bluetears07: (Miro/Lulu)
[personal profile] bluetears07
Title: Five Times Miroslav and Lukas Never Met
Pairing: Miroslav Klose/Lukas Podolski
Summary: Part Four: Lost Religion: Miroslav was raised to be a good Catholic boy. At twenty-five he is the youngest priest to be sent to Cologne with hopes of bringing young men like Lukas Podolski back to the Church. (aka: Catholic Priest!Miro fic.)
Rating: Part Four: NC-17/R
Disclaimer: Don't know them.
AN: So this took a while but it's exactly 10,000 words I hope it was worth the wait.

Five Times Miroslav and Lukas Never Met
Part Four: Lost Religion

Lukas had been Father Miroslav Klose’s project for a little over two years now. Two long years spent as the boy’s confessor and counsellor.

Miroslav first met Lukas shortly after the young man’s eighteenth birthday. He had recently completed the long process of becoming an ordained priest, graduating from seminary in Munich with top honours. Still quite young himself, Miroslav was sent to reinvigorate the city of Cologne—hoping to revive the flagging Catholic community. A week after first arriving at the church, Miroslav was introduced to one of the flock’s ‘worst’ offenders, the infamous prodigal Podolski son. Apparently, or so the older clergymen told him later, at the time of Miroslav’s arrival it had been several years since Lukas attended Mass and even longer since he participated in confession. As a boy, Lukas would supposedly torment each and every priest with his Polish ‘gibberish’, refusing to communicate in any form of German (and forget Latin) in order to properly confess his sins before God. That first Sunday in late June, Lukas’ mother had somehow convinced her wayward son to drag himself out of bed before noon and meet the new priest sent from Munich—thinking perhaps a change of tone, a younger voice Lukas could hopefully relate to, would persuade the young man to rejoin their humble flock.

Two weeks after their initial meeting and Miroslav’s first sermon, Lukas started regularly attending weekly Mass. Every Sunday morning he would be there, wide awake, seated beside his mother. A week later he sought out Miroslav in order to resume his participation in the holy sacrament of confession. Miroslav reasoned he would never quite understand what it was he said to Lukas that was so convincing. He has spent hours reflecting back on their initial exchange but never has been able to isolate what exactly it was that changed Lukas’ mind. Either way, he was thrilled to already be making a favourable impression upon the Catholic community of Cologne.

It only took three weeks, once Miroslav became more familiar with Lukas, that he realized the young man would be his ultimate responsibility—potentially his greatest temptation and only salvation.

Miroslav remembers how terrified the young man was during their first time in the confessional.

From within the dark confines of the confessional, all Miroslav could hear was a clattering noise from directly outside the small enclosure. Puzzled, he slowly stood up, moving forward to rest his hand on the brass doorknob of his portion of the booth. The moment he was about to twist it open, the screen partition slid open. The wood smacked against the sides of the slot as the young man wrenched it open with clumsy, frantic fingers. Light poured in from the other side, cutting a lattice pattern through the heavy shadows as Miroslav’s hand dropped away from the door.

Right away he had a sneaking suspicion.

“In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.” The Latin was breathy and jumbled, the young man was clearly a bit rusty as he slaughtered the pronounciation of nearly every word. Miroslav knew it was Lukas. He quietly returned to the straight-backed seat, careful not to startle the boy before he had a chance to begin his first confession in God knows how long. Back slowly curving, Miroslav settled in, preparing himself for the long list of trespasses Lukas had surely accumulated over the many years of his maturation. He stared down at the old rosary in his palm as the young man’s low voice filled the empty space between them. “My last confession was…” There was a pause as Lukas struggled to remember. Miroslav silently attempted to guess when the last time the young man would have stepped inside a church. The quiet seemed to last an eternity, stretching out in the blackness surrounding Miroslav. Finally, Lukas found the answer and blurted it out in a quick rush. “It was a week before I turned 13, so five years and about a months ago.” There was a clear smile in his voice and Miroslav imaged that a modicum of relief was surely spreading through the boy’s anxious body.

“We are glad you have chosen to come back, Lukas.” Miroslav felt like he should say something. It was an awkward acknowledgment of the young man’s return to his faith, a stilted sort of welcoming back from a priest who had only known him for a few weeks. He knew it was obvious how hollow the sentiment felt for him to say, but he sensed that Lukas was grateful for it regardless.

A private smile pulled at the corners of Miroslav’s mouth, he was already forming bonds with his flock.

“Uh, forgive me Father, for I have sinned.” The low murmur reverberated through the wood as the young man continued. His voice changed, shedding the serious, artificial tone of formality, melting into a more conversational intonation. Perhaps he was warming up to Miroslav’s calm, quiet presence. The thought brought a smile to the priest’s face—he had yet to make any real impression on the other members of the tight knit Catholic community in Cologne. It seemed like the only family willing to accept him straight away was the Podolskis—and he assumed that was primarily due to their similar Polish origins. “I just took the Lord’s name in vain.” Miroslav heard a breathy, self-deprecating snicker closely followed by exasperated, “in a church.” There was a heavy sign and a quiet thud. Miroslav glanced down through the screen just in time to catch sight of Lukas’ bent head colliding with the solid wooden divider. When Lukas spoke again his voice was muffled so that Miroslav had to strain to make out the words. “I just—I forgot how these things work. And the door was stuck and then Mrs. Trochski was giving me the ‘look-who’s-back’ routine again…” As the young man began to ramble, Miroslav couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped his lips.

“That is not a mortal sin.” Miroslav assured him with a smile curving the gentle inflection his words. He was starting to understand the young man more and more with each passing moment. “Please continue.”

“Well,” Lukas began, swallowing thickly. “In the past five years I’ve, uh, grown up a bit, Father, so…” He was stalling, stumbling over his words as he shifted anxiously on the stiff kneeling cushion. Miroslav began to tick through the list in his head of all sins a young man of Lukas’ age might commit. A warm flush started creeping up the back of his neck, his crisp white priest’s collar seemed to grow tighter. There were quite a few of the carnal sins Miroslav had been worrying about discussing since his first time on the opposite side of the confessional screen. Even before seminary, he refused to talk about such matters, especially with other men. “I’ve,” Lukas paused to shift his weight uncomfortably from one knee to the other before continuing, “I discovered things…like girls and, uhh, other ways to feel good.”

