The late afternoon sun penetrated the clear blue water of the Red Sea. Its disappearing rays glistened off in silver and gold from the corals and fish that seemed only slightly disturbed by the new intruder. Like the proper diver he knew himself to be, Ari Levinson skillfully traversed through the water, leaving in his wake a canopy of small bubbles that slowly made their way to the surface.
It has been three weeks since their last successful operation, and he was feeling restless. In only two days' time the Holiday Village staff will welcome a new group of refugees for a "special night dive," and all he could think about was Sammy.
Underneath him stretched the green and brown pathway of corals leading to the open sea, and above and to the left, getting smaller by the minute was the shadow of the black rubber MK5 zodiac, the most recent gift from the Israeli navy.
Sammy had returned from a month's visit to Tel Aviv, and less than 24 hours, they were already butting heads as the stress before the operation had them both on edge.
"You mean to say, that all this time I wasn't here, you let Hassan be in charge of keeping the kitchen clean?" Sammy had said to Ari just an hour ago, as they were about to embark on this evening's dive, in a "whisper" that could be heard all the way to the farthest housing unit.
"Yeah, well, we had other things to worry about, didn't we?" Ari replied through gritted teeth and hastily dragged Sammy away from the kitchen staff's earshot and into the diving equipment room.
"Wonderful, and when people start getting sick, you'll have a lot more to worry about."
"No one is getting sick, the food is fresh, and Abu Aziz is a great cook…"
A bunch of black wetsuits hanged from hooks on the far wall. Ari took off his grey top and Larry Bird shorts, grabbed one of the suits, and started squeezing his naked muscular form into the tight fabric, all too aware of Sammy's presence behind him. After a short struggle of skin against rubber, he opted to leave the suit half open and let the long sleeves drape loosely around his waist.
To his right, covered with heavy curtains, was the designated cloakroom, which he never bothered to use for that actual purpose. On the day they arrived, they decided it would be the perfect place to hide the communication equipment they needed to contact headquarters. He would visit it after the morning dive and after the evening dive, but never to actually change clothes.
"Have you seen the kitchen?" Sammy furiously pointed in the general direction of the dining hall. Both of them knew it harbored a mess of unwashed dishes and scattered food items amid rust and grime.
"Will you calm down? The guests might hear you."
"Do you need me to specify all the potentially harmful infections…I mean, it's bad enough the generator is not working in this heat…"
"Don't worry, I'll find someone to fix it" Ari said knowing he isn't going to do that. Knowing Sammy knows he isn't going to do that.
The generator was the beating heart of the resort. And occasionally, the outside temperature didn't agree with its inside temperature. Everything depended on its operation, the A/Cs, the refrigerator. Ari's initial attempts at getting it to work full time were unsuccessful and slowly he had gotten so used to the generator's routine mid-noon breakdowns he didn't even bother making an effort to fix it anymore, he would just count on it to resurrect itself after a few hours, effortlessly making empty promises to the sweaty guests about a guy who's coming to fix it.
Sammy rolled his eyes at him. "I should have stayed in Israel."
Ari didn't reply. A pang of anger passed through him. With what seemed like minimum effort, he lifted the BCD and a silver scuba tank and carried it outside to the nearby mooring zodiac, trying not to let the dull ache of his tense muscles affect his movements. He would never admit it, but having Sammy around was one of the only things that kept him going. It was part of what kept the operation alive.
With a little too much force, he pushed the mooring boat into the water and climbed in, getting ready to start the engine. The weather was perfect for a dive. The sun hung low behind faraway mountains in the west painting everything orange.
Sammy stood for a moment on the shore, unmoving, as if contemplating whether he should go along.
"You coming?" Ari yelled over his shoulder.
A minute passed before a splash of water revealed a decision has been made, and not long after, the young man was sitting next to him; hair dripping wet, and his white tank top and black shorts soaked through.
"You don't really think that." Ari said a while later, breaking the silence.
They stopped a mile or so off the coast and were now sitting in silence listening to the rhythmic sloshing of small waves on the side of the boat, taking in the last rays of the sun and watching the water birds and ospreys.
"Think what?" Sammy asked and grabbed for a cigarette from one of the bags.
