Things were different after their sex that night. A barrier in their intimacy had been crossed, and if they were close before it, they were a couple after it. It was all they could do not to kiss in public and hold hands, but that they could not do, until the world changed.
Strelzen was a perfect setting for their romance, it was almost as if they breathed it in with the summer air in that beautiful city, where sunlit day succeeded sunlit day. Mum and Dad learned to expect to find them snogging on the sofa of the apartment, and they got used to it.
On the Wednesday mid morning, Micky and Nikki turned up as promised, bags slung over their shoulders. They shook hands formally in what they had learned from Fritz was the Rothenian way between males.
‘What do we need to take?’ Henry asked innocently. ‘I’ve got a drinks bottle and some cash, and my bathers and towel of course.’
Micky nodded and said that’d be fine. They caught the expectant sideways look at Nikki. They found the Spa bus at Parlementplaz. It was quite full, with plenty of young mums, small kids and adolescents of both sexes. The chatter of a foreign language was all around them, and it added to their good mood for some reason. They were living in a new, strange and delightful world in more ways than one.
They joined the crowds drifting in through the Spa turnstiles, they paid the admission and went into the changing rooms. Ed looked at Henry and grinned, when they found themselves in a room full of naked men and boys. They shucked off their clothes casually and without a question.
‘Ready, lads?’ Ed said to Micky and Nikki, who were still standing there clothed, waiting for the look of shock that never came.
‘Bugger,’ said Micky, ‘you knew didn’t you?’
‘Yeah,’ replied Henry, ‘we were warned.’
‘No hard feelings then?’
‘Not even a hard-on,’ smiled Ed. Nikki laughed, he had enough English to get the joke.
‘Pity about your swimsuit line,’ Henry said as Micky and Nikki were undressing, ‘and I haven’t even got that, just white all over. A pale foreigner in a nation of the tanned.’
‘They are a well-bronzed people aren’t they? We may sort that out before we leave. Your colouring is naturally dark, I think. You’ll brown nicely given a chance. Not nervous, are you, about going around in the nude?’
‘A bit, but in some ways it’s a fantasy of mine come true. There’s something of the flasher in me I think.’
The four boys rubbed in sunscreen, slung towels over their shoulders, leaving the Spa robes behind them. It was thought to be soft to take a robe, Nikki said. It was the naked girls that caused Henry the most problem, suprisingly, because of his acknowledged orientation. Their exposed bodies were so unfamiliar, apart from sneak glimpses in newspapers and magazines, and he could not help but look. Some, he admitted to himself, were slim and interesting: the most boyish looking ones, he noticed. There was even a stirring in his penis at one point, but the fright from the fear of having a public erection led to an immediate detumescence.
Micky noticed, ‘You don’t stare at girls here, Henry. It’s not done.’
Henry started and fumbled an apology, adopting the Rothenian way of looking but apparently not seeing.
They spent a lazy day soaking in the bubbling, warm Spa pool, or plunging into the cold dip when they were too hot. Micky and Nikki advised them against the Turkish baths, as the local gays used it for a meeting place and some of them were predatory. Nikki said that a guy had offered him serious money for a blow job in the tepidarium when he was fourteen. Micky looked disgusted, and Henry and Ed caught each other’s eyes with a troubled look.
After lunch, Ed and Micky joined in a volleyball match with some Rothenian teens, and Henry lay out, admiring his lover’s muscular and athletic body in action. Ed rose effortlessly to meet the ball on his long and powerful legs, the sheen of sweat glistened on his body and his own balls swinging around nicely between his legs. Oops, erection alert, he said to himself. He may have been biased, but he thought his Ed the juiciest hunk in the game.
Henry lay out on a towel on the grass with Nikki, a boy who betrayed definite nerdiness, and with whom he soon formed a sympathetic bond. They chatted and soon enough Henry forgot they were both unclothed, and they became just two nerds in communion. Henry began asking about what it was like being a Rothenian boy, about schools and rites of passage. And soon enough too he began asking about the Rothenian language, and before they knew it, they were into a serious language lesson, with Nikki quite a good teacher. He took credit, he said, for Micky’s facility with idiomatic Rothenian. His fees, he said, were pretty reasonable. All this and an allover tan too, Henry thought.
