Title: "Devouring Ecstasy"
Fandom: Dead Poets Society
Pairing: Neil Perry [Robert Sean Leonard]/Todd Anderson [Ethan Hawke]
Author: MonaR. (aka Mona Ramsey, aka Mona)
Series: No.
Webpage: The bare skeleton of one at:
Archive: Yes to The Marrow of Life.
Rating: PG.
Warning: October Challenge story for slash-writers. [Since it's a "Ghost Story" challenge, that means that someone has *already* died.]
Notes: I don't use betas. :( Any mistakes are solely my fault and the fault of my *#^&@ spellcheck. ** is used for emphasis, // for thought. Any weird characters should be hunted down and killed.
Spoilers: Oh, yes. If you haven't seen - or don't remember - the movie, this probably won't be meaningful, no matter how hard I wish it would be. :)
Summary: Todd prepares a eulogy for the Dead Poets Society on the occasion of Neil's death.

{I re-watched this movie to see Josh Charles, and fell in love with him - and with his love story with Chris, the girl of his dreams. So, no slash possibilities there. However, that didn't mean that there weren't *any*.
I confess that I don't understand people who don't like poetry - it's *such* a love of my life, it *sings*. Walt Whitman may have been the closest thing to perfection in the nineteenth century. Just may have been. . .}

"Devouring Ecstasy"
by MonaR.

Walt Whitman wrote:

'Of him I love day and night I dream'd I heard he was dead,
And I dream'd I went where they had buried him I love, but he
     was not in that place,
And I dream'd I wander'd searching among burial-places to find him,
And I found that every place was a burial-place;
The houses full of life were equally full of death, (this house is now,)
The streets, the shipping, the places of amusement, the Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia,
     the Mannahatta, were as full of the dead as of the living,
And fuller, O vastly fuller of the dead than of the living;
And what I dream'd I will henceforth tell to every person and age,
And I stand henceforth bound to what I dream'd,
And now I am willing to disregard burial-places and dispense with them,
And if the memorials of the dead were put up indifferently everywhere,
     even in the room where I eat or sleep, I should be satisfied,
And if the corpse of any one I love, or if my own corpse, be duly
     render'd to powder and pour'd in the sea, I shall be satisfied,
Or if it be distributed to the winds I shall be satisfied.'

They look at me like I was supposed to know - the way I look at myself in the mirror; they look at me like I'm supposed to know and tell them. Like I knew, and I just didn't say anything, because I don't speak. Like you can look at someone and know.

Charlie was the one who told me. That was who he was - the straight-shooter, the one who would tell it the way that it was, whether it was brave or stupid, without those few seconds in between that other people take to figure out which. Charlie was the talker, the bullshitter, the one who would try anything once and sometimes more than once if he liked it well enough. Knox was the one who loved, Pitt the one who would do anything for you as long as you let him pretend it wasn't a big deal, Cameron the fink. We all walked our own way, like Mr. Keating said - we all walked our own way even when we walked together. I'm the one terrified of the sound of my own voice - terrified of the thoughts in my head, even. The silent one.

Neil was the one who lived.

God-*damn* he made me frightened for him. It was like I couldn't be frightened enough of life just for myself; I had to be frightened of it for him, too. But that way, it was like a little of it was my own - a little of that greasepaint on my face, a little of that fairydust that he sprinkled on the stage, a little of the passion that he felt could be mine. He let me have it, drew me in to his circle, right from day one. I thought I'd hate it here - that was all that I'd ever heard about my whole life, all that I was *supposed* to be. The shadow, following in big brother's footsteps: Jeffrey Anderson, valedictorian, National Merit Scholar - a carbon copy of him, not quite as sharp or as in focus as the original. But Neil got that out of the way quickly - not by ignoring it, 'cause that would have been obvious and stupid. He acknowledged it, and moved on. After that, there was no more "Oh, you're *that* Anderson," not from any of them. I'm not sure that it was all his doing, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was. He took me under his wing - like he didn't have *enough* on his plate already, but he did it like it was a given. Like it was the thing that all roommates did - which was bullshit, because Charlie and Cameron *hated* each other, from day one. With good reason, it turned out, but nobody knew that then. You can't just *look* at someone and know -

Maybe not anything.

