[Note: contains graphic language and sexual situations. For mature readers only.]
The toothpaste exploded.
Grover Benson stared down at the mess. It did not bode well for a day he had been anticipating for four months.
The end of the spring semester. All he had to do was stop in, pick up his students’ term papers, spend a few hours in his office grading them (and trying not to tear out his hair), and then he could disappear into the archives and lose himself in research for the summer. Maybe he would come out to eat. Or not.
An authentic Minoan Linear B cup. Perfectly intact, the thin gold showing only a few dents here and there. According to the faded tag resting inside the bowl, Hilda Dunbar had dug it up on Crete around the turn of the century and then given it to Gustavus Swan in 1946. How the cup had come to be boarded up in a basement closet instead of being properly logged, deciphered, and displayed at The Laurel University’s campus museum was something Grover did not understand. Neither did the museum staff, leaving Mrs. O’Neil in a huff, scrambling to make sure nothing else had been missed.
So he woke up excited — a summer of research! — barely taking the time to shower. Then the toothpaste exploded all over his shirt and tie, forcing him to waste time cleaning up and changing his clothes. He was almost to the interstate when he realized that he had left his Minoan syllabary at home and had to turn around. Then he got stuck behind a line of oversized tourist buses and missed his exist.
And so it went.
By the time he reached the lecture hall, he was disheveled, sweating, thirty minutes late, and as close to swearing as he had ever been in his entire life.
He did not look up to see if seat H-12 was occupied.
Never mind that the man had been a fixture in Grover’s dreams all semester — he did have some dignity, after all.
Michelle, bless her, had already begun collecting the term papers and was giving his students instructions on how to retrieve them, and where and how to dispute their grade if they felt so inclined. A few students had done so over the years; usually, by the time Grover was done explaining his reasons for that solid D, they were either nodding along and vowing to do better, or weeping and vowing to switch majors.
Michelle had been one of the former. She was now his teaching assistant and well on her way to a stellar career in linguistics and archaeology.
Her welcoming smile turned to a frown as she took in his appearance. She quickly turned back to the students who filled the tiered seating, reminding them — again — that plagiarism was an expellable offense.
No one shifted, looking guilty. That was a good sign.
She handed him the stack of papers. “Anything you would care to add, Dr. Benson?”
He pulled on his glasses and casually flipped through them, pacing around his lectern and closer to the first row of seats. “Hhmm. Only ten papers this semester on sex in the ancient world. That’s an improvement. Usually there are at least twenty.”
“The Mis/use of Classical Mythology in Contemporary Paranormal Romance. A change of pace. The Influence of Victorian-Era Archaeology on Early Hollywood. Good. An Alternative Reading of Book Six of The Odyssey Using Feminist Hermeneutics. Excellent. And — ” He stopped, squinting, then peered over his glasses at H-12. He could feel a flush spreading up his neck and did his best to stop it. “Homoeroticism in Late Bronze Age Cretan Art.” He cleared his throat. “Well, I guess that’s eleven papers on sex.”
More laughter, less nervous this time.
He waved his hand toward the doors. “Go. Be free. Enjoy your summer. And those of you who survive the culling, I look forward to seeing you in my 201 class on Bronze Age linguistics and mythology. Run while you can.”
Groans and laughter, which quickly changed to general conversation as the students picked up their bags, pulled out their phones, and began pushing their way toward the exits.
He tried to ignore the fact that H-12 hadn’t moved from his seat.
Michelle sidled up to him, a gleam in her eye.
“No. Nyet. Nein. Óchi.”
“But Dr. Benson — ”
“I do not need your help to translate the cup. If finding that cup after all this time is any indication as to the state of the archives, then they really doneed your help down there. You were fortunate that I convinced Mrs. O’Neil to take you on. She only wanted library science and museology majors to participate.”
H-12 was still sitting in his chair, leaning back casually.
Grover plowed ahead, doing his best to ignore the man. “Don’t waste this opportunity to broaden your horizons and make valuable contacts in other fields. Who knows? You might find something even more important than the Swan Cup.”
Michelle dipped her head, sighing. “Yes, Doctor.” She picked up her bag and umbrella from behind the lectern. “Are you coming to the party tonight? … At Dean Riley’s house? … Her end-of-semester party? You completely forgot.”
