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Kiss the Coal Dust From My Lips

Chapter Text

I’ve lived to bury my desires,
And see my dreams corrode with rust;
Now all that’s left are fruitless fires
That burn my empty heart to dust.

A. Pushkin

*

Although Tula and its rural surroundings are only a two-hour drive to the south away from Moscow, to Mikhail Shchadov it feels as if it is a world away – and, compared to his own hectic city life it actually is.

He doesn’t have to be responsible for the State Agroindustrial Committee to understand the importance of these grain fields for the country; the sheer size of the fields, something he always notices whilst driving, speaks of it. The region’s soil is known to be fertile, but only the combination with collective labor has led to such prospering agriculture. Wheat, corn, and oats are sown and harvested each year in this region – barley most of all.

*

The fields of barley stretch as far as the eye can see; it shines like a sea of molten gold in the early evening sun, with only small and decorative clouds hanging in the orange sky. In the far distance, the massive steel towers of the mines rise up against the horizon, small and tiny, as if they are barely there, yet prominent enough to bring a smile to Mikhail’s face upon the memories.

It is mid of June, pleasantly warm already but not yet sweltering hot; airy but not stormy, spring barley and oats ready to be harvested soon. Blue cornflowers and bright red poppies grow amidst the endless sea of gold, glowing in the low sun. Of all flowers, poppies had always been among Mikhail’s favorites, but only after his second visit to Tula, he truly fell in love with them. Endless rows of poppies had lined the street that led to the mines of Tula, meandering through fields of barley, and as he drove back to Moscow the very same way, tired but yet smiling, he had remembered that Persian literature cites red poppies as the flower of love.

Mikhail blinks against the soft light the moment Andrei shifts ever so slightly. Whilst Andrei is still sitting at the edge of a field in the middle of nowhere, Mikhail lies on the ground, with his head comfortably resting in Andrei’s lap. To be together like this, to exist under the clear sky is calming; and it’s beautiful and so very different from the life Mikhail is used to for so long. Travels, meetings, reports, always followed by more meetings; he is always busy and his days are hectic.  Mostly, he is in Moscow, hidden away from the warmth of the sun by heavy curtains whenever the heat swaddles Moscow like a squalling newborn. The sunburn he so easily gets speaks of it, something that never fails to amuse Andrei and he’s quite certain his skin is already glowing bright red.

Andrei is chewing on a straw of fresh green grass, the kind that grows everywhere at the edges of the fields, whilst running his fingers across Mikhail’s bare chest. He’s still wearing his shirt, blinding white and once perfectly ironed, but Andrei has opened its buttons as soon as he had lain down and already then his skin had sizzled in anticipation. In Andrei’s presence he has become so utterly predictable; like wax in his embrace – yet still alive.  

A gentle breeze brushes across the fields and it moves through the ears like waves, shaking from the smallest stir, just as it caresses his own face, alternating with the touch of Andrei’s fingers, the remains of the dust of coal still visible on them.

Just as always…

They talk occasionally, about simple things, but it’s not the words that matter to Mikhail. It’s the cadence of Andrei’s voice; the way Andrei looks down at him, his mouth curved into a sly grin that speaks of shared memories, of the sort that immediately brings a flush to Mikhail’s cheeks. Andrei’s thoughts are as dirty as his hands usually are.  

Andrei’s hand wanders from Mikhail’s face down to his bare chest, brushing against the skin lightly with his calloused fingers as they trail lower, leaving a shiver in their wake. Almost tentatively, Mikhail raises his own arm to Andrei’s waist, which immediately lights Andrei’s eyes up. Mikhail smiles back at him in response.

He narrows his eyes against the sun, enjoying the warmth of its rays and Andrei’s hands on his skin, the simple closeness they so rarely manage to share. And whilst they fall into a routine of silent touches, Mikhail allows his mind to get carried away towards those few nights he had been granted to spend in Andrei’s strong arms. During those nights, his skin always feels as if a thousand fires are burning; and after those nights, his skin always shows marks right above his hips, those which he has come to love so easily; those nights in which only Andrei’s embrace keeps him from falling. During one of them, or rather in the aftermath of it, Mikhail had realized that these hands ground him and keep him anchored, right then when he needed it the most, and the sudden realization had struck him like lightning.

Mikhail isn’t even certain how long he had lain like this, watching the firework of colors in the evening sky in comfortable silence.

“I wish I could stay,” he says quietly. Most of the times, it’s not even a weekend he can stay.

Andrei shrugs, in that way that’s so typical for him, with furrowed brows and lips pulled down in a quiet frown match it. “Then just do.”

As if he just could

No harm comes from spinning the thoughts a little bit further – how it would be to simply leave Moscow and everything else behind and settle down right there, until long trained rationality raises its voice. Though his family is wealthy enough to feed himself for thousands of years, Mikhail knows they never would, not that he would ask in the first place. “If I were to stay – of what should we live?”

Andrei’s fingers stop at the waistband of Mikhail’s trousers which are part of his suit, tearing at it lightly. “That thing – those things you always wear most likely cost more than what I earn in a year. Yet here I am … living, well-fed and content.”

Mikhail’s face grimaces in shame. Andrei’s assumption is most probably correct. Despite his position, he doesn’t even remotely know what the average yearly income the miners is, and actually, he is grateful that he doesn’t, as otherwise, it would only be more embarrassing than it already is. “More content than I perhaps was in a long while.” Mikhail sighs, not quite knowing when last he was.

“See?” Andrei says, running his fingers through Mikhail’s hair. “You are not happy with your job anyway. Never were.”

Mikhail’s eyes grow wide. It is true. He has never been all too content – truly content, in anything he has done the past twenty years. The career came naturally to him – or rather by his parents’ influence. The influence they have; their friends. Friends of friends who then always know somebody else, somebody of even greater importance – not that those guests in his parents’ home have ever been unimportant in the first place. Nothing of it is his own achievement, something he had managed because he’s good at what he is doing. No, in the end, it always narrows down to connections and for the sake of his parents’ happiness, he has always played along, sacrificing each and every surrealistic dream he had ever had. Yet he has never told Andrei anything about it. “How would you –“

“So it’s true,” Andrei smile broadens. “We miners work in the dark. We know things, see things. And if we don’t, we just assume and most of the times, it works out. Your reaction told me everything I need to know.”

