Arthur wakes as usual at 7am and reaches across the bed for Ben. He’s not there. Arthur sighs to himself, wishing he could break the habit but eve after a year he expects Ben to be there. They were together 15 years, he expected him to always be there.
But Ben has never been in this bed, never been in this apartment but the urge to reach out is always there. As usual Arthur replays the events in his head.
He met Ben and Patrick at an evening class when they were all 23. It was a programming course, Arthur and Pat were trying to get ahead at work, keep their skills sharp and Ben was looking for a new career. Ben was always looking for a new career Arthur smiles to himself.
Arthur tried to help Ben with homework from class but it was hopeless. Eventually Ben admitted he’d given up on the idea of a career in programming but he wanted to keep seeing Arthur. They dated for a year and then they got a place together. Well Arthur bought it and Ben moved in.
Over that year Arthur and Pat had worked hard together on a business venture and a few months later quit their day jobs and never looked back. Pat and Arthur were best friends and worked well together. Pat met Gavin and the foursome hung out all the time.
Ten years down the line Pat and Gavin were looking to adopt and so Pat pulled back from the business, went part time, that was okay, and Arthur and the team could manage. They had fought off buyers over the years but the time felt right and they began to look in earnest so Pat could be a full time dad when the time came and Arthur was ready for a new challenge.
The strain of getting their hopes up for a child to have them dashed over and over took its toll on Pat and Gavin and they split.
You know what happened, of course you do. Ben comforted Pat and he and Pat began an affair. Arthur found out by chance. Pat mentioned something Arthur had told Ben and it niggled, Ben confessed and 6 months later married Pat.
Fifteen years and he marries Pat after 6 months. Arthur had lost his boyfriend and best friend in one swoop, his job too as the business sold. All their mutual friends continued to socialize with Ben, while Arthur was mourning the loss of his relationship Ben and Pat were the life of the party.
It’s the sex he misses most. All his friends who have gone through major break-ups mention missing the intimacy and the companionship but Arthur misses the sex.
He shakes his head annoyed that Ben still takes up so much space. He walks through his spacious new flat, a total indulgence, he spent way, way too much on it because he loves the terraces and view of the river. He’s insanely rich now but still spent twice his budget on this place. Then again he made a packet on his south London house too. Ben had never paid towards the mortgage or bills other than occasionally buying groceries.
“Stop it, stop it.” Arthur says to himself. His first Christmas alone is hitting him hard. He opens the fridge and the kitchen cupboards, zip.
“Fuck.” Arthur shouts, it’s Christmas eve and he does not fancy facing the supermarket.
He dives in the shower jerks off and heads to his local coffee place. Maybe he can buy up all their sandwiches to get him through the next few days.
Ben wakes and reaches out for Pat. His hand’s wonder down his husband’s body and he start’s kissing Pat’s neck.
“Fuck off I’m hungover.” Pat says pushing Ben away.
Ben rolls back and sighs knowing there is no point pleading his case. He loves Pat a lot, a whole lot but fuck he misses the sex with Arthur. After 6 months of marriage, almost a year together he’s lucky to get any twice a week. With Arthur even after 15 years they were doing it 2 or 3 times a day.
Didn’t matter how early one of them was getting up they would have sleepy morning sex. And however late wither of them worked, if Arthur was in the office til midnight Ben would be ready to go the second Arthur got home. If Ben was bartending until 2 he could wake Patrick and be pounded into oblivion even if he had to be up at 6 for work. If they could fit something in at lunch they did and an evening in meant BJs on the couch, Ben sighs, he really, really misses the sex.
Ben doesn’t think of Arthur that much. Something about their first Christmas apart, his first Christmas married to Pat makes him think how different things are. He wishes he and Arthur could be friends the way Pat and Gavin are.
Gavin has married and has 3 kids now. He’s super happy and he and Pat are the best of friends, Pat and Ben often babysit and they have dinner together regularly when Gavin’s mum has the kids, she’s every inch the doting grandmother.
Ben sticks the suction cup of his dildo to the shower wall, fingers himself under the spray and then pushes back onto his toy. Fuck that is what he needs. Ben’s imagination heads off, he imagines hands gripping his hips and Pat’s cock slamming in to him. He groans loudly as he cums and instantly feels shit at the reality of being alone in the shower hits.
Arthur grins at Callum the barista, the coffee shop is pretty quiet.
“Go sit I’ll bring it over.” Callum says.
“Can I have some ginger cake too?” Arthur asks.
“Sure, 2 minutes.” Callum says with a smile.
Arthur sits down, grabbing a paper and starts to read a little.
