“The doctor will be in shortly,” the nurse said, pulling the door shut behind her. I tried to remind myself that Graham was only in the next room. He had told me there was no reason to be nervous, but this was my first time in the clinic without him by my side. He had been there when I had gotten my vaccines and that had been stressful enough. I wanted nothing more than to feel his presence at my side, a reassurance that I hadn't anything to fear. I had loathed physicians even in my own time, but now the foreign instruments they used were mysteries to me. I had to continuously remind myself that they were not torture devices, despite their appearance.
I looked around the room, trying to distract myself from the sweat building up on my palms. The nurse had had me sit on a table covered in paper that crinkled loudly at the slightest movement. There were several objects in the room that I had never seen before, all of which I hoped were not going to be used on me.
The door opened again and I jumped. An older woman came in and gave me a smile, heading over to the sink to wash her hands. “I’m Doctor Mullins,” she said, looking over her shoulder. “You’re in for STD testing today, correct?”
I nodded, trying to hide my nerves. She merely smiled again and dried her hands, finally taking a seat on the stool in front of me. “So, John, do you have any reason to believe that you may have an STD? Any symptoms?”
I shook my head, “No, I uh-” I stammered. I tripped over my words, feeling like a fool.
“You just want to be safe?”
I sighed, nodding. “Yes, I figured it would be a good idea since I haven’t been tested before.”
“Do you use protection?”
I felt odd hearing such intimate questions from a stranger, but I had been to a physician before. Although I had never had a woman ask such things of me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being impolite, but I answered anyway. “Currently, yes. But I haven’t in the past.”
Dr. Mullins nodded, writing something down on her clipboard. “And how many sexual partners have you had, roughly?”
I froze, completely unsure of how I would derive a number. There had been Graham, of course, along with Hector, Percy, Isobel, Stephan von Namtzen, and George Everett. But that was not even accounting for any of the whores I had bedded in brothels or those I had been with in Lavender House. There were countless.
“Would you say more than 10?” Dr. Mullins asked.
I nodded, feeling uneasy. I desperately wanted her to stop asking questions, but I also feared what would follow them.
“Alright, so you’re going to be tested for everything today: HIV, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HPV. I’ll take a couple of swab samples from your cheek and penis, a urine sample, and we’ll draw some blood.”
Dr. Mullins pulled a long, paper-wrapped object from a jar on the counter. She peeled back the wrapping, revealing a wooden stick with a bit of cotton on the tip. She glanced down at my trousers and back up at me. I reached for my belt, blushing.
“So, how’d it go?” Graham whispered, not seeming at all perturbed by what he had experienced in the other room. Dr. Mullins had released me into the waiting room so I could await my results.
“I can safely say that that was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life, even more so than having a surgeon remove shards of metal from my torso while I was awake.” I replied in an equally hushed tone.
“So you didn’t enjoy it?” Graham teased.
I gave him a sharp look and he wiped his grin from his face, realizing that I was not in the mood for humor. He squeezed my shoulder, trying to be supportive despite the public setting. “I know that it’s an invasive process, but it’s over now. You don’t need to worry anymore.”
I sighed into his touch, “I know. I just hate having no idea what’s going on.”
“I know, darling. But you’ve been doing so well. This particular experience is jarring, even for people from this time, and you’re handling it fantastically.”
I chuckled, “Don’t mock me.”
“I’m serious,” Graham said. He turned to look at me, “You’ve got guts, John. You can be nervous all you want, but that doesn’t stop you from being the bravest person I know.”
I blushed, feeling humbled by his candor. “You’re too kind, my dear,” I said.
He winked and smiled sweetly. “When it comes to you, there’s no such thing.”
I was about to squeeze his hand, but I noticed someone approaching us. I stood up as Dr. Mullins walked over, waving both of our charts in her hand.
“Clean as a whistle, the both of you. Now get outta here, fellas. And tell your sweethearts you'll be rubbering up from now on. You bachelors need to be more responsible, otherwise you'll wind up with unexpected little ones." She gave us a serious look and walked away briskly, leaving Graham chuckling beside me.
He leaned over to whisper in my ear. "Sweetheart, I can assure you that I *won't* be 'rubbering up' from now on. It's not like I have to worry about making a 'little one' with you."
