Up For Auction
Jude took his time parking outside the auction house a few miles from Porthperrin. Despite it being early, the car park was already crowded, only a few spaces still vacant.
“For goodness sake,” Rob said. “What was wrong with that spot?”
“Not big enough.”
“Not big enough?” Rob looked over his shoulder at the free space Jude had rejected. “You’ll give Betsy a complex about the size of her rear end.” He stroked the dashboard of his car as if in consolation, tracing a lovely swirl of walnut. “You’d fit in the slimmest of parking spots, darling. Jude could have parked a bus in that space. Two busses, even!”
“Two busses my arse.” Jude snorted, sizing up another spot that would do much better, farther from the busy entrance where a crowd had gathered, maybe as eager to snap up bargains as he and Rob were to furnish their new business. Their quest wasn’t quite as easy as bidding low for bric-a-brac though, not when Rob insisted that each room of their hotel be furnished with ‘forever’ pieces—items as special as each room’s unique decor. “Has anyone ever mentioned that you’re prone to exaggeration, Rob?”
“Exaggeration? No. Not a single person, ever.” Rob compounded his lie. “Now we’re miles and miles from the entrance, and it’s pouring with rain. You’ll be sorry if I contract pneumonia.”
Jude parked Betsy, easing her into a space at the car park’s far end, next to a furniture removal lorry, and turned off the engine. “Pneumonia?” He glanced at his partner. “It’s barely spitting.” He unfastened his seatbelt as Rob huffed.
“It’s still miles from the entrance. What if I have a lot of winning bids today to carry all the way back to the car?”
“Firstly,” Jude said as he unclicked Rob’s seatbelt for him and then tugged him closer, “it’s no more than a hundred yards away from here, at most. Secondly, we budgeted for delivery, because there’s precious little room in Betsy’s boot, and you know it. And thirdly”—his kiss was fast and fleeting, scarcely more than a quick press of their lips—“we’re just looking for one bookcase, so there won’t be anything for you to carry, will there?”
Rob grumbled, even though he was the one who kept a tight rein on their business plan, one that should see their empty hotel furnished, piece by special ‘forever’ piece, before the start of the summer season. “Has anyone ever told you that you talk too much?”
“No,” Jude echoed. “Not a single person, ever.” He could do this all day—be teased by Rob and tease him in return—and it wouldn’t ever be work. “You want to know why I really parked here?” His voice lowered. “How many people can see us with that lorry between here and the auction house?”
Rob checked, his smile a bright flash, good humour returned in an instant. “No one!” He leaned into Jude’s space, hand around the back of his neck to pull him into a kiss that lasted much longer than Jude’s first quick one. “You’re not just a pretty, face, are you?” He stole another, his lips soft, the slide of his tongue just as electric now as the first time they’d kissed during a whole other life in London. Now they sat in a Cornish car park under grey skies and rain clouds, but Jude felt as bathed in sunshine as he had while sailing the Indian Ocean, being with Rob warmed him so completely.
“Well,” Rob said once they parted, breathless. “That’s enough of your shilly-shallying, fish face. Hurry up or we’ll miss the start of the auction.” He got out of the car. “I see the real reason why you parked here,” he said, pointing out the shelter a tree offered, its canopy protecting Betsy’s gleaming paint from rain spots. “You take better care of her than I do.” He started off across the car park.
Jude locked the car, and then followed. He smiled to himself as Rob waved at someone, already popular with locals even though he’d barely lived there for five minutes. Jude caught up with him at the entrance where Rob held the door open for an elderly couple. “There you are,” Rob said. “Now, remind me of the rules we agreed on last night.”
“I don’t remember agreeing on anything with you.” Jude walked into a cavernous warehouse, his memories of the night before centring on something very different. “All I remember was you complaining about sleeping on a mattress on the floor instead of in a proper bed, for some reason.”
“Oh, Jude.” Rob skimmed a printout of lots for sale that morning. “It’s like you hardly listen to me.” His glance was fond, his grip on Jude’s hand warm as he pulled him towards the back of the warehouse where larger pieces of furniture bore lot numbers. “I wasn’t complaining.” He gestured at a selection of bed frames. “I was just pointing out that….” He subsided into silence, his sentence unfinished.
“What?” Jude asked, intrigued by whatever had inspired this rare quiet instead of chatter. The bed frames in this section were nothing special, a mix of uninspiring cheap pine and padded headboards that might release dust clouds if he slapped them. Then his gaze snagged on what must have caught Rob’s eye, an oak bed frame that had been hand-built by the look of it, its timber headboard bearing an anchor carving, mellowed by time, and sturdy.
Rob walked around it, quiet in a way that always held Jude’s attention—this version of silence meaning that he was thinking hard, perhaps running numbers. Rob shook his head and turned his back on something that he clearly wanted, not prepared to bid if it might blow their shared budget. “What were you pointing out to me last night?” Jude asked.
