[identity profile] zoicite.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] z_fic


Jesus sat on the throne, a sword in his hand. His clothes were soiled, torn, the same clothes that he’d worn in all the years that Judas had known him. The throne was golden and ornate, the seat of a king.

Judas stared up at Jesus. He ignored the people swirling around him, rushing past him. He stared at Jesus and Jesus stared back at him, their eyes locked on one another as though they were the only two people there, though Judas could hear the crowd, could feel them pressing against him.

Judas took a step forward, toward Jesus, but Jesus shook her head, just slightly, imperceptible if one wasn’t looking for it. Judas stopped.

When Jesus’ lips moved they formed Judas's name, though Judas couldn’t hear the word.

Someone knocked hard into Judas from behind, and when Judas turned and his eyes broke their contact with Jesus, it all changed. The din of the crowd became screams, high and anguished. The movement of the crowd was fighting, people pushing and rushing, solders with swords high and mouths twisted into snarls. A soldier beside Judas ran his sword through the gut of a man who fell to the ground with a scream. Judas stumbled back, turned, found Jesus again.

Jesus’ face was passive as he watched the soldiers tear down the Jewish crowd before him. The crowd that had gathered to see their king, to see the lie for themselves.

“Jesus,” Judas shouted, rushing forward only to be pushed back by the fighting mob. “Jesus!”

Jesus didn’t hear him, didn’t look at him. Jesus had completely forgotten him.

A soldier elbowed Judas in the side and Judas fell, turned to see the soldier hovering over him, the shine of his sword raised in the sun.

“It‘s all right,” Mary said suddenly beside him, her hands reaching out to shake him, to hold him. “Judas, it‘s all right.”

He let her turn his face toward her. He was breathing heavy as she smoothed his brow with her thumbs, her mouth turned down in a worried frown.

“It was a dream,” he said after a moment.

“A nightmare,” she translated. “Another.”

“It’s only a dream,” Judas said. He pulled Mary’s hands from his face, leaned in to kiss her forehead, and then he turned away from her. He stared up at the sky for a moment and then he turned again to find Jesus looking back at him.

**

Judas leaned over the map. He traced their route out with the tip of his finger, as he had each morning since they’d split from the others. Each day the path that his finger traced was shorter. Each day his fingertip stopped on Jerusalem and he held it there, stared at it.

“Today we will leave the path and travel east for a time,” Jesus said, leaning over Judas, a palm warm against Judas's back. He touched Judas's hand and Judas let his finger slide from its spot over Jerusalem. Jesus looked for a moment at the city that Judas had covered. He turned to study Judas, their faces close. Judas raised his eyebrows.

“Where?” he asked, drawing Jesus’ attention back to the map.

Jesus’ hand disappeared from Judas's back. “Here,” he said, and pressed his finger to the place on their path.

Mary looked up from where she sat beside Judas, her eyebrows raised now too.

“Why there?” Judas asked.

“There is a spring,” Jesus said, pulling back. “It’s small and it’s sporadic, but it is there, and for now there is water. A small village has sprung up beside it.”

Mary opened her mouth to speak, then changed her mind and shut her mouth in a small frown.

Jesus smiled at her and answered her retracted question. “The pilgrim we met two days ago on the road,” he said. He took the map from Judas and began rolling it up. “He told me of these people and I would like to speak with them. Do you mind the diversion?” He was looking at Judas now, but it was Mary who spoke.

“There is water there, you’ve said?” she asked.

Jesus nodded. “That is what he told me.”

“Then it is not a diversion so much as it is a necessity,” Mary concluded and began gathering the rest of her things. Judas and Jesus followed her lead.

**

Judas found Jesus sitting among the tents, speaking to a group that had gathered around him, his face and hands animated. Judas listened for a moment. Jesus was teaching lessons that Judas had heard before. The Samaritan, the prodigal son, but Jesus had a way of speaking that made each story sound fresh each time that Judas heard it. A riddle and a revelation.

Judas didn’t want to hear them now though. He watched as more people gathered around Jesus. There weren’t many, maybe fifteen, but fifteen was enough here. Fifteen was enough in a village this small in the center of Judea. This was enough to get people talking, and if people talked, eventually they would talk to someone who had met Jesus before, and then the word would spread.

Judas watched for a moment longer and then he interrupted, knelt at Jesus’ side.

“Do you think this is wise?” he asked, his hand on Jesus‘ knee. “Perhaps we should move on.”

Jesus smiled at him, and then he smiled at those gathered around him as he stood and gestured for Judas to follow him away from the group.

“These people are no threat to us,” Jesus said.

“Not now,” Judas agreed. “Not until one of them tells a pilgrim on the road of what they’ve learned here and that pilgrim recognizes your words and brings them with him back to Jerusalem. They are a danger then.”

