A Kiss Me Short Story
“Rules?” Josh asked, folding his arms across his chest, staring at me from the other side of the kitchen island with a smirk on his face.
It was seven on a Saturday morning in late October. The Pear Tree was deserted except for the two of us. It was time to settle this disagreement once and for fucking all.
“House rules: no taking each other’s ingredients. No sabotage. No throwing of knives. No ankle biting,” I said.
“Sounds fair. Prize?”
“You mean you don’t want to just do this for pride?”
“Do you?” Josh raised his eyebrow.
“Fuck no.” I laughed. “If I win, then I want… a blowjob every day for a month. Unless I’m fucking you, then I’ll take both.” I winked and Josh rolled his eyes. He was still grinning though, because I might have been an asshole, but I was his asshole.
“If you’re very lucky you’ll get both,” he said. “Not that you’re going to win.”
“Bold words from you.” I gave him my most charming, but most arrogant smile. “Out of all our bets, I’m up two.”
“You’re very cocky for someone who’s about to lose. Those other wins were just flukes.”
“Yeah, yeah.” I rolled my eyes, but I couldn’t stop smiling. God, I loved this man so fucking much. He was everything to me. But that didn’t mean we couldn’t rip the shit out of each other from time to time. Besides, bets that involved sex as a prize were fun. “What do you want if you somehow cheat your way to victory?”
Josh leant forward, dropping his voice. “I want you to eat my ass and then use that dildo we got for my birthday until I’m so fucked out, I can’t walk. And if you do a good job, then I’ll let you fill me with your load.”
Fuck. Yeah, I wanted that. I really fucking wanted that.
“Oh,” Josh added. “And then I want you to ride my fucking dick. You look so hot bouncing on my cock.”
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
I didn’t want to lose. But I wanted to change my answer so I got that. Dammit, Josh always had the best fucking ideas. He was the king of throwing me off my game by suggesting such tantalising things that I’d have no choice but to let him win.
It didn’t always work though. Because as much as I loved Josh’s hot as fuck ideas, I liked winning more.
Besides, he’d hate it if he thought I wasn’t actually trying. There’d be no fun in that.
“Done,” I said, leaning across the counter to seal the deal with an illicit kitchen kiss.
“Who’s going to judge this, by the way?” Josh asked, stepping back and eyeing up the nearby stack of saucepans.
“Whichever poor sucker comes in first.” I laughed, wondering whether the staff would subject themselves to getting involved. They were rapidly learning to say no, no matter what reward I offered. “Or Ben,” I added.
It would probably end up being Ben. He’d been the sucker roped into judging most of our cookoffs over the past year. Every time he said he wouldn’t do it again, but every time he did. Mostly because nobody else would.
“Poor Ben,” Josh said. “He’s going to kill you.”
“No fucking way. He loves me.”
“Eh.” Josh waved his hand from side to side, wrinkling his nose.
“Fuck off. I’m loveable as fuck.” I grinned. “After all, you love me.”
“Eh.” He grinned. “I’m not sure if it’s love or just resignation.”
I laughed. I loved him so fucking much. We were positively disgusting, and I’d never been so fucking happy. I glanced up at the clock, noting the time. “Are you ready?”
“Are you?” Josh raised an eyebrow, a challenging gleam in his eye.
“You know it, sweetheart.” I winked. “Let’s go.”
Josh reached for a saucepan, while I moseyed across to one of the fridges to find some oranges. I wasn’t particularly worried, but I was intending to prove to Josh once and for all that my way was the only way to make cranberry sauce.
This was a debate that had been raging for nearly three years, since Ben had first suggested we open for Christmas day in 2019. Up to that point, I’d avoided doing any semblance of a Christmas dinner on the menu, arguing that people were going to be fucking sick of turkey and that I didn’t want to cook the bastard bird. Unfortunately, opening on Christmas day meant I couldn’t avoid it.
Josh and I had still been at each other’s throats at that point, and we’d had a raging argument about the menu which had involved a fight so legendary it had become known at the Great Cranberry Sauce Debate. I’d said it had to be made one way, Josh another. Both of us refused to back down.
In the end, Ben had threatened to just buy tubs of the stuff if we couldn’t agree. I’d said that was tantamount to fucking heresy, and Josh had finally conceded on the agreement that we’d revisit the debate again in the future. I’d only said yes because I’d had no intention of letting him bring it up again. But then last year he’d conned me into letting him do it his way by asking me about it just after he’d finished riding my dick. I’d argued that I’d only said yes because I hadn’t realised what I was agreeing to, but he’d said it didn’t matter—I’d agreed and that was that.
