Nay, let us walk from fire unto fire,
Michael Donfield woke up slowly, gradually, not the way one usually expects to come out of a nightmare. But then, it hadn't exactly been a nightmare, and that was the part that frightened him the most.
He pulled the blanket higher up around his shoulders and edged closer to the other man in the bed. Part of him wanted to wake Vladeck up and talk to him about the dream, tell him how much he needed him, and how much he needed to be held.
But he didn't want Vladeck to think of him as pathetic. Vladeck had let him know that if he was to come away with him to Paris, he must learn to be strong. And if waking Vladeck in the middle of the night to be comforted seemed pathetic, telling him what the dream was about would be even worse. Vladeck would be disturbed, would find him unsuitable, and would cast him out on the street. And now that he'd finally left Anne and was tying up all loose ends here in the States, he'd have nowhere to go...
So best to remain silent and deal with the dream by himself in the darkness. He stared across the room at the large shape he knew to be a decorative vase, but in the night was only a lumpy silhouette. He imagined it was a head shrink, and that he was lying on its sofa being questioned.
Dr. Vase's first question would be, of course, what was the dream?
Michael couldn't remember that much of the dream. He had vague recollections of the nonsensical beginning, where he and Anne--back together, strangely--had been hired by his high school biology professor to remove a colony of ants from his bathroom.
He wasn't quite sure how he'd gotten from there to Vladeck putting a bullet through his body.
The details of dreams melt away the minute one wakes up. Michael strained his mind to clutch at the strands before they disappeared into the blackness of night. He wanted to know why Vladeck had shot him. And why the thought of him doing so gave him comfort.
Vladeck had held a gun to him twice in their waking hours. Once, when they were still on opposite sides of a spy vs counterspy adventure that took only a few days to turn Michael's life upside down forever. A line from Casablanca popped into his mind, misquoted--"Of all the pest control parlors of all the neighborhoods in all of New York, they had to walk into this one." The men from the international peacekeeping organization had only wanted him as bait in a trap to catch a wolf. Nobody ever cares about what happens to the bait once the wolf is caught.
Vladeck had been the wolf's aide then, and the gun aimed at Michael's chest was aimed there for the wolf's sake, not Vladeck's. The foreigner's eyes betrayed him, staring as they did directly into Michael's soul. The two men had felt chemistry from the moment they'd met, and still felt it even to this moment. Sometimes, Michael felt it could easily overwhelm him.
The other time Vladeck's gun had been raised in his direction was one night in Vladeck's limousine, when Michael was pleading not to be taken home to his unsuspecting wife. Vladeck had calmly cocked the pistol and offered Michael the only other choice he thought possible at the time. Terrifyingly, Michael had been astonished at how badly he wanted Vladeck to go through with it. But he'd found the presence of mind to go home and lie to Anne, and lie there beside her unable to lie to himself.
When enough irrational hope had been gathered between them to imagine a life together, without secrecy, they made plans to go to Paris. But Vladeck had warned him that he must be strong in order to be his lover.
Michael tried. His first step was to confess his secret to Anne, and explain why he could no longer be her husband. Fleeing the intense guilt and shame that thinking of that moment caused him, he flooded his thoughts with the image of Vladeck holding his gun, and as as he had in the dream, pulling the trigger.
It had been from love. That much was certain. Vladeck was trying to protect him from... from being alone. That was it. In the dream, the officials from Vladeck's home country had found out about how he'd used the privileges of his new ambassadorial position in order to carry on an illicit homosexual affair. They were concerned that he might be betraying state secrets to his American lover, and they would soon come for them with guns of their own. Vladeck knew it would be hopeless to attempt escape, so he had taken Michael's life in order to protect him from dying second--from having to witness his death, or from the torture of having to live without him for even one moment.
Just before Michael's mind smothered the thought under a blanket of revulsion, he reveled in the idea of Vladeck protecting him and taking him in any sense, even if it was in the most final sense of all.
Was he suicidal? No. He loved life too much. He adored sunsets, and full moons, and trees and rainbows and sometimes Vladeck made him so happy he wanted to go around Central Park splashing in the puddles like a little kid. He couldn't wait to start their dream life together in Paris. He wanted to make love on the kitchen floor, with the windows open, hearing the noise of the wind sweep over the windchimes hanging from the balcony ceiling and smelling the flowers outside mixed with other families' cooking.
