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Summer has descended upon the abandoned city early that year. By early June, the sweltering heat wouldn’t let up even at night. Not that the cool of the night would be of much help anyway - Valery is adamant about keeping the windows of their suite shut at all times.

For once, he and Ilyin agree on something.

“The dust, Boris!” Valery exclaims with an exasperated sigh. “It’s enough that we breathe it all day at the work site. At least this way you can sleep knowing you’re not inhaling your own death.”

Boris would hardly pay much attention to whatever nonsense that quack Ilyin or the Civil Defense comes up with. But to Valery, he listens. And besides, Boris can’t argue that the ubiquitous fine dust - it hasn’t rained for weeks - is everywhere. It settles on their shoes in a fine coating, dulls the eerie teal color of the new foliage, swirls in little wisps in the overheated air.

One particularly unforgivingly hot evening, as he is getting ready for his usual ten o’clock call to Ryzhkov, Boris reaches the point of just about enough. Sitting on the bed in his part of the “Polissya” suite, he glances at the yellow light that spills from a little nook where Valery spends his evenings slouched over papers and blueprints at a small desk, a calculator and logarithmic ruler by his side. Boris huffs. This here, this cursed place, this hotel suite is his home now, and he is within his right to make himself comfortable. Right?

Muttering to himself, Boris takes off his tie, then the shirt and finally after some hesitation, trousers. He sits for some time on the bed in just an undershirt and loose boxers, rubbing the palms of his hands, slick with sweat, over his sturdy thighs.

In his forty plus years’ career comrade Shcherbina had never once been seen without a shirt and a tie by neither his subordinates or superiors, and now feels practically naked. But the relief his overheated skin feels is too good to deny himself, so he rises, squares his shoulders and heads to Valery’s nook to retrieve from the scientist the latest numbers on the progress of the dugout and other reports of the day.

Encircled by a yellow cone of light from his desk lamp and the lace of cigarette smoke, Valery is absorbed in his work, as usual - yet the appearance of something out of the ordinary at the periphery of his vision makes him turn toward the sight.

His bleary eyes blink once and instantly widen, skin looking flushed. “What?” says Boris, much too loudly in his attempt to appear nonchalant. Valery’s obvious discomfort only adds to his feeling of unease. “It’s hot! Those miners are onto something, you know!”

Valery opens his mouth with a dry sticky sound, but no words come out. Silently, he hands Boris the latest report before Boris even gets a chance to ask, and turns to his calculations again, slouching even more than usual.

The following night, the heat inside their suite is positively unbearable. Flimsy desk fans that Boris requisitions from the abandoned concierge area do little good besides blowing nauseating overheated air. Having given up on the fans, Boris sits on his bed, fanning himself with a three-day-old issue of Pravda, delivered to him from Kiev along with the latest shipment of clean food and water.

Boris is surprised at how completely he had lost interest in keeping up to date about the dealings of the Party. He misses nothing about that life - which seems, at this point, just a distant memory hardly worth revisiting. The endless names, the achievements, the awards, the speeches - here, by the reactor number four it all looks so utterly inconsequential. At least the paper is good for keeping him cool.

The sight of Valery, as Boris enters his little nook to check with him on the latest dosimetrists’ report requested last night by Ryzhkov, causes him to stop dead in his tracks. Oh.

Valery’s shirt is cast aside on the floor, suspenders hanging loose down the sides of his chair. Only a loose, nearly threadbare undershirt is covering the younger man’s upper body. In the intimate yellow light of the desk lamp, Valery’s skin, pasty in daylight, looks almost golden, a sheen of fresh sweat making it shimmer. He looks up from his papers, eyes meeting Boris’ for a split second, then darting back to his calculations.

Boris thinks he might have noticed, for an impossibly brief moment, a hint of a bashful smile on Valery’s lips. Valery has full lips, and his upper lip has a beautiful curve to it, Boris notes, and the realization frightens him. “I’ve got the reports,” mutters Valery as he rifles through his desk, avoiding Boris’ eyes. “Here, they were right here. I just saw them, I swear.”

Boris’ gaze, of which he is rapidly losing control of, travels over the exposed skin of Valery’s upper back, his shoulders, the areas under his arms, where skin looks particularly soft, and thin, and sensitive. Valery’s reddish hair is drenched with sweat, a drop of it shimmering right at the tip of that maddening nip of hair in the middle of his nape.

