evocates: (Accused: Simon - Sunsets)
• just another dreamer • ([personal profile] evocates) wrote2013-07-19 04:44 pm

[FIC] Eastern Promises/The Big Empty: in the desert sky we find home

I have literally been writing this fic for months. I think I received the prompt from [livejournal.com profile] helena_s_renn in October last year when I was prodding her for prompts to give me. It was something about Cowboy being an alien and something with Cowboy and Frank Hopkins or Nikolai. (It's actually been so incredibly long that I don't remember if she actually did send me the prompt, ahahaha.) But I do remember that I started writing it somewhere in February, and then I add a line or two every two or three weeks...

I refound it lately, right in the midst of just starting work. And I rewrote everything I started with and I finally found the inspiration to write it. But somehow I had no idea what on Earth I was writing. Even now I'm still uncertain about this whole thing, because it's very much unlike what I usually write. @_@ It might be because of work: I have no idea how I managed to find time to write amidst work, but somehow I do, in a sort of exhausted haze.

Well. I hope you all like this anyway. ♥!

in the desert sky we find home

Characters/Pairing: Cowboy (The Big Empty)/Nikolai Luzhin (Eastern Promises). Mentions of Yuri from Eastern Promises and Alec Trevelyan from Goldeneye.
Rating: R
Words: ~4120
Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respective owners. I’m just playing.
Summary: After losing his purpose, Nikolai walks the desert of America. Cowboy finds him, and brings him home in his own unique way.
Notes: For [livejournal.com profile] helena_s_renn's prompt, and dedicated to [livejournal.com profile] afra_schatz, who convinced me to not trash this when I was going to.

There was a man with Jesus inked on his chest and stars on his shoulders and knees, and for those signs the vory v zakone in Britain had named him Judas. Iscariot they called him, the disloyal thirteenth, and they bayed for his blood like the wolves they were. He was unwelcomed there after Semyon fell, after Kirill died by his hands. But this Judas who held no love for Jesus did not betray the vor for thirty pieces of silver – if he had, then perhaps the vor would have forgiven him. No, he did it for the lives of those the vor called slaves; the lives of those who had been judged inconsequential and unworthy and the dozens of words used to try to dismiss the slaves as creatures having no existence whatsoever.

(Perhaps he was called Judas because he was Jesus after all.)

The man the vor called Judas had betrayed them even before the beginning: the tattoos inked on his skin were false ones. He received them for all the right reasons with plenty of witnesses to prove his deeds, but he believed nothing of the vors' creed, and that was the greatest betrayal of all.

Liars, Judas learned, disliked being lied to.

Judas’s real name – if anything could be real about a man like him – was Nikolai Luzhin, and he wandered the desert now. The dry coarse sands belonged to America, and the Southern sun was so hot that Nikolai could almost believe that it would scorch the tattoos clean from his skin, or the sand could rub them away and leave nothing but pristine paper-thinness beneath.

It was Yuri who sent Nikolai to America. If left to himself, Nikolai would have stayed in Britain, waiting for the vory to take their revenge. He knew perfectly well that if any of the vor saw him again they would kill him, and sometimes he thought he should let them, if only because he was tired beyond measure.

(Tired, and filled with guilt, and sometimes he thought the vory’s nickname was more appropriate than they had realised themselves.)

But Yuri knew him well, and it was Yuri’s bidding he must still do. He came to America for the sake of safety, but the desert he chose himself – in London and Moscow he had spent most of his recent years, and he wanted a place that would not remind him of either. A place without rain, without damp, without snow, without chill; a barren, dry place without the warmth of human breath to fill the air with life and strangle it.

There probably was poetry written about the desert sun; about how its rays pierced through the sparse clouds without any effort whatsoever. But those were not words made for Nikolai: he was still too much a child of winter.

Nikolai followed the paths of the sun, towards the west. He took shade under one of the trees with large, waxy leaves and lit up a cigarette, watching the smoke curl in the dry air for but a few seconds before disappearing. Sweat coated his skin, sticky like mucus, and in that moment he wondered if he chose the desert because not for its strangeness, but because of that half-formed hope within his heart that he might melt like the grey snowmen he had made in his youth, long ago.

But his arm felt as solid as it had always been. Nikolai held a small patch between his fingers, watched wrinkles form and the ink of his tattoo stretch and gleam.

Out of the corner of his eyes, a shadow slowly approached him in the shape of a man.

