Accusation

ACCUSATION

© Clare London

“You cheated,” he said. His tone was bemused; as if betrayed. “You cheated!

“Fucking didn’t,” came the spirited reply.

Andi glared at his partner across the table. “That’s not the hand I originally dealt you.”

The other man raised a delicately shaped eyebrow. “X-ray vision now, is it? I have the same hand I started with. You just can’t face losing.”

Andi dropped his cards on to the table and flushed. “If you can’t play properly, Piers, there’s no point in it.”

Piers’ cards were spread out, face up in front of him. He tapped his long slender fingers on the pattern of red and black symbols. “You sound like you’re still in the school playground, dear boy.”

“And you sound like some sixth-form public school faggot!” Andi snapped back. His tousled hair fell over his forehead in a truly boyish look. His face was red and his eyelashes damp. “You came from the same shithole council estate that we all did, so don’t try that fake, upper-class pretension on me.”

Piers’ eyes had that familiar – and dangerous – glint to them. “If I’m sixth-form, then what are you, cute thing? Barely out of short trousers and still carrying your pencil case? Isn’t the age thing exactly what you enjoy so much? Maybe I misheard that whimper of ‘fuck me, sir, please’, when I took my belt to you last night-”

Andi pushed his chair back, abruptly, and slammed his hands on the table. Piers curled his plump, well-shaped upper lip in a sneer.

Looked like the right time for intervention. I stepped out of the kitchen where I’d been listening in, an opened bottle of wine in each hand. The two heads swivelled around to face me, startled.

“White or red?” I called, cheerily.

*

I’ve known them both for a long time. I was in the same class as Andi at school, though we didn’t know much about each other then. Like the fact that we both lusted after boys, to the extent that our minds were full of the guilty, greedy cravings from morning until night; like the fact that neither of us was going to do particularly well at school when we spent most of our teenage leisure time smoking, drinking cheap cider, and looking for older, more experienced boys to play with our pricks.

I managed to cling on to my education by the skin of my teeth and go to college, but everyone knew that Andi had been expelled at sixteen for fucking – not just behind the school bike shed but in it, and in front of it, too, and unfortunately, just at the moment that the caretaker was doing his rounds.

And he’d been fucking a boy, too. I remember secretly admiring his bravery. Oh, and feeling insanely jealous, too, that someone was getting it.

I met up with Andi a couple of years later, in a city club, where the house music was too loud, and that night’s entertainment barely legal. I’d been offered a blowjob in the toilets – I’d even considered taking the thin, spotty youth up on it, I was so bored – but then Andi had come in after me, laughing and drunk and singing – badly – a chorus from the school song, and we recognised each other. Spotty Youth went off to seek sustenance elsewhere, and Andi and I had one of those conversations when you half know each other, and are half reminiscing. He was very amusing – it was fun.

He told me he had a boyfriend – was living with him, albeit on and off – in a flat not far from my own. Small world, eh? Boyfriend’s name was Piers – he’d been to another school, wasn’t one of our group, no, I wouldn’t know him. Andi insisted he was very happy with Piers; they’d been together for years; Piers had been the making of him. I learned that, on that inauspicious night at the school when Andi’s extra-curricular activities had been discovered, it had been Piers with his cock up Andi’s arse. Piers had been the taking of him, too, it seemed.

Piers was at the club that night, too, and I soon decided what I thought he was. Older – more confident – more arrogant. I’d never seen him around before, but then I’d left for college as soon as I could – and anyway, I doubted I’d have been part of his clique. He was lean and dark and well groomed, as my Mum used to describe it. He wore it all like a designer brand. He was witty and sexy and greedy, and his eyes followed Andi like a predator’s.

I met up with them a couple more times after that – we had similar music taste; there were a couple of parties at mutual friends’ houses. They were good company, and they seemed to like my humour – I was a foil for them, I suppose. We started to play cards on a Friday night together, then go out clubbing or drinking. I got used to being around their flat, almost as familiar as my own.

We were an unusual mix of friends, but it seemed to work well.

These things often do, right?

*

I followed Andi back into the kitchen, having left Piers with one of the bottles of wine and a glass that he filled and drained rather too quickly.

“He didn’t mean it,” I said. I said that a lot, to Andi. “He’s drunk again. He’s just being a dickhead as usual.”

