A Bathys Serial
by Nial Thorne
Usual warnings. Reading further constitutes an unambiguous gesture of assent to the statement: I am not a minor person, nor in the company of a minor person. The story and the Bathys scenario are copyright © 2002 Nial Thorne. You may copy this for your own private use; all other rights reserved.
Comments very welcome at Nial_Thorne@hotmail.com
Michael and Amit
"What do you make of him, Igor?"
We had walked away from the party down to the water's edge, where it was almost possible to have a conversation. The moonlight glinted off the backs of the diving porpoises, and even I had to admit it was beautiful.
"Of Amit? You're asking me, Michael?"
"You know kids."
"I've spent my whole professional life round them," he said. "Now I'm beginning to wonder if I know them at all."
He laughed wryly.
"I'm not asking for a professional opinion. I respect your intuition, my friend."
"I suppose... Well, for six months I've worked with him every day," he said. "I suppose I've got to know him a bit. In some ways he's like so many of them: deeply hurt. I don't know his history..."
"I do. And you're right."
"It's one of the defences, isn't it? You build a shell, and that's all you show to people. Outside it's as hard as nails, but it's brittle, Michael. If you ever break it..."
"Yes. Occasionally he opens it a crack, and it's terrifying. Sometimes I think I could destroy him with a single finger."
"You could," he said. "Probably no one else is in that position."
He nodded and looked away. And he was right.
And now, after I had washed Tom's puke off me I poured myself a drink and put on some music. I had a lot to think about. Despite what I had said to Igor, I wasn't afraid of Amit; on the contrary, our manoeuvres intrigued and delighted me, and the occasional glimpses of his real self which he granted me were a profound privilege and a joy. But I was determined; in the end I would find him out, and something told me I wouldn't be disappointed.
The evening was drawing in when he returned, and just for a moment his face lit up with happiness when he saw me. But then he was under control again, and gave me a slight smile.
"Hello, my Lord."
"Hello, little man. Why did you go out? You've had a long day."
"The Prince and I had to deal with various problems with the boys. I admit, it has been tiring."
His voice was gradually lowering; as I knew well enough, puberty was upon him.
He came and stood by my chair.
"May I kiss you?" I asked.
"Yes. Please. Please kiss me."
I leant forward and put my hands on his shoulders and did it, very gently, and he drew a deep sigh.
"I admire you so much," I said. "What you do for the boys."
"Thank you. However, the Prince and I were talking. We feel that it would be better if we did somewhat less for them, now that the crisis is over. They need to learn to look after each other. It's not healthy for them to be led so much."
"The Prince is wise, you mean. It was not my insight."
"Okay, you're fair, then," I said, with a laugh, getting up and going into the kitchen. "Shall we eat here or go out?"
"I - I would rather stay here, my Lord."
"Nice! Okay, let's make a salad and an omelette. And there's some good bread, real stuff from Easton, and real butter. Will that do?"
"Very much so, my Lord. I've come to quite like eggs. I admit that when I first arrived here, the thought of eating them was rather unpleasant."
"Okay, I'll do the omelette so you won't have to touch their uncooked sliminess." He giggled. "You make the salad."
How wonderful! Just doing these simple domestic things with him; and, of course, he was neat and precise in this as in everything. He finished ahead of me and came to stand by me as the omelette cooked and, to my delight, pressed himself against me. I looked down at him, and he smiled.
"D'you know who I saw today?" I said, as we sat to eat. "Tom."
"Oh. Yes, I have seen him around. He is usually drunk."
"He was today. I met him in Nicky's in the Centre, and we had to more-or-less carry him home. Then he threw up all over me."
"Threw up, my Lord?"
He giggled, and I scowled at him.
"I'm sorry, my Lord. I find it hard to feel sorry for him. He was cruel to me, and to many other boys, all frightened when they arrived. And he was competely vicious to the Prince."
"Yes, that's what he was saying, how much he had hurt Paul. He didn't understand himself. He says he loves Paul... 'Poor little Paul...'"
"Well, I don't understand him either."
"I do," I said.
"He's a sadist. Like me. He enjoys hurting people."
Amit looked at me in astonishment.
"My Lord! He's nothing like..."
