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Chains Of Eternity

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The Garden Of A Thousand Delights

 

Sören didn't sleep much that night, painting until late. The painting of Van at the Botanical Gardens in Akureyri took on a life of its own - Van wearing a violet silk robe, open, revealing his perfectly sculpted body and a generous cock, fully erect, dripping precum. As with Dancer in the Darkness Sören made his eyes a shocking, inhuman violet, brighter than the deep violet of his robe, but unlike the wild, orgasmic expression on Van's face in the portrait of him veil dancing, here a slight smile was on Van's lush mouth, a wicked look in his eyes, a look of pure seduction. Sören, himself, was getting aroused by it, as if Van beckoned Come, beauty through the canvas.

In one hand, Van held a cup of red wine, and in his other hand he was holding... what looked like the beginning of a leash, but more ornate than the one Sören bought at the pet store. Set with violet crystals, fire opals, and diamonds.

He hadn't started with the flowers yet, the background details would be the last. In the meantime, the painting needed... something. Something more. He wasn't sure what. Not just yet.

What he was sure of, was that Van's flood of hair was taking an insanely long time to get just right.

_

When Sören was done with his classes on Monday afternoon, he immediately got back to work on his painting. He paused to give Dooku a hug and a kiss when Dooku headed out to walk with Alejandro. Hours later, Sören took a break to eat dinner outside with Dooku, and after dinner they took a shower together and had a slow, languid sixty-nine on the bed, kissing with their mouths full of cum. The sexual energy just added to Sören's creative fever, and when Dooku was dozing off, Sören was back at the canvas, completely lost in his vision.

Sören painted straight through till the morning, not bothering to sleep. Dooku woke up with the alarm and gave Sören a concerned look as he made them coffee, though he knew from repeat experience that this was "normal" for his husband. "Are you still planning on getting together with Van this afternoon?" he asked as he brought the cup over to Sören.

Sören nodded. "I need to take a break from this for a bit anyway." Study the subject some more.

"All right. But do make sure to get some actual sleep later." Dooku gave him a stern look.

A glimmer of an ancient memory - searing heat, exhausted, he'd been up for days, but must put in the finishing touches... get it just right... and the second he proclaimed the word "done", he looked from diamonds into diamonds - silver-blue eyes, amused and worried at the same time. Strong arms enfolding him, carrying him out of the smithy. "Time to rest, 'náro." So like Father... Laying him down, gently, sensually massaging him, soothing aching muscles that had been working for too long. Then cradling him, petting him, laughing at the little whine of protest that he wanted to come first. "There will be time enough for that later." A chuckle. "Sometimes it's hard to believe you're the older one of the two of us." And Sören-of-then just patted him sleepily and mumbled, "You always take such good care of me, Ñolo."

Sören startled a little as he came back to himself, snapped from the vision in his mind's eye to the vision in the painting before him. For an instant, Van's eyes seemed to glow on the canvas.

Sören had never even set foot inside a smithy - the closest he'd come to it was the small shack out in back of the studio that he used for his kiln. Once, Dooku had mentioned he believed in past lives; Sören's own internal jury was out on that, as a skeptical agnostic, but on the other hand he exhibited "psychic" gifts that most of the world didn't believe existed, so it was possible there was more to the universe than he knew. He wondered if he was remembering something from a past life, now...

...but he didn't have time for that. He looked at the clock, he had to get to the studio.

"I'll drive you," Dooku said, which had been the plan anyway, and then Van would pick him up at 1:30.

Sören leaned on Dooku, snuggling on the way down; with one hand on the wheel, Dooku's free hand affectionately rubbed Sören's knee. Dooku had on classical music, which wasn't Sören's go-to genre, but Alejandro had given him an appreciation for it years ago, and it was nice and relaxing now. At the studio, they lingered, exchanging one of those long, meaningful glances, and then Dooku leaned in and they kissed.

"I love you, you know," Sören husked, stroking his face, his beard.

"I know."

"Thank you, again, for being so..." Sören made a vague hand gesture. "Cool about all of this."

"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't an adjustment, but I think we are managing well, and I will be honest with you if there's a problem." Dooku kissed him again. "Your happiness is important to me."

"Your happiness is important to me, Nico."

"You make me happy." Dooku smiled, and the smile met his eyes, crinkling the corners. Sören smiled back. "Now go, and I'll see you this evening."

Sören blew a kiss on the way out.

The adult class dragged, even though he normally didn't mind watercolors; the children's class was better, it always made Sören feel like a big kid again. They were finishing up papier-mache crowns, which they'd been working on for a few weeks now - even though the children who attended his school all seemed to be from good homes, Sören knew from the experience of his own childhood that appearances could be deceiving, and even without abuse going on behind closed doors, Sören felt it was important to foster a sense of pride in oneself at a young age, so here they were all becoming magical princes and princesses, making crowns that reflected things about who they were and what they liked. One of the girls had fake flowers and leaves on her crown, with a fake small bird poised on the tallest spike. A boy had stenciled and painted dragons onto his crown, and made realistic dragon eggs out of papier-mache to put on the spikes. Another boy had Pokemon on his crown, with a miniature Pikachu on the tallest spike. Another girl had cats all over her crown, with a sculpted cat face on the front of her crown, and a fake cat tail hanging from the back. Another girl had a fake crow on the tallest spike, with blue-black feathers glued around the spikes of her crown, the crown itself painted in dramatic black glitter.

Sören's own crown had swirling flames rising into the darkness of space, stars and supernovas. Today he put on the finishing touches - strands of artisan lampwork and sparkling goldstone glass beads hanging on wire from the crown, in colors matching the flames and nebulas. One of the children surprised him by giving him three small antique diamond-shaped mirrors, edged with brass filigree, and Sören affixed them to his crown last, on the middle three spines of his crown. At the end the children were all modeling their crowns and Sören put on his, twirling to giggles and oohs and ahhs, the beads swaying as he moved, when he noticed Van standing in the doorway, smiling fondly.

