tagGay MaleYour Skin is Like Paradise

Your Skin is Like Paradise

bykorokkero©

Christ be with me, Christ within me...

Christ behind me, Christ before me...

Timothy was a man of faith.

When he'd entered the clergy, he became a favorite of the congregation. After over a decade of service, he'd become one of the most popular priests at his parish, favored by the congregation.

Father Timothy made fast friends with Mr. Ian Terrace, a new teacher in the parochial school. They'd met a year ago, when on his first day Mr. Terrace got lost on his way to the school building and ended up in the chapel. They quickly formed a friendly bond, largely because Father Timothy and Ian Terrace were the only two people working at the parish under sixty. In the afternoons, Ian, as Father Timothy quickly came to know him, would often take the journey across campus to the chapel, to have an afternoon chat.

There were many things about Ian that surprised Father Timothy. Even though he worked at a Catholic school and baptized in the Catholic church as a child, he was not a religious man. To be fair, it wasn't particularly unusual - though students at the parish received regular lessons on the fundamentals of Catholicism, the teachers weren't necessarily required to adhere to a religion. He was also surprised by how people flocked to him, his students, his fellow teachers, even the nuns and other priests were fond of the witty and intelligent Mr. Terrace, but that made perfect sense too.

Ian had a magnetic personality, his smile like sunlight, the way his cheeks dimpled at the corners and his eyes puckered hypnotic. After years of standing and delivering sermons at the pulpit to a full congregation, it was nice to be able to talk about simple things with someone, sitting next to them in a pew, in a mostly-empty chapel.

Recently, Father Timothy had made a case for Ian to attend church services again.

"At the very least, it would be a good way for you to connect with your students' parents," Father Timothy mused.

"Good point," Mr. Terrace returned, with a shrug of his broad shoulders. He flashed a pearly-white grin at the priest. "On one condition."

Timothy felt the rhythms of his heart suddenly pick up their pace.

"Are you gonna be there?" The teacher's voice dripped like amber into Timothy's ears.

His limbs feeling tingly and warm all over in a way he hadn't experienced before, Father Timothy chuckled.

"I lead sermons occasionally if that's what you mean."

Father Timothy was surprised to see Ian at the next service lined up with parishioners, ready to receive communion.

Christ beside me, Christ to win me...

And a dull roar filled his ears.

For many years, Father Timothy ran from a feeling he could never place. It was easy for him to chalk it up to the confusion of youth as a younger man, misplaced emotions from someone coming to terms with rejecting worldly pleasures for the eternal paradise of God's love. The church found him - or, he found the church - and provided an outlet. The cloister gave relief, structure, distraction, purpose. Despite Timothy's confusion, there existed no certainty more poignant than that of God's love. He shared everything with his trusted peers and seniors, except this one dark secret.

God loved His children, no matter the sin. Still, no amount of prayer would bury this feeling.

Timothy found small ways to push them aside, burying them in his work and good deeds, to ignore them for the moment. But always, the sin found ways to creep in.

Christ to comfort and restore me...

It doesn't matter, Timothy thought, when these feelings began to creep in. It's a non-issue, a moot point, in my line of work. That was why he'd locked himself away.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me...

Timothy was a man of faith. And the shame of feeling this way for other men crept through him, every day.

Communion, by nature, is an act of intimacy - a binding of mortal souls to the eternity of Jesus and of God, and the act of placing the consecrated Host on the tongue of a member of His flock expresses that bond.

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger...

Today, Father Timothy was tasked with the role of delivering the Body of Christ. Though it was his first time at regular service, he felt a familiar ache of shame and anxiety as he spotted the teacher line up with the rest of the congregation to receive the Eucharist. Palms clammy and hands shaking, the feeling pulsed through his veins and into his every limb. The guilt seeped through him, steeped into the loaf of bread from which he offered the Body of Christ, imbuing it with trepidation.

Meeting Ian's eyes, the teacher gave him a brief smile of familiarity and recognition and knelt in front of Father Timothy.

Ian Terrace was a man who took pride in his appearance, his hair always perfectly coiffed, face clean-shaven, his clothes fashionable and neatly-pressed. Today he wore a dark shirt that brought out the blue of his eyes, which he kept fixed on Father Timothy.

Christ in hearts of all that love me...

