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    Mawgrim
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Travelling On - 3. A Lazy Afternoon

‘That was great.’ Craig lapped the last drop of soup, wiping out the bowl with a piece of crusty bread. ‘Home made, I’ll bet.’

‘Tell the truth, the bread was from the bakery at the local supermarket. And soup’s easy. Throw in all of your elderly veg, a pinch of herbs, a shake of seasoning and voila.’

'I used to cook. Back when I had time.’

James looked at him with a touch of sadness. ‘I know what that’s like. Not good for you, though.’

‘Tell me about it.’ All of a sudden his phone pinged with the unmistakeable tone of an incoming email. Logically, Craig knew he didn’t have to look. It might be his weekend off, but the compulsion was still there.

‘I can almost read your mind right now,’ James said. ‘You’re dying to check your phone.’

‘Am I really that transparent? Sorry.’ He was determined not to give in to the temptation.

James leaned back, gazing at the ceiling. ‘I used to be like that, too. Trained to respond to that ding, like one of Pavlov’s bloody dogs.’

‘Well, I’m not going to give in. It’s somebody else’s problem.’ The phone seemed to burn inside his pocket. He could almost hear it saying look at me. Maybe he should just turn the damn thing off. But no. If something went wrong at home, Madge needed to be able to contact him. Willpower was the answer. Ignore it.

James stood. ‘Maybe I can help distract you.’ He walked round to Craig’s side of the table and stood behind him. His hands dropped onto Craig’s shoulders and began to massage them.

He hadn’t realised he was tense before; but the simple act of firm hands kneading his muscles was such a relief. It had been a long time since anyone had touched him like this.

‘Mmm,’ he said. ‘That’s good.’

‘How about this?’ James began working down his chest, unzipping the top of his fleece and slipping his hands inside, while simultaneously leaning closer to plant light, breathy kisses along his neck. One of his fingers brushed a nipple, stiffening already beneath the unexpected touch.

Craig wanted more. He tilted his head back, seeking James’s lips with his own. It wasn’t the easiest position in which to kiss, but he didn’t care. He reached a hand behind him to pull James closer, but James had other ideas.

‘Let’s take this somewhere more comfortable, shall we?’ He moved around, pulling Craig to his feet in one graceful move. They hardly broke contact, so they reached one of the armchairs beside the range still semi-entwined. The armchair was large, with well padded arms. It was a slight squeeze for them both to fit but Craig liked the way it forced them closer together.

He sought James’s mouth again. The third time they’d kissed, he thought, as lips met and James opened to his seeking tongue. A lingering taste of the soup they’d both eaten made it both wholesome and welcoming. Like coming home. Meanwhile James ran his hands down Craig’s body, seemingly unbothered by his lack of a six pack and obvious middle-aged spread. Definitely unbothered, as he reached around to grasp Craig’s jeans-clad bum and brought them together. An involuntary groan left his mouth as they rubbed against each other, making him all too aware James was in a similar state of hardness. God, it felt so good. Like being young again, sneaking a kiss and a grind in the middle of the day, but without the fear of being interrupted by family members.

Even if his damned phone rang now, he’d not be tempted to drop everything to its summons. He moved his leg to allow closer contact, working his free hand between them to undo the buttons on James’s jeans, finally gaining enough space to slide his hand inside and press against James’s length through his underpants.

‘Mmm. Yes.’ James voice was husky with desire as he too gained access, grasping Craig’s cock with a firm pressure that made him want to thrust his hips into it. ‘You don’t know how long I’ve wanted this, with you.’

‘Must be at least a couple of days,’ Craig quipped. This time a week ago neither of them had been aware of the other’s existence and now here they were, hot and breathless and wanting so much. ‘Too many clothes,’ he gasped, needing to feel more of James.

For an answer James hooked the waistband of his pants and pulled them down, shifting his own hips so Craig could do the same. ‘Hmm,’ he said, with a twinkle in his eye. ‘Seems like it’s not just our feet that are similar sized.’

‘Less talk,’ Craig managed to say. ‘More of this.’ He closed his hand around both of them, enjoying the sensations as they began moving together. Kissing again as the world closed down to just this and here and now. Slide and slap of flesh on flesh, both of them making little moans of pleasure and finding a rhythm. Craig felt excitement building, knew he wasn’t going to last much longer. Not this time, when it was all so new, when solitary fantasies turned to a reality far better than those his imagination had conjured.

James’s obvious enjoyment fuelled his own, like feedback in a sound system. He moved his hand faster, feeling James’s join his as he cued Craig to the pressure and tempo he needed right then.

‘I’m going to…’ James gasped and Craig heard his breathing change as he got closer to the edge.