"Er," Sören said. "It's not 1:30 yet..."

"It's close enough."

The parents were starting to come in to collect their children, with a few who lived nearby walking home by themselves. Van waited in the hall until the room was clear, and then he came in and gave Sören a quick kiss.

"I feel so silly right now," Sören said, crinkling his nose, biting his lower lip.

Van stroked his face. "It's very you."

Sören laughed. He put the crown down on a safe place on one of the tables so he could clean up - there was a lot to put away. Van helped, two sets of hands making it go faster, and then when the room was cleaned up, Sören gestured to the door. "Shall we?"

Van put the crown back on Sören's head, making him laugh again, and took his hand.

Their first stop was in town, to pick up a frame for the pastel drawing Van had made Sören last week, so he could hang it somewhere. Then they visited Laufás, a turf house mentioned in the settlement records of Iceland from 874-930, and rebuilt in 1866. There was also a church which had been there since 1865, and was open to the public. Van and Sören, hand-in-hand, walked around the cluster of turf houses, and into and around the church, which had a beautiful pulpit.

"There's a lot of these country churches around," Sören said. "We used to be a very religious people, not so much anymore." He laughed softly. "Though a lot of us still believe in huldufólk - what you'd call elves. Funny how that works. Most of these old churches, they were built on pagan sites where people left offerings for the huldufólk. People sensed some sort of power there."

"You're not religious at all, I take it."

"Well, on paper I'm Lutheran, as it's the state religion, but I'm not observant or anything, I guess you could say I'm agnostic. I think even if I wanted to believe in something, my aunt Katrín was so much of a religious fanatic that she completely turned me off to it. Though she was a bit of a hypocrite, too." Sören frowned, then. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be spoiling the beautiful day talking about -"

"Sören." Van's voice was a caress. He took Sören's chin in his hand, tilted Sören's face to his. "I care. If you need to get it out..."

"I don't know what Alejandro has told you, but my mother died when I was six - I found her dead body, and I was raised by my father's sister and her husband. They drank. They were... violent."

"Where are they now?"

"They're both dead." I murdered one of them.

A few minutes of silence, and then Van said, "This Justin you mentioned last week... it's common for people who were abused, growing up, to end up with abusive partners."

Sören nodded. "It was a textbook case. Sometimes I still hate myself for not leaving sooner, not fighting back more, especially when -" His voice trailed off before he could finish with when he raped me.

"It's a common tactic of abusers, to break their victim into not fighting back." Van gave Sören a small, sad smile. "I know a bit about it."

"You...?"

"I will spare you the details, but yes, it's something I endured, in my younger days." Van squeezed Sören's hand. "I'm rather surprised I'm telling you any of this, I normally don't confide such details in others." Sören heard the words I don't show my weakness; my heart was destroyed a long time ago in the back of his head.

"Well," Sören said, "I understand now why I felt safe with you on that first night, even though I had no reason to trust a stranger - the opposite, in fact. We had that same vibe, I guess." Sören leaned in to give Van a soft kiss. "And I wanted to take care of you the other night. Make you feel the same sort of safety and caring that you showed me. So maybe that's why you're opening up now, when you usually don't."

"You have a beautiful heart. It shines through in your work. It shines through in what I've seen of you with others. Like your class that I walked in on."

Sören crinkled his nose and bit his lower lip. "I still can't believe you saw me being such a dork."

Van took Sören's face between his hands and kissed him deeply.

They got back in the Bentley, and drove through the countryside. They got out here and there to walk around, seeing the beauty of the rural north of Iceland, vibrant green in the summertime, up close; there was a stretch of farms, and Sören showed Van the farm that used to belong to his maternal grandparents and had been in his mother's family since the 1600s, and had been sold to a younger family in the 1980s. They still kept goats and Icelandic ponies. The new owners were around, and after Sören explained who he was to them, he got to pet the ponies, making happy noises like a big kid. He felt self-conscious about it later, as they headed back to the Bentley, but Van seemed to enjoy his enthusiasm, petting him on the way.

Out on the road again, they approached a roadside stall that had fresh strawberries and cream - Sören assumed this was where Van had gotten their treat last week - and after buying a container Van drove them to a place, where they could sit in the fresh air and enjoy the simple pleasure of strawberries on a summer day in the lush green hills, dappled with arctic wildflowers. They dipped strawberries in cream and fed each other, like lovers, licking and sucking each other's fingers. At the end there was a little bit of cream left in the container, and Sören dipped his fingers into the cream and stuck them in Van's mouth, then kissed him hard, savoring the sweetness of the fresh cream and the lingering sweetness from the strawberries.

He wanted to taste something else too, finding himself unbuttoning Van's shirt, kissing his neck. Van helped, taking off Sören's T-shirt, undoing his belt. Sören was so far gone with lust that he didn't care that they were out in the open and, though no one was around right now, tourists might come by and catch them in the act. When they were completely naked, Van produced a small bottle of lube he'd been carrying, making Sören giggle.

"You were prepared, I see," Sören said.

"Hoping, yes." Van kissed Sören's neck, and then lay on his back in the grass, pulling Sören down on top of him.

For a few minutes they kissed, hands roaming over each other, hard cocks rubbing together. Then Van took them both into his fist, stroking slowly, his free hand reaching around Sören, to push into him with slick fingers. Sören moaned, and kissed him harder.

