Barry discovered he had an urgent need for Marky's backside, something Marky was more than willing to satisfy. When penetrated, Marky got off in ways new to Barry. He gave muffled yells and squirmed to the extent that Barry could not doubt his friend found the experience deeply fulfilling sexually. Barry certainly would not have said the same about his own experiences of being taken by Lance, which somehow hadn't matched the excitement of his first penetration by Luc.
They found that when Barry began really moving inside the Rothenian boy, things got to the state where Marky started shuddering and climaxing. After their second experience of anal sex, Marky noticed he had discharged a small pool of cum under him on his mattress. It caused him such anxiety that he stripped his bed and decided against further sex at the Chancellery.
'You see, Barry my lover, as a good Catholic boy I am not supposed even to jerk off. Silly, I know, and I doubt my parents seriously believe I don't. But it would upset them to think of anything sexual going on in here, let alone homosexual. I am the youngest of the family, the baby, and they are very protective of me.'
'Oh!' Barry was disconcerted. Things had begun so well. 'But we can't do it at my place either. The noise we make is a giveaway, and my parents would begin suspecting you.'
'I have an idea, my Barry. I have a car, and it seems from the Internet that gay boys in America are always driving off into remote places and having sex in the back seat. It seems a really erotic thing to me, though in my case the back seat is too small to accommodate us. That is no matter. We could go camping, or drive deep into the woods. You could fuck me in the open air... I see by the reaction in your underpants that this is an attractive idea.'
Barry smirked. 'Sure is. Let me get my dick out... ooh! That's a lot more comfortable. Wanna have some meat for breakfast, Marky?'
Marky gave a look which seemed to be a comment on Barry's choice of phrasing. He was not however discouraged from taking up the offer. A while later, he wiped his mouth and grinned. 'This is so good. I cannot get enough of that gorgeous thing of yours.'
'You can do me any time you like, Marky, you know that.'
'I do, but it seems to me that what I like best is to take you into me. And there is so much of you too. I want to be your best bottom ever.'
'Although my experience is limited, I have a feeling that you may well be the best bottom I'll ever find. I... may I say it? I love you.'
'Ai du lebst, we say here.'
'Then ai du lebst, Marecszu. I really do.'
'You're getting the hang of Rothenian... now I wonder what we could do to your name? Barrecszu? It sounds odd. Bareck is Rothenian for vomiting.'
'Nice. Ai du barecszt... "I make you puke."' The boys laughed with the mutual openness of established lovers. This was better than anything Barry had experienced before. He could even cope with his parents as long as Marky was rooting for him.
'How's Helen getting along?'
Marky beamed. To have Helen fall in love with Damien at the same time as he fell for Barry was the icing on the cake for him. Helen and Marky huddled together in the hall now to compare sexual notes, rather than just for friendship. Barry didn't mind the exclusion. He knew Marky needed a friend to talk it all through with. He just wished he had someone like Helen.
'Damien is wonderful for her. It is all very intense, and last night she slept at Damien's house in his bed. Their parents allowed it. That is romantic.' He sighed a little wistfully. 'So different from our situation, is it not?'
They kissed for a long time, and dressed for school with regret and many murmurs of mutual devotion. Barry found Marky's strength of feeling for him did wonders for his morale. He even had the grace to feel sorry for Lance, who now had no boyfriend.
Lance Atwood was brooding on matters other than Barry Hignett, as it happened. He resented the way Tobias had jerked his chain. There were long periods now when he forgot where he had come from. It was enough that he was happy, human and part of a loving family and friendship circle. His life was not perfect – no human life could be – but as such lives went, he knew his was pretty near top of the range. It was all because of his fathers, who made everything else possible. It hurt him that he could not discuss his present difficulties with them.
So whom could he ask for help? He was pretty sure Gavin Price, with whom he had decent relations, would be a good bet. Gavin was even a Facebook friend. But Gavin's speciality had developed into exorcism and demon hunting, when he wasn't otherwise engaged in the information-systems consultancy into which he had been recruited after university.
Very few other people knew enough about Lance's origins to offer any advice. Damien had disappeared off to Planet Helen without leaving a forwarding address. Mattie Oscott was a dead loss. Tobias's instructions meant that Lance's so-called 'quest' was not to be shared with his parents. If Tobias had wanted Mendamero involved, he would have done so directly. This task was for Lance.
