He falls out of some nightmare sleep into half-feverish wakefulness, and for a moment embraces it, until he remembers: Elsinore, his father, his mother, nothing. He has been home but a week and he never loved his uncle but now everything rankles, some distant furious itch he cannot bring himself to examine.
In his half-dark bedroom the Prince of Denmark makes out a dark figure through the strips of wintering moonlight. He struggles for a moment to sit, the heavy blankets nearly too much for his feeble apathy, but sitting he can see more clearly: a man in strange attire, formal, hair short, face mobile and malleable and for the moment blank, eyes glittering.
What ghost art thou? the Prince whispers. I charge thee, speak! and the ghost laughs, terrible and merry, and walks to Hamlet's bed as solidly as a man.
A quintessence of dust, the ghost observes, a fragment of a judgment, and smiles. I am the answer to questions you haven't asked. The ghost leans down and presses a soft and terrible kiss to Hamlet's forehead; terrible because it is warm and real and not ghostly, and when Hamlet reaches out he is reaching out to empty air, but he hears the faint echo of some vanishing noise in the distance.
The next night Horatio comes to him with another tale of ghosts, and Hamlet does not bother to disbelieve him.
Their houses are so close together Albus might have scrambled down the latticework from his upstairs window and been at Gellert's door in moments. He might even walk down the stairs and out his own door without comment, now Mother isn't there to stop him; but then, Aberforth might, voice tight teeth clenched so we're not good enough, is that it and Albus does not much like lying to his own brother.
Instead he writes letters and letters, each one more meticulously thought-out than the last. It is worlds better than talking: here all of Albus' words can be exact and precise and careful. Around Gellert, he has discovered during the scattered wonderfully bright moments in the other boy's company, he smiles until his face hurts and cannot keep track of his words because Gellert's hair and mouth and eyes seem suddenly more important than any number of grand ideas.
He is conscious of posterity, too; he has to be. What he and Gellert are beginning to plan is important, will need remembering and recording, and that is another reason why all his careful ideas are better expressed in writing. But one day, nearly a month into their correspondence, Albus Dumbledore wakes up with a sudden brilliant revelation. Out of habit he reaches for quill and parchment, even gets as far as Dear Gellert and I l before he remembers posterity and propriety and crumples the letter, ink smudging; leaps to his feet and is out the window down the trellis to the early-morning ground before he remembers he's still in his nightshirt, dew from the lawn soaking through his socks. That is all immaterial in the face of revelation and Albus Dumbledore strides off down the street, wet socks slipping on the cobbles and not feeling foolish in the slightest.
When Gellert answers the door, golden curls in sleepy disarray but already dressed complete with a Muggle cravat slightly askew on his neck, his eyes light in bewildered welcome, softening the lines of his face, and Albus says, matter-of-fact, simply by way of explanation for the disorganised early-morning appearance: "I'm in love with you."
Gellert's hand grips the doorframe, his only tell as his face shifts into thought, examining the proposition like any other intellectual problem Albus has brought before him. "Yes," he says, "I think you would have to be," but before Albus can ask reciprocation or elaboration Gellert's hands have alighted confident on his shoulders, drawn Albus into a kiss, gentle and deep and full of conviction.
For one breathless moment Albus Dumbledore knows with all his heart that the whole world is theirs.
"It's not like it's very special, you understand," the man is saying, and yet again Nathan Petrelli wonders: Why has no one removed the guy yet? It's not like the guy looks especially dangerous, because he mostly looks like a hippie and the worst he'll probably do is try chaining himself to Nathan's desk or something equally embarrassing; and then Nathan snaps to attention, revises his assessment drastically, because the next thing the man says is, "Spontaneous regeneration, now there's something, but invisibility? removing memories? flying? We've got that covered."
"Who the hell are you?" Nathan asks, very calmly.
"Oh, damn, should've got to that first," the man says; holds out a hand. "Sirius Black, from the British Ministry. It's this new outreach program we have, tracking down Muggles with specific manifestations. Apparently you can fly without a broom, which --"
Crackpot, Nathan decides, not shaking the proffered hand, which Black doesn't seem to notice anyway. But the British hippie crackpot is apparently also a mind-reader, so he says, "Fine, demonstration?" pulls a stick out of his jacket, and proceeds to go through the most convincing magic routine Nathan has ever witnessed without the aid of CGI. "What --" Nathan says, and Black rolls his eyes and overrides him with "Come on, Mr. Petrelli, you can fly unaided and all of this is still hard to believe?"
"Maybe not," Nathan admits, and at a loss phones Peter.
"Tell him I've got to save the cheerleader," are Peter's first words the moment introductions are given and Black does a redux of the magic routine; Black looks startled, but obligingly tells Nathan that Peter should save the cheerleader, and once Peter's muddled explanation is all out, repeats the injunction with a lot more conviction.
Peter's on a flight to Texas within the hour and Nathan sinks down in his nice comfortable sane exec chair and says, "This is fucking crazy."
"He has to be the hero," Black says, sitting down on Nathan's nice sane exec desk and making the whole thing preposterous; but when Nathan looks up, Black's neutral tone is totally at odds with the look on Black's face, wryly understanding. "And he probably shouts," Black says, "when he doesn't get his way, and hates being left out of anything important. All his dreams are absolutely true and real and the greater the threat of death, the more likely he is to go rushing into danger."
