The doorbell rang.
Daniel tucked a bookmark into the book he’d been reading and set it aside. As he stood, he grabbed the bowl of candy from the coffee table in front of him. The warm smile that had appeared on his face at the sound of the chimes faded slightly as he approached the door, his steps slowing in sudden uncertainty. Something felt wrong. He felt fear and the feeling only got stronger as he moved closer to the door. Dread pooled in his stomach as his hand closed around the doorknob and twisted.
Silence rang in Daniel’s ears as the door crept open, revealing a man in his late twenties. Ice blue eyes burned straight through Daniel, the man’s angular face trained on him as if he’d been watching Daniel even before the door had started to open. Recognition burned through Daniel, a flood of overwhelming joy following close behind.
“Taylor! You’re back!”
Picture frames toppled to the floor as Daniel shoved the bowl of candy he had been holding on top of the short bookshelf that stood next to the door. The man in the hallway was rocked backwards as the small blonde man suddenly flung himself into his lover’s arms and hugged him tightly. Happiness radiated from the smaller man, akin to that of the children who had come to his door earlier asking for candy, and he practically bounced on his feet.
“I thought you weren’t supposed to be back until tomorrow.” Innocent blue eyes looked up into a face that had lost its innocence a long time ago. For a moment, Taylor did nothing, simply staring. A hand reached up to cup Daniel’s cheek, fluttering once in a near touch, almost drawing away and then settling determinedly against his skin. Eyes that rarely showed emotion shone with longing as they trailed over Daniel’s face. Without saying a word, Taylor leaned forward to place his lips against Daniel’s in the lightest of touches. After a moment’s hesitation, the kiss deepened, Taylor’s tongue pushing forward gradually into Daniel’s mouth.
The kiss felt strange to Daniel. It lacked the bruising force and passion that Taylor normally greeted him with. Instead, this kiss tasted of longing and wistful surrender, a combination that Daniel would never have associated with his older lover. With the touch of their lips came the touch of their bodies and Taylor’s arms drew Daniel in even as his kiss felt like he was letting go. Their lips parted with regret. Black hair tickled Daniel’s nose as Taylor’s head lowered onto his shoulder, the scent of ash strong in his hair. Daniel hugged his lover tightly, confused by the older man’s silence. A touch of wetness, faint as a ghost, fell on his bare neck but Daniel knew it couldn’t be real because he had never in his life seen Taylor cry.
Daniel was surprised as the words slipped from his lips. The arms around him, the body pressed against him, even the mouth he’d kissed all lacked their normal warmth. He’d never felt a body as cold as this.
Taylor pulled back suddenly, his expression schooled into the same distant smirk that he normally wore. Not even the slightest moisture was visible in his eyes. “It was cold outside. I walked here.”
An unnatural worry tickled at the back of Daniel’s mind, but he ignored it. “You should have called. I would have come pick you up from the airport. You didn’t walk far, did you?”
For a moment, Taylor’s face was troubled and he opened his mouth to say something. But the moment passed and the usual Taylor was back. A corner of his mouth quirked up in what Daniel had long ago learned to interpret as an amused smile. Melancholy still shined in the back of his lover’s eyes, muting the effect of the smile.
“Let’s go inside.”
Daniel nodded and proceeded Taylor inside, locking the door behind them. “Are you hungry? Airplane food isn’t very filling. I can make you something to eat if you want.”
“No. I’m fine.”
He reached Taylor in two steps, wrapped his arms around Taylor to hug him from behind. Taylor was acting strange and he didn’t know why. They’d talked the day before and Taylor had seemed fine. Daniel set his face against Taylor’s cold back, determined to ignore the chill that surrounded his lover.
“Taylor, what’s wrong?” He whispered into the fabric of Taylor’s suit.
“I’m fine, Daniel.”
The hug tightened. “No, you’re not. I can tell.”
