Their eyes met over the coffee machine; twice replaced because his youthful lust couldn't be contained any longer and Trotsky had let his boss take him over it. It fell, and he spent the next two weeks picking coffee beans out of his slowly growing beard. He'd shaved if off after Gaddafi told him it made him look like a teenager. Trotsky dropped the polystyrene cup he'd been filling with espresso ingredients ready to give to this customer, and the charming stranger simply laughed and asked, "Startled?"
Trotsky could do nothing but swallow.
His eyes darted left and right, trying in vain to avoid the piercingly sensual stare of the other man. The newcomer laughed again, a masculine sound that somehow evoked imagery of rippling muscles and oiled pectorals - Trotsky could already appreciate that beneath the vintage Westwood tweed jacket was a fine body - and cocked his head to the side.
"You got a name as pretty as that mouth?" he asked. Trotsky blushed furiously.
"I - Leon," he answered. The other man tilted his head to the other side contemplatively before offering his hand. 'I'd like to do more than shake it', Leon thought, but took it anyway and the two men shook hands in a manner not becoming of their heterosexual facades.
"Joseph," the other man stated. Leon smiled.
It had been a good start to his shift.
"Leon! You're wanted in back." The strong yet somehow gentle voice of his boss dominated him, as he would soon literally. Trotsky sighed, wondering if this time he'd let him off early. Last time they were hours and nobody got their coffee. Both were disappointed.
"Take off your belt." Soon they were among the coffee beans and bags of sugar, the combination of smells sweet, like a lolly that had been left on the pavement of a summers day. In years to come, Trotsky would vaguely smell that same scent and smile with nostalgia. And...shame.
"Sir, it's working hours."
"I saw you and that boy. Stay away, he's bad news."
Trotsky could hear the jealousy in his lover's voice. Could it be that this great man, this strong, sensitive lover with the fear of grapes and secret love of viola, was...jealous? Twelve years his senior and years wiser. It made no sense.
"Good. Now be a good boy and take off your belt."
Trotsky complied. Because Trotsky always complied. That was their dynamic; Gaddafi only need ask and Trotsky would come running, like one of those Russian dogs that make great pets but shouldn't be left alone with children.
Leon could admit that he was addicted. He knew that he couldn't quit. He was lost in Gaddafi's entoxicating scent of maturity and stale cologne.
It was only hours later, lying in his lover's arms on top of a sack of coffee beans, that Leon remembered the suave, enigmatic hunk he'd served earlier. He'd never got his espresso.
"Shit!" he cried, leaping to his feet and grabbing his deep burgundy corduroys, pulling them on and nearly falling flat on his face in the process. Gaddafi frowned.
"Where are you going, boy?" he asked. Leon looked at him.
"I have a customer," he replied, tugging his shirt on. In a few seconds he was fully dressed - still rumpled, sex-fresh and dishevelled - and running through the doors, bursting into the front of the coffee shop in barefeet -
- and he knew that Joseph would be gone, knew that he wouldn't have waited, because why would he?
He exhaled, disappointed. He was like a junkie; the speed of the next hit was more important than the quality, or the niceness of the public toilet it took place in.
"Took you long enough," said Joseph, wryly.
Trotsky gasped. An intake of breath, as a gasp usually is. It was the same gasp he made when he saw his dog humping his settee with such ferocity that he instantly wished Joseph was the settee and he was his dog. He'd even let Joseph scold him in the same way. If Joseph wasn't a settee in this particular fantasy, that is.
Luckily, Joseph wasn't a settee; he was a living, flesh-and-blood male stood in front of him, all bones and tweed jumpers. A hand took his shoulder from behind and he knew it was Gaddafi. After all, nobody else would have come from the backroom smelling of stale sweat and fresh cum.
"Sir, you'll have to leave now. We are now closed." Gaddafi smiled. Trotsky knew exactly which smile it was too; the same one that danced him into bed the first night they met. And by "danced", he meant "pushed" and by "bed" he meant "pile of coffee beans". For Gaddafi was a ferocious lover. Nay, a dangerous one. There was many a time where Trotsky was convinced he hadn't locked the backroom door. Luckily, his backroom door was the only one ever open.
"I was just leaving. I was just wondering if Leon was interested in joining me for a coffee somewhere."
"Sir, I'm sure you had more than enough coffee at our establishment...."
"I didn't receive my coffee."
Joseph caught Trotsky's eye, and he blushed- redder than the time his mother caught him masturbating for the first time, and redder than when she told him it was normal but not to do it in the bathroom please, because other people have to use it too.
With a swift smile and a lingering look, Joseph took leave.
Trotsky didn't follow; hand still on his shoulder, he just watched.
He just watched.
As soon as the cafe door was closed, Gaddafi's hand on his shoulder tightened its grip and Leon was spun around. Gaddafi's eyes danced with fire, unsatisfied arousal and a naturally amber tint to his iris that Leon secretly thought made him look like an extra in Teen Wolf.
"What are you doing?" hissed Gaddafi. Leon shook his shoulder free of his lover's iron grip and scowled.
"I was serving a customer," he retorted sharply. "Seeing as that's what I'm paid to do, I didn't think you'd mind."
Gaddafi narrowed his eyes.
"You are paid to serve me, boy," he hissed. "And don't you forget it."
Leon bit his lip.
But the truth was, for just a few seconds, looking into Joseph's beautiful bloodshot eyes, he had.
Joseph didn't return the next day. Leon spent hours scrubbing the counter mindlessly, wishing more than anything that it could be him getting a good scrubbing - in the shower, by another naked man, preferably one with luscious black locks, swept artfully to one side. It was as though he had been taken over by Joseph, consumed by longing for him. Every coffee he served only served to remind him of the sheen of his skin.
This was getting ridiculous. There was only so many coffee breaks he could take for a stealthy wank in the supply cupboard - he did work in a coffee shop after all - and it wasn't quite worth taking up smoking for the extra excuse.
It called for further planning. Leon was going to have to find Joseph himself.
