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Cesare's Cabinet

Almost Never Disclaimers & Chapter Index


Shagging Vince wasn't all that different from shagging anyone else, when it came down to it. There was a practically infinite number of ways to have sex, and Stuart Alan Jones had compassed an exhaustive percentage of them, leaving aside the ones involving animals and the dead.

So sex with Vince, in itself, wasn't especially novel. Everything else was, though; everything in and about and over and through sex. The conversation beforehand, the drowsy contented lying about afterward. Eating in bed; he never used to do that, but Vince regarded the bed as an all-purpose piece of furniture, good for lounging in to watch telly or read, as well as for shagging, and he snacked in bed too, it was appalling--

"I can't believe this. I'm actually going to have to kick you out of bed for eating biscuits."

"Why would you kick me out of this bed for eating biscuits when there's another bed that's biscuit-crumb-free right over there? Feel free to move."

"And leave you here to roll around in your own filth until you're coated in crumbs. Vince Tyler, human fry-up."

"Right over there. Just past the lamp, take a left after the clock, you can't miss it. Bye!"

"This bed's closer to the toilet and the lamp and the telly. The other one may as well be in Siberia."

"It's closer to the window. And the heater."

"Vince, it's eighty-five fucking degrees outside."

"You know, it's entirely possible to eat biscuits without getting crumbs all about, and if you wouldn't mind giving me just the tiniest bit of credit, you might notice that I'm not getting any crumbs in the bed."

"If I feel even one scratchy little crumb in this bed I'm shoving you onto the floor immediately."

"Like the princess and the pea."

"Like the twat and the biscuit crumb. Fuck's sake. Give me one of those."

--though of course the bed had to be all-purpose, since they were traveling the States and always sacking out in hotel rooms, where the bed was usually the only decent piece of furniture.

The details were different, Stuart supposed. The particular way Vince bent his elbows to brace himself and watch when Stuart sucked him off; the points and edges of his teeth against Stuart's neck; the precise tenor of his sighs. The way Stuart knew it had been especially good when Vince didn't straighten out the blankets after, something he otherwise did compulsively. It was definitely strange to have that as a goal in his mind, shag Vince til he can't be bothered to sort the covers after, but there it was.

And there were things Vince did that Stuart wouldn't have put up with from anyone else. Eating in bed definitely numbered up there. Fucking with his hair, Christ, everyone fucked with his hair. He'd always especially hated it when blokes would tug the curls straight just to watch them snap back into place-- some of them even added sound effects. He usually kicked those men out as soon as humanly possible.

Sure enough, Vince not only fucked with his hair just like everyone else did, he even did that tugging thing. No sound effects, but still. It should have driven Stuart barmy. It didn't, though. At most, he got mildly annoyed and said, "All right, okay," and then Vince would give his hair one last affectionate ruffle and stop.

"Sorry," he said once, "it's really hard not to mess it about."

"I know. It's like that on purpose."

"Then you shouldn't complain."

"I've never let that stop me yet."

And then, Stuart had a sort of a thing for Vince's short bristly hair, he was constantly running his hands over it while they snogged, probably just like every other man Vince had ever shagged. So it balanced out.

They spent a lot of time snogging. Vince was one of the world's great kissers. Stuart had always known, in an abstract sort of way, that he would be, just as he'd hazily guessed that Vince would be something beyond spectacular at sucking cock. He hadn't needed to hear it from the blokes Vince had shagged, though the occasional rumor had made it his way. He'd just known, through the sort of slantways deductive reasoning that came of being so close to Vince for so long, a certainty that coalesced from a thousand nights of watching the way his mouth met the top of a beer bottle, the way he rolled the filter end of a fag across his lower lip while he was smoking.

Stuart'd had lots of men with sexy mouths, full and inviting, lush, pouting, swollen with toothmarks and lust, but that was just upholstery; Vince had trumped them all without half trying. Every time they shagged and Vince dipped his head, Stuart could almost picture little letters spelling out GAME OVER.

At first he'd thought that maybe sex between them was so good because it felt as though he were getting away with something. There was almost nothing Stuart had ever denied himself, nothing off-limits, so it had been years since he'd honestly felt as though he were breaking the rules.