“Daniel.” His arms were pulled away and then replaced as Taylor turned around in Daniel’s arms. Cool fingers tilted his chin up so that he met Taylor’s eyes and he forced himself not to flinch away from the touch. It felt like the heat was being drawn from his body by those fingers, leaving his chin achingly numb. He noticed it then, as he stared up at his lover. Everything about Taylor seemed muted, as if his somber mood had drained the color from every part of him. His skin was a ghostly white, his suit dulled as if covered by a faint coat of dust, even his eyes were a shade paler than usual.
“It’s nothing, Daniel. Don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong.”
Daniel studied Taylor once, took in the solemn mood that filled the room and he made up his mind. He buried the part of his mind that screamed at him that there was something not right.
Sighing lightly, Daniel nodded. “I love you.” He let his head fall forward against Taylor’s chest. In time, Taylor would tell what was bothering him.
“Is there anything I can do for you?”
Taylor’s breath whispered down his neck as Taylor spoke, the older man’s lips brushing briefly against the skin of his neck. “Stay the night with me.”
Daniel smiled knowingly, his hands reaching up to bury themselves in Taylor’s short black hair in a semblance of a hug. “Of course I will.”
The head in his hands drifted upwards, lips finding each other by magnetic pull. This kiss was more their normal style, a strong demand communicated in the mesh of lips. Pins traced along his nerves as he was expertly stripped down to his skin, clothes left strewn behind them as they moved through the apartment. They found the bedroom as they always did, with Daniel pressed against the door, working frantically at Taylor’s zipper before they stumbled inside.
He didn’t so much fall on the bed as float towards it. Taylor’s strong hands supported him on the descent, imprinting the feel of his wintry touch deep into Daniel’s skin. Even after the touch was gone, the remembrance remained in stinging bites, blocking out everything but Taylor’s frigid hands. His legs were already around Taylor’s waist as the older man settled above him, a comforting weight pressing him into the bed. Daniel stretched absently as they kissed, groping for the bedside drawer and the bottle of lubricant inside.
Taylor released Daniel’s lips and leaned back. He expected Taylor to simply grab the lube and continue his groping explorations, but instead Taylor sat back, watching. Daniel stilled with his arm still outstretched and he turned his head to look up at the man kneeling inside the circle of his legs. A strange look passed over his lover’s face.
“I want to make love to you.”
The simple admission stunned Daniel. Shaking his head lightly, he told himself not to read too much into it. “I thought that’s what we were about to do.” His joking smile took the bite out of his words.
Taylor leaned over him, one hand pressing down onto the bed next to Daniel’s head while the other cupped his cheek. Blue eyes ran over his face but Taylor didn’t say a word. His thumb rubbed absent circles into his cheek and Daniel closed his eyes, leaned into the touch as an escape from the eyes that seemed to be looking right through him.
A light kiss on his forehead made Daniel jump in surprise, and he kept his eyes closed as cold lips trailed down over his nose like a melting cube of ice to press against his lips once more. Mouths parted and when they kissed he felt the chill of Taylor’s kiss seeping into his mouth, leaving his mouth aching as warmth fled.
Taylor moved slowly, his hands exploring Daniel’s body, savoring the experience. Lips moved from his mouth to his chest, creeping haphazardly downward until they reached his belly button. Only then did Daniel’s eyes drift open to watch his lover’s mouth. This gentle, soft mood was odd for them. Rarely did Taylor display such careful patience in lovemaking.
Daniel watched as Taylor’s tongue reached out and dipped low into the hollow of Taylor’s belly button. With a gasp, Daniel arched, lifting his back off the bed in surprised pleasure. Hands on his hips stilled him and Taylor moved lower, kissing the edge of his hip bone before lazily moving to the middle. His eyes shot wide open and he screamed in pleasure as his lover’s mouth took him in. It was cold and wet all around him, the strangeness taking him a moment to get used to.
