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And now, without any further delays.... 

 CHAPTER 8

Robert wasn’t sure how long the kiss lasted. Possibly the world had ended somewhere in the middle. When they finally parted Robert felt as though he’d swallowed the sun. It pulsed hot and alive in his breast and suffused him with a warmth sweeter than any wine. Luca was flushed from his cheeks to his chest. His lips were still parted, swollen —

— bloody. There was blood on his lip.

“Fuck.” Robert touched the corner of Luca’s mouth. “Did I—”

“No,” Luca said, too quickly. “It was – it wasn’t you.”

Robert’s fingers came away smeared with maquillage, revealing livid bruises across Luca’s cheekbone, under his brow.

“And your eye. “Robert forced his voice stay even. “Who blacked your eye?”

Luca’s hand flew to his face. “It’s nothing.”

“It isn’t nothing.” Robert turned Luca’s arm — so thin; his fingers met around it — to see the finger-marks on his shoulders, braceleting his wrist. “Look at this. And this. There are bruises all over you.” Rage rose in his throat like bile. “It was that monster on stage last night, wasn’t it? Gods, I should have — ”

“Please! It – it doesn’t matter. Here — “

Luca touched Robert’s cheek, smiling as he had when Robert had first entered. A pretty, artificial smile. He must apply it for the patrons as carefully as he did his makeup. There was no truth in it. Robert pulled away.

Luca’s smile faltered. He dropped his hand, curled it into his lap and plucked fitfully at the hem of his robe.

Robert felt like a beast. “Fuck, I’m an idiot.” He brought Luca’s palm to his mouth in apology. “I just – I can’t stand seeing you hurt.”

“I’m sorry.” Luca’s voice was so small it was barely audible.

“You have nothing to apologize for.”

Luca shook his head distractedly. “I won’t look like this when you next come to see me. I’ll be clean. I — ”

Robert shushed him by kissing his palm again. “Don’t be silly.”

“I’m a mess,” Luca whispered, and Robert knew he wasn’t just talking about the bruises.

“Luca, look at me,” Robert said. “I’m wearing the clothes I slept in. I must stink like a distillery.”

A grin tugged at the torn corner of Luca’s mouth. “Well. Perhaps a very small distillery.”

“A small, handsome distillery?”

“Oh yes,” Luca said, smile blooming across his face. “Positively dashing.”

Robert couldn’t keep himself from kissing Luca’s mouth again – carefully, wincing at the faint taste of copper. Luca was so soft against him, warm and yielding. He made a sweet little sigh, fingers tightening around Robert’s arms. The feel of him, the smell – his body was at once foreign and as familiar as Robert’s own.

“I can’t believe you thought I had a wife,” Robert murmured into the curve of Luca’s neck. He could feel Luca’s laugh against his cheek.

“Did no-one tell you?” Luca said in mock seriousness. “Nobles always have wives. I think it’s a rule.”

“Yes, so my grandfather has informed me.” Robert nuzzled his way down to Luca’s collarbone. “An altogether foolish business, marriage. I plan to delay it as long as possible, preferably to the grave.”

Luca laughed again, ending in a gasp as Robert licked a slow, wet trail to the outer curve of his chest. He shivered, nipples tightening. There was a dried crescent of blood around the nub, dark not from arousal but from purpling bruises.

Robert felt as though a spear of ice had entered his heart. He pulled away slowly, gently, so not to send Luca into another spiral of panic.

“What’s wrong?” Luca’s eyes were wide with worry.

“A beastly hangover, I’m afraid,” Robert said, with forced lightness. “Anyway, it seems my sad story has rather dominated the conversation thus far. What about you? What about your – life, here?”

Luca dropped his gaze. His hand slipped from Robert’s, rose to twist a stray braid fitfully between his fingers. When he spoke, his voice was distant, almost dreamlike. “My master has been very good to me.”

Robert gestured to the bruise on Luca’s cheek. “So I see.”

“If it wasn’t for my master I would be dead,” Luca said, with the flat, remote quality of a lesson being recited. “I am very grateful for my master’s mercy.” He shook his head abruptly. “Please, I don’t – please don’t ask me — ”

Robert felt the spear slide in deeper, colder. “I’ve a proper talent for saying the wrong thing, don’t I?” He cupped Luca’s hands in his, as gently as he would a butterfly. “I’m sorry, sweetheart.”

A brief smile dimpled Luca’s cheek. “You called me sweetheart,” he said softly.

“Of course. That’s what I used to call you, remember?”

Luca nodded. He looked up at Robert from under a thick fringe of eyelash, almost shyly. “What are you studying at College?”

