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Sleeping With Ghosts
the title track
PG, slash, crossover (Harry Potter, Stargate SG-1, Discworld,
Good Omens, His Dark Materials)
The title track; a multi-fandom mini-epic. Originally written for Hathor's birthday.
Every time a choice is made, the universe splits into two. For
every might-have-been, there is another universe in which what might have been
is reality. Alternative realities are roads not taken, an infinity of
possibilities open for the taking until someone makes a choice. There are
millions of billions of trillions of them, around each other and on top of each
other and laid over each other, and all quite unaware of each other. As I write
this, I brush my hair out of my eyes, and in doing so, I have touched a million
other realities, who are as negligibly conscious of my existence as I am of
They are all different. The one thread that binds them together is the passage of time, rolling on forwards, trailing them all in its wake. There’s a great wooden wheel of time, a lumbering, creaking wheel that takes millions of years to make one revolution, but revolve it does, for history does eventually repeat itself. The wheel has been here as long as time has existed, and its age can be clearly heard in the rumbling and creaking and groaning as it turns. On a cold, clear, still night, listen closely and you might hear the sound.
It’s not perfect; nothing ever is. It has its flaws, and out at the edge of the wheel, in between the spokes, the fabric of the universes is stretched thin, too thin, and sometimes, small holes can be made. Just for an instant, of course.
But then, when you’re dealing with the whole of history from beginning to end, an instant is longer than you might think.
[...creak, creak, creak...]
Maybe an hour; maybe two.
Maybe an entire...
Night. It had to be night. To be perfectly honest, twenty-eight levels below ground it didn’t made an iota of difference if the sun was shining outside or not. You could tell it was night by the silence. Just the humming of fluorescent lights and the faint sounds made by tired people drinking coffee in the commissary. They didn’t drink it because they liked the taste. They drank it because they needed it. If it had been possible, they would ingested it via intravenous drip.
Jack O’Neill had been sitting here now for about twenty minutes with the same cup of coffee. It wasn’t his nature to linger over coffee. He didn’t linger over Kenyan blend or finest Columbian, he didn’t lengthily savour the perfect espresso shot or cappuccino, so why would he take his time with air-force-issued coffee that smelled vaguely of petroleum?
He raised the cup to drink, perfectly aware of the fact it was empty, and peered over the rim.
On the other side of the commissary, a man in a white coat lifted his cup and peered back. He looked mild-mannered, serene, perfectly amiable, and he nodded politely as he caught Jack’s eyes. The colonel glared. With a final look of utter loathing at the other man, he threw down the cup and strode out of the commissary, making much more noise than was strictly necessary. He stamped through the door, out into one of the main corridors, ignoring the way the sleepy personnel turned to look at him, and marched into an elevator. He paused before deciding what button to press. Teal’c, never given to late hours, was most likely asleep, and ever since her father’s latest departure to yet another sandy planet God-knows-where, Carter had thrown herself into her work with almost manic intensity. So he lingered, until the sound of footsteps getting closer made him panic. This late at night, there was only one person that could be. The bastard was following him.
So Jack pressed the button for level eighteen without a second thought, and with a jerk, the elevator began to move. When the doors opened, he was off again, attempting to shake off his pursuer, and besides, he couldn’t help it; his feet led him to the place he didn’t really want to go quite of their own accord. Shortly after that, he was standing in a small room that had until lately been the office of Dr Daniel Jackson, Ph.D.
The domestic staff had been in; it was probably the first time they’d been allowed near the place since its occupant had moved in five years before. They’d cleaned the table and shelves of what could have been centuries of dust, they’d wrapped the computer monitor in a small tarpaulin, and what personal effects they’d found, they’d swept into a cardboard box and left there.
It was waiting for him. As if following instructions, Jack shut the door behind him, sat down at the desk, marvelling at the unaccustomed bareness of it, and opened the box. He breathed in deeply; he recognised the smell of dust and antiquity, of sweet mint and parchment, of rich dark coffee and burnt toast.
