Welcome to Bauer’s Bytes!
This week, we’re taking a look at Sergey and Sasha… post Enemy Within.
***If haven’t read Enemy Within, this Byte is not for you! Major spoilers for Sergey & Sasha’s plotline in Enemy Within!!***
Warning for internalized homophobia.
“Come home?” Sergey whispered against Sasha’s lips.
Slowly, Sasha nodded.
* * *
They stood like that for what felt like an age, bodies pressed tightly, foreheads mashed together so hard their skulls started to ache. Noses slid, breaths ghosting across cheeks and lips as they traded slow kisses. Sergey tried to smile. Sasha chewed on his own lip, the corners of his mouth pulling downward.
“I have to go back to the Kremlin,” Sergey finally whispered. It was past time to go, and his driver was probably chain-smoking cigarettes as he waited, pacing outside the hotel. “Come with me. Please.”
He didn’t trust Sasha to follow behind him, or to come later. He’d said he would before, leaving the Arctic.
Never again. Sergey never wanted to feel that aching emptiness again, the bottom of his world falling away as he realized Sasha had left. Again. Part of him admonished his own foolish heart, called him an idiot fourteen different ways. Of course this would end with him alone. Of course Sasha would leave. He was only forestalling the inevitable. Sasha would always leave him.
Why start this agony again?
Sasha nuzzled his cheek, his hot breath brushing over his skin. “I need to pack,” he grunted. “Grab my things.”
I will follow you to your room and watch you, and then walk you to my limo. An irrational part of Sergey wanted to escort Sasha like a prisoner, capture him and keep him in the bonds of his love. Stay, stay, stay! Our love is enough!
“I will wait for you in the lobby,” he whispered.
Sasha nodded, his head jerking like he was a broken marionette. He took a shaking step backward, and then another, and another. He backed his way out of the ballroom, staring at Sergey the whole time, like he couldn’t bear to turn around, couldn’t bear to look away. Sergey stood frozen, watching him leave. Desperation clawed at his insides, screams and cries to chase him, to grab him, to not let him out of his sight. Panic sang just beneath his skin. Made his heart hammer.
He drifted to the lobby and perched on a velvet sofa, his fingers playing over the ruby folds, the gold painted arms. Sasha would return or he would not. And Sergey would have his answer. It would be easier if Sasha ran now, stabbed him in the heart (again) when he was still guarded and unsure. Hopeful, yes, but he hadn’t put all his chips on black just yet. Being with Sasha still felt like dream, a dream out of reach for forever.
The elevator doors dinged.
He inhaled, held his breath, and looked up.
Sasha stepped out, clutching a ratty duffel in one hand, his fist so white it looked like a ghost’s hand. All the blood had been squeezed out, and his arm trembled, his duffel shaking ever so slightly in his grasp. Over his other arm, he held his tux. His eyes were wide. Sergey could see a ring of white wrapping around his perfect blue irises.
He rose, joy, relief, and hope crashing inside him like waves breaking against cliffs. Sasha came back. This once, he came back. He smiled, his grin spreading wider and wider until he felt like his cheeks were going to fracture.
Sasha held out his tux awkwardly as he drew close. “I did not know what to do with this.”
“Keep it. You will need it again here, I am sure.”
Sasha nodded once, swallowed, and looked away.
Sergey held out his hand, beckoning Sasha with him to the front doors, and his waiting limo. His security team stood back, giving him and Sasha a bubble of privacy. Ilya had handpicked these men, replacing his former security agents, who had all died in Sochi, with the best of his men from the FSB. They bled the Russian flag and had fought for Sergey’s insurgency, or with Ilya. They had been willing to die for Sergey before.
Would their loyalty remain so steadfast if they discovered his love for Sasha?
Security agents saw all of the demons a president tried to hide. They knew where all the bodies were hidden, and exactly how many skeletons were in the closet. Would he have to hide his and Sasha’s love from his own shadows?
He shook his head, banishing his worries. Those were for another time. First, he and Sasha just had to get to the Kremlin together.
One thing, and then another.
Sasha walked behind him, slowly, his shoes scuffing against the marble foyer of the hotel. Sergey’s security agents pushed open the doors, and his driver stubbed out his cigarette before jogging around the side of the limo and holding open the door. Sergey stepped back, offering the first seat to Sasha. Would he slide in? Or would he freeze? Turn away?
