This is the third honeymoon.
They got married the first time out of convenience, right before the turn of the millennium. It had made a kind of logistical business sense, in Elias’ mind--the Lukas family had been freezing him out of their strategies and intentions for decades; marrying into the fold would be a good way to keep an eye on them, as it were. He had liked Peter just fine. The first divorce a few years later--over something so petty that, now, Elias can’t even remember the details. The second wedding as a kind of reluctant apology on his part. The second divorce only six months in; a partnership based on guilt hadn’t appealed to either of them.
This third one, though, feels like what the first should have been. Things at the Institute are moving forward. His Archivist, intrepid and shrewd, is an entertaining little figure to watch, moving in her secret ways with her inscrutable intentions. He feels vigorous, strong, better than he has in years--better than he did in the late nineties, certainly, when he first took up with Peter. There’s something about easy prosperity that makes him introspective. Thoughtful. Makes him consider and reconsider things, turn them over in new lights. Appreciate the little things more. The little people, the ones audacious enough to leave a mark on his long, long life. He’d found himself picking up the phone without even really thinking about what that meant.
So the third marriage, at last, is about love. Not that he’ll ever say it in so many words. Not that Peter will ever say it, either--he’d be mortified. But Elias has a tight enough grip on the goings-on inside Peter’s head to know the feeling is mutual, this time. Maybe all the time. Maybe he just hadn’t been looking hard enough before.
That’s a rare introspection, the kind he hasn’t allowed himself to have for over a century. Sweeping emotions like that aren’t good for the long-term. But he’s happy, even if there is a tinge of uncertainty to it, underneath. A nagging knowledge that all things, especially relations, are temporary for him.
He kept a few of the Magnus estates as the years went on, tangled in so many obscure trusts and names that it would be impossibly boring for anyone to follow the threads back to him. They’ve retired here to one of them, on the Scottish coast, for the week. Nobody was present at the wedding--as is usual for Lukas affairs. Just their ordained representative. Over in ten minutes in the chapel at Moorland House. The same rings as the last two times--tarnished, ever so slightly, as are all sentimental things in that place. He likes the patina, himself. He likes to turn the ring around and around his finger and watch the colors move.
Now, he’s running a bath into the deep white clawfoot tub, standing naked to watch the steaming water gush from the burnished brass taps. There’s a pleasant soreness awakening across his body, his shoulders and hips and knees, the ache that comes from being bent in so many positions for so many hours, made love to marvelously, slowly, deliciously. Peter has always been good to him in that regard.
“Eli,” comes his voice, from just outside the bathroom. Past the open doorway, the lights are low, the room dimming with the onset of sunset. Elias can see the tangle of sheets and pillows left behind, the singular orange line of sunlight still laid across the floor. Peter, leaning against the doorjamb, watching him.
“This isn’t for me,” Elias says, gesturing to the filling bathtub. “Get in.”
Peter smiles, bemused.
“Go on. Do you think I’m sleeping next to you tonight when you stink of sex?”
“I could say the same to you,” Peter says lightly. He obeys, though. That’s always been something Elias likes about him. Obedient, but only when it doesn’t really matter, when there would still be room to push back, if he wanted to. It’s the fact that he doesn’t want to, that he lets Elias push and pull him gently, this way and that. “Will you be joining me?”
He lowers himself carefully into the water, and Elias watches the way it contours to his body, his plush stomach and chest and the greying hair on his arms and legs. He sighs, sinks, leans his head against the edge of the tub, closing his eyes.
“In a while, maybe,” Elias says. “Scrub.”
Peter hums, but doesn’t move to comply.
Elias sits down on the edge of the clawfoot, watching the water rise. When it begins to lap at Peter’s upper arms he reaches over to close the tap.
“There’s room,” Peter says.
“Hush,” Elias says. He knows that if he slides into the water, too, they’ll just end up fucking again, and he’s tired, more tired than he had imagined he might be. Peter was like this after their first wedding, too--strangely eager to be intimate, to have Elias close to him, even though on most days his inclinations forbid it. Elias supposes there must be some kind of rationalization to it. Sinning on Saturday, begging for repentance on Sunday. When this week is over Peter will probably disappear for a few months, doing penance.
