“What can I do?” asked Luigi when they were back inside The Lord Grey.
“Get us some coffee from next door!” said Keith promptly. “And introduce yourself to Esmé. She’s the pretty barrista with the lovely hazel eyes. Tell her it’s a Keith and a Jason and whatever you’d like. She knows what we have. Here, here’s some dosh.” He opened his manbag and took out a fiver. Jason fiddled in his coin pocket in his jeans and pulled out $3. They gave their money to Luigi. “Yeah, introduce yourself to Esmé,” said Jason. “She’s really nice.”
The café next door was called Don Vittorio’s and had a door with a massive elegant handle made of spoons welded together.
There were two women making the coffee and doing the waiting. One of them was a very pretty woman with hazel eyes.
“Yeah?” She was surprised that a stranger knew her name.
“Yeah, I’m Luigi. I’m from Keith and Jace from The Lord Grey. They want their usual, please.”
“Do they now?” Luigi decided that Esmé would be a bad person to cross. She didn’t seem afraid of anybody.
“So you’ve had an all-nighter with them, have you?” she asked in an off-hand way as she flicked the strainer and adjusted the steam pipes. It was obvious she meant sex. Luigi had never met a woman before who could talk about male to male sex so easily. He blushed deeply. He wanted to run away.
She looked up. “Oops! Sorry. It’s just that Keith and I are very old friends” — the pause and emphasis on the word were so slight that Luigi almost missed them — “and we always share stories about his, um, blokes.” He was sure she’d been about to say another word.
“Well,” he said, feeling the heat leave his face slowly, “I’m more Jason’s friend.”
Esmé looked at him sharply when he said this, then shrugged a little. “He’s a nice bloke,” she said in a way which suggested to Luigi that she didn’t in truth mean it.
“Yes, he is!” he retorted, nettled. “He’s a lovely bloke. He was … very kind … to me.”
She smiled. “Yeah. You’re right. I’m feeling a bit out of sorts this morning. Take no notice of me.” She made a fourth coffee and put them all in a cardboard holder.
“I’ll bring the coffees over, if you like,” said Esmé, after he’d paid. “It’s quietened down now.”
“It’s OK,” said Luigi, unsettled by the whole exchange.
She ignored him, and saying “Back in a tick, Di,” to the other woman, she led him out onto the pavement and through the glass door of The Lord Grey.
When Keith saw her, he gave a huge grin, and cried, “Esmé! Ms Beautiful!” and gave her a kiss—on her cheek, not her lips, noticed Luigi—before adding, “Did Luigi introduce himself?”
“Nice to meet you, Luigi,” she said, smiling at him in a way which showed she wanted to be friends.
He bowed as Richard, his former lover would have done, and for some reason (perhaps to get back at her) said in Italian, “What a very great pleasure, Signorina!”
Her eyes crinkled and she said in perfect accent-free Italian, “The pleasure is all mine, most gracious Signor.” Somehow in Italian it didn’t sound so fulsome as it would have in English.
Luigi gave a startled grin then replied in English, “That’ll teach me to show off!”
Esmé waved her hand dismissively. “Mum is Italian. Dad is—was, since the country doesn’t exist any more — Yugoslav. So I speak Serbian, Italian and Ozzie.”
Luigi bowed to her. “Well, you guessed, I’m Italian.”
They were sitting drinking their coffees. Keith yawned.
“Big night, Keith?” asked Esmé. Jason saw how carefully she avoided looking at Keith and wondered again what their relationship was, or had been.
“Ya knaow me,” answered Keith, his accent very strong. Jason could see that he was completely relaxed, that Esmé’s probing wasn’t disturbing or irritating at all. A sudden sharp knife thrust of grief hit him: how much Brent would have liked these people! They were his sort of people, irreverent, accepting, unfussed, kind, and definitely not out of the top drawer. But of course, Brent would never have met them. It was because of Brent that he, Jason, was here.
“You OK?” asked Luigi.
“Yes. I … I was just thinking …” Jason didn’t want to keep on talking about his grief and loss.
“Dangerous!” observed Esmé. “Avoid something so subversive at all costs!”
“How right you are. Mindlessness for me from now on.”
Luigi leaned over and kissed him.
“Hey!” said Jason, feeling happier again, “You were going to tell us something.”