Robert quirked an eyebrow. “College? What makes you think I haven’t become a gentleman of leisure?” Luca looked pointedly at Robert’s inky sleeves. Robert laughed. “Good eye! I am at College, as it happens. My subject is law, naturally – I’ll be inheriting Grandfather’s seat on the High Council – but I’m under-majoring in philosophy.”

Luca’s eyes went wide. “You must be brilliant,” he said, awed.

Robert snorted. “Hardly. The more time I spend at College, the less I have to spend at Court. I share an an upper-form garret on the grounds with a few friends. It will be much too small for the both of us, of course. Once I buy you — ”

“You’re going to buy me?”

“Goose. Of course I am.”

Luca looked so faint that Robert almost put out his arms to catch him.

“I will make such a life for us, Luca,” he said softly. “I have money. Too much money. Whatever you desire, it’s yours. I’ll build you a library – a magnificent library, full of more books than you could read in a lifetime. We’ll travel. Museums, fine food.” He brushed his thumb across Luca’s quivering chin. “I’ll – I’ll even buy you a camel if that’s what you want.”

Luca laughed shakily. “I don’t want a camel.”

“Probably for the best,” Robert admitted. “They spit. But whatever else.”

“I don’t need anything,” Luca said. Robert’s hands were in his, gripped so tightly his fingers were going numb. “I – it’s stupid, isn’t it, to say I only need you?”

Robert felt his throat get thick. “You have me,” he said. “In fact, you’re stuck with me. I’m not going to let you go. All right? Never again.”

Luca nodded. Suddenly he pulled Robert to him, pressed his mouth to Robert’s and kissed him so fiercely that Robert utterly lost his breath.

“Never again?” Luca said, voice urgent.

“Never,” Robert said, gripping Luca to him. “Never.”

* * *

Of course he did have to let Luca go eventually. The eunuch arrived at the door, all obsequious genuflections and humble apologies for the unpardonable interruption, begging my lord’s forgiveness, but the Golden Bird was booked for the afternoon. Would my lord perhaps like to make another appointment?

“Most definitely,” Robert said. “As soon as possible.”

The eunuch positively beamed. “It shall be arranged. If my lord would follow me to my master’s office?”

“In a moment.” Robert stood, pulling Luca up with him. Gods, he was light. He stumbled into Robert’s chest. Robert held him there – his hand fit perfectly in the hollow of Luca’s back, his chin perfectly on top of Luca’s head. What was this miracle of human physiology that made two people joint together like this, as though there wasn’t even a seam between them?

“I’ll be back,” he murmured into Luca’s hair. “Quick as I can. All right?”

Luca nodded, cheek against Robert’s chest. Robert tipped Luca’s chin up and kissed his forehead, his temple, the tip of his nose.

“All right?” Robert said again, voice gruff.

Luca’s eyes were glassy. “Yes, Rob — ” He stopped himself, said instead, loud enough for the eunuch to hear, “Yes, my lord.”

Robert kissed him once more, quick and hard on the mouth. And, gods — what an awful trick to be joined together so completely only to be wrenched apart again. He cast Luca a final look over his shoulder before following the eunuch from the room, leaving Luca, shadow-eyed, shivering, and alone.


The offices of Gregori Boq were as lavish as his parlor had been. Some trompe-l'œil effect had been daubed onto the walls, making them look like old plaster vaulted with marble pillars, and the floor was inlaid with patterned tile. It looked like the inside of a temple. Boq, sitting on a massive lime-green armchair with a tuffet under his bloated feet, was clearly its High Priest.

“Gracious lord!” Boq heaved himself to his feet, face turning a dangerous shade of maroon. “I – huff – I hope that my lord’s appointment proved satisfactory.”

“Oh, it did.”

Boq clapped his hands together, beaming. “Wonderful!”

“In fact,” Robert said, “I want to buy him.” Once the words were out more came babbling up from some deep inner well of stupidity. “I can pay cash, coin, dinae, whatever currency you prefer. I have accounts here in Lyonesse as well as abroad. Well, my grandfather has accounts. But I have access. Well, I will have access. What I’m trying to say is that money is no object.” Robert knew he was making a pig’s breakfast out of things, but didn’t know how to stop. “I – I have an allowance,” he finished lamely, and immediately wanted to hit himself. I have an allowance. What was he, twelve?

Boq’s eyebrows experienced an interesting contortion. He looked as though he were attempting to smother an expression of pure, mad glee. Robert imagined for a moment that he was going to leap into the air and click his heels. Instead he smoothed his greasy beard into a sharper point and said, with strained composure, “My lord flatters me with his enthusiasm. Sherry?”

