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11 November 2010 @ 11:59 pm
Numb3rs Fic: Approaching Infinity Part 2  
Written for kink_bigbang Big Bang 2010
Crossposted to numb3rs_slash


Title: Approaching Infinity Part 2 (Prequel to The Far End of Infinity)
Series/Universe: The Far End of Infinity
Pairing/Characters: Charlie/OMCs, OCs
Rating: NC17
Spoilers: UP, Counterfeit Reality
Summary: Young Charles Eppes heads to grad school in Paris where he gets an education in more than just math when he falls in with a group of libertines (AU)
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ

Other comments are housed at kink_bigbang.


Part 1

The next time Hell went away it left for four weeks, coinciding neatly with Randolf's vacation at his summer house with Ari. Charles had considered a visit home for the summer break, but his mother had told him to save his money. Don had gotten engaged to his girlfriend Kim and she wanted to make sure Charles could come home for the wedding during winter break.

The invitation had come in the mail and Charles had shoved it and the rest of his letters into the pocket of his coat and headed out to Le Cheval Bleu for the evening. It felt strange going there on a Friday night, instead of the parties, even more so since he knew Ari and Randolf weren't going to be there.

"I'm bored!" Paul pronounced loudly at the table as Marc skimmed a newspaper, only glancing up to give him a slightly annoyed look before returning to his article. "Doesn't anyone want to have fun anymore?"

Charles had been making his way through his wine and his letters, pulling them out one by one as he drank. The invitation had come first: simple yet classy. He was happy for Don and grateful his parents had someone to give them grandchildren. He wasn't sure how long he could hold them off, but for now it was easy to pretend his studies kept him from dating eligible women, not his preference for men.

Another envelope of fine stationery met his fingertips when he pulled out the last letter. He didn't recognize the return address on it at first, but the handwriting was familiar enough: it was from Ari at the summer house in Nice.

Ignoring the brewing argument between Marc and Paul at the table, Charles pulled out the letter and began to read, his body tense with concern about what it could be about.

"Cher Charles,

Of many things, nothing may be said, however my affection for you loosens my tongue and I must tell you how I feel.

I worry about you and I wonder if I have not done right by you by inviting you into a world I am not certain you were prepared for. I was greedy and wished not only to have what I had once given up, but also to share what I have now. I fear in doing so I have sent a false message of hope where hope should have been extinguished, and rightly so.

I love Randolf. I am his completely and in every way. It is our pleasure and delight to count you among our closest friends, yet I do not wish you to misconstrue our affections as an overture for more than what is already existing.

To be in love is like nothing on this earth, Charles. I beg of you to seek it out for yourself so that you might know the joy of truly sharing yourself with another person. For as much as I know where your heart leans, you will not find that joy here.

With great affection,

Ari"

So Ari knew that Charles was still in love with him - probably better than Charles had known himself. Yet it still hurt to be told so plainly to move on, that there was nothing there for him.

"Enough!" Marc threw up his hands, effectively ending whatever disagreement he and Paul had gotten into while Charles wasn't paying attention. "I'm off to read in peace at home." He rose, putting on his coat and folding up his paper. "Good night, gentlemen or should I say gentle man and Paul," he teased, nodded his farewell to Charles as Paul huffed in his chair.

"Good night," Charles answered automatically, his mind already working on something. Once Marc was gone and he and Paul were alone at the table, Charles drew his chair closer and beckoned Paul to come near. "Tell me, Paul. If certain 'hedonistic delights'..." he was careful to use the phrase Paul had used to describe the parties when he'd slipped before, "were being denied, where else might one go if one was a libertine looking to live the life?"

Paul's eyes widened, but it was his smile widening after that that encouraged Charles.

"Yes, yes... Why wait, as you say?" He bolted up, surprising Charles, and quickly threw bills on the table to pay the tab, not even asking Charles for his share. As he pulled on his coat he turned to Charles, all traces of boredom extinguished. "An excellent suggestion, my friend! I wish I'd thought of it myself!" He gestured to Charles to come with him, so Charles rose and put on his coat. "We need to go see a man about a word."

