Barclay is trying to explain the rivalry between Giovanni's and Pizza Hut to Minerva when Indrid bursts into the Cryptonomica in his usual dramatic fashion. Kirby looks up from his laptop and one of the Sylphs that came with Janelle squeaks and knocks over a chair. Barclay just rolls his eyes.
"Yes, dear?" he says dryly.
"We need to talk," Indrid says, as serious as Barclay ever sees him. He's not wearing his glasses, and the dark circles under his eyes add to his urgency.
"Yeah, I got that part," Barclay says. He turns to Kirby and asks, "Hey, can we use the office?" He does not let himself blush as he says it. He does not need Kirby to know the last time he was in that office, he and Indrid had sex on the floor.
"I think Dani and Janelle are in there right now, figuring out some last minute defensive spells," Kirby says, then shakes his head in silent wonder.
"Right," Barclay says. He takes Indrid's wrist and tugs him towards the back door. "Outside, then. Minerva, I'll be right back."
"Take your time, Barclay!" she bellows. Everything she says is at least half-bellow. "I will still be here once your lovers' quarrel has ceased!"
"Yeah, I'm hoping it's not going to come to that," Barclay says.
"It is," Indrid says flatly.
Outside, the sun is lowering towards the horizon. Leo and Sarah are sparring behind the building. In the parking lot, Jake is talking to Aubrey and Duck while standing next to his motorcycle. The front stoop, with its faded patio chairs and weathered CLOSED sign seems like their best bet, so he leads Indrid down the path and up to the front of the building. It's right out in the open, but with just a few hours left until their last stand, it seems pointless to hide.
"Okay," Barclay says. "You're mad about something."
"I am." Indrid's words are clipped, but not cold the way they usually get when he's itching for a fight. There's something else underneath them, something hot and alive that's making his voice tremble just slightly, just enough for Barclay to notice.
"Are you going to tell me what you're mad about?" Barclay asks. It's disingenuous and he immediately regrets it. He has a fairly good idea of why Indrid is angry, he just doesn't think Indrid's earned the right to be mad about it.
"Why are you going Topside?" Indrid asks, and there it is.
"Why?" Indrid asks. "In what--we talked about--there's no reason for you to go with them!"
"Up until about an hour ago, you were going with them!" Barclay snaps.
"I was going to help them get onto the funicular," Indrid says. "I wasn't going to follow them into danger!"
"You told me you didn't know what would keep any of us safe," Barclay reminds him. "You told me you didn't know if any particular group was safer than any other particular group."
"I wasn't expecting you to use that information to run straight into the FBI's compound!" Indrid says. He throws his hands up. "I thought you were trying to figure out if it made more sense for you to stay with the Sheriff's group or hang back with the magic users or...or...." He pulls at his hair. "I didn't expect you to do this!"
Indrid's panic isn't unfamiliar. In all their years together, Indrid has never understood Barclay's anxiety, but Barclay has personally held that Indrid's distress when he can't predict what's going to happen is fairly similar to Barclay's panic attacks. The urge to be smug or use this as a teaching moment is strong, but the world is ending and Barclay doesn't want to waste his last hours with Indrid being petty. Instead, he reaches out and takes Indrid's hands in his own, squeezing them tightly.
"It's okay," he murmurs. Indrid's face twists into a miserable, desperate grimace. "It's okay, Indrid. Take a breath."
Indrid closes his eyes and breathes in deeply, then lets it out slowly. When he opens his eyes, he doesn't look any less miserable, but some of the panic has melted away into despair. He twists his hands in Barclay's so that their fingers weave together.
"I hate this," he says. "I hate the uncertainty. I hate that there's nothing I can do to keep you safe."
"I'm sorry," Barclay says. He brushes the back of Indrid's hands with his thumbs. "But I can help them. And I need to find Mama--if things are going to break bad, I don't want her defenseless in FBI custody, you know? I've gotta get her out."
"Why can't someone else do that?" Indrid asks.
"Because they all have their own agenda. They've got a plan. And that's fine, but it means if I want to look out for my people, I need to do it myself."
"What if I want to look out for my person?" Indrid asks quietly.
Barclay doesn't have an answer for that. He doesn't have anything but a quiet exhale into the space between them. He allows himself a moment of fantasy, a moment of imagining that he and Indrid get into the Winnebago and start driving west and don't stop until they cross the Mississippi. He allows himself to picture the two of them far away together while their friends save the world.
Barclay could never allow that. This place means too much to him. These people mean too much to him. He's terrified and ill-prepared, but he's not going to let that stop him from fighting for his home and his family.
He knows it's different for Indrid. He knows that Indrid struggles to connect to people, that Barclay is the only person in decades and decades that he's allowed himself to really love. Indrid has no home, no roots, no community. He can't understand, not really.