Taylor didn’t do things like this, had never done anything like this. It was strange, almost wrong for him to act like this. Then he started moving, slowly bobbing his head up and down, drawing breathless moans from deep inside Daniel’s throat with even the tiniest motion. Daniel’s hands fisted in the sheets around them, pulling them from where they had been neatly tucked. Strong hands kept him still, his legs and hips twisting uselessly under the restraint. Pleasure coursed up through him and he understood now what Taylor felt when Daniel did this to him.
Languidly, Taylor pulled away. He smiled, lovingly, and the warmth in the man’s face made Daniel’s heart melt. He wrapped his arms around Taylor’s neck, drawing his lover down for a deep kiss and he tasted a bit of himself inside Taylor’s mouth.
“Taylor. That was… incredible.”
Taylor’s smile widened a fraction in response to Daniel’s own beaming grin. He leaned easily over Daniel to pull a bottle from the drawer that dangled almost completely out of the bedside table. Daniel relaxed against the bed as Taylor resettled. He lifted his legs around Taylor’s waist in open invitation.
“I love you.” And he did, so deeply it sometimes felt like he was going to break from the weight of the emotion. And it was love that made him look past the sometimes mean, always cold façade Taylor put up to see his lover’s real nature. Taylor was the only one who could make him this happy.
A kiss at the base of his neck, right against his pulse, was the only answer he received. Hands trailed over his legs, caressing lightly as they moved downward to the base of his spine. There was a second of fumbling and then Taylor’s fingers pressed inside of him with practiced ease.
Daniel jerked hard, crying out as ice pushed into him, spreading wet cold in their wake. Taylor’s free hand quickly held him in place, rubbing apologetically at the side of his hip.
He forced himself to smile slightly, fighting down the involuntary urge to pull away. “It’s okay.”
Almost magically, Taylor’s probing fingers seemed warmer, the biting edge of the cold suddenly gone though the rest of his lover’s body stayed chill. Some quick stretching and then Taylor removed his hand to place it on Daniel’s hip. A faint touch of lips against his own asked his permission. Threading a hand through Taylor’s hair, Daniel allowed Taylor into his mouth as his lover slid slowly into his body.
One smooth thrust and Taylor was inside of him. With a contented sigh, Daniel relaxed completely into Taylor’s embrace. He reveled in the feel as Taylor held still for a long moment. It was so good to have Taylor back. Lifting his hips, Daniel pushed Taylor a fraction deeper inside of him. Taking that as a signal, his lover moved and Daniel followed, falling into a slow rhythm of thrust that left Daniel shaking in need. Lips trailed over his skin in an echo of his own desperation, marking him with light bites and nips along his neck.
Soft sounds of pleasure fell from his lips as they moved and he tightened his body around his lover. Taylor’s hips jerked sharply, quickening the pace suddenly until Taylor came with one hard thrust. Even after his hips slowed, Taylor continued his relentless attack on Daniel’s body. Lips, teeth and hands combined to drive him mad with passion and as Taylor’s large hand closed tightly around his erection he let himself go.
For a while, the only sound Daniel heard was his own breathing, sharp gasps pulling air into his lungs as he slowly drifted down from glowing aftermath. Taylor’s cold body moved out and off of him. The blankets of the bed were pulled up around them as Taylor settled at his side, and then everything was still once more.
At the softly whispered words, Daniel let his mind drift. Sleep never fully came to him but he dozed lightly, consciousness fading into hazy half-dreaming. He knew Taylor stayed beside him the entire night, not moving, not holding him, but lying at his side and watching over him. Somehow he knew Taylor didn’t sleep, didn’t even drift towards slumber during the long night, and that was both comforting and unsettling. But he kept silent until the pre-dawn light drifted in from the wide bedroom windows, left with the curtains open, to spread the faintest of light across the sheets and bring Daniel into wakefulness.
“I wish the night would last forever.”
