Mercifully, Fawn had been telling the truth about the shoes coming off once he had them home. They were a good deal less shiny than he’d recalled when trying them in the back room, which also suited him. He thought it might have appeared pretentious to go about with reflective shoes, as though he thought he were better than his co-workers. Something about them still made him wary, however, so he hid them in the back of his wardrobe. He might have to wear them to work—they were his only dress shoes—but he didn’t have to wear them for his night out with Graeme.

Iain laid out his clothes and took a quick shower, taking care to get a smooth shave. Graeme didn’t care for him to have any stubble—or hair anywhere else, for that matter, but Iain had thus far managed to put him off about waxing around his bits. After putting the finishing touches on his tousled-on-purpose hairstyle, Iain rummaged in his wardrobe for a pair of coordinating shoes. He growled when his search proved fruitless. Just as he was emerging to see if he’d left them elsewhere, the bell sounded. Iain hurried to the door and yanked it open to find Graeme there with a bouquet of spring flowers. His frustration forgotten for the moment, Iain accepted them with a smile.

Graeme leaned in for a kiss. “Mm. Hello, love,” he said. He eyed Iain up and down. “You look good.”

He stepped farther in and shut the door then flipped their positions. Iain’s back hit the wall, and his arms were suddenly full of gorgeous man. Graeme smelled wonderful, a combination of soap and spice and warm skin underneath it all. Their mouths joined, and Graeme snogged him thoroughly, making delicious sounds against Iain’s lips. When at last they came up for air, Iain’s knees were weak and his head spun.

Graeme chuckled. “Ready to go?”

“Can’t we skip it tonight and just do that?” Iain whined, hoping to use the one thing guaranteed to convince Graeme to stay home.

“The others are waiting for us,” Graeme reminded him.

“I know.” Iain sighed and forced a smile. “But I like kissing you so much better than sitting in a crowded pub.”

That was their usual Friday night routine. They met up with some friends, choosing a different place each week. Iain would have been equally content to stay in and read or watch a film or almost anything else, but Graeme was far too social for quieter pursuits. He wasn’t the sort to be content with a book and a cup of tea. When they were alone in Graeme’s flat, Graeme far preferred other activities to anything stimulating for the brain. If Iain were honest with himself, he enjoyed it too, though he did wish they might have a bit more conversation now and again.

“Plenty of time for this,” Graeme squeezed Iain’s nether region, “later.”

“There’d better be,” Iain replied. He kissed Graeme again. “Hang on, let me find my shoes.”

Another search proved futile, and Iain returned to the living room empty-handed. Graeme looked down at his feet.

“Thought you were getting shoes.”

“Sorry ‘bout that. I can’t find them.” Iain shrugged.

“Well, why don’t you just wear those?” Graeme pointed to the mat by the door. “They look like they’d be fine.”

“Uh…”

There sat Iain’s new shoes. They were more brown than he’d recalled; he’d been certain they were black when he bought them. They weren’t as fancy or as shiny, either, and Graeme was right about them being a good match with his business casual clothes. He scratched his head, wondering how they’d ended up on the mat. He must have accidentally brought them out when he answered the door. The few minutes surrounding Graeme’s arrival were a blur due to the excellent greeting he’d received.

Iain shrugged again and put on the shoes. They were quite comfortable, and he might as well get good use out of them. He grinned up at Graeme as he laced them, and Graeme touched his cheek. Going out to the pub wasn’t so bad when he could do it with Graeme. He straightened up, and they were ready to go.

They met up with three of their friends at a place called the Dusty Shoe. Iain choked on his spit when he saw the name, but he held it in and tried to pretend nothing was wrong when Graeme eyed him sideways. He smiled and held the door open so Graeme could duck inside. It was dim, and it took a few minutes before Iain’s eyes adjusted. Graeme spotted their people, and they made their way to a table in the corner. They settled in for the night, or at least until one of the others saw someone interesting and made a move. Iain and Graeme were the only couple among them.

Several drinks later, Graeme was off talking to the numerous people he knew. Peter was snogging a bloke three tables over, and Elvis was in the loo—though he would likely find someone on his way back. That left Iain alone with Benny.

Iain took a swig of his drink. “Not going in search of company, then?” he asked.

Benny shook his head, and his cheeks turned rosy. “I’ve got a girl,” he said.

“A—?” Iain’s eyebrows shot up. “Sorry, I just assumed, since you’re here with us.”

“No, I’m like you,” Benny said. “Erm…don’t tell them, all right? It’s fine for you because you’ve got Graeme. But…” He trailed off. After a pause, he said, “They’ll give me hell, you know.”

Iain nodded. “I know.” He knocked back the rest of his drink. “Your secret’s safe with me.” What the others didn’t know wouldn’t kill them. After all, Graeme was the only one who knew about Cate, and only because he had to. Even Graeme wasn’t keen on telling the others about her. He always suggested it might make Iain look bad in their friends’ eyes. Iain chose not to examine his meaning too closely. Likely he was right, as the others tended to needle Iain about his prior “straight phase.” Benny didn’t deserve their brand of humor at his expense.

“Thanks, mate.” Benny breathed an audible sigh of relief and offered a faint smile.

“You know,” Iain remarked, “sometimes I think you’re the only one of these blokes who really sees me.”

At the end of the night, Graeme took Iain back to his place. No surprise there; Graeme didn’t care to stay over at Iain’s. There wasn’t much of a pause between when Iain stepped inside the door and when his back collided with it and Graeme’s mouth was on his.

Graeme wasn’t drunk, but he wasn’t entirely sober, either. He didn’t bother with pleasantries like offering Iain a drink or letting things build slowly between them. He mashed their bodies together and leaned up to bite Iain’s earlobe.

“God, I want you,” he said. “Been hard for you all night.”

Iain would have liked to say it didn’t turn him on, despite knowing it wasn’t strictly true. Graeme had managed quite well to get through their evening without launching himself at Iain, which was more than could be said for Peter or Elvis once they’d found willing partners. Peter had returned to their table flushed and sweaty, and the fellow whose tongue he’d been slurping had excused himself to the loo the minute Peter was gone—no doubt tidying himself up. Graeme, at least, had sense to wait until he had Iain alone.

They found their way to the bedroom, where Graeme unceremoniously stripped down. Iain tried to take more time, wishing Graeme would be a bit more sensual about the whole thing. At the moment, it felt a bit more like a business transaction, and it was killing his mood. Not that it had been any different lately; this was a far too familiar routine. There was not a romantic bone in Graeme’s body when it came to sex, as far as Iain was aware. Hell, he couldn’t remember the last time they’d said “I love you” to each other.

Afterward, Iain flopped back on the bed and threw an arm over his eyes, feeling empty and a little lost. It had been all right, not terrible, but it was over so fast Iain couldn’t shake the feeling he’d missed something important somewhere along the way.

“Mm,” Graeme remarked, startling Iain.

Iain lowered his arm and peered at Graeme out of the corner of his eye. He wanted to be angry at the obvious bliss on Graeme’s face, but he couldn’t muster it. The best he could do was a deep sigh, which Graeme mistook for contentment. He rolled onto his side and wrapped himself around Iain.

Closing his eyes, Iain toyed with Graeme’s hair. He felt strangely light. Not the floaty, post-release bliss he’d wanted but an odd sensation of being not-really-there. He reasoned maybe it was allergies or he was coming down with something. It made him feel a little bad that he might have passed it on to Graeme. Hoping to feel better in the morning, Iain settled into Graeme’s embrace and drifted off to sleep.

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