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davidsbarney [userpic]
Sebastian/Charles fic
by davidsbarney (davidsbarney)
at February 8th, 2010 (02:57 pm)
Tags:

Title- The Peculiar Ballad of Charles and Sebastian
Pairing- Main Sebastian/Charles, a little Julia/Charles
Rating- NC-17 for Charles' stupidity and also slash and sex
Warnings- I suppose for being out of character and aforementioned slash and sex. Fluff and angst in bucket loads and it's long.
Summary- How the story might have gone if the boys had said what they meant and shown what they felt....
Disclaimer- The characters belong to Waugh not me, that's why the original story was so depressing.

Notes- My Sebastian has dark hair as that's how I read him in the book.
Also this is AU, mostly because Charles is sympathetic and shows more emotion than a rock and that tended to alter things somewhat, but also I did play with the events a little. They say a lot more to each other here than they would have under Waugh. Not beta read I'm afraid, I just found it on my hard drive and thought I'd share. I could say English wasn't my first language but I'd be lying, all grammatical errors are my own. :)

Sebastian and Charles made their way to breakfast silently, both with frowns on their faces and Sebastian sat silently frowning all the way through the meal.

"What are you and charles going to do today Sebastian?" Asked his mother finally, when the silence became rather too oppressive. Sebastian simply shrugged and stared at his plate leaving Charles to clear his throat. "I thought I'd do some more painting in the garden room if that's alright."
"Of course" smiled Lady Marchmain. "What you've done so far is very pretty."

Charles tried not to look too awkward at accepting the praise when his lover was so depressed. "Thank you."

As usual Lady Marchmain made her way to the chapel following breakfast. What was not so usual was Julia holding her brother back to speak to him. "Sebastian, for God's sake, will you snap out of it?"

Blue eyes almost exactly like her own flew to her face. Charles had left to collect his brushes already and Julia was determined to say her piece. "All you have to do is stop drinking, is it really so hard? And you have everything you could want, why mess it up for this stupid infatuation with Charles? you know it will kill mummy if she finds out."

Sebastian's mouth tightened. "Are YOU in love with him?"
"Of course not."
"Then mind your own business."

"Sebastian!"
"He loves me." Hissed the boy. "The first person who truly does for no reason. Do you think I'm going to give that up?"

"Alright." Julia folded her arms. "Then tell me why you have to keep drowning yourself in drink to cope with the guilt! You know it's wrong, you know it!"

"And what do you think mummy would say if she knew you'd kissed him?" Asked Sebastian scornfully. "Do you think she'd be any happier?"

Julia blushed and Sebastian continued. "She warned Charles away from you, did you know THAT?"

Julia stared at him with wide eyes and Sebastian pushed his chair under the table and left her, banging the door behind him.

"Wine?"

Charles looked up from his painting to find his lover pouring out two glasses and looking rather unsteady. "Wine, Charles?"

Charles bit his lip. "Have you already had some?"
"Maybe a little." Sebastian smiled without humour. "Join me in a toast to interfering sisters."
"Julia?"
"The very same."

Charles took the glasses from him and set them on the table, pulling Sebastian into a seat next to him. "What did she do?"
"Warned me to put a stop to my, ah yes, my 'stupid infatuation,'" he snorted. "and said something about guilt."

Charles watched him and tried to think of something to say. "Ignore her" he finally settled on.
"I wish I could," Sebastian picked up his glass and drained it. "God, you don't know how much I wish I could."

***

Charles warily watched his lover finish the first bottle of wine and then get to his feet. He had been silent for some time. "kiss me." said Sebastian unsteadily.

"Here?"
"Why not here?"
"Anyone could see us."

Sebastian glided closer, his breath sweet against charles' skin. "Kiss me" he said again so charles did, softly, his lips moulding to those perfect ones beneath him, then he pulled away. Sebastian's eyes were closed, his cheeks flushed from either Charles or the wine or both. He looked like an angel. "More."

"Sebastian.." warned Charles, frowning slightly. "We can't. God, your MOTHER could come by at any moment."

"I don't care." His eyes opened and Charles swallowed at the expression in them. "Don't you want to?"

"You know I..." Charles was trying very hard to keep his head. "You're drunk Sebastian."

The other boy poured out more wine and held it up to his lover. "I rather think I am. Cheers." He knocked it back. "Don't you want to fuck me, Charles?"

Charles gasped and reddened. They had never called it that. "You don't know what you're saying" he managed faintly but Sebastian was simply smiling like sin impersonated and then his fingers began to pull at his clothes. "You can have me right here."

"God, no!" Charles started trying to fasten him back up again. "What has got into you? Are you mad?"

Sebastian kissed him sloppily, his hand going straight for Charles' crotch and his other managing to battle with Charles' half hearted attempts to redress him until his shirt hung open, pale skin and flushed nipples on display. Sebastian pulled away and stared at him. "You sure you don't want to?" he shrugged off the shirt and charles swallowed. "Sebastian..."

The rest of the boy's clothes followed until he stood naked before his lover. "Last chance."

Charles seemed frozen so Sebastian wrapped his hand around his erection and closed his eyes, his lips parting in bliss and little moans breaking from them. "Charles" he gasped as his hand sped up over the flushed organ and that was it, the other boy could take no more, he grabbed Sebastian, tore off his own clothes and coated his cock in linseed oil. "Spread your legs" he panted against his lover's ear and Sebastian did, eagerly. "Charles"
"Sebastian" groaned Charles, thrusting into him. "I love you, God I love you!"

