They are, quite literally, a tale as old as time, perhaps even older.
They are Aion and Chronos but it has been long since their names were spoken in ancient temples, now revered in quiet libraries. More often, they are Alfred and Edward, though names change with the era. Alfred tends to favour that of an angelic form, sunshine hair and clear eyes that belie millennia of existence. Edward chooses that of a tall, quiet man with little to say despite his years and eyes as dark as his hair.
They are older than their appearances seem but it is easy to pretend they haven’t seen civilisation and destruction, war and peace, the Enlightenment and the Dark Ages.
Alfred is free of mortal bounds - time is cyclical to him. There once was a time he kept record of his eternal cycles. He stopped counting once he reached north of a million. But without the restraints that so many are bound to, he experiences life in its joyful forms. He fucks and feeds, drinks and dances, lives and loves like he’ll never die (he’s tried so many times). He does as he pleases, whereever it may take him because all that matters is the vast expanse that calls itself the present.
Edward knows nothing but the cruel restraints of time. He is cursed by knowledge of past and future. He lets Alfred think that they are destined to always be together (and maybe they are) but it is rather that precognition that signals his choices, to take the path that is already decided for him. He stopped hating this cruel game sometime before England was more than a handful of tribes but it doesn’t mean it pleases him to know that the path he’ll follow is one that will lead him to his inevitable death.
It is a quarter past three in the afternoon when they meet once more. Edward Drummond and Lord Alfred Paget don’t know each other, of course they don’t, but Chronos and Aion always find their way back to each other. The Queen’s Court is not their first brush with royalty but they do perhaps yearn for the freer times where they’d fuck as they pleased. For now, they settle for coded conversations. Alfred enjoys the present as he always does and Edward anticipates the future as he always does.
They smoke and drink together in some quiet room in Buckingham Palace, pretending they aren’t playing this game. Still, it is enough to drain the whiskey between the two of them and for Edward’s eyes to turn harsh, to become Chronos.
“What a dream it is to never be bound like I am.”
And then Alfred tilts his head towards the fireplace, remembering humanity receiving its gift of flame.
“What a nightmare it is to watch you die over and over again, knowing neither of us can change it. You know what will happen this cycle?”
Chronos simply nods and Aion never asks. He never does.
It is quarter past three when Edward is shot in Downing Street, not even a god could survive that. He says his farewells to his family and reassures his sister. His family changes every time but he will remember this one.
Late at night, Alfred finds him, blood sluggishly staining the bandages. He says nothing, merely kneels by his bedside and takes Edward’s hand.
“I tried to give you time.”
It’s a gift that most desire but Edward knows that time is a fickle maiden and does not appreciate her disciples tampering with it but he sends his prayers that this cycle won’t be the one to end Alfred.
With a kiss to their intertwined hands, he promises, “I will find you again.”
At the end of his stolen five days, he thinks of Aion. His and his alone.
When he wakes once more, Chronos knows that this cycle is different. Normally, he would search for Aion but when he goes to dress in his new bedchambers, something in the denim and soft cotton tells him that he will be found. Fashion changes almost as quickly as his own cycles but garments were never this close fitting, never this revealing.
With the stolen knowledge of another life, he unlocks the phone plugged in to charge and discovers that he has woken far later than he thought.
It is 2018 and he closes his front door behind him, pockets somehow equipped with what he needs to survive in this new century, phone, debit card, Oyster card and keys. Without thought, his legs take him further and further into London’s core, the streets still like his last cycle.
There are too many people when he finds himself at Victoria underground station, the morning rush hour crowd dispersed, half smiling at distant memories of a runaway Queen.
He waits at the platform.
And he waits.
And he waits.
It is a quarter past three when Aion steps off the incoming tube, right in front of Chronos.
It is a quarter past three when Chronos takes Aion into his arms and kisses him like he’s learnt to crave over endless cycles.
It is a quarter past three when two gods finally find each other once more.