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“What other gay haunts in town have you been to?” Theo asked as they waited for their food.
“None, when we moved here we were too busy with work to go out clubbing and by the time we’d got ourselves established we didn’t have the inclination.”
Their food arrived as he finished speaking, he’d played it safe with a veggie moussaka and green salad — he hadn’t been eating regularly or well since the split with Claudia — while Theo had opted for a lamb tagine with saffron rice, it all smelled delicious.
As he took his first forkful Adrien noted that he’d avoided any mention of his ex being female. Should he confess? What was the etiquette around such things? He chose to say nothing for now, if the subject came up he’d be honest — he hoped.
Theo was proving to be good company as they talked over their food, there was nothing overtly ‘gay’ about him, he was dressed pretty much as Adrien himself would normally be when enjoying some down time – smart casuals, which Adrien had to admit seemed to be covering a pretty hot bod. He stood two or three inches taller than Adrien’s own six feet with a fairly athletic build, short brown hair and hazel eyes that crinkled at the corners when he smiled, which, unlike Adrien of late, he did a lot. Adrien surmised he was probably fortyish so around five years older than himself.
“Do you visit any other gay bars?”
“Occasionally, but this is the best in town to my mind, I don’t do seedy and most of the others are to some degree.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought when I checked their websites, this looked like the best place for my one-drink sorrow-drowning. Actually that’s not right exactly I’m not particularly upset about the recent break-up I think I’m more perturbed by the realisation that maybe I’m no good at choosing a partner.”
“Then don’t, well not for a while, have yourself some no-strings fun.”
“That’s never been me either, I think I’m what’s termed a serial monogamist, sleeping around’s not my style, never has been.”
“Then you’ve just disappointed about half the guys here,” Theo chortled, “trust me when I tell you that they’ve been checking you out since before we moved to the pool table.
“Oh,” Adrien took a gulp of his drink in the absence of anything to say.
What he couldn’t see was the look on his own face, it was the wide-eyed look of an animal that had just become prey. Theo took a long hard look at Adrien and realised something was ‘off’ in his demeanour, he desperately wanted to fit in but didn’t know how.
“Ade is this your first time in a gay bar?”
He was about to reply with the lie he’d practised about having been to bars in other places then suddenly decided he’d been lying to himself long enough he wasn’t going to do it anymore. He took in a deep breath letting it out in a rush as he nodded his head.
“I would’ve asked if you’re out but as you’ve been in relationships it’s a moot point.”
“I’m not,” Adrien muttered looking down at his plate.
Theo, who’d been lounging back in his chair sat bolt upright not daring to believe what he’d heard, or at least the implication of it.
“That must’ve been tough, having a partner and having to hide it,” he’d taken the obvious gay option but was far from certain it was the right one.
“I didn’t have to hide it,” Adrien continued to address the table.
Theo considered what Adrien was trying to say,
“Your partners they were women, yes?”
“Yeah,” Adrien sighed.
“Hey, you’re not the first, won’t be the last, to go down that road. Family, career, society, all of them can make us hide who we are.”
“All of the above.”
“Does your ex know, is that what caused the split?”
“No to both.”
“But now you’re ready to come out?”
“Baby steps,” Adrien huffed, “I’m not that brave.”
“Rules and boundaries, if I ask something you’re not ready to answer it’s a pass, if I stray into unwelcome territory the safe-word’s red. Ok?”
“I hadn’t expected to be doing this, in fact I was about to leave when you spoke to me, that’s one hell of a pick-up line you’ve got by the way.”
“Got you talking though,” Theo chortled, “by the way I still don’t have your answer.”
“That would be because I don’t have one.”
“Well as your retort pointed out it doesn’t have to be an either or.”
“Having tried none of it I wouldn’t know.”
Theo was glad he hadn’t been about to swallow either food or drink, as it was he’d had to supress a startled exclamation with a cough. Even straight guys, a fair number from what Theo had learned, had indulged in, often drunken, fumblings with other men but Ade had inferred he hadn’t even done that; his mouth watered at the thought.
“I think I’m about to ask a red-light question due to straying into unwelcome territory,” Theo began.
“Don’t bother, we both know what it is and someone was going to twig or ask eventually may as well get it over with. The answer’s no, I’ve never dared act on my inclinations, no porn, no chat rooms, absolutely nothing.”
