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we’re a rare strange bunch ‘at live up ‘ere

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*

 

At first it felt like drinking. The craving Johnny sometimes felt under his skin to head down to the local and drink til he was off his head was nearly the same as the fizzing addiction he felt just being around Gheorghe, only less. 

Soon though he realized it was nothing like actually being drunk. When he was down the pub, knocking back pint after pint, all he felt was calmer and slower and like he was slogging through marsh.

Being around Gheorghe, like. He was never relaxed, especially not now when faced with the unimaginable good fortune that Gheorghe had agreed to come back, to stay. It didn’t seem possible, it left Johnny constantly on edge, like a dog guarding a bone someone was trying to steal away. 

He wondered if he would ever relax into it. He didn’t see how he could. 

He’d be stumbling back from the bog of a morning after brushing his teeth and Gheorghe would catch him, an arm looping around his waist and pressing him against the doorframe, smirking at the huff of surprise Johnny made. How Johnny went still, with yearning, whole frame sagging into him like a magnet. 

He would stare right into Johnny’s eyes, smile widening when Johnny’s mouth fell open on reflex. He leaned in, nuzzling his nose just barely down Johnny’s jawline and then, slowly, pressed a long, lingering kiss to Johnny’s slack mouth, tongue slipping in, and just when Johnny roused himself from his morning stupor enough to kiss back, Gheorghe leaned away and smiled.

“Good morning,” he said softly, clearly pleased with himself at how bothered Johnny was from a simple kiss.

Johnny couldn’t even work up the energy to glare. His ears were ringing. “Yeah,” Johnny mumbled, swallowing, and stood there a while after Gheorghe padded away, mouth buzzing. His hands would shake for near on an hour afterward.

It was madness, it was like going mad, and it was like that all the time. And the maddest part was how much he craved it, again and again, like going pissed off his head and going back to the pub night after night, like he couldn't get enough. 

So maybe it wasn't totally dissimilar, after all.

 

*

 

His heart didn’t stop pounding for the entire first week after Gheorghe came home. It was so relentless and intense that he honest to god wondered if he was having a stroke himself. 

Sometimes he felt he could track entire days spent trailing after Gheorghe, staring and panting with this numbing kind of need. 

In the beginning, when Georghe had first come to the farm, it had been bad enough. And after they had first fucked, and then when Georghe had taken him in hand, shown him how to touch, how to be touched, then it had driven Johnny to absolute distraction. The fizzy-headedness nigh on constant whenever Gheorghe nudged his shoulder or ran the tip of his finger up Johnny’s arm. Johnny had thought it was too much then, when it hovered in the temporary, with an end-date in sight.

It was nothing in the face of having Gheorghe permanently, like. Maybe even—if not forever, than a while. A long while.

The freedom of that knowledge was like having a brain fever, if a brain fever meant being unable to think of anything but shagging Georghe and snogging Gheorghe and dragging Georghe off into a closet to get off at every opportunity. That kind of brain fever.

 

*

 

Possibly the worst and best part of all of it was that Gheorghe was not ignorant of Johnny's slow, unrelenting pining crisis, if you could reasonably pine after someone you shared a bed and the responsibilities of a farm with, and who you shagged nearly every day of the week.

Gheorghe was observant, he always had been. And in his own quiet, unobtrusive way, he was both sympathetic and quietly delighted over Johnny’s plight.

“So much fidgeting,” Gheorghe murmured, wrapping his hand around the back of Johnny’s neck.

They’d finished lunch and Nan was bustling in the kitchen and Martin was dozing by the window and they were alone, nominally, for at least a few minutes.

Johnny had no control over how he reacted, leaning into Gheorghe in the next breath, pressing his forehead to Gheorghe's neck. Inhaling, then let the breath out slowly. He tangled his fingers in the bottom of Gheorghe's sweater, holding on. 

He felt Gheorghe smile against his cheek, dragging his fingers slowly up Johnny’s neck to his cheek, cupping his jaw. “What is it? What can I do?”

Johnny huffed out a humorless laugh. Fuck if he knew. Keep touching me. Go back upstairs with me. Don’t leave.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m sound,” he mumbled into Gheorghe's skin. They needed to get outside soon, finish mucking the stables, check on the beasts again. He didn’t move, though. Neither did Gheorghe.

Gheorghe hummed, unconvinced. He drew the pad of his finger over Johnny’s nose, down and then onto his mouth, pressing in when Johnny opened, automatic, like a toy.

“You need so much attention,” Gheorghe said quietly. He sounded pleased. “So needy.”

A flush ran up Johnny’s back, burning onto his neck, his chest. “Shut it,” he grumbled. His blood felt like it was rushing right at the surface. He hadn’t been on this kind of hair-trigger since he was thirteen and just discovered he could wank in privacy to his heart’s content if he just wedged the decorative trunk against the bog door. 