“Have you—” Miroslav’s voice broke at that moment and he cleared his throat while a petrified Lukas cut him off.

“Oh no, no, no, Father, I uh…” he trailed off, trying to find the appropriate words. “I’m still a virgin.” Miroslav was taken aback by the admission but masked his surprise with continued silence. The word sounded awkward coming off of Lukas’ tongue, as if he had never used it before. “And so is my girlfriend,” the young man added hastily, gallantly hoping to protect the virtue of his good Catholic girlfriend. Miroslav figured that with a boy like Lukas, especially at his age, everyone assumed the worst and he was sure that Lukas was more than happy to let them do so. “But, that means I, uh, you know…” Miroslav heard the rustling of fabric and glanced through the screen. He caught sight of Lukas’ sweaty palms sliding down his hips and along tense thighs. “Probably a bit more often than most people.” Lukas’ nervous, self-deprecating laugh was back but it was endearing and Miroslav leaned closer to the screen dividing them.

“Since Vatican II the views concerning masturbation have shifted.” Miroslav’s mouth began to dry quickly as soon as he started speaking. As he tried to quietly clear his throat, the memory of his own experiences at Lukas’ age flashed through his mind—that blurred world of confusion before the seminary. Miroslav was thankful that he had been practicing this little speech ever since learning about his assignment to Cologne. He had spent a great deal of time consulting with other priest about this very issue. This was the viewpoint he agreed with most adamantly, though it did not make it any easier to discuss with an eighteen-year-old boy. Especially a boy like Lukas. “To be as pragmatic as possible, as a young man who is actively abstaining from sex, masturbation can be considered a viable option. There is no active hate, no intention to offend God in the act if, and only if, it is part of a higher respectful service or reverence for God.” It all sounded logical enough, if stilted. Miroslav was flush by the end of his explanation, the last few words seeming to blend together in his hast. Perhaps the whole concept was a bit over Lukas’ head at the time, but he would come to understand what was meant soon enough. “It is not a mortal sin,” he concluded, glancing through the screen. Miroslav could barely make out the perplexed expression on Lukas’ face.

A long silence followed before Lukas found his voice again.

“I also, uh…” Lukas started again after struggling to digest the fact that his priest had just told him the Catholic Church condoned something that sounded like preventative jerking off for laymen. At least according to Father Klose, and the priest made it sound reasonable enough. But the next bit of Lukas’ confession was going to be far worse; Miroslav could already tell from the hesitation lacing the young man’s voice. “I’ve had these desires,” he murmured. The word fell flat in Miroslav’s ears, undefined and splendidly vague yet familiar. Lukas’ voice changed completely, no longer as calm or nonchalant as before—there is a thin strain distorting the deep pitch of his voice. He’s terrified of this sin. It’s real; something that can’t be explained away with a practiced speech and the boy recognizes that fact before he’s even admitted to it. “I’ve never had any like these before, I swear.” Once again the young man’s words were a jumbled mess, coming out in a low rush as he unnecessarily tried to defend himself to Miroslav. “It just happens, Father, and I try to stop them…” Miroslav knew Lukas was babbling on for fear of what he was about to confess. It was something Miroslav himself would have done around the same age, during his darkest hour of doubt at seminary. He began to feel a taut string winding its way along his spin, pulling his back straight and rigid. “But it’s different from the normal feelings I get. Those are easy to ignore.” Miroslav was practically pressed against the wooden divider, his hands tightly clasped around his crucifix as he waited for Lukas to find his courage. “Th-Thes desires, they’re…for a man.”

The taut string within him snapped. He folded in on himself like a rag doll, bony elbows pressed against the thick muscle of his thighs. It was that moment he knew this boy would be his final test. Perhaps, if he could help this young man, then he could find the answer for himself. Or, maybe, he would simply shut down and deny it all over again—just like in seminary?

The last temptation of Miroslav Klose.

“Lukas,” Miroslav sighed, clutching his head between his hands. “I’m sure you know the Church’s position on homosexuality.”

“Yes, Father, but…” Miroslav could hear him swallow thickly before the low voice came back with a challenge. “What do you believe?”

Miroslav could not answer.

Always with the questions, Lukas.

It would be the same exchange, every two weeks, late in the afternoon on Wednesdays, a few hours just before the youth Bible group, which Lukas also began to regularly attend. After the first confession, Lukas became more direct with Miroslav. It would begin with a confession that once again his heart and mind had betrayed his devout Catholic soul and conjured up deep, undeniable feelings and desires for another man. He would never be more specific than that, exception for the couple instances in which he also confessed to privately acting on his desire when he was home alone in his childhood bed, avoiding his girlfriend, his family and his teammates. The man, or rather Lukas’ sexual fascination with this ethereal man, was the boy’s only sin. And every two weeks, he would always come back to the same question, challenging Miroslav and hoping to eventually get a real, concrete response from the priest. Miroslav simply brushed the challenge off each time with the evasive tactic of redirection.

This had been the case for over two years. Every other Wednesday, the same question and no answer. He had been quietly consulting every source he could think of on the matter without drawing attention to himself and the concerns that had been initially raised during his own acceptance into seminary. It took months to hear back from any form of papal authority, and he did receive the letter it remained obtuse. This was his own conundrum to solve, for Lukas’ sake.

Beyond the confines of the confessional Lukas would never mention the question. They were two wholly separate worlds. When they saw each other outside of church, at the shops or sometimes for a short game of one on one at the public park, it was as if they were normal friends. Every third Friday of the month, when it was Miroslav’s turn to purchase the groceries for the priests’ boarding house, Lukas would always offer to help him carry the bags upon bags back to the home. He usually thanked Lukas but politely refused. However, every once in a while, especially in the winter, he would take the boy up on the offer and they would talk for the entire mile and a half walk.

But Miroslav’s favourite pastime was seeing Lukas in his element, watching the divine gifts that God had given this golden boy in action—so different from his gift of religious vocation. It was heady and every time he indulged it, Miroslav would remind himself of the consequences of a single misstep. On the pitch, Miroslav would play along, smile and laugh, joke around, while the embers smouldered deep inside, waiting to burn through his pale skin and expose the same so-called ‘filth’ he knew was bubbling up inside Lukas.

