A Gift of Life

By C. Snow AKA Hppire.

Silence. Water lapped gently at the edge of the pond, making tiny ripples that flowed out and out and finally vanished. He dipped his hand into the water and watched his reflection waver and break before reforming. His lips curved up gently in a smile. Sometimes…sometimes, it was good to be alone. He stretched as he rose, a long cat-like stretch as graceful as only he could be. He turned and glanced over his shoulder at the moonlight on the water and smiled again. A wave of water hit him in the face. He snorted and sputtered as the second man in the water doubled over laughing.

"Going to stand there all day, peacock?" The second man flipped his hair out of his eyes and smiled gently.

"Whiteraven, if you weren’t so dear to me, so help me…" Whiteraven ignored Tan’s outburst and waded out of the water.

"Hmm?" His strange eyes hovered on Tan’s mouth for a long moment. "I’m listening."

"Never mind." Tan waved a hand in the air, blushing a little at the naked desire in his husband‘s eyes.

Whiteraven caught Tan’s hand and brought it to his lips in a strangely compelling gesture. Tan sighed happily and pulled Whiteraven close. The feel of Tan’s hand on his back made Whiteraven want to purr a little with pleasure. Tan smiled in response and then started to laugh. Whiteraven pulled away from his lover and blinked.

"Is something amusing, peacock?"

"You must be freezing, love, why don’t I warm you up." Whiteraven blinked and then his mouth parted in surprise as Tan’s hand slipped between them

"Oh yes, peacock, why don’t you."

Whiteraven raised his head to glance down at Tan’s sleeping form. This human constantly amazed him, not so much with his body, although that was beautiful, but with his heart. Whiteraven constantly found himself aching with love for Tan, but somewhere deep inside he knew that someday he would lose him. Whiteraven hissed a little at the thought and his arms closed more tightly around Tan as if he could protect him from Death. Tan shifted in his sleep and Whiteraven released him. He curled around Tan and closed his eyes, he would think about it later, when he was alone.

His dreams were strange. He was in a place full of stars, where planets wheeled frantically in a dark sky. Darkness surrounded him, seemed to curl through him, and below it all he could hear music thrumming. He pricked his ears searching for the source of the music but as he strained to hear it stumbled once and fell silent. A cold wind blew through the space, chilling him and making his skin grow pale. He glanced down and realized that in his dream, unlike in reality, he was wearing pants. He supposed with the wind blowing it was a good thing…he didn’t want anything important to freeze off after all. The wind skirled higher and faster until it culminated in whirling snowstorm. He looked up, holding out his hand to catch a single intricate flake on his finger. A voice from behind had him whirling around, his eyes calmly searching for a person who was not there.

"Whiteraven." The voice called him again and he straightened, aware that he would never be able to locate the owner of this voice. It was thunder and lightening, dark nights and still streams, all rolled into one, and all liberally laced with snow. A figure resolved itself from the snow, an incredibly beautiful man.

"Who are you?" Whiteraven asked, afraid he already knew the answer.

"Hmm…no one you should be afraid of." The man’s piercing blue eyes seemed to cut straight into Whiteraven’s soul. The stranger absently raised a hand to push back a falling strand of blue-black hair. "I…I needed to talk to you." The stranger glanced down at his hands and smiled grimly. "I’m afraid it’s about Tan."

"What? Is he all right?" In his sleep Whiteraven squirmed and moaned a little. Somewhere inside he knew it was a dream, but this time it was all so real.

"For now." The stranger held out a hand. "Come with me," when Whiteraven hesitated, every nerve in his body screaming at him to go home, the stranger shook his head, "he will be there when you wake." Whiteraven touched his hand to the stranger’s and the world broke around him.

White. He was completely surrounded by white. He raised his head to look at the stranger, but the man was gazing into the distance at a tiny cottage by the shores of a frozen pond. Whiteraven got to his feet, feeling dizzy and disoriented after the movement but somehow safer.

"Well?" He asked, brushing snow off his pants, "are we going to stand here all night?" The stranger started and turned.

"I’d forgotten…"

"About me? Terribly insulting to forget about your guest, however unwilling." Whiteraven crossed his arms over his chest. "Well?" The stranger sighed.

