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A Tin of Shortbreads

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It’s a little after nine on a Tuesday, and Dundy – not Henry – Le Vesconte is lying on his back on the sofa in his living room, one arm tucked under his head. A fire crackles in the hearth, warming the feet he has propped up on the arm of the sofa. He’s already dressed for bed, and has a blanket thrown over his lap. Added to this is Fagin, who has curled up on Dundy’s stomach and is purring with a vigor that sets his whole body shaking. Occasionally, the cat lifts his head to nudge Dundy’s hand with his nose, and Dundy has to put his book aside to stroke Fagin’s scraggly fur.

This sounds, of course, like a perfectly wonderful situation in which to be. It would be, were it not for the rather distracting soundtrack currently being produced behind James’s – blessedly shut – bedroom door.

James Fitzjames, Dundy’s flatmate, is the man currently responsible for the quite frankly obscene sounds emanating from his bedroom. Dundy recognizes the telltale squeaks of James’s poor bed being thoroughly abused. Above this, Dundy can hear two voices seeming to compete in which can moan harder, grunt louder, or offer more lurid filth.

“Jesus fucking Christ you’re so tight, that’s so good, so fucking good-”

“Yes, yes, fuck me, fuck me, fuck me! Harder!”

Dundy shuts his book. He pinches the bridge of his nose as he reaches for Fagin for comfort. The cat goes on purring, obviously unbothered.

“Think you could tell them to pipe down, hm?”

Fagin lifts his head, regards Dundy with an even stare, and then settles back down.

Dundy sighs as the symphony of obscenity continues to play behind him. Along with the squeaking bedsprings, he can hear the indubitable sound of flesh meeting flesh in hard slaps.

He’s used to this to some degree, of course. James had been famous for his flagrant escapades in his wild days, but those had been in the days when Dundy was wild, too, and met James sexual conquest for sexual conquest.

Dundy has lived with James for over ten years, since they were both flat broke and in their late twenties. What began as a way for both men to offset the nauseatingly high rent costs on a respectable London flat has turned into a companionable living arrangement.

Dundy likes living with James. That’s because likes James. A lot. Penchant for practical jokes aside James is model flatmate and a dedicated friend.

Most of their neighbours think they’re gay, of course. Dundy can’t blame them. Two very much grown men – men in their forties - sharing a flat. It’s only the natural conclusion to assume that they’re a couple. Dundy doesn’t bother to correct anyone. Esther Blanky, a neighbour down the hall, has even taken to baking for them.

“For you and your nice partner,” she said, as she’d handed Dundy a tin that proved to be full of shortbreads. “I’m sorry, I don’t know his name.”

“James,” said Dundy. “Thanks for this, Esther.”

Why would Dundy bother to change her opinion, when it meant home-baking?

He did tell James, who laughed. “You’d be so lucky, to date me,” he boasted. He was standing naked in the middle of their living room, toweling his hair.

Sometimes, Dundy feels as if he is. They’re more than friends, and closer than brothers. They don’t have sex – often – but what couple does, really?

James and his new boyfriend, actually. This is the second voice woven into the rather lurid duet currently giving a command performance in the other room. The man sounds as if he’s enjoying himself tremendously, and Dundy picks up snippets of heated praise:

“God, you’re perfect. So beautiful. You’re lovely, James.”

Dundy knows James goes wild at praise, and he hears a corresponding groan and the sound of someone being soundly kissed.

Somewhere in the past few months James has acquired a surprisingly serious relationship. He’d been cagey about it for quite some time, dodging Dundy’s queries about where he’d been, and who he’d been with.

“Just, uh, out,” said James, who’s usually so forthcoming about his sexual adventures. Dundy remembers when James had been dating that sailor – what was his name? Graham? – he’d described in proud detail just exactly what, where, and how he’d gotten up to various shenanigans with the man.

“He was hung like a racehorse,” James had even said, somewhat sadly, when they’d broken up.

