Jum

[IN PROGRESS!!] Josh is an American teenager living in London after moving all over the States when he was younger, and determined to make it his home. Meet Michael, the British boy who will help him do so. (BL, some chapters feature explicit content.)

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18. Chapter 15 [1/2]

 

A/N: I discovered while uploading this chapter that's there's a limit to how long chapters can be on here. Which is… not good, seeing how this is not the longest chapter I've written. By far. I guess I'll just have to split the long ones into as many parts as it takes and upload them at the same time. If there's a proper break about halfway through the chapters, I'll use those. If not (like this one), I guess I'll just stop wherever works best. Sorry about that.

 

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Chapter 15

In which the boys go to Oxford and have an unexpected encounter back home

 


So we did go to Oxford in the end. We had breakfast, showered — separately, to make sure there was no risk of getting too side-tracked — got ready and left the apartment around ten. One of the stops for the coaches that went back and forth all day was at Marble Arch, which was pretty close, but if we wanted to get there by Tube we would have had to change three times and I seriously couldn't be bothered so we jumped on the Circle line and went to Notting Hill Gate instead. We found the stop without much trouble and didn't have to wait long for a coach to come. You couldn't miss them; double-decker, red, with "Oxford Tube" written in big white letters. And yet somehow I couldn't say I actually remember seeing them before.

"Two return tickets, please," I said to the driver as I got my wallet out.

"No, I'm paying for mine," Michael immediately cut in, making me miss the driver's question.

"Shush! Go get us some seats," I said before turning back to the driver with a smile. "I'm sorry?"

"When are you traveling back?"

"Err… this evening."

"You want same day return then; it's cheaper."

That was cool. After I paid and he gave me the tickets, I made my way up the tiny staircase to the upper deck. Michael had opted for seats near the back of the coach and he pouted at me when I sat down.

"You're doing it again."

"Doing what?"

"Paying for everything. I know you have a lot more money than I do but I can afford a return ticket to Oxford."

"Oh come on!" I said, rolling my eyes. "I only did it to make the whole thing quicker. You can pay for lunch if you want."

"Promise?"

"Promise," I said, knowing that the chances of us going to a proper restaurant and spending thirteen pounds each were quite slim.

The journey was a bit boring while we were still in London but it became more interesting once we passed the stop that wasn't too far from where Michael lived. We'd reached the countryside and so the landscape was much more pleasant to look at. Funny, I'd always lived in big cities and never thought I was missing out on anything but I was slowly discovering that I apparently liked the countryside as well.

I took my iPhone out when I started getting a little bored because we weren't really talking anymore; if he wanted to, we could share the earphones and listen together.

"Hey, who's Rufus Wainwright?" he asked while I was scrolling through my playlists, trying to find a good one.

"He's a young… well, youngish Canadian-American singer and songwriter. Why?"

"I saw about four or five albums on your shelves so he must have been around for a few years, but I don't think I've ever heard his name. I'm sure I'd remember it if I had."

"I don't think I've heard a single one of his songs on the big mainstream radio stations here. He's… I think if you look him up on Wikipedia he's defined as Operatic Pop, but I think Vocal suits him better. He's not to everybody's tastes. Mom can't stand him because she says he mumbles too much," I added with a wink.

"Do you have some of his songs on here?"

"Sure. I should definitely have at least his most recent stuff and I can play you more tonight. I can also play a couple of them if you're interested," I said a bit lower, watching his reaction.

"Oh yes please!" he said, beaming and taking one of the earphones from me.

"Ah yes, here we go, we'll start with Between My Legs."

"Between My Legs? What kind of a title is that?" he asked with a snort.

I didn't answer and just hit the Play button.

Oxford was cool. Michael had been there before so he knew where to get off and on the coach — they have several stops all over the city — so we went to the terminus and then wandered around. We walked down streets lined with shops, looked in a few of them but didn't buy anything, and had lunch in a coffee shop. The total for the two of us was just over twelve pounds so Michael gave me a big pout for 'deceiving him' but it looked like he'd forgiven me by the time we sat down and ate.

Next we walked over to the Botanic Garden but didn't go in. It took me a while to get it out of him but it turned out that there was a link with some books he really liked — His Dark Materials, I think he said. Something to do with a bench, but he wouldn't say anything else. The entrance fee wasn't that much so I didn't mind going in and looking for The Bench, but he said it was silly if that was all we were going to do, so we didn't. I promised myself I'd get him to lend me the books so I could understand what it was all about.