Mikhail searches for Andrei’s gaze. “Yes. It is.”

For a moment, Mikhail is contemplating if he should go on and tell Andrei about his childhood dreams. It’s so ridiculous that he even feels the need to think about it first, after everything else he has quite willingly and also frequently shared, all of it way more intimate than ridiculous dreams of his childhood. “When I was just a boy I dreamt of becoming a pianist.”

Positions, titles.

Fame.

Minister of Coal Industry has quite the ring to it…

Certain benefits.

The amenities his apartment has to offer are quite … pleasant.

That is the lie he has been feeding himself until he almost believed it.

The apartment is empty, devoid of laughter and life, a hollow shell, just what over the course of time his life has become. It is as if being together with Andrei all his now closely guarded childhood dreams return. For a while now he finds himself secretly yearning for an ordinary life, chasing quite ordinary dreams; a life where he does not have to perform; a life where he is allowed to dream, something he has almost forgotten, after having been scolded for it so often when he’d been young.

During the summer holidays as a boy, Mikhail had always been drawn towards the aching forests, the silent whispers of the trees. The whisper of the wind dancing through the endless fields of barley isn’t all too different, after all. He had always brought a bag filled with books with him whenever his family went on vacation, only to get himself lost in nature. He still remembers the smell of the wet soil as if it was yesterday; the strangeness of the air right before a heavy thunderstorm.

“So that explains your talent with your fingers, Misha.” Andrei’s smile is outright smug, at least for a moment until it gives way to genuine curiosity. “Do you still play?”

Mikhail can feel Andrei’s warm breath ghost against his face, brushing along his jawline like the softest breeze of summer.

“Sometimes, yes,” Mikhail admits, still shivering from the way Andrei’s fingers run along his arm. He does, whenever he finds the time for it.

Andrei places his hand over Mikhail’s own, twining their fingers. “You could play for me? There’s a piano, from the time before the war down in the House of Culture…”

Mikhail has never taking Andrei as somebody who is interested in music, and perhaps he even isn’t. “I could … as long as it’s not crowded?” And even as he says it, he hears the song he would play in his head.

“It usually isn’t,” Andrei says, cupping Mikhail’s face with his calloused hands in that quite possessive way he has come to love. “But first this.”

Mikhail can hear his heart drumming against his chest and blood rushes through his veins in a frenzy as Andrei leans down for a kiss; it’s madness, all of it, and yet it’s everything Mikhail has ever wanted, though he had been reluctant to admit it, even to himself. And as he brings his arms around Andrei’s neck and kisses back with eyes fully closed he allows the most surrealistic dreams to flood his mind.

*

 

Chapter Text

Dreams of a Beautiful Future

*

 

There’s a large House of Culture in Tula’s center, or so Andrei had told Mikhail a day ago; what he also had told him is that he prefers the much smaller one in the town closest to the mine, where many of his fellow miners live.

Little wonder, Mikhail thinks as Andrei points ahead of them with his finger. The house is set amidst lush greenery, surrounded by birch and lime trees, lacking the bustling surroundings of the city center.

Peaceful. That’s the first word that comes to Mikhail’s mind.

An unpaved road, still wet from yesterday’s nightly thunderstorm leads down to the squared building, one side painted brightly in the very characteristic style of Soviet Russia. The art shows two women, one playing the harp whilst the other one performs a dance under the setting sun. To Andrei, it’s the glorification of communist values, whereas Mikhail rather prefers to call it realism, but it’s a discussion he won’t bring up yet again. Not that there’s time for it; there’s not even time to study the drawing in more detail as Andrei verbally ushers him towards the entrance.

From the first glance inside, it’s a cozy place and just as Andrei had promised, it is empty. The atmosphere speaks of a warm welcome, of the same sort that Mikhail had received when he had visited Tula the second time. It had been then when this – all of it had found its beginning.

Stepping fully inside, Mikhail allows his eyes to drift across the room; his gaze lingers on the patterns of the woolen fabric that is spread across the sofa; shifts towards the old photographs framed on the wall; then to some miniature architecture sitting quietly on a small wooden table. It’s St. Petersburg, quite befitting for a place of culture. A variety of books are neatly arranged on wooden shelves, but for once, despite his love for books, Mikhail does not take a closer look.

It’s the piano at the end of the room that truly catches Mikhail’s attention. Old it is, antique almost, nothing fancy but well cared for, with a red cushioned stool in front of it. Rather absently, he steps forward and with it out of Andrei’s reach and lets his finger brush against the polished wood, as if he’s drawing in the imaginary dust in the same way he had always done at his grandmother’s house and as he does, his heartbeat speeds up. It has been a while when last he had played for an audience – if a single person can count as an audience that is.

Mikhail sits down with straightened back, closing his eyes for a moment when his fingertips touch the smooth surface of the keys. He doesn’t need a warm-up, in fact, had never been fond of the soft pieces that aren’t anything special, preferring to launch directly into an energetic classical piece.

Positioning his fingers on the keys, Mikhail shoots Andrei a glance across his shoulder. “What should I play?” he asks, and as he says it he feels as if he has said the most ridiculous thing ever.     

Andrei leans against the wall, arms crossed before his chest. “Surprise me.”

There’s smugness in Andrei’s voice; a smile, too and something in the way Andrei regards him that makes Mikhail’s heart flutter. Quickly before he gets even more distracted, he turns around, feeling his cheeks heat up. Yes, he had indeed thought that averting his gaze would help but as a matter of fact, it does not. Even as he faces the piano, he still feels Andrei’s burning gaze on his back, undoubtedly looking forward to his performance.

Performance. Mikhail swallows down the cough at his own very ambiguous thoughts and the distraction that comes with it.

He sighs, though only internally, forcing his mind back to the matter at hand.

Tchaikovsky, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Mussorgsky, Chopin, Rachmaninov – Mikhail knows them all, has played countless pieces of these famous composers in the past and he is quite certain that some pieces will be stuck in his head until the day he dies. Yet, as much as he loves classical music, it’s not what immediately had come to his mind when Andrei had asked him to play for him, not at all. It’s something else entirely.  

