it's called the world
by cimorene

Gary really enters Tim's mental horizon again (in a big way, that is--an every day, morning-noon-night way) with Ray Winstone's first film. He's going to direct it and act in it, he's determined, and he calls Tim up and says "Remember we were talking about getting you, me, Gary all in one film? Well, I've decided to do it; I've got a part for you... ."

And apparently Gary said yes too, just as automatically, and in muddy spring 2020 there they are, each quite old, and shooting in Canada, because many things may change, but it will always be cheaper to shoot in Canada.

Tim likes Toronto, really he does. And over the years he's become quite at home there, although it pales in comparison to New York, his favorite city. Toronto is New York on Prozac, and maybe a lot of soap. And a good public transportation system. They even have the Canadian equivalent of Starbucks (which are absolutely vile, Tim despises them), and it's called Tim Horton's. Tim doesn't despise them quite as much as the American version. The only really bad thing about Toronto is that it's rather far from L.A., of which more later.

Gary wears sixty-two years well. He's lean, and the smile lines make crow's feet on his face when it's somber, but he smiles so much they vanish most of the time anyway. The dark, finely curly hair Tim has admired so much over the years--and that, too, had vanished from the mental horizon; but all of a sudden he's remembering thirty years back and Rosencrantz's hair, that baby hair escaped from Gary's ponytail, tickling his nose--is grizzled but still dark. A no-nonsense cut has grown a little shaggy over his ears, fringing over the tops of dark glasses. The sunlight drizzles over his face like it was born to love him.

Tim glories in the feel of their elbows brushing together, and it's the fourth street-crawl they've done in the last two days; this is what it felt like having a mate, someone really almost inseparable. They fell into it like into a well-worn boot.

Gary stops him, leans towards his shoulder and takes his arm. He says, "Look, it's another Tim's!" He takes delight in saying this.

"If you point out every one of the fucking things everywhere we go," says Tim patiently, not bothering to hide a smile, "we'll never make it to the station."

"What's that, three in one block?" Gary grins. "Tim is everywhere. Darling, has it also escaped your notice, as well as mine I mean, for all these years, that Canadians have really excellent taste?"

Tim says dryly, "I can't say it occurred to me, no. Although--they're very clean. And polite. I'll say that for them."

Gary is steering him gently toward the Tim Horton's. So far Tim has escaped them, but his first week in Toronto isn't even up yet and he's not offering much resistance. Gary pauses. "You wouldn't think that would endear them to you," he says, and glances speakingly at Tim, who's crushed his dishwater hair under a rather ratty hat. Then he shrugs. "Oh, well." The waitress is somewhat younger than Tim's youngest son, which probably puts her at Charlie Oldman's age. She recognizes Gary at once. "Sirius!" She says, going a little giddy.

Gary smiles charmingly. "Espresso and two dog biscuits," he winks.

She stops barely short of clapping her hands. "Hey," she hisses at the young man in peaked green hat running the next register, "It's Sirius Black--I mean Gary Oldman," at which the vague basketball-player type squints over at them.

Gary spreads his shoes a little on the floor, patiently, and rests both his hands on the edge of the counter. "Oh, hey man," says the other cashier. "Some great stuff. The Fifth Element, hardcore."

"Dog biscuits," says the girl, and grins.

"Thank you. Better make that croissants in my everyday disguise," says Gary patiently. "--And some cappuccino for Professor Lupin, here," when he looks sideways and divines the faint horror with which Tim is studying the menu.

The girl squints at him. "You're not Remus," she says accusingly. "Whipped cream?"

"No," says Tim, "and no thanks."

"I meant my Lupin," says Gary, deftly removing the croissants on their napkins from the girl's orbit and shoving one at Tim.

She comes back with a cappuccino and an espresso and says, "Hey," blush, "could I--"

Gary grins and shows, Tim sees, two dimples, including one of the rare ones on his chin at the side of his smile. He grabs a spare napkin and a pen and has finished signing before the girl's even got the request out.

"You know, I turned down the part of Snape in the first one," says Tim, leading the way to a small table with a tendency to rock.

"I know, dear. You've mentioned it plenty of times," says Gary, scooping up Tim's croissant and moving it to a corner booth.

"Not that many. We've hardly seen one another since those films," says Tim.

"It was plenty, though," says Gary, sitting down and pushing back the sleeves of his suit coat a little. Underneath he's wearing a plain red t-shirt with a slightly frayed collar. A transparent spot over his left collar bone gives way to a tiny hole.

Tim takes a bite of croissant. It's not quite properly flaky, but the butter flavor is strong. The cappuccino tastes four fifths sugar. He pulls a face and tries another, smaller sip. "Now we've gone in here, will you leave me alone about it?"

He surprises himself by surprising a sudden smile out of Gary. "Maybe." Their eyes meet over the rims of the dark glasses and Tim ends up with a lot of flaky pastry stuck to his face.

("Fuck," he mutters. What was that? He thinks. His subconscious answers: Just Gary. Oh yes. Another thing that fades with long separation.) "Why don't you take off the glasses?" He asks.

Gary purses his lips to take a long sip of espresso. "Can't," he says briefly. "They're prescription. No glasses."

Tim beams and says sympathetically, "Getting a little old for contacts, old man?" He's always loved to tease Gary about this.

Gary looks at him narrowly and takes the glasses off deliberately. He sets them precisely in the center of the table without looking and leans forward. The heat in the room goes up. Gary has a way of controlling the entire room, any room he's in. And when he moves, it's like Tim can see laid over the image of him an image of all the red-hot wires strung through his joints and the centers of his limbs, like every motion is coiled power and sensuality.

He takes the lid off his steaming cup and without breaking eye-contact, drinks all of it, like beer-chugging, tilting his head back and stretching out the long column of his neck. Tim watches the muscles of Gary's throat work rhythmically and winces a little, knowing the liquid was still burning hot with the corner of his mind not transported to the gutter.

It used to be not much effort to sublimate this. In fact, he didn't have to sublimate it, because the attraction was pleasant and useful, but comfortable, and not particularly urgent. He never used to feel the absence when Gary left the room. He never used to forget to breathe when he watched Gary swallow--well, all right, once or twice--but it never went beyond that. Gary's not shaved and his jaw line and the soft skin under it are sprinkled with silver stubble.

He puts down the cup, looking smug, and wipes his mouth on the cuff of his suit coat, which is silk, Tim's designer-trained eye is able to tell. Gary raises an eyebrow.

"Don't look at me," says Tim, taking a meek and submissive sip of his scalding cappuccino. It's actually cooled a bit and doesn't make more than a token attempt to burn his tongue, but he's still cautious. After he swallows it he discovers to his surprise that the flavor is growing on him.

Gary looks satisfied.

"I haven't got the throat for it," says Tim. "And have you ever drunk one of these?" Gary looks only slightly guilty. "It's like the condensed explosion of a sugar refinery, in a cup." Gary looks elaborately innocent. "Damn you," Tim says, breaking out finally in laughter, "bastard."

"Don't you like sugar?"

"Well, yeah--just not this much at once."

"I remember on Meantime my milk bottles weren't good enough for you." Gary fingers the facial scar Tim gave him with an accidental throw of said milk-bottle. "Chocolate milk then, wasn't it? And you were always carrying around packets of cookies."

Tim slouches back in the booth and feels the warmth of the sugar and cappuccino spread through him. "Bastard," he repeats, grinning, and kicks Gary under the table. Gary ignores this. "It's probably your throat toughening with age anyway," he adds.

Gary gives a little growl, playful and deliberate, and mimes reaching across the table for Tim's neck. Unconsciously Tim finds his throat exposed, his chin lifting like in offering. That rumbling sound prickled up all the hairs on the back of his neck.

"Get as much mileage out of it as you can," Gary advises. "On your next birthday I'm going to be there, prepared."

Tim is still fifty-nine. "I'll be waiting," he promises with a sultry look.

But Gary laughs and the air changes. Tim sips quietly at his cappuccino, thinking, trying not to. His phone rings. He gives an apologetic shrug, picks it up. It's Nikki. "Hi, babe."

There's a zooming, crackling sound, then a hiss and it's cut off. "Sorry," she says, "I'm in the car. I just thought I'd warn you to expect a call from Timmy."

"Warn me?" He says curiously.

She sighs a little. Tim can hear a car horn in the background. "Fucking--" she mutters. "I'm not telling you, nuh-uh. I can't do that to him. Listen, he's not going to sound it, Tim, but he's a little nervous, so could you try not to--fuck." There's a little silence. "Okay. Just--don't expect anything, be cool, okay?"

"Sure," he says cautiously. Nikki knows better than to take that for unqualified agreement. "If, you know, if it is cool, I'm cool with it."

She laughs a little, exasperatedly. "You thick-headed little prick," Nikki says affectionately.

Tim grins and muffles a laugh, takes another drink of cappuccino. "Love you too, hon. I'll try. Really. Are you gonna come up?"

"Well, I'll see," she says. "I've been thinking about doing some shopping. But now... ."

"Aw," he whines.

Across the table Gary seems to be paying him no attention, eating his croissant with small, neat bites.

"I'll try. Really," Nikki mimics him. "Can you stop clinging, for God's sake?"

"I miss you," Tim explains, no longer whining, but matter-of-fact explanation.

