Dizzee sees the train coming through the tunnel, stands stock-still in terror. Death before him, death behind him. I’m not ready, he thinks hysterically. I said I was but I’m not, I’m not ready yet. He can still hear the dogs over the roar of the train. Can’t go forward, can’t go back. Nowhere to run.
He looks back over his shoulder at Thor. He’s straining against the cops’ hold, trying to get to Dizzee. The setting sun turns his hair red as fire.
Dizzee looks at Thor, Thor looks at Dizzee, and for one frozen moment that lasts eternity and a heartbeat, nothing else exists, not the cops, not the dogs, not the train.
Rumi, something calls. Rumi, Rumi.
The train screams out of the tunnel and Dizzee—
Dizzee stands silhouetted by the lights of the incoming train. Everything stills, fades away; the police loosen their grasp on Thor’s jacket, the dogs freeze in mid-bark. Dizzee looks at Thor, Thor looks at Dizzee, and for one frozen moment that lasts eternity and a heartbeat, nothing else exists.
Light curls around him, swallowing him. The train shrieks out of the tunnel, and Dizzee is gone.
A scream tears itself out of his throat. He pulls himself out of the cops’ slackened grip and runs through the tunnel, out the other side into the fading sunlight, and he’s had this nightmare before but Rumi doesn’t pop out; the alien doesn’t appear and there’s no opera to go to.
There’s an impression of light and color on his eyes, like looking at the sun, and the train is moving away from him. He’s right where he was, in the dark tunnel, but Thor is gone, the cops and dogs are gone. He stares at his hands, clenches them, unclenches them. They’re unblemished, no trace of the paint flecks that are usually scattered across his skin.
The dark tunnel starts to lighten around him; he walks out of the tunnel to find the sky rosy. It’s nearly dawn. He’s been out all night.
That doesn’t seem right. It had been sunset when he and Thor were cornered by the cops, hadn’t it? But it’s dawn now.
It’s dawn now. He’ll have to run to get home before Mom and Dad notice he’s gone. He could go faster if he—
He frowns. There was a word there, but he’s not sure what that word was going to be. He feels jumbled, off-balance, like walking up stairs and reaching the landing without realizing it, and stepping down onto air.
A flock of pigeons take flight, and he walks home. The streets are familiar, unchanging, and his feet know the way home.
He pushes the door open, skips over the creaky step, and walks into the kitchen. Mom is already there, awake, and her eyes are red-rimmed. She doesn’t look like she’s slept, and she looks—older. Worry and guilt gnaw at him. Had she been up all night, waiting for him?
“Sorry I’m late, Mom,” he says, and she screams. The plate she’s holding slips from her fingers. Time seems to slow down as he catches it, curling his fingers underneath the edge.
He stands up as the rest of the family pours in. For a single moment suspended in time like a drop of water on the edge of a glass, nobody moves. Dad, Boo, and Ra stare at him. They all look older, and wasn’t Boo arrested? Where’s Yolanda?
Boo takes a half step forward, and then Dizzee has an armful of Boo. His shoulders are shaking, trembling, a wet spot forming on the shoulder of Dizzee’s jacket.
“Marcus?” Dad whispers.
“I know, I know, I should have been home earlier, I was out with an art friend and lost track of time…”
They stare at him like he has a second head, which, to be fair, is pretty typical.
“Dizz,” Ra Ra says slowly, carefully, “Do you…how long do you think you’ve been gone?”
He frowns. “A day?”
“You’ve been gone for a year,” Mom says. “Yesterday was the—the anniversary.” Her voice is thick, her eyes gleam.
Dizzee’s been gone for two days—two anxious days and two sleepless nights, waiting by the train tracks, waiting in his apartment, waiting, waiting, waiting for Rumi to pop out of the rubble, top hat askew—when Shaolin Fantastic kicks down Thor’s door.
“Where the fuck is Dizzee,” he says.
Thor knows he looks like shit; his eyes are red-rimmed and there’s stubble on his cheek because he hasn’t been shaving, hasn’t found the will to get up and shave.
“He’s gone,” he says. His voice is hoarse like he’s been screaming. He has.
“What the fuck did you do to him?” Shaolin grabs his shoulder, hauls him to his feet.
Thor is facing Shaolin, but his eyes aren’t focused on anything but the distant, invisible line of the horizon. Somewhere out beyond the thin walls of the small apartment, somewhere where Dizzee is. Somewhere over the rainbow, where yellow brick roads lead to wizards. Where you can click your heels together and wish and find yourself back where you began.
Wish for me, Dizzee, he thinks.
Shaolin shakes him. “What the fuck did you do?”
