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Title: A Cup Yellow With Miracles
Remix of: "Familiar" by Sabrina
Rating: This version NC17
DISCLAIMER: Not true, and adapted from another author.
So, while the hand
holds the cut of the lemon,
half a world
on a trencher,
the gold of the universe
to your touch:
a cup yellow
a breast and a nipple
perfuming the earth;
a flashing made fruitage,
the diminutive fire of a planet.
I. The Cut of the Lemon. June 2003.
Outside the window the rain has just started, staccato pitter-pats that slant against the glass and filter the light gray as it spills into the Spanish-tiled kitchen. Elijah stands at the counter, fingering the white plastic cutting board, the small black-handled knife, and the smooth skin of the Meyer lemon, palest yellow.
"It's bigger than a regular lemon," Elijah observes, his voice betraying little interest.
"Yeah. Sweeter, too," Dom replies, his fingers flying in a complicated dance with the big chef's knife, rendering a pile of fresh rosemary. "They grow here. Haven't you had them before?"
Elijah shrugs. "I don't know. Probably. You want me to slice it, or what?"
"No, not yet. Roll it on the counter first, squish it, like," Dom says. "Then halve it and squeeze the juice into that little white bowl. I need it for the marinade."
"Okay." Elijah complies, feeling the firm globe soften as he presses his weight down on it, rolling it back and forth a few times until he guesses that it's squished enough. He puts it on the cutting board and holds it still for the first slide in of the knife. It's sharp and easy, the skin splitting apart, revealing soft glistening flesh and an immediate leak of juice. Elijah puts the knife down, picks up the first half of the lemon and squeezes it into the designated bowl; when he does the juice runs out in a flood, so much juice for one piece of citrus, and the perfume of it hits him all at once, soursweet and delicate, sugary acid.
His fist tightens involuntarily, crushing the last of the juice from the ruined half as the sense memory clutches his throat, and he remembers last summer, when things were different. He hates himself when the acrid tears well up. Stupid, he thinks, it doesn't even smell the same, exactly.
"Lij? You okay?" Dom, suddenly still beside him, studying him. Like always. Too close of a friend to lie to, too observant not to need to try.
"Yeah," Elijah says hurriedly, wiping his face with his sleeve. "I squirted myself in the eye."
Dom doesn't answer that, just looks at him for another long moment before he takes the other half away. "I can finish it. Go tell your mum the pork roast will be done in about an hour and a half."
"Sure." Elijah tosses the lemon half into the garbage and steps out of the kitchen.
On the trip down the hallway he brings his unwashed hands to his face and inhales, and that's closer, warmed by his own skin, and he closes his eyes. Outside the rain picks up, flooding rivulets down the red clay of the roof, and he twists, dry and unable to forget, sticking--somewhere between a thin translucent hate and a longing that makes his jaw clench and his mouth water.
II. Half a World on a Trencher. Early January 2000.
"I don't think I'll ever get my head around it being summer in January," Elijah said, taking another sip of Heineken as he watched cast and crew milling about Viggo's yard. Chinese paper lanterns had been strung, fifties style, along an outcropping of pohutukawa trees, the soft rose of the lanterns a less-vibrant echo of the trees' eye-popping crimson blossoms.
"Or freezing in July," Dom replied agreeably. "So, where's the party food?" he asked, pointing to a still-empty picnic table.
"You and your one-track mind," Elijah said, then amended it as Dom's eyes followed a curvy brunette in a sarong across the yard. "Sorry, two tracks. My bad."
"I'm just saying, can't have a proper party without food," Dom said, losing track of the girl and turning back to Elijah. "You don't suppose Viggo's planning on cooking, do you?"
"How would I know? And why? So what if he is?"
"Hmm." Dom sat his beer down on the arm of a nearby lawn chair and dug in his pocket, retrieving his cel phone. "I think I saved the number for Mike's Pizza last time..."
Elijah laughed. "Harsh, man, that's really harsh." He finished his beer with a long swallow. "I'm going to go get another one. You ready?"
"Nah, not yet," Dom said, contemplating the cel phone briefly and then shoving it back in his pocket. "I think I'll just kick back here for a bit." He grabbed his beer and sat down heavily in the chair, stretching his legs out and closing his eyes, bare toes wiggling in the grass.
"What? Not going to try and pull sarong-girl?" Elijah said, clutching his chest in mock surprise.
"Plenty of time for that later," Dom said without opening his eyes.
"Overconfident bastard," Elijah said over his shoulder as he headed for the house.
Dom's laughter followed him in. "You're just jealous, wanker."
The screen door shut behind Elijah with a loud slam; he'd forgotten the spring on it was really tight. The other people in the kitchen--Viggo, Craig, Sarah, Sean Bean--all jumped, startled.