The first thing that came out of the box was the old photograph in its battered frame; Daniel, sitting on a camel, and then her. Sha’re. Her eyes stared accusingly out at him, and he sighed. A brief memory rose before him; standing in the doorway of Amaunet’s tent, staring at the floor. Daniel and Sha’re, dying together, in each other’s arms, hopelessly in love until the last.
If it weren’t real life, they would have died together, or lived together, but only one lived. They brought back her body, and they removed Amaunet’s clothes, her jewellery, they’d tried to remove her soul – if she ever had one, Jack thought bitterly – until the woman they laid to rest was Sha’re, Daniel’s wife whom he’d loved, and that was it, that was the end of it.
Jack allowed himself a brief moment of depression at the futility of life and love. Daniel’s death had never seemed an ending – the archaeologist was, after all, a man who, at the age of thirty-five, had already had three funerals – but this was, for want of a better way of putting it, the proverbial “it.” The end.
And the moment of depression would have extended itself into a fully-fledged fit of despair, if it were not for the fact Jack suddenly heard another set of footsteps close at hand and launched himself at the door.
Dr McKenzie, still in pursuit of the elusive-but-apparently-in-deep-seated-de
Somewhere in London, the sun was shining and the birds were singing. There were jugglers juggling on the South Bank, prophets of Armageddon at Speaker’s Corner, people eating kebabs at Marble Arch, and a man attempting to sell pretzels by Green Park station. Everything was just as it should be. There was even a nightingale singing in Berkeley Square, and you know what that means.
In Soho, a man took off his sunglasses. A passing car drove into a lamppost, but the man didn’t notice. He was too busy rubbing his eyes and blinking. Beside him, his companion rolled his eyes. “Must you do that?”
“What?” asked Crowley innocently.
The angel gave him a look. “You know very well. That poor man.” As he spoke, he was pointing to the crashed motorist, who was currently employed in hopping around on one foot and swearing eloquently.
“Nothing wrong with his getting a little exercise. Besides, cars are bad for the environment.”
“So are bent lampposts,” the angel pointed out.
“Whatever. I thought we were going for lunch.”
“So did I.”
“Then what’s the hold-up?” Crowley asked, adding, “If you say one more word about that bloody lamppost....”
“I think we ought to help him,” said Aziraphale stubbornly. “Otherwise he’ll cause a traffic jam, and you know what humans are like in those.”
Crowley grinned wickedly. “Exactly.”
Aziraphale groaned. On the one hand, Crowley had promised him sushi, and although he wasn’t physically capable of gluttony or lust, there was something about delicately presented raw fish that made the angel come perilously close to extreme temptation. On the other hand, he was an angel, and there on the pavement in front of him was a man in need. He wavered, weighing one up against the other; finally, divine obligations won out. He paused at the edge of the kerb, looking back at Crowley. “If you could wait a moment, my dear...”
“Oh, lord, heal this car,” murmured Crowley sarcastically. Aziraphale took no notice, stepping delicately out onto the road. Crowley sighed and turned around to watch him, and saw immediately what the angel did not.
Aziraphale noticed that Crowley, who had been unperturbed at both the onset of Armageddon and being the chosen quarry of the dukes of hell, sounded honestly, unequivocally frightened. It was his last thought before he lost consciousness in a flurry of feathers and inconvenient discorporation.
Crowley recovered quickly from his moment of weakness (a demon, and afeard?) and strolled out into the road to come face-to-face with another flustered motorist. Actually, ‘flustered’ was an understatement – the man was white-faced and shaking. “I never saw him!” he cried, in a thick Cockney accent. “He just stepped out in the road! Just like that, and I never... I never...”
Crowley ignored him, kneeling down beside the angel’s body. Idly, he brushed a lock of hair out of Aziraphale’s eyes and sighed. No doubt the angel was already at heaven’s stationery department, trying to explain what he’d done with this body. Crowley had a distinct feeling that “I got run over” might not wash with the logistics officers of the bureaucracy celestial.
The panic-stricken man behind him suddenly burst out, “Did you know him? Is he dead?”
“Yes,” said Crowley.
