Not a Good Week
Gavin studied his black eye in the mirror of the hotel room's small bathroom. He was so exhausted after five days of Brittas' "personal effectiveness in the leisure industry" course that it didn't look that different to his good eye. Tim was right, he should never have agreed to come. When Brittas had advertised the course, it had been surprisingly popular. Nobody was particularly interested in learning anything, of course, but Brittas' reputation had travelled far. The course was full of people who'd heard the stories and wanted to find out for themselves if he was really that bad. However, as everybody at Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre knew, experiencing Brittas in the flesh was much more awful than even the worst anecdotes suggested. Perfectly nice, happy people who'd started the week expecting amusement were now spending their days complaining, drinking heavily and wishing desperately for the course to be over. Then, when they'd learnt that Gavin actually worked for Brittas, he'd become a homing beacon for the expletive-filled rants of every stressed and irate person in the building. Not for the first time that week, Gavin found himself ending the day with a pounding headache.
This afternoon had been the last straw for many of the worn-out attendees. A "relaxing session where I provide you with some constructive feedback on the weaknesses you've each identified during the course" was how Brittas had described it. The only constructive thing to come of it, as far as Gavin could tell, was the cancellation of that evening's party as the hotel had closed their function rooms whilst they cleaned the blood from the carpets. The result was Gavin's first Brittas-free evening in five days and he was extremely glad of it. He only hoped there wouldn't be another fire alarm.
Yawning, he left the bathroom, flicked off its light and, without bothering to undress, collapsed onto the bed. He wondered if Tim was home yet. He'd already called the flat three times that evening to no answer even though Tim should have been home hours ago. He'd even tried calling the centre but a rather cagey Julie had told him Tim had left early. Gavin half-suspected he'd deliberately gone out to avoid the phone. Whilst complaining about Brittas was usually one of Tim's favourite hobbies, especially when Gavin joined in, Gavin got the feeling that his late-night stress-induced phone calls were not entirely welcome from Tim's point of view. Gavin could hardly blame him if he'd found a better way to spend his Friday evening. But after a hard day of dealing with Brittas-fallout, just hearing Tim's voice, even when he was bleary and annoyed at being woken up, did make Gavin feel so much better.
Making up his mind to try Tim one more time, Gavin sat up and reached across the bed to the phone. It rang just as he was about the grasp the receiver, its shrill bleeping aggravating his headache. He answered, hoping it was Tim.
"Ah, Gavin," came an all-too-familiar nasal whine, much to Gavin's dismay.
"Mr Brittas, " he sighed.
"I just wondered if everything's okay with your room."
"Er, yes, it's fine," Gavin replied, not really caring. His room could be a hellhole but as long as it was quiet and Brittas-free he didn't care.
"Really? I must say the housekeeping has been very shoddy in mine - lipstick on the glasses, dirty towels, no complementary teabags and I don't want to mention what was left in the toilet."
Gavin grimaced. "Maybe you should tell the management rather than me, Mr Brittas" he said, rather tersely. Brittas didn't appear to notice.
"I already have, Gavin. In fact, just this morning I had a long chat with the manager of the housekeeping staff about some improvements I thought they could make."
"But they only seem to be getting worse. Knowing whether you are having similar problems will help me work out whether the problem is systematic or isolated to specific staff so that I know how best to advise the manager."
"Well as I said, Mr Brittas, my room is fine," and probably every other room, Gavin thought to himself, "and I do have to go now." Gavin's headache was getting worse by the second.
"Ah, off to the bar, I expect. Can't say I blame you. If I was young, free and single myself I'd be doing much the same thing. I think some of the women on the course are very taken with you, especially that young lady from Slough."
"Mr Brittas, I'm not -"
"Gavin, Gavin, Gavin, we've discussed this before, haven't we? At your stage in your career, it would be wise to consider settling down. You can't play the field forever. A loving wife and children always make you look good to prospective employers."
Gavin highly doubted that Mrs Brittas had ever made Brittas look good to anyone but then, he supposed, she'd be hard-pushed to make him look worse. "Actually, Mr Brittas," he said, "I was planning on having a quiet night catching up on some reading."
"You know, Gavin, sometimes I worry about you, spending all your time in that small flat with Tim when you could easily have all the joys of a family. You just need to go out and meet someone and there's no time like the present."
