“Erm,” Stefan said.
Which was not exactly what Rash wanted to hear when Stefan was staring at his cock.
But perhaps it would be best to start at the beginning.
Rash and Stefan had been living in the flat over a month now, and they'd more or less adapted to the other's quirks and odd habits. To clarify, Rash had no quirks or odd habits of his own, but he had adapted to letting Stefan know exactly how much he hated clutter and not getting his proper rest because his flatmate came home drunk and singing loudly in Polish at 2 AM. Stefan, in turn, had adapted well to living up to his expectations. Mostly.
“I wouldn't mind so much if it weren't the same bloody song over and over again,” Rash said once. “What's it about, anyway?”
Stefan had frozen at that, his spoonful of yoghurt halfway to his mouth. “Why do you want to know?”
“I'm curious, aren't I? It's obviously your favourite song, you sing it all the time.”
“I don't sing it 'all the time',” Stefan said peevishly. “Only when I'm pissed.”
When there was no explanation forthcoming, Rash made a complicated well, are you going to tell me? You know I don't speak Polish movement with his eyebrows.
“It's not important,” Stefan huffed. “It's just a song my mother used to sing when I was growing up.”
Rash's eyebrows fell, conveying his utter disappointment. Stefan suddenly found his yoghurt fascinating again, shoveling it into his mouth as if it were the cure to some mysterious illness.
“I knew this was a bad idea,” Rash snapped, suddenly keen to be anywhere but there.
Strong hands gripped his thighs, preventing him from pushing himself to his feet. “Shhhh, I didn't mean anything by it,” Stefan murmured. “It's only – I've never done this with somebody who's cut.”
Rash felt his cheeks heat. It wasn't the first time he'd heard that particular observation, though usually in a less neutral tone. “Most Iranian men are.”
“Yeah, sorry,” Stefan said.
Rash, his gut churning, began to wriggle back into his pants.
“Oi, oi, what're you – ”
“You said 'sorry',” Rash bit out. “That's pretty clear –”
“I meant I'm sorry I didn't know, alright?” Stefan's hands were now stroking Rash's thighs in a way that could only be described as soothing. “I didn't mean 'sorry, I don't want to suck your cock any more'.” He paused, smiling up at Rash, his eyes twinkling under his ridiculously thick lashes. “Because I do. I really, really do.”
Rash's dick twitched at that, and Stefan beamed, the smug bastard. Rash hated that smug look. Rash opened his mouth to tell him that.
And then Stefan opened his mouth, and Rash forgot what he’d been planning to say. And what day of the week it was. And his own name.
Because Rash was a good detective, it didn't take him very long to find out which song Stefan was singing. He'd essentially memorized the melody after the third drunken rendition, and he knew the song had to be at least fifteen years old, and perhaps as much as forty if it was a song from Stefan's mother's generation. One evening after supper, he searched YouTube for nearly two hours, his earbuds in so that Stefan wouldn't know he was listening to the first twenty seconds of every Polish pop song written since the early Seventies.
He stumbled upon Marek Grechuta in a search for “Polish ballads”, though he'd almost dismissed him because he was advertised more as a poet than a singer. As soon as he listened to the first song, however, the familiarity of it hit him immediately. It was undoubtedly Stefan's song, though of course Stefan's rendition lacked the violins and copious backup singers.
He was searching for a translation when Stefan came sauntering into the living room in his pants, as he'd been doing off and on ever since summer had arrived with a vengeance, never mind that the flat was equipped with air con. “Whut'ch d'n'?” he asked, because in his wander through the kitchen he'd unerringly located the last remaining croissant aux pistaches and had half of it stuffed in his gob.
“That was tomorrow's breakfast,” Rash said half-heartedly, partly because he'd long since given up trying to defend his pastry against Stefan's onslaught, and partly because he was being slapped in the face by line after line of badly-translated lyrics and thinking fuck, I am the worst detective ever.
When I don’t see you, I don’t sigh, I don’t cry
I don’t lose my head when I look at you
“I'll buy you another tomorrow morning on the way to the DLR,” Stefan said, mostly coherently.