He’s nervous, he realizes, strangely excited even but once his fingers press the keys in earnest and the first sounds fill the air, everything around him dissolves to non-existence.

He doesn’t need a music sheet for this piece, knows the song and the lyrics that go with it by heart – and he is fairly certain that Andrei knows the song as well. Each and everyone in Soviet Russia knows it. The longer Mikhail has been thinking about it, he had come to the conclusion that it perfectly fits the way he feels whenever he’s lying in Andrei’s arms: full of hope and dreams – content, if only for a short while.

And so he loses himself in the cadence of the music with eyes completely closed, a faint smile playing about this lips whenever he reaches a part of the song that he loves best. He doesn’t sing but the lyrics are in his head nevertheless, and he hopes Andrei’s thoughts are not so unlike his own.

Слышу голос из Прекрасного Далека,

                       (I am hearing voices from the glorious future,)

Голос утренний в серебряной росе.

                       (Morning voices in the silver dew.)

Слышу голос - и манящая дорога

                        (I hear the voice and see a beautiful road ahead)

Кружит голову, как в детстве карусель.

                        (that spins my head just like the carousels from my childhood)

 

For once what he does speaks of incredible confidence, is perhaps visible in every fiber of his body; something that so very rarely happens.

‘I hear the voices from the beautiful future. The voice is very strict and it’s asking me what I have done for a better tomorrow.’

With Andrei, Mikhail allows himself to dream of a beautiful future, for the first time after so many years. The first time – and actually the last time he had allowed himself such liberties had been almost thirty years ago.

Shamil.

Sometimes, when Mikhail plays the piano for himself he can still hear his piano teacher’s voice in his head, the way he had always corrected Mikhail’s arms and fingers whenever he had deemed it necessary, quite pedantic. Sometimes, the touch had persisted perhaps a moment too long, or so at least Mikhail had loved to imagine, losing himself in those almond-shaped eyes.

Shamil was born and raised in Kazakhstan but had moved to Moscow to pursue his career further many years ago. He had been twice Mikhail’s age back then when he got hired at the age of 28, and was – despite his injury still counted among the best pianists of the Soviet Union, a fact that is so very telling about anything his parents ever did – the best was hardly good enough. Mikhail remembers the smell of his aftershave too, strong and spicy, being able to inhale it whenever Shamil had leaned over him; strange, as if from another world.

‘You must have the correct hand position; must remember when I wake you in the middle of the night’

He had nearly choked back then.

A few days later he actually had. Then, when Shamil had taken the opportunity to correct Mikhail’s hand positions as an excuse to sit close to him, his thigh pressing against Mikhail’s own. After that, he had so often dreamt of his teacher moving behind him, taking him by the wrist to place his hand on his neck whilst leaning in.

And just as Mikhail had lost himself in his idle dreaming then, he loses himself in dreams of Andrei now as he continues to play, with the difference that some of them had already come to life. A shiver rushes through him as he remembers the day – or rather the night before after which the two-hour drive back to Moscow had become a very painful experience.

When finally the song has come to an end, Mikhail is breathless.

“You play really well.”

Andrei’s voice brings a smile to Mikhail’s face and he turns around, hands now pressed against his thighs. At one point Andrei must have settled down in the chair at the side of the room, something Mikhail had not even noticed as he had become one with the song.

He watches Andrei and Andrei is watching him in return with a curious tilt of his head but it’s the constant scratching noise that truly catches his attention.

“What are you doing?” Mikhail asks with a frown. Then, without awaiting Andrei’s reply he rises, walking over towards where Andrei sits.

“Sketching something,” Andrei tells him, looking back at the paper in his lap.

“I never knew you draw.” Mikhail tries to snatch a glimpse. “Sketching what?”

Andrei shifts so that Mikhail is denied the view. “The other Misha.”

Mikhail’s eyes grow wide for a second and despite not wanting to, he coughs out of habit. He knows exactly to whom Andrei is referring to and he doesn’t like it, not even a little. “This is not even remotely funny,” he says, trying to sound confident when he knows he doesn’t.

Andrei nods, entirely unimpressed, then smirks, in a way that is so very disarming that Mikhail’s brief flare of anger is forgotten. He had always been utterly predictable, something his father had never failed to remind him of. “No, it isn’t – it’s not even supposed to be funny. After all, I doubt that Gorbatchev is any fun – what I do know however is, that he’s neither pretty nor inspiring.” With a hearty laugh, Andrei sets the charcoal aside and hands the sketch to Mikhail. “So, no. Ain’t going draw him, even if I was paid good money for it.”

Mikhail takes the paper into his hands, fingers trembling slightly. He had wanted to say something but what he sees make the words stuck in his throat.

“T... That is – “ His eyes are widened in surprise after catching a full view of the drawing and his heart feels like it is going to jump out of his chest “It’s me.”

“Of course it is you.”

Mikhail looks at the art again, more closely this time. It is depicting him sitting at the piano but from a completely different viewpoint, as if Andrei had been sitting in front of him but that had never been the case. He turns to look at Andrei, then looks back at the sketch again. Mikhail sees himself bent over the piano, eyes closed as he seems completely lost in the music and although his posture speaks of exertion, his face beams in happiness.

All the little details Mikhail spots in the sketch derive solely from Andrei’s imagination, a fact that brings tears to his eyes.  

Mikhail’s gaze shifts to Andrei once again.

‘Pretty or inspiring.’ The words repeat in his head – translating so very easily to ‘he isn’t but you are.’ It brings forth a warmth in his stomach and a smile to his lips and although he can’t voice his thoughts in public, he is quite certain that Andrei understands him regardless.

He is not mistaken.

“Let us go,” Andrei says, taking the drawing out of Mikhail's trembling hands, folding it neatly to make it disappear in the pocket of his shirt.

Mikhail loves that there’s not even an edge of a question to it; that it doesn’t sound like a suggestion at all; in fact these days he only gets rarely asked.  