A sultry, sour summer night in London. Even under cover of darkness, it was too hot, much too hot, and the single sheet wrapped round his body had become inexplicably tangled around his legs and feet. He was awake now; he’d hardly slept, swimming just below full consciousness in a sea of heat exhaustion. He could feel the ache of the weave rubbing against over-sensitive, overheated skin as he tugged at the sheet. When he was free of it, he swung his legs round and stood up. With the sheet draped around his shoulders, he stood at the window, looking up at the night sky. It was perfectly clear, not a single cloud to obscure the velvety, star-spangled blackness.
And there she was. The moon, yellow like summer, shining softly down on him. That was it, he knew. It was the moon that made him feel like this, hot and uncomfortable and aching, biting at invisible chains, mind and body stretched taut with longing. The moon on her first ‘bookend’ night – twenty four hours to go, and he was already faltering, falling at her feet.
He opened the window, letting moonbeams fall on his bare skin, and immediately the night breeze blew in, whipping through his too-long hair, cooling his aching head. He sighed deeply, luxuriously, listening to the sounds of the city asleep. A siren, Doppler-shifted and distant, the noise of people talking a few streets away carrying on the still air, the faint humming of machinery from one of the neighbouring houses. It was strange, he reflected, that even here in the midst of urban sprawl, he wasn’t safe from the call, the wolf’s call, the faint, urgent need for freedom, for love, for blood, all mixed together into the wild song of the younger world, the song of the pack.
A memory rose unbidden before him; dim sensation, running free, barefoot, bare paw along the springy, soft forest floor, plunging into a stream’s glittering shallow, and by his side another dark shape as free as himself, free...
Another memory, visual and brightly coloured, pink glitter and kohl-smeared eyes, ragged fingernails painted deep red, the glow of a cigarette dropped and ground beneath a heel, and a delighted voice chanting, “Fairy boys are pale and nervous, yeah...”
Another one. Safety, and warmth, and flickering firelight, and two goblets, one with white wine, one with red, and an open window just like this one, moths flying in through it and blundering blindly into the light.
He was sitting on the windowsill now, feet wedged against the wall. Memories, they were only memories... the human in him lived in the past, the wolf lived in the present, and both were afraid of the future. He shivered.
Outside, an owl hooted softly. Clouds began to move over the face of the moon. Even the city seemed to be gradually falling silent, except for that one siren, wailing somewhere in the nearby streets.
He lay there the whole night, dozing fitfully while the night air soothed him into stillness.
There has been enough Dust left for one more window between the worlds; it is the one that leads from the world of the dead to freedom above. The angel is therefore surprised when he sees the fabric of the world opening as it used to do, when the boy still had his knife. But the door doesn’t open the way it should, with the blade of the knife etching its outline bit by bit; instead, it bursts open in a shimmering haze.
Time passes. Balthamos hears a creaking sound coming from somewhere. As the shimmering grows brighter and brighter, he realises the sun is setting, as it does even in this desolate world, currently home to only one inhabitant. Blades of grass blow sideways and bend as the sea breeze changes direction, and when the reddish disc has slipped itself just below the horizon, the first one comes through the door.
He is an angel like Balthamos himself. Everything about him gives it away. Large, lustrous blue eyes, creamy white skin, and too-delicate features, and then there are subtler things like the way he walks, the soles of his bare feet barely skimming the ground. And all this is before he spreads his wings. They rise above his head in snow-white loveliness, but they are held awkwardly, almost as if their owner has forgotten what they are for.
“What is your name?” asks Balthamos.
“Oh. Um.” The other angel blinks. “Aziraphale.”
“Aziraphael,” repeats Balthamos, changing the pronunciation slightly.
“Yes. Um. I think I’ve, um, well. Taken a wrong turning, as it were.” He blinks again. “Well.”
Balthamos wonders about him, but soon forgets. Behind him, others have taken the same wrong turning. Balthamos is no longer the only person in this world, and its population is no longer wholly angelic; the others rush in through the door, farther up and farther in, as if their very lives depend on it. Balthamos stands back, simply watching and waiting.