“We were out bombing.” His voice doesn’t feel like his. “The cops were chasing us. He ran into the tunnel. There was a train. He’s gone.”
Gone, like he just stepped outside. Gone, like he might come back. Gone, because there was no body, just a dark wet gleam on the tracks.
“Gone,” Shaolin repeats numbly, then less numbly says: “The fuck you mean, gone?”
“There wasn’t a body. He’s just gone.”
Maybe he was beamed up; maybe Rumi found his people and they took him away from Earth and now he’s never coming back. Maybe he’s out among the stars, so far away Earth is just a speck in the distance.
Dizzee laughs, but it fades quickly. None of them are smiling, not even Ra, who can't keep a straight face for shit. “A year?” Dizzee repeats numbly, trying to make it real.
“Where were you?” Ra asks. “We looked for you everywhere, man. We put up signs. We even asked…y’know. Shao.” Boo looks away at the name, and Dizzee can’t read his face. It’s weird; he used to know everything Boo was thinking.
“I blinked and ended up in the future. One minute, it’s night. The next it’s dawn. I don’t.” He shakes his head, trying to move the thoughts around. “I don’t know what happened.”
Handmade posters go up, plaster the street lamps and signs and walls. Dizzee’s face stares out at the streets.
They say missing. They say have you seen him?
Thor hasn’t found a way to tell them about the way the train rolled out of the tunnel and Dizzee just vanishing. It still doesn’t seem real, that he could disappear like a stage magician. Maybe if he reaches into a top hat he’ll pull Rumi out.
He finds one of Dizzee’s jackets by the mattress and puts it on. It smells like him, and if he closes his eyes he can imagine that Dizzee’s there with him, that if he turns around he’ll see him, hear him, he’ll be just around the corner, laughing and dancing, that—
Thor opens his eyes, and he’s alone in the apartment. There’s no Dizzee, no Rumi.
Sometimes he wonders if there ever was.
Boo hovers in the doorway of Dizzee’s empty, dusty room. The air is still and cold, the posters on the walls fading and peeling. A dog-eared book of Rumi’s poetry, stuffed full of bookmarks made from scraps of paper and fabric, leans against a jar full of spare buttons. It feels like a tomb, like King Tut. Dizzee had shown him pictures of it; a boy buried with all of his treasures so he could have them in the afterlife.
He steps forward hesitantly, half-expecting to see Dizzee—or his ghost. Something. The window opening and Dizzee climbing through, bag of paint slung over his shoulder, because maybe Dizzee was just out bombing and he’ll come back soon.
All he finds is an empty room with a thickening layer of dust.
His hand hovers over the marker, over the sketchbook. Dizzee would have invited him to draw, encouraged him, but he’s not here and the book in his hand feels like a betrayal.
He opens it anyway, and it falls open to a pencil sketch of a half-familiar face: Dizzee’s friend, the white boy from the club. He’s drawn mid-laugh, strands of hair falling into his face, a captured intimacy. Boo’s face burns and he flips through the pages quickly, feeling like a voyeur.
The pages fall open to a two-page spread, a riot of color, a planned piece. We are going to sky, who wants to come with us?
Dizzee’s never going to paint it. It’s never going to glow off of the side of a train, never going to light up the city. It’s going to stay here forever, trapped between the covers of the book like a fly in amber. Nobody will see it except for Boo and the ghost that lingers around the window, a silent presence.
Grave robber, the posters on the wall say, tomb raider, the empty bed with the uneven covers echoes. Leave the dead their treasures.
Boo puts the book back and leaves. Rumi watches him go with large gray eyes.
Dizzee is quickly engulfed in a massive hug. There are tears, and it all feels vaguely surreal—he just saw them a few hours ago, but there’s gray in Dad’s hair that wasn’t there before, Ra has the first hairs of a mustache coming in, Mom has new wrinkles around her eyes. He looked away and they got older.
Shock, he thinks. Numbing shock that lasts through eating breakfast and taking a shower and sitting on his bed trying to process that a year passed in a night. The noise from the city, outside his room, is the only constant.
He’s twenty-one now. Yolanda is in California with Mylene, filming a movie. Zeke is at Yale. His room is untouched, coated in a thin layer of dust. It’s the only thing that’s the same after everything has changed around him. He’s not sure if he’s glad that nobody touched it or not.
A noise makes him look up. Boo stands in the doorway, looking—for all that he’s older now, he’s still the baby of the family, and he looks so young.
“Hey, Dizz,” he says.
“I, uh…” He stops, hesitates. “I missed you.”
“C’mere,” he says, patting the bed beside him. He pulls his sketchbook out, opens to a blank page. “Show me your styles?” It’s always been their common ground, safe and certain. Stable underneath them, even when everything else is shifting and unsteady.
