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It was really weird seeing the two people he had hurt most in the world together. He tried to hold himself steady. He could get through this, he had to. "Come in, Bill, Laura. Can I get you a drink?"

"Maybe later," said Bill. "Let's sit down. Laura and I have come up with an idea that we want you to consider. Actually, all of us need to talk about it." They sat down in the lounge, all in different chairs. Bill leapt in with both feet. "We thought that maybe you don't have to choose between us. I could live with you spending some time with Laura and... "

"I could live with you spending some time with Bill," finished Laura. "We'd all keep our own places, but one week you'd be with Bill and the other week you'd be with me, when you wanted to be of course! You're not our sex slave!" She laughed a trifle breathlessly.

Laura blushed and continued, "I think it's important that we are all equal in this arrangement or it's not going to succeed. What do you think? Is there a chance this would work?"

Richard looked at both of them; he couldn't believe this was real. But they looked serious. How could it possibly work? He shut his mouth; how long had it been hanging open? "Do you really think... the two of you would be okay with me sleeping with both of you?"

Bill nodded. "Not at the same time, of course—I don't think I'm that modern!" He smiled. "But sharing you with Laura would be quite different, from my point of view, than sharing you with another man."

"I agree," said Laura. "I think I could cope. One thing, we all have to be prepared to be as honest as we can. If something isn't working we need to tell the others. It's not going to be easy, I know. There will be lots of things we have to work out, like do Richard and I still have coffee together when it's Bill's week? Do we each leave stuff here at Richard's, or take everything home with us when we leave? But those are just... just the mechanics. What is really important is the love and the trust. If we trust each other enough to commit to this, I'm willing to try if you are."

"My God! I think I am ready for that drink now!" said Richard, getting up and pouring for himself. "It sounds like a fantasy. I'm waiting for the catch."

"Don't get too excited," warned Laura dryly. "You'll have two of us to look after, to remember our birthdays, bring us breakfast in bed, take care of us when we're sick and comfort us when we've had a shitty day at work."

Bill laughed at Richard's expression, and continued, "And you'll have to remember which of us likes milk in our coffee, who likes to sleep on the right side of the bed and who likes to be on top."

For one horrible moment there was silence, but then Laura grinned and said, "That would be both of us!" Richard choked on his brandy. Maybe this could work after all.

Bill spoke again. "We probably need to sleep on this for a bit, but if we all agree, we could start next week. Give it a trial." He swallowed visibly, then nodded at them. "You and Laura."

"That's very generous of you, Bill, but I think perhaps you and Richard should spend some time together first," Laura said. "You probably have lots to talk about. It has been a very rough few weeks and I can wait." She went up to Richard and kissed him on the mouth. "I'll be off now. Give me a ring tomorrow if you want. Otherwise, I'll see you next Thursday?"

To his surprise, she turned to Bill and kissed him on his cheek. "Good night, Bill. Look after him." She left, and Bill and Richard looked at each other.

"Are you really all right with this, Bill?" Richard remembered vividly how Bill had reacted when he had first found him with Laura. His pulse still leapt whenever he thought of it.

Bill forced a smile. "I think so, if I know you still love me and you're not choosing between us." He rose to his feet. "Well, I'd better say good night, too."

Richard put his hand on his arm. "Don't go, Bill, stay with me tonight. I've missed you so much. You can just hold me if you don't feel in the mood for anything else."

"All right then, I'll stay. Just hold me for a moment, will you?" Bill drew Richard tightly against him. "I know I said no tears," he continued, blinking furiously, "but I thought I'd lost you. God, Richard, I've been so miserable."

Richard drew back slightly to gently wipe the tears from Bill's eyes with his thumbs. "You know one of the reasons why I am looking forward to this new arrangement?" he asked. Bill shook his head. "It will mean I actually get to see a lot more of you. Did you realize that the last couple of months, we've only seen each other about once a week? Not even that, sometimes."

Bill stared at him in surprise, and Richard could see him thinking back over all the nights of overtime, the last-minute cancellations and postponements. "I can't believe I let that happen. I'm so sorry, Richard," he said. "I'll talk to the super and make some changes, starting tomorrow. I promise." He looked on the verge of tears again.

"Shh. Come on, let's go to bed," said Richard.

Emotionally wrung out, they just slept together, Bill spooned behind Richard, his arm around him as if to reassure himself he wasn't going anywhere.

Bill woke up the next morning to the wonderful sensation of Richard kissing his way down his body. He stretched, carefully. "Good morning to you, too!"

Richard looked up from where he had been following the contours of Bill's smooth hip with his tongue and smiled. "You can get us some coffee, in a few minutes." He lowered his head and kissed the hollow below Bill's hip bone.

"Uh," replied Bill intelligently, more focused on what Richard had just started to do with his fingers.

Later, Bill got up and made the coffee, bringing it back for them to drink in bed. "Can I tell you one thing that's bothering me? And then I'll change the subject, I promise." Richard nodded.

"I think I'm going to find it difficult, the first week you're with Laura," he confessed. "I don't mean I'll be jealous—well, not much. Just, make sure you come back to me, okay?"

Richard smiled wickedly. "I'll tell you something that might help a little. You can think about it the week we're apart. I thought I'd buy myself a new pair of trousers this week." For a moment, Bill was confused, and then his eyes widened in comprehension as Richard continued, kissing him in between each phrase.

"Cotton ones," kiss, "made in India," kiss, "not too tight around the waist. I was thinking I might wear them for you, the first time we get together again, you know, when I come over to your flat."

Bill could hardly wait.

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