“Yeah. Maybe later.” Luigi cast a slight sideways glance at Esmé.
As if she’d noticed—though Jason couldn’t see how she had, since he’d only noticed it because he knew Luigi—Esmé said, “I’ve got to get back to work. Can’t spend all day gossiping with you bunch of reprobates.”
“Heh!” Keith just grinned at her. “I’ll see you home, just in case the scabengas get you.”
“I’m only next door, Keith. Mr Manners.”
He merely winked at her, and stood up.
“Back in a minute, homos.”
The two of them walked to the door, talking quietly, their heads together. Luigi and Jason sat in silence. Keith kissed Esmé on her cheek, and squeezed her hand briefly, then came back.
“Roight! Spill the bayns, Lou! Tell all to uncle Keith, best counsellor in the district!”
So, halting at first, then more fluently, Luigi told them about Cody. In the end he was weeping, and Keith was sitting on one side of him with his arm round him and Jason was on the other, with his arm also round Luigi’s waist, and his leg pressed up against Luigi’s.
“If he came back, wouldya take him back?” asked Keith.
“I dunno.” Luigi shook his head in despair. “I just don’t fucking know.”
“Dya think he loved you?”
“I did! I thought he loved me. I thought this was the big one. The love of my life.” Luigi poured scorn and bitterness into the last few words. “Until I found out. Now …”
“But Lou … can’t you love more than one person? Maybe he loves you and his wife.” Keith was gentle, but persistent.
“Yeah. But … I dunno … it was the deceit. If he’d told me from the beginning …” He sighed, and wiped his eyes on his shirt sleeve. “I was so angry and hurt. But it was more than that … it was that he was deceiving his wife. And she seemed nice.”
“Well,” sighed Keith in turn, “it’s hard if you’re bi.”
“Well, he should fucking choose then.”
“Easy for you to say. You’re 100% gay. What the fuck should people like me do?” Keith moved away from Luigi, and slid over to the end of the bench.
Luigi was looking angry too. “This bi business is bullshit. It just ends up hurting us. We fall for straight or bi guys and next thing they’re off with wifie or girlie and we’re out in the fucking cold!”
“I didn’t say it was easy,” said Keith. “But now, take me.”
“OK!” interjected Jason, trying to make a joke of it, his skin crawling with the tension between the other two.
Keith ignored him. Looking directly at Luigi, he said, his accent once again very strong, “I was stroight before I went on the strayts. I’d never had sex with a blaoke. Then I had to let myself be fucked by them. And some of them were kind to me. And one or two made me cum, made me feel good, made me feel loved. And — shit! — I stopped fayling normal, ya knaow! I stopping fuckin’ carin’. Wantin’ to have a girlfriend, a wife maybe, ya knaow, all that het stuff, all that fuckin’ normal let’s be like everybody fuckin’ else stuff. And I found that I liked guys. I liked sex with men. I—fuck it!—I fell in love with a few.”
He pushed his paper coffee beaker round the table in front of him.
“But I still like women.” Very quietly, looking away, anywhere but at the other two, he added, “I still hope I’ll find somebody, maybe get married, have kids. But there’s the, ya knaow, virus, and anyway, what woman would want a strayt kid, a whore?”
“C’mere!” said Jason. Keith shook his head. Jason stood up and went over to Keith’s end of the bench, and standing behind him, put his arms round the other man and rested his head in Keith’s curls. “What woman would want a man who’s clever, kind, and sexy? Hmm?” he said, and then he bent his head to one side and kissed Keith’s ear. Keith reached up with his hand and squeezed Jason’s arm.
“I didn’t mean to be shitty,” offered Luigi. “I just … well for me, I’m only interested in blokes. I couldn’t … you know … get hard for a woman. I suppose it’s because I’m such a queen.”
“You reckon, Lou? I reckon if I was up you, pounding away, you’d be hard as, with any woman.” Keith’s eyes glinted.
Keith grinned. “No shame here, mate. Sex is sex, and love is love, and never the twain shall meet. No, I don’t mean that, I knaow they can. But, Lou, I’d get hard just doing you, ya knaow that?”
Luigi stared at him. “It’s a date,” he said flatly. “You’re just the kind of guy I go for. Straight.”
Keith reached out with the arm which wasn’t holding Jason and gently punched Luigi’s shoulder. “Not straight, not any more.”
