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TITLE: Goldschlager
AUTHOR: Novanumbernine
ORIGINAL STORY: Misfire by Oneangrykate
SUMMARY: What's a misunderstanding between friends?
NOTES: Kate, my dear, I do hope you like this!
DISCLAIMER: a rewrite of a work of total fiction


Instantly, Billy knows that the memory of this moment will be forever linked in his mind with the taste of cinnamon schnapps, so it seems a shame, under the circumstances, that it's one of the nastiest things he has ever tasted: oily and cloyingly sweet. Not to mention the cringe-making ersatz sophistication of this particular brand, with its snowstorm of tiny gold flakes swirling around at the bottom of the glass - a real hen-party tipple, make no mistake. Dom had merely scoffed when he'd ventured to suggest that ingesting itty-bitty particles of precious metal might not be good for you, but Billy could not help but worry. What would happen, for example, if you found yourself strangely addicted to the stuff? Would you die a lingering death as your veins slowly silted up with gold, like some kind of inverted Midas? And afterwards, who knew just what ugly scenes would transpire at the crematorium, as covetous relatives fought with each other for the right to pan the ashes?

The night before, he'd watched in disgust as Elijah and Dom had downed lurid red and blue liquers served up in tiny plastic tumblers like doses of medicine - and judging from the faces they'd pulled afterwards, that's exactly what the stuff had tasted like. No, give him an honest pint any day. It's just that right now, at 10am on a Sunday morning with a hangover looming like a thundercloud at the back of his head, all he wants is the hair of the dog, so to speak, and he's in no mood to be fussy. Dom had claimed that the schnapps was some long-forgotten present, but Billy was not so sure. After all, Dom was the kind of guy who'd go swaggering into bars and order the pussiest cocktail he could think of, just so that he had an excuse to start mouthing off. He'd rest his chin on the hammock of his interlaced fingers and gaze around, brazen as you like, comically pugnacious behind some absurd frothing goblet of pink fruit-decked fizz with a bendy straw sticking out of the corner of his mouth. Did you call my drink a poof? And maybe that's why Billy's face is now suddenly only inches from Dom's cheek, so close that he can feel the reflected warmth of his own cinnamon-scented breath against his lips.

...Or then again, maybe not.

Someone must have left the tap running last night: a stream of water thunders tinnily into the sink. I will remember this moment, thinks Billy, when I am an old man. Ever since he was very young, he has imagined himself in his dotage, shuffling his memories like a deck of cards, each reminiscence fingered soft and thin, playing out endless games of nostalgic solitaire. Billy thinks that amnesia must be the cruellest of afflictions, yet strangely enough the episodes he remembers with such eidetic clarity are rarely any great moments of sorrow or joy. Rather, he preserves the aftermath: that washed-up, washed-out feeling, the bleached bones of an emotion. He can recall stumbling into the kitchen just as Dom emerged grinning from the cupboard under the sink, brandishing the dusty bottle triumphantly, but between then and now there is nothing but a blur. He can't say for sure whether or not Dom turned his head away.

When you're clinging to the precipice, does your life fast-forward before your eyes, a final spooling of the tape? ...Although a mistimed, misplaced kiss between friends hardly rates as a life-or-death situation, all the same, Billy can see that time is elastic, that it can expand and contract. Right now, he is existing from attosecond to attosecond; it does not seem unrealistic that they might stand here forever. A shaft of watery sunlight streaming through the window illuminates the myriad tiny particles of dust swirling between them, as if they are standing inside the bottle of schnapps standing on the kitchen counter, caught in a sluggish blizzard of gold. The dust falls gently: it covers everything. Even the whites of their eyes would be covered with a soft fur if they stood here for long enough, unmoving, unblinking. Dust, thinks Billy, it's tiny flakes of human skin; they are standing in the fallout of each other.

When Dom pulls away, it comes almost as a surprise to Billy to recognise the hand that is somehow holding Dom's wrist as his own. He lets go and looks up, watching Dom through eyelashes starred with tiny rainbows. A rapid succession of expressions chase themselves across Dom's face, as if he is trying out all the possible reactions to the situation he can think of, in the hope that one might fit. Surprise, suspicion, wariness, alarm: in the end, he seems to settle for good old-fashioned confusion. Billy feels a faint sense of outrage. Just a minute, he wants to shout. Cut it right there. Rewind. I fucked up. Billy thinks that kisses, like declarations of love, are far too easily given, and surely, actors are the worst offenders, all that mwah-mwah business with both kisser and kissee watching over each others' shoulders, keeping a lookout in case something better should happen along. But what of all those kisses given in sincerity that somehow lose their way, all the kisses that are misconstrued or fail to reach their mark, all those frantic kisses blown after retreating backs, what becomes of them? Perhaps they are set free to flutter through the ether; perhaps they settle like butterflies, like motes of dust. Billy wants to stuff the kiss back into his mouth. He wants to try again - another drink, perhaps? - but this time, he fears that there is no second take.

Shit, he thinks: I missed.

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