A/N: The full title of this chapter is "I'll blend that rainbow above you, and shoot it through your veins"
Daybreak broke. The sirens and honks from outside the window couldn't pierce this ever growing familiar atmosphere of togetherness. Alfred had woken first, but Arthur stirred not much longer. Arthur was on his side, curled against Alfred, his fingers grazing Alfred's skin. Alfred had turned in his sleep to lie on his stomach, keeping one leg and one arm across Arthur.
Hazy memories turned clear as Arthur recalled just what had occurred the night before between him and Alfred. The sting of fingers penetrating him, the awkward moment when they couldn't find lube, so Arthur had to suck on Alfred's fingers, the nervous glances, the pauses when Arthur grew too nervous. But then there was that eternal moment in time when they were connected and they moved together.
It had been romantic and beautiful and awkward, but it hadn't been the way Arthur had planned at all. He wanted candles, perhaps some roses on the bed, classical music playing to capture the mood, and Alfred waiting for him on the bed. No, he hadn't planned such a thing in his mind many many restless nights. It just came to him one day while at work.
But yesterday, Arthur had been struck with the craziest thought in his life. He was irrevocably in love with Alfred and wanted to seal the deal. Give himself away to Alfred, take Alfred's virginity, and his homosexual (and sober) virginity as well. There was no one else he'd rather be with. The fact remained, however, that he had truly had sex with another man.
Arthur nearly bolted out of bed, but stopped with a hiss of pain. Alfred propped himself up, still lying on his stomach, and frowned.
"Don't move too much, babe. It's gonna hurt."
Arthur put his head back down on the pillow and groaned. "Oh goodness... Did we really...? Last night..."
"You said that a lot last night. That and Jesus Christ," Alfred commented. Arthur flushed and buried his head under the pillow.
"Stop it. I wasn't even washed and what if there was still matter back there? And it was so awkward. I didn't even know what to do... I'm sure it was terrible."
Alfred frowned more. He turned to lie on his side and pulled the pillow off of Arthur's face. "Stop that. Sex isn't pretty. It's not meant to be. Porn glorifies it. It's meant to be intimate. Yeah it was awkward, but I loved it. I loved showing you all of me and feeling all of you. Didn't you like it?"
Arthur's red face became an even more intense shade and he averted his eyes. "Y-yes..."
"Then what's the problem?" Alfred smiled and pecked Arthur in the nose. "That's all that matters is how good it felt. Not the technicalities of it. Besides, we can get better later on. Right?"
Arthur slowly began to smile, his shoulders relaxing. "Yes... You're right..."
Smirking confidently, Alfred shifted closer to Arthur. He rubbed his nose against Arthur's neck, saying, "And we'll get practice. I'm sure of it."
Arthur flushed. He smacked Alfred upside the head and then buried himself under the covers. Their laughter filled the room, eventually fading to muted mumbles of "I love you" and "you're beautiful", finally hushing to their kisses and fond touches.
After a time they separated, joined only by their hands. Arthur looked up at the ceiling with wide open eyes. "I can't believe a man could make me feel so good. I just wonder how it's possible..."
"You're over thinking things," Alfred started. "Because you've only been with a woman, you don't think about the fact she's made you feel good. Because it's 'normal'. But because you're with me, you start thinking of the morality of the situation. Can't you think 'God, it felt great' and not wonder what gender made you feel good?"
Arthur had turned his head towards Alfred as the man spoke. He smiled and nodded. "Yes, you're right. I'm sorry my love."
"Naw, it's ok." Alfred kissed Arthur on the nose before moving to get up. "We need a shower. We're sticky. Didn't clean up last night."
Arthur moved too quickly once again and hissed in pain. He looked down at the bed sheets, groaning. "I bet they'll charge us extra for ruined sheets..."
Alfred waved it off. He boldly got out of bed without a care that he was stark naked before Arthur. Arthur certainly did not look at his crotch twice before looking up at Alfred as he spoke.
"It's fine. If Kiku asks, I'll tell him I spilled coffee because I tripped or something. Now c'mon cutie. We have a meeting."
"C-cutie? I am certainly not cute!"
Alfred paused at the bathroom doorway to wink. "You're right. You're sexy. Especially when you call my name and then Jesus Christ's name."
