Some distant voice in Nika’s head said to warn Isira against joining him.
His eyes, already heavy, fluttered, and shut, and then opened, the kiss received with every compliance of a child beneath the bend of their mother-- at the core of him, however, Nika felt everything red and not childish. His breathing paused, held, and then resumed, increased. He opened his eyes, watching the familiar shape of Isira’s features with a boldness that almost didn’t become person. It was also the most him thing to do. He watched as his brother laid himself down on the ground next to him, belonging there despite the cage of his clothes. Nika himself would be quiet.
He had ceased his laughter a while ago. Watchful, and silent, he observed his brother by his side where the man had lowered himself, in an embrace of green and the colors of this mystical and isolated land. Nika didn’t doubt others had discovered it. It was exactly because it was so rare and so stunning that there were no rumors about it. He feared, immediately, that their privacy was short-lived. His features didn’t reflect it.
Donkey, and which?, Nika wanted to ask, in his mind going through their names. He would be the fool that named them. One and another, he was shouting their names into his thoughts, his eyes, hooded, and low, cast over with the appearance of heavenly calm, a mild twitch of a smile on his mouth, keeping low. It was such a tale, such a story he wanted to have been told when they were children. Full of fortune, and luck, and excitement and a sense of marvel that immediately widened his smile by the lick of his amusement. He nodded, somewhat, on his side and pulled close to Isira, and looked like he’d rubbed face over the arm under his head, cheek over the skin it used to rest. A second later, his calm froze, and fell.
Eyes wider, and emotional, they began to shimmer with unshed moisture, slapping them in reds all over from one corner to another. He didn’t cry, but he also didn’t blink, and he also looked down, and eventually screwed shut his eyes. The song of his brother’s heart was surely punishment. Nika began to shake his head.
No, no, don’t talk, don’t talk, although he didn’t say that. He looked up-- up, met eyes, and made a face, and stayed like that, as though Isira’s words had had a forbidden and unlikely freezing effect. When Nika searched his brother’s smiling face, surely it was to find his answers there. Then, again Nika ducked his head.
What to even say?
My sweet boy--
He shuddered, and had to stay silent.
“It doesn’t make it better,” he explained, in a voice that was respectful but small. He didn’t bother to hide his own anguish, or its stubborn push to his lilt, suffocating it in a taint that Nika would have admitted sounded ugly. He swallowed, nervously. His hand remained on Isira’s chest.
Where it was presumed to belong.
He curled it.
“I think of the wife I’ll have,” he said, a tremble in there, “and I think unhappiness. You dedicated yourself to this life but this life isn’t where I see myself. I see you in my future, and I see us together. And I don’t quite know why…”
He shook his head--
He looked up, a vis-a-vis that filled Nika’s eyes.
And I don’t know why, he thought to himself, his eyes on Isiratuu then. And only on this man. At once, Nika’s stomach clenched.
I love you. More than the others, more than them all.
Nika’s eyes went all soft.
“Oh,” he began, in a defeated, warm tone. He smiled to match it, and spoke, “I guess it makes sense,” he said, a mysterious it that hadn’t yet been given shape in his head. It. It made sense. For he looked at his brother and he saw a man. Nika knew this was the first time he was letting himself fully feel what he’d been feeling for all of eternity. Right at the bottom of his stomach, in the chest of his, making it feel tight and shaky.
Isira was a man. And Isira had been a man for a while. What did it matter, Nika argued, they were brothers? He had noticed his manhood a while ago. Isira stood so firm and so strong, he had the body that dried any mouth of any woman who quaked with some unfathomable urge that both spread and opened her legs in turns. He had a fierceness on him, and it was cold where Nika’s was all heat. Order, purpose, and duty were sworn to him, his second skin. He walked with his back to the pandemonium of the lower-ranked, shaped far too exactly not to attract. He reminded Nika of a house, often, something worth your time and presence. Or a piece of pottery well-worked on, with a smooth, unblemished surface that pointed to your hard work, and intricate paintings with their limited options.
He reminded Nika of everything good in the world. Arousal stained Nika’s vision, too young yet to stand the object between his legs.
What did it matter?, he asked again, that they were related? They had come to this world from the same man and woman, and had grown together, and shared the same bed until Isira was too old and had to be given to a woman.
What did it matter they were men, too? In some parts of his mind, Nika wanted to figure out how it would work, and he knew with the startling immediacy of someone who’d indeed learned how to hide he was listening to words not meant for his mind.
He knew, and he ducked his head.
He knew, and this knowing made him replay this course of thoughts, from the last to the first until he faced that reminder of Isira being a man, and his own careless abandon for his blood.
Nika looked up with horror.
Only pride, the one and the same he shared with his brother and their parents, stopped him from confessing what was on his mind. He looked into Isira’s eyes, however, with an understanding that made his own seem pale and wide.
He clenched his jaw and swallowed it all down.
“I will not marry her,” he said, as he lifted his gaze.
“Though you are my brother, I only adore you. My heart is yours. And my body will be too.
“I will never lie with another person.”
He swung himself up upon those words, looking over the surface of the pool, with wonder, and horror. If he was searching it for answers, too, maybe he’d be luckier. He made a face, soft--
And then he sobbed, in defeat. His hands to his face and it just hit him. He collapsed, immediately.
His body whole, his mind can’t have said it. It was haunted by the images of his brother, and the way he had permitted himself to feel his disgusting attraction filled him with images he had never thought of.
He saw scenes of intimacy, he saw himself wrapping his arms around Isira and tasting his lips. He saw himself by the man’s side, the only partner Isira needed.
Though Isira’s confession had been warm he deserved more than a leech like Nika. Nika fell into the deep hole of conviction Isira deserved more.
And that despite this, Nika wanted him with a selfishness that he had let loose and there was no holding it back.
He wanted him, as his and his even legally. Should they marry? There was no world where they could. Could they run? Nika was split. With one side arguing Isira deserved a world with a wife and lovely children who’d appreciate him eventually as had Nika, albeit sans this taint.
But the other side, it didn’t care. Mine, it screamed, he’s mine, mine and mine alone! It is me he loves.
ME, AND ME, NONE OTHER!
And perhaps there lay the core of Isira’s suffering, that he loved wrongly. Nika was met with a discovery he had not anticipated. His sobbing, gross and ugly, stilled.
I want him, he thought to himself.
If I cannot have him, I will not have anyone else, he added.
I cannot have him, repeated.
Nobody will have me, also added.
And if I am not to be had, and he cannot be had by me…
There would be no world where Isira was burdened by the whims and stubborn of one brother.
Nika found himself staring at the surface of the water. So young, so innocent, so beautiful.
A huge grief struck him, and the sense of injustice as he bade it a farewell that he had no want to leave in their parting.
I don’t want to go, he began thinking, I don’t want to go.
I want to stay, and love, and bathe, I want to be here!!!
But, his mind whispered.
There is no place for you here.
Not even, Nika himself added, by his side…
Loudly, he wept again.