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Rules for Real Men

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Kendle is stuck in the bathroom. Again. And both of them are going to be late for work. Again.

“Kendle! Get out!” Lenny hammers on the door of the bathroom where his housemate has locked himself in.

“Just a sec!” Kendle sounds a bit out of breath.

“We can’t both be late! We need to open the shop. D’you remember, we work at the same place, and if none of us shows up on time!–” Lenny makes a threatening pause. “–I’ll tell the angry customers it’s your fault because you’ve been wanking again!”

“I’m not – wanking!” Kendle definitely sounds out of breath.

“Then get out! I need a wee!”

“I’m coming!”

“Aha! I knew it!”

“Fuck you, Lenny!” Kendle emerges two seconds later and almost crushes Lenny’s scull with the doorknob. Lenny straightens and rubs his forehead.

“Oi!”

“Have you been peeping?“ Kendle eyes him suspiciously.

“No,” Lenny smoothes his jacket with dignity. “I was trying to pick the lock – to get into the bloody bathroom!” he shouts and shuts the door in front of Kendle.

*

Next morning Kendle is stuck in the bathroom.

“Oh, not again!” Lenny moans. “Kendle!” he bangs on the door.

“I’m shaving, leave me alone!”

“Since when do you need to shave, pretty face?”

At Kendle’s age, he has to shave about once a fortnight. Inside, the water is running from the tap with a steady rush. Too steady, in Lenny’s opinion. As if someone has turned it on to cover up a different noise.

“If you don’t get out this second, I’ll break the lock and wank you off myself!” Lenny threatens.

Kendle doesn’t respond. Lenny puts his ear to the door. Just as he thought: there are fast, tiny, wet sounds of foreskin beating against the head – click-click-click – and then muffled gasps of someone very close to the crescendo – oh-oh-oh.

“Think about Diane Keaton,” Lenny whispers dramatically, his mouth pressed to the keyhole. “She takes your cock into her pink mouth and sucks on it like on a big red lollypop.” Then he screeches in a high-pitched voice, “Oh, Kendle! Oh, Kendle! Oh, you are so sweet! Oh! Oooh!”

“Oh, fuck you Lenny!” Kendle breathes out, and the clicking noise stops.

“Are you done?” Lenny asks cheerfully.

Kendle bursts out.

“What did you have to do that for?”

“Just wanted to help out. You finished much quicker today.”

Then Lenny seizes the opportunity to finally get to the loo. Kendle’s razor is in a cup beside his toothbrush – completely dry and clean.

*

Lenny is in bed reading the sports pages. Kendle is in the next room, doing who knows what, but for once quietly. Usually Lenny can hear everything that’s going on in there. Thank God that Kendle’s bloody guitar is gone. Or, more precisely, purposefully broken by Lenny. He thought that one more evening of Kendle’s artistic aspirations would drive him crazy.

Although, today Kendle is being too quiet. He can’t be already asleep at this hour. Is Kendle sulking because of the bathroom incident this morning? He has been kind of absent-minded all day. Lenny listens harder.

Then he hears a sob. Oh no, this ninny can’t be crying because of a joke! Or can he? Lenny listens. There is another sob. And a murmur.

“Oh, Kendle! Oh you’re so sweet! Oh, Kendle, I want to take your big cock into my mouth.”

R-right. Lenny shakes his head, as if trying to get water out of his ears after a shower. He attempts to concentrate on the football page, but he cannot unhear Kendle’s voice.

“Oh, Kendle.” Sob. “Oh, Kendle, you have a beautiful cock.” Sob. “Oh, I want to suck it.” Sob.

Lenny wants to jump out of bed, run to the next room and bark, “Stop it!” Of course, he won’t do it. There are times for jokes, and there are times when a man doesn’t interrupt another man with a demand to be quiet. Even if his sexual fantasies are silly. He might taunt another man afterwards, though.

It goes on. Sob, murmur, sob. Kendle lasts a long time. Does he have a problem? He might have a problem. When Lenny was younger, his problem lay rather in another direction, not that he has experienced it in the last fifteen years. But he has heard of the guys who just couldn’t finish.

What if he talked to Kendle again? It seemed to help earlier today. No, that would sound stupid, a joke repeated twice is not funny.

Kendle gets into a faster pace. He isn’t sobbing now, just sighing heavily. “Oh, you are so-“ Sigh. “Oh, I love your cock.” Sigh. It seems he is getting closer. This is as exciting as a football match. Will he score? Yes, come on, move, go-go-go! Lenny waits for the goal. His hand slides along his own shaft in harmony with Kendle’s rhythm, but he barely notices it. Come on, Kendle, you’ll make it!

“Oh, suck it.” Sigh. “Oh Kendle.” Sigh. “Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh, fuck you Lenny!”

A spasmodic gasp, then silence.

“Sorry, what?” Lenny says out loud. His hand keeps sliding up and down mechanically. Behind the wall, he can hear Kendle get up and tiptoe out of the room. He can imagine him glancing at Lenny’s door which is a crack open, then locking himself in the bathroom. The water starts running. Now Kendle must be washing the jizz off of his cock, maybe his stomach and his oversized pajamas which look like they were stolen from his older brother.

Oh, bother. Lenny’s cock is throbbing. He can’t jerk off with Kendle’s image in his mind. Lenny rummages under the bed and pulls out a couple of magazines. He leafs through one of them until he finds a picture of a brunette with large tits wearing a small thong. He licks his fingers, touches his bell-end and sighs. That’s better.

*

“Did you sleep well?” Lenny asks the next morning.

“Thanks, fine. Why?” Kendle is a bit alarmed.

“I think,” Lenny says between two gulps of his usual instant coffee, “we need to find you a girlfriend.”

“Why?” Kendle asks and goes pink.

“Because every man needs one,” Lenny says authoritatively.

“What about you?”

“Yeah, me too,” he agrees. “It’s Friday. Tonight we’re going to a pub, and we’re not coming back home without two nice ladies for you and me. Brush up your feathers, Kendle, you’ll need to look presentable.”

*

It’s five minutes before their travel office’s closing time, and Lenny feverishly tries to finish the calculation for Mr. and Mrs. We-Want-Only-The-Best’s trip, because Kendle can’t be bothered to help him.

“How do I look?” he asks.

“Great,” Lenny grumbles, not even lifting his head.

