Barry Hignett stumbled home, distracted, elated and also uneasy with himself. A cool gay guy had singled him out for sex. He had been masturbated, rimmed and sucked. Tick three sex acts of your dreams, one part of his mind gloated. His anus was still tingling with the sensation of Luc's thorough tonguing. What would it be like to bury his nose in Luc's crack?
But did it have to be online? Sure, it was a bit sexy. There was a degree of sexual abandon in doing more or less publicly what he had done. Then there was Luc's reaction to his dick. Barry had realised that what he packed between his legs was larger than normal, butmonstreux! It made him feel like a freak.
He greeted his mother abstractedly and went to his room, very different from Luc's. It was clean and smelled of air freshener, not like a hippy squat. Its domesticity soothed him somehow, while putting his initiation to gay sex into sharp relief. How could he meet his parents' faces over the dinner table? Somehow, though, like millions of teenagers before him – gay or straight – Barry made a passable stab at post-coital normality.
Later, back in his room, he dithered over whether he should text Luc. Would that come over as uncool? He had no Internet access in his bedroom, so he couldn't e-mail. The buzz of his new Rothenian handij solved the problem for him.
'Barry? Luc. Ça va?'
The French boy gave a sort of chuckle. 'Are you online?'
'I don't have a connection in my room.'
'Pity. We could share some clips. Ah, well, some other time. I won't be in school tomorrow. But remember what I said about King Henry.'
'Meet me there Saturday afternoon. It's the statue in front of the Residenz, top of Rodolferplaz. We usually arrive about three.'
Barry hung up and considered. So who were these guys Luc hung out with on Saturdays in town? He blushed as he wondered if one of them was the Rothenian cam-kid who had watched him strip earlier that evening.
Tommy thought he looked good in black leather and shades, though it merely amused Bela. 'Those beefy guys like the look of you, Tomasczu, I can guess where they'd like to hang you. Pity you don't have stubble.'
'Stubble gives me a rash.' He looked round Bar Melmoth, where black leather was not at all out of place. 'So who is this guy?'
'See the man at the counter reading a newspaper and eyeing up the talent on the dance floor? His name's Wulf Sczneczen. He's an interesting piece of shit. He's run this place for the past six years and gained a reputation on the Wejg.'
'Not a nice one, I take it.'
'No. I heard about him from the residents of the Osra Centre. He's a pedrastjne.'
Tommy knew very well what the Rothenian word signified. It was one of the first he had learned in the language, while in custody at the Arsenal Prison.
'So he's a pimp? He can't be the only one on the Wejg.'
'He's a special pimp. He deals in the younger end of the boy market.'
'Again, Belaczu, that can't be unusual here.'
'His clients are somewhat select, I hear.'
'You have my attention.'
'Okay, it's like this. Little Anton... remember him?'
'Cute, small and looks sixteen, even if he's twenty-three?'
'You noticed him, I see. He was less than impressed with our rehabilitation training programme, and wanted more money than the centre pays. So he wandered the Wejg and tried a bit of hustling. Bad boy. I gave him a severe talking-to when I found out, as I always do. Anyway, he picked up a couple of tricks in his brief career, and fortunately they were all he picked up. As soon as I heard, I had him in the clinic with my boot behind him.
'One of the things he told me through his tears was that he could never have stayed on the Wejg anyway. Herr Sczneczen decides who is permitted to haunt doorways at the north end of the Wejg, and has a couple of friends who police them for him. He has some arrangement with the local cops too. Anton also told me that Sczneczen has a little stable of special boys for select clients, and that he got interviewed for the position.'
'Fucked by Wulf and one of his special friends. But poor Anton wasn't fresh-enough meat.'
'Didn't taste like chicken?'
'In one. Now these clients...'
'Go on.' Tommy was intent by now.
'Anton knew the guy who did a threesome with Wulf and him.'
'Anton's a greedy little irritant, but he's not stupid. He was just out of prison, where the only thing they do all day long is watch Eastnet. So he had followed the election campaign, and the guy who dicked him was no less than the deputy leader of Von Lauern's CDP.'
Bela beamed. 'Pleased, leblen?'
'I'll say. Henry's been on the track of something for a while, and this is a breakthrough, though – it has to be said – dicking Anton isn't illegal; it's just bad taste.'
'I suppose it all has to do with the public views of the party, and the CDP is very Catholic and straitlaced about a lot of things, right?'
'True enough. They're trying to raise the age of gay consent from sixteen to twenty, if parliament will let them and the king will sign the bill, which he won't. They've also got it in for early-term abortion and Internet freedom.'
