Miserere [Angel Sanctuary]

It was the small stream of water that made its way out the door that first tipped off Katan to the idea that something might be wrong inside. Steady and deliberate, it gave no signs of slowing as it meandered its way past his boots, down the nearest staircase, and off somewhere into the distance, to stop flowing when it reached an adequate depression. As though everything weren't already adequately depressed.

He watched it for longer than he perhaps was aware, listening to the gentle trickling sound it made as it ran on its way. The water had no idea what a ruin it was to the carpets and wood it ran over, nor did it really care how much of a mess it was going to be for someone to clean up once its source stopped feeding it. To call the water selfish would be to assign far too much sentient malice to it. No one had warned it what a destructive force it could be under the proper -- or improper -- circumstances. And even if someone had, what is water to care?

Concern knitting a soft line between his eyebrows, Katan pushed open the door to the bathroom, stepped inside, and locked the heavy wooden portal behind him. Steam filled the air, confounding most visual object recognition slightly, though Katan knew the room well enough to find what mattered without vision. He knew the bathtub stood in the center of the room, but he neither looked at it nor paid its occupant much heed until he had thrown a few towels on the floor around his feet. Now no one else would come looking. Now it would be just him.

His highly polished boots kept his feet from becoming damp as he strode across the tile floor, each step echoing in the hollow marble room. A long shock of silver hair spilled out from over the side of the tub, and from where it came to a wet point poured the stream of water that had meandered its way out the door. "Lord Rociel?" he asked softly.

"Katan?" The voice that answered trembled slightly. "Katan, I couldn't.... The water turned so cold ... so quickly...."

The faucet that delivered hot water into the bath had been left on, a serpent delivering its steady stream of venom in the form of water so hot as nearly to be steam. Katan reached over and grabbed the handle, stopping its flow. The steam in the room began to disappate almost instantly, deprived of that which fed it.

Rociel's body hovered in the water, his face peering just above the level but everything else submerged. How long had he been like this? Katan could see the great angel's fingers were wrinkled and pink, pink like the rest of his body, like skin that had been too long in water far too hot. And yet he shivered. His eyes were closed, the eyelids twitching as though he were dreaming; each breath he took shook the surface of the water. "Katan?" he whispered again, questioning. "Katan, I can't...."

"It's all right," Katan answered. Reaching into the water himself -- the water would ruin the fine black fabric of his uniform and the water would never care, but now he could not allow himself to care either -- he embraced Rociel and drew him from the water. Rociel reached his long arms around Katan's neck and clung to him, his head fallen back with the weight of his sopping hair.

Even drenched Rociel still weighed nothing, Katan marveled. He knew he should carry the long-haired angel to the bank of towels, he could feel Rociel shivering in his arms, after taking him from what warmth the water had provided he should dry his damp skin before it could be exposed too long to the air, he knew all this -- and yet when he began to move, he moved so slowly, cradling Rociel's naked body as though it might break if he shook it too violently. Katan caught their reflection in the polished marble of a wall -- Rociel looked delicate, dripping water, body hanging so limply an outside observer might have taken him for dead had his fingers not been laced together tightly behind Katan's neck. Like a broken bird, Katan thought, and then had no idea why he had thought such a thing.

Against the pure white towels, Rociel's skin looked almost healthy by contrast. "Death by drowning, my lovely Katan, is undignified." He was so pale, the colour of thick cream. Katan sat him up and wrapped the towels around his body, propping Rociel up in his arms. "Particularly for those who don't even need to breathe."

Katan rubbed Rociel's hair dry, shushing him quiet as gently as he could. When he had covered the silver-haired angel's nakedness enough, he gathered the bundle that Rociel had become into his arms once more and carried him into the adjoining room, across enough of a threshold to ensure that this room was dry. Rociel's bed was an elabourate pile of satins and pillows, and Katan laid him carefully upon it.

"Don't go." Rociel grabbed Katan's hand. "Don't leave. It's so cold." He pulled Katan closer with surprising strength for one who looked so feeble moments before. "Perhaps you would lie with me."

The request was neither unprecedented nor particularly unexpected; Katan stood first, unfastening the tunic of his uniform so his wetness wouldn't contribute to Rociel's chill. Seeing no appropriate place to hang it, he folded it and set it on the floor, then stretched out chastely on the bed.

Rociel's eyes sparkled; the strange delirious panic of earlier was gone, replaced with something far more mischeveous. "Closer, Katan."

Drawing back a blanket to cover himself -- he was cold as well, his skin was damp -- Katan drew his body nearer to Rociel, who just smirked again. "Closer." Rociel reached his long arms out from their cocoon of towels and reached for Katan's bare body.

And Katan, as he had been bid, drew closer, placing his body nearly atop Rociel's, noticing how warm his own skin seemed in comparison, almost feverish. Did he have a fever? Could he have a fever? Rociel reached up and wrapped his arms around Katan, treating his creation as though he were some oddly shaped but highly efficient warming blanket. Katan could feel the smile as Rociel pressed his lips against Katan's broad, bare shoulder. "Do you know what today is, Katan?"

