?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
26 April 2008 @ 08:48 pm
[fic repost] Episodic Tangents: Six Months Ago (PG)  
Series Title: Episodic Tangents
Chapter Title: Six Months Ago (Season 1, Episode 10)
Author: tiptoe39
Rating: PG for slightly homoerotic poetry.
Summary: A lovely little fairy tale in three acts, involving libraries, showtunes, and boys in love.

Part of "Episodic Tangents," a series of one-shots in which we start with the titles of episodes and go in completely different directions.



I. "A Trip to the Library" (She Loves Me)

Six months ago, Matt Parkman had never read a book.

Well. Not for pleasure, anyway. He had to fight his way through the high school curriculum somehow. Not a fight that was all that successful, either. Luckily enough, he was a good-hearted kid, so none of that was really a strike against him. He received his fair share of sympathy grades, especially when he hand-wrote his essays with all the backwards letters. It just about broke the teachers' hearts. Not that any of them had any idea what to do with him. It was such a shame, really that he lived in this school district. If only he was just a few blocks south, where they had the budget for kids with special needs. Not that he was that kind of kid, of course, but it's just such a shame! What with his father's draining the savings and running off... but there's just no help for him here.

He sure showed them, didn't he? his mother told him years later. Graduating the police academy and becoming such a stand-up citizen. He tried to tell her that it wasn't the stand-up citizen part that was in doubt. But when she got sick he eased off that argument, and when she went to her grave, it was knowing that her Matt was a good boy. That was all that mattered.

Still, all those sickening words of concern seemed to echo around him as he stood in the high-ceilinged room that may as well have been a torture chamber for the thousands of objects of absolute terror it contained.

He was in a library.

~~
"You've never seen such a place!
So many books!
So much marble!
So quiet!
And suddenly all of my confidence dribbled away with a pitiful plop.
My head was beginning to swim and my forehead was covered in cold perspiration
I started to reach for a book and my hand automatically came to a stop
I don't know how long I stood frozen a victim of panic and mortification

Oh, how I wanted to flee
When a quiet voice
A gentle voice, whispered,
"Pardon me..."

~~

He turned.

"Oh, I'm sorry," he said to the copper-skinned man in the glasses, assuming he wanted access to the shelf in front of which he was currently frozen as solid as the months-old ham in his freezer.

"Oh, no," the man smiled, tilting his head to the side. "I was wondering if I might be able to help you."

~~
And there was this dear, sweet,
Clearly respectable, thickly bespectacled man,
Who stood by my side and quietly said to me...

~~

He had a British accent. A British. Accent. That was it. Matt was outclassed through and through. And without even touching a book. Torture chamber? This was sudden death.

"I'm, uh, er, do you work here?" Great, that was brilliant, eloquent, and witty. Forget reading, he should give up speaking.

The man nodded, smiling again. "Is there something in particular you're looking for?

"Um. I actually was looking for a book for a ten-year-old girl. A bright one."

At this, the grin became genuine. "Spoken like a true parent."

"Oh, no, she's not mine," Matt said, waving his hands as though trying to wipe away the misconception. "Uh, she belongs to a friend." The truth was, he'd only met her the once. Molly Walker, her name was, and she was just about the toughest thing he'd ever met, including his academy drill instructor. She would make him cry like a baby. The thing was, she was sick. Some weird blood virus. Matt had run into her at the hospital when he was visiting a friend. She'd been walking around the corner with her nose in a book, and bumped right into him.

"Sorry," he'd said.

"Don't be. I knew you were there. I meant to bump into you. You're cute. Will you marry me if I live?"

Matt nearly spit out his coffee, then laughed. "Yeah, OK, I'll think about it."

They'd gotten to talking, and while Matt worried about his mental state conversing with a ten-year-old in this way, he couldn't help marveling at her toughness. She was waiting for a bone marrow transplant, and the clock was ticking before she would end up bedridden, then a statistic. Still, she said, "I'm OK, as long as I have lots of new books to read. When I read books I can stop being me for a while and be another person with another life. A person in a world where magic happens."

That's what propelled Matt to the library today. He wanted to get her some new books to read. But as he stared at the bookshelves, he started feeling just a little bit jealous. He'd always thought of books as some sort of mountain to be climbed. Reading was an intellectual achievement he had to work to attain. Was it possible to get lost in a story without worrying about being able to navigate his way out? He wanted to try. If only because it seemed to make this young girl so strong, maybe it would do the same for him.