We hadn't had any kind of dessert in the coffee shop and we found a small kiosk-type thing selling ice cream — much posher than your average ice cream van, but then again I guess we were in Oxford… Michael insisted on paying and bought us two Italian ice creams in proper, thick waffle cones with chocolate coating on the inside — oh yum! I had two scoops of chocolate and he had vanilla, and I'm not lying when I say it was one of the tastiest ice creams I'd ever had.

So there we were, strolling around the park, enjoying the rather unseasonal warmth, when Michael looked at me and laughed.

"What?"

"You… you have ice cream all around your mouth…"

I licked my lips to try to get rid of some of it while thrusting my free hand in one of my jeans pockets. "Dammit, I thought I'd kept a serviette from lunch…"

"Stop moving, let me help," he said after a few seconds.

I looked up and there he was, right in my face, moving closer until his lips were on mine and I most definitely felt his tongue licking my upper lip. What the… Not that I was going to complain, of course not, but what the hell?? He kissed me again, this time sucking on my bottom lip way more than was necessary.

"Y'know," I whispered when he finally moved away again, "if you wanted some chocolate ice cream, all you had to do was ask."

"But it's more fun that way, isn't it?"

I laughed. "I'll get you right back if you make a mess with yours, you can be sure of that."

He looked at me, then at his ice cream, brought it close to his lips and lightly smeared it over them before looking at me and going "Oops…"

One second was all it took me to copy what he'd done to me and I must admit that for a few seconds I couldn't have cared less about the fact that we were in the middle of a fairly busy park.

"This is unusual," I said after breaking the kiss, "… you being so bold. I like it."

He bit his bottom lip and looked around for a few seconds. "Here I… I don't have to worry about being seen by anyone we might know, you know? Even if… people look at us in a funny way, I'll never see them again. I mean… I know you don't care either way, but—"

"Hey, I told you before I didn't mind. I've had several years to get comfortable with the idea, but you're still pretty new to it. I don't mind. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't want to rush you. You're doing pretty good anyway."

That earned me another kiss and a stroll hand in hand for a few minutes, which was… well, quite awesome, if I may say so myself.

The ride home was even more awesome. There we were, at the back of the relatively empty coach, slumped against each other and listening to music, when he suddenly kissed me. And again, and again.

"What are you doing?" I whispered with a smile, pausing the music and taking my earphone out.

"There's no one immediately around us," he replied, shifting a bit into a position that didn't make him twist his head around too much to kiss me — which he did again.

I quickly forgot all about people around us possibly hearing us or whatnot — not that, as he'd said himself, there was anyone actually near enough to hear. My mind couldn't focus on something so unimportant when he was kissing me that way. If I hadn't known him better, I might have worried that he was using someone else to practice on becausedamn, he was getting better and better at it.

A few minutes later, I gently pushed him away, panting.

"What's got into you today?" I asked. "Not that I'm complaining, really, but… I'm surprised. Very pleasantly surprised," I added after another kiss.

"I wish I could always feel like this."

"I gotta take you back to Oxford once in a while. Seems to have a good effect on you."

"I don't think this has anything to do with Oxford," he whispered, planting kisses along my jawline. "It's… strange. I wouldn't have thought that something like… last night… could really make that big a difference to the way you act and feel, but… it does. It's… like it's still me, but not me. Does that make any sense?" he asked sheepishly.

Gosh I felt so relieved to hear him say that. Despite everything, I'd found myself fretting over it once in a while during the day and it was wonderful to realise that it had all been for nothing.

"Definitely something we'll have to do again; I don't want to lose this newfound increase in self-confidence," he added. And then he leaned over a bit more. "Not tonight, though. My… my butt hurts."

I laughed so loud I must have startled every single person on the coach — I wouldn't have been surprised if even the driver had jumped. Thankfully, Michael laughed along with me, and it took a good minute before we could stop.

"I really am lucky to have you."

"Where did that come from?" I barely had time to ask before he kissed me again.

"I don't know if I show it enough but I really am grateful. I don't take you for granted. Never. I still can't believe that you… that you're mine."

"Every single bit of me," I replied, before moving closer to sing in his ear.

