by Yūdoku Fukuronezumi (有毒 袋鼠)
illustrations by @floremipsum_
Jake is a painter; he paints murals for a living. But painting murals doesn’t pay enough to make a living, which he has discovered the hard way. One time I found him huddled up on my doorstep, kicked out from whatever space he was trying to rent at the time, and I let him stay with me.
Or: Jake is my best friend; we’ve known each other since we were five. We’ve lost track of each other for some time, then reconnected at uni. He was working part-time as an escort, spending nights with wealthy clients while the rest of us partied in the dorms. He still keeps in touch with some of them. It pays well.
Or: Jake is my husband. We keep an open relationship, which is to say that he can take lovers and I can’t complain. Not in the sense that I’m not allowed to complain (or take lovers for that matter), but in the sense that it suits me. Jake has an extraordinarily robust sex drive; I have hardly any.
Or: all of the above.
One day Jake brings home someone new; there hasn’t been anyone in a while. I sit in the study working when I hear the door open. I lean out of my chair, peek through the door. The new guy is a youngish, lanky man with anxious hands and a mane of loose black curls that fall into his eyes. Jake waves at me from the entrance, so I come out to kiss him hello. He makes a gesture towards the new guy.
‘Mortimer,’ the new guy interrupts. ‘Friends call me Mort.’ He speaks fast; his voice is breathy, like he’s been running. He moves fast, too, in quick, uneasy jolts. He extends a bony hand in my direction, but turns towards Jake mid-gesture. ‘This your girlfriend?’
‘Spouse,’ Jake corrects.
Mortimer goggles at him. ‘Your wife?’
‘Spouse,’ we correct in unison.
‘They’re enby. Their name’s El,’ Jake supplies.
‘L? That short for something?’
‘No, it’s just El.’
‘OK. L. Hi.’ Mortimer’s hand is freezing cold despite the sweltering weather and he squeezes too hard, then makes a strange gesture as if he wanted to wipe his palm on his trousers. ‘You don’t mind your man sleeping with other people?’
‘If I did you wouldn’t be here.’
A strange smile crosses his lips. ‘So is there a chance for a threesome?’
What the fuck is wrong with this guy?
‘Not with that attitude, there isn’t.’
I must look pretty irked because Jake pulls me aside, puts his big hands on my shoulders, strokes my face, kisses my forehead.
‘I’m sorry, love,’ he whispers. ‘I’m sure he didn’t mean to— He’s kind of in a bad place right now.’
‘He’s going to be in a much worse place if he keeps speaking to me like that.’
‘I know. I’ll talk to him, I promise.’
I peek around Jake’s shoulder. Mortimer has picked up a paperweight from the little console by the entrance and is examining it closely in the waning evening light. His mouth doesn’t stop twitching, jaw muscles jerking nervously under the pale skin. He’s so shifty I half-expect him to pocket the thing, but no — he puts it carefully back, even adjusts it so that it lies exactly as before. He puts his bony hands into his jeans pockets and looks around the place.
‘You better do,’ I say to Jake, then make to leave. ‘I’ll be in the study.’
‘Love you, El.’
I close the door, sit back down, adjust the desk lamp. I can hear the two of them shuffle through the living room and into the bedroom; I can hear the bedroom door close. I wonder where Jake found this guy. I wonder what he saw in him.
The thing about Jake is that he loves easily. It seems every time he meets someone new, he quickly identifies at least one lovable trait about them, then proceeds to love the fuck out of it. I think that’s part of what makes him popular, both with his clients and his lovers, and his friends. But unlike his clients and his friends, most of Jake’s lovers don’t seem to fully grasp the implications of being with a man like this. They think they can change him, have him just for themselves. It usually takes about a month or two before they either become jealous and possessive or disillusioned and distant. Sometimes less than that. There are months that just feel like constant heartbreak. I wonder how long it’s going to be this time. I wonder how much grief it’s going to cause when it ends.
After work I turn off the computer and pull out my futon mattress from the closet. I often sleep in the study, even when the bedroom isn’t occupied by Jake and his many lovers. Sometimes he sleeps here with me. Mostly he sleeps on the couch in the living room because he finds it the most comfy. The bedroom is where we have sex. It has a king-size four-poster bed and a cupboard full of toys and accessories. It feels too kinky to just go to sleep in there.
Mortimer visits about once a week. Sometimes twice. We’re yet to get on like a house on fire, but at least he’s stopped misgendering me every time he speaks. He keeps bringing up the threesome, though, the sheer insolence of which honestly boggles my mind. Who said I would sleep with him just because Jake does? Jake would certainly never suggest anything of the sort. It’s even more absurd when you consider that he does precisely nothing to even try and get on my good side. All he does is stare at me and drop innuendo.
I put my mug on the table with a loud thunk. Jake has stepped out to bring some snacks and left the two of us at the kitchen table in an atmosphere so dense you could cut it with a knife. Mortimer shifts, reaches towards me, nearly knocks over his teacup.
‘Please, call me Mort. All my friends—’
‘—Call you Mort, I know. Am I your friend though?’
He gives me a blank stare. His hand falls onto the table.
‘Do you think I am your friend,’ I rephrase after a long while of waiting.
He doesn’t answer. His expression grows… apprehensive? His ever-moving mouth sets. He looks concerned. Or maybe: afraid. He looks vulnerable. I consider.
‘Look. I don’t know how much Jake’s told you about me,’ I say carefully, ‘but… You can’t make me want you by looking at me funny and insisting I call you Mort. That’s not how I work.’ Uh, how do I explain this. ‘I don’t get attracted to people I don’t know very well. Ever. It’s not a choice, it’s more like a blind spot. Like I can’t see if a person is attractive or not unless I really know them. And I don’t really know you. I don’t know you at all. This is completely ass-backwards.’ I squeeze the bridge of my nose and sigh. ‘To put it very bluntly, if for whatever reason you want to get into my pants, you have to be my friend first. And even then I honestly can’t guarantee it will happen.’
