A Cardinal Affair

Chapter 3: Like The Wind Sweeps The Earth

All things considered, living with Sam and Jess really isn’t so bad. The quad is pretty spacious, and the couple does little more than cuddle, at least where he can see them. Misha can handle that just fine. The people in the co-op are great, too — they hold fundraisers and volunteer events every month, with weekly fun activities in between, they actively recycle, and most of them are decent cooks, which is fortunate, since they take turns preparing house meals. Sam and Misha share the same kitchen shift, so Misha cooks while Sam cleans or helps with preparation, and together they mostly overcome Sam’s inability to properly cook even tomato rice soup unaided. Misha loves the fresh produce, and cleaning the house with the others makes it feel a lot like home.

They also make new friends among their housemates — Misha hooks up with Tom, who reminds him a bit of Sam, for a pleasant, albeit unsatisfying night and Vicki hits it off with Maya from the room next door. Maya’s roommate, Nancy, went to high school with Jess, and Sam studies with Luis, a junior with whom he shares a few classes. Jess, of course, already knows everyone; she visited her friends here often, and they love her and her cookies. Like the other houses, Columbae has a Halloween tradition, but this year, instead of partying or participating in the yearly Halloween games, Tom, Jeff, Shawna and Alex want to camp in a nearby haunted house for the night. Misha doesn’t really believe it’s haunted, but it does sound way more fun than the parties, games, and trick-or-treating.

Sam, on the other hand, is objecting vehemently. “Why would you ever want to do that? First off,” he says, lifting a finger, “that house is ancient, and there are probably worse hazards in there than a ghost. Secondly, that’s trespassing, which is illegal, and we could get caught and arrested. Thirdly, what if it really is haunted, and the spirit is violent? Why take that risk? This isn’t a game, guys; people could actually get hurt.”

Jeff leans back in his chair. “Wow, man, you’ve got some strong feelings about this. Why so serious? There’s no proof the place is even really haunted. All we’ve heard is that a bunch of people moved in and then out again because it felt spooky.”

Sam frowns. “And if it’s not haunted, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of your trip?”

“You’re missing the point,” Alex chimes in patiently, crossing her legs. “It’s about the atmosphere, the tantalizing possibility that it might really be haunted, and,” she bares her teeth in a feral grin, “we’ll get to see who freaks out first.”

“Tantalizing?” Sam repeats with his best ‘seriously?’ bitchface. “You think being attacked and thrown around by a ghost trying to kill you is tantalizing?”

“Look, man, you don’t have to go,” Tom cuts in finally, running a hand through his hair. “Why are you even in this discussion if you’re not interested? Jess is going to Synergy’s house party. Why don’t you go with her?”

Shawna raises an eyebrow, looking from one to the other. “Wassup with you today, anyway? Look how excited Misha is. Ain’t you two like twins or somethin’?”

Next to Sam, Misha is rocking in his seat, knees hugged to his chest and a wide grin on his face. It’s adorable. Sam smothers his small smile to turn his sternest bitchface on Tom. “I don’t even like Halloween. Why would I want to celebrate it with a party? And I’m trying to keep you guys from doing something stupid and dangerous here.”

“For a big guy, you are no fun at all!” Alex complains, standing. “Well, we’re going, and whoever wants to join can join. Be back in five. I’m going for a smoke.” She heads out the door.

Shawna shrugs. “Watchu worried about anyway? Your homeboy here’s been telling everyone you’re like Blade.”

Sam resists the urge to bury his face in his hands. Dammit, Misha…

Misha rests his head on Sam’s shoulder and beams up at him. “C'mon, Sam. I doubt it’s really haunted, and this does sound way more interesting than the usual Halloween stuff. I mean, think about it. We could tell each other horror stories in a haunted house, by flashlight, maybe see who can come up with the best backstory for the house! We could play hide and seek, and see who freaks out and gives up first. We could prank each other while we sleep, or—”

Sam sighs resignedly. There’s no stopping Misha once he gets like this, and Tom knows it too. He smirks and pointedly says, “I guess that means Misha’s coming along.”

Misha frowns at Tom. “Look, Sam.” He turns, so they’re facing each other. “I’m not asking you to come just because I’m going. You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

This is a bad idea. Sam can feel it in his bones. He shakes his head. “There is no way you’re going without me.”


The house is only two hours’ drive away. Sam has three bags of rock salt in his bag and an iron rod, and he's probably going to regret not bringing his gun when he left for Stanford. They go in two cars — Misha's and Jeff's. Alex rides with them because she likes Misha's music, but Misha won't let her smoke in his car, so they take a long break at the gas station, and the others get there before them. They park around the corner behind Jeff's plum-colored Honda, so it's less obvious that they're trespassing, and crawl through a hole in the wire fence.

The grass is overgrown, and the paint on the house's wooden boards is so peeled and faded that he can’t discern what color it used to be. In some places, the wood is warped; in others, it is broken, so there are sporadic holes in the wall. It doesn't look eerie so much as terribly run down, and already Sam is more worried about snakes and accidents than vengeful spirits. The steps creak dangerously as they climb and let themselves in the door. It smells dank and musty, and there are cobwebs in every corner. There's mold growing in some places, moss in others, and he's really glad Jeff thought to bring the tarp.

He's about to call out to the first group to ask where they've set up when they hear a scream. They stop.

“That's Tom,” Misha pipes up, anxiously clutching his things.

Tom screams again, “Heeelp!! Somebody pleeease!!” from somewhere below, and Sam drops his bag, unzipping it to get the iron bar and a flashlight.

“—t the fuck did you bring that for?” Alex looks incredulously at the rod.

“Snakes,” Sam lies, turning to Misha. “You stay by the door, and if it looks bad or I don't come back, or if you hear me yelling at you to run, you get out of here, okay?”

Misha just nods numbly as Tom screams again, stopping abruptly, and Sam heads into the dim hallway. Shawna and Jeff come down the stairs, looking worried and scared, and he tells them to wait by the door with Misha. He finds the door to the cellar and heads down more creaking steps. It's pitch dark, so he turns on his flashlight as he reaches the bottom of the steps. There's nothing but a bookcase up against the wall, a ceramic jar and some other odds and ends on its shelves, and a wooden chair with a small box on it — all covered in a thick layer of dust. There's a key in the side of the box, so it's probably a music box.

Sam looks around. “Tom?”

Suddenly, something grabs him roughly from behind. Sam instinctively whirls to take a swing at it.

“OW!! FUCK!!!”

“Tom?!”

“What the fuck are you, crazy?!”

Sam shines the flashlight on Tom, eyes red as he clutches his arm. Sam might have given him a fracture.

“Jesus Christ, Sam!! Why do you even have that metal stick with you?!”

“How about you tell me what the fuck you're doing down here?!” Sam retorts, climbing the stairs back up.

“I went looking for the john, and then I thought I'd get the fun started!” Tom yells back, following close behind.