"Well, hello, Mister Frodo," Sarah said teasingly. "I thought hobbits were supposed to be able to move soundlessly." Elijah saw that she was helping Viggo arrange chicken wings and egg rolls on two large trays. Sean and Craig were taking bottles of liquor out of paper bags and setting them on the counter.
"Well, you shouldn't believe everything you hear," Elijah said with a smile.
"Right, like how hobbits have big feet and that means they have big--" Craig started. "Ow!" Sarah had punched him, hard, on the arm. "What? I'm just saying it doesn't necessarily follow." He rubbed his arm, pouting, but Sarah ignored him, and he flounced out of the kitchen.
"But it might," Sean said, cracking open the seal on a bottle of Stolichnaya. "Follow, like." He looked at Elijah and smiled, that same slow, insinuating smile that had been tormenting Elijah for weeks now, and Elijah shifted where he stood, the room suddenly several degrees warmer than it had been. Sean's gray t-shirt was tight over his biceps, and Elijah wondered idly if the cotton was as soft as it looked.
"I, um. Yeah. Beer," Elijah said as he held up the empty bottle.
"In the fridge," Viggo offered. "Garbage is under the sink." He picked up the tray of wings and Sarah grabbed the egg rolls and they moved past Elijah on their way outside.
"Thanks." Elijah stepped over to the sink, over beside Sean, and opened the cabinet, threw the bottle in the garbage. When he straightened back up he saw that Sean was still looking at him.
"Sure you want beer? I'm making vodka and lemonades," Sean said, indicating a glass pitcher on the counter full of what looked like fresh, real lemonade, yellow so pale as to be almost white, softly cloudy with dissolving sugar.
"Uh, yeah, sure. Sounds good," Elijah managed, and then he watched as Sean mixed two enormous glasses worth, a good four shots of Stoli in each.
"Don't think I'll feel like running back in here much," Sean said by way of explanation, and Elijah laughed.
"Don't think you'll be able to run back in here much."
"Speak for yourself, little one," Sean shot back, but the corners of his mouth were turned up just so, and a shiver ran down Elijah's spine as it always did when Sean called him that; it should have been stupid, or maybe insulting, but somehow it was anything but.
"We'll see," Elijah said, the vague hint of challenge in the air as surely as the scent of lemons. Sean handed him his glass and Elijah took a sip. It was really good, sweet and sour and cleanly pure at once, and underneath the vodka was an icy burn.
"It's good," Elijah said.
"Yeah, it is," Sean agreed, taking a swallow himself. "But it's better outside, innit? Lemonade and a summer night go together."
"After you," Elijah said, and he followed Sean back outside.
Later, much later, after the food was gone and the party was dying down--Elijah had lost track of Dom, and he suspected he'd gone off with the girl after all (Marika, props department, he automatically corrected himself, now that they'd been properly introduced) --Elijah found himself sitting on the cooling grass with Sean. He leaned his head over onto Sean's shoulder, and that felt right and easy. From somewhere inside the house, music drifted out, sleepy trumpet and piano floating languidly into the warm night; Miles Davis, maybe. Elijah knew Viggo liked Miles Davis. Elijah knew lots of things, in fact.
Such as the fact that this was a good moment, a very good moment when Sean slid his arm around Elijah and pulled him in closer, and the stars were sharp even though everything else was rather fuzzy, but pleasantly so, and Elijah knew he didn't want this to end, ever. Sean's chest was reassuringly solid and smelled of cotton dried in sunshine, musk, and lemon-tinged sweat.
"I almost didn't come tonight," Sean said quietly against Elijah's ear. "Shooting ran so late, and I was so bloody tired."
"I'm glad you did," Elijah said, wrapping his arms around Sean's waist. "Really glad."
"Me, too," Sean replied, and then he went quiet again, and Elijah listened to the trumpet curl high and longing, the notes lingering like unanswered questions. At length Elijah felt Sean take a deep breath. "You know, I'm leaving in a couple of weeks."
Elijah pretended not to hear. He knew, of course. That was another thing he knew; it was just one of the things he wished he didn't. He shut his eyes and listened to the steady beat of Sean's heart.
"Elijah," Sean said, more firmly. "Answer me."
"I know," Elijah said at last. "But that's a couple of weeks, right?"
Elijah thought he felt Sean's lips brush the top of his head, but it was so faint it might well have been the breeze, or a passing moth.
"Do you want to get out of here?"
III. The Gold of the Universe
The next half-hour blurred in Elijah's memory--saying their goodbyes, Viggo's calm, appraising look, the strangely formal cab ride to Sean's, Sean not touching him, looking out the window, enough, almost, to make him doubt the things he thought he knew--but then they were at Sean's, stepping into the dark foyer, and Elijah had barely managed to shut the door behind him when Sean pushed him up against it and kissed him.
