Kieren knew how to tie a tie. It wasn’t that hard. He’d done it before, but now his fingers wrestled with it against his neck. He wanted to look nice, to look presentable and grown-up. Because he was, really. He was as grown as he would ever be, his mind straining against the constraints of his frozen-in-time body.
Still, though, he fumbled with the knot until Amy’s fingers stilled his. She leaned in close to his face and patted his cheeks, and then tucked his hair behind his ear.
“I think you’re trying too hard.” She said it with a smile, but he could tell there was a tinge of sadness underneath it. He worried about that, his hands dropping from his neck to his sides, balling into fists and then flexing again. What if it was because it was him, and not her, getting ready for a date with Simon? She’d said she was over it, but still, the idea of making her even the slightest bit sad made his stomach twist.
“Amy, are you sure you-” he started to ask her, to make sure, but she cut him off.
“He’ll like what he sees no matter what. That is what I am sure of,” she said, unlacing the silk from itself, “Don’t worry about being all fancy. You’re Kieren Walker! You’re the most morduous babe in all of Roarton. He doesn’t need to see some stiff, fancied-up version of you. Just be yourself.”
She pulled the tie from around his neck and wrapped it around her forefinger.
She smiled at him then, and it was real and warm. He tried to remember what warmth felt like, and he was glad it was her that made him try. She rubbed her thumb against his cheek, and the worry knot in his gut loosened.
Her hand fell back to his collar. “And this, buttoned all the way up? You’re headed to the city for a date, not a job interview!” She unbuttoned the top one and paused, assessing the situation. “Better go on ahead with this next one too, just to be safe.” She winked and went in to unbutton a third.
Kieren laughed and pulled away, standing up. “You’ll have me undressed before I even meet him at this rate, Amy.” He shook his head and looked at his reflection in the mirror. The buttons could stay like that, he decided, and he turned his attention to his hair.
“Oh, all right, all right, you have a point. You’ve got to leave him something to take off of you himself.”
Kieren stopped worrying with his bangs in order to cut his eyes at the reflection of her, sitting on the bed behind him. She had her lower lip between her teeth, her eyebrows waggling. He gave her his best stern face, but the corner of his mouth twitched up despite himself.
“If this date doesn't end with him desperate for every inch of your dead-sexy self, I’m no judge of his preferences or your attractiveness. And I think I’m a professional at both by this point, Kieren Walker, my Best Dead Friend Forever.”
He tried to smile at her, but it was hard, given the futility of what she was suggesting. He rolled his eyes instead and picked up his makeup compact. “Yeah, and a lot of good that’ll do. What should we do at that point then, hmm? Sit around naked, discussing what it must be like to have bodies that worked correctly?” He closed the compact without putting any on, and turned, his eyebrows pulled together. “Are you sure I should go...’au naturale?’”
He turned back to the mirror, looking himself in his pale, clouded eyes. He nervously opened and closed the compact in his hand a few times before putting it back down on the nightstand.
“And besides,” she said, unrolling the tie in her hand from around her finger, “There’s much more to second-life than your inability to get an erection, you know.” She flicked one end of the tie at him, and it snapped in the air, near his ass. He jumped and let out a small, sharp laugh.
“It could be a lot worse, Kieren Walker.”
She stood up and handed him his coat. When he’d finished putting it on, she turned him back to face the mirror. Standing behind him, she wrapped an arm around his waist and tucked her chin over his shoulder. “The sun doesn’t rise and set on penetration, Kieren. Just think of all the lewd, indecent cuddling you’ll be able to get up to tonight,” she said. Kieren laughed, a real solid gut-laugh, and when she smiled at him then, it came easy.
Eventually, the shadows against the wall became long, and it was time to meet up with Simon. Kieren wasn’t even totally sure what he had planned for them. Only that there was going to be a bus, and that they were leaving Roarton.
Leaving Roarton. He doubted they were going far, but still, the idea of getting out and doing something made him so excited. He knew Simon wanted him to stay in Roarton, but lately, he’d just felt so stifled and trapped there. Thinking about leaving it, even just for the night, made him nervous--the good kind of nervous, though.
He wasn’t even sure dates were a thing he could do. He’d never actually been on one before. He and Rick mostly just groped sweetly and awkwardly in the spaces they had time for it, pushing each other into the backseat of a car, or against the damp walls of the cave. When they were in public, their glances at each other were quiet and small, and not proud as they should have been.
Being with Simon was different. He did things like take Kieren’s hand when they walked down the street together, and he leaned back into him, easing the rest of his weight against him, even when people could see. Simon closed his eyes when they kissed.
What would they even do, Kieren wondered. His concept of what a date would be like was full of images of what the living valued- romantic dinners, drinks at a coffee shop or pub, or having sex. It wasn’t like their bodies could handle any of that.
