They had just done battle with the devil. They had just stood in the doorway and pushed back the darkness. They helped break a demons forty-year curse and heal a families forty-year wound. They helped cleanse not just one soul but many. They, for all intents and purposes, had done the Lords' work. They had aligned themselves with all things righteous and stood at the right hand of God. They wielded a flaming sword and smote the enemies of Christ. Marcus had rekindled the ember of his power and Tomas had discovered a new path to tread. A long and restful night sleep should have been their reward but rest evaded them, instead both men staggered through their own unique insomniac rituals both involving their own share of pacing and prayers.
Tomas was the first to find himself before the crumbling edifice that was St. Antony's. Following one too many instances of blasphemic vandalism during the evening the large front doors were padlocked from the inside so Tomas unlocked the side door. Walking up the aisles like a man in his own living room he took a seat at the front pew and began reciting the liturgy of Matins. His sharp whispers hissing their way around the arches of the cathedral
'Hasten, O God, to deliver me, make haste to help me O Jehovah. Let them that seek after my soul be ashamed and confounded: let them be turned backward and put to confusion. May all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace.' He closed his eyes to find God but saw nothing but flashes of the devil. Red-eyed with scorched skin. Tomas went to his knees in front of the alter. "may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you." another face flashed on the screen behind his eyes. A familiar face. A friendly one. Blue eyes filled with rage and sadness. A smile spiked with optimism and mischief. Marcus...' let such as love thy salvation say evermore, let God be exalted" he saw the dip of his clavicle, the pale inside of his wrist; not so quietly decorated with a spiders web of self-inflicted scars. He saw his long legs draped over a chair. An absent-minded foot swinging to a beat only he could hear. his hands...his beautiful hands smudged with charcoal " Yet I am poor and needy make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer. O Lord do not delay."
Marcus may have been able to sneak in during the crowds at a food bank or under the cacophony of restoration but in the dead of night the age'd hinges of the unlocked side door keened like a coven of widows as he made his way inside. Tomas broke from his prayer and turned toward the cutting sound to find a face he hadn't anticipated but longed for none the less.
"Fancy meeting you here."
"Never can. particularly after an exorcism." As the men neared one another Tomas could smell the scorched sweetness of cigarettes and the bitter pang of whiskey.
"What brings you here at this late hour?"
"I could ask you the same thing." Marcus retorted Tomas crooked a brow "Truth to tell, I was hoping I would find you here."
"I don't know. long nights are made short with company and it's not often I get to talk about my work...how bout your self ?
"This is where I usually go when I can't sleep. With restoration going on at all hours of the day often the only time this place is quiet is somewhere between matins and lauds." Tomas returned to his seat and Marcus took the space next to him.
"I always felt I could hear the voice of God all the more clearly...in the stillness of the night." Marcus added raising his eyes to the darkened ceiling. gazing at stars only he could perceive.
They sat in the tranquil silence of the cathedral for a few moments both relishing the lack of paparazzi, police sirens, chanting nuns and demonic screaming. Marcus tinted the silence with huffed laugh
"Hehe...six-piece mariachi band"
"You're still on that."
"So off the cuff. you seem like the kinda guy who plans the jokes he puts in his sermons."
"Hey, at least I never keep my parish late. At least I'm not that guy." the two smiled at one another. "So...what now.?"
"How do you mean?"
"How do you wind down from work like this...what does one do after...after..."
"The barn doors been left open and the drafts come in."
"...that's one way of putting it. but genuinely what do I do now. Where do I...where do...we...go from here."
"Honestly your guess is as good as mine. I've found life plans to be rather overrated. Never had one, never really needed one. I followed the work and there is always work to be done. Never had much time to worry about what comes next. Right about the time I start to get...too comfortable summin' will come along to keep me busy." Marcus answered eyes darting about the room. Tomas waited in the quiet with him for a while.
"What are you thinking about?"
"I'm thinking about Mother Bernadette and the day she let me join the exorcism."