Adrien casino siteleri tipped back his head staring at the rococo style ceiling, blinking furiously, Theo noticed that his companion’s hands had become fists around his cutlery the knuckles white with tension; he wanted to do something or say something to help the younger man.
“Ade we’ve all been where you are and it feels fucking awful. For me it felt like betrayal, like I’d been betraying myself for years, I’d betrayed all those who thought they knew me; I almost drove myself insane in the run-up to telling my wife. God but I loved that woman, still do. I was terrified of seeing the look of hurt and betrayal in her eyes knowing I was the cause of her pain. But if I’d said nothing she’d still have known something was wrong, I’d started taking anti-depressants, didn’t even have the guts to tell her about that for months. I used the stress at work excuse she simply accepted that my libido, or lack thereof, was a consequence of that. I’d have been an utter bastard to have made her live a lie she didn’t even know about any longer. The one consolation I have is that being with me didn’t stop her having a family it turned out neither of us could.”
“Bloody hell,” Theo thought silently, “where had that come from?”
Only his two siblings and their parents knew that much about the ending of his marriage; at the time he’d made it plain to all and sundry that he wouldn’t blame anyone for setting their sympathies with his wife and he’d meant every word. It had taken a year but eventually his ex-wife had written to him telling him that she’d come to have a better idea of the turmoil he’d been living with and finally that she bore him no grudge. She’d signed it with best wishes, it was one of his most treasured possessions. He waited, hoping his words would bring some comfort to his companion; when Adrien finally lowered his gaze Theo saw that his cheeks were surprisingly dry but there were definitely tears in his eyes.
“At least I didn’t have to go through that it must have been awful. I saw my ex with another man I told her I had a couple of days later. She said the fact that I couldn’t even be bothered to get angry about it hurt her.”
“I know it doesn’t seem like it now but the worst truly is over. You’ve faced your fear. Doesn’t matter what happens next at least you’ve let yourself know the truth.”
Theo looked at their half-eaten food,
“Tuck in before it goes cold. If he’s in a good mood the owner can sometimes be persuaded to part with some of his own blend coffee. I’m not much of a desert fan but I do appreciate a cracking cup of coffee after a decent meal, especially one taken with good company.”
“Or to make up for the lack of it,” Adrien retorted, stabbing at a perfectly innocent salad leaf.
“Ade I will always be your first,” Theo smiled as Adrien’s eyes widened and his face flushed at what he thought Theo was implying, the older man held up a hand to stop him speaking,
“The first person you told I mean and that was never going to be an easy conversation to have.”
Adrien’s mouth formed a perfect ‘O’ before he too smiled,
“Right,” his head dropped forward as he huffed a laugh.
“Unless of-course,” Theo said reaching across the table to brush the backs of his right fingers over the knuckles of Adrien’s left hand, “there’s any other first you’d let me help you with.”
Theo saw the hairs rise on Adrien’s forearm his face flush again and heard the almost imperceptible moan in response to the touch, the sob however took him completely by surprise. This time when Adrien looked at him the tears had fallen.
“Oh god, that feels so good,” he whispered, his eyes glued to where their hands touched.
Biblically speaking Theo had known a lot of men, hell he’d known a fair few women before he’d got married, and for many of those men who’d tried playing the ‘I’m straight’ card and recently admitted they were gay he’d found it was the gentler more emotional touch of a woman they missed from their straight lives.
“Just try to enjoy it, it goes no further unless you say so,” Theo spoke slowly, quietly, not wanting to break the spell although he did extend his thumb to stroke it over the skin of Adrien’s hand.
“I don’t know how to do this,” Adrien admitted.
“Then allow me to show you how, we’ll go slow. Starting with coffee.”
He waved over the waiter,
“Two of the special coffees please.”
“You’re in luck, the boss dropped off a pack of it before we opened,” he informed them as he collected their tableware.
“What’s so special about this coffee?”
“Wait until you taste it and you tell me.”
The waiter returned with a tray which he slid onto the table on it was a coffee pot, a jug of hot milk, sugar and two large cups on saucers.
“The service here’s as good as most of the restaurants I go to,” Adrien commented to the waiter.
“The owner’s a bit of a stickler for things being done right sir.”