He drew back from kissing just so he could watch it all; the sight of them together, the unveiled pleasure of James’s expression, the way his balls drew higher just before his moment of release sent hot wetness spattering over both their hands. That proved enough for Craig to follow him there, carrying on milking the last drop while his heart hammered and his breathing gradually slowed. He slumped against James’s shoulder, shutting his eyes for a few moments. Time, the world and consciousness of where he was and what had just happened came back slowly. He was aware of James’s weight against his, the stickiness on his belly, a slight discomfort as he realised his left foot was getting pins and needles and that he’d really have to move soon.

‘Are you all right?’

‘Fine. No, better than just fine…’ Craig searched for words.

‘That felt right. Easy.’ James once again expressed the way he felt better than he could have done himself.

That was it. Everything that had happened between them from the moment they first met had the same sense of, well, just being natural. No awkwardness. ‘Yes,’ he agreed.

James kissed his cheek softly. ‘Best get up, I suppose.’

‘You first.’

‘No, after you.’

‘I really don’t want to move.’ Except his foot was actually going numb now and everything that had been warm was gradually getting cool and uncomfortable. ‘Is there anything… ?’ He gestured at the mess. ‘Anything handy for clean up.’

‘Unfortunately I didn’t plan that far ahead.’ James sounded amused. ‘Can’t be prepared for every eventuality.’

‘And here was I thinking you were Mr Perfect.’ Craig looked around the kitchen and spotted a towel next to the sink. ‘But it’s all right. I reckon I can see a way out of this.’ He got to his feet, cursing as the feeling rushed back into his toes and got over to it as best he could with his pants and jeans around his thighs.

From behind him, he heard a snort of laughter. ‘You don’t know how funny you look.’

He turned to see James still sprawled in the chair, looking amused. The sight of him made Craig laugh too. He wiped himself off. ‘You want this now?’ He waved the towel at James.

‘Please.’

Craig threw it over to him. James caught it deftly. After he’d used it, he got up from the chair. ‘This better go in the wash. Fancy a cuppa?’

‘Fancy you,’ Craig said, even though he probably wouldn’t be up to anything very energetic for a while. He wistfully recalled his teens and early twenties when he could be raring to go again within a couple of minutes. Nowadays, it took a lot longer.

‘Glad to hear it.’ James refilled the kettle then came over and gave him a hug. ‘I reckon we should have an easy afternoon. Don’t want to tire us out too soon.’ His eyes twinkled again.

‘Getting older’s a bit of a downer sometimes.’

‘Better than the alternative. “The grave’s a fine and private place, but none, I think, do there embrace.”’

It sounded like a quote. ‘That’s very true.’

‘Not my words. They were written around the same time this house was built.’ James busied himself with the stove, adjusting a few levers and dials before opening a door to throwing a couple more logs on.

Craig’s technical mind began to kick in. ‘That thing looks complicated.’

‘Not really. Well, not once you get the hang of it. I watched a few tutorials on YouTube. Now I’m at home, I keep it in all the time. Have to, if I want the house to stay warm and have plenty of hot water.’

As he busied himself, Craig tidied up the remains of their lunch. ‘Where’s your dishwasher?’

James chuckled. ‘Standing right here. Unless you want to take a turn?’

‘No problem.’ He ran water into the sink, which was a cavernous thing, like the one he remembered in his granny’s house. As James made the tea, he washed up. It all seemed very domesticated. He wondered if James sometimes felt lonely, all on his own in the middle of nowhere. Although, he had to admit, despite being surrounded by other houses on the new estate where he lived, no one really talked. They were all too busy working.

‘Don’t you feel isolated out here? he ventured to ask.

‘Sometimes, especially now it’s winter and people don’t go out so much. When I first moved in, back last September, there was a lot more going on. Still, the village pub’s handy and people will always stop for a chat if you’re out and about.’

‘What about, you know, meeting people?’

‘I met you, didn’t I?’ James measured out leaf tea into a pot sitting on top of the stove.

‘Yes, but that was pure chance, wasn’t it?’

‘Maybe.’

Craig remembered him saying something about there being a right time and place for everything.

‘I don’t want to come over as some old hippy, but once you get your life where it should be, things… happen. Finding this house was a good example. I knew I wanted to move and I knew it needed to be in the country. I mentioned it to a friend, who mentioned it to someone else and within a week I heard about this.’

‘Where were you before?’

‘Near Leicester. Nice, easy to manage modern town house. Pete and I lived there for almost ten years.’

Craig wondered what had happened to Pete. Maybe he’d not found the idea of living in the country so idyllic? Or maybe they’d split up for another reason, which had prompted James to rethink his life? ‘Ten years is a long time,’ he said, wondering if James would share any more. ‘I’ve never been with anyone that long?’