There are so many of them, so many. Angels, daemons and humans, creatures that are like none Balthamos has ever seen, and strangely enough, a large black dog that seems to belong to no-one, and a grey-furred creature with amber eyes. Balthamos has never seen one before, but he knows it is a wolf.
A blaze of light drifts by; Balthamos blinks. Those tendrils of brightness suggest angelic origin, but this is no angel. He is careful not to stray too far from the door, but he follows the light nevertheless. It leads him a little way, but then resolves itself into a human. It can’t be; no human has that kind of power, but if not human, this creature can impersonate humanity very well, for it has a human voice, and a human laugh, and it speaks to humans as equals. The angel has stayed nearby simply to hear it speak, hear its voice.
“I thought you wanted to see me. See you around, you said.”
The human being addressed, a man with hair as grey as the wolf’s fur, seems nervous and awkward. “I do want to see you. I mean... well, I don’t know where I am right now, and that’s... I don’t like that.”
“I think this is a safe place.” And Balthamos suddenly doubts himself; maybe the bright creature really is human after all, there’s something in that voice, some indefinable quality that can’t be put on.
“Yeah, maybe,” says the other. “So what now?”
“I think we just talk. We haven’t got long, you know. Just one night.” Just one night. Balthamos repeats the phrase to himself. Just one night.
“What do we talk about?”
“Anything you like. Just talk.”
“You’re not trying to be a shrink, are you? I’ve got one of them after me already...” His voice trails off, and the other one laughs. Balthamos moves on. He finds himself drifting towards the other angel, passing a human woman as he goes (she is saying, “Arthur, I’ve already told you, I was conceived there!”) and there the angel is standing, staring straight at a creature Balthamos cannot define. He is dressed all in black, and seems neither human, nor an angel, but the worst elements of both. He is silent, listening to his companion, who is speaking slowly, as if to ensure he will be understood. “I wasn’t dead,” he says. “Angels can’t die.”
“No,” says the other, “but we can Fall.” As he says it, his wings spread, and Balthamos realises he is a demon, but his wings are just like those of the angel beside him, and in the dim light, there really is no difference between them. Balthamos watches them for a moment, watches the way the light of the rising sun picks out the glints in their hair and eyes, and then the moment is over and he has gone on.
He is stopped in his tracks by another human, and while this one seems ordinary and mundane in his humanity, Balthamos has been once burned and is shy to make a judgement. A minute later, he knows he is right to be wary, for he sees the man’s face clearly, sees his dusty, greying hair and amber eyes, and knows he has seen those eyes before. The man is not looking at him. He only has eyes for something down by his feet. Balthamos looks down to see the black dog, gambolling like a puppy. Suddenly, the animal places its front paws on the man’s shoulders, and a strange, local rearrangement of reality seems to take place. When Balthamos can see clearly again, he finds the dog is no more, and instead, a man with long, unkempt black hair has is leaning heavily on the shoulders of the other.
Although they are about the same height, they’re unbalanced – the amber-eyed one is much more slightly built, and he’s sinking to the ground, laughing softly, and finally, the other is persuaded and pulled to the ground with him, and they’re rolling over and over each other, and Balthamos blinks, and sees a dog and wolf, playing as such close cousins will.
He would stay there longer and watch them play, but something else happens first. He feels a sharp, painful tug at his heart and soul, and slowly, carefully, turns around. The door is still open, and standing within its frame is another angel.
He steps forwards, and Balthamos steps forwards, and they’re side by side again.
They are the watchers. They are the bene elim. Not of the highest order of angels, as Balthamos is wont to say, but they are the agents of the divine, inasmuch as there is such a thing. Not to be seen by human eyes, except in the half-light of dusk and dawn, they are insubstantial, intangible, weaker than human flesh and yet more enduring.
They are wrapped in each other, falling into each other, hopelessly entwined, forever and ever, world without end, amen...
“Oh, God...” breathes Baruch, softly.
They are there together in a world where they are alone. Soft night breezes whip through grass, and the sea laps at the shore below, regular as a heartbeat. There are stars above the horizon; stars no human eyes had ever seen until tonight.