“You know, Father, if you really practiced…” Lukas huffed with a teasing smile as he caught his breath. The young football prodigy has just finished tying his priest 2-2—but it was Miroslav who shot the last goal to earn back a modicum of dignity. Lukas slung am arm around Miroslav’s rounded shoulders, knocking their heads together lightly. “You could be a pretty good striker.” The priest leaned into the contact while Lukas reached across to pull at the cotton t-shirt clinging to Miroslav’s sweaty chest. It was an oddly intimate gesture that sent Miroslav’s sensory system into shock. Without thinking, the priest responded in kind by wrapping his arm around Lukas’ waist, gentle fingertips brushed against the hollow of the young man’s curved hipbone. An electric smile lit up Lukas’ face when Miroslav glanced over.

The boy was too close. Their skin felt white-hot at every point of contact between them.

“Yeah, thanks, Lukas,” Miroslav said, his tone drenched in sarcasm as he shoved the younger man away. The priest straightened out his shirt, tugging at it repeatedly to send a cool current of air running up his chest. Lukas stifled a laugh; his face still flushed despite their cool down exercises.

“Seriously.” He tried to make amends, a sincere look of encouragement flitting across his face as he grabbed the back of Miroslav’s neck, briefly squeezing the slicked skin before letting go.

“Good to know I have another career option if this whole priest thing doesn’t work out.” Miroslav’s face was a compete deadpan; the only give away was the slightest glimmer of humour crinkling the corners of his eyes.

They continued joking with one another while they walked back to their bicycles, sided by side, close enough that their shoulders brushed together with each step. The easy conversation was disrupted when a peroxide blond boy who looked to be around the same age as Lukas stopped on the jogging path and called to the young man. Lukas’ entire demeanour changed, his movements were suddenly jagged and artificial. The only other time Miroslav had been witness to this brand of anxiety from Lukas was during their first confession.

Perhaps the young man was the object of Lukas’ tormented affection, Miroslav wondered as the boy came running toward them with a wide smile that Lukas struggled to genuinely reproduce on his own countenance. Lukas welcomed him into a tight hug and the other boy did not stop touching him for the remainder of their conversation. Miroslav vaguely recognized the boy, a Bavarian if remembered correctly, as one of Lukas’ football friends. But he would not pry; he’d allow Lukas to tell him when he thought it best. Lukas trusted him and he would do nothing to betray that kind of rare faith in another human being.

It was around that time that Miroslav was starting to believe that the young man saw him as a dependable older brother. Perhaps it was not Lukas alone who played into that particular fantasy—Mr and Mrs. Podolski were also quite fond of the priest. It was becoming easier for him to play that particular protective role when Lukas invited him over for family dinner at the Podolski’s house once a month. It always turned into one big, stressful production, something that Mrs. Podolski would worry about for days but she would inevitably managed to whip up a delightful Polish dish for the family and their dutiful young priest.

The relationship between Lukas and Miroslav shifted into something like a real friendship.

But still, Miroslav never gave the boy a real answer. At least not until Lukas’ last confession a little over two months ago. It was in early June, the afternoon of Lukas’ twentieth birthday.

The silence stretching out between them was becoming painfully uncomfortable so Lukas repeated his question once more, “What do you believe?” He had finished his standard confession; this time it consisted of a vague fantasy from the night before concerning the possibilities of Lukas physically confronting the man he desired. After the description, Miroslav needed to take a quiet moment to concentrate on sweeping away the lurid mental images the young man’s confession conjured up in his mind. Calmly, he reminded himself that he was Lukas’ confessor, a man of faith, a priest who had taken a vow.

But he was a man, too.

“Please, tell me, Father”

A man of God.

“Lukas,” Miroslav sighed, filling each syllable with over two years of exasperation and avoidance.

Back curved, he held his head in his hands and slowly carded his long ink stained fingers through his hair. He gently tugged at the short strands when he reached his nape, craning his neck back to gaze helplessly up at the wooden ceiling of the confessional. There was no message from God hidden in the elaborate woodwork, no easy answer that would placate the young man, just a series of carved patterns and dark shadows staring back down at him.

“Father,” Lukas countered back with a similarly frustrated tone. Usually, Lukas would let the silence stretch between them after asking, unsure what else to say other than repeating the question. Every once in a while, around the time his football club was experiencing a slump, he would change tactics and be far more aggressive with Miroslav. “I need to know.” There was something different in Lukas’ voice, something he had not heard in a long time, a thinly veiled desperation and confusion. “It’s different now, I thin—” Lukas stopped short, swallowing back the frantic words. He started to fiddle with the tightly buttoned cuffs of his black cassock, fastidiously straightening them out along the fine bones of his wrists.

God,” Miroslav began tentatively, voice low and distant. It was the first time Lukas heard Miroslav speak Polish. “Loves all his creations. Each and every one.” He could hear the sound of Lukas shifting anxiously on the kneeling cushion, moving closer to the screen separating them. “I believe,” Miroslav paused, swallowing thickly as he tightly folded his hands together around his crucifix. One of his knuckles cracked with the pressure. He could practically hear Lukas’ wild heart beating through the divider as the young man shuffled impossibly closer. “God would never disapprove of love. God is love,” he spoke slowly, letting each word fill his mouth to the brim before allowing it to fall to the young man. All he could was hope Lukas understood.

All kinds of love?” Lukas responded quickly in Polish, his face practically pressed against the screen.

“Lukas.” The young man’s name came out harsh and clipped.

Miroslav had already said more than he should have, more than was permitted. But the Church had given him no help. Still, the shrieking reprimands were already ringing in his head, he had injected too much of his own political views, potentially assisted in the corruption of an impressionable mind like Lukas’. A boy that had faith in him. He allowed his resolve to crumble and had done far more than simply overstep his bounds. Two years of trust, shattered.

“Father, please,” Lukas implored, still speaking in their native language. Miroslav could see the young man’s knuckles were turning white as he gripped the wooden sill at the base of the screen. He could not look at him any longer.