When they were both ready - and Van took his sweet time, teasing them both - Sören sank down on Van's cock, impaling himself, giving a wild cry when Van bottomed out inside him. His hands on Van's shoulders, rubbing down over his chest and and back up - lingering on the nipples, thumbs and fingers rolling in lazy circles - Sören rode him slowly, sweetly, crying out into the blue sky, the wind, the sun, with each roll of their hips. Nothing felt more right than the two of them making love out here in the beauty of nature, being beautiful together, their passion for each other as primal and lush as the landscape itself. Van's hands explored Sören, at last taking his cock into one hand, caressing with the other, and towards the end, stroking Sören's face, his curls, Sören sucking his fingers, moaning around them.

They made it last as long as they could, slow and languid, until the heat between them was too much and Sören rode him hard, leaning down to kiss him again and again, Van's arms wrapped around him, his fingers playing over the outline of the phoenixes on his back as if he'd committed it to memory. Right on that edge, Van kissed, licked and nibbled Sören's neck, growling, as Sören bucked on top of him, whimpering, gasping "oh god, oh god, Van, oh god, oh fuck..."

"Yes, beauty." Van nipped the sweet spot where the neck meets the shoulder, and then tilted Sören's head to his so they could kiss once more, kissing like they were drowning and this was the air they needed to live. His fingers pulled one of Sören's nipple rings, making Sören cry out into the kiss. Their eyes met, and Van sucked Sören's lower lip between his, and ground out, "Come with me."

"Van! Oh, Van... Ég er að koma, elskan."

"Sören."

Sören's cum painted Van's body, and some of the nearby wildflowers. Sören groaned with satisfaction as he felt Van shoot inside him, his hole throbbing, clenching and grasping, milking Van's cock to the last drop.

Van pulled Sören close, holding him tight, rocking him a little, petting his curls; Sören sighed as he felt Van's lips in his curls, raining soft kisses. Sören listened to their heartbeats thundering together, and then there was just the radiant, melting bliss, like they were one with the land out here, something in them giving life to the hills; the grass and the wildflowers seemed to be super-saturated in color for a moment, the air shimmering around them. Funny what tricks on the mind endorphins will play, Sören thought to himself, habit from his medical training, even though he knew from his experience as a Force user that the Living Force was just as valid of an explanation.

Sören once again wondered if Van wasn't at least a little Force sensitive. At the very least, he brings it out more strongly in you.

Sören snuggled into him, breathed in the clean scent of his hair, like rain and spice, and thought to himself, I could fall in love with him.

A small part of me already has.

It made no sense, they didn't know each other well, but there it was. And Sören felt himself laughing at the absurdity of it.

After a moment Van noticed his silent, shaking laughter. "Hm?"

"Oh..." Sören grinned up at him. "I was just thinking... I don't even know your last name."

Van smiled back. He planted a kiss on Sören's forehead. "Apollyon."

"That doesn't sound Russian."

"It's an assumed name."

"Ah, OK." Sören nodded; it wasn't unheard of for abuse victims to take new names as a way of distancing themselves from their families.

They drove some more through the countryside before Van dropped Sören off at home. They lingered in front of the cabin.

"So I'll see you on Friday for ceramics," Sören said.

Van nodded. "You will."

"Do you want to come the whole day, for pastels that morning, or...?"

"I'll just come for the ceramics class." Van gave Sören a wicked grin. "I wouldn't be able to resist you if I was there for the whole day."

"Promises, promises." Sören leaned in to give him a little kiss. "I'll see you on Friday afternoon, then."

"You will." Van blew Sören a kiss on his way out of the car, and Sören crinkled his nose and gave a happy little giggle before he strutted in.

Dooku was out with Alejandro, walking Auli, which wasn't a surprise. Sören was tired from not having slept last night, but he was also feeling a high from the afternoon, the beauty of nature, the passionate lovemaking in the grass.

He sat in front of the canvas and looked at it again. He knew what it needed now. He began to paint himself - in his mind's eye he was straddling Van, the fingers of one hand playing down Van's chest, ready to take the hard cock offered to him. The jeweled leash wrapped around Van's hand.

But before he could get too far into painting himself, he added another detail. He started working on a patch of flowers, as a reminder of what to do to the rest when he got there. The flowers were made of fire, glowing with their own light.

There. Time for a nap.

_


The rest of the week seemed to crawl - Sören was nervous about the meeting with Alejandro on Friday night, even though yes he'd given Alejandro a blank slate and said they wouldn't be having the serious discussion about old history and hurts just yet. But, Sören had the painting to distract himself, which he worked on feverishly in his spare time. He managed to get some more normal sleep hours in, after his painting binge on Sunday and Monday, but he was still consumed, in a way painting had not consumed him in some time.

On Thursday night, he realized he hadn't been in chat for a few days, and even though he'd asked his brother not to worry, he knew his brother would still worry.

[7:49 PM] Sören: not dead

[7:53 PM] Dagnýr: Where the hell have you been?

[7:55 PM] Sören: ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

[7:56 PM] Dagnýr: *facepalm*

[7:57 PM] Sören: I've been painting, too.

[7:58 PM] Margrét: And you saw Van. How was that?

[7:59 PM] Sören: good!

[8:01 PM] Dagnýr: Do you finally know his last name.

[8:02 PM] Sören: it's Rasputin

[8:03 PM] Sören: Russia's Greatest Love Machine

[8:03 PM] Sören: NO LOL

[8:04 PM] Sören: it is my ringtone for him, though

[8:05 PM] Margrét: Awww, no Chiki Briki hardbass?

[8:07 PM] Sören: nah

[8:07 PM] Sören: but yes, I know his last name! it's Apollyon, which is a weird surname for a Russian I guess, but OK

[8:09 PM] Dagnýr: wait

[8:09 PM] Dagnýr: waaaaiiit

[8:09 PM] Dagnýr: This is Van Motherfucking Apollyon?