"A word?" Charles asked, following him out of the bar.

"Yes!" Paul stopped short, so short that Charles nearly ran into him. "Do you have any money on you?"

"Yes, actually."

"Good!" Paul rushed out the door, Charles in tow. "Because it's going to cost you."

+

During the day the bouquiniste stalls lined the Seine, allowing citizens and tourists to peruse and purchase their fine books. At night though the banks of the Seine attracted a crowd more interested in amour than erudition, taking advantage of the dark to enjoy an intimate embrace.

A light shone in one of the businesses along the river at the core of the city despite the late hour: a tobacconist's.

Paul stepped inside, making the bell over the door ring, and held the door for Charles to enter after him. The shop was barely large enough for the two of them to stand in it.

Paul proceeded directly to the wizened old man behind the counter, bent over the cigar he was hand rolling.

"Greetings!" Paul said in a spirited tone, but the man just grunted and continued his careful handiwork. "I've come seeking a very special brand, one I've purchased here in the past and would like to purchase for myself and my friend here." He gestured to Charles. "So if you've any DeBrancheur, we'd like to buy a package each."

The old man finally peered up at them over his spectacles, examining them briefly before returning his attention to his work.

"Five hundred francs. Each," he grunted.

It wasn't a huge amount of money, but more than Charles expected. Still, he'd started down the path and he had to see it through. If anything could erase the lingering taste of Ari, it would be a night of debauchery.

Still, his hand trembled just a little when he pulled the money from his wallet. It hadn't been that long ago when he'd felt lost and confused his first night at the party, unsure what he'd gotten himself into. Now he didn't even have Ari as a safety net to rely on. Paul didn't care about anyone but himself, so if he went into this, it was pretty much on his own.

"Here." He handed Paul the money and Paul put it with his own and handed it to the man who only glanced at it long enough to be assured the notes were all correct, then pulled two boxes of cigarettes from under his counter: regular cheap Galois, nothing special.

"Thank you." Paul took them and waved Charles out of the shop, all but dragging him a block or two away before stopping under a street light.

"I don't understand," Charles began, but trailed off as he watched Paul dump out the cigarettes and pluck a small folded piece of paper from the bottom.

"This," Paul held up the paper, "is where tonight's party is!" He unfolded it and read it, smiling. "We'd best check your box too," he said, stuffing the paper and box in a pocket and producing the second box. "Just in case." A few seconds later he nodded. "The same. So there's only one party tonight. Fair enough. I'm pretty sure I've been to this one before, it's in the Opera district."

He flagged down a taxi and got into it, beckoning Charles to follow.

"So what happens now?"

"79 Rue Lambourg, please," Paul told the driver before turning excitedly to Charles and lowering his voice. "The word of the day is Ostrich. We show up, we give the host our code word?" He broke out into a wicked grin. "And then we get in to see the real show!"

+

79 Rue Lambourg was a theatre, but when the taxi dropped them off, Paul didn't head to the main entrance, but to a side door marked only with a symbol Charles didn't recognize, though it looked like it might be a set of extremely stylized initials in fancy script.

Paul entered and found a man at a host's podium, much like one might find at a restaurant.

"May I help you?" he asked formally.

Paul glanced at Charles and they both said "Ostrich" at the same time, making Paul laugh.

The man just nodded, a slight smile his only acknowledgment of Paul's mirth.

"Very well, please enter to your left and take care with the stairs."

He pulled a key from his inner pocket and unlocked the door, holding it open for them as they descended to the basement level in near pitch blackness. It was so dark, in fact, Charles had to keep his hand on Paul's back to follow without running into him, using his other hand on the banister to avoid tripping on the narrow stairs.

Finally they got to the bottom and fumbled their way through a black curtain only to find a second black curtain a few feet later. The second black curtain led to some sort of anteroom being used as a coat check.