Robert’s hangover lurched in his stomach. “Er, no,” he said tactfully. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mind if I do.” Boq lumbered over to his desk, upon which was a carafe half-full of sherry. He poured himself a tumbler-full and took a deep draught. When he turned back to Robert his face was pink and shining.

“Well well well,” said Boq, steepling his fingers over his gut. “So you wish to buy the Golden Bird. You are far from alone in your appreciation of the boy’s charms, lord. He is one of our most celebrated offerings.”

Robert forced himself to shrug and say, with a flippancy that seared his tongue, “He is very beautiful.”

Boq swelled in his robes like an inflated balloon. “My lord is most kind,” he preened, stroking his oily little beard. “Of all my lovely blooms, I daresay he is the most exquisite.” He tilted his head almost coquettishly, tugging at one corkscrew curl with a glittering, bejeweled finger. “His mouth, my lord. Have you ever enjoyed so skilled a tongue? And his arse – as plump and sweet as a ripe peach.”

Robert felt ill. He looked away so that Boq wouldn’t see his expression of disgust and asked, tone as level as he could manage, “How much do you want for him?”

“Ah,” said Boq, “the heart of the matter, hm?” His eyes twinkled redly in the glow of the sherry. “I cannot say that I am much surprised at your offer, my lord. It was immediately apparent to me that the boy had left quite an impression upon you.”

Robert was in no mood for this. “How much?” he said again, voice edged with impatience.

Boq smiled indulgently. “Were it was so simple a matter! I would not suppose my lord is much acquainted with the trade in pleasure-slaves?”

“I’m afraid not,” Robert said through clenched teeth. “A failure in my otherwise impeccable education.”

Boq’s smile faltered and cooled. “My lord has a sense of humor.” He took a deep draught of sherry. “Well. It would perhaps surprise you to know that beauty is not a static commodity. My flowers, like all lovely young blooms, are naturally wilted by the rot of time. I myself never keep a slave past the age of twenty-seven, by which time I have usually repackaged them as novelty items for gentleman of particular tastes. Now, the Golden Bird is seventeen, perhaps eighteen. His popularity grows by the day. So too, naturally, does his value —”

“A number, please,” Robert interrupted, voice blaring with anger. “Give me a price and I shall pay it.”

“Alas,” said Boq, “I cannot.”

Robert altogether lost his patience. Had his walking-stick been to hand he would probably have smacked Boq upside the head with it. Instead he slammed his hands palm-down upon the table, which made a satisfying crack.

“Does it amuse you to waste my time?” he shouted. “I do not look lightly upon being played for a fool!”

Boq threw up his hands. “My lord, please! You misunderstand — ”

“Then furnish a less misleading explanation!”

“I am a man of business,” Boq said quickly. “I must turn my mind always toward profit. Given the Bird’s popularity and his beauty, I hope for a particularly impressive career from him. If I sold him now I would stand to lose not only all future profit but also any future prestige the House may accrue from him. There is also the issue of the other buyer — ”

“Other buyer?”

“A gentleman of great wealth and esteem,” said Boq, “and he has the prior claim.”

“And why, pray,” Robert growled, “would you enter into a negotiation with me when you plan to sell Luc – the slave to someone else?”

“I said that there was a prior claim, not a staked claim,” Boq said, sounding rather offended.

Robert took a deep breath, remembering what Grandfather had said about maintaining a serene demeanor during diplomatic situations. “This other gentleman,” he said, in what he hoped were tones of serenity. “How much has he offered you?”

Boq smoothed his beard, looking coy. “Surely you cannot expect me to divulge that information, my lord. I will say, however, that the sum was...substantial.”

“I can match whatever bid he has entered,” Robert said, refusing to think whether or not this might actually be true.

“Perhaps so,” said Boq. “However, I told this gentleman what I will now tell you: I am not willing to sell the Bird until he reaches the age of one-and-twenty.”

Robert fought the temptation to throw down screaming and drumming his heels on the carpet in sheerest bloody frustration.

“That’s over three years away,” he said, with dangerous calm. “You are asking me to wait three years in order to get into a bidding war?”

Boq spread his hands, face a reddened rictus of false sympathy. “I can hardly be expected to apologize for the boy’s success, my lord.”

If he had been in his study at College Robert would have started kicking over chairs, or at the very least begun chain-smoking in earnest. As it was he was restricted to shoving his hands into his coat pockets and scowling ferociously.

“Is there no amount of money that can persuade you to change your mind?”

Boq smiled slantways, tugged his beard and gave no answer.

“And what if — ” Robert stopped, fists clenching in his pockets. “And what if I – what if I begged?”

