Harlequin's Slash Fic

Ted & Ralph: 02 Matching Pair

Title: Ted & Ralph: 02 Matching Pair
Author: Julien
Universe: Ted & Ralph (The Fast Show)
Characters featured: Ted/Ralph
Category, Word count: Short story; 2980 words
Rating: R
Summary: In which Ralph gives Ted a wedding ring. And at last they make love for the first time…
Notes: The second story is set soon after Ted and Ralph finally reach a canonical understanding. (Bless them!)
First published: 22 April 2004 in Homosapien 7

 

Matching Pair

 

They were walking around the lower field, surveying their second greatest triumph, when Ralph finally managed to broach the subject. ‘Ted …’

‘Yes, sor?’

‘I couldn’t help but notice over the years … Not that I was looking, mind you; not that I had any right to look –’ Ralph caught the flick of an amused glance from Ted. ‘All right, yes, thank you, Ted, I was looking,’ he admitted, blushing with chagrin but also smiling at Ted’s teasing humour. It was one of the new things they were sharing now – that Ted frequently grinned with mirth, and that Ralph found those grins absolutely infectious. Now that they could actually look at each other on occasion. Look at each other properly. ‘Well, Ted, I couldn’t help but notice that in all the years of your married life, you never wore a wedding band.’

‘No, sor.’

‘And I don’t blame you, not one bit. I imagine that with all your physical work, all your shovelling and pruning, cleaning and painting, servicing and milking – I imagine that a ring would cause calluses, Ted. Calluses on your fingers, I mean – which I have noticed are really remarkably fine, by the way.’ Ralph blushed even harder. It was amazing to finally be able to say these things to this man, and to know they were being heard in the way intended.

‘Thank you, sor.’

‘And … and that would be a terrible thing, Ted. Metaphorically, I mean. Well, I mean it literally, too, obviously.’ Ralph rubbed his hands down his coat, doubting for a moment whether he could even remember the metaphor that had come to him the previous night as he’d lain alone in his narrow bed. ‘Ah, yes! It would be a terrible thing, if a symbol of love and commitment, Ted, were to cause calluses. Don’t you think? If I were married to you, for example, I would never want to discover calluses on your heart.’ Ralph risked a covert glance at his groundsman, wondering if he was being understood after all. ‘I mean emotional calluses, of course, Ted. I am speaking poetically.’

‘Yes, sor.’ Ted wandered on beside him for a long moment, grimace indicating that he was considering something. Eventually he offered, ‘Weren’t calluses, sor. Wouldn’t want to lose something that precious, or damage it; that was all.’

‘Quite so, quite so. And Mrs Ted would have felt perfectly secure in your affections; she wouldn’t have needed such an obvious reminder …’ Ralph wound down into silence again, for he sensed Ted wanted to say something more; he didn’t know whether he wished or dreaded it being about Mrs Ted.

‘It weren’t quite the done thing, sor, in my day, for the man to wear a wedding ring.’

‘Oh. Oh, of course. No, my father never wore one.’ Ralph frowned. ‘Not that my mother often bothered, either.’

A silence grew between them. Ralph, still frowning to himself, suspected that he’d forgotten the point of this conversation, even though he was the one who’d begun it.

At last Ted gently prompted, ‘You said, sor …’ He took a breath as if needing courage. ‘You said, sor, that if you were married –’ Though even now, the man couldn’t quite come out with it.

‘To you, Ted,’ Ralph supplied, in the sweetest tones he knew how. He drew a blue velvet pouch from his coat pocket, and spilled the contents into his cupped right hand. ‘If you could see your way clear to –’ He held out a plain gold wedding band, dangling from a lovely but sturdy chain. ‘That is, if you don’t mind considering –’

Ted was staring at the ring, blank–faced as if shocked. Or maybe overcome. Maybe. Though it was probably shock.