Then, because the universe fucking hated me, Ben had opened his fucking mouth and asked whether I’d changed the sauce recipe because it was better than the previous year.
I’d threatened Ben with being disowned, but he hadn’t backed down. Bastard.
So this year, Josh and I were going to settle this fucking debate once and for fucking all. We were both going to make sauces, and then the staff—or Ben—could decide which was best in a blind taste test.
And I was going to win, and then this whole fucking thing would be over and I’d be champion forever. I wouldn’t lord it over Josh though because that was unsportsmanlike.
Or at least, I wouldn’t do it much. Just once or twice.
I retrieved the ingredients I wanted, and began prepping various things, putting the cranberries in to cook slowly on a low heat with some sugar, orange juice and zest, and a tiny bit of cinnamon. I didn’t want to overpower it.
“Do you think we should have something to test this with?” Josh asked from the other side of the kitchen, where he was slicing lemon peel with a small knife.
“Have we got anything for it to go with?”
“Not sure. There might be some chicken in the fridge.”
“Chicken’s not turkey though,” I said, giving the sauce a stir before making my way down to the other end of the kitchen. I pulled open the doors to the enormous fridges, scanning the shelves. We usually did a Christmas tester menu around this time for the staff to try, but it looked like the stuff hadn’t arrived yet. “Nothing here.”
I thought for a moment. “One of us could nip down to the Co-op and get something? We could do turkey sandwiches.”
Josh hummed, dropping peel into his pan along with some dark brown sugar. “That’s not a bad plan. If you go, I’ll watch your sauce.” He smiled at me, crossing his heart with his fingers. “Cross my heart.”
“Fine,” I said with a sigh. “I’ll go. But only because you’re still fucking around over there.” I headed for his side of the kitchen to grab my phone and wallet off the shelf near his head. The smell of tart cranberries and spices flooded my senses, and for a moment I had to admit it did smell good.
“Just give mine a stir a couple of times,” I added, giving him a sneaky kiss on the cheek while nobody was around. “I’ll be back in a bit.”
Luckily the nearby Co-op still opened at six on a Saturday morning, so it didn’t take me long to get a few supplies. They didn’t have any turkey breasts, but they did have some nice looking slices of cold turkey for sandwiches, so I grabbed those and a packet of stuffing mix.
On a whim I also grabbed some thick cut bacon and some brie, because bacon, brie and cranberry were fucking heavenly together. And if I was making sodding cranberry sauce then I was bloody well having it in a nice sandwich. I threw a loaf of thick cut, white bread into my basket, and headed for the checkout.
When I got back to the kitchen, Josh was leaning against the counter and scrolling through his phone. He hadn’t noticed me, so I stood in the kitchen door for a second, just watching him. How the fuck I’d ended up with someone like him was a mystery I’d never solve, but it was one I was grateful for every second of every day. Even when we were annoying the shit out of each other.
“Working hard then?” I asked, putting the Co-op bag on the island. Josh grinned.
“So hard.” He walked over to me as I began to empty the bag. “Bacon?”
“For bacon and brie,” I said. “I’m fucking starving.” Technically we’d had breakfast, but that had been two pieces of slightly burnt toast at six-thirty, and now my stomach was complaining.
“You have the best ideas.”
“I know.” I grinned. “I couldn’t get any raw turkey but I got some cold slices and a packet of stuffing mix, so I’ll make some sandwiches with those. It’s not like Ben needs anything fancy.”
“He’d just complain if you did,” Josh said, heading back over to his saucepan to stir it, taking a mental spoon off the bench to taste it. He hummed and nodded to himself, a sign that he was pleased with it.
“Not today. I fucking paid for this, so he can’t stop moaning about me blowing the fucking budget.” I left the pile of shopping on the island and went to check on my sauce.
“I stirred it a couple of times,” Josh said. “And turned the heat down a little because it was starting to catch at the sides.”
“Cheers.” I dug a spoon out of a nearby caddy and dipped it into the bubbling, red sauce. It was just on the right side of sharp—not too sweet, not too spiced, and not so sour that you had a visceral reaction—but it just needed a little more balance. I added another teaspoon of sugar, and a touch more cinnamon, giving the sauce a stir and leaving it on the heat.
“Do you want a sandwich?” I asked, glancing up at the clock. It was nearly quarter past eight. “We can have them now, then make a start on prep for lunch.” Usually, we wouldn’t come in until about nine, so by the time we’d eaten and cleaned down, we’d be about there.
“Are you just getting me to do your prep for you?” Josh grinned. “I’m not even supposed to be here until four.”
“If it gets done now, you’ll have less to do later.” I shrugged and reached for a frying pan to start cooking the bacon.
