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Adam tightened a string on his beautiful new oud, running a hand over its gleaming bowl. They were hiding out with another of Eve’s friends in Tangiers until the dust settled. The room had no electricity and he liked the intimacy – the planes of Eve’s face lit by the warm glow of candles reminded him of when they’d first met and fallen in love.

After they’d drunk their fill—and made a new, albeit distressed and confused pair of immortal lovers—they’d visited Bilal one last time. He was keeping the books—some of them were bound to be first editions—but he’d made them take a cardboard box with some of Marlowe’s old papers.

“He wanted you to have this, Madame Eve.”

Now Eve was sitting cross-legged on the rug, going through Marlowe’s things. She blew the dust off a tattered sheaf of papers and sniffed it. “Why does everything smell of turmeric?”

“Better that than the alternatives – there was a dead rat in the corner where that box was, not to mention that moth-eaten waistcoat Bilal tried to give you.”

“Well, sweetheart, it was over 400 years old.” She rummaged some more. “Ooh, these are from the Spanish Civil War. Kit wrote some very stirring songs for the Republicans.”  She paused, thinking. “He always did hate Hemingway. Said he was a repressed homophobic git.”

Adam snorted. “Kit should have known better than to hit on him. He was lucky good old Ernest didn’t shoot him outright and mount his head on a wall.”

“Ernest wouldn’t have had the right ammunition, although beheading’s pretty final. And speaking of ammunition . . . ”  She leaned over and punched him in the thigh.

Ow, what the fuck?”

“That’s for that stunt with the Dalbergia Retusa bullet in Detroit. We’ll have no more of that. Save the beautiful hardwoods for musical instruments, not self-pity.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Adam picked out a plaintive flamenco tune, thinking about Spain. “It’s just . . . ”

Eve patted his foot. “I know, darling. The zombies.”

“They’re getting worse,” Adam muttered morosely, segueing into Oh Gente da Minha Terra, a nice gloomy fado. “Not only are they still denying evolutionary theory, they’re denying global warming as well, now. Water wars here we come.”

“Well, forewarned is forearmed,” Eve said distractedly. “It's not as though we drink water, is it, love?”

“That’s not the point–”

“Jesus,” Eve said, staring at an especially yellowed and brittle scroll of paper, unrolling it with care. Adam stopped playing and leaned over. It was parchment, not paper, and looked as old as Marlowe’s threadbare waistcoat.

“It’s from the beginning, Adam. From that first summer when he came up to the manor in Norfolk and wrote all the sonnets.”

“A sonnet?”

“No.” She shook her head, scanning rapidly “It’s a self-parody. Of The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.” She snorted. “And what a parody." She looked up at him. "God, Adam – it’s nearly as old as we are.”

“Another ancient relic.” He smoothed her hair and bent to kiss the top of her head, a light brush of lips. “So Kit parodied his own verse even before Raleigh wrote his feminist rebuttal? What was that called again?”

The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd,” Eve said absently, her eyes flicking across the poem’s lines. “And it wasn't a feminist retort to Kit’s original. Not back in 1600 – Raleigh’s version was anti-pastoralist. It was about time destroying youth – ‘flowers do fade’, and all that.”

“Walt was OK. He should have let us turn him.” Adam smoothed a hand down her back. “That would’ve cheered him up about the ravages of time.”

“Until King James cut his head off, you mean?” She shot him a sidelong glance, eyebrows raised.

“Yeah. Fucking James I and his witch hunts.” He sighed. “Come on then – read it to me.”

“My throat’s dry – give me the flask.”

He passed it to her. “Not too much now – it’s got to last.” They both took a swallow and sat for a moment, basking in the afterglow of the blood.

Eve turned back to Marlowe’s poem. “Well, I can see why he never published it." She cleared her throat. "It’s called: Shepherd’s Delight.”

Adam set the oud aside, waved a hand and sat back, listening.

“Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the Pleasures prove,
That hands can hold and mouths can taste,
An’ thou be Mine and never chaste.

By Rivers whose concealing falls,
Hide thy ecstatic Madrigals,
To my tongue stroking thy Desire,
Winding thy Passion ever higher.”

“Fucking hell,” Adam said. “Marlowe, you old dog. It’s porn!”

Eve shot him a sardonic look. “Erotic verse, darling. Don’t tell me you’re shocked?”

“Hardly. Oh man, Desire has to be code for cock.” He scrambled down to the floor and peered over her shoulder, nudging her. “Keep going.”

“I will kiss thee in beds of Roses,
Pinning thy limbs in languid Poses,
Thy Privy parts shall my tongue woo.
Then turn thee over and start Anew”

Adam screamed in delight and rolled onto his back. “That’s got to be rimming. He has to mean rimming, right?”

Eve swatted him away from the crumbling parchment. “Watch it – this is an important historical artefact.”

“Historical artefact my ass. Hmm, bad example. My ass actually is an historical artefact.”

Eve ignored him, continuing.

“Thy Jerkin of the finest wool,
Off from thy body shall I pull,
Off with these Hose which thee confine,
I’ll lay thee bare to my Design.

My tongue shall tease the twin pink Buds,
On thy smooth Breast, til pleasure floods,
And thy Horn waketh, rising proud,
 Then shall I make thee cry aloud.

Taking thee in, I’ll make thee sing,
Ravishing thee with Pleasuring.
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.”

 

“Wow,” said Adam, staring up at the roughly plastered ceiling. “I’d have lived with him and been his love after that, and I’m straight.”

“Oh you are not,” Eve said, draping herself over him. “What about Byron?”

He wriggled under her, not really trying to free himself. “Byron was an ass.”

“Byron nailed your ass,” she smirked, holding him down.

“Well, it was hardly going to be the other way around, was it?” He kissed her. “Anyway, Byron doesn’t count. It’s only ever been you.”

“Sweetheart, I know.” She rolled off him and they lay companionably side by side, holding hands. Eve squeezed his fingers. “Set Kit’s poem to music for me, Adam? Shepherd’s Delight?

Adam rolled his head to look at her. “Yeah?" He grinned. "With lyrics like that it might even be a hit.”

She gave him a fond look. “No, just for me.”

Adam smiled and closed his eyes. “It’s always for you, my love. Everything and always. For you.”

 

 –   the end   –