I wake to the cool air and salt tang of a pacific breeze in the island night. I instinctively reach for him, but my arm sweeps through emptiness in the rumpled, still-warm sheets.
I look round and sense relief. He has opened the tall windows and is looking out at the ocean. The translucent white drapes billow inside like sails, dancing around his silver, naked body, his hair gleaming white in the moonlight, like an aura. I try to burn the image in my mind.
He is so still, and silent, it begins to worry me. 'Illya?'
He turns his head, and there's a look I've never seen before—sad and urgent. In a moment, he has crossed the floor and covered my body with his, pressing his mouth to mine for a long, intense moment. Breaking the kiss, he cups my face softly, caressing my jaw, his eyes seeking deeply into mine. When he speaks, his voice is heartbroken, and hopeful.
'I want to come back here, Napoleon, when it's all over. To this place. I want to be here forever. With you. Now.'
I look into his eyes and I realise he isn't talking about when we retire. He's talking about when we.......
The painful throb of my heart is momentary. My imagination always breaks before our parting. But then a warm conviction of the fitness, the rightness of it, takes over, leaving a deep, bittersweet contentment.
He wants me. Now—and Then.
It's a pact. I smile. We will not be separated.
'Yes,' I whisper, tightening my arms around him. 'This is where I want to be, too, with you. Let's come back here, Illya.'
He hides his damp eyes in kissing me, hard, and burying his face against my chest.
I've never really believed in anything, beyond a hopeful faith in whatever good lies in humanity. No eternal bliss. Certainly not forgiveness. I never knew whether the absence of faith made me more, or less afraid, of death. I only knew the gambles I took seemed worth it, given the prize. Now, since him, I find myself, more and more often, weighing the chips in my hand.
Knowing this is waiting makes it easier. Sweetens the gamble we both must take. Eternity, my friends, is not on the table.
Someone once said that man creates his own heaven, and his own hell. This is all the paradise I can imagine. I have no use for hell.
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