Boq widened his eyes theatrically. “Has the boy so entranced you, my lord?”

“That is none of your concern!” Humiliation was rising hot to his cheeks. “He – there were – bruises – and last night – I will not have him hurt!”

Robert found that he was gesticulating with hands still shoved in his pockets, the effect being that he seemed to be flapping his arms like some sort of mad crow. Boq looked faintly alarmed. Robert hurriedly brought his arms back down to his sides.

“I will not have him hurt,” he said again. “It – displeases me.”

“The boy’s patrons may be informed that he is to be handled carefully,” Boq said. “For a fee.”

Robert gave a short bark of laughter. “Of course,” he said. “How much?”

Boq named the sum. Robert winced. It would take a considerable amount of his monthly allowance. Still, going without a new fencing épée would hardly be an unbearable sacrifice, especially if it ensured Luca wouldn’t be damaged. Not physically, at least.

“When can I see him again?” Robert asked, fighting back a black swell of resentment that he had to ask this man’s permission for anything.

“There is usually a waiting period for his services,” Boq replied, ingratiating smile back in full force, “but for your lordship I’m sure we can arrange something much sooner.” He produced a fat leather book from the folds of his robe. “Does this week suit?” he asked, rifling through the gilt-edged pages.

“As soon as possible,” Robert said. His voice sounded strange, suddenly too high, too thin. Without substance.

“This patron looks expendable,” Boq murmured to himself, crossing something off. “Tomorrow at noon? A midday delicacy for my lordship’s delight,” he added, with a lewd grin.

“That’s fine.”

“I shall book my lord for two hours.” Boq made a mark on the page. “As for the charge — ”

“I’ll bring cash.” Robert sighed inwardly, thinking of what he owed College for that statue of the founder he and Hugo had drunkenly defaced. “But he’ll be well-treated – I have your word?”

“Of course,” said Boq genially. Without warning he lunged for Robert’s hand and shook it with such force that his chins quivered. “Forgive my boldness, sir – it is an honor to count such an esteemed personage among our clientele. “I have a feeling that this is the beginning of a mutually beneficial business relationship!”

“Yes,” said Robert. He felt empty.

Date: 2011-07-12 10:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] apaximander.livejournal.com
Well I've already read this, obviously, but even still it's good to see it up here :D Also I realised that I forgot to friend you for some reason. I was wondering why your posts weren't showing up in my friend page...

Next chapter soon, please!

Date: 2012-06-09 12:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
If by "soon" you mean 10+ months later...sure! It's up.

How's your writing going? We should chat soon (actually soon, not, you know, my version of the word).

Date: 2012-06-09 04:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] apaximander.livejournal.com
Oh hey! Good to hear from you again. I recently finished a novel (a proper serious-business novel, would you believe) and am now collecting agent rejections. It's fun times!

Shoot me an e-mail! I'll fill you in on what I've been up to, if you're curious :)

Date: 2011-07-12 11:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kysk.livejournal.com
I think Boq's interpretation of the word "mutual" differs quite a lot from mine...
And I don't know how much I trust his word.

More comments to come when I have reread it. And slept ;)

Date: 2012-06-09 12:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
Your comments are always welcome, no matter how sleepy! Boq is definitely far from trustworthy. I'm looking forward to writing more of him. The worst characters are always the most interesting...

Also, the next chapter is up!

Date: 2011-07-13 07:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] meganeko-mausuu.livejournal.com
Robert was far too eager in asking about buying Luca. Greedy bastard like Boq knows far too well how to take advantage of such a situation.

Date: 2012-06-09 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
Yes, Boq is definitely the better businessman. Robert needs to brush up on his negotiation skills.

The next chapter is up.

Date: 2011-07-16 01:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wilfulandsneaky.livejournal.com
Heh, Robert showed his hand far too soon. But Boq has very sound business sense, too.

The course of true love never did run smooth. Can't wait to see what happens next!

Date: 2012-06-09 12:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
The next chapter is up! Yet more bumps in the course of true love. XP

Envy!

Date: 2011-07-27 01:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lady-om.livejournal.com
I read the story so far a few days ago. It is absolutely amazing! It is one of the most beautiful things I have read. You somehow manage to provide such rich, intricate details -- and to describe the awful things in such soft, beautiful way. On top of that you don't simply tell "they loved, it turned bad" -- you weave the backstory into the current plot.

I envy you so much, I created this account just to tell you that.

Please update! And for god's sake, get published :)

Re: Envy!

Date: 2012-06-09 12:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
I'm so glad you're enjoying! Ahh, I'm so thrilled by this comment. I hope the long (long, long) wait hasn't lost you as a reader. The next chapter is finally up!

