Disclaimer: If you're shocked/horrified/repulsed by what you read here, than a) you probably shouldn't be here in the first place and b) you should know that nothing herein belongs to me.
N.B: Okay, first of all, this is non-slash content with a slash route to the conclusion. That's kind of a lie, but it serves as a fair warning because I have no idea what's going on in this story half the time anyway. It's kind of non-slash intention, but using slash as a means to an end. Or whatever.
And for those who wondered what the hell was going through my mind when I wrote it, I don't know either. 'Home' was fine as a standalone, and still is. This is kind of taking the language style I used and playing with it, as this as a sequel to 'Home' was just too inevitable not to be written. Seriously, I just couldn't stop.
So if you don't like the idea, or think it would ruin the singularity of 'Home', then don't read it. If I haven't managed to discourage you thus far, then read, contemplate, and let me know what you think.
p.s. sorry for any formatting problems you may have noticed.
I spent a lifespan with no cellmate; the long way back
Why can't we just look the other way?
You are weightless, semi-erotic - you need someone to take you there
Why can't we just look the other way?
A catch in my throat; choke -
Torn into pieces, I won't -
I don't want to be this, but I won't let this build up inside of me.
Slipknot: Vermillion pt 2
It's strange, because I hate you.
Let's not beat around the bush in that respect; it's true. I really do hate you, and you hate me. We're both comfortable in that knowledge. Our animosity keeps us alive, gives us a reason to live... that's why you stay close to me. That's why you stay.
I don't even need your help, and you know it. I would be fine on my own, without your advice and snide comments. But the hatred you stir up in me is the closest I can come to feeling real, to feeling human again. That connection we have - it keeps us sane.
It's not the first time I've mused this, eyes closed, leaning back in the chair that's mine, maybe you by my side in the chair that's yours. Or, at least, it's yours now.
Our hatred keeps us balanced. Our hatred exists because a man gave his own life to ensure we both lived - we hate each other for the necessity with which Dumbledore let himself die.
We're both Dumbledore's men, through and through.
I know you're real. I cling to that knowledge like a drowning man clings to a raft. The fact you're here with me tells me I'm not dead yet and that's a gem of information I need to keep next to my heart... because sometimes I find it hard to believe.
And I wonder - have you noticed? The way I crave touch now. The soft, momentary contact of skin on skin when I hand you a mug, when you help me up from the floor, when you pass me a book. It sparks in my brain; it electrifies my nerves. It's like a bolt of energy through my system, and with it comes the information, data coded into electrical impulses: I'm still alive. I'm still here, I'm not a ghost, I can actually touch and not have to fear it's not real. That I'm dreaming. Because I could never ever dream up you; you're too unpredictable, you make me too uncertain. You scare me, you drive me to loathe you and that's just the way I want it. I don't want to be comfortable around you, or your existence in my life would be meaningless.
You're... solid. There is no other word for it. On my own I would have slipped into a dreamlike, semi-conscious state - everything not quite substantial beneath my fingertips, bleached slightly of colour. But you're resistant to all of that, an unwavering presence in my life. You've no idea what that sense of solidity means to me - that feeling of anchorage. It ties me down to the world, keeps me earthed.
But every now and then our fingertips might touch, might brush. I know you try to avoid contact with me - I don't blame you - but I'm more than content if I get a little charged shudder of communication from your fingertip to mine, a little impulse that earths itself in my spine.
Does any of this ever mean anything to you? I don't know. I never will. You're you, and I can't read that. You can read me, though; you can read me like a book and you learned me off by heart years ago. But I've discovered things, before you re-entered my life: I learned the value of a calm stoical expression, and I use it as and when I need it. So (I hope) I keep my muscles in control, forcing them not to jump when you brush past me, forcing me not to shiver when we have accidental contact. It suppresses some of my emotion, but that's okay. I have enough hatred to supplant it.
Is it lust? I don't think so... I have no desire to have carnal knowledge of you, to put it politely. But I crave to have skin contact with you - to know you're warm and alive and that I am, too. It would let me know, like a slap to the face, that I exist - I would never be able to dream up the pneumatic warmth of another person, that shock of flesh and bone and blood beneath my fingers. Every time it feels new and invigorating, like a draught of chilled water on a hot summer's day. Or maybe more like a flash of fire to a freezing man.
Everything feels flat and two-dimensional until I catch a glimpse of you, or you brush past me. You're stark; black-and-white, a sharp contrast of robes and hair (now, admittedly, with a couple of silver strands shot through it) to your skin. And your eyes - dark and clear and deep.
I sound like a bored lover, don't I? Well... sometimes I wonder... what it would be like, to be pressed up against you, naked, skin to skin all over. It makes me shiver. I bet it would feel more alive than anything... even before the War.
