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The breeze drifting in from the balcony pours starlight into Julian's lungs as he gasps, arching his back. That's just what Asra's kisses are - fleeting, glimmering, a burst of warmth that illuminates every dark corner of Julian's wretched, miserable soul.

As he draws shallow breaths and closes his eyes tight, he sees stars behind them.

"Are you alright?"

Asra's voice is soft, a low murmur. Julian winds his fingers around a fistful of the satin sheets on this bed that isn't theirs, in a palace they don't own.

"Yes," he shudders, opening his eyes just a slight to watch Asra's hand glide up and down his thigh. So playful, and yet so chaste - wanderer though he is, Asra never moves too quickly. He takes his time exploring with practiced, nimble hands, taking in everything from the spine of a weathered spellbook to the spine of a willing lover.

It's unbearable.

"You don't have to wait," Julian breathes, "go ahead."

"Mm," Asra hums, tracing a finger along the curve of Julian's hip. "But we don't have to rush. This is nice, isn't it?"

Gods, it's unfair. It's cruel. Julian's hips rise just slightly to meet Asra's hand, unable to control the impulse. More, please, every pulsing nerve and trembling inch of him begs - still, Asra offers nothing but gentle touches and a pleasant smile.

"You're so beautiful this way, Ilya." Crawling forward, Asra kisses the crook of Julian's neck. His lips are hot, tender, they press into the skin and Julian whimpers, reaches up both hands to grasp Asra's back, begging him to stay, to smother him and kiss him until he can't think-

"Please," Julian exhales, "Asra, you know," he chokes, "I never took you for a sadist, but you are testing me- hngh!"

"Oh?" A lilt hangs in Asra's voice. "Am I?"

"You are- ah," Julian moans, feeling Asra's hand close around his cock. "Ohh yes, please..."

Waves of relief and pleasure course through Julian as Asra pumps steady, slow, controlling the hypnotized rhythm of his hips and heartbeat all at once. Then, the kisses, yes, the bursts of starlight again all over Julian's chest, his stomach, anywhere Asra can reach and oh gods it's too much, it's too much, he-

"Oh, don't," Julian whines, quivering, "don't let go, come on, you...!"

"I don't want it to end yet," Asra plants a kiss at Julian's collar, "it's so rare to see you this... relaxed. Your aura is always so tense and withdrawn..."

Trailing off, Asra presses his tongue into Julian's neck, drawing a gasp from his throat. Again, Julian's hips push upward, this time grinding helplessly against Asra's. Would that he could will them to push down against him, rub and rub and let him indulge in that sweet, sweet pleasure...

"Also," Asra chuckles, his laughter warm on Julian's skin, "you're so very pale. It's nice to see the color back in your face. You look a little more alive."

And that's just right - Julian laughs weakly, reaching up to run a hand through Asra's hair. "What can I say? You have that effect on me... maybe I really haven't been alive," he mutters, "not for the longest time."

Sadness glimmers in Asra's lavender eyes. He leans forward and their lips meet, the kiss slow, deep, wet, more vigorous with each passing second. Julian pushes his tongue past Asra's lips without hesitation, taking him by surprise, making him moan. They slip and press and share in each other until they need to breathe, parting only for the demands of their own mortality.

"Asra," Julian swallows thickly, "if you don't let me- er... if you keep stalling, I swear..."

"Ha," Asra laughs, "you're so impatient. It's adorable."

"And you're an absolute fiend- oh," Julian cries, "yes! Please, yes!"

Leaning back, Asra wraps his hand again around Julian's cock, pumping faster than before. Julian watches him reach down and massage his clit, and immediately sits upright. "Let me," he insists, reaching out and gently pushing Asra's hand aside. "Here..."

They inch closer. Julian slides his warm, wide palm down Asra's stomach and rubs his clit in careful, heavy circles. Asra gasps, burying his face in Julian's shoulder as he continues pumping his cock.

If there's anything (maybe the only thing, he's convinced) Julian knows he has going for him, it's his hands - practiced, controlled, accustomed to every surface of the human body after years of learning how it moves, how it functions. Funny, he thinks, rubbing Asra in firm, steady circles, that a bed and an operating table have something in common.

"Ilya," Asra gasps, spreading his legs wider, wide as they can go to invite his lover in. "Oh, Ilya..."

Damn it all - Julian winces as his hand starts to cramp. He switches his fingers up a bit without pausing, using his thumb to work Asra's clit and carefully, cautiously sliding his middle and ring finger inside him, watching Asra's expression. His eyes open and widen briefly, and when they roll back and his shoulders relax, Julian keeps going, delighting in every moan he draws from him.

The spiteful urge to pull his hand away and deny Asra the satisfaction is strong, but their shared pleasure is stronger. Julian leans in harder, rubbing and pressing inside in harsher motions while Asra, in kind, pumps him so achingly fast that Julian can't see straight. With their free hands they cling to each other, breaths hanging heavy in the air, shadowed silhouettes dancing behind the drawn curtains of the canopy bed.

