Love in a Golden Bowl
Does the eagle know what is in the pit?
Or wilt thou go ask the Mole?
Can Wisdom be put in a silver rod
Or Love in a Golden Bowl?
"Illya, open the door, you're being a jackass." I didn't say it as loudly as I'd like to. I knew he was on the other side of the door listening, eyes snapping, his lips set in a stubborn thin line. God, I wondered if he knew how sexy he looked when he was angry. On the other side of the door was definitely not where I wanted to be for the holidays. "It wasn't what it looked like."
Well, it was what it looked like. My partner had come around the corner and found me in a lip lock with Jessica. She had just announced her engagement -the ring an early Christmas gift from her boyfriend—and I was offering my congratulations. Okay, so maybe I was a bit too enthusiastic with my sentiments, but Jess is a great kisser. Not that Illya isn't, mind you, but... do you know how long it had been since I'd kissed anyone besides Illya? It was just... well, I'm used to following my blood. This monogamy thing is still new to me. Hell, being in a relationship was hard enough; being in a relationship with another man, just shoot me now.
I rested my ear against the door, straining to hear the slightest hint of movement on the other side.
"Illya, please, can't we just talk face to face... man to man?" Lover to lover? I added mentally. I didn't know who might be listening. Illya's neighbors tended to come and go at a frightening pace. The people in my apartment complex never seemed to leave. The likelihood that the apartments around Illya's were empty or inhabited by strangers was good. All the same, we kept two apartments for the sake of appearances. It wouldn't do for me to blow this now.
"Illya, I don't want to fight with you. We're partners, we can work this out."
Nothing. The door stayed locked. I had a key; it would be an easy thing to unlock the door, force my way in, but that would spell the end to what was just starting to be quite the romance.
I sank to the floor and rested my back against the door, determined to wait him out. Of course, he was ome, he could take his time; I could only stave off biological needs for so long.
"Damn it, you idiot, I love you. Why are you doing this?"
"You're sitting on the floor in front of my apartment talking to my door and you're calling me an idiot?" The voice startled me into looking up. Illya was standing there, holding a paper sack propped up against one hip. He shifted sides as he dug out his keys. "And for the record, I love you as well, but I think this would be a conversation better undertaken inside."
He opened the door and walked in. The place had a stale smell to it. Illya was spending more and more of his time at my apartment, but we both understood the importance of keeping up the ruse, keeping our relationship secret. We'd gone to Waverly first thing. He wasn't overjoyed, but I think he understood. This wasn't exactly something either of us had planned. It just happened when we were busy saving the world, keeping it safe for the Average Joe. We risked our lives and ended up in love. To this day, I'm not sure which took more courage.
Illya set the bag down on the counter. It gave me the impression that he was planning on spending the night here, something that made my heart cringe. I'd gotten used to having him in bed with me, feeling the heat of his body, waking up a tangle of arms and legs, wrapped up in each other like some proverbial plate of spaghetti, making love, making love again... I didn't want him to stay here.
"Illya, I'm sorry...I didn't think... it was just a kiss."
"I know, Napoleon, and I'm sorry that I overreacted." He set the bag down and locked the door. "You've never given me any indication that you have been anything less than faithful. I don't know what came..."
I used that as an excuse to kiss him then and there. There are times when it's impossible to tell the difference between kissing a man and a woman, well, with your eyes closed at any rate. There was no mistaking who I was in a lip lock with now, though. Illya's five o'clock shadow rasped against mine, the lingering scent of his aftershave and the soap we shared in the shower that morning and the very masculine smell of a man who works for his living drifted up my nose reminding me that this was a very dangerous man I was embracing. Good, I loved it that way.
Dangerous, but not to me. I knew Illya better than anyone else, knew what made him weak as a baby, knew what outraged him... well, most of the time, and I knew what made me love him. I wished he was a bit more aggressive about our lovemaking. Don't get me wrong, Illya was an enthusiastic lover, proving to me that he had a healthy appetite for more than just food. But he rarely instigated our lovemaking sessions—not that I gave him much opportunity. However, this was Christmas Eve, perhaps I could give him one of his gifts early.
The truth of the matter was I was usually all over him like a bear on honey. I couldn't get enough, I couldn't give enough. Not even Joyce had sparked this sort of fire in me, not even at the height of our relationship. But I knew now that with Joyce it was just sex, although God knows I thought that was enough. I didn't love Joyce, a secret I'd kept even from myself until recently. Now I meant what I said. I loved this man, more than money, more than UNCLE, more than life itself. Without him, there would be no life, and I couldn't imagine anything ever filling that gap if he left.
Words failed me now. It's this weird phenomenon that occurs when I'm with Illya. With women, I could paint a beautiful landscape of romance and fairytales, I could ramble on and on about ships passing in the night and me being a lonely sailor, I could weave a fine net of sentiment and unmeant promises. Illya left me speechless and all I could do was show him how he made me feel.