Such fantasies, I find, feel astonishingly normal. I have a dream - something ordinary people have, no matter how (in my case) bizarre. I am treasuring Hope, the greatest of mankind's assets. I've now a purpose in life; it makes me feel more directional, helps stave off that feeling of unreality. My dream is to be able to touch you all over, without fear of rebuke - to be able to make sure I'm real and stamp that into my mind, permanently. Oh, it'll never happen; but it helps while away the hours and sometimes might bring the suggestion of a smile to my face.
You often wonder aloud what I have to smile about. Oh, if only you knew.
"Hmm?" I jerk awake, heart tripling, to find that I had dozed off. You're staring at me, smirking, fingertips steepled. I shake my head a little, to clear the adrenaline rush, but not without savouring its harsh tingle. It's been a while since I felt it.
You inject a certain amount of uncertainty into my life, after a year and a half of pre-you calm routine. Sometimes its good; human. Sometimes, like now, it's cruel and unforgiving - especially on my imagination, which is all too ready to present me with images of vicious Dark Lords bearing down on my throat.
I would never have dreamed, back in the days of aforementioned Dark Lord, that I would end up sharing house space with you.
It's dark out; must be somewhere about midnight. Maybe. I don't know. You're sitting in the chair just out of my direct line of sight of the fire, the flamelight fantastic over the sharp bone structure of your face. Your eyes capture none of the warmth of the flames, though, and make me think of the caves inside glaciers: pitch black and oh so icy.
I'm noticing you again. Dammit.
I draw in a deep breath and pull myself up in the chair a little further. I draw my glasses from my face with one hand, and brush a hand across my eyes with the other. I don't think you take your eyes from my face at all.
I look in your direction, and don't bother with my glasses. The fire is a flickering orange blur, and you are entirely in shadow.
"What?" I ask, in response to your waking me up.
I can almost hear you smirk.
Yep. That's you all over. Wake me up just because I fell asleep. The irritation is a brief spasm through my brain, but I chase it way. I'm too tired for this shit.
I take another deep breath, making sure I get air all the way to the bottom of my lungs. It feels nice - an oxygen blast to the brain. It revives me a little, although I'd still happily troop off to sleep.
I lean down slightly and place my glasses on the floor. My eyes blur everything, turning the harshest of lines into the softest of curves. I don't try to fight, force my eyes to focus as would be my reaction otherwise; I simply allow my vision to fade out until practically nothing is distinguishable from anything else. The fire is a bright glow. You are a dark shadow. That's about it, really.
It's been a few weeks, maybe five, since that day you came to me, snarling about how I took the easy option. We settled into each other's lives and hatred remarkably well. You hate me for it's all you've ever done, and you need that to remind yourself you're human; I hate you for what you did, what you stood for and your lack of forgiveness.
I need some proper sleep.
I stretch leisurely, feel my joints click and crack. I exhale and stand.
It's a bit of a novelty, now - my injured leg will just hold my weight if I brace my healthy one. All that physiotherapy you advised is actually paying dividends.
I grab my cane and retrieve my glasses and I'm about to limp off to my bedroom when I hear something behind me. It's you, standing up.
I glance over my shoulder; I expect to see you heading off to your bedroom, you too ready for a few hours of sleep. But no: you're standing there, one arm folded across your stomach, propping up your other arm. You're using this one to trace your thin lips.
I recognise this pose instantly: you're thinking something over. Appraising something. I turn a little more, no longer looking over my shoulder but now with my shoulder pointed at you, ready to form the question 'What?'. Then - I understand that you're looking at me.
I'm not sure what this is about; I feel like this is some ritual that I'm not privy to. I feel completely out of my depth, unsure, nervous.
You see? You don't even have to say anything to make me feel unintelligent.
Ritualistic is the right word. It feels... like a ceremony. Like I'm being weighed for something. What will happen if I'm found wanting?
Then the strange look in your eyes passes and I can see the words Nothing, Potter, above your head, ready for you to say them. But now I'm intrigued, curious, and maybe a little scared. I turn to face you properly. And that strange look once more wipes away that cloud of indifference that was filling your gaze, sharpens it, hones it back to intense judgement.
Damn right I'm scared. I know I probably can't fully trust you - you hate me a lot, and it may be all to easy for you to pull out your wand on me. I don't use mine anymore - it's locked in my trunk somewhere, but I know you never abandoned yours. But I'm not shaking; I've learned to lock up my muscles. I can feel they want to tremble a little but it would not help me here.
You tilt your chin up a little, giving the very slight impression of looking down on me a little. Judging me. For what, I have absolutely no idea. I feel ridiculously out of my depth - immature and stupid. Should I recognise this? Am I not reading your body language? I feel like a teenager on his first date.
You take a step forward, and my heart rate jumps a notch. I feel the fresh, strange tingle of adrenaline trickling through my body, slipping up my spine and into my nervous system.
You're stood right in front of me, looking down the few inches or so that differentiate between our heights. I'm uncomfortable with this level of eye contact. I have no idea what you're doing, and it makes me nervous.
