'Easy there, champ. Mind the robes.'
Lance smiled celestially into his granddad's face. Robert Atwood, Anglican bishop of Central Europe, adjusted his pectoral cross. It was after the main Sunday service at the pro-cathedral of St Edward the Confessor, Strelzen. People were drinking tea or a small snifter of very Anglican sherry. Henry and Ed were talking to their friend Nikki Balthasar and his family.
'Why the big hug, darling?'
'Just happy, granddad!'
The bishop gave a quirky grin, the ancestor from which descended the similar grins of both his son and grandson. 'I recognise that look. Your dad had exactly the same one on his face the day he came home from school after he and Ed finally found each other. It's romance, isn't it? Who's the stupendously lucky boy?'
Lance blushed, but announced proudly, 'He's an English guy called Barry Hignett at my school. Same age as me, so he's not the unsuitable older man with unsavoury habits that dad kept on predicting.'
'I'm so pleased for you, darling. I really am. You deserve everything good that life can give you. Your grandma will need nailing into a box to contain her curiosity. I imagine she'll be parked in her car outside the poor boy's house by this evening – that and going through the family's rubbish bin.'
Ed came over with a cup of tea. He was in his undress uniform, with the two stars of major general now glittering on his epaulettes.
'Congratulations, Ed,' said the bishop.
'Thanks, dad. I'm afraid I had to get away from the Balthasars. Everyone is rabbiting on about the abdication. Is it true that there's more to it than the palace is letting on? Will Maxxie have a proper coronation? What does the chancellor think about it all? As if I'd tell them even if there were anything to tell! You ready to go, Lance?'
'Go? Go where?'
'Didn't Henry tell you we've had a dinner invitation out to Oskar and Pete's? We'll need to get a move on if we're to be there by two.'
'No one said. Look dad, I can't!'
Lance wouldn't open his mouth, but went very red.
Finally the penny dropped. 'It's Barry, isn't it. Is it serious, then?'
Lance nodded mutely. Ed gripped his shoulder and smiled. 'You want to spend all your free time with him. I suppose that means it's love.'
'I think so,' Lance mumbled.
'Baby, we can be back by six.'
'But I've got homework!'
'And won't Barry get in the way of that just as thoroughly?'
Lance's face took on a thunderous look. 'Dad, I really don't want to go.'
Ed snapped. 'Then explain why to Henry.'
Lance flared at Ed. 'Didn't you tell me that one day I'd find a boy like Barry? You mighta mentioned that, when I did, you'd do your best to make sure we'd never get to have any time together!'
'Whoa! Hey! That's not fair.' Ed was taken aback.
'I'll tell you what's not fair...' Lance began.
His bemused grandfather intervened. 'Hold on, boys! It's the duty of the clergy to promote peace, so can I tell you both to shut up? Ed, you're being unreasonable.'
'You. I know how you and Henry would have reacted if I'd done what you just did to Lance. You should have mentioned this earlier, and Lance is perfectly right to resent it.'
'What?' Ed Cornish's mouth fell open and he looked embarrassed. 'I'm turning into my own dad, aren't I? Oh God!'
A sheepish Lance came rapidly off the boil. Resentment was not a natural state for him. 'I suppose I could take my work file with me. But can we please be back home by six?'
'Yeah sure, baby. No problem.'
'Good. I'll text Barry. Can he stay the night?'
Lance smiled, happy again. 'You deserved that.'
Tommy woke up to a faceful of scented red hair. It took a while for him to recollect that the previous night he had enjoyed sex with the third person who was entitled to be called 'highness', except this time the person was female. He stretched and gave a broad smile, then snuggled back against the well-cushioned rear of Lennie Rassendyll. Men's bums were so hard in comparison.
They were in Lennie's apartment in the Osraeum. He was familiar enough with the palace's geography to know where to go when his bladder told him he had to visit the loo.
A yawning Lennie entered as he was finishing. She reached round his waist and manipulated his cock to help the last drops drain out. It stiffened once again.
'This reminds me of when I met Fritz for the first time,' Tommy observed.
