Rory and Sebastian Ch. 19bysebastiando©
-- With great apologies for the delay and thanks for all the comments --
"I think so, Rory," I laughed. Half-laughed, I guess. Rory was staring at me in total shock and bewilderment, as if he'd somehow fallen asleep on his own life and woken up in a scene he didn't recognize.
His silence lasted for another few seconds and his eyes were almost dancing with surprise. Big brown eyes, just like I remembered but which no memory, and no photograph, could ever quite prepare you for seeing again in the flesh.
"Hi!" he finally said, with a laugh of his own. His own half-laugh.
"Hi," I replied and went into hug him. As my arms circle half-way between his waist and his torso, I felt him go rigid, although he returned the hug. Nerves at seeing me? Surprise at the hug? Concerns about his weight? "I was just thinking about you."
Well, that was probably the single most uncool thing I could have said.
"What are you doing here?" Rory asked. "Why are you in Edinburgh?"
"Why are you?" I rebutted.
"Mummy's come up to visit me; we're staying in that hotel," he said, pointing to the Balmoral behind us. He was still smiling, hesitantly. Those eyes. "Why are you here?"
"I'm up with a friend from college," I replied. I saw him smile that I still used the American word rather than the English. "He's hungover, so I came out to see the sights on my own. And then I ran into you. Talk about seeing history."
I meant it as a joke, but there was a slightly stung look that flashed across Rory's face, just for a second. I felt bad and hastened to correct myself, but didn't. After all, it had been his decision that we were history.
I felt mean-spirited thinking that.
"I'm just looking round for somewhere to get a cup of coffee," I explained, by way of breaking the tension.
"Do you ...?"
He was going to invite me to come with him. I knew it. I could recognize instinctively the tone of his voice when he wanted to invite someone somewhere but was unsure they'd said yes.
"Yes?" I prompted.
"We could grab coffee at the hotel? It's right over there."
"Yeah, that'd be awesome," I said, with my brightest, most reassuring, most forced smile. This was already running the risk of becoming awkward and I didn't know how or why; all I knew was that I couldn't leave him. This was bad. All of it, everything I'd felt for him, was rushing back very, very quickly.
The hotel itself reeked of a kind of old world opulence, like a modernized version of the Edwardians. It was nice; beautiful even. Rory has always possessed a kind of haze of old-world charm and the environs suited him. It was as if he belonged in rooms like this -- in cavernous reception rooms with roaring fireplaces. I don't know if I was entirely aware of it at the time, but it somehow made him stand out in even greater focus from men like Harry Martyn and even Dan. Dan, who I'd only ever seen in a student house, a dingy bar or a cheap restaurant; what chance did he, or anyone have for that matter, in a game of comparisons to Rory as he sat, perfectly dressed, slightly too thin, his eyes sparkling in his face and looking, for all the world, like a prince, a younger son of a royal family, ensconced in a world of understated splendor and sophistication? As he sat down in one of the chairs across a small table and turned to look at me, I was struck again by his unique and inimitable grace. A kind of unconscious charm of his movements, which I always associate with how I felt about him the day I first properly "noticed" him -- fixing his tie in the wind above the sports fields at school.
"Is this alright?" he asked, in the polished tones I'd half-forgotten. "We can go somewhere else if you like?"
"No, it's beautiful, Rory," I smiled. Saying his name sounded strange, like something from long ago. It was almost taboo to say it and I felt bizarre, but not uncomfortable, sitting so close to him after so long apart.
"I'm so glad you like it," he replied.
The waiter came over and we ordered a coffee for me and tea for him. I ordered a scone as well, to tide me over. He ordered nothing and my thoughts must have shown on my face, because he smiled knowingly and said, "I had lunch earlier," as the waiter left.
"How are your family?"
"Good," I answered truthfully. "Very good, actually. Evan and Sarah are still together."
"That's lovely. They're so well-suited to each other."
For the first time, a slight stab of annoyance struck me. For over a year I had occasionally wondered at Rory's rationale in ending our relationship. At times, I could certainly understand why he did, but at others I was furious with him -- hurt and/or confused that he had made no gesture, no display of kindness in the eighteen months since we'd last been together. His silence, his deafening silence, had often seemed to be a subtle and vindictive form of cruelty. A vicious form of long-term attrition, telling me that what we had experienced together had still not been enough to cancel out one moment of drunken, and possibly non-consensual, stupidity on my part.
