Normally, Gary would've been angry about any kind of mess on his piano.
He would've ranted and raved, his calm demeanour turning to white hot rage the second he saw the damage.
He would've sulked about it for days.
And it would've been his right - nobody could argue with such an attitude (and nobody would dare to). The thing was, after all, completely ruined. It was still playable, probably, but the wood... oh, that beautiful sleek wood was beyond repair.
But, strangely enough, Gary wasn't that bothered.
It had been very much worth it.
At four-thirty in the morning, Mark sauntered in.
Gary had already decided that he was livid, and that no amount of explanation on Mark's part would pacify him. It was a quiet anger, one that boiled up inside rather than overflowing to the point of having to punch things. For the last hour he had been sitting in the middle of the sofa with a book in his lap, staring down at the pages but not really taking any of it in.
He was waiting. Just waiting. And the longer he waited, the angrier he became.
Where Mark had been and who he had been with wasn't what was making him angry, though. No, he was cross with himself, as well as with Mark. He was pissed off that Mark had gone, and he was pissed off that he had agreed to it without protest.
And it was all over, apparently. The thing that Gary had been dreading ever since Mark brought it up months ago was done. Completed. Concluded. Finished.
Except it wasn't. Not really. Not for Gary.
Now he had to deal with it.
Mark was drunk. Not on any kind of alcoholic substance – although Gary didn't doubt he'd had a few of those at some point – but just on life. It was pure euphoria, Gary could feel it. He didn't even have to look up.
He knew what Mark was wearing, too, and knew exactly how it would be hanging on him. When he left the house that afternoon everything about him had been immaculate. His black t-shirt and trousers had clung to his frame so perfectly that Gary had shut himself in his studio whilst he changed into them, lest he'd tried to rip them off of him.
From his hair to his shoes, Mark had been completely flawless.
Now he was dishevelled – the kind of dishevelled that only comes after one of two things. One: fully-clothed, rough, shameless, passionate sex, usually against a wall or in a toilet cubicle. Or two: pratting about at Knebworth with your sometimes-best-mate, giving the lyrics to Back For Good a whole new meaning.
When he had considered it - and he had, at length - Gary hadn't been sure which he would've preferred.
"Evenin' Gaz." He hovered in the doorway, unsure. Despite his cheeriness there was hesitance in his voice. "You okay?"
Gary grunted in response. It was supposed to signify a yes but he didn't really care if it came across that way or not.
Anyway, it was the truth. He was okay. Nobody was dead, nobody was missing, Mark had returned home in what seemed like one piece. That was something.
Mark crossed the room, slowly approaching the sofa like a child about to get told off for some minor wrongdoing. His pep had definitely faded somewhat. He sunk to the floor and rested his head against Gary's thigh, not purposefully obstructing his view of the book but allowing a few strands of his soft hair to fall over the pages.
Sharply, Gary pulled the paperback towards him. He caught Mark's temple with the corner, but neither of them made any movement to complain or to apologise. Holding it out in front of him, Gary tried to concentrate on the words, but it was difficult, what with Mark idly stroking his leg.
God, he was beautiful.
But Gary had to be strong. He was angry, dammit, and he wasn't about to let Mark Owen get the better of him.
"Good book?" Mark asked as he ran his fingers along Gary's thigh. "You seem to be enjoying it."
Gary huffed. "We can't all be partying with Robbie Williams, Mark. Some of us... have better things to do."
If Mark disagreed with this, he didn't make it clear. "It was good fun, Gaz." His fingers continued their journey upwards, crossing over to Gary's other leg and travelling back down towards his knees. Gary didn't dare to move. "Rob sends his love. Says we should meet up sometime, y'know? Have a chat and a drink?"
"That's nice," Gary said, making sure to sound indifferent. "But you two don't want me getting in the way of your fun."
"No," Mark said, "he meant all of us. You, me, Howard, Jay... Everyone."