“No, look, how do I look?” Kendle insists.

Lenny sighs, stops typing and glances at him. Kendle has taken off his tie, otherwise he looks as usual.

“Smitting,” Lenny says, so that Kendle would stop whining.

“Really?”

“Yes, really. Now put down that mirror and find me two flights to Mallorca.”

“It’s already six o’clock, Lenny, let’s go!”

“We’ll go when I say so!” Lenny snaps. “Find me the flights!”

Kendle flops down on his chair and demonstrates his resignation with his whole posture and pouting. Lenny shakes his head and rubs his eyes and buries himself behind his computer screen, so that Kendle wouldn’t notice him smile.

“Flights!” Lenny barks from behind his cover. Kendle picks up the phone.

He takes mercy on Kendle five minutes later. Well, he is not keen on spending the Friday evening in the office either, so they book the first flights that seems reasonable (on Monday, Lenny will only need to convince Mr. and Mrs. Curmudgeons that it was indeed the best option) and leave for the pub.

“Listen to me,” Lenny says on the way. “Don’t talk too much. I’ll do the talking, you’ll do the- the eye thing.”

“What eye thing?”

Lenny tries to imitate Kendle as best as he can, dropping his gaze shyly and then looking up again like a roe deer with an inferiority complex.

“That eye thing. There’s a certain type of girls who are hot for this kind of stuff. They want to take you home and cuddle you to death.”

Kendle is suspicious again.

“Am I hot for this kind of girls?”

“You better be, it’s not likely that you’re getting laid by anyone else.”

“Oh,” Kendle seems a bit disappointed. “Can I be more like you? With the talking and all?”

“Nope.”

“But what if I-“

“Nope.”

Kendle sighs. They arrive at ‘The Four Bells’ in silence. Lenny leads the way to the bar and orders two pints. Kendle trudges behind.

“So,” a lager in one hand, Lenny puts the other hand around Kendle’s neck. “Who do you fancy?”

Kendle eyes the drinking crowd and then looks up at Lenny.

“They all look a bit, erm, worn-out, don’t they?”

At this hour, the only females present without male company are a couple of loud thirty-something women. Admittedly, they are much older than Kendle, but still younger than Lenny. They also look like they’re here for a fun night, and that’s exactly what he and Kendle need.

“Worn-out? Worn-out?” he bursts. “They are perfect for you! Remember the eye thing?”

“Yeah,” Kendle is not convinced.

“They’ll see you and think: what’s this innocent little lamb doing here? I need to take him home and teach him every dirty thing I know.”

Kendle’s face lights up.

“I’d like to learn some dirty things.”

“Good,” Lenny claps him on the shoulder. “Tonight’s the night.”

He waits until one of the ladies turns around and salutes her with his glass. She smiles and salutes back.

“First contact,” Lenny mouths to Kendle. “Let’s go.”

He gives him the last once-over, then opens the top button of Kendle’s shirt and ruffles his hair.

“Here. Cute, but sexy.”

They walk over to the ladies’ table.

“Good evening, girls,” Lenny says merrily. “Can we buy you drinks?”

*

Three hours later, they are walking home with Rosie and Janet. Kendle nudges Lenny every two minutes and whispers: “’ave y’seen ‘er? ‘ave y’seen ‘er?” nodding at ‘his’ Janet. She is indeed pretty, nothing wrong with her: blonde, curvy, but petite, well-shaped legs revealed by a leather mini-skirt.

Kendle is very drunk. The whole ‘don’t talk too much’ strategy backfired, as Kendle had to occupy his mouth with something, and he chose beer to do it. Now Lenny has to gently direct him the right way and hope that the ladies won’t notice his state. Lenny has great plans for Rosie and her gorgeous bosom, and he needs Kendle to take care of Janet while he is busy with her girlfriend.

Lenny has to play the life and soul of the party. Rosie and Janet laugh at his jokes eagerly, while Kendle grunts and chortles and pats his back: “That’s awesome, mate, v’ry funny, you’re awesome, mate!”

When they arrive home, Lenny drops Kendle on the couch, and he lies there like a giant jellyfish. Rosie takes one armchair, and Janet the other. There is no other place for Lenny except beside Kendle on the couch.

“Do you fancy some wine?” he asks, the ladies agree, so he jumps up again. He returns from the kitchen with a bottle and three glasses. Kendle is leaning over the armrest and gawking at Janet’s knees.

“That’s a nice house, innit?” he babbles. “I let me mate Lenny stay ‘ere, ‘cause he’s a nice guy, Lenny, I love ‘im like me mum.”

“Thanks, Kendle.”

Lenny walks between the couch and the armchair on purpose, pushing Kendle away from Janet with his knee. He puts the bottle and the glasses down on the low table, pours the wine and hands it to the girls.

“Where’s mine?” Kendle frowns. Lenny rushes to the kitchen again and returns with a wine glass full of water.

“Here you go. You need to hydrate.”

Kendle smells the glass, makes a tentative sip.

“What kinda wine is that?”

“Pinot grigio 1958.”

“Oh, right,” Kendle nods. “Great year.” He goes on sipping the water expertly.

Lenny perches himself of an armrest beside Rosie. He needs to get her to the bedroom, but Kendle won’t be any help. He puts his arm around Rosie. She snuggles up to him, while Janet looks more and more unhappy. Will it be ungentlemanly to leave her alone with Kendle’s half-dead body? Rosie’s breasts chafe against his arm. Dash it, he will take her to the bedroom now. Just as he makes that decision, Rosie asks him in a languid voice, “Will you show me around upstairs?”

“Sure!” he exclaims.

Janet and Rosie exchange glances, and it looks like they reach a silent agreement. Janet pulls the remote from underneath the magazines on the table.

“Do you think there’s anything good on TV?” she asks Kendle.

Rosie doesn’t want to be shown around, she leads him straight to his bedroom and starts kissing him on the way. Lenny closes the door behind them, but leaves it a crack open. Rosie notices it.

“What for?”

“Erm, the cat. See, we’ve got this cat, Tom his name is, and he can’t stand closed doors. If he sees a closed door, he just knocks it down, he’s crazy!“

“Wow. Is he safe?”

“The cat?”

“Your friend. Is he alright? He won’t try anything?”

“Of course not! Right now, he won’t even try to get off the couch.”

“Good. Still, it might be a good idea to leave the door open. You know,” she trails off.

