Summary: England (Arthur), Spain (Antonio), 2050. Nightmare imagery. More notes at the end.
It's one in the morning and unnaturally dark, even more so for the lack of moon. There are only clouds overhead, dropping freezing, heavy rain onto his umbrella and the coat of the solemn figure across the way. But Arthur can still see, in the dull light of the lamp post, how sallow Antonio’s rich skin has become. He supposes, as he crosses the road quickly, for there are no cars, not any more, and holds the weather beaten umbrella over the both of them, that he can't look much better himself.
They share a lukewarm greeting, and he inquires as to the other man’s sense, ("How on earth could you forget an umbrella? It‘s pouring-"), expecting, as usual, that it would be attributed to absent mindedness. It's a trait that Arthur has long hated, and never quite forgiven. He'd like to hear that response, but Antonio chuckles and tells him that he can’t afford silly, unneeded expenses, and he certainly doesn’t need an umbrella. The truth hangs heavy over them, and Arthur regrets asking.
His lips draw thin. Antonio’s coat is more threadbare than his own and soaked through to add, so he changes their plans, hand pressing into the small of the taller man’s back. It would be nice to go to the pub, yes, Arthur rationalizes against Antonio's protests, but it's no good if he drops dead on the way there. It's a cold night in hell when Arthur will skip a drink, but he doesn't feel his best either, so he hopes they have a heating system down there.
They'll go back to his own flat, and he'll lend him a thicker coat. Though he had always been leaner than the Spaniard, it should fit- the difference in their weights was not so much any more. Perhaps he'd lend him an umbrella too, one that had fallen out of use a decade or so ago. It's almost funny to think that he'd stopped using it because he didn't like the print any more, back when they could worry about silly things like that.
Antonio merely stretches a smile, though it's all wrong, with no tooth to it, and digs at him. Something perverse, juvenile, about taking him back to his place. Antonio knows it is what he would normally say, what he should say, and in turn Arthur knows how he should respond. He should get irritated, take offence, and they would argue soon enough, though it would be mainly one-sided. He doesn't deny the accusation tonight, just begrudgingly leans in and wraps an arm around Antonio's too thin waist. Talk fades, and only the heavy slap of their soles on the pavement and the heavy drops on the canvas above them makes any sound.
It’s a quick walk, hardly five minutes, the dim street lights barely shining through the darkness that clouds the empty city of London. The quiet chills them both. Antonio shivers violently- an ugly, wet cough rattling his frame every so often. It must be so cold for him, deathly cold- even Arthur is adjusting his collar tighter against the biting wind. He tugs the other man closer and that not-quite-right smile stretches again. Arthur shivers a bit.
When they arrive at his door, Arthur climbs the steps quickly with keys in hand, but Antonio lingers in the rain. His face upturns, even as a tremor of chill and cough wracks through his body, and his mouth opens, letting the rain tumble in. Arthur only notices after the door is pushed open, watching in odd fascination for a few moments before murmuring that the smog has turned the rain to poison, and he’ll surely get sick (sicker) if he keeps that up. With a forced scoff, he takes the Spaniard’s wrists and drags him inside, to where it's dry and almost comfortable.
A moment after the door is closed, Antonio is shucking off his coat, tossing it over a chair that he's always hated for its hideousness and stiff backing, but learned not to complain about. It's Arthur's favourite, and it had belonged to many before him, though they had all passed away and only Arthur was alive to remember them. Arthur looks at the coat in distaste, but doesn't complain as Antonio meets him for a kiss, dry and almost unbearably chaste. There will be no drinks, no old grudges tonight, only Antonio’s mouth and deft fingers, even if they both feel weaker. Arthur finds it in himself to worry, even as his tie is gone, tossed over the chair as well, but he can't seem to argue as they lead each other back into his bedroom.
