Starlight glimmered, as a preternatural moon glowed above a barren landscape. It's beautiful, if eerie glow gently illuminated countless crystals upon the surface of an undiscovered world. Darkness was slowly pushed back from the seemingly lifeless planet, the light of the stars and the moon converging amid the crystals, which captured the light and redistributed its glow as if it were their own. Occasionally the light dimmed slightly, flickering as if a candle flame caught by an unexpected breeze.
The crystals glistened and glittered in a myriad of colours, as a lone figure drifted slowly between them. A barefoot man, painted with an ethereal glow from the dancing lights, who gazed longingly into the distant, star speckled darkness which stretched as far as the eye could see above him; paying little attention to where he walked. His simple deep red t-shirt absorbed the strange lights, while his basic jeans appeared as if they'd been dyed with various interchanging colours. As he stepped into a large ring of crystals, their glow intensified exponentially and he drew in a deep, weary breath. He blinked slowly, the light around him seeming almost to shiver with anticipation as he began to hum a low and haunting melody to himself.
He looked down at his right hand, as he slowly raised and half extended it before him, as if pressing against an invisible pane of glass. He closed his eyes briefly, his quiet hum continuing as he felt a light tickle of energy dance across his skin. As he opened his eyes, a shimmering cloud of pale smoke began to drift from his palm, slowly increasing its mass and spreading to form a vague and hazy shape before him. He sucked in a deep breath, lowering his hand as his gentle hum reached the end of his tune and renewed itself, resounding and reverberating through his chest as he gathered his every ounce of strength and determination. His heart thudded a steady beat, a deep and resinous longing locked deep within its monotonous drone. He flicked his eyes over the cloudy shape, licking his lips quickly as he forced his concentration into a sharp focus.
The pale smoke began to shift slightly, as if awkward and unsettled. It morphed slowly, stretching first to touch the ground and then higher, until after several minutes, it finally dwarfed him by a full heads height. He narrowed his eyes, watching as the shape expanded slightly, before it began to tighten and smooth itself, a rough shape emerging from the cloudy haze. An approximation of small feet and faintly bowed legs, curved up to a roughly molded, padded torso. His lips twitched into a soft, lopsided smile, as colour began to bleed into the smoke. The area opposite his own chest began to swirl with a tendril of deepest black, similar to the sky which extended in all directions above the strange man. The darkness spread, filling the pale void as a deep forest green slowly crept around the outside edge of the formless cloud, finally climbing like ivy into two cylindrical lengths at the indistinct shapes sides.
The mans gentle hum increased in volume, his heart throbbing with a long familiar ache, which he determinedly ignored; forcing his concentration to remain locked on his hazy creation. As he dragged his eyes slowly over the still forming shape, he raised his hand towards it, extending his palm as he had previously. His lips quivered, as the shape mirrored his movement, a small blur extending slowly from the green cylinder. He tentatively lifted his toes from the ground and shuffled half a step backwards, his hazy creation following his movement, though it maintained a perfect distance between them; as if they were separated by a thin sheet of glass.
The mans soft humming almost faltered, as the ache in his heart blossomed, but he quickly caught himself and rocked forwards again, his creation still adjusting itself before his intent gaze. He watched as the blur before his hand slowly cleared, revealing long fingers which extended from a large hand and tapered to a delicate wrist. He looked down, raising his other hand to reveal a another perfect match to oppose it. His smile hitched slightly, a slow blink barely holding back the stinging tears of hope and joy which made his throat feel hot, scratchy and thick. He determinedly continued to hum, his eyes locked onto the sun kissed hands a mere hairsbreadth before his own. With his heart in his throat, he examined the long fingers, trailing his eyes over them unhurriedly as he greedily drank in every detail of a small scar which extended around to the back of the left hand.
His heart began to race as it soared into his throat, his eyes slowly rising to the cloudy visages chest, as the black area molded itself into a defined torso, the muscular abs and pectorals easily distinguishable beneath the tight, dark material. A crystal's spark caught from a small pair of metal tags, hanging in the centre of the soft darkness, with the green around the edge slowly thickening into the material of a soft jacket.