That’s alright, as long as they can have this week. Lately Elias has found himself craving someone else’s body near him, weighing down the other side of the mattress, taking up his space. He isn’t sure why. Some kind of anticipatory anxiety, maybe, as all his ambitions are going so well--an urge to self-sabotage. To tie himself to something that could ruin him. To give in to something as ephemeral and dangerous as affection, as love.
He’s been staring at the faucet; he doesn’t see Peter’s hand closing around his wrist, gently. Peter sighs, sinks a little further into the water.
Elias loves to look at him--not even to Look, but just to take in, like a long breath. His body strong and stout by turns: solid upper arms, sun-damaged skin from years at sea, and soft, yielding belly, wide thighs.
He reaches out, runs the backs of his fingers down Peter’s cheek. Peter opens one blue eye, looks at him.
“Don’t,” Elias mumbles, petulantly. Peter closes his eye again, smiles a little.
Elias slides from the edge of the tub, kneels down behind it. He slips his hands down over Peter’s chest, in the water, wets his hands, drags them back up. He rests his cheek against Peter’s; runs his palms down over his arms, up again, gently kneads his neck, rubs little circles at the hinge of his jaw.
Peter hums contentedly, though Elias is not ignorant to the sudden faint wisps of fog that have appeared in the room with them. He turns his head enough to kiss Peter’s cheek, feel the drag of his eyelashes on Peter’s skin. He closes his eyes, breathes his smell. He doesn’t actually smell of sex. Just faintly of sweat and skin.
They remain like that for a while, in silence, except for the occasional gentle splash of water as Peter rearranges himself in the clawfoot. Elias runs a wet hand back through Peter’s hair, briefly, scratching softly at the nape of his neck with his fingernails.
“You’re affectionate this evening,” Peter says after a while, without any of his usual sardonicism. Elias opens his eyes again, stares down Peter’s body into the water, still absent-mindedly touching him, his throat and jaw.
“What’s the occasion?” Peter turns his head just a bit, enough that he can look at Elias. He isn’t a watcher, but his gaze rests on Elias’ face like ice anyway.
“We’re married,” Elias says softly, still looking down.
“We’ve been married before.”
“It’s different. You know it’s different.” Elias glances at him for just a moment. “Don’t play stupid.”
“I’m not playing stupid. I’m remarking on it.”
“Hush, will you.” He feels dangerously close to the precipice of saying something he doesn’t have the emotional werewithal to weather right now.
“If that’s what you want,” Peter says, mildly.
He settles again under Elias’ hands, and Elias settles with him, carding his fingers through his hair, back and forth. Barely letting his fingernails touch Peter’s scalp, sweeping it away from his face. He presses his face to it for a moment, breathing.
“It was a nice wedding,” Peter says softly, almost as if to himself. Elias listens to his voice behind the dark of his eyelids. “We should have done it that way from the start.”
“We should have done a lot of things from the start.”
“Are you going sentimental on me, Eli?”
Elias snorts. “Hardly.” He wraps his arms around Peter’s neck, bites gently on the cartilage of his ear. “Don’t call me that.”
Peter rests his chin against Elias’ arms, and he sighs. The water is growing cold and still.
“Peter,” Elias says, after a while.
He leans down, to look Peter in the face. He swallows; the deeper, cooler part of him tries to hold his tongue, insist that he not say what he is going to say. It’s childish and weak. But it’s his honeymoon, as ridiculous as that sounds, even to his ears. Sin on a Saturday. Repent on a Sunday.
“If you can manage it--” Peter looks at him out of the corners of his eyes. “Don’t go running off as soon as we’re back in London.”
Peter raises an eyebrow.
“Not for a few months at least.”
Fog in the room. Elias’ arms tighten around his neck, just a little bit.
“That’s your wedding present sorted.”
“I didn’t know I owed you a wedding present.” The cheerful sarcasm in his voice is back. The fog dissipates again, just slightly.
“You did. You do. There you are.”
“If I didn’t have you to tell me these things, I don’t know what I’d do.”
“You’re very lucky.” Elias leans back on his heels, clears his throat. “Another man might not have so much pity on you. Turn the tap back on.”
They overflow it, in the end. But it doesn’t matter. It’s his house.