‘Damn it, Ted!’ Ralph cried, though the only person he was angered by was himself. He could never do anything right. ‘You know I love you! You know that now.’ He scowled at the thick grass beneath his feet. ‘I think I’ve loved you all my life. Even before I knew what love was. And I want to marry you, Ted. Well, I know that we can’t, not really – not in a church or anything – but if you would wear this, if we could think of each other that way –’

‘Put it on me.’ Ted’s voice, hoarse, broke over Ralph’s. He looked at Ralph, still shocked. Still overcome. ‘Sor. Put it on me.

Ralph unclasped the chain. Stepped closer. Put his arms loosely around Ted’s neck – without once touching him – and fastened it again. Deliberately forced himself not to step back.

The ring lay there on Ted’s shirt. They both stared at it for a long moment. Then – with delicious, scary boldness – Ralph began unbuttoning the man. The top button of his shirt, and the next. The top button of his woollen waistcoat. Began un–knotting Ted’s neckerchief, unwinding it until it lay open, and the chain sat neatly around Ted’s neck, and the ring lay on the first steel–gray curls.

‘Sor …’ Ted whispered.

Judging by Ted’s voice, Ralph thought he must be feeling the same way as Ralph himself, all a–tremble with wonder. Mesmerised by this glimpse of chest hair, Ralph murmured, ‘Oh, Ted … How virile you are!’

Ted just groaned in dismay. ‘Look at me, sor,’ he whispered again – and it was clear now that he was anguished, not full of wonder. ‘Look at me. I’m an old man. You said so yourself, sor. And you’re in your prime. You shouldn’t be throwing yourself away on me. At least, you shouldn’t be promising til death do us part.’

‘But that’s the way it is, Ted,’ Ralph calmly replied. He had never felt on surer ground. ‘That’s the way it always has been for me, and nothing will ever change that.’ He lifted his head to look at the man; met his gaze with complete and utter certainty. ‘I love you.’

And as they looked at each other – really looked at each other – Ted’s resistance melted. Melted away as if it had never even been.

‘Next time I’m in town, sor,’ Ted vowed, his voice rough. ‘Soon as ever I can get into town, sor, I’ll buy you a ring, too – and then it’ll be done, the deed will be done once for all, sor, and let no man try putting asunder what God has joined together.’

Something burst within Ralph; he knew he lit up like the town Christmas tree. ‘Oh, Ted! Oh, that’s magnificent! You’ve made me the happiest man in the world. In the universe!’

‘That’s all right, sor.’

‘You’d really buy me a wedding band, Ted? Though, can you possibly afford it? I know the estate isn’t bringing in as much as it used to – no fault of yours, of course, but what with the new economy, and me not being the manager my father was …’

‘Got me savings tucked away, sor, don’t you worry about that. The estate is a good earner, sor, for a man who don’t have the big house to look after.’

Ralph beamed at him. ‘Oh, Ted! I’m sure it will be so much nicer than the one I bought.’

Ted’s brow knitted in thought. ‘Do you mean …?’ He smiled and shook his head as it became clear what Ralph must have done. ‘Already got a matching pair, sor, didn’t you?’

‘Yes, Ted. I know I was being terribly presumptuous, but –’

‘Give it me.’ Ted stepped closer, with his hand out.

And Ted had such an oddly fierce look in his eyes that Ralph involuntarily stepped back, and back again – and back into the trunk of an oak. He fumbled in his coat pocket, then tried another, before locating the second velvet pouch, which he immediately handed over.

Ted slid the ring out, and looked at it. Held it up to the light, so the golden sunshine reflected dappled light over Ralph’s face. Ted’s focus changed, so that he was looking intently at Ralph himself. He lifted his other hand, stroked the back of his fingers down one plump cheek.

Ralph shivered under the unlooked–for caress, and the momentary fear turned to surrender. He became aware of the world spinning beneath his feet, so he let his head drop back against the oak, needing the extra support. He had never felt so … so open. As if the sunlight were reaching all the way through to the heart of him.

Ted lifted Ralph’s left hand. Glanced up at him for a moment, then slipped the ring onto his third finger, shifting forward himself with the movement so that they stood together, married, breathing the same air. Thinking the same thoughts.

Their gaze became a heated thing. Ted leaned in, no further than a whisker – and they were kissing. Rather, Ralph was being kissed. He moaned. This tentative, light, beautiful kiss – there had never been anything like it before in the history of the world. If it continued for one moment more, he would swoon, he swore it.

But then something within him turned over. Turned on. And the kiss abruptly became passionate. Mutual. A mutual ravishment of mouths.

And if that continued for one moment more … Ralph broke away, dragged breath into his protesting lungs. ‘Ted, please –’ he said. It was an order, if it had to be.

But – ‘Yes, sor,’ came the promising reply. ‘Yes, sor, I know.’

And Ted led him away by the hand, led him up through the fields and the garden to the house, through the front door, up the stairs and along the corridors with uncanny certainty, until they came to Ralph’s bedroom. And then, before he knew it, the door was closed firmly behind them, and Ralph was being laid back down on the bed, and Ted was sitting beside him, leaning in for another relentlessly passionate kiss, those remarkably fine hands of Ted’s beginning to explore, not venturing further than his shoulders and arms at first, and then his chest, but he must have understood Ralph’s desperation, for soon one of those beautiful hands pushed down inside his trousers, easing down below and then grasping Ralph with a certain grip, as if Ted’s hand and Ralph’s manhood had been made just for this, and with a wounded cry – ‘Ted oh God Ted!’ – Ralph surrendered the last part of him no one else had ever wanted, Ralph surrendered his pleasure to Ted, and in doing so let the pleasure truly take Ralph Mayhew himself for the very first time.

 

‘There, there, sor. There, there. All will be well, sor.’

Ralph swam back towards that comforting voice, those comforting hands stroking him gently, patting him solicitously. ‘Oh, Ted …’

‘I’m sorry, sor. That was my fault. I misjudged.’

‘Sorry?’ he murmured, a smile curling his lips. And then Ralph laughed. It was the most delightfully hilarious thing he’d ever heard. ‘You’re sorry?’

‘Yes, sor.’

But that’s when Ralph heard genuine concern in Ted’s voice. He opened his eyes. Looked up into Ted’s. Perfectly sober again. ‘Don’t be,’ he said firmly. On sure ground once more.

Ted offered him a smile, a half–smile, then relapsed into worry. ‘Still – it’s not right, is it, sor?’

‘It’s the rightest thing I’ve ever known.’

The half–smile returned, and this time stayed. ‘I can do better than that for you, sor.’

Ralph grinned; he couldn’t help it. ‘Now you’re boasting, Ted!’

Ted ducked his head for a moment, vainly trying to suppress a chortle in reply. ‘No, sor,’ he eventually managed. ‘But that weren’t right, sor. Give me leave to try again. Though,’ he added in a distracted murmur, as if he wasn’t aware of speaking aloud, ‘there’s never going to be another first time, and you’ll have to make that up to him somehow.’

Pretending not to have heard, Ralph closed his eyes, and just bathed in this feeling he’d never ever experienced before. This feeling of being loved. This golden glow that came from both without and within. This haven, this heaven, that only Ted could ever have created.

‘Sor?’

‘You have leave to try again, Ted,’ Ralph solemnly promised without opening his eyes. ‘As often as you must. Oftener, if possible!’

Ted laughed again, though very quietly, and caressed Ralph’s face. ‘Come with me, sor,’ he said. Then he was standing and tugging at Ralph’s hand.

‘Yes, of course,’ Ralph murmured. It was odd trying to get up off the bed when he’d lost all notion of north or south. ‘Anything you say, Ted my darling.’

‘Just come with me …’

 

This time Ralph was led to the main bedroom. His father’s room, and for a while his mother’s room, too. Everything was dark and gloomy until Ted threw open the long thick curtains; stale, until he slid open the windows. The sunlight and the gentle breeze, however, could not chase away all the shadows.

‘Ted,’ Ralph said. ‘I’m really not sure about this.’

Regardless, Ted pulled back the embroidered eiderdown. There were sheets on the bed – not the freshest, of course, but clean. Though the bed was always made–up, and the room shown to visitors, the bed itself hadn’t been used for years.