He started in the local vintage shops. Because where else would such a beautiful, up-to-the-times man spend his time? He probably had a lover; just as cool and ironic as he was. Trotsky couldn’t help but scold himself for not being so socially aware and for not wearing as much tweed as he ironically should.
Joseph couldn’t be found in any of them. Because of course! How could Trotsky be so blind? They were too obviously ironic! He had to go deeper. Deeper into Joseph. No, he couldn’t think of that now- he could stealth wank when he was alone and crying in his bed with room for two…but only filled by one.
Next he tried the park. It seemed like the most obviously ironic place for a man such as Joseph to be. It was a beautiful day- the sun shone like the perfect gleam of the strand of hair Joseph would always sweep to the side. He was so cool. Trotsky kept an eye out for any beautiful men, but alas. None as beautiful as his soon-to-be beloved. He sat on a bench, just so close to a group of children that he had an informal disguise, but not so close that he could be suspected of child molestation.
He sighed. It was getting dark, and he was getting hungry, for in the long hours he spent searching for his potential lover, he had forgotten to consume food. He needed food; food was a necessity. Like his burning want to find Joseph it consumed him, but this had the danger of killing him if he didn’t solve it soon. He decided on a pizza place- because he liked pizza. The combination of yellow and red reminded him of the jumper Joseph had been wearing on their first meeting.
He sat, alone at a table, for he had brought nobody with him, obviously. A shine of black hair caught his eye, all hidden beneath a hairnet except…one piece that escaped. The man swung his head with such elegance he could have been a spokesperson for Pantene. Trotsky couldn’t believe it. A man as brilliant and wonderful as Joseph worked in such a mundane dump?
It was too good to be true.
He got up, ready to leave- startled by the idea of such.
“Coffee boy. Surprise seeing you here.”
Leon felt his heartbeat increase, like he'd just experienced a bout of particularly vigorous exercise, or sex. Which he hadn't. And he wasn't thinking about it. Not at all.
"Coffee boy?" The dulcet tones of Joseph startled him out of his entirely innocent and not at all erotic state of daydream, and Leon looked up into beautiful eyes, dark pools of swamp mud, sucking him in just as swamp mud would, only metaphorically.
"Sorry," Leon began. "I was - "
Joseph smiled, a sensual half-smile that played upon only one corner of his lips. Leon thought that if anyone else did it, he'd reach for the phone and dial the stroke helpline, but on Joseph it looked less like an aneurysm and more like an invitation for downstairs pleasure.
"You were...?" Joseph grinned, and Leon realised with dismay that he'd frozen with fear. He coughed.
"I was trying to decide on what sort of pizza I wanted," he said. He thought he saw the smile falter on the other man's lips, but he blinked and when his eyes reopened the smile was still dazzlingly and disarmingly sexy.
"And have you come to a decision?" Joseph asked. "I can recommend the marghuerita. I know it's plain, I know, but it's amazing, really." He leaned in conspiratorially. "And it's the only pizza that the chef lets me make."
The thought of Joseph making his pizza for him, of his delicate hands kneading the dough like they would knead the vertebrae on the spine of a young art student, made Leon's pulse quicken.
He was falling hard for this man. Harder than the bulge in his trousers.
This was his chance. He cleared his throat.
"I think I'll have..." he said. "You."
Joseph's smile wavered for a second. Then as quickly as it disappeared, it reappeared. For Joseph had not suffered a premature stroke; he had complete control of his face. He put down his notepad, and Trotsky imagined that like a lovestruck nine year old, that he'd written his name in a loveheart and "Mr + Mr Trotsky" in the margin. All he saw was an ingredient list and previous order he'd already taken. It'd have to do.
"Leon, we're going to have to talk. Somewhere private."
"You have a storage cupboard?" Trotsky was not thinking about rearranging dough and salami to sit comfortably and talk. He was thinking about his own salami. The one he stored in his pants. He needed someone to rearrange that, for it was pressing into the buttons on his jeans and making him uncomfortable. Someone with metaphor eyes and hair that escaped even the tightest of hairnets. He needed to see that hair grasped between his fingers. He couldn't wait any longer.
Joseph smiled his half smile again. But again, it was not a stroke. It was alluring, like a venus fly trap allures their victims. But unlike a venus fly trap, Joseph was not a plant and didn't want to consume him. Trotsky wanted to consume him, though. Consume his man meat into his mouth, as you would actual meat but without the cannibalism. Consume him until he felt him explode with pleasure, and then take him home and soothe him to sleep.
He needed him. Needed him like a diabetic needs insulin. Needed him like a slow child needs someone to hold their hand as they cross the road. Trotsky couldn't wait. He led Joseph outside, where the night was silent and the sky was dark. (For, after all, it was night.)
"I need to tell you something...." Joseph started.
Before he could continue, Trotsky had placed his lips over Joseph's. He tasted like limes, as if he'd had them for a lunchtime snack. Joseph protested for a second, until he swept his arms over Trotsky's shoulders and embraced him. They kissed until they could kiss no longer, because they were both pretty tired and getting horny.
"Leon." Joseph looked away. "....I'm engaged."
Leon thought he heard a train roar past. It took a few seconds for him to realise that it wasn't a train. Not a physical one, anyway. It was just a roaring in his eyes caused by grief. He was glad about that, in a way. If it HAD been a train, he'd have been worried for his safety.
"Oh," he said, because what else could he say? 'I'm going to go home and listen to Dolly Parton and cry about being alone'? 'Your face will forever be in the corner of my mind when I wank'? 'You owe me £3.50 for the pack of Kleenex I went through last night, thinking about you'?
No. 'Oh' would have to do.
Joseph ran a hand through his perfectly coiffed ebony locks and sighed.
"Leon..." he began. He pinched the bridge of his Roman nose between his thumb and elegant forefinger. "It's not your fault. I admit; when I first saw you in the coffee shop, I thought... well, I can't repeat the thoughts. But they involved a lot of lube."
"I think I know the kind," Leon murmured, stroking the side of Joseph's face. "I thought them too."
"Damnit, Leon!" cried Joseph, stepping back. "You can't - you can't say that kind of thing to me. Not when we're in a confined space!"