Henry, Ed and the other two were in a very companiable mood when they took a shower and dressed to leave. As they got off the bus, they arranged to meet up on the Friday, for another Spa session. Thursday was out with Mum and Dad to look at the world-famous castle of Kesarstejne, with its fairy tale turrets and dramatic mountaintop site. Neither boy was averse to this sort of tourism, providing they were allowed to go their own ways once they were there. They ambled with the crowds through the tourist village beneath the great fortress, peering in gift shops and looking at the menus of the restaurants.
‘Oops!’ said Ed.
‘Look at this place, what’s this doing here?’ A blank shop front advertised ‘Erotic Dream City’ and it was pretty clear that it was a sex shop.
‘This must be the Rothenian sex industry we heard about. Doesn’t look as though they miss an opportunity, does it?’ observed Henry. He looked at the passing crowds and tourist trains. Not a one amongst them looked directly at the shop. ‘But who in their right mind would walk through the door anyway?’
Ed was intrigued, and then he noticed something, a young male came round the side of the shop, looking ostentatiously nonchalant. ‘Ha!’ he said, ‘there’s a side door! Come on, Henry.’
‘What, heh! What you doing?’ But Ed was gone, and on his way up the side path. Henry looked round wildly and seeing no choice, followed him.
Ed was grinning as he held open the aluminium door for Henry, revealing the dim windowless interior. Apart from a young Rothenian on the till, the place was empty. Henry looked round at racks of porn DVDs and stacks of very dubious objects. Ed seemed completely unfazed by this expedition into Sodom. He even gave a cheery nod at the guy at the till, who nodded back but gave Henry a suspicious look.
Once his nerves stopped twitching, Henry browsed the shelves with Ed. ‘No gay stuff at all,’ Ed said, disappointed.
‘What, would you seriously get gay porn?’
‘Why not? We could do with some hints, little babe. We’re making up what we do as we go along.’
‘Isn’t that half the fun?’
‘Yeah, but we must be reinventing the wheel half the time.’
‘This is about my bum, isn’t it,’ Henry looked a little unhappy at the memory of his failure in bed.
Ed looked softly at him, ‘Henry, when you went into me, it was fantastic, I just want you to share the feeling. And … I think I see a way.’ He went over to a shelf of standing objects, and selected one.
‘It says it’s a ‘fundensplaug’ on the box, whatever that is, but it looks like it may help. Anyway, I’ll buy it.’
They went over to the till. The Rothenian lad looked at Henry and said in heavily accented English, ‘I do not think you are eighteen, and you cannot buy things here.’
‘It’s me buying, and I’m eighteen,’ intervened Ed.
‘Then I must see your passport,’ said the Rothenian.
Ed shrugged, ‘I don’t have it with me.’
‘Sorry. Look I may never be back here and I gotta have this. Is there anyway I can sort of come to an arrangement about the purchase of this item, I’m willing to pay over the odds because of the inconvenience.’
The Rothenian looked shifty, ‘Well, if you are willing to pay a markup, then I suppose I might …’
‘How about 10%, and I’ll pay cash of course.’
‘Very well, then.’
They emerged into the light, with Henry blinking and blushing. ‘That was pretty coldblooded, Ed.’
‘I am my father’s son, Henry. He’s not like your dad. Getting his way is what life is all about, and he will say and do anything to get it. I just let his part of me take over … and don’t think I enjoyed it, because I didn’t.’ He had the plug in a plain white carrier, and he bundled it up and put it in the back pack Henry was carrying.
Henry gave a small and embarrassed grin. ‘I think I know what we’ll be doing tonight,’ he said.
In the Volvo on the way back from Kesarstejne Ed and Dad got into a serious discussion about the cricket season they were missing. The chaplain’s apartment had no internet access and no satellite TV. It was causing Ed anxiety. Dad could only suggest trying to tune into the BBC World Service, but Ed had already thought about that, and discovered that the sports bulletins didn’t come on till after midnight, and they offered no continuous Test coverage. Ed was trying not to be cross, but he was clearly disappointed that he had been exiled from his obsession for an entire month. Then Henry spoke up.
‘How about Fritzy? He told me he had access to the web. Hang on, I’ll ring him.’ He did, and a happy young voice confirmed not only that he had internet access, but he would be very glad to see them on Saturday.
‘Great,’ said Ed. ‘It’s a nice class of friends we’ve made here in Rothenia.’
Mum looked impressed, ‘So it’s off to the palace again? Moving in rarified circles now, aren’t you two?’