Arthur’s own coat is gone before they hit the duvet, and his sleeveless sweater, all lost somewhere on the aging plush carpet. Antonio silently undoes the belt buckle of the Englishman above him and Arthur notices that he no longer wears a belt, no doubt another ‘silly expense’ he can not afford. Merciful, he does not mention it, instead tugging the bottom of Antonio’s cream coloured dress shirt, its last button missing, free of his trousers. His hands slide almost reverently over his skin, worried that it too feels dry, and his stomach, once all hard muscle with a good spread of weight, is now sunken, skinny, sallow in colour. His eyes too are sunken, glancing up at him from beneath his lashes, as if begging for him to just ignore it, if only for now.
He continues, for once, doing exactly what Antonio wants, the normal satisfaction of Antonio begging lost on him tonight. He kisses him despite the cracked lips and frees the last few buttons of the crème shirt, though it is not tossed away, nor is his own wrinkled, white one. Antonio is tugging at his trousers and the waistband of his undergarments, impatient, too eager, his own hips impatiently rising against him in a gesture that can only mean to hurry.
He doesn't even get their pants off before Antonio dissolves into a coughing fit, breath harsh and hot, and Arthur can feel Antonio’s constant fever burning far higher than normal. He sighs, an element of disappointment aching particularly where their hips are still pressed together, but he can’t belie the worry he feels, however much he dislikes Antonio for making him feel it. His eyebrows knit, and he orders the other man to move into bed proper. Antonio laughs between the coughs. Ordering him like a child, he exclaims, though he moves beneath the sheets as he does, cheeks flushed. Arthur enjoys the flash of Antonio's humour while it appears, even giving a thin lipped smile in return before disappearing to his flat's tiny kitchen.
He returns shortly with two cups of his best remaining tea, microwaved, not boiled over the stove to his shame, but he must conserve gas. Antonio does not even complain that it’s not coffee, or his own thick hot chocolate- he can barely remember their tastes anyway. He just sips quietly, until all is gone, Arthur sitting near his feet and finished long before. Arthur sets the cups at the bedside table- he’ll take care of them in the morning- and slides into bed beside the other, pressing against his back. In such a position he can feel all too well how thin they've become, bones knocking into bones, but there’s no resistance, nor is there any attempt to return the embrace. Arthur wonders if he might already be sleeping. A glance over his companion's broad shoulder disproves it, that stretched, cracked smile peering up at him again, and Arthur feels sick to his stomach.
That night, for the first time in decades, he has nightmares.
In the morning, Arthur arises before Antonio does, gasping awake from dreams full of pain and cold and images of those long dead. He, miraculously, does not disturb the other where he lies, as stiff and silent as a corpse, if burning so much hotter than one. Arthur yawns, but does not feel any powerful want to extract himself from bed, nor from the warm back he is pressed so tightly against. It is his worry that gets him up, hand sliding from where it lays above Antonio’s breast up to his forehead, smoothing sweat-drenched curls out of the way. His thumb catches momentarily on the crucifix that still hangs about his neck, and Arthur has a long gone fantasy of ripping it off and replacing it with his mouth. He ignores it, as he often does, and checks his temperature. It has lowered for now, and Arthur lifts himself from the bed with some strain and peers out the window. The sun peers back in.
It's brighter than it's been in a long while, and he's stricken with the new fantasy of packing up and going to the beach, enjoying a day in the sun with the other man, but the thought is struck down quickly. The light is bright, but cold, and neither of them are fit for something so frivolous. The rays filter in through the blinds, dance on Antonio’s skin, and he doesn’t look as sickly. Arthur feels the urge to kiss him until he wakes, to spend the day as they would have fifty years ago, in bed and filled companionable arguments. Those days are gone. Arthur wonders then if he should instead do as he would have three hundred years ago, if he should slip his hands around Antonio's throat and squeeze. It would be merciful, and that perfect image would be left in the sun forever.