Tuesday? "No," he answered honestly. "What is today, Lord Rociel?"

"Solstice," Rociel whispered, breathily. "The shortest day of the year."

Why this should seem remarkable to Rociel, Katan had no idea; the motions of the celestial bodies held no sway here as they did on other planes. What use had sunlight to a world lit by the Light of the Creator? But Katan said nothing.

"Which means," Rociel continued, stroking Katan's back, "it's almost Christmas." He pulled away enough so Katan could behold his beautiful face, lips set in a perfect pout. One long, perfectly manicured fingernail dug itself into the skin at the base of Katan's skull, almost lovingly. "Did you get me anything for Christmas, Katan?"

Katan's eyes went wide. "Was I-- I'm sorry, Lord Rociel, I didn't--"

"Shh." That perfectly manicured fingernail and the finger attached to it came around to rest on Katan's lips, silencing any further protests. "It's all right, Katan. You didn't know. How could you have known that you should get me a present to celebrate something else's birthday?" Rociel's voice was deep and sleepy now, almost lazy; Katan felt his eyebrows growing heavy in sympathy. "It's all right."

Had Rociel warmed up? No, the silver-haired angel beneath him still wore skin that was cold to the touch. But the room seemed warmer. He had turned off the water, so the heat was not coming from the bathroom. His lips burned against Rociel's skin; he was certain Rociel would comment. But Rociel said nothing about it.

Katan felt two spots of ice on the backs of his thighs, even through his uniform pants, and realised that they were none other than Rociel's bare feet. Rociel had almost completely worked his way free of the towels that had covered him. "Lord Rociel--"

"Shh," Rociel insisted again, this time silencing Katan with the force of his lips, pressing against Katan's in a brief kiss. "Katan, am I beautiful?"

"You know it is so," Katan replied breathlessly, eyes wide and searching the face of the man beneath him. He licked his lips, searching for the moisture that would enable them to move, enable him to speak. "From the beginning until the end, now and forevermore, nothing has been or will be able to compare to your beauty."

Laughing, Rociel threw his arms anew around Katan's neck -- and his legs around Katan's waist. "Everybody says that," he laughed joyfully, though the sound was somewhat hollow. "Everyone wants to be near me, because of my beauty. Did you know that, Katan?"

"I did, Lord Rociel." Katan could feel his arms beginning to shake with the force of holding up his body as he hovered over Rociel.

"Tell me again." Rociel's eyes shone; he kissed Katan again briefly. "Tell me again how beautiful I am."

Katan shook slightly. "Nothing in all of creation could hope to match your glory," he answered. His voice somehow managed its way from his throat without trembling too much, and when he spoke, the sound was low and clear. "Nothing--"

"Katan," Rociel interrupted, wrapping his arms tighter around Katan's body. Head thrown back, exposing his delicate white throat, he did indeed look exquisitely beautiful. "Would you like to touch me?"

As though the privilege were some kind of reward for good behaviour. Perhaps for pulling Rociel from the water, or for expounding upon his beauty, or even just for being such a devoted and loyal creation. "Yes," Katan whispered, unable to help himself. It was the truth. Every time he said it, every time he looked upon Rociel, every time he was praised or humiliated or even ignored, it was the truth. "I want to touch you."

Rociel giggled, an unearthly sound. "Then touch me." His arms and legs unwrapped, and he fell back onto the bed, laughing softly. "Touch me, Katan, and tell me until you can no longer how beautiful I am."

To begin at the neck was what Rociel enjoyed most. The neck. Katan reached down and pressed his lips to the skin there, feeling the soft thrum of pulse. So perfect, Rociel's neck, so unblemished and uncorrupted the skin there. So beautiful. "You are magnificent," he murmured against Rociel's throat. "Utterly radiant."

"And beautiful, of course."

"Of course." Katan could hear the manic grin in Rociel's words, but he found no reason within himself to make the effort to smile. "The most beautiful thing in the world."

One of Rociel's hands entwined itself in Katan's slate-grey hair, pushing him lower. "You're just saying that," he teased.

"No." Katan shook his head, running his mouth over the flat expanse of Rociel's chest, letting his tongue reach out to feel the contours of a pale nipple. "I only say the truth. I would not lie to you, Lord Rociel."

He could hear Rociel's smile become a smirk. "No, I don't suppose you would."

Rociel's skin tasted like rose water, like air on a cold morning. "Never," he entreated, feeling himself pushed even lower, down to the smooth plane of Rociel's belly, where his lips pressed kisses to everything they touched. "Never would I lie to you, Lord Rociel." He kissed lower, reaching with his hands to brush away the final folds of towel that covered Rociel's skin, down to where no one who saw him like this could have doubted his gender. "I speak only the truth." And he took Rociel's cock into his mouth.