Sasha’s jaw clenched, but he passed by Sergey, bundling his tux in his arms and hauling his duffel close. He clambered into the back of the limo and slid to the far side, pressing against the window. He held his tux in his lap, the fabric bunched and wrinkled, one jacket arm flopping onto the seat, a pant leg dragging in the footwell. He held it like a shield, like a protective cover, his arms wrapped over the fabric on his chest and stomach.
Hope, a treacherous thing, was building within Sergey, despite his admonitions. He got in the limo. That has to mean something.
Sergey slid in after Sasha and nodded to his driver. The door slammed shut.
Silence, save for the sound of their breathing. Sasha’s fast, heavy breaths through his nose. Sergey’s quiet, slow sigh.
The driver hopped into the front seat and mumbled into his radio. Bursts of Russian flew back as the car started, the engine rumbling.
Sergey settled his hands on the bench seat, gripping the edge. He reached halfway into the space between them, the no man’s land of darkness and smooth, black leather. His pinky stretched for Sasha, a few inches of skin that seemed to scream his desperation.
Nothing. Sasha stared out the window, clutching his tux.
Sergey looked away. Hope was like a roller coaster, or a fighter jet, screaming through the skies in a dogfight with reality. As high as he climbed, he rolled and started plummeting for the earth. He should gird himself now. Sasha was probably composing a stiff goodbye, an apology and an insistence that his way was the right way. Maybe, if he was lucky, Sasha would pretend he would keep in touch while he was training in Houston.
Something touched his pinky.
His eyes darted down. Sasha’s shaking hand grasped the bench seat, right beside his own. And Sasha’s pinky reached out, the tip just barely stroking down the side of Sergey’s little finger. The barest touch, a hidden touch.
He looked up. Sasha gazed at him, fear and agony twisting his expression apart. He was so afraid, so terrified. Was love such a horrible thing for him? I want what is best for you! Only what is best for you! Sasha had said. If you were attacked like I was… I could not live with that!
Sergey wrapped his fingers around Sasha’s pinky, an almost hand hold. Sasha gasped, a quick drag of breath through his nose. His eyes squeezed shut.
Sergey didn’t let go. Sasha didn’t pull away.
The limo bounced over the open gate to the Kremlin. Cobblestones hummed beneath the tires. The Kremlin Palace rose on the right, St. Basils far to the left. Ivan the Great’s Bell Tower rose above them, a harsh shadow slashing through the limo.
Sasha’s hand slipped from his and disappeared back into the wrinkled fabric of his tux.
They pulled to a stop at the private entrance. It was a slow day at the Kremlin. He’d planned the Heroes Ball for a Friday night and hoped that his people would enjoy the night, the celebration, and the weekend after. That they would let the pressures of the past month, the past year, even, bubble over and disperse.
No one was there to watch him and Sasha clamber out of the limo. His security agents stood back, and the limo driver looked away.
Still, they kept their distance from each other. Sasha walked behind him, ever deferential, even when Sergey insisted that he was equal in every way. But at least he was there, at least his footsteps shadowed Sergey’s all the way through the Kremlin Palace and up to Sergey’s apartment.
Their apartment, if he had his way. He’d start that argument later, though. No doubt Sasha would want to keep a separate apartment, keep up appearances that they weren’t together. Part of him knew that was smart. Another part of him was selfish and wanted Sasha by his side, constantly.
Sasha followed him into his apartment, silent and still. He still clutched his duffel and his tux, rumpled and wrinkled beyond salvation. His tailor would have a fit, and he’d get a snarky note back from the dry cleaner. Sergey smiled, imagining reading it to Sasha.
Would Sasha still be here in a week to hear it?
Enough. He had to be in this moment, not borrowing fears from the future.
Sergey guided Sasha through the apartment, past the dining room and the repaired gaudy golden dining table, and past the sitting room, where he and Ilya and Sasha had all spent so many nights together, drinking and laughing and arguing. He wanted those nights back, that warm happiness to return to his apartment. But Ilya said Sasha’s name like it was a curse, and Sasha hadn’t smiled for months.
