Robbie Lewis had never considered himself to be the jealous type. He’d never tried to start trouble when other men had shown an interest in Val; he’d always known that she loved him, and he was the one she went home with at the end of every night. He’d had mates who had mucked up relationships by believing women were their possessions, and God knew he’d seen it enough in his work. He’d been confident he'd never make that mistake: besides being wrong, it was bloody stupid.
But now that he was living with a man more than twenty years his junior, he was ashamed to admit there were times when he felt that ugly emotion rear its head. He knew it was born of insecurity – never mind that James knew full well what he’d let himself in for, and that he’d been the one to pursue Robbie in the beginning; Robbie still couldn’t help wondering when the lad was going to wake up and realise this whole thing was ridiculous. Add to that the fact that since Robbie had retired nearly a year ago and James had handed in his papers, they’d taken away the one thing Robbie thought they truly had in common – the job.
In spite of the doubts, Robbie had been happier than he'd been in years these past few months. James was good company, and they'd settled into a domestic arrangement that suited them; while James worked as a junior researcher and continued his studies in the evenings, Robbie took up gardening, coached some of Oxford's finest young delinquents in rugby, and volunteered at the old folks' home where James' gran lived. Thanks to her influence, he was quite the popular attraction, and there were several ladies who liked to joke about stealing him away from his young man. They traded off chores – Robbie had even learned to cook, after a fashion – and allowed the other their space when they needed it, because they'd both been solitary for some time. Old habits and all that bollocks.
Of course, one of James' favourite hobbies was still his music, and Robbie encouraged it. He loved to hear James play of an evening while he finished washing dishes or sat and read a book, and his singing voice was lovely. His group played the occasional concert, and Robbie attended every one, sitting proudly in the front row. At times like that, when James sat with his head bowed, so intent on creating beauty with his hands and his voice, Robbie was glad he'd decided to quit the force. James was frightfully smart, and he'd been a damned good copper, but it would have worn him down, bit by bit. Robbie loved him too much to want that for him, no matter how much good he might have done in the job.
They'd gone along like that for a few months, and it had been good, really, but there'd always been the doubt, gnawing at the back of Robbie's brain. James wasn't ugly by any stretch of the imagination, and sometimes when they'd go out and a woman or a man would come up to them and, assuming James was out with his dad, ask the lad if he'd like to dance or share a drink. James would smile and politely decline, then lay his hand atop Robbie's, and the other person would invariably give them the same look, always tinged with that hint of bewilderment. Robbie knew that feeling well, because it still surprised the hell out of him, that James chose him every time, without a moment's hesitation.
And then three months ago, Colin had joined James' band.
Colin was a couple of years younger than James and easily the most gorgeous bloke Robbie had ever seen outside of a film, and right from the start, it had been clear he'd set his cap for James. Whenever Robbie picked James up from rehearsal or attended a concert, Colin was all over him – well, as much as James would allow, which wasn't very much, but still more than Robbie had seen him tolerate from anyone else. To be fair, Colin was handsy with everyone, but he reserved special attention for James, and every time Robbie saw him lay a hand on James' shoulder or stand so close to him James had to step backwards to draw a breath, he wanted to walk over there and punch Colin in the face.
Which was – horrible, and disturbing on so many levels. Robbie had never been a violent man, not since he'd been sixteen and too hormonal to know his arse from his elbow. He would think about calmly telling Colin to lay off, then remember it wasn't his place to tell Colin anything of the sort. James didn't belong to him; it was up to him to let Colin know he wasn't comfortable with his behaviour.
And that swiftly led Robbie to the conclusion that James probably hadn't told Colin to sod off, which meant perhaps he was comfortable with the touching and the closeness. And why wouldn't he be? Colin was young and beautful, he was an inspired piano player, and he taught bloody mediaeval literature. He had so much more in common with James than Robbie ever would, and Christ, if he were James, he'd know who would get his vote.