That left only Reggie Mayer. Lance reached for his handij and raised his friend, who was getting ready for school. They set up a meeting for the lunch break.
'Why're you being mysterious, Lance? Is this Barry fallout?'
'No, no. But it's complicated. Meet me in the car park at twelve-fifteen.'
Tommy spotted a familiar short figure in the press scrum in the foyer of the National Assembly. 'Hey! Henry!'
Henry Atwood strolled over. 'Talking to me now, are ya?'
'Don't be negative, Henry. You know I have to juggle my job, our friendship and the national interest. It's not easy.'
'Yeah, I know. Congratulations on the wedding, by the way.'
'Thanks! We're beginning to come to terms with it.'
'Will the bride wear white?'
'I was thinking more oyster.'
'I have no doubt you were. Anyway, what can I do for ya?'
'Nothing. I was going to offer you a seat in the palace gallery, if you want to get out of this zoo.'
'That's kind, Tommy. You'll be better company than my colleagues over there.'
'It's up these stairs.' Tommy led Henry through a discrete little door and up some narrow stone steps. They emerged above the chamber of the assembly in a small, enclosed gallery facing directly towards the Speaker's desk. Henry looked around the horseshoe of green leather seats below, which were already filling up. There was an air of crisis about the chamber. MPs were in close debate in small groups across the room. To his right Henry saw former chancellor Trachtenburg in a huddle with his party leaders. To his left the CDP benches were raucous with excitement. He was glad he was in the palace gallery, reserved in the old days for princes and household officials who might wish to monitor debates. The press section to their right was crammed.
After a while Tommy began, 'Actually, Henry, there was something I wanted to say to you. Harry suggested it might be a good idea to brief you about the latest situation with Count Robert.'
'And I'm to keep it to myself, right?'
'Yes. She thinks it's asking a lot that Ed knows all about it, and it's kept from you. There's been a new development over the missing deed of resignation. We've discovered some evidence, thanks to Bela, as to how Hadjek got his claws on the last copy of the deed and destroyed it.'
After Tommy had finished his explanation, Henry looked pensive. 'Thanks for that, Tommy. But I don't see how it leaves you any better off.'
'But it certainly could shoot the CDP in the bollocks.'
Henry shook his head. 'You don't understand the way the press works, Tommy. We've all got files on Hadjek. You can't do what he does in a small city like Strelzen and imagine you can get away with it. Your stuff is certainly new and damning, and I'm aching to use it, but my editor will sit on it till Hadjek makes his bid for leadership. At the moment he's just a party fixer, not even a minister. Eastnet will wait till he emerges into the political sunlight, then stake him through the heart with the story. It gets us maximum benefit.'
Tommy clearly hadn't expected this. 'But the rent boys? The connection with Heinrichshof?'
'It's not enough. You've got pictures which will finish Hadjek, but then, we do too, though not quite as damning. Wöhlich is a clue as to how Count Robert destroyed the compromising resignation deed, but not proof. Although a statement from him implicating Hadjek would help, you have no hold on him. He could just say he was in Rothenia meeting friends.'
'Well, shit! So it's back to square one.'
'Not quite. We now know where to look for more evidence. Bar Melmoth seems to be the place where you should pursue your enquiries in search of confirmation.'
The sharp rapping of a gavel caused the din in the chamber to subside. The MPs settled and the Speaker stood. The debate on the bill calling for the deposition of King Maxim II of Rothenia had begun.
Lance was sitting on the car-park wall, enjoying the sunlight while waiting for Reggie. He was wearing a tee-shirt, and long shorts which exposed his brown, flawless calves. He had kicked off his flip-flops and was flexing his perfect toes on the hot concrete below them. Reggie thought he had never seen his friend look more casually lovely. Reggie himself was in his usual preppy gear: buttoned shirt, chinos and deck shoes. He had yet to find a style of his own.
The two boys kissed cheeks, a practice they had resumed on Reggie's return. Lance kept hold of Reggie's hand, something Reggie always found a little thrilling.
'Reggie, I gotta problem. You asked me a while back if my "relatives" had been in touch recently. Now they have. Tobias came looking for me yesterday in school and had some worrying things to say.'
Reggie, intrigued, let go Lance's hand and squirmed on to the wall next to him. 'Who is this Tobias? Is that the guy Henry met?'
