the world is shifting in a way that alexander is not prepared for in the least. he used to be able to recall the day he put luna in the hospital easily, from the worn tiles on the floor to the buzz of the florescent lights. it has haunted his nightmares for years now, the details of that room, searching fruitlessly for the indication of malevolence in the man that would kill his husband.

his mind drifts to the memory often enough that having it cast there on an otherwise long flight to paris feels natural. he lets his mind whirr over the details again, over the way the scrubs had looked on the man, on the nurse who had helped luna into the wheelchair to wheel him in. his eyes droop naturally as he is pulled into the memory, into the half haze of a dream.

a detail that has always struck him was that the nurse had blonde hair, that seemed a little darker than usual. she had seemed a little flustered that day, as if she had some suspicion that something was wrong. it's something he's lingered on more than once, the suspicion that she knew.

this time, however, there's something odd about her. in this dream, she has dark brunette hair. she seems taller than alexander remembers her, her face more set than before. his mind twists, feels a twinge of discomfort. she doesn't fit.

that's not the only thing he starts to realize is off about this remembrance. for another thing, the person in the wheelchair is not luna: it instead looks like a woman with blonde hair, in her maybe early thirties. she looks delicate, afraid as she looks up at him, eyes teary. instead of feeling what should be confusion, there's a surge of emotions in alexander: sadness, determination and... love for her that is almost overwhelming.

it bothers him. she isn't familiar to him, at all. his fingers move forward in this memory anyway, to run themselves through her hair (thinning, not as healthy as it used to be), down her cheek (cold, colder than it should be). "please, nora," nora has to be her name with the soft, tender way he says it, "don't worry. i'm here, with you."

"victor," her lips tremble, "victor, are you sure about this?"

there is no other option than to say, "yes, nora. i am."

the memory warps around her smile, hopeful and happy. the colors of the place shift into a darker tone, the blondness of her hair growing brighter. suddenly, he realizes that the hospital is an empty wing, without a nurse. the lights are a different kind of fluorescent; older, and in some places, the lights are missing. he is wearing a lab coat, and he leans down to kiss nora's hair, as tender as any husband.

he draws back, determination settling in him. he--

a hand touches his shoulder. alexander's eye snap open, knees bolting upwards into a flight tray. he looks to his left, and the flight attendant's blonde hair seems dull in comparison to-- to what was supposed to have been a memory of luna.

"we're landing in a few moments," the attendant says.

"thank you," he reaches for the tray, hands trembling as he slots it up.

II. Feeling helpless I look for distraction I go searching for you

"you don't need me to help you with this course," luna's voice is steady, calm and has that flint of tone that alexander was starting to recognize as an opening silo to an argument. "you haven't opened up that book the entire time you've been here with me."

caught, alexander isn't quite sure how he should respond to this. he keeps looking at luna's hands, poised in front of him perfectly clasped together, not touching the food alexander had ordered a few minutes ago. he feels as if he's been chastised by this man he's looked up to for months, who he followed onto this campus to know better--even if he would never admit such a thing outloud for fear of what it could mean, to admit to that. he swallows, looks up and tries to say something that doesn't feel foolish (luna makes him feel deeply foolish, sometimes)...

and comes up empty. his mouth closes, jaw clenching with the inability to voice what he wanted to say.

luna is patient, saintly almost, with his silence as it stretches onward.

it takes a few more moments of silence until alexander can finally voice, "no. i don't," he looks up fully, still struggling with what precisely he's feeling, sitting here in luna's kitchen, fingers nervously reaching out to start unpacking the chinese food before him. "you're smarter than-- i..." he feels as if there's something just beyond his grasp for what he wants to say, needs to say. he wants to get there, to stop feeling thrust under a spotlight like this.

luna's fingers touch his own on the bag. alexander freezes at the sudden touch. there are a thousand reasons as to why luna would have reached out to deliberately touch him with the first five being the ones that make him uncomfortable, as none of those ideas are something that he thinks luna shares.

and yet, he can't make himself pull away.