But this wasn't supposed to happen, him and Vince, you didn't shag your best friend after sixteen years of approach and retreat, painstaking balance, staying as close as two people could get without touching. He was risking everything each time he pulled Vince closer, ran his hands over the soft burr of his hair; every kiss felt like another victory. Fuck what everyone else thought. Fuck what was or wasn't possible. They were past all that: like Vince kept saying, they were beyond the laws of time and space. They could have each other; they could have this.

So Stuart had to concede it might be down to that-- just his own predilection for Vince, distorting his keen sexual judgement. After all, it seemed a tad unlikely that Vince possessed the earth's most talented mouth (aside from Stuart himself, of course), and its most skillful fingers. What were the odds? And yet when Vince topped, he could always open Stuart up like a combination lock: one, two, three, and he was in.

Stuart was willing to chalk that up to sentiment, possibly. But he'd long since decided Vince's mouth was objectively and empirically amazing: his lips cinched tight and hot around the base of Stuart's cock, his tongue curling and swiping in broad strokes of sensation, or tracing delicately, swirling and teasing while he watched Stuart the whole time, eyes wide and dark and locked boldly on Stuart's face, reading every twitch, every slightest reaction. Stuart would've given him full marks even if Vince had only been that night's shag, soon to go out the door never to return, and the fact that this was Vince swallowing him down just made it even better, so much better, until it was almost unbearable.

When they left together, when they started this, Stuart had been sort of bracing himself, holding down his expectations, telling himself that it didn't have to be fantastic right away. That Vince didn't have to be fantastic right away. He'd fallen into the same stupid trap that had made him pity and scorn everyone else who blundered into it: he'd bought into Vince's sad-bastard view of himself. He'd presumed that, the first time especially, Vince would be too nervous to make much of it. True, Vince had spent several weeks previous bottling out and dodging Stuart, but Stuart still should've known better.

Vince was fantastic right away; Vince was fantastic all the time. When it was slow and drawn-out, when it was perilously close to gentle, when they lay for hours exploring each other exhaustively; when it was quick and nasty, whispering dirty talk at each other, shoving and thrashing; when it was haphazard, both of them clumsy with lust, missing strokes and accidentally poking one another in the eye; it made no difference. Every time, Vince shagged like it was one for the record books, like he'd just spent a year in monkish isolation, like he was just about to go off to war. It didn't matter if it had been two days since their last shag, or two hours; fast or slow, day or night, taking it or giving it, Vince was always good, always.

In fact, Vince, when he topped, was something of an overachiever. Sometimes Stuart could barely get a lick in; Vince did everything. At his most extreme, he would even push away Stuart's hands when Stuart touched him, murmuring that he didn't want any distractions.

"I mean, isn't that one of the nice things about getting it rather than giving it?" Vince asked once, as they were talking about it, a bit surreally, mid-shag. "You can let the other bloke do all the work."

"Yeah, that's exactly what I like about it," Stuart had answered breathlessly, bracing himself against the wall, "I just lie back and think of England."

Stuart liked it, of course; he liked everything, and Vince was dead sexy when he took over like that. He'd wondered a bit at first if Vince felt he had something to prove, but that seemed unlike Vince, and it never felt as though Vince had a chip on his shoulder. Eventually Stuart decided it wasn't so strange that Vince would concentrate so singlemindedly on pleasing someone else.

Vince's own favorite things were a bit more complicated, but they seemed predictable, once Stuart learned what they were. He loved to strip Stuart naked and keep most of his own clothes on while they had at it. It was so obviously some leftover vestige of his old lack of confidence that Stuart wasted an hour of his life wondering if he ought not put a stop to it-- but how could he do that when it was so fucking hot, Vince's thigh shoved between his, the rough hard seams of his jeans digging into Stuart's bare skin. The cold teeth of the zipper and the coarse denim pressed against his arse as Vince laid him back and fucked him. He definitely wasn't giving that up, especially as Vince certainly shagged with all due confidence. Really, Vince was so sure in bed that Stuart was frankly baffled that Vince had ever doubted himself about anything, ever, at all.

Vince liked marathon snogging sessions as well. Back in Manchester, Vince never would've kissed anyone in public, outside Canal Street. But now he kissed Stuart all the time. They went to matinees and snogged in the back of darkened theaters. They kissed under shady trees on hiking trails, in the stands at a baseball game, in back rooms, on dance floors, in photobooths.

