Noble Rot

“The new vintage is out,” Francis had told him, “Come sample it with me, or is your palate too plain for fine wine?” They sat on a tired old veranda and drank most of two bottles between them. The red was heavy and sweet, the white light and dry as old bones. Arthur kept wishing his glass transfigured into a pint of lager, and Francis knew it, and he laughed.

“I see what you’re doing here,” Arthur said, taking a swig and biting his lip at the sharp bitter stab on his tongue.

“Do you?” Francis was smiling, idly swirling the wine in his glass.

“I do,” Arthur replied firmly. “It’s not going to work. I know all your old tricks off by heart.”

“And I yours.” Francis filled Arthur’s glass. “It used to be a lot easier to get your trousers off.”

“When! When was it easy!”

“Glam rock,” Francis said, and Arthur buried his face in his hands.

“Oh god,” Arthur groaned, his cheeks getting red, though from embarrassment or the wine it was impossible to say. “Don’t remind me, it seemed like a great idea at the time.”

“Mod was cute and punk was adorable, but glam was my favourite.” Francis pulled at Arthur’s sleeve. “Do you ever put the glitter back on these days?”

“God no, I’m too old for that kind of thing.”

“What? Ridiculous.” Francis took Arthur’s hand. “Come here.”


“Well if you’d follow, you’d know.” Francis tugged at Arthur, and they were up, walking down the road. “It’s good to feel young sometimes.”

Arthur’s face scrunched up. “You’re not, you’re not!” he said, digging his heels into the sidewalk, but Francis dragged him into a shop and made him sweep shelves of glitter eye makeup into a basket, laughing. They gave a fistful of euros and a couple old francs to the girl at the counter, who made a face and pushed the coins back with their change.

“Let me do it,” Francis said, and they sat cross-legged on his bed.

“You’re messing it up.”

“You can’t even see what I’m doing.”

“Doesn’t matter, I can tell.” Arthur sneezed. “I never used this much, you know.”

Francis dipped his fingers in a jar of powder and caressed Arthur’s cheek. “I want to see how it looks on you.”

Arhur grabbed Francis’ hand and scrunched up his nose. “I still see what you’re doing here. You’re still doing it, so I still see it, you know.”

“Oh-ho, so I am.” Francis’ fingers slid beneath Arthur’s shirt, leaving trails of glamour in their wake. The perfumed smell of cosmetics hung in the air. Francis kissed him in that way he had, a little too hard and a little too long. “Am I still not getting away with it?” he asked in that deep velvet voice he thought was sexy, and it was, and Arthur hated that it was.

“You smeared it,” Arthur said, his fingers at Francis’ lips, rubbing them softly and coming back stained red.

“It looks better that way.” Francis kissed him again, and Arthur’s fingers twined in his hair, soft like silk thread in his hands.

When they were done they lay naked on top of the sheets, their feet propped against the headboard. Arthur lit a cigarette and blew a smoke ring in Francis’ face. “I thought you quit,” Francis said.

“I tell the kids that or they make that face at me.” Arthur flicked the ash onto the floor. “Why, do you think I should?”

“No, I think you should share, though.”

Arthur passed Francis the cigarette and raked a hand through his hair, stiff with cheap glitter spray. “I should have known better than to go drinking with you.”

Francis smiled. “I’m glad you don’t know better.”

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