He can't see his own numbers.
Which, fair enough. He would probably try to cheat his Death Day, anyway, if he knows when it will happen.
But it's not fair when he knows that his brother Luis will die when he's fifty-two, that his other siblings will make it to their eighties and nineties, that his mama will die when she's eighty-nine, that his abulita will die in three years, seven months, and twelve days, that Hunk will die when he's ninety-seven, Pidge when she's one hundred and six. He knows the exact date of when all of his friends and family will die, down to the second. He doesn't know what from, but at least he's prepared for it.
No one knows about it, either. Not for lack of trying—it's just... difficult for him to explain. What will he even say? "Yeah, I know when someone's gonna die. Not how or anything. No, hey, where'd that white jacket come from—"
Yeah, it would go over real well.
For a while, even he hadn't known that others can't see the numbers as well. He didn't start seeing the numbers until he had hit puberty, anyway and—well. It was quite the shock when he had found out what they were for.
He stands at the railing of a bridge just on the outskirts of the city, palms pressed to the cold steel. There's a slight wind, but it's warm, tussling the ends of his hair. His fingers go tap-tap-tap on the rail as he thinks.
He's—tired. When he's not at his mama's bakery, he's out walking through the city, looking for people in their final days. He doesn't know what happens when their time ends, but he tries to do at least one good thing for them before it happens. He tries to lend an ear or buy them a cup of coffee or an ice cream. He hasn't once been able to change someone's number, though, that he's noticed. He wasn't able to pull that little girl away from the curb, or maybe they were just too sick, or—
Lance hefts himself up onto the rail so his legs swing out over the water. There's a waterfall that starts somewhere behind him, but in the dry season it's mostly just large rocks underneath him. Falling will probably break his neck and he'll drown in the shallow water.
It's around three in the morning. No one is up this late—he can't even hear any cars in the city behind him. He wonders how long it will take until someone finds his body. Maybe an early morning jogger who stops for breath will squint in the early dawn light, mouth agape as they realize his body is down there. He knows his mama will cry—he's her baby, after all. He knows his death will hit her hard, but he doesn't know how he can go on. He just wants some control in his life.
"Oh," a voice says behind him. He starts, gripping the rail as his body tips forward. "You alright, man?"
"Peachy," Lance gasps, leaning back out of danger, feeling the hard thump of his heart as it struggles to calm down. He takes a look at the stranger. Dressed way too lightly for the weather—just a black t-shirt and dark jeans, long dark hair pulled back into a low ponytail, and eyes darker than the night sky above them. The orange street lamp a few yards behind Lance doesn't do much to illuminate his features, but Lance can just barely make out the time jumping at his throat. There's not a lot of numbers. The stranger only has days, if that. Probably only hours or minutes, with the way he's eyeing the railing. "You here to jump, too?"
"You have—" Lance waves around his neck. "You look like I feel."
Which is true. The dude looks partially crazed, hair wild as if he's run his fingers through it too many times in agitation. His eyes are red-rimmed, like he's been crying, or trying to hold back tears. There's a pinched pain between his brows, drawing them together and causing wrinkles.
Lance pats the rail beside him. "Wanna talk it out?"
"Only if you talk out yours." But the stranger hops up anyway. Twenty-eight minutes and thirty-seven seconds. They're so close their hands brush as they both grip the rail and look down at the rocks below. "You wanna go first?"
"Mine's dumb," Lance replies.
"So is mine." The stranger shrugs his shoulders. "But if it brings you here, it can't be too dumb."
Lance runs a hand over his face. "I'm tired," he finally admits. "I want some control in my life. If I can't do good for others, maybe this will..."
He doesn't know what this will.
"Same, actually." The guy's voice is sort of raspy. "My boyfriend, my ex, I guess, he—He wants—wanted—sex all the time. I've been able to say no for the last several months but tonight—tonight he..."
Lance places his hand over the stranger's. "I'm so sorry."
"He didn't rape me," he says quietly to his knees. He allows Lance's hand to stay where it is. "I threatened him with a knife and left. But. He kept saying I'm—" He choked on a sob. "I'm broken. I mean, what guy doesn't want sex all the time, right? Something must be wrong with me. So I figured, might as well do the world a favor, right?"
"You could be ace," Lance offers. "Asexual. I have a friend who is sex repulsed. There's nothing wrong with her. She just—doesn't like sex."
The stranger is quiet. His time continues to tick down, thrumming in time with his heart. It's at twenty-three minutes and fourteen seconds. Goosebumps erupt over his arms and he shivers, but doesn't let go of Lance's hand.
His time stutters.
It's quiet around them. A bird chirps in the pre-dawn light, and the wind rustles the leaves, but nothing else makes a sound. The city hasn't quite woken up yet. It's nice, in a way. Lance likes this peace. It's a good way to end things, really. Maybe they'll topple over together, alone and yet not quite.
Honestly, he's a little scared. He doesn't know what happens after death. He was raised Catholic, but they'd left the church when he had come out as bi in high school. His mama hadn't appreciated the priest insinuating they were all going to Hell.
Maybe he'll go to hell, anyway, despite his mama's protests.
He's not sure he likes the thought of that.
"I can see when people are going to die," Lance says suddenly. If they're both going to meet their fates on the rocks below, well. Why not tell someone. And it's such a relief to finally say it out loud like this. Something has been lifted from his chest, and his breathing is a little easier. "Not how or why," he adds, addressing the air in front of him. "But I can see it down to the second."
"Yeah." Lance barely glances at his neck. "You've got sixteen minutes and forty-seven seconds left."
"I've never—" Lance swallows. "I see people with very little time left and I—I try to do something nice for them. But I can't ever change their numbers. That's why—I'm here."
Neither talk for a few moments, watching the river chug sluggishly below them. Lance can just barely hear it churning and whooshing along.
"Keith," the stranger blurts out suddenly. "My name. It's Keith."
"How much time do I have left?"
Lance looks, and the pale column moves in a thick swallow. "Fifteen minutes and twelve seconds."
"Let's change that."
His time stops. Stuck and flickering on fifteen minutes and twelve seconds.
"I'm not killing myself in fifteen minutes," Keith decides, swinging his legs back over the railing and hopping back to safety. "And neither are you. Come on."
Lance can only stare at the numbers on his throat, blinking as they change and grow before his eyes. Instead of fifteen minutes, Keith now has sixty-three years, two days, five hours, thirteen minutes, and fifty-three seconds left. His hand reaches out to trace the numbers. His skin is so dark against Keith's. The breath leaves him and his chest burns as he tries to comprehend what just happened.
He just watched someone's time change. Because of—because of him.
"What's it say now?"
"Sixty-three years, two days, five hours, thirteen minutes, and forty-one seconds." Lance looks back up at Keith, noticing that Keith is a few inches taller than him.
Keith grins at him. "Good," he says, and tugs on Lance's hand.