For Halloween, 2005, and for [profile] buhfly's Halloween Challenge
With thanks to [livejournal.com profile] turps33 for sparking off the idea, and [livejournal.com profile] morgaine_x and [livejournal.com profile] asradel for helping it come to pass. All remaining mistakes are, of course, my own.

*****

#1

Every sleepless night Nick waits to take Bell out for their morning run, and every morning he makes himself wait more, until the school rush and the office rush are done. For the first time this year the air is still thick with mist: even at after-nine the far side of the road is grayed-out and the air is cool and wet and heavy. Bell lifts her head and pulls at her harness as they get closer to the park, bouncing on fallen leaves and flicking her ears tracking mist-muffled sounds.

Out on the heath Nick unbuckles her and then chases after, pulling the thick watery air into his lungs and grinning. There’s a time for thinking about everything that’s wrong with his life, but this isn’t it.


Bell circles back, and Nick stops long enough to pick up a sodden stick and hurl it out into the misty soup before he starts running again, hearing Bell crash through the bushes and feeling his own body come to life.

He’s starting to get warm, and a quarter of a mile further round he pauses again, pulling his sweatshirt over his head, and the newly bared skin of his arms goose bumps a little. He ties the sleeves of the shirt firmly around his waist and bends down to rough up Bell’s coat, when she dashes back to see what’s up.

She slobbers hot wet enthusiastic puppy kisses over his hands and forearms, and Nick laughs, pushing her back and playing with her, before snapping his fingers and then loving on her some more for dropping so smartly to attention.

He snaps off another short stick and sets her free with another long throw, before setting off again himself at a slower pace.

*****

#2

Steve took the day off work to meet Eric off the plane. He stood waiting in arrivals, with his hands wrapped round the warm cardboard of bad coffee, watching the numbers on the screen flicker and change. When Eric finally came through the swing doors, dragging his case, and looking exhausted and skinny and like everything Steve had been missing for weeks, Steve ducked under the flimsy railing and hurried the three steps to meet him.

He only got as far as breathing ‘God, I miss …” before he was wrapped up in a tight, desperate, perfect hug, burying his face in the velvet of Eric’s coat collar and breathing him in and refusing to care if they were in the way or if people were staring.

The arms around his waist squeezed tight and then loosened, and Steve eased back just far enough to breath deep and tilt back his head, and then they were kissing: coffee and chewing gum and sleepless nights and love and longing. He couldn’t keep his hands away, running over bony ribs, just holding, just touching, and when the kiss slowed to pecks and smiling, Steve slid his hand into Eric’s, grabbed the handle of the big case with the other, and started to lead him home.

*****

#3

It was a still calm misty morning, which made Will think of school and conkers and bonfire night. The trees were just starting to turn, still mostly in leaf, and what was on the ground was too damp and sticky to stamp through satisfactorily, but the urge to get out of the flat and away from everything he was meant to be doing was too much to resist. There were at least a dozen corner shops closer, but he’d decided on picking up a paper and maybe some fresh bread as an excuse for his escape, and if he cut across the heath to Highgate, then a ramble counted as being on the way.

The hill up towards the high road was enough to get him a little out of breath, so that he noticed the pull in his thighs and the way the autumn air was cool in his throat, and so that he started thinking – again – about maybe joining a gym.

The mist damped down everything, from his jacket to the usual sounds of traffic and Will had stopped and was turning slowly, feet slipping a little on the sloping turf, trying to orient the sun by the faint warmth on his closed eyes, when the sounds of a panting dog got close enough to register. He only just had time to open his eyes before paws impacted on his hip and he was knocked half sideways by an enthusiastic collie.

“Hey! Down now!” he reacted automatically, before the specifics filtered through. “Bell? Bell-puppy!”

He’d been fending off the dog, but now he dropped to one knee, ignoring the seeping damp, and welcomed her in, pulling his hands over her ears and twisting his face away from her happy slick tongue, and generally making a fuss of her. He’d missed Bell almost as much as he did Nick, and the way his heart was skipping probably didn’t have that much to do with the adrenaline kick.

“Bell! Down, now.” A voice snapped, and Bell dropped instantly to her belly, tail still flagging, and tongue lolling out of her smile. “I’m sorry – she can be a bit boisterous”

Will looked up. Damn. Nick was sleeveless and still tanned and slightly flustered and beautiful.

“Hi.” He managed, as Nick closed the distance and pulled up a couple of feet away.

“Jesus – Will? – I wasn’t expecting …. How are you?”

“Can’t complain – you?”