Timothy tore a piece from the bread loaf, drawing in a steadying breath. He knew it would make him weak.

"Body of Christ," he said, his tone soft, soothing. Difficult.

"Amen," Ian responded. And he opened his mouth.

Timothy reached down, and placed the small chunk of bread in the man's mouth, accidentally grazing his soft lips and hot tongue. The breath Ian let our, with the priest's finger still just barely in his mouth, made a jolt of electricity run through his veins.

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

And through the rest of the act of Communion, as ritual as the act of the giving of the consecrated Host, Father Timothy would internally recite prayers for forgiveness, prayers of devotion, willing himself to maintain composure. He felt the cold sweat all over his body, soaking through his habit. Still, he smiled warmly and bowed his head and made signs of the cross with his unsteady hands.

A decade ago, Father Timothy made a vow of devotion to serve the Lord. Though he aspired to spread His word on Earth, he couldn't shake this thing that defined him, anchored him to mankind's sinfulness.

In his darkest of times, Timothy wondered why he stayed with the parish despite himself. Could he not rebuke his faith, become a layperson again, leave the city altogether? What tied him here, equally binding him and keeping him running from himself?

One look into the young teacher's eyes, and he felt the ties shackle him to his robes, collars, rosaries.

Father Timothy spent many nights kneeling at the pulpit, making an extra prayer to the rosary, begging for the feeling to pass.

------------

He hadn't known a peaceful night of sleep for weeks.

A feeling of intense sickness permeated his every action, every thought, at all times threatening to overtake him. And sometimes it did, in the worst ways.

After over a decade of service to God, he'd learned to restrain himself, resisting the temptations of the flesh. But lately, he'd found his appetite insatiable.

Just as he feared.

Dull moments were dangerous for the young priest - idle hands are the Devil's playthings, after all. And so long as the Devil found refuge in his heart, he could do little to keep himself from taking advantage of the lulls in his day.

And in a dark corner of an old storage room in the chapel, surrounded by discarded pews and musty old linens, Timothy once again found himself suffering. Reaching into his robes, sure enough, he found an all-too-familiar firmness, his pants already stained.

After a few paranoid glances over his shoulder, and once Timothy was sure he was really alone, he unzipped. Colored light streamed in from the stained glass, bathing his hands in deep scarlet. He took a moment to work his already-dripping shaft.

A decade of pent-up sexual energy left Timothy with very little stamina, which he chose to view as a silver lining; if his intimate moments took too long the rest of the clergy would likely become suspicious of him, and the last thing he needed was a gaggle of prying nuns from the parochial school asking too many questions. Today was no exception.

He recalled Communion, the young teacher's wet tongue against his fingers, vividly imagined his mouth taking his cock into the inviting warmth and dampness. He felt the hot breath on his skin again, felt it all over, devouring him, prickling his skin, making him feel alive, human.

In his early days of seminary school, Timothy had spent some time poring over books on Eastern philosophy. In some faiths, orgasms were seen as a refinement of one's attunement to the universe, and he could see why. The powerful feeling spread out from within, coursing to his toes and the top of his head all at once. Timothy emptied himself against the wall, knees buckling beneath him, and he fell to the floor with a moan.

But as soon as Timothy's moment of enlightenment left, the Catholic guilt crept in. All the feelings of relief died, and from their ashes a dead weight emerged that sat in his heart like lead.

Slumped against the cold stone wall, Timothy's ears pounded with his own heartbeat. He waited for his heart to stop pounding, and looked down at his hand, filled with his own shame.

Skin beading with sweat and pouring down his face, Timothy bit the inside of his own cheeks hard enough to notice the tinny taste of blood filling his mouth.

Father Timothy preached on the gruesomeness that awaited sinners in the Lake of Fire. But he could imagine no lake of fire to be worse than the way he burned for Ian Terrace.

-----------

Most of the other priests tried to avoid working in the confessional booth, but Timothy had come to like it. Sitting alone, surrounded by the smells of old wood and musty fabric, he found the moments between confessions a chance to let his busy mind have a bit of silence.

The door of the other side of the booth opened and shut as someone entered, and Timothy heard the bench creak as they sat down. He straightened up and slid open the door covering the privacy screen.

In the interest of guaranteeing an anonymous confession for all parishioners, a new grille had been installed with a denser wicker weave. Only a few specks of light poured through the holes in the wood, but Timothy made out the most basic features of the shape of the person beyond the screen.

