Things changed in the wake of Oliver and me making some sort of commitment to each other. We had said "I love you," we spent a lot more time together than we used to, and in addition to the kind of sex during which I would tell Oliver that he was my bitch and he would moan and tremble in response there was now endless kissing and the kind of sex that was sweet, gentle and loving. Oliver had promised to try his best not to freak out if I ever put an arm around him if we were out or if someone made an insinuation. The funny thing was that no one seemed to notice any changes. Apart from Amy, who would sometimes look at us in a strange, knowing kind of way, no one had as much as blinked. For Oliver's sake, I was relieved. I didn't want him worrying about it. Selfishly, however, I wanted to be acknowledged. I wanted our friends, family and co-workers to know that he was mine.
I tried not to let it bother me, but secretly, it did. Just a little. Our parents knew, and Helen knew, but I had chickened out of telling my brother Ben when I phoned him to say Happy Birthday, because it felt like a betrayal to Oliver. Aidan, in spite of making the occasional gay joke, was still ignorant. I didn't breech the subject with Oliver though. I didn't want to put any pressure on him. That, and I think that despite his promise to try to be a little more open, I never expected him to actually owe up to it.
One evening in late October, I was picking Oliver up at his office so that we could go out to dinner. I was a little early arriving outside the City office complex where Oliver worked so rather than waiting outside, I decided to go up to his office where I would at least have the benefit of getting away from the cold wind sweeping through London. The building was one of those high-rising glass constructions. The PR company Oliver was working for was located on the second to top floor. This meant getting the lift, because climbing all those steps would probably kill me.
I got into the lift with a group of very serious-looking business people. Sometimes it amused me that Oliver was one of these serious business people. They seemed so damn anonymous when you saw more than one of them at the same time. The anonymous business people in the lift had all stepped out of the lift again by the time I arrived on Oliver's floor. I had a passing notion he might be paranoid about me meeting him at his office, but I had been there before and there had never been any problems, so I decided to risk it.
Stepping out of the lift, I found myself by the reception. The last time I had been here, it had been staffed by some blonde woman. Now, there was a young guy sitting behind the desk, a head-set messing up his carefully styled hair. The hair, the clothes, the look he gave me (starting at my eyes, down my body, then too slowly back up again) made me absolutely certain he was as gay as I was. My shameful instinct was jealousy. Oliver was irresistible, and this … this guy … saw Oliver every single day.
"How can I help you?" The guy asked, smiling amicably.
"Is Oliver Campbell available, please?" I asked.
"Let me check. What's your name, please?"
"It's William Atkinson."
"Just a moment please." He pressed a few buttons on a telephone, then held the mouthpiece of his head-set delicately between thumb and forefinger, unnecessarily bringing it close to his mouth. "Mr. Campbell? There's a William Atkinson here for you." He was quiet for a moment, during which he looked at me and smiled again. "Certainly." He disconnected the phone and then told me Oliver would be right out.
"Thanks," I mumbled, lingering awkwardly by the reception.
Suddenly, the guy's smile brightened and he clasped his hands in his lap. At that moment I regretted every time I had thought of James as camp, because in comparison to this guy, James was as butch as anything.
"You're his boyfriend, aren't you?" The guy asked, looking a bit like a freaky proud mother hen.
"Why do you say that?" I asked somewhat suspiciously, repeating the question that had been my standard reply to the assumption that Oliver and I were involved for many years.
"Oh. I'm sorry," the guy said, clearly noticing my reluctance to agree to this. "I didn't mean to be rude. I just recognise you from a photo in Mr. Campbell's room."
"Oh?" I said, unsure what to make of it.
"Everyone else keep photos of their partners or kids, so I just presumed…" The guy did look genuinely embarrassed now, which warmed me to him a little.
"What did you presume?" Oliver asked, appearing in the reception area.
"Uh…" The receptionist started, looking like he thought Oliver might fire him.
"He said you have a photo of me in your office and thought I was your boyfriend," I said, searching Oliver's face for a reaction.
"I might just keep it there for aesthetic reasons," Oliver said, completely deadpan. "Because I just like the way he looks?" He turned from the receptionist to me, saying, "Let me just get my stuff. You can wait here, or—"
"Hell no. I want to see the photo," I said, grinning.
