Crash and Burn

Supper had been tense. Victor was seated at the head of the table, and Dorian at the other end. The meal served, the wine poured, they'd eaten in silence. A storm brewed in the room, the air pregnant with the silent fury each man felt for the other. Old wounds opened, bleeding between them. Infection set deep in the soul, and there was no cure. Dorian's eyes never left Victor's face. He watched every movement, his own body unmoving in his chair. How could he hate someone he loved so much? How could he want someone who loved to punish him over and over for sins he simply didn't remember committing?

Victor lifted his cigarette case and plucked one from inside. In an elegant move, he flicked a match against the striking pad and lit the cigarette, the scent of clove and tobacco wafting across the room. Through the haze of smoke, Victor's eyes shined like honey and fire in the yellowed electric light of their home. Dorian still couldn't believe with a flip of a switch they had light. A modern convenience that complemented Victor's coloring. His fingers itched to comb through Victor's thick, birch-colored hair. He wanted to tangle them in the long strands, twist and pull, make Victor scream the way Victor liked to make him scream.

It was a game. Everything was a game with Victor. It broke Dorian's heart. Over and over, he tried to make a step toward intimacy, toward knowing the man who had shared his bed and home for the last three years. Each attempt, though, only reinforced the fact that Victor didn't want intimacy. He wanted to punish Dorian. Not that Dorian knew why, only that it was the fact of their relationship. Words of love were always coated with derision, hatred, humiliation. His poet could wind him up until he snapped, and there would be no soft hands to put him back together again. Anger bubbled in Dorian, anguish he hadn't felt since Basil's death. There was no outlet. No way to bleed it out. Dorian thought this was how one lost their mind. His hands ached where they gripped the arms of his chair, his knuckles white and fingers nearly numb.

After Victor took another drag off his cigarette, he smiled at Dorian. "Something the matter, ma loutre?"

Dorian narrowed his eyes, the pet name both endearing and enraging. "You know what upsets me." There was no possible way Victor hadn't intended to piss him off with last night's antics. "You owe me an apology."

Victor snorted. "I owe you nothing." He stood up, snubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray. "You said you wanted to play with that tender boy, and I allowed it."

"You did no such thing!" Dorian's cheeks heated with embarrassment. Christ, he was too old, too debauched to be embarrassed, but somehow, Victor managed it. "You bloody well tied me up and left me like that as you played with him."

"Dorian." Victor said his name with an edge Dorian had learned meant Victor's amusement with the situation was waning. "You did not give specifics. Perhaps this will teach you to speak your desires plainly to me."

The hurt and rage and need erupted from Dorian in a broken scream as he shot to his feet. Before he could stop himself, he'd shoved everything covering his third of the table to the floor, fine crystal and porcelain crashing to the wood below. It did nothing to ease the fury, and so he turned to sideboard and shoved the silver service set with its food to the floor. The liquor cabinet was next, but Victor grabbed and slammed him into the wall. It knocked the air out of his lungs, but it didn't matter. He didn't think he could breathe anyway. Everything hurt. There was no right move. There was no way to make Victor love him. He'd done something, Dorian was certain, but what the crime was, he'd never figured out.

"That is enough," Victor snarled into his face. "You will clean this mess up, and then you will come up to the bedroom, nightingale. You will take the strap tonight, I think." He let Dorian go. "You have half an hour," he said, and then he was gone, his footsteps ringing with a harsh finality on the back staircase.

With each step, Dorian heard that word again and again.




Tears stung his eyes as he stared at the mess he'd made. His heart hammered, and supper threatened to make another appearance as his stomach roiled.


He closed his eyes, the tears streaking down his cheeks.

Dorian knew his crime, after all.

One word, and he knew his crime.


The mess was forgotten. He left it on the dining room floor and mounted the stairs two at a time, fear mingling with his anger, grief all but strangling him. He burst into their bedroom on the fourth floor. Victor stood in the middle of the room dressed in only his smoky trousers, and those honey eyes turned to him with displeasure. The fire in those eyes wasn't passion. It wasn't lust. It was vengeance.


Dorian slammed the door. "Three years. You've been with me three years," he shouted. "Did you always know? Did you always remember?"

"You're mad," Victor dismissed. He tossed his watch to the dresser top. "Go clean up your mess."

"No!" Dorian pointed at him. "You called me nightingale. No one but Basil ever called me that. You call me your otter, not your nightingale. Only Basil. Only Basil!"

A slow, dark smile curved Victor's beautiful lips. "A slip of the tongue, ma loutre."

"No." Dorian shook his head. "No, it wasn't. I killed Basil. He came back. He came back to me as a sweet, gorgeous Welsh dancer. But when Kenneth remembered, he went mad. He killed himself. I buried him." The heartbreak was just as fresh now as it had been then. "And then Joshua. Basil returned as Joshua. The memories tore him apart!"

Victor crossed his arms over his chest. "And you killed him."

"I didn't mean to!" But the words confirmed Dorian's worst fears. No one knew what had killed Joshua. No one knew his hands had strangled the life from the innocent sculptor who had merely wanted to love him. "And now you."

"And now me."

Dorian swallowed against the bile rising in his throat. "My prudish painter has become a whorish Frenchman who takes great pleasure in torturing me."

"You deserve it!" Victor raged at him. "You stole my life! You stole all our lives because you're a selfish, arrogant child. You stole everything from me, and I will have justice!"

"I love you." Dorian knew that deep in his soul. He'd loved Basil, no matter how he came to him. It never changed, never stopped. The wounds fresh on his soul, bleeding out, making his knees weak.

"You love yourself." Victor's hand tangled in Dorian's hair, yanked his head back. The pain exploded through Dorian as he stared into the furious gaze. "You've only ever loved yourself since Harry's touch. There is no room for me."

The tears returned, lacing Dorian's eyes and blurring Victor's face in front of him. "Please..."

"Please what, nightingale?"

"Just kill me." Dorian wasn't sure if he could die—he hadn't yet—but if anyone could do it, he was certain it would be Basil.

Victor stared down into his face for a long time. "Killing you right now would be a mercy," he murmured, voice dark and rough. "I don't feel merciful. You'll pay for your crimes, Dorian, time and again, until your debt is paid in full. Then, perhaps, I will end your miserable, tainted existence and save the young men and women you'd corrupt from your touch. Save the world from your wickedness." He released Dorian then, shoved him toward the door. "Now, go clean up your mess."

Dorian grabbed onto the doorknob, swallowing several times as his scalp throbbed with pain. "Victor—"

"You have twenty minutes now. If it isn't done, you will regret it, Dorian." Victor's face was unreadable, eyes shuttered. When Dorian didn't move, Victor purred, "Test me if you think I'm lying."

A shiver of fear, of anticipation, of sorrow ran down Dorian's spine. He couldn't send Victor away. He didn't really want to. If Victor was Basil as well as Victor, then this was a man he'd loved for over a hundred years across three lifetimes. Even if the rest of his life was absolutely miserable, at least he had the soul he loved. At least he had something, even if it was a double-edge sword he gripped with both bloody hands.

Dorian wiped the tears from his cheeks, turned his back to Victor, and opened the door. He wasn't sure he could clean up the dining room in twenty minutes, but he was going to try. He had to try. Maybe, in trying, he could somehow show Victor—and through Victor, Basil—just how sorry he was.

And maybe, just maybe, he'd be looking into Victor's eyes when the man plunged the knife home and finally ended his life instead of being stabbed in the back. As he shut the door, he heard a match strike, smelled the scent of tobacco and cloves.

All works contained here are copyrighted to S.L. Armstrong. No reproduction or usage is permitted without written, express consent by the author.