Groups of young men crowded excitedly round the streets, waiting. Several police officers were stationed around the house, guns trained at every possible exit. There was talk of a hostage, but there had been no activity since lunch-time and it had been dark for nearly three hours. A distant tram clattered across the High Street, its upper feeler shooting sparks across the raised pylon.
A face appeared at one of the upper windows, accompanied by a shout from the street. A policewoman moved the front row of the crowd back a few feet towards the other side of the road. A voice suddenly cut into the stillness of the winter evening.
“Fifteen minutes,” it said. Another flutter of movement at the window and the spindly end of a gun came into view. Several shouts came from the back of the crowd and two shots were fired. In a synchronised movement, the officers around the house ran at the door, kicking it in. The growing crowd surged forward, but the police had moved quickly, and after a minute or so, two loudspeaker messages came from the police unit stationed by the front garden.
“Go home,” one of them said. “It is an offence to obstruct the police in the execution of their duty…”
“…after Curfew,” the other was saying. “Will you please return to your homes.” Three officers emerged from the darkness of the inside, the third dragging a man behind him, who was clutching at his stomach. By the time the other two men were brought out, the crowd had dispersed.
This was as much as Morda could make out, as he stood by the police van. Several faceless officers stood in the garden and around the house.
“We ought to get home,” Provlyn said. “It’s quarter to ten and the last train back leaves Whitechapel at quarter past.”
“Don’t you want to find out what happened?”
They crossed the road, passing a police van with darkened windows. Two policewomen were examining someone inside. Morda moved towards the opened rear doors.
“You’re in the wrong place young man,” one of them said. “You ought to be home.” Morda moved towards the stretcher.
“He’s still alive,” the other said, reassuringly. “He’ll be alright.”
“Well enough to stand trial for this.”
“He might as well have died,” Morda said. He looked at the man’s face. It shaped an expression of dull pain, a blow to the temple evident in a bruising around the side of the head. But the face. Morda knew it well, though he had not seen it for five years; it was Harvil. Not that he should have been surprised. One of the reasons they had parted had been Harvil’s obsession with the Republican activists. They had been ready to sire, they had lived together for almost four and a half years. They had been teenage lovers, but had been changed by the war. Harvil had met many new friends and had found a new purpose in his life, as he had often said. And now…
He crossed the road. He had met Provlyn a few months later at a Peacetime Ball. Provlyn’s interest in politics was confined to being in service at the home of Serboth Challis, MP for Putney and Wimbledon, and current Home Secretary for the government.
“How was he?”
“Beaten up; shot, probably.”
“He’s an activist, Morda. Probably didn’t go to war; busy organising the killing of innocent people. It’s difficult to feel any sympathy for them.”
They crossed the road to the station, passing underneath a huge poster declaring ‘A paid Toll Tax return gives you your free democratic rights.’ Underneath this a sign flashed Curfew. Local curfew hours had just returned to ten o’clock, but it was generally accepted that you were safe until eleven, providing you had a good reason for being out.
Morda enjoyed the public houses in Whitechapel from the days when he had lived in Musbury Street with Harvil, but Provlyn did not mind the journey across London. He was still only twenty. He loved to hear Morda’s stories about wartime and would tolerate any distance to please him and settle his mood.
They reached the station and boarded one of the waiting red trains, joining one of the preferred central carriages, with their low lighting and dark tables. They sat together, arm in arm.
“What do you really think of the activists?” Morda finally asked as the train pulled away.
“I’ve heard Challis say that they should all be strung up.”
“Forty-three already have been, since the riots last July.”
“Why does it matter what I think?”
Morda looked at him and smiled. When you committed yourself to such ideals, you could lose everything. Your sense of humour, your friends, your job. Underneath it all, it seemed that most working people outside of the Populite found the government contemptible. It was something at the centre of what it was to be part of the Populace. But contempt had become a reserved emotion, if it were an emotion at all. Since the war, people had lost their political acumen. We had won after all, we had beaten off the militant faction in the country. Now we were free, and someone had to run the country, didn’t they? And nobody likes the boss, everybody knew that.
“I care about you,” Morda said. “I worry about you. You’re still very young.”
“I have you,” he said. “And I have a job.”