He closed his eyes briefly, allowing the joyous sense of longing he felt to fuse with his steely determination and focus. As he slowly peeled back the lids of his eyes, his breath almost caught. His gaze softened as he watched sandy strands of hair, slowly extending and twisting themselves to rest lightly atop the jackets shoulders. "Hmm... hmm... hmm..." He hummed softly, swaying his hips gently as his heart ached with an intense longing, deep within his chest. He slowly stepped to his left, and the faceless body he'd created moved with him, perfectly in sync with his movements. It raised its left arm, and the mans gentle smile grew, as he made a slow pirouette beneath the offered limb. His feet began to move soundlessly across the ground, the light rise of dust refracting the glow of the crystals which glittered around him and his creation, as they seemed to glide harmoniously to his continued soft hum. His heart sang with a great and sorrowful joy, his deep longing carefully contained as he twirled slowly within the ring of intermittently glowing and glittering crystals; his shadowy creation but a step behind him.
The smokey shadow he'd created drifted seamlessly with him, it's arms extending as if to brace him as he dipped backwards slowly, gazing at the still blurred face fondly. He arched, rising gracefully and gliding forward with his hands raised, almost palm to palm with his creation as they spun effortlessly amid the crystal strewn landscape. He paused briefly, his eyes widening slightly as he watched sandy stubble begin to sprout across the jawline of the blurred face, his heart skipping a beat as he saw rosy lips form and immediately curl into a cocky smirk. "Hmm, hmm... hmm... hmm hmm hmm, hmm..." He hummed urgently, forcing himself to concentrate and locking his surging emotions away in his heart, as he stepped back from his creation. He blinked and smiled softly, a faint sigh escaping between his gentle but determined hums as he danced lightly across the glittering, barren wasteland. The shadow followed easily, gliding effortlessly after him as he twisted and gently leapt from a crystal, sailing over his creation as it raised his arms, appearing to lift him gracefully in the light atmosphere. He landed easily, a small puff of dust clouding around them as he gazed longingly at his creation, twirling and arching around one another with gentle and unhurried motions of affection; but never able to physically touch.
His heart throbbed dangerously and he barely choked back a gasp, determinedly continuing his low, soft hum as he turned and wrapped his arms around his chest brokenly. The man squeezed his eyes shut tightly for a moment and when they hesitantly reopened, he saw two green arms snaking ghost like around his shoulders, and he desperately longed for their solid touch. His breath caught briefly, and he turned his stinging eyes to the dark, glittering sky as he desperately tried to contain the deep rooted ache of his heart. He felt the damp tickle of warm tear across his cheek, and his hum was interrupted by a hiccup, before he cleared his throat and forced his voice to steady. He tilted his head to the side, swaying gently on the spot as he stared vacantly into the stars high above him, overwhelmed by yearning as his creations now stubbled cheek drifted close to his own; but maintained the perfect glass thin distance between them. He lowered his eyes and swallowed thickly, hesitantly turning with wavering trepidation, to watch as the blurred face continued to morph and blend itself. The man barely dared to breath, his heart racing when the previously blurred face slowly cleared, as two bright sparks of cerulean blue bled into being.
His hum wavered, his throat tightening as the blue specks slowly blinked at him. His creation raised its right hand, as if to cup his cheek, but the ever present distance remained between them; tugging at his aching heart. He slowly mimicked the gesture, tentatively covering but unable to touch the hand with his own, the eternal gap between them ever present. At last, cerulean eyes finally gazed back at him, filled with a soft adoration which he had no doubt was mirrored in his own longing filled gaze. "Oh..." He breathed, his throat thick and catching painfully as his heart swelled, aching desperately as his stinging eyes finally blurred with tears. Jake... He thought longingly, instantly awash with grief as his concentration and gentle tune were interrupted. His creation flickered briefly, the cocky smile never fading from its lips, before it burst like a bubble into a great puff of colourful fog. It hovered teasingly before him for a moment, before slowly dispersing, as if wisps of smoke caught in a breeze.
