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The Great Farce of Love

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Initiating sex with Sybil went one of two ways. She either said yes, or she said no. There was no grey area. It was rare Basil ever initiated such things anyway, because Basil never initiated anything. He was an Englishman after all, and Englishmen did not ask for sex.

The last time Basil found it within himself to be brazen about such acts was a weekend away during the summer of ‘65. He hadn’t thought much about it at the time. It could’ve been the wine, the heat, or the fifty pounds he'd won on the horses, but something made him sweep Sybil into an unfaltering kiss outside their Paignton hotel room, his hand sneaking up her mini skirt without her permission. The bonus was her shocked gaze when he did it, which stirred an exhilaration within him he hadn't felt in a long while.

An interesting evening followed, but when she found his winnings and betting slip the next morning... well, he didn't get a look in for several months after that. She might as well have frozen his genitals off all together. The slightest touch at her waist and she'd slap his hand away.

Needless to say, he never tried it on with her following a flutter again.


Running a hotel made excuses easy.

The accounts need doing, dear. They’ll keep me up all night.

Hmm. That’s the only thing you’ll be getting up these days, isn't it, Basil?

Such crass jibes didn't bother him, especially when they came from her. It stung on that occasion though because, ironically, he'd never had problems getting it up. To bite back at Sybil, he made snide remarks about her dirty books, enough to make her ignore him for the foreseeable future, which suited him just fine thank-you-very-much. Until one night, when it became too hard to ignore his basic human needs, he crept up behind Sybil and kissed her shoulder while she un-rolled her hair in the bathroom.

The What the hell do you think you're doing? erupting from her as she stared at him in the mirror wasn't exactly a good start.

“Trying to be intimate dear. It's what normal married couples do. You know, on occasion.”

Sybil returned to the task of untangling pieces of weaved hair from her head and leant over the basin, stepping out of Basil's loose embrace.

“Yes, but we're not normal, are we Basil?”

“No dear. No, we're not.”

A cold bath it was then.


Maybe the Abbotts were right. Maybe marriage was all holidays and walks in the park. Basil could live with that if he could stand being away from the hotel for more than twenty-four hours. The nasty truth, however, was that he couldn't.

During this short trip away, all Basil could think of was the hotel’s roof caving in, Manuel burning the place down (again), and Polly inviting her strange arty friends over whilst the cats were away for all the horny mice to play. Sybil was fine, of course she was, knocking back G&T's and cackling like a demented hen at Roger's terrible jokes. Basil sat there, arms crossed and knees jiggling, trying, really trying, to relax.

When it was time to sleep, he'd be damned if he was getting any of that either, not in a small double he barely fit into, let alone was meant to share with another human being.

“Don't look so terrified, Basil. Some people do sleep in the same bed you know.” For some strange reason, that made her laugh. Basil struggled to find the joke.

Sat on the edge of the bed, skin prickling hot with worry about not being at work or at home (or both, because they'd merged into one for so long now he could barely tell the difference) Sybil caught his eye. He outstretched his hand, and she took it without hesitation.

He suspected there was a question behind her lingering stare, her eyebrows raising as if waiting for him to let go, cave in, grab the keys off the table and drive back to Torquay. Instead, his hand came to the tie of her nightgown and he gently pulled it loose until it hung open.

When she pushed him back by his shoulders, the weight of all his worries lifted. For a few blissful hours, he didn't think about Fawlty Towers or the sodding staff at all. Turned out he didn't get much sleep in the end either, and that wasn't because the bed was too small.


Basil didn't pretend he was romantic. Wasting time over something so trivial was alien to him, and besides, there were more pertinent things to obsess over. Like running a hotel. At least he found some comfort in pretending he was good at that.

Once the whole saga of the suspected burglar (who just turned out to be Manuel who was now nursing a rather large bruise on his head, as well as a hangover) Basil found himself having to explain why he'd refused to open their bedroom door to his own wife.

If Sybil hadn't found the whole thing so utterly amusing, she might have been angry. Mrs Peignoir was glamorous, intelligent, cultured, and French, and Sybil made it quite clear that all those reasons were why she would never be interested in a stiff like Basil. A stiff, mundane, monotonous prig of a man like Basil. These were just some of the adjectives she chose to describe her husband when he eventually dragged himself back upstairs, trouser-less, frying pan still in hand.

“Yes, I think you've made your point dear.”

For a moment, he considered hitting her over the head with the frying pan. He'd given one person under this roof concussion tonight; what was one more? Whilst he was at it, maybe he could go across the hall and give Mrs Peignoir the good seeing to he evidently didn't have the balls for. Just the idea had him shuddering from head to toe. He threw the pan aside, submitting to a night of verbal abuse from the wife instead.

Something about Sybil going off like this was rather amusing though. He may not be a romancer, but Christ, he was still a male after all, though not a particularly hot-blooded one. (His cold blood was another flaw Sybil liked reminding him of.) Yet he found some delight in Sybil getting worked up over the thought of another woman showing an interest in him.

Jealousy. Another odd notion he couldn't quite grasp hold of. Yet here it was, staring him in the face.

“What are you smiling at? What on earth could possibly be so amusing at a time like this?”

Obviously he didn't have much of a poker face, so he stepped towards her and leant down to peck her on the cheek instead. Her response was a slap in the face, and because he’d partly expected it, he barely reacted.

“Yes, thank you dear. Nice to know the passion is still there after all these years.”

“Whatever it is you're trying to distract me with, Basil, it's not going to work.”

It was him getting worked up now though, and gosh, he really could condemn his body to the ground sometimes, because what man in their right mind gets hit by his wife, then gets hard over it?

“You've got a bloody nerve,” Sybil said, looking him up and down like she'd never seen anything quite so pathetic in all her life.

He wasn't prepared to beg, but then again, if Sybil forced him... well, who was he to pretend he wouldn't? It wasn't like he hadn't gotten on his knees for her before. A part of him wished she'd pick up the pan and knock him out cold with it. At least then he wouldn't have to appear so desperately weak and so desperately aroused.

In the end, she did make him beg. And beg he did.