Adrien didn’t notice the wink the waiter canlı casino gave Theo.
“Jeepers, this is as good as you made out,” he said after his second sip of the coffee.
For a few minutes they enjoyed their drinks in silence, Adrien wondering if the end of their coffee would signal the end of their encounter which he absolutely did not want, while Theo was trying to find the best way to proceed, above all things he did not want to lose this moment with Adrien, if all Adrien wanted to do was talk Theo would be happy with that. It occurred to him that maybe that could be his way to extend their time together.
“I have,” Theo paused, “well I’ve had an idea. My company has an apartment about a five minute walk away, if you want somewhere less public to talk, or decompress we can go there; before you decide let me say this, if you agree I insist you to tell someone where you’re going. I’ve just seen someone I need to speak to I’ll be a few minutes at most. Should you not want to go and don’t want to say so simply leave the table, I’ve got the bill covered, if that’s not your way tell me when I get back.”
Theo downed the last of his coffee and left the table apparently heading back to the bar area; what he was actually doing was pacing the corridor leading to the gent’s as he made a call.
“Connaught Hotel and Apartments, how can I help?” a familiar voice answered.
“Oh thank heaven it’s you, Theo Jepson here, I may be heading your way shortly but I don’t want my companion to know who I am just yet. I’m sure you know why, I don’t want a repeat of the gold-digger incident so I’m playing things close to my chest.”
Merrill had once been a part of Theo’s own close security team but an injury had put a stop to that, since then he’d headed the security team at the Connaught, he’d been part of Theo’s life for thirty years and knew his history well.
“I don’t blame you Mr. Jepson and I understand, I’ll make sure everything’s ready. I take it you’ll be using the company apartment.”
“You take it correctly. We could be there in as little as ten minutes or we may not arrive at all.”
“I understand sir, we’ll expect you if we see you.”
“Hugh,” Theo called to the bartender, “I may be leaving, tell Gareth when he gets in.”
“Will do boss.”
“Shut the fuck up Hugh, he doesn’t know!” Theo hissed.
“Sorry, forgot, hope it goes well.”
“You and me both,” Theo replied as he strode back to the restaurant.
He released the breath he hadn’t realised he was holding when he saw Adrien still at the table then had second thoughts — Adrien could still say no.
“Sorry about that,” he breezed as he re-took his seat.
“Not a problem, you were right I needed time to think.”
Theo said nothing, he’d sat sideways on the chair, his right elbow on the edge of the table the left on the back of the chair his fingers linked in front of his chest, he looked at Adrien and saw his inner struggle.
“I think I need to talk, I know I can’t carry on feeling like this, I can’t afford for it to affect my work which it eventually will I’m sure,” Adrien looked up from his coffee cup, “is the offer still there?”
“Yes and I’ll go one better if you get there and the words won’t come you can still stay as long as you want, listen to music, drink coffee, there’s more than one bedroom so if you want a quiet place to think you’ve got that too.”
“Thanks it’s hard to do at home, memories are too fresh, I’ve heard re-decorating helps but my brain doesn’t think that way.”
“What sort of place do you have?”
“It’s the old family home, I bought enough of it from my parents for them to buy a smaller place in Polperro, it’s an old parsonage.”
“Georgian or Victorian?”
“Late Georgian, the room sizes and proportions are fabulous.”
“If that’s your taste the apartment won’t impress you, it’s all glass and shiny surfaces, except for the sofas obviously, let me show you.”
Theo stood looking at Adrien expectantly.
“You’re right I’m not a fan of modern architecture or modern interior re-vamping of older buildings but I suppose it’s all about where a new build is and whether a refurb suits the property.”
Almost without thinking Adrien stood up and fell into step with Theo as they headed to the restaurant door. They didn’t return to the bar, instead Theo led him to a side door which came out onto the road that gave access to the venue’s carpark. They turned right and walked towards where Adrien could see a couple of bars and a restaurant ahead; before they got that far Theo guided him across the road and pointed towards what was clearly a brand new building about a hundred yards ahead.
“I did warn you,” he chuckled.
“I’ll keep my eye averted and go to my happy place until we’re inside,” Adrien smiled in reply.
“See life’s not all doom and gloom you’ve got a happy place.”
“Yeah it happened about fifteen minutes ago.”