“Yeah. Yeah,” Lenny nods vigorously. That’s not what he had in mind, but she doesn’t have to know that. Rosie starts kissing and undressing him again. She takes off his shirt. Her body is pressed against his, hot and supple. He puts his hands under her bra and kneads her tits.

“I’ll need to be home by midnight, or my husband will be worried,” she whispers casually.

“Right,” he mumbles back. “Wait, you are married?”

“Uh-huh.”

He opens his mouth, but realises that he doesn’t care. He pulls her to the bed, and she lands on top of him. Her hip presses between his legs. She rubs it slightly up and down, up and down. He moans. She slides her hand down his stomach, finds the buldge and feels its length. He moans again, louder.

Maybe they’ll be able to hear it downstairs. Maybe Kendle will hear it, just like Lenny could hear his sobs and sighs the other night. Rosie and he will shag, and pant, and scream, and Kendle will listen to them. First, he will not dare to move, until the hot pressure in his pants will become too much, and he will reach down and touch himself, up and down, up and down, click-click-click, oh, Kendle, oh, Kendle, oh, I love your cock, oh, fuck you, Lenny!

Rosie arches her back. She sits on top of him. Her butt slides back and forth across his groin; his cock is caught inside her warm, wet, wonderful hole. He pulls her closer and kisses her mouth, but he can’t keep this position for long, he himself needs to move. He jerks his hips up, beating into her pussy. Rosie bites his shoulder and moans.

He lets himself loose. Louder, louder is better! He is now howling and whimpering. Kendle must be able to hear it, he must be deaf not to hear it.

There is a thud just outside the bedroom. Rosie pauses and lifts her head.

“What was that?”

“Don’t matter,” Lenny pants. They resume their movement, but slower because of the distraction. They’ll have to find their rhythm again. Lenny tries to reimmerse himself into the process. There is another thud, then a bang of the bathroom door, and then the coughing sounds of someone throwing up. Rosie stops again.

“Eww.”

“Kendle,” Lenny mumbles. He can feel his fever cooling down and his hard-on getting floppier with every second. So much for his fantasy about Kendle eavesdropping. It was a stupid fantasy anyway.

“Hey, don’t get distracted,” Rosie starts rocking on his half-erect cock. Across the hallway there is more vomiting and coughing. “Don’t listen.”

He tries to concentrate on Rosie’s magnificent breasts bobbing in front of his face. He can’t.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t worry, honey, we’ll fix it in a minute.”

She slides off of him, lays down beside him and takes off the condom that’s ridiculously big now. She starts jerking him off. He closes his eyes and focuses on the sensations in his cock.

More vomiting. Tap turned on, water running. Humming in the water pipes. Tap turned off. Bathroom door opened and closed quietly – no bang now. Someone tiptoeing past Lenny’s bedroom. Creaking of the stairs. Thud. Thud. Thud. Gasp. “Ouch!”

“This sounded really painful,” Rosie says.

It did. What was left of his erection disappears.

“I’ll go and check on him.”

Lenny climbs out of bed. It’s a good excuse: now he won’t have to deal with explaining his soft-off to Rosie and possible neurotic thoughts about the imminent impotency, decline, senility and death. He throws on a dressing gown and steps out onto the landing.

Kendle sits on a step in the middle of the stairs. Lenny expected to see him in a heap at their bottom, badly injured and broken.

“Alright?” he asks.

“Mm-hm. Go back to whatever you were doing, I’ll manage,” Kendle sounds more sober now. He rubs his ankle. “Ouch.”

Lenny sighs and climbs down the stairs to sit next to him.

“C’mon, let me see.”

Kendle removes his hand unwillingly. His ankle looks normal. As Lenny tries to touch it, he cringes.

“Ouch. Ouch!”

“There’s nothing there, don’t be such a crybaby.”

“I’ll be whatever I like!” snaps Kendle. “Go back to your sh-shagging,” he hesitates at the word, “and don’t forget to shut the door! You distracted me!”

Lenny turns around to see if Rosie could hear this. She is standing on top of the stairs, buttoning her blouse.

“I think I’m done for tonight. Thank you very much, Kendle,” Lenny mutters.

Rosie comes down the stairs.

“Thanks for the evening, guys, we’ll be off then.”

Janet already has her coat on.

“Yeah, thanks. Erm, bye, Kendle.”

Kendle just nods, wincing.

“Wait, let me get you a cab,” Lenny offers wishing they’d say no. But they thank him again and say it’s very kind of him. So he comforts Kendle by patting him on the head and goes to put on his trousers.

*

Finding a cab after nine o’clock in their neighbourhood can be quite challenging, so it takes them at least twenty minutes. Finally, Lenny returns home, cold and angry at Kendle, as well as a total of twenty pounds lighter – for the drinks and a cab.

Kendle is still sitting on the stairs.

“What are you doing here? Go to bed! Are you waiting for me to tuck you in?”

“I can’t.”

“Why can’t you? Just get up and hop off,” Lenny waives him away.

“I’ve damaged something, that’s why! My ankle’s broken, now I’ll get a gangrene and die in this house, and my body will just lie here, and cats will eat it, until Mrs. Daff finds it!” Kendle is almost crying.

“We don’t have a cat.”

“Then it will be stray cats. Or rats.”

“I don’t have rats in my house. Anyway, if you die, I promise to clear up your corpse before it rots. I can’t stand the smell.”

“That’s a relief.”

“And your ankle’s not broken, it’s just a sprain. C’mon, lean on me, I’ll get you to bed.”

Kendle is heavier than he looks. Lenny drops him twice on the seven steps separating them from the bedrooms. The remaining alcohol in their blood doesn’t help either. Finally, he lets Kendle fall on the bed like a bag of potatoes.

“Here you go. Sleep tight.”

He leaves, undresses and climbs into his own bed. Kendle is shuffling behind the wall. Lenny sighs, gets up again and goes to the kitchen.

“Here,” he throws a bag of frozen peas onto Kendle’s duvet.

“I’m not hungry.”

“It’s for your sprain, you stupid.”

He pull’s one of the pillows from underneath Kendle’s head and props his foot up on it, with a bag of peas on top.

“Ouch! It’s freezing.”

“Yeah, helps against the gangrene. Sweet dreams.”

Lenny turns off the lights and leaves. He is still awake when Kendle calls, “Lenny?”