'He's... look Reggie, I'm gonna start telling you things I oughtn't to, and you must swear faithfully to me that you'll never repeat them to anyone. This is stuff I don't even tell my dads. But you and I... well, we're really old friends, and I know you well enough to understand how faithful a guy you are.'
A tear leaked out of Reggie's eye and his heart pulsed with emotion at these words. Lance was trusting him more than any other of their friends. He was at last getting evidence that Lance regarded him differently from the rest. By then there was nothing Lance could have asked that Reggie would not have done for him.
An arm crept round Reggie's waist and hugged him close. Now he felt he had died and gone to heaven. A sudden familiar fragrance filled his nostrils, spicy and fresh, one he had smelled long before, the unique scent Lance gave out when he was close to those he cared for.
The words broke in on Reggie's moment of rapture. 'Me? Oh yeah! Sure. Carry on.'
'Tobias is one of the erelim. Humans call them seraphs. They're the chief of the celestial orders.'
'You weren't one?'
'Me? No, I came from the... er, more executive branch. In rank I was what you people call an archangel, a sort of department head if you like, but I had no assistants or office or anything like that.'
Reggie's rapture was rapidly turning into intense curiosity. Lance had never before spoken more than generally about his antecedents. Now it appeared he was at last opening up fully. 'You were the Destroyer, right?'
'Or the Renewer. My long-term task was to bring things to endings so they could begin again.'
'What was that spear in which you were caged?'
'It was the symbol of God's will and authority. My symbol too, cos I embodied God's will. We're creatures of symbols and metaphors, Reggie. I know it's not easy for a human to understand, but we don't really have shapes or bodies, or even names. The spear both was me and explained me, and... sorry, this is hard.'
'Okay, the difference between me and Tobias is that I was further from the Presence than he is. I used to come into the Universe a lot and he hardly ever did. In fact, Toby is the only one of the erelim who is ever sent inside. Because of that we have an odd relationship. In the debates of the Great Council, I argued for humanity and the material universe, and he against.'
'As if you were the Defence and he was the Prosecutor?'
Lance smiled. 'Not a bad analogy, Reggie. I had more liking for the Universe than he did. Indeed, once long ago I was bound to the material world.'
'How long ago was that?'
'When humanity was young, I was their mediator. I had a lot to do with your distant ancestors before I was taken up and made the Destroyer.'
'Is that the reason for the horns you had?'
Lance nodded. 'It marked me out from the rest of my order.'
'Hang on... we have legends of an archangel who fell to earth.'
'Yeah, that was me. They called me the Accuser, God's conscience and his chief of police.'
Reggie was astounded. 'You're Satan!'
Lance shrugged. 'Well, yeah. That was one of the names they gave me. That's what "Satan" means: the "Accuser". Hey, you're not gonna get weird on me, are you?'
Reggie's head pulsed as he took in the fact that he was sitting on a car-park wall in the sunlight with the being whom his culture called the supreme agent of Evil, the Tempter, the Great Enemy.
'You're... the Devil?'
Lance frowned and shook his head. 'There is no Devil, other than what lurks in the black spaces of the human heart. Your culture invented the Devil as an excuse for its own evil, to pretend it wasn't really they who had done it, but some outside force, so they could avoid taking responsibility.'
'But... you're Satan?'
Lance held Reggie closer. 'I knew this was gonna be hard. I thought you'd be a bit more open than this, Reggie. But yes, I am Satan, the Accuser, the Destroyer of Worlds, the Spear in God's hand. Can we just get past that?'
'It's, er... sort of a big thing!' Reggie was contemplating the fact that the object of his erotic fantasy was the creature humanity called its nemesis and supreme enemy. Somehow it made a difference, though the boy next to him was still Lance, his greatest friend, the one who had demonstrated time and again to Reggie his goodness and lovability.
Lance heaved a sigh. 'I knew this would happen. You people only ever see labels, never the truth. The limitations of humanity have never been more clear to me. I know what Toby would say.' Lance let go of Reggie and moved away from him.
Reggie felt a pang. You people. Lance in his bitterness was opening a gulf between them, and it wrenched hard at Reggie's rather large heart.
'No! No! That's not what I meant, Lance! Please.' Reggie stood away from the wall and, placing himself in front of his friend, grasped Lance's lower arms. 'I still love you!'
Lance was staring at him. 'You love me?'
Tears blurred Reggie's eyes. 'I've always loved you. You break my heart.'