[8:12 PM] Sören: uh, yeah? is he famous or smth

[8:14 PM] Dagnýr: He owns Apollyon Enterprises.

[8:15 PM] Dagnýr: It's a Fortune 500 company.

[8:16 PM] Dagnýr: Our school got a very large grant from them.

[8:18 PM] Sören: I see

[8:18 PM] Sören: so I'm dating a millionaire

[8:21 PM] Dagnýr: No Sören, you're not.

[8:21 PM] Dagnýr: You're dating a billionaire. This is, for perspective, as big a deal if you were dating Elon Musk or Bill Gates.

[8:24 PM] Sören:

[Image: A cartoon dog sitting in a room on fire, drinking coffee, his face melting off, captioned "This is fine. I'm okay with the events that are unfolding currently. That's okay, things are going to be okay."]

 

[8:28 PM] Dooku: That's... interesting.

[8:28 PM] Dooku: We had a brief conversation where I asked him what he did and he said, I quote, "I run a cleaning service."

[8:31 PM] Dagnýr: He was probably making a funny.

[8:33 PM] Dooku: Or a euphemism.

[8:35 PM] Dagnýr: ?

[8:37 PM] Dooku: ...never mind.

[8:38 PM] Margrét: LOL WTF is our lives, our brother lives in backwater Iceland and is surprise-dating a billionaire. What's next?

[8:40 PM] Sören: next, we'll find out he's an alien

[8:40 PM] Sören: I'm fine with that so long as I get an anal probe

[8:42 PM] Dagnýr:

[Image: Jack Black is holding a sign that says STOP next to Elmo.]

 

[8:44 PM] Sören: so hey if it's all the same to you I'd rather not talk about me dating a super rich guy

[8:45 PM] Sören: I liked him before I knew he was CEO of some Fortune 500 company and I really don't care about his money

[8:45 PM] Sören: let's talk about something more interesting than money, like

[8:46 PM] Sören: speaking of aliens

[8:46 PM] Sören: how's that elf genealogy thing coming along?

[8:48 PM] Dagnýr: I am making progress.

[8:49 PM] Dagnýr: I am in the early 1700s now, and about to leave the 1700s and get into the 1600s.

[8:52 PM] Dagnýr: Here is a fascinating piece of info that all but confirms something is going to turn up soon-ish - did you know our family used to be the vicars of the church in Akureyri? It changed hands in the 1800s, but that church was ours for a LONG time, because...

[8:52 PM] Dagnýr: apparently

[8:53 PM] Dagnýr: it was to cleanse "the sin of witchcraft" from our family by "serving God"

[8:54 PM] Dagnýr: So my gut tells me that real soon now, I'm going to find the supposed "witch" ancestor.

[8:55 PM] Dagnýr: Unfortunately I have to put the research on hold for a few days because Nicole! is! pregnant! and we're gonna be helping her get some financial, medical, legal stuff squared away.

[8:57 PM] Sören: so the IVF worked?

[8:58 PM] Dagnýr: Yup. I am going to be a father. Due date is early March.

[8:58 PM] Sören: Pisces children

[8:59 PM] Sören: Alejandro is a Pisces LOL

[9:01 PM] Sören: I apologize in advance for all the tissues you're gonna need for those kids

[9:02 PM] Dagnýr: I love how you assume it's going to be a multiple birth.

[9:02 PM] Dagnýr: I also love how we're all science-y and talk about our horoscopes like that shit is real.

[9:03 PM] Sören: you talk about elves like they're real

[9:04 PM] Sören: it's harmless fun

[9:04 PM] Sören: and on the note of fun, I have a painting to finish, so I'll be logging off now

[9:06 PM] Sören: night, everyone

[9:07 PM] Dagnýr: *hugs*

[9:08 PM] Margrét: Night! <3

_


On Friday morning, Dooku took Sören to the studio; Van would be taking Sören back later before Sören's appointment with Alejandro. Sören had the finished canvas wrapped up, held on his lap on the trip into town.

"Well," Dooku said, "have fun, my love."

Sören kissed the tip of his nose. "I'll see you later."

Dooku reached out to affectionately tousle Sören's hair, and Sören, feeling a sudden rush of passion, kissed Dooku hard enough to take his breath away. The next few minutes were spent kissing hungrily and groping, before Dooku rasped, "We had better stop before you end up being, er, late. Or caught."

Sören trailed little kisses along the edge of his beard. "I love you."

Dooku looked into his eyes, took Sören's hand, squeezed and kissed it. "I love you too. Now run along." He gave Sören's ass a playful swat as Sören hopped out of the jeep, and Sören shook his ass in response on the way out to the studio.

For the pastel class, Sören found himself drawing his mother as a young girl, with one of the Icelandic ponies he'd seen at the old family farm earlier in the week. He felt compelled to put a flower crown in her hair, and one of the nice things about soft pastels was that you could create a bit of a glowing effect, as he did now, to evoke nostalgia and a sort of reverence for her, and the bright energy he always remembered around her when she sang or did crafts.

Looking at the picture made him suddenly sad, and on the break between his pastel and ceramics class, he got on the laptop he kept at the studio for business purposes - even though he didn't care about Van's money, curiosity got the better of him and he Googled Apollyon Enterprises.

He wasn't surprised to find no pictures of Van anywhere online, and indeed there were some remarks on different sites about Van Apollyon being "reclusive" and preferring to conduct business through agents as much as possible, wanting to keep a low profile - that made sense to Sören, and seemed why Van could get away with vacationing here in rural Iceland without attracting notice. He registered not quite surprise, but a visceral, hard-to-describe response when he read about the various charitable programs that Apollyon Enterprises had set up - not the only thing the multi-billion company did with its fortune, but they were more charitable than most, with drug rehabilitation clinics, homeless shelters, job training centers for the impoverished and at-risk youth.