“Not … completely.”
Michelle rolled her eyes and headed toward the door. “I’ll give her your regards. And, if I don’t see you before the fall, have a good summer.”
“You, as well.”
The door closed behind her. Sighing, Grover slipped his glasses back inside his coat, flipped open his shoulder bag, and stuffed the papers inside. One hundred and ten term papers at a minimum fifteen pages each, though some should be pretty quick, so he was looking at maybe eight hours —
He turned and immediately stumbled to a halt.
Grover had not even heard him come down the steps, and yet there he stood, backpack over his shoulder, hands casually stuffed into his front pockets, not five feet away. There was a bit of stubble on his chin, and his jeans looked well-worn, and the two layers of plain black T-shirts had definitely been through the wash more than once, and there were smile lines around his mouth and this close his eyes were a fascinating shade of teal, not quite blue, not quite green —
“From the Latin dominicus,” he blurted. “Meaning ‘of or belonging to a lord or master.’”
He managed to close his mouth and shut up before he embarrassed himself any further. Barely.
Dominic grinned slowly, one corner of his mouth curling up. “Actually, in my case, from the Latin dominica. Lots of strong women in my family, so it seemed appropriate.”
Grover frowned, tongue-tied.
“I changed it when I was sixteen. Didn’t really care for my birth name.”
“… Ah. Well.” Speak. Words. You know them — in twelve different languages!
“How’s seven sound?” Dominic asked.
Dominic smiled again. “For dinner. I can’t ask you out while you’re still officially my teacher, so, will you be done grading them by seven?”
“Yes. Yes — No! No! I … that is, I have a thing, a project, this thing that I have to do. I have.” Flushing, he stopped.
“You have to eat before this thing, right?”
“Good. Your office, seven. You like Indian?”
“Thai, it is.” Dominic backed towards the door, still smiling. “See you then, Grover.”
Dominic pulled out his phone as soon as he was clear of the building. Steffan picked up on the first ring. “How’d it go, teacher’s pet?”
Dominic grunted, eyes sliding across the open space in front of the classical studies building. Random clumps of students ranging from dewy-eyed freshman to aging PhD candidates, a few instructors here and there, a couple of unarmed security guards — and one maintenance guy zipping around in a golf cart, chatting into his ear piece instead of cleaning out the overflowing trash cans.
“You’re gonna get fired,” Dominic told him.
Steffan shrugged as the golf cart came to an abrupt halt, nearly bumping into a professor as he dumped his coffee into the trash. The professor shot Steffan an irritated look, said something that Dominic could not hear over the phone, and stomped away. Steffan just grinned. “Not like we have much longer on this job, anyway. You’ll get in tonight?”
Dominic grunted again. “He’s going to hate me for this.”
A short silence as Steffan jiggled the bag, trying to pull it free of the can. “It’s for his own good. They know it’s here now. We have to get it someplace safe.” He stopped, peering into the bag. “Hey, there’s almost a whole pizza in here.”
“I feel a vomit coming on just at the thought.”
“We’ve eaten worse.”
Steffan tied up the bag and tossed it into the back of his cart. “You know, if this really bothers you, we can figure out another plan.”
Dominic drew a deep breath. “No. This is our best shot. Tonight, or never.”
Steffan climbed into the cart, backing it up so quickly that he nearly took out a swarm of sorority sisters. They screeched at him and made rude gestures.
“Are you okay with this plan?” Dominic asked pointedly.
“Sure I am.” He could hear the lascivious smile in his husband’s voice. “Give the professor a kiss from me. And I want all the details after.”
Grover saved Dominic’s paper for last. The clock ticked along as he scribbled and scratched. It was torture. A few of the papers were brilliant (the analysis of paranormal romance and mythology was surprisingly insightful), some were good, most were mediocre, and a few had him pulling his hair in frustration.
He set aside the next-to-last term paper, a scarlet B- scrawled across the last page, and reached for Homoeroticism in Late Bronze Age Cretan Art. Shifting in his chair, he flipped it open to the first page and began to read.
It was really quite good. The prose was engaging, not dry like so many papers. Academically solid, with fully cited primary and secondary sources. Dominic had chosen three wall paintings as reference, and included photos that he had taken himself.