"No, Mr Brittas, really -"
"Oh Gavin, this reluctance is just shyness. You have a lot to offer a young lady. Who wouldn't want to be the partner of the deputy manager of a leisure centre? Come on, I'll come with you, help you settle those nerves."
Oh God. Gavin was suddenly met with a vision of Tim's reaction when Brittas casually announced his match-making attempts upon their return to Whitbury. "No," he said firmly. He decided to try a different tack, "No, Mr Brittas, I would really like to catch up on my reading and be prepared for your lecture tomorrow."
"Oh dear, Gavin, that's very commendable, but you can't be all work and no play, you know."
"No, but you always say preparation is important and I do have a lot to read. Well, goodnight, Mr Brittas," Gavin said quickly and hung up the phone before Brittas could reply. Then, deciding Tim was unlikely to call, he took the receiver off the hook and fell back onto the bed with no absolutely no intention of doing anything. The bathroom's extractor fan clicked off and although he hadn't really registered its whirring, its absence amplified the silence in the room. To Gavin, it was heaven. He lay there enjoying the peace, the pain in his head finally subsiding.
Just as he was drifting off to sleep, there was a sharp rap at the door. Gavin groaned, willing whoever it was - as if he didn't know - to go away. They knocked again. Deciding it would probably be easier to deal with Brittas now and get it over with, Gavin heaved himself off the bed.
"Look, Mr Brittas -" he began to say as he pulled open the door. "Tim!"
Gavin barely had time to register Tim's presence before his boyfriend's lips were on his. More than a little stunned, Gavin didn't resist as Tim, without breaking the kiss, pushed him backwards into the room, closing the door behind them with his foot.
"What are you doing here?" Gavin asked when Tim finally pulled away.
"I was worried about you. You sounded awful on the phone." Tim frowned. "You look awful."
"What happened to your eye?"
"One of Brittas' feedback sessions. In her defence, she was aiming for Brittas, not me," Gavin explained. "He just moved at the wrong moment," he added, bitterly.
"Ah." Tim nodded knowingly. One of Brittas's training courses ending in a fight was not an uncommon occurrence. "It's not been a good day then?"
"Oh Timmy, it's just been getting worse and worse all week!" Gavin sat down heavily on the end of the bed and buried his head in his hands. "Everyone either hates me because they think I'm on Brittas' side or thinks that I'd love hearing their complaints about him, Brittas is attempting to marry me off and tomorrow I've got to sit through his seven hour lecture on success in the leisure industry! It's a nightmare!" He looked up to find Tim looking at him with a fond smile on his face. "What?"
Without saying anything, Tim knelt in front of Gavin and kissed him gently on the forehead before moving on to his lips for a deeper kiss. Slowly, they moved backwards on the bed until Tim was lying on top of Gavin. Finally feeling the week's tension draining out of him, Gavin wrapped his arms around Tim pulling him as close as possible. Tim, however, suddenly sat up .
"And who, exactly, is Brittas trying to marry you off to?" he asked, sternly.
Gavin immediately flushed and looked panicked. "Err... no-one. Well, anyone. It's just Brittas being Brittas. He's decided that I won't be successful unless I get married and have lots of children. I said I wasn't interested! Honestly, Timmy!" Only then did Gavin realise that Tim was smirking. "Tim, that's not fun-" he began, but Tim cut him off with another kiss and slowly began unbuttoning Gavin's shirt. The intensity of the kiss increased as Gavin pulled off Tim's jacket and slid his arms inside Gavin's jumper, pulling him closer. Tim slowly began to unbuckle Gavin's belt .
There was another knock at the door. They both turned to glare at it.
"Are you expecting anyone?" Tim whispered.
"No," Gavin whispered back, all his tension returning; he could guess who it was.
The person at the door knocked again and an annoying familiar voice called "Gavin?" through the door. Gavin groaned, dropping his head back onto the mattress. With great reluctance, he attempted to get up but Tim, still on top of him, pointedly refused to move.
"Tim," Gavin sighed, "I need to answer the door."
"No, you don't," Tim replied, gently kissing Gavin's neck. "Ignore it." Another kiss. "Ignore him." And another. "Just pretend you're not here."
Gavin shook his head. "It won't work. I tried that on Monday, he just kept coming back every fifteen minutes until I finally gave in. At midnight!"
Tim glared at Gavin for a moment, then relented, rolling off Gavin with a grumpy "oh, fine".
