Fic: Something to pass the time

Karl was sorry to give his sword back to wardrobe that day. He drew it on the girl who came to take it away, his eyebrows rakish. But she said, barely cracking a dimple, “C’mon, we’re packing up.”

Outside, the sun gently baked the wig glue onto his forehead as he walked back to the car.

He rounded the corner of a trailer. Across the gravel of the car park, he saw Harry leaning on the bonnet of the car, reading his script.

Karl’s boots crunched the gravel. Harry looked up.

“Hey,” Karl said.

Harry smiled faintly and flipped his script closed. He pulled the jammed bulge of his keys out of his jeans pocket and popped the central locking.

As Harry drove them home, Karl’s hand was slapping his thigh to an inaudible rhythm.

Harry was the wrong size for the car, his shoulders wider than the indent in the seat, his knees a whisker off bumping the dashboard. He drove hunched over, with his elbow out the window.

Karl had never seen Harry get angry in traffic. Karl thought that if all you had to do was get out of the car for the other guy to cede the point, there was probably no sport in it.

Today there were road works, and the going was slow. The afternoon sun glared off the bonnet. At a set of lights, Harry leaned over and flattened Karl’s slapping hand under his own. It was not how you squash a bug, but not how you stroke a lover, either. “Fair go, mate,” Harry said.

“Uh,” Karl said neutrally. By the next set of lights, his foot was tapping. The carpet muffled the sound, and Harry looked straight ahead.

“Playing with swords all day, then?” Harry said at last, mildly.

Karl’s foot missed a beat. “Yeah,” he said.

“Have a good time?” Harry changed gear.

“Yeah,” Karl said, more warmly. He looked out the window.

Long shadows of tree trunks laddered the asphalt in Harry’s street. They pulled up, and Karl was out and vaulting the low front fence. He was fishing Harry’s paper from the rose bed. “Fuck,” he said, rubbing at his wrist where a spot of blood had appeared.

Karl drummed the paper against his knee all the way across the lawn and up the front steps. Harry came up beside him to unlock the door. He looked at Karl with a crinkle in the corner of his eye. He caught the paper on an upswing.

Karl let Harry take the paper.

The house faced east, and the hall was dim as they entered, the pattern on the runner reduced to a vague wave of light and dark. In the bedroom, Karl tore the laces loose from his boots, and kicked them off. He flipped the slatted blinds open onto the street. The room brightened. The peaks and troughs of a hastily made bed became respectively brighter and darker.

Back out in the hall, the door to the lounge room was ajar. Karl entered. The curtains had not been opened, and it was dim in there too.

Through open French doors, Karl could see Harry in the kitchen, framed by a box of afternoon sun, standing bent over the kitchen table. He was pulling the plastic wrap off the newspaper.

Karl advanced toward Harry. Before him were Harry’s high, heavy, denimed haunches bent over the table, and below that the slabs of Harry’s thighs. Harry had the paper open now, and he was flattening the curl in it with the heels of his hands. The fall of Karl’s bare feet was soft but audible. Finally he was standing flush beside Harry, his hip brushing Harry’s.

There was a small crackle as Harry lifted one of his slightly damp palms from the paper.

Harry’s hand strayed around Karl’s hip, gave a pat. “Horny or something, mate?” he said in a light voice. He was still looking at the paper.

Karl did not reply.

Harry looked up at Karl, and there was a slight widening of Harry’s eyes.

Karl was giving a little shrug and taking a step away, but Harry was catching him by the hips and saying gently, “No, no.” When Karl was still under his hands, Harry said, “Can I have a look at the paper first?”

“Yeah, sure,” Karl said. He backed up. Harry let him go.

Karl went into the shadows in the lounge room and sat on an armchair. He could hear the fridge humming faintly. He watched the quiet, owlish concentration on Harry’s face as his eyes made their zigzagging way down the columns of text.

He watched the way Harry’s thick torso compressed as he bent over the table, the way the denim strained across his thighs. The sleeve hems of Harry’s t-shirt were rucked up above his biceps, and there was a shadow of sweat under his arms.

Karl straightened up from the chair and came to stand in the doorway.

Harry looked up and gave a small smile. His eyes dropped back to the paper.

“I’m starting to resent that paper,” Karl said.

