I found myself in the Garden Room with Julia that afternoon. Sebastian had a fancy of driving ourselves to the village to buy some new wine and meet an old acquaintance of his but I'd begged off coming with him due to a sudden headache that had developed over the morning.
As it began to clear up, I sought out the Garden Room to look over some of my work and found Julia sitting on a settee with a low table at her feet that had evidently been moved in here. It was covered in fabric swatches of every shade and material I could think of.
She ordered me to choose between a Prussian blue satin and a navy crêpe, holding them against her pale neck marked only by the gold cross she wore. That was how Sebastian found us, myself somewhat nervously standing close to Julia to hold up squares of blue against the décolleté exposed by the cut of her dress.
"The Prussian blue, I think," I said, then noticing her gaze was rather over my shoulder I turned to see what she was looking at - Sebastian standing by a pot filled with white lilies that marked the South entrance from the garage, holding a brown paper bag that was ruched around the slim neck of the wine bottle inside.
Sebastian swallowed, looking down his nose in an affected manner, "I see you're busy."
Then he turned on his heel and near fled the room, clutching the bottle to his chest. Julia sighed and rolled her eyes then said,"the Prussian blue?" in the aloof manner she often took when dealing, or not, with Sebastian as if nothing had happened.
I turned back to her, "yes, I'm sorry but I should go and see Sebastian, I promised him we would-."
I trailed off as Julia took the blues from me as if she had suddenly grown unbearably bored of my company, "he's so terribly moody," she said apathetically, effectively dismissing me.
Sebastian was clearly knocking about in his room, but when I rapped on his door there was no response so I took a cue to leave and read in the library until dinner. After dinner the rest of the family went to chapel, leaving me to occupy myself once more. It was in the library, to which I had returned to read my book, that one of the footmen with a very deliberate servant's blank found me and told me that Sebastian had requested my presence. So I went to his room, rapping on his door softly.
"Charles?" came Sebastian's voice from within.
I took that as my cue to come in, and was faced with a sight that almost took my breath away in surprise, and later in beauty, even though I could only see him from behind.
Sebastian was standing with his back to me, and wearing a long gown in rich indigo shades that was not quite done up to the last couple of buttons, most likely out of inability to reach around to button it himself than as a style choice, and thus exposing the pale planes of his upper back. Despite the fact it was not made for a masculine figure, Sebastian had become so thin lately that instead of awkwardly being stretched over straight lines, musculature even, where there should be corseted curves the silky fabric meant that it clung to his figure anyway.
It was clearly an older dress that had been in storage, the style echoed some years previous and it had clearly not been worn in a while. Yet it was still a beautiful dress, I surmised that it had belonged for Julia as I could not picture Lady Marchmain wearing something so youthful or luxurious.
He wore a mismatched, in that it was slightly heavy set compared to the layered skirts in a range of blue and purple hues that were made from a soft sort of tulle that made it appear iridescent, diamond tiara atop his soft blonde hair. It slid down a little, clearly not affixed with hairpins, as he turned to face me.
This movement brought the shimmering bust into full view, embroidered with the same intricate gold thread floral pattern that bordered the short puff sleeves and the edges of the skirts. around his pale neck was a matching necklace. Despite the haphazard way in which the outfit was put together, I could not speak for his beauty nor did I have the presence of mind to question what I was seeing.
"I..." Sebastian seemed to forget what he was saying, swaying on his feet.
I caught him as he pitched forward, slumping into my arms so that I was bearing his weight.
"Sebastian? Are you alright? Sebastian?"
His hands limply tried for purchase on my shoulders as if he wanted to face me rather than be held, so we ended up bracing him in a manner that left us with our hands on each other's shoulders as if we were about to dance, looking into each other's eyes.
From his proximity I noticed that his lashes were darker, making his pallid blue eyes seem starker in contrast to his dark hair. He'd clearly been worrying at his lips, for they looked almost kiss bitten but rosy as well, presumably from some sort of makeup. It struck me with an alarming degree of intensity that I very dearly wanted to kiss him and my mind simply could not tick over this thought to something more suitable.
Sebastian unexpectedly stumbled back, startling me from my slack jawed reverie. Tears had begun to glisten around his eyes, wobbling onto his ruddy cheeks and leaving behind filthy black streaks.
He fisted his hands into my shirt, eyelashes fluttering away tears as he tried to make a little smile though his bottom lip trembled, "I stole one of Julia's old dresses and one of Mummy's tiaras, and Julia's makeup. But only a little because I didn't want to look like a whore ."
The way he said whore carried an implication that was not difficult to untangle, the unspoken accusation clear yet I still asked why as my mind was still entirely distracted by the impulse to kiss Sebastian as we stood in the middle of his room, draped in pretty fabrics with the door unlocked.