Rash glanced up from his screen. “I like eating in the flat. Sitting down. Peacefully. Before I'm rushing out the door.”
However if I don’t see you for a long time
I am missing something, someone I must see
Stefan grinned, unexpectedly. “I know. That's why I bought this one –” he brandished the remaining pastry, flakes flying everywhere “– on the way home. Yours is still in the kitchen.”
“Berk,” Rash said, without the least bit of heat.
And longing, I’m asking myself a question:
“Yeah,” Stefan agreed, popping the last bit in his mouth, “But'm y'r berk.”
Is it friendship? Or is it love?
Rash shook his head. He might as well turn in his bloody warrant card in the morning, after scoffing that pastry.
“Oh,” was all Rash could say. “Oh.”
And then Stefan did this thing with his tongue, and Rash's hips bucked up, involuntarily.
“Oh, God, sorry, sorry,” when Stefan gagged and pulled off.
“S'alright, just – need a little warning,” Stefan said, nosing at Rash's cock as though he couldn't stand to be far from it. “Or we could –”
And then he gripped Rash's hips in both of his hands and Rash watched his forearms bulge as he pressed him down into the couch and fuck, okay, that was not going to in any way prevent him from coming embarrassingly quickly. Luckily, Stefan seemed to sense this, because he kept the nuzzling up for a bit, with the occasional lick or –
“Oi! That was a bite, you prick!”
“No, that was a bite to your bollock,” Stefan corrected, looking up at him with that mischievous smile that always made Rash want to shove him up against the nearest convenient surface. “Clearly your powers of observation are a bit shit. You sure you're a detective?”
“You are literally the worst person ev– ” The rest of the word trailed off into a mortifying groan as Stefan soothed the sensitive skin he'd bitten with openmouthed kisses before swallowing his cock down again like it didn't belong anywhere but down Stefan's throat, and fuck, fuck –
Hard on the heels of Rash's discovery that Stefan was drunkenly expressing his feelings through the Polish equivalent of classic rock came the realisation that there could be any number of people – including, to his utter horror, his sister – who might be the object of Stefan's affections. While it was true that Stefan flirted shamelessly with Rash on a regular basis, it was also true that Stefan flirted shamelessly with everybody and everything. There were probably inanimate objects that had been on the receiving end of the Kowolski charm. For all Rash knew, Stefan's drunken warbling could be aimed at one of the Trafalgar Square lions. Or any number of random plane trees along the Embankment.
“So,” Rash began one day the following week, when he was out to lunch with his sister. “You and Stefan. Erm. I mean, are you thinking that maybe –”
Leila stared at him as though he'd suddenly grown horns. “Of course not.”
For a split second, Rash felt a bit put out on Stefan's account. “Why not?
“You're living with him now, aren't you?” Leila said. “That's a pretty clear signal that he's taken.”
“What? No, we're – flatmates.” It occurred to him that he probably shouldn't have hesitated before that last word, because his sister smirked. He hated it when his sister smirked.
“Oh, honey,” Leila began, her expression softening, and that was even worse, because she never called him honey, “listen, I understand, but you don't have to keep it a secret any more.”
“There's no big secret, I'm telling you. Stefan and I – we're not together. And I like girls.” Both statements were completely true, and the fact that Rash had known for some time that his preferences were rather, erm, inclusive – did not invalidate either of those facts. Omissions had always worked for him before with his family.
Leila leaned forward on the table and steepled her fingers. “Mum and I had a long talk after you moved in with Stefan.”
“Erm,” Rash said, because he had not been expecting that. To his mortification, Leila ploughed on, heedless of his verbal squirming.
“Look, I've known for a long time that you were probably – well, I don't want to impose a label on you, because it's not up to me to decide your identity –”
“Please stop,” Rash croaked, burying his face in his hands.
“– but I wasn't certain of mum, if she'd acknowledged or accepted it. You know, she's a modern Persian woman, but there is still that idea that you're the son, that you're going to carry on the family name –”
“No, really, please stop,” Rash muttered.
