Champagne Before Noon

Written with Julia Talbot

Thomas was a junior bank clerk, a nice young man with decently good looks, a lover named Ezra whom he adored, and, until a few weeks ago, not very much money. Those few weeks ago Mr. McCrae, one of the partners at the bank and a bachelor gentleman, had popped off in the street, a heart attack by all accounts. Much to Thomas' surprise, McCrae had left his fortune and his house to he and Ezra.

"Isn't there a relative, a niece or nephew or widowed sister, someone, anyone?" he had asked, "who might have a closer claim on the old man's legacy?" But the lawyer, who was very discreet, had said solemnly, "Mr. McCrae had no living family. I believe he felt certain that you and your, er, very good friend would most benefit from the house and money. You and Mr. McCrae shared certain, shall we say proclivities? Ones that require a certain amount of insulation from the wider world."

And so Thomas and Ezra moved out of their rented rooms and into the house of a wealthy bachelor of taste and money. McCrae had not been obvious, but had nevertheless left subtle clues to his nature in his choice of interior design, ones that made Ezra hoot with laughter.

"The old man was a sodomite!"

He had shushed Ezra quite firmly. "Really, Ezra. What a way to speak of the dead!"

"Well he was," Ezra had said, "and so are we. No wonder he left all this to us."

The fin-de-siecle statues decorating the foyer and sunroom were not willowy nymphs posing naked with urns, but rather lovely young men in sensuous poses. There was little accommodation for female overnight guests, and Thomas had found, in the back of a closet, a small box neatly packed with bottles of perfumed oils and slippery lotion, silk scarves, and a small horsewhip. He and Ezra had put the oils and lotions to immediate use, although Thomas at least was a little nervous about using the whip. It seemed a bit too adventerous for him, a little beyond the boundaries of good taste.

One morning, after he'd woken Ezra up with the judicious application of his hands and tongue, Thomas put on a suit, just as he had done for the past few years, collected his hat and coat, and left his lover wallowing in the luxury of their feather bed while he ran some errands. Old habits died hard and Thomas was still having difficulty lying in bed, or sitting around the house in his dressing-gown, after most working men had gone to their jobs.

It was a lovely sunny day and he hummed to himself as he went about his business, being fitted for some new shirts, placing an order for new shoes, buying strawberries from the grocery where he used to shop when he and Ezra were still poor.

"You're in a fine mood," the grocer's round, apple cheeked wife told him. "Have you finally met a young lady?"

He just smiled at her. "No, but I'm in love all the same," was all he said in return, popping a carnation into his buttonhole.

She didn't need to know that Thomas was buying strawberries to share with his male companion and a bottle of contraband French champagne.

Thomas worked very hard to pass, mainly from fear of what might happen to him if his true nature, and now the nature of his relationship to Ezra, were exposed. He had suspected long before his talk with the lawyer that Mr. McCrae also loved men the way he loved Ezra, partly because he'd heard rumors of Mr. McCrae's "very close friend" who had been killed in the Great War, and partly because he and the older man had had a few particularly coded conversations. But to the world, Ezra was Thomas' roommate and good friend, and if people wondered why Thomas hadn't yet found a girl to marry, he let them think it was because he was working to make some money first.

Now that he and Ezra had an inheritance, they no longer had to work, and while Ezra, who was a bit of a sensualist, took advantage of the feather beds and the deep tub and the modern kitchen, Thomas tried to convince himself that it wasn't decadent to have wine with dinner every night and sleep late every morning and shop for shirts in the middle of the day. It felt both natural and illicit to pour two glasses of champagne once he got home, and to take them and the strawberries upstairs to find Ezra soaking in the tub in their overdone Egyptian Revival bathroom.

Ezra lounged, one big foot hanging over the side of the tub, the other propped so that his knee showed above the water line. His eyes were closed, his face set in lines of utter bliss. The curly, dark hair on his head was soaked until it appeared pitch black, and beads of water stood on Ezra's powerful chest and arms. This was a man who worked with his hands, that solid body pronounced. A man who worked hard and he appeared even more rugged in comparison to the green marble and gold and blue enamel of the bath.