"Yeah, they are," I said, a trifle tersely. I saw him purse his lips slightly, with a touch more emphasis on the center of his bottom lip. He had noticed my reaction -- of course he did, he always noticed. His skill at noticing everything around him and then choosing what to acknowledge had been one of the most interesting, and often frustrating, features of his personality.
Instantly, he brightened to ease the tension. "And how's London?"
"Great. The course is a lot of work, but I really like the course and I've made a good group of friends."
"Amazing. Are you living out this year?"
"Yeah. Most people do in London. What about you?"
"No, there's room in our college halls for second years if they want it and it's so much less hassle, so most of my friends did that. I saw on Facebook that you kept up rugby?"
I saw it shoot through his eyes -- the crashing realization that he'd just admitted to keeping tabs on me via Facebook. I leaned back in my seat and smirked, "Did you?"
He held my eye contact, smiled as he bowed to defeat and rolled his eyes. "There's a newsfeed, Sebastian."
"Uh-huh," I said, mockingly.
"You're so irritating."
"Stop stalking me on Facebook if I'm such an irritation."
The waiter returned with our order and we stayed silent while he deposited everything on the table. We both thanked him and he left. "What happened to your braces?" I asked, once we were alone together again.
"I got them off last week," he said. "How did you even know about those?"
"You didn't de-tag some of the photos quickly enough, Ror."
I'd just admitted to stalking him too and I'd admitted it tactically. He smiled appreciatively, in a pleased and bashful sort of way and then he cast his eyes downwards in gentle embarrassment and my heart actually felt for a second like it contracted. I was desperately in love with this guy and had never, ever stopped.
"I very nearly called you after I got them, you know."
"Why didn't you?"
"Well, you wouldn't have been able to understand me for the first few days," he said, making light of it. "I sounded like I'd swallowed my own tongue. It was so sore, Sebastian. And then, I don't know, I suppose it would have been a bit weird or silly to contact you after so long about something like that, wouldn't it?"
The rest of the coffee passed in a whirl of pleasantries -- families, friends from school (he was still in touch with Virginia and Claudia, intermittently with Caroline, but they didn't see much of Judith anymore, at all), our courses, our summers, respective life in Saint Andrew's and London, and an upcoming wedding at home in Kent which, it turned out, we were both invited to. That helped ease the tension of suggesting a follow-up meeting, because we were now going to meet again anyway regardless. I hadn't even known his family knew the Mortimers, but apparently his mother was childhood best friends with the bride's mother. As our re-union drew to a close, I made the mistake of going to the bathroom, at which point he settled the bill, leaving me annoyed since I'd wanted to do that. By the time I emerged back onto the streets of Edinburgh, it was already dark and when I glanced down at my phone, I realized that I had four missed calls and three texts from Peter.
"This was such a pleasant surprise," Rory said, on the steps of the hotel.
"It was great, Rory. Really great." I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek; my arms wrapped tightly around his waist and I held him there, for a just few seconds longer than was necessary. "I'll see you at home."
"Yes," he smiled. "Goodbye."
I turned to go and when I looked back to glance over my shoulder, he was still standing there watching me. I winked back and he rolled his eyes, before turning back into the hotel and vanishing from sight.
"Where were you?" Pete asked, the second I walked in through the door to his apartment. "I've been calling you all afternoon!"
"Sorry, dude, I ran into an old friend from school and lost track of time. How's your hangover?"
"Not great," Peter groused, walking into his kitchen and flicking on the kettle to make some more coffee for himself. "Who'd you run into? You could at least have texted."
"I know, I'm sorry. I ran into Rory."
Peter turned quickly to look at me. "Rory, as in Rory-Rory? Your ex-boyfriend Rory?"
"Yep," I laughed. "We grabbed a coffee at the Balmoral. Fanc-y!"
"And you just randomly managed to run into him today?" Peter asked, disbelievingly.
"Eh, yeah. We haven't really spoken in months, so it's not like it was planned. It's not like it even could have been."
"Are you OK?"
"What about Dan?" Pete asked with, honestly, a lot more aggression than was warranted.
"What about him?"