Sebastian groaned too, his pale thighs shaking. "Save me" he gasped. "I think I'm dying! Charles!" and he came, drowning in pleasure, Charles right behind him.

They lay there on the floor, naked and seed spattered, trying to catch their breath until all the urgency was gone as if it had never been. Charles reached out and touched Sebastian's cheek tenderly, stroked his hair which was mussed and wet with sweat. He was the most beautiful sight Charles had ever seen.

Sebastian curled into his lover, hid his face in his chest, breathed quietly. "I wish I could die like that." he said finally. "I think I'd be happy in hell if I could die like that."

Charles held him more tightly. "Hell wasn't meant for any as beautiful as you."

"Lucifer was God's brightest angel" said Sebastian, quietly and then he was silent again and Charles, who couldn't think of an answer, was silent too.

***

A while later they had both dressed and Charles had been painting for quite some time without realising Sebastian had disappeared. He frowned and looked outside but his lover was no where to be seen.

Quickly cleaning his brushes, Charles began to search for him. maybe he'd gone to bed, he'd drunk so much wine, Charles should have been paying more attention. he shook his head at himself and began to make his way into the house when he saw Julia sitting by the fountain looking troubled.
"Have you seen Sebastian?" He asked curtly. Her head shot up and she stared at him and then she blushed and looked down at her lap. "He's in the church."

Charles gaped at her and then his eyes swung to the building and back to her. "He has been most of the afternoon." she continued quietly.

Charles turned away.
"Wait"

He waited. "What?"
"I.... I saw you."

charles frowned. "Saw me?" and then it dawned on him. "Saw us."

She nodded, her eyes wide. "I saw you both."

Charles bit his lip. "Well now you know what love looks like."
"I know."

He raised his eyebrows a that. "I thought you said it couldn't be about love?"
"I did, but then I SAW you."

Charles turned away again.
"You're going to kill him." She said it very softly and he shot back round, his eyes flashing. "You know nothing about us."

"I know he's in church, I know why he's there, I know he loves you and is drunk and going insane!"

Charles didn't look back, he just strode to the building, took a breath and stepped inside. "Sebastian?"

Sebastian didn't look up. He was curled up against the altar sobbing and clutching an empty wine bottle. Charles felt his heart wither inside his chest from dismay. "Sebastian..."

Reddened eyes stared up at him and suddenly Charles knew this was it, enough was enough. He slowly walked over to him, kissed his forehead and drew the other boy to him. Then he hugged him, wrapped his arms tightly round his body.

"I'm sorry..."
"I know, it doesn't matter." Charles pressed more kisses to his lover's head. "But we can't go on like this."

"What do you mean?" Teary blue eyes broke Charles' heart.
"I mean us."

Sebastian stared at him. "You want to leave?"
"No."
"Then....."

"Sebastian" Charles' voice cracked. "That was the last time. It has to have been the last time, you must see that?"

"But I..." his eyes were wide. "I LOVE you." There, he'd said it for the first time and Charles had to close his eyes. "I know."
"Then how-"
"Because it's breaking you apart. I don't know why, I don't understand it, but I can't deny it." He took the empty bottle from Sebastian's loosened hand. "See?"
"But I can't survive without you."

Charles smiled sadly. "Yes you can and you will. We'll be friends and everything will be alright." His voice was shaking. "I'm not going away, I'll stay here and I'll be in Oxford with you, it will be almost the same as before. You can stop drinking and feeling guilty and-"

Sebastian had taken off before he could finish his sentence leaving charles to close his mouth with a snap and sink to the floor, his face in his hands.

The rest of the day seemed to go very slowly and Sebastian refused to come out of his room. Finally Charles left his friend's door and went for dinner, his heart heavy with grief, though he could eat little.

"Where's Sebastian?" asked Lady Marchmain following the meal. Charles didn't even look up and then he appeared round the door, just like that, unsteady on his feet, hair messy and cheeks flushed from alcohol.

"Sebastian!"
"I came to 'pologize." said the boy, roughly. "to Charles."

His mother looked distressed. "Go to bed, you can talk to Charles tomorrow."

"No," Sebastian insisted, his inebriated eyes searching the room for his friend. "Need to do it now."

"Sebastian" whispered Charles, getting to his feet and making for the other boy. "It's alright."

"No." Sebastian shook his head and tears slid down his cheeks. "I was.... bloody to you. After everything and I was...." he stared into Charles' eyes. "I love you and I was.... " He swallowed. "My only friend. God hates me, you hate me...."

"Sebastian, I don't hate you. Let me take you up."

The rest of the family were just watching the boys silently and finally Charles managed to get Sebastian out of the room, his arms round him, supporting him up the stairs.
"I'm sorry."
"I know, it's alright."
"It's not." he sank down on the stairs, his face crumpled up with grief. "I drove you away. I lost your love and drove you away."

"I'm not going anywhere" murmured Charles, stroking his hair gently, "and you haven't lost my love but giving into it was making you so unhappy. Let me help you to bed, we can talk in the morning."

Slowly Sebastian let Charles help him to stand. "I love you. I never said it but it was still true."
"I know" murmured Charles, sliding his hand round the slim waist. "It's alright."
"I didn't say it because I-"
"I know, don't worry about it, I always knew."

