The next three days of his holidays passed by like a dream for Nicholas. In that time he learnt that Marcus was a tender and attentive man. They spent their time together, got to know each other better, except for the one afternoon Marcus spent with Sebastian.
Marcus didn't wanted Sebastian to come over for reasons that weren't quite clear even to himself. He knew his old friend had a slightly overwhelming air but this was his usual habit and Marcus knew it was unintentional. Marcus didn't want Nicholas to feel uncomfortable or lose his newly-found self-confidence. He watched the young man sitting crouched in a heavy armchair, the block of sheets upon his knees, finishing his painting. While painting or drawing, nothing could disturb him, the tip of his tongue lodged in the corner of his mouth and his eyebrows a straight line over his nose where Marcus had recently discovered some tiny freckles. Nicholas had been working on the drawing now for two days and still wasn't satisfied.
Marcus had to undress again one evening and sit in the same position as he did the first time and it caused him the same arousal and pleasure afterwards.
Marcus still watched the young man over the top of his book, saw the lightly clenched soft lips and the stern expression which made him look older than usual. He mused about the slender body, now open for him so willingly as if Marcus had washed away all the hurts and bad experiences with a magical wave of his hand. He didn't know exactly if this could be good for Nicholas, to trust him so implicitly, but after all, he - Marcus - had no intention of hurting him, and Nicholas told him minor things about his feelings and all that Marcus knew about his emotions and feelings he read in his sparkling eyes.
Nicholas lifted his head and met Marcus' gaze. He smiled and slowly turned the painted sheet towards the older man, sitting in the corner of the couch, his feet on the low table. Marcus stared into his own face, saw his half closed eyes, the sharp line of light cutting his body in two halves like a knife, leaving a part of him in darkness. For Marcus it was a symbol of his own character: one part bright, friendly, loving and ready to do everything for his friends, the other, the dark side, hidden deep down in his soul: the selfish side, the slight arrogance and tongue that could hurt and make enemies. But, after all, was he so different to other humans? 'Two souls residing in my breast' - like Goethe had written... The secret was to keep the good and bad in proportion.
Marcus saw it was an excellent drawing and that Nicholas had unconsciously expressed his very being - not only the handsome exterior.
Surprised he looked at Nicholas, waiting for an answer, stood up and knelt in front of him, ignoring the painting. He planted a soft kiss on his lips and whispered "Great job, baby. You can look behind a man. What did you see?"
Nicholas smelled the now familiar scent of cinnamon and lemons and whispered back "Perhaps the man I love."
Marcus flinched and closed his eyes for a moment. What should he answer? He took one of Nicholas' hands in his and drew him from the armchair. "Come with me."
Nicholas followed excited but Marcus didn't go towards his bedroom but into another room, which he knew was Marcus' working room. A computer stood on the desk, covered with loose sheets, blocks, pens, coloured tags and books.
He motioned him to sit down and took the other chair opposite. Then he opened a thick calendar and read out loud,
"31st of December: New Years Party at the Four Seasons , 3rd of January: Exhibition at Paul's, Following week: own exhibition, End of January: meeting with Mr. Carlisle in New York, February: Meeting in Siena, visit Sebastian in Rome, few days holiday by the sea, March: auction in London, second exhibition in Berlin."
He glanced at Nicholas' face. "Shall I continue?"
Nicholas' face lit up and he exclaimed: "But I can come with you, I have never been to New York and all those other cities!"
But suddenly he shut his mouth and seemed to slump down a little in his chair.
It made Marcus' stomach lurch. In a low voice he said, "I want you to quit your job at the shopping centre and go back to the Academy. You haven't finished the course, there are many things you have to learn and there's no better education than this Academy. You know this. I cannot teach you anything. My talent is sloppy and not trained, but you...you could become perfect at it - if you want, Nick."
Again he stretched out his arm and took Nicholas' hands in his. "I know you are frightened of going back, but you don't have to be. Maybe this Frank isn't there anymore, and after all - even if he's still there -it doesn't matter. He's not worth anything as a human. I will inquire and I will pay for it. You mustn't waste your life and talent behind a counter desk, are you listening?"
Nicholas drew back his hands. His face was expressionless and a heavy sigh escaped his mouth. "You'd pay for it?" he asked doubtfully, "I don't know if I can accept. Am I your protégé then?" His voice became more firm and louder. "The same old story: a rich old man supports the promising young talent and sometimes even shares his bed with him?"
Now Marcus sighed. He bite his lips and his eyes were sinister. "Nicholas. Stop talking like this. I can't bear it. It's your life, if you're so keen to stand until you are ready to drop and sell old wives ugly underpants then do it, I don't care. You are only nine years younger than me, but with you I sometimes feel really like an old man. Now, for instance."
His voice was sharp and Nicholas flinched. But immediately Marcus regained control over himself.
"I'm sorry, baby, I don't want to hurt you. But you are old enough to know what's good for you. I know you want to go back to learn more, you have missed it and are unhappy. You'll have to learn to live with the Franks in the world, there will be probably more entering your life. Be prepared for them. Face the fact and don't ran away."
Marcus felt himself sweating. Tiny droplets appeared on his nose. "I like you, Nicholas. I like you too much to permit you to be unhappy. You can live here with me if you want to, the house is big enough, but I won't be insulted if you prefer to live your own life. And," he tried a weak smile, " I'll see if you can come with me to Italy. Why not?"
Nicholas had watched and listened attentively and now seemed a little distracted. "Do I have to decide here and now?"
Marcus shook his head. "Of course not."