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Gordon's working like a maniac, as usual, as I stop into the Warrington. You'd think the man would take a night off when he's got, you know, a night off from season four hundred and six of Hell's Kitchen and damage control from that piece of shit rom-com he thought was a good idea.

No, his idea of a relaxing night off is to step behind the line at the Warrington and crank out 300 covers.

You have to feel bad for his sous chefs. Poor Chris, should have stayed in Australia. I'm sure he didn't think his mentor would be invading him constantly when he took this gig. He's at the bar, chef's whites unbuttoned, downing a pint of Duvel that is most definitely not his first. Mark must be away, then, if Chris is looking so downcast and Gordon's in the kitchen.

We're not that close, Chris and I - just a nod, chef-to-former-chef, the understood knowledge of who I am and who he is - so I take a seat at the other end of the bar. I have an uninterrupted view of the Warrington's undoubtedly lovely art-deco interior, a few Z-list celebs at the tables, and, when the door swings open, the kitchen. There's an American tourist couple a few stools down ooh-ing and aah-ing over the stained glass and wood carvings,

Pretty? Sure. Not nearly as pretty as some of Gordon's other pretentious as fuck restaurant holdings, but a step up from your usual black pudding, fake Guiness pubs. At the very least, the bartender's hot - cute little Jersey expat, five-four in her bare feet, nasal squawk and the click of her wedge sandals reminding me of home. She pulls me a pint and slips her number to me under the glass.

It's very flattering, but my wife would eviscerate me. Her knife skills are seriously improving, and she doesn't tolerate other women. Other men are a whole different story, one with many footnotes and annotations and a couple dog-eared pages like Gordon's.

If you asked me why I keep coming back to Gordon, it would probably come down to the fact that I just plain like the guy. I should hate him, right? Fucker sold out, owns a billion restaurants, banked his entire image off the same shit Marco did ten years before him . . . but he's just so fucking tenacious and smart that I want to ruffle his hair and tell him he's been a good boy.

Which, come to think of it, is really what our relationship is based on.

He spent the late-80's and mid-90's slaving under Marco, hearing the stories of what we were doing in New York. I saw him a few times at the Supper Club, him and Roux, plotting their return to France and pretending they weren't fucking like weasels. A few years later, Marco gave me a gratis pass to Aubergine while I was in London on a book tour for Kitchen Confidential, and the little shit greeted me with "so Tony, it's Monday, want to try the sole?" He was so young then, late-twenties endless energy combined with his freakish confidence and drive.

What can I say? I had the sole and then made him suck me off in an alley around the corner.

And it's been a long fifteen years since then. He's still a hyperactive ball of daddy issues, and I'm still a cranky globetrotting ex-chef and ex-addict, but it works. Every couple months or so, depending on where he is and where I am, usually on neutral ground. London's out, New York's out, L.A.'s out.

Am I breaking the rules? Technically yes. But in a really fucking good way.

*****

10:30 is not a particularly late hour anywhere else in the culinary world, but it's when all of the Ramsay holdings restaurants officially close, even the pubs. Fine with me, I've got a flight to New York in the morning to shoot some stuff for Travel Channel, and I know Gordon's got a nice little flat ten minutes away. Some sleep for a change would be nice. Sleep that didn't involve a too-short blanket at 30,000 feet.

I'm the only one left at the bar besides the staff, though that's only because I find that very few people want to kick me out of their pub. If the name doesn't do it, the height will. The cute little bartender is side-eyeing me, then jumps up at a familiar bellow of her name ("Natalie", apparently). She disappears into the swinging doors to my left, and I help myself to one of the olives out of her bar fruit.

She's back in three minutes with a plate of pork cracklings, which she sets in front of me.

"Chef's compliments, but he says if you eat them all without him, I'm allowed to spit in your beer."

I laugh, reaching for the ramekin of apple sauce and dunking one of the cracklings into it. "Oh come on, I've been nice to you all night. I've even tipped."

"I'm not saying I will spit in your beer," she says, drying glasses. "Just that I'm allowed."

"If I'd known you'd spit in my beer, I wouldn't have tipped."

Gordon comes stalking out of the kitchen, drying his hands on a towel and a grin on his face that just screams "I'm getting laid tonight". Yeah, he is, but he doesn't have to fucking advertise, you know?

