Title: When The Weather Got Cold

Characters/pairing: Will Solace/Rachel Elizabeth Dare; references to Will Solace/Katie Gardner

Warning/spoilers: General series spoilers. Some language and reference to sexual experience.

Song choice: Winter Song - Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles

Summary: Because that is the winter of him - and only him.

A/N: This may seem a little peculiar to you, but let me explain. Once upon a time, a strange bean called Kioko invented the pairing of Will Solace and Katie Gardner. A little after that, she then created a second pairing, perhaps a little odder - that of Rachel Elizabeth Dare and the afore mentioned Mr Solace, as a meeting of creative artistic souls in fluffy heaven. I fell a little in love with both pairings and with Will, creating for him this wonderfully woefully weird personality; and so fell in love with both ships. This meeting of minds between Will and Rachel became much darker in my mind and perhaps a little angst-ridden, and so this experimental fic, inspired by the simple prompt 'when the weather got cold', was spawned. It's odd, I'll warn you, but I hope you enjoy it - it's wintery and weird, as all holiday-time fics should be (...mmm.) Do let me know what you think. And a Very Merry Christmas to all.

Dedication: To Kioko, who is (forgive my language) a motherfucking ship-creating genius.

'Happiness can be found in even the darkest of places - if one only remembers to turn on the light."

How cold?

Very cold, you assure him. It's very very cold.

He half-laughs at you down the phone, though you don't find any of it remotely funny; not the fact that you have to sit in one, two, three, four, five, six different layers of clothing inside the apartment, because the heating is broken and the windows are as thin as the ice you slipped in on the sidewalk this morning, and however much you try to light candles and use the flames to warm your quivering hands all you can think is how much you hate fire and so put it out just as quickly as you light the fucking match.

Fire burns your favourite things. Paintings and sketches and books and libraries and museums and wallpaper and forests. You hate fire, always have.

Years later, you'll remember that winter. Not just for the fucking cold (you scream at the weather forecast daily; how can it be so cold? How?) – but because that is the winter of him and only him.

Most people have summer romances, whirlwind summer romances – but not you, no. You have a snowstorm winter romance, which lasts a season but lasts a lifetime.

And if anything, the only thing you learn from it all is exactly what Roberta Flack was singing about in that dreadful song you hate so much.

And also that an artist plus another artist equals a total fucking disaster.

He is perfect, and he is not. That's what you love about him; what you still love about him (and most likely what she loves about him, too).

September. You meet him in the morning, and you've fallen hopelessly in love with him by the afternoon, and by the following evening you've shared his bed and kissed his temple and felt his hand soft as a whisper in the night.

He never calls you Rachel. Red, he calls you, for the hair and for the initials in your silly name, and you say you don't mind, not one bit.

Red. It defines you. You hate that.

He's just Will, though. Just Will. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Will, who needs telling when to stop a sentence and has to constantly remind everyone that, no, he's not gay, he just really really likes musical theatre, interpretative dance, Audrey Hepburn movies and the Princess Diaries.

And even though the reason you notice him in the first place is perhaps a little fickle – hello, Mr Abs – the reason you love him is much deeper than that. He's an artist. A musician and a romantic and a songwriter and an actor and a poet and by the time he's told you all this you're practically stood by your bed with your pants around your ankles because oh my gods, should a person be so faultless?

He's also intensely insecure. He's just got out of a super-serious relationship with some girl from Camp, which is awesome. Low self-esteem and self-doubt and a deep, unwavering passion and this constant quest for inspiration; and [even better] he's got mommy issues – a heroin addict in a run-down area in the scary end of Chicago – and anyone who knows you will tell you that if there's one thing you love more than a fellow artist, it's a fellow artist with some sort of psychological trauma because that is really, really hot.

You tell Percy this one night following one of Annabeth's culinary disasters during a failed attempt at a dinner party.

He winces and leaves you a note on the refrigerator door the next day.

BE CAREFUL, it reads.

You don't listen.

And he's everything you need. At that point in your life, he's everything you're looking for. Even his name. Solace. That's what he is to be to you, you know it.

Your twenties, they say, are for your vices, your addictions. Drugs and sex and parties and drink and too much, too fast.

He is your addiction, without a shadow of doubt. And that doesn't scare you as much as it should.

October. It's all too fast, but you don't notice.

Within three days he's calling you at midnight, at four in the morning and again at five. He writes songs for you, you paint for him, and it's like that movie, Shakespeare in Love, like you've suddenly found your muse at long last. You spend every waking moment with each other, talking and talking and talking and talking about the future and the world and yourselves – and making love, over and over, in ways only those in their crazy twenties can.

He listens to you. Like, actually listens to you.

You find that deeply unsettling.

If it's cold, he asks, why don't you turn the radiator on?

It's broken, you remind him.

Oh, yeah, he says. Fuck.

He's not your boyfriend. He's your lover, even though the word makes it sound so old and disgusting and terribly terribly twee.

You didn't believe in soulmates, but, by the gods, you do now.

[and you choose to believe he does, too.]

November. He leaves Camp for you. And you find a place, a tiny shitty little one-room apartment you fall in love with almost as fast as you fell for him and you move in together. It's been two months. Two months.

You have a mattress, and a stove, and an easel and a guitar and a sink and a bathtub and a fireplace that laughs o-ho-ho-ho, you'd think I'd make this place warm but I won't o-ho-ho.

They all say you're crazy. You agree.

He loves you. You know it. He tells you, over and over, and it's about the only thing you're sure of.

You love him. Perhaps a little more.

You fight with Annabeth, with Percy, with everyone about it all. They're wrong, you decide. This is the way you want to live your life, and you've never been more sure of anything in your life.

