|Primary Characters:||Simon, Karim|
|Spoilers:||Watch the movie, ok?|
|Warning:||m/m sex, some strong language, adult themes|
|Description:||In French this movie was called L’Union Sacree, which means The Sacred Union. Doesn’t that sound a lot like – marriage? In my story about what happened after the end of the movie the guys don’t exactly get married, but close enough. I mean, they did kiss, once, in the movie.|
It was over. He had had his revenge. Not entirely executed by his own hands, but close enough. Simon felt dizzy and sick. For a while, he wasn’t sure where he was or what he was doing. But after a time, his head cleared and he was once again aware of his surroundings. He was in a car, but the car was slowing down and pulling to a stop. The area was unfamiliar, and he looked around anxiously. He should know where he was. How was it possible that he didn’t?
“Here we are.”
A familiar voice, one that made him feel safe and calm. Karim. Yes, he had helped him. It was thanks to Karim that the man who had murdered Simon’s wife had been given the punishment he deserved. Reading Simon’s confused look, Karim hastened to reassure him.
“My place. I said I’d take you to my place so you could get some rest, remember? The chief said that the de-briefing could wait until later. Monday morning most likely. I know, not the part of town you’re used to. This is where the Arabs live.”
“We got him, didn’t we? I remember -“
“Yes, Simon, we got him.”
“That’s what friends are for. Now let’s get you upstairs. When was the last time you ate or slept, honestly, Simon?”
“Wait till you try my cooking. You don’t need it to be kosher do you?”
Simon still didn’t seem to take it all in, so Karim simply put his arm around his partner and led him upstairs. From the other apartments on the landing came the normal noises of large North African families. Someone was swearing in Arabic, a child was crying, a radio playing a popular song, men raising their voices in argument, or merely discussion.
Two boys ran past, shouting friendly obscenities to Karim. He shouted a few words back, but the exchange was lost on Simon. Even if it had been in French and not Arabic, it was plain that he had reached the end of the line.
Karim knew the look on his face. He had seen it before on men who had been through too much, but had come too far to be able to tell. Simon’s mother had whisked the little boy away, and when Karim offered to take Simon with him, she had smiled in gratitude.
Outside the apartment, he leaned Simon against the wall for a second while he got the keys out of his pocket. He didn’t like the color on his friend’s face. It was time Simon sat down and had a proper meal instead of the litres of coffee he must have gulped down to manage to stay awake for the days it had taken to complete the plan.
As the door swung open, the young Jew began to sway on his feet. Catching him with only seconds to spare, Karim pulled Simon into the apartment and slammed the door shut behind them, leaving the noise and smoke outside. Inside, it was curiously quiet. The atmosphere in the small apartment felt isolated from the rest of the noisy city. It was an island of calm and safety in the mids of chaos.
Karim deposited Simon on the sofa, and went into the kitchen. On second thought, he decided against any extensive cooking. What was essential right now was to get some nutrition into Simon and then get him into bed. No strict Muslim, Karim had some calvados and a bottle of gin in the cupboard. Pouring a generous amount of the calvados into a glass, he walked over to Simon and pressed the glass into his hand.
Like an obedient little boy, Simon gulped down most of the contents of his glass, almost too quickly, as if he wasn’t aware of what he was drinking. It seemed to help a little. Some color came back to his face, and his posture changed almost imperceptibly, where he reclined on the sofa. Karim wasted no time making a baguette sandwich and was back by Simon’s side within minutes.
Simon stared at the baguette unenthusiastically. His voice took on a whiny, childish tone, that Karim imagined he would use with his mother. Karim’s own mother had died when he was still an infant, so he had almost no memories of her. He liked to imagine that she would have been something like Simon’s mother.
“I can’t eat that.”
“Why not? Because it’s not kosher?”
“Kosher? No, of course not. That’s ok. We don’t bother with that. I’m just not hungry.”
“You have to eat something, or you’ll be sick. Come on, take a bite. You can do it.”
“Don’t start with me.”
“Just one bite. That’s it. Good boy.”
This time the playfully teasing tone filtered through to Simon, and for a second, Karim thought he had gone too far. Did Simon’s hands close into fists? Or were they already too tightly squeezed together?
“You Muslims are such a pain in the ass. Give me that. I suppose if I don’t take a few bites, you’ll start feeding me, like a baby.”
“Why not? You are a baby.”
