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John came back to the table with another round of bottles stuck between his fingers: beer for those who still drank and water for those who didn't. That was the great thing about parties in L.A. -- you met as many people in recovery as out of it. Since leaving the band a few months before, it was the only thing that felt like home.

"No. No, no," his friend Francisco was saying as John distributed his cargo and slid back into his seat. "I refuse to believe there's a man alive, however straight, who's never even thought about it."

"What, just because you never stop thinking about it?" Andy shot back across the table, taking his beer without looking. Since coming out to visit John a week ago, he'd formed an uneasy and unlikely mutual fascination with the fashion designer, who was as unlike Andy's usual social circle as anyone could get without coming full circle around again.

John joined in the general laughter, even though he had no idea what was funny about it or even what it was at all. Francisco leaned closer to Dominic, running a hand up his model boyfriend's arm. "Well, can you blame me? Take a good look at him, you'll think about it, too. I don't care how straight you think you are."

Dominic batted his eyelashes at Andy, who just laughed and puckered his lips in a mock kiss. "Sorry, Dom, just not my type."

"But you've never even wondered what it'd be like?" Jacqui, Dominic's sister who was also a model and much more Andy's type, turned to him with her elegant eyebrows raised.

"To have a guy fuck me in the ass?" Andy gave a little shudder. "No offense to present company who like it like that, but I do my best not to think about that. Ever."

"Oh, come on, it's not all ass-reaming and cocksucking." Francisco made finger quotes around the last words, but it was still strange to hear them from the usually prissy designer. "You've never gotten a handjob from a friend? Not even a kiss?"

"No, never," Andy answered firmly. "Kiss on the cheek, sure, but nothing pervy."

"And you call yourself a musician." Francisco rolled his eyes, the motion carrying his head around to look at John. "Please, Johnny, redeem my faith in humanity. Or at least the straight male rock star."

John raised his eyebrows in mock query. "Who, me? What do you want me to do about it, sweetie, give him a blowjob under the table?"

"Oh, would you? I'm sure it would do him a world of good."

Andy eyed John sidelong. "Well, he does have an awfully pretty mouth."

John puckered his lips in the same gesture Andy had used, and Francisco slapped his hand on the table. "Exactly. Who wouldn't want to do Johnny?"

"I could give you a list," John said wryly. "Starting with Christy Turlington and ending with my ex-wife."

"But you've never done it with a bloke. Right?" Andy looked over at him with a hint of worry.

"Nope," John confirmed. "Sorry, Francisco, but I can't say I've ever even thought about it."

Francisco sighed and waved a hand in dismissal of them all, but his boyfriend leaned forward and looked back and forth between Andy and John. "Now I saw Duran back in the day," he said. "Five such pretty fey boys -- don't tell me you never had any offers."

"Oh, I'm sure we all did." John shrugged a little. He could remember a number of such offers, but he wasn't going to offend his friends by admitting how he'd responded to them at the time. "But I wasn't paying much attention. I was too busy trying to shag every pretty girl I met."

Andy laughed and nudged John's shoulder, but Dominic pressed on. "You really never considered it? Not with all the drugs? Not with all your pretty friends?"

This was going further than John felt comfortable with. He opened his mouth to make a joke and change the subject, but the first sound stuck in his throat as a sudden thought occurred to him. "No, wait a minute," he said slowly.

Because there had been one time, one incident, one moment of consideration that John hadn't thought about in years, if at all since it happened. Back in 1983 -- no, '82 -- and they'd been in Paris -- no, in Berlin. There had been a party, because there was always a party, and John and Simon had stumbled back to their hotel afterward, drunk out of their minds.

They had been howling on the verge of hysteria over something John couldn't remember at all, which probably hadn't even been funny. The lift had come, and they'd gotten on, swaying and clinging to each other to stay upright, still laughing madly.

He'd been gripping Simon's elbows as they found their balance, but then found his hands dropping to Simon's waist when Simon leaned his forearms onto John's shoulders. Simon's laughter faded into soft, erratic giggles, and he kept sliding forward until his forehead rested against John's.

The whiskey on the other man's breath intensified the dizzy swirl in John's head. Simon's eyes flicked up to meet John's, a hazy field of blue that blurred from being so close. Then Simon's head tilted up as well, tilted just a little to the side. John's mouth was open to breathe, open to what seemed sure to happen next.

The lift stopped with just enough of a jolt for John to notice through his mesmerized haze. Then the doors opened and Simon broke away, flinging himself against the back of the lift just as a hoard of partygoers even drunker than they were fell into the lift. John dragged his attention sluggishly from Simon, and after that had never again thought about what had happened between them. Or almost happened.

He shook his head and looked up to find himself the focus of scrutiny by everyone at the table. Francisco and Dominic were watching him with avid interest, Jacqui looked almost ravenous, and Andy looked as curious as he did alarmed. "What?" John said blankly.

"You were somewhere much more interesting for a minute." Francisco leaned his elbows on the table and his chin on his folded hands. "And where was it, pray tell?"

"No, who was it?" Dominic interjected with a grin.

"Nothing. Nobody." John waved them off. "It wasn't anything that happened. Just something that might have happened once." He couldn't quite look at Andy. "No one you know."

Francisco let out a cheer of triumph and pointed at Andy, who was shaking his head in disappointment. "See? Everyone thinks about it."

"But I hadn't thought about it," John protested, though at the moment he wanted nothing more than the privacy to sort out these thoughts.

"See, he hadn't thought about it," Andy repeated helpfully.

Dominic just smiled with smug victory. "He'll be thinking about it now."

The hell of it was, Dominic was right. Andy went back to Spain a couple of days later, leaving John alone with that disturbing conversation still echoing in his head, whiskey-laden breath sending a phantom tingle over his lips. Every man thinks about it, Francisco had insisted.

Damned if John wasn't thinking about it now. He wasn't gay, he was still sure of that, at least, but somehow the thought of touching a male body not his own filled him with an almost obsessive fascination.

He went to the cinema to get his mind off it; the latest Bond film was surely the perfect inducement back to unquestioning heterosexuality. Pierce Brosnan was practically an advertisement for it, and his Bond girl du jour was an enticing inducement. The girl was gorgeous, and he relished every jiggle of her ample curves as she screamed and ran her way through the film.

When Bond finally seduced her into bed with the same minimal effort John himself had required back in the height of his fame, he watched the delicious sweep of feminine flesh revealed, and waited for the usual fantasy to take hold. He was Bond, dangerously irresistible, making love to a dangerously beautiful woman. "That's more like it," he muttered under his breath, receiving an "Amen, brother!" from somewhere to his left.

He didn't feel the switch until it had already happened -- until he wasn't Brosnan, but was underneath him, hard lips driving him into arousal. Frozen in shock with the realization, he stared at the screen, locked into the girl's role until the scene blessedly ended.

Then he jumped out of his seat, ignoring the protests of the row behind him, and made a beeline up the aisle and away from Pierce bloody Brosnan. He didn't slow down until he was safe in the men's room, splashing icy water on his face until the hard-on in his pants diminished enough that he could leave the theater.

His car was a kiln after even half a movie in the L.A. sun, but he hardly noticed as he flung himself behind the wheel and pulled out his mobile. He pulled up Francisco's number and waited.

"You made James Bond gay," he snarled into the phone as soon as he heard Francisco's voice. "I fucking hate you."

He hung up on his friend's hysterical laughter.

When he stopped by his local market to pick up some fresh veg, he started to wonder if he should ever be allowed to leave the house again. He found himself checking out an athletic blond guy about his own age and height. The guy smiled at him almost shyly, and he found himself smiling back. But when the guy took a step toward him, he found himself fleeing to the next aisle.

That was the problem, wasn't it? he thought as he tossed his groceries on the kitchen table. He slumped into a chair and buried his face in his folded arms. Even if he wanted to do something to scratch this itch, satisfy this bizarre curiosity, he could hardly pick up some guy who just happened to be standing next to the cucumbers. He had too much at risk: his health, his reputation, not to mention his psyche.

