high rent
by cimorene

What may have had something to do with his reckless behaviour was that he was already in the mood to celebrate. About to start a real gig, a starring role in a made-for-TV film; not exactly flush, but doing all right what with odd jobs and construction work. It was just past the last payday of regular drudgery before he reported for the first read-throughs, and he was feeling a little above himself already when he picked up Jack and Randall at the grimy dive that called itself a gay bar.

It wasn't really either one--gay or a bar. The dump was only half-gay, mostly just filled with the smell of spunk and sprinkled with unwashed, indiscriminating bodies groping and rubbing with deals going down right there on the floor--money changing hands and whores of either gender vanishing out to the alley. There was alcohol and booths and flimsy wood chairs, but the "bar" itself was a lousy make-work, some marm's abandoned desk raised up on a wooden box with splinters and nails sticking out at odd angles.

"Celebrating at Jimmy's?" said Jack, accepting a smudgy glass of horse piss from Jimmy's smudgy hand. "No way, Gary."

Randall's eyes glittered, "I've got somewhere we can take you, though."

Jack finished draining the glass in a few more swallows between words: "Coming to old Jimmy's only means one thing, son, from the likes of a little stud like you."

"You're not desperate--"

"Old or worn-out..."

"After a high--"

"--Or out to make a buck." Jack steered Gary out the door, while Randall threw some cash on the bar.

"You're in the mood," said Randall. "For something you can't get in any ordinary pub. Something... male."

"Tell you what, skip this and give me a go, why don't you," Jack leered, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively at Gary's arse.

Gary squeezed himself in the back of Jack's pathetic little car. "Sorry, no," he said. "Don't date mates or ugly fuckers. You're out on two counts. Smoke?"

Jack punched his arm. "Birds, or ugly fuckers," he grumbled cheerfully. "If you ask me I'm not the one that's more disgusting."

Gary snorted, "Oh no, you bloody wanker," and smacked Jack when he saw where they were going, round a corner where the block between them and the first neon sign was lined on one side with rusty fence, the other with dirty brick, and on both with fresh, young male meat all tarted up in its best torn jeans and often as not no shirt at all, smoking under lampposts, elbow between the rusty teeth of the fence's links--scattered down the block. Down another two and round a corner and finally, outside the first club--his shoulders in a tight black t-shirt propping up the wall, the sleeves riding up over the bulging of taut biceps and a black armband of tattoo...

And Gary forgot to breathe. "Holy shit."

The kid looked about his own age. Green eyes were squeezed into a cynical squint, short dark blond hair outlining a large skull--the shadow of stubble on a long, masculine jaw with a strong stubborn chin. The kid's neck, bare, tilted back, the sick orange lamplight painting his Adam's apple--the outlines of muscles under that worn old shirt, the hint of taut belly over the tight jeans. His hands were big and blunt.

"Fellas?" Gary breathed. He knew suddenly exactly what he was in the mood for. "How much is a trick running round here these days?"

Jack stopped the car on the other side of the street, a little way past the tart, who dropped his cigarette and pursed his pink mouth to let out curls of smoke as Gary watched through the window. Randall, muttering under his breath, shoved the front seat out of the way and dragged Gary out forcibly by his arm.

"Depends," said Jack behind him while he stood up and locked eyes with the kid across the street. "What do you want?"

Gary felt his voice go low and gravelly, coming out a growl when he was half-trying for a whisper. "I want him all night."

"In that case, maybe 10 pounds," Jack mused, but suddenly Gary didn't care anymore.

The hips were slim, the thighs powerful, spread apart to outline a bulge between. The kid was short, shorter than him, his head too big for his body, strange too-sharp cheekbones falling away under big round eyes, hollow cheeks and a strong hooked nose. He was no pretty boy.

He moved like liquid though, just then, shifting his weight so one hip jutted forward, and tilted his head to the side, exposing more of his neck. Still looking at Gary.

"Jesus," he breathed. "Again and again and again."

Jack was snorting, Randall laughing outright at him. "Keep it in your pants, son. Put that bulge in your jeans to some use and buy us a drink."

Gary turned, startled, and Jack quirked an eyebrow. "The other bulge in your jeans."

He let them drag him inside.

His skin was too tight inside the club; Gary couldn't get that little tart out of his head, the suppleness of his mouth, the strength in his thighs, the place under his jaw where the shadow of beard faded to the shadow cast by the streetlight. His broad hands and the bones of his wrists. That assessing look in his eye.

"Have another drink?" Another drink wasn't what he needed. Gary shook his head no and pushed through the people, through the door, out into the damp night.

He stopped on the step, looking around and sucking in a deep breath. He was anxious, he knew. He also knew that he was looking for something.

The boy had moved. His body unfolded lithely from the support of the side of someone's car, like his arms and legs were weightless, or he was dancing. He stalked forward a little. His eyes weren't so narrow anymore. He stopped at the bottom of the steps and looked up at Gary, raising his eyebrows, putting his hands in his back pockets so the thin black shirt stretched back over his shoulders, lifted up in the front, exposing a pack of cigarettes in his front pocket. "Got a smoke?" He said roughly.

Gary stared. "Who's asking?"

He lifted his chin again, or was he lifting his neck? "Tim."

"Tim," Gary breathed, letting his hand drop on the iron rail, going down one step and another until he hovered right in Tim's face, "I might have more for you than--a smoke."

"Is that right," Tim whispered, sliding a step forward until the toes of his boots on the step Gary stood on must have stopped him. His breath misted on Gary's cheek, beside his mouth, and Gary couldn't tear his eyes away from the spectacle of the dark blond eyelashes dipping. A hand came to rest on his hip. It was big, folding round Gary's hipbone, warm through the fabric of his shirt. It reminded him of some guys who'd topped him for a moment, that feel of being jerked by your hips from behind.

Gary's face felt hot. "That's right," he said, and licked his lips. Tim's feet were braced apart, one hand in his pocket, one still on Gary's hip--it had slid down and around a little so the fingertips brushed his arse. "Are you interested?"

Tim's eyebrows rose in disbelief, transforming his whole face with incredible expression--wrinkles in his forehead, a little pulling and pursing of his thin mouth, a quirk of his beakish nose, the hollows of his cheeks pulled taut--there were wrinkles in the skin of his neck by his jaw, and before Gary knew it that's where his hand was, fingers sifting through the short hair, his thumb on the corner of Tim's jaw and his earlobe, and his throat felt tight. Tim's lips parted a little, still waiting for Gary to speak.

"Are you," said Gary huskily without bothering to clear his throat, "coming home with me, or should I just get out a cigarette?"

A slow smile--that didn't seem intended for seductive, but Gary couldn't help the smelting heat in his belly--meeting the slow deliberate rise of Tim's gaze, watching the sensual, deprecating curve of his mouth twisting mobile through a whole range of expression in a few moments.

Tim stepped suddenly back out of his way. "Lead the way."

It wasn't a good idea to want a rent boy this badly, cheap fuck or expensive. Maybe it was just his mood today, some kind of roiling impatience inside, the incredibility of his success really getting this part--maybe it was time. And maybe it was the boy. Tim.

Who strolled beside him now, looking more like a bar-crawling mate of his than a cat on the prowl, although that tattoo still peeped on his perfect bicep from under the sleeve of the black shirt. They had to walk quite a few blocks before flagging down a cab. Gary almost forgot to give the driver the address, he was that out of it.

He was studying the boy, his movements, all easy, flowing between casual, subtly graceful self-confidence and that heated, provocative, deliberate body-language he'd displayed at the club. He was studying the shadows where the corners of his mouth tucked themselves into his cheeks and the play of light through the beard shadow on his jaw, the wrinkling of the corners of his eyes when he squinted, the shape of his pale wrists outlined on the dark denim on his inner thighs, which sprawled apart in the back seat of the cab.

Watching Tim watch him.

He relished this lust. It'd been a few years since he'd felt it like this--and that was just the burn of puberty, desperate but without direction--not consuming, not narrowly focused, not--obsessive.

Fantasy fore-images shadowed every movement. Tim's spread thighs would look, naked, with Gary between them, like--or himself biting them, that long neck thrown back sharply in surrender--what would be the shape, the length of his cock, when he slid down that zip, got his hands in Tim's trousers? How much body hair did he have, how many more tattoos? He saw his tongue on jaw, on ear, his teeth on neck and shoulder, Tim's hands on his ribs and elbows and hips, Tim's thighs taut and straining between Gary's spread legs, Tim bent over Gary's sagging old couch, supporting his weight on his hands, shoulders knotted, head falling limply. He saw himself sinking slowly for the first time into that arse, spreading the cheeks with his hands. He saw Tim on his knees in the shower with Gary's hands in his hair.

He couldn't wait. He gave the taxi driver too much money, crowded up close behind Tim, sliding his hand with the key in it close to Tim's body to unlock the door, whispering in his ear, "Third door on the right," then catching Tim back with a hand around his arm when he would have stepped away.

He kept his hold on Tim's muscular forearm through the entryway. In the hallway he made himself let go. Inside his flat he deliberately turned away to the door, keeping his eyes on it as he fastened the lock--because once he turned around, he wasn't coming back for anything.

When he turned around, Gary surprised an endearingly uncertain look on the kid's face--his posture still provocative and assured, leaning against the back of Gary's sofa with his feet spread --was that fantasy #3 or #5?--but his eyes cast down and to the side focusing on nothing. He looked up at Gary's first movement toward him, cocked his head and grinned, and Gary kept walking toward him, even though inside his switch was jammed between going instantly for the zip, and gathering up Tim's face in his hands and kissing it as slow and as long as he could, going as deep as in a moment he suddenly realised he wanted to. Absorption. He wanted to--he didn't know.

So he deliberately forgot about it and kissed him. He felt Tim's hands in his hair, where they'd instantly gone--stroking, cradling his skull, pulling. His own hands--rough denim, slim hips and the hot, firm skin of abdomen under Tim's teasing black shirt, the--ripples and he could feel ribs and, oh God, beard burn, the scraping of Tim's stubble, Tim licking the edges of his mouth, tasting his teeth, arching up to press his nipple into Gary's palm so Gary couldn't get into his pants or get his shirt off fast enough, and in the confusion couldn't do a damned thing, just tangle himself panting in their clothes, and bite Tim's reddened lower lip.

Tim made a little noise at the bite--not exactly shocked, not exactly aroused, but some mixture with amusement or something else mixed in, and he pulled back and was smiling. Gary rode out the shudders of a sudden chill that gripped the back of his neck and shook, and reached for the front of Tim's jeans. One, two buttons, hands on his belly, three, sliding up, his shirt bunching, four, Tim's laughter cutting off in a groan, flushed erection going willingly into Gary's palm. "I can't," he choked, "your shirt, take off your shirt," in a voice like a whole pack of cigarettes drowned in coffee dregs.

Gary took off his own shirt, taking in big, deep gulps of air while he had the chance. When he finished Tim's shirt was a limp pool of black on the back of the sofa, his unbuttoned jeans pushed most of the way down off his hips, stuck at the tops of his thighs. "What do you want?" he said gravely, watching Gary, chewing on the corner of his lip like there was still a cigarette there.

Gary raised his eyebrows, and smiled--trying to look worldly and urbane and knowing, hoping he didn't look giddy or hysterical. He jerked his chin. "Take off your jeans." He took off his own while he watched Tim's rough hands hooking in the waistband, Tim bending forward, skinning out of them, kicking awkwardly out of socks and battered boots. Gary couldn't stop watching, even when the show was over, the boy--not so young--almost his age, maybe twenty--looking at him amused and sultry, his green eyes crinkled at the corners.

He lifted one knee, propping his foot against the couch, and anchored a hand on Gary's hip to drag him closer until he stood in the V of strong muscle-corded thighs, glinting with golden hair.

The contact was a pleasant shock--flesh humid from sweat, scratchy pubic curls, the heat and jut of a cock just as big as it promised to be from the bulge in those jeans--incredible on his short, compact, economically-muscled frame. Gary licked his lips, licked them again, saw the other's eyes narrow, and Tim put the other hand on his jaw. Rough for a trick, he thought, but he liked it, the way his mouth was forced open, his lips bruised from seeking contact, the hungry wet plunge of tongue into his mouth tasting of cheap cigarettes.

He grabbed both the kid's hips, one with each hand, and shoved his legs further apart with his thighs and pressed his hips forward, grinding slick hard cock to slick hard cock. He was really hard, hot and satisfying, need bordering pleasantly on pain.

Tim's hands scrabbled at his ribs and his back, legs falling open willingly, and he turned his head to the side, a gasp, a moan, Gary did that, and they were both crazy into it--totally on the same page. He could feel each monstrous thump of his heart, or maybe it was Tim's. Hands sweaty and sticky, mouths open, licking broad swipes up Tim's neck and pumping his hips into the crease of his thigh--his prick skipping and sliding, pressure, heat, but never enough.

"Let me," said Tim. Gary watched him lift his hand, giving a practised lick to the palm, and wrap it around both their cocks. Jesus. Fucking Christ. He was practically shoving Tim over the back of the sofa, saying something or growling, he didn't know exactly--groaning, maybe, moaning. Tim was chuckling, but it melted into a long string of "mmm"s when Gary pushed his hand in the damp crease between them and cupped his balls, heavy and taut with arousal.

The little slut let his knees give out, slid down until all his weight was on Gary's hips, hooking his leg around Gary's knee and tipping his body up. "Jesus," Gary said, "You want it."

"I think that's pretty clear," the kid gritted. His eyes weren't even open. Gary's eyes went to where the tendons stood out on his arm and hand, fingers spread and scrabbling at the ratty tweed of Gary's couch.

"Yeah," Gary breathed, "yeah, just wait, I've gotta get something."

"In my back pocket," he glared, dragging himself up to bend and fumble at the floor, incidentally hitching his leg higher around Gary's hip and making them both gasp. Smack of the tube in Gary's palm. "Fuck me already," he demanded with a challenge in his gaze.

"Your wish is my command," Gary shrugged. One hand up and down his cock--all he could stand--and he was pushing his fingers roughly in Tim's arse, two to start when he realised Tim could take it, a little tough at first even with the lube, but Tim's fluttering eyelids, open red mouth, drawn-out hiss, were anything but protesting. "All right?"

The mouth tightened smoothly, a quick pull like a drawstring, a reddened circle of wrinkles. Tim just said, "Don't try to be a gentleman, because I like it deep," and instead of turning him over, suddenly Gary was anxious to get closer--propping a hand on the back of the sofa next to Tim's hips, leaning forward until their chests rubbed together, kissing him again, no, taking and claiming his mouth. What was the last guy he'd kissed? Some rich businessman cheating on his wife, some old lecher? Tall or handsome? Well-dressed? Did he taste like this? Gary said inside his head.

"Mm," Tim said into his mouth and the kiss went on, sloppy, furious, wet.

"I want," Gary growled in his mouth, "you to be mine." What was he going to pay the kid for after all?

The words pressed on his throat from the inside like deep-throating a big cock, burned in his chest behind them. "I want you to forget the last guy who had you."

