Where There’s Smoke

by Pixxers

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/114209.html)

I.
It’s been dark for hours, but he’s completely unaware. He’s joked about it before – occupational hazards – but where there are no windows, there is no natural light. The lab is empty, his co-workers long since packed up and gone home for the evening. He vaguely remembers waving goodbye to the janitor but can’t remember any verbal exchange. His eyes feel gritty and with each passing second, his eyelids get just the tiniest bit heavier. He knows he’ll have to quit soon, if only because the words on the screen before him are beginning to run together and the ache between his shoulders is steadily making its way up his neck, promising a spectacular sort of headache. His stomach growls; it’s been hours since he’s eaten and the half-empty bag of stale cheetos he found in his desk drawer didn’t go very far.

After saving his recent links, he shuts off his computer, rolls away from the desk. He’s unsteady on his feet when he stands and as he rolls his chair beneath the desk, he scrubs his eyes with one fist. Mid-yawn, he is startled by a loud thump, then a crash.

Before he is able to take a moment to ask himself precisely what he expects to find, he’s headed toward lab six at a breakneck pace. His sneakers squeaking on the linoleum floor and the whirr of the filtration system behind the walls are the only sounds now. Even as he stands before the lab door, patting himself down for his key-card, he hears no sounds from within. Perhaps he was mistaken and the sounds hadn’t come from this direction. Perhaps he was simply delusional from lack of sleep and hadn’t really heard anything at all.

But then he hears fumbling within the lab and the sharp crunch of glass breaking. And then he hears the voice – low, strained, words in a language that he doesn’t understand but that could only be cursing – and he swipes his card before he gives himself the opportunity to chicken out. It’s bad enough that he’s in the lab after security has left, if it’s discovered that he sat back and allowed a break-in to occur while he cowered in the hallway, he’ll never be able to face his coworkers again.

Pulling himself up straight to his full five feet and four inches, he braces himself for what he might find. He cannot see inside the lab – the light from the hallway is too bright – and so he slips inside and allows the door to click shut behind him. He leans against it, heart beating fast, and squints into the near-darkness. The air is thick with an acrid, overpowering scent that he cannot place and when he moves closer to the light panel on the wall, he pauses. There, not four feet away, is a luminous cloud of smoke. It hovers about the mess on the floor, obscuring the countertop just beyond.

He buries his nose and mouth in the crook of one arm, breathing safely behind the sleeve of his lab coat. He cannot stay inside the lab without a mask much longer and he glances around frantically for some hint as to how this mess came to be. He can see no one in the lab and knows that if such a reaction had occurred after hours, the cleaning crew would have notified Dr. Bettinger immediately.

The smoke shifts, rolling toward him and parting to reveal the shattered glass and puddles of liquid on the floor. He takes an involuntary step back. From within the cloud of smoke appears the figure of a man. He is careful where he steps, finicky and unsatisfied. He is thin, but fit – smoke curling about his long legs only serving to highlight the fact that he is wearing no clothes. He tilts his head when he steps forward – expression curious and open – and long, loose curls slide over one bare shoulder. He blinks once or twice, waving the smoke away and hissing in discomfort when he shifts his weight. He is bleeding, shards of glass having cut into the soft pad of his foot.

“I’ve cut myself,” he says, staring hard at the man gaping at him just a few feet away.

“Ah…how did you…why are you…”

Unable to form even the simplest of questions with such a man staring so unflinchingly at him, he glances again to the mess at the man’s feet. There are important questions to ask, he knows. How did you get in here? Who in the hell are you? Why aren’t you wearing any clothes?

In the end, however, all he can do is motion to the man before him and hope that he is not a murdering psychopath on a rampage. “You need to step away from that. I’m not certain what you’re standing in.”

The man obeys, each step hesitant and anticipatory and the further away from the smoke he moves, the less visible his features become.

“Let me turn on the light,” he says, holding one hand out cautiously. “Stay right there.”

The man nods, picking up his hurt foot and standing perfectly still until the switch is flipped. The lab is flooded with light and he makes a small sound of displeasure when he lifts one bare arm to shield his eyes.

