Authors: Josephine Myles
For Lou Harper, who loves these characters just as much as I do.
I opened the door and watched the postman’s face fall.
“Package for Mr. Carter,” he said. “I’ll need him to sign.”
“Steve?” I called out. “Stop tarting yourself up and get out here.”
Steve bounced out of the bathroom with a cloud of steam and a waft of that spicy aftershave I love on him. God knew how he managed to while away so much time in there every morning. My entire pre-work routine consisted of pulling back on yesterday’s clothes followed by a cup of strong black coffee. Mind you, Steve did end up looking a hell of a lot better than I did, so maybe all that primping and preening was worth it.
“Hi, Steve. Got a big ‘un for you today.” The postman held out his clipboard so that Steve could sign for the package, and I didn’t miss the way his gaze went roaming over Steve’s immaculate pinstripes. Somehow, in his six months of living with me, Steve had managed to befriend more locals than I had in the last five years. He now had a tab at the corner shop, knew all the neighbors in our building, and was even on first name terms with the postman. I had the feeling the postman would have been happy to be on even closer terms.
“Good to see you up and about again,” Postie said with a leer I tried my best to ignore, in case I ended up doing something stupid like punching him in the face. We might not look like a couple, with Steve’s smart suit and my long dreads and scruffy old painting clothes, but Steve’s mine and no one else’s. Or maybe it’s me that’s his. I don’t think it makes much difference, to be honest. The point is, we’re together now and I’m not sharing him.
“Yeah, the leg’s all better now. Cheers, Alan.”
When I saw the smile Steve gave the postie, I knew I didn’t have to worry about anything. It was friendly, but that was the extent of it. It was nothing like the filthy grins Steve gave me when he was contemplating something exciting. Something that usually ended up with us both sweaty and covered in spunk.
“Oh, and this one came for you, Jez.” Postie handed over the letter with a polite smile. “All the way from sunny Slough, you lucky thing. Hey, Steve, if he’s got another man over there and you want a shoulder to cry on... Uh, never mind. Better get going.” I don’t know if I was glaring at Alan because of his blatant flirtation, or because of the connection my mind had just made, but one look at my face and he was a postman-shaped blur.
Steve was busy tearing into his parcel, so I took a moment to examine the letter unobserved. The hollow pit that had opened up inside me at the mention of Slough widened as I took in the familiar shaky handwriting. It wasn’t a thick envelope, so I folded it in half and stuck it into my pocket.
“Come on,” I called to Steve. “We’ll miss the train if you don’t get a move on.”
“You should see this yarn, Jez. It’s bloody brilliant!” Steve waved a ball of colorful wool around and his eyes shone like a kid in an amusement arcade. “It’s for knitting socks, and it’s self-patterning.”
I didn’t have a clue what he was going on about, but it was clear his recent enthusiasm for knitting wasn’t abating now his leg was out of the cast -- especially since he’d realized he could make his own crazy colored socks. “That’s great. Now put it down and get your arse in gear or you’ll be late. Don’t want to get knocked back down to office junior, do you?”
“Yes, Mum.” Steve smirked, unaware of how those teasing words twisted up my insides. He grabbed his new laptop and we wrapped up in our winter coats before heading out the door of our flat.
There was only one seat left when we got on the Tube, so I let Steve have it. It was the trade off for him not working late in the evenings: he had to spend his journey in catching up on whatever it is editorial assistants do. An awful lot of typing, by the looks of things, even today when the train’s central heating was on the fritz and his fingers must have been stiff with cold. Still, it seemed to make him happy -- like that dream of running his own small publishing house was just around the corner. I had no doubt he could do it if he wanted. He’d been brought up to believe that life was what you made of it.
Whereas all I’d learnt was that trying to follow my dreams ended in pain and humiliation. Thinking of that lesson, I felt my jeans pocket and the stiffness of the folded envelope inside. I could have saved it until I got to the privacy of my studio, but for some reason I felt compelled to take it out on the train. Maybe because there was safety in numbers, and I knew that whatever it was, no matter how bad, I wouldn’t react if I was surrounded by strangers. I hooked my arm around the support bar so I could use both hands to open the envelope.
Mum’s perfume hit me as I tore it open -- that familiar scent of roses firing off a keen edged nostalgia so sharp it was painful. There had been a time when things were good between us, before it all went to shit.
Before I came out.
The train groaned and clattered around me, and the lights flickered for a brief moment before regaining strength. I took a deep breath of frigid air and unfolded the sheet of notepaper.
the letter began.
I’m sorry to give you the news like this, but it’s taken me ages to track down your address and I couldn’t get hold of your phone number. Your dad has been battling with cancer for the last year, but now the doctors say he only has weeks to live.
There was more, but I couldn’t make any sense of the words. I stared at the paper, willing it to disappear and erase the words from my mind, the obligation I knew I now had.
Why couldn’t the old bastard have died already?
“Jez? Are you all right? Come on, sit down. You’ve gone white.” I was dimly aware of Steve guiding me to sit, and eventually I focused enough to see him crouched down in front of me, his hands on my thighs and worry etched into his face. “What’s the matter, Poppet?” he murmured, just loud enough for me to hear. Normally I’d have gone apeshit if he’d called me that in public, but it just goes to show how tits up everything had gone, because instead I found his endearment comforting. I handed him the letter without a word. He gave me a puzzled frown then started reading.
“Oh, shit. Jez. I’m so sorry.”
“Why? You didn’t do anything.”
Steve ignored me. “I’ll call the office and get the day off. We can change at Baker Street and get a connection for Slough. We’ll be there before you know it.”
