Sergio throws off his blanket and gets out of the bed before he even processes why is he awake in the first place. It’s the middle of the night. He’s in a hotel room. Valencia? No, no, it’s too cold. After a heartbeat, he remembers; La Real. He is standing next to his bed, scratching his cheek where the stubble is showing, his brows furrowed as his sleep-fuzzy brain slowly tries to work out what’s going on.
Then there’s a vibrant flash of light that illuminates the darkened room for a few fleeting moments and that’s when Sergio knows. He spurs into action just as the deafening thunder crackles through the night. He grabs his phone, the book from his night stand, a water bottle and the key card to his room.
The floor is cold underneath his feet.
The lights in the hallway keep flickering.
Sergio hurries his steps. Down the hallway, three doors to the left. Another flash of lightning. The booming noise follows right after, drowning out the sound of Sergio’s two sharp knock on the door. He raises his hand to rap his knuckles against the door again but the door opens.
Luka isn’t surprised to see him, he simply gives Sergio a nod and moves aside to let Sergio past him through the doorway. Luka is wide awake, his eyes are dark, his face weary. Sergio immediately wraps his arms around Luka’s smaller form.
Behind Luka, further into the hotel room, the door to the bedroom is left ajar and a thin stripe of light is pooling into the darkened hall. The curtains are drawn, the lamp above the bed is on. The room is a mirror image of Sergio’s, everything is just flipped from left to right and Sergio scans the room thoroughly as he takes it in.
Through the curtains, a sharp flash of light shines into the room. For a fraction of a second, everything is visible in the oddly pale light; the unmade bed, the unpacked bags, the upset twist of Luka’s mouth. The room plunges into darkness but before Sergio’s eyes adjust, there is another beam of lightning. Sergio’s eyes prickle as he blinks. It’s there and gone again, replaced by a sequenced roar of thunder so strong the window pane rattles in its place and Sergio’s ears ring for a few seconds. Luka doesn’t relax in Sergio’s arms.
Sergio places the palm of his hand between Luka’s shoulder blades and presses Luka closer, hand moving in slow, deliberate slides. He repeats the motion over and over again until he feels Luka’s back loosen up.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Luka murmurs into Sergio’s shoulder. “It’s too close.”
Luka’s hand finds its way from Sergio’s neck to Sergio’s waist, sneaking under the thin nightshirt. The touch leaves goose bumps on Sergio’s skin. The hand stays there, icy cold fingers curling around the waist, unmoving.
Sergio realizes Luka is quivering and he pulls away from their embrace a little so he can rub his hands up and down Luka’s arms.
Another beaming light illuminates the room; Luka’s eyes are firmly squeezed shut.
Sergio pushes at Luka slightly to get him going towards the bedroom. Luka blinks his eyes open but doesn’t move.
“Luka.” Sergio’s voice is calm. He gives Luka a smile, takes a step back and entwines their fingers, thumb running across the back of Luka’s hand.
Another flash of light accompanied by a deafening crack of thunder. Somewhere on the streets, a car alarm goes off.
The bed dips when Sergio sits down and the wall is chilling when Sergio leans back against it. He tugs at Luka’s hand to get him down on the bed as well.
„I don’t need comforting,” Luka says when Sergio slides his arm around Luka’s shoulders and maneuvers Luka to recline with his back against Sergio’s chest.
“I know you don’t need it,” Sergio says, resting his chin on Luka’s shoulder, arms wrapping around Luka and settling on his stomach.
The following thunderbolt strikes near. The air smells different, dry and charged. Sergio’s ears keep ringing. Luka’s heartbeat goes wild but Luka himself goes very still in Sergio’s arms.
“It reminds me of…” Luka trails off.
Sergio digs his chin into the place where Luka’s neck meets his shoulder. He rubs the spot with his chin, his stubble tickling the skin. “You don’t have to tell me.” Because Luka isn’t sharing a story, he is explaining himself and justifying his actions. But he doesn’t have to. “It’s okay.”
Luka doesn’t say anything.
Each flash of lightning is followed by a thunder so closely it almost seems to happen at the same time. The storm must be above them.
“Go back to sleep, Luka.”
“Read to me,” Luka says.
Sergio has left his phone on the night stand, the alarm is set for the morning. He reaches for the book and places it in Luka’s lap where he can see over Luka’s shoulder. The single overhead light above the bed is still flickering on occasion but Sergio flips back to the first page and starts reading in the poor light.
He reads the first page, then digs his chin into Luka’s shoulder again. Luka turns the page and Sergio goes on reading the story he has already read for himself earlier. He keeps his voice calm as he whispers the words into Luka’s ear. Whenever he reaches the end of a page that needs turning, he nudges Luka with his chin, although Luka is keeping track of the story and is usually already thumbing at the page to lift the corner.
After some time, the hum of the room changes; rain starts pouring out of the thundering sky, shattering against the window. Luka breathes a little easier.
They read long enough for the thunderstorm to start subsiding and long enough for Sergio’s throat to get parched. He takes the water bottle, drinks some and offers the rest to Luka. He sets the book aside, pulling out the bookmark from where he was in the story. Instead, Sergio places the bookmark between the pages where they left off with Luka.
“Think you can sleep now?”
Luka switches off the overhead light and shifts on the bed. Sergio pulls Luka closer to him as they both lie down.
It’s quiet for a moment, only the rain relentlessly drumming against the window.
A flash of lightning.
“Tell me what happens next?” Luka says. He’s tense again.
Sergio kisses his shoulder, the side of his neck, noses against the side of his cheek until he feels Luka smile into the darkness. “Don’t you want to guess?”