Nikolai lifted his head, following the shadow’s progress, and wondered if he found another lost soul amongst this barren desert. But the thought disappeared quickly, because it was clear that this was no wanderer: the man walked towards him, legs straight and strides purposeful. He wore a heavy black leather coat and a wide-brimmed hat, and though the air shivered around him in the heat of the American desert, there was no sweat beading on his face.

In every country, there were grandmothers who told stories about spirits and faeries; of the creatures that snuck in through the long summer nights and stole children from their cradles; monsters with overly bright eyes, long limbs, and nails so long that they could sink them into any child’s throat and rip it open instantly. Parents, too, told such stories to their children, in hopes of putting fear into them so they would not wander away one night.

Nikolai knew of those grandmothers. He might have one, long ago, before he disavowed his family and disappeared from the sights of those who lived normal lives. Princes of thieves had no family, and the bratva was a brotherhood, one that disallowed anyone to have a family outside those who had the same tattoos.

As the stranger came closer, Nikolai seated himself on the base of the tree, back against the trunk. The heat seeped through his clothes, but he could still see. To his surprise, the stranger’s face was a familiar one. He had met this man before – or one with exactly the same face. It was long ago, during the Cold War, and that man he saw was a British agent with a strong Russian jaw and who spoke the language as if it was one he was born with.

The eyes were wrong, though: the man he met had green eyes, but this stranger’s gaze an unearthly, inhuman blue.

“What are you doing here?” Nikolai asked, because the question was wiser than the one that sat uneasily on his tongue.

(What are you?)

“I’ve come to take you home,” the stranger said simply. His was a familiar accent, one that belonged to a continent away, an island that Nikolai had just left. But it was his voice itself that caught Nikolai’s attention: it rang out in the empty space around them, rustling the leaves overhead and making the sand shudder as if it was winter.

Maybe the grandmothers were wrong after all, Nikolai thought. Maybe the spirits and faeries did not fear fire and heat; maybe they thrive in such things. It might, in a roundabout way, explain how the stranger’s blond hair seemed to glow in the sun, and his eyes were two shining stones.

“I don’t have a home anymore,” Nikolai shrugged, turning his head away to stare off into the distance. There was another tree there, shivering under the overly bright sunlight.

“That’s why I’m bringing you home,” the stranger reached out a hand. “Come with me.”

I might die, Nikolai thought suddenly. He cracked a smile and almost laughed, his hands fumbling in his pockets before drawing out a cigarette. “I’d need name before first date,” he drawled, but he knew his eyes had already showed his acceptance, though he wasn’t standing.

It was dangerous, he knew, but he let it show nonetheless.

“Call me Cowboy,” the stranger said, and there was the smallest of creases at the corners of his eyes. A shadow of a shadow of a smile.

Nikolai looked at him for a long moment. It was so obviously not a real name that it might as well be one, a name so false that in the opposite logic of Nikolai’s world, it had become true. But what was truth to a man who had cornered the market for lies?

He shrugged, unfolding his legs and flicking cigarette ash away from himself. Cowboy’s hand remained held in the air, untouched, as Nikolai stood again.

“So where are you going?”

Cowboy tilted his head, the brim of the large fedora falling away until the sun shine straight into his eyes. He didn’t even blink, though Nikolai had to, because the brightness of the blue was so unreal that he could not help but think of spirits once more.

“You haven’t given me your name,” Cowboy said.

Nikolai exhaled, smoke trailing out from his lips. He looked at his new companion through lowered lashes. “Don’t you know it already?”

“It is not polite to assume,” Cowboy said mildly, the strange smile returning. He looked like a bird, one of those ravens that liked to roost on top of buildings in St. Petersburg. “I would rather ask.”

“Judas,” Nikolai smirked.

“Your name,” returned Cowboy gently. “Not a name someone has given you.”

He didn’t move, but there was a sense of disapproval that came off him like a wave, and Nikolai suddenly felt like a scolded child. It had been four decades since he had felt like that, and he bared his teeth almost involuntarily.

“You didn’t give me your real name either,” he countered.

“Cowboy,” came the implacable reply. “It is my name.”

“It is description. Not name.”

“It is my name,” said Cowboy again, and Nikolai knew that he was fighting a losing battle. Strange thought it was, to think of something like this as a battle. Maybe that was what he had been looking for, in this strange desert.

He’d rather not think about that. Instead, he took another drag of his cigarette. “Nikolai,” he said finally.