The nice thing about Illya's place—it's small, really small, and the bed wasn't more than a few steps away. I had him flat on his back and it was right where he wanted to be, or he wouldn't be there. We were evenly matched in just about everything and if I tried to engage him in something unwanted, I have no doubt that I'd be halfway across the room with a broken nose or worse. No, he wanted this as much as I did and had no issues letting me know that once I got him started.
I dragged my fingers across the soft skin of his lower back, feeling my calluses catch and pull, feeling his muscles twitch and respond, not quivering or trembling at my touch. Illya didn't swoon in my arms, he took, as did I.
Our lovemaking could be gentle... sort of, about as gentle as two aggressive men, both skilled in hand-to-hand combat and both used to winning, could manage. The mere act of sex took on an edge of competition, even when we didn't want it to. Which one would top, which one would submit first, either to the other or to his own body. I shut off my thinking mind and just felt. With Illya, that was enough.
I felt him on me, entering me in a way that both pained and delighted me, I writhed in his arms, struggling to get away, struggling just as hard to never leave, groaning as he moved rhythmically. Then, just as abruptly I flipped him and I was in command, slamming into him with a force that made us both grunt with the impact of our bodies meeting.
And the climax, when we finally allowed each other to climax... well, not in the top five, but certainly highly placed. I felt like a bit of spaghetti that had been overcooked and then thrown, to stick helplessly to the wall. He made me feel alive; he made me feel half dead. Hell, Illya made me feel and after a seeming lifetime of having closed myself off from all but the most superficial of relationships—it was the best damned Christmas gift I'd ever gotten.
We sprawled out on the sweat- and semen-stained sheets, panting, momentarily at peace. I'd have loved to gather him into my arms, but I knew he wouldn't tolerate it; not now. Now he had to be left alone, as if needing to digest the fact of what had just happened. To touch me would make it too real.
I let my head roll on the pillow, studying his profile, determined to memorize each nuance, no matter how slight. He met my glance straight on and I knew it was safe now.
I took his hand and squeezed it before bringing it to my lips. "I love you, Illya, nothing will ever change that and I make no secret of this. There is no power in Heaven or Hell that can stop this and I'll willingly take on the worst they can throw at me to prove it to you."
"Mmm, let's just make it through tomorrow, shall we?" He was already almost asleep. He was doing that more and more these days, falling directly asleep after sex. I couldn't help wondering if something was wrong, even though I knew in an hour he'd be awake and anxious to pick up where we'd left off. Surely he'd tell me if there was anything really wrong though.... I mean, we aren't just partners, we are partners. No one could stop that, no one.
Abaddon heard those words and smirked. "Oh pitiful mortal, if you only knew." He strolled to the edge of his kingdom and glared at the denizens of the next, their garments clean and pure compared to his made of corruption and greed. This was the time when the borders were the weakest. When He was celebrating His son's birth and merriment was widespread.
"Not these two. Their bonds are too strong even for the likes of you, Abaddon." Hadraniel was comfortable with his proclamation. The connection between the two men was stronger than anything he had ever forged before. These two were eternal. He was confident of that. He watched the demon stalk the ethereal boundary between their kingdoms. He'd been entrusted with keeping them strong tonight, strong like the two men who celebrated this holiday with their love and commitment.
"Oh, would you care to make that a formal bet?" Abaddon asked.
"Terms?" Hadraniel was cautious. "No death—we can't kill either of them." Hadraniel wasn't going to have The Big Guy riding his ahem over that. In any event, that wasn't their call.
"If they choose that path themselves?" Abaddon tried to snatch a butterfly in its insane flight and crush it. He missed.
"Again, won't happen, these two are survivors above all."
"All right, I won't kill them." Abaddon abandoned the insect. He had bigger fish to fry. "I will need at least until Easter."
"Agreed." And even as they shook hands, Hadraniel heard a voice whisper in his ear, one he wished hadn't been silent a few seconds earlier... "Sucker..."
We started to make love again, slowly and with a lassitude that would all too soon be abandoned. I felt Illya shudder beneath my hand and I paused.
"Something wrong, partner?" I pushed aside sweaty hair to whisper into an ear before dropping my mouth to suck on his neck, marking him as claimed, as mine. He tilted his head back to accommodate me.
"No, just felt as if someone walked over my grave."
For a moment, Illya seemed distant, even to me. This was... new and I didn't like it one stinking bit. "Not while you're in my arms." I caught his hands and held them above his head as I lowered myself down to rest on top of him. "As long as we're together, we're both safe."
There was a tickle at the back of my neck and now I shivered against him.
"It must be catching." Illya's tone was light again, his mouth searching for mine, his body moving beneath mine. "Once more then, just to chase away the demons?"
Somewhere a man was collapsing to die in a gutter, a child was crying over the body of his parents, there was senseless death and mindless suffering, but right here, right now, I knew love, I knew commitment, I knew happiness. Right now, that was enough.