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Discfic : When I'm Gone - Dreamer's Nest

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January 16th, 2005


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polaris_starz
02:39 pm - Discfic : When I'm Gone
Fandom: Discworld
Summary: William thinks too hard about the future. Written with ariastar.
Pairing: William/Otto, established relationship
Rating: PG



It was raining when Otto arrived home.

William was already there, hair drying as he stood over the tea kettle, waiting for the water to boil. Proverbial watched pots might not boil, but the ones William watched went double-time; then again, he had no concept of how to regulate the heat on the stove, and so was forbidden to make anything else.

In any case, the damp hair curling haphazardly on his forehead had the effect of illustrating just how pale he was.

Otto took off his wet overcoat as quickly as possible, swiftly followed by the vest and even his shoes, which were making his feet squelch slightly. This done with, he went to William, standing close to him beside the stove; close enough for reassurance, and contact should William want it, but far enough away that he wasn’t encroaching on William’s space if the man wanted to be left alone to think. Obviously something had happened today; a regular enough occurrence, in the reporting business, but it still affected William. Otto was glad it still affected William, on principle, but he didn’t like to actually see William unhappy.

William froze for a long moment, shoulders knotted with tension, then turned swiftly and pulled Otto into a crushing embrace.

He didn’t relax in the slightest.

Otto returned the hug, wrapped his arms around William, hands moving little soothing circles against his back. I’m here, Villiam.

The teakettle went off, but William ignored it. His hands were gripping Otto’s skin painfully hard, but he did this sometimes and Otto was careful not to say so. They had been together for a long time now, but it still wouldn’t have been pretty.

Instead he simply held William, and made a mental note to himself to wear a shirt to bed—it was seldom that William wanted to make love in such moods, and the few times he had, Otto had seen it later in his face that William wished he had done otherwise, so really wearing a shirt would be no problem—just in case William would chance to see the bruises that his grip would probably soon cause to bloom against Otto’s pale shoulders.

After a while, William unclenched his hands, giving Otto a surprisingly soft kiss on the neck by way of apology; he might not know the damage he did, but he was aware he sometimes held too hard.

The kettle was still whistling shrilly, with a frantic insistency now, so Otto drew back, giving William a wry little smile, and took the teapot from the stove, stilling its shriek.

William knew better than to apologise, but it was in his face. “I’m glad you’re home,” he said quietly, instead.

“I am too,” Otto returned, and gestured to the teapot. “Is zhis for cocoa or coffee?”

“Cocoa,” William said firmly.

Otto nodded wordlessly, and poured them both cupfuls.

Over their cocoa and a bit of supper, William remained mostly silent. Otto talked softly of his day; the stories were usual things—Sacharissa alarming people, and a few very good iconographs he had taken. He said these things not only to fill in the silence, but to give William some comfort from his voice, and because whether or not it was in comfort, Otto liked telling William these inane, everyday things, not because William needed to know but because Otto liked him to.

They retired early that night; it was not an evening for talking on the couch or reading quietly or any of their other, more peaceable habits.

When Otto snuffed the lamp and darkness filled the room, William immediately rolled over, against his side, close and warm and far too tense.

Otto had to swallow down the question, vhat, Villiam, vhat happened today? William would tell him, in his own time, if he wished. But Otto wanted to know; not that it would make whatever it might be any better, but Otto always felt as though his comforting were the better for understanding.

Instead he draped an arm over William, gave him a soft kiss at the corner of his mouth. “Good night, Villiam.”

“Night,” William murmured, and then, softer, “I love you.”

“Und I love you,” Otto returned, and gave William a fond little smile, though William’s eyes were already closed and he could not see it.

But it was a long time before William’s breathing became even and slow.

Otto eventually drifted off to sleep as well, once William’s breathing had reached the comforting rhythm of sleep, but Otto awoke again, some indeterminable time later, and William’s breathing was ragged. Otto didn’t know if he was awake, but being half asleep himself, habit—gods, he hated that, that this happened enough to become habit—took over, and he drew William to him.

