Advent Calendar – FREE fiction!

Follow the Rainbow Advent Calendar* Group this December, with FREE fiction every day from favourite MM authors. Make sure you bookmark the group, visit it regularly, and please let the authors know you’re loving the reads!  😀

And read my story BELOW, because I’m on TODAY 🙂

ALL THE STORIES can be followed from this MASTERLINK.
And last year’s schedule?? 2017 HERE. Because many of us authors are becoming regulars *wink*.

If you enjoy my story, please check out all my other seasonal books HERE.

*the Facebook Group requires you to join, but it’s free for all readers. The more the merrier!


 

ABOUT LAST NIGHT

Roger only popped out for breakfast supplies. Was that long enough for Allen to have second thoughts?

Read it FREE below, or download it in all formats for later.

 

 

ABOUT LAST NIGHT

“You’re back quickly,” came Allen’s muffled voice from inside the flat.

Roger stood patiently in the hallway, outside the closed front door. “Is that a problem?” He peered at the spyhole, though obviously he couldn’t see inside from where he was.

Allen coughed. There was a shuffle of feet. The door remained firmly shut. “Yes. No. Maybe.”

“Cover all the bases, why don’t you,” Roger said. He shifted the bag of supplies from his right hand to his left to ease the weight. “I brought the stuff we need for breakfast.” There was silence from inside. Roger frowned. “Unless you have some new, inter-dimensional way of cooking bacon, I’d say it’s pretty tricky to proceed when the cooker’s in your kitchen but the food is out here in the hallway, still in a shopping bag. But hey…”

“All right, all right,” came the snappy answer. “Cut the sarcasm. I suppose you want to come in with it, like… right now?”

Roger rolled his eyes, even though no one could see him. “I’m demanding that way, yes. Is something wrong? You were all right when I left you.”

“I’m fine.” Allen’s voice sounded strained. “Of course I am.”

“Of course,” Roger echoed in a murmur. The door was still shut. His gaze roamed over the hallway. A dog was barking in another flat downstairs. One of the doors further up the corridor had a dent in it as if someone had kicked it in. Another had a child’s bicycle stacked against it. Roger thought he could smell toast from another room and it made his mouth water.

“Do you want to go out for breakfast instead?” He listened for any change in Allen’s tone, assuming he could tell that from complete silence, of course.

“No.” A muffled grunt.

“Do you want me to fetch something different? There aren’t a lot of places open on Christmas morning, of course. What about some of those hash brown American things? Pancakes? You like all those…”

“No! Shit.”

The muffled grunt was angry now, though Roger hoped it was with itself, not him. He took a calming breath and put the bag down on the floor, relaxing his wrist. “Work with me here, Allen. If there’s a problem, tell me. I’ll go and sit in the one coffee shop that’s open and wait for you to join me, if you like. Or I can go back to my own flat.” He sighed. “Though I don’t want to, believe me. I want to talk to you some more, have breakfast with you. See more of you.” He smiled, still to himself of course, unless you could count the small spider in a web on the staircase. “I’m bloody hungry, too.”

The door swung open abruptly. Roger stared.

“So am I,” Allen said, but he made it sound like a declaration of intercontinental hostilities. His brow was furrowed, his generous mouth pursed. “Of course you can come in. I’m just a stupid, moody bastard.”

Roger ran his gaze down then up Allen’s body, taking in the sleep socks, the crumpled pyjama pants, then the bare torso. By the time his eyes met Allen’s, he could feel the flush heating his face.

“You’re not stupid,” he said slowly, as if he were really considering Allen’s self-assessment and not trying to get his libido back under control. “Moody, yes, maybe. Lively. Impulsive. Volatile…”

“Smart arse,” Allen interrupted, scowling even more, though his mouth twitched at the corners. “So, come back in. I haven’t got dressed or cleared up or anything.”