Gary turned the page as aggressively as he could without actually ripping it out. "That's nice," he said again. "Bit late now, isn't it?"
"Oh," Mark sounded glum. "I know he's said some awful things about you in the past, but that's why he wants to see you – to apologise and try to patch things up."
"I actually meant it's a bit late to go out now, what with it being nearly five o'clock in the morning." Gary paused and turned the page again, this time for effect. "But now that you mention it, that's an issue too."
Mark didn't say anything to that, but Gary could sense he was rolling his eyes. He wasn't upset at Gary's words. If anything, he was probably more annoyed; annoyed that Gary was being so flippant when he had made a great start in the bridge building process.
Gary got to his feet and slammed the book shut with such force that it nearly made him jump. He strode over to the bookcase and shoved it in at random – something he knew would drive Mark crazy until it was put right.
"I'm glad you had a good time Markie, but you'll understand if I don't really feel like discussing it."
Mark sighed. "Oh Gary..."
"No." Gary spun around and glared at Mark. "Don't. I just told you - I don't want to talk about it."
"Why not? Don't you want to make things better?"
"Some things..." Gary sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Some things aren't meant to be fixed, right? They just can't be fixed. It's like... like when you broke that plate last week. You can stick the pieces back together but it'll never be the same, will it?"
He went to walk out of the room, not interested in carrying on the discussion. Or doing anything else, for that matter. He was nearly in the hallway when Mark spoke, his voice barely above a whisper.
"Nothing happened between me and Rob, if that's what you're worried about. Not tonight, not ever."
In the doorway, Gary froze. He hadn't even considered such a thing happening tonight, but now Mark was bringing it up, surfacing past worries that Gary had never even told him about. It made him feel ridiculously nauseous.
"I didn't say that it did."
"No. I thought I'd better... Just in case you were concerned. I know how it might look, sometimes, but I promise you: nothing happened. I wouldn't do that to you."
Right, so that was his game, was it? Act all sweet and sensitive, appeal to Gary's soft side? Well, Gary wasn't in the mood for that, not tonight. He had already worked himself up so much that only having an argument or pinching Rob really hard would make him feel better. And as the latter was highly unlikely without meeting him in the flesh, the argument would have to do.
Gary turned around slowly, raising his head so that their eyes met across the room.
Rob and Mark had always shared that stupidly special connection. Before all of this – sleeping together and living together and supposedly sharing everything – started, it had seemed quite sweet to Gary. They relied on one another for everything, which kept them out from under Gary's feet when he was stressing over writing. Even so, he had always been just a little bit jealous. Not especially because Rob had Mark, but because someone had Mark. And it hadn't been him.
It was him these days, but it didn't always feel that way.
"No, I wouldn't." Mark frowned. "Why? Don't you believe me?"
"Of course I do." He walked back into the room and stood in front of Mark, trying his best to look sincere and to stop clenching his fists. At least he was keeping his voice steady. "But... it still hurts to think of the two of you. I can't help but imagine you sitting together, having a good laugh at my expense..."
"Gaz, I would never!" They both knew it was a lie, and Mark swallowed hard to cover his guilt. "Not anymore. Not after everything we've been through."
Everything that they'd been through – ha! Most of it had involved Rob calling Gary a wanker, Gary taking it without feeling able to fight back, and Mark looking as if he was going to fall to pieces because he had to choose a side.
Now, however, it looked as if he had.
"Honestly," Mark rolled his eyes again, petulant this time, rather than annoyed. "I don't understand why it bugs you so much that I still talk to him."
They stared daggers at one another for a minute, maybe two, before Mark averted his gaze and shrugged.
"I'm going to have a shower."
Gary grabbed Mark's arm and pulled him back around until their foreheads were almost touching. He could feel Mark shaking a little, but knew it wasn't from fear. "You're not. You're not going anywhere until we've sorted this out."
Mark's eyes were blazing.