So he had been to Crete at least once. That was better than Grover, who had barely worked up the nerve to leave his safe routine in Milwaukee for Rhode Island when he was hired by The Laurel University.
He was so engrossed — nodding along to Dominic’s argument that one of the paintings had been misinterpreted as a father and son when it was clearly two grown men — that he started in alarm at the knock on his office door.
“Sorry.” Dominic tilted his head, backpack slung across his chest, a brown paper bag in his hand. It smelled of delicious vegetables and spicy noodles. “It’s after seven. Should I come back later?”
“Uh, no, not at — I mean, please come in. I’ll just… pardon me.” Grover hastily jotted a few notes and a bright red A at the end, and added it to the stack of papers. Standing, he nervously smoothed his shirt. “Please, have a seat. I just finished your paper.”
Dominic set the bag on the chair and started pulling out aluminum foil bowls and paper boxes. “Dare I ask?”
“What? Oh. Your paper was quite good. High marks, definitely.”
“So, does that mean you’re officially not my teacher anymore?”
Dominic’s eyes were still that ridiculous shade of teal. Grover had tried to convince himself that he had exaggerated the color in his memory, but, no, they really were teal. And right now they were fixed on Grover with an intensity that made his stomach tighten and his cock take notice in a way that it had not for quite some time.
He really should have stayed seated when he had the chance.
Dominic’s eyes dipped. Grover thought that having that gaze off his face for even a moment would help, but it actually made things worse, because Dominic’s eyes were fixed down there and Grover could feel his erection swelling with every breath and every tick of the clock.
Dominic leaned forward, bracing his hands on the desk. “I really, really want to kiss you.”
“Oh.” Grover licked his lips.
“Do you want to kiss me?”
“Yes. I mean ….”
Dominic leaned closer. Their noses bumped. “You’re really adorable when you’re flustered, you know that?”
“No.” Grover’s stomach growled. His face turned hot.
Dominic laughed, but it was a warm and accepting sound, not the least bit mocking. “Sit, Professor. Food first, then dessert.”
The campus cleared out quickly. Steffan should not have been surprised. Many students had their bags packed and ready to go before they turned in their final papers. Some had cars waiting at the curb, already loaded down with everything they wanted to take home for the summer. The administrative buildings were closed and even the library was locked up, though it would reopen in the morning when Mrs. O’Neil and her gaggle of interns arrived to start (re)cataloging the archive.
Night settled around him. Security lights along the pathways snapped to life, but only here and there, leaving large patches of darkness. Steffan leaned back against the dogwood tree, legs crossed, and studied the sweeping staircase and arched doors of The Laurel University’s Library for Ancient Studies.
The Swan Cup. Lost for nearly a century, and it would have stayed safely lost if a certain linguistics professor had not accidentally stumbled onto the exact Attic Greek phrase to unweave the Look Away spell that Gustavus Swan had placed around both the closet door and around the shelves built in front of that door. A double layer of protection that Grover Benson had somehow found his way through while hunting around the basement for a sixth-century Byzantine commentary on The Iliad.
Steffan shook his head. There had to be some innate magical talent there, a gift tied to Benson’s linguistic abilities that he wasn’t even aware he possessed.
The wards around the library proper still stood, but it was only a matter of time. Word had spread in the four months since the discovery. Steffan was fairly certain that he and Dominic had arrived first, but with the campus nearly deserted and security at a minimum, now was the perfect time for those other interested parties to strike.
And if they could get the professor with the linguistic and magical skills to translate and unlock the cup, even better ….
Inhaling, Steffan closed his eyes and pushed his anxiety and fear down, down, down into the earth. He felt for the tree, found the texture of its bark, the whisper of its leaves, the scent of its flowers, the tremble of its roots as they stretched through the dirt. The tree was content: sunshine, rain, a nest of mourning doves, and bees.
With an agitated buzz, a honeybee zipped around his head, circling the trunk.
Steffan’s eyes snapped open.
The bee bobbed up and down and twisted in circles — alarmed, anxious.
Pressing his hands to the ground, feeling the soil between his fingers, Steffan leaned forward slowly. He frowned, digging his fingers deeper into the ground, drawing strength and energy.
A shimmer, like a faint outline.
A Look Away spell, and a damn good one. The shimmer moved up the steps, and he had to force himself to focus on it; his eyes kept trying to slide away. The door shivered. If he had not been watching so closely, he would not have known that it opened and closed.
