Out in the street he began walking, not to shake his thoughts but to put them in some kind of order. The Bancoran eye, so mesmerizing, so directly sexual; and Majek, with his two Aouille eyes, who could bring men to his side virtually against their wills. They had to be related. Majek used his to compel others to obedience, Bancoran used his to entice them to sex. Conquest or seduction: not really so very different after all. And the driven quality was the same in both. Majek and Bancoran-- and Halim as well. Halim's endless unsatisfied need and the bright sexual charisma of his personality- that too could be from the same source.

    The peasants talked of the blue curse on their family, that term he'd never understood. Could this be what it was? That they were bound to the power in their eyes that drove them to dominate? Bound to it and driven by it: like his brothers and Bancoran, unable to resist the commands of their own lusts and ambitions.

    But that had never been true of himself. He had no memory in his youth of feeling bound by anything or driven by an alien will. His desires fulfilled themselves naturally, almost without effort on his part. He'd never experienced the sort of gnawing need that Halim did. And what of Ruza, his gentle brother, the even-tempered man of science? Both he and Ruza had had the eye without the will to power that the other two had.

   And neither of them had survived.

   His heart jumped a little in shock. But yes. Exactly. Himself and Ruza, the mere mortals, hadn't been sufficient to the demands of their blood. The force in their eyes must be like the one in their hands, drawing its strength from the soul-strength of the user. He hadn't been strong enough to control his eye, as he'd learned only too bitterly: but neither had he been strong enough to be controlled by it. Neither he nor Ruza had ever wanted anything badly enough to awake the eye's devouring spirit in themselves. Only in their family was lack of desire a weakness, but a weakness it was. It made them vulnerable to the ones who possessed the full power. It had led Ruza to his untimely death- the old grief came again at the thought: it made him unable to resist Majek's desire that he die. And the same weakness was the only reason he himself was alive now.

    Memory came back, the memory that was never far away, of that afternoon twenty-one years ago when he'd lost his heart and his eye together. He'd been on the point of suicide. Death was the only thing left for him, because life was no longer a possibility to one who'd done what he had done. But Majek had been in time to stop him. Majek with his unfathomable desires- no, he corrected himself impatiently, with his insane capriciousness-- Majek wanted his younger brother to live, just as he'd wanted his second brother to die. And like Ruza, he was no match for the force of Majek's will. With three words from his brother he'd gone from knowing that he must die to accepting that he would live. Only now did that complete reversal of feeling strike him as strange. And so- and so he'd lived on, not realizing what an anomaly he'd become. Because he was Aouille, of the guardian family, but free from the family curse. That curse lay in their eyes, and he'd been free of it from the moment he lost his own.

    Free. He'd never thought of his mutilation in those terms before. He was outside the old patterns now, free of the never-ending dance, while his brothers stayed locked in their old loves and desires, bound by whatever power it was that lodged in their flesh. Like Halim, obsessively battling the older brother whom he so much resembled. Caught in a spell that bound him closer to Majek than to his own twin, and wanting forever to be free of the one he would die without. And Majek- too clearly he recalled his brother's smile, the smile that had changed imperceptibly as Sergei was growing up, from the loving if exasperated older brother of his childhood to the half-mad General he'd met three years ago: the one who'd said, "War gets rid of unnecessary mouths," and smiled as he said it. That was what their family trait had done to him. If only it worked the same way as Bancoran's... He half-smiled at the thought, and then, remembering Maraich's tear-stained face, stopped smiling. But it's true, he said to the boy in his head. It could be much worse.

    And he himself was free. He could go back to Circassia, he could face Halim down-- and he could leave again. His family had no more power over him. He took a deep breath and let it out, feeling strangely light. Halim and Majek belonged to a world in which he no longer had a part. And Szincza- his heart cramped a little. He soothed the thought of him and let it go. Szincza too belonged to a world in which he had no part. Szincza with his two ordinary eyes was safe from the dangers of their family's power, and safe from Sergei himself. There was nothing left to fear. The bonds of the past were undone, and it was now, in Paris.

