Henry and the Eschaton

II

By Michael Arram

Henry was just leaving for the car park when Magda caught up with him. 'Saw you on CNN.'

'Good?'

'You looked somewhat preoccupied, not your usual perky self.'

'Perky? Me, perky?

'It's the adjective that occurs to me when I see you. You're full of energy but - be fair - you're not the biggest of men.'

'Well, I was preoccupied.'

'A good point about the threat from international terrorism. But you went a bit overboard on the danger of violence from religious fundamentalism on the Christian right-wing.'

'It's on my mind.'

'Anyway, there's a message from your father. Give him a ring. You don't talk to your parents way enough.'

'Stop bugging me, Magda.'

'Someone needs to tell you these things.'

Henry had finally had enough. 'Thank God I'm queer! The idea of being married to you would be enough to confirm my orientation.'

But Magda merely smiled. Henry had the feeling that losing his temper had been a strategic error on his part.

He fled to his car. He brushed the piled-up rubbish off the front seats on to the floor, muttering to himself that he should clean it up, and took the winding roads along Starel Heights to cross the river at the Heinrichsbrücke. His destination was the royal palace.

First, however, he had to clear the police checkpoint at the rear of the palace next to the magnificent Classical buildings of the old riding school. Although Henry had a famous face, the recent crises in the country explained the strictness of the identity check. He understood the necessity for it, but was still put off by the amount of time it took. Eventually he was given an ID tag and waved through to park in a bay in the old stable yard.

It was an autumn day of some beauty, quite as warm as an English summer. Afternoon was wearing on, the sun getting low above the trees. Henry flipped his mobile to raise the queen's personal number.

'Henry? Where are you?'

'Out in the stable yard on my way up, Harry. Where's Rudi?'

'In the office with Oskar. Help!'

'Help?'

'The munchkins are returning.'

'Damien's gang?'

'They've taken over the palace. I may need to mobilise the guards.'

Henry laughed. 'I'll be up straight away.'

He took the palace's western stairs to the private quarters, where a footman in olive-green tails and white tie opened the door for him. A hubbub of noise greeted him as he entered the queen's sitting room.

'Uncle Hennery!' a very handsome well-built boy, freckled and blue-eyed, yelled at him from across the room, then ran over to give him a hug. Henry kissed the top of Mattie Oscott's head.

'Uncle Henry!' shouted Damien Macavoy from his favourite place next to the queen on the sofa, which he wasn't about to abandon.

'Hi, sir!' was the much lower-key greeting from Reggie Mayer, accompanied as ever by a very cute smile.

The three boys were using the queen's laptop on the coffee table. Reggie occupied his customary place at the keyboard, kneeling on the carpet, a look of concentration on his little face.

Henry took a seat on the other side of the queen to Damien. 'What's up?'

Damien frowned. 'We're looking for Mendamero on line.'

'I'd be amazed if you found anything.'

Reggie piped up. 'We found stuff. There's a site, www.opera-sanctae-feniciae.rn, which has the text of her Revelation of the End Time in five languages. Got lots of hits on that one. Really cool!'

Damien chipped in. 'Yuh. But tell 'im about the other thing.'

'Oh yeah, sir. You might wanna check out this site. It's called The Eschaton. It looks as though it's based in the States, maybe in Virginia. Queen Harry does Greek, she says 'Eschaton' means "the End of All Things". It's very religious.'

'And this site mentions Mendamero?'

'Yes, sir. And thing is, it doesn't refer to St Fenice at all. But it's got these prophecies, and says the Beast is Mendamero. What's the Beast?'

Harry raised her eyes. 'It's a name for the great enemy of the Church, sweetheart, in the last book of the Bible. How does that make you feel, Henry?'

'Mephistophelian. Can I have a look?'

Henry slid down on to the carpet next to Reggie. Damien climbed from the sofa on to his shoulders with a big grin.

