Chapter 1: Gut
[ 2039 ]
He doesn’t recall who he is at first.
He only remembers the feeling of death. Of pain.
Pain that is so blurry and unfocused that he can only state that he feels it.
It doesn’t matter. It’s too much for his body to bear. He breathes in heavily, trying to get oxygen into his lungs, trying his best to breathe, to keep going, to surpass the pain, to remember who he is.
At least his name.
That’s all he wants.
He can feel it playing out more than he can see it. There are flashes of images, broken up faces, blurred beyond recognition. He can’t make out the visual details but everything else has been heightened to such an extreme he cannot shut it out.
Screams. The sound of a gun going off. Pain.
Localized pain, he realizes, which is different from the night before. This he knows is centered in his stomach. He can feel the sharpness of a blade. Stabbed.
No. That’s not right. That’s not how it happened.
He wasn’t stabbed.
Gavin almost steps into the house. It’s been abandoned for five years now, empty of the old owners, left to rot. It’s like most of the houses in this neighborhood, this city. They’ve all been left behind to decay while the world struggles to spin onwards.
But when he sees it from the inside of his car, the smashed windows and the graffiti on the walls, he knows he can’t go in. Not yet. But some part of himself has forced himself here, and he doesn’t know why.
He wandered the halls of this house so much, hoping, wishing beyond all reason, to go back where he came from. He liked the darkness of that place he was at once. It is vague and surreal and he barely remembers it, but he remembers the peacefulness of it. The not existing. He was not worried about what his name was, he was not worried about who he was. He just existed, in the dark.
Now he has memorized the layout of this house, the empty rooms, the broken windows, the cracked walls. He places a hand against the door, presses against it hard as it swings open in front of him. He knows he shouldn’t be able to do that. He knows that he is dead.
Here he is.
Something pulls around his stomach as he crosses the threshold. It yanks him back, the room surging away from him as he falls backwards, hits the ground but slips through it.
It is frightening for a moment. He almost screams.
And then he is back where he once was.
[ 2040 ]
It is marginally less painful the second time.
But it is still excruciating.
He has grown used to reliving his death.
Or, not reliving his death. He knows, in the back of his mind, they are just potential ways that he died being played out again and again. An attempt to get rid of all the ones that are wrong. Every time he feels what little life in his body slip through his fingertips he knows that isn’t what happened. He knows that he was not stabbed in the stomach or the neck or the shoulder.
Sometimes it varies exponentially. Sometimes it is the removal of a leg and he dies from the blood loss. Sometimes, the knife in his stomach moves only a centimeter to the right or to the left, like maybe whatever is trying to figure out how he died got the smallest bit closer to figuring it out before realizing no, this isn’t right.
He still doesn’t remember his name. He wishes he remembered his name.
He tries again, but he can’t get out of the car. He knows why he can’t get out of the car. That house is a fucking nightmare. He can’t imagine ever going inside of his own volition.
He feels like he has to.
For closure? For some stupid fucking idea of closure? Like seeing it as destroyed physically now as it felt before will make everything alright?
He drives away before he can make the mistake of going inside.
And like his awakening,
It’s a little easier to slip back to where he was before.
[ 2041 ]
Something brings him over to the curtains. His feet move on there own, brushing the fabric aside, peering down at the street below him. A car is sitting out on the road, the engine rumbling, the lights illuminating the dark and cracked road. He brings a hand up, knocks against the glass as if it will get the person’s attention.
He thinks maybe before he assumed that this world was purgatory. A broken and nameless place where nothing mattered. He was the only soul wandering around, no one else. The ultimate hell of entirely isolating a human being on their own.
But a car. A running engine. A human is inside there. Someone is inside there. Someone—
Maybe not alive, but at least like him?
The car drives away. He feels his heart sink a little bit. Is that possible? Does he have a heart?
[ 2042 ]
He was not killed by a guillotine.
But he knows what that would feel like now.
[ 2043 ]
Gavin gets out of the car this time, walks up to the door with his hand raised like he’s going to knock on a fucking abandoned house’s door. He changes his mind, tries the knob. Locked. He pushes against the wood as hard as he can, remembering how it used to stick. Did the owners after him fix it? Did they have the time, the money, the energy to try it? His father never did.
The door gives way and he stumbles inside, staggers to the ground with a loud thud. Dust flies up around him, a rat scurries past his hands. He feels like a cat, half ready to hiss at it and half ready devour it.
“Are you alright?”
Jesus. Fucking. Christ.
His weak, half-dead heart races as he stands up quickly, straightening his jacket, turning in a wide spin trying to find the source of the voice.
“O-Oh, you heard me, then?” it continues.
“You scared the absolute fuck out of me,” he says, spotting the figure by the decayed remains of a sofa. “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing.”
“I used to live here,” he says, wishing that the house still showed a picture frame or something he could point to and say See that boy in the middle? That’s me! but the pictures are gone and all that remains is mold on the walls and the cracked glass of old frames that contain the images of a family he doesn’t recognize. “You’re turn.”
“I…” he trails off, a hand raised to run through his hair, stopping halfway. “I don’t really know why I’m here.”
“Then get the fuck out.”
The guy laughs. Laughs. Like Gavin was making a joke and intended for it to be received like that.
“Who the hell even are you?” he asks, stepping forward across the room. Something about the light seems to hit the figure wrong. The effect it makes is familiar, but his brain can’t quite place it, just what it isn’t. Not like something underwater. Not like the static of an old television.
“I don’t remember my name,” he says, taking a careful step to the side. Not towards him, but not necessarily away either. “Do you?”
“Of course I remember my name, what the fuck does that even mean?”
“I thought maybe you were like me,” he turns his head to the side, looking off towards the kitchen. “What’s your name?”
“Last name? Do you remember a last name?”
“It’s very nice to meet you, Gavin Reed.”
When he looks back to him, Gavin understands what effect he was thinking of.
Black and white.
But the boy is drenched in blue instead. Saturated in it. Next to the bright red of the wallpaper, he looks strikingly blue.
“What are you?” he asks, his voice hesitant with the question. He thinks, maybe, there’s an overly harsh edge of fear in his voice that he hopes comes off as annoyed or angry instead.
“I think I might be a ghost.”
A ghost. A fucking ghost. In his house. What the fuck.
Of all the places to haunt, though—if Gavin allows himself to believe that boy is actually a fucking ghost—what a fantastic place to pick. Something ought to haunt those walls.
[ 2044 ]
He wakes with a name on his tongue. Connor. He sounds it out again and again.
Connor. Connor. Connor.
It seems ridiculous that he, Gavin Reed, a vampire for five fucking years, doesn’t believe in ghosts. But how long as the world been around? How long has technology been around? How long has the news and media, desperately trying to show off false evidence after false evidence that ghosts exist and they are constantly disproven?
So, no, he does not believe in ghosts.
He isn’t sure what that boy inside the house is—but he isn’t a ghost. He can’t be. Ghosts aren’t real.
“You’re back,” he says from the top of the stairs. He likes it up here. He likes watching the family of rats scurry across the bottom of the staircase from up on his perch. They don’t come up here. They don’t even come near him. It’s like they’re frightened by his existence.
Like they know what he is.
“You remember your name yet?” Gavin asks from below.
He watches Gavin stiffen, his eyes lifting from his general direction to actual focus in on his face, “No fucking ghost is named Connor.”
“This one is.”
“You sure you’re a ghost?”
He thinks of how in a few hours his body (if he can call it that) will shut down, how his mind will be taken to some other place, showing him a new way he might have died. How he in a few weeks will be gone from this place for an unknown length of time, how he can hear the soft whispers of the past echoing through the wallpaper.
“Yes,” he decides.
“Can you float? Go through walls? Move objects with your mind?”
“I haven’t tried.”
“You think you’re some spirit sent from the afterlife and you haven’t tried haunting anything yet?” Gavin says, stepping closer to the stairs. “The fuck is wrong with you?”
“I don’t think I’m a ghost that works in that way,” Connor replies, smiling softly. “I’m sorry to disappoint you.”
He stuffs his hands in his pockets, lets out a small sigh, “I think you’re a shitty ghost, Connor.”
“How would you propose I fix that?”
“Go to a place that has actual people to fuck with, for starters,” he says, gesturing towards the empty house. “Learn how to be invisible. Move an object with whatever powers you’ve got.”
“I’ll take that into account,” Connor replies. “Do you think you’ll come back here? Next time?”
“I’d like your opinion on if I’m improving.”
He watches Gavin consider this. And maybe he is overplaying the thought process, maybe he is acting like he’ll say yes and take it back as a no once Connor finally believes him, but maybe not. Maybe he will tease Connor with a no, never, this place is haunted now and change his mind to yes.
Because who wouldn’t be interested in a ghost in their childhood home?
“Okay,” Gavin says, retreating towards the door. “Alright. When do I come back? Do you have specific haunting hours?”
“I’m here all day and all night,” he says, tracing a shape in the dust at his feet. “I haven’t figured out the exact dates, yet.”
“The exact dates?”
“Yes,” he says. “I disappear after a while. I think I stay gone for a while before I come back.”
He doesn’t mention where he goes. He doesn’t mention that sometimes when he gets back, he can remember the soft murmurings of voices in his ear telling him he might run out of time if he doesn’t try harder.
“You don’t know what day it is?”
“Alright. Okay. Fuck. I’ll—I’m gonna figure this out. Tomorrow or something. I’ll be back. And you’ll be here? In the daylight?”
“Will you?” he asks, feeling his head tilt to the side, seeing the room shift too far with it. He can feel the pull to the other world already. The impatience of trying to test the next possibility out.
“I guess so.”
Connor. His name is Connor.
He can remember, just a few weeks ago waking up, feeling himself on the verge of saying that name.
Coincidence, right? It has to be. Connor is a common name. He knows a Connor, or at least he used to. Some little freak that never spoke a single word but always got in his way. It’s a common name. This means nothing.
Gavin looks through the stuff in his apartment for an hour before he finds a notebook that has enough blank pages that he can use them. He tears out the old ones, shitty drawings or notes scribbled down that he can’t make sense of anymore. (The fuck did RK stand for and why did he write it down with no further explanation?)
He takes the notebook to Connor’s. To his old place. To whatever he should call the house he was raised in. A shithole. A piece of garbage. A dumpster waiting to be set on fire.
But then he thinks maybe that might set Connor’s soul free or something. Not that he believes in ghosts. The boy is delusional. But in case Gavin’s wrong? Best to be safe. Even if Connor’s presence is making it impossible for him to wander through the remains of his childhood.
They sit beside each other in the living room, Connor hunched over his shoulder, watching him as he writes out the months and the dates. He has to keep checking his phone to make sure he’s right. He’s had to scribble out a number three times because he thought there were thirty-one days instead of thirty.
“What’s the purpose of this, Gavin?”
Incredibly shocked that Connor remembered his name. For someone that forgot their own, for it having been a full year. Connor remembered his name.
He thinks if he could blush, maybe he would. He can feel his face aching like it’s trying extremely hard to get what little blood in his veins there.
“We need to figure out when you’re here, yeah?” he taps the pen against the notebook. “Today’s the ninth, yesterday was the eighth. So we’ll... I don’t know. Circle the days? Cross them out? It’s up to you. Just mark them every night.”
“But what about when I disappear? And when I wake?”
When I wake.
He can feel a shiver reaching up his spine. Such a strange way to refer to it as. Waking. An awakening.
“Count the days until I come back.”
“You’re coming back?”
He doesn’t know why he said that. He doesn’t know why he committed to this.
“I—I’d like to see. If you’re really a ghost. Or whatever. I’ll come back on the first of every month. If you lose track, I can start… backtracking or something. Or maybe you’ll remember. And you wanted me to check on your haunting progress, right? Or was that a joke? Shit, wait, can you even use a pen? If you’re a ghost?”
Connor reaches towards him, taking the pen carefully from his fingertips, holding it lightly in the air, “I think so.”
He bites his lip. He was rambling and now he can’t get anything else out of his mouth. Connor takes the notebook from his lap, testing out his ability to use the pen in a slow circle around the 8 and the 9 in September.
“I like your handwriting, Gavin,” he says with a smile, tucking the pen in the metal spiral of the notebook. “It’s quite nice.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
And what else is he supposed to say? “Nice fucking circles you drew there, Con.”? It’s not like he can return the favor.
“You’re still here, fucking incredible.”
“I think you swear too much, Gavin,” Connor says from his perch at the top of the stairs. Gavin doesn’t like him up there. It’s creepy. It reminds him of a horror movie, like his head is going to snap too far to the left and his eyes are going to grow wide and a creepy smile is going to form on his face.
He shudders at the thought of it. He was so much better with the idea of horror movies before all this.
“Ghosts can’t swear? Or are you just Casper?”
“I don’t know of a Casper.”
“The friendly ghost!” he says, kicking the bottom stair lightly, as if that will help to prove his point. “You don’t know your own people?”
“I don’t think I’m privy to the conversations we carry on when I’m here,” he says, looking up to the ceiling. “It’s like they take it away from me. Or maybe they can’t exist. Or… I don’t know. Should I bother trying to explain this to you?”
“I don’t think I’m going to understand either way.”
“It’s like knowing a language but only being able to read it and when I’m here, I don’t get to see the words, I only hear them,” Connor says anyways. “Does that make sense?”
“You’re being sarcastic.”
“I’m not a ghost,” he says, shoving his hands in his pockets, feeling the shape of the lighter there, of the phone in the other one. Neither of which he uses as much now as he used to. He carries them like a child would carry their favorite blanket or toy. A comfort. Something to lean onto when reality feels too overwhelming. “I’m sorry I don’t get it.”
“I hope…” Connor trails off.
“I hope someday you don’t have to understand. It’s very… strange being here.”
“You don’t like it?”
“It’s difficult to explain.”
He nods, like he gets it, but he doesn’t. Connor isn’t even trying this time. He’s just holding it up inside of his chest and letting it build and build and Gavin is right here, bored out of his skull and still trying to decide if ghosts are real or if Connor’s just a really good actor and really good at fucking with him.
“You mark your day on your calendar yet?” he asks instead.
Connor picks it up from the space beside him, holds it up where all the circles continue up until October 1st.
“I was thinking,” Connor says, setting the notebook back down again. “Maybe I’d use the rest of the pages to write what I remember down.”
“Yeah? Like what?”
“I don’t know,” he says, with a shrug. “All I remember is my name. All I know is—”
He stops abruptly, looking back to the ceiling again.
“I don’t know,” he says quietly. “I think I lost track of what I was thinking.”
Connor finds he doesn’t want to disappear this time. He doesn’t want to disintegrate into the floor. He wants to stay awake, he wants to circle the next number on Gavin’s makeshift calendar. He wants to fill in the whole year. He doesn’t want to be dead.
Gavin steps out of the car, hands in his pockets, his shoulder pushing the door open on its bent hinges from where he broke it last year. He steps into the empty place, looking around at the dusty walls, the rats as they make their way from the front door to the safety of the sofa on the other side.
“Connor?” he yells, looking towards the top steps of the second floor.
No ghost boy.
The place is empty.
He feels a little spike of fear in his stomach. If Connor was truly alive, he could be dead, right? There’s a possibility that he was alive, faking all this, and now that the place is so quiet he could be lying dead somewhere because some other homeless guy came in here and stabbed him for the shelter.
It’s extreme. It’s stupid. It’s a leap in logic he shouldn’t make.
It is enough to get his feet up the staircase. It’s enough to check all the rooms, looking in at the empty spaces, underneath the beds, in the closets, in the bathtub.
No dead body.
Connor is just gone.
Like a fucking ghost.
[ 2045 ]
He doesn’t have his hopes up. He has gotten good at not having his hopes up.
But still, he gets out of the car like every other time. Still, he walks up those creaking steps.
Still, he opens that door.
He jumps. Not as bad as the first time he heard Connor’s voice, but nearly. His half-dead heart in his chest gives a little annoying shudder, like its been frightened back to life.
“Did I scare you?”
“Were you trying to?” he asks, eyeing Connor in his spot on the stairs.
On. He’s come down a step since last time. He’s not curled against the wall, but instead his legs are crunched up into his abdomen, feet resting silently on the top step.
“No,” he says, smiling a little. He produces the notebook from his side, flips through a few pages to show the calendar. “What day is it?”
“First of September.”
Connor’s face falls a little as he nods, circling the number, “Okay.”
He’s upset. Visibly. Gavin can see his face falling apart more and more every second. He bites his lip, breathes in a long breath, lets out the words as quickly as possibly, “Are you alright?”
He takes a step forward, resting his hand on the old railing. It’s still as rickety and old as it was when he lived here. But before, it was a soft dark brown. It’s been painted white. Poorly. It’s peeling off in some places, streaky in others.
“Listen, you’re upset and I’m trying to be a decent person, yeah?”
“Yeah?” Connor asks, looking up from the notebook. “You really care?”
Connor averts his eyes, landing on the cracked glass of the window letting in soft pools of moonlight across the floor, “I thought I had more time. That’s all. I never counted the days before. They weren’t—Until the calendar, I hadn’t thought about it. They just merged together. It could’ve been six months or almost a year.”
“But now you know.”
“I’ve been tallying the days since I woke up,” he says, turning the notebook around to show the little marks across the top of the page. “I’ve been very careful about watching the sun rise. I only have fifty three days, Gavin. I thought—I don’t know. It’s not enough time.”
“To figure this out.”
“Figure what out?”
Connor slaps the notebook down onto the space beside him, burying his face in his hands, “I don’t know. I have no idea. I’m here for a reason, aren’t I?”
He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know why either of them are here. He doesn’t remember why he wanted so badly to be back in this house. He just came here on his own. He remembers choking on the name Connor and now there’s a ghost in his house with it.
“I’m sorry,” Gavin says quietly. “I didn’t mean—I don’t understand any of this. I don’t know how to help.”
“Oh?” Connor says, and he lifts his face from his hands, his voice as heavy with the tears as his eyes are. “You want to help me?”
“I didn’t say that.”
He smiles, just barely. Gavin thinks he’s about to say something like I think you did or yes, you absolutely did but instead he just smiles sadly and retreats the rest of the way up the stairs, pressed against the wall once more.
“I wish I knew why I was here, Gavin. I wish someone told me for certain or that I could remember. But I think… I think I’m running out of time.”
He reaches his hand up and touches the air in front of him. Something that isn’t here, in this world. Something Gavin can’t see.
“Do you want to be alone?” Gavin asks, and he hopes Connor says yes because he wants to be. He wants to sit in his car and process this information.
But he also hopes Connor says no.
And he isn’t really sure why. He’s a ghost. Or, maybe he isn’t. Gavin hasn’t really decided if Connor is telling the truth on that front or not.
“I think so,” Connor replies. “But not forever.”
His hand drops, his head turns back to Gavin but his eyes don’t quite meet his.
“Okay, I’ll leave you alone, then.”
But not forever.
Connor was not quite aware of the passage of time before Gavin. It wasn’t his first arrival that made him aware of it—more of the calendar. The more he tried to focus on the rise of the sun the more he was in tune to the feeling of it slipping through his fingers. Little grains of sand, sliding out of his grip. His hands aren’t corporeal enough to catch it. In the house, he can slam doors, he can make shapes in the dust, he can hold a notebook and a pen but—
When he thinks of time he feels more like a ghost than he does when he walks through the hallways. He feels the strike of midnight like a weight against his shoulders. Like someone shoving him forward.
It’s not pleasant.
He hears the car door shut and he ventures towards the window, looking out at the street below as Gavin walks across the road towards the house. He leaves quickly, taking his place at the top of the stairs, curling up in on himself as the door opens.
“It’s like two in the morning.”
“Listen,” Gavin says, shaking his head, and shutting the door behind him. “You’re a ghost, right? Time shouldn’t affect you. Why do you think—why do you think you’re running out of it?”
“I feel… limited.”
He nods. There isn’t another way to phrase it.
Or rather, Connor doesn’t want to try. He doesn’t want to explain that in the back of his mind, every night at what he presumes is the exact same time, his mind is running scenario after scenario trying to figure out what happened the day he died.
Eventually it’s going to find the right one.
He just doesn’t know if that means he’s done existing here or if he will stay forever. He doesn’t want to find out. He doesn’t want to be here, but he doesn’t want to disappear again. The black is so comforting and nice but he wants to live. Each time he dies he can’t help but remember how nice it was to just be alive.
“I’m sorry,” Connor says. “I don’t think it’s easy to explain to someone who isn’t…”
“It’s fine,” Gavin replies with a small shrug. “I should go. You have your calendar figured out and everything, right? And you’re not trying to be an actual ghost, so there’s no reason—”
“I’d like you to come back,” he says quickly, cutting him off. “If you don’t mind. It’s very lonely and boring here.”
“You want me to come back?”
“You’re sure? Even though I made you cry?”
“You didn’t make me cry,” Connor says with a small laugh. “It… I would have understood sooner or later, I think.”
“Likely would’ve been later, though.”
“If you don’t want to stay or come back, you don’t have to.”
“This is my house,” Gavin says, looking from Connor’s face to the empty walls. “I mean it used to be. I don’t… It’s not like—”
“I don’t know.”
He waits for more. He waits for something else that he’s going to say, something else to clarify, but he gets nothing.
“I’m sorry I’m haunting your house.”
“Don’t be,” he says. “It’s not like you have a choice.”
[ 2046 ]
Blood fills his mouth and he wishes, like every time, that it tasted sweet. Like fake blood. Like it was flavored with chocolate or strawberries or something other than the taste of what it actual is. But it sits on his tongue metallic and heavy.
He wishes it tasted like something else because then, maybe, he could ignore that it’s blood. He could ignore the fact the person in his arms is close to death because of him. He is killing someone while Connor exists miles away in his childhood home wishing, pleading, to be alive.
Gavin shoves them backwards against the wall, drags his hand across his mouth, looks at the red smear across his skin.
He wishes it tasted like something else because then, maybe, he wouldn’t be so disgusted with how much he loves it. He craves the taste of the blood and it takes all of his willpower not to like every lost drop off his own skin right now.
[ 2047 ]
This is not the first time Connor has drowned. He’s lost count of how many times someone has held his head under the water. He has lost count of the varying differences in their hands, in the temperature of the water, of how long he’s screamed. He’s lost count of how many times he has been pulled under by a current or rolled over with a weight tied to his ankle.
When he wakes, he knows it was wrong. His body shivers with the feeling of the icy water of the sink still in his lungs. He coughs again and again to try and get the water out but it never comes up. His lungs aren’t real. This body isn’t real. If he cut it open, there would probably be nothing inside but air. Like a little porcelain doll.
Except he does not feel fragile. He feels heavy and weighed down. If someone were to throw him against a wall, it would break underneath his weight. Wrong. Not like how a ghost should feel.
A ghost should be light. Connor should feel like feathers floating through the air, being carried along by the wind.
And instead he feels like if he stepped on the wrong creaking floorboard he would fall right through it and into the basement.
[ 2048 ]
It’s the first time Gavin has seen the house in daylight in over twenty years. The sunlight is blinding, showing every wear and tear. In the darkness, the paint looks like a pale, sickly shade of brown. In the day it is the soft blue it has always been. There are parts where it wears away, showing the old yellow beneath it. If he squints his eyes, if he takes the color away, they would blend together.
He looks up to the windows, the wind in the air making its way through the cracks or the ones that are completely broken. The old curtains are just tattered remains now. Like the house is breaking down quicker than it should. Or maybe he just isn’t intelligent enough to understand the process of a decaying home.
Which, Gavin thinks, he does.
But maybe in a more metaphorical sense than literal.
One of the curtains moves aside, Connor’s face appearing in the glass, tilting to the side as he spots the car on the street.
He’s been found out.
But the thing is he doesn’t know if that’s enough to get him out of the vehicle and into the house. There isn’t really a reason for him to be here, is there? There’s no point in him being inside those walls with a ghost.
But his feet and his hands and his body seem to want to be here.
Why? Because he knew the name Connor before the ghost boy did? Because he’s haunting his old house?
It’s stupid. He doesn’t need to be here. The guy creeps him out.
Gavin leaves before he can convince himself to go in.
[ 2049 ]
Faces. He is given faces. No names, just faces. Soft skin and wide noses and gray eyes, blue eyes, brown eyes. They fall apart into something more. Old patterned shirts, sometimes torn, always stained. Neat dresses, crisp lines, high heels. He can remember watching them doing things. The dishes, sitting in front of a mirror, laughing, crying.
Connor remembers the way they would act around him. Best friend. Father figure. Mother.
He hadn’t considered before the people he left behind. He knew he must have—but he hadn’t really thought about it. That there were people out there grieving him, maybe even now they still are. Maybe they always will be.
Or maybe they’re happy he’s gone. Connor doesn’t know who he was before. He has a name, he has a few faces (and not even his own). But he doesn’t have himself.
Except he knows now. He knows the presence of their life in his. He knows what they meant to him even if he doesn’t know their history or their names. He knows they were important.
And is it possible for a ghost to grieve for people that are alive?
He doesn’t really expect Connor to be there, but he shows up anyways, kicks the door open, sets the box down on the floor pushes it across. He should leave a note, maybe. So it’s clear what the box is doing here, but does it matter? Connor will show up by the first of September anyways, so it’s not like it’s going to sit around for—
“You’re back,” Connor says, and after Gavin spots him, sees the smile spreading across his face, he adds on, “And you’re jumpy.”
“You make a good fucking ghost,” he says, slamming his hand against the wall. “Did you always creep up on people? Or is that something you learned after you died?”
“I can’t recall. What is that?”
Gavin looks back towards the box, “Books. Every single one I own.”
“Are you moving back in?”
“When I know this place is a shithole and there’s a ghost haunting it? Fuck no. I brought them for you.”
“Well, you can read, right? And you were able to use the notebook, so… you can read.”
“You brought me books.”
“Well, you said before that you don’t do anything, right?” he asks, looking towards the rats poking their head out from the couch. “Except watch your little rodents.”
“I’ve been recording my observations on them.”
“Right, is that fun?”
Connor seems to consider this far more in depth than Gavin intended.
“It passes the time.”
“And now you can read,” he says, picking up the book on the top. The dust jacket is torn across the middle, taped together poorly. “It’ll pass the time maybe a little more exciting than rats, yeah?”
“Thank you, Gavin.”
“Yeah, don’t mention it. It’s the least I can do.”
Another year gone. Another night of his body unwinding itself like a ball of yarn tossed as far as possible. He slips, he falls, he disappears.
He can only hope that he will come back again.
[ 2050 ]
“Why are you always up there, Casper?”
Connor looks down from the top of the stairs, setting his book aside to the top of the stack next to him. It’s replaced the space that used to be taken up by the notebook. Gavin has more at the new box at his feet. A year spent looking through old houses to try and find books that might help fill Connor’s time.
“My name is Connor.”
“Yeah, the ghost sent from the afterlife.”
“Don’t call you Casper, I got it. Did you meet him? Was he rude to you?”
“Your jokes are never quite as funny as you think they are.”
“They amuse me.”
“Is that enough reason to say them out loud?”
“You’re in a mood.”
Connor lets out a long sigh and stretches out across the space on the landing, “I’m tired.”
“Ghosts can get tired?”
“Why did you come back?” Connor says, not bothering to continue on this little journey of his to dissect the ins and outs of ghosts (if there is such a thing). “Two years ago, you came back. You looked at me and then you left. Why now? Why this year?”
“I don’t know.”
“And the books? Why bring the books?”
“I told you—” he says, but he cuts himself off with a long sigh. “I didn’t have a reason to be here.”
“So you invented one?”
“Y-yeah. No. I just—”
“Is it really so hard for you to admit that you want to be here?”
“I don’t want to be here.”
He doesn’t. He really, really, doesn’t.
“So, it’s not the location?” Connor asks, smiling. “It’s the ghost?”
“I—I have to go.”
A ghost. A ghost. Because that’s what Connor is. That’s what he will always be.
A fucking ghost.
The days tick by slowly. He spends nights sitting on his bed, staring up at the ceiling trying to make the answers become clear in the swirls.
Gavin should go back. He wants to go back. But he doesn’t. And he can’t figure it out. Connor doesn’t make sense in his head. He’s a ghost, but Gavin doesn’t believe in ghosts. He hates that fucking house but Connor is there.
And he doesn’t have friends but he shouldn’t use the one person that wouldn’t be able to run away from him if he tried to attach himself there.
He doesn’t know how he’s meant to feel. Everything inside of him has been mixed together like paints on a palette and now he’s left with an icky brown-gray that feels like it has no place in the portrait.
[ 2051 ]
“You’re still here.”
Connor looks up from the book. He hadn’t heard the door open, but he knew it had. Like a rumbling across the floorboards to him, like a ripple in the water when someone throws a stone out in a lake.
“Did you think I’d be gone?”
“You never told the dates of when you’re here and when you aren’t.”
“If you thought I would be gone, why did you come back?”
He watches Gavin’s face shift, his eyes avert, his teeth clamp over his bottom lip, “You want the truth?”
“I fucking hate this house,” he says, and he kicks the bottom step of the stairs like he’d done before. Harder this time. Enough to make the wood crack a little bit, but not break. “I hate this fucking place but you? I—There’s something about you. That makes me want to come back. I don’t know what it is. I don’t—I don’t believe in ghosts, alright? But...”
“I… fuck, this is going to sound cheesy,” Gavin says, and he covers his face with his hands. “I believe in you.”
Connor smiles, and he can’t stop the smile from pulling at the corners of his lips but he can stop the little laugh that is bubbling up in his throat, “Okay.”
“I want to come back. Not every day. I’m not—I’m not obsessed with you. But—I get this feeling. And when I’m here, it goes away. But when I’m not… I don’t know how to explain it.”
He nods, doesn’t ask for Gavin to try and explain it further. He hasn’t been able to put into words the feeling of time or the weight of a body, he doesn’t expect Gavin to be able to do it either. He doesn’t expect for either of them to understand one another fully.
He is a ghost. Gavin isn’t.
And Gavin is something else entirely. Connor doesn’t know what it is, but he knows Gavin is something. Dead. Or undead. Or half alive.
But not human.
“I wake up a few hours before midnight on the fifteenth of August,” Connor says quietly. “I disappear in five days. On the seventh.”
“The fif—” Gavin pauses. “The seventh? Like this month? Like October? You’re sure?”
“I’m fairly certain it would still be October five days from now. Why?”
“Doesn’t seem like no reason, Gavin.”
“My—” he steps back towards the door, like he’s on the verge of running. “My birthday is the seventh. You disappear on my birthday.”
“It’s weird, isn’t it? My house, my birthday?”
“A strange coincidence.”
Gavin sighs and leans back against the wall, shaking his head a little bit. Neither of them want to say it. Neither of them want to say the words this cannot be a coincidence. Saying that means they have to consider what it might be instead.
Connor doesn’t know who he was before. If he was the type of person to believe in fate. And now it’s muddled and wrong because he is sent to a blackness in-between being here on Earth and that could be considered heaven or afterlife, and then, maybe, fate should exist, shouldn’t it?
He clears his throat, sits up a little straighter, prepared for the change of topic that will send them both into a conversation to forget this messiness, “Do you want to hear about my findings on the rats?”
“You still keep track of those things?”
Connor smiles, and he finds his notebook underneath a stack of books. Something else. Something else other than the topic of death and destiny.
Chapter 2: Hold
“It's a nesting-doll question, concealing other, unspoken ones inside. If I crack open 'Will I meet Jeff?' I'll find 'Do you like me?' Out of which pops 'Are we becoming friends?' Inside that is the most compact, most important question. The heart of the matter: 'Are we the same?'"