But most of all, it is the generous smattering of bright freckles that keeps Boris transfixed. They richly coat Valery’s shoulders, arms and neck, they stream down his spine, escaping, tantalizingly, out of Boris’ view. How far down do the freckles go?

Valery finally fishes out a report from the mess on his desk, huffing and wiping his brow, and turns to meet Boris’ gaze. They stare at each other for a moment so long, longer than appropriate, much, much longer, the moment that keeps stretching and stretching between them like a drop of honey.

It is as if decades of regimented, carefully curated, thoroughly calibrated, measured existence in the unforgiving apparatus of the Soviet politics had been shed off the Deputy Chairman’s soul.

He stands defenseless before the alluring slackness of Valery’s disarrayed clothes, his flushed face, his ruffled, sweat-soaked hair, his freckles... oh God, the freckles... all of it beckons to Boris like a siren song, which promises boyish nimbleness, and recklessness, and need.

As if he is, once again, a young, devil-may-care lad with jet black hair - so brave, so convinced of his invincibility. How long has it been... since?.. And even then he would rationalize it as a necessity rather than genuine desire - two hundred young lads in their division and nary a girl for hundreds of kilometers in sight.

A shrill sound of the telephone breaks the spell. Ryzhkov. Boris glances at his watch and winces. He was supposed to call his boss twelve minutes ago. Shaking his head, he snatches the papers from Valery’s hand and hurries to his side of the suite. “Nikolai Ivanovich? I beg for your forgiveness - a bit of a delay with finalizing the numbers.”

He doesn’t venture to Valery’s side anymore that night. The scientist’s lamp remains on when Boris exits the shower, cool water bringing a short-lived relief from the heat. The light is still on as Boris drifts off to sleep. He dreams in black and white, dreams of a winter forest, the silence of it punctuated only with distant artillery fire or an occasional crack of a sniper rifle, dreams of feet so beyond numb with cold that one would find it impossible to remember what warmth ever felt like, dreams of chapped lips of a lad whose name he’d struggle to remember now - but who, in his dream, has the face of a man he is fighting side-by-side with in the trenches of this new, impossible war.

Boris wakes with a jolt. His heart is racing, pillow soaked with sweat. “Almost starting to wish for that forest now,” he mutters. He reaches down to feel his crotch, swollen with need. No business for a sixty-seven-year old to wake up like that. Perhaps a splash of water in the face would do him good. Boris gets up with an effort and lumbers across the room, eyes barely open. Flings the bathroom door open, blinking dumbly at the sudden harsh bright light… and… oh… oh… oh God.

His eyes finally manage to focus on the sight of Valery, turned towards him in a state of a similar shock. Valery, whom he caught right as he was undressing for a shower - one hand lifting his threadbare undershirt, the other pushing the trousers down, baring his lower back and his… his… soft, round, almost obscenely plump bottom.

Boris stands, mouth agape - the shreds of his dream still swirling before him, coalescing into a single thought, a single need. So that’s how far down the freckles go. Streaming down Valery’s spine, they encircle the tender dimples on his sacrum, pooling at the delicate spot where his two ample buttocks join.

Feeling lightheaded, Boris leans his shoulder on the door frame. He looks, and looks, and looks, drinking in the vision before his eyes, transfixed, hypnotized, the heat in his lower belly rising and rising like sleeping embers awakening from a gust of air. And Valery doesn’t move either - stock still, eyes wide and dark, a flush spreading rapidly across his face and down his neck and chest. He lets out a thin bird-like sound, almost like a cry for help, and his hand lets go of his trousers. They fall down to his ankles, and Boris gasps. “Valera,” he growls, warningly.

Boris has always considered the time between three and four in the morning to be an odd and vulnerable one. It was then more than at any other time of day when thinking of his past regrets and defeats stung most viciously, his memories were most vivid, and his desires took on an almost cruel kind of clarity in his mind’s eye. It was as if the protective padding imparted by the conventions and sensibilities of the daytime would vanish in the dead of the night, and only a real, vulnerable, unmoored, and perhaps, dangerous Boris remained.