They came to Sebastian's room. "Will you stay?"
"You know I can't"
"Please?"
"It would make things worse tomorrow." Charles handed over Aloysius and Sebastian's hand trembled as he took him. "I've ruined everything."
"It's not your fault, you tried." Charles bent to kiss his head softly. "God knows how much you tried."

Sebastian slid into his bed clutching Aloysius desperately. "I'm sorry."
"I know. Try and sleep Sebastian."
"Tell me you love me."

Charles watched him with sad eyes. "I love you. Always."

Finally he made it back downstairs. The rest of the family were very subdued and Charles sat down heavily on one of the comfortable chairs. "He's asleep," he volunteered and took a sip of brandy.

"He was very drunk." remarked Bridey. "I've never seen him like that, never."
"He was terribly unhappy." Lady Marchmain watched Charles carefully. "Terribly unhappy."

"It's my fault, we had a bit of an argument." said Charles tiredly. "It's fixed now."

Julia didn't say anything, just watched him with large blue eyes that were so like Sebastian's he had to turn away.

***

The next day, Sebastian didn't appear at breakfast and Charles sat through it silent and still. Lady Marchmain sighed sadly. "We must limit the alcohol available today, we can't have another repeat of last night. Charles, I expect your cooperation on this of course, no one is to give Sebastian any spirits other than those at meals and the wine will be locked away."

Charles didn't answer, merely excused himself from the table. Julia followed him. "Charles, is...." she hardly knew how to ask.

He turned away. "Is it over? Yes." she nodded. "It is for the best. I know it is and so do you."

He didn't answer, just left the room and climbed the stairs woodenly, knocking on the door before entering. "Sebastian?"

Teary blue eyes stared back at him, reddened from hours of crying. "Charles, I couldn't.... I couldn't face breakfast."
"It's alright, I brought you some bread and butter." He passed the plate to his friend and sat down with a sigh. "How-" he stopped the sentence before it could get any further, seeing it was a stupid question.

"I missed you."
"I missed you too" murmured Charles, wondering how they were to even pretend everything was alright, how they could just go back to being friends. He watched Sebastian eat. "Do you want to talk?"

A shake of the dark head and Charles nodded feeling very awkward. "I could read to you" he finally volunteered, being unable to think of anything else and growing desperate at the silence surrounding them. "If you like."

Sebastian looked at him then, a sad, searching look. "Alright, what will you read?"
"What do you want to hear?"
"Something happy." That brought a wistful smile to Charles' face.

"Something where love.... conquers all." Sebastian's voice wavered and Charles swallowed.

"Look at that, I still have tears left to cry" whispered Sebastian. "I thought they'd all dried up."

charles put his arms round him and held him close. "I'm here."
"I know." they stared into each others eyes and then charles looked away. "What shall I read?"

Sebastian's mouth tightened. "The verses about Sodom and Gomorrah and how it is better to offer your daughters to be raped than accept relations between men. Maybe I will suddenly be blessed with understanding of why it's so sinfully wrong."

Charles closed his eyes. "I'm doing this for you. You know I am. Don't punish me even more." his voice was unsteady and Sebastian blushed with sudden shame. "I know, I'm sorry Charles, it's not.... even your religion." He sighed sadly. "Read one of those." He pointed at the book case in the corner of the room and slowly Charles made his way over to it. They were children's stories mostly. Fairy tales, the deeds of King Arthur and volumes of poetry. He picked one up. "Tennyson? Keats?"

"Either" murmured Sebastian. "just don't let it end in death and destruction, that's too much like real life."

***

Sebastian and Charles appeared together for the evening meal, Sebastian looking quite composed, but when the wine came round the table he shook his head. "I'll have whiskey."

Lady Marchmain nodded at the server who fetched the spirit and poured out a serving. "You can leave the decanter" said Sebastian. "I might want some more later on."

Another nod from his mother and Charles found himself staring at his plate while Sebastian drank his whiskey and with his eyes on her face, poured some more, a larger measure this time.
"Sebastian."
"Yes mummy?"

She took a breath. "Don't you think you've had enough?"

He looked like he was considering the question seriously. "No" he finally answered, gravely and poured some more.

"That's enough Sebastian" muttered Bridey from his place a little further down the table. Sebastian pushed his chair back and stood heavily, drank the rest of the whiskey and left the table and the room.

"I think I must go to the church" murmured lady Marchmain. "Brideshead, Julia, you will accompany me" and Charles was left alone, staring at the empty decanter and feeling like his insides were made of lead.

Slowly he made his way up to his friend's room but Sebastian wasn't there. That left only one other place. He opened the door to his own room and looked at his friend who was sprawled out on his bed.
"God Sebastian." He shook his head and sat next to him. Sebastian sat up. "Did you bring alcohol?"

Charles looked away from the almost hopeful face. "You know very well I can't. I thought.... I thought it would stop now."
"What you mean now we're not fucking?"

Charles cringed. "Don't call it..." He took a breath. "I thought you'd feel better."
"I do."
"Do you?"
"When I can't think I almost feel on top of the world."

"But you're not at peace?"

Sebastian snorted. "Sorry Charles, it doesn't work like that."
"But we're not-"
"I think about it." Interrupted Sebastian. "I think about YOU. I remember how it felt." His mouth twisted. "Only now I can't EXPERIENCE how it felt. Go get us some whiskey, Charles, they'll let YOU have it."

"I can't."
"You mean you won't."
"I suppose so."
"Then I'll get it myself." He slid from the bed and giggled. "whoops"

"They won't let you."
"The servants? MY servants?"
"They've been warned against it."

