Yeshua was pacing.
He had been walking for hours, up and down the small room. There was nothing he could do, he could not leave the house. He was officially dead. Never had he thought, he would come to regret it, but he was so tempted to risk it all and flee, just run and search every last inch of the city for Judah.
But he could not.
“I’ll find him,” Mariam had assured, over and over, but she did not know Judah well, she had only met him when he was already frantically trying to save Yeshua. She only knew him as the one swimming up the stream, fighting his friends, betraying his loved one. She did not know Judah.
She did not know the kind-hearted, hopeful soul, that hid behind layers and layers of emotional protection. She did not know the rational, intelligent mind, that spurred everybody on to do greater things, to be better themselves.
However, Yeshua did and he knew so much more. He knew the hands, bruised and sore, too rough for a boy of Judah’s age, he knew how they felt on his skin; fingertips tracing patterns into his skin, palms almost violently grabbing Yeshua’s face in an effort to get him to look at Judah.
He knew the other man’s deep, soulful eyes, that could go from the intensity of a raging fire to the most overwhelming look of adoration within seconds.
Yeshua knew all of Judah’s strengths and weaknesses, he knew his body and his soul and because of that, he needed to find him.
That was a dead man’s burden; to be close and yet so far from what he desired.
The night passed and once again Yeshua had not slept a single second. He was worried, he was yearning, aching for Judah, more so now that he knew him near and not half way across the country or even farther away.
He barely ate anything that day, only continued pacing.
“Yeshua!” He spun around.
“You have to calm down, I can’t guarantee that we’ll find him.” Simone was standing at the entrance, her wild, tousled hair framing her face.
“You saw him.” It was not a question. Yeshua knew what Mariam had told him, he was building all his barely realistic hopes on those few sentences.
He walked towards Simone, dragging his fingers through his own ruffled hair. He probably looked like a mess, bags under his eyes, lips bitten and sore, unshaved for too long to look entirely civilized, but Simone opened her arms anyway and Yeshua sank into the embrace immediately.
“I hope we’ll get him, I see what you’re feeling, but if not, tell me you’ll be alright.”
“I’ll be alright,” Yeshua echoed and knew in the same moment that there was no way to know that for sure. He had barely been alright before and now, when his fragile hopes could be destroyed so easily, he was not sure if he could bear this loss.
Simone did not stay long.
The rest of the day passed and Yeshua grew more desperate with every minute. Every update Mariam sent to him only made him more anxious. They had to find him, otherwise he was going to go out looking for himself as soon as it was dark.
When he watched the sun set behind a hill in the distance, painting the sky pink, yellow, purple and a bright, bloody red, it occurred to Yeshua that maybe Judah did not want to be found.
He sat down on the edge of his bed heavily. If that was the truth, he did not need to go out and look for Judah, there was no way that man could be found if he did not want to be. Dread ran through Yeshua as his hopes began to dwindle, shake like a house of cards would at the slightest gust of wind. Yeshua pressed the polished silver coin to his racing heart.
Darkness crept around the corners of his home, slowly twilight faded and the voices of the night started whispering. Yeshua had not slept in too long, again and again he caught himself drifting off. Staying awake was torture, but his hope kept him awake despite being utterly fatigued.
He almost missed the knock.
Another knock sent him jumping up in panic. He nearly slammed into the door from the speed he crossed the room with, then opened it.
Yeshua fell to his knees, his legs unable to support his weight anymore. He felt sharp pain shooting through his kneecaps, but he barely took notice of it. He had had so much worse.
“Judah.” He was not sure if sound had left his lips or not.
Judah was crouching down next to him, reaching out a hand towards him as if to touch. But the touch never came. Was he afraid? What was it that held him back?
Yeshua however could not hold himself back. No matter how hard he tried, no matter how his inner voice seemed to tell him to wait for Judah’s reaction, he reached out.
It was real. Yeshua’s fingertips dragged slowly over Judah’s cheek and at once the boy’s eyes met Yeshua’s. They were burning.
He knew how intensely Judah felt, but nothing could have prepared Yeshua for the show of sheer power he witnessed when Judah heaved him up, closed the door behind himself and slammed Yeshua into a wall. His knees were still weak, his legs felt as if they would give in at any given second, but Judah was right there, keeping him standing, drilling into him with his intense stare.
Judah’s hands loosened from their tight grip on Yeshua’s upper arms, one of them remained as if he knew how unstable he truly was, the other went to take Yeshua’s hand into his own, lifting it up.
“Oh God,” he whispered hoarsely upon seeing the tender pink scar tissue in the centre of Yeshua’s palm.
Judah completely let go off his upper arm now to bring his other hand up as he had the first, looking at the freshly healed wounds in apparent horror.
“Oh God,” he repeated, before he brought Yeshua’s hands up to his face, kissing one palm, then the other.
Shivers ran down Yeshua’s spine at the tender show of affection. Only now he realised how heavily the fear that Judah might find him repulsive with all his scars, had weighed on him.
Yeshua took Judah’s face between his hands, prompting him to look up again.
The memory of their last kiss was suddenly at the very front of Yeshua’s mind. He hungered for more, he desired it, perhaps more than anything else. But Judah was already focused on something else. His hands had left Yeshua’s and settled on his chest instead.
Slowly, he undid the buttons that kept the wide shirt from gaping open to his navel. Yeshua saw him swallow when he laid his eyes on the scar. It was not a pretty sight by any means, but still Judah seemed unable to look away. Gentle fingertips traced the sensitive skin around the mark, while Judah’s eyes darted up to meet Yeshua’s as if he was asking for permission. A small nod was all it took for Judah to free himself from Yeshua’s grip and lean forward. When he felt Judah’s lips on that spot just below his heart, he was unable to hold back any longer. The monster he had fought until that very moment was emerging from the depths of his mind, taking over as he grabbed Judah’s face again and forced him to look up. He saw the challenge in his eyes, then Judah surprised him.
This kiss was exactly like their last one and yet so different. There was desperation, anger bordering on violence, loss in their kiss, but there was also hope and tenderness. Yeshua felt as if he could breathe again after holding his breath too long. He felt liberated after being a prisoner to eternity herself.
But it was also over as fast as their last kiss had been. Once again Judah took Yeshua’s hand, opening it, palm up. He reached into his pocket and laid something into Yeshua’s open, waiting hand. Before he could ask, Judah leaned in.
A peck on the corner of his mouth, a shared breath as both of them stood there, eyes closed was all Yeshua got as a goodbye.
“I’m sorry,” Judah whispered, before he ran out the door.
Yeshua looked down at his hand perplexed. In it lay a bullet. His bullet.
And he recognized it for what it was: A promise that Judah would return.
He could not stay now, but he would return. Yeshua let his head fall back against the cool wall, closing his eyes while his fingertips traced the still familiar pattern of the bullet’s creases and indents.
Even for a dead man, there was hope.