“Sounds fake to me.”
“I mean, you could just piss off home and leave me to do it all by myself.”
Josh rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Firstly, Pip and Oli will be in soon so they’ll help you.”
“If they can tear themselves out of bed,” I muttered. The two of them had finally gotten their act together last Christmas, and nearly ten months later they were still in that sickening honeymoon phase.
“Like we’re any better.”
“We’re not that bad!” I ripped open the packet of thick cut, smoked bacon and began laying it out in the hot pan.
Josh laughed. “Yeah, we are. Remember last week?”
I frowned. Last Sunday I’d turned up at clean down to help Josh out, because I’d been bored and lonely at home. Ben had threatened me a spray bottle because apparently, asking my boyfriend for a kiss and a blowjob for cleaning his kitchen was too much. It wasn’t like we’d actually done anything in the kitchen. I wasn’t that fucking stupid.
But maybe I had to concede that we could sometimes be a little annoying.
Ben just needed to get laid, then he’d stop shitting all over my relationship. Although every time I’d suggested this, he’d just told me to fuck off.
“Do you think Ben has a boyfriend?” I asked, grabbing the brie, a chopping board, and a knife. I knew it was a quick change it subject, but the idea was nagging at me like a flea. “He’s been really fucking pissy lately when I tell him he needs to get laid.”
It was Josh’s turn to frown. He gave his sauce another stir, then walked over to the fridge to retrieve the spread we used for staff sandwiches. “I don’t know. Maybe he’s just sick of you asking.”
“Yeah, but he’s never been this pissy before.”
Josh hummed, grabbing another board, opening the bread, and starting to butter several thick slices. “That’s true. Maybe he has and he just doesn’t want to tell you because he knows you’ll give him shit about it.”
“Like I’d do that,” I said, trying to keep a straight face. Josh looked at me. There was a pause, and then we both laughed. “Fine, okay. I’ll admit I’d give him shit.”
“There’s your answer then. If Ben was with someone, he’s not going to tell you if he thinks you’ll be a dick about it.”
I flipped the bacon over with a pair of tongs. “Point taken.”
It didn’t take long to finish making the sandwiches, and we took them into the breakroom so we could sit down for ten minutes to eat. Both the cranberry sauces were cooling, ready to be judged as soon as someone arrived.
While we ate we chatted about various menu items we were thinking of trying, what we needed to make sure we ordered for the week, and other general work shit. But I did take advantage of the fact we weren’t in the kitchen to pull Josh close to me and kiss him deeply, running my hand up his thigh. I needed it to be tonight already so we could be back in bed and I could take my time with his body.
But work had to come first.
“Tonight,” Josh said. “Then you can fuck me.”
“I’m holding you to that.”
“Good.” He grinned. “Because I’m holding you to it too.”
We made our way back to the kitchen, making the stuffing mix to go in the sandwiches and putting it in the oven to back before cleaning everything down and putting the dirty dishes and crockery in a tray in the pot wash. By the time we’d finished, Pip and Oli had arrived, as had Darcie, and The Pear Tree began its gentle hum into life.
“Okay,” I said, checking the cranberry sauce was cold. “Who wants to be a judge?”
“Dibs not it,” Pip said, throwing her hands in the air.
“What? Why not?”
“Because there is no way I’m judging between you two,” she said, looking between Josh and me. “Not after the fish incident.”
“That was one time,” I said.
“Still no. Sorry Chef.”
“Oli?” I asked. The porter grinned and shook his head.
“Sorry Chef. I’m allergic.”
“Whatever is in it.”
Josh laughed from behind me. “I think Oli gets points for creativity.”
“I think Oli gets no more free sandwiches,” I said with a wry smile.
“Fine. But I’ll holding this against you next time we go bowling. No gutter guards for you.”
Oli muttered something under his breath in Czech and Pip snorted. I ignored them. Instead I stuck my head around the lower kitchen door to appeal to my pastry chef.
“Darcie? Want to judge some cranberry sauce?”
She didn’t even look up from the enormous diary she was reading before she answered. “Nope?”
“Pads said that if you ever asked me to judge anything, I should tell you that you are not allowed to harass any of the pastry staff for their opinion on yours and Josh’s competitions or he’ll have you deseed all the crates of pomegranates in chiller.” Darcie turned her head and grinned sweetly at me.
“Pads is very mean, and you can tell him I don’t like him anymore,” I said.
“He said you’d say that, and then he said to tell you if you don’t like him anymore then you won’t mind if he doesn’t make you any more mince pies.”