Sean's tongue seemed to be as big as his hands, which were rucking up Elijah's shirt and finding skin, skating over the dip and groove of Elijah's ribs, up his shoulder blades, and Elijah couldn't breathe, but he didn't want to, either, not with Sean burning the oxygen away with every plunge of his tongue into Elijah's mouth. Elijah hooked his fingers around Sean's waist and pulled him closer still, so that there wasn't a millimeter of space between them and the door was an oak stripe of pain down his spine.
"Come on, then," Sean said as he broke the kiss, his breath off-rhythm too and Elijah followed the sound and Sean's amorphous outline down the near-black of the hall. Sean opened a door and dim blue light spilled out, and Elijah followed Sean through the doorway.
Into Sean's bedroom, illuminated by a large lighted aquarium that cast an eerie glow around the room. An empty aquarium, as far as Elijah could tell, for although there were several mossy little castles dotting the bottom, no fish flashed through their portcullises. Elijah's gaze flicked immediately to the bed--Sean's bed--the corner of the dark blanket turned down and rumpled where Sean had been in it, Sean who was even now turning back towards Elijah and reaching for him.
"Uh. I didn't know you had an aquarium," Elijah said. The words were jarring, escaping his lips in a jittery rush. "It's big, isn't it? But no fish. Did you kill them or something?" Elijah immediately regretted that last, but Sean didn't look offended, only slightly puzzled. He brushed a rough thumb along Elijah's jaw line.
"There were never any fish in it. I like the light," Sean said. "You all right, Elijah? I thought--"
Elijah shivered a little, torn between the throbbing ache and the blueblack reality of Sean's bed. "I...yeah. I'm good."
Sean pulled Elijah closer. "You're so fucking beautiful," Sean whispered before he kissed Elijah again, and Elijah forgot about the missing fish and things he couldn't exactly say. Two weeks wasn't enough time to lose this now and then regain the ground later, and so when Sean walked him backwards to the bed, he went, and when Sean pushed him down on it, he reached up for Sean with both arms.
The gray t-shirt--softer than it had looked, yes, insanely soft brushing over the hard lines of Sean's stomach--was easily pulled off, but when Elijah tried to undo the button of Sean's jeans his fingers fumbled. At length Sean took over and shucked the jeans down, and Elijah's breath caught in his throat as Sean's cock sprang free. In the blue light Sean's skin looked like cold, submerged marble, but when Elijah touched Sean's chest he was startled at the incongruously radiant heat. Elijah wanted to be next to that heat, skin to skin, and he struggled to get out of his own clothes.
And then it was there again, that reality of oh, shit, this is really happening when Sean reached into the bedside drawer and retrieved a small bottle and a foil packet. Elijah watched, wide-eyed, as Sean coated his thick fingers with glistening liquid, and when Sean reached for his clamped legs, he willed them apart, but not quite fast enough.
"Elijah," Sean said, freezing mid-motion, and now he was looking at Elijah again but this time the questioning in his eyes was razor-sharp precise, and Elijah knew that there would be no getting away from it this time. "Is this your first time?"
"Yes," Elijah admitted, and hastened to reach for Sean's hand before he could withdraw it. "But...I want to. Please." He moved Sean's hand until he felt the cold slickness against him. "I want you...want it to be you."
Sean shut his eyes for a moment and exhaled heavily, and when he opened them Elijah knew, even before Sean moved his hand and the first bit of Sean's finger slipped shockingly inside.
"Is that all right, then?" Sean whispered, and Elijah could only nod mutely, skin pebbling into gooseflesh, and after a bit it was more than all right when Sean added another finger. He took his time, slowly stretching twist-pull that made Elijah feel like warm dough. When Sean finally pulled his fingers out Elijah was aching for more, and he stroked himself to the sight of Sean rolling the condom on, and that was shivering-wonderful.
Then Sean leaned over and kissed Elijah again, a slow twirl of tongue, and Elijah felt the impossible hardness of Sean's cock pressing against him and he willed himself to relax, breathe out, breathe breathe oh flashed through his mind and then he couldn't breathe anymore through the terrible burn as Sean pushed forward by minute degrees. His fingers dug white half-moons into Sean's shoulders and Sean's breath was loud in his ear.
Sean stopped, held agonizingly still while Elijah tried to remember how to breathe, and when the pain had started to diffuse into a thin haze across his eyes Sean pushed forward another little bit and it came rushing back and Elijah gasped.
"It's okay, little one," Sean whispered in his ear, and his hands were sure on Elijah's hips, each callus brushing trails of pleasure across Elijah's skin. "It'll be okay."
