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By Sarah Hapgood

"So that's what I get for trying to be kind to people! It's going to give me nightmares for years I expect. How can anyone want to have that done to 'em?"

"He wanted to be a girl", Kieran shrugged "And the sad thing is he can't be. In our time, yes. All that kind of thing was much more sophisticated. But now all they do is chop off their cocks, put on a frock and a wig, and think that's all there is to it. Poor bastards don't know any different. They haven't the real thing to compare themselves with".

"I wonder what they do with all the amputated pricks", said Joby, pulling off his clothes wearily "I mean, can you imagine 'em all in deep storage somewhere? Row upon row of refrigerator shelves all holding mummified pricks".

"I don't want to imagine it", Kieran squirmed "You think of the strangest things sometimes Joby".

"Well your mind goes off at a tangent doesn't it?"

"Yours certainly does, that's for sure".

Kieran was standing with his back to the unshuttered window. The moonlight filtered in around him, bathing his naked body in a silvery glow. Once fully divested of his own clothes Joby moved up close to him, and rubbed against him.

"At least WE can go cock-fighting!" Kieran giggled.

Adam didn't feel in the mood for sleeping. Instead he wandered the upper floors of the house. These were more sparsely-decorated than downstairs, with less of Julian's priceless antiques cluttering up the place. There was little to distract him though, apart from a cage of clockwork canaries on the second-floor landing. This last object was so incredibly tasteless that Adam could only assume it had been a gift, and Julian was keeping it for sentimental reasons.

"They sound delightful when in full throttle", said Julian, suddenly emerging from the shadows.

"Have you been following me around?"

"My room's up here. I happened to notice you prowling about. I take it you don't approve of my canaries? You always were such a snob Adam".

"Takes one to know one".

Julian was now standing on the other side of the cage from him. He pressed his face up against the bars and then slowly poked out his tongue. The sight was so incongruous that Adam started giggling.

"Glad you haven't lost of the art of appreciating silliness", said Julian, sidling around the cage until he was standing next to him "I was beginning to wonder. With your little gang you have to act so serious all the time. The downside to being with younger people. They never approve of us old 'uns acting silly. I bet there's a whole side to you they never see. You need someone your own age to bring it out".

Adam stared at him silently. He made no effort to move or speak for some time.

"I suppose it's now", he said, eventually "That you offer me one for old time's sake?"

"And you reply", said Julian "In your bitchiest tones, what the hell do I want with an old lump like you, when I've got those pretty little boys with their perfect cute arses? Well, those little boys of yours are all very well Adam, but you always needed a strong jockey on your back. And somehow I don't think they can master you. Don't you find it exhausting being in charge?"

"They bring out the best in me", said Adam.

"And I bring out the worst", Julian flicked Adam's nipple-ring "I make you irresponsible, volatile, impetuous. You must miss that Adam. You must miss the challenge".

Suddenly Julian pulled Adam to the nearest door and dragged him across the threshold. Adam barely had time to notice that they were in Julian's bedroom, before the other man had pushed him roughly against the wall.

"Say you want me Adam. Say it. Underneath that haughty exterior you're still the headstrong boy aren't you? All lonely and vulnerable. Demanding to be loved into submission".

Julian yanked down Adam's shorts and pants, catching them slightly on his erect penis. He sucked him off aggressively. Adam clawed the wall behind him. He was unwilling to touch Julian, as though he didn't want to make him real. His climax was real enough though. He felt he could have knocked down houses with the sheer force of the intensity in his penis.

And then Julian was gone! He had left the room abruptly as soon as Adam had come, without a single word or gesture of explanation or farewell. Adam knew his tricks of old, and this was a speciality of his. Julian had always got his kicks from humiliating his sexual partners. Abandoning them immediately after a climax was one such practice, to him it showed he felt they were no better than prostitutes. Adam was just grateful that he hadn't employed his worse trick, which was to lead his partner so far, and then disdainfully refuse to take them any closer to the boil.

Adam crumpled to the floor, hampered by half his clothing which was still caught up around his ankles. He was prepared to feel humiliated, but strangely didn't. He simply knew Julian's tricks too well.

