Geoff sat at his piano, idly doing five-finger exercises while Tony sorted through a heap of sheet music. A mixture of his own and what Tony had added at various times, his boyfriend was in search of something suitable for the end of a tumultuous week. More than usual, their Sunday afternoon music-making was an escape. Something uncomplicated that only involved the two of them. No ex-boyfriends, or outraged parents. He changed what he was doing to concentrate his efforts on his weaker left hand, leaving the other free to scratch his beard. He stared blankly out at the garden while his thoughts swirled around inside his head.
For what felt like the thousandth time, he wondered what his mother's reaction would be to his letter. The rental proposition Tony devised which would determine whether he could stay in the house. Geoff posted the letter the day before. His mother wouldn't even get it until the following Tuesday. A brief smile appeared on his face. Email, instant messaging, texts, all made the physical postal service seem impossibly slow. Yet again, he tried to calculate when they might get a response. If they got a reply at all. Not before the end of the week at the earliest. And that was only the question of the house. His entire relationship with his mother would still be up in the air. The uncertainty ate at him, continuing to upset his guts. He found it difficult to focus at work.
Snippets of their conversation from that wretched evening started up again. His mother's hurtful, shaming comments. In her eyes, he was no longer her son, someone she'd cared for. He was a 'filthy, disgusting queer', 'a complete disappointment'. … But not to Tony. Not to his loving, confident boyfriend. That was more important. Wasn't it? An image of a Christmas Day early in his life floated into his head. The three of them happy, his parents getting on for once. Geoff sighed. But then the image of his mother, eyes bulging with rage, reappeared. He shook his head to clear it and concentrated on what his fingers were doing at the piano.
Tony turned round. “OK?”
He wondered if his boyfriend had eyes in the back of his head. “-ish.” He stopped playing.
Tony gave him a wide, open smile, full of love, which made his heart sing, if only for a moment or two.
He brandished some music. “G&S? Or some Edwardian parlour songs?”
Geoff raised his eyebrows. “Curious choice.”
“Yeah, I know. I want to sing, but I don't feel like anything else.” Tony shrugged. “I would offer you songs from the shows if my copy was here, rather than at my place.” He cocked his head. “Not keen?”
That Sunday, Geoff possessed little energy to summon up the enthusiasm he usually had for their musical sessions . Lack of sleep and a suppressed appetite were making a difference. Even Tony couldn't ensure he had a peaceful night.
He hesitated. “Ehm … If you'd like to do them …”
Tony put the copies back down on the pile. “Geoff, love. It's not about what I want to do. We're making music together. If my suggestions don't grab you, why don't you come out with your own?”
His mind went blank – his usual response to a question of choice. Then a familiar, simple theme started up in his head. He let it continue for a few bars more before deciding that was what he fancied playing.
“Would you mind piano duets instead of singing?”
“Of course not. I'm sure your neighbours would approve.”
“I thought about Fauré's Dolly Suite. You know the opening theme?”
Tony grinned. “Yeah. I find it can be one of those earworms. Haven't played any Fauré in ages. Where is it?”
Geoff pointed at the pile next to the one Tony had been investigating. “Green cover, I think.”
The score was soon found and the two men sat on the double width piano stool. Geoff loved feeling the warmth coming off his boyfriend. After a few moments spent elbowing and shuffling into position, they got going.
The Fauré gave way to Bizet's Jeux d'Enfants. They started with the filigree arpeggios of 'L'Escarpolette', through the toy militarism of 'Trompette et Tambour', then the boisterous play of 'Les Chevaux au Bois', until they reached the riotous closing galop of 'Le Bal'. They ended in some disarray.
“Beat you!” Tony grinned.
“You're not meant to beat me. It's not a race.” He frowned in mock exasperation.
“Oh … Really?” That got Tony an elbow in his ribs. “Owh!”
He sniggered as he reached for the final piece of music, Debussy's Petite Suite. The rhythmic complexities of the writing made both men concentrate, and more than once, they had to stop and start again. Geoff lost himself in the music despite a niggle at the back of his mind which told him it was only temporary. The almost jazzy syncopations of the final 'Ballet' gave them both a real workout. Rhythm, texture, dynamics – everything demanded attention.
