He Sang, 'Hallelujah'
Ivan opened his study door with a heavy sigh. Today had been long filled with meetings and never ending reports. Lifting his head, the tall man felt a small smile tug at his lips as he found a roaring fire in the fireplace. The light cast off by the flames filled the room enough for Ivan to leave the electric lights turned off. Walking to his work desk in front of the full length windows he laid his brief case down on the old wooden surface. As his hands began to remove his scarf and coat, deep indigo eyes stared out at the barren land that was Russia. Snow glistened in the moonlight untouched saved for a small area just below the windows. Soon the heavy coat was laid next to the brief case, and Ivan turned back to his study. The overstuffed chair in front of the fire beckoned his tired body to relax as the record player upon the side table to the right of the chair promised to sooth his nerves. Yet before he could give in to the temptation, the broad shouldered man eyed the many bookshelves covering all the walls where ever there wasn't a window, the fireplace, or the door.
Dragging his feet to one of the bookshelves, pale fingers trailed over the many records that filled its depths. Ivan had always liked records the best. There was something wholesome, and all together fulfilling to the music etched into the vinyl disks. Pulling his hand back to run through his ashen hair, Ivan idly wondered where time had gone his eyes still searching for the right record. Pausing, Ivan pulled a record from the shelf and held it gingerly between his hands. The cover was a plain cardboard one with the title written in black sharpie; a homemade record. Ivan could have read the sharpie if he simply tilted the record toward the fire, but the Russian already knew what song the record held.
Smiling fondly at the record Ivan moved to the chair never taking his gaze off his prize. Leaning over the arm rest, Ivan gently pulled the record from its casing and set it on the record player. Pressing the necessary buttons and moving the needle into place, Ivan released another sigh letting his head fall backwards. The stuffing quickly molded its self comfortably around Ivan having already memorized his body. Closing his eyes Ivan took a deep breath and slowly released the air waiting as static currently filled the air. Suddenly sound began to fill silent study. A guitar pluck a few single notes followed by a cord. After a pause the same notes and cord repeated causing the melody to take on a longing almost nostalgic feeling befitting of Ivan's mood. It has been 25 years since that day.
The sun had been shining brightly that 4th of July. The broad shoulder Russian had accepted his roommate's invention to stay with his family for the summer holidays. Having spent the past year studying abroad in America the exchange student was glad to take a break from the dorms. Although Ivan never regretted his decision, there were moments when the heat had been unbearable as the temperature raised above Russia's high of 70 degrees. On that particular day he had taken refuge under a giant oak tree that held some sort of sentimental significance to his roommate. Ivan remembered looking toward said roommate, debating what type of revenge he wanted to seek out as retribution for his on and off discomfort.
Yet all thoughts of revenge were blown away when indigo orbs had landed on Alfred. Maybe it was years of remembering that glorified the image, but in Ivan's mind he could picture the sun hitting the younger college student's blond hair. The warm beams of light appeared to ricochet in all directions giving the man an unearthly feel as though Alfred himself was the embodiment of sunshine. The American's blue eyes danced in childish excitement behind his ever present eye glasses. A deep heartfelt laugh had escaped his pale red lips which never seemed to do anything but smile idiotically. The t-shirt Alfred had worn fit snugly to his lean frame, through leaving some room for the imagination to roam. The logo proudly displayed on the chest was the symbol for a random super hero adored by Alfred. Simple cargo shorts were tied to his slim waist with a webbed belt before hanging loosely around toned thighs leaving flip flops to complete the comfortable summer look.
Why Ivan had not noticed his roommate's beauty before then was still a mystery to the Russian. Sure, the ashen haired man had found his roommate attractive, something that was hard not to notice living in the same room for the previous year. Ivan had even developed a small crush on the blonde considering he had spent that summer melting in the Texas heat instead of going home to the comforts of Mother Russia. Whatever the reason, it had been that moment when Ivan truly saw how beautiful Alfred really was to behold. The shock of the sudden realization left Ivan's memory fuzzy over how they had got onto the topic, but somehow they had which resulted in Alfred grabbing his guitar. In his mind Ivan could see Alfred strumming the same cord playing on the record. Red lips parted and Alfred began to sing.
I heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Ivan took a shaky breath as Alfred's voice surrounded him filling every nook and cranny of the empty study. That ability to fill the area with his presence was a skill unique to the vivacious blonde. Ivan's right hand began to absently fiddle with the band on his left ring finger. That 4th of July, Ivan had fallen head over heels in love with Alfred. The American had to be a sappy romantic and claimed he had fallen in love with Ivan the first day they met. Chuckling Ivan fondly.
