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"Shelley, what the devil is the matter? I explained to your friends that people have been known to run screaming from the room when I start reciting poetry, but that didn't in the least satisfy them." Byron sounded bored, but his eyes were careful as they scanned Shelley's white face and shaking hands.

"Christ, Byron, I think I've had a vision. A terrible vision, like something out of a nightmare---"

"Good Lord," Byron said, reaching out and covering Shelley's shaking hands with his own, "has Polidori been slipping you laudanum out of his physician's case?"

Shelley shook his head.

"Come now," Byron said gently. "What did you see?"

Shelley shuddered. "I was looking at Mary, and suddenly I thought her breasts had eyes, and they were staring at me---" His hands clenched around Byron's.

"Oh, is that all? Sometimes I think the damn things do have eyes instead of nipples like a flesh-and-blood woman. Mary is so desperately intellectual, Shelley."

"So am I," Shelley pointed out with a faint smile.

"Of course you are," Byron said, moving his thumb in slow circles over Shelley's wrist. "But that sort of painful earnestness can be charming in a man. In a girl it is merely dull."

Shelley glared, some color coming back into his cheeks. "I'll thank you not to insult the woman with whom I've chosen to share my home and my life."

"I daresay you would thank me for any number of things I've no intention of doing," Byron said with a lazy smile, tugging Shelley closer. "And then, too, there are things I very much intend to do that you sometimes don't seem in the least grateful for."

Shelley blushed. "I am grateful for them," he said in a low voice. "I---"

Byron sealed Shelley's trembling lips with his own. "Forget visions," he murmured against Shelley's mouth. "This is what's real."