"We'll see," Tim panted, meeting his eyes insistently. The green glass colour was darker, showing something liquid within. "What--have you got?"

When he started to say it he didn't know it would come out a whisper, but he said it anyway: "I've. Got. You." He pressed back inside with only one finger this time; the way was slick and easy and hot, until he curled his finger roughly and Tim's mouth opened and his eyes closed and he froze, like he'd forgotten something very important to say.

The muscles inside tightened slowly around his finger, and then relaxed in a reluctant wave, clinging and damp. Gary pressed back with two--Tim met his eyes unflinching--three--he gritted his teeth, eyelids getting heavy. "Are you ready yet?"

It felt like something hot and unpleasant, maybe ugly, maybe very beautiful, twisted inside his chest cavity, and Gary didn't know what it meant but he made it a point to give in, because he knew himself, and he never ran scared.

"Not here," he gritted. "In the bedroom, in the bed. On your knees."

In the bedroom, in the bed, on his knees, Tim could have looked ridiculous, but looked completely in control. Looking over his shoulder, mouth open, eyelids heavy; his hips canted, the firm curves of his buttocks, the gold hairs on his legs that actually glinted metallically in the light; the smooth lines, supple and curving, of his shoulders, biceps, spine; the very spot on his hip where Gary's hand had rested, the place he wanted to bite...

Gary put both hands and one knee on the bed, leaned forward to taste the spot; Tim cocked his head at the first lick, swallowed at the brush of Gary's teeth, smiled darkly when they sank into his flesh, finally gasped and moaned and then, then, Gary was climbing onto the bed. His hands were pale on Tim's hips, his legs against Tim's legs: but his cock was dark red, thick with blood, filled with a pulse he could feel through his whole body as he slid his hand from the small of Tim's back, over a buttock, down to his thigh.

Tim moved his knees apart and Gary moved between them and held onto one hip, the other hand guiding his prick to the opening. The first press was a little off-centre; the second seemed right, wasn't hard enough, and with the third he dug his fingers into Tim's hips, both hands, and jerked Tim back onto his cock, holding his thighs apart.

Tim's head was lolling. Gary could hear him breathing in, hissing and shallow, counterpoint to the resistance as it faded inside against him and as he kept pressing, he fell deeper, deeper, deeper. The stroke ended. Gary bent forward over Tim's back and felt himself sweat like music, or screaming, forcing its way out through his pores. He wondered what his face looked like. He had no idea whether his mouth was open.

He moved his hips, rocking. Tim braced himself on his hands and shoved back. "Harder."

"Oh," Gary tried to laugh, but it sounded like a choke. "I will--" like now. It was harder to withdraw than he thought, scrabbling for leverage. It was easier to slide deep again; there was no defensive clutch; Tim was greedy, gasping, the muscles inside a little looser, and he'd maybe thrust harder than he needed.

"Again," Tim said hoarsely. But he didn't need to say anything.

Gary held on to Tim's hips, pulled his cock out slow and deliberately, trying to measure the distance and every millimetre of response--


He concentrated on the feel of it, the friction, the enveloping contact, the inexorable surging movement. Reached a point--smiled to himself--flexed his hands and pressed back in, still holding back--still waiting.

Tim was spread out, opened up in front of him, sweaty and finally moaning and gasping, and this time Gary could feel it, see his fingers clenching white in the bedspread, the desperate wriggling to spread his legs further apart, tilting his hips, pushing back against the thrust. And it was so tight and hot still, the incredible sensation of it, but it was more than that; it was demand and surrender, and Tim was as good as pleading--and his body was pliant, eager, willing to be owned.

Gary breathed deep and pulled out, shoved home and caught his breath, because he couldn't breathe deep, couldn't hold on to control. Once he began in earnest--now--he was too caught up, his lungs hot and every breath high and short, slipping hands, his grip wasn't firm enough but there wasn't time.

Tim groaned like it was being dragged out of him and he was clinging to it with his fingernails. Just the word, "Yeah."

The air was heavy and hot; Gary's thighs strained, his buttocks were going to cramp, but every time Tim said "harder" he couldn't say anything, but he was thinking the same, Harder. Harder, until Tim was only saying "oh" and Gary couldn't think of anything at all--he clawed at Tim's shoulders when Tim let his arms give way and collapsed halfway on the bed, and it was sick, twisted, like he was trying to crawl into Tim's skin with brute force, red marks, teeth on Tim's neck but no concentration to bite, Tim turning his head, the tendons on his neck, God.

"Are you?" he hissed, gathering Tim's hips in his hands, lifting them into his thrust.

"Am I what," Tim whispered, but it sounded like a prayer, "aaah--oh--."

Gary grunted and spoke with his lips drawn back over clenched teeth. "Are you mine?"

Tim muttered, "Jesus--will you just," rolling his hips back and shuddering all over at the change in angle when Gary slipped a hair deeper, pulled back on an angle, dragging over that spot.

"I'm going to," Gary started to say, losing himself in motion--faster, uneven, scrabbling like he was falling off this cliff and he didn't know if Tim was pushing him or helping him back up--"I'm. You're. Aren't you." He didn't know, exactly, the words he wanted, but he knew what he was saying, and Tim knew too, because all he said was

"Okay. Okay." And came with the second movement of Gary's fist on his prick. There was an instant before it happened when his body went still and pliant and Gary felt his lips draw back over his teeth and his cock going in deeper into that sudden softness, and then the shuddering, pulsing contractions that went through Tim's whole body. Gary hadn't seen an orgasm exactly like it before, with the muscles quivering and then loose, the goosebumps crawling over his arms, his neck going limp and head hanging forward as he made soft mewling cries and a long hiss and he was suddenly heavy in Gary's arms.

But more than willing when Gary bit his lip and squeezed his eyes shut and shoved Tim's thighs apart with his knee. He made a sleepy murmur of pleasure and sighed, lifting his arse and rocking back into a thrust that went unexpectedly deep. The finish came like fingernails scraping up his spine and over his scalp--like something parted with unwillingly that he didn't know he had. Behind his closed eyes it went on for a yawning, fathomless eternity. When he came out of it, and gingerly let go, let himself collapse on Tim's back--he'd no idea how long it had been.

"Christ," said Tim, levering himself out of the wet spot.

Gary considered rolling over, sitting up. Discarded the idea. "Smokes in the bedside table."

"Which side?" But the one table had a watch with a broken strap, a belt, a handful of change on it, and the other lube and a book of Kafka, a tea-stained saucer, smokes and lighter. It was obvious.

"Don't remember," Gary said, feeling the bed shift under Tim's weight and stay that way for a minute. There was a soft sifting of paper--the book--and the rustle of the smokes, the creak of the table itself with some weight applied to the corner. "Don't knock the lamp off."

Flare of the lighter. "Want one?"

Gary was talking, every word, into his lumpy second pillow. "Does it look like I do?"

An amused snort, the creaking of bedsprings again, and he almost fell asleep inhaling the cigarette smoke and the smell of their sweat and come. Half-formed images were rising around him when he felt the brush of cold on his spine--the links of the broken watchband, tracing from between his shoulder blades slowly over each vertebra to the tailbone.

"Fuck off," he muttered.

A hand ruffled slowly through his hair, but there was no spoken response. Gary opened one eye, bent his neck and looked up. Tim was leaning on the wall, cigarette in one hand, the watch with the broken link in the other, studying Gary. The beard stubble along his jaw was almost iridescent--metallic gold like his body hair in some light, and incidentally, strangely patchy--darker, translucent but almost brown from another angle. One of his eyebrows rose as Gary looked at him, piling forehead wrinkles above it. His eyes were pretty wide--almost the whole iris showing at once. "Really?" he asked.

"What?" said Gary blankly.

"Really fuck off?" But the kid's lips were twitching.

Gary pulled a face and put the pillow over his head. "No." The next thing he felt was the gentle and warm, somehow amused touch of a broad hand on his back next to the spine and above his left buttock. "Mm," he purred, and wondered if this was how you were supposed to act with a trick; decided he didn't care.

But when he heard the snuff of the cig going out and the bed creaked again, and a warm weight descended across his shoulders, and he rolled over into Tim's arms and looked up unexpectedly close into his strange quirky face, he said seriously, "I'm not done with you--I want you all night,"

And Tim said simply, "All right," with an unconcerned and matter-of-fact expression that possibly should have bothered Gary, but which he found obscurely reassuring.

He lifted his hands and they hovered in the air for a minute before lighting on Tim's shoulders, curving over them towards the back, pulling him down--down on top of Gary.

He meant to have him again and again all night, like he'd told Randall and Jack. It wasn't that he overlooked, or changed his mind about that strategy--he still certainly got his money's worth. He didn't consider the time he slept a waste, after they went to shower off and he sucked Tim off on his knees under the spray; he moved deliberately close under the covers, to remind the kid that he was Gary's, at least for now.

But Tim didn't take any offence at all, just tugged Gary to lie on top of him between his legs, wrapped an arm comfortably around him and rested his hand on Gary's hip.

He regretted that it was too uncomfortable to stay like that and he had to roll off, and not only because he landed in the wet spot when he did. He was even too tired to think very hard about sex, for a bit; but he drifted away, fighting it the whole time, with Tim on his side facing him, one leg flung over Gary's thigh, Gary's hand curled against the firm muscles of his belly.

They woke after only a few hours and necked lazily like teenagers (which the kid probably was--Gary stopped the thought, not knowing if he was amused or disturbed or...), too lazy to get off dry-humping, although he came pretty damn close with his dick in the hollow of Tim's hip. Tim was exhaling warm gusts in his ear, clutching his arse, trying to get control over the movement of Gary's thigh, and his face was--Gary let him, let himself be used, and in the end Tim gave a moan of frustration and reached between them, put his own hand around his prick and brought himself off with ten seconds of purposeful strokes--Gary watched his face, murmuring encouragement, lewd or otherwise.

Tim's face wrinkled, the lamp still lighting the room and painting the side of his nose, over his cheek, his open lips, the crease of his bent neck. He made that orgasm face when he came, like snarling and crying, mouth helplessly open and quivering, and Gary tightened his fist around his cock and came too.

He leaned over, swiping at the boy's mostly-soft prick with his tongue. It was sticky with lube and sweat and saliva even under the come.

There were too many wet spots on the bed. Gary stalked into the kitchen, his belly still painted with all the fluids and substances it had acquired since they woke up, and called "Coffee?" over his shoulder. He left the tart lounging in the bed on his front, the sweet curve of his arse in the air, arm braced to look over his shoulder with beckoning eyes. "I'm going in the living room," Gary insisted. "Too messy in here."

Tim drank his black; Gary poured in, on reflection, more sugar than he usually liked.

Tim wet his fingers under the kitchen tap, swiped absently at the sticky streaks on his belly. His cock was hanging, limp for the moment but still reddened, in a nest of come-caked sweaty curls that Gary probably could've smelled across the room if he hadn't smelled just as bad. It wasn't disgusting or amusing or a hundred other things it could've been.

Gary thought about poncy, pretentious modern art shows--black and white photography--because the kid's--Tim's--grace was incredible, his fluid posture and movement speaking of power and passion and something else he couldn't put his finger on speaking intelligence--besides the fact that twice already the kid had been reading his Kafka, and once Gary had ripped it out of his hands to put himself in its place.

"Orange juice?"

"I'm a coffee-drinker," said Tim with a coffee-cup salute.

Gary shrugged, "Suit yourself," put his drained coffee cup down and poured the juice right into the sugar-thick dregs.

"Maybe in the morning," said Tim. Was he hiding a smile in the cup? "We've got a few hours, yet." Gary was turned away when Tim walked past him to the living room. Tim stopped to plaster his front all up and down Gary's back and hum wordlessly in Gary's ear. His cock, no longer completely flaccid, nudged at the crease where Gary's thigh met his arse. When he turned around Tim had whisked himself back a foot; he met his eyes, grinned quickly, and went out the door.

After another cup of orange juice and a glance at the telly Gary turned away from the window and caught Tim staring at him, not as if to communicate but as if thinking about Gary entirely in the privacy of his own head; frowning slightly, his head tilted a little to the side, one hand resting palm-down on his thigh. The room was still dark, the curtains open a little way where Gary had pulled them aside, and he saw the way Tim's eyes followed the path of starlight and whining streetlight (it whined even through the window) over his shoulders, chest, one leg, his arse, returning more than once to his face and his lips. Tim looked a question, but it wasn't a question for Gary; then he looked back at Gary's lips.

"What are you thinking?" said Tim.

"Big day tomorrow," said Gary.


He couldn't tell if it was really a question. Gary shook his head and said, "New gig," and twitched the curtains shut as he turned his back on the window.

"You're a bit nervous," said Tim.

Gary corrected him, with a smirk, "Celebrating."

"Celebrating nervous?"

And then Gary was kneeling on the sofa, one knee on either side of Tim's hips, his hand covered with lube up his own arse. He felt every beat of his heart through the muscles there where the blood ran close to the surface. He felt more aroused than he had preparing Tim to be fucked in the same way.

Tim was steady, steady eyes even though they moved over Gary's body, his expression accepting, steady hands on Gary's legs, one curled around the back of his thigh, and while Tim didn't seem aware, it was like a scorching handprint was under it, spreading out in scattered waves of arousal from the contact of their skin.

Gary slick-finger-fucked himself, at that terrible angle, for longer than he completely wanted to, because he was into rough but not, at the moment, pain. Expecting cramps in his legs or his hand any minute, he finally stopped, rolling his shoulders and closing his eyes to tilt his head and crack his neck. His eyes shocked open from the scrape of thumbs--rough, callused--sliding up the sides of his neck under his ears.

Tim cupped his head in both hands; Gary, on a whim, let his neck go limp, let Tim hold his head's weight, and looked up at the ceiling--not very impressive--while he lowered his body, little by little, until he felt the nudge of Tim's erect cock. Not in the right place just at first, of course. He looked down and used his hands on Tim's cock to guide himself. The first pressure at his arsehole was oddly, extra sharp; the cock head seemed bigger than it was, and he knew he'd taken more. But it was blunt, right at first, and he bit his lip in annoyance at himself and refused to grit his teeth as it came through with a pop.

And from there it wasn't hard.

His careful preparation, his small but important amount of practise--"You're talented," gasped Tim, and had no idea how right he was. He was able to keep going, seating himself on Tim's erection with slow and even pressure, only it may have been even but it wasn't all that slow. He sank all the way down onto him, until he felt so filled he almost couldn't move, until he didn't have to fight gravity, and he could relax, a little, although when he felt a pleased ripple of relaxation sigh up his back, his change in posture stirred Tim's hardness lodged inside and quickly made him gasp and sit up straight again.

Tim's face was red, his hands opening and closing on nothing. He looked at Gary, not knowing, evidently, what to ask.

Gary just nodded, carefully, and shifted a little. It still hurt from the first penetration with a generalised sort of burning; even the satiation of being so perfectly filled, the living pulse leaping inside his body out of sync with his own, wasn't enough to override that yet.

Tim swallowed and sweated, and jerked when Gary tensed and relaxed interior muscles.