Slowly, the concern on his face dissipates. He bites his lip. He pulls his mug closer and wraps his long fingers around it. He stares into his tea.
The door opens and Jake rolls in, a large shopping bag in each hand. I blink. ‘Have you bought up everything they had in the shop?’
He laughs and puts the bags down with a clink. ‘No, but I thought I might as well get some groceries while I’m at it, and they had this buy-one-get-one-free offer on soft drinks and also some limited edition sweets, so I got some of those, too, for later.’
I get up from the table to help Jake with the bags. Mortimer also gets up. ‘I’ll go,’ he says.
‘Huh?’ Jake deflates immediately. ‘But you’ve only just come… Look, I’ve got one of those new drinks you said you liked.’
Mortimer smiles uneasily. ‘Yeah, thanks, but, uh. I really need to go.’
‘Mort, come on.’
‘I forgot something important. Sorry. I’ll see you next week.’
He grabs his bag, says goodbye, and leaves.
Jake looks at the door, then at me. ‘Did you have a quarrel?’
I shake my head and shrug.
Mortimer is back next week. And the week after that. We make small talk before he and Jake disappear into the bedroom. He isn’t any less anxious but he never mentions what I said and never asks to be called Mort again. And he no longer brings up the threesome. Jake suspects I told him off. Did I?
It’s late one evening and I’m in the kitchen making myself sandwiches when there’s a rap on the door. Jake’s out with a client and shouldn’t be back before dawn. I put the knife down and answer the door. It’s Mortimer.
He’s standing awkwardly sideways, one foot on our doormat, the other already prepared to leave. His back is hunched, his hands buried so deeply into his coat pockets I can see his fists bulging out the thin fabric. He’s looking down and chewing on his lower lip.
‘Hi Mortimer,’ I say. ‘Jake’s out tonight.’
Silence. He glances up at me — his eyes look tired and red — then back down again. He nods shortly. I notice he’s swaying, his whole body rocking softly from side to side as if he couldn’t hold his balance. He clears his throat. ‘Um.’
I hold the door open and he stumbles in, shrugs off his coat, collapses onto a kitchen chair. He starts nibbling at the side of his thumb. I open the fridge, find one of the soft drinks Jake had bought for him stuffed into the back corner and put it on the table together with my sandwiches. I swat his hand down. ‘I made food. You don’t need to eat your own fingers.’
He’s already managed to make his thumb bleed so I toss him a box of bandaids. He picks one and wraps it around the wound. I sit down.
‘So what’s the matter? You look awfully beat up.’
He shakes his head. I push the drink and the sandwiches farther in his direction.
I expect him to refuse, but he actually takes one and swallows it in a couple of hungry chomps. He washes it down with half of the soda and immediately reaches for another sandwich. This one he eats a little slower. He finishes his drink and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. He stares at the table. I just sit there, across from him, my back towards the only light, the lamp of the exhaust hood above the stove.
‘I ran into my brother in town,’ he croaks eventually.
I raise my eyebrows. ‘Is that bad?’
He shakes his head. ‘You don’t know my brother.’
I wait for him to continue.
‘He once threw a bottle at me.’
‘Er… As kids?’
A bitter laugh. He pushes his hair up to reveal the side of his face. A jagged scar runs across his cheekbone and temple and vanishes among his hair.
‘Five… six years ago,’ he says. His voice is hollow. His hand falls back down; so does his hair. ‘He saw me with another guy close to a pride parade. Broke a beer bottle and threw it at me. I wasn’t even part of the parade, I just wanted to have a look. Ended up in ER.’
Oh my god.
‘He likes to threaten me. When he gets to see me. Which isn’t often, thank god. ‘Cause, uh. Sometimes he follows through on those threats.’ He pauses. ‘He’s right, of course. In a sense.’
‘No, not about the threats. About me. My family has a very… traditional worldview,’ his tone briefly turns sarcastic. ‘My brother’s been calling me a faggot since I can remember. When I was fifteen he caught me holding hands with another boy. You should’ve seen his face — he was triumphant. They kicked me out of the house the very next day.’
‘I’m so sorry.’
He shakes his head. ‘My grandma took me. I live with her. She… hasn’t been well lately, but they don’t let me sit in the hospital with her because of some stupid restrictions. But I didn’t want to be home alone. In case my brother gets any fresh ideas.’
‘Sure. You can stay in the bedroom. Stay as long as you need.’ I guess I should say something comforting? I’m crap at comforting people. ‘I’m sure Jake’ll be more than happy to have you.’
‘I’ve just offered you to stay. What else do you want?’
He smiles, nods. ‘Thanks.’
We talk logistics. No, he hasn’t brought anything with him, no toiletries, no clothes, no underwear. No, he’d rather not go home to fetch them — it’s too far and too dangerous after dark. I suggest the convenience store across the street. It’s fairly well stocked and open 24/7. He checks his wallet before he goes: not much in there but enough to meet his most immediate needs. I kill time making more sandwiches.
I’m munching on one when he gets back and I tell him to help himself if he’s still hungry. He takes a civilised bite and puts it away as he begins to unpack his shopping: a bar of soap, a toothbrush, a disposable razor (the cheapest kind), three pairs of plain white cotton briefs.
‘Why did you make sandwiches at this hour?’ he asks.
‘At 10 p.m.?’
I smile. ‘I work for a company overseas. My boss is in a different timezone. Technically this is my lunch break.’
‘Huh.’ He takes another bite of his sandwich, folds the shopping bag neatly and arranges all the stuff he bought in a tidy pile in the corner of the table. ‘What do you do?’
‘I design packaging. Toy boxes, that sort of stuff. You?’
‘I make props for the musical theatre.’
I recall the focus with which he examined the paperweight when I first met him, the care with which he put it back exactly where it had been. ‘Is that how you met Jake? He often paints murals for the theatre. On that wall that overlooks the canal.’
‘Yeah, I know, but no. I actually, er, found him on Grindr?’ He looks almost embarrassed.