Cowboy took a step forward, and another, and suddenly there was the feel of solid tree against Nikolai’s back once more. He stared, nearly unseeing, as Cowboy leaned in, their lips brushing as he took smoke-tinged breath straight out of Nikolai’s mouth.

“Nikolai,” Cowboy murmured, his breath hotter than fire against Nikolai’s aged, creased skin. He was so close that Nikolai could see the wrinkles at the side of his eyes, and he felt surprise at that – about this man who looked so human, but acted like a spirit, a fae, and nothing human at all.

“I’ve come to bring you home.” He grinned, deepening the lines around his eyes even further. “Partner.”

***

The years that had passed since Nikolai had followed anyone were so numerous that he could barely remember how to put one foot in front of another with a shadow in front of him. Sometimes he stepped into the light footprints Cowboy left behind, if only to make it easier. Yuri’s orders were different, he thought, because it was Yuri who followed Nikolai, really; followed him and tried to pick up the pieces of Nikolai’s shattered self as he shed them with every step he took into the world of the vor. Yuri picked up those pieces in the hopes that one day he would be allowed to try to piece them back together.

(But he had never managed that, and Nikolai had left him back in England, his hands full of shards.)

He had been following Cowboy for hours. Or was it days? Time seemed to matter little to nothing, the seconds counted not by heartbeats or the movement of the sun but by the swish of Cowboy’s black leather coat with every step he took.

The sun had long set when they stopped, but the skies were lit by stars, clearer and brighter than Nikolai had ever seen, even during his childhood in the village in the backwaters of the Soviet Union. Their feet stopped and Cowboy stripped off his leather jacket, laying it upon the ground. The darkness grew upon the grey-gold sands until it became a blanket, and Nikolai did not resist when Cowboy nudged him. His legs folded, bending underneath him, and he dropped down to lie on warm cloth.

Smoother than a waterfall of silk it was in the dark, though it gleamed and folded like leather in sunlight. Nikolai thought once more of the tales that grandmothers supposedly told, the ones with creatures who lured the unsuspecting into their traps.

Home, Cowboy had said. Now Nikolai was on his back, his hands reaching up, fingertips curling in. There was something within him that wished to pluck the stars or bring the skies down with him so he could live within it. Not that it was at all possible; even if there was something within the grand darkness named space, it wasn’t a place for someone like Nikolai to find.

The darkness jarred, tilted away, and all that filled Nikolai’s vision was bright, inhuman blue. Cowboy leaned over him, his hand slamming down beside Nikolai’s head hard and silent, as if the jacket had swallowed up all sounds.

“Close your eyes and open your mouth,” Cowboy said, the grin returning after hours (days?) of walking without a single expression. “I have a surprise for you.”

Nikolai stared up at him. The laughter came suddenly, a punch in the sternum that had his breath stuttering out of him and his shoulders shaking. His lips parted as he dragged in air, trying to breathe. His throat had forgotten what it was like to laugh, too familiar it was to the phantom chill of a knife being drawn over it, so it made no sound. But he was smiling, feeling like his face would crack from it.

Cowboy cocked his head to the side, an overlarge raven with too-bright eyes. Nikolai laughed even harder, his gasps loud in the still night air.

“You don’t like it?” Cowboy asked.

Maybe you’re a faerie after all, Nikolai thought, gathering his control back within himself and looking steadily into Cowboy’s eyes. Only a fae will say such things.

“It sounds like line from terrible porn movie,” Nikolai said, and he reached up, stroking the inked backs of his fingers over Cowboy’s skin. Smooth as a baby’s, without a single hint of stubble despite the time that had passed. Nikolai’s own jaw was dotted with small hairs already.

“It doesn’t suit you.”

Cowboy made a small noise in his throat, like a hum. “No one has ever told me that before,” he said.

“I’m original. Special,” Nikolai said, shoulders jerking a little, surprised at his own ability to tease.

Cowboy smiled again. “You are,” he said. “I don’t usually bring people home one by one.”

All amusement drained out of Nikolai then, and he stroked Cowboy’s cheek again, pressed his fingers hard against the skin until he could feel solidness that felt like bone and might be just that.

“What are you?” he whispered, finally releasing the question that had hid itself in the depths of his mind since the first sight he caught of Cowboy. But even now, he wasn’t even sure if he wanted to know the answer.

Tilting his head, Cowboy exhaled his words straight into his ears. “I’m a shepherd, Nikolai,” he said, and his smile could be felt against the fleshly lobe. “I gather the lost sheep, and I bring them home.”