With the air of someone conducting intriguing research, you reach forward and arm and touch a thumb to the corner of my jaw.
The effect on me is electric. It's as if everything was blurry and I hadn't noticed it - the world feels like it's suddenly snapped into focus. Colours are sharper. I am more aware of my body, and my muscles tense very slightly, giving me a vaguely powerful feeling. My eyes sharpen (I know it) and my brain goes up a notch, drops into second gear - no longer observing, but thinking about it too.
You're no longer making eye contact, which is fine by me - you won't have noticed this sudden shift in mental gear, because my eyes are the only place that showed it. You're watching your thumb as you trace it, so slowly, along my jaw, and then drop it down the side of my throat. The path behind feels like a charged wire, jumping with current.
This is it - the kind of touch I crave. You're making everything around me feel... more real, more solid. I do not look away from your face, watching your expression of indifferent amusement as your eyes trace the path of your thumb.
It feels as though you're giving me a kind of energy that my body can no longer produce. Giving me a vitamin my body is deficient in.
Why are you doing this? My confusion and craving has swallowed my anger. I can't feel violated for this contact because a) I want it, and b) I'm not sure why you do, too. There is no lust or love in the way you trace my throat - just a sort of bland entertainment. As though you're answering a question you've long wanted the solution to.
Gently, your thumb indents the flesh at the hollow of my throat - my pulse point. Your other fingers spread out and lightly rest on my collarbone through the fabric of my t-shirt. I can feel my pulse against your thumb - calmer, but still fast. I'm still a little scared.
You and I stand there, for a few seconds. It may not sound long, but seconds, as a unit of time, are vastly underrated.
Then you drop your hand. The corner of your mouth curls up in a sneer, and you brush past me. I stand there, left behind you, feeling like I've failed some kind of test.
That was... strange, certainly. And I'm angry at you, for treating me like I'm some kind of object - something at your whim. My knuckles whiten slightly as I grip my cane harder - how dare you? How dare you treat me like some sort of pet, in my own home?
The anger, once muted and now explosive, tightens my brain a little. That wonderful clarity I experienced is still in effect and I relish this sudden feeling of power. I want to turn around and barge into your room and demand an explanation.
But cool logic takes my anger and soothes it. Demanding an explanation would destroy this fragile moment like a snowflake in the path of a flamethrower, and strangely enough I find that moment something I want to keep with me. Bursting into your room would also annihilate our unspoken agreement - I go nowhere near your room, and you go nowhere near mine. We each have our personal space. I have no idea what's in your room, and vice versa. When you came back, those few months ago, there was just the one bedroom. But I simply persuaded the walls of the house that that internal blueprint was wrong - there was a room missing. It obligingly filled the gap.
If I barged in, it would destroy that bond. You would leave me. I can't cope with that.
So instead I walk over to the big window of my living area. It's dark out but there's enough moonlight to see the start of the trees and the heads of the few bluebells that made it into this mini clearing.
I stand there for quite some time, but I finally realise that there's no point worrying about it now - I'm too tired and my brain is too sleepy despite that shock of energy I seemed to gain from you.
Things might look clearer in the morning.
Strange how people like to believe that, isn't it?
Well, it's now the next day. The next evening, to be precise, and nothing has changed. It's almost as if the little occurrence last night never happened, and I'm happy to go with that. Our... relationship, for want of a better word, has not appeared to change. You're harsh, vicious, snide and snarky. You're you.
It's been a cold day - dull and windy with a few short, spiteful showers of thin rain. The air feels foggy and the atmosphere is a little mouldy. It's also freezing outside; I've had the fire going all day so it's a little warmer inside than out. It doesn't feel like spring's on its way.
It's dark outside and the wind is making a godawful racket beyond the window. Somehow, it's comforting to know that I'm inside, lying on my back in front of the fire, and the elements are outside. Despite the fact that the wind sounds like a pack of werewolves being castrated.
I'm lying, as I said, on my back. My hands are folded behind my head. My glasses rest on the floor a little way from my fingers. My stick lies beside me.
My chair is the one furthest from the fire and there is no way in hell I'll be trying to swap with you. So I simply stripped down to jeans and a t-shirt and settled myself in front of the fire, peaceful and blurry-eyed, to catch the warmth. It feels wonderful; fingers of firelight dance over my face, cast my features with warmth. I can feel the chill of the world outside simply dropping away. It's like hanging over the edge of a volcano during a snowstorm. It's calm and completely warm... like the peace before birth. I close my eyes and try to imagine, for a moment, what it would be like in the womb. This must come close.
You're sat in your usual chair and I'm not surprised. The cold never seems to affect you. In fact, you're all the more likely to stay indoors and in the shade if it's a sunny day - you shy away from warmth and light, content to stay in the cold and dark. Your world is happier if the candle has been blown out.
I stare into the fire, letting my eyes catch the tips of the flames through the blurry lenses of my defective eyes. The underside of my arm facing the fire is quite hot, but I don't mind. It makes a change from the bitter cold outside.
