A/N: This reasonably bad one-shot represents the first in a genre: flangst. Part fluff, part angst. It SHALL be mythic, it SHALL be triumphant…

DALTON: Actually, she just wrote this because she promised Lute she would write some mildly pornographic Snittery if Lute was going to post the next chapter of Pushing Back, and…((blushes)) I helped her with the naughty parts.

((rings the bell)) LET THE ERA OF FLANGST BEGIN! And, if you read the next chapter of Pushing Back, please review, because Lute has hit count now and if you read without reviewing, she'll probably kill you.

But I'm much nicer.

And now, on with the fic!


Liberating the City


The first time they kissed had also been the last: in a freak summer lightning storm outside the Frances Tremell Memorial Arts Building, Skittery pressing him hard up against the wall, so hard that later he found bruises. And he kissed him so hard that he thought his mouth, his lips, his teeth even might be left with a mark too. Maybe he even wished it. Later, after Skittery had gone home to his parents, Snitch had stood in the third-floor bathroom, with all the lights turned off, and looked at himself in the mirror for what felt like hours. Wondering if he looked any different, if any outsider could tell. Because when Skittery touched anyone, he seemed to leave a mark, and now Snitch stood staring at his bleeding mouth, bruised lips, feeling like he wore some medal, as if he had been given some small part of the pain and madness that his best friend always felt, some small part of the burden that he might carry, so as to take any small part of the load.

Skittery had had his final breakdown just before exams started, just after his older brother died. Already the school was concealing the details—but Snitch had been there in the aftermath, just like everyone else in McKinley, and Jack, Skittery's roommate, had been there when it happened. No one was allowed to talk about it anymore. All that was left was a broken window on the third floor, a few shards still embedded between the floorboards, glittering like diamonds. There were no stains, even. Nothing was left to conceal.

He had always been perfect: the perfect student, the perfect athlete, with a lean, muscled body that still held tenderness, and that wide, white smile, as flawless as everything else about him had been, from his grades to his family to the girls who wanted him. Snitch had been in love with him for as long as he could remember, but that was nothing new. Everyone was a little bit in love with Daniel Slocombe.

He went straight from the hospital to his parents' home, sporting two new decorations on either wrist. Due to the clean nature of their infliction they would heal leaving only a shadow of a scar; he would wear his cuffs buttoned all the way to his wrists for a few months, and after a while, nobody would notice. He would spend a few quiet months at home, make up his exams later on—the school was understanding about that—and start at Amherst in the fall, maybe the spring semester at the latest. Everything would be just fine. And if anyone from his past remembered, they would never bring it up, just as the kiss that Snitch and Skittery had shared that stormy afternoon—sudden and sharp and tasting like cigarette smoke and summer rain and heartbreak (and oh how he had shoved him up the wall yes and pinned him by his shoulders was rougher sweetness ever known no)—would never be talked about again. They had kissed, just once, on a Tuesday afternoon, and then Skittery had gone upstairs to his room, his face so calm, and told him not to wait for him. Who was to know, but Snitch, Skittery, and the brick wall? And after all, as so many people would have told him--some things were best left to be forgotten.

But then again, Snitch had never been one to forget things easily.


All the way to Skittery's house, Snitch wondered if he had dreamed up the whole thing. He borrowed Jack's car the night exams ended, drove to the airport, and bought a discount ticket to Atlanta out of his college fund. He would have borrowed money from some of the other boys in the McKinley dormitory, but he didn't want that many people to know—as it stood, only Jack had any idea what was happening—and three hundred dollars didn't really make that much of a dent. His parents down in California most likely wouldn't even notice a difference. When it came down to it, flight was deceptively easy—two hours after he left the school he was on the back of a 747 headed directly to the Atlanta International Airport, and six hours after that, he was in a different part of the country where no one knew his name, face pale and bloodless, eyes bleary, and the stale, sugary taste of a near sleepless night in his mouth. He didn't know why he had come so far or what he planned on exactly, and it was only as he caught sight of himself in the mirrored glass of the airport windows that he saw himself for what he was: a stooped, rawboned seventeen-year-old boy, squinting at the sunlight; his face was honest, but somehow still untrustworthy.

He wanted in that instant, more than anything else, to disappear off the face of the earth. Instead, he hailed a cab, got a room at the cheapest airport motel he could find, and curled up between the cool white sheets. Sleep came to him sweet and hard as a shot of morphine, and his thoughts were wiped away clean as words from a blackboard.


That night, he dreamed.

There was a war. Bombs falling. The smell of smoke from trains running day and night. The sunset was orange as an atomic bomb's fallout. The city they were in was bombed to rubble, but he had found a place to stay: an old warehouse, full of optimistically half-finished machinery, refrigerators and radiators, furnaces. On the cavernous top floor, next to the window, lay the fuselage of what used to be a radio. He pieced it back together again, burning his fingers, but all he got was static. The floor was empty, the elevator to loud to risk using; he slept in a narrow folding camp bed and was alone in the dark. No one had found him yet.