I let Steve prattle on for a bit, my head turning over a replay of Dad’s words as he’d thrown me out of my childhood home. Of how he’d said he had no son, and that dirty little cock-sucker had better get off his lawn or he’d have his face smashed to a pulp and then no man would want to fuck him. I recalled Mum’s face at the kitchen window, gray and expressionless, only her eyes pleading with me.
“I’m not going,” I said, when I realized Steve was waiting for some kind of a response.
“You’re not? But he’s dying.”
Steve gave me a searching stare and I felt like he could see straight through me. I hoped he liked what he saw, because I honestly don’t think anyone else out there would be willing to put up with me, and I’d be lost without him. Eventually he squeezed my thigh, saying we’d talk about it after work. It was only another minute or two before we reached my stop, and he gave me a quick kiss as I stood to leave. We’re not normally demonstrative in public, but I couldn’t help kissing him back. On the walk to my studio, I concentrated on the memory of his lips on mine, their warmth and promise.
Better that than thinking about anything else.
That afternoon I texted Steve to let him know I was going home early. I knew it was lame, but I didn’t want to have to travel on the same train as him. I didn’t want to have to fend off the sympathy in his eyes, or explain exactly why my dad was a heartless bastard who didn’t deserve a deathbed visit.
I had the PlayStation on when Steve let himself in, and was shooting the crap out of some zombies in
Resident Evil 5
. Steve slumped on the sofa beside me and plonked two bottles of beer on the table next to my feet. I didn’t look up, but I had a good excuse, what with being in mortal peril.
“Watch out for the one behind the door,” Steve warned, just as I fell victim to a brain munching monster. He chuckled at my dire score and I felt his hand in my dreads, massaging my scalp. “You want to talk about anything?”
Steve sighed as I downed my beer. “Well, what do you want to do then?”
I looked him over, sitting there with one brightly stockinged foot up on his knee, his shirt crumpled after a day at work, his tie hanging loose around his neck. His dark curls were starting to escape the Brylcreem and his jaw bore the shadow of the scratchy hair I knew would burn my skin deliciously. He looked one hundred percent debauched and thoroughly fuckable.
Yeah, I could cope with that kind of distraction, but for once I didn’t want Steve calling the shots.
I’m no good at asking for what I want, so I tackled him down until he was lying on the sofa beneath me, using my body weight to pin him down. Steve gave me one of his maddening grins and I did my best to kiss it off him, trying to reduce him to the same wordless state of lust he always managed to transport me to.
“Mmm, someone’s feeling horny. I’ll have to remember that fighting zombies gets you like this.” Steve was still talking, even as I unbuckled his belt and began to work his trousers down his legs. I took a moment to stare at his briefs, trying to remember if I’d seen this particular shiny purple pair before -- I swear, the man has more pairs of underpants than I have items of clothing in my entire wardrobe -- but then decided it didn’t matter as they were coming off straight away. The socks could stay on, though. I’d developed a kink for Steve’s socks.
As I took Steve into my mouth, the word “cocksucker” echoed around inside my head derisively, still as painful as I remembered it, a decade later. Fuck that. I wasn’t about to let ancient memories ruin my fun now. Besides, it wasn’t just fun, was it? It wasn’t me doing this for kicks, to some random stranger. This was Steve and I loved him and I wanted him to feel amazing. As I sucked and worked my tongue, enjoying the tang of pre-come filling my mouth, I thrust a finger into my mouth alongside Steve’s dick. He moaned at that.
“Babe, I hope you’re going to do something interesting with that finger, now you’ve got it all wet.”
I wondered if sticking it inside Steve would stem the flow of words. It never had before, but maybe I just hadn’t been doing it right. This time I went for it, driving in hard and fast as I sucked on the head of his cock. He grunted and his voice sounded thick, but he still wouldn’t shut up.
“Shit! That’s it. Just there. Yeah.” He sighed out the last word, then tensed and grunted again as I shoved a second dry finger alongside the first. “Christ, Jez! You want to top or something? You only have to ask. You only have to...” His words morphed into moans as I massaged that tight bundle of nerves inside him, all the while tonguing at his slit and lapping up the flow of pre-come.
Eventually Steve tugged my dreads so hard I had to stop.
“Enough! If you want to fuck me, you’d better get some lube quick. Don’t think I can hold on if you keep going like that.”
I raced back from the bedroom, shedding clothes along the way, to find Steve sprawled in the same position as when I left him. He looked exhausted and I wondered if I was being selfish, forcing sex on him when he was knackered after a long day at work.
Then Steve looked up at me and his eyes were dark pools, enticing me to dive on in. He spread his legs and lifted his hips, shoving a cushion underneath his arse while I slicked my cock. It wasn’t like him to be so accommodating on the rare occasions when he bottomed, and I appreciated the invitation. Sliding into him was sweet torture, trying to hold back as he panted through the tension and release, his breath hot against my neck. Then I was in, every inch of my dick surrounded by clenching heat, no barrier between us. No latex, no chiding voices. Just me and my man, joined into one giant ball of fierce need.
“Okay, you can--”
I stopped Steve’s words with my tongue, eating every last utterance out of his mouth. As I slid in and out of him, muffled sounds of pleasure escaped his throat and I swallowed them greedily. When his orgasm burst between us, wet and thick, the ripples inside him pulled me along for the ride.
I think we fell asleep like that, because the next thing I remember was the protest of my aching muscles as Steve tried to wriggle out from under me, muttering complaints about the sofa cushions needing a steam clean and asking what toppings I wanted on a pizza.
It wasn’t until we were in bed that I felt able to talk about it. Darkness covered us like a quilt, and with Steve’s head resting on my chest the words came easier, no longer threatening to choke me on the way out.