"Tell me, Potter," you say coolly from behind me. "Why is it, miles from anything approaching civilisation, that you manage to remain so innately... human?"
There sounds to be the edge of something a little malicious in that simple question, but I cannot for the life of my figure out why it sounded so animus. You hate me; is that reason enough? I guess.
I give it a moment or so's thought and decide that it wouldn't hurt to confuse you a little. Get my opinions out in the air. Especially after what you've just said, which was a riddle all by itself.
"The same reason why you remain so innately solid."
You fall silent and I can't help but let a cruel little smirk lift the corners of my mouth. Dear God. I'm turning into you.
I yawn, moving one of my hands to cover my mouth. It's alarming, how sleepy I feel. But that's the normal effect of sitting (or lying) quietly beside a fire, as I do every night. You, too, although I have no idea how it affects you.
I wonder to myself... am I gearing up for a repeat of last night? I decide that I'll go with the flow, if anything like that should happen again. Half of me is crawling away in revulsion. This is... this is you. The man I hold responsible for my father figures' death. Sirius... Dumbledore... all those people. You were the one that betrayed my parents. I hate you. I want to turn and scream and hurt you until you understand everything that made me ache, that made my cry away nights until I felt hollow and empty. Everything, in fact, that locked me up here. I my head. Screaming.
And half of me wants a repeat of last night. I need that reassurance, that energy that comes with the knowledge that I'm real. I matter. I'm not an accidental little flux in time and space. And because my entire world is now limited to this house, this clearing, this place with you then if I discovered that I didn't exist I would... implode. Fade away. It disgusts me and it hurts me but you're the only thing keeping me together.
The knowledge that one day I could leave my room, rub the sleep from my eyes and discover you're gone chills me a little. But you choose to stay. And for now I intend to... well, for a want of a better word, enjoy your presence. Preferably your silent presence, of course.
I unfold my arms and stretch, feeling my spine and the joints in my arms crack comfortably. I realise that I probably can't keep my arms behind my head like that or I'll lose sensation, and I hate that tingly feeling I get when circulation restores itself. So instead I drape one arm across my stomach and let the other wipe away a speck of fluff from my forehead. Letting that arm drop back to my side, my eyes drift closed and I can see the faintest glows of the firelight through my eyelids.
I don't know I've fallen into a light sleep until I feel the softest of touches on the bare skin of my shoulder. I jerk awake and my eyes flash open. Your easy, persistent touch does not falter.
It's you. I relax a little and let the extreme tension in my body fade away. Forcing myself to unwind completely and my heart to slow, I move my arms back to where they were and wait, curious and scared, for what you're going to do next.
I keep my eyes shut as your finger traces the round curve of my shoulder, so lightly that you don't even indent the muscle. I can feel the places where your finger has touched; the skin tingles and jumps with a kind of... lightning. An energy I can't define.
In one way I'm getting my wish; our contact has not yet sparked any kind of protest or animosity. I need this feeling I'm getting. But at the same time, it's nowhere near what I want - your fingertips give me the amount of energy that a dribble of water would give a man dying in the desert. It's not nearly enough. I want to be able to touch you; I want to feel the length of your body against my own. I don't want that trickle of power I feel; I want the waterfall.
Now that I think about it, it sounds downright sexual. But I don't care. You've got me anchored to reality and as much as I hate you for it I need more.
I can feel the banked heat of the fire up my side, and I can feel your presence on the other. I pause to wonder, for a second; what happened to my t-shirt? I know I was wearing it when I dozed away but now all I can feel, indeed, all I want to feel is your slight pressure on the bare skin of my upper torso.
Momentarily, I am revolted and repulsed. This is... you. You. I know that, in my mind, I've covered this territory before, but in this moment of simple enjoyment it hits me. I feel it, a dark grey smoggy sensation just above my stomach, and it's all the more heavy for your proximity and actions. What am I doing? What am I submitting to? What on Earth could you possibly want - or achieve - from this? Not only am I disgusted with you, with myself, but I feel my anger beginning to rise. The hatred I could cope with; it can be subdued. Pushed away for a little while. But I'm angry that it's you - it could have been anybody. Anybody. But they probably wouldn't end up touching me like this.
Maybe we've been living together for too long - but as I feel you pause very momentarily from tracing the shadows under my collarbone, I know that a similar thought is echoing through your mind. And I feel your own anger milliseconds after it. I know then that our quiet moment has become deadly.
My eyes snap open as your fingers begin to lose pressure and I'm rolling away, a little closer toward the fire as you snarl and make a grab for my throat. The skin of my back roars in defiance of the flames almost scorching it and I'm on my feet as fast as I can, bracing my weight on my leg. I take a half-step forward to ease the burning sting on my spine, and survey the situation. What have you done to disturb my respite?