"Pardon me. Sir."

Matt focused. The man with the dark skin and the owl-like glasses was staring at him. "I'm sorry, what?"

Unexpectedly, the man's lips quirked. Matt felt his heart thump. "You seem to have skipped away into your own world. Is there something else I might be able to do for you? My name is Mohinder, incidentally. Mohinder Suresh."

"M... Matt Parkman," Matt said, shaking his hand. The fingers pressed against his palm were warm. "As for what you can do for me, well, that depends on how much time you have."

Eyebrows arched, flying above the upper rims of the glasses. "Well, my lunch hour is starting in a few minutes," he said.

~~
"Don't mean to intrude, but I was just wondering,
Are you in need of some help?"
I said "No..."
"...yes, I am."

~~

Matt's nerves were frayed. His palms were sweating and his mouth was dry. He might as well have been on a date or at a performance evaluation. Anything stronger than cocoa was right out. So cocoa it was, and a croissant, and he would die of a heart attack tomorrow but that might at least be a way out of this disaster.

He sat down opposite Mohinder, who had a book in his hand.

"You work with them all day long and you read them on your lunch hour?"

Mohinder looked at him and then laughed. "I don't get to read them when I'm on the clock," he said. "For me, it's worse than working at a candy shop. All these tantalizing items and I can't sample even one. Still, just being around them makes me happy."

"Why?"

He put the book down and gazed at him sympathetically. "The question is, why does it seem to make you so unhappy?"

Matt shrugged, sipping his cocoa. "For me they're like a wild animal. I keep thinking one's going to jump out and bite me."

Mohinder laughed rather too loudly for a librarian. He opened the book and snapped it shut like an alligator's jaws. "I don't believe I've ever met anyone afraid of a book devouring them. Usually it's the other way around."

"Well, usually the person coming into the library can read," Matt grumbled.

Mohinder's eyebrows shot up again, and his eyes turned round and golden as the early afternoon sun caught them through the skylights. "You can't..."

"Well, I can. It's just... hard work," Matt admitted. "I mean, I got through high school, I do my paperwork, it just takes me a long time. Nobody thought I was gonna even get this far." Was it the cocoa had loosened his tongue, or something else? Hardly mattered. He had a good head of steam going and nothing was going to derail that train. "But this girl, Molly, she says books help her escape and I wish I knew what that felt like, and then there are people like you who just seem to love them and want to spend all their time around them, and I feel like I'm shut out of some world that I don't even know what it looks like, and why should something that comes so easily to everyone else be so damn hard for me? I'm not a kid anymore. I want to be able to have conversations about the stories in the newspaper or, you know I have this pal at the station who's constantly quoting Shakespeare or something and I just wish I had a clue what he was talking about, and..."

He shut up in a hurry. Mohinder had reached across the table and put a hand on his. Matt stared at it.

With his other hand, the librarian removed his glasses. His eyes were larger, tender and glistening, and Matt couldn't breathe.

"It must be awful for you," he said.

Matt nodded mutely. He was feeling a whole bunch of things right now, but none of them were awful.

~~
You know what this dear, sweet,
Slightly bespectacled
Gentleman said to me next?
He said he could solve this problem of mine.
I said, "How?"
He said if I liked, he'd willingly read to me
Some of his favorite things.
I said "When?"
He said "Now!"

~~

"What do you mean, now?" Matt half expected to blink and see, when he opened his eyes, that the man had disappeared. He must be hallucinating this. He'd known Mohinder for all of ten minutes now and the man was offering to be his personal reader? There must be something else going on here. But he was at a loss to discern what it was.

"I have..." Mohinder checked his watch. (He wore a watch. Outclassed, through and through) "Approximately twenty minutes left on my lunch break. We could start something." He waited just long enough to see Matt frown at the turn of phrase. "A book. And we could continue in the evenings, after work. When you were free, that is."

"Why?" Matt blurted out. "Why would you want to do that?"

At this, the man smiled in a way that could only be described as wicked. "If you can figure that out," he says, "I'll give you a prize. Now, where shall we start?"

"Beats the hell out of me. I don't even know what's good to read."

"Then let's begin with a small psychology test. I will give you some famous first lines. You respond to them naturally. When I like your response, I will add that book to our reading list. 'Call me Ishmael.'"

"What? I'm having enough trouble remembering the name you told me!"

"Hmm. No Moby Dick, then."