    He looked about him, at the bright empty air of freedom. Solid and rational, the buildings here; calm and dispassionate, the light of civilization. The strong sun, deep colours and turbulent emotions of that other place were no longer his. It was now, and he was on the Boulevard Raspail. The afternoon sun was westering low on the horizon and he recalled, as from some old piece of business, that he had friends and people waiting for him elsewhere. Hailing a cab, he returned to the Quai d'Orsay.

   He entered the de Lavallée mansion again. Dorian ran over to him at once as he appeared in the doorway of the salon. The living gold of Dorian's hair and his deep blue eyes made Sergei blink. Somehow he'd forgotten just how vivid Dorian was, and it struck him anew as the Earl threw strong arms about him and pressed his rose-scented warmth close.

   "Sergei, love, what happened? You just vanished. I'm sorry. I thought you didn't mind." The worry and guilt on his lover's face made him want to laugh. Sergei gave him a reassuring kiss and a hug, and then found he had no desire to let him go. Like coming up from the earth and into the sun again-- How amazingly alive his lover was. Colour, yes, there was colour in this world too. Sergei wound a lock of the golden hair about one finger and smiled into the sky-blue eyes.

   "M.Serge?" The duc came to his side, displaying a shadow of the same worry as Dorian in his manner. Courtesy won over desire. Sergei loosed Dorian and turned to his host.

   "I'm sorry. An urgent matter came up. I didn't mean to worry you."

   De Lavallée looked relieved. "Ah, non. Did you get it settled to your satisfaction, then?"

   "Yes, thank you." He smiled without intention, contentment swelling his chest. The other two looked at him, happy too at his happiness but a little puzzled.

   "A new discovery?" the duc hazarded.

   "Yes," he said, unable to stop smiling. "I'll tell you about it when I'm able to."

   "I look forward to hearing it," the other said. Such a nice young man. Some day, perhaps, he and Sergei might find themselves where he and Dorian had been this afternoon. Some day in the future that had suddenly been restored to him. A future in Paris, of a piece with his golden past. The pleasant life of friends and lovers, of beauty and ideas, of good food and good wine and good talk: all of it was still to be his. Only now, when he had it back again, did he realize that he'd thought it gone for good. Part of him truly hadn't believed he would come back from Circassia.

   "We should be going," he said to the other two.

   "Let's just have another look at the Giorgione," Dorian suggested.

   "Of course," the duc said, as his attention was claimed by another departing guest. "A bientôt, messieurs."


   Sergei stood before the easel and looked at the young man with the sombre eyes and the unreadable message in them. Dorian reached for his hand.

   "Orpheus, do you think?" the Earl murmured. "Or Adonis?"

   "I think-- neither," Sergei said slowly.

   Nothing had changed here, after all. The riddle remained unanswered. The return of the title wasn't his own, he knew that now. He'd already descended into the underworld and come back; found the one he loved in the dark, and lost him again. Compared with what had happened this afternoon, his return to Circassia would be a mere excursion. He was free of the shadow that had haunted him all day, yet still the sadness and unease of the painting remained.

   "I think you're right," Dorian said. "This mystery has no answer. Maybe that's what it's for: to stay in the mind and tease it with possibility."

   "Or maybe the answer is for the future."

   "Oh, yes," Dorian said with enthusiasm. "It's a picture of Fate. Somewhere this young man is waiting for you, and some day you'll meet him. What a lovely thought."

   "Is it?" Sergei murmured, looking at the unnatural world behind the young man and the threatening sky above him. "Myself, I don't look forward to that meeting in front of the cliff face."

   "Really? Why not, Sergei? He's so beautiful," Dorian said.

   "Yes." There was a longing note in Dorian's voice that troubled him. "You like this painting?"

   "I love it."

   "Are you going to steal it?"

   Dorian's eyes moved away sideways at the blunt question. "I didn't say that."

   "M'ami--" He hesitated. Dorian would think him mad. "Don't."  

   "I know you don't like me stealing pictures--"

   "No. It's not that. But this picture.... Dorian, it's not for you. There are too many shadows, too much darkness. You don't belong in this world."

   "Sergei love, you're being so fanciful. This isn't like you."