"So let's go outside," Leon suggested. Joseph raised an eyebrow.
"I love my fiancee, Leon," he sighed. Leon shrugged.
"What she won't know won't hurt her," he said.
"Then, in the words of the great George Michael," he said. "Let's go outside."
By "outside", Joseph meant "your bed, obviously." He didn't question why "outside" looked like the dirty room of an art student; tissues and pencils strewn everywhere like he hadn't cleaned in weeks.
"I haven't cleaned in weeks," Leon explained. "I don't have many guests."
"I can see," said Joseph, iconing to the basket overflowing with used tissues.
Leon said nothing, instead choosing to stand in front of Joseph, who was sat on the bed. The smooth tunes of Prince softly penetrated the room, reminding Leon that soon, he too would be penetrating something. The bulge in his trousers grew, speaking the unspoken words Leon didn't need to speak.
"Don't speak." said Joseph, eyes closed. He instead started to undo the buttons on Leon's tight jeans, snug enough to see the outline of his growing genitals. He could feel his own rising to the occasion, wondering if this meant he was gay now. One look at Leon's extremely heavy penis meant one thing; yes, yes it did. How would he tell Ekaterina? Kat wouldn't be into adding another man into the mix; getting her into bed was difficult enough.
He could only lay there and wonder about her, as he felt Leon's soft fingers lube their way into his most intimate area. He was cold. And it wasn't just from the lube. Leon was an expert, knowing exactly which areas to touch to get him to moan with quiet pleasure.
He let Leon take him, as a rider would take a stallion. Or how a stallion would take a mare, he wasn't quite sure which was more appropriate. As he lay there, Leon's firm and fleshy arm laid strewn across his nude and well formed pectorals, all he could think of was Kat. She'd be wondering where he'd been all night. She'd never believe his "at the strip club, honey" excuse. Not this time.
He left a note on Leon's bedside table, four simple words.
"Don't contact me again." Simple words they may have been, but they were also the hardest to have to write. He gathered his clothes and left. The sun was just beginning to rise.
When Leon woke up, the first thing he noticed was that he felt cold. That wasn't unusual in itself; he'd bought that kind of lube that Lenin had liked so much, the one that was a bit cold and felt tingly and helped you last longer (not that Lenin had needed it; shagging Lenin had been like shagging a broomstick). No, what was unusual was that it felt as though something was missing.
He turned over to ask Joseph whether he felt the same way. Instead of being faced with a beautiful nude Adonis, however, he was faced with an empty bed and a note and four words and then everything was Joseph and nothing made sense and he threw himself onto his pillow like a four year old girl whose Barbie's leg snapped and cried.
The next few days at work were Hellish for Leon. Gaddafi had been circling him like a vulture might circle a particularly bloody carcass, but Leon was in no state to be taken behind the recycling bins, emotionally or physically. He didn't think he'd be able to love another like he'd loved Joseph. He'd given him his all. He'd pulled a muscle in his leg.
He was a heartbroken man, a hollow shell of the person he once was, and he was only 23.
"For God's sake, Leon," hissed Gaddafi on the third day. "Pull yourself together! I don't know what's happened, but that customer ordered a filter coffee, not a latte and a frown!"
Gaddafi narrowed his eyes.
"It's that man, isn't it?" he asked. "The one who looks like he's walked straight out of Attitude magazine. You fucked him?"
Leon nodded, miserably. Gaddafi raised an eyebrow.
"There's only one thing that will help you, Leon," he said. Leon looked up at him, youthful and naive like a child, but a child that's been exposed to a lot of internet pornography. "Bend over, boy."
And Leon wanted to say no. He did. He wanted to say that he was saving himself for Joseph, that he had a better offer, that he was a taken man, but none of that was true, and Gaddafi's dick was like a polygraph. So, he bent over, and the last thing he heard Gaddafi say before he tuned out completely was 'it's cold and tingly'.
Joseph awoke next to his beautiful fiancee. Feminine and beautiful, an icon of womanhood. The look that once may have erected pangs in his heart and penis, now sullied by the fact her jawline wasn't as strong as his last-night lover. How he resented her! Resented her like a child resents the boy who cheated from his test and STILL got a higher grade. He resisted the urge to smack her because that's not cool, bro.
She turned, undisrupted by her lover's carefully placing himself next to her and pretending to be asleep, ready to deny any doubts she may have about the fact he wasn't there when she went to bed. With his Greek God-like body and silky voice, she'd be quivering like jelly that hadn't quite set as soon as he'd open his mouth. He lay there, pondering why this man had such an effect on him.
Was it the quaint way he handled his coffee beans? The sheltered look about him whenever that tyrant Gaddafi came near him? On both accounts? Joseph wasn't quite sure. But something had grabbed his heart. Like a five finger death punch, any closer and he was ready to explode. He could feel his man utensil getting harder by the second. Dammit! he thought. Kat's going to see that and assume I want to have sex with her!
As if by magic, or rather, by her body clock, she awoke. It was no surprise, after all she had just enjoyed a well-rested sleep. She felt his erection against her thigh, and her cheeks slightly blushed, as if she'd just walked in on him touching himself and wasn't quite sure how to proceed. He also blushed, as if thinking the same. He felt her hands wrap around his lower nay, soft, delicate hands with manicured fingers. He didn't want that! He wanted rough, calloused hands, as if he'd been spending his days in a field, or with heavy machinery!
Instead, he rolled to the opposite side of the bed, hoping she'd get the hint. She sighed and left. He sighed, too. A sigh that read "Leon..."
It took Joseph weeks to muster up the courage to return to the coffee shop, which really sucked because they did a genuinely fantastic pecan pie. Not too heavy, not too light.
After six days, Joseph's resolve nearly broke; on his way to catch the train to visit his old friend, Lenin, he caught a glimpse of a beautiful young man, clad ironically in tweed and corduroy, horn-rimmed glasses framing his delicate yet definitely masculine face, and nearly ran over to him and took him in his arms, claimed him as his own. Luckily, it turned out that it wasn't actually Leon, just some stranger who looked quite a lot like him from behind, and the thought of being arrested for sexual assault rather dissuaded Joseph from his plans.