*

Later, when the sun has set long ago and words are exchanged for meaningful glances and heated touches, Andrei suddenly asks. “Who is he?”

Mikhail lifts his head from Andrei’s bare shoulder. “Who is who?”

Andrei brushes a strand of strayed hair out of Mikhail’s face. “The person the song reminded you of,” Andrei says, smiling at his statement that isn’t even phrased as a question.

Mikhail sighs. “It’s not necessarily the song itself,” he begins to explain, surprised that he’s willing to share with Andrei what he had never shared with anyone else. “My former piano teacher. The one my father threatened to shoot if he ever set foot into our house again.”

“For teaching you the piano?”

Mikhail rolls his eyes at Andrei. “Obviously not,” he states, fingertips running along Andrei’s jawline. “For kissing me under the apple tree.”

“Interesting…” Andrei’s hand dips from Mikhail’s chest distinctly lower. “So you are telling me that I am living a dangerous life?” he asks, voice husky and too close against Mikhail’s throat now.

“We do both, actually,” Mikhail replies, voice becoming unsteady as he gives himself to the way Andrei’s hand works between his legs. His back arches as Andrei whispers promises against his skin; sings them as a picture of a beautiful future without doubts and regrets in a way that the bane of Mikhail’s past is laid to rest, if only for a little while.

*

Chapter Text

“I think,” says Ivan to Volodya, “that we have the richest country in the world.”

“Why?” asks Volodya.

“Because for nearly 60 years everyone has been stealing from the state and still there is something left to steal.”

Quoted in Hedrick Smith, The Russians

 

 

The Raging Storm

*

A certain feel of unease fills Mikhail as he walks down the stairs next to the driveway. The underground carpark is deserted and he wonders if his driver does remember their clandestine appointment, after all, he has heard the stories of how Friday afternoons are often spent. He walks past a row of parked cars, then turns left, yet he still sees nobody.

“How long?”

Mikhail spins around at the sudden sound. “Aleksey –“

His driver cuts him off. “How long?” he rasps, smelling of alcohol.

“Monday morning, just as last time,” Mikhail says very quietly.

“Double.”

“Double?” Mikhail’s eyes grow wide and he doesn’t manage to keep the surprise out of his voice.

Bribery is a skill with its own practices and culture, and Mikhail lacks every bit of it. Despite many attempts of different rulers to bring it under control, shadow economy and bribery still flourish; despite one of the commands of communist morality being honesty – and honesty again, corruption is omnipresent. Mankind in itself is vindictive, ambitious, and rapacious so, perhaps the brazen nonchalance of his driver should not have come as such a surprise to Mikhail.

Just a few years ago, a massive bribery scandal had shaken the Kremlin: Uzbek officials had paid those who were supposed to be receiving the cotton orders and took Kremlin money for the fictional deliveries of cotton. This, and that some names involved were rather big is only what he’s aware of.

“Well…” The key disappears into Aleksey’s pocket again with a shrug. “Refueling. New license plate. Them responsible for it request their payment also.”

Perhaps.

Perhaps not.

Mikhail can’t tell how much truth there is to Aleksey’s words.

He hates this, hates all of it, and yet he endures. He’d rather spend his money like this than asking his father to borrow his car and endure the countless questions. Of course, he could have bought his own car long ago but never saw a need in doing so, so perhaps it is about time to rethink this choice.

Holding Aleksey’s gaze, Mikhail pulls out five additional notes out of his wallet and hands them over wordlessly.

A curt nod and Aleksey lets the keys fall into Mikhail’s hands. “The black one on the left.”

“Thank you,” Mikhail says as Aleksey already walks away from him.

Then, he suddenly stops and turns around, shooting Mikhail a glance across his shoulder. “Remember, a special sort of cleaning costs extra.”

“Yes,” Mikhail replies.

As he leaves Moscow’s suburbs behind the commonly told joke about the cotton scandal suddenly comes to his mind,

A Soviet official asks a farmer how much cotton was grown. The farmer responds, “Enough to pile up to Allah’s feet.” The official berates him for believing in a god, shouting, “There is no God!” The farmer responds, “That’s okay because there is no cotton either.” (*) 

And then the laughs, partly about himself, knowing that the next time he wants to borrow the car he most likely will pay thrice the price.

*

The drive itself is unspectacular, apart from the breathtaking scenery. The front windows are lowered and the wind blows through his hair whilst old songs tootle from the radio. The drive smells of freedom; of a certain recklessness and as he unknots his tie with one hand, Mikhail smiles.

The sun disappears almost completely behind enormous clouds building its castles high into the sky, heralding the rain nature urgently needs. It’s been too dry the entire summer, almost everywhere. The soil dried-out, the vegetation parched; at least the forest isn’t burning in this region but it is in Siberia for weeks now without anything being done against it. Just after he has left Tula he stops the car, studying the map Andrei had drawn him. The paper is already crumpled, the writing smudges as so often he has already looked at it.

“Correct,” he assures himself, starting the car again. 

Within fifteen minutes the road gets worse – if it can be deemed a road at all. A track of clay and sand that cuts its way through the fields of barley it rather is, potholes everywhere as if riddled by bullets. Mikhail doesn’t like the comparison his own mind makes; his father had always referred to the men he had shot during the war as bullet-riddled. There was little else in his childhood he hated more than his father’s gruesome tales of war. The condition of the road forces him to drive very slowly, yet the wheels swirl up a cloud of dust behind him regardless, much to his dismay, wondering how should he rid the black car of the yellow particles ever again?  

Civilization seems so far away here in the middle-of-nowhere, despite the next town being only a couple of kilometers to the East, right there where the sky has changed to pitch black. It’s a sight to behold – the sun stands low in the West, right behind him so that the barley glows golden against the enormous dark clouds.

‘Right. Left. Then left again.’ Mikhail hears Andrei’s voice in his head as the track splits into two separate tracks, both even narrower than the original one.

He just hopes he doesn’t get stuck, doesn’t ruin the car this way – the thought alone to call one of the unreliable and corrupt towing services brings sweat to his hands.

‘All will be well.’