‘Any reason why not?’

‘I don’t know. In my twenties I didn’t want to settle down. Then by the time I got into my thirties work had taken over. There was Matt, of course. We only lived together for two years. Before that, we’d been seeing each other for almost five, alternating between houses, going on holidays. Stuff like that. Together, but not full time. He didn’t want to lose his independence. He’d been burned when he was younger; gone into buying a place with someone and it all went wrong. He lost a lot of money. Confidence too.’ Craig hadn’t really talked about it much with anyone before now. ‘He was renting and we finally agreed it was silly for him to keep on spending out when we were more or less living together anyway.’

James poured the tea. ‘So… what went wrong?’

‘Nothing, at first. It was my job changing so drastically that really messed things up.’ He sighed. ‘Matt worked Monday to Friday. When we first met, I was still based in a cinema. I was the chief projectionist, so I could set my own shift patterns. It worked really well. Even when I moved on to technical department, it wasn’t too bad. Cinemas still ran film back then and there was a full staff of experienced projectionists at each site. I was on call every third weekend, but I didn’t have to leave home unless a cinema was off screen. I finished at around four or five most weekdays and even when we were on emergency cover, we didn’t leave home after six in the evening, just set off early the next day so we had time to fix a problem before they opened.’

James nodded, carrying the mugs over to the table. ‘Then it all changed?’

‘Yes, when digital came in. I’d known it was going to happen. We all did. That’s why I went for the engineer’s job, when one came up. What we couldn’t have realised was how much it would change things. We seriously thought back then that every cinema would still keep at least one technical person. They might be on reduced hours, or have to job share, but they’d still be doing what they’d always done, more or less. Keeping things ticking over, sorting out small problems. Back in the old days, engineers only got called out when the chief hadn’t managed to sort it. You always knew it would be something that needed specialist knowledge, or tools. Something tricky.’

‘I get that,’ James said. ‘But I’m guessing the company decided to cut back even more.’

‘Bingo. Once the digital equipment was installed in every site, they started to look at ways they could save money. And, as always, they cut jobs. So we had to take up more of the slack, work longer hours, turn out for piddly little faults. Stay away from home more often. Something had to give and in my case, it was our relationship. That was over a year ago now.’ He joined James at the table. ‘My potted life history. What about yours?’

James looked the steam rising from his mug for a while. ‘You probably don’t remember, but when we were stuck in the snow, I think I mentioned someone at work having a heart attack. Well, I only told you part of the story. I didn’t want you feeling sorry for me. It wasn’t just any colleague who died, you see. It was Pete. He was almost ten years older than me, but still fit and healthy. Or so we thought. He’d have had the option for early retirement in another two years. Then, one day when he was driving home, it happened. He was dead before they got him to hospital.’

‘I’m so sorry.’ Instinctively, Craig reached out a hand to touch James’s.

‘It’s all right. I’m over it, as much as anyone can be when something like that happens out of the blue. But it was a turning point in my life. We’d talked about doing this; moving to the country and getting off the corporate treadmill once he was able to draw his pension, but he didn’t make it. So I decided I would.’

Craig didn’t think he’d cope as well under the circumstances. To make plans with someone you loved and see them all dashed…

James went on. ‘We think we’ve got all the time in the world, that we can work hard now and do what we really want at some misty, undefined point in the future. But if you wait too long, you might never get there.’

It went some way to explain his philosophy on life. ‘So you have to take a chance and just jump in?’

‘Pretty much. Worked okay for us, didn’t it?’ His comment lightened the atmosphere.

Craig sipped his tea. ‘Seems like it.’ The story had left him feeling slightly unsettled, though. He couldn’t help wondering what would happen if he dropped dead next week, or more likely, crashed his car driving madly from call to call. Work would find someone else. But what might he have missed in life, having had his own cut short?

‘After I’ve drunk this, I might go for a shower. Fancy one?’

‘That’d be good.’ He should change his T shirt, too. He wondered if James was inviting him to share, although surely they wouldn’t be able to do much in that small avocado bathtub.

‘Pity we can’t get in together, but I’m not sure the bath would cope with both of us at the same time.’ James had obviously read his mind.

‘Ah,’ he said, trying not to sound too disappointed. And was that a hint about his weight?

‘Or if you want, we could… get into bed, snuggle and see what happens.’

That definitely sounded interesting. Craig felt a slight stirring in his groin. Maybe he wasn’t too old, or too fat after all? ‘I’d like that.’

‘So, bed first, then shower after. In case we get all sweaty again?’

‘I’m hoping we do.’