"Let go of me Gary – I'm tired, I'm greasy, and I'm not in the mood for this crap, okay? Just let me go. We'll talk about it tomorrow."
"It already is tomorrow, and we're talking about it right fucking now!"
"You said you didn't want to talk about it at all. Fuck's sake Gaz, make up your mind! You drive me bloody mental; sometimes I don't know why I even bother with you."
As soon as the words left his mouth, Mark slapped a hand over it.
"Shit. Gaz, I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."
"No, I know you didn't mean that. You don't mean a lot of things, do you? Did you mean it when you kissed me goodnight yesterday? Or the night before that? Did you mean it when you told me you loved me this morning? What about when we last had sex, Mark, did you mean that?"
"Well," Mark said, slowly, all remorse gone as quickly as it had come, "that was a long time ago, so I can't be sure..."
That was, as they say, it.
Gary tightened his grip on Mark's arm, and dragged him in the direction of the nearest flat surface – his beloved baby grand. The black polished wood almost made it pretentious - not really meant to be played, just admired, and certainly not used for something like this. It had cost an awful lot of money and took up at least a corner of the living room, but it was an absolute joy to play. Merely sitting in front of it was enough to make Gary feel inspired, motivated, stimulated. He had written some of his favourite tunes sitting at that piano.
Now though, it was just another object.
Lifting Mark up onto it with ease, Gary made him sit on the edge with his legs dangling. They weren't long enough to reach the floor.
"Shut up. Just shut up."
He wrapped his fingers around the back of Mark's neck and held him steady, watching his face intently for a few seconds before crushing their lips together, harder than he had actually intended. The instant their tongues touched, Gary realised that he could taste Mark and only Mark, and all of a sudden he just knew that he'd had been telling the truth. He'd never done anything like this with Rob. He belonged to Gary.
And Gary was going to prove it.
He pulled away, but leaned back in again to whisper into Mark's ear.
Then, as quickly as possible, Gary was rummaging through their CD collection, looking for... ah yes, there it was. Everything was alphabetised, of course, which made it a lot easier to find what he was searching for. Just another one of the many things that usually made living with Mark highly enjoyable.
He slid the CD into the machine and adjusted the volume so that it was audible, but not distracting.
"Why this one...?"
That was all Gary had to say on the matter. He was back across the room in five seconds, kissing Mark again in eight, and scrabbling at his belt buckle in eleven.
Mark was hard, which didn't surprise him, and moaning quietly, which did. Gary had expected arousal, but not quite so much of it. Maybe it was the argument, maybe it was the speed, or maybe it was the background music.
As How Peculiar came to an end and Feel started, Gary was pulling that tight black t-shirt over Mark's head, casting it to the floor before going back to that pesky belt. There was no time to talk, no time to share lingering looks or loving smiles. This had to be hard, and it had to be fast. For both of them.
But as he finally wriggled Mark's tight trousers off, Gary couldn't help take a few seconds to just look at the man in front of him. There he was, almost naked on top of the piano, skin flushed and slightly moist, his mouth pink and maybe even a little swollen.
How could this beautiful creature ever be the cause of such pain and anger?
Gary stepped forward again and, without any hesitation, his fingers went straight to Mark's crotch. Surprised, Mark jumped, but Gary was determined to keep control. His free hand cupped Mark's chin.
"Stay still," he ordered. Lightly, he kissed Mark on the nose. "I mean it."
Another soft moan escaped from Mark's lips. He liked it; he always liked it when Gary was forceful and demanding.
He threw his head back as Gary started rubbing, slowly at first but gaining more momentum as he felt Mark tense, desperate to move but too stubborn to disobey orders. Gary could almost hear him thinking: Nobody will ever say that Mark Owen doesn't submit properly!
"Lie back for me," Gary said, letting go of Mark's cock and giving him a little push.
Mark fell back gracefully, his legs still dangling over the edge and his arms flung over his head. His instant obedience made Gary's breath catch in his throat, but he gulped down some air and managed to keep his cool.
