Prentiss McCabe was once again triumphant. Not only had they secured the contracts to the rebirth the Liberal Democrats, the re-launch of the younger, "down with the kids" Tories, they also signed a deal with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was tipped to be the next Prime Minister. In brief, Charles Prentiss and Martin McCabe had the future of British politics in the palms of their hands.
The masters themselves sat in Martin's office on the evening of the signing of the contract with Gordon Brown. The light in the office was dim - the blinds were closed and the only sign of brightness came from the screen of the computer. They sat opposite one another at Martin's desk with a bottle of Scotch and two glasses between them. Martin sighed and lifted his glass and swallowed the last of the amber liquid that had been lying quietly in the bottom of it.
"One would think it would feel more elating now that we're more or less running the bloody country," he said after the whisky was gone.
Charles picked up his glass and studied what was left of his whisky.
"When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer," he said without looking up."
"Quite," said Martin as he refilled both of the crystal glasses.
Silence once again filled the office as both men contemplated the future of their company - they had everything; the Labour Party, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems - they even had the Royals for Christ's sake! Where was there to go from here?
"Do you ever think Charles, that life is a fucking pointless waste of time?" asked Martin.
"No," replied Charles. "As long as there is money to be made, then there is always something to get up in the morning for."
"You're lucky," sighed Martin.
"Oh yes?" asked Charles, only sounding vaguely interested.
"To get up in the morning and come in here and not give a damn about anything except getting more contracts and making money," said Martin.
"I though that was what we both wanted," said Charles, looking up at last.
"Oh come on Charles," said Martin, drinking deeply from his crystal glass. "You must have realised that it's always been about much more than that."
"No," said Charles. "In all the years we've worked together the ultimate goal as always been to screw over as many people as possible and receive as much cash in return."
Martin gave a hollow laugh and again topped up the glasses with the uisge beatha.
"Screw over," he said softly, sipping from his glass. "You have no idea how apt a description that is."
"You haven't literally screwed clients over?" asked Charles, screwing his face up as the liquor burned the back of this throat.
"Of course not Charles," Martin replied. "No, I was just thinking..."
"Sounds ominous," said Charles lazily. "You wouldn't cheat on Sarah though would you? I never thought that would be your style."
"There's only one person I would ever consider if it came to committing adultery," said Martin.
"Must be serious," said Charles. "Someone long lusted after then?"
Martin nodded, he would never normally dream of having a discussion such as this with Charles under normal circumstances, but the whisky was having great effect on loosening the tongue.
"For a great many years," he acknowledged.
"Hmm," said Charles, looking over the top of his glass at his colleague. "I wonder who she could be."
He paused for a moment and then gave Martin a questioning look, but smiled at the same time.
"Or he, for that matter," he said.
"Someone I have known a very long time," said Martin.
"Have you been attracted to this person all the time you've known them?" asked Charles.
"More or less," Martin replied.
Charles couldn't think of anyone plausible.
"Are you going to tell me?" he asked. "Or are we going to play Guess Who for the rest of the afternoon."
"I don't think you want to know Charles," said Martin, trying hard to sound more sober that he was.
"We don't keep secrets from each other do we?" Charles asked. "We've known each other a long time."
"And there you have it," said Martin.
"I don't know what you... ah..." said Charles. It had not taken long to work out what Martin meant.
"Are you surprised?" asked Martin.
"I have no idea," replied Charles. This was true as he was trying to get his head around that fact that his business partner had long-since harboured feelings for him that greatly surpassed those of colleague's friendliness. "But you aren't gay."
Martin said nothing.
"But you're married, you're a father for Christ's sake," said Charles. "This isn't the 19th Century; you didn't have to cover it up."
"I never said I was gay Charles," said Martin. "Not in the sense that I would want a properly established relationship with another man."
"You're still gay even if it's only sex you want," said Charles.
"I'm not gay," said Martin.
"Well bloody bi-sexual then," said Charles. "Jesus Christ Martin, why have you never said anything to me before?"
"That would be an interesting conversation wouldn't it," said Martin dryly.
"`Morning Charles, did you get that email from Channel 4 oh by the way, how about sex before our meeting with the winner of `Big Brother'?'"
"Even so," said Charles, rubbing his forehead with the fingers on his right hand.
"Well there you are," said Martin. "I think we should put this down to the bottle and forget about it."
"No I can't just forget about it," said Charles. "You said a long time, how long is a long time?"
"Oh not long after I met you," said Martin. "Tall, dark-headed young chap, fresh out of Cambridge, what wasn't there to like? I suppose the feeling just never went away, and over the years I managed to suppress it and get on with running a business."
"But I don't understand why you never said anything," said Charles.