   "No. I admit it. But I haven't been like myself for some days now." He conceded the truth wryly. "Not since I met you."

   "Sergei love." Dorian gave him a tender kiss. "But in all honesty, would you rather it went to the Rothschilds or into a closed collection? You'd never see it again."

   He played with one of Dorian's curls and didn't answer.


   He spoke with an effort. "It would be safer in a private collection than anywhere else. If you had it-- m'ami, it wouldn't be good for you. It would  shadow your soul."

   "You don't like the painting," Dorian said as if making a discovery. "Why not? The technique is a master's, I can tell you that, even if it's not Giorgione. The colouring here in the trees- that's stunning: I've never seen it done before; and as for this lovely young man in the centre..."

    "There's a mystery to him and I don't think it's a nice one. Best to leave it alone."

    "Sergei- Are you alright?"

    "Yes, of course. I'm quite sane, Dorian."

    "That's not what I meant. These fancies of yours... You've got something on your mind. Was it last night?"

    He winced involuntarily. "Last night was- last night. I don't know what happened and I don't want to know. But it showed-- there are things outside of reason. Things that can't be explained. That was one and I think this is another. Leave it alone, m'ami. It can't bring anyone happiness."

    Dorian put a consoling arm about his shoulders. "Alright, love. Let's go home, then."


   They stopped for an early dinner on the boulevards, and in the restaurant met a painter acquaintance of Sergei's and his friend, a novelist. Bertrand the painter knew Dorian by reputation and was charmed at meeting the famous collector in the flesh. Caillot the novelist was charmed, period. They ended up sharing a table, while Dorian gave a spirited account of the afternoon's soiree and the newly discovered masterpiece. Bertrand sighed at the thought of seeing the painting, and Caillot sighed at the sight of Dorian. Sergei ate his grilled sole in quiet amusement as he watched his friend expanding in the light of the other's worshipping eyes.

   Bertrand gave him a swift glance at one point and leaned over to ask sotto voce, "This milord, is he..." He waved a vague hand in Sergei's direction.

   "Yes." Sergei smiled at him. Bertrand raised eyebrows. "The English are such a kind people, n'est-ce pas?"

   "Indeed. But certainly he's charming, mon ami. You do have luck. Where did you meet him?"

   "At the Marquères' last week."

   "Oh really. I must start attending the Baronne's 'at homes' more often. And this afternoon? Was there anyone amusing there?"

   "The usual critics and dealers. What one might expect. The Duc himself is a most pleasant young man, and his grandmother of course is fascinating."

   "'Of course'? Why? Do I know her?"

   "Perhaps, though M. Caillot may know of her better. She's Sibylle de Lavalée."

   Caillot turned his head in surprise. "The poet? I didn't realize she was still alive. What's she like?"

   "Pragmatic. Surprisingly so for one who wrote such romantic verse."

   "Pragmatic?" Dorian looked puzzled.

   "We had a chat about the Giorgione while you were otherwise occupied," Sergei said with a straight face.

   A reminiscent half-smile touched Dorian's mouth. "And what did she say?"

   "She thought it was a painting of Lazarus come back from the dead."

   "Oh." Dorian looked startled, then thoughtful.

   "That doesn't sound pragmatic to me," Caillot said. "Mystic, perhaps. She had a reputation in her heyday, you know, of being a little strange."

   "Eccentric?" Bertrand asked.

   "No, no. Not that. She used to read palms, you see. Just a party game, of course. There was a vogue for it between the wars. But she read one man's hand- the son of her publisher, just starting out in his father's firm- and she said, very puzzled, that he was destined to die in the line of his work. Everyone thought that so funny that they remembered it afterwards- poor Jacques Barbizet, doomed to be poisoned by printer's ink or buried under an avalanche of books. Only--"

   "Only?" Dorian prompted, enthralled.

   "Well, the war started and he enlisted in the air force and was shot down over Germany. She stopped reading palms after that."

   "Ohhh," Dorian said. "Now you mention it, I thought her eyes were- well, never mind. I took it for age and cataracts. That man last night at Elsa Dubarry's- you remember, Sergei? She looked a little like him."

