All of London knows Dorian Gray to be a collector of precious and beautiful things. His home is a shrine to decadence, to the wasteful pursuit of time and money, and he has a reputation to uphold in both arenas.
Time, however, is not the precious commodity it used to be. Dorian has spent evenings engaged in every carnal pursuit imaginable, and it ceased to amuse him long ago. The clock ticks on, the candles and gas lamps leave their sooty marks upon the wall as the flames lick higher, and he wishes nothing more than for the night to end so the next day may begin. Every morning brings with it a fresh hope for something new. Something different.
The night he spends with Ethan Chandler is the first night in a very long time that he is caught off-guard by the dawn.
Ethan dresses, casting hot looks at Dorian from the corner of his eye as he buttons his shirt, and for once Dorian finds slippery words too petty for the moment. Instead he pulls Ethan back into bed, rips those buttons off because he is contrary, and sinks his hands into Ethan's tousled hair.
"Must you go?" he asks. "I'm quite certain Ms. Ives will still pay you if you are late."
"I have work for the day," Ethan says, chuckling as he pitches aside a broken button.
"Just for the day?" Dorian stretches out beneath the silk sheets, one eyebrow arched. His point is made.
"We'll see," is all Ethan says.
Midnight has come and gone when Ethan rings the bell. The second night goes much as the first did, with astonishing quickness, and this time Dorian is asleep when Ethan leaves. He wakes to find a gift on his pillow, a bit of carved bone, curved to a point at one end - an antler, perhaps, or a horn from some unknown creature. It is rough in his hands, despite the smoothing its creator has attempted. Faint lines stretch across the surface, whorls which remind him of the wind and dappled jagged lines which might be leaves in the sunlight.
He rests it on his belly, stroking over the gentle curve, straying back to the dangerous point every time.
In the afternoon, he takes down some of the pictures in his salon - women with sad faces, men with lies in their eyes - and moves a table to that spot, with a silver tray on top. The carving seems at home there, plainly displayed, uncaring of its opulent surroundings or the care taken to show it off.
With a slight push, the chaise is at the proper angle, and he sits back to watch his prize, half-expecting a spirit animal to rise up around it.
The moments between awareness and sleep are slight, and wakes to find Ethan on the floor at his feet, drinking a glass of Dorian's least expensive brandy. His back is against Dorian's leg, warm and solid, as he stares at the room's newest display.
"Do you like it?" Ethan asks. His voice is hoarse; when the glass rises to his lips, there's a fine tremor in his arm. His clothes smell of gunpowder and decay.
The carving is the plainest thing in Dorian's grand house. Everything around it is built of privilege; it is art at its most simple, and it stands in contrast to the golden glow all around it.
Dorian slides his hands into Ethan's unwashed hair, leans forward to press his cheek against the rough stubble scattered across Ethan's face, the bristles of his beard. "I've never seen anything so beautiful."