"Natalie, sweetheart, off with you," he says, tossing the towel at her. I suppose there are some people who would be offended, but Natalie seems to have worked for Gordon long enough to be glad it isn't food or worse being thrown at her. She pulls him a pint of Dark Star and closes the taps down before she takes off. He slides onto the stool beside me, knee knocking against mine. "Save me any?"

I roll my eyes and take another bit of pork. "You'd think you didn't eat behind the line."

"I don't."

What a fucking liar. He has to - you don't send out a dish you don't taste at least once during the process, and if you do, you shouldn't be cooking. Besides, I've seen him work over the years, and he does keep a pretty decent diet. I take a sip of Fuller's and shake my head.

"What are you eating your own shit for, then? I'd have dragged you over to Sitar for some curry."

He licks a bit of apple sauce off the corner of his mouth, knowing I'm watching. Cocky little shit. "I could get fucking curry any time. So could you. Where the hell have you been this week, then, tanning in Belize?"

"Brazil, actually," I answer, knowing I've got a fifty-fifty chance of instigating an old argument. I'm a "lazy fucking sod" who "couldn't flip a burger worth shit" anymore. You'd think Gordon wouldn't be jealous of anyone, billionaire and family man that he is, but you'd be wrong. "Belem and the Amazon rainforest."

"Fuck off, you poor baby. Must be nice."

"You had World Travels, man. You gave it up to babysit a bunch of Bobby Flay wannabes in Los Angeles."

Gordon laughs, and it's a pretty nice sight. Not as nice as others I have planned for tonight, but it's a start.

*****

The cab ride to the Islington flat isn't long, and it drops us off in front of the Duke of Cambridge. Normally, we'd stop in for a couple of beers, a shot of whiskey or five for some Dutch courage, but I'm on a schedule and Gordon's a bit antsy. He hasn't even taken his chef's whites off, which is as clear a signal as he gives:

Please, please, put me in my place. Tell me if I've been good or bad and let me make it up to you.

Even though it's his flat (well, it's in two names that are neither of our legal names) he hands me the keys and follows me up Allingham St. to number four. I turn the key in the lock, but before I open the door, I want to make sure we're on the same page here.

"We're starting as soon as this door closes, all right?"

"Yeah, okay."

The keys are jagged in my hand. They'll make an excellent mark on him if I want to use them. "What's my stopping point?"

Gordon won't look at me, which is red alert number one. I step closer, one leg between his, and look down at him, our shorthand for "pay attention" in blazing neon. We don't touch outside of the flat, and so his attention snaps back to me. I'm a little irritated - you'd think he could redirect some of that legendary focus when I'm about to give him something he wants.

"No soft limits," he says finally, enjoying the feel of us pressed together a little too much. "No blood, no lasting marks, I've got to be on camera tomorrow. My usual safeword if you go too far."

All right, that's reasonable. Shame I won't get to leave any marks, but if anything, I've gotten a hell of a lot more careful in my old age. Not only does the camera add ten pounds, it will show exactly what you did last night, even through six layers of concealer. Not that I've, you know, had to tape a show after having kinky sex.

Thank god for suit jackets, is all I'm saying.

I have to grin at him, then turn the key to open the door. I let him step inside first, and as he passes, I whisper the two words that have absolutely never failed to turn Gordon James Ramsay, OB-fucking-E, into a total slut.

"Good boy."

And bingo, we're fucking on. He drops to his knees on the carpet, waiting for me to close the door and take hold of his hair. Which I do, because he looks fucking edible like that, head tilted back, throat exposed. He's breathing hard already, dick tenting out his pants, and I let go of his hair to drag one of the armchairs over and sprawl out in it.

"Stay," I order, and he goes still. "I want your jacket off, hotshot. You don't get to pull rank in here."

His hands shake as he pulls open the snaps on his whites, double-breasted cotton starched and ironed to pristine quality. Even when I was a chef, I didn't keep my clothes that nice. He shrugs it off to drop on the floor, leaving him in a white tee and the ubiquitous checked chef's pants. Drag him back to basics, like he's so fond of in his food, one area where we'll never see eye to eye. I like complicated shit served complicated ways, and I'm not picky about the process that goes into it. You burn the meat, undercook the pasta, so what? Dust it off, pretend nobody noticed. Make it fucking work.

