Dom can feel more than hear Lofty’s deep sigh as the credits roll and another episode starts right up.
”Seriously?” Lofty asks, putting the book he’s clearly only been pretending to read down on his lap. ”How are you not sick of this yet?”
”Are you saying you’re not enjoying this show?” Dom says in mock surprise, feigning he hasn’t noticed Lofty’s small noises of disapproval over the last hour.
”It’s just horrible people being horrible to each other,” Lofty says plaintively. ”I don’t understand why you want to waste your time on it, that’s all.”
”Because that’s the genius of it all,” Dom says, poking Lofty’s thigh with his toes, just because he can, and because it makes Lofty grab hold of his foot to keep it still. ”It’s supposed to make you horrified at the horrible people and the horrible things they do, it requires absolutely no brain power. It’s perfect after a long shift.”
Lofty sighs. ”I’m pretty sure there’s this nature documentary I wanted to watch on BBC 2 now. Could you just check if it’s on?”
”Were you even in the same theatre as me today?” Dom asks in disbelief. ”We spent four hours digging through bowels,” he ignores the face Lofty makes at his words, ”the last thing I want to see after that is a tiger tearing a zebra to shreds.”
”Well, that’s fairly unlikely,” Lofty says, ”since they live on different continents.”
”Oh, please,” Dom scoffs. ”They’re all filmed in zoos anyway, I know how it works.” He has to laugh at Lofty’s affronted face.
”Just give me the remote,” Lofty says, pinching Dom’s toe lightly.
Dom quickly hides the remote behind his back, sticking it under a pillow. ”Oops.”
”Now you’re just being childish,” Lofty says, and Dom just shrugs. He knows he is, but that doesn’t stop it from being fun.
”Fine, have it your way,” Lofty continues, rising from the sofa. ”I’m putting the kettle on. You want tea?”
”Yes, please,” Dom says, keeping his eyes on Lofty. Just as Lofty passes behind him, he sticks his hand down behind Dom’s back. Dom, who was more than prepared for it, quickly leans against the arm of the sofa, trapping Lofty’s hand.
”Ha!” he crows. ”Did you really think I’d fall for that.” He leans backward to look at Lofty. ”You have to be a lot sneakier than that.”
Lofty laughs. ”Okay, you win. Can I have my arm back, please.”
Dom tilts his head to the side, pondering this. ”No,” he says finally. ”I could get used to this, having you at my disposal like this.”
”Oh, really?” Lofty mumbles. He manages to twist his arm enough so that he can move around the corner of the sofa. ”That sounds rather nice.”
He leans down to kiss Dom, and Dom rises to meet him, releasing Lofty’s hand in the process. The kiss quickly deepens, as Lofty straddles Dom, his knees on either side of Dom’s waist. It’s still a novel feeling, being able to kiss Lofty like this, and Dom lets himself get lost in the sensation. He almost doesn’t notice Lofty’s hand sneaking behind his back, but he catches it at the last second, quickly grabbing the remote for himself.
”Not a chance!”
Dom scoots down on the sofa to throw Lofty off balance, raising his hands over his head, intent on keeping the remote as far away from Lofty as possible. Lofty isn’t that easy to shift though. He grabs Dom’s wrists, pinning him against the sofa, and Dom just… blacks out.
He isn’t sure for how long, probably just a couple of seconds, but Lofty is suddenly much further away, sitting back on his heels at the other end of the sofa. Lofty is saying his name, but it sounds muffled at first. Dom blinks, and the world suddenly rushes back into focus.
”Yeah,” he says, to reassure Lofty that he hears him. His mouth feels dry, and he licks his lips to wet them.
Lofty leans closer, looking as if he’s about to throw up. ”What happened?” he asks, his voice almost cracking. ”Did I hurt you?”
Dom shakes his head, because what just happened had nothing to do with Lofty.
”It wasn’t you. I’m not sure what it was.”
It’s a lie, but he needs a moment. He holds out his hand, and Lofty takes it carefully, helping him to sit up. Dom folds his legs and takes a deep breath.