“You look straight. You act straight. All that rough manliness.” Luigi’s tone was mocking, but his eyes were sad.
Keith stared at him for several heartbeats. “Ya knaow, Lou,” he said, his accent verging on the impenetrable, “ya’re a sexy fucker. Ya knaow that, roight? Ya knaow that nointy percent of the blaokes who come in here would loik ta fuck ya silly. Fuck ya till they’re raw. And I knaow that I’m not sexy. I’m not good-lookin’, I’ve got this,” and he massaged his paunch, “and I’m not a looker loik yaou and Jason here. I’m just a blaoke. Nothin’ much. A nobody. Unattractive, a fuckin’ dog.”
Luigi looked at him then turning away addressed the wall. “I go for manly guys. Straight guys. Straight-acting guys. I’m always getting into trouble. You’re … jeez, Keith … you have no idea. You’re totally—totally—hot.” He turned to look directly at Keith. “ ‘Fuck me till you’re raw, huh?’ I could do that.” He held Keith’s eyes,and Jason could feel the electricity between them. “But what about after? Huh? What about my heart?”
“What about it?”
“You’ll go off with Esmé, yeah, and get married, and have kids and stuff.”
Keith avoided Luigi’s intent stare. “Not Esmé. We tried that. Didn’t work.”
“She still loves you.”
Luigi turned to face Keith, straddling the bench. “Look, Keith, it seems to complicated. You know. Guy has girl. Guy has guy. How do you organise it? How do you not tear each other to shreds?”
“Whaddya think’s going to happen with us?” Keith pointed to him with one hand and waved the other above his head in Jason’s direction.
“I dunno.” Luigi’s tone was despairing. “I dunno. I dunno how.”
“We’ll work it out,” said Keith, firmly. “Sometimes it’ll be you and me. And sometimes Jace and me or you and Jace. Or all three of us. Why can’t you do that with a woman?”
“Well, maybe,” Keith acknowledged. “Seriously though, what about us three?”
“When’re you going to fuck me raw, straightboy?” Luigi’s black-olive eyes gleamed with lust and amusement. And some spite, too. He raised his gaze from Keith’s face to Jason’s. “And you, straightboy number one?” Jason instantly popped a boner.
“I can’t. Ya knaow I can’t. I’m positive.” Keith scrubbed his head vigorously with both hands.
“You wear a condom. You pull out before you cum. Easy.”
“Or ya could fuck me. I’d like that.” Keith was smiling.
Jason had barely talked about sex with Brent. They’d made love often, and joked about their cocks and their bums and what it was like to have sex all the time, but by comparison, these two were utterly frank about what they wanted and what they liked. He found it unnerving.
Luigi was still staring at Keith. “I’m not usually a top. But for you, straightboy, I’m prepared to make an exception.”
Keith pulled Luigi’s head close and kissed him, tongue, lips, nothing held back. Jason watched, his boner squeezed into his trunks, rigid behind the stiff fabric of his jeans. Keith pulled back but kept his eyes locked on Luigi’s. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah.”
The door from the street opened with a bang, and Tom came in. “Yeah, a fuckin’ union maytin’, huh?”
“Oops, sorry, Tom. We were just havin’ a coffee!” Keith leapt up and scurried to the bar counter.
“I better go,”said Luigi.
“Give us your mobile number, love,” said Keith, sashaying back and forth as he tidied up the detritus from the night before. Jason marvelled at the transformation from straight-acting homo to over-the-top swish into the persona who could abuse a group of drunk patrons by calling them ‘sista’. It made him wonder who the real Keith was, what he would have been like if he hadn’t been thrown onto the streets. Keith hadn’t said why his father had thrown him out, and Jason had always assumed it was because Keith was gay. But was it so?
Luigi scribbled down his number on two bar napkins and gave one to Keith and one to Jason. Then he put his arms round each of them and gave them a hug and a quick kiss on their cheeks. They saw him to the door, and then they kissed again, reluctant to let their time together end.
It took them the usual half an hour to clean up The Lord Grey.
When they’d finished, Jason said, “When’re you finishing tonight, Key?”
“The usual time. I don’t have a life, you know.”
Jason pulled him close into a tight embrace. He kissed him, and then pulled his head back and looked into Keith’s chocolate eyes. “I’ll see you at six. I’m going to go home and shower. I stink!”