I elbowed him playfully, rolling my eyes. "Christ. I think it's best we take our leave," I laughed. "And in case you forgot, you did make an unexpected 'little one.'"
"I'm a regular after school special, aren't I?"
Annabelle was upstairs with Klara when we arrived back at the house. While Graham went into his office to update the “Pre-Travel” checklist, I made my way upstairs to relieve her of her duty.
I could hear her mumbling under her breath in frustration before I had even entered the room. Annabelle was bent over the changing table, trying to pin a new cloth diaper onto Klara, who was squirming about impatiently.
“Remind me again why you and Professor Nowak suddenly felt the need to use cloth diapers?” She said, not turning around.
“Because they’re more economically efficient. Not to mention that Klara likes them more.” Both of these reasons were true in some sense, but it was not as if I could tell Annabelle the actual purpose of the change. “Here, let me help.”
I managed to get Klara to stop kicking her legs for a moment, just enough time for Annabelle to secure the pin. “Thank you.”
“Of course,” I said, redressing Klara. “And thank you for watching her. I know you don’t generally come on weekends.” I reached into my pocket and pulled out some money to pay her. Annabelle smiled and looked down at the bills in her hand.
“John, this is too much-”
“No, it is the perfect amount. Have a lovely afternoon, my dear.”
Annabelle thanked me again before taking her leave, passing Graham in the hallway as he made his way into the nursery. “She looks happy,” he commented, giving Klara a kiss on the head.
“I paid her a little extra today, seeing as it’s the weekend. I hope you don’t mind.”
Graham waved his hand in dismissal, “Please, I’m glad you did. Heaven knows she needs it. Did she tell you that her brother is back in the hospital?”
I shook my head, picking up Klara from the changing table and placing her into the crib. “No, although she and I aren’t as close as you two are. Is he really getting that bad.”
Graham nodded, “And her mom is still in denial.”
“Poor thing, what is she going to do when we leave. I doubt another family will pay her as much as we do.”
“She told me she’s trying to line up a job with a family she met in the park while out with Klara. It seems promising.” Graham shrugged, his forehead wrinkling slightly in concern.
I placed my hand on his cheek, rubbing my thumb over his cheekbone. “Have I ever told you how much I admire your concern for your students?”
Graham half-smiled, bringing his hand up to his face and placing it over mine. “You have. It was our second date, I believe.”
I recalled the moment, which felt like a lifetime ago. Sitting outside of Graham’s office, anxiously waiting to see him again. I had overheard his meeting with Annabelle, and I could distinctly remember seeing that same concerned look on his face when I stepped into his office.
Graham's current expression shifted suddenly and he gasped, a smile spreading across his face. “Look at you, sweetpea!”
I turned around to look at Klara, who had managed to flip over from her stomach to her back. I had seen her attempt such a feat before, but this was the first time she had accomplished it. She giggled, an indication that she was pleased with herself. Graham bent over the crib and scooped her up out of it, holding her squirmy body up in the air.
“Look at you, my strong girl! You did it all by yourself.” He kissed her cheek sweetly, eliciting more giggles.
Even in the joy of the moment, I felt a pang of sorrow. I had been reminded of learning of William’s progress as a child in letters from Isobel after he was born. I had always enjoyed reading them, but at the time my attachment to William was minimal. It wasn’t until Lord Dunsany had died that I began to think of William as family. I had missed these moments with him, and thus such moments with Klara were somewhat bittersweet.
Graham had Klara stomach-side down on the floor now, and was laying on his stomach in front of her. “Do it again, sweetpea. Show Papa.”
Rather than flip over, Klara seemed to take a liking to the soft carpet, putting her face down like she often did when she napped on our chests.
“I think that once was enough to drain her,” I commented trying not to laugh at Graham, who was poking her lightly in an attempt to rouse her.
“I suppose she deserves a break after all the hard work,” he said, sounding slightly defeated. He placed her gently back into her crib, eliciting a tiny yawn before she was fully asleep.
Graham bent over the crib and looked up at me. “Looks like she’s down for the count for the next hour or so. Whatever shall we do?” He feigned innocence momentarily, but his lack of acting skills caused him to break out into a smile almost immediately. He looked as though he were about to pounce on me, an action that would surely wake Klara if done in her vicinity, so I turned swiftly and bolted out of the room.