"Not a method you'd seen before."
"No, it was...so foreign so ...polar to what I had been trained in. I was raised as a soldier trained to do battle. To wield the sword and shield of the lord and fight the enemies of God but with Bernadettes' method I...had to stop fighting, I had to...let go. " Marcus said, absent-mindedly fidgeting with the rosary in his pocket. Tomas had always been a good listener and his religious training had only improved it. He guided Marcus through the alley and byways of his memories and more importantly his feelings. Getting Marcus to let his guard down was like approaching an emaciated wolf. One false move and the beast would run or kill. Marcus words were intentionally vague but Tomas had always been good at reading in between the lines.
"When I spoke forgiveness to the demon I felt..."
"Redemption?" Tomas offered. Marcus looked up eyes wide and thick with unshed tears. The etchings on his face straining to hold back any emotional tells. Marcus tore himself away from Tomas' gaze. Covering his face with his hands. Heaving a few heavy breaths before he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. Marcus dropped his head biting his lip slightly.
"You acknowledged your own worth and thus were able to guide others to theirs." Marcus turned his head eyes boring a hole in the dead space in front of the pews. He tried to hide it but his shoulders and gut twitched with his feeble attempts to banish his feelings
"Sod off." he muttered under his breath
"Marcus please...look at me." Marcus turned his head with the smoothness of a rusted animatronic. Eyes never lifting off the floor. "Marcus." the older man finally lifted his sodden eyes. Cheeks and nose red from the rush of blood. Tomas put a hand to Marcus face thumbing away the heavy streaks of saline. Laying both hands to the back of Marcus' head he pulled him close enough to press a priestly kiss to Marcus' forehead. Then, lifting Marcus' life etched hands to his lips he pressed long reverent kisses to both palms. then with a thumb under Marcus chin, the priest laid love-drenched kisses on each of his cheeks. Placing their foreheads together for a moment Tomas could smell his cologne as it mixed with the scent of smoke and drink. Marcus expected to smell the shroud of a women's perfume on Tomas; what else could send a priest to the altar in the middle of the night if not penitence, but all he smelled was Tomas shampoo. Neither man moved for a moment they just sat there sharing the air between them. Each feeling the weight of the other inching infinitesimally closer. Marcus clapped his hand to the back of Tomas' neck and heaved a sigh. he twitched forward like he wanted to move but thought better of it. Tomas needed no other proclamation.
"Tomas I.." the priest caught the lips of the exorcist in a fervent kiss. body emboldened by the sudden rush of hormones he climbed onto Marcus' lap. Legs straddling thighs. hands holding the melting older man in place as his timid, trembling hands found their way to Tomas waist. Fingers gently tugging the shirt out from under his belt. Marcus ached to know what Tomas' bare skin felt like. Tomas, never one to be luke-warm about anything, gave himself over to the cascade of thoughts, ideas, wants nay, needs flooding his body. He rolled his hips into Marcus dragging a short gasping growl from him. They carried on like this for a while hands and lips exploring the other through layers of fabric. Both were nervous and tried to conceal their trembling. Marcus had never been one to flirt with anything other than his eyes and his smile but Tomas pulled prose from his lips.
"let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth." Marcus uttered against Tomas skin. Tongue entreating entrance
between Tomas lips. "For thy love is sweeter than wine. Thy name is as oil poured out."
"Draw me after you let us run." Tomas removed his priestly collar letting it drop from his hands like a feather in the breeze. "The king has brought me into his chambers" Tomas replied deepening the kiss. "We will exult and rejoice in thee." Tomas unbuttoned his shirt. "We will extol your love more than wine."
"How rightly they adore you. Dark yet lovely." Marcus answered. Tremulous fingers reaching out to meet Tomas exposed skin. "Tell me thou whom my soul loveth where thy makest thy flocks to rest." Marcus pressed Tomas off his lap. Grabbing one of the soft crochet blankets left for chilly parishioners Marcus laid it out in front of the pew and stretched out on top of it "tell me where thou makest thy flock to lie." Marcus continued, his outstretched hands inviting the priest down to him.