Roger stepped cautiously into the flat, watching as Allen slammed the door behind him with a firm push of his knee. “Why should you clear up? I just went out for food. I wouldn’t have bothered, really, but you only had that out-of-date cereal and no tea.”

Allen shrugged. He was keeping two feet away from Roger as they moved down the hallway towards the kitchen. “Hell, if I’d known I’d be entertaining…” He bit off the sentence, colouring.

Roger smiled. “You were that, definitely.” He reached out a hand to stroke Allen’s arm.

Allen stopped dead. “You’re a witty bloke, Roger, but if you joke about this—”

“God, no!” Roger protested. He stopped walking as well. He took his hand away and ran it back through his tousled hair. “It’s no joke. I mean, it was fun and exciting, but I’m taking it very seriously.” When Allen peered at him, slightly less warily, he smiled back. “Exciting doesn’t cover it. Inspiring. Awesome. Astounding.”

Allen had started to smile, too. He reached a hand out himself, and fingered the edge of Roger’s thin jacket. “Yeah, right. Like the earth moved for you.”

Roger caught Allen’s shifting gaze. “Yes. Actually, it did.”

Allen’s eyes widened. “Not just because we were totally wasted after the Christmas Eve party? I mean, it was pretty wild.”

“No,” Roger said quietly. Though the party had, indeed, been wild. Getting a cab to the nearest flat—Allen’s—had been all they could manage after it finished. Laughing, still drunk, sharing stories of the people there. The flat had been dark, peaceful, private. There’d been no plans, no premeditation.

Just a sudden touch. And then the floodgates opened.

“Not just for a laugh, or… to experiment?” Allen obviously noticed Roger’s frown, because his gaze slid away again, and he hurried on, “You know how some blokes can be. Try it for the sake of getting off. Do it because we were there and randy and a friend’s better than a stranger from the pub. Do it…”

Roger stepped forward and grabbed Allen’s arm, tightly. “None of that. I did it—we did it—because we wanted each other. Didn’t we? I’ve wanted you for a long time.” His laugh sounded nervous. “As a friend you’re great, of course, but then there’s the other thing.”

“The other thing?”

Roger coughed to hide his embarrassment. “The way I feel when you wear that dark blue shirt, or you suck syrup off your fingers, or you hunker down by the TV to find the remote, or you wander about the kitchen making bacon with nothing on but pyjama pants—”

“I can lose the sleep socks,” Allen said quickly, grinning. “Watch me.” His eyes were brighter now.

Roger could hear his own breath in the quiet hallway. It was much shallower than before. “But if you’re having regrets…”

Allen shook his head vigorously, his eyes fixed on Roger’s mouth. “Hell, no. Just thought you might be. You know? You got up way earlier than I would. And this going out for breakfast stuff. It might have been an escape. You might not have bothered to come back.”

Indignant, Roger started to protest, but Allen stopped the words with his hand over Roger’s mouth. Allen’s palm was slightly damp and smelled rather deliciously of him.

Roger let his tongue slip out, just the tip of it. He licked the skin at the base of Allen’s thumb.

Allen’s breath hitched. “I mean, it doesn’t matter, Rog, if you had gone. I’d still have things left here, like the smell of you on the sheets and all your spare change on the floor by my bed. But I had hoped…” He flushed. “That we’d do it again some time.”

Roger grunted until Allen took his hand away. “But I’m back. I didn’t escape.”

Allen bit his lip. “No,” he agreed. “I can see that.”

Roger met Allen’s stare for a long moment. He suspected the inane grin was common to them both. “So, what about you?” he asked. “Was it the same for you? Maybe you’re the one who just wanted something casual, just needed—”

“You,” Allen interrupted. He looked fierce again but it wasn’t one of his hostile expressions, more like a hungry one, and perhaps not for pancakes. “Yeah, I agree, the friend thing is great, but I’ve wanted you—like wanted you—for a long time. The way you grin, really slowly, and the way those jeans hug your bum, and the way you run your hand back through your hair…”

Roger did the hair gesture again. And grinned. Really slowly.