I only made it a few steps into the hallway before I felt Graham’s strong arms wrap around my waist, lifting me off the floor and spun me in a circle. I laughed and Graham slapped his palm over my mouth to stifle me, swiveling me around to face him. His face was plastered with a playful grin and he made a shushing noise, nudging me into the bathroom.
“What are we-”
His hand clapped over my mouth again. “Take your clothes off.”
I had intended to ask why he had decided that the bathroom would be the best place to make love, but his pulling back of the shower curtain was clarifying. The sound of the water was steady enough not to wake Klara, but loud enough to muffle any noises such activities generally produced.
Graham leaned into the tub to turn on the shower faucet as I undressed, giving me a nice few of his behind as he fiddled with the drain cover. I took advantage of his pose, leaning behind him and running a hand down his back, resting it on his arse.
He turned and kissed me, and I could feel his smile against my lips. He pulled away for a moment to remove his shirt, revealing his lean torso. My hands ran over the smooth skin of his back and I pulled at the waistband of his pants as he undid his belt.
I cupped his now-bare bottom in my hands, feeling his growing length pressing into me as I did so. Graham wrapped his arm around my waist, guiding me towards the tub. He kissed my neck as I stepped in, not wanting to part for even a moment as we made our way under the warm stream of water.
The feeling of Graham pressed up against me in the hot stream of water probably would have been enough to undo me by itself, but Graham swiftly turned me around so I was facing the wall. I placed my foot up on the side of the tub, giving him ample access as his fingers moved inside of me.
He pressed into me slowly, burning his face into the side of my neck as he groaned. I could tell he was close already, most likely due to the excitement of love-making in such an environment. I had been close before as well, but now staring at the wall was slightly less arousing. My forehead was resting against my forearm, which was pressed up against the cold tile in an uncomfortable fashion, and my weight-bearing leg was beginning to ache.
“Graham,” I panted, “Graham.”
He stopped momentarily, leaning forward to look at my face. “Everything okay, darling?”
I nodded, “I just want to see you.”
He pulled out of me and I turned around to face him. Graham kissed me sweetly, bending down to wrap his hand beneath my thigh so my leg was hooked around his hip. His other arm came around my waist, lifting me up and pushing my back against the wall. It was cold, but seeing Graham’s face made the sensation less distracting. Due to our difference in height, he had to lift me up slightly, relieving some of the weight on my standing leg. “How’s this? It might be a little less comfortable once we get going.”
I kissed him, “I don’t mind, I just want to see you when you make love to me.”
He bit his lip and smiled, pushing into me again. He now had a better angle to press against my prostate and I began to moan. I made a conscious effort not to be too loud, but it was hard to help as the sensations became more and more intense. Graham picked up that pace after a few minutes, causing the heat in my abdomen to spread as I neared orgasm.
Graham’s face suddenly twisted in pleasure and I felt the warmth of his seed inside of me, a sensation I had yet to experience with him. It was enough to bring me over the edge, causing me to spill onto Graham’s stomach. I stifled my moans in the crook of his neck, feeling the moisture of his skin against my lips.
Graham put me down slowly and pulled me into him. “God, I love you so much.”
“I love you too,” I said, looking up and kissing his jaw. I could feel the remnants of our love-making dripping down the inside of my leg and down the drain. Graham turned around, reaching for the soap.
“Let’s get cleaned up then.”
He worked the soap into a lather before massaging me with it, working his way down from my shoulders. It was immensely relaxing. If I hadn’t been standing, I probably could have fallen asleep from his soothing touch. We took turns cleaning each other, relaxing under each other's touch.
However, the muffled sounds of Klara’s cries as she awoke from her nap pulled us out of our state of tranquility. I sighed heavily and rinsed the soap off, turning to face Graham.
“She sure has impeccable timing, doesn’t she?” Graham commented sarcastically. He shut off the water and I immediately missed the warmth of it running down my back. Groaning, I stepped out of the tub and pulled on my robe, defending myself against the cool air.
Graham caught my arm as I was reaching for the doorknob, swiveling me around into a soft kiss. He pulled away after a moment, looking into my eyes earnestly with a hand on my cheek. “You, John William Grey, are the love of my life. I hope you know that.”
I placed my hand over his, pressing it into my cheek. “And you are mine, always.”