No, he'd had his chance fifteen years ago, when he still had the forgiveness of alcohol, when someone he trusted might have been offering him something he hadn't known he wanted. Back when they were wild kids, experimenting with his sexuality might have been just some naughty fun, expected with their lifestyle. Now it was just silly.

The shrill ring of the phone startled him upright. He tilted his chair back until he could grab the cordless extension off the counter. "Yeah?" he mumbled into the receiver.

"Is this a bad time?" The voice on the other end should not have been a surprise, given how John's week was going. "I could have sworn I had the time difference the right way round."

"Speak of the devil." John sighed and returned his head to his arms, cradling the phone against his shoulder.

"What, were you talking about me?"

"No, just thinking about you." And Simon didn't need to know any details about that, for both their sakes.

Though he couldn't help smiling at the pleasure in Simon's voice. "Yeah? You and Andy talk a lot about what a wanker I am while he was there?"

"Oh, constantly." John chuckled against his shirt sleeve. They had talked a fair bit about Simon, though most of it had been more in the vein of affectionate reminiscence. Not that he was going to tell Simon that, either.

And not that Simon seemed to mind either way. He chattered on for a while about home and family and friends, and John let himself drift on the familiar sound of Simon's voice.

It soothed him until he started noticing the sound of Simon's breath between words, until he started imagining how Simon's lips moved with he talked. They used to rag on him for having girl lips, too soft and full; kissing Simon might not have felt that different after all.

He quashed that thought with instinctive horror, but it just came back a second later. With a sigh, he gave up the fight. What did it matter if he thought about it, here in the private spaces of his own head?

And why shouldn't he think about it? He couldn't think of a single convincing reason, other than societal expectations of masculinity, which he had actively and colorfully eschewed his entire life anyway. In the end, the only reason not to think about it was the complete impossibility of ever doing anything about it.

"And then these enormous purple elephants came in and just started trampling the studio."

And if he and Simon hadn't been interrupted fifteen years ago, if they'd done something about it then, what would have been wrong with that? Two beautiful bodies taking pleasure in one another -- could it really be so important if both of them happened to come equipped with dicks?

"John? John-ny."

No, it couldn't be that important, not in the grand scheme of love and life and happiness. So why hadn't they done anything about it, in that brief moment of mutual wanting? Why hadn't one of them grabbed the other and taken him to bed?

"Seriously, John. Are you all right?"

"What?" He sat up, rubbed his eyes and tried to backtrack the thread of the conversation. Purple elephants?

"Did I say something wrong?"

"No, of course not," he answered quickly. Apparently he shouldn't be allowed out of the house or even to answer the phone. "Sorry, I'm just a bit distracted today."

"No problem." Simon spoke slowly, a slight hesitation between each word, so uncharacteristic for their Charlie who said whatever was on his mind without thinking much about it at all. "I just want to make sure you and I are okay."

The wisps of fantasy dissipated in the face of the reality of his relationship with Simon. "Of course we are," he said, emphatic, almost fierce.

"Good," Simon replied, and John knew he didn't imagine the relief in his voice, which in turn spurred great relief in John.

"We're always okay. You know that."

"I know. It's just weird, not seeing you in a while." Not since you quit, went the unspoken awkwardness, not since you left us.

"Things have just been so crazy lately." This was all so new, figuring out what they were, if not band mates anymore. He couldn't afford to fuck it up with imaginary complications. "But I really want to see you soon."

"I've no idea when we might be making it back to your side of the big pond." Simon hadn't talked much about the band, but John was pretty sure he'd mentioned finishing the album at last, or at least his part.

"I have a couple of gigs over in Germany next month," he said, trying not to sound as hesitant as he felt. "I was thinking of swinging by London on the way back."

"That would be brilliant," Simon exclaimed, sounding like Christmas had come early. "I don't know what my schedule's going to be. These days I just go where Nick tells me. Easier that way, you know."

It was the closest they'd come to talking about what they couldn't yet talk about. "How is he?" John ventured, wondering how much he could get away with asking, and how much he really wanted to know.

Simon's voice stayed cheery, probably a little too cheery. "Nick? He's fine. Up to his ears trying to mix the album, deal with the record company, and railroad me into being a proper lyricist and lead singer."

"I'll assume he failed on that last part." John matched Simon's light tone.

"Miserably, of course. But Warren's been a good little helpmate to him, so he doesn't need me for much anymore."

The tone was still light, but the bitter undercurrent was unmistakable, and John frowned. "Charlie--"

But Simon ploughed on as though he already regretted giving that much away. "Just leaves me with more time for entertaining visiting friends. So come and rescue me from boredom before I start playing with knives."

He couldn't help laughing at the mock desperation. "Right. I'll ring you in a couple of weeks to figure out timing."

"I'll be waiting by the phone."

"Somehow I doubt that."

"On tenterhooks, I promise you."

"Good-bye, Charlie."

He hung up the phone smiling. Simon was always just what he needed. Now he just had to get over his weird fixation so that he'd be fit for civilized company. Or at least Simon's company.

Good thing he had a few weeks.

A party in Paris was different from a party in L.A., or anywhere else, for that matter. It was the only place where he felt out of place without a glass of wine in his hand, and where both women and men looked at him as though amused rather than attracted. He had lost his host ten minutes ago, and had yet to find anyone else he actually knew.

He should have been in London right now. Only it had turned out that Simon hadn't been waiting by the phone after all -- or even answering it at all for over a week. When Jean-Michel had finally called to invite John to his birthday party after hearing he was in Europe, John had no reason to refuse. And then even Jean-Michel had deserted him, not five minutes after he walked in the door of the enormous house, nowhere to be seen in any of the crowded rooms John wandered through.

A pretty girl brushed by him as he was approaching the door to the large, open dining room. She turned and gave him a look and wink as she passed -- American by her dress and manner, he guessed, and considered pursuing her for a conversation, just to have something to do.

Then he caught Jean-Michel's voice, turned his head instinctively to look for him, and by the time he looked back, the girl had disappeared into the crowd behind him. A moment later she no longer mattered as he focused in on the conversation between Jean-Michel and his wife, who were standing just inside the dining room doorway a few feet away.

"What were you thinking, asking him here tonight?" Jean-Michel's voice was rising enough that John could hear it clearly over the party babble.

"Well, had you informed me you were inviting John Taylor, I might have thought twice about it," Louisa replied, her clipped British tones slowing John down almost as much as hearing his own name. "I'll get him to leave. Or we can keep them on opposite sides of the house, if you think it's a problem."

"I don't know if it is a problem. The whole thing might have been amicable, they might all still be the best of friends. John did not speak of it, and I did not ask." Jean-Michel's accent thickened with the vehemence of his speech, but John had no trouble deciphering the situation.

Three steps took him through the doorway and into Louisa's shocked view. "Who is it?" he said as Jean-Michel turned around with an almost comic look of dismay. "Who else is here?"

But he didn't need to hear Jean-Michel's answer. He had already spotted the dark head on the other side of the room, towering over a ring of glossy red and black and blond heads that tilted up adoringly.

"John, we can--," Jean-Michel started. "John?"

John was already pushing through the ebb and flow of party guests, Jean-Michel's cursing fading into the ambient buzz. A moment later he had the solid warmth of Simon's shoulder beneath his hand and was spinning him around and into John's arms as half a dozen shiny heads swiveled like startled squirrels to watch them.

A soft 'oof' blew against his ear, followed by the sound of Simon's delighted laughter as he realized who was manhandling him. "Johnny!" he cried, and his arms came up to squeeze the air out of John's chest.

"My God, how did you--?" He stopped when he pulled back enough to see the lingering shock on the other man's face; Simon hadn't known he would be here. "How did you end up here?"

Simon may not have come here to find him, but the beaming grin on his face left no doubt as to how happy he was to have done so anyway. "In Paris? Blame Nick and his need to be in every French magazine ever conceived of. Then I ran into Louisa at a café this afternoon, and here I am."

John smiled broadly as Simon pressed a hearty kiss to both John's cheeks. Over Simon's shoulder, he could see the twin looks of relief on the faces of their hosts as they took in the happily nonviolent reunion. "Louisa," Simon called, coming around to John's side, but keeping his arm slung around John's shoulders. "Now I owe you even more for dragging me here."

