They’re at the pub: red carpet, brass taps.
There was a man trapped under a car earlier; he’d managed to get himself stuck in the absolute, perfect position to look them all in the eye.
He’s dead now, but they’re alive and having a drink.
Shift finished in the afternoon; they’ve all gone home and showered and changed, then come back out. Ashley nearly went out on the pull instead. Actually, he should have.
The moment he saw that Rachid has two shirt buttons undone tonight, showing chest hair and a heavy silver chain like he thinks he’s in Saturday Night Fever, Ashley should have.
‘So, Stuart, if it’s the other fella’s jizz that made you all virile, couldn’t you just…?’ Rachid says, lifting his pint.
‘What are you looking at me for?’ Ashley says.
‘Couldn’t I just what?’ says Stuart, who’s wearing a stripy t-shirt like a little boy.
‘Go straight to the source,’ Rachid says, ‘you know.’
‘What the fuck are you looking at me for?’ Ashley says.
‘Oh, you mean…’ Stuart says.
‘Why do you need the lady to be the, ah, conduit?’ Rachid says.
‘That’s a big word for you,’ Stuart says.
‘Fuck off,’ Rachid says.
They all drink.
‘No, but really,’ Rachid says.
‘So, you sad bastard,’ Ashley says, ‘not only do you want to know every fucking detail of every fucking man I’ve ever fucked, and how long and in what position, and how big his cock was and whether he was taller than me and what he was wearing and whether he could fucking bench-press more than me, not only that, but you now want to start assigning me guys to fuck.’
‘I’m not! I’m just saying – theoretically!’ Rachid says.
‘In all seriousness,’ Stuart says, ‘it is an interesting question.’
‘Fuck you both so much,’ Ashley says, ‘and I do not mean that in the fun way.’
Some blokes behind them are shouting about football. So they get drawn into shouting about football too – or at least Rachid does.
‘No, he’s full of it,’ Rachid argues to someone. ‘All mouth and no trousers! They might as well just bring on a little girl on a pony.’
Ashley comes perilously close to asking, Why a pony? – and thus, to being drawn into this conversation. He’s on the cliff’s edge for a moment, teetering, before he reels himself back.
‘Ah,’ Stuart says in an undertone to him. ‘How about that local sporting team?’
‘You’re gayer than me,’ Ashley mutters back.
‘The conflation of gay and smart is a very interesting cultural phenomenon,’ Stuart says.
‘For instance, I’m not smart at all,’ Ashley says.
‘Don’t fish.’ Stuart winks.
Suddenly someone says to Rachid, apparently with complete and total innocence, ‘Listen, you’re a Paki…’
‘I’m not a Paki!’ Rachid says, in that incredibly cheerful way he has that lets him get away with anything. ‘Not everyone who’s a darkie is a Paki, for fuck’s sake, mate. Do you not know what Paki means?’
‘To be honest, no,’ the bloke says.
‘It means Pakistani. Do I look like I’m from Pakistan? No, don’t answer that. Just look at this.’ He holds up his hand. ‘This is olive skin, right?’
This conversation goes on excruciatingly for quite a while. Rachid is so affable that all the bloke’s friends feel welcome to join in and ask questions.
Afterwards, Ashley says to him quietly, a bit meanly, ‘D’you think the universe might be telling you something?’
‘I reckon, obviously, you’d enjoy it too, if Stuart actually…’ Rachid says.
‘Fuck you,’ Ashley says.
‘And not in the fun way,’ Rachid says, grinning.
They stagger out of the pub together into the night. Rachid’s turn-off is first. ‘All right, fuck you, you sad bastard, go get hit by a car,’ Ashley says.
‘All right, sweetheart, love you too,’ Rachid says, and wanders off into a lane.
Ashley’s door is next.
‘Xbox?’ Stuart asks, as they’re standing outside it.
‘Yeah, sure,’ Ashley says, and only then has a twinge of warning anxiety.
Inside, Stuart throws his duffle coat off and falls down on the sofa like a sack of potatoes.
‘Got more lager, if you want?’ Ashley says.