When Harry looked up this time, he did not smile. “I’m going to finish the rest of this,” he said, pointing to the editorial, “and then I’d like to read this.” He gestured to a column running the length of the right hand side of the page. “Then I’ll be finished. All right?”

Karl, leaning his head against the door frame, did not reply.

“Why don’t you have a shower?” Harry said.

“I smell, do I?” Karl replied.

“No. Just something to pass the time,” Harry said.

Karl shrugged. He turned and made off into the lounge room. The decanter on the sideboard gave a small tinkle.

Then he was out into the hall, and into the bedroom, where he was dropping his clothes in a pile on the floor. Then he was in the en suite and turning the water on.

He thrust his forehead directly under the spray. He reached for a face washer, dabbed it on the soap and scrubbed at his hairline.

When wetted, the face washer smelled of the sharp, musky citrus of Harry. Karl tried not to look down at the water flowing over his body.

 

Karl had never been sure that his first impression of his director for The Price of Milk had been quite to the point. Those were some shoulders, he had thought, seeing Harry side-on with his elbows on the conference table.

In the workshopping meetings, Harry spoke in a low, clear voice, and people stopped to listen. When he was interrupted, he either left off, or he restated his point in that same, clear voice. Not a tantrum-thrower, Karl had thought. Good.

Three weeks in, after one meeting Harry had said, “Karl, come and have a coffee?”

Then they were in Harry’s office, and there was coffee. And Harry had said, “So how you finding it?”

“Yeah, great,” Karl said.

Harry had sipped his coffee and met Karl’s eye, waiting for Karl to go on.

Karl had sipped his coffee. The moment had stretched. Harry had smiled placidly.

“Why?” Karl had said, smiling back.

“Can’t see why I need a reason,” Harry had said.

At last Karl said, “It’s just that without a script, I can’t really work on the character, you know?”

“Yeah,” Harry had said, “I know.”

“I mean,” Karl said, “I know that there’s a slipperiness of possibility about it that’s quite exciting, but…”

“Yeah,” Harry had said, nodding.

They began always to have coffee after the Tuesday afternoon meeting. One time Harry had put his cup down, stood up and begun wheeling his big arm around his shoulder. Karl had said, “How you doing, Harry?”

“Tired, mate,” Harry had said, “busy.” He had sat down again.

“What doing?” Karl had asked.

“Sourcing a fuck-load of milk for some silly bastard.” Harry had winked.

“Sounds like the idea of some even sillier bastard,” Karl had said, winking back.

Harry had shifted forward in his chair, with his elbow on his knee.

Karl had said, “D’you reckon I’ll smell like cheese afterwards?”

“I’ll let you know,” Harry had said.

 

After Price‘s premiere, it hadn’t seemed so strange that Harry had asked Karl back to his place for a drink; not so peculiar that they were dressed up to the nines and it was barely midnight, but he and Harry were going home to Harry’s house, just the two of them.

It was so very Harry that even though the movie had just premiered, at home, Harry wanted to talk about the book he had spotted peeking out of Karl’s bag.

“What do you think of it?” Harry had said.

“I dunno,” Karl had said lightly. “What do you think of it?”

Harry had said, his cheek dimpling, “That’s not an answer, is it?”

“Well…” Karl had begun. Then Karl had had to think, and Harry had been happy to wait in silence, sipping his drink.

The only part that had seemed strange was when Harry kissed him. The fact that Harry, his director, had leaned over and kissed him was something Karl probably should have devoted some thought to, but he was too busy for that. He was busy being surprised at how gentle Harry was, at the light filliping of the tongue in Karl’s mouth, at the amiable hand cupping Karl’s jaw.

Karl had found the bulge of Harry’s bicep with one hand, and the other had tangled hard in Harry’s hair. Then he had been trying to climb into Harry’s lap, or to pull the heavy bulk of Harry’s body down on top of him — he was not sure. But Harry had breathed in his ear, “Shh. Shh.”

 

When Karl got out of the shower, he opened the linen cupboard door and pulled out the basket on the bottom shelf. There were hand towels and face washers in it. He shook the basket from side to side. “Shit,” he said, water dripping from his nose. He shoved the basket back in and closed the cupboard.

Karl looked at the plush, burgundy towel already hanging from the towel rail. He reached for it, pressed it to his face and inhaled. Musk, citrus. He said again, “Shit.”