"Nobody's ever had to drag you to a party, darling." Louisa tried to purse her lips, but ended up smiling.

"Usually we can't drag him away," John said, turning his head just as Simon's settled onto his shoulder for a brief moment.

"Won't be able to tonight," Simon murmured for John's ears alone, then straightened up and laughed at a remark from one of his flock of birds.

He kept his arm around John's shoulders, and after a moment John let his arm slide around Simon's waist for stability. It left his side pressed against the warm length of Simon's body, and if he liked that feeling more than he had the last time they'd met, he could dismiss it for the time being.

In the intervening weeks since they had last talked, John had worked out most of his temporary insanity. It had all come to a drastic head when he finally lowered himself to downloading a gay porn movie from the internet. Watching sweaty, hairy men with terrible moustaches grapple with each other had proved an entirely unarousing and vaguely off-putting experience. Thank goodness.

The birds kept chirping and fluttering their bright feathers, but John wasn't really listening, responding on practiced autopilot. Simon posed and flirted like the pro he was, but after while John could sense them losing his attention. Not long after that, Simon's nose brushed John's temple as he turned to speak low into John's ear. "Are you into this party?"

John snorted. "I don't even know anyone here but you."

"Then I've changed my mind. Drag me away whenever you like. I'd rather just talk to you, anyway."

The warm rush of pleasure that ran through John had nothing to do with any half-baked fantasies. He smiled, hooked his arm through Simon's, and pulled him away from their bevy of admirers. "If I can remember the way out of here."

"You're not staying here, then?"

"No. I'm across town at the Les Rives."

"I'm just up the rue here. Come on, I see an escape route."

They made their way out and onto the street with a minimum of detours. Still arm in arm, they walked up to Simon's hotel, a small but very expensive establishment which had once been a private residence more palatial than Jean-Michel's. John did not think to wonder who else might be staying there until they were in the lobby. But Simon did not so much as look around, other than a brief nod to the desk clerk as they headed for the lift.

"He's staying at his usual." Simon was carefully not looking at him, which seemed almost worse than the look of pity John could tell he wanted to bestow. "Warren's there, too."

"Yeah. I figured you would have said something otherwise." He tried to sound casual and unsurprised, unsure what the lightness in his chest meant relief or disappointment.

Simon tilted his head upwards as if in thought, though he might have just been watching the descending floor numbers above the lift. "No," he said after a moment. "I probably wouldn't have."

"Ah." They got into the lift. As he turned, something odd in Simon's face caught John's eye. "Separate parties, separate hotels...are you sure everything's all right, Charlie?"

His friend looked surprised as he leaned against the back of the lift, shoving his hands in his pockets. "Nothing strange about different hotels, is there? I remember one time the five of us were all in different hotels, spread out across Manhattan."

Separate hotels, separate parties: it hadn't been a good sign then, either. But after they'd lost Roger, then Andy, the remaining three of them had clung to each other as if they were afraid of drowning on their own. He had assumed things would be the same after his own departure.

He considered trying to express that to Simon, but there was no way to do so that wasn't hopelessly awkward, and he had no real incentive to try. "No, of course not," he said instead. "Nothing strange at all."

Simon beamed at him, then slid his arm back around John's shoulders, resting his forehead against John's temple. "Don't worry. It's all part of my nefarious plan to get you to myself for the night."

His breath gusted warm along John's cheek, just reaching the corner of his mouth. Oh, that wasn't fair play, not at all. Not when John had only just freed himself from the memory of Simon's warmth and Simon's breath in another lift in another city so long ago.

"I get worried when you start throwing about words like 'nefarious,'" he joked weakly, not moving away lest Simon misinterpret the gesture. It was Simon's way to be physical, openly intimate with all of his friends. This didn't mean what it had fifteen years ago. Hell, John couldn't even be sure it had meant that fifteen years ago, or if he was reading too much into a distant memory of Simon's normal affection, made sloppy by drunkenness.

"Don't worry, I'll be gentle." Simon gave him a quick, rough squeeze as the lift doors opened, then let go and led him down the dimly lit corridor.

The suite, when Simon opened the door and started switching on lights, was smaller than his usual, but plush and luxurious as only the French could manage without seeming ridiculous. John flung himself down on the burgundy velvet sofa while Simon went to the phone to check his messages. He felt something scrunched uncomfortably in the small of his back and dug out a silk tasseled pillow from behind him just as Simon hung up the phone with a grimace.

"Yasmin's getting a tad fed up with me not having my mobile," he said, stopping at the tiny kitchenette and holding a bottle of water with a questioning look.

John nodded and took the bottle as Simon flopped down on the settee next to him, shoving the same offending pillow onto the floor and then kicking it across the room. "Yes, I was wondering about that myself," he said, snapping open the bottle lid. "I must have left about six thousand increasingly pathetic messages between your answerphone and voicemail."

Simon made an apologetic wince. "My mobile was the victim of a bit of a misunderstanding in the studio right before we left, I'm afraid. Didn't have time to replace it. Yasmin's working in Bermuda at the moment, you know, so no one's in the house."

"Ah," John replied, weighing the heavy glass bottle in his hand as though weighing Simon's honesty. "I was beginning to think you were avoiding me."

"Of course not," Simon declared with almost convincing vehemence. "Just didn't occur to me that you wouldn't be able to track me down if you wanted to."

"In fucking France? You could have called me."

"I didn't want to push. And I didn't know I was supposed to chase you."

They sat in silence for a few minutes after that. John's water was one nervous swallow from empty before Simon leaned forward to grab a remote control from the teak coffee table. He switched on the television John hadn't even noticed concealed in a cabinet across the room, and they watched some incomprehensible French program until John felt himself finally relaxing. He let himself slump against Simon's shoulder, and a moment later they had slipped back into the idle but avid chatter of longtime friends too long parted.

"It's late," John finally said a long time later, groaning and stretching. "And I have a flight at noon tomorrow."

Simon's mouth fell agape. "What? You're leaving tomorrow? Going back to America?"

"Afraid so." He didn't want to now, but he'd made commitments he couldn't break when he thought he'd have no reason to stay here. "I'm sitting in with a friend's band tomorrow night."

Something darkened in Simon's expression, and he visibly bit back whatever it was he really wanted to say. "I was counting on you being here at least another day or two. I was making plans in my head."

"You should have asked."

"You should have said."

They looked at each other, at an impasse. Then Simon slumped sideways against the back of the sofa with a sulky but resigned exhalation of breath. "All right. But you don't have to go yet, do you?"

"I should," John said, feeling the reluctance dragging at each syllable. He felt good when he was with Simon; he'd almost forgotten how good. "But maybe not quite yet."

"Just stay the night, why don't you?" Simon suggested. "There's great croissants next door in the mornings."

"I'd have to leave too early for the croissants, I think." He wavered, calculating exactly how long it would take to get back to his own hotel in the morning, check out, and make it to the airport in time. "But I could stay."

"Fantastic." Simon grinned in satisfaction, then grabbed the remote to flip channels between identical badly dubbed American sitcoms. "Now, where were we in this important business?"

Hours -- and a parade of bad television that neither of them actually saw -- later, John stretched again. "I suppose I should get at least a few hours of sleep before my mad rush to meet Monsieur DeGaulle."

Simon nodded and stretched himself, slumping back into a yawn. "You can sleep out here if you like, but I warn you that the settee is murder on the back."

He wanted to ask how and why Simon had found that out, but his brain was already skittering off into another realization. "Are you offering to share, then?"

"Sure." Simon shrugged, pushed himself to his feet and offered a hand up, which John waved off. "The bed's plenty big enough, and it's not like we haven't shared before, back when we couldn't afford more than a single bed between all of us."

"I remember," John said. He waited until Simon had padded into the other room before burying his face in his hands to muffle his hysterical laughter.

Fifteen years later, and he was finally going to bed with Simon. If his friend only knew what John had been contemplating doing in a bed with another man... well, Simon was the last thing from a homophobe, but he might not be quite so sanguine about his invitation.