Final Girls - Riley Sager
[ 2052 ]
Gavin closes his eyes and opens them again. A repeated process over and over again. He can’t sleep. He can only think that in an hour, it will officially be the fifteenth. In an hour, it will be the day Connor appears in his house. Sometime before midnight, the ghost will materialize and haunt the halls restlessly.
Connor. His thoughts keep looping back to him.
He was fine before. He was adjusting to his life as a vampire. He was growing more and more accustomed to when to stop draining a human dry. He was getting good at knowing what times of day the sun would hurt him the most. He was getting one step closer to becoming somewhat human again.
And then Connor came along and fucked it all up and now all he thinks about is Connor and sometimes those thoughts drift to how pretty his neck is and how nice it would look if it was tipped back and he could sink his teeth in.
Gavin was becoming normal. His thoughts were not on ghosts. They were on living in this shitty, fucked up world they’ve gotten themselves drawn into. And now?
He’s not normal. He’s all messed up. His insides are all twisted in a knot thinking about death and how Connor’s life must have been before.
He pulls his blanket closer around his shoulders, buries his face into the mound of pillows beneath him, squeezes his eyes shut tight.
But he still thinks of Connor’s neck tipped back, the strip of skin exposed.
Connor has moved down from the top of the stairs and instead sits strangely, impossibly, in the middle. Strangely, because it is the closest the two of them have been. Impossibly, because he actually looks comfortable, which Gavin knows those stairs well, he knows that the wood is creaking and broken and rough and he would hate sitting on them to eavesdrop of his parent’s arguments. And, Connor is a ghost, and he isn’t sure if ghosts can even feel comfort or discomfort. Don’t they exist in a state of numbness? At least physically? And, in addition to all this knowledge, nearly every step has been turned into a home for a stack of books. There’s barely any room for a full grown man to lounge comfortable there.
“Yeah,” he says, dropping the bag at the bottom of the steps. “Does it throw off your organization method?”
“Yes, but it gives me something to do.”
Their conversation falls silent, as it always does. His last few visits were strange, quiet. Him sitting at the bottom of the stairs and reading through everything he’s brought so far, telling Connor what he remembers and if he doesn’t remember a single detail (which most of the time he doesn’t) he comments on the cover instead.
And then he leaves.
Because they’ve danced around the topic that Gavin really wants to discuss:
Connor is haunting his house. He disappears on Gavin’s birthday.
And, one other thing, but mentioning that now seems like a bad idea.
All of this seems like a bad idea. He keeps coming back here because there’s a feeling in his stomach that makes him almost nauseous if he doesn’t even look at the house during these few months. It builds and builds until it’s unbearable, right around the first week of October.
“I have work,” he says slowly, forcing the words out. “I can’t stay.”
“Oh,” Connor says, sitting up like he’s ready to say goodbye, like they’re the type of people that would shake hands or do anything when every time Gavin has left he’s snuck out or stormed through the door and pretended he was never here. “Do you—”
“I’ll come back. Next year, maybe. Bring more books. You decide on a genre you like?”
“Not yet. I like the variety.”
“Good. Great. I’ll grab whatever I can.”
And he’s gone, his weak little heart racing.
[ 2053 ]
“What exactly is your job?” Connor asks, watching Gavin closely as he sets another plastic bag down at the bottom of the stairs.
The books Gavin brings him are always old copies. Used. Beaten up. Sometimes, if he draws his fingers along the spines, if he passes them over the text on the words slowly, he thinks he can hear a voice in the back of his head whispering them to him.
“I was a detective.”
“I look around town for books to bring to a bored ghost living in my childhood home.”
“Gavin, I’m being serious. I want to know.”
“Why?” he asks, turning towards the door. Always turning towards the door. Always ready to leave as soon as the conversation moves past something as superficial as books. “It’s not important.”
“I’d like to get to know you,” he replies. “Is that so hard to believe?”
“Harder to believe than ghosts being real.”
The two are silent for a moment, Connor busying his hands with the sorting of books, Gavin keeping his eyes on the ground, his hand half held out towards the door knob.
“I’m still… sort of a detective. Not like I was before. The world isn’t like it was before.”
“You solve crimes?”
“In a sense.”
“And you spend your free time here or looking for books for me,” Connor says, smiling lightly. “How sweet.”
“Yeah, super sweet. You don’t thank me enough. Or pay me.”
“Gavin,” he says, looking from the stack of Ds to his face once more. “Thank you. I appreciate it a lot. It’s very lonely here. It’s not just the books that tie me over, I really do look forward to our visits. I’d like you to come by more often, if you could.”
“Of course. I think you’d make a perfectly acceptable friend.”
He thinks this is the first time Gavin has ever smiled at him. Openly. Honestly. Authentically. Connor decides then, there, he will make it happen again.
He comes back, against his better judgement. He listens to Connor talk animatedly about the last book he’s finished. Two days it took him to consume it. Two days to turn five hundred pages, thousands upon thousands of words, into a world in his head. Part of Gavin wonders why it took him so long.
Theoretically speaking, ghosts don’t need sleep. And unless Connor devotes a lot of time to organizing the books or switching between stories or watching the rats live their lives, he should have finished it quicker. He has no needs, nothing to take care of.
It’s almost worrying.
“I think Baz was my favorite,” he says. “I don’t normally play favorites in books, but Baz—”
“There’s a sequel,” Gavin says, making a mental note to track it down. “Do you want me to get it for you?”
“Yes, absolutely,” Connor says, and he’s smiling bigger than Gavin has ever seen him smile.
It’s a little heart breaking to him to remember how lonely it is here, in these walls. It’s lonely out in the world, too. All of his old coworkers, even though he hated them and they hated him, are gone or dead or something else now. Even his best friend has fallen through the cracks. They are torn apart by the war raging on inside the city.
Connor has found himself a little piece of no man’s land here. Unaffected by the fighting and the losing battle of keeping control over it all.
He finds himself looking towards Connor’s neck—not in the desire to bite him, not in the want to know the unique taste of his blood if he had any—but in the vague need to know what Connor is.
Or was. Before he died.
“I haven’t read it in a while,” Gavin admits. “But go ahead. Tell me all your favorite Baz moments.”
[ 2054 ]
He wakes with the same pain as he always does. It is lesser, barely. But this time he is given information wrapped in a neat little bow. A trojan horse. He accepts it greedily without thinking the damage it might cause him.
And so he wakes with the knowledge that outside these walls there is a death and destruction. He wakes remembering spending his days in fear and trying to decide if the best approach to it all really is to carry a gun on him at all times, or if that’s just the terror in his bones.
He wakes knowing there are creatures other than ghosts on the streets, which he feels like he knew before because of Gavin’s entire existence in his life so far. (Undead, something else, something monstrous.)
But he didn’t remember that finding a best friend murdered happened to almost everyone. He didn’t remember that people disappearing from lives was no longer a sign of concern because they could be dead but instead that they could be undead and it was always, always safer that they left instead of turning their newfound murderous tendencies on their loved ones.
He didn’t remember that he used to be so scared it was hard to get out of bed in the morning without thinking he might die.
And now he is dead.
At least he was right about one thing.
He is being crushed and he doesn’t know by what. A car? A truck? A train? Maybe he used to work in a factory. Someplace a machine would lift far enough up that somehow he could get pressed between the walls and condensed down.
When it’s over, when he feels the last bit of life drain from him again, he folds himself up as small as he can manage. Not because he wants to be small, but because he feels so fragile that if he doesn’t take up as little space as possible, something might destroy him again.
“I finally found it,” Gavin announces, pushing the door closed behind him and holding the book out to Connor across the few steps upwards. “It took me a while, but I eventually got it.”
“Wayward Son,” he says, pressing the book into Connor’s hands. “You wanted to read it, right?”
“Oh,” he says, taking it eagerly. “I forgot.”
“Ghosts forget things?”
“I—” he pauses and sets the book down on the step beside him. “I had other things on my mind.”
“Like what, you remember something?”
Gavin pauses, a small smile forcing its way onto his face, “That’s a good thing, right? You remembering?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
He pulls in a breath and holds it, trying to decide how much he should push on this topic. Does he have a right to? The two of them have known each other for—
Fuck. They met eleven years ago. It doesn’t feel like it.
It probably doesn’t feel like that at all to Connor. Not when he doesn’t have true years passing by. And it’s difficult for Gavin to consider that he even knows Connor well, despite their talks. He refuses to say much, and Connor doesn’t even really remember who he is.
He’s Connor’s only friend, isn’t he?
Strange to think Gavin is someone’s only friend.
“Did you remember how you died?”
Connor looks up, his lips pressed into a thin line, his forehead wrinkled. So expressive for a phantom, “No. Not yet. I’m starting to wonder… are humans… Are people capable of that? Is the mind capable of remembering how we’ve died?”
“You think it’s too traumatic for you to remember?”
“Well,” Connor says quietly. “I’ve never met anyone that’s died before. Except…”
He stills. A complete sense of ice overwhelming him, rooting him to the spot. His hands stuck in their movement towards his pockets, frozen in air half way there.
“How did you die, Gavin? Do you remember that?”
“Are you going to try and pretend you’re not dead like me?” he asks, and his voice is hoarse as he looks up, catching sight of the way Gavin looks. It changes his features slightly, turns them softer, almost apologetic. “I—I didn’t think you were keeping it a secret. Or even trying to—”
“I’m not dead.”
“Gavin, do you really think I don’t notice you haven’t aged a day since we met?” he asks. “You look the exact same as you did then as you do now.”
“I just don’t—” he pauses, lets out a small sigh. “I just have good genes.”
“I know about the war. Or the start of one,” Connor says, sitting up straighter. “That’s what I remembered. I know there are creatures out there besides for ghosts. I know you’re one of them.”
He takes a step backwards, reaching for the door. He has to get out of here. He has to run. He didn’t know how he thought he was going to get away with this or for how long but he knows he doesn’t like people to look at him and know what he is.
Vampire. Killer. Monster.
“Gavin, it’s not—”
“I’m not a fucking monster,” he snaps, and he pushes the door open, slams it behind him as he races across the street towards his car.
He is not a monster. He is not a monster. He is not a monster.
Maybe if he repeats it to himself enough times he will believe it.
He finds that he likes to wander through the rooms with a different intent than he had before. Plenty of times he had looked at the old furniture that was left behind, at what knick-knacks and clothing and other items deemed to useless or too big or too unnecessary to bring along with the family that left this place all those years ago.
But now he looks through the halls thinking of what Gavin was like as a child. Before whatever happened to him turned him into whatever he is. Was he happy? He’s said before he’s hated this place, but there are so many possibilities of why he might hate this place.
The reminder of a happy childhood. The reminder of a bad childhood. The reminder of dead siblings or parents or people he was related to that have become like him. Undead.
Connor reaches out and traces the lines carved into the trim around the doorframe of a closet. Little markers of height that disappear around what he would guess would be the height of a preteen. His fingers pass over the indents like they pass over words on the pages and he feels a little voice nudging at the back of his head.
And he can picture whatever child, or children, that used to live here being thirteen and saying they’re too old for their height to be marked anymore. He smiles at the stubbornness of it and it falls at the loss of a half-made tracker. He doesn’t know if it was Gavin. These marks could belong to any other family that used to live here.
But he thinks maybe he would like to pretend that it was Gavin. He would like one piece of this house that feels like it belongs to him, when everything else he knows was owned by the family after the Reeds.
This carved mark, these shallow indents—
They feel like they’re Gavin’s.
His hand pulls away as he takes a step backwards and he feels his foot fall through the floorboards, he feels himself trip backwards, the room spinning away from him as he disappears again.
[ 2055 ]
He has a new plan. Leave the books on the porch, knock on the door, leave. He tries it this time, scurries back to his car even though he thinks Connor is probably watching him from one of the windows. Run away back to the safety of his apartment, never see Connor again. There’s no reason for the two of them to be around one another. This is ridiculous.
And the thought of Connor looking at him again, the picture he has in his head of wide eyes, an apology on his lips—
Gavin doesn’t want to see it.
It’s just a reminder he shouldn’t be here. Alive. He should be dead.
And so should Connor.
[ 2056 ]
He waits in the car for a moment after setting the box down this time. He taps his fingers along the edge of his steering wheel to the beat of the music. Something old and static filled. There isn’t a need to stay. The boxes have made their way into the house somehow. He assumes it’s Connor’s doing, but it could be anyone or anything.
And he would leave right away but—
The feeling in his stomach is growing worse and worse and even being outside of the house, across the street in a car, helps. The nausea slips away a little bit more and more. Even more so if Gavin keeps his eyes on the shape of the door, on the newly added cracks in the windows, the spots where the paint is peeling away worse than it was his previous visit.
He watches as the door opens, as Connor reaches out hesitantly towards the box like it’s on fire and drags it inside. He watches as Connor looks up, eyes landing on the car and he straightens slowly, lifting a hand gently to wave towards Gavin.
It induces a strange feeling. A complete wash of the sickness in him away but a new one coming along with it. One that is almost indescribable but leaves him feeling guilty or shaken and with the extreme feeling of wanting to run.
He just doesn’t know if it’s towards or away.
[ 2057 ]
His plan fucking sucks.
They always do. He knows that they always do. And yet, Gavin always follows through on them because he’s a goddamn idiot.
He walks up to the house, a plastic bag hanging in his hand, heavy with the weight of the few books he was able to find this time. He knocks on the door, waits.
When the door finally opens, he lets out a small sigh and leans against the archway, “I brought you these.”
“You’re done hiding in your car?” Connor asks, reaching across the space between them and taking the bags. Their fingers don’t touch. It’s like Connor is an expert at making sure it won’t happen.
And maybe that’s what draws his attention so heavily towards the fact Connor is not on the staircase or the other side of the room or the opposite side of the street.
But a few feet in front of him, head tilted to the side.
Close enough to grab and kill, if he wasn’t already dead.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Connor says quietly, cutting him off. “That you aren’t human. It’s… nice almost. To have someone who won’t die on me.”
“If you remember the war, then you remember what kind of—of monsters there are,” he says, this intense need to make Connor hate him, to make Connor realize who—what he is dealing with. “I could be a killer, Connor.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“It fucking does—”
“I don’t remember who I was, Gavin, I could be a killer.”
“You—” he lets out a long breath. “You can’t just excuse something because you might’ve also done it. It doesn’t fucking work that way.”
“I don’t care,” Connor replies. “Because I know that sometimes people kill without—”
“What the fuck are you even saying right now?” he asks. “That it’s okay I might’ve killed someone because I’m a monster?”
“Have you killed someone? Or is this just a possibility you’re saying to make me hate you?”
He’s shaking. He doesn’t know why he’s shaking. His fingers are trembling so much he’s glad he’s not still holding the bag but even curling them into fists, even hiding them away in his pockets, is not changing the fact that his fingers won’t stop shaking.
“I’ve gotten close to it.”
“But you haven’t.”
“I didn’t know it would bother you if I brought it up. I’m sorry. But if I don’t think you being whatever it is that you are is what bothers you, it’s me knowing about it. Do you think I’m scared of you now that I know? It’s not like I think you’re going to kill me, Gavin.”
“I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“You’re scared I’m going to think of you differently, aren’t you?” Connor asks, and he takes a step closer, his feet toeing the edge of the doorway. Gavin doesn’t know if he can cross it. For all he knows, Connor is capable of leaving this house completely. He might be the one incapable of leaving. “I don’t. I’ve known since we met. I could… sense it.”
“I don’t want to beg you to stay here with me, Gavin. But I like you. I like your company. I like the books you bring me. You being dead doesn’t change anything.”
Maybe it doesn’t.
But the look on Connor’s face? The closeness of the two of them?
That changes quite a bit.
Because he hadn’t seen Connor this close before. Not in a while, at least. Not since he made the calendar, passed it between the two of them. He was always far away, half hidden in shadows or looking like he was doused in blue ink. But this close together, he can make out the soft pink hues of his face, the deep brown of his eyes, the painful softness of his features.
No, Gavin doesn’t wish Connor was alive anymore. He doesn’t wish that he could fist his hands in his hair and force him to expose his neck. He doesn’t want to bite down and find out what his blood might taste like.
It had been easy before, when they were so far apart to pretend that Connor was just a ghost and that he might even be ugly or just fake, that he didn’t spend the last twenty years of his life completely alone and in desperate want.
“I can’t do this,” he says, and steps backwards, hopes that Connor can’t leave the house. “I can’t—I can’t—”
He doesn’t know what else to add.
Because saying that he can’t allow himself to fall in love with a ghost seems too extreme to shout in the middle of night right now.
[ 2058 ]
He’s testing the limits of how far he can go when it pulls him under. One second, his foot is hanging delicately in the balance between the last step on the porch and the sidewalk and the next his head is being pulled back and a knife is being dragged across his throat.
Connor brings a hand up to his neck, pressing against it, trying to stop the flow of blood as his chest heaves for air. His entire body is trembling. He can feel it disintegrating like it does every night he disappears. Piece by piece, he is losing himself.
Is this it?
Is this how he died?
And now that he knows, he has no purpose here anymore?
What little of him is left grasps onto the wooden railing on the steps, pulling himself shakily back up to the surface, collapsing against the door. He isn’t leaving here. He doesn’t want to be dead. He doesn’t even want to be a ghost but it’s better than going back to the dark abyss which every time—
Every time it gets a little more terrifying.
Every time feels like one more time that he won’t come back.
His breathing steadies—he didn’t even know ghosts could have that problem—and his hands stop shaking. Connor looks out towards the sidewalk, stands again as he takes careful steps towards the end of the porch, lets his feet go down each stair slowly, but quicker than the time before.
When his foot touches the sidewalk, he feels his throat close up, feels the sudden need to breathe hit him like he’s being drowned. He feels the pain fill his body, his hands start to shake again.
No. It wasn’t him finding out how he died. It was him finding out that this is the boundary of his life now.
It’s almost relieving.
Getting drunk as a vampire isn’t necessarily the easiest thing he has ever done, or something he has done often, but tonight he feels the urge to drown his sorrows.
Or, his nausea, really. His head is spinning but it isn’t the comforting spin dulled by liquor, it’s the spin of being seconds from fainting, of hitting his head against the floor and waking up in a cold sweat three hours later.
So he curls up on his couch with his three bottles of vodka and watches whatever the television is able to put on in this broken down world. New shows and movies rarely get made, and he’s seen almost everything that the cable companies had the money to put on.
Still. It’s better than seeing Connor. It’s better than thinking about the fact Connor is a ghost and he’s like a fucking fifteen year old with a crush.
Vampires don’t crush on people. Anyone older than eighteen don’t get crushes on people. It’s absurd.
Except it’s completely true. That infuriates him the most.
Because if Connor was alive, or if he was a creature other than a ghost, maybe something could happen. Or Gavin could entertain the idea of it happening someday.
But Connor is a ghost. And Gavin doubts ghosts are capable of kissing or hugging or anything that Gavin actually wants to do.
It’s ridiculous to want what he can’t have.
[ 2059 ]
A name. A name.
It is so little. It is the tiniest fraction of information. It is a sliver of what he was given before.
But it feels like a lot. It feels like too much for him to bear, because he wants more. He wants so much more and he needs to have it. He needs to remember who he was before, if it aligns with who he is now, even if it will hurt.
Gavin tells himself he came here because he is in desperate need of relief from the sickness. It’s making it difficult to think or do anything other than lay down in his bed for the entirety of the day, which he can’t exactly get away with when people expect him to be out on the streets being a fake detective in this shitty world.
When he see’s Connor’s face in the window, though, he gets out and slams the the car door behind him. He’s well aware of what he came here to do. Cross a line that cannot be undone. Ruin everything.
The door opens before he gets to the bottom step and Connor steps out into the light of the sun as it sets in the distance. The orange glow of it throws off the blueness that seems like its still clinging onto his skin.
“I remembered something,” Connor says, and his words seem rushed, like they’re collapsing into one another even though there aren’t many left to hold the others up. “I remembered my last name. I remember—I don’t remember my family, but I remember my last name. You—You work as a detective or at least—at least you have access to whatever resources are out there, right? You can look me up. You can find out who I was.”
“You want me to do that?” he asks.
There is internet still. Slow and unmoving and limited access. He can’t afford it in his apartment, but he knows there’s a library and he could go there. If he really, absolutely had to, he could venture back into the precinct and use their servers, too.
If it’s really what Connor wants.
“I have to know.”
Gavin nods, slow, short. “Okay. I’ll look you up.”
“G-good,” Connor says with a small smile, stepping back into the house where the blue on him seems to curl around his features again. “Thank you.”
And it feels strangely normal. Like Gavin didn’t disappear for two years. Like he didn’t tell Connor he couldn’t ever come back. Like, even before their last conversation, he hadn’t tried to end things.
And he’s back here and they’re just ignoring it. Maybe that’s for the best. Maybe they shouldn’t try and dissect all the reasons he ran away because otherwise, he’s going to spill about the fact that he’s realized he feels something for him and those feelings are dangerous creatures.
Because he can’t say them anymore. He can’t act on them. Not with the excitement in Connor’s voice, not with his fresh hunger for information about his own self.
“Stern,” Connor says suddenly.
“It’s my last name,” he says. “My name is Connor Stern.”
He doesn’t want to go. He doesn’t want to leave. He folds up into himself at the top of the stairs and squeezes his eyes shut and hopes and wishes and rejects the pull down through the floor as much as he can but still—
[ 2060 ]
Gavin can not share this much information with Connor. It will destroy him. He has to find a way to alter the facts or hide them. He has to find a way not to kill Connor a second time.
Connor waits for Gavin impatiently. He can’t even focus on the books. He switches between five different ones, trying to make the words grab at his eyes, pull him in.
But they keep drifting back to Gavin.
Gavin, who promised to help him. Gavin, who is his only link to the outside world. Gavin—
He stands up suddenly, his feet moving to the window before his mind catches up to the feeling in his stomach. Gavin is here. He watches through the window as the car comes to a stop, as the door opens and closes and he steps out into the street.
Connor reaches a hand up, taps on the glass lightly and Gavin pauses, looking up towards him. From this far away, he can’t make out the details of his face to determine if the smile and wave he’s given is real, but Gavin has never smiled and waved at him before.
Something is wrong.
He walks into the house, wishing like he always does that there was someplace to fucking sit down that isn’t a rotted couch that’s turned into the rat’s home, the broken chairs in the kitchen, or the stairs that are filled with books. It’s not like he grows tired of standing—but he has all this information in the bag on his shoulder and he doesn’t want to say it out loud standing here. It’s a sitting down kind of topic. Like those stupid television shows where they have some big news like they’re pregnant and the other person needs to sit down or they might combust.
“You find anything?” Connor asks from the top of the stairs. He hovers there for a second before starting his slow descent. It’s strange. Gavin has only ever seen him lounging across the steps, never actually walking down them. He’s only seen the ghost stand a few times.
“Not a lot,” he lies, already prepared with this line. “You’re not the first or the only Connor Stern in the world, you might be the last, though.”
“But you found something?”
“Yes,” he says, pulling the file from his bag. He’s carefully crafted it from years of looking at reports like this, at news articles, at essays in his brief attempt to be a college student. There’s enough material he’s edited out to save Connor the devastation of what kind of life he left behind. “I didn’t find a whole lot.”
“I was adopted?” he asks, looking up from the first page.
“When you were three years old.”
“Is—is she still alive? This Amanda?”
“No,” he says, and he’s almost thankful that this isn’t a lie at all. “She died a while ago. Before you started appearing here.”
“When you said not a lot…” Connor trails off, flipping through the pages slowly. “I don’t know. I thought… maybe there was more.”
He hates that there are fifty pages at his house, neatly stacked, carefully stapled, that he paid too much for the ink and spent too much time at the library, and he can’t show any of it to Connor. Gavin knows how he died, he knows the friends he had, he knows—
“I was born on the fifteenth,” he says, the pages in his hands falling to his side. “It’s—The day I wake up is the day I was born.”
“Yeah, I didn’t find when you died.” Gavin says, nodding just barely. The newspaper clipping of Connor’s death is in his room, but he knows if he confirms the date he’ll be asked how, and he doesn’t want to tell Connor that. “The last few years have been hard to find any information on any one. It’s like being in the fucking dark ages.”
“But it’s fair to say the day I died is also the day I disappear.”
“I’d say so.”
“That means I died on your birthday, Gavin.”
He shrugs, because he has to pretend that he doesn’t know that Connor did die on his birthday. He has to pretend that he doesn’t know that the same day Connor died, he was at one of his last few days of work trying to convince his boss that he should have the day off so he could go get drunk and pretend that his life wasn’t as shitty as it was.
“Fifty-four days,” Connor whispers, leaning against the stair railing. “If you count the hours I get on my birthday. And it’s… It’s 2059, right?”
Connor lets out a little whimper, followed by a quick intake of breath, “I’d be almost sixty years old if I was still alive.”
Gavin wants to make a joke. He wants to make Connor feel better and say something stupid like you don’t look a day over thirty! but he can’t. Because Connor is on the verge of crying and saying something like that isn’t going to change the fact Connor died before he could hear everyone teasing him for being forty or fifty. He died before he could grow tired of the people asking why he hasn’t settled down, had children.
And he understands it, too.
He won’t ever get that, either.
Not unless he adopts little vampire children or something equally stupid.
Connor shakes his head quickly, “It’s fine—”
“I know that, I just—” he pauses and looks back up to Gavin. “I don’t remember a first kiss or having sex or being in love at all. I could have had a boyfriend or a girlfriend and I wouldn’t know. I barely remember the face of my best friends. I hardly remember my mother at all. I was adopted—I could have hunted down my biological parents and found them and I will never know if I did or not.”
“But you’re remembering, you might—”
“But maybe it would be easier if I didn’t remember at all,” he says. “If I didn’t know, I would be fine. Blissful ignorance.”
“You wanted me to look you up,” Gavin says, and he doesn’t know why he’s turning this into an argument. “If you didn’t think you could handle it—”
“I thought I would get answers, Gavin,” he says, straightening, stepping forward, shoving the papers into Gavin’s hands. For a brief second, he thinks maybe their fingers touch when he reaches up to grab them. “I thought it would help.”
“Maybe you should have considered—”
“Can you leave?” Connor says quickly, turning towards the stairs. “Just go.”
“I would like to be alone. So, please, just leave.”
And so he does.
[ 2061 ]
He knows he can feel it now. The vibrations in the house. The movement of the floorboards. They pick up on Gavin’s energy, they send it back to him. He knows before the car even comes to a halt that Gavin is here. He knows before the engine shuts off, before the car door opens and closes again, before the sound of feet hit the porch steps.
Connor listens to him knock at the door, and he doesn’t budge.
He suddenly becomes annoyed at the book in his lap. Gifted from Gavin, along with the pages tucked on top of the pile next to him. Still here, even after the year has come and gone.
“Connor, I have something I need to tell you.”
He closes the book, rests it back where it belongs.
“Please open the door. Or tell me I can come in so I don’t have to be one of those freaks that barges in on you like the fucking Hulk or the Kool-Aid man.”
“I don’t recall who they are,” Connor replies automatically.
“Oh, so you are listening.”
He presses his lips together, retreats his way up the stair case to the landing where he will feel safer from Gavin. He feels flammable around him sometimes. Like he is paper and dry twigs and Gavin is a match itching to destroy something.
“Can I come in?”
“You are capable of doing whatever you please, Gavin.”
“Is that a yes? Or are you just fucking with my grammar like an elementary teacher?”
“You can come in.”
The door opens slowly and Gavin steps inside, closing it behind him and leaning against it. He looks tired.
No, not tired.
“I wanted to apologize.”
“Really?” Connor asks, genuinely surprised. Of all the tiny, inconsequential fights they’ve had, Gavin has never apologized for any of it. He’s always adamant that he’s in the right or he passes it along as something else and pretends it never happened to begin with.
“I shouldn’t have just ditched you before,” he says. “And I shouldn’t have judged you for wanting or not wanting to remember who you were before. I don’t—I don’t even have an opinion on it. I can see both sides. But—”
“I like you. A lot. It’s frustrating,” Gavin sighs, stepping forward, kicking his foot at the ground like he wants to kick the bottom step like he’s done before. “But I do. I don’t—I don’t really know what we are. But I’m… protective of you, I guess. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“You were right,” Connor says with a shrug, pulling his legs up to his chest. “I should have considered how I might have reacted to news about my past.”
“I’m sorry,” he says quietly. “That you don’t remember. I can’t—I can’t imagine what it would be like.”
It’s terrible. It’s awful. It’s torture.
How many years have passed between now and then? How many opportunities might he have been given to see his loved ones during these fifty-four days instead of Gavin? If he remembered, would he have allowed himself to see a significant other watch him disappear once a year?
No. He wouldn’t have.
It’s better off that he doesn’t remember them. It’s better off that they don’t know he’s in this house. It would only hurt them more.
“I should go,” Gavin says, taking a step backwards. “I—I have work.”
“Are you sure?”
He pauses and looks back to Connor, like if he said the right thing he could get Gavin to stay, but he doesn’t know what the right thing is.
“I’ll come back when I can. I promise.”
Connor nods, “Okay. I’ll see you then.”
[ 2062 ]
They slip back into a normalcy. They talk about books. Gavin gives very little information on his new finds, and Connor is constantly pressing books in his hands, telling him to use his free time to read them so he doesn’t have to fill his head with spoilers.
Physically, at least.
Connor comes down one step every visit he makes until he’s sitting on the floor at the bottom, a stack of books beside him and his head tilted up towards the door with a small smile. Gavin stands by the door, leans against it, never sits down. But he always wants to.
[ 2063 ]
He watches Gavin take a dozen trips to and from the car carrying wooden boards, setting them down in haphazard piles. He waits until the trunk of the car slams loud enough for him to make out the noise inside the house, watches Gavin take the last trip inside, before he speaks.
“What is this?”
“I’m building you a bookshelf.”
“You’re building me a bookshelf?”
“Two, actually. The fucking stairs are driving me nuts. This place is a god damn disaster, you can at least put your books on a shelf.”
Connor smiles and he watches Gavin roll his eyes, move over to the pile of boards and sit down.
“I stole it from an abandoned Ikea, so don’t think I went out of my way or anything,” he says quietly, pulling the instructions out of his pocket. “And it says we need two people. So, are you going to help?”
“Does a ghost count as a person?”
Gavin looks up, blinks once at Connor.
“Okay. I got it. I’ll help you.”
[ 2064 ]
He wakes up gasping like he always does, a hand on his throat, holding onto the space at his neck where the teeth grazed against his skin before sinking down. He blinks back tears, throws the blankets away from him, stumbles across the apartment until he reaches the door and he can step into the shower, wash the nightmare away.
Connor wakes up every August on the fifteenth. He wakes up a few hours before midnight.
Is it like this? Is it as painful as Gavin waking up?
He should tell him. He should tell Connor everything he knows. He shouldn’t hide things from him.
But he’s absolutely terrified of the outcome.
The rain does its little dance on his windshield, the wipers too slow to keep up with the downpour. Eventually he turns them off, watches the clock as the minutes tick by. A few hours before midnight. They don’t come quick enough.
Connor doesn’t know the exact time. Gavin never pried, never tried to figure out what it was. So, he is forced to wait until the numbers flip from eight to nine and from nine to ten until he gets out of the car and into the rain and makes his run up the stairs towards the house.
He nudges the door open, stepping inside with the strange hurriedness to get out of the wet and dark of the storm and the slowness of not wanting to have this conversation yet.