Well. Except for that one time on the ice, after he’d tried to kill them both with his insanity in the plane and the ejection seat.
He saw Sasha’s gaze track the changes, the piles of destroyed paintings, the ripped-up carpet and hardwood, the patches of bare flooring. Broken glass panes in the curio cabinet. Broken crystals in the chandelier. New couches. “The Kremlin was mostly destroyed by Moroshkin’s men.” He stopped and pointed to the mantle over the fireplace. “That survived, though.”
The bust of Aleksander Pokryshkin, Sasha’s Air Force hero from World War II, sat in the center. He’d found it covered in dust and propping open a door, the heavy bronze worth no more to the invaders than as a doorstop. He still remembered Sasha’s quickly-stifled joy when he’d casually revealed it to him. Of course he’d brought it out of storage for Sasha. Even then, months and months ago, he’d been falling for this man.
Sasha gazed at the bust and then turned back to Sergey. His eyes burned, too many emotions tangling in his blue depths. His eyes were like the broken ice of the Arctic, the underbellies of icebergs that glinted turquoise and sapphire in the silent stillness of the waters. Places no one could ever see, not normally. Was he the only man alive who could see into Sasha’s soul?
“Come with me,” he muttered, holding out his hand. He touched Sasha’s elbow, guiding him to his bedroom.
Sasha had never been there before. He’d never taken him to the back of the apartment, to his private spaces. He’d never seen the old, ostentatious four-poster bed, a legacy from the days of old. Or the velvet curtains that had been shredded by Moroshkin’s men. Statelier, more refined furniture sat in place of all that had been destroyed. A simple king bed, and plain nightstands.
Sasha took it all in, his wide eyes moving around the room. His breath sped up.
Slowly, Sergey reached for his tux and his duffel. Sasha let go of both like he was a man condemned to die, and Sergey was taking away his last possession. Sighing, Sergey stepped back, dropping Sasha’s things on one of the only chairs to survive the carnage, a dark wingback wrapped in silk and satin.
“Do you need to go?” Sasha’s voice was low, his words clipped. His hands closed at his sides, making tight fists.
Sergey shook his head. “No. Today is a day that is just for you. I want to spend every moment with you, Sasha.” He swallowed. “What do you want?”
Sasha’s gaze met his, finally. “That,” he breathed. “You. I want you.” He looked away after he spoke, his jaw clenching and unclenching.
Finally, govno, finally, a sign, a signal, something from Sasha that said he wanted this, too. That he wasn’t meekly following Sergey because Sergey was his president. That he actually wanted this, wanted them, as well.
The burn started in his fingers, an ache to reach out to Sasha, touch him everywhere, hold him again. He’d brought him to his bedroom to talk, to sit and just be together, but… The thought of being with Sasha again, being close to him, was too strong. His nerves sang, his muscles clenched. His belly tightened, and heat spread from his balls, curling through his groin. His cock, which hadn’t stirred since Sasha had walked out, twitched.
“Sasha…” He reached for him, cupping his cheek. Sasha’s eyes closed, and he turned into Sergey’s touch.
His hands shook as he reached for Sasha’s sweater, and his fingers slid under the dark hemline. He didn’t wear a belt, and his pants hung low on his hips. His jutting hipbones fit perfectly into the hollows of Sergey’s palms. The skin on his back was cool, the blond hairs there rising to meet Sergey’s fingers as he grazed his touch along Sasha’s spine. Sasha shivered, and his head tipped back as he groaned.
His hands stayed fisted at his sides.
Slowly, Sergey peeled Sasha’s sweater off, his hands traveling up Sasha’s sides, over his ribs, pushing the dark fabric up. Sasha’s pale chest, his thick muscles, his freckled skin, already splotchy with a red flush, appeared.
It was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Sergey’s heart lurched, and his cock leaped, and his soul ached. He grabbed Sasha, hauled him close, wrapped his hands around Sasha’s narrow hips. His palms slid up, traveling over all of Sasha’s skin, the hollows of his back, his heaving chest, his shoulders, the defined muscles cording around his neck. Sasha was beautiful, was perfect, was so deliriously gorgeous. He wanted him, so badly. His cock strained against his pants, almost painful.