Alfred's laugh could be heard even after he shut the door and turned on the shower. It gave Arthur a time to think. He was still alive. God had not smited him. Hell had not opened up in the middle of the night to devour their eternal souls. He had slept with a man. Again. Well this time had been of his own free will and he was sober. But it was strange to still feel the electricity Alfred's hands had left behind, the sparks still enticing his blood in his veins to become excited. Light. Colorful.
"Son of a bitch...," Arthur whispered. "You actually did it..."
It was after Alfred's twenty-first birthday. The summer had been quite full of love. Dates, weekend visits turned sleepovers, night romps, and even one glorious vacation during Easter holiday had brought about a nauseously infectious smell of love in the air. It was almost as if the couple secreted it from their very veins. Co-workers at their job began to become suspicious at seeing Arthur's mood improve to the point he became sociable. They became even more suspicious when they noticed Alfred would be absent whenever Arthur was, or vice versa. Many didn't care and thought it was a welcome relief to have the office grump turn into a sweetheart in a matter of months, but one in particular did care.
And that was when it fell apart. Arthur was called into Kiku's office, again surprised to see Alfred already there waiting for him. Unlike their last trip to the boss' office together, this time felt wrong. Kiku closed the door, the shades to the windows looking into the cubicles were drawn, and Kiku wasn't smiling.
"Is something wrong?" Arthur asked. He didn't even chance a glance at Alfred.
"Yes," Kiku started. His tone was dry, most unlike him. "I have been…told that you two are dating."
There was a pregnant pause. Neither Alfred nor Arthur leapt to deny it. Instead, they waited to hear more. Was Kiku upset with them? Would he make them break up or transfer them as he had Erica? Arthur tried to conceal his fear, but he was probably starting to sweat.
"You both know the rules… If this is true, which… I have a feeling it is, then I will have to ask one of you to transfer…or have you resign." Kiku looked down at his desk, unable to meet their eyes. "I hate for it to come to this…"
Alfred shifted in his seat. "Kiku… This isn't fair. What proof do you have?"
"I have heard many people reporting strange noises coming from the storage room when you both are not at your desks. You're both absent on the same days."
"That means jack shit Kiku, and you know it." Alfred sat back in his chair, arms crossed, and a look of frustration across his face. "You can't do anything without proof."
Kiku stared at Alfred, and then narrowed his eyes. Arthur gulped, fearing what his next move would be, and seized up when Kiku produced a manila envelope from his desk. He didn't open it, but the edge of what looked like a photograph peeked from over the corner. There were pictures. He had physical proof.
"I have proof right there," Kiku said sternly.
"What?" Alfred had gotten up from his chair by now and was leaning over the desk. "What the hell? Who was spying on us? Was it you? Was it someone at work here?"
"That is none of your concern," Kiku started. He put a hand on the envelope in case Alfred tried to take it.
"It is if my privacy or Arthur's privacy have been compromised!" Alfred shouted. "Tell me how you got this information!"
As Kiku and Alfred's voice continue to rise in volume, Arthur started tuning them out. He thought of what that picture was of, and his mind wandered off on its own. Perhaps it was the times they went out for movies and left holding hands, giggling all the way to the car where they shared a few kisses before heading home. Perhaps it was when they went shopping, and Arthur stared dreamily at coats he could never have and Alfred dragged him along by the elbow towards more fast food joints. Or maybe it was when they had been on vacation. Their Easter holiday had really been something else and they had no shame for being openly in a relationship during that time.
He thought of waking up beside Alfred and the joy it brought him to see that smile almost every morning. Seeing Alfred sitting across the table from him in his socks and trousers, skin glistening in the early sun shining through the window. Sometimes when Alfred stayed the night, Arthur would wake before him and read in bed, glancing down to smile at his sleeping beloved.
He thought of his laughs, his loud boisterous chattering, his moans, his pleas of want and desire, his mumbles of affections and whispers of love.
He thought of a life without Alfred and how he could no longer stand for such a thing.
"Alfred, stop it," Arthur said suddenly. He stood up and pulled the envelope from Kiku before the man could react. "I do not care what is in here, but I would like for you to dispose of it. You have no use for it. Alfred and I are dating and we have been for months now. I don't care to keep it inside anymore."
"Quiet Alfred, I'm talking," Arthur snapped without any malice in his voice. His eyes never wavered from Kiku's. "You can fire me or I can quit, whichever you like, but I will not be sent away from Alfred. Nor will I let him be taken from me. You have no right to do this. It's unfair that you put this rule of yours in place just because you and Alfred didn't hit it off. I'm sorry, but I will no longer tolerate being here in this environment. I have finally accepted who I am and what I want in life and who I wish to share that with, so I don't want to have to hide it anymore."