Indigo eyes fluttered opened and stared into the flames. As his thoughts continued forward, Ivan remembered the day he proposed to his love. The blonde had been impatient, like always, and had popped the question first after their morning jog. Ivan had been put out at first having planned on proposing to Alfred that same night. Those feelings were short lived when the Russian decided to continue with his plans much to Alfred's delight and slight embarrassment. Shaking his head at the memory, Ivan let his mind travel to the quiet wedding, then the reception and eventually to the honeymoon.....
Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to her kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips, she drew the Hallelujah
God above the honeymoon. Ivan moaned closing his eyes once again as excitement shot through his body. That night was the first time he had seen Alfred's fully naked body. Both had adhered to the romantic notion of abstinence as they worked to graduate college. For all of his bluster and confidence, the lithe man had been a blushing bride in all sense of the phrase. Ivan could almost once again hear Alfred whining from the bathroom denying that there was a blush dusting his checks. His excuse for locking the bathroom door had been to ensure he had a peaceful shower before the wedding night. Yet when Ivan finally picked the lock, the door had revealed a blushing Alfred modestly covering his privet region. Beautiful.
As the years changed, Alfred's beauty never diminish. Even as his body began to show the signs of middle age, Ivan still found new things attracting him to his partner. Ivan smile turned wicked as he reached up running his left hand along the back of his chair. A section of the decorative frame was missing making the whole backrest unsymmetrical. The proud Russian would never fix this chair; he would never remove the reminder of how much he needed Alfred. Dropping his arm, Ivan watched as the flames burn intensely for a brief period as the fire found a new section of wood to consume. As suddenly as it had flared up the fire died back down; just like Alfred’s temper in the beginning.
To be fair, Ivan had been the cause most of the time. His pride had prevented the ashen haired man from opening up about his problems for a long time. The Russian's family was best described as a group of people that lived together and was dependent upon his successful father rather than a nuclear unit as was common in the American culture. So when his parents died in a train wreck, Ivan tried to ignore his grief pushing it as well as Alfred away whenever the blonde tried to comfort him in his time of loss. Instead Ivan threw himself into taking control of his father's company. Along the way, convincing himself that he was doing Alfred a favor by shielding the love of his life from Ivan's pain. In the end all he had accomplished was almost running the company into the ground along with his relationship with Alfred. Yet his lover was persistent, steadfast and loyal. Even after Alfred had shouted 'Good riddance' to Ivan's retreating back, the blonde had been the one to seek out the other when the businessman had not come to bed.
Alfred had found the ashen haired man slumped in his chair ready to give up on everything. Somewhere among the apologies and a solid promise to never leave his side, Alfred coaxed Ivan into opening his heart. When he had finally mourned for his parents in the open, Ivan felt the return of his confidence and of hope. He doesn't recall ever telling Alfred, but the minute the blonde had walked into the Ivan's study sunlight had filled the dark room. As red lips kissed pale ones, Ivan realized how much he had missed the American in the time he had spent isolated by his pride. Passionate sexual activities had followed shortly in Ivan's favorite chair. Words of love and gratitude flowing from Ivan's mouth as Alfred's sunshine pulled the words from him like the sun pulls spring flowers from the ground. Reaching their respective climaxes, Alfred's grip became tightened in just the right way causing a rather large piece of the frame to break away. After that night Ivan never wanted to be without Alfred.
Baby, I've been here before
I've seen this room and I've walked this floor
You know, I used to live alone before, I knew you
And I've seen your flag on the marble arch
And Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
Regretfully things didn't change overnight. No, both men were still a little too proud, a little too independent and if they were honest spoiled rich kids who were used to having things their way. The next year to follow had been rough....to say the least. Ivan propped his elbow on the arm rest and leaned his cheek into his hand. His eyes became brooding and the smile dropped from his lips turning into a scowl. They had fought constantly. A few times the fight lasting for days on end, with neither ever really winning the argument which in turn only seemed to fuel them on the next time they started fighting. They had fought over the stupidest things; which country would be their permanent home, what holidays did they celebrate, where would they put the canned goods in the cabinets, the list went on and on.
Most days it probably looked like they weren't even married. Alfred living in America while Ivan worked in Russia. These periods of separation thankfully never lasted more than a fortnight before one of them would apologize. Slowly the scowl disappeared and Ivan's face went back to one of pleasant reminiscing. Eventually they figured out there been only one real fight; determining who was the dominate their relationship. Alfred would win the silly arguments, but in the end Ivan was head of the household. As a result they settled into Ivan's family home, but once their finances stabilized Ivan surprised Alfred with a summer home in the blue eyed man's hometown. Ivan felt the fond smile steal across his face again, as he remembered Alfred decorating their houses for every single holiday; American and Russian. Ivan's amusement never ended as Alfred pulled decorations seemingly out of nowhere considering the ashen haired man had never bought any in his life.