“This is not a conversation for the confessional.” Miroslav responded in calm, even German. His tone left no room for argument. He had to fix this, quickly. The priest was already moving toward the exit of his portion of the confessional booth. With one hand on the doorknob, he paused. “If you need to discuss the matter, we can go to my office downstairs.”

They walked quickly through the nearly empty church, down to the priests’ old offices in the basement. It was still too early for the usual Wednesday night activities and the hallways of the church were quiet. Miroslav kept his head bowed as Lukas trailed behind, silently buzzing with anxious, kinetic energy—the boy couldn’t stand still. Miroslav could practically feel the thick, nervous waves radiating off the young man. Quickly, he found his office keys and twisted them into the lock. The thick sheet of glass rattled in the pane as he pushed the door open. Lukas was close behind, his warm breath coming in shallow hiccups as he brushed past Miroslav to step inside.

“Father, I nee—” Miroslav spun around quickly when Lukas’ words came to an abrupt halt. The young man’s hands where buried in the black fabric of Miroslav’s cassock, twist into tight fists. A few short steps and the safe distance that separated their bodies disappeared. The priest’s back collided with the windowpane of his office door, the harsh sound clattering in his ears. There might have been a brief moment where Miroslav could have maybe reacted, moved away but instead he froze and watched with wide eyes as Lukas kissed him.

Never had he seriously believed the feelings Lukas was struggling with would end up directed at him. He assumed Lukas was perhaps in love with a peer, most likely a teammate—at least from the way the young man always talked about the ‘rush’ of playing alongside his mates lead Miroslav to that conclusion. The priest often speculated that it was the young man’s best friend, the peroxide blond boy from Bavaria who seemed to have such an odd affect on Lukas’ behaviour. They made a rather attractive couple and whenever Miroslav saw them, they were constantly touching each other. In those moments, Lukas would get this sheepish look in his eyes, like he knew he was doing something wrong and only Miroslav could see it. At least that was how Miroslav interpreted the look. Of course every once in a while he had fanaticized about the remote possibility that one day Lukas would be so bold as to fancy a priest but those were just twisted pipedreams to prevent him from seeking solace elsewhere. He could easily hide inside that far-flung fantasy while he struggled to try and turn his lust into pure, spiritual love.

Miroslav felt the hairs on the back of his neck starting to rise; every nerve ending was alight as Lukas pressed his mouth against his confessor’s. It felt like white-hot fingers running along the topography of his spine. He could feel the tight fists pressing against his chest with bruising force, threatening to pop a few buttons on his cassock with the strength of his grip.

It had been five and a half years since a man kissed him, and that ended rather poorly for both young men involved. But this, this felt different, tasted different, like salty sweat and the hot summer sun. Warm, full lips moved against his own, fervent and brimming with undeniable earnestness.

It had to stop.

Miroslav gently placed his hands against the young man’s tensed shoulders. Lukas’ suddenly relaxed, palms open flat against the priest’s chest, soothing over the rumpled black fabric. He eagerly pressed forward until the back of Miroslav’s head smacked the glass pane behind him. There was a minute pause, the contact between their mouths lingered as Miroslav tilted his head a fraction of an inch into the kiss. He was just barely beginning to open his thin lips before gently pushing Lukas away.

“I’m sorry, Father.” With his eyes still screwed shut, Lukas began speaking as soon as their lips parted. The young man was flushed, his face bright and hot, high on his cheekbones. He looked so innocent, so young, even younger than when they had first met. Lukas licked his lips and Miroslav tightly clenched his jaw, the muscles jumping as he bit back the gut instinct to pull Lukas close and kiss him again until their lungs were burning with oxygen deprivation. The young man finally opened his eyes, clear blue and shot through with disbelief. “I just wanted, I—,” he was stumbling over himself as he staggered backwards.

Miroslav was at a loss for words. He took a few steps toward Lukas, holding his hands out to try and calm him down. Lukas’ eyes flitted back and forth between Miroslav’s open mouth and the door.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered as he slipped past the priest and out of his office.

Miroslav has not seen him since.

He did not show up for the youth group meeting that night. The small sheet cake Miroslav bought to celebrate Lukas’ birthday was consumed by the other members of the group. The following Sunday Miroslav searches the faces at Mass but finds no smiling blue eyes, nothing but the pale reflection of them set deep in Mrs. Podolski’s haggard face. As usual, after the service is over, she breaks away from her husband to slowly make her way through the crowd to speak with him. With distinctly clammy hands that smelled of rosewater, she presses a jar of homemade something or other into his hand. She always brings him little Polish delights that she claims her son loves and that every young man should indulge in once in a while, even if they are a man of the cloth. Lukas always warned him to eat whatever she brought straight away because nothing his mother makes has a very long shelf life.

Miroslav asks her why Lukas was not at church that morning. The boy’s mother tells him that Lukas left Wednesday evening to go on a long backpacking trip through southern Spain with a few friends for the summer holiday. She reminds Miroslav that this is going to be Lukas’ last ‘carefree summer’ before he starts as a full-fledged player for 1. FC Cologne in August. She seems to swell with maternal happiness. Apparently his friends were inspired by this fast approaching deadline and had started planning the elaborate birthday trip back in January.

“Oh!” An eerily familiar expression lights up her face. Suddenly she looks ten years younger. “Isn’t tomorrow your birthday, Father Klose?” Mrs. Podolski never forgot his birthday, it being so close to her son’s. Her smile widens, turning genuine. It seems just as bright as Lukas’ and Miroslav feels a pang of homesickness. “How old will you be?” She asked, pretending as if she does not know.

“Twenty seven,” he replies, looking down to examine the contents of the jam jar as he turns it over in his hands. It doesn’t look anything like his mother’s home cooking but it will probably taste better.

“So young and so devout,” she says, patting him lightly on the cheek. He knows she favours him above the other priest because of his combination of quiet, charismatic youth and strict Catholic devotion. Not to mention his close relationship with her Lukas. She has always credited him with her son’s return to Catholicism. In her mind, Miroslav has become a second son—the perfect counterbalance to her own prodigal, rash, Polish footballer. She tilts his face up, looking into his wide, sad eyes. “Your mother must be so proud.” Miroslav nods politely but says nothing in response—priests do not have families, they have their flock.