Morda remembered the darkness of Harvil’s back, and the hot summer when they had first met. He had been the young one then. Harvil spoke so well, had such far-reaching ideas; he was someone who knew what he wanted to do, he had plans, he would be a successful man. And tonight he was a bloody darkness on a stretcher, and Morda had left him there. He hadn’t even tried to wake him – tell him that he had been. He had just walked away. And the other two Nark activists were both dead, probably close friends.
“This country fucks me off,” he said, suddenly. An elderly man on the other side of the carriage looked up.
“Let’s make love when we get back,” Provlyn said. “I love you.”
The elderly man looked away.
Morda awoke at half past eleven the following morning. It was a grey and cloudy day with a hint of rain in the air. He read Provlyn’s note on the bed beside him.
I have to-morrow afternoon off. I meant to tell you. We could go somewhere. Hampstead?
He screwed the note up and threw it towards the bin. A few letters including a second red Toll Tax return lay on the mat downstairs. He raised himself up slowly and began his exercises, pushing himself up on stilt forearms. …nineteen, twenty.
They had lived in the mews house in Hammersmith for nearly five years; Provlyn’s father had been killed in the war. His only relative was an ageing grandfather somewhere in the North of England. Morda was comfortable enough here, but then again… he raised alternate legs in the air to meet the pointed joining of his arms. …fourteen, fifteen. He could have been living with Harvil, and he might have been in that house.
He boiled a kettle for his wash and began to dress. He was due at the workhouse centre in the city at one o’clock; still looking for a job since his sixth month posting at the brewery had finished. There were 500,000 people living in London and yet he was unable to get the permanent job he wanted. With more and more people required to go into service for the Populite, it wasn’t as if opportunities were scant, but there was a stigma attached to service from pre-war days when it had been illegal, and although Provlyn seemed quite comfortable in that Wimbledon house on Parkside, he felt differently. Harvil would have rather died; perhaps he still would.
“I understand you have been drawing a war relief pension for the last five years, but that in this period you have been employed only on a short term basis and that you have refused two jobs offered you in the last week.” The grey-haired man behind the counter smiled. Morda looked skyward.
“There are three jobs I can offer you this week. One is an eight month clerk’s apprenticeship with Palby’s in Holborn; that’s one pound and fifteen shillings a week, with a half day on Saturday. If you’re successful there, they may give you a full time contract, subject to the government’s new Employment Act, which comes into force next year. Then there are two positions on Lady Kennerworth’s Estate; a butler and a footman. Both will pay two pounds a week. Before you answer, I must warn you that you only have two more refusals before fifty per cent of your relief entitlement becomes dockable monthly.” He read the phrase from a printed blue card behind the window. Morda nodded. They were the only two people in the workhouse centre. Outside a tram moved noisily past.
“I nearly died in Manchester,” Morda said. “And you’d still take away fifty per cent of my relief pension?”
“Not me sir. It’s the government.”
“Yes,” Morda said, taking the job offer form. “Sure.”
He left the building and crossed the road. Wasn’t he just another part of this mass complacency? Laws were being introduced, it seemed, every week to stabilise the economy. The cause was always stability, but stability through change sounded like flawed logic. And new ideas? New was, perhaps, an effective euphemism for ideas that people will have by now forgotten.
It was raining. He ran across the street and jumped on the back of a tram that was picking up speed. He looked at the conductor enquiringly.
“Whitechapel, mate,” he said.
Morda went upstairs and sat down. It was an open top, but he felt in a sudden frivolous mood. It was strangely pleasant to view the City of London from a tram rooftop, even if he was under an umbrella. Several important-looking women in dark suits congregated at a street corner, one waving her hands in exasperation at something. They are talking about money, Morda thought. His mind was a long way from the subject. He was thinking about Harvil again. Harvil, who would almost certainly be dead in a month or two, if not from his injuries, then surely from his offence, however it would be framed. Treason. Now that’s a capital offence, my good man. And you are guilty. It’s the law. Sorry.
Whitechapel Police Station, the words were carved out in the light concrete stone that comprised part of the red brick roof of the building. It set an idea running in Morda’s head. He ought to stay on until the terminus and go home, but then ought was a word that had been giving him a lot of problems lately. He shot down the stairs quickly enough to leave the tram without losing his balance, and he crossed to the station entrance.
He was surprised, on entering, to find that the building was a mass of shiny silver machines and polished surfaces. He hadn’t expected such a sophisticated enterprise… weren’t those flashing lights behind the counter some kind of computer? Before he was able to continue his visual tour, a young police officer came out from behind one of the machines, eyeing him suspiciously.