Boo fidgets with the marker. “I…I haven’t,” he starts. “Couldn’t.”
Dizzee doesn’t say anything. Boo will talk on his own, when he wants to, or he won’t, but nothing will make him clam up faster than being pressed, so he doesn’t.
He opens his mouth a few times, words forming on lips, then he closes up again. Dizzee sketches out a design on the blank page, pencil loose in his hand.
“You knew, didn’t you?” he says after a while. “That I was selling drugs.”
Dizzee shrugs, loose and boneless. “You were doing something on the side that you weren’t telling us about.”
“I thought about you, y’know. In jail. I only spent a couple nights there, but…it was scary. And you’d been to jail before, for bombing, and…” He glances at Dizzee out of the corners of his eyes. “Were you scared?”
This isn’t a topic that they’ve discussed before: Dizzee’s jail stint doesn’t get brought up much, not like this.
“Yeah,” he says. It feels like a confession, remembering curling as far into the wall as possible, clinging to his jacket to keep away the cold. Remembering nearly crying when Dad came to pick him up, the day he got released. It had been Christmas Eve, and it was probably the best present he ever got.
Boo nods, eyes distant. The marker turns in his hands, spinning between his fingers. “I got out and you were gone. It was like…like someone traded us.”
He pulls Boo into half a hug, lets him lean against his side.
“I’d come in here and it’d be like…like you had just gone out bombing. Like you were about to come back and everything’d be the same again. But it never was.”
“I’m here,” he says. “I’m here.”
Ra sits on the roof, watching the city. Trains are rumbling past, carrying names and colors and people around. It’s noisy in a way home isn’t anymore, and getting out of the oppressive, tomb-like silence is like going into the shade on a hot day.
This is what Dizzee loved, looking out there and seeing all those people, all those names. He was one of the names written on the trains, he made his mark on the city. Ra can remember Dizzee whooping for joy when he went all-city.
Ra just feels small, looking out at them.
A train rushes past, coated in colors, and Ra nearly falls off the roof when he sees what’s painted across one of the cars.
It’s not his work, because Dizzee is gone (dead) and Ra is alone in the silent, empty rooms; it’s his face. It’s clearly a tribute—one of his art friends must have done it for him. He’s painted as an angel, a halo of paintbrushes behind him.
Oh heart, what a wonderful bird you are.
It’s the final straw for Ra, after the empty house, the silent rooms, the terrible moment when he half-turned and said Hey, Dizz, did you see— and Dizzee wasn’t by his side, quiet and certain, where he had been for as far back as Ra can remember.
He curls up, his knees pressed against his chest, and sobs until his ribs ache and his stomach hurts.
It’s not fair.
It takes a while for Ra to talk to Dizzee, what feels like an eternity of silence and avoidance. Unlike Boo, if Ra is keeping quiet about something, time and space will just make it worse. Either he’ll burst out at the first opportunity, or someone needs to draw it out of him.
Ra seems to be avoiding him, though, going out of his way to not be in the same room as him when he can, and being as far away from him when he can’t leave the room.
After an awkward dinner where Boo is glued to his side and Ra is silent on the other side of the table, Dizzee corners Ra in his room.
“Wanna talk about it?”
“Dunno what you’re talking about.” Ra is sullen in a way he hasn’t been since he was eight.
“I know I’m not…the best at this,” he says, sitting on Ra’s bed beside him, “But something’s bothering you.”
“Talk to me, Ra,” he says and Ra looks at him wide-eyed, like he wants to run but can’t.
“The night you di—disappeared, Boo got arrested and Yolanda went to California, and I—I was an only child. Just like that. It was so quiet around here. I could hear Mom and Dad arguing every night and then Boo came back so it wasn’t so quiet but it’s still been really quiet and I missed you so much.” There are tears in his eyes, streaming down his face.
“Ra,” he starts.
“I,” he sniffles, “I would wear your jackets. It was like you were still there. We all thought you were dead, you know. Or that you got arrested again and they didn’t tell us. Or you were kidnapped or something and nobody knew where you were. Not even Shao.” He’s sobbing now, but the words don’t stop. “It was awful, and—and super scary, worse than anything, because nobody knew what was going on.”
Dizzee grabs him and pulls him into a hug, as tight as he can. Ra’s thin frame is shaking violently.
“And I’m scared you’re going to disappear again and you won’t come back, ever.”
“It’s okay,” Dizzee says. “It’s okay, it’s okay.” Ra shudders in his arms.
“I missed you so much.”