'You pull my rather cute little ears, Damien, and I may well smite you with fire and brimstone. Okay, let's see now. Show me the passage, Reggie babe.'

'Here you are, sir. There's some math which they say proves it.'

'Do tell.'

'Well sir, the numerical value of the name Mendamero in the Latin alphabet is 83, and if the number of the Beast is 666 - is that right? - then each of the nine letters of Mendamero has a value of 74. So if you take 74 from 83 you get 9, the same as the number of letters in the name.'

'I'm convinced.'

'You're not being serious, sir.'

Henry laughed. 'You expect me to be, Reggie?'

The small boy shrugged. 'It's a pattern.'

'Any idea what's the source of their use of the word Mendamero?'

'I'll check. Here sir. It says a prophetic revelation at Thomasville, that's in North Carolina, back last summer.'

'How very intriguing. I'm impressed. Let me make a note of the site in my organiser. Thank you, guys.'

Mattie grinned. 'We've gotta gang, we're calling it the Mendamero Men. Waddya think?'

'I'll be very happy to be Honorary President. But won't it be a short-lived sort of army? You're only here for the half-term holiday, Mattie.'

'Nuts. We use IM all the time, and Reggie's got a webcam.'

Henry lifted Damien off his back, then took the seat on the other side of the queen. 'How long now, Harry?'

'It should be just after Christmas. Poor kid, that'll make his birthday arrangements a mess.'

'How are you feeling?'

Harry winced. 'Don't ask. I just want it over with. Don't get me wrong, we're thrilled about the baby, but this waiting is so tiring for both of us.'

'Rudi being good?'

'Amazingly. Most people would never believe how kind and caring he can be.'

Henry smiled. 'Those who know him would. Look how junior here adores him.'

'Uncle Rudi's me mate,' Damien asserted.

'Are you going over to his office?'

'Yup. But first, I'm returning this to Damien.' Henry withdrew the linen bag containing the letter of St Fenice, and handed it to the boy. Reggie looked up and Mattie craned over the sofa back to see. 'I reckon it'll be best if the person she entrusted it to looks after it. It mentions you, Damien.'

'It does? Cool! Where?'

'Harry'll tell you. She knows Latin as well as Greek, and can translate it. Got a pen any of you?' Reggie put his hand up. 'Then get scribbling. See you in a bit.'

Reggie gave him a serious look. 'We'll do research on it.'

The queen called him back. 'Oh and Henry! There'll be a surprise when you get to the king's office, so be prepared.'


The church of St Alban, Northside, was a sad little place. It had just a few loyal septuagenarian parishioners who doggedly kept it going, not enough to encourage the diocese to find it a new priest. Its inevitable closing down was only being staved off by a rearguard action from the congregation.

In the meantime, the main Sunday service was maintained by occasional clergy, mostly retired, but this time it was Anthony's turn. Bishop Jack was happy to loan his ordained staff out for Sunday duty, though Anthony thought he took a particular delight in unlikely pairings of church and clergy, as today.

St Alban's had been a very high church in its heyday, as attested to by the relics of its ritual past. Anthony was expected to robe up in vestments and sing bits of the liturgy to the creaky antique organ played by a frail ninety-year-old lady. He hated this sort of religion, so different from his own: all form and no substance, as Bishop Jack would say.

Despite his disapproval, Anthony was a professional who did his best with what he had. He'd prepared a sermon, nothing special since it was only one of the ordinary Sundays of Trinity. He looked down from the pulpit. There were about twenty of the faithful present staring back at him. All were white-headed, apart from one younger person at the back. Because the church was not far from Cranwell University, the odd student might well wander into it, only to wander out again pretty soon afterwards. St Alban's was not a parish geared to youth, which preferred the megachurch in a hired warehouse in Riverside, with its bands, laser shows and excitement. Anthony knew where he would rather be.