I laugh. I glance at the clock.‘OK, I have to go back to work.’ I pat the kettle. ‘The water’s freshly boiled if you want some tea. If you want more food just have a look around in the pantry. I’ll be in the study if you need anything else.’
‘El.’ Suddenly he’s dead serious.
‘I, er. I owe you an apology.’
I raise my eyebrows. He scrambles up from the chair and walks up towards me. He’s looking down, rubbing at his fingers, picking at the bandaid on his thumb.
‘About the… suggestions I made. I thought about what you said. I talked to Jake, too, and he helped me understand better. And I’m sorry. For insisting. I just… I don’t know, I got this stupid idea into my head ‘cause… you know, first time I saw you I thought you were a girl—’
Here we go again.
‘— I mean, you’re small and— anyway, the way Jake talks about you, you seem like the nicest person on the planet, and I thought, if I could get closer to you, maybe you’d agree to— maybe I could undo the bad impression that my family has of me? You know? Like, they’d see me with a girl, well, ostensibly a girl — sorry, I’m just saying what I was thinking at the time — and they’d think, oh look, he’s come to his senses…’ He pauses, takes a breath. His eyes are fixed somewhere on the opposite wall. ‘And I just… I guess it didn’t occur to me that flirting’s maybe not the best way of getting close to someone.’
‘Flir—?’ I almost laugh, then sigh, then rub the bridge of my nose with my fingers. That’s what it was? ‘So… if you talked to Jake you probably already know that my brain doesn’t really parse flirting. It either annoys me or goes right over my head.’
‘Er, yes. He did… yeah.’ He sighs. ‘It was a stupid idea anyway.’
‘On multiple levels,’ I agree.
‘So I wanted to apologise.’
He looks up at me. ‘Really?’
I shrug. ‘I asked you to stop doing the thing and you stopped doing the thing. We’re good. No need to beat yourself up, Mort.’
His eyes widen. ‘M—’
The next thing I know, I’m in a tight full-body hug, squeezed in by his wiry arms and sharp elbows, his wild hair in my eyes. I push him back gently.
‘I’m sorry. But I, ah…’ He scratches the back of his head. ‘I don’t really have a lot of friends to speak of. There’s maybe like two people who really call me Mort. Besides my grandma. Well, and Jake. And now you. So. It means a lot.’
I don’t know what to do with this guy. ‘Yeah, good for you, you’ve made a friend,’ I slap his arm facetiously. ‘I really have to go back to work though.’
‘Make yourself at home. Jake should be back in the morning.’
‘And one more thing. If you ever refer to me as a girl again, so help me, you will be back to being Mortimer and sleeping on the doormat.’
He smiles and — unexpectedly — salutes. ’Aye, captain.’
Mort stays for about a month. He sleeps in the bedroom. I hardly see him during the week: he leaves before I get up and comes back when I’m still at work. Jake gets to see a bit of us both because he keeps the most erratic hours, oscillating between up-before-dawn on the days he paints murals and back-before-dawn on the nights he entertains clients. But we spend weekends together.
It turns out that Mort went to the same uni as Jake and I. He studied stage design. We might’ve passed by one another at some point, when Jake and I were in our last year and Mort in his first. He dropped out after a couple of years, though, having found the people there too pretentious and the faculty too fusty. He turned to smaller forms and eventually settled on prop-making.
It turns out that Mort has a vast collection of photos of objects on his phone. They’re good photos, too, with proper composition and mostly good lighting. Some of those are objects he made himself, others he saw in museums, yet others he found lying around and found inspiring. Our paperweight is also among them. He can tell a story about each and every one of them; some are rather touching.
It turns out that Mort is a decent cook and bakes a mean cheesecake. He says his grandma taught him. He pulls his weight all right.
It turns out his presence makes Jake really happy.
When Mort’s grandma is let out of the hospital, he returns home with her, reasoning that after a month his brother’s aggressive impulses might’ve subsided. I thought I’d be glad that the situation is back to normal, but instead I realise I miss him. He still visits, of course, about once or twice a week just as before, but he and Jake usually go straight to bed and I’m busy working anyway. So we don’t talk much like we did when he lived with us. There’s no banter over the kitchen table in the evenings; no rambling discussions that start idly over a Saturday morning coffee and carry on undisturbed until dinner, spanning subjects from politics to pyrotechnics and from favourite board games to favourite childhood memories; no passionate late night debates about the finer points of cardboard boxes and their various practical applications.
‘You like him,’ Jake says one Sunday morning, when the light is cold and we sit wrapped in blankets over our lukewarm coffees. There’s a third mug on the table, but Mort has already left. He didn’t want to leave his grandma alone for too long.
‘I do,’ I admit. ‘He’s grown on me. I never expected we had so much in common.’
Jake looks at me quizzically. ‘Do you want to join us next time?’
‘Join you?’ I take a sip of coffee. ‘What, in bed?’
‘Mm. I don’t think so.’
‘I like to talk to him, Jake. I’m not sure I necessarily want his dick.’
He laughs, pulls me closer, kisses my temple. ‘You can have mine…’
‘That doesn’t require three people.’
‘…And I can have his.’
I squint, pretend to entertain the idea. ‘What does Mort get in this configuration?’
‘I don’t know. What are you willing to give him?’
I shake my head.
Jake doesn’t push further. He knows I’m too stubborn to be pushed.
Or: he knows that if I change my mind, he’ll be the first to know.
As the days grow shorter and darker, our apartment grows brighter. Jake loves light. The first thing he does when he gets back from work in the evenings is to turn on all the lamps. The first thing he does when winter kicks in is to drown the flat in fairy lights and candles.
‘Oooh, festive!’ Mort peeks through the door as he stomps his feet religiously on the doormat. There’s snow on his boots and on his coat and in his hair. I let him in and brush the snow off. I don’t think I’ve ever touched his hair before — it’s soft and silky, almost like a child’s. I let my hand linger.
‘Thanks, El.’ He grins at me. His face is ruddy from the cold and it strikes me just how different he both looks and acts compared to when I first met him. He looks around, smiling, his hands hanging comfortably by his sides, back straight, chest open, completely at ease. Even his voice is different. ‘You guys really start celebrating early.’