“And then we will be gone.”

“We travel slowly,” Judas countered. “You don’t know that - “

Jesus reached for Judas, clutched at his shoulders, pulled him in to kiss his forehead. Judas let his words trail off as his hands reached out to hold Jesus for a moment in return.

“You spend all of your time worrying about what might happen tomorrow and you miss all that is happening now.”

“How can you say the things that you say and then tell me not to think on them?” Judas countered. “How can you say them and then ask me not to fear for you, for all of us!”

“Look at what is happening now, Judas.” Judas looked around, followed Jesus’ hand that gestured for him to do so, but he knew that he did not see the same things that Jesus saw. He thought that perhaps he never had.

“Embrace what is happening now,” Jesus repeated.

Judas closed his eyes and shook his head. “What is happening now is a fool’s errand. You have us travel to a city that we know to be hostile toward you, and for what? What do you plan to do once we are there? Even you admit that you do not know! But whatever it is, it means danger not only for you, but for us all.”

“No one will harm you,” Jesus said.

“You don’t know,” Judas insisted, his words angry and sharp.

“I could tell you what I know,” Jesus countered, and his words had a sharpness to them as well now, feeding off the anger in Judas's tone. “I could tell you all of it, and what good would it do? You don’t hear the things that I say. How would saying more help you?”

“Jesus,” Judas breathed, frustrated.

Jesus looked around him, pulled his cloak tight, the fabric twisting in his fingers.

“Look around you, Judas,” Jesus said. “The day is beautiful and tonight we will rest here. We will break bread with these people and we will teach them as I have taught you.”

“You will miss the start of the Feast,” Judas pointed out.

Jesus raised his eyebrows. “Isn’t that what you want?” And with that Jesus stepped away from him, his hands reaching out for the group that waited, his smiles all for them.

**

Jesus smiled at Judas's warnings day after day, tried to ease Judas's heart in conversation, long and friendly, but his words felt empty to Judas. How could Judas's heart be eased when Jesus still spoke as a Messiah, when he still seemed to believe the words whispered about him, when he refused to dispel the accusations, refused to stop a backlash from Rome? How could Judas's heart be eased when Jesus spoke to the Pharisees with such finality, when he marched to Jerusalem as though to his death?

Jesus could tell Judas all that he knew, and perhaps if Judas asked, Jesus would, but what good would it do? What good? Judas knew what he read in Jesus’ heart. What good was there if this continued? Even now Peter and John were in Jerusalem. Even now they spread the teachings of Jesus, not the man, no, the Messiah. The Christ, they murmured through the crowds, here to free Israel, to reunite and to rule in peace, to usher in the Messianic Age.

Jesus spoke of peace, yes, but Simon would have him go to war, the Pharisees spoke openly of death threats, and the Romans were restless when it came to stopping perceived unrest with force.

Judas paced and then he prayed and when Mary found him, he was walking again along the edge of the small village that had sprung up here.

She didn’t speak to greet him, merely fell into step at his side. It was Judas who spoke first.

“He’s letting the crowds guide him,” Judas told her. “He’s riding them like a wave, knowing as well as I do that eventually that wave must crest and crash, and he will fall.”

“There are no crowds here,” Mary pointed out. “There is only you and I.”

“No,” Judas said. “Not here. Yet still we march onward toward Jerusalem. What do you think waits there? The Temple, yes, the holiday. And the priests and the Romans, and one man claiming to be the Messiah. King of the Jews, they say. You‘ve heard it. It’s only a matter of time before the Romans hear it too. And how long then before they start to take offense?”

“Why do you stay?” Mary asked. “Why do you stay if you don’t believe the things that are said of him? If they cause you so much distress?”

“You know why I stay,” Judas said, and he didn‘t mean for the words to sound as harsh as they did, as though he was spitting them at her, throwing them in her face. He looked away from her.

“Judas,” Mary said, drawing his attention back to her. She reached for him, pulled him toward her. She intended to embrace him, but Judas was in no mood for comfort and he resisted her pull. She frowned at his stiffness, but she didn’t release him, she didn’t remove her hands from his arms. Instead she leaned in, pressed her lips to his, soft but unyielding.

Judas closed his eyes. He remembered how she kissed him on the road, their faces warmed by the late morning sun. He remembered her mouth, Jesus’ mouth, as it covered his own, attempted to tell him of truths that he’d already known. When Mary pulled away now, Judas gave in. He reached out for her and kissed her again, just as he had done days before.

Her grip on his arms grew tighter when Judas kissed her, as though she was surprised by his response. And then she pulled him in, tight against her, and he kissed her again. When he felt her mouth open against his, he pulled away, his breath heavy.

