an excerpt

Chapter One

Amadeo moves through the house, searching. He passes from room to room, down the narrow hallway, through the grey mist of cigarette smoke that permanently hangs in the air, a shroud in a house transformed into a labyrinth. He doesn't bother to call out; there will be no answer. It's become de rigueur, this nightly search, and he knows the rules of the game. He wrenches down on the handle of the study door to release the latch, and pushes it open.

A lean form stands by the window. Amadeo lets out a sigh, but his relief is transitory; it's dark now, and Rupert is beginning his nightly ritual. Amadeo watches him as he stands at the window, staring out into the black. He can see Rupert's face reflected in the pane of glass, fitful, and pale. He is trying to forget.

Rupert sweats, stares into the darkened pane, seeing nothing beyond the reflection of his own haunted eyes staring back at him. Clouds of steam form with each ragged breath and spread over his reflected image. He breathes harder, watching the mist crawl over the glass, wanting to obliterate himself completely within. He is restless, hunted. Sought by two--or is it one and the same? Yes, it is of course the same in the end. Inside, his lover orchestrates the plan, and outside the night awaits him.

Rupert feels Amadeo's gaze as if it were a touch, raising the hairs on the back of his neck; hunter, hunted, or the hound that retrieves the quarry? Amadeo moves silently across the floor, stands close behind him and wraps his arms around his middle, caresses him reassuringly. But it's not his reassurances Rupert wants, nor his false comforts. Amadeo has no more comfort to give, not now. Agitated, Rupert throws off Amadeo's hands, walks wordlessly out of the room and to the front door, and turning the handle, steps out into the night. Amadeo watches him go; a mixture of sadness and anticipation pulses through him as he paces in front of the dark window. He doesn't understand what drives Ru--and as soon as he thinks this, he knows it's a lie. He only deceives himself, it's what he wants to think. But what he knows to be true is quite different. Rupert is driven by the same forces, the same desires, but to a different purpose. What Amadeo wants to create, Rupert wants to destroy.

Night after night Amadeo waits anxiously for Rupert's return, finds him yet more weakened and incoherent when finally, near dawn, he lurches through the door, his skin cold and eyes reddened. It's all he can do to keep himself from following the next night and the next, but he can't bear to watch the transformation after dark. Even more painful are the fights, and Amadeo reproaches himself: why does he get caught up in it, when he knows it's a battle that can't be won?

Amadeo continues to pace the length of the study's worn rug, a long-past treasure from the Orient whose pattern, like the name of its origins, has faded into obscurity. He passes his hands through the mass of dark ringlets that fall in ragged layers around his face and shoulders, and reflects. Is he willing to continue the battle with Ru for this chance, the chance to bring it all to fruition? But why ask the question, when he has no choice. It's what needs to--has to--happen. He moves toward the large antique mahogany desk, sits down, and pulls a few crisp, creamy sheets of stationery from the top drawer. Enough waiting; it is time to begin.


Rupert returns early the next morning, stumbling drunken and bleary-eyed through the door. He makes his way down the hall toward the staircase, bumping and rolling his body along the wall, giggling at the absurdity of trying to maintain balance in a spinning funhouse of floors and walls. When he meets Amadeo by the entrance to the kitchen, he gives him a salacious grin. He's pale, so pale. Tiny beads of sweat on his brow and across his upper lip glow crystalline against his skin. A wreck of beauty, shattered innocence: that's what Rupert has become, and he means for Amadeo to see it.

Amadeo turns his head away from the smell of stale cigarettes, spilled alcohol, and sex that permeates Rupert's skin and clothing, and gives his shoulder a push toward the stairs. "Go take a shower," he mumbles, and moves a step back into the kitchen.

Rupert slowly climbs the stairs, first by foot, then on his hands and knees, laughing. "What's the matter, baby? I thought the smell of humanity turned you on."

"That's not the smell of humanity, it's the stench of fear," Amadeo spits back.

Rupert sinks down, arse against heels midway up the stairs, and laughs again, a dismissive, accusatory laugh that rocks his body from side to side, and he reaches out to steady himself against the wall. "One and the same, love. One and the same. You have the cheek to scold me, and not once do you consider what it's like--the reek of your own fear."

Here it comes again, the baiting, an invitation to a fight. Whether it's guilt or genuine disgust that drives Rupert, Amadeo doesn't know. It's either contempt or contrition in everything he says, he has lost all other reason. Amadeo works to keep his temper in check, to resist taking his partner for another spin in their sadistic dance. But it's plain that Ru is wanting the fix that will keep him going, keep him running night after night. Amadeo can cut him off--and then what? What will Rupert do if his excuse to run is taken away?

"You're a mess, completely wasted." Amadeo winces as the words fly from his mouth. It's old, this game; he, too is addicted.

"What does it matter," says Rupert. "What does this matter? It's temporary, only a temporary hit, there's no lasting effect…not for me. I can't suffer for my sins, Deo; don't even make a decent junkie, can't ever find the release. If I were mortal I would've been dead a thousand times over, and I wouldn't have to sit here and watch you make the same mistakes again and again."

Amadeo presses his lips together, stopping the anger waiting to strike from his tongue. "Just go take a shower," he whispers. "We'll talk later, after you've washed and sobered up."