He took a deep breath and scrubbed his hands over his face as he got up. Finally daring to enter the bedroom, he almost collided with Simon leaving the en suite bathroom. "There's extra of pretty much anything you could want." Simon gestured over his shoulder toward the loo. "And I left you some clothes to sleep in. You can't have my negligee set, though, I don't want you stretching it out."

"I would have brought my own if I'd known you were going to be that way about it." He shot Simon an arch look before going to raid the courtesy basket of expensive French toiletries.

He finished washing up and brushing his teeth, changed into the shirt and shorts Simon had left draped lewdly over the bidet. Then he stared at himself in the mirror, rubbing his hand over his stubbly jaw and resisting the urge to shave, just in case. There would be no just in case here.

But then why did he see a strange light in his own eyes? Why was he biting his lip against breath that was coming faster than it should have been?

His reflection fractured and blurred as he splashed soapy water at the mirror in annoyance. He would go to bed, and he would go to sleep, and then he would have a very long plane ride to get his head sorted. If he was still curious, he would have to find another way to satisfy it.

When he emerged from the bathroom, Simon was already in bed, turned toward John, eyes closed and still. A wide space lay open beside him, the corner of the duvet turned down in invitation. He put his watch, his mobile, and his glasses down on the night table, then turned to the bed.

The sheets were cool and the covers warm as he slid between them. Simon did not stir as the mattress shifted beneath John's weight. His upper body was bare to the waist, the duvet pulled only to the waistband of his shorts; he had forgone a nightshirt altogether. The room had grown chilly, and John started to pull the covers the rest of the way up over them both, but his hand stilled before it touched the duvet.

There was nothing wrong with looking, was there? Simon had never minded anyone looking at him. He could satisfy that much of his curiosity, at least, to look at a man with a frankly sexual gaze.

Even in the dim lamplight, Simon's skin looked paler than usual. He hadn't been spending much time in the sun -- they must have been in the studio for a long time. He had never had much definition, but one could always see the curve of muscle beneath the softer layer if one knew where to look. John felt a vague surprise to realize that he did, in fact, know exactly where to look.

Simon's hair, already mussed from the pillow, made a frame around the strong features John had thought he already knew intimately. His eyelashes made dark lines over cheekbones that were sharper, more defined than they had been the last time John saw him. His lips were slack and slightly parted; John wondered how he had ever thought them girlish.

So this was what it was like to be in bed with a man.

He liked it, he couldn't deny that. The warmth, the sense of greater intimacy, the appreciation of Simon's beauty -- it all felt new in a way that nothing had been new for a very long time. It made him wonder what else he could experience anew, if he dared a little more.

If he dared, he could touch those cheekbones with his fingers. He could touch those lips with his fingers or, if was braver than he'd ever been in his life, with his own lips. He could experience all the things he had been thinking about and find out once and for all what it all meant. This could be the only chance he would ever have, because in the end, he could not think of another person in the world he would ever consider touching like that, or who he would want to touch him.

And if Simon freaked, he'd blame it all on Francisco, and possibly a bad drug flashback.

And if Simon freaked -- if either of them freaked -- it could destroy the already-shaken bonds of one of the most important relationships of his life.

He let out a shaky sigh. No good. He'd never really been that much of a daring man, anyway. He usually left that to Simon.

Gently, he pulled the duvet up to cover them both against the night chill. But the shared warmth only increased the sense of intimacy, and he quickly pulled the covers back down, battling with himself all over again. He'd go mad like this. One touch, what could that hurt? Simon slept like the dead, he wouldn't likely even feel it. And if he did -- would it be a sign that they were meant to do this?

A flurry of haggling went back and forth inside John's head. Cowardice and conscience dickered with boldness and desire until he reached a bargain with himself. One touch, one gesture toward what he ultimately wanted, and if Simon responded, John would follow through. If he didn't, as he almost certainly wouldn't, John would at least have one small piece of the puzzle, and he would make himself walk away from it forever.

He lifted himself up on his elbow, shifting closer to Simon as he moved. The lamp lit the angles of Simon's face, and John focused on the smooth line that ran from nose to cheekbone to temple and up into the dark hair. His hand lifted up to hover above Simon's face; he watched his fingers flex as though they belonged to someone else.

The light touch on his wrist stopped him cold, freezing his hand as though Simon had seized him violently. His gaze snapped back to Simon's face to find blue eyes watching him intently. "John?" Simon said quietly. "What's going on?"

His breath seemed to solidify in his throat. His hand fell slowly to rest on the mattress between them. Simon's fingers remained where they were, gentle on John's wrist.

"I just wanted to touch you," John said at last.

"Well, that's very nice," Simon replied, his expression not changing. "Why?"

Nothing for it now but honesty. "I wanted to know what it would feel like."

"You've touched me thousands of times."

"Not like this."

"I see." Simon's voice was completely neutral, but there was a tension beneath it. Suddenly, John could not stand to be in the bed with him a minute longer.

"I'm sorry. I had no business staying here tonight." He rolled backwards, but Simon's fingers clamped down on his wrist, tethering him before he could escape.

"Does this have something to do with the gay thing Andy was talking about?" Simon rolled his eyes when John whipped his head around in shock. "Oh, you didn't really think he wasn't going tell everybody you know, did you?"

Inexplicably, Simon still hadn't let go of him, though surely he must have figured out enough by now. He twisted his head enough to bury it in his own pillow. "I'm still going to kill him."

"So is that what this is about? James Bond is gay so now you have to be, too?"

Who had told his friends they were allowed to talk to each other anyway? And why did he even bother having friends at all?

"It didn't happen quite like that, but if you must be glib." He lifted his head to look Simon in the face. It could hardly get any worse now; he might as well take the chance he had started out with. "I started thinking about it, and I realized this was something I'd never experienced before. I was curious."

"So your first thought was to climb in bed with me and have yourself a feel?" Simon's face gave nothing away, but everything came out in his voice and his voice was hard. "Good old Simon, he'll do anything that moves, he won't mind."


"He's done blokes, so what's one more?"

"That's not at all what I -- wait, what?" John squinted at him as the words finished processing in his scattered brain. "You've done blokes?"

Simon stared back at him. "Yes," he said slowly. "I figured you knew that, thought it made me a safe bet. Isn't that what this is about?"

"No, I did not know that. How was I supposed to know that?" He shook his head a second later. There were too many things he hadn't known over the years, too caught up in his own problems to notice. "Never mind."

"If you didn't know that, then why me?" Simon's voice held a new note of curiosity, but it hadn't softened. "Or was I just the convenient choice, given the circumstances, so you thought you'd give it a go?"

That was partly true, but only a small part, and John had enough sense left not to let Simon get started down that road. "Do you remember Berlin?" he asked instead.

It was Simon's turn to look surprised. "Berlin? Sure. Nice city, though I've never been as in love with Germany as you are."

"But do you remember being there, oh, say fifteen years ago?" He started talking faster, as though he could force everything in his head into Simon's until they both understood it all. "Do you remember going to a party where we both got completely pissed, and then do you remember coming back to the hotel and being in a lift with me, and--."

He hesitated, looking for the right way to say it. "And?" Simon prompted a second later, tension making his grip painful on John's arm.

"And feeling something," John said at last. "Something you weren't supposed to feel. That we weren't supposed to feel."

Simon looked at him for a long, silent moment. "Fifteen years ago?"

John nodded, hoping he wasn't going to have to explain any further.

"You idiot, that wasn't Berlin. That was Paris, right here in Paris, two blocks down from where you're supposedly staying now." Simon pushed up onto his elbow to glare at him. "And of course I remember it. Only emotionally repressed morons who bottle up everything they don't want to deal with would forget something like that."

They stared at each other for another moment before John spoke. "Well... guilty?"

"You poor sod," Simon said, but his grip had gentled, and his thumb moved in an unconscious caress over the inside of John's wrist. "No wonder your peculiar little head is about to explode and you've resorted to groping your unconscious mates."

