"Hey," Graham greeted Joe with a brief hug. "How was the trial?"
"Are the kids here?" Joe asked, ignoring his question.
"Your parents took them for the day," said Graham. "Why?"
"Good." Joe stepped towards Graham and pressed his body close to Graham's. His lips found Graham's in a matter of seconds in a fierce kiss. Graham returned it, winding his arms around Joe. His hands slid up under Joe's shirt, caressing Joe's back and sides whilst always moving his shirt upwards. Graham began leading Joe towards the stairs, but Joe resisted. He pulled away from the contact and looked longingly towards the sofa. Graham followed his gaze and nodded silently.
Joe's hands began undoing Graham's belt and sliding his trousers away whilst they moved over to the sofa. They sat down side by side, their legs entwining, their bodies pressing forward for contact. Graham removed Joe's trousers and underwear, and slid down his body to take Joe's full length in his mouth. Joe groaned as Graham's soft, warm mouth caressed him, his gentle hands helping excite Joe. Joe drew back before it all became too much, and instead dropped to his knees to begin the same with Graham. Just before Graham's excitement peaked, Joe drew away.
He kissed Graham long and hard, before Graham moved behind him. Joe bit his lip to stop from crying out his pleasure as Graham slid easily into him. Graham moved torturously slowly, teasing Joe. His hand slipped round Joe's waist and down and he began caressing Joe's length whilst he moved. It was only when Joe was whimpering with pleasure and begging for him to move faster, that Graham increased the speed and depth of his penetration. Just before his climaxed, Graham withdrew from Joe, forced him to roll over and straddled his chest. Joe willingly took Graham in his mouth and worked swiftly to deliver Graham's climax.
Afterward, Graham slid down Joe and worked for the few seconds which it took to bring Joe's peak, before they lay back on the sofa in each other's arms. Joe lay with his body slotted between the back of the sofa and Graham's body, his head on Graham's chest. His hand was draped across Graham's abdomen; Graham's arms were around Joe's neck and loosely across his shoulders. Graham cuddled Joe close, offering comfort for the months of hard work which had culminated in a disappointing sentence. He kissed the top of Joe's head, feeling soft hairs brushing his chin. His lifted Joe's damp fringe away from his forehead and kissed the top of his ear. Joe moved his head closer, moving Graham's lips down to his neck and shoulders.
"How long did he actually get?" asked Graham softly.
"Four years." said Joe sadly.
"Just four?" Joe nodded.
"Apparently, because she was a bit promiscuous in the past, this girl deserved to be raped and battered." Said Joe bitterly. He shook his head. "You should have seen what he did to her. Promiscuous or not, no one deserves that. Besides, guys see loose girls in town all the time, and they don't start raping and beating them. Bastard."
"I'm sorry." Said Graham.
"It's not your fault."
Joe awoke very early the next morning. Graham was still sleeping next to him. Joe glanced over at the clock. Six thirty. Joe pulled on his dressing gown and went downstairs. After almost half an hour, he heard the girls stirring upstairs. He heard their feet on the stairs and smiled. They burst into the living room and threw themselves on him. He laughed.
"Happy birthday, you guys." He hugged and kissed them each. Holly had seen the cake before he could begin to make breakfast.
"Wow!" They went over to examine it.
"Where did you get that, dad?"
"I made it." Said Joe. Beth giggled.
"You didn't." She said. "You can't cook that good." Joe looked indignant.
"I did make it." He insisted.
"He just had a bit of help, that's all." Graham's voice spoke from the doorway. The girls span round. They threw themselves on Graham, squealing with delight. He dropped to his knees and hugged them. They eventually let him go, and went over to Joe.
"Can we have our presents now, Daddy? Can we?"
"You know the rule." Said Joe. "Have your breakfast first."
"Is Graham making it?" asked Holly.
"Graham is making it." Said Graham solemnly. "What do you want?"
"Pancakes!" They chorused eagerly. They followed him through to the kitchen, and Joe soon smelt the delicious aroma of frying pancakes.
The girls were soon gobbling pancakes as fast as Graham was getting them out of the pan. He set a little mixture aside for himself and Joe. The girls took their empty plates into the kitchen and immediately went over to Joe. He smiled and handed them each a white envelope. They tore open the paper eagerly and looked at the paper inside. They looked at the paper for a moment, before they each sped off in their different directions. The envelope contained simple clues and riddles which led the girls to another envelope. After five or six envelopes, they were led to their stack of presents. Each stack was hid in a different location to avoid confusion or arguments. Whilst the girls ran about the house and garden, hunting the presents, Joe and Graham sat down to their pancakes. As they were washing up, they heard squeals of delight from upstairs, and from the garden.
