when I have been a memory

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by templemarker

Notes: Posner/Scripps for clionaeilis in Yuletide 2008. Read it there. With thanks to the regular crew for all things.


The cat jumped up onto his desk, and Scripps absentmindedly pet her when she nosed at his hand looking for affection. He’d been staring out at the same grey rainy Manchester day for ages, trying to come up with a hook for the article he was writing. His tea had gone cold, the biscuits next to them crumbled into uninspired dust.

He’d been at the Northern desk of the Times for six years now, filing stories about auto accidents and the revitalisation of the city centre and so many inches on the bombings that he flinched if the word “detonator” was used in common conversation. Don threatened to leave every month or so, to give up this life of reporting to do some real writing. He’d said it so often that no one believed him anymore, much less his editor, who just chuckled around his cigarette and threw him another assignment.

Don was working from home today, begging off sick. In truth it was the time of year that got to him more than any other: wet, cold September, umbrellas up and coats buttoned tightly. Don suffered through it as best he could, turning up the radiators in his tidy little flat and subsisting on bacon sandwiches and tea. He tried to keep himself busy, with his parish and a regular squash game, and he’d been seeing a girl from church, Jenny. But she’d broken up with him, saying he was too disinterested in life.

He didn’t even know what that could mean. All he wrote about was life, what happened in life, how people changed their lives or ended their lives or brought new lives into the world. Life was bloody everywhere, as far as he was concerned, and he wasn’t to blame if he chose to live his own a bit more carefully after watching so many others spend theirs with such carelessness.

He went to church, he wrote his columns, he fed his cat, he rung up his mother; and if sometimes, he recited under his breath, “Eased from my weight of heaviness,/Forgetful of forgetfulness,/Resting from pain and care and sorrow,” well, it was nothing Hector had taught them but something he’d always loved. He had a good life, if a small one, and he was happy after a fashion.


It was six years and four months gone when David came knocking at his door. Don had only just gone out to the shop and come back again, and was putting away his bag of groceries and waiting for the kettle to boil when a sharp rap came against his door. He thought it might be the neighbor coming round again; he had a nasty habit of wanting to talk to Don about “what’s going on down at your gladrag of a newspaper” and would keep jawing away for hours if Don didn’t find a way to cut him off.

He was wrong.

Don was unprepared for David Posner’s smiling face at his door, a bit damp but shaking it off. “Hullo, Scrippsy,” David said warmly.

“What are you doing here?” Don couldn’t help but ask. Somewhere his mother was seizing that he hadn’t invited company into the warmth of his apartment, but this wasn’t company, this was David. Dear, daft, damnable David who was the reason Don had moved away from Portsmouth in the first place.

David’s smile faded a bit. “I’ve taken a position at the girl’s grammar school on Wilmslow Road,” he explained. “Akthar gave me your address, you know how mad he is about his address book being up to date.”

“Oh,” Don said, fingers curling around the doorframe.

“Aren’t you going to ask me in, Donald?” David said gently, pulling off his gloves and placing them in his pocket. Don couldn’t help but watch the movement; he’d always loved David’s hands.

“Yes, of course,” he said after a beat, turning to let David cross into the foyer. He put David’s umbrella in the urn by the door, and turned to go to the kitchen to put the kettle to boil again. He busied himself with making two cups, instead of one: a bit of milk, no sugar for himself, and two sugars with a healthy splash of milk for David. He doubted that had changed at all, even if everything else had.

He returned to the sitting room to find David looking at his overstuffed bookshelves, fingers running along the spines with careful familiarity. Don’s heart caught in his throat: this, this was something he never thought he’d see again, David quiet and thoughtful next to Don’s things; David radiating content, even happiness. Don hated that he wasn’t the cause of it.

He cleared his throat a bit, and David turned, a small smile on his face. “I see you haven’t given up your absurd love for Auden,” he chided, taking the mug Don offered.

“You only think it’s absurd because he consorted with spies,” Don parried, falling back into the familiar argument as if it was the summer after university and not a decade since.

“‘Lay your sleeping head, my love,/Human on my faithless arm,'” David murmured, and Don looked away, helplessly.


The rain faded to a quiet patter against the double-glazed and Don was trying not to twitch under David’s regard. David, for his part, seemed oblivious to Don’s discomfort; he ran his eyes over Don’s face like a long-lost lover, which Don supposed he was.

“New job, then?” he said abruptly to break the silence. “How long did you stay on at Portsmouth?”

“A few years after you left,” David said, setting his tea aside and reclining back into his chair. “There was a position going for master of English Literature at a rather posh school in Shepherd’s Green, and I stayed there until this came up. The North suits me better, I think.”

“Never was much for London myself,” Don allowed.

“Yes, I recall,” David said, his knowing gaze landing on Don again. “And how have you found life at The Times? I’ve enjoyed your articles, and Mother clips all of them for her book.”