Andi looked up at me through lashes that were way too long for a boy. He looked a lot younger when he did that. “I should tell him to fuck off, right? Like he tells me, at least once a month?”

I grimaced. “No. You love each other, right?” The word felt awkward on my tongue. “He’s just showing off, Andi. Likes to think he’s better than you – well, than both of us. It’s an age thing.” I tried a rueful smile, so he’d know I was joking, trying to defuse the earlier comments.

He frowned. “He thinks I’m still a boy. Just because he did the university thing and I… didn’t. But I’ve been out at work longer than he has, you know?”

“I know,” I said.

He ran a hand through his curls. “I pay my way in the flat, and for the car, too. He just seems stuck in the schooldays – when we met. How I was, then.” He looked very flushed. “But we’ve all moved on. He should see me as more of an equal. Those days are gone, right?”

“Right,” I said.

He glanced at me again. His eyes narrowed. “The sex thing… what he said…?”

I shrugged. The kitchen was never a large room, but at that moment it felt overheated and very cramped. “What you do together is your own thing. Doesn’t bother me.”

“It’s just a game. He likes to play the school game when we fuck.” He sounded wistful: he wasn’t really talking to me. I winced at his wide-eyed bluntness. I knew about sex games – about role play. He didn’t need to elaborate.

He smiled at me, then, watching me struggle to show the appropriate expression on my face. “I’m OK now. Thanks for listening, but let’s go back in and finish the game. Where’s that wine?”

I drew a deep breath. He looked impossibly cheerful again, his personal weather vane swung back to sunny after a fierce but swift squall.

“It’s your deal, anyway,” he continued. “He’ll never cheat on your deal, like he does on mine.” When I started to smile back, he brushed his fingers over mine. “You’re a good friend, Charlie,” he said. He ran his hand through his hair again, turned around, and left me standing there alone in the kitchen.

*

A good friend, he’d said.

I liked Andi a lot. I’d barely noticed him as a boy at school, but it was a different matter now he was a young man. He was fun, always friendly, and – let’s be honest – physically very attractive. He touched people a lot – hugged them, kissed me quite often. I liked the attention, too. Most of my friends didn’t venture past a mock punch on the shoulder. And I hadn’t been out with anyone on a regular basis for nearly a year.

The excuses were easily found; less easily justified. Should a friend have fucked him, just because he offered?

The first time had been on a similar night, when I’d been round at their flat for our usual weekly poker session. Piers had done his all-too-familiar impression of Cruel Bastard, provoking another god-awful argument. Something about Andi sounding as camp as a Butlins compere and pouting like the child he obviously was. Piers made a career out of superciliousness. He had no inhibitions about displaying his temper in front of me, either. After consigning a couple of plates to a pile of smashed shards and making the glassware rattle with his shouting, he swept out of the flat in a truly monstrous strop.

I comforted Andi as he hiccupped great sobs against my shoulder. He was slim and easily held, and made me feel far more comfortable with the role of sympathetic ear than I’d imagined. I patted his back like I thought I should, and he pressed against me even more tightly. I couldn’t fail to feel his cock rubbing against my thigh, pouched loosely under his sweat pants.

“He’s a bastard,” he sobbed against me. His lips were wet and brushed against my chin. “Sometimes I’m scared of him, you know?”

I didn’t know. “Andi?” I gripped him a little tighter. “Look, if there’s a problem, if he gets violent with you -”

Andi sighed. “It’s fine. He won’t. But he hurts me in so many other ways. You understand me so much better, Charlie. You’re sensitive… I can talk to you.”

I didn’t know what to say to that. It wasn’t something I’d put on my CV; wasn’t something I’d been accused of before. I held him a little more gratefully.

“I fancy you, too, you know?”

It was such a stupid phrase. I don’t expect either of us had used it since school days. In Andi’s husky, young man’s voice it sounded far more adult; far more promising.

I just stared at him. I must have looked like an idiot. The other clichéd phrases ran through my mind – you’re with Piers. We’re just friends. It’s not right.

“Charlie…” He was cajoling. His eyes were pleading: still moist from his tearfulness. I didn’t know if the rubbing against me was deliberate, but my own cock was responding painfully inside my jeans. He looked tired and distressed and in need of support of some kind. “I want it, Charlie. I need you.”