Sebastian clenched his hands. "Are you on her side now?"

"No" whispered Charles. "You know I'm not.
"Then why won't you get the alcohol?"
"Because it's hurting you."
"Not having it is hurting me."

Charles bowed his head.
"If you loved me" began Sebastian and then he turned away with tears in his eyes. "Why did you turn against me? You were my friend, you were my lover and now you spy on me for her. I knew I shouldn't have brought you here. I wish I never had. I wish we were still in Oxford. I gave you all I had to give, all my love, all my heart and soul, I gave you my body, what more could I do? I will never trust another person as long as I live, never!"

It was heart rending to listen to. Charles couldn't look at him. "Do you want me to leave?"

"YES!" cried Sebastian and then he threw himself onto the bed and cried, huge great wracking sobs.

Charles put his arms round him and though at first Sebastian fought him off, finally he gave in.
"You're drunk" said Charles softly, stroking the wet hair from Sebastian's forehead. "you know it's not like that, you know it. I would do anything I could for you if it would help, anything."

A sad sniffle. "I'm sorry Charles."
"I know." He helped Sebastian undress and pulled the covers over them both, holding Sebastian close and trying not to think until he finally fell asleep.

***

Charles awoke with Sebastian's slim body in his arms and he didn't move until blue eyes fluttered open, then they stared at each other.

"Do you still want me to go?"
"No."
"Then I'll stay."

They held each other in a tight embrace, Charles stroking Sebastian's cheek gently. "I will always take your side. me and you contra mundum, remember? and I still love you even if we can only be friends. I will never take your mother's part, or Julia's, if it's against you."
"You're too good to me Charles. I don't deserve it." Sebastian tucked his face into Charles' neck and sighed softly. "I was an ass last night. I must have hurt you with what I said."

Blue eyes stared sincerely into Charles' brown. "I just know inside me that if I can't get away from this place I'm going to go insane, I mean really lose it. It scares me. Sometimes I dream of us running away together, I don't mean to Oxford, I mean so far away no one will ever find us."

Charles kissed his cheek. "That would be wonderful" he whispered and Sebastian smiled sadly, "But not like this. Not when I'm like this, hurting you with every other word. I'd get better and then get you to join me and we'd be happy for ever. If only it could be. The fruit always ripe, always alone and Aloysius always in a good temper."

Charles smiled at him. "Heaven".

"Charles" there were tears in the lovely blue eyes. "Where did it all go so wrong? I thought we had the world, you and I. Oxford was like a dream."

Charles held him tightly. He didn't know how to answer and Sebastian buried his face in Charles' neck again.
"I suppose we must get up?"
"Yes" murmured Charles against his skin. "I think we must."

At breakfast the two boys were almost silent, drinking their tea and hardly looking up from their plates. finally Lady Marchmain cleared her throat. "Sebastian, I have made arrangements for you to go to Germany to see an expert doctor. I've heard wonderful things about him and his patients and I feel sure he will solve our problem for us. God tells me this is right. he has shown me a sign."

Sebastian stared at her. "But Oxford..."
"Oxford was doing you no good. This man can cure you and then you will be happy again, isn't that what you want?"

"What I want is to be left alone" said Sebastian softly. He stood up. "What if I refuse?"
"You can't. Bridey is to take you in two days. It is for your own good Sebastian, I know you must see that."

There was silence. "Today is the hunt" she added, more brightly. Maybe you would like to go?"

Sebastian was just about to say no when he changed his mind. "Yes." he said instead, much to Charles' surprise. "I will go and get ready." He said nothing more about the trip to Germany and slowly Charles followed his friend to his room. He didn't know what to say when he got there. Sebastian was raging. "How dare they ship me off like some sort of nut case! I won't go. I'll run away! I won't bloody go!"

Charles sat on the bed and regarded his friend worriedly. "Why did you want to hunt? I thought you hated it?"
"I'm not going hunting. At the first opportunity I'll slip Bridey and spend the whole day quietly soaking in a pub. I can't take this Charles, I can't!" He looked at his friend desperately. "Will you tell?"
"you know I won't."

Sebastian heaved a soft sigh of relief and seemed to calm a little. "Will you lend me some money? They've stopped my allowance." He looked utterly wretched and Charles handed over two pounds, his face pained. "I could come with you if you like. To the pub I mean, if you tell me where it is."

Sebastian put his arms round him and pulled him close. They stood there for a few moments, just holding each other, feeling each others beating heart and then Charles pulled away slowly, Sebastian told him where to find the pub and they parted sadly.

Charles gave Sebastian an hour to shake off his brother and then set off across the fields in search of his love and sure enough he found him in the bar, smiling like they hadn't in what felt like decades. "Here's to us" murmured Sebastian, knocking back another drink. "Contra mundum Charles, contra mundum."

***

They were both drunk and both rather in disgrace when they finally arrived back at Brideshead and the next day Lady Marchmain requested an audience with Charles.

"You went drinking with Sebastian yesterday, you gave him money to buy alcohol even though you knew his funds had been stopped for just this reason."
"Yes." said Charles, emotionlessly.
"I can't understand it."

Charles simply looked at her.
"We all liked you so much, did you hate us all this time?" Still Charles said nothing.
"I think I must ask you to leave. I'm sorry for it but I don't see any other option and Sebastian will be going to Germany anyway. It saddens me that it has come to this."

Charles simply took his leave of her and went to pack, then he knocked on Sebastian's door.
"Come in."