"We don't live together anymore, remember?" She says crisply. Then she adds, "But I miss you too. I'll call you tonight."

"Do that. And you could move back in." The line crackles.

Nikki's voice is going a little dim. "No, I couldn't. Are you having fun?"

Tim eyes Gary. "Sure you could. Yeah, yeah, actually--more than I thought." Gary looks up at him then, as if he knows he's talking about him. Tim determinedly stops fidgeting with his hands. His foot drums an impatient midair tattoo under the table.

"Great. I knew it." She sounds smug and is ignoring the other bit entirely. "Later, okay?" Her patented kissing noise in the phone.

"Love you."

"Bye." He snaps the antenna down and shoves it back in his pocket. The cappuccino is getting from hot to just warm by now. He's able to take a long drink of it.

"You two are divorced, aren't you?" Says Gary.

To Tim, it's not in the least strange. He has to rewind the conversation in his mind and he grins, because it probably sounds to Gary just like it used to twenty years ago when he and Nikki were in love like, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. "Yeah," he says. Another long drink of cappuccino and he licks his lips. He thinks he can feel the moment when the sugar from the first big gulp hits with a sharp shock.

Gary shakes his head.

"I know. Just because of that, she doesn't want to live with me."

They throw the styrofoam cups in the trash on their way out; Gary slides his dark glasses on and his hands into his pockets and they're strolling down the street again, sublimating like crazy. Tim thinks about what to say. On the one hand, he's always been pretty private about Nikki. On the other, it's Gary and it's not like he can't trust him and he's really enjoying this new matey closeness. On the first hand again, how can he hope to explain? And back to the second, he can't really disregard the unexpected force of the chemistry that's affecting him now.

I mean, really, you can say no to your hormones for a certain amount of time, but when they start kicking you repeatedly in the arse at the age of fifty-nine and demanding incessantly, in really loud voices, that you get closer, pull out all the stops, no-holds-barred down-and-dirty ASAP... well, the bottom line is that Tim is used to going with instinct.

So, okay.

Gary's silent for a bit, not uncharacteristically, but Tim detects strain in it. He thinks Gary's hurt, or wary.

"Well, the thing is," he says apologetically, "I didn't really want her to leave, and I didn't see why we had to go through with it."

"Still heartbroken?" Says Gary distantly. "You didn't sound it." What's that sound?

"Oh no," says Tim emphatically, "No, she was totally right about one thing, it was all over. You just keep growing, you know. It was time. See--I mean, I love her. But after all that time, now we know one another like--it'd be almost incestuous. Neither one of us was really interested in that."

It's a phone, Tim realizes. Gary's phone. Gary pulls it miraculously out of a hidden, interior pocket.

"Tim, mate," says Gary, "You're not making a lick of sense." But he's taken off the sunglasses again even though they're outside and tucked them in his breast pocket. Then, into the phone, "'Lo? Hiiiiiiii, kid. To what do I owe the excessive pleasure of this little call? ...Stop it. You're gonna give me a heart attack."

Tim puts his hands in his pockets and watches the other passers-by in the street, pretending not to listen to Gary. He's actually doing a halfway decent job, given his preoccupation over how to explain what happened with Nikki to an outsider.

It was a miniscule thing, just a single toothpick in the toothpicks-and-glue Empire State Building of their life. It hardly feels like they've changed at all, and sometimes he forgets she's not upstairs when he's making tea and pours her a cup too. But Nikki was insistent on moving out after the kids were all gone and old enough. She said, "Tim, it's past time if you're not in love with me anymore, and you aren't, and I'm not, so no hard feelings, huh? But I'm not that old, and I'm not prepared to just stick around out of habit so everyone I want to sleep with has to be an affair."

A little old man in a windowpane-plaid flannel shirt shuffles along in front of them, back hunched, with a cabby's hat perched on his head. Gary's pace has slowed minutely. "You, uh," says Gary, "What?"

A pair of twenty-something girls, one in torn biker's clothes and one in what appears to be a cut-off wedding dress, are clustered at the window of a shoe store and flatten themselves against the glass to make more room on the sidewalk as Tim and Gary go past.

"No, no, no, I'm sorry. I just want to be sure I get what you're saying here. What are you saying to me?"

The man in the cabby's hat is getting annoying. Tim wraps his hand around Gary's elbow and steers him around the man. Gary goes willingly; his arm seems to--move and--relax, or something, to fit naturally, and somehow when they've made it around and quickened their pace, they're walking with linked arms.

"--Gullie, wait a second here. First things first, you know I'll always love you. That's unconditional."

Tim's phone rings. He fumbles it out of the pocket of his pants with his left hand, flips the antenna out and presses it to his ear: "Hello?"

"Dad?" It's Timothy, that is to say, Timothy, Junior, his and Nikki's oldest. And it's the call Nikki warned him about.

"Timothy! Hi! What's going on?"

Tim has always been a doting father, although unfortunately out filming good portions of the time. Timothy is maybe a tiny bit spoiled, plus there's this absentee thing which he clings to a little sullenly, though they haven't had a fight about it for a good while. The bottom line is that even though he's somewhat the apple of Tim's eye relations have been a little pained, just a little, for the last few years, since Timothy hit seventeen or so.

"There's a couple of things I wanna tell you," says Timothy a little belligerently: this manner means, as Nikki said, he's nervous: she thinks Tim doesn't perceive these things, but he does.

"Let's get to it," says Tim agreeably.

(Gary goes a little tense and stops walking in the middle of the sidewalk. Tim, what with the elbow-link and all, necessarily stops too, and presses the phone closer to his left ear. "I'm here," says Gary tersely at his side. "I heard. I'm just wondering what made you decide to tell me this over the phone.")

"Well," says Timothy airily, "I'm assuming you know I'm gay."

Tim stifles a yelp.


"Okay," he says. "Not--exactly, but okay, I can see it."

"Dad," says Timothy with amused condescension, "You really didn't know?"

They both laugh. "Oh, um," says Tim, "You know how it is. I've known you since you were a little boy, so I never looked for, er. To me you're just Timmy. But I had my suspicions." What, he thinks, did Nikki think the big deal is about this?

"Hahah," Timothy gurgles. His humor seems to be improved from getting the upper hand. "Yeah right. So, okay, I'm gay, and I've been seeing Gullie for a while now, and--"

"What?" says Tim, and drops Gary's arm.

"Gulliver Oldman, Dad," Timothy is saying, "Remember, you've met him before--we used to play together as kids--you're friends with his dad?" His tone suggests Tim is possibly already going senile, and that he knew this phone call was going to be an ordeal.

"I know him," says Tim.

"All right, well, we've been seeing each other, and we're ready to move in together," says Timothy, "We've been thinking about what to do--we've both been pretty low profile, you know, over the years, but we're thinking about calling The Advocate and..."

When Tim comes back to himself, Timothy is still talking. Next to him Gary is saying, "Please, please. I'm in the middle of the street. Can I please call you back? Right away. Soon as. New York minute--yes, all right. I fucking promise. Okay."

"Timmy," Says Tim. "Timmy? Timmy."

"Yes?" He sounds irritated.

"I'm going to have to call you back."

A deep breath. "Dad, are you even listening?"

"I know," says Tim, "I know. But I really can't have this conversation, here, I'm right in the middle of the street in Toronto, there's cars whizzing past--I think there's a mime on the other street corner. I swear to God, a guy in a gorilla suit just walked past. So please just give me ten--fifteen minutes tops--to make it back to either the set or my hotel and I will call you."

"Dad, are you freaking out?"

"Timothy," Tim lies solemnly, "I am not freaking out!" He realizes the fact he's yelling may detract from the conviction of his argument. He lowers his voice. "I'm just in the middle of the street, all right?"

Next to him, Gary has his own phone clenched white-knuckled in one fist. "Okay," says Timothy, "twenty minutes and then I'm going out to the movies, and I'm going to turn the phone off."

"Okay," says Tim, and takes a deep breath. "Talk to you then. I love you." He hangs up and looks at Gary.

Gary looks at him.

"Was that Gulliver?"

"Yeah. Tim Jr.?"


Tim feels like punching something. He feels a deep welling panic--The Advocate for God's sake, his son--and he feels like the universe has somehow snuck up behind him with a two-by-four.

Then Gary smiles thinly, more with one side than the other; his mobile mouth twitches sensitively into this new somehow bitter grin that shows exactly what Tim was thinking and he says, "Let's find some place private. I think we need to talk." And Tim revises his estimate: a two-by-four with a nail in it.

They walk quietly, by mutual consent, hands in pockets. Gary has put the shades back on. They're some kind of protection, Tim thinks, not just from the sun.

Pretty soon they come upon what looks like a reasonably swanky Indian restaurant. Gary jerks his chin at the door. Tim takes a glance within; it's almost deserted at this hour, post-lunch, pre-dinner. He nods and pushes the door open himself and leads the way.

The hostess looks up, surprised at the intrusion. "Table for two," he says.

Gary comes up at his shoulder, close enough Tim can feel the heat. "Isolated and quiet, please," he says.

"Right this way, sirs," says the hostess, throwing a dubious look over her shoulder, tossing a thick rope of blue-black hair. She's that same age group as the Tim Horton's cashiers. Gary has doubtless been recognized again.

She seats them in a dim corner at a round table and leaves them alone.

"Well," says Gary.

"Well," says Tim.