The flash of anger in Simon’s eyes didn’t last. And it seemed the emotion did him some good. He was able to finish about half of the baguette. Karim wolfed down the rest. It had been a while since he had anything himself. He poured himself some calvados and allowed the alcohol to sooth his own tense nerves, before dealing with the sleep arrangements.
This sofa was large enough for two people to sit quite comfortably in, especially this close together. He had bought it especially for that reason. The close proximity served as an inspiration to the girls he was in the habit of asking over. But it would hardly be a comfortable place to sleep in for a grown man. In the bedroom there was just the double bed where Karim had spent so many pleasant nights, in the company of one of those girls.
So the question remained, where would they sleep? If he went over to his cousin’s apartment on the fourth floor, he might be able to borrow a spare mattress, or even an extra bed. Karim knew exactly how one’s back felt after spending a few hours on those. A few hours was as much sleep as anyone would be likely to get, even someone as exhausted as Simon, or for that matter Karim himself.
And though it hadn’t been the first time he killed, there was always a reaction to be expected afterwards. That reaction seemed to be coming now. But the task of looking after Simon was helping a bit.
Would Simon object to sharing the bed? Karim wasn’t in the mood for any major adaptations to the room. He had extra pillows and blankets, and surely that would be enough? Should he ask or just make the preparations anyway? It might save him some effort later, if he had discussed the matter in advance, should Simon decide to make a nuisance of himself.
“Ok, it’s like this, Simon. I only have one bed. So one of us can sleep out here, and end up with back problems, or we could just crash in there together. Any thoughts on that?”
“What? Oh, whatever.”
That was a relief. Simon wasn’t going to make a fuss about the bed. Karim went over to the closet and returned with an armful of pillows, a sheet and a blanket. Simon stayed on the sofa, finishing his calvados. Even though he seemed a little less tense, the signs of exhaustion were plain. Karim hurriedly finished making up the bed.
“If you’ve finished that, would you like to come to bed?”
Again, it seemed as if Simon hadn’t heard him. Karim had to repeat the question, before there was any reaction from his friend. Simon got up and ambled uncertainly over to the bedroom. He sat down on the side of the bed, Karim’s own side of the bed, incidentally, and slowly and ineffectually tried to remove his shoes.
The sight of his friend so helpless made Karim react instantly. He kneeled in front of Simon, and helped him unravel the double knot he had made of his shoelaces. That done, it was easy to pull off the shoes. Karim might as well not have been there at all.
Simon’s deep brown eyes were staring sightlessly at some point far in the distance. Was he reliving the moment when time had stopped, when he had seen the thin ripple of blood trickle down Lisa’s chin? Karim had to shake his own head slightly to clear that image from his mind.
He couldn’t allow himself to remember. Soft auburn hair, laughing eyes, small full lips smiling up at him, surprisingly strong hands, long, slender legs. Then a phone call breaking the spell for good. His first duty was Simon. Whatever had been about to happen, nothing had, and he had no reason to feel this guilt, mixed with regret.
Stiffly, Karim got to his feet again. The intimacy of the moment had been almost tangible. When he spoke again, he had to cough to clear his voice.
“There. That should do it.”
For a second he was afraid he was going to have to continue the undressing of his friend, but slowly, Simon seemed to come back to him. He pulled off his t-shirt and let it drop to the floor. Typical. Karim could picture Simon the way he must have been in his teens. His mother constantly picking up after him. Such a spoiled brat. But that didn’t cause any resentment anymore. Instead Karim felt a sort of tenderness towards his friend.
Simon had some trouble with his belt buckle, but after a few seconds of concentration, he was successful. The buttons of his jeans followed next, slowly, with clumsy fingers. Karim thought better of offering his help with that intimate task. Once the fly was open, Simon tried to raise himself up far enough to be able to pull down the jeans, but failed on the first attempt. Karim sighed inwardly and moved forward, intending to offer his help again. But this time, Simon was able to get the jeans as far down as to his knees.
To finish this painfully slow undressing, Karim again bent down and pulled the pants off his friend. The t-shirt was already on the floor, so there was no reason not to let the pants join it. Now in his shorts, Simon looked so much like a little boy getting ready for bed, Karim had to smile. To his surprise, Simon caught the expression and turned a quizzical gaze onto his friend.
“Nothing. Get to bed now. You look like you could sleep for a week.”
“I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up again. She’s never coming back, is she?”
“No, Simon. But neither is he. He’ll be down in the lowest level of Hell, for all eternity.”
“I thought you didn’t believe in that stuff?”
“I don’t. Not really. I mean, not all that fundamentalist stuff. But it felt good saying it.”