Connor stands in front of the bookshelves, his head to the side, like he’s reading the titles on the spines, but his eyes look like they are glazed over. Like he’s not quite here.
A quiet hmm in response, but he doesn’t look up.
Gavin walks over to him, wants to reach out and touch his shoulder, make his presence more known but instead he keeps his hands in his pockets. It feels dangerous to touch him. An impossibility. He hates the idea of his hand slipping through air, of turning Connor into a blurred mess. Like dropping food coloring into water.
“Connor?” he asks again.
This time he looks up, towards Gavin. It is like a flood of light and color into the room. The blue of his skin, of his clothing, seems to recede slightly, his eyes shift and become more aware.
“You’re here early this year,” he says.
“I need to talk to you.”
It seems so stupid now. Like he never should have kept it secret. Like it wasn’t worth hiding it for all these years. It has no affect on the two of them.
But it means more than that.
“Today is your birthday,” Gavin says quietly. “And in fifty-something days it’s mine.”
“Gavin, we already know this—”
“I found an article on the day you died,” he says, taking a step backwards. He needs distance, he needs to be a few yards away from Connor when he says this because he will either need it to run or he will need it not to collapse into Connor. “We had a theory, you know, that you died on the seventh.”
“It’s true,” he says. “You did. But… you asked me, before, if I remembered how I died. I do.”
“We died on each other’s birthdays, Connor,” he says quickly, cutting him off. He has to get these words out. As messy and unplanned as they are. “And you never lived in this house, so I think that means something.”
“How long have you known this?” Connor asks, and he doesn’t seem angry, he seems genuinely curious. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
He doesn’t know. He has no idea why. He just didn’t want Connor to know he was dead, and then he didn’t want Connor’s birthday marred by the fact that he died on it. That while Connor was probably celebrating with friends he was fighting off a vampire that was trying to turn him.
Because he was kicking and screaming while Connor was probably laughing.
Because he doesn’t like to think about it.
Because he hates that he is dead.
Because he can’t let Connor know these facts without revealing that he knows how violently Connor was killed, and Connor will want that information.
“I can’t tell you how you died,” Gavin says quietly. “I think—I’m scared that if I tell you, you’re going to disappear. And maybe it’s selfish and maybe we don’t know that for sure, but—I can’t take that risk.”
He takes a step forward and Gavin takes a large one back, hitting the edge of the stairs. Connor pauses, nods almost to himself, with a quiet okay whispered under his breath.
“I’m sorry,” Gavin says quietly. “I’m—”
“Everything is okay with you, isn’t it?” he replies. “Everything is always—”
“I’m already dead.”
“Was it that bad? Was my death that bad?”
He looks away, tries not to remember the pictures of Connor taken before the accident. Of his smile. Of the friends cropped out of them. All underneath the headline of his tragic death.
“I’m not mad at you, Gavin.”
He wishes Connor would be. People are always angry with him. He has spent his life making people angry, forcing them to react to him whether with vile words or clenched fists. He wants Connor to scream, he wants Connor to yell. It’s easier to deal with, then whatever this reaction is.
“I don’t want you to tell me. I don’t want to remember,” Connor says finally. “I—I don’t… I don’t want to be dead. I don’t want to disappear. I want to stay here.”
“Yes,” he replies, stepping forward. “I want to stay here. With you.”
Gavin lets out a small noise and he doesn’t know what it is. It sounds like he’s dying, but he’s already dead. Connor is getting too close to him, he’s getting too far into his space, he’s leaning too far down.
He doesn’t even know if ghosts can kiss. They probably can’t. He had never thought that maybe this was a possibility, he’d always been adamant to himself that it wasn’t. Connor is something he can’t have. Like an expensive piece of clothing or his dream house.
His eyes close and he feels a slight brush against his lips. Cold, like a breeze through and open window.
And then a loud crash.
Gavin opens his eyes, and Connor is stepping backwards, looking towards the room above them.
“I think the ceiling has finally fallen through,” he says, his attention drawn to whatever damage has been done above them.
“This whole place is falling apart,” Gavin says, the words coming out breathlessly like they actually kissed. Like it was more than just a brief thought between them. “You should—you should fix the place up instead of reading.”
Connor smiles and steps around to the stairs, ready to go up and survey the room, “I’ll need help.”
He smiles, but he doesn’t say anything. He needs to leave. He needs to run away. Nothing has changed—nothing. Connor is still a ghost that will likely disappear forever eventually. They probably can’t even kiss and there’s so much more they could have than physical affection but—
He needs it. He needs more than just talking. He needs to be held, he needs to be able to hold onto someone.
And he cannot hold onto Connor.
Every year he gets a little happier that Gavin doesn’t visit on the seventh. That Gavin will never see him drift away.
But today is strange. He suddenly has the urge to know what he looks like when he is taken apart bit by bit and drifting back into the afterlife. He wonders if Gavin were here, if Gavin would let Connor touch him, if Gavin would hold onto him and not let him drift away. If he would try and keep him here, like an anchor.
Maybe that’s all he needs. Maybe he just needs someone to hold onto a piece of him and he’ll stop drifting away.
But Gavin is not here.
So, he slips, he falls, he disappears.
Tomorrowland (All Fall Down) - Leon Else
Here With Me - Susie Suh x Robot Koch
(tbqh, edited with just rainy mood on)
Chapter 3: Omens
“So I'm scared, because you're not just not human, you're not like anyone... there's nobody like you in all the world and it's you I want. I want you and I hate wanting things and I especially hate admitting I want them.”
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black
[ 2065 ]
Connor is tired of falling. This year, the past few weeks, have all brought him the same thing again and again: slipping through the air, tumbling off buildings and bridges. Sometimes he is pushed. Sometimes he trips. Sometimes he wakes without knowing what is happening at all, just that he is in the middle of the air and at some point he will connect with pavement or water or some other terrible surface that will end his life.
He wakes up shaking and cold and feeling like he desperately wants someone to hug him, but Gavin isn’t here and he is all alone. Not that Gavin would hold him anyways. They keep their distance for good reason.
What a silly, stupid mistake it was to try and kiss him.
He is a ghost.
He can hold books. He can hold pens. But those are inanimate objects. They are nothing. Gavin is real. He is alive, or at least undead. He is something other than plastic or paper. He thinks that must mean something. Or maybe he is just terrified of seeing Gavin retreat from him the way he had before.
Gavin brings books like he always does. Armfuls of them, setting the stack down on the floor between them. They are not the soft illustrated covers with carefully typed titles spelling out fantastic tales like Godsgrave and Children of Blood and Bone. Nor are they covers centered around the extravagantly detailed words of First We Were IV or Dark Matter. They are pictures of wooden boards and nails and things saying How to Start Your Home Improvement Project across the page.
“I don’t know anything about repairing this place,” Gavin says, passing one of the dozen he has stolen (if he can call it that) from an abandoned bookstore five blocks from his house. It was a small, quaint place. Owned by a family that disappeared decades ago. He refused to go up into their crammed apartment above it. He didn’t want to see if they vanished because their blood was spilled across walls and floors or if the place was emptied out, that there might be some sliver of hope for them.
“This is a good start,” Connor says, nodding in approval. “We can make plans for what we’d like to do.”
Connor pauses, watching him closely, like he can’t tell what the we meant. Gavin can’t either.
We? It’s Gavin’s old childhood home, but it no longer legally belongs to him, and he hates this place for all it represents of his family.
We? Connor is the one living here, technically. It is his to do as he pleases.
It simultaneously belongs to both of them and neither of them.
“I don’t know how the fuck we’ll find paint,” Gavin says, shifting the topic, not wanting to delve into the we right now. “There’s some stores that still sell it, but it’s fairly expensive. When I lived here, we kept the extra buckets in the basement but who knows what the hell the last owners did with it?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t checked.”
He sighs, sets his book down despite all he had down was open it to the introduction page, “Maybe I can just buy a bunch of wallpaper or little acrylic paint bottles in the craft section at a fucking Wal-Mart.”
Connor smiles, and Gavin watches him hold it back with a hand pressed to his lips, but he laughs anyways.
“I’m sorry. I’m just imaging you standing by a bunch of yarn and knitting needles.”
“And that’s funny?”
“You don’t see the crafty type.”
“And yet you’re helping me.”
Of course he is. Why wouldn’t he?
Because this place is a lost cause.
“Without the house, you might disappear completely. You’re tied to this place, yeah? I’m not gonna let Satan or whoever take you because your home was destroyed.”
Connor’s hand falls, and his smile softens as he leans forward, grabs a book off the stack and trades it out for the copy of an old horror novel he’s had in his lap. “Thank you.”
[ 2066 ]
He doesn’t know how to repair a house. Gavin doesn’t know how to do much of anything at all. He’s a shitty vampire, probably the worst person in the world to choose to be immortal. Anyone else would have been a better choice. A good person.
Maybe that’s a cruel thought, he can’t really tell. He knows how much he hates (loves) the taste of blood and how easy it is to lure someone, how close he can get to killing someone and not even feel guilty because blood is so much sweeter than a life.
He shouldn’t wish that upon Connor.
And yet, he almost does.
Because it would mean Connor was alive.
Undead, half-dead, not fully alive. But not a ghost, either.
They spend every visit Gavin is here ripping down the red wallpaper in the living room. It’s an old, dark burgundy, swirling pattern that resembles vines. Maybe it isn’t ugly, maybe it isn’t the worst thing Connor has ever seen in the world, but exposing the solid white of the walls beneath feels like a place to start.
“Can’t you do any of this on your own?” Gavin asks, peeling off a long strip with a small look of triumph.
“And why don’t you?”
“I like to spend time with you,” Connor says, pausing in his movement, turning to lean against his half-bare wall. “If I do it while you’re gone, that’s one less thing for the house.”
“Really? You like me?”
“Against my better judgement, yes.”
He nods, lets the conversation drift elsewhere. When this house is done, if Connor is still here, if the black doesn’t pull him away forever, Gavin won’t have a reason to come back. He’s come back before without one, but there’s always the possibility that he won’t.
And Connor really doesn’t want him to go.
Even if he’s told Gavin before that he wants him here, even if he’s said it thousands of times, even if Gavin has said the same thing in response, there’s always the feeling of doubt in his stomach.
[ 2067 ]
A plague fills his year, his short time here. Each night he dreams of his last breaths before the illness takes him completely. Sometimes the world is more in focus, with a familiar face at his side still nameless. His mother, holding his hand. His best friend, there beside him, eyebrows knit together with worry.
It’s a different ending every time, but he knows the moment he is in that dream-world that he is sick, he is on his death bed, and everything hurts. But he is never alone. There is always someone with him.
He just wishes he knew their names, because he always wakes with an empty feeling in his chest and the loneliness pressing down on him hard and violent.
He sits at the top of the stairs like he used to be, but this time he is peering down at the darkness of the basement as Gavin descends instead of watching the rat family by the front door.
But here the stairs curve at the bottom, the walls block off what he can see. All he can make out is the sweeping beam of a flashlight, the vague shadows of shelves and Gavin’s body.
Connor could probably go down. But he doesn’t want to. Or he can’t. Or he doesn’t know why, but his feet refuse to move down any of those steps just like it refuses to go up the first floor again. Eventually, he’ll have to deal with this. Eventually, the two of them will make trips with wooden boards and buckets of paints upstairs and he will have to explain why he doesn’t want to be above the solidness of the first floor, where he won’t fall into oblivion.
And Gavin will make a comment like you’re a ghost with fears and how he’s already dead, so it doesn’t matter if the floor breaks out from under him, because he doesn’t have to worry about it ending his life.
But he is terrified, and he is good at pushing off difficult topics of conversation until he is forced to deal with them.
They both are.
He hears a clatter and he tilts his head, calls out, “Are you alright?”
“Are you sure?”
Gavin appears at the bottom of the stairs again, turning the flashlight from Connor’s face to his own, completely unharmed.
Besides the scar across the nose.
“Perfectly fine. See?”
He wonders if Gavin, with the light in his eyes, with the darkness of the rest of the house, can see Connor smiling.
[ 2068 ]
He left two hours ago, but he can feel his stomach spinning with how much it wants to go back. Of course he wants to go back. Of course he wants to see Connor again. This city is a hellhole and even with that house falling apart, even with all the painful memories attached to the walls and the floorboards, he would still prefer to be there with Connor than here by himself.
He could go back. There’s still two days left of Connor’s time before he disappears. He could be there for him up until the last second, but something tells him he doesn’t want to be there when Connor vanishes. That it will be worse seeing him go than just knowing he’s gone.
So he stays, curled up in his blankets, hoping the time between now and August passes quicker than it did last year or the year before.
[ 2069 ]
He feels the pressure of the teeth sinking into his neck, of his eyes pricking with tears, of his hands twitching with the urge to fight off something that isn’t there. Each year, it gets a little less painful, at least physically. Each year, it also gets a little clearer. Gavin can remember that night as if it was yesterday, but it’s different when he relives it.
Seeing his face clearly in the dim light of the bedroom. Feeling the blood at his neck soaking through his shirt, staining the sheets. If that was his apartment, he would have moved out and never returned. That’s the only good thing about what happened. The location of it. He had to purify his apartment of the memory but he didn’t have to move.
Gavin’s eyes open, his hand presses against the side of his throat. The scars disappeared after the first year, but on this day, he is always terrified of getting up and seeing them again. He doesn’t want to see them. He doesn’t want to be reminded of the betrayal.
“Does it hurt?” Gavin asks, the question hidden in the back of his mind for years now. “When you wake up and disappear, does it hurt?”
They sit out on the porch, half empty of the leaves and garbage that has piled up in the corners. The boards still creak, the steps are half rotted away, the metal railing has fallen off on one side. But he still likes it out here. It feels like they could be sitting a few yards away from each other and be watching the sun set somewhere out on a grassy hill or a house that’s not there.
He can see the city in the distance. Far enough that he can pretend it’s the city it used to be forty years ago instead of the city it is now. Or, that it’s the city it will be forty years in the future. Completely empty, not a soul left. There’s a comfort in the idea of the end of the world. No more playing or pretending.
Gavin would absolute hate to be the last one on Earth left alive, but he thinks he might love it, too.
“Disappearing doesn’t hurt,” Connor says quietly. “It’s… more of like falling asleep.”
“And waking up?”
“It hurts less now than it did before.”
He sits up, pulls his jacket a little tighter around his body even though it’s barely windy outside. He just wants to contain himself. A hold to keep him from spilling outwards.
“I…” he trails off, because he doesn’t know if he should say it.
That he wakes up once a year, too. That at the same moment on August 15th, his body relives the memory of dying, of being turned.
And it doesn’t hurt as much now as it used to, either.
Gavin wants to tell him, because he feels like he is finally able to confide in someone, because maybe it will make Connor feel a little less alone to know there is someone that understands him.
But for some reason it feels selfish to say it. Like he’s taking what little Connor has and making it about himself.
“I’m sorry,” he says instead, his voice rough and quiet. He wants to reach out and hold Connor’s hand or maybe just hold Connor because he hates all this pain that a ghost is feeling and he hadn’t considered before, that Connor waking up every year might be painful even though his own is.
And he’s been looking forward to those nights, even with his own agony, and it feels wrong now, knowing this.
Gavin never stays. Not beyond the sixth. He is never here, not for a single second, when it’s the seventh. Connor has wished him happy birthdays every time, to the emptiness of the house. If they were both alive, he would have been able to spend the day with Gavin. If ghosts and werewolves and monsters didn’t exist, maybe they would be together now.
But they do exist. Gavin is some unknown creature, and Connor is a ghost.
So he is grateful that Gavin never stays. Connor doesn’t want him to see him disappear.
[ 2070 ]
They’re doing this out of order, but neither of them seem to care. They tore the wallpaper down in the living room, painted the walls in the kitchen, pulled the furniture out of the ground level of the house, laid on the dust-covered floor with books trying to decide what to do next.
But today, this random day of not doing anything at all, Gavin flips through the pages in the photo-albums left behind. Connor pulls the pictures one by one out of their glass frames, resting them easily in an empty box like a coffin.
“Did you know them?” Connor asks, carefully picking the glass from a frame, dropping it into the can beside him.
“No,” he replies, flipping to the next page.
Two girls, one boy, mother, father. They look happy, but pictures can be so deceiving. He doesn’t want to think of this family like his own. He shouldn’t project his own fucked up life onto another’s, but he remembers smiling and laughing in photos and pretending things were alright. Someone would have called their family happy once, too.
He closes the photo album, sitting up and shoving it away from him, “Maybe they’re alive out there.”
“You think they ran away?”
“A lot of families did. Once it got bad, if they wanted to stay human.”
“Mine didn’t,” Connor says quietly, and then looks up at Gavin with a forced smile. He hadn’t meant to say that. “I just—I don’t remember running away. I don’t think we did.”
“Were you human?” he asks, and it’s a question he has considered since the moment they met. That Connor might not have been human at the end. It’s so difficult to remain human in this world. He hasn’t had human blood since the first year he was turned. Mostly by choice, but in the ten years that followed the only humans were treated like celebrities. They’re guarded with only the trustworthy.
“I don’t remember.”
“Maybe you stayed because you didn’t want to be.”
Connor shrugs, pulling the photograph from the frame, laying it down carefully. They’ve both decided it feels wrong to get rid of these pictures. Box them up, store them in the basement.
“Maybe humans can’t be ghosts,” Connor says quietly. “Maybe that’s why there were so few before.”
“You think there’s more now?”
“I think this whole world is full of ghosts,” he replies. “We just don’t see them.”
[ 2071 ]
“I’ve been wondering,” Connor says, looking up above them towards the second floor. “Which one of these rooms was yours?”
“Why do you want to know?” he asks, following his gaze like the ceiling will suddenly become glass and he could just point to which one was his. “You want to think about me as a teenage boy cheating off my friend’s Chemistry homework?”
“No, not exactly,” he smiles and shakes his head, “I’m just… trying to get a picture in my head. Of you. As a kid.”
“I was a brat.”
“So, not much has changed?”
Gavin scoffs and takes a step away from the stairs, “This isn’t fair, you know. I can’t tease you since you’re a shitty insomniac.”
“Amnesiac,” he says quietly. “But, I actually do remember some bits of my childhood.”
“I was the most perfect child imaginable,” Connor says with a sigh. “I was pretty much an angel. I guess that makes two of us, right? Neither of us have changed.”
“You’re—” he lets out a sharp breath, trying to keep himself from smiling or laughing and failing at it. “Terrible.”
Gavin feels guilty and awful and tired and wrong. One day. It hasn’t even been a full twenty-four hours since Connor would’ve disappeared. And it’s not like they’re together. It isn’t as if this is cheating on him. They aren’t dating. They’re friends, as difficult as it is for Gavin to believe he is capable of having friends.
But it feels wrong. And maybe that’s because when he kisses this other boy or he pulls their clothes off or when they fall into his bed and he’s closing his eyes he’s only thinking of how much he wants this with Connor.
He’s had dreams about the two of them, ones he would suddenly remember at the wrong times and feel his face want to go red with a blush like a human would. Ones he almost feels ashamed about when he’s alone and trying to keep himself quiet with a pillow.
All he wants is Connor and instead all he has is this stranger that he refused to learn the name of because it would ruin trying to think of his hand in the dark brown of Connor’s hair instead of soft blonde. He keeps his face pressed into the curve of his neck so he doesn’t see the light blue-gray of his eyes that he wants to be deep bronze.
Gavin doesn’t know if this is how it would be like with Connor if Connor was alive. If his hands would be soft like the stranger’s are. If they would leave ghostly traces across his skin or if they would leave deep bruises instead.
Or maybe it would be the other way around. Maybe his hands would press so hard into Connor’s hips or he would bruise easily or he would spend as much time making it as soft and tender and lasting as possible instead of the urgency he feels right now.
This is not the first time he’s sought out a stranger to fuck in the middle of the night.
But it’s the first time his thoughts were completely, utterly, focused on Connor.
“Can I stay?” the stranger asks when they’re done, his voice quiet in the dark. “For a little while?”
Gavin nods, turns on his side so that he doesn’t have to look at him. But after a few minutes he reaches back, grabs blindly at the stranger’s wrist, pulls him close so that he can pretend to be held for a little while by Connor.
The stranger is warm and comforting and holds him tight, likely pretending Gavin is someone else just like he is pretending.
And all he can think is:
This is what he can’t have.
[ 2072 ]
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. Connor will be back tomorrow.
It’s early. He’s here before Connor is even here. He walks up the steps into the house, looking around at the darkened rooms. The furniture has all been moved out now. The emptiness almost makes the place look clean, like a normal living room just before a family is ready to bring in their new furniture.
It’s the first time in thirty-something years that he’s been here without Connor being here. Before, when they made the calendar, when he came on the first of every month looking for him, hoping to find him. Then, he had barely wandered around the house. It felt wrong to be here. For the first time, it had felt like it didn’t belong to him.
But now he can’t stop himself from thinking that when he first showed up, he came for closure. Or something. He had never really been able to determine if the thing pulling him here was his past or Connor. He feels like they are tied to one another. Dead on each other’s birthdays. A ghost in his house.
Or something like it.
He holds onto the railing of the stairs, looks up towards the empty hallway where he used to run back and forth as a kid. The stairs, the ones he used to be so careful about creeping up and down as a teenager when he was sneaking out or eavesdropping, creak under his footsteps. His hand brushes along the wall where the photos of the previous owners used to hang, where before that his own used to be.
Gavin makes his way to his room, slow careful steps down the hallway. He pushes the door open, peering in at the empty space. There’s a cheap looking wooden frame, an old mattress, that has replaced where he used to keep his own. To his left, the space has been taken up by a dresser where he used to have a desk. The closet doors are open, half filled with clothes, mostly with empty hangers.
He brushes his hand across the dusty surface of the dresser, stopping half way to draw a large G instead, a C beside it. Like teenagers would carve on a tree. G.R. + C.S. He’s not that big a dork. Or maybe he is, because he leaves it when he steps over to the bed instead of wiping it away.
He sits down on the edge of the bed, wringing his hands together. He doesn’t know why he came here so early. It’s making his anxiety worsen with each second that Connor isn’t here. If he allowed himself to fall asleep or be distracted for at least a few hours, he wouldn’t have this feeling building in his stomach like it is.
There’s a small click, too audible in the quiet of the room. He looks up, the door to the room creaking open slightly. He hadn’t even remembered closing it. He thought he left it wide open.
He stands, crossing the room quickly, pulling the door open the rest of the way.
He doesn’t get an answer, but there’s a creak below him. A shift in the movement of the house. Something is there. Gavin forces himself not to run after it, but he hasn’t seen Connor in almost a year and he thinks it should be reasonable that he’s excited to.
He steps around the corner, half down the steps when he sees Connor walking towards the bottom of the stairs, “Gavin? You’re here?”
And his first thought is to say yes, of course I am, who else would be? or to joke that he has moved in while Connor was gone, that he took over this space and now the upstairs is in perfect condition because he had nearly a year to work on it.
And his mouth opens to say something along those terms, to make this joking and light hearted and he can pretend that a year ago he didn’t sleep with someone and cry after they left because they weren’t Connor, but there are different words that pop out of his mouth.
“I missed you.”
Connor smiles and Gavin takes one step down, holding onto the railing tight. If Connor wasn’t a fucking ghost, he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from kissing him right now.
But they never really tried before, did they? He never got the clarification if ghosts can kiss. Connor had attempted to before and they were interrupted, and the topic was dropped fast like it was on fire because it was better than approaching it again.
“Hold on,” he says, taking the last step off the stairs, the last step towards Connor. “I want—I want to try something.”
If he had a heart, it would be beating fast. A million miles in a split second. If he had blood in his veins, it would have rushed to his face. A brilliant scarlet.
But he is dead. And he can only feel the gentle touch of Gavin’s hand against his skin and he knows that it feels like warmth. Not the fire that he had thought of before. It is not catching onto him, it is not turning him into an uncontrollable blaze. It is just a pleasant warmth.
But their lips when they touch are more than that. More than the soft brush, the barely thought of kiss from before, from years ago. He shouldn’t have let himself get distracted then. He shouldn’t have allowed the two of them to stop.
Because this feels real and maybe Connor doesn’t remember what kissing was like before, maybe he doesn’t even remember if he’s kissed someone before, but this feels right.
Gavin starts to pull away and he lets him, despite the fact his hands are itching to reach up, pull him forward once more. Gavin’s hand brushes across Connor’s face, across his lips, a gentle trace of his jaw.
It’s the first time they’ve touched and it feels like the inside of him is as light as he thought a ghost should be before. A wind could come through this house and he would be carried away. He doesn’t feel the heaviness of breaking through floorboards anymore.
His chest hurts a little, with the soft dull ache that this is the first time he’s been touched since he died. It’s been thirty-four years and this is the first time someone has kissed him or touched his face or is holding on his wrists and his hands like they’re miracles.
“You feel human.”
“I’m not,” is all he can say. Because he isn’t. Of course he isn’t. He’s dead.
“I didn’t think—” Gavin stops himself, and lets out a long breath, like he’s been holding it for far too long.
“That you could kiss me?”
He nods, the smallest bit, with his face turned away, hiding it from Connor’s view. He wants to reach forward and pull him back. More than ever he just wants to force Gavin to look at him, to hold onto him.
They can touch.
He turns back to him suddenly, taking a large step towards him into his space again, pulling Connor down rough and fast and pressing their lips together before Connor can realize what’s happening.
Gavin is holding onto him tight, with a grip fiercer than should be possible to hold onto a ghost and he returns it, because it isn’t the soft gentle, test of a kiss. This one is real. It’s the one that he can tell Gavin was holding back on before.
He tries to grasp onto Gavin’s jacket but his hands can’t hold on that tight to the stupid leather fabric and he opts instead to push it off Gavin’s shoulder, to listen to the sound of it hitting floor so he can fist his hands into the cotton of his t-shirt and pull him closer.
They stumble backwards a few steps, hitting the wall and something about the movement of it or the sound of their bodies makes Gavin pull away suddenly and Connor lets him again even though they’ve wasted thirty years not kissing when they could be.
“I—” Gavin breathes out. “Can you feel this?”
“When we kiss, do you feel anything?”
Gavin’s hand reaches out tentatively to his face, pressing gently against his cheek, “And this?”
He nods and Gavin’s other hand comes to his side, holds onto the very real fabric of his shirt, slips its way underneath, his hand pressing against the skin. Connor nods again before Gavin can ask the question.
“We’re so fucking stupid,” Gavin whispers, and he leans forward to leave a kiss against Connor’s throat before pulling him against his chest, nuzzling his face against the crook of his neck. “We wasted so much fucking time.”
Connor wraps his arms around him, pulls him as tight as he can against his chest. His very real, his very solid chest. He doesn’t know what to say. He feels so quiet, like his mouth has been shut down, like he needs Gavin to carry on for him because all he wants to say is that he loves Gavin, and it’s such a sudden thought that he can’t say it out loud the first time it crosses his mind, like it might be a fluke.
But he doesn’t think it’s a fluke.
Nothing has felt more factual and authentic than those words, than this moment, than being able to hold Gavin with hands that he thought were incapable of doing anything but hold non-living matter.
They probably kiss too much. It’s like he thinks they have to make up for lost time, and he’s certain that they do. He can’t seem to keep his hands off of Connor. The longest he managed was when he left to his car to grab the blanket he keeps in the back seat so he could pretend he’s going to sleep tonight instead of spending it memorizing the feel of Connor’s body against his own.
“Gavin,” he whispers, pushing him a way lightly. “Shouldn’t you sleep? Don’t you need to sleep?”
“I’m a vampire, it’s not necessary.”
“Oh,” Connor says quietly, and the way his face shifts, the small smile that makes it’s way up onto his face, makes Gavin realize that Connor never knew what he was before. He just knew he was immortal, unaging, dead. “And vampires don’t sleep?”
“But it’s not necessary?”
He lets out a little laugh, half real. “No. Of course not.”
“Maybe,” he says, leaning forward to steal another quick kiss from him. “But I don’t—We don’t have a lot of time. I don’t want to waste it sleeping.”
“I’ll still be here when you wake up. I’m not going to leave.”
“I don’t even have a pillow—”
Connor tilts his head to the side, “No?”
“Look,” he says, pressing his hand against Connor’s shoulder, a force to keep the two of them away from each other since he can’t manage it himself. “I’m not going to use you as a pillow or something for six hours while you stay bored out of your mind.”
“Then I guess you’ll have to go home.”
He stands, pulling away from Gavin’s grip, carefully plucking a book from the shelf and settling down against the wall. He assumes the page Connor flips to is a random one, or maybe he’s actually memorized his place, because it doesn’t look as though there’s a marker for where he last was.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Gavin.”
He lets out a sharp breath. Fine. Connor will win.
Gavin stands and makes his way over to him, sinking down into the space beside him, pulling the blanket over his body and resting his head against Connor’s shoulder.
“Is that going to be comfortable?”
No. Absolutely not. He will wake with a sore neck and a back ache but sitting next to Connor, of feeling the strange mix of a warm body but the complete coolness of a ghost’s skin, of hearing the comforting turn of pages while he falls asleep—
There is nothing that sounds better. Certainly not an actual bed or pillows.
“I’ll be fine,” he replies.
He feels Connor press a kiss to the top of his head and he resists the urge to look up, to make sure he can have on last one before he falls asleep and instead he nudges his face against his shoulder, at the soft fabric of his shirt.
“Good night, Gavin.”
He spends far too much time in his apartment, packing up blankets and pillows and clothing because he knows he won’t want to come back here for a while. That it will hurt when he does, either because of some type of fight or because Connor will disappear on him. His apartment will start to be associated with loss again, and he will likely never be able to get over that. Not like last time.
The house didn’t receive as much work on it as it could have. Connor thinks Gavin is obsessed with the fact he feels like a real person, and he gets it, and he doesn’t mind it. Even with the lack of a stomach, he feels the flutter of butterflies. Even with the lack of lungs and a heart, he is breathless and aching.
Gavin is curled up next to his side on an old air mattress that he brought in with him. He fell asleep quicker than Connor had anticipated, with a new book in his hands, laying on his stomach, flipping through the pages slowly.
But he can feel the pull now. To the other place. To the realm where a new way he might’ve died will start up again. Gavin has never been here for them before. Connor has been fortunate in that. Gavin shows up after or leaves just before and he has always wondered how he has managed to get away with it a thousand times.
Or something like it.
He slinks away from the bed, careful not to move too much to wake Gavin. He doesn’t know what his body does in reality when it’s gone. He might disappear entirely and reappear again. He might act out the death, squirming against the feel of someone’s hand on his neck or a knife in his stomach or flailing while he falls from some great height.
Gavin still snores as his feet touch the wood. His chest still does the steady rise and fall as Connor slips around the corner into the kitchen, hiding in the back corner where Gavin won’t see him at first if he were to wake at the wrong time.
His body slumps back against the wall and he blinks once, the granite counter tops and the wooden table gone and replaced with an old alley. He turns his head, just a fraction, and the face of the person is blurred, like a camera focusing in on the texture of the brick walls instead of the shape of a face, as it leans forward to him with teeth barred.
He feels his hand come up, trying to shove the person away but he isn’t fast enough, and their teeth sink into his neck as he grasps onto their shoulders, falling down against the wall. The teeth pull free from his skin, not there to drink his blood, just to rip open a wound deep enough to kill him.
Connor reaches for the wound, pressing hard against it but the blood slips through his fingers and he can feel the sticky coating of it. It doesn’t matter how much he tries to stop the bleed, eventually it will kill him.