"What did we get them?" Graham asked. "I've forgotten. A bike, I think?"
"A new bike each, some clothes, some books, some DVD's and a box of chocolates each." Graham smiled. They turned around as Beth came in, wearing all of her new clothes on top of her pyjamas. "Tell you what, you guys." Said Joe. "Let's everyone go upstairs and get dressed, and go to the park to ride your bikes, yeah." There were cries of delight and the girls ran upstairs to change.
Joe smiled and hugged Graham, pressing his body gently against Graham's for a moment. Graham smiled back at him and he kissed Joe. He tasted the pancake syrup on Joe's mouth and eagerly ran his tongue along Joe's, catching the sweet taste in his mouth. They drew apart and went upstairs to change.
They all went down to the park together, where Joe and Graham taught the kids how to ride their bikes. Holly mastered it after several determined attempts. Beth got it a long while later, and eventually Louise did too. They rode the bikes home, with Joe and Graham jogging alongside, keeping them steady.
"Listen, you guys," said Joe as they walked up the driveway. "I've got something I've got to do now, okay. So why don't you guys help Graham start making your birthday dinner, and I'll help when I get back." Graham went into the kitchen with them, whilst Joe headed for the cemetery alone. He walked over to Katie's grave and sat down next to it. He went there for an hour alone at five o'clock on the kids' birthday; the time Katie died. He told Katie everything that had happened over the past year. He sat for an hour, before he headed home.
He went through the front door, to be greeted by an aroma of smells from the kitchen. He took a deep breath of the wonderful aromas and smiled. He went through to the kitchen where Holly and Beth were busy making cookies, whilst Graham and Louise were making pasta for dinner. Lou was sat atop Graham's shoulders, directing him, whilst he followed her orders. Joe washed his hands and began opening tins of tuna to add. Graham always made his own pesto mix, and he now added this to the drained pasta. Louise went over to help Beth and Holly with the cookies. Joe moved over to Graham and leant over the pasta pot, sniffing hungrily. Graham looked at him and smiled.
"Dinner's done." The girls took cutlery through, whilst Graham served pasta. They sat about after dinner, the girls reading their new books and watching a new DVD. After it finished, Beth and Louise cuddled around Joe, Holly around Graham, and they sat watching the fire.
"Why didn't you guys want a party this year?" Asked Joe. "You've begged for a party the past couple of years." Beth snuggled closer.
"We wanted to be with you this year." She said sleepily. "We never see you."
"Yes, you do." Said Joe.
"Not always." She said. "You come in when we're in bed, and sometimes leave before we wake up. You sometimes work at weekends too."
"I come in every night to say goodnight." Said Joe. "Even if you're asleep, it's the first thing I do. Before I even talk to Graham." He cuddled her close. "Come on." He said. "Bedtime." He picked up Louise, who'd fallen asleep, and carried her upstairs. They put the girls to bed. Graham said goodnight and left Joe alone with them. He kissed them all, whispered happy birthday and left them alone. He went downstairs where Graham handed him a glass of whiskey. Joe sat down on the sofa and sighed.
"You know what I've just realised?" said Joe.
"You've raised my kids for me."
"What?" Said Graham, frowning.
"You've been there for them, when they wake up, when they come home from school. All the time, whenever they needed someone, you were there instead of me."
"That's bollocks and you know it." Said Graham firmly.
"It's not." Said Joe. "The kids have just said it. And it's true. I never realised before... I get such a kick from my job, when it goes right, that I've not been there for my family."
"You're talking crap." Said Graham. "Listen to me. It's the kids' birthday. You always get a bit down today, because of Katie. And you're knackered. That isn't helping."
"And why am I knackered?" said Joe. "Tell me."
"Perhaps it's because we spend three hours running about at the park this afternoon. Or the fact you spent an hour with Katie today, and that always drains you."
"It's because of the job." Joe snapped. "You know it is."
"What are you going to do about it, if it is?" said Graham. "Quit? Get a transfer?" Joe looked up at him.
"My boss did ask me if I wanted a transfer to a different department. The hours are more flexible and the pay's better... I wasn't going to consider it, but... I think I'm going to now."
"Where's the transfer to?"
"We don't have to move or anything," Joe grinned. "It's a transfer to a different department. I'll talk to my boss tomorrow," Joe swallowed the whiskey in one. He put the glass down on the side and reached out for Graham. Graham smiled and hugged him. "Do you think the kids'll be asleep yet?"
"Let's give them another half an hour." Graham grinned. Joe sighed regretfully. Graham kissed him. "That's for upstairs. Down here, if we shut the door…" Joe immediately stood to close the door. When he turned, Graham had come up behind him, a smile on his face. Joe looked back into Graham's twinkling eyes and returned his smile readily.
~ The End ~