So, it was five weeks before Joseph laid eyes on that wonderful face again.
He didn't know that he'd end up wishing he hadn't.
Leon didn't know whether or not he was doing the right thing. He woke up every day on the wrong side of the bed - ah, to hold two bodies again! - and went to work as he'd always done, got laid rather vigorously on top of the counter as he usually did and made overpriced coffee for tired office workers like he always did, but something was wrong. Something was very wrong, like a badly photoshopped magazine cover culminating in Kim Kardashian having three arms.
He couldn't quite place his finger on it.
He thought it might have something to do with the engagement ring he now wore. The engagement ring Gaddafi had given to him.
The engagement ring that Joseph was now staring at in abject horror.
Gaddafi always slept to the left of Leon, just in case there was ever an attack on his house because his left hand was always the strongest of the two hands he had. He could take on three armed men in a fight, a feat he was overtly proud of. As he should be, it's not every day you meet someone able to take on three armed men in a fight. He was proud like a mother would be proud of her son for passing a test because he was a very special boy. He was proud like a fisherman would be proud that he didn't die at sea.
He needed someone to share this pride with. And still being a bachelor, he thought the only reasonable one would be his bitch. Leon was a proud boy also; twelve years younger, with the body of a twink and the mouth of a whore. He was perfect wife material. The engagement was easy enough- asking him over their usual date of coffee beans and a bumming. Leon had said yes and before he knew it, the finger that was usually inside a part of Gaddafi was now concealed with a silver band.
He tried to hide it as much as possible.
"So you're..." Joseph was startled, like a dieter who'd been caught raiding the fridge in their pyjamas at four in the morning. Leon looked ashamed.
"So that's what it feels like."
Leon looked up. Joseph's dark eyes looked even darker, almost as black as the coal his mother had left in his Christmas stocking as a joke one year. A manly tear ran down the side of his perfect face, as if a sculptor had been commissioned to create such an image. Crying suited Joseph. With Leon, it just made his face a bit red and puffy. How could someone so perfect cry? He wanted to lick the salty glisten from his face, leaving behind instead a trail of saliva. As a parting gift, maybe?
No! He refused. He'd see Joseph again, even if it was at social events where they'd stand by awkwardly and make small talk. He'd rather be attending these hypothetical events on his arm, but a man can't have everything.
But a man didn't want everything. A man just wanted Joseph.
"I left Kat," Joseph burst out. Like a balloon filled with too much water, they both burst. Burst into a fit of happiness.
Gaddafi walked in, 24 carat gold ring gleaming from his hand.
"Boy! I see you've met my fiance!" Feigning ignorance, Gaddafi held Leon like a trophy. Not literally, 'cause Leon was heavier than the size of a trophy, even a really big one. Leon looked ashamed.
"Sweetheart, I didn't tell you. We're meeting with the surrogate in twenty minutes. Close up shop."
Joseph and Leon locked eyes.
Joseph felt as though an anvil had been dropped from above and landed right on top of his perfectly coiffed head. He was glad it hadn’t because he’d used almost half a tub of VO5 styling wax in an attempt to lure Leon into bed with sex hair, but it felt like it had happened, which was almost as bad as it actually happening.
Expecting? But how? This couldn't be happening. Joseph had left Kat, all soft curves and womanly hormones, for Leon. He and Leon were going to be together forever, or at least for a few years until the sex became dry and stale and they could no longer look at each other without being reminded of the better, earlier years.
Leon couldn't do this to him. And he couldn't do this to himself.
He straightened his back and exhaled confidently.
"Joseph..." whispered Leon. Joseph blinked.
"Congratulations to the happy couple," he said blankly, before turning on his heel (clad in burgundy brogues with an elegant scuff on the left big toe) and leaving.
He wouldn't see Leon's face again for almost a year, except for in his dreams at night and in his heart at lunchtime.
Joseph spent the year travelling; as far as pizzeria paycheques and sucking off random men behind foreign bins would allow him. Even years later, the words "You like suck?" would shock him awake and he'd be reminded of the awful things he'd done to get away. Away from it all - away from Kat, from his job. From Leon. It took him three months before he could even say his name, let alone tell his story. Then he'd tell anyone who'd listen. Face dripping with a silent stoic man tear, he'd order another whiskey and resume. They'd look at him with pity. Sometimes disgust. Sometimes they couldn't understand him because the language barrier was too bad and they'd smile blankly and nod.
"So, that's why I'm here. Tell me yours." He'd finished explaining to a Taiwanese worker in a backstreet resturaunt. It was late, too late for Joseph, for he had a beauty regime that allowed him eight hours of sleep and enough time to part his hair ever so slightly ironically too perfect. People would get that.
The worker smiled back, and walked away. He sighed. They always walked away.
He'd estimated he had enough to last him three more weeks in Taiwan. After that, he'd have to call his parents and ask for money and threaten "My god, I'm just trying to find myself. Why don't you get that?" But he had too much pride for that. He finished his drink and decided; he had to find a job.
Leon had always liked Joseph’s hands. They’d stay up for hours after making love, revelling in each other’s tender touches, callused fingers on softly moisturised and yet still incredibly rugged and manly skin, whispering sweet nothings and bitter everythings in the other’s ear. ‘I like your hands,’ Leon would always murmur, and Joseph would reply with a swift kiss to his lover’s temple, the dusting of fingertips on his thigh, the secret scent of a fart concealed as the creaking of the mattress.
So, it was with this knowledge that Joseph began looking for jobs as a masseuse. He knew one thing about this particular career path; hands were involved. He’d never heard of a masseuse with no hands. Well, he’d seen one in a documentary once, but that had made him feel a little ill and he’d decided against cutting off his hands for a higher salary.
Luckily, the first place that Joseph applied to was more than willing to accept his application. The interview was short and salty; a quick blowjob behind the bins of the dirtiest local takeaway secured Joseph’s financial status for the foreseeable future, and Joseph congratulated himself on his ability to find employment in a time of such economic instability. It was one of the benefits of having such a pretty mouth and such low morals.