”You know what, that tea sounds lovely right now,” he says, trying to buy some time.
”Sure,” Lofty says, but looks hesitant to leave him. ”Will you be okay?”
”Absolutely,” Dom says, mustering up a weak smile.
Lofty seems unconvinced, but rises from the sofa. He reaches out to touch Dom’s knee as he does so, but changes his mind at the last second, and Dom hates it, hates the sudden carefulness in Lofty’s movements. He recognises it all too well, remembering Sasha, Essie, Zosia, everyone doing the same thing about a year ago.
He closes his eyes and focuses on the sounds from the kitchen, the tap running, a cupboard being opened, the fridge door closing, the kettle boiling. He only looks up when he hears Lofty approaching.
Lofty hands him a mug, a hideous green and yellow chequered affair that used to belong to Arthur. It’s Dom’s favourite, even though he would never admit it, but clearly Lofty’s figured it out anyway. The tea is slightly too hot to drink, but comforting nonetheless and he wraps his hands around the mug gratefully.
Lofty sits down next to him, not close enough to touch, but close enough for Dom to reach out and touch him if he wants. He does want to, he always does, but he keeps himself from doing so.
”So,” Lofty says, when Dom fails to speak. ”I’d love to say that we don’t have to talk about it.” Dom glances at him, and Lofty looks steadily back. ”But I think we have to talk about it.”
”I know,” Dom says. He worries the inside of his lip with his teeth. ”I’ll give you one guess who this is about.”
”Isaac,” Lofty states, and Dom regrets making him say it. He’s not sure Lofty’s ever said his name before. It would have been nice to keep it that way.
”Ding, ding, ding,” he says bitterly.
”Fine.” He huffs out a laugh. ”The conversation every boy dreams of having with his boyfriend, about sex with the ex.”
Lofty doesn’t smile. Fair enough, Dom thinks. It’s not like the situation is amusing.
”Just, try not to think of me differently, after,” he says.
”I wouldn’t,” Lofty says quietly, and Dom shakes his head.
”You can’t promise that.” He takes another deep breath. ”Sex with Isaac was intense.”
It was so much more than intense. It was amazing, and thrilling, and adventurous. In Isaac, Dom had found someone experienced, confident, who had made him realise a lot of things about himself. Isaac had quickly figured out which buttons to push, and with a simple touch, or a whispered word, he could make Dom’s knees go weak.
He doesn’t tell Lofty all of this, just some of it, just enough. He tries to not be embarrassed by it, tries to look Lofty in the eyes, but he can’t. So he stares into his tea instead.
”He liked to be in control,” he continues. ”He liked to hold me down, just like you did before, with my hands above my head, pinning me to the bed.” Or the sofa, or the floor, or the wall in the on call room. ”He liked to tell me keep my eyes open, all the time, to look at him, otherwise he’d stop.”
Isaac liked to call him things too, things that made Dom squirm and flush all over, words that he should hate, but that got him so hot he could barely stand it.
”And I loved it,” he has to look up at Lofty for a second to make sure that he understands. ”I absolutely loved every second of it. It’s just that, towards the end…” He trails off.
The tea is getting colder, and the weight of the mug in his hands isn’t as comforting anymore. He puts it down, and grabs the throw hanging over the back of the sofa, running his fingers through the fringe, then starts to braid it.
”Did he rape you?” Lofty’s question is quiet, but direct, and Dom appreciates it. He did his rotation in A&E, he’s heard too many people tread too carefully around the word. And Lofty worked in A&E for a lot longer than Dom did.
”No,” he says clearly, shaking his head. ”It was never like that.”
In the end, sex had been the one thing that didn’t change, that remained normal. Everything else became brittle and unpredictable, with Dom constantly in fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. Sex was the escape, the moments when he could pretend that everything still was as it had been in the beginning.
”I never asked him to stop, I never wanted to.”
It’s easier to look at Lofty now, talking about things that didn’t happen instead of things that did.