It was after seven when they got back, and following some pasta, they watched Rothenian TV until they got bored, which didn’t take long, made their excuses and went to bed. Once undressed they sat together on the end of the bed, and Henry brooded on the instrument of his torture. ‘Funny it doesn’t come with instructions isn’t it?’
Ed looked amused. ‘I think that I have to get a felt tip and write “Insert Here” on your bum, Henry.’
Henry looked at the object hard: there was a pointed end which flared gradually out into a bulbous section; it ended in a flange to stop it going further, Henry guessed.
‘Okay, I think I see which end goes in, so … er, we’d better get at it.’
‘No, Henry. First a little massage of your hole, I think. I’ll get the lube and you get on your stomach.’ He saw the apprehensive look on Henry’s face, so he pulled him into him, and kissed the top of his head. ‘Come on Henry, it’s all a learning process. We’re only sixteen for heaven’s sake.’
Henry got into position on his stomach and rested his head on his arm as Ed got patiently to work on his anus. He tried to relax himself, and Ed’s slow fingers helped a lot. This bit at least was no problem, or at least until Ed got three of his fingers into action. This was where it had gone wrong the last time. Henry felt himself clamping down, but fought against the reflex.
‘Turn over, little babe,’ Ed asked. Henry obliged, looking up troubled into his lover’s smiling face. Then Henry felt something new at his entry. It slid into him easily at first and Ed worked it in and out, levering gently at his anal ring without causing too much trouble. But slowly he increased the pressure, and now Henry felt as though he was doing the biggest crap in his life. All the time, Ed was making encouraging comments.
‘Oh! Nearly there, baby!’ he finally said. He gave one shove and Henry’s sphincter sucked the object in. Henry gave a surprised exclamation. ‘That’s it!’ said Ed. ‘It’s all the way in! You took it, Henry!’ He pushed up on his elbows, lifted his dick and balls and all he could see was the black flange of the plug stopping his hole. He felt down and wiggled it in him. It felt weird, but not too bad. He just felt very stretched and very full.
‘What do we do now?’ he asked Ed.
‘Er … dunno. What say we leave it in and let your bum get used to it for a bit. I’m up for some mouth action, if you’d like.’ So Henry got over Ed and let his penis hang down so that his mouth could take it, and he jerked Ed erect so that he could suck him into his mouth. They spent a while in the sixty nine position, until Henry almost forgot there was something jammed up his bum.
Ed finally took Henry and rolled him on to his back again. Henry lifted his legs back and displayed himself to Ed. He took the flange and twisted it a little.
‘Ooh!’ Henry responded. ‘Try pulling it out.’
Henry looked very preoccupied as Ed began pulling the object out of him, for a while it was touch and go. Henry briefly panicked that it was stuck there for good, and his imagination projected terrifying pictures of a visit to a casualty ward in a Rothenian hospital and all sorts of embarrassments with doctors, nurses and pliers, but the panic passed when his anus gave up and let the plug out. Ed pushed it in and out for a bit, and although Henry twisted and groaned a bit, his hole seemed happy to let it happen.
Ed looked closely at Henry’s anus once he had withdrawn the plug. He looked at Henry and grinned, ‘I think we’ve got it sorted, little babe. It’s like a red cave there. Keep it open while I get myself sorted.’
‘How do I do that?’ he said plaintively.
Ed loomed over him and looked down, suddenly passionate. ‘Oh, we are so going to enjoy this,’ he said. Henry felt the warm and spongy head of Ed’s cock at his entry, he felt the push and then groaned from deep inside as Ed’s large erection slowly slid into him with very little resistance. He reached up and pulled Ed’s mouth down on to his. They kissed as Ed held himself deep in his lover, and then awesome feelings began in Henry’s bum as the movement started, slow at first, but building up to a deep and steady thrusting.
Spasms of electricity radiated out from the overstretched nerves and muscles of his anus. If there was pain it soon passed into pleasure. He was utterly under the control of the powerful male body above him. Ed was away, his head up and his neck muscles taut as he pumped away at Henry’s arse. Then suddenly Ed fell on him and he felt his full weight. Ed’s arms wrapped round him and his legs were forced right back, and the serious fucking began. Ed was pushing in deep, quite out of control, rotating his cock and using his hole completely for his satisfaction, and Henry loved it.