“Still?” Don said, startled out of his unease. “Bloody hell, the thing must be four inches thick by now.”

“She’s divided it into books by subject matter, you see,” David smiled. “She keeps them in volumes next to our college essays.”

“She always did enjoy scrapbooking,” Don replied, wariness returning to him on mention of the past.

There was a pregnant pause that Don desperately wanted to break with mention of their school friends, or work, or even how Totty was enjoying retirement and Irwin’s television programme had become a success, but he couldn’t find the words he needed to divert David’s attention.

“So,” David said, “shall we talk about the day you left without saying goodbye? Or shall we have another cup of tea?”


When the cat jumped up into David’s lap and proceeded to curl up and purr as if David had been her favorite all along, Don restrained himself from going over there, just to scratch her head. She was a pretty, grey thing, with a wide round body that seemed to weigh twice as much when she was on you rather than off.

“What’s her name?” David inquired.

“Shelley,” Don replied, collecting their mugs and taking them to the sink.

“For Mary or Percy Bysshe?” followed David’s voice.

“‘You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings,'” Don said, setting the mugs to dry on the rack.

“It’s good to know you haven’t replaced all your quotations with useful knowledge,” David said drily. His fingers ran through Shelley’s fur idly. “Do you know, when I got home that day, the day you left, I thought you’d just stepped out for milk. We needed some, you see, and I’d left you a little note for when you returned home from work to collect some from the corner shop. When night fell and you hadn’t come back, I went into the bedroom and looked inside the wardrobe and found that all your clothes were missing. I didn’t realise until then that you had gone; you’d left all your books behind, you see.”

Don felt pinned to the kitchen counter. He gripped the edge to hold himself upright. This was what he had run so very far away from, David’s serene stare, as if he *understood* why Don had chosen to leave–as if David were worth leaving.

“And then, some months later, when I’d managed to sneak through to summer term so I could spend July and August locked up in our flat, re-reading the pages of the books you used to own, that twat Dakin sends me a copy of the Times with a red circle around your by-line. No note; I suppose he never did come into any tact. But at least I knew you were safe. Even if you were safe away from me.

“I was angry for a long time, Don, angry that you’d left me, that you hadn’t said goodbye. I thought you were a better man than that. It was the sort of anger that tears at you from the inside, until you’re left only with a hollow shell. I sleep-walked through the next year, you know. They thought something was wrong with me. In fact, Janine–do you recall Janine? She taught media studies, you used you argue with her about University Challenge–marched me into the surgery herself, held my hand as I explained that I hadn’t been myself lately. ”

David paused, stilled his hand; and Shelley roused herself from the contented puddle she had become in his lap to butt against his fingers. “I think you are better equipped to answer this question than I was. The doctor asked, ‘How long have you felt depressed?’ and it had been such a very long time that I could not remember when I hadn’t.”

Don didn’t know when he had closed his eyes, but when he opened them he met David’s blue ones. It felt as if a current was running between them; as if there had been one all along, and he’d spent the last number of years trying, and failing, to ignore it.

“The second year you were teaching,” he struggled to say, “I came home from work to find you curled in a ball on our bed, the duvet over your head and Rosemary Clooney on the hi-fi. I asked you what you wanted for tea, and you said, ‘I don’t think I can get out of bed, dear.'”

David’s face was a mix of sorrow and confusion. “I don’t completely remember that,” he confessed. “But I remember trying to get out of bed to put the milk bottles out for the morning, only to pull the bedclothes tighter around myself and close my eyes.”

“You didn’t get out of bed for a fortnight,” Don whispered. “It was only two days before the term break, so I was able to call the school and have them bring in a supply teacher, but every day I’d come home and find you unmoving from when I left.”

“Yes,” David mused. “But then–”

“–you got a bit better, were happy enough to go into the new term and teach, and nothing happened until the summer break, when you wouldn’t eat and only took tea and toast. I tried to get you to go to the GP, but you said you just felt tired.”

“And then it happened again,” David continued. “For the next two years, didn’t it? Sometimes I would go to the shower and cry there, so you couldn’t hear me.”

“I heard you,” Don said, and it felt like his heart was breaking all over again.

“I was angry when you left,” David said again. “But I understand now.”

“What changed?” Don couldn’t help but ask. “You look…happy.”

The same small smile chased across David’s face again. “I believe this is becoming a bit of a cliche, but the doctor put me on antidepressants. And what do you know, they worked.” He looked up from where the cat had fallen asleep. “I’m not…fixed. There isn’t any such thing, really. But I *am* happy, for the first time since we were schoolchildren. And I was a moody little brat even then,” he laughed.

“I’m sorry I didn’t stay,” Don said, heart in his throat.

David turned serious. “I’m sorry I didn’t make you go sooner.”