"Forgive me father, for I have sinned."

In so few words, Timothy's blood ran cold. He recognized that voice. How could he not recognize it?

It was Ian Terrace. But he wasn't a practicing Catholic, so what was he-

"My last confession was... God, I don't even re-" Ian hesitated, realizing he'd taken the Lord's name in vain, and in a confessional no less. "Uhh, sorry, it's been... a really long time."

It was so strange, to hear the teacher like this. Since Mr. Terrace's addition to the teaching staff, he'd heard many confessions related to the handsome, charismatic man, mostly from teenage girls and the occasional parent. He was admired for, among many things, his cool, composed demeanor. Now, he could tell that demeanor was cracking, if only a little.

Timothy felt his blood like ice running through his veins. But in the booth, Timothy was a man of God first and a friend second.

Ian let out a shuddering sigh. "I-I'm sorry, Father, it's just... this is a tough one." Timothy furrowed his brow. What could have driven a man who was adamantly not a regular church attendee to confession?

"It's alright, my child," Timothy soothed, trying to keep his voice low and unrecognizable. "The way to peace starts with admitting venial sins to Christ. You've acknowledged your mistake, that's the first step. But it's not complete until you've confessed fully to your sin."

A moment of pause followed, until he eventually heard Ian speak up again. "You're right, Father," he said, his tone more level. "Thank you."

Outside, the church bells chimed for the quarter hour.

"I committed a venial sin," Ian said, and then laughed. "That's a word I haven't used in a while." He took in a steadying breath, and continued. "The venial sin I have committed is, last night... I had sex with myself."

Ian's words set Father Timothy ablaze. The feelings of shame and guilt he'd been overwhelmed by in the storage room bloomed, and he tasted its bitter nectar on his lips.

Putting his own ruminations aside, he drummed his hands on his thighs, letting a deep breath bloom in his chest. Ian was an unmarried young man in his late twenties. Nothing unusual about something like that.

"Is that so, my child..." Timothy tried, pleaded with himself, to maintain an even tone. "Well-"

"Wait, Father, I'm not done." Timothy could hear the trepidation in the teacher's voice. What was it that could have shaken him like this?

"I did it to the thought of someone." Another moment of pause. "A member of the clergy."

Timothy thought, wondering who it might be. It wasn't required for Ian to admit who, but his curiosity had been officially piqued.

"It was... Father Timothy."

Timothy felt every muscle in his body seize up.

"...What?"

Beyond the screen, he heard Ian gulp.

"Look, I..." Ian's normally cool, even voice faltered, and Timothy could hear genuine distress in his tone, until he heard the teacher make a resigned sigh. "I'll be honest. It's not like I haven't thought about him before. He's a good-looking man, we get along. But Father Timothy's a good friend of mine. He's been good to me since I got here. But, the guy's a priest..."

But Timothy could barely hear Ian over his own ringing ears. Could he really believe what he was hearing?

Timothy couldn't answer the question for himself. But he could drum up an answer for his friend.

His good friend, Mr. Ian Terrace.

"Sexual thoughts are...expected, by anyone," Timothy assured. "Lustful thoughts about people in unattainable positions aren't unusual. But, you've taken the first step to redemption. You came here to humble yourself in front of the Lord, and ask for His forgiveness. And you can find it, through penance and action."

Timothy didn't know if he believed his own assuring words, given his situation. But Ian was too good for the Lake of Fire.

"...Thank you, Father," Ian said from beyond the grille.

"Don't thank me," Timothy dismissed, and meant it. "When the Devil clouds the world, It's the Lord who guides us back to the light."

Timothy sighed. Maybe he could convince himself to take his own words to heart.

He offered a number of orders of retribution; a few Hail Marys, a few prayers to the Rosary. Mostly, he wanted this to be over.

"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good," Timothy stated, closing the confession session.

Ian gave a satisfied sigh. "For His mercy endures forever."

For his own sake, Timothy hoped it did.

-------------

Timothy couldn't bear to touch himself again after that day in the confessional, for the shame willed him to stop.

Any time Ian came to the chapel to see Timothy, he made up some excuse for why he couldn't take the time to talk. And after the single mass service he'd attended, after his fateful moment at confession, he'd been conspicuously missing from the church. He missed his friend, but Timothy thought it better if Ian stayed away from the chapel for now.

