HENRY IN FINKLE ROAD
Henry’s awakening mind registered an immediate difference that Sunday morning, and told him it approved. Warm velvety skin was pressing into his abdomen, and someone was breathing lightly next to him. Someone else’s dark hair was in his face. He kissed it and Gavin stirred, sighed and turned to smile at his lover. They kissed and their morning erections rubbed together. Gavin broke off, said, ‘Can I?’ and when Henry smiled back, disappeared below the duvet. Henry felt his cock engulfed in a hungry mouth that licked and suckled him for what seemed like half an hour.
It was only when he reached down, grabbed a handful of hair and pulled that Gavin emerged, blinking and laughing. Henry writhed on top of him, kissed again and began exploring under Gavin’s smooth, shaved balls. He licked his fingers and found they penetrated easily. He reached for a condom and some jelly, threw off the duvet and took the boy gloriously on his back, enjoying every expression that flitted across the blissful face below him as he pumped the willing anus. This was something else he had forgotten, the joy of sheathing himself in a warm and responsive body.
They hugged in the mutual contentment of post-coital euphoria. Henry looked in the boy’s face. He thought, what have I done? Then he looked in Gavin’s smiling eyes and decided they were at least compatible lovers.
Gavin brought something out of Henry, that was for sure. Of course, whatever it was, Henry thought he knew it was not love. Love he had felt before, and this was not what he’d had with Edward Cornish, a glorious self-giving that had joined their souls together. He was fond of Gavin, very fond of him, but he felt a distance between them. Probably – no, certainly – Gavin did not feel what he felt, and sooner rather than later Gavin would realise it. Then the unhappiness would begin. But for now, at least, the loneliness was gone for both of them.
They coupled three times more before they finally lurched out of bed and into the shower at one-thirty. They gave each other a sensuous wash and went back to bed again, just to hug and enjoy their mutual warmth. The house was quiet and Henry was content. He had no real idea where this new affair was going, and did not at that moment greatly care.
‘So, Gavin baby, want to run off after Wayne now?’
Gavin stared at him. ‘After sex like that? The guy’s a selfish prick and useless in bed. He just shags; he doesn’t make love the way you do, Henry. Do I have to leave this bed ever again?’
‘Yeah. Sorry, Gavin.’
‘Then I’ll get us a drink. Coffee?’
Gavin found his glasses and a pair of Henry’s boxers, giggled as he put them on, and trotted off He returned with drinks and some toast fifteen minutes later. ‘Eddie’s up, with some pretty girl. Louise, her name is, I think.’
‘No, it was definitely Louise.’
‘So it begins. At this rate he’ll have slept with half the female-student population by the end of the year. And at least one of them will eventually sell her story to the press.’
As they sat up together with their late breakfast, Gavin asked, ‘What are the Peachers like, Henry?’
‘You really want to know?’
‘The personal insights denied to the media and the general public, yes please.’
‘Umm. In order, Richard Peacher is scary and super-intelligent and probably the richest man in the world. There’s not much more to say other than the fact that he is devoted to his kids and his third marriage to Sylvia is holding very firm. There are three boys and two girls.
‘Andy – Sir Andrew – is a kind and funny man who spends most of his time working on schemes to help disadvantaged kids; he lives with Matt White. Peter is very different, most like his dad in intellect and abilities, but a total hunk in body. He heads up European operations from offices in Strelzen. He’s gay too. He lives with Oskar, who’s a Rothenian aristocrat and chief-of-staff to King Rudolf. And if Pete is a hunk, Oskar’s the hunk of all hunks: tall, blond and utterly magnificent. Oops, got another hard on. Sorry, but I fantasise about them doing it together.
‘Eddie? Him you know. I’m still trying to work him out. Sometimes he betrays signs of the intelligence of Pete and the niceness of Andy. Other times he’s a total shit. His twin sister Harriet is in college in the States. I’ve not met her, but I know Eddie misses her desperately, though he doesn’t say. Like many twins, they were inseparable for most of their childhood, and I guess they find it hard to be apart. I get the impression that he protected her, but that she provided the moral leadership he’s missing now.