“Well, it ain't funny,” Shawna cuts in with a sharp glare, standing at the top of the stairs with her hands on her hips. She lets Sam pass, but smacks Tom on the shoulder as he comes within reach.

“OW!!!”

It jars his hurt arm, but she walks after Sam unapologetically, and Tom kicks the cellar door shut hard enough to rattle the entire house. Something breaks downstairs — the jar, from the sound of it.

“You tryin' to get the cops on us, man?” Jeff asks as soon as he comes in sight.

“Jesus, guys! It was just a prank! You're the ones who thought up pranking each other here. I just wanted to see how you guys would react!”

“No, that's totally legitimate,” Misha replies, rolling his eyes and handing Sam his bag. “I wouldn't question that. It's science!” Not for the first time, he wonders what about Tom ever reminded him of Sam.

“Yeah, if stupidity were a science,” Alex drawls, stalking past. “C'mon, Jeff, show me where we're spending the night.”

They head up the stairs to a room where Jeff has already laid out the tarpaulin and set up for the night. They make ham and cheese sandwiches (cheese and egg salad for Shawna and Tom, who are vegetarian) and grab a beer each from Jeff's mini cooler. The sun is setting, Shawna and Alex are sitting close together, Jeff is already lying down inside his sleeping bag, Tom is still sullenly nursing his extremely bruised arm, and Misha is leaning into Sam’s side when they start guessing at the house’s backstory.

Alex starts with “I heard this house was once home to a Satanist cult, and they kidnapped people, usually the homeless because they’re less noticeable.”

Misha grimaces, and Sam squeezes his hand.

“And every month, on the full moon, they sacrificed them in the basement. They later moved out because the authorities were getting suspicious, but the spirits of the sacrifices they made are still trapped here.”

“Well, I haven’t heard of any Satanist activity around here, but they probably keep it on the DL,” Jeff muses. “I heard the original owner committed suicide in the basement after her second miscarriage, so she’d steal the children from every family who lived here after that, because she couldn’t have any of her own, and kill them so they’d have to stay with her forever.”

Beside him, Misha winces almost imperceptibly. It’s still too soon to be talking about mothers not resting in peace.

“So now she and all the kids she killed haunt this house together. Some of the kids will try to warn others about her, but others will try to get more playmates to stay with them, and every now and then, another child gets taken.”

“I heard that one of the families who lived here had a pet cat, and it was the prettiest thing,” Misha says then. “But one day, the father disappeared. They searched around, but they could never find him, not even a body. Next, the mother went missing. Again, everyone searched, but they couldn’t even find a body. So the two children were left, and their aunt came to live with them and help them pack. One night, the children couldn’t sleep, and they heard the cat mewing.”

Alex gives him a dirty look. “You did not just go there.”

Misha grins, but continues the story. “They thought to ignore it, but it just kept going. So they went down the stairs to check, and it was mewing from the basement, but they got scared, so they ran back upstairs and hid in bed. The next day, their cat began acting strangely.”

Shawna and Tom snort simultaneously.

“It was violent and unsociable, instead of its usual sweet and friendly self. Its eyes were red, and it looked disheveled. That night, it mewed from the basement again. Their aunt went down to check, and she never came back. That’s when they learned!” Misha’s voice only grows more dramatic. “The next day, the cat was its usual lovely self, but now the children knew. So they poisoned the cat’s food and buried it in the park around the block when it died. But that night, they still heard the mewing in the basement!”

“Damn you, Misha,” Jeff mumbles with a scowl, hugging his knees.

“They huddled together and burrowed under the blankets and shut their ears, but it wouldn’t stop. Then they heard the scratching of claws on wood, first from below, then on the doors, then on the floor, then on the ceiling…”

“MEOW!”

Everyone jumps as a cat yowls outside, and Sam has to applaud its impeccable timing. This is probably Misha’s idea of being vindictive — Alex has three cats back home, Jeff has two.

“Well, it strangled the children in their sleep. There were paw and claw marks on their necks when they were found,” Misha continues with a grin. “So if you hear a cat mewing from the basement, don’t go down there. Don’t even wait. Just run. Leave town. Just run.”

"Well, I ain't heard 'bout no cats, but I knew the last family that lived here. That was a while back. I was —like— ten?" Shawna shrugs. "Anyway, they always said there was something in the basement, kept the door locked and never let anyone, including themselves, in. Like weird noises and shit. You should never have gone down there, Tom. At the time, I thought they were just trying to scare me, but then they moved out after that, because the girl, Leah —we went to the same school— she told me her bed would move half a foot during the night. Then soon, they started finding scratches on their doors; you see those? Next were the ceilings, and sometimes, when they looked in the mirrors, they would catch a glimpse of someone walking past, but there wasn’t anyone there. And there were often shadows where there shouldn’t be shadows. Like you know, there’s nothing here, but you can see a shadow behind it?”

“Was it a specific shape?” Sam asks, now worried that they might be dealing with something worse than a ghost.

Shawn shakes her head. “Not as far as Leah could tell. She said the shadows were different every time.”

“Wasn’t there some kind of vigilante going around town at the time, mysteriously finding criminals and bu— Do you guys hear that?” Sam cocks his head and strains to listen. It sounds like… a music box.

Misha shivers beside him and snuggles closer as the slow, tinkling melody of Für Elise grows louder, nearer. “Sam, is it just me, or has it gotten colder?”

Tom holds out the jacket he brought along that he isn’t wearing. “Here,” he offers, smiling slightly. “Put this on.”

Misha takes it and pulls it on. Ah, yes, he thinks. Tom is always helpful, and he has pretty dimples, too.

Alex shivers as well. “Now that you mention it, it’s fucking freezing in here.”

Shit. Sam lunges for his bag, grabs a bag of rock salt and rips it open just as a draft blows the door open.

There’s a man standing there, a bluish tint to his pale skin, hair combed back for a severe look to match his three-piece suit. The music box Sam saw in the basement is in his hands, open, and the little doll is spinning on the mirror. “Look who’s here for dinner, Elise,” he says to the little doll, his heavily accented voice a whispery sound on the wind. He turns to look at them, and from some angles, Sam can see right through him. “Now what shall we have today?”

Shawna screams. Sam darts forward and pours a line of salt between them and the ghost just as he moves towards them.

He smiles, vicious. “The brains, perhaps. They’re very smart.”

Jeff and Misha yelp as he pulls the tarpaulin out from under them. Tom makes a sound of pain; he fell on his bad arm.

Sam rolls to his feet and restores the salt line. “Get back! Stay behind the salt line!”

The others pick themselves up off the floor and obey, backing up against the wall. The ghost licks his lips as a strong wind picks up. The door slams shut. Slowly, it erodes the salt line.

“Jeff, Mish, get your keys!” Sam shouts, grabbing the iron rod in his bag and the remaining bags of salt.

“A—always had them,” Misha replies, right behind him. “Sam, is that really—?”

“Yes!” Sam swipes at the ghost with the iron rod. He reappears to the side. Sam immediately pours a salt line between them as he runs towards the door and kicks it down. “Now run, guys, run!!!”