It happened: that’s all I can say. The kissing got messy and hot, and I pushed him down on to the couch, his gasps soft and encouraging in my ear. He peeled his tee shirt over his head. I pulled down his sweat pants and grasped his cock, squeezing it.

“Condom,” he hissed. He pressed the packet into my hand and my fingers fumbled with opening it. “Fuck me, Charlie, please. Don’t be gentle. Do me, hard. Make me feel good again.”

I pushed my jeans down my legs so fast that I snapped the button off. He opened his legs around me and tilted his hips so that I could push into him. He wailed, a thin, childish sound, and it was impossibly stimulating. I thrust much too hard, much too fast. Came in less than a minute, too. I wasn’t proud of my performance, but it had been a while since I’d had any sex at all, apart from jerking off. Andi clutched at me, pulling me in and out of him for a few more thrusts, until I started to soften and the condom was rolling up uncomfortably around me. He pushed me back so that I slid out, then he fell back on to the cushions and started vigorously pumping himself.

I sat back and watched him. He was flushed all over, his bare skin pale and glossy with sweat. The curls around his groin had an auburn tint. His hips jerked and his cock slicked up and down in his fist, and he came with a soft, sibilant moan, tears leaking out of his eyes. He was fascinating.

And all the time, he was watching me watch.

Afterwards, he kissed me a little sloppily, and pulled his clothes back on. Then Piers was ringing the doorbell in a more contrite mood, asking if he could come back in. Andi and I never really talked about what we’d done, or what it meant. It didn’t seem to bother him, either way.

We fucked quite often after that. And we didn’t seem to need Piers to produce his verbal abuse for Andi to seek my comfort. Don’t get me wrong, the arguments still happened, but so did the fucking, and not always as cause and effect.

He just had to ask me.

*

We finished the poker hand this evening without further incident. Piers won, but then he usually did. Despite being a very stormy character, his poker face was the best I’d ever played against. Both bottles of wine had been drunk, and Andi offered to go down to the off licence for more.

After he left the flat, Piers and I sat for a few moments in silence.

“You don’t have to be so aggressive towards him,” I said, finally. “He takes it very seriously.”

Piers made a soft, grunting noise. “And I don’t?”

I bit my lip. Sometimes it was difficult to gauge his mood and I was wary of saying the wrong thing. Not that I hadn’t done that before. “He’s not a kid.” I felt ridiculous, talking about a man the same age as me. “He thinks you treat him like one.”

Piers sighed. He leant back in his chair, one of his long legs balanced on top of the other. He wore a tight white vest, loose, low-slung jeans and was barefoot. A designer casual look; a sloppy elegance. “You know how Andi can be,” he said. “He asks for it. You see that as clearly as I do.”

I frowned. “I know how you both can be. It pisses me off, sometimes.”

Piers stared at me. “You’re a good friend, Charlie, you know that?”

I’d heard that already, tonight. I kept my thoughts about it to myself. “I just want the two of you to sort it out calmly, properly. You should both be contributing to this relationship – you both have expectations of each other. Every time you push him so far, there’s a scene. Why do you do it? There’s no point in arguing – in spoiling the evening.”

Piers was watching me closely. “Maybe that’s what you think.” His voice was a lazy, provocative drawl.

“Christ,” I swore. I could feel the anger rising: he did this deliberately. “Seems to me you’re the one behaves like a kid. This stupid couldn’t-care-less attitude, the snide comments, the temper tantrums. This is real life, not one of your fucking bedroom games.”

“Very witty, Charlie.” He was openly grinning, now. “But for your information, I’m well aware Andi’s not a kid. I’m well aware what he expects from me – what I contribute to our relationship. And also how far I can push him.”

I glared back. I felt very hot. “You can be such a bastard, Piers.”

He nodded. He didn’t seem at all offended. In fact, he smiled even more broadly. “But that’s what you like, isn’t it?”

He wasn’t talking about Andi anymore, or my half-hearted defence of his partner. He was talking about the way I viewed him, Piers, and the names I’d called him plenty of times before. And not just during a game of cards. There’d been times he gripped me so hard that that he marked my skin – times that I’d bitten at him in fury – times that we’d both groaned aloud and forced sweaty, reluctant response out of the other’s resistance. Times that our bodies met, naked and aggressive and swollen with illicit excitement.