"Yes, he is." I said. It's just that I understand myself, so I can control myself. He has no idea. Actually, I feel bad that I haven't taken steps to help him sort it out. After all, I'm meant to be the psychologist round here, and I really am the same kind of person. Don't you believe me?"
I looked ferociously at him, but he was undismayed.
"It's no use, my Lord. I trust you now. You'll have to find some other way to frighten me."
"But I admit I'm puzzled," he went on. "You explained it to us the other day. But I still don't see why you enjoy that."
"It's difficult. It's about - about trust," I said, emphasising the word. "And about control. The other person trusts you so much that he gives you control of himself, and you show that by hurting him. He offers you that..."
Amit's face was a picture of confusion and fascination, and suddenly something rushed up inside me and exulted. But I decided not to push any further; he was nowhere near ready for this. I got up from the table and moved into the other room, ready to watch and listen to a music disk.
For a moment he stood and looked at me. And then he came and sat by me, moved up and lent against my side. It was so shy, so tentative and brave that I wanted to shout for joy.
"May I hug you?" I asked.
"Oh yes, please, my Lord..."
We sat and watched the performance, a Mozart piano concerto, and all through it he cuddled closer and closer. Finally it came to an end.
"My Lord," he whispered.
"Please let's go to bed. Together."
So I picked him up and carried him into the bedroom and slowly undressed him, and he allowed that. Then I undressed myself and lay beside him, wondering.
"Little one, please. When we are in bed, at least, call me Michael."
He knelt on the bed, facing me, folding his legs beneath him, his eyes big under his black lashes. It was not rare to see him or any Bathys boy naked, but this was different: he was consciously displaying himself, his slight brown body, and for a moment I caught a glimpse of teeth as he smiled at me. He was hard, completely hard.
"Yes," he said. "That is right. Then, Michael," and his eyes fell, "Please... please make me feel good. I - I need that..."
So I did. I kissed him, and licked his ears, which I knew drove him wild, and gently bit the tiny dark nipples and swirled round his navel, the delicate skin sliding over the muscle beneath, and an extraordinary wailing sound came from him. Once again, he had opened his defences and exposed himself to me, and once again I held back, not pushing him. But we had done this before, and I knew he wanted it; I took him in my mouth, so slender, so perfect, and moved over him slowly, slowly bringing him to the edge of distraction. I held him there as long as I could, and then I pushed him over. He screeched and writhed beneath me, for just those few seconds abandoning himself completely, as he always did, and I gripped his tiny hips fiercely. And then, for the very first time, I felt his offering pulse into my mouth, tasted it, just a few drops.
And then it was over, and as he always did, he turned from me, swept by the after-sadness. Gently I stroked his back, and finally he rolled over, and smiled.
"That was - that was lovely, Michael."
"You came. I mean, you made some juice."
"I did? Really?
"Yes. I tasted you. That was so nice."
And in a moment he was between my legs, and his little hands were on me, his face mischievous.
"Now you come. Now you, Michael. You show me. Am I pretty? Am I pretty, Michael? Do I excite you? Do I?"
God, he was skillful! Often it saddened me, the thought of where he had got that skill, but this evening I was past it, and just then, it clearly wasn't bothering him. I had never seen him so wanton.
"You come for me, Michael! Show me you that you desire me! Do you want me, my man?"
"Aaargh! Jesus! You're the most gorgeous... Oh, God!"
At that moment, he bent towards me and licked the head of my cock: just a single touch, but it was enough. I covered him, face and chest and belly; he was running with my seed, and he shrieked with laughter.
And then he was wriggling into my arms, making little purring sounds, and I called myself the luckiest man in the world.
"What are you thinking about?" I murmured.
"Lord Krishna and the cowgirls..." He paused. "Michael, I wasn't quite truthful to you. I must tell you. I said I went to look after the boys with Paul, and I did. But that wasn't why I left you."
"Why did you?"
"I - I was frightened you were going to ask me to do something. You were so - affectionate this morning."
"Oh, lovey, you know I'd never do anything you didn't..."
"I know," he said. "I wasn't frightened about that. I was frightened - of saying 'yes'."
"You should know," he whispered. "You should know, Michael. I could never say 'no' to anything you ask..."