“Too bright,” he objects, still holding his position. He looks like a bird in water – it is almost laughable.

“Can you sit down?” he asks. “We need to do something about your foot.”

When he lowers his arm, still squinting, he is frowning, petulant. His gaze falls to the card suspended from his rescuer’s lab coat. “Ellis,” he says. “Ellis Nakamura.”

Ellis smiles faintly, unable to believe the sequence of events that have unfolded tonight. Never the sort of man who is capable of smooth words, he finds that he is even less articulate in the presence of this odd man. He is beautiful – in a way that Ellis has never imagined anyone could be – with long, dark hair and big dark eyes. His limbs are shapely but not lacking the substance of a man. He is completely unabashed, not seeking to hide his nudity nor giving any hint as to how he found his way inside the lab.

The heat kicks on then, the vent nearest the broken glass thinning the smoke and chasing it away. The man reaches for Ellis, eyes wide, but the smoke dissipates quickly and he vanishes.

Slack-jawed, Ellis braces one hand on the wall and gapes at the shattered test tubes on the floor. Streaks of blood remain where the man once stood, and Ellis knows that he will have to clean up the mess before he leaves.

II.
Dawn comes far too soon. The unanswered questions that plagued him even as he slipped into bed spawned a restless, uneasy night, and all that Ellis remembers upon awakening are the disjointed, unfamiliar, and entirely inappropriate dreams that had seemed to last the whole night through. He disentangles himself, sheets twisted and damp about his legs. His runs a hand through his hair, rubs his face. He grimaces when he gains his feet – he’s painfully hard inside his shorts.

He leaves the light off in the bathroom, enjoys the sunlight streaming in through the small window over the shower. A tiny bird hops along the ledge, balancing precariously as it sings to the sky. Ellis turns the water on, his thoughts dark despite the promise of the day. He imagines arriving at work, visiting a lab in which he does not belong and attempting to reconcile what he’d seen the previous night. Or, more likely, what he’d imagined he’d seen. He imagines calling his mother later, having returned home far too late these past several days to call her and let her know that he is still alive. He’s forgetful that way and always has been, his inability to relate to people the way they seem to require clearly the reason he continues to live alone, year after year.

‘How have you been, son?’ his mother will ask. ‘Oh, fine,’ he’ll answer. ‘Same old thing,’ he’ll joke, though there is nothing to laugh about. ‘Are you seeing anyone?’ she’ll ask, voice hopeful the way it always is. ‘No,’ he might say. ‘But I made a man in the lab last night.’

He steps under the spray, disgusted with himself. He can’t even take the credit for the man’s existence since the chemistry project gone wrong wasn’t even his screw-up.

He closes his eyes, lets the hot water soothe him. Perhaps he shouldn’t waste the emotional energy on something so ridiculous. He’s probably only losing his mind, anyway.

Steam begins to rise; Ellis closes his eyes and breathes it deep into his lungs. He’s tense and conflicted – perhaps its time to admit that the constant solitude is beginning to wear him down.

No. This is the life he chose – this is the way of it. He can’t seem to form those types of bonds, can’t relate. He finds social rituals alien and exhausting. He doesn’t want to share his life, his space, his belongings – his mind.

“Forget it,” he says aloud. “This is stupid. I’m fine the way I am.”

He presses one hand to the shower door, smears the condensation. The steam is thick now – just the way he likes it – and though the hot water will turn his pale skin pink, it feels delicious in the moment. He leans against the door, lets the water pelt his shoulders and allows his thoughts to drift.

The air grows heavy, charged, and before he can open his eyes, he feels the sudden presence at his back.

“Ellis Nakamura,” the familiar voice murmurs, breath and steam hot at his ear. He doesn’t move when the man’s arms slip around him, hands splayed protectively at his chest.

Ellis doesn’t have to turn to know that the man is naked. He is strangely calm – shouldn’t he be hysterical?

“You came back,” he says, drowsy from the heat.

“Yes,” the man answers. “Hello.”

“Hi,” Ellis murmurs, eyes barely open when he turns slowly.