This hasn’t happened before. His possibilities have played out over and over again with every weapon imaginable with every person he can think of but he has never, not once, been killed by a supernatural being. Maybe by one if they held a gun or a knife, but never with teeth or claws.
It plays out slowly. It always does when he has to die from blood loss. It always seems to take far longer than it should. He feels his body grow cold, his hand becomes numb and lifeless and too weak to keep holding on and it falls to his side with a small noise in the back of his throat.
And then, as he blinks, he is back in the kitchen again and he has to force himself to draw in a breath and let it out again. Alive. Not alive, but not gone forever. Still a ghost. Still here, on this Earth.
He wakes to the feeling of Connor laying down beside him. He blinks against the tiredness in his eyes, the confusion spinning through his head. When did Connor leave? Why did Connor leave? He’s too tired to ask, too tired to get the words to form quite right and all he manages is Connor’s name mumbled and half lost on his lips.
“Go back to sleep,” Connor says quietly, and his voice is shaking a little, or maybe it isn’t and he’s imagining it.
He buries himself closer against Connor’s chest, desperate for the soft coolness of his body. He falls back asleep to the feeling of Connor pressing a kiss against the top of his head, and another to his forehead, and the last one to his nose. He thinks he might hear something else, too, whispered in the quiet, but he is too delirious and exhausted to make out the words.
this is still too much math for me to handle
Writing / Editing music;
Weak - Eundohee
Adeline - Alt-J
Angel - Koda
Chapter 4: Sacred
“Passion is bright and warm... But passion has a dark side too. It links with fear. Our hearts fill with terror at the thought of harm coming to our loved ones, don't they?”
The Young Elites - Marie Lu
[ 2072 ]
Connor is a strange mix of warm and cold. His body isn’t quite the temperature of a human, but he’s warm because Connor’s personality is warm and bright and he feels a little bit like sunshine when Gavin is holding his hand or resting his head on his shoulder. Warm because Gavin’s own body is slightly cold, always far down on the thermometer of what’s normal.
He wonders if he’s a strange mix, too. Connor can feel him but is it like rubbing fingers over the numb skin after a cavity is filled? Or is it like the buzz in his spine and his bones that Gavin gets when he can smell blood in the air?
He reaches across to pick up Connor’s hand, holding it tight. Not a test to see if Connor can feel pain, but just that he doesn’t want to let him go. They haven’t even had two weeks together yet.
Connor doesn’t say anything. It’s like he knows, like he’s thinking the same thing. They could spend every second of these fifty-four days together and it wouldn’t matter. There are still hundreds of other ones they’ll miss out on.
Gavin will never be able to celebrate a holiday with him. They will never be able to have real birthdays together. They will never be able to leave this house and go on a date. They can kiss. They can touch. That’s all they’ve been given.
And it isn’t as if he wanted to go on dates before, or that he wanted to celebrate something as trivial as Christmas. It isn’t as if he needs this.
But the lack of the possibility of it is soul-crushing.
Connor sighs. It’s such a weird thing to latch onto—the way Gavin says hmm?, the lowness of his voice, the slight tiredness of it that gives it a hoarse edge. He doesn’t know why he likes it so much, but it makes him smile.
“I need to ask you something,” he says quietly, running his fingers up and down the bare skin of his arm. “I need… I need to tell you something.”
“Ask or tell?”
“Tell,” he clarifies. “It’s… it’s not a request.”
“Gavin, I need you to not be here when I disappear.”
Gavin sits up abruptly, looking back at him.
“I know you’re never here when it happens. And I don’t know if this—” he says, reaching out to touch his cheek. “—changes anything. But I can’t have you here. I don’t want you to see me go.”
It’s easier to say than he expected. He waited until the last day to do it because procrastination enforces the event to occur at some point. But he wasn’t expecting how straightforward he could make this. It doesn’t feel like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders but it also has the strange realization that there never was one there to begin with.
“Okay,” Gavin says quietly. “Okay, I won’t be.”
Connor draws him forward, kisses him softly. His heart hurts but it also feels so full and it’s such a strange sensation. They are bittersweet, the two of them. An inevitable end, a sublime middle. He pulls away slightly, his mouth opening, half ready to say thank you and the other half poised to tell Gavin that he loves him.
And instead Gavin is leaning forward and kissing him again, deeper with hands finding their way to his side, pressing him back against the mattress. Connor wants to pause him, wants to tell him both of those things right now, this very second, but when Gavin is kissing him like this it’s easy for his thoughts to get muddled, to want to focus on the fact he can feel everything. The heat of his body, the softness of his lips.
He is real.
“I’m leaving, I’m leaving,” he says, but his hands are still on either side of Connor’s face and he’s still pressing kisses against his lips and Connor doesn’t want him to go. He’s holding onto his shirt as tightly as he can manage, and he knows once Gavin steps back he will have to use every ounce of his willpower not to cry.
He wants nothing more right now than for Gavin to stay.
And he wants nothing more than for Gavin to leave.
He holds on a little tighter even as Gavin breaks their kiss. He wants to bring him back, he wants to push him along. He hates how confusing his insides feel right now, and he wants to blame it on the fact they’ve discovered they can touch, that they’ve kissed hundreds of times in the past fifty days. But he can’t.
Connor has dealt with the extreme back and forth between wanting Gavin here and wanting him gone for the last thirty years. This is nothing new to him, it has only been extraordinarily heightened beyond his control. They can touch, they can touch, they can touch.
“I—” he starts, stops, forces his fingers to uncurl from the fabric. “Thank you. For everything.”
He watches Gavin’s face fall a little more than it already was, the gaze that drops from his eyes to the floor, “The year will go by before you even know it.”
Right. The year to him will feel like mere moments passing along.
Gavin will feel each second, each minute, each hour, as it glides along.
And he realizes that even if his last words to Gavin right now were to be I love you, they would be terribly timed. He would prefer it to be said for the first time just as he showed up. Not when he’s disappearing, not when he’s ushering Gavin out the door, not when they will be followed with nearly an entire year apart.
“I’ll miss you,” he says instead.
Gavin smiles, and it is weak but it is authentic, and he takes a step forward and places another kiss against Connor’s lips. Softer than the ones before. Not urgent. Melancholic.
“I’ll miss you, too,” Gavin answers, and then he turns and he leaves.
Connor sinks to the ground, drawing his knees up to his chest. He can feel the pull of the void behind him. He’s focusing on it too closely now. Before, he wasn’t ignoring it, but he wasn’t thinking about it. But he’s anticipating the strange fall through the floor, the weird sensation of being pushed and pulled. It creeps up on him slowly, the minutes ticking by and it grows like a shadow behind him.
One. Two. Three.
Three. Two. One.
And he is gone.
He gives himself six days to wallow, and then he forces himself back on his feet. When Connor comes back, they will likely repeat this. The inability to let go of one another. The house is still a fucking mess and it’s never going to get put back together if all Gavin wants to do is kiss a ghost.
But there is little he can actually do on his own. He can fix roof in the upstairs bedroom by himself. Maybe not perfectly, maybe not even aesthetically pleasing, but enough to keep the room from being more destroyed than it already is.
It’s a step towards the house being more livable. It’s a step towards time they can spend together without worrying about the pressing issues on their agenda towards the restoration.
It is an excuse to spend more time in a house he used to hate and now he can’t figure out a reason to leave.
[ 2073 ]
Tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow.
His beautiful ghost will be back tomorrow.
He shakes the pain off slowly. It still hurts, but it’s a pain that has centered around his spine, something that seems to move upwards slowly into his shoulder blades before it disappears. The slow descent of the agony has made him more aware of how the rest of his body wakes into this world. A sluggish focus of his gaze at the wall, a listless breath drawn in.
He turns, his thoughts still catching up with him.
“Gavin,” he replies, his mouth forming the name in slow movements. “You’re here again.”
“Of course I’m here,” he says, stepping across the room, reaching out towards him.
Connor pulls away slowly, the sudden thought that his body isn’t quite materialized yet springing into his head. Gavin’s brow furrows and he steps back, his hands coming up to his pockets.
“No, I just—”
“I didn’t mean—”
“I thought that maybe—”
“Gavin,” he says suddenly, louder than he meant to. It makes them both shut up for a second and he feels a nervous laugh bubbling up in the back of his throat. “I love you.”
His face shifts quickly from hurt, confused, to complete shock.
“I love you,” Connor repeats.
“Shit,” he says quietly. “Then why…?”
He gestures vaguely towards Connor’s hand and he forces a weak smile as he outstretches a hand slowly back towards him, taking Gavin’s fingers in a careful grip. He is almost surprised that he can hold his hand. That last year actually happened. That he didn’t dream this up.
He hopes that the touch conveys what he means, because he doesn’t want to say the words out loud. That he was scared. That he is terrified that they’ve finally learned that they can touch each other and be together and it will disappear or that, at any point, Gavin’s hand will slip through his and he will be just a ghost when he feels like he is so much more.
“Okay,” Gavin says quietly, and he tugs Connor a little closer so he can lean up and kiss him. “I love you, too.”
“Did you work on the house while I was gone?” Connor asks. He’s looking around the kitchen more now, at the places where Gavin had repainted the cabinets and scrubbed the dirt from the sink and fridge, where he had replaced the handles on the drawers like any of this actually matters to keeping the integrity of the house. It’s just things to make the place look nicer. They’ve gone past their original idea of keeping the house from collapsing in on them.
“Yeah, is that okay?”
Connor smiles, laughs a little, gives him a look like why wouldn’t it be?
“Why?” he asks. “I thought this was our project?”
“I wanted to spend more time with you instead of…” he gestures vaguely to the windows, the weathered and yellow blinds and curtains replaced with new ones.
He wanted to be here, too. In this house. He wanted to scrub all the memories from the walls so they could replace it with theirs.
“Is that okay?” he repeats, even though he knows from Connor’s expression that it is.
Connor squeezes his fingers and nods, “I mean…”
“Nothing,” he says and laughs. “It’s—It’s stupid.”
“I doubt that.”
“I like…” he shrugs and looks away and Gavin gets the feeling that if he wasn’t a ghost he’d be blushing right now. “I like to watch you work, alright? I like to watch you paint and build furniture.”
“Why do you think, Gavin?” he asks, and when he doesn’t get an answer he shakes his head and leans back towards him to kiss his cheek. “You’re an idiot.”
[ 2074 ]
Chloe. Hank. Amanda. Markus. Simon. Josh. North.
His friends. His family.
He stumbles forward, his hand pressed against his mouth, his knees giving out from underneath him. Names. Names for all of the faces that he’s known for years and years.
And it isn’t just names, he remembers them, too.
He remembers dating Josh in high school and being warned about curfew from his mother when they went out. He remembers breaking up because even though the two of them could be the best of friends it didn’t mean they worked well as a couple. He remembers kissing Josh for the first time outside of a movie theater when the rest of their friends were trying to convince the cashier for a second free refill of their popcorn.
And he remembers running through the streets with North late at night after they left graffiti on the side of a building and laughing and complaining about the blue paint smeared on their palms. He remembers watching North watching Chloe and thinking of how absolutely stupid it is that they weren’t together when their feelings couldn’t be more plainly written.
And he remembers repeating the same thing with Markus and Simon and how foolishly in love people can be with each other and never see it or act on it because of fears hidden deep down and it doesn’t matter that Connor did the same thing over and over again. It didn’t matter that he had done it for thirty years with Gavin.
He remembers going to their wedding. He remembers the two of them talking about adopting children together. He remembers them disappearing, too. Markus randomly on Christmas Eve, Simon two years later.
Gone, because the war was coming and he was grateful they were gone. Them being gone meant they were monsters that had enough self control they got themselves away before they turned on others.
There until the very end.
He remembers so much about her but all he can picture when he closes his eyes is the way red looked smeared across her cheek. He doesn’t remember her death, but he knows she’s dead. He knows he must have witnessed it.
He draws in a shaky breath and wraps his arms around his stomach tight and has never been more thankful that Gavin isn’t here right now. He doesn’t want to be this upset in front of him. He doesn’t want Gavin to see him fall apart like this.
They’re all dead. Or monsters. Everyone he knows and everyone he loves has been destroyed by the outside world. And he isn’t alive. He hasn’t lived these last forty years knowing about them but he’s known about their existence and he’s known of likelihood that they’re dead but—
Knowing them, knowing their history—
It makes everything feel fresh and painful.
Gavin walks into the house with an armload of bags, two boxes stacked and leaning against his chest. He sets them down on a table, the bags on the floor. They’re filled with random things and necessities a house would need for a human. Dish towels and utensils and cheesy Welcome Home signs that he would never put up in his apartment.
But here? Where it feels like he is erasing one bad memory every second he’s with Connor? Turning this from hell to their place? He wants a stupid chalkboard in the kitchen for Connor to leave notes on. He wants a fridge with magnetic frames that hold pictures of them.
He isn’t going to get everything he wants. He never will.
But he can have part of it.
“What’s all that?” Connor asks. “Are you moving in?”
“Yeah,” he replies, settling down on the bed beside him. It’s still the same shitty air mattress he brought here years ago. He has to refill it once a week to keep it from deflating but it’s easier to do that then to try and get a bedframe and a mattress here on his own. Even if Connor likes to watch him build things.
“Shouldn’t vampires be invited in?” Connor asks, setting his book aside. He looks upset. He doesn’t show it in the way a normal human would. His eyes aren’t red rimmed, he doesn’t necessarily carry the same exhaustion the way Gavin would. But his face is twisted into a sadness that he isn’t even trying to cover. “Or at least ask the other resident?”
“Maybe,” he says, and he doesn’t know if he should push this. How much he should make a joke out of all this to see if it makes Connor feel better or if he should outright ask. He doesn’t know the proper method.
He was never good at making people feel better. He was always an expert at making them feel worse.
He leans forward and brushes his hand across Connor’s forehead, rests it against his cheek. Connor’s eyes shift to look at him directly and he bites his lower lip and reaches his arms out like a child wanting to be picked up by their mother.
Gavin leans down and lets Connor embrace him. It’s been too long since he felt this. He almost forgot what it was like.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be here earlier,” he says, quietly, whispering it against his chest. “I was going to.”
“You have work. I understand.”
Still. He feels a little guilty for not being here as quick as he could. He could’ve left work early or broken the speed limits or just said to hell with life and been here before Connor even showed up like he has tried to the last few times.
He doesn’t know if that’s the reason why Connor is upset. He hopes it isn’t, because he doesn’t want it to be his fault.
But he also hopes it does. Because he might be here five hours late but at least he’s here and maybe that will make things feel a little better.
“I love you.”
Connor leaves a kiss against the top of his head and he closes his eyes, “I love you, too.”
“Why did you like Baz so much?” Gavin asks. “He seems like kind of a prick.”
“He reminds me of you.”
“What?” Connor asks, moving across the porch to sit closer to him. “You don’t see it?”
“No. Is it because he’s a vampire? Is that all? We have no other similarities. Or do you think I’m a jerk?”
“You’re not a jerk,” Connor presses a kiss against his shoulder, peers over at the book in Gavin’s hands, “And I didn’t even know you were a vampire at the time I read that.”
“But you thought I was a jerk?”
“I told you, you’re not a jerk. I don’t think Baz is a jerk, either. You’re both… I don’t know. You feel similar to me,” he says, and he wraps his hand around his waist and rests his chin against Gavin’s shoulder. “I don’t know how to explain it.”
“But you like us both.”
“No,” Connor says quietly. “I like him. I love you.”
“It’s an important distinction, Gavin. It took you twenty years to read this, you know. If you’d read it then, maybe you would’ve realized—”
“That I’m a prick?”
Connor kisses the side of his neck, like it will distract Gavin from this ridiculous conversation. And maybe it does, because the two of them fall silent for a moment. Gavin goes back to reading the book, running his fingers along the words, turning the page slowly before pausing abruptly.
“Does that make you Simon?” Gavin asks.
He tenses, stilling at the name. “What?”
“If I’m Baz, does that make you Simon? Because I don’t know what happens at the end of this book, but if it’s not a happy ending—Connor?”
“I-I’m sorry,” he says, pulling away from him. “I just forgot there was a Simon.”
“Are you alright?”
Gavin sets the book down, turns towards Connor so he can reach out to him. The feeling of Gavin’s hand against his neck does help. It shouldn’t. But he is still so touch starved that it feels like a miracle.
“I remembered something,” he says quietly. “Someone from my past. A Simon.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
He contemplates coming up with a lie. Something that will ease Gavin’s mind and maybe leave the two of them unaffected by this. A trivial reason. Like Connor forgot or that he only remembered this the night before.
But he can’t.
“I think…” he trails off and averts his gaze. “I think the reason I’m here is to remember how I died and who I was. I think when I’m… complete again I’ll be gone forever.”
Gavin nods slowly. He understands, maybe. He doesn’t want to—but he does.
Every piece of information that Connor is given is another piece that allows him to leave here. He knows the truth of this, even if it hasn’t been confirmed by some higher power. In the end, he will be gone and Gavin will be alone.
He is no longer happy about remembering a piece of his past. He is regretful and depressed. Each piece is a key that unlocks one of the thousand on a door he doesn’t want to go through.
Connor yearns for the years when he didn’t even know his own name. Life was so much simpler. He barely even liked Gavin then. He didn’t have someone he was abandoning.
“I don’t think I’m anything like Simon,” he says quietly, and he means the both of them. He is not the soft-spoken sweetheart in his reality. He is not the stubborn Chosen One in the book. He leans his head against Gavin’s shoulder and looks towards the road. He forces a slight cheerful tone into his voice, hoping he can get them back to the happiness they had before. “You’re most certainly like Baz, though.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
He reaches out to Gavin’s hold and threads their fingers together, drawing it up to his lips so he can leave a kiss on the back of his hand.
In six days he’ll be gone. He doesn’t want to spend them dwelling on the terrible fact that he’s going to disappear. He wants to cleanse all the terrible thoughts from their brains and leave them with only the good.
[ 2075 ]
He appears in a different part of the house every time. Once, he woke up in the upstairs bedroom staring out the window at the street. Another time, he was laying down on the floor of the kitchen. And, plenty of nights, he has woken standing completely still in the middle of the living room.
Today, he wakes in utter darkness. He sits up, searching the space, scrambling to his feet, hands outstretched and trying to grasp onto something solid.
Connor doesn’t remember much of the darkness he rests in during the in between here and there, but he knows this is already different. His body has a weight to it. His feet are planted on solid ground. He wouldn’t describe the other place as floating along, because he doesn’t even believe he is tied to something that can float. It’s more like a handful of dirt tossed into a stream. Just drifting as separate particles with a cohesive thought.
He fumbles through the darkness, his throat constricting with each second he doesn’t touch a wall or the edge of a shelf. He wants to yell for help in some hopes that maybe Gavin will hear him and help him. He feels like he’s buried deep beneath the surface of the earth.
He has to be in the basement, but he didn’t think the open space was this wide down here. He can’t touch anything. The fear inside of his stomach is coiling tight and he’s heaving in gulps of air like he’s going to suffocate. If he had a heartbeat, he knows it would be hammering against his chest like a bird in a cage.
Help. Help. Help me.
He can’t get it out. He can’t get his throat to work. He’s crying too much to make any words sound out as anything other than a slurred mumble.
Something touches his hand and he instantly recoils, stumbling backwards away from it before he remembers he was searching for something to grab onto. His first thought was just that it was something attacking him. Something violent.
He hits the wall behind him hard in his fall, and he tries to catch himself against the flat brick of the wall and he slams against the edge of a shelf. He hears something rattling and his hand presses down hard against whatever it’s holding onto to keep him from falling, but he realizes too late that it’s the edge of a cardboard box and it slips off the shelf underneath the pressure of his weight and his urgency and its contents clatter against the floor in a loud crash of glass against cement.
He doesn’t remember falling back to the floor, but his body is sunk down on the ground, trembling too much to stand back up and he keeps himself as curled up as he can in the hopes that the shaking will stop but it doesn’t it just keeps—
He blinks against the darkness, searching as best as he can for Gavin but he can’t make out his figure at all, just the dimmest of lights in the corner farthest from him. He tries to get his mouth to move, to say something out loud but he can’t.
Gavin. Gavin. Gavin.
“Connor,” he says again, but it is louder this time and terrified and Connor jolts back when he feels a hand touch his shoulder. “Connor, it’s me—”
He blinks again, his hand reaching forward, feeling blindly for his shoulder, for anything in front of him. His fingers touch the smooth fabric of the leather jacket, trace upwards in the start of a slow arc before he’s trying too quickly to touch Gavin’s face but instead all he manages is to graze his lips, hit the side his nose.
“Don’t worry,” Gavin says quietly, and he feels arms around him heaving him upwards and he’s still blinking, still trying his absolute hardest to make out some shape of a human being. Gavin is shushing him, telling him it’s going to be okay and he doesn’t realize until Gavin says it for the fifth time that he’s still crying.
He stops trying to make words. Instead he presses his face against the crook of Gavin’s shoulder and tries to stifle the sobs as they go upwards. When he feels Gavin set him down, he opens his eyes again, starring up at the newly painted ceiling of the living room.
“I c-couldn’t see,” he says, and he turns towards Gavin and even though he doesn’t want to be seen crying, doesn’t want Gavin to see this kind of fear on him, he needs to look at something other than a ceiling or floorboards or blankets. “Gavin, I—”
“It’s okay,” he says, and he’s leaning over Connor, pressing his lips against his forehead. “You’re okay.”
It’s so absolutely stupid and wrong and such a lie that he doesn’t even know how Gavin manages to say it so calmly and so honestly. Neither of them are okay. Both of them are dead. Both of them have been killed. They are both traumatized by everything.
They are not okay.
Gavin’s fingers wrap around his own, squeezing them tight and keeping them still. It doesn’t stop the tremors, but it keeps them at bay slightly. They don’t have control over his movements, instead they are like tiny earthquakes inside his bones.
“I love you.”
He opens his mouth to say it back but his tongue won’t form the words again. He can’t stop crying and it’s so stupid because he’s not in the basement anymore—he’s up here. He’s alive. He’s not—
He’s not alive.
But he’s here.
He thinks the look on Gavin’s face says enough for the both of them and he closes his eyes in an effort to blink away more tears but it only makes them come a little quicker. Gavin’s grip on his hand disappears, brushes them away slowly as they roll down his cheeks.
He needs something else. He needs to think of something else. He open his eyes and sits up, reaching out towards Gavin as he moved backwards to give them the space to straddle his lap.
“I need you to distract me,” he whispers, and he holds Gavin’s face in his hands and leans forward to kiss him. He feels Gavin hesitate against him, the hands at his side holding onto him but in a way different from how they usually do. They’re just resting against his body, they aren’t pulling him forward, they aren’t trying to find their way underneath fabric and touch skin. Just there.
And then Gavin is pushing him away, gently, turning his head so the kiss breaks.
“Gavin, I just need…” he trails off, because he doesn’t want to say it. Because he doesn’t even really know yet if sex is possible and because he hates the way the words would sound by him begging Gavin for it and he doesn’t want to be reduced to that.
He can tell that Gavin doesn’t want to say no to him. Maybe that makes it worse. Maybe it’s worse that Gavin wouldn’t mind it or that if Connor really pressed he could get what he wants but this, this is not the way it should be. He can see Gavin’s mouth pressed into a thin line. Want. Don’t want.
“I love you,” Gavin repeats, turning back to him, pressing a kiss against his neck. It softens the blow. “But this isn’t…”
This isn’t how he wants their first time to be. If they get a first time. If they can have a first time.
It feels weird to him. That Gavin is the one that cares so much about this. He feels like it should be the other way around. That Connor should be telling him no, to be struggling for words to say that he isn’t ready, or like a teenager wanting it to be perfect like he’s a virgin or something and that the word virgin means absolutely anything, especially now that he knows he isn’t one at all.
“Okay,” he settles on the word slowly. Okay. Okay. Okay.
Because he is supposed to be okay now that he is out of the darkness of the basement and in the dim lighting of the living room.
Gavin leans back against the bed, laying flat against it and reaching out towards Connor’s arms, pulling him down with him. It takes a moment to get comfortable, for Connor to move so that the can properly hide his face against Gavin’s chest.
“Do ghosts sleep?” he asks.
“Why do you ask?”
“Sometimes,” Gavin starts, pauses to let out a sigh. “Sometimes when I’m upset, it’s just… easier to sleep it away.”
Right. Cover problems with layers and layers of dreams. Connor hadn’t considered that before—that he wasn’t sleeping, that he didn’t get those few hours of a rest from the world, but he hadn’t wanted them either. He didn’t want anything that took away from his time here.
“I never tried,” he says quietly, but now that he thinks of it he can feel a little spike of fear in his stomach. “I… I think it might make me disappear, if I sleep. I think I have to be conscious when I’m here.”
Gavin’s fingers make trails up and down his shoulder, pause for a moment, “But you can rest, can’t you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Close your eyes. Think of something else. Don’t fall asleep.”
Close your eyes.
Think of something else.
Don’t fall asleep.
He says it like it’s simple.
Connor sighs and nods, “I’ll try.”
He closes his eyes and tries to think of something else and tries to stay awake.
His thoughts wander to something other than all of the pressing matters. The way Gavin’s body feels against his. The way he can hear the quiet, barely beating heart underneath his chest. The feeling of the wind drifting through the house. The people’s faces he’s remembered.
His eyes open.
He looks up to Gavin, kisses his jaw. This is the only person he has left. He wishes Gavin was all he remembered. It would be a less painful experience then.
“I love you, too,” he says quietly, now that he’s able to say it without stuttering the words out, now that he can make sure they sound like he means them.
Gavin smiles softly and the hand at his back moves once more, tracing out letters against Connor’s shoulder as he closes his eyes again, switches tactics from thinking of where he is and his past and instead to something else entirely. Every character and every story from every book he’s read like he’s replaying a film over again.
The words at his shoulder slip away from him. He can’t keep track of what letters are being drawn there, just that they’re in a large cursive. All he catches is love.
[ 2076 ]
“Can you feel this?” Gavin asks, and there’s a hand slipping underneath his shirt, moving across his side and resting against his stomach. It sends a little shiver up his spine and he arches backwards against Gavin. He wants more.
“I already told you I can—”
“It’s a new year,” he says, and his voice is lower, quiet against Connor’s ear and that makes something in his stomach stir. “Anything could change.”
Of course, anything could change. Anything is possible. Every time he disappears and comes back he feels like a little part of his past has been filled in, mostly in bits the size of a grain of salt but sometimes large chunks that leave him miserable for weeks.
But his body? He thinks it has stayed the same the entire time. He’s just grown more accustomed to the feel of the house and the way it reacts to things like the couch moving across the floor or Gavin coming up the front steps.
“What about this?” he asks and brushes his lips across the bare skin of Connor’s neck and feels the soft press of teeth, the threat of a bite. He wonders what would happen if Gavin let it happen. If he’d bleed. If his blood wouldn’t be red, like a human’s should be. Maybe it would spill blue or silver.
Connor turns his attention from the book, closing it and pushing it away from him.
“I think,” he says as Gavin pulls away and he turns over to face him. “The question isn’t whether or not I can feel you, it’s whether you can feel me.”
He reaches up and draws his finger across Gavin’s jawline, watching his face for an answer. His lip quirks a little into a half smile but it disappears as his finger comes down, a neat line down the center of his throat. Connor leans forward and kisses him slowly, can feel the nerves in his stomach tightening as his hand trails further and further down. It stops at his waist, feeling along the strip of bare skin from where Gavin’s shirt rides up. He pushes it up further, his fingers brushing up against his side slowly, stopping at his ribs, following the line of them to the center of his chest where his heart lies. Connor presses his hand in a flat palm against it, like he could reach through and grab it.
He pulls away, “You can feel this?”
He moves his hand down lower, feeling along his abdomen, the muscles that he can never tell if Gavin works out to keep or if he doesn’t need to now that he’s a vampire. He doesn’t know enough about vampirism, he doesn’t want to ask Gavin about it either. He prefers to pretend they are human when they are together.
Except now, when he gets an excuse to touch him in their test of boundaries.
“And…” he trails off as his hand dips beneath the waistband of Gavin’s pants and he’s stupidly happy that Gavin brought sweatpants to sleep in and has changed out of those stupid jeans.
He presses his palm against him and his breath catches, “Connor—”
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he says.
Gavin’s hand comes up to the side of his face and draws him forward back into a kiss. Connor’s fingers wrap around Gavin’s dick and he feels him grow harder against his touch. He strokes him slowly, eliciting a small noise from Gavin against his mouth and the kiss breaks.
He wants him to make that noise again.
“Con—” he stops himself, bites his lower lip as Connor’s hand moves a little quicker. “Fuck.”
He wonders how often Gavin has fantasized about this. About Connor with his hand down his pants, or the other way around. If Gavin has ever had dreams about Connor like this.
Connor has. Hundreds and hundreds of times. He’s always though about how it would feel if Gavin pushed his legs open and pressed his way inside or how Gavin might look laid out beneath him like this, with his teeth biting his lower lip and a stream of fuck and Connor mixed with moans.
He wonders if Gavin thinks they’re idiots now, like he thought they were idiots for waiting so long to kiss because they were terrified they wouldn’t be able to. Connor has climaxed to the feeling of his own hand on himself but he’s been too scared to push the boundaries this far.
“Connor, I—” Gavin breaks himself off, his hips bucking upwards into his hand as he cums. Connor moves his hand along Gavin’s length, feeling the semen coat his fingers.
“Fucking hell, Connor.”
He decides he likes the way his name sounds like that. Breathless and lost and like it’s the only answer to anything.
Connor sits up, pulling his hand back from his waistband. He looks to his fingers, slick with cum and he leans forward, licking a trail of it from his palm. It doesn’t taste like anything. Gavin’s lips don’t taste like anything, either. He doesn’t have working taste buds. He can feel the softness of his skin and the harshness of teeth but he can’t taste anything.
“You’re gonna fucking kill me.”
He laughs and stands, walking towards the kitchen and pulling a towel from the drawers to clean his hand off with. He feels Gavin’s arm wrap around his waist and his lips against his neck and his shoulder. He’s terrified that one of these days he’s going to recline backwards and slip right through his body and into that other world or maybe he’ll just stumble backwards and he’ll be as incorporeal as a ghost should be.
Gavin’s hands move towards his waistband and Connor turns quickly. He’s pushed back against the counter and Gavin leans forward, leaving kisses against his throat.
“Gavin, I don’t think—”
He doesn’t think it’s the same. That this works both ways. Or he’s just too scared to try it. He’s terrified of what will happen if they realize it doesn’t work this way.
“You won’t know unless you try,” Gavin says and the way his lips move against his throat makes Connor bite his lip. He’s at a loss for words, because Gavin is right. But—
He stumbles and stutters and can’t find a beginning to his sentence, he can only press his hands against Gavin’s shoulder and try to separate the two of them.
“Connor,” Gavin says quietly, moving backwards. “Do you want this?”
“Yes,” he breathes. Yes, he has wanted this for decades but it’s—
“Do you want this now?” Gavin corrects.
Yes. In an abstract sense. In the case that he knows it won’t end in the two of them embarrassed and realizing Connor is just a ghost and that sex with him makes absolutely no sense if he thinks of this logically.
But they can kiss.
And ghosts shouldn’t even exist at all. Vampires shouldn’t even exist at all. None of this makes sense but he’s stuck on the one fact, the one fear that this won’t work.
“No,” he settles on. He isn’t ready, which he thinks is stupid because a year ago he was. Or maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was just traumatized.
“Okay,” Gavin whispers, and he kisses him quickly and pulls away. “I’m going to change my clothes, alright?”
