The cold, unaccomodating metal bench asserted its chill against Michael Donfield through his too-thin pants. He leaned back against the cement block wall and closed his eyes, hoping that when he opened them this would have all been a dream, that he really hadn't just been picked up by the police on a raid fifteen minutes after his first tremulous entrance into a gay bar.
It had all happened so fast that he almost got the feeling that he could shake it away if he woke up and splashed some cold water on his face. In a mere matter of minutes his life had turned upside down. Turning back the clock just that merest fraction of his life wouldn't break the laws of physics too much, would it? Minutes, only minutes--and they had taken away the careful protection that years of lies and hiding and denial had given him against himself.
For years, he'd been careful. Careful, and silent, and smiling, and yearning and alone. Even beside Anne in bed, even inside of her--alone.
And then, a foreigner with flashing eyes and a wicked smirking smile, a man from a tiny country and whose first name he still had yet to pronounce correctly, had come into his life and freed him. Chemistry had brought them together--simple, human chemistry--but something deeper happened on that one afternoon with its intoxicating tangle of flesh.
Ambassador Vladeck was lonely, too--lonely amidst his newfound wealth and power, his newfound freedom to finally spend his time with the men he liked. He was far from his homeland. So he had added Michael to his life. Poor, closeted, married Michael.
Michael knew when Vladeck--whatever his first name was, dammit--first kissed him that he could never return to the externally heterosexual life he'd thought he'd be able to handle. Kissing a man--kissing him felt so right and so natural and so like coming home and finally being able to breathe. He certainly hadn't intended to fall in love. That would be completely irrational. Michael was just the owner of a small pest control company and Vladeck was his country's ambassador to the United Nations. Michael had no right to bother him simply because he felt like sharing some male company. Vladeck's time did not belong exclusively to him.
So he went to the gay bar.
It wasn't that he was looking to pick up a date. He'd been somewhat interested in "random encounters" before in a safe, hypothetical way, and he could still appreciate magnetic male beauty. But if he'd been an unattached woman he would have married the Ambassador without a second thought. The poor man had imprinted himself on Vladeck like a baby goose.
He just simply wanted to be around other men who were like him, where his very existence would be understood and accepted.
Unfortunately for him, he was as clueless as said gosling, and had quickly gotten caught by the big bad wolf. Raids couldn't possibly be this common, could they? He supposed he had just been incredibly unlucky.
Now he languished in his cell, waiting to make his one allowed phone call.
He knew he wouldn't be calling his wife. After breaking her heart like that, he didn't even see any point to coming home. He hoped she wasn't too worried about him, yet--as far as she knew, he'd just stepped outside to get some air and walk around the neighborhood. He wasn't even wearing anything particularly fetching. He knew she would have suspected if he'd reached for his best suit.
No, he was going to call Vladeck, and hope for the best. Hope that Vladeck wouldn't hate him for the inconvenience of being disturbed, and wouldn't be angry with him for how he'd put himself in a jam like this. To his miseries he added the fear of Vladeck's disappointment in his lack of discretion.
A policeman's stick rapped against the bars near his head. "You. Phone call."
Michael lifted his head and lumbered down the hallway to the phone. With as low a voice as could be audible, he asked the operator for the private line of the embassy.
Michael swooned like a little girl at the sound of his voice, then collected himself. "Vladeck, it's me. Michael Donfield."
"Michael." Vladeck's voice was warm but guarded. "It is late. Are you all right?"
"Ehh..." Michael looked around himself uneasily. "Not exactly. I got picked up."
"By the police."
Vladeck exhaled loudly. "Vhat have you done?"
"I--I went to a--a private bar." Michael couldn't bear to say anything else aloud.
Vladeck huffed. "Vhy did you do this?" He sounded irritated. Michael thought he heard the sound of a match striking. Vladeck was lighting a cigarette. Michael thought his cigarette holder was very elegant and sexy.
"I missed you," Michael blurted out nervously.
"I vould not be there," Vladeck pointed out sardonically.
"I know that!" Michael hissed. "I also missed being myself."
"Are you unharmed?"
"Yes, I'm all right. I was--quite docile. They didn't get any trouble from me."
"Good. Vait there. I vill come for you."
"You--oh thank you so much, Ambassador," Michael began to gush.
Vladeck cut him off. "I vill go get dressed. Do not give them your name. Ve vill get you out." Then he suddenly ended the conversation with a click.
Michael stood there, staring at the phone in his hand.
The policeman led him back to his cell. "Who'd you call, your boyfriend?" he asked snarkily as he locked Michael back up.