Gary sits back and fiddles with the menu, his long fingers twitching nervously. His fingernails are smooth, flat, and manicured. But the edge of one thumbnail is torn or bitten.

"You think we should wait--" says Tim.

Gary nods tightly.



"So." Tim pleats the edge of the table cloth. It's deep vermilion cotton, darker than the red of Gary's shirt. The cotton is thin and fine. It's probably from India. "I was talking about Nikki," says Tim.

There's a swift cut-off movement across the table, Gary starting to shake his head, snatching both hands into his lap at once.

"No, listen, just a moment," says Tim. "We'll get this over with. It's simple, really."

Gary snorts.

Tim snorts too--point taken. "Simple in comparison," he corrects himself. "We're not really in love anymore. I mean, we weren't Romeo and Juliet, we were--we were--"

A recovery seems to have occurred across the table. "Bonnie and Clyde?"


"Thelma and Louise?" Says Gary.

"No." There's a waiter at their elbows.

"Sears and Roebuck. God and Lucifer. Hamlet and Ophelia. Lady and the Tramp. Peanut butter and jelly."

"Well," says Tim lamely, "we weren't Romeo and Juliet. I'll have a glass of house white, please."

"Hot tea," says Gary. "And a glass of water."

"Water for me, too," adds Tim.

The waiter nods and doesn't point out that the water is pretty much a given. "Will that be all for you, sirs?"

"No," says Gary, "I'd just like to ask you--we're going to be having a somewhat sensitive conversation over here. Could you please see that we're not disturbed after that for, oh, half an hour?"

The waiter's polite and well-trained as well as swarthily good-looking. He inclines his head a little and says there's no problem with that and whisks himself away.

They wait for the drinks. "So what were you?" Says Gary after a while.

"Really good mates," says Tim thoughtfully. "Absofuckinlutely best friends, you know?"

Gary dips his head, looking with some intensity at the tablecloth and the salt shaker. "I wondered," he says.

Tim's not sure if that's all he was going to say or if it's the beginning of another more interesting sentence. He never gets to find out, because then the waiter returns with a bottle and a wineglass, trailed by a waitress with a silver teapot on a tray.

When Tim calls his son back, ten minutes have passed. "Timothy? I'm in a restaurant."

"Gary there?" Says Timothy, voice thick with something--what, irony? Tim can't read it.

"Yeah," says Tim blankly.

("I can't tell you," Gary is saying, "Because I don't know really know what I think beyond that. I assume you had a good reason for doing this at such long-distance. No, please, we won't go into that.")

But that appears to be all from Timothy about that. "Well," he says and clears his throat, "We haven't really entirely made up our minds about most of that other stuff, and we're not necessarily in a hurry, you know, we've just decided we don't want anything to do with any kind of closet to speak of, we're not going to be silent, we haven't done anything, we've nothing to be ashamed of and we refuse to play along."

Tim feels himself shocked into silence.


He opens his mouth and is surprised to hear himself say, "Good." He wasn't hoping for a response nearly so articulate, nor politic. He really doesn't know what to think and is ashamed of himself for it. What's the big deal? Why can't he just be proud and supportive? Because it's his child, that's why. And he might be an adult but--but.

Timothy probably knows some of what's going on in Tim's mind. There's been a kind of communication barrier between them the last five or seven years, but Timothy was always a really sharp kid, and he knows people better than they think he does.

"All right," Gary says.

Good idea, thinks Tim. He says, "All right."

"Okay," says Timothy. "Well, I wanted to give you a little time. We've decided to do it next weekend in person, sort of all together and all--well, except Gullie's Mom, she's in Italy--but I know you can manage."

"What?" Says Gary.

"Manage what?" Says Tim.

"To make it next weekend."

"Timothy," says Tim, "We're making a film."

"Well, it's your choice," says Timothy. "I mean I'm sure you'll have some other chance." His voice becomes doubtful and he pauses, the manipulative little bastard. "Some time. After we're settled, of course. I didn't think you'd want to miss it, though, Dad, I thought you'd be really concerned for some reason. Hey, I'm glad you're taking it so well, good for you."

Maybe, thinks Tim tiredly, this is all revenge. "When?" He says.

"Saturday, noon."


"Where, then?" Says Gary.

"I was thinking your place," says Timothy.

"All right, all right, call me when you know," says Gary.

"Feel free," says Tim. "Your mother can open it up for you."

When they hang up, they do it at almost the same instant, and then they sit there staring at each other for long minutes. Tim's sprawled with knees apart and his wrists on the arms of the chair and his hands twitching like birds in very small cages. Gary's slid down in his chair till Tim can barely see his eyes, his legs stretched long and straight in front of him and his fingers steepled, elbows propped on the chair arms.

Tim's wine is untouched. He drinks most of the glass while Gary takes a few long sips of tea. The wine, taken in deep gulps, wakes the back of his throat, makes the passage to his ears tingle.

"Is the whole pot full?" Says Tim wistfully when the wine is mostly gone. The back of his neck is starting to loosen, but he's still not entirely easy with everything.

Gary reanimates himself, tips the lid off the pot and glances in. "Looks like. Here." He passes his cup across the table and Tim takes a grateful mouthful.

"Are we having dinner?"

Gary shakes his head dumbly.

"You want to talk to Ray or me?"

Gary says, "I'll go first."

"But," says Tim, "What are we going to say?"

Gary shrugs and his mouth twists again, and Tim realizes as he stares at it that he is feeling the wine.

"All right," says Tim, "Um, look, you call him and then I'll call. I feel like shit," he adds, "For not telling, but Ray's a friend and if we need it he won't ask I suppose. I don't think we can afford more than a day."

Gary shakes his head. "Day and a half is my guess. Fucking figures having L.A. so far away."

"--Unless it's a real emergency--"

"--And not just our offspring having," says Gary, in a sort of chill voice, "a mutual temper tantrum."

Tim doesn't know how to touch this. He says, "I'll give him a call tonight. And for now I'm going to go--uh--take a nap."

Gary calls for the check.

Tim lets him get it and slouches by the door with his hands in his pockets, feeling more or less worn to a thread. He starts to slouch on down the street until he feels a hand on his arm. Gary firmly turns him around and steers him to the curb and hails a cab. He stuffs him in it and leans over Tim in the back seat to murmur close to his ear, "Call your travel agent, okay? And take care of both of us. Coach is fine."

Tim tips his head back and looks up at Gary and squints. He feels really tired, but he has the urge to drag Gary by the lapels of his gray-blue silk coat down into Tim's lap and see what that tea tastes like mixed with Gary's tongue. He also feels cheated because he's morally certain that all of a sudden this is impossible, where before it was merely sort of unlikely.

He feels like this morning he had a choice and now Timothy has taken it away from him.

And he doesn't think this is fair. Maybe he owes this to Timothy. Maybe he's had it coming.

"Tim," says Gary. "Come on, mate. Two for LA, Friday night, coach okay, your travel agent, yes or no? Nod your head for me."

Tim shakes his head rapidly. "Okay," he replies and reaches to take the door to the cab out of Gary's hand. "I've got it."

The pain in the ass is that on notice this short he can't get them adjoining seats. He presses the issue a little with the agent, but he has to give in after only a minute. He's feeling the urgency of discussing this with Gary, or rather getting an option on discussing it, although he's not got any idea in Hell what he should say. In fact, when he stares at the ceiling Thursday night he can't come up with a single remark or question. He can't really picture them conversing about it yet.

But he'd still much rather they sat next to one another on the plane.

It's undeniably weird. Of course Gary has met his kids and he's met Gulliver and Charlie and Al over the years more than a few times--but it's nothing like family reunions at Christmas or once a year. There's absolutely no logical reason for him to feel that Gulliver and Timothy are doing something incestuous.

Tim has to force himself to consider that his family's reality in the years of his kids' childhood was very different from his reality in those years--more than he realized.

The thing is that over the years, he is only now realizing, he kept his family quite separate from his work and that included most of his best friends like Gary and, well, James, Ray, Phil, Paul, even Sean. It included most of his mentors and his most formative experiences.

I was protecting them, Tim tells himself.

He can't regret it now, not even now even if it means he's not sure which was real life and which was the fantasy.

But the fact is he kept Gary and his children so alien from one another so well that now, with this come up, he's suddenly looking at Gary as more alien than ever, stealing puzzled, assessing looks while they check in at the Southwest desk: who is this guy? And that right after he started suspecting he and Gary were a lot closer than he'd really thought they were over the years.

Neither of them's brought any baggage, just a backpack and a soft-sided attache. Gary is wearing his dark glasses inside again, with black wool dress slacks and a black dress shirt and one of those synthetic sheep-fur-looking jackets, two colors of olive green, light and dark. In fact, it matches rather awfully, but Gary always looks like a star, doesn't he? It's something in the way he holds himself.

Tim slouches in his solitary seat and picks at one of his fraying bootlaces, resting his elbow on the arm rest and his face in his hand, torn between bone-weariness and misdirected anger at the whole world. One thing is, if he'd ever gone back to England it's a stone's throw from any spot on it to any other spot.

"Going home?" Says Gary, as they're leaving the gate.

Tim stops in his tracks and Gary wheels on his heel a few steps in front, stops to look at him--peering over the tops of the dark glasses, ridiculous now it's almost midnight, the airport windows blank and black. "Oh, shit. I just realized I told Timothy he could have it for tomorrow." He feels like covering his face and just collapsing in a heap and sleeping right there on the dirty tile floor.