Allen had also started to breathe very heavily. He glanced down the corridor in the direction of the bedroom door.

Roger turned them both around and pushed Allen bodily towards it. “That thing about doing it again some time…”

Allen nodded, and kept nodding. “Yeah. Right. Pity you had to get dressed to go shopping.”

Roger began shrugging out of his jacket and shirt with indecent haste.

“You’re still hungry, though,” Allen said. His grin was mischievous.

Roger slid a hand down inside Allen’s pyjama bottoms and squeezed his arse.

“Okay,” Allen gasped. He twisted his head back to breathe into Roger’s ear, to lick at the lobe. “The cooking can wait, I suppose. Stale cereal’s good, too.”

Roger’s mouth groped clumsily for Allen’s. “It’ll have to be.”

“Huh?”

“We’d need the inter-dimensional cookbook.” He pushed with more determination until Allen tumbled back onto the bed, both of them laughing. “The food’s still out in the hallway!”

© Clare London/2018


 

And last year’s short story is still available too, in case you missed it. It’s here as a FREE download: UNWRAPPING.

Flashfic: on Vengeance

I’ve been tempted (!) to post my flashfic MOVING ON after the prompt at Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge:  Thy Name is Vengeance.

Moving On

I’m huddled alone in the fuel room, monitoring the gauges. Enough in Tank #3 to power His craft back to the space station, safe and smooth.

Barely dried tears still nestle in my beard.

I shouldn’t care. Open relationships are the norm nowadays.

That’s what He said last night, through lips that smiled at my shock, that were still halfway down Second Officer (Onboard Facilitation) Grend’s cock.

Facilitation. Right.

Seven months together is a bloody long time on a space station, when soporific days are marked only by a change of task sheet. Where intimacy is planned in advance, lusty breath rationed, precious lube usage kept to a minimum.

I thought it’d count for something.

Stupid.

I’m too old to fall into that ‘screwing your boss’ trap. Funny how even in such a rigidly controlled environment, libido blows common sense farther than any satellite.

Humiliation. Can’t forget. Betrayal. Calls for action!

I glance at Tank #3, pumping its precious feed to His craft.

There’s a heady thrill in giving way to your emotions, albeit adolescent, vindictive and probably criminal.

I flip the switch on the tank lid, and an amber light awakens.

I remember doing this once, on an Earth car. Belonged to a guy who dumped me. I was only a teenager.

Felt good.

I unscrew the lid. There’s only a matter of seconds before the break in flow is noticed.

The amber light starts flashing. So, scold me. I unzip my suit, disengage the urine bag, release my cock. And piss into the tank.

Not enough to endanger the landing: enough to make it choppy as all hell. Twenty seconds of hot, pure, rejuvenating revenge.

Zipped again, I tighten the lid. Amber returns to a pale green pout.

And I’m smiling like that teenager I once was.

We can all move on, right?

 

copyright / Clare London / posted first 2018 on QSF Facebook group

Free Fiction: What Not to Wear – SUNDAY (and the end)

As a fun New Year’s gift to my readers – a week of sexy snippets following lovers Doug and Beckett and their increasingly outrageous and very NSFW* behaviour in and out of the workplace :).

All of it inspired by, and accompanied with, their wardrobe of evil-minded logo T-shirts…

Come on over!
*PS Feel free to share, but this is only for 18+ readers, as it’s sexually explicit.

MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY
THURSDAY
FRIDAY
SATURDAY
SUNDAY

Free Fiction: What Not to Wear – SATURDAY

As a fun New Year’s gift to my readers – a week of sexy snippets following lovers Doug and Beckett and their increasingly outrageous and very NSFW* behaviour in and out of the workplace :).

All of it inspired by, and accompanied with, their wardrobe of evil-minded logo T-shirts…

Come on over!
*PS Feel free to share, but this is only for 18+ readers, as it’s sexually explicit.

MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY
THURSDAY
FRIDAY
SATURDAY

Free Fiction: What Not to Wear – FRIDAY

As a fun New Year’s gift to my readers – a week of sexy snippets following lovers Doug and Beckett and their increasingly outrageous and very NSFW* behaviour in and out of the workplace :).

All of it inspired by, and accompanied with, their wardrobe of evil-minded logo T-shirts…

Come on over!
*PS Feel free to share, but this is only for 18+ readers, as it’s sexually explicit.

MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY
THURSDAY
FRIDAY

 

Free Fiction: What Not to Wear – THURSDAY

As a fun New Year’s gift to my readers – a week of sexy snippets following lovers Doug and Beckett and their increasingly outrageous and very NSFW* behaviour in and out of the workplace :).

All of it inspired by, and accompanied with, their wardrobe of evil-minded logo T-shirts…

Come on over!
*PS Feel free to share, but this is only for 18+ readers, as it’s sexually explicit.

MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY
THURSDAY

 

Free Fiction: What Not to Wear – WEDNESDAY

As a fun New Year’s gift to my readers – a week of sexy snippets following lovers Doug and Beckett and their increasingly outrageous and very NSFW* behaviour in and out of the workplace :).

All of it inspired by, and accompanied with, their wardrobe of evil-minded logo T-shirts…

Come on over!
*PS Feel free to share, but this is only for 18+ readers, as it’s sexually explicit.

MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY

 

Free Fiction: What Not to Wear – TUESDAY

As a fun New Year’s gift to my readers – a week of sexy snippets following lovers Doug and Beckett and their increasingly outrageous and very NSFW* behaviour in and out of the workplace :).

All of it inspired by, and accompanied with, their wardrobe of evil-minded logo T-shirts…

Come on over!
*PS Feel free to share, but this is only for 18+ readers, as it’s sexually explicit.

MONDAY
TUESDAY

 

Free fiction: What Not to Wear – MONDAY

As a fun New Year’s gift to my readers – a week of sexy snippets following lovers Doug and Beckett and their increasingly outrageous and very NSFW* behaviour in and out of the workplace :).

All of it inspired by, and accompanied with, their wardrobe of evil-minded logo T-shirts…

Come on over!

MONDAY

*PS Feel free to share, but this is only for 18+ readers, as it’s sexually explicit.

Unwrapping – a Christmas freebie

Follow the Rainbow Advent Calendar* this December, with free fiction every day from your favourite MM authors 😀
*the Facebook Group requires you to join, but it’s free for all readers.

 

UNWRAPPING

“Good God, it’s a yeti. Carrying a shopping bag.” Harry opened the front door to his flat and let the bulbous figure shuffle in past him. “Welcome, mythical creature. You are far from home and from your mystical masters in the high mountains of the Himalayas, but I hope that the big, bad metropolis will treat you well this Christmas Eve—”

“Shunh unh, Huuree,” came from the moving mound of thick, red, hooded coat, plus assorted scarves and shawls. It waddled into the lounge and a giant, gloved hand dropped the bag it had been carrying onto the sofa.

Harry followed, grinning. “Are you delivering for Santa? You’re a day early, you know. Not that you’re not welcome, you always are. Especially if that’s a Christmas gift for me.”

The visitor shook the upper part of its body. It was difficult to identify it as a head, because it was wrapped in several scarves that hid where its neck met its body. “Cahhnh fiynn anyhnging guuhd.”

Harry sighed and tugged at the end of one of the scarves. “Matt—because I assume it is you underneath all this clothing—please understand that I can only understand what you’re saying because I am supersensitive, am attuned to your chi, and we’ve been best friends for ages.”

“Muthh be a yuhhhr.”

“Yes. Must be well over a year. Whatever. And of course I talk that same language when I’ve had too many beers and my tongue gets itself tied. But no-one else will work out what you’re saying. Can I remove some layers?”