William let out a desperate sort of moan and clung to him. He had to be awake, then, because he began murmuring Otto’s name, soft and lonely and insistent.

“I am here, Villiam,” Otto whispered, and then again, because William’s grip was even tighter than it had been that evening. “I am here.”

“No,” William said quietly. “No, that’s not it.”

Otto nodded. This, too, was for William to explain or not as he wished.

“Otto,” William murmured, and fell silent.

His hands were still painfully tight. Otto suspected he didn’t even realise. “Yes, Villiam?”

William’s breath hitched, and when he spoke it was barely more than a whisper. “What will you do when I’m gone?”

Otto tried very, very hard not to freeze. That would be the worst thing he could possibly do, to tense up, hands tight as William’s, and cling in return. That would be answer enough for William, and—

“I do not know,” Otto said honestly. “I... am not thinking zhat far ahead.”

William buried his head against Otto’s shoulder, and Otto realised with a cold sort of shock that William’s eyelashes were wet.

“Villiam,” he murmured again, more helplessly this time, and pulled William closer—not too tight, no desperation, he had known from the very beginning that he could not afford desperation.

“What will you do?” William asked again, not looking for any answer this time. William had always been desperate, around the edges, and Otto didn’t like to think that he had considered the end.

“I do not know,” Otto said again. “I vill—vill probably stay vith zer Times for a vhile, see zhat zhey are—are still unbiased...” Damn, his voice was shaking. “Maybe I vill go back to Ubervald,” he went on as steadily as he could. “Maybe vampires vill be more videly accepted und I can travel zer Disc. I do not know, Villiam.”

And it ended nearly in a sob. So much for that.

William pressed a little closer, though there could be no comfort in it now. “You’ll keep going,” he said, in a strange, choked voice. “You won’t forget.”

“Yes,” Otto whispered, and buried his face in William’s hair. “But not yet,” he added, and he couldn’t keep the shaky not-quite-sob from his voice this time. “Not for a long vhile.”

“But no one knows when!” William said frantically. “People go about and they think they’ll live forever, or—or they think it can’t happen today and then it does and—and—”

“Und if you go through zer vurld like zhat, you vill never get anything done. Or. Or take zer time to enjoy anything. If you are alvays beink afraid zhat it vill—vill all vanish, zhen...” Otto curled closer. “If I vent around thinking like zhat,” he whispered, “I vould go mad, Villiam.”

Fingers touched his face, surprisingly gentle, and Otto realised he could hardly feel the spot where William had been holding, his grip had been so tight. “But it all does go, for you,” he said softly.

“But not yet,” Otto whispered again, eyes squeezed shut. If he saw William he was going to start crying.

William’s lips touched his mouth, then his cheeks, echoing the feather light touch of his fingers.

Otto did sob then, once, racking his body, and he swallowed the others that wanted to follow. This was suddenly too infinitely important and precious for only a few short years.

“I will miss you,” William said, bizarrely. “I’ll miss you.”

“But...” Otto pulled back to stare at William in bafflement.

William gave him a strange smile. “You don’t think I’d forget about you, whatever happens? I don’t even know what happens... after. But I still think I’d know.”

“Oh,” said Otto helplessly. “Oh. Villiam.”

“Sorry.” William looked away. “This isn’t fair to you.”

Otto choked back a wild laugh at this... understatement, and murmured instead, “But you are allowed to say it. It is okay. It... is true.”

“Yes.”

He could see perfectly well in the dark, and he wasn’t sure if this was a blessing or a curse, to be able to make out in perfect detail the aching knowledge of time writ in the lines of William’s face; the awareness of it in his eyes, and the painful, overwhelming love in all of it.

“Villiam,” he said, more wildly this time, and though perhaps he should not have done, he tangled his hands in William’s hair—tried not to pull—and drew William to him for a kiss more desperate than Otto had really meant it to be.

William’s hands, which had loosened their painful grip, clenched again, twisting the thin fabric of the shirt Otto wore; they lost themselves utterly in the kiss, frantic and hungry.