"It's not like Rory and I met up for coffee and a fuck, Pete!"
"Well, that's not like you."
"Sorry, Seb, but Dan really likes you and it seems a bit of a coincidence that we come all the way up to Edinburgh and you manage to meet up with the guy who broke your heart and spend the whole afternoon with him."
I didn't like this. "First of all, Pete, it was a coincidence. You can believe me or not believe me if you like, but I think you know I wouldn't lie to you if I had pre-arranged to meet him. And if I had made plans to meet Rory in secret, wouldn't it have been a dumb idea not to tell you I'd be out all afternoon in case you came looking for me? Thirdly, I like Dan too and it's not as if Rory and I discussed getting back together and even if we did, Daniel and I aren't official. Not even anything like that."
"He really likes you," Pete said, coldly, "and he's my friend."
"I know that," I groaned. "I know that, Pete. And I will tell him about this, but it wasn't anything shady or pre-arranged, OK? So get off my back."
He had the grace to look slightly abashed, but he hadn't backed down totally; I could tell that. "OK," he said, after a moment's silence. "That's fair. Just don't do anything to hurt Dan. Do you want some coffee?"
It was my Irish flatmate Helen who proved to be much more help than Pete when it came to what I felt about Daniel and Rory. The truth of it all was that from the moment I'd realized how strong my feelings still were for Rory, I'd unconsciously made the decision that I would have to end things with Daniel. By the end of my first week back in London after reading week that feeling had moved into my conscious and Helen's advice played a big part in that. Part of the decision, undoubtedly and unpleasantly if I'm completely honest, was pragmatic and had nothing to do with Daniel. If Rory thought for even a single tiny solitary second that there was somebody else on the horizon at the same time as thoughts of him and I, please please please!, getting back together were hopefully raised, then he'd never forgive me. But Helen and I talked it out and we both realized that even if Rory and I never got back together or approached the issue, he was now very much in my head again. In those circumstances, it was unfair to Daniel and unhelpful to me to carry on with a course of dating that very soon might result in a relationship. As long as I felt this way about Rory Masterton again, it was unfair to string Daniel along.
On Saturday night, I invited Daniel over and told him everything, as tactfully as I could. He was upset, I could tell, but he wasn't as devastated as my ego or Peter's passive aggressive anger had predicted. He said he understood and that he was sorry things couldn't go further with us. He teared up a bit at one point, which made me feel absolutely awful, but as we hugged on goodbye he told me he appreciated my honesty. I've always wondered if that were true, because within a couple of weeks Dan's behavior towards me when we did encounter one another socially went from friendly to awkward to downright rude. Eventually, his go-to position when it came to seeing me was a huffy silence. I suppose a lot of people's feelings change when they've had time to adjust and think it over. In hindsight, Pete's fears that Daniel would be hurt by my decision not to pursue things with him were probably right, but even knowing all that, it doesn't honestly and fairly seem like there was anything else I could have legitimately done in that situation.
Pete remained a bit pissed at me for a couple of weeks and didn't like hearing Rory's name being mentioned round the house, particularly by Helen who seemed thrilled at the prospect of vicariously living through the reuniting of a high school romance. But by the time I went back to Kent for Christmas, he'd thawed out and wished me all the best as I left. Part of me had wanted to sit down and explain to him about the me-Rory-Dan situation, but another part just felt annoyed at him; I've never liked it when people decide to adopt other people's quarrels as their own and given the way I'd seen him break-up with his ex-girlfriends in our first year, I found it a bit rich to find him pontificating on it, just because he was friends with Daniel and didn't know Rory at all. Maybe that makes me sound like an asshole, but I hope it doesn't. This was about me and Rory, not Peter, Helen or Daniel.
