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I. Sparrows

000 |The Night Grows Pale, scene 06

Upon the stairs, mid-descent back down into the discotheque, Nyura lets go of my hand — okh, like, how my heart

plummets — and then throws his arm around my waist; he takes firm hold of mine arse, metal nail-tips digging in just a little, making me yelp and wriggle. He laughs, low and purring and extraordinarily pleased with my reaction. Nu like, what can a fag do in such a situation, but return the favour? I slip my hand under his robe, the stiff organza brushing against my wrist, against my knuckles, and briefly squeeze his satin-clad arse, before sweeping my hand just a little further and up, resting it pressed against where his iliac crest rises to the surface; the satin of his argent leggings lies cool and smooth beneath my palm, the jut of bone firm under my fingers, his body warm.

Given we’re like, standing upon a narrow step, upon steep stairs, and given I’ve got a walking-stick and heels and nerve damage in my feet, such an arrangement of limbs renders us a single body what exists in an unstable equilibrium; Nyura tightens his grip on the rail, and I drive my walking-stick firmer into the ground, giving us a sixth point of contact. The wall-sconces throw our shadow upon the curved walls, and it looms over us like a cloak, like a sukkeh.

“Careful, darling,” Nyura says as we continue to climb down, step-in-step, and his voice is dreamy, far-away. “Mortal limbs grow back not, nu?”

“Feh, we’re both nefilim?” I say, and then pause, my mouth still open. “Er. Not to like, assume—”

“Oh no, darling,” says Nyura, “I’m no nefil! I merely paint these ocelli on every morning. I feel like, ah. I feel it suffices not, to be a black litvak and a faggot, nu? I wish to give di fashistes another reason or two.” He looks up sideways at me, and he smirks sadly. I shift my hold on him just enough to pull him into a hug; he leans his head against my side.

“Beg pardon—” I say, worried I have said something egregious, but he snorts in response.

“Darling, if thou apologisest without need again–” he begins.

“Mmm? What then?” I say, pitching it like a challenge. “You’ll spank me?”

Nyura gasps — in delight? — and starts to giggle, all his composure and poise vanishing. He tries to say something, and after a false start or two, just smacks mine arse. Pain, bright and brittle like a crystal bell, sinks down to the bone and I squeal, wriggling in pleasure again.

“Well, ah, yes,” he says, breathless; a deep blush blooms in his face. “Oh, and I rather think thou hast earned it. But thou couldst just ask, too. And, ah.” He pauses once more, and bites his lip. “Please, darling. No need for like, formality, nu? I’d rather we remain ikh-un-du regardless of, ah. Regardless of who’s in charge.” A nervous note creeps into his casual tone; his brow is creased just a touch.

“No problem,” I say, gently, and then, feeling the need to bolster such a reassurance, bend down to kiss his temple. He makes a soft satisfied noise, and sighs, and leans on me again.

We proceed down the stairs. I can feel mine excitement growing, thinking of Nyura bending me over, spreading my legs, telling me exactly what he intends to do to me—

A restless patina of anticipation settles on my skin, binding me up in how my clothes feel against my skin, how the pasties are starting to chafe, how my heart-beat throbs between my thighs, and my hole tenses, eager and impatient to be penetrated.

In the middle of this reverie, Nyura gently nudges me to get mine attention, and the disjointed mess in my skull crystallises and resolves, resolves with a near-painful clarity into me, sunk deep in my body, held fast within Oylam HaZeh, aroused and desperate and giddy. I sway, and Nyura catches me; one moment we’re still two steps from the bottom of the stairs, the next I’m leaning against the wall, pulling him closer, and he’s easing his hand between my thighs, fingertips teasing where the jeans swell. I move to brace his back with my hand, and he tuts, and smacks mine arse again.

“Place thy hands on the wall, kitten,” he says; his chest is heaving, and the hand resting on my waist trembles just a little. He bites his lower lip, and smirks up at me, eyes wide, gaze tender. I whimper in disappointment, and do as I’m told.

“Good—” he begins, and just before his lips form the initial consonant of the next word, he abruptly stops instead. Something in his expression shifts; his composure wobbles. He clicks his tongue, and heaves a deep sigh, leaning away. “Damn it, darling. Sorry, ah—” he takes his hand away, and I make to grab at his wrist. He clicks his tongue again, frowning. I freeze in mortification, positive that this time I’ve fucked up for sure, but he merely leans against the wall, and cocks his head to one side, looking at me with sudden solemnity, and no less interest. “No, ah. Easy, darling. Thou’rt fine. Just ah— We should rush not, nu? I would prefer to negotiate with, ah. A relatively clear head—”

Ohh. Right. Negotiation. Boundaries. Preferences. Right. G-d. Oops.

