“I brought you out here for a reason,” Max broke the awkward silence to say, not looking at Paul. “I told you it was to say good-bye. A real good-bye. And that’s partly it. But it’s partly not. I couldn’t leave before you knew how sorry I am to do this.”
Paul’s heart sank. “Ah, God, Max, no. You’ll put your foot in it. Words will get in the way. Better to act.”
“That’s your thing. Words are mine.” Max grinned. “Sorry. Gotta.”
“That’s the Paul I adore.” Max kissed his cheek, darting in quick under Paul’s guards. The touch of his lips burned. “You know you were the first man I ever loved. How long has it been, now? Seven years? God, I still remember how hard and fast I fell when I saw you eyeing me across the footie field. You were on the opposing team, remember? You loved sports and I hated them. I wanted to learn modern dance instead of Aussie Rules. You didn’t want to be paired up with the flashy kid fresh from Whitechapel, still smelling like spray paint and chippies, but Coach wouldn’t let you say no. You thought you were going to loathe me, and you tried, but I knew better right from the start. Something in your eyes. Something guarded and hidden from the rest of the world. You couldn’t hide it from me. I think that scared me more than it did you.”
Paul massaged his forehead. “Max, please. What are you hoping to accomplish here?”
“You have to understand.”
“You think I don’t?” Paul fought to remain calm, though he knew he wasn’t having spectacular success. Max could read him easily as a book. Or a playbook, given Max’s tastes. “I was there, you know. I can see everything you’re talking about as if it happened only yesterday.”
“Yeah.” Max sighed -- not a sound of sorrow, exactly -- more like wistfulness. He flexed his fingers around Paul’s. “I know I hurt you by letting you go. Saying good-bye to you just feels wrong. Doesn’t it?”
Paul bit back the words that wanted to come: Bastard. You haven’t got the right to pull this kind of shit. You don’t want to leave me here? Then don’t go. Stay in St. Augustine with me. We'll
deal with the gossip-hounds. Move back in. I’ll have you again
That’d be wishing for the moon upon a star, wouldn’t it? Clapped-out pipe dreams.
Beside him, Max took a deep, abrupt breath. “So I thought maybe once I’d found a flat in London, some place to stay, you’d come and move in with me. Or spend the weekends. The summers. Holidays. Whatever. As long as I had you there at least some of the time.” Paul heard the desperate hope and had to bite the inside of his cheek to choke down a reply he’d later regret.
“Paul?” Max prompted, the weight of his sparkling eyes scorching Paul’s cheek. “Come on. Say something.”
Instead of speaking, Paul pressed Max’s hand in a quick, rough squeeze and glanced at him briefly.
“Uh-uh. Talk to me, Paul.”
We always play by your rules
. Paul refused to look at Max. “Country mouse,” he said at last. “City mouse. The worlds don’t meet, love.”
“You still call me ‘love.’”
“Yeah, well. What you’re asking, I’ll think about it, but…” Paul shrugged. “St. Augustine is my home. I’ve seen part of the wide world, and I like this hamlet better.”
“I don’t like this. I don’t want to lose you.”
“Then don’t,” Paul suggested. “Stay.”
“I thought as much.” Paul found himself laughing under his breath. “Look, you, let’s enjoy this sunset, if it ever decides to make an appearance, and part ways without a lot of fanfare.”
Max snorted. Paul took another quick look at Max to see that he’d quirked one eyebrow into a scornful arch. He’d always had a knack for such things with his mobile face. Paul faced the probable location of the setting sun before Max spoke. “Since when have you ever
known me to do anything subtle?”
Paul snickered. “Since never, I think.”
“There you go.” Max exhaled, still thoughtful. Nearly introspective. Not a natural state for him. “I want to kiss you,” he said then, surprising Paul so badly that any rejoinders escaped him. “I really, really do. I want to remember what you taste like when you’re miles away and maybe even years ago. Can I?”
Paul tried to evade. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Leave the past in the past.”
“That’s the thing. It’s never going to be completely history, what we had between us. You know that as well as I do.” Paul could feel
it when Max turned to gaze at him, feel the heat and weight of that thoughtful stare tracing him from forehead to chin. “So let me kiss you.”
Paul squirmed. “No. Don’t make this --” He stopped himself. “That’s not who we are anymore.”
“I know, but it’s what we were.”
“What game are you playing at?” Paul finally demanded, frustrated. “Trying your hand at the role of cocktease, are you? It doesn’t suit you. Now leave it.”
“Can’t.” Max released Paul’s hand and trailed his fingers up Paul’s forearm. Paul closed his eyes and shuddered. The bridge was hard and cold as ever, but he thought his body was all too warm. His heartbeat picked up speed, thudding in his ears. It wasn’t right that a man should be able to turn him on so quickly and with nothing more than a chaste touch.
“You shouldn’t,” Paul managed to say.
Max blew air out through his nose. He sat still for a moment. “Okay. I get where you’re coming from. I’m being cruel.”
“Damn right you are.”
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Yeah, well.” Paul couldn’t stop himself from slowly lifting his eyes to meet Max’s. “What’s done is done.”