I followed Oliver down a corridor to his bright, airy office. His laptop was still open on his desk, and stacks of papers were piled all around it. Then there was a silver pen container and a silver frame, the contents of which I couldn't see until I walked behind Oliver's desk. The photo was of Oliver and me underneath an abundance of blue lights, in front of a misplaced English telephone kiosk. We weren't touching, but we were standing close to each other, looking like we were in the middle of a conversation, both smiling and looking really … like we were very much in love.
"Where did you get this?" I asked. It looked like one of the too many photos Amy had taken outside that club in Beijing.
"Amy sent it to me. She said she originally didn't want to put it up on Facebook because she thought we would be upset that we looked like we were, well, romantically involved. Then she found out we were, and that's when she sent it."
I slumped down in Oliver's office chair. "Wow. How long have you had it up for?"
"Oh…" Oliver started, looking a little caught. He busied himself packing up his laptop and some papers. "Not that long. Since a couple of weeks after Aidan's birthday, something like that."
"So you're actually out at work?" I asked, incredulous.
"Not really. I'm just not in, as it were. I should probably be a little clearer with Josh in reception though, because the guy keeps flirting," Oliver muttered. He grabbed his coat. "You ready?"
I got up from Oliver's chair and took one last glance at the photo. "Sure." Oliver wasn't alone in thinking that it would be a good idea to send a message to reception guy. If I could've hanged a sign around Oliver's neck saying, "Hands off!" I would've.
We walked back out, past reception guy who was now giving us both his weird mother hen look.
"Have a good weekend, Josh," Oliver said as we walked up to the doors of the lift.
"You too, Mr. Campbell," Josh replied.
As we were waiting for the lift, I tentatively pushed Oliver's coat away and snaked an arm around his waist. He didn't move, but when I looked at his face, I noticed he was suppressing a laugh. When the lift doors opened, we stepped inside. I kept my arm around Oliver's waist, but once in the lift, I pulled him flush against me. The doors had just begun closing when I used my other hand to pull Oliver's head down for a kiss. For a second, I worried that he didn't want it, but then he kissed me back passionately enough that I was beginning to grow hard.
A couple of floors down, we parted.
"I think we managed to break Josh's heart," Oliver smiled, "That's not nice."
"The bugger needs to know that you're taken," I said firmly.
"Mhm… I think I like it when you get all possessive," Oliver said, sliding up against me again.
After that, Oliver seemed to adapt his "just not in" policy outside of work as well. Our friends caught on effortlessly, and gradually started inviting us to couple dinners and the like. Soon there was no need to make any explicit references to the status of our relationship. The whole thing was so damn easy that it seemed ridiculous that Oliver had waited so long to take the plunge.
Two days before Christmas, we were invited to Oliver's parents alongside Aidan and Danielle. If Aidan thought my presence was a little odd, he didn't say anything about it. Danielle seemed as harmless and ditzy as she had when I met her at Aidan's birthday party. It was a nice evening, in that formally nice kind of way. Oliver's parents retired to bed by eleven, but the rest of us stayed in front of the fire in the sitting room, drinking wine and chatting.
"So how long have you been together?" Danielle asked Oliver and me.
Oliver said, "For a while," at the same time as Aidan said, "They're not together."
Aidan's attention snapped to Oliver. "What did you say?"
"I said that we've been together for a while," Oliver replied calmly.
"Is this some kind of joke?" Aidan asked, smiling in an entirely unpleasant kind of way.
Oliver sighed. "Aidan…"
"Are you fucking serious?" Aidan stood, glaring angrily at his brother. "Is this some kind of bloody … bloody … weird substitute? Like, I know you've not really had a steady girlfriend, so because you can't get laid, you hook up with him?" He gestured in my direction.
"Don't be such an idiot," Oliver said.
"Oh, I'm the idiot? You're the one who… Bloody hell, Oliver! I can't fucking believe you."
"Calm down, will you?" Oliver said, putting his glass on the table. "It's not your damn place to judge, you know. If you don't like it, fine, suit yourself, but have the decency to shut the fuck up about it, alright?"