   "I didn't see anything like that at all," Sergei said in automatic contradiction. "She seemed perfectly ordinary to me."

   "Like the turnips they sell at Les Halles?" Dorian suggested with a smile.

   "Yes," Sergei said, studiedly neutral.

   "How can you call Sibylle de Lavalée ordinary?" Caillot protested.

   "Mme la Duchesse is a marvellous woman and a marvellous poet," Sergei said, "and in Paris that makes her ordinary." The others laughed, and Bertrand raised his wineglass.

   "To the women of Paris!"

   "And the men," Dorian interjected, raising his.

   "And the poets," Caillot chimed in.

   "And the turnips they sell at Les Halles," Sergei ended.


    Sergei and Dorian strolled back to the rue Galand, talking of nothing in particular, merely to have the touch of words between them like the touch of Dorian's arm on Sergei's shoulder and the touch of Sergei's arm about Dorian's waist. Sergei was watching his fellow Parisians about their Sunday evening business, which seemed to be much the same as theirs. It was full dark when they got home. Sergei pressed the button for the light that illuminated, for a whole twenty seconds, the passage to the back. It went out as they reached the stairs, but instead of pressing the button that lit them to the second floor, he pulled Dorian against the wall and kissed him in the sudden blackness. Warm, so warm, the Earl of Red Gloria. Sergei's fingers explored the curves and hardnesses his eyes knew so well in the light, that felt quite different here in darkness. Dorian was now only a rose-scented sensation- soft insistent lips and strong embracing arms, warm skin and hard muscle under his hands. The pulse of the neck, the little knobs of the collarbones, the fleshiness of an earlobe, the intricate whorlings of the ear itself... All this, all this, his for the taking, his for the night at least. An unwonted humility touched his soul. He felt for once favoured beyond his deserts.

   "Sergei," Dorian said in his ear. "We can't do it here. It's too cold."

   "Yes, m'ami," he agreed, loosing him with a small reluctance. This wasn't the place for it, and he knew there were things he had to do first. On Dorian's skin it seemed he could still detect the traces of the Duc. A nice young man, yes, but at this moment Sergei was disinclined to share his lover with anyone, even at second hand. And how much more did that apply to his own body. If he were to have all of Dorian, he had first to remove the remnants of his afternoon in the Faubourg St. Germain.

    Inside he turned on the heat, and the two made their way without discussion to the second floor bathroom. No doubt it was superstition to think he could wipe out the events of this day with soap and water, but it seemed necessary on this last night to mark a space between past and future, to meet in love as only Sergei and Dorian, existing fresh and washed in a timeless now. He cleaned himself carefully, minutely, and did the same to Dorian. Smiling, Dorian submitted to Sergei's attentions, attentions which had the side-effect of completing the Earl's arousal.

    In the bedroom he made Dorian wait while he found new candles to replace the burnt out ones from the night before. He wanted everything to be perfect. As he looked up from lighting them, he found Dorian's gaze upon him, blue eyes catching the shadows of the dark. As ever, his breath stopped at sight of the man's beauty. Too beautiful to be mortal... Did Dorian himself realize the wonder he held within?

   "You're not going to change the sheets as well?" Dorian asked pathetically, as Sergei turned towards the linen cupboard. "I'm dying, Sergei," and he waved his hand at what looked like a very healthy hard-on.

   "Well, I'd intended to," he began, amused. Godlike beauty sat oddly with this aching human need.

   "How about a fast screw on the carpet instead?" Dorian suggested, eyes dramatic with desperation.

   "Poor little boy," Sergei smiled, and let an infuriated Dorian grab him and wrestle him into the tumbled sheets and pillows of the bed. Their bodies came together like metal to a magnet, and Sergei laughed to find his arms full of delightful Dorian again. It seemed an age- an eon- since they'd been together. He kissed Dorian, and Dorian kissed him back, so that Sergei's own head began to swim with desire.

