[Author's note: This fic was inspired by, of all things, a sign in the window of a yoga studio. Thanks go out to Kristin O. for her translations and editing suggestions. Possible spoilers for Clover 4, though if any exist they're subtle. Please see my disclaimer page for copyright information.]

Forever Is in You

A Clover fanfic

By Natalie Baan


Lying here, next to you, I can feel the bedside clock tick over, digital numbers melting into new forms. If I rolled my head and looked in the opposite direction, I'd see the clock's face, its green and mutable traceries that seem constant unless you watch them for the change.

But I'd rather look at you.

A faint ambient light—moonlight, screenlight, the fog-smeared glow of the streetlamps outside, all dissolved together—matches its paleness to your pale hair. They complement each other, both washed of color, translucently lambent, holding off the dark. If I reached out, not with my hands but with the nerve and sinew of magic, I could edge the bathroom's dimmer up, not enough to wake even you, and in the increased brightness reflecting from the wall I'd see the shadows of your face begin to reveal what before had been implication, suggestion: your lashes a blurred fringe along lowered eyelids, the only visor of your sleep; the softening of your mouth that lets your lips part, almost imperceptibly; the curved line of your neck between shoulder and pillow as you lie on your side, turned toward me. But I don't need more light to know your features, so well-studied, to sense your presence next to me—that glimpse in the night would be extra, a grace note, a gift. What I have is enough. Nor do I need to glance at the clock to mark time's passing—I'm attuned to its pulse, a Minor Wave of seconds being counted out, flicker of precise electronic measurement, its subdivisions finer than the reckoning of my own heart. As the signal goes to the liquid crystal display, I already know it and am rejoicing.

/This is another minute that I'm with you./

When I first came to this house, I had trouble being at peace: I was a constant whirl of motion and need. (And if my franticness appeared subdued compared to other boys my seeming age, consider that somber, silent institute, the steel-strung web of the lab where I lived and where a part of me will be long after I am gone. Or maybe it's true what they say—that I've always been quiet. I can't see far enough back to know what I might have been.) I was struggling with my life's limits then no less than before I met you, during that bleak time when all I could see was despair, loneliness, alienation, a claustrophobia of the heart, and there was no future I was going toward. The boy called C was a dark-winged bird, trapped and battering against glass, window to window, until it discovered an open pane and darted to freedom and its own likely death, cagebred, knowing nothing of the sky.

Instead, I found (or was found by) you.

And then there /was/ a future, and it was luminous, breathtaking, far too short all of a sudden—or perhaps it was far too long, a vast, indefinable reach that made five years seem a mere eye-blink in comparison. I couldn't stop clutching at this happiness, so new and strange, unprecedented and wondrous, and I was frightened beyond all reason that if I made any mistake or omission everything would be taken away, even sooner than otherwise would be the case. I was trying so hard to do things for you, to be useful, to be right. But you were patient, steady and apparently changeless as the sun, and in your stillness I found a still space of my own. I learned to breathe, to stretch out in your regard, to trust to your presence day by day. Even when I began to believe, though, an ache of sadness remained, for how little I had to give you, for how much time we wouldn't have together.

And I don't know when it was exactly, but I know I was looking at your lamp ("a light of your own," you called it, but I still think of it as yours as much as mine, the light you gave me by giving me the freedom to be my own light). I was watching the tiny flame and thinking of entropy, how every burning is really a dying, even the suns of this universe pouring themselves out into their effulgence, and I was trying to grasp the scale of /their/ lives, how large a share they had in the span of time. I remember the little shock then, as though I'd been careless about touching electricity, when I realized that there's only one eternity and it's the same for all: for stars no less than boys there's an endless expanse before their birth and after their passing. A familiar grief folded around me, as tight as a heedless child's fist.

But I looked into the flame's calm core, the shadow around the wick, that seeming void from which the fire springs, and I understood suddenly that eternity isn't the great unknown rising up beyond our lives, like a tsunami poised to roll through and blot out any trace of what we've made. Eternity is happening now—this very moment is a fragment of eternity, one that's just the right size to measure and to hold. Forever is in you, and in me; it's in a room lit by soaring arched windows, it's in the warmth of a cup cradled between two hands. Forever is what we dwell in every day, a reality that we touch whenever we are most alive.

It was never the physical walls that made me feel a prisoner, in the institute or in your home. Though you've worried about it, I've never suffered from my confinement—I've never had any real desire to go out into the world. It was the walls my own mind built that I threw myself against, fluttering, reckless and forlorn, and of all that lay beyond them I had neither knowledge nor hope. But if I don't define mylife by arbitrary borders, if I don't count up these minutes but simply love you as they pass, then this little room of time opens as wide as heaven.

For if I share eternity with you, what more do I need?

On the far side of the bedroom, the console in low-power sleep mode croons its lullaby, inaudible murmur and hush, tiny fluctuations of current cycling like the ocean waves they're named for. At last I roll toward you, and you, light sleeper, slide your arm around my waist, drawing me nearer with a susurration of sheets, a sigh. Curling to your chest, I tuck my head beneath your chin so I can breathe you, feel the rhythm of your own breath in turn, the warmth we gather between us by our closeness, and I shut my eyes. In the night, I sense the clock's read-out change once more, another minute passing.

It means nothing.

It means everything.


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