Don and Rhys
We lay flat on the ground, the tall grass around us, and not a hundred yards away, the zebras stood, five or six of them including a foal. We were still and quiet, and they were obviously unaware of us, cropping the autumn grass and flicking their tails, the foal dancing around them. I had never been so close to such large wild animals before, and I could scarcely take my eyes off them; they seemed so big, broad, much broader than horses, so autonomous and uncaring. Their markings were stark, hard, as if painted onto their sides, almost like cartoons. I glanced at Rhys lying beside me, his fair hair tousled. He had his chin in his hands, and he was gazing at them in adoration.
"Well?" I whispered. "Which are they?"
"Which? How do you mean, which?"
"White with black stripes, or black with white stripes?"
He stared at me astonished for a moment, and then burst out laughing. The zebras startled and cantered off, their hooves thudding on the hard ground.
"Wow!" he whispered. "Just look at them!"
He'd dragged me out here, I hadn't wanted to come at all. The ormic had thrown me into confusion at first, it was so sensual, so ruthlessly stimulating; I hadn't come as Laurie had threatened, but it had been a near thing, and I felt the eyes of the whole Centre on us as we walked from shop to shop, getting the flexible black boots, the knapsak, food and other provisions. Rhys was screaming with the excitement of it all, and gradually he got to me and against my will he pulled me out of my misery. God knows, he deserved his happiness, and it was impossible to spoil it.
I insisted that we should go to Martha's to have some lunch, and I was glad we did. He hadn't been there before, and he liked Martha at once. I caught a glimpse of his face as she hugged him: contentment and peace. It made me wonder how long it had been since anyone had held him like that, the way a child needs. Whatever I thought of Bathys myself, it was clear that Rhys was going to love it.
She had a boy with her, a sad little Australian called Alan, about Rhys's age. I saw Rhys trying to talk to him; Alan just looked at him with solemn eyes, but said nothing.
"And what's your name, me dear?" said Martha to me.
"Call me Martha, me dear, everyone does. You're going with him? To see the dinosaurs?"
"Yes, er, Martha, I guess so."
"But you'd rather not, me dear, eh?"
"He needs the company. He's very young."
She looked at me oddly.
"So you had to help." She hugged me. "Come round and see me some time, Don, won't you?"
So we got flitters, and that was another delight for Rhys, who hadn't flown one before, and for a while we just chased each other over the Downs. Then, at Bathys's suggestion, we headed out over the Grasslands. The place she guided us to seemed to be in the middle of a vast plain, dotted with clumps of bushes, little woods and thickets; before we set down, I could see a wide river in the distance.
Bathys wouldn't tell us where the dinosaurs were; looking was half the fun, she said. But she had told us that the edges of woods was a likely place, so we moved from one stand of trees to another, making little forays round them, working slowly north, towards the river. Just as Laurie had said, the ormics stopped us getting too hot in the sun, and we stopped often, just to lie in the grass and stare at the sky, or watch birds soaring high above. To start with, I thought the Grasslands were silent, but that was wrong; all around us there were little sounds, insects and little animals and birds.
Rhys was in heaven. Looking for dinosaurs was just enough of a plan to give point to our wanderings, but he was happy with everything we saw, everything we heard and smelled and touched. His happiness poured out of him, and I was glad to have come with him, to have been pulled out of myself like this.
We rounded another small wood, and that's when we saw the zebras.
"Why do they have those patterns?" he said, once they'd gone.
"I suppose it's camoflage. So that lions or whatever don't see them well."
"Or they'd eat them! Chase them and eat them! So... Why aren't they green, then? Wouldn't that be better?"
"Dunno... Why aren't they, Bathys?" I said.
It's amazing how quickly I had got into the way of consulting her.
"Their main predators are felines, Don, which have very ineffective chromatic vision. That is one reason."
"Eh? What does she mean?" he said.
"Lions and things, they don't see colours very well. So black and white is good enough to confuse them."
"Oh. You're clever, Don, aren't you?"
"I dunno about that. Tell you what, though. I'm getting tired and hungry. Why don't we stop here?"
So we set up the little portable stove that we had brought, and heated some stew out of a can, and drank some of our fruit juice. And as we enjoyed our little meal, sitting there on the edge of the wood, the sun started to go down, covering the sky with red and orange; and we lay on our backs as the stars slowly appeared, and in the air above us, bats darted back and forth.
"Let's sleep out here," he said. "These things will keep us warm."