"Okay?" Gary said.


He knelt up, gripping Tim's biceps for leverage, and was surprised by a slither of pleasure inside, the flexing at Tim's passive withdrawal--then a sharp spike of desire--Tim's hips bucked from the couch, driving his whole length in again, and Gary pressed back unconsciously and let gravity pull him down onto Tim's lap, taking him up to the hilt--and it felt, though maybe it wasn't, deeper than before.

Gary felt his eyes drift closed. He felt the heat and pressure of Tim's arousal deep inside, pulsing with urgency. "Wait," he said, "stay still. Don't move. I'm going to do this." And he did.

Holding Tim still, doing all the work himself, was controlled but felt like falling, like letting himself go. Tim's hands sometime had settled on his hips, and he held on to them tight.

And there was no pause between the sinking-filling tight hand-glove fit, and the tiny release as he came away again--Tim moving with him, body curved like a bow, lifting his hips, and they strained together, blunt and messy, scraping each other raw.

Gary had stretched beyond control until his whole body was clenched like a fist of painful need, like oxygen fading away from the edges to fester too close in the centre--like more than his hunger, the force of joining somehow meant something in that instant--

Tim maybe leaving finger-marks at his hips, screwing his pelvis up, arching his back, straining, forgetting to breathe, going deeper. Deeper. And deeper. Until it ended.

The pleasure that had been shaking him in its jaws released him; its teeth slid out of his flesh, leaving an instant of calm, a burn of angry relief, an indescribable first welling of unstoppable, unknowable, induplicable pain--no, pleasure.

Gary shuddered as the orgasm balled him up in its sweaty fist and let go; the sparks unwound in a dizzying little shock that faded and left him breathless and hot, folding into Tim's chest, into his arms, while Tim's hips jerked under his weight, his prick inside Gary still hard.

There were a few spasmic thrusts that seemed to draw from Tim's whole body--that felt improbably pleasant when Gary was still numbed by, drowning in the stilling aftermath of his own climax.

Tim made some noise when he came, something that might have been a shout, choked off in its infancy; and fell back against the couch, both of them inert, completely unable to stir themselves from what was a very uncomfortable position. Tim's arms didn't fall away or tighten.

When Gary moved his head, the tip of his nose skipped off Tim's collarbone and brushed against his neck. "Linen cupboard," he explained.

"You mean if you can still walk," Tim snorted.

Gary made a face at him which he didn't realise was particularly ridiculous until Tim laughed.

"No, sorry, your nose--your nose wrinkles," he explained, as they tugged the sheet flat and halfway tucked it in.

"So does yours," Gary said, "I bet," and Tim shook out the second blanket and oozed back against the mattress with a groan.

"I'm still in the wet spot," he muttered, turning his face sideways into the lumpy pillow. His eyes were closed.

Gary almost woke up, on the edge of sleep, wondering startled if he had remembered to turn off the lamp. Without opening his eyes, he thought first that he had, then that he'd only dreamed it, and finally that he had again, and fell asleep before he decided whether to open his eyes and check.

It was Tim's loud exclamation "Shit!" that woke Gary in the morning. Every muscle in his body clung to sleep, but that one noise was enough to wake an insistent part of his brain that wouldn't shut up until the rest of him was awake, too, his feet swung out of bed.

Tim stalked lithely out of the room as Gary rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, explaining over his shoulder, "I'm going to be late."

Late. Good God, first day of filming and a real movie at that, and he hadn't even set an alarm. What could possibly have--

Except the fierce grace of Tim's movements, still incredible in the daylight, the shifting muscles of his buttocks as he dragged dark jeans up over his hips with nothing underneath.

Gary said thickly, "I'm making coffee."

"Can't stay," said Tim, who was sitting barefoot, legs sprawled, his dishwater yellow hair flattened and spiked oddly over eyes he couldn't seem to prise all the way open. His arms hung limply for a moment between his thighs before he reached for a sock.

"Wait a minute." Gary went into the bedroom to collect his wallet and put on a pair of boxers while he was at it.

The coffee maker was just starting to gurgle when he came back, and Tim was standing in jeans and boots by the sink, drinking tap water out of last night's coffee cup, the black t-shirt balled up in his hand.

He stopped in the doorway before he spoke, fingering the edges of the billfold, watching Tim's Adam's apple rise and fall. It occurred to him, for the first time with any force, that he'd never done this before. It wasn't precisely that he didn't know what he could say; it was his uneasiness, his memory of last night ("I want you all night"; "All right") and the flush of warmth he felt at it--the tiny satisfied, possessive flame in him as he watched the play of muscles under flesh, the hollow of Tim's spine under the back of his jeans.

"Got my wallet," he muttered.

Tim wasn't looking at him; his face was inside the t-shirt as he tugged it over his head. His hair, more ruffled than before, popped out of the neck hole followed by his face, and he said, "What?"

Gary had unconsciously somehow put his feet apart as if to brace against a strong wind or a shove. He let his arms hang, both hands curled around his wallet. He just said--simplest was surely the best--"How much?"

"Excuse me?" Tim's lips were parted, his eyebrows raised.

Gary lifted the wallet in his hand. He knew his face was still and unbetraying. He was an excellent actor. "Don't tell me you're in such a hurry that you forgot?"

The face was still blank, and as a crease formed between his brows from the incredulous quirking of Tim's left eyebrow, it occurred to Gary that a face like that, so sensuous, unique, lived-in, mobile, was wasted on anyone but an actor. His lips were still parted and he licked the lower one, and the edge of his upper lip pulled back as if in revulsion. "That I forgot to--" Tim was staring at him more sharply now, his mouth tightening into a thin line, and Gary swallowed. "You're offering me money?"

Gary couldn't find anything to say except yes; he couldn't even find a reaction in himself. He didn't say anything.

Tim shoved his hands roughly into his hip pockets and strode past Gary to the door. "I don't know what to say to that, so if you'll excuse me, I'm going to be late." But Gary had turned in place--their eyes met just as Tim turned to slam the door, and Tim's were slitted in fury, edged with wrinkles, the moss-coloured irises narrow. The door slammed.

Gary sat down on the sofa.

Since he couldn't fathom why a whore would turn down money, let alone be angry about it, the only thing to believe was that Tim wasn't a whore. He hadn't been a trick.

His brain stuttered there and sputtered to a stop again and again. He hadn't assumed it; he'd known or thought he'd known it.

Every moment, every image, from the first glimpse of the boy smoking his cigarette against the wall--every word, every touch, was--had been--altered. He couldn't get his mind round them all, had barely begun to process them in the first place. It was like jerking your hands up just in time to save you from a fall, only to wake up and realise you were dreaming and not falling at all.

When he remembered to he got up and poured himself a mug of lukewarm coffee that he set on the bedside table and drank after his shower in between wriggling into his cleanest, nicest pair of jeans and a red t-shirt. While he put on his socks, brushed his teeth, shaved, he kept stopping and frowning or staring at himself, trying and failing to shake it off.

Though slower than he'd any right to be, Gary made it to the set in time by ten minutes. Thirty seconds or so of gritting his teeth and shouting silently at himself was enough to make the discomfort disappear from view, deep inside where it couldn't interfere with him today or his acting.


The director'd asked him to call him Mike; it felt strange in his mouth when he hardly knew the man, when they both knew Gary was an untried unknown, that this dark little TV film could make or break him.

"Mike." Mike had all the power. But Gary smiled, hiding his nervousness. He liked him.

"You ready?"

Was he? Right then he felt like he'd always been ready. Gary grinned, showing his teeth.


In the room there was a round table with wood-printed laminate peeling back from its edges, along with a lot of chairs, which weren't necessarily around it. There were already four people, all actors, he thought: an old pair talking by the wall; a pretty girl who must've been the love interest; and an unshaven bloke about Gary's age with a wide sloppy mouth and wide-set round eyes.

"This is Gary," said Mike. "Phil, Tilly, and Jeff and Marion over there--and--"

Mike and Gary turned as one, the door opening behind them to let in a bent head of spiky wet hair, dark gold, and he looked up--wearing a different shirt and a pair of cheap plastic tortoiseshell glasses, freshly shaven, his green eyes wide and blank.

"Tim," said Mike, and continued: "Tilly, Phil, Jeff, Marion, and this is Gary... ."

Gary froze. Tim had already stopped inside the door, but gave a credible impression of a bloke who could definitely move if he wanted to. Whereas Gary wasn't sure he trusted his motor skills.

Reading a fresh copy of the script, white and not dog-eared like the one Gary had at home, gave him a welcome excuse for not speaking. He wanted to talk to everyone else in front of Tim almost as little as he wanted to say anything to Tim--who had plastered himself into a hard plastic chair shaped like an armchair and made his body almost entirely into the shape of a hammock, his elbows nearly as high as his ears. Gary wondered if Tim really wore plastic-framed glasses, or glasses at all, whether he'd had a hard time seeing at some point last night. Whether he only took them off to cruise.

Why he was cruising there outside that club a block away from the street corner kids.

But somewhere between a cold, cardboard tasting cup of tea and the girl, Tilly, asking if she recognised him from somewhere, he and Tim stared at one another quite a bit--usually not at the same time.

Tim's eyes looked grey or brown behind the reflecting lenses. Tim himself looked both smaller and younger in a larger t-shirt that seemed actually designed to cover.

What he really looked--not most of the time, but Gary was too good himself not to see the little flashes of not-acting in someone else's eyes--was angry.

Gary laced his fingers together, bent his head to the script in his lap, and bit his lip. He needed so badly today to be someone else, but for all his acting--which he knew was almost flawless--he could still feel himself inside.

"Great, excuse me, that scene again," Mike said when they'd hardly been at reading thirty solid minutes, and a few people exchanged glances over the ratty table, but they flipped their pages back. "Sorry," said Mike, "I'll let you go all the way through after this, I'm going to jot something down and, ah, I'll give us all a bit of a lunch break."

Which he did, when the second read-through convinced him to go do some instant rewriting. "One of the producer's assistants is going to be going out after food," he said. "If anybody wants to get their own, be back here in forty-five minutes, on the dot." And left them alone again. And didn't come back, incidentally, for almost an hour.

Gary went outside to smoke while he waited for the assistant, who introduced herself as Gina, to bring back everybody's lunch. He'd wandered off a bit down a hallway, let himself out a side door and gone round back of the building, hoping a little desperately that no one named Tim would show up and speak to him.

Which was a laugh, really. He'd looked likely to do anything but start a conversation in there. It was all in the eyes. Specifically, the tense muscles around and particularly under them, where Tim had let his coolness show. And Gary was pretty sure he'd also seen him clenching his jaw.

But for all his worrying it was he who grabbed Tim's shoulder and spun him round when Tim came outside and walked by him after all. Because he hadn't known he was going to do it he managed it with very little finesse, and then found himself with nothing to say when Tim rounded on him.

Tim was tense, face and neck and arms, the whole way he was standing. It all said to Gary he was ready to fight back if necessary, and Gary hurried and spread his hands, taking a step back.

"Whoa," he said, "it's just me," as though the reason for the anger in Tim's face were anyone else.


"I--sorry," he said.

"For grabbing my shoulder, or before?"

"I'm sorry for grabbing your shoulder," said Gary.

Tim was facing him now, arms crossed in front of him, and his mouth tightened at that.

"But I'm really sorry for the other."

Tim snorted--more derisive than amused, but at least his mouth was curving in some kind of smile. Curled, not curved, because the edges turned up while the centre was still absorbed in some kind of other movement--unconsciously echoing some complex emotion, or a performance piece to showcase the well-remembered flexibility of Tim's lips, Gary didn't know.

"I, well," said Gary, "I do sometimes try to avoid making assumptions. I don't make a general habit of it, if you find that at all mollifying. I'm--" the more he said, he was nervously certain, the worse. Time to stop. "--Sorry."

"I know," said Tim, gathering his arms in front of him. His feet were spread and he was standing like he knew his hips were his best feature, but the way his hands were tucked away, his shoulders hunched, was protective body language. "I see." But he shook his head.

"Um," said Gary, and jerked his head back towards the building. "You were good in there." He made very sure that he didn't sound surprised, even though he had been--at how good, not that Tim could be.

Tim tilted his head and made a faintly inquisitive face, as though he wasn't really sure how to interpret the comment, but he said "Thank you" anyway.

Unfortunately that was all he said.

Gary coughed out a breath that seemed to contain all the oxygen and all the nicotine in his entire body, leaning against the wall when Tim was gone, wondering miserably for a moment why it couldn't have been any other day, or any other television movie, or any other trick-who-wasn't.

And then, thinking about it, was glad it had been Tim after all, and certainly not any of the real tricks he'd seen through Jack's car window propping up the dirty wall and the rusty fence.

And if he had to be entirely honest in memory--which he did, particularly as he was alone, and didn't think he could afford lying to himself at this low-paying point in his career--it would never have been another trick anyway. He hadn't gone there looking for a whore.

He'd simply found one. Thought he'd found one.

Gary shook his head in disgust, then swore and dropped the cigarette when he felt it burning down to his fingertips.

He somehow managed to catch Gina in the hallway and unburden her of his roast beef and mustard on white, and he ate it standing up in a spur of forgotten hallway. He relished the feeling of not belonging there.

The rest of the first read-through and the beginning of the second one (not counting that scene they'd already done twice) went swimmingly. It was only when Gary was coming back from the loo to the larger, mostly-empty room where second read-through was in progress that anything went wrong.

Specifically, while thrown off a bit by a burst of laughter inside as he came through the doorway, Gary was hit in the face by something very hard and cold that crushed itself against the ridge of his browbone, ripping like cat's claws through his skin before he had time to feel it, let alone react.

The shards of a milk bottle were on the floor at his feet, with drops of white milk and red blood, and Gary was holding his hand to his face, and Tim--Tim who had thrown the mauling milk bottle from across the room--was staring at him with his mouth open, utterly motionless and evidently horrified, by the absolutely hilarious expression on his face.

At least it hadn't been on purpose, Gary reflected, in between shuddering and feeling at his face with shaking fingers, and debating internally whether he should even try to open his eye.

They took him to the hospital in an ambulance, which made him feel both more secure and kind of ridiculous. By the time he got his face stitched up he was past calm into bored, although he'd probably have time for a bit of a shocky fit later, and he reflected the ice was permanently broken for him as far as the TV-film was concerned. Nothing like a little murder and mayhem to loosen you right up, accidental or otherwise.

"How much of a bitch is it?" was the first thing Tim said to him when they let him into the room. Not "Hi, Gary," or even "Can I come in?"

Gary supposed that in Tim's position he'd be more concerned with the damage he might have done than whether he was welcome in the room too. And he was glad Tim hadn't asked if he could come in because he definitely wanted him there, but he didn't know if it would be at all a good idea to have said so. "Well, it's got me some stitches, but I've felt worse," Gary said.

"What about your eye?"