It was very late. Julian hadn't returned, and Adam assumed he had disappeared into another part of the house. He didn't particularly care very much. He felt strong. He felt that when he saw Julian again he could knock him all down the stairs and around the hall. Julian was the weak one. Julian was the one who was still playing his ridiculous, pathetic sex games at an age when he should know better. Julian was the loser. Adam was the one with the young beauty as a partner. Adam was the one who had conquered his fear of love. Adam was the victor with the spoils.

For two pins Adam felt he would have run around the room like a three-year-old shrieking "Julian's a loser!" at the top of his voice. He imagined it instead, and laughed. Then he decided to take advantage of Julian's continued absence by having a good pry around his bedroom.

It had his personality stamped all over it. From the mirrors on the walls to the purple satin sheets on the bed, the whole room was a monument to the life of an ageing roue. A man who had always had more money than sense, and who liked to feel superior at all times. The wash-stand held few surprises, apart from a small silver box containing a selection of different-coloured pills.

"Barbiturates", said Adam "So he can still get hold of those. Shame".

The barbs had always been partly responsible for Julian's aggression, his insufferable need to always be the strongest of any company he was in. Adam had often wondered whether Julian would calm down if he stopped taking them. Not for the first time in his life he experienced a great urge to flush them down the nearest lavatory. This time he decided not to, because it was obvious Julian didn't have much in his life at the moment.

Adam brought himself up sharply with that thought. For the first time in his life he was actually pitying him! After this momentous revelation he flopped in exhaustion onto the purple sheets, and almost immediately fell into a deep sleep.

Dawn was breaking when he woke again. Julian still hadn't returned. Adam got out of bed and climbed out onto the balcony. The garden was swathed eerily in a dense early morning mist, but through the gloom he could just about make out Julian stepping slowly across the grass, his head bent in a pose of deep thought.

"Working up to an apology I hope?" said Adam, just loudly enough for Julian to hear him.

Julian looked up sharply. Adam was standing there naked, shivering slightly in the lingering chill of the dawn.

"I need to talk to you", said Julian, with none of the usual mocking tone in his voice "Come down and join me here. I can't talk to you like this".

"Funny how some people never change", said Adam.

He was standing with Julian on a small plank bridge that spanned the garden stream. The day had now well and truly arrived. There was a glorious sun out in force and the birds were warbling merrily. Julian was indifferent to it all. He leaned forward on the rail, staring down into the shallow water.

"I hope you got some satisfaction out of running out on me", Adam continued "I'm sure you did it to make me feel like a tart. That's why you always did it. I've never understood that Julian. Why exactly do you think you are superior to everyone else? Is there some particular quality to you that I just don't see?"

"I didn't do it because of that", Julian mumbled "Not this time. I have changed Adam. I wish I could prove it to you but I can't".

"You could try".

"I didn't want it that way last night!" Julian cried "It's bloody difficult for me having you running about the house, firing on all cylinders. I left you last night because that was all I could do. I couldn't do any more for you other than jack you off".

"I don't understand", said Adam "What are you trying to say?"

"I'm impotent".

"For God's sake Jules, that's no big deal. Go and see a doctor!"

"I have", said Julian "There's nothing anyone can do. In desperation I even went to see the witch-doctor in Husgalonghi. Even he couldn't help me though. No one can. It's not a medical condition you see, my impotence".

"What is it then?"

"I've been cursed".

"What?" Adam exclaimed "I think you'd better start from the beginning".

"It's all to do with Gabriel".

"Somehow that doesn't surprise me".

"Last summer I had a lucrative contract with him. To re-furbish his bedroom suite at his Mundaba Heights residence. It was a bloody good deal. Not just the money, but he was an absolute delight to work for. Most people mess you around from the world 'go'. You know the sort of thing. They want a purple colour scheme, and then when it's nearly finished they decide they'd rather have yellow. Gabriel wasn't like that. He was completely professional. He treated me like a master craftsman, and respected my opinion and work-practices at all times".

"So what went wrong?"

"Oh Adam, you know me. When Oscar Wilde said that he could resist anything but temptation, he could have been talking about me too. Gabriel had assigned me a house-boy, to do all my fetching and carrying for me. Run errands, that sort of thing".

