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Late-night assignment
She filled the space beneath him like a perfect cast of how the fates imagined two beings should fit together. Noémi anchored him to slowness simply that he may savor every moment. In that time, Nikolai explored every inch of her skin with a soft trail of his lips. His kiss grazed the lines of her neck then ever downward along the skin of her stomach. He looked up briefly, savoring the view of her enraptured face before sinking lower before savoring the return journey to where he started. The light from palatial windows cast shadows over them both. He drank in the sight of her in his bed.

He thought of many similar instances in the past: times when he deigned himself to recognize the weakness of his own mind and seek comfort in the flesh of mortals when all he wanted was to walk the pattern of the universe far from such torments. He briefly recalled such interludes where their fleeting connections may as well fill a river of souls all of whom were empty of substance and whose faces he cared not to remember anyway. Evelyn broke the mire of that torment somewhat like a briefly shining beacon, but even she was swallowed asunder those gray rapids soon after. They shared one night only when passion tried to bloom between them, but the shades of destiny dimmed it back to cold and darkness. Against those monochrome memories, when he peered into the nighttime colors of Noémi’s eyes, it was with the twist of questions and confusion that riddled his own. He did not understand the breakage of the iron-clad cage of his will nor why he was so desiring to allow the bars to crumble. In the rapid stroke of his breathing and greedy grip upon her body, crumble they did. Noémi summoned a passion from the depths of his soul hidden a lifetime away that surprised him profoundly when it was resurrected. He could not have her enough.

So in the moments that later followed, Nikolai held this priceless creature tight against him, undesiring to release her, but his attachment was with a sadness that knew what was resurrected was soon to return to the unreachable realm, never to return. He spoke quietly, unsure if she was awake or not. “You are already immortal, Noémi because I will remember you forever,” he said as he smoothed her hair, wishing time could be suspended.

He drew a final breath but it did not dispel the ache filling his heart. A moment later, he got up to leave, unable to bear tormenting himself any longer.
In night’s shadows and Nikolai’s embrace, she drifted in the contentment of satiation and safety. For all her melancholy soul, Noémi accepted such fleeting moments with heartfelt and protective cherish. His soft words caressed the edges of sleep as his fingers trailed her hair. Noémi sheltered them somewhere deep, like they might be the only thing to sustain her through a lifetime. Yet it ached bittersweet.

She was aware when he stirred, but did not immediately follow. For all her ability to dream, she accepted reality’s claim when she must. If he left, she had to consider that it was a polite line drawn under discretion. She was an employee, and she had not accepted his invitation without understanding what it meant. Yet in the stir of such strong feeling, neither was she willing to deny her own wants and desires.

The room felt cavernous and empty without him. She pulled the sheet around her, a little uncertain of navigation; her entire apartment might fit in a fraction of his bedroom alone, and she was not confident she really remembered the route here. The soft pad of her footsteps passed through shadows and space. Fortunately she did not find him wandered far. He sat pooled in the light of a desk. A tiny island of solitary.

When she approached her fingers brushed the back of his neck and swept upwards in affection, smoothing the muss of dishevelled hair. It strayed a faint smile to her lips to witness, knowing the likewise tousle of her own. Had she thought the work true and in earnest, she might have left it at that. She was no stranger to restlessness. But a glance at the profile of his expression only strengthened the nurture of her connection. In the spell of night, it was easier to peel back the layers of vulnerability. "La vie est un sommeil, l’amour en est le rêve,” she murmured softly. Her hand reached to still his and claim it, to tug him to his feet. "We may dream a while longer, Nikolai. Do you have a screen, or a tablet, I might borrow? I wish to share something with you.”

[[The French is a quote: “Life is a long sleep and love is its dream.”]]
Night chased away the responsibility of tomorrow. The work was a distraction from feelings left to slumber else the fates may fear the stirring of what should remain undisturbed. The soft pad of footfalls lifted the focus of Nikolai’s expression. Noémi’s procession in the dim light cast rays of softness about her curves. She had donned the shirt he wore that day. It swallowed her frame and something about the open lay of the collar and tease of skin at the hip stole most of his breath. The push of her fingers across his scalp captured the rest.

At her bidding, he leaned away from the desk, twisting the very device on which he worked to face her. There was nothing in view she would not be allowed to glimpse. While drew near enough to enter commands, he wondered at the meaning of the phrase that rolled from her lips.

“I have a confession, Noémi,” he began. Undoubtedly the prelude would steal a glimpse from her, but when she looked, she would find his expression shadowed with rare playfulness. “I don’t speak any French at all. I memorized a few lines just in case the opportunity presented itself. I suppose I owe myself a hundred dollars. There are fines for non-English conversation within the Kremlin.” The admission painted his lips with a morbid mirth that was truly never seen by another soul. He didn't really care about English or non-English, but the rule was a device. He was ultimately a foreigner that occupied the Russian presidential seat thirty years before. Assimilation was necessary, the strategy of it was his though.

"What do you want to show me?" he asked.

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