‘I’ve already heard the first Last Christmas of the year,’ Jake says, ‘So I believe we’re allowed. Chocolate?’
‘As in, hot chocolate?’ Mort asks, then his smile broadens as Jake produces a small praline and places it between his own lips. ‘Don’t mind if I do.’
I leave them kissing in the hallway. The kettle’s just boiled. And: I’ve just realised I’d like to join them. I’d like to slide between them, kiss them, hold them, breathe them in…
It’s happened exactly twice in my life — once with Jake — this sudden shift from friendly to erotic: as if a screen’s been removed or as if something’s shifted and let me see the person from an angle that I just couldn’t see before. Well, that makes it three times.
‘But yeah, we do have hot chocolate if you want some,’ I call from the kitchen.
There’s a loud sound of lips smacking, then, ‘Yes, please!’
I pour three cups of instant hot chocolate — limited edition gingerbread and something or other that Jake’s recently hunted down — and we sit around the table blowing solemnly into their frothy depths.
‘I have something for you,’ Mort says and goes to fetch his bag. Don’t let the muggles get you down, the print on the bag says in obnoxiously flamboyant typography. It looks old and hand-made. From it, he produces a battered brown cardboard box; from the box — a lantern.
It’s an absolute jewel of a thing, gilded and covered in crystals, its walls cut into a precise, swirly lattice reminiscent of wind and snow. He flicks a switch on the bottom and a flame (or a flame-imitating light in any case) flickers inside, illuminating frost patterns on the glass.
Jake covers his open mouth with both hands and stares with wide-eyed amazement. I pull the lantern towards me and slowly rotate it on the table. Shards of light dance on the wooden surface. I look at the bottom, where the switch is. I look at it from all angles. The craftsmanship is astonishing.
‘This is so lovely,’ I say, then something occurs to me. ‘Did you make it?’
He nods. ‘A couple years back, for a show we no longer play. I thought you’d both appreciate it. There’s actually a whole box of those in the workshop and while I can’t plausibly make a whole box disappear, nobody will notice if one goes missing. I can always say it broke.’
‘I want the whole box,’ Jake says. ‘Can we buy the whole box?’
‘Buy? We don’t usually sell props but… I guess I could ask?’
‘Please do. I urgently need them in my life.’
Mort laughs. He looks so happy, his dark eyes gleaming softly under his overgrown fringe. He’s quite attractive, in an angular sort of way, with his sharp cheekbones and his broad shoulders and his tiny waist. Like he’s made of triangles. I want to touch him. I want to run my hands up his chest; I want to bury my face in his hair. I do, in fact, want his dick.
Mort is of course completely focused on Jake, chin in hand, head tilted, exchanging some sweet nonsense. Jake’s eyes have softened and he is leaning lazily on the table like a large cat. I’ve seen this look so many times. The bedroom look. I meet those soft eyes as he glances at me.
He once said he could tell when that shift in me happened with him. The friend-to-fuck-me shift, he called it. He said it showed in my eyes. In my voice. I turn the pretty lantern in my hands. I wonder how much he can see right now.
We finish our hot chocolates and they shuffle off to the bedroom. Jake closes the door — almost.
I wash the mugs, go to the bathroom, take a while to admire the lantern. I can’t hear much from the bedroom, but I’m guessing they would’ve undressed by now. I sit on the back of the couch and stare at the half-open door. Then I take off my pants.
Was this planned?
No. I genuinely didn’t expect Mort’s snow-covered hair, his disarming smile, his lovely lantern. I didn’t expect to have to fight the urge to touch him.
Or: Yes. We’ve been discussing this possibility on and off for a while, Jake and I. He suggested he would leave the door ajar. I could decide if I wanted to come in or not.
I come in, quietly. I squeeze in through the crack. The carpet muffles the sound of my steps. Mort is sitting on a chair, his back towards the door, blindfolded and with his hands bound behind him. Jake is kneeling between his open legs; he flashes me a grin when he sees me walk in and gestures for me to come closer. He rises, gives me the quietest of kisses, lets me take his place.
Mort is already very hard. His breaths are deep and his whole body moves delicately in anticipation. ‘Jake?’ he breathes.
I touch the tip of his cock with my lips, give it a kiss, slowly close my mouth around it.
Jake has circled around the chair and is standing behind Mort, looking at me. He bends down and kisses Mort on the cheek. ‘So, about this surprise that I mentioned…’
Mort freezes and Jake immediately hugs him, Mort’s slender torso all but disappearing under Jake’s beefy arms. ‘It’s all right,’ I can hear Jake murmur, ‘it’s all right. We’ve talked about this. You’re in good hands.’
‘Hi, Mort,’ I say, barely moving away.
‘Mhm,’ I confirm and he seems to relax.
‘I’ll take off the blindfold if you want,’ Jake offers.
‘No, it’s OK,’ Mort breathes. ‘You scared me there for a bit but it’s OK. I trust you.’
They kiss. Jake draws little shapes all over Mort’s shoulders and chest with his fingers and I focus on Mort’s dick again. He makes a little noise, a little nnh that sounds like something between a sigh and a grunt and a moan as I run my lips softly up and down the sides. I breathe warm air around it. I blow cool air on the head. I check if my hands are warm (they are) and I play with his balls. His cock twitches; his breathing grows heavier. I reach the head and tease the edge of it with my tongue; I tease that little spot where the foreskin’s attached. Mort moans softly and writhes against his restraints.
I take the base of his cock in one hand, his balls in the other. I find a rhythm that’s comfortable for him and begin to suck in earnest. Mort purrs and bucks his hips; not very hard — his position wouldn’t allow that — but enough to make me know I can go deeper. And probably faster. So I do. Above me, Jake nuzzles passionately into the nook of Mort’s neck, likely leaving hickeys.
I hum softly. Mort shivers and I can feel the tip of the condom fill up against my tongue. I slowly release his cock from my mouth. Jake reaches for my hand and kisses my fingers. I let my other hand wander up Mort’s hip and torso.
