm being selfish, but at least promise me you'll try? It would be one less worry to carry on beyond de-"
"Stop saying that word!" I yelled. As if not mentioning it would make the truth go away. I lost my long battle against the tears, and looked down to hide them. He wasn't being the selfish one, I was. I should be supporting him with all my might, not forcing him to be strong for both of us. But...
I guess I was weak. I'd simply not realized it before.
"I'm sorry." His quiet voice was barely audible over the noise of the curtains. I shook my head to dismiss the words.
"You shouldn't have to apologize. I'm sorry, I'm just having trouble..." I trailed off, not sure how to finish that sentence. Trouble coping? Accepting? Trouble living on?
He wanted me to be happy even after he... wasn't here to make sure of it anymore. Even in death, he was putting me first, and here I was denying reality like a petulant child. The least I could do was to honor his wish.
"I'll..." The words stuck in my throat, wouldn't come. "I'll... try. I won't give up."
Each word spoken made the next one easier to get out. "I'll live as much as I can, long into old age, and when I'm a wrinkled old raisin, I'll come to meet you, and tell you all about it. Then we can be together again. Forever this time."
I looked up at him, searching his face, silently begging for a confirmation. Was this what he wanted? That was enough, right? I would get to see him again, right? Right?
He was smiling. Peacefully, more brightly than he had for months. And I wasn't going to think about how he was probably putting more energy into that single smile than really was healthy for him right now.
"Thank you, love," he whispered. "Thank you."
I blinked rapidly, ignoring the almost ticklish stinging in my eyes and nose, and the growing lump in my throat. "I promise," I replied. "I promise. I'll see you on the other side."
"Of course you will, love," he agreed. "I'll be by the benches, or something, waiting for you. Just take your time. I'm a patient man, after all, and there's nothing wrong in waiting for something good."
He winked at me, and I smiled back at him, although I could hardly see him through my swimming vision. With a tired sigh, he closed his eyes, and soon, his breath eased and evened out in sleep.
He never woke up again.
Humans, Death thought, were peculiar creatures. They never seemed to make sense. Then again, Death only saw them in their very last moments. Perhaps they made more sense after continued study, through all the phases in their lives.
But that was not Death's mission.
A man dead from illness - Nathan, according to the records - stared up, and smiled mysteriously.
Death tilted its head, confused at this reaction. Usually, there was fear. Denial of this new existence, and the end of their old one. "You are Nathan?" it asked, to confirm. There had never been a mistake before, but one never knew.
The only certain thing in life, was Death.
The human man nodded. "So, I really am dead this time, it's not another one of those sick, twisted dreams I keep having?" he asked. He seemed amused by the entire situation.
"Yes, you are dead," Death confirmed. "Are you not afraid?"
Most said they did not fear Death. Some honestly believed it, until they were proven wrong.
Nathan shook his head. "I was afraid of the disease," he said. "I was afraid of losing Irvine. I was afraid of dying. But I'm already dead, now. No use crying over spilt milk."
Death could not blink. It did not have the eyelids to do so. Instead, it rubbed the fabric of its hood in thought. "You have a peculiar outlook," it told Nathan at last.
"Really?" the human replied. "It makes sense to me."
"It is quite different than most humans," Death said. He had seen it before - there was nothing Death hadn't seen - but it was rare, very rare.
The human grinned. "I've always done my best to be different." He rubbed his hands together. "So, are there any benches around? I'm waiting for someone."
Death tilted its head. "There are no such things here. Would there be?"
Nathan considered that, before nodding. "True. I'll just hang out here, then," he said with a shrug, and settled down in the middle of the endless plains of the otherworld.
"You are... expecting someone?" Death asked. Most would search for a more comfortable place to wait. Yet Death was not known for being comfortable.
"Well, we all die at one point!" the human laughed. "But he's not supposed to be here for quite a while yet."
Death rubbed its hood again. "You will not search for redemption? For paradise or hell?"
He stared at Death for a long time. If it had had the ability, it would possibly have felt slightly uncomfortable.
"If Irvine's with me, I don't need anything else," Nathan replied, seriously. His eyes almost seemed to be glowing with emotion.
"Yet you do not expect this... Irvine in quite a while? Why not seek it while you wait?" Death asked, curious at this strange human.
He shrugged. "Without Irvine, what good'll redemption or paradise do me?"
Death considered the statement in silence, while the human closed his eyes, and lifted his head with a smile, as if enjoying the breeze. Yet, there was no breeze here.
With a nod, Death turned, and left the peculiar human alone. Duty called.
The funeral was a beautiful affair, as funerals went. Just a few close friends, and the family members still living that we'd been on speaking terms with. And that wasn't too many. We'd never really been social creatures, either of us, so there'd hardly been enough people to fill the first few rows in the tiny church. But still, they'd all been people who'd cared deeply about Nathan, and people who'd been important to us.
Four years later, I still remember that day more clearly than anything else in my entire life. The smell of the flowers filling the church, the pure white coffin, the priest's dry, yet gentle voice...
The smell of freshly turned dirt.