"Oh, that was a line?" Matt bunched up his eyebrows. "I missed that. Yeah, no Moby Dick. I feel like a thirteen-year-old even saying that title."

"Most of us do," chuckled Mohinder, "even though we pretend not to. Very well. Your next line is: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

"That just makes no sense whatsoever," Matt said. "Can't be best and worst. If that's how literature goes, why not just say up is down and be done with it?"

"Dickens is a no-go, then. How about: 'Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.'"

"No way. I don't know what book that is, but it sounds like something I'd rather escape from than escape to."

Mohinder furrowed his brow and pouted. "No Melville, no Dickens, no Tolstoy... Well, at least I'm getting a decent psychological profile of you. Let me go in another direction."

Matt leaned back, folding his arms over his chest. It made him feel smarter to just watch this guy think. He was so deliberate. Maybe some of his intellectual habits would rub off. He started looking forward to the evenings. How fascinating would it be to find out where a man like this lived? What his apartment looked like? Whether he had a family, any pets, any odd habits? The detective in him was starting to get worked up. Mohinder had told him to try to figure out his reasons for doing this. Matt was looking forward to putting the puzzle together.

~~
His novel approach seemed slightly suspicious and possibly dangerous, too.
I told myself, "Wait! Stop! Dare you go up to his flat?
What happens if things go wrong..."

~~

By the end of his lunch break, Mohinder had a list of a half-dozen authors on a slip of paper. He tore off the other end of it, scribbled down his address, and handed it to Matt, extracting in exchange a promise to be there at eight-thirty that night. With that, he was gone, and Matt stood staring at the piece of paper, hoping at least that the taxicab driver would be able to decipher the series of incomprehensible loops and dots that was the librarian's handwriting.

~~
He read to me ALL NIGHT LONG...
Well, how about that!?





II. "Marian the Librarian" (The Music Man)

Five months ago, Matt Parkman had gotten through Huck Finn, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He wanted to go for Frankenstein next, or maybe Dracula, but Mohinder flatly refused. "I'm doing this to broaden your horizons, not to allow you to relive your adolescent horror-movie fantasies," he insisted. "We are stepping up our course, Matthew. It is time for you to start challenging yourself."

Matt thought it was plenty challenging not to deck him when he was being all snooty like this. So he had a "type" when it came to books. So what? Who didn't? Not everybody could be nearly as well-rounded literarily as Mohinder. Besides, all things considered, he thought it was better to be well-rounded in real life and single-minded in the library, rather than the other way around. Hell, he wasn't sure Mohinder knew the difference between the library and real life. He was constantly shushing Matt, even outside the...

oh, God, what shelf was he at?

"No way, Mohinder, no fucking WAY."

"Shhh."

"Don't shhh me. I am not ready for Shakespeare. You need a degree for that shit."

Mohinder glanced at him, then picked up a volume and strode to the large window the overlooked the courtyard. "Are you aware that at the time these plays were written, they were presented to a largely plebian audience?"

"I'm not plebian, I'm Jewish."

A suppressed chuckle. Mohinder's back was turned.

"God, I got a D the semester we did Hamlet in high school. I almost chose Not to Be on the multiple-choice test. And Romeo and Juliet almost killed me too. There's no way I'm going through that ag--"

He paused. Mohinder had whirled and had fixed him with a gaze as serious as the grave. "I love you," he said.

Matt blinked.

"I love you," Mohinder repeated. "I'm in love with you."

"Mohinder... what the..."

"Marry me. Say you'll spend the rest of your life with me."

Matt was beet red. His head was on fire. He could barely breathe. "Mohinder, look, I'm flattered, but..."

"Marry me," hissed Mohinder, scowling. "or I will throw myself out this window right now."

OK, this had gone beyond creepy. Matt put on his best hostage negotiation voice. "Listen, Mohinder, that's really sweet and I care about you, you've been a good friend, but--"

He stopped again. This time because the wicked smile was back. "Did I frighten you?" Mohinder said. "Can you imagine what would happen if that sort of thing happened to everyone all at once?"

Matt went scarlet for a different reason. "You were fucking with me?"

"I was giving you a preview." Mohinder held out the volume in his hand. "'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' It's lunacy. A fairy princess falls in love with a man who has the head of an ass."

Intrigued, Matt took the book. Said assface was braying on the cover. "Sounds like most Hollywood marriages."