Paul pulled off his coat and put it and his hat on an empty hook amongst plenty of jackets already there. Charles followed suit then noticed the cubby holes above the hooks: they had shoes in them.

"We take off our shoes too?"

"Yes," Paul answered, starting to take his off. "Socks are optional, but I find I prefer bare feet." He wrinkled his nose. "Socks are hardly sexy, you know?"

They both put their socks and shoes away in the slots above their jackets then Paul gestured him to the next curtain. He held it aside for Charles, who followed him through then stopped cold when he saw what was on the other side.

Perdition had basically been a bar with beds instead of chairs and tables.

This place? Was more like a circus.

There was a huge ring under a bright spotlight in the middle of the large open room with men sitting all around it, watching the show.

Charles realized, as he gaped at the display in front of him, that the whole ring was on a dais that rotated slowly, giving the audience a chance to see all that was going on.

And there was a lot going on.

One man was gagged and bound to a rack, being flogged by two women in black leather masks.

Two men, coated in shiny oil, wrestled each other nude.

Three men stood around a kneeling woman, who had likely just been sucking and jacking them off, and were in the process of ejaculating all over her face and hair.

A raised center portion of the dais had the main act: a large man with an exceptionally well endowed penis being attended to by a harem of smaller young men who looked to be barely more than boys.

"Let's find a place to sit." Paul nudged him with his elbow and Charles forced his eyes away to follow, afraid to lose the one person he knew in this strange place.

As his eyes recovered from the bright spotlight he could begin to make his way amongst the men sitting around on the floor which was oddly squishy under his feet, as if the rug was so heavily padded it was like walking over a sofa cushion.

As they passed they found that many of the men had pulled out their cocks and were lazily jacking themselves off to the show. Some, sitting beside each other, were masturbating each other. Further back from the ring, where the lights were dimmest, Charles could make out some men fucking and others giving oral sex.

"No women?" he asked, keeping his voice down.

"This particular party's for men only," Paul explained. "Straight or gay."

"How can you tell?" Charles looked around, but didn't see anything like Perdition's color coding.

"You offer. You get turned down. That means they're straight." Paul shrugged. "No one takes offense here. And I'd imagine some straight guys wouldn't mind a hand getting off, so either offer whatever you feel like doing with someone or wait for someone to offer it to you."

He tugged Charles down into an empty space and they settled to watch the show.

The three men had left the stage with the defiled woman and a new team had taken their place. This time it was two women who looked almost identical - not twins but clearly made up the same to evoke the idea of twins. They started out kissing then proceeded to start stripping each other, making a show of it.

On the main dais the man was ordering his harem about: two of them were licking his nipples as one bounced astride his huge cock while sucking off one of his fellow harem boys.

Despite himself, Charles started to become aroused and noticed out of his peripheral vision that Paul had pulled out his cock and started stroking it.

A waitress wearing nothing but a tiny frilly apron came around with a tray of shot glasses, offering one to Charles as Paul ignored her.

Charles took one with a nod, unsure if she would ask for money for it, but she only nodded in return and kept going.

He wasn't sure what it was, but a shot of liquor might help him get through the night.

Memories of Ari at the party, Ari in his bed, Ari's letter... They filled his head and he just wanted them all to go away and leave him alone. He needed to forget about Ari and if this was what it took?

Charles downed the entire shot at once, almost gagging on the potent alcohol.

A warmth bloomed in his stomach and he laid back, waiting for the effects to kick in so his brain - and body - could go blissfully numb.


+

Bubbles danced. Charles hadn't known that. He thought whenever children blew bubbles in the park they just floated, but they danced - he could see that now.

He turned to point out to Paul that the bubbles that the woman on the stage in the little girl outfit was blowing were dancing with each other, but there was another man's head in his lap so he figured it was a bad time to interrupt.

Charles reached out, wanting to dance with the bubbles. He felt as light as them, as if he were floating, but no matter how he reached out to them, they didn't invite him to dance.