And yet, still, Sasha didn’t touch him. His hands were locked at his sides, trembling.
“Sasha,” he murmured, pressing kisses to Sasha’s lips, his cheek, his chin. “Why do you not touch me?”
Sasha groaned, a moan of anguish falling from his lips as he screwed up his face. Beneath Sergey’s touch, his body tightened, as if bracing. “Because I do not know how.” Sasha’s voice shook.
“What?” Sergey pulled back, frowning.
“I only know how to fuck,” Sasha spat. He scowled, shaking his head. “That is not what I want with you. I want—” He swallowed hard. “You deserve so much better.”
He didn’t know what to say to that. Instead, he blinked, staring at Sasha. There was so much he didn’t know about Sasha, about his past. How had he come to know he was gay? What shaped his life to make him hate himself so deeply? Russian society’s messages were pervasive, but Sasha’s self-hate had a deeper, more personal touch. And, what he’d confessed beneath the ice. He’d never been with someone he cared about. Had he never cared for anyone? Or had he been ruthless with his affections?
What strength of love was this, that Sasha was going against everything in his life, in his soul, and trying to build something with Sergey? Again, the fighter pilot driving his heart looped, screaming for the highest altitude. They could make this work, they could. He just had to show Sasha that everything was okay. That Sasha, as he was, was good. Was who Sergey wanted, who he loved.
“You are perfect for me, Sasha.” Sergey, reluctantly, let go of Sasha and reached for his own clothes. He shed his pullover quickly and started on the buttons of his shirt. Sasha’s eyes tracked his every move, his pupils darkening as Sergey’s fingers slipped each button free. “You are everything that I want. You, just you. Just as you are.”
Sasha’s lips thinned. “I want to be better for you.”
Sergey shrugged out of his shirt, shaking free of the sleeves until the fabric fluttered to the floor. Chest bare, he stood before Sasha, watching as Sasha’s jaw dropped and his chest rose, his breath coming faster. How on earth was he desirable to Sasha? Looking down at himself, at his sparse chest hair speckled across his thin chest, he spotted a strand or four of gray tucked among the blond and light brown sprigs. “Govno,” he breathed, smoothing his palm over his chest hair. “I should have removed all the evidence of my antiquity.”
“No,” Sasha moaned. “You are perfect.” His hands, finally, rose, reaching for Sergey. Trembling, they rested on his chest, his heavy, rough palms each resting over his pecs. His fingers tightened as if digging into Sergey’s skin, hard enough to bruise. And then relaxed. And again, like he was kneading Sergey, or like he was holding back from grabbing him and going wild. He panted, his mouth hanging open, eyes glazed, staring at Sergey.
The feel of Sasha over him, around him, dominating him on Honolulu slammed back into Sergey, like a visceral memory that lived in his bones. He shuddered and leaned into Sasha’s rough touch. Another time like that would be fine. Anything, anything to have Sasha’s love again. Yes to the roughness, to Sasha’s unbridled lust, his desire for Sergey unchained into a passion that dominated Sergey completely. Yes, he craved it, and Sasha, again.
“I am yours,” he whispered. “Anything, Sasha. Anything you want. I am all yours.” Everything, he’d give everything to Sasha. He’d bend over right then and there and welcome Sasha into his body. His knees were practically weak at the thought, at the imagining. He struggled not to moan. Please, God, would Sasha take him? He could practically already feel—
He thought his breathless plea would embolden Sasha, encourage him to capture Sergey like he’d done before. He’d thought—he’d hoped—that the passion Sasha kept so carefully concealed and controlled would burst free, and they’d be swept up in a torrent of desire, and when the waves finally receded, he’d shower Sasha in love and affirmation, assure him that Sasha was perfect just the way he was.
He didn’t expect Sasha to cringe, to flinch and step back. Look down as his shoulders slumped.
Sergey’s jaw dropped. He reached for Sasha, but his hand froze in midair, suspended between them.
“What I want is not right.” Sasha’s voice was a fragile thing, so unlike the bold man who stood before him. He shook his head, back and forth, fast, like he was scolding himself. “It is disgusting.”