“Did I thank you for your help?”
“Yes, you did. Don’t worry about it. You and me, Simon, we’re family. Now go to sleep, will you? Or will I have to tuck you in?”
“Alright. No need to nag me. You’re not my mother.”
Karim stripped down to his shorts too, and just as he was about to remove them too, out of habit, he caught himself just in time. This visitor might not understand, or appreciate the total nudity of his host. When Karim too was under the covers, his back to Simon, he looked back over his shoulder. Yes, Simon seemed to be resting comfortably under the covers, the dark curls all tousled up. Karim couldn’t resist reaching out and ruffling them some more. Simon turned over, looking back at his partner.
“Good night, Karim.”
“Good night, Simon.”
Karim almost said sweet dreams, but caught himself in time. No dreams at all would be more merciful, and that’s what he wished for his friend. Oblivion. At least for the time being. Later, when the pain diminished, the memories could be allowed to resurface.
They turned over again, backs to each other. For a while, Karim thought Simon had dozed off, but just when he himself felt sleep rising up to claim him, there was the muffled sound of sobbing. Of course, the tears would help him feel better. But Karim hadn’t been prepared for the intensity of the pent up emotions.
For these long, agonizing days, while Simon had been planning and executing his desperate plan, he must have kept himself in a very tight grip. Now that it was all over, the tidal wave of emotions were washing away all barriers. Simon’s body was shaking with the violence of his grief. Karim turned and moved closer. This was a very awkward situation, but he couldn’t bear to sense all that pain. He loved Simon far too much for that.
Strong arms reached out and pulled Simon into a hard, comforting embrace. Now they were lying face to face, Simon’s head resting on Karim’s shoulder. The thick, dark hair brushed Karim’s lips, his breath ruffling the curls slightly. He tried ineffectively to stem the tide of tears, but it was a long time before he was able to get through to Simon. What could he say to offer any kind of consolation?
There was nothing to be said. Words couldn’t express what he wanted to convey to his friend anyway. Instead he let his body do it for him. And it really seemed as if the warmth of another human being was comforting Simon at least a little. Karim let his hand smooth out the tousled hair, and the small movements, from hair to neck and back again were having a soothing effect.
When the sobbing had abated somewhat, Karim pulled Simon up a bit, so he could see his face. Simon looked up and faced his friend. What they saw reflected in each other’s eyes caused the breath to catch in their throats. Karim’s fingers were moving over Simon’s cheeks, brushing away the remaining tears. Now his hand moved down to the chin, tilting the face upwards. Their lips were close enough to touch.
It reminded Karim of the time not so long ago, when he had kissed Simon. He didn’t know why he had done that. It wasn’t fair to treat his friend that way. No matter how hard he had tested Karim’s patience. Despite the fact that Simon had been married and had fathered a son, there was still so much of the innocent about him. Karim knew that Simon could never have been kissed by a man before. In fact, Karim wouldn’t have been too surprised if Lisa had been the only woman he had ever kissed.
Karim’s past had been completely different. As any Arab boy, he had grown up with other boys like him, and what they had done, hadn’t provoked much reaction in anyone. Perhaps if his father had known, but Karim had taken care not to give himself away. Besides, he was sure his father had done the same things when he was young. It was the way a boy learned to become a man.
Karim felt himself grow hard against Simon’s body. He was about to move away, to avoid the embarrassment, but at that moment he felt a corresponding reaction in his friend’s body.
Their eyes met again, and this time, Karim didn’t hesitate any longer. He let his lips brush Simon’s lightly, just testing his friend’s willingness to go further. There was no protest, so he pulled Simon closer still and continued kissing him, letting his tongue slide across Simon’s lips, tasting him for the second time. Karim’s hands were buried in Simon’s hair, gently, but firmly, holding his face up to his.
They lay like that, hardly daring to move. To Karim this was all too familiar. Simon on the other hand had to be experiencing something entirely new. Karim was prepared to withdraw at the slightest sign of distress. But there was none.
Instead, he could detect some enthusiasm on Simon’s part. It must have been a very long time since he last made love to anyone. Karim almost pulled back when he thought of who that must have been.
But he forced down the memories and let his mouth trail down the side of Simon’s face, brushing the ear lobe, bruising the sensitive skin on the side of the neck. He could feel Simon’s hands exploring his own body, caressing his back, his shoulders, his arms. Karim’s tongue began toying with a nipple, then sucking it in. A shiver of anticipation shook Simon’s body, and Karim could feel his friend’s body arching against his own.
