Beau et le BetebyPelaam©
Pelaam© July 2009, A re-telling of Beauty and the Beast inspired by loves_sg1
At the sound of the female voice one of the three men sitting waiting looked up.
"That's me," Ethan said with an easy smile.
"I'm Emma O'Connor. I'll be taking you around before you have your induction." She checked out the young man and was certain he was doing his own subtle survey. He was only a few inches taller than her with auburn hair tied back in a ponytail. His smile was easy and his eyes an oceanic blue. There was nothing mesmerising about his face, although Emma did like his smile. However, what were most noticeable were the stick he used in his right hand and his limping gait. Emma could not remember being told Ethan was recovering from an accident.
"How long ago?" she asked indicating his leg, expecting a date of an accident.
"Birth," Ethan replied evenly. He smiled at the shocked look.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Emma said quickly.
"It's okay," Ethan assured. "I'm used to it. Most people think I was in an accident and that I'm only using the cane temporarily. I've had multiple operations on it and this is as best I'll ever be. It doesn't interfere too much."
"I'm glad," Emma said honestly. "I'll just show you the office," she glanced at her watch. "Then I need to get you to the Education Centre."
They moved through a door into an open-plan office and turned left through a second door.
"This is payroll," Emma said. She smiled at the faces that turned upwards to regard the newest member of staff with varying degrees of curiosity. She heard a slight intake of breath and glanced over to where Ethan's eyes had travelled.
"Who's he?" Ethan asked. A lone male stood in an office, currently engaged in deep conversation so the younger man was only able to see half of his face. He was tall, muscular with short-cut honey-blond hair. Very nice.
"That's the Boss, Marcus Ellerman, also known as Beau and Bête."
"Bow and bet?" Ethan echoed, his face a mask of puzzlement.
Giggling, Emma spelt out the French words.
"Beauty and Beast," she concluded.
Ethan stared at the other man. On the day of his interview he had been told that one of the interviewees had unexpectedly called in sick, but a substitute had been brought in. He had not met his prospective boss.
"Him? Beast? No way. Put him and me side by side and you have beau and bête."
"That's externals, Ethan," Emma whispered. "Marcus has 'dated' a lot of the girls in the hospital, but although it's champagne and roses on the night, it's also wham, bam and thank you ma'am. The good time he gives ensures some girls are willing to go with him more than once, but he's a good-time guy only. They hope they can change him, but he stays the same. A couple of my friends have been out with him and they said it was like being in bed with a mechanical bull. Plenty of action but no emotion."
Ethan could not stop the snort of laughter. He sobered instantly as intense blue eyes focused on him with laser-like heat. The guy was sex-on-legs and, regrettably, straight-as-a-die. Ethan gave a mental sigh. What was it they said about the good ones being taken or straight?
"I'd best get you to the Education Centre, Ethan," Emma said. She hoped Marcus had not heard anything. She would hate to have started Ethan off on the wrong foot with Marcus. The man was difficult and exacting, but fair.
"Emma, if you please," Marcus' voice halted her before she could usher Ethan away. "You must be Ethan. I'm Marcus Ellerman, the Department Manager." He had seen the interview notes and was happy enough with the choice of Ethan. However, he was not sure what possessed him to get so close so quick.
Ethan took a couple of seconds to balance himself and extended his right hand.
"That's right. Good to meet you."
Marcus' eyes flickered from their co-joined hands to the smaller man's face and back again in a heartbeat. He looked to see if there was any indication that the handshake had produced the same frisson in Ethan as it had him. However, the other man simply regarded him with the same inscrutable, smoky-blue orbs.
"You, too. We'll meet formally after your induction. I hope you enjoy working here."
Emma frowned and then shrugged; for a second she had seen something in Marcus' eyes.
"Okay, Ethan, let's go."
It had been a month since starting his new job and Ethan was celebrating in style. The club he was in was gay and extremely exclusive. You had to be personally known and recommended and then could still be black-balled from membership. He gave a sound of contentment as he was swayed gently. Energetic dancing was out of the question, but a slow dance in a partner's arms was more than an acceptable substitute, especially when you felt safe and comfortable in the embrace.
"You're so hedonistic."
An amused voice reached Ethan's ears and he smiled against the chest before him.
"I don't hear you complaining," he retorted good-naturedly.