“I suppose you have a good reason for being here?” she said.
“I believe you have a man named Harvil in the building,” Morda replied. She continued to study him with apparent contempt, but eventually moved to her left to consult a tiny grey screen.
“So what if we have?”
“I’d like to see him.”
“He’s a Classified Twenty. Nobody sees him unless the Superintendent gives her permission. Which is unlikely,” she added. “Just who are you, anyway?”
“Morda,” said Morda. “I was a friend of his. I mean I am a friend of his.” But it was no use. The look she was giving him suggested that his demands were untenable.
“You’d better fill in one of these,” she said. She handed him a large light blue strip of paper which had gaps and sections ripe for personal information. He caught sight of several emotively titled sections: Previous Convictions, Who is your partner?, Have you sired in the last ten years?, Is your father still alive?…
“What is this for?” he asked.
“You’ve asked questions about a Classified Twenty. That makes you an interested party. Fill the form in please. There’s no charge.” Her voice delivered the words without irony. The first time he had entered a police station in his life, and he was having to fill in an FD407C (Revised: December).
He completed the form, having given it some thought, substituting the details of Mordga Palapsis, a young man from Stepney he had served with in the war, wondering how the information was, if at all, to be used. The policewoman smiled at him; it was a rehearsed smile gathered, no doubt, at some Populite police training college. It made him feel helpless.
“In any case,” she said, as he was leaving, “he’s not here. He’s at a nearby hospital. He is still quite ill.” Morda made a note of her badge number, C 4501.
Once outside, he felt sobered. Harvil had been hospitalised some years before, after an activists’ rally at the American Embassy, and Morda recalled that the security ward was above the Queen Edwina Ward at Guy’s Hospital. He had never been inside the hospital, but he knew where he could find it, and what he might do when he got there. The resignation of everyone so far that day that he should have little or no control over his destiny was hardening his spirit and resolve.
“It’s a little worrying, Home Secretary, I must agree. In separate factions, these fanatics are quite harmless, but recent incidents have led me to believe that some of these groups might be working together.”
Provlyn worked some Brasso around the neck of a darkened candelabra on the far side of the drawing-room. He caught the day’s visitor, Lady Arkandale, waving a discretionary finger in his direction as she finished speaking.
“Provlyn’s alright, aren’t you, Provlyn?” Challis said. He, in return, smiled pleasantly and continued polishing.
“The Prime Minister has called a cabinet meeting for next Thursday, so I’ll raise it there, if it’s not on the agenda already.”
“Thank you,” said Lady Arkandale. “Better to be safe than sorry.” Both the women were dressed in dark suits, brown and black. It had become quite regular for informal meetings with other Party MPs at the house in the last few months. Provlyn found it rather amusing that he should be privy to such information at its most direct source, but he never passed any of it on. He was the soul of discretion, fully aware of his obligations in service; even Morda would not hear what he had picked up during the day. He was trustworthy and reliable; a good servant, as the saying went.
Morda occupied himself with intermittent visits to the coffee shops surrounding London Bridge station for the afternoon, biding his time until visiting hours commenced. The hospital was a fairly typical Georginian building, a bold architectural front of wide columns ill-preparing visitors for the grey corridors and overpowering smell of carbolic. He bought a bunch of carnations from the flower-seller boy at the entrance, surprised at his own tact, as he moved swiftly up the stone steps behind the small crowd, keeping to the back. The brown notice at the head of the stairs made it clear that the Queen Edwina Ward was on the seventh floor, alongside the word eighth the painted instruction, Staff Only.
By the time he reached the seventh floor, the crowd in front of him had thinned out to four or five people. He moved confidently into the Queen Edwina Ward, smiling at the suffering old men he passed, eyes racing for visual inspiration. He saw a small utility room at the far end of the room, but before he could get any further, he was stopped by a staff nurse.
“Can I help you, sir?”
“Yes,” he replied, “I was looking for my… oh, there he is!” He side-stepped the nurse and moved to a seat beside the only unattended bed, inhabited by a man who looked as though he had journeyed there from the beginning of time.
“Hello Dad!” he said, with enthusiasm. The man in the bed beside him grinned, showing a wide rim of toothless gums. The young nurse smiled and moved off. Morda leaned across to the man.