He moved back up again, to once again kiss, lick and nibble Simon’s face. There was three days of unshaved beard on his cheeks, and Karim knew he wasn’t much smoother, but they didn’t care. Now he could feel Simon copying his own actions of moments ago, licking, sucking, nibbling. As Simon’s tongue made its way inside Karim’s ear, he couldn’t repress a delicious shudder of pleasure. It was amazing that this kind of thing still worked for him.
When was the last time? With another male, that is. The last woman would have been – No, he couldn’t let that memory resurface, if he wanted his arousal to last. It was more than ten years ago that Karim had first experienced sex with a woman. Until then, his friends had been his only option. Just out of curiosity, he would have liked to know when Simon’s first time had been. Jeremie was five years old. Could it be that Simon had remained a virgin until six years ago? Surely not.
They went on kissing, but now they couldn’t hold off any longer. Somehow they had to satisfy the need that had been growing in the weeks and months that had passed without being close to anyone. Karim let his hands move across Simon’s body, his touch causing such exquisite sensations on the flushed skin. He could hear Simon moaning softly underneath his lips.
With hands that seemed to know exactly what to do, Karim set to work on his friend, slowly at first, then faster and faster. He could feel Simon’s hands reciprocating, every bit as skillfully. Of course, this was one thing that he would know just as well as Karim. They were bucking and thrusting wildly to get closer still, until they climaxed, breathlessly, pressing into each other as if they wanted to become one.
After it was over, they remained lying close together, eventually falling asleep like that. Towards morning they must have rolled apart, because when first light woke Karim, he was lying on his back, the covers up, almost as if nothing had happened.
He listened to Simon’s calm breathing, noting with satisfaction that his friend seemed to be getting a good night’s sleep. But Karim couldn’t stay in bed any longer. No matter how pleasant last night had been, what they had shared had no place in the bright light of day.
By the time Simon finally woke up, Karim had showered, shaved and changed into fresh clothes. He had breakfast ready, and Simon rose and stretched. Karim tried not to look too closely, but nothing in Simon’s behavior seemed to hint at any awkward memories of last night.
He didn’t quite smile, but something about him was different today. Maybe it was just that he had slept after so many nights without rest, or maybe it was the satisfaction of a mission accomplished. Radjani, the man responsible for killing Lisa, was now dead. Now Simon’s life could go on.
But could he really have slept so deeply that he didn’t remember what had happened between them? Karim wasn’t exactly eager to discuss it, but it might be best to get it out into the open. He knew how to deal with it, but he wasn’t sure about his friend. Could Simon really believe last night’s experience was nothing but a wet dream of a slightly unusual kind?
Simon didn’t say much, just sat down at the table, drank his orange juice, had a few slices of toast, shook his head no to the offer of coffee. As Karim was clearing away the dishes, Simon got up and ambled over to the bathroom.
“Thanks, my friend. That was delicious. I’ll be right out.”
Twenty minutes later, he emerged from there looking more like the arrogant young police officer Karim had first met all those months ago. So much had happened since then. His initial irration had slowly turned to grudging respect and finally affection.
He couldn’t help smiling at the fresh-faced young man standing before him. All that had happened since then had turned them into something more than mere partners. Friends, brothers in arms, what else?
Karim knew now that nothing could shake that friendship. Not the attraction he had felt for Lisa, not the tragedy that had drawn them even closer together. And hopefully not last night’s shared passion.
“So, what are we going to do today? Any plans?”
“I don’t know. What do you want to do? The funeral is over, do you have any other family business to take care of?”
“No. I don’t think so. Maybe I should go over and see mother and Jeremie. But I don’t know if I want to. Not this soon afterwards. Mother will be able to comfort him better than I can. And seeing me will bring back memories. No, I don’t think I’ll go over there today. Don’t you have anything you need to do?”
“No. You decide.”
Simon moved closer, so close that Karim almost took a step back before he checked himself. Was this when Simon accused him of taking advantage of him? But accusations were the last thing that seemed to be on Simon’s mind. Instead there was a mischievous look in his brown eyes, and for the first time in days, there was a smile playing on his lips. He put his arms around Karim and pulled him closer still.
“Maybe you want to do this again?”
And his lips crossed the remaining inches between them and locked on to Karim’s generous mouth. The kiss took him by surprise. This was a new and totally unexpected Simon. Where did that innocent boy from last night go? It wasn’t long before Karim collected himself and returned the kiss every bit as passionately as Simon.
“You didn’t think I’d forgotten? Just don’t think I’m going to make a habit of it. I’m not gay. Don’t forget that.”