There were new people on the stage now, but he didn't remember when they'd come on. He thought perhaps he might have slept a while, but wasn't sure. There were still plenty of men in the audience only now when he looked at them he could see masks on all of them, only their masks looked just like their regular faces.

He wanted to go up to them and tell them, make sure they knew their masks weren't hiding their identities, that he could see their faces. They had to be told, be warned.

Charles stumbled to his feet and staggered towards where he thought the coat check was. He could put a note in their shoes, in all of their shoes, so they'd know. That would work.

He stumbled through the curtain and when that didn't get him anywhere he went through more curtains until he found a light.

And a man sitting beside the light.

It took him a moment, but Charles recognized the man. He'd been the man with the harem on the dais when he'd come in. The Big Man, he called him in his head. He'd seemed oddly giant sized compared to the boys around him and stuck out due to his Scandinavian pale skin and long blond hair.

"You're the Big Man," Charles told him, quite matter of fact in his demeanor even if he couldn't seem to stand up straight.

The Big Man stood and walked over to him, taking Charles' chin in his massive hand.

"I am Einar. You are a pretty little thing," his voice rumbled in approval, thick with accent. "I like you."

Charles smiled, wildly pleased. "It's good to be liked," he slurred. "I like being liked. I like being licked. I like licking." Words were just falling from his mouth now and he was hearing them as if from afar.

"Well, then..." That massive hand tugged him forward. "I think you'll like this."

+

The light was bright, blinding, but flat on his back beneath it the only way Charles could avoid it was to close his eyes and something told him he shouldn't close his eyes just now.

Beneath the glare he could tell there were people around him. It took a while, but he recognized the harem boys from earlier. They were all standing around him, just standing.

Then he heard the word. He didn't recognize the word, but it came in a deep commanding voice as an order so Charles figured it should be followed no matter what, only he didn't understand what it was commanding him to do.

It was then the harem boys reacted. A dozen small nimble hands began to undress him, pulling off his tie, unbuttoning his vest, undoing his pants... Apparently the order had been for them, not him, so Charles figured he could just lie there and wait for his own orders. Life was so much easier when people told you what to do and all those fingers on his skin was rather lovely.

Something niggled in the back of his mind. Something about cats and something about bright lights, only it all made no sense so he dismissed it, allowing himself to just surrender to the hands that were now actively pleasuring his naked form.

He vaguely remembered meeting Einar and what he'd told him. Something about licking.

"I like licking," he repeated, proud of himself for finally remembering. "I like being licked."

Another command resounded like the voice of a god out of the darkness and the harem boys switched from just touching to touching and licking.

Six rough tongues descended on him, licking his cock, balls and nipples, leaving him delirious with desire. If he'd had control of his body he'd likely have to tried to fuck someone or better yet get them to fuck him, but mostly all he could do was lie there because his limbs failed to respond to his requests to move. They felt heavy, like they were made of stone, when he tried to move them yet his spirit felt free-floating - like it might leave his body if he let it go.

Whatever pillow had been holding his head up was removed abruptly and his head fell back not just to the bed beneath but further, as if his head was off the edge of the bed. From that odd perspective he could see thighs and a huge cock with a hand jacking it off: Einar. The penis seemed so much bigger this close up, unnaturally so, and Charles just stared at it.

Einar moved closer, so close the cock was right in his face - the raised dais making it just the right level.

"Lick." The voice was a command and Charles figured he could do that. He laved the cock with his tongue, a bit awkwardly since he was upside down, but managed to do a decent job of it despite being distracted by the feather-light licks the harem boys were teasing him with.

Another command followed, one he heard but didn't understand, but that was okay since the boys changed what they were doing so he assumed it was for them, not him.

He felt their hands on each wrist and on each ankle then finally one boy sat astride him as another slicked his erection. The boy sinking down onto him was almost enough to make him come right there, that tightness gripping him so intensely his eyes fell shut and his mouth fell open in a gasp.

Only he didn't get to draw in a new breath.