Today's service proceeded without much incident. Anthony's robust tenor made most of the noise at the hymns. He gave the blessing, then exited the chancel to disrobe quickly in the vestry. Knowing his duty, he proceeded to the west door ready to say farewell to the departing congregation, most of whom were still chatting in the aisles.

The student, a good-looking young man, was just putting on his jacket. He turned to sweep Anthony with a small, private grin. Reached out his hand he commented, 'Nice service, father.'

'You!'


Henry knew his way to the king's private office. An undersecretary was waiting to usher him in.

The king was standing at the window, laughing along with two blonde young men on the sofa.

'Fritzy!' Henry was delighted.

'Greetings, Mendamero!' Fritz von Tarlenheim grinned up at him.

'When did you get back?'

'I flew into Hofbau from Logan last night via Schiphol. I spent the night at Helge's before coming to find Oskar.' Fritz's brother affectionately massaged his neck. There was something about the prince that brought cheerfulness into every room he entered.

'Are you back for good, Fritzy?'

'Yup. I've graduated from Harvard, I'm twenty-one and I take over control of the Tarlenheim estates at Christmas. Life begins for me officially and I'm raring to go.'

'Judging by the celeb mags, your life began raring some time ago and with a vengeance, party boy.'

Fritz laughed. 'We're out on the town tonight, me and Oskar. You and Ed wanna come?'

'Er... well, I suppose. If he's not got anything else on.'

Fritz raised his eyes. 'You're not getting boring, Henry?'

'No, no... it's not that. I'd like to, honest. I'm just not sure if Ed's got to be on duty.'

'I take it that I'm not invited.' King Rudolf looked disgruntled.

Oskar shook his head. 'You know the way it goes, sir.'

Fritz on the other hand looked mischievous. 'Dare you, Rudi! The king going incognito amongst his subjects to hear what they truly think of him.'

The king coloured. 'Damn you, Tarlenheim, you think I wouldn't?'

Oskar groaned. 'Sir, no, please... consider the media! "King parties in the Wejg, leaving pregnant queen moping in palace." What if you get pictured with an attractive woman?'

The king snarled, 'What if I promise only to get off with unattractive ones?'

Oskar managed to look simultaneously apprehensive and sympathetic. 'Really sir, it wouldn't be wise.'

Rudi heaved a sigh. 'Somehow I should have guessed there would be a price to pay for being king. It turned out to be my youth.'

Henry too felt sorry for his friend. He took Rudi's shoulder. 'I wish you could come out with us, Rudi, but there are too many dangers.'

'It's alright, Henry. God knows, when the kid arrives I'm going to have plenty of other things to keep me occupied. Look, can we get on with business?'

Oskar stood and indicated a work table. 'Certainly. I've printed out the transcripts Will provided. I've rung over to Leibgardgasse for Ed to come across to the palace. He should be here in a couple of minutes.'

The four men had just settled round the table when a discrete knock on the door heralded arrival of the fifth. Colonel Edward Cornish entered, immaculate in his blue, white and gold uniform as commander of a guard regiment. He gave a double take, then flashed a wide grin when he saw Fritz waving at him.

'Good news for the girls, Fritzy's in town!' he laughed. He settled next to Henry, putting his peaked cap on the table.

Rudi took up the transcript. 'Let's be methodical about this. The letter from the past is quite specific, rather more so than you normally expect from prophecies. There is a grim new enemy rising against us, some sort of evil manifestation disguised as a clergyman. Any ideas?'

Oskar shook his head. 'There are so many bishops and so many churches. Where do we begin?'

'America,' observed Henry.

The king cocked an eyebrow. 'America?'

'Little Reggie Mayer to the rescue. He did a web search and discovered a U.S. evangelical site which has been preaching since last summer that the Beast of the Apocalypse is no less than Mendamero.'

'So you propose to cross the Atlantic and get to the bottom of it. You think the apostate bishop may be in the United States?'

