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Author: Tarie
Title: In Colorless Wind and Invisible Humors
Summary: There isn't a picture of Neil there in the entryway. The pictures are all sports teams and graduating classes. Neil was never on a sports team and senior class pictures aren't until the spring, so his legacy will just have to live and die with the rest of the Dead Poets - not that anyone will ever know because an unwritten rule of Dead Poets Society is we don't talk about it because it never happened.
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Character Death (which is canon)
Author's Notes: Thank you so much to Sarah for the beta and Callie for the encouragement. Wee snippets of poetry borrowed from e.e. cummings with love.  Written for 2007 Yuletide.

Tradition. Honor. Discipline. Excellence.

The four pillars of Welton Academy.

Boys have come and gone for a hundred years here, moving on to be someone their fathers wanted them to be, to marry the girl their family approved of and produce boys of their own who would carry on the family tradition at Hellton before becoming food for worms.

The cases in the entryway proudly display picture after picture of Welton alumnus, all boys with eyes bright and full of hope and hunger. Boys who have the world at their feet and the open road pounding at their door like an impatient chauffeur. Boys who have yet to really live but have imagined it all and then some.

There isn't a picture of Neil there in the entryway. The pictures are all sports teams and graduating classes. Neil was never on a sports team and senior class pictures aren't until the spring, so his legacy will just have to live and die with the rest of the Dead Poets - not that anyone will ever know because an unwritten rule of Dead Poets Society is we don't talk about it because it never happened.

It isn't right.

It isn't right and Todd can't do anything about it because it never happened.

So Todd stands in the entryway, staring at the empty spot in the last case where this year's senior class portrait will go. The boys will be standing side by side, Cameron and Pittsie and Meeks and Nuwanda and Knox and Spaz and the others, arm in arm, with spaces barely big enough for ghosts to slip through between them. Neil was always tall and slight and whisper-thin. He'll be with them in kind, in nomeni patri et fili spiritus sancti, in colorless wind and invisible humors. He'll be with them in these myriad ways yet none save for a few, the Poets, will even remember he is there.

And of course, they won't talk about it because it never happened.

There is a loud squeak, stilted silence for a millisecond, and then the echoing strains of eak eak eak from somewhere behind him.

Wiping at stinging moist warmth he hadn't even realized was there, Todd turns, balls of his feet grinding against flagstone in pivot.

Knox stares at him blankly, dumb and dumbfounded, as quietness rains down and lingers heavily in the air for two heartbeats more than Neil ever felt before he's gone. He cuts out of the entryway, leaving Todd alone with his unshed tears and a Neil-shaped hole carved out of his soul.

~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~@~


-Who wields a poem huger than the grave? from only Whom shall time no refuge keep though all the weird worlds must be opened?

The words had imprinted themselves on Todd's brain earlier today. Before he went to the entryway, Todd spent most of the morning laying on Neil's bed, inhaling the scent of him that would soon fade away to nothingness and mildew-y mattress, flipping through Five Centuries of Verse before he couldn't stand it anymore and had to sneak into Captain's classroom so he could place the book back in Neil's desk.

The words, inked once upon a time by cummings and embedded in Todd's brain that morning because it needed something to do rather than picture Neil hanging by his Welton tie or slumped over in his father's car with towels stuffed in the windows or something equally horrifying.

-Who wields a poem huger than the grave? from only Whom shall time no refuge keep though all the weird worlds must be opened?

Over and over the words fly through his mind, a steady thrumming accompanied by the kazoo Pitts had played many a time at Dead Poets meetings.

"...a poem huger than the grave," he chants, scampering down the steep incline toward the cave, the cave where meetings and mysticism and mayhem all coincide, where even a patented observer like him can feel involved without feeling invaded or invasive. Pushing aside vines and gnarled foliage that time seemingly forgot, Todd blinks in the dim light and inhales the damp air of their cavern.

But he's too late to be alone.

"Shit."

The sound comes from somewhere in the back, followed quickly by lightning-fast illumination from a heavy flashlight.

"Kn-Knox?" Todd stammers, surprised and yet not to see him.

"I was leaving anyway," Knox mutters, and Todd feels as tired and strained as Knox sounds.

Guilt saddles him then like weights. Knox was Neil's friend first, longer. "I--"

"No," Knox says firmly, and suddenly he's so close that Todd can feel his breath against his cheek. "You were here first and I--I just gotta--"

Todd averts his eyes at the precise moment his hand shoots out to press against Knox's shoulder. "Don't go," Todd hears himself say, and his stomach does a funny, tight little flip. Beneath the center of his palm, Todd can feel some of the tension dissipate from Knox's shoulder.

"Okay."

By the time Todd looks up again, Knox has pulled away and is leaning against one of the sloping cave walls. Raisins and bits of rolls and cookies litter the floor from their last meeting; Pitts had been on clean-up duty and wasn't half as good at cleaning as Cameron was at boot-licking.

"Charlie says we're g-going to have a meeting tomorrow," Todd offers, because he doesn't know what else to say. He'd said it all in the wee hours of the morning, out in the snow and all-consuming sadness.