“Sasha… No, it is not. Whatever it is, whatever you want, it is not disgusting. You are not disgusting. We are not disgusting!” He grabbed Sasha’s hands, squeezing them tight. Sasha’s hands were limp in his hold. “Sasha…”
He still wouldn’t look at him. He still stared at the floor, his shoulder’s curled like he was about to fall forward. “I am khuyesos,” he whispered.
He used the slang word for cock sucker, the insult, the slur thrown at any man to enrage him, to disparage him of his masculinity, his identity. In Russia, there was nothing worse than being a khuyesos, nothing worse than being a man who sucked another man’s cock, or took another man’s cock. A man like that, Russia said, was not even a man.
All Sasha’s life, everywhere he’d been, he’d heard those, and other, insults and degradations. Sergey had heard them too, but he’d been—foolishly—immune to their pain, thinking he wasn’t one of those men. He could brush off the hate since it wasn’t targeted at him. It didn’t hurt him, not then.
What a fucking fool he’d been. Every insult he’d ever heard, every word he’d ever ignored, was carved indelibly into Sasha’s soul.
And the agony from realizing that was enough to crush his heart.
Sergey grabbed Sasha’s cheeks and turned his face up from the floor. He sought his gaze, ducking down until he forced Sasha to stare back into his own eyes. “You are Sasha Andreyev,” he growled. “Hero of Russia. The man I love.” He shook Sasha, gently. “The man I desire. The man I want to make love to.”
Sasha shuddered, his entire body flinching as if he’d been shot.
“Tell me what you want, Sasha. I swear to you, it is not disgusting. You are not disgusting. You never are, and never will be.” He smoothed back Sasha’s hair, pressed a kiss to his forehead. “I want to bring you everything you desire. Everything you want. I want you to know that you, everything that you are, is loved. That I love you. Do you hear me, Sasha? I love you.”
Sasha gasped and tried to turn away, but Sergey held him, forced him to keep their gazes fixed, their stares joined. He saw it all parade through Sasha’s eyes: anguish, terror, rage, self-hatred, disbelief. Sorrow. Pain. So much pain.
Sasha’s lips trembled. “I want…” He struggled, fighting his own words, his face twisting as tears brimmed against his eyelashes. “I want… to suck you,” he finally breathed. He squeezed his eyes closed, and tears rained down his cheeks. Gasping, he licked his lips. “And…” He mumbled, forcing out the darkest Russian insult, the slang for a half-man who sucked another man’s ass. The slang was for convicts and ‘others’, men who weren’t true Russian men. “I love it,” he finally whispered, his voice shaking, his words breaking.
How deeply did Sasha’s self-hate go? It twisted around and around, until he hated his own desires, couldn’t even name what he craved. His entire life, he’d taken the messages of hate thrown about by their country and patched over the holes in his soul with the worst of those.
Sergey dragged him close, holding Sasha as Sasha folded around him, clinging to him like a drowning sailor as he sobbed. Had he ever spoken those words aloud? Had he ever even acknowledged his desires to himself? Maybe Sergey had pushed too hard. Govno, he had no idea how entrenched Sasha’s hatred truly was, how deeply the fractures in his soul went.
Sasha would never be alone again. Never. He would never face the world, and Russia’s, hate alone again, without Sergey beside him to remind Sasha that he was perfect just as he was. Exactly as he was. Together they’d untangle this knot of self-hate. He’d spend the rest of his days shooting down Sasha’s fears, wrenching apart the lies he’d been told. Banishing the insults, the slurs, the terror from his mind.
Slowly, he backed them both up until his legs hit the bed. Sergey sank down and brought Sasha with him. He laid them both out, facing each other on their sides, their foreheads touching, noses together, lips brushing. Sasha’s sobs had quieted, but his eyes were still closed. Sergey laced their hands together and waited.
“This is when everything changes,” Sasha finally whispered. “This is when the way you look at me changes. When you realize I am disgusting. When your eyes fill with loathing.”
There was a story there, hidden in those words. Something from Sasha’s past. Something that had taught him this lesson. When he was a child? Or after? When he was in the Air Force? Dark stories of abuse had always followed the Russian military. How had Sasha learned this near-frantic isolation, this protectionism that shoved the world as far from his as it could go? To space, even? He was afraid to learn the truth. He wasn’t strong enough to survive learning Sasha’s past. The realization settled deep in his sour stomach.
