© Clare London
It was Twelfth Night and Caleb had been sitting on the sofa and watching Owen play games for over an hour. Well, he got up from the sofa a couple of times, just to fetch beer and sandwiches, and then he cleared the plates away after they’d consumed it all. Oh, and he answered the ’phone when their friend Steven called. Steve was meant to have been coming over for something to eat, but he gabbled on about being distracted by a movie marathon with Teddy and would they mind if he took a raincheck on supper? It was already gone nine, and he didn’t want to be driving home from Teddy’s, late and tired, so Teddy had suggested he stay over…
Something like that. Caleb wasn’t really listening at the time.
He knew Steve had a massive crush on Teddy, and had obviously, finally, manoeuvered his way into staying over at Teddy’s. Steve didn’t want to give up that advantage, but felt he had to pretend he was being sensible, rather than admit to chasing his dream. Cute. Caleb was always amused by other people’s shyness, never having been burdened by it himself. Caleb only had to stretch his imagination muscles a little, to imagine easily just what kind of marathon his friends were really enjoying.
But he didn’t bother. His appetite was for watching, instead.
Watching Owen. The way his lover hunched possessively over the console; the way his fingers barely moved but covered all controls with ease; the way his face shone with the reflection from the screen and the fast moving characters. Caleb especially liked it when Owen made sounds—when he talked back to the game, berating the scenarios chosen for him. He huffed with frustration when his shortcuts failed, and grunted with self-satisfied triumph when the levels were met and conquered.
Caleb liked that look on Owen. The conquering look. Not that Owen wasn’t confident enough to cope with Caleb at his most mischievous, but this was a different kind of determination.
Their living room still had Christmas decorations up, garish and glittering. Caleb had chosen them all, ignoring Owen’s Scrooge-like complaints. In fact, Caleb took delight in adding excess wherever he could, just to aggravate. He knew he’d always be able to soothe Owen.
In his heart, in the part of him he kept hidden most of the time under jokes and sarcasm, Caleb actually wanted Owen to feel as comfortable in the apartment as he did. He wanted them to be a couple, to feel connected, wherever they were. He glanced around a few more times, cataloguing what still needed to be boxed away tonight, until the next Christmas. Next Christmas. Another year with Owen, he hoped.
And his eyes returned, drawn irresistibly, to the gamer.
When the evening had seeped into night, Caleb hadn’t bothered to turn on the main light in the living room because he could see Owen well enough by the shimmer of the screen and the blinking Christmas lights on the small evergreen tree. The view was atmospheric in a way that both intrigued and stimulated him.
He picked up a slim parcel that lay on the side table. It was wrapped in gaudy Christmas paper, secured with shiny ribbon. He didn’t think Owen had noticed it yet. Maybe he’d interrupt him at some convenient time in the next hour. Caleb didn’t mind waiting.
“Who’s that for?” Owen’s voice broke into his thoughts, a warm breathlessness in his tone. “Did we forget to deliver something?”
Caleb started slightly. “The gift? It’s for you.”
Owen paused, the game frozen on screen. He turned slowly to look at the man sitting on the sofa beside him. “From you? We exchanged presents days ago.”
Caleb shrugged. He liked to watch Owen’s pupils as the dilation gently faded—as his mind returned to the real world of their apartment. “It’s not from me, I’m afraid. It just arrived today, pushed through the letterbox. I assumed it was delivered by hand, and it has your name on it. But there’s no return address or name.”
Owen was staring back, his eyes warm with the diffused light, his mouth widening in a grin. Caleb was gratified that his lover gave him the same full attention as the precious game. At times like this, he’d learned that his own entertainment value was much less rewarding.
“So—some kind of Secret Santa gift, then?” Owen laughed: a rich, seductive sound. Caleb found himself smiling back. It was like sinking into something warm and bubbling, something that tugged at the pit of his groin and promised amusement beyond humour.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “I don’t really understand the concept of that. I think you should always know who to thank.”
Owen laughed again, and stretched his arms above his head. He yawned.
Caleb watched Owen’s throat bob as he swallowed; watched the clench of muscle along the inside of his arm. His lover leant back on his hands, the console resting idly on his lap. “The game isn’t finished,” Caleb noted.
Owen nodded and smiled. “You know it as well as I do, I reckon. Why don’t you ever play?”
Caleb shrugged. Owen’s eyes flickered over him like the fantasy warrior figures had darted across screen only moments ago. “It’s not my kind of thing. I like to watch you play instead.”
“Why?” Owen seemed genuinely interested.
Caleb paused, then found words to weave around his feelings. Owen asked this of him, sometimes. “You’re exhilarated, enthralled. Your mind is a blur of energy yet your body is coiled with tension into one single place, one solitary position. You’re absorbed into a fantastic realm of aggression and power, both sought and abused, yet you can return to reality in a second.”
He saw Owen watching his mouth, as if memorising his words, or maybe turning them over to see how they might feel in his own mouth. Owen wasn’t a casual chatterer, like Caleb; words from him were sweetmeats, candies, treasures. Caleb felt proud whenever Owen returned his words with his own.