When they had to pull away briefly for air, Otto realised dimly what would happen; another fierce kiss, and their hands unheeding of bruises, and the rest equally frantic, and in the morning they would look at each other and see the bruises and ache at the knowledge of why they had been so desperate.

So Otto turned his face away, eyes squeezed shut, breathing too hard. Another kiss and it would all spiral away.

“Otto?”

Otto turned back to William, and touched his face very gently. “Ve must be careful tonight,” he whispered.

William swallowed hard, and Otto could see his throat working as he searched for words. Whether they simply wouldn’t come, or were lost in the tears he never shed, William said nothing, just nodded, and kissed Otto again; an entirely different sort of kiss.

This one caused Otto to start trembling again; almost painfully gentle, and infused with enough love that Otto realised he’d started to cry again, tears sliding away onto the pillow, but he didn’t stop the kiss for that, simply returned it with the same gentle fervency.

William’s grip gradually loosened; he slid his hands under Otto’s shirt, asking nothing, offering wordless apologies when his fingers touched a new-made bruise.

“Villiam,” Otto murmured shakily against his mouth, and relaxed into the gentle touches. Desperation was still whispering in the back of his mind, and William’s hands did nothing to make it go away.

“Villiam,” Otto said again. “Vhat... vhy... Vhy are you thinking of zhis?”

William sighed softly. Tilting his head a little, he began kissing away the tears on Otto’s cheeks.

After a long while, he paused and said, with studied calm, “There was a construction accident; some building they were working on wasn’t supported right and it just collapsed. And a man died.” He paused. “I was there when his wife showed up.”

“Oh,” said Otto, and swallowed hard. “I see.”

“And I just couldn’t stop thinking about how everything has to end.” He swallowed hard and ducked his head, pressing his face into Otto’s shoulder.

“Not yet,” Otto said again helplessly. “Your life is less dangerous zhan zhat of most of zer people in zhis city. People do not try to kill you. Zhey just tell you things. Und. Und you haff to see things if you are going to be a good reporter. But.” He pulled William closer. “Not yet, Villiam.”

“I know.” William’s hands drifted over his skin; reassurance and warmth.

Otto nodded. “Und I do not vurry about it much, I told you. I vould go mad if I vurried like zhat.”

“Yes, that’s my job,” William murmured, in an exceedingly dry tone, the way one speaks when nothing is the least bit funny.

“Vhat, to cause me to go mad?” Otto returned, and grinned a little; William probably couldn’t see very well in this darkness, but there was slight humour in his voice. “Do not take so much credit.”

William let it go, did not correct him. Instead he moulded himself a bit closer to Otto, fingers working at the buttons of Otto’s shirt, slightly clumsy in the dark.

In return Otto slid his hands under William’s shirt and up his back, over old scars mostly unfelt but entirely memorised. “I love you,” he said impulsively, because it needed to be said.

The buttons done, William pushed the shirt off Otto’s shoulders, running his hands down the newly exposed skin. “And I love you,” he returned, simply.

Otto shivered and pulled William closer, kissed his way up to William’s temple and, though he knew it was probably time for quiet comfort, he was still concerned, and so asked, “Vas zhere a nightmare? Or just zer vurry?”

“Both. Nightmare because of the worry.” William sounded resigned. He offered no further details, and started unbuttoning his own shirt.

“Let me,” Otto said quietly, because William’s hands were shaking a little now, and he was fumbling with his own buttons more than he had with Otto’s. “I am sorry. I should not haff made you think of it again.”

William subsided, watching Otto’s hands as they moved. “You’re allowed to ask.”

“I know.” Otto undid the last button and eased the shirt off William’s shoulders. “But I do not vant to haff you think about zhose things more zhan you already do.”

William pressed up to him, hot skin on cool. The sigh he breathed seemed almost relieved.

Otto reached up and smoothed back the hair from William’s forehead. “Better now?” he whispered.

William didn’t reply.

This was probably answer enough. Otto winced and kissed William’s forehead, then, feeling rather ridiculous, “I am here.” This was such an incongruous thing to say; being the comforter here was odd in a way it usually was not. It should be Otto, shouldn’t it, needing assurance that William was not gone.