"Indeed." Mohinder chuckled. "However, it ends much better than most Hollywood marriages do. Well? Do I have your attention?"

Mutely, Matt nodded.

~~
What can I do, my dear, to catch your ear?
I need you badly, badly...

~~

Mohinder's apartment, Matt had come to realize, was where he let down all of his pretenses, where he gave up entirely on the carefully organized veneer he prided himself on at work. There were papers everywhere, dishes heaped in the sink, and, of course, piles of books on almost every surface-- books of every possible shape and size, covers that were fading, bindings frayed or even broken. Sometimes an entire block of pages had detached itself from the spine and was being squeezed between the covers as if enough pressure would cause it to somehow think better of its freedom and reattach itself.

"You know what I was just thinking?" Matt said as he stepped over some discarded cans that had avalanched out of the recycling bin onto the tile below.

"I don't believe I can read minds, no," Mohinder said disdainfully, nimbly avoiding the numerous hazards. To him, they had been there so long they were part of the decor. "Why, can you?"

"Smartass," Matt grumbled, picking up the cans. This had become their routine. The first time Matt rolled up his sleeves and got to work on Mohinder's dirty dishes, the unfortunate slob whose fault they were protested mightily. But Matt set him straight: It wasn't any sort of payback or gratitude or obligation, he said. It was just that he'd die of aggravation if he didn't do something about his surroundings. "How can you live like this?" had become a staple of his verbal repertoire.

"Then enlighten me, Matthew." Mohinder smiled grimly and began to rummage through his cupboards for a spare pot. "What were you just thinking?"

"I was thinking, that book's not a book, it's a play," Matt said, turning on the water and squeezing dishwashing liquid over the offending pile. "How are you going to read it? How am I going to know who's talking?"

"I told you." Mohinder found what he was looking for and brandished it triumphantly. "It's time for you to challenge yourself. How is Molly doing?"

"She's good. She told me to tell you, and here I quote: 'Oh em gee, I didn't know there was a sequel to Anne of Green Gables! Love you love you love you!'"

"Wait until she finds out there is a whole series," Mohinder chuckled. "Please tell her 'thank you love you too.'" Mohinder and Molly had never actually met, but Matt had told her about the librarian responsible for selecting the weekly installment of books Matt brought to her bedside, and Molly had immediately given up on marrying Matt and set her sights (unseen, no less) on Mohinder as her next great flame. "I have the sneaking suspicion she may be a librarian when she grows up."

When. Not if. Matt's heart leapt into his throat. Every so often, he'd noticed, Mohinder made an offhand comment that buoyed him like a balloon. His confidence in Molly's recovery made Matt want to throw his arms around him and thank him for believing.

It turned out that by "challenging yourself," Mohinder meant, "follow along with me as I read so you can see where one character stops speaking and another begins." It was uncomfortable at first-- the two of them pressed together on the tiny couch in the living room, leaning over the text's multiple columns that careened down the page like the facade to some ancient Greek temple. But after the first act, Matt began to relax and follow a little more naturally, allowing his shoulder to relax against Mohinder's, enjoying the pleasant, comforting heat of a friend, an evening, and a good book.

It was good, Matt decided, though he felt quite sorry for many of the characters. Everyone was confused and unhappy and lovelorn. The play was starting to have that train-wreck quality-- it was fascinating in the sheer catastrophe of it-- when all at once Bottom came along and everything lightened up.

"I like him!" Matt exclaimed. "He's just like me!"

"You sell yourself short," Mohinder smiled, raising his eyes from the text briefly. "You have a good deal more sense than he does."

"Yeah, but I'm just as full of shit," Matt said proudly. Mohinder just shook his head slowly, a quirky smile on his lips, and returned to reading.

When Titania fell victim to the potion and started reciting poetry to Bottom, Matt laughed uproariously. Mohinder made a little sound of surprise.

"What?"

"You felt so bad for Helena and Demetrius, but you laugh at Titania?"

"Just 'cause it's so unbelievable. This beautiful, incredible person right out of a fantasy falling for this poor clown. That'd be like me coming in and breaking up Brangelina. It's ridiculous."

"What's so ridiculous about that?" Mohinder said, a note of what Matt thought was weariness coloring his voice. "Do you find it so unbelievable that you might be..." He trailed off. "Love is blind, you know."