Gary looks at him consideringly. It is one in his arsenal of villain's looks developed over the years. Tim recognizes it well. He could almost believe Gary was coldly calculating death instead of transportation. Then he shrugs, "We'll share a cab, you can have the spare room or--" he pauses, "--at least the couch."

Tim feels wretched. A little devil perched on his shoulder is whispering to dig his heels in right now to show that he wasn't fishing for an invite. "That's silly, I live here. I'll just go to the old house," he says.

Gary rolls his eyes. "At midnight. In two cabs instead of one. Do you even have a key?" He grabs Tim's attache out of his hand and turns around. "Come on. I'm tired."

"It's because you're an old man," Tim murmurs half-heartedly, although he's tired too.

But maybe it is age, because he's the one who pays the cab and wakes Gary, then drags him bodily out of it at his house. Gary's arm goes over his shoulder and Gary turns towards him without opening his eyes, like a baby nuzzling for the mother's breast. He puts his face in Tim's open collar and breathes on Tim's neck, holding Tim's left upper arm, and gropes round to steady himself with his other hand on Tim's right elbow.

Tim stands still, looking down. It's an almost moonless night, the sky clouded and gray with only a few stars out. Time stretches out into one of those painfully glorious existential moments--what is God, who am I, why are we all here anyway, what's the meaning of life.

Then he shakes Gary's shoulder and says, "You've got to wake up. It's your house. I can't open the door."

Gary lifts his head and sways a little, holding onto both Tim's arms. "Lead me to it and I'll produce the key. But lemme remember where it is first."

"The door, or the key?" Tim asks, amused, and slides his arm carefully around Gary to propel him towards the door.


"I found the door for you," says Tim. "Now you get the key and we're home free."

Gary opens one eye and looks at him. "Let me just stand here a moment."

"No, come on."

"If I suddenly stop standing will you hold me up?"

"No. And if you crack your skull I won't call the bloody ambulance either," says Tim, smiling and feeling rather home free already.

"Let's try it," says Gary, a bit brightly for someone who can't wake up enough to walk straight, and goes suddenly boneless.

Tim hasn't been expecting that--he staggers forward and Gary ends up slumped halfway to the ground, back against the door, looking bemused. At least his feet are more or less under him.

"Fine," says Tim, after an unsuccessful attempt to haul Gary to his full height, "I'll wait."

But then Gary smiles angelically and props his feet under him and pats both his pants pockets. He holds a keychain up and Tim snatches it gratefully and elbows Gary out of the way to get the door open.

"There's a--" Gary yawns "--linen closet over there." He's waving at the left side of the hall on his way down it. "And you can see the couch. Guest room's last door on your right but it's, oh--" another yawn, "unfortunately not habitable. I'm sorry, I'm about to fall over... ." And his door slams behind him.

Tim doesn't bother glancing in the guest room. His first try shows him the bathroom. He stumbles into it to piss and tug off his boots.

The second try is the linen closet. He takes a set of sheets and a furry blanket that looks like the kind you get in hotels.

The next morning when he wakes up, he discovers he didn't even get the sheet unfolded right; it's twisted under him in an hourglass and he drooled on the upper right corner of it. The other sheet's still folded on the floor and the blanket's strewn over him haphazardly. He sits up and rubs the sleep out of his eyes and goes to the can. The blinds are all closed but through a doorway he can see a window without blinds, apparently in the kitchen, and the light's still pale and white.

The lights are off but the coffee maker is on. Next to it is a piece of paper that says in scratchy blue pen, Gary's ugly scrawl, WENT FOR RUN. There's a scribble that may represent some sort of facial expression or may be where Gary scratched to get the pen started. Tim doesn't bother to look more closely. He goes to take a shower.

Gary's house is kind of old. The sink actually has two faucets, one under each tap. The basin is square and held up in a chrome cage kinda thing. The bathtub is set back into the wall, which comes up around it on both sides and over the top; the "doorway" to it is gently peaked at the top; the entire inside is tiled in cream, and a row of orange, with some odd hand-painted Mideastern looking things in blue and green.

These tiles turn out to be exceptionally slippery. So is the bar of soap, which slips out of his hand three times; the second time it ricochets off the wall, and the third it hits the curtain, and would have shot out of the tub otherwise.

The window in the bathroom is small and high. Tim showers with the overhead light off and gets to observe the miniscule change in the lightness of the sun while the hot water pounds on his head and shoulders. He always feels in need of a new skin when he gets off a plane. Maybe it's the recirculated air, or he's secretly a hypochondriac. He showers until he doesn't feel the least papery or slimy. When he gets out he's red all over, his skin sensitive to the relatively cool air. He slides back into his pants and goes out into the hall barefoot and bare-chested. Gary's bedroom door is closed and he immediately identifies the sound of another shower.

There's an empty coffee mug on the kitchen counter. There's no food in the refrigerator or the cabinet--well, Tim's apartment looks almost like this--sugar, rice, beans--neither of them expected to be back for months.

But he thinks he remembers dropping Gary's keys to the right of the door when he went in last night. Sure enough, there's a little table with some papers and unopened mail on it, and next to it on the floor is the key ring, and on it is a key with the black plastic case on that means a car.

He locks the door behind him, matches the key to the space-pod-looking little dirty Toyota in the garage, and takes it six blocks to the closest source of food he can find, which turns out to be a bakery.

We're going to be here tomorrow morning, he reasons. He gets a croissant and two bagels and some of those miniature pies masquerading as breakfast--strawberry, apple and cherry, thick syrup glaze and granulated sugar topping. Tim's tongue tingles in response to the mere smell. He didn't eat well the day before.

The bakery's small and horrendously crowded with wooden racks and glass cases on a poured cement floor painted with a sort of--floor mural of a watery pool full of large tropical fish. The walls are institutional white. The plump lady behind the counter has very un-L.A. mismatched teeth and a small but lumpy nose which are completely overshadowed by the appeal of a genuine smile and fat pink cheeks. Her hair is naturally a vibrant Nordic red, scraped back in a severe French braid and escaping from it at the sides. "Is that all?" She asks, packing everything in wax paper and a nice recycled-looking box.

"Thanks." Tim smiles brilliantly. He is a connoisseur of smiles from strangers, and hers was really sweet, just what he needed this morning. It wasn't yet seven thirty when he left Gary's house and he's studiously not thinking past 11:59. That's half an hour till eight, then three hours and fifty-nine minutes more to kill, so in all, perhaps four hours, twenty-nine minutes.

"A pleasure," she says. "The apple-cherry is excellent. Our favorite at my house."

Tim lets his smile curl up at the corners. "In that case I know to save it all for myself."

Her laugh is sort of breathy and sounds like she's actually saying "huh huh huh huh," and makes her cheeks redder.

He looks up backing the little car out and sees the blaze of her hair through the window.

He hasn't driven anything as small as this Toyota for a while. The whole thing curves around you and you feel like you're driving an escape pod from a space shuttle. A mended spot on the road bounces him up, but he comes back down without a jar. Good suspension.

He puts it back in the garage and opens the front door carefully, something he's been doing since thirty years ago when Nikki demanded he lead by example with the no-door-slamming rule.

The sheet and blanket are still piled on the couch, but this time the light's on in the kitchen. Tim ducks into it and puts the box next to the coffee maker, which is gurgling away again.

Then his eye snags on something and he looks over his shoulder--he didn't notice before that hidden by a row of cabinets is another door set back in the same wall, and now it is open. Through it is a dining room in which the lights are on and Gary is facing away from him, apparently poured into a chair, nose in a newspaper.

His hair is sleek with water, the shaggy bits that're usually uncontrollable pushed behind his ears, the fringe at the back dampening the tattered and faded collar of another antique t-shirt. Under the strands fat with water his neck is pale and fresh-scrubbed and the bump of his spine thrusts up through the skin because his head is tilted forward. Tim can hardly stop himself--his hand falls against the collar of the shirt and curls against the back of Gary's neck, which is still damp on the pad of his thumb.

Tim is already incapable of speech when Gary freezes and emits a wholly unconscious growl sound like the slow tearing in half of something vital, like the last little bit of restraint slowly giving way. He jerks away and up to his feet before he registers that it's Tim, whose eyes have widened, neck and arms stippling with gooseflesh.

There's a brief and absolutely clear silence of probably only half a second and Gary smiles, possibly in relief, and throws his arms around Tim in a crushing bear-hug.

Tim hugs him back, and realizes he's squeezing hard back. Something in him wants to squeeze even harder, but he won't let it. Gary doesn't mind, or if he does he doesn't move and evinces only satisfaction, settling his chin on Tim's shoulder, his hands relaxing and curling into Tim's dirty shirt from yesterday.

"Sleep good?" Says Gary in a conversational tone. "Sorry if I scared you."

Tim pulls back, his least favorite part of any hug. Their eyes meet briefly by accident and he turns his head away from the impulse to plant a kiss Gary's damp, pale lips. "Were you aware that you growled?"

Gary laughs. "Did I? Do I smell breakfast?"

"You did. And you do. Do you prefer bagel or death by pastry?"

"Ahhh," says Gary, "give me butter, or give me death."

"There's only cream cheese," says Tim, opening the box in the kitchen.