In the bedroom, Karl opened the bottom drawer of the dresser, where he had a pair of jeans, a pair of trackpants, a jumper, two t-shirts and some underwear. He took out the trackpants. He stretched the elastic out at the front as he pulled them up to his waist.

When he came back to the kitchen, the newspaper was folded up neatly, and Harry was sitting at the table with his hands folded on top of it. A cup, dangling a tea bag, was off to one side. Harry looked up as Karl appeared in the doorway.

Karl said softly, “There were no towels. So yours is wet.”

He came towards Harry across the kitchen floor, his feet sticking slightly to the tiles.

Harry shifted his chair out. He said, “I must have just chucked them on the bed in the spare room when I brought them in from the line. Sorry.”

“It smelled like you,” Karl said. He came to stand between Harry’s legs. He nudged one of Harry’s knees aside with his own.

Harry said, “I’m not averse to your smelling like me.”

Harry’s broad hands went to Karl’s waist and trailed upwards. His thumbs circled Karl’s nipples. Karl found the sandpaper of Harry’s cheek.

Harry’s hands moved down again until they framed Karl’s hips. Harry looked at the disturbance in the fall of Karl’s trackpants. “You’ve been very restrained,” Harry said, “all alone in that shower.”

Karl lifted his knees over Harry’s and sat in Harry’s lap. They looked at each other.

Harry’s eyes dropped. He took hold of Karl through the trackpants.

A sound like, “Unh,” came from Karl’s mouth. Harry slipped the fingers of his other hand into the waistband of the trackpants and tested the texture of the inside of the fabric. He smiled. With the first hand, he began moving the stretchy, nubbled cloth over Karl.

Karl’s hands went to Harry’s shoulders.

“How does that feel?” Harry asked.

“Good,” Karl said.

“No,” Harry said, his free hand under Karl’s chin, “tell me.”

Karl’s eyes flipped, squeezed shut. “Rough,” he said, “and soft at once.”

When Karl opened his eyes again, Harry was still looking at him.

“Too much,” Karl said, his voice catching, “and not enough.”

“Not enough?” Harry said. He sped up, tightened his grip.

Karl said, “Fuck.” His spine arched.

Harry’s hand jerked back and forth. The chair began to creak.

Harry took his hand off Karl. He stroked Karl’s back. He kissed Karl, and their tongues rolled over each other. Karl pushed Harry’s hair back where it curled over his temples.

Harry withdrew his lips. “Unless you really resent that newspaper,” he said, “shall we…?” He tilted his head toward the door.

“Yeah,” Karl said.

 

In the bedroom, Harry walked the back of Karl’s knees into the bed until they bent and Karl fell, making the covers give a little billow. But Harry bounced himself upright off the heels of his hands and went over to adjust the blinds.

Karl wriggled out of his tracksuit pants and crawled backwards on his elbows to the head of the bed. When Harry turned back from the window, Karl raised his knees and spread them wide, until he could feel cool air in the crease at the base of his body. He looked up at Harry with a faint, upward tweak to his eyebrow.

As he watched Harry watch him, Karl’s knees inched wider.

Then Harry was taking his clothes off, his eyes only disappearing to bring the t-shirt off over his head. There were shoes toed off, jeans pushed down. Then the barrel of Harry’s body was bare, and he was coming towards the bed, his cock jutting in front of him. Karl’s back arched.

Then Harry was crouched over Karl, and Harry’s hand was moving on Karl’s skin, belly button to nipple, back and forth. He kissed Karl, and Karl’s tongue was stabbing up into his mouth, and Harry was murmuring around the tongue. Harry was pinching, tweaking Karl’s nipple. His fingers were twirling and tangling in the line of hair on Karl’s belly.

Karl’s hands found the smooth planes of Harry’s back, the fur of Harry’s front, the pliant expanse of Harry’s rump.

Then the warm weight of Harry was pressing Karl into the mattress, and Harry was rocking into Karl, pressing them, sliding them together. Karl was growling, his fingers digging into Harry’s arse. Harry’s voice eased warm against Karl’s ear: “Shh.” Harry’s tongue was sliding along the ear’s innermost whorl.

“Harry,” Karl said, the syllables like dropped stones.

“Yes?” Harry said. He took Karl’s earlobe in his mouth.

“Fuck me,” Karl said.

“Tell me,” Harry said, his hand slipping along Karl’s thigh.