“God …” Tony wiped his brow when they finished. “Don't know I managed to keep up with you. You're a much better player than I am.”
Geoff shrugged. “I just play more. I hardly ever practice as in doing scales and exercises.”
Tony gave him a side-on hug. “Modest, as always. Right … I think tea and cake is called for. You do have some cake here?”
“Only if you brought any with you yesterday. I'm the one supposedly on a diet. Yeah? And you're the diabetic, for that matter.”
Tony's look of horror quickly evaporated. “There's biscuits, in that case. I picked some up on the way. I'd better go and check my insulin levels though before I indulge.”
Geoff stood up. “I'll put the kettle on and get everything ready.”
Later the same day, they were sprawled on the sofa, watching the cricket highlights. Geoff kept asking questions about the rules of the game.
Finally, he gave up. “What's the point of the whole thing?”
Tony shrugged in amusement. “What's the point of any game? Winning. Football, rugby, hockey – they're all the same. … You don't approve?”
His boyfriend was still looking at the TV screen. “It's more, I don't get it. I know I'm the odd one out – that's fine.”
The two men were lounging close together, using the scatter cushions to provide support. Tony could tell his companion wasn't relaxed. Geoff's shoulders looked to be as high up as ever. He reached out and placed a hand on one. It was rigid. He dug his thumb in experimentally.
“Owh!” His boyfriend's frame jerked in response. “Excuse me? Haven't I had enough this week without you joining in?” Geoff 's face was a picture of aggrieved hurt.
He manoeuvred himself so he was directly behind Geoff. He gathered the other man up in a cuddle and quickly gave his neck several light kisses.
“Sorry, love. It appears we're gonna have to do more to get you to relax.”
Geoff's weary response confirmed his suspicions. Although he hadn't said anything directly, he was concerned for Geoff's well-being, mental and physical.
“You know, love, worrying about things you can't control doesn't change them for the better, and it affects you as well. Your mother will reply in due course – if she's going to at all, that is. Maybe we should set an arbitary deadline? If we haven't heard by that date, then we'll have to come back to it and decide what to do next.”
Geoff sighed. “Logically, I know that's how it'll work, but I can't stop myself fretting. It's in my head all the time. I might not be paying those thoughts attention every minute of the day – they're there though, lurking in the background. It's affecting us, my work, how I eat, sleep …”
Tony moved closer, wrapping his arms more tightly around Geoff's middle.
He got a weary-sounding snort in response. “Have you noticed whether there's any less of me, by any chance?”
“Ehm …” He performed some exploratory prods and pinches. These provoked a “Get off!” from the other man before he pronounced judgement. “I do believe you have lost weight, love. Well done.”
Geoff's pleased surprise made him grin. “Yes, really. You'd lose more if you took up a physical discipline of some kind.”
He leant his chin over Geoff's shoulder, resting his neck on the slope. “Dunno. Up to you. How about fencing? Or dance. … Figure skating appeal to you?”
This last, fanciful suggestion caused Geoff to give a deliberately violent shrug which dislodged Tony from his perch.
He sat back, rubbing his jaw. “Owh, again. You're playing rough today.” His jaw didn't hurt apart from a very slight ache.
Geoff looked back at him. “Tough, big guy. Don't ever set up as a careers advisor. You'd be useless.”
They both giggled.
Tony resumed his position. “Let's stay here tonight. I fancy a bath, followed by our new, virtually untested bed.”
“Do you now?” Geoff's forehead creased. “You got everything here you need for tomorrow?”
“Nope. There's nothing an early morning trip back home won't cure.”
Geoff snuggled back into his clasp. “Yeah, I've been caught out a few times like that.”
He smirked. “And that's despite you running off regularly to put the bins out, do the washing up, feed the birds, and whatever else you find to do last thing at night.” He deliberately kept his tone light and teasing.
Geoff responded in kind. “That's what you think. I see it more as I can't have you expecting me to be in your bed every night.”
“What? Like taking you for granted? As if.” Tony tightened his grasp possessively.