Dalton was the one who approached me, not the other way around. Charlie. I think I can call him Charlie, or maybe I think I should. He was the one who looked at me like he was looking through me - not like Neil, not like he wanted to get to know me, but like he knew me already, like he knew everything that I was afraid of, and the list wasn't that long. He didn't scare me, though - a lot of the things that he did do scared the shit out of me, but not that. I wasn't even surprised when he kissed me - on the lips, in the dark, in the bathroom after lights out. My heart was beating so fast it was like a baby bird's - so fast you can't even distinguish the beats from one another, like it was going to pop right out of my chest and lie pounding on the floor - and he tasted like cigarettes, and apples, and toothpaste. He was my first kiss - and my second - and it was good. It was okay. It was what it was. It didn't matter to Charlie. Hell, he would have screwed a hole in a tree trunk. That's not an insult - that's just Charlie.

God, I'm going to miss him. He just might have been able to make some of this bearable. He made a lot of it bearable already, but for *me* - I don't think that any of it was bearable to him, and I wouldn't have taken that final hit on Cameron away from him for anything - not even for me. If he hadn't done it - If he hadn't done it, it wouldn't have been done.

And what did I do? My best friend died, and the best teacher that I've ever had is blamed and fired, and I can't do *anything* but stand on a desk and open my mouth too late. Too late. "O Captain! My Captain!" Lines for a dead president. No, really - that's what they were. For Lincoln. For Keating.

For Neil.

They're putting me in a different room after the break; they think that will be easier for me. A different cell, with a different roommate, maybe on a different floor. It wouldn't surprise me if they spread all of us out just as far as they can, because we frighten them, because they don't understand us. I wonder if they think it will be easier if I just fall in love again - I kissed Charlie and he knew - I think he looked at me and knew - that I loved Neil. I never decided what I wanted to be when I grew up - other than what my parents expect and always have expected of me - but I knew that what *I* wanted to be wasn't him. I didn't want to *be* him, I wanted to be the person beside him. Neil's friend. And being his friend it wouldn't have been like being my brother's shadow, you see, because he wouldn't have let me be that. He would have pulled me forward, by his side. That's what he did for me.

He loved his dad so much, and I think his dad thinks he hated him - that Neil killed himself because he hated him. I mumbled something incoherent to his mother, who was equally incoherent and bewildered and strangely disconnected, but I couldn't even look at his dad, at the funeral - I couldn't. I wouldn't let myself. I wanted to smash his face in, because Neil loved him and he didn't know it, and he'll never know. And that's all I wanted, you see - I wanted Neil to love me, and if he had, I would have *known*. I would have made it my business to know. It was like Knox and Chris - when he saw her, it was love at first sight. I knew exactly what he meant, and he didn't even know her then, but it didn't matter. Neil was my *best friend* - I knew everything about him, I lay in my bed at night and listened to him *breathe* and I showered with him and I studied beside him and I *watched* him and I knew *everything* about him -

Everything but what I should have known. Everything but what he couldn't even tell me. Maybe he didn't know himself. Maybe he didn't know until he picked up the gun, and put it to his head. Maybe he didn't know even when it went off.

I hope he didn't know. I hope he wasn't thinking about it, wondering what it would be like. I hope it didn't hurt him if he did know.

Charlie told me, knowing when he put his hand on my shoulder that I would brush him away, even though he'd never come into my - our - room after dark except to rouse us out for one of the Dead Poet's meetings, and those were scheduled far in advance, so we'd be ready with our clothes on and our flashlights and our coats pulled up. And when I felt him touch my arm, my first thought wasn't even that he was coming to me for sex. I don't know why I didn't think that, to be honest. I didn't even see the tears on his face because my eyes weren't open yet, and then I saw them all. I wanted what he was telling me not to be true, but it was.