And Vince loved going down on Stuart; he obviously got off on the power trip, and Stuart got off on everything about it, so he wasn't about to argue when Vince slid down his body and devoured him whole.

It was weird to fuck someone who didn't need stage directions, who already knew just what Stuart liked and how he liked it without being told. It was like lucking into a fantastic shag every night; sometimes he wondered why he'd had so much merely adequate sex for so long, instead of this.

Copping off-- that, he missed sometimes. The crackle of tension, spotting someone fresh and new. The wild desire, the challenge, the chase. The freedom and the thrill. Fair dues, he'd always loved it and he always would.

Still, no point pretending it had all been dewy hard bodies and untold heights of ecstatic bliss. Half the time shagging hadn't been much of anything but an accompanied wank; random men handling his body blindly while they traded pages out of each others' trick books. Harmless and easy. The keen edge of risk had been honed off it ages ago. It was fun, it was like E without the comedown, it was something to do. Some people were excellent at football and liked to play every chance they could; Stuart was excellent at shagging.

With Vince, sex felt stranger, more dangerous. They could hurt each other. Had done before, and probably would do again. Even after three months it still felt a little raw and fumbling sometimes. Stuart had never said 'sorry' in bed before and meant it.

And he was fascinated by what he was learning about Vince now; after sixteen years, all at once there were so many things that he'd never known before. Like that Vince didn't seem to enjoy some of the very same things that turned him on the most. Having his wrists held, that was the first thing Stuart noticed. He tried grabbing Vince's wrists, with some vague memory of a boyfriend that Vince had done a bit of bondage type stuff with, and Vince gasped and gave him a series of increasingly desperate kisses and loud moans and frantic writhing, thrusting against Stuart so hard and so fast it felt automatic, involuntary. It was completely brilliant, they both came at almost exactly the same moment, and the blankets stayed thoroughly tangled afterward, so it was good, really good.

Except that Vince was dark-eyed and morose after, and he didn't cross his ankle over one of Stuart's ankles the way he usually did, and he took a long time to fall asleep.

It was new, having to consider something like this. Inevitably, of course, Stuart had been with plenty of blokes who hadn't been able to quite deal with whatever they were into, but it hadn't been his problem. Vince, though. Vince was his problem.

Stuart thought about it for most of a nine-hour drive the next day and came to no solid conclusions, just managed to get himself well and truly turned on. He only had to throw one or two smoldering looks in Vince's direction before Vince was looking for convenient place to pull off. They shagged up against a building labeled Public Water Works, a couple of miles out from a little town in the midst of trees and farmland.

It was getting on in the afternoon, the air just starting to cool off; it felt shockingly good on Stuart's fever-hot skin as they ground against each other, hands and elbows, thighs and cocks sliding and banging together. He grabbed Vince's wrists again, more loosely this time, while he knelt to suck him. After a couple of minutes Vince twisted his hands out of Stuart's and pulled him to his feet, panting shortly, "I want, up here-- like-- yeah--" as they fit against each other.

He almost started laughing at the noise Vince made when he came, like an engine revving, would've but he was too close himself, his own breath coming fast and harsh with need, Vince's hand pumping him mercilessly, and then he was there and making almost the same sound.

He leaned with his forehead against the corrugated iron side of the building. It had got a little chilly there in the shade of the building and neither of them had noticed, and they were both sweaty and slimy-handed. After a long minute Vince peeled himself off the wall and went over to a water pump near the closed garage doors. He turned it on and nothing came out.

"Water Works," Vince read off the sign, shooting a wry look at Stuart, who shrugged and pulled off his black t-shirt and cleaned up with that, and tossed it to Vince to do the same.

Vince ambled around the corner as he wiped his hands off, and after a moment said, "Oi, look at this!"

Stuart followed. Round the back of the building was a big pile of sand, and another of gravel. Vince was at the top of the sandpile, beckoning.

He climbed up the slope and looked down the other side at Vince's gesture. The piles stood on the edge of a steep, nearly vertical decline that bottomed out far below in the woods; the sand had avalanched much of the way down, and as Vince urged it with his shoe, more poured after it.