“I bought you these,” he said, putting the carnations in a plastic bowl he’d found under the bed. “I hope you get better soon.”
“Prettiest thing I’ve seen all week,” the old man began, but Morda shook his head.
“Not tonight, Joseph. You’re not my type.” He took hold of a small jar of capsules on the cupboard beside the bed. “The doctor says you need six of these,” he said, pouring out a glass of water. “Sooner you get this lot swallowed, the sooner you’ll get some well-earned sleep.” He lifted the old man’s head from his pillow and angled it towards him to block anyone else’s view, and administered the handful of pills.
“Are you coming back to-morrow?” the man asked. Morda nodded.
A few minutes from now and he would have to take his chance. The easiest guard to pass would be after midnight, and he now had only one flight of steps to overcome. He moved swiftly from the bed of the sleeping man and into the utility room, blissfully dark, full of wicker trolleys which presented a wealth of choices of hiding-place. He finally settled down in between blankets on a blanket trolley, ready to move at the first opportunity after midnight.
After three unanswered taps, Provlyn reached in his pocket for the key. He stood in the darkness in the hall, wondering. He lit a lamp in the lounge and sat by the window. He had felt uneasy since they’d stopped by the ambulance the previous evening. Morda had recognised the injured man; there must have been a reason for his silence. His note from the morning lay crumpled at the foot of the stairs. In spite of the expressionless face seen in the mirror, he felt the tears. He moved towards the telephone. He had read in a national newspaper about keeping the police informed of suspicious happenings so they could be one step ahead of the criminal. But now the war was over, crime was virtually non-existent; all the criminals had been put to death for treason.
Perhaps Morda had found a job. But there was no note. The greatest fear was that he would leave. He had been talking in riddles lately. He had left many questions unanswered. He hadn’t talked about siring for weeks despite the fact that they were eligible in March. Provlyn knew he would have to live permanently at Parkside if anything happened. Serboth Challis would look after him, and if this Reform Bill they often talked about were to be introduced, he would be in the right working environment to make the most of it. But he would lose the house; transfer of property was a complicated legal matter. He would have to give up the house.
He took down the letters from the letter rack and opened them. More forms to fill in. More laws changing.
Morda heard the hospital clock chime twelve, and moved the laundry basket out in front of him. The only light in the ward came from the threads of moonlight, but Morda’s eyes were trained by now, and he had a good view of the obstructions in his path. The only sounds he could hear were of gentle snoring from some of the old men on the ward. These were the first of a new generation of old people who would be pensionless from the end of the month, thanks to the new changes in the law. A strange irony that the majority of those in favour of the abolition were of virtual pensionable age themselves. He crept out, relieved to see that the late shift ward nurse hadn’t yet arrived.
The difficulty would be to pass whatever guard they had operating on the security ward. He felt his chest tighten as he held the steel banister. The chugging of the boiler room from below gave the dark stairs beyond an unwelcoming quality, but he moved on. Harvil was just thirty-four; an appalling waste of life if he were to die…
Two voices cut into the darkness from the next floor; Morda skidded back behind the lift shaft, cursing at the scraping noise his shoes made on the cold stone floor. After a moment, the voices stopped and a figure moved past him down the stairs in the darkness, wielding some kind of torch in front of him. He waited for the sounds to die and began climbing the stairs again, three at a time. He reached the top landing and saw the night light on in the security office fifteen yards in front of him. A silhouette sat in front of it, reading a book. Harvil would be there, beyond the office; he would soon know why the activists had been shot at.
The office door was slightly ajar. He was a few feet from the ward when he took stock of the situation. He needed something with which to render the guard helpless. It had to be temporary; he had no intention of killing anyone.
He watched the shadow of the guard’s tremulous lips, miming out the words on the printed page. Beside the door was a window-pole. Too clumsy. He knelt slowly and soundlessly forward to take one of the short sections of tubing that sat in a box to the right. Whatever they were for, they were of a substantial weight.
He had learned to move swiftly during his time in the North with the army, and, even five years on, he was able to act without compunction when the situation demanded it. He moved round to behind the other side of the door and tapped gently on it, twice. In the split second before the guard raised himself to see what was going on, he saw the figure in the ward sit up, and he lunged round the office door to deliver an unexpectedly severe blow to the back of the guard’s neck. He toppled out of Morda’s reach and fell to the ground, striking the front of his head against the side of the table. The whole incident was over in less than five seconds, but the silence that followed was like a wild screaming.