Connor nods numbly and watches him walk away and sighs.
It doesn’t stop. The deaths from the other creatures. His head spins with all the possibilities of how he might’ve died by their hands. A vampire draining him until he’s dead. Two werewolves tearing him apart. Three sirens luring him to his death. Even ghosts finding their ways to kill him.
None of them are right. None of them are ever right. The pain of living all these possibilities is unbearable on its own, but each one brings him closer to finding out the truth.
But each one means he has one more day to live.
[ 2077 ]
“I think you confuse me, Gavin,” Connor says quietly. He’s on the opposite side of the room, a stack of books separating them in their move of the shelves from one side of the room to the next.
“Where the fuck did this come from?”
Connor holds up a book, the cover black and white and red. Not slow enough for Gavin to see it clearly or even understand what Connor means by it, “Vampires in books always have something that happens to them during the day. And I know you’re a vampire, and I don’t think you’d lie to me, but you confuse me. I remember vampires from before. They were only out at night.”
“That’s what you think.”
“If you want to ask me about daylight, just ask me.”
“Why aren’t you affected by the sun?”
“Because it doesn’t work that way,” he says, sitting up straighter to try and peer over the wall dividing the two of them, up on the bed he can make out the top of Connor’s head, the way his nose is scrunched a little as a cloud of dust settles around him. “You’re a ghost and we can touch and you can interact things. You think vampires abide by every rule they’ve been given?”
“No, but sunlight is a repeated part—it’s always there. They sparkle or they burn or they get agitated.”
“I do get agitated.”
“By the sun or by people?”
“Both,” he says. “Except you.”
“I think we could argue I’m not a person at all so I shouldn’t be grouped in the people category, but thank you for the clarification.”
He smiles and leans back against his hand again. “It’s like… a sun burn. Like a really bad sunburn. It’s not a pain that lasts or is really all that bad. Or it’s like someone is annoying me.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It doesn’t bother me after I feed. I get a few weeks and then it starts to get worse. It starts out like someone pissing you off and then grows more physical. It’s never gotten to the point of bursting into flame.”
“Have you seen that happen?”
“Once,” he turns away from Connor and sighs, “It was before we knew a lot about vampires. And people are fucked so they liked to experiment. They caged one of them up and left him and then when he was just about to die they let him go in the middle of a street. He…”
Gavin trails off. Their conversation doesn’t pick back up. He wonders if Connor remembers it. It was a viral video. They’d recorded the vampire’s two minutes as he rampaged through the streets and killed three people before the sun finally managed to make a flame appear on his skin.
He covers his eyes and presses the heels of his palms down, trying to get rid of the image of it. Of the fire that started at his shoulder, of the way it traveled across his clothes and his skin like they were paper. Not a normal fire. Not a natural flame.
Maybe the sun is a supernatural creature, too.
“I—” Connor cuts himself off and he sits back up again, pulling his hands away to look at him. Connor’s lost his train of thought, has realized there’s no right thing to say right now. Sorry you had to witness that seems so trivial when it comes down to murder. “I love you, that’s all.”
He smiles and lets out a little laugh that is broken. The words don’t change anything. There were still vampires and other creatures that were relentlessly tested on and killed before, during, after the war.
But they ease things along a little. A reminder that he isn’t a monster. That he is in a place where he won’t be chained up and starved for weeks at a time. That he is lovable. That he is loved. That even with all the shitty things that has happened to him he still has Connor.
Maybe that’s why he never tried to be with anyone else. He was only a vampire for a few years before Connor arrived here. It wasn’t enough time for him to try (or care about) dating, and then a ghost appeared in this house and he couldn’t let go, or even hope to find someone that he could explain his relationship with Connor properly.
And now they’re together, and he doesn’t know if he should be grateful that he never dated for thirty years. There were no other boys that he was ruining because he was in love with a phantom.
“I don’t know if you realize this,” Gavin says quietly, and he sits up completely to look over at Connor, his head tilted, his gaze only half focusing on his task. “But I love you, too.”
More than he will ever know.
It is impossible to show Connor how much he loves him. It is impossible to put it into words. He could try and he would fail and he would rather spend every night telling him over and over again than completely and improperly let him know.
[ 2078 ]
Connor feels a piece of his brain unlocking something. He feels the edge of a memory pressing in on him and he can feel himself heaving it away violently. It isn’t like before. It isn’t the same as the knowledge just being given to him it. It’s a slow nudge, or like he can see it approaching from the distance. He makes out the features of a face and he pushes back and can feel himself screaming and thrashing and shoving as hard as he can.
He doesn’t want this. He doesn’t want to remember this.
He can hear Gavin’s voice but he can’t be here, he can’t—
Gavin’s racing across the room, the door barely open, the screams echoing through room. He trips against the side of the stupid fucking air mattress and his shoulder clips the wall in a painful jolt as he stumbles into the kitchen.
Connor is standing by the sink. Like he’s doing dishes. But he’s—
Unwoven. It’s the only way to describe it. Like he’s being sucked through a vortex. Like he was never quite here and he’s being taken away strand by strand. They’re faint and blue and silver and dull like a thread on the hem of a shirt being undone.
He doesn’t want this information, he doesn’t want any of it. He can feel his insides being pulled apart and it isn’t the peaceful fall through the earth like it usually is. It’s as painful as the first time he woke up here. As if something is ripping him open and sewing him back together at the same time.
He can feel each part of him leaving Gavin behind and he can’t fight it and he can’t stop it and he doesn’t even know if he wants to. The black is so peaceful and quiet. There is no pain there. There is no memory forcing its way into his head.
But he is leaving Gavin behind.
He’s abandoning him.
And he cares. He cares, he cares, he cares.
But he cannot be here right now. He cannot be in reality and be given that memory. He doesn’t know how to make sense of it. He doesn’t want to. He just wants to be nothing for a little while. Some dirt particles floating in a stream.
He watches the woman from his car. She brushes her hair behind her ear as she pauses at a crosswalk, the red light glaring back at her after pressing down on one of the buttons. Casual. Precise. Her life is going according to whatever plan she has concocted.
Gavin could kill her. It would be so easy. He hasn’t tested the limits of his vampirism, but he knows that he’s stronger and he knows that he’s faster. He could chase her. And he wants to.
Connor isn’t here anymore. Everything is bleak and terrible and worse than it has ever been without him.
She turns slowly, like she can feel his eyes on her. She stares towards his car, her mouth opening slightly. A scream? He doesn’t know. She looks away quickly when she realizes he is, in fact, watching her, too. She starts across the road seconds before the light turns green.
It would be so easy.
Connor is dead. He might not come back again.
And it is all her fault.
heyo! I apologize for disappearing for a few days sdfgkl I planned for this fic to be done on the 7th but I underestimated how long these chapters keep ending up.
writing / editing music;
Adeline - Alt-J
Le Vent Nous Portera - Sophie Hunger
Lung - Vancouver Sleep Clinic
If You Want Love - NF (instrumental)
Chapter 5: Torrent
“Would I like to run free through life, have friends, fall in love, feel the sun on my face? Yes. But that is no longer an option for me; there is no point in dwelling on and torturing myself over it.”
The Girl in 6E - A.R. Torre
[ 2079 ]
Connor feels like he has been tossed over the side of a volcano. The pain in his back has returned, worse than even the first time he woke up. Whatever force out there that has let him come and go from the real world to the void, it has taken its revenge for his utter refusal to remember that night in its entirety.
He wakes up gasping and holding onto his throat, trying to keep the screams at bay. Before, the pain was completely gone by the time he could focus on his surroundings, by the time he could get a proper hold on his body. But this time it lingers. He can feel it clinging onto him.
This is what you get.
This is what you deserve.
He left Gavin. He refused to remember.
They are both equally being dealt damage for.
He hears the floorboards creak above him. One second, he is staring at the book in his hands, trying to make himself focus on the words instead of the empty feel in the house and whether Connor will be here, and the next there is a loud noise of footsteps above him.
Gavin tosses the book to his side, fumbles his way up the stairs as quick as he can. He finds Connor in the hallway, leaning between two doors.
Connor blinks, his gaze leaving the floor to search his face, “Gavin?”
“You’re here. You’re—”
He stops himself. Alive. It’s been too many years for him to still slip back and forth of calling Connor alive. But he doesn’t know what other term to use. Here. He is here. And that’s all Gavin ever gets. Connor being here.
He doesn’t try to find words. He gives up on them. They have failed him far too many times for him to continue his attempts. He crosses the hallway quickly, drags Connor down into a kiss and holds onto him as tight as he can manage. Eventually he’ll have to let go. Eventually the two of them will have to part and continue about their days like a normal human or a normal vampire or a normal ghost would.
But right now—
Gavin will not let go.
His hands press up underneath his shirt, tugs at it until he can finally get the two of them to break their kiss long enough for him to pull it up over Connor’s head and toss it aside. He quickly does the same with his own, expecting that when the fabric hits the ground that something will happen. Like Connor’s shirt will magically reappear because he’s a ghost and he shouldn’t be able to shed the layers of his clothes like that.
But it doesn’t happen. And Connor leans back down again and kisses him, pressing him against the wall as their hands wander. Connor’s undo his belt, slip past the waistband like it has too many times for them still not to try anything else. He leans into the touch, lets a little moan separate their kiss again.
“Connor,” he says quietly, and he pushes him backwards, hitting the other wall of the hallway. “I need—”
“Okay,” Connor says, breaking him off. “Okay.”
He moves his hands from Connor’s waist to his jeans, undoing the button, rushing too fast to push them down. Too many years. He hates how afraid the two of them are of things like this. They waste so much fucking time.
Connor kicks his pants the rest of the way off, shedding his shoes and socks with it. His arms come up around his chest, like he’s trying to shield himself. It’s—
Thinking of how many years they’ve been together. How many times Connor has had his hand down Gavin’s pants, how many times Gavin has shed his shirt from sweating too much while working around the house, that Connor’s mouth has been around his cock, that he has dressed in the middle of the room in front of him, and yet this is the first time Gavin’s ever seen Connor naked.
“Do you want this?” Gavin asks, and he corrects himself quickly, echoing his question from before. “Do you want this now?”
“Okay,” he says, and kisses the side of his neck. “You can tell me if you want to stop. I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want.”
“Good,” he replies, bringing him back down for a kiss. He reaches as gently, as tentatively as Connor had done for him, wrapping his fingers slowly around Connor’s shaft, careful strokes that still elicit little noises from Connor. He feels his stomach tighten in response.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Always. Wasting. Time.
Connor pulls back slightly, “Gavin—”
“Do you want—”
“I want you,” he says, and he looks like he’s about to say more but he has the same look on his face that he gets whenever Gavin thinks he’d be flushed red with embarrassment if he could. If he was human.
“You want me to what?”
“You’re going to make me say it?” Connor asks. “You want me to beg?”
Yes. Fuck. He would love to hear Connor beg for him. To see him reduced to a mess with a whine in his voice, his eyes big. He’s had plenty of nights where he’s relived that fantasy—Connor with his arms tied behind his back, unable to touch himself, wanting and begging and pleading for Gavin to do it for him.
He doesn’t have time for that right now. He doesn’t care about indulging in that version of events.
“Maybe next time,” Gavin replies, his voice low. His hand moves from Connor to his waist, pushing his pants down the rest of the way, kicking them off in a mirror image of Connor moments before. They match now. Naked and half-cold from the empty hallway, the breeze coming through the still broken window at the end.
Gavin returns his hands to Connor’s hips, dragging them down to his thighs. God. His fucking thighs. Everything about Connor is perfect and his body only seems to ever keep that idea going. He grips onto his skin there, lifting him upwards. Connor’s legs wrap around his waist quickly, his hands circling his neck, holding onto him tight like Gavin might drop him.
And he won’t.
Connor is light. He noticed when he carried him out of the basement. He weighs next to nothing—and maybe that should be expected. Connor is a ghost. But he also knows it can’t be entirely contributed to that factor, either. He’s picked up furniture. He’s picked up other people. He knows he’s strong. He has the muscles to prove it. He had the muscles before he even died, they’re just more now. Vampire blood in his veins, heightening everything it can.
He holds him with one hand as best as he can manage, guides himself into Connor before pushing into him slowly. He relishes in the sounds that Connor makes. Half held back and half not. They start off muted before the pleasure builds up too much for him to keep it clamped down and controlled.
Fucking seven years. Seven years he hasn’t been with another person but Connor. Seven years he hasn’t had sex. The last person he slept with was a pretty blonde boy that was too nice to him and he refused to learn the name of.
And now Connor has his head tilted back, his teeth closed over his lip and Gavin’s going to lose his fucking mind.
He leans forward, pressing Connor against the wall harder, his head resting on his shoulder, teeth half barred and ready to bite. It’s difficult to keep himself in control like this. When everything is unwinding into a big mess of desire and want.
“I fucking love you,” he manages, and doesn’t add onto it.
Because he’s about to say don’t ever leave me again. But Connor is going to leave him again. He’s going to leave him in fifty-four days. He’s going to come back next year and do the exact same thing. It’s an endless cycle until one day Connor is going to be gone forever. And there is absolutely nothing either of them can do about it.
“How long was I gone for?” Connor asks, because he hadn’t really considered it before. He knew Gavin witnessed his disappearance. He could hear him, even if it was too confusing to tell if the voice came from the present or the past.
Gavin sighs and turns his head so he can bury it further against the crook of his neck, like he wants to smother the answer there, like it will suffocate the facts and leave something more pleasant behind, “A year.”
Only a year. He could’ve been gone for so much longer. Five or ten or eighty. He could have lost a century. But it’s only a year.
But an entire year. The longest the two of them have ever been apart. Connor hadn’t realized until Gavin said a year that he had hoped for a day. Two days. Or maybe that he would mess up the entire cycle. Wake up on the seventh of October and stay for those three hundred days he always misses out on.
“I thought I lost you,” Gavin says quietly. “I thought you were gone for good. Do you… do you know what happened?”
He considers this.
The truth. A lie.
He is always considering a truth and a lie when it comes to himself. How much to tell Gavin and what to cover up so that their time together can be better. Maybe they shouldn’t be trying to salvage a sinking ship.
“I remembered something,” he decides. “And I didn’t want to.”
“What was it?”
He doesn’t reply. Connor bites his lip to try to keep it from quivering, tries to keep his eyes closed as tight as he can manage to keep them from crying. He feels Gavin move away from him, knows that when he opens his eyes Gavin will be leaning over him with that look of concern that seems strange when it graces a face that looks like it’s always ready to throw insults and hatred.
He never considered Gavin like that before. That the two of them are fractured and broken beyond repair. That neither of them will ever be good for each other.
A sinking ship.
But Connor loves him.
And they are good for each other.
“Connor, what was it?”
He opens his eyes. He brings up his hands to push the tears away from his eyes. Gavin is looking at him with that look of concern that Connor knew he would have.
“You,” he says. “I remembered you.”
They haven’t met before. They have never met before. They have never known each other for a single second before this. His heart is racing in his chest, over and over and over again.
Did he kill Connor? Did he forget that he killed Connor? Was he so horrified and traumatized that he killed Connor?
“How can you—” Gavin pauses. “How can you remember me?”
“You were there. The night I died.”
“There? What the fuck are you talking about?”
“I saw you.”
“Connor, you’re not making any goddamn sense, can you please just fucking explain this?”
Connor draws in a breath, releases it in a long sigh.
He explains it as best as he can.
That they met. That it was nothing the two of them could ever remember. That it was nothing that would ever turn into anything else. Bumping shoulders in the street. Connor, turning back, apologizing, automatically looking at that scar and glancing away with a little bit of shame in his stomach.
And then again.
He does not remember how he died.
But he remembers laying on the pavement, bleeding out, choking on blood and trying to speak.
And Detective Reed leaning over him, telling him to hold on.
He remembers being too weak to reach out to him. He remembers how much he wanted to. To lift his hand, to grasp onto fabric as though it would save his life.
“You were the last face I saw.”
Gavin moves away from him, shaking his head, “No, no, no—”
“You didn’t kill me—”
“You don’t know that,” Gavin says, and it is somewhere strange on the spectrum of a whisper and a scream. It is angry and scared, loud and quiet.
And Gavin is right.
Connor doesn’t know that Gavin didn’t kill him. It is a possibility. It is one he had never considered until now.
He dreads the rest of the day. He dreads the twenty hours that lie between him and the next loop of his death in his brain. He knows he will see Gavin killing him. He knows that it won’t be just one time. He knows his entire year will be filled with all the endless possibilities of Gavin killing him.
And he wants to run again. He wants the darkness to take him back.
“I love you,” Connor whispers. “I would love you even if you killed me.”
“Listen to yourself,” Gavin says, standing, walking away. He’s still naked and he’s reaching for his clothes but all he picks up are the strange ghostly things that Connor wears. “I could’ve fucking killed you and you’re saying it’s no problem.”
“I don’t think you killed me,” he says, sitting up. And he doesn’t. He thinks if he was faced with his murderer every day for forty-something years now he would’ve remembered sooner. “And I don’t think you would kill anyone on purpose—”
“So, I’m just a fucking monster that got out of control? You wouldn’t hold that against me?”
He shouldn’t have said anything. He should have kept his mouth shut. He should’ve—”
“If you didn’t know me,” Gavin says, tugging his shirt on, stumbling backwards in his rush to pull his jeans back up over his hips. “You would hate me, wouldn’t you? But you love me, so you forgive me?”
“You didn’t kill me.”
“You. Don’t. Know. That.”
He doesn’t. He does.
“I told you years and years ago that plenty of people kill without meaning to,” Connor says. “I knew everything about every supernatural creature that lurked in our city, you think I don’t know how many of them have killed accidentally? Especially newborns?”
“I wasn’t a fucking newborn, Connor—”
“No?” he asks. “You were turned on the fifteenth. I died on the seventh. That is fifty-four days, Gavin. That is barely fifty-four days. That is a newborn. If, and this is a massive if—you killed me, you didn’t have control over your urges yet. It wouldn’t be your fault.”
“No, it wouldn’t,” Gavin says, and his voice is near a yell. “It’d be the fucker that turned me, wouldn’t it? But what if he was a newborn? What if he was turned by another newborn? What if we’re all just being turned and killed by newborns, yeah? So, it doesn’t matter! No one’s at fault, are they?”
“I could have killed you,” he repeats. “And you don’t even care.”
“I do care, I’m just saying I would understand,” Connor replies. “But you’re not listening to me. You’re not—”
“All you’re saying—”
“Gavin,” he says, and it’s louder than he means. “I remember you looking concerned. I remember you telling me to hold on. That it would only be a little while longer before the ambulance got there. Do you think you would’ve done that if you killed me?”
“You’re taking the tiniest possibility that it might’ve been you and convincing yourself that it’s the truth. And it’s not. You have less than a one percent chance and you think that means a hundred. And I don’t understand—”
“I’m a monster, Connor,” he whispers, and somehow the quietness of his voice breaks past Connor’s own. “I have come close to killing dozens. You think you’re the only person I might’ve killed?”
“Stop. Just—just stop,” he says. “You didn’t kill me.”
He can’t say that he knows. But he does. He can feel it. Something is telling him that Gavin didn’t do it. He has to trust that feeling, even if another part of him is saying on a loop he could have, he could have, he could have.
“I love you,” he repeats. “Nothing is going to change that. Not even if you killed me. Not even if you could have killed me.”
And he’s already dead.
He can’t go back in time and change anything. It’s already happened. He will never be alive again. He will be a ghost until he runs out of time, and then he will be nothing but a soul floating along the black abyss.
“Can you come here?” Connor asks, and his voice is barely audible. “Please?”
Gavin steps back across the room towards him. When he gets close enough, Connor reaches out and wraps his arms around his waist, pressing his face against his abdomen.
Gavin did not kill him. But his brain will try it’s hardest to prove that for him. Or it will prove him wrong.
And if he’s wrong, it will break him.
He slips away unnoticed again. He’s gotten good at it. He’s like an actual ghost when he needs to be. Gavin stays asleep, too tired to stay awake any longer, too pressured with the early hours of his job. At times like this, he has never felt more grateful for Gavin having to work. That the world is still barely being held together out there enough for jobs to be necessary.
He is not grateful for this.
Connor knows it is the first of many. The first of a thousand ways. He doesn’t know how many times it will take until he realizes that Gavin did not kill him, but he knows it will be more than one.
But it’s also different now.
Because he remembered a piece of that night, and everything has to end up the same way as then. With his back in agony, with blood everywhere, with Gavin staring at him.
It starts with Gavin finding him in the alleyway. Of him pushing Connor against the wall hard, hard enough for him to feel like maybe the vertebrae are breaking. Hard enough for him to collapse against the ground before teeth close over his throat.
It’s like the first time he was killed by a creature. Gavin is not after blood, he’s only after killing him. He dies with Gavin leaning back, with his hand smearing the blood on his mouth across his cheeks, and he knows this isn’t right. This isn’t how it happened. Gavin didn’t have blood there in his memory.
This possibility, of all the thousands he has had to suffer from, is most certainly not it.
Somehow, it’s worse this time. Somehow it is infinitely worse.
“I love you,” Gavin says, and leaves his hundredth kiss on Connor’s lips. “I’ll be here. I’ll wait for you. Like always.”
“I know. Don’t destroy the house while I’m gone.”
“I won’t,” he says, and he says it with a smile that even though Connor knows is real it carries the weight of the world in it. “Maybe I’ll adopt a cat, though. Kill your family of rats. It’s gotten out of control.”
“You would never.”
Gavin’s smile falters a little bit and Connor feels his own do the same. It’s too difficult sometimes, to keep all this up. To pretend that they can laugh and smile and that this isn’t terrible and awfully and excruciating. It hurts for him to leave. It hurts the both of them. Even if he knew he had an infinite amount of time on this planet, even if he could come back every year until the world was nothing but ash—
It still hurts.
He still has to leave. He is still torturing Gavin with the two them. They are together. They have fragmented pieces of happiness.
But the other three hundred-something days?
Gavin is alone. Connor is somewhere else entirely.
They are nothing.
“Get a cat,” Connor says quietly, leaning forward and pressing a kiss against Gavin’s forehead. “I’ll give you permission. Just keep it away from the rats.”
Have something in your life that will be with you for the entire year.
He doesn’t really recall how it happens, but he is aware the entire time that he shouldn’t be doing this. But his thoughts are somewhere else. They are on the loss of Connor. They are on the sudden emptiness in his world. They are miles and miles away and he has cried more than he could ever care to admit.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes, I’m fucking sure,” Gavin says. “Do I look uncertain?”
“You look like you’re about to cry,” he replies. “I was just—”
“Shut the fuck up.”
“Listen,” he says, taking a step back. “I’m not going to let you do something you’re going to regret.”
“I’m not going to regret this.”
“Are you sure?”
“I already said I was.”
“But are you sure?”
“Give me the fucking cat, Jerry.”
“I don’t think you should be adopting a kitten when you’re emotionally—”
“When the fuck is a better time?”
“Please stop swearing. There are children present.”
Gavin looks from Jerry’s face to the kitten in his arms. Blinks once. Twice.
“Jerry, if you don’t give me that fu—that fudging cat right this goddamn second I will break into your apartment later tonight and steal it while you’re sleeping and you’ll have to suffer the consequences of a broken window or a broken door.”
“There’s no need for violence.”
“I’m aware. Give me the cat.”
“Gavin, if I give you this cat you have to promise to love and cherish it—”
“Is this a wedding? Am I marrying a fucking cat right now, Jerry?”
“Fine, I promise to love and cherish the cat.”
“Even after whatever mood you’re in passes. There are no returns here. You don’t get to kick her out on the street because you’re done needing a friend.”
“I’m not repeating all that. But yeah. I promise.”
“Good,” Jerry says, with a nod, a smile. He holds the cat out to Gavin. “Love and protect her with your life.”
“You want me to die for her?”
“If you aren’t willing to die for a cat, you don’t deserve one.”
“Fine. I would die for her.”
“Good,” he repeats. “I’m trusting you on this.”
He rolls his eyes, but he takes the cat and holds her close to his chest. A tiny little creature. Pitch black fur, barely even eight weeks old. He almost feels bad, separating this cat from her family. All those sisters and brothers mewing on the other side of the door.
But he has a cat. And the feeling of her fragility in his hands, the fact he has something now relying on him to stay alive—
It at least gets his mind away from the fact Connor isn’t here right now.
It almost makes up for the fact Connor’s precious rats will likely be dead before he comes back.
[ 2080 ]
Connor wakes up in a place he hasn’t been before. Forty years and he hasn’t managed to be in every single possible option yet. It’s a small, cramped space. Slats in front of him letting in the dim light of the moon. He pushes the door in front of him open, his eyes more adjusted to the dark than usual.
“Gavin?” he calls out, shaking off the last remnants of numbness to his body. He gives a glance back to the closet behind him before turning toward the kitchen, crossing the small space over to the table. There’s a new vase sitting in the middle. Red roses. At least a dozen of them. How stupidly romantic.
There’s a note, trapped underneath the glass. He picks it up slowly, opening the folded-up paper with his name written neatly on the front.
—I’m sorry I couldn’t be there when you woke up. I adopted a cat after you left last year. Her name is Baz. She’s a girl, but I think she can still be named Baz. Gendering names is stupid, yeah? And she is a lot like Baz. A little punk. She probably won’t bite you. She bites me all the time. But she probably wouldn’t bite you. She’ll probably like you. Everyone likes you, don’t they? I don’t see how they couldn’t. I’m getting sidetracked. I’ll be there before the sun comes up. I love you. I’m sorry. I got you some roses. That’s like, the proper thing a guy should do, right? I almost called you my boyfriend there. I don’t know if we are. This isn’t a conversation we should have in a stupid note. I’m running out of room because I can’t seem to shut up. Anyways. I’m sorry I’m late. I love you. There’s a cat. Her name is Baz. She likes the rats. They’re her best fucking friend. No worries about your family going extinct any time soon!
There’s a note crammed at the bottom. The tiniest hand writing imaginable, a little arrow pointing up the last sentence.
—I realize extinct is probably not the right word to use but I’m writing in pen like a fucking idiot so I can’t correct myself.
He wishes he was human. Or alive. That he could have a little memory box or a real home, that he could keep this note forever. His stupid idiot Gavin. His boyfriend?
He hadn’t realized it before. That they hadn’t defined one another. That they are loose and unchained. He feels his chest aching with the idea that Gavin might be out there with other people while he’s gone.
Should Connor be upset about that, if he is? Does he have a right to be? Should he be thinking that Gavin deserves to have someone else?
He’s always thought that it was unfair of him to be with Gavin. That it might make Connor happy, but that Gavin is trapped in a relationship that exists for less than fifteen percent of the year. It’s not even two full months.
And to Connor, this time together is almost seamless. He wakes. He’s here. He disappears. When he is in that void, time passes him quickly. It is not slow and unending like it should feel. Like it probably feels to Gavin. If he takes all of his time here, if he condenses it down it’s little over five years.
Five years to him.
Thirty to Gavin.
“You named the cat Baz?”
“The fuck else was I gonna name it?” Gavin asks, closing the door behind him. “And she’s just like him.”
“You said that in your note.”
“It’s still true.”
“You also called me your boyfriend.”
He pauses, looking from Connor’s face to floor where the cat peers around the corner of the air mattress at Connor like a little spy.
“I didn’t, actually,” he says. “I almost did. I said I didn’t know if we were.”
“Do you want us to be?” Connor asks.
Fuck. He doesn’t know. It’s like the word is too insignificant for what they are. Nobody would call their… Connor a boyfriend if they could live forever. Boyfriend feels like a temporary word. Not something that would be able to encompass the two of them.
And lover? He would never be able to refer to Connor as his lover. Or his soulmate. It’s too—
It’s too much.
And husband? To pretend that Connor could be his spouse? It’s all so ridiculous. He didn’t think he wanted a label until he realized that none of them really fit the two of them.
What does he call his little ghost?
“Are you seeing other people?” Connor asks.
“E-Excuse me?” he asks, half ready to stumble backwards from the suddenness of the question. “Where did that come from?”
“We only ever get fifty days together, Gavin—”
“It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think you had another person in your life, that’s all.”
“The only other person I have in my life is the jackass that let me adopt the cat,” he says, gesturing to Baz. “And he only knows my name because a package got delivered to the wrong address.”
“So, you’ve never slept with anyone else?”
“It’s not like I lost my virginity to you, Connor—”
“You know what I meant.”
“Yeah,” he says, shrugging. “Yeah, I slept with other people, but not after I kissed you. After that, it was just us.”
Less than a year before. Less than a few months before. He thought if he slept with enough people that he wouldn’t think of Connor anymore. That the feelings in his chest could be erased with pretty boys trying to forget their own ghosts.
“And why not now?”
“The fuck do you mean why not now? I love you. I’m not gonna—I’m not gonna cheat on you.”
“It’s been eight years, Gavin. You haven’t wanted to sleep with anyone—”
“Listen, I’m not some kind of sex crazed maniac that can’t control himself,” he says. “Of course I wanted to have sex. But I didn’t.”
He wonders if Connor would forgive him if he did.
If Connor is capable of repeatedly telling him he would forgive Gavin if he killed him, why wouldn’t he forgive him for something like this? Not that he would. Not that he ever would. Maybe he spent too many nights by himself thinking of Connor, but he would never act on those desires with another person. Not when they’re together.
“Is this what you want?” he asks suddenly. Gavin hadn’t realized how long they had gone without talking until Connor finally speaks. It almost makes him jump, if not for the quiet tone that Connor had adopted.
“It’s only fifty-four days. It’s not even a fifth of the year—”
“Connor, if I could have you the entire year, I would. If I could have you for eternity, I would. I’m not saying I don’t want more time with you. I always want more fucking time with you, but—” he sighs and steps across the room. He doesn’t know why he didn’t do this sooner. Be close to him. Touch him. Kiss him. Not even just in this moment, but of the entire time they’ve been together. Why didn’t Gavin kiss him the first second he knew he wanted to? “I would also want this even if I got you for a day. Or an hour. Or even a minute. I’d still want you.”
“Isn’t it painful? Doesn’t it hurt?”
“Of course it does,” he says, and he leans up and kisses his jaw. “But when I’m with you? It… it makes up for it.”
“Love isn’t supposed to hurt, Gavin.”
“Loving you doesn’t hurt,” he says, kissing the corner of his mouth. “Being without you hurts.”
This conversation hurts.
He feels like Connor is trying to break up with him. If they can break up.
“Isn’t it the same thing?”
“No. Never. Why are you even asking me this? What is the purpose—”
“I don’t know,” Connor replies. “I—I just—We’re imbalanced, you and I. We don’t match.”
“We don’t have to match.”
“Do you love me?” Gavin asks, searching his eyes, searching his face.
“Of course I love you.”
“Then that’s all that matters.”
He can see every part of Connor’s face fighting against this. No, that’s not all that matters. There are hundreds of other things that have been chipping away at the two of them. There are too many other factors that they need to take into account. He knows Connor wants to say them, just like he knows if he does Gavin will have to give in and agree with him because he knows that it’s the truth, too.
But they are both so tired and exhausted. Connor lets the conversation end. Gavin leans up and gives him a proper kiss. Deep and meaningful and with too much tongue. But he doesn’t want to think about this right now. He just wants another day where they don’t talk about how broken the pair of them are.
[ 2081 ]
“Can I ask you something?”
Gavin looks up from his book at Connor on the other side of the bed. Still undressed, wrapped up in the blankets. He looks frozen. As if any second he might shudder from the breeze of the outdoors. It’s not even that cold outside, but he looks like he wants to put a sweater on.