Fuck. So much for seducing the Professor.
Grover was laughing. Actually laughing. It felt good.
“… Which is why you should never order snails with tomato to go. Does not translate in the Greek.” Dominic grinned at him over the rim of his Thai tea, eyes dancing.
Eyes weren’t supposed to dance, or sparkle, or shimmer, and one certainly couldn’t drown in them. Grover leaned his elbows on the desk, shifting forward in his chair. But Dominic’s eyes were definitely dancing, and Grover would happily drown in them.
Dominic set aside his bowl of noodles and red curry chicken and rested his own elbows directly across from Grover. He leaned over the desk so that only a few inches separated them.
“Ready for dessert, Professor?”
Grover nodded, swallowing hard.
Dominic tilted his head, eyes studying him intently. “Grover. From the Old English grāf, meaning grove, a sacred place.” One hand lifted to pull a lock of dark hair forward, around Grover’s ear. “I really want to kiss you, and then kiss you some more, and then fuck you on top of this desk.”
“Ohhh,” Grover breathed.
“But I need to confess something first, and I hope you’ll understand and not be too angry. I hope you’ll give me a chance to explain.”
Grover was barely listening, focused on Dominic’s mouth, the way his lips moved, the too-brief glimpses of his tongue.
The whole world stilled and went cold.
Grover jerked back. “What?” he choked.
“He knows I’m here.”
“He’s okay with it.”
The door crashed open and a janitor ran in, sweating and panting. His gray coveralls had dirt and other stains all over them. Wide amber eyes, messy brown hair, and was that a bee?
Dominic leapt to his feet while Grover hastily backpedaled, his chair ramming into the wall behind him. The clock fell to the floor with an unhappy boing.
“Problem!” the janitor panted, eyes darting between Grover and Dominic.
“Husband? Is that your husband? He said you were okay with this!”
The janitor scowled at him. “I am okay with it. Maybe next time you’ll let me join in.” The janitor — Steffan — turned his attention to Dominic while Grover gaped at him. “Someone’s in the library. Slipped passed me with a Look Away.”
“Fuck,” Dominic whispered. He grabbed his backpack and pointed a finger at Grover. “Stay here. Lock the door.”
“What? No, absolutely not.” Grover pushed to his feet. “You said someone broke into the library. We need to call — wait, are they after the cup?” He lunged for the door, pushing past the other two men. “I’ve barely started on the translation!”
Grover hated running. He had not run since his disastrous attempt to impress Timothy Grant by trying out for the track team in ninth grade. Now, he ran. Down the hall, down the steps, across the campus toward the library, Dominic and Steffan pounding along beside him. And the bee. He was fairly certain the bee was following, too.
As they came within sight of the library’s grand entrance, Dominic grabbed his arm and hustled him off the path, behind a stand of dogwood trees and low shrubs. Steffan followed, crouching so close that their arms and legs bumped.
Grover twisted his arm free. “What are you doing? If someone is trying to steal the cup, we need to stop them! That is a priceless artifact! Why is the building glowing?”
Steffan’s head snapped around and he stared hard at Grover. The bee circled his head in an agitated orbit. “You can see that?”
“The arch around the door — the inscription — why is it green?”
Dominic grinned and clasped Grover’s shoulder. “Told you he was special. It’s green because the ward Gustavus Swan built around the library is falling. Once that happens, they can walk out with the cup.”
Grover blinked rapidly. “Nothing that you just said makes sense in any language, ever.”
A low hum and then a ripple of light. It started in the archway and spread outward rapidly, across the surface of the building. The light phased from dark green to lime as it traveled, other strange symbols in each corner of the library flashing for a moment and then fading away. And then nothing.
“Shit,” Steffan muttered, and bolted for the door.
“Stay here!” Dominic hissed at Grover.
“I already said no!” Grover hissed back and found himself running after the two men, up the sweeping stairs, and through the front doors. The entryway smelled faintly of ozone, making him want to sneeze.
The great front hall spread out before them, disappearing into the darkness. Faint light from the single street lamp outside trickled in through the windows, illuminating the curved librarian’s desk and the seal of The Laurel University, painted in bright colors on the wooden floor. Beyond, a couple of large study tables and chairs, a shelving cart, and Michelle.