Date: 2011-07-29 08:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sa-tsl.livejournal.com
Oh nooooooooooooo. THREE years!!! aaahhhhh.............

I'm so glad you updated. For a moment there i thought that seven chapters were it...

* hugs and cookies *

Date: 2012-06-09 12:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
I know, poor boys! Seven chapters are definitely not it, nor are eight. The new chapter is up!

*noms cookies*

Date: 2011-07-30 03:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] idolme922.livejournal.com
Oh My! More twists and angst. I hope you will post soon. Thank you for a great story...looking forward to more. :D

Date: 2012-06-09 12:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
"Twists and angst" should definitely be its own genre. And thank YOU for reading it -- I hope you still are. The new chapter is posted.

Date: 2012-06-09 01:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] idolme922.livejournal.com
I confess I lost track of this as it's been nearly a year since my comment. I'll review this and definitely read the new chapter. !! ☺

Date: 2012-06-09 01:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
Totally understandable. Thanks for sticking around!

Date: 2012-06-09 01:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] idolme922.livejournal.com
Where is it posted? I looked on the slave fic sites I follow and don't see it. Next confession... I don't remember where I read it!! Thanks!!

Date: 2012-06-09 01:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] idolme922.livejournal.com
I found it!! Thanks

Date: 2011-08-01 03:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clodiametelli.livejournal.com
I could understand why Robert was so clumsy in his desperation to rescue Luca but I figuratively had my hands over my eyes as he showed that willingness to pay and pay before the brutal and venal Boq. Luca is not safe yet - I look forward to seeing what happens next.

Date: 2012-06-09 12:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
Yeah, Robert is kind of an idiot, and Luca definitely is not safe yet. The next chapter is up. Sorry for the ridiculously long wait -- now I've graduated updates will be coming thick and fast.

Date: 2011-08-04 02:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] portisheart.livejournal.com
thanx for updating ^^

so.. they've found to each other. but i was expecting this to be so simple once we were there - but of course too easy'll only mean a precocious happy ending and no story left. so you evilly put more obstacles in their way. like, one big fat annoying obstacle called Boq. not as easy to bend as i thought, his respect of nobility well hold back by his greed - and poor Robert, for all his bling insigna, not as rich as he should be to get Luca back at once.

the worst is to think of poor Luca who'll still have all those awful things done to him, all those disgusting men drool and touch and spurt all over him *eeeek* - and his hope to escape this brot-hell challenged at least for a while..
please, have mercy! ^^

and i'll friend you as well - those LJ notifications don't work half of the time ~

Date: 2012-06-09 01:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
Avatar buddies!

Simple is boring, though, right? Happily ever afters have to be earned! XP "Brot-hell" indeed...

The next chapter is up!

Date: 2011-09-24 01:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] angelmayz.livejournal.com
OMG, you made me cry! I've just caught up on the last few chapters.... More soon?

Date: 2012-06-09 01:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
Not exactly "soon", but the next chapter is up! More coming soon.

Date: 2011-10-04 07:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] catbirdfish.livejournal.com
I just wanted to let you know I'm reading this and I hope you continue!

Date: 2012-06-09 01:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
Thank you for reading! I hope you're still interested in the story. The next chapter is up!

Date: 2011-10-07 06:23 pm (UTC)
ext_28271: xkcd hat (Default)
From: [identity profile] stolen-hybris.livejournal.com
This is pretty good! I'm tracking you for updates. :D

Date: 2012-06-09 01:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
Awesome, thank you! The next chapter is up.

Date: 2012-06-06 07:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deadshiroi.livejournal.com
Ah it seems I found this way too late :/ I loved the story this far but as it has been last updated a year ago I suppose there is not much hope for getting any new chapters is there? :3 But if you are active someplace else around the vastness of the internet; please let me know.

Loved the story, sad that will probably never know the end. But thank you for a great reading experience anyway :)

Date: 2012-06-09 01:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
Nooo, you're not too late! I was busy with college, but I've graduated and the next chapter is up. More are coming, I promise! :D

Date: 2012-06-11 05:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deadshiroi.livejournal.com
Ooo so wonderful! *.* Thank you so much! I usually only read already finished stories since there is nothing quite as horrible as reading an amazing story and in the end finding out it isn't actually the end but the story just hasn't been continued in a long, long time.

I'm glad I decided to comment here hoping against all odds that there might be more of this coming someday. Now I'm ecstatic! Thank you *rushes off to read* ^_^

Date: 2012-06-11 05:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deadshiroi.livejournal.com
Oh and congrats on the graduation :)
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