After he came to that conclusion, Robbie spent a week tied up in knots, waiting for James to come home one day and tell him the news. He could hardly eat, and went to bed early though he didn't sleep once he was there. James shot him concerned looks and questions all week, but Robbie rebuffed every one, until finally James stopped asking.
When the weekend rolled around, James announced that he had a 'private function' he had to attend with the band, and Robbie's heart sank. This was it, then. Well, best get it over.
“I won't be home until late, I expect,” James said, his gaze everywhere but on Robbie. “Don't bother waiting up.”
“Right,” Robbie said. “Us oldsters need our rest.”
James stared at him for a moment, then crossed the room and dropped to his knees in front of Robbie. “I wish you would tell me what's wrong,” he said fervently.
Robbie looked into his eyes; God, he was more than anyone deserved. It was pure luck Robbie had been able to keep him for as long as he had. “I'm fine,” he said hollowly. “Just a little tired.”
James leaned forwards and kissed him hard on the mouth. “If you're not feeling better by Monday, I want you calling the doctor, all right? No more arguments.”
“Yeah,” Robbie said. “No more arguments.”
James cocked his head at him, as though listening for something, then rose and left the house without another word. Robbie heard the key turn in the lock and let out a long, shuddering breath.
God, he was so bloody tired.
Robbie started awake when he heard the key turn in the front door lock. His neck was bent at an odd angle, and it screamed in protest as he straightened. The room was dark, so Robbie was hidden when James came down the corridor and was momentarily illuminated in the light from the kitchen.
Robbie sucked in a sharp breath at what he saw. “Holy fuck,” he breathed.
James stopped dead, eyes going wide.
His mascaraed eyes.
His lips parted.
His lipstick-covered lips.
He was wearing a full-length coat that Robbie hadn't seen on him before, and where it gaped open he could see – he could see –
“Is that a – a corset?” Robbie asked, gobsmacked.
James swiftly wrapped the coat around himself. “You were supposed to be asleep!” he said, voice accusatory.
“I was! I fell asleep in the bloody chair, didn't I?” Slowly, as though in a dream, Robbie reached out to turn on on a lamp, then rose to his feet and crossed over to James. Closer, he could see the extent of the makeup on him: eyeliner, mascara, blush, stylized eyeshadow, pencilled-on eyebrows –
“Bugger, you're – you're –”
“Cold, and royally pissed off, and oh yes, I'm wearing fishnet stockings,” James snapped, then immediately closed his eyes and shook his head. “Never mind, I'm sorry. Not your fault.”
“No, I mean you're made up like Frank N. Furter in Rocky Horror.” James' eyes widened even further; Christ, how had Robbie never noticed how long his eyelashes were?
“You – know that movie?”
Robbie's astonishment momentarily yielded to exasperation. “'Course I know it. I saw it in the bloody theatre when it first came out.” When I was twenty and you weren't even a gleam in your father's eye, Robbie didn't say.
“Well, I'd never seen it. It's not as though seminary students are known to do the Time Warp in their smalls.”
Robbie's gut knotted. “And someone convinced you you should.”
James lifted his chin. “Colin invited me to a showing. Said it was his obligation to show me everything I'd missed of the university experience.”
“Just Colin. Not the band.”
“I lied,” James murmured. “And I'm ashamed of myself for it. Colin has this way of making you question things you believed about yourself – but no, it's not his fault, it's mine. All I can say is that I'm sorry.”
Robbie shook his head. “You don't need to apologise, lad,” he said wearily. Forcing himself to look James in the eye, he said, “If this isn't what you want any longer, you only have to say.”
James blinked at him. “You – what are you talking about?”
“If you'd rather be with Colin – ”
“Oh, God, no, no,” James breathed, placing his hands on Robbie's face. “I didn't tell you because I knew you'd think it was silly. And I know you can't stand Colin.” He paused, his gaze searching. “Oh. That's why you can't stand him. Because you think I – but I would never – ”
“I know that, lad. I know. But I didn't think,” Robbie admitted, feeling more ashamed by the moment. “I would see him touch you and feel like a bloody caveman.”