The rain makes the colors on the posters run, turns the paper into mush. Lightning crashes through the skies, a sudden sharp illumination that casts everything into sharp relief, and he sees Dizzee. He’s standing across the street, the rain running down his denim jacket. The buttons stitched over his shoulders gleam wetly.
Thor’s heart skips a beat, and then starts beating double time.
“Rumi?” he says, voice hoarse and throat like sandpaper.
A truck passes between them and he’s gone.
The water on his face is rain, and it stings his chapped lips.
The train yard is the same, the layers of paint bearing familiar names across the city. There are a few unfamiliar names, and a few names have disappeared.
Thor is one of them. Worry drags at his bones.
Then he sees it: even in the dimness of night, the bold colors nearly glow.
It’s weird, seeing a larger version of your face. It’s Thor’s work, he knows it is, he knows the style as well as he knows his own.
He’s drawn on the side of the train, eyes closed with a faint smile. There are paintbrushes in his hair, the sun behind him like the halo of a saint. He has wings, half-furled behind him. A scroll wound between the feathers says Oh heart, what a wonderful bird you are.
He’s painted in purples and blues, oranges and reds, and he knows that in the daylight it would be a beautiful riot of colors, his face made a bouquet of flowers.
He turns around, feeling the blood rushing to his face, and paints a quick and careless Rumi 411 on the side of the train he’s facing. It’s a focus point; everything is spinning out of control around him but this, this is the same. The cold cans are the same, the spray of green (Red Devil Avocado green I’m right here), the shape of the words. It’s like nothing’s changed.
But everything’s changed, and he can feel it in his bones.
Thor grabs a handful of hair and hacks at it. He’s cut his hair before, but tears are blinding him and he doesn’t care he just wants it off he—
He had noticed it was getting matted and Dizzee would be horrified and he doesn’t, he can’t—
The scissors slide through his hair easily and it falls in clumps and snarls at his feet.
He looks at himself in the mirror and doesn’t recognize himself. His hair is uneven and ragged, clumps falling in his eyes and stray strands dancing around his ears. He has a scraggly, patchy beard that makes him look even more haggard. His eyes are red-rimmed, and have been for the past—months. It’s been months. It doesn’t feel like months.
The manic, wild energy leaves him and he sobs, fingers clenching around the scissors. There are no tears; he’s shed them all already. All that’s left is emptiness; biting, gnawing, consuming him.
Dizzee has a mission, and that mission is Thor. Specifically, finding him, because the last time Thor saw him, he was nearly hit by a train.
Thor, he quickly learns, is hard to find. None of the writers have seen him in the past six months, and he doesn’t try any of the clubs—it’s weird, going there without Thor, and he doubts most of them would really let him in without Thor anyway. He waits in Thor’s apartment for a few hours, debates leaving a note for him.
What would he even say, anyway? Surprise, I’m not dead?
Zeke would have found some way, Zeke’s always been good with words, but Dizzee can’t even manage a doodle.
The apartment is cold and starkly bare, a far cry from the vibrant place he remembers, the spaceship grounded, the stars burnt out. His only comfort is the stack of dishes in the sink, the pile of laundry in the corner. Thor's still living here.
He leaves, after a while, feeling as cold as the apartment. His feet take him on to the train, off again, over to the train yard, shoulders hunched in his jacket. It’s a warm night, even for November, but he doesn’t feel it.
Thor’s had this dream before. He doesn’t look at Dizzee, because if he doesn’t acknowledge him then maybe he’ll go away and it’ll stop hurting so much. He’s standing in a pool of light, glowing softly. Like an angel. Like a ghost.
“Thor,” Dizzee says.
“You’re not real,” he says, because this is a dream and it’ll disappear when he wakes up and he won’t even be able to remember it, won’t remember how Dizzee felt under his hands. His fists are clenched tight, blunt nails digging into his skin.
“Yes, I am.”
“You always say that.” His voice is desperate, pleading, foreign to his ears. “But you’re not, you never are, and you’re going to disappear as soon as I wake up.”
“If this is a dream, then I’m having it too.”
Dizzee takes a step forward. Thor takes a step back, feeling his heart racing. His breathing is harsh and ragged in his ears. What if, his traitorous thoughts say, what if he is real?
Dizzee stands a whisper and a universe away, eyes dark and familiar and deep as the sea.
Thor’s drowning in them.
“No. No, no, no, you’re dead, this isn’t real, this isn’t—” He’s cut off by the press of Dizzee’s lips against his, and fuck, he wants this so much it hurts. Dizzee fits against him perfectly, like they were made to fit together, like puzzle pieces, completing each other. Their teeth clack together, their noses bump, but it doesn’t matter when they’re chest-to-chest and he can feel every inch of Dizzee.