Van arrived a little earlier than the other students, but not so early that they had much time to talk before the class started. Sören showed Van how to do a trim of the bowl he'd thrown last week - the other students doing the trim had done it before and didn't need as much hands-on help. Sören went around the room, offering advice and assistance to those who were working on the wheels, and commenting on the glazing job that others were doing. Towards the end of the class, Sören himself got on one of the pottery wheels, feeling a little wound up with the information in the back of his head - not wanting this to change things between them; shaping the wet clay on the spinning wheel relaxed them. He was still there when Van was the last in the room.

Van came over to him, sat down across from him, and put his hands over Sören's as Sören had put his hands over Van's last week. Sören felt the electricity surge between them, his breath catching in his throat as their eyes met.

"I love watching you create," Van said. "It's intoxicating."

Sören crinkled his nose and bit his lower lip, heat flooding his cheeks. "I love creating." He grinned. "It's intoxicating. It's... addictive, actually."

"There are worse drugs."

"Yes, there are." Sören sat up - his bowl was the way he wanted it, now. "Van."

"Hm?"

"...I know who you are."

Van raised an eyebrow.

"My brother had to tell me... I live under a rock up here in the country, I had no idea about Apollyon Enterprises or anything." Sören looked at the bowl, and back at Van. "Just for the record... I'm not interested in you for your money. I know you've probably heard that before, but -"

Van waved a hand dismissively. "If I thought you were only interested in me for my money I wouldn't waste my time." He reached out to caress Sören's face. "It is as you said. You live in a rural area. You live a simple life. There is depth there, but of your own making. I never for a minute thought you were motivated financially."

"No, I'm not." Sören reached out to take Van's hands, and remembered his own hands were covered in clay. "Er... let me wash up for a minute?"

Van nodded.

Sören took care of his bowl, then went to the bathroom to take care of business and clean up, and when he came back into the art room Van was still sitting there, waiting. "I'm glad you understand," Sören said. "I panicked a little when my brother told me you're a big-time CEO, because I like where things have been going, and..."

"It's fine, Sören. All I ask of you is that you not publicize matters, you have surely found out as well that I deliberately keep a low profile."

Sören nodded. "And I'm fine with that. More than fine with that. I like the simple little life I have out here. I never thought I'd want to come back to Akureyri again, when I was younger, I moved to Reykjavik as soon as I could, but then after a couple years in London I craved what I'd lost. You've seen but a little of the land here. There are all these places that were my refuge, growing up in the hell I lived through, the land soothed my broken spirit. It's helped me find myself again. So I don't want to become some... paparazzi-dodging, jet-setting... whatever." He laughed softly, and sang a lyric from Kate Bush. "Do I look for those millionaires | Like a Machiavellian girl would | When I could wear a sunset? | Mmm, yes."

The words Yes indeed, I can see why he still loves you all these years later flitted across the back of Sören's mind, and he blinked, not used to Van broadcasting that clearly. Of course it turned his attention to Alejandro, and that pang of still missing him - Alejandro had been wealthy also, and Sören had enjoyed traveling with him, but their focus had always been on the lush little world they created together of art and music, the beauty of nature, simple pleasures, quiet moments, hours of sex that left them as shattered as if they'd been scorched by the sun itself. If Sören had wanted to move back to Akureyri, then, he had no doubt Alejandro would have willingly taken him there.

I wonder if things would have been at all different if so.

...Don't think about that now.


"I did note your company does a lot of charity work," Sören said. "And that... warmed my heart."

"I dislike suffering and injustice."

"You have that in common with my husband. It's... quite an attractive trait, to me." Sören smiled. "You're not just beautiful on the outside, but you have a beautiful heart, Van."

Van didn't smile back. He was starting to look at Sören like he was dinner; Sören felt a frisson down his spine.

Sören picked up the wrapped canvas that he'd brought in with him. "I have something for you. I feel almost self-conscious giving this to you now, considering you have enough money to buy a fucking Van Gogh original and I'm just this guy who paints -"

"Sören." Van's voice was stern. "Your art is exquisite. I wouldn't have told you it was beautiful just to be nice to you." Another broadcast. What that filth Justin did to you...

Sören didn't recall getting into enough detail with Van where he would have known Justin put down his art, among other things, but... now was not the time to poke all of that. He put the canvas in Van's hands and he unwrapped it gently, reverently. "Anyway, here you go. You're beautiful, and I wanted to express that to you somehow."

The finished product was Van in the silk robe, wine in one hand, leash in the other, hard dripping cock beckoning, the jewelled leash terminating in a collar around Sören's neck, with the collar bearing a pendant of the flaming star that had been a recurring motif in his work for years. Sören was straddling Van's thighs but not yet his cock, fingers on Van's bare chest against his heart, and in the other hand he held a flame, conjured as if by magic. The Botanical Garden of Akureyri had been transformed into something magical, all the flowers aflame, glowing. The sky above them was space, stars, nebulas, a supernova.

Van just stared at the painting for a moment, wordless, barely breathing. Sören felt nervous, like a small child who had just answered a question on a verbal exam of which they were unsure and were waiting to be told whether or not they were correct. Van continued to stare at the painting, then looked at Sören, not saying anything, and back at the painting. Sören shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

Finally Sören couldn't take it anymore. "Do you like it? I can do it over again if you -"

Van put the painting down on the table - gingerly yet somehow a little roughly as well - and then Sören was in his arms, and he was kissing him hard enough to make Sören whimper into the kiss, turning into putty in his hands.