“Yeah.” Geoff was giggling again. “I'm my own man, you know. I might have a whole bevvy of lovers on the side …”
Geoff's voice trailed off. Tony guessed the effort needed to be upbeat for any length of time was proving to be too much for Geoff. Plus the subject matter was getting too close to Stu and his antics for comfort.
Tony took charge. “As I said, an early night calls.”
Geoff's grimace was followed by an jaw-splitting yawn. “God …”
“We'll have a bath, then some sexy fun and games. New, broadening-your-repertoire sexy fun. If you stay awake long enough that is.”
That got Geoff's attention. He turned round as far as he could within the embrace. His eyes were temporarily wide open with alarm. Tony chuckled inwardly. This was so typical of his boyfriend. Consternation at the prospect of anything out of the ordinary. This was normally – but not always – followed by a faintly grudging acceptance which mellowed into enjoyment and pleasure. He thought of it as being an innate part of Geoff's character.
“What is it? Will I like it?” The alarm on his face intensified. “You're not proposing we …” Geoff was unable to complete the sentence.
Tony took an educated guess. “Dearest Geoff, I'm not saying we're going to have full-on sex. I think you'd agree, you're not ready for that yet.”
He was though. Tony held a sigh. He had been for ages, but he'd continue to be patient. It was difficult – sometimes he wished for nothing more than to show his abiding love and desire for his partner by having sex. Not a hand-job, or oral – which was what he hoped they'd progress to that evening – but penetrative sex. Fucking. Making love in the deepest way two men could.
Geoff blushed furiously. “Sorry. I know I'm slow. You have the patience of ten men.”
Tony gave him a squeeze. “I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to be inside you. I do. So much, but it has to be pleasurable for you as well. Making love needs two. It shouldn't be something that scares you, or causes more discomfort than is unavoidable. And we're both having fun along the way. Aren't we?”
Geoff nodded. “I never imagined there could be so many mind-blowing sensations from something as simple as another man stroking my cock.”
He pretended to take offence. “Is that all I am? 'Another man'?” He gave up and smiled instead. “Never forget, love, giving pleasure to your partner is an aphrodisiac in itself. Haven't you felt that?”
“Making you cum gives me a glow all over. It tingles, and my cock takes on a life of its own. Well, more than usual, I mean.”
He leant over and gently caressed Geoff's mound through his shorts. The light cotton twill concealed much less than Geoff's habitual cord trousers.
“You still haven't said what we're going to be doing. That's mean.” The other man's attempt at a petulant moue made him bark with laughter.
“No … You're quite right. And you'll have to wait and see. It's a surprise. … Now go and get yourself ready and run us a bath. I've a quick phone call to make.”
Geoff extricated himself from their embrace. “It had better be something good then. Who're you phoning?”
“Zoe. She texted yesterday asking about you and your mum.”
A small pocket of gloom threatened to hover over Geoff's head until Tony sent him on his way with a playful tap on his backside.
“Don't forget to put some bath oil in.”
Geoff rolled his eyes. “Yes, master. Everything shall be as you command it.”
“I expect nothing less.”
Tony did some tidying in Geoff's kitchen while he made the call to his sister.
She took her time answering. Greetings, brother dear. How's your week been?
Tony decided on honesty. “Hi, Zo. Utterly crap.”
I was asking 'bout your week, not Geoff's.
Wow. Both of you. That's bad. You'd better tell what the fuck's gone on.
“I'll have to be quick. Geoff and I are aiming for an early night.”
He finished the little that needed doing and sat down at the kitchen table.
There was a disbelieving chortle from his sister. You talking a 'sleeping' early night here, or something else?
He let out a plainly audible sigh of exasperation.
Hey, Tone. You brought the subject up.
“Only as a reason why I won't be able to enjoy as much of your delightful company as I'd like. The rest, as ever, is none of your effing business.”
OK. Whatever. Who'd think people's sex lives were still so secretive?
“I don't know who you're currently following on WhichApp …” His mistake was planned.
Don't try to make like you know what you're talking about, Tone.
“Zo, I don't care, as I for one, will never go online parading my lovelife.”
He decided to ignore the muttering that followed.