Well, there was a time when you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show that to me, do you?
But remember, when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath, we drew was Hallelujah
After so long of perfecting the indent in the couch, it had been strange to share a bed again. The honeymoon was one thing, but now they would determined what got annoying after seven consecutive nights. Ivan would lay awake every night debating if he could pull Alfred close to him or if sex needed to happen first. Sleep would elude the Russian chased away by fear of making the wrong choice causing yet another bout of arguments. Ivan winced remembering the pain of denying himself his body its desires.
Yet before Ivan could lose himself again, or permanently cause harm to his family jewels, Alfred burst through like ray of sunshine dispersing all of Ivan's fears. Ivan took Alfred as though it was their first time all over again. Thin lips had kissed every inch of tanned skin, taking extra time on every mark that marred the perfect body. Ivan pleasured his sunlight until Alfred had been on the verge of begging. Then before he could ask, Ivan took him not wanting to break the perfect moment. The only physical noises that escaped them were their moans of pleasure and pants of exertion. Yet in their hearts, they had heard the other calling their name over and over as though reverently praising the other for loving them unconditionally. Rejoicing in their love.
Maybe there's a God above
But, all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you?
And it's not a cry, that you hear at night
It's not somebody, who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
A love that lasted and blossomed for another 17 years. One that had grown to include two beautiful twins each one oddly enough looking like a mix of the two adults. Rebekka and Aiden kept them young at heart, through Ivan was sure both his and Alfred's hair had grown several shades lighter during the terrible twos. Ivan drew a shaky breath and he knew his bottom lip quivered as bittersweet feelings followed those memories. There was no going back now, he had to let his thoughts keep going or he would not be able to move forward. For all his might the Russian couldn't stop the tears that misted his indigo eyes causing his vision to bury.
They had been visiting America. It had been a combination of reasons, but the most important was to visit Alfred's parents so they could see the grandchildren before school started again. America's turmoil had been peaking during that time as rebels were a dime a dozen each supporting a different cause or the same cause in a different way. Still nothing ever pointed to the possibility of a threat toward Ivan and his family. During that vacation a large business gathering had been planned, and as CEO of his company Ivan was socially obligated to join. Alfred was naturally by his side quietly slipping Ivan information when the Russian drew a blank. The first indication that things were about to go horribly wrong was the sudden down pour of water from the sprinkler system.
Shielding Alfred the best he could from the raining liquid, Ivan guided them toward the buildings exit. Along the way they continued to run into panic groups as people abandoned their common sense for panic. There was a quick silent argument between them, but both came to the conclusion. Breaking apart they began directing and leading people to the exits. Ivan never lost sight of Alfred always ready to go to his lover's side should the blonde need help.
The high pitched squeal of compressed air escaping started just as Ivan reached the first floor. Fear gripped his gut as did a feeling of complete helplessness. Looking back to Alfred, he saw the American standing halfway up the last section of emergency stairs. Reaching toward his ray of sunshine, Ivan prayed his lover would run to him and it was with immense relief when Alfred did began hurry toward the exit. Ivan still can't remember any sounds, but other accounts claimed that a popping had echoed through the stairwell. The only sound in Ivan's years had the beating of his heart as Alfred suddenly pitched forward blue eyes going wide in surprise.
Running forward Ivan caught Alfred before the blondes pretty head could hit the concrete. Gathering the limp body into his arms, the ashen haired man ran from the building straight to the nearest ambulance. They never made it to the ER drop off. The fixture that had been blown free had tore straight through Alfred's lung collapsing the organ. For many that night it would be the first time they heard the heartbreaking scream that resounded from the back of the ambulance. The hospital staff who knew that sound did not need to see Ivan clutching Alfred's body, or dead expression that had taken the Russian's face when the nurses finally forced him to let go to know. The single cry had described the darkness that had taken over Ivan's soul.
A funeral was held shortly after the body was released back to the family. A grand funeral, one fit for a hero because that is what Alfred had been; a damn hero.
The next couple of months following the funeral were the most emotionally trying ones Ivan had ever lived through. His parents death had not prepared him for the pain of selling his and Alfred's house in America. Nor did it ease the weight of carrying out only half of the Last Will and Testament they had written together. Death was hard enough to handle without the added burden of burying part of your soul with the deceased.