He found his mouth suddenly filled as he choked on the cock being shoved down his throat. The angle of his head leaning back meant the cock went in all the way, making him gag even as pubic hairs brushed up against his nose. There was almost no room to breath around the huge cock and Einar's balls were so close to his nostrils he could barely get any air that way either.

He flailed, fighting against the torpor of his limbs to try to get him to withdraw, but realized the harem boy's hands on his wrists and ankles weren't there to touch, but to tie him down, keep him from taking action to stop the activities.

Another command and suddenly Einar was fucking his throat with abandon even as the boy astride his cock was bouncing up and down on it.

Charles tried to thrash, but the boys held him tight - caught between the fear and horror of lack of oxygen and the impending orgasm his body couldn't stave off with his cock so avidly stimulated.

His vision grayed as he decided to just let his spirit float away and leave his body behind. It couldn't be saved, he couldn't be saved.

As his body spasmed, quaking violently, Einar came in his throat - cutting off the last of his oxygen.

Charles let go and welcomed the nothingness that enveloped him.

+

Fish were pretty. Colorful. They swam back and forth before Charles' eyes and it took him a while to realize they were in an aquarium, not just floating before his eyes.

His fingers reached out to the glass and dragged down its surface, leaving little trails behind that didn't disappear when the moisture of his fingers dissipated. Now the fish looked like they were behind bars, in a cell.

Something about that sounded familiar, so he felt bad for them. He took off his shirt and started rubbing the glass clean.

As he did so he realized that this wasn't his shirt. And these weren't his pants. And this wasn't his apartment because he didn't have fish - real or imaginary.

He looked down at the shirt in his hand, wondering where his own had gone to. His memory was fuzzy, mostly absent. He knew his name, where he lived, how much he loved his mother's secret recipe rugelach, but not where he was or why.

He turned around, looking for someone to ask and found Einar relaxing on a nearby bed, being attended by his harem boys only this time they were bringing him food and drink.

"You should eat something," Einar said to him.

Charles cocked his head. Food. He couldn't remember the last time he ate anything. He turned back to stare at the fish. Fish were pretty.

"I have no food at home," he remarked aloud. It was something he said regularly, always seeming to forget to stock up the pantry since he ate out so much.

"I have plenty of food, plenty of drink, plenty to share." He felt more than heard Einar come up behind him, a presence so large it could not be hidden. "Have another drink."

His hand was wrapped around a shot glass so he automatically drank it down, coughing and sputtering at the strong liquid that seared his insides on the way down.

The angle of the fish had changed; at some point he'd ended up on his knees. Only the fish were blobs of color now, color that danced like the bubbles had danced the night before. Only this time they wanted to dance with him. He just had to sway in time with them.

"You don't want to leave, now do you?" a deep voice asked and Charles thought it might be the king of the fish asking if he was going to leave the ball. He'd only started dancing with a lovely shade of tangerine so he wasn't ready to leave.

"No, I'm dancing with the fishes right now."

A hand came down on his head patting it almost like he was a pet dog and that pleased him strangely. It made more sense for a dog to dance with fish than a human being.

"Good boy."

The thick accent seemed familiar, like he should recognize who the king of the fishes really was. Charles thought maybe he sounded like Einar, but Einar wasn't a fish. Though maybe he was a king. He did have a harem after all.

That's whose clothes he had on - this was what the harem boys wore.

+

The bright light was back. At first he'd been scared. The last time he saw the bright light he couldn't breath and his throat was raw afterwards. But Einar gave him a drink to warm him up inside and told him the light wouldn't hurt him.

The drink made him woozy and happy and he let his head tilt to the side so everything looked askew to him. He liked the difference. It was so much more entertaining that straight up and down.

The bright light bore down on him, hot and fierce. It was good he didn't have any clothes on or they might burst into flames. Charles already felt too hot for the lights, like he might melt beneath them. To become a puddle sounded good right now, to be liquid and lie quietly...