'I thought he was my mate Max – same height and hair – so I came up behind him in the loo at Matt White's place in Highgate and grabbed his dick. We both got a shock.'
'And then ended up in bed together.'
'That very night.' He turned and kissed her. 'You are really something, y'know? Hot, shameless, passionate. So that's what female Elphbergs are like.'
'You might have mentioned voracious.' She pulled herself up on the sink counter and opened her legs, massaging herself erotically on breasts and genitals. Tommy didn't wait, but immediately sank himself in the place he was being offered.
As he was moving in her, she kissed his ear and whispered, 'Is that better than up a man's backside?'
'Easier to get into,' he gasped.
'I'd like to try it that way,' she continued, with a heavily lustful stare, 'just to see what the fuss is about.'
He pulled out and stood, chest heaving. 'Sure. It feels good to me when I take it up the chute. Can't be that different for you. Spread yourself on the floor on your stomach.'
She complied and he reached for lube. She shifted and squealed in a very feminine way as he breached her.
He quickly discovered that the mechanics were much the same, whomever you did it with. 'Like it?' he panted.
'Ask me afterwards,' she groaned back.
Tommy began to get into it. In fact there was something noticeably different in taking a woman the way he would take a man. He felt more in charge than he did when pounding Fritz or Bela. The body under him was softer and less tense with contained strength than a man's, and Lennie was more compliant than most men would have been. It was not a power trip, but still it added to the experience. The question was, where was this bizarre new affair going?
Lance kissed and hugged men he knew to be gay and safe, which was one reason Peter Peacher was so fond of him. It was the unselfconscious, boyish affection that he so appreciated, Pete said. It transpired over the dinner table at Templerstadt that Lance's charm was what had finally sold to Oskar the idea of the artificial insemination of a donor egg.
'What! It's already happened?' Ed was wide-eyed.
'Yes,' frowned Oskar, the more reluctant of the pair. 'It's in the contract that it's got to be male and gay. If I'm going to get something out of this, it will be a Tarlenheim heir to the county of Modenehem who can follow in his father's footsteps.'
Lance giggled. He was near the bottom of a large glass of Tavelner red. 'So it was your... stuff that did it, Uncle Oskar?'
'Apparently. Want to see the scans?'
'Who's carrying the young count?' Henry was all agog.
'Not entirely sure. It's been done through lawyers and agencies. She is however healthy, eastern European and blonde. What's more, if she can keep herself to herself, she'll never have to work again after her few hours of labour.'
'What are ya gonna call him?' Lance enquired, just as struck by the incongruity as his dad.
'Well, since you ask... Piotr Oskar Jan Franz Rudolf Miklos von Tarlenheim zu Modenehem is what will go on the birth certificate.'
'Blimey!' Ed chipped in. 'What does Helge think about it?'
'Aha! That's the big surprise,' replied Peter. 'She's all for it. She thinks it'll settle us two down. What's more, she's going to supervise the boy's nursing and upbringing.'
'That means she'll have to live here,' Henry observed.
'Yes, but when we're off on business or national affairs, baby Piotr can live with her in the Modenehem town house. It couldn't be more perfect.' Pete beamed. 'And he'll have a Peacher step-sister as soon as it can be arranged. Oskar will adopt her, so she gets the side benefit of being a countess.'
'In for a penny...' quipped Henry. 'Well, we're delighted for you, really. I think the kid'll be very lucky.'
Lance, well away in his cups by then, stood and proposed in mellifluous Rothenian a lavish toast to the baby.
Oskar smiled at the boy as he put down his glass. 'Here's some news for you, Lance. Unless your dad has already told you.'
'What?' He made an effort to come back into focus.
'I never mentioned it, just sort of hinted,' confirmed Henry.
'What is it?'
Oskar's smile broadened. 'Part of the package for the king's consent to take over and reform NATO was a new US ambassador for Rothenia. The king was fed up to the back teeth with the succession of millionaire nonentities who just wanted to be associated with the glamorous court of the Elphberg-Peachers. Instead he has obtained the nomination of a heavyweight career diplomat from the State Department.'
'So what's that to do with me, Uncle Oskar?'