"And mum and dad are alright about this, are they?" Aidan said, pacing in front of the open fire like some old drama queen.
"They are, actually," Oliver replied.
"Is this your doing?" Aidan asked, turning to me. "Don't think I've not noticed how you look at him. Finally talked him into bending over for you, did you?"
Oliver stood up. "That's enough! If you absolutely want to have this conversation, you have it with me, do you understand?"
Aidan stormed out of the room. Oliver followed. There was a door slamming somewhere in the house and the muffled sound of their angry voices. I was left with Danielle, feeling quite awkward. I took a couple of swigs from my wine glass, wishing I was back in my flat with Oliver, just the two of us.
"So, uh, are you staying here for Christmas?" I asked, then mentally kicked myself for the ridiculous attempt to ignore the fucking scene that had just taken place.
"We're spending Christmas Day here and then Boxing Day with my parents," Danielle replied, looking down at the wine in her glass before meeting my gaze. "Are you and Oliver spending Christmas here?"
"I'm not sure," I told her. "My parents live next door so maybe we'll, I don't know, go back and forth or something."
We continued this inane conversation for what seemed like forever, until Oliver came walking back into the room.
"Come on, Will, we're leaving," he said, grabbing his jacket from the back of the sofa. He didn't look at either me or Danielle.
"Alright…" I mumbled, then said good-bye to Danielle and followed Oliver to the front door. He was putting on his coat and scarf with furious imprecision. I put a hand to his arm, but he shrugged it off. "Where are we going, exactly?" I asked.
He still refused to look at me when he said, "I don't know. Either we go back to mine or yours, or we stay with your parents tonight. Or we get a fucking hotel room. I don't care. Can you just get your damn shoes on so we can leave, please?"
There was no use arguing with him when he was like that, so I got my shoes, coat and scarf on and followed him into the cold December night. He was walking down his parents' driveway with long, angry steps. I had to run to catch up with him.
"Oliver!" I said, grabbing his arm. "Where are you going?"
"I don't fucking know. Let's just go for a walk."
I fell into step with him as he walked down the dark, empty street. We walked in silence until we arrived at the High Street. There he suddenly stopped. I stopped a step behind him, waiting for him to initiate conversation. He didn't; instead he pulled me into a hug, hiding his face against my neck. I could have killed Aidan for making Oliver this upset. I held him as close as I could, putting a gloved hand to the back of his head. I don't know how long we stood like that before Oliver broke free.
"You okay, baby?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said. "He was just so bloody nasty about it, you know?"
"But the worst part of it is that he barely said a thing that I didn't use to think myself. Not about you talking me into it, of course, but the rest. Which is just so depressing it makes me want to cry."
I pulled him close, pressing a kiss against his cold skin. He smiled.
"But now you know better, and that's the important thing," I said, stealing another quick kiss. No matter that there weren't many people out, I was kissing Oliver in public and he didn't object.
"Yeah, I do," he said.
"And Aidan will come around too. He just needs to get used to it."
"Yeah. You're right." He leaned in for another kiss. I felt like dancing.
"Want to go back now? It's fucking freezing."
"Alright." He took my hand as we walked back through the night.
Oliver holding my hand in public? I felt so damn happy and excited about it, I didn't know what to do with myself.
"Hey Oliver?" He stopped and looked at me. I decided against dropping to one knee in the snow and sleet, but took his hands in both of mine. "Marry me?"
He laughed. "Are you drunk?"
"A bit," I admitted. "So is that a no, then?" I tried my best pout.
"Don't look at me like that. Let's not marry just yet. Let's take baby steps, you know, work our way up to it. Let's … I don't know … We could move in together, I suppose. Or we could get a dog or something."
"I don't want a fucking dog."
"Good. Neither do I."
"I will move in with you though, if you were serious."
"As serious as you were when you asked me to marry you."
"So that's a plan then," I said, smiling. He smiled back at me and leaned in to press his cold lips against mine.
There were two things in particular that I liked about Oliver. Number one, how fucking amazing he was, and number two, that he was mine.
A/N: That's all I have to say about William and Oliver. Thank you, all of you who have read and reviewed. If you want to get in contact with me, drop a review or a PM. Yeah. That's all, I think.