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Back at the hotel he met Hillyard again, who was sitting in the lobby with a tall glass of beer, but otherwise doing nothing in particular.
"I've located Joby for you", he announced "He's been in the bar all evening getting rat-arsed. You'd better sort him out, before he gets us all evicted. If I go in there he starts hurling abuse in my direction. It's quite embarrassing really".
The bar was busy, and full of well-dressed men whose trade wasn't obvious from appearances, but Adam could only assume from the amount of gold jewellery on display that it paid well. Joby sat alone at the counter, looking conspicuous amongst all the finery in his dusty singlet and shorts. He was staring morosely down into a glass of brandy, as though he wished he could dive into it.
"This gentleman's with you is he sir?" said the barman, in the kind of pointed fashion that Adam had learnt to resent deeply during his boozing days "I thought as much, I saw you arrive earlier".
"He's not been any bother has he?" said Adam, irritably.
He suddenly felt very sorry for Joby. Months of pent-up frustration were obviously coming to a head inside someone who was, after all, still very young. And Adam felt angry that all these "toffee-nosed twats", as he secretly regarded them, could do was look disgusted that such a scruffy urchin be allowed in the hotel in the first place. Adam wanted to yell at them that this boy had once dragged his best friend out from beneath a burning vampire. He had endured severe cold, hunger, terror and a dread of losing someone he loved, just so that these cretins could be free of the evil canker that had run riot through the upper echelons of their society for so long.
"I don't think I should serve him anymore", the barman went on "He's been abusive to some of my customers".
"Some look like they could do with a bit of abuse", Adam muttered.
Joby was practically unconscious. When Adam tried to lift him off the bar-stool Joby pushed his glass roughly to one side. It rolled off the counter and fell with a smash onto the floor. The barman looked apoplectic.
"Yes alright, I'll pay for any damages", said Adam, testily, and wrapped Joby's arm around his shoulders.
"They're all fucking morons Ad", Joby suddenly yelled "Don't know a fucking thing. I bet they've never been afraid and confused. I bet..."
"I think they get the message old love", Adam hauled him towards the stairs "Don't worry folks, it's just way past his bedtime that's all!"
He hauled Joby upstairs like a bag of coal, pausing halfway to get his breath back. Joby wasn't heavy, but he insisted on leaning all his weight on Adam. When they reached their landing Joby suddenly veered off in the direction of Kieran's door. He was most disgruntled when a rather sleepy-looking Ransey opened it.
"Wos he doing in my room?" Joby bellowed "Get him out of there!"
"You're not staying in there tonight", said Adam, grabbing the back of Joby's vest and yanking him towards the opposite door "Patsy's sleeping off his bug, and I don't want you disturbing him".
Satisfied that there would be no further trouble Ransey retreated back behind the door. Adam propped Joby against the doorframe of his own room and located his key. Getting him into the room was like wrestling with a goldfish. He managed to get him inside the mosquito net and onto the bed, and removed the boy's espadrilles.
"I can't stay here tonight Ad", said Joby, propping himself up on his elbows "It's not fair on you".
"Not fair on me!" Adam exclaimed "What makes you think you're such a temptation at the moment?"
"Nobody in the world fancies me anymore", said Joby, flopping back on his pillow.
"I'm sure that's not true", Adam sighed "What about Patsy?"
"Oh it's all a bloody great joke to him. He never takes sex seriously".
"Yes he does", Adam removed Joby's shorts and singlet, and then wrapped him in a sheet "How do you think it feels for him to be constantly turned down by you?"
"Perhaps I should put that right this minute", Joby went to leave the bed but got his feet caught in the sheet.
"That would be a night to remember", said Adam "Him unconscious, and you pissed as a fart!"
"But I'm only ready for it when I'm drunk".
"Well you've got a problem then haven't you!" Adam took the large china bowl off the washstand and placed it by the side of the bed.
"What's that for?" asked Joby.