    Dorian's mouth moved across Sergei's jaw and down to his neck, and thence to his chest and nipples and belly. Sergei writhed under the maddening kisses, the little blunted bites, the tickling teasing of Dorian's curls dragging down his too-sensitive skin. He wanted to laugh and cry at the same time; his nerves couldn't decide whether this was pleasure or torture. He pushed against the imprisoning weight of Dorian's body, biting his tongue to keep the 'Stop- Dorian-' from his lips in case Dorian did stop. At last- at last- Dorian reached his groin and then there was no doubt any more, this was wonderful, wonderful, the wetness moving around him and taking him in. Sergei groaned at the sensation. Pleasure was arcing him upwards, descending on molten silver wings to take him-- and then Dorian's damnable mouth simply stopped.

   "Dorian!" It was somewhere between a roar of rage and a scream for mercy. Dorian's face rose above Sergei's thighs, obscure in the flickering candlelight, but his voice danced with mischief and a hint of malice.

   "Oh but Sergei-- we have to make preparations--"

   In spite of himself, Sergei had to laugh. "M'ami, you'll be lucky if you live to see thirty. Some man will kill you if you keep doing that."

   "Oh, I don't think so," Dorian said with serene smugness, and came up beside Sergei again. "Mind if I'm on top for this? The duc, you know-- so enthusiastic. I hadn't the heart to slow him down, it being his first time and all, but still--" He grimaced momentarily.

   "As you will," Sergei agreed. "If I can be on my face."

   "Oh, Sergei. But then I can't look at you," Dorian said dolefully.

   "Such a spoiled child. I shouldn't indulge you like this, m'ami."

   "But you will, right?" Dorian smiled, and pulled the tube of petroleum jelly from under the pillow where he'd taken to caching it.

   "As always." Sergei let him raise a leg and lay it across his shoulders. Dorian's strong slippery fingers came inside him and Sergei sighed in pleasure. This alone was delight enough, this foretaste of what was to come. Sergei stretched his spine flat and opened his hips. He loved this moment, even on his back like this: loved being probed, loved the unbearable anticipation of entry. Dorian raised Sergei's other leg and rose above him. Sergei smiled up as Dorian's smiling face approached him--

    And a door seemed to open in his mind. His breathing stopped, his eyes became fixed. He was back in that other place and he saw- he saw-

    cold as death and numb with terror as the young man turned in his arms he waited as for the fall of the executioner's axe to see the shame and horror in the black eyes, thinking blindly 'I'm sorry Szincza I'm sorry I'm so sorry,' and knew it made no difference, could make no difference with a crime like his. He must be judged and condemned by the one he'd betrayed. With the last of his courage he met his victim's eyes- eyes that smiled in excitement and happiness, eyes that overflowed with energy, eyes that said 'Well finally, Savijc, what took you so long?' Shock and amazement whirled through him like a tornado, he couldn't stand he was falling onto his back as the other bore him down, it was Jahn of course it was Jahn, how could he have thought otherwise, it was Jahn who was still alive of course he was alive, and the proof was that they were the same height now, now that Savijc was a man who'd reached his full growth.   

   Happiness like pain ballooned inside him, he was too small to hold the joy that was in him, it was going to kill him but he couldn't have wanted another death. Jahn was pushing his legs up, Jahn was pushing inside him, oh my God at last at last Jahn was making love to him at last as Savijc had always wanted him to, and he was laughing as they did when the two of them fought together, scrabbling on the ground for hand holds and leg holds, but it came out sounding almost like sobbing. Jahn's mouth worried at his neck and Jahn's thick arms held him prisoner and Jahn moved with unexpected grace and immense concentration in and out of him where Jahn had never been before and where no-one else would ever be afterwards because this was Jahn's now he and Jahn were together and Jahn would never leave him alone to find what happiness he could in the embrace of strangers, what an idea, he was laughing at the ridiculousness of it, laughing and crying with joy into the sex-charged black eyes that laughed with him as the violent electricity of orgasm filled his head with the emptiness of space

    Blindly he grasped the hot body in his hands, not knowing where or when he was. Inside him was only amazement. Jahn. Jahn here, alive before his eyes, alive as he had been when-- alive. That energy of his, boundless and happy. The open face that showed all his thoughts so clearly there was no need to speak them. The enthusiasm, the warmth, and that quality Sergei had only obscurely been aware of when he was eighteen, but that he knew now was goodness- simple goodness, and as rare as rubies. That had been Jahn: his friend, a young man who glowed like the sun.

