The Softer Side
The Best of 2012
by Elliot DeLocke
By Cherry Black
Never Leave Me Alone
By JT Langdon
By Jean Roberta
My Indentured ...
Sword And ...
A Stiff Neck
By Robert Buckley
The Magic Lesbian
By Teresa Lamai
By William Dean
Note to Self
by Geneva King
Girls' Night Out
by Giulia Cosentino
by J.T. Benjamin
by J.Z. Sharpe
by Nicholas M.
by Remittance Girl
The Problem of Leather
by Roxy Katt
Taste of Jessica
by TD Fallon
My Dark and Empty Sky
by Teresa Wymore
by Tulsa Brown
by Kathleen Bradean
The Honey Bee
by Helen E. H. Madden © 2008
The long, yellow spadix of the giant anthurium jutted aggressively from the bowl of its single scarlet leaf. Deacon stripped off his glove and ran a forefinger lightly over the bumpy surface of the flower's phallic protuberance, watching it shiver at his touch. Another had shivered that way once when Deacon had touched him. Thanks to Deacon's wife, Meredith, that other was now gone.
Deacon adjusted his trousers and crouched until his face came level with the plant. He continued to stroke the spadix, heedless of the pollen attaching itself to his fingers. He was alone, hidden in a greenhouse at the southernmost edge of the Huffington estate, and as far away from his wife as he could get that afternoon. Two weeks after discovering his infidelity, Meredith had decided it would be best if they sought the company and advice of an older married couple. Her distant cousins, the elderly Lord and Lady Huffington had proved more than willing to oblige.
"We can be happy together," Meredith told Deacon as they jounced about in a coach headed toward the estate in Kensington. "You'll see. Lady Huffington and her husband have been married for more than thirty years. We shall learn from their example."
Deacon did not bother to point out to his wife that a long marriage did not necessarily mean a happy one.
His opinion did not matter to her anyway. They were here now whether he liked it or not, and after two days of forced companionship with their hosts coupled with two nights of forced romance with his wife—a scenario that always ended in tears—Deacon decided to escape. On the afternoon of the third day, he donned his sack coat and planter's hat and slipped away from the manse. Outside, he let himself wander, following the gravel paths of the garden until he came to a disused topiary maze near the edge of the estate. The lawn there grew wild and unkempt, and was choked with straggling weeds. The verdant sculptures were in such desperate need of trimming that Deacon could barely discern what they were supposed to be. Was that bay laurel meant to look like a lion or a dog? And that one over there, it might have been a man once, but lack of care had devolved it into a hunched-back monkey. Deacon started to turn away—in his current mood he had no heart for abandoned places—but then he caught the scent of flowers, strangely sweet and spicy. The heady fragrance lured him into the maze.
The moment he had stepped within the labyrinth's bounds, walls of overgrown shrubbery rose up to shut him off from the rest of the world. As Deacon ambled along the neglected path, his mood lifted. The maze eventually led him to a wide clearing at its southern end, where stood the greenhouse that he now occupied. Though the building showed signs of decay and neglect, he had approached without hesitation. The floral scent that had guided him seemed to come from within. He followed his nose through the grime coated glass door and entered into a verdant paradise.
Palms, ferns, and other exotic plants crowded against the walls of the greenhouse. Chipped clay pots overflowing with orchids and camellias lined the stone benches. At the center of the cracked tile floor stood the raised wall of a pond, in which pristine lotuses floated in waters surprisingly clear. Deacon's eyes darted in every direction at once as various species clamored for his attention. Then he spotted the bright scarlet anthurium and could not look away.
He had approached the red flower to admire it, losing himself in the memory of better times. It was easy to do in this place. Deacon had always been happiest when surrounded by green, growing things. He had spent much of his youth studying plants, observing and sketching their characteristics after the fashion of Darwin and Hooker. He had dreamed once of becoming a naturalist and over the years he'd filled several notebooks, but now he had only one—a slim leather-bound treasure filled with his best work. It survived only because he had kept it hidden from Meredith. She had burned the rest right after she had sacked Gareth.
Gareth. Back in the present, Deacon straightened up from the anthurium and adjusted his coat, smearing the pollen from his fingers along his collar. How many years had he suffered alone and in silence before Gareth walked into his life? And how many years would he continue to suffer, shackled to a woman he could never love? Meredith was a fine lady, beautiful and wealthy, but she could never compare to his Gareth. It had never mattered to Deacon that Gareth was a commoner with dirt under his nails and grass stains on his trousers. In fact, Deacon had been rather fond of those grass stains; he'd been the cause of them on several occasions, though he never told Meredith that.