“Shepherds eat their sheep in the end,” Nikolai said without knowing why. His body arched upwards. Cowboy was warm, inhumanly so, a furnace bare centimetres from his skin.

“I don’t,” Cowboy said, but his words were belied by his teeth gently scraping against Nikolai’s jaw. “I don’t eat, I mean.”

Somehow Nikolai wasn’t surprised at all. Cowboy’s eyes were like the stars themselves, and perhaps that was where he came from. The grandmothers were wrong, Nikolai thought, because the faeries and spirits weren’t born from malice in the forests, but instead came from the skies, born when the shooting stars fade away.

It had been so very long since Nikolai thought of the world in metaphors, in any form of poetry.

He reached up, sliding his hands over Cowboy’s still-clad shoulders, feeling thick, too-silky cloth. There was no fear inside himself, he realised. No trepidation. There was only a small voice, calling desperately for his instincts, for the part of himself that knew self-preservation better than walking. But his body was quiet, leaving him only with his thoughts.

“Your actions make me think you are lying,” he said.

Cowboy laughed, the sound a gentle drum next to Nikolai’s pulse. “I’m not,” he replied, his hand stroking down Nikolai’s shoulder. “If I’m going to eat you, it’s a figurative type of eating.”

Nikolai pulled away immediately, staring up into eerie blue eyes.

“You don’t eat, but you have sex,” he stated bluntly. “Why?”

“Why not?” Cowboy smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling up again. “I don’t have it very often, no. Only with someone special.”

“Special,” Nikolai repeated, eyes narrowing. No one had ever used that precise word to describe him before, not even in Russian. They would imply it instead, the meaning shining through their eyes as their lips tried to form everything opposite. He thought of Kirill again, the man whom he had ruined and killed with his own hands, heart’s blood spilling out and coating red all over his hands.

(It’s a violent thought, a macabre thought, but it was comforting somehow.)

Cowboy tilted his head, making a soft sound in affirmative. His mouth brushed over Nikolai’s jaw, too-smooth lips over stubbled skin.

Nikolai tipped his head up and looked to the skies. This was something he had never experienced before, he realised; not once in his long years of living. Not fucking someone he had known for barely hours, no, but fucking under the light of the waning moon and the stars, not a single artificial light anywhere in sight. Like the world had been remade between one breath and the next.

The newness sent a thrill down his spine. “Okay,” he said. “Come on, then.”

“Eager,” Cowboy murmured.

“You or me?” Nikolai raised an eyebrow.

“Both of us,” Cowboy smiled again. “Isn’t that the only way to be eager?”

It started from the base of his chest: a bubble that grew and grew, scratching the insides of his Adam’s apple. Nikolai’s lips parted before he bit down on the bottom one, surprised at himself— so much that he couldn’t help the laughter from rising, blowing out his cheeks. He laughed but once, a harsh ripple from the base of his throat, rusty and rough from disuse.

Had he ever laughed sincerely before this, much less during sex? Or even in the prelude to sex? Nikolai didn’t know. If he had, it happened so long ago that he no longer remembered, and so it had stopped mattering at all.

He stared upwards at Cowboy, his eyes wide. This was new and something else as well – something he had never thought he wanted or even wished for. Nikolai reached up, cupped his hands around Cowboy’s jaw.

“Suits you,” Cowboy said, his tongue darting out of his mouth to lick at the base of Nikolai’s palm. “Laughing.”

“Haven’t done it in a long time,” Nikolai said, and when he looked down at Cowboy’s hand on his chest, he wasn’t surprised that he was naked. His clothes had disappeared; appropriate, really, because Nikolai felt more open than he had for years. Decades.

Cowboy wasn’t just fae in the way he moved or talked, after all.

“You will do it more once we reach home,” he said, bright blue eyes shuttered beneath heavy lids.

“I don’t know where that is,” Nikolai whispered. “You keep talking about it, but you haven’t told me.”

Giving a soft chuckle, Cowboy placed his fingertips on Nikolai’s jaw, tilting it up and to the side, towards the stars and sky. “Up there,” he said, and his other hand stroked down Nikolai’s side, curving over his ass, slipping suddenly-slick fingers inside and making him moan. “And down here. Home is many places.”