Then why did he find such comfort in the idea of Vladeck killing him?
Maybe it was because he was scared of Vladeck leaving him, and the two were mutually exclusive--at least, the way it happened in the dream.
He was scared. He was very, very scared of Vladeck's government interfering with their plans for his defection in some way. The official story they were told was that the ambassador would be resigning his post due to not being able to handle his duties. He would be recalled to his home country, naturally, but would never end up there. The plane stopped over in Paris to refuel, and here, the two men--pretending to be total strangers--would make their escape.
Michael looked forward to the adventure, but at the same time, was very, very frightened. To compound that fear was the worry that Vladeck would grow frustrated and tired of him if he knew just how frightened his American lover really was. Vladeck had made it clear that he did not want a weak partner.
The dream reflected not only his fear of losing Vladeck to his own inadequacies, but also his fear of the dangers they would face as they escaped to Paris. He knew he would not be able to breathe until they were standing inside the French embassy, where Vladeck would officially defect. He also feared he would never shed his guilt at what he'd done to Anne, not that it could be helped. He had begun to wilt like a raisin, burning and shriveling under the heat of the lie, even before Vladeck's entrance into his life.
But had he just transferred his pain onto Anne? Shoved his burden into her arms and run the other way?
"Anton." Michael's grin would have lit the darkness as he turned to snuggle into the other man's shoulder. "Why are you up? Did I wake you?"
"I doubt it. You have been quite silent." Anton paused. "Vhy are *you* avake? Your voice does not sound sleepy."
"I.... things on my mind. It's all right."
Michael hedged--partially because he didn't know which of his fears to admit, and partially because he felt like discussing any of them would make him seem unappealing. And here in the darkness, he didn't have his stunning smile to fall back on in case of emergencies.
"Come on, dragi. Vhat's troubling you?" Michael wouldn't have said anything, but Vladeck continued with--"I vant you to be honest vith me. Ve are together now, yes?"
Smiling, Michael took the lightest of his burdens out of his mental basket. "I'm worried about Anne. I feel so guilty."
"You could not continue in that existence," Vladeck reminded him.
"I've hurt her. Badly."
"Hurting her vas vhat you vere doing before," Vladeck insisted. "You have only now taken the steps to make it so that you can stop hurting her."
Michael was silent for a moment. "That's one way of looking at it. But it hurts me, too."
"Sometimes it hurts to be a big boy, Michael. Congratulations--you're just growing up."
"You say that as if we weren't the same age."
"Maybe ve are not," Vladeck joked. "Maybe ve only have birthdays every other year in Zagreb."
Michael kissed him. He began kissing him and could not stop. Vladeck tried to pull away for a moment to speak and Michael nearly bit him to keep some part of him in his mouth. "You are hungry tonight, my Michael," he remarked, chuckling.
"So why don't you fill me up?"
"Because it is the middle of the night."
"This doesn't think so." Michael's hand was down Vladeck's shorts. He shifted his own hardness against Vladeck's side insinuatingly.
"Oh? You who cannot speak any language but English are suddenly interpreter for my penis?" Vladeck rolled around to face him, finally awake enough to meet his erotic challenges.
"Well, we do often converse face to face."
"Vhat else does he tell you, then?"
"Hold on a moment; I'll go and ask him." Michael started to squirm towards the foot of the bed, working his lip muscles in a preliminary warmup.
Vladeck stopped him with a firm hand gripping each of his shoulders. "No, not now. Come up here. I vant to be vith you more intimately."
"What do you mean?"
"Up here vhere I can see you. I don't vant you hiding in my pants." Vladeck gave him a quick kiss to calm him, then drew back again. He embraced Michael tightly with both arms. "Now. Michael. Vhat else is bothering you?"
"I just had this... really bizarre dream," Michael found himself admitting. "And it ended with you shooting me in the chest. I died in your arms." He didn't go on to explain that this concept was the main reason he was now painfully hard with a white-hot, rutting desire. Vladeck in the dream had solemnly lifted the pistol, pointed it at him, and pulled the trigger...
"Are you scared of me, Michael? Do you think I vould ever do that?"
"You could if you needed to."
"I do vhat I must in life. It is my nature." Vladeck stroked Michael's back with long, spidery fingers. "Now, stop thinking about this dream, and let me show you how much I adore you."
