Mistress Beaufort's Masquerade Ball


28 August, 1793

Bodie knew from the beginning that the event would be improper. He had attended one of Mistress Beaufort's Masquerade Balls before, so he knew what to expect: the sensual delights and the abandonment of inhibitions. An orgy free of restraint, yet managed with style.

That first occasion had changed his life forever. It was at that Ball that he had met Doyle; had felt Doyle's sweet and sensuous kiss; had felt his skilled hands bringing him to climax.

He had not attended any of Mistress Beaufort's Masquerade Balls after that, because, loving Doyle, he had no place in his life for any other partner. He wanted only Doyle -- the mysterious man in the mask; the unseen Stranger in Mistress Beaufort's blue bedchamber; the man who had found and visited his own bed in the dark; the man who had driven him mad and had cured his loneliness and who had left him after only too few brief, secret encounters.

He had been only sixteen, at that first Ball; that was two years ago. Those around him said he was too young to fall in love, too young to know his own mind. He knew they were wrong. Loving Doyle was a constant. Irrevocable. Irreplaceable. Inevitable.

But Doyle was gone, perhaps forever. He had survived the loss, and returning now to the Masquerade Ball, he might recapture something of the wonder of that first time.

When he arrived at Mistress Beaufort's house, she was busy attending to last minute details in a Harlequin gown and black velvet cape, every bit the Grande Dame. "Beautiful Mam'selle," said Bodie, laughing, kissing her fingers, and dodging as she tried to hit him with her fan.

"Jasmine," she said, "take this frightful boy off my hands. You know how to prepare him." But she ran her hands lightly over his hair, to show no hard feelings, and he grinned at her. He had once told his guardian that if he should want to marry any woman, it would be Mistress Beaufort. It was not far from the truth.

The music was already playing in the room they called the ballroom.

Jasmine had been the first of Mistress Beaufort's girls he had been with, and she had been his friend, too, though the long period when he refused to fuck any of them. She took his arm. "We were afraid you'd be late," she said, leading him into one of the parlours where they readied their guests for the ball.

Masks were laid out across the table, a beautiful kaleidescope of colours and textures: cat masks, iron masks, leather masks, wolf masks, comedy masks, tragedy masks, Arlequino masks and even a headman's cowl. The room smelled of roses.

"We were afraid you wouldn't come at all," Jasmine confessed.

He looked over the masks, touching them to feel their textures. "I said I would."

"But you so were so ridiculously celibate for so long. Faithful to your masked Stranger." She ran her hands, lightly, down his body. "Such a waste. It was a madness."

"Don't be greedy," he said, without really attending. He picked up a black mask, holding it by its string. "This one has no holes for the eyes."

She loosened his cravat. "No. It's for people who want to be blind -- so they cannot see who it is who is with them. Some people find that a pleasure."

"Can I take it and one other?"

She laughed, kissing his neck, pushing his shirt loose at the shoulder. "You can take as many as you want. Where did you get these muscles?"

"I'm training," he said. He was glad she had noticed. He was proud of his Macklin-honed physique.

"To be a soldier, as you wished?"

"Almost," he said, with a brief thought of Cowley's scowl. He suspected that Cowley would not approve of Mistress Beaufort, though he would no doubt respect her intelligence and her business sense, that made this such a well-run establishment.

He picked a dark purple velvet mask with eyeholes, with which he could see, and he put the other one in the pocket of his jacket. Jasmine was unbuttoning his fly, pulling it entirely open, lowering his trousers and anointing both cock and arse with sweet oil. Her fingers were gentle and cold with the slick liquid. "This won't last all night," she said, "but it's nice to be prepared." Then she raised his trousers again and refastened the flap of his fly with one button, loosely. She slipped her hand inside to finger his cock. It brought to mind, with clear immediacy, the sensations he had felt that other night, the night he had met Doyle, and Doyle had kissed him, and it had been Doyle's hand which proffered intimacies.

The thought fuelled his reaction as much as her touch. She laughed with delight. "Oh, Bodie -- you are ready for tonight."

He kissed her lightly. She patted his buttocks. "I should get you another kind of trousers -- the kind that unbuttons in back, too."

"I can remove them, when the time comes," he said. "I want to be fucked tonight."

"My dear, you are so beautiful, you'll be fighting off the offers."

He smiled, one arm around her waist. His fingers played with her half-exposed breasts; she was wearing pink silk. She reached up with both arms to tie the string of his mask behind his head. It was like a teasing embrace, the aroma of her perfume enveloping his senses. "Come on, now, Bodie. Into the fray. If you're ready?"

His blue eyes shone with humour through the eye-slits. "And if I'm not?"

"Then we will make you ready."

"You already have," he said.

She led him into the hall. Her feet were bare and her gown clung teasingly. He ran a hand down her back and wondered what he'd do with her, later. Or one of the others. He loved them all, Mistress Beaufort's hand-picked girls, each in a different way.