“Michelle?” Grover gaped, trying to process what he was seeing. Michelle, wide briefcase in hand, a nimbus of blue light around her head. Four very large men arrayed around her in a circle, and there were candles and incense sticks and he was pretty sure that was a dead cat at her feet ….
“You have been a bad boy, Professor. You were supposed to be here tonight working on the translation. At least you saved me the trouble of hunting you down.”
Dominic and Steffan stepped in front of him. Vaguely, Grover noticed that the bee had disappeared and that Steffan was making funny little wiggles with his fingers, hand tucked down by his side.
“Who are you? Really?” Dominic asked.
She just smiled. The four very large men spread out, making Grover very nervous.
“Come on, you can at least give us a hint. Order of Circe? Templum Nova Stellaris? Einäugig?”
Her chin lifted a fraction.
“Ah. That’s the one. All those times Swan sent you idiots packing and here you are again.”
Steffan whipped around and slammed into Grover, knocking him to the floor and half-shoving, half-dragging him behind the front desk. Light exploded above and around them and there was a rapid series of pop-pop-pops and the room smelled of burning hair.
— ohmygodohmygodohmygod —
“Stay,” Steffan growled, and Grover could only nod as the other man stood and sprinted out into the chaos.
Grover huddled close to the ground as another flash of light illuminated the room, sending strange shadows cascading across the walls and floor.
There was a loud shriek and burning sheets of paper fluttered past his head. A moment later, Dominic came sliding across the desk and tumbled to the floor at Grover’s feet. Steffan followed, his uniform torn and stained with things that were not dirt and grease.
“One down,” he panted.
“Wood?” Dominic asked, chest heaving. He jabbed an elbow back towards the desk.
Steffan shook his head, twisting around for a quick peek around the side. “Dead too long. Doesn’t remember being a tree.”
“Mrs. O’Neil keeps an ivy plant in her office.”
Grover didn’t realize that he had said anything until they simultaneously grinned at him. He pointed to the wall far to the left, hand shaking.
“Come out, come out, I know exactly where you are,” Michelle sang. “You’re just delaying the inevitable and pissing me off.”
“My new goal in life!” Dominic yelled back. Then, in a low whisper to Grover, “Help me distract her.”
“Briefcase! Cup! She cannot have that cup!”
“I am ….” Grover swallowed. Across from him, in the cramped space, Steffan sat with his legs crossed and his eyes closed, his hands pressed flat to the floor. He was chanting in … yes, that was definitely Linear B. Grover cleared his throat and tried again, louder. “I am very disappointed in you, Michelle. You were my prize pupil! You could have had a rich and rewarding career in academia!”
An unpleasant laugh. “Professor, you are an idiot. Three years I’ve listened to you drone on and on while I hunted for Swan’s cup. And you — who knows nothing — you find it! By accident!”
Grover’s eyes darted to Dominic. Told you he was special, Dominic had said. “What makes you think it was an accident?”
Cautiously, Grover pushed himself to his feet. He peered over the top of the desk, then straightened. Dominic’s hand settled on his leg, a warm and comforting weight.
The hall was a disaster. Tables and chairs had been shoved out of place. Scorch marks arced across the walls of books while burning pages drifted through the air, trailing ash. More scorch marks laced the floor and, yes, that pile of fried meat and clothing was definitely one of the very large men.
Movement, to his left. Swift and low to the ground. He forced himself not to look.
“I’ve heard the stories about Swan, too. I’ve been here much longer than you. Fascinating, the things one can find hidden away in dusty, forgotten corners.”
She studied him, face still, knuckles white around the handle of the briefcase. Then she smiled. “Why, Professor, for a moment you almost had me convinced.”
The blue nimbus around her head flared.
“Eep,” Grover said.
And then Dominic was just there, wrapped around Grover so that his arms extended in front of them, chanting in a language that had been lost for three thousand years, and the air got wavy and heavy and the arc of electricity that snapped out from Michelle seemed to hit a wall and shattered in a dozen different directions. Dominic shoved, hard, and the wall of air moved away from them, pushing tables and chairs and burning pages like an invisible tidal wave. One of the very large men jumped in front of it, shielding Michelle. It slammed into him, sending him sprawling.