“What?”

“Sorry about Rosie.”

Lenny grunts.

“Was it nice?” Kendle asks after a pause.

“What was?”

“You know.”

Lenny has no intention of helping him out.

“What was?”

“You know what I mean.”

“No, I don’t. Good night, Kendle.”

Kendle falls silent for a couple of minutes. Lenny starts dosing off.

“Lenny?”

“Hmm?”

“Was it nice making love to her? You were very- You’ve never- I’ve never heard it being so loud before.”

So he has heard. Lenny is awake now.

“Yeah, it was nice.”

The unreleased tension from shagging Rosie is coming back to him. He turns over onto his stomach and looks at the wall. Kendle is right behind it.

“How nice?” Maybe he is imagining things, but Kendle’s voice sounds hoarse.

Lenny starts rubbing against the sheets.

“Very.”

“Does she have nice tits?”

“Yeah, and when she rides you, they flop up and down.”

He snorts, and Kendle chuckles, too.

“Wow,” Kendle says dreamily. “It’s a pity Janet was not in the mood.”

Lenny pulls down his boxers and slides his palm underneath his cock. The sheets are too rough to touch its sensitive skin.

Kendle’s bed creaks, as he shifts.

“Ouch! Lenny?”

“Yeah?”

“My ankle is really sore. I think it’s getting worse. Can you take a look at it?”

This sounds like an invitation to come over. Lenny’s heart is pounding. What will he do once in Kendle’s bedroom? Get into his bed? Kiss him? Simply lie beside him and chat about the girls? Wank off in front of him? It was all good fun with a wall between them, but actually being in the same room is a completely different level.

“Can it wait until the morning?” he shouts back. “I’m sure it’s nothing.”

“It’s all swollen and hot. Please, Lenny!”

I’ll tell you what else is swollen and hot. God, who would have thought that Kendle could be so persistent. It may be not that bad at all. He’ll just sit beside Kendle, and they’ll talk for a bit, and he’ll share his manly advice, and then he’ll return to his room and finish his business alone.

“Okay,” Lenny agrees. He considers putting on his dressing gown to cover up his hard-on, but then decides against it. His t-shirt is long enough. There is also a degree of impudence, the same drive that made him leave his door open. He wishes Kendle to notice, or rather not, he’s not sure.

He comes over. Kendle is sitting up in bed, feeling his ankle with particular care. He looks upset. Lenny instantly regrets not wearing his dressing gown. He pulls at his t-shirt and sits down at the foot of the bed. Kendle’s ankle is indeed swollen.

“Is it broken?” Kendle looks at him hopefully.

“How do I know?” Lenny snaps. He wishes he knew, but anything medical makes him anxious.

“How can you not know? Look at it!”

Kendle always expects him to be quicker with an answer, but it’s actually Kendle who can better cope with medical emergencies. Like that time when a guy decided to kill himself in a car crash outside their house. It was Kendle who kept cool – well, cool-ish – and had the sense to call Mrs. Daff, their old neighbour and an ex-nurse. To be honest, he also tried healing chanting, but at least he did something.

What if it is serious, and Lenny has just missed the opportunity to save Kendle’s leg when he played with his dick instead? How long does it take for gangrene to set in? What does it even look like? He has a dim recollection that it’s supposed to be black, or blue, or green, or some other unnatural colour. He squints at Kendle’s ankle. There are blueish patches on his skin.

“That’s bad,” he blurts out. Kendle’s face falls. “No, no, no, don’t worry, it’s nothing!”

“You just said it was bad! What is it? Oh no, is it gangrene, will they have to amputate my leg?”

“Shut up, Kendle, let me think!”

“Well, think faster!”

“I can’t, you’re interrupting me all the time!”

“Lenny, I can feel it,” Kendle is white with horror. “My foot’s going numb. I’ll get a blood poisoning.”

“No, that’s snakebites.”

“Are you sure?”

“No, I’m not bloody sure! Do I look like a doctor?”

“You could”, Kendle cocks his head. “In scrubs, your hands covered in blood, all heroic, like the ones in ‘Casualty’”.

Lenny imagines that and smiles.

“Oh, yeah. ‘We are losing him! Defibrillator, quickly!’” He changes his voice, “Thank you, doctor, you saved my husband’s life. Can I give you a kiss?’”

“Hey, no kisses!” Kendle exclaims. “I’m dying here.”

“Sorry, right,” Lenny returns back to the present. Then it dawns on him. “We could take you to the emergency room!”

*

He puts Kendle down on the doorstep and says, “Don’t go anywhere.”

“I’ll just pop out to a dance,” Kendle responds grudgingly. It’s cold outside, especially when sitting on a damp doormat. Lenny goes looking for a cab. It’s even more impossible than the first time. Everyone in their neighbourhood is fast asleep, and cabbies know that. Finally he finds one who is on his way to the garage. Lenny convinces him that a man’s life is literally at stake here, and the driver agrees to take them to the hospital.

As he sees Kendle hopping towards the car, he makes a face and says:

“I thought someone was dying here. This chap’s not dying.”

“You’re a doctor now, aren’t you?” Lenny shuts him up with a glare. “He might lose his leg because of you, is that what you want?”

On the way, Kendle winces and hisses through his teeth on every bump.

“Can you not drive over every crack on the road?” Lenny demands.

“You said faster,” the cabbie responds.

“I said fast and smooth!”

“Try it yourself then.”

The cab keeps rolling at the same speed. As they arrive at the hospital, the driver says:

“See, no reason to get so worked up, your son’ll be fine.”

“He’s not my son! D’you think I became a father at fifteen?”

“Sorry, mate, you look older,” the cabbie shrugs. Lenny leaves him without a tip.

*

They have to wait in the ER hallway. The bench is hard and uncomfortable. A punk is rolled past them on a cart. He leaves a strong stench of cheap spirit and unwashed socks behind him. Lenny catches a nurse on the elbow.

“When will we?-“

“Sorry, all the doctors are busy.” She rushes off.

“That’s NHS for you,” Lenny grumbles. Kendle fidgets trying to find a bearable position for his leg. He looks pale and tired. “Here,” Lenny pulls off his warm jacket and rolls it into a pillow. Kendle stretches out on the bench, but there is still no room for his feet. Lenny grunts and taps on his knee: “C’mon, don’t be shy.” He helps Kendle to place his feet on his knees.