You're between me and the door of my room, my sanctuary. Somehow, I don't want to end this in confrontation. That's all I did, back in the real world - fight and confront and attack. I don't... I really don't want that here. Really. Please. Don't make me fight. It would be the worst thing in the world for me, ever. Please. No. Anything. No. I'd rather die than fight again.
So I loosen my muscles and stare angrily at the carpet, unprotected and open. There could not be a clearer sign of submission from me. I don't even try to look at you. The anger inside me is deep and impotent, like watching someone betrayed and yet being helpless to stop it. A part of me wants to lash out, to hit you, to make you understand what you're doing to me. But I can't, I won't. That kind of violence I left behind me and if I ever find that it's snaked its way back into my life then all this rebuilding was for nothing. If this confrontation comes to fruition then I am leaving again. And I get the feeling that this unrest will mean that I keep moving. The violence inside me feels... dirty.
I see your foot moving in my peripheral vision and the next thing I know you're stood directly in front of me, hand lashing out. Your fist catches the edge of my jaw in an explicitly powerful connection and my head snaps to the side. I'm caught completely unawares, although not entirely by surprise, and I stumble back. My leg (unused to this kind of dependance) crumbles mercilessly, spilling me to my knees. The pain that shoots up through my thigh, while not as powerful as it would have been a couple of months ago, is enough to make the world black out for a moment and for my stomach to rebel in a moment of nervous curiosity. Thankfully, it doesn't expel its load, although it was a close call.
My fingers lands upon my cane and I draw it closer to myself; a lifeline. A life.
My hand slides to the top of the stick and I brace all of my weight on my arm, hauling myself laboriously to my feet. The spasm of pain that so previously wracked my body has triggered my system's fever response; my temperature has gone right up, my body is sweating lightly and there is a vaguely nauseous feeling in my stomach and the base of my throat.
You are radioactive with anger, shoulder thrust toward me, a fighting pose if I ever saw one. I refuse to be baited. Once more, I face you square on, and dip my head in a gesture of submission. I can't cope with this. I really can't. I am shaking and weak. If you strike me again, I don't think I'll have the energy or the control to get back up aga-
Is that what this is about? Is it because you can't cope with being on equal footing with me, that you need to provoke me into doing this? You're so used to pulling rank on me, to having the control in any given situation. You need me to struggle for you to feel better.
No. You should have left that behind you. I left my violence behind, lost in the backwash of memories. This is all I can ask of you. We're here now because we're relics from an age the world has forgotten and moved on from. Please - don't break our feeble alliance.
You're still stood there. Your eyes reflect the firelight, using orange flame and turning it monochrome in those icy depths.
So I turn away from you. Face the fire. Drop down and sit, hugging my injured leg to me. I face the flames and wait for you to respond. Don't apologise. If you do, all my illusions will be shattered.
I hear your door close and I exhale. You've left this confrontation - perhaps the wisest thing for you to do. Nothing has been said since I decided to lie in front of the fire; this whole episode has been concluded in total silence. My fever response has not died away. I still feel faintly headachy, faintly sinusey (if there is such a word). I stand up slowly, trying to balance through my thickened perception of gravity. My cane thrusts itself forward and I trudge my way to my room, where I rescue a t-shirt and a jumper from next to my bed. Making my way back to the living room, I drop unceremoniously into my chair and curl into a ball. The fire is still flickering but coolness has seeped into my bones.
I take this time to think. The dynamic between us has changed - most definitely. It's subtle, untouchable, but noticeable. I don't even know how, but something has clicked together, or fallen apart, grown larger or disappeared. Maybe all four. I don't know what it is. Something's different.
I try to narrow it down in my mind, but it won't come. I'm thinking for so long, and so deeply, that I don't notice when my train of thought dissolves gently around me and I slip away into the uncharted oceans of sleep.
I dream; the first for a long time. And when I dream, I wonder about things. I dream the first day you came to me, bitter and black, reintroducing me to the old, familiar poisons of my emotions. I remember the way the snow danced the second time you showed at my door; I remember that more than anything else. You were resigned and tired, hopeless and will-less to live. Little to keep you here with me, but less than the world outside. Death seemed sweet to you. Like it did - and does - to me. You know I suffer the same.
My memories feel confused and bizarre - I've forgotten how to dream properly. But when I wake it's still pitch outside, and at least the wind has calmed. And so have you.
For once, I find you are not watching me; your head is turned to the banked, glowing fire.
While I slept and tried in vain to make sense of my dreams, you came in here: quietly, subtly, and like some smooth shadow you slipped into your chair. My brow creases slightly as I try to figure out why. You are not one to let go of a grudge; I know that more than anything else.
We have lived together for what seems like days and what feels like years. And we have always been in tune to each other: the sense that warns when someone is watching is our version of attracting each other's attention. But as I focus on you you don't seem to be aware of it - like some kind of contact, of communication, has been breached. Like a balance has been altered.
So I take this time to study you. I've never really had the chance to before.