Arthur shakes his head- he’s still groggy, slightly asleep, not making any sense at all- and stands from the bed, stretching and not bothering with any additional modesty aside from briefs. Taking the cups to the kitchen, he puts a stopper in the drain and begins to run the hot water, adding soap, and putting the kettle on to boil. He can't bear another microwaved tea, so he'll bear wasting the fuel. With a grimace, he thinks of how very domestic this all is. Something he could never quite obtain in perfection, or maybe just never get used to. Perhaps he was meant for war and conquer after all. And perhaps he'll destroy again yet, as his people grow hungrier. He closes his eyes.
Arms encircle his waist as he leans on the sink edge, a tremor and the urge to turn, to strike, sweeping through his body. His gaze flickers over his shoulder, and he sees teeth, a grin. There are murmured good mornings, their languages tangling into something unrecognisable, and the sunlight streaming in the windows makes Antonio seem too impossibly well as he presses hard against his back, body slick. The fever seems to have broken, and instead he is cold. Arthur wonders how Antonio showered so quickly, and how he'd missed the sound of water running, for he's drenched, water dripping onto their shoulders and puddling on the kitchen tile.
Antonio surges forward, against him, kissing him and bending him over the counter with hands strong and far too slick, impatiently tearing rents down his sides with sharp nails. He seems to get colder, almost like a person drowned in a river, and when Arthur opens his eyes, Antonio's skin is bluish in tint. Arthur tries to break away, but their lips are sticky with blood, and Arthur just can't leave him like that, doesn't want to, though if he doesn't soon he's going to drown. His lungs fill up with the water that threatens to erase them both, polluted water, and icy. Antonio's sharp little teeth dig in, and Arthur can't seem to breathe and--
--the water from the sink overflows, hot, scalding his toes enough to be unpleasant. The kitchen is empty, but for himself and his dishware. He turns off the tap, irritated, and finishes cleaning the cups just as the kettle screams that the tea is ready. Two cups are made up, quick as you can expect from the practice of centuries, and from the icebox he grabs two scones- cherry, freshly bought yesterday. He puts them onto two little plates, and everything is put at the two places on the table, both polished and clean, but only one worn down from use.
He attempts to rouse Antonio when he returns to the bedroom, but the other barely moves- he’s tired, he moans sleepily, and thirsty, so thirsty. Arthur sits down at his side, tracing his fingertips along the others jaw, and notices how much Antonio has aged. It’s become noticeable in the light- his hair has strands of grey woven in, and there are crow's feet around his eyes. Wake up, he urges feeling the fever on the other's neck, we're needed, and Antonio cracks open one eye.
It's dry, he mumbles sleepily, throat cracking, but I'm drowning. Arthur ignores it, shakes the other man. He can't change what has been done, though he's been trying so hard, and he smooths Antonio's hair with guilt gnawng at his middle.
Come have tea, he urges, it will wake you up. Antonio rolls to his side, a hand grasping upwards to curl into Arthur’s hair, pulling him down- look at me, it says, and Arthur does. The words he speaks are quiet, and in Antonio’s own tongue, but Arthur knows them as well as he would in his own.
“So the Lord said, 'I will blot out man whom I have created, for I am grieved that I have made them.”
Antonio smiles, all tooth, the corners of his mouth wrinkling, and he pulls Arthur into a kiss.
Notes: WHAT IS ALL THIS
Uh, research-y bits (THEORY BUT FOR THE STORY ASSUME THIS IS TRUE): In 2050, the water level will have risen so that Spain’s beaches will have been eaten away, while on the inside (especially to the south) there will be widespread drought, forcing millions from their homes. Also, because the birth-rate is so low in Spain, the population will have aged to an average of about late forties/early fifties, and in my head canon the age of the nation is about average of their people because I have silly ideas like that. Meanwhile, England will be subjected to endless torrents of freezing-rain, while also losing some beaches. Fun, yes?
Also, the last words Antonio says in the fic refer to the great deluge of the bible, though the full passage is “So the Lord said, 'I will blot out man whom I have created, (from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky;) for I am grieved that I have made them.” but it didn't fit right.
So yes, I like writing things that make no sense, why do you ask?