Michael's face reddened, but he obeyed Vladeck and pretended to be too drunk to answer. He sat down again, leaned his head against the wall, and closed his eyes.
Time passed indeterminately. He doubted he had fallen asleep, but his head hurt, probably from stress. Then, finally, he heard precise footsteps and opened his eyes. Two men were approaching his cell. One was a policeman that he didn't recognize; the shift must have changed. The other was one of Vladeck's dour-faced bodyguards.
The policeman unlocked the door and indicated that Michael was free to go. "I'm very sorry, Mr. Kirk," he said in an ashamed sotto voce. "We didn't realize you were FBI."
"That's quite all right," Michael bluffed, astonished. FBI? Kirk? What was going on?
He walked close to the bodyguard as he was led out. He noticed the other bodyguard standing by the police desk filling out paperwork, and surmised that they had presented forged papers proving him to be an undercover federal agent. Relieved that he had friends in high places, he kept his mouth shut and smiled at everyone he passed. At this point, it was his only weapon.
Finally, an officer opened the door for him, and he was free to walk out into the pleasantly cool night air. The bodyguards quickly ushered him into a limousine. His heart thumped loudly as he crouched to get inside, as he wished madly that Vladeck would be waiting for him inside. Was it too much to hope that he would have come personally? Or had he just sent his men?
"Good evening, Michael."
Michael said nothing; he simply smiled in dumb gratitude. He took the seat right next to Vladeck but didn't move once he was settled. He yearned for Vladeck's touch, but he didn't know when it was okay to reach for him. The bodyguards were far away in the front seat, one of them driving, but they were still ever-present and ever-vigilant, and Michael didn't know how much they knew.
"So you told them I was FBI?" Michael finally asked, his hands folded between his open legs.
"It seemed a conwenient vay to release you," Vladeck said dismissively. "Local and national police do not like to interfere in each other's affairs."
"Where'd you get the name Kirk from?"
"I do not know many American names. Is that American?"
"Anything's American," said Donfield with a grin. "I lift my lamp beside the golden door, and all that."
Vladeck looked a little blank but said nothing and seemed to comprehend. Donfield was in no mood to explain the subtleties of American statuary; instead, he leaned back in the seat beside him and silently drank in the sight of him. Vladeck's eyebrows were pointed into sharp angles that Michael wanted to impale himself on after a running jump. Every aspect of the man fascinated him, from his deep, dark eyes, to his endearing accent.
"What's your name?" Michael asked again, realizing as the words came out how clumsy he sounded.
Vladeck again helpfully pronounced his first name for his lover. As he saw Michael's mouth open to try to form the syllables, he held up his hand and smiled indulgently. "Call me Anton. Is easier."
"I think it is vhat you would call a 'middle name'?" Vladeck answered tentatively.
Michael nodded. "Anton," he repeated again. Anton, I love you.... AntonAntonAnton. He hadn't had a real name before. Now, it was even easier to dream the impossible. "Where are we going?"
"I am taking you to your home," Vladeck answered, with a twinge of surprise that he'd even been asked. And a twinge, too, of sadness, and resolution.
A dizzying wave of fear rose in Michael's body, a feeling of something closing in all around him. He turned to Vladeck with sudden urgency and seized him by the arm. "Anton--please don't. Don't take me home."
Vladeck blinked. "Vhat?"
"I want to stay with you." Michael's lips were suddenly very dry. He licked them nervously. "I can't go back. I can't keep hiding. I want to be with you. I know you feel the same way. You care about me--I can tell that you do. Otherwise you wouldn't have come for me--personally. Please--take me back to the embassy. We'll figure it all out somehow. I'll--I'll look after you. Cook for you. Clean your shirts. Anything. I just can't go back--to--"
A metallic noise interrupted his monologue.
Michael's eyes lowered to see the cold, reflected glow of the streetlights outside shining off the surface of Vladeck's pistol. His jaw dropped open slackly, and his eyes moved upwards to meet the other man's. Vladeck's jaw was firm, and his hand was steady. Only his eyes showed that he, too, felt the pain of this moment as Michael did.
"What?" Michael managed to squeak.
"Choose, Mr. Donfield," said Vladeck softly.
"Choose." Michael's eyelashes fluttered. "Choose? I don't--don't understand."
"You have two choices," Vladeck explained in a deceptively calm whisper. "I can take you home now to Mrs. Donfield, and you vill continue to vork in the pest control business, and ve vill see each other vhen is possible for us both."