“Why do you stay?” Judas asked her, their mouths still close, their noses brushing as he spoke.

“You don’t know?” Mary asked. “After all of this, you haven’t guessed?”

And Judas nodded, closed his eyes again, because of course he had. He’d seen it from the start, felt it as it twisted in his heart and his stomach, as it softened into acceptance and friendship. He knew it from the moment Mary awoke in Magdala and looked on them both. Mary was as in love with Jesus as Judas had ever been.

“And why don’t you tell him so?” Judas asked. He looked at her again, pulled back so that he could see her clearly, his question a mirror of the one that Mary had asked him days before.

She stared at Judas for a moment, her gaze hard, and then she turned away from him as she answered. “I wouldn’t know how. And now I don‘t know that I could tell him even if I did.”

He nodded. He didn’t need to ask her why. He understood that too.

She turned back to him, reached for him, touched his face. “You could show me how,” she suggested.

“What?” Judas asked, and his surprise at her response caused the word to be followed by a small nervous laugh.

“How would you love him, Judas?” Mary asked, her hands on his cheeks. “Show me how you would love him.”

Judas's eyes were wide as he stared back at her.

“Just as we did before,” Mary offered. She reached up, her fingers twisting for a moment in the dark curls of his hair before she let her hand fall away.

Judas shook his head. He wouldn’t. How could he?

“I’ll be pretending too,“ Mary admitted when she saw Judas's hesitation.

Judas lifted his head. “Pretending that I am him?”

“Yes,” Mary said and stroked his face again. She smiled to reassure him, but it looked nervous, wary, as though she was as afraid of Judas's rejection as she was of Jesus’.

Judas studied her face. He looked at the thin line of her mouth, her enormous dark eyes, the crease on her right cheek. There was a smudge of dirt on her chin and when Judas reached up to smooth it away, Mary’s eyes fell closed and her mouth fell open, and Judas had never thought her more beautiful.

Mary would kiss him as she would Jesus. She would love him as she wished to love Jesus, and she asked that he do the same. Kiss her as he wished to kiss Jesus. Love her as he wished to love Jesus.

“Here?” Judas asked, and his voice seemed high and foreign in his throat.

Mary’s eyes snapped open, her dark gaze back on him, checking his face to make sure that she heard his answer correctly. Once confirmed, she shook her head, looked around, then nodded to a small building some distance away.

There was water to be found in this region, a small spring, intermittent and not enough for farming, not enough for the settlers tents to become permanent homes, but at some time, someone had built this small building before abandoning the hillside for less arid land. The building had fallen into disuse, a door hung on one hinge, but there was space inside, and Judas let Mary lead him, let her remove his cloak and lay it down across the floor. He let her guide him onto his knees, and then she removed the bag that she carried from her shoulder and knelt beside him.

He reached out to touch the place where her neck curved into her shoulder. She covered his hand with her own, then lifted it to her mouth to kiss his palm, her face turning to press her cheek to the curve of his hand. His fingers slid back into her hair and he leaned in and kissed her mouth. Her eyes were closed now and he wondered if she imagined that it was Jesus who kissed her. He wondered if his kiss now was how she imagined Jesus’ kiss might be. He wondered how he might compare to Jesus in her head.

Judas tried to shake the thought. He closed his own eyes and put himself into the moment with her. This was Jesus that he kissed. Jesus who he’d loved for three years, followed, and yes, when he was allowed to admit it to himself, he had always yearned for this moment. And here he was, Jesus kissing him, his mouth soft on Judas's. Judas imagined the rough scratch of Jesus’ cheek against his own, a contrast to the softness of the kiss.

This was Jesus here with him, Jesus who scared him and infuriated him. Jesus who seemed to care about his own safety less and less as each day passed. Jesus who believed the lies, who fed off of them. Judas felt his kiss grow harder, more desperate, and he pulled away and buried his face against Jesus’ neck instead, kissed him there. He pressed his hand to Jesus’ chest and imagined Jesus’ gasp as Judas’s fingers pulled at the hair there, as his mouth sucked at Jesus’ skin.

“You would worship him,” Mary said, her words a gasp of realization, her mouth so close to Judas's ear.

Judas kissed her shoulder again. He wished that he could worship Jesus, give his heart over entirely. He watched as the others did so and he wished that he could follow them, that he could push aside his fears. He wished it was so easy. He wished that his love was enough to keep Jesus safe, to convince him to pull back, to let Judea cool just as he’d pleaded with Jesus in Galilee to let Herod cool. He wished that his love was enough for Jesus to listen to him, listen to his words and see that they came from Judas's heart, that this dread was genuine and it was real.