In response, Dundy had whipped out his own prick, waving it around and demanding whether Graham Gore’s – Gore! That was his surname, not a particularly good one as surnames went – prick could possibly be nicer than his own.

This had cheered James immensely, who had then gone on to suck Dundy’s admittedly nice prick, which had cheered Dundy immensely.

Now, James is putting that very clever and very talented mouth to work on someone else. James had been nervous – so out of character for him – to introduce Dundy to the new boyfriend, which at first Dundy hadn’t understood.

Then he’d met Francis Crozier, and understood entirely.

The man is entirely unlike James’s usual partners. He’d expected someone quite different, since James had gone a little dreamy and utterly lovesick when he did manage to begin talking about Francis. It was obvious James was smitten, and that had never happened.

When Dundy had met Francis – Francis, fifty years old, tending to hefty, shorter than James by several inches, cranky, and scowling – he’d been surprised. This was the man that James got stars in his eyes when he talked about? Ten minutes in the same room with Francis and James and Dundy wondered that Francis’s clothes were still on his body with how James was eyeing him.

What was the appeal?

Dundy found out very quickly.

The appeal is, apparently, the best sex James Fitzjames has ever had. Dundy is happy for him, truly, to have someone who not only apparently adores him but can fuck him fifteen different ways from Sunday, but James and Francis are loud. Very loud.

The walls in their flat are paper-thin, and James has always been vocal. At the beginning, Dundy used to pull himself off listening to James getting absolutely railed, but now it’s become annoying. He’d like a good night’s sleep, occasionally.

Because this seems to be every single night. They don’t go back to Francis’s, apparently, because Francis is the tenant a rather evangelical sort who doesn’t disapprove of homosexuality in principle but clearly lives in mortification of the idea of two men fucking in his home.

So it’s Dundy’s, or nowhere. And nowhere never seems to be an option. Which means that evenings in the Le Vesconte-Fitzjames household are loud. Also mornings. And the occasional afternoon.

James and Francis go at it far more often than Dundy thinks is reasonable for men their age. James is younger than Francis, true, but he’s still of an age where he should start being a little more responsible about what he does – and how often he does it – in his bed.

And up against his bedroom wall, the wall shared with Dundy’s room. And in the shower. And on the sofa in the living room. And on the carpet in front of the fireplace. And Dundy suspects in his bed, though he can’t prove that for-

“Oh, God, Francis!”

“Right, mate. I’ve had it,” says Dundy, to Fagin.

The cat lifts his head again, and then stops purring when Dundy lifts him off his lap. The cat immediately settles back down in the warm spot left behind.

Without knocking, he opens James’s door. What he finds isn’t surprising. James is perched atop Francis, obviously attempting to either break the other man’s back, or the bed. Or both. Francis’s hands are on James’s hips, guiding him on. James is quite the sight, eagerly rutting down on Francis’s prick, his hair wild, glistening with sweat and pink with pleasure.

“Lads,” says Dundy. “Glad you’re having fun, but could you keep it down?”

“Jesus Christ!” yelps Francis, from underneath James. Lucky sod. “Get out!”

James grins, unperturbed by the interruption. “Jealous?” he asks. He’s still bouncing away, shameless git that he is.

“Going deaf, actually. Dial it back, would you?”

James lobs a pillow at Dundy. “Put in your earplugs. Or go for a walk.”

Dundy realizes he’ll have no luck with James. He sighs, and leaves the room, ignoring Francis’s bellow to “shut the door, you twat!”

He opts for James’s advice. Donning a sweater and pulling a pair of jeans over his boxers, he goes out of the flat without bothering to lock up behind him. If someone tries to get in and kill James, so be it.

He has a pie plate to return to Esther, the leftover of a delicious quiche she made for “my two favourite boys, who I still think would be a very nice couple.”

Esther has, after all, caught on that James and Dundy aren’t an item. She was a little disappointed when she found out, and immediately and quite reasonably blamed her husband.