The man is quiet, expression neutral. His hair hangs in thick, wet ropes against his neck and over his shoulders. He holds Ellis tightly, pulls him close.

‘How’s your foot?’ Ellis wants to ask, but he says nothing when the man tilts his head and leans in to press a tentative kiss to the corner of Ellis’ mouth. He lifts his chin in silent invitation and it is nothing for Ellis to slide his hands along the man’s arms and over his shoulders to grip him there, holding him in place.

He is certain that he intended to speak, but only manages to murmur against the man’s lips. He is suddenly, urgently aroused, fingers digging into the man’s shoulders. He is solid, perfect.

‘Kiss me,’ he doesn’t say, rising on tiptoes and delighting in the way the man’s arms tighten about him, bearing his weight. Men don’t swoon, he thinks, swaying, head spinning. But then the man is kissing him the way he would never have asked him to and Ellis gives it up. Ever the observer, he takes note of the precise moment that he ceases to require explanation and lets his eyes close. He shifts against the other, restless and seeking, and winds his arms around the man’s neck to fist handfuls of heavy, soaked hair in his hands. He is strong – so much stronger than Ellis would have imagined – and when he wraps his legs around the man’s hips to feel his cock heavy and insistent against his own, he realizes precisely what he is asking for.

His back is pressed to the shower wall, the man’s lips hot at his throat. Ellis feels as though he could simply lose consciousness, drift toward the far-reaching corners of whatever plane this man occupies when he is not holding Ellis.

He gasps, eyes gone wide when the man’s fingers are inside him. He claws at the man’s shoulders and squirms against him. He wants to be fucked, wants to be claimed. But he doesn’t want to ask for it.

Lax with pleasure, his legs slip, toes reaching toward the floor. The man has three fingers inside him, tormenting. It feels so damn good when his legs aren’t spread.

He moans, attempting to stand when his feet touch the floor and then the man is turning him, guiding him to face the wall. Palms flat against slippery tile, Ellis can see nothing inside the shower – it is all mist, all thick, permeating steam. The man’s hands are gentle when he grips his waist; Ellis arches his back. Fuck me. He cannot say the words.

Smooth palms along the line of his back, the insides of his thighs. He is spread, opened. It is almost more than he can take, steam seeping into his every pore, the man kneeling behind him breathing hot. He noses into him, lips soft and tongue insistent. There is no hesitation in his attentions and Ellis feels certain that the man is enjoying their progression as much as he does himself.

More, further, the man’s fingers slipping into him again when he ducks his head to nuzzle behind Ellis’s scrotum. Finally, perhaps for the first time ever, Ellis finds his voice. From deep within him the pleasure mounts and though he cannot suck air into his lungs fast enough, he mewls, groans, demands with the sort of sounds that he has never shared with another being.

He opens his eyes, only briefly, to see his dick bouncing against his lower belly. It is flushed dark and so hard that Ellis aches. He arches his back that much further, changing the angle of the man’s fingers inside him. He begins to cry out, to call out for something that he cannot articulate and it is only then, so deep inside his mind that tactile sense fails him, that he realizes the water has cooled considerably.

The steam begins to thin and when his cock jerks to spill onto the tile below, he can no longer feel the man inside him, beside him.

“No,” he moans, head bowed miserably to watch the water wash the evidence of his release down the drain. “Not again.”

He squeezes his eyes shut tightly, the water runs cold on the back of his neck – a direct contrast to the heat and moisture pricking his eyes.

III.
He is listless at work. Melancholy is a ridiculous thing to be, but it is what Ellis feels.

There has been no mention of the incident in lab six the night before and for that, Ellis is grateful. He is prone to accident – his hyper-awareness of his own propensity to awkwardness and mistakes making him even less effective than he already is. His father, respected and revered, may be the only reason he is allowed to continue his research under Dr. Bettinger. While he never considered not pursuing a career in science, he never felt he was exceptional at it — like his father. Yuma Nakamura was somebody: coming to the States when he was just eighteen, making shocking and admirable strides in microbiology just a few months after having received his diploma. Meeting and marrying Cicely Davenport, allowing his beautiful socialite wife to cut a clear swath through the upper echelons of high society while Yuma wrote papers, completed research, made his own place in a world in which Ellis had never been comfortable. Hiding away in a lab is all that he knows and all that he suspects he will ever know.