Gheorghe kissed his temple once, then again. “I like it,” he said. “I like to give it to you.” He pulled away, and Johnny couldn’t help the way he leaned in, resisting the distance, but Gheorghe held his shoulders, just far enough away that he could look Johnny in the eye. He was smiling softly, his eyes bright and happy.

“Yeah?” Johnny asked, flushed and embarrassed but needing to check.

“I’ll always want to.” It sounded like a promise. Johnny needed to believe it was.

They were still snogging when Nan came out of the kitchen. “That’ll be enough of that,” she said sternly, snorting, as Johnny jerked away. Gheorghe gave her a wry smile and sauntered for the door, like he could feel Johnny’s eyes on him. Which they were, damnit. 

“Get a hold of yourself, lad,” Nan said sharply, huffy and annoyed. 

He rolled his eyes but did as she asked. No dignity in this house anymore, he groused silently, and threw his coat on to trail after Gheorghe like the silly pup he evidently was.

 

*

 

He started watching Gheorghe after that, looking for some sign. 

Because he must be getting something out of it on his end, surely. Johnny couldn’t pinpoint what the something might be offhand, not on the spot, but he tried to comfort himself by believing that even though he had no idea what it might be, that Gheorghe was reaping some side benefit from being here, staying put. He must have. 

Otherwise, Johnny found his eyes flying open in the morning, chest already heaving and flinging his hand to the side to catch on Gheorghe’s shoulder. It was mad, that. Being so panicked at the thought that maybe when he woke up none of it would be real.

But his hand did hit Gheorghe’s shoulder, easily, every time, because they were both still tucked up in his narrow old bed, folded into each other like spoons. He didn’t have to go far to find him, and that suited Johnny just fine. That moment of panic was more than enough for him.

“What is that face?” Gheorghe asked him, head cocked curiously to the side, face sleepy and pillowed on his hands, squinting at Johnny.

“Mind your business,” Johnny muttered and felt his ears turn red at how huffy and fond he sounded.

Gheorghe hummed softly. He reached and squeezed Johnny’s side. Johnny couldn’t help but turn into it, burrowing closer. He didn’t know what would happen if they ever got a bigger bed. He didn’t think he could bear it.

“Go to sleep, we have a few minutes,” Gheorghe said, kissing his forehead. He snuck a cheeky pinch of Johnny’s arse, snickering when Johnny swore. “Shh. Sleep.” 

“You’re not the boss of me,” Johnny muttered, but of course he was out again in moments. Typical.

 

*

  

He saw Trisha one last time, a few days before she set to go back to Bradford. He stopped by the shops for toilet roll and loose tobacco, and she was walking out with a Powerade, looking a little peaked, like it had been a rough night at the pub with her uni mates.

Johnny hadn’t been down to the local since Gheorghe had come home, and he hadn’t seen Trish since either.

They came to a stop, facing each other. Like a coward, he wished Gheorghe was there, but he'd stayed home with one of the lambs that been ill of late. Too softhearted, as always.

“Alright?” she said, nodding at him. 

Johnny wondered how much her mate had told her, or how much she’d figured out herself. She’d always been sharp, too sharp really.

“Yeah, I’m sound. Yourself?”

“Fine, thank you,” she said primly. After a moment, she said, “Quite an eventful few weeks for you, eh?” He shrugged, peering away. She didn’t know the half of it. “Well, just remember my offer stands, still.”

“What offer?” he asked slowly.

“If you want to get away for a day, come to the city for a bit. There’s a derelict floor in a gloomy flatshare with your name on it.” She smirked. “Bring your man.” 

“Ta,” he said, and she seemed surprised he was even considering it, which was slightly insulting. He'd been to Bradford before, once at least. He and Trish had a night out more than once. He wasn't a hopeless old man yet.

Maybe that was why he ended up telling Gheorghe about it, feeling a little defiant. 

“Really?” Gheorghe said, eyebrows raised skeptically, and that was what did it.

“Yeah, alright, it’s not so unbelievable,” Johnny said, ruffled. “I like a night out of a weekend now and again.”

Making a hushing sound, Gheorghe reached out to cup his elbow, running his thumb softly on the inside of Johnny’s elbow. Johnny deflated, longing for the days he could truly keep up a strop, didn’t fold at the merest scrap of affection from some cheeky Romanian bugger. Those days were definitely more predictable.

“Not talking about a holiday,” Johnny muttered. He leaned into Gheorghe, tapping his foot on his boot. “Just a night, but Nan can manage.” 

“If you want, we can go,” Gheorghe said.

When Johnny glanced up, he was smiling, and Johnny felt a stupid soppy smile of his own growing on his face. “Yeah, alright.”