"Sebastian..." Charles sighed softly and put his case down. "I have to go. Your mother has requested it and I can't say I'm surprised. How are you feeling?"

Sebastian looked at him from the bed. "Wretched."
"How will you get away from Bridey?"
"I don't know."
"I wish I could do something."
"I won't go to Germany."
"But where will you go?"

Sebastian sat up restlessly. "Somewhere hot where the fruit is always ripe. Will you come? Live our dream?"

"If you send me word, you know I'll come" whispered Charles, tears in his eyes. "Any where, any time."

Sebastian bit his lip. "I think we must be apart for now Charles. I think you need to find your way, finish at Oxford, do all the things I can't and I'll find us somewhere and set it all up and one day we'll have our heaven."

"Sebastian..." Charles wiped at his eyes.

"Come here." He went, climbing into Sebastian's bed and holding him tightly. "I can't believe it's come to this."

"One kiss to remember you by?" asked Sebastian, his voice shaking. "Just one?"

Charles kissed him, passionately, lovingly and they melted into each other, hands in each others hair, tears on their cheeks.
"Don't forget me."
"Of course not" murmured Charles. "Oxford will be hell without you."

Sebastian smiled sadly. "Look after yourself, Charles."
"You too."
"I love you."
"I love you too." Charles left the bed and picked up his case.
"Come and find me?"
"I promise."

He left Sebastian in his bed and minutes later he left Brideshead, wondering if he was leaving it forever or if he would one day return, Sebastian once again at his side. He took one last look as the car drove away and sure enough Sebastian's dark head was framed against his window. Charles put up his hand and watched Sebastian do the same and then the car drove out of view of Brideshead Castle and he turned in his seat to face forward.

As he sat on the train, Charles read Lady Marchmain's book and a peace settled over him as he realised he had made the right choices in the end. She had wanted Sebastian to be a sort of second Ned, there was no way for him to have met her expectations, for her brothers had come to represent something almost Godly and after all Sebastian was only a boy. Yes, despite everything they had gone through, he had made the right decision to stand with Sebastian against the world.

***

Charles couldn't bear the thought of Oxford without Sebastian so he went to France and studied painting, being pretty sure a degree in history would get him no where fast. The first he heard about Sebastian was when Julia wrote to him to say he had given Bridey the slip and boarded a ship to Africa.

Charles heaved a sigh of relief and went to his class, feeling as he did so that he was simply in a period of waiting. He found he didn't care much for what he was learning but he knew he had to make a living and this was what he'd chosen. He ached for Sebastian, he felt empty inside and he knew he was growing cold and aloof but he had heard nothing from him. Julia wrote to him sometimes and he found himself clutching at her as his last link to his lost friend. Had Sebastian forgotten him? Why had he had no word? He lived his life in dreams, memories of Brideshead, memories of Sebastian as both his lover and his friend, his dark head resting against Charles' own in Venice, the way they had touched and kissed and made love, Aloysius, strawberries and champagne before everything went so wrong. Why did he not write?

Charles sighed sadly as he opened Julia's latest letter and began to read the contents and then he jumped to his feet and began to throw things into his case. She had an address for Sebastian and she asked that Charles bring him home to his mother who wanted to see him. Lady Marchmain was dying.

Charles began to make plans as he rushed around his room. He would paint Africa, that way he could fund the trip. Ryder's africa. And he would go and see Sebastian and.....

But what if he didn't want to see Charles? Charles sank into his chair with his face in his hands. why had Sebastian never written to him? "Don't you love me anymore?" asked Charles out loud, suddenly thinking about Cara's ominous words about first love making way for another, but then his thoughts reproached him and he saw Sebastian as he had looked when they had parted for the last time, tears in the blue eyes, real love in his kiss.
"I won't believe it."

Charles got up and finished packing. "I won't believe it" he said again and picked up his suitcase.

***

Charles walked up the little path to the house he had been directed to, his heart in his mouth and he knocked, his hands shaking. What was he going to find?

What he found confounded him because it was not Sebastian but another man living in Sebastian's house. He said he was Sebastian's friend, that Sebastian was in a hospital, that he was German and his name was Kurt and that he had shot his foot to avoid military service.

As if in a dream, Charles made his way to the hospital. Nothing felt real. And then he was taken to Sebastian and he didn't know whether to laugh or cry because his friend, his LOVER looked terrible and Charles desperately wanted to run away. instead he sat down. "Hello Sebastian."

Sebastian opened his eyes slowly and then he blinked. "Charles, I thought they meant Kurt, I..." He looked confused. "How...?"
"How can I be here?"

A nod that looked painful and Charles tried not to look away. "Julia sent me your address." He knew his words were cold but he was so.... what had happened to them? "You didn't write."

Sebastian licked his lips. "I know."
"Why?"
"I was ill."
"For all this time?"

"No, I..." Sebastian looked away. "I didn't want you to see me."

Charles stared at the other man and tried to think of something to say. "I met Kurt" he finally settled on.
"I guess you hate him."

Charles cleared his throat. "His presence is rather a mystery."

Blue eyes flicked up to brown and then away. "He keeps me going."
"I see."

"You're angry." It was a statement and Charles didn't see why he should deny it but he tried to hide the hurt when he asked Sebastian if Kurt was his lover.