I pull the condom off, tie it into a knot. I plant a kiss right above Mort’s pubic hair and get up on my feet.
‘Bed?’ I suggest.
Jake unties Mort from the chair but doesn’t remove his restraints: his wrists remain bound with long ribbons and his eyes remain covered. Jake then picks him up, bridal-style, and carries him to the bed, where he attaches the ribbons to the posts in the corners. Mort must like being tied up.
I sit in the middle of the bed, my face roughly above Mort’s.
‘It’s me,’ I murmur as I touch his hair. I brush the stray locks off his forehead, bury my fingers in the silky waves. Then my face. His hair smells of something fruity, something that reminds me of childhood. I think I must’ve had a shampoo that smelled like this as a kid. I find his ear. I want to say something, but can’t think of anything worth saying, so instead I close my mouth around the earlobe and nibble at it. Mort sighs deliciously and smiles and stretches his neck. I nuzzle into the space between his ear and his jaw. I’m stroking his cheek when he turns his head and catches my thumb in his mouth. So I slide it deeper, until I can feel his tongue. He takes this very enthusiastically, swirling my thumb in his mouth, sucking, teething, making the sweetest little sighs and noises. He must give amazing head, I think as I lick my way towards his collarbone.
I hear a chuckle. ‘You guys going to need me at all tonight?’ Jake asks. He stands in the feet of the bed, one hand on hip, the other gloved and holding a bottle of lube, an eyebrow raised in amusement. ‘I can leave you alone if you want…’
I let go of Mort’s collarbone. ‘Shut up and get to work, Jake.’
He laughs. He crawls onto the bed, kneels between Mort’s spread out legs, grabs him by the hips and slides his butt unceremoniously up his own thighs. The ribbons that bind Mort’s hands stretch taut.
Jake squeezes a generous amount of lube between Mort’s asscheeks. Mort protests feebly, because it’s cold, but quiets down as soon as Jake begins to work on his butthole. For a good while Jake massages the muscles around, then one by one slips his fingers in. The more Jake spreads his ass, the more incoherent Mort becomes, his movements growing frantic, his hands straining against the ribbons.
‘Please, Jake… please…’
I sit and watch as Jake finally gives in to the pleas, shifts position, slides carefully in. His cock is big, it fills you to the brim. It’s fascinating to see it happen to another person. Judging by Mort’s expression, it’s pure pleasure. His eyebrows knot, his mouth hangs open in a sloppy half-smile, his lips glistening wet after playing with my fingers.
I want him so bad right now. I also want what he’s having.
As Jake begins to thrust, I climb on top of Mort’s stomach. I smoosh my face against his chest, let my fingers find his nipples. By the sound he makes I assume he likes it. I stick my butt up. ‘Jake? Could you?’
Jake slows down, lets go of Mort’s hips to touch me.
‘No, don’t stop…’
‘Look I can’t hold you both—’
‘Give us a second, Mort.’ I wiggle my butt impatiently in Jake’s face. He grabs my buttcheeks and spreads them wide in front of him. ‘Oh my god,’ I purr.
Jake puts on a fresh glove, slaps some lube on and just enters my butthole unannounced, no faffing around the entrance.
‘Oh god, yes…’
One finger, two fingers, three.
He curls his fingers down towards my underbelly.
‘God I love you so much, Jake.’
‘Hey, come up here. I have an idea.’
I scramble up and notice what he means. Mort’s already hard again. I find a fresh condom, slide it on him, and slather it with lube. Jake waits patiently as I guide the tip of Mort’s cock until it rests against my butthole, then I push down.
It feels good. It must feel good for Mort as well because he makes that sound again, that little nnh. Jake begins to move again and as he thrusts into Mort he makes Mort thrust into myself. He kisses my neck and my shoulder before I fall on Mort, prop myself on my elbows on either side of him and nuzzle into his chest. He’s so deliciously supple, like a young twig. I lick his nipples; I give his breastbone big, open-mouthed kisses that leave wet trails on his skin. My breath grows increasingly more laboured as Jake gains momentum and consequently so does Mort. I tilt my pelvis until each thrust rubs me exactly the way I want. It doesn’t take long until I’m done. Mort comes soon before me, Jake a little later.
We lie on the bed, Jake in the middle, already dozing off, Mort (now untied and un-blindfolded) and I on either side of him. I roll over, lay my head on Jake’s shoulder, my hand on his chest. Mort does the same after a while. There’s something about Jake that makes you want to cling to him.
‘You’re still in your t-shirt,’ Mort observes.
He extends his little finger and hooks it around mine. Jake opens one eye to look down at our hands. ‘Cuties,’ he murmurs sleepily. ‘I knew this would work out.’
It’s a Saturday. Mort came a little earlier than usual so we managed to have dinner and coffee and a talk. Jake’s been trying to prevail upon Mort to top him.
Jake’s problem is that he’s big — tall and well-built and equally well-endowed — so people automatically assume that he will dominate. In fact, they expect him to. And with his clients, of course that’s what he does, but privately, he’s much happier when he’s on the bottom. We have amassed a whole cupboardful of toys over the years to help satisfy that need of his, since quite a lot of his lovers to date seemed to have been of the same disposition as his clients: hoping to be ravaged by a handsome hunk and unwilling to switch.
Mort isn’t convinced. His hangup seems to be two-fold. Firstly, he isn’t sure if he could possibly satisfy someone Jake’s size, and secondly, he wouldn’t like to be left unattended after Jake’s done.
‘Mort, I’m begging you.’ Jake rakes an exasperated hand through his hair. ‘I only look big on the outside, I assure you my butthole is exactly the same size as everyone else’s.’
I chuckle. ‘No, but he’s right,’ I say. ‘It’s really not that hard. You can even just use your fingers.’
‘Spoken from experience,’ Jake adds.
‘Fine, let’s assume that’ll be OK,’ Mort concedes. ‘But you’re always pretty much dead after you’re done, and I—’
‘I can take care of you,’ I offer.
