Elder '04: Crossroads

I open my eyes and try to make sense of my surroundings. Blue sky above me. That’s not right…there should be a ceiling. One of those institutional type drop ceilings you see in every official or government building in the planet. Drab, gray, lifeless…not brilliant, blue or breathtaking. Hunh.

I sit up, only now realizing I’ve been lying down. The grit and sand beneath my fingers feels rough against my skin but warm and oddly comfortable. Reminds me of the beach except there’s no water anywhere. Just a flat, barren plain that stretched endlessly as far as I could see. Probably went on even further.

I get to my feet and am pleased to find that my knees don’t pop in protest. Feel pretty good. Been a long time since I did. Take a deep breath and tilt my head back to just enjoy the feeling.

“Hello, Vin.”

My eyes snap open in surprise. I haven’t heard that beloved voice in so damn long. I can’t breathe as I stare at him, drinking in the sight of him. God he is a welcomed sight for sore eyes.

It hits me as I stare at him, knowing I’ve got the stupidest, widest grin on my face, he doesn’t look like he did when I last saw him. No gray in his hair, no laugh lines around his eyes, no need for a cane. God, he looks like he did the day we first met. Jade green eyes are sharp, no need for glasses. Skin smooth, unblemished. Chestnut hair ruffling in the faint breeze I wasn’t even aware was blowing until just now.

“Ezra.” I breathe out his name in a harsh whisper that is part plea, part prayer.

“In the flesh…so to speak.” He grins at me, gold tooth gleaming in the sunlight.

I am hugging him hard before I even know I’m moving. I’m laughing and crying at the same time, whispering his name. I’m so afraid he’ll disappear if I let go.

“Easy, Vin.” He is running fingers through my hair. I’d forgotten how much I loved his touch. Forgotten how good it felt to hold him.

“It’s okay, Mon Couer.” He whispers in my ear. “Everything is all right now.”

I bury my face against him and breathe in that fragrance I’d been missing for so long it seemed like a permanent part of me, like the ache in my bones that settled in every fall and lasted until the middle of summer. God, but I’d missed him. Everything about him.

I am crying when I pull back enough to stare at his face, memorizing the features I’d fallen in love with so long ago. “God…I missed you.”

“Missed you too, Vin.” Ezra smiles softly at me. I remember that smile. It was like the first snow of winter, the first flowers of spring…so light, so gentle, so damn beautiful.

“You look---“

“I know.” He cups my face, kissing me like he did the last time I saw him. “So do you.”

I blink in surprise, and raise my hands to stare at them. The skin is smooth and supple again, no age spots, the knuckles no longer swollen and distorted by arthritis and age. I blink, feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all. So I do what I always have done when something leaves me confused, I look to him for an explanation.

“You’re dead.” He says gently, as though trying to soften some horrible blow.

“Been dead since a year ago when you went to bed and didn’t wake up.” I tell him. “Just didn’t know enough to quit breathing.”

“Oh baby, I’m so sorry, I never wanted to leave you.” Ezra looks devastated. “I would have stayed if I could—“

“I know.” I am pulling him into another hard hug. “I know you didn’t leave on purpose. I know that. Not like it was something you could have known was going to happen.”

Hell, he’d been healthy as a horse. In better shape than me really. No one expects to have an aneurysm. As much as it hurt to lose him, I was glad it was painless for him….not like it had been for Josiah, getting eaten by cancer, or Chris dying from cirrhosis of the liver.

“I’m still sorry.” He whispers.

“I know.” I pull back and kiss him. I’d forgotten how wonderful he tastes. Fresh, like wintergreen candy. “S’okay.” I whisper against his mouth.

He smiles when I finally pull back. It’s a little shaky but its there. “I waited for you.”

“I’m glad.” Don’t quite understand what he means by waiting for me, but I’m damn glad he’s here just the same.

And speaking of here…”Where are we?” I look around, hoping to find some sort of landmark.

“We are at the crossroads.”

“Crossroads?” I frown, looking at him in confusion.

“I’d always assumed that was just an allegory, or a metaphor if you prefer.” Ezra gave one of those elegant shrugs no one else seemed capable of doing. “We are where life and death, heaven and hell intersect…or diverge if you prefer.”

He waves a hand and it is only then that I notice we are standing in the middle of an intersection, four roads leading away at right angles, stretching out into the distance. I turn to do a full three sixty, careful not to actually let go of Ezra as I do it. I’m still half afraid he’ll vanish on me if I let go, no matter how solid he feels.