The mans fingers slowly into his palm beside his cheek, his eyes drifting closed as he swallowed back a sob of denial. He lowered his face to the ground, his aching heart thudding loudly in his chest, as he cherished the bittersweet memory of the pilots face. His mind swam amid the memories of over two thousand lives, filled with a deep yearning that he could experience even just one more moment with the other man. Other faces flitted behind his eyes, as tears rolled from beneath his closed lids, leaving his cheeks damp as the crystals flickered sorrowfully around him. His friends, as they were when he knew them and as they continued on with their lives; now so indeterminably far away from him. "I miss you..." He whispered haltingly to the empty void around him, slowly peeling his eyes open as he swallowed heavily against the overwhelming sorrow and loneliness which radiated from within his aching heart.
He gasped as he turned his eyes back to the heavens, gazing longingly into the star studded sky and focusing his consciousness on a far distant world, his heart quickening as he saw his friends and loved one, sat upon a beach and gazing up at stars which were not so different from his own. He smiled sadly, his skin beginning to glow with a light similar to the flickering crystals. He sighed, as his body began to flicker and finally erupted in a puff of glittering smoke, similar to his creation. As his consciousness drifted for a moment, Taylor felt his heart yearn for the friends and loved one he'd been forced to leave behind. Finally, weakened and tired, his consciousness returned to the being which had created him; resting until he might be able to create a brief moment with his long lost pilot once more.
"Taylor..." He blinked at the sound of his name, but did not turn to the newcomer. "You're control is growing. It's impressive. The extent with which you can now create and manipulate your own power-" they continued, drifting into silence as Taylor sighed tiredly.
"It's nothing." He said quietly, shaking his head as the ever present longing consumed his heart. "Just a shadow." He explained, a shoulder half rising in a despondent shrug. "... I can never-" he choked, pausing as his grief constricted his throat. "It's always the eyes which undo me. I can't... I can't keep control of myself when I... see his eyes." He admitted thickly, drawing a deep and shuddering breath as he raised his arm and scrubbed at his eyes.
"That you've mastered control over your own power and regained corporeal form alone is, impressive." Vaanu explained, strolling calmly towards him. "An unexpected development, but certainly not an unwelcome one." They continued thoughtfully, as Taylors heart was overwhelmed by bitterness.
"Yes... and what a lot of good its done me too." He scoffed quietly, shaking his head as he sighed and raised his hand to examine dispassionately. "One out of place not quite human, amid a bunch of..." He paused, glancing back over his shoulder at Vaanu's glowing visage. "Glow-worms." He snorted, facing forward again with a faint and unamused chuckle.
"But you're also able to manipulate the matter around you, to create such lifelike replicas..." Vaanu insisted, stepping up beside Taylor as he turned his head, averting his gaze from the extraterrestrial being with a petulant scowl. "When we departed, this was something I'd not even thought would be possible. That the connection between us would fade, and your own consciousness... your own power return to you. It is, a remarkable feat... and now you may see your frie-"
"Yeah..." Taylor said thickly, stung by an uncontainable wave of resentment. "And if I don't lose my concentration I might just manage to spend a whole ten minutes a day, drifting with a pale shadow of him." He said with unintentional bite, exhaling heavily as he ran a hand through his hair. "He was... is, my husband. I promised him a year and a day; to be followed by forever... and I couldn't even keep that promise." He said quietly, swallowing against the thick rise of grief in his throat.
"You could have stayed." Vaanu reminded, glittering like the stars as Taylor immediately began to shake his head. "The Endless created a safe haven for you all... or you could have used Rourke's machine, erased myself from that world and given yourself a real life there-"
"No... I couldn't." Taylor said thickly, gritting his teeth as he sucked in a distracted breath. "There was only ever one thing I could do... one thing I was made to do, right?" He said, unable to keep the bitterness from his tone as he bit his lip and avoided looking at the celestial being beside him. "I kept them safe... I gave them back their families, their lives. That... that's enough."