The sun is beginning to set. They're hours away from the final battle. From their position on the front stoop of the Cryptonomica, they can hear the breeze in the trees and the soft murmur of voices along the side of the building and the distant clanging of swords.
"I'm sorry," Barclay says again, softly.
Indrid huffs and shakes his head, looking away. "You've always been too noble. Stupidly selfless. It's just...." He trails off, still staring out at the horizon. "I've never planned a future for myself," he finally says. He looks back at Barclay. "You know the truth in that. You lived it for decades. I let fate take me where it wished. But there's a future I want now, a future that I'm willing to work for regardless of what might be planned. I have goals and dreams and I'm not ready to give them up."
There are tears in his eyes. It's been years since Barclay has seen Indrid cry.
"Indrid," he murmurs, and releases one of Indrid's hands so he can cup his cheek instead. Indrid leans into the touch, closing his eyes and taking a deep, stabilizing breath. When he opens his eyes again, they're a little glossy, but there are no more tears threatening to fall.
"For the first time since I decided to leave Sylvain, I've let myself decide my own future and you are not allowed to ruin it by getting yourself killed," Indrid says firmly. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you, so you're utterly forbidden from dying before I get the chance."
This isn't the first time in the recent past that Indrid has made declarations like that. Barclay tries not to read too much into it--the lifetime of a Sylph is already longer than someone from Earth could ever hope to live, and people on Earth are quick to throw promises like that around. The world is ending, they likely won't live past tonight, and it's nearly unbearably romantic to think that Indrid is willing to pledge his future to Barclay like this.
But he can't mean it. Not really.
"I'm not planning on it," Barclay says, pushing the thought out of his mind. "I don't want to die. And I don't want you to die. I want us to have more time together. But...things don't look great right now. And while I wouldn't say I'm okay with that, I feel like...like I've said everything I've needed to say." He tucks a wayward strand of hair behind Indrid's ear. "I've always been afraid that something would happen and one of us would die without being able to really say goodbye to each other, but we have. You know everything you need to know. You know that I love you more than anything. I've gotten to see you and hold you one more time. If I have to die tonight, I won't have any regrets."
Indrid scrutinizes Barclay's face. The fire from before is back--it's not anger, exactly, but a resolve that's pushing him forward. Still clutching one of Barclay's hands, he squeezes it tightly enough that the bones grind together.
"It's still not enough," Indrid says, almost urgently. "There's plenty more I want to say--plenty more that I want us to have time to say to each other."
"You can say it now," Barclay says. "You can say whatever you need to--Indrid, you can tell me anything. You have to know that."
"It's more than that!" Indrid insists. He pulls his hand free and steps back, running both his hands through his hair. He looks like he wants to pace. "It's not just...some secret that I need to share before we both perish. There's a lifetime's worth of words I want us to speak to each other. There are more promises to make and more...more life to build together. We're going to build a life together and you're going to have a garden and I'm going to be messy and you're going to yell at me about cleaning up and you're going to invite people over and I'm going to hate it. These aren't things I see, these are things I'm going to make happen if it kills me. We're going to share promises and vows and stand up and be recognized. We're going to have celebrations and anniversaries. We're going to make hobbies and traditions. We're going to have a long life together to make up for all the years we've been apart."
It's a beautiful thought. Barclay lets himself picture it, sharing a house, sharing a life. He lets himself imagine going to sleep next to Indrid every night and waking up next to him every morning. He sees himself making breakfast and tending to a garden and sharing space with someone he loves without worrying about when the next abomination will come or what monsters lurk in their future.
"I wish we had a chance to have that too," Barclay says softly, and Indrid whirls around and stalks forward, holding Barclay's face firmly between his hands.
"We're going to have a chance to have it!" he insists. "We're going to survive this! We're going to live and our friends are going to live and we're going to get a house and get married and have everything we want out of the future--"
Indrid might be saying more, but Barclay's still stuck on one word that's ringing discordantly in his head.
"...married?" he says quietly.
Indrid is thrown off his rant and closes his mouth, then frowns. "Yes, married. We discussed this."
"We didn't...." Barclay stumbles back and sinks into one of the chairs on the stoop. Suddenly, every conversation he's had with Indrid since December is replaying at once in his head, but still.... "I definitely would have remembered discussing this!" Maybe he meant before. Maybe they had some conversation about this while drunk or stoned in 1982 and Barclay's just completely--
"Earlier today," Indrid says.
"I told you," Indrid says, "I want to make a commitment to you."
"That's not the same thing!" Barclay says.
"We talked about it for ten minutes!" Indrid insists. "You said you had already started planning things!"
It comes back to Barclay now, their conversation over lunch. Their conversation, he thought, about living together.
"I thought we were talking about buying a house!" His voice pitches higher the longer he talks. The world is tilting to one side and he shakes his head clear. "Indrid, were you proposing?"
"I...well...." He rubs the back of his neck and shrugs. "More...making my intentions known, I suppose."
