by athens7 as Jack (font: Courier New)
and mazaher as Patrick (font: Verdana)


1. The Christmas ball at the Grevilles', and what happened after that


Jack’s POV

“Lady Greville, my most sincere congratulations for the magnificence of this ball. It is a honour for me to have been included in your invitation.”
“Now, now, Doctor! I could have never invited the most remarkable piano talent in all England and exclude his dearest friend as well as personal physician, could I?”
“I am afraid you exaggerate my importance, Madam.”
“And you are also modest! Such an intriguing quality, made even more so by the fact that an appalling multitude of gentlemen nowadays seem to be lacking in it.”
“You will make my cheeks redden in a very unmanlike manner if you persist in this fashion, Madam.”
Lady Violet Greville hides behind her elaborate fan and laughs delicately, exposing her jeweled neck and porcelain teeth.
She is an extraordinary woman, far ahead of our times, with a sharp mind and witty manners, and one of the most influential mediators in the geography of London’s cultural clubs. It is crucial for Patrick to gain her favours, if he wants to nourish any hope that his career will advance as effortlessly as it deserves.
All the same, neither of us is able to bring himself to really appreciate the nuances and amenities of high society’s etiquette. My love already knows how to move in this environment with lethal and insidious dexterity, to fascinate and manipulate his impotent audience: he has way more experience than me at this, but I am a fast learner, if the intrigued twinkle in the Lady’s eyes is of any indication.
My subtly-teasing smile earns me a manicured hand on the forearm.

