The Heart of Oskar Prinz

XX

By Michael Arram

'You should both close your mouths,' Oskar smiled, 'you look stupid.'

Will launched himself at Oskar and clamped on his mouth, where he was freely welcomed.

'Oi! You foreign blokes!' shouted the landlord, 'We don' do that sort of thing in ere. There's a gay pub down the Holloway Road.'

'Sorry!' Will shouted back in accented English, 'It is a custom where we come from.'

'Well fuck off back there.'

'With pleasure.'

They left sniggering. Outside, Felip took his turn at pinning Oskar to the wall, heedless of strange looks.

'Oh, I am so glad to see you, Oskar,' Will cried, tears in his eyes.

'So I see,' came the usual smiling and ironical reply, which he had so missed. Oskar put his arms round both their shoulders, and they walked off happily down towards the Holloway Road and a pub Will knew.

They found a corner and sat just smiling at each other over the drinks Will bought. Eventually he found his tongue, 'Where did you come from and what are you doing here?'

'I've been in London since February. My cousin Margarethe is a nurse at the Whittington, and she got me a cleaner's job there. I live in a tiny bedsit a few streets away from here, and it's given me plenty of time for thinking. Too much really.'

'How did you find us, Oskar?'

'Not too difficult, my Willemu. The contractor I work for also regularly cleans the premises of Marlowe Productions in Camden. I paid special attention to your office when it was my night on duty.'

'It is a lot tidier, now you come to mention it. So you found my address in Kentish Town, you read my desk diary and you knew I was going to Matt's today.'

'Oh yes. You are so organised, Will. I've been watching you two quite a bit over the last fortnight. Today, I just waited for you to pass by while I was sweeping up the leaves. I know you prefer to walk. So I waited till you came down again, simple as that, and tailed you to the pub. And here we are, with a lot to say to each other, I think.'

'Is that it? Just working and thinking?' said Felip in surprise.

'Well also, feeling sorry for myself, being desperately ashamed, going to church a lot and hopelessly trying to think of some sort of life beyond porno flicks. I had just about given up. There are many opportunities in London, it is true, but most of them aren't worth pursuing. I was in Clerkenwell last week auditioning for a grubby London porn firm, but I couldn't go through with it. You may despise Hendrik, Will, but he had his virtues as an employer. Hendrik's a shark, but these guys were just bottom feeders.

But I wasn't finding forgiveness in my own head, and not even in church. So what do I do? I end up watching forgiveness walk right past me. Maybe that was the answer to all those prayers, I don't know. And I hear that you two don't just only forgive me, but you love me. I don't deserve it, you know how bad I've been, not just to you Will, but to Felip, whose heart I trod all over. But I thank God for the two of you; for I love you more than I can say. Really love you, now I know a bit more about what love is. You've made me whole again.'

Will beamed, 'Then let's get on with sorting things out. Go home, Oskar. They miss you so much. It's time. You did your penance and you know that you're forgiven, freely and from the heart. More than that, for all the pain it cost me, I was glad that you did what you did, once I'd seen Helge and Fritzku. You did it all for them, not yourself. I love them too, and I should have remembered them, instead of being angry with you.'

Oskar smiled gently, 'You say the best things, and you are right, my Will. As soon as I can scrape the money together, I'll go home and see if something occurs to me when I'm back in Husbrau.' He paused and looked at Will, 'And when it comes to equality, Will, it doesn't just lie in descent. You're as noble a man as the accident of history says that I am, more so maybe. No fitter man has ever worn that ring since the days of its first owner.' Felip squeezed Will's hand and kissed him gently.

Felip was high on the happiness of the meeting. 'Let's go and do gay things in town, friends, we must celebrate somehow.' So they took the Northern Line to Leicester Square and walked Soho, ending up in a dark bar and disco on Old Compton Street. Will could not help reflecting on the things that had happened to him since the first time he had walked that street. They had a drink and made Oskar laugh as they told him of their last visit to Club Liberation. Oskar looked round their table in the crowded club, 'It's happening again boys, oh dear God.' The familiar staring group had assembled within spitting distance of their table. They escaped on to the floor, and Oskar danced with Will. He was in a state of great happiness, and it showed in his movements and face.