“Wow,” Kendle relaxes a bit.

“Don’t get used to it,” Lenny warns.

“Can I get a massage?”

“Oi!” Lenny flicks Kendle’s knee with a finger. He leans his head against the wall and tries to relax as well. It’s past three in the morning, he starts feeling hungry. The last meal he had were chips he shared with Kendle at the pub.

“Lenny,” Kendle calls softly. “I don’t think you look old. I think you look just fine.”

“Thanks, mate,” Lenny responds without opening his eyes. “You too.”

*

“Hello! Hello, are you Kendle Baines?”

A nurse is hovering over them. He must have nodded off. Lenny shakes himself awake.

“Er, no, he is Kendle Baines. Kendle! Kendle!” he touches his knee.

“Ah?” Kendle startles.

“The doctor will see you now, Mr. Baines.”

They put Kendle into a wheelchair and take him away. Lenny walks up and down the hallway. The punk is rolled back on a cart, now dressed in hospital pajamas. The window at the end of the hallway turns from black to grey and to pink.

Then Kendle is returned to him. He has a wide grin of his face and a cast on his foot.

“It’s a fracture!” he announces.

“Why are you smiling?”

“They gave me a shot, I don’t know what it was, but it feels grrreat! Oh, and three weeks off work!”

“Three weeks? I’ll have to be in the shop on my own for three weeks?! Can I also have a shot, please?” he addresses the nurse. She hands him over a pair of crutches.

“Take your boyfriend home, I need this wheelchair back.”

Kendle giggles all the way back home, until whatever they doped him with starts to wear off.

*

They both sleep long past noon. Kendle wakes up sore and sullen. His ankle hurts, he has a difficulty managing the crutches and – as a final touch on his mood – suffers from a hangover. Lenny has to get him water, Alka-Seltzer, breakfast, a bucket for his breakfast, more water and more food. And so the day goes by.

It continues on Sunday. As soon as Lenny is settled in front of the TV with a bag of crisps, there comes another cry: “Lenny! I need a glass of water!”

“Please, Lenny, thank you, Lenny,” he mutters untangling himself from his warm cozy TV blanket. “Would you be so kind as to bring me some water?”

He trudges upstairs and flumps the glass on Kendle’s bedside table.

“Thank you very much, Lenny,” Lenny says to himself in his best imitation of Kendle’s voice. “You are very welcome, Kendle.”

“Cheers,” Kendle salutes him with a glass and takes a sip. “Can I also have the crisps?”

“Oh, you want crisps? Then go and get them yourself, stop pretending you’re on your deathbed!”

Kendle glowers at him.

“This was not nice, Lenny. After all, it was your fault that I fell down the stairs.”

“That’s new,” Lenny crosses his arms. “Tell me.”

“You left your door open, so I got distracted and tripped.”

“So you were peeping?”

Despite his anger, Lenny can’t help but feel a pang of excitement.

“I wasn’t peeping! I was avoiding peeping! D’you know how hard that is in that tiny hallway?”

“No idea, I’ve never-“ Lenny trails off. “I know! We’ll conduct an investigative experiment!”

“What?” Kendle looks puzzled.

“Get out of bed!” Lenny demands and hands Kendle his crutches. Jumping on one leg, Kendle follows him. “Now, you’ll be me, and I’ll be you. You lie down on my bed, and I’ll be outside.”

Lenny arranges everything as it was on Friday night.

“Am I making love to Rosie?” Kendle asks.

“Yes.”

“Can I start now?”

“Ready? Three, two, one, go.”

As soon as he gives the order, Kendle begins mimicking frictions and moaning in what might be a very bad imitation of Lenny.

“Stop! Stop it!” Lenny shouts. “Let’s go with a less realistic version. No moaning. Just lie there, and I’ll check if I can see you.”

“But that’s the best part!” Kendle protests. “I won’t participate in your experiment if I can’t do the shag.”

“Fine,” Lenny gives in.

Kendle resumes the frictions. “Oh. Oooh. Oooh.”

Lenny tiptoes past the door and peers into the darkness of the bedroom. There is enough light coming from the hallway to see the lower half of Kendle’s body heaving on the bed. He holds his hands up as if embracing an invisible partner.

Kendle has had girlfriends, but they’ve never stayed for sex. Whatever happened between them, happened outside these walls, at a hotel or at the girl’s place. Kendle is not a virgin, but Lenny has never had a chance to see or experience in any practical way this side of his being. There are no used condoms in the trash or half-naked girls darting from his room into the bathroom. This is a silly kind of revelation, because he should have realised before that Kendle is a man with the proper manly needs and desires, especially after hearing him pleasure himself. But this is different, seeing him absorbed in a parody of a sexual act, as if it were for real. This is as if his mate, his little brother has turned into a strange creature which can be considered to do – to do things with, to shag, to fuck, to make love to. Does he want to shag Kendle? Maybe even shag him right away? The opportunity offers itself.

No, not right away. Lenny steps back. He has never noticed a small tear in the carpet. His heel gets caught in it, and he stumbles backwards.

“Fuck!” At the last moment, he clutches the railing and clumsily falls onto his knees.

“Are you alright?” Kendle calls from the bedroom.

“Yep.” Lenny recovers his feet. It takes Kendle time to emerge from the bedroom, but he does so at a flying speed for a one-legged joe.

“Aha! You fell! I told you it was your fault!”

“It was not! It’s this stupid rug,” Lenny kicks it with his toe.

“Well, it’s your house, you should’ve fixed it.”

“I thought it was your house, I heard you boasting about it to Janet. ‘I let me mate Lenny stay here, ‘cause I love ‘im, look what a nice house I ‘ave!’” he parrots Kendle in a childish voice.

Kendle flushes.

“I didn’t say that!”

“Yes, you did.”

“No, I did not!”

“Yes, you did.”

“You must have heard it wrong.”

“I wasn’t as drunk as you. See – you fell because you were drunk!”

“I was drunk, because you kept buying me drinks and telling me to shut up! And it was your idea in the first place, and in the end you did get laid, and I didn’t. I just fell down the stairs and broke my ankle and had an awful night!”

“And I had a great night sleeping on that horrible hospital bench! You know what: I’m glad you fell, you ungrateful prat, ‘cause now I’m going out alone, and I’m sure I can score much better without your silly face spoiling my entrance. And you stay here and wallow in petty jealousy, when I bring home a hot bird.”