She asks if he has any special plans for his birthday and when he tells her no, she invites him over for tea that afternoon. She says it’s the least she can do, offer him some company and a bit of cake.

“To be honest, Father, I’ve been a bit worried about him lately.” Mrs. Podolski stirs her tea vigorously. It splashes over the rim, dripping down the sides of the cup to pool in the saucer. “He’s been acting odd,” she says, staring down into the swirling tea, successfully avoiding Miroslav’s intent gaze. They sit across from one another in Mrs. Podolski’s small living room, a freshly brewed pot of tea resting on the low table between them. “He broke up with his girlfriend, you know that nice Polish girl he’s been seeing for years.” She blurts out while munching absentmindedly on a chocolate biscuit, the crumbs tumbling down the front of her heavy wool sweater. “He just up and ended it a few days before leaving on his trip.”

“Really?” Miroslav isn’t sure if the surprise in his voice sounds genuine enough to convince Mrs. Podolski. He tries to cover it by leaning forward to grab a biscuit; she doesn’t bat an eyelash. Lukas had not told him about the actual break up before leaving but he had been hinting about its inevitability for several weeks. The young man said that he couldn’t stand stringing her along anymore, after all they had been friends before dating and he genuinely cared about her.

Miroslav presses a few fingers to his mouth after taking a bite of the chocolate dipped biscuit.

“Yes.” He notes the indignation in her voice and realizes that she’s beginning to work herself up into a small frenzy. Miroslav knew that she approved of the girl. She had often confessed to him that she thought she could trust her with wild-eyed Lukas, figured they would eventually get married and raise a whole horde of towheaded grandchildren for her to spoil rotten. Once she had even asked Miroslav if he would preside over the wedding, when Lukas got up the courage to propose, of course. That was all a fantasy now. “And,” she begins with a huff; “he’s been ignoring this coach who has been calling for months now.” She puts her cup of tea on the table between them, leaning forward to confide in her priest. “He wants my boy to play for the national team next year. But what does Lukas do? He keeps avoiding him.” She throws her hands up in annoyance before picking up another biscuit to grind anxiously between her teeth.

“Lukas is that good?” This time the surprise is authentic. He finishes his biscuit with another bite before settling back in the plush living room chair.

“Of course he is, Father!” She declares through a mouthful of biscuit. “I thought you’d seen him play for Cologne’s Youth squad, Father? I told Lukas countless times to invite you to his matches.”

“We’ve played one on one before,” Miroslav pauses, remembering all the matches he played against Lukas at the local parks. Suddenly, the memories click into place. He starts ticking through all the instances when Lukas would tell him over and over again that he, Miroslav, could be a brilliant striker if he really applied himself. How Lukas would grab his narrow hips and jostle him around to get into the correct position to send the ball shooting right past the keeper. How he would mock and encourage him in the same breath, celebrating his goals as if they were his own. But Miroslav never took him seriously; he assumed that the boy was just teasing, not clumsily flirting with him. “But,” he starts before clearing his throat. “Well then he must have let me win.”

“Poor boy, probably worried about besting a priest,” Mrs. Podolski teases, slapping his knee and once again he can see exactly where Lukas gets his luminous smile. “No offence, Father.” She leans over to place a hand on his forearm, which he answers with a conciliatory smile and a breathy laugh. “But he hasn’t been like this in over two years.” A stricken look takes hold of her features and she picks up an unused paper napkin from the table. “You don’t think he’s backsliding?” She begins twisting the napkin in her lap, the edges beginning to fry with the abused.

“Why would he?” Miroslav knows exactly why Lukas would appear to be ‘backsliding’ but presses Mrs. Podolski to see if there are any other possibilities—or perhaps she might even knows about her son’s inclinations. His mother was the only one who saw it in him and said nothing.

“I don’t know…” She trails off, placing the napkin on her knee and starting to smooth out the wrinkles. “All those girls fawn over him now that my boy’s grown up so handsome and talented.” Pursing her lips, Mrs. Podolski neatly folds the napkin into a small square. Miroslav takes a sip of the lukewarm tea, watching the gears whirling and spinning around in Mrs. Podolski’s head. She fastidiously places the napkin on the table beside her teacup before looking up at Miroslav sharply. “I bet that’s why he broke up with that sweet girl.”

“As your son’s confessor, all I can say is that I doubt a young woman is Lukas’ problem, Mrs. Podolski.” At least Miroslav can swear to her that much with a clear conscious. He can’t tell her any more without breaking his oath and betraying Lukas’ sacred privacy. Carefully resting the teacup and saucer on his knee, Miroslav crosses his legs. “Well, why did he rejoin the Church? Maybe that’s the question we should be asking.” Miroslav tries to redirect her. It never really worked with Lukas but perhaps his mother is more susceptible. Mrs. Podolski sips her tea, adding another splash of milk and sprinkle of sugar to the mixture.

I believe it was your guiding light that brought him home.” She switches briefly to Polish, giving Miroslav a grateful pat on the knee. He modestly looks down at his hands clasped together in his lap, unsure what his expression might give away upon hearing such high praise and the implications about his relationship with Lukas. “He’d never cared for Father Meyer, found him too stiff and old-fashioned. But he gave you a chance, for me.” A sweet smile flits across her face. Miroslav looks up to see her unfocused dull blue eyes, downcast and staring into her cup of tea. Miroslav scoots to the edge of his chair, reaching out to cover her wrinkled hand with his own. “You know,” she began, a crease forming between her brows, “it was funny. The minute you started your sermon, he stopped fidgeting, stopped murmuring under his breath, he just stopped and listened to you.” She looks up from the tea and her eyes are rimmed red but no tears have fallen. “He’d never done that before. Not for anything but football.” She laughs and turns her hand over to grasp his, giving it a short, tight squeeze. One side of her mouth curves up into a wry smile when she starts speaking again. “And trust me, Father, it takes a lot to get my boy to focus.” She pauses, releasing his hand before settling back in her chair. Her face is vacant for a moment before a familiar look of relief and rapture spreads across her features. “Then I had my sweet Lukas back. My good Catholic boy going to confession, weekly Mass and staying after to help you with Sunday school.” She’s bursting with parental pride and Miroslav forgives the sin, knowing it comes from a place of deep love. A reflection of it echoes dimly in his own heart, for Lukas and himself. “He even made sure his football practice didn’t interfere with your Wednesday night youth bible group.” Miroslav nods with a smile, he knows that half the young men and women in the group were friends of Lukas. “I’d never seen him get so involved in something, not since he was old enough to kick a ball.” As he listens to Mrs. Podolski warmth unfurls in Miroslav’s chest, spreading through his limbs until it reaches his fingertips and toes. It does not burn or sting.