They break apart for a minute but Thor’s hands stay on Dizzee’s hips as though he can delay Dizzee disappearing again, like if he holds Dizzee tightly enough he won’t fade in the sunlight like mist, won’t slip from his hands like water.
“I’m real,” Dizzee says. “I’m here, I’m real.”
He’s not and Thor knows that he’s not, but he can't stop the sob, the tears he can only shed in the dreams, doesn’t even try to. His hands trail up Dizzee’s back and fist in his jacket, his head drops down to Dizzee’s shoulder.
“I’m here,” Dizzee says, “I’m here, I’m here. I’m real. This is real.”
“This is a dream.” Maybe if he says it enough he’ll believe it.
“Please don’t let me wake up,” he pleads.
“I won’t,” Dizzee says, and Thor kisses him again. This is a dream, and he’s going to enjoy every minute of it. He presses Dizzee against the train, lifting him up a little, and Dizzee melts into him, legs wrapping around his hips.
It’s perfect and terrible and Dizzee lifts his chin and Thor kisses his neck, bites and sucks and scrapes his teeth over the forming bruise, and time slows down as Dizzee moans his name.
He manages to slip a hand into Dizzee’s jeans, squeezing his ass, and Dizzee gasps.
“Thor,” he says, and Thor hums into the line of his neck, grinding against his hips.
It’s possibly the worst place they’ve ever had sex, Dizzee’s back pressed against the train, the dark night their only shield, and they only have the light of the distant streetlights and the handful of stars to see each other. Even the moon is dark.
Thor drops to his knees, pulling Dizzee’s jeans down with him, and wraps his lips around his leaking head. Dizzee makes an impossible noise above him, hips bucking, and Thor takes him in deeper, a hand wrapping around what he couldn’t fit into his mouth.
Dizzee works a hand into his hair, fingernails scratching against his scalp, and tugs. Thor moans around his dick because it’s perfect and Dizzee comes with a cry into his mouth. He tastes like moonlight and the way glitter sparkles.
“Thor, Thor,” Dizzee gasps above him, “Fuck, Thor, let me—”
He drops down beside him, reaching into his jeans, and kisses him while he strokes him off. It would be embarrassingly quick if Thor could feel any embarrassment with Dizzee.
He’s not sure which one of them starts laughing first, but it doesn’t matter. Thor laughs until he cries, and cries until he laughs, and for some reason the dream hasn’t faded yet but he doesn’t care. He’ll take this dream for as long as it lasts.
The moon is beyond full, large and gleaming, close enough that Rumi thinks if he can just reach up a little taller he could graze it. Around it, countless stars glitter.
Distantly, he can hear the music, the sound of bare feet on the grass, laughter cresting over the hill. Shadows dance on the clouds around them, long-limbed and inconstant.
He swirls the wine in his cup, the ocean in a goblet, watching the waves rise up and fall again.
“The Get Down Brothers are back together!” Boo crows as Zeke walks into the temple. Zeke looks like he hasn’t slept in a month, but he grins when he sees Dizzee, knocks their shoulders together.
Zeke and Shao stay on opposite sides of the Kipling brothers for the first half-hour while they plan their next gig. Both of them are thunderclouds, sparking with lightning, ready to burst out in crackling electricity. Napoleon hovers awkwardly, fidgeting, hands fluttering.
“So, Zeke, how’s college been?” Ra asks.
Zeke makes a noncommittal noise, shrugs. “’S okay, I guess. Hard work, y’know?”
“Don’t see why you’re bothering,” Shao grumbles. “You plenty smart already, why you gotta go listen to white people tell you shit?”
“’Cause I don’t wanna be a fucking drug dealer like you,” Zeke snaps. “I’m gonna get the fuck out of the Bronx, and I’m gonna make something of myself—”
“You already something!”
“Something better than this!” He gestures around to the temple around them. “Something better than sitting in an abandoned building getting money from fucking drugs! Something better than—”
“Something better than us,” Shao interrupts. “Right, Books? Something better than us, ’cause you’re so fucking special.”
Dizzee wraps an arm around Boo, who is looking studiously at the toes of his shoes.
“It ain’t like that,” Zeke says stiffly.
“Then what the fuck is it like? ’Cause to me, looks like you up there on your high horse looking down on the rest of us ’cause we ain’t book-smart like you, Books.” Shao glares up at him.
“Y’all think that too?” He glances at Ra, at Boo.