I didn’t intend to. I haven’t slept with them again since that one time in December. I’ve barely slept with Jake. I’m not sure I want to do it today either, but I can see that Jake does, really does, and so I want to help him have it. Mort looks at me uncertainly. ‘You would?’
‘If that’s your only doubt at this point?’
‘With your fingers?’
I shrug. ‘Fingers or a— haven’t you seen the toy cupboard?’
He gives me a blank stare. I grab him by the wrist and take him to the bedroom. There’s a cupboard in the corner: two doors and half a dozen drawers. The drawers house all the smaller items: blindfolds, gags, enema bottles, condoms, cock rings, anal beads…
‘Yeah, I’ve seen what’s in the drawers,’ Mort says. ‘I assumed the rest was, you know, bedding and such.’
I smirk. I open a door. ‘Choose your weapon.’
Mort blinks at the variety of harnesses, strap-ons, single- and double-sided dildoes, fleshlights, vibrators and etceteras lined neatly on the shelves. He takes his time before settling on a long, slender affair in shiny black silicone. ‘What’s behind the other door?’
‘Big stuff,’ I say as I open it to show him. ‘Swings, costumes, extra blankets, pillows… Actually we might need some of those,’ I realise, so I pull out a large bolster and a couple of thick blankets and throw them onto the bed. ‘Jake, do you want the bed frame raised?’ I call.
‘Yes!’ Jake comes immediately and stops in the doorway, beaming. ‘Is that a yes then? Do we have a yes?’
‘We seem to,’ I look to Mort, who’s still standing before the open cupboard, holding the strap-on in both hands in front of him.
Jake hugs him so tight he lifts him off the ground and kisses him excitedly on the mouth. I half expect him to kiss the strap-on as well, but no. Instead he comes to help me with the bed frame.
The bed has a few special features. Jake bought a regular bed and customised it way back when he thought he would be entertaining clients at home. In the end he decided he’d rather have his home to himself, but the extra features stayed and some (though not all) have been regularly put to good use. One such feature is the bed frame: While the headboard is fixed, the feet of the bed can be raised or lowered depending on the needs. We most often use it as a scaffolding to lean on or hang over. After the frame is up, we pile bolsters and pillows up one side, then cover it all with a layer of blankets.
‘Done,’ Jake decides, so I take the strap-on and leave. They aren’t going to need me immediately anyway.
I sit on the couch, grab a book from the coffee table. As I read, I can hear them make out, stumble around the room, tease, talk dirty, negotiate. I can imagine Jake on the little heap of pillows and blankets with his butt up, wiggling, ready to be loved.
After some time the deep happy murmurs coming from the bedroom become deep happy moans, yes, yes, that feels so good, yes, go deeper, can you go deeper? From the subsequent resonant mmngh I gather that Mort indeed can.
I put the book away. I step out of my pants and put on the harness. Behind the bedroom door Jake is getting vocal. He praises, encourages, commands, invokes higher powers. He’s close. I fetch a condom and roll it on. I wait.
A loud, satisfied, modulating growl.
‘El?’ Mort calls just as I enter the bedroom. ‘Oh, there you are.’
As I expected, Jake’s lying spent on the small mountain of bedding, his butt in the highest spot. I bend down and bite his buttock. ‘El, dammit!’ he mutters in protest.
‘What? You have a very delicious butt, you know it.’
‘But you know the rules, no biting when I can’t bite you back!’
I chuckle. So does Mort, as he pulls off a condom. He’s still rock-hard.
‘So what can I do for you?’ I ask, leaning nonchalantly against Jake’s butt.
Mort has fixated on the shiny black monstrosity sprouting from my loins. He tilts his head, gives the thing a slow, thoughtful stroke.
‘Mort.’ Jake pats the blanket. ‘Come here.’
Mort clambers onto the bed beside him. Jake pets his cheek with a sleep-heavy hand. They whisper between themselves; I can barely hear them. Jake says something that makes Mort blush like a schoolgirl.
‘El,’ he says louder, ‘how about I tell you what to do?’
I shrug. ‘Knock yourself out.’
‘See, Mort has a very talented cock,’ he begins in his deepest and huskiest voice, ‘and I loved it so much when he fucked me just now…’ Mort blushes even fiercer and bites his lip. Jake continues, ‘…And now I want him to come for me. And you’re going to make him.’
‘Oh, so I’m just a tool to you?’
‘Shut up. You know that pretty little ass deserves to be fucked.’
Mort tries to say something but Jake puts his sleepy paw on Mort’s lips. ‘Shh. You just lie back and let El make you come, babygirl. We’ll give it to you just the way you like it.’
Mort whimpers. I see where this is going.
Following Jake’s enthusiastically dirty instructions, I grab Mort’s buttcheeks and massage them until they’re flushed a pretty pink. Mort is getting louder.
‘Got lube, El?’
I grab the bottle and a glove.
‘Good. You need to get his tight little ass nice and slick for that big dick of yours.’
Mort purrs. I’ve never really got the point of dirty talk; it sounds silly to me, not exciting. But it seems to be doing wonders for Mort.
Jake continues to narrate, teasing Mort mercilessly every time he so much as makes a sound. I slide a gloved finger in, then two, then three. Four? Mort arches his back, clutches at the blankets, at Jake.
‘Does it feel good, Mort? Does your ass feel good?’
Mort nods furiously.
‘Tell them,’ Jake insists. ‘El? You think he likes it?’
‘I have no idea,’ I say as Mort squirms deliciously in response to my touch. ‘Do you, Mort?’
‘Yes,’ he pants.
‘Do you want my big dick, Mort?’ I chuckle.
I step closer to the bed. More lube. Some manoeuvering. I slip in. Jake doesn’t stop talking. I move, carefully at first, trying to find a good rhythm, then faster, then much faster.
I catch Jake’s eye and he grins at me. He’s so happy.
Mort looks pleadingly over his shoulder. I ram into his butt so hard I make him groan, but he doesn’t protest, so I keep at it. He reaches down to touch himself, but the way he’s positioned makes it almost impossible.
