11. SERENE

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Uffizi Gallery, Italy, 1581
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Isaac stared at the blank ceiling, his mind racing with thoughts of every event from last night. The birds were singing, the sky outside was pink, and the clouds resembled sweet candyfloss. "I need a cigarette," he thought aloud, rummaging through his nightstand. It wasn't long before he realized he was in the wrong bed.

"There's many things I need that I'll never have, Harley. Guess we're both out of luck."

He turned to the person lying beside him. "It's nice to see that you're up."

"Mentally, I'm awake. Physically, I don't think my body wants to move," said Josiah without a single twitch.

"What if I do this?" Isaac asked, taking the liberty to jab his arm with a finger.

"That was pointless," he laughed, "pun definitely not intended."

"What about this?" he asked again, this time giving him a flick. When Josiah showed no reaction, he started drawing circles with his finger on his bare chest, alternating between the pad of his finger to the tip of his nail. "Or this?"

"S-stop that."

"Oh?" Isaac continued to lightly loop hands across his chest. "Does that mean this is working?"

"It's not. I'm...I'm just sensitive to touch." Faint patches of color in his cheeks resembled the dawn sky.

News of the prefect's ticklishness thrilled Isaac—he discovered a weakness. "It does?" he said, this time using both hands to attack his stomach.

"I said that's enough!" Josiah grabbed his wrists and pinned them onto the bed, climbing on top of him in the process.

The prefect breathed heavily, his breaths familiar because they resembled how he panted the night before. In and out, they would speed up until his final, desperate gasp for air as he trembled at the peak of his pleasure. His mouth was raw and swollen as well. Isaac found himself resisting an urge to pull him down to taste the tender lips he gazed at. Eyes roamed to neck to prevent this urge. A deep red mark just above his collarbone triggered his memory of biting down on the flesh—hard—to keep from crying out.

     Josiah looked like sex, and Isaac would be lying to himself if he said it wasn't enticing.

"What part of stop don't you understand?"

Isaac smirked with memories of the previous night. "I should be asking you that."

"Bet you liked it though, masochist."

"Hell yeah I did," he responded airily.

They locked eyes. Josiah removed his grip to brush blonde strands of hair out of his face. He leaned closer, lips slightly parted.

Yes, please.

"The project! I didn't finish it," he suddenly shouted, throwing himself off the bed and swearing out.

     Isaac propped himself up on his elbows. "It's not due until after tomorrow. Calm down."

     "You don't understand!" The prefect buried his face in his hands and groaned. "My schedules so full. I really needed this done."

     "We leave in an hour."

     "That's not enough time to do this!"

     "But the bus ride...it's three hours—sit with me. I'll make sure we finish it," he said softly.

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