Because I’d been fucking him, too.

*

It had been a completely different matter, me with Piers. But then, you’d expect that, wouldn’t you?

It all started when I went with Piers to look at a new car they wanted to buy. He’d asked me to. Andi knew as much about cars as my aged grandmother, and apparently he had some other event to go to, anyway, not that he told us what that was. He left the flat before us, smartly dressed and grinning with the anticipation. He’d glanced at me as he passed, and he winked. His nose crinkled when he was excited – I’d learned to recognise that, since we’d started fucking. Of course, it also made him an even worse poker player.

“We can have a look at the car,” I said to Piers, driving us both through town. “Then if it looks like a bargain, you can check back with Andi.”

He grunted back. “If it looks good, I’ll buy it. He wasn’t interested. Our decision is good enough.”

I shrugged. Piers seemed put out, and it surprised me. “Are you annoyed because he couldn’t come?”

Piers glanced at me. His eyes were very dark. “What do you think?” he said. It seemed like a genuine question, too, but I didn’t know how to answer. The traffic distracted me, and we didn’t talk again until we reached the garage.

It was a good car – low mileage, one careful owner, full service history – and just what they needed. Piers let me do the negotiating, but he stood beside me and contributed a couple of smart, well-informed comments. In the end, we got a very good price on it, and agreed to pick it up in another couple of days. We went for a drink to celebrate.

It turned into a whole evening’s drinking and chatting. Laughing, too. I’d never really rated Piers’ sense of humour, finding it a little too sharp, and apparently at Andi’s expense for most of the time. But on his own, he was far more relaxed, and very witty. Generous, too, with both his money and his company. I talked about myself more than I usually did. We found a lot more in common than I’d expected, based on our taste in music and movies, and our work experiences and … well, plenty of other things.

I didn’t stop to think about it too much. I was enjoying myself too much to care.

Late in the evening, I found I was being nudged up against him as more people squeezed into the seats around us. I was very aware of the smell of his cologne, cool and citrus. He shifted to give me a little more room, but not much, sighing and pushing his hair back behind his ears with a smooth, careless gesture. His hands had always fascinated me. They were slim and lean, just like his build, but they had a grace that was almost feminine.

“What?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “You’re staring. What’s up with me?”

“Nothing,” I protested, laughing at how worried he looked.

He smiled back. There was a strange glint to his eye. “This has been fun, Charlie,” he said. “You make me laugh, too.” He watched me take another mouthful of beer. “So where do you think Andi is right now, while we’re enjoying our night out?”

It caught me unawares: I nearly coughed up the beer. “He’s fine, I’m sure.”

“Oh yes,” said Piers, softly. “I’m very sure he is.”

I stared back at him. I wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about. I hadn’t drunk as much as he had because I was driving, but anyway, I didn’t think alcohol was the reason for my confusion. It might have been the sticky stirrings of my guilt, I suppose. But Piers just didn’t seem to be… Piers.

He sighed again, leaning back on the seat. “Sorry. You talk a lot of sense, Charlie. It’s just me. And Andi… he’s too much, sometimes.” He shook his head, apparently at a loss for words.

“Look,” I started. I mean, I knew how infuriating Andi could be. Petulant; unreliable. I’d often caught Piers rolling his eyes at him, when we were all together. I usually felt obliged to come to Andi’s defence – but I had to admit I’d sometimes felt like doing the same myself. “Andi’s just young…”

“No, Charlie.” Piers was quite sharp. “Andi’s the same age as you, right? But then why are you two so different?”

I didn’t have any answer for that, but I thought I ought to try. “You have a different relationship with him.” I sounded awkward. I hoped none of the people around us was listening in. “You’re lovers.”

Piers was watching me, closely. “And yet you seem comfortable with him.”

I couldn’t answer, this time. Maybe he was right. When Andy looked at me, it was as if he expected me to understand his thoughts and needs. When Piers looked at me, I felt like he already understood mine all too well. When Andy laughed breathlessly and spread his arse for me, his eyes were on mine, as if they were searching for something inside me that he needed. Whereas Piers … even tonight, in a crowded pub, I felt that Piers looked inside me and saw at once what I had. And I wasn’t sure it was anything to boast about.