“Pretty much the same as always, you know?”

“You look gre … well.” This was awkward, and uncomfortable, and Nick looked equally ill at ease, although Bell was still lying between them, tail thumping.

“You too, Will. Shit. I didn’t – I had no idea you ever came out this way.”

“I’m living over in Golders Green now. You’re still…”

“Kentish Town, yeah. Same place, even”

Another awkward pause, and Will dropped down again, reaching to fondle Bell’s silken ears. “She’s still her same old beautiful self.” He observed for want of anything better to say. He squinted up into the dull sunlight, and Nick was smiling.

“What?” Will asked.

“Nothing. Just – “ Nick shrugged a little. “Nothing.”

Will straightened up, slowly. “Nick? Are you? I mean, is everything? Fuck. Sorry. I. I don’t even deserve to ask, but – are you alright?”

Nick’s shoulders went back a little, a movement most people probably wouldn’t even notice, and Will’s heart sank. Blown it already.

“Yeah. Or, I will be. You… It’s nice of you to ask.”

“I think about you.” A lot. All the time. Obsessively.

Nick’s half smile was tolerant and self-depreciating and so familiar it made Will’s breath hitch.

“Eh – you’ve got better things to think about now.”

“Not really.”

And there it was, out there in the cool morning air, and Will didn’t dare meet Nick’s eyes. He’d fantasized about something like this a million times, except in his imagination Nick always took him back, and kissed him breathless, and they went home together. In reality he’d settle for Nick saying something and not just walking away cold.

“Will?” Nick’s hand on the sleeve of Will’s jacket was tentative, but the contact was enough.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t … but. Hell. Look. I’m not asking for.., just, um. Let me give you my number. If you want to talk – just, you know, friends, or...” Will was fumbling to get his wallet out, and his fingers were clumsy on the leather, the cards getting stuck at an angle, and Nick stepped back half a pace, and when Will made himself look up again, Nick was smiling again.

“I’ll call. I should,” he nodded towards the open park “But, I’ll call you. You take care, yeah?”

“ Yeah. You too Nick. You too.”

Nick flicked his fingers, and Bell surged to her feet, leaping ahead, and Will watched the pair of the running until the mist and the trees swallowed them both.

*****

#4

"I'm just saying it sucks to be missing out on all the fun."

"I can see why though, it would be all kinds of inappropriate in here."

Alex smiles, that wry dry smile that you fell in love with months and months ago.

"Not really. Not unless you gave all the geriatrics zombie makeup and had Dr Seton patrolling the corridors with a scythe ... Ohh! Pe .."

"No!"

"But I didn't even ..."

"Yeah but you were going to!"

You can't help but smile, because it's just so like Alex to be thinking of pranks and costumes. He smiles back, and it turns into chuckles, and you have to laugh, because they haven't drugged the personality out of him, not yet, and he laughs too, until the sound curdles in his chest, turns wet and wracking, making him hunch forward, shaking, and when the coughing stops, he flops back against the hospital pillows, pale and panting. Lung cancer. Aggressive. Terminal.

"I'm going to miss you so fucking much"

You've never said that out loud before.

You stare at the thin lemon-yellow blanket and wish you hadn't said it now. His skinny hand tugs on yours, and you swallow before you look up at him, wide blue eyes and dying written on his skin.

"Sorry." He shrugs, not letting it be real serious. "I'll come back and visit - that’s what Halloween’s for, right?"

He lets go of you to make spooky ghost hands, and you shuffle closer, awkward around the metal bed rails, so he can pull you into a hug.

The treatment's stripped all the muscle from him, and he smells of antiseptic, hospital linens and lemon sherbets. His lips are warm and dry on your forehead and you can feel his chest lift under you.

"I'm sorry, babe"

*****

#5

There was a cardboard silhouette of a witch stapled to Jake’s front door. And a pumpkin with a nightlight flickering inside its toothy grin on the windowsill. Keiran was almost surprised when he rang the doorbell and it didn’t set off the Addams Family theme song or a bunch of cheesy special effects sounds.

Jake was wearing his charity shop tux, with a neat red fake-blood wound to his neck and a set of plastic fangs, though, which completely justified the huge grin on Keiran’s face.

“You? Are fantastic.” he smiled by way of a greeting. Jake mocked a lunge at Keiran’s neck before he got pulled into a tight hug, and a slightly awkward kiss, made bulky by the fangs, and disconcerting by the unfamiliar slide of lipstick.