Thankfully Ivan didn't have face this pain alone. Not only did the Russian have his children, but his in-law had been more than happy to help raise the children by moving to Russia. On the outside Ivan functioned the best he could putting on a strong face for his company and family. All of his free time was poured into his children doing the best he could fill the hole he they felt. Yet, when night fell and Ivan was left completely alone, he mourned the loss of his sunshine. He would cursed the selfish people who caused the accident, and eventually he simply honored Alfred's memory by watching the cinephile's favorite movies.
It had been the TV show 'Firefly' that final gave Ivan peace. As Malcolm Reynolds said, "If you can't walk you crawl and if you can't crawl you find someone to carry you." Alfred had carried Ivan when he was at his lowest. The blonde had made Ivan the strong man that he was now. If it weren't for Alfred being in his life, Ivan would have grown up bitter and cold much like his own father. Instead Ivan had earned the respect of his employees, and fellow business associates. He had two children that were never afraid to come to him when they had a question. All the while inspiring Ivan with Aiden's loud laughter and Rebekka's heartfelt embraces. Alfred may have been physically gone. but as he promised back in the very beginning he never left Ivan. Hallelujah for Alfred coming into Ivan's life.
"Hallelujah," Ivan whispered the last 'Hallelujah' along with the record and the room fell into silence. Two tears slipped down Ivan's cheeks more threatening to push past his closed eyelids.
Ivan bowed his head causing his bangs to covered his eyes and turned so his ear so it pointed to the door of his study. "Da?"
A young man with dirty blond hair and blue eyes stood halfway through the door. He body was build similar to Ivan's when he was that age. Although the boy frowned slightly, it was obviously more in confusion than true worry as those blue eyes danced in mischief. "Why are you sitting here in the dark like a creeper from one of Granny's crime shows?"
Ivan released a breathy chuckle at the brash youth. "Just listening to some records, Aiden."
"Records?" Aiden gave his father a dead look. "That is so old fashion. I got you an iPod for Christmas, why don't you use it?"
Ivan let out a deep laugh though he still did not show his face. The Russian's ever present pride not wanting his son to see the extra tears that had escaped when Ivan had laughed. "Because I like them that's why."
"Old man," Aiden muttered teasingly. Perking up blue eyes began to shine with excitement. "We're going to play some Monopoly. I came up to see if you wanted to play as well?"
Ivan nodded his head ,"I will meet you down stairs once I put my record away."
"Awesome. I think tonight will be the night I win!" Aiden laughed triumphantly and started to leave, but at the last second quickly stuck his head back into the study. "Hey Papasha, did Dad ever win at monopoly?"
Ivan nodded his head humming in amusement, "All the time. You were too young to finish the game, but after you went to bed he was ruthless." Aiden didn't say anything after that, but the sounds of his foot steps running down the hallway told Ivan he was once again by himself.
Turning to the record player, Ivan picked up the record and slide it back into its case. Just as the vinyl disk had nestled into place, two slender arms wrapped around Ivan's neck. "Brother is a fool to believe that you were listening to any old record." The female's voice was quiet and Ivan could feel how perturbed Rebekka was through her hug.
Patting her arm Ivan whispered, "He is just like his Papasha. Both of us do not handle emotional situations very well." Looking up, Ivan looked into the dark violet eyes of his daughter. If the twins had been born through a surrogate, Rebekka would be the female image of Alfred. Ivan smiled as he twirled a lock of the sunshine spilling from his daughter's head.
Rebekka returned the smile knowing the thoughts going through her Papasha's head. After a moment the teenager grew serious. "Papasha...do you ever hear Dad even though he's not here?"
Ivan nodded his head slowly tears once again gathering in the corners of his eyes. "All the time." Cupping Rebekka's cheek he pressed a quick kiss to her forehead while also pushing back the tears. "Now, let's go join everyone in the dining room. We will show your brother that the secret to winning is by stealthily gaining control of the board then crushing your competitors hopes and dreams. Da?"
Rebekka's eyes closed as a wide smile took her face. Giggling she gave her Dad a chaste kiss before releasing him from her embrace. Ivan stood up quickly going over to the bookshelf to put the record away. As the cardboard case slide into place, Ivan paused with his finger still on the record. "Happy Anniversary, Alfred." Ivan whispered quietly.
Turning Ivan hurried to catch up to his children, already the feeling of sunshine replacing the weariness in his heart. As Ivan put his hand on the door handle, he felt two arms wrap around his waist. Although the words were muffled by the crook of his neck, Ivan heard them clearly. "Happy Anniversary, Ivan."