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To Be Mortal

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Vincent. My friend, my enemy. I tried to pretend it was some sense of responsibility that drove me to you again and again. I even tried to make it about vengeance. But the truth of the matter is that I am bound to you, as you are bound to me. Even though you think me oblivious, a mere shadow of the man you knew in Pietrok-112, I know you feel it too. In each life, you find me again. In each life, you bind me more tightly to yourself.

I do not know what this feeling is. It is not hate. It is not love. Perhaps it is simply need. For a long time, I expected you to take me as your half-hour break in an eight-hour day, but you never did. The disappointment that grew in my chest as a result of this dismissal was unexpected as well. It does not make sense for me to desire you. Or perhaps it is the one thing that does make sense in this ragged mess of lives.

I find myself thinking about you – about us – constantly. You have made me your man, through and through. There is no part of you that doubts my loyalty now. After all these years, I’m not sure I do either. My wish to please you has seeped into every aspect of my life, without me really noticing it.

Who is the better liar of us two, Vincent? And how long before the lie becomes truth? All those years, I worked for you. I existed for you. How could I not turn to you completely? How could my damaged psyche not turn towards the kindness, towards the outstretched hand that promises to take care of me?

I’m a fucking good guy, Harry. A fucking good guy.

I am weak. After all these years of life, I am still weak. Ready to grovel at the feet of Phearson. Ready to give myself over to you completely. Is it because of the torture? Perhaps once a man is broken, he is broken forever. Perhaps such events really do span lifetimes for a mnemonic. There is no one who can understand the burden of having to remember all. No one except for you, Vincent. How many lives have you lived? Is it more than me? I think you would like it to be. I suppose it feels like that, now that you think me but a blank page for you to write on.

How can time be measured for an immortal man with a perfect memory? It is the question of the immovable object or the unstoppable force. A hypothesis that should not exist. And yet it exists – we exist. You and I, Vincent, more alike than you realised.

I look at you now, lost in thought on your bed in Switzerland, and I wonder what it is that brings about this longing in my chest. You are not a particularly attractive man, never have been. You are not particularly charming either, though you can be if you wish it. Your mind, though, is one of the most exquisite things I have ever seen. I have always loved it, Vincent. From our Cambridge days, when we sat in my office and discussed the ridiculousness of time travel, to the years of fevered work we did in Pietrok-112. It makes me want to subject myself.

“Vincent,” I hear myself whisper.

You look up, surprised at the disturbance.

“Yes, Harry?”

“I…”

There is no sentence to go with that word. Only the need building in my chest, overwhelming me.

“Is there something you wish to tell me?”

You know me too well, Vincent.

“I – yes, but I can’t…”

“Spit it out. No need to be afraid.”

“I need…”

I cannot make myself say the words. Our beds are close together, so when you straighten and sit on the edge of the bed, our knees are almost touching. You are frowning now, trying to figure out this human puzzle sitting in front of you.

“What do you need?”

“Why have you never touched me?”

Your back stiffens and I regret the question immediately.

“Is that what you want?”

“I don’t know…”

This is honest at least, because I have no idea what I want anymore.

“I don’t usually go in for that kind of thing, Harry. I thought you knew.”

Tears are pricking in the corners of my eyes now. Such a fool I have been. Thinking you keep me around because of some bond we share. In the end, I am just a pet to you, aren’t I, Vincent?

There is a finger underneath my chin, forcing my head up. I look at you, afraid of what I will find there.

“Harry… How can I say no to you?”

You give me a little half smile and I am lost. Not thinking about it, I lunge forward and capture your lips with mine. You indulge me and let the kiss continue.

I do not know what I expected. In the end, it is just a kiss like many. It makes me think of Jenny. Jenny, who was kissed by us both. Jenny, who is now making her living as a surgeon without interference from either of us.

The kiss turns angry and I pour all my resentment in it, my years of dedicated loyalty. You let it continue for a while and then take over, pulling gently at my shoulders until I take the hint and straddle you on the soft bed. Your thighs are broader than I expected and I have to spread my legs wide to accommodate them. It is a strange position for me to be in.

You make it less strange by kissing me again and undoing my belt. This is a familiar feeling and I relish in it as you close your hand around my arousal. I moan into your mouth and arch my back, in an attempt to increase the friction.

You set to work, rubbing and pulling and occasionally sweeping a thumb over the weeping head, making me shiver with pleasure. I try to imagine you using these techniques on yourself and it brings me even closer to the edge.

When I finally spill into your hand, it is with a quiet, broken sob. I whisper your name, unable to stop the flood of emotion accompanying the release. You look at me and your eyes are kind and calm.

“There, all better now?”

It takes me a moment to process your words. When I do, shame creeps over me. I take in your severely unrumpled appearance, the slight amusement in your gaze. This moment of intimacy, born out of a place of pity as I am quickly realising, turns sour in my mouth.

I try to hide it by fastening up my trousers again and slipping off your lap. You lay back down and take up a book you’d been reading earlier, unperturbed by everything that just happened.

I am left standing there, frozen in uncertainty. Part of me wants to beg at your feet for this thing that I know you cannot give me. Part of me wants to run. Quite a large part of me wishes to destroy you, as was my original plan. But it is an empty threat. You are too much a part of me now, whether I like it or not.

There is a fragility to the life of linears that lacks in our own. They live as we never could, as we only did our first life. They know so much more about death than a Kalachakra. For how can we understand death if we never really die, if we are only born? What, then, is the worth of our life?

Perhaps that explains why we so often throw away our years on drink and debauchery. Anything to feel, anything to recreate that mortal feeling of fear and excitement. You have never needed that, because you have your work. And for a brief moment in time, I had that, too. The exhilaration of collaborating on a project that may change humankind forever is indescribable, though I imagine you could think of a few choice words.

Is this the reason I cannot rid myself of you? Is this why I am here, craving your approval, your affection? I am not sure it matters. For this lifetime, I shall be standing next to you until the very end. And in the next, I will again let myself be seduced by you. Again and again, we shall play this game. Maybe one day, you really will change the world and look God in the eye. It will a privilege to be right there with you. Perhaps then we can finally feel mortal again.