“What are your Christmas plans?” Callum asks.
“I was hoping to buy some sarnies from you, stock up at the offie and drink my way through it.” Arthur says with a smile.
“Seriously? That sounds pitiful.” Callum says.
“Well I don’t exactly have options. I tried to volunteer but didn’t have the relevant references. I’ve not had any contact with my family since I was 19 and my friends evaporated when my relationship died. So thanks for confirming my loser status.” Arthur says only half joking.
“Sorry, I can be an insensitive cunt at times. I’d invite you to join me and Mel but we’re off to her folks as soon as I close up. I’ll be closed until New Year so you best buy a bag of coffee with the sarnies. Although I suggest over ordering from an indian tonight and reheating it tomorrow.” Callum says.
“Yeah, christmas day on the khazi just what I need.” Arthur grins.
“Actually I have been meaning to introduce you to Joe. Give me ten minutes.” Callum says and gets up to make a call.
Arthur smiles and goes back to the paper. He doesn’t need help in finding dates but there’s no harm in a little pre-christmas fun.
“Hi I’m Joe.” A tall Australian introduces himself to Arthur.
“Arthur. Can I get you a coffee?” Arthur asks.
“Sure, flat white please Callum.” Joe bellows across the room.
“So you’re another regular here?” Arthur asks.
“Yeah, Callum makes the best coffee in town. I smelt him out. Look Callum says you have a great place. I need somewhere to retreat to for a few days, my flatmate’s boyfriend showed up from home to surprise her for Christmas and the sex noises are doing my head in. I have a tone of food, I just need somewhere to cook it.” Joe says.
“You didn’t have plans with friends?” Arthur asks.
“No, we just planned to be the two of us. Most of our friends have fucked off skiing, not my thing.” Joe says.
“Well I have an empty flat, empty fridge and a spare bed. You’re welcome to use all of it. Lets go get my car, we can get your stuff then do a beer run.” Arthur says.
“Perfect mate. Coffee to go Callum mate.” Joe says with a grin and takes the offered cup.
Ben and Pat are struggling through the supermarket to get the food for their Christmas eve party, they pre ordered it all but Pat is insisting they need more. Ben loves how generous he is and how outgoing. Arthur suffered dinners and parties rather than enjoying them.
Ben smiles to himself as Pat battles determined onwards through the crowds. He looks so sexy and cute Ben thinks.
“We have enough for tonight tomorrow, New Year and Easter babe. We never need to shop again.” Ben says.
“I just need to be sure we have everything covered. We once had 2 vegans turn up who thought I knew.” Pat says.
“We have nuts and fruit and they can fucking bring their own food if they’re that awkward.” Ben says with a grin.
“I just need to be fully prepared then I can relax.” Pat says.
“Then lets pay and get home and start drinking.” Ben grins.
“Okay. Sorry. I love Christmas eve and want everyone to have fun.” Pat says.
“Me too babe, me too. Our first married Christmas.” Ben grins and kisses Pat’s nose.
“OMG I forgot the baileys.” Pat says half way home.
“There is a wine shop up on the right, pull over I’ll run in.” Ben says and Pat visibly calms. Ben loves that he can be the useful one. Despite not enjoying big parties Arthur was unflappable and competent at everything. Other than a few meals Ben never felt like he was able to contribute much to the relationship. Arthur was endlessly supportive and encouraging about his career attempts and never, ever suggested he wasn’t pulling his weight but Ben knew he didn’t quite measure up.
Ben stops in shock in the doorway. Arthur is laughing with a giant Australian. His heart skips for a second.
“Happy Christmas Arthur.” Ben says approaching him.
“Oh um thanks.” The unflappable Arthur is suddenly incredibly flustered.
“And who is this?” Ben asks.
“I’m Joe and we have to get going, this beer won’t drink itself.” Joe says sensing Arthur’s discomfort.
“Merry Christmas Ben.” Arthur blurts out and follows Joe as quickly as he can loaded up with cans.
“Who was that?” Joe asks in the car.
“Ben, my ex, we split almost a year ago.” Arthur says.
“He had a wedding ring on, were you on the side?” Joe asks.
“No we were together 15 years, then he married my business partner, my best friend.” Arthur says.
“What a prick.” Joe says.
“Sorry. Fuck I really need a drink now.” Arthur says.
“You can do so much better.” Joe says.
“I don’t want to. We had a wonderful relationship. I adored him to the end and I don’t see me ever living with someone again.” Arthur admits.
“I want to experience it just once. I don’t think I’ve lasted 15 weeks though yet.” Joe says.
“Your choice or theirs?” Arthur asks happy to shift focus away from himself.