‘Yeah,’ Stuart says.
Ashley brings them both back one. Looking at Stuart, he realises Stuart is sitting in the exact same spot that the last man Ashley brought home from Grindr sat in.
‘Ta,’ Stuart says, when Ashley gives him the bottle.
Ashley sits down beside Stuart and pips the telly and the Xbox on.
‘I’m shit at this,’ Stuart says, as he runs his car into a barrier. Its engine explodes in flames.
‘I’d swear you did that deliberately.’ Ashley carries on and wins; his Driver Level status bar whizzes higher.
‘No!’ Stuart says. ‘You don’t understand how shit I am. How deeply, authentically shit I am.’
They start again. Scenery blurs by. Their imaginary motors rev.
‘You need to get laid, mate,’ Ashley says, ‘and not by me.’
He is expecting a retort, but there is none.
The race proceeds, fake crowd roaring.
‘It is a bit of an interesting question,’ Stuart says, ‘don’t you think.’
‘What question is that?’ Ashley says.
They carry on.
Stuart fucks it again. Ashley’s Driver Level pings upwards like a pinball, while Stuart’s only ticks.
Ashley is about to select Start Race, but doesn’t. He decides to wait for Stuart to do it. Ashley would feel reassured if Stuart did it.
Stuart doesn’t do it.
‘What do you think?’ Stuart says.
‘Are you fucking serious?’ Ashley says.
‘I do appear to be.’
‘You are fucking serious.’
Stuart has a familiar look on his face – a look that says, Yes, I’m a dickhead, but what are you going to do.
‘Look, honestly, I’m probably not opposed to whatever… exactly… you have in mind,’ Ashley says. ‘It’s just, if we try it, you’re probably going to freak out and have some epic homophobic fit, and then I have to work with you, and… we’re actually mates, as it is. And I don’t want to be in that position.’
‘I’m not going to…!’ Stuart says.
Ashley gets up and stands over Stuart. His cock is at Stuart’s eye level. He makes a show of looking down at his cock, then staring at Stuart, unwavering.
He lets several seconds pass. ‘Is this uncomfortable? It is, isn’t it?’
‘There’s no hope if me just standing here makes you uncomfortable.’
‘No, it’s not,’ Stuart says, in a way that makes absolutely clear that it is, but he’s pigheadedly latched on to denying it.
‘You’re gonna completely freak out on me, and never want to even look at me again, and you’ll make my entire working life a misery, you fucking wanker,’ Ashley says. He throws himself down on the sofa beside Stuart and elbows him.
‘I will not,’ Stuart says, and elbows him back. ‘You’re really pissing me off now.’
‘I’m pissing you off,’ Ashley says.
‘Give me some fucking credit,’ Stuart says.
‘I would, if I thought you even knew what you were asking for.’
‘You are so fucking patronising. Give me a kiss, you fuckwit.’ Stuart grabs his face and kisses him.
Stuart kisses like Ashley can imagine girls might like being kissed – a lot of soft lip presses, just a little bit of open mouth here and there.
Fuck Stuart. Stuart started this and it’s all Stuart’s fault. Ashley puts his tongue in – pretty rudely. See how Stuart likes that.
Stuart doesn’t stop it; he reciprocates.
This goes on a while.
Ashley stops it, at last. ‘How was that?’ He means to suggest, Have you learnt your lesson? But he’s too breathy.
‘Beardier than I’m used to.’
‘Yes, but is it good, you tosser?’
‘Yeah. It’s bloody perverted, actually.’ Stuart kisses him again.
Now they are really snogging. Stuart is leaning right into him.
What if Ashley lifts Stuart’s knee and hooks it over his own? Strokes the inside of his thigh? That ought to freak him out, make him stop.
It’s a nice thigh. Firm-ish, with a slight padding of puppy fat – pleasing to stroke. It’s not freaking Stuart out.
Ash is getting a horn.
He gropes for Stuart’s cock, because he wants to, and because now finally Stuart will freak out and leave so Ashley can at least fucking be alone with his right hand.
Stuart is hard, too. His only reaction it to hitch up into Ashley’s hand.