The DJ stared, turned a spot on them and shouted out over the music: 'And here tonight, boys, we have no less than the finest of the Rothenian babes from Falkefilm: I give you Marc Bennett (cheers), Max Wolf (more cheers) and that sexy babe of all babes, Jason Williams (uproar and whistles)! Welcome to our country! OK for autographs? Brilliant!'

So they were given felt tips and signed bare chests, tee shirts, bare arses and, when a cheeky and sexy eighteen year old London boy unzipped his fly, Will even signed one erect dick.

'Ooh... I'll never wash it again,' said the lad with a wink.

'Think of your friends and reconsider that decision, kid,' replied Will in a Jason style accent.

'I'll do it with you now, here on the floor,' the kid said, perfectly seriously.

'Sorry kid, it'll smudge the ink.' The boy snatched a kiss and went off back to his mates, laughing.

Eventually they were left alone and they drank, talked and joked the night away. They got the night bus to Kentish Town and tumbled into Will's flat together early in the morning. Will looked at Felip, and without a word they bundled Oskar into the bedroom ripping his clothes off as they went. He made no protest.

It was a prolonged and passionate session, both boys servicing Oskar devotedly with lips, fingers and mouth. 'Our homage to you, our prince,' Felip said, as he lavishly rimmed Oskar, whose unsheathed cock was planted deep and unmoving in a squirming Will below him. Oskar took both of them that night gloriously, and again in the morning.

'Where are you finding it all?' marvelled Will.

'This is the first sex I've had since our last time together, my Will. I'm surprised I didn't take your head off when I came in you just now.'

Getting Oskar back to Rothenia was not as easy as they had hoped, however. He was on minimum wage and utterly broke, while Will and Felip were not flush either. Will had paid off his card debt, but there were enough other expenses to soak up his income, even though it was so much bigger since he had left teaching, Besides this, Oskar said he must work his week's notice. They were struck, as ever, by his sense of what was proper. But he gave up his bedsit, which was on a weekly rent. He slept on Will's sofa and saved some cash. They did not have sex together again as a threesome, but they kissed and hugged a lot, quite without jealousy, just happy to be together. The thing that pleased Oskar most was the phial of Medelner-attar that Will placed on his toilet bag in the bathroom, the first morning he woke there. Will embraced him after his shower, soaking up the magnificent and delicate fragrance Oskar had resumed once again.

At the end of the month, Will asked for leave and he used his wage and the emergency reserve fund he had to book them on the ferry from Dover. They took the cheap option and spent an uncomfortable crossing on the deck in a storm. From Calais they took trains across Belgium and Germany, finally crossing into their beloved Rothenia at Rechtenstern, west of Zenden. Oskar hung out the train window smiling and just breathing in the air, his blond hair fluttering.

They reached the capital early one evening, opened up the apartment on Starel Heights, and Will looked out over the lights of the beautiful city once again. His city. He didn't want to leave it again. He held Felip and told him so. He just nodded and said, 'Yes, I knew that you would say that eventually. I was just waiting for you. It's boring, but it's home. I can live with it.'

They went that night to the White Tree, the Rothenian-only gay club behind Flavienplaz. It was a lot lower key than Liberation, and the local gays may have known who they were, but were too polite to say. Felip, who was well known there, took Will round and introduced him by his real name. He smiled, formally shook hands, and was taken for a Rothenian whose parents had given him a funny foreign first name.

As he was sitting at the bar, talking to the barman about what President Maritz had been up to the past six months, and the likelihood of an election, Will was startled to hear the throwaway comment at him, 'Of course, you Husbraueners are all Social Democrats, you're born that way.' But he had not claimed any part of Rothenia as home.

Oskar stayed with them that night, rang Helge in the morning and told her he was back. Tears were running unchecked down his cheeks as he spoke. He picked up his bag, embraced them and left to catch the train. Before he did, with Felip standing by solemnly, Will spoke for the first time the words of the family blessing, brushed aside Oskar's blond fringe and kissed his forehead. Oskar hugged him and left, quite unable to speak.

'So, my Will,' said Felip in the morning two days later, a Sunday with the bells of the cathedral and all the churches ringing across the city, 'You're the man for strategy. What do we do now? You've just e-mailed your resignation to Matt. You're broke, I'm broke, so is it back to shagging for Hendrik? This is Rothenia, land of forests, castles and chronic unemployment. Also winter is coming, and believe me winter in this country is no joke. I hope white is your favourite colour.'