'We have to start somewhere. But I'll try e-mail to begin with. Maybe I can pin down the source of that denunciation.'

The king shook his head. 'We are going to have to be more organised and professional than that. This is not one of your personal adventures, Henry. This is an affair of state. I'm ex officio head of the Rothenian secret service. The director and I have concluded that there is a significant danger to our homeland posed by all this, and we will act accordingly. You will have our resources behind you, here and abroad. The grunt work will be done by RSS personnel. As for this evangelical site, I'll alert our Washington office; it has good links with the FBI.

'Don't forget, Henry, you hold an honorary rank in our army. Until this business is resolved, I'm placing you on active duty to give you official status as an accredited agent of the state. It might be useful if you come up against problems with other agencies. I wouldn't want you shot accidentally by the French Sûreté or British MI5, for instance.'

'Very considerate. Thank you, Rudi.

'What's more, Outfield, you need a bodyguard, you being so feeble and all. So the defence ministry has seconded Colonel Cornish to work with you. It's all official, he's even being paid to do it.'

'What, you mean he has to do exactly what I tell him?'

'Don't I always?'

'There's the matter of you sacking our useless cleaner.'

'She scares me. Why don't you do it, Mendamero, saviour of the universe?'

'There're the forces of evil, and then there's Constanzia our cleaner, the witch-demon who leaves her fag ends in the loo. I know which I fear more.'

'Then get your mother to do it.'

'Damn!'

'What?'

'I was supposed to ring dad.'

The king growled, 'Can we stay focussed, you two? For crying out loud... Okay, where was I? You are to go to England, initially to team up with Phil and Eddie, and then wherever you need to go.'

'It's term time for Phil and Eddie.'

'I know that. Eddie has no teaching; he does pure research. Phil's more of a problem, but he can take a weekend or two off. He's big news in his department after the Dressner sensation. Two universities are offering him chairs, and he's thinking about London. No one at Stevenage is going to get too annoyed if he disappears for a bit, they need him too much. The boy Elijah may contact him. They had a thing going, so I understand.'

Henry shook his head. 'Not a gay thing. Elijah is straight, but yes, he seemed to want to be friends with Phil.'

The king cleared his throat and gave a covert glance at Henry and Ed. 'And Gavin - or Enoch as he apparently likes to be called now - what about him? Anything?'

Henry sensed rather than saw the cloud descend on Ed's brow. 'No, nothing, not even the slightest supernatural twinge. Why do you think he'd contact me anyway? It was Phil who saw him the last time, the day Dressner died beneath Kaleczyk.'

As he said that, Henry felt and acknowledged a tremor of disappointment. For all they had once meant to each other, Gavin had ignored him that day. Yet they had been within metres of each other at one point. What had been going on?

When coffee arrived, Henry gravitated over to Fritz, who hugged and kissed him. They had once briefly been lovers, and Fritz did not seem to want to let that special connection be forgotten.

'How are you, Henry... no really.' The younger man's sea-blue eyes had a considering look.

Henry smiled a little wearily. 'Everyone seems to be worried about that at the moment... well, everyone except for Ed.'

Fritz nodded. 'You understand why too. You pair really ought to talk.'

'But how do you start a conversation like that? We never really did exorcise the Gavin thing.'

'Exorcise?'

'You know what I mean.'

'Ed realises you and Gavin truly did have the genuine article, and that's the problem. You didn't tell him about us either, did you?'

'No. When he and I got back together again I didn't want to, and Ed's never been the sort who wants to explore feelings. Not that he doesn't have them, he just prefers to laugh things off. Usually it works, but not with Gavin. Oh, he refers to him every now and again; he genuinely liked the boy. But when he does bring him up, you can sense something unspoken: jealousy maybe, caution perhaps, and fear definitely.'

'Fear of what?'

Henry shrugged his shoulders.

