A/N: This is a mix of play- and movie-verse. The title and two lines are lovingly borrowed from W.B. Yeats' "When You are Old."
They're in different colleges, but they still see each other often enough – more than Scripps sees Akthar, and more than any of them ever see Rudge. On the first Sunday of the term Scripps leaves the chapel and finds Posner waiting outside, headphones on, Gracie Fields blaring, same as always.
They meet for lunch and sometimes for tea but more often to study in each other's rooms, or at the library or even outdoors until the weather grows too cold. Sometimes Dakin joins them, and Scripps watches Posner sneak painful yearning glances, and watches Dakin ignore him, same as always.
Posner disappears for two weeks in November. He misses study sessions with Scripps and Dakin, skips supper with Akthar. Scripps sees him once at the library, but Posner vanishes behind the shelves, looking skittish.
On the last Sunday of the month he reappears, waiting outside the chapel, a scarf knotted loosely around his neck.
"Ah, the pilgrim has returned," Scripps says, burrowing his hands in his pockets against the cold. "What have you been doing, then?"
"Thinking," is all Posner will say. But somehow he seems relieved of a great weight, and in his mind Scripps labels Posner's smile 'enigmatic.'
On Sunday mornings they wander around Oxford. They're still charmed by it, the spires, the cobblestones. One day Scripps photographs Posner in the cloisters, a photo he considers sending Lockwood with "Posner the Monk" scrawled on the back.
"Do you ever wonder where you'll end up?" Posner asks. Scripps arches a brow. "I mean, will you stay in Sheffield? After?"
"It depends," Scripps says after a moment.
"If there's someone else. If I ever-" Scripps shrugs awkwardly. Dakin would've told him to write it down.
"So the celibacy isn't forever?" Posner asks, looking amused.
"A temporary vow," admits Scripps.
They're all back in Sheffield for Christmas. They meet at the pub; it's the first time the eight of them are in the same room since Hector's funeral. There's talk of visiting Mrs. Lintott. No one mentions Irwin.
Across from Scripps is Posner, wedged between Dakin and Timms. With a smirk, Dakin slings his arm around Posner's slim shoulders, weighing them down as he whispers something in his ear. They all watch, some surprised, some amused, as Posner gently shrugs Dakin off and shifts imperceptibly away.
For some reason he doesn't fully understand, Scripps finds himself grinning into his beer.
One night they're in Scripps' room, taking a break from revising. Posner recounts a story he heard from Akthar, about Dakin visiting the lads at Cambridge and spending a drunken night outdoors wearing just his pants. Dakin's already told him, but Scripps laughs now to hear Posner repeat it.
Posner smiles at him. "How many loved your moments of glad grace, / And loved your beauty with love false or true-"
"Oh, Poz," Scripps says. "It will pass."
Posner's face falls. "It hasn't been about Dakin for some time," he says tartly, looking unaccountably hurt.
Scripps suspects that he's blundered, badly.
Posner's breakdown surprises Scripps. He'd known that Posner was struggling but he didn't think it was all that bad – he'd put it down to anxiety over exams, exhaustion, Dakin. Beneath the long-suffering looks and wry self-deprecation Posner had always seemed so strong.
But now, seeing Posner looking so pale and lost in the stark room, his bright eyes shadowed and shuttered – well, it shocks him.
Akthar visits, but he's always been uncomfortable with Posner's attention-seeking – the classroom serenades never did sit well with him – and a breakdown seems the most attention-seeking of all.
Scripps wonders when he became everyone's confessor.
Posner's parents bring him home, and Scripps doesn't see him until he's back in Sheffield for the summer. He puts off visiting for a week, still haunted by memories of harsh silences and dull eyes, but when Scripps finally goes he's relieved at how well Posner looks.
He's seeing a counsellor and volunteering at the library twice a week, "to give me structure," Posner says, with a bit of good-natured eye-rolling. "And I'm singing again," he adds happily. "I never felt much like singing last term."
That's Scripps' cue. He spends the next hour at the piano, playing for Posner.
Posner watches Scripps scribble in his notebook. "My counsellor thinks I should write," he says. "It's supposed to help."
Scripps doesn't look up, but when he sees Posner next he hands him a clumsily wrapped parcel. "To get you started."
Inside is a brown leather journal, embossed and with a crimson ribbon to mark the pages. Posner's obviously pleased by it. His fingers trace patterns on the blank pages, imagining future words. "I don't know if I'll be as prolific as you, Scrippsy."
Scripps grins and ducks his head, and remembers how much he's missed hearing Posner call him that.
"I won't break, you know," Posner says, looking up from his journal and catching Scripps staring again. He's been writing in it more often lately; the corners of the pages are crinkled and the cover is pliable under his hands. "Or do anything too mad," he says, raising his hands and wiggling his fingers absurdly.
"Piss off," Scripps says, laughing, and flings a crumpled paper at him. Posner smiles and bats it aside, turning back to his writing, and Scripps watches his fair head bending over the pages, the fluttering of his eyelashes against pale cheekbones, and feels strangely moved.
They're at the piano, Scripps playing scraps of melodies as Posner sits beside him on the bench. Scripps pauses, fingers hovering over the keys, when Posner speaks.
"It hasn't been about Dakin for a long time," he says quietly. "I told you once. I don't know if you remember."
Scripps smiles. "I remember." His fingers fall into a rhythm again. Ode to Joy.
"Ha, ha," Posner says, but he's grinning too.
Scripps glances over at him. The music stops with an uncharacteristic clunk. "Oh."
"Yes," Posner says, turning away, but Scripps reaches out and brings him back for a kiss.