"Ilya," Asra kisses his neck, urging. "I'm- ah!" Julian's lips press madly into Asra's skin, trailing from his throat to his collar as his fingers take their pleasures, massaging and stroking intensely. As he feels Asra's hips buck harder into him, Julian matches their pace, rubbing and rubbing until he comes with a loud gasp.

"Look at you," Julian breathes out, laughing a little, "ohh, you look divine when you- whoa!"

Asra pushes him backward into the pillows. Julian's voice wavers as he feels the full weight of Asra's body lay across him, as he guides his cock inside. Instantly Julian's back arches, his body buckles, breath hitches and catches between his ribs. Finally, finally, Julian grasps at Asra's back and lets each rippling thrust, one, and two, and oh gods it's impossible to keep track, he lets the rhythm lull and pull him over the edge, crying out loudly as he comes.

Slinking off of Julian's body, Asra lays in a heap at his side, breathing heavily. Julian stares up at the ceiling with a vacant, exhausted look on his face, chest rising and falling. He runs a hand through his messy curls.

"Wow."

Asra laughs. He shifts onto his side, poking Julian's cheek. "Wow, yourself."

"I try." Julian manages maybe half a grin, resting his hand on Asra's head as it nestles comfortably onto his chest. "You know, I think... and maybe this is a little silly, but," he laughs, "I could get used to spoiling you rotten."

"Oh no," Asra coos, "that would be terrible."

"Mm, it would, now wouldn't it...?"

Smiles fade to contented sighs. They lay there and indulge in the sheets and the night air, fading fast.

When Julian closes his eyes, the stars guide him to sleep.

... a knock. Two knocks. Ripped away from their dreams, Julian and Asra exchange horrified glances. Throwing the sheets off his body, Julian jolts upright.

"Oh, no. Great, great! Oh," he whispers tensely, hands at his temples, "for the love of-"

"Shh! Shush," Asra leaps out of bed, grabbing the bundled pile of his clothes from the floor. "Don't make any noise-"

"Now you're making noise!" Julian's whisper turns shrill. He digs both hands into his hair. "Who could that even be?!"

Knocking again. Both pairs of eyes lock onto the doorknob as it turns slightly, stuck. Asra whips his head to look at Julian.

"You locked it? Now," Asra sighs, "now they're really going to think you're being murdered."

"Why would they- what are you doing? Wait, Asra, no no no, don't!"

Scrambling to his feet, Julian slips on the corner of the sheet draped over the side of the bed, thumping onto the floor in a sad, crumpled heap. Asra stands in the window, one boot up on the balcony's edge. He tucks his scarf over his chin, with no time left to put on anything else. Staring from his place on the floor, Julian's mouth hangs open, transfixed by Asra's naked back.

"Asra," he warns, clambering up to his knees, "you won't survive that jump, don't-!"

With that trademark pleasant smile and a wink, Asra pushes off from the balcony's edge. Julian rushes to the balcony, gripping the stone, chest heaving, heart pounding, oh god, what if he's down there on the cobblestone with crooked limbs all splattered-

He's gone. Neither hide nor a single lock of white hair. Wide-eyed and gaping, Julian's eyes dart every which way. It's impossible. He had to have hit the ground, it's inconceivable, yet...

The knock. Again. This time, the doorknob jiggles more aggressively. "Doctor? Are you awake?"

Stern, commanding, poised - that voice is unmistakable. Julian's blood runs cold, and he freezes in place as he becomes acutely aware of the night chill on his naked ass.

"I am coming in!"

"No! Er, um, I mean - Countess? Is that you?" Julian clears his throat, faking the best groggy voice he can. "J-Just a minute!"

In a whirlwind lasting a little over one minute, Julian sprints back into the room, locks the glass balcony door, throws the sheets (messily) onto the bed, fumbles for his pants, tugs them on, throws on his shirt, and sucks down a deep breath before nearly tripping on himself as he swings open the door.

Standing in front of him is Nadia, draped in a deep purple evening gown with an expression somewhere between perturbed, sleep-deprived, and scared out of her wits.

"Are you alright, Doctor?" Nadia studies him with sharp, careful eyes. Even though he just threw on clothes, Julian suddenly feels naked under the weight of her gaze. "I couldn't sleep, so I took a short evening walk... I heard a clatter and a scream. What happened?"

"A scream?" Julian's voice cracks slightly. "Oh sure, you could ah, call it that- I mean," he rubs the back of his neck, rosy from his cheeks to his ears. "Night terrors, I'm afraid. I'm, er, prone to them. Yes. Very prone... sometimes my nightmares can be rather vivid and cause me trouble, you know," he laughs, "terrible habit, kicking and screaming in your sleep. But," he clears his throat, "I trust you, so I'm willing to confide in you about it, about this very, er, personal fact. You've been incredibly hospitable - I'm truly sorry for startling you."