”When it came to sex he never did anything I didn’t want him to.” And yet, there is that nagging sense of doubt. ”But towards the end, if I had asked him not to, if I’d asked him to stop… I don’t think he would have listened.”
And there it is. He’s never said it out loud before, not even to his therapist. He’s barely admitted it to himself.
”So I guess that was what the whole blanking out thing was about. But I had no idea it would happen, I never guessed I would react like that to being held down. It never occured to me it would be a problem.”
”Dom.” Lofty moves closer, reaching for him. He looks at Dom with a question in his eyes, and when Dom nods he takes his hands in his own, holding them tightly. ”I’m so sorry you had to go through that. And I’m sorry I made you relive it now.”
”It wasn’t your fault,” Dom repeats. ”You have nothing to apologise for.” He swallows nervously.
”And you don’t think I’m weird, or disgusting, or whatever?” His voice is smaller than he’d like it to be.
Lofty blinks. ”For what? Enjoying being told what to do in bed?”
Dom gives him a small shrug.
”Dom, I would never! I think you’re most amazing, brave, resilient person I’ve ever met.” Lofty looks so sincere that Dom has to look away. He wants to believe him, and he does on some level, but right now, it’s not that easy to deal with.
”Besides,” Lofty says in a lighter tone, probably reading Dom’s feelings. ”Everyone enjoys different things. I had a girlfriend for a while who always wanted to spank me.” He scrunches his nose up, blushing slightly, and Dom has to laugh, mostly in relief.
”Not your thing, I take it?”
Lofty tilts his head to the side. ”I didn’t really get it,” he says thoughtfully. ”Then again, I didn’t really mind it either. And it was exciting how much she liked it.” He turns Dom’s hand over in his own, tracing the lines of his palm. ”She wanted me to do it to her once, though. That didn’t work.”
”No.” Lofty looks up. ”I don’t like causing people pain, even if they want it.” He bites his lip and hesitates before continuing. ”And I can’t be what Isaac was to you, in bed.”
Dom quickly shakes his head. ”I don’t want you to be.” It worked with Isaac because of who Isaac was a person, confident, dominant. He can’t imagine doing the same things with Lofty, and he doesn’t want to.
”I don’t want you to be anything you’re not. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I think you’re pretty perfect.” He smiles. ”Besides, I think we’re managing rather well, so far.”
The tips of Lofty’s ears go slightly red. ”I like to think so.”
”Good.” Dom leans in to kiss him, putting his hand on Lofty’s neck to draw him closer, but he can feel Lofty hold back slightly. So he breaks off the kiss, resting his forehead against Lofty’s.
”Please, don’t do that,” he says. ”Don’t treat me differently now. I’m not going to break.”
”I’m sorry,” Lofty says. ”It’s just…” He leans back, taking a breath. ”I was really scared, Dom. It was as if you were barely concious.”
”Okay.” Dom nods decisively. ”Right, so let’s try it again.” He nudges Lofty to the side, so that he can stretch out his legs, and then leans back until he’s lying down. He puts his arms over his head.
Lofty stares at him in horror. ”Absolutely not.”
”Trust me,” Dom says. ”Otherwise we’ll be just be wondering if it’ll happen again. It’ll be okay. I know you’d never do anything to hurt me.”
”I don’t like this,” Lofty says, but moves so that’s he kneeling over Dom, straddling his waist like he did before. It’s a nice sight, Dom thinks, and smiles.
”Hi,” Lofty replies with a reluctant smile. He leans down to give Dom a quick kiss. ”Are you sure about this.”
Dom nods, and Lofty takes Dom’s wrists in his hand, very gently, with just enough pressure to keep them against the arm of the sofa.
There is a rush of panic, that Dom actually didn’t expect, and he instinctively closes his eyes for a brief moment. But when he opens them again, all he can see is Lofty’s worried face above him, and he instantly calms down.
Lofty lets go, running his fingers through Dom’s hair, cupping his neck. ”Are you okay?”