"If thou knowest not, most beautiful among the multitudes I compare thee; my love, to a stallion among Pharaohs' chariots. Thy cheeks are lovely with ornaments." Tomas said tracing Marcus' smile lines. "Thy neck with a string of jewels. " Tomas said slipping Marcus spare rosary from his neck.
"My beloved ist to me as a sachet of myrrh betwixt my chest." Marcus removed his omnipresent leather jacket and folded it into a makeshift pillow. "My beloved ist to me a cluster of henna blossoms."
"Behold thou art fair my beloved thou art beautiful thou has doves eyes," Tomas said
"How handsome thou art, my lover, how charming, our bed is verdant." Marcus said toeing off his shoes. "The beams of our house are cedar the rafters are firs" continued Marcus looking up at the wooded canopy of St. Anthonys' ceiling.
"Like a lily among the brambles is my lover among the righteous," Tomas said carding his knuckles against Marcus four day scruff
"Like an apple tree among the forest is my lover among men. I delight to sit in his shade and his fruit is sweet to my taste." Their kissing took on a frantic hungry pace."He has taken me to the banquet hall and his banner over me is love. Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples for I am faint with love." this time it was Marcus who paused."I adjure you children of Jerusalem do not awaken love until it so desires." he ran a hand through Tomas' hair. "We don't have to do this," Marcus added breaking quotation. Tomas said nothing for a moment then continued with a placid smile.
"Arise my darling, my beautiful one and come with me. See the winter is passed the rains are gone" Tomas put a soft hand to Marcus cheek drawing their gazes together "Flowers appear upon the earth" Tomas continued with a blooming smile. "The season of singing has come." Tomas pressed a heady kiss to the crook of Marcus neck pulling a breathy moan from him "The cooing of doves is heard in our land." an adventurous hand pawed at growing weight under Marcus zipper "The fig tree forms its early fruit. The blossoming vines spread their fragrance." freeing Marcus from his trousers Tomas roamed the unexplored skin. "Arise my darling, my beautiful one come to me." sliding down between Marcus legs Tomas pressed an experimental kiss to Marcus head. "My dove in the rocky clefts in your mountainous hiding place. Show me your face." he ran his tongue up Marcus length drawing a surprised moan from the man. "Let me hear your voice." Tomas added taking Marcus into his mouth. He pulled off soundlessly looking up at Marcus. "For your voice is sweet and your face is lovely." having never been with a man Tomas followed the golden rule and did unto Marcus as he would wished Marcus do unto him. Tomas mouth was too full of flesh to leave room for the word of God so Marcus picked up the torch.
"My lover is mine and I am his." he recited, his hand wandering through Tomas hair. "He feedeth among the lillies." Marcus' words caught in his throat as Tomas took all of him in his. Marcus let out a few gasping breaths before Tomas came up for air.
"Until the day breaks and the shadows flee," he added with a near mischievous smile on his face.
"By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth. When I found the one my heart desires I held him and would not let him go." Marcus quoted through a tight jaw and curled toes. Marcus felt his edge nearing far sooner than his wished. Pressing Tomas off of him he added "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." with a huffed smile. Their gazes leveled and Tomas smiled back; hair a mess eyes ablaze with an unfamiliar light. "How beautiful you are my darling, how beautiful. Thou has doves eyes, thy lips..." Marcus continued pressing a thumb to the inflamed skin. "A thread of scarlet. Your neck..." he added pulling Tomas back into his lap. "Is built with elegance," he said treading kisses down to his clavicle. "Thou art all together beautiful my darling." he rested his head aside Tomas. "There is no flaw in you."