And how afterwards, I shakily stumbled into a nearby coffee shop, to escape the well-meaning loved ones. I couldn't take it anymore, but precisely because they were loved ones, I couldn't - wouldn't - hurt them. I'd promised Nathan I could do this, and I would. I would live on until I became a gnarled old geezer, and die happily at one hundred and ten. With a smile on my face as I went to meet my lover, my Nathan.
I chuckled at the memory of the kid behind the counter's scared look. In retrospective, it was quite hilarious, but back then, I'd felt as hellish as I probably looked, to have spooked the kid that much.
It was still my favourite coffee shop, where I went whenever I felt down, or whenever I needed a reminder of our promise.
Which basically meant I came by at least once a week. My job was fulfilling, my friends were great, but normally, I simply didn't feel like doing anything much with the gang. I was becoming even more reclusive these days. Which a feat, since I'd already been more so than average.
I grimaced as I took another sip of a coffee bitter enough to match my bleak mood. It was stupid, really. I'd lived for longer without Nathan before meeting him than with him, it shouldn't be this hard to be without him again. Yet nothing seemed to manage to pull me out of this funk, no matter how hard I tried.
And I still had at least another forty years or so to live until I could even contemplate dying and be able to look Nathan in the eye when we met again. Joy.
I'd tried. Couldn't that be enough?
A slightly melancholy jingle told me that someone had entered the shop. That was another thing I liked about the place. Most bells announcing the arrival of another customer were annoyingly cheery. This one had always seemed slightly sad.
I glanced up, and was met by a wild-eyed woman stumbling awkwardly towards the counter. I was guessing her brown hair had once been in perfectly styled, soft curls, but now stray strands were pointing every which direction, and half the curls had tumbled out of place. She placed her order, and greedily chugged down when she was presented a cup, as if she didn't even care if she got burned. Some colour returned to ashen features. Or maybe that was her suit making her look paler than she actually was. Black was definitely not her colour.
I quietly got up and walked over to her. "Funeral?" I asked quietly.
She jumped slightly, and stumbled on heels she probably weren't used to. The red-rimmed eyes that met mine told me the answer more clearly than words could have.
I guess I could've said I knew the feeling, but I didn't have to. The look we shared was more than enough. I offered her a sad smile.
"Does it get better?" she asked in a mix of pain and hope. But the hope was there just 'cause it was impossible to give it up. It wasn't real, there wasn't really any hope in the first place, she knew that. Everybody knew that, deep down.
I paused in thought, considering my reply. "It gets less urgent. Less dominant. But it'll always be there. Like a sore bruise, instead of a gaping knife wound?" I shrugged, not sure if my explanation made any sense to anyone but me.
She nodded, and took a deep breath, as if steeling herself, bracing against the pain.
"I would say I'm sorry for your loss - I am - but I doubt it would help any, or make any difference." I grimaced, felling useless and stupid. But I'd been there. Nothing would help, not today. Tomorrow, perhaps, but today...
Today was pitch black, without any light likely to show up anytime soon.
Her bitter grimace was probably supposed to be a smile. It was nowhere close. "Thanks," she said. "They're all sorry, they all pity me, but..."
I nodded. "They try to understand, but how could they?" I agreed. "Someday, they will, i guess, but not now. Not when it matters."
At some point, she'd gotten a new coffee, and was sipping this one more slowly. "And even if they did understand..."
"Yeah." I didn't need the rest of the sentence to get what she meant.
The bell jingled again.
"Mommy!" a young, young voice called, close to tears.
We both turned towards the sound, and there was no way her soft sigh escaped my notice. I glanced at her, and how tears were filling her eyes again caught my notice.
The child was too young for me to say certainly, but the woman holding his hand tight was definitely related to the one sitting next to me. I was guessing sisters.
"Duty calls," she mumbled, and managed something slightly more like a smile than any of her previous attempts. "Hey, sweetie."
The child ran over, and she picked him up, hugging him close.
"Didn't i tell you to stay with auntie?" she scolded, although her voice was completely without anger or any strength. Well, it was void of any emotion at all, really. At most, she sounded tired. Dead tired.
The involuntary pun made my lips twitch upwards.
From time to time, Death would return to that peculiar human sitting in the middle of the plains. Months and years passed, and yet the man did not move. He was one of the few humans who'd caught Death's attention enough for it to remember his name. Nathan.
Months and years passed, but Nathan didn't move on. Sometimes, he'd pace for a bit, but never more than ten steps away from his original spot. Mostly, he just sat there, though. Playing with dry strands of grass, before patting them down against the ground again, and always enjoying a wind that only he could feel.
Sometimes Death would ask whether Nathan had seen this... Irvine he was waiting for. There were dying Irvines all the time, after all.
But Nathan would just look straight at Death with a smile and say: "Nah. He's not coming for a long while yet."
Then he'd turn his face back to his private breeze. And Death would leave in silence.
Every now and then, I met her again at that coffee shop. We would share a sad smile, and after the first few times, we started talking when we saw each other. The company was comforting, in a way our various friends simply couldn't be. We would brag about our significant others no longer in this world, knowing the feeling that no-one else could ever be as perfect as they'd been, and playfully compete over who had the most perfect lover.