"Just help yourself to my lips
To my arms just say the word and they are yours,
Just help yourself to the love
In my heart your smile has opened up the door
"   *
The following morning, I got a rather brutal wake-up call in the shape of Michael shaking me a bit too violently for my liking. I mean, come on, Sunday morning, for God's sake!

We'd arrived back home the night before close to dinner time after hitting a bit of traffic in London. We got takeaway sushi on the way because, would you believe it or not, he'd never had sushi that wasn't pre-packaged stuff from the supermarket! So we pigged out in front of the TV, played in bed a bit, and I got to fall asleep with one of his arms wrapped around me. Pretty heavenly, as far as I'm concerned.

But anyway, yes, back to the shaking.

"Wake up! Josh, please wake up!!"

"What? Wassa matter…?" I mumbled, looking at my alarm clock — just coming up to half past ten — and burying my head in my pillow again.

"I think someone broke into the apartment," he whispered, sounding panicked.

My eyes snapped open. "What?"

"I was just about to go to the toilet and I heard noise in the living room. And then I heard someone bump into something, probably the coffee table, and hushed voices."

Well that got me awake and out of bed all right. I jumped out, made a beeline for my wardrobe and opened the door to take out the baseball bat I always kept at the back of it.

"What are you doing?!" Michael asked when I walked towards the door, sounding properly panicked by then.

"Find your phone and get ready to call the police."

"No, you can't—"

"Don't worry, I have a pretty good swing," I said, tightening my grip on the bat.

"But I do! Please don't do this. What if they're armed?"

"Then you'd better hope I'm faster," I said with a wink.

I'd like to pretend I felt as confident as I appeared, but the truth is that I was putting on a brave face. But what was I supposed to do, huh? I wasn't going to let some guys break into my home and take what they wanted while I hid like a coward, and I certainly wasn't going to let any harm come to Michael. So I had to act, and fast.

Michael was still trying to convince me not to go when I reached for the door handle but out of the corner of my eye I saw him grabbing his phone.

"Hide in the corner by the wardrobe, don't make a sound and don't call the police just yet," I said without turning back to look at him.

I took a deep breath when I stepped into the corridor, making sure to avoid creaky floorboards. I could definitely hear voices coming from the living room and I had to act fast and silently if I hoped to take anyone by surprise. A few more steps and I would reach the door to the living room. And what the hell was I going to do then? I took another deep breath, moved my hands a bit higher up the handle and looked back at my bedroom door to give myself some courage.

And something caught my eye. Something in the bowl by the phone. I nearly laughed out of sheer relief but instead I made my way back to my bedroom in silence. I heard Michael let out a soft cry of surprise when I opened the door.

"What—"

"It's OK, relax," I said, closing the door silently and throwing the baseball bat on my bed. "It's my parents. I saw Dad's keys in the hall."

"Oh thank God…" he said with a huge sigh of relief, before his eyes locked on me again and opened wide. "Wait, what—"

"I don't know. They weren't supposed to come back until tonight so I'm as lost as you are. But since they're here," I added, scratching the back of my neck, "wanna meet them?"

"But I can't—"

"So what, you're going to jump out of the window so they don't know you're here?"

"But I'm… I'm in my pyjamas. And it's obvious I slept in your bed!'

"So?"

"What do you mean, so? What are they going to think?!"

"Mom knows about you," I said with a shrug, not really seeing the problem.

He blinked. "She does?"

"You talk to Claire, I talk to my Mom," I said with another shrug. "And she's not naive enough to think we only study when you come over, you know."

The way he froze and looked like he was just about to choke on air was quite comical, but I did my best not to laugh.

I ran a hand in my hair and let out a sigh. "Look, I'm sorry we're in this situation, I really am. But there's nothing we can do, so…"

"Oh God," he whimpered, sitting on my bed and hiding his face in his hands.

"I'll go talk to them and I'll come back for you."

Shit, why did it have to happen that way? True, I wanted them to meet Michael, but not like that. I mean, it wasn't so bad for me but I wasn't shy the way he was and I knew I wouldn't have liked it if it had been the other way around. Oh God I hoped neither of them was going to flip.

I walked past the living room and saw their suitcases and heard their voices in the kitchen. Mom was making coffee.

"Hey, guys," I said once I'd opened the door.

"Oh hi, sweetie. Did we wake you? It was dark in there and Daddy nearly knocked the coffee table over with his suitcase… Good morning," she added, walking to me and planting a kiss on my cheek.

