Phil Harris raises a glass of champagne to them when he spies them sneaking away from the party. Luckily, he’s the only one who does. Everyone else is too busy eating, drinking, and making merry. Jack frowns, trying hard to ignore him. Jack and George continue their path along the paneling on the wall, and just before they are out of sight, Phil winks, the side of his mouth quirked in a knowing smile, as though knowing it would upset him even more.
“Why that no good, dirty rotten—”
“Jack,” George interrupts. He pushes him through a crack in between the doors, which he carefully closes behind them. He continues. “Come on, now. He’s just trying to get under your skin.”
George begins ascending the staircase that led up to the host’s bedrooms and bathrooms, hoping Jack would follow him and forget about Phil Harris altogether.
“Well, it's working!” Jack squawks. “I’ll have you know that Phil Harris has one of the filthiest minds and one of the biggest mouths in show business.”
George lets Jack rant, but when they reach the top of the stairs, he opens one of the doors. It looks to be a guest room, which will be just fine. It wouldn’t be right if it were the master bedroom, George thinks. That was going a bit too far.
They go inside.
George rarely rushes to do anything, and so he goes about removing his jacket and tie as though he were undressing to get ready for bed. He holds his cigar in his mouth while he unlaces his dress shoes and peels off his socks, suddenly glad that he hadn’t worn braces today. When he’s finished, George looks back up and finds Jack sitting on the edge of the bed with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands, totally lost in thought.
George walks over to him.
“What’s on your mind, Jack?”
Jack sits up. “Oh, it’s nothing. Nothing to worry about.”
He attempts a smile, but George knows better. George puts a hand on Jack’s shoulder, stroking gently in the hopes that it might calm him enough to get him talking.
“I feel guilty, George. I mean, Mary knows. And Gracie. Maybe we shouldn't.”
George takes a puff. Of course Gracie knew. He didn’t want her getting the idea that there was another woman. There never was and there never would be another woman for him. Gracie was different than Mary; Gracie understood.
Jack remains quiet, and George knows that something is amiss. He sits down next to Jack on the bed.
“I’m sure she understands. I'm very alluring.”
That finally gets him a chuckle, and George smiles. He’s dealt with tougher audiences than this.
“How do I explain to my wife that she isn’t enough for me?” Jack asks.
Jack was always good like that. Always said what he meant, never minced his words, never sugarcoated anything. It made giving him advice and comfort that much easier.
“Maybe you could tell her you want something that she doesn't have.”
Jack shakes his head. A small smile appears on his face.
“George Burns, has anyone ever told you that you have a filthy mind and filthier mouth?”
He winks and takes a suggestive puff on his cigar, giving a little moan as he let the smoke waft to the ceiling. Jack looks at him incredulously, joy bubbling up and out of his mouth in loud, breathless laughs. George watches his whole body shake with laughter.
“Would you mind telling me what’s so funny? I thought you were having a marital crisis.”
It only makes Jack laugh even hard until he is on his knees, tears streaming down his face. George patiently waits for his fit to finish. He is used to this sort of thing by now. Jack would eventually let him in on the joke. Jack rejoins him on the bed.
“Glad you’re feeling better.”
“You always know just what to say, George.”
“And just what exactly did I do?”
“You—you said—,” a sputtering laugh makes him stutter. “You and your cigars!”
George gives him a look as though he didn't know what Jack was talking about. Jack bites his lip, trying to fight the urge to bust up again. George decides to help him along, and says the funniest thing he can think of:
“Jack, this is serious.”
The laughter comes back just as loudly and forcefully, and George watches his handy work with great amusement. He didn’t like seeing Jack so morose. Especially not when it came to the two of them. He knew Mary could be quick to judgement and was harsh with him, but everyone knew Jack would never step out on her. They were safe picks for each other. If nothing else, choosing each other was simply practical.
When his second bout is through, Jack climbs onto the bed yet again and crawls towards the pillows where he plops down with a heavy sigh. George thoughtfully removes Jack’s shoes so as not to ruin their hostess’ nice bedspread. Jack sighs deeply and wiggles his toes. His eyes fall shut when George removes his socks.
