Phillip’s cheeks burnt as if Rion had actually taken a candle to them. He had coloured beyond pink – now Phillip stood in perpetual embarrassment. He had found fate bad enough walking in on…them, but having Rion yell about Phillip’s natural failures was too much.
No longer did his throat clog with sick or sense clog with humiliation – his way of actions was clear. If he couldn’t stop their arrangement, he had no choice but to act against it himself.
Phillip shrugged. “Rion.”
His brother’s eyes enlarged – thankfully, this time, as threatening – and Rion took a step forward.
“Have I not said it enough, Phillip? Leave me alone!”
He might not immediately retract the committed filth, but Phillip inwardly protested that he might never do it again. Go to war, marry a foreign woman (as Rion must, with his taunting mind) and return to the Mansion a literally changed man. He had known women’s flesh before.
From the look on Rion’s face, that dream was never going to happen.
Eyebrows arched and he flicked his wrist at Phillip. “If you would excuse me, I have a bed to climb back into.” But the latter would not be dismissed so scurrilously.
His brother flailed, eyes soaring and hands on the edges of his chest. “What did you say?”
“No. Father would like to see you. The Brief has been moved to tomorrow.” And then he really raged. It wasn’t Rion’s stubbornness, no, it was his willingness to forfeit. “You are one selfish man to hold this against your family. How I could have ever hoped that the war would change you –”
“Into something I am not, perhaps?” Rion sneered, albeit with an edge of sad revelation. “This is the way I found myself entering this life.”
Excuses! Always excuses. Phillip curled his fists, that red mist of anger filling his vision.
“I hate you, Rion! I hate the way you have always put yourself first in the eyes of even The College and the Costellos; you don’t fight for the war, you fight for your own misogyny and greed. Your own luxury and success of name.” He panted. “And then to commit such a backhanded felony in the orifices of respected quarters! Gross. Mother and Father would despair… In our home, amongst the lives of Costello ancestors! You’d ruin bedsheets once used by the Great and Powerful?”
“Phillip,” Lysander’s tones rang dulcet spirals, but they no longer pacified Phillip. He’d been lied to by this man, too. “Perhaps you would let me explain.”
“What is there to explain? You’ve done nothing but blacken this house with your paid body!”
Lysander’s eyebrows danced up and down. “Excuse me?” His lips twisted in a slight smile.
“It’s true! I don’t know for whatever reason you had taken me to see him –”
“For the war. If I had known physical emotion–”
“Let me speak!” he cried. “I’ve had enough of your nonsense excuses. Yes – let us have a world where none have to marry a chosen partner, but let it not be one like…this.”
Lysander glanced at Rion, but the other had no eyes for his bed-fellow. Eyes of a royal storm stared into Phillip’s. Clearly, they asked why this dictum. But he had, and antiquated words meant more than an evil performance. How was this dance love?
The scene dissolved in a flurry of red past his eyes, begging him to give in. It ruled his movements; curled fists became nails ready to scrape away every inch of the man’s face. When Phillip opened his eyes (he hadn’t remembered closing them, but the haze swiped more than vision), the two other men were standing firm in their same places, utterly naked. With Lysander’s hand on Rion’s shoulder, they morphed quickly into a barrier of bulging flesh.
Phillip’s step back was for his own sake. His hand clamped upon an ornament. Where he had found the bust he didn’t know. Phillip snatched it from its seat. He nudged his elbow back and up into an arch, and, when the world stopped shaking, he readied himself.
Even their two voices fell into one monotone.
Rion’s face floated into the set-square view. Oh, Phillip saw the hate written on his features; and he shared it. For his entire life, his brother had done nothing but taunt him. He was worth a fierce hand.
Phillip curled his left hand. With his right, he flung free the weight of the bust. It cascaded through the air – flipping head-over-heels. Phillip narrowed his eyes at his brother. Rion could do nothing; his lips turned downwards, but his frown was tainted.
“No!” came a terrible cry.
In a second, a brown figure had leapt outwards. Caramel-skinned Lysander had moved as fast as tumultuous weather from bed-edge to carpet. He spread his arms and torso in front of Rion.
A dull thump echoed around the room. The sound tumbled from that leapt body. With an agonised cry, Lysander sunk to the floor, clutching his right shoulder in his left hand.
Rion fell with the other. He gathered Lysander’s head with his hands, peering into each of the man’s crevices.
Phillip gasped. He couldn’t speak for the sore memories. Had he really…? He studied them both: Lysander, pale with pain, Rion, fingers running their own ways…in care, as mad as it appeared.
“Tell me, tell me,” he murmured. “Where?”
Lysander groaned. He blinked rapidly, bare fingertips stretching over the nude flesh.
“Phillip…” The other gestured.
Rion looked up, hatred burning a raw cut across Phillip’s face. He gasped, as if he had really been lashed out. Rion’s emotion scratched beyond Phillip’s understanding. “For Apollo’s sake, get out! Get out!”
The first time he had taken a god’s name. Phillip, nearly tripping over one of Lysander's shoes strewn in the debris of clothes on the floor. Snapping into sense, he turned and ran from the room.