"Mortals, always so impatient." He slanted a look at Whiteraven from under his lashes and then sighed again. "I’m Death, mortal, but I rather think you already knew that." Whiteraven nodded shortly and waited. "You pray at night, sometimes, that Tan will not be taken from you."

"How…" Whiteraven’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. Those were secret prayers, made more to himself than any deity.

"Invoke Death, and sometimes we will answer." The woman’s voice was surprising, but Whiteraven only coolly turned to regard the woman. She could have been Death’s twin, in fact she was. "Hello, brother."

"Azure." She stood on tiptoe to kiss her brother’s cheek, an impishly smile on her lips. "Home so soon?" She waved a hand at him and walked away.

"No bishounen worth taking today." She waved a hand over her shoulder. "Although that one with you…muy bueno Azrael." He snorted and sighed.

"My twin, unfortunately." Whiteraven shrugged. "The point being…your prayers. She’s right about that, sometimes calling our name can bring us to your side."

"Wait, she’s death too…" Azrael raised a shoulder and let it drop.

"You’d have to ask the creator of the universe why there are two of us." Azrael turned to face Whiteraven squarely. "I brought you here because of her in a way. Tan appeared on her list." Whiteraven’s face drained of all color.

"When?" He asked softly, his mind frantically turning over each memory as if making sure they were safe.

"Soon…but you called me and I chose to answer." Whiteraven waved Azrael off.

"Home. I have to wake up. I mean Tan…" He stopped babbling and regained his elven calm.

"I answered because I believe that taking Tan will also take you…and apparently the Creator doesn’t want that." Whiteraven blinked in surprise. "I am going to do something monumentally against the rules, but I am going to do it anyway."

"What will you do?" Azrael flicked his hand and a tiny flickering ball of light came into being.

"This is Tan’s life." He looked at it sadly. "It’s dying slowly, flickering out so slowly that it’s almost imperceptible." Whiteraven stared at the ball fascinated by the light almost against his will. Azrael raised the ball to his lips, capturing Whiteraven’s eyes as he did so. Slowly he breathed on the ball and it grew stronger, more brilliant, until it blazed like a small sun. He lowered it from his mouth and took Whiteraven’s hand. Azrael tipped the ball onto Whiteraven’s palm. "A gift, Whiteraven, now you hold his heart and his life. Keep it well." The wind picked up and blinded Whiteraven and he opened his eyes to…Tan snuggling against him in the soft grass. It was only a dream.

"Should you have done that?" Azrael turned to his sister and smiled sadly.

"No, Azure, I shouldn’t have." She blinked, surprised that he would admit it so easily.

"Then why, Azrael, why risk yourself like that for a mortal?" She was genuinely confused. Azrael raised his head to the sky until the snow lit on his face like frozen tears. He didn’t answer her and after a long moment she spoke again.

"I notice you never mentioned where that life you gave Tan came from."

"Would it have changed anything?" Azrael asked and Azure sighed.

"No, but do you really think she would have approved? I mean they’re both men." She stressed the last word and Azrael tipped his head down to stare at her.

"She would have thought it was wonderful, Azure, she always thought love was wonderful." Azure shook her head as if to clear it, love was a foreign concept to her.

"I still don’t get why."

"Because…I envy them." Azrael responded. Azure looked at her twin but his eyes weren’t focused on her, they seemed to be staring out into the snow. In his mind Azrael was watching a young woman laughing as she touched his hand and smoothed a piece of stray hair out of his eyes. Azure stepped back in horror as a single tear dripped down Azrael’s’ face. Death wasn’t supposed to cry.

Tan opened his eyes to sunlight and swore before burrowing back into Whiteraven’s side. It was too damn early for this. Whiteraven tickled him with a blade of grass and Tan finally cracked open an eye. In the soft shade beneath the tree they were under Whiteraven’s right eye sparkled for a n instant. Tan shook his head to clear it and stretched lazily before pouncing on his husband while grinning evilly.

"Ready for round two?" He asked teasingly. Whiteraven pulled him down for a long kiss in answer.


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