Sliding Mark's underwear down was easy; resisting the desire to lick all the way along his thighs was much trickier.
To distract himself, Gary started to peel off his own clothes, throwing them to the floor so that they landed on top of the t-shirt and trousers he had already liberated from Mark's body. As he stripped, Gary didn't take his eyes off of Mark. He couldn't. Just in case.
He didn't look away even as he bent down to pick up his jeans again. It had been about ten o'clock when Gary had put the lube in his pocket. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he had known that he would need it.
Gary leaned over the piano so that he was level with Mark's ear. Mark turned his head to the side in anticipation.
"Been awhile, hasn't it, love?"
Mark nodded and bit his lip. "Too long."
"Hmm." As quietly as possible, Gary started to unscrew the cap of the tube. "I don't know why." It bounced as it hit the floor. "I can never normally resist you."
A shudder was followed by a sigh as Gary's slicked finger pressed against him, but Mark managed to keep still. Encouraged, Gary pushed just that little bit harder against the clenched muscle, until... oh. It really had been entirely too long since they'd done this, and it felt so fucking good as Mark tightened around his finger that Gary really wasn't sure how much more he could take before he'd have to drop the dominant act and give Mark exactly what he wanted.
But he couldn't let Mark win, not this time. If Mark was in charge he would make it romantic, asking to make love in their bed, rather than on Gary's piano to the faint sound of Love Somebody.
There would be time for tenderness later, for kisses and hugs and declarations of love. For now Gary pushed and twisted his fingers relentlessly, watching as Mark gripped the edges of the piano, his toes curled in bliss.
"You're all mine, aren't you Markie?"
"Yes!" Mark hissed, drawing out the last letter over several seconds. "Always yours, Gary."
Obviously unable to keep still any longer, Mark raised his hips slightly, offering himself to Gary even more. Highly amused and feeling just that little bit hornier, Gary pushed him back down again.
"You wait," he said, as firmly as he could despite how Mark's action had made him feel. "I'll fuck you when I'm good and ready."
The problem was, he had been ready for quite some time. Since he had stripped Mark. Since Mark had sat on the floor at his feet. Since Mark had arrived home. Since the idea of reminding Mark who he really belonged to had entered his head over breakfast that morning...
Gary pulled his hand away to much protest, which he duly ignored. Pressing a quick kiss to Mark's inner thigh – which elicited the most beautiful of whimpers – he snatched up the lube again and coated his cock liberally. Mark was watching him through heavily-lidded eyes, and Gary smiled back at him in spite of himself. How could he stay angry at that face?
As he climbed on top, Gary marvelled at how good Mark's skin looked against the shiny black of the piano, and tried to ignore how pasty he suddenly felt. They'd have to go away to somewhere hot soon; it'd be good for the both of them. Sun, sea, sand, and plenty of other things that began with an S.
He closed his eyes as the head of his cock nestled between Mark's buttocks, fighting the urge to just thrust straight in. This had to be forceful, he had already established that in his mind, but he wasn't about to hurt Mark by being too rough.
"Do it," Mark replied, through gritted teeth. He was already anticipating the pain, but the way he was rolling his hips reassured Gary that he was more than ready.
With one quick push Gary was inside him, and Mark cracked his head back as he groaned in ecstasy. He continued to rock back and forth in an attempt to get Gary to move, but Gary wasn't about to give Mark the control he wanted.
"So gorgeous, my Markie..."
"You sure you're ready for this?"
Rather pitifully, Mark nodded.
And with that, Gary had mercy on both Mark and on himself. He started to move, alternating between long, slow thrusts and quick, hard ones. Whichever he opted for, Mark looked and sounded as if he was enjoying himself rather a lot.
That would have to stop.
"You like that?" he whispered, his voice only just audible over Come Undone. When Mark didn't answer, Gary took hold of his face and stared down at him. "Do you?"