"He's so coarse," she had complained one afternoon as they watched Gareth toil in the garden. "And vulgar too."
Yes, coarse and vulgar, but also firm and gentle, with a soothing voice and deep brown eyes that had beguiled Deacon from the moment they first met. Deacon had not so much agreed to marry Meredith as he had chosen to be with her gardener, the man whose touch could revive an ailing plant or rouse his lover's penis to rigid anticipation.
The scarlet anthurium bobbed before Deacon, the spadix looking for all the world like an erect cock. At least that was how Gareth had always described it to him. He had planted scores of them in the greenhouse then brought the fresh cut flowers into the main house to let Meredith fuss over them, unaware of what they meant. It had been Gareth's way of making a joke and seducing his lover all at once. Even now, Deacon couldn't look at one of the plants without growing aroused.
He touched the plant again and shivered. It was a lovely specimen. Deacon hadn't drawn anything in weeks; he should sketch it. He pulled out his notebook from a coat pocket and turned to a blank page, but his inspiration died before he could make the first mark. All he could see on the page was Gareth's face, Gareth's body. With a grimace, he flipped the notebook shut and turned away from the anthurium. How many times would he have to remind himself? Gareth was gone. Meredith had caught the two of them together in the garden one night and, screaming, had thrown the gardener half-naked into the street. Afterwards, she had destroyed all the anthuriums she could find, tearing them out of their pots by the roots and trampling them underfoot.
"I will not have these disgusting things in my house!" she shrieked at Deacon. "They're unnatural, and so are you!"
"Unnatural," Deacon murmured, echoing the memory of his wife's hysterics. "What would Mr. Darwin make of men like me?"
He pondered his question, watching the amber light of late afternoon stream through the glass panes of the ceiling. It was getting late. Meredith would be looking for him soon. He stepped toward the greenhouse door. As he reached out for the handle, a voice called to him.
"Leaving already? You've barely set foot in here."
Deacon spun on his heel. A man appeared from behind a screen of palms. He was tall and slender built, with black hair and a long straight nose. The tilt of his dark eyes hinted at an exotic eastern ancestry. His clothing was elegant, but worn and several years out of date. The frayed cuffs of his frock coat didn't quite reach his wrists. His pants flapped about his ankles. He should have looked like a clown dressed like that, yet the man carried himself with such assurance and contentment that Deacon felt a green stab of envy.
"Do you like it?" The stranger nodded to the scarlet flower. "Anthurium andraeanum, also called the boy flower, for obvious reasons. It came all the way from the West Indies."
"It's... lovely," Deacon managed to say. Was his mind playing tricks on him or had the floral scent that he had followed to this place suddenly intensified? Deacon shook his head. It must be something nearby in the greenhouse. Men did not exude such an amazing fragrance.
The man smiled. "I'm Florien," he said, holding out his hand.
Deacon shook it, surprised by the warmth of the touch. "Are you...?" No, he couldn't be the gardener, not dressed like that. "Are you a friend of the Huffingtons', come to visit? Lady Huffington didn't mention you."
Florien shrugged. "I live here. I take care of the plants. And you?"
Deacon fumbled with his notebook, aware the stranger was staring at it. He shoved it back into his coat pocket before answering. "I'm just a guest."
"A guest with a name?"
A flush of embarrassment crept up the back of Deacon's neck. "Deacon. I apologize. I'm in a hurry. I need to get back--"
"To whom? Your wife?" Florien cocked his head and gazed pointedly at the gold band on the ring finger of Deacon's left hand.
Deacon flushed again. "My wife..." he began.
"Do you love her?"
Deacon started. What sort of question was that? Before he could form an indignant reply, the stranger gripped his hand.
"Stay, if only for a little while. I so rarely have guests. I'll give you a tour of the greenhouse."
Florien offered another smile. Deacon wanted to pull his hand away and refuse his offer. Or did he? He knew he should leave. It was late. Back at the house, the servants were already setting the dining room table for supper. The Huffingtons had invited other guests, important people, friends of his wife. Meredith would be furious with him if he were late. If he ran now, he could be back at the mansion and cleaned up with a few minutes to spare. Then he could spend the evening dining and chattering with people he barely knew and a wife he had come to loathe.