'I know. But I do have one idea, and it may or may not make us much money, but it could work. You didn't see my other e-mail to Matt.'

'Is this anything to do with your meeting with Bolslaw tomorrow?'

'Could be.'

On Tuesday, Will and Felip took the train to Modnehem, and found their way to the Tarlenheim house. A housekeeper opened the door to them, Marietta was not to be heard this time.

'Good morning, Mr Vincent and Mr Ignacij for the count.'

'Count Oskar is out with his dog for the moment, but the countess is in. His Serene Highness is at school.'

Helge was standing waiting, her eyes shining. She kissed them both. 'So you have been our friend again, Will, and brought him back safe and whole. He is happy again, he laughs and makes bad jokes as he always did. Fritzku is so delighted to have his brother back. We all are. It was a blessed day when you came to us at Terlenehem.'

'More blessed by far for me, Helge, whatever you might think. Oskar is still a count?'

'By courtesy, yes, the same way as Fritz was a count, when Oskar was the prince.'

'I'm pleased. He should be.'

She took them on a tour of the house, and showed the some recent improvements, and the restoration now under way of the office wing. They had also given in to Fritz's proud and boyish insistence that they should fly the flag of Tarlenheim when they were in residence; so the national flag and a family flag now tugged from two tall white poles mounted either side of the gate. 'Fritz is having fun. He wants to recruit a regiment with a band so we can have a changing of the guard in the front courtyard. I tell him that there is not really enough room for a company of guards and my Fiat, but still he nags.'

A yelping and scratching from the hall announced Oskar and Marietta, who leapt up on Will and licked his face, her tail wagging frantically. Oskar stood in the door, back in his casual gear, looking handsome and relaxed.

'You will be staying, I hope?'

'Yes,' said Will, 'We have things to discuss.'

'That brain of yours has been at work again, I see. Very well, come into the library.' They assembled round the table of a distinguished book-lined room, that had Will's historical instincts twitching and his mouth watering. But business came first. Will set out some papers, and looked at the expectant faces.

'One thing that the Elphberg documentary taught me is that there are no media production companies in Rothenia, which is ridiculous in a proud nation of fifteen million people. The state broadcasters are... well you know what they are. State TV is German documentaries and dramas, crappy quiz shows and mediocre news programmes, some taken from the BBC. I just tell you that because it's perfectly possible that none of you have ever bothered to watch it. Most people just save up for satellite.

But Rothenia has the skills to do better. The Rothenian crew and actors we used were beyond brilliant; what's missing is the capital. Now I can cure this. I have found major backers willing to invest in a new company producing documentaries, soaps and features in Central and Eastern Europe, principally in Rothenian and Czech, but with an eye towards Poland too. We have a promise of a whacking great lump of start up capital, enough to produce a dozen high quality features and a pilot soap drama in Rothenian.'

Oskar looked intrigued but cautious. 'This is excellent Will. But where do we come into it?'

'It's an investment opportunity for the Tarlenheim estate, of course, but I rather hope that Oskar zu Terlenehem can be tempted into the production side – he did study media, off and on - and that Felip Ignacij will consent to take up a managerial post.'

There was silence, which disappointed Will, who had got used to artificial media enthusiasm. But this was simply not the Rothenian way, which was to consider new things from every angle, and move slowly. It was one reason why most Rothenians were so poor at business. Oh come on, he said in his head, get stuck into the idea, boot it around, make it work for you.

Eventually Oskar smiled, 'Will, you have worked very hard at this. It is exciting. No really. But we need more details. How much capital can you draw on?'

He told them.

'Where in God's name did you find that sort of money!' Felip gasped.

'I have good and imaginative friends. The capital investment's from the Peacher Foundation; the Roedenbeck Corporation; that highly successful British firm, Marlowe Productions UK, and of course Wilemmin IC Inc (Rothenia).'

'Hendrik?'

'Sure, he wants to diversify, get into mainstream business, he fancies being a media baron. You know he's buying a newspaper publishers. Also he likes me... well lusts after me actually, but all's fair in love and war and if I have to be a corporate whore, I'll do it for a stunning amount of money not just the rent. Come on people. Are you with me on this? At the least it'll be an exciting ride, and it could be a real moneyspinner. The first task is a series on Rothenian history... bizarrely, it's never been done on TV. Eight hour-long quality documentaries under the working title "Our Rothenia". No punches pulled, we'll even do the Horvath years. It's for the home market, but there's a good chance we can market it in the States where there is an influential Rothenian-American community in Wisconsin and Illinois. I can plug into them for extra capital.'