Jeff is the first to start running, followed closely by Shawna, but Misha quickly overtakes them.

The ghost chuckles. “Oh Elise, the gazelle only thinks it can outrun the cheetah.”

Sam takes another swipe at the ghost and runs out after Tom and Alex, just in time to see Misha slide down the banister instead of running down the stairs. He does the same, and has almost caught up to Misha when the ghost reappears between them and the front door. It grabs Misha by the throat. Misha manages a choked scream before Sam hits the ghost with the iron rod, and it vanishes. Sam catches Misha by the waist and half-carries him out the door. He pours a salt line at the threshold in hopes of slowing down the ghost, as the others run outside as well.

“C’mon! C’mon!” Jeff shouts, running for the hole in the fence and crawling out hurriedly towards his car.

“Go, go!” Sam pushes Misha towards the fence, and Misha quickly runs after Jeff with Alex close behind.

Sam waits to make sure the ghost isn’t following them, then runs out after the others. Jeff is already driving off. Misha starts driving before Sam’s even shut the door. Sam hurriedly slams the car door shut and leans back to catch his breath. They’re all silent, Misha, Sam and Alex, panting heavily from the mad dash, exhaustion setting in as the adrenaline burns away. Worriedly, Sam looks to the left. The tension beside him is palpable. Misha is driving with the intense concentration of someone determinedly shutting everything else out. There are dark bruises in the shape of fingers forming on Misha’s neck — they look deep and painful.

Hesitantly, he squeezes Misha’s shoulder. “Mish?”

Misha jumps a little and swerves abruptly into the gas station on their right. Fortunately, the road is empty. He stops and kills the engine, slumping slightly in his seat. Alex fumbles to open the car door in the back with shaking hands, muttering, “I need a cigarette.” She finally manages and slams it shut behind her to lean against it as she lights up.

“Hey,” Sam calls again. “Misha?”

Misha slumps forward to rest his forehead on the wheel, shaking, and Sam doesn’t wait any longer. He pulls his best friend into his arms. They left the pillows and blankets they brought in the house, and the rest are back in their rooms. He rubs Misha’s back and holds him tightly, hoping it’ll be enough, that it’ll soothe the shock.

“C’mon, Mish. Talk to me,” he murmurs, pressing his lips to Misha’s hairline briefly. The other’s skin is clammy with cold sweat. “You’re okay. You’re safe now. Shh… I’ve got you, Mish. It’s okay. I won’t let anything happen to you, I swear.”

Misha clings to him, burying his face in Sam’s shoulder, and struggles to calm his breathing. It takes some time, but eventually, Misha relaxes completely in his arms. “Sam?” His voice is soft, weary.

“Yeah?”

“Did that— was that—?”

“Really a ghost?” Sam sighs, resenting that he can’t get away from this, that he can’t keep Misha away from this. “Yeah.”

Misha nods, snuggling closer still. “How did you know?”

“Hm?”

“About the salt, the iron rod and stuff. How’d you know the haunting wasn’t a myth?”

“I didn’t,” Sam admits, ducking his head. “But they usually aren’t. Just myths, I mean.”

Misha pulls back to look at him. “Sounds like something you learned from experience.”

Sam thinks about the big family rule number one, thinks about two decades of secrecy, thinks about the essay he wrote about his most memorable family experience, about which his teacher commented “You know this assignment was non-fiction, right?” and realizes that he probably shouldn’t tell Misha the truth. But it’s Misha, Misha who believes in SHIELD and the Matrix anyway. And Sam is just so tired of lying. He doesn’t want to lie, not to Misha.

“That’s what we do,” he confesses at last. “The family business, the reason you think I’m Jason Bourne. We hunt supernatural entities — ghosts, demons, werewolves… the like.”

There’s a long pause before Misha blinks and slowly says, “You’re not joking.”

“No,” Sam agrees wearily. “I’m not.”

“So you guys are like… John Constantine in Hellblazer?”

Of course Misha would make a comic book reference, of course. Sam laughs. “Kinda, yeah.”

Misha huffs a laugh and shakes his head. “If I hadn’t just seen that thing back there, I would probably call bullshit.”

Sam snorts. “You? Mister Give-Me-The-Red-Pill-Too? C’mon, Mish, who are you kidding?”

Misha giggles, flopping against Sam. “Say,” he pipes up again after several moments of comfortable silence and hesitates before continuing. “Th— Momma. It… it wasn’t a dog, was it? I mean, no dog I’ve ever known…”

“No,” Sam confirms quietly. “It was a Skinwalker. It eats human hearts. Like werewolves, only in full canine form.”

“You knew?”

Sam stiffens. “When I saw the body, yes,” he answers evasively. “I killed it.”

This makes Misha sit up. “What?! When?!”

Sam ducks his head. “Erm… when I went to get you your coconut water. I lied about getting lost. I saw it in the park, and I was worried it’d come after you next, so I killed it.”

“And you’re sure...?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m sure.”

“So you uh… killed a monster, bought me drinks and then ate fish tacos with me on the way home?”

Sam chuckles wryly. “Pretty much. A day in the life of a hunter.”

Misha shakes his head, incredulous. “Wow. You’re one scary ninja, Sam.” He grins, squeezing broad shoulders. “Have I told you lately you’re the coolest person in the world? My hero~”

Sam snorts again. “Mish…”

“C’mon, Sam, now that you’ve admitted you’re in some secret society— aren’t hunters some sort of secret society?”

Giving it some thought, Sam shrugs and agrees, “I guess you could put it that way.”

“So you can induct me?” Misha asks excitedly.

“NO.” The horror.

“Saaammm~”

“NO.”

“You can train me!”

“After what just happened, you st—”

“Now that I know what’s really out there, how can I do nothing?!” Misha cries theatrically.

He sighs, suddenly exhausted, running a hand through his hair. “Look, Mish, I ditched my family and came here to get away from all that, to be safe. That’s why I didn’t want you guys to come here. All my life, I’ve been running from or after monsters, and yeah, it saves lives, yeah, it makes the world maybe a fraction safer every time we kill a monster that’s been preying on people. But it’s dangerous, often fatal.”

He takes Misha’s hands. “I keep looking at all these people who didn’t make it, who didn’t know what we know or just didn’t run or react fast enough, and I wonder when it’ll be our turn, if maybe Dad and Dean won’t come back this time. It’s not cool, Mish, it really isn’t. And I don’t want that for me or you or Jess, don’t want anyone to have to wonder everyday if we’ll make it back alive. My heart nearly stopped when that ghost picked you up earlier, and I don’t want that to be our daily lives, Mish. I can’t imagine life without you.” He runs his fingertips lightly over the purpling bruises on Misha’s neck, and the other winces. “You okay?”

Misha nods, leaning into him. “Kinda bruised, but I’ll live. And I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to… glamorize it, I guess.”

Sam shakes his head. “It’s okay. Want me to drive? Some tea?”

“I’ll manage, and my tea is better. C’mon, get Alex. Let’s head back.”