I stared at my empty glass and cursed philosophical, bar-room ramblings.

There was an hour or so before closing time. Piers moved on the seat beside me, restless. “Andi and I… “ He sighed again. “Sex isn’t everything. It gets tedious, sometimes. He can’t keep a job down, you know. And when he doesn’t get his way he whines like a kid. You’ve heard that fucking lisp he affects whenever he wants anything special? You know what I mean – when we’re in bed. The games he plays.”

I couldn’t remember Andi lisping. I couldn’t concentrate on anything except the sound of Piers talking about sex games in the same, blunt way as his partner. “I’m not sure I know what you mean,” I muttered. “It’s not really anything to do with me, is it?”

Someone pushed from the other end of the table and everyone shifted up. I bumped clumsily into Piers and he grasped my arm. He leant into me, keeping his words between us alone. “Would you like it to be?” I stared at him, startled. “Don’t you want to try me for yourself?”

I laughed. Didn’t know what else to do. He stared back at me. “Maybe I’m not your type.”

“No. Hell, I mean…” I sounded a complete idiot. “Piers, don’t be fucking stupid. It’s not that. You’re great. You’re…”

He shrugged, but he didn’t move away. “Fucking stupid. Yeah, you said it, Charlie. I’m what you need tonight, though. Just like you’re what I need. That’s what you think, isn’t it?”

I didn’t know what was going on. I knew I couldn’t blame the drink for my queasiness; my shortness of breath. His hand slid down to my wrist and gripped me even more tightly. “Let’s go before I do something that gets us thrown out,” he said.

*

Most of the patrons in the pub were settled there for the duration – we were the only ones leaving early. The yard outside the pub was dark and quiet, the ground damp from earlier rain. Half of the wall lights weren’t working properly, the fitful illumination throwing out strange shadows around our feet as we walked a little unsteadily towards our parking space. My car was tucked in right against the far wall. “Thanks, Charlie.” Piers’ voice was quiet.

“What for?” I muttered, fumbling in my pocket for the keys. For advising about the car? For getting a round of drinks? For listening to his complaints about Andi?

“For… fuck it. I don’t know.” He laughed, and I found myself smiling along with him. Yeah, fuck it. Piers made me feel like that. “Just for being here,” he mumbled. He looked – suddenly, strangely – vulnerable.

“You’re drunk,” I said.

“Not that drunk,” he murmured back. And then he pressed me back against the wall and he kissed me, hard. His tongue was hot and his breath very beery. “You taste good, Charlie,” he sighed.

I wondered what the fuck was going on. I was vividly aware of how different his kiss was – how aggressive, compared to Andi’s soft, wet lapping.

The kiss got deeper. His hands gripped my arms, but I expect I could have thrown him off if I’d wanted. Obviously I didn’t, because I kissed him back and he hissed something into my mouth that was pure, inarticulate need. Or maybe that was me – I couldn’t tell us apart by then.

I knew we were going to do it, there and then, in the car park. My cock ached with the shock.

He turned me with my face to the brick wall and wrenched down my jeans and briefs. He must have had some lube with him because his fingers were cool and slippery when he started to work them into me. I spread my legs wider, letting the denim slide down around my knees and I leant forward, presenting myself to him. I heard his zip open – I felt the heat from his cock, up against the cold flesh of my arse. He hesitated, then.

“Charlie,” he hissed into my ear, leaning over me. “Tell me what to do.”

It was such a strange choice of words from him, but I was far from thinking straight. I couldn’t remember when I was last this excited. My cock was swollen and physically painful, pre-cum shining at the tip. The reflection from one of the neon lights winked in the clear, sticky drops. “Use a condom,” I hissed back. I’d given him his answer, indirectly.

There was the rustling sound of a foil packet opening, then the cold slickness of latex against my buttock as he rolled it over his cock. Then his cool, firm hands pulled my cheeks apart and, with a grunt, he pressed into me.

I heard myself cry out, softly – nonsense, really, but the clearest words were ‘Yes’, and ‘fuck’. He fucked me, all right. He hissed under his breath and he gripped at my hair, anchoring himself as he rammed in and out of me. I could hear the quiet drip, drip of old rainwater under the car beside mine; in the background, there were traffic noises from the road at the front of the pub. I moaned aloud at a particularly harsh thrust.