"You missed by at least an inch. Shoddy aim," Gary said. He realised that he'd sometime got thoroughly used to the idea that Tim wasn't a whore; maybe he never really seemed like one. But images from last night kept interposing themselves in little flickers anyway, like an X-rated version of the small inset playbacks in televised football. Not all the images were entirely X-rated. He compared Tim's self-confident, sexualised prowling last night to the tone of Tim's movements now as he paced back and forth round the hospital cubicle.

"You know it was an accident," said Tim, not belligerently, but evidently feeling Gary had been a little unkind. Perhaps he had.

Gary smiled a little, watching him--particularly his biceps outlined under the shirt, and his hips. "Sure, of course."

Gary could never resist it when something funny occurred to him to say. Furthermore, he was the one with local anaesthetic wearing off on his eyebrow, the throbbing rent in his skin, the heat and little smarting stabbing pains and the pulling feeling from the stitches. He wondered what he looked like--dangerous, sexy, or perhaps some kind of long-haired Frankenstein?

"What do I look like?" He asked impulsively, kicking his heels against the examining table he was sitting on.

Tim stopped and looked at him expectantly, raising both his eyebrows in a look that unexpectedly struck to the heart of Gary with its precise familiarity. Jesus, he'd looked exactly like that between Are you interested? and Are you coming home with me?--waiting for the punch line, because that couldn't possibly be all Gary was going to say. "Scarface with long hair?"

"Thank you," said Gary, "I meant the cut."

Tim frowned. "Not really Scarface." But he was studying Gary dangerously, in a way that prickled up the hairs on his arms. Gary forced himself to relax more completely into his odd, back-bent posture on the examining table, rather than fidgeting. The blue pleather squeaked under his jeans. "Didn't they show you a mirror?" He said finally. It didn't sound like that was what he meant--like the words and the meaning were two totally separate realities, connected only by the sound of Tim's voice.

"I think so," said Gary, "but I was still a little shocky at the time--why'd they let you in here anyway?"

"To tell you you still have to be at the set tomorrow," said Tim, with a flicker of a smile. "To make sure there'd still some of you left to take pieces of the next time you piss me off."

Gary grinned. "Scarface, eh?"

Tim came closer, looking thoughtful and completely self-possessed, not like it gave him any difficulty to stand there in the emergency cubicle and tilt Gary's face up to the light, not like he had any other motive than stopping himself feeling too guilty in wrapping his hands around Gary's chin and hairline so his pinky finger pushed into Gary's hair.

Gary stretched his neck up to let the meagre light over the cut. He wondered again what it looked like. It felt swollen, red and angry, like it probably looked imposing. He took a deep breath. Today he'd decided to be laid-back.

He'd decided to be laid back.

Tim let go his face and put his hands in his back pockets. "Fancy that," he muttered.

Gary rolled his neck back and forth, producing a pleasant stretching, a series of small crackles and two profoundly satisfying pops. "Fancy which? Do you start counting with the milk bottle or earlier in the morning?"

Tim snorted and propped himself against the wall. "You're incredible. Do they ever let you out, or what? Do you have to work off your bill in the kitchen?"

"I'll have you know it was payday Friday," said Gary.

Tim laughed outright. "Didn't budget for this yesterday, did you? Were you going to give me all of it?" He wasn't looking at Gary, his head tilted back laughing, his throat long and exposed. Gary was fascinated to trace with his eyes the places where his tongue had sussed out the textures and flavours of the prickling, infantile beard yesterday.

He waited until Tim looked up again, caught his eye, and said, "It was worth it." -- just to see Tim melt in a moment into stillness.

"What do you think?" Tim said, clearing his throat, "Will they let you out? Do I call Mike, get him to post bail?"

"They said they'd be back," said Gary. "Why are you so eager to break out? You're not subject to the medicine."

"Oh, my interest is purely practical, " said Tim. "I'm supposed to make sure you get somewhere when you leave, but not the set."

Gary gave in to that one with possibly some relief. "Not the set. Let me regain the complete use of my face--can't act without it."

There was the kind of mutter that you could deny having said if it went to trial. "We may be in trouble then. That could be a while."

"In that case, make yourself comfortable," he said unnecessarily. Tim seemed to have the knack of making himself comfortable anywhere--moulded plastic chairs, cold metal wall-mounted cabinets, television studios, the bonnets of cars, brick walls. The back of Gary's couch.

In an hour's time two more nurses came and went, the same doctor who had earlier applied his stitches and a different one, each trying and failing to dislodge Tim from the room's single comfortable chair in favour of the waiting room.

"I think they really just wanted the chair back," Gary confided on their way to the car park.

"Bastards," Tim said cheerily. "Bourgeoisie Thatcherites." He flung open the door of a beaten-up but rather gruffly sexy old car. The force of his fling made it bounce back on its hinges, and Gary slipped himself through the gap.

He leaned back as far as he could against the seat, but there was no headrest. "Home, James; I could use a drink."

"A drink, eh?"

Tim drove with his eyes fixed straight ahead, an expression of concentration unwavering on his face. At first glance that made him either very careful or very good, when in fact he was neither, only very focused. He drove slowly or too fast with no discrimination, didn't slow to prevent squealing rubber tracks when he jerked around corners, and often seemed to remember he was turning only at the very last moment. Through it all he sort of squinted forward, and didn't talk at all.

They went the wrong way in several separate but equal ways--the wrong way around, the wrong cardinal direction, the wrong turnings. They weren't going to Gary's place, and it wasn't because Tim had forgotten where it was. He clearly knew all along that he was going to end up at a dingy pub with a yellow-painted front and a faded black awning.

"I did say home," said Gary mildly as he climbed out onto the kerb.

"You're still not thinking clearly," Tim answered without a pause.

He hadn't been protesting at all--in fact, he was as pleased as he could be with his face hurting so much, and as relaxed as he could be with Tim given their raging sexual attraction, his embarrassment and how completely muddy his idea of what Tim was thinking. Tim was opaque to Gary, except for the occasional tic that gave away a startlingly profound slice of him, like the tension in the muscles under his eyes, or the warning in his posture when he braced his arms near his hips.

The door opened with a high whine, and closed with a hoarse wail. The man behind the counter was dark-haired and unshaven, with a flabby face, a collection of silver earrings and a pointy, Welsh-looking nose. His apron made him the bartender, and he looked up with a grin for Tim. "Well, Timothy! Come to beg for your old job back already?"

"Yeah," said Tim, swinging onto a bar stool one leg at a time as if he was getting points for style. "Got fired on the first day for beating up my boss."

The bartender took in Gary's face with widened eyes. "He bit me," Gary lied. "What have you got that's worst with pain medicine?"


"Give me two of it."

Tim gripped Gary's upper arm without looking. "Get him tonic water."

"Fuck off," Gary laughed.

A spark of deja-vu made him wonder if Tim would say Really?, but he bared his teeth in a grin. "I bite," he said instead.

Gary folded his other arm on the bar and slouched warmly into the touch. "Vodka and tonic," he said firmly.

"I'm driving," said Tim. "I'll have a Coke."

Gary had an uneasy feeling, and he couldn't tell if it was tension between himself and Tim or real foreboding. He certainly wasn't drunk after just two vodka tonics, but at least his head was buzzing a little, and that was a distraction from the pain. It wasn't a distraction from Tim; it seemed to make it easier to focus his mind on him.

Tim. Tim, Tim. Tim not-a-whore, Tim who then must have, and he still kept thinking about this, waited at the door of the pub for Gary to come out, and it kept giving him a little thrill every time he thought it, or instead of a thrill a warm kick in his stomach.

Tim who'd given himself immediately, surrendered again and again, and every time made certain it was known he surrendered through his own choice. And hadn't been paid for any of it.

"Ever done a TV film before?" said Tim.

"One, last year--you?" Gary said, watching Tim's profile as he drove.

"A bit part," said Tim. He flicked a glance down and flexed his hands on the steering wheel without taking them off it, tightened his mouth as he suddenly squealed round a corner. There was a watch with a brown leather band strapped round the wide part of his left wrist; Gary's eye snagged on it and stayed. He leaned sideways a little, into the door. "Did you--," Tim started, and cut himself off abruptly.

Gary felt something in his perception of the situation shift. "What?"

Tim shook his head quickly.

He modified his tone of voice--a hint of casual, a hint of idle, a hint of amusement. "No, what?"

"Was your hair--" Tim said, and glanced sideways at him. They were outside Gary's building. "Like that? It doesn't look like it grew overnight."

Inside, Gary was crooning with content. This might have been the most interesting thing he'd heard all day. Somehow he'd misjudged again the whole balance between them. He felt like a cat crouched on a tree branch, though God knew Tim was the one who reminded him of a cat.

"Noooo," Gary said. It wanted to come out a purr. "It's not something you just shave off and grow back again when you feel like it. Though I will have to shave it soon."

Tim had walked three or four steps towards the door with him. He looked up, surprised, in mid-step, and then the look evaporated. "The skinhead," he said, looked down, and smiled a little. "Shame... ."

Gary was watching him intently. "I'll leave it a few weeks." He thought, wildly, since you like it. And he didn't know why the things he was thinking felt wilder than they had last night--unless it was the hospital visit and that horrible misunderstanding this morning. All right, he knew why they felt wild. What he didn't know was, well, practically anything else about what was going on.

He could barely make himself slow down.

He wondered exactly how sexual chemistry worked. As far as he knew, nobody knew exactly. Maybe the attraction, or the frustration, or both, really were cumulative, because the longer the time around Tim all day the harder it had been to tear his attention away or keep his hands to himself. He wasn't even sure what he wanted to do to him: he just wanted to be closer. In his mind, closing that two-foot gap between them, the first moment of full-length contact, would be like scratching an itch.

And it was clear to him that Tim felt it too. For one thing, his attraction to Gary was well-proven even aside from the cues Gary had been picking up from his body language, and gradually gaining confidence in his interpretations of, all day. And then there were his restless, occasionally conscious movements, his body language aggressive and submissive sometimes at the same moment, the way he'd lick his lips, the times Gary had caught him watching.

Neither one of them had really attempted to hide it. Gary put his hand out as if to touch Tim's arm but let it hover in the air, and tilted his head back at the door with a question in his eyes, even though he knew Tim wouldn't come in, knew it would be a bad idea if he did.

"I don't think so," said Tim, after a little pause in which he bit his lip, and his body turned more towards Gary's, as though he wasn't even aware of it. "First impressions aside," he added with a wry self-deprecating smile, "I can keep it in my pants when I don't particularly want to."

He looked up and met Gary's eyes and it was like a fist in the face, a disorienting shock of arousal. Gary's ability to keep it in his pants or not went conspicuously unmentioned.

"I'm going to go home and exercise my restraint," said Tim.

Gary grinned slyly, "Is that what they're calling it these days?" Which flatteringly made Tim laugh, sharp and surprised.

"See you tomorrow," said Tim, putting his car between himself and Gary like a shield. "On the set."

Gary couldn't help it. He made a rather sultry face, heavy eyelids, curving lips. "You can braid my hair."

And Tim froze for a moment with the car door open, looking at him, before he climbed in and drove away.

Gary considered and discarded the idea of going for a run to wear some of his energy down. He didn't want to do anything to the stitches while the wound was fresh, fading to a background ache, then startling him with the occasional low throb.

Memories throbbed through him too, disconnected bits of them, as he put on the kettle and then poured himself a finger of whisky in the bottom of a juice glass. Drinking orange juice and coffee naked; Tim's smiling mouth forming the words, "We have a few hours yet." Big day tomorrow. Tim struggling not to move as Gary sat in his lap and fucked himself on Tim's cock--the contorted looks of arousal, strain and frustration on his expressive face. The cool bump of his broken watchband down his spine. Don't try to be a gentleman because I like it deep.

Gary thought idly about wanking while he ate on the sofa. He left a plate with traces of beef sauce on it on the floor and proceeded to spend several hours lounging and failing to get comfortable. The problem didn't seem to be the sofa--though god knew the old upholstery was suspect enough and the cushions limp and bent into odd shapes--or his trousers but under his skin. A few times he put his hand on his dick through them or underneath the waistband, but in the end he stared unseeing at the telly with his legs spread apart to accommodate half an erection before retiring to bed and Kafka.

After half a chapter that he half understood he rolled over and the paper-smoothness and coolness of the clean sheets on his skin finally did it. He laid on his belly, eyes closed, face sideways so he wouldn't suffocate on his pillow, and moved to rub himself against the mattress. Five minutes later he came with his hand in his sweatpants, lying on his back, the blankets lying around his hips like dead flower petals, hair in his eyes.

Friday night, after a week of exhausting near-constant improvisation, Gary walked all the way home from the set, hands in the pockets of his denim jacket, holding it close to his body, what felt like at least a quarter of his hair fallen out of the ponytail he hadn't bothered to fix since lunch.

The improvisation sessions were top-secret and totally exhilarating. He felt, he knew, he was being brilliant. In fact it was like he was becoming more brilliant gradually, reaching things he'd never reached before. It was like brilliance had always had its hooks in him, and now it was slowly reeling him in. For hours on end each day, he'd barely had time to think of anything, which wasn't to say he didn't think about Tim for hours on end from time to time.

Tim's acting was amazing. Gary wouldn't have consigned anybody on the film to the rubbish bin, but Tim put the character on the way he'd put on that black t-shirt in Gary's kitchen Monday morning--one moment it was a transparent thing hanging limp in his grip; for a moment his face went blank; and then it was there, fitting him like a second skin; or rather the character was there and Tim wasn't.

Gary knew he did something very similar. He enjoyed it, and revelled in the break it gave him from his personal concerns when he was able to numb his brain and slip into even a half-formed skinhead kid.

But he'd never watched anything like it in person before. He hoped he'd spend lots of time watching it in the future.

As he walked past a small grocer's and a terrier tied up outside it barked its head off at him, Gary decided that Tim could have been a mate. He didn't want him as one, and certainly it would have been a waste of the unknowable way he had of making Gary want him just by the face he made, or the way he crossed his arms, or the way he stood against a wall, or the ridiculous little noise he made when Tilly dropped the coffee pot in the sink.

The dog was a block behind him and still whining to itself. When he looked over his shoulder it had sat on its haunches, but its ears were pricked, turned partly transparent by the dingy mauve sunset behind them.

He kicked at some rather scummy puddles in the gutter, walked with his head high, rolled it about and cracked his neck periodically--a habit Tim had commented on more than once this week already.

A whole week and they weren't in bed again yet. Gary, for once listening to the voice of his better judgment, had not pushed the issue except inasmuch as periodically invading Tim's personal space or making his voice deliberately low and husky were pushing the issue.

In fact, it was Tim who flirted, complimented him with apparent perfect sincerity to anyone who would listen, brought him coffees and milks and teas without being asked. It was Tim who held his eyes when they spoke and Tim who offered to drive him home with surprising regularity and Tim who actually had braided his hair yesterday for long enough that Gary thought he'd come in his pants.

Gary'd got out quickly today and started his walk without running into Tim, for which he thought he was grateful. "If I'm not careful taking time to think is going to become a regular habit with me," he muttered.

He found Randall at Jimmy's not-quite-bar that night, trying to chat up a boy with spiky glam hair and eyeliner.

