Mathew always knew the time would come. He always knew, but he had done nothing to protect himself from the pain it would bring.

He remembered when he first saw the man. He was quiet, reserved... he had this intense feeling about him. A feeling that drew the romantics in, and made the pessimists laugh. It was a deep air of thoughtfulness, an artistic yearning for knowledge. It made him look somber, yet his smile so sweet and gentle when it was earned. He was a man beyond his time, writing books as he made cakes and sweets in the pack of his patisserie, and studying philosophy in the dusty rooms above the sweets shop.

Francis was human. So human, at times, it made Mathew weep bitterly. It made him cry that such a beautiful soul would be lost to the mortal touch of death. Oh how he loathed the fact. The fact that this man who yearned to understand and love the world so completely, would be there and gone in a mere second compared to the infinite span of time in which he would love. How he loathed what he was, if only he could be mortal too. Live with him and live a full, passionate life.

But no. He was an immortal. A man who walked the earth many times over, only to walk it again. Like that of a mortal man, time was his enemy. Not in the sense that it would be there and gone in a moment though, but in the sense that there would always be another day for Mathew Williams. He would stalk the earth as the shell of the man he used to be tomorrow, the day after, the year after. He was lost to forever, he was merely an echo of a life.

It was in one of those moods that Francis first spoke to him.

Mathew had foolishly made a habit of frequenting the shop in which Francis worked, watching him shyly. A glance here, a glimpse there, yet he was still foolishly adamant that he was not in love. How could he love, he would tell himself bitterly, when in only a short breath that same person would be gone.

Yet it was mere denial, and it was in one of those bitter moods, reflecting on the brevity of the mortal life, that the object of his regard sat across from him and pushed a coffee across to him.

"With a touch of maple, as you like it?"

Mathew remembered looking up, surprised and shocked. Immediately he moved to wipe the tears from his own eyes, before he was caught by the intense blueness of the other's. Before he realized that he could smell the other so close; that sweet scent he had always caught as the other would stride by to serve another.

"Oh... merci." he bowed his head gently before taking a sip of the brew. Yes, just as he liked it.

It became a habit, as much as Mathew warned himself against it. Even worse, it became a habit that he grew attached to, grew to look forward to.

He would warn himself away from it. It was a sinful pleasure he would grow to regret, and he knew it. But he couldn't help it. Debating over centuries of philosophy with the man, indulging in thoughts that he had kept to himself for so many years, it was nice to have an outlet, and furthermore, an outlet to someone who would understand.

Sure, there were other immortals he could speak to, but none understood. His brother, for instance, who always insisted that he could share anything... but he didn't look at life the same. He pretended he didn't see the little looks Alfred gave him when he thought he wasn't looking, but he did. He was strange for not living up their life to what Alfred considered the fullest, but in this man, in Francis, he could ask him if he wanted to live forever, and when he explained what he thought well...

it was nice to be understood.

Meeting during his breaks became more. Walks to the park, going to the movies. Mathew felt alive again, happy again. The ghost of a man moved now with color and vibrancy, no longer fading into the background. But still, he insisted to himself he could not love the other. How could he love another when for him, the springs and autumns smeared together into one, when time was nothing but a ticking of a clock?

But when Francis stopped him under a streetlight and kissed him, when he whispered that first lilting " Je t'aime." in his ear... well he couldn't help himself but to kiss back, crying into Francis's shoulder. For what would a statue have but a broken heart over the rose that would fade with the coming of winter, and die before the statue would ever see the end of time?

But he found himself caught up in it all. Whispering sweet "I love you's" back and forth, playing a part he had sworn himself not to play again. He was lover, comforter, best friend. He was the confident, the protector, he spent millennia's worth of money to indulge the poor student, the baker, the candlestick maker. He did his best to make him feel loved.

But even Francis knew he hid a part of himself. Pitch black nights in crappy apartments, the lights of cars would flicker through the filthy windows, Francis would whisper of his locked heart, and would ask him where he had hidden the key. Mathew would soothe away the worries with kisses, telling him that he owned all of him, even the parts that no one had seen.

Mathew knew that he couldn't hide his secret forever. Especially as it became less of a relationship of quick touch, and passion flaring to soon burn out, and more of a relationship of soft touches, and a slowly burning love. The more permanent it became, the more he knew that he had to let the other in. But how?