Enthusiasm was finally beginning to emerge on the other side of the table. Oskar sucked his upper lip, as he did when he was concentrating, 'Could do it by centuries. That'd work.'

'That's what Matt White thought, too.'

If Will was expecting a quick decision, he was disappointed, but on Wednesday as he and Oskar were walking the dog in the hills above Terlenehem, Oskar finally said yes.

'If you and Felip were at a loose end, then think of me. Oh, we have enough money now. We may not be as rich as your English dukes are, but we've resumed our place in Rothenian life. Did you know Maritz has issued a decree allowing the legal use of the old titles? Cynics are saying that's just because his brother can resume the Maritz family's title of baron. Little Fritz is now His Serene Highness in all truth, and the highest ranking of the remaining aristocracy of this land. When he went to church on Sunday, the provincial governor bowed to him and let him precede him out of the door. He was so solemn but so assured, hand in hand with Helge. All the women cried. He truly is the prince I never could have been, and he is only eleven.

But me? That is a different matter. I'm a hedonist, as well you know, but I never was lazy and the idea of hanging round Modnehem and living in Fritz's house is too depressing. So I'm joining you in your enterprise, my Will. But there is a condition.'

'Fire away.'

'Tomas and Rodolf have finished their courses. If you take me, take them too. Tomas is such a sharp boy, he won't let you down.'

'Done. I was going to suggest it anyway. Tomas was always impressive, the way he read you, and read me too for that matter.

A month later, on a chilly afternoon at the end of October, they watched the glazier putting the finishing touches to the front door of the offices and studios of StrelsenerMedia IC Inc, a converted infirmary along one side of Erbischoffplaz north of the cathedral, and only five minutes walk from Felip's apartment. The office staff were already at work inside, and production was under way in temporary studios hired from the State Network.

The launch event was tomorrow. Oskar was managing it, and hosting it at the Tarlenheim Palace in Radhausplaz. The Peacher Foundation had financed the palace's refurbishment. The Tarlenheim name had reestablished itself at the top of Rothenian society and invitations were much in demand. President Maritz himself was coming. The city's social elite was in a ferment because names like Matthew White, Edward Roedenbeck and Andrew Peacher would be flying in. Oskar's charm and organisation carried all before him. 'Just deliver the goods, you guys,' he had said. 'I can do the social thing... although, do we have to have Hendrik there?'

'Yes,' said Will firmly. 'Hendrik is a major partner, and he has loaned us a lot of sophisticated production gear only used previously for recording intimate male sexual congress, but we wiped off the cum spots.'

'You are gross,' said Oskar, 'Of course I blame myself for that. You used to be such an innocent boy.'

'You have nothing to blame yourself for, Oskar. You changed my life for the good. You taught me what sexuality and love is...'

'... and betrayal,'

'... and forgiveness. Go easy on yourself. In fact, get a nice aristocratic boyfriend, someone you can meet on your own terms.'

'But now I have a perverted taste for commoners that you gave me, Will. But we shall see. They say the prince of Saxony is gay, and he's quite a babe in the celeb mags and only a year older than me.'

'There you see, Oskar, there are always possibilities, at least for the enterprising.'

Oskar gave Will a quirky look, 'And always second chances, as you taught me.'

'And it is just the same lesson this beautiful city has taught me. This is another Will Vincent from the sad and lonely boy who lived long ago and far away in England. So long live Ruritania, and long live the count of Tarlenheim.'

'Amen to that.'

THE END

The kings and queens of Ruritania

House of Elphberg

Rudolf I (1644-1665) formerly Duke Rudolf VI

Rudolf II (1665-1707) son

Henry the Lion (1707-1739) son

Rudolf III (1739-1781) son

Ferdinand (1781-1814) son

Henry II (1814-1822) brother

Rudolf IV (1822-1854) son

Rudolf V (1854-1862) son

Flavia (1862-1880) cousin

House of Thuringia

Leopold (1880-1884) cousin

William Henry (1884-1909) brother

Albert (1909-1917) son

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