"We could slide right down there," Vince said.

"We could go back to the car."

"But this is brilliant. Look down there, it's beautiful."

"This sand is gonna stick to me," Stuart predicted.

"Oh yeah." Vince smirked at the smeared, wadded t-shirt in his hand. "Here," he shouldered out of the button-up blue shirt he'd been wearing over his white tee. "Put that on."

Stuart shrugged into the blue shirt; Vince kicked more heaps of sand down.

"Ready?" Vince asked. "Crouch down, bend your knees, and push off--"

It turned out to be a bit more athletic than that. By the time the sand ran out, they were both sliding fast, and the sudden traction of mud under their boots would've tripped them up if they hadn't both started running like mad, down into the flat grove, past a tweedy green and brown blur of trees and plants, feet pounding along a faint muddy trail as they burned off their momentum.

"That's fabulous Vince," Stuart started in before he'd even got his breath back, "Crouch down, bend your knees, push off, and oh yes, trip and break your head open. I think you missed a step."

"Come on, look at this," he seized Stuart's hand and pulled him along the trail. "Look!"

Just ahead, a thin fast-flowing stream cut through a mucky ditch. Sparse grass gave way to a slope of silt on the near side; tangles of thistles and briars hung over the short steep cliff across the water. All around the stream, the leaves and plants bloomed an especially vivid, intense green.

"This creek must flood when it rains. Look what a path it's carved out." Vince turned to Stuart. "What do you think, upstream or down?"

"Are you trying to get us lost?"

"Can't get lost if you're following the water, can you?"

"Tell that to those wankers in that Blair Witch Project."

"Here." Vince knotted Stuart's abused t-shirt round the bough of a sapling just to one side of the path. "Now we'll have no trouble finding our way back. C'mon, let's go."

Stuart could think of a dozen reasons not to tear off into the woods on a whim, starting with why bother? But Vince looked terribly fetching just then-- well-shagged, charged up and enthusiastic, in tight blue jeans and that thin white t-shirt, which would only look better if they did some hiking and Vince started to sweat through it. So he followed with only a perfunctory bit of needling about malarial insects and crazed moonshine-brewing hillbillies and who knew what else they were likely to find on this little stroll.

Vince picked up a walking stick to clear the brush out of their way, ignoring Stuart's contention that if the way needed to be cleared it probably wasn't worth walking in the first place. The ground started to slant uphill and then Vince was squeezing his hand and saying, "Oh, look at that," pulling him up to a knoll under a walnut tree, shells and fallen nuts rolling and crunching under their feet.

The stream forked just ahead of them; to the left, the branch they'd followed so far, and to the right, a shallow, slower-moving current that flowed into a murky basin, too big to be called a puddle, far too small for a pond-- the size of a well-appointed Jacuzzi. Dozens of tall flowers sprung up out of the brown sandy earth around the water, bright orange blooms popping with unlikely color in the midst of all this green.

"What do those look like to you?"

"Flowers," Stuart answered flatly.

"Tiger lilies?" Vince guessed. "Orchids? They look a bit exotic, don't they, like they don't belong here. Alien. Gorgeous, though. That's worth a bit of a hike, yeah?"

"I s'pose," Stuart allowed, looking at him. Vince's eyes sparkled, his smile broad and contagious, brilliantly alert and alive. To Vince, this expedition wasn't just a walk through some poky little patch of woods. It was an exploration, it was wide open and new, an adventure.

He used to think Vince was thrilled by things like this because Vince was letting his imagination run off with him, dreaming that the road and the stream and the woods and the flowers were something bigger and grander and lovelier than they actually were.

Lately, though, it was becoming clear that Vince knew exactly how big, how grand, and how lovely everything was and wasn't, and enjoyed it all anyway, all on its own terms.

Stuart wasn't sure how he did that, and he thought he might envy it, a bit.

"Look! Pawprints!" Vince said, poking the mud with his stick. He'd found a trail of them, each as big around as a tennis ball.

"So, someone's dog's been running round down here," Stuart said.

"Nah, they've gotta be from a cat, don't they, cos dogs can't retract their claws," Vince reasoned. "No claw marks, so these must be cat pawprints. D'you think there're mountain lions round here?"

"Doubt it, there's no mountains for miles."