Ivy suddenly everywhere. It wrapped around the fallen man and pulled another to the floor, twining around their legs and throats. They snarled and ripped at the plants, but the ivy kept coming, surging through the door of Mrs. O’Neil’s office and across the hall.
Another arc of electricity, Michelle shrieking at them in Old High German. Another wall of dense, wavy air, Dominic panting. Grover could feel the sweat through their clothes, could feel Dominic shaking.
Bees descended, a buzzing, angry mass. The swarm zipped over their heads, aiming straight for Michelle and the single man still upright. He bolted, but only made it a few steps. Screaming, he disappeared beneath a writhing blanket of yellow and black.
Dominic sagged against Grover’s back.
“Take him!” Grover yelled over the buzzing, pushing him into Steffan’s arms. Dashing around the end of the desk, he ignored Steffan’s order to stop and ran toward Michelle. She batted frantically at the bees, briefcase swinging wildly, hair standing on end, electricity sputtering in a halo.
He grabbed the briefcase with one hand and planted his fist square in the middle of her face.
She staggered back, eyes wide with shock, blood spurting from her nose.
“Sorry, but not really!” he yelled, hugged the briefcase to his chest, and bolted for the door. He grabbed Steffan’s hand as he passed and the three men raced out the door.
Behind them, there was a crackle and a low woomph. Bees surged around them, so thick that they couldn’t see as they ran, only feel the grass beneath their feet. And then another loud crack and every window in the library exploded. Flames poured out through the shattered glass.
The bees disappeared, slipping into the trees.
They staggered to a halt behind the dogwood. Grover didn’t even realize that he was crying until Dominic and Steffan’s arms closed around him, Steffan’s face tucked into his shoulder.
They left with the first siren. It took them two hours of skirting down side streets and alleys, but they eventually reached the small park on the north side of town where Dominic and Steffan had parked their vehicle.
Still clutching the briefcase, Grover squinted. “You drive a green school bus?”
Steffan cast a weary smile over his shoulder, then pressed his hand to the middle of the door. A swirl of Linear B script popped to life, a soft yellow, and then faded. “Actually, we live in the green school bus.” He pried the door open and climbed the steps.
Grover looked uncertainly at Dominic, who smiled his encouragement and waved him into the bus. Dominic followed him up, closing the door behind them. He touched a swirl of Linear B near the ceiling and it turned warm gold.
He gently guided Grover further inside. “Glamour. We just look like an ordinary school bus or an RV or whatever someone expects to see.”
“Oh,” Grover said in a small voice.
He looked around. The front seemed normal: just a driver’s seat and steering wheel. Beyond that, the interior had been gutted and converted into a tiny living space. There was a galley kitchen directly behind the driver’s seat, and a wood-burning stove with a pipe to the roof, then a low-slung couch that looked like it folded down into a bed, bookcases and cabinets stacked up beneath the windows, a desk and chair, and a bathroom way at the back. Minoan-style dolphins had been painted on the outside bathroom wall and a shelf above the stove held a dozen Cretan Goddess icons. The stove itself was old and the wood for the cabinets and bookcases had apparently been repurposed from multiple sources.
And plants. Plants everywhere, tucked into every nook and cranny, in stone pots and clay pots and metal pots, filling the interior with the scent of green growing things and soil and flowers. Someone had even painted the ceiling with rose vines.
“Very … cozy.”
“I’ll let the very obvious snobbery of that statement pass.” Steffan held out his hand. “Gimme.”
Grover blinked, then hugged the briefcase even more tightly.
A light touch on his back. “It could be booby-trapped,” Dominic explained softly. “Let us take a look first.”
Grover nodded and reluctantly handed the briefcase to Steffan. Dominic slipped around him and the two men huddled around the desk for long minutes while Grover just stood there, feeling useless.
He started to shake. Glowing inscriptions. Burning books. The smell of charred flesh and clothes. Michelle trying to kill him.
And then Steffan was there. He tilted Grover’s chin up with a knuckle, studying him. “You okay?”
This close, Grover could see the honey and brown striations in his eyes, and the tiny scar beneath his lower lip. He smelled like … spring and sunshine.
Grover inhaled sharply, trying to drive away the lingering stink of fire and burned things. “No. May I see the cup?”