Balthamos’s lips brush the other angel’s ear, and he whispers softly, gently. “There is no God. There is no God. God is dead and we have killed him.”
“I remember.” The reply is too soft, barely spoken, a whisper in the breeze.
“We are all there is. There is no heaven, there is no hell, there is no other place, there is nothing but here, now, nothing but ourselves.”
“And we can build the republic of heaven…”
“...where we are...”
“Where we are.”
The whisper hangs on the wind even when Baruch has gone. It seems to linger until the end of the short summer night. They have all gone, back through the doorway. The last to leave are the angel and demon, Crowley and Aziraphale. They pass the older angel on their way.
“Waiting for the end of the world?” Crowley asks.
Balthamos nods. He doesn’t look up, staring out to sea. The sun is rising. There is a silence, and then, in an uncharacteristic gesture, Aziraphale rests a hand on the other angel’s head. The touch forces Balthamos to look up at him. Aziraphale sighs. “It’s come and gone,” he says.
To Balthamos’s tired eyes, they look very young as they go back through the doorway, hand-in-hand.
Jack came awake very slowly. He gradually became aware he wasn’t lying in a bed, but rather on top of one. His head was propped up by a couple of pillows, and although military fatigues were never designed for sleeping in, he felt oddly comfortable.
He decided it was time to open his eyes. He wasn’t surprised to find himself in the SGC infirmary. He knew that grey ceiling just as well as he knew his own bedroom ceiling at home, and he was almost used to waking up to the gentle rhythmic beeping of the machines in the infirmary. It beat waking up to the not-so-gentle rhythmic beeping of his alarm clock, at any rate.
The beeps weren’t the only thing he could hear. There was a voice coming from somewhere, muffled and distorted but unmistakably female. Whoever she was, she was evidently shouting at the top of her lungs. If Jack strained his ears, he could catch a few words.
“...idiotic... submoronic... bastard!”
Carter? It sounded like her, but she never swore. On the other hand – he strained to listen again – she had just said something about someone having “the intelligence quotient of a paramecium!”
Inwardly, he grinned. Definitely Carter. He wondered whom she was shouting at.
It was at this point he decided it might be a good idea to try and sit up. He tried, but something stopped him. Turning his head, he realised the something was a person. It was Jonas Quinn, sitting on a plastic chair beside the bed and eating a banana. “Steady, Colonel,” he said. “I don’t think the doctor will like it if you get up. She said you might have a concussion as well as a bump on your head.”
“What happened?” Jack asked. “What’s all the yelling about?” He rubbed at his eyes, noticing without surprise that it was a green banana.
“It seems you had... a bit of an accident,” Jonas replied tactfully. “You were in Dr Jackson’s office, and Dr McKenzie...”
“What’d he do? Sedate me?”
“In a manner of speaking.” Jonas paused. “He hit you with a door. It was an accident!” he added hastily, as Jack moved to get up again. “I believe he wants to apologise to you in person.”
“I’m sure,” replied Jack darkly. As Jonas went to speak again, the door opened and Samantha Carter walked in, looking pleased with herself. “Oh, you’re awake,” she said.
“It looks like it.” Jack rubbed at his head. It was beginning to throb painfully.
“I was just talking to Dr McKenzie, sir,” she said matter-of-factly. “He wanted me to tell you he’s very sorry.”
“He asked you to tell me that?” Jack asked, sounding very dubious.
“Oh, yes,” said Sam happily.
Jack would have come up with some suitably sarcastic way to express his disbelief, but before he could say anything, Janet Frasier had marched in. “Good, you’re awake,” she said briskly, and then rounded on Sam and Jonas. “Out, you two. He needs rest.”
They obeyed with alacrity, promising to be back soon and then fleeing under Janet’s glare. The doctor sat down on the plastic chair Jonas had left vacant and looked closely at the colonel. “How are you feeling?”
“Like I’ve been hit in the head with a door.”
“So I gather.” She paused, reaching into the pocket of her white coat, then made a face. “Damn.”
“I don’t think you have a concussion, but I need to be sure. And I’ve forgotten my pen light. I’ll be right back.”