Hastily doing up his shirt, Gavin jumped off the bed immediately. Tim stayed put, watching Gavin with a look of annoyance, until Gavin frantically shooed him out of sight of the door. With a sigh and a roll of his eyes, he disappeared into the darkened bathroom leaving Gavin free to open the door just as Brittas knocked for the third time.
"Mr Brittas!" he said trying his hardest to sound cheerful instead of thoroughly irritated.
"Ah Gavin, there you are! As you're so keen about tomorrow's lecture, I thought you might appreciate an early copy of my accompanying notes." He handed Gavin a bound set of notes, easily an inch thick, bearing the title _Personal Effectiveness: My personal guide to helping things run smoothly_. I will be giving everyone their own copy tomorrow, of course," Brittas continued, "but thought if I gave you yours now, we could discuss it in more detail on the way back to Whitbury tomorrow. There are lots of exercises that I'm sure you'll enjoy!"
"Oh, I, er, I'm sure, that will be...," horrendous, torturous, a nightmare, "...fun." Gavin replied lamely.
"I knew you'd be pleased!" Brittas gave a wide smile, seemingly oblivious to Gavin's dismayed expression. "Anyway, I must be off. I've just noticed that the staff in the restaurant are using a very inefficient booking system and I think they'll appreciate my suggestions on how to improve it. Goodnight." Brittas turned and walked off down the corridor. Gavin closed the door and leant heavily against it.
"Well, we'd better order some food now before the restaurant staff go on strike," Tim said, coming out of the bathroom.
"Mmm," Gavin mumbled, staring forlornly at the lecture notes.
"You don't have to read them," Tim said, pulling them out of Gavin's hands and letting them fall to the floor. They landed with a thud. Gavin stared at them, worriedly.
"Yes, I do. You heard him, he's probably going to spend the drive home testing me on every single insignificant detail!"
"No, he won't," Tim replied. "He'll just talk at you, as usual. You won't even need to pay attention."
But Gavin wasn't comforted. "He's probably going to spend the rest of the evening coming back with even more work he thinks I'll enjoy!"
"Then I'll just have to make sure you can't hear him," Tim said, with a mischievous look in his eyes. He went back into the bathroom and turned on the shower, filling the room with noise. "Well, are you going to join me?" he called.
Gavin smiled and followed Tim into the bathroom, closing the door behind them.
It was still early when Gavin woke up the next morning. He rolled over to find Tim sitting next to him on the bed, already dressed and idly leafing through Brittas's lecture notes. "Why are you dressed?" he asked drowsily, hooking his arm around Tim and settling against him.
"Good morning!" Tim said, smiling. He threw the lecture notes to the end of the bed and slid downwards, kissed Gavin's forehead and returned the hug.
"Why are you dressed?" Gavin asked grumpily.
"I've got to go," Tim replied.
Gavin gave a groan of protest. "Really?"
"Sorry," Tim continued, "Laura only let me leave early yesterday because promised to be in on time today. It's a Brittas-free Saturday; the centre's going to be busy." He kissed Gavin again, a slower, longer kiss this time. "I'll see you this evening," he said, sliding out from under Gavin's arm and off the bed.
"Only if I make it through the day alive - I've got to survive a three-hour car journey with Brittas first." Gavin said, as he watched Tim put on his shoes and jacket. "Thank you," he said softly.
Tim smiled at him, then picked up the lecture notes from the end of the bed and threw them to Gavin. "Do your reading," he said and disappeared out the door with a wave. Gavin gave the lecture notes a bemused look, then tossed them aside and went back to sleep.
When Gavin entered the lecture hall a couple of hours later, only a few of the other attendees were there. They were talking angrily, and lowered their voices when he entered. Not wanting to know how Brittas had annoyed them now, Gavin sat down on the other side of the room. For a lack of anything better to do, he decided to finally look through the lecture notes. He flicked through the pages looking for something vaguely interesting, inwardly groaning as he found post-it notes with comments dotted throughout the pages. Only after half-heartedly glancing at few of them did Gavin realise that the writing wasn't Brittas's, but Tim's, and their content definitely not suitable for a management textbook. He hurriedly turned back to the start and read the first note.
"I know you've had an awful week but it's almost over. When you get home, I promise that I'm going to make you forget all about it. I love you. T."
Gavin smiled and settled down to read Tim's very detailed plans for that evening. It wasn't going to be such a bad day, after all.