And then Sean was sinking deep and Elijah buried his face in Sean's neck, into the sharp wonder of lemony sweat and musk, and he stayed there through the rocking that burned acid pleasure through his veins, and he came first, every muscle shivering as wet warmth spread between their bodies.
"Christ, Elijah, you feel..." Sean lost the rest of the words as he came with a violent shudder, collapsing on Elijah, and Elijah held him close.
Elijah came twice more that night between fitful snatches of sleep, once when Sean had sucked his cock until he thought he'd turn inside out with the pleasure of it and then again, hours later, when dawn was threading through the slatted blinds and turning the blue to gray, when Sean had handed him a condom and had laid back, and if he thought Elijah was fumbling or inexperienced he didn't say so. When Sean came Elijah kissed the hollow of his collarbone, and it made no sense that it would still taste of lemons, but it did, and Elijah wasn't sure if it was real or phantasm.
IV. A Flashing Made Fruitage. July 2002.
Elijah thanked the cab driver as he pulled to a stop in front of Sean's house and paid the fare without waiting for the change. He walked up the steps to the glossy bottle-green door and hesitated, finger hovering over the bell. It seemed like ages since he'd seen Sean, although, in truth, it hadn't been; but premieres and the occasional junket (which Sean avoided like the plague whenever he could) weren't the same as time spent together with no other purpose, and there had been precious little of that. Sean's final two weeks in New Zealand had flown by, and they had been wonderful--stolen kisses behind false trees, blue nights that blurred and ran together in a frantic clutch for something thin and vanishing, like smoke--but they had ended all the same.
Since then Sean had called, but less frequently as time had gone by, and Elijah had been frankly surprised at this invitation.
But not so surprised he'd said no.
He pressed the brass button, heard a deep chime from somewhere inside the house. A familiar step, and then Sean was opening the door, and he looked exactly as Elijah remembered, smile bright above a white robe, and Elijah felt the old, familiar catch in his throat and his voice failed him. He stood there, blinking, and wondered for a moment if perhaps he shouldn't have come.
"Come in," Sean said at length, stepping aside, and Elijah did.
Inside the house was quiet and neat, and Elijah noticed the gentle order Sean had kept things in during what Elijah now thought of as before. A lone red ball, half-hidden by the thick leg of a mahogany secretary, was the only thing immediately noticeable as out of place.
But, Elijah thought as he followed Sean through the foyer, it belongs here. It belongs to someone. He didn't have time to sink far down into that, though, because he'd followed Sean into the robin's-egg-blue kitchen and Sean had turned around and was smiling at him again, utterly devastating.
"It's a bit early for lemonade, but I've got coffee," Sean said, indicating a full pot on the wooden counter.
"Coffee would be great," Elijah replied, and the coffee was good, strong, bitter French coffee, and much later, the lemonade was good, too, and if the stars from the rooftop were upside down, what of that?
V. The Diminutive Fire of a Planet. June 2003.
Elijah's loading the dishwasher when Dom comes up behind him and places a hand on the small of his back.
"Are you going to tell me what's wrong, or are you just going to keep on not talking all night?"
Elijah straightens up and turns to look at Dom. Dom's jaw is tightly clenched, but Elijah knows he isn't angry; it's clenched with the effort of biting back all the things Elijah suspects he wants to say.
"I'm sorry," Elijah says. "Dinner was delicious. I didn't mean to be so quiet."
"That's not an answer," Dom says, and Elijah knows it wasn't. Still, he has no idea how to explain that something so insignificant as the juice of a lemon had thrown him back, back through the realm of sense and memory to a melting blue place.
And then, much later, to London, where Sean had made vodka and lemonades again but it hadn't been the same at all. Sean's touch was familiar then, safety instead of bright new things, but even so, that would have been enough. Would have been.
"I was just remembering," Elijah says eventually.
"Bean?" Dom asks, and Elijah nods. Dom looks away from Elijah then, and the muscle twitches along the line of his jaw. "He was a right bastard to just fuck off that way."
"No, it wasn't like that," Elijah begins. From the living room he hears the t.v. start up, canned laughter jarringly bright and out of place.
"You shouldn't defend him," Dom says, and then he looks at Elijah again, and the force of his anger is startling, not at all what Elijah expected.
"You don't understand," Elijah says, leaves I miss him so fucking much unsaid, but Dom seems to hear it anyway, and if Dom doesn't understand exactly why, Elijah thinks he may just understand the feeling of bitter citrus closing up your throat, because the gray rain that's still beating incessantly against the window has found its way into Dom's eyes, and he leaves Elijah in the kitchen, alone with the scent of charred meat and an orchard of ghosts.
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