Lenny grabs his jacket and his wallet and storms out into the drizzle.

*  

Going to a pub on a Sunday afternoon was not Lenny’s brightest idea. There are no hot birds in sight, just his old mate Gilby, who is not hot, not a bird, and not even smart enough to have a proper conversation with.

“Hey, Lenny!” he greets him cheerfully. “Where’s Kendle?”

Lenny orders a pint, climbs on a stool beside Gilby and bangs his head on the bar counter.

“Huh?” Gilby asks.

“This means I don’t want to talk about it,” Lenny mumbles into the old polished wood. Then he straightens, because his face almost hit a puddle of spilt beer, and he prefers his beer in a glass and not on his forehead.

“Why don’t you wanna talk about it?” asks Gilby.

“Because I don’t! When people say they don’t want to talk about it, you don’t talk about it. Got it?”

“Oh, okay, got it,” Gilby nods. “So where’s Kendle?”

Lenny bangs his head on the counter again. This time he fails to miss the puddle and now has beer on his hair. He rubs on it with disgust.

“Why do we have to talk about Kendle? Kendle, Kendle, Kendle, as if my life revolves around Kendle.”

“Dunno, he always comes with you, doesn’t he?”

“Well, not this time.”

“Why is that?”

“Gilby, shut up!” Lenny explodes.

After that, they sit there and watch a re-run of a foolball game they’ve both already seen on a small black-and-white TV and exchange dull remarks about it, like “What a stupid move!” and “Look at that poof, he’s useless!“

Lenny tries to delay the moment when he has to return home, without a bird and with the sour taste of beer in his mouth. Gilby loyally keeps him company, or maybe he doesn’t have anything better to do either. But that dreaded moment still comes, as the owner of ‘The Four Bells’ starts lifting chairs on the tables. Gilby walks with Lenny to the corner, then they part their ways.

“Say hi to Kendle.”

“Sure,” Lenny responds sullenly.

When he comes home, everything is dark and quiet. The crisps are gone, there’s only an empty bag and crumbles on the couch table. Kendle seems to be asleep. Good. Lenny calls it a night as well.

*

When he leaves for work in the morning, Kendle is still in bed. Or he doesn’t get a chance to show any signs of life, because Lenny darts out of the house in two minutes, probably setting a world record. He gets a sandwich from a shop on his way to the small travel office they usually run together with Kendle.

The beginning of the week is even worse than usual. First, because it’s Monday, and Mondays are never good; second, because yesterday’s beer is still in his system making him queasy; third, because there are not many customers, people don’t wake up and think: “Oh, let me pop into the travel office first thing in the morning and book a safari!” The only customers he gets are boring pinchpennies who want the cheapest ticket to London.

Lenny cleans their window display with a plastic deep-tanned man on a fake beach surrounded by cardboard palm-trees. Then he sits in a canvas chair beside his plastic companion and imagines being in Spain. “Another cocktail, please, thank you, honey.” Sometimes they can get a free weekend trip on the company charges, if their sales are high enough. Actually, the customers are supposed to get a free weekend trip with a top booking, but Lenny’s smart enough not to share this information. He and Kendle have already travelled to Paris this way, where Kendle absolutely wanted to climb the Eiffel tower, and Lenny tried to have a discreet heart attack once they got to the top. Maybe they could go to Spain next time. “I’ll have some tapas with my vino, por favor.”

After work, he buys two bags of fish and chips and pops into a video rental shop. He stares at the shelves for ten minutes, unable to choose between ‘Die hard’ and ‘Basic instinct’. The first one is a proper film for a night in with your mate, and Kendle loves it. The second one, he has seen it at a cinema a couple of years ago, before Kendle moved into his house. It is weird and exciting, and he has an image in his head of watching it together with Kendle. It is not improper for a manly evening, because it has pantyless Sharon Stone in it. The first time he watched it with his wife. As soon as they got home that evening, they had to make love on the sitting room couch. They were half-undressed, and it was quick and messy. Afterwards she complained that he had ruined her dress. One of the last times they made love, before she ran off with that ugly bloke. In the end, Lenny takes both tapes.

Lenny enters the house cautiously. There is telly running in the sitting room. He walks in. Kendle is on the couch with his foot propped up, wearing his yesterday’s t-shirt. He turns to look at Lenny.

“Hi.”

“Hi.” The fat from the chips slowly soaks the paper, Lenny can feel it on his fingers. “I’ve got some fish and chips for you.” He hands one of the bags to Kendle.

“Thanks,” he smiles. “No hot bird yesterday?”

“Nope.”

Kendle nods.

“So it wasn’t my silly face that was the problem?”

“Don’t start.”

Kendle chuckles and unwraps the bag.

“I fixed the carpet.”

“No way.”

“I did, you can check if you like. I had nothing to do, it’s unbelievably boring at home alone.”

“Same in the office.”

“I can come to work tomorrow, if you want,” Kendle offers him his chips, Lenny grabs a couple.

“You’re on sick leave.”

Kendle shrugs.

“It’s not like I’ll need my legs to sit at the desk. Don’t make me run errands, though.”

“No,” Lenny smiles. “Oh,” he remembers. “Fancy a movie?”

“Which one?”

Lenny pauses.

“’Die hard’.”

“I love it!” Kendle beams.

*

Fish and chips unwrapped, two bottles of beer in front of them on the table, both of them in their old t-shirts, Lenny’s favourite TV blanket spread out to warm their knees, and Lenny’s personal TV pillow given up to support Kendle’s foot, they watch Bruce Willis fight Alan Rickman. Kendle has seen it many times before, but it doesn’t stop to amaze him.

“’Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho’,” he repeats after Alan Rickman in the same cold-blooded voice. “He’s great, isn’t he?”

“Uh-huh.”

Kendle’s warm hip touches Lenny’s. They are only wearing boxers, as they always do on lazy evenings. Lenny has finished his sauce first and now dives into Kendle’s bag for more. Kendle prefers his chips dry. Kendle leans forward to take a sip of beer and then snuggles back beside Lenny. There’s enough space on the couch to move apart, but none of them does it.