"But they're not always in mountains, I don't think. That's why they have other names. Bobcat, like. Or cougar. All the same thing."

He raised his eyebrows. "Discovery Channel?" Staying in so many hotels had put them on intimate terms with America's cable offerings.

Vince shrugged, "Yeah."

"Don't worry about it. I doubt there're any around." But as he said it, he realised Vince didn't seem worried. If anything, he looked sort of eager; it was excitement that had him wound up, not paranoia. Stuart was left wondering how often he'd made that mistake in the past.

"Let's see where the other one goes." Vince led him along the speckled edge of the running stream. They wended their way up until they saw a natural bridge made by a tree that had grown at the cliff's edge and then tilted over, fallen across the creek, its roots raking the air. The trees over their head towered huge, looped with leafy vines that dangled over the bridge.

"Blimey," Vince said. "Looks like a movie set. You could film Tarzan here."

"Hm, let's," Stuart said, rolling up the hem of Vince's shirt.

Vince batted his hands away. "You'd look better in a loincloth," he said. "And you're definitely more believable as a man raised by wild animals." He looked at the fallen tree. "Let's go over."

They edged across, trainers grinding on the bark of the tree, staying close, balancing carefully, using the vines to steady themselves. And then, halfway across, Vince took hold of a vine and the moment he pulled at it, there was a cracking noise above them, and the vine came spiralling down as they dodged it-- evading the vine and then the branch it had been hanging from; it was huge, and made an impressive splash when it fell, even in that shallow stream.

"Oh my god," Vince laughed as they stood clinging to each other.

"Christ, Vince. You're bringing the whole forest down around our ears."

"How're we going to make it over there?" asked Vince. "I'm not touching another of those bloody things, who knows what'd come down next time?"

"Fuck's sake, look down. It's not exactly whitewater rapids," Stuart pointed out. "Worst case scenario, we fall in, splash about a bit, and then I drown you for getting me muddy. The point is, I'll survive, so what're you on about?"

Vince looked down. "Six feet, that's far enough to break a leg," he said.

"Yeah," Stuart rolled his eyes, "and there's probably quicksand, piranhas, buried nuclear waste--"

"Rodents of unusual size," Vince speculated, and flashed a smile at Stuart, and then he jumped.

It was the last thing Stuart expected; he teetered on the bridge and steadied himself with an effort. "You cunt," he glared down at Vince. The effect was probably lessened a bit by the fact that he was grinning.

Vince grinned in return, showing white straight teeth in a wide unguarded smile, his head thrown back to look at Stuart, up to his shins in rushing water that soaked his jeans darker blue, his t-shirt hugging his arms and shoulders, the white cotton soaked through in patches, his hair shining almost blond in the sunlight spotting down through the leaves, bright droplets of water rolling down his face and his skin. Just then, Stuart couldn't imagine how he'd ever kept his hands off Vince for as long as sixteen minutes, let alone a matter of years.

And then Vince raised his eyebrows. "You coming or what?"

Stuart jumped after him and immediately cupped his hands in the water and tossed it up into Vince's face.

Vince just stood there dripping, and it was only then Stuart noticed his hands were full. "I was just thinking, if I'm going to be drowned for getting you muddy, I may as well do it right," he said, and threw a double handful at Stuart, and when Stuart bent to scoop up some ammunition, Vince tackled him.

They wrestled briefly in the water, mostly just dragging their fingers through the mucky bottom and smearing it on each other-- Stuart scrubbed a handful into Vince's hair, hearing himself laughing that high-pitched giggle he could never quite seem to get rid of, and then Vince grabbed his shoulders and snogged him.

"I love it when you laugh like that," Vince murmured; he met Stuart's eyes and then he looked down, dipped his thumb into the mud and drew a line down Stuart's neck and his chest, stopping midway down where the blue shirt was buttoned.

"Oh, I see. This is some stupid fucking fantasy of yours, don't try to deny it, I can tell," Stuart said. "Granted, it's a bit much, but you know I'm up for it-- if you're into mud wrestling you know you only have to say, I'm sure we can find a club--" and then Vince threw him down into the water again.