"You stood so close Julia," he sniffled, "I thought that if I looked like her then you might want to touch me."
The uncertain manner in which he spoke was out of sorts, Sebastian always spoke in imperatives - he must, we must, they must, enough to speak to me of his distress without directly telling me that he was jealous. And more importantly, that he wanted me too. It was never maybe with Sebastian, it was always a surety.
"You're drunk, Sebastian," was all I could whisper in the little space between us.
Sebastian's lips were quivering, and thoughtlessly I brought my palm up to the side of his face and brushed my thumb across his lower lip, smearing the rouge. His sorrowful eyes were cast towards the ground and even as I tried to gently thumb his chin upwards his eyes would not meet mine, reminding me of the countless statues of the mournful Virgin Mary we had seen in Venice. Draped in blue, his visage further evoked within me the memory of pious feminine lament.
When he spoke it was with his face buried in my shoulder, muffled, "I just," he sobbed quietly, "I could not bear it if you went to Julia."
I was seized with the heady need to hold him close to me, so I embraced him, cradling the back of his head.
"I don't want her."
Sebastian spread a hand across my shoulder blades, the other around my waist for dear life. When he drew his head back slightly I could feel his warm breath on my throat.
"I don't want Julia," I repeated.
Receiving my sort of confirmation he pressed a little hesitant kiss to my throat, then another, another, and another and I tilted my head back and he kept kissing me, a zealous string across my jaw and over my ear. My breath hitched, as our lips met and some unfathomable sensation wrought a pleasant sensation about me until I realized the reality of the situation and pushed him away.
"You're drunk," I forced my mouth to work, for there was nothing else I could think to say in the face of this heady mixture of desire and shame at letting, enjoying his affection while he was drunk. "You need to sleep. Let me help you change for bed."
An indescribable veil of sorrow descended upon his face, and tears began to trickle down his cheeks in earnestI thought he was going to argue so brought one of his limp hands to my mouth and gently kissed his wrist almost jarringly chaste in the face of the way my heart had been racing under his touch a moment before. Perhaps he was pacified by my hand upon his waist, or was simply tired, because he did not broker any argument and allowed me to help him change into his pajamas, wiping the smudged paint from his face with a damp cloth in a heavy silence.
He clutched my hand once I'd tucked him under the blankets, begging me not to leave. I took my shoes off, and laid atop the blankets beside him. It was a balmy summer night, so Sebastian would probably be overly warm under the layers but having gotten him into bed I was loath to disturb him.
Unable to rest, I laid awake for many hours before sleep took me.
I was hot when I awoke, sweating beneath a thick blanket in my shirtsleeves. I cast it off, and realized that Sebastian was not beside me. Panic beset me as the events of last night came back to me and my stomach turned at the possibilities my unsettled mind produced for me. That Sebastian's desire was only wine, that I was to be banished from Brideshead for my sin in taking advantage of him - the future that laid before me seemed an inescapable miasma of misery. One without Sebastian.
When he returned it was with a plate of burnt toast and a teapot, two teacups dangling off his fingers. He talked, as if nothing had happened, the state I was in being one such that I didn't really hear a word.
He ignored me, setting his goods down on the bedside table as if preparing a picnic.
" Sebastian. "
I took hold of his wrist to make him sit down beside me on the edge of the bed, and he finally looked me in the eye. The faux imitation of a smile dropped - there was a speech at his lips despite the way he was just pretending as if he remembered nothing at all. He started speaking before I could say anything, all his words tumbling out at once.
"If you want nothing to do with me anymore, I understand. I forced myself on you and that was rotten, Charles, you're not like me and I shouldn't try to make you that way, I just," he stumbled over himself, "I'm sorry if this offends you to hear but you must know that I love you. Very much. And I wanted it, Charles, more than anything. If anyone was in the wrong it's me, and I detest myself for it."
I struggled to articulate a reply from the thorny mix of love, terror, and exhilaration that his confession stirred in me. Sebastian wet his lips, his lips parting as if he was going to speak again.
So I bridged the gap between us to kiss him, softly at first; a mere brush against his lips like butterfly wings. I found his hand on my hip as he leaned into the kiss, and I let us fall backwards onto the bed so that he was half on top of me, propping himself up on his elbow. My own hands were on his slim waist or tracing lines on his back. At the mercy of Sebastian's love I felt a pang of exquisite helplessness as we I began to know each other in a way that I had never known another. When we parted, it was brief, and our noses brushed against each other, foreheads touching as though we could not bear a lack of physical contact.
We would talk, later, but for now I was content.