The party was already under way. There was wine, there were refreshments, all accompanied by the gently titillating music of the string quartet. Bodie wondered, briefly, what the musicians thought of playing for an orgy, and whether they found the actions of their listeners distracting to their concentration on the notes. Presumably not; they were playing most delightfully, a Scarlatti piece in D Minor. He eyed the cellist with interest. Good legs, good body -- a pity he was here only to work.

Someone slipped a grape into his mouth; it was Milly, famous for her way with a grape. She was dressed in white and green. Someone's hands brushed his arse, and he felt his cock twitch. Someone noticed, and arms wrapped around his body to reach into his fly and fondle him. Because the man was behind him, it was possible to imagine it was Doyle, given a little imagination. His heart started to thump. The man murmured, "You are an eager pup, aren't you? Shall we lead off the dance?"

"It's early still," said Bodie. He slipped out of the embrace, teasing, smiling, enjoying himself already, just to be wanted. "Find me later." He could feel the man's eyes on him, dark in the shadows of a brown and yellow mask trimmed with bronze, in which the candlelight glittered.

He could feel many eyes on him, but not Doyle's. Other masks, other strangers.... But not his Stranger. He had known Doyle would not be here. He knew better than to expect him. Doyle had left him, for reasons of his own, and would not be back. Or if he was, he would not be back here, and he would not be back now.

Bodie watched Fran as she entertained a bald-headed man. Her shift had fallen off one shoulder, exposing her breast, which had the contrary effect of making her appear an innocent. She was undressing her companion inch by inch as he lay among pillows on the floor. She ran her fingertips over his shoulders and arms, kissing him and talking to him, letting her lovely red hair fall over his chest as she propped herself over him. Since she was busy with her tongue on his nipples, Bodie moved closer and helped her by pulling the man's trousers down to his ankles. His pubic hair was plentiful, and brown. Bodie leaned over her to touch the man's hard cock, remembering what Doyle's had felt like.

Fran smiled up at Bodie. "Do you want him?" she asked, and he shook his head, standing again.

"You can have him," he said, and watched as she played with his erection and finally lowered herself onto it. Someone else was holding Bodie from behind, touching him deliciously, and he realized he was breathing heavily already. He relaxed into the comforting touch of two hands, then three.

At this rate, he wouldn't be keeping his trousers on much longer.

Fran was taking a long time with the bald man, who seemed to have considerable endurance. Bodie held her to his chest, feeling the motion of her back against him as he put his arms around her. He kissed her neck, sweet and soft. She smelled like apple blossoms. Moving gently on her lover, she twisted her head around to meet Bodie's lips, her mouth half open on his. Bodie could guess the sensations within her with each quiver of her body. She groaned softly, the sound hardly more than a sigh.

He released her mouth and bent to kiss the bald man. The man, distracted, gasped in pleasure, his eyes half shut. He ran his hand along Bodie's crotch, then raised his hand to cup Bodie's chin, gently. Bodie smiled, and turned his head to kiss Fran's lips, so close to his. Fran uttered a muffled cry and threw her head back. He kissed her nipple for luck.

Then he moved back, rolling onto the soft carpet beside them, lying on his back. The Toreador who had been behind him was looking down at him, rapt. Bodie unbuttoned a shirt-button and smiled.

"Take off my boots," he said softly.

The Toreador knelt and pulled off his boots, and his hose, and caressed his feet. Bodie stretched his toes, enjoying the strong-fingered massage and the sense of freedom. "Get me some wine," he said.

The Toreador went to do so.

Bodie unbuttoned a few more buttons of his shirt, and thought about Doyle. He watched a silver-cloaked man fingering the arse of a naked young man, and felt his own body tingle behind. He thought about Doyle, doing that to him, as the cloaked figure's fingers disappeared into the eagerly writing body. He thought about doing that to Doyle.

This was taking him too far, too fast. So he tried not to think about Doyle, which was of course impossible, and rested his bare foot against the calf of the bald man beside him, who was still fucking Fran. Lucky Fran.

"Very pretty," he murmured to her, not caring whether she heard him. He played with a strand of her long hair, and, leaning over, propping himself on one arm, licked the back of her ear. The bald man under her groaned.

Then the Toreador reappeared with wine. He had brought one glass of delicate European crystal. Bodie stood. His brown-eyed companion took a sip and handed the glass to Bodie, who sipped and handed it back. They kissed, sharing the wine from each's mouth. "You are the most beautiful person here," said the Toreador huskily. It was the first thing he had said.

"You are beautiful too," said Bodie, rubbing his hands over the man's arse as he held him. He wanted Doyle so much now he was aching all over with arousal. He kissed the man's face, and fumbled with Toreador buttons, feeling the heat of the flesh under it. "Will you fuck me, sir?"

"How do you want it?" asked the Toreador. Someone else was embracing Bodie from behind, and he relaxed luxuriously into the embrace. Doyle, he thought; Doyle behind him, Doyle in front of him. He looked over at Cordelia on the chesterfield opposite, who was kneeling with her arm around a grey-haired man with loosened clothes and remarkably muscular shoulders.