Our verbal communication has always been kept to a minimum, aside from snide comments and sharp retorts. So maybe, when I say this, it will show you that I don't mean to hurt you. And maybe that in itself will save you from killing me in return.
When I first called you Severus you were angry and told me, in as many words, that I had no right to do so. But your head turns swiftly and smoothly, hair brushing your shoulder, and for a moment I am thoroughly confused. There is no anger is your eyes, but you don't look defeated.
We watch each other for maybe a minute before I realise that unseen and unfamiliar emotion in your eyes, well-hidden in your subconscious by layers of masks and world-weariness.
You are not defeated, you are drowning, and I don't even know if you understand that. Somewhere, buried in your head, something is screaming in sheer panic. And this is so unlike you (cool and calm, collected and sarcastic, brilliant and sharp) that I have no idea what to say, or even what to think.
I know I'm different, and that I changed. But I never considered that you would, too.
I hold out my hand, palm toward you, fingers spread. Exactly half-way of the distance between us. A cavern of years, a pattern of months, a span of decades, a couple of feet.
You look at me for a long, long time. Trying to figure out my game. But you're doing it the wrong way. I don't care about how you react; I just want answers through the contact.
So, slowly, you extend your arm toward me, and our fingertips meet. And a surge of energy crackles up my heart, into my chest and head, lighting me up from the inside. I breathe the white noise in deep and at the edge of my hearing I can hear you exhale steadily.
My eyes are shut and my senses are tingling, bouncing with energy. I feel you pull your hand away and I let mine fall slowly to the arm of the chair, savouring this rush of feeling that I shouldn't have. It feels like it was softly stolen, like the sounds of some child's midnight singing. Like I shouldn't have it, and yet that it belongs to me.
So I open my eyes and look at you, to find your head leaning back against the chair, eyes delicately shut, and I notice your usual grip on the chair is loosened. Your breathing is easier.
What did I draw from you? A poison, a power, a prerogative? You are a man of extremes: snarling black and pale white, needless cruelty and thankless sacrifice, and this is what I need. I don't want it and I don't like it... but already I can feel that ethereal feeling sneaking back into my world. I miss the potency of your touch, and I need it back.
Silently, I stand, running on the generation of your stolen energy, and I kneel before you. Raising myself slightly, bracing my weight on my palms and wrists on the arms of your chair, I (almost non-existently) touch my lips to yours.
Instantly, your eyes snap open and the heels of your hands slam into the flesh under my collarbones, exerting a pressure that I didn't think possible of you. But I have the advantage of leverage, so I let the weight of your arms push my shoulders back whilst remaining in contact with you.
And it's different. This is no kiss; Jesus, no, it's just another, if more intimate, way of touching. Touch. That's what this is all about.
I feel it now, the energy filling my body, and I know that it's affecting you too, because for a moment, your palms stop pushing. Then your hands clench, turn and twist, grabbing two handfuls of my t-shirt and throwing me completely off-guard as you pull me toward you with a ferocious might that I could call desperation. Now you're the one who's in control, you're directing this contact with a force that's almost scary. There is a depth to this kind of touch that doesn't come from merely skin-on-skin - there's an elemental feel that is rawer, less constrained and above all, deeper. So now I'm shaking perceptibly while you, the same as ever, exploit me coolly, calmly, and oh God I'm scared so bad and the only thing that's keeping me up are your fists entwined in my shirt and the only thing I can think, strangely enough, is a one-line quote from somewhere: Find out, if you can, who's master, who's man. Scared doesn't cover what I feel now because it's almost as if you're plumbing my soul, this unfused and unfettered power that's pouring into me and it's such a flood I'm drowning and I almost don't want it now (overdose) but somehow I can take it, I can take this and ride it and come out alive -
And this is pure you. You are doing this for the relief but you are also doing it for the pure, cruel pleasure of it - you know how this affects me and you know that it renders me shocked and gasping. You are in control, and the only word for it is cruel.
Maybe that's important.
Life is cruel. You are cruel. You are life.
I'm angry at this - at you - the way you could change so radically and yet remain so intrinsically the same. So I struggle. My hands flash up to grip yours, which is my first mistake - that surge of power multiplies by a half, upsetting my internal equilibrium, whiting out my thoughts as you breathe lightning into me that is slowly short-circuiting my brain. You have more life than me. You have more power stored in you than I can handle.
I hear a low sound in your throat - a snarl. Any vestiges of panic you once had are gone, lost in the backwash of this dynamis, and all I can think of is how to break this contact, to get away before I cease to be and your energy consumes me completely. Some part of me still revels in this; in you. But I would ride this energy through to my destruction.
With a wrench and a gasp, I'm away, breathing deep and hard, and your sneer and smirk is firmly clawed on your face. And the air is crackling with life, an invisible radio wave that makes the air I breathe feel like liquid reality - a break in the dream. I feel strong and charged and ready for anything. Except perhaps you.