“If I was human, would you turn me?”
He sits up, pushes his book aside. Connor—
Fuck. Connor is a freak. He has a knack for asking questions that can devolve into terrible conversations that Gavin has no interest in pursuing. It’s something he both loves and hates about him. A way to push needed conversations to happen. A way to push Gavin into a realm of uncomfortableness.
“I don’t know.”
Connor gives him a look, one that tells him to further explain, but he can’t. Because the world is a terrible place, because he wants to be with Connor for forever, because things are getting better and blood isn’t an issue like it was before, because Connor wouldn’t be able to control his urges anyways, because—
Because every reason he can think of that would be good is countered easily and swiftly with another.
“I didn’t have a choice when I was turned,” he says quietly. “So, I don’t know.”
“Even if I told you every day for months?”
“You’d have to tell me every day for years to actually wear me down.”
Every day for months is nothing.
He told his boyfriend every day for months. That didn’t stop him the moment it happened to immediately regret it. It didn’t stop him from hating this part of himself ever since.
But, if he really thinks about it—
He would have never met Connor otherwise. He doesn’t really have a clear answer on why they’re connected like this. He knows from the files he read on Connor years and years ago that Connor never stepped foot into this house before. The only thing tying them together is dying on each other’s birthdays.
And, apparently, Gavin saw Connor die. He doesn’t remember that. He feels like he should remember that.
But so many people died that year. He saw so many bodies torn apart and bleeding and half alive. Connor was one of dozens that week. It sickens him. To think of it like he’s a cashier at a store. Just another corpse, move along.
“But you want to be with me until the world goes up in flames?” Connor asks.
“The world is already up in flames,” he replies with a shrug. “But I mean. Yeah. Of course. It’s just… more complicated than that. Look, I know this is just a hypothetical question—but would you even want to be a vampire?”
“Immortality scares me,” he says. “I’m not entirely sure. I’m not… human. Or even alive. It’s hard to think of how that version of me would feel.”
“What about the you, right now? What if for some reason I could turn you into a vampire? That it worked on ghosts? Would you want me to?”
“In a heartbeat.”
He reaches out gently to touch Connor’s cheek, traces a line down to his throat, right where he always thinks about biting people at. It wouldn’t work. It would never work. And he would need more than this one time of Connor telling him that he would want to be even if it did.
“I love you,” he says quietly. “But…”
“You wouldn’t turn me?”
“I would,” he says. If things were different. If Connor was human. If ghosts could be brought back to life.
But he doesn’t like this conversation. There is no changing anything. The two of them are a vampire and a ghost. They are stuck like this. Unmoving, unchanging.
“It’s not important to think about,” Connor says, filling the silence. “Since it can’t happen.”
No importance at all.
[ 2082 ]
Connor sits on the porch, leaned against the posts on opposite sides of the steps. Baz is curled up in his lap, happy and sleeping and purring. He thought she would be like rats, running away from him whenever he got too close. Like they could sense that he was wrong somehow. But this cat loves him, is constantly climbing up on his shoulders. Just like Gavin said. She likes him. Ghost or not.
Even now, she doesn’t seem to mind the sound of Gavin swearing a few yards away as he kicks the rusted mailbox again.
“I don’t think that’s doing anything,” Connor says. He doesn’t even know why Gavin wants to get rid of it so badly, anyways. It’s just a mailbox. They don’t have a use for one now, let alone a need to exchange it with a new one. “Is that even how you replace a mailbox?”
“The fuck should I know?” he asks with a shrug, and then kicks the post again. “I’m just—”
“Releasing your anger.”
“Yeah. Sure,” Gavin says, stepping away from it. “Listen, if you have a better idea, I’m all ears. You can’t just sit up there judging me without trying to help.”
“I can’t leave the porch,” he replies, pointing towards the steps. “It’s too far.”
“You know, you could be lying and I’d believe you. All you wanna do is look at me while I do the yard work.”
Connor raises an eyebrow and tilts his head, “What do you want me to say? You look good in those jeans.”
“Shut up,” he says. “You treat me like a piece of meat.”
“Only one of us technically has meat, so it’s only fair.”
“You’re terrible. You’re awful.”
“Work a little quicker and maybe I’ll make it up to you.”
“Yeah?” Gavin asks, taking a step towards the porch again. “You don’t want me to work really slow so you can keep watching me?”
“Personally, Gavin, I would love that,” Connor says, leaning his head against the post. “But you told me to stop objectifying you, so I opted for the solution that would appeal to you the most.”
“And terrible. And awful. But you love me.”
“Fuck,” Gavin says, with a shrug as he steps back to the mailbox. “I guess you got me there.”
[ 2083 ]
“Where do you go?” Gavin asks quietly. He’s tracing various things on Connor’s chest, just above his heart. Stars and words and what Connor thinks might be meant to be the shape of a stereotypical cartoon ghost.
“When I disappear?” he asks. “I don’t really know. It’s just a black void. Like outer space.”
“I mean at night,” he says, looking up to meet Connor’s eyes. “You leave sometimes. Or maybe all the time. It only wakes me up sometimes. But you leave.”
“I’m not mad, Connor,” he says, and he leans up to leave a kiss against his jaw as if to prove it. Soft and comforting. Not mad. “I just wanted to know. I mean, you don’t have to tell me—”
“I just like to have a few minutes alone,” Connor says quickly, wondering if cutting Gavin off will make him know how much he’s lying right now.
But is he really? It’s not entirely a lie. He needs to be alone when those possibilities creep up on him. He doesn’t want to wake Gavin if he thrashes or acts them out. He doesn’t want Gavin to see him like that—just like he never wants Gavin to see him disappear. He likes that Gavin only sees him as he is now.
Intact. Whole. Solid.
Someone to kiss and someone to cuddle up next to and someone to hug when they cry. But not those moments he is sitting on the kitchen floor thinking about all the ways he might have died.
Gavin says it in a way that makes Connor need to look away. Focus on the wall that the shelves of books now line. The pattern of their spines. Dark hues mixed sporadically through with lights, neutrals. There isn’t enough light to show the colors. They are all blurs of blue-gray.
He can’t tell if Gavin believes him. Or, if he does, that it might be because Gavin doesn’t want to think of what any other option there could be. He has managed for too many years to get away with it. To trust that Gavin won’t follow him because when he’s tired he’s out in an instant, or after sex when he gets too sleepy to open his eyes. He is lucky. Incredibly so.
But he also knows that it is inevitable.
Some day, Gavin won’t be asleep when he leaves. Some day, Gavin will follow him into the kitchen and he will see whatever there is to see when Connor slips away.
Just like some day he knows Gavin will refuse to leave on the seventh.
Connor has been good at protecting these two things about himself. He has kept them hidden and safe. He just still doesn’t know if he’s trying to shield Gavin or himself from Gavin’s reaction. He still remembers the sound of Gavin yelling his name, screaming for him. He doesn’t want to inflict that upon him ever again.
[ 2084 ]
He can’t see. It’s the first time in a while that he can’t see. But he can feel it. The press of something sharp into his spine. Like knives. He can taste blood in his mouth and he can feel his body weakening and collapsing and he hits the hard ground and lays there, blinking rapidly, trying to see. It takes him far too long to bleed out. The knives are still in his back. They’ve done their damage but without them being pulled from the wound it leaves him with a slow death.
And he realizes as he lays on the floor that this isn’t the first time he has felt something like this. His back has always been a target for most of the deaths he’s had to live through. It’s where his pain originates when he wakes up.
This is not how he died.
But he is getting closer.
There are only so many possibilities left here.
He is running out of time.
this fic is almost over and I'm real sad about that! But i'm also real happy that the chapter titles finally finished spelling out "Ghost", so it sort of makes up for it?
I also wanna say that i never expected in a million years for Baz Pitch to become such a big part of this fic. Idk what Carry On has done to me.
writing / editing music;
All We Do - Oh Wonder
You're Somebody Else - Flora Cash
Bayou - Mountains of the Moon
Chapter 6: Barbaric
"I don't want to remember 'exactly.' I don't want to know how they got us alone or what kind of rope they used or how they managed to lift us up in the tree. I don't want to remember the last thing they said to me or if I had to watch Dayton die or if it was the other way around. It doesn't matter. Because we're still dead and turning a killer over to the police won't change that, so just stop it! Stop digging around for why. As the murdered party, I don't care! I can't have my life back!"
Undead Girl Gang - Lily Anderson
[ 2085 ]
The box slips off the table, hitting the ground with a heavy thud as the files spill out. All the ones he brought from work to study, all the ones he kept forgetting to take back. The world is falling apart outside and he hasn’t stepped foot in the precinct in over forty years but he still feels a small stab of guilt about this. Half of them are unsolved. They could be if he hadn’t been an idiot and forgotten them.
In the end, he stayed a detective. But it wasn’t like anyone actually wanted him around. Not after they found out about him. They were too frightened.
No, vampires aren’t inherently evil.
But yes, they can be dangerous.
Gavin picks up the files, shoveling them back in the box, kicking it underneath the table. It’s not like he stays here anymore. He couldn’t give a shit about whether or not his place is trashed or his table is usable. He only comes back to use the shower.
But they make him think.
About the other files—
He makes his way through the bare apartment to his bedroom, kneeling down beside his bed and grasping for the edge of the box. He tugs it away, blowing off the dust that has settled on the top. It’s an old shoebox. Not even one from a pair he actually wore. He took them from the abandoned store down the street, thinking now was the time he’d finally have those cool sneakers he always wanted as a teenager.
Bur he isn’t a fucking teenager anymore. He isn’t even thirty-five like he once was. He’s eighty-two.
Fuck. He’s eighty-two goddamn years old. What the fuck?
If Connor were alive now—not even if he was human now, just if he was alive—he’d be seventy-eight. Or seventy-seven. Something along those lines.
He slips the lid off, pulls Connor’s file from inside. His fingers run over the photos. Cropped images from when he was in college and high school. The last few photos on social media before people stopped using it because going out at night and partying was only for the suicidal, and if people weren’t partying, what was the point?
There’s the edge of a girl in one of them. Dark hair, pulled over her shoulder in a braid. A cut off part of her smile. Another with Connor in front of two people, his hand held back behind him as he obscures two figures. A third with the corner of a guy smiling.
He almost looks familiar—the other guy.
If he peers closer, he can make out a little bit of blonde hair, of blue eyes.
He forces a laugh out of his lips, trying to smudge away the thought that in any way, shape, or form it would be even remotely plausible that Connor would be friends with the blonde guy from years back.
He barely even remembers that guy’s face.
And even if it was, does it matter? Would it be of any importance?
Maybe to Connor. His friend could still be alive. Connor could see someone other than Gavin for once. If it was true. It’s not. It’s not. If he tells himself that enough times, he’ll believe it.
He lets out a long breath, discards the pictures in a pile beside him. He needs to find the article. The one detailing how Connor died. He needs to reread it again. He needs to see in print that it wasn’t him that killed Connor.
He told himself that it wasn’t. Connor told him that it wasn’t. He should trust his memory, he should trust Connor. But something is eating away at him. A vague memory of Connor’s face, like it’s just resurfaced again. There is something familiar about him, which is senseless to say. He’s seen Connor’s face so many times, he’s seen every inch of his body now, it’s been decades, of course Connor is going to look familiar, especially if he keeps trying to force himself to remember something that might not have happened.
The article is the last one in the stack. He rereads it like he read it the first time—his arm propped on his knee, his hand over his mouth like it will take away some of the gruesomeness. There are photos attached. Leaked from some shitty website that wanted to warn people of all the horrors in the world.
They did a fucking terrible job.
But the article says what it said before:
The killer wasn’t caught.
The wounds do not point to the killer being a vampire.
It wasn’t Gavin.
But just because a file says something, just because it was typed up on a website, does not make it real. It doesn’t make it the truth.
He was always taught not to believe everything he reads—especially online of all places but—
This is the truth he desperately wants.
That he isn’t a murderer. That he moved past that. That he’s not a killer or someone obsessed with revenge. Not anymore.
The alarm beeps behind him. A quiet redundant sound. High pitched. Annoying. Annoying enough that even Connor looks over his shoulder towards the bed willing Gavin to wake up. Like he can chant along in rhythm. Get up. Get up. Get up.
Connor watches him blink his eyes open, sit up slowly, blindly reach for his phone with an irritated sigh. He never hits the snooze button. He never tries to go back to sleep. The first time the alarm goes off he is upright, ready to go, wide awake.
He wonders if it’s a vampire thing or a Gavin thing.
“Good morning,” he says.
Gavin climbs out of the bed, his voice gravelly and quiet as he mumbles something back that he doesn’t quite catch. Connor watches him as he slowly gets dressed, as he makes his way towards Connor and leans down, pressing a kiss against the top of his head. Too tired for more, but he can see the hunger in Gavin’s eyes. It’s always there. He always wants more.
“Have fun at work,” Connor says, which is code for hurry back as soon as you can.
“I’ll try,” Gavin replies, which is code for I wouldn’t go unless I had to.
He reaches out, catches Gavin’s hand in his and brings his fingers to his lips, “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Gavin replies, with a smile that is desperately happy but sadly so.
They are in the strange in-between of the month. When enough days have passed for them to fall into a sense of normalcy, like they’re humans. But, they have enough days left that they can still smile and pretend that they won’t come to an end far too soon. Enough that Connor can let Gavin slip out the door without trying to tug him back to the bed. Enough that Gavin doesn’t allow it to happen.
Gavin takes a step back and Connor holds onto his hand as he goes, not letting his fingers slip away until the last second. He cannot imagine what it is like for Gavin to have to leave him. When he’s here, when he’s still in this world, in this house. That he is out there in the city solving crimes or doing whatever it is the he does for money.
It would be so much different if they were alive.
He wishes they were alive.
When the door closes behind him, Connor sets his book aside, pulls his legs up to his chest, and lets himself cry.
He wishes they were alive.
[ 2086 ]
It would be easy to start the conversation.
Gavin, I need to speak to you.
Gavin, there’s something I need to tell you.
Gavin, I love you. I love you more than anything.
“Gavin,” he starts, and Gavin looks up towards him and he can’t do it. He can’t. He can’t. He can’t. He searches his brain for something to change the topic to and he lets his body adjust. It loosens from it’s state of anxiety and he tilts his head to the side, “Come here, will you?”
Connor leans back against the wall, lets Gavin pull him down into a kiss, lets the hand come up underneath his shirt. He tries not to think about it. What he needs to say. What he has put off for too long. His brain is telling him it’s been two years now. That time is slipping away from him. That he should’ve said it the first second he noticed but—
He doesn’t want to tell him.
He wants to pretend that they are still going to last forever.
That Connor isn’t disappearing.
That there might be some small hope that somehow he will stay here forever. That a miracle will happen and once he remembers everything properly he will turn human and alive again. That they can be together outside of this house.
Anything, anything other than the truth.
[ 2087 ]
It’s late. Later than it’s ever been before he’s arrived here. Except those first few times, when he showed up at three in the morning exhausted and spinning with the need to get drunk and submerge the strange dizziness he gets when he’s away from this house for too long.
Gavin steps out of the car, closes the door with a vengeance aimed at the fuckers that kept him out too late. He hates his job. He’s never liked it, he’s almost always disliked it, but every year his hatred for it grows more and more.
And the only reason he hasn’t quit is that there’s no guarantee anywhere else will hire him and pay him well enough to rent an apartment in the city and repair this house.
No. Not this house. His house. Connor’s house. Their house.
It’s theirs now. Both of theirs. It belongs to them. Maybe not legally, but who gives a fuck about legally owning anything? Maybe blood is being bottled up and sold in convenience store for vampires and the world is trying to turn back in time and forget all this ever happened but it’s never going to be normal again. Nobody cares about collecting a house payment or whether or not some vampire robbed a bookstore thirty years ago. They just want the killing to be stopped. To be controlled.
He pushes the door open to the house, pulling his jacket off and hanging it on the hook even though it’s fucking freezing still. He wants to collapse onto the bed, to feel Connor snuggle up against his side and bury the two of them underneath the blankets.
Like this morning. Like the last few mornings. Where Connor would pull the covers over them and tell him time didn’t exist. That they were in a state of darkness. Another world.
Which, really, was just an excuse for Gavin to kiss him for ten minutes longer and not leave for work. Which he was happy to oblige in.
“Connor?” he calls out, kicking his shoes off, turning the corner to peer into the living room. “Con—”
Gavin is late. It happens sometimes, but it never stops the worry from building in his stomach. He can feel it rising up, telling him that it’s possible that this time the worst has truly happened. That his job has turned him into the path of danger.
Connor paces around the room, feeling the urge to bite on something to relieve his stress. He opts to pick up the cat, hold her close against his chest. He feels her little heartbeat underneath those tiny ribs, beating steadily along all on its own.
At some point, he feels a different fear creeping up into him. Taking over the half of his brain that is telling him that Gavin is okay, that he’s just late, that he’ll show up before midnight and everything will be okay. It thinks instead of how in ten minutes if Gavin were to walk through those doors he will be in that other place. The one that pushes and prods its eager fingers into his spine and yanks him through time and space.
He lets Baz jump from his arms and find a comfortable spot at the foot of the bed.
He sinks down into the space beside her, staring out the windows where the blinds have been half opened to show the dark street outside.
The thoughts are creeping up on him, the pain inching its way closer to him, creeping up his back, ready to do something.
He can hear the sound of a car door closing as his vision give way to the alley, the brick, the pain, the blood.
He looks like a ghost.
It seems so absurd that this moment, right now, after decades, Connor finally looks like what he is.
Saturated in blue, barely visible.
Gavin takes a quick step across the room, reaching out without thinking, trying to grasp his shoulders, shake him back to life, but his hands slip through the skin like water. He pulls away, his throat closing up, trying to speak, to say anything, but he’s at a loss for words. The place where he touched has spiraled away, like he was swirling a paint brush in a glass of water. It comes back, shaping into the curve of his shoulders but not solid.
“C-Connor?” he tries again. He means it to be a yell. A scream. Something that can get through whatever wall is between them, whatever is happening. But instead it’s a broken whisper, one that barely even makes a sound.
He wants to reach out again. He wants to hold him. He wants to feel the solidness that he’s known for so long. It’s been ripped away from him like a rug underneath his feet. He falls to his knees, his hands coming up to his face, brushing away tears in rough swipes, wringing together like it will stop them from shaking so badly or distract him from wanting to touch Connor again.
Come back. Come back. Come back.
It starts with darkness. An overwhelming feeling in his chest. A tightness around his shoulders. Then,
It all collides.
Pain blooms in his back, a searing agony that sends him to his knees. Whatever was constricting him before is gone and he hits the pavement with a thud. He feels the dirt against the side of his cheek, his eyes closed. He lays there bleeding and screaming and bleeding and screaming until something touches his shoulder, rolls him over and his eyes can open.
He stares up at Gavin’s face, his breath caught.
Gavin. Gavin. Gavin.
This isn’t real. This isn’t what happened.
And at least now he knows it’s almost over. That Gavin is leaning over to him, telling him it’s going to be okay.
Just a little while longer. Ambulance is on its way. Just hold on. Just hold on.
Just hold on.
But he can’t.
And he dies looking up at Gavin’s face, concerned and frightened.
It happens in one breath.
It’s drawn in, rasping and half-dead. Gavin watches his figure fill out, the blurred lines sharpening. He can’t make out the shape of the doorframe to the kitchen behind him, or the way the wrinkles in the blanket have camouflaged their way into the creases of Connor’s shirt.
It’s let out, almost like a sob, like Connor is choking on it. And his color comes back, a quick snap from blues to the washed-out pallor of his face, the dark brown hues of his hair and his eyes.
He jumps forward, his hands coming up to Connor’s face, holding onto it tight. He wants to talk, he wants to speak but all he can do is lean forward and kiss him with the relief that he’s back. That he’s real. That he wasn’t disappearing.
Connor returns his kiss, like he always does, drawing him deeper into it before Gavin pulls away.
“The fuck was that?” he whispers.
“I—” Connor falls quiet, his lips pressed into a thin line as he looks away. “I’m sorry.”
“Connor,” he says, leaning back a little further. He hadn’t realized that Connor was crying. It’s one of the few things that makes him seem so little like a ghost. Like all the ways he can respond, all the emotions he can feel, never quite line up with what he is. “What happened? Has it happened before? Connor—”
Connor looks back to Gavin, his hand raised like he’s going to smudge the tears away from his face but instead he reaches forward halfway through the movement to rest it against Gavin’s cheek, his thumb swiping away at one of Gavin’s renegade tears.
Fuck. He doesn’t like Connor seeing him cry. He only wants the tender touches between the two of them to only be during good moments. He hates the bad. He loathes them.
He knows without them they wouldn’t exist, either.
“You’re crying,” Connor whispers, like it’s a sudden revelation.
“Sh—What, like you aren’t?” he says, his tone harsher than he meant it. “Don’t change the subject on me, Connor. Tell me what happened.”
“Tell me what happened.”
He contemplates this.
If he could get out of it. If he could say I don’t want to talk about it and they wouldn’t. He knows Gavin wouldn’t press if he made it clear how terrible this discussion might be.
But it is almost a relief to open his mouth and spill the words. His best kept secret. Forty-three years.
His luck has expired.
“It’s nothing,” he says, trying to say this in a way that won’t destroy the both of them. “It’s just—every night. At this time, I… I see different ways that I could have died.”
“And that’s nothing?”
“It doesn’t hurt,” Connor lies. “It’s just something that I’ve—I’ve grown used to.”
And he has. Every night, when the clock hits 10:48, he is ready for it. He knows it like the back of his hand.
“Is it by choice?” Gavin asks, his voice lowered, his words breaking. “Do you—”
“No,” he replies quickly. “No, I don’t—It’s not my decision. It just happens.”
“How many times?” it is code for How many times have you not told me?
How many times has Connor lied to him? How many times has Connor snuck away from him to let this play out? How many times has he entrusted this secret to no one but himself, even though the person he loves is lying a few yards away?
Gavin could do the math himself, but he isn’t. He wants Connor to answer. He’s asking the question because he needs to hear Connor voice the response.
He inhales sharply, leans back slightly from Connor. Not in betrayal but in defeat.
“And it doesn’t hurt?” Gavin asks, fresh tears in his eyes.
He shakes his head quickly. No, no, no. It doesn’t hurt.
He cannot say yes.
He cannot make Gavin know how absolutely terrible this is. Not when they two of them are already dealing with so much trauma on a constant basis.
He watches the why didn’t you tell me die on Gavin’s lips. He knows. It isn’t that difficult to understand. It’s the same reason Gavin doesn’t tell Connor any of the details about his work. There are things too horrid and rotten to bring into their lives.
It is unnecessary, with all the horrid and rotten things they already have to deal with.
And they are desperate to do whatever they can to protect one another.
Connor still tries to hide it. He disappears from the bed when Gavin is half asleep, somewhere in between awake and dreaming. But the disappearance of warmth beside his body alerts him entirely now. He watches Connor disappear from the room, turning the corner in the kitchen.
He doesn’t follow him.
He doesn’t need to see Connor that way again.
He does his best to preserve his thoughts the way Connor has urged him to.
It doesn’t hurt him. He’s okay.
Physically, maybe. Physically, he’s fine. He’s fucking dead, so physically is never a problem in his mind.
What does experiencing one’s own death a thousand times do to a person?
When Connor returns, Gavin closes his eyes, fakes like he was asleep the entire time. But he feels the slight tremble in Connor’s body and he drops the act quickly, snuggling close to his chest, leaving kisses against his jaw and his forehead and his lips.
It does little to calm the nerves, but it does more than nothing and that counts for something.
[ 2088 ]
“Hey, bookworm,” Gavin says from the other side of the room. “Can you come over here for a second? I need to show you something.”
Connor lets out a sigh, a mix of fake and real tinging it as he rolls off the bed and ventures over to the kitchen, “What is it?”
He doesn’t get a response.
Or, at least, he doesn’t get a vocal response. He is instead blinded by a bright flash of light and he brings his hand up a moment to late to block it. There’s a quiet buzz, a whir of something as his eyes adjust to the dark room again.
“What was that?” he asks, but he sees the camera in Gavin’s hands. Not an old camera, but one that takes polaroids. He sets the picture down gingerly, a small rectangle face up on the countertop behind him.
“I wanted a picture of you.”
“You have a phone.”
“It costs a fucking fortune to print those out, though,” he says, holding up the camera. “And I stole this for free from a Best Buy.”
“Yeah?” he says, taking a few steps forward. “Can I at least see it?”
“Can I see the ones on your phone?”
“I don’t have any on my phone.”
“They don’t… work right,” he says with a shrug. “Digital camera can’t capture a ghost.”
“So you were hoping for instant film to work a little better?”
Gavin shrugs again.
“Can I take a picture of you? It seems only fair.”
He sighs and holds the camera out to Connor, offering up a smile that looks fit for cringe inducing yearbook photos.
“Gavin,” Connor says quietly. “I know you can do better than that.”
His smile fades, and he opens his mouth to say something as Connor presses his finger over the button. The camera spits out another photo and he sets it on the counter beside the other. It’s already almost done developing. He can make out some of the details in the figure. It’s blurred, almost black and white.
“Is this what I look like?” Connor asks, swiping the photo away from Gavin’s hands. He hasn’t looked in the mirrors since he woke up all those years ago. His memory never supplied him with his own face. He knew he had short hair, he knew what the slope of his nose felt like to him, but—
He didn’t know his eyes were brown. Or his hair. He didn’t know he had moles or that his lips were shaped like that.
“You’ve never seen yourself before?”
“No,” he replies. “I’m…”
“Yes. You are.”
“You’re very lucky to have me,” Connor replies, handing the photo back to him. That’s what he looks like. He wants to take it back, look at it again, but he doesn’t. Gavin is too busy smiling at the expression Connor’s making in it.
“Yes,” Gavin says, taking a step forward and pulling him downwards to kiss him. “I am very lucky to have you.”
He listens to the sound of Gavin snoring in the next room as he stares at the pictures on the fridge. They slid into little magnetized frames that Gavin had bought (or, maybe, stole) perfectly. He takes them down, pulling the photos back out again. They had taken more pictures, used up all the film that Gavin had. There is an equal mix between the two of them, the extras stuck in a small chest sitting on the bookshelves. The majority of the pictures aren’t of either of them, though. They’re of Baz. The girl is featured in almost every single one.
They all contain the same blurriness, too. They haven’t decided if it’s the camera’s fault, their own slightly shaking hands, or maybe it’s the fact that Connor is a ghost and Gavin is a vampire. That neither of them can really be photographed properly.
His eyes focus in on the one of him. Not the first one, but the second one. The one that is closer up on his face, that even out of focus shows more detail than he had thought about before. He brushes his fingers over the photo, traces the same thing on his own face.
His lips. His eyes. His nose.
Gavin fell in love with him for more than just his face but—
Gavin also fell in love with this face.
He sets the photo aside, looks over some of the few of Gavin. Most of them he has his hand half up, trying to block the lens. But there is one that Connor took when he wasn’t looking. One where his head was turned towards the window overlooking the road at the sound of a siren coming too close to the house. He has Baz in his lap, her eyes shut but her body stretched long over his legs.
If he could take a photo with him to that other world, this would be the one.
[ 2089 ]
“Are you alright?” Connor asks.
Gavin lets out a small laugh. No. He isn’t alright. He’s been thinking for the last few years about Connor disappearing from the bed at night. Before, he allowed himself to think of it as just a small escape to be alone for a little while, like Connor had told him.
But now he knows.
He reaches out across the rumpled bedding and touches his cheek, slides his hand down to his neck, his shoulder. A careful trail down his arms to his fingers. He holds them tight, looks down at the way they thread together. His, slightly tanned with a small scar from when he was human, dirt underneath his nails. Connor’s a milky white, pale with tiny imperfections that are barely noticeable, but impeccably clean. He looks like the moon. Soft shades of blue, like he is always on the verge of slipping back into that place where he had no color except sapphires and azures.
“I’m just thinking.”
“Care to voice your thoughts?” Connor asks, with a small smile. It’s almost mischievous, like maybe his thoughts aren’t clean or perfect. That it might end with more kissing and moaning and all the things they do when they try and make up for all the stupid time they’ve lost.
Maybe he could try. He could list all the things he loves about Connor again. Tick off the personality traits quickly before pressing his lips to Connor’s, letting his hands glide over his body to fill in the rest.
“I asked you before, about when you wake up,” he says instead, no matter how much his heart hurts asking about this. “You said it hurt.”
“Not as much anymore.”
“Yeah,” Gavin says quietly. “And it doesn’t hurt when you disappear, either, right?”
“And those scenarios that you think about?”
“They don’t hurt.”
Are you lying to me?
“Okay,” he whispers. Okay. Okay. Okay.
If only things were okay.
“Are you alright?” Connor asks, repeating his question again.
He sighs and he wants to look away, to turn on his side and signal an end to this conversation but Connor has only been here for a few days and he can’t stop looking at him. He can hardly keep his hands or his mouth off of him. He knows that if he doesn’t answer, if he keeps enforcing the idea that he is fine that he is okay Connor will know.
It is hard for him to control his face. He is not as good at it as he wishes he was.
“I didn’t say anything before,” Gavin says, opting for something else to talk about. Something to pretend that this is resting on. “I didn’t think it was really all that important, you know? And I didn’t want you to think I was… competing in some kind of pain competition.”
He waits a moment. Like he needs Connor to urge him on. And he thinks he almost does, because the words are hard to get out.
Connor doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t prompt him. He only leans across their space and presses his lips to Gavin’s bare shoulder. A quiet go ahead, I’m listening.
“You never asked me how I died,” he whispers. “You only ever asked if I remembered.”
“I didn’t think you wanted to talk about it.”
“No,” he says with a sigh. “How fucked is that? I wish I didn’t remember it and you—”
“I don’t want to remember, Gavin. I told you that.”
“Yeah, you think remembering might mean you’ll disappear but—” another sigh. Gavin is full of them lately. “Your brain or whatever is trying to remember. It’s—I’m sorry. It doesn’t matter.”
Gavin sits up, pulling away from Connor. He allows himself five seconds of staring at the wall before his eyes land on him again, his eyebrows knitted in concern, looking like he wants to question him further.
“I didn’t—I didn’t want to be turned, Connor,” he says quietly. “I thought I did. I had a boyfriend and he was a vampire. Old. Older than when vampires were even public. I told him I wanted to be like him. I fucking begged every night for him to turn me and—”
He pauses, shaking his head, closing his eyes. He can remember himself screaming, fighting back. Stop, stop, stop, I changed my mind, please stop, please, please—
“He gave in eventually, you know? And I was a little drunk. And I just—”
“You didn’t want to be turned.”
Connor sits up beside him, his hand coming up to Gavin’s back. He traces a shape there. He thinks it might be a heart but he can’t focus on it to know for certain.
“I only… I only brought it up because we’re the same,” he whispers. “You wake up every year and you have to relive your death and I… I don’t know if it’s the trauma or if it’s a vampire thing, but I do too. Every year on the fifteenth. I remember it. I feel it happening again. It’s not the same but—”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
Both dead. Both haunted by their deaths.
Connor climbs into his lap, tilts Gavin’s head back a little bit to kiss him easier. They are good at this. Distracting each other from everything. Maybe they shouldn’t. They talk so much, they have had plenty of time to know the terrible details of some of the things in their past, but they leave everything else to be pushed to the side because it’s easier to hope they can have forever to sort it out.
And this is comforting, too.
It won’t fix his problems. It won’t fix either of their problems, but—
That counts for something, doesn’t it?