For the first time it feels comfortable.

During the summer of Lukas’ absence Miroslav jogs through the parks in Cologne, completely lost inside his own head. The familiar burn in his muscles folds his mind deeper in upon itself as his body becomes light with epinephrine and the reliable, rhythmic strides each time his feet touch grass. He starts to digress back to all the countless nights he has spent alone in bed, praying for salvation from his desires, hoping to find a way to answer Lukas without betraying himself and his oath. The rare times he’s taken to writing letters seeking guidance from the papacy only to be answered with odd platitudes that skirt the issue. Each draft becoming far too revealing of his own crumbling moral character, the hundreds of essays and letters he will never send.

It’s pitch black and stiflingly hot in his un-air conditioned one room flat, as the most recent addition to the clergymen of Cologne, he got stuck living on the top floor of the three-story boarding house. Eyes screwed shut, Miroslav shyly touches himself beneath the cross hanging on a nail above his bed. A prickly feeling begins at the back of his neck; it’s more than just the heat. He looks up at the heavy crucifix and stops. Closing his eyes again, he sighs and throws off the light sheet before stumbling naked to his bathroom. The tile floor is cold beneath his feet. The light flickers a bit when he first switches it on, casting bizarre shadows as it comes to life. He sits on the lid of the toilet, back slumped against the chilled, white porcelain.

He imagines Lukas after a long football practice, his kit sticking to his warm, tan skin, sweat dripping down the strong slope of his jaw. The way his flesh absorbs the rays of sun, hot blooded and golden—what it would feel like against the flat of his tongue. He imagines Lukas lying in his childhood bed, it’s a little too small but it’s home and he feels safe there, sliding an idle hand, the left because he’s right handed, beneath the loose drawstring waist of his sweatpants. He imagines Lukas in the backseat of his father’s car about to fuck a girl for the first time, but he can’t, he won’t, so she sucks him off instead—she promises him that it doesn’t count if she uses her mouth. A good Catholic girl. He imagines Lukas letting him breeze past to score an easy goal. He remembers the feel of wet morning grass against the backs of his thighs the time Lukas did, just before the young man tackled him, rolling around on the pitch until they are both out of breath from laughing. Imagines what would have happened if Lukas came out on top, the feel of his solid frame pressing securely down against Miroslav, sinking into him. Wonders what he would have done if Lukas’ hand had started sliding up his inner thigh, slipping beneath the tight track shorts he had lent the priest.

He imagines what it would feel like to hear Lukas call him by his first name, whispered breathlessly in his ear, “Please, Miro.”

With guilt and ecstasy, Miroslav comes.

It’s early September, a Wednesday afternoon, and Miroslav waits in the confessional for the next member of his flock to step inside. Mrs. Trochski had just finished given him an earful about her week’s worth of prideful sins before dissolving into a litany about how her husband continues to ignore her womanly needs. He gratefully welcomes the peace, allowing his eyes to slide shut for a few moments. No one has taken over Lukas’ slot, nevertheless Miroslav stays and waits. The wooden beads are warm and smooth against his thumbs as he fumbles with his cross, slipping it off the hook from his belt. He holds the old rosary in his hands, tracing the outline of the crucifix with his fingertips.

The hinges of a door creak in the distance and the screen divider is slowly pushed open.

“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been three months since my last confession.” Miroslav’s back is rigid; eyes wide as the low murmur of Lukas’ familiar voice fills the confessional. “I have been trying to fight these desires, these unnatural feelings for two years.” He hears Lukas’ voice hitch as his mouth forms oddly around the words of self-hate. “I thought they would go away. But, I’ve realized,” the young man pauses and Miroslav hears him take a deep breath, slowly letting it fill his lungs before pouring out in a long, calming exhale. Lukas is screwing up his courage and Miroslav can picture him about to take his first step onto a professional football pitch—always with the right foot first, like Miroslav told him. “I am in love with him.” The wooden door to confessional clatters behind Miroslav as he bolts.

Lukas opens his confessional door to see Miroslav’s retreating back.

“Father Klose?” Lukas calls, sprinting around the altar to catch up to him. A few laymen throw him exasperated looks as the boy just barely avoids barrelling into them at full tilt. Unfazed, Miroslav continues walking and Lukas quietly follows him though the winding hallways and into the back of the church. They quickly descend the staircase into the basement, arriving at Miroslav’s office.

“Lukas,” he breaths, hand on the doorknob. There is a brief pause before he opens the door.

“Yes, Father?” Lukas responds hesitantly, unsure whether or not Miroslav was actually addressing him. He motions for the young man to step inside. Hastily he closes the door behind Lukas and begins moving the two wooden chairs that sit side by side in front of his desk. Rearranging the chairs to face one another, he gently guides Lukas by the elbow into one before sitting in the other. He takes Lukas’ warm hands in his own, Miroslav’s hands are slightly larger, his long elegant, ink stained fingers clasped lightly around the young man’s.

“Do you want to know why I joined the Church?” Miroslav looks at Lukas straight on for the first time since June. He is a healthy tan, his hair is sun bleached blond from constant exposure. Miroslav suppresses the immediate urge to reach out and card his hands through the soft strands. The bright blue eyes seem eager, curious as always to have find an ultimate answer to his question.

“Yes, Father.” Lukas inches forward to perch on the edge of his seat. His knees knock against Miroslav as the boy moves, inadvertently spreading them wider apart. Miroslav can tell the boy is keenly enjoying the attention.

“When I was eighteen I realized I could either get married to a women I would never be able to love or I could become a priest.” Miroslav has justified it to himself enough times, rehearsed it ad nauseum, until it has begun to sound clinical. “Those were the only futures I saw for myself.” All the messy pain eradicated from the narrative. It was the perfect logical conclusion for his most important life choice.