Boris, who, in two strides, closes the distance between him and Valery, chest flush with the younger man’s sweat-slicked back. Boris, who runs his fingers down the soft freckled skin of Valery's shoulders, who burrows his face into the overheated mess of reddish hair.

“So many freckles…” he rasps hotly into the salty skin of Valery’s nape, and Valery lets out a shuddering sigh, hands grasping the edge of the bathroom sink as he presses back into him.

Trembling, Boris slides his hands down Valery’s sides, reaching down to caress his bare hips and finally, unable to contain a low moan - almost a growl - resting his large palms on the beguiling roundness of Valery’s generous behind, cool to the touch even in this heat.

The cluster of bright freckles at the delicate spot just south of the sacrum beckons to him, and Boris brushes his rough fingertips against it, eliciting a moan from Valery, who presses more insistently into Boris’ touch now - arching, begging.

“You’ve done this before...” Boris pants, a statement more than than a question. “Y-yes,” Valery whispers, gasping as Boris runs his fingers between his buttocks. “L-long time. Grad - Ah! - school. Too d-dangerous…”

Boris’ touches are more insistent now, fueled by the singeing thought that someone else had him first, had him young, had him carefree, laughing maybe, not burdened by the weight of the entire continent on his shoulders.

“Wait.” Valery straightens and pulls away, and for a brief moment Boris fears the delirious moment to be over. But no - Valery reaches to open the medicine cabinet behind the mirror to pull out a small tin of vaseline, left behind, perhaps, by a previous guest. The sight of it elicits a purely feral growl from Boris. He presses, commandingly, on Valery’s back, bending him over the edge of the sink, snatches the tin from him, prying it open with his teeth.

Moments later, his slicked thumb begins encircling the secret furrowed flesh, then presses, insistent. Valery tenses all over - it is all too soon, too fast - and Boris removes his hand, stroking Valery’s lower back and buttocks soothingly, until Valery’s shallow breaths relax once again into long trembling sighs.

“Sh-h-h. I won’t hurt you, yes?” He pulls Valery toward him so that his back is pressed into Boris’s chest, head falling back onto Boris’ shoulder. Valery all but melts into Boris, each exhale of his is now a soft, raspy moan.

With a hungry gaze roaming all over the younger man’s body, Boris whispers, “You feel so good, Valera. So good to touch… to look at...”, which makes Valery shut his eyes and shake his head in a vehement disagreement. Boris’ right hand slides down the front of Valery’s body, lower, savoring the feel of his plush belly, lower still, fingers threading through the tangle of damp, copper-colored curls and finally closing around Valery’s straining cock... while the thumb of his left hand slips under Valery’s undershirt, brushing his small, hard nipple. Valery’s body goes rigid, hands grasp at the porcelain of the sink, toes curl against the tiled floor, and he all but screams out at the overwhelming sensation.

They will hear. A thought flickers dimly somewhere on the edge of Boris’ conscious, but is buried by an avalanche of a sudden, new even to him kind of fury. Let those weasels hear. Let them pull their pricks off. We’re in a war here.

Now it is Valery who grasps Boris’ hand needily, guiding it between his buttocks. “Please,” he whispers, head hung low. And Boris obliges, carefully breaching the silky flesh, working it open, marveling at how it yields, bit by bit, to his touch, growing supple with every gentle press, every stroke of his finger… two fingers...

Boris’ thorough attentions make Valery grow rapidly desperate for a deeper, fuller kind of feeling, and he pushes back, demanding, at the sensation. “Now, Boris… Borya… Ah!”

“No,” Boris says - stern, drunk on his power, then softer - “Now, be patient.”

“P-please!” Valery sobs as his entire body quakes with steady shudders. The vision of Valery so completely, so beautifully fallen apart drives Boris positively feral. He slaps his free hand against Valery’s full buttock, gritting his teeth at the feeling of Valery’s body clamping down on his thick fingers.

“Nnnng!”

Boris slaps him again, watching, enraptured, how Valery arches his back at the sensation, pushing ever more insistently against Boris. The other buttock, too, gets a slap. Head dropped low between his shoulders, Valery is incoherent with lust.

Boris’ mind is cleared of all thought when he finally does push in, his hands grasping at Valery’s hips. He is dizzy, almost frightened by the sensation of silky tightness sheathing him, pulsing around his formidable girth. Valery’s breath is all long exhales that seem to go on and on and on in a hotly whispered “Aaa-hhhhhhh...”, then punctuated with a gasp like a drowning man fighting his way to the surface, then followed by another “Aaaaa-hhhhhhh”, longer still.

