After I had wheeled Sebastian around the grounds and drawing rooms of Brideshead for a whole week, we were setting out by motor-car to Flyte St. Mary to see the family doctor for a change of his bandage. Sebastian didn‘t complain as much about his toe as in the first days and hobbled into the examination room gaily and unsupported. I was surprised and frightened when the doctor opened the door to the waiting room after a few minutes. His face looked grave when he asked me to step in with him for a second. On the short way to his office, I had appalling visions of a toe turned black and necrotic, spreading on the whole feet, the need for immediate amputation – until I saw Sebastian, releaved of a snake of white gauze near his foot, half reclining on the examination table and beaming:
„Charles, this is your unique chance to get a bit of a nurse training. Doctor Grant is showing you how to bandage my toes so I can finally have a bath again.“
I let out my breath with a sigh:
„That‘s all? You scared me!“
„Why ever? Don‘t be silly, it‘s just a toe!“
I smiled inwardly. It was the first time in the whole week that the gravely injured member was referred to as „just a toe“.
„Now, come here, Mr. -?“
„Ryder‘s the name, Sir.“
„You take a roll of gauze and hold it here, and then...“
Sebastian was the perfect patient, sensible, calm, cooperative. I just need to note this here because the procedure went quite differently when we repeated it at home. Relieved of the thick bandage, with just a little taping around two toes and the prospect of soon being able to wear shoes again, we left the office.
The golden afternoon was spent, according to doctor‘s orders, again in blissful laziness and lounging around with a raised foot. I almost regretted that the days to have an excuse for laying around on a blanket somewhere nice in the park were numbered, although I guessed we would find other reasons to continue this truly Arcadian habit of sipping champagne early in the day, enjoy warm figs and peaches and just watch the clouds in the sky.
After dinner, Sebastian asked me if I would assist him with getting out of the tub. I understood how much he longed for a bath, but I felt a bit awkward:
„Can‘t you ask Wilcox? Or a valet?“
„I don‘t know. Isn‘t it strange… I mean… you being naked...“
„Come on, Charles. You are not aware what you missed until now!“, he tried to humour me.
„You really didn‘t have any siblings, did you? Come on, it‘s no big deal. You will survive it.“
But it turned out being a bigger deal than I had expected. Sebastian‘s graceful figure was far more lovely than I had ever imagined, and the natural elegance of his movements added to his great physical beauty was almost too much to endure for me. He seemed unconcerned, asked for a cigarette and some more wine when he reclined in the tub and chatted and splashed on undisturbed.
Later on, I tried my best to keep my eyes on his face when I helped him out of the tub and wrapped a towel around him. He hopped around ever easier, so I just handed him his pyjama and left the extravagant large bathroom. Soon, he skipped back to me and flipped himself onto the bed next to me:
„I say, old man, I feel great. So much better than before. Thank you!“
„You are welcome. Is your toe alright?“
„Yes. Can we let it get some air before you tuck it in for the night?“
„Yes, of course. Let me see.“
I moved down on the mattress and took his rather smallish foot into my hand. The smallest toe looked a bit crooked – it would stay this way, the doctor had predicted – and somehow incredibly vulnerable and lovely. I had never known I could be so fond of a toe. Could one be in love with a toe? I touched it very lightly on the upper side, remembering the mornings I had spent at the National Gallery during my stay with my father. The martyred Sebastians there came to my mind. They had filled me with considerable unease when looking at them. I liked my friend already so much that I couldn‘t bear the thought of someone bearing the same name being tortured. I was so glad Sebastian didn‘t suffer any more, and when I looked up at him with his elegant foot still resting snugly in my hand, he shot me an asking, surprised look. Had he felt what I had felt? This great wave of fondness and - more, that had washed over me? I was slightly embarrassed and tried to draw attention to Aloysius, neglected and lonely on the bed. This always worked and gave us something to talk about.
After having finished the bottle of wine, we were definitely tipsier than before. I suggested to bandage the toes as long as I could roll the gauze straight. Sebastian broke into a peal of silly giggles before I even touched him, and he squeaked and wriggled in a not very cooperative manner when I tried to get hold of his foot.