Judas squeezed his eyes shut hard as he kissed across Mary’s shoulder, kissed the hollow at the base of her throat, and felt her hands in his hair. Mary’s hands pulled Judas's face from her neck, pulled him back to her mouth, her kisses tender yet insistent. Her thumbs brushed his cheeks, wiped away tears there, and it wasn’t until that moment that Judas realized they’d started to fall.

Mary guided Judas down until he was lying back against his cloak, leaning over him to kiss his mouth, her kisses too short, over too quickly. Her hands slid down from his face, running over his shoulders and his chest. He pulled her closer to him, pushed up against her lips to prolong their contact, to demand more from her mouth. She gave it to him readily, pressing back down against him. Her kisses bit at his lips, worked his mouth open until he was gasping against her as her tongue caressed his in small wet strokes that inflamed him.

Her hands continued their journey across his body, slipping up beneath his tunic they slid across his stomach, warm on his skin. She moved away from his lips, but only for a moment, only long enough to move closer still, to straddle his body with hers, her hips resting deliciously above his. She leaned in to continue their kiss even as her hands pushed up at his tunic and he leaned up on his elbows and helped her slip it off over his head. Her hands were on his bare chest now and her hips rocked against him slightly. Judas pulled her to him and pressed his mouth to the center of her chest, just above the fabric of her dress, the slight swell of her breasts.

He set his hands at her waist and watched as her movement shook the strap of her dress free of her shoulder, watched as it slid down her arm and exposed her to him. He leaned in again and kissed the breast that had been presented, heard the pattern of her breathing change where her mouth was pressed close to his ear.

When he moved to shift them, to set her back on his cloak, sure now where they were going, she stopped him, a hand on his chest.

“Wait,” she said, her voice hushed, controlled. She moved off of him, pushed the strap of her dress back up to her shoulder. She made quick work of his trousers, pulling them off of him directly. Her hands fluttered over him for a moment, and then she changed her mind, pulled away, and reached for her bag.

“What is it?” Judas asked, leaning up to get a better look at her.

She sifted through the contents and then she pulled from the bag a small bottle that she shook for a moment in her hand.

“Don’t waste that here,” Judas said, automatically, though he did not know what the bottle contained. The look of it suggested that it was not easy to come by. “Not on me.”

“I have more,” she countered, and then she pulled an identical bottle from her bag. “You see? Another bottle, brand new.”

She watched him lying before her as she poured some of the contents onto her fingers, then rubbed them together. The smell of it was strong, sharp and fragrant, a smell that Judas recognized sticking faintly to the skin that he had kissed at the base of Mary‘s neck. She watched him with large eyes and he felt self conscious, exposed and on display, and only now noticed that Mary was still fully dressed.

“Besides,” Mary said then. She raised her eyebrows and smiled at him as she returned to his side, as she reached out to touch him again. “This won’t be a waste.”

He swallowed and nodded. He watched her hand as she reached up, touched the oil on her finger to his neck and then traced it down along his side, her touch causing him to suck in his breath, the tickle of it forcing a smile that disappeared again as soon as her finger slid across his hip.

She was stretched out beside Judas now, her body propped up by the arm she wasn’t using to tease him, and he reached his hand up to curl lightly around that arm now, watched as her fingers danced into the hair at the base of him, but did not touch him where he wished it most. Judas's breath came out in a frustrated huff and he pulled at Mary’s arm until she gave in, leaned over him and kissed his mouth again. These were no shallow kisses, not easy and light as they were when they’d started this. This kiss was hungry as Mary sucked at Judas's tongue and Judas moaned low in his throat at the promise of it all.

Her hand pushed at the inside of his thigh and he let her move him, his knees rising up, spreading apart as she repositioned herself between them, as he pulled her back again and again to kiss. Her mouth was firm on his when he felt her fingers begin to rub against the tight skin just behind his manhood. He bit at her mouth and pulled her closer against him. Mary had other ideas though, had always had other ideas, and when he felt one small finger push into him, he grunted, his eyes wide, and felt her smile against his lips.

His body was tense and he watched her as she pulled back, pulled back far, kneeling between his legs as she studied his reaction to her movement, to the intrusion. Her finger was slick with the ointment, and she massaged his skin, rubbing in circles before sliding in again. Judas's mouth fell open and he shook his head, not sure himself if he was actually protesting this. She repeated the movement and he felt arousal jump within him, felt himself harden with it as his knees pulled in tight to press at her sides.

“Relax,” Mary entreated, her voice low and warm, but the look on her face told Judas that her word was an order. She didn’t wait for him to obey, however, but moved forward again instead. Her finger pressed in, curled against him, pressed once more, and Judas grew harder still.

“Close your eyes,” Mary said to him again. “Close your eyes, Judas, and give yourself to him.”

Judas listened to her words, the words she’d taken from Jesus’ lips that now twisted to mean something else entirely.

