Authorly preamble or something: Written for Halloween of 2007. I remember thinking something about this was really ~artsy and pretentious~ when I wrote it but I don't see that in it now, which I guess just goes to show that nothing's ever quite as bad as I recall.
"Dani, can you walk home from here?"
"Mom and Dad'll kill you if I show up alone, y'know."
"I just have somewhere I want to stop on the way home. Drag your feet, stop at a few extra houses, I won't be too long."
Max shuffled his feet awkwardly, leaves crunching underfoot. He'd been a lot longer than the few extra minutes he'd promised Dani and he still wasn't sure what he was expecting, what he was there for. Sighing, he sat on the nearest headstone; his legs were getting tired. Five more minutes – if he didn't have it figured out by then he'd be gone.
"I'd appreciate it if you didn't sit on my sister's headstone," a soft voice laughed behind Max, and he nearly fell flat on his face scrambling to his feet.
"B-B-Binx?" Max stammered, wide-eyed. Whatever he'd been expecting, this certainly wasn't it.
The blond young man smiled patiently. "The one and only, I should hope."
"But. But you're dead." Binx nodded encouragingly and Max made a sound of frustration and confusion. "So what are you doing here?"
Binx shrugged easily. "If I learned one thing in the more than three hundred years I was alive, it's that not all questions have answers."
Max shook his head. "Three hundred years and that's all you learned?" he remarked sceptically.
Binx rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to respond but was cut off by a long shiver that shook his frame. He folded his arms around himself, lips twisting into a light pout. "Chilly, isn't it," he observed.
Max touched Binx's arm hesitantly. "Huh, so you are solid after all," he observed. When Binx simply raised his eyebrows in response, he explained, "Well, I thought you might just be, like, a ghost or something."
"A ghost is never just anything," Binx commented darkly, his arms tightening around himself. He was wearing the same outfit as the last time Max had seen him a full year ago, and it did not look in the slightest resistant to the chill night air.
"Here." Max removed his jacket. "Take it."
"Or what?" Binx inquired, sounding amused. "I'll catch my death of cold?"
Max rolled his eyes. "Just take it." When Binx did not respond immediately Max circled him quickly, tugging the jacket onto his shoulders. "There."
"Thanks," Binx murmured, sounding almost embarrassed, eyes on his feet. He tugged at the shoulders of the jacket awkwardly before letting his hands drop to his sides again.
Max shoved his hands into his pockets before the cold could seep into the joints. "Halloween, hmm?" he mused. "So is this another one of those 'dust at dawn' dealies?"
Binx rolled his eyes. "You phrase it so eloquently," he remarked sarcastically, a delicate shiver running through his body. "Same principle, if I'm not mistaken."
"Plan on fading off at sunrise again, then?" Max's tone did not require an answer, though Binx's silence was as good as one. Max glanced at his watch and cursed viciously after a quick double take. "Time flies when you're freezing your butt off in a graveyard," he observed dryly. Impulsively, he grabbed Binx's wrist and set off toward the nearest gravel road. "Come on."
"Have you ever done this with Allison?" Binx asked absently, eyes fixed steadily on the faint pink glow that touched the horizon.
"Yeah," Max replied quietly, eyes fixed on nothing in particular, "just once. The day before her family moved to Boston."
"Ah. I feel special, then."
Binx's tone was ambiguous; whether serious or teasing as he watched over Salem as it quietly woke, Max could not tell. He glanced at the pale boy in the hopes that his eyes might betray him and drew a sharp gasp.
"Fading out already?" he remarked in a low, unsteady voice.
"Hm?" Binx tore his wistful gaze from the sleepy city and looked down at, and through, his hands. "Oh. Time flies when you're..." His eyes strayed back to the rose hue-bathed cityscape, half-finished sentence hanging in the air, forgotten and abandoned. "Hmm."
Max pressed his lips tightly together in defiance of the myriad of objections that sprang to mind, knowing that no amount of protestation could alter the inevitable, and allowed himself the indulgence of a few choice curse words. "Goodbyes suck," he said after a lengthy pause.
Binx closed his eyes and exhaled loudly before moving from sitting to kneeling on the dew-damp grass. He looked down at Max through unreadable slit eyes. "Goodbyes can sting," he agreed quietly. "Close your eyes."
Max considered protesting, but he was cold and tired and arguing or questioning seemed like an awful lot of bother, so he quietly obliged. He could hear the gentle rustling of grass at his side before lips as cold as Binx's arm had been when Max's hand lit upon it pressed gently against his. They were gone just as swiftly, and when Max opened his eyes he was alone on the dew-touched hilltop, now fully bathed in pink morning sunlight and a faint touch of mist.
He picked up his jacket, damp from the grass it lay on, and wrapped it around his arms thoughtfully. Holding it tightly to his chest, he tried to tell himself that the faint scent ancient pages and icing sugar was just the product of his sleep-deprived imagination.
Looking out over the city, Max realized that Salem had never seemed so empty.