Nadia's eyes narrow. Julian swallows, plastering a smile on his face.

"If you find yourself suffering from terrible nightmares... know that you are in good company, Doctor." Offering a bitter smile, Nadia places a delicate hand on Julian's shoulder. He blinks. "Your presence is valued here. Please, do not hesitate to seek my help, should you need it. Perhaps next time, we can walk together on these restless nights."

"Oh," Julian nods, his smile wavering. "That's- sure, of course," he chuckles, "yes, that sounds lovely. I do appreciate it, Countess."

To top it off, he gives a deep bow. Nadia touches a hand to her chest, humored, and laughs dryly.

"Such a theatrical man you are. It's no surprise that my husband adores you." She pats his shoulder once more, briefly. "Do get some rest. We will need your help, come morning."

"Certainly. Sweet dreams, Countess."

The door clicks shut. Julian stands there and stares at it for a good second before his shoulders go slack and he exhales, covering his mouth with both hands. Slowly, he lowers his head and rests it on the door, resisting the urge to smack his skull against it a good few times.

... Asra. Where did he go? Is he alright? The questions pull Julian once more to the balcony. His fingers fumble with the cold metal lock, and when the door opens, the night breeze prickles on his skin.

"Asra?" Julian calls carefully, not too loudly. If he's learned any lesson tonight, it's that sound carries well on these grounds. "Asra, are you there?"

The wind shifts. Dark, verdant trees sway in the garden maze below, branches arched toward the moon. Julian finds it hard to pry the image of Asra, bleeding and mangled among them, from his mind. His fingers strum anxiously along the alabaster edge of the balcony.

"That was fun to watch."

"Gah!" Julian whips around, nearly jumping out of his skin. "You- where in the world," he sputters, throwing his hands in the air, "did you come from?!"

"Up," Asra says plainly, stepping closer. He's fully clothed now; must've managed to throw them on at some point. Thankfully. "If you really want to know."

"How did you- never mind," Julian sighs heavily. "Just shoot me," he rubs both hands down his face, covering his eyes. "Only death can cure this degree of embarrassment."

"Oh, don't worry," Asra giggles, "I think you've convinced her. You're lucky Nadi is so nice, though... no one else would've bought that lie." Teasing, Asra pokes the end of Julian's nose. It scrunches up as Julian goes crosseyed to meet the gesture. "You'll have to try harder next time."

"Next time?" Julian's face flares up. "There won't be a next time, I assure you."

"Oh." Pausing, Asra's brow furrows. "Would you... rather we not see each other like this?"

"No no no, goodness, no! I'm happier with you than I think I've ever been, Asra." Julian cups Asra's cheek in his palm. "I was referring more to my, er... outburst. It won't happen again."

"Ahh, I see. You are very vocal when pleasured."

"Could you," Julian sputters, lifting his palm away from Asra's cheek and using it to cover his face. "Maybe not phrase it like that?"

"You're so cute when you're embarrassed, though." Coyly, Asra smiles and twists a lock of Julan's hair around one finger. "It's hard not to push your buttons."

"Ugh."

In spite of himself, Julian smiles. He lowers his hand from his face and looks at Asra with a newfound, gleaming fondness that would make the moon jealous.

"I love you dearly, Asra. You frighten me sometimes," he laughs quietly, "I thought you'd... well. I thought you wouldn't be coming back. I was all ready to start lamenting how short our time together was, how many things we could've done, so on," he waves a hand melodramatically in circles, "but... well, I suppose that magic of yours really has no limits."

"Haha, I wish that were true... there are limits, or at least, limiting factors." Asra reaches out and touches Julian's chest, hand resting over his heartbeat. "Passion is one of them. If you lack passion, if you don't believe in the magic you're trying to create, it won't come to be. But with you, Ilya... I feel like I could do anything."

Wordless, Julian steps forward and kisses him, stealing the magic right from his lips.

"I feel the same," Julian murmurs when they part, moonlight pooling in the curves of their faces. "And I always will."

Asra's brow furrows just a slight - is that sadness on his face? Before Julian can ask, the wind moves; Asra looks up, and with a graceful lift of his foot, he steps into thin air as if there were a staircase in front of him.

"I should get back to my room, so... good night, Ilya." As the breeze picks up, Asra glides away. "I'll see you tomorrow, I'm sure." He wraps his scarf tighter around him. "I love you, too."

Julian waves, watching him hover through the night like a cloud drifting over the moon. Soon enough, he disappears around the corner of one of the palace's many towers.

With a sigh, Julian rests his elbow on the balcony stone, chin in hand. The wind plays with his hair, and when he closes his eyes, he imagines Asra's slender fingers weaving through his curls.

He looks up and lets the starlight touch his face one last time, before returning to bed.