"Randall, tell me," Gary said, "how I would go about it, if I really intended to buy myself some sex."

Randall looked irritated and sardonic. "I thought you did all right."

"No," said Gary, "just humour me, all right? Pretend I'm that kid--" he nodded at the tight black trousers, the shiny shirt and ridiculous makeup. "Pretend I've no idea what I'm doing, I'm desperate to get some--"

"You can come to Jimmy's, and I'll take care of you," Randall leered. "Oi, Jimmy. Get me another of these yellow waters you call beer."

"Hmm." Gary considered. Randall had a point. It was a stupid question.

But he hadn't been keeping it in his pants all week for nothing. He gave it another shot. "Say I'm a rugby jock who married his high school sweetheart and has two point five kids, a cat, a poodle and a job as a radiator salesman."

Randall waggled his eyebrows. "Do you still look like yourself?"

"Older," said Gary. "A little past my prime. I wear a business suit. I drive a two-year-old medium Renault, grey."

"Ooh no," Randall winced. "Is your living room all done in magnolia?"

"I don't know," said Gary, "that's the little wife's province."

"You can't even remember your own living room!" said Randall, scandalised.

"I try not to. Remember I've been repressing my desire for the pretty boys for decades. But now I'm having a midlife crisis and I've realised there's nothing I want more than to fuck the arse of a succulent young man with tight jeans on. A quick anonymous encounter, on the way home from work or to a business conference."

"You might pick him up along the way, take him to the radiators trade show as your date," Randall suggested.

"Well, if I wanted the boys to call Marge I'd get a boyfriend. I just want a bit of guilty pleasure, come on, Randall. What are you going to tell me to do?"

"You're being a bastard," he said frankly. "Come the fuck out of the closet and stop breaking your wife's heart."

"There's a street," said Jimmy, shoving Randall's arm out of the way, plunking down a beer in front of each of them. "Anyone could give you directions. You cruise down it with your windows open. You'll see all the wares for sale."

"So then I shout out the car window. 'Hey, you, c'mere.'"

"If you like," said Jimmy, "but too loud and you might bring the coppers down."

"Hmmmm." Gary took a long gulp of his horse piss.

"You might try going back," said Randall. "You're not going to find that hot blond here."

Gary didn't look up from his drink. "I know where to find him."

Randall was silent for a minute. Then he said sharply, "All right, Oldman. Spill all of it."

Gary shrugged. "He's not a rent boy, he just does a screaming good impression of one." Pause. "Which, come to think of it, he should. He's an actor."

"An 'actor'," grinned Randall, "as in Woolworth's commercials, or another frustrated genius like yourself?"

"Watch who you're calling frustrated," said Gary lightly, and pulled a face. "I've had better beer than this off the floor in the girls' toilets," he told Jimmy, who was swiping at the grimy wooden surface of the bar with an equally grimy rag that had known better days as a tea towel.

"That wasn't beer," said Randall.

"Hey," Jimmy shrugged, "you came into this relationship with your eyes open."

The rest of Gary's beer went down more easily--that is, it didn't taste as bad--partly because it hardly touched the inside of his mouth before he swallowed. It. Before he swallowed it.

"Where do you think you're going?" Randall bitched.

"The girls' toilet." He slid Jimmy a bill, tucked his hands back in his pockets, and fucked off.

Actually, he went to the yellow pub with the black awning. The fat Welsh bartender recognized him right away, and greeted him with a whistle. "Halloooo Scarface. Looking very dodgy," and made a gesture at the pink puckered line on Gary's eyebrow.

"Herr Roth's been talking about me, I see," said Gary, claiming a stool and resisting the urge to act like a private investigator and slip the guy a wad of folded money for Tim's whereabouts.

He wasn't going to ask about them anyway.

"Once or twice," the bloke agreed, and stuck his hand over the bar for Gary to shake. "I'm Bill."

Ordinary enough name, no mouthful of W's. Maybe he wasn't Welsh.

Gary shook Bill's hand, feeling faintly disloyal for Jimmy's sake. "I suppose you heard I gave him his job back."

"The stitches make you look a right shady character, but you're actually decent," said Bill.

"Oh, I don't know," said Gary, "I'm a softie for full-grown men grovelling on their knees. --Tell me now, is your beer on a par with your tasty vodka and tonics or is it the horse piss so many of your kind try to pass off as beer?"

"My kind?"

"Welsh bartenders."

Bill gave him a look. "Get out. You don't know any Welsh bartenders. I'm not Welsh anyway except my grandmum."

"All right, bartenders then."

"The beer's mostly decent," said Bill, "and if I say so myself, we have a few that are actually quite good."

Gary shrugged. "In that case, surprise me."

The beer came in an unlabelled bottle. "Friend of the owner's," Bill explained. Gary nursed it with the leisure that a decent microbrew deserved.

Some pimply teenagers came in, a too-tall boy with a face scaled larger than life, a red-faced one in a particularly ratty pullover, a pair of girls in tight high-waisted jeans. They let in with them a soft huff of outside air, the noise of cars passing, and asked Bill to turn on the telly. Gary finished his beer before much of any football had occurred. The bartender was back. "What can I surprise you with now?"

Gary leaned his head in his hand, thinking. "Another beer, please."

A hand landed between his shoulder blades. "Make that two. Put it on his tab."

Gary looked sideways. He didn't shift his posture to look up for fear of dislodging the warm weight.

Tim stood between Gary's stool and the one next to it and tilted his head at a bizarre angle, down and to the side, looking back and up and sideways at Gary all at once.

"Um," Gary said. "Love what you've done with the place."

Tim spoke on an exhalation, "Yeah. Thanks, Bill. Oh," raising his brows, drawing his mouth down at the edges to show he was impressed. "The good stuff."

He perched on the next stool. Gary smiled a little at the familiar way he moved.

Before Gary's bottle of beer was even entirely gone, Tim's hands were in his hair, brushing a lock that had fallen forward behind his ear and then slipping around his skull so softly Gary almost didn't realise he was tucking fallen pieces back into the ponytail.

Once he overcame the struggle not to let his head fall back and his mouth open, Gary smiled, feeling warm, and looked up.

"I feel like I should apologise for something to you," said Tim, wrapping one hand deliberately around the very end of Gary's shoulder.

"Can't think what," Gary replied honestly. "You've already apologised several times for the scar, and I quite like it."

"I'm not sure there is a good reason," said Tim, "which was why I haven't been doing it. But I figured I might as well be safe."

Gary checked the bar to be sure that, indeed, he was the one with two bottles in front of him. Tim's bottle wasn't even half gone.

"I'm not sure," he said out in the street, as they fell into step together.

"Why aren't you sure?" said Tim. "What aren't you sure of?"

Gary tilted his head consideringly. "About this apology thing."

Tim's hands were in his hip pockets, his shoulders hunched up, one of his defensive postures. Gary wondered if he'd picked them up in school, if he'd had to put up with a lot of grief from the lads. "I'm accepting suggestions," said Tim.

"That's alright. No ideas. I'm just not sure."

Tim seemed to think for a moment. "That was sort of the essence of what I said."


Tim's flat was actually smaller than the first one Gary had had when he moved out, a feat previously unknown in Gary's circle of acquaintance. The wall the door was set into was mustard-painted, the one next to it wallpapered with orange bunches of flowers and brown ribbons on cream. It was part of what had probably been a very nice old house, but the walls were framed crooked, the window mouldings not parallel to the ceiling. The kitchenette looked like a new name would have to be invented for it, something smaller than "ette".

At least his bed had a frame and legs, unlike Gary's first, which had only consisted of the mattress he slept on now.

There were no walls, except that the toilet was in a separate room. What there were were three chairs, a table, a television, the bed, and the two orange crates next to it that Tim had filled with books and papers.

Gary sat down experimentally on Tim's mattress. It wasn't new and springy but it was still firm, still had a bit of give. Inside the door he'd pulled the elastic out of his hair and started to shake it out, then changed his mind and gathered it quickly back up. He could feel it settling, now, because he hadn't gathered it properly. He untied it again, ran his hands back from his face in a quick finger-comb and twisted the tie back in, watching Tim turn on the coffee maker, open the refrigerator to get out a carton of orange juice and kick off his boots, watching Gary the whole time.


"Just coffee."

Tim shrugged, put back the unopened carton.

When the drained mugs were settled precariously on the orange crate next to a metal clip lamp, Tim sighed and let his whole body sway back against Gary's chest. Gary buried his hands in Tim's hair.

"What are you doing?" Tim murmured, arching his neck in pleasure as Gary scratched lightly with his fingertips.

"There's usually a reason behind a hair fetish," said Gary.

Tim mumbled something Gary didn't bother paying attention to and leaned back further, turning his face until the beak of his nose bumped Gary's jaw. "When do you shave yours?" he said.

The wall with the window in it also had an assortment of sad-looking empty nail holes, and several colour photographs and a One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest poster held up with tape and tacks. Someone in painting the crown moulding and ceiling had been sloppy; one was white and the other cream, and there were uneven brush marks of either colour in the edges of the other.

Gary bent his head and put his mouth on Tim's ear. Tim tensed a little, but didn't move.

"Tell me something," he said. Tim's body shifted restlessly against Gary's front; one of his hands closed on Gary's thigh. "What if you saw me under a streetlight? Would you pay to have sex with me? If it was the only way?" He turned his nose into the slightly oily hollow behind Tim's ear, the clean, male-smelling hair which was surprisingly soft.

Tim's hands found Gary's, wrapped tightly around them, dragged them to his hips; Gary pushed up under his shirt, felt the rise and fall of his belly with breath, nuzzled all along the exposed line of jaw when Tim titled his neck.

Gary heard Tim's breathing, the loudest sound in the room. He opened his mouth to feel the softness of the skin with his lips. There was a little tang of salt and Tim's hands tightening on his. Gary felt a little cold, wondered if he was going crazy at such a young age; because while he wanted to get into Tim's skin, felt it like a burning itch on his skin, his mind was clear, not stuffed to overflowing and fever-pitched with that odd mental arousal from before that had kept him all night wearing through the same tracks in his brain without ever really knowing what he was thinking.

He shuddered unwillingly and his body seized violently with it, his mouth coming open, and Tim turned in his arms, pushing him back on the bed, soothing his body with warmth and weight and his mouth with an uncompromising heavy kiss.

Gary sighed, wound his hands in Tim's hair and arched up against Tim's body. He wasn't sure who had given in to it and who had done the convincing, here. He wondered if that was a good thing.

Tim said something he couldn't hear against his throat and something else he didn't bother listening to against his ribs. Gary laughed when it tickled, breathing unevenly because somewhere in his detachment he had forgotten himself and got giddy and aroused. Tim tickled harder and he curled up sharply to protect himself and groped for Tim's wrists.

Tim let himself be caught, rolled over and stripped, and he looked up at Gary with wide, translucently luminous eyes and a serious, not completely relaxed mouth, as though some transparent vestige of worry lurked still behind his aggressive surrender. "Well, hello," Gary murmured, and his mouth curved.

"Come here."

He braced his arms and resisted a little, grinning, then let himself fall with an oof on Tim's chest. They kissed hot and deep, hungry, and Tim dug both hands inside the waistband of Gary's trousers, pushing past the elastic waist of his pants. He bit down on Gary's lower lip deliberately, like it was an experiment, and seemed to like what he found. Gary took off his own trousers.

Tim's movements were utterly unselfconscious. Gary found his posture riveting, and the crook of his knee when he folded one leg in front of him on the bed, and the sinuous easy bending of his body as he laid back against the pillows, and the relaxed curve of his arm on the blanket when Gary obeyed his beckoning look and went to him, took hold of one forearm and one shoulder, pressed him gently back, straddled one of his thighs.

Tim sighed, or purred, a soft sound like mm that wasn't for Gary's benefit, because when he looked Tim's eyes were closed, shutting him into his own world.

Words didn't come on the first or second try, because Gary had lowered himself onto Tim and the unlubricated damp closeness as they ground their hips together was driving him a little mad, and Tim kept stopping and then returning to his mouth, maybe only to kiss the corner, but enough to occupy his mind. "What do you want?" he said softly, spreading his hand over Tim's hip, the fragile hot skin, thumb in the sweaty crease among the curls.

But Tim's eyelids came up, revealing dilated pupils, and he said unreadably: "What? You don't want to make me forget all the other men who've fucked me any more?"

Gary was incredibly turned on, wrapped skin-to-skin round Tim's sleek nakedness, his prick hard against Tim's thigh. He gripped Tim's hip tighter, spoke carefully around the thorny words. "Are you offering?"

Tim smiled open-mouthed, his eyes calculating, and a pink tongue flicked out to lave his lower lip. He spread his legs a little. "Are you?"

Gary pressed Tim's thighs apart, got a handful of lube, and lapped at Tim's cock while he felt blindly inside him with oiled fingers.

"I like rough," Tim had to remind him, "come on," because his focus had narrowed so far to Tim's increasing erection, Tim jerking and thrusting into his mouth.

"Sure you don't want to come like this?"

Tim batted him away, laughing a little, "Later," and rolled over smoothly, one long motion, up on his hands and knees. Gary put his hands on the firm curves of his arse, then guided his cock close. "Finally," Tim grumbled, voice husky and strained as Gary slid in past the clutch of the first muscle.

Gary moved his hand a little on Tim's thigh, soothing one or the other of them, restless for more contact, he didn't know. "I decided not to wait for a written invitation after all," and he rocked his hips again, just a little. Tim huffed out a little breath, rolled his head from side to side, and Gary had to reach forward and stroke his hair, touch the back of his neck.

He moved again, just far enough from gentle that the friction stung, hot and so tight, and when Tim arched his back and tilted his hips--

He bit his lip, and thrust again, and he tried to make it a little one but got carried away, shoved himself deeper in the consuming heat, arousal crawling and leaping over his skin and crackling under it. And it began, breathless, awkward--all Tim's grace subsumed in stop-motion stuttery skipping grips and slides. The pressing burn. Long, and short. Pulling back on both of Tim's hips, straining to reach further. Tim's fingernails, Gary's clenched teeth. Sweat stung the stitches on his brow. Again.

Gary breathed heavy, he strained; he shoved himself deep and drove himself deeper and Tim spread himself, and it was tough, exhausting, long. Heat so tight--the grappling, the noises coming from Tim's throat, the scorching scrape of heavy friction on his cock--shuddering and crashing together. It wasn't easy when it stopped hurting because Gary was gripping the sensation so hard he left marks on Tim, trying to force them closer together, as though he could milk something else, something realer, out of explosive sex.

Now he sweated and thrust with desperate abandon, and his cock went deep into the silky clutch of Tim's body hard and furious. Tim sighed and gasped and squirmed back on Gary's cock, tilting his arse, grinding back his hips, opening his legs wide to feel Gary deeper inside.

Gary came and jerked Tim back against him with an arm round his chest and jerked him off, and when it was all over he pulled himself away a bit and collapsed beside Tim with one hand resting at the small of Tim's back.

Until Tim heaved himself over, and let his arms flop out at his sides, the backs of his fingers curled against Gary's hip. The hand twitched and turned to cover the hip bone, hot and damp, but how could Gary mind?