“Quiet,” he hissed, his hips slapping against my arse. I bit my lip. We were pressed up against a damp, slimy wall, half-hidden behind parked cars, with our jeans around our thighs and fucking as fiercely and as silently as we could. How sordid was that?

With Andi, I always came fast: with Piers, I came hard. Harder than I had for years. I actually staggered with the force of it, my vision suddenly dizzy and my knees weakening. He held me tight until he finished as well. He leant over my back, pushing my head against the wall, the brick scraping my jaw. The shudder raced through him, and he exhaled against my ear. Bit me, too, right on the lobe. I gritted my teeth, trying not to make another sound, and my cock jerked in my palm with a final throb of stimulation.

We pulled our jeans back up and got into the car in silence. Maybe I was in some kind of shock.

We did it again that night, just before we got back. He slipped his fingers down into my jeans while I was driving, hissing obscenities into my ear, laughing at or with me – I didn’t know any more. I pulled over and parked behind the Chinese takeaway, just up the road from their flat. I’d barely slipped the car out of gear before he had my flies open and his mouth around my cock. We scrambled into the back seat, peeling off our clothes, our skin hot and sweaty. He fucked me, hard and awkwardly, my bare legs hugged up against my chest and the door handle digging deeply into my shoulder blade. For me, it was as intense as the first time.

Piers seemed to make an art of sordidness.

Since then, we’d fucked as often as the occasion allowed. Anywhere. Hard and fast and with a gasping desperation that he could fire up in me, in seconds.

Yeah, I was doing them both at the same time.

Or was it a case of them doing me?

*

“Charlie.” Piers’ voice called me back to the present. “Charlie, what’s up with you?”

I frowned again. I was sure I looked flushed, I felt so hot. “Nothing. You were just telling me to back off.”

Piers frowned. He straightened up and placed his hands on the table in front of him. “I don’t remember saying that.” He ran a finger across his last hand of cards, fanning them out slowly. “Just that maybe I know Andi better than you do.”

I was the one to lean back in my chair, now. “I don’t understand,” I said, abruptly. Even as I spoke, I realised I should have backed off, but by then it was too late: the words had a will of their own. “Neither of you is like this when you’re apart. When you’re with me. So how come…?” I let the rest of the sentence trail off. The look on Piers’ face was shocking. His expression barely changed, but his skin had turned a shade of grey. I opened my mouth to speak again, but now nothing came out.

“I know, Charlie,” he said, very, very softly. His eyes were dull and hard and fixed on my face. “I know all too well how it is when he’s away from me. Did you think I didn’t? Did you think it was a secret, Andi fucking you?”

I stared, horrified. I felt chilled through. My voice came back to me, but in a stumbling rush. “God. I’m sorry. It’s not like that.” What was he going to do? Was he angry? Distraught? Violent, like Andi had once suggested? “I mean… you mustn’t think…”

Piers laughed. It was a very sharp, discordant sound. “What am I to think, then? Dear God, you’ve not fallen for him, have you? Fallen for those big, puppy eyes and that trembling lip?”

I grimaced. I pushed my chair back across the floor, wondering how to get out of the flat if he turned aggressive. “Piers, don’t be ridiculous. Of course I haven’t fallen for him.”

“Thank God for that.” He sounded genuinely, deeply relieved. “I know he can be a good fuck, if he puts his mind to it, and I know what he’ll have said to you, to get to you. Some variation on how he’d never tell me you were doing it; that I don’t give him what he wants; that I don’t treat him as he deserves – but that you’re something different.”

I groaned to myself. This was beyond horror. Andi had said exactly those things, more than once.

Piers got up from his chair and came to stand in front of me. He looked as if he was in pain, and yet he didn’t seem as angry with me as I’d expected.

“Piers,” I gasped. “Look, we’ll stop it at once.” Friendship suddenly seemed as insubstantial as the Emperor’s new clothes. “I know I’ve been…” What? I thought.

“Shut up.” He frowned; his eyes weren’t focussed properly on me. He was sweating a little too much for comfort in the cool room. “You don’t understand. You’re not the problem, Charlie. You’re…” He paused, and smiled in a rather grim way. “You see, you are something different.”

