Had this idea a while ago. If you like dancing and cemeteries, you might like this. Just a little something I wrote a while ago. By 'a while' I mean two days.
Reviews are welcome as ever. Enjoy!
DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to H.P. Lovecraft, Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, &c. The quote is of course Poe, my hero, from his poem Al Araaf.
Their trip up to the cemetery had been unsuccessful; though Herbert diligently tracked what was going in and out of it—though he was primarily occupied with monitoring the first, and executing the latter himself—the newspaper article concerning the latest corpse failed to mention its slight deformity.
Their watches both indicated that it was far past one in the morning, but as Herbert West and Dan Cain uncovered the tight seal of the coffin, they were met by a man who had clearly not died of natural causes. Herbert cursed lightly, wrinkling his white forehead and collapsing to the ground in disappointment. Dan sighed, running a hand through his wet hair.
"Damn," Herbert repeated, taking his glasses off momentarily to wipe them. Dan sat beside him, sure that (in this area, the remotest of the graveyard where the grass was overgrown and no paths were visible) they would not be found. He turned to his friend and partner, shaking his head. He placed a calming hand on Herbert's shoulder, aware of how these let-downs could throw him into morbid moods consisting of even less sleep, no food, and rarely any sunlight. Herbert exhaled dejectedly.
"It wasn't your fault," Dan promised him, his brown eyes full of compassion. He admired and cared greatly for the smaller man and hated seeing him in these states; he knew what the sense of failure did to him, and it wasn't healthy. Few things in Herbert's life were healthy. He, his only companion, was the only thing that rooted him to reality, and they both knew this all too well. "It didn't say anything about this in the paper."
Herbert exclaimed, throwing a rock into the grave. It landed in the meat of the exposed face. He scoffed, turning away. "How could it not mention first degree burns consuming the head, Dan?" he queried, turning to glare up at him demandingly. "How did it fail to overlook this seemingly minute detail? 'What shall we include pertaining to the corpse, Sir,'" Herbert said, acting out a rushed pantomime, fuming. "'Well, he was wearing a cheap-looking ensemble, curious shoes, and had a somewhat gossamer frame… I suppose it's inconsequential, then, to inform the public of his dubious cause of death, when we have more riveting things to tell them; again, his shoes—"
Dan struggled to contain his laughter. Herbert directed his severest glower at him, his large glasses framing pale blue eyes, his cretaceous lips pulled into a thin line. His brown hair was thick and hung in a slight side-fringe and his frame was slight, unlike Dan's; more muscular, with dark eyes, a kind face, and similarly full brown hair.
"Sorry," Dan apologised, though by this point he was laughing. "Your little improvised acting took me by surprise…"
Herbert sighed, shaking his head, staring into the redundant grave. "Yes," he said idly, without much enthusiasm. "I would have had a very idyllic career as an actor. But my life, unfortunately for the theatre-goers of this foul planet, didn't go in that direction."
Dan nodded in agreement. He looked down at Herbert, curiously. The moon was full about them, casting a hauntingly beautiful crystalline light around, and the lobelia scented the air wonderfully, lavender bushes nearby.
"Did you ever think your life would turn out like this?" Dan asked, quizzical. Herbert shrugged.
"I suppose so," he confessed. "I always knew it would be something like this, in any case. Two stories spring to mind; Robert Louis Stevenson's 'The Body Catcher' and Edgar A. Poe's 'The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar'." He sighed. "In any case; something regarding the dead, and their revival." He turned to Dan, equally as eager. Dan had lately become aware that Herbert was just as interested in him, for some reason, as he was in him. "What about you? Did you ever daydream in a stuffy Friday morning classroom of being in a graveyard under the moonlight, obsessing over corpses?"
Dan laughed, shaking his head. "No – I leave the obsessing to you." Herbert smiled, one corner of his mouth rising. Dan grinned in unison, gratified to have been able to relieve him somewhat. "I always thought I'd have a nice, normal life. Medical job, wife, kids…a cat…"
Herbert was still for a few moments. Dan knew that he'd never wanted any of those things, or at least not given them much thought. He stared off at the horizon himself, wondering what his life might be like if he hadn't met Herbert. He didn't know whether he liked it or not.
Suddenly the smaller man's smooth, idiosyncratic voice broke the silence. "What would you name the cat?"
Dan laughed. Herbert looked at him, puzzled.