"Or I vill kill you." Vladeck's calm shook for a moment, enough for him to swallow uncomfortably.
They watched each other, neither man moving. The gun shook imperceptibly in Vladeck's hand, but Michael knew he would fire if he had to. Yet Michael could not bring himself to choose his former life.
Somehow, he talked himself to reason and, with an inhuman amount of self-control, he sighed, "Take me home."
As Vladeck uncocked the gun and put it away, Michael's chest heaved and he collapsed against the back of the seat, his head swimming from the tension.
They melted into each other's arms, half blind in the poor lighting, but knowing instinctively how to lock against each other perfectly. "The driver?" Michael whispered, his eyes darting around. And the other bodyguard was in the front passenger seat--
"Vill take the long vay," Vladeck reassured him. He placed both hands on Michael's face and lowered his own for the kiss.
Michael's body trembled with delirious pleasure as he let himself be lowered onto the seat. Vladeck was on top of him, kissing him, kissing his jaw, grinding into him. He kissed everything that he could reach and wished with all his might that the limousine ride would last forever.
"Volim te," Vladeck's lips murmured before devouring his ear, and without having to have it translated, Michael Donfield learned his first words of Croatian. He just knew.
"I love you too." And then Michael smiled irrepressibly, into the roof of the limousine, with such force that he could have sworn it went through the roof and hit the stars.
Vladeck's hands were all over him. Michael was hard as a rock and pounding. He wriggled a little so they matched up, and they moaned together as their erections met. Gripping each other's bodies tightly, they were able to choreograph a quick and graceful mutual climax.
Michael thought he would never be able to let go, but all limousine rides come to an end eventually. He promised himself he wouldn't make Vladeck pry him away as they shared their last kiss of the evening, that he would conduct himself with dignity and decorum and wouldn't entwine his fingers so tightly into Vladeck's hair that he felt like human chewing gum.
But he forgot his promise to himself when he fell into those big dark eyes. Michael lost himself and almost begged again to stay, but instead, he said nothing when Vladeck peeled him away gently and held him at arm's length. "Keep yourself safe," Vladeck reminded him. "I care about you."
Michael looked up at him sadly. "Thank you for... busting me out of jail." He laughed self-consciously.
"Til ve meet again."
He stepped outside of the limousine and walked glumly up the sidewalk toward his flat.
Anne was waiting for him in the living room when he walked in. "Darling!" she exclaimed. "Where were you? I've been so worried!"
"I'm sorry, sweetheart," he blurted out, taking her in his arms. He felt like a wooden puppet on a string. "I walked out to get some air and completely lost track of time. My mind was wandering again." He knew it was a lame excuse, but he hoped his reputation for being a bit of an addle-brained genius in college would help him just this once.
"Oh, Michael," said Anne affectionately, picking at his shirt with her fingertips, straightening it out. "You haven't changed a bit since college. Only I wish you wouldn't do this at night. It's dark out there. You might trip and fall over something."
"But I work during the day," he reminded her with a hollow chuckle.
Anne smiled and gazed into his eyes. "Well, we'll just have to take a vacation one of these days! We can save up for it. I know we can."
Michael smiled. "Yes, darling."
He followed her to bed, where he lay by her side as she slept. In the lonely gray hours of dawn, he wondered what it would have been like to have chosen death at the point of Vladeck's gun. If that was the only way he could give himself to Anton completely--it might be preferable to... this. This stifling prison of behavior.
He entertained himself with a fantasy of such a decision. It gave him a perverse thrill to imagine Vladeck sadly pulling the trigger and his body collapsing into Vladeck's lap, to be his forever.
A strange pain in his chest, like a phantom bullet wound, teased at him, and his lips ached to taste Anton's once again. Not in a week, not in a month--now.
Michael's eye fell on poor Anne, sleeping beside him peacefully, untroubled by all his woes. He kept them locked away from her safely, where they would never disturb her. She had done nothing to deserve this. He wondered how much he was to blame for dragging her into the mess his life had become. He'd thought this was the only safe answer, to keep his family happy, to fit in with the world. He'd wanted a house and a picket fence and appliances, the trappings of normal middle-America. Only now he didn't care about them anymore.
He resolved that if he ever had the chance to do it over, if he was ever reborn, he'd never make this mistake again. He'd do whatever it took, he'd struggle and he'd fight if he had to, but he'd be himself from the beginning. He wouldn't let himself be badgered into living a lie and trapping himself and those he loved.
He only wished he could take Anton Vladeck with him, into that new life.
He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, casting his dreams upon the stars.