„Don‘t! I am awfully ticklish!“
„You are tipsy, that‘s all. Don‘t be silly.“
I tried to grasp the wriggling, elegant foot again and stroked it a bit, like a nervous animal, to calm him down. He giggled again, but arranged himself in a different angle and looked at me, pyjamas slightly askew, with barely concealed laughter.
„Now, be good. You behaved so well in the doctor‘s office today. Do it again.“
We both smirked. I fear I was too drunk to execute my first task as a nurse, but somehow I managed to wrap the gauze around the last two toes – adorable little toes they were, with mother-of-pearl-like small nails – and fasten it after asking several times if it was too tight or too loose. When the work was finally done, Sebastian reclined and announced benevolently:
„You may kiss my foot now.“
„It‘s clean!“, he added reproachfully.
I leaned down and bit the side of his foot lightly, making growling noises. Sebastian squeaked and tried to escape:
„Don‘t! My toe! You will hurt it!“
I grabbed his other foot and lifted it to my mouth. Sebastian fell backwards, giggling and snorting, and I started to nibble at the length of his foot. He held this foot still, aware that he would hurt me when kicking, and somehow invitingly despite his protests. I shoved his pants away from his leg and worked my way up his shin, growling and gently biting, when he suddenly threw himself onto my body and tried to hug me and flip me aside. We wrestled like young puppies, laughing and panting, until I had him on his back again and held him firmly with one hand:
„And now, the ribs. That‘s my favourite part of little blond boys“, I declared, moving his pyjama top upwards.
„No! No, you can‘t! Please not the ribs! I am really ticklish there! Don‘t“, he wailed.
„Yes, the ribs!“ My stomach hurt from laughing, and he gasped for air and must have felt the same. Suddenly, we grew silent and locked our eyes. I hoisted myself up again, raised my eyebrows and licked my mouth, only to get the expected pleas for mercy from him. I almost succumbed, with him having a bad toe and all, but I still wanted to tease him a bit longer. I wriggled up to his face, my hand still firmly on his chest, and said calmly:
„Just – kissing. I won‘t bite. I promise.“
„You are far too drunk for promises.“
„No, really, I do. No nibbling, no gnawing.“
He squeaked softly and drew a face.
„Just – a little bit of your ribs. Come on“, I pouted.
He looked into my eyes, silly and lovely at the same time. We held the gaze longer than necessary and he put a hand onto my shoulder:
„But you stop when I ask you to? I am really ticklish there.“
„I stop. Promise.“
Another long gaze which made me almost forget what I had had in mind. I moved my hand lightly over his stomach, opened two buttons on his pyjama top and slid the fabric away. Slowly and gently, I moved down and touched his warm skin with my cheek.
„Not your hair! Get away with the hair! And don‘t breathe so much!“
I smiled. Smoothing over his tender, soft skin, I lightly searched for his slightly protruding ribs. This was the awful place where most of the depicted saints had arrows stuck into their tender, glowing flesh. How beautiful those Sebastians always were. And how beautiful my very own one was. I stroked his skin as tenderly as possible, trying in vain to close the bloody wounds that still lingered in my mind, to heal the perfect male bodies wounded and twisted since centuries. I lowered my mouth on one of the upper ribs. Feeling the slight, small bone under my lips, I pressed my mouth lightly onto his skin. Sebastian was suddenly calm and silent. I saw his stomach lift with a breath, but he seemed to hold it.