The scent of flowers hung thick in the air, tickling Deacon's nose. Florien squeezed his hand ever so slightly. When he let go, his fingertips stroked Deacon's palm the way Deacon had stroked the anthurium. The boy flower, Florien had called it. Deacon glanced at the scarlet bloom with its provocative appendage and licked his lips.
"Very well," he said at last. "A tour. Lead the way."
The greenhouse was larger than it had appeared on the outside. The ramshackle structure boasted a collection of exotic flowers and plants that would make the Queen's gardeners green with envy. Florien strolled along the narrow aisles, pointing out the various specimens. Here were exuberant sprays of pampas grass; over there the brilliant red-orange burst of Kafir lilies. Carmine hibiscus towered in their pots, while the drooping heads of pink vireyas nodded on their branches.
For over an hour, Deacon followed Florien through the greenhouse. His delight at the variety and abundance of tropical plants was slowly surpassed by a growing fascination for his quixotic host. The man never spoke of Lord and Lady Huffington; nor did he explain his relationship to them. Was he a relative of theirs, or a servant—the gardener perhaps? But what gardener would dress in outdated finery? Florien's frock coat, long and black and trimmed in velvet, was better suited to the ballroom of the 1830s than an ageing greenhouse.
But he had dirt under his nails, Deacon noticed, and calluses on his hands, just like Gareth had. And the way he handled the plants, gently but firmly bending nature to his will—that was also like Gareth. The further they went into the greenhouse, the more the similarities began to play havoc with Deacon's emotions. Florien and Gareth were two very different men, at least physically. Gareth was shorter and broader across the shoulders. Years spent laboring under the sun had bleached his hair to the color of wheat and tanned his skin to rosy brown. Florien, on the other hand, was tall, dark haired and fair-complected. Deacon could never mistake the stranger for his lover. But little things about Florien's attitude—the tilt of his head, the intensity of his gaze as he spoke about his botanical charges—these things roused bittersweet memories in Deacon's heart. Here was Gareth's kin in spirit if not in body.
Near the back of the greenhouse, Florien guided Deacon to a strange plant that sprouted large cup-like appendages at the end of its leaves. Above each cup was a lid in the shape of a heart.
"Is that some sore of carnivorous plant?" Deacon asked, peering at the bizarre specimen.
"Yes, a pitcher plant. Nepenthes raja to be exact," Florien replied. "Found in Borneo and brought back here."
A honey bee buzzed about, hovering over the tiny brownish flowers that clustered along the apex of the main stem, high above the lidded traps. The flowers gave off an intense sugary smell.
"Such a sweet scent," Deacon said, inhaling. "How many insects have been lured to their death by following it, I wonder?"
"Quite a few." Florien pointed to one of the mottled magenta cups. It nearly overflowed with the corpses of flies and other insects who'd slipped inside and starved to death.
Deacon shuddered. "It devours so many creatures. But how does it know not to eat the bee that pollinates it?"
"It doesn't. The bees are interested in the flowers, not the pitcher. They don't usually get near enough to the traps to get caught. But should one make the mistake of getting too close..."
Florien shrugged. Deacon looked at the gruesome contents of the pitcher plant again. This time he spied a yellow and black striped corpse.
"It kills indiscriminately. That's horrible."
"No. Its traps are passive. It only eats what's presented to it."
Florien leaned over the pitcher plant to trim away a dying leaf. A lock of dark hair fell into his eyes. Visions of Gareth, in the same pose, rose up in Deacon's mind. Without thinking, he reached for the stray lock and brushed it back from the other man's face. His fingers caressed Florien's cheek, just for an instant. Florien looked up at the touch, a question in his eyes. Deacon drew back, horrified. What had he just done?
"I'm... I must go!"
He turned and bolted, racing through the greenhouse, desperate to escape. He heard Florien call out to him, and he ran faster, twisting through the narrow aisles. He came out at the end of a row of camellias, only to find himself at the back of the greenhouse again instead of the front. He turned and ran back. This time he came out on the east side, near the calla lilies. The door was nowhere in sight. Damnation, the place was worse than the topiary maze outside!
The sound of footsteps approaching set him racing down another aisle. This one was the right one finally. He could see the glass door at the end, but as he hurried toward it, his notebook slipped from his coat pocket and skidded across floor. Florien stepped out of the nearest aisle and snatched it up.
