A/N: Hey, I have an idea! Let's ignore the fact that Gus doesn't die in Autumn, mkay?
You are seven years old when you fall asleep and you have that dream for the first time. You dream that you're an old man. You're, like, fifty and you're walking in a dying park with crunchy leaves and you've got a pretty wife with a pretty smile and you're so happy.
You wake up.
But you never tell anyone about your dream because you were told once that telling a wish stops it from coming true.
You are thirteen when they tell you.
They sit you down and they're being all professional and doctory about it. They wear long white coats and long white faces and no smiles.
They call you Gus because your parents told them to, thinking you'd prefer it, but the unnaturalness of a familiar name on a stranger's tongue makes you wince.
And then they say, "You have osteosarcoma. Do you know what that is, Gus?"
You shake your head.
And they give you long and detailed explanation of how you probably won't die soon but you might have to pay a small fee.
Don't worry; it's just limb or two.
You have that dream again the night after the take away your leg.
You're leaning on your wife, limping along on a shoddy, old wooden leg, and she's laughing at you and kissing your cheek and you can hear the leaves crunching under your leg, but you sure as hell can't feel it.
But it's okay, because you're alive and your other foot crushes the dying leaves with a gentle crunch.
You're seventeen when you meet her. She's a walking ghost. She looks like the girl you used to love, the one with the spitfire tongue and the angry syllables that stabbed. But this girl's tongue is sharp with wit, not anger. Her eyes are kind and she smiles a lot.
So you decide you want her.
And you get her.
You have a great time together, just not enough of it.
Amsterdam is where you first kiss her and you where you first make love to her and where you first break her heart into a million tiny, little shock-sharp shards.
Your dream comes back, once again, and this time it's Hazel on your arm and your leg's a bit steadier and not so wooden and you don't walk this time, you just stand under the dying tree and kiss her as autumn leaves flutter around you.
But the only difference that scares you is that, this time, you're not an old man.
When the leaves begin to die...
Well, so do you.
You felt a familiar pain in your hip, your shoulders, your back. You returned to a soulless grey building that smells of illness and they looked through your skin and under your bones.
And you lit up.
For one brief moment, you were your own constellation, your own galaxy; pinpricks of glowing light in the blackness. You were your own world.
There is something alive in you.
And it's killing you.
And in the end it's just a race to die - you versus cancer - and there'll be a winner and a loser and it's probably the first time you've ever prayed for failure.
And you know, don't you? You feel it in your bones.
You were never supposed to grow old.
(In the end, you're going to be that winner.)
You watch the leaves turn brown and red through an open window. You never get to feel them crunch under your foot again.
Your days become a blur of sleeping and vomiting and Hazel and sleeping and crying and family and sleeping.
And when you die, it's with her pretty smile in your mind. It's with the smell of autumn on the breeze. It's with your eyes closed and your mind open.
When you die, it's like falling into your dream.
When you die, it's like coming home.
You sit Somewhere, under a sky where it rains a rainbow of leaves, and you are whole again. You feel the leaves crunch crunch crunch and you never get any older.
But you also never dream.
Because your dream is this, here and now, and all you can do is wait.
Wait for Someone.
Wait for her.
(You wonder if she's ever had that same dream.
When she turns up, you decide that she has and kiss her instead of asking.
And it's just like you dreamed, isn't it?