He watches awareness and recognition come into Gary's face like a sluice of water over a window--the calm, then dully expectant look giving way to surprise and pleasure until his whole face is stretched into an animated grin. Tim tugs the wooden screen door open by a rusty handle; it's surprisingly light, but scrapes over the floor of the porch and catches, skipping hard into the edge of his shoe. Then he's through it and in Gary's arms.
For a moment, it's pretty much a blur. Gary's body and arms are thin and wiry, and he's warm. His hair, fine and silky, is tucked behind his ears, and it brushes Tim's face where he's buried it in Gary's neck, and though he hadn't realised that he would, Tim remembers the smell. He remembers the smell of Gary's skin, too, and it's been such a long time--he didn't even know he knew those smells. It's not as though they were ever lovers.
Tim's laughing, sort of squeezing one arm around Gary's ribs, trying not to squeeze too hard. Gary's chuckling and slapping his back, throwing the duffel from Tim's shoulder onto the floor, dragging him back through a living room dimmed with blue curtains drawn over the windows that tint the light. "Come in," he says, "welcome. I'm glad to see you."
He comes out of the refrigerator with bottled water and a pitcher of lemonade, lifting them up demonstratively. Tim smiles and points to the lemonade; Gary takes two pebbled glasses out of cabinets with the wooden doors hanging a little off the level. Inside the cabinets are lined with peeling contact paper.
Tim opens his mouth a couple of times while Gary fills the glasses with juice and drops ice cubes in, puts the juice back in the refrigerator, brushes hair back out of his face, pushes his glasses up his nose. But each time he closes it again without saying anything and just smiles.
"Of course, I'm glad to see you," says Gary, "but--this is unexpected." He raises an eyebrow. "How long has it been?"
Tim smiles some more; he can't stop. The wooden table is bare, and the light coming through the rather small window above it is bright and intense. He glances down at his hands clasped together, resting on a dark wood with much of the finish rubbed off; a few grains of salt or sugar (or sand?) are trapped in a little dent in the grain of the wood.
When he looks back up, Gary isn't looking at him anymore; he's leaning back on the counter with his hands braced beside his hips, his thin cotton shirt pulled back against his torso, straining slightly at the first fastened button over the tan of his chest.
"Seven years?" Tim says. Give or take. He's sure Gary knows; he can't not remember.
"Hmm," Gary says, drinking his lemonade. It really looks like he's not watching Tim, like he's just gazing out the window at the tall grass and the sand dunes.
Gary doesn't ask him how long he'll be staying until late that night, when they're sitting on the tiny back deck of the little cottage with their bare feet in the sand, gazing over the dunes to the southwest, where they can see a fire some people have lit on the beach blazing up in the cool moist darkness.
When Tim swings his feet, occasionally his right foot brushes against Gary's. Their hands are oddly luminous against the dull wood of the deck, silver with a tinge of blue reflected from the sky. The moon is high and almost full.
"Well," says Tim, "I heard this was the place to go, for getting away."
Gary lets out a little bark of laughter. "I guess it is." A flash of moving pale skin catches Tim's eye and he glances down to where Gary has laid his palms flat over his thighs, the fingers spread.
Tim shrugs and rolls his neck around on his shoulders, tipping his face up to the sky. The breeze changes direction briefly and a warm breath scented like road dust instead of salt slips briefly over his cheek and nose. "I could use a getaway," he says. He tries to resist the urge to steal a look out of the corner of his eye, but only manages to hold out a few moments.
Gary's head is bent, his chin tucked, his face turned a little towards Tim but mostly just down to the ground. There's a bright white line of moonlight on the metal bridge of Gary's glasses; his face is indecipherable, cast in shadows. "You're welcome," says Gary.
"Then I'll stay," says Tim.
Gary looks up at him, raising one eyebrow.
"And if you need to get away from absolutely everyone--" he shrugs. "I'll leave."
Gary kicks some sand, cool and dry, over his foot. "I had gotten away from everyone," he says, "but here you are."