"I wasn't groping you, and you obviously weren't unconscious." He smiled, relief coursing in a cool rush through him. Whatever happened now, he felt safe in asking for what he wanted. Simon would not judge him. "Maybe I look a fool, trying something I should have done when I had the excuse of being young, stupid, and drunk, but I still want to try it."

Simon's thumb stilled, his gaze staying steady on John's face. "Then tell me what you want from me."

"I want to know what it's like to be with a man." He breathed against the flutter of new nerves, arriving fashionably late to the party. "And I want that man to be you."

"Because of what happened fifteen years ago?"

"Because you're you, and I can't even imagine it being with anyone else. And because we should have done it fifteen years, and after weeks of wracking my brain, I've still no idea why we didn't."

Simon's mouth quirked slightly. "We didn't because we were band mates and it would have been insanely stupid. We were already too close, all of us."

John nodded slowly. "But we aren't band mates anymore."

"Yeah, I had noticed that." The quirk turned bitter, though not a muscle seemed to twitch.

He could not deal with rejection now, not after all of this. Though he almost hated himself for it, he knew what to say to make Simon say yes.

"This isn't about the band. This can just be our own thing, just between you and me. It always has been, really." He closed his eyes and let his head tilt forward until his forehead rested against Simon's. "I'm not asking for everything. Just let me kiss you. One time, and I promise I'll be satisfied and never mention it again."

"Oh, and why do I doubt that would be the case?" he heard Simon mutter, but Simon did not push him away. Neither of them moved, getting used to the new intimacy.

Finally John lifted his head and opened his eyes. "Charlie?"

Simon stayed motionless another moment, eyes cast down to the only place they still touched. Then John felt cool air on his skin where heat had been as Simon's fingers uncurled from his wrist and released him. "You can kiss me," he said softly. "One kiss, and if you're any good, then we'll see about the rest."

"If I'm any good?" John laughed, but cut himself off with a nervous hiccup because the edge of hysteria in his giggle was ruining the bravado in his words. "Well, I suppose I'll just have to do my best, won't I?"

Simon smiled, but didn't reply, watching him and waiting. A small part of John still could not believe he was actually doing this even as he raised his hand to Simon's face once more. This time his fingers found their mark, gently sweeping across Simon's cheek to the corner of his eye and further until they slid into Simon's dark hair.

He paused that way, his hand cupping Simon's head, searching for any sign of uncertainty in himself or Simon. Then, with more confidence than he felt, John leaned in and pulled Simon's mouth to his.

Simon's lips were as full and soft as they looked, but as they parted under John's, he could not define them as anything but fully masculine. They kissed with light, questioning touches at first. Then John pressed harder, looking for more, which Simon freely gave. His hand came up to grip the back of John's neck, holding him as Simon returned the fierce, wet pressure of John's kiss.

That kiss felt like nothing he could have expected; nothing he had ever done before could compare. Heat pooled in his chest, in his belly, in every place where his skin touched Simon's. He wanted to keep touching and keep kissing until he'd felt everything there was to feel.

His hand slipped from Simon's hair and down the back of his neck until he found the smooth muscles of Simon's shoulders. They felt strong and solid under his fingers until he ran his hand down to the broad plane of Simon's back. His fingertips probed every inch with the same inquisitive thoroughness his tongue was showing in Simon's mouth.

When he brushed the waistband of Simon's shorts, he realized he had begun pressing the other man backwards and down into the mattress. Simon was submitting to the force of John's body, but John broke off the kiss before he risked not being able to stop at all.

He flung himself back onto his own pillow and pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes. That had certainly been a successful experiment on his end, at least. "So? How'd I do?" he asked without looking.

An unsteady laugh, then he heard Simon turning over toward him. "Do you still want more from me?"

"With you. Yes." He took his hands down and rolled to face Simon, spots of light marring his vision.

Simon stayed still until after John's vision had cleared, close enough to kiss again. "Then you can have it."

He swallowed around the sudden thickness in his throat. "Have what, specifically?"

"Whatever you want." The solemnity in Simon's eyes veiled a banked fire that rekindled the heat in John's body.

"I want to touch you again," he said, and there was relief in not having to hide the lust in his voice, from himself or from Simon.

"Is that all?" Simon grinned and hooked a foot in the duvet, kicking it entirely off his body. Then he hooked his thumbs in the waistband of his shorts. Something fluttered in John's stomach as the shorts slid down Simon's legs, then flew over the side of the bed with a very gay abandon, leaving Simon completely bare to his eyes.

And his eyes went directly to the main point of interest, already more than half hard against Simon's thigh. "You're -" he started, then swallowed hard against a dizzying wave of arousal. "Is that all for me?"

"No, it's the troupe of Playmates standing behind you." Simon rolled his eyes. "You know I just can't control myself around Playmates."

He lifted his hand again, but this time it didn't feel like it belonged to somebody else. It was his own flesh and bone, settling onto the hot skin of Simon's bare hip. His fingers shifted in a blatant caress before moving slowly down the line of Simon's flank to his thigh. When he found the end of his reach, he traveled the same path in reverse until he found his fingers drifting to trace the curve of Simon's ass.

All the while Simon watched his face, so utterly calm that John could not help but feel calm as well. When John's fingertips touched Simon's stomach, then hesitated, Simon's lips quirked. "No point stopping before you've got what you came for," he said. "Go on, you know what to do with it."

And he did, of course: knew immediately how to touch and hold him. He knew how to pull and stroke until Simon swelled to full hardness in his hand. Full hardness meant slightly less in length than John's would come to, but greater in girth. Flashes of all the acts he had heard and seen and thought about in the past weeks flickered through his mind as he looked down at the cock he was holding. It wasn't so different to hold a cock in his hand, but it would be something utterly new to hold it in his mouth.

Or to hold it elsewhere. Lower. Deeper.

He took a shaky breath as he released his grip and looked up again at Simon, who was looking a little shaky himself. "So am I just to be an object for your entertainment?" Simon said. "Or were you going to take off your clothes as well?"

All his life he had blurred gender lines based on the clothes he put on. It seemed only right that the final step was to shed his clothes completely. He sat up and stripped off his shirt, then lay back down to skim out of his shorts until there he was: naked in bed with another man.

He turned back to Simon, heart thudding with the reality of what they were about to do together. No more dodging or denying: he was going to have sex with a man. He wanted very badly to have sex with a man, as his cock proved, jutting out toward the man in question.

Who lifted his hand, brushed John's lips with his fingers, then held up his arm in silent invitation. John's body responded when his brain could not, and then he was tight against Simon, mouth sliding against mouth, cock against cock.

His first gasp let Simon's tongue stroke between his yielding lips. Simon's mouth still tasted good. His body felt so good. The difference of hardness and softness lost its strangeness as soon as their arms wrapped around each other.

John's fingers found the muscle of Simon's ass after a moment, digging in and grinding their hips together. "Oh, my God." His lips scraped the strong stubbled line of Simon's jaw. "Did it feel like this, when you did this before?"

Simon's teeth skimmed along the tendon of John's neck, his breath hot against John's throat as he gave a raspy laugh. "Oh, I don't think so," he murmured wetly against John's Adam's apple. "I doubt that very much."

Simon's limbs seemed to hold him everywhere. One hand slid into John's hair while the other gripped John's ass to keep him close. The heat of him was overwhelming, the bulk and the breadth of him, and the focus of pleasure rubbing hard between John's legs.

"Can't believe how good your cock feels," John gasped.

"Feeling pretty good, yeah." Simon laughed and pushed him backward into the pillows. "How's yours?"

But he didn't let John answer, didn't give John even a moment to steady himself before his tongue was sliding back into John's mouth. He lay half on top of John, rocking their bodies together in a simple but devastating rhythm. John moaned into Simon's mouth in futile protest as the pleasure sparked through his limbs, through his cock, making him come in sharp spurts against Simon's stomach long before he was ready.

He made a last needy sound as Simon pulled his mouth away. Simon laughed again, reaching down between John's legs to give a few rough pulls to the lingering hardness there. "And how's it feeling now?"

His cock had no complaints, but John wasn't ready to be done, and Simon was nowhere near done at all. John pulled away and fell back against the pillow again with his hands over his face. "Oh, my God," he groaned again, this time in mortification. "I am the worst gay lover ever."