"For you to be sick into", said Adam, precisely, as though talking to a retarded child "As undoubtedly you will be at some point. Bloody amateurs!"
"I can't sleep with my pants on".
"What?" said Adam, with a kind of weary incredulity.
"Didn't Flannery ever tell you that?"
"No, he must have omitted to give me that vital piece of information".
"Well I can't. I find it uncomfortable".
Adam felt under the sheet and removed the offending item of clothing. This action gave Joby a fit of the giggles, which did nothing to improve Adam's temper.
"This is really funny isn't it?" Joby snorted.
"Hilarious", said Adam "Next time you're drunk remind me to leave you on the bar-room floor until they sweep you up in the morning".
"Aren't you coming to bed?"
"When I'm ready. Go to sleep".
He was considerably relieved to find that, by the time he had undressed and climbed in the other side, Joby had done just that.
At the crack of dawn Adam was woken up suddenly by a reprise of the howling noise, now so loud that it could almost have been in the next room. Adam slipped out of bed and tiptoed naked across the room. He nudged open the window a bit wider and climbed out onto the balcony.
The main street of Husgalonghi was extremely still. There was absolutely no-one about, and Adam recalled that all sounds of jollity had ceased at midnight, almost as though there was an unofficial curfew on the town. The howling noise was definitely coming from the direction of the jungle, which began abruptly at the far end of the town. Now that he was so close to it Adam found the noise to be even more mysterious. It sounded like no animal that he could think of, and he made up his mind to ask about it in the morning.
When he returned to bed he found Joby had now woken up too. He looked bleary-eyed, but otherwise not as worse for wear as Adam had expected.
"I thought you'd be asleep for hours yet", said Adam, climbing back under the sheet.
"You're in here too?" said Joby.
"This happens to be my room actually", Adam snapped "You're the trespasser. Don't look so terrified. Your pristine virtue is still intact".
"We have slept together before", said Joby "At the tower in the Uncharted Area".
"Yes, I slept next to your feet as I recall".
Joby rolled over until he was practically lying on Adam's chest.
"I don't feel drunk", he said "Not in the slightest. I think I'm really being myself at the moment".
Adam tried to ease him off, but Joby clung to him like a burr.
"Ad ... please ..."
"No", said Adam, firmly.
"You think I don't know what I'm saying, but I do. And I won't regret it later. Please".
"You don't even fancy me, you little bastard".
"Yes I do. You know I do. You're very attractive".
"I don't find it very flattering to be used as someone for you to practise on. And that's what it would be wouldn't it? You'd use me, to get yourself road-tested for Patsy".
"You're experienced Adam, and that's what I need. I'm fed up with being this way".
"I know you are old love but ..."
"I want it Adam. You wouldn't believe how much. And I want you. I wouldn't be any trouble afterwards. I won't do a Noni and pester you. I won't come between you and Kiel. I just want a lover, and you're the best man I could think of".
"Look, I'm not Patsy. If we get going and you back out at the last minute, I warn you I'm not like him, I can't just laugh and say 'oh what the hell!' What I'm saying is if you do that to me Joby, I doubt I could ever forgive you".
"I won't", Joby promised.
"And what do I get out of it? You could rush off to Patsy, and then I might lose you both".
"No, you'll have us both instead. Don't you fancy me is that it?"
"Joby, you're adorable", Adam kissed him lightly on the nose and lips "You want a teacher don't you? You are a delightful conundrum Joby. Passionate, but so unsure of yourself".
"I know I won't be as good as Kiel".
"You will be different. Light and shade. The Sun and the Moon. And that's why I already love you both".
Joby had been frightened and yet eager at the same time. Instinctively he knew that the time was right, and that Adam was the right partner. Adam lived up to all expectations. He coaxed Joby through the process gently but firmly. He paused often to simply kiss and caress him, and when he fingered Joby's penis for the first time the boy felt as though every barrier in his life had been removed, and that everything was now there for the taking. When Adam suddenly clamped his lips around the silky head Joby almost screamed with rapture. it was like suddenly fighting his way out of a cold, dark place and emerging into warm sunlight. He was free.