The words were beyond cheesy, Nikolai knew, but somehow he believed in it. Or perhaps he believed because Cowboy was crooking his fingers, digging them inside, sliding smooth skin over his prostate. Nikolai stared up at the stars – both those above him, and those bursting into life beneath his eyelids.

He pulled Cowboy down, crashing their lips together. His lips split from the contact, a sudden lightning-crack of pain, and he felt once more the ground beneath his shoulders, a sudden reminder that he was still here. That Cowboy hasn’t taken him away just yet.

“You talk too much,” he hissed out.

“You don’t like saying what you want,” Cowboy mused, sounding far too calm even as he pressed three fingers now inside Nikolai, twisting them and holding him down as he shook. “I like that about you, I think.”

“Why?” Nikolai tried to pull away enough to blink.

“It makes you the same as many people,” Cowboy answered, leaning down until their foreheads touched and his too-hot breath ghosted over Nikolai’s mouth. “It proves you wrong about what you think about yourself, and I like that.”

“You talk as if you know me already.”

“Maybe I do,” Cowboy replied. “Maybe I’ve been watching you.”

He pulled away, and the sudden rush of cold desert night air between their bodies made Nikolai twist, arched away from the leather jacket, chasing heat. He forced his eyes to stay open, to stare upwards, nearly unseeing, at those bright eyes.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” he said, already knowing the words were futile.

Cowboy only stroked his hair, drawing his fingers out from Nikolai’s body. “Of course it doesn’t,” he said, and the odd little smile came back. “You knew that even before you saw my face.”

“How do you know?” Nikolai couldn’t help but ask; though he had a feeling he already knew the answer. “How do you know what I saw in you?” His thumbs pressed down on the outside corners of Cowboy’s eyes. An unasked, silly question: How good are your eyes?

Hands closed around Nikolai’s ankles, spreading them. Nikolai let his legs fall open, his head pressing back against the coat. He could barely feel the sand beneath the cloth anymore.

“You’re not the first one I brought home,” Cowboy said, and his smile widened as he pushed into Nikolai. His cock was thick and long, covered in a substance heavier than gel and more slippery than oil. Nikolai could feel both of his hands on his hips.

He closed his eyes, and let out a sigh as an answer.

“There is usually a ritual, you see,” Cowboy said, almost musingly. “I have to bring them here in a bus, and they wear blue tracksuits and tennis shoes.” Fingers crawled up Nikolai’s chest, brushing over death inked over his right side, above his liver. Nails dug into his ribs as Cowboy pulled back and drove inside, leisurely in his movements. “They stand in a circle, with someone who refuses to go home in the centre. A conduit, between this world and home.”

The other hand left Nikolai’s hip, pressed against his forehead, forcing his eyes open. “You’re special to me. I don’t need that ritual with you.”

There was a gun in Cowboy’s hand, Nikolai saw suddenly, and its barrel wide and gaping. Darkness seemed alive within it as Cowboy pointed it right between Nikolai’s eyes. He knew he should be afraid and perhaps he should struggle, but Nikolai only wrapped his legs tighter around Cowboy’s hips, driving him in even deeper.

His lips parted, but no sound came out.

Cowboy kissed him. Nikolai drowned in blue, and in the corner of his eyes, he saw, like slow-approaching thunderclouds, white smoke curl out of the gun. It came nearer and nearer, swallowing up the blue, taking over his entire view.

And Nikolai knew he was going home now. His hands clenched tight on Cowboy’s shoulders, trying to find skin beneath black cloth. Cowboy thrust in again, bringing the stars down to Nikolai.

There would be one person who would miss him, and maybe send out a search party for him. But Nikolai knew that Yuri would be happy if he disappeared, even if the handler wouldn’t admit it. Nikolai had nothing left in this world except for a duty that had pulled everything out of him and twisted it.

His thoughts curled, unravelling, and Nikolai realised a long-hidden thought: he missed the young boy who believed in his parents with wide-eyed naiveté. Maybe he wouldn’t regain it if he left, but at the very least, wherever he was going would have something new, and he wouldn’t have to look at everything with the eyes of an old man.

And he would have Cowboy. He would have this: scorching heat more like raw flame than human; solidity like rock beneath his hands; a creature that would be fae if not for his ties to the sky instead to forests.

Strange, really, how a single meeting could change a person’s life. (But Nikolai didn’t find it odd at all; he had done it enough to others, and this seemed to be karma, in its own way.)

The blinding white was strange and new, but Cowboy’s lips were a comforting weight.

Like home.

End

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