“Follow me. Leave everything else behind you and spread the word that I teach to you here,” Jesus had said on that hill outside of Capernaum, years ago now. Judas had told Mary of the sermon, of the moment when Jesus chose them, the twelve. “Give yourself over to me.”

She knew his words and she used them now in this moment. As her finger caressed him, she made his same request. Judas felt his entire body shudder at the memory, the implication of it, but he did not close his eyes. Judas watched as she pressed her free hand down against his hip, the pressure of her small frame holding him down as she stretched another finger in beside the first.

Judas held his breath, tense, so tense, until he felt that second finger pressed in firmly against the first. When they curled, just slightly and in unison, Judas gasped and reached out to cover Mary’s hand at his hip with his own, pulling it up to grip it in his. When her fingers thrust in again the stretch of them had Judas pushing up, impaling himself deeper still, and he cried out into the empty shed.

“Shh,” she said, her hand shaking free from his and flying up to cover his mouth. “We aren’t so far from the tents. We might be heard.”

And Judas gasped against her hand at the thought that Jesus might find them like this, that Jesus might see this, that Jesus might ever be where Mary was now. Mary’s fingers continued their work even as she kept her other hand firm over his mouth and Judas moved beneath her, his breathing ragged against her palm, his eyes staring up at her.

She leaned down over him, pressed her mouth to his chest, touched the dark hair that her lips found there with her tongue. Her body closer now, Judas thrust up against her, felt her fingers press deeper within him in response.

The smell of the ointment filled the small space, stronger still on Mary’s hand. It stuck in his nostrils, intoxicating him. Mary kissed his chest again as another finger slid within him, stretching and pushing in such a way now as to only be suggestive of one act. Judas stared up at the ceiling of the crumbling building. His shifted and spread his legs to give her better access, and she leaned closer against him, so that with each thrust of her hand, Judas pressed himself up against her torso, so that with each thrust, Judas could imagine that it was Jesus pressing within him, taking him in this most earthly way.

Mary’s hand slid away from his mouth, sure now that he didn’t intend to cry out again. Her fingers came up along his cheek and then passed over his eyes, and Judas obeyed and shut out the world around them. He felt her mouth still on his chest, her fingers still working him in a most delicious rhythm, the press and stretch of them vibrating through him.

And then her lips disappeared from his chest and he felt her other hand, low on his hip, and then exactly, yes, exactly there, wrapping around him, and his mouth fell open in a soundless cry as he thrust up into the ring of her fingers. She leaned into him again, worked him with both of her hands, trailed wet kisses across her chest as her entire body moved against him, moved with her fingers and her hand.

Each thrust of her fingers had him straining, pushing up into her hand, against her stomach, his thighs tight with the effort. His hands gripped at her shoulders, held her close, her mouth open against his chest now, as though she too was breathing heavy, was too aroused to fill her lungs entirely with much needed air.

“Can you see it?“ she asked. “Can you see how it might be?“

And with his eyes closed, he could almost see it. He could feel Jesus’ hands on him, the stretch and push of Jesus within him. He could almost see it, but he couldn’t sustain the fantasy, couldn’t give it enough root in reality, and when pleasure sparked within him again, it was gone.

“Jesus,“ he said, and the name sounded like a low groan on his lips.

Her teeth scraped at his skin in response and her fingers pushed within him, curled and stretched and pushed again, and he thrust up against her, straining. She broke the rhythm, thrust deeper once more, sooner than he’d expected, and his release tore through him, shuddered through his thighs so that he shook with it, strained with it. He heard himself utter Jesus’ name once more and then he fell back against the floor, chest heaving, spent.

His hands slid against her shoulders, found their grip and pulled at her. She moved against him and he shuddered with it, echoes of light shivering through him still. He pulled at her and she moved, her body sliding up against his, her leg moving until she straddled his right thigh. Her fingers slid from him and he hissed at the pull, sighed at the loss. She kissed his mouth and swallowed the sigh. He reached for her, held her close, and kissed her lips again.

At the beginning of this, each of his kisses told the truth of his feelings for Jesus. Each one was another confession. He wished he could give them all to her, save none of them for himself. He’d wondered if the story in her kisses was the same. His story wasn’t the same anymore. He was kissing Mary now as well. He kissed her as much as he kissed Jesus through her. His kisses told stories of his feelings for her, just as they told stories of his feelings for Jesus. It was a different story, a less sure story, newer, but it was there, it had been there since he‘d looked on her in Magdala.

Her hips moved against him, a slide that he recognized and he held her, kissed her as she moved, as she rocked against his leg. His hand slid down her back, found the curve of her and pulled her closer to him, aided her in her movements against him. She gasped into his mouth, her body rolling against his naked thigh. She’d never removed her dress, and the sound of the fabric seemed loud around them as they moved together. He lifted his leg toward her, just slightly bent to support her, his thighs tired from their earlier straining, and she moaned low into his mouth in response.