"What?" he pressed. Dan shook his head, squeezing his shoulder affectionately. Herbert turned away; Dan could make out a pinkish hue on his cheeks even in the silvery darkness. He wasn't used to being touched, in any capacity. Dan removed his lingering hand, letting it drop casually, stretching his arms out in the overgrown grass.
"Of all the things to ask," he smiled. He thought for a moment, and then answered surely. "I'd call it Tybalt," he said. Herbert smiled again, understanding the joke. Dan expected him to.
For another few minutes they sat in silence. Dan began reminiscing; thinking of old times, his up-bringing and childhood. He smiled sadly; it was so long ago, and so much had changed. He looked at Herbert, only now aware that he had been watching him intently. Dan perked an eyebrow.
"What are you thinking about?" he asked, genuinely intrigued. Dan sighed, not sure whether he was content or dismal. He shrugged, somewhere between.
"When I was a kid," he admitted. Herbert turned to him further, the long grass a suitable cushion. Dan adjusted his position also so they faced each other, sat amidst the oddly bent angles of the tomb stones and surrounded by the lavender and lobelia. "I lived next to a cemetery," he said, casting an eye on the one they sat together in now, trying to imagine it as the one from his childhood all those years ago. "My grandma was a real religious woman," he laughed. Herbert watched him, fascinated, but he stared out at the plot of land before him, the spire of the church in the distance towering high in the dark night. "Sometimes she used to take me to the cemetery and tell me about all the people who'd died; why they'd died, and where they'd go. I know you don't believe in that stuff, but…" he struggled to find the words, exasperated.
Herbert nodded understandingly. "It made perfect sense as a child," he finished. Dan smiled gratefully, knowing that pretty much hit the nail. Hebert turned to him, looking strangely peaceful. "I was a child too, you know." Dan shook his head.
"I don't know about that," he laughed. He looked carefully at the face of the only person outside of his family he'd ever been really close to; the soft lines of his cheeks and jaw, his pale complexion and soft lips, his slightly upturned nose that never failed to make him think of an indignant child. He could see it; in Herbert. When he looked closely, he saw an innocent, puritan youth; particularly without his glasses. He looked almost unreal, too white, too infallible to be real. And then he saw him flecked with blood, like crimson on chalk, and a maniacal drive in his eyes, burning, and he was completely transformed. This was one of the few chances Dan had to see him so placid, almost happy, and he relished it.
"Well – I went to school," Herbert said, as though that validated his claim to having a childhood like anyone else. Dan laughed.
"Yes, I can see that," he said, joking but sarcastic. "Herbert West at the prom, a crowd of star-struck girls crowding around, staring at you lustrously."
Herbert scoffed; he managed to make even that noise sound elegant, something Dan secretly delighted to hear. "No…never girls, or crowds, or lust."
"But prom?" Dan ventured. "You went to the prom…you danced, right?"
Herbert turned to him, his eyes glowing. Dan didn't know whether he looked jovial or deadly serious. "Do I look like the kind of person to dance?" he asked. Dan laughed. Suddenly an idea struck him and he jumped up, pulling Herbert with him. "Dan-?"
"Come on," Dan said, gleefully, like a giddy child. "Everyone has to dance."
Herbert looked around unsurely. Dan laughed, holding his hands gently but firmly and pulling him a little closer. Herbert squirmed slightly at the contact, at his chest brushing against Dan's, his heart beating. He thought of another Poe story, 'The Tell-Tale Heart', and he was sure that Dan could hear his heart, even though the natural orchestra of crickets and air and lavender plants were deafening, the moonlight a Sibyllic haze.
"What; you don't worry about people finding us digging up a grave, but you're horrified at the prospect of someone watching us dance?"
Herbert kept his focus on Dan's chest, refusing to look anywhere else. "That's pretty much a metaphor for my existence, Dan," he said, as though Dan should already know. He nodded, swaying gently.
"Don't worry; nobody will see you," Dan reassured, in lullaby tones. Herbert looked up at him briefly, alarmed by the proximity.
"You'll see me," he murmured, Dan's hands so warm on his cool skin. Dan held him even closer, their hips pressing together, their hearts beating against one another's. Herbert looked down, burying his head in the warmth of Dan's chest, his glasses minimally poking into his cheeks. Their hands were still intertwined and they stood like that for a moment, silent, the only people alive. Well…currently.
"I promise, you'll be fine," Dan whispered, his voice delicate and gloriously soft. Herbert looked at him unsurely. "Just follow my lead." He took Herbert's left hand and placed it on his waist, almost shaking with anticipation, and directed Herbert's other hand to his shoulder. Herbert frowned.