”Yes,” Dom smiles up at him. ”It’ll probably never be my favourite thing, but I don’t think I’ll react like that again,” he says, as Lofty moves off him.
He sits up, stretches his legs out and leans his back against Lofty’s side, wriggling against him until Lofty takes the hint and puts his arms around him.
Lofty snorts. ”Oh, trust me, we are never doing that again.” He presses a kiss against Dom’s temple. ”I think we can manage to find other things to do, though.”
Dom hesitates slightly.
”I didn’t know I was going to react like that,” he says, ”and I can’t guarantee it won’t happen again, because of something else. I know it’s a hassle, and I’m sorry, and…”
”Dom!” Lofty’s arms tighten around him.”It’s not a hassle. And even if it were, you’d be more than worth it. You know that, right?”
”Right,” Dom says meekly. It’s only half a lie.
Lofty sighs. ”Look, after what Isaac did to you, it’s no wonder you have a few issues. Everyone does, for far less of a reason than that. I mean, I feel sick every time I see a wedding dress.”
Dom twists around in Lofty’s arms so that he can look at him. ”Hang on, what?”
Lofty makes a face. ”It’s stupid, I know. Alice was big on tradition, so she wouldn’t let me see her dress before the wedding. And since I never made it to the church, well…” he shrugs. ”So now, every time I see a wedding dress, I keep thinking that maybe that was what hers looked like.”
”But you went to Zosia and Ollie’s wedding,” Dom points out.
”Well, yes. Because you were going to be there,” Lofty says simply, and Dom’s heart beats a little faster. ”It was the first time I’d even been near a wedding since I abandoned my own.”
Dom winces. ”And what a great example of a wedding that was,” he says.
”I don’t know,” Lofty says, smiling. ”I have some very fond memories of that wedding.”
Dom has too, even if he managed to mess upp the aftermath spectacularly, and he’s just about to say so, when another thought strikes him.
”Hang on, we watched three episodes of Say Yes to the Dress the other night.”
”Yeah,” Lofty draws the word out. ”That’s not my exactly my favourite show. Also, Dom, you have really terrible taste in tv shows.”
”First of all, I do not! Second, why didn’t you just say so?”
”Because you really like that show. And it was sort of cute the way you pretended not to cry.”
”I did not cry,” Dom states vehemently. ”It was just very moving when they skyped that girl’s grandmother all the way from Costa Rica.” He ignores Lofty’s huff of laughter. ”And while I do like the show, I sort of like you more.”
He punches Lofty in the arm, very lightly. ”So just tell me next time, okay.”
”Okay,” Lofty agrees.
”Good,” Dom says. ”And we can still watch the bridesmaid version of it, though, right?”
Lofty bursts out laughing. ”Definitely. Alice didn’t have any bridesmaids.”
”Well, I think you certainly deserve watching a zebra die a cruel and horrible death, then,” Dom says. He’s not willing to move away from Lofty just now, but after a few tries he manages to reach the remote with his feet, dragging it with his heel until it’s in reach.
”It wasn’t even about zebras,” Lofty says vaguely, but accepts the remote when Dom gives it to him. He changes the channel, just in time to for the narrator’s voice to fade out and the credit start rolling.
”Oh, such a shame,” Dom says, patting Lofty’s leg. ”I was looking forward to that.”
”Sure you were,” Lofty says with a laugh, flicking through the channels, until a familiar sight shows up. ”Bake Off re-run?”
”Perfect,” Dom says, taking Lofty’s hand to intertwine their fingers. ”Don’t worry, if it’s wedding cakes, we’ll turn it off.”
”How sweet of you,” Lofty says, pressing a kiss into Dom’s hair. ”Dom?” he says then, a moment later.
”I love you.”
Dom stills. He’s told himself so many times that he hasn’t been waiting and wondering and worrying about Lofty saying those three words to him, but he’s never quite managed to convince himself. But now that he hears them, he doesn’t know what he was worried about. It feels like the most natural thing in the world.
”I love you too,” he says, squeezing Lofty’s hand a little tighter. ”Now, hush. It’s pastry week.”