Deacon lunged for the notebook and missed as Florien sidestepped him. He flipped it open to the first page and smiled at the image of a blossom with petals spattered in crimson and cream.
"Stanhopea tigrina?" Florien asked. "I grow these here in the garden. Come, you must see!"
Florien dashed off with Deacon's notebook clasped in his hand and a devilish smile on his face. Deacon chased after him, sweating. He must retrieve his notebook before the other man delved any further into its pages. There were secrets in there. Gareth was in there. Florien turned a corner and disappeared behind some cinnamon ferns. Deacon scrambled to catch up. He rushed past the ferns and nearly ran headlong into his quarry. Florien turned triumphant and held up the notebook.
"Stanhopea tigrina," he said and pointed to a simple clay pot on a gardener's bench.
Deacon looked to where he indicated. An intricate blossom sprouted from the vessel, its brilliant crimson and cream spotted petals stretched open like the arms of a lover.
"Beautiful..." he muttered. He felt a trickle of sweat run down his back. "Now if I may have my journal back, please. I really must be going."
"But there's still more to see."
Florien folded his arms around the journal and nodded pointedly at the bench. Deacon took a deep breath and glanced at the other flowers there. He clasped his trembling hands tight together and fought the urge to snatch the notebook from Florien's grasp. "Dendrobium heterocarpum, Papilionanthe teres, Zygopetalum maxillare... yes, you have an impressive collection of specimens here."
"As do you." Deacon looked back to see Florien flip through the pages of the book. His heart leapt into his mouth as the book fell open on one particular page.
"Who is he?" Florien asked. He held open the notebook to a sketch of Gareth, shirtless and reclining with a wicked grin on his face. The sight of that grin made Deacon's cock twitch even as his blood ran cold at the knowledge that a stranger had stumbled upon the evidence of his darkest secret.
"He is no one. A former servant who worked in our garden."
"Hardly 'no one,' I should think." Florien continued to turn the pages. More images of Gareth passed under his gaze, intimate moments caught forever in ink and paper. "These drawings are quite detailed. You must have studied him at great length," he said as he came upon a sketch of Gareth, naked and fully aroused, one hand stroking his erect penis, the other holding a freshly cut anthurium to his face. "The boy flower. You must have known him very well."
Deacon's mouth filled with dust. He was ruined. Meredith had chosen to keep his secret rather than risk her own public humiliation, but this man had no such considerations. What would happen if he exposed Deacon? How would the world judge him, a degenerate who lusted after other men?
"You must have loved this man." The words came to Deacon from very far away. "It must have broken your heart to lose him." Florien handed him the journal. "I'm sorry for your loss."
Deacon stared at the journal. Was that it? No denouncement, no contempt? No threats or ridicule? He stared at Florien, uncomprehending. The man smiled back and raised his hand to caress Deacon's cheek.
"It's hard to be different. I know," he said.
A flood of anguished relief cleared the dust from Deacon's mouth and he found his voice again, though the words came halting and painful.
"My wife... says our relationship was unnatural."
"What is unnatural about desire?"
Deacon gave a bitter laugh. "You mean what is unnatural about a man who will not touch a woman. How will such a man progenerate? How may he contribute to the survival of his species if he produces no offspring? My wife wants children, but I am useless to her. I am useless to the human race, an evolutionary failure. There is no need for a sodomite among mankind."
"I need you."
Florien grabbed Deacon by the wrists, causing him to drop the journal. His grip was like steel, inescapable. When Deacon tried to pull away, Florien dragged him closer.
"I need you," he repeated. "I desire you. You are essential to my survival."
He planted his mouth on Deacon's, forcing his tongue between the man's teeth. Deacon felt Florien's arms wrap around him, ensnaring him even further. Their bodies rubbed together in a fashion Deacon found painfully sweet. Only one other had ever held him like this. Only one other had ever truly known him.
And look what had resulted from that.
Deacon shoved a hand in Florien's face, struggling to get away. "Someone will see us!"
"No." He held Deacon tight and tried to kiss him again. "No one comes to this place unless I invite them."
"I came here."
"You were invited."
Florien grabbed Deacon by the collar and drew the man's face into his neck. The now-familiar scent of flowers flooded Deacon's senses.