Bela raised an eyebrow. 'So what do we do?'
'Keep our eyes open, I guess. And there's one other thing.'
Tommy held out his hand. 'Fancy a dance, baby?'
Lance was brooding, and so was Damien.
'What's got into the pair of you?'
Damien looked at Lance and then back at Mattie Oscott. 'Hormones, Fatso.'
'Bollocks, Daimey. No one ever had so effortless a puberty as you. Your dad said he and Nathan never noticed the difference. You were quarrelsome, smelly and self-centred from the start.'
Damien scoffed. 'And he can talk. Grandad Matt has a few stories to tell about dad's teenage years.'
Meanwhile, Lance was staring at the new English kid, Barry Hignett. There was something about the boy he liked, something gentle and quiet, that and the pretty backside. Was this the one his dads told him he'd find? Was this a boy he could make a play for at last? But bloody Luc had pissed in that pool already. He could kill the French git. Since violent reactions were not natural to Lance, it can be assumed that he really hated Luc.
Damien on the other hand was eyeing up a group of Aristos, and one of them in particular. Count Marek von Lauern, or 'Marky' to the International School snob-mob, had got under his skin. For all Damien's native aggressiveness, getting to him was not that easy a thing to do, yet Marky had achieved it without even trying. Marky was tanned, handsome, sixteen and cool, the oldest in his year. He dressed like a fashion-magazine cover model and, especially now he had a car, found very little trouble attracting the girls. He had a group of them around him at that moment, and it was at one in particular that Damien was staring.
Noticing the direction of the gaze, Lance shook his head. Damien always wanted the unattainable. For there, laughing with Marky, was Helen Debies. Helen was not just pretty, she was super-smart and sassy. All the boys wanted her, and no one got near her, or at least none had since the day Damien and she had split up when they were in Year 6. Now it seemed that Marky von Lauern had achieved the ambition of every Year 11 and 12 boy in the SIS. Lance quite liked Marky, but then, he didn't have Damien's prejudices.
Lance went back to fantasising about Barry's butt, a pastime he found quite pleasant. The guy was wearing a short hoodie that barely came down to his belt, with a Coldplay tee-shirt that fell below the hoodie but did not obscure those pretty curves. Lance's mind was picturing his hands pulling down those jeans and the Calvins whose top was visible over the belt, revealing the fleshy little mounds beneath, and the promising dark slit between those mounds.
Lance shuddered. His dick was rock hard, and knew exactly where it wanted to go. When he was fourteen he had found the courage to talk to Nathan, Damien's second dad, about gay sexuality. He could not bring himself to brave the embarrassment of broaching it with his own parents.
He and Nathan had been relaxing in the pool in Nathan's backyard on a warm summer afternoon. The big, gentle man – who always inspired Lance with a feeling of serenity and confidence – had seemed just the person to explain it all to him, so he had asked. Amongst other things, he had learned all about dominant and submissive sexualities, top and bottom. After that he believed he knew he was the sort of guy who wanted to go on top, or at least that was where his fantasies increasingly placed him.
Lance took a moment to wonder at how his sexuality had assumed what seemed like total control of his life. Such introspection was rare in an adolescent boy, but then, he was no ordinary teenager. Part of Lance still lived outside the world we know, leaving him always something of a tourist in present reality. If anything, it intensified the joys and pains he suffered, while perhaps also adding to their poignancy. He gave a little sigh. Mattie looked a question at him.
'Nothing,' Lance muttered.
The queen of Rothenia was somewhat harassed.
'What's wrong with the boy?' Ellie Marquesa demanded.
'Nothing, mother. Leo's normally a little angel.'
'Little angels don't stick out their tongues at their grandmothers.'
'He's been unsettled since Maxxie started school. He thought he should be going too. He was quite sweet on Maxxie's first day, filling his own little backpack with toys and pencils and expecting to accompany his brother. There was quite a scene when it got through to him that he couldn't go to school just yet.'
'You should be firmer with the boys. Maxim said a very strange thing to me the other day. He looked me in the eye and told me that if I wasn't careful I'd come to a bad end.'
'Obviously someone – and I willnot speculate as to who – had said it to him and he repeated it, but it was not very nice. My dear, you should consider sending the boys out to board. Frankly, in retrospect I wished I'd enrolled you in Foxcroft... and Eddie really should have gone to military school. Your father, however...'
Harriet tried to get things under control. 'Could we confine ourselves to the wedding, mother?'
'I thought everything was arranged.'
'From the ecclesiastical side, yes, but there is still the family end. It's not a national celebration, so these things are important.'