Morda moved forwards into the ward, taking the gas lamp off the table with him. He sat at the side of the bed and brought the lamp round.
He hugged the wounded man round his chest, surprised by the rush of desperate emotion he suddenly felt. Harvil’s hand eventually drew itself up to the back of his friend’s neck.
“You’re dead if they find you here, Morda.”
“Who’s the they?”
“The police, the hospital guards… whoever.”
“Why did they shoot you? What had you done?” Harvil leaned across and looked out of the window. City buildings reflected in the moonlight across the river, the dome of St.Pauls rising into the dark sky. All they could hear was the chugging of the boiler in the basement.
“They must have found the house a few weeks ago. Maybe someone told them, I don’t know. But we had all sorts of stuff in there: explosives, ammunition, stuff like that. I wouldn’t be sitting here if Raptel had wired everything up; we were going to disappear and take most of Whitechapel with us, but they stormed the place before I could finish the job.” His voice was like a low barking.
“I can’t understand why you all want to destroy yourselves like this. They’re both dead. They may kill you too…”
“They will. They told me yesterday. They’re organising the trial for March; moving me to some High Security place to-morrow. Quite flattering really…” They both turned to the direction of the office, from where the groaning sound came.
“What did you do to him?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think he’s badly hurt. Look, I want to help you… I want to help us. Whoever us is.”
He stood up. The creature from the front of the ward was crawling slowly towards them, pulling on the leg of a hospital bed a few yards away to move himself forwards.
“I’ve taken an oath, I can only say that,” Harvil said quickly, watching the guard’s lumbering movements. “A few people know. You will too. They know I knew you. They’ll find you, don’t worry.”
“I can’t leave you here.”
“I’ve lost blood, I’m weak. You’ll be lucky to get home on your own as it is.” He took Morda’s hand. “I’ve done what I can; if you want to help, get out, get away from here!”
They had spent five years of their lives together, through the war, four of them living in the flat at Whitechapel. It had been knocked down since. Morda had often thought of Harvil in the last few years. Wondered if he might meet him in the city or pass him sitting at a table in a café. A meeting that would now never happen.
Morda had picked up the short section of pole and was holding it tentatively above his shoulder. He moved backwards towards Harvil. There was a strange moment shared by them all; the two wounded men and him, almost silent. Then, in a desperate lurch, Morda threw himself from the bedside, over the stumbling guard and out of the ward. As he hurried down the staircase, taking two steps at a time, he tried to lose the recurring picture he had of the crawling man. Sticky blood was on the cuff of his jacket and the short piece of tubing was still in his hand, like a baton out of an unfinished relay race. He hadn’t been seen by the guard, though; he was fairly sure of that.
As he took the last flight of steps, he slowed his speed to a leisurely stroll. The corridor on the ground floor was well lit, but there was nobody around. He doubled back the way he had come, remembering a small window at the side, just a few hundred yards from the entrance. The eradication of crime in the years since the war had many advantages, not least that of the removal of intruder identification devices from public buildings. He eased open the single pane and dropped soundlessly onto the ground outside.
It was Curfew, so no-one was around except a few police and government workers. He stopped halfway across London Bridge. The Houses of Parliament were lit up as was Big Ben, cast in a glowing gold. Parliament in session? At one-thirty in the morning? The moment he had crossed the bridge, he darted into the back streets, his heart pounding like a sewing-machine. There were no tubes or trams, but he would have to get back across London to Hammersmith in case they sent police to the house – Provlyn would know nothing of it, but no-one was likely to believe his innocence. He drew back into an alley as a battery-powered police wagon approached. It was one of the new models created in the wake of the government’s energy conserving policy; a scarlet carriage with Metropolitan Police hand-painted in gold across the upper tier. He moved out again, into the night.
The journey back involved keeping away from main police areas and government buildings, most of which Morda knew from his involvement in the war, and when he was unsure, areas with the most dense stretches of street lighting were more than likely to be places to avoid. He had a scare when he cut through Kensington Gardens and was stopped by a Parks Security Officer, but miraculously he was allowed to go after he had explained that he’d fallen asleep in the park after having several drinks at a nearby pub.