"This is my invitation," Florien whispered. "I have issued it for more years than you can imagine. You sensed it. You are the only one in all that time who has ever sensed it and followed it here to me."
Deacon breathed deep, drowning in the mellifluous waves of Florien's perfume. Florien released his shirt collar to hold him close again. His hands slid down Deacon's torso in a long firm caress until they slipped under the sack coat to pull at the waist of Deacon's trousers. Florien's voice droned on.
"We are alone. No one will come. I could strip you naked and press you up against the glass windows to have my way with you and no one would ever know. Would you like that?" One questing hand undid the fly of Deacon's pants and slid inside to squeeze his growing erection. Florien murmured into Deacon's hair. "Yes, I think you would like that very much."
Deacon shuddered. He buried his face once more in Florien's neck. "I am a fly trapped in your web."
"If you wish. Shall I bind you with silken thread and feast upon your body?"
Deacon gave a trembling laugh. "I thought you were a gardener, not an entomologist."
"I am many things, including your lover."
Florien released his grip on Deacon and as promised began to strip him naked. The planter's hat and sack coat fell in heap on the floor, quickly followed by Deacon's waistcoat, shirt and trousers. Florien reserved the cravat, waiting until he had stripped away Deacon's undergarments to bind the narrow silk tie around his wrists.
He took Deacon to the south facing wall of the greenhouse and made him stand naked and shivering while he rearranged several pots to clear a space before the begrimed windows. He raised Deacon's arms over his head and pushed him against the glass, facing him toward the outside world. Should anyone come by, in spite of Florien's insistence that they would not, Deacon would be fully exposed to them. He shut his eyes and pressed his cheek against the glass. Another push of Florien's hand against his backside forced his naked cock to rub against the smooth, sun-warmed surface.
Deacon heard a whisper of cloth from behind him; Florien, disrobing. This was followed by the faintest touch of fingers against his buttocks.
"Tell me what you did with that other man," Florien whispered in his ear. "The one you claim is no one."
"He's gone now," Deacon protested.
"Yet he remains with you, here..." A finger tapped against Deacon's temple. "...and here."
Florien pulled Deacon away from the glass just enough to touch his swollen cock. "Where else is he hiding, hmm? Here?" A kiss blossomed like fire on Deacon's neck. "Or perhaps here?" Another kiss on his shoulder. "Or even here?"
Deacon gasped as he felt Florien's fingers slide down the crevice of his buttocks. The other man chuckled and pressed the digits into the crack, spreading his cheeks apart. "Yes, I think your previous lover most definitely left traces of himself here. Did he plow your furrow with his cock? Did he plant his seed deep within you? I surely intend to plant mine."
A solitary fingertip brushed over Deacon's anus, causing him to yelp. Florien shoved him against the glass again. With one hand he grabbed Deacon by the hair and held him fast. "Don't fight, you are mine! I will take you and use you and you shall enjoy every minute of it!"
The fingertip pressed hard against Deacon's clenched opening. He grunted as it wormed its way inside him. He felt something else, longer and harder, rub up against his buttocks and panicked. "Wait! Please! I'll tear!"
"No, it's just a finger, nothing more. A way to tease you, torment you, a means to heighten your desire for me..." The fingertip began to move back and forth. It barely breached Deacon's sphincter, but it was enough to send a thrill of panic through him. "I need you," Florien went on. "I need you to want me, to be mine!"
"Yes!" Deacon began to rock his hips in time with the minute thrusts from Florien's finger. His cock rubbed against the window pane until the tip began to leak. It left a smeared trail on the glass. Florien pressed harder, until Deacon felt the whole of his finger inside him. The hand in his hair slipped down to his chest to trap one of Deacon's nipples. Florien squeezed it until Deacon thought it might burst like a ripe berry. Waves of sultry pleasure began to wash over Deacon. His aching heart and tormented body remembered and welcomed the sensations. He was on the verge of climax. A few more moments, a few more strokes of his cock against the greenhouse window and he would spill his seed all over the glass, one more stain added to the grime. Just a few thrusts more...
Florien pulled him back abruptly. Deacon cried out. "No! Let me finish!"
But Florien only spun him around. Deacon stumbled and landed on his knees to come face to face with Florien's groin. Deacon gasped. The organ that sprouted from between Florien's legs resembled more the spadix of the anthurium than a man's cock. It was long, slender, and rigid, like a spike, with hundreds of tiny bumps covering its surface from the fleshy pink base to the brilliant scarlet tip. On an anthurium, those bumps were actually tiny flowers, male and female. What were they doing on a man?