"That you shouldn't have come back"
"Does it matter what I think?" the cigarette dangled from his lips unlit, his serious gaze was scanning the horizon for any unwanted visitors. No Sudanese smugglers were in the area today, or any other curious eyes posing as fishermen. He lit it, eased back, and let the warm wind brush against his skin.
"I almost didn't." he said after a long moment of silence."But I was afraid you might fly back to Israel and drag me here."
A large osprey glided with ease nearby, swiftly diving into the water and emerging with a wriggling fish in its beak.
"When have you ever known me to do that?" Ari said and smirked.
"You usually get your way, even when you're wrong."
"Wrong? You think I was wrong to recruit you for this mission?"
Ari grabbed his fins, sat next to Sammy, and put them on. A light breeze blew over the smell of smoke and fragments of Sammy's aftershave, masking for a minute the dominant smell of his own rubber suit. His heart skipped a beat.
"No. In that you were right. I think I'm the only thing standing between you and a front-page article about Israeli spies caught in Sudan."
"Don't flatter yourself. That was one time. And the only thing you are doing right now is standing between me and Abu Aziz's excellent fish dinner."
Sammy laughed. "I'm just scared you might piss someone off and get us all killed"
he said and put the cigarette between his lips then peeled off his shirt exposing a tanned body and dropped it over his bag. He then got up and pulled down his shorts, and dropped back down, stretching his nude form in the orange rays.
"Which type of fish are you into for tonight?" Ari swallowed hard and averted his eyes, hoping Sammy wouldn't notice the bright red that spread across his cheeks.
Sammy didn't answer, instead, he said: "I think we should reconsider our approach for these night missions. I don't want us to reach a point where we are the ones who need saving."
"Don't worry, we won't."
"What excuse are we gonna use this time?" Sammy flicked the butt of his cigarette to the sea and closed his eyes.
"We could say we're going to meet some girls in Khartoum. It worked last time".
"You think they're actually buying it?"
"Hassan asked if I can hook him up with one of them, so I guess it’s a yes."
Still with his face away from Sammy, Ari pulled the head cover of the diving suit over his hair pushing in loose ends. If only Sammy knew how uninterested he was in those girls, and what really interested him, or who.
"God, I could sure use some action myself." Sammy mumbled.
"You and me both" Ari said quietly, and then put on his diving mask, put the regulator in, and backrolled into the sea, spear gun in hand.
Ari's mind was buzzing, his gut twisted with unease. He closed his eyes for a moment and tried to let the pressure of the water around him and the pull of the oxygen tank on his shoulders to ground him.
It's never good to go diving while distracted. Every good diver knows you must be sharp and focused while underwater. Accidents in such a remote place, without the proper medical equipment and pressure chambers could be fatal.
But he couldn't get rid of the lump in his throat.
He pushed everything aside and made himself focus on the task at hand.
Schools of groupers swam around him with slow, sleek movements, their bulging eyes wide, calmly following his descent. With slow and calculated movements, he raised the gun and took aim. The spear shot out and cut across the water, completely missing its mark and snapping off the coral, scattering the fish.
Although the Mossad trained him to use many types of weapons, he really disliked using firearms. He felt the only good thing about all these weapons' training is the improvement in his spearfishing skills, which were completely amiss at the moment.
The thought of Sammy on the zodiac had his mind somewhere else. Snippets of images invaded his thoughts. He saw himself kissing Sammy with a little too much force, lying him down on the rubbery bottom of the zodiac, their mouths never once stopping their fervid dance, feeling Sammy's erection against his inner thigh…
Ari shook his head trying to focus in the here and now.
All he wanted was to tear away all the obstacles and all the rights and the wrongs, and all the layers between them. He wanted Sammy.
He dove deeper, nearly touching the white sand. His eyes resting on a large fish that was hiding between the corals, and he raised his spear gun again, taking aim.
In his thoughts, Sammy was pulling at his wetsuit, fiddling to find the zipper, fingers shaking from the excitement and haste. The feel of the cool wind against his wet naked back quickly replaced by Sammy's warm touch, as the man was peeling the tight black suit off him, down his glutes, and along the muscles of his thighs, exposing him.
The spear shot with force, and again missed its mark completely. Ari cursed.