“Ellis?”

He glances up, blinking away his muddled thoughts. Sheri Crandall stands before him, smiling and inviting. It doesn’t mean anything, he knows. She’s nice to everyone.

“It’s past lunch, aren’t you hungry?”

He shrugs, realizing that he is not. “Not particularly.”

“You should take break, at least,” she admonishes. “You’ll wear yourself out.”

Too late, Ellis thinks. But he smiles wanly. “Thank you, Sheri.”

She walks away and Ellis removes his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose. Shifting in his chair, he grimaces. His ass hurts. It’s a comfort, really. Loneliness can manifest in strange delusions but Ellis doubts he is imaginative enough to conjure up a physical discomfort in accompaniment.

He is not hungry, he maintains, but perhaps a break and a cup of tea is a good idea. Most likely, he will be late leaving the lab – he has plenty of time to finish what he’s been working on.

The cafeteria doesn’t offer much in the way of refreshment. His mother would be appalled, but hot water and a bag of Lipton is the best that Ellis can do.

He sits near the bar and gazes dispassionately into the cup as he tears the tea bag open. It doesn’t smell very good and Ellis wishes he’d thought to find a package of honey in the condiment bin.

He leans close to the cup, condensation immediately cool on his nose when he pulls away again.

“It’s not enough,” someone says, a whisper just next to his ear, though there is no one around. “You have to do better than this, Ellis Nakamura.”

He sits up straight, excited. His heart beats fast. “You.”

“I’m sorry I had to leave you earlier,” his secret says. “It wasn’t enough, either.”

“Why didn’t you tell me so?” Ellis demands, sinking down in his chair, embarrassed when the lunch lady gives him an odd look.

“You were so delicious,” the voice responds, voice dipping lower. Ellis feels his balls tighten.

“Who are you?” Ellis asks, whispering now too. “Did you come from that accident in the lab?”

He laughs. Ellis nearly squirms.

“I can come from wherever I want,” he assures Ellis, confident and playful. “The smoke makes for an easy portal, though.”

“Smoke?” Ellis repeats, entirely bewildered. He is losing his mind. He is certain of it, now. If it hadn’t been science that had made this man’s existence possible, Ellis isn’t sure he wants to hear the truth. Any other alternatives will just be too weird.

“Smoke, mist, vapor, condensation,” here he pauses, tone positively obscene. “Steam,” he adds meaningfully.

Ellis feels his ears go hot. They are probably bright, flaming red. Thinking about it makes his whole face hot.

“Oh,” he manages. “I…”

He hesitates, stumbling over his thoughts, his words. He has no idea what to say or how to say it. He aches, though. Sitting alone in a hard, cold cafeteria chair, his loneliness and desire a hard ball in his stomach.

“Call me to you again, Ellis Nakamura. I’ve given you the means. It’s up to you.”

“Wait,” Ellis interrupts, certain that the man is about to leave him again. “Who are you?”

The quiet amusement so lightly aloft on one lingering tendril of steam warms Ellis’ chin. “Yarilo,” he says, the odd accent he’d noticed that first time he’d heard Yarilo speak prevalent in the cadence of his name.

Passing his hand over the untouched cup of tea, Ellis lets out the breath he didn’t realize he was holding.

Yarilo.

IV.
He is home by six o’clock for perhaps the first time in years. He bathes quickly but very thoroughly and spends twenty minutes combing his hair and brushing his teeth. It feels strange to prepare for a date with someone who won’t be coming in through the front door. Or the window. Or even the fire escape.

On the way home, he’d stopped for wine and flowers. Having absolutely no idea what he should choose, he’d selected the plainest label he could find and picked up a basil plant. At least that would go on living and would actually serve a purpose after tonight is over.

Now, the wine is open on the kitchen table and the basil plant sits just next to it. Ellis feels it would be better suited in the windowsill but since he’s purchased it to set the mood, he feels it should be a centerpiece. At least for one night.