I'm standing, knuckles white on my cane, and I can't even remember getting off the floor. And I see you, and the difference this has wrought in you, and everything I feel drains away and quietens. Nothing left but the pressured undercurrent hum of tense cables - the force in my muscles. Because I'm scared beyond belief.
You're sat there, fingers steepled, looking calm and detached and clinical. I'm on a higher level that you, looking down, but that serves only to give you full access to my easily-read emotions. And the idea that you're completely relaxed give rise to the idea that you could follow any idea through, logically and precisely - maybe even my death.
You stand slowly, a terrible sight. You never once break eye-contact, unfolding without haste but with momentum, like the unstoppable orbit of a planet.
And then you're stood there, taller than I am, and I have to fight the urge to back away as you close the difference between us. You can smell my fear, and for a moment I swear you laugh.
As heightened as my senses are, I'm not prepared for when you reach out and grab my throat in one simple, swift movement - curling your arm, bringing my back into crashing contact with your chest, putting you mouth and my ear close together.
"Watch what games you play, Potter," you say in a low, malicious, cruelly intentional voice. I just hear it above the muted roar of our skin contact.
And then, in a flash, I see it: the balance I've long sought, the level I can put us on to keep us human.
I break away from you with a harsh twist, and there is a growl low in my vocal cords.
"Do not touch me," I whisper venomously. Your eyes glow in return.
"There is fire in you, Potter," you hiss, enjoying the way I'm shaking and the way I'm wary of your every move. You know I'm scared. "But you're playing with things that best be left alone. I am not a nice person." You move closer, and I stand like a rabbit in the headlights. "I've killed. I've tortured. I've maimed. And I've enjoyed every moment of it."
Your voice gives a soft spin to every word that would be considered sensual, under different circumstances. You eyes move across my face, looking for the terror you expect to find. You can't see it, because all I can feel is adrenaline-ignited fear. You don't control me, and you know it. And, behind all this movement, my mind is ticking, calculating...
"That means nothing here," I say with a harsh smile, and you know it's true. It makes you angry, that you cannot draw on the life you used to have to have power over me. And this rage you feel cannot be controlled.
It's control you crave, control you're exerting over me now and control you exerted over me then. We escaped that fast-paced world outside, but we were born there - we are creatures of it. We need some semblance of familiarity to keep from losing ourselves. Whether you were aware of it or not, you sensed it, with the sheer panic I saw in your eyes not five minutes ago. You felt yourself slipping away, drowning in a pool of who you thought you were. I am your anchor to normality, as you are my tether to life.
I will give you control. In return, you will give me life - oxygen. And you will receive solidity for yourself - peace and air to breathe that you'd forgotten about.
I cannot tell you this. You will refute it, you will deny anything other than health in yourself, and your fear will drive you away. You are but human, and once I forget that, we shall have those halcyon days in the future to come. If we suspend time, then we shall forever have a working system that keeps us whole, keeps us separate from each other, keeps us sane.
You are aware of your wish to control me, but not of the need inherent in it. I will give us what we need.
More fool me for thinking I could completely figure you out. Control is what you crave; but no-one is ruled by one dominant drive. There are hidden motives, sub-desires, that I had not considered. And there is always humanity; your humanity.
'Humanity' is a word that is expected to cover all that we, as a race, are proud of in ourselves. But people forget that humanity is also wild and untamed and vicious and raw, an echo of the beginning of mankind. And you take this aspect of yourself, and refine it with intelligence and casual premeditated malice, until it's a spear of shiny darkness within you. It became your soul.
You move forward faster than I would have thought of you and the next thing I know, you've knocked my cane out from underneath me. The sheer cruelty behind this move stuns me and before I know what's happening I'm falling, restlessly and effortlessly, the world a moving vertigo of shock and pain. Then pragmatic fingers dig into me, controlling the descent, turning me over so that instead of cracking my skull my body hits the floor, back-first, evenly. I gasp, trying to get my air back, and I hear a growl, a sound that's evolved beyond instinctual but still animal. And hands are on me, holding and pushing, and I'm fighting back, a struggle between two people with one goal in mind, a flash, a fever, a fire-throat. And then everything kind of greys out as somewhere, somehow, a rainbow of charcoal, we make skin contact. And that's when I leave it behind. I am aware of my body, like a metal shell below and beyond me, but I'm someplace else. And I can feel you too, your physical presence right next to me but inexplicably far away. It feels like we've transcended something, sharing energy, a giving-taking I never thought possible of us and so we leave our bodies behind, back on that placid earth, and let them do as they will. We focus inward, raise ourselves up, and we leave the rest to nature.
I feel like there's air to breathe now.
It's a pause in the air, a pause in time and I lie suspended in it - a simple '-' in the progression of events, like the chance to exhale and renew. And it's not until it begins to fade that I recognise it as momentary peace, a balance. And by the time this is realised, I'm awake, and it's gone. But memories are still powerful. I know this. Sometimes I wake, gasping and clawing the air, from them. But not today. Not now.