Simon had promised something good, though. It was after their previous date, if you could call it that. After the catastrophic meal they’d had (or watched everyone else have) with Kieren’s family.
“Well, that was a disaster, wasn’t it?” Simon had said, once they were safe, and once Kieren had calmed down a bit. It would have been better for the event to have gone any way except how it did, leaving Jem in tipsy, stubborn silence and Kieren in a rage far, so far away from their house.
He had tried to bury the hot anger deep inside him. He’d wanted Simon to see how life could be, but after that, he had wanted to be anywhere else, to be anyone else. He’d just wanted to feel anything except that.
Simon hadn’t let him, though. He had encouraged his venting, and when he was done, tired from yelling about wanting to run, to be free from all the bullshit that weighed on him, and from all of the tears his body was incapable of producing, Simon had watched as Kieren had rubbed off his makeup. Simon was silent and reverent, as attentive as if Kieren had been taking off his clothes for the first time.
When it was done, when Kieren was clean and staring vulnerably back into Simon’s wide eyes, Simon had grabbed his chin, looking pointedly into him. “Next time, I’m taking you out,” he’d said, a thumb on Kieren’s lower lip. Kieren’s eyelashes had fluttered closed, kissing him like it didn’t matter what else could or couldn’t follow.
Remembering that, Kieren tried to let go of his anxiety over what he could possibly do on a date with his very dead, very enthusiastic boyfriend (boyfriend? He barely dared think that word, but there it was, sneaking up on him anyway). Because now here that boyfriend was. He was standing, leaning against the stone wall by Kieren’s house, waiting for him. When Kieren walked out of the gate to meet him, Simon dug his heel into the gravel and launched his weight outward, ready to greet him. He stopped right in front of Kieren, his face only a few inches away. “You ready to go?” he asked.
Kieren stifled his desire to be difficult, and instead he tucked a finger in Simon’s front pocket, and said, “Yes, if you are.”
Amy called out from behind them. “Have a good night, lovebirds! Don’t make all of the greater Roarton area too jealous.” She winked and giggled, disappearing back around the corner like she was headed back toward Kieren’s house. Kieren wondered briefly if she intended to just make herself at home there for the evening, or if it was just for effect. But then Simon’s hands were on his, and his attention shifted.
Kieren smiled, and laced his fingers in Simon’s, pulling him anxiously toward the bus station.
When they were seated (after thorough inspection of their tickets and legal documents), Simon leaned into Kieren. “I think you’ll like where we’re going.”
Kieren raised an eyebrow.
“No, I’m serious,” Simon said, “It isn’t even a political meeting, I promise. Not even any uprising talk, unless you want it.” Simon’s gaze flicked to kieren’s mouth, and Kieren felt the strange shadow of a twinge in his gut. He smiled, and he and kissed Simon, quick. His haste was less about the other people on the bus watching and more about wanting to keep Simon guessing.
Simon tucked a smile into the corner of his mouth and gave Kieren’s hand a squeeze. The rest of the journey passed in relative silence, the both of them looking out over the inescapable devastation of the countryside. They passed a bright fire, at one point, and Kieren shivered, wondering what the flames were hiding.
Simon could have used it as a platform to bring up their place in this fight, but instead he buried his mouth against Kieren’s neck, stilling his shaking. He tightened his grip on Kieren’s hand, and they watched the countryside go by together-- both the green parts and the burning ones. Soon the city built itself up around them.
When they arrived at the bus station, it was Simon’s turn to lead. They walked through the darkness, under the dim lights of the city, and through the dilapidated storefronts and signs. They passed a park, the twisted metal of the fence laced with ribbons and mementos of those lost, their photos bleached by the sun.
When Simon slowed to a stop, it was in front of ragged door with a greasy window next to it. There was a hazy multicolored light sneaking out from the corners of the window, and a dull bass thumped from inside.
“A club?” Kieren asked, half surprised and half impressed.
Simon shrugged. “Isn’t this what kids these days are into?”
Kieren rolled his eyes at that, but then Simon’s hand was on his hip, and he wondered what it would be like to give in to the swell of rhythm pulsing inside the building.
“I wouldn’t know, but we might as well find out.”
The bouncer who let them in was PDS. The left side of his face was slack, and his eyes were a mottled white. Simon shook his hand solidly. He did not ask for ID.
The thrum of bodies and swell of music that greeted them inside wasn’t totally new to Kieren. He’d known that clubs were a thing that people went to, vaguely, and he’d attended a few parties in his time. It was still something to get used to.
They didn’t immediately launch into dancing. There was an interlude of them standing, backs against the wall like they were at a middle school party instead of a grimy postapocalyptic club. Kieren watched the people as they danced. It looked like a decent mix of PDS and the living, which he realized must be more common here. The bright lights flashing froze the dancers in rhythmic poses once per second.