Bodie closed his eyes, and opened them again. He pulled the other mask out of his pocket. "I want to wear this," he said.

The man behind him untied the string of the mask he was already wearing. Unquestioning, the man in front of him lifted the eyeless mask into place. Bodie felt the darkness descending. It was like being blindfolded, as he had sometimes been with Doyle. Doyle had liked that, making love to him in a lit room, knowing Bodie could not see his face. Bodie had liked that, knowing he was making Doyle happy. Seeing nothing but, as now, feeling intensely with every inch of his skin. Arousal washed over him, inflamed by the hands of the two men. He started pulling at the rest of his buttons, but they had his shirt off him already, pulled over his head, and his trousers pulled off too, with his hose. Gently they lowered him to the floor. While the man behind him knelt and held him in a warm embrace, the man in front of him lifted his legs and he felt the probing of fingers.

Bodie groaned in anticipation.

He could see nothing, but he could hear the lovely music and the moans around him; the murmurs and the cries; the whimpers and the whispers. The man behind him held him against his chest, so he could feel the cock swelling and pressing against the small of his back, and the man's fingers on him, wandering. The man in front of him pushed his hot erection inside him, stretching him, filling him, thrusting into him, as Doyle had done -- not at that other Masquerade where they had met and where Doyle had used only his hands, but afterwards, in the dark, in this house and in his own lodgings and in France, over and over, like nothing else in the universe. He thought of Doyle now, his only true lover, unseen in the dark; and of Doyle's touch, which was like no other but which every other touch reminded him of. Someone else was kissing his feet -- Doyle had done that once -- and another ran lips across his. He knew from the scent it was Fran and he whispered her name, but there was a soft laugh and Milly said, "No, it's me, I'm wearing her scent tonight."

She was not Doyle. But she disappeared, and all the others were Doyle, all those exploring warm masculine hands, and the sex unfolding him, the lips on his shoulder as he raised his hands over his head and touched the hair of the man behind him -- pretending it was curly, pretending it was Doyle's. Someone kissed him under the arm and that was Doyle's kiss too, and the hard cock someone put into his hand, that was Doyle's too. The whole world was Doyle and his love.

The man inside him climaxed in a series of moves that made Bodie cry out. Then the shrinking cock pulled out of him and it was the man behind him who turned Bodie onto his hands and knees, and pushed into him, so Bodie felt all the wetness and heat doubled, from another angle. Doyle, he thought: Doyle.

He thrust back, and found his half-covered face being kissed by one of the girls. He lifted one arm from the floor to wrap it around her, holding himself up on the other arm, tasting her breasts and her softly perfumed skin with his tongue. "Cass?" he said and she rapped the side of his head. "No, Bodie. Jasmine!"

He groaned at the stranger's onslaught inside him, trying to cling as Jasmine slipped away. He knew he was being watched -- he hoped he was being watched, because all eyes were Doyle's, just as all bodies were Doyle's. The stranger behind him was not his Stranger, but was strong and masculine and loving and lustful. Someone touched his nipples and pulled at them, pinching, and he cried out, the pleasure of it going right through his body.

The man behind him thrust into him hard and then pulled all the way out to climax, and there was a murmur of approval from several voices as his warm fluid warmly spread across Bodie's back.

Bodie had still not climaxed. He reached out for another body -- caring little what gender or type -- and found his hand touched by another. The shock was enough to make him cry out, for it was Doyle's hand -- surely it was Doyle's hand.

A soft, familiar whisper said, "Bodie!"

His name, and the first thing Doyle had ever said to him. He had said it in this room, at a Masquerade Ball like this one, and they both had been masked, although his hands had been bare and strong.

Those around him thought it was sensation that made him cry out. He knew there was motion and touch, as well as music and voices, all around him, but he was aware of none of it. He heard and felt the breath against his face, felt his Stranger's hand, his masked lover's hand, Doyle's hand, lightly brush his straining cock.

He cried out again as he climaxed, thinking nothing at all. Thinking the name he could never speak: Doyle, Doyle, Doyle ....

It was like falling off a cliff.

Warm and helpful hands untied his eyeless mask and it fell from his face. He covered his eyes with his hands, so as not to see Doyle's face.

But the hands, now, were stranger's hands, and the voices were stranger's voices

As his heartbeat calmed, there was laughter and gentle touches and kisses, and someone fed him an orange.

He opened his eyes. Jasmine was beside him with fruit in her hand, laughing at the expression on his face. The Toreador was beside her, smiling, and the bald man, and a dark-haired young man with a handsome face.

Could Doyle have been there?

Doyle could do anything. Doyle had been here before, the first time they had touched.

It might have been real. It might have been illusion. Whichever it was, it gave Bodie a happiness such as he had not felt since Doyle had left him.

"Having a good time, love?" asked Jasmine.

In reply, he smiled and kissed her.

Doyle. Doyle. Doyle.

-- THE END --

Originally published in Night Music in B and D, Keynote Press, May 1998

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