They shake their heads, and they tell you that Rachel, you've changed.

You agree.

Write me a poem, Will, you ask.

He does.

It's a moment of heaven to hear him read it to you, a moment of pure oblivion amongst the pains and the woes and the grim pragmatism of reality.

[but isn't that what it all is, really?]

Maybe you could call the super, he suggests. You sigh.

Can't, because the super's ill and they have no replacement because the apartment block is an underfunded shithole - and as you say this, there's a banging noise and a cupboard, their only cupboard, drops from the wall and falls with a deafening blow to the bare floorboards, and you hear the sound of smashing china.

Double fuck, he says.

No money. A musician's salary and the commission charge for a fresh-out-of-college art student equates to zero dollars.

You manage.

December. He fumbles with your buttons and your bra clasp and you, but he makes you feel like there is nothing more, nothing more to life at all. He teaches you ways of loving someone you've only ever heard of in Wuthering Heights or your favourite Eminem songs and everything he does is golden in your eyes.

It's all in the moment. That moment of climax, that moment of sheer bliss, where his eyes shine with your name on his lips and then you fall to earth with a bump as it ends, his fingertips falling to rest at your aching, quivering figure.

And how he makes you laugh. Endlessly. Accidentally, of course, because he's such a fool sometimes and it makes you want to laugh until you cry – and you do, regularly.

He only smiles.

But you fight.

And oh, how you fight.

It's burning raging furious angry passionate fiery rage; you scream at him, he screams back, and you throw things and he ducks. He just makes you feel so much, so so much, that sometimes the lines between sheer hatred and infinite love in its entirety become blurred to the point of despair.

You wake, you shout, you cry, you love. You kiss, you sigh, you fight again. And sleep.

You wake once more. It starts again.

And there's no-one else. This endless, constant dependency on one another, a sheer need for one another forces you to cut off from the rest of the world and live in this dream-like state in this untouchable haven. You force reality out, for once in your life. And you live in fantasy.

You wonder when this became your life, this world that exists only to you.

He carries a picture with him. A photo.

You ask: Who is she?

Katie, he replies. Her name is Katie.

And this is the beginning of the end. Your end.

You regard the broken remnants of the cupboard from the safety and confines of the mattress.

What do we do? His question is so simple. It says so much.

I don't know, you admit.

Reality seeps in, like the damp dripping slowly in through the ceiling.

You learn who she is. Katie Gardner. Her mother is Demeter and she's that girl from his past; the one he still writes love songs about, the one he still murmurs the name of in his sleep, the one he thinks of when he closes his eyes and makes love to you on the old mattress in the dark and cold with the sound of the traffic spilling through the broken window.

January, full of rain and bitter bitter cold, and he's drained. An empty vessel sleeps beside her in their tiny shitty Brooklyn apartment. He is but a walking ghost. That's what he's become.

You hate her. You hate her.

You hate yourself a little bit, too.

Red, he whispers. What are we doing?

You tremble.

What do you mean?

The phone-line crackles.

I –

You're fighting more, and you know why; you're fighting to keep this afloat, to keep the dream going just a little longer; it's as if your mother is drumming on your bedroom door, calling for you to wake and you're trying to hold on, just for a moment longer. You don't even know why anymore.

But, as spring begins to crawl in, bright and hesitant like the sunshine beneath the gap under the door, you know it's over. He does, too. You barely speak. He doesn't touch you like he used to, look upon you like he used to.

It's as if a lifetime has passed in a single winter, and you feel older, weaker, wiser.

I'm sorry, he says, and [to his credit] he sounds it. I just can't do this anymore. It's not fair to you.

It's never fair to me, you think, but you stay silent and listen to the sound of the rain.

And he stands before you, in the doorframe to that tiny shitty Brooklyn apartment, telling you he's sorry and he will never ever ever forget this and you as long as he lives – that you've taught him so much and he can never quite thank you enough.

You were the lesson I had to learn, he says. And you nod, not quite sure what's meant by that, but you feel like you agree anyway.

A stale kiss upon your cheek for the boy you gave your heart to, wholly and unconditionally, and he's gone.

You curl up and cry and think peculiar thoughts about love and death and the many, many mistakes you've made.

You weren't thinking, that night. Your mind was elsewhere.

You just remember the match and the rug and the paper and the mattress and the flames, oh, the flames, and running down those stairs with the billowing black smoke catching in your throat as it burns burns burns.

It ends in flames. That's how you will always remember it. Everything crumbles in the flames; your house, your world, the life you made for yourself there, in that tiny shitty Brooklyn apartment.

[but was it life at all? is that what it was? you're not sure. you're not really sure of anything anymore.]

In time, you'll come to describe it as like reading in a darkened room.

You sit, leafing through the pages of the book – tasting it, devouring it. And suddenly, somewhere behind you, someone throws the switch. The light floods the room and you blink, glancing up, and you wonder how, how on earth you could even make out the words in the darkness, in the blackness.

You hate fire – andit's true. You do. It's the wake-up call; reality's echoes ringing through the very best of dreams.

But the match is like the throwing of the switch. And in the light, you see clearly, and you know. You pick yourself up and dust yourself off. The dream was just that, you see, and for once you welcome reality like the greeting of an old friend.

Winters later, with a ring upon his finger and familiar paint daubs coating yours, you invite him in and you sit by the festive glow of the fairy-lights lining the bay window.

It wasn't really real, he muses. Was it?

You shake your head. No, you don't suppose it was.

He smiles a beautiful smile, and you sit in comfortable silence, watching the world in the light of the window.

It's cold in here, he remarks.

You smile. You know.

A/N ~ completed for Bookaholic711's writing challenge Project PULL. visit her profile for more information.