I had to go out in the snow, I had to go, to see it from a different perspective, even though it didn't make it different. Neil was dead inside and he was dead outside. They all trailed behind me, and all that I could think of was how beautiful it was. That was my first thought: that it was white and clean and beautiful, and that Neil would have loved it. And he hated the cold; he used to sit on what passed for a radiator in our room just to get some warmth into his bones - he was so thin you could practically see right through him, and so pale, and so lanky, and so funny-looking, with those big brown eyes that just showed everything that he felt like all the nerve-endings on his skin. He shouldn't have been graceful, or beautiful, but he was, he was in everything that he ever did, from jumping around on the furniture to kicking a soccer ball on the field to reciting Shakespeare on the stage. He was beautiful, and I thought he wasn't afraid, and now he's dead.

I really don't think he was afraid of anything - not even his father - except the terrible possibility of not being allowed to *live*. Not just 'be alive' - being alive isn't anything to be proud of, everyone is alive from the moment that they're born until the day that they die. But only those lucky few who decide what they want to be and know how to make it happen ever *live* for even a moment in their lives - like Neil in Mr. Keating's class, Neil in the Dead Poet's Society, Neil on the stage. Neil lived all of that - he breathed it in, and that was the 'marrow of life', to him, to be sucked out and transformed into experience and thought and blood and breath. That was what his father did to him; it wasn't a punishment. It was the end of his life as he saw it, and not even the end of the year, or the promise of freedom could transform that. Nothing could, except a bullet.

It was only when his father came that I ever saw something of myself in Neil, although I looked all the time. It was only when the man would berate him and push down his spirit and take away his tongue that I recognized who I was in my friend. It was the only time I ever saw him small. He used to come back to the room after his father had been here, or when he called home on the pay-phone downstairs, and he'd be really silent, and even paler than usual. I learned to stop asking after the first couple of times if he was all right. He'd just sit there, with a book open in front of him, his head bent over the same page for twenty minutes or even an hour, until he felt like it was okay to turn out the light and crawl into bed. And even then it still wouldn't be gone; he would lie there for a long time, waiting for enough time to pass so he could pretend that I was asleep, and then he would cry, silently, like nothing I could even hear except the tears sliding down his face, into the pillow. But we both knew that I knew. I pretended that I didn't hear him crying at night, and he pretended that he didn't know that I loved him. It was our trade-off, our secret pact. It was okay. It was what it was.

I kissed Charlie twice - maybe three times - and he would have let me kiss him more, and touch him, and pretend he was Neil. I couldn't do it. I think I liked him too much to do that - Charlie, I mean. And Neil. I could never pretend anyone was Neil,and I never will. If I ever have anyone - well, I won't be able to do that, not to them, not to Neil, and most of all not to myself. So they keep looking at me and they want me to tell them why he did it, because I'm supposed to know. Because I'm the one who loved him, and if you love someone, you're supposed to know them. But I don't know. I don't know. Sometimes, I think I don't know anything, and if I open my mouth, nothing's going to come out. I'm that afraid. Not even Neil could teach me not to be afraid *all* the time.

Walt Whitman wrote:

'And who has receiv'd the love of the most friends? for I know what it is to receive
     the passionate love of many friends,
And who possesses a perfect and enamor'd body? for I do not believe
     any one possesses a more perfect or enamor'd body than mine,
And who thinks the amplest thoughts? for I would surround those thoughts,
And who has made hymns fit for the earth? for I am mad with devouring ecstasy to
     make joyous hymns for the whole earth.'

Maybe that's what I think it was. Maybe that's what I should tell them, if they would listen: that Neil died because he was mad with devouring ecstasy, to make joyous hymns for the whole earth.

The End

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