Steffan led him over to the desk, where the briefcase lay open. That tingle of ozone again. Grover wrinkled his nose, then sighed in relief.
The gold cup was intact and undamaged, neatly fitted into the plush lining. Pulling his sleeves down over his hands, he carefully lifted it free. The engraving was beautiful. The Minoan goddess on one side, standing atop her mountain, flanked by lions. On the other, human figures in a field of grain, blooming fruit trees on either side. In between the two engravings, a circle of tiny bees. Linear B script lined the upper rim of the cup, wrapping all the way around.
He gently replaced the cup and ran a hand through his hair, agitated. “This is it. This might be all that’s left of — of the entire library.” He started shaking again.
Dominic’s hands closed over his shoulders from behind, massaging. “I don’t think so. I doubt the fire spread beyond the first floor. There was probably smoke damage, but most of the books would have survived.”
“And the fire. Michelle. The — the ivy and the bees and that thing you did with the air. That — That was ….” He couldn’t bring himself to say the word. It was the stuff of myths and fairy tales.
“Magic.” Steffan leaned against the desk and took Grover’s hand, gently rubbing the inside of his wrist. “Something you apparently have a talent for.”
Grover shook his head.
Dominic pressed his chest to Grover’s back, wrapping his arms around his waist. Grover found himself leaning back into the other man’s warmth while Steffan continued to massage his wrist and palm.
“I’m sorry.” Steffan’s lips tipped up in a wry, apologetic smile. “We’ve upended your whole world, haven’t we?”
“Magic,” Grover whispered. “Magic is real. Magic is real.” He focused on the golden cup. “Is that why Michelle wanted it?”
“That’s why a lot of people want it.”
Dominic smiled against his shoulder, and Grover shivered. “Yes, but we just want to keep it safe. Away from those who would use it to cause harm.”
Grover ran a finger over the front engraving, tracing the outline of the goddess and her lions. “What does it do?”
“No idea.” Steffan shrugged, gently taking the cup from Grover. “Hilda Dunbar — my great-grandmother — warned Gustavus Swan that it was dangerous and asked him to hide it. That was 1946, and that was the last time anyone saw the cup.” He placed the cup inside the briefcase, closed the lid, and took both of Grover’s hands in his. “But, enough about that for now. You know what I want?” He leaned forward. His lips brushed Grover’s mouth, coaxing.
Grover shivered, the ache of want warring with doubt and disbelief.
Steffan kissed him again, lips lingering. “I was almost killed tonight. My husband was almost killed tonight. I want really good sex.” Another kiss. “And so do you.”
Dominic’s lips slid down the side of Grover’s throat, nibbling. He shuddered. Steffan moved between Grover and the desk, spreading his legs so that Grover stood between them. Enveloped. Surrounded. Another shudder, more violent this time.
He inhaled sharply, trying to find the right words. “Are you sure? I haven’t — with two. Even with one, I wasn’t very good.” He tried to laugh and failed.
Steffan smiled gently and pressed a kiss to Grover’s forehead. “You’re beautiful, you’re wonderful, brave, and smart. And tonight, you’re ours.”
“Oohhh.” Doubt melted away, quickly replaced with delight.
His clothes came off first, Steffan peeling away Grover’s blazer and long-sleeved shirt and tie while Dominic ran his hands up and down Grover’s back and across his belly and chest. Shivering, Grover kicked off his loafers while Steffan kissed him, lips nibbling, tongues tangling. His whole body felt flushed, hypersensitive. He was dizzy. He could barely stand.
His trousers were next, hands sliding up and down his thighs, fingernails scraping. Grover whimpered, pulling Steffan in for an even deeper kiss while Dominic pressed close from behind, his shaft hard, his teeth finding the sensitive point between his neck and his shoulder.
And then he was on the bed, the couch folded down so that he could lie there and watch, panting, stunned, while Dominic and Steffan kissed and caressed and stripped one another. They stroked each other’s cocks, making Grover’s own shaft jump and twitch.
And then they were all in the bed together, tangled up, touching, kissing, nibbling and caressing, and Grover wasn’t sure where he ended and Dominic and Steffan began.
This. This is what had been missing, this is what he had needed.
Steffan held him close, chest to chest, cocks rubbing. Grover drove his fingers into Steffan’s hair, moaning against his lips while Dominic slowly, slowly pushed into him from behind.