He lines his headboard with candles – mostly old ones he only uses when the power is out or he needs to relax – and when he’s done, he continues on into the bathroom and then the small living area just outside the kitchen. He reluctantly acknowledges that the sheer number of candles he’s set out might be overkill, but he wants to be absolutely certain that Yarilo doesn’t vanish before Ellis is ready to let him go.

He burns his fingertips on the last candle and drops the match on the floor with a yelp. He is quick to cover it with a discarded loafer and when he drops the match into the sink and turns on the faucet, he eyes the fire detector over the refrigerator. It certainly won’t do to have that go off when Yarilo is in his bed, and so he drags a chair away from the table and over to the wall. He takes the batteries out of the smoke detector and lays them in the windowsill.

Now. He is done.

He is apprehensive when he begins to loosen the belt of his robe. Is Yarilo already watching him? Is he waiting for the right moment? Has Ellis lit enough candles to bring him?

As he’s about to ease the robe away from his body, he wraps it tight again and holds it closed with one hand as he hurries to the bathroom. Under the sink is a bottle of peroxide, a box of band-aids, old shoe polish and a small jar of Vaseline. He feels ridiculous, preparing the way he is. If Yarilo fails to materialize, Ellis knows he will feel ten times a fool. Waking up alone in bed and seeing the unused jar first thing in the morning will be a rejection from which he’s not certain he will easily return.

“What’s that?” Yarilo asks, standing on the opposite side of the bed, near the headboard. Ellis spins about, startled, and drops the jar. His robe gaps when he hurriedly bends to pick it up and when he lifts his gaze to Yarilo again, his breath comes short.

Swathed about his hips is a burgundy cloth. Gold tassels line the edges but barely clear the tops of his thighs. His hair is loose. Ellis’ mouth is dry.

“You’re not naked,” he observes mildly.

Yarilo considers this. “You’re disappointed?”

Ellis shakes his head, standing slowly and clutching his robe as he sets the jar on one of the headboard’s shelves.

He knows, almost immediately, that there will be no consumption of wine tonight. Likely there will be little that does not involve sex as Ellis is nearly trembling from Yarilo’s proximity alone. Anticipation has made him hungry.

His chest rises and falls. It feels as though every hair on his body is standing at attention. Still and all, he cannot manage even one step in Yarilo’s direction.

“Pretty,” Yarilo says, looking around the room, eyes bright with candlelight. “It’s a good idea.”

Ellis swallows. “I didn’t know how else to bring you to me.”

Yarilo climbs onto the bed, then. He prowls. Ellis watches the muscles shift beneath his skin and he feels his cock jerk.

“I don’t want to hurry,” he announces, startled by the volume and vehemence of his own voice.

On his knees, Yarilo gathers his hair at the back of his neck and lets it glide though his fist to lay over one shoulder. “Nor do I. We will burn these candles out tonight, Ellis Nakamura.”

So saying, he holds out a hand to Ellis, eyes narrowing in focus when Ellis sheds his robe. The moment his palm slides over Yarilo’s, Ellis feels the air between them thicken. Around them, candles flicker to cast shadows on the walls and over the expanse of Yarilo’s tawny skin.

Seated before him, their knees touching, Ellis twines their fingers. He touches Yarilo’s thigh where the cloth rides highest and anticipates what he will find beneath.

“Go ahead,” Yarilo encourages softly. “I am yours.”

Glancing up in surprise, Ellis’ fingertips linger near the knotted cloth. “Mine? How is that?”

“You were so receptive to me. You wanted me. And so I returned to you.”

Ellis licks his lips, scoots closer. “I do want you,” he affirms. And then he is working the knot free, voice trembling on the smallest exhalation of breath when the cloth lies loosely across Yarilo’s lap. He rubs his dick, clearly delineated beneath dark red fabric, and wraps his fingers around the width of him when Yarilo spreads his thighs.

He doesn’t seek permission when he moves the cloth away and the observer in him is silent when he bows his head. Yarilo’s hands are in his hair, bleached strands not as silky as they once were, and he moans low in his throat when Ellis takes him inside. He toys with it, licking and sucking carefully, and his deliberate touches are more out of inexperience than any real knowledge of how to incite.