'The king made a point of lobbying for Ms Marcia Mayer, a woman with a lot of background in Central Europe and Rothenia in particular.'
'What? Reggie's mum? Does that mean...?'
'He'll be back in Strelzen within a week. It was only announced to Ms Mayer today by the President. Senate approval will be rushed through. Reggie's mother will be presenting her ambassadorial credentials at the Residenz to little King Maxim himself. As a sign of personal favour to Ms Mayer, it won't be the queen regent who receives her as ambassador, just this once.'
'Oh my God!' Lance was stunned. He knew very well that Rudolf Elphberg had done this entirely for him and the other Mendamero Men, as a gift to them on his departure from Rothenia.
Henry grinned. 'Told ya there was something in the air, baby. I expect your inbox will be full when we get back home.
'Oh my God!' whispered Lance again. Why were there tears in his eyes?
'I just wish I could go in with you hand-in-hand, Lance,' Barry sighed, as they paused together at the entrance to the International School.
Lance shrugged. 'One day, maybe. But for now, Luc mustn't know that you and I are together... we are together, aren't we?'
Barry beamed. He had in fact spent the night in the Atwood-Cornish home, though not in Lance's bed or even in the same bedroom. The two boys had however kissed and cuddled right in front of Ed's and Henry's faces on a lounge sofa, so the men had retaliated by doing the same.
'Stop it, you sad old gits, you're embarrassing Bazza!' Lance had complained.
Ed and Henry had burst into peals of laughter.
'I don't mind, honest,' protested Barry.
'It's disgusting!' Lance grinned to take the sting out of his words. 'Let's go find out the latest from Maryland.'
As Oskar had predicted, the former Mendamero Men had come alight at the news from Washington DC. IM conferences had been convened and plans made. Reggie himself had entered the electronic forum triumphantly. He had been rapidly updated on every development except the Luc crisis.
On that score, Damien undertook to make Skype contact later. 'It'll take some explaining,' he observed. 'To be honest, I could do wiv Reggie's help. He was always super-cool with computers and stuff. Luc's sites are a bit beyond me. If Reggie's carried on the way he wuz going, he might have some really good ideas.'
Barry had been a little depressed to hear of Damien's lack of progress, especially now when he was about to encounter his sexual nemesis again. A quick squeeze from Lance's hand sent him tight-jawed into the SIS.
The two boys separated, each seeking out his homeroom. Barry found Luc sitting on a desk. The sullen expression on Luc's face did not brighten on seeing him, the way Lance's had when they'd greeted each other that morning, sending as it did a surge of happiness to his heart. The French boy just gave him a curt nod.
Luc came up behind Barry at break and leaned over him. 'I want you to meet me tonight at the Voydek statue, at the south end of the Plaz. Be there at six.'
'Why? What's happening?'
'I have a friend who wants to meet you. You'll find out.'
Barry had to fight down panic. He would have liked to seek out his new friends, but Damien had told him to keep to himself in school for the moment. It would not help if Luc found he had allies. Nonetheless, he texted Damien and Lance as to what was happening. A reply from Damien told him to make the meeting, as there was no alternative. Lance's brief but loving reply brought tears to his eyes and made him feel a lot better, at least for a while.
That evening, Barry stood leaning against the granite plinth of the monument to General Voydek, looking anxiously around. The café tables under the lime trees were mostly empty. Monday night was quiet in Strelzen's clubland.
Eventually Luc sauntered up. He took Barry's arm and led him down the Wejg. Things were a little busier there, with the bar and club entrances open to the street, and music thumping out of some of them. It was at Bar Melmoth that Luc stopped.
'Is this where your friend works?'
'Sort of. Just walk in as if you have a right to be here, and follow me to the back.'
With his heart hammering, Barry entered the first club of any sort he had ever been in. It was dark coming off the street, so he didn't actually see much beyond Luc's tight little backside, which he followed through the tables and across the dance floor. Luc held a door open for him and he slipped through. A barman polishing glasses looked at them curiously.
There was a corridor beyond the door, with toilets to one side, and opposite another door on which Luc knocked. Barry entered behind him. It was quite a plush carpeted room, with sofas and tables. A man behind a desk looked up, scanning Barry with lazy, louche eyes. He exchanged remarks in Rothenian with Luc, which Barry assumed to be about himself.