Mikhail wishes not for the first time, he’d share Andrei’s optimism. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t. Despite all his privileges – or rather because of it, he’s constantly pessimistic and filled with self-doubts even about such small things. The route he should drive was described to him three times, and additionally to that Andrei even drew him a map. Regardless, he’s worried to get lost.

After five minutes more, he finally reaches the old train station and is quite relieved as he parks the car at the former station square, where grass and barely has reclaimed its space already. The station is out of service for over a decade, or so Andrei had told him. Decay is to be found everywhere, in rural areas most of all, abandoned buildings and industrial complexes, cars and trains – good steel covered with an endless amount of rust. It’s not any different here, Mikhail thinks, gaze falling on a container wagon left there to rot. Then, his eyes follow the tracks of the railway, already overgrown by bushes until it parts the trees. The monotonous red of the crumbling bricks of the station house is interrupted by colorful pieces of art. He’s surprised by his own thoughts, a year ago he’d never thought of the sprayed murals as art in the first place, rather as vandalism, after all the station house still is the property of the state, no matter if it’s long deserted. But then, a year ago he hadn’t thought to rather shamelessly spread his legs for anyone, for one of those miners he had ‘recruited’ for Chernobyl, even less.

And yet here he is, waiting.

Andrei is nowhere in sight.    

For a while, Mikhail watches the clouds transform, spotting the outline of an animal every now and then before he gets anxious that Andrei perhaps would not come at all. The fear is irrational – Andrei is true to every word he says, and therefore the consuming fear of disappointment is entirely ridiculous. If he were one for smoking, he’d step outside to pace back and forth in the dust, listening to the little stones of the pavement creaking beneath his shoes whenever he turns around. And even though he sits, his mind begins to recite Rilke’s poem, the one he had whispered to himself in secret so often.

The soft the supple step and sturdy pace,
that in the smallest of all circles turns,
moves like a dance of strength around a core
in which a mighty will is standing stunned. (**)

He had loved it as a teen, still loves it now but admiration for anything German hadn’t been appreciated at all in his family and he had learned soon enough when to shut his mouth.

Mikhail jumps in his seat at the sudden noise of rattling metal. The noise came from Andrei’s rusty bicycle, now lying on the dirty ground. Suddenly, Mikhail’s anxiousness is exchanged for excitement, and the hammering of his heart speaks volumes of it. It’s been so long when last they have seen each other.

As always, Andrei proves to be unpredictable. Mikhail has expected him to jump immediately into the passenger seat, especially as it is right next to where the bike lies on the ground. Instead, Andrei walks around the car, index finger trailing across the chrome-plated parts of the front.

Laughter rings in Andrei’s voice he comes to stand next to the driver’s seat. “I wasn’t aware that a certain minister had official business in Tula.”

Mikhail tilts his head. “Official?” Nothing about this visit is official business and Andrei knows it well. He then leans his arms on the window frame and lowers his chin onto his hands, looking up from under his lashes.

“The black Volga speaks of official business” Andrei teases, finger now running along Mikhail’s jawline in the same manner as he previously had caressed the car. “You know the common saying: dark cars, dark words.”

Mikhail snorts. “I – “

Andrei finishes the sentence for him. “I don’t care.”   

Without saying another word Andrei grabs Mikhail by the collar of this shirt, hard enough to pull him almost out of the car, kissing him with fervor. His mouth his hungry, like a starved man tasting food for the first time in days and as he’s devouring Mikhail’s mouth, Andrei’s gripping his face with his hands as he owns him.

“Get off the car,” Andrei demands.

“Get in?” Mikhail is surprised by himself.

“No …” Andrei crosses his arms before his chest.

Mikhail doesn’t react, smiling at Andrei.

“Now, don’t play coy. I can smell how much you want me.”

It’s impossible to resist Andrei when he’s like this. He shakes his head but gets out of the car regardless.

Andrei’s reaction is exactly the one Mikhail has anticipated: he steps forward and pulls him in for another heated kiss.

“And you are certain nobody comes here?” Mikhail asks, quite breathless when they break apart.

Andrei shakes his head. “No, I told you several times.”

“How would you know?” The shards of broken glass and cigarette butts scattered everywhere don’t exactly speak of isolation.

“Do you think some official will come after several decades of idleness and fix this mess of decay?” Andrei says with a laugh, fingers busy unbuttoning Mikhail’s shirt. “No, no, this will never happen, you know that as well as I. The kids spraying the murals are the only ones who regularly come here, spraying and drinking, blowing rings of smoke into the sunset. But not today. They’ll be occupied drinking somewhere else.”

“How –“ Mikhail is about to ask when it dawns on him. “You bribed them?” he asks, abashed, reaching for his wallet.  

Andrei stays Mikhail’s hand. “Don’t you dare to insult me? Staying away from this place for a weekend costs me a few packs of cheap cigarettes and equally cheap vodka,” Andrei tells him, then presses his lips to Mikhail’s ear. “Let me decide afterward if your performance was worth my hard-earned money.”

Mikhail’s is shocked. Too shocked to say anything at all and once again Andrei fills the silence. “And that is why I don’t wish to get into the car, not yet at least. No space.. at all.” He then busies himself with Mikhail’s trousers, quite roughly so that for a moment Mikhail is worried that yet another one can be trashed after visiting Tula.

Shirt hanging open, trousers pooling around Mikhail’s knees, Andrei seems to be extremely content, judging from the way he looks him up and down with a smug smile. Andrei quickly steps forward and grabs Mikhail by the wrist, his leg simultaneously sneaking around Mikhail’s own, spinning him around. Before Mikhail can even voice his protest, he’s splayed against the car like a criminal.

“No need to be frightened,” Andrei whispers against Mikhail’s throat, pressing their bodies flush. There’s a distinct hardness pressing against Mikhail’s thigh, a certain urgency in the way Andrei rubs himself before Andrei takes a step backward.

Andrei gropes and squeezes Mikhail’s buttocks with rough hands just in the way Mikhail has come to love it so much in the past few months. It’s impossible not to moan softly as Andrei’s other hand curls around his half-hard cock, stroking him slowly.

