Disclaimer: The following work of fan fiction isn't intended to infringe on any copyright or to make a profit. I don't claim the characters, setting, concept, but the story is mine. Please don't reproduce, link to, or sue without permission from the author.

Warnings/Rating/Spoilers: PG-13; slash, Jeremiah/Kurdy. Vague spoilers for The City of Roses.

Notes: Written in answer to the first Multi-Fandom Slash Improv. Words for the improv: cheat, fly, tender, rail.

by Katie

He stands in a field of white, snow up to the tops of his boots and ominous grey-tinged clouds overhead. To his right runs a pair of rust-pitted rails. They are the rails that carried trains close enough to rattle his windows every night of his childhood. He follows, trying to find home, even though the rails have been bereft for many years.

Overhead, two birds fly in circles and call to each other plaintively. Their feathers are the color of blood, of blood pooling on the floor and sitting for days because there's no one left to clean it up. They never come close enough to touch, but never fly far enough to leave his sight. He is vaguely frightened by them. He is even more afraid of them leaving. He watches them, and forgets to walk on.

He is cold, though he wears a heavy coat he traded a pair of shoes and two G.I. Joe action figures for, and a knitted woolen cap he found in an abandoned townhouse. He is not hungry, though he can't remember eating.

I am alone, he thinks, and it hurts. His chest is heavy with it.

Hands so warm they burn press against his shoulder, his cheek. Reaching, he finds skin rough with stubble, the heavy canvas of a jacket he knows is army green. The world has gone from white to dark, with flickering gold to cast shadows that play at the corner of his eyes. There is a weight on him, a familiar face staring down at him, and still he hurts.

"You are not alone," Jeremiah whispers, and the pad of his thumb leaves a trail of fire as it brushes Kurdy's cheek.

But he is. He's afraid he always will be.

"Shh." Jeremiah leans down, touching his forehead with a chaste kiss. "I'm here."

It's not enough. Desperate, he reaches again, his fingers twisting in fine, short hair that covers neck muscles corded with something that isn't quite resistance. He tugs gently, and Jeremiah's mouth is on his, hot where his is cold. A tingling heat pierces his body as Jeremiah's tongue grazes his. It's not enough. Pressing up against the hard warmth of Jeremiah's chest, he shakes from trying to hold on tightly enough. He can't. His fingers slip. Jeremiah pulls back.

He feels cheated, robbed of the fire that had almost kindled in his belly. Don't, he thinks, please.

"Shh," Jeremiah says again.

Still burning, the hand on his cheek moves to his forehead. It makes his eyes feel heavier. He closes them unwillingly, terrified of what might disappear while he's not looking.

"Not yet," Jeremiah murmurs. "Not till you're well."

He feels a touch, a tender kiss brushed first against one eyelid, then the other. Jeremiah's weight is solid and warm, and he can't stop himself from falling asleep.

It's daylight when he wakes up. Birds are singing somewhere above him with an obnoxious cheer. He can smell a fire and the fresh scent of some kind of grain being boiled to mush. A cool breeze drifts against his cheek, but he's warm and snug under a heavy cover. Though he feels tired and achey, someone's humming tunelessly nearby, and he knows he's not getting back to sleep any time soon.

Opening his eyes, he blinks a few times at the light that has filtered down through the trees that surround the clearing. Jeremiah is only a few feet away, crouching in front of the fire and stirring the contents of the beat-up pot that hangs over the flames.

"Hey," Kurdy tries to say. His voice comes out raspy, like he hasn't spoken in a while.

Jeremiah hears him. He stops humming, looking up with the beginnings of a grin. "Hey, look who's awake. How you feeling?"

Bad, Kurdy thinks, but it's not totally true. He's sore, but he's really fairly comfortable with--he looks down--both their blankets and Jeremiah's jacket piled on top of the coat he's already wearing.

"I'll be all right," he whispers.

"Want some water?" Without waiting for an answer, Jeremiah grabs a canteen and crosses over to kneel beside him.

He needs Jeremiah's help to sit up, and when he tries to hold the canteen, his hand shakes too much for him to drink from it. Jeremiah steadies it, then lowers him back to the ground when he's swallowed all he can.

Then Jeremiah presses a palm to his forehead like his mother used to do when she was checking for fever, and suddenly all he can feel is Jeremiah's mouth against his lips, Jeremiah's tongue sliding into his mouth. He looks up sharply. The only emotion he sees in Jeremiah's face is concern. No hints of secrets, or of promises.

He closes his eyes, pulling his covers closer to his chin. The rough material of Jeremiah's jacket rubs against his beard. He wonders, as he hears Jeremiah start humming again, how much of his memory is only a dream.