They grunted in sync as the powerful thrusts drove the air out of Henry’s chest. God knows what the state of his arse would be tomorrow, but he couldn’t care less now. At last Ed thrust in deep and stopped breathing in his ear, and Henry knew that his lover had at last spurted deep inside him. Ed stayed on him, pinning him down for quite a while, before he withdrew and fell off Henry. They lay back, breathing heavily. That was it. Henry had lost whatever notional virginity he had left to him, and their relationship was now fully consummated.
In the afterglow, Ed pulled him close and enveloped him with his arms and legs. Henry was utterly content. He felt warm, safe and loved. The strong arms that held him tight would always fight for him, and never let him be hurt. The warmth that radiated out from his lover was symbolic as well as real. And all he could whisper was the trite words, ‘I love you, Ed.’
But trite though they were, they said everything, and an extra squeeze from Ed made the point. They slept and awoke together in the same position in the light of dawn.
Henry squirmed round and smiled into the smiling face beside him. ‘This is as good as it gets, isn’t it?’ he said, brushing at Ed’s unkempt blond fringe.
‘I can’t think that there’s anything more I want out of life, my precious little babe,’ was the solemn reply. ‘Oh … that is apart from another …’
‘I think I can take it.’ Henry felt between his cheeks, and his backside didn’t seem too sore and puffy, though it was more painful than he admitted. He lay on his stomach, and after Ed had prepared himself, he felt the pressure building up, and slowly his hole again surrendered to its new master. Ed came gloriously inside him a quarter of an hour later.
They were exalted and hilarious over breakfast, and trotted off happily to meet Micky and Nikki at the Spa. It was another hot and lazy day in the sun. Secretly Henry was glad of the effect of the spa waters on his sore backside, but didn’t dare tell Ed quite how high was the price Henry had paid for his enjoyment. He carried on his language lesson with Nikki, increasing his vocabulary and learning routine phrases. During the afternoon, on the way back home he impressed the hell out of Ed by ordering in Rothenian two ice creams from a vendor, and even managing a little social chat about the weather — always predictable in Strelzen.
Saturday found them looking up at the Tarlenheim palace from the Radhausplaz.
‘It’s very good of Fritzy to help us like this,’ said Ed.
‘I just hope we’re not imposing on him. He’s a generous little soul. But he seems a lonely boy sometimes; it can’t be easy being a prince.’
‘Okay … how do we get in here? S’pose we’d better try through that arch again.’
The great doors under the arch were closed, but there was an intercom and they pressed the button. A stream of Rothenian hissed back at them. Ed replied in slow English, to be answered only by the word, ‘Prosim.’
They kicked their heels on the cobbles for a good five minutes before there was a clunk and a creak, and a wicket opened in the door. An ancient servant in a striped waistcoat beckoned them to follow. Ed met Henry’s eyes and he said in a low voice: ‘Komm zis vay, Doktor Frankenstein vill see you now.’
Henry was still sniggering when they got to the entrance hall. But Fritz was not there, instead there was a tall and very good looking man in casuals, who gave them a once over. In clipped and precise English, he said: ‘Good morning, you are the English boys, Henry and Edward, yes?’
They admitted it and he continued. ‘I am Fritz’s brother, Oskar. Fritz had to go out with our sister for half an hour … he lost a molar last night and there was a problem, so he had to go for an emergency appointment with the dentist. I must keep you entertained till he gets back, apparently.’
The words were a little standoffish, but there was a merry and dancing glint in the man’s eyes which cancelled the effect. This was a good guy, they knew instinctively. Oskar led them to the cavernous kitchens, and sat them down, putting an electric kettle on.
‘You drink coffee, I hope? Good. Fritz is a voluble boy with a capacious memory, so there is very little left of your life stories that I have not heard. He also tells me that you are lovers … do not be offended, he tells me everything because he trusts me to keep what he tells me to myself. I am gay, so he feels I should know this.
‘Now, there is a point to this. The question is whether you will be here next week. I am having a boat party on Lake Maresku for two young friends from England, who are gay boys also, and I was wondering whether you would join us. There is of course no guarantee that you will get on with these boys — and indeed a strong probability that one of them at least will rub you completely up the wrong way — but they are English and Fritz is very fond of them, as he is of you. So, will you come?’
Henry and Edward reeled, and replied that the invitation was very kind, but that there were parents to check with first. Oskar was intrigued. ‘Your parents Henry, do they know about you two?’
‘Yes,’ Henry replied. ‘My parents are pretty amazing people.’ Ed nodded vigorously in agreement.