„Just go on breathing. Don‘t be afraid.“
He looked down at me with liquid eyes and gently laced a hand into my hair. All of a sudden, the atmosphere had changed. The moment had turned into a more sensual and intimate encounter than I had had in mind. I felt sweetness and fondness trickle through my veins, and suddenly, I didn‘t want to wrestle and struggle with him – I wanted to be tender, and gentle, and kiss every inch of him. He opened his lips slightly and let out a breath. His whole body seemed to relax when I searched his second rib with my lips and kissed it warmly. And the next one. His fingers played lightly with my hair and I heard a soft sigh. I never wanted to stop being so near his fragrant, warm skin. I could see his pulse on his flat stomach and saw his shallow breathing. Without asking for permission, I pressed one more long, soft kiss onto his stomach, near his bellybutton, and slowly slid upwards to face him, kissing his chest and his delicate collarbone while moving. One of his hands slid down from my head and rested on my neck, the other wandered slowly upwards on my arm. Our playfulness was gone. There was only desire and longing left, unspeakable wishes and hopes we had never before dared to mention. Sebastian moved a bit to get under me again and laid his hands gently onto my shoulders. My face was right above his. I didn‘t dare to breathe when I drowned in his eyes. There was summer in them, white clouds on blue skies, bubbling champagne against the afternoon sun, blue lakes. His eyes were large, bright and somehow misted over a bit, and more lovely and expectant than I ever had seen them. He opened his lips lightly, seemingly unaware of the gesture, and traced my lips with the pad of a finger. I had never kissed anyone before, no girl, no boy, and had a moment of panic if I knew how it was done properly. Sebastian must have felt it. There was a reassuring smile in his eyes when he moved his finger over my lips once again, as if opening them, and gently pulled my face down onto his. And I finally did what I had wanted to do for so long: I touched his warm lips with mine. Tenderly and lightly, and waiting a bit for his reaction first, but never leaving them. He moaned once more, put his hands on my cheeks and pursed his lips a bit to kiss me back with more pressure. Strangely, I remember that the only noise in the next minutes was the soft kissing sounds our mouths produced, wet, slick sounds, interspersed with an occasional louder breath or sigh of one of us. Sebastian slid one of his legs between mine and drew me even closer onto him, kissing me all the time. I arranged my legs around his. After he had knotted one hand into my pyjama almost unknowingly, his hands relaxed and slid under my pyjama top. Feeling his hands on my bare skin was like getting burned. And I almost couldn‘t bear the thought how our hips joined, how they moved slightly with the rhythm of our caresses. Almost in rapture, I opened my lips and felt to my amazement that Sebastian followed. He tucked at my upper lip softly with his, moved it between his moist, hot lips. I had never known kissing would be so exciting. And our mutual excitement was palpable – feeling the press of Sebastian‘s bulging groin against my hipbone was disturbing and arousing at the same time. I was uncertain how to handle this unexpected intimacy: what did etiquette say in a situation like this? Was a first kiss just a kiss, or did it expand on other territory? Should I ignore it politely? Without talking about it, we consented to the latter. We were more than aware of our arousal, and Sebastian definitely was the more unconcerned one about it. When he climbed on top of me later on, he arranged our swollen members without touching them in a way that allowed him to grind slowly and indulgently into me, giving both of us the utmost pleasure with his movements. I put my hands ligtly onto his slowly moving hips and directed their dance on mine lovingly. With a pounding heart, I also allowed myself to stroke his lovely buttocks. He opened his eyes wide when he felt my hands there, but closed them again while giving himself over to another wet kiss. Sebastian was more at ease with the situation as a whole. When I was on top of him again, he slid his fingers into my pants and started to grace my bare bum, all the while rotating his hips against mine and letting his tongue swirl in my mouth. I clenched into his shoulders and knew: if I allowed myself to let my guard down for five seconds, I would explode like a firework. But without speaking about it, we avoided going further. I smile at our innocence now, but in this summer night, our shared insecurity was mingled with inexperience. The inebriating experience of kissing each other was overwhelming enough.
Suddenly, I realized the night sky had turned pearly grey and grew ever lighter in the East.
„Did we kiss all night long?“, I asked in amazement.
„Yes, seems so. I had no idea. Did you notice how late it is?“
„No. I was occupied.“
Sebastian chuckled while he arranged himself on my chest. I tousled his hair and stroked his bony shoulders. He put one bent leg on top of mine and crept closer.
„So, the rumors of private nurses going wild at night are not too far-fetched, I see.“
„I did my utmost to make a good impression on my first day of work, your lordship.“
He moved up to my face, grinning, and kissed me moist and messily onto the mouth.
„I can‘t complain.“
We smirked. Suddenly, he grew serious:
„Did you know we would do that?“
„Did you – want to?“
„Of course I did! I couldn‘t stop thinking about you since I met you for the first time. Well, the second time maybe...“
He smiled apologetically:
„Don‘t remind me.“
He put his head back onto my chest and draped his arm over my stomach:
„Shall we sleep a bit?“
„Yes. Lets sleep.“
I drew the covers up around us against the slight chill of the morning air and closed my eyes. I was floating, we were floating in our embrace a few inches off the bed. I almost didn‘t feel my body anymore. No dream could ever be as sweet as the last night.