A Ghost from the Past by Lbilover

When Elijah was in middle school, he would sometimes play a silly game with himself. He'd stand in the corridor with eyes shut as the rest of the kids streamed around him, count to ten and turn, saying to himself, 'The first boy I set eyes on is going to be my boyfriend.'


It never worked, but a part of him never outgrew the hope that the one he was waiting for was just around the corner, and that if he closed his eyes and counted to ten, when he opened them again, there he'd be.


The one did eventually appear, in the form of a gorgeous engineering major with whom Elijah collided, eyes wide open, in the university dining hall his sophomore year and fell instantly in love. Elijah had never expected to fall in love with an engineering major, much less a guy who wanted, in all seriousness, to be an astronaut. A long-haired hippy type who played the bass guitar, maybe, but not a clean-cut, talkative, incredibly energetic guy like Sean.


Somehow, despite their differences, it lasted. They graduated and moved to Houston where Sean joined NASA and eventually piloted a Space Shuttle, while Elijah ran the drama program at a local community college. It was a great life, except for the weeks Sean was high above the earth resupplying the International Space Station. Then Elijah was lonely, a space widower of the new frontier, and even the vast pride he felt in Sean, a for-fucking-real astronaut like most kids only fantasized about becoming, couldn't allay that loneliness.


It sucked worst of all when Sean was gone on Valentine's Day. There was no way to send flowers to a guy orbiting 220 miles above the surface of the earth, and this particular Valentine's Day sucked worse than ever, because Sean had been supposed to be back on terra firma on the 14th - the ultimate Valentine's gift. Then some malfunction was detected in the shuttle's computer system, and Sean said regretfully, his voice crackling from static, "I'm sorry, Elijah. Looks like I won't be home for Valentine's after all."


"That's okay," Elijah said, staring hungrily at the beloved face that looked near enough to touch, but was far beyond his reach. "Just come home safely, that's all I ask."


On Valentine's Day, Elijah threw himself into his work with manic intensity, trying to make the hours pass unnoticed. He stayed long after rehearsal for The King Stag was over, making notes on the script, rather than return to the quiet house and cook a meal for one that should have been for two.


Finally, he couldn't put off the inevitable any longer. He packed up his messenger bag and left. The maintenance crew had done their rounds and departed, and the theater was quiet as Elijah passed silently through it, sneakers hushed on the thick maroon carpet. But it always seemed to him as though the room retained an echo of performances past, and the ghosts of those who had acted in them seemed to hover just out of sight.


Perhaps thinking of those unseen presences accounted for what happened next. But just inside the lobby doors, a ghost suddenly did appear, the ghost of Elijah's old middle school self, roused from the depths of a long-dead past. Without conscious volition he stopped, closed his eyes and started slowly counting to ten.


One...


When I open my eyes, he'll be there...


Two...


Why are you doing this? You're not thirteen anymore...


Three...


It never worked before, what makes you think it will now...


Four...


Open your eyes, keep walking, don't be a fool...


Five...


I don't care. I miss him so fucking much. I want him home...


Six...


Are those footsteps?


Seven...


It's probably the maintenance crew, forgetting something...


Eight...


But what if it isn't?


Nine...


Please, please, let it be him when I turn around...


Ten...


"Elijah."


Elijah opened his eyes and whirled around. Like the answer to the desperate prayer of his thirteen year-old self, Sean, the one, stood framed in the lobby door smiling at him.


"Sean! But how..." His throat worked and he couldn't go on.


"The malfunction turned out to be minor and we were able to land today after all. I didn't let them tell you because I wanted it to be a surprise. Caught the first flight out to Houston ahead of the rest of the crew." He glanced at his watch. "Two minutes to midnight. I made it." He glanced up again, the expression in his green-gold eyes causing familiar tendrils of warmth to curl through Elijah's stomach. "Happy Valentine's Day, Lij."


They came together in a flurry of clinging arms and lips, and Elijah was sent straight up into orbit, circling high above the clouds in his astronaut's embrace. When they finally, reluctantly came back to earth, Sean said, "What were you doing when I came in? You looked like you were in a trance."


"Visiting with a ghost from my past," Elijah said, and at Sean's puzzled look added, "I'll explain later. Let's go home; we've got some celebrating to do."


~end~