“You’re right,” Owen said. “It’s my escape. Exhilarates me, like you say.” He leaned towards Caleb, the cushion shifting with his weight, his body heat moving into the space between them. His eyes darted to Caleb’s face then away again. Caleb saw the mischief in them. “It excites me, too. You know that?”
“Yes, I know that.” Caleb was close enough to see the bead of sweat at the base of Owen’s throat. Owen’s lips were moist from regular licking and laughing. When he leaned in and took a swift, sweet kiss, Caleb felt his vision slip askew.
“It makes my heart race,” Owen whispered. His mouth ran along Caleb’s jaw, his lips pausing by Caleb’s ear. “It makes my muscles ache with tension. It makes my dick throb with a frustrated thrill. How the hell can I play on like this?”
Caleb swallowed. “Yet you’re far away in your fantastic realm…”
“…one I can I return from in a second, you said,” Owen countered.
Caleb thought he felt Owen’s tongue swipe roughly against his earlobe. He couldn’t be sure.
“Return to you,” was Owen’s hiss in his ear. He took the gift from Caleb’s hands, his fingers brushing against Caleb’s belly. “I loved all your gifts this year.”
“Even the joke ones?”
Owen raised his eyebrows. “Mostly.” His hand lingered. He ran his forefinger across the back of Caleb’s hand, and tapped the knuckle of Caleb’s ring finger. “I think next Christmas we could work on some new gifts to each other. If you’re willing, that is…”
Next Christmas. Owen had said it too. “Is that some kind of a half-arsed proposal?”
Owen smiled. He lifted Caleb’s hand and kissed the knuckles. “If you want.”
Caleb knew he wasn’t expected to answer—Owen would know the answer regardless—but he smiled with a slow, deep pleasure. When Owen pushed him back into the sofa cushions, and his lips returned to Caleb’s neck, desire shuddered like hot, icy fingers down Caleb’s spine.
He had waited a long, long time for a proposal from this man. They’d met in lust, dated with humour and fascination, moved in together with cautious and sometimes bemused need. Plenty of lust still remained—and so did friction, physically and emotionally. That all seemed to work for them. And Caleb had always hoped for more, even if he couldn’t have articulated it, waiting with a careful and caring constancy. He knew Owen always needed time to find his way, to give his truest affection.
A rustle of paper alerted him to the temporarily forgotten mystery gift—it was squeezed between them. Smiling, he sat back up and gestured for Owen to open it. “Is it a game?”
“Is it a game?” Owen echoed faintly. His body was suddenly very still, his gaze fixed. He had crumpled wrapping paper in one hand, a disc case in the other. “Are you sure this isn’t from you?”
Caleb saw the dilation return to Owen’s pupils; saw the tightening of his fingers across the red lettering on the case. “I wish it were. It’s something you wanted?”
“Yes.” Owen’s voice sounded hoarse. “Very much. It’s new. It’s… prized.”
Caleb knew the signs. He’d watched them on so many nights. “You want to play,” he said. It was a statement, not a question. “Now.”
Owen gave a small hiss, distress and desire mingling equally. “Yes.”
Caleb sighed, softly. He shifted his swelling cock inside his jeans, waiting for it to subside. He wasn’t upset. “Secret Santa knew what you wanted—what would enthrall you.”
“And excite me,” said Owen. “I meant what I said about that.” The words were thickening in his throat and his hand moved almost instinctively to re-establish contact with the console.
“But not right now.” Caleb chuckled.
Unusually, Owen’s gaze snapped back to Caleb’s mouth. “But it’s not the only thing that excites me, Caleb. Do you believe that?”
Caleb nodded. Of course he did.
“When I return from my fantastic realm…” Owen pleaded softly.
“I’ll be here.” Caleb sighed contentedly. Some things shouldn’t be rushed. Anticipation should be savoured. A proposal was just the beginning, after all.
He settled back into the sofa and watched the screen sparkle back into life, the music and the opening credits consuming Owen’s attention again. Caleb smiled to himself. A hero was worth both playing and waiting for.
And one thing he knew he could do well was wait.
Caleb’s meant to be clearing away the Christmas decorations for Twelfth Night – Owen just wants to play video games. They’re content together, a well established couple, who may even let that content drift into something sexier, in the comfort of their dimly lit living room. But now a mysterious, late Christmas present has arrived for Owen. A game he’s desperate to play – but not before a special proposal for Caleb.
Part of “Short ‘N Sweet”, a series of male/male romance super-short stories.
Read more about Caleb and Owen in Boys in Season, and in the forthcoming Upwardly Mobile,
Caleb's meant to be clearing away the Christmas decorations for Twelfth Night - Owen just wants to play video games. They're content together, a well established couple, who may even let that content drift into something sexier, in the comfort of their dimly lit living room. But now a mysterious, late Christmas present has arrived for Owen. A game he's desperate to play - but not before a special proposal for Caleb. Part of "Short 'N Sweet", a series of male/male romance super-short stories. Read more about Caleb and Owen in Boys in Season, and in the forthcoming Upwardly Mobile,