Oskar smiled. ‘I like to think my parents would have been as understanding had they lived, but we lost them when we were so young. But I know at least that they would have been proud of Fritzku: such a good boy, and a prince of such dignity and presence.’
There was a pause in the conversation which no one knew quite how to fill. But Henry eventually piped up. ‘Has this palace got any ghosts, Oskar?’
Oskar looked a little startled at the question. ‘Ghosts? Er … naturally. It wouldn’t be a palace without a whole range of them: grey ladies, sinister children, phantom coaches, poltergeists. We would not be a respectable family without a full selection of them.’
‘You don’t believe in ghosts then, Oskar?’
‘I didn’t say that. In fact we have a number of strange stories associated with my family, to one of which at least I can attest the truth.’
‘Really, can you tell us?’ Henry asked eagerly.
‘Not without breaking some serious confidences, Henry,’ Oskar smiled.
‘Oh. But there are ghosts under this roof?’
‘Yes. Count Oskar II, my ancestor of the eighteenth century, stabbed the count of Reuss to death in the upper gallery after he found him being rather too friendly with the countess his wife. I will have the carpets taken up there and you may see the blood stains on the boards, which can never be cleaned of them. A lady sobs there on moonlit nights, and a phantom form has been seen with her head in her hands sitting in a window seat. The servants will not pass through gallery alone at night. There is a curious perfume there to be sensed at the place of the death. Now that, I have experienced … though it might be mould, I suppose.’
‘Wow,’ said Edward. ‘Any more?’
‘A coach with six black horses rumbles into the courtyard in dark of night when one of us Tarlenheims is about to die. It does so without any heed as to whether or not the gate is open. It has not been seen for quite a while, but then we had not lived here for two generations until last year. But I can perfectly happily wait to see it for as long as it likes; no skin off my nose, as my young friend Justin puts it.’
‘Who’s this Justin?’ Henry asked. ‘Is he the boy that Sir Andrew whatsisname adopted, the boy that Fritzy thinks is supercool?’
‘Yes, Fritzku is very fond of him, as are we all. He is a very special, and it has to be said, a very brave boy. We love having him here, he livens things up a lot when he comes. But he is an acquired taste, as you might say. It is Justin and Nathan who are coming on a visit next week. They have both finished their college courses, and they need to get away they said. They think our dull Rothenia is exciting, although how boys who live in London can think this, I do not know. The main thing is to keep them away from the Wejg; I’m sure Fritz told you what happened the last time they went there.’
Ed laughed and they nodded. Suddenly, Henry was very keen that they should go on the boat on the lake. To be with another pair of gay teenagers was too important for his parents to refuse, as he would tell them in no uncertain terms.
Fritz arrived soon after with his sister, a dark and dignified woman who greeted them kindly. They were taken up to Fritz’s bedroom and sat on his tall fourposter bed as he booted up his rather sophisticated Apple Mac.
‘So you both like this cricket?’ he asked.
They nodded, but Henry confessed it was as spectator and not player. It was Ed who had an all-consuming passion for the game and who had been selected for the county under 18s next year, to replace Guy Worsman as fast bowler (and team gay, as Ed added with a rueful smile). Ed went on, ‘It’s great being here of course Fritzy, but there’s a big Test match this summer, and we’re missing it. Do you understand cricket at all?’
‘It is not a game I have ever seen, no. Soccer and hockey are the big games in Rothenia and what we play in school. I know that it is a game played in the old British Empire and people stand around a lot in white clothes in a big field. It doesn’t seem very exciting. A bit like the American game, baseball, which Oskar’s boyfriend tried to explain to me. He even had a DVD of the World Series. The way he talked about it I thought it would be all action, but instead it was a bit slow and boring. It seems to me that they are both games for the expert … the connoisseur, yes?’
They admitted that this was probably the case. Fritz got on the internet and they were absorbed soon in county match reports and linking to sites that streamed the Test. Fritz did his best to look interested, but soon disappeared with Henry up to the loft spaces and a new siding he was constructing.
The day passed amiably. The Tarlenheims gave them a light lunch in the grander of the dining rooms, which would easily have accommodated forty. They sat at one end of the long dark table. A servant filled and took their plates, which was an odd experience for the boys.
Oskar and Helge seemed to have a good time teasing their little brother, and the English boys soon felt accepted and liked. The Tarlenheims seemed to have a gift for making people feel welcome and at home, even in a palace. Henry and Ed left at four promising to ring back about next week.