“I’ve not going anywhere,” Jack called after her as she departed, grumbling under her breath. Her footsteps receded into the distance, and then apart from the background beeping, everything was quiet.
“If you’re interested,” said a soft voice from behind the bed, “she told him he was an inadequate excuse for a human being, let alone a doctor, made him recite his Hippocratic oath back at her, and then threatened to hit him in the head with a door and see how he liked it. I don’t think she likes him very much.”
“Have you been there all the time?” Jack asked, smiling to himself.
“More or less.” Daniel stepped forwards. He was leaning casually against the head of the bed, arms folded. “Long enough to hear the juicy details, in any case.”
“Juicy details? You’re here on behalf of the SGC grapevine?”
“No, I wouldn’t say that.” Daniel smiled thoughtfully. “However, I wasn’t going to miss seeing McKenzie hit in the head with a door.”
“She didn’t actually do it, did she?”
“No. But she might. And seeing as it’s been rather quiet lately on the astral plane...”
Jack grinned. “Bastard.”
“Likewise.” Daniel grinned back and perched himself on the edge of the bed. He looked very human.
“Look, Daniel...” Jack began. “While I was... out of it...”
“I know.” Daniel looked directly at him. “You had an interesting dream or two. Try not to worry about it.”
“Not that kind of dream, Daniel!”
Daniel laughed. “I’m flattered, but no, you’re right. Not that kind of dream. Better, maybe.”
“Colonel? Are you talking to someone?” Janet was back in sight, holding her pen light. “I thought I told those two to stay out!”
“Look who’s back.” Daniel took a step backwards. “Look after yourself, Jack.”
“Daniel?” Jack swung round to look at him, but he wasn’t there. Janet was there instead, staring at him with her concerned-doctor expression. “Colonel?” she said carefully. “Daniel’s... dead.”
“I know that,” said Jack irritably, for she was looking at him in just the way he hated – the oh-my-God-he’s-seeing-things-get-the-med
“That’s right,” said Daniel, laughing, and this time, he really was gone.
It started getting dark earlier than usual that night. Maybe the sun set earlier; maybe not. Maybe it was because street lights obeyed different physical laws in Soho. Maybe it was because the last divine presence within a thousand-mile-radius had just been snuffed out, and the inanimate sodium strips were somehow in mourning.
Crowley wasn’t thinking about street lights. He was thinking about blue lights. Flashing blue lights that belonged to a couple of police cars and an ambulance, all parked at various crazy angles in the middle of the road. The whole area had been cordoned off, of course, and the blue and white strips – “Police line – do not cross” – fluttered in vague night breezes, making bizarre silhouettes in the stark white headlights of the police cars.
Crowley, dressed all in black as always, blended into the shadows, leaning against the brick side of a building with the utmost suavity and grace. He didn’t move, being an observer only. Interesting people hovered around, peering at the scene with something approaching fascination, and they were also observers, but not in the same way as Crowley. The demon was listening carefully to what the paramedics had to say (“Dead on impact”) and what the police officers had to say (“No suspicious circumstances”) and waiting for someone to mention the killer word – “identification.” When that happened, the pathetic humans would suddenly forget, abruptly remember something else they had to be doing, and the issue would disappear as if it had never existed.
Aziraphale’s body was neatly covered. Just like these humans, Crowley thought; tidy it up and make it look presentable, and then maybe you can forget what’s really at stake. Behind him, a man was sitting on the ground, leaning against the bent lamppost. His head was buried in his hands, greying hair pushed out of his eyes. He was crying, very softly, in the darkness where no-one but Crowley could hear him.
“I killed him,” said the man, brokenly, and Crowley nodded. The demon knew Aziraphale was an angel. Aziraphale – no, Aziraphael, angel of the Eastern Gate of Eden at the dawn of time, ethereal, immortal, eternal...
...and yet Crowley felt the need to stay there with his body in the hot, humid darkness for the whole night, waiting for daybreak.
The man was still crying. Sirens wailed in the background, and a drop of water fell softly on Crowley’s head. It had started to rain.