I was happy to agree. The evening was magical, and the idea of going back to the rancorous atmosphere of the Flat was not pleasant.
"But we should put on those gloves," I said. "And the hood things, to keep as warm. That's what Laurie said."
We did it, and lay down to sleep, maybe a couple of yards apart. I'd gradually got used to the sensuality of the ormic, but now it swept over me again. I was desperate to jerk off, but that would meant holding the suit open, something you could only do using both hands! Whoever had designed the damn things must have been laughing at me; he had me writhing, and I wondered if that was the idea. I tossed and turned, my mind filled with images of Liz, the girl I had known and loved before I went to that vile children's home, the girl I hadn't seen for a year or more, who I would never see again.
"Yes, kid?" I don't know how much later it was, but by now it was completely dark.
"I can't sleep. I - I'm warm enough, but I'm not used to sleeping without anything on top of me..."
I sighed. I agreed with him; it felt strange.
"Come over here. Cuddle up to me."
He rolled over to me, and I wrapped him in my arms, conscious at once of how much smaller than me he was.
"Your cock's hard. You gonna fuck me?"
"What? Fuck you? God, no, kid, course I'm not. I'm straight."
"So what? Lots of straight guys fuck boys. There was one guy, he was about forty, he used to fuck me every week, and he was married, and he had five kids of his own."
"Rhys..." I whispered, appalled.
"One of the boys was just my age. I used to wonder... He used to fuck me, and then leave me with my Dad and go home to his kid. I used to envy that kid."
I gave him a little squeeze.
"I dunno," I said. "It may not have been much fun having a Dad like that."
"He wasn't too bad. Some them, they used to really hurt me, you know? Hitting me and shouting at me. One of them said he would only fuck me if I was crying."
"Oh, Rhys! Oh, kid!"
"Then my Dad was killed by a car, and I went to the home... But I'm okay now. Bathys is great and everyone's nice here. Everything will be okay now."
He wriggled in my arms contentedly.
"Sure it will," I said.
"This is the first time ever I've slept with someone and not been fucked."
I couldn't answer.
"Zebras..." he murmured, a little later.
I held him gently as his breathing became deep and rhythmic, and my mind churned with thoughts and feelings. Finally I drifted off to sleep.
I charged out of the Flat and down the steps in a fury. A boy on the balcony below ours was in my way; I pushed past him roughly, flinging him against the balustrade, and plunged on down the steps to the ground.
I hated them! Fucking queers, that Liam was beyond everything, pushing it into our faces, and David! You'd think... Everyone was the same here! Just like... My mind veered off. I couldn't think about it. Not now, not ever.
"Jack, you hit that boy," said Bathys.
"No! No, I didn't!" I shouted. "He was in my way, that's all, I just..."
"Physical violence is not permitted, Jack," she said calmly. "If you physically attack anyone else, I shall zap you. No further warnings will be given."
"Everyone here is a fucking poof, anyway. Who gives a shit?"
"Physical violence is not permitted, Jack. Please take note of this. Did I understand that you wish to go to Lakeport?"
"What the fuck. Yeah, I guess."
"Take one of the flitters at the foot of the steps. If you wish, I will pilot you there this time."
There were several of the little machines there, their rotors crossed, and I pulled one out and mounted it.
"It is advisable to secure the safety belt, Jack," said Bathys.
I was on the point of refusing, but the implications of what she said penetrated my fury, and at the last moment I thought better of it. The flitter took off, and in seconds we were whizzing along. This was the first time I had flown one, and even my foul mood was gradually softened by the experience. I couldn't judge how high up we were, but it was certainly higher than any building I had been in. A wide hilly country passed beneath me, dotted with small woods and laced with winding streams, and I spotted the occasional little group of houses.
I could see the mountains, now, far, far away, and then the lake came into view, glistening in the sun and dotted with islands. It was hard to grasp the size of it all.
"Where is the beach from here?"
"About ten miles to your right and behind you, Jack. Lakeport is straight ahead."
I saw it now, a cluster of buildings at the mouth of a river. Bathys steered the flitter in a wide arc over the rooftops, and landed it neatly.
"Thank you, Bathys," I found myself saying.
"You are welcome, Jack."