Only hands were at his wrists and at his ankles and he remembered that was bad a little too late. When they were gone they didn't feel gone. Charles tried to move but his wrists had been bound together and his feet were being kept apart by some sort of stick or bar between them tied to his ankles.

Then Einar was there and Charles tried to find the words to explain to him why this wasn't good because it was like before only he wasn't lying down and did that matter anyway?

Einar took his bound hands and attached them to a hook as he watched. That seemed silly because the hook wasn't sharp enough to cut him loose. Then the hook started rising. He watched it, wondering where it was going and then worrying because his hands were following it.

His arms went over his head so high his feet almost left the ground. He felt barely stable and tried to wriggle free only to find he was held tight by the ropes.

Einar disappeared but ended up behind him; he'd recognize those large hands on his body even if he couldn't see them. He'd felt them so many times in the last how many days had it been since the bright lights?

Charles was tired, always tired. Einar gave him drinks, but he didn't seem to perk up much, he just wanted to sleep and rest and watch the pretty colors fly over him.

Thick fingers probed his ass as a woman he'd never seen before knelt in front of him, taking his half-hard cock into her mouth and urging him on to full erection.

Sex was nice. He let his head loll to the side as slick digits grazed his prostate and a slippery tongue laved the head of his cock.

Then the fingers went away and the mouth did too.

He was about to protest when he felt a flame of pain shoot through his body as Einar's huge cock speared him all at once.

He screamed, he screamed with every ounce of energy he had as if every cell of his body joined in the protest of the assault.

He took a lungful of air to scream again, but a massive hand clapped over his mouth, covering it and most of his nose too.

The panic returned with a vengeance: no air, no air, no air... Charles' mind screamed at him even as his body rebelled against the repeated invasion against which he had no recourse, no escape.

This time though there wasn't blackness, there was light - more light. It took Charles' drug dulled brain a moment to realize that the lights in the room had been turned on, so it wasn't dark outside the spotlight area.

With the lights came a few seconds of clarity.

He could see all the men staring up at him.

He was on stage.

He was the show.

There were men rushing in, shouting, scuffles, the hand off his mouth, the cock removed from his ass.

People were rushing for the door and others were rushing onto the stage. It was hard to tell what was happening, but at least the pain was gone for now.

Charles just wanted it all to go away, this nightmare he created, and as he closed his eyes he felt hands remove his bonds, rubbing feeling back into his wrists and ankles, putting a coat around him - a coat that smelled slightly of cloves.

"Ari..." he murmured, nestling into the warmth and comfort of the soft wool coat wrapped around him.

Strong arms picked him up and began to carry him away, out of the spotlight.

"No," Randolf's familiar voice rumbled in his chest under Charles' ear. "But he sent me for you."

+

If that had been the nightmare, the following days were hell - apropos because he spent them there in the basement at 11 Rue Cler.

Randolf had run some tests on his blood to determine the drugs Einar had spiked the drinks with. While he was able to stave off some of the effects of detox thanks to purloined medicines from a sympathetic doctor friend, the hours were still spent in cold sweats, fevered tremors and violent vomiting even when he had nothing but water in his system to regurgitate.

Apparently when he didn't show up at the university at all word got back to Ari who panicked, fearing the worst. Randolf arranged for tickets on the next train to Paris and they headed back from Nice to join the search.

Paul, who had mostly forgotten the events of that night, could only remember vaguely that Charles had suggested a libertine evening and they'd gone out together.

It was the tobacconist - who could be bribed easily it seemed - who had provided Randolf with the clue as to where to find him.

Randolf had called in a rare favor from a friend in the police department and through his telling of the story to Charles he could tell this was a favor he'd be loathe to use up. He used the policeman to arrange a raid on the club with the understanding that Randolf would remove Charles, if he was there, and there would be no notation of either of them being there in the official reports.

For that, and for so much more, Charles was grateful to Randolf. He'd have lost his scholarship and possibly gone to jail. As it was, he'd missed a week at university, screwed up his brain and body with drugs and been left in such a condition as sex wasn't going to be an option for a while.