After a while, I even dared tell her that my lover had been a man as well. She then blinked in surprise, before asking to see a picture. When I showed her the one I still kept in my wallet, she declared with a smile that we had similar tastes.
That was probably the first time I laughed - really laughed, from the bottom of my heart - since Nathan died.
When she showed me her picture, though, I had to agree. "You have good taste," I told her with a smile, and we shared another laugh.
Laughing again felt strange, but in a comfortable way. I liked laughing with her - Elizabeth, or just Lizzie - and her kid was adorable. I'd never really thought about it before; most my grown-up life had been spent with Nathan, but suddenly, I couldn't help thinking I wouldn't mind having a child.
A few months later, we were dating. There was no burning passion, but a deep fondness and a comfortable love I simply hadn't experienced with anyone else. She made life more bearable, more like actual life, and not just death's waiting room. One with crappy magazines, at that.
I like to think I made life better for her as well - at least it seemed that way. We both understood that we would never have each other's hearts one hundred percent. There would always be a piece belonging to dead lovers, and not an insignificant one, either.
And for us, that was enough. Plenty, even. We were happy, even if it was a bittersweet, slightly melancholy happiness.
We had a summer wedding, and she looked lovely - white suited her much better than black ever would. At night, we proved there was still some passion left in our mourning bodies.
I was flattered and honored by her son - my son - Gareth's acceptance of me, and overjoyed, even, when she got pregnant. Gareth doted on his new little sister Olivia - we all did, and to everybody else, we must've looked like the picture perfect happy family. And we were. Happy, I mean.
There were still tears, and quiet respect on two particular dates every single year, but despite it all, our lives were happy. We worked hard to get our children through college, to make sure their dreams came true, and I like to think we did a good job.
When Gareth married the sweetest woman imaginable, I don't think I've ever been more proud. And leading my own little girl up the aisle brought a tear to my eye. Our young ones had left the nest, and there was just the two of us, in old age. Time had passed so quickly, I hadn't even noticed. It had been quite the while since I'd even had the time or energy to notice the pain of my old loss. Yet, as death slowly closed in on me, I was starting to miss Nathan more.
I guess retirement didn't agree much with me. Too much time on my hands, time I couldn't help using to think. I tried not to let Lizzie suffer for my increasing bad mood, but I know she did. I never gave up on showing her how grateful I was for the fact that she stayed with me, though, and I stood by her when she went through rough times of her own.
Our bodies were slowing down, growing stiff and sore. Things we could do in our youth were suddenly such a chore, it didn't even seem worth doing anymore. Slowly, I returned to being the recluse I'd been before I met Lizzie. I felt guilty for tying her down; I suspected she still had the energy too fly free for years more, but I simply... didn't. Couldn't.
While I could still hold a pen without my hand shaking too badly, I wrote her a letter. I apologized for weighing her down the last years, and promised to say hello to the one she had lost before, if I saw him. I put it in my desk drawer, confident that she would find it when the time was right.
Not long after, I was hospitalized. I was feeling tired, oh, so tired. I slept a lot then, I think, although my perception of time was hazy at best, and not as it once had been.
And then, one morning, it all ended.
I opened my eyes to find plains, endless, deserted plains. Death was standing in front of me, features hidden by the dark, deep hood of its long robes.
I took a deep breath of air I supposed I didn't really need anymore. I guess it was more out of habit. "This is death, then?" I asked.
It nodded, once.
I nodded back. "Not exactly what I expected," I shrugged. But then again, how could anyone have any real expectations of what death would be like? "You wouldn't happen to know where Nathan is, would you? He's supposed to be waiting for me here. Somewhere."
Death rubbed its hood between its fingers. It seemed like some strange habit. "You are that Irvine, then?" it asked.
I brightened, suddenly feeling... well, giddy. "That would be me, yes."
With another nod, he went closer, and skeletal hands previously hidden by large sleeves gently turned me around, nudging me in the right direction.
The bony hand on my shoulder guided me onwards on the deserted plains. Deserted, except for a tiny speck that steadily grew closer and larger. Excited, I shook the hand off and ran, ran all I could. Which was much than I'd been able to for the last fifteen years at least, now that I had no old body weighing me down. There wasn't even any breath to be out of as I reached him.
He was smiling fondly at me. "Hey," he greeted gently, casually, as if we'd only been apart a week.
"Hey," I echoed, my own smile slightly crooked. "Sorry about the wait."
"That was the deal, after all," he shrugged. Then he winked in that familiar way I'd missed all those years. "Besides, didn't I tell you there's nothing wrong with waiting on something good?"
With a laugh, I dumped down on the grass next to him, twining my fingers in his.
The hooded figure caught up with me, and gave us a considering look. "You are staying here?" it asked. It seemed puzzled.
I shared a look with my beloved, and we shrugged, completely in synch. "We've got nowhere better to go," he said. "Besides, I've grown quite fond of the place over the years."
"And as long as we're together, we don't really need anything else," I added, leaning my head on Nathan's shoulder.
The hood rustled as it shook its head. "I will never understand humans."
Thanks for reading!