“Pointing out?” Rob frowned as if he’d forgotten the way he’d grumbled at Jude as they’d fucked. “Oh!” he said brightly. He turned back to the bed that had made him forget their conversation. “Last night, I was just saying that if we had a proper bed instead of a mattress on the floor, you could do me while you stood beside it.” His tone turned wistful. “This one would be just the right height.”
He gripped a footboard carved with sailboats and tried to shake it, the bed not shifting. “Substantial, see? Someone took real care when they made it,” he said with a deep sigh that he seemed unaware of. “That’s a forever bed, if I ever saw one.” He patted the wood, making his peace with leaving it behind, Jude guessed, before he turned his attention to some nearby bookcases that were in their budget. He looked back at the bed several times though, his gaze still drifting to it a while later, Jude noticed, as they waited for the auction to start.
Rob sat, bidding paddle in hand and returned to the start of their conversation. “So, let me remind you of the rules.”
Jude suppressed a smile. “I have been to an auction before, you know?” He even knew the auctioneer, a regular at his parents’ pub, who nodded at Jude, and then raised his eyebrows in a silent question. Will you be bidding today? Jude replied in the same manner, shaking his head a fraction. No.
Rob was too busy to notice their interaction, counting rules on his fingers. “I’ve got the paddle, so leave the bidding to me. And try not to move about in your seat, or scratch your nose when the auctioneer gets started, or you’ll find you’ve accidentally bought something like that.” He pointed to a portrait of a clown that leered in garish oil paint.
Jesus. That was scary.
Rob tilted his head. “You know, if I squint, it looks a lot like Guy Parsons.”
“You missing him?” Jude teased Rob for once. “Maybe I’ll buy it for you.”
Rob chuffed. “Jude, you’ve got even less money than me, but if you want that painting so much, I’ll absolutely buy it for you.” And he would, was the thing. Spend every last penny that wasn’t sunk into their new business on making Jude happy, if that was what he wanted.
A resolve to do the same stole through Jude, although not for that awful painting. He glanced at the printout of lots as Rob chatted with a man sitting next to him. He asked after his family as if he’d known him for ages, just as warm and friendly with strangers here as he was at home, always interested in people’s stories. Jude made eye contact with the auctioneer again, this time lifting his chin as a signal, back in the bidding without Rob noticing.
Thankfully, only one other person seemed interested when the auctioneer called out the lot number for the bed frame. Rob swivelled in his seat, straining to see who it might be. “Ohhh!” he said under his breath as the bids went up by five-pound increments. “That’s Dominic Dymond. He’s the property developer your mum is pissed off with. You know the one? He bought so many of the cottages after the storm last winter that no one local can move back to the village. Must be looking for furniture so he can rent them to tourists next summer.”
It was bad luck that the one thing Jude wanted to bid on had also caught the eye of someone with a much bigger bank balance. Jude straightened his shoulders and then lifted his chin another fraction, already perilously close to his limit.
Rob peered around once more, scanning the other auction patrons. “I can’t see who’s bidding against him. They might as well not bother. From what I heard, if he sets his mind on buying something, it’s as good as his. He’s a regular at Dad’s restaurants. Dad told me he’s got properties all the way from here to London.”
Hopelessness weighed heavily for a moment; an unwelcome reminder of the last time Jude had failed at a self-imposed task. Back then, he’d had to set down his pride and let Rob help him. Could he ask similarly of a stranger? Jude saw the lingering look Rob cast in the direction of the bed he wanted and decided. Yes, he could. For Rob.
He turned in his seat, deliberate, and made eye contact with his opponent.
Please, he asked without words.
Please let me have this for him.
The gaze he met reminded him of his ex-boss, steely and sure like Tom’s. Dominic Dymond’s crossed-arms stance, as he stood at the back of the auction house, was familiar as well. This was someone used to giving orders, not acquiescing, Jude guessed, but as he met Jude’s gaze, something shifted.
In another context, Jude might have guessed that it meant interest. Dominic surveyed his face, gaze lingering until it moved on to Rob, who’d turned too. Rob waved at him, cheery, before laughing at himself and saying, “Fuck, I hope the auctioneer doesn’t think I was bidding. Although,” he said quietly as they both faced forwards, “that bed would be an accidental purchase I could learn to live with.”
Jude placed a final unnoticed bid, his relief just as strong as his former worry after it went uncontested. The rest of the auction passed in a blur while he was busy counting his blessings—for property developers who maybe weren’t complete wankers, despite their reputations, and for Rob, who, for all of his sit-still rules, squirmed the closer the bidding got to the bookcase he wanted. His shout of pleasure and winning-bid fist-pump brought the same laughter from their neighbours that Jude lived with daily. A final blessing came when it was time to sort out delivery. Rob remained none the wiser that it was for two items rather than one.
They drove back to Porthperrin, significantly lighter in cash, but Jude felt so much richer, knowing what was coming.