It is Thomas Blanky, Esther’s less-than-better half, who opens the door to Dundy when he knocks, pie plate in hand. Thomas Blanky, who is in many ways responsible for Dundy’s sleepless nights. He is, after all, Francis’s best friend and the one who first introduced James and Francis.

“Hullo, old cock,” he says, ushering him into the flat. He takes the plate from Dundy and goes to put it away in the kitchen. He calls across to Dundy: “Lads at it again, are they?”

“Tom! Don’t be crass!” This from Esther, who has risen from the armchair by the window and come over to kiss Dundy hello.

“If it doesn’t bother the lady” – here Esther rolls her eyes, and crosses her arms over her dressing gown – “then I’ll admit yes, they’re…in an amorous mood.”

“Fucking, you mean.”

“Thomas!”

“What? On a clear night we can hear ‘em from here. Can’t imagine how loud they are in your flat, if we can hear just what Frank is doing to your Jamie.”

Dundy doesn’t know whether to laugh or be horrified. But when Thomas begins to cackle, and Esther gives a disapproving smile, he settles on a laugh of his own.

“I’d take it you’d like to stay until they quiet down, hm?” says Esther. She’s already guiding Dundy into a chair across from her own.

“Might be a while,” observes Thomas. “Best get comfortable, mate. Think we could use a spot of tea, eh, love?”

Esther nods, and accepts a kiss from Thomas before he goes to put the kettle on.

*******

James and Francis are finally quiet, having reached a crescendo that knocked two pictures off the bedroom wall, sent Fagin – who had entered the room after Dundy’s interruption – away, hissing in rage, and will soon have Francis complaining of sciatica.

There has been a great deal of quiet murmuring of sweet nothings from James, met with rather dour grunts from Francis. These turn into mumbled bits of affection when James goes from whispering in Francis’s ear to nibbling and kissing at the bits of skin he can reach.

“Relax, will you?” says Francis, the bravado of poor temper in his voice failing to mask the genuine delight. He grabs James up in his arms to stop his wriggling, and James very happily surrenders to the grip.

“Poor old Dundy. Do you really think we were being that loud?”

“Yes,” deadpans Francis. “I’m surprised the neighbours haven’t complained about you earlier, to be honest. For that and the rest of the irritating behaviour you call a personality.”

The insult rolls right off James. “I’m a bit surprised he didn’t offer to join.”

Francis snorts, very unattractively. James goes on looking at him as if he’s edible. “I do not want to have a threesome with Henry Le Vesconte, thank you very much, and I think he probably feels the same way.”

“Are you sure? Dundy’s got talents I think you’d appreciate. He does this thing with his tongue where he-”

“I’d rather not hear about your sexual history with him, either.”

“Why not? I enjoyed hearing about all those delicious things that secretary of yours used to do to you, in your office. What was his name again?”

“PA. And his name was Thomas, and you make it sound so-”

“Ooh, you’re blushing. I love it when you blush. You get so pink.

“James.” Francis’s tone is exasperated.

“Francis,” retorts James, mocking his tone and lolling his head against Francis’s chest. “Are you jealous?”

“Yes,” says Francis, flatly.

James’s eyebrows rise. Suddenly serious, his tone is even a little nervous. ”You needn’t be. I’m not – there’s no one else but you.”

Francis shrugs. “Doesn’t matter. I am. I’m jealous of anyone who so much as looks at you, let alone the others who’ve – who’ve-”

“Fucked me?”

Francis sends James a withering look. The other man, whose high spirits have been revived, begins to kiss a path down Francis’s chest, starting at his collarbone. “Why? It’s not that it’s not charming, but why are you so stupidly jealous?”

“It’s because,” says Francis, tracing his hand up James’s back, “I’m in love with you, you idiot.”

James’s head shoots up. His eyes are wide as a doe’s. “What?”

“This surprises you? Did you think the only reason I put up with you was because of that lovely prick of yours? Of course I’m in love with you, you daft, mincing – mmph.”

Francis has to break off because James dives headlong into him to kiss him.