 

*

 

Johnny had never loved clubbing or dancing in big sweaty groups, but to be fair he’d only ever done it once in a blue moon before. He was no dancer, but he liked the noise and the drinking and being around so many young people at once. It as so different to home, which seemed to be hemorrhaging everyone under thirty.

He’d never gone with an affable group of soft, useless uni students like Trish and her mates before, though. He’d never gone with someone like Gheorghe, or anyone really, hanging off his arm.

Someone like Gheorghe, who was getting shitfaced faster than Johnny had ever seen him before, cheeks growing redder and redder.

“Alright, then?” he found himself murmuring, cupping Gheorghe’s elbow as they waited in line to get into the next club.

“Mhm,” Gheorghe hummed, leaning back into Johnny’s chest. He sighed. “I’m okay.” He turned his neck to peer over his shoulder at Johnny, worried. “You are okay? You’re sure?” 

Johnny snorted. “Yes, love,” he said, unable to fight the smile at the corner of his own mouth. He chanced pressing a quick kiss to Gheorghe’s forehead. “I’m alright.” 

To his own surprise, by the end of the night, he was practically sober, relative to Trish and her mates and certainly Gheorghe. It wasn’t unpleasant, still having his wits about him while everyone else was weaving along the pavement. It made it easier to steer Gheorghe with an arm around his waist, keep him upright.

“Let’s get a kebab,” Gheorghe was slurring where his mouth was pressed into Johnny’s cheek. “John. Let’s go. Kebab. Let’s get a kebab.”

He kept slipping his hands into the back pocket of Johnny’s pants and squeezing his arse, and Johnny couldn’t pretend he didn’t find it oddly charming even as it was more than slightly mortifying. He’d never thought he’d like to be out in public like that, getting pawed at by some bloke.

He was like a stranger to himself, sometimes.

But he still found himself grinning, unaccountably relaxed, burying his fingers into Gheorghe's thick dark hair. “I thought I’d be the one getting pissed off me head,” he said, grinning.

Gheorghe made an exaggerated face of indignation. “I am not pissed! I am sober! Your face is pissed.” He dissolved into giggles, leaning heavily into Johnny’s side. 

“Alright, ya big girl’s blouse, let’s get you home.” 

They did stop at a chip shop and Gheorghe did whine that he wanted a kebab and wouldn’t stop until Johnny rose, grumbling, and went a few blocks down to the kebab shop and bought him a doner.

“My, my,” Trish said blearily, eyes droopy. “Look at you, knight in shining armor.” 

“Fuck off,” Johnny said. He handed Gheorghe the wrapped-up kebab. 

“You’re an angel.” Gheorghe held onto Johnny’s hand tightly with one hand and to the kebab with the other. His eyes were shining teasingly, his mouth smiling and sincere. “You’re my angel.” 

Johnny rolled his eyes as Trish snorted from the table over. “Steady on.” If he was blushing, everyone else was too off their heads to really see anyway.

 

*

 

Gheorghe and Johnny were set up on a pile of blankets in the sitting room of the flat Trish shared with four other students. The floor was hard and the blanket pallet didn’t do much but Gheorghe seemed comfortable enough, wrapping himself around Johnny with the blissful unconcern of the drunk and passing out almost immediately, snoring peacefully into Johnny’s ear. 

Johnny was knackered but couldn’t keep his eyes shut. His arm was falling a bit asleep caught under Gheorghe's neck, and he couldn’t get his mind to shut off. 

They needed to get back to the farm no later than one the next day. Johnny was already making lists in his head, the tasks they needed to complete, Nan could mind the beasts for a few days but there was some maintenance work in the back fields, the vet was scheduled to come this week, they needed to decide on their budget for the county auction, there was so much to do—

Beside him, Gheorghe threw an arm across Johnny’s chest, snaking a leg between his as well. Johnny realized his own hand had stilled and went back to drawing it gently through Gheorghe's coarse curls.

“You make me happy,” Gheorghe whispered into the darkness. It wasn’t even clear he was awake; maybe he was dreaming, but Johnny still marveled at how unafraid he was, as usual, even pissed and wrapped up in a musty blanket in a dilapidated flat in Bradford.

Johnny smiled up at the dark ceiling. “I do, do I?” How did you make another person happy, he wondered, a little worriedly, a little wonderingly. He didn't yet know how to do it on purpose, not yet, maybe not ever. But Gheorghe said he was, and Johnny had no choice but to believe him. Gheorghe hummed in the affirmative, and Johnny pulled him a little closer. “Well ta, then. You’re not so bad, neither.”

He forgot about making lists for a moment. His eyes began to droop finally.

“Go to sleep,” he whispered, pressing a kiss to the top of Gheorghe's head. 

Before he could see if Gheorghe had listened to him, he was off, meeting him in sleep.

 

*