"I'm an absolute martyr," the voice laughingly replied.
"In that case, oh martyr, you can get us the next round of drinks," Ethan laughed back.
"Slave driver," came the half-muttered retort that had Ethan laughing harder.
"Get over it, Darren," Ethan said, playfully slapping at his dance-partner's arm. He watched the older man amble away with affectionate eyes and began to ease his way towards some comfortable chairs.
The Club had several rooms for its patrons. The room he was currently in played an eclectic mix of music; old and modern popular music that had people dancing. The bar was another room across the hall with seating and pool tables for those who sought to remain and talk there. There were a couple of other rooms, one with a large book selection and another with a gigantic plasma screen that displayed sports channels. There was even a small restaurant. All of it in luxurious surroundings, the best of everything, it was like temporarily stepping into another world.
Then Ethan blinked disbelievingly. Emerging into view, looking every inch a fish out of water, was Marcus. The older man was walking around, a half-full glass of red wine in his hand and, to Ethan's eyes, exuding an invisible wall distancing himself from what went on around him. The younger man shook his head. He would never have suspected that Marcus would even know of this club, much less be a member. He was sure of that deduction as several men nodded at Marcus, clearly used to his presence. With a reassuring smile, Ethan headed over to the older man.
"Marcus," Ethan began, reaching out a hand in greeting.
"Don't touch me." The words were hissed from between lips that barely moved.
Ethan blinked for a second or two, not believing he had heard correctly. However, the look of almost blind panic in Marcus' eyes had Ethan slowly lower his hand. However before he could say anything further Darren was back. He was aware of the bigger man at his shoulder.
"Marcus," Darren's voice sounded brittle, almost glacial. "Ethan, are you alright? Is he bothering you?"
Ethan forced a smile, hoping it looked more genuine than it felt.
"My mistake. I thought I knew this person, clearly I was wrong." Ethan knew he would not get away with the lie for long, but it least it would get him away from Marcus. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the other man pale as if the words actually hurt. Against all his natural empathic tendencies, however, Ethan could not help feeling slightly pleased that his words had affected Marcus in a similar way to him. "Take me into the lounge?" he asked. "My leg's beginning to ache, I need a seat."
"My fault for keeping you dancing so long," Darren groaned. "Let me help."
Darren's concern and contriteness made Ethan feel shards of guilt for playing on his disability. However, he simply smiled as Darren adroitly balanced their drinks in one hand and used his other as a support for the younger man. Ethan was distantly relieved neither of them spared another word for, or even glance at, Marcus as they moved away, leaving him standing like a statue, as if detached from all that surrounded him.
"What was that about?" Darren demanded once he had seated Ethan comfortably.
"That was my boss," Ethan said his voice surprisingly calm. "It seems he didn't want me to acknowledge I knew him."
"I've seen him here before. He seems to know a few of the members," Darren growled. "I can get him barred for a few months if you'd like."
"No. I don't come that often. It's the first time I've seen him here. I'd have remembered if I'd seen a hunk like him before. I used to think his nickname a bit cruel, but the pretty wrapper hides a bitter centre."
"What nickname?" asked Darren, sipping at his drink.
"Beau et bête, beauty and beast."
"Seems fitting then," Warren rejoined. "Let's forget about him and enjoy the rest of the evening. I know you'll turn into Cinderella if I keep you out too late."
The remark forced Ethan to focus back on his friend. However, his mind could not help but replay the look in Marcus' eyes and wonder about the older man's strange reaction.
Ethan lay in bed, one hand pinching a nipple, the other rolling his sac, squeezing together and apart the ovals it contained, letting his arousal build slowly. He had been inexplicably tense since returning from The Club. He had taken a leisurely shower and gone to bed. After lying awake, unable to relax and sleep, he had decided on another course of action. One of his collection of adult DVDs played in the background, sound muted as he did not need to hear the unrealistic groans. He glanced at it occasionally, trying to take his mind off what he knew was the cause of his tension.
It had hurt to be so brusquely spoken to, to be looked at the way Marcus had. Yet Ethan found the older man's face appearing again and again as he worked his body. That confused Ethan. The man was undeniably handsome. He pictured how Marcus might look naked, aroused, smiling, his face open and relaxed. The man was over six feet tall, powerful and sleek and Ethan imagined Marcus looming over him. He envisioned large hands skimming over his skin, the sensual mouth capturing and suckling at a nipple while his hand continued its rhythmic movements. He pictured what Marcus would look like, flushed with arousal, panting as he reached his pinnacle and, as his dream-lover came, Ethan's orgasm erupted. Pulse after pulse of semen pooled on his stomach as he moaned and writhed.