"Come on Charles," said Martin ruefully. "You didn't think that I'd have considered for even a moment that you would be interested."
"You never gave it a chance," said Charles.
"But you aren't interested are you," said Martin.
"I've never thought about it before," said Charles. "I don't think that's the same thing as not being interested."
"Aren't you having drinks with Dawn and Jennifer in half an hour?" asked Martin, consulting his watch.
Charles glanced at his own watch.
"I am," he said.
He got up from his chair and picked up his suit jacket. As he crossed the office to leave, he looked at Martin, trying to think of something to say. Appropriate words however, did not come.
"Goodbye," said Charles.
Martin raised his glass in reply
The drinks meeting with actresses Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders was a complete blur when Charles looked back at it later. He barely heard anything either of them said as his mind was almost solely concentrated on Martin's revelation.
He never would have believed that Martin had long since held a candle for him. Martin just wasn't the type; he was a married man and he was a father. Sarah - Martin's wife - was prettier than most people would imagine and Charles had always believed Martin to have a good marriage and to be a good father. Not that having feelings for another man affected this overly much.
Charles was being truthful when he told Martin that he had never thought about him in that way. While the two women were talking, Charles found himself constantly slipping into thinking about Martin. He didn't fancy him, never had and probably never would, but then Martin was only looking for sex, so it didn't really matter. It wouldn't be right though, to have sex with a married man. Though, as a voice in the back of Charles told him, such worries had never bothered him while having sex with married women. This was different, Martin was his colleague - they had to work together. This would change their relationship entirely, even if it was just a one-off. But what if it wasn't just a one-off? What if they found themselves becoming comfortable with, or even enjoying this sort of relationship, how would he feel about being the man Martin was having an affair with? There was only one way to try to figure out answers to these questions.
Charles apologised to Dawn and Jennifer and headed back to the office.
The Prentiss McCabe offices were more or less empty when Charles returned. He went upstairs to Martin's office, went in and locked the door behind him.
"Charles?" asked Martin, looking up at his colleague.
Charles didn't reply, instead he crossed the office and leaning over the desk, kissed Martin.
Martin was initially shocked but his instinct and long-hidden desires kicked in and he began to respond to the kiss. Charles ran the tip of his tongue over Martin's bottom lip, before pushing it forwards so that Martin's lips were parted. Charles allowed his tongue to explore Martin's mouth and become accustomed to the older man's taste. He found the notes of the whisky they had both been drinking earlier, this was mixed with something lighter, somewhat fruitier than the whisky. He found it was a taste he rather liked.
After a moment or so, they broke apart and Martin stood up and walked around the side of his desk to stand beside Charles.
"Charles... I..." he began, his voice sounded breathless.
"Shut up Martin," Chares replied before leaning in to claim Martin's lips again.
This time the kiss was more urgent and they both began to pull off each other's suit jackets and loosen their ties. Charles pushed Martin back against his desk and reached up to undo the buttons on his shirt. He had no sooner reached them when his mobile began to ring.
"Bugger," he said angrily as he pulled away from Martin and picking up his suit jacket from the floor where it had been thrown. He reached inside to the pocket in the lining and pulled out the phone. Snapping it open he growled "what?" - annoyed that someone should disturb them.
"Mr Brown is just going to have to wait," he said to the person on the other end of the phone. "Look, you wanted the services of Prentiss McCabe, so you're just going to have to let us work our magic in our own time. Let me make it clear that we at Prentiss McCabe make our own rules and if the client doesn't like it, then he is perfectly free to engage the inferior services of Pottinger-Bell or Max-bloody-Clifford."
Charles ended the call and turned back to Martin, a small smile playing at his lips.
"Do you think that was wise Charles?" asked Martin, who was leaning against the desk with his arms folded across his chest.
Charles shrugged and threw the phone down onto the desk. He opened his mouth to say something, but before he had the chance, the telephone on Martin's desk began to ring. Martin sighed then leaned over to pick up the receiver.
"Martin McCabe," he said into the mouthpiece.
No reply came and then he heard the dial tone before the phone went completely dead. He replaced the receiver and turned to look at Charles who was standing by the desk, holding up the connection lead, which he had clearly just disconnected.
"Now that certainly isn't wise," said Martin.
"You're forgetting Martin," said Charles. "We're Prentiss McCabe and we can do whatever the fuck we like."
He dropped the wire and reached over and took a hold of Martin's shoulders and moved down to kiss him again.
"Now I believe we were about here," he said.
"Charles Prentiss," said Martin softy. "You really do do whatever you like."
"You wouldn't want it any other way," said Charles.
"No," said Martin. "I don't suppose I would."
The kiss that followed gave as much pleasure as they could have possibly hoped, thus cementing a deeper meaning to the company name - Prentiss McCabe.