Two bright blue-grey eyes peered over the top of thick cloth, darting from left to right in the room.

“Yeah,” Harry said, answering the question that hadn’t even been voiced. “The heating’s on at last. The landlord fixed the boiler this morning. I had to offer him a box of mince pies and several sherries, and then when he got too fresh, I had to threaten him with an imaginative and painful use of holly.”

The eyes watching him flashed suddenly angrily, fiercely.

“It was worth it,” Harry continued firmly, “so the repair could be done in time for Christmas Day, right? And my honour is still intact—well, with the creepy landlord, at least. Here, let me.” He started to unwind one of the scarves around Matt’s neck, freeing the forehead as well as the eyes. “This scarf is mine, isn’t it? Thought I’d lost it last year.”

“… duhn the baahk of the suufa…” Matt muttered, his mouth full of woolly ends.

“Yeah.” Harry smiled. “That was a laugh, last Christmas Eve, wasn’t it? I’ve never known Scrabble to be played quite that way, I mean, actually scrabbling for the tiles down the back of the cushions like that. But it was fun, though you were pretty clumsy, hands all over me.”

Matt made a soft coughing noise.

Harry concentrated on a thick, striped shawl that was tangled over Matt’s left ear and nose. “We got this one in the local charity shop, remember? Good thing, too, because the boiler packed up last Christmas Eve, too. You rescued me from hypothermia by lurking with me around the shops, the cinema, the supermarket, anywhere that had decent heating. Then when they all closed, we came here to play games, and huddled up together on the couch, this shawl over our shoulders, sitting in front of that one-bar portable heater for the evening.”

“It was great.” Matt’s voice was clear at last, though his murmur was almost too quiet to be heard. “You were great.”

“Huh?” Harry peeked over the pile of striped fabric, clutched in both his hands. “Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

“Nothing.” Matt shook his head and stood still while the rummaging around his coat collar continued. Harry tugged out a length of a particularly expensive-looking green scarf, finally opening up his best friend’s face from its swaddling, and releasing a bunch of Matt’s tousled dark hair. “And, of course, this one’s Bernard’s. He called this afternoon to confirm he and his latest squeeze won’t make my usual Boxing Day drinks because they’ve taken an earlier flight. He asked if you’d be round here as usual, said he didn’t reckon we’d notice if anyone else was there or not, and gave an obscene snigger. Not entirely sure what that meant.”

“Unh,” Matt said, or that’s what his awkward swallow sounded like. “He’s always been a bizarre little bugger.”

Harry paused a moment before continuing, “You remember why he left this scarf? He thought he was interrupting something when he came over on Christmas Eve last year. He dropped in earlier than expected, delivering some of his special, excessively alcoholic Christmas cake and I’d left the front door ajar. So when he found us on the couch, all bundled up—”

“—lying down—” Matt said softly.

“Yeah.” Harry nodded, “—yes, sort of lying down, too, well, he got all flustered, dropped the cake on the table and dashed back out. Left his scarf behind, and he never dared ask for it back.” He smiled more broadly at the memory. “Do you remember the shocked look on his face?”

“I wouldn’t actually have called it shock.” Matt’s eyes were brighter than could be accounted for by the table lamp’s reflection. “Besides, I wasn’t looking at his face.”

There was a small, strained moment of silence.

Harry decided to concentrate extra hard on the immensely difficult task of tugging the defenceless scarf completely free. “You think he thought we were making out, or something?”

Matt’s eyebrows lifted. “It must have looked like it.”

“Yes. Um. Well, we… we…”

Matt touched him then, just a gentle press on his arm. “Were, weren’t we? He wasn’t wrong. Maybe not right at that moment, because I was, according to you, pretty clumsy, but over the course of that evening, after I got up the bloody courage, and you’d had too much eggnog.”

Harry’s whole body shuddered for some reason. “That’s when it started, right?”

It?”

“Us. We. When we started having…”

“Friendly benefits?” Matt finished for him.