Craig still felt slightly shy about undressing, afraid the sight of his body might put James off. He’d had some disparaging comments about his weight from men who weren’t exactly prime specimens themselves, but seemed to enjoy judging others. James was different, touching and kissing him in a way that made him feel both valued and desirable. Any shyness was soon put aside, letting Craig abandon his inhibitions and enjoy the moment.

Once they were in bed things became even easier. They took their time in exploring each other’s bodies, savouring sensations of touch and tongue, seeking out the sensitive spots. Craig took James in his mouth for the first time, the noises he managed to draw out from the man as much of a turn on as anything else. After James was satisfied, he reciprocated, bringing Craig close to the edge several times until he was almost as out of breath as when they’d climbed the hill earlier. Afterwards, they cuddled together. Craig couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so relaxed. It wasn’t surprising they both dozed off.

When Craig woke, it was growing dark outside, the room full of shadows. The house was so quiet he could hear the heating pump running and little cracks and creaks from the radiator in the room. He was reluctant to wake James, so for a while, watched him sleep, until the darkness became so intense, it felt as if everything outside their cocoon of warmth had ceased to exist.

Eventually, James stretched and yawned. ‘It’s dark.’

‘Well spotted.’

‘You should have woken me.’

‘I didn’t have the heart.’

‘What time is it?’

‘No idea.’ He hadn’t checked his watch - or his phone - for hours. ‘Does it matter?’

‘I booked us a table for six-thirty at the local eatery.’

‘The pub?’ Craig asked.

James reached out to switch on the bedside lamp. It wasn’t too bright, just a comfortable amber glow. ‘Certainly not.The local in the village is strictly a drinker’s pub. Pork scratchings and peanuts are the pinnacle of their culinary offerings. No, we’ll be going to Cassie’s Cabin.’

‘That sounds quirky.’

‘Very. She and her husband built a big log cabin on their land. She started off serving cream teas and selling home-grown organic produce. Then breakfasts. Now she’s gone into partnership with a chef, who’s started up themed nights. Last Saturday was tapas, the one before that was Italian and tonight is steak night.’

‘Sounds good.’

James looked at his own watch. ‘It’s only five. We’ve plenty of time. Do you want to shower first or shall I?

Copyright © 2021 Mawgrim; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Another great chapter!  I wondered if there was something more than the death of a "coworker" triggering such a big change of living.  The death of a partner has such a profound effect on people.  I hope that Craig doesn't let James go because he is afraid to take a chance.  

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I like the way they're already settling in to comfortable togetherness. I hope Craig will see the light, quit his job and move in with James.

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7 hours ago, CincyKris said:

I hope that Craig doesn't let James go because he is afraid to take a chance. 

It depends on whether his fear of change is greater than his fear of losing the chance of being with James.

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2 hours ago, Timothy M. said:

 

I like the way they're already settling in to comfortable togetherness. I hope Craig will see the light, quit his job and move in with James.

 

It may take a little time. Craig has to think about things for a while and although he's comfortable with James, they still haven't known each other for very long. In James's case it was one big event - Pete's death - which made him take stock of where his life was heading. For Craig, it's more likely to be a slow realization of how the job he used to enjoy is evolving into one he doesn’t, and that he can take control over where his life ends up.

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8 hours ago, drsawzall said:

One of my closest friends was 2 months from retirement after 44 years with the same company, went to sleep one night and never woke.

The engineer who trained me was just two years away from retirement. He and his wife had a narrow boat and intended to explore the canals of England once he retired. He had a massive heart attack while on holiday on the boat and never got to do it.

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Craig is goingto have a lot of thinking to do after this weekend. The fact he didn't answer his phone is a possible first step.

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34 minutes ago, Ivor Slipper said:

The fact he didn't answer his phone is a possible first step.

It's a good one. I used to take my work phone on holiday just so I didn't have to trawl through 300 odd emails when I returned. Not a healthy way to live.

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Me thinks Craig is already hooked!  Their chemistry is simply perfect!

 

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2 hours ago, KayDeeMac said:

Me thinks Craig is already hooked!  Their chemistry is simply perfect!

His weekend with James is going to give him a lot of food for thought. 

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This chapter is made me smile.

And yes, you could have Craig just jump ship and move in with James.  However, you don't write that way.

Change is not an easy thing for some of us it takes years of trial and trying.

I am enjoying this slow and sensitive story.

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1 hour ago, Mikiesboy said:

And yes, you could have Craig just jump ship and move in with James.  However, you don't write that way.

Change is not an easy thing for some of us it takes years of trial and trying.

It would make for a fairly short story if he just moved it right away!

Also, you are right about change taking a long time. I think as we get older and more set in our ways, it can make us more cautious. We've probably rushed in to situations, relationships and jobs in our youth and been burned.

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