It’s half-past midnight.

Jess is still at the party. Vicki went home yesterday night because her Friday class was cancelled. Misha fell asleep beside Sam, who is still researching the house on his laptop. As it turns out, the ghost they saw was a man named Lewis Harrison. He ate people and served them to his family and friends. When his daughter, Elise, found out that the first person he’d eaten was her mother, she murdered him in a fit of rage. Lewis was cremated and Elise institutionalized for therapy, but she took her own life several years later. That leaves the house itself or, more likely, the music box in the basement as the object Lewis is bound to. Elise had been holding it in the newspaper photo. It had probably been a gift from her father, and she’d left it behind when packing.

Quietly, carefully, he gets up and pockets Misha’s keys from the nightstand. He glances at his phone as he picks it up and thinks to call Dean or Dad, but squares his shoulders and resolutely slips it into his other pocket. They’re the ones who told him to stay out. Besides, they’re probably too far away anyway. He’ll have to make a stop for lighter fuel.

“You’re going after the ghost, aren’t you?” Misha asks quietly as he moves towards the door.

He freezes. “Go back to sleep, Mish.”

His best friend sits up, rubbing his eyes. “No, I’m going with you.”

He turns. “Hell no, Mish. Didn’t you hear what I said earlier?”

“Loud and clear.” Misha pulls on a jacket and looks up at him, challenging. “So tell me why you’re going back there. I thought you wanted to wash your hands of this.”

“And what, let it kill the next group of idiot Halloween thrill-seekers?” Sam counters drily, bitchface in full force.

Misha winces. “Ouch.”

Sam sighs again, taking Misha by the shoulders. “Stay here, Mish, please? It’d be easier if I didn’t have to worry about you while I’m fighting that thing.”

“Well, I won’t let you do this alone,” Misha insists stubbornly. He covers Sam’s hands with his own. “I’ll stay in the car, okay?” he promises, relenting at the anxiety in olive eyes. “It’s my car. At least let me drive.”

“Okay.” Sam drops his forehead to Misha’s. “Okay.” In the car, he can handle. “Come on then. Let’s go.”


Misha glances at the clock again. It’s been twenty-six minutes and forty-one seconds since Sam went in, armed with the iron rod, a flashlight, a bag of rock salt, the lighter fuel, and a lighter. It’s just torching one music box, Sam said; that’s all he has to do to vanquish the vengeful spirit. The only reason it could be taking so long is if he’s fighting the ghost, and it’s not going well. He fidgets, tapping his foot and scratching at the bruises on his neck. Twenty-seven minutes and nineteen seconds. Sam made him promise to stay in the car. Twenty-eight minutes and three seconds. To just drive off if he’s not back in half an hour. Twenty-nine minutes and thirty-two seconds. No. No. The hell he’s driving off without Sam. He doesn’t know what he’d do without Sam. He grabs the two remaining bags of salt and crawls through the hole in the fence.

The front door is ajar, and he steps in quietly. The tinkling of the music box echoes through the house, carried on the cold wind. There’s the sound of struggling further in. Down. It’s coming from the basement. He quickens his step, tearing open the bag of salt. The ghost is probably occupied with Sam, and he prays fervently he’s not too late as he runs down the stairs.

When he arrives, Sam is lying on the floor, struggling with the ghost to keep it from clawing vital body parts out, all the items he brought along scattered across the floor.

“Sam!!” He throws a handful of salt at the ghost, who vanishes.

Sam sits up, eyes widening as they focus behind him. “Misha, look out!!”

“Look how sweet they are, Elise,” the ghost coos, grabbing Misha by the back of his neck. “They came back for us.”

Misha tosses a handful of salt over his shoulder and nearly falls as the ghost releases him. Sam dives for the bottle of lighter fluid, but he’s thrown against the wall as the ghost reappears. Misha catches sight of the open music box on the chair and runs to grab it, but as soon as his fingers close around it, he’s thrown against the opposite wall. The wood cracks behind him as the air is knocked from his lungs — he’ll probably have bruises on his back, too. If they survive.

“Misha!!”

The ghost advances on him, but then Sam is attacking it with the iron rod again, discreetly tossing him the bottle of butane. He scrambles to open it as Sam keeps the ghost distracted and drenches the music box with it before searching frantically around for the lighter as the ghost pins Sam to the floor again with its hands around Sam’s throat. Misha finally spots it on the floor near the shelf and pushes himself off from the wall to make a dive for it, tosses the music box carelessly to the floor as he reaches it and sets it on fire without looking back.

The ghost screams, and Misha turns in time to see it vanish in a burst of flames. He can only pray it’s gone for good as he scurries to Sam’s side.

“Sam!”

Sam’s not moving.

“Sam?”

There’s no response.

Oh God. No. No, no, no. He’s not breathing.

Sam’s not breathing.

There are bruises on his neck just like Misha’s, and he’s not breathing.

Misha thumps Sam on the chest in a panic, blows air into his mouth. “C’mon, Sam, talk to me. Wake up!” He tries again, eyes stinging. “C’mon, Sam!” No, no, no… If only he’d lit that stupid music box up a few seconds sooner! He starts proper CPR, desperate. “You can’t leave me, Sam! You promised I’d always have you.” He blows another breath into Sam’s mouth, straddling Sam’s torso to get a better angle for the chest compressions. “Don’t lie to me, Sam. Don’t you fucking lie to me,” he murmurs pleadingly against soft lips, and then suddenly, Sam’s coughing as he starts breathing normally again, and his hands come to rest on Misha’s waist.

“Who’s the liar now?” Sam retorts hoarsely. “You promised you’d stay in the car.”

“You’d have died if I’d stayed in the fucking car!!” Misha screams. “Jesus Christ, Sam! You think you’re the only one who’s worried, who’s scared as fuck someone you love won’t make it back alive. My heart fucking stopped when I came down here and saw him trying to kill you and—”

Sam pulls him into a tight hug, and Misha presses their lips together.

It takes only a fraction of a second for him to realize his mistake, but then Sam is kissing back, one big hand coming up to bury itself in his hair, so he can’t pull away. He moans into the kiss as blood rushes southward, powerless to resist the fantasy he’s held onto for so long. Fuck, but this is the world’s worst Halloween tradition, and he doesn’t think he can take another round of pretending this never happened, pretending he isn’t hard as nails where his cock is pressed up against Sam’s perfect abs, and the thought of them dripping from the shower has him leaking in his pants. Sam’s got to know; he’s got to; it’s too fucking obvious, and Misha is so fucking close from just the kiss and the mere memory of Sam’s naked body, it’s pathetic. And he can’t even blame pent-up sexual frustration, because that time with Tom hasn’t taken the edge off in the least. Then Sam squeezes his ass with his free hand, and Misha’s hips jerk as he comes, crying out into the kiss as he sees stars. God fucking damn it; he needs to stop crying, this needs to never, never fucking end, and if Sam says they can’t do this to Jess now, he’s going to fucking lose it, but he can’t ever let Sam know. Fucking hell.