"Suck me", said Adam, curtly.
Joby hesitated, but Adam pushed his head downwards with such a firm grip that he would have had trouble resisting anyway. Fortunately he didn't want to. He was almost pathetically grateful that Adam got such pleasure from this, and would have done it to him all day if he'd wanted.
"I want to go all the way", said Joby, a short while later. His whole body tingled like an electric fence "I'm not tense at all. Not now. I think I'll be alright".
"You don't have to", said Adam, cautiously.
"You can't stop me now", Joby wailed "Otherwise I'll call you the prick tease!"
Adam laughed, and began to ease the tips of his fingers into Joby's bum crevice. The boy squirmed and raised his back.
"God I ..." he panted "Adam, how can you bear it?"
"I don't normally. Patsy does. Wait there, we need some lubrication".
Even with the application of the jelly and the sheerest of condoms Joby still gritted his teeth. He was determined not to cry out, in case Adam refused to go any further. By the finish he felt triumphant, as though he'd wrestled a lion to the ground. He could have done a lap of honour round the block.
"You're a cool one", said Adam "Patsy screamed blue murder the first time. I had to hold him tight and stroke him".
"You could've told me", said Joby "I was holding it in!"
Joby took the used condom and knotted it.
"Ages since I've done that", he said, holding it up.
"Too long obviously. You've got a lot of time to make up. Give this old man a little time to recover, and then you can do it to me".
"Are you sure?"
"I'm getting rather excited by the idea. Anyway, you'll end up doing it to Patsy, so you'd better know the ropes".
"You're the only person I've ever met who could be so clinical about it, and so sexy at the same time", said Joby.
"There's nothing clinical about you", Adam held him in the crook of his arm and kissed his hair.
"Was I very different to Kiel?"
"Very. You made a very nice little diversion indeed".
"How are we going to explain this to him? I don't want him getting all hurt deep down like he does".
"Leave it to me. I'll explain it. He probably won't believe me when I say I was breaking you in for him".
"I don't think I would!"
"Trust me though. I think I can reach him".
"It's going to be difficult. You having me so soon after Noni too".
"That's why I'll need your help. You will have to make love to him as soon as you can. Actions speak louder than words".
Adam ordered a late breakfast from room service. He was spooning the ham and eggs onto different plates when Joby returned from the bathroom, wearing a grey silk robe that had been left behind by a previous guest.
"It's been a wonderful idyll Joby", Adam paused to kiss the boy's hand.
"I take it that means it'll never happen again?" said Joby.
"Never say never. But you won't want me after Patsy".
"I'll always want you", Joby slid his arms through the gap in Adam's robe.
"And I won't let you go. You belong to me now, just as Patsy does. Well you always did really, but this has reinforced it".
They were embracing thus when Kieran walked in and surprised them.
"Patsy!" Adam exclaimed "You're awake!"
"I'm beginning to wonder actually", Kieran snapped "What's been going on?"
"Joby, why don't you pop down to the bar and get us some drinks?" said Adam "And a second pot of coffee for me".
Joby thankfully scuttled out of the room, snatching his clothes from the bed-rail as he passed.
"Patsy, sit down", said Adam, in the tone of voice that Kieran knew of old implied he would start shouting if he wasn't obeyed.
Kieran did so. He and Adam stared at each other for an age. Adam had been certain beforehand that he would know what to say, but gazing into Kieran's liquidy blue eyes proved to be his undoing. He was speechless.
"You bastard Addy", Kieran said, eventually "How could you? Joby was going to be mine!"
It took Adam a while to realise that Kieran wasn't about to have a nervous breakdown, as he had feared. Then he laughed nervously.
"You're not upset?" he said.