"Blind, yes. Stupid, no," Matt said nonchalantly, but he was feeling vaguely on edge. What was Mohinder thinking? He turned his eyes to the book again and followed as Mohinder read:

"Come, wait upon him; lead him to my bower.
The moon methinks looks with a watery eye;
And when she weeps, weeps every little flower,
Lamenting some enforced chastity.
Tie up my love's tongue bring him silently."


Matt looked up as the passage came to its conclusion. To his surprise, he found that Mohinder had been gazing at him, reciting from memory. Matt gulped. Suddenly, the heat between them was not so comforting.

~~
Heaven help us if the library caught on fire
And the Volunteer Hose Brigademen
Had to whisper the news

~~

Mohinder wasn't kidding about Matt expanding his horizons. After A Midsummer Night's Dream, it was Beowulf, then the Odyssey. It was a struggle to understand either of them, but Mohinder growled and squeaked and otherwise read with a great deal of personality and passion, which helped. Plus, the faces he made were pricesless.

Matt came every week to the library to pick up new books for Molly and to have lunch with Mohinder. Their conversation was always animated. Matt learned a lot about him-- that he had originally wanted to be a scientist, that he was born in India but educated in England and earned his citizenship here just last year, that he'd once had a lizard which he'd named after himself in an imaginative drought. And that he was sly, dryly humorous, but deeply passionate and caring. Also that his eyes, especially without the owl glasses, were mesmerizing and exactly the color of the cocoa they served at the library cafe.

Then, one day at lunch, Matt commented that he thought Odysseus' homecoming to his wife and her enduring faithfulness were "really fucking beautiful."

"You swear a great deal," Mohinder replied absently, stirring his soup.

"Can't help it." Matt felt somewhat defensive. He wanted to ask, so what?

Mohinder frowned. "I'd hoped to be expanding your vocabulary a tad."

The note of disappointment in his voice irked Matt to no end. "Is that what you're up to?" he said loudly, standing up. "Am I some sort of pet project for you? Let's make the illiterate guy feel stupid? Polish the blue-collar cop and see if he shines?"

"No, of course not. Would you sit down?" Mohinder was panicking a little. People were staring.

"No, you know what? I won't sit down."

"Shush!"

"And I won't shush, either! You know, you never did tell me why you do all of this. I know, I'm supposed to figure it out, but for God's sake, Mohinder! What am I supposed to think? Are you just doing this to mess with my head or what?"

This time it was Mohinder who rose, and he hissed, "Maybe you'd have half a clue if you would actually listen to more than just the words for once!"

"What in the hell is that supposed to mean?"

Abruptly, Mohinder turned. "Nothing. Never mind," he mumbled, and stalked off without another word. Matt stood alone in the middle of the crowded cafeteria, like Odysseus, adrift with neither compass nor anchor.

~~
If I stumbled and I busted my what-you-may-call-it
I could lie on your floor
'Till my body had turned to carrion...

~~

Mohinder found Matt at his door that night with a thick book tucked under his arm and a sheepish expression on his face. "Can I come in?" he asked timidly, looking at Mohinder through downcast eyes.

"Of... course."

Matt looked around. The place was clean. Not just clean. Pristine. Practically gleaming. "What happened here?" he wondered aloud.

"Oh. I'm ... I'm a stress cleaner," Mohinder admitted, looking down at his feet.

Matt joked, "Well, I ought to shout in the middle of your library more often, then." But he felt a pang of awful guilt. Had Mohinder been so preoccupied with their altercation that he'd gone this far out of character?

Not that he himself had been much better. "I, uh, asked the guy at Borders what would be a great present for a book lover. He handed me this. So..." He held out the tome in his hands. "I'm sorry."

Mohinder looked at his face for a long moment before even glancing at the cover. Slowly, he took the book. "10,000 Great Poems," he read. "'From the famous to the obscure and the ancient to the modern.'" He looked up again. "Thank you. And... you were wrong."

"What?"

"You're not a pet project to me. If anything," he said shyly, "I consider you a friend."

Matt took a moment. He looked over this man, shy and tentative in the dim light, saying the word "friend" like it was the first time he'd ever been able to claim one. It hardly seemed fair. "Yeah," he said, half-smiling. "Yeah, I feel the same way."

At this, Mohinder grinned widely, and Matt again had to restrain his heart to keep it from leaping through his ribs and onto those uncharacteristically glistening countertops.

Then the smile took that familiar, wicked turn. "Shall we read a few?"

"No way." Matt took a step back. "I'm not ready for poetry. Not yet."