“I won’t forget. Did you think I was?”
“No. Just a bit – adaptable.”
“Is that what you are? Then I suppose I’m more adaptable than I thought that first time.”
“I haven’t forgotten. How you hated me.”
“Just for the first hours or so after it happened. Why did you do it? To humiliate me?”
“No. Yes. I’m sorry, Simon. It won’t happen again.”
“What won’t happen again?”
“I won’t try to humiliate you ever again.”
“Don’t apologize. The way I was treating you, I deserved it.”
“You weren’t that bad. I learned to get used to your behavior eventually.”
“Good. Shall we go back to bed?”
“Simon. It seems I’ve created a monster.”
“Is that a problem?”
“What do you think?”
“That’s what I thought. Let’s go. Just one thing -“
“What we did last night was fine. Great, in fact. But that’s as far as it will go?”
“You decide. Like I said, I’m adaptable.”
The smile glittering in Karim’s eyes was wickedly humorous, and the answering laughter from Simon told him his statement had been appreciated.
“Oh, adaptable, is it? We’ll see how adaptable you are in a minute.”
They play-wrestled all the way over to the bedroom, where Karim stunned Simon by throwing him onto the bed, pinning him down with his weight. His lips crushed Simon’s, and for a second, Karim was afraid he had gone too far. The last thing he wanted was to scare his friend.
“When you say that you’re adaptable, does that mean you’ve done much more than we did?”
“You don’t want to know.”
The expression on Simon’s face was unreadable as he contemplated his friend’s reply.
“No. You’re right. I don’t. Is it painful?”
“It doesn’t have to be, but I’m not going to do it to you. Or let you do it to me. We’re not kids anymore. This is serious.”
“Ok. What about -“
“No. Not this time. You’ll regret it later.”
“I suppose you’re right. But I never really got round to -“
“The answer is no. I won’t. And you shouldn’t either. It’s not as much fun as it looks in the movies. Except maybe when you’re on the receiving end.”
“So you have done it?”
“I said, you don’t want to know. Are we going to waste time talking or do you want some action?”
This time Simon’s reply was without words, and they lost themselves in each other for the second time. They had no idea where the time went. When they let go of each other and looked up, the daylight was fading outside. Karim swore softly. His friend, and for now, lover, looked up at him, startled.
“Nothing serious. But I don’t have anything for us to eat. How about going to a restaurant?”
“Ok. Your treat?”
“Absolutely. No date of mine ever goes to my bed hungry.”
“So that’s what you’re planning? A big seduction.”
“No. No need. That’s what happened last night, remember?”
“Oh, I remember everything about it. My dad would kill you. My mom – I’m not going to tell you what she’d do to you.”
Simon’s gaze travelled down Karim’s body, lingering somewhere in the middle. When the implication of what Simon was hinting dawned on him, Karim involuntarily felt his hands move down to protect the threatened part of his anatomy. His friend was grinning maliciously.
“Don’t worry. I wouldn’t let her. And no one’s going to find out about this. Ever. My lips are sealed.”
And Karim pulled Simon into a rough embrace which at the beginning of their acquaintance would have earned him a quick punch to the jaw. Now Simon’s lips met his with an enthusiasm he had no trouble matching.
But kissing wouldn’t satisfy their hunger for food. They had to hurry if they were going to beat the crowds coming from theaters and shows. No need to take in any other show than what they had to offer each other, right here in the privacy of Karim’s home.
Karim took him to a place where Simon had never been before. A small, murky North African place far away from the neighborhoods Simon knew. The proprietor seemed to know Karim, and was very friendly and full of jokes, even though he could see the David’s star hanging from a gold chain around Simon’s neck. This was Paris, not Jerusalem.
Simon enjoyed the food, the music and the conversation. They were given a table out of the way as if the owner of the restaurant knew that they wanted to be alone. When the little man disappeared into the kitchen to see to their food, Simon felt compelled to ask Karim if he’d ever taken a male lover there before.
“Are you kidding? I thought I just told you I’m not gay.”
“You know what they say about us Arab boys.”
“The last time was when I was 18. He was an old friend. My best friend, actually. But that was just for old times’ sake. When I had sex with a woman for the first time, when I was 16, I lost my enthusiasm for boys.”
“Yes. She wasn’t my girlfriend or anything. Leyla was a belly dancer. Or a prostitute, I suppose you might say. But that didn’t matter to me. I couldn’t get enough. I think she was 25, or maybe older. How old were you?”
