carmilla: Portrait shot of Paul Bettany  (Paul is TEH SEX)
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SUMMARY: It’s spite, Basil thinks.


It’s spite, Basil thinks.

He’s watching two shapes seated on the bench at the end of his garden, half-hidden by the gathering twilight. Another man might have been hard-pressed to recognise anyone under such circumstances; but these two shapes belonged to Basil’s oldest friend and to a youth whose face and body he has recreated on paper and canvas so often that he knows them better than his own, and he can easily distinguish the languorous pose and confidently cocked head of the one, and the exquisite profile of the other as he leans in to listen more closely to his companion. Suddenly Dorian’s head is thrown back, and his musical laughter rings out across the lawn, and something bitter and jagged twists in Basil’s insides.

It must be spite that has made Harry do this, for when he spends time and effort on something the man’s motives are never pure. And in all of Basil’s recollection, Harry has never spent quite as much time and effort on anything as he has on Dorian Gray.

It must be spite, the casual arm draped around the boy’s shoulders, the easy intimacy of their heads bent close together, when Dorian will never allow Basil any closer embrace than to walk arm-in-arm with him back from the club. Revenge for all the times Basil shook away Harry’s hand, broke eye-contact, refused to listen to what he was actually saying beneath his endless stream of empty, sparkling epigrams. And there were a dozen young men Harry could have chosen who would have listened, and not pretended not to understand, but he has waited for this one. This one who causes Basil physical pain every time he allows himself to be touched.

He watches as Harry raises Dorian’s hand to his mouth, and gently kisses each of his fingertips in turn, and recalls how he told his friend of his delirious happiness when Dorian had accidentally – accidentally! – brushed his lips across Basil’s skin as he tried to paint a simple landscape. He wonders if Harry knows he is being observed. He wonders if this is mockery.

No, he decides, more likely it is jealousy. Jealousy of this youth who has captured Basil in a way no-one has since his first night at Oxford, when Lord Henry Wotton shook his hand in the common room with a lazy smile and offered him a cigar. Jealousy that this new-found passion of his has overridden every previous bond. Jealousy of Basil’s painting, because for the first time in his life, he has escaped the boundaries of mediocrity, he is creating that which transcends, that which not even the arch-cynic himself could refuse to call art. Perhaps most of all, jealousy because Basil discovered this exquisite creature and Harry did not; and Harry feels compelled to cover this shameful lapse by making Dorian his creature.

But then, Basil thinks, watching Harry’s hands busy at Dorian’s throat, and failing to suppress the image of Dorian’s face flushing slightly as his shirt buttons are undone, maybe even that is too kind. It could be that all he is seeing here is sin and degeneration. After all, he himself has resisted temptation for many years; temptation in Harry’s laughing eyes and insouciant touches, temptation in Dorian’s softly curving lips, his flawless skin. And here Harry is, shameless, as he persuades Dorian to give in to what should under all circumstances be resisted.

As the two shadows on the bench move their heads towards each other until they merge into one, Basil can watch no more, turns his back on the awful, compelling scene, and heads back into his house. He will sleep but little this night.

Had he only stayed a little longer, he might have noticed how Harry’s limbs had acquired an unwonted note of tension, how his proud head bent back under Dorian’s, surrendering to the kiss; he might even have detected sounds that bordered on alarm amongst the noises of pleasure his oldest friend was making. And he might have been forced to wonder who was really corrupting whom.
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