Time passed relatively quickly for Joseph. Well, it didn’t. A second was still a second and a minute was still sixty seconds and an hour was still sixty minutes, but Joseph didn’t fall into the deep depression he had feared he might fall victim to (because God, mother, even men are allowed to cry sometimes, I’m just in touch with my emotions, all right?) and it didn’t seem like time was going any more slowly than normal, because it wasn’t. Time is a linear concept.
Clients came, came and went.
Joseph worked, his strong and yet sensitive fingers working at the overwrought muscles of the closet homosexuals of Taiwan, and at night he went home to his ramshackle apartment above the massage parlour, infested with cockroaches and broken dreams as it was, and dreamt of Leon.
Oh, Leon. Sweet, sweet Leon, with his lips that tasted of liquorice and true love, and not like stale pretzels and a failed marriage, which made a change given Joseph’s current job.
He didn’t hate his job, didn’t dislike his life, but he didn’t love it.
Not like he loved Leon.
Leon was good at a lot of things; baking cakes. Sewing buttons back onto lapels. Hitting the high notes on Play That Funky Music. There were also a lot of things he wasn't good at; he couldn't play instruments. He couldn't remember dates. He could never hold down a healthy relationship.
Leon was convinced his marriage to Gaddafi would work. He was absolutely convinced. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with him; he was older, owned a business, and knew how to make anal penetration feel like the caress of a flower on a hot summer day. A few manly mistakes in his character meant nothing. Yes, he left the toilet seat up and never used lube so it always hurt a little for the next few days, but he was loving. For the first few weeks.
Their appointment with the fertility clinic was cancelled because Leon panicked at the entrance. No, he hadn't forgotten how to work automatic doors; he just didn't want to be a father when he was still an unacknowledged artistic genius. When he was making money, then he'd father Gaddafi's child.
At the back of his mind, he knew the reason his relationship - soon to be marriage - was failing. It was Joseph. Sweet Joseph in the corduroy cut-offs and ironic sunglasses. It'd been months since he'd seen him. He hadn't visited the coffee shop in months, and from what Leon had discovered, handed his notice in at the pizza place weeks ago. He was lost. Not in the literal sense, he knew he was lying underneath Gaddafi's strong, apelike arm after a night of sweet lovemaking. He was lost in his mind. Lost in a maze of doubts and second thoughts and wants. He wanted Joseph to be the one calling him his bitch. He wanted Joseph to make pancakes for him and kiss his forehead when he accidentally bumped it into a pole when walking his bichon frise (not laugh cruelly like Gaddafi had done). He wanted Joseph in a million different ways but most of all he wanted Joseph to be the one sleeping next to him.
He didn't know that Joseph had the same want.
Gaddafi furrowed his manly and yet slightly crinkled brow.
"What are you thinking about, my boy?" he asked, in that patronising way that made Leon want to simultaneously jump his bones and file a false domestic violence report. Leon shrugged.
"This and that," he replied. Gaddafi narrowed his eyes.
"Does this Mr 'This and That' have hair like the satin sheets I fucked you on last night?" he questioned.
"It's more like velvet," Leon muttered. Gaddafi sighed and grabbed the younger man by the shoulders, sending a tingle of arousal down Leon's spine. Leon hated how he still responded sexually to Gaddafi; what kind of a marriage would they have if it was built on mutual sexual longing? Not the kind of marriage he wanted. Not a marriage of minds. His mind (unmarried to Gaddafi’s) wandered to thoughts of Joseph, how they had connected so beautifully in their souls, thoughts and genitals.
Gaddafi shook his head.
“You’re going to Taiwan for your stag weekend tomorrow,” he said. “I don’t want you to even think about contacting that man.”
Leon’s heart jumped. Not literally, because he’d had an ECG recently and his heart was fine, but figuratively.
“What do you mean?” he whispered. Gaddafi laughed cruelly.
“You mean you don’t know?” he said, bitterly. “That floppy haired fool lives in Taiwan now. I hear he has the quickest hands in the business.”
“Every business, boy.”
Leon felt his blood run cold.
He would go to Taiwan tomorrow, and he would save Joseph.
The plane ride was hell for Leon. Emotional, not just physical. The screaming child with the feet like steel that hit the back of his chair for three hours before his mother slipped him a Xanax into his warm milk couldn’t come close to the pain in his heart. The pain that his chocolate silver fox lover had purposely sent him to Taiwan as a test of his devotion. The pain that he’d run into Joseph. The pain that would inevitably happen if Joseph penetrated him with his 9 inch man member. And most of all, the pain that he wanted all of it to happen.
He wanted to see Joseph. See him in that ironic mustard jumper with the patched elbow pad that he loved so much. See him slightly tanned from working hard in the corn fields. No, wait, Joseph wasn’t an arrested immigrant. He was a masseuse. It was as if he’d based his career choice on a comment Leon had made, almost a year ago about how his hands were the only hands that would fit comfortably in his anus and didn’t make him feel like a fourteen year old crack whore fucking her way through her addiction...
He landed in Taiwan. Obviously, because that was where his holiday was booked. His hotel was a four star abode in the heart of Taiwan, away from the lady boys of the 3am city streets. “Damn,” thought Leon. “My first experience with a lady boy...ruined.”
He threw his belongings onto his bed, as a lion would throw a fresh carcass to her young to feed. Unlike the lion, his belongings weren’t a bloody, mutilated corpse of an antelope. It was a vintage Keepall Bandoulière 55 from Louis Vuitton, an anniversary present from Gaddafi that’d he’d begged him for weeks to buy because God Gaddafi, how else am I supposed to carry my ironic sunglasses and notepad? I’m an artist.
The bag made no noise, also unlike a startled dying antelope, because it was not a startled dying antelope. It was a bag; a bag that Leon held his hopes and dreams in (not literally because dreams are not physical things).