Ashley rubs it up and down through Stuart’s jeans with the ease of long practice. He knows – and feels a sense of dirty satisfaction that he knows – how hard to rub before it gets chafey.
The last gasps of his sanity assert themselves. He needs to check in. ‘Well?’ he says. Trying to be light, trying to make it not the end of the world. ‘You the kind of girl to turn a man on and leave him hanging, then, Stu?’
‘Oh, it’s me turning you on, is it?’ Stuart says.
Stuart’s lips are wet, when Ashley looks at them.
The silence stretches. Stuart’s eyes widen. His pupils are huge.
‘You dirty boy,’ Ashley says. ‘I’m gonna…’ His mind is full of white noise. He gets off the sofa and onto his knees.
‘Yeah,’ Stuart says, squeaky.
Ashley unbuttons Stuart’s jeans. He looks him fully, frankly in the face.
Stuart fucking wants it.
Is this some weird wank fantasy Ash has fallen into and can’t get up? But he doesn’t fantasise about Stuart. Stuart’s stripy t-shirt might as well have a caption saying, Hello, pleased to meet you, I’m sexually unthreatening.
He slips his hands up under the stripy t-shirt. Stuart’s a bit soft at the middle; he doesn’t work out. It’s sweet. Fuzzy belly – Ash likes that. Stuart shifts a bit, as if Ashley’s making him anxious.
‘All right,’ Ashley says, and starts to ease Stuart’s jeans and pants down.
If he fucks this up, he’ll have to get a new ICE. He doesn’t want to get a new ICE.
Stuart lifts his hips to cooperate. Ashley brings the jeans and pants down to the knees.
He doesn’t seem to be fucking it up so far.
There’s Stuart’s cock, pink and fat on his belly. He does not look particularly impotent. What have all the girls been doing wrong?
It’d be a lovely comfy size to sit on, not that that’s going to happen, but Ash can enjoy thinking about it.
That’s nice, the puppy-fat thighs bare, too.
Ashley takes the jeans and pants all the way down to the ankles. Stuart’s sort of shackled now – Ash likes doing that to men.
The smell of cock makes Ash tingle all down his spine.
‘All right?’ he says again.
‘Yeah,’ Stuart says.
Ash licks it, easing the foreskin back. There’s fluid on the tip; he sucks it off. There’s men that he can take or leave the taste, and there’s men that he likes it. He really likes Stuart’s taste. Good.
‘This wasn’t… the experiment,’ Stuart breathes, belatedly.
‘Never mind,’ Ashley says, and sucks it down. The sweet bulk right into the back of his throat.
Stu gets wild pretty quick – tensing all the muscles in his body in waves, so that Ashley has to lean his torso onto Stu’s thigh to keep him still as he sucks him.
Stu’s making little pained, embarrassed sounds. Ash feels like a fucking god.
Ash gets his own slacks open and wraps his hand around himself.
‘Let me,’ Stuart says.
‘Mmm.’ Ashley is reluctant to pull off long enough to clarify.
‘No, let me,’ Stuart says. ‘Let’s do it. Let me do it now.’ He cups Ashley’s face in his hand – cards the other hand through Ashley’s hair – makes him stop. ‘While I’m too hard to be shy.’
At last Ashley understands. A hot spear of sensation zips up his cock. He’s too hard to argue, to try to be a gentleman. ‘All right,’ he says.
‘Tell me what to do,’ Stuart says, voice flat from arousal.
Ashley lies down on the rug for him, pushing his slacks and pants down.
‘It’s easy,’ Ashley says. ‘Just keep your teeth behind your lips. The rest is obvious.’
Stuart comes and kneels beside him awkwardly, still with his own jeans around his ankles.
‘All right,’ Ashley says again, and rubs Stu’s shoulder. The haze of lust is a brilliant cure for awkwardness.
‘Here goes.’ Stu takes it in his hand and looks at it for a second. He gives it a stroke.
‘Got me so hard, you really can’t go wrong,’ Ashley says.
Stuart gives it a little lick under the head, like a cat drinking.