“You know,” I grumbled, “I’m not sure I like this side of Patrick.” Bloody pastry chefs with their shiny spines and their refusal to give into my shit.
I stalked back into the kitchen, where Josh was examining the cooling stuffing mix.
“Any luck?” he asked.
“Ben it is then.”
I nodded. I wasn’t sure what time Ben was due to make an appearance but it wouldn’t be too late. I knew he’d started playing rugby on a Saturday morning with a local LGBTQ team, so he’d be in after that. And he’d be hungry too.
He’d probably appreciate a nice sandwich or two.
Robin arrived a couple of minutes later, and in the interest of fairness Josh and I asked him to make the sandwiches in return for Josh taking over his prep work. Robin sighed but agreed, rolling his eyes, and muttering something under his breath about annoying chefs and not understanding why there was so much fuss over fucking cranberry sauce.
When Ben arrived, twenty minutes later, there was a very nice platter of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sandwiches waiting for him.
“What are those?” he asked, eyeing them with more suspicion than a plate of sandwiches deserved.
“Sandwiches,” I said, trying my best to project innocence. “Would you like one?”
“What’s in them?”
“Turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.” I pretended to be deeply engaged with prepping a line of sirloin steaks. If I tried too hard, Ben was bound to catch on, and this way I could get him to judge without him realising.
“Don’t do it!” Pip called over her shoulder. “It’s a trap!”
“No! It’s not a fucking trap,” I said, glaring at Pip who grinned at me. That girl was getting an attitude, but I was too fucking pleased to be mad. She’d really grown into herself in the past year, and I felt like some sort of proud parent.
Or maybe the proud, sweary uncle that everyone is a little afraid of but also brings the best fucking presents.
If my brother ever had kids, that would be my role in their life.
“Not this shit again,” Ben muttered. “What are you debating this time?”
“Cranberry sauce,” Josh said. “Final deciding vote. Do we use my recipe this Christmas, or do we use Aaron’s?”
Ben sighed, looking up at the sky as if he was once again debating his life choices. He loved us really.
“Come on,” I said. “All you’ve gotta do is eat two sandwiches, then make a decision. I don’t even know whose sauce is in which one, Robin made them.”
“You got dragged into this too?” Ben asked, looking at Robin who shrugged.
“They offered to do my prep work.” He grinned. “And it meant I didn’t have to judge.”
“Fine, I’ll eat them. But I’m not judging.”
“How the fuck’s that gonna work then?” I asked, putting my knife down and staring at Ben.
He grinned. “Don’t worry, I know someone who will. Back in a minute.”
Ben disappeared out of the kitchen, towards the office. I frowned and went to wash my hands in the nearest designated sink. Something suspicious was going on. I turned to ask Josh about it, but then Ben reappeared with a dark-haired man in a black hoodie with their rugby club name on in rainbow lettering. The sleeves were rolled up to expose heavily tattooed forearms, and hands. He looked slightly shocked at being dragged out of wherever Ben had been keeping him, but there was a good-natured smile on his face. I could see several dots across his lips and eyebrows, and I assumed he usually had piercings in them.
“This is Ianto,” Ben said. “He plays rugby with me.”
“Hey,” Ianto said, a lilting Welsh note to his voice. “Apparently I’ve been told I’ve got to judge some sandwiches.” He shot Ben a look and a wry smile. “Something about it being my punishment for fumbling a pass this morning.”
Ben smiled at him, a soft look in his eyes I hadn’t seen before. I squinted. There was something going on here. I opened my mouth to say something, then felt the sharp point of Josh’s elbow in my ribs.
“Be nice,” Josh muttered in my ear. “Or I won’t blow you for a month.”
“You can’t do that,” I hissed.
“Can and will.” He smirked at me, knowing he had me by the balls. “Be. Nice.”
“I am nice,” I said. Josh raised an eyebrow at me. Over his shoulder I could see Robin trying not to laugh. Dickhead.
Ben was looking at us, waiting to see what I did. I put on my best smile, introduced myself and the team, and reached out my hand to shake Ianto’s. “I wouldn’t say it’s a punishment. But it would settle a long running debate, and you get free sandwiches.”
Ianto laughed as he shook my hand. “Can’t really say no to that.” He turned to Ben. “Are you sure you don’t want some?”
“I’ll eat them,” he said. “But I’m not making the decision. I have to work here.”
“So you’re just going to throw me under the bus then?” Ianto asked. “Charming.”
Oh yeah, there was definitely something going on here.
“He’s a bastard like that,” I said, giving Ben my most charming smile. “But he grows on you.”