“In the best possible way,” smirked Keith.
“Behave!” said Jason.
“Why?” asked Keith, ironic.
After Jason had left the bar, Keith went through to Tom who was holed up in his office.
Tom raised his eyebrows at him.
“Yeah,” said Keith.
“Both of them?”
Keith smiled. “They’re nice blaokes. Top blaokes, Tommy.”
“You better watch out for that Jason. He’s not our kind. Ya knaow that, dontcha?”
Keith looked down. After a moment or two he responded, “Yeah, I knaow. But he’s really nice, Tom. He’s kind, he’s decent, he’s … yeah.”
Tom gave him a sharp look from under his eyebrows.
Keith pretended not to see.
“Would you loik to fuck, Tom?” Keith’s eyes were fixed on Tom’s face, eager.
Tom smiled. “Always hungry, huh, Keith?”
“You knaow it’s not just that, Tommy. Ya knaow I love ya.”
“Yeah. I love you too, Keith-babe. C’mon then.”
Tom stood up and went to lock the outside door. He came back to his office and closed that door too. Keith went over to him and pulled him into a tight hug. He started kissing him hard, and slipped his hand down the front of Tom’s jeans.
“Mr Commando, today, huh?” he breathed right next to Tom’s ear, fondling Tom’s doings, scraping Tom’s cock against the backs of his jeans button backs.
“Ya knaow I loik that. Fray and aisy, that’s me.”
“Yeah. I knaow. I like it too.” Keith pushed his other hand down the back of Tom’s jeans, and caressed the cleft of his bum.
Tom undid the top button of Keith’s jeans. “Boxers, hey. Ya knaow ya can’t hide an erection in thaose, doncha?”
“I don’ wanna. Let ’em all see what a stud I am.”
“Shaow off. Nice an’ sticky.” Tom’s hand was fondling Keith’s junk with his customary efficient touch. He was having his usual effect on Keith, and Keith was lubricating freely. They moved over to Tom’s manager’s chair behind his desk, and Tom pulled his jeans down to his ankles and sat down. He reached into the lower drawer of his desk and pulled out a tube of lube. Keith knelt down in front of the other man and took his cock into his mouth. He took it deep, not gagging. This was familiar territory.
Tom groaned softly.
“That’s so good, Key.”
After several deep strokes, Keith stopped and pulled down his jeans and boxers, and slathered lube over Tom’s cock. Facing Tom, never letting his eyes move away from Tom’s intense gaze, he carefully lowered himself onto Tom’s stiff cock, and then leaned forward to kiss him. They began the familiar rhythm, their bodies attuned to each other from long practice. Keith impaled himself deeper and deeper on Tom’s cock with each push, and their thrusts grew faster and faster. He leaned back a little to accentuate the feel of Tom’s cock on his prostate, and he felt the thrill of fire and ice flush his whole body. The delicious ache built inside him.
“Oh, god, Tom, oh fuck, that’s so good,” and then he came all over Tom’s belly. A moment or two later Tom cried out himself and came too, pumping his jizz into Keith.
Keith wiped his fingers through his cum on Tom’s tummy and licked them. Then he leaned against Tom, before pulling back a little so he could see into Tom’s eyes and said, “Ya’re the best, ya knaow. Ya do that sao well.”
“Ya jus’ do somethin’ ta me, Key.” But he looked sad.
“What’s wrong?” Keith was very attuned to Tom’s moods.
“Ya’re goin’ to find someone someday. Maybe Jason or that other blaoke—”
“—or a woman, and we waon’t do that any more. I’m gettin’ aold Key.”
Keith was still sitting on Tom’s lap, relaxed with the afterglow of sex and love. He ran his hands is slow strokes over Tom’s bald forehead and down the long pony-tail at the back. “Y’re spaycial, Tom. Ya knaow that. I love ya, Tommy. An’ oi always will.”
“But ya c’n love someone without wantin’ to fuck them.”
“I dunno, Tom. Ya always hit the spot. And … well … it’s good with you.” Neither mentioned that this was the first time in a month that they’d made love. Keith kissed Tom again, feeling guilty. He remembered with shame the off-hand and off-putting things he’d said to Jason about Tom, and resolved to correct those impressions when he saw Jason that evening. He kissed Tom once more, and Tom divining perhaps the source of his guilt and discomfort, embraced him back, resting his head on Keith’s shoulder.