“I know. So this is probably hurting more than it helps. All the same, I want to make one last memory.” Max moved to rest his head against Paul’s, their noses touching and his lips a scant few millimeters or so away from Paul’s mouth. His breath smelled minty. Paul wondered what he himself smelled like. Flour and tea, more than likely.
“One last memory,” Max whispered, scooting his body closer. “Something to keep us warm at night.”
The spirit was willing, and the flesh, as ever, was so damnably weak. Paul closed his eyes with a soft moan as Max pressed their lips together, swallowing both breath and sound.
“Let me take care of you,” he heard Max murmur in between kisses, Paul’s favorite kind, the sort that started off near-virginal but progressed quickly to wet and deep, Max’s tongue flickering over his and teasing the entirety of his body to full awareness. “Let me make you feel good.”
“Yes. God, yes.”
Paul tilted his throat, giving Max access, letting the man drop kisses down his lips to his chin and on his neck. Max found his favorite spot, the small divot between collarbones, and thrust his tongue in before sealing his lips over it to raise a mark. He heard someone making desperate little noises and realized it was him. “Don’t stop,” he begged. “Please.”
“Not going to,” Max whispered, moving up so that his breath blasted hot on Paul’s shoulder. “Here. I have something even better in mind.”
Before Paul had time to process that, Max’s nimble fingers were slipping inside the fastening of his jeans. They knew their way out of long practice and found his cock without a misstep or hesitation for even a second.
And the way he curled his hand into a fist around Paul’s cock still made his back stiffen and his erection swell to full length and girth. Max crooned approving sounds against Paul’s skin, licking almost dainty stripes up his neck before burrowing deep to raise red blotches in his wake.
“Oh, fuck,” Paul breathed. He put his hand over Max’s, on the outside of his jeans, and pushed. He rolled his head and bit back a cry. Lights sparkled over the insides of his eyelids like it was the Fourth of July or something equally daft; bloody colonials. Well, for Max he’d sing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” if need be. “Max. God. Please.”
He felt Max grin, his lips curving on Paul’s neck. “All for you,” he whispered, moving his fist up Paul’s cock in a hard jerk and then down with a brutal stroke. “All for you, babe. Kiss me?”
Paul had no hesitation this time. He swung his head around to catch Max’s lips with his own. Max’s tongue plunged inside his mouth; Paul did the same in turn, tasting the man himself under the overlay of peppermint mouthwash. Max purred in approval, the rumbling noise making Paul crazy -- although the tight, hard fist punishing his cock in the best way ever with the rough tugs and pulls drove him completely around the bend. He was aware of raising his hips to meet Max’s fingertips on the downstroke while breathing in ragged gasps on the way up. Max broke away from their kiss to croon nonsense words in Paul’s ear before and after tracing the shell with his tongue and sucking the fleshy lobe between his teeth.
He bit down on Paul’s ear in perfect timing with a long drawn-out tug, a combination that never failed to undo him. The white-hot moment drowned his senses, the moment that made Paul glad to be a man, happy with his sexuality, and bloody fucking ecstatic to have such a clever partner. Max muffled Paul’s shout with his own mouth and hung on through each rock of Paul’s hips and pulse of sticky, hot seed that burst over Max’s fingers.
He held Paul steady when Paul might well have fallen off the bridge to tumble down and break his crown, and he kept his arm wrapped around Paul’s back when he withdrew his hand. Paul focused dazedly on the sight of Max slipping cum-covered digits in his mouth to suck them clean with a naughty, wonderfully wicked gleam in his eye and pure mischief in his smile.
Paul laughed, worn out to the bone. “You’re incorrigible.”
Max lapped at his forefinger, fellating the tip as if it were a small cock and grinning around the digit between his teeth. No shame. That was Max.
“Never change,” Paul told his lover, his friend, before sagging to rest his head on Max’s shoulder. He saw the stain on the front of Max’s thin-washed jeans and burst into what might have uncharitably been called giggles. “My God. Couldn’t wait, could you?”
The question was spoken in jest, but Paul sobered fast as he took in the full implications. He would have done for Max in his turn, as soon as he’d been able, but Max had deprived him of the chance at one last taste of cock and seed. Prevented Paul from loving him one final time.
Paul closed his eyes in regret and a vain attempt not to dwell. He found it all too easy to obsess, and he’d not have that nasty tendency mar the moment.
Max held him close. He kissed Paul’s temple and started them rocking as if they were on a porch swing. “Watch the sunset,” he whispered. “And every evening, when you see day pass into night, remember this moment. I’ll watch the skies and think of you.”
He would, too. Paul knew he would, and he felt his heart break a little further.
And he would never, never
let Max know. “All right,” he agreed, tucking close to Max. “Bon voyage, love.”
Max didn’t object to the old pet name. He kissed the top of Paul’s head. “Bon voyage,” he echoed.
And Max being Max, when he started to sing “When You Wish Upon a Star,” it seemed perfectly right.
Max. Love. Yes. I love you enough to say this much and try to mean it: Good-bye