--From Rory's POV--
Sylvia Mortimer's wedding to Ross Anderson was beautiful. Winter weddings always carry with them the implicit possibly of the horror word "wonderland," in which everything looks like Narnia regurgitated onto it. However, Ross and Sylvia had managed to do everything so tastefully and to totally avoid a theme or the appearance of a wonderland. It seemed some how much more organic and much more attune to their tastes as a couple. It really was rather lovely. They had it a castle sprawling on a vast estate in the countryside about an hour from where my family lived at the time. I think, although I could be wrong, that the castle had about thirty or forty bedrooms and that quite a few of the guests booked the rooms to stay there after the party. The whole day I hadn't seen much of Sebastian, but he looked heart-stoppingly handsome in his grey suit. The blond hair of his was newly-cut and just the right side of tousled to seem interesting without appearing untidy. But there were so many people there that we didn't really get a chance to speak and we weren't seated at the same table. Nor can the sight of my brother Dermot glowering at Sebastian from behind me have exactly encouraged Sebastian to come over and start a conversation. I'd texted him the day before, however, to let him know that we were staying over; he'd replied to say that his family too had not liked the idea of travelling back so late at night or taxiing and they had decided to stay.
I was sitting at the dressing table in my room. A room of tweeds and reds and golds. Mismatched in the way that only the really old houses are. I love the aesthetic; I always have. It's my favourite. The only light came from the bedside lamp. I had removed my tie and jacket and was sitting in my shirt, top two buttons undone, my black trousers, socks and shoes. A gale was blowing outside and there was a horrible fusion of snow and sleet falling against my window. I stared into my own reflection and then heard a soft knock on my door. I turned my head in that direction and I came distinctly remember feeling a total lack of surprise, as if I knew he'd come.
I opened the door and he was standing in the dimly lit corridor, wearing a shirt, tie and grey trousers. My room was at the end of a hallway, just round a slight corner in the wall. The corridors sounded quiet, apart from the faint sound of the party still going on at the other end of the castle.
"Hey," he said.
"Hi," I answered. I stepped back, opening the door farther and standing aside to let him come in. He stood behind me as I closed the door with a gentle click, wondering in my head at how smooth the old mahogany door handle felt in my hand. My back was still to him.
"I don't really know why I'm here," he said from behind me. I thought I detected a trace of nerves there. I think I am one of the few people who got to see him, or make him, nervous.
I turned to look at him, my back close to, but not quite up against, the door.
"You looked lovely in your suit," I said lamely. It was the only thing I could think of to say. I always fell back on manners or platitudes when I didn't know what to say or to do.
He leaned in quickly, almost lunged, and kissed me. Like the knock on the door, when the kiss happened I wasn't surprised. My hands hesitated for a second and then pressed up against his chest and then around his neck. Our tongues met as our mouths opened and it felt as if everything that had happened, all the time that had gone by, didn't matter. I knew, even in the haze, that this did not mean that they were officially back together and that a talk, some kind of reckoning and honest conversation, would be needed before that could happen. Yet even with that, I didn't care at that moment.
The kiss rapidly spiraled into something hungrier and more urgent. I felt myself get hard very quickly. I felt embarrassed and tried to arch the lower half of my body away from his so he couldn't tell, but he had already felt it and assertively put his right hand on the lower part of my back, dragging me back in towards him. I felt him start to respond and we began pacing over towards the bed, without breaking contact. He started undoing my shirt and I started undoing his. He broke off the kiss and held my face: "Do you want this?" he asked.
"Yes," I answered, without a second's hesitation.
We reached the edge of the bed and I lowered myself back onto it. We were kissing again and he came with me. I could feel his erection throbbing through his trousers. It was so hard that it must have been painful. I was tugging his shirt off down his arms and he broke the kiss, arching back to make it easier. Even in the dim light and the awkward angle, I could see the change in his body. If Sebastian had been toned before, the only way to describe him now was positively ripped. Every inch of him pulsated with a kind of impossibly vital health; it was all muscular. I gasped slightly in lust and memory, which distracted me as he unbuttoned my shirt. I couldn't say that I was totally comfortable with my body, but I was much, much better than I had been before and I knew that when sex was happening nudity was often required. I had started eating better and working out more, so when Sebastian managed to fumble my shirt off, I didn't feel too panicked. Not thrilled, but not panicked either.
He pinned my arms down and stared at my naked torso. "Thank God this is back," he said, before diving down to give me an enormous hicky on my collar bone. We used to it all the time in bed and he knew I loved it. I arched in towards him and felt him struggling to undo his belt. As he did that, I stripped myself -- kicking off my shoes, nudging him off me to peel off my socks, stepping out of my trousers. By the time I was finished, he was too and he pulled me back in towards him. We were naked in each other's arms again and I felt our dicks slide together in their mutual precum. It felt raw and perfectly right.