Patterns swirled across the ceiling, made by the small filter of light that peeked through the curtains. As traffic passed outside, the pattern would change and his eyes would follow it, intrigued. Like staring up at the clouds, the longer you looked the more things you could make out. An upside down elephant. A tractor with no steering wheel. The images evoked a small smile in the man. He could continue this for hours if he wanted, but sleep was tugging at his heavy eyelids and he rolled over to face the figure beside him. Almost reflexively, his arm reached out to wrap around the torso. He shivered as his shaking fingers brushed the exposed skin just above the hips. They jutted out, something they'd never done before and he rubbed a single spot, trying hard not to recoil.
Death and coldness came hand in hand. Though not straight away, he'd realised. As a child he'd always imagined that as soon as that last breath dissipated into the air, all the heat left a person, leaving them frozen and chilled. But he'd learnt a lot in the past few weeks about death. Hell, they could be on first name terms. Rigor mortis didn't last forever like he'd previously believed. Eventually the muscles relaxed and the limbs began to move again. Dead bodies were heavy. Dead weight. He'd never dissected that phrase before. It was just a saying, much like everything else. But most sayings had meanings and this was that one. Decomposition could be slowed down or sped up. Warmth made decay occur faster but sub zero temperatures were great for preservation. The only problem being their freezer wasn't nearly big enough to accommodate a fully grown man. But he'd improvised. Ice packs in the bath could cover the body easily. He'd experimented with time and such, made sure he could still spend some time with the guy, but he knew it was running out.
The flies gave it away. He'd left the windows open to keep air circulating and to make sure the house didn't get too hot. He knew nothing about their sense of smell or how they seemed to find dead meat. He just knew that after a short nap, he woke up to insects in droves. Panic had consumed him, coupled with grief. He'd almost fumigated the house with fly spray, slamming the windows closed and then collapsed against the wall, tears burning a path down his pale face. It had all become too much. He pulled his head forward and then shot it backwards, hoping the impact would knock him out and away from the horror he was trapped in.
As they lay there in the dark, he tried his best not to breathe in through his nose. He wanted nothing more than to bury his face in his neck but to feel the creeping coldness seep into his own warm, alive skin would have him rushing to the bathroom to empty the contents of his stomach. Instead, he settled for running his hands through his hair, freshly washed this morning and smelling sweetly of lemons. But it couldn't disguise what hid beneath. He shut his eyes tightly until sleep took hold.
The next morning they sat bunched together on the sofa. The blinking red light of the answer phone was studiously ignored just like the frequent knocks on the door. The curtains were shut as they always were when he wasn't being chilled in the bath. He preferred it when there was no natural light anyway- under the dim glow of the standing lamp in the corner he didn't have to see the other man's pallor or every other detail that reminded him of what was happening.
"Francis! Open the door!" Thudding fists hit the wood, the only thing separating Francis from reality. He turned the television up and took a delicate sip of his morning coffee.
"Francis! Francis, please. We just want to know what's going on."
He recognised the voice, the kindly tones of his lover's mother. She really was the nicest woman you could meet. But he didn't answer the door. His mobile phone began ringing from next to him.
"Francis! Francis, open the door. Wesley, are you in there?"
Francis stiffened, hating the way Wesley's name rolled off of her tongue, like it was the most normal thing in the world. He kept his gaze fixed on the television which slowly blurred behind a sheet of tears. Don't say his name. Please, don't say his name again.
"Francis, I'm calling the police."
Fat droplets fell onto his leg, marking the denim a darker colour. He rubbed at it absent-mindedly as he ran through scenarios in his head. He knew if the police came, they'd take Wesley away from him forever. And then he'd be alone again. Memories burned into his mind shot to the surface as he manoeuvred Wesley towards the bathroom.
"Mum, Dad, this is Francis." A small pause. "My boyfriend."
Francis had beamed up at Wesley, feeling so proud to be stood beside him and introduced. Wesley's parents had looked on in apparent shock, not because he was a man, but because he looked like a boy.
"How...how old are you, Francis?" his mother had asked, smiling at him to cover what she was thinking.
"Sixteen," he answered instantly, noting the way their faces dropped a little. Wesley had tightened his grip around the boy in reassurance.
He'd heard them later in the kitchen, arguing.
"Wesley, you're twice his age!" his mother had exclaimed. Wesley had kept the calm, soothing tone his voice always possessed.
"I know, but it really doesn't matter. I haven't been this happy since Trey." His voice broke a little at the end but he carried on. "I can think about him without crying, because I know that I've got Francis. He makes everything so much easier. I love him."
Francis barricaded the door as best he could, cradling Wesley in his lap and humming to block out the sound of the police shouting at him to open up.
"I love you so much, Wes," he whispered, choking up as more tears streamed down his face. The banging on the door had intensified until finally he heard it shatter. Men swarmed the house and Francis listened to them moving through each room.
"Jesus Christ, what's that smell?"
The handle rattled in front of his face.
"This one's locked!"
Francis pulled a towel from the rack and draped it over the both of them. He shut his eyes and his mind and cuddled up to Wesley, pretending this was just one of those Sunday mornings where they'd spend till noon in bed.
"Stand away from the door! We're coming in."
"Francis?" Wes murmured, running his nose along the nape of his neck. Francis shuddered and smiled simultaneously.
"Have I ever told you how beautiful you are?"
Francis's smile widened and he leaned into the embrace.
Wood exploded inwards, hitting Francis's cheek. He stayed still and silent, gripping Wesley's hand underneath the towel. Death grip.
"Oh my God..."
And suddenly it was all over. The towel was ripped away and five hands moved to five agape mouths.
"Fucking hell!" someone shouted. Francis wasn't sure who. There was a moment of absolute silence (bliss) before chaos resumed. There was a high pitched wailing, thrashing bodies and a new torrent of tears.
"Wesley!" Francis screamed as he was pulled away and restrained. "Wesley, no!"
Their eyes met. One pair red rimmed and desperate, the other dull and lifeless.
"Don't touch him!" His voice rasped and he lurched only to be held down. A sharp nip in the crook of his elbow barely registered. All he could see was Wesley, his Wesley. A stethoscope materialised and a man announced "he's dead" to the room of officers. Bubbling, hysterical laughter rose from Francis's stomach. Of course he was dead! The thought echoed through his empty mind and suddenly the fight left him.
He was dead. Wesley was dead. Dead, dead, dead.
Dead as a dodo. Dead as a doornail.
His whole body slumped and he was so very tired. It occurred to him that he'd been sedated but maybe he didn't mind as much now.
Before his eyes slipped shut, he swore he could see Wesley's mouth moving. Lip reading had never been his strong point, but this was easy.
I love you.
His heart soared for a brief second and then the darkness took over.
A/N - Ok, so this story made me cry whilst writing it. It didn't help that Adele's "Someone Like You" was playing in the background. You could cheer me up by reviewing though :)