‘Elaine is only five, and she’s got a reputation for being her father’s favourite. Totally cute.’
‘They all seem nice.’
‘They are nice, every one of them. Pete is scary in a way. He’s always totally concentrated on what he’s doing; he’s got a brilliant memory and grasp of finance. He’s his father’s anointed successor. But he’s devoted to Andy and Oskar of course, and they bring out his soft and kind side.’
‘How did you get involved with them?’
‘Through my former boyfriend, Edward Cornish. He was fostered by Matt and Andy, who’re continuing to pay for his education in university. They really are very kind.’
Gavin looked a bit troubled. ‘Do you mind telling me about Ed Cornish?’
Henry put his arm round Gavin’s waist and kissed his cheek. ‘Not much to say, babe. We fell in love at sixteen. He grew up, and I didn’t. He had his star to follow to Cambridge, and I came here. It couldn’t go on, so I made the first big decision of my life, and ended our affair while I still had the strength and self-respect to do it.’
‘But now you’ve grown up, Henry.’
‘Do you think?’
‘You’re so confident and self-possessed. I envy you. Nothing seems to bother you.’
‘A lot bothers me, Gavin. Don’t idolise me. I’m not what you think I am.’ Henry winced at the developing hero-worship in his lover. It wasn’t right. He knew about his own weaknesses. Ed had been confident and strong, and had definitely been the dominant partner in their relationship. Henry had been happy to follow Ed. With Gavin, however, Henry was in the leading role, and it did not come naturally to him.
Henry needed to find David, whom he hadn’t seen in over a week. He told Gavin to go pack the stuff he needed from hall, and bring it down to Finkle Road. Because they were an item now, Henry couldn’t bear the thought of their not sleeping together. Gavin left the house with a huge grin on his face, clasping a door key to No. 25. He positively skipped off towards Northside.
When Henry got to the Brewery, it was Terry who answered the door phone.
‘Henry! Come up!’ he shouted. He was waiting at the lift to pick Henry up in a huge hug. Henry kissed him back, catching the usual whiff of tobacco smoke. He adored Terry.
‘How are you, Uncle Terry?’
‘You calling me that too? Just like Petey, Nate and Justy.’
‘It seems right somehow. You’ve got great avuncular qualifications: you’re generous, kind, interesting and frankly dangerous to know. The model uncle in fact. You don’t mind, do you?’
‘Mind? No, I love it, little Henry babe. And I like that piercing too.’ Terry beamed at him.
‘Just popped out to Tescos. We had no milk when we got back.’
‘Where were you this weekend?’
‘He came up to London, and we started his driving lessons. I’ve bought him a Mini Cooper.’
Jesus wept, thought Henry. I could do with a boyfriend like that. The most I’m likely to get out of Gavin is a bag of chips.
He rallied. ‘It was nice to have Justin with us, Terry. Did he tell you about the party?’
Terry laughed so hard he ended up with a coughing fit. ‘He’s a proper lad. He handled it well. That Eddie’s going to be real trouble. How are you getting on with him?’
‘On one level, no problem. He’s full of good nature, as long as you don’t ask him to do anything around the house. But now there’s this thing with the women.’
‘He’s beginning to work his way through the female sex, I take it.’
‘That’s two in just a fortnight. It can only get worse.’
‘There’s nothing we can do about it, Henry. He’s an adult … theoretically. We’ll just have to wait till burnt fingers teach him some caution.’
‘How long are you staying down, Terry?’
‘Just overnight really, so I can have dinner wiv Paulie and Rachel. I gotta be in Berlin Wednesday.’
‘Business is good, then?’
‘We’re getting to corner the market, little student babe, though the US operation is a bit of a drain – insurance against litigation is phenomenal. I’m thinking of scaling back to just taking on visiting celebs in the States, rather than domestic contracts. Britain’s a gold mine, though. I’m promoting Justy to team leader, now he’s nearly twenty, wiv special responsibility for media contracts. I’m putting him wiv two others of me younger guys as a special team for boy bands and such like. I’m working on a title for him. Any ideas?’