Gordon can't. Like, physically can't. It hurts him to send out a dish that's anything less than perfection. Wants to take the simplest of ingredients and serve them in new ways. Everything in a neat little mise-en-place, and life ain't like that. It's why he runs fifty thousand restaurants and five different television shows and writes cookbooks in his spare time and I'm a lazy fuck coasting on brutal honesty and my spazzy attention span.

I can't shut him down, but I can give it the old college try.

*****

"All right, kid. We'll start with the easy stuff. How'd you fuck up this week?"

Gordon inches forward until he's got his face buried against my thigh, and starts talking. Easier, smoother than usual, which means not only does he need it, he knows he needs it.

"I haven't been home in four days. Tana's starting to worry, but I keep telling her it's the schedule, not me. It's a lie, though, I could have made it home for dinner one or two nights, taken Holly to football practice yesterday."

My fingers curl into his hair, gripping the blonde strands and smoothing them back. Stroking my thumbs along the curve of his skull and down his neck. Long, even movements.

"So why didn't you?"

"Didn't try hard enough. I thought dealing with other things was more important."

"Was that the right thing to do?"

He grips the back of my leg, palm hot and sweaty through the cotton of my suit pants. I can remember doing this in empty stockrooms - Les Halles, Aubergine, La Tante Claire - back when I wore whites and an earring too. I wish I could skip straight to making him suck me, but the ritual's important.

"No," he says in a small voice, and I tilt his chin up. Fucking adorable blue eyes and a couple unshed tears - how could you not want to wreck him?

"I'm glad you understand that, kid," I say, rubbing the pad of my thumb over his lips. He doesn't have lips like mine, which is probably for the best. If he had cocksucking lips on top of the great body and insane amounts of culinary talent, I might want to shoot him. "Especially because you know what the priority should be."

"My family," he says, and oh, the irony. "My kids."

Yeah, that's what I need to hear. We may fuck around - who in the entire fucking culinary world doesn't? - but ever since we both had children, we swore we'd make them the priority. In Gordon's case, make up for the lacking of his father, in mine, the desire to prove I can be a late-in-life father.

"What are we gonna do to fix this?"

He takes a deep breath, presses a kiss to my inner thigh that has my legs tensing. "I'll find time tomorrow, be home for most of the day after shooting. Cancel the meeting with Fox over the next season of Nightmares."

"Good boy," I say again, watching the shiver work its way through him. He's so fucking hard, straining against his pants.

I pull him up for a kiss - one of the many things Gordon does like an artist - and taste pork and lager on his tongue. He's sprawled against me on the chair, grinding and snapping his hips against my stomach. There's a low growl from him that just makes my dick twitch, and he is wearing way too many clothes, isn't he? I get a hand up the back of his shirt and pull it off, but it means letting him have the opportunity to get my jacket off and shirt partially unbuttoned. He noses his way under the cotton, mouthing my collarbone and neck. I curse as he bites down, but I know it's not hard enough to bruise.

Still stings like fuck-all, and Gordon looks up, all hazy and aroused. "Can I ask you a question?"

I nod. "Go ahead."

"Let me suck your prick, Tony, please."

Holy fucking god, that is never getting old, but I like hearing him talk and I like pushing his buttons.

"Why should I? You said you'd fucked up this week. You haven't been good for me."

Gordon whines low in his throat, reaching for my dick, but I catch his wrists. He could break my grip, if he strongly wanted to and needed to, but he doesn't. He ruts against me, hips sliding and tilting, begging for it with every move.

"Because I need it," he says, voice and accent roughed up. Gorgeous pleading gravelly tone I could listen to all day. "I fucking need it, Tony. It's been months. You called yesterday and said you'd be in town and ever since, all I want is to put my mouth around your cock. Feel you fuck my mouth and come down my throat."

Only a complete fucking moron would say no to that, and luckily, I haven't reached complete moron status.

*****

We go upstairs, because as much privacy as the living room affords us, there are some things you just want to do in a bed. Somewhere with clean sheets, where you can stretch out and undress and walk around with your dick swinging in the wind if you want to.

He does all the work, and I've quit asking why. It's not like I'm incapable of unbuttoning my shirt, unzipping my pants, or shoving my boxers down, but he wants to do it all himself. Some kind of fucked-up caretaking thing, maybe. He's careful about it tonight, making sure not to rip any of the buttons or pull too hard, and he drops each item of clothing in a little pile. He doesn't seem like he wants to take any of his own clothes off, but I'm not having any of that.