From Simon’s expression, Karim guessed that his friend hadn’t wanted to answer that question. Finally he appeared to come to a decision. He spoke so quietly Karim had to lean closer to be able to hear him.
“Was it – her?”
The mention of Simon’s wife put a damper on the rest of the evening. Before 11.30 they were back in Karim’s apartment. The sadness was back in Simon’s eyes. Karim took his hand and pulled him slowly with him towards the bedroom. If there was nothing else he could do for his friend, he would at least get that look out of his eyes.
Tonight they clung to each other with a new desperation. It seemed as if everything had had time to settle after this time, and the sharpness of the first stab of pain was back with force. What they did this time, didn’t have much to do with sex, but all the more with love and affection.
Towards morning they drifted off to sleep. First Simon, then finally, just before dawn, Karim. The warm shape of his friend was getting so wonderfully familiar. Karim was afraid he could easily get used to having him there. It was as if their bodies were getting attuned to each other. That worried him. This couldn’t be allowed to go on.
When they woke up, Simon not much later than Karim, they were quiet and subdued. Something seemed to be weighing on their minds, but no one wanted to be the first to open the topic. The day passed slowly, and by 9 they had both had enough, and decided to call it a night. Simon put a hand on Karim’s cheek and looked into his eyes, as if searching for a good way to say what he had to say.
“Look, this has been terrific. I’ve loved every second of it, but it will have to end. Tomorrow we’ll be back at work. That is, if we still have jobs to go to. We can’t go on like this. You do understand that, don’t you?”
“Yes, that’s what I’ve been thinking too. What we had these two days was special. But this is not us. I want us to be friends, partners.”
“I know. Me too. So we have tonight. Let’s make the most of it.”
“Ok. Simon, if you want me to, I’ll -“
“No. You don’t have to. Let’s stick to what we know. That’s enough for me.”
“Whatever you say.”
“Karim, now that Lisa -“
“I cared about her too, but I think it’s better if we forget about her for tonight. Let’s make the most of it.”
“What we did here, I’ll never forget. I had no idea it could be like this.”
“You know, neither did I. But I guess all the difference is in how much you care. Not what you do.”
And Karim kissed Simon again, knowing it would be the last time. It was strange how familiar the shape of those lips had become in such a short time. The rest of Simon’s body fitted so perfectly into his embrace. He wanted to commit all of it to memory, every inch of it, memorize the sounds his friend made, each movement. When the morning came they would be what they had been before this time out.
Tonight, they were still lovers. Karim’s hands loved Simon’s skin, Simon’s hands left invisible marks on Karim’s body. They would remember, but to continue like this, they would have to give up something else, just as precious, and in the end, their daytime lives had more to offer.
To save tonight’s experience and make it last, they didn’t sleep many hours. When dawn came, they were lying awake watching each other. The passion had died down, but the tenderness was still there in every move they made, in every sound.
“Karim, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to love another woman the way I loved her.”
“Maybe not. But would you give all that up anyway? Some day you might meet someone you can love. And even if you don’t, sex is kind of nice too, don’t you agree?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know. I couldn’t hold on to her. Why didn’t she stay with me?”
“I don’t know. All I know is that she never stopped loving you. Just like you never stopped loving her.”
“You seem to have understood her better than I ever did.”
“It’s not necessary to understand someone to love them.”
Karim said something in Arabic, that Simon didn’t understand. The look in his eyes was so filled with love that Simon had to gasp. Was that love for him? Or was it for her? He had detected something in Karim’s tone of voice when he was talking about her. Not just once but every time. With a sinking feeling, Simon knew that she would have loved Karim back. How could she not do that? Knowing what kind of a man Karim was, when he, Simon, was still a boy in so many ways.
“What does that mean?”
“It means that we humans will never understand the ways of God.”
“Yours or mine?”
“They’re one and the same. Not that I am a great believer in Allah.”
“I believe in the Lord.”
“Then you should trust in Him. I know that you will meet a woman again some day. And so will I. In the meantime, we have -“
“We have each other.”
“Yes, and you have your family.”
“What about you?”
“You are my family. You and your parents and Jeremie.”
“You’re right. And we have our work. Lisa wouldn’t have wanted us to let the bad guys get away.”
“No, she wouldn’t.”
“And you’re not the only one with a religious quote. How about this?”
The words that issued from Simon’s lips were both utterly incomprehensible, yet strangely familiar. His Hebrew was heavily accented with his own native Parisian, but Karim had no doubt this was the words of Jahve.