Sebastian's face took on a look of utter amazement and then acute sadness. "How can you ask me that?" he finally whispered. "Of all people, Charles, you should know the answer."
"Well what am I supposed to think? I WAITED for you like we promised each other and not one word to say you were alright? That I could come to you? And then I finally get here and find you've replaced me!"
"It's not like that."
"Well what the hell is it like then?"

There were tears in Sebastian's eyes. "He was just someone I could help. I told you once I needed someone to look after and I found Kurt."
"But you were supposed to be waiting for me!" Shot Charles.

Sebastian bit his lip. "I wanted you to remember me as I was. I also once told you beauty was nothing, remember? You told me it was everything to you, what was I supposed to expect you would think of me now? Ever the artist, Charles. Can you blame me for not wanting you to see me? I haven't stopped drinking, I'd be no good for you, it was better to let you forget."
"I never forgot."
"Well move on then."
"I never moved on."
"But now you've seen what I've become, you can."

Charles looked at the floor. "So you release me from our promises, is that it?"
"Something like that."
"Damn you Sebastian."

Charles stood up, tears in his eyes. "I loved you! Don't you know what that means? I loved you!" and then he left, made arrangements to stay in a nearby hotel and spent the evening determined not to think at all.

***

The next day Charles visited Sebastian again. This time he was calmer. "I came to take you home. Julia sent me. Your mother is very ill."

Sebastian was looking at the bedclothes rather than at Charles. "I can't travel right now."
"No."
"Please don't hate me." It was little more than a whisper. "I have some pride you know, some little bit left inside me and I didn't want you to see this shell of a man I've become."

Charles felt the walls around his heart began to crack ever so slightly.
"You are still the same, just a little older, but still the same Charles. You're still the boy I fell in love with. What do you see when you look at me? Illness, something wasting away, something ugly and tormented. How could I have offered you that? You fell in love with a boy who doesn't exist anymore, I didn't think you'd want me as I am now. Would you have?"

Charles watched his friend's sad blue eyes that still wouldn't meet his. "I could have helped you."
"My pride wouldn't let me ask."
"And now?"
"Now I have kurt."

"Oh for god's sake!" Exploded Charles. "You don't mean to live your life with Kurt, do you? He's using you, all he wants is your money!"
"I know."

That quietened him. "You know?"
"Of course I know." Sebastian smiled slightly. "But I'm using him too. He gives me purpose. I don't think you can understand."
"I don't think I can."

"I'm sorry I've disappointed you."

Another wall cracked.

"I just can't leave him. he needs me."
"I need you."
"Not in the same way."
"No." Charles bit his lip. "Sebastian...... I still love you."

The blue eyes brightened a little. "Really?"
"Yes." He was completely sincere. "It's the one thing I'm sure of, the one thing I know I can rely on. I still love you. I would still do anything you asked. It wasn't just a boyhood crush, it won't fade over time." He sighed and looked away. "I just wanted you to know that. I wish you'd had more faith in me. Now we're in a mess and I don't know what I can say. I'd take you away with me at the drop of a hat but you're determined to look after this vagabond and I know I can't change your mind."

Sebastian looked sadly at him. "I'm sorry."
"I know. so you'll stay here?"
"I think so."
"This isn't how I thought it would be" whispered Charles. "Do you remember Oxford Sebastian? Do you remember the elm trees and the way we made love? The strawberries? Kissing me? Aloysius? Do you remember the..... way the sun shone and how it felt like it was always summer? Do you remember?" Tears suddenly streamed down his face and Sebastian's mouth trembled. "I remember." They held each other. "I'm so sorry."

Charles pulled away. "What am I going to do without you?"

Sebastian leaned forward and kissed him. "What you've always done. What you've been doing since we parted. Living. Live for both of us. Live our dream."

***

"Live our dream" the last thing Sebastian had said to him. Charles returned to Brideshead to say goodbye to Lady Marchmain in Sebastian's place, his heart heavy with grief for his lost friend and the life they had been cheated out of but when he arrived, suddenly all he could see was julia. Julia, so like Sebastian had been, her hair, her eyes, her beautiful face. He let himself see her as Sebastian. If he couldn't have the brother, why not the sister instead? Sebastian had looked ill and faded but julia glowed, he had never cared about it before but now.....

And so began the next part of his life, his affair with Sebastian's sister.

Sometimes he thought he loved her. When the moonlight fell on her hair just so and it stirred a memory inside him, or when she smiled and it was Sebastian's smile and when he kissed her she tasted like strawberries and champagne.

Her eyes would glint with mischief like his used to and Charles wasn't even aware that he was still seeing Sebastian in everything she did.

When they made love, her hair was as soft as Sebastian's had been, her skin flushed just the same. "Charles", she gasped, in his voice and she shuddered just like he had.

He closed his eyes against her breasts and her softness and his kisses were hard and filled with passion. He thought they were happy together and when he thought of Sebastian it was with a kind of wistful love, a sadness that they could never be. he thought he had moved on. "Live for both of us, live our dream" Sebastian had told him and Charles believed he was.

He asked Julia to marry him and she accepted. They were in love. Maybe they had always been moving towards it, from the first time they had met when Sebastian had broken his foot and Julia had picked him up from the station. Julia never mentioned her brother.

And then one day, just like that, she did.
"It's frightening how you've forgotten Sebastian."

They had been lying together in bed, he'd been kissing her and now he was holding her, smoking a cigarette and enjoying the warmth of her body when she made the remark. Charles felt like something inside him was banging on his chest to get out. "Forgotten him?"