They can watch ‘Basic Instinct’ tomorrow. Lenny will buy more chips and more beer, and they will have another lazy night in. He’s not sure whether Kendle has seen the film. They will watch Sharon Stone spread her legs in front of a room full of policemen. They will watch her having sex with the police guy, her smooth body in full view. Kendle will love it. They can discuss where and how they would shag Sharon Stone. Kendle will get all worked up, and Lenny will sit beside him, their hips pressed together tightly, and feel all his tiny movements, the involuntary jerks you can’t help when you’re excited and cannot give yourself away.

Kendle fidgets and exclaims: “That’s crazy, what he does, right?”

Lenny’s attention has slipped away from the action, so he is at a loss.

“Yeah, totally,” he agrees.

Kendle finishes his chips and throws the bag under the couch. Then he pulls the blanket up to his chest.

“It’s cold.”

“I haven’t noticed.”

Kendle’s body is radiating heat, Lenny is rather hot than cold. Kendle hides his hands underneath the blanket. It makes Lenny nervous. He is getting hard, and Kendle’s hands are too close to his private parts. If he knew that Kendle would mind, he wouldn’t have thought twice about it. But he has an inkling that Kendle will, in fact, not mind, and this puts everything down to Lenny’s choice.

Kendle shifts. They are so close together that Lenny can feel the muscles in his leg. They start tightening and relaxing ever so slightly, in a way that Lenny instantly recognises. Kendle’s eyes are glazed, his lips are parted. Bruce Willis does another amazing thing on the screen, but he doesn’t comment. This is it, Lenny.

He is so stiff now, that the rubber band of his boxers hurts the tip of his cock. He allows himself to follow Kendle’s rocking movements and places his hand under the blanket nonchalantly. This is probably unnecessary, but it’s an old habit: try to act aloof, and you will be less hurt by a rejection. Lenny moves his hand, as if to scratch his hip, and meets Kendle’s fingers in the middle.

They don’t look at each other. For several seconds, they stay like this, their fingers intertwined, and don’t know which way to go next. Then they disentangle them. Lenny slides his hand across Kendle’s hip covered with soft curly hair. A bit further, and his fingertips touch the cotton of Kendle’s boxers and, underneath it, his balls, tight with arousal. Kendle gives a squeak and spreads his hips wider.

You cannot do this nonchalantly. Lenny’s palms are sweaty. He turns to face Kendle, so that he can use both hands, and tugs at his waistband. Kendle licks his lips and meets Lenny’s gaze with an expectant half-smile.

“No-no-no, don’t look at me,” Lenny wants to pull away. Kendle’s expression changes to that of alarm. He grabs Lenny’s wrists.

“Okay, I won’t, promise. Cross my heart and hope to die.” He shuts his eyes tightly and even purses his lips from the effort. He looks so determined that Lenny has to snortle.

“Fine. I’ll go on then,” he says, mostly for his own sake.

Kendle nods, “Yes, please.”

Kendle’s t-shirt is hoicked up by the stiffness of his cock. Lenny pulls at his waistband revealing more of it. Kendle feels around blindly with his hands until they stop at Lenny’s thighs.

Lenny clears his throat, “I shall – I’ll just wank you off, shall I?”

It’s easier when he’s talking, and he also wants to hear Kendle’s voice. Kendle has a pleasant voice, not beautiful in any way, especially when Kendle sings in the shower, but it’s nice to hear. It’s like soda bubbles tickling the inside of your nose: it shouldn’t be pleasant, but you want to repeat the sensation.

“I was thinking the same thing,” Kendle says. He puts his hand through the wide leg of Lenny’s boxer shorts and cups his balls. Lenny gives a short laugh.

“Ticklish!”

“Sorry.”

“No, go on.”

Kendle pulls on his boxers, and Lenny lifts his butt a little to help him. He puts his palm around Kendle’s cock. It’s like touching himself, only that he cannot feel it. Kendle can. He throws back his head and exhales loudly. Lenny starts sliding his hand up and down the shaft, like he would do for himself, slowly getting into the taste of a fine, long wank. The kind you indulge in when you have all the time in the world and no one is around to disturb you. Kendle pushes towards his hand and moans quietly.

“Oh, that’s good, man.”

“I know, I’m a pro,” Lenny says graciously. Kendle arches his eyebrows – without opening his eyes, as promised. “I’m a pro with my own… Forget it.”

Kendle fumbles for Lenny’s cock. The sole idea that it’s Kendle giving him a handjob makes Lenny shiver. Kendle tries to imitate him, but his movements are too fast and harsh.

“Easy, easy,” Lenny gasps. “Hold your horses, it’s not a race.”

Kendle slows down, but not enough.

“Do you always do it like this?” Lenny asks.

“Do what?” Kendle pauses.

“Beat the dummy. Cuff the carrot. Spank the monkey. Pleasure yourself. Masturbate.”

“Oh. I don’t know.”

Kendle opens his eyes and looks at Lenny with a puzzled expression.

“No worries. Let’s start again.”

He wants Kendle to continue, whatever the speed and dexterity. He takes Kendle’s hand and clasps it on his cock, then starts moving it.

“Oh yes,” his breathing grows faster. He strokes Kendle’s cock with the same rhythm which almost feels as if they were really fucking. Kendle gets into the swing of it. His every exhale comes with a tiny moan. With his free hand he feels for Lenny’s neck, tries to pull him in or to turn to face him, but the cast on his foot gets in the way.

“Can we – I don’t know – that’s not right,” he murmurs. Lenny gets what he means.

“Wait, lie down.”

“I’ll fall. Ouch!”

“No, you won’t, I’m holding onto your most precious parts. Put that pillow under your head.”

They throw a couple of pillows on the floor to make some room and manage to fit onto the short and narrow couch. Lenny pulls down his boxers and lies on top of Kendle, their legs intertwined. It’s less comfortable, because he has to use his elbows and knees for support, but more exciting, as the whole of Kendle’s body is now rubbing against his. Kendle is shaking. He throws his good leg around Lenny’s hip and presses his groin into Lenny’s. Lenny begins rocking back and forth. Kendle gives a sob, just like the one Lenny heard through the wall, but now it’s right in his ear, Kendle’s hot breath, shivering, pulsation in his own cock that’s bursting from tension.

“I want to fuck you, Kendle, I want to fuck you, and fuck you,” he mutters to get some release.

Their stomachs are pressed together, their cocks caught between them. They rub into each other. Kendle sighs and moans. His cheek is against Lenny’s.

“Will you kiss me?” he murmurs, out of breath.