Daniel’s eyes drifted open and he looked up with a slight question in his eyes. The pleasant haze of slumber left him completely when Taylor said nothing and he felt afraid once more, suddenly dreading what was causing Taylor to stare at him with such a wistful longing that it made his heart almost break. “Taylor…”
A finger against his lips silenced him. He allowed his lips to close as Taylor’s hand drifted over his cheek, moving down to brush gently through his hair.
“I never did tell you how much I loved you.”
His eyes shot wide open. Warmth flooded through him at finally hearing Taylor say the words he’d silently wished to hear for so long. But as they echoed through his mind, he paused to think what they meant. He bolted upright in bed, the sheets pooling forgotten in his lap to leave his bare chest exposed. “Taylor.”
“Promise me one thing.” Transparent blue eyes stared into the deepest part of him. Their faces were close, but Daniel could sense distance building between them. Sunlight slowly started to fill the room and it felt like each new ray of dawn’s light was pulling Taylor away from him.
“Don’t cry.” Taylor’s hands cupped his face and they no longer felt cold. He could barely feel the touch at all. “I hate it when you cry. I can’t stand it.” Taylor’s face was earnest, imploring. “So please, don’t cry for me because then I’ll suffer even more. I want you to continue living, to be happy, even though I can’t be with you.”
Taylor interrupted him, speaking faster now as he frantically tried to get all the words he wanted to say out.
“I should have told you all this sooner. I should have been nicer to you, but I’m glad I got one last chance to see you. To make sure you know how much I really loved you. All I wanted was to see you one last time. More than anything in this world, I wanted to see you.”
Daniel could see the opposite wall of his bedroom through Taylor’s retreating form. His lover was moving backwards, but he wasn’t standing. Instead it was like he was being pulled upwards by invisible hands. He smiled then, a smile filled with open love and tenderness, as Taylor’s hands slipped from where they had framed Daniel’s face.
“I love you. Please, remember that.”
“Taylor! What’s happening? Don’t leave me!” He launched himself off the bed, reaching for Taylor’s outstretched hands.
Their hands met for a fraction of a second. Then Daniel’s hand passed through Taylor’s and his lover faded away with the sunrise.
He stood in the middle of the room, his mouth opening and closing like a floundering fish, his eyes staring widely at nothing.
A sudden, loud ringing made Daniel jump, and his body was spurred back into life with the action. He started to tremble, his shoulders shaking with fear. The phone rang again. He approached it cautiously, as if it was a poisonous snake waiting to bite him. Dread similar to what he had felt when he opened the door last night filled him as he answered the phone.
His mouth was strangely dry and it took him two tries before he could even get out a greeting.
“Daniel? I’m so sorry. I just heard.” His older sister sounded like she’d been crying heavily.
“Heard what?” Even as he asked the question, he had the urge to slam down the phone, hang up so that he never heard the answer.
His sister was silent for a long moment. “You mean… you don’t know?”
“What? What is it?” He needed to know but he was afraid. So very afraid and he pulled the phone away from his ear, was about to slam it down into the cradle when two words made him pause with the phone held in front of him.
In the back of his mind, he felt a growing sense of understating but he ignored it, pushed it back in blind denial without even know what it was he suddenly understood. He didn’t want to know.
“I’m sorry Daniel. He’s dead. He died last night. They told me he caught an earlier flight to come see you. It was supposed to be a surprise. There were problems. They didn’t say what. The plane crashed just shortly after take off. He didn’t survive.” He could hear tears through the phone line as she started crying once more. “Oh, Danny, I’m so sorry.”
The phone slipped from his fingertips to swing down and bang against the cabinet it stood on. Turning, Daniel stared at the disheveled bed, sheets rumpled with the impressions of two bodies clearly visible in the bright morning sun. He could hear his sister calling for him from the phone but he ignored it as he took a step towards the bed. The shaking started in his spine, filled his body and he fell to his knees as his legs gave out, leaving him trembling like a crumpled leaf as moisture built in his eyes.
Wrapping his arms around himself, he forced himself not to cry.