Julia nodded. "You loved him so much. I remember seeing you together in the garden room and being shocked at the way you touched each other and even though it was my brother I couldn't help but watch you. I wondered if anyone would ever love me like that, but now you've forgotten him. It makes me wonder if you'll forget me."

Charles wondered if he'd frozen. He couldn't seem to move his mouth and his brain seemed to have gone to sleep. "You think I've forgotten him?"

Suddenly a million and one memories swarmed Charles of the two of them, Sebastian and he together, and he couldn't breath.

"Have I forgotten him?" he asked himself slowly. "Have I?"

Julia was watching him with a frown. "Charles?" He turned to her and almost gasped as he found Sebastian's blue eyes staring at him from Sebastian's face. "Oh God!"

"Charles!" They even sounded the same. "Charles, what is it?"

Charles was horrified. How could he explain to the woman lying next to him that he'd suddenly realised all he'd ever seen in her was her brother? he licked his lips. "I've never forgotten him. He's always been part of me."

Julia mulled that over. "But then how could you love me? How could you move on like that?"

"I don't.... think I did" replied charles, softly. "I don't think I ever have or ever could.... move on."

Julia stared at him. Charles stared back.
"What are you saying?"
"That I didn't...... Oh God, I didn't know, I swear it."

Her eyes widened. "You still love him?"
"I knew I still loved him, I just thought...." He couldn't explain. "I thought it was a far away love, a nostalgic love."
"But?"

charles stared at the bed.
"But you said that german, Kurt..."
"I know."

Julia frowned. "I still don't...." and then her eyes widened even more. "Oh my God! You've been loving Sebastian through ME?"

Charles cringed and Julia slapped him, hard.
"You bastard!"
"I didn't know" he whispered. "I thought I was in love with you. I promise you I did."
"Get away from me!"

Charles looked up with tears in his eyes. "Julia-"
"Don't! My God! all this time?"
"I'm sorry."
"Don't speak to me, Charles. In fact get out. Get out of Brideshead!" She burst into tears and he slipped from the bed and dressed, not daring to try and comfort her.
"I'm so sorry" he finally volunteered.
"I said get out!"

He left.

***

Charles wandered. What was he supposed to do now? He was still deeply in love with Sebastian but he could no more have him than he could have Julia now she knew his real feelings. Sebastian was with Kurt and although it wasn't love but duty that kept him bound to the German, Charles knew he couldn't make his friend choose between them.

As it turned out fate intervened and he was sent to war for seven years during which time at least he didn't have to make his mind up what to do with himself but when one of the bases turned out to be Brideshead, Charles seriously wondered if God was punishing him for his past sins.

Over the years he had come to believe in God. Sebastian's God, the God of the Catholic faith, sometimes he thought that was the only thing keeping him going at all. He felt loveless, his heart bound to Sebastian who was as unobtainable as ever and through those disenchanting war years he wondered constantly about his friend and if he was still living in the sweet little house in that sunny country where he'd left him or if something had happened that he couldn't foresee. Surely Sebastian hadn't had to fight, he had been as weak as a kitten, but then there was Kurt the German, what had happened to him?

Charles' life was empty and bleak. He did what was expected of him and no more and then finally the war ended and Charles received his first word from Julia since he had left her. She and Cordelia had been working for a charity overseas and Sebastian was in a monastery, she said. The letter finished with an address and an instruction. "For God's sake, go to him."

Charles stared at the paper as if it might jump up and bite him, or maybe kiss him, he wasn't sure. Julia had made no mention of Kurt but that didn't mean he wasn't there too and although he packed quickly, he allowed himself no hope that they could finally have their happy ever after.

Charles was as tense as a violin bow through the whole trip to the monastery so that once he arrived he could barely ask for Sebastian by name but once he'd made himself understood they beamed at him and nodded and led him to the english lord's dwelling.

Charles stepped through the door and then just stood there, staring. Sebastian was sitting on a chair, his eyes closed but a look of such peace on his face that a sob broke from Charles and he ran forward, sinking to the floor and pressing his face to his friend's lap, his arms going round Sebastian's knees. "Sebastian." the walls around his heart had suddenly crumbled completely.

Soft blue eyes opened and Sebastian looked down at the man hugging him so desperately. "Charles?"

Charles nodded and looked up at him, as if he somehow needed to be blessed. There were tears in his eyes. "I came to you, finally I came, I wanted to come so much earlier but I couldn't."
"The war." Sebastian looked thoughtful. "I read about it. Was it very dreadful? My poor Charles, I was so worried about you."

Charles didn't know what to say, it had been monotonous more than anything, the daily grind. "I was loveless during that time" he finally settled on. "I thought I had nothing to live for."

Sebastian drew him up and offered him a chair next to his.
"And before the war..."
"Julia."

Charles bowed his head. "What a fool I was. I betrayed you both."
"I heard you were to be married."
"I'm sorry."

"I would have wished you well" said Sebastian, quietly. "If I'd thought you would be happy."

"You knew I was seeing you in her?"
"No." Sebastian sighed. "Maybe a selfish part of me hoped it, but I didn't know."
"You should have known. Did she tell you?"
"Yes."
"I'm sorry. How I didn't see it...." He shook his head. "It was always you." He took a breath. "How's Kurt?"