There was no edge to his soft voice, but Harry felt he was missing something in just the words. “Yes, a lot of benefits. That’s fun, isn’t it? You spend so much time here, and we get on so well, laugh and cook and watch TV together, so it sort of just happened that when you started staying over, you know, sleeping over, we made the most of—”

“Yes,” Matt interrupted, a bit tightly. “That’s fun indeed.”

Harry blinked. “And I seem to remember I was pretty clumsy too, that first night.”

“You fell off the sofa.”

“Well, I think you’ll find that was a strategic move to get more eggnog—”

“Twice.”

Harry chuckled. He found his hand lingering over Matt’s, wanting to link their fingers. The feeling wasn’t exactly a shiver down his spine, more like an ache in his throat. It had been around for a while now. “I’m glad. Glad things have continued to be as much fun.” He glanced up at Matt’s face. “They have, haven’t they?”

Matt’s hand twisted, palm upward, catching Harry’s in its grip. “Of course.” He nodded slowly, his pupils dilated. “Though I’m glad to say we’ve grown in… um… experience. And enthusiasm. Yes, definitely enthusiasm. Last Christmas Eve was definitely the start of it. But what we’ve been doing more recently is… Is…”

“Is. Yes. Like you say. Much more enthusiastic.” Harry gave a short, soft laugh at more recent memories. Last night, as an example, when Matt had dropped in on his way home, tipsy after his work’s Christmas party, and adorably stupid with corny snowman jokes, the smell of brandy butter on his breath, the hastily shed clothes on the hallway floor, and warm, uninhibited kisses all the way to Harry’s bed…

“Harry? You okay?”

“Yeah. Fine.” Harry dropped the green scarf on the sofa. That same sofa. “A year ago, eh?”

“Uh-huh. You might even say we’re coming up for an anniversary.”

“Yes, I might.” Harry’s stomach roiled. Funny how it was difficult to meet Matt’s eyes tonight. They’d always been so relaxed together, so easy, as happy with their passion as their banter. Things felt very… different… tonight.

He cleared his throat. “So. Now you mention it, perhaps that’s a good opportunity for me to discuss… whether you… right. Whatever. Let’s talk.” Embarrassingly, his stomach growled. “After supper, anyway. I mean, you’re staying for supper, I hope?”

“Love to. But who has the dense language now?”

Harry chuckled, but Matt went very, very still as Harry’s fingers slid inside his coat collar, releasing the last scarf. He may even have been holding his breath.

“This is a new one, isn’t it?” Harry was puzzled. “It’s gorgeous. Golden, orange, flecks of brown and red, I don’t know what else. Like… the best kind of glow in the sky at night. The maple tree on the street corner in autumn. Your mother’s dear old dog. The best toffee.” He felt warmed from the inside out. “The colour brings out the hazel in your eyes. And it’s very soft, much better quality than Bernard’s—how can you afford cashmere wool, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Harry, I don’t mind you asking anything.”

Dear Matt. He was Harry’s confessor, his supporter, his partner in crime, his better half. His friend-with-benefits. That set-up didn’t seem to sit so easy now, as Harry struggled to get his thoughts straight. “Well. Yes. That’s what I mean. I think I need to talk to you about… things like that.”

“Like what?”

Harry cleared his throat. Again. “The anniversary thing. All last year. Having fun. Making the most of… Well. Actually, not just that. The laughing and the playing football and the grocery shopping stuff. Coming around when I lost that job. When I crashed the car.”

“It was only a small dent. That dog should have been on a lead.”

“No.” Harry knew what he meant, the problem was just explaining it to Matt. He didn’t usually have this problem when they swapped daily news. “It’s more than that. You’re always there. We always share. Thoughts, feelings. Things.”

“Things like the washing up?”

Harry frowned but felt a smile teasing the corner of his mouth. “Stop taking the piss.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be so irritating. It’s just, that sounds like me. I mean, I feel the same.” Matt moved closer to Harry, his still-frosty breath on Harry’s cheek.