“I’m sorry,” Sam murmurs into his ear, holding him tightly when they break off, and he buries his face in Sam’s shoulder, sobbing helplessly.

God, don’t say it. Don’t fucking say it, Sam. Just… Just let me pretend for a few more minutes, Jesus Christ.

Sam takes a deep breath and huffs a wry chuckle. “God, I’ve been such an idiot.” He slaps a hand over his eyes. “All this time, wondering why it never felt quite right between Jess and me, and the answer was always staring me right in the face. God, I’m so sorry, Mish.” He lifts Misha’s face so he can wipe the streams of tears away with his thumbs. He meets bloodshot blue eyes with a hopeful smile. “I’ve kept you waiting for a long time, haven’t I?”

And it takes too long, maybe whole minutes, for the words to sink in, for Misha to realize that no, they’re not going back to being just friends, and he doesn’t have to fucking pretend anymore. But then they do, and he just kisses Sam again, because the tide of emotion has drowned out every last witty comeback he could have thought of, and all he can do is cling to Sam like he’ll never let go.

He’ll never let go.

Sam laughs, kisses back, rolls them over so he has Misha lying beneath him, and presses his forehead to Misha’s when they break off for air. He takes a deep breath and opens his eyes. “Come on. Let’s grab our stuff and get out of here.”

Misha nods and lets Sam pull him to his feet, and it occurs to him belatedly, as they’re climbing the rickety wooden staircase hand-in-hand, that the house could have burned down earlier, and they wouldn’t have noticed. Fortunately, they were saved by bad plumbing and worse ventilation that made the floorboards too damp to properly catch fire. The flames also burnt out faster than the butane could evaporate.

They’re packing the stuff they left in the room upstairs when Misha finally works up the courage to ask the question that’s been weighing on his mind.

“What about Jess?” he hazards, and he just about manages to keep his tone casual, to pretend it’s not as big a deal as it is.

Sam stops, sighing. “I—I’ll talk to her. As soon as we get back. Or in the morning. Probably in the morning.”

Misha doesn’t know whether to be glad or apprehensive. As much as he loves Sam, he also adores Jess. She’s a great girl, and he really doesn’t want to see her hurt, especially on his account. “And tell her what?”

Pausing to think for several moments, Sam runs a hand through his hair. “The truth, I guess,” he decides, picking everything up.

And now Misha has to hear this, because the last thing he wants is for Sam to exacerbate things by presenting it wrong. “Which is?” he presses, and Sam ducks his head, embarrassed.

“That I’ve been fucking stupid, and I didn’t realize I was in love with you even when she first asked me out? That I miss you and can’t stop thinking about you even when I’m with her, and it somehow never occurred to me that it wasn’t just because you’re my best friend? That I’ve lied without batting an eye about my family every time she’s asked, but when it comes to you, the best I can manage is ‘I don’t want to talk about it’? That I was afraid we were moving too fast because every time we got close, I just kept getting this niggling feeling that it’s not right, but I kiss you twice, and all I can think about is how badly I want to make love to you every single night for the rest of my life?”

Misha groans, “Don’t say that last part,” and Sam concurs. Jess doesn’t need to hear that. And Dean would never stop teasing him for ‘saying all that girly stuff.’ That is, he amends bitterly, if Dean ever decides they can still be brothers even if he’s not championing the family mission anymore.

As they walk down the stairs together, Misha adds, “It’s going to be awkward sharing a room after this, though.”

“Yeah,” he agrees as they exit the front door. “But we have to change rooms next quarter in any case, so it’ll only be a few more weeks.” And with finals coming around, they’re probably going to spend more time studying in the library than being awkward in their quad anyway.

They reach the hole in the fence, and Misha crawls through first, so Sam can pass him individual bags and bundles; they can’t fit everything through the gap at once. When they’ve finally loaded everything in the trunk, Misha takes a final look at the house.

“Sam, where do ghosts go after we burn their remains? Or do they just disappear?”

Sam closes the trunk, pensive. “I don’t know, Mish. There are so many theories, and I haven’t had the occasion to find out first hand.”

Misha grabs his wrists and pulls him in for a kiss. “Stay ignorant,” Misha insists fiercely as long arms loop around his waist. “Don’t you go anywhere without me, young man.”

Sam laughs, rubbing their noses together. “Change your major, so we can take the same classes.”

“Hmph. How about you change yours instead?” He shoves playfully at Sam and gets into the car.

Sam grins, circling around to the passenger side. “Nuh-uh. Guess we’ll have to compromise.”


By the time they make it back, Jess is sound asleep in her bed. Sam hesitates, then kisses Misha on the cheek and bids him goodnight; Misha just squeezes his hand reassuringly. They go to their beds, but Sam can’t stop thinking about how best to break the news to Jess in the morning. He likes her, loves her even, but not the way he loves Misha, not the way he’d want for the rest of his life.

He wakes after a night of restless sleep to find Jess and Misha already up.

Damn, but this has gone on long enough as it is, and it’s unfair to both Jess and Misha.

When he gets downstairs, Misha and Jess are in the dining area eating breakfast with Nancy, Maya and Aaron. Maya is asking about the haunted house trip, and Misha is mostly telling the truth: a mildly embellished ghost story. Of course, everyone thinks he’s making it up, and they clap cheerfully as Misha gushes, “And here comes my hero!” when Sam walks in.

He chuckles awkwardly. “What have you been telling them this time?”

“Hey baby,” Jess greets. “Misha was just telling us all about you rescuing him from the ghost by fencing with an iron rod.”

Okay, a significantly embellished ghost story.

“He lies. I don’t do anything so graceful as fence.” He pours himself some Lucky Charms and joins them at the table. “I just about manage to bludgeon my target with a stick.”

Nancy chuckles. “The pagan party we went to last night was pretty cool, though. They had a blessing ritual to ward off evil for Samhain too. Also, the theme was Constellations, so everyone came as some kind of star, which for some reason was commonly understood as mostly naked. You should have come with us, Sam.” She waggles her eyebrows.

Misha silently gives her the evil eye over his bowl of cereal, but says nothing as Sam blushes.

“Err, I wouldn’t have dressed up. And even if I did, I’d go as Leo in a full-body lion suit.”

Aaron snorts. “Come on, man. Wouldn’t going in full hunter’s garb as Orion be way cooler?”

Jess laughs. “You would think so.”

Aaron is a LARPer, the kind that has his own guild and saves all his disposable income up to go for conventions. “Hey,” he protests. “You can’t tell me that isn’t cooler than going as Libra in glittery Speedos armed with a pair of scales.”

“That really depends on who’s wearing the Speedos,” Nancy ripostes with a pointed look in his direction, and Maya, Jess and Misha make a show of wincing.

“Ooh, burn~”

“Bah.” Aaron stands with a huff and takes his bowl to the kitchen to rinse it. “Volgin is better company than you.”

“Hey,” Misha calls after him. “Electric hand job.

Sam shakes his head. “Don’t diss the Volgin handshake, man.”