“Nah, c’mon man, both of y’all chill for a sec.” Ra tries to smile. It comes out shaky. “Shao, Zeke ain’t like that and you know he ain’t. Zeke, Shao was just trying to say—”
“Didn’t know you could read minds,” Zeke interrupts, all venom. “Don’t matter, I heard what he said. Y’all don’t want me around, fine. Have fun without your wordsmith. Dunno why I even bothered coming out here anyway.”
“Zeke,” Dizzee says.
Zeke doesn’t turn around, just walks straight out, shoving the door open and letting it swing shut behind him.
Dizzee catches it and follows him outside. Zeke’s leaning against a rusted railing on the fire escape, staring out at the city.
He sighs, head dropping to his chest. “’M sorry, Dizz. You just got back and we still fighting and shit.”
Dizzee shrugs. It’s not like he expected anything different.
“It’s weird,” Zeke says, “Coming back.”
“Everything grows without you, and you don’t fit right anymore.”
Zeke looks at him oddly. “Why did that make perfect sense to me?”
“Guess you’re growing up.”
“Oh, shut up.” Zeke punches him in the arm, hard enough to actually sting a little.
They’re silent for a moment, comfortable and safe. The city around them speaks in tongues Dizzee can almost understand.
“I admire you, Dizz,” Zeke says. “Nothing ever bothers you. You’re so calm. Must be nice, not having shit bother you.”
Dizzee laughs. “Lots of shit bothers me, Zeke. But people don’t need to know everything about me, y’know?”
“Man,” Zeke says, eyes fixed on the distant horizon, the city lights like stars, studding the dark. “I wish I did.”
Rumi laughs, his eyes gleaming in the darkness. A moth lands on his slender finger, silver in the lights of their eyes.
The silver branches twining around his head in a living wreath are in full bloom; flowers made of glittering gems and leaves made from gleaming gold.
She plucks a fruit from her crown and offers it to him, ruby-red and ripe. It glitters in the dim light.
His white teeth gleam red as he bites into it, the juice staining his lips.
Thor sits shirtless in the kitchen while Dizzee trims his hair. The scissors brush cold against his neck, and he shivers.
“Almost done,” Dizzee says.
“I didn’t know you cut hair.”
“My mom and dad have a hair salon. I learned a few things.”
The silence stretches between them.
“Why’d you cut your hair short?” Dizzee’s fingertips rest on his bare neck. It’s like electricity, prickling across his skin, weirdly vulnerable.
“It was getting matted. Easier to just cut it all off. I, uh…kinda went downhill after you vanished.” It’s easier to talk like this, where he doesn’t have to see Dizzee’s reaction. “Where were you?”
“I dunno. I just skipped, I guess. Time travel or something.” The scissors snip closed. “There, done.”
Thor runs a hand through his hair. It hasn’t been this short since he was a fourteen year old with a tailored blazer and polished shoes. It’s eerie; bitter nostalgia mingled with the foreign feeling of the ends of his hair rubbing against his fingers.
“How do I look?”
“Lose the beard, then we’ll talk.” Dizzee kisses the tip of his nose, smiling. It still feels like a dream to Thor, a little voice in the back of his head reminding him that he’s going to wake up and this will all be gone and he’ll be alone again, but the weak sunlight filtering through the clouds makes Dizzee glow, ethereal and ephemeral, and he’s really not complaining.
He doesn’t want to let Dizzee out of his sight, as though the weight of his gaze could keep Dizzee here, but he knows from experience to not try and shave without a mirror.
Dizzee is still standing there when he comes out. His eyes widen as he sees Thor, his lips part slightly.
“So,” Thor says, “How does it look?”
“Uh,” Dizzee says, blinking a few times. He sounds like he’s having trouble breathing. “Uh, it looks—good.”
Thor smiles and tilts his head a little in wordless invitation.
Dizzee’s hand twines into his short hair as they kiss.
It’s an accident, the first time it happens.
They’re practicing in the temple, the music absorbing Zeke and Shao’s tension, and the energy is almost tangible, almost visible, sparking between each one of them. It’s carrying them all higher and higher until Dizzee feels like he could touch the sky with his two hands.
It stops suddenly with the sound of a record scratch, the perfect moment shattering like glass, and Dizzee blinks. Shao’s never scratched a record like that before. Everyone’s staring at him in confusion.
Dizzee’s pretty confused as well.
“Holy shit,” Zeke says.
“Are those fucking wings,” Ra says. “Dizz, why the fuck do you have fucking wings?” His voice rises to a fever pitch.
Dizzee glances to the side, and there are definitely wings coming out of his back, which explains a lot. He gives them an experimental flutter, and suddenly his feet aren’t on the ground anymore.
“Huh,” he says.
“Holy fucking shit,” Shao says.