"Yet, you are unhappy here." Vaanu said, neither judgemental or surprised; a simple statement, which led Taylor to sigh tiredly. "You wish you had been able to remain? With the pilot?"
"With all of them." Taylor replied immediately, wincing at his eager response. "But... well, its like I said to them. Jake, he's here. They all are, I mean, but Jake..." He explained, shaking his head and resting his hand over his chest, as he looked down at the gesture sadly. "I will never forget him, I couldn't if I tried... it hurts so much, to be so far away from him. Like, I've been torn in two. Part of myself is still there with him, while a part of him came here with me... does that, make sense?"
"Yes." Vaanu replied, its head cocked at Taylor thoughtfully. "The day our consciousness again parted," the being began hesitantly, walking around Taylor in a slow and thoughtful circle. "It became clear something was not as it should be. I long wondered at how this could have occurred, but I believe I understand now." It said, as Taylor hummed disinterestedly. "I believe your consciousness, your heart; your very soul has connected to another, has bonded with it. It has changed you into something incompatible with the power I once needed to return here."
"Oh goodie," Taylor sighed, rolling his eyes tiredly, exhausted from the strain of his mental activities. "So I'm not just, not real; I'm now not real and fucked up? Great." He snorted, as he turned his back on the celestial being and began to slowly walk away.
"Taylor, I mean that your heart is connected to Jake's." Vaanu said quickly, and something in the urgency of its tone caused Taylor to pause. "You were bound to me by power, by... your very origin. But your consciousness never returned to me. You remained a separate entity, even within me... until that too, was shed." Vaanu explained, stepping up behind Taylor curiously. "Even now, you may turn yourself to them, can you not? To see them, as they are now?" It asked.
Taylor sucked in a deep breath, exhaling it quickly as he half glanced over his shoulder at the celestial being. He hesitated only another heartbeat, before closing his eyes and turning his face to the stars. "... Quinn is baking, Raj is helping. Some, fundraiser I'm guessing, from the sheer volume of them." He said fondly, a soft smile gracing his lips as his heart warmed slightly. "Michelle is at work of course... but Sean is going to surprise her with flowers. Craig and Zahra are at a metal concert, she's gonna perform for the first time... Oh wow, Estela is with them!" He chuckled, his eyes stinging as he saw the fierce girl smile and relax with their friends. Grace and Aleister are... giving a speech. Which really doesn't surprise me."
His heart clenched, his eyelids fluttering weakly as tears obscured his 'sight' briefly. "Diego... he and Varyyn are searching for a new house. The checks from his book have cleared... He wants to be closer to his parents." He choked quietly, shaking his head at his friends excitement. "Jake..." He paused, his lip trembling as he felt his skin begin to tickle and itch, grief and longing clouding his heart once again. "Jake is in his bar..." He whispered, the picture behind his eyes shifting to show Jake sat on a familiar barstool, watching a football game on a large screen as he nursed a glass of whiskey. "Predictable as ever." He said fondly, his voice cracking as his heart ached for the other man. The tickling itch upon his skin intensified abruptly, and Taylors eyes peeled open as he yelped on shock, looking down at himself in alarm to see he had turned transparent. "Wha-?"
"I'm sorry for what you gave up, Taylor..." Vaanu said, its voice seeming to reverberate within Taylors head. "But without your connection to me, it seems unnecessary you remain here any longer. Perhaps, by working together, we may right this wrong..." It whispered, as Taylor choked, his eyes slamming shut as pain began to course through his chest. "Allow me to use this..." It murmured, and Taylor cried out in denial, unable to prevent the celestial being from absorbing the power he'd slowly conjured and stored within his heart.
"Ah..!" He gasped, his hands rising to clutch at his head as a sudden spear of pain pierced his skull. Time stood still, the pain his only consistency as he gasped and bit his lip, attempting to ride the awful experience out; until as suddenly as it struck, the pain was gone. Taylor was left trembling and weak, whimpering as he stood still and tried to catch his breath. "What the hell are you-" he began, trailing off abruptly as his eyes slowly peeled open to reveal a very different landscape to the one he had last witnessed.