This chapter was originally over 10k words long so I've cut it in half, but! The dates for this (and the next chapter) were all reused from the first chapter. Also, since this was originally going to be only 7 chapters the titles were going to spell out "Ghostly" but.. then I added one. So! The originally title of this one was "Leftover". I'm just full of fun facts about the unnecessary things I do.
writing / editing music (for this and next chapter);
If You Want Love - NF (instrumental)
I Tried Getting High - Unlike Pluto
Chapter 7: Obliquity
"When people talk about ghosts, they always mention their unfinished business. Like you get stuck here because there’s one thing that you need to do. When you brought us back, I thought that getting revenge was our unfinished business. But it’s more complicated than that. Everything is unfinished. Our whole lives. There’s no amount of catching up we could do in seven days to make that better. Today I heard my mom’s voice, and it wasn’t enough to last me forever. Everything we ever did together was for the last time. I’m not going to stop missing them."
Undead Girl Gang - Lily Anderson
[ 2090 ]
He wakes up shaking. Trembling. Shuddering. Like he’s frozen to the core and he’s trying to shake off the winter breeze. But he isn’t. The room is hot and stuffy and he can barely breathe and he stumbles out of his bed, instinctively walking towards his bathroom with his eyes half open.
Gavin’s lost count of how many times this has happened to him. All he knows is that it’s too many.
He pushes the shower curtain back, turns the knob blindly to whatever temperature decides to grace his skin today. He couldn’t care less if it’s cold or if it’s so hot that it makes his skin feel like it’s burning. He just needs to wash the memory off. He needs to see it go down the drain as if it could slide off his skin like the dirt and grime it feels like.
He pulls his clothes off, tossing it angrily behind him as he steps in, turning his face against the water, squeezing his eyes shut. The water scorches his skin. He doesn’t bother to change it.
His thoughts circle back to Connor instead. How much he wishes he was here. How nice it would feel if someone could hug him and hold him and tell him it’s okay.
It’s not okay. It’s not okay. It’s not okay.
It will never be okay.
He once had a plan to get his revenge. He’d spent years working up the courage to execute it properly. Connor distracted him.
And Gavin is thankful for that.
Not that he’d feel bad for the blood spilled—he’d never feel guilty for that—but at least the last fifty years haven’t been spent thinking about it. At least, even as fractured as they were, even as many unhappy and terrible things happened, he had Connor.
He had happiness.
It’s slipping away now. Like a ghost. But he had it.
Connor feels it this time, when he wakes. More present and persistent than any of the other appearances. The lack of time inside of his body. The way it simply doesn’t exist within him anymore. The absolute loss of it.
He feels barren. Desolate. Lifeless.
Like a forest set on fire. Like an ocean drained of every drop. Like a city devoid of humans.
It’s barely midnight when Gavin arrives. Connor leaps up off the bed, racing across the room towards him. It’s been a while since he acted this way. He usually lets Gavin take the thirty seconds to hang up his coat, to kick off his shoes. It feels like such a waste of time now that he knows.
“Shut up,” he mumbles, and lifts his chin up into a kiss. Connor’s hands come up, pushing the jacket off his shoulders, letting it drop to the ground in a quiet movement. He hooks his fingers in the waist band of Gavin’s jeans, tugging him over to the bed.
“I guess you missed me then?”
He lets go of him, pushes lightly on Gavin’s shoulder until he falls against the mattress.
“I told you to shut up,” he says. “You never listen, do you?”
“You’re usually so kind when you greet me.”
“Gavin,” he says, like a warning, like he’s scolding him. “Take off your shirt.”
He smirks, but does as he’s told anyways, “I like it when you’re bossy.”
He smiles and pushes Gavin backwards against the bed, undoing his belt and his zipper as quick as he can manage, tugging the pants off in harsh movements, “You want me to be bossy, but you won’t listen to me.”
“I’m listening,” he says, tossing the shirt at Connor. He catches it, dropping it in the floor beside him. “I’m—”
“I told you to shut up,” Connor says, leaning over him again. “Three times now.”
“Well, that’s not a command I’ll follow. You’re going to have to make me.”
“I’m offering you a challenge.”
“To make you shut up?”
Gavin laughs. And it’s such a stupid laugh, such an infectious one. It makes him forget why he’s doing this. That he’s trying to soften the blow that’s about to come after this.
I might not be back next year.
Connor undresses quickly, leaning over Gavin, pushing apart his legs so that he can press into him. Gavin’s laugh is cut off, his breath hitching, his smile fading slightly as he closes his eyes, his features shifting slowly.
“Fuck,” he whispers. “You’re really—”
He silences him with another kiss. He lets the words dissolve between their mouths, lets them melt into something else. He breaks it only to whisper how much he loves Gavin over and over again.
Maybe if he says it enough Gavin will never forget it.
“I love you.”
Gavin smiles, too exhausted for words. His eyes aren’t even open, his chest is rising and falling in slow movements. In a few more minutes, he will be completely out. Somewhere off in the realm of dreams and other things.
But Connor says it anyways.
Because he can’t say what he needs to. He can’t warn Gavin when he’s like this. Happy and sated. He isn’t going to ruin this night.
He had the intention to. That the moment Gavin entered through the door he’d say it. I might not be back next year. And he didn’t. Because everything got the best of him. The fact that he wanted a few more hours of happiness between the two of them and it rolled over into a night and he’s terrified it’s going to keep snowballing out of his control until it’s the end of his time here and he’ll be ruining Gavin’s birthday with those stupid words.
I might not be back.
“Gavin?” he whispers, quiet because he doesn’t actually want to wake him. He leans over and presses his lips against his cheek. “I love you. I love you. I love you.”
Please, he thinks, do not forget that.
“You’ve been acting weird.”
“Come on, Connor,” he says, catching his fingers where they rest against his chest. He brings them to his lips, pressing little kisses against the tips of each one. “You’ve been strange this year. You think I don’t notice?”
“You might be the observant one, but that doesn’t mean I’m an idiot,” Gavin replies. Connor pulls away from him, sitting up, drawing the blanket up over him like it will shield him from a cold breeze that likely doesn’t even affect him. Gavin leans over, pressing a kiss against his arm. He’s always chasing after his ghost. “I mean, you’ve always been a sex fiend but—”
“I just want to know,” he whispers. “I worry about you. You’re all alone here. I’m all you have. You can’t just talk to Baz.”
“I’m not going to treat you like a therapist.”
“You aren’t.” he says, and he knows how much his voice is sounding like begging right now.
And fuck, who cares? Who cares if he’s begging Connor to talk to him? Who gives a shit? He wants to know. He wants to help. He can’t help if he doesn’t know anything and he’s tired of not knowing anything.
Connor never speaks his mind. He keeps everything locked up. He shoves all his feelings into the pages of books and the dark corners and he hopes that Gavin won’t notice when something is off but—
They are falling apart. They’ve been falling apart. They were likely never even solidly together for even a second. They are clinging onto the tatters of a failing relationship because neither of them want to speak to each other about their deaths and the terrible things they have to experience because of it.
“I love you,” Gavin says, murmuring it against his skin. It’s not enough. Love isn’t enough to keep a relationship going and it’s all they have.
“And you love me?”
“Of course I do, Gavin.”
Then tell me. Tell me. Tell me. Tell me.
He doesn’t say it. He bites it back. It hurts but it’s all he can manage.
“I’m terrified,” Connor says finally, looking back to him. “I’m terrified that I’ve ruined everything.”
“The fuck are you talking about?”
“You should have never come back to the house,” he says, folding up in on himself. “You should’ve left me here alone. You shouldn’t have—If you never fell in love with me, you’d be out in the world with someone else. Someone that wouldn’t leave you.”
It’s not true.
He’d be out in the world the same lonely person he is when Connor is gone.
Some part of him knows that. That Connor is the only one for him. The only one he could ever be with. The only one that would ever love him. Which is stupid and idealistic and awful but—
He thinks it’s the truth. He believes it whole-heartedly with his stupid half-dead heart.
“I’m not…” Connor trails off, clearing his throat like it’s a necessity.
But Gavin knows the way his face is pinched that it means he’s trying to stave off the tears. But they will come. An onslaught, that will destroy the both of them. He breathes in a breath, holds it like it will somehow keep Connor’s next words from hurting so heavily.
“I don’t think I have any time left,” he finishes. “I think I don’t belong here anymore.”
“Of course you fucking belong here, you never should have died.”
“Gavin,” he says, his voice barely audible. “I don’t think I’m coming back next year. I think… I think this is it. I think this is all we get.”
“Fifty fucking years?” Gavin asks, and his anger is not directed at Connor. Not at all. It’s at whoever has tormented him with the idea of joy and love and is now ripping it away from him again. “We only get fifty years?”
“That’s more than most people get.”
The words are gone again, because he’s right. Fifty years is more than most people got before the world even collapsed.
The two of them are empty. They have nothing left to say. There is no use fighting it. There is no use for the two of them to have a debate about whether or not Connor should be alive. Of course he should be alive. Both of them know that. He was barely more than thirty years old. He was a good person. He had friends. Family.
Gavin should be the ghost. He had nothing to lose and nothing to gain. He was practically a ghost already.
He is the shining example of what a good human being is, of who should live.
But the good never stay alive. That’s why the world is so fucked up.
He wishes magic was real. That he could somehow become a necromancer and find Connor’s remains and bring him back to life. He’d sacrifice himself for that. He’d sacrifice the entire fucking city for that.
But he’s tried that already. He spent years and years and years looking for something telling him that kind of magic exists, but it doesn’t. There are werewolves and ghosts and ghouls and vampires and a thousand other things but magic doesn’t quite reach that far.
Nothing can touch the afterlife.
Each day passes like a nightmare and a daydream wrapped all in one. They become good at not mentioning it. An effort to not destroy what little happiness they have. Gavin lays on the bed at night, no longer bothering to play at being asleep when Connor leaves or returns. He stares at the ceiling practicing his ability not to cry even though he wants to.
Tonight, when he feels the mattress shift beside him, Connor laying down again as he turns slowly towards him.
“Did you remember?”
Connor smiles feebly, traces of something still left in his eyes, “No.”
Another day, then.
At least he has that to look forward to.
“We missed out on a lot of things,” Gavin says, setting his phone down on the shelf. It plays an old song quietly, filled to the brim with static. “We need to catch up. While we can.”
Because they were stupid and they put it off.
Because they thought a ghost and a vampire could have an eternity.
And they can’t.
“And what are you proposing?”
“Dance with me.”
“Are you going to propose anything else?”
“Get up,” Gavin says, avoiding the question. “And dance with me.”
So Connor does.
He stands and lets Gavin’s hand fall at his waist. He lets him take the other like they’ll dance as if they’re in a ballroom like a magical prince and his beloved sorcerer. It lasts for longer than Gavin expects it to. It falls very slowly into the both of them barely swaying, of the two of them just kissing like this will be the last chance they get.
Because it might be.
“Close your eyes.”
“Don’t fucking question me,” Gavin says with a laugh. “Just close your eyes.”
“Okay, okay,” he says, putting his hands up in defeat, closing his eyes. Gavin pulls him a little bit forward, leaves a kiss against his lips. His eyes start to open before Gavin brings a hand up to blind him again.
“That wasn’t what I wanted you for,” he says. “I mean, I just took advantage of the situation, is all. Keep your eyes closed.”
So Connor does.
Gavin pulls him from the kitchen where he was exiled to two hours before. Their hands separate for a moment with another warning keep them closed as the front door’s locks click back out of place. He feels the soft breeze of the outside worm its way indoors as their fingers thread back together.
“Keep your eyes closed.”
“You’ve said that about a hundred times.”
He sighs, his bare feet going from the sleek wooden flooring of the house to the rough uneven boards of the porch. Gavin lets go of his hand, disappearing for a moment before letting out a tiny laugh.
“Nothing, I just didn’t really think this through. But we’re going to try, alright?”
“Just take two steps forward,” he says, and Connor does as he’s told. “Okay, now… I don’t know. You have to step over something.”
“I have to—can I just open my eyes?”
“No, it’ll ruin it.”
He nods, like any of this makes sense, and he blindly steps over whatever is in front of him. His foot hits something plastic-like, his toes sinking into frigid water. He lets out a small noise, a cross between a shudder and a scream.
“Can I please open my eyes, Gavin?”
“No,” he says. “It’ll ruin it. You’re not even all the way in. Come on.”
Right. Right. Right.
He sets his foot down the rest of the way, feels Gavin grasp his hand as his toes connect to something soft underneath him.
“Is this sand?”
“Get your other foot in. You’re making this way harder than it needs to be.”
“I’m making this way harder than it needs to be?” Connor asks, bringing his other foot over the edge as best as he can. Gavin catches him in his stumble. “You won’t let me open my eyes.”
“Well, no, because then it would ruin it.”
“Just picture this, Connor,” he says, and his voice is lower now. Closer. His arms are circling around his waist, pulling him against his chest. “We’re human. Or you’re a ghost that can leave this house. Or something. I don’t know. But we go to the beach. Impulsive moment. We don’t have swimsuits, right? And we can’t skinny dip because, I don’t know, it’s a public beach? And it’s daytime? Anyways, we step out into the water. Just a little bit. Just enough to feel the sand.”
“And my eyes are closed in this scenario for what reason?”
One of Gavin’s hand leaves his waist to rest on the back of his neck, to pull him down into a kiss.
And he can picture it.
The beach. The other people. The waves and the sunset and the cold breeze that would keep them from swimming, even if they had the proper attire for it.
It is perfect.
He leaves Gavin’s side with a kiss against his forehead, with the hope in his heart that he will get another day. Maybe he won’t remember properly. Maybe something else will happen.
Connor rounds the corner in the kitchen, sinking down to the floor, closes his eyes. Waits.
He’s walking back from somewhere. He can’t remember at first. It fills in slowly, a silent nudge of knowledge to the back of his head. Hank. DPD. His hand is on his stomach, and he can feel a strange pain there. Not old, but not completely fresh, either. He glances over his shoulder at the sound of a siren, his first thought that he’s been found out. Caught. That he shouldn’t be out this late and someone is going to yell at him to hurry home or offer him a ride.
But the siren is too far away.
And his apartment is only a few yards further.
He pauses suddenly, looking towards the door. He sees her, sitting there, fingers tapping nervously against the edge of the stairs, her head lifting up only a moment after his.
“Chloe,” he says, his feet moving forward quickly. Too quickly, too quickly, too quickly. The pain in his stomach blossoms and he has to force himself to stop, let her come to him. He helps close the gap, little by little. He throws his arms around her, holding her tight. He knows the wound must be reopening. It hurts so much, he can feel the slight trickle of blood trying to ease its way past the bandage. They’re hugging too fiercely. “What happened to you? The police have been searching everywhere—”
“I know,” she says, breathes the words out quietly against his shoulder. “I had to go. I’m sorry. They didn’t—They wouldn’t even try to understand.”
“They wanted to lock me up,” she says, and he can tell by the sound of her voice that she’s trying to hold back tears. “They—God, Connor, I’m so sorry.”
What is she apologizing for?
“I’m just so—”
He’s trying to free himself from her grip. It’s too tight. It’s hurting him too much. He needs to get back but—
“I’m just so hungry, Connor.”
It doesn’t even sound like her. It sounds like something else. A guttural noise attached to it like her voice has been fed through a filter.
But he knows it’s Chloe. That it has to be.
And he does not scream.
Screaming would do nothing, even if his voice was not lost somewhere in the pain in his back. In the way something sharp slides into the skin of his back. Claws. Not daggers, not knives, not even a sword.
They sink into him, deep and vicious and pulling at his spine like she’s trying to tear him in half, which, he thinks, she probably is.
And he does not scream.
He passes out from the pain.
He’s never passed out in one of these before. Not a single time. He has had his head cut off from a guillotine, he has been ripped apart by werewolves, he has fallen over the side of dozens of buildings, but he has never passed out.
He wakes laying on his back, staring at the sky. Blinking at the stars. There is the sound of someone running towards him and he looks over, already knowing that it’s Gavin. He wants to reach up and touch him, to grasp onto his shirt or brush his fingers across his cheek or do something but he is too weak.
He is not too weak.
He chokes, feeling blood in his throat, feeling the pain in his body. It is all too much and he can’t even focus on Gavin’s words. They blur together in the sound of his throat trying to scream.
He doesn’t have an arm.
She ripped his arm off—
She ate his arm.
He knows it without even knowing where she is or what happened to her. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know if she realized what she was doing and ran or if they found her and caught her or what happened.
But she is gone.
And he is missing an arm.
And he is dying.
And he is staring at Gavin looking concerned and trying his absolutely hardest to search for the source of blood, to determine which wound on his body is the best to cover up.
There are too many of them. There is an ambulance’s siren wailing, but it will not get here quick enough.
He is dying. He is dying. He is dying.
Connor screams. The sound is abrupt—tearing through the house. It is so loud and horrifying Gavin thinks maybe it will be the thing that breaks the place apart.
He scrambles off the bed, rushing towards the kitchen.
“Connor,” he says, falling against the floor beside him. Pain shoots up his knees at the sudden connection against the hard tile, but he pushes it aside and he reaches forward, pulling Connor against his chest. “It’s—”
“She killed me,” he says, choking out it between sobs, breaking up his screams. “She killed me, Gavin.”
“I know,” he whispers.
There were no eye witnesses, but all the evidence led back to her. His roommate. The one that went missing a few weeks before. The one that came back. The one that destroyed everything. The one he almost killed years ago.
He remembers her, brushing her blonde hair back, looking over at him like a deer in headlights. She didn’t know who he was.
And she was lucky that he had some semblance of control over his actions.
She could have easily been torn apart by his hands. She could have easily been left bleeding and stranded in an alley, just like she had done to Connor.
Was my death that bad? It seems like such a silly question now. He barely even remembers Connor asking it, but it surges back to him. Was it that bad?
Gavin doesn’t sleep. Connor feels terrible about it, but he can’t stop crying and it’s keeping Gavin awake. Gavin is there, at his side, running his hand up and down his back, trying his best to stop the tears, to bandage up the betrayal and the pain, but he can’t.
It must be nearly five in the morning now and he can’t stop the tears, he can barely stop the scream from coming out like it wants to. He just lets out garbled sounds like he did that night, with blood so thick in his throat he could hardly make a sound.
“What happened to her?” he whispers. “You know, don’t you?”
“She’s alive,” Gavin replies.
“Gavin, what happened to her?”
He sighs, leans forward to leave a kiss against his shoulder like they always do when they try to make the other feel better, “She got away. We didn’t even know for sure it was her.”
“But before that?”
“In September, the two of you were attacked by something. She disappeared from the hospital while you were still recovering.”
“That’s all I know, Connor.”
He doesn’t believe him, but he lets it go. He can’t think of this anymore. He can’t think of the fact his best friend, his roommate, the one with him until the very end caused his end.
“You tried to save me,” he says.
“I don’t remember that.”
“You don’t remember trying to save a dying boy on your birthday?”
“It was different then, Connor. There were so many people dying all the time. I saw a corpse torn apart every night. My birthday wasn’t that much different.”
He wonders if Gavin is glad. If it’s for the best that Connor wasn’t remembered. If it would ruin the two of them even more now, even though they’re at the end of their relationship.
He reaches out and holds his hand, squeezes it as tight as he can manage like some kind of test that he still has some solidity to him. Gavin squeezes back, and he decides it is better this way. That he can be just a ghost in Gavin’s memory.
Connor holds his breath and waits.
The clock ticks. Past the 10:47 to 10:48 to 10:49.
He does not relive the last (the true) possible death.
He holds his breath. He waits. The clock ticks. Past the 11:59 to 12:00 to 12:01.
He does not disappear.
“Hey,” Gavin says quietly. “Can you pretend with me for a second?”
“That we’re human.”
“Okay,” Connor says, and he smiles weakly. “We’re human for the next five minutes.”
He leans in a little closer to him, pressing a kiss against his neck, “Alright, my purely human Connor, since we have a future, since we can leave this place, will you marry me?”
Connor looks towards him and threads their fingers together, “Of course I will. We don’t need to be human for that.”
“No,” Gavin says. “I guess not.”
They just need more time.
He doesn’t disappear. He doesn’t run through possibilities. He doesn’t relive any of his deaths.
He thinks, maybe, that he gets to finish out the last of his fifty-four days here.
“You haven’t left the house this year,” Connor says quietly.
“Neither have you.”
“I don’t have a choice. You do.”
“And,” Gavin replies, leaning up to kiss him. “I’m choosing to stay.”
“You have work.”
Gavin sighs and buries himself deeper against Connor’s chest. He is cold. Colder than usual. His body temperature is dropping so fast. He is like an ice cube next to Gavin.
“Work can go fuck itself.”
“They aren’t going to fire me,” he says, but he has no idea if it’s the truth. “They owe me this. I’m not wasting another second with you.”
“Your job is more important—”
“Than you?” he asks, looking up at him. “No. It isn’t. Not right now. You’re going to disappear. You’re never going to come back. I get this with you. I get one last year. I’m not letting them take that. If I lose my job, I lose my job.”
He can see how much Connor wants to fight this. He can see the argument dying out in his eyes as he nods and kisses his forehead.
“Do you think you’ll still disappear?” Gavin asks. His voice is shaking. He doesn’t want to ask this question, but he needs an answer. He’s watching Connor like he might disappear right now.
And he thinks he has a hundred ways to answer this question. Connor could lie. He could tell the truth. He could say he doesn’t know and let hope burn between them like a dangerous flame until it is snuffed out at the last second.
But the truth is a dangerous thing and he doesn’t know if either of them can handle it when he speaks the words out loud, but he knows he has to.
“Yes,” he says, because he can feel the emptiness in his chest. He knows that sometimes his fingers slip through objects like the pages in a book or the blanket when he’s making their bed. He knows he is only solid when Gavin is beside him, strengthening him. He doesn’t know what that means. If it is their connection or if it is because Gavin loves him and he loves Gavin or if he will ever get an answer.
But he knows he will disappear.
And he knows this is the end.
“I’m not fucking leaving,” he says, holding onto Connor tighter. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“I don’t want you to see—“
“I’ll close my eyes, okay?”
“I’m not wasting one more second away from you. I’m staying.”
Connor nods, and Gavin feels his chest heave with the effort to hold back tears.
“I love you,” Connor whispers.
“I know,” Gavin replies, and he kisses him again. “I love you, too.”
“Please—” he pauses, unable to voice everything he needs to. Please be able to find love after me. Please be able to be happy. Please don’t feel guilty about living again.
“I know,” Gavin repeats. “I know.”
“Close your eyes.”
And Connor leans forward and kisses him again. They are both crying. Despite the fact that he thought the two of them had cried every tear they had, they have more to shed. They could fill the entire world with them. It would be the only thing left—their sorrow. It would crash against the shores in tsunamis and hurricanes. It would destroy everything in its wake.
It is certainly destroying them.
He feels himself disappear. And it doesn’t hurt. It never did. It never has. Not besides the one time he refused to remember.
He feels himself drifting away, falling backwards, despite the solidness of Gavin’s hands on his back. He feels the warmth of them, the way it spreads across his skin.
Until suddenly there isn’t anything.
And he is no longer.
He opens his eyes.
It’s a stupid mistake, but he couldn’t feel Connor anymore. And he didn’t know what it meant and in his terror of the thing he knew that was happening actually happening he opened his stupid fucking eyes and—
Before, it was like an unraveling thread from clothing. Gray and dull.
But this time the threads shimmer and shine like their own little galaxy. They spread away from his body in brilliant shades of blue until they fade off like a candle being blown out. Little wisps of smoke disappearing.
He tries not to scream. He tries not to say anything.
More so, he tries to hold on.
But Connor isn’t solid anymore. And he disappears and Gavin falls to the ground, his legs no longer able to keep himself standing.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
He tries not to scream.
Baz runs from her little corner of the room to his side, looking up at the empty place Connor once was. She gives him a curious look, innocent and confused, and that somehow is the thing that breaks him.
Somehow he falls asleep.
And he dreams of Connor.
Not all in pleasant ways.
And he wakes crying and he realizes, suddenly, a few minutes into it, that he is alone.
Absolutely, utterly, entirely alone.
So he lets himself scream and he lets his lungs and his throat ache with the effort. He feels guilt weighing in on his chest when Baz sprints up the stairs away from the noise. He feels guilt for all the times he wasn’t here. He feels guilt for all the times he let the two of them dance around the subject of their love for one another.
Connor is dead. He’s known that the entire time
But Connor is gone, and he will never get used to the absence.
[ 2091 ]
He sets his jacket on the hook, sliding his feet out of his shoes and lining them up along the empty wall. Baz on the other side of the room perks up from her nap, peering over at him. Gavin offers her the most real smile he can manage, which isn’t much of one at all, and wanders over to the bed, falling down on top of the mattress.
Over the years he had replaced it a few times. Spent too much time repairing each and every one of them. This one is already collapsing underneath his weight, but he’s too tired to get up and try and find the new hole that has been added along the side.
Instead, he just lays and stares at the ceiling. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
He hears the wind whistle through the house, blowing heavily against the broken patch of the roof. The place is fucking freezing but he doesn’t have the energy anymore to fix it. It’s falling apart around him.
And if he leaves it this way, if he lets the house deteriorate, he can eventually find a valid reason to move out, since his grief has seemed to root him to the spot.
Sometimes, too, he can pretend that the wind making creaking noises above him is actually Connor. That his ghost has come back to him.
But it’s not.
It never is.
other titles for this chapter: Obfuscate, Obsolesce, Occupancy
(can you tell I didn't have the energy to look through all 800 something words on the list?)
Chapter 8: Yearningly
"A split second. An eternity. Into the breach. Across the brink. A micron wide. Deep as forever. Of all our infinite possibilities, these are but two."
Gemina - Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
[ 2038 ]
August 15th | 1:06 A.M.
They’re on their way back from the bar, Gavin half drunk, his words starting to slur together. Eddie’s arm is slung over his shoulder and he leans his head against him, breathing in the scent of his fabric softener, muddled underneath the smell of smoke and alcohol from the bar.
Gavin is looking up, gazing at the side of his face, trying to understand what emotion is playing across it when he hears the sound of laughing. He looks away, towards the noise as someone stumbles forward, hitting him hard.
“Watch where you’re fucking going,” he says, looking at him with the cruelest glare he can manage. Fuck off.
There’s something strange in the man’s eyes though. Lost, like a little child who’s gotten separated from their mother. All traces of the laughter is gone from his face now and instead they are drawn in an almost terrified expression.
“I-I’m sorry,” he says, taking the girl’s hand. They continue on and Gavin feels something harden inside of his stomach. The urge to look back, to see what’s going on between the two of them, but Eddie’s hand has retreated from his shoulder and is instead holding tightly on the fabric of his sleeve, tugging him along.
August 15th | 1:06 A.M.
It was Chloe’s idea. To come out late. To celebrate as soon as the clock struck midnight. That’s when the birthday was officially starting—not technically. He was born late in the night, and they had plenty of time to waste until then. And maybe they could wait until tonight, when the numbers switch from 8:28 to 8:29. It’s what they usually do.
But Chloe has a new job. And they are high on life and the exhilarating feeling of being out at the dangerous time in the city. He usually wouldn’t do this. He’s usually more cautious than that. He has been ever since Markus disappeared—when it turned this lethal world personal.
But after Simon? After North?
Anything to forget. Anything to pretend for a moment that everything is okay when it isn’t.
And maybe he’s feeling a little risky. Toeing the line of how much he wants to die. How poetic it would be for his throat to be ripped out by a vampire or drowned by a siren on his birthday. Hank and Chloe would never have two days in their life that they mourn him on. It would be all condensed down neatly into one. Easier that way, isn’t it?
Connor isn’t paying attention when he stumbles forward, head thrown back in a laugh, already someplace else. Not drunk. He doesn’t drink. But it doesn’t stop him from feeling giddy with excitement and the promise of a thrilling night. His feet catch the broken edge of the sidewalk and he trips forward, hitting the other man’s shoulder.
He catches himself swiftly, but his mind is sent backwards, reeling and somewhere else.
A scream. Blood. Weak arms raised to try and push back.
“Watch where you’re fucking going,” he says and Connor is back again, hands half held out.
A scream. Blood. Fighting against someone.
His eyes flick from the one with the scar to the other, back to the ground again, his heart racing in his chest. His stomach is twisting with dread and pain and loss and suffering.
“I-I’m sorry,” he says, and Chloe reaches out, taking his hand, pulling him away.
“The club is just a little bit further,” Chloe says, and her voice is infused with a false tone of cheerfulness that tries to achieve the one she had before. She knows he’s upset, but she isn’t pressing on the situation.
She has always been the best at that. Knowing when someone wants to talk about something and when they want to pretend it didn’t happen.
“Good,” he replies, but he is looking back at the others. The shorter one is pressed against a wall at the end of the street, pulling the other one down for a kiss. It makes him feel ill. Like he needs to throw up or run or do something to stop them.
Something should be done.
But he doesn’t know what it is.
September 8th | 7:26 P.M.
It took him a while to track Eddie down again. Longer than he would have liked, but at least with these last forty-five days it has given him time to think about what he’s going to do. Plan it out beyond just the idea of revenge. Because, he realized, it wasn’t until he saw the fucker’s face that he knew he wanted to kill him. Slice him open, burry him deep in the ground. Chop him up into tiny pieces, throw him out into the river.
Fuck, does it even matter how he kills him? Gavin just wants him dead. He wants him gone from this world. He wants no piece of Eddie left behind.
Get out, get out, get out.
He can feel his skin crawling, alive with the scent of blood in the air. His fingers tap against the steering wheel of his car, his weak heart racing. He’s stronger than he was before. Faster, too. He’s sure of it. He could kill if he had to.
The plan, idiot.
Kill Eddie. Dispose of his body. There is an almost sense of beauty of his working at the DPD. That he knows how to do this—what people will look for. If they’ll look for anything. He remembers how often Eddie told him he was lonely. Gavin was the only person in his life. Not even his neighbors in that apartment building could care less about him. Any evidence of Gavin will be gone. Wiped clean. There is so much time.
Gavin exits the car, pulling his hood up, stuffing his hands in his pockets. There’s a lighter there, in his left. A phone in his right, right beside the knife. Comforting objects that he hasn’t used in the last month. Smoking just doesn’t have the same affect on him anymore. It doesn’t get rid of his nerves. It doesn’t soothe them away like it should—like it used to.
Fuck Eddie. He took away so much of his life. He destroyed it all. He burnt it to a crisp.
It’s not like Gavin had a good life before, but at least he could entertain himself with the idea that in a few hours, everything would be different. That he might be able to escape this somehow.
He can hardly even sleep anymore. He’s too in tune to the sound of the television through the walls, the way the sirens blare in the streets, the fights that break out between the couple above him. He’s too selfish to care about what they mean. The comfort of a show at night time. That an ambulance might be going to save someone near death. That there’s a terrible relationship unfolding yards away. He just wants to sleep again.
September 8th | 7:26 P.M.
Fear spikes in his stomach as he crosses the road quickly, too much in a rush to wait for the light to turn green. He hears Chloe behind him, yelling at him to wait as she races to catch up with him. It’s past curfew—which doesn’t really mean anything in a city as big as Detroit. There are hardly any police left to enforce it, and it isn’t like he cares a single bit about whether someone in a uniform tells him to get home before seven. Unless, maybe, it’s Hank. But Hank is the only one left in his life besides Chloe, and his orders rarely are followed out because of his position as a Lieutenant and more so on the fact Hank is vaguely frightening. And even then, Connor tends to do what he pleases.