At last, Boris’s belly is flush with Valery’s lower back, his left hand on Valery’s shoulder while his right hand left to savor the softness of his sensitive body. “My Valera. So wonderful. All mine. All for me,” Boris whispers as he begins rocking his hips slowly, finding a gentle rhythm, and Valery moves with him, pushing back, tentatively at first, but with ever-increasing intensity.

Boris catches his own reflection in the mirror above the sink - wild, flushed, eyes dark - and reaches with his left hand to entwine his fingers with the sweat-soaked hair on the back of Valery’s head, sharply pulling him up until Valery has no choice but to face himself in the mirror together with Boris.

“Look,” Boris rasps, picking up the pace now, his release all but imminent. “This is you taking me, Valera. Look at yourself, letting me in so deep.”

Valery lets out a high-pitched whine, his thighs shaking uncontrollably now. With his free hand, Boris gives Valery’s drawn-up testicles a brief possessive caress and finally grasps his flushed cock, weeping, begging to be tended to.

“Look, Valera. Look what a good boy you are for me.”

“Oh God! Oh Borya… please... Please!” Valery cries out, his pink face twisted in a peculiar sort of frown, mouth open wide as he is overtaken by waves of orgasm that seem to be nearly tearing him apart.

Boris, his pace stuttering, grasps at Valery’s writhing body, holding him in one piece, until he, too, cries out and it feels as if he is being lifted - up, up, up with each shock of pleasure coursing through him, Valery's body still quaking around him with the aftershocks.

It takes what seems like ages for Boris to find his breath, find his way out of this boneless bliss and out of his lover's body, and straighten up. Valery follows him too - body limp, but eyes clear and wild as he turns around to face Boris, pressing a hungry, open-mouthed kiss to his lips. Boris responds, fighting furiously for dominance, the two of them locked in a desperate devouring of each other’s breaths. First to tear away, Boris grips the sides of Valery’s face with his large palms. “Mine,” he growls, and Valery nods, breathlessly.

Boris kisses him, more deliberately now, Valery’s attempts to writhe out of his grasp notwithstanding. Boris has an inventory to attend to. He plants a kiss on the lock of damp red hair on Valery’s forehead, tasting salt on his lips. He takes Valery’s glasses off and kisses his perpetually arched right eyebrow and the wrinkle above it. He kisses his cheekbones, and little scars on his cheeks, and bright freckles under his eyes and on his nose, he kisses his full lips, gentler now, and finally he bites down, lightly, on Valery’s chin, licking at the salty little valley that runs through it. Explored like a foreign land, Valery only moans, softly.

At last, releasing Valery from his grip, Boris reaches for a towel, soaking its corner with the cool water from the faucet. He gently nudges Valery, so uncharacteristically docile, to turn and bend over, so he could clean the traces of his release from his lover’s body. Valery shivers and all but purrs his gratitude as Boris holds the cool cloth against his entrance, swollen and pink, tender from Boris’ need, Boris’ vigor. Finally, enveloping the younger man in his arms, Boris leads him to his bed - their bed - and they collapse onto it, no underpants, their embrace unbroken.

Even the sweltering heat of the room feels pleasant now, mellow, adding to the bliss of their post-orgasmic haze. Settled in Boris’ arms, Valery presses another, almost chaste kiss to Boris’ lips, sighs contentedly and soon his breath becomes steady - a consummate insomniac fast asleep in his lover’s arms.

Boris, however, lies wide awake next to Valery, holding him like a dragon protecting his loot. His wristwatch is out of his reach and he doesn’t want to disturb Valery for it, but Boris reckons it is well past four now. At least two and a half hours until they have to get up and eat a quick breakfast of pre-packaged food before the UAZ is here to take them to the power plant.

Two and a half hours.

The thought that he has all this time to simply hold Valery, feel his softness and his warmth, listen to his breaths punctuated by occasional indecipherable mumbling, watch his features become visible, little by little, in the pallid light of dawn that soon will start seeping through the curtains, overwhelms him. Two and a half hours. Boris presses his eyes shut for a moment, shooing away sudden tears.