Sasha was so, so much stronger than he ever could be.
“My eyes will only ever hold love for you, zvezda moya. An eternity of love. And pride. You are my hero, Sasha. And you always will be.” He nosed Sasha’s cheek, willing him to open his eyes, to see the truth for himself.
Sasha shuddered, and trembles settled over his body. He gripped Sergey’s hands, squeezing until their fingers went white, their knuckles painfully pressed together. But, his eyes slipped open, loosing fresh tears over his cheeks, across his nose. Warm trails landed on Sergey’s skin.
He stared into Sasha’s gaze, pouring his love, his admiration, every moment of every yearn he’d ever had for Sasha, into his eyes. Every micron of love he felt, every ounce of longing, all the nights he’d tossed and turned, wishing for Sasha to be back at his side. All the dreams he’d had of them together. Every moment he closed his eyes and saw Sasha’s smile burned into the backs of his eyelids. He wanted Sasha to see all the way to his heart, all the way to the center, where the essence of Sasha hung, suspended like a dream in amber, the sound of his laugh, the light in his eyes. Everything that was Sasha—the strength, the soul, the passion—everything about the man he loved, living in the center of his own soul.
Sasha stared back, not breathing. And then, he sighed, exhaling like he was releasing something that couldn’t be named, something that had lived inside him for too many years. Something dark. Something that made Sergey’s skin crawl, and his spine shudder.
Keep breathing out, my love. We will expel it all together. He ran his hand through Sasha’s hair again, wiping away his tears with his thumb.
Sasha kissed his wrist, his lips wet and warm. Slowly, he rose over Sergey, his lips traveling over Sergey’s skin, mapping up his arms, across his collarbone, up his neck. He dropped a lingering kiss to Sergey as Sergey rolled to his back and his hands rose to Sasha’s shoulders. They stayed like that for minutes, maybe hours, kissing softly as Sergey’s hands tangled in Sasha’s hair and ran down the back of his neck, over his shoulders. Beneath his hands, Sasha shook, tremors that quaked his body.
And then, Sasha started to move.
Kisses to Sergey’s neck, his collarbone, again. To his chest, and right in the center of his splotchy chest hair, and over his traitorous strands of gray. Down, Sasha’s nose pressed into his skin, until Sasha hovered over his belly button and kissed his belly. Snaked his tongue into Sergey’s naval, flicking at the edges before nibbling on his skin.
Sasha’s hands worked open his belt, his pants. Trembling, they pushed Sergey’s pants down, and Sergey kicked them free before spreading his thighs wide. His cock rose, hardening again as Sasha stared down at him.
And then, Sasha looked up, holding Sergey’s gaze. A final look, a final question in his eyes. Will you still love me if I do this? Will you not think I am disgusting?
He hated, for a moment, their country, their countrymen, that had programmed this terror into Sasha’s soul. That had fed, ruthlessly, his self-hate, until Sasha couldn’t even trust their own love.
“I love you,” he breathed. His hand cradled Sasha’s cheek, cupped his jaw. “Sasha, I love you.” I will always love you. And you will never be disgusting. They are wrong, Sasha. They are all wrong.
Every kiss, every touch, every loving caress Sasha gifted him with, he would pour back into Sasha’s soul. He would share it all with Sasha, a hundred, a thousand times. Anything Sasha wanted, he would give. Anything.
Slowly, Sasha smiled. It was tiny, and it was only a curl of his lips on one side of his mouth, but it was there. A sign of Sasha’s happiness. His smiles were only ever true, never faked. Only ever pulled from his heart. And finally, he was smiling again. Sergey’s joy seemed to burst his own heart, and he gasped, beaming down at Sasha suddenly like he was a delirious fool, crazy in love with this one man.
Sasha nuzzled his cheek against Sergey’s thigh. His lips kissed Sergey’s skin, and goosebumps rose, every sparse strand of hair on his legs standing straight up. Sasha’s breath tickled his hip, the fold of skin joining his thigh and his crotch. Tickled the curls surrounding the base of his cock. Take what you want, Sasha. Take what you desire. I’m yours, I’m all yours. I love you, and I will always love you.
Timestamp: Immediately following Sergey & Sasha’s final scene in Enemy Within.