During the daylight the club looked quite different. The walls were still blood red, but with the lights all turned up bright it wasn't particularly dreary for a basement. Randolf had put him in the back stage bedroom and hung curtains up for privacy even though he was there with Charles most of the time. When he had to go out he had one of his hostesses sit with him, bringing him fresh water and cleaning up after his fits of vomiting. He never was told any of their names, but he named them in his head to keep track of them: Barbara the bartender, Donna the downstairs hostess and Ursula the upstairs hostess.

After nearly a second week gone from school had passed, Charles finally felt well enough to sit up and eat something simple he could keep down. Once that happened Randolf excused himself for a few days and left him in the care of the three women.

As he grew stronger, he finally began to wander about the club, exploring its nooks and crannies in the light.

"Where do you store the masks?" he asked Ursula one day when she was on duty.

"Upstairs."

"Show me."

She led the way up the staircase, past the array of masks - so much more colorful in the light - and took him into the disrobing chamber.

There was a false wall built into room that she opened with a knowing touch which revealed racks of masks, many of which he recognized.

She pulled his blue constellation mask from within and handed it to him.

"I never forget a face... Or a mask."

Charles chuckled softly to himself. Here names didn't matter, just masks. He fingered the mask, thinking about the man he'd been when he first wore it to the parties. That man was gone now, replaced by one older, wiser and more worn for his troubles.

"I know we can reserve a mask, but can we change ours as well?"

"Only for good reason, for one's mask is one's identity here; to wear a different mask each time would be disingenuous and unfair to others at the party. That said..." She tilted her head at him. "I think you have good reason and as long as you are willing to stay with the new mask for a long time..."

"I will." Charles looked sadly at the mask in his hand. "I just can't bear to wear this one again." He looked up at her. "What will happen to it?"

"It will be destroyed, broken, so no one else can ever use it by mistaken. That would be truly unfair to the party-goers - to expect a person because of a mask and to be tricked since it wouldn't actually be them."

Charles nodded.

"So it goes away, never to be used again." He dropped it on the ground and stepped on it, breaking it into a dozen pieces. "Gone."

+

When Randolf returned it was with a very worried Ari in tow. Once Ari saw him he broke away from Randolf and rushed to embrace Charles tightly.

"Thank goodness you're all right!" he exclaimed as Charles tried very hard not to sink gratefully into his former lover's arms. "When Randolf told me you'd been horribly sick and not seen a doctor I was so concerned, but he swore he made you take your medicine to get better. You are better, right?"

Ari pulled back, holding Charles' face in his hands, scanning his expression for signs to worry over.

Charles eyes flicked to Randolf standing behind Ari who gave a subtle shake of his head. Charles knew in that moment Randolf hadn't told anyone what had happened and where he'd found him and that he had no intention of letting Charles' secret out.

"Yes, I am," he told Ari, assuaging his concern. "I think I was so ill I was delirious, but Randolf made sure I was well taken care of and watched over until I was well again." His eyes shifted to meet Randolf's gaze, seeing a level of caring there being the stoic erudite mask that was Randolf's public face, and smiled with gratitude. "I don't know what I would have done without him."

"I know, isn't he amazing?" Ari held out his hand to Randolf who took it, standing over where Ari sat on the edge of Charles' bed. So much love shined in Ari's eyes that it all but took Charles' breath away.

Ari was right; he should want that kind of love for himself. He was young though so he'd have to learn to be patient, knowing at some point he would find the right man for him, someone who would be as devoted to him as Randolf and Ari were to each other.

For now, they were devoted to him as friends and if he was mature enough to allow it, as occasional lovers too.

His experience should have soured him on the libertine lifestyle, but more than anything it made him crave the world Randolf had created in Perdition. Here it was all about consent, hedonism and sharing the joys of life. Randolf had chosen everyone who attended the parties personally and that had to mean he only allowed individuals who honored their fellow human beings and wished only to share pleasure with them, not pain.