Van reached for Sören's belt. "I hope you don't interpret this as me thinking you're only good for a quick fuck, because that's not true at all," he rasped, "but I want you NOW." He nipped Sören's neck, and yanked his jeans down.

Sören found himself pushed down on the art table. Sören opened to him, panting "yes, take me," as Van readied him with slick fingers. With Sören's legs on his shoulders, Van standing up, poised at the edge of the table, Van took him hard and fast, Sören slamming his hips right back at Van, fucking himself on Van's cock as good as Van was giving it, screaming at the top of his lungs with each thrust, each delicious thrust, that cock hitting his prostate just right, getting him on the edge right away and keeping him there, excruciatingly sensitive, the sensation building and building. The slap of their flesh made them even more wanton for it, the sound lusciously obscene. At last their eyes met, neither of them able to hold back any longer. Van took Sören's slick, dripping cock into his hand and stroked in rhythm with his thrusts, Sören's noises louder and even more animalistic, the moment feeling like an eternity.

"Come for me, Sören. Burn for me."

"Van! Oh, skít, ríða, Van, VAN!" And Sören let out one last wordless wail as he climaxed, shooting all over Van - making a mess on the shirt Van hadn't taken off in his fevered rush - shooting on the ceiling. Laughter bubbled through him, like a waterfall, like a volcano erupting. The laughter made his orgasm even more euphoric, and then he stopped laughing when he heard Van cry out his name, felt the hot cum rush deep inside him.

They needed to catch their breath, both men shaking.

Sören could have passed out from the intensity of his orgasm, but he needed to get home soon, Alejandro was due to arrive at five. Van helped Sören put his boxer-briefs and jeans back on, since Sören was still wobbly, and as Sören sat on the edge of the art table, he reached out and squeezed Van, who held him tight, tenderly kissing his forehead.

"Did you like the painting?" Sören squeaked out.

Van laughed. "My appreciation goes beyond mere like, beauty. 'Like' seems rather an insult to such a masterpiece." He twined a stray curl around his finger. "I will have to show you how much I appreciate it tomorrow night."

"Mmmmmm. Please."


_

Sören was walking funny when Van dropped him off. He could already see Alejandro coming down the street. He ducked into the cabin, where Dooku was making something delicious from the smell of things. Sören had worked up an appetite, and flomped onto the couch, his stomach growling hard enough to scare Snúdur when he came up for pettings. Sören laughed aloud at this, the cat giving him a dirty look, until there was a knock at the door.

Dooku answered it. "Alejandro," he said warmly, smiling. "Come in."

Alejandro gave him a genuine smile in return, and then a smaller, shy smile at Sören. "Hi," he said.

"Hi yourself," Sören said. He gestured to the rocking chair across from the couch, and Alejandro sat down.

"Whatever you're making, it smells good," Alejandro told Dooku.

"It's sarmale with mamaliga. Romanian dishes." Sarmale was stuffed cabbage leaves, and mamaliga was polenta mixed with cheese and sour cream.

"Oh god, sarmale." Sören groaned with pleasure. "PUT IT IN MY FACE."

Dooku chuckled. "Soon, darling."

Dooku brought Alejandro tea without being asked - Sören noted Dooku knew his preference, and found that interesting, but didn't remark on it. He resumed petting his cat, and there was an awkward moment of silence while Alejandro drank his tea, before putting it down and he and Sören just looked at each other for a moment.

"So," Sören said. "I take it you've worked everything out this week."

"First things first - I have a shipment coming to the studio tomorrow afternoon. A dozen guitars, a dozen keyboards. I am limiting each instrument to a dozen students each, so that's room for twenty-four people if some take one and some take the other. This is not just for the practicality of renting instruments for the remainder of the summer, but also because there is a practical upward limit of how much of a student load I can take at one time and give everyone a proper amount of individual attention. This is quite a bit more specialized."

"I understand. And it's coming tomorrow afternoon?"

Alejandro nodded.

Sören tossed him the keys to the studio. "I want these back before classes start on Monday. I will not be available tomorrow evening -" He noticed Alejandro tried to keep his expression neutral, but there was a telltale furrow in his brow and Sören could feel him bristling a little. Good. Sören wanted to kick himself for having that reaction, not wanting to be petty.

"Alejandro and I are having dinner tomorrow while you're out," Dooku said matter-of-factly.

"Oh. OK." That made Sören feel a little better about leaving Dooku alone for the night while he was overnight with Van at the hotel.

"So he can give me the keys," Dooku said.

"That works for me." Sören nodded, and Alejandro gave a small nod. Then Sören went on, "So as I mentioned, starting this upcoming week I'm on a Monday through Friday schedule for the rest of the summer. Fridays are one of my two ceramics days and that's, in the interest of disclosure, when Van comes by the studio, and starting next week he and I would like to change our date night to Friday -"

"I was already thinking Monday through Thursday, which gives me a three-day weekend."

"OK." Sören nodded. "And I assume they'd be on the same time frame as me, otherwise I need to make spare keys for you to lock up when I'm gone -"

"Same time frame. Which is also what I wanted to talk to you about. If we're working a similar schedule, and we live on the same street, there's really no point in us taking two separate vehicles to work. It would be a bit more ecologically friendly if we rode together."

Sören sighed, and nodded. "You're right."

"So I'll come pick you up and bring you home each day, if that works for you?"

"That's fine."

Alejandro handed over a tablet, where he had an outline of when his classes would be held - there was the occasional gap where he'd have his class going while Sören was on break between classes, or Sören would have his class during Alejandro's break, but otherwise there was a similar enough schedule to justify carpooling.