“Yeah, well, " he spat the fangs out into his hand, and swiped delicately at the dark red lipstick, which hadn’t smudged. “Where I grew up Halloween was a big deal, and I’ve already had two groups come by, so shut up and come in.”

“Maybe I want a treat?” Keiran teased, reaching for the big bowl of lollypops.

“And maybe I want to shut the front door before I suck you off?”

*****

#6

There is a sleek black limo purring down a broad avenue near the river. There are three men inside the sleek black limo. The two men seated in the back of the limo are holding hands. All three men are wearing masks, but only two wear them on the outside.

The limo swings wide, exchanging tarmac for gravel, and draws to a halt. The man who was driving circles the vehicle to hold open the door for the two men seated in the back.

The first man takes the driver’s hand, lightly and briefly, as he steps out, and moves towards the open door, the warm light, the waiting party: this is expected, and this is quite proper.

The second man takes the driver’s hand, in turn, and he kisses it, lightly and briefly, in the shadow of the doorframe, where no one will see, and this is a secret, and this is a promise.

*****

#7

The orange and black ghost shapes Nick’d got from the market and strung across the window of his ground-floor bed-sit had obviously given the right signal. They’d had six groups of kids by to take handfuls of sweets and pet Bell. Little ones in supermarket costumes with parents hovering at the foot of the stairs, right up to a pack of teenagers he’d half thought were going to cause trouble, up until they’d started asking if Bell did agility tricks, like the dogs they saw on the telly.

They’d trouped back down the path a good forty minutes ago, though, and Nick was pretty sure that the trick-or-treaters were done for the night. And then Bell lifted her head from his foot, and pricked her ears at the door.

Sure enough, a second or two later the shrill electric bell sounded, and Nick scooped up the half-empty bowl of cheap sweets. The light in the shared hallway was on a timer that made a familiar buzzing when he hit the switch, perching the bowl in the crook of his arm to work the double bolts on the door.

“Hi.”

“Will?”

“I was – I was going nuts staring at my phone. Can we talk?”

Nick wasn’t really sure when he’d kissed his self-restraint goodbye, but Bell’s tail was beating against his knees, and Will was right there, tying his hands in knots and not knowing where to look, and he just didn’t have the heart to slam the door. .

“You want to come in?”

“Please!”

Nick stepped back, pushing the door wide, before the second thoughts got to him.

“Actually, um, I’m not really set for visitors – let me grab my jacket and we’ll head over the King Will for a pint, yeah?”

He felt like a heel for dashing Will’s hopes like that, but he needed this to go slow, if it was going to go anywhere.

*****

#8

Waiting at a masked ball was a pretty cool way to spend Halloween, and the money certainly came in handy, but damn these guys could party! None of the wait staff had stopped all evening, and he was starting to flag, although the party wasn’t. One quick little ciggie break, and he’d be back and on top form, Greg promised himself, checking over his shoulder one last time before he made a dash for the fire doors.

Just the house was something, tricked out inside like a high class hotel, and the basement kitchens let out onto a small concreted area, most of a story down from the railings and the street. Small being a relative term – less than two meters deep, but the width of the house was a fair stretch.

The night air was cool and damp, raising goose bumps under his thin red shirt and smelling of rain and fallen leaves and autumn. Greg breathed in deep, before shaking out a cigarette from the pack in his back pocket and sparking a light. That first deep breath of nicotine was even better, mind. He blew the smoke up and out, and settled back, leaning on the cold brick wall to just be for a moment or two.

The clunk of the fire doors opening startled him, and in the shadows of the streetlamps above he couldn’t work out who was approaching. He was just about to apologize when the newcomer spoke up.

“You’ve no objection to me joining you?” The rich Scottish burr definitely ruled out Greg’s boss.

Greg shook his head. “Nope. Just grabbing a breath of fresh air – it’s quite a party.”

The man was close enough now that Greg could see him smiling below his half mask. A guest then.

“Aye, it is at that. Brendan’s always are.” A moment’s awkward silence. “You’ve not got a light handy, so I can help you fugg up this fresh air of yours, do you?”

“Um, sure.” Greg flicked his Zippo and tried not to notice the silky fall of dark hair when the man ducked close to draw deep on his cigarette. Such a fucking weakness for accents, and hitting on the guests? Probably not a good route to more work. That meant trying not to notice the long fine hands on the man as he stood up and wrapped his fingers around his smoke. Or his lips. Damn.

At least now they were both smoking the silence was more companionable than awkward.

When the glow was close enough to the filter to be warming the backs of his fingers, Greg pushed off from the wall.