"Yes," Nathan says, "God, yeah," and hunches, hands gripping at his hair.
"Hey," Sirius Black says, very gently, and when Nathan looks up Black kisses his forehead, a soft decided reassuring press. Nathan's intellectual response is indignation at the very forwardness; his visceral response, weirdly, is gratitude, and Black sees it.
"If it helps," Black says, "despite the odds the hero usually goes on living."
Nathan laughs, scratchily. "Stubborn of him," he says, but weirdly it does help, a little.
(4) Road El Dorado: Miguel/Tulio
There have been any number of close calls.
That time in Barcelona. Tulio had been on his fourth drink, forgetting to hate the sprawl of his elbows and the close darkness of the tavern; the girl had huge glittering hoops in her ears that might have been worth something, and a small shining smile that turned Tulio's insides to tangled knots. And Miguel, in a tipsy irrepressible whirl of scarlet and gold, replaced him without so much as a by-your-leave, spirited the girl away with both of them laughing and the knots inside Tulio went so tight he felt he might be sick.
The time they were hiding from the Law in a barn on the outskirts of Madrid. "Don't look so sure," Tulio said. Miguel glanced up with huge limpid eyes. "Would you think a face like this could cheat you?" he'd asked, and Tulio answered "Yes," dryly, and thought, faces like Miguel's, green eyes and his lip a little aquiver and the dice Tulio the dice --
In El Dorado. Chel kissing her way down his chest while Tulio tried not to think about how scrawny he was, how Chel was scamming him, how small her hands were, how incredibly lucky he was to get the girl just this once, how Miguel was loose in the city how Miguel and only just choked back the wrong name in time, but when Chel looked up at him through the curtain of her dark hair he had the horrible feeling she knew everything, just as she always did.
And now they've lost Chel in some lost jungle because they are lost, and Tulio is starting to think that maybe having a map might be a good plan. So far, his plan consists of: do not panic. Chel is fine. He is not fooling himself, because Chel did not come for Miguel or for him or for lost gold, but any new world at all. New worlds are everywhere. Chel will be fine. But Miguel will not be fine, not without Tulio, and so Tulio says, "First -- we find a tree. A climbable tree. We climb the tree, and we get our bearings, and once we have our bearings we will find the ocean. Then we will head towards the ocean, and --"
Miguel is just watching him. Tulio stops. He knows instinctively that this is another one of those close calls, one of those small precious times both of them have forgotten performance; not a duel, not a quick hot bath, not trapped together in a boat waiting to die, no drink nor fear nor banter.
"I have a new plan," Miguel says brightly, and kisses him. Tulio wishes for the briefest terrible moment that he had a map, some guideline to action, to the muscles on Miguel's arms and how exactly this is supposed to work when they both have beards, or --
But it doesn't seem to matter anymore, because Tulio has always dreaded it and now that it's happened it's the same as it ever was, only more so, and they've done all right in uncharted waters so far.
The first kiss is immaterial; hardly counts.
They've known each other nearly a year, Carl's eighteenth birthday and the end of his first semester at NYU approaching; Tom is twenty, very grown-up and interning at a publishing house mid-Manhattan and his specialty of the moment some disturbance just off in the Atlantic. "It's exactly the trouble the San Francisco Bay gets up to sometimes," Tom explained at their first meeting; Carl's first thought was that Tom didn't look the way Californians did on television, his second thought that Martians usually didn't either. Tom is everything Carl might have hoped for in a partner, a competent wizard but more importantly just experienced enough to talk through the mundane tangles of college life. Everything they do is built on an easy bantering camaraderie, spellwork and cheerful coffee dates both. And slowly, easily, Carl starts noticing other things, that he can feel Tom's pulse, Tom's amusement, can hear his mind and body both, and knows what that means but says nothing.
So the first kiss is expected, unmeditated -- a young wyrm crawls out of a manhole cover into Manhattan at rush hour, Tom and Carl are closest; Carl has to do his first major unassisted cleanup, repatching time for car crashes and rattled commuters while Tom clings to his hand, nearly crushing all their bones together, letting Carl draw strength, and when the patch takes Carl collapses back against Tom, laughs, feeling like a damsel, and when he sees Tom grinning down at him, eyes glittering, feels Tom's arms and Tom's pulse again and jokingly, meaning it entirely, tugs Tom's head down and kisses him full on the mouth.
Tom laughs and straightens Carl, adjusts the neck of his t-shirt and says, "Come on, food before you fall over," so they head back to Tom's apartment. Carl messes around in the cramped living room, says hi to the TV while Tom makes sandwiches. He presses a Diet Coke against his forehead and leans in against Tom while they watch the news to make sure no one calls in to report dragons. They don't. Carl flips through the channels and Tom flips through his Manual, his nose almost brushing the page. "Get glasses," Carl says, and Tom says, "I'll remember to talk my eyes better in the morning, it's less expensive," and Carl says, "Tom -- earlier --" and Tom kisses him this time.
That one counts.