“Don't be sore if I fall asleep on you, George."
“Oh, now look who’s being dirty again,” Jack says.
George takes that as his cue to crawl up the bed to lie down next to Jack. The only response he gets is a sleepy smile. He settles himself on the pillows and turns on his side to face Jack, who looks positively serene. If he hadn’t seen it with his own two eyes, he never would have guessed that Jack was a mess on the floor just moments ago.
“You still have your necktie on,” George observes, pulling a fresh cigar and his lighter out of his pants’ pocket.
“So it’ll choke you in your sleep.”
“Much like that cigar of yours. Those things reek, George. And if you’re so concerned about my breathing, you can put it out and remove my tie.”
George props himself up a little bit and undoes the loops and unhooks a few of his buttons for good measure. Just until he could see Jack’s collarbones.
“There,” George says. “Now you don’t look like you’re the main attraction at a funeral.”
Jack opens his eyes at that, looking down at himself in his tie and tails. He contemplates the idea for a moment. He wriggles out of his coat too.
“You know something? That would make a pretty good sketch.”
“Certainly. But you’d never get that past the censors.”
A puff of smoke. He puts it in the ashtray on the side table to save for later.
“What’s the matter now?” George asks.
“I’m just so downright tired, George," he says with a yawn. "That took a lot out of me."
“I can see that. But we came up here for a reason, you know. A good reason.”
George’s eyes are once again drawn to his open shirt and to his perfectly blue, drowsy eyes. He knows Jack deserves a rest, but he just can’t help himself. He moves over Jack and balances himself on hands placed on the bed in the space over Jack’s shoulders. Slowly, he lowers himself down until their lips finally meet, warm and languid and open. Their hips roll together a few times in perfect time. He shivers when Jack whimpers into his mouth. He is loath to separate from him, but he does. Just enough to talk to him properly.
“Just because I didn’t put up a struggle, don’t get the notion that I’m easy,” Jack protests.
“I promise not to tarnish your virtue, darling.”
“George,” he tsks.
George leans in to kiss him again, but he isn’t sure if Jack's sighing in pleasure or sighing as he falls asleep. It’s even harder for him to pull away the second time, but there are some lines he just won't cross.
His voice sounds soft and far away. He buries himself deeper into the pillows like a kitten runs its face into its mother's fur. A fine time for Jack’s rigorous schedule to catch up with him. He’s sure this will give Gracie a laugh later.
“Didn’t sneak away for nothing, you know," George husks. He swallows, wanting him so badly. “Jack, I—”
“Just be quiet about it, alright?”
“Alright, Jack,” he whispers.
He tries to be quiet. He does to himself what he knows Jack likes, even though he’s not awake to fully react and appreciate his efforts.
George isn’t sure there was such a thing as god, but he sends up a prayer nonetheless as he takes himself in hand as he lies next to his lightly slumbering friend. Jack doesn’t even wake up. He gets nothing more than a breathy sound from Jack while he slept that almost finishes the whole evening right then and there. He tries not to think about Phil Harris, who was probably counting out the minutes they were up here. He wonders how long they’ve been away from the festivities. George stills himself for a moment and gives a listen. He breathes a sigh of relief when he hears chatter and laughter and music and corks popping open.
George hopes Jack doesn’t mind when he muffles his moans in the side of his neck to keep the partygoers from hearing. Once finished, he carefully pulls himself away, and Jack finally moves, shifting his muscles and reaching out a hand to touch George's face.
“Was it better without me telling you what to do the whole time?” Jack jokes.
George reaches for the cigar he’d left on the nightstand.
“I missed your voice,” George answers honestly.
“Now don't be sore, Jack.”
“I needed the rest.”
“You looked so peaceful.”
"Well," Jack says coyly. "Well, maybe I'll have more energy later."
"Well, you might," he says with a gravelly laugh.
"Come on. We'd better get back down there. Phil is probably feeling far too proud of himself by now."
George zips his pants. "When isn't he?"