I was on a wide stretch of ground outside a row of houses facing the water. In front of me a pair of jetties went out maybe a hundred yards into the water, forming a small harbour, where twenty or thirty boats of various sizes were anchored. The air was filled with birds. I had never been in a place like it, but somehow everything seemed familiar, and I felt at home.
A dark-haired boy of about my age, wearing a scruffy white tunic, was sitting on the edge of one of the jetties, surrounded by fishing nets. He gave me a friendly smile.
"Hi," I said. "I - I wanted to go out in a boat."
"No problem," he said, dusting off his hands and standing up. I couldn't place his accent. "Let me take you to the pier office."
"What are you doing?"
"Mending these nets," he said. "We'll be going out to fish again later."
"You can fish here?"
"Sure. People like fresh fish, and I like fishing. My name's Kostas, I'm from Greece."
Up close I caught the smell of fish on him, dried and sunny, and his hand as I shook it was hard and calloused, the nails broken. His hair was tangled round his ears, and he smiled frankly at me.
"I'm Jack. I'm from London. From England."
"Oh yes. My man, Sir Angus, he's from England too. He's a fisherman."
Oh God. Here it was again, and I felt my fury rise.
"Fuck! Another sodding faggot!"
He looked at me slowly, with a strange expression on his face.
"You're new, aren't you?"
"Yeah? So what, faggot?"
"So you haven't learnt. Look, do you want a boat, or not?"
"Yeah," I snarled. "Let me get the fuck out of here."
"Come with me."
"Right. Just stay in front of me, arse boy."
"You don't have a very nice way of asking for help, do you?"
I saw red. He was the fucking faggot, and here he was telling me to be nice? Sod him! I took a swing at him, I couldn't stop myself, and that was it. The next thing I knew I was on the ground, writhing and gasping for air, and my whole body was agony.
Kostas was on his knees, holding my head, telling me to breath, and a man came running from a nearby building. I realised that I was screaming.
"What happened?" the man yelled.
"He tried to hit me, and he got zapped."
They helped me up and got me inside, to a chair. The man pulled another close to me.
"Son," he said, sitting down, "It's just something you have to learn. You can't hit people here. You just have to give it up."
"He - he's a faggot! What am I supposed to do? I can't have him all over me!"
"No one can touch you without your permission. Bathys won't allow that either. Here. Drink this."
He passed me the water Kostas had fetched, and I sipped it.
"Everyone's a faggot here..."
"Mostly, yes. I'm Angus, and Kostas is my boy, for example. You'll just have to get used to it, son, because we aren't going away, and neither are you."
I looked up at him, and I couldn't help seeing that he was being kind to me. For the first time since I came to Bathys, I burst into tears.
And that's how it came about that I went out fishing with Angus and Kostas that afternoon.
I moved slowly through my workshop, hugging myself at the thought of what I would be doing this afternoon. It was a good room, looking out over the dark green hills and down the valley that led to the narrow river we had started to call Quickwater. The main path of Hillside passed the big window where I had set up my lathe, so that I could chat with passers-by.
The huge low-relief I was working on lent against the wall with a stool in front of it, and nearby a table with tools, chisels, gouges and drills, was waiting. It showed a scene during the debates at Glencoram; I had been working on Martha's face, as she confronted Gordon Bartley with her tremendous speech which finally finished off the idea that our boys should have no right at all to refuse sex. Even at the time we knew it was a turning-point. They were all there, Max, Michael, Darren, Ian and the rest, even myself, peeping over Ortan's shoulder, and behind us the moors of Scotland. It would take me years to finish it.
But it wasn't that I was going to work on today. Ortan had found me a nice piece of oak, and I had Bathys weather it for me artifically - it would be a long time before naturally-weathered wood was available. I let my hands run over it. First, I thought I'd turn it down to a short cylinder, get the rid of that cracked piece and the remains of the bark, and then... I'd seen a boy yesterday in Southwall, just sitting on a wall near the Flats, gazing out over the Downs. He wasn't what you'd call dramatically beautiful, but his face and the curve of his thin body had done something for me. And his expression: such grief, such desolation. I'd only seen him for a moment, but I couldn't forget him. And now...
I slipped the piece of wood into my lathe and adjusted the plates carefully, rotating it to make sure it was secure. Then I mounted a fair-sized gouge, and set the wood turning slowly; it was nearly two feet long, and a foot across. I lent into it gently, and the chips started to fly. I smiled.
