“Geoffrey?” she calls again, louder, stepping carefully through the backstage maze of cords. There’s still no answer, but there’s an odd sort of...creaking noise.
Ellen heads toward the sound, and soon she can just make out in the dimness something large and oddly swaying. What on earth...
It’s Geoffrey, suspended in a tangle of ropes five feet or so above the ground, sideways as if he were lying down in midair. In his boxer shorts.
“Ellen,” he says, with what he probably thinks is calm dignity, and nods at her, which looks odd sideways and with a strand of rope slightly smushing his nose.
“What are you doing?” She’d had a bare moment of panic that this was some sort of extremely clumsy suicide attempt, but though a couple of rope loops are holding his head up, there’s nothing near his neck. In fact it all looks rather careful. Now that she looks closer “tangled” isn’t the word at all; and when she walks around behind him she can see that his wrists are tied behind his back.
“How did you—“ she says, and then takes in a breath sharply. Fool that she is, she’d believed his whole “never anyone but you” speech, and now clearly he has some sort of bondage-expert ingénue hiding in the wings.
“I was trying--" he says. "Well, I was trying to distract myself from the cursed play we are currently actually putting on. I thought I’d figure out if, should we want to do 'Antony and Cleopatra' at some point, we could easily enact the scene when he’s dying and has to be hauled up to her in ropes.”
“And you managed to tie your hands behind you and finish the process how?”
He makes what looks like an attempt to duck his head, which is thwarted by the ropes, and mumbles something.
“I didn’t quite hear that,” she says, steps closer and pokes him in the stomach with one finger. He sways.
“Oliver,” he says, and flushes. “Oliver was helping, and tied my hands before I realized what he was doing and then hoisted. And laughed for a long time and then, then dissolved or retreated to the ethereal plane or joined the choir invisible or whatever it is he does.”
Ellen puts her hand over her mouth and, well, sniggers. At great length. She’s never decided quite how much she believes in Oliver, and really the reason she’s never decided is that to decide either way--madness or haunting--would be extremely upsetting. But in this case, it’s hard to argue with the amusement value of the results.
“And the boxer shorts?” she finally manages.
“I’d been rethinking the staging of one of the swordfights,” he says, “and doing both sides of the fight, and I got warm. At least the ropes weren’t cutting my circulation off anywhere, so I wasn’t too worried. But I wasn’t excited about staying here all night. And getting found by Nahum in the morning.”
“Nahum wouldn’t be all that startled.”
“I know, but sometimes it’s almost insulting how much he takes things in stride. Like he was expecting you’d do something just that deranged. Anyway, thank god you’re here. Why are you here?”
“Because it’s two a.m., Geoffrey, and you were supposed to be home for supper.”
“Oh. Uh, sorry.” He flashes that bright shiny smile that stopped working on her five months into the first time they lived together, and says, “I am a turd. Cut me down?”
“Hmmm,” she says, and circles him, eyeing the ropes. “I do think we could manage this. The hoisting seems to work just fine, and I could certainly get my teeth into Cleopatra; she’s such a horror. Of course, Antony’s no great shakes either.”
“Cut me down.”
“I don’t think so,” she says. “I think I like having you right here where you can’t disappear on me.” She pulls open the vent of his boxer shorts and says, “Oh, look, an asp.”
She squeezes him gently. The angle is peculiar, but manageable. And when she says, “Worried someone might walk in?” his cock jumps in her hand, and she laughs; he’s a performer through and through.
“It’s two a.m., Geoffrey,” she says, and takes him into her mouth, and oh, that’s perfect. He’s at exactly the right height, and she can hold him by the thigh and shoulder and swing him just slightly back and forth into her mouth.
“Ellen, for Christ’s sake, you cannot be serious, you, what, god, oooh,” he says, and then trails off into incoherent noises. She smiles around his cock; it’s always been a satisfying method of shutting him up. But he rallies a bit and manages to blurt out, “I am dying, Egypt, dying!” right before he comes, and she giggles at the same time he’s filling her mouth up, and nearly chokes.
She swallows and tucks him back in, and then nuzzles gently at his belly and murmurs, “I wish I had thy inches.”
She kisses her way up, or, well, left, and manages to awkwardly prop his head on her shoulder to put her lips to his. He kisses back, softly but thoroughly, and when he pulls back he gives her a real smile, lower-wattage and regretful. “I am sorry about dinner. I can’t—I can’t seem to get my brain to focus on anything but the play and Oliver and--I’m not doing well at this, at you and me, am I? I want so much to do well at this, and I’m not.”
“No, Geoffrey, you’re not,” she says, and squeezes him tightly. He tucks his face hard into her neck, and they just stay there for a while, ridiculous and perpendicular.
She finally gets a hand into his hair, gets fingertips between the ropes and scratches gently in a way she knows he likes. “It’s good to know you want to, though," she says. "I wasn’t sure.”
“I always want to.”
“I think...I think maybe we’ll get it right eventually, Geoffrey. I do think that,” and she’s not completely sure she really does, but she thinks she manages to sell the line.
Geoffrey smiles as if he believes her, or possibly just as if he appreciates the actorly effort.
“Can I get down now?” he says.
“Oh, I don’t know, I thought you might be willing to discuss upgrading my costumes for Lady MacBeth. I think there should be more silk involved. And diamonds.”
“Ellen,” he says, and she laughs, gives him one more sideways kiss, and starts trying to loosen the knots.