The meeting resumed with Rudi talking about budgets and contacts. Knowing Henry and Ed as he did, he made sure all the details went to Ed. Henry had a way with important bits of paper which involved putting them in a safe place and forgetting where it was.

The king wound up the meeting. 'So all that's sorted. Now tell me where you'll begin.'

Ed looked at Henry and, when his lover seemed hesitant, said, 'I think London. Eddie Peacher and Phil can come to the Highgate house; Phil only lives round the corner. Matt and Andy are here in Rothenia at the moment looking after Damien and Mattie while their parents are in Barbados. They'll tell Mrs Atkinson we're coming.'

'Agreed then. Be in touch.' And with that the meeting ended.


'Dad?'

'Hullo love. Thanks for ringing.'

'I should have rung earlier, but there was a meeting. What's up?'

'I need to talk, Henry. Have you got time?'

A dozen alternative things which he knew he ought to be doing surfaced in his mind. Quickly suppressing them he said brightly, 'I could meet you for tea at the Flavienerhof or Jednorosecz, or I could come round to the flat. Whatever you want.'

'Bless you, love. I think meeting you away from mum might be the best idea at the moment.'

Henry had a sudden panic at his father's tone of voice. Marriage troubles? Not his parents, surely.

Having agreed to a time at the Café Jednorosecz in Stracenzstrasse, Henry snapped his mobile shut and looked at a worried Ed. They were in a secluded alcove at the foot of the main palace stairs.

'What's up little babe?' Henry realised his lover had picked up his own worried expression.

'My dad's giving off unusual signals and wants to talk to me away from mum. That's not like him, and he sounds... sort of depressed.'

Ed's brow took on a deeper furrow. 'Oh! You don't suppose he's ill or something?'

'God, I hope not.' He gave an uncertain laugh. 'I was thinking marriage problems. It's gotten really bad when they want to talk to the kids, hasn't it?'

'Ring Ricky. He might know something.'

'Ah! Good idea.' Richard was Henry's elder brother, who lived and worked in Leeds and was about to make Henry an uncle.

Henry tapped in his brother's mobile number, but got no answer. When he tried the home number, he got his sister-in-law, Helen, whom he liked talking to. She could only tell him Ricky was involved in a training seminar till late evening. Henry promised to call back later.

Ed suggested accompanying him to the meeting with his dad, but Henry reluctantly disagreed. 'You'd better go home and start packing, sweetheart. We need to be in London in a couple of days.'

'The flat's in a dreadful mess, babe.'

'Get a company of your troops around and dispose of Constanzia with extreme prejudice. That'll be a start.'

'I could never cover it up. Besides, she'd chew up the most hard-bitten Rothenian commando and spit him out. Better to pull down the entire apartment block and rebuild. Then at least we could sack her and get away with it.'

Henry mused, 'Why are we so useless?'

'We're nice, so we're victims. We can't be rude, which means the likes of Constanzia can run rings round us. We're not useless, we're just handicapped in the hardball game of life.'

Henry cheered up and grinned. 'You always make me feel better.'

Ed beamed in return, then leaned over for a lingering kiss. 'Thanks.'

They parted at the garden door, where Ed saluted the guard who was presenting arms. Henry smiled after the broad back swinging off towards the front palace yard and his office in the Guards Barracks behind Leibgardgasse. Ed made a stunning figure nowadays. His chest featured a large collection of medal ribbons and the chipped silver star of the Order of Henry the Lion. His cap and high collar were heavy with gold braid, while bullion epaulettes and aiguelettes hung from his shoulders. Henry smiled to himself, for his Edward was anything but a toy soldier.

By the time Henry found somewhere to park off Stracenzstrasse, his father had taken an inside table at the Café Jednorosecz. He was wearing his usual grey clerical shirt and battered tweed jacket, the one with the leather patches at the elbows. It was older than Henry.

His smile up at his son was decidedly weary, adding to Henry's subdued alarm. 'What's up, dad? Don't deny something bad's happening, I can see it all over you.'