'We've decided on the lists and the bridal party.'
'It would have been nice if Robert had invited Justin or Eddie to be a groomsman.'
'But Andrew is giving me away, and my grandsons – my grandsons by blood, I mean – will be pages.'
'People will notice.'
'Nonsense, dear. People make up slights where none are intended.'
'The seating plan appears to create something of a gulag.'
'What do you mean?'
'You have Peter on the high table, but Oskar his partner is sidelined with Matt, Justin and Eddie on the far side of the room. You've omitted some notable names: Nathan Underwood and Eddie's new partner, that sweet Tanya Atkinson.'
Ellie gave her daughter a cool look. 'Space was limited, what with the demand from my media and business friends. I'm sure they'll understand.'
'Oh, for heaven's sake. Isn't having his father there enough?'
'I thought you'd broken through all that anger at the clinic. Didn't you tell me the therapy had put things in a new and positive perspective for you?'
'And so it did. Father Ignatius was especially helpful to me in the preparation for reception into the Faith. My spiritual life has always been very important to me, and forgiveness is a cardinal virtue.'
'So is asking for forgiveness, mother.'
'I really think you have the wrong end of the stick.'
The queen sighed. 'It's nice you're staying in Rothenia for the honeymoon.'
'At our age, it would be silly to go elsewhere. No, Robert's friend, Count Oskar Olmusch of Verheltschjaen, has a villa above Lake Maresku, and we're staying there. The new house I've bought in the Green Hills should be ready by the time the honeymoon's over.'
'I've seen the designs.'
'The Heralds' Office sent over some objections about your people's sketches.'
'What can they mean by that?'
'You applied for heraldic bearings, which was fine. I gather they allotted to you the arms awarded in Britain to Andrew, which I've used too in my version of the royal arms of Rothenia. But your artist's adoption of the Crown of Tassilo into her designs was thought highly inappropriate.'
'Oh, it's too late now. Silly rules. Robert decided it was perfectly in order, since he is an Elphberg. Anyway, it's all over our dining service and the plasterwork I've had done in the house. These dynastic slights are very hurtful.'
'Poor Robert can't be addressed as royal highness, though he has as much Elphberg blood as your husband.'
'We've been through this before, mother. Robert is not the son or brother of a king. Rothenian protocol forbids the title to him.'
'So why is Lennie royal? I simply do not understand.'
'Lennie was for several years Rudolf's nominated heir to the throne and had therefore to have royal status. Though the boys have now displaced her in the line of succession, she continues to be a highness since she carries the title Princess Royal.'
Ellie sniffed. 'Insult heaped on insult by these arcane customs.'
'You might think how it looks to people.'
'Others might say Robert has had a raw deal, Harriet.'
Barry boarded the tram outside his Ninth District home. The long journey up Königstrasse gave him a lot of time to think, as did the timing stop in the hub at the Flavenierplaz. He had been long enough in Strelzen to stop noticing the foreignness of his fellow passengers. He no longer gave the electronic travel-card system a second thought. He was learning routine Rothenian phrases, the currency of daily social exchange. His dad was arranging language classes for them both at the Anglo-Rothenian Institute.
As the tram shuddered back to life and began clanging its way up towards the Rodolferplaz, Barry suddenly felt a surge of satisfaction. His mates back in Surrey were doing the same old boring things, yet here he was in a foreign city, dealing with a new culture and making new friends in a strange but intriguing school. And, of course, he had had gay sex. Not full-on sex, it was true. He still preserved his notional virginity, but not for long, he fervently hoped.
He alighted near the top of the great city square, and stood for a moment gazing round him. The last time he'd come there was with the parents on a shopping outing. He recognised a lot of the stores. Bizarrely to Barry, there was a Marks & Spencer, as well as the usual mix of fashion outlets. There were still plenty of tourists around, Germans predominating but with a fair sprinkling of 'Anglos' as Luc called them. He felt mildly superior to his compatriots. He was after all a resident in this uniquely beautiful city.
He headed up towards the royal palace. Dominating its front was the towering monument to the military campaigns of King Henry the Lion of Ruritania, its plinth surrounded by a set of broad granite steps on which a miscellany of people were camped. At the palace end he could see a ragged group of zoned-out backpackers. Nearby was an identically dressed couple who just had to be gay tourists, taking pictures with expensive cameras.
Barry found Luc with a gang of five other teenagers. He didn't see the webcam boy amongst them, however, which caused him some disappointment. The kids were stretched out and lazily chewing the fat. Three of them, including Luc, were smoking. Settling next to the French boy, Barry returned his casual wave. He was introduced around in Rothenian. Two gave him quite nice smiles and a formal handshake.