Once his body healed, he knew he'd be back at the parties, only not for his body - for his soul.

To be touched, held, kissed and treated as a precious gift was uplifting to his spirit and he needed it the same as food and water.

That food of human contact awaited him here - to give and to receive - and in this place he was always Ari's and Ari was always his.

And Randolf's.

+

"Welcome, guest." Ursula's voice was familiar to him now, but he understood at this point why she never said anyone's name even though she knew them all. "Do you know where you are headed?"

"Perdition," he answered, playing along. It was Charles' first time back at the party after his recovery and somehow it felt like coming home.

She stepped into the hallway, smiling at him already.

"Welcome back."

"It's good to be back," he told her, following her into the disrobing chamber for the new familiar ritual.

Once they were done she ushered him to the end of the hall.

"Don't forget you need a new mask. Whichever you pick will be yours from tonight on."

"I know."

With a deep breath Charles headed down the curving staircase, this time pausing to examine each mask on the wall carefully. There were so many choices, but none of them called out to him. He was neither angel nor devil, a man not an animal and uninterested in the plumage of feathers that adorned many of the more elaborate masks.

He found the perfect mask near the bottom of the staircase. It was subtle yet stylish, detailed yet not fussy and when he tried it on it just felt right.

It was a black and white harlequin design. The sharp angles of the diamonds, the mathematical precision of the pattern and the starkness of the colors appealed to him. He'd seen the darkness and the light now and he was ready to learn how to balance the two.

Taking the mask with him, he approached Donna who pulled out a red cord for him, waiting only for him to nod his acceptance of it before she put it on him.

"Are you ready?" she asked, adjusting his red tie and primping his garments for him.

Charles put on his mask, already feeling the welling of excitement inside, the anticipation of the pleasures to come.

"I am."

Her slender arm drew aside the curtain, letting the hushed voices lure him in like sirens.

"Then enter and seek your pleasure..."

Charles straightened himself up and smiled beneath his mask.

"I believe I shall."

=
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on November 13th, 2010 05:35 am (UTC)
Confession
Oops! I was supposed to have this up yesterday. My bad! /hides/

I've been so involved with getting through all my exams and term papers fic has kind of taken a back seat, so much so I totally missed taking care of this. I didn't even know my artist had finished her art much less posted it on the comm! /is made of fail/

I knew I probably shouldn't have signed up for any big bangs this year, but silentflux is such a lovely mod and I do really support her kink comms so I decided I should at least try.

Anyway, for anyone who wanted more of the Infinity universe... Well this is more of it, but I'm not thrilled with how it turned out. I had a bear of a time coming up with a conflict and as it is I didn't get to spend much time in the underground masquerade sex club which is, to me, a big part of the appeal of this series. (Paris in the 1930s is a pretty big allure on its own.)

I figured I'd already done the newbie discovering the parties for the first time with Ian in The Far End of Infinity so I needed a different take on things for Charlie. I let the fic sit, partially written, for ages as I vascillated over different conflicts and climaxes. I finally got a whiff of something and allowed myself to start writing without really knowing for sure where the muse was headed, but here I am - finished! So it must have worked! LOL

A shout out to all my 'peeps' at ficfinishing who encouraged me to get this one done when I signed up for it.

A big thank you to my Big Bang assigned artist cleo1969 for providing the cover art for this project.

Very special thanks to First Reader melissima for her assistance with this fic.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais
melissimamelissima on November 13th, 2010 07:24 am (UTC)
Wheeeeeeeeee I'm so happy to see this posted. It takes us on such an interesting journey through the libertine group from a different perspective... and you know how much I've wanted more of them!

/applauds/ Brava!
t_vo0810t_vo0810 on November 13th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! More infinity! I am so glad you were able to revisit this verse. Very interesting piece, doll. I especially loved the end with Charlie recovering and finding his balance. Little does he know Ian is on his way to rock his world. <3 Brava, sweets /applauds, throws confetti/