At last, at last.
Grover tore his mouth away from Steffan. “Please — I need — faster ….”
A moment of hesitation and then Dominic was driving in and out of him, fingers digging into his hips. Steffan’s huff of laughter became a long, guttural groan when Grover wrapped his arms around him, crushing Steffan to him, bodies sliding, slick and hot and —
His climax rushed over him, unexpected, terrifying, tumbling him over the edge. He shouted, arching, feeling the hot rush of orgasm spread across his belly and chest. A moment later, Dominic and Steffan, with him tight between them, crying out as their own climaxes took them.
Sated, boneless, content for the first time in many years, he fell asleep. Curled together, the lovers held each other safe through the night.
He was awake with the dawn. He lay still for long minutes, enjoying the feel of Steffan’s arm across his waist, Dominic’s thigh between his legs, the sound of their breaths intermingling.
Doubt tried to creep in again, but he firmly pushed it away. He carefully slid a finger along Steffan’s cheek and remembered how gentle and affectionate he had been, and how his eyes had turned to molten honey when he climaxed.
On his other side, Dominic murmured something and turned his head, burying his nose in Grover’s hair. He shivered as Dominic’s breath whispered down his neck.
Happy, he realized. He was happy, and he wasn’t buried hip-deep in old books.
Eventually, his gaze drifted across the interior of the bus, across the tiny flowering plants and the trailing roses on the ceiling, and settled on the briefcase.
He carefully extricated himself from Dominic and Steffan’s embrace, pulled on his trousers and his glasses, and set to work.
An hour later, he started in surprise when warm lips touched the back of his neck. “Good morning, Professor,” Dominic whispered, smiling. “Hungry?”
Grover’s stomach growled.
“Pancakes,” Steffan mumbled from the bed, face buried in a pillow. “Big, fluffy pancakes.”
“That sounds delicious,” Grover agreed.
“Coming right up.” Dominic slapped Steffan on the butt on his way past the bed, causing the other man to jerk upright.
Steffan glared at his husband, swung his legs off the bed, and yawned widely. “Translate the inscription?”
“I don’t have my Minoan syllabary, so I can’t be completely sure, but … it’s some kind of agricultural healing magic.”
Steffan frowned. “Come again?”
“The writing is a set of instructions, followed by an invocation. It asks the Goddess of the Fields to bless the water in the cup and restore the land, to make it fertile and productive again.” He frowned. “I don’t understand why your great-grandmother wanted it hidden away. That doesn’t sound dangerous.”
Dominic poured batter into a skillet. “Sounds profitable. Think of all the land that’s been over-farmed, stripped of nutrients, or ruined by warfare. How much would a desperate farmer or corporation or government pay for fertile farmland?”
Grover set the cup back in the briefcase. “What do you plan to do with it?”
“For now? We have a friend down in Asheville, a priestess of Brigid. The temple there is Goddess-bonded. Unless someone wants to take on Brigid, the cup should be safe until we can come up with something long term.”
“Brigid? The Irish Goddess? So, you’re saying … myths are real, too? The Gods and the Goddesses and …?”
Steffan grinned as he folded the bed back up. “As real as you and me.” His humor faded and he exchanged a quick look with Dominic. “Want to come along? To Asheville?”
Grover felt his chest tighten, anxious; he would need to find a house-sitter and pack books to bring along and the police might even have questions about Michelle’s disappearance — but then warmth spread through his belly, a reminder of the contentment and excitement he had felt the previous night and the happiness he had woken to this morning. “If you really want me, then yes. Yes.” He paused. So many new things to learn, to research; a whole new way of understanding the old stories and poems. “Will you teach me? About all of this?”
Dominic set a heaping plate of pancakes down in front of him and then crouched, resting his hands on Grover’s knees. Steffan joined them, wrapping his arms around Grover’s shoulders.
Dominic’s fingers were warm through his trousers. “Yes, we will.”
“Anything and everything,” Steffan promised.
[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. Her poetry, short fiction, and essays have been published in a wide variety of venues, a complete list of which can be found on EHS. “The Secret of the Golden Cup” was previously published in Myths, Moons, and Mayhem(Sexy Little Pages), but is no longer in print. It has been (re)published here (with some minor revisions) for those who did not get to enjoy it the first time.]