‘I’ll think about it.’
‘He’s a great worker. Well … you’ve seen him at it. Him and Nathan are happy too. Nathan’s his rock. However life bobs him about, his anchor brings him safely back to Suffolk. But he has enough excitement when he’s working for me that he’s not getting bored with the cottage at Haddesley Hall.
‘By the way, will you be coming to the New-Year House Party? It’s down in Andy’s place this year.’ Matt and Andy had an annual three-day party over New Year which had come to be a bit of a tribal gathering for the Peacher set. Henry had been invited for the past two years, but he doubted he would be this year, now he and Ed Cornish were past history.
Henry made a non-committal grunt, but Terry knew what it signified. He pulled Henry towards him, and Henry snuggled. He kissed Henry’s hair and said, ‘It won’t be the same if you’re not there, little one. Don’t think that your friends have forgotten you. We haven’t.’
David returned at this point and hurled himself at Henry. After disentangling himself, he grinned and asked Henry how he was doing. Then he looked closely, pulling the tee-shirt collar away from Henry’s skin. ‘Something’s happened, babe. There’s a love bite on your collarbone. Okay. Who is it? Not Frank, I hope?’
Henry counterfeited vomiting. ‘I resigned from the King’s Cross on Saturday. Frank and I had an irresolvable difference of opinion. And I picked up a new guy on the way home.’
‘Fast work, Henry. That’s bouncing back. Anyone I know?’
David gave a disbelieving stare. ‘Gavin! I thought he was tied up with that sickening Wayne. You seduced him, did you?’
‘More like found him in the gutter covered with slime. But he’s polishing up nicely. I think it’ll be alright.’
David kissed him. ‘Then go for it, Henry. He’ll be a devoted little puppy.’
Terry looked intrigued. ‘Moved on at last, Henry? That’s good. Will I approve of the new boy?’
David laughed. ‘Slim, boyish and dark, yeah, you’ll like him, lover.’
Henry got back to Finkle Road to find Gavin unpacking in what had now become their bedroom. He dropped a pile of his socks and sought Henry’s arms. He was blissfully happy, and Henry could only be happy in response. He took Gavin by the hand and knocked on Eddie’s bedroom door.
‘Remember Gavin?’ Eddie nodded. ‘He’s just moved in to my room.’
‘Welcome to No 25, Gavin. Dumped the fuckweasel?’
Gavin blushed. ‘How come everybody but me could see he was a shit?’
Eddie adopted a serious look. ‘Now Gavin, I expect you to help keep this place tidy. It’s hard enough for me with two of us … but now there are three, you’ll have to pull your weight, dude.’
Gavin stared at him, unwilling to contradict a boy billionaire. Henry nudged him.
‘Er …’ Gavin finally stammered, ‘what sort of fantasy world do you live in, Eddie?’
Henry and Eddie both laughed. ‘You’re coming on Gavin, baby,’ Henry said. ‘Keep it up. You’ll be impervious to shits like Wayne soon.’
Henry and Gavin retired to the back bedroom. Henry put some music on, and sat in his chair, his bare feet on the bed. He opened the Bannow book, squirming with contentment when Gavin took up his feet unasked. Gavin put them in his lap and began gently massaging and kissing them, but not so much as to be distracting. Henry smiled happily at him and made a kiss, and Gavin looked as though he were in heaven.
Chapter 3 of the Bannow book took Henry somewhat aback by abruptly changing the subject. Bannow was now on about the idea of a ‘holy dynasty’ in European thinking. It was very widespread. Royal dynasties, especially those with pagan roots, had a sacred dimension. Anglo-Saxon and Frankish kings had gods like Woden, Seaxnot or Meroveus in their ancestry. Celtic kings were often priests too, presiding over the rituals of their people. Conversion to Christianity did not change things that much, although kings had to find other ways of justifying their special status. Christians knew they were all descended from Adam and Eve, of course, so how was one man better than another?
The Burgundian poet who composed the Prose Lancelot in the thirteenth century found an inspired solution to that conundrum in the mystical qualities of ancestors. Having forebears who were saints, heroes, noble kings or noble queens elevated particular families above the herd. It gave them transparent nobility, and sometimes more, a special relationship with the divine.