"And you couldn't keep your hands off him?"

"I sometimes wonder if Gabriel was testing me all along, in a very Biblical way. Deliberately throwing temptation into my path if you see what I mean, and of course I had to stop and pick it up didn't I? Gabriel found out. Screamed at me that I was a filthy sodomist, and fired me on the spot".

"How did that make you impotent?"

"He swore that he would make it so that I could never bugger anyone again. At first I thought he was actually physically threatening me, and I was dreading all sorts of things. I came here for a while, this had originally just been my holiday retreat. All the time I kept expecting some thug to turn up with a carving-knife. As time went by and nothing happened I began to accept it as just Gabriel letting off steam, and that it hadn't really meant anything. I went to Lixix for a few days to scout around for new contacts. Whilst I was there I picked up a whore. We went back to my hotel-room, and everything was fine. Then whilst I was sleeping afterwards I had a terrible dream. Basically that I was being castrated. I could see it all, the knife, the blood ..."

"Yes thanks, I get the general picture".

"This was no simple nightmare though, as I soon began to learn. From that day on everytime I tried to have sex or wanked, I would get an hallucination of that dream all over again. In all its vivid gory detail. It was always so real. I began to fear sex, and soon it was impossible for me to have an erection".

"You've just got to try and overcome it somehow. Mental willpower", said Adam.

"You think I haven't tried? I tell you, he's cursed me. This is it, I'm stuck with it. The mind is willing, but the body ... I wanted you last night. But I knew it would be impossible, like trying to blow up a burst balloon. But I thought at least I could still get some pleasure somehow, even if my body wouldn't listen to me".

They took several turns around the garden, rather like, as Adam thought afterwards, two maiden aunts strolling along a seaside prom. The solution to Julian's problem was obvious. If Kieran defeated Gabriel he would no longer be tormented by the castration images.

"That's why I've been relatively well-behaved around him", said Julian "For me that is. Ordinarily I would have been atrocious. Coming onto you in front of him. Pawing him even at every opportunity. At the same time slagging him off and letting him overhear me".

"Gabriel's done us a favour then".

"I'm being honest with you Adam".

"That is a quite remarkable first, I will admit. It's almost poetic justice really. All those poor men you've ritually humiliated over the years, and now you can't get it up for love nor money. Perhaps we should leave you like it. You'll be a better person in the long run".

"I had you going last night though didn't I? I can still do that".

"You pathetic old slob Julian. Yes it was great fun".

"As I told you last night Adam, you need mastering. I doubt your little blonde Tinkerbell can do that".

"I wouldn't be so sure if I was you. He's not the Vanquisher of Evil for nothing. Anyway, seriously, Patsy does want to destroy Gabriel. I think we're all determined on that, particularly after what happened to Noni. And you can help us. You must know Mundaba Heights pretty well by now".

"Only Gabriel's bedroom suite. I hardly saw anything of the rest of the place. I even slept in there, not with him as well needless to say. I was strictly confined to barracks at all times. That was one of the reasons Gabriel gave me the house-boy for errands, to stop me wandering off where I shouldn't".

"Even so, you may still be able to help us. You'll certainly be able to tell us more about it than we know now".

"You'll have to stay another day then won't you?" Julian smirked "And a night".

Adam sat on the verandah in the morning sunshine whilst Julian went to see where Finia had got to with the breakfast. The others were all still in bed.

"Another crisis on our hands", Julian announced, when he returned "Finia's effectively gone on strike. He's refusing to get out of bed".

"Have you upset him?"

"No I haven't. But one of your lot has. Finia says one of your cute boys tried to rape him last night".

"Which one?" Adam cried "Not Hillyard was it? I sometimes think I should hire a lion-tamer to keep control of him".

"It wasn't him. He said it was Joby".

"Joby!" Adam exclaimed "But that's completely absurd. Joby just wouldn't do that sort of thing, not without having a complete nervous breakdown and killing himself in a fit of remorse afterwards".

"Finia swears it's true. You'd better sort this out Adam. Or I'm going to be without any staff".

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