Theo stopped dead in his tracks, Adrien was holding kaçak casino up his left hand looking at where Theo had stoked his knuckles.
“Ade that’s, it’s an astonishing thing to say, I’m so glad I came to talk to you.”
“Not as much as I am. Thank-you, if you hadn’t I’d have left and never gone back, there or any other gay bar.”
The two men carried on walking and a few minutes later they were exiting the lift at the top floor of the building and into the corridor leading to the apartment. Adrien took in the subtle colours on the wall to his left, the other was all glass, and felt the thick carpet beneath his feet as they walked towards the single door.
“Here we are,” Theo opened the door and stepped inside to hold it open for Adrien, “welcome, come in and get comfortable. Drink?”
“Another of those tonic with lime would be good if you have it.”
“A couple of pieces please.”
Adrien half followed Theo to the kitchen area and stood as if in limbo, not sure what to do. He looked around the large open plan space. It had a corner aspect and two walls had floor to ceiling glass; the building was so high a person could stand at the windows naked without the worry of being seen.
“Pick a seat,” Theo’s words pulled Adrien from his reverie.
Adrien sat at one end of a large sofa, its covering a deep claret soft corduroy, in style it mimicked a Chesterfield although there were none of the deep-button details; Theo placed a glass on the end table beside him before sitting at the other end of the same couch to Adrien’s left, his own drink on a matching side table.
“Did you let someone know where you were heading?”
“Yeah, I sent a couple of emails while you were talking to the doorman,” in fact he’d sent an email to both his personal and professional accounts as soon as he knew the address was real; it was having the security of this simple safety net which had persuaded him to accept Theo’s offer.
“So this company you work for must be a big player to have something like this on stand-by, what does it do?”
“We,” Theo paused, “provide things.”
“That’s an odd description. What sort of things?”
“As an example we began by sourcing things for film and theatre productions, period stuff, furniture, cars, set-dressing or now we can provide logistic support for special projects, background security-checks on job applicants for companies, we provide solutions.”
“That’s a pretty big purview.”
“Yeah, it just grew as we gained a reputation in one area we’d be approached to help in another. What’s your bread and butter?”
“The same, different specialism.”
“You’re a specialist, that takes some graft.”
“I am genuinely impressed, now I understand what you meant about not wanting your problems to drift into your working life.”
“Until the split with Claudia I didn’t want my problems drifting into my life full stop.”
“Why did you put so much pressure on yourself?”
“Cowardice. I couldn’t face what I am what it meant, the whole shebang.”
Theo picked up a small remote from the side table and quiet music washed over them.
“Barber’s ‘Adagio for strings’, glorious piece,” Adrien mused as he allowed his head to fall to the sofa back, his eyes closed.
Theo slowly turned towards Adrien bringing his right leg up to rest his knee on the cushion and his ankle on his left knee, he lay his right arm along the back of the couch Adrien’s shoulder lay just within his reach although he resisted the temptation to touch him.
“Why me?” Adrien murmured, without moving.
“Because you looked like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders.”
“That obvious huh?”
“Only to someone who cared to look.”
“Sorry, I need the bathroom.”
“Door to the right top of the stairs.”
Theo waited until he heard the door close above him then dashed to his bedroom and grabbed three things, two of which were a handful of condoms and lube in a tube with a flip-top, he returned to the sofa having stashed his haul under it and had seemingly not moved from his spot when Adrien returned. He waited patiently for Adrien to get comfortable again before he spoke,
“Did you always want to be a surgeon?”
“Pretty much, racing car driver or explorer when I was at primary school then I watched a tv series about surgeons that featured neuro, cardiac and orthopaedic guys I was hooked from then on.”
“How old were you?”
“Twelve, thirteen maybe.”
“Sounds more like a vocation than an occupation.”
“Maybe it is, psycho-analysis never interested me so who can say?”
“What’s it like having someone’s life in your hands, quite literally?”
“Absolutely fucking terrifying. Before I get to theatre I’ll be shaking, every single time even now. Then the focus and rituals kick in, little things first like always scrubbing in a certain order, then the gown gloves and mask but as that’s going on another part of my brain’s going through the procedure so by the time I get to the table I’m in control of the adrenaline rush. Post surgery, especially the complex ones I’m shattered.”
“What’s the longest you’ve been in theatre?”
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