"Well I know you said a couple of little flings in your old age, but you've been going at it lately like a pneumatic drill. And Joby of all people! I've waited years for that man!"
"And he's all yours Pats", Adam sat down on the floor by Kieran's feet "He's a right little goer on the quiet. A dark horse".
"I'll find out for myself thank you".
"Patsy", Adam laughed and buried his face in the boy's skinny thigh "If anyone deserves two lovers it's you, and that's what you've got now. We just thought we'd try each other out first. Make sure we were both good enough for the Vanquisher of Evil".
"I hope Joby isn't my pensioning-off present?"
"Good God Patsy, no! Who the hell could I replace you with?"
Joby returned soon after with a pot of coffee and two large brandies on a tray. Kieran took his glass and left the room without a further word.
"Is he alright?" Joby asked, nervously "Only he didn't say anything".
"I think it's called making you sweat", said Adam.
"There's nothing wrong with him otherwise. Why don't you have some breakfast? You'll need all your strength".
Kieran had taken a quick bath and was drying himself in his room when Joby caught up with him again. Joby stood just inside the door and watched excitedly as Kieran wrapped the towel around himself like a toga and crossed towards him. Joby felt very much as he had when he'd lost his virginity. The overwhelming sensation of "this is it, it's happening at last" was repeating itself.
When Kieran had drawn near him he opened his robe. Kieran stared at him pointedly, but made no move. Joby knew the message he was sending out, "c'mon then, show us what you've learnt". I'll show him alright, thought Joby. He leaned forward and kissed Kieran rather chastely on the cheek. Kieran raised an eyebrow, but still didn't speak. Suddenly Joby picked him up and, holding him like a bundle of washing, he staggered over to the bed with him and dropped him on it. From then on there was no looking back.
"My favourite breakfast", said Noni, lifting the silver cover and looking at the congealing remains of the ham and eggs "How good of you to go to so much trouble".
"You said you had something to tell me", said Adam, shortly "Otherwise I wouldn't have let you in here".
"I don't know why you have to be so mean to me".
"I don't want to be mean to you Noni, but you leave me no choice".
"Because you keep coming onto me! You won't take no for an answer. Believe me, I would never have gone through with it in Lixix if I'd known you were going to take it this far".
"Seems like you've had company", said Noni, looking at the soiled crockery "What's the matter Adam? Am I too old for you?"
"What is it you wanted to say Noni?" Adam snapped, fiercely.
"N-nothing", Noni replied, suddenly very afraid.
His confidence, never his greatest asset, was now completely shot to pieces. He'd tried every way he could think of to separate Adam from the Vanquisher, as ordered, but it had only worked very briefly. He was now bereft of ideas. He'd flirted and cajoled, even threatened with a velvet hand, but he blatantly wasn't comfortable with the role of devious tart, and he'd increasingly of late begun to feel ridiculous in it.
"Gabriel said that ..."
"WHAT did Gabriel say?"
"That if I could somehow take you from the Vanquisher, then the Vanquisher would be shorn of one of his greatest strengths".
"He told you to seduce me?" Adam exclaimed "In that case, why did he set an elemental on you for going through with it?"
"I wasn't actually to go the whole hog", said Noni, staring down at his feet like a schoolboy being reprimanded "T-That was entirely my idea ... because I liked you so much".
"Gabriel hasn't got a clue how to manipulate people has he?" said Adam.
"That time in the woods, when I first saw you. That was all me. Gabriel knows nothing about that. At least I don't think he does. I've done it all wrong haven't I?"
"You haven't got a devious bone in your body Noni. You're not cut out for this role at all. And Paul? What's his purpose in being here?"
"He's not working for Gabriel anymore. He came solely to look after me".
"Then why don't you two go off somewhere and look after each other?" Adam opened the door and stood back to let him pass "You're too nice a person to be working for Gabriel anyway".
"Goodbye", said Noni, pausing on his way out "I wish it'd been different. But then, I wish everything had been different".
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