Alfred jumped up at hearing Arthur say he would quit and reached to stop Arthur from talking, but he wouldn't be deterred. It felt wonderful to finally get that out. Kiku had no reaction as he allowed Arthur to talk. Once done he folded his hands on the desk and simply nodded.
"Then you may clear out your desk."
Arthur turned on his heel and left the room. Alfred was left looking between the two. He shot Kiku a pained look and then rushed after Arthur.
"Arthur!" Alfred called. The man was briskly walking down the line of cubicles back to his. Already curious prairie dogs were popping their heads over the top of their walls, phones hanging away from their ears. "Arthur, wait! Wait!"
Suddenly, Arthur turned and grabbed Alfred's wrist, pulling him close and kissing him on the mouth. Around them were gasps and loud items clattering off of desks onto the floor. Some girls were chattering to themselves and hanging up their business calls. Alfred's eyes were wide and watching Arthur, the man's own eyes clenched closed.
Once done Arthur pulled away with a small confident smile. "I'm tired of hiding it. I did so for too long. Probably longer than I knew. It's time we lived up to who we are."
"Well…yeah," Alfred replied, obviously flustered. He ignored the stares from the rest of the office. "But… babe, what will you do for a job?"
Arthur's smile only increased. "I had been saving up for this moment. I wasn't going to stay here for the rest of my life, Alfred. I couldn't do that to myself. I'd been thinking of some ideas. Don't you worry."
Without a moment's hesitation Arthur had turned away and rushed back to his cubicle. It was as if he had been driven mad with an unexplainable drive to get out of the building as quickly as he could. His words to Alfred had been true. He wasn't meant to be a business man. His punk phase and bratty days had been the window into the true potential he had within. Alfred had been that catalyst to unlock that sleeping part of Arthur he had hidden away because of sibling teasing, parental neglect, separation, and finally, bitter heartbreak forcing him to withdraw into himself. But with Alfred there was no need to hide anymore.
And so he wouldn't.
Arthur swept his cubicle clean in minutes. Alfred hovered by the entryway warily. He watched without saying anything, switching his weight from one foot to the other, and biting his lower lip. Arthur knew he was there, but paid him no mind. Instead he stuffed the postcard of New York, the small rose plant next to his monitor, the picture of him and Alfred at the Statue of Liberty, and loose change from the bottom of a drawer all into a box. He had nothing else he truly needed. Everything else had belonged to the company.
Feeling detached from even the ground, Arthur strut out of the office. Eyes watched him, whispers were made, but no one bid him farewell. Alfred followed all the while, but stopped at the elevators. He still had to finish his day of work, and knowing Kiku's mood, he wouldn't allow Alfred the chance to go home and be with Arthur.
Arthur turned to regard Alfred finally, that same smile in place. "Go back to work, love."
"I can't," Alfred replied. "What will you do? How will you pay rent? What about Gentleman? How will you eat?"
"Relax," Arthur interrupted. He put a hand on Alfred's cheek, pulling it away when the bell signaled for the lift. "I have it under control. I'll see you tonight."
Once home Arthur moved to dispose of any evidence he had of ever being confined in a business environment. He threw his business suits and ties to the far reaches of his closet. Alfred would be slightly sad to see all of the ties gone, seeing as he quite liked Arthur in ties, so he kept a few that matched his sweater vests.
Meanwhile, Gentleman watched with interest from his perch on the windowsill. He wasn't used to Arthur being home so early in the day. He had only been gone two hours before coming back. His tail whipped in irritation as his entire schedule for the day had to be rearranged now.
Arthur noticed his cat and moved to pet him on the head. "Things might be a little tight for awhile, Gentleman. But fear not. I have an idea. Hopefully it'll all go as planned and this idea will be set in motion soon."
Of course the cat didn't understand him. He leapt from his spot and trotted off to find some place he could be alone. Arthur didn't mind. He turned on his computer to listen to some music, finding his favorite jazz songs and turning up the volume, not caring if the housewives of the complex could hear it or not. If they were upset, then they had bad taste.
Eventually Alfred came over. Arthur wrapped his arms around his neck, pulling him into the flat, and kissing him with all the passion in him. He whispered for Alfred to make love to him, and Alfred would have if he wasn't so worried.
"Wait, babe," Alfred said, stopping Arthur from tearing off his clothes. "Babe. Arthur. Stop. I mean it. I'm freaking out. I've been freaking out all day."