"Yeah, I know," Knox murmurs, his lips twisting in a wry, strange way.

Funny, but Todd hadn't taken much notice of his mouth before. He hadn't taken much notice of Knox before. Knox was always there, always a presence, like Todd, but at the same time miles away - not just because of Chris but because he simply was. Todd thinks maybe Knox is distancing himself from them because he can't do it from his own father and it makes Todd more than a little jealous. He's a 'yes, sir' and a 'no, sir' boy because he's long learned that's all his parents hear, anyway. But Knox...Knox, Todd believes, is plotting a secret rebellion that will show them all some day, some day when they're all least expecting it. Todd hopes he's there to see it, to feel what it's like when someone honestly, truly, inherently seizes the day like the boys of Welton long since food for worms only ever wished they could have.

The upper lip of Knox's mouth is thin at the edges and arches up into a plump curve before plummeting down sharply in the center. His lower lip is full doesn't seem to fully go with the upper. They're mismatched, sort of like Knox and the Dead Poets and Welton altogether, and they move as easily as the ebb and flow of the tide as he speaks softly of Neil and what might come to pass.

Todd doesn't really hear much of what Knox is saying. It doesn't matter, anyway. He can feel it, in his heart and in his bones just as surely as Knox can, and that is enough. Besides, sometimes there aren't enough words for communication or wooing women (though he will leave that up to Charlie) or expressing how you feel, Todd figures. Sometimes words are just sounds, sounds like sirens and wails at different pitches and tones, at times soothing and others maddening. Today both boys are somewhere in between.

As for himself, Todd is closer to maddening (and probably madness) than anything.

"He's really gone," Todd breathes, and suddenly he can hear words again. His chest tightening terribly, Todd slides down the wall, the seat of his trousers pressing against the moist, gritty floor.

A beat, and then Knox collapses in a heap next to him, their shoulders brushing. "He really is," Knox says hoarsely.

For the first time since he came into the cave, it occurs to Todd that it's a little weird Knox is here by himself.

"Wh-why aren't you with Chris?" Todd asks tentatively, probably overstepping his boundaries but not caring. There's no more Neil to keep him in check on the very rare instances he needs to be checked.

"I need to be here, okay?" Knox says, his voice so defensive it makes Todd wince.

"Sorry," Todd murmurs, pressing his palms flat against the dirt floor for leverage. He begins to push himself up but finds his center of gravity disappearing as one of Knox's hands reaches out, fingers curling around Todd's tie and yanking downward. "Oof." His bottom hits the ground with a thud, tailbone stinging. Wordlessly, Todd looks over at Knox.

Knox shakes his head, the small movement screaming don't ask and just shut up, Todd and please.

Todd stares back at Knox, breath stuffed in his throat with anticipation, because somehow he knows. He knows and the tiny hairs at his nape bristle with anticipation, with come on and oh.

Up Knox's fingers slide, skirting over the length of the tie until they're grasping hold of the knot. Todd gasps and then flushes, though he can't think about either anymore because out of nowhere Knox's lips are pressing against his. Todd's mouth curves into a smile, a smile that is soon parted by Knox's tongue, the insistent muscle pushing wetly and confidently into Todd's mouth.

Where Knox learned to do this, Todd doesn't know. He himself hasn't ever kissed anyone, other than his mother on the cheek and that doesn't count. Maybe Charlie forced him into practicing or something. Spaz told him once in trig about the sorts of things some of the boys got up to. Todd hadn't seen any of those things, not until now.

"Oh," Todd hears himself say, the sounds swallowed up completely by Knox's lips and teeth and tongue. The tie around his neck is pulled tighter, more taut, and Todd presses his chest against Knox's. Hands scrabble against jacket and shirt and under hem until reaching skin and Todd is warmed, warmed by Knox's ministrations and heat. His footing becomes unsteady, but that doesn't matter because Knox is there to hold him up and taste him whole.

There's a keening noise like a sob and Todd can't tell which one of them made it. It doesn't matter, anyway. Crying can't fix what's already been done. Not even Uncle Walt would be able to give them enough words and poetry to do that.

Abruptly cool air hits his lips and Todd blinks blearily up at Knox.

"Oh, God," he moans, and then he reaches out, shoving Todd back a few steps.

"Wh-what was that--" Todd sputters, flushed and mortified and so very confused all at once.

"I don't know," Knox blurts, shoving his shirttails back in the waistband of his trousers.

"Knox?" Todd feels small, infinitesimal and insignificant and so very lost.

"Leave me alone!" His voice breaks as he speaks, dark eyes glittering with loss and longing. Todd only gets a flash of them before he's left in the cave alone.

The last Dead Poet standing, in a way.

It's getting late. Tomorrow is the church service and their meeting.

It's getting late but Todd makes no move to leave. Once he leaves, Knox and his mouth and their misery will be no more.

These things will be no more because, in Dead Poets Society, we don't talk about it because it never happened.
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