Simon pulled one of his hands down with a chuckle. "You're a fantastic lover, I promise," he said, kissing the nearest corner of John's mouth. "You make me feel so fucking good."

"Not good enough." His hand slipped down to stroke Simon's erection. It hardly needed his help to stay hard, but now that he'd had it in his grasp once, he couldn't stop wanting to touch it.

"Oh, that," Simon said in a tone too obvious to be casual as he propped himself on his elbow. "No worries. If you don't feel like helping, I can take care of myself."

He gave Simon another tug, rubbing his thumb over the head the way he liked himself. "No, I'll take care of you. God knows I owe you that much after performing like a horny teenager."

Simon's laughter was kind, and he brushed the damp hair out of John's eyes. "You want more, then? Still got an itch you want me to scratch?"

"I want more." He turned onto his side, letting go of Simon's cock and looking him in the eye for the first time since he'd come in the other man's arms. "Just give me a minute on the itch."

"You're lucky I'm such a patient man."

John made the expected derisive snort, though Simon generally was quite patient with those he loved. "Yes, I can feel your patience poking me in the stomach."

"It's just not used to having to wait to get what it wants." Simon's head settled onto the pillow beside him, nose brushing John's cheek.

"So it wants me, does it?" He found himself grinning at the thought that Simon might really want this, want him.

Some cloud passed behind Simon's eyes, but cleared with a little smirk. "Of course it does. I'm only human, and you are fucking gorgeous."

His arms were back around Simon before he realized they were moving. As they kissed, a low note of pleasure curled up in response to the stiff shaft prodding against his belly. One quick orgasm hadn't been nearly enough to give him everything he wanted from that cock.

"That itch is ready for you," he smiled against Simon's lips, pushing his own semi-hard erection forward.

Simon gave a lazy but tense thrust of his hips in response. "Now we're being a little optimistic, aren't we? That's still from the last time, don't think I can't tell."

It was already half for the next time as well. Simon should have known better than to underestimate how powerful a turn-on this was turning out to be for John. Not that it mattered for what he was going to ask from Simon next. If he knew his gender at all, it was something Simon could not possibly refuse him.

"Doesn't matter," he said, hand finding its way to Simon's cock once more. "You're the one who has to be at full attention for this round."

Simon went quiet, even his hips stilling despite John's best efforts to provoke him into thrusting. "Are you serious? You can't be serious."

"Of course I'm serious. We're a little beyond the point of jest, don't you think?" It wasn't an easy thing for a man to consent to, let alone ask for, no matter how badly he wanted to experience it. He'd appreciate a little less argument out of his partner.

"Just to be clear, you want me to fuck you?" Simon looked far more startled than he had when John had asked for sex in the first place. "My cock in your ass? Are you sure you want to take it that far?"

Of course he wasn't sure. But he could feel another certainty looming over him, that this was his one shot to do and feel as much as he could. If he shied away from anything now, he might wonder for the rest of his life how it would have been.

"I'm sure," he said, kissing Simon to shut him up and rebuild the current of passion between them.

A little glassy eyed, Simon finally drew back from the kiss, putting an agony of space between their bodies. "We'll need something," he said. "It's not like with a girl, you can't just dive in."

"Did fine in the porn flick," he muttered, trying to hook his leg back around Simon's hip.

"You watched -- never mind, that's probably not something I want to know. Just hang on." Simon twisted around to reach over the foot of the bed, digging into his luggage. John let his eyes sweep the line of Simon's back and the curve and flex of his ass, reveling in his newfound freedom to lust.

A moment later something small and light hit his nose. He groped on the sheets where it fell and came up with a condom emblazoned with the hotel's crest. "Well, vive la France," he muttered.

"That's for later." Simon held up a travel tube of lotion. "This is for now."

John took the lotion with bemusement. It was the same kind he used for his hands after playing a set. He'd given this to Simon years ago, but it was still almost full. "At least you've finally found a use for it."

"Knew it'd be handy someday." Simon grinned, tossed the condom on the night table, and took the lotion back. "Though I'd reckoned more on using it in conjunction with a paper clip and a hairnet to get myself out of a lift shaft, or possibly build a small nuclear device. Fucking you with it didn't really cross my mind."

"Good thing I thought so far ahead, then, isn't it?" John teased, though a shiver was running through him every time Simon mentioned the imminent prospect of fucking.

"You were clearly a girl guide in your last life. Now lie back and spread your legs for me, lover."

Another shiver went through him, both from the command and the name. He obeyed, stretching out on his back and letting his thighs part so that Simon could reach between them. His cock had never gone below half mast, still sensitive enough to make him groan when Simon's wet hand closed around him for a few leisurely pumps.

The smell of the lotion provided a familiar comfort, calming him as Simon handled his cock with it, then his balls. He took his time exploring John until finally his fingers wandered back and stroked over the place that needed the slickness the most. One fingertip circled him slowly, driving him mad with the anticipation of penetration.

Finally, Simon kissed his chest and stomach with great tenderness. "No going back now," he murmured and sank his finger deep into John's ass.

He cried out at the sensation, completely foreign despite his furtive attempts to imagine it. "Charlie," he cried, but Simon offered him no mercy. He merely probed deeper until John cried out again, this time with a shock of pleasure and arousal.

"Say hello to the reason men have sex with other men," he said, pulling out and pouring more lotion into his palm. "Well, the reason they let other men up their asses, any case."

John tried to laugh, but Simon had two fingers in him now. This was going fast, and John didn't care. Simon couldn't be expected to wait much longer, and the pleasure was already outweighing the discomfort. "Do it," he groaned at last. "I'll never be more ready than this."

"Wish I could make you ask me twice." Simon's fingers left him with a peculiar empty feeling just before they gave him a damp slap on the hip. "Turn over. Hands and knees will be easier on you, I expect."

Getting his limbs to obey his brain proved a challenge, but he got to his knees and bent forward to grip the iron rail of the headboard. Taking this position was the ultimate vulnerability, the ultimate surrender to offer himself this way to the aroused man behind him. He would not leave this bed without this experience, whatever conflict between fear and passion still tightened his breath in his chest.

He heard the rip of the condom being opened, then the snap of the rubber as Simon put it on. His head dropped down between his shoulders at the sounds of Simon getting ready for him, and he stared at his own aroused body until he felt warm hands caressing his back, his shoulders, his ass. He lifted his head and caught a glimpse of them in the mirror over the dresser: Simon was gripping his cock, guiding it, and in the next instant, John felt it pressing into his ass, silently asking for entry.

"Relax," Simon whispered and brushed a kiss on his shoulder before beginning the slow push into his body.

A cock was a different thing entirely from any combination of fingers. It stretched him until he grit his teeth, sure that he couldn't take another inch. But he took that inch, and then another and another, until Simon was fully seated, balls to ass in him and against him.

He had a cock inside him. The knowledge made his own cock jump, made his hips move until Simon groaned and thrust forward involuntarily. He wrapped his arms around John's chest, panting against his shoulder with the obvious effort of keeping still long enough to let John adjust to the pressure.

"Christ, that's good," John breathed, shocked at just how good it really was.

"Does that mean I can fuck you now?" Simon asked, his voice a little plaintive on behalf of his long-suffering dick, and John laughed on his next breath.

"You can fuck me now," he answered, finding a new well of arousal in that moment of consent.

He dropped his head again as the cock slid out as slowly as it had entered, Simon demonstrating more self-control in that moment than he ever had in his life. John let his eyes close and his mouth hang open, all his concentration going to absorb and memorize the sensations as Simon eased forward to fill him again. Nothing in his life had ever felt like this. Nothing would ever feel like this again.

The next thrust happened faster. Simon moaned his appreciation, his urgency, as his fingers dug into John's hips. Pressure and pleasure burned as Simon's weight rocked him forward again and again. The headboard dented his palms; his knees dented the mattress; Simon's fingers dented his skin.

He lay his head down on his forearms as Simon began to drive into him.

"Almost forgot," Simon gasped between thrusts. "Almost forgot how tight you'd be."