"I told you not to worry," Arthur replied casually. "I have a plan."
"Mind letting me in on this plan of yours?"
Arthur sighed, frustrated Alfred wasn't naked before him. Or better yet, atop him. He watched as Alfred moved to the counter chairs, arms crossed. Arthur sat beside him.
"Those replies from that forum I told you about," Arthur started. Alfred nodded, remembering when Arthur had told him of his online Catholic forum he visited frequently. "They got me thinking. Perhaps I should take back up what was my hobby and turn it into a job."
"Your hobby…?" Alfred furrowed his brow and frowned. "You wanna be a seamstress? Er, seam…man?"
Arthur shook his head, chuckling. "No, love. A gardener. I want to open my own nursery."
At this Alfred's eyes grew wide and he uncrossed his arms. "What? In this economy? Is that a good idea, Artie? I mean, think about it."
"I have," Arthur said quickly, firmly. "For months I've thought about it. Ever since I joined my new church I've been thinking about it. It's not so bad to try new things. I mean, I tried with you, and look where I am now."
Alfred shifted forward and took Arthur's hands. "Babe, I'll support you in anything, but… I mean. You're comparing a relationship and a job. I don't want you to get hurt or something, you know?"
Arthur nodded. "I understand the risks. There's a man at my church who can be of help to me. He's a nice bloke. We've been talking and he said if I ever became serious about this then he would work with me to make it a reality. We'd co-own it together."
"Really?" Alfred looked a little less worried now. "But…a nursery? Will people go for that? It's not spring."
"People buy flowers in the other months, idiot," Arthur laughed. "And there's more to a nursery. There are bushes and trees as well. People need those all times of the year. Trust me. I know what I'm doing. I am older than you and have had a little bit more experience."
Alfred blushed, but finally smiled. "Ah babe, I wasn't doubting you. I was just nervous with the economy and all. But if you had faith in your ability and your friend and such, then I won't stand in your way. But it'll be tough at first, right?"
"Well, yes. I had saved up some pounds just in case…"
Alfred shook his head. "Nope! Nope! I don't like imagining you struggling when there's something I can do. And I'm not talking about charity. Artie, how many times had I stayed for a weekend or during the week? How much of my things are here? How much do you hate me leaving? I should just move in!"
Arthur gasped. He hadn't thought of it, his mind focused only on the nursery, but such a thing did seem possible. Alfred practically lived there as it was. But having his monetary input towards rent would help in the first few rough months of starting the business.
"Stay," was all Arthur said as he wrapped his arms around Alfred's neck again, much like he had when Alfred had arrived.
This time Alfred responded much more eagerly. He picked Arthur up under his legs and carried him to the bedroom. Once again, Gentleman found himself trotting out of the room with his nose upturned. He hated it when his spots were compromised. He could smell their hormones secreting too much testosterone, disturbing his delicate nose. So he sat as far away from the noisy bedroom as possible.
Three months later
Alfred's move to Arthur's apartment took only a half an hour and a hearty handshake good-bye to Matthew. Matthew hadn't minded Alfred's move. He had a friend lined up to be a potential roommate should the day ever arise that his brother left. Now he was free to contact his friend and invite him over to stay.
However, Arthur's move to his nursery took longer than either had anticipated. It was fortunate for their sake that Alfred had moved in for Arthur found his savings dwindle away. His friend from the church had managed to find a rather old building that just needed renovation to be up to code for business to open. Arthur's money went into the work while his friends went into ordering all the materials needed to be successful.
During this stressful time, Alfred had been very accommodating. He tagged along to help when he could at the nursery, although more often than not he just got into trouble and ended up putting the team further behind. So instead he took to working around the apartment. He did the laundry, cleaned, cooked (rarely allowing Arthur back in the kitchen; his subtle way of telling Arthur he was done having his food), and sometimes went grocery shopping while Arthur was out.
They enjoyed coming home to each other, waking up beside the other, falling asleep in each other's arms, and sometimes, ending their nights together with jazz music listlessly filling the flat. Arthur was a terrible dancer, but Alfred was kind and never winced when Arthur stepped on his toes. Nor did he joke about the fact an Englishman couldn't dance. Sometimes they washed the dishes together, hips butting back and forth in a playful game of space that resulted in splashing water on each other. They supposed they could spend the evening drying each other off, and then ending up laughing until bed time.