"Thou has captivated my heart with one look of thine eye." Tomas said drawing Marcus into his deep gaze "How beautiful is thy love. how much more pleasing is thy love than wine." as they often did, the metaphoric demons of Marcus' mind did not stay banished for long. The higher Tomas praised him the darker the shadow that loomed over his conscious. "Thy lips drip nectar. honey and milk are under thy tongue." Tomas noticed the dimming light behind Marcus' eyes. "My lover is like a garden enclosed. " Tomas caught Marcus gaze. "A shut up spring, a fountain sealed." stroking the back of Marcus hand Tomas queried "Why do you close yourself off from the ones who love you?" Marcus breath began to quicken. Gently pressing Tomas off of his lap he stood, returned himself to his clothes and began pacing in abrupt loops in front of the alter his breath hastening all the while.
"Marcus." he called out hesitantly. Marcus; as if yanked from a fight, slammed the side of his fists on the alter sending a resounding thud bouncing off the empty hall. Taking a steadying breath Marcus looked up at the softly smiling Mother Mary looking down on them. Gripping the spine of his shirt he pulled it over his head and dropped it to the floor. Revealing bare skin cross-hatched with thick angry scars. All layered atop one another like a nauseating tapestry.
"The...Watchmen...that go about in the night." his legs began to shake "They found me...they beat me...they...they wounded me." Marcus fell to his knees. "the Keepers "he spat out "the Keepers of the walls...t...took my mantel." with a furrowed brow Tomas inquired
"What mantel as been taken from you?"Tomas asked. Marcus said nothing but looked back up at Mother Mary.
"Hers." he replied eyes never leaving those of his porcelain matriarch. Tomas paused in momentary confusion.
'the VIRGIN Mary' the implications of Marcus single word confession weighed heavy on the priest. Tomas was desperate to know but doubted Marcus could stand to utter much more on the subject. "May I ask how old you were...when it happened."
"The first time you mean?" he opened with a bite. "Too young." with self-loathing seeping into his veins and a desperate desire to change the subject Marcus twisted the verse. "What is your beloved more than another." he turned towards Tomas "Most beautiful of souls. what is your beloved that you thus commend him."
"Marcus..." he attempted to interject
"When my beloved is radiant and ruddy." Tomas knelt beside him. "His locks are wavy and black as ravens." he said carding his fingers through Tomas' hair. "His lips like lilies dripping liquid myrrh. his arms are rods of gold" he continued, taking Tomas hands in his. "Set with jewels." he laid heavy kisses to the back of Tomas' hands. "His legs like alabaster set with gold."
"Marcus..." Tomas whispered stealing a gentle kiss.
"His mouth is sweet and he is altogether desirable." Something deep in Marcus' core began to quake. "This...THIS is my beloved..." he raised Tomas' hands to his forehead as he careened forward face falling to meet Tomas' knees. "and this is my friend." Tomas freed an arm and wrapped it like a celestial wing around the prostrate man. Marcus rocked in place his tears wetting Tomas lap as Marcus breath came in panicked hisses.
"Where has my beloved gone. Oh most fair among the righteous. Where has my beloved turned that I may seek him." Tomas put a sturdy hand to Marcus chin dragging the broken boy back from the depth of his darkened memories. "My beloved has gone down to his garden." Tomas pulled Marcus head to his chest wrapping one strong arm around his trembling shoulders and another stroked a comforting bridge across his hair. "I am my beloveds and he is mine." Tomas stated intently eyes gazing down at the man in his arms. "You are beautiful my love, as fair as Jerusalem." Marcus met his gaze for a moment before burying his face in Tomas chest.
"Turn away thine eyes from me your gaze overwhelms me."
"My dove, my undefiled..." Marcus tensed at the word. "My perfect one is the only one. The righteous see thee and call thee blesse'd. Who is't that looks down like the dawn." with a hand to his cheek Tomas lifted Marcus face. "As beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun." he said with a beaming smile. "Majestic as the stars in their procession. Come back to me that I may gaze on you." Tomas stood and pulled Marcus to his feet guiding him to sit at the pew. "I'll be right back." Marcus left and returned with a towel around his waist carrying a basin, a water pitcher, and a small dark glass vile with an unreadable label.