"Hmmm," Tim says, and smiles at the way Gary's shoulder bumps into his when they both lean back on their hands. "If it's any comfort, it took more than just name-dropping to get the direction from your agent. I was on the phone with her half an hour or more. And I convinced her in the end that you knew I was coming. Otherwise she'd probably have called and apologised."
He can only see Gary's movements out of the corner of his eye--minute twitches, a small tilt of his head. "There's no apology necessary," Gary says finally. He sounds thoughtful.
Tim leans back further and their arms and shoulders brush comfortably.
It's hard to believe, now, on the back porch of this tiny cottage, that it's been so long.
Tim was always a cautious kid, guarded, not optimistic, not open to hope. He got told he was too grown up a few times. He would've got told that more if he hadn't acted like he did, coming home dirty or bloody, falling off fences and in muddy ditches, accidentally setting things on fire; then later, motorcycle boots and fucking.
Tim didn't expect the worst; that wasn't exactly it. He simply knew there was no sense in expecting anything, so he tried not to. He's always been like that. He didn't think of himself as cynical, only realistic.
When he met Gary, he didn't exactly think anything at first. Well, of course you think something--did I put on a clean shirt, do I really want to drink that coffee, nice arse, oh, a goddamn hippie. But he didn't think of Gary that they would be friends, that they wouldn't, that his casual appreciation would turn to attraction or anything else or would fade away. He didn't, at that point, think anything of Gary's acting. After a day or two of work he was impressed; after a couple of scenes together he was intrigued, intoxicated even, by the dynamic, incredible feeling of acting with Gary.
At the time Tim didn't speculate much about the feeling--he'd never done a scene with an actor like Gary before; he knew Gary's talent, and his style, were important, but not everything, because he liked Gary, and Gary obviously liked him.
He didn't know that he'd feel the rush of clicking and meshing with other actors, that eventually he'd lose track of the number of talented co-stars he became friends with. He didn't know that it would never be exactly the same again, that it was never the same with any two people. He knew how much he liked what he was feeling, but he didn't anticipate the way it would grow over time, the way he'd get comfortable but not bored. He didn't know how that would matter.
He liked Gary, personally, almost right away, and however close they've been, as friends--and there were moments on the set of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of comfortable silence, pointless laughter, in which they felt dizzyingly, bewilderingly close, like some kind of philosophical epiphany--he's always felt comfortable, more than comfortable.
Tim used to feed stray cats a lot. He still does it, actually, wherever he's living--if they're around, he tries to coax them out; he gives them bits of canned tuna and upside-down jar lids filled with milk. He started doing that way before he landed first television role. It's not that Tim is irresistible to cats; many of the strays he's fed regularly, that he even considered friends, would never even let him touch them.
He fed a grey cat that he called Duster for over two years in L.A. one time, and for a period he saw that cat almost every time he went outside; it waited for him to come home, but it ran when it saw him anyway, and hid behind the garbage cans or around the corner or under a car, and watched him carefully. Sometimes it crept out, it would approach and even nuzzle his hand, but as far as Tim could tell, this was totally random; sometimes Duster would dart away from Tim at any sudden movements and sometimes he'd follow Tim almost to his door a careful foot and a half behind.
There'd been a cat--a kitten, really, brown--that he'd seen a couple of times, just briefly, before he left Britain to shoot Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. She'd, the kitten, been demanding and vocal, squealed for food the few times he'd seen her, but she hadn't been regular, not enough for him to ever give her a name.
Maybe it was the fact that that cat didn't leave of her own volition that bothered Tim. Stray cats were vanishing all the time. That was the nature of strays, how they wandered into your life and then out of it. But the brown kitten had begged him for food a few times over the course of a month and half, maybe, just enough to start to make friends, enough that soon he'd have to start thinking of names, and then Tim had had to leave town.
He never saw that kitten again. It was years before it occurred to him that she'd have been a full-grown cat by the time he returned.
They were never lovers; they never talked about it.
A touch, a conversation, a moment of eye contact, a helpless smile--an innocent backrub, a shared bottle, Gary napping with his head pillowed on Tim's belly and dust motes dancing in the sunlight above his face. The wet skin in the open V of Rosencrantz's shirt, the casual brush of his thumb down the inside of Tim's forearm, the odd hint of childlike delight in the curl of Gary's wickedest smile; the cigarettes on his breath that year at Cannes.