Hammersmith, like most London suburbs, had several listed office blocks which had become derelict. The problem was, he had read, how to demolish them without damage to the surrounding houses and shops. Their house in Grove Mews was on a list of at risk property he had seen with Provlyn at a recent exhibition in the Town Hall. The National Clearance Act had given all local government housing departments the obligation and authority to demolish all buildings above four storeys in each borough. The Act had not gone on to explain how this was to be done or whether compensation would be offered to those losing homes in the process; the authority to remove seemed to be all that was really necessary. Morda suspected that Town Hall Exhibitions of demolition plans were something of a sham; a way of suggesting that the word consultation might have some genuine meaning for those with supposed access to it.
Doubling through the back streets behind Hammersmith Grove, Morda was able to reach Grove Mews without any further problems. It had been Harvil, who, with the aid of monies of unknown source, had bought him the house when they had parted.
“You want to get out of London,” he had said. “Whitechapel’s becoming so busy, lately.”
The house had belonged to a friend of Harvil’s, an old man who had lived there most of his life, having died three months previously of tuberculosis. With only rates to pay, Morda had found it quite easy to get by, even though he was sometimes limited to the fifteen shillings a week provided by the war relief pension. Now, however, he might have to surrender half of that, as well as pay the new Toll Tax, which promised to be double the yearly rates sum.
He slipped the key gently into the lock and went in. Provlyn was asleep in the armchair by the fire, an unused cigarette in his hand. The lamp flickered weakly, throwing a gentle light over him, making him look peculiarly handsome as he slept. Morda remembered how Harvil had often returned late from one of his meetings, and finding him asleep had carried him to bed, like a father might carry his son. He drew a stool up to the chair and took Provlyn’s hand.
“You should be in bed.”
Provlyn looked up.
“I was dreaming,” he said. “You were in a building that was on fire. It might even have been this house. I was watching you from across the road. You didn’t try to leave, though. You were just watching me, as if you wanted to see what I would do.”
“What did you do?”
“I woke up.”
Morda looked into the fire. He was thinking about Harvil.
“Did you get a job?”
“No job. That is, I decided not to take what they offered me. I believe I’m running out of refusals, now.” His eyes grew small. “Have you been crying?”
Provlyn got up and walked out into the kitchen.
“Do you want a tea?” he said.
Morda watched the fire until he returned. “I went to see the man they shot.”
“Which one? They shot three, didn’t they?”
“I went to see the one who is still alive. He was in a security ward; I had to use some force to see him. They wouldn’t have let me otherwise.” Morda sipped thoughtfully at his tea. He sighed deeply. “He was a good friend of mine. But there’s no point in crying. He’s as good as dead. And you were right. He is an activist, even if you might not know what that means. I know I don’t.”
Morda felt uncomfortable and moved across to the front window, watching the still scene outside through the curtains. He wondered why he had never spoken of Harvil before. It made his words sound like a betrayal when, in fact, they were just a few paragraphs out of his past, necessarily screened.
“Lady Arkandale was at Parkside today. The conversation was mainly about fanatics.” Provlyn stood up and turned towards the bedroom. Morda pulled him back and drew him face to face, breathing tightly, eyes harsh.
“Provlyn, this was someone I loved; this was someone I lived with for five years of my life! You don’t think I was a virgin until I met you, do you?” He shook him, but gradually his arms tightened round him and they kissed. Provlyn’s cheeks were wet.
“I left him because of what he was becoming involved with. He was spending more and more time out at night, breaking War Curfew when we were working in London. I knew they’d get him one day. And if they got him, they’d get me. They don’t take any chances. I’m sure you’ve heard them say that at Parkside. So I left him. I hadn’t seen him for five years until yesterday.”
Provlyn looked up at him in desperation. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this before?”
“I didn’t tell you at the beginning because I was trying to make sure I severed all links with that part of my life. A few activists knew me from when I lived with Harvil in Whitechapel, but fuck the Queen, man, there wasn’t any way I could tell you once you’d got that job at Parkside! They might have been watching me, they may have become suspicious. And you couldn’t tell them what you didn’t know.”
“But I know now.”
“Yes,” said Morda. They went upstairs. The clock at the top of the stairs chimed five. Provlyn lay on Morda’s bed, his head on his chest.
“You lived together for five years. Did you ever think of siring?”
“We had talked about it, but it could never have happened. We only had a flat, and although I loved him, I wasn’t sure that we would stay together.”
The response seemed to satisfy Provlyn, who eventually fell asleep holding him, his night shirt unfastened around his shoulders.