"What are you?" Deacon whispered.
Florien didn't answer. Instead, he twined his fingers in Deacon's hair again and brought the man's head toward the strange, erect organ. He shifted his hips to brush the tip against Deacon's cheek. A swirling cloud of golden dust rose from the rigid shaft, accompanied by Florien's bewitching scent. The dust clung to Deacon's skin and he moaned.
"I am the gardener and the flower," Florien said, rubbing his cock all over Deacon's slack face. "And what are you but the honey bee, come to feed on my essence?"
He tugged on Deacon's hair, tilting his head back. Deacon opened his mouth wide to engulf Florien's cock. The rough surface sloughed against his tongue, coating his lips and mouth with more of the glimmering powder. Deacon sucked hard and tasted nectar so sweet it set his brain to buzzing. Yes! This was natural and good, the honeybee and the flower. He feasted on Florien's cock, slavering at the scarlet head until Florien began to moan.
"More... more, little bee..." He shuddered and drove his cock into Deacon's mouth, fucking it with desperate need. Deacon clung to his thighs. Florien shuddered and pulled back on his head, withdrawing his cock from Deacon's greedy mouth. The tip erupted with a spray of shimmering particles, more gold dust that gilded Deacon's face and chest.
That was the first orgasm. Florien dropped to his knees and pushed a dazed and euphoric Deacon onto his back, spreading his legs wide apart. He grabbed Deacon's cock and began to pump it. Deacon writhed on the broken tiles, animalistic sounds pouring from his lips. Florien's cock rubbed against his, erupting with another burst of dust and then another until a heavy film coated Deacon from head to hips. He rolled about in the granular mess, smearing it all over himself, tasting it in his mouth, inhaling it through his nostrils. He was drugged, enraptured, frantic, screaming. Florien worked at his cock, drawing him deeper into the wells of ecstasy than he had ever been before. Just when Deacon thought he would lose his mind from sheer sensual delight, Florien squeezed one last time. Deacon's entire being quaked and streamed out through his cock to spatter across his belly.
* * *
Nightfall peered in through the panes of the greenhouse when Deacon awoke. He lay on the floor, curled up on his side behind Florien, an arm wrapped around the other man's waist. A fine luster of gold sparkled along his wrist; the dust. Deacon rolled onto his back. God, he was painted with the stuff, especially around the groin.
"Are you alright?"
Deacon looked up. Florien rolled onto his back to study him.
"I'm fine," Deacon replied. "A bit of a mess, but not unhappy about it."
A grin fluttered across Florien's lips. "Good."
"Florien, what are you? Where did you come from?"
The other man turned his gaze toward the glass ceiling overhead. "What am I? I can't say really. I don't think you'll find me in any of your taxonomies. Once, I lived in a beautiful forest very far from here. But one of your kind found me and brought me here. He built this greenhouse to keep me..."
"No, just to keep me. He was a collector, and I was a rare specimen, the prize of his collection."
"What happened to the man who brought you here?"
"He died years ago, and I have been trapped here ever since."
Deacon moved closer to Florien and placed a kiss on his shoulder. "Not anymore. Let me take you from this place. I'll build you a new greenhouse, a garden all your own. Or else we'll travel the world. If we search, perhaps we can find the place you came from and bring you home."
Florien shook his head. "No. I've been here too long. I've put down roots and become bound to this place. I can never leave."
The words hung in the air between them. Deacon sat up, suddenly feeling cold. "Well, maybe you can't leave but I must. It must be past midnight now. My beloved wife will be furious with me."
He began to brush at his body, trying to wipe away the dust. Florien grabbed his hand.
"Leave it," he demanded.
"I have to clean up. It's late and I must return--"
"Return to your wife?" Florien rolled over and locked gazes with Deacon. His eyes, so vibrant and compelling before, had become dark hollows in a face oddly pale. "Yes, go back to her, but don't clean up."
"And why not?" Deacon snapped.
"Because your wife isn't the only one who wants children."
Deacon froze, his hand hovering above his gold-dusted thigh. "What do you mean?"
"This is my seed. I've given it to you, and now I need you to spread it among your kind."