“– and I wanted to discuss the issues with her so that she wouldn't make a fuss about them.”
“Thank you?” Rash said, raising his head. “But – but – what issues are you talking about?”
“Well, not issues,” Leila said, “but I mean marriage, children, all of that.”
“Oh, god,” Rash moaned.
“Look, it went really well,” Leila assured him, gripping his forearm in a gesture of misplaced solidarity. “I think she understands now, about you and Stefan.”
“Okay, that's great,” Rash managed, rubbing at the spot between his eyebrows. “That's great, thank you.”
So while that answered the question of whether or not his sister had feelings for Stefan – in a conversation that had made him want to claw off his own ears – the question of who Stefan had feelings for was no closer to being answered. Rash knew he'd have to confront Stefan one way or another, but by the time three weeks had gone by and no opportunity had presented itself, he was close to dying from utter frustration.
And then life served up another opportunity, and because this was the way life worked now that he knew Stefan, it managed it in the most embarrassing way possible. They were sat on the couch one Monday night, as they usually did on Mondays since Stefan was usually skint after clubbing at the weekend. They couldn't agree on a film, so Stefan was idly flipping through the channels, trying to find something good. It was a losing battle in midsummer, and Rash was about to tell him he was going to bed, when suddenly a dick appeared on the screen.
A real dick. Not a metaphorical one, like Piers Morgan or the Foreign Secretary.
“What the –” Rash blinked at the screen. “It's only a little past ten, isn't it?”
Stefan snapped his fingers at the telly. Or perhaps the dick itself. “Oh, oh, I've heard about this! It's called Naked Attraction.”
There was now a woman eyeing the dick from a short distance and offering a nuanced critique that included an assessment of how easily she'd be able to sit on it. “It's like she's inspecting a cut of meat in a butcher's window,” Rash observed, more than slightly horrified.
“The last chicken in the shop?” Stefan offered, flashing a grin.
Rash glared at him. Stefan shrugged, grin fading, then turned back to the programme.
“I wish I could get close enough to smell them,” the woman on the screen was saying, “there's nothing worse than a musty set of bollocks, you know what I mean?”
“For fuck's sake,” Rash said. He reached for the remote, but Stefan snatched it up before he could. His fingertips skittered over the back of Stefan's wrist, and he went shockingly hot all over at the contact.
“Leave it,” Stefan admonished. “This is the most hilarious thing ever.”
“It's the most obscene thing ever!” Rash protested. “I can't believe this is on telly!”
“I imagine there are at least a hundred pensioners phoning in to Ofcom right now,” Stefan agreed amiably. “You can join them if you like.”
“Ha ha,” Rash snapped. “No, seriously, how is this even allowed?”
“I don't know,” Stefan mused, eyes glued to the screen. “Because she clearly has shit taste.”
“I – you – sorry, what?” Rash spluttered.
“She's picked that one,” Stefan said, nodding at the rather thick, blunt cock on the screen. “And she should have picked the second one, shouldn't she?”
“And – erm – what makes you say that?” Rash managed weakly.
“Look, she is clearly including cocksucking as part of her assessment.” Stefan frowned. “Or is that 'cocksuckability'? Anyway.” He flapped a hand, unconcerned. “The point is that the second one is a perfect specimen on that front. Not too big, not too small. Nice length, but it won't end up halfway down your oesophagus. Kind of like the last bowl of porridge in the 'three bears' story, yeah? Just right.”
Rash opened his mouth. No sound emerged.
“That one she's picked will choke her good and proper. Although some people like that sort of thing, I suppose,” he added, winking. Winking. Rash was beginning to feel slightly faint.
“You sound like,” Rash finally managed to croak, “like you're, erm.”
Stefan raised his eyebrows at him expectantly.
“I mean, like you've –”
“Sucked cock?” Stefan enquired cheerfully, batting his eyelashes. “I have a few times, yeah. Problem?”
“No, no, of course not, I just – I didn't know. I mean, that you.”