"Bring the whole thing in," says Gary. Tim brings the box in his right hand and the coffee pot in his left.

They sit across the table from each other and they each eat rather a lot. "Have you decided how you feel about the whole thing yet?" Says Tim.

"Have you?"

Neither of them answers.

"I don't feel good about it," says Gary, "right now."

"No," Tim says. He puts his pastry down straight on the tabletop and looks hard at Gary. "But I don't know why I feel... ."

"Betrayed," Gary murmurs, and looks down at his hands. The window's behind Tim, and the sun's getting higher. It slides whitely down Gary's nose, pools inside the ordinary, clear lenses of his glasses and makes the hair on his arms show up silver.

"Scared," Tim says, and his mouth twists, "it's really ridiculous. Times aren't what they were. Timothy isn't scared."

"He probably is, actually," says Gary. "Inasmuch as it's an involuntary emotion."

"You can decide not to be scared."

"But not all the way," says Gary. "You always have to ignore the rest."

"But not all the way," Tim concedes.

"Ignore it, or deal with it," Gary says. He tries to shrug but it doesn't really come off.

"It's your kid," says Tim almost pleadingly.

Gary nods grimly, "And that's what makes it harder to ignore."

Tim takes a long drink of black coffee. Then he says, "Here. Have some of this apple-cherry pastry."

"No thanks," says Gary, occupied with his bagel.

"No, really," says Tim, "It's excellent. I couldn't eat the whole thing. The guilt would kill me."

"Will the sugar kill me?"

Tim says, "If you've survived Tim Horton's you can survive this, no problem."

Gary accepts the second two thirds of the pastry from Tim's ginger two-fingered grip with no comment on the amount that's left. He takes a careful bite, lips peeling back from his teeth and his mouth opening wide; some damp strings of hair flop forward into his face. "Mmm!" He says, surprised. "I'm not as young as I was, but I suppose if you have to go pastry's not a bad method."

"Mmm," Tim agrees around the coffee mug in his mouth.

After a few moments--and a few remarkably quick bites which nearly decimate the pastry--Gary says with little hope, "This is the only one?"

"The other two are strawberry," Tim admits, and Gary tsks at him. He doesn't eat the strawberry pastries, but whether that's because he doesn't want them or because he senses Tim's covetousness is unclear.

They linger a long time over breakfast without looking at the time. They pass bits and pieces of the newspaper back and forth and Tim reads it cover to cover (well, except for the stock market stuff), even the police logs and the classifieds. A lot of it he can't remember later--all he can remember is stealing glances at Gary over the tops of the sheets and pretending he hasn't just done it.

"In the long run I'm probably better off here," says Tim, putting aside the last section while Gary's listlessly scanning the world news for the second time.

"Than your place?"

"M-hm," says Tim, stretching his legs out under the table and crossing his ankles, then uncrossing them again. "I'm fidgeting."

"I can't stop either." Gary pinches the bridge of his glasses between thumb and forefinger and flings the newspaper on the floor.

"But it lessens the suspense, I think," says Tim. "It's bound to."

"Doesn't feel less?" Gary says sympathetically, finally taking the glasses right off.

Tim stretches his arms out over the table and when he notices the glasses are almost in reach, clasps his hands together to stop himself from picking them up. He'd sort of like to put them back on Gary's face.

"Um." He says. "Question again?"

Gary chuckles. "Can you believe it at all?" He says after a while.

"No. Yes. Of course, there could be stranger things, only..."

"The odds," Gary barks. "What are the odds?"

"Probably something. Of course the odds're something I mean. They knew each other--and there's some genetics, of course, maybe it's not all coincidence that they--?" Tim realizes belatedly that he's probably saying, with this, more than he means to.

But Gary shakes his head. "Really. Would you in a million years--?"

"No way," says Tim, and can't help smiling. He tilts his head back to look at the ceiling, which is perfectly smooth, not acoustic tile or splattered with plaster spit balls.

"What?" Demands Gary.

"Little fuckers," Tim laughs. "I'm sort of proud of him."

Gary Hmm's for a second. When Tim looks back at him he's obviously making an effort to flatten out a smile, tucking in the corners, but his mouth keeps quivering with it. "Timothy get into a lot of trouble?"

"Absolutely not."

"Pulling little girls' hair?"


"Blowing up park benches?"

"Not as far as I know."

"Talking when the teacher was talking?"

"I didn't hear about it."

"Refusing to say the pledge of allegiance?"

Tim wrinkles his nose. "Not even that. He didn't seem to mind until they stopped caring."

"Docker's Kiss?"

"Barring Cormac and Jack and me, he didn't seem to go in for head-butting."

Gary grins and waggles his eyebrows. "Hard-headed, was he?"

"Is," says Tim. "He's not over it yet."

"Mm," says Gary. "You think it's all a big head-butt?"

Tim sighs. "Not rationally, no."

"But a father has an innate suspicion of his son's motives," Gary agrees. "Gullie, now, was always ten thousand miles an hour, full speed ahead. Great kid, real ray of sunshine, but he could get into head-butting if you got in the way."

"But you know," says Tim, still speaking mainly of Timothy, "That's what I admire. He doesn't even have to try to hit on a facer."

Gary nods. "Right on the first try. Kids--one. Us--zero."

"I thought you scored a few about big news over the phone," Tim protests.

Gary shakes his head sadly. "Takes more than that to make a dent in Gullie."

Tim can't help laughing at this, and Gary joins him. "Not even a dent?"

"What's the world coming to when you can't even dent your own children?"

"At least, on purpose," says Tim.

"Right, well," Gary amends, "beyond the obvious."

"Overprotective, always absent, unable to understand?"

"And existing."

"Right." A sobering thought.

Tim's fidgeting gradually more and more takes the form of picking and plucking at his shirt, pulling it away from his skin, until he sees Gary scowl at him and gives in and asks for the loan of a clean shirt.

Gary ushers him into his own bedroom and waves Tim toward an open closet. The room's so dark with the blinds closed that he has to tug the cord to turn on the closet light. Gary vanishes into the ensuite bathroom.

He steps just inside the door and is enveloped in closet. There are belts hanging on the wall. There are shirts and pants, even blue jeans. There's black leather and brown and gray. There's a really long line of dress shirts, mostly silk to his fingertips, and a fair collection of t-shirts too.

There's a faint smell of Gary in the closet. He breathes shallowly out of some misguided sense of politeness at first, but it's an involuntary human reaction to a faint tantalizing smell, breathing deeper, moving closer. It's an only halfway identifiable smell, that could be cologne or soap entirely, but it has a musk undertone that Tim knows instinctively isn't: this smell isn't chemical or floral.

This is the smell of Gary's body.

He recognizes it, his own body recognizes it, from as long ago as thirty years--no, almost forty years now. He's suddenly certain, standing in its midst, that he could have known the smell at any time.

This is the smell of Gary's sweat and his skin, a scent that has pheromones and things in it, Tim tells himself, which is why the skin all along the back of his neck and his arms is suddenly sensitized as if by sandpaper, hovering in painful unfulfillment just on the brink of goose bumps. It's like that little growl and the reaction it drew from him, completely involuntary.

Tim realizes he's breathing with his mouth open. And he puts his hand out on the sleeves of the silk shirts, lets it trail past them to cotton, madras plaid even (when would Gary wear that?), flannel, into t-shirts. It's not until he's rubbing the fine fabric of a blue heathered t-shirt that he thinks he remembers from the set of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead that Tim realizes he's looking for something worn, something that has been lived in, something to which the scent will cling.

The thought of having it, the clean cotton and those pheromones, on his skin does something primal to him, makes his throat hurt. The sensitivity's moved over every inch of skin, over his scalp, to the soles of his feet, the backs of his thighs, his lips and his temples and the hollow of his throat, his belly, his armpits, his fingertips--his cock.

He lets go the blue heather shirt--he doesn't want one actually transparent, not if it gets cool in the evening, which it may. Tim has learned from experience that his nipples will suffer.

The sound of running water in the bathroom draws him back to himself from a sexual fantasy he's apparently not too old for yet. His nipples are painfully tight now under the shirt he's wearing, so much so that they itch and he has to suppress the urge to rub them for relief. Quickly he reaches out, and his hand hovers briefly between black and that natural unbleached color. The latter has a softer drape; he gets it off the hanger in one sharp tug, skins out of his own shirt and pulls Gary's over his head.

When the folds cover his face he breathes in sharply, and turns around still tugging it down.

Gary's standing in the bathroom door looking at him, wiping his hands on his faded black sweatpants. "A fan already?"

"What?" Says Tim stupidly.

Gary points to the shirt.

He looks down and recognizes the red and navy script logo of the bakery where he bought breakfast, and next to it a goldfish with flirtatiously fanned tail. "Oh. No, I didn't look at it. But you're a fan?"

Gary nods.

"But you'd never had the apple and cherry?"

He rolls his eyes. "And if it wasn't for you I could have happily gone on living without ever tasting one, asshole."

Tim grins cheekily. "I've spoiled you," he suggests.

Gary says easily, stalking towards him, "You have. Now, if you please--." Tim steps aside to allow Gary access to the hangers in the closet. He expects to see a light jacket emerge. Instead Gary tosses on the bed a pair of ripped jeans, a striped canvas shirt with long sleeves, and a ripstop black vest with a lot of zippers.