'And that is Miro,' Luc added disdainfully, indicating a kid much younger than the rest, who were more or less Barry's age. Miro was maybe fourteen, and Barry could see why he was tiresome to the older boys. He was shamelessly attempting to worm his way into the gang, employing the usual young wannabe's tactic of trying to get laughs. He was currently giving the finger to the gay couple, who were studiously ignoring his insults and monkey-like capering.
'What are we gonna do, Luc?' Barry asked.
'We'll hang here for a while.'
A heavily Slavic-looking guy called Boromeo chipped in. 'Yeah... then we do Wejg, yes?'
'It in corner of Plaz down there. Fun place! You like.'
Barry declined the offer of a cigarette, after which he was ignored. The conversation was in Rothenian and desultory, till Luc produced a roll-up and lit it. He passed it to Boromeo, who inhaled it with some satisfaction before handing it down the line. By the time it got to Barry, he knew what it was. Pot-smoking was not uncommon in his circles in Surrey. He took a hit, then returned it to Luc, who gave his coolness an approving look. One of the older boys was holding on to a squealing Miro, who was pantomiming desperation for a drag. When it was finished, Luc flicked the stub to the ground, where Miro triumphantly grabbed it, ostentatiously sucking at the roach.
The boys stirred and Barry followed them as they ambled down the east side of the square, running through the traffic over the tram tracks of the busy cross streets. Every now and again, one of them greeted another passing group. Miro capered ahead, avoiding the kicks from others of the group when he got too close. The kid was a total embarrassment. Why did they put up with the little twat?
The effect of the drug was to give Barry a certain buzz by the time he and his new friends got to the narrow corner street at the southeast end, which had to be the Wejg. The area was a gay village, with hanging rainbow flags and homoerotic banners. Strolling male groups and same-sex couples at the café tables thrilled Barry. How many of his companions were gay apart from Luc? It was difficult to say. He at least was all eyes. His parents hadn't brought him to this end of the Rodolferplaz.
There didn't seem any plan to the gang's wandering. They eyed up the foyer of a club called Liberation until the unfriendly look of the bouncers and the too obvious interest of a group of German gays made it wise to get out fast. They penetrated further down the Wejg, sniggering at what was on display in the windows of Erotic Dream City. Luc grinned maliciously and dared the boys to go in. They hesitated, wondering how serious he was. Miro however pushed the door open and shrieked some obscenities into the interior. The others ran off down the road.
As they did it, Barry felt dissatisfied by the childishness of it all. Luc did not run, but walked off through the crowds coolly, with Barry restraining himself and pacing beside him, if less coolly. They found the other boys sniggering on the corner of an alley next to a bar. Boromeo and another guy had lit up and were making a big show of puffing tobacco smoke everywhere, as if reaffirming their endangered adult status.
Miro was as high as a kite. 'Vijchep gaij, cszlapije!' he kept shouting and pointing.
'What's he on about now?' demanded Barry.
'He says it's a gay bar,' Luc answered.
'Big deal,' Barry replied, although he craned to see inside nonetheless. The place went by the name of Bar Melmoth, and it was full of faux Gothic fittings. It seemed quite full.
Since there was no security evident, Miro began cavorting in the entrance, making somewhat dubious gestures at the customers.
'Boro! Ravhojte den kennen sczaca!' Luc ordered Boromeo hastily, but too late. Miro had dropped his jeans and was exposing his skinny bottom to the customers. There was a stir within and several bulky figures appeared at the doorway. The boys were instantly off into the crowds on the Wejg. This time Luc and Barry ran too. Barry did not get far, however, dashing slap into the solid chest of a man who held him.
He looked up. It was Mr Hackness. 'Oh, shit.'
Barry, ears flaming, wandered back into the Rodolferplaz, silently swearing never to enter the Wejg again. To be so humiliated in front of his favourite teacher! Mr Hackness had not been unpleasant, but he had made some pointed remarks about the appropriateness of Barry's being in that part of town and in that sort of company; he apparently meant Luc. Then the teacher had gone off through the crowds accompanied by the big blond man who had been with him, who Barry decided was quite a hunk.
Suddenly the penny dropped. Mr Hackness was gay! Wow! How many people in the school knew that? Luc hadn't mentioned it. Barry piously swore to keep it to himself.
Barry dithered under the lime trees at the southern end of the square. Eventually he leaned up against the base of a statue and rang Luc's number. It was answered.
'It's Barry. Where are you?'