Wild, manic laughter bubbles up from inside him. He’s a fairy. He’s literally a fairy. He can’t tell them that, not without revealing more than he really—can, should, wants to—but he has to tell Thor.
His feet brush against the ground, and the wings fold over his shoulders and wrap around his waist and disappear under his clothes.
“Where’d they go?” Boo asks.
He shrugs off his jacket and pulls off his shirt. There are lines painted on his skin, black outlines of wings sketched across his shoulders, across his back, around his waist. The skin between the lines shimmers in the light in a hundred thousand colors.
Dizzee traces over them. They’re smooth and shiver under his touch.
“Okay,” Zeke says shakily, “That’s the weirdest fucking thing I've ever seen.”
It doesn’t feel weird to Dizzee; it feels natural, like he’s meant to have wings. Like somehow, this was the way the world was meant to turn, with him fluttering above it.
The second time it happens is not an accident.
He makes his way to Thor’s apartment with a newfound sense of caution, clinging to shadows and skirting around the puddles of light that pool across the street and drip over curbs. He feels raw, exposed; like the light would make the illusion vanish and he’d be…
He doesn’t know what he’d be, with all his traits illuminated.
Thor’s apartment is his refuge, the small rooms and thin walls transformed into something different, something new and exciting. A spaceship for the alien, to take him to the stars. It’s come a long way since Dizzee first came back; the cold and bare walls are painted over, color splattering on them as much as the walls. The colors blended when they kissed, reds and blues smearing into purples.
“Hey, Rumi,” Thor says when he sees him, then frowns. “Is everything okay?”
“I’m—fine,” he says, and realizes that it’s true. “I have something to show you.”
Thor spreads his hands, and Dizzee takes off the jacket.
The wings unfurl from Dizzee’s back, glimmering. Like solid water—not like ice, not cold, like surface tension, like light given form. They flicker in the corners of his eyes.
Dizzee, between them, looks small and vulnerable, uncertainty lighting his eyes.
Thor wraps one hand around his waist, another cupping his head, and kisses him deeply. Dizzee’s arms wrap around his neck.
“You’re a fairy,” Thor says, their foreheads resting together. “Holy shit.”
“You knew that one already.”
Thor snorts with laughter. Dizzee grins. The wings flutter, and suddenly Thor has to look up to see him. He flies over to Thor, wobbling a little, and Thor catches him around the waist and leans up to kiss him. Dizzee sinks into Thor’s grip, arms wrapping around his neck and shoulders.
“You’re fucking amazing,” Thor murmurs. “How are you so perfect?”
He reaches out, slowly, ready to pull back at a moment’s notice, but Dizzee holds himself still.
The wing shivers under his palm, vibrating gently but insistently. Dizzee is vibrating too, taking deep and careful breaths, like he’s staving off panic.
“Is this okay?” he asks, and Dizzee’s eyes are dark and deep and insistent.
“Don’t stop,” Dizzee says, and his voice has an echo, a thrum, something that catches around his bones and draws him in closer. Dizzee wraps a hand around Thor’s neck, pulls him into a kiss. “Don’t ever stop.”
Thor runs his fingers over the membrane, maps out the thin lines that criss-cross the wings. He strokes at the base of the wing, where it meets his back, and Dizzee moans out his name.
It’s like a dam breaking and he kisses Dizzee’s cheek, presses soft and gentle butterfly kisses along the soft skin of his throat and down to his collarbone. Dizzee presses a hand along the curve of his skull, fingers gripping at his hair, and tugs his head back. It’s all sharp pleasure and sweet pain, and Dizzee’s teeth scrape against his neck, find his pulse point and kisses it.
Thor turns his head at the same time as Dizzee does, and his kisses leave a tingle behind on his lips, lightning sparking at their touch. Dizzee arranges himself in Thor’s lap, thighs straddling his waist. They’re both half-hard already, grinding idly against each other.
Their lips never brush apart, and Thor doesn’t stop touching him—his chest, his stomach, his shoulders, his hips—hands skimming over every inch of his skin.
“Fuck,” he whispers, “Fuck, Rumi.”
“Definitely,” Dizzee agrees, close enough that Thor can feel his breath on his cheek. Thor’s hands wrap around his hips, slide under his belt. Dizzee hums into the curve of his neck, the vibration buzzing into his chest.
He lifts Dizzee up, tosses him into the mattress. Dizzee’s grinning, hair frizzing into a halo, and Thor thinks how did I ever get so lucky?
“Why do you still have your shirt on,” Dizzee says.
Thor pulls it off, tosses it onto Dizzee’s jacket and shirt, and presses as close to Dizzee as he can. “Better?”
“Much.” The smile in Dizzee’s eyes turns mischievous, and cold fingers dance along his sides. Thor gasps with laughter.
