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if thou wilt ever dig

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There was Ashraf, and there was Ashraf, and there was Ashraf. Instead of pain and heat and noise, there was Ashraf. White light pressed in on them, above and below, perfect and unchanging, but all Noam could see was Ashraf. All he could taste was Ashraf, all he could feel was Ashraf, all he could hear and touch and drink was Ashraf. He fell into Ashraf, and they made love endlessly.

Was it sex? No, and yes. It belittled what he and Ashraf were sharing to call it sex, to think of it as an act of the body. And yet it wholly was an act of the body, and though completely lacking pain or exhaustion or discomfort, the grunts and sweat of sex were present, necessary, perfect. There was Ashraf, and there was Noam, and there was Ashraf-and-Noam. Nothing else mattered because there was nothing else to matter, just Ashraf and Noam and the light all around them.

After a time (How much time? All the time in the world had passed, and none at all), a cloud momentarily darkened the iridescent brightness around them and Noam pulled back, pulled out of Ashraf's mind and heart and body.

"You killed me," he said, annoyed.

Shadows flickered against Ahsraf's face. "You killed my sister," he replied.

"What?" The shock blasted Noam straight into himself. "No, I didn't!"

"You might as well have." Ashraf met his eyes. "You would have."

"No, I wouldn't," insisted Noam, but then he wearing his uniform. He was dressed exactly as he'd been when he first met Ashraf, down to the dangling earbuds. His bracelet brushed against the sleeve of his fatigue shirt. "I wouldn't have," he said again.

"You stand there with your assault rifle and say it wasn't you?" Ashraf's voice was steady, but his lips were white. He wore the jacket he'd died in, and Noam's heart broke at how beautiful he was.

"No," he said, and he believed it as hard as he could. The earbuds melted away, and he stood before Ashraf in a black t-shirt that pronounced, "I love love Ashraf (and Tel Aviv)". "I wouldn't have. It wasn't me, it would never have been me. Ashraf, it wasn't me."

Noam reached out a hand and touched Ashraf's cheek. In the shifting light, as clouds rushed by and over and through them, Ashraf's lips parted. He wore a blue-and-white checked shirt, and there was no bomb.

"Where is your sister, anyway?" Noam asked. "I assume this is heaven? Though you've been shortchanged on your virgins." He leered.

Ashraf rolled his eyes. "Very mature."

Noam smiled crookedly and flashed a half-apology from beneath lowered lashes. "But seriously, where's Rana? If this is heaven for you, shouldn't she be here?"

Ashraf scowled. "Not if it's heaven for her. She probably doesn't want me in her heaven, and she certainly doesn't want you."

"Don't be stupid."

"Hello? She's my sister, and trust me, she's not interested in seeing either of us."

Noam laughed, and his shirt said "I love love big dorks (this means you)". A gleam of light from a break in the clouds hit his face. "Don't you think being dead might change how much she cares that you like to take it up the ass?"


Noam looked at him, his teeth gleaming in the light as he smiled huge and hopeful.

"No," said Ashraf again, then softened. "Probably not."

"Only one way to find out," Noam said. He took both Ashraf's hands and held them between his. "Let's go find her."

Ashraf took three steps forward and pressed Noam back with his body, until Noam was leaning against the red slide. Their feet slid in the sand, and their lips met.

After a time (How much time? All the time in the world had passed, and none at all), Ashraf pulled back. "Let's go look for Rana."