“I didn’t really peg you for the dancing sort,” Kieren said, leaning close in for Simon to hear. He was thinking of the party they’d been at before, when Simon spent most of the night proselytizing by the campfire.
Simon shrugged. “Irresponsible, drug-riddled days of my first life, remember? Not my first time.”
“Do you miss it?”
“No, this is for you.” He looked straight into Kieren’s eyes as he said it (and why was he always doing that, Kieren wondered). “I’ve got enough, now.”
A new song was starting, and Simon led Kieren out onto the floor, an eyebrow cocked, his hand soft and inviting in Kieren’s. They danced, the pulse of the music vibrating hard in Kieren’s ears.
The crowd parted to let them in, and Simon pulled him in close. Their bodies started moving and Kieren realized that Simon hadn’t been lying. He did know what he was doing. The dad sweaters and dry politicism were still pretty definitive Simon characteristics, and Kieren was still fond of him for that, but the way he guided Kieren’s body was impressive, and the way he moved his hips.
The songs passed, and the good thing about being undead was the lack of need for water or bathroom breaks, so they just got more and more wrapped up in each other.
Simon’s lips were on Kieren’s neck, his hand was low on Kieren’s back, under his shirt. His knee was between his thighs. It was presumptuous and public, and Kieren wanted to bury himself in the moment. It made his skin tight, like it was feeling something. The sensation of Simon’s thumb on his spine, and his mouth near his ear--it was almost real. Like he was finally able to hold what he wanted, but with heavy gloves on.
He’d hungered for more of the way Simon stirred him, but when he looked around, and saw the heavy lidded eyes of the other clubgoers, he knew. He saw the expectant pinkness in their cheeks. They were high, either PDS sufferers enthralled by sheep’s brains, or the living, pulled on by the the warm, human heat of one another.
It twisted inside Kieren, and he pulled back from Simon, his brows knitted together, his mouth small and tucked in on itself. He wanted...He wanted something more, and he wasn’t sure how to get it.
“Had enough of dancing?” Simon asked, smiling, but ready still to stop the slow rise of his hand on Kieren’s neck if he had to.
“Well, it’s not like...” Kieren started, his eyes slanting to the side, frustration creeping into his voice, “This is good, obviously.” He looked over at the crowd, at the jumbled, grating mass of bodies pulsing in the rhythm of lights and sound. “I just..” He trailed off.
Simon kissed his neck where it met his jaw. “You just think we could do with a better atmosphere?”
Kieren nodded into him. “Let’s leave,” he said. It was less a request than a command, and Simon followed him, his hand in the tight grasp of Kieren’s, his eyes trained to the quick, left-limping lean of Kieren’s gait.
Kieren didn’t stop when they were outside of the club. He didn’t stop walking or pulling on Simon’s arm until they were around the corner, up the street and up the hill into the park, until Simon was standing in front of a tree with a plaque nailed neatly in front of it, reading “English Oak-Quercus robur.”
Kieren pushed Simon into the trunk, and he heard the thud of his back against it. He kept pushing. He wanted to taste all of Simon--his mouth, his neck, his chest, his-
He pushed his whole weight against Simon, and the fastest rush of anything he’d felt in so long was thrumming in his veins. He remembered, momentarily, that he had veins, at least. He knew it was impossible for them to pump blood through him at all, to his cheeks, the pads of his fingers, or to his dick, but his mind pictured it anyway. He wanted so much from Simon right then, and with his fingernails digging into his forearms, and his knee against Simon’s thigh, and his teeth on his lower lip, he was desperately trying to communicate this need.
Simon was making slow, contented sounds in his throat, like each bite was a comfort.
“Kieren,” he breathed. “Kieren, you know what I’d do to you if I could, don’t you?”
Kieren’s eyes closed, that unfamiliar tightness pulling in his chest again. He pulled back to gather himself. He made himself look at Simon in his low-lidded eyes “What would you do?”
“I’d pull you down on top of me, first of all.” Simon’s voice was low and gravelly in his throat, but he spoke softly against Kieren’s ear. He bit at his earlobe.
Kieren kept himself still for a second, but then launched his mouth on Simon’s neck. “What else?”
Simon laughed. “You’re the one who’d be on top of me, then. Shouldn’t I be asking you that question?”
Kieren made a low growl of frustration. “You’d want me to take over from there?”
“Kieren Walker, there are few things I have wanted more in my life.”
That was all the encouragement Kieren needed. “I’d pull your pants down, and I’d look at you.”
“You’d look at me?” The smile was evident in Simon’s voice.
“Yes, I’d look at you. Could I not?”