Harry didn’t think he’d ever get his throat clear enough. “Remember we said we’d have a quiet Christmas here, not spending too much on food or presents, just making our own entertainment—?”

“—like last year?” Matt’s voice rose. “But yes! That’s exactly what the label said!”

“Label?”

Matt’s voice tumbled out like a snowball rolling down a hill. “It was on the mat this morning when I got up early—this scarf I mean, elegantly Christmas-wrapped, labelled for me from Secret Santa, with the message that it might bring me a Christmas like last year. And…” He also cleared his throat. Must have been contagious. “And a new year to treasure.”

“Well, it wasn’t from me.

Matt rolled his eyes. “I know that. You can’t wrap a present for shit.”

They both grimaced at each other, then laughed.

“But where did it come from, then? Where’s the label?”

Matt shrugged. “I left it on my kitchen counter, then it went missing. Not sure how or where. At first, I thought it must be from Bernard—”

“—or that joker Frankie he’s been dating—?”

“—but they’re both in Paris. Bernard’s sister’s getting married there. You said they took an earlier flight.”

“Hm. Yeah. What about that kid in flat 27, below you?”

“Not his MO. He only leaves half-dried dog turds, and his dad stopped that anti-social little hobby when the postman slipped on one last week.”

“Your brother?”

Matt scowled. “Stupid arse has already sent me my gift. A crochet toilet roll holder.” It was a long-running joke in Matt’s family, the contest for the most useless Christmas gift.

“I found you something to send back to him this year,” Harry said gleefully. “Diet cutlery! There’s a hole in the middle of the spoon.”

More laughter between them, comfortable, conspiratorial. Harry began to relax.

“Anyway,” Matt continued. “Whoever sent it, I decided to wear it—plus a couple of others, of course, because I knew the weather was on its way toward freezing tonight—when I went shopping for your present.”

“Look, didn’t I just say—?”

But Matt wasn’t stopping any time soon. His expression was excited, his face flushed now, his words tumbling even faster. “I just couldn’t find anything suitable. I wanted to get you something special this year—something to tell you how much I appreciate your friendship, how it’s been great sharing life with you here in London, how well you looked after me as a newbie from the country all that time ago, how I really like staying over here, I mean, really like… how I’d like more of… more of… you.” His words ran out. He smiled a little ruefully; he blushed more deeply. Then he picked the shopping bag up and held it out to Harry. “Anyway, I failed. This was all I came around with.”

Harry glanced in the bag, barely seeing the contents, his attention fixed on far more important things. Imagine that! Matt thinking all that. Matt wanting more. Of me. Things were suddenly, splendidly easy after all.

“This is all special, Matt.”

Matt also glanced into the bag and frowned. “A new set of Scrabble?”

Harry laughed aloud, the sound warm and happy. “No. I mean having you here with me. That Secret Santa message was pretty spooky—because I’d like a Christmas like last year, too.”

Matt still frowned, but his eyes shone with their own heat and light. “Like—watching A Christmas Carol for the fourth time? Like eating cold pizza because we messed up cooking the turkey? Like wrestling me for the last inch of eggnog in the bottle, and stealing the last slice of Bernard’s boozy Christmas cake?”

“Yeah. Just like last year.” Harry reached out and determinedly popped open the top button of Matt’s coat. Then the next. “I’m really pleased you mentioned our anniversary. You see, the boiler only broke this year because I kicked it. I was trying to set the scene so you’d remember what we got up to last year.”

Matt swallowed heavily, as if some of the fluff from the scarves had got stuck in his throat. “How the hell could I forget?”

“Because I’ve been blundering around, going from one day to the next, without actually stopping to look at what’s happened. To us. About us. How it all started. How we’ve been together, this year. How it should be in the future. The label was right about what I’m seeking for the new year too. I should have found the balls to discuss it with you long before now.”