Amazing what his body was doing to Simon's voice. He felt wide open, exposed, invaded, and supremely potent. His thighs spread wider to let Simon push further between them. His dick was hard from the stimulation inside him, but he was in no danger of coming. The same could not be said for his partner.

Panting, Simon reached a hand around to grip John's cock, but John shoved back against him impatiently. "Not me," he said. "I just want to feel you come."

"Oh. Well." Simon let out a high-pitched laugh that choked off when his cock hit home again. "If I must."

"You did say I could have whatever I wanted," John murmured into his forearms with a smile, though he knew Simon wasn't listening anymore. Then he closed his eyes to better concentrate on these last moments, the slide of hard flesh inside him and the slap of Simon's skin against his as the other man pounded into him with full abandon at last.

Sex had never felt as good as it did when Simon came.

Simon let out a guttural moan as he thrust deep and stayed buried, joined to John for a long, silent moment. When he took another erratic thrust, John gripped him as tight as he could, helping milk out every bit of his orgasm. His body had brought a man to climax, and he savored every sound Simon made, every harsh breath and scrape of his fingernails on John's skin.

Finally Simon shuddered to a stop, stilling as deep as he could go and draping himself over John's back. His arms wrapped around John's torso and his sweaty face pressed between John's shoulder blades with the occasional absent kiss to the damp skin of his neck. They rested together, John bracing them both against the headboard, until Simon pushed himself up from John's back, cock slipping free.

Feeling their connection broken, John straightened up and turned himself around. Slowly he lowered himself down onto the bed, sore and strangely empty. He lay back on the pillow and stretched out his stiff limbs, wincing as his ass rubbed on the sheets.

Simon watched him out of the corner of his eye as he removed the used condom. "All right, Johnny?"

"Yeah, all right." He closed his eyes and stretched from head to toe, then looked over at Simon with a smile. "Never better."

Simon beamed, and John wanted to have Simon touching him again, if he could think of a way to do it without seeming like a clinging girl. Luckily for both of them, Simon's innately physical nature posed him no such problems. After he dropped the condom in the dustbin, he rolled back to John. His chin settled onto John's shoulder while one arm and leg draped over his body.

"Mission accomplished, then," he said with deserved smugness.

John's hand came up to cradle Simon's head. "So? How was I?"

"How were you? You were fantastic, of course."

"That sounds a tad obligatory." He ran his fingers lightly down the back of Simon's neck. "Just tell me I'm better than the others."

"What others?" Simon mouthed at the tender skin of John's throat, licked at his collarbone.

John tilted his head back, glad of the excuse to close his eyes before he spoke. "The other men you've had."

"I barely remember any other men." Simon didn't stop tasting John's skin between words. "That was all a long time ago."

"Yeah?" He should desist and he knew it, but he also knew he wasn't going to. "Just out of curiosity, who was it?"

"Nobody you know," Simon replied, casual but firm. John wondered if that was the same "nobody you know" he'd given Andy.

"How long ago, then?" He gripped the back of Simon's neck and gave him a little shake. "Come on, you've got to give me something here. You've had everything of me tonight."

"Not everything. Not yet, anyway. But all right." Simon propped his chin on one hand and looked at John with amused resignation. "I suppose it's been not quite fifteen years now."

"Fifteen years," he repeated, then cleared his throat. "Fifteen years. Tell me if I'm reading too much into that, please."

"You weren't the only who felt something, John. But not everyone waits decades to answer their questions."

He swallowed back a rush of vertigo. "I don't understand. Why someone else? Why didn't you come back to me?"

"How could I do that?" Simon's gaze was steady on John's face, and if there was any pain there, it stayed well hidden. "If you felt anything at all, you didn't seem to remember it, or want to acknowledge it. I thought I was alone."

"I'm just a little slow on the uptake, that's all," he said with a tight smile. "But I still wish you'd said something."

"I wouldn't have anyway. We were still band mates. Even back then I wasn't stupid enough to risk that. We had enough problems."

"Maybe so," he said, because Simon was right, though he still wanted to argue the point.

Simon's hand closed over John's fading erection, signaling an end to the discussion. "I see someone still has some urges left to quell."

"Mm." John pushed his hips up, pushing his cock through the loose circle of Simon's fingers. "Maybe a little."

"Nothing little about it." He squeezed a bit rougher, bringing a swift return of John's hardness. "I could jerk you off, but I suppose that doesn't seem nearly as exciting now as it did a couple of hours ago."

"Everything's ridiculously exciting tonight, believe me."

"I'm content to be your novelty toy for the evening." Without warning, Simon's mouth closed over the head of John's cock, sucking briefly before releasing it. "I could suck you off, but you know what a blowjob's like. It's not really much different."

He was too busy gasping from that brief moment of warm, wet stimulation to debate the issue. Especially when Simon kept talking.

"I think there's only one thing for it, really. You need to fuck me."

John's eyes snapped open before he even realized he'd closed them. "Don't joke," he managed to say.

"No joke. I think it's only right that you get to feel it from this end, too. So to speak. I can promise it'll be nearly as good as it was for me."

Fifteen years after his last time, Simon must surely be as tight as John's virgin ass had been. Suddenly his cock was rock hard with eagerness to find out. "Are you sure? I can't promise it'll be very good for you. I still don't know what the hell I'm doing."

"You know how to fuck. Don't worry about the details." Simon vanished for a moment; before John's dizzied eyes could track him, another condom landed on his chest. "And here's what else you need. Don't worry, it won't take but a few minutes."

John set the condom on the sheets beside him, then slowly sat up and took the lotion Simon was holding out to him. Still feeling dazed, he coated his fingers generously as Simon lay back down, knees up and open. "I never even thought to ask for this, you know."

"I know." Simon's eyes were closed, but he reached out unerringly to take John's hand and guide it between his legs. "That's why you didn't have to."

He touched Simon's cock first, which was still an astounding thing to do, even though he'd had it inside him not long ago. It was soft now, though it stirred beneath his gentle strokes. Over the years he'd heard any number of boasts from Simon about his recovery time, and John hoped it wasn't all just bragging. Simon made a noise of appreciation, but he tilted his hips up to make it clear what he was expecting. John obliged, handling Simon's balls gently for a moment, then finding the right place and pushing a finger in before he could weird himself out of it.

Simon was tight: tighter than John could have imagined, certainly tighter than any woman John had ever had. If this is what John had felt like around Simon's fingers, he marveled that the other man had lasted long enough to even get inside him properly. John wasn't sure he could.

But Simon was moaning now and pushing against his hand, and John didn't want to stop watching his face. He kept working Simon open with his fingers, stroking and probing as Simon's tired cock tried valiantly to stir. His own was at rigid attention, longing to get into the condom he was all too aware of behind him.

"For fuck's sake, I'm ready," Simon growled at last.

"Just a minute." He leaned in to take Simon's mouth without stopping his fingers below. Ready, yes, they were both ready, but he liked what he was doing to Simon, almost too much to stop.

But his dick was threatening to go on without him if he didn't. He caressed Simon's mouth one more time with his lips and tongue. When he pulled his fingers free, he felt the sudden rush of Simon's breath into his mouth.

He couldn't resist petting Simon's cock one more time, feeling it swell gently against his palm. He wanted Simon to be aroused, wanted him to feel what John had felt when Simon was in him.

Then he had to reach for the condom because his ability to wait had completely run out. He almost dropped the packet the first time, but on the second try he got it open, and the condom rolled smoothly onto his rigid flesh. If there was one skill he had taken from his years in Duran Duran, it was putting on a condom.

When he was ready and slick, he moved between Simon's legs. He leaned forward, bracing his hands on either side of Simon's chest, because it seemed right to kiss him once more before entering him. Simon smiled against his lips and combed his fingers through John's hair in encouragement.

"Do you want to turn over?" John murmured.

Simon responded by pushing John back and swinging his legs up onto John's shoulders. "Get on with it, before I change my mind."

He stroked Simon's thigh with one hand and steadied his cock with the other. "Oh, no. No changing your mind now, I couldn't take it," he said, then pressed forward and into Simon.