I check if I can reach his cock: I can. There’s a surefire way of making Jake come when he’s this close, so I figure it might work on Mort, too, and the next thing I know there’s a wet warmth spilling over my fingers. Mort lies panting, his face buried in the blanket. I slip out of him gently and go to wash my hands.
When I’m back I find they have both slid down the blanket ramp towards the middle of the bed.
Jake beckons at me. I sit on the edge of the bed. I’ve already removed the harness and put it away on a chair nearby. He smiles. ‘How about you, El?’
‘I don’t want anything.’
‘Sit on my face.’
‘Sit on my face and tell me that you love me…’ he croons.
‘Watch out or I’ll smother you with a pillow.’
‘You can smother me with your… love.’
I crawl up to him and kiss his stupid face. ‘OK.’
‘I meant that more as a euphemism.’
I shake my head. ‘No euphemising tonight.’
‘You’re serious,’ he realises.
‘Oh. All these years and sometimes I still can’t tell. Sorry, love.’
‘Cuddles then?’ he asks as if I haven’t already settled comfortably into the nook between his arm and his torso. I touch his neck with the tip of my nose. He smells of sweat.
I glance up at Mort, who’s sitting on the other side of Jake, looking thoughtful. He leans over and kisses me on the cheek. ‘Thanks,’ he whispers.
I look at Jake’s blissfully happy face. ‘You’ve deserved it, babygirl. Well done.’
I’m home alone. There’s a thin drizzle outside, the kind that’s barely visible but will soak you to the bone in seconds. A pretty gloomy conclusion to a pretty gloomy day.
I hear a tinkling of keys, then the front door being open. We gave Mort the spare key back when he lived with us last autumn. We’ve never asked him to give it back.
‘Evening, captain,’ he says as I lean against a doorframe watching him take off his coat. He places a dripping umbrella carefully against the wall. His hair is wilder than usual.
‘Hi, Mort,’ I say. We hug. ‘Tea?’
‘Yes, please.’ He follows me to the kitchen. ‘How’s your day off?’
‘Kind of meh, to be honest. I was going to spend today with Jake, but then he suddenly got that big job out of town so…’ I shrug.
‘I volunteered as tribute,’ he says. ‘Jake called me. We figured you might want some company after all, so I said I’d drop by after work. I bought some foodstuffs too, so I can make you a nice supper.’ He smiles disarmingly.
‘Thanks. I was going to watch a film. Want to join?’
‘As long as it’s not a horror.’
‘No, I hate horrors. It’s some French art house piece a friend recommended.’
I pop the kettle on and Mort rolls up his sleeves and whips up some delightfully fluffy omelettes. He chatters about his day as we eat. It does rather lift my mood.
After I wash up we move to the couch in front of the TV. Mort notices some of his bejeweled lanterns standing in a neat row in the middle of the coffee table and smiles. ‘Yep,’ I answer a question he didn’t ask. ‘They’re getting a lot of love.’ I go back to turn off the kitchen lamp. ‘Er. Do you mind if I turn the light off?’ I ask belatedly.
‘No, it’s fine. It’s cozy when it’s dark.’ He turns to me. ‘You like to keep the lights low, don’t you?’
‘Unless Jake’s around?’
‘What can I say, I married a moth.’
There’s a short pause.
‘You know, sometimes I wonder how you’re even a thing, you and Jake. You seem like polar opposites sometimes.’
How are we even a thing, Jake and I…? We’ve been together for so long it’s hard to pinpoint a reason. I’m trying to think of an answer but I can’t think of a single one that doesn’t sound sappy.
‘He feels like home,’ I hear myself say. It sounds sappy. ‘Anyway,’ I gesture towards the lanterns, ‘I still can’t get over the level of detail you put into a thing that was never even meant to be looked at this close. Was there a point?’
‘A point?’ He considers. ‘I guess… I wanted people to have something nice to look at.’ He gazes into the flickering lights, elbows propped on knees, head tilted. ‘You know, there are all sorts of different people in the audience. Some people sit in the front row and can actually see everything on stage pretty well. Some people come for the twentieth time to see the same show and specifically look for easter eggs. Some people get dragged by their partners and aren’t interested in the show at all and they just let their eyes wander. I want them all to have something nice to look at.’ He points at the lanterns. ‘These were for a children’s show. And yeah, we could’ve made them faster and cheaper, with golden foil and tissue paper or something. But I remember when I was a kid in the theatre and how magical it all seemed to be… and I guess I try to keep that magic happening. Children are observant, you know? Sure, they can imagine a lot that isn’t there, but they can also tell perfectly well when a prop or a costume is shitty. So I just… try to not make shitty props, I guess,’ he laughs self-deprecatingly. ‘In case they notice.’
‘I’m sure they do,’ I say with poorly concealed affection. What a beautiful soul you’ve brought into this house, Jake. I brush his cheek lightly with the back of my fingers.
He looks up at me. ‘You know… You’re different than I used to think.’
‘Well, at the beginning, the way Jake talked about you, I expected a ray of sunshine…’
I snicker. ‘And you got a storm cloud.’
‘Well, kind of… Frankly I think I deserved it.’ He rubs at the back of his neck. ‘I was so nervous around you I didn’t know what I was saying. I thought you hated me. But then you let me stay here and it turned out you’re actually cool, in a tough-love sort of way I guess. But then it turned out you’re actually quite passionate and sweet…’
‘Is that bad?’
‘No, it’s just… I never know what to expect from you. I mean, Jake is simple. Straightforward. He likes bright light, he puts it everywhere. You clearly prefer when it’s dark and yet—’
‘That’s not a big concession to make, Mort.’
‘He calls you the light of his life, you know? Jake does.’
I look at the ceiling. Jake does a lot of cheesy things.
‘I… I think I’m beginning to see why.’
‘Careful, you’ll make me blush.’
I sit on the couch, turn on the TV, press play. Soft accordion music seeps out of the speakers. I laugh. ‘I didn’t expect it to be quite so French.’