Finally Tim said, in a casual and utterly normal voice, "Come here."

Gary looked up and found himself watched--matter-of-factly and maybe a little curiously, but Tim's face was still strangely stirringly unreadable. "Again?" he joked, "So soon?"

Tim shrugged, his shoulder blade shifting against the striped pillowcase, and rolled over on top of him.


Tim laughed at him, wiggling until the sticky mess of come and sweat was spread all around between them and they were both completely disgusting. Gary's half-hearted shoves did nothing until Tim levered himself up on one arm, and spread his fingers to push them back through Gary's hair, drawing it slowly away from his face, splaying it across the pillow.

"Mm," Gary said in an exaggerated croaky wheeze. "Feels good."

"I think you might be a hedonist," said Tim with an air of apologetic confession and ignored the hint about breathing, except for leaning hard on Gary's chest.

"I think you--uuurg can't breathe--should get off me," said Gary, and finally threw a grinning Tim off so violently--no, that is, so efficiently--that he almost rolled off the bed.

"Tim, that's why they're called top-secret," said Mike.

"Oh, come on, Mike, I've nothing to do--"

"You don't have a part to learn?"

"I don't have any top-secret improvisation sessions--"

"You can have one later if you want to, but you seem to be putting out a great performance."

"I promised Gary I'd bring him lunch." Tim had promised no such thing, but Gary's stomach rumbled at the sound of rustling paper and he stood on tiptoe behind Mike's shoulder and craned to see the face of his saviour.

That face was set in a half-pout, no Colin, all Tim behind the thick glasses (which it turned out Tim didn't need, but wore for the character--his own idea), and it twisted through a handful more expressions, Tim's eyes darting back and forth from Gary to Mike for a second.

"Can I come in?"

"Fine by me," Gary shrugged, "but you can't see any of my top-secret improv."

Tim's eyes narrowed. "Why does it even need to be top-secret?"

Mike rolled his eyes. "Gary, I'll be back in an hour and I don't want to see him around. Tim, the improv is top-secret so he can concentrate. Fuck with his mojo and you'll be wearing pocket protectors the whole second half of the film."

Gary made a grab for the paper sack, but somehow Tim's liquid leisured stroll through the doorway whisked him out of reach. "Nice place you got here."

"I brought the cable spools from home. They give it that je ne sais quoi."

"Why are they top-secret?"

"Really?" Gary shrugged, and put out his hand for a sandwich.

Tim shoved a flat, lukewarm hamburger into it.

"Because it drives you round the bend. And don't you like the word 'top-secret'?"


"Mike does," Gary smirked, and took a bite. Lots too much mustard, a bit of dill, a soggy ring of onion--all in all, not as bad as he'd expected. It was amazing the garbage he'd eat when he was genuinely hungry. "Where's this from?"

"Wimpy's near my flat, you wanker."

Gary pursed his lips in a kissy face. Tim gave him a two-fingered salute, but he didn't look angry--maybe a little curious, but mostly just lively, alert, some kinds of thoughts absorbing a share of his attention. Gary watched him seriously for a minute over the hamburger bun, polished off the hamburger, balled up the paper and threw it at Tim.

It glanced off his shoulder and Tim looked down at the ball of greasy paper on the floor. "That was low," he said.

"By about a foot," Gary agreed. "Want some coffee?"

Tim looked mildly surprised, but he stood and dusted off the seat of his jeans--the cable spools weren't the cleanest of perches--and tucked his hands in his back pockets. "I'll come with you. No point staying in the top-secret improv studio alone."

Gary admired for the thousandth time the five o'clock shadow under Tim's jaw that only showed up in sunlight, because the prickly little hairs were translucent gold. He quickly backed Tim up into a nearby stack of crates, still happily within the bar of brilliant white that fell on the floor from a high window. "On second thought," he said, hearing his voice go a little deeper, "want to take a five minutes' rain check?"

Tim raised one eyebrow, but his mouth quirked up in a smile. He looked around unnecessarily--the door was closed--and reached up to pluck out Gary's hair tie. Gary didn't say anything, just cocked his head in inquiry. Tim put his chin forward first, and tilted his head sideways only after their lips met and their noses bumped, and pulled Gary to him by the back of his neck and opened his mouth and licked possessively along Gary's tongue.

"Was that five minutes already?" Gary said when they pulled apart, wiping their mouths.

Tim raised his eyebrows and made a twirling motion with one finger to tell Gary to turn around. Gary closed his eyes when he felt Tim's hand pull back his hair. "I don't know, but I thought we'd better go get that coffee."

"Was my hair that bad?"

"Like a bird's nest," said Tim. "Gary. The coffee's that way."

"The break room--?"

"The good coffee."

It was in the anteroom to one of the producers' offices. "No wonder it tastes better when you get it," said Gary happily, helping himself to cream from the icebox.

Tim's eyes went smoky in an instant, eyelids lowering, smile secretive. "Everything does."

Gary snorted into his coffee cup, feeling warm and sort of light.

"When's the bird's nest going?" said Tim casually as they leaned on the wall halfway back to the top-secret improvisation studio, otherwise known as the warehouse.

Gary shrugged. "Might be near done with improv--filming has to start in a week and a half anyway."

Tim took another drink. "How about tonight?"

The shadows were long and translucent, watered down with grimy sunset and the curdled light of streetlights.

"I like staying on set late," Gary announced thoughtfully. "Have a biscuit."

He produced a packet from inside his jumper. Tim took the whole thing, ripped it open and dropped three in Gary's hand--blobby shapes that were meant to be circus animals topped with sickly pink icing. Gary loved the little buggers.

In front of him a battered blue Mini ran straight through a stop light. "Look, drives like you," he said to Tim, who was gnawing on one of the biscuits with one side of his mouth and looking doubtful.

"Well, at least he has a car," Tim shrugged.

"I don't see us riding in a car."

"Cars can't work all the time."

"The world would just be too perfect," said Gary, poking Tim sharply in the arm and snatching back the biscuits while he was distracted.

"It's not that late, you know," said Tim. "But it is a little exciting, isn't it? Ugh," he added, having finished chewing and swallowing the biscuit.

Gary sighed a tiny bit, happy to contemplate the job. He didn't dwell on it much; he tried to keep open and go with the flow et cetera, but of course he loved acting so passionately and he knew this could be a big break for him.

A motorbike parked on the sidewalk and a newspaper stand forced them off into the gutter for half a block, and Tim continued there, scuffing his boots deliberately. He started to whistle after a while, off-key, but when Gary joined in it was even worse. "Auugh, okay, stop," said Tim, and put out his hand palm-up. It took Gary a moment to realise he wanted another biscuit.

He was surprised to discover, looking down, that he must've eaten several large handfuls of them himself, but he dropped two into Tim's hand and hummed a few bars of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" just to be irritating.

"We can stop and pick up an electric razor, and a bucket for you to carry that tune in," Tim said with a straight face.

"I have an electric razor," said Gary.

"I--oh. Were you going to do it yourself?"

Gary quirked an eyebrow: "'Were'?"

He took Tim by the back of his bent elbow and lifted until Tim came back up on the sidewalk, looking at him sidelong with an expectant expression which Gary more or less ignored as he steered him round one corner, which became a corner and two blocks and another corner and across the street and nearly became the corners and blocks and street and right into an alley where he could throw Tim up against the wall and fasten his mouth at the bottom of Tim's neck.

Fortunately Tim stopped stretching his neck when he caught Gary's eye. "Where are we going?" he said. "I mean, this isn't where your flat was last week. And I wasn't serious about the bucket, but if you really want one I have one I could give you."

Gary let his lips twitch up in half a smile.

"Not that it's likely to help much."

Gary growled playfully and was a little surprised to see a funny expression cross Tim's face, mainly concentrated around his eyes--his face had to tilt up to look at Gary even on even ground, and his eyes were--well, it was hard to say, though in the light they were certainly a darker, glass bottle shade of green. "Well, to answer your question--and your singing isn't that great either--we're going to pick up some pain medication before beginning the operation."

"They've actually disproven conclusively that idea that hair has nerves in it," Tim informed him inside the off licence.

Gary smirked. "I meant pain medication for you."

"Ah. In that case, how about a bottle of peach schnapps?"

Gary plastered a horror-movie scream look on his face. "Get out of my house."

Tim laughed and put it back on the shelf. "We're not in your house. ... No more biscuits for you."

Gary was crouched in front of a shelf of Jaegermeister, head to one side examining the labels. "I don't actually have a house."

"I'm glad you weren't keeping that from me." Gary shivered a little at the feel of Tim's presence along his back, his hand on Gary's shoulder. He looked up, open-mouthed, to see Tim looking down at him, and blinked a bit.

"What I do have is the packet of biscuits."

Tim pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Good point."

Gary was being warmed pretty efficiently from behind. When he straightened his back and brought them closer, rolling his shoulders a little, Tim smiled suddenly, but the look on his face was funny again. Why had Gary thought he could read him so remarkably well that first day? He never knew what Tim was thinking and it always drove him crazy wanting to know. You always saw it right there in the open and--but it was like it was written in another language.

And then it was gone.

Gary had never seen a face like Tim's--well, all the quirks and wrinkles, the actual shape aside--he'd never seen a face like Tim's for producing such an incredible range of expression, sometimes so swiftly--so open and so secret.

Hmm. While he was savouring this tension between them, he couldn't help yearning for a resolution. He didn't know how, or what, exactly. That was the problem.

"I... already have vodka," said Gary slowly, because he'd come up behind Tim holding a bottle of it. Tim put the bottle back.

"It's a nice bottle," he said carelessly.

Gary had a bottle of gin in his hand already. Tim turned around with a bottle of rum and a bottle of tequila. "What do you think?"

Gary raised an eyebrow. "I think those are girl drinks."

Tim laughed. "You can leave the fruit juice. I'll swill it straight from the bottle to make you feel better."

"You can carry the bag," said Gary, passing it over straight from the cashier's hand.

"You just don't want to share the rest of the biscuits."

Gary pushed the door open and let the light out and the dusk in, then went down one step to the pavement and waded out into the witching grey-blue that had filled the city while they were in the store.

The sun still glinted, its last gasp, in flashes like luminescent berry syrup to the west.

"I kind of assumed you could carry a bag of alcohol and eat biscuits at the same time," Gary explained. "It doesn't take both hands, does it."

At the speaking silence he looked over. Tim had folded the top over, and folded both his hands over it. His look of confusion and innocence, dusky with blue, barely lit with fading red, belonged in a film somewhere, or at least in a picture album.

"Ah." He made a show of unfolding the packet of biscuits and fishing one out, held it between thumb and forefinger and squinted at the pink icing (which was looking less appetising in the dying light), before popping it into his own mouth and biting down with a deliberate crunch.

"Hey, come on," said Tim. "Do you plan to just torment me all--evening?"

Gary slid a glance sideways and smiled to himself. He'd been going to say night, hadn't he. He held out another biscuit, one with a tiny crumbled spot on one blob (which might have been a leg or tail). Tim opened his mouth pointedly, and Gary, grinning on the inside, leaned forward a little to see his hand as he held it out. Tim didn't alter the way he held his head at all, just waited until Gary's hand was in place and closed his lips around the biscuit, almost brushing Gary's fingertip.

Gary looked down at the pavement, up at the sky, flicked his gaze across the street. Night had almost made all those things the same colour by the time he held open the door of his flat for Tim.

Tim put the plastic bag on the table and turned around like he was pulled by a magnet and faced Gary immediately.

"I'll just get that razor," said Gary, taking a step closer to Tim instead of to the bathroom, and leaned in for just a brief kiss--it seemed so ridiculously easy, and nice, and Tim never minded at all--but he didn't lay a casual kiss there either, because Tim grabbed his head to hold him in place and settled his feet like he was digging in for a long fight and went at kissing him in a thoroughly concentrated way.

An intense way, a way that seemed to have some thought behind it. His hands spread out, wrapped around the sides of Gary's head, and Gary spared a thought for how they had first appeared broad, but each finger was long and thin, even bony, and like all of Tim they were sort of small up close, though seeming large and solid from far away. Well, almost all of him. The sizeable bulge he always carried in his trousers gave a pleasingly accurate impression of the size of his cock.

Tim kissed like he had a goal and a plan of attack, and like he was perfectly confident Gary was outgunned--like he'd always got what he wanted and didn't know to expect failure, which almost couldn't have been further from the truth.

Gary took a breath in sharply through his nose, tilted his head, softened his mouth--responding willingly, not fighting--letting Tim lead, and promptly taking the hint when Tim drew back just a little and tilted back his head to lift his (long, slender) neck.

Gary was a fan of Tim's neck to say the least.

Whether it was a gesture of general submission or an offer in particular of the neck didn't really matter. Gary could be dominant. He seized Tim's hips and followed the warm moist gust of breath back to his parted lips, closed up Tim's open mouth with his own and made himself comfortable, kissing slow, and dirty, a little cocky play-acting, a little of playing not exactly fair, but all real. He wasn't going to refuse an invitation and if Tim didn't know what he was letting himself in for--

What he asked--

Just maybe, after all, he knew. There wasn't surprise, there was no protest, just satisfaction, Tim boneless and breathtakingly graceful pressing up against him and still kissing him back.

And when he put Tim a little away from him, holding him there with hands on his shoulders, that look of open invitation was still there.

There was a hint of something else as well--a veil of reserve, perhaps the last of many overlapping presences in Tim's eyes, which amazingly turned all translucent, though none truly comprehensible, in the light.

"Have some rum," said Gary, clearing his throat. "And biscuits." He set the packet on the table. It had only got a little crushed during their kissing.

Tim snorted.

Gary went for the razor.

Tim wasn't in the kitchen when he came back. Gary shook the last three biscuits into his hand, crunched them all up in his mouth at once, and as the honey-sugar taste spread itself across his tongue, peered into the living room. Tim was behind the television set.

Gary said, "You know..., you're a strange man."

Tim turned and held up an old newspaper with slightly curled edges. "You don't want this, do you?"

"Not particularly."

"Good." He picked his way back over the cable, skirted the flimsy plastic coffee table, vaulted over the sofa.

Gary raised his eyebrows. "Going to do your own stunts?"

A quick smile flashed onto and off of Tim's face. "I'm used to embarrassing myself," he said.

Gary thought: I just bet.

What with opening a packet of crisps--"Too many biscuits; I need some fucking salt," said Gary--and drinking beer and a smidge of rum, and Tim giving vent to his passionate political beliefs--"Fuck Margaret fucking Thatcher"--and Tim's vehement cursing turning Gary on, it took them almost an hour to spread out the newspaper on the floor. Gary sat cross-legged in the middle of it, lifting his arms up behind him to pull all his hair into a pony tail.

Tim chewed a potato crisp and watched him with his head to one side. "Why are you putting it up instead of taking it down?"

"You cut the ponytail first. Makes it easier," said Gary. "Oh. Would you get me those scissors? Drawer on the end."

