It started by falling into sweet oblivion.

Falling, like falling asleep, but somehow different. Like falling down the rabbit hole, grabbing frantically for purchase, yet at the same time not wanting to do anything but let gravity carry him to the inevitable crash below. Sometimes it's easier to just drift.

Billy fell in love, all the time bracing himself for the harsh impact of reality.


Billy stepped out of the car and into the gritty sand of the southern California beach. Squinting into the harsh sun, he tugged absently on the waistband of his board shorts. Billy kicked off a sandal and felt the sand seep between his toes, settling into the little crevices of his feet. Closing his eyes, he inhaled deeply, pulling in the scent of salt, seaweed, and coconut suntan lotion. Orlando's hand, warm against the bare skin of his back, brought him back to reality.

"You ready?" Orlando stood behind him, surfboard in hand.

"Ready to kick your ass, you mean?" Billy quipped, jerked out of his reverie.

Billy watched as Orlando raised a suggestive eyebrow in his direction before running out to meet the surf. He watched Orlando's body in motion, muscles pulling under thin skin, tightly clutching his surfboard. Reluctantly, he followed.


The water flowed smooth and clear beneath Billy's feet. Seagulls flew overhead, and if he closed his eyes, he felt as though he could fly right beside them. He was flying with Orlando, as they had the day they met, only without the airplane. Orlando flew beside him, the wind ruffling his hair. He turned and said,

"Billy! Watch out!"


He wasn't falling anymore, but rising slowly through the water. He could see the silvery line where the sky meets the ocean far above him - too far above him. His lungs burned as his legs pumped with the last vestiges of his energy, but it wasn't enough. Black roses erupted before his eyes as Billy finally blacked out.


He rose, through the ocean, through a dream. His dreams were seemingly endless, as was the vision of Orlando's face. In his dreams, he didn't have to think about what he was doing, he just did it. He could touch Orlando's face if he wanted. The soft skin of Orlando's back was no longer an object to be admired, but something to be touched, kneaded with Billy's fists, or licked if that's what the situation required. This wasn't to say that he'd stolen many a glance at Orlando's body, or that he particularly wanted to lick him, per se, because dreams are just dreams and have no deeper meaning, right?


He kept rising, through water, dreams, and consciousness. When Billy finally woke up, he found himself in a hospital bed, attached to a dripping bag of saline. The television was on, though muted, in the corner of the room. Oh, someone had been watching the soccer game. He only had a moment to wonder who had been sharing his hospital room when the door opened and Orlando appeared behind it, a sandwich and soda in hand. Billy watched Orlando cross the tiny room to settle on the couch and begin stuffing his face.

"Did you bring anything for me? I feel like I haven't eaten in years."

Orlando's head snapped to attention. "You're awake!"

"I'm hungry. Can you get me something? What the hell happened?"

"I'll go get the doctor," Orlando crossed the room again.

"Wait," Billy grasped Orlando's wrist as he passed the bed, "don't go."

"I'll be back in five minutes, I promise." He disappeared once more.

Billy fought sleep as he fought the depths of the ocean, but without Orlando's presence to motivate him, he found himself succumbing to the blackness.


Billy awoke to a very large pair of brown eyes hovering over his face. "You're awake."

"Yeah, I... didn't you just say that?"

"No, we've been home for three days."

I'll be damned, Billy thought. No longer was he in the hospital, but in his own bedroom at the beach house they were sharing. "What happened?"

"I think you decided to try your hand at breathing water. It didn't work very well."

Billy remembered the wave that caught him off guard, and the sharp impact of his head hitting something hard at the ocean floor. "Oh. Orlando?"


"I'm hungry."


Orlando sat at the foot of the bed, watching Billy nibble the edges of the sandwich he had made. He wondered briefly if he should mention what he'd heard Billy say in his sleep. At first he thought he must have heard wrong, but then Billy said it again, and Orlando unmistakingly heard his own name pass over Billy's slack lips. He decided he'd keep this to himself, tucking the knowledge away in a private corner of his mind, something to be taken out and pondered during the thin hours of the night.

"Penny for your thoughts," Billy said around a mouthful of ham and lettuce.

"You couldn't afford this thought, my friend," Orlando said with a grin.

"In that case, do you want to know what I'm thinking?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Sure."

"This sandwich needs more mustard."

"Okay, that's it," Orlando threw up his hands, "if you're well enough to complain about the food, you're well enough to cook for yourself."

"No, no, your sandwiches are much better. I know that between the ham and the cheese is a small slice of love. You can't cut me off from that."

He rolled his eyes. You have no idea, Orlando thought.


That night, Orlando snuck back into the bedroom long after Billy had fallen asleep. He had to touch Billy's face, had to know that he was okay. He refused to admit, even to himself, how scared he had been when Billy's face disappeared under the water, how certain he had been that Billy was going to die. He couldn't let Billy die without having ever...

Orlando leaned over and lightly touched his lips to Billy's face. He planted soft kisses on Billy's cheek, nose, and chin. What sort of world would take his best friend from him?

"As long as I'm dreaming, I'd like to have a pony," Billy mumbled.

Orlando jumped back half a foot as Billy's eyes slowly opened. Well, fuck.

"Hey, what are you doing? Don't stop."

"I should go... you're delirious."

"No, I've just been in a coma for a week. If anything, I think it's actually cleared my head a little. Come back," he pleaded.

Orlando sat nervously on the edge of the bed. "What do you want?"

"Kiss me again?"

"You're sure?"


Billy closed his eyes and immediately felt Orlando's lips on his own. He parted his teeth, wanting to suck in all of Orlando's heat, all of his passion, as though it were the only thing that could revive him. Orlando fumbled with his hands for a moment, as though he wasn't entirely sure what he was supposed to do with them, before settling them on Billy's shoulders. Billy, in turn, grasped Orlando's hips, pulling him into the bed.

Orlando pulled away for a moment. "Is this what you want?"

"Touch me, please," Billy breathed into his ear.

He lowered himself on top of his patient, running his fingers over Billy's bare chest, resting his hand on the waistband of the flannel pajama pants. He lifted the elastic band and slowly reached a hand inside, feeling his way through a mass of curls to find Billy already solid. Billy arched his back against the mattress, pressing Orlando's hand further. He could feel the blood pumping under his hand, and wondered briefly if he should be doing this so soon after Billy had woken from a coma.

"Are you positive you want me to do this? I mean, you're feeling okay?"

Billy sighed and opened his eyes. "Are you going to make me beg, or what?"

"No," Orlando grinned, "though that would be a sight to see."

He sat up and began planting kisses on Billy's face once more while his hand worked elsewhere. Orlando licked along the line of Billy's jaw, listened as his breath became ragged and quick. The muscles in Billy's stomach worked as his mouth parted slightly, and Orlando heard the sharp inhale as he came. Orgasm wracked Billy's weak body for a moment, after which he laid still.

Orlando felt a moment of panic grip him - Oh God, it was too soon, he went back into a coma, and it's my fault - until Billy opened his eyes, a lazy smile spreading on his face. Orlando heaved a sigh of relief.

"You know, we should go surfing together more often," Billy mumbled.

"Yeah, but without the whole almost drowning thing, okay?"


"You're falling asleep, aren't you?"

"Mmhmm. Stay with me," Billy whispered.

Orlando curled up next to Billy on the small bed, pulled the blankets over them both, and fell asleep to the call of the seagulls drifting in through the open window.