‘There you are,’ Ashley says.
Stuart takes the head just inside his mouth ‘Oh, there you are,’ Ash says. ‘That’s good. See if you can suck as you do that.’
‘Fuck,’ he says, and slides his fingers into Stu’s hair. ‘Good lad.’
‘Oi,’ Stu says, raising his head, ‘there are limits, Greenwick.’
‘All right,’ Ashley says, ‘all right. Mercy. God. Fuck.’
‘All right.’ When Stu goes down again, he looks smug.
Ashley wakes up a bit dry in the mouth but otherwise pretty good. He’s warm and lazy, and the bed smells good, like a man.
A pale forearm with mouse-brown arm hair is lying on the duvet.
That’s Stuart’s arm.
The night comes back to Ashley.
Stuart is undoubtedly, undoubtedly lying there having a crisis right now.
This is Ashley’s bed and he is not going to be the awkward one. He closes his eyes again and thinks his way back into that warm feeling he had a moment ago. He takes a good few, long moments to psych himself up.
He opens his eyes again and gets to his elbow, pretending to blink sleepily. ‘Hi,’ he says softly. He rubs Stuart’s shoulder hello.
‘Oh, hiya,’ Stuart says. He sounds well awake.
‘We on schedule for a freakout?’ Ashley says this as sympathetically as he can.
‘It’s just a friendly shag. It only means whatever you want it to mean.’
‘Patronising me again.’
‘No,’ Ashley laughs. ‘Maybe.’
‘Fuck you,’ Stuart says. They peer at each over the hills and valleys of the duvet.
Stuart shifts over and kisses him.
Ashley likes being kissed – especially in bed, by a nice-smelling man. He’d prefer the man wasn’t a pigheaded git who never does anything except to prove something. But he likes it anyway.
Lucky he doesn’t give a shit about morning breath.
‘You want to be careful, snogging a man with morning wood,’ he breaks away and says at last.
‘Or else what?’ Stuart says.
‘Or you might get what you’re asking for,’ Ashley says, and with a little thrill of danger, nudges his cock against Stuart’s hip.
Stuart’s eyes lose focus.
Ashley feels a little spurt of fluid come out the end of his dick.
Is this a good idea, in the cold light of day?
‘I could say the same to you,’ Stuart says, shifting his hips under the covers.
Ashley touches Stuart’s chest. He’s got pale pink nipples, a light scattering of hair across the upper chest with a denser hand-print right in the middle. Ashley slides his fingers into it.
Stuart rolls his eyes to the ceiling – annoyed? No, he’s biting his lip, now, and staring past Ashley’s ear.
Stuart flips the covers back off their hips.
Stuart’s dick is thick on his stomach, pointing straight up along his body. Shit, is Ashley allowed to…
‘Ash,’ Stuart says, and lifts his face like a baby bird wanting to be fed.
Yes, yes, he’s allowed. He touches it.
The skin is lovely and soft. He curls his whole hand around.
He kisses Stuart again, tonguing his mouth deeply.
The cock was only starting to fill up when he first got his hand on it; now it’s really swelling and tightening, getting all hot. The foreskin doesn’t cover the head without Ashley pushing it forward then easing it back again. What a nice little handful it is.
Stuart is riding his hips up into Ashley’s hand.
‘All right, darlin’, let me get some lube and make this nice for you,’ Ashley says, and pulls back to fumble in a drawer for it.
Stuart looks confused, maybe worried, when Ashley turns back towards him with the lube. ‘It’s all right,’ Ashley says. He lubes his hand and goes back to sliding it up and down Stuart’s dick.
‘Ooh,’ Stuart says, dreamy.
Ashley suspects Stuart was worried Ashley wanted to fuck, when he got the lube; he almost wants to tease Stuart for it, but now’s not the time.
‘Do you use lube when you’re by yourself?’ he asks.
‘Not… generally.’ Stuart struggles to speak.
‘It’s nice, isn’t it.’ Ashley twists his fingers round the head, moves tightly down to the base again, comes back up, then slides the tip of his thumb along the slit.