The Koran school Karim had gone to as a boy had told him that the Jews were evil. But he had long since left those tenets behind. His home land was not only miles, but years away. France was his home, and Simon was his family. His religion was “liberte, egalite et fraternite”, nothing else.
“So what did you just say?”
“What’s a nice guy like you doing in a place like this?”
“No? You’re not serious?”
“No. Of course not. It means something like do what is your task in life, and the Lord will take care of the rest. At least I think so. I never even had my Bar Mitzvah. My grandmother is always saying things like that. But I don’t even think the old lady remembers what they mean.”
“Never change, promise me that, Simon. I’ve never known a guy like you.”
“I’ve never met anyone like you either. Promise me I’ll never lose you, Karim. If you marry some Muslim chick and start a family of seven sons or whatever it is you guys are dreaming of, don’t leave me.”
“I swear. And I really don’t think I’d like a large family. Two or three, that’s my limit. Would you like to have another child one day?”
“What? With you?”
“Don’t be such an idiot. I’m serious.”
“Yes. I always wanted a big family. Three or four more kids would be nice.”
“And one day you will.”
“Did Allah tell you that in a vision?”
“No. I just know. Aren’t you going to try and get some sleep now? The chief said he didn’t expect you in all that early tomorrow. I suspect he needs to do a little discreet tidying up here and there.”
“Do you think he knows?”
“Of course he knows. All he doesn’t know is exactly how. But I think he suspects me.”
“Could you get in trouble over it?”
“No. Don’t worry about it. I’m protected.”
“That secret service shit?”
“Yes, that secret service shit.”
“You’re such a mysterious guy, you know that?”
“But that’s what you love about me, isn’t it?”
“I’ll show you how much I love you.”
“Don’t. It’s too late for that. Look. Dawn’s here already.”
“No. It’s still night, for as long as we want it to be. When we say it’s morning, then we’ll get up and go to work.”
“Alright, you win. But I don’t want you to look back on this and regret it. You’ll say I took advantage of you, that I led you astray.”
“That you seduced me? Well, you did in a way, didn’t you? But I’ll never hate you for that. Never. This will be our special secret.”
“Whatever you say, Simon.”
They didn’t linger long in bed afterwards. And they didn’t share the shower either, despite playful suggestions from Simon. When they were once again dressed in their work clothes, ready to go, everything was different.
Once again they were two police officers on their way to work. That night, Simon would sleep at his own place. All that was left of this time outside of time, was the last lingering looks they exchanged, before going downstairs to get into Karim’s car. It would be nearly an hour until they were outside the police headquarters, and that time was necessary to readjust to their ordinary day lives.
By the time they arrived Simon was ready to face his boss. The telling off would be severe, but all in all, considering what he had done, he knew that he was being let off easy.
Each and every one of his colleagues respected him for what he had done, and he knew that all of them would have done the same. But he was still glad he had Karim by his side as he walked in. He didn’t know what he would have done without him. Partners, friends, brothers in arms. Simon smiled at Karim. Then he braced himself for the de-briefing.
When Simon was finally allowed to go back to his old office, everything looked the same. But there was a feeling of emptimess about it that hadn’t been there the last time he was in there.
It wasn’t all that many days ago, and yet the most important thing of all was missing. Not the mezuza. Simon had quietly removed that one day, out of respect for Karim’s culture. He just knew that Karim was gone, and he wasn’t coming back. And that hurt just as much as Lisa’s death.
Simon’s colleagues seemed to be looking at him with more respect than before. It wasn’t something he would have noticed before Karim had come into his life. But now he did. They had all liked him. Some of them had found it easy to work with him, others not. But no one had respected him the way he respected Karim. Now they did. But all he wanted was to have his friend back.
He filled in the time behind his desk, pretending to be finishing old reports. It would have been easy to plead fatigue or something else, just to get out early. In fact the chief had suggested as much. He seemed to be relieved to be rid of Karim. Just so he wouldn’t have to face going home alone, Simon put off leaving until 7. Even then he didn’t go back home.
He went out for dinner, he even tried to watch a movie. But he gave up somewhere half way into it, when he realized he had no idea what it was about. Not until he was nearly there, did he notice where it was he was driving. This probably wasn’t a good idea. He was the one who had made it clear that he wanted what they had to end. But now he knew that sex aside, all he wanted was to be near Karim. With Lisa dead, Simon was lost.
He parked the car in the street outside Karim’s building, not having much hope it would remain undamaged in this neighborhood, but not really caring. When he walked up to the door, he realized that he wouldn’t get in, unless Karim was upstairs and could buzz him in.