He decided on a massage to relax him. His lads would be arriving a day late, because Gaddafi didn’t want to fork out the money for their tickets because his paycheck was spent on making sure Leon looked pretty. A massage would remind him of Joseph. How he would stand naked near his window in his messy student bedroom, smoking a roll-up because a student can’t afford cigarettes when they’re addicted to buying online pornography. How he would caress his hands over his stomach and chest and member before ever so slightly pulling on it gently. How his hands would bring him to orgasm and one of the downstairs neighbours made a noise complaint. So many good memories.
He sighed and put on his 100% wool bathrobe. The on-site massage parlour was white, like a royal child of incest born to keep the line pure. It smelled like patchouli oil, a smell that reminded him of when Joseph lit candles in his room for some added romance and Leon complained that the smell was too harsh and Joseph went into a sulk and wouldn’t talk to Leon until he’d brought him some Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia® and fed it to him, like a fourteen year old on her period.
A voice distracted him from his thoughts. A mane of dark hair met him, attached to a head, and attached to that was a body. All alive.
“Sir if you’d like to...”
Leon swallowed. There was no semen in his mouth, just the knowledge that he knew this man. And that thought made him swallow.
The thought that he’d swallowed his man’s semen made him swallow again.
Joseph span around, like a grade two ballet dancer with slight co-ordination difficulties, and his mouth fell open.
"Leon! My God... Leon..." He dropped his tray of assorted massage oils and his knees buckled, making him fall to the floor. Leon thought about undoing the buckle on Joseph's trousers - really, those trousers weren't even ironically corduroy and it shocked Leon to see how far his lover had fallen. Not literally, although he had fallen quite a way; he had been standing on a step and Leon estimated it was approximately eight inches off ground level.
Gingerly, Leon made his way over to his ex-lover and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. He felt a spark of electricity fly between them, and was about to comment on the physical properties of true love before he realised that Joseph's overalls were made of nylon and so it was probably just static.
"Leon," said Joseph, voice trembling like he was sitting in a massage chair (which he would never do; massage chairs were ruining his industry, after all, and he refused to use them on principle). "Why are you here? After all this time..."
Leon bit his lip. He was in a pickle, but not a literal one because that would be impractical and unnecessarily sticky. Either he could tell Joseph the truth, that he was here on his stag weekend and was about to marry Gaddafi, or...
... could he lie? Could he do it? Could he look into the eyes of the man he loved - the man he had lain with in satin sheets, the man who had kissed him tenderly on the mouth and whispered sweet promises into the curve of his collarbone, the man who had put his cock in his anus? Could he lie to Joseph?
Yes. Yes, he could.
"I'm just visiting the area," he said. "You know, doing one of those '50 things to see before you die' trips. I'm on my own. No-one's here with me. No-one else is coming. Why would you even suggest that Gaddafi knows where I am?"
Joseph blinked, one manly tear cascading onto his Vogue-worthy cheekbone and splashing onto the floor like the first drop of rain of the Autumn season or a bit of urine when a child has been on a really long car journey and can't hold it in any longer.
"Oh, Leon," he sighed, and before Leon could even think about protesting, Joseph's arms were around him. He smelt of home, of clove cigarettes and artistry, and a little of pre-come - he had clearly had a client before Leon, and the thought made Leon shudder with jealousy and arousal (perhaps Joseph would be up for a threesome in the future? It was on his bucket list, after all).
Joseph pulled away from the tender embrace.
"Come home with me, Leon," he whispered, and bit his lip in a way that was both seductive and a very bad idea because he seemed to be wearing lipgloss and he got a bit on his front tooth.
Leon looked down at the floor.
"I can't," he said, sadly. "I'm sorry, but... I can't, Joseph. That was in the past, you and me. This is the present. This isn't some story, you know? It's not a novel, or a magazine periodical, or a coffee shop AU fanfiction - it's real life, and I have commitments. I can't go home with you."
"I have strawberry flavoured lube," he stated.
"Where do you live?" asked Leon.
He knew in his heart of hearts that it was a bad idea, that no good could come of this, but Joseph was like a magnet and Leon was like another magnet with its North pole pointed at Joseph's South pole and they were drawn together by the laws of physics... and love. He couldn't fight it. He knew he might regret it, but right now? All he wanted was to be held in Joseph's tender embrace, to gasp declarations of love into his shoulder as Joseph entered him over and over again, possibly allowing for a short coffee break to watch Gilmore Girls before taking him again.
Silently, Joseph took Leon's hand.
"I'll show you," he said.
Joseph led Leon through the Taiwan backstreets - reminiscent of taking Leon up his own backstreets. With his cock. The street itself was cramped, with Taiwanese locals shouting words of abuse or encouragement, or just trying to sell the evil devil foreigners fish caught days before because they wouldn’t understand the language. Joseph shouted at them in a language Leon didn’t understand (he assumed it was Taiwanese) and they quickly went back to their stalls to wait for the next group of white people.
“Joseph...” Leon trailed off, like an enigmatic protagonist in a period drama. He assumed Joseph would cut him off mid-way through his sentence like they were in an episode of Downton Abbey but he didn’t, so Leon coughed and tentatively tried again, like a child learning to speak after years of emotional abuse.
“Joseph, where are we going?” Not asked in a way that implied he wasn’t listening to their last conversation, but more in a “shit, I’m not going to be able to find my way back and get my kidney stolen by Taiwanese gang members” kind of way. He couldn’t lose his kidney! He wouldn’t get his deposit back on the venue if he missed his wedding otherwise.
“We’re here.” Joseph had led Leon to his shanty. Well, not a shanty. More like an apartment. It was small.
Joseph took Leon’s hand and led him to his mattress. Led him like a seeing eye dog would lead its master to a pleasant coffee shop that allowed seeing eye dogs and nobody would steal his wallet because he couldn’t see. A slight rush of desire shivered through Leon like the heating had been switched down and he was wearing a loose fitted vest. Almost immediately, but not quite immediately because time doesn’t work like that, they were naked and feeling each other up like two men in love who hadn’t seen each other in quite some time.
Leon heard the familiar sound of liquid being forced out of a bottle, and the familiar smell of strawberries. That smell only meant one thing.