“What…?” Mikhail asks as Andrei drops to his knees behind him, but the rest of his question is lost in the way Andrei slides kisses up Mikhail’s thigh, starting right there where his trousers pool around his knees.

“Kissing you, what else?” Mikhail hears him say and allows himself to get lost in the sensation of the scratch of Andrei’s beard against his skin, in the way Andrei fists him to full hardness. Thunder is rumbling in the distance, somewhere far away, so that isn’t a threat to them. Quite befitting, Mikhail thinks. Right here, at this place that looks like the end of the world, nothing presents a threat to what they do. Mikhail is so lost in his very own thought that at first, he doesn’t quite realize what’s on Andrei’s mind, and perhaps Andrei perceives s just this behavior as silent approval and encouragement to go on. He’s dimly aware of the way Andrei coaxes his knees to open wider and spreads his buttocks with his hands apart. So far – except the awkward position it is nothing out of the ordinary.

That changes suddenly as Andrei presses his entire face against his buttocks. Mikhail grimaces the moment Andrei’s tongue licks at the rim of his entrance. Not that Andrei can see any of it.

“You cannot. Stop it … It’s gross,” Mikhail demands, his words not quite matching how what Andrei does makes him feel. There’s violent heat coiling in his belly; thoughts drifting away to what’s supposed to come after.

Andrei stops, removing his face. “Is it truly?” he asks and as if as he’s searching for Mikhail’s lie he brings his hand back to Mikhail’s cock. “Are you saying this because you don’t want to or because you think you are supposed to feel gross about it? If it’s for the latter, I won’t stop, but if you tell me, you aren’t comfortable with what I do I’ll stop immediately. You know this.”

Mikhail feels conflicted. Andrei is so terribly right.

“I … “ he tries to legitimate the way he feels, then shakes his head, failing to find any words at all. There shouldn’t be shame and embarrassment in their relationship, lies even less, even though it’s not easy to let go of his internal restraints. “I’m sorry.”

Andrei strokes Mikhail’s thighs in reassurance. “There’s nothing to be sorry for.”

Andrei’s words warm his heart although they don’t quench his insecurity entirely.

The thought of it repulses Mikhail.

And yet it intrigues him, in a way that tints his cheeks crimson.

“I assume,” he ventures carefully. “That I’ve much internalized for years, and struggle to rid myself of it in just a few months. And I think you are correct – it is the latter…” Feeling Andrei’s mouth, somewhere, everywhere is a sensation he could absolutely go crazy at, he knows it. “Go on? Please?”

Teasingly, Andrei slaps Mikhail’s buttocks. “With pleasure.”

Andrei reaches around Mikhail’s thighs with his arms, pulling him close until his face is pressed against his buttocks once again; rough but not ungentle fingers part them and the next thing Mikhail feels is Andrei’s tongue pressing against his entrance.

There’s shock, yes – plenty of it, and it takes all his self-control not to flinch out of reach, not to evade Andrei’s touch. Mikhail squeezes his eyes shut as Andrei sucks a dirty kiss right there, then licks along his cleft with the tip of his tongue.

And then there’s a sudden silence in Mikhail’s mind; an emptiness with nothing else than the burning waves of pleasure rippling across his body. He’s breathless, feeling as if he’s melting from the way Andrei licks and sucks, quite noisily.

“Andrei, fuck!” Mikhail blurts out the moment Andrei’s tongue slips into him for a second together with a slickened finger, and for once he wishes he’d have a better position to grab Andrei’s hair to force him to go deeper still. Mikhail usually isn’t one for swearing. He bites his lower lip, trying to hold in the next verbal outburst, but in the sensation that Andrei’s tongue brings it’s entirely not possible. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he pants hoarsely, and all he manages is no to buck right into Andrei’s face.  

Whilst the finger remains the tongue is gone. “I always knew you’ve got a kinky side to you.”

Mikhail’s on the edge; has been there since Andrei has started and if he isn’t yet, he’d be after Andrei’s words. Each touch of Andrei’s hands, each kiss gets him trembling a little more, his whines and moans getting lost in the arising wind.

He whimpers as Andrei withdraws entirely, leaving him feeling open and vulnerable; and he whimpers more as Andrei’s thumb returns, and loses himself in the madness the moment fists his cock in the same rhythm was his blunt fingers fuck into him.

A shiver crawls down his spine. “Andrei … please.”

They’re not even fucking, yet he’s begging all the same. He’s vocal about it, and what he’s not saying, Andrei probably guesses anyway. At least, he’s acting accordingly. His tongue pushes in and out again, sliding in another finger together with it until Mikhail’s hips buck and he’s coming all over Andrei’s hand that is fisting his cock in a maddening rhythm.

He’s shaking and exhausted but Andrei doesn’t even grant him a moment of rest. Instead, Andrei half pulls, half drags him onto the backseat of the car, and weak as he is, still riding the waves of bliss, he allows being manhandled like this (As a matter of fact, he always quite enjoys it, though he yet needs to tell Andrei this.).

In not entirely unpleasant defeat, Mikhail surrenders to the touches and the all too familiar sensation of Andrei’s weight on top of him. Soon, Andrei’s hands become more demanding, teasing and pulling, until, in the end, he’s actually arching into the touch yet again. Andrei’s stripping Mikhail half with his hands and half with his physical strength; to rid Mikhail of his trousers requires Mikhail’s cooperation which he gladly offers, then Andrei shoves the rest of Mikhail’s clothes out of the way and finally, he understands why Andrei has mentioned the lack of space before as he hits his head on the roof. Even though both doors stand wide open, the space is extremely limited. Perhaps, undressing outside would have been a good idea, something that had gotten lost in Andrei’s sudden impatience. Now it is too late.

Once Mikhail is freed of his trousers, Andrei licks his lips and leaves them parted, drawing in an unsteady breath. It sends Mikhail’s pulse racing, brings color to his cheeks once more. With Andrei’s weight on top of him he feels safe; with an arm wrapped around his waist secure; and the hand that reaches between their bodies to free his cock makes him excited yet again, so much that he almost forgets about the towels. 

“Wait …” Mikhail sounds breathless, even to his own ears.  

Andrei narrows his eyes. “What for?”