He raises an eyebrow.

"Armor," says Gary shortly. "It's like magic, sometimes, dressing for who you're going to be."

"Does it work?" says Tim, playing along, while Gary moves to the bed, casually peeling off his white t-shirt and dropping it on the floor.

His back is pale and not as narrow as Tim remembers, softened about the ribs and the middle with flesh. He's also acquired a very faint tan, which he covers when he shrugs quickly into the shirt. He turns and faces Tim, who has stopped in the doorway, to button it.

Gary shrugs, doing the last button he's apparently going to bother with, "It works if you believe it does." The cuffs are open over his hands. Tim remembers well Gary's penchant for long sleeves.

He goes and drains the last of the coffee in the pot. It's after eleven.

When Gary comes out he's wearing the same black leather loafers from yesterday with no socks, the arches of his feet showing below the worn jeans. It looks somehow rather intimidating.

"I thought you'd want a clean jacket too," says Gary, and hands over some drab cloth that resolves into a corduroy button-down. "It's going to rain."

Tim looks out the window automatically as he takes the shirt. It does look like rain.

It takes a monumental effort for Tim to smile and shake his head when Timothy tells him at the door that Nikki decided not to show, since Donna couldn't. "Whatever works," he says, reaching around the doorframe for the light switch for the entry.

"It's burnt out," says Timothy. "I couldn't find a light bulb."

"Oh," says Tim.

He hugs his son, awkwardly, even though Timothy seems a little distracted and stiff in his arms. He sees that Gary, behind him, has already got one arm over the shoulders of a sort of short young man, a little plump, certainly sturdy, with small hands and slender wrists, and a pretty, delicate face. Gulliver doesn't look very much like Gary; he's even shorter. You can see the resemblance, though, the way they're standing.

Gullie is eyeing Gary's canvas shirt--the cuffs are loose and turned back once, and still cover the backs of his hands--with a searching eye superficially not unlike Tim's. "Dad," he says reprovingly, "what is this, young urban camo? Aren't you a little old for that?" He twists neatly away from Gary, or twirls actually, and fiddles with the volume on Tim's stereo, which is already on. Jazz, not his own; jazz is Timothy's thing.

Gary puts his hands in his pockets and purses his lips.

A child who isn't Tim's is lounging on the couch, so it must be Charlie, although with his hair buzzed almost all off he looks hardly like either Gulliver or Gary at all. His boots are under the coffee table, his hands steepled over his stomach. "Gullie," he says with dripping facetiousness, "can't Dad even put the 'fun' back in 'functionality' in peace?"

Tim moves to lean against his bookshelf and sticks his hands in his pockets.

Gary rubs his hands together, seeming to ignore the byplay between his children without any effort at all. Tim supposes he might be used to that kind of thing. "Weren't we promised lunch? Having just gorged myself on pastry, I can't wait for some cold cuts and cheese."

There are no cold cuts and cheese. What there are are pizzas. Cormac and Jack buzz up together and Gullie answers the door this time.

Tim stands in the doorway between the kitchen and living room and watches Gullie clap his hands a little and bounce and vibrate on the balls of his feet, then throw his arms around Cormac, who looks a little startled at first. Tim can see his face melting into a smile at distance, and he looks up and meets Tim's eyes and smiles again.

Jack's still wearing a beard without a mustache. He really looks like somebody's dad now. He's wearing Birkenstocks, clean jeans and a crisp blue linen shirt. Tim can see a drool spot on his shoulder. He's intimately familiar with drool spots, in spite of not having dealt with them for a couple of decades.

"It's great to see you," says Cormac to Gullie. They're almost the same age. Cormac, not Timothy, was the one in trouble at school (although not often, and more for smoking pot than for starting fights).

But he straightened up sharply towards the end of it and is now dressed as well as Gullie, who leads him into the kitchen towards Timothy saying, "Is that Armani Ex? Like next spring--this spring line?"

"Sadly not," says Cormac. "I'm poor bourgeoisie and make do with last season's Armani." He and Gullie both laugh and vanish into the kitchen, where Gary has installed himself silently on a chair in the corner and Timothy is clinking plates.

"Does anybody want something to drink?" Says Gullie, and pauses to giggle. "I feel like the perfect hostess. Don't anybody stereotype me based on this."

"Baby," says Timothy, half-laughing, half-scolding, "You only stereotype yourself." He hooks a thumb through one of Gulliver's belt loops and Gullie lets himself be pulled over for a pucker-lipped hi-honey-I'm-home kiss.

Gary's snitched a book from Tim's shelf. It's open in his lap. He puts his head back against the wall and closes his eyes.

After Gulliver takes a round of drink orders, Tim has to enter the kitchen and point out where everything is, but Gullie backs him up towards the table and makes him sit down, and pours all the drinks himself.

Jack, like most new fathers, doesn't take much coaxing to recount what Timothy calls the Annals of Alyssa. ("Shut up, squirt," says Jack, and Timothy rolls his eyes fondly and shuts up.) They go through Alyssa's lack of desire to have her diaper changed, her penchant for smiling at and charming total strangers, and the number of people who mistake her daily for a boy just because she's dressed in primary colors. Everyone knows already about her first words. Now they're learning about her alleged first sentences, which Jack is somewhat miffed to have missed because they all occurred while he was at work. Lisa, he says, hears more English (that and Spanish) in the baby-utterances than he does.

The Annals of Alyssa consume a good forty-five minutes, by the clock. But Tim, who's always been sort of overcome by the absolute coolness of fatherhood from the moment it first happened to him back in 1984, is easily diverted. Gary is interested too, although his absent eldest has not yet presented him a grandkid. So the time passes relatively well, with pizza, beer, vodka, and Timothy occasionally stroking Gulliver's hair when he leans close and finally wrapping his hand around the back of his neck, Gullie's head on his shoulder.

Tim can't take his eyes off his son's fingertips and the crisp curls of dark hair. One of them has caught itself on the tip of Timothy's forefinger.

Gullie is a lot more puppyish than Gary, and given to giggling, and a girlish squeak and hop when the first pizza came out of the oven with the cheese slightly over-brown. Several times he has tipped his head over and nuzzled it into Timothy's shoulder, which Timothy acts like he's tolerating but clearly enjoys deeply. He's sort of glowing.

Tim feels somehow small in comparison, and a little guilty because he's still upset about the whole thing. But an anger is slowly growing underneath and, for God's sake, he thinks. Like that little curl of dark hair brushing the back of Timothy's hand when he and Gulliver are standing at Tim's liquor cabinet together is really something that was stolen from him.

Gary is quiet, sulking or brooding or a first-class imitation of one or the other, in the corner. No one knows what he thinks. He's wearing the clear glasses, but he keeps using Tim's copy of Chimera as a substitute dark pair.

His hair is really grayed in the interior light, sort of silver, sort of lupine. Tim knows his own hair has gray which only shows up in this kind of environment, but he doesn't really care. He crosses his arms and stuffs his hands in his armpits and tries to frown like a patriarch, not like a defensive child.

Because Gary likes his shirts big, the cord one seems to dwarf Tim a little, bunching above the cuffs, drooping off his shoulders. He puts the cuffs together and tucks his hands into them like a monk and says, after his last piece of pizza, "Well, here we all are. For a reason. So what's this all about?"

"It's a party," says Timothy.

"A meet-the-parents gig," says Cormac. "Except then Dad and Gary showed up together and after all, you've known them both since you were kids."

"We were filming," says Gary, "Ray Winstone's directorial debut, which is independent and therefore low-budget and therefore very tightly scheduled, but he's a close friend of mine, and Tim's too, of course, so we were both able to get away. And there we both were, both playing hooky from a very delicate schedule, both going to the same place, so we thought we'd come down together."

There's an awkward little silence. Gary's tone is perfectly pleasant, but he's shoved Chimera facedown on the tabletop next to a half-drained bottle of Corona. His posture is dangerously, villainously relaxed.

"You'd prefer to not know what's going on in my life?" Says Timothy to Tim.

"You didn't want to hear over the phone," says Gulliver sulkily to Gary.

"Of course we both did hear about it over the phone this week when last week we could have both heard about it in person, since shooting hadn't started," says Tim to Timothy.

"Oh!" Says Timothy scathingly, "I'm sorry! I neglected to schedule my life around your buddy's shooting schedule!"

"It's common courtesy," says Gary coldly, "to break big news in person, to not disrupt other people's lives if you can help it,--"

Timothy shoots back, glaring at Tim, "No, it's common courtesy to invite your parents to events when you have them, but it's up to them whether they come."

"I'm not saying you have to schedule your life around mine," says Tim, "Or even that you have to tell me about your life at all, thank you, I want to be invited, for God's sake I love you, Timmy--"


"--But just half a week," Tim pleads.

Gulliver's voice is strongly reminiscent of Gary's when he says flatly, "Would the two of you just stop throwing your little hissy fit and we can stop wasting time? This isn't what it's really about."

There's a little silence. Tim's balled up in his chair like a strip of paper clenched in a sweaty fist and picking furiously at the cuffs of Gary's corduroy shirt. He looks at Gary, who's draped angrily in the back of Tim's uncomfortable kitchen chair.

Gary looks at him, and says, "The Advocate?"

"Oh God," Gullie mutters, and takes a swig of beer.

Timothy says, "Can we forget that for now?"