Aaron flips the bird at them on his way back up the stairs to finish his game. Nancy and Maya take off, laughing, leaving Jess, Misha and Sam alone in the room. A kind of awkward silence settles over them as they eat their breakfast, with Misha occasionally glancing up at them in turn. Finally, Sam finishes his cereal, and his convenient excuse not to talk with it.

“Uh… Jess.” He turns to her, ducking his head. “We um… We need to talk.”

“Hm? Oh.” She sets her spoon down slowly, a look of resignation crossing her face. There’s a long pause, then: “We’re breaking up, aren’t we?”

And he wants to ask how she knows, if it was always obvious or if she saw him kiss Misha goodnight, but none of that seems appropriate right now. Nothing really seems appropriate right now, so he just nods. “I’m sorry.”

She glances up at Misha, turns to him, then looks back down into her empty bowl and sighs. “I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. It tends to feel like I’m the third wheel here. I was wondering when you’d realize.”

“I— That’s not— I do really like you, Jess. It’s not you, I swear. It’s just…” He fiddles with his spoon. “Now that it’s kinda hit me in the face, I realize I’ve always been in love with Misha.” He sighs. “I’m sorry, Jess. I’ve been an idiot. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I guess I just never thought about him that way before, and—”

“No.” She shakes her head. “I get it. Sometimes, when you’re so used to looking at things one way, it’s really hard to see them differently. I’m guessing if Misha were a girl, I never would have stood a chance, huh?” She blinks, chuckling wryly. “You know, we’ve even started taking bets, my friends and I, on when you’d finally come out of the proverbial closet. I mean, we’ve been together for almost a year now, and you haven’t so much as tried to make out with me.”

Sam blushes, but says nothing. Misha’s knee bumps his lightly under the table, and he glances up. Misha looks upset, and Jess is wiping the corners of her eyes with a fingertip.

“I can’t say I’m not sad, though. I guess I always held out a little hope that things would work out between us.”

“I’m sorry, Jess,” Misha blurts then, wringing his hands. “I didn’t— we’ve never— I—I wish it didn’t have to be like this.”

“I know.” Jess smiles wistfully. “Hey.” She smacks them on the shoulder. “I still love you guys, okay? You can be my gay best friends. Just… just give me some time.”

Oh. Oh wow. This is more than Sam deserves; he knows it. “God, Jess, I’m so sorry, okay? You’re amazing, and I was so happy when you asked me out. And I love spending time with you, I do. It’s just…” He flails helplessly.

“Misha?” Jess supplies. “Yeah. Believe me, I get it. Lindsay’s gonna say ‘I told you so,’ but she’ll owe me a hundred, so I still win, right?”

“W—what did you bet?” Sam asks weakly.

“This year.” She giggles. “I mean, have you seen the two of you together? You act like an old married couple — all love and no sex, too.” Waggling her eyebrows, she adds, “You gonna keep him waiting, too?”

Sam reddens further, but Misha shakes his head, grinning. “Imma tie him down and have my wicked way with him.”

“Ooh, kinky~”

Silence falls, and after several moments of pushing cereal crumbs around his bowl, Sam begins, “Jess, I—”

“I’ll be fine, Sam,” she interrupts, standing. “Really.”

Misha stands as well. “Thank you.”

She nods, takes her bowl with her to the kitchen to wash it, then heads back up the stairs.

Misha sighs, moving to his side. “I still feel awful. She’s such a great person.”

“Too good for me,” he agrees, pulling Misha to him. “All these wonderful people in my life. What did I ever do right?”

“Don’t be silly,” Misha chides, hugging him and ruffling his hair. “What’s not to love about you?”


Pigott Theater is dark but for the lights on stage. The second act has just begun, and the stage has been decorated to look like a beautiful glade in the woods. It is the opening night of the TAPS rendition of Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Misha has been cast as Oberon, much to his glee. Sam, of course, came early to get a good seat. Vicki is with him, so they’re seated in the front row, waiting for Misha’s turn on stage. He enters, resplendent in a bright blue and green skin-tight costume, complete with a crown and fairy wings. From the other side comes Titania, in a green dress, played by a regal-looking redhead. They are each followed by an entourage of fairies.

“Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania,” Oberon says, tone clearly miffed.

“What, jealous Oberon!” Titania cries, displeased to see him. “Fairies, skip hence: I have forsworn his bed and company.”

Their voices project clearly throughout the theater, and Misha is using a slightly deeper voice today, probably to sound more kingly. She turns to leave, and he steps forward, closer to the audience.

“Tarry, rash wanton: am I not thy lord?”

She whirls around to respond, and the play continues. This is not the first of Misha’s performances he’s seen, but he’s always struck by how talented his boyfriend is, how completely Misha seems to slip into his character. Just last quarter, he starred in someone’s senior project as a character with multiple personalities, and it was magnificent how distinct each persona was from the other. Multiple TAPS professors have asked him to consider changing his major, and he often gets the roles he auditions for. Misha doesn’t want to study acting, though.

“I wouldn’t enjoy it if it started being about grades,” he reasons, and Sam doesn’t think what Misha has is something that can be taught. Misha says he’s probably biased, but he should be, so that’s okay.

About two hours later, as the audience clears out, Misha, still in costume, wings fluttering slightly behind him, prances over to them. “Vicki! Sam!”

“Great job, Mish!” Vicki stands to give him a hug. “The fae becomes you.”

“Thank you!” Misha giggles gleefully and moves over to straddle Sam’s thighs on the seat. “And you? Did you enjoy it?”

“Certainly, my lord.” Sam pulls him down for a kiss. “Mm, no wonder the queen wouldn’t give you her page. Would you not have tied the poor boy down and corrupted him with your wicked ways?”

Misha grins, lascivious. “Only if he looks like you.”

Sam scowls, pinching Misha lightly in the sides. “He only has to look like me?”

Still giggling, Misha swats his hands away and leans in to whisper, “Well, his ass would have to be as tight as yours too.”

Sam reddens, but Vicki smacks Misha on the ass before he can respond.

“Go change and stop overcompensating for the last few years, you horny fuckers.”

Misha sticks his tongue out at her, but scampers off to do just that. When he runs back out to join them for the walk back, he’s in the T-shirt he made at last week’s Tie-Dye Night and a pair of well-worn jeans.

“Say,” he begins excitedly, still bubbly from the energy of the show. “You’re joining us at the library the Sunday before finals week, right?”

Vicki’s eyes glint. “Are you kidding? I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”

“Sure I’ll be at the library.” Sam laughs. “Working. I’ll probably be the one escorting you out.”

“Killjoy,” Misha complains, smacking him on the shoulder. “We bring you study snacks!”

“I’ll grope you as you walk past,” Sam concedes with a grin.

“Naughty~” Misha waggles his eyebrows. “You want me to streak with a boner?”

“That would be a sensation,” Vicki chimes in.

“No, I want you up against the bookshelves, trying to keep it down while I give you detention,” he ripostes with a wink, and Misha bites his lip and shifts his gait a little before hurriedly changing the subject.