"Tomas..." Marcus protested. Tomas quieted Marcus' disconcertion with a finger near his own lips and gesture of his hand. Setting the basin and pitcher down on the floor he poured the water which steamed slightly in the chilly air into the basin. Before loosing a few drops of scented oil into the water. Testing the temperature with his hand he looked up at Marcus with a warm smile on his face.
"Tomas you don't have to do this."
"Actually I do..were commanded John 13:1-17" Marcus brow furrowed as he scoured the verses he'd committed to memory then, ' with a shrug, acquiesced.
" 'spose your right." Tomas removed Marcus socks.
"How beautiful are your feet." he placed them in the warm water rubbing small circles into the muscles with his thumb." the curve of you thigh like that of a jewel, the work of a masters hand." he soaked both feet, washed and dried them before kneeling lower still to lay kisses on the still-warm skin before slipping Marcus socks back on. Tomas stood to his full height. "kneel." was his one-word instruction, Marcus followed. "Your head is crowned with flowing locks. A king is held captive in their tresses." pulling a second vile from his pocket he began "sun of the morning, ashes on the earth." he wet his finger with the second vile" profane thing...banished from grace. you are forgiven." he painted a cross on Marcus forehead with his whetted thumb "you are redeemed." looking down at the man before him; whos tears now ran freely down his face, he endeavored to fill his next words with all the meaning he could muster. "you...are...loved...how beautiful you are how charming, my love, my delight."
looking up at Tomas with a tear laden smile Marcus made up his mind to take Tomas as far down this path as he could safely go.
he wanted to do and say everything all at once. Worried that this was all some twisted apparition that he would blink and Tomas would be gone. Some troubled piece of his mind was always wary of happiness, of any goodness or light that crept into his life. Is this a dream? Is it a phantom concocted by his latest demonic charge? Was this the vision that; like the angelic father of lies, was going to lead him directly to eternal damnation. Could he safely embrace this happiness? Could he give himself over to love without being utterly lost to it? He had no issue getting lost in the dark. He had stalked through the night without a guiding flame for most of his life. He had no fear of the dark...perhaps that was part of the problem 'he loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night'. As a creature awoken by the moon, he found this glorious sun before him blinding....but if Tomas was the sun than Marcus would joyfully be his Icarus. He'd fly towards him straight and true with no care for what may happen after they are joined
"It goes down smoothly for my beloved" Marcus unfastened his belt and trousers. "Gliding over lips and teeth." Marcus took Tomas into his mouth in one fluid motion. The younger man clutched Marcus shoulder for purchase
"I am...my beloveds..." he started ''oh Lord'' he gasped out in exclamation rather than recitation. "and his desire is for me." if Tomas had not been holding on to Marcus he would have buckled at the knees. Separating himself from Tomas he rose to his feet and took Tomas hand
"Come my beloved, let us go out into the fields let us lodge in the villages. Let us see if the bloom is open if the fruits are blossoming." Marcus took Tomas by the hand and guided him over to the alter "there will I gift you my love. Beside us are all choice fruits old and new which I have laid up for thee."
a guilty blush crept over Tomas cheeks Marcus took note and followed Tomas' eyes to the painted likenesses of long gone saints. In the darkness, the faces were naught but darkened silhouettes of their day time splendor. Familiar facades outlined by their steely frames. Marcus leaned in for a kiss and Tomas stopped him "why the sudden shyness?"
"sex is sinful in the eyes of the church." Tomas replied
"ah but love is holy in the eyes of God." with this placid deceleration Marcus took Tomas head in his hands and drew him into a long kiss. Tomas let out a soft laugh.
Marcus stepped behind Tomas clasping one hand under his arm and over his chest. while the other gripped onto the opposing hip. With Tomas body flush to his, he lowered his lips to graze Tomas ear.