They messed about for a few minutes more, but even in the warmth of the day, the water was bloody freezing. They trudged out of the stream, onto the bank, furry with grass, and walked back the way they came. Stuart's former black t-shirt marked the path, and they found the sandpile again and struggled up the hill nearby, using the trees for leverage, handing each other up to higher ground and pulling each other up once they had a foothold.

They dragged some clothes out the back of the Jeep and changed by the side of the road. Stuart watched with pleasure as Vince stripped economically, without hesitation, though they were in full view of the highway. He skinned out of his sopping white tee and into another, and writhed his way out of his wet jeans, trading them for dry ones; when he noticed Stuart watching, he offered a smile with just a hint of shyness, and looked at Stuart in turn, like he'd only just remembered that he could stare openly now, instead of copping quick looks the way he used to do.

Stuart kissed Vince before they got back into the Jeep, though that was sort of like saying that Stuart inhaled oxygen and exhaled carbon dioxide; snogs got his full attention, but just kissing Vince-- he did that all the time now. It wasn't the sort of thing he really noticed much, any more.

They drove on a bit, and stopped at a diner, where Vince exasperated him by playing tic-tac-toe incessantly across the placemats while he chuntered on about the fearful possibilities inherent in gravy at restaurants. He kept starting games and offering Stuart the pencil, every bloody time, though Stuart kept waving it off again and again until he wanted to wring Vince's neck.

Then the food came, and once he'd eaten, he only wanted to strangle Vince for twenty seconds or so, just enough to express his resounding lack of interest in tic-tac-toe. There wasn't even any use bollocking him over it, though. Vince was only holding the pencil out to him absent-mindedly, not paying attention as he talked, and he kept playing the game out against himself: he was daft. Vince was just lucky his mum was so easygoing; otherwise he'd probably still be back home in his Fallowfield flat, obsessively washing all the doorknobs, unable to go outside until he'd checked the oven one more time. As it was, he still had dried mud in his hair.

Sometimes Stuart would have a plain moment like this, when he looked across a table or to his side and watched Vince and thought: that's it, then. Like it or not, that's the man you love. Very nearly an anorak, verging on hypochondria, close to paranoid. Bending in all directions to keep the peace until it was a wonder he still had any sort of backbone at all. Two steps in any direction, and Vince really would be sort of sad, but he'd always been obsessed and neurotic and accommodating, and somehow, at the same time, he'd also always had perspective and self-reliance and strength. All those qualities had been there all along, fighting it out.

Vince was still all those things at once, but Stuart didn't resent his flaws any more. The jump into the water was even better and braver for the worried hesitation that preceded it. And if he was mad, playing tic-tac-toe against himself, Stuart couldn't find it in him to complain much, when it was that same daring madness that had brought them here, exploring nowhere in particular, instead of doing the same sort of thing they'd always done, just a bit further south in London. And now here they were, Anytown, U.S.A., crossing the States, following the road wherever it led them, guided only by Vince's talent for finding small adventures.

By the time Vince asked, "Fancy dessert?" Stuart had gone all the way from sheer pleasure in his company to near-homicidal irritation to nauseating devotion again; but he had a baseline affinity for Vince that he could always rely on, no matter what fleeting distractions had him caught up or narked off at any given moment.

"Yeah," Stuart flirted, "but it's not on the menu."

And Vince laughed in his face. "Oh my god, Stuart. Tell me you never actually pulled with a line like that."

"Fuck off," Stuart told him.

"That's more like it," Vince approved, and stood and leaned to kiss him across the table.

It was true, he'd never had much of a need for chat-up lines, as such; generally, all Stuart ever had to do was show up and be lovely, and it all came together for him eventually. Still, he had a repertoire of looks and moves that he'd employed with stunning success for years. And now none of his standard tactics really worked on Vince, who had them all memorized and catalogued.

But then, Vince thought it was sexy when Stuart bitched about the wallpaper in whatever godforsaken hovel they'd wound up in for the night. Stuart had thought he was just taking the piss at first, but he was serious, he'd practically clawed Stuart's clothes off over shite like that.

Stuart wondered more than once how Vince ever justified chucking out all those blokes back home for being strange when Vince himself was so peculiar. But possibly Vince was only that peculiar where Stuart was concerned. Once Stuart thought of that, he decided to hang onto it. He liked the idea, and it was the closest to an insight he'd had about the whole thing.