“Well – enjoy the rest of the night.” He offered, as he ground the stub against the wall, thinking to toss it into the bins back inside. When he looked up, the guy was suddenly closer, and those long strong fingers were wrapping, hot and gentle, around his wrist.

“I can think of something that’d make it a better one. Will you meet me, later?”

His voice was low and he was close enough to be blowing warm smoke-bitter breath in Greg’s face, and that accent was making Greg’s head spin, so he just nodded. The scrape of beard and the soft heat of lips brushing his cheek made his heart skip.

And then the man was pulling back, sliding his hands down Greg’s chest, stepping back toward the doors, his “Mmm, thank you,” quiet but clear on the night air before the clatter from the kitchens took over, and he was gone before Greg could respond.

Once he was back in the heat and busy of the party proper the interlude seemed instantly unreal, but every once in a while, waiting in the lift with an empty tray in one hand, he brushed the other over his breast pocket where the crisp edges of a card promised him otherwise.

*****

#9

The bass is throbbing loud enough to drown his voice out from his own ears, the only evidence that he’s screaming into the swirling lights the burn in his throat when he knocks back another hit of the cheep swill he’d smuggled in in a plastic bottle.

There are bodies pressed all around and the rough edge of the stage pressing against his belly. He’s sweat-drenched and burning, and up there, blazing against the lights, is everything he worships.

“Insane bastard kerygma!” the singer sandpapers, curling around the final syllable, wringing every last drop of himself out into the sound, ending on his knees and panting, the veins in his neck throbbing with the base.

All around him the crowd is cheering, baying, stamping, screaming, but when the singer looks up, eyes wide and bloodshot blue, he freezes.

Freezes and raises his face, so that when the singer crawls forward on cheap black paint and ply-board, he’s waiting, face upturned, for his benediction. Waiting to breath in the breath of his god, to taste his blood on bruised and splitting lips. To give his mouth, his heart, his soul and swallow down the taste of sweat and celebrity, and it is all that he has ever craved, and nothing at all compared with what’s still to come.

*****
#10

The tiny little cubby at the foot of the basement stairs, fetid and damp with grey mop-heads and industrial packs of pink cleaning fluid was hardly romantic, but that didn’t stop Su slipping away from the busy bar when Beth vanished to change a barrel, just so she could ambush her there.

There wasn’t time for anything more than a quick hot bout of kissing: gentle lips and sharp teeth and hands sliding over and under clothes and then, as Beth pulled back and seemed about to speak, one more, hard and sure, before she vanished up the stairs, firm fine thighs flashing pale under fishnet stockings and her maid-costume skirt.

*****

#11

Heat and smoke and Red Bull, this guy’s tongue slick against his own, and the heel of a hand pressing his wallet hard against his hip bone, and all he could do was roll into it, angle his neck, push closer, wanting more and getting it, with the wall close behind him and his hand riding the movement of this guy’s jaw, scraping beard hair against he palm of his hand, and this was wet and hungry and he couldn’t think for all the blood racing through him.

*****

#12

Vic wasn’t quite sure at first. The night-bus lurched and rumbled and he was double-shift tired, and when he’d passed them to collapse into the last free seat, two rows back and across the aisle, he’d assumed they were just a regular couple, sitting at an angle so they could lean on each other, kissing, just a couple of kids on their way home from some party where their all-black uniform was the latest thing.

He watched them kiss, slow and lazy, little pecks and whispers trailing fingers. It was sweet – puppy love – and if it hadn’t of made him feel old it might even have been a little sexy. Maybe a fair bit sexy.

It wasn’t until the girl leaned her head right back and the long locks of black hair fell away from her face that he noticed her Adam’s apple. Despite the flushed rush of confusion, he had to look back, look again to see if he was seeing things. He couldn’t see her – his? – figure under the bulky leather jacket, but those long-knuckled hands cupping the boy’s face, and the bony wrists revealed when the silver bangles slipped back ….

Both of them sat up, the taller kid leaning over to wipe clear a section of steamed-up window to peer out, and Vic jumped, looking away sharply, arms tightening around the rucksack in his lap. His eyes slid back despite himself – they were both looking out now, watching for their stop, and in profile – that jaw and that nose, even with the kiss-puffed lips and the eyeliner - Jesus. Two guys.

*****

#13

It kept up a steady drizzle, yet neither of them seemed to want to go home. At least, Will didn’t want to do or say anything that would break the delicate moment between them, and Nick didn’t seem to be in any rush. They’d strolled past the end of his road a while back, and he hadn’t hesitated, just walked on with his shoulder brushing Will’s and Bell between them. They’d circled up through Highgate, and were now strolling back down past the cemetery in companionable silence in the cool silent night.