There’s nothing as far as I can see. Just more flat plain. Weird. Normally I’d expect to see the curvature of the earth in the horizon, but nothing.

I look to Ezra again. “So…ah, which way?”

“I have no idea.” Ezra laughs lightly, that delighted peel of amusement that made me laugh right along with him even though I have no idea what is funny. It feels good. Haven’t laughed like that in over a year.

“No signs.” I observe casually, once I got a handle on my laughter. The lack of any sort of directional marker, hell even the sun seems to be stuck at noon, leaves me unsure of which way is even North, South, East or West.

“No.” Ezra agrees calmly. He doesn’t seem perturbed by any of this, and I say as much.

“I’ve had time to get used to it.” He says dryly, green eyes bright with amusement and affection meet mine.

I smiled, pleased to find his sense of humor hasn’t changed. “Suggestions?”

“I’m not sure it really matters.” He curls his hand in mine. “As long as we go there together.”

“Together.” I whole heartedly agree with that. “Always.”

He grins, dimples appearing. I breathe deeply, falling in love with that smile all over again. “Perhaps we’ll find the others along the way.”

“You haven’t seen any of them, then?” I never expected to be the last to go. Always figured it would be JD since he was the youngest.

“I am assuming they went on ahead of us.” Ezra sighed. “Mr.Larabee was not known for his patience.”

I snicker. That’s my Ezra, man with a gift for the understatement. “And Buck would have gotten bored too fast around here.”

“Indeed.” Ezra nods sagely. Always wanted to be able to do that, but in all the time we spent together, I never did learn how.

“Nathan was probably eager to go met up with Rain.”

“Undoubtedly.” Ezra smiled warmly, raising their clasped hands to place a kiss on Vin’s knuckles. “I imagine she waited here for him as I waited for you.”

I feel a sudden rush of warmth knowing he waited for me. That he stayed to meet me. Knew he loved me, but I never really would have expected him to hang around for a year in this….this nowhere.

He gives me a knowing look. “Like I could have done anything else.”

I blush. “Yeah.” I’d have waited for him too, no matter how long it took. And I know he knows that just as well. I clear my throat. “Josiah?”

Ezra rolls his eyes. “He probably knew which way to go. He is likely the only one of us equipped for this particular journey.”

“And JD would have been eager to catch up with everyone.”

“Quite.” Ezra grins. “It wouldn’t surprise me if he beat them all there in spite of starting out later.”

I chuckle. JD was always rushing in. That hadn’t changed the whole time I’d known him. Don’t reckon being dead would have changed him much.

“So,” I look around, “which way?”

Ezra reaches into his pocket and pulls out a coin. “I’d say we flip for it, but we have four choices.”

“You still got your cards?”

Ezra grins and reaches into his pocket again and pulls out the same worn deck of cards he’s had for as long as I can remember. “Is the pope Catholic?”

“Right.” I snicker. “Stupid question.”

I tap the deck lightly and then point to one of the roads. “Hearts.” I point to another. “Diamonds.” I point to the third. “Clubs.” I don’t bother with the last one. No reason too.

“One suit for each direction it is.” Ezra nods. He fans the cards. “Would you like to draw?”

“Sure.” I pull out a card. I’m not at all surprised it’s the Ace of Spades.

Ezra grins as I show him the card. He returns it to the deck with a deft, graceful one handed shuffle. I am still awed by his skill.

He tips his head toward the road I’d dubbed Spades by default. “Shall we?”

“Guess we better.” I wrap my arm around his waist in a casual hug. “Don’t show up soon and Chris’ll come looking for us.”

“Likely looking for us as we speak.” Ezra chuckled. “I guess we’d better get started then.”

“Not yet.” I stop him, and pull him toward me. I kiss him deeply, mapping his mouth with my tongue like I plan on setting up house forever, reveling in the taste and feel of him. Used to think I could live on his kisses….know I didn’t live too damn well without them. God, but I have missed this him. You wouldn’t think being dead I’d need to breathe, but I’m dizzy and lightheaded when I full pull away.

I take deep breath and nod. “Now I’m ready.”

He grins. Holding hands we head out, in step as usual. Doesn’t matter if this is the right way or not. Just as long as we’re together, the rest will just fall into place. That’s how it has always worked. Don’t figure being dead has changed that.