    The body in his arms stirred, rolled onto its side, looked at him. Blue eyes, a glory of curls. Dorian. And still all he could do was stare, bereft of words, bereft of anything but wonder.

    Dorian blinked sleepily at him.

    "What happened there, Sergei? You went away from me."

    "Yes." He looked at Dorian, not understanding, knowing he would never understand because there was no-one who could ever explain it to him.


    "I saw- I don't know what I saw."

    "A ghost?"

    "Yes- Maybe. The thing that happened last night."

    "It happened again? But Maraich's not here."

    "Yes, I know. But I saw it. Again, or a flashback- I don't know." He touched the image in his head. "I saw it."

    "Ahhh. But that wasn't a ghost, you know. Much too real."

    Real. "Yes. A wish made flesh..."

    "Oh, more than that, surely. A piece of time slipped out of its place, is what it felt like to me. Somehow making love to you I got flash-forwarded to when I'll be doing it with Klaus. I mean, I knew it was you, sort of- Klaus would never be that good the first time- but it was definitely him too."

    "It was different with me." He looked away, still feeling Jahn's presence as though he stood beside him.

    "Don't be too certain."

    "He's dead, Dorian." It still seemed incredible that that should be true, when the feel of him was so much alive.

    "Then I guess it was a ghost," Dorian said kindly. "A spirit coming from wherever he is now to- well, to attend to unfinished business."

    "It's a lovely fantasy..."

    "What makes you think it's a fantasy?"

    "It's just... I can't think of him as a ghost. Something lost and wandering. He wasn't-- it wasn't like that."

   "Not all ghosts are lost and wandering. Some of them know exactly what they're doing. Like my great-grandfather in the music room at home. I always thought he didn't see me, but my father said he just didn't like children. He was right. When I turned eighteen he took to nodding hello when we met."

   "Is this a joke?" Sergei asked, puzzled.

   "Not at all." Dorian sounded obscurely offended. "Ghosts and gardens are an English specialty. We do more of them better than anyone else in the world."

   Sergei blinked a little at the matter-of-fact tone. What a strange world Dorian lived in. Ghosts and time warps, secret societies and descending divinities: to hear Dorian talk, one would think them just a normal part of life. Perhaps that was why he'd had a share in the miracle that had just happened. To Dorian's supreme self-confidence, impossible was a word with no meaning. In his world granted wishes were the rule, not the exception. Wanting a thing meant that he was sure to get, though all the laws of man and the universe decreed otherwise.

    Once Sergei had lived in a world not unlike that. He remembered it now, in the newly living past that filled his head. When he'd been Savijc still, seventeen years old, in the high school below the green hills, sharing a bed with Jahn in that dim room full of dancing shadows. When he'd been Savijc of the Aouilles, the petted youngest brother of that powerful clan, living in a world of wonder with more love and happiness in his life than he knew what to do with. Serene and confident, and yes, spoiled too, no doubt: like Dorian, certain of his power, certain of love, certain that what he wanted would come to him as naturally as turning his face to the sun. Before he'd so hideously discovered the lack inside him; before his failure had destroyed Jahn's life and his own. Before he'd entered the drylands, where the name 'Jahn' was the word for grief, and the memory of Jahn was his endless punishment... before that, there'd been Savijc and his friend Jahn. There had been Jahn. Jahn who'd laughed with him and at him, Jahn whose touch he could still feel everywhere on his body now, Jahn whose warmth filled the rooms of his mind with light again.

   "Why do ghosts come back, then?" he asked the flickering candlelight before his eyes.

   "To be where they were happy, usually. Or to know that we're alright. And sometimes just to make sure that we remember them."

   "Remember them..." That seemed right. To make Savijc remember what Jahn really was like, not the image of pain he'd become. That was reason enough for Jahn to come back from- from wherever his spirit was now, to pull Sergei out of the narrow little house he'd come to live in, where sadness was written in the lines of the ceiling and, eventually, in the eyes of every man who knew him. Jahn... Jahn would have been very impatient with that. 'Oh let it go, Savijc!', as he'd said whenever Savijc had insisted on whatever tremendously important point it had been.