"Morning. And don't worry, s'fine. I… err… what are you doing back so early? I wasn't expecting you until tonight."

"Well," she said, pouring milk into a cup, stirring it and handing it over to Dad, who was reading the papers, "there were rumours of a strike and you know how your grandfather is about airlines and strikes. So since your father was all done with business, your grandfather drove us to the airport and made us exchange our tickets without either of us being able to have much of a say in it and… here we are. I didn't call because it would have been the middle of the night and I didn't want to scare you. I thought you might even be out."

"S'OK. Better that than having you stuck in JFK for God knows how long," I replied with a small shrug. "Thing is, I, err… I'm not alone…"

Dad stopped reading and turned to look at me, and Mom blinked a couple of times.

"Oh."

"I'm… It's the first time I do something like this, I swear. You can see we haven't trashed the place or anything and—"

"Well, you're not a kid anymore," Mom said, "so I guess we shouldn't be too surprised."

She and Dad exchanged a quick look and then he went back to reading.

"You're… OK with it?"

"Well there isn't much we can do about it, sweetie, is there? And as you said, the place looks fine; I probably would never have known someone was here. So… Do we get to meet him, or are you distracting us while he slips out unnoticed?"

"You want to?" I asked incredulously, unable to stop my lips from stretching into a grin.

She winked at me so I grinned back in earnest and went back to my room. Michael was still sitting on my bed, looking so nervous I felt really sorry for him. He'd put a jumper on and I could see he'd made some sort of attempt at flattening his hair.

"They'd like to meet you. Well, Mom at least. Dad probably won't pay too much attention to you, so… just do the same. You ready?"

"No," he said, shaking his head, "but I don't really have a choice."

I would have held his hand if I'd thought it could helped, but I reckon letting him escape unnoticed would have been the only way to really help him. I inhaled deeply as we walked down the corridor and heard him do the same just before we entered the kitchen. Mom and Dad hadn't moved but at least Dad had left his newspaper and turned around to face us as we came in.

I looked at Michael, smiling in what I hope was an encouraging way. "Well, err… my Mom and Dad — Isabelle and Daniel. Mom and Dad," I added, turning towards them, "this is Michael."

Dad gave a quick nod — more than I'd expected — and Mom beamed. A small part of me was afraid she might start letting out embarrassingly high-pitched sounds soon.

"Hello, Michael," she said, "it's a pleasure to meet you."

"My… pleasure. I… I'm really sorry about this. If I'd known, I never would have—"

"Oh don't worry, sweetheart. It's our fault, we should have called."

"But this is… this is your home; you shouldn't apologise for coming back."

Seriously, the way she smiled at him after he said that made me think she was about to hug him. Thankfully, she didn't.

"Well I guess we ought to… get out of the way and go out for breakfast somewhere," she said after a few seconds, looking at Dad. "We both managed to sleep through it on the plane…"

Michael looked horrified and I took it as my cue to get back in the conversation. "Wait, you guys don't have to go. I think we have almost everything we need for a brunch here, if you fancy it. We just need more eggs. Maybe some bacon too."

Bad move; Michael looked even more horrified. Urgh, what the hell was I supposed to do? He didn't want them to leave because of him but he didn't want them to stay either…

"Don't worry, we'll just—"

"Come on, Mom! You guys just got off a flight; don't you want to stay here and relax?" I asked, throwing a quick look at Michael, who nodded despite everything. "I can put some clothes on and go buy some eggs."

"Oh Daddy can do that. Right, Dear?"

"Sure," he said with a small shrug, looking less than enthusiastic, but the opposite would really have surprised me.

"Oh please no, don't worry," Michael said before we'd even moved. "I'll just… You don't need to buy anything; I'll get dressed and go home."

Mom raised an eyebrows and put her hands on her hips — serious talk coming up. "You think I'm going to let you walk out of here without eating anything first?"

"I don't want to disturb you… more than I already have. I don't mind."

"Oh but I do, sweetheart. All right. Dear, can you please get some eggs and bacon, then?" she asked Dad, and then she turned to me. "Do we need anything else?"

"We've definitely got baked beans and bread. Or there's frozen hash browns."

"Oh, we still have some of those? Hmm, they usually take about twenty minutes in the oven… I guess if we started pre-heating now it'd be all right. Oh, get some orange juice as well, please!" she shouted after Dad, who had already gone out into the corridor.

[…]

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