"Strip. Everything, all the way off, leave it where it falls." I need to be specific with him, or he'll retreat into that obsessive brain of his. He obeys, revealing tanning-bed-perfect skin and triathalon-honed muscles. Looking at Gordon naked is always a good time. "Good boy. You're being so good."

A soft smile that broadens into a filthy grin as he watches me harden. "Can I?" he asks.

I drop back onto the bed and shove aside the gajillion-thread-count sheets to spread out. It's such a fucking turn on, watching Gordon watch me, having his undivided attention. Get nice and comfortable, back against the pillows, a hand on my dick, stroking slow and deliberate.

"Since you've been so good, and since you asked nicely . . ."

He crawls up the bed and practically swallows me whole. Throat muscles tightening around my dick, slick and wet and better than the tasting menu at El Bulli (just don't tell Ferran I said that). Gordon sucks dick differently every time, depending on his mood. He's made it slow and excruciating, prying every last drop of come out of me, and he's made it quick and dirty, looking over his shoulder to be sure we don't get caught.

I like him best like this - a little broken with the need to please, the need to be put in his place. Maybe it's that sadistic streak all chefs have; enjoying someone else's fall from grace and being thankful as hell it's not you. It goes double for Gordon because he's stratosphere-high and I'm the lucky asshole who gets to reap the benefits.

"Gonna be a good boy for me?" I ask, twisting the knife in just a little deeper to watch him flush all pretty around my dick and suck harder. "Let me fuck your mouth and make you take it? Cause you will. You always do. You'll let me do whatever I want to you, you greedy little bitch."

And he just takes it, lets me grip him by the hair and fuck his mouth, spit and pre-cum dribbling out the sides. Lets me go faster until my eyes roll back and I come down his throat, then swallows it all without even being told. I pull out, and he sits back on his heels, waiting to see if I'll let him come. I could turn over and go to sleep, leave him with a hard-on and nothing to show for it. I've done it.

"Please, please, Tony, please . . ." he chants under his breath, and I watch beads of pre-cum slide down his dick. Cut-glass hard and I've barely even touched him.

"C'mere," I say, reaching for him and dragging him to straddle my hips. I bat his hands away. "Hands on the headboard and keep them there."

He grips the iron headboard, and I go to town on him. Lick and suck on his nipples the way he likes it, leave little red marks down his collarbone and chest. One hand wet with my own come, jacking him off as he squirms and bucks against me. Firm grip on that tight ass. One day I'll fuck him - I'm not really into it, but he wants it and I know it'd be the ride of my life.

Watching him lose it for me isn't a sight I ever take for granted. Sharp, quick thrusts into my hand, a continuous chant of "please" and various four-letter words, Gordon's head snapping back in a moan as he comes. Fucking glorious, a total power-trip like nothing else.

We don't cuddle - he's not much for it, even after a scene - but he falls asleep with his head on my chest and my fingers running through his hair.

*****

The only good thing about being awake at 6 am is getting to make omelets with ingredients straight from Camden Market. I've barely got the coffee on and the pan going before Gordon walks into the kitchen in boxer-briefs and a tee, the goofiest grin you've ever seen in your life on his face.

"This is my favorite part, you know," he says, turning his nose up at the coffee to pour himself some orange juice.

I loosen the edges on the eggs, running the spatula around. "What is?"

"Not only do I get omelet, but I get an omelet cooked by Tony fucking Bourdain in the grand tradition of post-shag morning-after cooks everywhere. I'm one of the only people who gets to eat your cooking anymore."

I slide the first omelet onto a plate and crack the eggs for the second. Mostly, I'm ignoring him because it stings a bit, the reminder that I'm not a chef anymore. I'm kind of just a tourist, peering in the window at the cool kids like Gordon. I beat the eggs with a fork and pour them into the pan, taking the purist approach and not adding cheese.

"So dig in and tell me how much it sucks," I say. "It's early, but I'm sure you could muster up some of your famous rage."

He takes a bite while I plate my omelet, chews thoughtfully, then swallows. He rounds the breakfast bar and plants one on me while I've got a plate in one hand and a steaming hot pan in the other.

"It's fucking delicious, you prick. Still a rockstar chef."

I can't get the dumbass smile off my face until I'm on the plane.