Mark had his eyes wide open, and his jaw clenched. His expression was feisty, just like Gary had hoped it would be, almost as if he was ready to fight back against Gary's authority. "Yeah," he said, "but I know you can do it better."
Mark really knew how to wind him up, even if it was only a game.
Gary was surprised that the piano didn't move even an inch when he pounded into him in defiance. From the pitch of Mark's yelp, it hurt; but it was that delicious agony that Mark craved so much.
"Oh, I can," Gary said. "I just wasn't sure if you could take it."
Pushing himself up onto his elbows so that he could enjoy the scene beneath him, Gary noticed just how tightly Mark was still holding on to the piano. Hoping to keep him on that fine line between pleasure and pain, Gary continued.
"I-I can take it." Mark's voice quivered, but he was far too stubborn to give in now. "Give me whatever you've got, whatever you want to give me..."
Gary slowed down to a moderate pace. Still hard, still deep, but nowhere near as fast as Mark usually begged for. Yes, that was all he felt like giving for the moment. After all, he still didn't want Mark to enjoy himself too much.
"And you're sure you want me to fuck you?"
"I always want you..."
"Yeah? You don't want Rob to do it instead?"
Gary's fears that he had gone too far were quashed when Mark closed his eyes, his brow creased and his lips curved in a filthy smile.
"Believe me," he gasped, panting hard and writhing frantically under Gary, "you're the only one I want to fuck me."
That was it for Gary; he just couldn't control it anymore. One, two, three hard thrusts and he was coming, playing Mark's last words over and over in his head, telling himself that it was true, Mark wanted him and only him.
When he had finished, Gary was utterly exhausted. "Fuck Markie," he spluttered, still managing to hold himself up so that he could gaze down at what was truly his. "That was... fucking incredible... so glad you're mine..."
Mark came then, without Gary having to touch him. He opened and closed his mouth repeatedly; attempting to form words but everything he was trying to say getting stuck in his throat. Gary could only imagine what they were – oh fuck yes please oh Gaz I love you I love you I love you Gary yes yes I love you – but he definitely enjoyed the sight of him trying to get them out. It was almost as delicious as watching Mark come, coating both of them with semen, and tightening around Gary's spent cock even more.
Bliss. Absolute fucking bliss.
Unable to hold his own weight any longer, Gary collapsed on top of Mark, grateful. Grateful that he had Mark, grateful that they'd just had some of the best sex ever, and especially grateful that Nan's Song hadn't started yet.
That would've been just too weird.
"Aren't there some hidden tracks on the en-... oh."
The CD player answered Mark's question for him.
"I like hidden tracks," he said, nestling into Gary's arm. The now-stained piano was big enough for an afterglow cuddle, thankfully. "Makes me feel like I'm getting something for free, y'know?"
"True. Hey, you know what I like?" Gary asked. "I like fucking you to music – it makes you sound even better."
Mark laughed gleefully, which was something that Gary had really missed, recently. Tensions had been running high in the Barlow-Owen household ever since the topic of Knebworth had been broached.
They talked for a little while about nothing in particular, Gary trying anything to hear that laugh again. It worked a fair few times, and he felt that awful gnawing feeling leave his stomach once and for all.
Then, all of a sudden, Mark's face fell serious.
"Why'd you pick Escapology, though?"
His timing couldn't have been more perfect. Gary pressed a finger to Mark's lips and made him listen.
If you won't leave me baby,
I'll find someone who will.
I tried love, I'm sorry, I tried love.
Does God ever get it wrong?
Where has Gary Barlow gone...?
Mark smiled and nodded, finally understanding.
"I'm right here, lad," Gary told him, grinning back just as much. "And I know that nobody, not even Rob, is gonna change that."
"I like the sentiment. But next time," Mark said, pulling Gary down for a kiss, "we'll do it to one of yours."
Gary had to admit, he really liked that idea.