“What are you guys doing for Christmas break?”

“Well, I’m going home as always,” Vicki replies. “You guys should come visit. My family has been saying they haven’t seen you in a while, Mish.”

“Yeah.” He used to visit all the time when they were in high school together. “Maybe we’ll drive up for a few days. Sam?”

“Sure.” Sam shrugs. “I’m thinking of taking on some seasonal shifts here, so I’ve been looking at renting a room nearby. I’ve found one that seems nice and relatively affordable, so I’ll probably take it.”

Misha’s expression grows pensive, and Sam suddenly remembers that Misha usually goes home for Christmas too… only he can’t anymore. And while Sam doesn’t have any good memories of Christmas, he’s sure it’s always been a happy time of festive family reunions for Misha. He takes Misha’s hand.

“What do you want to do?”

Misha squeezes his hand and smiles. “My boss, Jean, is taking his family back to France for Christmas. Problem is, they have two dogs, a Great Pyrenees and a Papillon that they can’t take with them. They heard I don’t have any plans for Christmas, so he asked if I’d like to stay in their guest room during Winter Break and take care of Adolphe and Remy for them. Of course, I asked if my boyfriend could stay too, and Mireille said they’d like to meet you first. Plus, the dogs will have to get to know you beforehand too.” Misha stops. “I mean, you don’t have to or anything, but it sounds nice. We could take the dogs running along the Bay Trail, maybe drive up to the beach, or…”

Sam wraps an arm around Misha’s waist and pulls him into his side. “Guess that solves the lodging problem. I love dogs. When do we go meet them?”

Misha grins up excitedly. “This weekend for dinner?”

“Works for me,” he agrees, squeezing Misha to him briefly.

As if he’d let Misha spend the holiday alone.


The dogs come running up to the fence to greet them as soon as Misha turns into the driveway, and Sam leans over to give Adolphe a good rub as soon as he gets out of the car. Poor Remy can’t quite reach, but Misha waves at him and promises to play with him later.

“Adolphe, Remy, sit,” Sam instructs, and they do so obediently, Remy sitting between Adolphe’s front paws. It’s adorable.

Remy is about a quarter of Adolphe’s size, sable and white. Adolphe is completely white and very fluffy, standing an impressive thirty-eight inches tall.

The Marcellins have a two-storey red brick house, with a slate grey roof and white wooden window frames and doors. There’s a wooden patio out front, shaded, with lights and ceiling fans. There’s a porch swing on one end and some deck chairs around a coffee table on the other, all in wood. The lawn beside the driveway is enclosed with a white picket fence to keep the dogs in, and an oak tree shades a corner of it. Christmas lights and wreaths are up on the door and roof, and despite this being his fifth visit, Sam is still struck by what a lovely home it is.

Jean and Mireille come out to meet them, their children, Lucille and Sylvain, close behind. All four have pale blond hair and light blue eyes, but Jean is the only one with a tan. As the kids play with each other, he hands Misha the keys.

“Great timing, Misha, Sam,” he greets in mildly accented English, with a nod to them both. “The taxi should be here soon. We bought a new bag of dog food, so it should last the month. You might have to mow the lawn later this month, so the lawn mower is in the garage. Be sure to lock up and arm security at night and when you leave, but otherwise, make yourselves at home.” He turns to his wife. “Anything, chérie?”

“Hm… There’s a pineapple-glazed ham loin in the freezer that you should defrost and bake for Christmas dinner. You know where the guest room and the washer and dryer are. Help yourselves to anything perishable in the fridge and make yourselves comfortable. Just keep the house clean, yes?”

Sam smiles. “Of course.”

“Don’t worry,” Misha reassures her with a grin. “We like the place clean, too.”

Just then, the cab pulls up.

“Ah, there it is.”

Misha and Sam help Jean load the luggage into the cab as Mireille ushers the kids in.

“Bon voyage!” Misha calls just before they close the doors and drive off, waving at them cheerfully.

Sam has an arm around Misha’s waist, and he steers his boyfriend back to the car to get their things. Armed with their bags, they head into the house. “Such a lovely house, all to ourselves for three weeks,” Sam murmurs, looking around.

The interior is all wooden panels and stucco walls, terracotta tiles in the kitchens and bathrooms, white lace curtains, and tan upholstery. Jean made all the wooden furniture himself, and that reminds Sam of Misha’s old home. There’s a Christmas tree in a corner of the living room, covered in silver and gold decorations and colorful twinkling lights, and four red stockings hanging off the nearby windowsill. It’s Christmas like he’s never had it, and Sam can’t help thinking of Dean, wondering if he’ll spend this Christmas hunting as well. He smiles wistfully. At any rate, it’s better than sitting around in a motel somewhere, waiting for Dad to not show up again.

Misha comes over to rest his head on Sam’s shoulder after locking the doors and arming security. “It’d be nice to have our own house like this someday, hm? With two dogs of our own?”

Sam heads for the guest room, smiling. “I thought you wanted to live in the White House, President Collins.” He sets their bags down, turning. “Ah, no, they’d have to use your real name. Dmitri Krushnic for President?”

“Shut up.” Misha steps into his waiting arms, chuckling. “I’ll have to check if we can have dogs in the White House.”

“Mm.” Sam lifts Misha up. The queen bed looks inviting, and as long as they wash the sheets, no one would be the wiser. They haven’t had a room to themselves since they got together. It seems inappropriate to do anything in the quad they share with Jess, so they haven’t done much besides cuddle in the common areas and make out in Misha’s car. He heard that Jess and Darius started dating a few weeks ago, and Misha has been threatening Darius with death, dismemberment and eternal dishonor if he doesn’t treat her well.

“Or I could go become a famous actor, you can be a famous lawyer, and we can live in Beverly Hills with all the other famous people, in a house just like this, maybe just single storey with a wine cellar.”

“That sounds a lot more likely,” Sam murmurs, laying Misha down on the red and tan covers and lying down beside him. After all, only one person can be President, but tons of people can be famous actors at the same time.

Misha snuggles close and tilts his head for a kiss. “Would you like that better than being First Gentleman?”

Sam snorts, running his hands up Misha’s body. “I’d be happy with a log cabin you built in the mountains, Mish, but yeah, this would be awesome.” He unzips Misha’s hoodie, then moves on to his jeans. “A nice house, full of your nice handmade furniture in a nice neighborhood, two nice dogs and the very nice you.”

“Are you seducing me, Sam?” Misha runs his fingers through Sam’s hair. “Because ‘nice’ isn’t a very sexy word.”

“It’s working, though,” Sam ripostes, tugging clothes off.

“Only because I’ve been waiting forever, and you keep teasing.” Misha pouts, working on Sam’s clothes.