Silence reigned again, and Don walked back into the sitting room and sat down on the couch. “I’m glad you’re doing well,” he said finally, and it sounded feeble even to his own ears.

David smiled, and then he started to laugh. “Oh, Donald Scripps,” he said, bringing one hand to his mouth, “whatever am I to do with you?”


After awhile David ushered the cat from his lap and wandered over to Don’s music collection, picking out the Irving Berlin record Don had stolen from his mother and putting it on the turntable. David hummed under his breath, and Don watched him, hungrily, as if now he was allowed, having been…forgiven, in a way, for being unable to stay and watch David slowly destroy himself; for being unable to keep him from falling apart.

David was still thin–he always would be, Don imagined–but he didn’t hunch his shoulders any longer, a habit he’d held onto well out of university. He wore his hair a bit longer, but was still clean-shaven (not that he could grow any sort of beard anyhow, proven beyond a doubt in third year). There were reading glasses hooked to his shirt pocket, and Don longed to see him wear them, see David’s blue eyes framed by wire rims.

He had always been good at denying himself things. He’d done exactly that for the last six years.

“Do you know, I still wake up in the morning reaching for you?” David said conversationally.

Don’s breath caught. “What?” he stuttered.

“And my mother still asks about you when I ring her on Saturdays, even though all I know is what that nosy cow Timms has bothered to tell me,” he continued.

“Oh,” said Don.

“Timms said you were seeing a girl,” David said suddenly, catching Don’s eye. “Are you still?”

“It didn’t work out,” Don said, swallowing hard. “She said I didn’t live enough.”

David gave a short laugh at that. “She had a point. You always did prefer the page and the pew.”

“I have dreams about you, still,” Don admitted.

David’s eyebrow raised. “Oh really? What am I doing, making a snowman out of hummus or something?”

Don felt himself blushing, and ran a hand over his face. “Not exactly.”

David’s eyes widened and he grinned, delighted. “Why, Donald Abelard Scripps! What would Jesus think of your dirty mind?”

“I think he’d chalk it up to acting as a confessional for too many of Dakin’s adventures,” Don pointed out, but he was flushed anyhow.

“I miss you terribly,” David said, and Don was again floored by the naked honesty David was so free with now. “I have missed you every day for the last six years, and twice on Sundays. I even went to a service once, just because it reminded me of you.”

“I’m sorry,” Don said miserably.

David turned to look at him. “Don’t be,” he said defiantly. “Just tell me: did you miss me as well?”

Don looked away, at the papers on his desk and the article that would not get written today. When he turned back, David had come closer, was kneeling in front of him, placing a careful hand on Don’s knee.

“I think some people are built to only love one person,” he said.

It was enough. David leaned forward, sliding his hand up David leg. Their mouths barely touched, and Don could feel the hot pant of David’s breath against his lips. They wavered there, for an eternal moment, and then Don choked out, “Please,” and David tipped forward into the kiss.

Everything Don remembered, soft, supple lips, the quiet noises David made, the feel of David’s hips under his hands, was right there, in his grasp. He tightened his grip on David’s arms and tugged him closer; it had been so long since he’d had this, so long since he’d felt this alive.

When they pulled apart, breathing hard, Don chased David’s mouth with his own. David was breathing hard, but he was smiling, and Don thought he’d never get tired of the sight of that.

“Why Mr Scripps,” David said, a gleam in his eye, “I’m just not that kind of girl.”


Don tried to stop David from disentangling himself from their warm little embrace on the couch, but David wouldn’t hear of it. “Orientation for new teachers begins tomorrow, and I must wow them all with my vast knowledge of history and quotes from dead poets,” he said sternly.

Don followed him to the door, helped him into his coat, handed him his umbrella. “Do you want to have dinner on the weekend?” he asked, trying to sound casual and knowing he failed.

“Oh, Don,” David said, patting Don’s chest, lingering a bit there with his fingers. “I will be taking *you* out to dinner. I don’t believe you quite realise the extent to which I plan to court you, this time around.”

Don’s face must surely have been pure comedy. “Oh really?” he managed. “How’s that, then?”

David leaned in, kissed him chastely one more time, and sang quietly, “‘The rockies may crumble/Gibraltar may tumble/They’re only made of clay, but…'”

He turned and left, and Don watched him go. The rain had stopped, leaving the ground clean and sparkling in the light of the streetlamps. He closed the door and felt Shelley twine around his ankles, miaowing for her dinner.

“I know, girl,” he said. He followed her into the kitchen, singing under his breath, “‘They’re only made of clay, but/Our love is here to stay.'”



1. “Sappho,” by Christina Rossetti

2. “Lay Your Sleeping Head, My Love,” by W.H. Auden

3. “Frankenstein,” by Mary Shelley

4. “Love is Here to Stay,” from An American in Paris by George Gershwin


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