“Put your dick in me,” Karl said in a soft staccato. “Slide it in and out.”

Harry kissed Karl. “Alright,” he said softly.

Then Karl was protesting, “Eh!” because Harry was up and off him. But then Harry was back, and pushing Karl’s knees up, and Harry had slippery fingers, and they were trailing and circling. Harry’s other hand was rubbing Karl’s balls, and then it was slipping up around the length of Karl. Their eyes met. Karl’s mouth was open.

Harry’s finger slid inside. Karl’s muscles tightened around it. “Hey, hey!” Harry said.

“S’okay,” Karl said, “s’okay.” There were more fingers, and Karl was clenching again, and releasing, and clenching. “Come on,” Karl said sharply.

Harry took his fingers out. He leaned himself over Karl, settling his flanks between Karl’s thighs. Karl traced Harry’s collarbones. There was the heavy, blunt nudge of Harry against Karl. Harry’s eyes lost focus.

“There,” Karl breathed. His hand skated up Harry’s forearm, gripped Harry’s elbow.

Harry made a sort of a vowel sound. “Don’t want your ankle up?” he said. His fingers traced Karl’s ankle bone.

“No,” Karl said.

“You’ll get a cramp.”

“They’re my legs,” Karl said. Their eyes met. Karl said, “Gunna move?”

“Yeah,” Harry said. He began to shift his hips back and then bring them up flush again. The bedsprings creaked lazily.

Harry eased out the sound, “Aw.”

Karl said, “Mmph.”

Traffic passed outside. Friction sounded softly on the sheets. Karl said, “Harder.”

Harry dropped a kiss on Karl’s lips, on his way steadily back and forth above Karl.

“Fucking harder,” Karl said. His hips rolled up, lost time with Harry’s.

“Hey,” Harry said, “hey.” He stilled, waiting for Karl to subside. The white of Karl’s eyes flashed.

Harry said, “Settle!” Looking carefully at Karl, he pushed Karl’s wrist down, and trapped it under his own forearm, putting his weight on his elbow. He did the same for the other.

Harry continued to ride Karl just quickly enough to break out a light sweat. Karl turned his face aside. Harry kissed his temple.

Karl said, “God.”

And then Harry released Karl and began to move faster, the springs thrumming a swift, erratic music. He took Karl in hand, and the chafe of it became audible. Their hips made a soft, quick smack.

Harry was saying, “Aw, yeah.”

Karl was yelping, “Shit!” His legs seized Harry like a clam snapping shut. Harry rose again, and Karl bucked in counterpoint, and then again. Fluid shot past Harry’s fingers.

Karl subsided. “Fuck,” he said softly, straightening one of his legs and shaking it.

When Karl bent the straightened knee again, Harry caught it and pushed it up. Harry rocked against Karl. The springs whined.

Harry emitted a hard vowel. Four, perhaps five times, he slammed forward. He dropped his weight onto Karl, loose-limbed. He rocked gently a little longer. “Mmm,” he said into Karl’s ear.

Karl ran his fingers through Harry’s hair. He stroked Harry’s back. Harry stilled.

When Harry got to his elbows again, there was the soft, sucking sound, and Karl reached for a tissue.

“Here,” Harry said. He took the tissue and wiped the skin in the dip of Karl’s ribs, then licked it in quick cross-strokes. He wiped his own stomach. He took another tissue and reached between Karl’s legs.

Karl lifted his knees again. “Alright?” Harry said.

“Yeah,” Karl said. Harry set the balled tissues on the bedside table. He pulled the spare blanket from the foot of the bed up over them, and settled himself down a little to Karl’s side.

Karl lay with the weight of Harry’s big shoulder across his chest. Harry’s breath puffed gently against Karl’s throat. Harry’s smell was tinged with sweat. Dry cinnamon bark had gone resinous cinnamon leaf; citrus became citronella.

Karl closed his eyes for a while. A car went past. The neighbour’s dog barked briefly.

Karl’s fingers walked the stairs of Harry’s spine. He thought about the leather-covered handle of a golf club. “Don’t s’pose you want to go to the driving range,” he said at last.

He waited. He touched the back of his knuckles to Harry’s cheek.

The puffing against Karl’s throat was slow and even.

Karl watched the blinds stripe the ceiling. He counted the stripes, lost track, started again. His fingers began to tap the mattress.

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