He stayed there for seven days as the city was liberated, and on the seventh day he ventured out, and found a wounded animal.

He was asleep in an alley, his body torn, face streaked with blood where tears should have been. Curled in upon himself, shivering; back a long, long time ago, he would have been strong, but now his back was slender and bruised, his ribs standing out like keys in a church organ. Without a thought Snitch picked him up and brought him inside. He laid him out on the ground floor, covered him and tended to his wounds. He didn't tell him his name and he didn't ask. They had to be quiet. That night, when Snitch pulled a long shard of glass from the boy's hand, he winced in pain but didn't make a sound.

On the second day he drank water. On the third day he ate and on the fourth day he sat up in bed. On the sixth day he began to talk, making his rounds up and down the ground floor; on the seventh day he managed the stairs. And on the tenth day, he woke up in the night, and joined Snitch in his narrow bed.

And in the darkest night, with no lamp lit and no moon to see by, the sound of bombs falling outside and rain pelting the broken window glass, they shared a bed. They touched each other blindly, in the dark: or maybe it was the opposite of blindness. They could neither see nor speak, so they felt each other with every centimeter of their bodies, and the head was enough to make them warm. By the third night Snitch knew the precise feeling of the boys hips pressed against his back, the pocket of warmth that came when he rested his callused hand against the boy's hollow chest. He knew what spot on the boy's leg would curve with gentle gradation into an ember that seemed almost hot enough to glow; he could feel the boy as he pressed against him, his body hot as fever in the dark. And the boy knew his body too: the soft inward curve just below his ribcage that always made Snitch shiver if he ran his hand along it, and then he would spread his fingers and press gently down; he knew just where to tough to make Snitch moan and buck under pressure, press his body against the boys, and kiss him with all the desperation that his wounded heart allowed.

They were silent but after a week they knew what every touch meant. If the boy rested his cool hand on the back of Snitch's neck it meant kiss me; if he pressed against his back it meant go slow. If he navigated the curve of his jaw, up to his ear, and bit him there, it meant don't stop. Two hands on his chest meant sleep by my side and don't wake until morning. And there were a thousand messages in between.

They made love every night in the dark and slept together, side by side, for seven nights, and on the seventh morning, when Snitch woke up, the boy was gone.


He woke up, hard and alone, the next morning just as the first rays of sunlight were making their way past the window shades. Without even getting up, he knew what he had to do. He took a cold shower, and called Skittery's house. She had no idea who he was, of curse, but when she heard he had gone to Caldwell he was as good as family: she invited him over for dinner that night. A special Sunday dinner, she said. A homecoming. They would be honored.

He didn't need to see her to know what she looked like; from her voice on the phone he could imagine her appearance exactly. When she greeted him that night she was almost a perfect match: early forties, blonde hair, strong arms from playing tennis three times a week. Very very white teeth and fashionable clothes. The only difference from a normal upper-class woman who had raised four boys a family could be proud of were a few more deeply-carved lines around her eyes; a tenser grip than normal as she shook his hand.

"You have a very beautiful home, Mrs. Slocombe," he said truthfully.

"Yes. Oh. Well. Thank you." She smiled at him distractedly. "I suppose you'll want to see Daniel."

Snitch didn't really know what to say, so he simply nodded.

"He's out in the back yard. He isn't really hims—well, you know what's happened, of course. We're fine. He's fine. He's just a little subdued. But I told him you were coming and he seemed very happy. Go and talk to him a while?"

"I would love that."

She seemed more grateful than she might have been, and led him out to the back door.

The yard was awash in sunlight. Golden, it poured down from the sky, between the latticework that held up a bower of roses, through the leaves of the peach trees planted all across the lawn. Slowly, half-blinded by the light, Snitch stepped down from the patio, shielded his eyes. And then he saw him.

He was sitting underneath an oak tree, face to the sky, looking up at the clouds as if trying to see faces in them, castles, elephants in a pyramid. Without a word, Snitch walked over and sat down next to him, and it was only after a moment that Skittery turned to him, and looked at him, with his brown eyes softer and deeper than anything else. Snitch couldn't breathe a moment but somehow he knew that it didn't matter. He didn't need breath right now.

"Don't cry," Skittery said, and it was only then that Snitch realized he was. His face was so warm from the setting sun, his eyes so locked with Skittery's, that he hadn't even noticed: and he didn't know now, why he was crying. Only that it was the only thing he could safely do.

And Skittery leaned forward and kissed him, as gentle as rain, on each eyelid, and Snitch felt something in his heart go, as if it was trying to clench around this very moment and keep it with him forever. He wondered what he felt: beyond happiness or sadness, something wider, something darker, something blinder and infinitely more wise. Love.