Sometimes he missed the sense of conquest that went with shagging strangers, the variety, the surprises, but he didn't miss it as much as he'd thought he might. Then again, he'd hoped perhaps he wouldn't miss it at all. It was irritating. It should be one thing or the other; either he should want other people just as much, or lose interest in them entirely. Not this variable thing where he'd see some fabulous bloke and think, Hm, nice, without any special desire, but then other nights he wanted everyone's eyes on him, wanted to just grab some mouthwatering new shag and dance dirty and slow and go off for a quick hot session in the toilets.

He never wanted it enough, though, to leave Vince's side for a moment. And on one of those nights, he grabbed Vince and they danced dirty and slow until it felt as though everyone's eyes were on them, and then they went off for a quick hot session in the toilets, and after that, Stuart knew it was going to be so much better than all right.

It was just so fucking good, and he kept finding new things to like. They were nearly the same height, and it was sexy to kiss standing up because they were on the same level, as though they were already in bed together. No neck craning to get a good angle. Still the mild problem of occasional colliding noses, teeth clashing now and then, but statistically that seemed inevitable, given how much hot and heavy snogging they did. Stuart always opened his mouth a bit for kisses, even a peck; that seemed to take Vince a little getting used to, but Stuart got the distinct impression that Vince didn't mind.

Vince had a stupid giggle of his own, it turned out, though he didn't laugh like that very often. Minor sexual misfortune usually brought it on-- nose-mashing, an accidental elbow to the ribs. The time Stuart forgot to unbutton one shirt cuff and wound up with the shirt hanging off his wrist like a manacle, couldn't get it off over his hand and couldn't undo the button until he'd pulled the shirt right-side-out up his arm again and flipped it open... all the while, Vince was laughing that silly giggle into his shoulder, shaking his head.

Sometimes they did teenage things, stuff Stuart had mostly skipped over when he was younger. Turning on the telly, volume low, and snogging for a long, long time in the blue glow, groping, kissing, touching under and around clothes, but not taking them off. Breaking apart, pretending they couldn't go any further; once Vince even sidled away and claimed it was a school night, both of them grinning stupidly at each other. One night they really didn't go any further, just got worked up and then split and went chastely to bed, and the shag felt miraculous the next morning, like they'd grown up overnight just to be able to fuck each other blind.

He wasn't sure why these things had the power to charm him so completely, but there was no denying he was charmed. He was smitten, really, and it was thoroughly disgusting and possibly a bit frightening. Vince was the one person on earth he couldn't throw out or get rid of; he could never even try, he knew that, never again. Anything he did with Vince, he'd have to live with for the rest of his life. He still wasn't altogether sure how to fit that into the way they were with one another, the parallel lives they'd lived ever since they were kids.

Stuart had always thought that if this ever happened he'd have more of an idea what to do. Vince would spell everything out for him-- it seemed a reasonable expectation, given how much Vince liked to talk-- or else he'd just instinctively suss it out and it'd be easy after that. He was used to being good at things.

It was a mystery, though, and he never quite felt he understood everything that was happening between them. He'd had to give up control in order to have Vince like this, and he never quite got it entirely back.

He wasn't sure he missed it all that much. There were so many other things.

Like how there was one night when they were at it-- Vince had been seduced by his complaints about the hideous paint job and sagging mattress-- and Stuart had his palms braced on the bed. Vince slipped his hands up to Stuart's, and wound their fingers together, and then pushed up further until his wrists were in Stuart's hands. It was a bit awkward but they carried on shagging just like that; Stuart didn't let go. Vince rested against him after, crossing his ankle over Stuart's, his face smooth and serene in the dim lamplight. He didn't bother sorting the covers.

Maybe that was how it worked, and things just sorted themselves out. It should've wound him up, to be so adrift. It should've driven him mad.

But it was okay, just another one of those things that was mysteriously all right, because it was Vince, though Stuart would've hated it from anyone else.

Like not saying what he wanted, or even wanting what he wanted, sometimes. Like wandering off into the woods for no good reason, or playing tic-tac-toe endlessly on the backs of restaurant placemats while he chattered, or messing with Stuart's hair. Like having loads of fantastic sex and still being around the next morning, and the next, and the next, and the next.


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