Zoe resumed her normal voice. Come on, if your time's so limited. What happened?
“You know Geoff went to see his mother?”
To tell her he's gay.
“Yeah. … It was an unmitigated disaster.”
Shit. Poor bastard.
“It started with his mother springing her own surprise about house Geoff lives in, before he'd even had a chance to open his mouth. …”
Upstairs in the bathroom, Geoff heard the sound of his boyfriend's voice, but not what he was saying. Fortunately. His ears were burning enough as it was. Families fell out all the time, so why was he so embarrassed about what had happened with his mother? He sighed as he opened the airing cupboard to get more towels. The washing needed doing, and as he fished out one of the spare bath towels, he noticed it was fraying round one edge. Geoff refolded it so the damage wasn't so obvious.
While he gave the bath a quick rinse down, Helen came into his mind. Geoff stopped what he was doing. How the hell was he going to tell his best friend what had happened? If he wasn't careful, Helen would be round at his mother's, demanding entrance, determined to give her a piece of her mind. The pictures that conjured up were equally amusing and terrifying. A visit to their favourite café sounded like a good idea. Hopefully the public location would limit the immediate damage. Something else to think about.
Geoff turned both taps on to fill the bath, then he went looking for something to put in it. The gushing water drowned out the sounds coming from the floor below.
Predictably, Zoe was incandescent with rage. She never did things by halves. Tony smiled wryly as he held the phone further away from his ear than usual. After a minute or two, it sounded as though his sister was running out of steam.
So, d'you think the stupid cow will get back in touch? 'bout Geoff, I mean. Not the house. God, I'd give her such a slap if she were in front of me now.
“Dunno. The house is our best chance of leaving a line of communication open …”
He'd be better off without her.
“I don't know Geoff feels that way. She's his only close relative. As I said, negotiating about the house might lead to other things. Or she could just go ahead and sell the house from under him.”
Tony felt the need to be the responsible older brother. “Don't be too hard on her, Zo. Geoff's news must've come as a great shock to her.”
Why the fuck hasn't she worked it out for herself?
“I don't think it would've ever occurred to his mother. Up 'til now, her entire universe has been inhabited by straights. No deviation allowed.”
Geoff's still her son, for fuck's sake. And he's such a kind, gentle soul.
Warmth filled Tony. “I'm glad you like Geoff.”
I'd be stupid not to. You're bloody lucky, Tone. I trust you realise that?
“Every day.” And it was the simple truth.
He was about to continue when a shout from Geoff came from upstairs. “Everything's ready!”
“Hang on a sec, Zo.” Tony hurried out of the kitchen into the passageway until he was nearly underneath the landing. “I'll be up in a minute, love.”
Geoff's head peered over the bannister rail. “OK.”
Tony shuttled back to the kitchen and his phone. “Hi, Zo. Sorry, that was Geoff in bath attendant mode telling me to get a move on.”
Ooh … such a sexy thought.
“Behave. I'll phone again tomorrow?”
Yeah. Second exciting installment. Bye.
Both men enjoyed relaxing in the warm, fragrant water. Tony's back was supported by the bath, while he in turn held Geoff who was sitting between his legs. Neither of them had said much so far – he concentrated on the sensations which came from holding his man without any clothing whatsoever. No sleep shorts, or tee. Just him. The bulk of his body with its dark hair in all the right places, started to turn him on.
He moved to murmur a question in Geoff's ear. “Better?”
After a moment, Geoff stirred. “Sorry, almost asleep. Not even the promise of sex can keep me awake, it seems.”
“It can wait.”
Geoff turned round as far as he could. “Sure?”
“Hmm. Not sure I can hold off much longer if we stay as we are …” Tony nuzzled at the edge of Geoff's beard. His semi was filled out even more with the heat. “Perhaps we should get you to bed. A good night's sleep will make most things seem less bad.”
Geoff gave a sigh of pleasure. “I could stay like this for a long time.”
“Yeah?” Tony snorted. “Well, I'll have got out when the water turned cold. Come on, move yourself. I'll even help you with the drying.”
Geoff smirked. “Now there's a thought.”