Before I could say a word, he knelt down in front of my chair and put his hands on my knees. I just stared; I didn’t believe this was happening.

“Let me suck you,” he hissed. He glanced at my groin; licked his lips. “You know I’m good.”

I was disgusted with myself – I was hard, just at his words. “No!” I snapped. “Stop it – I don’t want -” I sucked in a breath and my body shuddered. His hand had cupped my cock, swelling inside my jeans, and he squeezed, none too gently. He dipped his head, his breath hot on my groin, making my erection stir uncomfortably inside the fabric.

Then there was the scrape of a key in the front door lock. Before I even had a chance to register it properly and to reach a hand to Piers’ head to alert him, Andi walked back into the flat.

*

“Christ,” I said. My body had gone rigid with tension. I didn’t think that Piers had started unzipping me, but for that second, I wasn’t entirely sure. Andi. You’re back quickly.” Pretty unimaginative response, and not a lot of use, either.

“It certainly looks like it, doesn’t it?” His eyes were wide. “The corner shop was still open so I didn’t need to go to the off-licence.” We both watched him as he put a carrier bag on to the table beside us. There was the muted chink of glass inside it, as bottles settled.

None of us spoke for a few seconds. Piers was still on his knees in front of me.

Andi…” I started, slowly. My tongue felt thick in my mouth. Why wasn’t Piers saying something? Trying to explain the unexplainable? Excuse the inexcusable?

Andi sighed. To my astonishment, he put out a hand to Piers’ head and ruffled his hair. “You look good there, Piers. You look good at Charlie’s feet. Hungry.”

The balance of power suddenly seemed to have shifted.

Andi, I’ll go,” I said. I stood up quickly, forcing Piers to lean back on his heels to avoid being knocked over. “This isn’t what you think -”

And then Andi laughed, too. It seemed I was Mr Accidentally Amusing tonight.

“Don’t be hypocritical, Charlie. You think I don’t smell him on you when you come round? I know you’re fucking him. I’m sure you’ve both enjoyed it.”

Piers made a strange noise at the back of his throat.

“God, Andi.” I was dumbfounded. I looked from him to Piers, who was slowly getting to his feet. “Piers.” I couldn’t think of anything else I could or should say.

Andi walked slowly over to the chair that Piers had vacated and stood beside it, a hand on its back. He ran the other hand through his curls – a gesture I’d previously thought was artless and childlike. “Piers, pour me a glass of the wine. Now.”

I watched Piers fumble with the new bottle, trying to open it. He spilled some of it on the table when he poured it out into Andi’s glass. I couldn’t see his eyes to see how he was taking all this. He didn’t seem to be posturing in his usual, arrogant fashion.

Andi’s eyes were, however, a different matter. I didn’t recognise the look in them – nor the calm, almost imperious way he was speaking. He was looking at me, and I tried to remind myself how familiar he was – how he was when I first met him again in the club; when he first sobbed on my shoulder; when he first moaned and bit his lip as I fucked him with something like grateful reverence. Something wasn’t right. It wasn’t… Andi.

“Oh Piers,” he said, with a sigh, though he stared at me. “I just don’t know what’s going to happen to us now.” I noticed his lisp for the first time, just a gentle hiccup on the ‘s’ sound. He looked almost forlorn.

I glanced between them: I felt a violent panic swamp me. I’d been scared of Piers’ reaction, but was I worrying about the wrong man? Andi wouldn’t do anything stupid, would he -?

I didn’t have a chance to protest, because Piers moved suddenly, jolting awkwardly against the table, pressing himself up against Andi. “Don’t be rash,” he said, urgently. Andi… please.”

I didn’t recognise the tone of his voice: I’d never heard such pleading from him. It was surreal – like being in a movie where the soundtrack has slipped out of kilter, and the dialogue comes from the wrong mouth.

Andi turned to him, slowly and carefully. His eyes were moist with a quiet sorrow; his mouth set with disappointment. “Piers, this is just too dreadful. It’s upset me so much.”

“No!” Piers gasped. “It’s over. It’s over, right now, OK? It’s nothing. Don’t…” His voice choked on the words, and I saw him struggling for breath. “Don’t go.” His movements were clumsy and lacking his usual, easy grace. He grasped Andi’s arm. His knuckles were white.