Simon shook his head indulgently. “No, of course, please do.”
Kieren rolled his eyes and then trailed his gaze down Simon’s clothed chest. That part he could actually do--no bloodflow or sensation required. He briefly considered taking off Simon’s shirt; it was dark, and there wasn’t anyone around in the park, really. He held himself back, though. This was a good enough start. Instead, he kissed him again. He pushed his hands up under Simon’s shirt, tracing the lines of his abs and his scars with equal care.
“I’d take your cock in my hand, and I’d- I’d”
“I’d push into your hand” Simon supplied, continuing the narrative, “I’d need it.”
Simon was kissing the dip of Kieren’s clavicle and his hands were roaming up and down his back, pulling him in tight. “Kieren, I’d get you-” he started, but kieren cut him off.
“I’d pump it for a second, but what I’d really want is to taste you.”
Simon’s eyes closed. He leaned his head back against the rough bark.
“I would lick up you, slow.” Kieren was pleased to see Simon starting to lose his composure like this, and to know he was the cause of it. He kept going.
“You’d taste so good, and I would run my tongue all over your cock, and I’d watch you the whole time. I’d want to see the face you’d make when I take you all the way in.”
Simon groaned. “Kieren, I would pull you up and kiss you. I’d need to be able to reach you, too.”
Kieren nodded, humming his assent against Simon’s neck.
“I’d take your clothes off, too, and get distracted, kissing every inch of you I could get to.”
“There are some particular inches you could focus on,” Kieren said, pushing his hips reflexively up against Simon.
Simon laughed, kissing Kieren’s ear. “Cheeky one, you are. All right then, I'd waste only a little time with that, and I’d get to having your cock in my hand, yeah?”
“Good,” Kieren nodded, whispering, “it would feel so good.”
“What should I do with my other hand, then?”
“This,” said Kieren, taking two of Simon’s fingers into his mouth. As he sucked on them, pulling them slowly out between his lips, Simon’s expression went from surprise to a dark, heavy want.
“I’d keep stroking you, making you cry out for me.” Simon’s voice was thick.
“I’m ready, Simon, I’d be so ready,” Kieren shook his head, “I’d need you in me.”
Simon slid his hand down Kieren’s back and into his pants, below his underwear. Kieren looked at him, eyes wide and steady.
“God, you’re so beautiful.” Simon whispered as he pushed a spit-slick finger inside him. Kieren cried out, high and strained, and he rocked against him. Simon groaned, pulling Kieren’s tongue in between his teeth. Their dialogue disintegrated into breathy moans and disjointed muttering between kisses, “yeah,” “and then,” “like that.”
It was too much--the line between what he had wanted to do so desperately and what was possible was being blurred. Simon’s hand in Kieren’s hair was slow, his fingers inside him pushing against whatever small parts of him were left to feel something, and he leaned into it, chasing whatever ghost of sensation he’d leave there.
Kieren shook. There was something happening in him- a shaking, glimmering thing, and he didn’t know what to make of it.
It wasn’t the sort of release he remembered. It wasn’t like coming. There was no swell of tension and rush of unraveling. Instead it was a tingling in the base of his neck, in the depths of his stomach. His hands shook, for a moment. If it had happened on its own, it would have been scary. But it happened with him leaning his forehead on Simon’s shoulder, and he could almost feel the memory of satiation pushing in his chest. He tightened his fingers in Simon’s shirt.
They were silent for a while, and it was comfortable and calm. Simon slid his hands up Kieren’s arms, lacing his fingers into Kieren’s. He pulled his hands out, and, squeezing them, wrapped them around his own neck. Kieren gave in to that, tightening his fingers into the hair at the back of Simon’s head. Simon’s hands trailed back down Kieren’s sides to rest on his waist.
It was a slow hug, and Kieren laughed into the crook of Simon’s neck. Simon gathered him into a comfortable weight in his arms and took a step forward, guiding Kieren’s body. Kieren looked up at him quizzically.
“Did you forget that I asked you out to dance?” Simon said, clearing his throat and sliding his hand down to rest on Kieren’s hips.
“I guess I am better at the slow dancing, these days,” said Simon, gliding his hand up Kieren’s back. “Had enough of the harder stuff when I had the lung capacity to make it more of a rush.”
Kieren smiled. “I haven’t done much dancing of any sort, really. This is good.”
He rested his head on Simon’s shoulder and leaned into the rhythm of his steps. It wasn’t how Kieren had remembered love feeling like, but it was good. Simon’s skin on his felt almost warm. There wasn’t any music playing here, but when he kissed Simon, their hands tightly clasped and bodies pressed flush together, swaying, he could hear the beat in his head. He could feel it, where he remembered a beat feeling natural, in his chest.