He was thick and hot against Ellis’ tongue, too good to pull back. Even when he is nudging the back of Ellis’ throat, the roof of his mouth, it is all Ellis can do not to wrap his tongue around him. He is consumed and he has never been consumed in his life – not like this.

Yarilo touches his neck, his jaw, strokes his cheek with the backs of his fingers.

“Will you let me inside?” he asks, as though it’s not a given. “When you come tonight, I want to feel you around me.”

Ellis nods, humming his assent, and Yarilo’s cock throbs against his tongue.

“Feels good,” Yarilo whispers. “It’s been too long…”

Ellis lifts his head, eyes wide, pupils dilated. “How long?”

Yarilo shakes his head, tugs at the ends of Ellis’ hair. “Too long to remember. The moment we touched, I knew I was in the right place.”

Ellis is silent, allows Yarilo to ease him back against the pillows. He follows him down, stretching out long and lean beside him. “It’s been a long time for you, too,” he says matter-of-factly.

Face turned toward the pillow, Ellis’ belly tightens. Forever, he thinks. It’s been forever.

“I don’t want you to go,” he whispers, heart heavy and eyes shut tight when Yarilo leans over him. Long strands of his hair tickle the skin stretched firmly over his ribcage and Ellis cannot keep his hands out of it when Yarilo rubs his cheek against one nipple. He stiffens, back arched, when Yarilo’s lips close over it to suck lightly.

“We’ve barely begun,” he reminds Ellis, happy with his silence when he explores his body. His touch is light, practiced, and he touches Ellis as though they’ve done this a thousand times before.

Ellis doesn’t say a word when Yarilo crawls between his legs. He closes his eyes when Yarilo bends his head to him, bites his lip when his attentions intensify.

He is panting for breath when Yarilo rolls him to his belly, hauls his hips up. “Like this,” he says, smoothing the palms of his hands over Ellis’ bottom. “Pretty,” he says again. “You fit, Ellis Nakamura. Into my hands.”

Into me, Ellis thinks, hands burrowing beneath his pillow when Yarilo spreads him open to lick him. This time, it goes on for long moments and when he moans into the pillow, Yarilo rubs his balls with the flat of his hand. They are drawn up tight. Ellis shivers.

He alternates, fingering Ellis slow, deep and then leaning in to taste him again. He does this for what seems like hours, until Ellis feels unbearably open and ready. Before Yarilo, he’d never given much thought to what sort of pleasure he’d find with another person. Now, though, he couldn’t imagine a pleasure of any other sort or at anyone else’s hands.

“Please,” Ellis manages finally, turning his head and breathing hard. “It hurts.”

He reaches blindly along the shelf, finding the Vaseline and handing it back to Yarilo. “I’m sorry,” he says, embarrassed but wound too tightly to care. “It’s all I have.”

Yarilo is silent when he takes the jar, opens it. He dips his fingers inside, rubs the substance between them. He coats his palm, strokes his dick. He moans, eager now.

When he moves over Ellis, groin pressed to his bottom, Ellis opens his eyes. He grips the pillow, wanting to get his arms around Yarilo instead. One of the candles on the headboard has burned out. He stiffens, half turns to glance over his shoulder at Yarilo.

Gazing back, brow arched in question, Yarilo tilts his head. “Ellis?”

Ellis smiles a little, straddles Yarilo’s lap. “I want to hold you,” he says, winding his arms around Yarilo’s neck and kissing his mouth. It’s not easy to stop once he’s begun and as he becomes more aggressive, he turns the tide somewhat.

“Help me,” he murmurs, sucking that place just below Yarilo’s ear. He can say it. He closes his eyes. “Fuck me.”

Another candle burns out. Ellis holds on tighter. But Yarilo is solid against him, beneath him. He wastes no movement, no time, and as Ellis attempts to remain still, Yarilo’s fingers are inside him again. Two and then three and when he tries for a fourth, he kisses Ellis again. He is fire and aggression now, eager and desperate as only Ellis has been thus far.