With a soft sigh, Rociel stretched; his hand tightened in Katan's fine hair. "Do you know, Katan, why it is we were created male and female?" He held up a hand. "Don't answer that; you're otherwise occupied, I can see."

Katan was not foolish enough to stop. He suckled gently, almost aimlessly, shutting his eyes to drown out unnecessary sensory input. He could see Rociel's beauty clearly enough without his eyes. "Because that is the only way we can be complete," Rociel continued, dream-like. "With one that is not like ourselves. Such as my sister is to me.

"After all, it is God's doctrine that man should not lie with man as man lies with a woman, now, is it not?" His hand tightened almost painfully in Katan's hair before relaxing again. "The double-edged purpose of copulation is reproduction and completion. Lying with a man could achieve neither edge of this purpose. Isn't that right?"

Softly, Katan choked back a whimper. He placed his hands on the bony rises of Rociel's hips, making himself marginally more comfortable. Taking a deep breath, he relaxed and took Rociel's cock deeper into his throat, making answering completely impossible, even if his opinion had mattered. Which he knew it hadn't.

Rociel laughed again, softly. "What manner of man would desire to transgress against the doctrines the Ancient of Days has set forth, both for men and for angels?" He reached further and stroked Katan's cheek. "Who in the service of Jehovah could possibly want to do anything save that which is perfect and pleasing unto Him?" His breath began to catch as he spoke; Katan could feel Rociel's hips moving beneath his hands.

Rociel tasted the way he smelled -- like rose water and frigid air. But his skin no longer felt so icy to the touch. Katan knew the taste would linger on his tongue for hours, perhaps days afterward, the only memory he would have of this worship. So he moved slowly, fighting his own impulse to do anything else. His own cock stirred, unattended, between his legs.

"There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel," Rociel continued, though his words now trembled as he did. "And what of we, whom the Most High has loved more than the children of Israel? For it has been said that if a man lies with man as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. What do you think of that, Katan?"

He didn't know what he thought. He didn't know what to think, he didn't know what Rociel wanted him to think, so he carefully kept his thoughts away. His hands stroked Rociel's hip absently, feeling the skin warm beneath his touch.

They had done this before, the two of them, though not nearly as often as Katan had seen or heard Rociel in bed with another. His omnipresent implacable expression was a result of watching the angel with his other lovers. Never would he let that anguish reach his face. He had sworn it to himself. After all, what right had he to lay solitary claim to a creature such as Rociel? That Rociel trusted him, kept him close, had called him forth in the first place -- this should be enough for a lowly creature such as he. He had no business wanting more.

He could, after all, never be the completion Rociel needed.

"After all," Rociel added, in a breathy whisper, "the unrighteous have no hope to inherit the Kingdom of God." And his hand closed tight around Katan's face and his hips arched as he came, sighing softly.

Like roses and cold air. Like water that does not know the strength of its own destruction. It was over too quickly, and Katan swallowed, trying to remember the taste. Finally, with the greatest reluctance, he nodded and released Rociel's now-soft cock. He ran his tongue over the insides of his lips; he had cut rows of teethmarks into them in an effort to be gentle.

Rociel laughed, a bitter sound. "I'm warm now, Katan," he smiled. "You may go."

With a small nod, Katan stood and unfolded his jacket. It was still damp; he would have to return to change before he could do anything else. And he had other things to do. So many other things to do. It was a good thing Rociel was making him leave, he assured himself; he couldn't have afforded to stay. His hands fixed the buttons mechanically.

Still naked, Rociel turned on his side and draped himself in a light sheet; with his feet he pushed the towels off the bed and onto the floor. "The Law is not made for the righteous, Katan," he smiled. "We have no need to fear it."

Fastening the last buckle at his neck, Katan nodded quietly. He had things to do. Someone had to clean the water by the stairs. He needed to go. "Do you require anything else, Lord Rociel?"

"If I do, I can attend to it myself." Rociel pulled the covers around himself now, leaving only his silver hair exposed. Katan watched this, and might have sworn he saw flash across Rociel's eyes the haunted gaze of the great and mighty angel floating in the overflowing bathtub because he couldn't warm himself of his own accord. But like all flashes, it was gone before he could register or name it, and the self-confident smirk stood firmly in its stead as though nothing else had the right to occupy its place.

Heaven is a cold place, Katan thought to himself. This is why we wear long sleeves and long pants and walk around without touching one another. He bowed formally and strode to the door. He had things to do. He could name them if he thought hard enough.

"And Katan?" The words stopped him as his hand rested on the door's handle; he turned back and saw Rociel sitting up in bed, holding the sheet to his chest. "Thank you for your present."

Katan managed a muffled 'you're welcome' before turning the handle and slipping out, shutting the door tightly behind him. The hallway was empty; he could hear neither approaching footsteps nor voices. Closing his eyes, he slumped against the wall and put his hand over his eyes.

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