“Why priesthood?”

“I could love God,” Miroslav replies like it is the only certainty in the world. And for him, in this moment, it is. The priest licks his lips anxiously, his pink tongue sliding over the soft flesh. “But not a woman,” he speaks slowly despite the fact that he can feel his calm demeanour starting to rapidly fray at the seams. A wave of recognition underpinned with undaunted hope washes over Lukas’ face. The young man is realizing the same desires are buried deep inside his confessor. Miroslav’s grip tightens on Lukas’ hands, trying to keep him focused. “And if I couldn’t do that, I would have no one. No family, no home, no community, nothing.”

“You can have me.” He is young and stupid. Lukas leans forward, dragging their hands into his lap. He is completely blind to the world outside his lovesickness. No thought is given to the ramifications an affair would have on his career or his home life—it is what he wants, what he believes will make him happy.

“Lukas.” Miroslav sighs, pulling his hands away as he slides back in the chair.

“Miroslav.” Lukas, ever challenging, answers back with a tone too stern for his youth. It’s the first time Miroslav has heard the boy say his name. It’s the first time he’s heard anyone call him by his first name in a long time.

“It’s more complicated than that.”

“How? Tell me.” He reaches out to gingerly place a hand on Miroslav’s knee, his fingertips just barely crooked to grasp the bony joint. The image of his mother flashes before Miroslav’s eyes and he is shocked back into reality.

“I—” He cuts himself off, jumping up from the chair and out of Lukas’ reach. At a loss, he starts pacing in front of his desk. “The consequences, Lukas,” he tries to being but halts, re-examining his fundamental discourse. So far he has spent months and months crafting the perfect argument, pouring over text but everything he reads seems to point him in the opposite direction—instructing him to seize the rare opportunity to explore the most rare of meaningful human connections. He can’t seem to focus with the way Lukas’ blue eyes are boring into his profile, cutting through the myriad of impersonal platitudes he quotes from the papal letter. Lukas is pushing him to re-evaluate one of the main tenants of his entire profession and religious vocation until he finally settles on, “We can’t go in to this blindly.”

“I’ve been thinking about it for two years.” Lukas says calmly. “My eyes are wide open.” He stands up from the chair and Miroslav does not react, he neither moves back or forward. He remains still as the young man closes the small distance between them in two calculated steps.

Lukas slips a finger beneath the starched, pristine material of the priest collar. He gently tugs until it snaps free, sliding out from the tightly buttoned collar of the black cassock. Miroslav’s muscles tense and Lukas looks like he is already imagining the strong grip soon to be encircling his wrist. But Miroslav allows him to remove the collar. The stiff white fabric is smooth against the young man’s fingertips as he places it on Miroslav’s desk. He lays a hand overtop it, sliding it just out of the priest’s reach. Gently, he slips the topmost button of Miroslav’s cassock through its matching hole. The priest’s breath is coming out in ragged hiccups. Black cloth drops away, framing the pale expanse of Miroslav’s throat. He undoes another and then another until Lukas’ fingertips are running along the sharp outlines of his clavicles over his thin undershirt.

“Does this feel right?” Lukas’ lips are waiting, full and ripe and red before him. He can’t look away as the young man speaks. Miroslav’s mind is full of wandering thoughts, what does that mouth taste like, how it would look swollen from his kisses, wrapped around his cock.

“Yes.” Miroslav’s hands are on Lukas’ hips, gripping the hard bones and muscle tightly as they press against the slick material of his track pants.

“Do you think …” Lukas continues unbuttoning the cassock, all the way down until he reaches the priest’s sternum. The white fabric of his undershirt is threadbare and tight, conforming to his lean muscular frame. Lukas presses his hand against the center of Miroslav’s chest, fingers splayed out to feel his strong heart beat slowly building as he becomes aroused. “Maybe, this is God’s love?”

“Yes,” Miroslav breathes out, head tipped back, no longer able to look at Lukas.

The young man pauses and he’s so close, so real.

“Do you want me?” Miroslav can feel the heat of Lukas body from hip to shoulder, pressing tight against him. He’s never felt anything like it before. The heat is stiffing and he swallows several times.

Always with the questions, Lukas.

“Yes.” There is no point denying the obvious. No point in resisting anymore. He’s already fallen. Hard.

“Take me.”

“I can’t.” Miroslav slowly untangles himself from Lukas.

“Please, Miro,” Lukas stands still, gaze locked with Miroslav’s. “God does not disapprove of love,” he repeats what Miroslav told him over three months ago. “This is what you were talking about.” He gestures to the space between them.

“When did you start paying attention to what I say?” Miroslav lets out a breathy laugh. For a moment, Lukas looks dumbstruck by the priest’s reaction before formulating a clever retort.

“When you started preaching what I wanted to hear.” An impish smile lights up Lukas’ face as he teases Miroslav. Lukas leans in to kiss his confessor but is met with gentle resistance.

“We can’t,” Miroslav tells him, pressing his forehead against Lukas’. The young man’s breath is coming hot puffs against his cheek. He glances up to see Lukas’ face. It betrays everything; he is the picture of devastation. The world looks like it’s crashing down around him and he’s powerless to stop it from crumbling. Miroslav quickly adds, “not here, Lukas.”

“This is your flat?” Lukas asks with a hint of surprise as he steps inside the dusty living quarters provided by the Church. For all the times Lukas has visited Miroslav, helping him with groceries, planning topics for the bible group, social calls, he has never stepped foot beyond the first floor parlour and kitchen. The ceilings are low and, despite Miroslav’s best efforts, it still reeks of mildew and mothballs. “Cosy…” He wanders around the small space and finds an old copy of Plato’s Symposium on Miroslav’s desk. When he flips it open he discovers that it is in the original Greek.

“Vow of poverty,” Miroslav replies, leaning against the shut door with his hands clasped behind his back. He watches Lukas slowly turn around, holding the book. The young man stands in the middle of the priest’s flat and it feels even so much smaller with two people. Lukas’ bright presence seems to overwhelm the room.

“Can you read this?” A perplex expression twists his features as he stares down at the pages, slowly thumbing through the book.