Rupert continues up the stairs, throwing a parting shot over his shoulder. "Yes; with a little soap and water, my entire night will wash down the drain. But how will you rid yourself of your shame, Deo?"

Amadeo stands in the kitchen, listening as Rupert bumps his way up the stairs and into the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind him. Amadeo's been up all night waiting, thinking about Rupert, and about what he has just put into motion. He bears Rupert's anger over and over again, the lashing out and volatile moods; he's a parent watching over a screaming infant who doesn't understand his world. And how can he? He is a baby, still in the infancy of his understanding; an immortal mortal who, in spite of accompanying Amadeo through centuries, is still not equipped to comprehend the intricacies of his lover's former existence.

Amadeo sits down at the small bistro table by the kitchen window, drops his head into his hands. Light pours in with the sunrise, washing over his limp form, bathing him in warmth. If only the illumination he searches for were carried to him on those rays--what to do, how to make Ru accept.

Raymond; it was Raymond's deluded conspirations. He talked of corruption and of the decay of man and deities alike while Rupert sat at his feet in the guise of a loyal puppy, encouraging him, lapping up his words. Ray was weak; he struggled with human concepts of right and wrong--another infant, trying to manipulate what he could not understand. Rupert never should have told him those ridiculous fables about the achuta, the hidden outcasts of the metaphysical world; Raymond's soft heart would not allow him to see the truth about these things. But Ray was always in search of a cause, and found his ultimate challenge with the achuta.

When Raymond declared that the connection with the "sabball"--a base term granted to the rulers of the sensory world--would end with him and shortly thereafter took his own life, Rupert saw it as proof of all that Raymond represented, the deterioration of his charge. Why else would he have made such an unforgiving final statement, if it were not so? And now, out of guilt or desperation or both, Rupert has taken up Raymond's cause; never mind his duty to show loyalty to the sabball, and all that it represents. It pains Amadeo more than anything else that Rupert could do; why must his rejection be so direct? Amadeo must continue to remind himself: he doesn't understand, he doesn't know the implications.

And Raymond. If he had understood anything at all, he would have remembered his son; he should have known what Amadeo would do.

Later, Amadeo climbs the stairs and stands in the doorway to their bedroom. Rupert is naked and lying on his back, one hand behind his wet head, the other holding a cigarette. His ankles are crossed. Stretched out like this, his long, lanky body spans the length of the bed. Amadeo looks at him, at his large hands, large feet; at his pretty face, baby-doll eyes edged in long lashes, soft mouth. Ru's awkward mix of innocence and jaded fragility is a powerful aphrodisiac. There's a quiet desperation to him: the years are not worn on his face, but his slipping countenance betrays him. It shows in the pallor of his skin, in the wayward angles of the brown hair that grows thick on his head, constantly surging beneath the tide of his long, trembling fingers. His ears stick out just a little, adding to his boyish charm. In spite of everything, Amadeo finds himself wanting Ru.

He comes into the room and sits at the foot of the bed. "Feeling better, baby?"

"I could use some coffee," Rupert says, wiping his eyes with the back of the hand that holds his cigarette.

Amadeo stops himself from saying ‘You could use some food,' and instead reaches out to touch Ru's lower leg; no, he won't argue with him any more today. "Okay, I'll go put some on."

"Wait," Rupert says. "It can wait." He searches for something more to say, something to heal the wound between them. He wants that, but he's also fucking pissed off, and wants to see Amadeo suffer and squirm. And more and more, he just doesn't give a toss. This is the part he cultivates, the part that's been winning out lately, fuelled by late nights spent in a swirl of narcotics--drugs, sex and booze. He drags on his cigarette, giving his empty mouth something to do.

Amadeo waits in the uncomfortable silence of unspoken thoughts, crawls onto the bed, stretching his body alongside Ru's. When their heads are even like this, his toes just brush the tops of Ru's ankles. "Are you tired? Because I'm tired," he says quietly.

Rupert turns those chocolate brown eyes to his lover's face: a honeyed trap, and he is helpless. "Yeah, I'm tired," he says, "but I wouldn't mind a quick shag."

Amadeo lifts himself onto his elbows and leans in, covering Rupert's mouth with his. He tastes the cigarette over the minty taste of toothpaste, and under that Ru's own flavour, a mixture of sweetness and gingery brackishness: human male. Their mouths lock together again and again, Rupert opening wider, sucking in the tip of Amadeo's tongue as he offers it. The exchange begins, panting breaths and little moans from Rupert as Amadeo's tongue drives deeper, laps at his own. Amadeo lays his hand flat against Rupert's belly; his flesh quivers and dimples in response, and Amadeo silently congratulates himself. He still has power over Ru, the power to make him want, make him come.

Rupert pushes his fingers through Amadeo's hair; they catch in the thick curls that fall over his hands, and Ru curves his fingertips against the scalp, anchoring himself as Amadeo's hand moves farther down, stroking over wisps of curls, thumb moving in small circles against the root of his cock, bringing it fully awake. Rupert's thighs part as he watches Deo jerk open his trousers, pushing them down below his knees, and then he's on top of him, hips sliding down, down against the underside of his ass. Rupert gives over, lets his god carry him.