Even with only the tip of his cock inside, he could tell how this was going to be. He took a breath to compose himself. Beneath him, he could see Simon's chest rise and fall rapidly; he remembered the first pressure of entry, and breathing through the discomfort and into the pleasure.

He pushed in a little more. The velvet heat encompassed him as Simon's body slowly gave way and let him sink in. Nothing had ever been this warm and tight around him; it was a wonder the entire species wasn't gay if this was what it felt like.

A fine sheen covered Simon's forehead above his closed eyes. Maybe it was easier not to look at the guy doing you; maybe that was why he had put John on his knees before. At least it left John free to watch Simon as much as he liked, studying every reaction as he worked Simon open with his cock, inch by exquisite inch.

Then he couldn't push any further because Simon was completely open and John was completely in. The smooth skin of Simon's ass was warm and firm against John's balls, and hot and tight around John's cock. So tight that it almost killed him to stay still and give Simon the same time he'd given John.

But then Simon opened his eyes, which were pleasingly glassy, and he pushed himself up on one hand, reaching for John with the other. He was bent almost double as he dragged John's head to him for a hard, almost frantic kiss. John leaned forward to reach him, and it changed the angle in a way that made Simon gasp into John's mouth. "God, that's good."

"Bit strange after so long?" John stroked Simon's shoulder and down to his hip, trying to sound knowing.

"Oh, you've no idea." Simon let out a tremulous laugh, then let go of John and fell back onto the bed. "You really need to fuck me now."

"You've no idea." John gave up hope of sounding anything but needy. "I really do."

He pulled back as slowly as he could force himself to go. When he pushed back in a little faster, a little harder, he tried to find that angle that had made Simon gasp. This time Simon's breath hissed through his teeth, and John grinned and had to bite his lip against the pleasure that sound sent through him.

Simon was right. No matter who he was with, John still knew how to fuck.

So he fucked Simon as well as he could, as deep as he could, for as long as his control held out. He wanted to be the best lover Simon had ever had -- if he was even allowed to use that word, for as long as they were in this bed. Every sound Simon made, every response from his body, wore at his control and made him thrust that much harder and faster.

At least harder and faster seemed to be what Simon wanted as well. His cock had fully revived, stiff against his belly and moving with the rocking of their joined bodies. Simon made no move to touch it, keeping his hands clenched in the bed sheets on either side of his body. He moved only to arch his neck back on the pillow and push his hips up to meet John's thrusts.

John did not move to touch it, either. He had already decided how he wanted to make Simon come.

But first he was going to come himself, and he was going to come soon. "Charlie. I have to," he panted, trying to stay still long enough to talk, but thrusting again in spite of himself.

"Yeah, I know." Simon clenched hard around him on the next thrust. If it was desperation or permission, John didn't know and couldn't care because he was coming. The pleasure was pulsing out of him as he made as many sharp, jabbing thrusts as he could before burying himself all the way in. He was shooting into the condom, but it felt like he was spending himself deep in Simon's body, as though he could leave a mark inside him.

They stayed like that, deeply joined, until he had to pull out. Simon's legs slipped off his shoulders, leaving the other man lying there, splayed and aroused and watching him with heavy eyes. The look gave him butterflies, but his hands were surprisingly steady as he pulled the condom from his dick, tied it off and lobbed it into the bin to join the one Simon had used.

Then he slid down the bed until his head was between Simon's legs. Simon made a sound of surprise, choked off as John's mouth found Simon's cock.

The stiff flesh filled his mouth even with his hand wrapped around the base. He tasted salty skin, bitter pre-come, and a hint of latex from their earlier act. When he teased the head, he felt the response in the vein under his tongue, the thighs that tensed, and the hands that suddenly clamped onto his head. Maybe it was true that a cut cock was more sensitive. Or maybe Simon was simply so aroused that every sensation was more acute. John liked the idea either way.

This was not to be a long, slow blowjob. Simon was beyond that even for his second orgasm of the night. John's head bobbed up and down on Simon's cock, using everything he knew from his own experience on the receiving end, and hoped that whatever he did would be good enough at this point. His free hand wandered down to Simon's balls and played there for a moment before inspiration struck.

He took Simon as deep into his mouth as he could and suckled him gently. Then his hand left Simon's balls and two fingers slid into the slick hole beneath them.

So good to be back there in that tightness, and even better for Simon from the way his back arched off the bed. His cries made John wish there were any chance of getting it up again tonight. The cries grew more intense as John worked him intently, until they were a wordless but clear warning.

John ignored the warning. Simon's fingers pulled at his head, trying to move him. He ignored that warning, too, until the pulls softened into caresses and those fingers tangled into his hair, cradling his head as Simon came to his release.

Thick come filled his mouth, just as he'd wanted. He found he didn't mind the taste of it, though he wasn't ready for swallowing. When Simon was done, he pulled off and leaned over the edge of the bed to spit into the dustbin. Then he crawled up to lie next to Simon, one leg over Simon's lax thigh.

"So maybe all blowjobs are more or less the same," he said with some cheer as he watched Simon gulping air into his lungs. "But I must know how I compared on the other."

"That was hardly the same old blowjob." Simon tried to laugh as he turned his face toward John. "I take all that rubbish back."

"But tell me how I rate on the fucking," John insisted with a little grin. Nothing wrong with blatant fishing for compliments in the sack, was there? He'd earned the right this time.

Simon smiled. "You were tops. Not that I've any basis for comparison."

John frowned. "What do you mean?"

"I've never had it from that end before. So I suppose we both learned something new tonight."

Something hot and dark twisted in his stomach. "But I thought you said--."

"I said I'd done guys before." Simon shrugged. "I didn't say anything about the other way around."

It shouldn't have been such a shock, given that he'd decided on this proposition before he'd known Simon had any experience at all. "So I was--? Charlie--"

"You didn't think I'd let just anyone do that to me, did you, Johnny?" Simon leaned forward to kiss him very gently on the nose. "What time do you have to get up? Do you want me to have the concierge ring?"

"No," John managed, dragging his thoughts back to the cold reality. "My mobile has an alarm."

He leaned out to the night table to find his phone. By the time he remembered how the alarm worked and got it set, Simon lay with his face burrowed into his pillow and the rest of him sprawled over his side of the bed.

"Wake me before you leave," he mumbled, already mostly asleep when John settled back at his side.

"I will," John promised in a whisper.

"Don't forget," Simon insisted, but his breath evened into sleep before John could answer.

Instead he reached to pull the covers up over them once again, but once again he stopped. He felt the chill of the room now that his body was losing the heat from sex, but Simon seemed oblivious to it. And John wanted to stay naked with him just a little longer.

He finally turned out the light, too tired to think. Every muscle felt drained, craving sleep, but as his eyes adjusted to the dimness, he found himself only watching Simon sleep as the short hours passed until dawn.

By then he was on the other side of physical exhaustion. He even wished he could wake Simon to make love again -- and when had he started thinking of this as lovemaking? But that was fair enough: they had loved each other long before a sexual thought had crossed their minds about each other. If they let this disrupt that, then it was all for nothing.

Too late now, anyway: with a minute to go before the alarm rang, he turned it off and slipped out of bed. He found his clothes and dressed quietly, letting Simon sleep. What would they say to each other if he woke him? Cheers for the fuck, mate? Look me up when you're in town, maybe we can do it again? Please don't think less of me for doing this?

Better to leave things as they were.

The hotel stationery was crisp and thick, a snowy field of blank space. The pen was heavy and elegant; he was surprised Simon hadn't already stolen it. The point hovered over the paper for a moment, then wrote three simple lines in his scrawling hand:

Thank you.
I love you.
Will talk when I get home.

He left the sheet of paper on the night table on Simon's side of the bed. Then he bent over and finally pulled the duvet up over Simon's naked body. Would this satisfy him now? Would he finally stop thinking about it? Would Simon even still be here when he called?

No, he had asked enough questions for one night. One more answer might actually send him mad.

He tucked the covers around his friend's bare shoulders in a silent good-bye. Then he left the bed, slipped out the door, and tried to leave his questions behind.