"That's just it," Michael blurted, even through his swoon. "I don't want to stop thinking about it. It fascinates me. It turns me on. The thought of you possessing me that way... taking me... obliterating me.... 'till there's nothing left... I want to be totally yours, and I'm afraid you'll hate me for it. None of this makes sense. I want to live. Yet I want you to consume me." He was clinging to Vladeck as if the man were the edge of a cliff and he was in danger of falling... "What does it mean? I want to be strong. I want to show you I can... handle life.... with you..."
"There are vays I can possess you vithout hurting you permanently, dragi," said Vladeck, a peculiarly seductive tone creeping into his voice. More so than usual.
"What do you mean?" Michael was ready to follow him anywhere.
Vladeck's gripping fingers returned to Michael's shoulders. Without a word, he forced him flat on his back on the bed. "Vhat do you need?" Vladeck growled, without letting him move a muscle.
Blessedly, Michael's instincts kicked in. "Show me that you own me. That you'll never give me up."
"You are mine. You have belonged to me since you first saw me." Vladeck switched on the bedside lamp, partially for dramatic effect, and partially for safety's sake--he had never before attempted an act of sexual domination of any kind, and the thought of genuinely damaging Michael kept him on the prudent side.
Michael's wide, shining eyes moved back and forth across Vladeck's exotic features--his high cheekbones, his startlingly deep eyes, his sculpted lips. He was riveted. He was captive. "I'm yours. Take me. Take my life." There. He'd been yearning to say it. Now it had escaped.
"Don't move," Vladeck cautioned him, and moved away from him for a moment to retrieve something from the floor. Michael remained absolutely motionless, barely breathing, hard as stone.
When Vladeck returned, two long, dark bits of shimmering fabric dangled from his hand. Michael recognized them as their neckties, but his penis twitched at the idea of what they were about to become.
Vladeck seized one of Michael's wrists in each hand. He drew them together over Michael's head, moving closer to deposit a full but brief kiss on Michael's gasping lips.
Michael dismounted from the kiss to realize that his wrists were now tied together with one of the neckties. He looked over his shoulder and saw Vladeck using the other necktie to tie his bound wrists to the bedpost.
He felt like a puppy bringing its leash to its owner, excited about being walked. He couldn't remember the last time he felt this radiant.
When Michael had been thus restrained, Vladeck ran both his hands, with his fingers splayed, down Michael's naked body. Michael's nipples stiffened with the contact and he nearly cried out for more, but held his tongue because of how badly he wanted Vladeck to be in charge.
As Vladeck sat in the bed admiring Michael's beautiful, perfect male body, held captive for his pleasure, it occurred to him that there had been a wonderful third reason for turning on the bedside lamp. Michael looked like a nude angel in its muted, golden glow. He was strong enough to escape the bonds, and he was probably far smarter than Vladeck--top of his class at MIT!--but he belonged to Vladeck, all his, by his own choice. He gazed up at Vladeck, who captured his eyes and held them.
Vladeck knew that this, then, was a far more useful, and far more desirable, form of power than the power he had given up as Ambassador to the United Nations. This was all he needed--to be lord of this divine creature there in the bed before him.
Michael practically trembled as he waited for Vladeck to make his first move. When he was finally touched, it was in a place that surprised him--his feet. Vladeck casually caressed one foot, tracing tickling circles over the soft pads with his fingers. After an agonizingly long moment he moved up to the ankle.
This was going to take forever.... but then, he wanted to belong to Anton forever, so that was no problem.
It was a game, then--a contest, between Vladeck's desire to tease and Michael's desire to be fucked. Vladeck slowly and deliberately manipulated Michael's knees, kissing the place beneath them and making him squirm.
Then he traveled just past the knees and sent the first flames of contact shooting through Michael's thighs. With a groan, Michael spread his legs and drew his knees to his chest.
With a growl, Vladeck seized both of his ankles and forcibly straightened Michael's legs, then began his caress of Michael's feet once again. Michael had lost Round One, and he whimpered slightly, begging for Vladeck's touch with both shining puppy-dog eyes and an unwavering hard-on.
As Vladeck's fingers painted invisible streams of heat over Michael's calves, Michael's only thought was He loves me he loves me he loves me. And then, I belong to him.
Vladeck leaned his head down and delicately licked Michael's thigh. Michael hadn't been expecting it and cried out in surprised passion. Then he drew his breath sharply in fear of Vladeck withdrawing a second time.