“A mix. It’s never been a big heart break, I’ve not found someone I’d want to be with in a nursing home. Did you have that with Ben?” Joe asks.
“I did. I don’t know. I guess I was complacent and didn’t see that he didn’t feel that way anymore. I worked too much and couldn’t give him the attention he needed. We talked and had sex but I wasn’t there for the dinners with friends, the cinema or shows he wanted to go to mid-week. I guess I left him alone too much. If he had told me that he was thinking of leaving over it I would have changed. Hell he only had to hang on a few months for me to retire.” Arthur says.
“How did your business partner have time for him?” Joe asks curious.
“He and his previous partner were trying to adopt so he dropped his hours.” Arthur says.
“What a cunt, swoops in and steals your man, who you are neglecting because he’s gone part time. What a shit.” Joe says.
It took a few months of marriage for Ben to realise that had been the case. They were having a picnic with Gavin and the kids and Gavin had mentioned how grateful he had been at the time when Arthur picked up the slack so they could be available for all the social services visits.
Thing was Ben hadn’t felt that neglected. It was an easy excuse at the end, a way to make Arthur share more of the blame and clear his own guilt. His guilt multiplied with the comments from Gavin. Knowing Arthur had been killing himself working to enable Pat to have the time to be with him was an epic guilt bomb.
Ben puts another tray of food in the oven and checks everything is in place. He loves this house, they or rather Pat bought it a month before the wedding, it isn’t far from Arthur’s old house, just much bigger with a lovely garden.
“You feeling calmer?” Ben asks Pat.
“Not yet. Sorry to be so tense. I know we’ve hosted before but not our families since the wedding and I’m just stressing.” Pat says.
“Our families love us. My sister will be here in two minutes to help, not that we need it everything is under control. Go and get changed.” Ben says.
“Hello dear brother. What’s up?” Caroline asks as she hugs Ben hello.
“Pat is wound like a spring and I saw Arthur earlier with a huge Australian hunk.” Ben says.
“How did that go?” Caroline asks.
“Awkwardly.” Ben says.
“He sent me a lovely Christmas card, just from him so I don’t think the Australian is a fixture.” Caroline says.
“What did he say?” Ben asks realising that Arthur has no family now.
“He sent some vouchers for the kids and asked if we could maybe meet up in the new year as he missed us all. The kids miss him and would like to if that’s okay with you.” Caroline says.
“Of course. I guess I never thought he was family to you and the break up affected you too.” Ben says.
“So why are you not with family?” Joe asks as they sit down after putting the food and drink away.
“They didn’t take well to me coming out. My sister is much other than me and was or maybe is I don’t know, married to a charismatic Christian preacher. My parents took her side.” Arthur says.
“Like full on arm waver? Didn’t know they had them here. Thought you were all pretty private on the god front. Other than the salvos playing in town over Christmas.” Joe says.
“Yeah there are a few here. I’ve not spoken to any of my family since I was 19. I considered Ben’s family my family and well I’ve reached out to them, I miss the kids, I’ve been there for kids for their whole lives and then pouf, gone. I still send birthday money, and a bit at Christmas too. I hadn’t realized how much I was missing having any family at all until this week.” Arthur says.
“You’re their uncle Arthur and I bet they are missing you too. My sister has a couple of nippers and I miss them like crazy, only down side to living over here.” Joe says.
“Let me show you round and get you the wifi code so you can facetime them.” Arthur says.
“Wow this place is amazing, I love how you have a private sitting room the other side of your bedroom. You know my contract ends the end of January and I would love to live here. I know that is being forward but looks to me like you have 3 spare bedrooms. I’d be a good lodger, the fridge would never be empty and I pick up after myself.” Joe says.
“Couple of issues. One I do walk round nude in the morning and I’m not going to change that. Two if you move in that means we can’t spend the next couple of days fucking and I was kind of looking forward to a real flip fest with you. Three I guess I don’t have a three.” Arthur says.
“Yeah I was hoping for a few days fucking and eating. You’re in shape and look like you could handle me. I get you don’t want to shit where you eat or have me move in as a boyfriend by stealth. I’m sure we could come up with some fuckbuddy rules.” Joe says.
“How old are you?” Arthur asks suddenly feeling old.
“28. You?” Joe asks.
“39.” Arthur says.
“Really, I thought closer to 30.” Joe says genuinely surprised.
“I’m okay with my age. I feel good, not working for the last few months and working out more has me feeling more relaxed.” Arthur says.
“You’re hot 22 or 52.” Joe says and takes a step forward.
Arthur takes a step too and they go in for the kiss.