How did one tell a mortal of the years he had seen? He supposed the simplest way would be for Mathew to take Francis home. Back to the place where it all began for him. The house which stored thousands of years' worth of artifacts and books, all picked up first hand. But would he even believe him then?

The solution came without a warning.

Mathew had taken him away to the country which he regarded as home. These trips always prompted the curiosity within Francis, and as the days passed, he meditated on telling him while he answered the many questions about who he was, and how he got his money.

The evening it happened, the moon was full, and the streets were empty and blanketed with a thick layer of snow. It was peaceful, and in the silence Mathew walked ahead of his boyfriend, wondering how to broach the subject.

He remembered stopping on a street corner, turning back to look at the mortal with the yellow hair, and romantic eyes.

"Would you want to live forever Francis Bonnefoy?"

It was a question asked often, and every time it was always answered with a pause, and a deliberate "no." This time was different though.

Francis stopped few good feet away from him, and he locked his blue eyes with the aloof violet ones that Matt possessed. There was a contemplative pause, and the man who was always thinking, always looking at things from a different view, seemed to shift in the one thing he had always been constant with.

"Oui, Mathew Williams. As long as I could live forever with you."

Mathew could feel tears on his face, as a mix of pain and joy tightened in his chest. He nodded, sighing deeply as he turned, beginning to walk across the street.

He hadn't been ready for that. Not for that. Everything he had been planning to say had flown out the window. All of his words to explain what he was, how he existed. It was gone with the confession of exactly how much he meant to the one he loved. But Francis waited. He followed the other loyally as he crossed the street, not pressing the question. He knew something was coming, but he had to give it time. It was what was important between them, he felt. It was time.

Mathew was not even half way across the street when a horrid sound screeched through the quiet streets and silent contemplation between the two. Francis froze, not far behind him, but far enough, it seemed, to be missed as a car barreled through the intersection, right into Mathew.

It all happened in a moment, and Mathew would barely remember later on what happened. He would remember the pain though, and how his body began to heal, to fix itself. He was up on his feet again in moments, moving to take the cell phone from his boyfriend's hands. He would call the police on the pay phone and tell them they were fine, and to come check the crashed car. They would be gone when the police got there.

He lead France to the house they were staying into let him check him over himself. There would be nothing but some bad bruising, but Francis would feel no broken bones, and all the cuts and gashes would already be healed up into nice neat little scars. Mathew remembered the intense staring, and he would explain it all the next morning over pancakes with coffee. Francis would only have minimal problems believing it.

Despite that though, Mathew couldn't say that there wasn't hardships after that. He couldn't help but notice a sense of betrayal in Francis's eyes sometimes, a look that asked how he could have kept something like that from him. There were arguments, there was doubt. It was months of unhappiness until Matt could finally start breaking down his walls a little more to try and let Francis understand.

He started from when he was a boy. He lived in a nomadic tribe with his brother. Neither of them knew what they were yet. It was during a battle when his brother fell that it became known. Alfred hadn't died. They assumed he was a demon and he became an exile. Mathew would follow him, and only find out later that he shared the same curse.

He moved on to their young adult hood when their physical aging began to cease. They watched the Roman empire as it rose, they watched the silk road flourish. That was when they first met another like them.

His name was Wang Yao. A proud man who had lived even longer than them, and who smiled with a sad wisdom. He taught them all that he knew, and introduced them to another, a Roman, before he traveled down that road again to the East, and they all met yearly after that until the Roman Empire fell.

He told him of the plagues of the Dark Ages. His first love, his first true loss. They watched those around them die, and he had to watch her. It was a time of fear and little to eat. He remembered his brother too, nothing but skin, bones, and a swollen belly. But he wouldn't loss him like her, and for that he was thankful. They remembered the rings around the roses on their own skin, and the pain of not being able to die.

He told them of the Age of Knowledge, moving to England and making their fortune. Art, plays, Shakespeare. He told him of falling in love, another loss as he learned truly of the brevity of human existence. They would move between France and England for decades, pretending to die or disappear before becoming someone new again. He told him about the day his brother came running into their room with a payed way for them on a boat to a New World.

He told him about more wars. Wars that Mathew was sick of after living in Europe. "Didn't we" he told his brother " move to this new continent to get away from all the fighting?" After living through Puritans and settlers, his brother had created for himself a new identity in this World. Mathew would move north as the American fought the British off the soil.

World War I, World War II. It would bring back the worst memories of plagues and fighting in Europe. He would find himself in trenches, reliving scenes of his youth. When he finally could go back home and lay in bed, he found he could not sleep for years. Alfred seemed to live off it all. Alfred lived enough for them both it seemed.