A small finger prodded at his bottom and he felt...shame. Shame that he was cheating on his fiancé with someone who probably had slept with half of Taiwan and probably picked up their diseases too. But then he felt...a penis. He and Gaddafi hadn’t had sex for a few weeks because Gaddafi was religious and believed if you had sex before marriage, you were going to Hell. The pain Leon felt due to not exercising his anal cavities frequently enough was replaced by overwhelming pleasure as he felt Joseph whisper the names of several underground and foreign authors under his breath in an attempt to not come. Leon had remembered this from when Joseph only got through half of Ryu Murakami’s name before shooting his potential children all over Leon’s recently shaved chest.
Soon, they were sweaty and dishevelled from all the sex. Joseph was smoking a cigarette, curled into Leon’s chest like a baby with a tobacco addiction.
“Leon?” he said in a very small voice but not so small that Leon didn’t hear him.
“I have to. There’s no Apple store here.”
Joseph sighed and fell asleep. Leon put out the cigarette on a nearby ashtray because although he was sleepy, the potential risk of a fire hazard was no laughing matter.
They fell asleep together, soothed by the sound of Taiwanese women selling sex on the street corner.
Leon woke up with that pleasant, well-fucked feeling, because he had been fucked and Joseph had done it well.
Oh God, it had happened again. Leon sighed. What a fool he was. He was an idiot. He was like one of those people in those Channel 4 documentaries that Gaddafi liked to watch and throw his shoes at. He was like someone who believed that Big Brother was unscripted - or worse, a Big Brother contestant.
He was scum.
Beside him, Joseph stirred.
"Leon?" he murmured, voice sleep-addled and throaty, sending a pulse of arousal to the base and also the rest of Leon's cock. "Are you awake?"
"No," said Leon, and then cursed his own stupidity. Yes, he'd be applying to Big Brother within the week. He could make a video explaining his special skills; making the perfect low-fat skinny hazelnut latte, and... infidelity.
Joseph smiled at him, groggily.
"You're cute when you say moronic things," he said.
Leon felt himself pink prettily like a pot of petunias or a dog's nipple. Gaddafi hated it when he said idiotic things. He would call him a cretin, an idiot, a retard child who shouldn't have passed third grade, and Leon blushed at the revelation that Joseph loved him in spite of his special needs tendencies. Perhaps he could tell him about his mother's extra toe, after all.
"Do you want breakfast?" Joseph asked him, stretching his arms above his head and revealing the waif-like, tanned expanse of his gloriously naked body. He looked like a Greek statue, but with a massive and very erect cock instead of one of those tiny shrivelled things that had been fashionable in Greece at the time. He cocked an eyebrow at Leon. "Or... anal?"
Leon shook his head.
The lie had gone on for too long. Joseph needed to know. He needed to know that Leon belonged to another.
"I belong to another," said Leon. Joseph frowned.
"I don't - "
"But you'll always have my heart," Leon added. "That belongs to you. But the rest of me belongs to Gaddafi. Apart from my ears. He doesn't like those."
Joseph blinked, and Leon watched the realisation dawn on his face like a tidal wave of revelation, or a dawn.
"Gaddafi? But you said..."
"I'm sorry, Joseph. I didn't want to lie to you. Believe me, I didn't."
Joseph looked at him coldly, like he had popsicles for eyes.
"Then why did you?"
"Because I love you!" Leon cried. "I love you like a father loves his child in the Fritzl family. I couldn't bear to walk away without having made love to you one last time. It was a bonus that we got to do it six times, but... I just needed to touch you. I needed to know that you were real, not just some beautiful dream."
Joseph's jaw was set in a stony line of anger and man-pain, and he stood up. He'd got off the bed before he stood up, because the ceiling was quite low and he would have hit his head otherwise, which would have really ruined his plans for a dramatic gesture.
"Get out, Leon," he uttered. "Get out of my bed, get out of my flat and get out of my life!"
Leon, who by now was standing up as well, grabbed Joseph's arm, his eyes pleading like one of Dahmer's victims before he chopped their feet off and put them in the fridge.
"I have one more thing to ask you," he said. Joseph snarled like a sexy extra in Buffy.
"You are in no position to ask for favours," he growled.
"It's not a favour, please..." Leon sighed, and let go of Joseph's arm. "My wedding is next week. It takes place in the Church just off Gay Road in London. It'll be on Thursday at one o'clock. That's all the information on the invitations. I'd really like it if you could be there."
Joseph grimaced. He looked disappointed and constipated, which is a common side effect of the Taiwanese diet if you're not quite accustomed to it yet.
"I can't stand there and watch the man I... the man I love get married to another," he whispered. Leon's heart fell, but not literally because the body has quite a few fail-safes to prevent that from happening. "Now get out." A pause. "Please."
Reluctantly, and over a period of about fifteen minutes because he still had to get dressed and clean his teeth and make a packed lunch for the journey back to his hotel, Leon did.
He walked out of Joseph's flat, and out of his life.
“Leon? Oh, mate.” A voice stirred him from his slumber. Not the voice he wanted to hear. The voice of one of his lads, a footballer with a penchant for high-class cocaine and hookers with low morals. He was one of the Lads On Holiday, a group of men who Leon had never met in his life but who Gaddafi thought would lad him up a bit on his stag do. Gaddafi wanted a wife he could watch the football with then fuck like a whore in bed. Leon was only the latter.
The weekend had been a disaster for Leon, for he had gotten lost from Joseph’s apartment and spent fifteen hours wandering around the busy Taiwanese streets like a child who’d been separated from his parents in a supermarket but turns out they were only in the Electronics aisle anyway. Leon had even gone so far as to sleep under a constructed home he made out of pieces of cardboard and chewing gum until he thought enough was enough when he had to eat a local child he’d caught and slaughtered. He searched the streets of Taiwan until he found his hotel and cried with pure joy and asked the receptionist to run him a bubble bath. His happiness was cut short by the arrival of four lads, all ladding it up like the laddishlads they were.
“Oh mate, chuck us a brew!” one of them called from Leon’s suite, as they had let themselves in with Gaddafi’s allowance. He didn’t realise his fiancé would be reading Wuthering Heights and enjoying the soothing sounds of Enya in the bathtub at the same time.