“Yeah, I had a 'knob-gobbler' t-shirt once, but it got a bit faded, so I gave it to the Salvation Army.”
“Oh, shut up,” Rash said, laughing in spite of the jumbled mess of embarrassment, shock and completely unwarranted hope that was currently churning round in his stomach.
There was a weird, electric pause in the conversation. On the screen, the woman had made her selection. Rash noted that it was the bloke with the wrong cock.
“So I take it you've never –“
Rash's head turned, but Stefan had stopped talking, and his eyes were still glued to the screen. He swallowed before answering the unspoken question. “Have I ever – erm, no. I haven't.”
Stefan nodded tightly. Rash tried to read disappointment in his features, but he was probably seeing things. Sighing, Rash turned back to the screen as well; another, lengthier silence followed the previous one.
Rash had no idea why the next words came out of his mouth. Perhaps it was the five minutes of staring at cocks; perhaps it was a desire to reciprocate Stefan's honesty by offering a confession of his own. Either way, as soon as it was said he knew it was a mistake. Because it made him sound utterly, utterly pathetic.
“Never had it done to me, either, if I'm honest.”
This time, Stefan turned towards him, though he remained worryingly silent. Rash felt himself flush. “Oh God, just forget I said anything, all right? I'm going to bed.”
He made to rise from the couch, but a strong hand shot out and gripped his wrist.
“Hey,” Stefan said softly. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable.” His thumb slid over Rash's pulse point, and Rash suppressed a shiver.
Rash cleared his throat. “You didn't. It's not your fault I admitted something ridiculously embarrassing.”
Stefan shook his head. “There's nothing to be embarrassed about. If it's not something you're into, it's not something you're into. That's perfectly fine.”
“I wouldn't really know if it was something I was or wasn't 'into', would I?” Rash snapped. “I mean, it wasn't my choice.”
Stefan's eyes widened. “You mean – no one's ever offered?”
Rash pinched the bridge of his nose. “Please make me stop talking.” Stefan let go of his wrist, and Rash prepared to beat a hasty retreat.
And then Stefan's hand landed on his knee. Well, it was above the knee; more like the thigh.
Rash licked his lips. “Erm,” he said. “Stefan?”
Stefan's gaze was intent, and his hand felt as though it were burning a hole in Rash's trousers. “So if someone were to offer,” Stefan said slowly, “you might be interested?”
Rash's cock twitched in his pants. He didn't think cocks actually did that.
“A-and that 'someone' would be – you,” Rash ventured.
By way of response, Stefan's hand crept a couple of inches higher. This time, Rash did shiver.
“Problem?” Stefan murmured, his breath tickling Rash's ear as he leaned in.
Rash gulped air. “No, none at all, I'm surprisingly on board with the idea mys – oh,” he gasped, because Stefan had just pressed the flat of his palm to the outline of Rash's growing erection.
“Mmm, yeah, you seem to be,” Stefan remarked with a smirk, which would have earned him a glare from Rash if he weren't so unspeakably turned on at the minute.
Stefan stood up from the couch and dropped gracefully to his knees in front of Rash, who bit back a whimper, because there was no need to lose all self-respect. And then Stefan's expression turned open and hot and hungry and he leaned in and whispered, “I'm going to make you feel fucking fantastic,” and Rash swiftly changed his mind, because whimpering was really a perfectly acceptable response to the situation, and who the fuck needed self-respect anyway.
“That was – that was, erm –” Rash began, panting.
“Stop trying to be coherent,” Stefan said. “It's very insulting.”
“Just get up here,” Rash ordered, tugging ineffectually at Stefan's shoulder. His other arm, he realised, was draped dramatically across his eyes as though he were a stereotype of a fainting Victorian maiden with a too-tight corset.
Stefan obeyed his summons, eeling up to sit close to Rash on the couch. “All right, then?” he asked innocently. He leaned in, fastened his lips to Rash's neck and produced a wet farting noise.
Rash shoved ineffectually at Stefan's head with the fainting maiden arm; it had gone completely boneless. “You utter gobshite, you know perfectly well it was. I'm fucking broken.”