It was all over, in a way. The capsule of Bathys, and the dome of the Great Cavern - the things I had done had never been attempted or even dreamt of before. So! Those people at Earth Government, who had hacked and chopped at my plans, my vision for the Alpine Redoubt - they'd never know, of course, but, by God! I had had the last laugh on them. Fifty miles across! Well, it was done. Bathys sent me reports, of course, cooling circuit performance, current twisting and sheering strains, and so on, and sometimes I scanned them casually, but I wasn't really interested. I knew if anything serious happened she'd let me know, and in the meantime the Knights of my team - and Jenna too - they could handle it. It wasn't me any more.
The fact is, I was tired. There were a couple of years to go of this cycle, and, to be honest, I couldn't wait to move on. I wanted to be shot of this old body, its aches and pains, the heaviness, the slowness, the damn arthritis. I wanted to be able to move around. I could see myself dancing along the paths of Hillside, diving and swimming, running over the hills, sitting by the side of the river whittling with a knife... I wanted to be a boy again.
Well, in the meantime there was the low-relief, which I hoped to finish, and other things, and anything that was still half-done could go into my Vault to wait for me, to wait till I returned from my holiday in boyhood. Why hurry? I was looking ahead, lives ahead.
There! That was enough for the present. I had the feel of the wood now, where it was hard and dense, where softer, the places where it was weak. I stood it on my desk and just looked at it for a long time, glowing in the afternoon light. Then I drew out some sheets of paper and began to sketch.
Yes! That was how he was, and his arms - yes, just like that. I sketched his face again and again, trying to catch him, trying to pull the expression out of my memory...
Someone passed by the window and I looked up, startled by the passage of time. It was nearly dark. I drew a sigh, and decided to go along to the pub for a beer and some supper.
My feet crunched on the stone-paved path as I walked through the twilight past the row of houses, each set back into the hillside, their windows lit and welcoming. From some of them I could still hear the sounds of work, hammering or a saw, and sometimes a cheery whistle. Several people called to me, and I stopped to exchange a few words: how the work was going, how I felt.
As yet, the pub had no name, and its sign hung blank. I noticed with dismay that I was puffing as I opened the door. It was quite dimly lit, panelled in wood, of course, and at the end a cheerful fire was crackling.
"Evening, my Lord! The usual?"
Bill, the man who kept the pub, was a Canadian, and he knew trees, and wood. We chatted for while, discussing my new project, and I ordered a vast mixed grill for supper. I was hungry.
"Jesus, Derek! Are going to eat all that? It'll kill you, man!"
"It may put a bit on this," I said, patting my fairly lean middle. "But what the hell. Another couple of years and I'm off to Igoni, Bill. Live dangerously!"
He laughed and turned away, and I scanned the bar. It was empty apart from a single figure, and I couldn't ignore him without giving offence. Noblesse oblige...
"Hello, Oliver. Nice to see you here."
"My Lord! Please, sit down."
I parked my pint and sat opposite him. He was big and bearded, almost a caricature of the timber man he was: leader of the Timber Team. To be honest, I always found him something of a bore, neither intelligent nor perceptive. He did know his trade, however, and we spoke about his plans for the plantations above Hillside for some time.
"Isn't it rather nice to think that you'll still be around when those new oaks are mature? You can come and check on them in two hundred years..."
"My God! You're right! I'd never thought of it that way." He eyes became dreamy. "I suppose any timber man would give an arm to do that."
"Don't you get lonely up there in the hills, with only trees for company? You should find yourself a little friend."
"I can get down when I need. As for getting a boyfriend - nope, that's not for me."
"Oh, come on, man! Do a bit of wooing, make yourself agreeable. A fine young man like you..."
I was teasing, not that he'd realise it. He'd find it easier to grew wings and feathers than do as I said.
"No, I think I'll just wait until the resolution's repealed. Then fly down to Southwall and help myself. There are plenty of boys with tags these days."
My insides crawled. I'd never liked the availability rules.
"Watch your step. You make a boy distressed and Bathys will zap you like ninepins."
"I won't hurt them. I'm no pervert. I just want a mouth round my dick, that's all, that's what they're here for. I know you opposed it, my Lord, and it was cut back and back. Not before they're ten, not if they're distressed, only things they've done before... And now there's the resolution. Well, I understand that, I even voted for it, because I respect the King. But once it's gone, my Lord, I'm going to take what's mine, what you and your friends have left of it. That's what the Statute says."