“That’s how I’d describe my brother,” Ianto said. I snorted. I’d known Ben long enough that most people thought we were related. It was either that or married, but somehow I thought mentioning the second would go down like a lead balloon in this conversation. “So, where do I start?”
We directed him to the plate of sandwiches, and Robin told him he had to take one from the left and one from the right.
“We’re looking for your opinion on the cranberry sauce,” Josh said. “We need to know which one is better.”
“Sounds easy enough,” Ianto said.
“Not with you lot all staring at him,” Ben said, picking up the plate of sandwiches and carrying them out of the kitchen. “Stay here. No interfering.”
“But–” I wanted to argue that how the fuck was he supposed to know whose was whose, but then I remembered that even I didn’t know.
“No buts,” Ben said. “Robin, can I borrow you too please?” Then he glared at me. “Do something useful instead of just loitering.”
I spluttered out something and gestured to the line of sirloins, but Ben had already disappeared. “No respect,” I muttered to myself, as I put the steaks in a tray. “I get no respect around here at all.”
“Aww is nobody afraid of you anymore?” Josh asked.
“Careful. Don’t fucking start something you can’t finish.” I hefted the tray and carried them to the fridge, balancing them on my hip so I could get the door open. “And make yourself fucking useful.”
“Nope,” Josh said. “I’m not supposed to be here.”
“Then get out.”
“Nope.” He raised an eyebrow. “And don’t you start shit with me because you’re cross with Ben.”
I wanted to argue that I wasn’t starting anything but we both knew that would be a fucking lie. We actually fought a lot less these days, at least at work. Instead, we tended to fuck our frustrations out as soon as we got home. There was nothing like a good, angry fuck to make both of us feel better.
“Fine.” I grabbed some lamb racks out of the fridge so I could start Frenching them. The detailed knife work required would take my mind off Ben and Ianto deciding my fate in another room.
It didn’t take them long to make a decision, reappearing five minutes later with a half-eaten plate of sandwiches. Robin came in first, looking like his normal, relaxed self while Ben followed him, wearing an expression that said he was glad this shit would soon be over. Ianto was waiting at the back, still eating the last of a sandwich.
“Decision made,” Ben said.
“Wait you have to announce it properly,” I said, putting my knife down. Josh came to stand next to me, and I could see Pip and Oli watching us from the other end of the kitchen.
“No.” Ben looked between the two of us. “Josh wins. We’re using his.”
There was a moment of silence.
“What the fuck?” I stared at Ben, then around at the others. “Seriously?”
“Ha-ha.” Josh laughed, clapping his hands together and then punching the air. “Champion!” He grinned at me and winked. “Loser.”
“You suck. You all suck.” I folded my arms but I could feel myself smiling. I wasn’t as annoyed as I would have been once upon a time, now I was just enjoying watching my boyfriend celebrate.
Josh leant in close. “Nope. That will be you, later.”
“God, you are such a fucking asshole.”
“That’s champion asshole to you.”
“Now there’s a proper title I can use.” I laughed and shook my head. “Happy now?” I asked Ben.
“Ecstatic.” Ben’s face was completely deadpan. “Now you two can stop being so bloody annoying about it.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll find something else.”
Ben sighed and turned to head out the kitchen with Ianto. “Just don’t do it here! No more cook offs.”
“You realise that just makes me want to do more of them,” I called. Ben flipped me off and disappeared through the door. I laughed, looking around the kitchen. Now that the drama was over, the other three had gone back to work, although I noticed they’d all picked up a sandwich. Josh was still stood next to me. “You going home then?”
“Yeah.” He gave me a sly smile. “Might take a nap, then I’ll make something for dinner. Might write that cranberry recipe down too, since we’ll need it for Christmas. Wouldn’t want you getting it wrong.”
“I’ll see you later then,” I said, pretending to ignore the last part of his statement. “I love you, Champion Asshole.”
“I love you too.” He walked over to the door, then winked at me as he headed towards the changing room to dump his whites. I grinned and shook my head, chuckling to myself. That man was ridiculous, but I was the same, and I fucking loved him for it.
I reached for my knife again to finish prepping the lamb. Then I noticed the plate of sandwiches. I hadn’t actually tried Josh’s sauce.
“Which ones are his?” I asked, strolling over to pick one up. There were only a couple left.
“On the left,” Robin said. “I saved you one.”
“Cheers.” Taking it off the plate, I lifted it too my mouth and took a huge bite. Flavour exploded across my tongue—the sauce was tart and sweet, with a perfect balance of spices flowing through it. Like a cranberry kiss.
It was fucking perfect. I grinned to myself, then took another bite.
On this one, I didn’t mind conceding. Not one fucking bit.