They’d been studying yesterday for their last final, reclined on opposite ends of the same couch in the common room, when Sam suddenly slid his foot between Misha’s legs under the pillow he’d been using as a makeshift desk and proceeded to give him a discreet foot job, without so much as looking up from his law book. Misha couldn’t make any sound or move away without the other people in the room noticing, couldn’t thrust into Sam’s foot without risking his laptop and books falling all over the floor, and couldn’t give Sam a taste of his own medicine because the damnable giant had much longer legs. Worst of all, he couldn’t study for that stupid final as his briefs kept getting tighter and wetter while Sam kept up his slow, barely-there teasing — every drag of toes keeping him hard and leaking, but never quite enough to come.

And then the fucker had the gall to just walk away with a quick peck to his cheek, leaving him to will his erection away in the common room until he could go kick Sam’s ass. But when he got back to their room, Jess was in, so all he could do was smack Sam and glower before going to bed aching, unproductive and unsatisfied.

“Well, I wasn’t expecting Jess to get back so soon. And then you just went to bed. I was hoping you’d go back out. I’d have followed you to the bathroom,” Sam murmurs, mouthing his way down Misha’s neck to a grumble. “And I’d have done this.” A warm hand cups his balls, feels them up and rubs behind them with a single finger.

“Jesus fuck.” Misha throws his head back, hands fisting and toes curling in the sheets. He’d have come in minutes.

“Let me make it up to you, Mish.” Sam flicks at a nipple with his tongue. “Anything you want.”

And Misha can think of so many things, so many things he wants to do or try with Sam, and God, he needs, he needs. But Sam’s never done this before, so maybe… He shifts, so he’s lying atop Sam, savoring the feel of bare skin on skin at last. “Anything?” he echoes with a grin, pushing Sam’s legs apart with his own.

“Anything,” Sam agrees, running his hands up and down Misha’s body and kissing him again.

Misha smiles into the kiss, breaks off to mouth his way down Sam’s perfect, perfect body as he’s been fantasizing for so long, rakes his fingers down Sam’s back as his lover arches up into the contact. He nips his way back up when he reaches the turn of Sam’s hip, leaving light red marks on tanned skin, and stops to swirl his tongue around a nipple to sighs of pleasure. Sam squeezes his ass, and their cocks rub against each other. He whimpers, slides down to pepper Sam’s impressive length with kisses, and Sam does that teasing drag with his toes again. Cupping Sam’s balls with a hand, he rubs a finger into his lover’s perineum like Sam had done to him earlier, and Sam moans, precum beading at the tip. He purses his lips around the tip and sucks, thumbing the ridge below and pressing his tongue into the slit, and Sam throws his head back, keening with pleasure.

“Turn over?”

Sam obliges as he fetches the lube from his bag, and he fits their bodies together, pressing his cock into the crease of Sam’s ass. Sam gasps in surprise, but rocks back into him, and it’s almost worth the wait. Almost.

“Ah, Misha,” Sam moans, turning for a kiss, and Misha wraps his arms around Sam tightly.

“Inside,” he mumbles, nibbling on the shell of Sam’s ear. “I want—”

“I’ve wanted to know since you mentioned it, since you sat on my lap and got so hard from just this.”

“I fantasized about it often. You touched me just like I imagined, Sam. I came so hard I saw stars.”

Sam’s hands cover his own and squeeze. “Show me, Mish. I keep thinking — would you do it to me in a house just like this? Every night? Three times a week? How would it feel if you came inside me? Hot? Wet? Intense?”

Misha groans, covering his hand in lube, and presses a finger in. Sam tenses, and he murmurs, “Relax, Sam,” with a kiss to the back of the neck. Sam does, and he searches deeper. In truth, he’d like Sam inside him, but there’s something thrilling about the novelty, something exciting in Sam’s surprised cry of pleasure when he finds it. Slowly, he opens Sam up, slicking the way generously and letting his fingers brush over that spot every so often, until Sam’s soft grunts of discomfort turn into needy little whimpers. “Relax, baby,” he reminds Sam again as he presses in carefully, and “God, I love you,” he says fiercely as Sam lets go with effort, and he whimpers as he slides in because Sam is so tight, tighter than he’d imagined. He holds still, letting Sam adjust. “Would you build it with me? Our house full of handmade furniture and throws?”

“I’d ruin it,” Sam replies with a laugh. “I can’t do woodwork, knit or sew.”

“I can teach you. Or you could just do the heavy lifting while I work.” Misha giggles breathlessly, running his hands appreciatively over Sam’s muscular form. “Put all these babies to good use.”

“Mm,” Sam agrees, turning for another kiss. “Or grope you as you work.” Sam reaches back to squeeze his ass and slide his hand down Misha’s thigh, pulling his knee up. “Make our mark on every surface, hide it under the plaster and paint, so it’ll be just our secret.”

“Mmngh, worth the distraction.” Misha shifts experimentally, and when Sam doesn’t show any sign of pain, begins thrusting shallowly, pulling out and sliding back in a little more each time. “You know, I imagine we’d have a bed just like this. And some nights, you’d carry me to it, spread me open on soft flannel sheets, and put this,” he wraps his hand around Sam’s erection and strokes, “inside me, and it’d feel so full, so much like this.”

Sam cries out, thrusting into his hand and rocking back into him, desperate for more of both.

“I’d ride you,” he continues, tightening his grip on Sam’s cock to a wanton moan. “Hard.” He groans, both at the thought and the way Sam clenches around him as he thrusts harder, faster. “And you’d tug on my balls just like this.” He demonstrates gently, and Sam’s back arches with a loud keen of pleasure that he echoes. “God, I’d come so hard if you did that when I was close. Ah, Sam.” He presses his forehead into the back of Sam’s neck, licks up the bead of sweat there. “You’d make me lick the come off you, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes. God, yes.”

“Just like the maple syrup I’m going to drizzle all over the pancakes I’m eating off you for breakfast?”

Sam’s hips snap forward into his hand. “Fuck, Mish.”

He moans; he’s close, and the thought of the next… Oh. “If—if you buttered my hole a—and licked it clean, I—I’d come untouched. Ahn, Sam. Sam. Would you? In a bedroom just like this?”

“F—fucking hell, Mish. Take me home,” Sam groans, reaching back to caress his entrance, and Misha screams as the pleasure explodes through him in colored lights.

Distantly, he hears Sam’s sharp cry as his lover spills as well, and God, this is what every night should be like for the rest of his life — making love to Sam in their bed. Sam shifts away, then turns to fold Misha in his arms, and Misha decides he’d even take just cuddling. “Oh Sam,” he sighs as they kiss, legs intertwined.

“Were you serious about breakfast tomorrow?”

Misha grins. “Hell yeah. I’ll even make fresh ginger tea, and we can find creative uses for the extra ginger.”

“Good.” Sam makes himself comfortable and closes his eyes. “Now let’s sleep, so it’ll be time for breakfast sooner.”

Misha snorts, settling in. “Good night, you silly thing.”

“Night, baby,” Sam replies with a final kiss to his forehead, and all right, Misha can forgive the teasing if this is the result.

Sam said earlier that he doesn’t have any good memories of Christmas. This one, Misha decides, is going to be awesome. They’re going to make some good memories.

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