"Don't forget, Oliver, you'll be a boy yourself one day," I said nastily. "And people won't forget you..."
David and Will
When he had spoken to me at the party, I hadn't recognised him, hadn't really understood who he was. It was only later that I realised that he was the King, the King of all these people and the whole of Bathys, and it seemed extraordinary that he would bother with me. But I remembered what he had said, and it seemed he was right, because Mr Darnley hadn't touched me all that day, and nor did he at the party.
I had been in love with him ever since I had arrived in that frightful home two years before, although it took me a while to realise it. But he had justified that love, because he had always helped me, always been kind. Of course, he couldn't step out of his role as a member of the staff, and I remembered the horrible day when it had been his duty to escort me to the punishment room and strap me down for the birch. But I had seen the tears in his eyes, and I knew.
So when he still stood aloof, even though we were now in a place where anything was allowed, it was to start with frustrating beyond all bearing for me. But what the King said had helped me. A few days; what did it matter? After all, Mr Darnley had explained to me himself about the rebirth cycle, and I knew there was all the time in the world. If I had to wait, I would. I knew he was half on my side anyhow.
The day after the party I left the Flat with relief, because Jack was almost more than I could put up with. I thought of moving to another Flat, or out into the country, anywhere to be away from him.
So I went to Mr Darnley's house again that morning with a mixture of feelings, passing through the little town. His house gave onto a little curved street, and in some ways it reminded me of my village at home, before - before it all happened, and that gave me a strange feeling about it. I knocked on the door.
"David! I - My God. You came round again?"
"Why not? Do you mind?"
"Mind? No - no, of course I don't. Come in..."
"My Flat was awful this morning. Jack - you remember? - he's being horrible to everyone. He's really down on gay people, and of course..."
"Yes," he said quickly. "Do you want some coffee? I was just thinking about decorating the house, getting some furniture..."
So we went from room to room, and I helped him work out what would be best for each. There were three in all, apart from the kitchen and bathroom, and on two floors. All of them were quite small, but each had a pleasant view out over the street, and I loved it; it was the nicest house I had ever seen. Not that I had seen many.
"What are you going to do with this room?"
"I thought - well, maybe - I mean, if the Flat really is nasty, maybe you might think about, one of these days... I mean, would you like to live there?"
A room in his house? Would I like it? Was he kidding?
"Oh! If you don't mind me being here, I'd like it very much!"
"So would I." This time he managed to smile. "Once everything's been fitted up - I mean, in a few days, not yet..."
No, Sir Will, I thought, not yet. But a damn sight sooner than you think.
So after that getting furniture and paint and paper became something for both of us, and it was more exciting than I could ever have imagined. We went to the Centre and ordered beds and tables and chairs and wardrobes, saying we didn't like the ones we had, and they arranged for robots to bring them the next day, and take the old stuff away. Then there were sheets and so on, and I insisted on getting a huge new console, far more elaborate than the one we had, and he laughed at me.
"There's something I've forgotten," I said. "I'll - I'll meet you in the food shop."
I ran back into the furniture store, and the man we had spoken to was still there.
"That bed, the first one, the one for Sir Will's room?"
"Could you - I mean, would you mind if you changed it for a - a double one?"
He laughed at me, and I blushed.
"No problem. Getting to like Bathys, are you?"
"Oh yes. I just hope he will in the end..."
"You didn't see the way he looked at you, son. Just hang in there."
I gave him a smile and ran off.
I noticed Don and Rhys going to Martha's wearing the most outrageous clothes I'd ever seen, and somehow I wanted to avoid them; not that I disliked either of them, but it was just too complicated at the moment. So we dived into a fast-food place and grabbed a burger, and then went back to the house. I insisted on us changing before we did any decorating, so it was wearing one of his outsized tunics that I set to work, stripping the walls and sizing them and putting up paper, and I made sure that he had plenty of chances to see rather more of me than he expected. And we got completely covered in wallpaper paste, hair, clothes, everything, and ended up flipping it at each other, dashing from room to room, screaming. And that, I think, was when the last vestige of our old relationship died.