After curfew, Timothy would often come here, walking through the cold stone corridors in the faint glow of candlelight, the only sounds the occasional cracks of settling wood and his own footsteps. One night, as he walked past rows of candles and darkened stained-glass windows, he found himself struggling with thoughts of Ian.

Swarms of butterflies rose within himself each time he thought of the young teacher, and each time Father Timothy pinched himself close to bleeding to squash them. Tonight, he ached, the feeling especially strong. Hell's flames already licked at his loins. As long as Father Timothy tried to be a good man, he would be a good man. At least that was the lie he told himself.

"Father Timothy."

It had only been a week since he'd heard that voice, but it still felt like an eternity. An all-too familiar painful heat coursed through him, growing stronger, and Lucifer's laughter rung in his ears.

He turned to find Ian, his expression grave.

"...Mr. Terrace," Timothy managed, his voice cracking.

"Cut that out. Can we talk?"

No. No, he couldn't do this.

"...I-I can't right now," Timothy lied. "I have things to do before service tomorrow-"

"Timothy, are you avoiding me?"

He fell silent.

"Be honest." He'd never heard the teacher sound so serious.

"...I really do have things to do." The Bibles in the pews could use re-arranging. For the third time tonight.

"I know it was you."

Timothy felt the eyes of every statue in the room staring into him, boring holes through his poorly-maintained facade. They were meant to do that, meant to make parishioners aware of themselves, of their original sin, make you feel judged, belittled. He'd never experienced that more strongly than he did now.

"I know you were the one that heard my confession."

"...I don't know what you're talking about."

"Timothy, how could I not know it was you?" Ian interrupted, smiling bitterly, desperately. "I'd recognize your voice anywhere."

The stillness of the air made his heart ache.

"...I can't," Timothy answered the man, his tone shaky and quiet, "it's my job to keep what's said in the confessional booths in confidence-"

"I don't want to just act like it didn't happen." Ian's tone was serious, pleading. He ran a hand through his unusually-unkempt blonde hair. "Listen, Tim, I... I really think we should talk about this."

"It's not my job to judge you for sins you commit."

"But-"

"Did you do the Hail Marys?"

"I mean... Yeah."

"And prayers to the Rosary?"

"Yeah...?"

"So you did all of the Penitence things the priest told you?"

Ian rolled his eyes, letting out an exasperated sigh. "Will you please stop dodging the point here-" "

"Then the rest is in God's hands."

"I don't care about that, Timothy!"

Timothy avoided his friend's gaze.

"You should worry about what God thinks of you." Just go away, he thought. Just leave me. These feelings were enough before you showed up.

"Tim, I want to know what you think of me."

Timothy felt the breath in his lungs press against his chest to the point of hurting.

"Look, I... I'm not gonna beat around the bush on this anymore. I don't just come to the chapel in my free time because I have to. I like spending time with you."

Timothy's limbs felt cold and weak.

"...A lot." Ian gave Timothy a soft smile. And in turn, Timothy felt his knees weaken.

Timothy thought back to those nights he'd fallen asleep, thinking about that smile. He remembered the times he'd come back to the chapel, to pray to God to make this feeling pass.

"...It's stupid, right?" Ian's voice sounded so defeated, and it shattered Timothy to listen to. "I'm not ashamed of who I am - I'm a man who likes men. But I didn't think... never in my wildest dreams did I think..." "

He sighed.

"It's... understandable. That after hearing that, you'd push me away."

Timothy's heart felt like lead.

"You know what? I know I said we should talk this out, but I get it. I get why you're avoiding me." Ian sounded so sad, defeated. His voice cracked. "I thought-"

Timothy let out his breath, looking at Ian's expression. Even from this far away he could see the man losing his resolve.

No, no he couldn't have this. He couldn't have Ian bear this burden alone.

"I know you're a man of God, but..." Ian paused. "I don't know... I thought there was something there-"

"Ian."

Father Timothy's heart pounded in his ears. His hands, balling into fists, felt clammy.

He looked into Ian's eyes, and felt cracks trailing across his carefully-constructed facade of a subservient man of God. As he came closer to Ian, he felt the cracks spreading in tendrils across his body.

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