Mikhail clumsily reaches down to the empty space behind the front seats, retrieving a cotton bag filled with an assortment of towels. “Probably .. you ... we could put one across the seats?”

Andrei looks abashed, then laughs. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Mikhail shakes his head.

“To hell, you have an incredible talent to ruin the mood,” Andrei tells him, yet reaches for the bag at the same time and pulls out two large towels. Withdrawing his weight from Mikhail, he somehow maneuvers the towels across the backseat, then shifts towards the middle. There he spreads his legs obscenely, reaching down to free his cock.

The first fat drop of rain spatters on the window.

“Come here?” Andrei gestures towards his lap.

Mikhail’s still intrigued by the sheer size of Andrei’s erection. “I thought –“

Come here.

Mikhail can never truly resist him.

Rain begins to hammer against the car as wind races around the car, howling as Mikhail straddles Andrei, just after closing the doors of the car. He hates thunderstorms, the destructive power that comes with it but in this moment of yet another fit of nervousness he couldn’t care less. Until now, it’s been Andrei on top of him – always – or from behind, or from the side, or whatever position he couldn’t even have imagined before. In the end, it all narrowed down to one thing: Andrei was in control of everything.  

Today it is different and, somehow it warms Mikhail’s heart how Andrei relinquishes control to him as if it’s the most natural thing to do. And perhaps it is – how should he know with all his lack of experience? Or it’s just an illusion his mind creates to overplay his mental overload, or – what is most likely: Andrei has just been very observant: Mikhail can’t deny that this very scenario has been on his mind ever since Andrei had shown him a quite specific photograph. The visuals in his head have become so vivid in all the lonely nights in Moscow.

Having Andrei under him feels orgasmic by itself.

Ouch. It is the second time he hits his head.

“Watch your head,” Andrei teases.

Mikhail’s hand is trembling, barely firm as it strokes up and down Andrei’s cock a few times, silently hoping that at one point Andrei simply would lose patience with him. He doesn’t know what to do – well, in theory, he does but is quite convinced that it’ll end in a disaster if he attempts to without guidance. Yes, he could ask. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t, being too ashamed for it.

“Is there something specific you are waiting for?” Andrei’s gaze searches his own. “A call from the Kremlin perhaps?”

Mikhail chokes on his spit. “Andrei!“

“No?” The smile Andrei shots him makes him forgive the unfunny remark immediately. It speaks of understanding – of admiration, too but most of all it is reassurance. In fact, that is something that regularly robs Mikhail off his breath: Andrei has a seventh sense when it comes to his insecurities; knows perfectly when words are entirely unnecessary. So it had been then, so it is now. With ease, he adjusts Mikhail’s body on top of him, pressing their bodies flush together before he reaches behind them. His throat goes dry and he idiotically blames the now stuff air for it. Mikhail feels the tip of Andrei’s cock press against his entrance, a certain slickness too.

It all leaves little room for speculation.

He knows it, craves and anticipates it – and yet he’s equally nervous.

Mikhail closes his eyes for a moment to brace himself, then looks at Andrei again. He needs the undisguised look of encouragement, needs to see the lust and fire in Andrei’s eyes.

Then he nods and begins to carefully lower himself down on Andrei’s cock, clinging to Andrei’s strong arms as he does, and although it’ll be easy for Andrei to speed things up by simply bucking his hips, he doesn’t. He gives Mikhail all the time he needs, all the little pauses he takes whenever discomfort feels overwhelming. It’s just these little things that make him fall in love with this man all over again. The look of admiration on Andrei’s face is worth all the discomfort; will be worth everything. His breath becomes labored, and when he’s choking on it, Andrei is simply kissing him through the final centimeters he has still to go. The kiss is so much softer than he’d been expecting, so much gentler – exactly nothing of the fast and rough way he claims his mouth at the verge of orgasm.  

Andrei’s hands card through his hair. “You’re doing so well,” he tells him in a whisper against his lips. “You are doing so well… for me.”

Mikhail closes his eyes and allows Andrei’s voice to wash over his skin until a whine bleeds from his lips. “Andrei…”

His entire body rests on the maddening threshold of pain and pleasure, and it’s almost too much and yet at the same time it’ll never be. He’s too sensitive already from before, yet he can feel every little movement that Andrei makes under him.

His chest falls and pain shoots through his body when he’s moving too fast. It’s the cruelest sort of torture because he’s entirely responsible for the pain himself: if he manages to go slowly, no pain is inflicted. He tries and tries again, yet the exertion of his thighs make him sway. And all the while, Andrei is watching him, undoubtedly reveling in whatever reaction his cock provokes, yet at the same time, he’s so utterly supportive. He’s smiling, desire growing and stretching across his entire face with the same rapidness.

With half-lidded eyes Mikhail finally succeeds to take Andrei fully, giving himself a moment to get accustomed to the sheer size of Andrei’s cock before he surrenders to the most exquisite of touches. Mikhail pants as he slowly begins to move his body up and down, his breathing becoming ragged and erratic within a heart-beat. It’s obscene how he fucks himself to the view of Andrei’s wanton desire spread across his entire face; it’s obscene how shamelessly he moans; and how filthily Andrei encourages him with both his lips and hands until all initial discomfort is gone.

Andrei curses, a waterfall of filthy words gushing right into Mikhail’s ears.

“Fuck…,” he growls and digs his fingers into Mikhail’s hips. “Fuck, damn. Watching you struggle and writhe like this is quite an aesthetic pleasure.”

This filthy sort of praise rings like music in Mikhail’s ears; it’s debauched, and it’s so incredibly filthy that in this moment, the gentle, careful rocking is exchanged for the heated movements of burning passion. Mikhail inhales sharply, bracing himself against the maddening sensation of the unknown, screaming with head thrown back when all of a sudden Andrei’s teeth seal around his nipple.

He hadn’t thought it would be like this, but it’s exhausting. Every muscle, every fiber of his thighs burn and ache, and he’s quite certain that he’ll feel the pain tomorrow all the more. This position is a marvelous exercise in self-control, of which he currently lacks every bit of it.