James' hands slid to his shoulders. “You were jealous.”
“Yeah, I was,” Robbie grated. “Anyone could see he's a better match for you.”
James shook his head. “God, we're both far too smart to be this bloody stupid.” At Robbie's frown, James said, “Colin is – he's not anything like me. And he's not the first one to call me a stick in the mud, but he's the first one I've actually listened to. Partly because he's very persuasive, but also because – well, let's just say you're not the only one who's been at a bit of a loose end since leaving the force.”
“You never said,” Robbie murmured.
“Yeah, I know,” James said, smiling softly. “I thought you had enough to deal with.” He leaned in, nuzzling Robbie's ear. “So that was me being stupid. Sorry.”
Robbie closed his eyes. “You don't want to leave, then.”
“No. Never,” James whispered. “You're stuck with me.”
Robbie sighed, relief flooding through him. “I can live with that.”
“Good. I'd like to hear more about this caveman streak of yours,” James said. Robbie felt the scrape of teeth against his earlobe and shivered. “As soon as I get this ridiculous kit off.”
Robbie pulled back. Reaching up, he brushed James' lower lip with his thumb. “I don't mind the kit, actually.”
James stared at him. “Really?”
“Yeah. I might have had a bit of a thing for Tim Curry back in the day.”
James' rouged mouth curled into a wicked smile. “Did you.”
Smiling back, Robbie slid the long coat off James' shoulders, then stepped back to look at him. James flinched, then straightened, letting Robbie look his fill.
“Blimey,” Robbie breathed. The costume was authentic. Very authentic. And while he could honestly say he'd never imagined James in stockings and a black skin-tight corset, he had to admit it was a good look on him. But then, James looked good to him, full stop.
“Robbie,” James breathed, leaning down, and Robbie surged up to meet him. He sucked on James' lower lip, tasting James' lipstick, and James groaned and broke away, gasping.
Robbie licked at his Adam's apple. “Did he touch you tonight? While you were wearing this?”
“Groped my bum during the Sweet Transvestite number,” James rasped.
Robbie bit down on the tendon in James' neck. “What'd you do?”
“Told him to sod off and left.”
Robbie chuckled, then ran his hand down the front of James' corset. James let his head drop against Robbie's shoulder, and he realised James was watching Robbie touch him. “Got to admit this isn't the reaction I would have expected,” James panted.
Robbie's hand drifted lower, and James groaned. “Glad I can still surprise you,” Robbie growled.
“Robbie, fuck,” James hissed. Pulling him into another kiss, Robbie began backing him toward the bedroom, James stumbling in the high-heeled boots. When they finally made it, Robbie shoved him down onto the bed and climbed on top of him, pinning his wrists to the mattress. James stared up at him, his lipstick a messy smear across his mouth, and Robbie had to catch his breath.
“You're mine, aren't you?” Robbie murmured, wondering at it. “You're really mine.”
“Yours,” James said, gaze unwavering. “And you're mine.”
Slowly, Robbie leaned down and kissed him, savouring the sweetness of James' words. He let go of one wrist to begin unlacing the corset, James' free hand joining him to help.
James emerged from the loo with his face scrubbed clean. “I'm appalled that women put themselves through that every night.”
“Most women don't usually wear quite that much,” Robbie observed dryly, as James climbed into bed and settled in his arms.
“Hmmmm,” James said. “S'pose so.” There was a pause where Robbie wondered if James had drifted off already, then: “Can't believe you made me leave the boots and stockings on.”
“I didn't make you do anything,” Robbie protested.
James kissed his chest. “My caveman.”
“Oh, shut up and go to sleep.”
“Yes, sir,” James drawled. Just for that, Robbie reached down and pinched his bum.
“I like it better when you do it,” James whispered, and Robbie kissed his still-damp hair as sleep took him.