Andi looked down at the hand on his arm. “Let go of me,” he said, quietly. I’d never heard such an edge to his voice in my life. He sounded years older; centuries crueller.

Piers went pale and pulled his hand away as if he’d been slapped.

*

I realised I’d backed up towards the door. I was moving slowly and as quietly as I could, but neither of them seemed interested in me any more. I wondered if they ever had been.

“It’s not the first time, Piers,” Andi murmured. He brushed at his sleeve as if he could see an unpleasant stain there. “Is it?”

Piers grimaced. “And what about you?” he hissed. Some spirit had returned to his tone. “It’s OK for you to shag around.”

Andi continued to stare at him, almost pityingly. “Yes, it is,” he said. “Of course it is. Isn’t that right?”

I stared with amazement as Piers flushed a deep red. I’d never seen him embarrassed like that, even at his most angry or passionate. “Yes,” he muttered. “That’s right.”

Andi moved up close to him again and slid a hand around his waist. He turned both of them so that Piers’ back was to me, and I could see Andi just behind him. Andi lifted his gaze and stared at me. Then he slid his hand down further and he gripped at Piers’ arse. “It’s mine,” he said, gently. “That’s the phrase, isn’t it? How we used to say it at school, Charlie. His arse is mine.”

I swallowed, hard. Yeah.”

Andi turned his head so that his words whispered into Piers’ ear. “Whatever you did with him, I’m the only one who gets to fuck your arse.”

A shudder ran the length of Piers’ spine. “And I want your-” he started.

Andi’s hand tightened. “No. You don’t get that. That’s for the rest of them – they’re welcome to it if they want it.” His eyes met mine again. “It’s just one of our games, after all. It’s not like I give a fuck what they do.”

I made some noise or other: my fingers felt cramped from where I’d been clenching my fist.

They broke apart, suddenly. The air seemed tight with tension. Andi looked up into Piers’ contrite face. “Say sorry,” he whispered.

Piers shuddered again. He reached out and touched Andi’s face. Andi turned his head, nuzzling into Piers’ palm. “Sorry,” Piers said.

“Never again?” Andi prompted.

Piers shook his head. He couldn’t take his eyes off Andi’s face. “Never again. Please.”

Andi nodded and smiled. “That’s good. Now make it better.”

Piers stroked Andi’s face; trailed his fingers down to Andi’s throat. Andi let his hand brush against Piers’ hip. They swayed gently together. They touched each other – nothing too explicit, nothing involving flesh or the groin area. But the charge that came from them was electric; fiercely, sensually vibrant. I could feel it even from the other side of the room – I could feel the answering ache in my cock.

I’d never seen them like that before.

Andi looked over at me again. His eyes looked sleepy. “Charlie,” he said, softly. “You’ll have to go. I’m really sorry.” He didn’t sound it. The lisp seemed particularly pronounced. “We’ll see you around, right?”

“Yeah,” I said, hoarsely. No, I thought. I turned to leave, my heart thudding uncomfortably fast; my palms sweaty. I glanced at the table and saw the scattered cards from our earlier game. It felt like a year ago, not just hours. There was a pile of notes and coins by Piers’ place. I scooped it up and pocketed it. I needed enough for more than a couple of drinks.

Neither of them took any notice of me as I left.

*

The pub was noisy and crowded and, for once, that was the best thing it could have been.

Hell of a mess. It had never been about me, had it? It had just taken me too long to realise it. I was awash with the inferior beer and my eyes were stinging from the smoky air, but it felt healthier than it had done in Andi and Piers’ flat.

Games, I thought. I took a long gulp of my pint. I’d had enough games for a long while.

A young blond man knocked against me as he passed, and apologised. “Shit. Sorry, too much already.” He gestured to me with his half full glass. He had a nice smile and the sort of relaxed, cheeky look I’d have said was my favourite.

He gazed at me, the smile lingering. His eyes flickered down my body and back up again. You didn’t need any more of an invitation nowadays, did you?

“You look like you’ve had a hell of an evening,” he said. His grin was rueful. “Looking for a friend?”

I stared at him. I laughed aloud, and it probably wasn’t at the truly cheesy line. “You have no idea,” I groaned, the beer tasting bitter in my mouth in more ways than one. “You have no fucking idea!”

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