Consider this a parting gift... A faint voice whispered in his mind, the last remnants of power within him dimming to nothing, as Vaanu's presence faded. Taylor stared in awe as he quickly raked his eyes over everything in sight. Tall buildings and short, busy streets and impatient people in smart clothes; Taylor drank in everything greedily, his racing heart choking him as it soared with hope. He looked down at himself, no longer transparent and entirely solid to the touch. Taylor blinked and shook his head, swallowing heavily as he raised his eyes to look around once more. "Where..?" He wondered aloud, turning to look behind him and tensing, his breath leaving him in an abrupt hiss.
He stared at the large television screen on the wall, perched above and slightly to the side of a long bar; where a familiar figure sat at the far end. "Oh..." He breathed, blinking rapidly as he shook his head. He reached forward, his warm hand connecting with the cool glass window and jolting him from his shock. "... Okay. I can do this. Four, almost five years isn't so long..." He told himself weakly, stepping away from the window and smoothing down his shirt. He sucked in a deep breath, before inching toward the door awkwardly, unwilling to take his eyes from the former pilot. He stepped into the bar, wincing as he was overwhelmed by the sudden rush of sound which awaited him.
"What'll it be?" Asked the man behind the bar, gesturing over his shoulder with his thumb. Taylor glanced at him briefly, before his eyes returned to Jake, flicking over him in awe as his heart swam with giddy excitement. "Heh, boy-o, you got better luck winning the lottery." The barman snorted, folding his arms over his chest as he followed Taylors line of sight. "Trust me when I say, that man? He ain't interested in anything you're gonna offer him."
"Why's that?" Taylor asked, blinking in surprise as he stepped closer to the bar, peeking around the scattering of other customers as Jake frowned and glanced around the bar, as if sensing eyes on him. He watched as the pilot shrugged and turned back to the game, sipping his whiskey slowly.
"It's his anniversary next week." The barman explained, leaning on the bar near Taylor so he could lower his voice. "Five years ago, he lost his husband. Ain't had eyes for anyone else. Rare kinda love, that is." He added approvingly, before stepping back and gesturing again at the bar. "Save yourself the time and embarrassment, boy-o."
"I bet I can get him to accept my drink." Taylor said suddenly, turning to the barman with an excited gleam in his eyes, as the man barked a rough laugh of amusement. "I'll even make you a wager. If I do manage to get him to accept his drink... You'll give me that job your advertising." He added, pointing to the handmade sign on the wall behind the barman.
"Well, its one way of finding staff, I guess." The barman laughed, shaking his head as he spread his palms questioningly. "What'll it be, then?" He repeated, as Taylor paused and looked down at the bar thoughtfully.
He thought back to the day they'd met, the day he'd first 'existed' in the pilots world, and a slow smile crept across his face as he peeked up at the barman. "Actually..." He said, tipping his chin at the cocktail maker. "I think I know exactly what he needs right now." He said, as the barman grabbed the cocktail shaker and raised a brow curiously. "May I?" Taylor asked, reaching for the small container. The barman hesitated, before seemingly deciding to see the event pan out to its finish, shrugging as he flipped a section of the bar upright to allow Taylor through.
"Okay..." Taylor huffed, excitement building in his gut, a tornado of wings fluttering in his stomach. "I'm gonna need you to get me some things." He said, smiling as he began to list ingredients he needed from Jake's end of the bar, while grabbing some of his own while maintaining the safe distance between them. "Okay..." He muttered a while later, topping the drink with a tiny umbrella. "Ready." He said, sighing nervously as he glanced up at Jake. He swallowed thickly, slowly moving down the bar with his concoction in hand, the barman close behind him and watching with amusement.
"Here ya go, fella." The barman said at Taylors prompting, as Taylor set the drink down before his unknowing husband. He held his breath as Jake sighed, never looking away from the screen as he shook his head.