Before Sören could hand the tablet back to Alejandro, he said, "Price list is on page 2."

Sören went over it - it was comparable to what he'd be charging for his classes. He nodded. "That looks fine." He handed the tablet back to him.

"I'll be starting registration this weekend and keeping it open through the first week or until the slots fill up."

"Good. I'll get everything up on the website tonight, and e-mail the students with the link, you'll probably be full before the weekend is over." Sören ran a nervous hand through his curls. "Er, you have a little bio I can put up, so people don't just ask 'who is this random guy'. Like credentials. I know you can play, but -"

"I'll type something up when I go back, and e-mail it to you?"

"OK." Sören realized he needed to unblock Alejandro's account from his Gmail. "Same e-mail address as before?"

"No. But do you have the same e-mail address as before?"

"Yes."

"Then I can still get it to you. I'd prefer to not put a picture on the website if it's all the same to you."

"That's fine by me." I'd be tempted to stalk my own site just to stare at it. Sören wanted to crawl into a panel in the wooden floor and die. He couldn't believe he was still having this Pavlovian reaction to Alejandro, even sitting across from him in a simple black T-shirt and dark jeans he looked luscious. He would be in his early forties now and hadn't aged a day since Sören had last seen him, to boot. Not that he minded aged men, but Alejandro's hair was still as raven-black as before, his skin flawless, though his silver-grey eyes seemed sadder than before.

"Oh, one thing you should be aware of," Sören said, trying not to notice Alejandro's arresting beauty. "I'll be closing the studio from Thursday, August 8th through Monday, August 12th, because Nico and I are going to Reykjavik to attend my sister's wedding and this includes travel time and recovery time. We'll re-open on Tuesday August 13th."

"OK." Alejandro nodded. "Nicolae told me Margrét was getting married."

"To my best friend Frankie, who I met in London."

"What's he like?"

Sören snickered. "Frankie's a she. Pint-sized punk chick, tough as nails but also an incredibly kind, warm, funny person. We lived together in London. She and my sister hit it off right away when they met."

"She's a dear," Dooku said.

"Nico kind of adopted her." Sören grinned. Then he leaned back. "So, that's happening... and then Vigdís and Páll are coming back on Friday August 16th..."

"I'll be checking into the Hotel Akureyri then and stay an additional week to finish the summer classes."

"That's good of you." Sören refrained from asking and what then - now was not the time for that discussion.

Dooku brought Alejandro a plate, and then he went back into the kitchen. Alejandro waited, and a moment later Dooku brought out food for Sören, carrying a plate for himself as well. He sat down on the couch next to Sören. Snúdur came over and sniffed, and Sören scooped him up and gently put him down on the floor. The cat hopped back up and Sören put him back down, and this repeated a few times until Dooku said, "No," in a stern voice. Snúdur meowed as if to say "But DAAAAD..."

"You have food in your dish, and cats don't eat this," Dooku told him, as if Snúdur understood what he was saying.

Alejandro shook with silent laughter.

"Is Auli this bad?" Sören asked.

"He's worse." Alejandro grinned.

"MOWWWWWWWWWWW."

"I take that back."

Sören snickered. He ate his first bite of food and made a big exaggerated show of enjoying it - which he did - to tease the cat. "Mmmmmmm, this is soooo goooood, no wonder you want this instead of poor sad old cat food in your dish."

"MOW."

Dooku chuckled. "Sören, you're terrible."

"I know. But you see how much I spoil that cat. His food is more expensive than ours."

Dooku patted Sören. "Yes, you take very good care of the baby."

Snúdur stalked off and they heard the sounds of crunching, the cat resigned to eat the high-quality dry food in his bowl.

Alejandro tried a few bites of the meal. "This is delicious."

Dooku beamed. "It's a family recipe."

"I'd like the recipe, if you don't mind writing it down for me...?"

"Alejandro's no slouch with cooking," Sören told him. "He's on par with you, he makes the best Spanish and Portuguese food. His feijoada and bacalhau and empadão and caldo verde is to fucking die for." I was a big fan of your chorizo. Sören's face flushed, blinking in disbelief that the off-color joke had been in his head at all, that Alejandro could still get his mind going places. Damn him.

"I don't know if it's the best," Alejandro said, "but thank you." He sipped his tea. "It's... rather touching you still remember that these years later."

"I remember a lot of things." Sören gave him a pointed look. The way we used to feed each other like new lovers, even when we'd been together for years. The way we ate and drank wine or whiskey in front of the fireplace before making love there, the way you took me on the kitchen table after dinner some nights. The way we ate fresh fruit and whipped cream and licked honey off each other's naked bodies. The way you would whisper to me in Portuguese as you teased every inch of my body with your fingers and tongue, the way you swore in Portuguese when you climaxed...

Sören shoveled food in his mouth, looking away. So much for a blank slate.

"Perhaps when we get together tomorrow we could cook together?" Dooku asked.

"I'd enjoy that," Alejandro said.

"Excellent. I'll bring some groceries over."

Dooku talked a bit about learning to cook from his Romanian mother - even though he grew up in a time when sexism was much more rampant in society, his mother still thought cooking was not "woman's work" but everyone should know how to make decent food for themselves. "Learning from her in the kitchen was one of the only times my mother seemed to tolerate me," he said. "I suppose it's why I take comfort in cooking for others, it's one of the few happy memories I have from my childhood."

Alejandro frowned. "That's rough."

"My upbringing was rather difficult. I'll spare you the details while we're having a pleasant evening."

Sören reached out to rub Dooku's shoulder, and squeezed; he leaned in to kiss the older man's cheek. He knew the unhappy story of Dooku's childhood, and how guarded he was with talking about his past. That he was letting down his guard with Alejandro, even just a little, was strangely comforting to him. Dooku needed friends, he had difficulty letting people in close - Sören was still surprised he'd managed to get through.