"Why do I have to be the woman?" he asked, annoyed, his worries and anxiety momentarily forgotten in his swift mood. Dan beamed down at him, his eyes sparkling.
"You're small," he laughed. Herbert would have argued, but Dan quickly hoisted him up so that they were as close as possible, their lips almost pressed together. Herbert tried to ignore this and simply did as Dan told him, moving side to side and then gradually back and forth until soon they were swirling frantically, beginning to ease up and enjoy the madness, occasionally stepping on each other's feet but never really noticing. They circled the grave, both appreciating the romanticism of it all, the picturesqueness of their environment.
Maybe half an hour elapsed before they stopped, breathing heavily, Dan stood still and Herbert leaned up against him, both slightly coated in sweat. Dan laughed, letting his arms loll casually on Herbert's shoulders, Herbert adjusting his dishevelled glasses and resting his forehead on Dan's chest, his hands grasping his shoulders.
"And then, the music is gentle, almost like in fairy-tales, and all the couples come out to slow-dance," Dan narrated, his voice gentle and soothing, Herbert resting his head on Dan's shoulder and Dan wrapping his arms around him lovingly. Herbert was thinking everything and nothing; what he felt seemed, for once, to overpower what he thought, and all he could feel was Dan. Dan, and his beating heart; Dan, and his strong hands and his face propped up against his.
"Couples," Herbert repeated, still a little short on breath. He half-laughed, the other half of him completely consumed by disbelief. "You're optimistic."
"Hey, I'm your first," Dan said, speaking in earnest, looking down at Herbert with their noses scarce millimetres away, their frequent breaths heavy, one of the only noises around in their little piece of Elysium. "That counts for something."
Herbert nodded, focusing only on Dan's eyes; those deep, chocolate eyes, the only constant pair in his life. "Not quite conventional," he sighed. Dan raised an eyebrow, but his face was always bright.
"What – am I not good enough?" he said, nudging Herbert's shoulder with his head. Herbert shook his head, staring up with smouldering eyes.
"On the contrary," he whispered, his voice faint but audible, smooth but shaky. "You're just fine."
Dan sighed dramatically, moving his hands so that they rested on Herbert's shoulders, his neck, like they were making their way up. Herbert mirrored him, gently caressing one side of Dan's face, his eyes briefly lingering on his lips…
"Oh my God…" Dan sounded shocked, surprised. Herbert flinched away in a second, out of his arms, away from his warmth, an unknowable horror, desperation, humiliation—and above all, heart-wrenching pain—suffocating him. He clasped his face in his hands for a second, turning away, shaking convulsively.
"I'm sorry…" he murmured, into the night, feeling the hot tears building behind his glasses. He removed them, slipping them into his pocket for the moment, wiping the water away. There weren't enough handkerchiefs in the world. "Dan…please understand…I was just –"
He felt Dan's hands on his shoulders. In a second Dan had turned him around so that he faced him again, Dan's hands around his face and his resting uncertainly on his neck. He swallowed, watching Dan's face with scientific precision, trying to find any flicker of negative emotion. He found none. Actually, he was shocked by what he saw. And that was pure, wonderful, unadulterated love.
"I meant it in a good way," Dan said. He was almost crying too, Herbert noted, allowing himself the liberty of running his fingers slowly through Dan's perfect hair. He took in every line and shadow on his face, silver and magnificent, and couldn't believe that after so many months of experiments, arguments, nights up reading and talking and hidden endeavours under the moonlight, it had come to this.
And he was illimitably happy – ecstatic. In heaven; blissful; content…
There weren't enough words in the English language.
Dan gently brushed his face against Herbert's, Herbert exhaling with a trembling breath, trying not to make any strange noises and partially failing. He didn't care; Dan supplied his own sound effects and the cricket orchestra began again. Herbert smiled, tears spilling over the edge, Dan wiping his face though his own was equally damp.
"And it all boils down to this," he said, quietly, his body—both of their bodies—alight. Herbert nodded.
"It all boils down to this," he agreed. Dan brought his lips closer, so they lingered on Herbert's, Herbert's already parting and his eyes closing, his hands travelling up to gently hold onto Dan's hair. And the last thing he heard before the best moment of his life were the words he had grown up with, written by his idol, the great and only god:
"O! How, without you, Love! Could angels be blest?
Those kisses of true love…that lulled ye to rest!"