Tim says, "Can you forget it for now?"

Gary says, "Hopefully until such time as your brains catch up with the rest of you?"

Timothy puts his hand on Gullie's arm. Gullie's on his feet, glaring daggers across the table, while Tim stares in fascination and Jack, Charlie and Cormac creep gingerly out of their chairs and ooze out of the room. "We're not even famous!" Says Gullie angrily. "You're just mad because of your reputations!"

"I wonder if The Advocate would be interested in your story if we weren't," drawls Tim.

"Besides which speaking for myself I don't give a bloody fuck about it for my reputation," says Gary. "Which, Gullie, if you haven't learned in twenty-three years--"

"Oh, please," Timothy says, rolling his eyes.

"This is about you," says Tim tightly. "The only way I come into this is because I give a goddamn because you're my son."

"And the only reason you're upset about it," says Gullie to Gary, "is because you're afraid."

"As should you be!" Tim yells impatiently, although he's looking at Timothy. "Because we don't live in The Advocate! It's called the world, remember? It's large and contains six billion human beings?"

"You can't. Always. Have. What you. Want," says Gary.

Gullie slams his beer bottle onto the table almost hard enough to shatter it. "Dad," he snaps, "I knew you'd be weird." And flounces out of the room.

"Kids--two. Us--zero," says Gary on the way back to his house.

"Uh-huh," says Tim.

They both call Ray separately to let him know that they will be back as promised the next day. While he's watching Gary on the phone Tim realizes that the whole reason he didn't bring changes of clothes to L.A. was because he was going home, but he's left his apartment again with Gary (not as if he could have stayed there) without a change of clothes.

Gary is lounging on his kitchen counter, loitering near the coffee machine, trailing around with Tim's copy of Chimera in his hand but not really reading it. He keeps making suggestive moves towards the refrigerator and then remembering that it's empty. Tim takes a seat on a bar stool and pulls it up near the counter on the other side of the sink. He's dug out a tea kettle and made Darjeeling and is sipping it and watching Gary, trying to make sure the spine of the book (which he remembers he liked a lot) doesn't split.

"Did you ever read the Arabian Nights?" Says Gary.

"No," says Tim, "although after I read that for the first time I found a copy in a bookstore. Didn't seem like it was worth it just to get the references."

"Hum," says Gary, "They're okay. I remember thinking they weren't too bad back when I was a teenager. I guess I'd forgotten a lot, though. When I think about it I can't remember them at all."

Tim reaches out and teases the book out of Gary's hand, glances at what he's reading. Gary's fast, or he was skimming at Tim's place, because even with the several hours of reading on the couch he put in after they got back here Tim wouldn't have been halfway through.

"Wacky Scherezade keeping her little sister on the bed for it all, wasn't it?" Says Tim. "Gives it an exotic feel."

"Mm," says Gary, "Not so wacky if she had sex with the sister herself."

Tim admits this. "Maybe it's all symbolic anyway," he says.

Gary shrugs. "You can read a book how you want. They mean lots of things."

"True," says Tim. "Were we going to eat dinner or wait for our banquet on the plane tomorrow?"

"Pizza again," says Gary, "or you want to go out?"

Tim makes a face and Gary makes a face. They have Chinese delivered. Tim catches Gary casting longing looks at the book while they wait for food. "Read if you want," he says, flinging himself onto Gary's couch.

"No," says Gary, "I'm saving it for the plane."

Tim's stomach rumbles. "Fair enough," he says, shifting around a little to get comfortable. The collar of Gary's corduroy shirt, now unbuttoned and the sleeves rolled up because they're inside, rides up around Tim's neck. He hasn't wanted to take it off; the fabric is thick and plush and it's all rather comfortable. And it smells like Gary.

Gary has just settled himself in an armchair facing Tim, seeming set for a long grim contemplation of Tim's face, when the doorbell rings. "I'll get it," he says. And as he pays the delivery boy, he adds over his shoulder, "Do you think it's because it makes you feel old?"

"I hardly ever feel old," Tim admits.


The Chinese comes in several large brown paper bags which squat in the center of the coffee table. It's wood with thick, short spindle legs, the top surface protected with a sheet of glass. The couch is comfortable, the chair zebra-striped and generally silly. The room looks expensive but not decorated. There are wooden bookcases on the walls, and quite a few floor lamps scattered around, which between Gary and Tim are all now turned on. The overhead light fixture is still dark.

There's an area rug of thick, soft maroon shag under the coffee table. Tim removes his boots and socks just for the pleasure of digging his toes into it, leans over and pokes through the paper bags. Chopsticks, plastic packets of soy and duck sauce, egg rolls in wax paper, shrink-wrapped fortune cookies, cardboard cartons of white rice.

Gary comes back with thick, heavy stoneware plates and a handful of knives and forks.

They're both hungry, and they dig in in relative silence although Gary keeps making a face like he's going to say something. Tim's mouth is full of Mongolian beef when his phone rings. Since it's lying on the floor by the leg of the table, Gary picks it up for him.

Tim makes a face and swallows a big bite, but by then Gary has answered. "Hello, Tim Roth's phone. Hi! He's swallowing Mongolian beef. He's right here. ... Really. ... All right. Tim," he says, handing the phone back.


"Hi, babe. I hear it didn't go very well," says Nikki.

Her tone is sort of sympathetic, but Tim remembers her asking him to be nice and feels even guiltier. "I tried," he says. "If you'd been there, it couldn't possibly have been as bad."

She laughs a little. "Tim, it's not my job to interpret between the two of you. I can't tell either one of you what either one of you wants."

Tim stirs his rice with his fork and glances up. Gary's drinking water from a tall glass. "Was he really upset?"

Nikki's silent for a minute. Uh-oh. "Not really," she says.

"Not really, yes, or not really, no?"

"No, not really," she says. "I think you're going to have to apologize. And he's frustrated, but he's not hurt. I don't think he's even very angry. You know Timmy, Tim."

Finally Tim gets around to asking the question that's bothering him. "So you didn't come because you think we deserve to have fights out of our own cluelessness if we're too stupid to figure it out?"

Nikki just laughs and ignores the question, which is really typical for her. "I hear it was hard to tell who was more upset, you or Gary."

"Well, we're in a pretty similar situation," says Tim. Not to say identical.

But Nikki seems to be leading somewhere with this. "I talked to Gulliver. He seems to think his dad is jealous."

"Of me?"

"Of him."

If he is, Tim thinks, I can't blame him. But he feels like a total sleaze for his own jealousy and he is sickeningly aware, now, inescapably, that that's what it is.

"It was good Gary picked up the phone," says Nikki. "I wanted to talk to him. You know, Tim, you can just have what you want. It's not as hard as you two want to make it, and it's really not very nice to try to force your--viewpoint on Timothy."

"There's a big difference between--" Tim doesn't know what he's saying. "It's not the same," he says lamely. "There's a big difference between... ."

But after he gets off the phone with her, and he's eating lo mein with chopsticks, Tim realizes what he was going to say. There's a big difference, for instance, between wanting to have sex and having sex.

Well, sure, the difference is having it, but that's not such a difference. Almost everything else about it is the same--the wanting and the having, that is. Tim is the same. Gary is the same.

"She calls you a lot," says Gary. Tim looks up, startled, when he says it. He's propping his elbows on the coffee table, prepared to really have a conversation. But he's surprised to see that instead of looking studiously down, Gary is looking studiously up. He gropes at his nose, then in his breast pocket. "Where are my glasses," he mutters.

"I was wondering when you were going to notice," says Tim. "You took them off at my place." He has them in the breast pocket of Gary's corduroy shirt. He takes them out and passes them over the still-fragrant brown paper bags and the pile of cutlery in the middle of the table.

Gary puts them on, carefully.

"She doesn't really," says Tim. "Wanted to chew me out on Timothy's behalf. But gently."

"Chew you out gently?"

"You sound skeptical, my friend," says Tim wryly. "Let me assure you that it can be done. Nikki has the Gift." He makes a little face. He wishes she would just out with it, in point of fact. Always has.

"Maybe that's what she was doing to me," says Gary.

"I think so," Tim nods. "She doesn't approve of your trying to impose your worldview on Gullie either."

Gary takes a moody bite of eggroll. He bites down too hard and bits of cabbage drop onto the plate and the tabletop and ooze over his hand. Instead of reaching for a napkin, Gary neatly licks them off.

Tim watches his tongue.

"She said 'You can just have what you want,'" says Gary.

"She said it to me too."

"What does that mean?" Gary is looking at him sharply. Gary's eyes are very dark blue. The room is dark and lamplit; the silver shows up in bits and pieces, but his hair is very dark.

"I don't think I took it quite the way she meant," says Tim. "But I was thinking about it."

"So was I," grumps Gary.

"Let's finish dinner," says Tim.

"I'm done."

Tim puts down his fork. He's lost interest too. At least for a while. He sits back on his heels and flattens his hands on the tabletop; he looks at Gary thoughtfully.

He's not that old.

Then he crawls around the coffee table on his hands and knees and stops next to where Gary's sitting, cross-legged. He reaches out and his hand hovers over Gary's arm, not sure where to hold on. In the end he doesn't. He just leans forward and kisses him.

Gary's mouth is warm and oily from the eggroll, but he doesn't seem particularly surprised, and he moves immediately into the kiss, turning his face. His lips soften at once, press and tease, fall open under Tim's mouth. Tim licks at his teeth, presses his mouth more firmly under Gary's, leans forward.

