The Changing of the Seasons

Nothing grows on the reaper plane. Time never really seems to pass, not even with death, since they never die.

Alan likes to go to taverns on his days off when it rains in the living world. He sits by himself, unassuming, slowly sipping something bitter to ease his nerves and watches the drops pat against the window. It's growing season in the spring, when the flowers return and bloom, arching and bursting with color.

Perennials are the only thing close to immortal in the living world.

He wonders if one day, he'll see his last spring, autumn, winter, summer.

To people, death is embodied in a withering vine, a dried out leaf, a black tree trunk. But even then, it's not quite clear what it is - what it is to truly end - the way that nature reinvents itself, reincarnates each year, cradles England in its awesome, terrifying fingers.

And then just when it seems too cold to blink, too dead and black to keep breathing, something green feathers out from a wayward branch against a gray, snowy sky.

Alan wishes he could have a garden, but instead he must watch the roses burst year after year.

It's the fifth wet spring in London - the fifth year Alan's been a reaper - when Eric asks Alan where he always goes on his days off.

He asks him why Alan will never stay on their plane, why he insists on disappearing.

Alan says he always feels as if he's disappearing without intending to, and then his mouth snaps shut when Eric's eyebrows raise.

The words float between them like fog in morning, thick and swirling. Alan's wept before, but never has he admitted to misery.

"Show me where you go," Eric says. "Take me there."

On their days off, Alan arches against Eric and moans, bursting with sound and breath.

They find inns, and each empty room becomes filled with urgency and life as Eric murmurs quiet things into Alan's ear, moving his hips fast until they both cry out.

Afterward, they don't say anything. They just lie together, pressed against one another's skin, warm and alive.

Alan still listens to the rain against the window pane; but he's no longer alone, and he no longer thinks of what his own end might be like.

He finds he'd rather not reflect on such things now.

Eric and Alan are getting wet as they hurry away from their last reap of the day to find shelter.

It'd been simple; a well-dressed elderly woman who fell asleep on a bench where she had stopped in her stroll to rest, never to awaken again.

The rain had caught up with them halfway to the gazebo, and Alan's turned now to watch the puddles break with splashes of rain; it's a soft sound, one he knows.

"It sounds nice," Eric says simply.

Alan reaches up to rub a few drops of water off Eric's cheek, and he smiles.