Fairer Than Death

- Epilog -

Life is never fair. And perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.
—Lord Goring, "An Ideal Husband"

Jason shut the front door behind him and pulled off his sunglasses and the Angels windbreaker he refused to stop wearing even if Billy had fallen unexpectedly and hopelessly in love with the Red Sox. Spring in Boston was brisk, a tantalizing promise of long lazy summer days made more precious by the storms and snows of the winter. He was finally coming to appreciate what Billy had said to him years ago, that he'd missed seasons when his family had moved to Southern California. Jason still wasn't crazy about blizzards, but they didn't come along all that often. And spring and fall in New England were something to write home about, no doubt about it.

The first floor felt empty to him, no whispering touch of his housemates. He stashed the Ben & Jerry's chocolate-chocolate-whatever—any flavor with the word chocolate in its name twice was bound to be a success with Billy—and headed for the second floor.

When they'd first moved into this house, he'd worried about Billy on those stairs every day. But Billy had claimed it would be the best physical therapy he could get, and Tommy had pointed out that there'd be three other people in the house to give him a hand, and that Luka could let his Lim'ik or Kim's Tanchou know as easily as Artor if there was real need, so Jason had backed down. Not a big struggle on his part, really, he'd fallen for the three-storey Gothic as hard as the others had. The fenced yard, the trees, the view... Tommy, who was by now using his mechanic's job to supplement being sensei at a local dojo, instead of the other way around, and Jason, who'd be graduating a half-year early and already had a job lined up with the Cambridge PD, had been discussing making a bid on it as soon Jason was gainfully employed. Kim had solid hopes of Harvard Medical School, and Billy might stay at MIT for years yet, though his master's thesis was nearly done and his doctoral program—programs, rather—were already in train. Even if they moved somewhere later, for Kim or Billy's career, buying made more sense than renting.

And if they stayed... Well, they all loved this house.

And Billy had been right about the stairs. He wasn't doing any jogging yet, but in time, even that might happen.

Jason climbed the stairs to the top floor, knowing as he passed the second that Billy wasn't there. Sometimes he wished he could sneak up on his lifemate, but the constant reassurance of his presence made that a fleeting wish indeed. He paused in the doorway to their bedroom, taking in the sight, no more used to it and his right to see it now than he'd ever been. Billy was sitting in the bay window, reading something, the thick book propped on his knees. He was wearing a dark topaz University of Massachusetts teeshirt and khaki shorts, and his feet were bare; behind him out the window redbuds were tossing in the spring breeze. In the sunlight he looked warm and golden. Jason found himself swallowing. Over three years, he thought, and he still gets to me like this. I don't deserve this.

He walked over to the window seat and Billy turned to smile at him in welcome. "Hi," he said. "You got done quickly."

"It was a nothing exam," Jason said, bending down and kissing him gently.

Billy reached up and ran his hand through Jason's hair. "You're on the wrong coast," he said with amusement, dusting windblown flower petals onto the floor.

Jason shook his head, raking his own hand through to get rid of the last of the blossoms. Then he sat down on the window seat; when Billy started to move his feet to make room for him, Jason caught them and settled them in his lap. "You look like a hearthfire," he said, running a hand down one of Billy's calves. "A place where I can warm my soul."

Billy's smile was loving. "Big, macho jock," he said tenderly. "A closet romantic. Who'd believe it?"

"Anybody who knows the way I feel about you." Jason leaned forward and rested his cheek on Billy's knee.

"I'm trying to read." He didn't sound disturbed.

Jason smiled and sat back but didn't let go of his feet. "Finish your chapter," he said.

Billy snorted. "So kind..."

Jason sat quietly, rubbing one of his lifemate's feet. They were going to Vermont this summer. Kim and Tommy were standing up with them, the way they had when those two had gotten married. His parents were coming, and Billy's dad. They'd already made their hotel reservations. This time it hadn't all fallen apart, like Hawaii; Vermont had actually come through with legislation. It was a done deal. And they were actually going to be married. Well, civilly united, but it was the same thing. He'd occasionally run across books or movies from the Sixties where people would say, rebelliously, that they didn't need a piece of paper... well, he needed it. Formal, legal, I belong to him and he to me, never again having to sit in the outer rooms, waiting on other people's whims or kindnesses...

He must have put on a little too much pressure, because Billy looked up at him. "What?"

He gentled his touch and rubbed his thumb along Billy's left ankle. "That brace is still rubbing here," he said.

"I know," Billy returned to his book, adding, distractedly, "I've got an appointment tomorrow..." He picked up a highlighter that had been lying beside him next to the window and began lining through a whole paragraph.

Jason watched him concentrating. Another eighty-dollar textbook, he thought. As a graduate student Billy's book budget was even higher than it had been when he was packing four years of undergrad work into two. Still, MIT was picking up every penny of it, so Jason couldn't complain, only shake his head in bemusement. After Billy put the marker down, he said, "So, Kim and Tommy gone already?"

Billy nodded, not taking his eyes off the page. "They left an hour ago." He pulled his foot out of Jason's hands. "I thought you were going to let me finish this chapter?"

"I was. I am," he corrected himself and recaptured the foot. "But..."

"But?" Billy refused to look up, but his tone was anything but forbidding.

"But," Jason slid his hand up along the leg to the back of the knee. "That lecture's not till Monday, isn't it? You've got all weekend to read up for it. Like you need to," he added, caressing Billy's calf.

"They're going to be in New York all weekend, too," said Billy.

Jason leaned forward and kissed his ankle, and then slowly licked a line upwards to his knee and kissed that with a slight graze of his teeth against the spot on the outside of the knee. Billy's muscles tightened but he didn't say anything. Jason kissed his knee again and added, "Artor thinks now's a good time."

"According to you, Artor always thinks now is a good time."

"Now is the only time there is."

"You and that bear are a good match," Billy said. "It's a wonder I ever graduated. It'll be a bigger wonder if you ever do..." He didn't drop the book, he never dropped books; he closed it and laid it on the floor before reaching for Jason with no reluctance whatsoever.

Life is good, Jason thought before he stopped thinking altogether. Life is very good indeed.

the end


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Epilog


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