But Mathew became cold and tired. He withdrew into a country of snow and silence, where people were mostly friendly, and the national symbol was a tree. Nothing violent there. Anyway, he had always liked maple in his coffee.

It took months for him to tell Francis it all. Every day he would whisper another memory to Francis with a bitter smile like baby's breath, and tears that rolled down his face. He gave Francis that key to his heart finally, and every time the man opened it to look inside it seemed deeper, and more endless. The years would weigh on him as it had weight on Mathew all this time.

But in the end, it healed. The bitterness and the looks passed way to understanding. Francis began to write again and create. The conversations of philosophy and knowledge began again with a new intensity, a new curiosity. With the new sense of trust, things began to grow. Grow larger than life, larger than them both.

They would marry in the summer; Francis would make sure of that. It was simple and clean, a combination of influences of the mind of the romantic mortal, who loved the forever in his husband's eyes, and a realistic immortal, who felt life again in the arms of his husband. Their life was a happy one.

It was only in old age that Mathew would feel that biting regret in full force once again. He had felt it in meeting Francis, loving him for the first time. He had felt it in telling Francis who he was, feeling like he was losing him over the truth. And he felt it in losing Francis, watching the brevity of mortal life assert itself over love and happiness.

Francis would always ask him from where he wrote at his desk, face worn with age and wisdom, why he would stay. All the beauty was gone, all the youth. Mathew would tell him that love transcends that, and that in his eyes he was both beautiful and youthful. He would sit holding the hand of his lover, his youthful hand in his one callused and shaking with the burden of time. He would feel the pain in his heart as he tried to hold onto the last moments he had with him.

On days when the sweet shop was closed, he would sit down in the dining area with the curtains pulled closed in the shop. He would sit down in that one table that was his and he would cry.

He was an immortal, a man who walked the earth many times over, only to walk it again. Like that of his mortal husband, time was his enemy. Not in the sense that it would be there and gone in a moment though, but in the sense that there would always be another day for Mathew Williams. When Francis was gone, he would stalk the Earth as the shell of the man who he used to be. Tomorrow, the day after, the year after. He would be lost to forever, he was merely an echo of life.

Francis was human. So human, and that is what made Mathew weep bitterly. It made him cry that such a beautiful soul, his beautiful soul that was his to love alone, would be lost to the mortal touch of death. Oh how he loathed the fact. The fact that this man who still in old age yearned to understand and love the world so completely, would be there and gone in a mere second compared to the infinite span of live in which Mathew himself would live. How he loathed what he was, if only he could be mortal too. If only he could have grown old with him after living such a full, passionate life.

Mathew would sit in the parlor and weep on those days, and after a time, like clockwork, his husband would come down the stairs. It was in those bitter moods, reflecting on these years with him, that the object of his affections sat across from him, and with shaky hands pushed a coffee towards him.

"With a touch of maple, as you like it?"

Mathew would cry harder, and Francis would hold him.

Mathew always knew the time would come. He always knew, but he had done nothing to protect himself from the pain it would bring.

If anything, he dug himself in further. He gave the man his heart, then he gave this man his memories. He gave this man, this mortal everything, like he had never given anyone anything before. But now he was gone. Is gone. He had to watch his coffin be lowered into his grown not but a week ago. Now, he is packing up their shared home in France, to move away. He isn't going to sell it. No. This place with so many memories... he can't get rid of it yet. But he couldn't stay. He would head back to Canada, where he would cross the street where he was hit, and sit among his home that was more like a museum of his life.

Or more like his own tomb.

As he packs though, he finds it. Finds something that would remind him that this was not something to regret.

A book.

He remembered Francis was always writing. Always writing about something, but he had never been allowed to see. There is a note stuck to the front, and he opens it.

He begins to cry, inside is it all. It is their story. Everything that they had ever done together, all the little things. And at the end there is a note.

The pain would last for a long time, he was sure, but even though Francis was gone and in the ground, he had him here with him.

He had filled his life with color and joy, and though he was gone, he still had a life to live. Maybe more of a life than he wanted or he could deal with. But he had loved, and though he had loved oh how he had loved.

Mathew held that book in his arms and walked out of that house with one bag. Tonight he would start over. He had already set up everything so he would live easy, and lose nothing, so he was free.

He would live life and love like Francis. -d-