Tim mimed throwing them at him point-first, then carried them over instead and dropped them at Gary's feet, where the tiny wind they created blew up one overlapping corner of the paper. But when Gary started to pick them up, he took them back and kneeled behind Gary.

Gary took a swallow of beer and arched his neck expectantly. He felt Tim's hands on his head through his hair, one flat on the top--and the touch was barely there. Whether it was meant as a caress or to steady Tim as he cut--and the other one on the ponytail somewhere, because it moved with a tug, and then he heard the slow snick of the scissors and his head got lighter.

Gary held his head still.

"It's not a very big ponytail," said Tim.

"Let me ask you something," said Gary at almost the same time, and turned his head cautiously to look over his shoulder. He imagined he could feel the cut hairs that weren't in the ponytail sifting onto his neck and shoulders.

Tim wrinkled his nose a bit, but he looked attentive enough.

"Why tonight? Why do you want to do it?"

Tim ruffled what Gary could feel were some horribly uneven ends left over from the ponytail shape and raised an eyebrow. "Is this a trick question?"

"No," said Gary, turning back around.

There was a little silence. Then, "Is my ordinary, general knowledge of electric razors going to get me through this or is there something I need to know that could permanently or temporarily injure one of us?"

Gary shook his head, smiling, and drained the rest of his beer. He put the empty bottle down on the corner of the newspaper island in the middle of his kitchen floor.

They really were in the middle of it, right under the light fixture, and the yellow light was concentrated--albeit, not very much, because it wasn't such a bright light--just over their heads. The amount of slightly dirty poly flooring spreading out past the edges of the paper was more or less symmetrical, though the kitchen was rectangular, not square. The light was that colour kitchen lights so often are, like someone was trying to duplicate the light of an open fire on a hearth; but as hanks of hair drifted to the floor around them the light reflecting off them looked white.

His head was tingling as the electric razor stopped whining. He reached up to feel his head and his hands ran into Tim's, brushing off a lock of hair.

Gary shook his head rapidly and ran both hands over his scalp. He'd expected it to be pricklier, for some reason. Shaving was supposed to make things smooth. It was just that the skinheads you saw in the street usually had some kind of five o'clock shadow. Maybe by five a.m., he would.

That was something he wanted to say to Tim, not entirely because of the mention of five in the morning. He still wasn't sure if it was safe to assume Tim would be there to find out.

"It's smooth," he said, seeking out Tim's eyes.

Tim said, "I can't deny that." He didn't look too unhappy--more fascinated. "You look," he said, "completely different."

Gary grinned. "A little more o' Coxy?"


"I didn't really expect it to be smooth," said Gary. "You know?" He couldn't stop running the palm of his hand over it!

"You wanted stubble?" said Tim. "I wonder if it itches like when you first start to shave."

Gary eyed the complex sculpting of Tim's jaw and neck, not because he wasn't familiar with it, but it made an excuse. "I imagine you had lots of cuts too, but with any luck I can avoid that. It doesn't itch. Yet."

"No," said Tim absently.

"I realised it's probably because you hardly ever see skinheads when they've just shaved."

"Slobs," Tim agreed.

"It's five o'clock shadow all over the skull," said Gary.


"I'll have some later. Maybe by five in the morning." It had taken a while, but he'd said it! But there was no apparent reaction. It was silent for a moment.

Then Tim lunged forward like a cat after a dangling bit of twine--or almost as suddenly--and laid the flat of his palm over Gary's head. Gary went cross-eyed staring up at the tendons in his wrist.

Most of the hair had fallen on the newspapers. "Good plan," said Gary admiringly. They folded the edges of them up to the centre, balled the whole thing up and stuffed it in the rubbish under the sink. "Let's move this party to the sofa."

Tim snagged the bottle of rum. "Are we having a wake?"

Gary shrugged and settled into the sofa cushions.

"I feel oddly possessive of your hair," Tim announced after a little while.

Somehow Gary had slouched down till his head was nearly on Tim's shoulder. Holding his neck at an angle was a little uncomfortable. He gave a little wriggle, oozed further down in the seat and let it rest there.

"I thought it might be better if I cut it," he explained.

"Sort of like assisted suicide," said Gary.

Tim started to turn his head, probably to give him a quick glare, and appeared to only realise then that if he did, Gary's head would probably get stuck under his chin.

"Don't worry," said Gary dryly, "I'm mocking myself."

He heard but didn't see Tim make a "hmm"ing sound, and he thought there was one of those little pauses where Tim was about to speak, but no words came out, so perhaps he imagined it. Tim's hand was, however, stroking very slowly down his arm. It had made it past the sleeve of his t-shirt and the pad of his thumb was tracing Gary's inner elbow, in fact, until his hand curled slowly around his arm like he wanted to see what it would look and feel like there.

There was a drink of rum, and their hands colliding on the bottle, and somehow Gary ended up holding it to Tim's lips and tipping it up for him--playfully, he thought, but no one was laughing. And when he inevitably spilled some of it he leaned in to lick it off without even putting down the bottle.

Tim's mouth went from passively waiting to opening eagerly, and Gary was sucking on his lower lip, biting at the corner of it where the long-gone drop of rum had been, so that he didn't even notice when Tim took the bottle from him and set it on the coffee table.

They rushed out of their clothes, in such a hurry that Gary got caught in his shirt, and Tim's jeans got stuck at his ankles; and before Gary could unfold himself from the floor, where he was tugging them off, Tim had pulled him haphazardly back up on the couch. He didn't land on Tim's lap because they overbalanced, and Tim landed half on his side, half on his back, breath leaving in a whoosh.

Gary pressed Tim's hips down into the cushions, one with each hand, and reached to stroke along the inside of Tim's thigh while he buried his face in his neck like he'd been wanting to do--all day--or longer. He loved the rush of power, the pleasure of seeing Tim pinned there, eyes wide, mouth swollen and soft, submissive at his mercy, the incredible smoothness of Tim's neck, so soft and resilient. And he still hadn't figured out what to call the skin smell under the sweat, but it was unique to Tim, a little musky, and it was concentrated on his neck.

When Tim flipped them over and wrapped his hand around Gary's cock, two cushions were kicked onto the floor and it took Gary probably five seconds to connect the neuron-firings in his brain through the sudden, fierce raging of desire. Finally his ears and eyes compared notes and he realised where the cushion was and closed his eyes--the pressure was hot and unexpectedly powerful, Tim's hand clutching and releasing and sliding just as he liked it, so good, so good.

"I think I'll stay," Tim whispered, so close his breath stirred across Gary's open mouth. "And see how your stubble is coming at five o'clock."

"Oh," Gary said, but it was really more of a gasp. Some emotion or impulse that felt most like a scalding pressure filling the inside of his ribcage was stopping him from speaking too. It wasn't just the pleasure of a really good handjob on a prick that had been half-interested all day, and it wasn't just Tim, and it wasn't just that he was young and could wank six times in a day sometimes.

It wasn't emotion, and it wasn't sensation. It was some terrifying combination of the two, all the more terrible because it was indecipherable, and he felt like he was drenched in sweat and exhausted, when he was really just relaxing on his back, working his jaw and clutching the sofa while Tim's lips closed again over the head of his prick. And the need was so terrible because he didn't know what it was that he needed.

"Jesus, Tim," he gasped, and later he even said "please." Tim smiled around Gary's prick. It was brilliantly obscene, the way he could feel it. And then he swallowed more, sucking steadily, Jesus, it was so wet, soft all around the length of him--

The orgasm was a sharp, sweet contraction that made him bite his lip and dig his teeth into it, and wonder in the first moment of its aftermath what exactly they were doing, and what exactly he felt.

"Stay," he murmured dreamily when he was staring at the ceiling, Tim naked and spilled halfway across him, one wrist dangling off the edge of the couch like it was part of a shirt and not a person at all.

Tim said quietly, with the oddest quicksilver note running through his voice, "The thing is that I already said I would."

"I know," Gary said, feeling Tim's softened prick lying on his belly and his own arm wrapped around Tim's ribs and glued there with sweat. "But I hadn't asked you."

Tim buried his nose in Gary's neck, and moved a little, either making his head comfortable or nuzzling. "Oh," he said, "okay."

Things were going pretty well. In fact, last night he'd been at Jimmy's consuming horse piss once again instead of beer (or rum), and his garbled musing had irritated Randall so badly he tossed his hair twice. "What exactly is the problem?" Randall had said.

And he couldn't exactly say any of his half-formed thoughts. "The first night," Gary had said at last, because he hated to look like he couldn't even make up his mind what to brood about in the privacy of his own head.

"You spot a wet dream under a lamppost, pick him up and have four mind-blowing fucks and you're complaining?" Randall had said.

"Well," Gary had said, "when you put it like that."

"You skinheads," said Randall in disgust.

A few days after Gary's grand entrance to general rehearsals as Coxy the skinhead, Mike scribbled down a filming schedule. He'd arranged to start immediately before Gary's stitches actually came out--TV-film budgets being what they were, there was a little time crunch--and as soon as they were out, he'd film his first scene. And then Mike'd forgotten.

So this morning when Mike had mentioned pushing a scene up to land on the first day instead of the second and Gary had fingered the stitches on his brow, Mike had looked surprised and apologetic. "You wouldn't think I could forget them after looking them in the face all day."

"That's my face, thank you very much," said Gary. "And if they're encroaching that badly, I think it's time to reclaim it."

"You want me to do what?" Tim said absently.

Gary drummed the fingers of his right hand on the underside of his left elbow and willed Tim to turn around and look at him, and considered doing something drastically crazy if he didn't. "Take--out--my bleedin'--stitches," he enunciated.

"I--you can't mean literally."

Gary threw a crumpled receipt from his pocket at the nape of Tim's neck and hit his ear. "Bleeding, no, but taking out the damn stitches, yes. Sometime today?"

Tim turned around, script dangling in his hand, and squinted at Gary with a priceless lip-curling sneer of confusion. "Have you--I'm sorry--why?"

"You did such a good job with the hair, they're gone tomorrow anyway, I'm sick to death of it, Mike wants to film the billiards scenes a day early, I don't want anyone else that near my eye with scissors."

Tim felt in his pocket and pulled out a jangling key ring and threw it at Gary. It hit his upper arm, but he wasn't sure where Tim had aimed. "Take my car to the hospital."

Gary threw them back with better aim. Tim almost caught them. "Nah. Come on. I told Mike you'd take care of it." He hid a smile at Tim's irritated expression. "Don't you have a scene to do? We'd better hurry."

"I have a few hours," said Tim absently, spreading his feet to make a steady stance and shifting his centre of weight back a little. Gary wriggled his eyebrows suggestively at Tim. Tim took off Colin's glasses--up close the tortoiseshell frames were translucent partly, the light caught in veins of yellow swirling in the plastic--and rubbed the bridge of his nose, half chuckling and half snorting.

"You're chortling," said Gary. "You're actually chortling. Mike! Where's Mike? I want this moment on film."

Tim tilted his head just a little, looked up at Gary from under the arch of his hand. When he raised his eyebrows his whole forehead wrinkled up. Gary loved that. It made the look unforgettable. He could raise his eyebrows, but it would never be as impressive. "You want to capture my chortling on film," said Tim, having already stopped chortling, "or do you want me to wave around a pair of scissors under your eye?"

"Too easy," Gary retorted. "Was that a trick question?"

Tim put his glasses back on and his hands in his pockets. "We'd better go find some good light."

Good light meant either a fluorescent bathroom fixture or the sunlight, provided it wasn't too cloudy. Gary balanced two folding chairs on his shoulder. "No," he said, "I'll take them both; I'm bigger."

And Tim said, "We both know who's bigger where it counts," and Gary smiled reminiscently, because it was an excellent point, and he had plenty of good memories associated with it.

They were getting a lot of entertainment from this sexual innuendo game.

Tim held open the door to a boring square of permanently damp, mildewed cement patio. The grass beyond it, almost due for a trim, was getting long and looked inviting, but Gary reluctantly put the chairs down on the more even surface. Then he handed Tim a small pair of sharp-pointed sewing scissors he'd got from wardrobe and a handful of toilet paper.

Tim raised one eyebrow and drew down the other in a charming look of displeased surprise, and when he looked at Gary there might even have been a pout lingering around his mouth--which was excellent for pouting although his lips themselves weren't full.

"There shouldn't be blood," Gary assured him. He'd had stitches out a few times before over the course of a childhood spread over a handful of inhospitable environments.

Tim shook his head, exasperated, but he dragged the folding chair closer to Gary's, until his knee was touching the edge of the chair seat between Gary's spread legs. Gary smiled slightly and closed his eyes. He thought of watching the whole thing cross-eyed, but didn't want to make Tim too nervous.

"Come on," said Gary. "You know, it might be better if you cut it."

The scissors had already whispered open and clicked shut twice. "Much," said Tim, snick, "as I like--your stitches," and he snipped through the last one, "I don't think it's going to be too hard on me."

"You won't miss them?" Gary inquired. The entire surface of his face was sensitised, awake and tingling sharply at each brush of fingertip.

"Noooooo." Tim spoke a little slowly and his voice was a little closer; he'd leaned in to get a better look as he grabbed hold of the thread and--


Ah. It was an odd sensation, but, Gary decided as Tim made an indeterminate sound and started pulling out the second stitch, rather sensuous, even erotic. He could just smell Tim with their heads this close together, could hear him breathing, and Tim's other hand was spread across his other cheek. Gary swallowed.

"No, I think I can cope. I wasn't too attached."

"You'll have this scar to remind you."

Tim still didn't sound too sure about the scar. "True."

"It's going to be a great scar," Gary insisted. "Great."

He heard a little pause in Tim's breathing just before he got the last stitch totally free, then a sighing release. "It may be growing on me," Tim said.

Gary opened his eyes, not too fast. He was rewarded with the sight of Tim's face, looking intent and studying him steadily, filling almost his whole field of view. "It'll grow back, you know," he said, feeling that oddly sensuous dragging deeper inside, a sort of pressure, as though the words were a thread pulled from the centre of his chest up through his throat.

"Yeah?" Said Tim searchingly.

"Maybe a year. Or a year and a half." The light wasn't in Tim's eyes, quite, but apparently it didn't have to be; it was close enough that they picked it up, pupils a little contracted, irises wide and luminous, mossy and golden. The slick, sharp-slipping thread shocked bits of him that were unaccustomed to any feeling on the way out. Gary caught his breath for a moment as it came free.

"I--," said Tim, and might have smiled. And didn't say anything else.

"It looks like we're not going home early after all," was all Mike said in response to Gary's newly thread-free eyebrow. He sounded satisfied with the prospect.

Gary wandered by himself to the good coffee pot with the producer's offices and found it for once occupied. The producer who was pouring coffee didn't look familiar to Gary, but she probably knew who he was, because she didn't seem surprised to see a skinhead, and actually handed the pot directly to him, rather than setting it back on the plate.

The anteroom where the coffee pot was to be found was narrow but not exactly small. There was no table, just the coffee pot and an upholstered bench under a window that must have been facing precisely the right direction, because Gary was just in time to catch the last of the light coming through it before the sun moved past and the angle of light moved the warm sunbeam off the bench seat.