Outside the water, the sun seemed to have set, as the blackness of the water had grown deeper in the past few minutes. He would have to return soon. He readied his spear gun once again, and looked for his next target.
He was sitting in front of Sammy, who was sitting between his legs, his hands against his backside in a semi-hug. Sammy's arousal was at level with his own and the skin of Sammy's penis slightly touching his.
Sammy's breath is warm when he presses his mouth to his lips, devouring him. He then migrates to Sammy's neck, shoulders, down his chest, and to his lower belly taking in his intoxicating smell, brushing his lips just below his belly button, slowly making his way down. In his mind, he was now looking at Sammy from below, fighting not to close his eyes at the explosion of sensations as he reaches Sammy's swollen penis and licked across its length eliciting a short moan of pleasure from the doctor. He flicks his tongue gently over the tip to taste Sammy's salty pre-cum. Sammy grabs his head and gently guides him, hips moving forward slightly, the muscles of his butt squeezing in anticipation for him to take him in.
He could almost feel the sensation of his own lips growing closer, lips parting slightly, eagerly pushing forward, taking Sammy's entire length into his mouth. Soon with his other hand, he would stroke his own penis with growing speed, which he would attempt to match to Sammy's small involuntary back and forth motions.
The need to have Sammy inside him, was spreading into his limbs like warm liquid. Ari lifted the spear gun for one more shot, trying to ignore Sammy's naked images in his head and focus when a sudden shadow crossed above his head tearing him away from his thoughts.
With a panicked flurry of bubbles he instinctively drew back, pulling the spear gun before him as something bumped into him from behind, making him drop the gun and witness it float to the bottom.
Don’t move! A voice shouted in his head, quickly chasing away any instinctive fight or flight responses.
Two smooth grey creatures were swimming in and out of shadows around him, circling him.
Sharks are very common to these waters, especially during the evening when they go out to hunt. But in all his months in the holiday village, he had yet to come across them. He couldn’t tell what might have drawn them to him, but they seemed curious enough to stay around.
Forcing air in and out of his lungs, willing his beating heart to be quiet, he knew the zodiac is far to the left and wondered if Sammy has spotted his two guests from above.
With slow and calculated movements, he swam toward the direction of the boat.
The sharks moved in unison after him. Beautiful and terrifying.
Can sharks smell your fear? He couldn't tell. When the boat was only a few meters away, he started ascending. The moment he disconnected from the reef, the sharks as if on cue, drew uncomfortably close. He slowly took out his diving knife.
In the back of his mind, he knew it was a bad idea, injuring them would only get them angrier; but couldn't think of anything else.
With a swift movement, one of the sharks swam at him, exposing an endless row of teeth. With instinct he pulled his hand over his face, trying to shield it from the oncoming attack, and fully expected to feel the shark's teeth bite into him, tear his limb off.
Instead, he felt a forceful shove as the creature smashed into him and dragged him into the deep until his descent finally stopped with a painful blow to his head and back from a nearby coral.
Everything went black for a minute. And when he could see again, the sharks were no longer next to him. They were floating silently a few meters away, the curve of their mouth like a toothy smile.
The realization that he couldn't breathe was sudden. He pulled up both hands to his mask, to his regulator. The cord was cut, letting water in. He yanked it out, feeling his lungs burning, and tried to ascend. He knew the zodiac was only a few meters above him, although its shadow was no longer visible from the bottom.
Agonizing seconds looked like years and just as he thought he couldn't take it anymore, he burst out to the surface and let the night air envelop him, get inside his mouth, his nose. Into his starving lungs. He coughed and felt himself go under again.
But then Sammy was there. Strong hands pulling him out of the water.
With a splash he grabbed onto the side of the boat and dragged himself out of the water, hoping his legs won't get bitten off in the process and landed hard as the equipment that inside the water was light, suddenly gained a thousand pounds.
Sammy grabbed him the moment he was on the boat, hands feeling him up, pulling off his mask and head cover. "Didn't you say you were bringing back some fish?" He asked half-jokingly scanning Ari's slouched and panting form for any serious injuries.
Ari wriggled out of the tank that was strapped to his back, and let it drop to his side. "Yeah, decided I'm not into seafood today…"