I reach for snacks, shove a handful of trail mix into my face, pass the bowl to Mort. He picks out a few pieces and puts the bowl away.
I lean back, rest my head against his shoulder. My hand finds a comfortable place on his thigh; his hand curls around my hip. We exchange a couple of quiet remarks. The film unfolds lazily.
I can feel a soft touch on my hair, then another. A sniff? Or: a kiss? I turn my head and another one lands on my forehead. A kiss. I lift my face up. The reflection of the TV screen flickers in Mort’s eyes as I meet them. I brush a strand of hair off his forehead. I cup his cheek.
We kiss. His lips are chapped and he tastes of raisins. I realise we’ve never kissed before. I kissed him, of course — and he kissed me — but we’ve never kissed each other.
I close my eyes. It feels good. Soft. Warm. But it’s killing my neck.
I shift position: I swing a leg across his legs and sit astride his lap and he hugs me so tightly it leaves me momentarily breathless. I bury my hands in his hair, take in the familiar fruity scent. I kiss his hair, his forehead, his eyebrows. The scar on his temple. His cheekbone.
Mort plants a line of delicate little kisses up my neck and along my jawline until he finds my lips again. His long-fingered hands are warm against my back. He digs his fingernails in and pulls down in a long satisfying scratch that makes all air evacuate my lungs. One of his fingers catches on the edge of my binder, but he quickly runs a flat, reassuring hand across the spot as if to smooth out a wrinkle and carries on as if there was nothing there but my skin.
I discover a bulge straining against the fabric of his jeans.
‘I… thought you were gay.’
‘Never said I was.’
‘Fair enough. Shall we take care of you then?’
He hesitates. ‘You first.’
In one swift motion I land flat on the couch, Mort above me, one supportive hand on my back.
‘Only if you want to, of course. But, er…’ He looks sideways with an almost embarrassed little smile. ‘It’s been on my mind since Jake suggested you sit on his face.’
I laugh. Then I remember the things he did with my fingers that one time.
‘Well, I’m not going to complain.’
He takes his time finding a comfortable position before his head sinks between my thighs and my eyes flutter shut. I wasn’t wrong: he does give amazing head. But there’s something else about the way he goes about it, from the very first tender touch, soft and warm and lingering, that feels almost lyrical. Something that feels full of longing and devotion and — love. A ball of pleasure swells in my underbelly, then spills out, curling my back and my toes.
‘Mort,’ I whisper, ‘come back here.’ I tug at his hoodie, make him pull it off. We kiss.
His hand travels slowly up my torso: under my t-shirt, up my stomach, my ribs—
‘Nope.’ I grab his wrist before he goes any higher. Perhaps a little too strong. ‘Don’t touch there. That’s not a good place to touch.’
‘Oh.’ He stops immediately. ‘Um. Is that why you always have sex in a t-shirt?’
‘OK. Sorry. I didn’t realise.’ He takes my hand and kisses the tips of my fingers. I wonder if he picked that up from Jake.
‘It’s fine.’ I smile in the darkness. ‘So. Your turn?’
‘I don’t want a blowjob.’
‘I’m not suggesting one.’
He sits up as I turn to open the coffee table drawer, grope for condoms, find one in the corner.
He’s above me again, watching my face closely with his tender eyes. I guide him in. I purr when he starts to move.
As he picks up speed, I wrap my legs around his waist, clutch at his back. I breathe — deep, straining breaths, like moans, but whispered. I can feel another orgasm coming and I cling to Mort for dear life, bucking my hips against his until I teeter over the edge, writhing and shivering. He’s not far behind me.
He collapses on top of me, then slides to the side, his face buried in the crook of my neck.
‘Thanks,’ he says softly, looking up. He strokes my cheek.
I give his palm a kiss. ‘Hm?’
‘I know… you’re not very into sex,’ he says. ‘This means a lot.’
I realise nothing we’ve just done felt much like sex to me. Perhaps because it was so vanilla. Perhaps because it was so tender.
I stroke his hair with the tips of my fingers. I can feel his calm breath on my skin. He might’ve fallen asleep, his arm limp across my chest, his legs intertwined with mine. It’s nice, comfortable, cozy. But I’m growing cold.
‘We should probably get dressed,’ I venture.
He hoists himself up on one arm and I slide out. He looks absently at the TV.
‘I forgot we were watching a film.’
‘We can rewind if you want.’
He stares at the flickering screen, at the flickering lights below it. Whether he does it to give me some privacy while I pull my pants back on or whether he’s genuinely dazed, I don’t know. I hand him his hoodie and watch his pale body disappear under the soft thick cotton as I sit next to him.
‘El—’ he begins uncertainly, then stops. He adjusts his hoodie. He begins again. ‘El, I love Jake.’
‘I know,’ I say. He loves you, too, I don’t say. I know Jake’s already told him.
‘And, er… I think I may be falling for you, too.’
I don’t answer. I don’t have an answer to that yet.
‘Would you like to stay with us?’ I say softly. ‘I’m sure we can figure out some arrangement with your grandma.’
He hugs me impulsively, kisses the space behind my ear. I rest my head on his shoulder and close my arms around his slender waist. It feels right. It feels like a yes.
Jake comes home after midnight, windswept and exhausted after a whole day of painting outside. He finds us snuggled under a blanket in the corner of the couch; the film has ended, but we’re so comfortable and the final credits music is so nice that neither of us is willing to get up and turn it off. Jake stops by the coffee table to pick up the single condom wrapper from the floor.
‘Netflix and chill?’ he laughs.
‘First chill, then Netflix,’ I correct sleepily.
‘Did you guys have fun?’
I shrug. ‘As long as it stays in the family…’
He laughs, then falls silent. The words have sunk. He sits down.
With a curious mixture of tenderness and pride he takes my hand and kisses the tips of my fingers. Then he walks around the corner of the couch and bends over to hug Mort.
‘Hi, Jake,’ Mort swings his sleepy arms around Jake’s neck to pull him closer.
‘Hi, love,’ Jake kisses his cheek, his lips. ‘Welcome to the family.’