Tim sleeps on the couch. He wakes up bathed in the blue light filtered through Gary's cotton curtains and goes to make coffee. When he touches the window, it's already warm from the sun, when the light stretching across the ocean is still pink and white, not the saturated yellow of the day.
"Come walk with me," Gary says.
They go barefoot between the dunes on hot sand and pass the carcasses of several horseshoe crabs washed up by the tide. A blue heron stalks them along the beach at a distance of a hundred feet or so. Gary looks at the sky, the sun, the sea, the sand, the seagulls wheeling overhead, the bending of the tall grass on the dunes, and Tim. Tim looks at the soft dents his feet make in the wet sand, and at Gary.
Gary stops and points and says, "A conch shell."
It's a little one, but Tim bends to pick it up anyway, smiling a little self-consciously as he looks at it lying in his hand. He glances up, and Gary is watching. Then he puts it up to his ear and listens to the wind sighing inside.
Gary starts walking again, thrusting his hands deep in his pockets and kicking at the sand so little wet bits of it spray out in front of them and land again with faint wet plops. "You can't really hear the sea in seashells," he says thoughtfully. "I wonder how you can hear your own breathing--it's not like you breathe with your ears..."
Tim tries to remember. A cloud has moved from between them and the sun and sunlight pours down heavily over the silver waves spread out next to them, drawing each peak and dip with sharp shadows in black and white. The heron, their own shadow, pauses on one foot. "I always thought it was your heartbeat you hear in a shell," Tim says slowly.
Gary says, "I still love you."
Tim takes away the shell from his ear. When he turns to hand it to Gary, their eyes meet and their hands and then their feet tangle and he forgets what he was going to say, for a long moment. Gary's fingers and his are wrapped so tight around the shell that the edge is pressing into his palm, hurting.
Tim licks his lips and watches the subtle, tiny changes in Gary's face. His eyes seem to be a very slightly different shape now than they were filming Rosencrantz and Guildenstern--not so round, and they've both got wrinkles in the corners, but they're the same shocking blue, and Gary's soft mouth is twitching with amusement or impatience or misery, though he's holding his face almost totally still.
Tim kisses him and pushes the shell into his hand. They walk halfway back to the cottage before the heron, who's been stalking very slowly closer to them, takes flight.
They take off their clothes on the way through the living room and stand naked next to a twin bed with a white summer coverlet, kissing in front of the closed curtains. The curtains are white, though, so the light comes through them without turning the room into an aquarium.
Gary kisses almost without moving anything but his head, slowly and carefully, thoroughly, and he ignores the soft pleading sounds Tim eventually mumbles into his mouth, but he rests his hand on Tim's hip the whole time.
"Can you do this?" Tim says confusingly, at almost the worst moment, while they're in the process of pressing and tangling their bodies together under the sheets. "Can you?"
But it's okay. Gary eases down on top of him, strokes Tim's side and kisses him some more. "I will," he says. Tim shifts and wraps an arm around Gary's waist, presses him closer and arches off the bed fretfully, rubbing his cock in the crease of Gary's thigh.
Gary moves to his neck, and at first he kisses, and then he nips, but by the end his mouth is open, his face pressed there, one hand leaving red finger marks on Tim's arm, his lips dragging damply above the curve of Tim's shoulder while his dick slides between Tim's thighs and he comes.
"Summer house," Gary reminds Tim later, kissing his shoulder. "It's not a getaway if you stay there all the time."
Tim stretches and turns to look at him, saving up another image of him with his hair tangled, his mouth still a little flushed. "I didn't mean literally. You can't stay in one place forever, which is probably a very good thing."
"Do you happen to know," Gary says, trailing a finger up along Tim's ribs, "why we've never talked about this?"
"No," Tim says immediately.
"Delightfully fucked-up," Gary murmurs, and lets his hand relax and curl along Tim's side. "You know, I'd like to stay here too."