* * *
Later, as soon as they slid the mattress onto their new-to-them bed frame, Rob shoved Jude on it and clambered over to straddle him.
“You,” he said, chastising, “are a very bad man.”
“How bad,” Jude asked, happy to be awful if it kept Rob beaming like he had from the moment their delivery had arrived.
“The worst,” Rob said, his kiss suggesting he was lying, the roll of his hips another clue that Jude was about to be praised rather than punished. “The very worst. I don’t know what you were thinking.”
Jude did. He’d been thinking that this—Rob straightening up to pull off his shirt, chest bare as he bent again for one more kiss—was a likely outcome. But he’d also been thinking long-term. “Seemed like it was good and solid.”
Rob straightened again, aghast. “Jude Anstey, if this is your way of telling me I’ve put on weight, I’m going to tell on you to your mother.”
“I wasn’t. You haven’t.” It wouldn’t matter if Rob had. Jude loved every ounce of Rob; more of him would only mean it might take longer to kiss each inch of his skin, which would be no hardship. “And anyway, what’s it got to do with my mum?”
“Well, she will insist on making me second breakfasts. And third ones,” Rob said, dreamy as if bacon and eggs were another lover. “It would be rude to say no.”
“You are a paragon of politeness.” Jude rolled Rob over and then pressed his mouth to a belly that was nowhere near as soft as Rob worried about. He kissed a wet path around his navel as Rob squirmed, laughing as Jude blew a raspberry.
Then Rob sobered, his hand over Jude’s, stopping him before he could undo his fly. “Seriously though,” he said, his eyes limpid and so dear to Jude. “I love it.” He reached up and touched the carved anchor on the headboard. “The bed, I mean. You really didn’t have to buy it for me.”
Oh, but he did, Jude knew, as they helped each other to shed clothes. Naked, Jude bared more than he’d ever dreamed of, here where he used to hide this part of himself from friends and family. Rob made hiding impossible these days, hoisting his adoration like a mainsail, not caring who saw that he loved Jude. Now, in the privacy of their bedroom, Jude told his real truth, knowing Rob would hear him. “You said it was a forever bed. That’s what I want with you, Rob.”
Rob kissed him, deep and slow until Jude shifted over him, their cocks aligning just like every other part of them seemed to, sensation spurring a shift in gears, the heat of their kisses increasing until Jude broke off. He reached for lube that rolled across the floorboards at the touch of his fingers. Jude got out of bed to retrieve it and then stood, lube in one hand, his cock in the other, stroking as he took in the sight of Rob sprawled out while doing the same. He was a feast Jude didn’t know which part to taste first, a meal he’d never tire of; he couldn’t wait to get started.
Rob’s colour was hectic, chest and cheeks already sex-flushed as he watched where Jude stroked, eyes fixed on the head of Jude’s cock as it emerged and retreated through the curl of his fingers. “No. Stay there,” he said as Jude made to get back in bed. “I want to look at you.” He held out his open hand, accepting the pool of lube Jude squeezed onto his palm and then spread his legs, getting himself ready. His flush deepened as he pressed in one finger, followed by another. His breathing got faster, as did Jude’s strokes on his cock until he had to wrap a hand around the base to stave off excitement. It would wash him away just as easily as waves at the mouth of Porthperrin’s harbour if he stroked himself while looking at Rob for any longer.
“Please?” Rob asked, his request a rope around Jude’s heart, hauling him to the edge of a bed that was the perfect height to fuck him.
Rob rolled onto his knees, and said he was ready. Jude didn’t need to ask if he was sure. He trusted him with this like he trusted Rob with so much else, certain as he touched the tip of his cock to where Rob opened for him that he wouldn’t hurt him. He pushed in, gripping Rob’s hips at the sensation—glorious, amazing, just this side of too much—as Rob took him in, pushing back in tiny increments accompanied by their low moans. Rob moaned even louder as Jude bottomed out, their connection deep on so many levels, Rob’s gaze over his shoulder hazy as Jude’s cock slid someplace inside that made him lose focus. Jude watched for it then, widening his stance until he and Rob met there with each stroke, loving that he got to do it for him.
“Perfect,” Jude said as he got close.
“The bed?” Rob asked, out of breath and gorgeous, so gorgeous, as he took what Jude gave him, would give him forever, and hoped to God that he’d get to do so.
“You,” Jude said as Rob clenched around him, coming with a deep groan. Not sure if Rob had heard him, he said, “You,” again, not caring that Rob would puff up like the bird he was named for, his chest as red by the time Jude got done fucking every feeling he had into him. “You.” Jude let go of his last shred of control and fucked Rob harder, the bed not shifting one bit. He came with what felt like his whole heart and soul pouring from him into this man who made each day better.
They caught their breath next to each other, Rob saying nothing for once, not teasing Jude for his confession, only sharing a smile as he reached over to trace the line of Jude’s jaw. “You too,” he finally said, quiet yet certain as he closed the distance between them for one more kiss.
“You too, Jude. Forever.”