The clink of a goblet hastily placed down and an unmistakable voice muttering false apologies drive my eyes away, leading them to the figure of Patrick rushing out of the reception room.
“Is our beloved pianist feeling unwell?” the aristocrat at my elbow wonders in a feigned detached tone, following my gaze.
“Please forgive him, Madam. You know how unpredictable artists can be. Instability is one of the basic ingredients of genius, after all” I reply, while I attempt to repress the impulse to run after him. I will not be able to resist for much longer.
“Believe me, I have my fair amount of experience to accept this fact”.
She pauses. I hold my breath, while my heart tries to tear my ribcage down and go help him in my stead.
“Would you like to assure yourself that everything is indeed in order?” she asks at last, and for a crazy moment I believe I can detect compassion in the polite escape she’s offering me.
“I would not blame either of you” she insists, fixing me with piercing amber eyes.
“I -- thank you, Lady Greville. Rest assured you will receive written amends for this small incident.”
“Completely unnecessary.”
“Nevertheless. Goodnight, Madam.”
I kiss her hand and turn away.
Walking instead of running is a concession to manners I cannot afford. I pay the price anyway, having no other choice.
I don’t even bother retrieving my coat. Without conscious awareness I am already outside, the humidity of thin rain just fallen clinging to my skin and filling my nostrils unpleasantly.
He is still here, the carriage having stopped only now in front of him.
He doesn’t acknowledge my presence but the way his shoulders imperceptibly straighten at the staccato rhythm of my steps does not go unnoticed. I give the address to the driver then climb in after him.
“Now, would you just tell me what was that all about? You were the one who insisted on attending!” I snap once we are safely hidden behind the doors.
“You seemed to be enjoying the company though” he retorts in a deadly murmur, crouched defensively in a corner, eyes warily riveted on the floor.
The champagne must have been stronger than I thought because he could not possibly mean what my heart is timidly suggesting.
“Well, what would you have wanted me to do? I was just sticking to the handbook of the perfect English gentleman!” I counter, more for the need to banish that disturbing train of thought than anything else.
“I want nothing from you.”
“You are exasperating, have I ever told you that? Will you at least bestow me the privilege of looking at me while racking my brains?”
He whispers something in answer, words too low to be intelligible but that anyway sound suspiciously like “I can’t”.
“Excuse me?” I prod him, too tired and upset to really care about how thin the ice is right now.
“If you really are so curious, then know that I left because I could no longer stand your sight. You are ridiculous in that outfit, you look like a butler.”
An harsh laugh escapes me, in spite of myself and my misery and the dull pain constantly stinging in my chest.
“Come on, my dear fellow, we both know you can do better than that.”
“I do not expect you to understand.”
We spend the rest of the trip engaged in a sterile, mannered verbal sparring, and it is not until we arrive and he rushes out of the cab in mid-sentence that I realise it was all a strategy aimed at distracting me. What a fool. I walked right into his diversive.
I pay the driver, don’t collect the change and again I run after him. He has some advantage, but he can do nothing against my slightly longer legs.
I catch up with him right at the entrance, my foot shooting out to prevent the door from closing.
He doesn’t even protest, just keeps advancing further and further into the room, aware of having no escape but at the same time unable to repress his well-oiled mechanisms of self-preservation.
I back him against the far wall of the living room, bracing my arms so that my hands are at both sides of his face.
“Look at me. I beg you.”
All stands still.
He takes a deep breath, quiet and defeated like an admission of guilt; he raises his eyes, and I slip out of my mind.
Because I recognize at once what I see there. Because it’s the same thing I acknowledge in the mirror every night after wishing him goodnight.
I can only stare at him, trembling on the edge of perfection, tight as a tourniquet, my mouth open in amazement, only a breath dividing completion from destruction.
I will never know where I find the strength, the courage. It doesn’t matter. It matters that I do.
“Patrick,” I whisper, happiness already running in heady spurts through my veins like cocaine.
“God damn you, Waszowski” grits he through clenched teeth, and kisses me.
I should stop us, right now. I should have never hunted him down in the first place.
It should not happen like this, with our emotions enhanced and distorted by alcohol and jealousy.
Feel this man’s lips on your skin, ravishing you, sucking your soul out of you with his fearful passion, while his agile fingers fumble with your belt, and tell me that you would stop, leave him there and go to sleep.
Yes, my answer exactly.
But then, a dark, guarded corner of my mind lights up and I realise: if not now, when? Yes, it is not the right moment, but probably there will never be one, and every occasion I have left unfulfilled was a lost opportunity because this just has to happen. Only now I can see it.
So I kiss him back, let myself feel how much I want it, how much I need it, and our free fall gathers momentum.
I cover his body with mine, crush him against the wall, while my hands find his hips and then go lower, to explore avidly his lithe form.
He sucks in a breath, fumbles with my clothes, then with his own, and finally takes me in the curve of his palm.
The touch of skin on skin is so unexpectedly powerful that I have to release his mouth for a moment, smash my face against the panel; I must regain some semblance of control if I want to prevent us from killing each other.
“Take me” he breathes, licking languidly the tender patch behind my earlobe.
“Sweet heaven, give us a minute I can’t just -- “
“Yes you can” he growls, and with a clench of his abs he raises and curls his legs over my hips; smears my cock with his own spit, then begins to push down.
“Please” he pleads to the ceiling with half-lidded eyes, holding on with shivering hands to my shoulders.
So I rise to meet him, wrap my arms around his slender torso and move, and once I start I am not able to stop.
I peel away the last shred of uncertainty and then there’s nothing but our warmth against the winter of the city, the silence of the room filled with the slick slide of flesh and the counter-melody of groans.
We mate desperately and needingly, oblivious to the world and ourselves; no one outside would ever understand, this desperate reaffirmation of life and lust, and the certainty fills me with pride and protectiveness and sheer joy.
This, this is what we are and it feels so good, so right; and it’s only the beginning: everything before was just a pantomime, a premise to greater, brighter times.
The wave throws me down first; Patrick follows a few seconds later, undone by my shout and my final thrust, trying desperately to hold something fundamental back. His back arches in shattering spasms, his head thrown back so that I can’t see his eyes.

Slowly, so slowly, we collapse to the floor, a rumpled tangle of clothes and legs and kisses.
In a final moment of weakness, I let my mind utterly free to wander: and I imagine myself growing old beside this impossible, irresistible man, living and laughing together in the streets of London until the time we will retire in some cottage on the edge of Scotland and spend our best days reading books and sipping wine and horse-riding and just being in each other’s company without the need for words or fear of misunderstandings.
For this infinitesimal fraction of time outside reality, while he cannot think and I can hold him in my arms, the dream is so tangibile and true that it feels almost like a concrete possibility.
But then he touches my shoulder, his fingers first flexing in absent-minded relaxation then squeezing with increasing awareness, and my stomach sinks with too well-known foreboding.
Fool. I should have known.

It is at this point that our lives splinter and time takes different, parallel courses.


Jack leaves,


Patrick leaves