Did she picture Jesus when she looked on him now? When she closed her eyes and moved against them, her rocking increasing in urgency, moving with abandon - when she took her pleasure from his body in this way, was it Judas that she used? The thought that it might be, the thought that the wetness of her against his thigh might be for him, pulled at Judas, sparked within him, and he shifted and turned until she fell away from his thigh, her back to the floor now as his had been moments before.

She reached for him immediately. She’d been close, close enough that she turned on her side, curled in on herself, tried to hold the echoes of pleasure within her. Judas thought he saw her lips form around Jesus’ name, but she didn’t give voice to it and she reached for Judas instead. He pressed down against her, kissed her upturned mouth, and when his hand found her, she grabbed his wrist and held him tight. He pressed his hand there, his palm flat against the heat of her, her arousal wetting his skin though the thin fabric of her underskirt, this tunic the only thing that separated them now. He’d meant to push it out of the way, but he hadn’t had the time, not before she’d grabbed hold of him, pushed his hand to her. She held him there and she gasped, her grip tighter still as she shook against him, her thighs locking his hand against her. His open palm pressed hard to her, and his fingers curled in against her, just slightly, just enough so that she convulsed with it and held him tighter still.

“Mary,“ he whispered, leaned in to kiss her hair, and she shook against him one last time, her mouth open and eyes wide before she released his hand and rolled back, away. He watched the rise and fall of her chest, the heave of her breasts beneath the cloth of her dress. Her breath came fast and heavy. The arm that rested by Judas was relaxed, but her fingers clenched and unclenched as though searching. He reached up, set his hand in hers and her fingers curled around his. And then she turned to look at him and she smiled.

**

The crowd was raucous, celebratory. The music boomed through the night and everywhere Judas turned people danced and laughed, teeth white and shining. Mary was there, swirling in the middle of it, her hair flying out from her neck, her eyes bright with happiness.

Judas searched the throng for Jesus, for his familiar posture, for the smile that he knew would play at Jesus’ lips. Jesus couldn’t remain unmoved, not surrounded by this. This could lift anyone, lighten anyone’s heart. He pushed through a group of laughing men, scanned for the familiar cloak hanging from Jesus’ narrow shoulders. He pushed through one gathering only to be blocked by another, and another when he pushed through them. All were laughing, all were dancing. All except for the group standing beside the table that held the feast.

This was no religious feast. It could only be Roman in its extravagance. The table was long, piled high with food, more food than Judas had ever seen, yet no one touched any of it. Peter stood beside it, but when Judas reached for him, Peter looked past him as though he couldn’t see him at all.

Mary rushed to him then, a flurry of fragrant fabric as she gripped his arm and grinned. He thought she might kiss him for a moment, but then as he watched, she turned toward the table and her face fell, crumbled.

“What is it?” Judas asked.

Mary looked around them, fear taking over her features. Judas looked now too. The dancing groups were gone, replaced by soldiers, their faces hard and ominous, though a few of them still laughed. The laughter wasn’t joyful. It was triumphant, yes, but bitter, sour and mean.

Peter tried to run, but was stopped by the men, punched and thrown to the ground. Simon rushed to his side. Judas turned back to the table, to the covered platter at the center of it. The platter stood alone, the table bare along the edges of it, separated from the rest of the food. The gold of its domed lid was polished to a near impossible shine.

Judas stepped toward it and Mary pulled at him, tried to force him to step away. Judas was sure then, sure that the answer to all of this was hidden on that covered plate. He reached for it and everything went quiet, everything went still. And then he lifted the cover and the whole world erupted in screams. Mary shrieked beside him, covered her face. She screamed over and over again, for there on the plate was Jesus’ head, severed from his body, lying at the center of the feast. There was Jesus’ head, presented just as John’s before him, presented on a platter to Herod’s court.

Judas dropped the cover. He tried to turn away, but his legs buckled and he fell. The soldiers were closing in, but it didn’t matter now. It didn’t matter. Judas's chest hurt and he gripped at it, knew that it was his heart breaking in two. He crouched there in the dirt beside the feast and he knew that it was entirely his fault.

All of this. All of it.

**

Judas woke with a start, Mary’s screams still ringing in his ears.

The night was quiet, calm. The stars were bright above Judas. His chest heaved as he tried to catch his breath, as he tried to still his heart. Beside him Jesus was asleep, but restless. Judas reached out, touched a hand to his shoulder to make sure that he was really there, that they were really here at all. Jesus’ presence confirmed, Judas sighed and leaned back, stared up at the sky.