He lay panting harshly and reached for the hand towel to clean himself. Post-orgasmic lethargy rolled over him in waves and Ethan switched his television off. With a sigh that was part completion, part confusion, Ethan's eyes closed.
Nothing seemed out of place at work. Marcus greeted Ethan as if they had never had the encounter in The Club. However, Ethan was able to see that there were shadows in Marcus' eyes as if the bigger man was afraid that Ethan would mention where they had met. It both hurt and angered him that Marcus would behave in such a way. He would never 'out' anyone. If they chose not to publically reveal their sexual preferences, then that was their choice and no one else's.
There was nothing to say and Ethan simply nodded coolly at the bigger man. Beau et bête, the nickname had never seemed so apt; a pretty exterior hiding a dark centre. Ethan's distaste must have briefly reflected in his expressive eyes as he saw Marcus gaze falter. However he steeled himself against his own innate tendencies. Marcus had made his choice and now he had to deal with its outcome. Wordlessly Ethan moved away, not trusting himself to speak and not sure what he could say anyway. Anything he said at that moment would be wooden or trite. Perhaps with time would come forgiveness, but for now he would simply keep a good distance between Marcus and himself.
Biting back a sigh, Ethan found himself sharing a lift with Marcus. Things were still tense between them when no one else was there to act as a buffer. Then, to add insult to injury, the lift froze. Ethan growled an expletive, not wanting either an awkward silence or stilted small-talk. However, as he turned to glance at the bigger man he was shocked to see Marcus' face was ashen and his breathing was shallow, panting breaths. The older man looked on the verge of a panic attack.
"Marcus, Marcus, look at me," Ethan said, keeping his voice low and calm. "I'm going to let them know we're stuck and they'll release us in a few minutes. Just sit down and take some deep breaths. I can't help much if you faint. Quickly Ethan raised the alarm and advised who was stuck and where. He then turned his attention to Marcus. Fortunately the bigger man had sat, before he had fallen in Ethan's opinion, and was now shivering. Ethan could empathise with the fear of claustrophobia. For him a series of hospital rooms had made him feel that his world was just that narrow. However, he had fought back where he knew others were not able. With care, he eased down to join Marcus.
"How long?" Marcus forced the words from barely parted lips. If the irrational fear was not bad enough, that there was a witness to his weakness only added more misery. Marcus kept himself under rigid self control. In everything. That was why no one suspected he was anything less than ultra-straight despite his desire for men that had endured since he was fifteen years old. Almost a quarter of a century later he had still never touched or kissed another man.
"Not long," Ethan shrugged. "Wanna talk? Take you mind off where we are?"
"About what?" Marcus asked in clipped tones.
"Life, the universe, everything," Ethan said. "Doesn't matter, just talk; I'll listen."
"'M sorry," Marcus muttered, his fists clenching and unclenching.
"This isn't your fault," Ethan said, glancing at the rigid figure of the muscular man.
"The Club," Marcus clarified. "I behaved badly. Sorry. You were unexpected. I've never touched..."
"Never touched what?" Ethan asked genuinely puzzled.
"Never knowingly touched another gay man."
"You're kidding," Ethan gasped.
"My family belonged to a tight-knit, religious community. It was not an acceptable lifestyle. We were very wealthy and my father had designs on my being an Army Officer. So I joined as a Cadet, worked my way to Captain. I never felt able to let anyone know I was attracted to men, so I bedded women when I had to."
"When the need got too great?" Ethan queried.
"When it looked too suspicious if I didn't," Marcus replied. "Then it just seemed to snowball. It was easier to appear that I was a footloose Casanova. No one suspected I was attracted to men and it didn't seem suspicious that I hadn't married."
"So, even now, when you date the women here, it's not because you actually want..."
"I don't want or enjoy," Marcus said, a tear sliding down his cheek. "I just don't know how to do anything else. You saw how I reacted to you. It's ingrained. I know I have a bad reputation," he added on a sigh. "I know some women see me as a challenge; others think I'm cold and heartless. I feel so lonely sometimes," Marcus said, his voice full of anguish.