Then there were dynasties with more questionable – but still magically potent – ancestors. The wicked fairy Melisent endowed her descendants, the counts of Anjou, with a homicidal temper. An aerial spirit who slept with the ancestress of the ducal Elphbergs gave them their red hair and proverbial luck, and so on.
Always in European mythology was a persistent idea of one family which preserved potent secrets and deep knowledge denied to lesser men. There was a belief that the Holy Family, the family of Mary and Joseph, lived on still in the world. Certainly Jesus’ family maintained rule over the church of Jerusalem till the days of the Emperor Hadrian. And although there was an attempt to exterminate them in Galilee under Diocletian, the bloodline of Mary and Joseph was believed to have persisted in several families well into the time of the Arab expansion.
This was especially true of one particular Ephesian senatorial dynasty that gave rise to a number of the great Byzantine emperors. Ephesus was the place which became one of the early great centres of Christianity. Paul preached there, but the true glory of its church was that St John the Evangelist settled in the city with Mary the mother of Christ. He became its bishop and wrote his gospel and letters, while she presided over the community, supposedly doing many miracles. She died there, and her tomb became one of the great shrines of Christendom. It was said in later days that John had married a sister of Christ and their descendants produced Ephesian bishops, senators and magistrates. The great emperor and law-giver Justinian, who re-established imperial control of the Mediterranean, was one of this family. The bloodline continually threw up men and women of unusual talents and abilities, a sacred imperial line which originated in the womb that once sheltered the Lord.
Henry put the book down and grinned. He hadn’t known that story about the Elphbergs and their red hair. It was particularly amusing to him because he knew one very lucky, red-headed Elphberg, no less than King Rudolf VI of Rothenia himself.
Gavin smiled back across at him; he was still stroking Henry’s right foot. ‘How far have you got with it, Henry?’
‘The chapter on the sacred line.’
‘That’s neat. I don’t believe all that religious crap, but you have to admit there’s something behind his idea of magic and power passing down through families.’
All that religious crap … Henry looked astonished at Gavin. It appeared the boy did possess some strong views after all. A bit of a pity they were anti-religious, as Henry was a confirmed Christian. Had he mentioned to Gavin that his dad was a vicar? If he had, Gavin had forgotten it. Somehow, he needed to introduce the idea into Gavin’s head that he was a boy with beliefs, but not in such a way that Gavin would think Henry was upset with him.
It was time for Henry to make his weekly call to his mum. He kissed Gavin and went downstairs. He used the house’s landline; it was being paid for by the EP Trust, Eddie’s trust fund, so it cost Henry nothing and was one of the perks of his job.
‘Henry darling. Oh, it’s lovely to hear from you. How’s the pub job going?’
‘I quit yesterday.’
‘I had a falling out with the boss over the tips. But it’s okay, my financial standing has been transformed …’ He told his mother the mixed news about becoming a poster boy.
She was delighted. ‘I wonder if you can get a copy in the Athena shop in Shrewsbury. It’ll look nice framed in the hall. It’ll make Ricky sick too. He always thought he was the pretty one of the two of you. But now Henry and Ed are plastered across student bedrooms the length of Europe.’
‘Only gay student bedrooms, but they’re contributing to my education, that’s for sure.’
‘This does make a lot of difference, Henry. I’m so pleased.’
‘And I’ve got a new boyfriend.’
Henry explained Gavin’s appearance in his life, omitting the incident of the torn rectum. Mrs Atwood was not immediately enthusiastic, but Henry reflected that she must still be cherishing hopes he would get back together with Ed Cornish, whom she loved almost as much as her own boys. It had been quite a blow for her when they had broken up.
She ended by asking the inevitable question: ‘Did you go to church today?’
‘Er, no Mum. Still finding my feet here in Cranwell. I’ll get round to it, honest.’
‘Alright Henry. I’m not nagging, you know that.’
Hmph, said a rebellious part of Henry’s brain, sounds like it to me.