Everyone had seconds, finishing up what Dooku made, and then when Sören got up to do dishes, Alejandro asked Dooku, "Shall we take Auli on his nightly excursion?"

"Yes." Dooku walked him to the door. "I'll see you in awhile, love," he said to Sören, waving. Sören waved back.

Before Alejandro could step out the door, he asked Sören, "I'll pick you up at ten AM on Monday?"

Sören nodded. "That's fine."

"All right. Have a good weekend."

"You too." Sören managed a smile.

Through the window over the sink, Sören watched them walk until they were out of sight. Their body language was relaxed around each other, like two old friends even though they hadn't known each other that long. As awkward as this still was for Sören to be around his ex, he was grateful that he was providing Dooku with some companionship; he ached for the loneliness his husband had lived through, and more than anything wanted him to be happy, and while he tried to make Dooku happy, he thought it was important for him to have more caring people in his life. Alejandro, too, had experienced some trauma and had a hard time with closeness with others, so it was good they found each other. Sören hoped the friendship continued to last even when the summer was over and his neighbors came back from the States.

Maybe I can convince Alejandro to stay in Akureyri for awhile. That would be good for both Alejandro and Dooku.

It had nothing to do with old feelings, whatsoever, not one bit.

Well, let's get through the next few weeks first.


_


On Saturday night, Sören got dressed up, wearing a ruffly black shirt, and black leather pants. He put on a little mascara and eyeliner, and added a few drops of Kyoto by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, cherry blossom and anise, which reacted with his skin chemistry to have a very sexual scent on him when it dried.

Dooku gave an appreciative little growl when he saw the finished product. Sören shook his ass, grinning over his shoulder.

"You look good too," Sören said, turning around - Dooku was wearing a dark brown button-down shirt and black trousers, not super dressy but something more than casual. The first couple of buttons were undone to accommodate for the warm summer evening, revealing a little bit of the silver chest hair. Sören had a brief fantasy of unbuttoning his shirt and running his fingers through it, grooming it with slow, teasing licks of his tongue.

Down, boy. Nonetheless, Sören leaned in to nuzzle him and caught a whiff of Dooku's cologne - Sören had turned him on to Frederic by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, which unfortunately was released only once every leap year, so Dooku had to make it last. He was wearing it tonight and not his usual - it was something Dooku normally only wore on special occasions with Sören. Sören had a feeling that he'd made the selection more subconsciously, and he found it interesting, but...

"OK, Van is here." Sören kissed him. "Have fun tonight!" He winked. "Save me some leftovers from you cooking with Alejandro if you can."

"All right." Dooku kissed him back, and squeezed. Then he handed the bag with the collar and leash in it to Sören. "I'll see you tomorrow morning. And then tomorrow night..."

"Ohhh yes."

Dooku playfully slapped Sören's ass, and Sören's laughter rang out as he bounced out of the cabin, giving skritches to the cat on his way out.

Van took him to a seafood restaurant on the coast, with a lovely view of the north Atlantic from their table. But though the food was good, Sören was hungry for something else. Walking along the shore afterwards, it was all Sören could do to not pounce him there on the beach.

As soon as they got in the hotel room, Van slammed Sören up against the wall, the two kissing passionately as they feverishly undressed each other. Once Sören was naked, he pulled out the collar and leash from the bag, putting them in Van's hands, and knelt before him, looking up at him with trust in his eyes.

Van gently put the collar around Sören's neck, and clipped the leash through. He took a moment to stroke Sören's face, pet his curls. Then he tugged the leash, gesturing for Sören to rise. The leash in hand, he pulled Sören along to the bed, and Sören climbed on. Van climbed over him, and for a moment they just looked at each other before Van pulled Sören close, kissed him hard and deep.

"What would you like, milord?" Sören purred, fingers walking over Van's chest.

"You." He pushed Sören back onto the bed, and began kissing his way down. "Your fire." He spread Sören's thighs, licked and nibbled the way he knew Sören liked it. "I am going to make you burn like that supernova you painted." He dipped his tongue into Sören's channel, and Sören cried out, clutching his head, gasping as Van worked his tongue exquisitely slowly. Van watched his every reaction, played with the leash as Sören arched and bucked and howled.

After Van had been down there for close to an hour, Sören was practically sobbing in his need. "Please... take me..."

"Not yet." A playful tug of the leash.

When Van did finally get around to taking him, Sören was so desperate and in heat for it that he clawed and bit, with Van nipping him in return. Sören grabbed his hair, and Van growled into Sören's neck, pulling out, and rolled Sören onto his stomach. Sören thrust his ass out, and Van took him hard, his teeth on the back of Sören's neck near the shoulder, as Sören panted and whimpered, rocking his hips back at Van, wanting to be fucked like an animal. The occasional slaps at his ass made Sören even more feverish; he clutched the slats on the headboard, white-knuckled, as the bed rocked against the wall and the mattress bounced beneath them. Sören came hard, screaming his name, and the guttural, primal noise Van made when he spent into him made Sören clench and throb even harder.

They rested like that for a moment, and then Van tilted Sören's head so they could kiss. As intense as the fucking was, and Sören's orgasm, the kiss stirred him again, and Sören felt Van harden up inside him again. Van pulled out, tugged on the leash, and rolled Sören onto his back, taking a moment to stroke his face, looking into his eyes as he guided his cock to Sören's channel once more. They kissed deeply as Van plunged inside, and Van rocked inside him more slowly this time, Sören panting "yes, yes," in time to his thrusts.

"I want to make you come, and come, and come," Van whispered into his neck.