~~
Now in the moonlight, a man could sing it
In the moonlight
And a fellow would know that his darling
Had heard ev'ry word of his song
With the moonlight helping along.




III. I Could Write a Book (Pal Joey)

Four months ago, Matt Parkman finally decided he was ready for poetry.

For one thing, Molly had a donor. He'd thought when she squealed and threw her arms around him that she was just happy he'd finally brought Anne's House of Dreams, because it meant Anne and Gilbert were finally going to get married. But then she whispered the good news in his ear, and he started crying and thanking God, to whom he hadn't spoken since the eleventh grade. Her surgery would be next week, and although they'd have to monitor her carefully, the odds were looking good for her recovery.

And Mohinder was scheduled to come visit her for the first time next weekend. She was so excited to be healthy for her future husband. Matt phoned him from the hospital, and he spoke to her on the phone for the first time; she covered the receiver and whispered to Matt, "You didn't tell me he was British.. I'm so in love!"

He went over to the apartment feeling like he could do just about anything. Even read poetry.

Mohinder's place was back to its usual slovenly self; Matt hummed as he did the dishes, and Mohinder, in an equally good mood, stirred pasta on the stove and scrubbed the countertops. Matt watched him out of the corner of his eye, marveling at the perfect domesticity of the scene. It was almost as though he lived here. As though they belonged together in this kitchen, tidying up and preparing for a night of linguine and literature. His heart hummed along with his lips, in perfect harmony.

~~
If they asked me I could write a book
About the way you walk and whisper and look

~~

After dinner, Mohinder suggested Walt Whitman. "Song of Myself," he said, "is the essence of the American frontier spirit. All the individualism, pride in self-reliance, and the seemingly contradictory sense of connection with all others in the universe. Whitman begins with 'I celebrate myself, and sing myself,' and he proceeds to celebrate and sing everyone else in the world. Plus, it's a long, beautiful poem. To me, his words are like music. And..."

Matt reached across to cover Mohinder's mouth with his hand. "Enough," he grinned, thinking that if there was a wicked glint to his smile it was learned from Mohinder himself. "Let's read it."

Mohinder began to respond, and the pursing feeling of his lips against the open palm startled Matt. He withdrew his hand, reddening slightly.

Whitman was like music, full of optimism and nervous energy, and Matt closed his eyes to let the words wash over him. Mohinder read the lines,

"Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look
through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.


Matt thought wildly that it was very much similar to the very proposition he'd received in that then-frightening room all those weeks ago. He was so very glad he had stopped with him. He wished he knew how to convey that gratitude. He felt as though he'd gained his own eyes, his own strength, through sitting here in this room and absorbing Mohinder's gentle warmth and learning about thousands of worlds he'd never known existed. He had learned to believe, down to his core, that nothing was out of reach. Not a bone marrow donor for a sick girl. Not a Shakespeare or a poem for a dyslexic man. And not a friendship for a lonely librarian. Anything was possible.

~~
I could write a preface on how we met
So the world would never forget

~~

They were sitting opposite each other, Mohinder on the couch and Matt on a nearby chair. The setting sun had all but disappeared. The gentle cadence of Mohinder's voice tumbled into the room.

I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning,
How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn'd over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart,
And reach'd till you felt my beard, and reach'd till you held my feet.


"That.... that sounds a little dirty," Matt interrupted, his cheeks red.

"Shh," Mohinder cautioned. "Just listen. There is more."

Matt obeyed. He knew by now that there was great truth to Mohinder's instinct about these things. He gave up control and simply listened, letting the minutes and hours of verse flow past like water. And they did, with the moon rising and setting outside the tiny window at the top of the room's far wall, and the traffic wails of New York providing a mournful background music to the poem. Whitman was like New York: busy, all-encompassing, and both hopeful and tragic. Matt fell in love with him a little.

And then Mohinder read a passage that snapped him back to reality.

A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses,
Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears,
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving.

His nostrils dilate as my heels embrace him,
His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and
return.


"Whoa," Matt breathed. He could see that horse in his head, and it looked a little like Mohinder, all tangled black mane and glinting eyes. "That... that was a little bit... what's the word I'm looking for?"

"Extremely homoerotic," Mohinder offered.

"Right..." Matt stopped short. "What?"

"Whitman is intensely homoerotic," Mohinder smiled benignly. "And there's a very good reason for that."