Reggie had at last found his voice. 'When we were kids, from the first moment, before I even knew what love was, I loved you. And that summer of the murder, I thought you were straight and in love with Helen, and it broke my heart, but I tried to help. Though it turned out you were gay, I couldn't believe you'd ever return the love of a nerd. You were so beautiful to me.
'Then my mom dragged us back to the States, where I just had to live without you. I still could never forget you, though, or even look at another boy without seeing you. When my dream came true and I returned to Rothenia, you were with Barry. It was a nightmare. He wasn't good enough for you. He couldn't love you as I do. If you were the Devil, I would still love you, even if I had to give up my soul.'
Reggie had to catch his breath as the torrent of words and suppressed feelings poured out of him. He stood looking mutely into that glorious face, intent on his. Lance was apparently stunned, but eventually his lip curled. 'Your soul, eh? You'd trade that in for me? Do you know what you're saying? How mad a thing that would be?'
Reggie was shaking now. 'For a moment with you, a lover's kiss, I'd do it and gladly.'
'Then you have your deal,' Lance said, with a strange, echoing timbre in his voice, and gathered Reggie into his arms. Before the American knew it, he was mouth to mouth with the object of his deepest desires. A strong tongue was pushing past his lips, in the first such kiss Reggie had ever experienced. A hand was massaging his crotch, seeking entry past his flies. He was necking with not just any boy, but Lance Atwood. An explosion of that celestial scent surrounded and intoxicated him. His head reeled as if he were drunk.
'You two get a room!' a passing boy called out.
'Go fuck yourself, Jamie Summerson!' laughed Satan, the Destroyer of Worlds, as he broke his kiss with a very confused Reggie Mayer, who was both astonished and deeply alarmed at what he had just done.
Lennie Rassendyll had mixed feelings when she met Fritz for their second lunch. He had left her with a lot to think about. Worse, he had demanded that she take sides in the developing civil war in the Rothenian royal family. Having doubts about her father's friends and her stepmother, however, was not the same thing as having doubts about her father.
'He's an eccentric, remote man, Fritzy,' she had said. 'But you must remember he was never the same after my mother's death from breast cancer. Her dying took a long time and it was horrible. It left him alone to bring me up. He was never less than kind to me. Also he was genuinely shattered by his elder brother's death. I was old enough to remember it. We're a tragic family.'
Fritz had murmured his understanding of what she was saying. He also knew about the tragedy of premature deaths in close families. It had brought home to her another of the things that linked them.
They had decided on the Flavienerhof, since it was close to her apartment in the Osraeum as well as on the express-tram route from Strelzen's Financial District. He was waiting for her outside the old restaurant in the crowds that flooded up and down the east side of the Rodolferplaz. After a mutual hesitation, he reached down and kissed her. It was a nicely gauged salute. Expressing more than mere friendship, it was an acknowledgement that they had been lovers, and that their affection continued.
The maître was overly attentive, his frequent repetitions of 'highness' finally drawing the attention of the diners. Fritz gave Lennie a quirky look, reminding her that both she and he had to struggle constantly against the expectations that their status laid on them. She at least could escape it in the anonymity of New York, but he never could. She surprised herself by feeling a flood of sympathy for this big, decent, tortured man.
They hesitated to recur to their earlier discussion. Lennie had made it clear that, while she might accept what he had said as the truth, she was far from willing to enlist with the rival party in the succession struggle. Instead they chatted amusingly about their jobs and career hopes.
'You're rising with the RBR's expansion, Fritzy. Everyone says you'll be CEO one day soon.'
'That was Tommy,' he smiled.
'What do you mean?'
'He kept me in London when I was sent to supervise the takeover of Morgans Bank. Between long bouts of sex in Barnsbury I worked the City, had discussions with merchant banks, and sniffed out opportunities. So I was well-placed when the RBR decided to broaden its share of the market. I have three successful acquisitions to my name, two in London and one in Frankfurt. I was made chief acquisitions officer last month. It's the one aspect of my life which is going well.
'The size of last year's bonus nearly made me giddy. Helge and I used it to buy up three more vineyards in the Taveln valley. You know Rothenian wines are stacking the shelves of all the big chains. Tavelner reds and whites are a hot commodity. The returns are enormous, thanks to Helge's business sense. She's a wealthy woman now, you know. I sometimes wonder if that odious Jakob Olmusch was actually more interested in her money before he got himself murdered.'