The fire is out. There is daylight slanting through the windows, a late, sharp January illumination. There is colour in the world again, the air thrums with it. It's alive once more. The pressure is back, the world has returned to me, I'm me inside myself again.
Pain. Sudden, swift and grounding. It jerks me back a little way into my normal state of mind, and I wince momentarily before my leg settles down. It's then, and only then, that my calmed brain begins to process my surroundings.
I'm naked. That much is obvious. I'm lying in the middle of the living room floor, near the fire. I ponder this a moment, waiting for my unstructured memory to reboot, unconsciously rubbing the twisted ripple of skin over my thigh - an ugly scar, a ditch in the skin, a trench in my life.
My t-shirt is lying about a foot away, so I reach and grab it - I feel a little self-conscious (a new feeling, delicious, reminiscent of old times when embarrassment was the worst thing in the world), and it is swiftly (if tenderly) followed by my jeans. Which, I discover, have a giant rip all the way down the left leg. I puzzle this, momentarily distracted, and it hits me like a hammer blow.
You. Where are- we- you- I did-
I'm alone, here in this room. You're-
That's why my jeans are ripped. Last night, contact seemed important. Now it seems-
I've breached a gap, we've torn down a wall, and now I'm going to find out whether it was dam protecting me from the floodwaters, or a structure blocking my path to freedom.
My leg cramps violently - it is unused to that level of... exercise? strain? and the fact I'm tense now isn't helping.
My cane is under your chair. I stretch, grab it, and push myself laboriously to my feet. My leg, it hurts, oh God it hurts, and through the pain I pick out a single strong image from last night. Something that seemed important then.
Your collarbones: a convoluted line through your shoulders, a thin snarl across your chest. They seemed... I don't know. You are a chiaroscuro and they highlighted everything about you. Sharp and shadowed, bony, angular, as if your flesh and your skeleton are at odds and refuse to share the same space.
I shake my head, and limp (more heavily than usual) toward the kitchen. Old habits die hard, and I need a way to restart myself this morning. I'll find my solution in the bottom of a vial of murky red-pink liquid.
StepTHUMP, stepTHUMP, my cane hits the floor with extra weight this morning. Pain, strong and fresh. Let's sort that out before I even THINK of-
You're sat, facing the door of the kitchen, behind the table, armoured in black cloak and robe. But you're not using it as a barrier, as something defensive. It's your usual weapon. You Are In Control.
There is a mug in your hand. It steams gently.
It is white, the only white one I own. You own.
I look at you for a moment, trying to gauge your reaction. There are many things you can expect from a person after an... intimate evening, but you don't fit in the category at all. You stare back, solidly, blackly, triumphantly, smugly. You're breathing easier, I notice, you don't look as though there's fluid in your lungs anymore. You ain't drowning today.
You're not denying anything. You're not admitting anything either, and your weapon of a soul is egotistically satiated with that.
I turn, reach up, muscle-memory finding a vial with a suspicious-looking potion sloshing around within it. I take a quick nip (not supposed to do that, but it's not like it's a habit anymore) and put it back as my leg settles.
I look back at you for a moment, wondering what you think of my lapse (amongst other things), and you're not looking at me. Your eyes are on my leg - the scar is clear through the rip in the fabric, lower left thigh, ugly.
I turn and reach once more, and this time what comes down is a needle and thread.
I push myself along the wall until I can sit opposite you, and I begin to thread the needle. A soon as I sit you're up and leaving the room, white mug (like a contradiction) going with you. But I don't interpret this as anything other than your usual behaviour. It's pleasant, somehow, to know something feels better without having to change.
I start sewing the rip on my jeans and I can't help but smile as you pass. It's okay. Everything feels fine in this little house of a world, our shared universe, two people who are now balanced in focus and tipped in control. It works. Take a seesaw, and weight it heavier at one end than the other, and it will sink. So don't adjust the weight; shift the fulcrum. It's easier, more stable, and works.
You pause before leaving, but I know you're not going to say anything. And then you're going through to the living room, door swinging shut behind you. You, full of malice and violence and anger, and now you may breathe because of me. Just as I can breathe because of you. This was not a one-off, nor is it a start of something. It is a continuation through a different medium, one which (this time) lets us live. I draw something from you and I can use it, like water. Like energy. Like power. My life is your poison.
Animosity is there, but don't take that away, don't change, or this fragile glass structure we've blown will shatter. It's held together by illusion, and supposition, and assumptions. I'm me, you're you, and were it any different it would never work, you snarky bastard. You're perfect, and in control of yourself, in ways you weren't before and were, way back when. You've fought me and won.
You are there for me to use as I see fit. Maybe you feel the same, so that's okay. There. Equilibrium, no matter where the focal point of balance is.
Come on, now. I told you. It wasn't that hard, was it?