“You reckon there’s anyone in there?” Nick asked, gesturing towards the high walls.

“Kids, you mean?”

Nick twisted so Will couldn’t miss him rolling his eyes. “No – I meant ghosts – of course kids. It is Halloween, after all.”

“All the better to creep me with – you couldn’t pay me enough to spend the witching hour in a cemetery tonight.” Will admitted.

“Midnight’s long gone.”

“Still. Would you do it?”

Nick thought about it for a moment. “I would have done, when I was a kid. Maybe not now, though. Although Bell’d keep us safe, right, lady?” He ducked down to rough his hand over her ruff. Bell panted up at him happily, and Will had to bite down hard against saying something really dumb. He’d missed this so much.

“You’re mad.”

“Probably.”

They’d stopped walking and somehow, when Nick straightened up, his face was close to Will’s, his voice only a whisper to be heard. Maybe it was still the witching hour, because this had to be magic, Nick’s fingers touching his cheek and Nick’s breath on his face and Nick’s lips touching his briefly, all beer-sour and stubble, and then coming back, kissing properly.

*****


From: [identity profile] ephemera-tales.livejournal.com


next time I do a bout of random ficlets, I'll try and give you some more of our Scottish friend ;)

many many thanks for helping this one come into being - you're a star.

From: [identity profile] morgaine-x.livejournal.com


Thank you for trusting me to do that!

With your permission, I would like to post that particular excerpt, (duly credited to you, of course! in my LJ), as a friends-only post, to explain the icon you gave me? I had questions asked about it & said it was explained by a bit of your fiction. If you'd rather not, I completely understand, so don't feel obligated in any way, but if you wouldn't mind, then I would be most grateful!
ext_840: john and rodney, paperwork (Default)

From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/tesserae_/


Lovely, lovely, what a nice way to start Halloween!

::offers you the good chocolate::

I liked the snippet in #6, and the way the dog kept shouldering in between Nick and Will particularly. You have a great grasp of that dynamic space between two people who are right on the edge of possibility...

From: [identity profile] ephemera-tales.livejournal.com


Ohh! thank you! ;)

It's interesting that you pick that out: for the longest time I could visualise the three of them talking on the Heath, but not what they were saying, and #6 is short, but it just felt balanced as it was.
ext_1650: (Victor (digital_diva))

From: [identity profile] turps33.livejournal.com


Those were just lovely, so wonderful to read with all the lush descriptions that pulled you right in.

I have to admit when I saw my name I had a moment of thinking, what idea? Especially as I saw Nick and a dog and my mind slipped to cracked out popslash things ;)

From: [identity profile] ephemera-tales.livejournal.com


Where I kept altering the order of the parts of this, I hadn't thought of the Nick / Nick cross over when he got christened ... untill I posted it and he's the fist character. Oh well. This one's nothing like the pop flavour, though.

[ when the pumas are finished someone owes me that story.*nods*
ext_12410: (this magnificence)

From: [identity profile] tsuki-no-bara.livejournal.com


oh, this is fabulous. i love the structure - the way it starts with nick and ends with him and will - and all the different kinds of people and situations in between. and of course i have the mad puppy love. ^_^

From: [identity profile] ephemera-tales.livejournal.com


*mwah* thank you sweetpea! ;) I've always wanted to do a set of interlaced stories, and Terri was writing 31 kisses for something else, and the two ideas sort of cross bread - I was worried it might be too bity. And puppy love - Bell's a doll ;)
pensnest: bright-eyed baby me (Default)

From: [personal profile] pensnest


I enjoyed all of these, beautifully atmospheric as always, though it was Nick and Will who really caught me.

Couple of things my instinctive proof-reader caught:
The treatment's striped all the muscle from him - I assume you mean stripped
to wipe clear a section of steamed-up window to pear out - peer

From: [identity profile] ephemera-tales.livejournal.com


I initially thought about doing 31 kisses, but it seemed too bity to do that with original characters, and I wanted something to pull them all together, and Nick and Will obliged nicely ;)

Thank you, also, for the corrections - I'd always rather know ;

From: [identity profile] klgaffney.livejournal.com


...coffee and chewing gum and sleepless nights and love and longing.

god, i missed your descriptions, woman. from the opening with the fall mist (love days and nights like that), on down to the end, my brain was a happy place. *purr*
.

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags