Warming Up © Billy London
Coughing wildly, Alex listened to Kath answering her mobile outside his bedroom. “Hi Jules,” she fake-croaked. “No I’m still not better. Sorry.”
Alex frowned at his flat mate as she balanced a tray on one hand and braced her phone between her cheek and her shoulder. What on earth was she doing? She didn’t need to be so nice to him. They were just flat mates these days. Nothing more than two or four used condoms one exuberant weekend.
“Who asked you out?” Kath’s face changed into a more devilish expression. “Really?”
She laid the tray on his lap and perched on the edge of the bed, pretending to stroke an imaginary beard thoughtfully. Stop it, he mouthed, trying not to laugh. She curled her eyebrows and posed like a catalogue model pointing to her watch and staring to the ceiling. Silly girl. “Thanks for covering Jules. I really appreciate it. I should be back at the school on Monday. It’s not bronchitis. Good luck with the DILF. Night.”
Kath placed her mobile in her pocket and faced Alex expectantly. “Tah-dah!”
“What’s all this?” he asked, clearing his throat. He felt appalling.
“Recovery,” she announced. “Hot pepper soup. Hazel next door made it. For you. You know she’s a fan of your facial hair.” Kath waggled her eyebrows.
Alex laughed, the sound still husky from his cough. “The power of the beard. But I’ve only got this flu because of you.”
She snagged her bottom lip between her teeth. “So we’re back to this is your fault?”
He decided to ignore that all together and focus on the soup. “Tuck in, right?” He took a spoonful of the soup and really did choke. His throat burned and ached. Kath made a face and grabbed the glass on the tray, holding it to his lips.
“My god how much pepper is there in that?”
“I think Hazel said four scotch bonnets. But she told me after I’d taken a sip so I could be wrong. It may be ten.” She took the tray from his lap, put the glass back on the tray and placed it on the floor. “Sorry.”
He waved a hand in dismissal, certain his face had changed to the colour of a tomato. “Don’t worry. It’s fine. It was a nice idea. You don’t have to worry about me.” Her watching him made him uncomfortable. “If you want to go out, go out.”
Kath’s face flickered with something he couldn’t read, before stood up briefly to close his door properly. Then, she nudged him to the left and lay down next to him on her front, raised on her elbows. “Go out for what? Everyone racks up the prices. If I wanted a burger at Lick The Plate, you know they’ve added a tenner to everything on the menu?” Scooting down further on the bed, she turned to the side, rested and arm over his waist and tucked her face into his bearded neck. Alex’s temperature instantly tripled. “Let’s stay here and watch Guardians of the Galaxy.”
The arm at his waist tightened around him. “You’re my friend first. And you’re ill. Therefore you’re not rational. Let’s just watch a film and when you’re better, we’ll get on with it.”
I beg your damn pardon? “What? Nah, son, you don’t get to say that with pepper soup that almost killed me.”
Kath started to laugh. “What do you want? Romance? My dear man, GoG is romance. But look.” Reaching over to the tray, she plonked a bottle of aloe vera juice on his lap. “There. I drew a heart on it.”
“I’m not second choice for you because your friends are out with their boyfriends.” That had been their breaking point. Kath seemingly ashamed to be with him in front of her friends. It was easier to dismiss the times they’d fallen into bed as just sex and not the beginning of something that had to be stifled for appearances’ sake.
Her lips tickled his jawline again. “Aloe vera is your favourite. You’re not a flowers kind of bloke, you’re allergic to chocolate, you’ve never seen the point of cards and I know you have a hard on for Chris Pratt.” He snorted with laughter. “You’re still ill. I’m not going anywhere.” She caught his gaze for him to see the honesty in her eyes. “Let’s just watch the film.”
He scrambled for rationale. “What about everyone else?”
“What about them?” Kath challenged his concerns as invalid, getting up to put the dvd in the machine. “They don’t care. You know what Charlie said the other day? ‘Why are you two dragging shit out like a soap opera?’”
“Soap opera? Us? What the hell is he doing about Skye that isn’t a long running fucking serial?”
Kath cuddled up to him again. “I know! The flaming cheek. Everyone knows I’m looking after you. So let’s just have a quiet night. Now cuddle me.” Curving his arm around her shoulders he settled her on his chest. His mouth automatically brushed over the top of her head, as the intro to 10cc’s Not In Love began. Okay. Maybe they meant about as much as a packet of condoms. Because somehow, even after the volcanic heat of the soup, Alex felt so much better.