“You’re in such a rush,” Chloe says, taking his hand in hers. “Just slow down.”
“So we can die?”
“We aren’t going to die,” she says, with a slight roll of her eyes. “They’re exaggerating. You think people lose their humanity just because they turn into something else? They can still think. They still have thoughts.”
Of course they do. Connor knows that. They might be labelled as monsters or creatures, but they started out human. And even if they didn’t—
That doesn’t mean they don’t have a soul. That they aren’t alive in some other sense than a beating heart like his own.
“You’ve been reading that blog again, haven’t you?” he asks.
“You tease, but Jericho is trying to establish peace before a full on war starts.”
“A war has already started.”
“Yeah,” she says quietly. “Maybe. But don’t you ever wonder, Connor? About the others?”
North and Markus and Simon and Josh.
They are the only two left behind. The only humans still standing.
“You think one of them is Jericho?”
“No,” she says, and then laughs. “Maybe. Can’t you imagine Markus being the leader of the vampires or something?”
He can. It’s almost too easy to put Markus in that position. Above all the rest. He just hopes Simon is there, too. That they have somehow remained together after all these years. They were always the glue that held their friend group together. Connor would have never met them if it wasn’t for Markus.
“If they showed up, you’d welcome them back with open arms?” Connor asks, because he knows he would. In a heartbeat. He wants Josh and North to be at their sides again. He wants to be sitting in the back of the room laughing and throwing popcorn at her and Chloe and telling them to get a room. He wants to be in college again, teasing Markus and Simon for leaving early because they care so much about their grades.
Not that he can go back. Not that he can have anything even resembling that again.
But he could try. He could have some small part of it.
“Chloe?” he asks, and he pauses, realizing that their hands have separated at some point, that Chloe isn’t walking beside him again. He turns, looking back to her.
She stands, her body half angled to him, her lips parted just barely, staring down an alley they’ve passed.
“Chloe,” he tries again, taking a step back to her. She turns, just slightly, her mouth open like she’s about to scream. He looks away from her towards the alley and sees what she’s looking at.
He wants to take a step back. He wants to race forward and grab her arm and make her run with him. But he is exactly like her. Frozen to the spot at the sight of the creature.
How absolutely cruel of a way to die. At the hands of a monster when the two of them are discussing how human they might still be.
It is not human.
September 8th | 7:32 P.M.
He breaks into the apartment. Or, not really. He still has a key. Stuck on the ring with the ones to his apartment, shoved into his pocket. His fingers skip over the one with the blue endcap, always a symbol of Eddie. He’s contemplated taking it off, throwing it into a river or stuffing it into a box with all the other things Eddie left behind that he couldn’t burn in the trashcan in his living room.
But he didn’t, because by the time he was capable of getting rid of it he already knew what he was going to do.
Gavin doesn’t really know if Eddie is home tonight. He very well could be. The light is left on, but he woke up a dozen times in Eddie’s bed and realized that the light had been forgotten about. And he isn’t quite used to this yet. Sensing other people’s presence.
Eddie always told him it was easy, that he could hear the heartbeats, that he could feel the way other people’s chests rose and fell as they breathed, and if he really focused—the sound of the blood like a stream. Maybe it doesn’t apply to vampires or the other supernatural creatures. Or maybe he’s just a shitty vampire.
Gavin pushes the door closed behind him, pockets his keys again. His hands are shaking and he can’t seem to steady them. He hasn’t been back here since he was killed. It’s almost like he can smell the blood in the air, feel it dripping across his neck, the way it soaked the sheets behind his back. Almost.
He knows the difference between reality and memory now. He knows that if it were real, he would be trembling with the prospect of a body to feed on and not with the fear of it happening again.
He turns towards the bedroom, presses his ear against the door. Waits. He doesn’t hear a single sound, no matter how hard he tries to listen. His hand comes up, touches the door lightly and lets it swing open on its own.
Gavin turns, ready to sit and wait for Eddie’s arrival back at the apartment but before he can, he feels an arm circle around his neck, pulling tight against his throat. He falls backwards against his chest, hands scrambling upwards, trying to yank it free, trying to get oxygen into his half-dead lungs that barely even need it.
Barely—but they still do.
He hears a small laugh escape the person behind him, confirming what he already knew. Eddie is his attacker. Eddie has always been his attacker. He tries to choke out something in response, but he can’t manage it past the tight grip. His vision is fading, he can barely hold onto the shape of the room in front of him. It swirls and mixes into the darkness and then—
He is released, shoved forward with a hard push and he hits the ground, gasping for breath.
September 8th | 7:32 P.M.
A siren whines in the distance and the monster’s head snaps towards it. The sound or the movement or something makes Connor jolt back to reality and his feet stagger backwards.
“Chloe,” he says, his voice a half whisper. She looks to him again, like she is breaking out of her own statuesque state. Her hand comes up, reaching out towards him to take his hand again but they’re too far apart.
She takes a slow step towards him, as if the two can creep away unseen. The light beside them flickers green, the glow of it drawing the monster’s attention back to them. Connor lets out a broken noise, mirrored by Chloe’s quiet muffled cry.
The creature—a grotesque gray thing, skin shriveled, almost a zombie, tattered fragments of clothing still clinging to its skin, long fingernails that look like claws, sharpened to the point that they gleam like daggers in the moonlight—takes a step forward.
It is enough for him to lurch forward, grabbing Chloe’s outstretched hand tight and yanking her forward. The two run and he can feel Chloe struggling to keep up with him. She ran track—she’s fast. He knows that. He remembers how often she would challenge their groups to races but after North disappeared everything fell apart. They all lost a piece of themselves every time one of them disappeared.
His legs are long and his hand slips away from hers, his lungs heaving to try and keep up.
Two more blocks. Two more blocks. Two more blocks.
He hears a scream. Chloe. Most certainly Chloe.
He hears Hank’s voice in the back of his head, telling him not to stop, telling him to keep going. If anything happens, just be the faster one. Just get away. But he can’t. It’s so easy to think that, it’s so easy to watch horror movies and think that the logical thing to do is leave friends and lovers behind. To be selfish. To allow for at least one life to be saved.
But he can’t.
Chloe is all he has left. It’s just the two of them.
So Connor stops. And he turns. And he sees the claw scrapping across her chest, ripping her shirt, tearing through her skin. Blood spills, splattering against the cement. The monster leans forward, closing its mouth over her shoulder, the bones of its face and skin stretching to fit over the skin there. It is horrifying and awful and he can feel his stomach churning, his mind memorizing every detail to torture himself in the future.
And he realizes he has no idea how to save her.
Gun. Idiot. You have a gun.
His hand goes to his waist, trying to find it on his belt. Fuck, fuck, fuck. He left it at home. He left it hidden underneath his mattress because he hated having it. Because he regretted the second he bought it that he would have that kind of a weapon in his apartment. That there are bullets hidden in his dresser drawer.
A noise cracks across the air and his hands come up like they’re going to shield him from whatever it is even though it’s already happened. At first, he thinks it is the sound of Chloe’s bones breaking. That she has been torn apart in front of him. He closes his eyes, his head turning like it will save him.
Something hits him. Hard. It sends him backwards, hitting the sidewalk in a swift movement. His head hits the cement, but the pain that blooms across his skull is nothing compared to the feeling of something sharp sinking into his stomach. Like a knife. Except he knows it’s a claw.
He can hear Chloe screaming. It fades in and out like he’s wearing a pair of headphones that are broken and he has to make the jack sit just right for the audio to work. He opens his eyes, blinking up at the sky above him. He feels like it should be dark outside. That he should be staring at stars instead of the hazy blue of the sky as the sun starts its descent.
Trauma like this should only exist at night time.
September 8th | 7:35 P.M.
Eddie leans over him, plucks the knife that has slipped out of his pocket. He unfolds it slowly, turning the blade over so that the sun’s rays slanting through the windows catch it. It would be a pretty sight if they were the other way around. If Gavin was the one holding it, if Eddie was the one still trying to breathe.
“You come here to kill me?” he asks.
Gavin refuses to answer. It would be useless to lie. He feels stupid telling the truth.
“You’re an idiot,” Eddie says, understanding the silence for what it’s meant to be. “I’m older than you. And I’m stronger than you. You are just a baby.”
“Well,” he says with a smile. “That can be arranged. Just like old times.”
He wants to say more. He wants to spill every insult he can think of, to ruin Eddie with his words since he will likely die now, with that knife in the wrong person’s hands. But he can’t get himself to voice everything running through his head. He can’t manage the words that will explain how atrocious of a person Eddie is.
He saw Gavin for who he was. And at the time that was perfect. He helped close the wounds of his past. He bandaged up his loneliness. He filled the holes inside his chest.
It is a shame that he closed them with infected needles, poisoned gauze, and stuffed it with dynamite.
“What did you expect?” he asks, leaning down. “And why even bother?”
You ruined my life.
Gavin was a terrible detective. He’s a shitty vampire. Everything about him is terrible and awful and he’s stopped trying to fix that. But he had a life. He was human. He was capable of so much more. He just needed Eddie to be the type of person that pushed him towards good instead of bad.
“You should go,” Eddie says, catching on to Gavin’s refusal to speak. “Before I kill you again.”
Gavin sits up the rest of the way and hates how close he is to Eddie. That he can smell the traces of blood lingering in his mouth, where it is still wet against the collar of his shirt. He’s just fed. He might’ve just killed someone. When they were together, that was always the fear—Eddie losing it. But the truth was Eddie was never close to losing it, was he?
He must have always been out there, attacking people. He must have always been ready to kill. How many times did Gavin think he was out in the woods, feeding on deer and rabbits when he must’ve just killed a human? How many times did he see the drops of blood on his clothes when he did the laundry and think about how Eddie was a good person, out there killing animals instead of people?
His fist comes up, ready to punch him in the face. He is inches from connecting before Eddie’s hand comes up, holding onto his wrist tight. Older. Faster. Stronger.
Gavin is just a baby to him.
“Shouldn’t have done that,” Eddie says quietly, and he moves in one swift motion, the blade sinking into Gavin’s stomach. He feels his throat close up, his head spinning with the scent of blood, his mouth watering for it.
Fuck. He’s dying right now and all his stupid fucking brain can think about is his own blood and how nice it must taste.
The knife slips back out of his stomach, clatters against the floor. He can feel the wound at his stomach trying to close up, but he’s losing blood faster than it can heal. He slips backwards, out of Eddie’s grasp, hitting the floor again.
He hates the idea of dying here again. Of bleeding out once more in front of Eddie, because of Eddie.
September 8th | 7:35 P.M.
“Hold on,” someone says. There’s a heavy pressure against his stomach. Connor tries to make sense of their face. Dark skin, deep voice. His hands are shaking reaching up above him like they need to prove that he’s bleeding.
Everything is fading in and out. His vision can’t quite make sense of the person above him, or of the brightness of the sky. It’s all blurring against each other like the sun is in his eyes. The pain stumbles onwards, surging forward. He can feel his throat trying to hold back the scream he wants to let out. He can hear Chloe screaming.
God. He never thought he’d be so happy about hearing her scream like that. It means she’s alive. It means she’s still there.
He hears sirens wailing, cutting into the sounds of Chloe, of two people talking. The hands on his stomach press down a little harder suddenly and he can’t hold back anymore and he cries out, his hands coming to the wound, trying to shove the man away from him even though he knows it’s only helping.
Tears prick at his eyes and he feels like a child that’s just fallen on the playground and skinned his knees. He wants to cry and scream for his mother. He wants her to be here, smoothing a band aid over the scrape, telling him it will be okay. But his mother is dead and he has a gaping hole in his abdomen, not a skinned knee.
“Luther, we have to go,” a voice calls. He turns his head, looking towards the figure. She’s pale, ghostly white. Her hands are red, blood smeared across her shirt. There’s a gun tucked into a holster at her belt.
Hunter. She’s a hunter. They both are.
Out past curfew, helping the idiots like Connor and Chloe that stayed out too late.
The man beside him gets up, an apology dying on his lips as he sprints away from the two of them down the street. The siren grows louder and he turns his gaze away from the pair to Chloe yards away from him. There is so much blood on her. There is so much blood on the sidewalk, on the tattered remains of her shirt.
Chloe. Chloe. Chloe.
They are dying, the two of them. They are on the precipice of death.
He does not want to die. He wants to live. He wants to stay alive and meet other people and laugh and spend Saturday nights with Hank watching terrible television and meet up with Chloe on Thursdays for coffee and fall in love and maybe get married, maybe have children, maybe live in a house that he can make all his own.
He wants to live.
September 9th | 5:08 A.M.
He wakes outside of his apartment building, his head leaned against the brick beside the door. His hand comes up to his stomach, feeling the tenderness of his skin. He’s dizzy—not quite back in reality yet, but he can taste blood in his mouth. He brings a hand up, brushing across the dried blood on his chin.
Eddie kept him alive, then. If he is alive. If vampires can be considered that. He fed him blood to make sure the wound closed, to make sure it didn’t kill him. He feels sick to his stomach at the idea of Eddie thinking he’s a good person by doing this.
He forces himself to his feet, leans back heavily against the metal railing of the stairs. Maybe he isn’t strong enough or old enough or fast enough to kill Eddie.
Someday, he will be. And he’s going to make sure his death is slow and sweet.
September 9th | 5:08 A.M.
He opens his eyes slowly, squinting against the bright light. Someone is leaning over him, head turned with a concerned expression. It takes him a moment to realize they’re a doctor, clipboard tucked under their arm.
But they are not who the voice belongs to.
He turns, glancing over to the other face.
“Hank,” he says quietly, breathing out the name like a sigh of relief.
“Do you remember what happened?” he asks.
It is a slow stream back to him. He remembers it in broken pieces. Like at first he might be blind. A gun going off. A scream. A knife in his stomach.
Not a knife.
“We were attacked,” he says, his voice hoarse, rough with pain. “Me and Chloe. We were walking home together and we were attacked by something.”
“Do you know by what?” the doctor this time, still staring at him. It makes him uncomfortable. He just wants to be here alone, with Hank. He doesn’t want someone else to know these details. They’re too painful. He wants to keep them hidden.
“No,” he settles on. “Is Chloe alright?”
“You lost a lot of blood,” the doctor says. “You should have died—”
“Is Chloe alright?” he repeats.
He looks back to Hank, panic flooding through him. He sits up, sending a jolt of pain through him and he winces, choking the words out again, “Is Chloe alright, Hank?”
“We don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“We can’t disclose that information,” the doctor says quickly, looking towards Hank. “So, I’m afraid—”
“She’s missing, Connor.”
He feels like an idiot, repeating everything, but it’s like the words haven’t really been said unless he mirrors them back. Like if he repeats it, asks it as a question, waiting for clarification that that is, in fact, what he heard, then maybe it isn’t true. Maybe Hank misspoke. Maybe he misheard.
“There are police here to speak with you,” the doctor says, trying to regain control over the conversation. “They need to ask you questions about last night.”
He doesn’t want to answer questions. He wants to know where Chloe is.
Connor stays quiet, his lips pressed into a line, his hand at his side trying not to ball into a fist because there’s an IV stuck into the back of his hand and when he moves it too quickly it sends a spike of pain through him.
“I-I’ll send them in,” he mutters and disappears from the room.
Hank leans close to Connor, lowering his voice, “I told them to take it easy on you. I can’t be involved with the investigation—”
“What investigation, Hank?”
“There’s things they need to know. About how you lived. About what you were attacked by. They’re just going to ask the basics, and then they’re going to leave. I called in some favors. You can come by the station when you’re released from the hospital,” Hank says. The door behind him opens and his voice grows quiet, “Don’t tell them anything about the hunters, or Chloe.”
He wants to ask, to press, but the pair of officers are already crowding around his bed, dismissing Hank from the room with a short nod.
Connor answers their questions quick, keeping his answers brief.
No, he doesn’t know what the creature was.
No, he doesn’t know where Chloe is.
No, he has no idea how he survived.
Chloe is missing. He has no idea what happened to her, and that’s the truth.
But the other two? He never even saw anyone else. He doesn’t remember anything. He hit his head on the pavement. It’s a wonder he didn’t suffer from any type of injury. A miracle, really.
His entire survival is a miracle.
October 7th | 3:46 P.M.
He’s released from the hospital, a sense of freedom flooding through him. Finally, finally.
But it’s strange. Setting foot outside of that room, climbing into Hank’s car, holding onto his stomach like his wound might reopen if he doesn’t keep a constant pressure against it. It makes everything sharpen further into reality. These past few weeks he never saw Chloe, but now that he’ll be returning to his apartment, to the place that they shared, her absence will be unignorable.
“I thought we could stop for some food,” Hank says, and he’s adopted a strange tone to his voice. All the normal harshness and swear words have melted away. He is a constant blanket of comfort to Connor. Or, at least, he tries to be.
It would be better if they fought. If Hank slipped in swear words every chance he got. It would stabilize things. It wouldn’t be a reminder that something terrible happened.
If they hadn’t been almost killed, if Chloe wasn’t missing, they would have had a heated argument about being home when curfew was instated. To follow the rules. He can almost picture it, Hank’s voice loud, not bothering to keep quiet for the eavesdroppers follow the fucking law, Connor, there’s a goddamn war going on out there.
But instead he gets silence. Instead he gets quiet glances. Instead he gets concern.
“Okay,” he replies, his voice matched in Hank’s tone. Soft. Careful. Cautious.
“After, you need to come to the station. Answer the rest of the detectives’ questions.”
Connor nods, even though he knows Hank isn’t looking at him. It isn’t as if he wanted to say no that it would change anything. Hank used all his pull as a Lieutenant to push the interviews this far. They won’t be able to persuade the detectives again.
October 7th | 3:46 P.M.
He doesn’t take baths. He’s never liked them. They have always, to him, felt like he was sitting in his own filth. But he doesn’t have the energy to stand right now. Everything is strung out at its limit. He spent the last few weeks scrubbing his place clean. Sanitizing it from top to bottom as though getting rid of any trace of Eddie will actually erase him from the world.
Gavin’s hand comes to his waist, pressing against the spot where the knife had dug into his skin. It’s healed now. Not even a scar. It doesn’t even hurt when he touches it. Not physically. None of it has stayed behind in a physical way. But he knows exactly where it was. A ghost of a scar. A faint reminder.
He reaches forward, unplugging the drain, letting the water swirl down again. His phone rings for the tenth time, telling him he’s late for work. He listens to the song that plays, static filled and old. He doesn’t bother to answer it. By the time it finishes, he is pushing the plug back into the drain, turning the water on again and letting the hot water fill up around him.
It is the only comfort he can think of right now. To essentially drown his sorrows in something other than alcohol.
He ducks his head under the water, holding his breath, testing, waiting. He nearly passed out within a minute of Eddie’s arm around his throat. But if he could get his lung capacity up? If he could hold on a little longer? Maybe he’d have the upper hand.
October 7th | 6:11 P.M.
He is not as prepared as he thought he was. To sit in the room, to answer the questions again. It takes longer this time. They ask the same thing over and over again, twisting the words so that it sounds like something new or repeating it fifteen minutes later as if Connor will forget that he answered it twenty times already.
Chloe is his best friend, his roommate. He went out to dinner with her. They waited too long, talked too much even after they were done eating. They had an disagreement, but it wasn’t real. It was fake, a play fight over whether or not they should get dessert and they both decided against it in the end because it was late—after curfew.
They lived too far away to be walking home, but they did anyways. Good exercise. Good for the two of them to spend a little while longer still laughing at stupid jokes. It was fun. It was nice. And then it wasn’t—
Because Connor remembered what kind of world they live in. And he tried to rush. And then they were attacked.
He describes the creature as in depth as he can. He doesn’t know what it was. He’d never seen it before. He doesn’t add that he has spent the last few years researching every supernatural being that has cropped up in their world. He doesn’t want to tell them that he has been jokingly referred to as an expert on the subject by Chloe and Hank.
The questions keep cycling back to Chloe in the end. Always Chloe.
“Have you seen her since?”
“Does she have any family?”
“Do you know where she would have gone?”
Chloe was all he had, besides for Hank.
And it was the exact same for her, too. They were the last ones standing. He always thought she’d be the survivor in the end. The final girl.
October 7th | 6:11 P.M.
He listens to Fowler’s messages as he dresses. They all say pretty much the same thing. For Gavin to get his ass to work. To stop moping around. He wonders what his Captain would think if he knew he was a vampire. He’s done a fairly decent job at hiding it, but it’s only been fifty-something days. He can’t be fucked to do the proper math.
The voicemail ends. The robotic voice asking him if he wants to save or delete the message. He reaches over, pressing the button to trash it. He doesn’t need to listen to them ever again. The last one plays, the voice clearing their throat.
He pauses, frozen in his movement of pulling his shirt over his head.
“I’m surprised you kept your number, Gav,” Eddie says, his voice filling the cramped bathroom. “Thought I’d wish you a happy birthday, love. I was thinking—”
He tugs his shirt down the rest of the way, reaching for the phone and throwing it as hard as he can at the wall. The voice fizzles out as the plastic cracks and hits the floor in a clatter.
But it doesn’t solve his anger. It seems like it only makes it build more and more. Like he needs to destroy more than just a piece of plastic to fix his problems. He turns, slamming his fist as hard as he can against the wall. The plaster gives way, leaving a hole.
“Fuck,” he whispers, shaking his hand, feeling the bones protest the movement as pain spreads its way across his knuckles.
October 7th | 10:19 P.M.
They let him out of the interrogation room and Hank steps away from the wall, searching Connor’s face. But he is good at keeping himself in control, a master at concealing emotions. Everything has been bottled up and shaken so many times with such a furiosity that he has learned when to let it loose and when not to.
Connor offers him a weak smile, stepping out of the way of the other detectives as they exit the room behind him and head back towards their desks, notebooks in hand.
“Everything alright? They weren’t too hard on you, were they?”
“Everything’s fine,” Connor replies. “I’m going to head home.”
“The fuck you are,” Hank says and it brings a sliver of happiness in him. “I’ll take my break in thirty minutes and drive you home. Make sure you get there safe. You shouldn’t be walking with that anyways,” he says, gesturing to Connor’s stomach. “You’re still healing.”
“I’m perfectly fine.”
“Yeah? Then be perfectly fine waiting by my desk. Go sit down.”
“I’ve been sitting for the past four hours—”
“And you’ll sit for thirty more minutes.”
“Hank. I’m not a child.”
“Fine, you want to stretch your legs so damn badly? Make me some coffee, how about that?”
He tries to hold back his smile, but it’s difficult and he ends their conversation with a nod, turning quickly to the break room. It takes him two steps to realize he can’t hurry. Connor forces his feet to slow down. Careful steps. Cautious.
He walks into the breakroom, looking over his shoulder at Hank disappearing towards his desk as Connor pretends to busy his hands with the coffee machine. He could slip out of here. Go home on his own. It would be easy. It’s only a thirty-minute walk from here to there, and he’s desperate for fresh air.
Maybe it’s ten at night. Maybe it’s past curfew. Maybe he will get killed if he does it.
But he also cannot stand the way the Hank treats him like a naïve child. Like the only thing in his heart is pure happiness and joy when he is so much more than that. Terrible things have happened. His mother is dead. His best friends are missing. He already knows his life is awful and that all he will ever get from people that hear his story or see his scars is pity.
And maybe death is better than this world anyways.
October 7th | 10:19 P.M.
He tries his best to pretend like everything is normal. He’s good at faking it. Gavin has had years and years to cover up his bad days. It’s not the exact same as pretending he’s still human, but it’s almost there. It’s close.
When he walks into the station, he glances over to Fowler’s office, his teeth closing over his lip. They’ll exchange words, and he isn’t really looking forward to that. He turns instead to the break room for the coffee machine. It doesn’t do anything anymore, but he feels like it helps regulate his body. Brings him back to the days he was a human instead of a vampire.
It feels like forever ago. A hundred years. A thousand weeks. A million hours.
Not fifty-four days.
Gavin turns the corner, looking towards the machine where someone stands. He tilts his head, feels his nose wrinkle in annoyance. He just wants a fucking cup of coffee before he has to deal with Fowler. He doesn’t want to be spotted before that.
Hurry up, fucker.
He doesn’t even recognize the guy. New face. Young.
Kind of cute.
Still in his fucking way, though.
“You gonna take all year or what?” he asks, moving a step forward.
The guy jumps, the coffee slipping out of his hand, crashing against the floor. The hot liquid splashes up off the linoleum, splattering against his jeans. The guy turns, bending slightly before his hand comes up to his side.
“I’m sorry—” he says, reaching back for napkins. “You startled me.”
“Yeah? My apologies,” he says, with as much sarcasm as he can manage. “You gonna clean it up or you just gonna stand there?”
His mouth opens slightly, one hand still holding onto his side, the other with a ball of napkins he’s taken from the dispenser, “I—I can’t.”
“No?” Gavin reaches forward, snatching the napkins from his hands. He watches the guy blink as he leans down, resting the napkins out in a circle across the liquid. “Because it’s so fucking hard?”
“It’s not that difficult—”
“You’ve said that once.”
“I was here—”
“Who the fuck gives a shit why you’re here, just clean up your mess.”
He hears a sharp intake of breath, a nervous half-laugh, “I-I just meant that I physically can’t, I’m sorry. I’m recovering—”
Gavin glances up, must give the guy a look that silences him and he feels guilty for how harsh and angry it must look. It’s got nothing to do with him. He’s just pissed. He can still hear Eddie’s voice in the back of his head telling him happy birthday.
But he also knows that he would’ve snapped anyways. That he would’ve been a jerk either way.
“You get mugged?” he asks, gesturing to the place where his hand still rests against his stomach, like his fingers are what keeps him from bending over and not whatever lies beneath. “Someone pull a knife on you or something?”
“Or something,” he replies, offering Gavin a small smile that makes him want to recoil. He hates it when people respond to his meanness with kindness. Like they think they can cancel it out.
No one can cancel this out. It’s in his bones. Carved deep, never to be sanded away into something soft and smooth. He’s sharp edges, always ready to slice.
He shoves the soiled napkins into the empty coffee cup, standing up and pressing it into the stranger’s hand, “Next time, don’t be such a fucking klutz if you can’t even clean up after yourself.”
October 7th | 10:21 P.M.
Their fingers brush up against each other when the man takes the napkins from him, and he thinks he sees something. A quick fragment, flashing through his head. A spark of something lost. It registers, only for a brief second, that Connor is seeing himself. Bloody and torn apart.
He can hear the stranger talking still, barely pays attention to the conversation as he stumbles through it. He keeps his hand on his side, where the claw of the creature had dug into him. It hurts when he presses on it like this, but he can’t tell if this is real. If he’s dead or not.
He saw himself.
He saw himself.
Dead. Eviscerated. Through that man’s eyes.
“Next time—” the man says, standing up, pressing the cup into his hand again. He’s still speaking, the words half lost. It’s the same brush again. The same sliver of skin against skin.
He doesn’t see anything. But he feels it. Their lips touching. And he knows it’s him on the other side. He knows that the person this stranger is kissing is himself. He doesn’t know how or why, but he does. As real as the pain in his abdomen.
And then as quickly as it appeared it’s gone again, the man turning to the machine, pulling a new cup from the side.
And all Connor can think about is what it was like kissing him. Or kissing himself. Or just the knowledge that they kissed, somewhere out there.
Because it hasn’t happened yet. It’s not real.
“Do you have a pen?” he asks suddenly, setting the cup down on the counter beside him.
“I want to give you my number,” Connor says, the words coming out before he can really think them through. “To make up for the spilled coffee. There’s a café a few blocks away.”
“You’re asking me out on a date?”
He supposes he is. It was the first excuse he could think of, “Yes.”
The man sighs, digging into his pocket, looking up at him, “You don’t even know my name.”
“Then tell me.”
The man laughs, a short one without humor, “Gavin.”
“Connor,” he replies, smiling. Maybe he’s wrong about what he saw. Maybe he’s wrong about it all. But would that be so terrible? Gavin seems like a jerk, but he’s cute. In an annoying way.
Gavin withdraws a pen from his pocket, looking almost surprised to find it there. He holds it out to Connor, his other hand reaching for a napkin, likely to write it on, but Connor needs to touch him. He needs to see those flashes of images again. He needs to know what they mean.
So he grasps the pen, uncaps it in one swift motion and grasps onto Gavin’s wrist, drawing out the numbers slowly on the palm of his hand.
And everything unfurls in his mind. Like a ball of yarn, tossed down a set of stairs. Like a thread, being plucked from its place. There are empty spaces inside of him, filling up. Like a shelf neatly arranged with books, stacked so tight there isn’t even a question of whether or not another one could be there.
Connor pulls the pen away, closes the plastic cap over it again and holds it back out to him.
“Don’t lose it,” Connor says quietly. He doesn’t know why he’s whispering, but he can’t bring himself to talk any louder.
Gavin has an eyebrow raised at him, but he nods slowly, “I won’t.”
He forces a smile onto his face, takes his cup back from the counter and tosses it in the trash as he leaves the room.
He has two possibilities here:
He could walk straight towards Hank’s desk, sit on the chair on the other side. He’s never really been in the precinct before. Once, when Markus disappeared. A second time when Simon did. After that, he knew it was useless to even attempt to report his friends vanishing. He learned to become like the others, shoving sadness aside to look at the bright side: that the monster, the creature, the supernatural entity was gone.
But he could walk straight. He could wait the remainder of the thirty minutes before Hank’s break. He could get a ride home. He could go up to his apartment, safe and tired and sad. He would be okay. He would live. He might get a call from Gavin, and he might fall in love, he might get married, he might have kids, he might have a house to call their own.
He could turn left. He could slip out those doors. He could start home without needing someone to take him there. He could wander the streets half terrified, jumping at every noise he hears, always wondering if it’s safer to turn back and run towards the station again. He would make it over halfway and still wish and hope and pray that Hank’s car would roll up next to him, that his voice would boom over the stereo and yell at Connor to get in.
But that wouldn’t happen.
Connor would be alone. He would continue walking home.
He would find Chloe on the steps and she would stand with wide eyes, red from crying so much. And she’d be completely uninjured. Not a single sign that something had happened to her.
He would rush forward. He would hug her, he would tell her how much he missed her and he would ignore the pain in his stomach from his wound and the tension and tightness of her hold.
And then she would whisper her apology and she would dig her claws into him, rip him apart, leave him for dead in her shame.
He knows Gavin would show up. He knows because he saw Gavin fight with Fowler. That he would be pissed and angry and storm out of the precinct moments after Connor would make his own escape. That the fight would distract Hank from Connor’s disappearance. That it would result in Gavin standing over him, that he would be the last face Connor would see before he died.
He thinks of how that would spiral out.
How it would end in him being a ghost. Trapped in some strange house. Not remembering his past, not remembering a single thing. Not even his name, at first.
But he’d still fall in love.
He would still be with Gavin.
But eventually he would disappear.
And he’d leave Gavin alone in this terrible world with nothing but a cat and a half-repaired house.
He walks straight.
He sits in the chair opposite of Hank.
He waits the thirty minutes.
Do you wanna hear another useless fact? I knew from the beginning this was going take place over the course of 54 years (52 with Connor present, 54 with the year Connor (& Gavin) died and the year after Connor disappeared) I just.. wanted it to match the days Connor was around.
And this thing was supposed to be a one-shot aslkdfjkl & I do have a playlist I'm going to link to post to my tumblr I just... haven't finished it yet!
writing / editing music;
Reborn - Talos
Fickle Game - Amber Run
Bayou - Mountains of the Moon