There was no moon. Lying here it was hard to believe the things he’d seen as he slept. It was hard to imagine anything so horrible might happen. But it might happen. It might, if those who spoke out against them now had their way. It would if they -

Jesus shifted, turned to face Judas, his breath a warm puff on Judas's cheek. Judas closed his eyes. If Judas tried, if he pulled himself back from the dreams, from their journey during their waking hours - if Judas tried, with Jesus asleep beside him now, Judas could put himself back to the start of it all. It was like this then. The nights quiet and Jesus close. It was like this when they’d started, when everything was new and the light in Jesus' eyes burned brightly and set everyone who came near him aflame. When his words seemed alive and they prickled the skin with the truth of them. It was like this then.

Then Judas might have turned, lifted a hand to press the hair back from Jesus' forehead, damp and feverish in the darkness. He’d lean in, press a kiss to the heat of Jesus' skin.

Jesus had been so human then. So real. Judas would have followed Jesus to the ends of the earth. He would have gladly died for him, beside him.

Things were different now. The road that they traveled was quiet, but in the cities the crowds pulsed and the words on their lips scared Judas, forced him to plead with Jesus to pull back, to just stop and think.

A gust of wind blew through their tiny camp. Messiah, it seemed to whisper as it caught in the fabric of Mary‘s cloak. The few small flames of the dying fire flickered for a moment before it all went still again.

They’d left the village by the spring early that morning. They were far from it now, far from anyone, just the three of them lying together in the desert.

Judas turned to study Jesus beside him. He wouldn’t fall back to sleep tonight. He couldn’t for fear that his dreams would return. Judas looked on Jesus' sleeping face and tried to forget the clash of the Roman soldiers, the sight of blood in the sand.

Dangerous, the wind hissed through the dry shrubs, its voice as loud as the crowds in the squares. Jesus looked young, younger than when he was awake. The coarse hair of his beard caught on his clothing and Judas reached out and plucked the fabric away.

“Can‘t you see it?” Mary had asked, her fingers pulling pleasure from Judas's body, pulling Jesus’ name from Judas's lips. “Can’t you see how it might be?”

He thought of those nights in the desert, years ago. He thought of the comfort between them, of the ease he’d felt in his heart.

Judas imagined himself kneeling before Jesus. He imagined himself kissing Jesus’ face, his mouth and his chest.

“You would worship him,” Mary had gasped, and Judas would anoint Jesus with kisses, would smooth back his hair and kiss his temple, would hold Jesus to him as he had nights before in the desert. Judas tried, but even then, even after the events of that afternoon, Judas could hardly think on more.

Jesus shifted beside him.

“Jesus,” Judas whispered, but Jesus was asleep and did not respond. Judas shifted closer until their foreheads nearly touched. He could feel Jesus' breath, hot and sweet on his mouth and chin.

“Jesus,” Judas whispered again. This time Jesus' breath changed its pace. Judas held his own breath, waited, but Jesus merely shifted, turned his face away from Judas as his breath evened back with sleep.

Judas pressed closer. He pressed his palm light to Jesus' chest, felt the rhythmic rise and fall. He kissed the soiled fabric at Jesus' shoulder, the white long turned a dusty brown. Judas pressed his nose into the folds of cloth and his breath caught in his throat, then choked out in a sob.

Jesus' chest stopped its steady rhythm against the palm of Judas's hand. It stopped entirely for a moment and Judas pressed his eyes shut, held as still as he could.

Jesus was awake. Judas imagined him, how he must look, his emptiness and quiet detachment as he stared up at the stars. Judas didn’t want to look on him. He didn’t need confirmation that the fire that used to light Jesus from within was rapidly being extinguished. Judas saw it every day and it terrified him. What would happen when Jesus lost the hold he had over the crowds? What would happen when they leaned in as Judas did now? When they smelled the sharp scent of sweat on Jesus' skin and realized that it was all a lie. Jesus was a man, nothing more. Nothing more.

Mary shifted on the opposite side of the fire. Judas started, but Jesus was unalarmed. His arm came around Judas and held him close. Judas watched as Mary stilled and fell back to sleep with a sigh. Jesus sighed too, heavy and long.

Jesus turned into him and Judas felt the scratch of Jesus' cheek against his forehead.

“Judas,” Jesus whispered, his hand firm on Judas's shoulder. Judas wrapped an arm around Jesus, rested his face on Jesus' chest and felt the beating of Jesus' heart in his ear.

“Judas,” Jesus whispered, an echo of Judas as Jesus had slept. Perhaps Jesus had been awake after all. Perhaps he had heard Judas and this was his reply.

His hand stroked the hair at the back of Judas's neck and Judas closed his eyes and wished to dream of nights like these, nights when the threat of Jerusalem seemed distant, when it had seemed that Jesus burned just for him.

