"Would you be disappointed if I didn't go back?" Nicholas stared into the eyes at the other side of the desk.
"Yes, I would. But that shouldn't influence your decision. As I said, it's your life."
Nicholas rubbed at an invisible spot on his jeans. For the first time in his life he realized, what the things you do for love. When there was a man you love and want to please him with something you actually don't want to do, but nevertheless do because it would make him happy. And - would it be such a sacrifice? Marcus was right, he had missed the Academy, the crowd of the same kindred spirits, the parties they had celebrated with cheep red wine and greased slices of bread, the smell of paint, glue and turpentine filling the old, high-ceilinged rooms where he could forget what he was - a simple young man, with nothing more then his talent - and changing at the easel to a different man full of enthusiasm and with observant eyes. He wondered how he had been able to live without all this?
And Frank ... well, he was a good teacher and he would hardly rape him in front of all these other people, would he?
Nicholas believed he was now strong enough to face him. Frank was only a poor guy who would never feel what love could be. He picked up a pencil lying on the table and played with it. Then he looked at Marcus again.
"When can I go?"
Marcus had to laugh. "My, Nicholas. You are a man who makes his mind up quickly." He still laughed. "Calm down, I have to ask around first! Is that OK?"
Nicholas joined in his laughter. "Sure, but don't wait too long. I don't really like selling ugly underpants to old women!" He was serious again. "Do you really like my painting?"
Marcus nodded. "Yes. What shall we do with it?"
"Hang it on the wall!"
"Where? In the bedroom?"
"Yes, beside Simon."
Marcus lifted an eyebrow. "I don't know if that's such a good idea. Why do you think there aren't any nude paintings in this room?"
Nicholas shrugged his shoulders. "Don't know. Maybe you can't stop jerking off?"
Nicholas chuckled and Marcus had to laugh again. "No, honey because I don't want my housekeeper to pass out from the shock!"
Nicholas frowned. "Housekeeper? You mean a strange woman sneaks around here all day?"
"Not the whole day. Only for a few hours. She cleans the rooms, fills my fridge, cooks, does the laundry. That's all."
"That's all? Sounds like a full time job to me. Your house is big. We would be meeting all the time and I don't know if I like the idea."
Marcus stood up and went around the table. Then he knelt again and said, "Stop thinking about it. That can wait. Would you rather be doing all those household chores? You wouldn't have any time for the more important things anymore. Come, let's see if we can find a suitable frame for your picture."
They went up to the workshop, found a frame and hung it, as it was Nicholas' wish, next to Simon. The housekeeper wouldn't show up until the New Year and it could be left there at least until then. Nicholas stared once more at the picture of the young lad with the impish grin and the big towel he held in front of him. Only the round globes of his arse cheeks were visible, and Nicholas decided it was a marvellous view. Although he knew by now that his name was Simon, Marcus hadn't told him anymore about him and Nicholas decided not to press him further. Someday he would tell him surely. He wondered though why Simon was gone and if he had done this voluntarily. If yes, how could he leave a man like Marcus? Nicholas thought of the nights they had spent together, cuddled up in front of the fire place, where Marcus told him some of the tales belonging to the things standing in the loft. He yearned to see them again and move his fingers over the cold stone of the old emperor's faces, outlining the fine contours of the Apollo statue he loved so much.
And afterwards the remainder of the nights they spent in Marcus' bed... the thought of which made a sweet shiver run down his spine. He could drink Marcus like an everlasting source, or rather - Nicholas grinned - a spring.
He loved the taste of Marcus' semen, it was as sweet as chocolate and peppermint to him and Marcus had laughingly complained that although he would squeeze out his very soul, it made him feel like sixteen again. But then, had he not told him just now, he could make him sometimes feel like an old man? Nicholas shook his head and shrugged. His eyes wandered over Simon's body or what was visible of it. What could had happened to him? The dark eyes held reckless laughter and in his cheeks were two deep dimples.
Nicholas definitely liked this face.