“Kiss?” Lenny raises himself up on an elbow. Kendle pauses, too.

“You’re supposed to kiss when you make love,” he says almost apologetically.

“You’re not supposed to make love to your mates at all,” Lenny responds.

“But it’s nice.”

Lenny thinks about it for a second.

“Yeah, why not.”

One of Kendle’s ex-girlfriends said Kendle had a weak lower lip when he kissed. Lenny doesn’t notice anything of the sort. Girls are always too picky. Or maybe he’s not in the state to notice.

“Oh fuck.” He bites into Kendle’s lips. “Oh fuck.” His body starts twitching, he chafes against Kendle as hard as he can. “Oh fuck.”

He cums onto Kendle’s stomach and goes blind for several seconds.

“Oi! Lenny!” Kendle whines. “What about me?”

“What about you?” Lenny murmurs into his shoulder with a corner of his mouth.

“Don’t be a dick, I’m not done yet!”

Lenny could drift off right now, but he rolls to the side and takes Kendle’s cock into his hand. Kendle smiles with relief and throws his head back onto Lenny’s favourite TV pillow. Lenny wanks him off hard and fast. Kendle is close to the climax now, that’s what he needs. Kendle arches his back, his chest heaving. His cock is wet and slick from Lenny’s cum. He clenches his balls with both hands, as if trying to squeeze the orgasm he yearns for out of them.

Lenny’s arm starts to ache. He looks at Kendle: his eyes are shut. Good, he wouldn’t have dared it otherwise. He wants to try it, at least once, but it’s definitely outside the realm of a friendly wank. Although kissing was already way beyound it.

He bends his head and touches the tip of Kendle’s cock with his tongue. Kendle exhales sharply – and stops breathing at all. Lenny can taste his own salty sperm – not something he’s ever wished to experience, but it’s not too bad – and Kendle’s sweetish pre-cum. He gives the bell-end a longer lick, then open his lips for it. He doesn’t even get to get it deeper into his mouth; Kendle remembers how to breathe, and cums with a sudden yelp. Lenny is not prepared, and the sperm spurtles all over his chin. Kendle keeps shivering, as the last sticky drops leak onto his stomach. Lenny wipes the sperm off his face with Kendle’s t-shirt.

“Eww.”

“This was amazing,” Kendle says dreamily.

“Yeah, not bad.”

Lenny feels the need to balance out the cocksucking experience with nonchalance.

“It wasn’t ‘not bad’, it was amazing! It was the best shag in my life!” Kendle meets Lenny’s eyes and adds, “Well, it’s definitely in my top ten.”

“You had ten?” Lenny asks ironically.

“Is it in your top ten?” Kendle sits up and looks at Lenny with his eyes wide open.

“Maybe.”

“Top five?”

“Maybe.”

“Top three?”

“Kendle!”

“It is in your top three!” Kendle announces victoriously. “Was it the best?”

“Kendle! I’m not talking to you.”

Lenny gets up from the couch and examines his messy t-shirt.

“I need a wash.”

He runs upstairs, to the bathroom. He can hear Kendle moving downstairs and turning on the kitchen tap.

It’s hard to say whether it was the best shag of his life. It’s hard to compare Kendle with the women he had. It was different. But it was very good.

Lenny changes into his dressing gown and goes back to the sitting room. Kendle’s already on the couch, wrapped in the blanket, a fresh bottle of beer in his hand.

“D’you want to finish the film?” he asks.

“Sure.” Lenny plops down on the couch beside him, grabs the beer from Kendle and takes a large gulp before returning the bottle. A proper guys’ night in. Kendle takes a sip, smiles at Lenny broadly and squeezes his hand under the blanket.

*

Next morning in the shop, Lenny tries to figure out a new way to place the brochures on the rack which would encourage the customers to buy cruises around the Mediterranean instead of bus tickets to Little Dullston. There is a strange sound coming from Kendle.

“Is there a kettle on?” Lenny asks without turning his head. The sound stops.

“No, why?”

“I thought I heard a kettle whistle.”

“It was me!” Kendle seems a bit hurt.

“Why are you whistling?”

“Because I’m happy.”

Lenny turns to look at him. Kendle is placed behind his desk with his crutches leaning against it, and has nothing yet to do.

“Really, you’re happy at nine in the morning?”

Kendle stretches himself and grins.

“Nothing wrong with being happy early in the morning. Actually, it’s the best time to be happy, ‘cause you still have fresh memories about, you know,” he tones it down a little, “last night.”

Lenny looks around with a pang of panic, as if passers-by behind the large shop window could hear them.

“Kendle!” he hisses. “Nothing happened last night!”

Kendle keeps smiling, but drops his voice to a whisper, “I know. But the thing that didn’t happen was still fantastic.”

Lenny returns to his brochures. He hardly has time to finish organising the first shelf when Kendle calls:

“Lenny!”

“Mm-hm?”

“Does it mean you’re my boyfriend now?”

Lenny drops a stack of brochures.

“What? Why would I be your boyfriend?”

Sometimes he is not sure whether Kendle is that naïve or just enjoys driving him up the wall. No, from the past experience, he’s actually that naïve.

“Well, when two people make love, aren’t they supposed to become a couple?”

Lenny quickly runs up to Kendle, before he has blurted out anything else, sits down on the edge of his desk and leans very close to him.

“Kendle, it’s a rule for the girls, not for us. Do you remember the rules?”

“Like giving them flowers?”

“Yes, the flowers, and the chocolates, and taking them out to dinner, and meeting their mother –“

“And the ring,” Kendle catches up.

“Yeah, and the ring. These are rules for the girls. We’re not girls.”

“Oh, okay.” Kendle becomes thoughtful. “No flowers, no chocolates, no dinners and no rings. Lenny? Can we still do the chocolates? Lenny, ple-ease?” He grabs Lenny’s forearm and looks him pleadingly in the eye.

“If you buy me beer in exchange,” Lenny says jokingly. Kendle takes him up on it.

“Oh, thank you, Lenny, thank you! Can I have my chocolates now?”

So Lenny goes out and buys a pack of Cadbury’s bites, and then attempts to shoot them one by one from five feet into Kendle’s open mouth. He misses most of the time, Kendle is covered in chocolate crumbs, but he still laughs happily at every try.

As they watch ‘Basic instinct’ that evening, they don’t even get to the interrogation scene.