‘Ah,’ Stuart says, like the air going out of a balloon. He turns his face aside, like he needs his full attention to even be able to cope with what Ashley is doing to him.
Ashley is starting to have those waves of weakness in his arms that he gets from being hopelessly turned on. But he needs to keep this up. He wants to make Stuart fucking cry.
Stuart, perverse bastard, turns his face back with an effort that looks like wrenching rusted metal. ‘Lemme…’ he says, and gropes for Ashley’s cock.
It would be fair to say that Ashley moans like a whore.
Incautious in his post-fuck reverie, Ashley sighs and smears Stuart’s come up over his own belly with his hand.
Stuart makes a noise through his nose – not a sexy one.
‘That a bit gay for you?’ Ashley laughs and rolls Stuart over, squeezing his arse.
‘Mmm,’ Stuart says, ambiguous, with a note of a laugh.
‘Knew you had limits somewhere. I was gonna find them eventually.’
‘Oh, who says?’ Stuart protests – a bit weakly.
Ashley slips his fingers right into Stuart’s crack before he squeezes his arse again. ‘My darling,’ he says, because he really feels like being a troll right now, ‘you should know I would only ever put it in your arse if you begged me to. So if you haven’t begged me, you don’t need to worry.’
‘Shut up,’ Stuart scoffs, uncowed.
Ashley smacks several obnoxiously wet kisses on him.
It’s hopeless – Stuart’s face only gets more defiant.
‘All right.’ Ashley lets him go and climbs out of bed. ‘I’m getting in the shower first, because I’m a lot filthier than you. You can make me a cup of tea, sweetheart, if you like.’
‘Fuck you,’ Stuart says, grinning.
They go out for breakfast and get a good, serious fry-up.
‘What are we telling bloody Rachid about this, then?’ Ashley says, spearing his egg so the yolk runs out.
This is an easier question that the ones Ashley started asking himself in the shower, such as whether he fancies Stuart now – it’s starting to feel like he does – and if so, what the fuck is he going to do about it? But it’s not exactly safe to ask Stuart that.
‘Ah!’ Stuart says, gesturing with his knife. ‘Exactly the truth. Exactly the truth in every particular detail.’
Ashley, unsure, spreads his yolk around on his toast.
‘It’ll be perfect,’ Stuart says. ‘The more gory details, the better.’
Ashley thinks about it. ‘That’s…. yeah. That’s brilliant.’
‘I know,’ Stuart says. ‘I have my moments.’
‘The two lovers!’ Rachid says as they settle into the cab at the start of shift and start to drive. ‘How was your night? Bit o’ the old…’ He makes a ring with his thumb and index finger and sticks the other index finger through it in a thrusting motion.
Ashley looks at Stuart. Stuart is smiling banally through the windscreen.
‘Yeah!’ Ashley says. ‘Yeah, it was great! Sucked him off to get him in the mood; he sucked me off; then we had another go in the morning. It was quite nice.’
Rachid scoffs. ‘All right.’
‘Let us know how you go with the sperm count, yeah?’ Ashley says to Stuart. ‘I mean, if that didn’t work, I don’t know what will.’
‘We had a good old go, didn’t we.’ Stuart laughs.
Rachid shakes his head.
‘No, I mean,’ Ashley insists to Rachid, ‘it were that good, might need to have another go some time. I mean, if he’s up to it.’
Admittedly it’s a bit obnoxious to phrase this as up to it rather than up for it.
‘Excuse me, what do you mean up to it?’ Stuart says. ‘You sobbed when you came.’
‘I did not sob,’ Ashley says.
‘You sobbed,’ Stuart says.
‘All right,’ Rachid says quellingly.
‘Yeah, you don’t like it when it’s not your joke, do you?’ Stuart says to Rachid.
‘Whatever,’ Rachid says.
They watch a housing estate go by, the view bouncing in the windscreen as they go over a speed bump.
‘Well,’ Ashley says quietly, without any attention to Rachid at all, ‘rematch, then, you wanker.’
‘Rematch,’ Stuart replies. ‘Sold.’