“Too broken to return the favour?”
Rash hesitated, and Stefan raised his head. “I – erm,” Rash began, blushing, “I don't know if I –”
“I didn't mean the specifics, necessarily,” Stefan assured him quickly, and Rash tried not to look relieved. “Whatever you like is fine.”
“Right,” Rash said. “Well, then.” He turned towards Stefan and took a deep breath. “I suppose I could, erm.” Biting his own tongue to stifle the awkward babble, he pressed his hand to the front of Stefan's pants.
Stefan looked down at the place where Rash was touching him, said, “Oh,” softly, and then Rash felt Stefan's cock pulsing against his palm.
“Christ,” Stefan added feelingly, flopping back against the couch as though he'd been shot.
Rash was quick to recover from the initial shock. “All right, then?” he cooed, leaning in to nuzzle at Stefan's ear.
“It's been a while,” Stefan huffed. “Also, I might have – been thinking about that.”
Stefan stared at him as though he'd grown an extra head. “About what? About sex. With you. You insufferable. Git.”
Rash tried to play it cool for all of two seconds. “Really?” he asked, grinning.
Stefan's expression softened. “Yeah,” he murmured. Sitting upright again, he nuzzled at Rash's jaw line, and Rash shivered.
“I've thought about you, too. Have done for a while.” Rash took a deep breath. “That – erm – that song got me thinking about it.”
“What song?” Stefan murmured, barely pausing as he planted a trail of kisses along Rash's jugular.
“That –” Rash's breath hitched; goodness, why was that so erotic “– that, that song you keep singing whenever you come home drunk.”
This time Stefan did pause, raising his head. “The Polish song? What, you speak Polish now?”
“No. I –” Rash took a deep breath and ploughed ahead without pausing. “IsearchedYouTubeuntilIfoundit.”
Stefan blinked at him for a moment, and Rash wondered if he really needed oxygen anyway.
And then Stefan's face lit up.
“You wanted to know if it was about you.”
Rash felt his cheeks set themselves on fire, which of course made Stefan's silly grin grow impossibly wider.
“You did. You wanted to know if you were being serenaded.”
“Shut up,” Rash said, stung. He glanced down at himself, dishevelled, a patchwork of rumpled clothes and spunk-splattered skin, and why in the world did he allow himself to be made such a fool for this blond bas–
“Well, you were,” Stefan said, breath warm at Rash's ear. “I just never thought you'd figure it out.”
Rash felt his tensed muscles relax, and he may have leaned just a little into the kiss Stefan brushed against his cheek.
“I am a detective,” Rash pointed out, glancing at Stefan out of the corner of his eye.
“One who knows how to find YouTube,” Stefan observed drily.
“That took some bloody deductive skill!” Rash protested. “I don't even speak Polish!”
Stefan was grinning now, and Rash deflated. “Oh, never mind.”
“I could teach you Polish,” Stefan said, “if you like. And then you can serenade me.”
“I'll sing to you in Farsi, see how you like that,” Rash grumbled.
“I'd love it,” Stefan murmured, tilting Rash's chin with a finger and slotting their mouths together.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Rash panted when they parted. “The only Persian songs I know are disco.”
“Rash,” Stefan said, cupping Rash's cheek. “Listen. I'm not going anywhere.”
Rash shook his head. “That's not what I'm –”
“You are, though you might not realise it.” Stefan blew out a breath. “Look, I don't know who the prick was who didn't appreciate how bloody lucky they were, but I'm not them. And I already know what a supercilious little swot you can be –”
“– and I just think it's adorable at this point, which I know is sick-making, but I can't help it. So how about we enjoy this new phase of our relationship? Because I intend to enjoy the hell out of it. Preferably beginning right now with the two of us naked, in the bed of your choice.”
“Mine has an orthopaedic mattress, so I'd prefer that one.”
Stefan just looked at him with cow eyes. After a long moment, Rash sighed and dragged him off the couch and down the hall.
It was a bit sick-making. But Rash reckoned he could get used to it.