"Oh, really?" He raised an eyebrow. A month ago these things might have disturbed him. But he had gone so far into the infinite world of the literary that very little could do that now. He'd glimpsed the infinite possibility of knowledge beyond his own sphere. He was willing to accept the variety of human experience and imagination for what it was. That was refreshing, liberating, empowering. Matt suspected that if the Tree of Knowledge had really existed in the Garden of Eden, its fruit would have been books.

At that moment he realized that he got it. He realized why others read for pleasure. Mohinder had given him that endlessly precious gift.

He blinked back tears.

Mohinder noticed, worried. "What?"

"Nothing." Matt sniffled, smiled, wiped his eyes. "Just thinking."

"About Whitman and his stallion?" Mohinder grinned.

"Yes," Matt answered flatly, giving him a sidelong look. "Whitman and his big gay stallion."

Mohinder laughed. "You know, there's a lot of homoeroticism in the frontier ideology that Whitman so epitomized. When you think about it, it's men striking out on their own to build houses, cities, lives with the sweat of their brow and the meat of their muscles and hands." Matt nodded, and Mohinder burst out, "I'm curious. Does any of that spirit still permeate the modern-day police department?"

After a moment's hesitation, Matt laughed loudly. "You ask weird questions," he declared.

"Well, I must admit to a slight fetish for men in uniform."

"Hah. You're kidding, right?" Matt looked at him again. "You're serious?"

Mohinder smiled gently, but his voice wavered. "I'll have you know that the only stimulation I intend to do is of your literary appetite. And I do hope that has been effective."

"Oh, yes. Very effective." Matt nodded. But he was lying. Because as silly as it was to compare Mohinder to a big gay stallion, Matt had been thinking that he was gorgeous enough to inspire a poem himself. And that put Matt in a whole heap of trouble. "Here. Why don't we switch gears. Read another poem." He grabbed the book and shuffled to another page, then shoved it across the way to Mohinder. "This one."

"Cummings? That is certainly a change in tone," Mohinder grinned.

"Just read, smartass," Matt grinned. Mohinder looked at him over the rim of his glasses and smirked, then nodded.

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea


Slowly, without even knowing what he was doing, Matt rose from his chair and crept to the couch. Something in the poem compelled him. He had to see the words, had to feel Mohinder's voice vibrate through his center into his soul and his mind. He could hear his pulse beat to the rhythm of the waves of words. Adrift again, Matt let himself be lost.

love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive


The words danced on the page but then fell still, and Matt heard his own voice rising to read them, in unison with Mohinder's. They finished the poem together.


it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky


It was then, there, as he intoned the suddenly still and compliant words, that Matt could hear what was beyond those words in Mohinder's voice. He knew what Mohinder had wanted him to hear when he read. The tentative pleading behind each syllable, the fight to restrain desire in the rise and fall of his breath. It was trembling in his own voice, too. He looked at Mohinder. Mohinder was looking at him. He could read those eyes, bright as firelight. Deeper than the sea and higher than the sky.

He tilted his head, put a hand on Mohinder's cheek, and kissed him.

~~
And the simple secret of the plot
Is just to tell them that I love you a lot

~~

It was a simple kiss, like a couplet at the end of a sonnet. Brief and beautiful.

"So?" Matt asked in a low and rumbling voice. "Do I get that prize now?"

Mohinder gave a little sound of surrender and melted against him, like butter. And this kiss was anything but simple. Hands on his face, now in his hair, now at his shoulders. Matt was drowning, overwhelmed, ecstatic. How could he have waited this long? How could he not have seen this? Mohinder was beauty. He was poetry. And he felt so damned good in Matt's arms. Oh. Oh, Mohinder was home. Matt moved like a man in a trance, nipped along his jaw, pressed hot kisses into his neck. His fingers danced into the strong line of his waist. Mohinder gave little sighing cries that evolved into whispers. "So long, so long, I've waited, oh, Matthew, thank God..."

"For you," Matt breathed into his neck. "Thank God for you."

They held each other fiercely for a moment, breathing in the sure, conscious knowledge of how much they needed each other.


Then Matt pulled away, taking his hands, to face him. "So? What's my prize?"

Mohinder laughed a soul-deep laugh of joy. "You and your prize. What if I said you didn't get one?"

"I'd say you were a liar," Matt said, kissing his forehead and pulling him inward in to lean on his chest.