His dad sighed. 'It's the parish.'

'The parish? I thought everything was going well. The place is healthily full, you make the quota and Will's even wrestled the organist into submission for you. Is it the wardens? Is Mr Allen having it off with Mrs Clark?'

His father managed a weak smile. 'That at least would be amusing. No, it's the Smith-Verhwerbz business come back to haunt me.'

Henry went back through his memory. Oh yes, Melvin Smith, the bespectacled, pudgy third secretary at the embassy, had gone through a Rothenian civil-partnership ceremony a year ago with a rather hunky Rothenian, Marcus Verhwerbz. When they had wanted a church ceremony to bless their relationship, Mr Atwood had been happy to oblige, even though the diocese of Central Europe had no liturgy for it. He had borrowed one from the Canadian prayer book.

'So what's the problem, dad?'

'The new bishop, Alun Lewis, has got to hear about it from one of the congregation, and I've had the archdeacon of Rothenia and the Czech Republic here investigating.'

'When did that happen?'

'Oh, three months ago, but I didn't want to mention it.'

'You should have.'

'Well... maybe. Anyway, yesterday I got this letter.'

Henry scanned it. 'Tell me about Bishop Alun Lewis.'

'He was appointed six months ago, one of the New Evangelicals we're being saddled with. He was a Pentecostalist minister only seven years back, then he was one of Bishop Jack's curates at the Brierley megachurch, and now he's on the fast track. Since the Church of England started appointing its own bishops there are more and more like him, card-carrying members of the Conservative Coalition. Jack's Lads, as they call them. They're all men, of course, no hint of female bishops being on the agenda now.'

'According to this letter, your offence is the use of an unauthorised liturgy...'

'Read on, it gets worse.'

'Oh... I see what you mean: "... the sanctioning of a relationship specifically condemned by Scripture and forbidden by Church canons." Good God. You've been suspended pending a disciplinary hearing. For fuck's sake! This is the twenty-first century. The guy's a witch hunter and a homophobe!'

Mr Atwood gave a dispirited sigh. 'Being in Rothenia we've so far missed what's going on back in Britain, but this is just the extension here of the situation at home. You must have picked up the walk-out of hundreds of liberal and open-minded clergy.'

'Wasn't there some break-away group, the Free Episcopalian Church of England or something?'

'Yes, all that's left of the former liberal establishment. They're swamped by this new breed of conservative Anglican, with megachurches, TV channels and masses of cash. Really, you wouldn't recognise the old C of E from when you were a boy. You remember the Reverend Plimsoll out at Horleywood? Well, he and his partner George were forcibly removed from the rectory. He'd been there ten years. No one in the town turned a hair about his being gay, and George was the local doctor, but still they had them out.'

Henry did remember Mr Plimsoll, a quietly humorous priest who was very popular while looking after Trewern for a few Sundays while his father was on his back with flu one winter. He had no idea the man had been gay.

The journalist in Henry began to wake up. 'Look dad, they can't just dispense with clergy 'cos they're gay. There's European employment legislation, equal-opportunities codes and civil-rights bills. What about the archbishop? He's supposed to be a liberal sort of man.'

'He's one of the problems. He's an ineffectual professor, not an administrator. The conservatives outmanoeuvred him at General Synod and transferred what powers he had to a committee.'

'... dominated by themselves, no doubt?'

'Exactly. He's no more than an Episcopal hat-rack. As for equal rights, well of course they pay lip service to it. However, no courts can alter the fact that the new hardliners use scriptural fundamentalism to unsettle congregations, allowing them to find other means of getting rid of people they don't like.'

'Why does the government not step in?'

'The prime minister and half the cabinet go to the new megachurches. Church and State haven't been so closely connected for centuries, even if the old establishment link has been broken.'

Henry sat back. Although he tried to attend his father's church in Strelzen whenever he could, he had lost touch with the religion of his childhood. Now it seemed as though it had changed beyond recognition while he was not looking.