Florien dropped his head back against the floor. "How do you think? By seeking out healthy mates. Begin with your wife..."
"No!" Deacon shouted. "How dare you ask me to touch her after what we've done here?"
"Because you must. I am the last of my species, and I am dying."
"Dying?" Deacon stared at Florien. The man's breathing was labored. A waxy sheen had replaced the vital blush of his skin. "What have you done?"
"I told you. I gave you my seed, my essence. All that I am I poured into you. Now you must find a mate and pass it on to her, or everything that I am will vanish from the Earth. I will become extinct."
A sob, sharp and painful as shattered glass, escaped from Deacon's throat. He grabbed Florien by the shoulders and shook him. "Are you mad, to kill yourself so that I might sire your offspring? Why did you do this?!"
A wan smile crossed Florien's grey lips. "I am the flower, you are the bee. That is simply the way things are. You can do this. You must. For me." With a wail, Deacon turned away from Florien. He wrapped his arms around himself and wept. Tears mingled with the dust on his skin. No, not dust, he thought to himself. Pollen. The sudden realization caused him to suck in a sharp breath. Florien's scent, fading but still sweet, invaded his senses. He gasped as it went to work on his brain, suppressing his grief and infusing him with a compulsive need to do as Florien willed. He fought against it, but half-heartedly, and lost.
"All right," he said at last. He turned his tear-streaked face to Florien. "I will do this. For you."
* * *
A short while later, Deacon rushed out of the greenhouse. He had gathered his clothes and dressed in haste. The moon floated high overhead, a cold eye to watch his desperate flight. How much time did Florien have left? Deacon didn't know. He ran through the topiary, finding his way effortlessly in the dark, guided now by the acute need to fulfill his purpose. Once through the shadowy labyrinth, he sprinted through the gardens back to the mansion. He reached the back door and pounded on it until an anxious maid arrived to let him in.
"Sir, we've been looking everywhere for you!"
Deacon pushed past her. "Where is my wife?"
"In your room, sir! She's most distressed--"
Deacon ran off, leaving the bewildered servant behind. He took the steps to the second floor two and three at a time and within moments burst through the door of their room. Meredith sat on the bed, her face pale and taut with anger.
"Where have you been?" she hissed. She rose to her feet, hands curled into claws. "You missed supper! I had to face all our friends alone and say you were ill, but then someone remembered seeing you head out into the gardens. I have never been so humiliated--"
"Meredith, shut up."
Deacon shoved her backwards onto the bed. She landed with a shriek.
"What are you doing?!"
He tore open her robe and yanked the hem of her nightgown above her waist. "My duty as your husband. You say I have been remiss? That is about to change."
Deacon dropped on top of his wife, pinning her to the bed. With one hand, he undid the fly of his trousers; with the other, he trapped Meredith's wrists. When she screamed, he covered her mouth with his. Florien's scent did its work, and Meredith went limp, a bemused look spreading across her face.
"What is that lovely scent?" she murmured. She pawed at Deacon's shirt, trying to undo the buttons. He pushed her hands away. He had only one reason to be there, and he wanted to get it over with quickly. He fumbled his cock into his wife's waiting sex. He was erect, but only because Florien's scent caused him to be so. Deacon had never slept with a woman before, had never wanted to, and the only thing that kept him going now was the thought of his lover dying in the greenhouse. He thrust into his wife once, twice, a third time. The pollen spread from his body to hers, the process blessedly quick. Meredith cried out on the fourth thrust and passed into unconsciousness.
Deacon rolled off of her. He pulled his wedding ring off and dropped it onto the bed beside her.
"Madam, I am done with you. I pray I never look upon your miserable countenance again."
He dropped to his knees on the floor. He wanted to wretch, but he wasn't done yet. Florien had said to start with his wife. That meant he must find others, and quickly. Without bothering to do up his fly, Deacon got up and stumbled out of the room. He ran back downstairs and searched the house until he found the maid who had let him in.
"Come with me," he said, grabbing the plain-faced woman by the hand.
"But sir! Where are we going?"
He dragged her to the kitchen garden and pressed her up against an ivy covered wall. Like his wife, once she inhaled Florien's scent, she offered no resistance. When he was done with her, he sent her to fetch someone else. She came back, giddy and giggling, with a gap-toothed scullery maid. He rutted briefly with the girl while the maid watched and then sent them both to bring others.