All in all, Ezra was quite the vision.

He must have made some sound, some inhalation or exclamation, because Ezra's eyes popped open, and a smile broke out on that well-loved face.

"I wondered if you would come home soon enough to join me, love. What's that you have?"

"I thought you might like some champagne." Thomas leaned over the bath to hand Ezra a champagne flute, taking the opportunity to drop a kiss onto his lover's lips as he did so. "I bought strawberries as well." He had taken off his suit jacket and left it on the bed, a smart idea considering the heat in the bathroom, compounded of steam from the tub and the sight of Ezra in it.

Thomas rolled up the cuffs of his shirtsleeves, sat on the toilet seat and leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees as he sipped his champagne and admired his lover. "You are something to see, Ezra," he said. "How long have you been napping in the bath?"

"Not long. I stayed in bed a good while and thought of you. Strawberries are early this year." Ezra sat up, water swirling about him in little eddies, and held out a hand. "May I try one?"

Thomas leaned forward to hold out the bowl. "The grocer's wife asked if I'd met a lady, because I was in such a good mood. I said no, I hadn't, but I was in love all the same." He smiled. "I assume you thought only good things about me, and not that it was a pity I left you alone in bed to go out and buy shirts."

"I always think it's a pity when you leave me, love, but I managed."

Ezra picked a strawberry, a big, almost overripe one. Ezra loved the juice, he knew, and he was treated to a fine sight as Ezra licked the sweet stuff from his lips.

"Oh. That's nice. Are they better with the champagne?"

Thomas was momentarily distracted by the sight of Ezra enjoying the strawberry. He should have bought chocolates as well, or cream puffs from the bakery, something else for his sensualist lover to appreciate.

Ezra seemed to be smiling at him, and he smiled back.

"I have heard that they are, yes," he said, lifting his own glass to take a sip. "My sister would be appalled if she knew we were drinking champagne in the middle of the day. She would be appalled that we were drinking at all." Thomas' older sister was a staunch Prohibitionist and had been a teetotaler her entire adult life, and it made him grin to imagine her apoplexy at this new habit of his.

The next strawberry Ezra plucked from the bowl went straight into the champagne glass before Ezra popped it into his mouth.

"Oh. Oh, that's lovely. You must try."

Thomas obediently dropped a strawberry into his own glass, which splashed a little onto his hand. He licked the champagne off his skin, fished out the strawberry, and bit into it. It dripped down his chin and he wiped the dribble away with the back of his hand and laughed, feeling like he was six years old and his mother was about to reprimand him for eating with his fingers.

"What luxury," he said around the rest of the strawberry. "We should do this more often."

"We should." Ezra laughed too, water sloshing over the edge of the tub as he rose to his knees. Like Poseidon, rising from a wave. Or perhaps something less fanciful.

His train of though was broken when Ezra grabbed his arm and pulled him, still clothed, right into the tub.

"And we may, whenever we like, love."

"Aah!" Thomas cried, surprised. "You monster!" But he was laughing, because how could he possibly have sat there any longer with his Ezra sitting naked and lovely in the tub?

Thomas wriggled around until he was sitting more or less on his behind with his legs hanging over the side of the bathtub so he could toe off his shoes. No sense destroying them too. And then he settled himself between Ezra's legs, his Arrow-shirted back to Ezra's bare chest, and leaned comfortably into his lover.

"I seem to have lost my champagne," he commented, blinking at his now-empty glass. What a waste of good champagne, although he had held on to the crystal. "How very sneaky of you." He leaned over to set his glass on the floor, and then leaned back and turned his head to plant a kiss on Ezra's jaw. "You need a shave."

"You can shave me later, if you like. That would be decadent, wouldn't it." Ezra lifted his own champagne glass to Thomas' lips, offering. "Have some of mine? I saved the strawberries, by the way."