'What does mum think?'

His father blanched. 'She was... er... very decided in her views to the archdeacon. And I couldn't stop her ringing the bishop. Luckily she didn't get past his secretary.'

'I can sympathise. Look, dad, I'll have a word with Rudi...'

'No, please, dear. Don't do that. It'll work out. The only reason I'm telling you is because I'm going to resign.'

'What!' Henry knew the depth of his father's commitment to his vocation.

'I'm already talking to the principal of the International School. There's an opening for a teacher of religious studies and maths, both of which I can do if I have to.'

'And the flat?'

'Mum's looking for somewhere new. Don't forget she's doing well as a legal secretary for the EU office. We're not short. She's been keeping me for the past few years, if the truth be told.'

'You really are going to resign, aren't you. Have you talked it over with the chaplaincy council?'

'Not yet, but I have spoken to the European representative of the Free Episcopalians, who are keen for me to start a congregation in Strelzen.'

Henry stared at his father. 'Well, you have my support all the way.'

Mr Atwood relaxed a little. 'That, dear, is all I wanted to know.'


'Blimey!'

'I can think of other words.'

'Henry, babe, it seems to me this ties in with Fenice's letter.'

'That had occurred to me.'

The two of them were at home together for a change, Henry in a tee shirt and jeans, Ed in fatigues.

'Come over here, babe.'

Henry looked his surprise.

Ed gave a rather sad little smile. 'I want to hold you.'

Henry obediently moved round the coffee table to nestle willingly enough into his lover's lap. As Ed's powerful forearms clasped his body tight, he admired as he always did their light feathering of blond hair.

The voice was in his ear now. 'What're the chances this Bishop Lewis is the one Fenice's letter is on about?'

'I was thinking the same thing. There's no better Christian than my dad, and since Bishop Asshole is working to unseat him, we can assume the bishop is a candidate.'

'Time to flex our muscles then.'

Henry laughed. 'You're good at that.' He could feel one of Ed's more considerable muscles flexing underneath his buttocks as he sat there.

Ed's voice was more relaxed when he replied, 'Later, babe. What I mean is, maybe it's time to use our connections with the intelligence service to have Bishop Asshole investigated.'

'How do we go about it?'

Ed pulled his mobile from a pocket of his battledress trousers. 'I'll ring Colonel Wagram at the ministry. He'll pass on the request.'

Henry snuggled closer to Ed while the conversation went on, and as he did so, he realised to his astonishment that the pair of them had not had sex for a fortnight. My God! When had sex become an option in their relationship? But then, when had he last asked for it? No time like the present. His hand crept below Ed's waistband, eliciting a look, first of surprise then of interest.

As Ed was winding up his conversation, Henry was successfully pulling his trousers below his buttocks so his cock could spring free.

Closing his phone Ed laughed, 'You randy...' Then something caused Henry to look closer at Ed's face, on which he found a look of determination.

Ed stood and clasped Henry hard, kissing him strongly and, as he did so, Henry felt hands pulling at his shirt. It ripped right down and Ed threw the rags away. 'What the...?' Then Henry was thrown down on the sofa and his lower clothes stripped from him. Ed lifted his naked body to press him against a nearby wall. He didn't even strip himself, but pressed hard and dry into a yelping Henry.

Henry, torn between pain and excitement, rode the assault on his anus and took its forceful entry. They had not had urgent sex like this for so long. Then he was bouncing up and down on Ed's straining cock, away from the wall now and just hanging in midair taking the thrusts.

The conclusion of this erotic assault was not long delayed. Ed yelled as he came, then fell back on the sofa.

Henry yelled in turn as Ed's cock rode right to the top of his rectum. Eventually he asked, 'What the fuck...?'

Ed cut him off. 'I just needed it. I mean, really needed it.' And that was that.

But it left Henry with some concerns and questions.

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