He waited the whole night. It wasn’t until the sun had begun to rise that he felt a hand on his shoulder, and a familiar voice say, “Finally.”
Having waited the entire night, Crowley waited a moment before turning round.
If things had been better, if things had been perhaps as they should have been, Sirius would have woken up slowly in the heat, stretching out his limbs and rolling over before coming to the realisation he was alone. He would have rubbed at his eyes, decided Moony must have woken up and left him to have his sleep out, which was considerate of him considering in his younger days he hadn’t been averse to using a bucket of water as a wake-up call, but then Sirius would have glanced at his watch, realised it was five o’clock in the morning and not even Moony the terminal insomniac got up that early for no reason.
Sirius would have sighed, pushed back the small stab of worry, swung his legs round and stood up. And he’d have seen that far from being missing, Remus was still in the room with him, curled up on the windowsill, eyes closed, lips slightly parted, cheeks flushed in sleep.
“Moony,” he’d have said. “How in the hell did you get up there?”
Remus’s eyes would have opened slowly. “Sleepwalked.” Deadpan as ever.
Sirius would have groaned. “The hell. For someone who can be quite intelligent...”
“...you can be such a...” – and he’d have wagged his finger for emphasis - “...such a pillock. What if you’d fallen out of the window?”
“I wouldn’t have,” Remus would reply, all innocence and confidence, and Sirius would have groaned again, and then silence would have fallen, comfortable silence. Remus would have broken it, speaking suddenly and clearly. “I had a dream. You were in it.”
“Yes. I dreamed you and I were in a garden. We were walking through it, and it was night-time, but it was summer, and there were flowers. Dogwoods. Lupins.” He’d have paused then, allowed himself a brief, self-conscious smile. “And you... you were still a convicted criminal, and I... I was still me, but everything... everything was perfect.”
Sirius would have stood there for a moment, swaying slightly, taking it in. And then he’d have smiled, a full candlepower smile that lit up his eyes and made him ten years younger, and he’d have reached and gently pulled Remus down from the windowsill. The wolf’s call meant Remus was unsteady on human feet, so Sirius would have thrown an arm around his shoulders, pulling him closer than strictly necessary. “Moony. Everything already is perfect.”
And they would have ambled back to bed, tangled in each others’ arms, and slept soundly until the clear light of morning.
But none of that happened, did it?
Sirius wasn’t there; he was dead, gone forever beyond the veil, and Remus slept until well into the day, waking only when the moon was too strong to resist, and the grey-furred creature within his mind was beginning to stir. Moony howled and scratched and tore and ripped and bit until any human would have died from the blood loss; but he wasn’t human, not any more.
And here we are again. The night is over, the morning has come. Everything is as it should be once again.
Did you like the garden? It was only in existence for one night, one short summer night, but it was still beautiful. Death doesn’t reverse itself, but we all bend the rules sometimes.
The wheel’s still turning. Creak, creak, creak. It will never stop, but equally, no-one’s ever going to get around to replacing all the bent spokes. As we have seen, things do occasionally go wrong.
But then, there’s the matter of who’s in charge. Did you ever wonder who rides the wheel? Who is it who can control it, wield its power even as it turns? Who?
It could be... but no. As Balthamos said, he is dead. He’s dead and his own angels have killed him. It’s not him.
It’s someone else. He is always there, there’s nowhere where he is a stranger, he is always working, around you, within you, behind you, and although you’ve never in your life set eyes on him, you’ll recognise him when at last you see him. He is someone whom you know well; he is the greatest of the Four, he who is creation’s shadow, once called Azrael but is known differently now.
And you’ve come for…
And you really are...
Right. Well. For some reason, ‘goodbye’ feels strangely inadequate, to be honest.
IT IS ALL YOU HAVE TIME FOR.
Because I’m about to...
I don’t want to do this. It’s not time. I wanted it to be in my sleep.
SLEEP, WAKEFULNESS, IT IS NO DIFFERENT. IT IS...
And you are...
It’s what the whole story was about, really.
comments, compliments, rotten tomatoes...