'I'm down the end of the Wejg. I sent the others off. They were being dicks.'
'You can say that again. I guess I'll go home.'
'No. Look, I'll meet you on the corner of Fleichergasse and Herrengasse. Know where that is? I'll be there in about ten minutes.'
'Well... I dunno.'
'Come on... you'll be glad you did.'
Barry's libido surged and bore him onwards. He took the directions from Luc and struck off up the square. He found the French boy already at the corner when he got there. Luc surprised him by taking him by the arm and walking south with him. It was something Barry had seen other boys do – straight ones – so he assumed it was a form of Rothenian male intimacy. It was a pity Luc smelled so strongly of cigarettes.
They sauntered along the road to König Heinrichstrasse and then on to the Arsenal bridge, where they paused to look down at the broad, green waters of the Starel, with its strings of barges chugging upriver to Hofbau.
'So where are we going?'
'I asked what Todo was doing, and he said to come along.'
'A friend. He goes to the Catholic Gymno, just like those morons, but he's cooler... et pédé, tout à fait.'
They crossed the bridge and walked under the high brick walls of the nineteenth-century fortress, past the prison gate and through a drab area of warehouses around the derelict Ostbahnhof. Finally they came to an area of modern townhouses.
Luc ran up a set of steps and buzzed an entryway. It opened and he motioned Barry inside, calling out, 'Téodor?'
A scuffling came from downstairs and a teenager appeared from a side door. It was webcam boy! There was an exchange of Rothenian and Luc grinned.
'Come down to the basement. No one's in apart from Todo. I don't have to introduce you two, you know all about each other.' He translated the remark for the other boy, who grinned and gave Barry a wicked look. Barry's heart pulsed hard.
The basement was fitted out as Todo's living quarters. Apparently his brothers had all grown up and left home. Todo's parents were indulgent enough to let their youngest live his own life downstairs.
All three boys slumped on a wide sofa. Todo asked a question, whereupon Luc produced a disk. Todo fitted it in a player and Barry's eyes widened. It was gay porn.
'Good stuff,' Luc smirked. 'A Falkefilm disk I copied.'
Falkefilm apparently specialised in hunky Rothenians who had sex in a number of choreographed and entrancing ways. Todo already shamelessly had his erection out and was massaging it. He kept giving sideways looks at Barry, whose jeans were under severe strain. When Luc dug in and pulled his cock out, Barry did too. Luc's was long and thinner than any cock Barry had yet seen, but the head was wider, purple and bulbous.
Todo was staring at Barry's. 'He asked how long it was,' Luc commented.
'Dunno. Nine inches, I s'pose.'
'What's that? Twenty-two centimetres? It has to be longer, and so thick too. Can I touch it?'
Barry was speechless as Luc reached over and firmly gripped his hot tool. Barry groaned.
'You like?' Luc was beginning a wanking motion which caused Barry to buck into his friend's fist.
Luc nodded at Todo, who stripped off in a few motions. Todo then knelt between Barry's spread legs and without asking pulled off the English boy's lower clothes. The Rothenian stroked Barry's inner thighs, causing ripples of erotic energy to run up his spine. Luc in the meantime lifted off the rest of Barry's clothing, then knelt next to him and began tweaking his nipples as Todo took Barry's dick in his mouth.
Barry was panting. Here he was, naked and being serviced by a naked guy grinning up at him through his blond fringe. This was it, the roller coaster of sex had begun.
Luc removed his own clothes. Barry was mesmerised. The boy was thin of limb and dark of skin, but so very sexy the way he moved. He had tattoos of stars down his flanks and into his groin, diminishing in size all the way to his dick. It occurred to Barry that Luc would have had to get naked for the tattooist. The left nipple was pierced and ringed.
Luc bestrode Todo, who was sucking industriously on Barry's dick under him, gripping it with both hands. Then Luc's full lips closed on Barry's as his tongue licked into Barry's mouth.
Todo removed his mouth from Barry's dick, though not his hands. Barry heard him begin slurping instead on Luc's hole. Barry just let it happen. And when Luc offered his erection, Barry began sucking on it, finding it salty and smelling of stale urine. Luc stood there, head thrown back, with the two others industriously lapping at his groin and backside.
In the meantime, fucking was still happening on the screen. Barry could see it out of the corner of his eye, so he noticed when the screen suddenly flickered and changed. In place of the Falkefilm hunks, he now saw two boys engaged in the act. One was Luc, seated on the floor in his room, legs splayed. Bouncing naked on his cock, mouth hanging open and eyes glazed, was the thin figure of Miro, genitals wagging up and down as he rode the French boy.
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