There is a moment, when Yarilo presses snugly against him – seeking entrance – where Ellis wonders if he can take what he is about to be given. Regardless of the difficulty, he supposes he will manage. Yarilo is so hot and so real against him that there is no pain he would not gladly bear just to keep him.

His breath catches; Yarilo pushes inside and it is tight.

“God,” he hisses, fingers curled into claws at Yarilo’s shoulder blades.

“Almost,” Yarilo answers, breathing hard now, too. “Ellis.”

With one more surge, he is inside. Ellis does not breathe. Yet another candle flickers and goes dark.

Yarilo holds him in place, thrusting into him, lifting his hips, spreading him wide. Ellis is boneless, eyes rolled back and breath coming fast. He feels as though he is an extension of Yarilo, that he has somehow ceased to be and yet has become.

With both hands gripping his buttocks, Yarilo fucks him in slow, measured strokes – in and out and helping Ellis to move his hips in just the right rhythm.

Ellis is dying. It is dark, his eyes are closed. His dick is trapped between his belly and Yarilo’s, the friction overwhelming. The pressure within him is building and it feels as though Yarilo is pounding deep inside him, surging through him.

“I’m coming,” he warns against Yarilo’s mouth. He opens his eyes then – the candles still burn brightly, their flames erratic, their shadows long.

He hangs suspended, that split second before freefall, and Yarilo’s arms so tightly around him feel like the only things holding him to earth.

Moving to lay Ellis back among the pillows again, Yarilo leans over him, pushing against the backs of his thighs to open him up further still. He pounds into him now, hair bouncing against his shoulders, brow damp with sweat, eyes narrowed and focused.

Ellis grips his forearms, unwilling to forfeit any connection whatsoever. “Don’t go,” he says again. He will make it so, with words if he must. “Stay with me, Yarilo.”

Yarilo groans, head back, gripping Ellis’ ankles to spread his legs wide. He is close, he has lost his rhythm. Ellis watches him, unable to look away. It’s on his face, surrender and bliss, when he comes inside Ellis, pushing deep as though seeking to reach someplace untouchable.

His arms shake, he collapses atop Ellis, who reaches up to take him into the circle of his arms. If he holds tight enough, if he doesn’t let go, Yarilo will stay.

“If you ask me to stay, Ellis,” he murmurs, voice muffled against Ellis’ neck. “I won’t leave until I’m ready. You give me the right to share your space and your life indefinitely.”

Yes, Ellis nearly says. But what if there’s a catch? He still has no idea from whence Yarilo has come or where he might go if he did leave.

“I want you here,” he finally says. “Wherever I am, I want you there.”

Against his neck, Yarilo smiles.

“You’ll have to wear clothes,” he says, having been considering this new arrangement for several moments. “And we’ll have to say we met somewhere normal.”

“Normal?” Yarilo repeats.

“Yes. Perhaps at the museum. What do you know about history, Yarilo?”

Drowsy and content, Yarilo settles against the mattress, pulling Ellis over him to twine their arms and legs. “Quite a bit, actually,” he says, amusement audible in the tone of his voice.

Silence stretches between them and after another candle goes out, Ellis speaks softly. “What happens when all the candles go out?” He is not convinced that Yarilo is so easily won.

“I don’t know,” Yarilo yawns. “I’m planning to be asleep.”

He opens one eye. Ellis is staring at him intently, nervously.

“I’ll be right here,” he assures him. “As I told you before, I can do whatever I wish.”

Ellis snuggles in closer, reaching to tug the sheet over them. “All right,” he says. “I believe you.”

He is asleep before Yarilo has a chance to answer.

V.
He is stiff, having lain in the same position all night long. The sheets are cool, the sunlight is soft and unobtrusive through the drawn shades. He sits up quickly, heart in his throat as he looks around the room at the dormant candles.

There is splashing inside the bathroom. Within, Yarilo sings an odd song, voice pretty and light. Ellis scrubs his eyes, listening harder. Yarilo splashes and continues to sing and – finally – Ellis places the language.

Russian.

Ellis smiles and flops back among the pillows – he thinks he’ll take the day off. There’s a first time for everything, after all.

Mr. Tea, by andeburu

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