Barry sat nervously on a sofa, and put his bag down. The man cut Luc off and addressed Barry directly in English. 'So, you're Pony Boy?'
'That's what Lucky calls you.' Lucky was the pseudonym Luc employed on his site. 'It has a lot to do with what's between your legs. Drop your pants, kid.'
'I don't give a fuck. Strip the lot off, baby. Show him how to do it, Lucky.'
Barry was surprised to see how Luc had lost all his confidence and meekly undressed, throwing his clothes in a corner. Naked, he hissed, 'Il faut que le faire!' Then he unbuckled Barry's belt and pulled off his jeans, socks and trainers, before sitting next to him on the sofa.
The man was staring at Barry's cock. 'Quite an asset, baby. Suck him up, Lucky.'
Luc knelt down and obediently, if with difficulty, took Barry in his mouth, wanking him as he sucked. It took a while, but Barry's cock thickened and reared. When it was horizontal, Luc stripped the rest of Barry's clothes from him and pulled him up.
The man gave a dissolute leer at Barry, who was blushing and deeply embarrassed. 'Jerk for me, baby. Nice. What a cock. Pretty little ass too. Bend over and show me your hole. Tight little bud, nice. Okay. Ever fucked something with that schwang of yours?'
Barry mumbled a dissent.
'No? Lucky, why didn't you tell me? You were supposed to test Pony Boy out for me, you little bitch. Well, here's the lube. Do it now.'
'Maintenant! Mais non! Wulf, I really...'
A look silenced Luc, who took the container, cracked it and worked the fluid into his rear, giving Barry an apprehensive stare.
'You mean I have to do Luc here, now?' Barry protested.
'Lucky, get on all fours, show him your asshole. Yeah, nice. So you push into him, baby, I want to see if you can do it. It makes you much more of an asset to us. If anyone can take you it'll be our Lucky boy. He's good with big cock, aren't you, bitch boy?'
Barry got down on the carpet behind Luc, who glanced back anxiously.. 'Do it,' he whispered as Barry leaned over him. So Barry did, while Luc's head hung in defeat between his shoulders. Although Barry carried out the act, he did not enjoy it. At one point he even doubted he could finish.
In the end, he sensed there was something other than a fuck at stake, and he was not the only victim. The man wanted to humiliate the French boy, using Barry as his instrument. Camera flashes told Barry this was another performance of his which was intended to have a long life.
Oddly, even in the seedy circumstances, he experienced something of a thrill. During the act, a part of him realised that what he was doing – thrusting into this boy – was right for him. This was what he wanted out of sex. He was a natural top.
Afterwards, Barry followed a mute Luc into a small bathroom. Silently Luc set the shower going. Barry was close beside him when he turned, lower lip trembling and eyes wet. Barry could not help taking the French boy in his arms and holding him, feeling him shake with sobs as Barry clasped his lean body tight and was held back just as hard. What was going on there?
Tommy looked up from his drink when Bela nudged him and whispered, 'There you are.'
'Two more of his rent boys?'
'I've sneaked pictures of them. I don't know the lighter-haired kid; he's new, very fresh and cute. But the darker boy is one of Wulf's regulars. I think he's a talent scout for the chickens. I saw him chatting up two sad, runaway kids at the lower end of the Wejg Saturday night. They could only have been thirteen or fourteen. He probably gets head money. This is building up to something big, wouldn't you say?'
Tommy took another sip of beer. 'It will do if we can find out how this all links into the CDP hierarchy.'
'There's more, I think. That CDP guy I told you about is tied into the Adelsgenossenschaft, and I remember you and Henry wondering about how it got all its money. I think we're on the brink of finding out.'
'You mean it's drawn from Strelzen's vice industry? Wow! The guys will be pleased if we can prove it. I thought we had a lead with Karl Olmusch, but his so-called suicide in gaol two years ago put paid to that.'
Bela sighed. 'My contacts in the penal system haven't been much help in finding out what went on there. I'd have to say, though, that as suicides go, it was very convenient for the group around the king's uncle.'
