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The Three Revelations of Robert Lewis

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The first shock is of familiarity; lying here over the duvet, in a pool of lamplight. Quiet, at the end of day. Still. Tea mugs steaming an arm’s reach away. Rain stuttering on the path in the darkness beyond the curtains.

The back of one hand stroking the triangle of skin stretched between James Hathaway's collarbone, nipple and left armpit.

Now, that at least should feel new. Strange. Unsettling.

He had expected this to feel alien.

Instead, Robbie is struck only by recognition; the body of man is not a mystery to him. Why should it be? He has had full and intimate use of one for almost sixty years after all. He needs no user manual. He knows where and when and how to touch, accelerate, brake, to change gear, to drive this moment to conclusion.

Val's body had been exotic, an unknown land, just as Oxford once was, when he followed her here. Soft, rounded and wide-hipped, dark, damp, hidden and mossy. When he was young. Younger even than James is now.

The flesh under his fingers is a landscape of sinew and bone, angular as the northern hills of his childhood. A homecoming.

Furthermore, he realises he knows the specifics of this body. Intimately. In the past seven years he has shared cars and desks and sofas and changing rooms with this body. His own arm, thigh and shoulder have long since learned its dead weight, he has known the soft puff of breath on his neck, has tasted the tart scent of waking; smoke, coffee and last night's chow mein.

He has carried this man. What surprise should his body hold for him now?

He pushes the shirt back from James's shoulder. His own shirt, borrowed. His fishing shirt. Worn and soft and comfortable and frayed a little where sleeve meets shoulder. All of which only increases the dizzying sense of familiarity, as though he were uncovering himself and finding James there.

And then, with a thrill that sparks through every fibre, from crown to toe, he discovers that he has learned nothing before this moment.

For never, once, in all his heated imagining, had he expected to find beauty here.

James is gold and milk and blood-in-milk, nipples like marigold petals, shadows at waist violet, the hair at groin and under each arm bright, yet startlingly dark against pale skin, the cock rising from his open jeans a thing of cream and rose and bronze.

All this, laid out for him in the lamplight, under his moving fingers, and James, lips half-parted, eyes half-closed, like a cat. Glittering. Watching him.

James reaches out. "Please," he says. Asks. And plucks at the blue toweling wrapped over Robbie's chest. “Please.”

His own hand flies to cover the knot at his waist. To stay covered. Last line of defence.

Robbie has shrugged off these gentle hands for days now, with a growl, a wheezing cough, I'm not an invalid you know and shuffled stubbornly from bed to bog to sofa on his own.

Postponing this moment.

Because he is, of course. Invalid. In-valid.

His bruised, sagging flesh dismays him now as it never has before. He has kept it carefully wrapped from view, dressing gown tied firmly over his sour-milk-soft belly, hair as sparse and grey below as above.

He feels a pang of regret for the flat stomach and smooth thighs of his youth, which James will never know. And all those erections. Thousands of them. Wasted on the models in the underwear section of his mum’s Littlewood's catalogue. How could he have known then, spending so liberally at fifteen, they would be a finite resource in one's fifties?

James has waited, patiently, for hours, for days, for the fulfillment of a promise made on the hard shoulder of the A40. Waited on him, with tea and toast and pillows and painkillers.

“Please?"

Robbie can barely breathe.

He longs to give James beauty in return, to bundle it up and thrust it into his arms. But he has none to give. Just half a duvet and the loan of a shirt, worn at the seams.

"It's not pretty," he says.

"If I wanted pretty, I'd have fucked Gurdip."

"Way out of your league, man," Robbie says, then pulls roughly at the belt, savagely, wanting to say look, look at the poor bargain you have made.

He braces himself for disappointment, perhaps even disgust. He sees only a sudden blooming darkness in the wide eyes before James leans forward and presses his lips gently to a point just left of the green-black bruise over Robbie's sternum.

James is trembling, and Robbie recognises that extremity in him, marvelling at the restraint that holds him here. He has been there, many times, poised on the point of desire, striving to be gentle when every nerve and sinew is screaming for movement and heat and penetration.

This, then, is the third, and final revelation, which undoes him. He is in awe at the richness and strangeness of James's desire. The wonder of it – that he should inspire this in another.

He sees a tear run incongruous and unheeded from the corner of James's eye. He reaches out to gather it on his fingers, stroking James’s cheek.

"What's this, soft lad?" he asks, although softness is most definitely not a quality which James possesses right at this moment.

James only laughs and sobs, and covering Robbie's hand with his own, sucks at his fingers, licks his palm, and then, at the end of his endurance, laces their fingers together, broad and blunt, long and pale, and carries them down between their bodies. Here, feel, look, see - this, this is what you do to me.

They are wrapped together, joined, hand to hand, skin to skin, cock to cock, moving together.

All the pain in Robbie's bones migrates from heart, head, hip, into one sharp sweet ache at his groin.

There is a light growing behind his eyes and every fibre in him is strained and stretched past breaking point and he is coming, thick and fast, as James cries out somewhere close to his ear.

A gust of wind shakes the house, spattering rain hard against the windowpane.

They lie together, in a pool of lamplight and warm honey, nose to nose, forehead to forehead, breath to breath.

Robbie opens his eyes, and sees only one great blue iris, like the sky, gazing back at him.