He seated himself in it. There was a feeling, though not necessarily a smell, of dust in the nubbly fabric, as there usually was in such places. Glancing down at his legs, he saw highlighted in the sunbeam a few glittering motes which quickly settled again.

Gary leaned into the wall--cooler now, but with traces of warmth lingering that told him the sun had been on it too not long ago. He sat up straighter and flattened his shoulder blades against it. The feel was soothing.

When Gary closed his eyes, his attention zeroed automatically on the incipient scar bisecting his eyebrow. The skin was still pink, and produced low level sensations that he could feel whenever he concentrated. The phantoms of the stitches, a faint pulsing in time with the beat of his heart, a general sensitivity, the revenant of Tim's careful touches.

The coffee was hot and sweet, and he drank the dregs of it too, the sugar that never quite got stirred all the way in. After a while he set his coffee cup on the windowsill and drew up his knees. The sun had moved on: it formed a square high on the wall that flamed white, an oasis in the flat dun wallpaper that surrounded it.

He woke up tasting cigarettes, and then black coffee, and then Tim. Somewhere in there he realised that he was awake and that he was being kissed, and managed to open his eyes and orient himself in the real world of Tim's hands on his shoulders and remember where he was and open his eyes.

The door was closed.

Tim moved before Gary could attempt to read his expression--pointless because when could he ever actually successfully do that?--and pressed his mouth at the corner of Gary's jaw, by his ear. Gary arched his neck a little, sleepily pliant, and Tim said in a surprisingly normal tone for someone speaking against the skin of someone else's neck, "Got any plans? Let's go for a pint on the way back, hm?"

"Actually," Gary managed, "I was going to go for a pint; but you're welcome to tag along." He was still recovering from the damp feathering of Tim's lips under his ear.

"Sounds good," said Tim.

And they did.

Tim's face wasn't quite blank, but was definitely somewhat opaque, as he let himself through the door at Jimmy's and down the worn carpeted steps into the room. His nose wrinkled a little and one eyebrow rose. Gary thought he was torn between fascination and amusement, with perhaps some mild horror.

"What'll it be, Gary?" said Jimmy, behind the bar.

Tim said for both of them, "Two pints of stout." Gary looked at him, and he answered with, "I asked first."

Gary shook his head. "All right, Jimmy." Two pints were duly filled at the tap and slid across the smudgy bar to them in their smudgy glasses, and Gary wrapped his hand around his, enjoying the weight when he picked it up.

"Are we going to brave one of those--booths?" said Tim, hesitating over the last word apparently because he wasn't sure if they deserved the description. "Or just get pleasantly sloshed as quickly as possible and leave?"

Gary said thoughtfully, "I think I'm in favour of leaving." He wrapped his lips deliberately around the lip of the glass and took a long drink from the top. "Also, I think people who go into those booths don't always come out."

Tim settled himself gingerly on the stool next to Gary. "All right, then," he said, and took two cautious sips, then a good long pull. The muscles in his throat worked as he swallowed, and suddenly, despite the poor light, Gary could swear he could see a faint sheen of sweat.

Gary put his glass down. "I think I'm ready to go now," he said.

Tim laughed a little. "Personally, I can wait a few minutes." As his smile was fading he was looking into his drink, not at Gary.

Gary shrugged. Always worth a try.

The stout wasn't particularly good, but it was sweet, which was a point in its favour from Gary's point of view. He secretly rather liked the stout, like many aspects of Jimmy's. But he still wouldn't have sat in one of those booths. He knew the whores didn't always bother going out to the alley.

The light was of low quality, not just low, so some of the fixtures buzzed faintly sometimes, and everything inside looked grey--greyer than just from the typical pub miasma of old and new cigarette smoke. An orange spheroid of light spread under each light bulb, some of which dangled, some of which were fastened to the ceiling. The floor was best left unexamined.

Not that Gary hadn't examined it sometimes, on bad nights.

He was diffuse and vibrating with either expectancy or infatuation. Or both. He took another long drink and stole a glance at Tim's hands.

"I want you to understand," said Tim out of nowhere, "that I don't care about the answer to this anymore. I'm just curious."

"You can ask me anything you like," said Gary, "but I shouldn't make promises about my answers."

"Did you ever pick up a trick?"

Gary coughed and had to be slapped on the back. He came up out of the mug of stout scowling and sputtering: "Don't waste the alcohol."

Tim rolled his eyes. "I see you're all right."

"I never actually did, no," said Gary tightly, over an internal struggle, and took a long drink of stout to soothe what felt like a painful cramp somewhere inside him, or possibly over his whole body.

"You never looked for one?"

Gary shook his head, then thought better of such pedestrian cowardice. "No." Damn. Maybe it was less like the pulling out of stitches, and more like extracting a thorn or a splinter.

"You know, somehow, I think--" said Tim. "I don't know. Hmm." The expression on his face spoke of internal dialogue.

By the time he spoke again, Gary had finished the stout. He wondered if he should order another.

"If you were a trick..." Tim spoke so slowly that by the time the last word was out, Gary had looked up in surprise and caught a slightly self-deprecating, slightly mischievous grin on his face. "...How much would you cost?"

He knew his mouth was hanging open. He didn't care--that is, until he saw Tim lick his lips in response.

"I'd be. I'm not really the lamppost type," Gary said. "But then again, we're not exactly talking high rent."

"You're impulsive," added Tim, getting into the spirit.

"Impatient," said Gary.

"You just don't like lampposts?"

"Cliché," said Gary. "And uncomfortable. It wouldn't be a full-time job for me. Maybe just when I needed some cash."

Tim's lips twitched. "Maybe we could work something out."

"Stuff it, skinhead number three. ... I'd lean on something more comfortable. A car, perhaps. No lamp posts. Probably no brick. ...Maybe a little expensive. I'd probably ask you what you had and then make up a price."

Tim was looking at him and smiling.

"Jimmy. Another, please."

"You mean at the moment? What, five pounds?"

"Would you pay that?" said Gary, sultry as he could, but a little playful.

But Tim made it serious again. He tilted his head a little, green eyes narrowing. "I'd pay what I had," he said.

Gary opened his mouth to say "How much is that?", but he closed it again first.

"Or what I could get--or what I could borrow..."

"I'm getting a yes," said Gary, taking a drink.

Tim nodded. "Yes. I'd pay what I had. I'd take what I could get--that's what people do with hookers." Gary thought, but didn't say, that what people wanted from hookers was usually more or less what they got. And when Gary put the beer down, Tim picked it up and drank.

Gary was watching him when he set it down again with a decided thump. Tim met his eyes and the challenge in them, steady.

"It would be a little galling, mind you," said Tim.

"Hmm," said Gary, "I didn't really... ." But Tim quirked an eyebrow and he remembered his possessiveness, his forget the last guy who fucked you, and reconsidered.

"What are you thinking?" Was the next thing Tim asked--his tone was far from matter-of-fact, another Tim-special neutral, probably meant to be cautious or soothing.

Gary took another gulp of beer. "I don't know," he said. ..."That I don't want you to go home tonight."

"I can never read your face," said Gary, resisting the temptation to just keep walking until Tim was between him and the wall, not even letting him turn around, and put his mouth between Tim's neck and the collar of his shirt.

"I--what? I've never heard that one before."

"Nonetheless," he insisted, and turned the lock on the door behind him.

He didn't have to keep walking, because it was Tim who was right there when he turned around, standing with his hands behind his back and his eyes huge in the darkness, because they hadn't even flipped the wall switch.

Gary froze a moment in surprise, then eased back against the door, watching Tim consideringly.

Tim leaned into him. It was surprisingly not too uncomfortable having the door pressed against his back. "Usually," said Tim in that enigmatically soft voice, like he was still too fond of the words to let them go all the way, "I get how my face is expressive, or transparent. How I could show any emotion on it."

Gary sighed a little, trying not to sound too ridiculously pleased with the door digging into his back, the warmth of Tim all down his front, Tim's hands making bracelets round his wrists and Tim's thigh pressing his own apart. "Oh, it's expressive all right. I think you can show emotions that don't have names, and combinations--but you're anything but transparent. Your face is never really expressionless, but--you know it, you're always aware of it, you show the expression you want to put there."

Tim nodded, and moved his thigh a little almost thoughtfully. Gary, who was becoming quite aroused, made a wordless enquiring noise, bending his head and trying to see Tim's down-tilted face.

"You're right," Tim said, bending his head back.

"I know." Gary kissed him. Hand-to-hand, thigh-to-thigh, lip-to-lip they kissed, and Tim surged forward and squished Gary against the door, and their mouths were a little open, excited and not entirely steady or certain.

Tim finally let his feet take his own weight again, moving perhaps a centimetre away, breathing a little uneven. "Uh," he said.

"I want to know what you're really thinking," Gary confessed. "That doesn't show on your face."

What did show on Tim's face was a certain flummoxed hesitation. "Not to in any way change the subject," he said, "but since I don't know what to say to that--can we just go to bed?"

Tim seemed still in some inner conflict, flashing back and forth among almost violently fierce possessiveness, hesitancy, and pleased contentment. Shoving Gary against the corner of the bed, almost ripping his shirt off, then "Can I--?" and a look up through translucent gold eyelashes. His hand on Gary's shoulder, like he expected it to be thrown off. His hand curling and the nails digging into the flesh at Gary's waist until the pain turned sharp and Gary made some kind of noise. His teeth on Gary's collarbone, a slight scrape here, a sucking lick there--his unexpected stillness when he buried his face in Gary's neck, his rumbling hum of pleasure, the way he nuzzled into a slow kiss with patience and contemplation.

"Who was the last bloke who fucked you?" said Tim, backing Gary naked into the bed.

Gary shook his head, and smiled. "You."

"Before that," Tim demanded, hands on Gary's shoulders, weight on his hands, pinning Gary to the bed.

"Still you," said Gary pointedly, and Tim let it go and took hold of Gary's cock.

Lounging in the bed, stretched out at Gary's side, he looked confident and almost relaxed. And wicked, showing his teeth and licking his lips as Gary tensed and whimpered and thrust into his hand. But as Gary twitched like a fish on a hook of sensation, unexpectedly deep and sharp, Tim grew more absorbed until his head was bent so far Gary couldn't see his face. Though he paid less attention to what was happening, Gary knew Tim's strokes grew surer and firmer before he shifted close and ground his cock against Gary's hip; and his rhythm never faltered, but it switched to slow and teasing after he rested his chin on Gary's shoulder.

Gary writhed and clenched his teeth as sensation prickled and swelled around him, deep and heavy, then slowly receding. It was around then that Tim said "I'm feeling a little... rough," and Gary thought he sounded frustrated.

"Don't be a gentleman," he said, spreading his legs and grinning breathlessly.

But rough wasn't what Tim was. Tim was a controlled person, his incredible mastery of facial expressions, his calculated body language, even to his tones of voice, and though Gary had told him to let go, and he let himself make a noise that was almost a growl, there was control still; it was drawn in the lines of his body, in the way he looked up first with speaking, liquid eyes before he pressed in his first finger.

"You can never stop thinking," Gary didn't mean to say, but it came out anyway in a voice he didn't know he possessed, and Tim shuddered above him and finally pressed fully deeply home, in that moment bare of the control which had frayed away, the moment before he could pick it up again.

As Gary curled up languidly into the lush sinking penetration, as Tim's body bent over Gary like a bridge to bring their open mouths together, as the pools of orange sunlight died away on the windowsills and their bodies slicked with sweat it happened again and again--Tim's control trembled, faltered and shivered away from his face like a blanket of butterflies taking flight.

Gary watched it all helpless, pierced by arousal. He rose up gasping to answer every surge, swirl and thrust--opened himself sweating to every gentle and demanding touch deep within.

Tim bent over him, his face flushed and eyelids fluttering sensitively, buried to the hilt and holding fast to Gary's hips, barely shifting his stance, occasionally leaning a little or rolling his hips, so his hardness shifted inside. When Gary couldn't help but struggle a little, clutching slickly at Tim's cock, he saw Tim swallow and jerk Gary higher by the hips, opening him deeper to the invading burn.

The sweet, measured patience became slow and dreamy--rising and falling in unreal sensuous waves--then swiftly uneven as Tim seemed to lose all control and nearly his balance, slamming home again and again and babbling "You, I, get to, want you, can't"--finally forceful and nearly painful, like the air was squeezed right out of the room and their bodies would seize in some kind of shock. When he came orgasm battered itself frantically against Tim's face from the inside, willing powerfully to break free.

Something let go of Gary too in that instant, and he could relax, eyes nearly rolling back in his head, gasping or grunting now at every impact as Tim, still hard, jerked spasmodically into him twice, three, deeper, again, his cock pulsing sharply in the lazy slick clutch of Gary's muscles. Tim lunged forward, pressing Gary's body to the bed with his whole length, and took his mouth, licking at his teeth. Gary just tilted up his neck in submission and kissed him back until an aftershock, a last nudge of Tim's prick inside, sucked the energy out of him in a sweet, pulsing, lazy shudder of climax.

"You don't want me to stop thinking," Tim said before he opened his eyes.

"Mm," said Gary, "Nooo...," but how to say what he wanted? "At least, not all the time."

Tim laughed, laid himself carefully on his stomach next to Gary, propped himself on his elbows. "...Ugh."

Gary couldn't help smiling still. "Maybe every other day, or you could try once a week. Alternate Wednesdays. Not entirely."

"What is it about me," Tim grumbled, "that attracts the weirdest requests...?"

Gary had finally managed to find a handful of tissues and swiped at the come on his stomach with them. "What is it about you that attracts the weirdest people?"

Tim rolled over onto his back and rolled his eyes ceilingward: "Don't flatter yourself."

Gary, finished with the tissues, reached out with them and painted a streak of come over the ribs that were just barely visible through Tim's pale, sallow skin. "What are you thinking now?" he asked.

"I'm thinking..." Tim said softly, twiddling his thumbs on his stomach and staring fixedly at them, "...how long did you say it would take your hair to grow?"

Gary propped his head up on one elbow cautiously. There was that feeling again, a jagged blood-drawing scrape on the inside of his chest, stinging with each pronounced thump of his heart. "You get a discount--a year?"

"It was longer than that before," Tim accused.

"Year and a half?"

Tim looked up at him with a crooked grin. "Ask me what I'm thinking again."

Gary reached out to brush some hair away from Tim's forehead. Maybe Tim's could substitute, for a couple of weeks at least. "Dare me."

"I dare you to ask me what I'm thinking again."

"I'm afraid to," Gary suggested.

Tim's hipbones stood out a bit, poking in smooth shallow curves through the skin a little over the subtle swell of muscles in his thighs. He looked good in Gary's bed, wrinkling his nose, scoffing, "Bollocks."

Gary surrendered. "Tim."


"What are you thinking now?"

Tim's eyes closed. A flicker of expression in his face--Gary couldn't even have said what moved--hinted at satiation, triumph and the ghost of relief. "That I don't want to go home."

beta by kmazzy and wild boys; constant hand-holding, cheerleading and brainstorming by lilah. ♥