Barclay is going to throttle him.
Or kiss him.
Or burst into tears.
Or all three.
"You need to say words!" Barclay insists. "You need to--you can't expect me to--you want to get married?!"
"Of course to you," Indrid says. He rolls his eyes and sits in the other chair. "Honestly, my dear, who else would I marry? Obviously the legal aspects of a marriage on this planet would be something that we'd need to investigate, but Earth legality aside, certainly there are enough wedding rituals between this planet and Sylvain that there's likely something that appeals to both of us. I honestly hadn't put much thought into it before, either here or on Sylvain, so I'm open to suggestions. I'm ashamed to say it never even occurred to me to ask if it was something you were interested in the last time around--the political climate was so strange, and while it's only gotten stranger, at least this planet is more accepting of different sorts of relationships now than it was fifty years ago--"
Barclay reaches out and puts his hand over Indrid's mouth. Indrid stops speaking immediately.
"I need a second to breathe," Barclay says, and Indrid nods. Barclay lowers his hand and then covers his eyes with his hands and forces himself to think.
He hasn't even thought about...about marrying Indrid. It feels absurd. The last time around it wasn't possible to do it in any official way by Earth's standards and he still felt too tender from his exile to even think about any Sylvan traditions. This time around--well, there's been a lot on his mind the last six months. Indrid was still living out of his Winnebago and visiting when possible. Barclay couldn't imagine making that sort of commitment to someone who wouldn't even make a home with him.
But now Indrid wants to live with him. He wants to stop traveling all the time. He wants to settle in just one place, a place where Barclay is, a place they can make a life together.
Is that what Barclay wants? Fuck, does he even want to marry Indrid? Does that even make sense?
This was all so much easier when he gave himself over to the belief that they were all going to die tonight.
He lowers his hands. Indrid is looking at him cautiously.
"Is that what you want?" Barclay asks. "To formalize our partnership?" That's the legal parlance on Sylvain, the official way it's listed in registries--formal partnerships. Relationships that are legally recognized by the government. Relationships where the people involved are publicly recognized as devoted to each other--belonging to each other.
Barclay can't pretend he didn't daydream about it as a child. Not as obsessively as some of his friends, especially not once the Quell started inching in and communities got smaller and smaller, but he let himself think about it from time to time. Where he'd want the ceremony. Who he'd want in attendance to formally recognize his relationship for the guests. How he and his future spouse would go about announcing it.
It was childish stuff. Something silly to hold onto when the future started to seem dire.
Then he was exiled and he didn't think about it at all.
"If that's how you'd like to do it," Indrid says. "I know there are smaller religious traditions as well and...well, there's a whole wealth of traditions to choose from on Earth, if you'd rather go that route." He pauses. "If you want that at all. If you don't--we don't have to. It's not--it was a thought I had. If I wasn't as clear as I hoped, if you don't actually want this--"
"But you want it?" Barclay asks again.
Indrid is quiet for a moment. He's tired--he looks exhausted and they have a long night ahead of them, possibly the longest night of their lives. He looks fragile, too, in a way he normally isn't. Barclay wants to hold him again--they spent twenty glorious minutes after lunch curled on the sofa in Mrs. Pearson's apartment and Barclay made himself memorize the feeling, made himself come to terms with the fact that it was likely the last time he'd hold Indrid in his arms. That resolve has worn away and all he wants is to wrap his arms around Indrid and hold on until all of this is over.
"At the end of the day," Indrid finally starts, his voice soft, "what I want is to stand up in front of people who are important to us and make a statement of our intentions. I want our relationship to be recognized, officially, by our friends. I don't care if it's based on Earth traditions or Sylvan traditions or something altogether new and different and just for us. I just want the chance to show the world that I don't plan on leaving you behind ever again."
Barclay tries to breathe through the lump in his throat.
"Fuck," he says breathlessly.
"It's okay if you don't want to," Indrid says again. "I would be perfectly happy living with you without any formal commitment. I would be perfectly happy being with you however you'd allow me, or leaving you alone if that's what you'd prefer. But these last few months have put the last few decades in sharper focus. We're better together. We balance each other out. My life would not be nearly as full without you in it."
Barclay is still lightheaded and dizzy from all of this spinning out around him, but it doesn't stop him from leaning over and pulling Indrid into a frantic, clumsy kiss. Indrid's arms come up around him and something deep in his heart twists painfully into place.
"Shit," he whispers when he pulls apart. His insides are trembling and weak and he tucks his head against Indrid's shoulder. "You asshole. Now we have to live."
Indrid laughs, breathless and light, his fingers digging into Barclay's shoulders.
"Is that a yes to getting married, then?" Indrid murmurs against his ear.
"What do you think?" Barclay asks, and then kisses him again, properly this time.
The final battle is hours away, but Barclay doesn't care anymore. They're going to survive--he'll make sure of it, even if he has to flatten the Quell himself.