   "Adieu tristesse..." he murmured.

   "Mmh?" Dorian asked.

   "Nothing, m'ami." Sergei looked at the world inside his head as one surveys the new landscape caused by an earthquake. One where the sun shone, one where the walls had fallen down to become roads, one where old mountains had crumbled and opened up a way back to the land he used to live in. In a corner of his heart, he wasn't even surprised. As one pulls out a pebble from a wall, and another, and then another, until the whole thing collapses, so with him. This was the natural ending of something that had begun an unimaginable time ago- five days back, in that moment when he'd first looked up to meet Dorian's eyes.

    Dorian. Indeed, Dorian. So Dorian was the gateway through which Jahn had been able to come? It seemed likely that one with so little regard for human rules might be exempt from natural ones as well. Well, there was no point in analyzing too far. Miracles are not to be explained, only accepted. But he felt with an odd certainty that in this man beside him was the point at which his past and present met.

   Dorian nuzzled his neck. "Sergei, come back. Or at least take me with you."

   Sergei turned on his side and put an arm around his lover. "I'm surveying the wreckage you've wrought, my dear. You really shouldn't be allowed to run loose." 

   "I've wrought? I haven't done anything."

   "Maybe not. Or maybe a couple of miracles."

   "Don't I wish," Dorian said. "Miracles are Maraich's line, not mine. If I could work miracles, I'd have had Klaus years ago."

    And of course Dorian had no idea what he'd done. Just an unsuspecting time bomb, the Earl of Red Gloria. What a shock it was going to be for Dorian's chilly Major when Dorian finally went off in his hands. Sergei half-hoped he'd be around to see Eberbach's world explode as his own had done.

   "You're like Maraich. You don't know you're doing it. Maybe you couldn't do it if you did."   

   "You think I'm some kind of medium? Not me," Dorian assured him. "I'm just a perfectly ordinary th- man. And to prove it, I've got to go pee. Let me up, Sergei."

   Sergei freed him and watched him to the door. Happiness, small and ordinary as the smell of Sunday dinner cooking, came creeping into his heart. Jahn and Dorian. Circassia and Paris. All one. The same, no longer separate. He looked through his mind and found that there was nothing left to hurt him any more. He smiled and went on smiling, as though he hadn't done it in years.




May '98- June '99



  Note: Mangaka never explain and never apologize. Certainly they never credit their sources. So I don't know if the 'mysterious stone eye' that belongs to the Blue clan in Shibata's Papuwa really bears any relation to the 'bishounen-killer eye' possessed by Bancoran's family in Maya's Patarillo! Ban's eye makes any bishounen within range blush and go weak in the knees and enter a state of advanced rut. (The effect it has on Sergei in this story has something to do with his protracted youthfulness, a matter of canonical comment if not explanation.) On occasion however Ban's eye emits a ray of light that crackles with energy. The Blue clan eye mostly blows holes in things, but one notes that Sergei's brother Commander Majek has formed an entire army from, as his nephew says, 'all the slightly perverted bishounen he can find.' Me, I see a connection.


Acknowledgements. My thanks to:


Lena Miraglia, for information on Giorgione;


Rita Johnson (no relation), for sending me a compilation tape containing Lowlands so that I got to hear that old folk song at last;


The Japanese circle $10,000,000 Man, who in their doujinshi 'Peace Lovin' Men' placed various Papuwa characters in front of various paintings, and whose juxtaposition of Jan with De Chirico's L'enigme du retour made me laugh out loud on the Yurakucho subway;


The circle Izu Hantou Rengou, whose light-hearted but convincing vision of Servis as the ultimate sexual animal has permanently affected my view of Ojisama, and who also do neat covers;


Nakamura Rumi, as ever, whose light-hearted but convincing vision of Servis as the ultimate *erotic* animal was what started it, way back in January of '94;


Mimi, whose kind comments got me through the worst of a very protracted, dispiriting rewrite;


And Julie, who says such nice things.