His Ezra had clever hands, that was for certain.

Thomas took a sip of champagne and settled himself as comfortably as he could in his wet cotton and wool, then pulled Ezra's arms around his chest. "This is decadent enough," he said. "Sitting in the bathtub in my clothes in the middle of the day, when other men are at work. Sitting in the bathtub in my clothes in the middle of the day with another man, even. A naked man." He grinned. "A good-looking, finely-formed man that I love."

"Do you think so? I think perhaps we can strive for more. Or rather, less. Here, hold this."

The champagne glass dangled in front of his face, and when he took it, Ezra started working the buttons on his soaked shirt.

"I think perhaps lounging nude would suit you."

"I think perhaps it would." Thomas sipped from the glass while Ezra got his shirt off. He heard it hit the tiled floor with a wet splat, which seemed his cue to hand the glass back and stand up in the tub and turn so he was looking down at his lover.

"There is no dignified way to get my pants off, is there," he said, undoing first his belt and then the buttons of his trousers so they slid down into the water. He carefully stepped out of them, rolled them up, and dropped them over the side of the tub, and then just stood there in his shorts, now practically transparent from the wet. He was not surprised to find himself already growing stiff - Ezra had that effect on him.

"Oh, I much prefer you wet and aroused to dignified, my love."

Ezra was up again in a flash, on his knees, the champagne glass tumbling over the rim of the tub to land on his trousers. Then Ezra leaned against him, arms loosely about his thighs while Ezra's unshaven cheek rubbed and caught on the thin lawn of his drawers.

"Yes. Much prefer you this way."

"Ezra..." Thomas breathed. One hand dropped on top of Ezra's wet curls, stroked down to cup his chin and lift it. Thomas smiled. This too seemed uncommonly decadent, but how could Thomas take issue with the fact that this was one of his favorite positions for Ezra to be in? Even the prickly hairs on his cheek were arousing.

"Yes." The fabric slid away down his thighs and Ezra moved to put his mouth over Thomas' hardness. A very different kind of wet warmth engulfed him as Ezra took him in, lips riding down his length, tongue stroking him in the most shocking way.

As Ezra's lips and tongue worked his shaft, Thomas could not help but think of Mr. McCrae and some of the activities that must have taken place in this house when the old gentleman was still alive. Surely what Thomas and Ezra were doing now was nothing in comparison, yet Thomas felt as if they were honoring the old man's memory, and if Mr. McCrae was watching them from heaven, surely he was smiling.

Thomas was smiling, in any case, looking down lovingly as Ezra sucked him and teased his entrance with a warm, wet finger. Thomas' hands curled into fists in Ezra's curly hair, and he moaned softly, encouragingly. There was no one to hear them in the house, and if Thomas closed his eyes he could almost imagine they were not both naked in the bath in the middle of the day, Ezra on his knees and Thomas hard and throbbing in his mouth.

His hips moved of their own accord, just slightly with the rhythm of Ezra's sucking, and Thomas gasped in surprise and pleasure as Ezra used his teeth, gently, and swiped the tip of his tongue over the head of Thomas' cock.

"Oh... Ezra, love, what was that, would you..." Ezra did it again, and Thomas moaned.

It was too much, Ezra's mouth and fingers and the novelty of making love during the day, in the bath - he felt as if he were truant from the office, a naughty schoolboy who would rather play with his friend than learn. It was a surprisingly arousing thought, and he cried out and spent himself down Ezra's throat.

Ezra licked at him, a soft purr coming from his lover that was somehow as embarrassing as it was fascinating, vibrating along his spent shaft as it did. Pulling away, Ezra looked up at him, eyes twinkling. "Now wasn't that better than buying shirts?"

He laughed a little, his knees shaking so that he splashed back down into the tub. "It was decadent and probably indecent."

"Oh, no," Ezra said, bringing his hand to Ezra's hard, wet prick. "That will be what we get up to with Mr. McCrae's whips."

(originally published in the Torquere Press anthology Naughty)