“You’re not…?” Matt looked quite pale now. “You want to stop the benefits thing?”

“God, no!” Harry could’ve kicked himself, why would he ever shock Matt like that? “I haven’t regretted any of it. Not for a second. I’m so bloody glad it started… you know. Us.”

“Truthfully?”

“Truthfully.” Harry had moved as close as he dared, his hands slipping inside Matt’s coat as he undid the final button. Matt’s shirt front was warm under Harry’s fingertips, Matt’s breath cozy on his neck.

“Be brave,” Matt whispered, and he sounded very serious now. “Be honest. I need that from you.”

Harry had no idea why he’d been so slow on the uptake, but he was catching up now. “I’ve just had this idea, but maybe I should wait until I’ve fed you your favourite pasta—”

“No.” Matt almost growled.

Harry smiled to himself. “Well, when you stumbled through the door, all cold and huddled, I thought—why shouldn’t Matt live here with me anyway? It’s a bigger flat, we can pool our money and have more left over to spend on fun. Then he won’t have to trudge across town in all weathers—”

“I don’t mind. Honest.” Though that didn’t sound completely sincere.

“—and we can spend all our time together without worrying about goodbye’s, and see you hopefully on Tuesday’s, and call me tomorrow about watching the game down the pub’s, sorta things.”

Matt’s voice was shaky. “Just for convenience?”

Harry wondered when his best mate had got so nervous. He was never like that in bed. “Of course not. To make it something more for us, you know. Something permanent.”

“I’d be a permanent… what? Washer up? Picker up of your lost socks? Negotiator of the hallway with that manic cat in number 12?”

“Stupid git.” Harry looked at him fondly. “Poor, dim soul that you are. The cold has frozen your receptors. You want me to spell it out?”

“Bloody hell, yes,” Matt hissed.

“A permanent lover. Boyfriend. Best friend. Partner.” How odd it sounded, to articulate the words he’d never said before to anyone. But what an adventure! “I love you, Matt. Will you move in with me?”

Matt blinked hard. He was grinning now. Really broadly. His jaw must have ached from it. “So, now you find the words? You’ve never said anything about us being official. I was never sure if you just saw us as—”

“Those friends with benefits?”

“Yeah.”

“No. It was always more. Like I said, I just didn’t listen to how I really felt. But… now I do tonight, for some reason. Must be Santa’s magic.” Harry rubbed his fingers along the edge of the mysterious scarf. “If I believed in that crap.”

Matt slid his arm around Harry’s waist, still padded inside his coat and gloves. “I love you too.”

“Yeah, like I didn’t already know that. Who else would pick up my socks?” Harry scoffed but he felt ridiculously, head-swimmingly, hugely happy. “But have you been waiting for me to admit it, all this time?”

Matt shrugged. “Like you said, it was always more than just fun. But—it is fun, isn’t it?”

“All year long,” Harry agreed, giving Matt his best sexy leer.

“So. Not such a torturous wait for me, I’d say.” And Matt gave him his best lascivious waggly-eyebrows look in return.

Harry burst out laughing. “Can we start celebrating the anniversary soon?”

Matt gave a long, happy sigh. “Yeah. I can always shop for your present in the January sales.”

Harry shook his head. “No. I don’t want you to. You don’t need to. All I want for Christmas is you, Matt.”

Matt blinked hard. “And that you’ve got.”

Harry nodded, letting out a breath of relief, and pushing Matt’s coat impatiently off his shoulders. “So that’s my present to you. And, apparently, you to me. Unwrapped. Or you will be, soon.” He nudged his knee against Matt’s, guiding him back toward the sofa.

“As long as the boiler keeps going, of course. Don’t want my receptors frozen up again, do I?” Matt let himself be guided without any protest at all. His eyes glinted pretty wickedly and with a huge amount of promise. “And do I get to unwrap you, too?”

“You better.” Harry barely recognised the strange growling noise in the back of his throat. “Just take those damn yeti gloves off and get started.”