Andrei’s lips withdraw from Mikhail’s nipples and venture towards his throat in and suck a bruise into the vulnerable curve between throat and collarbone, hard enough to make him lose his rhythm for a moment. Mikhail blinks, eyelashes fluttering against Andrei’s cheek. “Fuck, damn you. It’ll show.”

Andrei laughs, deep and rumbling. “Then make certain it won’t.”

All too quickly fingers entangle themselves in each other’s hair and teeth sink into soft yet bruised lips until for a few moments the world stands still being like this in Andrei’s arms. Mikhail is certain he’s completely flushed at this point, the heat and humidity from outside mixes with the humidity inside the car, the smell of sex and sweat with the typical smell of soil after heavy rain. By now, their clothes and hair are drenched and the slickness only adds to the pleasure of being so close to each other. His chest and stomach gleam with a mixture of sweat and seed and precome and all of it mixes on Andrei’s chest whenever Andrei pulls him close. Mikhail’s nerves are burning, pleasure coiling bright and hot. He’s moving harder, fasting, fucking himself shamelessly on Andrei’s cock in a way that leaves Andrei gasping and keening.

A press of lips.

A roll of Andrei’s hips.

A yelp. A scream, silenced by another heated kiss, and Mikhail is back to pleading.

Andrei can probably hear the stream of Mikhail’s thoughts – sees it certainly on his face. Begging, wanting more and at the same time, less. It’s the strange and shattering feeling of too much at once that robs him of his breath: the rough grip of hands on his hips, hard enough to be bruising, the fullness of Andrei’s cock inside of him. Mikhail claws at Andrei’s arms, head dropped to Andrei’s shoulder in support as he sinks down on Andrei’s cock again and again in what he judges the perfect rhythm. The storm is right above them now, the roaring thunder drowning out the whines that turn into hoarse keening. His blunt nails have little traction on Andrei’s slick skin but he claws anyway, hard enough to bruise.  

Andrei’s voice is wavering. “I love it when you are shameless,” he rasps against Mikhail’s neck, and it’s almost enough to bring him over the edge for a second time today. “And I adore you… debauched like this.”

He’s aware of the obscene gleam of his body; of the flush upon his skin. Just as Andrei, he’s soaked in sweat, so much that the windows are fogged.

Mikhail’s response as Andrei reaches between their bodies to stroke his cock is an elongated moan, a vocal request to match his strokes to the rhythm in which they fucked, hard and fast. His vision blurs, with colors dancing as if he sees the world through a kaleidoscope, blue, pink, and green, little freckles blending in the desire he sees on Andrei’s face. Andrei brings their lips together, kissing away the sobs and his own name that tumbles from Mikhail’s lips as he reaches his climax, just the moment as he feels the treacherous spasm inside of him.

*

Mikhail feels dizzy when he comes back to himself, like after that one time he had smoked a cigarette. Yet then, it’s not; he feels much better now, with his heart pounding and his face still flushed. He’s light-hearted, besotted by the warmth Andrei’s arms around his shivering body make him feel. With a content sigh, he lifts his head from Andrei’s shoulder.

Andrei’s the first to truly regain his composure. “Time to put these towels to some good use,” he whispers, kissing a drop of sweat from Mikhail’s face.

“How do you mean?” Mikhail yawns. He’s exhausted, ready to call it a night even if it is not completely dark outside. “Given the amount of humidity inside the car, they already were of great use.”

Andrei shrugs. “Taking a shower, what else?”

Mikhail says nothing; the way his eyes move is probably telling enough.

“The old way, right there in the rain beneath the open sky,” Andrei says, leaning in to sniff obscenely along Mikhail’s skin. “And you’re in a desperate need for some refreshment too.”

“I – “

“Now come on, don’t be such a prude.” Andrei’s laugh is like rumbling thunder.

“I’m not,” Mikhail says, shooting Andrei a pouting look.

Andrei is already outside the car, now stripped naked, standing at the door with arms crossed before his chest. The smile he’s sporting speaks of smugness. “That’s yet to be proven.”

Mikhail wants to reply something, but instead, he watches how Andrei spreads out his arms and spins around, laughing heartily with his eyes fixed on the sky.

The carefreeness is all encouragement Mikhail needs. With Andrei he feels young and reckless again; with Andrei, he feels strangely alive. He jumps out of the car in a heartbeat, figuring that Andrei is right: the cold drops feel wonderfully refreshing against his heated skin.  A chuckle rolls from Mikhail’s lips as the water pours over his skin like a gushing waterfall. Droplets of water cling to his eyelashes as he tilts his head back, looking at the dull grey sky; droplets splash on his nose and cheeks and suddenly he feels like a teenager again – happy and besotted with love.

After not even a minute his shirt is soaked and he strips out of it, very aware of the way Andrei’s watching him and begins watching him in return.

“Much better,” Andrei says, ruffling his soaked hair with his hands. Then, he shakes himself like a dog and for once, Mikhail doesn’t manage to bite back the laughter.

Andrei takes a few steps forward to where Mikhail stands. “I love you when you are like this,” he says, voice low and full of promises, and in his eyes, Mikhail sees something so heated yet again that gooseflesh spreads across his skin. A blush rises on his cheeks as it so very easily happens, all the more when Andrei’s arms wrap around his waist to pull him close.

Andrei’s lips seal possessively over his own and he kisses him like he’s never been kissed by anyone (not that he had many to compare Andrei with), with a hunger that seems to be never quenched.

They melt together; and in the summer rain, they burn.

Damn, it feels so good; those rough hands on him, these lips against his own, sparking a firework of emotions yet again. “You did this on purpose, didn’t you?” Mikhail asks, trying to catch his breath.

Andrei tilts his head as if he’s thinking on the remark. “Did what on purpose?”

“You know what I mean.” Mikhail’s index finger trails from Andrei’s navel upwards. “Luring me outside just to kiss me in the rain; very romantic, very cliché. Just like in the movies.”

A smile spreads over Andrei’s lips, warm and welcoming. “Might be some truth to this.”

Andrei catches Mikhail’s hand on his chest and presses it right above his heart.

“And for that I love you,” Mikhail says, tugging Andrei in for another kiss.

*