"Oh my God!" he yelled. "Just look at us!"
"We need showers, Mr Darnley!"
Suddenly, he held my hand.
"David," he said. "Never call me that again. Never. Just Will, okay? 'Mr Darnley' - that stinks - of the home. We aren't there any more, are we?"
"No - er - Will, we aren't."
I smiled at him, and it was very, very good.
"Let's go to that cafe in the square," he said. "I've been wanting to go there, it looks nice."
So we cleaned up, and I was careful to make myself look as good as I could, and off we went to the cafe, wearing the blue tunics we had on the day before. I made a mental note to get some more clothes, and some for him, too; we looked like tramps, I thought, but he didn't seem to care.
Paco, the man who ran the cafe, made us welcome. It was dark by now, but still warm enough to sit outside, and we did, watching the world go by as we worked our way through platefuls of pasta. I was ravenous, and I insisted on us getting a bottle of red wine too. It was a happy meal, light-hearted and full of hope.
We had reached the coffee when suddenly there was a crash across the square. A door banged back, and a large bearded man blundered out of one of the houses and stared around him in a bleary fashion. Then, to my horror, he lurched across the square towards us. He was obviously drunk.
"Lovely boy," he shouted, looking straight at me. "Lovely boy! Come here and give us kiss!"
For various reasons, drunk people always terrified me beyond all reason. I jumped to my feet, my chair falling to the ground behind me.
"No! No! Get away from me!"
But before we could move, several people intercepted the man, and he was led away. Will took me in his arms, and helped me back into my chair, shaking.
"Son, I'm so sorry!" said Paco, coming up to us. "Please - please don't be distressed. Would you like a brandy?"
I looked at him, and swallowed.
"No, I'm sorry, Sir Paco. It's just - I - I can't cope with drunk people..."
He looked at me wisely.
"I suppose there's a story there. So many of you kids have - stories. Don't worry, lad, he won't bother you again."
To my surprise he bowed deeply, and turned away. Will reached across the table and took my hand.
"Want to tell me about it?" he said.
"Not - not just now. But I expect you can guess. Could you - could you just hold me a bit?"
So he pulled his chair round beside me, and held me, and I started to cry. I had never cried at the home, not even when they birched me; never cried when my family was shot, never during all those times with the soldiers, never cried, until now; and now, for an hour or more, I couldn't stop.
That night I slept in his house, and in his arms. There was no sex; but I didn't need it. I was happier than I had ever been.
Damn them, he thought, damn them, nasty fucking little ratboys, damn them...
A little group of them, charging across the esplanade had recognised him and jeered at him, and it was too much to be borne. Damn them!
He walked out past the huge network of steps and balconies and stared up at it, the high curved wall with its thousands of windows and the lights, the lights twinkling, and thought of them. Thousands and thousands of them crawling through the wall of the cavern, burrowing into it, gnawing and polluting like giggling, sneering little rats...
It was just as he'd said, said to that stupid fucking King and his ratboy son, the boy with the beautiful curly blond hair you wanted to run your fingers through and then pull, pull till he squealed, ratboy, it was just as he'd said. They were out of control! Running wild, screaming like maniacs and running everywhere, showing no respect, doing whatever they liked! Whatever they liked! As if the reason, the only reason they were here wasn't to be fucked and fucked and fucked, fucked till they squealed and were sorry! Were sorry! They ought to be sorry, just like, back then, he was sorry, so sorry, but it did no good, it never did any good...
No, not think of that. Never of that.
Think of how it wasn't that he hadn't tried to be nice, he had, like with that Amit at the party, he'd have sucked that boy, he offered! And was sneered at! Sneered at like always, and by that boy, who ought to be thankful! And say, yes, thank you Sir Martin, yes, I'm honoured, and yes, please fuck me too, fuck me really hard and make me squeal, Sir Martin, it's what I deserve, because, because, I'm so, so sorry!
He staggered against a flight of steps and grabbed it, gasping, bitter vomit rising in his throat. Because bloody Bathys, she would stop him if he tried, if he tried to do what everyone should do, she'd zap him! But he wouldn't give up, not like that fucking idiot Tom, always going on about how he loved Paul, as if you could love a rat! A maggot! A little cuntwhore pussyboy, only there to be fucked, fucked until he was sorry! No, he wouldn't give up. Never...