The constant drive in each other's belly to make love whittled down after a time. That's not to say they didn't have sex, because they certainly did, but it was no longer a terse and stretched feeling between them. That taboo situation was long gone, replaced by warm familiarity and kisses and hugs whenever they felt like it.
And Arthur felt his heart growing heavier with color each day, but not in the terrible sense depression brought about. No, this felt heavy and warm, but light and airy. He couldn't put a word to it, and he rather liked not being able to. Alfred was what he could have called it, possibly love, but even then it didn't seem right.
Alfred said it best when he admitted the same feeling. "It feels like we're meant to be. As if we've lived other lives and we've been together even back then."
Of course, Alfred had to ruin that moment by going off about possibly being someone in the mafia or some King, to which Arthur scoffed at and said, "I assure you, had you been in the mafia or a king, history would know of it. I worry for that country had you ever been a king."
"Ah, but you'd have been my queen."
"Certainly not," Arthur replied simply. He had been crocheting at the time, pausing for a moment to glance at Alfred. "I am not a woman. Only a woman can be queen."
Alfred shrugged. "If I loved you back then, I'd find some way."
"Don't you always?" Arthur couldn't help but smile until he showed teeth, finishing his work. Alfred eventually put his head in Arthur's lap and continued to talk of some made up past life they probably never shared.
Now it was opening day. Renovation had been completed two weeks earlier. Trucks had stopped by every day since then with flowers and trees and compost and other objects to fill the entire building. Alfred had helped on the weekends, enjoying coming home with Arthur, dirt on their faces. Nervous at first, Arthur quickly warmed up to the idea of shared bath times.
Deciding on a name was difficult. Arthur's friend had stepped aside, allowing Arthur full responsibility. It took a few restless nights, but it came to him as he danced with Alfred one quiet night.
"That's it!" Arthur had said that particular night. "Rainbow Veins! That'll be the name of the nursery!"
Alfred kissed Arthur on the nose and agreed with him. "It's perfect. I love it."
Finally, the "Open" sign was hung, the sprinklers turned to a mist, and the door unlocked. They were open for business. Alfred had spread the word at work, leaving hints to the girls of the office. They were some of Arthur's first customers. Alfred had even taken time off from work to be there on opening day. Arthur declared it a successful first day as they had been called by five different places to create custom arrangements; the perfect way to get ones business name out there and show off.
Alfred took Arthur out for a celebratory dinner that night at their beloved pub. Unknown to Alfred, however, Arthur had invited Elizabeth and Amelia. Amelia and Alfred had yet to meet. The couple had been away in America for a few months and had returned a few weeks ago. Now was the perfect time.
"Bessie," Arthur greeted, hugging her as he would an old friend. Alfred was shocked. He hadn't seen Arthur be so friendly with his ex before. "How was the trip?"
"It was great!" Amelia exclaimed. She, like Alfred, had been overwhelmed with joy at the prospect of going home. "I missed New York so much!"
"You're from NYC too?" Alfred asked, butting in with peeked interest.
"I am!" Amelia and Alfred soon delved into their own little world, talking about New York, where they had been, what they loved about it, and other such American nonsense that Arthur and Elizabeth retreated from their conversation back to English comfort.
Leaning over, Elizabeth lowered her voice. "So, I heard you've opened your own nursery. Rainbow Veins, huh? How very gay of you."
Arthur shrugged. "Alfred wanted to fill my heart with color, and he did so. This is just my way of returning it to the world."
"Wow," Elizabeth breathed, surprised. "This isn't like you at all. What did that boy do to you?"
Arthur chuckled. He looked over at Alfred fondly, recalling all the times he had been there for him, and all the times he hadn't. Wondering just what a mysterious and wondrous being God really was.
"Exactly what needed to be done."
Hoshiko2's cents: Sorry to say this folks, but that's it for this main story. There are two special stories on the horizon: Thanksgiving special and a very special Christmas story.
I wanted to leave a big personal message to all of you. So many of you have come forward to me and told me of your coming out, or that you feel confident to do so now. That this story has somehow changed your life. That you feel stronger in your religion and your sexuality. I wish you all the best. You're truly wonderful and strong human beings. I'm not particularly religious myself, but I do believe in God and believe that you will find happiness. It will get better, no matter the state you're in now. Time changes all, and you will become yourself eventually. Just have faith in yourself, in those that love you, and in whatever you believe in. Thank you all for reading, for leaving me beautiful messages, and for being the wonderful you.