He pressed the buzzer and waited breathlessly. There was no reply. Dejectedly, he sat down on the front steps to wait. Returning tenants had to ask him more than once before they got through to him and he got up to let them pass.
It got dark, and colder outside. The stars came out, and still there was no sign of Karim. What if he had been sent away on assignment? Simon had to see him. Tonight.
By midnight, when Simon was nodding off where he was sitting, hunched up on the steps, he was wakened by the sound of footsteps on the pavement, and the sound of a woman laughing. He was going to get up to let the new arrivals past, when he heard them talking.
“Look, there’s someone sitting on your steps.”
“Mm. Let me just find the keys. Don’t go anywhere, Suzanne.”
The voice was familiar and Simon looked up, staring incredulously at the couple standing over him. She was blonde, young, with a pretty but vacuous smile. Karim had his arm around her waist and was only now beginning to recognize the person in his way.
“Hello. I had to come.”
“Simon. I thought we agreed that -“
“Who is this? A friend of yours?”
But Karim ignored his companion. Letting go of her, he turned to Simon.
“I know what we agreed, but I couldn’t face being alone yet. Sorry.”
“What am I going to do with you, Simon? Come on, get up. You can’t spend the night out here.”
And he held out his hand to help Simon up. All but forgotten, his date was standing a few steps back, unable to believe her eyes.
“Who is this? Your boyfriend? I’m not used to being treated this way. What’s it going to be? Me or him?”
“I’m sorry, Suzanne. This isn’t a good time. I’ll call you.”
“Don’t bother, you dumbass fag. Forget it.”
“You don’t understand. He’s my brother and he just lost his wife. I’m sorry. You’d better go. Here. Take this. Cab money.”
“I don’t want anything from you. Your brother, huh? Not much resemblance.”
But Karim wasn’t even listening anymore. Simon coming back like this was a mistake. He knew that. But how could he turn him away, when he was sitting there, looking at him pleadingly, like a little puppy? Slightly drunk, Karim had some trouble finding the key, but eventually he was successful.
They proceeded up the stairs in silence. Karim threw the keys on the table in the hallway, and walked into the living room, turning on the lights. The girl might have been a mistake too. He just didn’t want to face being alone right now either. And if he couldn’t deal with it, was it fair of him to expect Simon to, this soon after the funeral and the revenge?
Subdued and almost shy, Simon didn’t say anything for a long time. But he was beginning to regret coming here. Karim had a date. Who was he to get in the way of his life?
“I’m sorry I ruined your date.”
“Don’t worry about it. Why don’t you stay here for the rest of the week? On Saturday I’ll take you to my cousin Fatma’s wedding. I’ll introduce you to her sister Nadia. She’s a young widow. No children. You’ll like her.”
“Is she pretty?”
“Yes, very pretty. And smart. You’ll see.”
He was already cheering up. Karim wasn’t upset with him. And it was such a relief not to have to face the night alone. Not yet. He could still see Lisa’s unmoving face and the trickle of blood. Whenever he closed his eyes that image hovered over him. Sometimes he saw the fireball shooting up around Radjani’s car.
“I’m glad you don’t think I’m being a pain.”
“Wrong. You are a pain in the ass. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Hey, watch it. If you’re going to be like that, I won’t invite you to my cousin’s Mina’s Bat Mitvah. Her older sister, Debra, is exactly your type.”
“So you’re setting up dates for me now, Simon?”
“Ok. Exactly my type, did you say?”
“Yes. Superior, tough.”
“I see. Sounds perfect. Just what I need.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“You could be right. Well, it’s late, and even if your chief doesn’t expect you bright and early, I have things to do tomorrow. We’d better go to bed.”
“That’s right. Secret stuff.”
And Karim couldn’t resist grabbing Simon and ruffling his hair again. This time there was no surge of desire. All he felt was affection. He hadn’t been lying to Suzanne. Simon was his brother now, whatever they had done.
Dragging Simon into the bedroom, Karim didn’t have much trouble fending off the blows his friend was raining on him, trying to break free. Karim suspected that Simon wasn’t trying very hard. How callous of him to expect Simon to get by on his own this soon after Lisa’s death. Of course he needed someone for the first couple of weeks. There was no harm in it.
Whatever had happened before was over. They needn’t have worried about the effects that episode would have on their friendship. Nothing could ruin that. It was too firmly based in mutual respect and affection. And before long they were both fast asleep, back to back.