'King's great -uncle,' Tommy corrected him.
Bela nodded. 'I don't get that. I know I'm not much into history, but shouldn't Count Robert have taken charge as regent after his nephew's abdication?'
Tommy shrugged. 'I'm not much better at these things, but Henry told me the Rassendylls had a family arrangement by which Uncle Robert resigned all claim on the throne and succession, back in the days when Rudi's dad was alive.'
'There must be a story there.'
'I think you're right, and Oskar said as much, but even he doesn't know the full truth about the affair.'
'Back to my place tonight?'
Tommy veered away from the idea. 'Sorry baby, not tonight. It's a madhouse at the palace.' Now why did he not want to tell Bela about Lennie? But somehow he couldn't bring himself to do it.
'Another drink then?'
'Sure. Mine's a Pilsner.'
Lance swore colourfully when Barry finished telling him what had happened at Bar Melmoth. They were in Lance's bedroom and Barry had cuddled up to his boyfriend as he described what he had been made to do.
Lance kissed his hair. 'This is just so not right, Bazza. No boy should be forced to do what you did, and it'll never happen again.'
'I can't let it... it'll kill me.'
Barry lied. 'It wasn't so bad, though Luc has a nasty stink about him of hormones and cigarettes. And... well, at least I've fucked another guy.'
'But it should be done so very differently the first time, between two guys who love each other! It should be tender and private.'
Barry snuggled tighter, and reached up with his mouth. A scent totally unlike Luc's reached him as he connected with Lance. It was something exciting and set every nerve he had tingling. He broke off. 'What was that?'
'What was what?'
'Is that aftershave you're wearing?'
'Me? I only shave once a week.'
'Well, what's that amazing scent you have on?'
'Dunno. It's just me.'
Barry got up and sniffed at Lance. The fragrance had gone again, but when he buried his nose in the armpit of Lance's shirt he caught another whiff of it. The effect was awesome. It was as if his mind had been washed and hung out to dry in spring sunshine. He felt completely cleansed.
Lance was staring at him quizzically. Barry leaned over and kissed him. They held tight and it went on, the heady scent filling Barry's nose and mind once more. He began struggling out of his clothes. 'I've got to... Lance, please.'
Lance lifted off his top to expose a brown, well-muscled chest. The nipples were quite dark, and Barry had to suck one. Lance squirmed.
'Mmm. Does it do that for you?'
'Nipples? No.' Barry paused after he had unbuckled his belt.
Lance stared at him. 'Is this it? Are we gonna...?'
'I want to, Lance. I need you.' Barry stood on the bed and dropped his jeans and pants.
'Oh my God!' Lance stared at what was revealed. 'May I?' he breathed. He reached and stroked the long member hanging there. It rapidly rose at his touch. He cupped the balls beneath, weighing and manipulating them. Then, staying seated on his bed, he pushed down the rest of his own clothes.
Barry knelt beside him and gazed at the perfection of what was newly revealed in Lance: a narrow waist, beautifully flared thighs and smooth, shapely legs. His cock was heavy and his hairless balls were very large, pushing his penis up and out. He had only a small patch of silky pubes. Even his feet were flawless and arousing. Barry began kissing them, licking and sucking the toes as Lance squirmed.
Lance laughed, grabbed a handful of Barry's hair and pulled him up. They embraced in an orgy of kissing and stroking. Barry could feel Lance's heart hammering through his chest wall. They turned to take each other in their mouths and sucked and slurped away.
'My dick's gonna burst,' Barry confessed. It was true. The thing had reared skywards, and was pulsing hard. Its head was way above his navel, something Barry had never seen it achieve before.
'I've got condoms!' Lance breathed. 'Who does whom?'
'Do me! Please. I gotta have you in me. It'll be like you're pushing Luc out of me. Do it, Lance.'
So Lance Atwood found himself leaning up over another boy's back, his erection at a hole. He paused a moment before pushing. This is it, his mind told him, you're fully human now. You're having sex with someone you love. Then his cock slid home, and his mind seemed to explode out into the universe as he swelled inside Barry.
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