Mohinder nuzzled him happily. That night there was no more reading, but there was so much telling of stories... childhoods, dreams both whole and shattered, comedies and tragedies to make the most earnest bard envious. And when dawn came they were together to welcome it.

~~
And the world discovers as my book ends
How to make two lovers of friends.

~~

Oh, but that's what just what happened four months ago.

Wait till you hear what happened four months later!

:end:



Previous comments:

From baehj2915: hehehe... I did like that.

I was in a super bad mood today and this honestly helped a little. So romancey and happy ending. I've got to go babysit now, so i can't say much cause I'm running a little late. But I loved that you used Whitman and Cummings. In terms of male poets, they're two of my absolute favorites and write the sexiest of poetry.

and lol Beowulf.

JLB

From hanuueshe: As someone who works in a library (and is tortured by the books she can't read all day long) this was really, really cool. Of course, now I'll be thinking of Mohinder the entire time I'll there... which actually won' be all that different than usual. I'll just be imagining him in glasses. That last line made me snort so loud, and Whitman is totally the poet for this couple.

From starlingthefool: This was absolutely lovely, not least because you used my favorite Shakespeare play (I played Titania in 12th grade, remember saying those words to Bottom - hee!), and two of my favorite poets.

Also, this makes me appreciate my crappy corporate bookstore job more than I have in months. Thank you!

And was that a plug for a sequel? If so, I'm very excited. Please to be writing book!porn.

From saena17: OMG. This capitalized perfectly on what another fic writer I've talked to described as my "literary fetishism." :D You combined my love of Matthinder with my love of books! What more could I ask for? ;)

And I agree with starlingthefool: there should be a sequel with more book!porn, as you seemed to be alluding to in the endnote. :) Great job!

Sarah

From paxlux: You have made this bookworm happier than you will ever know. Matt & Mohinder. Books. Love. *sigh*

Lovely.

From kleenexcow: Yeeeeeeeessssssss. Literary seduction. Oh jeez oh jeez. Just when I think you've hit all of my turn ons, there you go uncovering more of them. You're awesome. This was awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

And OMG precious Molly. She's going to marry Mohinder! *SO CUTE*

(P.S. Today not long after I saw you had posted this, I was reading Ben Jonson's Vulpone, and I read the line "But cocker up my genius" and I nearly choked. Because Mohinder's a genius. And I hope that he gets cockered soon. ;) I blame my dirty literary mind on you!)

(P.S.S. The Indian lit major in me resists Mohinder's tastes being so absolutely and completely *Western*. I could throw some names at you, if you're interested......)

From mercaque: That was the most cleverly adorable story I think I've ever read in this fandom. Your prose was nimble and rich, perfectly suiting the lit geekery of the story. HotLibrarian!Mohinder seducing Matt with books... oh, you did it perfectly.

From saharafic: heee. "I could write a book" is stuck in my head now. I love Pal Joey!

Oh libraries...why have I always found them sexy?? This was lovely!! I am just loving this whole concept of Episodic Tangents. I look forward to them every day!

Also PS: Can Sendhil please read me things? Even without the faux accent...because imagine the ever so slight Texas twang....mmmmmmmm

From orangethorne: Who knew! Not only do your stories make me want to take cold showers but they also make me feel smarter too! I was learning along with Matt in this one. *runs to book store to pick up poem books by Whitman and Cummings*

And thank you for making Mohinder a librarian. I have always found librarians extremely hot!

From carmexgirl: Seduction by poetry - the best type! This pushed so many of my buttons it's untrue - Mohinder in 'teacher' mode is so sexy, I don't know how it took Matt so long to figure it out.

Also as I was reading, I kept on saying 'if she puts any W H Auden in there, I'm going to die!' so thanks for not killing me, although I have a sneaking suspicion that a porny sequal would.

I've never read any Whitman, but hmmm.... ::runs of to Waterstones::

From votebob: I can think of no better way to be seduced than by being read to. I swear, as soon as I find someone who opts out of the flowers and cornball "I've never met anyone like you before!" lines in favor of reading to me, they will have my love forever.

From saavikam77: Hee heee!!! ^_^ *giggles madly* I *love* the literary tone, over what was so obvious to everyone but Matt. :p

*snuggles this fic* ^_^

From arabella_w: the perfect way to end the day! the poetry part was my favourite! And the fragment from 'I could write a book' just made me melt into a puddle of goo!!

tons of love to you for make so happy

From boudecia7: I love when you mix the sexy with smart :) You just rock my world nonstop!