“Jerk,” he says when he can catch his breath again.
“You know you love me.”
“Yeah,” Thor says, kissing him slowly. “Yeah, I do.”
Dizzee’s long fingers map out his chest, stomach, while Thor kisses him again and again, on the soft skin under his chin, along his jaw. His fingers run over the inseam of Dizzee’s jeans, a gentle pressure on the soft skin, and he’s rewarded with a small moan, nails digging into his back as Dizzee tenses like a wire underneath him.
He does it again, a little firmer, trailing up his inner thigh and skirting around the bulge, closing his hand around the jut of his hip, and Dizzee makes a tiny wounded noise that turns into a whimper as Thor grinds down, denim rubbing against denim.
“Thor,” he moans, “Please,” and Thor grins into Dizzee’s neck and fumbles at his belt, suddenly clumsy. It takes a few tries but he gets it off, undoes his fly. It’s an achievement—Dizzee is making a noise that Thor wants to kiss out of his mouth—it’s hard to do anything except kiss him.
He palms Dizzee’s dick through his underwear, feels him twitch under his fingers, and kisses him. It’s like air, filling up his lungs even as they break apart for a moment to breathe.
Dizzee moans into his mouth and Thor’s teeth catch on his lower lip, tugging gently.
He arches up under Thor, pressing his chest and stomach against Thor’s, arms around Thor’s shoulders, and rolls them over. Thor’s back hits the mattress, Dizzee on top of him, straddling his hips.
“Hey there,” Dizzee says. He’s breathing hard.
Thor wraps a hand around Dizzee’s ankle. “Hey.”
Dizzee laughs softly and bends over to kiss him.
Dizzee wakes up slowly, feeling warm and comfortable and not really wanting to move, but the sunlight filtering into the room is cold and bright, and there’s no way he’s going to be able to go back to sleep now. He sits up and Thor makes a sleepy noise of protest beside him, curling into the space where he was.
He’s still in Thor’s apartment.
It’s morning and he’s still in Thor’s apartment.
His parents are going to kill him.
He’s trying to decide whether he needs to panic about that when Thor sits up and hooks his chin over Dizzee’s shoulder, wraps his arms around his waist.
“Come back to bed,” he whispers.
It’s tempting, so tempting, to let Thor pull him back down, to kiss him and never let go, to relearn the territory of his skin, to map out every inch of him with hands and lips. He wants to turn around and kiss him, wants to sleep next to Thor and wake up to see him every day.
The words he wants to say are thick in his throat, sticking to his tongue, trapped between his teeth. He doesn’t say them, doesn’t dare. I love you beats against his ribs like a bird in a cage.
Dizzee can feel his stomach twisting into knots.
Zeke and Mylene can hang off each other all the time, Ra and Tanya can hold hands as they walk down the street. He doesn’t begrudge them their happiness, but he can’t deny the crawling jealousy—he wants to love Thor without being afraid, wants to be able to hold Thor’s hand, wants Thor to kiss him good luck before performances, wants so much that he knows he can’t have, can never have.
“My parents are going to kill me,” he says instead, reaching back and running a hand along the curve of Thor’s thigh.
Thor’s kisses trail over his neck and shoulder, delicate on the watercolor wings. They curl off his skin, shimmering.
Thor’s finger traces along the edge, his fingers soft and gentle against the delicate membrane. Dizzee squashes the little voice in the back of his head screaming about letting someone touch his wings; he’s not sure where it comes from and doesn’t care. This is Thor; he trusts Thor.
He doesn’t turn around. If he turns around, he knows what he’ll see; Thor smiling, eyes as soft as his hands, glowing in the early morning light. If he turns around, he knows he’ll never leave.
“Come by this weekend?” Thor says.
“If I can get away,” he agrees, and because Dizzee has never been any good at resisting temptation, he turns around. The sunlight catches on his hair, trapped in the nearly invisible strands on his chest and arms. Red marks in the shape of Dizzee’s fingers cover up the thin white lines of scars on his back. Dark marks litter his neck and shoulders, vivid purples and blues. His hair is rumpled, smushed on one side and sticking up in the back. It makes him look like a startled bird.
His eyes and smile are soft and sweet, pink lips still slightly swollen.
Dizzee doesn’t know how he survived, those years before Thor pulled him off the tracks, because it seems impossible that he ever lived without that smile.
“Stay safe out there,” Thor says. His hand lingers on Dizzee’s cheek, the line of his jaw. “Come back to me.”
“I will,” Dizzee promises.
Outside the apartment, snow begins to fall. A train rattles past: We are going to sky; who wants to come with us?