“Yes.” Miroslav smiles as he pushes off from the doorway to stand beside Lukas. “I was working on an essay.” He takes the book out of the young man’s hands. “Have you read it?” Miroslav asks as he leans across Lukas to place the book back on the desk, next to several crumpled drafts of his essay on the nature of romantic love in relation to spiritual piety.

“Yeah, once. For a literature class.” Lukas says absentmindedly, transfixed by the proximity of Miroslav’s body. “Don’t really remember much,” he laughs softly, hoisting himself up on to the desk. Miroslav moves to stand between the young man’s open knees, his hands running along the slick fabric of track pants to settle in the hot crease where hip and thigh meet. Lukas tilts his head back to look up at Miroslav, sliding his hands up he priest’s chest to cup his face.

“I think you would like it if you read it again,” he murmurs against Lukas mouth before sweeping his tongue over the full lower lip. A muffled whimper escapes the young man as he winds his arms around Miroslav’s neck.

They are silent when they start undressing each other. Cold fingers fumble with too many black buttons down the front of a cassock, tugging anxiously at stubborn zippers of sportswear. A quiet reverence fills the tight space between them as warm skin is revealed in the cramped confines of Miroslav’s dimly lit flat.

Miroslav is thin and wiry, lean muscle and quite pale in comparison to the broad tan skin of Lukas’ chest. Lukas seems fascinated by his white skin, callused fingertips running along the bones of the priest’s wrists, up his forearm to his biceps before resting at the hollow of his throat. He’s never seen skin like this, skin that he can touch, taste, memorize if he wants. The look in the young man’s eyes is indescribable, a certain reverence Miroslav has only seen before in the face of a devout Catholic. With warm hands splayed against his face, Miroslav leans in to press a series of hot, open mouth kisses along the sharp line of Lukas’ sloping jaw. They stumble across the room to fall back onto Miroslav’s spring mattress. It creaks as they twist around.

“Miro?” His voice is so small that Miroslav barely recognizes it. “I’ve never done anything like this before…” Lukas confesses, gripping Miroslav’s naked shoulder as he hides his face in the crook of Miroslav’s neck.

He’s do damn young.

“I know, Lukas.” He leans back into his pile of pillows to look at the young man, his thin lips twist up in an ironic smile—he knows each and every one of Lukas’ sexual indiscretions. Every kiss, every wank, every blowjob and handjob he’s ever received in his life. He reaches up to run the pad of his thumb along the anxious crease between Lukas’ brows, smoothing it gently. “We can do whatever you want.” Lukas closes his bright blue eyes as he turns into the touch, pressing his cheek against the palm of Miroslav’s hand. “Just don’t expect me to be an expert either,” he whispers in the young man’s ear with a self-deprecating smile.

“We can start with something easy,” he laughs and suddenly that mischievous grin is back in full force and he surges forward to claim Miroslav’s lips, hand caught between them as he slowly wraps his fingers around the other man’s half hard cock. The angle is awkward at first, but they both shift around on the sheets until the priest starts moaning quietly into the rough kiss. He arches up into the strong body looming above him as his long, tapered fingers dig into the tense, taught muscles stretched over Lukas’ hips, aligning them with his own as he bucks up into Lukas’ tight fist.

Beneath the crucifix Lukas fumbles with his own painfully hard erection. He manages to jerk them off, gripping them both in one hand, hips pumping, cheeks flushed, full lips open and swollen an angry red, with his head thrown back in ecstasy. Miroslav can’t imagine a sight more holy, more divinely inspired than Lukas totally unguarded. Its as if he is bearing witness to the face of God, lit with a divine light from within. But Miroslav has to spoil it by clamping a hand over the young man’s mouth, hissing through his teeth that the Catholic landlady is very nosey and gets paid extra by the Church to keep an eye on him and the other clergymen living there in close quarters. So instead, Lukas once again buries his face in the welcoming crook of Miroslav’s neck. He sucks the pale, sensitive skin there to muffle his moans while Miroslav turns his face into Lukas’ soft, blond hair, breathing in the scent of his soap, deep and even. Lukas’ pace quickens to bring them past the tipping point of orgasm.

When Lukas falls asleep, Miroslav prays and prays. No answers come. He prays the rosary over and over until dawn—still no answer.

In the morning the naked young man is still sprawled across his bed, sated and with the faintest smile curling up the corners of his mouth. He wakes up to find Miroslav sitting at the foot of the bed, he’s dressed in a pair of boxer briefs and an undershirt, knees drawn up to his chest as he stares up at the cross hanging on the wall. The wooden rosary is clasped in his hand, the beads wound about his wrist and fingers. Lukas silently watches his confessor for a few moments; he sees the fear and the doubt blossoming in the depths of the man’s eyes.

I’d understand,” Lukas tells him in Polish, making sure his voice is steady, convincing. He is giving him an easy out. It’s a dirty lie but it sounds right in the moment, feels wrong but sounds like gold in his ears. If Miroslav bolts, there is no way Lukas could even begin to reconcile his faith and his own humanity. He slowly sits up, pulling the thin sheet around his waist as he moves to the middle of the bed, settling down opposite Miroslav—just to the right of the cross.

Miroslav slowly shakes his head, unfolding his legs as he tears his gaze away from the cross to look into Lukas’ eyes. His knee knocks against Lukas’ thigh when he leans forward to cup the young man’s face in his hands. The priest gently pulls the young man closer, his eyes flicking back and forth, examining each distinct feature of his countenance. Lukas can feel the press of the cross against his face. The twin pads of soft thumbs run over the young man’s cheekbones, they are warm to the touch. It seems as if Miroslav is desperately trying to memorize everything he’s about to give up in the name of the Catholic Church. But something shifts and the rosary falls from Miroslav’s grasp and the corners of his thin lips slowly curve up into a smile.

I wouldn’t,” he whispers against Lukas’ mouth before kissing him softly. He smoothes down the short strands of sleep-rumpled blond hair. “Not now,” he murmurs and Lukas grins into the kiss, dragging the man down against his warm body with a bright laugh that fills the small flat.


Part Five: Lukas works for his mother's child day care business. When she wants a new rocking chair he meets a quiet carpenter named Miroslav. (Normal!People AU)
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