"And before Julia it was Kurt" sighed Sebastian. "I know. So many obstacles Charles." He looked sad. "Kurt is dead though I did my best for him. I took him to Greece to see if his foot would heal and it did but he was discovered and sent back to Germany. I followed him there and tried to help him back out but it wasn't to be. He was caught trying to escape and hung. I didn't know what to do with myself then, I had thought to be a missionary among cannibals or lepers, but they wouldn't take me because I wasn't strong enough. I somehow ended up here. They've been very kind to me."
"They love you, I could see that as soon as I mentioned your name."

Sebastian nodded. "I still drink sometimes. When I feel particularly useless."

Charles smiled. "And I still love you as much as I ever did."

"Dear charles."

"And do you still love me?" Asked charles softly as if he hardly dare give voice to the words.
"Always."

Tears slipped down Charles' cheeks. "And can we finally be together? Can I take you away and make you strong again? Will you let me love you Sebastian? Purely, as God intended it and then will you come with me to some small corner of the world where we can make a difference, where we can do good, where I can absolve myself of my sins and live with you and be happy?"

"I will" said Sebastian, seriously as if he was saying his wedding vows, and then he smiled and his blue eyes shone with joy and Charles was transported back to that wonderful time long ago when they were boys together in the first flush of youthful love, for Sebastian looked so very little changed to him in that moment.




Epilogue

Charles took Sebastian to Venice. They had been happy there, Sebastian had been happy there, maybe the last time he had during their boyhood and Charles wanted to remember it all, relive it.

The days passed slowly, long beautiful mornings and afternoons, spent on the water, just drifting lazily, feeling the sun on their faces, or when it got too hot, lying together on the cool white sheets, Sebastian resting his head on Charles' chest and just breathing.

Charles began to paint again, sometimes the venetian landscape sometimes Sebastian, but the paintings had an energy and focus they hadn't had during what he now referred to as his lost years and Sebastian was always there by his side, sometimes reading, sometimes thinking or sleeping but always with that sense of peace emanating from him that charles had first noticed at the monastery.

Aloysius was there too, just quietly observing them. Charles had brought him from Brideshead when he had left and taken him to the monastery with him. Sebastian's smile had almost made everything they had gone through, worth it when he had seen him. "Thank you" was all he had said, but Charles had known it had meant so much more.

And so the summer slipped by and Sebastian began to grow stronger. They kissed sometimes, not like they had used to do, but soft gentle kisses as Sebastian began to recover and Charles began to see it. They both knew there would never be anyone else for either of them and Charles tended to Sebastian with a gentle adoration that never again left him.

They were happy, they were in love, they were loved by their God and nothing else mattered. They talked sometimes, about the days that had gone, about the choices they had made and the ones they hadn't. Charles told Sebastian what Cara had said about him being in love with his childhood and Sebastian looked thoughtful.
"I don't think it was quite that. I was afraid of not being loved as a man, maybe, because I thought I could never make the right decisions as one, for mummy, for God.... I told you it was hard being Catholic and it was at that time because I was fighting against who I was inside. Childhood had been much simpler, maybe she was right then in a way."

"I almost hated her that day." Charles watched Sebastian's hand create ripples over the water. "She said our love was temporary, that it should make way for another. I wanted to slap her."

"Dear charles." sebastian smiled at him.

Sometimes they talked of julia.
"I was always afraid she'd take you away from me."
"I almost let her, but it was me at fault, not her. How can you love such an idiot?"

Sebastian smiled and touched his cheek softly.

Sometimes they talked of Lady Marchmain.
"I couldn't love mummy. she was not an affectionate person and she taught me I was to be damned, but she was good. I expect she's in heaven, watching from her cloud."

Or Kurt.
"I was so jealous."
"I know. I tried to explain, he wasn't a nice man, but in allowing me to look after him, he gave me something I desperately needed. I didn't want to hurt you but I could see it in your face and when you asked me if he was my lover..."
"I didn't stop to listen to what you were saying. I don't think I ever did." Charles bowed his head and Sebastian kissed his hair.

And sometimes they talked of their future.
"Where will we go?"
"Where ever you want."
"Somewhere we're needed."
"Yes." Charles took his hand. "You're much stronger now." The dark hair had regained it's shine and the blue eyes their sparkle. Sebastian's face was rounded too and the skin more plumped up. He had lost his skeletal appearance though he was still slender and he didn't ache as he had. Charles caught himself staring at him over and over again for this was the man Sebastian should have become from the beautiful youth under the elm trees so long ago.
"You are as you should have been. Finally."
"Thanks to you."
"Maybe. Maybe it was my fault you were ever any different."
"Dear Charles. You've given up so much."
"Actually, I don't feel like I've given up anything at all."

They made their way to Africa finally, to a tiny village miles from anywhere. Many of the people were sick and Sebastian and Charles began to tend them, setting up a shack for the purpose and a little chapel next to it. Sebastian used his allowance from his brother to buy books and medicines and Charles the money from his paintings. He continued to paint in his spare time, his beloved Sebastian, the village, the plains and he sent them back to his agent in London who sent the goods they required in exchange. The villagers loved Sebastian. They loved Charles too but there was something about Sebastian they could sense but not quite name. Maybe it was something like serenity. Whatever it was, when Charles lay on his bare, chaste little bed in the early morning and watched Sebastian's beautiful face smoothed in sleep, he knew he wouldn't be anywhere else for all the riches in the whole world.

Comments

Posted by: bnesque (bnesque)
Posted at: March 29th, 2010 05:37 am (UTC)

Ausome redemption for this tragedic love story!
Now we can belive in "always summer".
Thank you!

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