Instead, Vladeck's hand slithered in between Michael's legs. Michael flung his legs open so wide that he felt like he was about to tear himself apart.
Michael trembled as Vladeck massaged his thighs, then took a gentle hold of his testicles. "This is mine," Vladeck told him.
"Yes," Michael's lips barely moved.
Vladeck's hand moved up to curl around Michael's dick, his thumb grazing the tip. "This is mine. All mine."
"Yes," Michael stammered again.
Then, like water evaporating, Vladeck's hand was gone. Michael almost whimpered, but bit the inside of his lip instead.
Vladeck stripped off his shorts and left them somewhere. Michael's eyes swept over his lean body down to his generous erection. From their tied-up position against the bedpost, his hands almost hurt because he couldn't touch it.
Kneeling, Vladeck straddled Michael's chest. Michael felt completely surrounded by love, there in the warm, tight embrace of Vladeck's thighs. He drank in the dizzyingly arousing sight of Vladeck's balls dangling just over his chest, and the hard shaft just above them that pointed right at his face.
Vladeck leaned in and caressed Michael's lips with two fingers. "This is mine."
"Yes," Michael murmured into the fingers, kissing them.
"Mine to fuck," Vladeck appended matter-of-factly.
"Yes," Michael gasped.
"Suck it, Michael," Vladeck commanded. He moved his hips forward and drove his penis in between Michael's waiting lips.
Michael gobbled it in, sucking and slurping. It nearly choked him. His mind reeled with pleasure from the idea.
Vladeck thrust into the willing, eager mouth again and again, His fists held onto the bedpost near Michael's hands, and he let out a low growl.
Then he withdrew. Michael leaned forward as he went, trying to recapture the glistening, bobbing organ. He looked up at Vladeck's face with big, questioning, liquid eyes.
Without saying a word, and without taking his eyes away from Michael's, Vladeck gripped Michael's legs again. This time, he folded Michael's legs up and tilted his thighs away from him, shaping Michael's body for further pleasures.
Michael moaned a little in anticipation. His eyes followed Vladeck as the other man reached off the bed for something wet and helpful on the bedside table.
It took all the control Michael had left not to thrash around like a fish on a hook when Vladeck's fingers first touched him with the lubricant.
Vladeck's arms slid up around his shoulders from underneath. Michael folded his legs tightly and let them collapse against his chest as Vladeck mounted him. He took him inside and felt his heart fill along with his body.
Their eyes met, and held, and stayed locked as they gently made love, the act of Vladeck's domineering air forgotten in their shared knowledge that for both of them, the man they held was all in the world they held. That together they were about to start something new that neither had dared dream before this love had taken them both away into this realm of living dreams.
Lips touched, and eyes closed. Michael's erection, pressed snugly between their sweating bodies, erupted hotly. Vladeck began to take him faster, prolonging the orgasm and causing Michael to cry out directly into the other man's mouth. Finally, Vladeck came too, and Michael felt him throbbing heavily inside of him.
"Please don't move," Michael blurted out, when his breath had returned.
"I do not vish to," Vladeck answered. He withdrew from inside Michael's body and let Michael ease his legs down to a more comfortable position. Then he settled down on top of him and kissed his forehead. "Do you feel better, dragi?"
"I feel well-fucked," Michael said sleepily. "I love you, Anton. I love you so much." He looked comfortable enough to fall asleep that way, with his hands tied together over his head and six feet of solid male covering his body.
"Volim te, Michael Donfield. Beautiful Michael." Vladeck kissed his forehead, and then climbed off him. He let Michael doze while he cleaned them both up a bit.
Michael stretched like a cat when Vladeck untied his hands. He wrapped both of them around Vladeck's neck. "That was fun."
"You seem cured of your melancholy."
"I'm all right," Michael reassured him. "I suppose there's a part of me that's always scared that every time you make love to me, it's the last time I'll ever get to be with a man. That's where some of this comes from."
"Ve do not lead uncomplicated lives, but I would not change mine."
"More than you already have, you mean." Michael smiled.
Vladeck chuckled. "Perhaps now I understand more vhy you quit your first job in order to start that completely unprofitable pest-control company."
Michael shrugged. "I've got the entrepreneurial spirit... just something wasn't right this time."
"In Paris, there vill be other opportunities."
"Looking forward to it." Michael rolled sideways against Vladeck and snuggled into his shoulder.
Vladeck extinguished the light, put his arm around his companion, and followed him to sleep.