Somehow he has got one hand in Gary's hair. Somehow Gary's twisted uncomfortably and his hip is digging into Tim, and he can't lean over him right without knocking over the coffee table. Gary's left knee also seems to be in the way.

Gary seizes Tim's head in both hands and tilts his face and really kisses him, hard, and long, and sort of dirty, and Tim lets himself shelve that stuff temporarily, and sit still leaning forward, with his weight on one arm, motionless and kissing, the only point of contact the mobile seal of his and Gary's slick sticky Chinese-tasting lips.

They stand up. Gary's aggressively bottomy, grabbing Tim's hips and jerking him between his thighs, going boneless and heavy in Tim's arms so Tim has to wrap them around Gary and squeeze him tightly, dragging Tim back with him, not letting go for an instant.

Walking is awkward and Gary's going backwards, but he doesn't let go all the way to his bedroom, down the narrow darkened hall, even though they keep bumping into the walls. Tim heaves an internal sigh. Maybe it's of relief.

He unbuttons the striped canvas shirt and peels it off of Gary, who watches him with heavy eyelids. He's still wearing his glasses.

Tim takes care of that.

Gary struggles with the buttons of Tim's pants. "We'll have to get you some pajamas," he says.

"Mm," says Tim, standing with one hand on each of Gary's hips.

"That is, if you want them."

"Mm," says Tim, and darts forward to catch his mouth again, and Gary lets him, Gary's eyes close and he steps forward and presses the length of their bodies together and gives a happy, tiny little shake, like a dog coming in from the rain.

Tim strokes with his fingers and especially his thumb up and down Gary's ribs, the tendons of his armpits, the flat pucker of nipple, the curving musculature of his skinny arms, the soft, loose skin at his collarbone and the hollow of his throat.

He smells like Gary all over.

They finally have to stop and lose their clothes because they're not as young as they once were, and have learned some small amount of practicality, at least. Then, naked, they sit on the edge of Gary's bed, then crawl to the middle, and face each other kneeling, Gary's palms up on his thighs, Tim's palms down on his knees.

Gary grins a little, crookedly, first one side of his mouth and then the other, and Tim moves and pushes him down in a messy tangle, flattens him on the bed and plasters himself on top of him.

Gary's thighs open wide, and close around Tim's hips. His body arches beautifully, in one long, smooth movement, up off the bed, up into Tim.

Then they probably both stop keeping track. There are long periods of kissing, and Tim nuzzles under Gary's ears and in his throat and belly, finding wrinkles, finding places where the skin is soft or loose with age, where the curls are gray instead of dark. Gary licks him. They both have disagreements with each other's knees.

Gary forgets how to talk at one point and opens his mouth, saying nothing but "uhh" and then he growls again and this time it makes Tim's blood roar, and Gary bites Tim's neck hard and Tim presses his hard cock in the sweaty hollow of Gary's hip and rubs himself there.

As far as Tim can tell Gary keeps his eyes closed the whole time.

Suddenly Tim, though aroused almost past the point of reason, finds this incredibly touching. And the touched spot somewhere behind his ribs goes soft, and it keeps touching, it's spreading, melting, helplessly, deliciously panicky and sticky until all inside of him is confusion, aggression and tenderness, rising hackles and gentle hands.

Tim puts his face next to Gary's and closes his eyes and presses their gritty cheeks together, feeling the scrape of stubble, nuzzling at Gary's cheekbone, the hollow of his eye, the line of his brow.

He reaches Gary's mouth and finds out that it's open, his lips are dry. Tim opens his eyes and drops dry little kisses, bunches of them, in the corners of Gary's mouth, the center of the bottom, the curve and the dip of the top, all along, until Gary catches Tim's lower lip in his teeth.

He holds on tightly to Gary and Gary writhes slowly against him, wraps his legs around Tim's hips and commences slowly grinding them together until they both come, which doesn't take long.

Sweaty and stinky, sticky, dirty, tired, they roll on their sides and clutch each other hard, muscles rigid until they ache, teeth clenched, fingers going white, ribs crunching and breath coming short.

"I can't breathe," says Gary.

"I can't either," says Tim and squeezes harder for a second.

But they have to partly let go, smiling breathlessly. Gary flops onto his back and stares at the ceiling. Tim reaches blindly for bedclothes, pulls a puffy comforter up over them and collapses back against Gary with a little grunt.

Gary rubs his thumb idly back and forth against Tim's ribs. He says, "I kind of feel like I should apologize to the kids, but I'm not man enough to do it."

"If they catch you in a good mood," Tim suggests.

Gary laughs. "Like now?"

Tim just smiles. He doesn't ask for pajamas.

The next morning they don't sleep late, but they stay in bed late, taking turns making fun of each other ("How are your hips, geezer? Can they take the exercise?" "Is that come in your hair?"). They don't have quite enough time to clean the living room before they have to get to the airport. Gary has to go for a run, and Tim shovels the Chinese back into bags and takes the shortest shower in the history of fifty-nine year olds who have just had their introductions to gay sex and are consequently experiencing beard burn in surprising places.

They throw the Chinese into a garbage bag. Gary calls a cab and they sit on the front step with the bakery box and the garbage bag and two of Gary's coffee mugs filled with coffee. When they finish eating, they stuff the box and the crumbs in the garbage bag. Gary sets it by the curb and comes back to face Tim down solemnly.


"Crumbs," says Tim. He brushes Gary's lapel just for fun--there aren't really any crumbs. Gary brushes down Tim's shirt (actually another of Gary's), which really is sprinkled with bits of sugar. Then Tim uses his thumb to wipe around Gary's mouth and Gary, smiling but with his eyes wide and riveting and serious, touches the corner of Tim's lips with his forefinger.

Gary is wearing a suit coat and dress pants that actually match. Tim finds out why when he tips off his tinted glasses and puts them on the ticket counter.

"It's Sirius Black," says the young woman in the white blouse and the little Southwest airlines tie.

Gary smiles, and looks at her nametag. "Maria," he says, and smiles again. "Nice to meet you. Mr. Roth and I are flying to Toronto today. We're working on a project of some delicacy and it's very important that we be able to discuss it. Now, unfortunately I know we've had to buy our tickets very late. I hate doing things at the last minute, and I'm sure your people hate it too, but I was wondering if it was just possible for you to put in a request for ticket upgrades--or--really," he looks at Tim with an air of realization. "Anywhere, if we could just get close seats. Maybe not adjoining, maybe we could just ask someone to switch?" He smiles a third time.

The third time is, apparently, the charm.

"I hate doing that," Gary confides as they emerge from the security checkpoint. He's carrying the tinted glasses folded in his hand.

Tim snatches them away and perches them on his own nose. The prescription makes things noticeably magnified but it's not too bad--not giving him a headache yet. "I wouldn't know," he says, "I've never tried--Mister Oldman."

"I think she recognized you too."

Tim laughs. "I could see that. She was one of those big fans of Reservoir Dogs and Harry Potter. At least she was happy. She didn't hate anything about it."

Gary's mouth can do really, really extraordinary things, thinks Tim. Right now it looks like he's bitten into a lime and someone's just told him they're out of salt and tequila.

"You were just asking."

Gary shakes his shoulders a little, settling the jacket on them, and tugs the cuffs down over his hands. There's something really attractive about his hands half-covered in too-long sleeves. "Well," he says, "I do like first class."

The fact they've told the desk worker they need to have a serious conversation must work subconsciously on them, because they spend a good bit of the ride making vague and not-very-sound connections between Timothy and Gullie's characters, their behavior as children.

"How do you feel about it now?" Says Tim.

Gary thinks about it. "I'm still scared."


"We're not living in The Advocate."

"Nope. But do you still feel betrayed?"

Gary shakes his head no. "You?"

"No. Or jealous. I kept looking at them and thinking."

"They didn't care."

"I don't think they were afraid," says Tim, and reaches up slowly, carefully, to wrap his hand around the back of Gary's neck. Gary relaxes a little, tendons going supple as spaghetti cooked somewhat past the point of al dente. The shaggy bits of hair at the back of his neck brush the back of Tim's hand. Gary rolls his head back and forth a little and Tim smiles, amused, and massages his neck.

"Will you do that again?" Gary opens one eye and looks up at him.

"Sure." Tim flexes his hand demonstratively and watches a lock of Gary's hair curl around his thumb. There are some definite benefits to being in first class, to sitting in the relative dark.


Tim says, "I hope so."

Gary looks amused. "And if I fall and crack my head on the bloody pavement will you call the ambulance?"

Tim squeezes for a second, probably hard enough to hurt, but Gary doesn't protest.

"Will you?"

Tim clears his throat. "Anytime. Also, I may take you up on that offer of pajamas."


notes: Chimera is a very meta-ish book by John Barth which I, personally, enjoyed a lot. Ray Winstone was the star of both Nil by Mouth, Gary Oldman's directorial debut, and The War Zone, Tim Roth's directorial debut. "Docker's Kiss" is a British slang term for head-butting. Tim Horton's is really a lot cooler than Starbucks, but their sugary beverages are pretty awful. Those are the real names and birth years of their kids, but everything is totally made up, and it's made as fictional and, well, literaturey as possible; I know nothing about them whatsoever.