"Some idiot not takin' the hint again, Carlos?" He snorted, and Taylor shivered, biting his lip hard to keep from gasping at the sound of Jake's rough southern drawl. "What is it this time?" He asked, as Taylor snickered to himself. He leaned towards the barman and whispered in his ear, pulling away with a nervous grin to watch the pilots reaction.
"He called it 'The Boy Scout'." Carlos snorted, rolling his eyes as Jake visibly tensed in his seat, his eyes no longer following the game. "Apparently it..." The barman paused, glancing at Taylor briefly, who waved him on impatiently. "Apparently, 'it has the potential to be whatever it wants'." He huffed, folding his arms over his chest and rolling his eyes.
Taylor watched as Jake swallowed, pain in his eyes as he dropped them to the bar and locked onto the curious drink, his own creation from what no doubt seemed a lifetime ago. "Alright, which one of ya thinks ya funn..." He began, turning to glare over his shoulder, but finding himself alone at the end of the bar still. Taylor watched as Jake frowned, his heart lurching as he finally turned towards the bar again, his eyes sweeping across Carlos and flicking forward to finally land on Taylor. "Holy fuckin' sh-" he cried, scrambling backwards and knocking his stool over, as he shoved himself away from the bar, stumbling as he stared at Taylor in wide eyed disbelief and shock.
"... Hi, Top Gun." Taylor said softly, his voice breaking as cerulean eyes locked him into their desperate gaze. "Long time..." He choked, raising a hand to cover his mouth as he hiccupped, his eyes stinging as they blurred with tears. He sniffed and grimaced, trying to contain the fierce joy which festered and bubbled on his heart. "Long time, no see." He whispered thickly, wiping his eyes determinedly as Jake hesitantly stepped up to the bar.
"What..?" He croaked, shaking his head as he half reached toward Taylor, before swallowing heavily and pulling his arm back. "This can't be real." He said, blinking back tears as he shook his head. "This ain't..."
"Jake-" Taylor hiccupped, placing his hands on the bar and lifting himself up, spilling his drink as he slid across and landed with a soft thud before his husband. "I..." He began, pausing as he looked down, slowly raising his hand and extending the palm towards the pilot, his eyes rising to meet Jake's uncertain gaze. Slowly, Jake mirrored Taylors action, until their hands were separated by only a hairsbreadth of space. Taylor swallowed thickly, exhaling a shaky breath as he eased his hand forward and gently pressed it to Jake's, his breath catching as disbelief and joy overwhelmed his heart. "Jake, I'm so sorry-" he gasped, his eyes watering as Jake made a sound of distress and longing; before surging forward to claim his lips in a passionate, frenzied kiss.
Taylor felt his heart ache, longing replaced by contentment and sorrow by joy, a sense of completion; of rightness consuming him, as his husband ran his hands over his sides and shoulders urgently. "Taylor..." He breathed, knocking their foreheads together as they panted for breath, holding each others arms with the desperate need to feel each others closeness. "Taylor..." He repeated, as Taylor laughed softly, tipping his cheek into Jake's palm as the pilot cupped his face gently. "Taylor..?"
"Yes... yes, yes." He mumbled, kissing Jake's palm as he swayed gently in his husbands hold, his eyes closing briefly as his heart was overwhelmed by a forceful swarm of love and affection. "I'll explain... we have time..." He whispered, basking in the joy which radiated not only from his own heart, but Jake's as well. "I'm here... I'm staying. It's real... it's all real." He breathed, almost disbelieving himself as he giggled with the onset of hysteria. "Jake..." He murmured, humming softly as Jake kissed him again, his lip trembling as Taylors tears dampened his cheeks.
"Jake..." He whispered again, holding the pilot tight and refusing to let go as he nuzzled his jaw affectionately, swearing that this time, nothing would tear them apart. As Taylor silently thanked his creator for his second chance, he smiled widely; content at last as his heart ached once more. This time however, it ached with joy, with love; and the certainty that for the rest of their lives, he and his husband would never be alone again.