Rise. Fall. In. Out. Salieri traced the path of his lover's breath, moving his lips close enough that each little puff of air passed over them like a soft kiss.
Mozart's breathing had gotten more labored recently, and so Salieri savored these moments, where Mozart was asleep and breathed easily and didn't have his attacks or those sudden moments where he assured Salieri that he was going to die, and soon.
It hurt, watching Mozart die, for that's what Salieri knew was happening. Every day that Mozart came over to work, he would have to stop early to sleep, for he was growing weak and fragile. Playing a concerto would leave him out of breath, and that was to say nothing about where sex would leave him. Any bout of lovemaking would always cause him to fall into a deep sleep from sheer exhaustion, leaving Salieri to sit there next to him, watching his breath and praying it wouldn't be the last.
Everyone tried to hide Mozart's condition. It was never spoke of when he was around, but of course when it was just him and Rosenberg and the other nobles, it was all they talked about and joked about, how he was writing himself to death and how that requiem would be the death of him. Mozart still insisted that Death had commissioned it Himself. Salieri doubted that, but never told Mozart. He couldn't bear to see the one person he loved this much unhappy for being disbelieved.
It was hard, undeniably hard. When you loved someone, you wanted to plan for the future with them, decide all the paths your lives together would take. How you would travel together, work together, live together, love together. It didn't work that way when the person you loved was at death's door. When that happened, you just tried to make them happy, with the rationale that perhaps you wouldn't be able to make them happy tomorrow.
Mozart's breath faltered, and he curled up into a ball, coughing himself awake. Salieri began to stroke his back gently, a practiced action. This wasn't the first time he'd seen such a fit from the other man. Once the coughs had subsided, Mozart sat up and curled himself into Salieri.
"I don't want to die," he said ever-so-softly.
"But I'm going to die, Antonio."
"Stay with me. Until the end. Please."
"I love you."
"I love you too."
They didn't speak as much, now, as they had before. There wasn't as much to say, perhaps. What could you say when someone was about to die? All you could do was kiss them and hold them and stroke their hair and hope that they wouldn't be in too much pain when it happened. And you tried to ease the pain, if you could.
"I'm sorry, Wolfgang."
"For everything. Everything that I've done."
"I know you are. But you've made it up to me."
"You're an angel. My angel."
"Soon I will be."
"Don't talk like that."
"It's true. Why should I deny it?"
It hurt so desperately, when Mozart talked of his own ending. It hurt, because it meant that Salieri couldn't deny the obvious any longer, for even Mozart was embracing it as an inescapable eventuality.
Mozart couldn't leave. He just couldn't. He was everything good in Salieri's life, every bit of goodness that couldn't be found through the courtiers and the schemers and the conniving nobles who just wanted to advance their own agenda. Mozart was different. Unique. Unnameable. Untouchable. An angel. Always an angel.
"I'll watch over you from Heaven. I promise." And then a smile, as if hinting at a hidden joke only the two lovers shared. "If I make it that far, that is."
"Don't be silly."
Mozart leaned forward, kissing Salieri deeply and fully, but breaking off before a cough could interrupt them. "You don't think this is enough to send me to Hell?"
"Weren't you the one who said it was love, and that the Lord Jesus could not deny it?"
"Mmm. Look at you, speaking for the Lord Jesus like that. I've turned you into such a blasphemer."
"I'm just quoting you, love."
And Mozart smiled, and kissed Salieri again, another full kiss - all their kisses were full and heartfelt now; they couldn't be otherwise when there was such a great chance it would be their last. And Salieri hazarded a smile as well, a rare smile, even more so nowadays.
"We'll see each other again. In Heaven. We'll be together."