“Gaddafi, honey, why have you let four strange men into my suite? Have you organised me an orgy?” he whispered down the phone to his lover.
“No, they’re just the lads! I thought they’d be good for you. Have fun!”
He put the phone down and Leon dithered around the bathroom, hoping to find an answer hidden behind the complimentary shampoo and conditioner, neither of which he could use due to his sensitive scalp. Not finding an answer with Pantene, he braved the four lads - first changing into an outfit he deemed ‘lad’; a mahogany pair of chinos complete with teal jumper and scarf just the right length to imply yes, my boyfriend is a homosexual, but not so much yes, I’m gay. With his perfect laddish outfit complete, he sauntered into the main suite.
“You look like a faggot, mate,” one of the lads called.
Leon cried and got changed.
He wondered what Joseph was doing at this moment in time. He doubted he was thinking of Leon.
Joseph was thinking about Leon. Joseph was always thinking about Leon. Even when he wasn’t thinking about Leon, he was. It was like the eighth process of life; without conscious thought, Joseph thought about Leon.
He thought about the way he had looked when he had left. Like a Belieber who’d just seen the video of her idol urinating into a bucket, he had looked desolate and alone, as though everything he’d ever known was being questioned. Joseph knew the feeling, for he too felt it. He too felt as though he had been hollowed out, as though he’d been captured by natives whilst trying to righteously colonise a small island and they’d taken offence at his purely philanthropic imperialist intentions. Not that he had any imperialist intentions, of course. Joseph believed in three things: equality, brotherhood and Slenderman. Especially Slenderman.
His mouth quirked into a devastatingly handsome approximation of a smile as he remembered the first time he had confided in Leon about his fear of the dark. They had been curled up like commas or preterm foetuses in Leon’s bed, thoroughly spent after a night of vigorous lovemaking and cabinet building, and Leon had asked him what he was so afraid of.
“Joseph,” he had asked, voice quiet like a child, although not like a child at all because he was a grown man and Joseph wasn’t criminally inclined. “What are you so afraid of?”
Joseph had swallowed (he always swallowed; sperm or no sperm, he wasn’t about to spit saliva all over the place like a rabid dog or Miley Cyrus) and looked at the ceiling. What was he afraid of? Commitment? Love? The future?
“Slenderman,” he’d confided, and Leon had slapped him on the arm and called him an unfeeling prick. Joseph had felt his prick in response, and Leon had called him an insensitive jerk. Joseph hadn’t been able to turn that insult into a sexual activity, and so they’d fallen asleep angry.
The morning hate-sex was almost worth the deeply rooted sense of self-doubt that the argument had caused.
In the present, Joseph slammed his hand down on the table that was conveniently placed in front of him at just the right height for slamming his hand down upon in anger, and stood up.
“I can’t do this!” he cried. He didn’t mean slapping the table; he can and had done that. No, what he was referring to was Leon. He couldn’t let him walk away. He couldn’t let him leave. “I have to go after him. God, I’ve been such a fool. Such a fool for love.”
The old woman at the other end of the massage parlour looked at him.
“Go and get your man, son,” she said, and Joseph didn’t say anything because he hadn’t even noticed she was there.
In the streets of Taiwan, in the hours before he was due to leave and go back to London for his wedding to Gaddafi, Leon wandered around like a lost boy, or like a bride who has just witnessed her husband’s fatal accident on the morning of their wedding and is in a bit of a state about it all. Half of him wished he could witness Gaddafi’s fatal accident on the morning of their wedding. He’d wish upon a star tonight, he thought. That always worked, except for all the times it didn’t, which was almost every time.
He passed an alleyway, and heard an old man beckon to him.
“Boy,” beckoned the old man, one finger crooked. Leon thought of the time Joseph had had his finger crooked inside Leon’s anal cavity, and shuddered despite himself. The old man threw back his head, brown and leathery like a brown leather handbag, or something else made out of brown leather, and laughed. Leon frowned.
“What do you want?” he asked. The old man shrugged and looked at Leon with shining eyes.
“If I’m honest, I was hoping for a chance to tell your future and earn a quick buck,” he replied. “But I can see that you’re a man who already knows his future.”
Leon looked at the man.
“What a pointless interlude,” he said.
Panting like a madman or an exerted canine, Joseph reached the ticket desk. The woman behind the desk met his eye with a look of suspicion, as though his flies were down, and Joseph felt himself blush. He knew his flies weren’t down.
“One ticket to London, please,” he asked, still breathless. The woman frowned.
“Look, young man,” she said, although she looked to be about 12 and Joseph had always been told that he looked very mature and rugged for his age. “I don’t know who you think you are, coming up to my desk panting like a dog with your flies undone, but we don’t stand for that sort of behaviour. Not here in Taiwan.”
Joseph swore under his breath. He needed that ticket. He had to prove that he wasn’t a sex pest.
“I’m not a sex pest,” he said. The woman’s eyes lit up. Not literally, because she wasn’t a plastic vessel being controlled from the inside by a tiny alien from another planet who just wanted to fit in, but metaphorically.
“Oh! Well, that’s all right, then!” she beamed, and handed Joseph a ticket to London. “It’s on the house. Because you’re not a sex pest. We do see so many sex pests through here, you know.”
“I can believe it,” Joseph muttered. “I think my boyfriend’s about to marry one.”
The woman frowned again.
“But you said you weren’t a sex pest,” she said, and Joseph shook his head, one tear escaping from his beautiful eyes and sliding manfully down his cheek, as though he were on the cover of a Nicholas Sparks novel.
“He isn’t marrying me,” he said.
The woman’s face fell, but again, metaphorically.
“You’re going to stop the wedding, aren’t you?” she asked.
Joseph thought about it, but mostly for show because he knew how attractive he looked when he was being pensive. It made his cheekbones jut out slightly more and it gave his jawline a lovely brooding quality. Besides, he’d already made up his mind.
“Yes,” he declared, voice loud and proud and queer. “Yes, I am.”