"let them see what divine love their creation hath wrought." with this he put a gentle hand to the space between Tomas shoulder laying his cheek to the cool polished wood of the alter with Tomas folded before him Marcus draped his torso over Tomas for a moment before pressing a trail of kisses down his spine. He readied his partner with patience and gentility paying hawk-like attention to Tomas every gasp and groan. As Tomas' body opened to the attention deference fell by the wayside. With face still pressed to the alter Tomas rediscovers his words.
"I hate to ruin the mood but when was the last time you got tested.
"Before the Rance case I always get tested after a case...never know what you might catch while in the line of duty
"Before I joined the clergy."
Marcus pulled a condom from a pocket Tomas didn't know he had. Answering his question ere he had time to voice it. Marcus sheathed himself and turned to Tomas
"Are you sure this is what you want."
"yes, would I have let it go this far if I wasn't."
"Just doing my due diligence even a demon needs permission to enter someones' body."
"Marcus..." he said lifting himself from his remembrance "I've never felt as close to anyone as I do to you and im...curious to see just how close I can get."
"euphemisms aren't enough Tomas i... I neeeeed to hear you say it. "
"I want to be with you Marcus. please...I."
"so want to be close to you," Tomas added drawing Marcus into a kiss.
Tomas smiled warmly, taking Tomas hand in his he raised it to his sternum. Tomas could feel the thrumming of Marcus' heart through his chest. "take this..." Marcus hooked Tomas with his permeating gaze "my body which has been broken for you." Marcus punctuated his nigh blasphemous statement with an engulfing kiss.
though Marcus stood on familiar ground his hands shook with the nerves of a boy much less experienced. It took everything in Tomas power not to outright quiver at their meeting.
in seminary, you hear about the holy union between the masculine and the feminine but many apostates to the faith find other gendered pairings ...imbalanced to say the least. One is often told growing up that like should be paired with like...and Tomas saw no reason why that logic shouldn't be applied here.
what Tomas felt was nigh indescribable. Being filled with the spirit was one thing but to feel...to be physically full of another person. To be tactically entwined with another human being was an experience he would not be quick to forget.
it had been so long since Marcus had been with anyone. He spent most of his time alone or in the company of demons and while they frequently offered he wasn't about to sleep with a demon for all the gold in Christendom.
Marcus did his best to not rush their union. To not push Tomas farther than he could bare despite the gnawing hunger clawing its way through his body.
"you who dwell in the gardens, I listen for your voice." Marcus leaned forward and wrapped his hand around Tomas strained extremity "deign let me hear it." by the languid crooking of his wrist Marcus drew Tomas nearer to his ecstatic end. "make haste my beloved and be like a stag on the mountains."
His dilating pupils left him blind. His pulse throbbing in his ear left him deaf and the silent exclamation locking his jaw left him dumb...this must be how people feel when met with the heavenly multitude. were it not for the support of the alter and his lover Tomas would have been brought low by the cataclysmic force of his orgasm. In that moment he cared not for his banner be it, sinner or saint. The sum and total of his beaming was wrapped up in the fading borders between Marcus body and his.
As for Marcus he didn't care how many angels fit on the head of a pin because this singular angel fit in his arms and that was all the more important. Marcus felt his emotions with every fiber of his being crying was part of his life he knew no other way to express the depth of his feelings. Tomas, on the other hand, brought up around the machismo of Mexican pop culture. He typically saved tears for true tragedies but in this instance, he wept. what else could a mortal do when staring at the gates of St. Peter. Tomas had spent so long playing the role of the sinless priest he often forgot what it was to be a normal man. he didn't know if what he felt behind his sternum was normal but it was most certainly human.
Marcus had been baptized as a child and he had been blessed more times than he's had hot meals but in this moment, coiled around his gasping lover, he felt pure...he felt holy as close to God as Adam in the garden. transcendence never felt so warm. Nor heaven so near to home.