I would like to tell him I understand, but instead I make a pathetic, incoherent noise. Embarrassed — like, what a flagrant breach of protocol, nu? — I shrug and frown and vaguely wave my hand, trying to draw the words out of the æther. Nyura squeezes mine arm in reassurance, and I finally manage to say, “like, sure? But … need a moment …”

Nyura helps me down onto the floor, and kneels beside me. I gesture for him to come closer again, and he leans forward, and then I realise that like, I rather don’t fancy navigating another round of cruiser charades, not right this minute.

“Nyura, like,” I say, softly. “Come here? Please? If thou wantest—”

Nyura looks at me with naked relief, and lets me pull him onto my lap. He perches himself astride my thighs, and places his hands upon my shoulders. We look at each other; the sheer absurdity of our predicament strikes me, and I burst out laughing. Nyura catches mine eye, and then looks away, blushing and stifling a grin.

“Apologies, ziskeyt,” he says, toying with my hair. “I rather lost my head, there–”

I place both my hands on his hips, angled so mine index fingers lie just below the curve of his buttocks, and look at him over the top of my spectacles.

“Please apologise not,” I say, doing my best impression of stern disapproval. “Okay like, unless thou wishest to switch masks? I’ll gladly spank thee, for unwarranted apologies or like, otherwise.”

Nyura tries very hard to maintain composure, and after half a minute of holding a scandalised expression, collapses into giggles. I pull him in closer, and kiss his neck. He sighs, a deep and satisfied sound what’s almost a purr.

Please, darling,” he says. “I’ve had it coming for like months now. Well, ah,” he pauses and pulls away, sitting up so he can look at me. He cocks his head again, and smiles, bright-eyed and mischievous, and reaches up to brush my fringe out of mine eyes. “Thou wert real eager to submit just earlier, and nu, I’m quite comfortable switching types—”

“Well, like. The night is young, nu?” I say, with a shrug. “We’ve got time to take turns.”

Nyura bites his lip, and leans in to kiss the tip of my nose.

“Music to mine ears, ziskeyt,” he says, stroking my cheek. “And, ah. Nu. What do I call thee, when thou’rt at my mercy?”

“Kitten’s fine,” I say, running my hand up his thigh. “Um, like. To thee? I’m always another boy. Like, thou needst not mind what I can be with roses what are not thee, or with violets, nu?”

“Understood, dove,” says Nyura, gently, kissing my cheek. He squirms as my hand comes to rest between his legs, tucked in the detour between thigh and pelvis. “But, ah! As much as I’m enjoying this moment, I do think we ought to maybe, relocate somewhere more comfortable, nu?”

I nod, and give his arse one last squeeze; Nyura gets up and helps me to my feet. I brace my walking-stick against the floor, and bend down to kiss Nyura on the mouth; he kisses me back, and takes my free hand, entwining his fingers with mine.

The red door yields to Nyura’s brief touch; I catch the merest tail of her response to him — ’tis hard to discern the fine detail of

a call meant for another, but like, getting the gist is trivial, no harder than overhearing a conversation. The door trusts him, trusts him more than most.

We dive into the discotheque together. Heading back to the booth, we pass by the basement bar; Nyura stops to get Eli’s attention. Sie turns to acknowledge him and as sie moves, the discotheque lights trace hir arched nose, glide over the dome of a yarmulke and shatter upon the fractal borders of hir pink afro and long payos. Sie cocks hir head to one side, and something within my skull — a referent flapping loose — swings as a compass-needle towards its signifier, catches hold of its hand.

“Oh! Thou’rt Nyura’s—” I begin.

“Sister,” says Eli, raising an eyebrow at me. “As in, we’re twins, nu?” Sie turns to Nyura. “Who’s the boon companion, then, Anyuta?”

Nyura glances at me; I nod — go ahead, introduce me — and he flashes me a quick smile.

“His name’s Leyb,” he says. “Nu, ah. To me, in any case.” He squeezes my hand.

“Leyb— or nu, Lev’s fine too?” I say, and bow. “Like, and I go by Lyubov with some?”

Eli nods in acknowledgement, and turns to Nyura.

“Leaving early tonight?” sie says, not even bothering to keep the curiosity out of hir voice. Nyura allows himself a coy smile, and taps a long finger against his cupid’s bow.

“A lady doesn’t kiss and tell, darling,” he says. “Especially not before anything much has had a chance to happen.”

Eli grins, and Nyura adds, “I’ll tell thee if I shan’t be sleeping in mine own bed tonight—” he glances sideways at me; I try to keep mine expression steady, not let slip I have no bed of mine own, nowhere to take him. “But, nu, ah. I mind not taking thee back to Gor’kiy Val—”

“Thine’s okay?” I say. “Nu like. More than okay.” Nyura smiles, shyly, and squeezes my hand again. Eli attempts a derisive snort, but sie’s grinning. Some hot-house flower calls for hir attention from the other side of the bar, and sie sighs.

“I should get back to babysitting,” sie says. “Zay gezunt!”

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The Bitter Drop © 2014–2023, Isak Bloom; licensed underCC BY-NC-SA 4.0