Perhaps it was so, but William’s need for contact and reassurance was infinitely more important.

“I’m sorry,” William said, after a moment. He raised his head, eyes serious and sad, and ran his fingers down Otto’s face.

“Do not be.” Otto caught William’s hand in one of his, ran his thumb gently over the inside of William’s wrist. “I told you, I knew vhat I vas getting myself into vith you.”

“That wasn’t what I meant,” William said wryly, “but I’m sorry for that as well.”

“Vhat, do you haff so many things to be sorry for?” Otto asked gently, and kissed William briefly to soften any perceived sting in the words.

“Only hurting you,” William said softly. “The rest doesn’t matter much anymore.”

Otto swallowed. “If it didn’t hurt it vould not be vurth it.”

William shut his eyes. “I remember saying that.”

“Vell, it is true,” Otto murmured wryly.

William looked as if he meant to apologise again, but he said nothing, only kissed Otto. And that hurt too, enough that Otto nearly cried out at the sheer tenderness of it; he managed to keep it only to a whimper, muffled against William’s mouth.

William flinched.

“No, no,” Otto muttered feverishly, pulling him closer, drawing him into another kiss, careful still not to clutch too tight or kiss too fiercely.

“What am I doing wrong?” William asked painfully, hands tracing frantically over Otto’s skin. “Why does everything hurt?”

“You are not,” Otto whispered, and did not let himself catch William’s hands, stop the pure sensation that was making it so hard to think and breathe. “Und it does not. Not everything. It is not you, vhen it does. It is not your fault.”

“Well, there isn’t anyone else here,” William pointed out dryly, but his voice wavered.

“I am here,” Otto said very quietly.

“I know.” William’s hands stilled.

“I... could make myself not feel zer hurt,” Otto whispered. “I know how, Villiam. I spent enough years beink chased by unforgiving people und crumbled by my own light to know how to deal vith any pain. But to make zhat so, I vould—vould haff to shut zer love avay too.”

“Don’t do that,” William said, his voice breaking. “Don’t.”

“I vill not.” Otto touched William’s face, for what reassurance it could give either of them. “Even vhen you are gone. Zhat vould be zer vurst thing I could ever do, if I got rid of zer pain zhen.”

William was shaking now. “Gods, Otto,” he whispered, and drew Otto to his mouth.

And this was about as mended as they were ever going to get, Otto realised suddenly, in the middle of returning the kiss. They would both always understand exactly why Otto was doing this and why William was letting him, because it hurt but they were willing to endure it because love was an exquisite, wonderful sort of pain, and well worth it when the desperation of these moments was only a dull ache and they could smile at each other, brilliantly happy.

“I love you.” William’s words were soft in his ears.

And he smiled.

“Good,” said Otto, which was probably an idiotic thing to say, but the sudden joy in his own voice probably made up for it. He hugged William again, tightly-- not desperate-tight, this time, but I love you so much I never vant to let go.

William nuzzled against his neck, and Otto could feel his lips, still curved in a gentle smile. “It’s worth it,” William murmured. “It’s all worth it.”

“Yes,” Otto said fervently. “More zhan vurth it, Villiam.”

William yawned, and Otto realised the anxiety had drained from them both, and that he was as tired as William must be; William more so, having had his nightmare. William turned his face up for one last, long kiss.

Except he could not think of it as a ‘last’ kiss, not even if it was simply the last kiss for that night, because to do so would be to bring everything rushing back to the surface, scattering William’s fragile calm.

Instead, Otto told himself that it was one more for now, and that there would always be more later, and so at the end of it he turned to kiss William’s jaw line, and up into his hair, and murmured, “Shall ve sleep now?”

“Yes.” William kissed his neck. “Sleep well.”

Otto did not respond with the same murmured courtesy; it would sound too ironic in his own ears. Instead he whispered again, head still pillowed against William’s hair, all their limbs tangled together and tired-content now, “I love you, Villiam.”

And William gave a gentle and finally happy sigh, and slept.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

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From:polaris_starz
Date:January 16th, 2005 04:18 pm (UTC)
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