'She always strikes me as very unhappy.'
'Helge's a difficult one to read, Lennie. She's never been what you might call a fun person. She is huge on duty, and that's what gives her direction. She can be happy, y'know. She's really anticipating the arrival of Oskar's son after the first of the year. A new count in Tarlenheim. Here, I've got something to show you.'
Fritz pulled an envelope from his inner pocket. Unfolding the piece of paper within, he handed it to her.
She scanned the stapled sheets. 'What's this?'
'My new scheme. It'll delight Helge. It'll be her Christmas treat.'
'It's a contract with an architectural partnership in Hofbau.'
'Yes. Work will begin on the rebuilding of our old château of Tarlenheim in the New Year. Peter's put some money into it, and I've been accumulating funds. The plans are all drawn up, and the firms contracted. I've even got an EU grant to aid the restoration. How about that?'
'Fritz, that's marvellous! You're unbelievable!' Lennie's eyes shone.
'There's only one thing it needs which I don't have.'
He looked straight in her eyes. 'A princess of Tarlenheim.'
She blushed and looked down.
Reggie silently slid into the front seat of Lance's Audi as other kids flooded past them at the school gate. He thought he caught a number of stares, which he interpreted as meaning that Jamie had not kept quiet about what he had seen in the car park at lunch break.
'They know,' Reggie observed.
'Don't give a monkey's,' Lance retorted. He leant over and closed once more with Reggie, who enthusiastically returned the kiss. His cock was splitting his pants, and there was a similar response evident in Lance's shorts.
'Is this really happening?' Reggie wondered out loud.
'You and me? Apparently. I'm sorry, Reggie. Like everyone else, I just imagined you were too cerebral to have passions. Strange. I've known you so long, yet I never once thought of you sexually at all. It was only when you came back that I noticed how... well, good-looking you'd become. Then there's your pubes. I saw them at the Spa.'
Reggie laughed. 'You really are thinking about me sexually. My pubes? What about them?'
'Most blonds have brownish pubic hair, but yours are really pale.'
'Er... yeah. You can barely see them against my skin.'
'They turned me on. I had a hard-on for you. It took me aback. I hadn't noticed your body before. I mean, I knew you had one, but I had no reaction to you when we were small. All I wanted was ... erm, Damien. Did I ever mention that? Sad, yeah? And you thought you had a hopeless fixation.'
'I never guessed, Lance. I suppose we all carry our unhappiness around with us. Where is Daimey, by the way?'
'He's sleeping at Helen's tonight. It was sick-making having them in the car on the way here. They were all over each other; she is so up for it now the dam's broken. I really envied them. By the way, we're gonna have sex, you know that.'
'Er... I had hopes. I think I'd better tell you now; I'm a virgin in every sense of the word. I was keeping myself for you.'
'So we don't know whether you top or bottom. I'm a top, Reggie. It's one reason why Barry and I broke up.'
'I'll do everything and anything you want of me, Lance. I gave myself to you, all of me.'
Lance grinned as he turned the car on to Festungstrasse. 'Sounds like bottom-talk to me, Reggie. Look, baby...'
'You called me baby.'
'You're my babe now. We're no longer friends, get it? It's way past that. Anyway, to return to what we were saying at lunchtime, which you derailed. Your offer of your soul to Satan was deeply appreciated, but Satan doesn't do that sort of thing, and never did. I mean, I used to process souls and save them, but I didn't enslave them or drag them to hell like Don Giovanni.'
Reggie blushed. 'You were winding me up.'
Lance chuckled. 'And you pretty much believed me too. Your mother knows you're coming home with me?'
'Yes. She asked if I need clothes sent over.'
'You won't need clothes where we're going.'
Reggie's heart beat hard. This was really going to happen!
Lance added, 'I've told my dads. They said it's okay for us to sleep together... I mean really sleep together... providing we keep the noise down. They also say I'm a very lucky boy and don't deserve you, so I think we know what they feel about you. Henry got Mrs Willerby to buy in a toothbrush for you. I guess he intends you to be a permanent fixture round the house.
'Okay, here we are in the Sixth and up this hill is the terrestrial paradise. Reggie, I love you. I know this is sudden – at least for me – but the more I think about it, the more of a blazing idiot I know I am for not seeing you for what you are before now. And stop crying. It's off-putting!'
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