Jesus stilled beside him, his hand pausing on Judas's neck. Judas opened his eyes and listened. Together they waited and then Judas heard it too, a noise from the direction of the road. He lifted his head, sat up.

It was too late, Judas knew. If the travelers weren’t friendly, it was too late for them to keep their presence unknown. Their fire was like a beacon in the desert. They hadn’t grown more careful as they’d approached Jerusalem. It could be anyone on the road.

Jesus was sitting up too. He regarded Judas with eyes wide in the dark. His lips were parted slightly, and they moved, wordless, as he listened. They’d made their camp behind a rise on the eastern edge of the road, if not for the fire they would remain unseen. Judas moved, began collecting earth to put out the flames but Jesus reached out, stilled Judas with a hand on his arm.

“They’ve passed,” Jesus whispered.

Judas waited, and when he heard the travelers again, their voices sounded farther away, the sound of their feet barely audible over the wind.

“Go back to sleep,” Judas said. “I will keep watch until morning.”

Jesus nodded and settled back down. He didn’t close his eyes, continued to watch Judas instead, and after a moment, Judas turned his back to Jesus, studied Mary’s sleeping form, then turned out to stare at the dark. Jesus was restless behind him. Twice Jesus nearly fell asleep only to jerk awake again, but eventually he seemed to drift off, fall back into a fitful sleep.

Judas kept his vigil until the fire died and then he stretched out and closed his eyes, slept the last hour until dawn.

Part 3

Date: 2012-08-07 09:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rchan.livejournal.com
OK, so I feel I should make a substantive review for this chapter, but mostly I want to flail over the RIDICULOUSLY HOT SEX, OMG. Because it is. Ridiculously hot. *_* *kowtows and worships appropriately*

*coughs* Moving on, now.

When Jesus’ lips moved they formed Judas's name, though Judas couldn’t hear the word.

I was totally picturing Paul!Jesus' nightmare here, just so you know.

((Also... but Jesus shook her head... heh. Freudian slip? Gender!swap thoughts in the works? *tease* *teaes* ^_~))

Mostly, though, that whole scene... *wobble eyes* ...especially this line: “A nightmare,” she translated. “Another.” I LOVE the implied intimacy and knowledge there. I love that of all people he's confiding in Mary and that Mary has been at his side and watching him long enough to know the truth that even he won't tell her. *_* Love.

Jesus said, leaning over Judas, a palm warm against Judas's back

STILL OBSESSED WITH ALL THE POSSESSIVE CASUAL TOUCHING.

I also love how Mary is the one to think of the practical necessities while the two boys are also busy tiptoeing around each other so as not to add to the angst. ^_^

“I could tell you what I know,” Jesus countered, and his words had a sharpness to them as well now, feeding off the anger in Judas's tone. “I could tell you all of it, and what good would it do? You don’t hear the things that I say. How would saying more help you?”

I just love that line. And I love the mixed signals they're sending each other in that whole section. It almost gives the impression that the point of the journey ISN'T to reach Jerusalem... it's for Jesus to try to pound some sense into Judas' thick skull and only in failing that does he decide to go through with the rest of the journey. AW. ^_^

as though she was as afraid of Judas's rejection as she was of Jesus’.

Uh... no, Judas. There's no "as though" about it. *snerts*

THE SEX.

OMG, THE SEX.

*_*

Everything from Mary talking him into the roleplay to Judas' almost blushing virgin attitude next to Mary's cool controlled competance. Mary being complely clothed even though she stripped Judas down right at the beginning. Judas' low self-esteem rearing its ugly head. Mary giving him commands with the expectation of being obeyed -- though for a woman that wouldn't have been common then. Mary. Fingers. Judas. *____________* The thought of Jesus walking in on them. The story of the kisses in the middle of it all. AW. ^_^ And then the culmination of her just taking what pleasure she wants from him without even really taking his help to get it until he turns the tables on her (literally) right at the very end. Just... EVERYTHING. GUH.

Wait... was there more to the chapter after the sex? I think I short-circuited my brain on it. ^_~

Oh wait... yes there was. ^_^

Judas dropped the cover. He tried to turn away, but his legs buckled and he fell. The soldiers were closing in, but it didn’t matter now. It didn’t matter. Judas's chest hurt and he gripped at it, knew that it was his heart breaking in two. He crouched there in the dirt beside the feast and he knew that it was entirely his fault.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. *wobble eyes* *pets Judas* Love this bit. *pets Judas some more*

And I've mentioned before how much I love that last scene and I love where you ended up slotting it into this story. ^_^ Gorgeous.

OK. Alice is almost back from picking up John. I will get to the last part later. ^_^

September 2013

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