"It's a learned response," Ethan murmured. "True it's ingrained, but it can be unlearnt. You would just have to really trust the person you were with."
"How could I try and find a lover when I haven't even touched a man before?" Marcus husked.
"Maybe you need a surrogate to begin with," Ethan reasoned. "Someone who was willing to be only as intimate with you as you felt comfortable with until you had enough confidence to actually date."
"Are you suggesting I see some kind of sex shrink?" Marcus growled.
"Look, tell you what," the younger man said. "If you want to move on, give yourself a chance to enjoy intimacy, we'll have this conversation somewhere else. I'm no danger to you, you're bigger, stronger, you'll be in charge. If, as we talk, you want to put your hand on mine or on my shoulder we can go from there."
"You're kidding," Marcus said, his eyes widening. "You would do that. For me?"
"I'm willing to let you become used to touching another guy, maybe kiss. Once you realise there's nothing to fear, you'll want someone you really care about and who cares for you. Trust me."
"Coming from you, they're scary words," Marcus muttered. The laugh that engendered made him scowl, but the sight of Ethan sitting so relaxed, eyes crinkled from laughter, legs slightly parted, had the scowl instantly vanish. Marcus could not stop his eyes staring at the younger man's crotch and he licked his lips.
The jerk of the elevator coming to life had him on his feet instantly.
"Help me up, Marcus," Ethan said, his voice soft and sultry.
Reaching down, Marcus eased the younger man to stand, his heart hammering as Ethan leant close, his head on Marcus' shoulder. Before he could react to the intimacy the doors opened to a small crowd, including a no-nonsense Sister and Doctor that Marcus recognised from Emergency.
"Thank goodness Marcus was there to look after me," Ethan said, easing his way from the older man's side.
"Here, sit down," the Doctor insisted, urging Ethan to a waiting wheelchair. "Are you ok, Marcus?" he asked, glancing back to where the bigger man stood just outside of the elevator doors.
"I'm fine," Marcus said. He stared at Ethan not sure what to do.
"I think I'm ok," Ethan said. "Perhaps you could take me home, Marcus? Once the Doc here gives me the all-clear."
"Um, sure. Sure," Marcus suddenly felt the world tilt the way it had in the elevator when it had stopped. What was he getting into? Yet at the warm look in Ethan's eyes, he felt as if he had just passed a test.
"I think that's a good idea. Take care of him, Marcus."
The crowd melted away, leaving Ethan in the wheelchair and Marcus still unmoving.
"If you wheel me to the car park, we can get going, Marcus," Ethan prompted. As the older man obeyed, Ethan could not help but wonder what he had got himself into.
Ethan looked around at Marcus' apartment. It was smaller than he imagined for the older man. Given his Lothario reputation, Ethan had expected something far more grandiose and geared to seduction. Instead the door opened to a small hallway for coats and storage and then into a large airy living and dining space.
A plasma screen TV was in the corner next to French windows that opened onto a balcony. A hi-fi system in the other corner with speakers set high on the walls. A large, red settee faced the windows, with a smaller matching couch at a right angle to the larger. A coffee table was in front of the seats. The space between the living room and kitchen was separated by a dining table and chairs. The table had a red cloth covering it on which was set a vase of fresh flowers. There was a doorway to the right of the kitchen off a hallway which Ethan surmised led to the bathroom. There were a set of stairs to the left of the room which led to a mezzanine floor. Glancing up the younger man could see that was Marcus' bedroom. He was surprised at the flutter in his stomach at the thought of being so close to the older man's bed.
"Now what?" Marcus demanded, nerves making him terse.
"Do you have beer?" Ethan asked.
"No. I don't like beer. I have white wine chilling in the fridge or red."
"White," Ethan said as he sat on the large settee. He tried to compose himself as Marcus bustled in his kitchen fixing the drinks. He reminded himself this was a no-strings encounter. All he needed to do was spend enough time with the skittish man to get him used to the idea that he could touch other men, be relaxed with them enough to seek out company and then Ethan would be on his way.
It sounded easy. So why are you so nervous? A niggling voice asked. He pushed it aside as Marcus returned with a glass of wine for each of them. Marcus sat next to him, but the few inches of space might as well have been a chasm. Ethan could almost feel the frigid air.