Tom was thinking back on the first time he’d seen Keith. He’d been huddling in a doorway on a freezing July night. The face turned towards him had been so lost, so desperate and so unhappy that Tom hadn’t hesitated.
“Come with me,” he’d said. “Ya don’t need to fuck moi. I’ve got a sofa. Ya can’t stay out on a noight loik this.”
Keith had come home with him. And of course they had fucked, and again every night after and often in the mornings too, breathless with lust. Tom was exactly what Keith had needed: a man (and Tom was very manly—most people would never have guessed he was gay) who knew his way round the world. Someone who loved him unconditionally, and not for his looks or his body, but because of his soul. It didn’t hurt that Tom had had more hair and a less wrinkled face five years ago and Keith had been at his prime with the healthy good looks genetics confers upon the young.
Tom hadn’t had to teach Keith to love: he was so full of unsatisfied love it poured out of him in a torrent. But he had to learn that lust was only a cousin to love and not his brother. It took him over two years while Keith learned to trust him. Meanwhile, he got Keith to work in The Lord Grey. He taught him everything about running the pub.
One day he said to him, “It’s toim ya moved out, Key.”
“What the fuck! Whoi?”
“Because otherwoise we’re goin’ ta foight. And we’ll brike up. And I love ya too much for that.”
“But, Tom, I fuckin’ love ya. I love ya!” Keith was weeping.
“Hey, daon’t croi, love. C’mere.” He pulled Keith into the embrace of his skinny arms. “I love ya too, Keithie. But if we work together and live together, we’re goin’ ta foight. ‘Cos we’ll get sick a one another. We’ll see each other every day. We’ll fuck as often as you want …”
“… every fuckin’ day, Tom, ya knaow that …”
“… yeah, too roight, I do. Ya wear me out, ya young stud.” He smiled to show he was joking. “But, Keithie, what we have is too praycious to chuck it away. You’re young and full a spunk. Ya’ll want ta have sex with everybody. Just loik oi did. But what we have is spaycial. You’ll have me and I’ll have you always. And if ya want ta have sex with a blaoke ya meet, ya can. Just sao long as ya go on lovin’ me. I waon’t mind about your other blaokes. See, Keith-babe, I haven’t got a son—that I knaow of—and so I see ya as my son, sort of.”
“Ya don’t fuck ya son.”
“Yeah. I’m not sayin’ it’s exactly the sime. Ya knaow, the Ancient Greeks would have an older man lookin’ after and lovin’ a younger blaoke, showin’ him the ropes of loif. They were lovers, but the older one taught the younger one ta be a man.”
Keith wasn’t comforted, had wept inconsolably and only stopped when Tom made love to him. During the night, Tom woke up to find Keith’s cock stiff between his bum cheeks, and Keith trying to enter him. This was the first time since they met that Keith had wanted to top Tom.
“Do it,” Tom urged. “Fuck me silly. Whatever ya want, love.”
Afterwards, Keith had lain silent in the bed next to Tom. “What oi want is to stay with ya.”
Tom had let the matter slide, but after the next fight he’d waited till they’d had make-up sex and then taken him to see the flat.
“I’ve bought it for ya,” he said. “Oi daon’t want ya to stay with me because oi pay, roight? And after our foight las’ week … Keith … I daon’t want ta lose ya. Ever. Aiven if we stop fuckin’ oi want us still to bay best friends. Always, Keith. ‘Cos ya’re the best thing that’s ever happened to may.”
Tom could put on an educated accent when he wanted to, when he had to, but he was a boy from the western suburbs, a bogan, and he’d never finished high school. He’d made a fortune from his band and still got royalties from the records. Tom Falloway was a name to conjure magic with, even now. Despite the drugs, all the first-class plane trips round the world, all the expensive hotel suites and bottles of French champagne, the money spent on whores of both sexes, and on groupies of both, a lot of the money had stuck to his fingers. He’d invested shrewdly, with all the suspicion and caution of a western suburbs boy. He’d bought property—a house here, a flat there, a office, at first small buildings then bigger, and step by step had built a property portfolio which meant he could, had he wanted to, have stopped work. The rents were more than enough to live on. He spent less than a quarter of his income, drove an ancient beat-up Holden, and allowed his wealth to accumulate.