Three more women came to him that night. One was another maid, sister to the first. The other two were well-bred ladies, guests of Lord and Lady Huffington. They had come to the garden, leaving their sleeping husbands unaware.
Deacon performed his duties mechanically, depositing Florien's seed into each woman. When he finished with the last one, he got up and staggered away. Florien's scent was fading. Most of the shimmering pollen was gone from his skin. In the east, a faint light tinged the sky. Dawn. Deacon ran back to the greenhouse as fast as he could.
* * *
Florien still lay on the floor where Deacon had left him. His condition had grown worse. His skin had the ashy pallor of a corpse. His breath came in sharp, shallow gasps.
"It's done," Deacon said. He knelt on the cracked tiles beside Florien. "Six women in all, and I hope to God I never touch another of those creatures again."
Florien gave pained laugh. "What a busy little bee you've been! Six women? At least one is bound to produce offspring. What a shame I will never see the results..."
Tears filled Deacon's eyes. "Please, you can't die."
"I am spent," Florien wheezed. "I poured my vital essence into my seed. I have almost nothing left."
"No! I lost one lover. I can't lose you too. There must be something I can do to prevent this!" He cast his gaze about the greenhouse. "What do plants need to survive? Soil, water, sunlight..."
"Deacon, don't... It won't work..."
"Why not?!" he shouted.
"Because I am not wholly a plant. I have some of the characteristics of one, but I'm also a man. I don't live off sunlight alone, and you cannot simply plant me in the ground and expect me to survive."
"I cannot let you die!" Deacon wept. "I would rather die myself than lose you."
"Really?" Florien's eyes gleamed with a feverish intensity. "You would do that to save me?"
Deacon gathered Florien in his arms and pressed his face in the other man's hair. "I love you. Without you, my spirit will turn to dust. I am alone in this world. I have nothing else to live for."
"Then I will not let you die in vain." Florien pulled Deacon to him and gave him one last kiss. Then he moved his mouth to Deacon's neck. His arms twined like vines around Deacon's limbs, holding him fast. His teeth, sharp as thorns, pierced the skin, the muscles, the vein. Deacon cried out, but only a little. After all, what other purpose would his life ever serve?
* * *
Edward crouched before the brilliant red anthurium and contemplated the honey bee that rested on the spadix. The insect's hind legs were coated with the sticky yellow pollen produced by the miniscule flowers crowding the surface of the fleshy spike. Exactly how many flowers there were there on a single anthurium, Edward didn't know. Perhaps he should count them. All of them. But then that might take hours and Edward would miss his own wedding. Wouldn't that be a shame?
With a sigh, Edward stood up and adjusted his morning coat. The dove grey garment felt awkward on his lanky frame. He wanted to strip it off and roll up his shirt sleeves, maybe get down on his knees and spend some time tending to the treasure trove of plants he'd just discovered. He would get dirty of course; soil trapped under his nails, stains on his trousers. That wouldn't do for the wedding. No, it wouldn't do at all.
Edward grimaced. It was time to face the truth. He was getting married in an hour, whether he wanted to or not. If he didn't show up on time, his father would hunt him down and drag him to the altar. His fiance, Melissa, was a lovely girl, sweet tempered and patient. He wondered how patient she would be though once she learned he had no interest in her at all.
Would he bed her tonight? Could he? Edward wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. He had never been intimate with anyone, never touched another person beyond shaking hands. But in his dreams at night, Edward wrestled with a lover who touched him in places he didn't dare think about during his waking hours.
And that lover was always another man.
He stared at the anthurium, entranced by the swooping curve of its reproductive organ. The thing was obscene, really. So much like a penis, only a penis covered with flowers. Edward bent to stroke it with his finger. The tip bounced beneath his touch much in the same way his erect cock would bounce on those rare occasions when he indulged in his own lingering caress.
"Do you like it?"
Edward whirled to find a man with dark hair and eyes standing behind him. The stranger wore an old-fashioned sack coat that had to be at least thirty years out of fashion. A battered planter's hat rested on his head.
"The flower," the man said, nodding to the anthurium. "Anthurium andraeanum, sometimes called the boy flower, for obvious reasons. It came all the way from the West Indies. By the way," the man said, holding out his hand. "I'm Florien."
© 2008 Helen E. H. Madden. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.
Bio: Who is Helen E. H. Madden? Read her bio on the Erotica Readers & Writers Association website.
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