‘I don’t feel this is quite right, Ted.’

The man approached him. Walked right up to him – confidently wanting him, like a hundred of Ralph’s dreams all coming true at once – and began pushing Ralph’s coat back off his shoulders. Unbuttoning his waistcoat and shirt and trousers. Working over him with Ted’s usual concentration, until Ralph stood there naked as a babe.

‘Please, Ted,’ Ralph tried again. His lack of enthusiasm was perfectly obvious, and he didn’t try to hide it. He explained, ‘I never was the man my father was, and I never will be.’

‘You’ve naught to be ashamed of, sor.’

Ted was guiding him to the bed now, lying him back down. Ralph obediently waited there on the cool sheets, but still protested, ‘You’d be ashamed, if it were true for you.’ He hastened to add, ‘Not that it could be, of course. True, I mean. For you.’

Sitting beside him, as he’d done on Ralph’s own bed, Ted said, ‘Sor, it’s not my place to say this, even now, but you’re a better man than Mr Mayhew. A far better man, sor. That’s been plain as day ever since you were a little un.’

Ralph looked up at him, not daring to even think about considering believing him. Still, it was kind, it was incredibly kind of Ted to say that.

‘You’re the reason, sor –’ Ted broke off, and then he got up and headed for the darkest corner to undress himself.

‘Don’t be bashful, Ted,’ Ralph advised with a smile. As if either of them could ever not be bashful, even with each other. Well, maybe in time … Ralph’s smile grew. In time, with plenty of opportunity for the two of them to become familiar. ‘I promise I won’t look. At least, not yet.’

You’re the reason, sor,’ Ted repeated. He got onto the bed, wearing nothing but the gold chain and the ring, having even abandoned his cap, and he lay beside Ralph. They shifted together, and shifted again, until the perfect match was made between them.

‘Oh, Ted …’ Ralph let his head fall back, drew a deep breath to steady himself. ‘If you’re not careful, I’ll be as precipitate as before.’

‘Don’t you mind about that, sor.’

‘I want this to be as right for you, as you want it to be for me.’

Ted’s hand wandered down Ralph’s back, took firm hold of a generous buttock. Carefully, gently, he began moving. ‘You’re the reason I stayed, sor.’

‘What?’ Ralph blinked at him, confused. What had the darling man been saying?

‘It wasn’t easy, working for your father. I never saved you from no fire, sor – but I wouldn’t leave you here alone neither.’

Oh …’ Ralph moaned, suddenly replete. The pleasure took him again, suffused him with its rosy golden glow, though this time he didn’t let go, this time he looked into Ted’s eyes, and truly shared the moment with him, and the two of them kept moving against each other with the most perfect undulations, more perfect even than the rolling greenswards, more perfect than the rippling flow of the river, and then the pleasure grew to encompass Ted as well, and the molten unbelieving joy in his gaze set Ralph off once more, only this time he surrendered and knew no more.

 

As it grew dark, of course, they got up to close the windows, and then padded downstairs in bare feet to throw together a supper of bread, cheese, apples, a pot of tea – a supper of ambrosia – which they eagerly consumed at the kitchen table, comfortable in this newfound companionship.

‘I’ll light the fire up there, sor,’ Ted said, sounding rather complacent. ‘Set a nice blaze going to see us through the night.’

Ralph grinned at him. ‘The whole night, Ted! You’re boasting again.’

Ted returned the grin, though he had the grace to look a little chagrined. ‘I’m surprising myself, sor. I swear you’ve taken twenty years off me. Why, I feel like a young man again.’

‘That’s excellent, Ted, truly excellent – for you have a young man at your disposal right here.’

‘Oh, sor, get away with you …’ And the grin became a laugh, and the mutual laughing became kissing, and the kissing became … became something that had to be postponed for a few rushed minutes while the fire was lit and further supplies of ambrosia were stored upstairs, anticipating a mutual need for sustenance by midnight at the very latest.

 

As for triumphs, it seemed that the drainage system in the lower field had now been demoted to third greatest …

Subscribe to these comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.