There are hotels and then there are hotels, places so lush and well appointed that they become surreal. When he was younger Tom thought he had an idea of what real luxury might be like. He’s seen marble, he’s seen gold, he’s seen silk, but he never understood what it would be like to be completely surrounded by them. It’s comfortable, exceedingly so, but not at all comforting. There is nothing quite so disconcerting as looking at yourself in a mirror and disbelieving what you see around you.
Nothing so disconcerting except perhaps doing so while standing next to a man who can reasonably and without much effort portray a demigod. Though it does help a bit that the demigod has a toothbrush in his mouth, and a bit foam gathered at the corner.
It’s yet another press tour. The first week was rather like a party, just a constant riot of laughter and “Did you see that?” and the start of the second week, spent in England, France and Germany, was lovely. They’re in Russia now, and it seems trite to have the emotional slump hit in the land the created the likes of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky that’s exactly what happens. A great deal of the problem is just as simple as fatigue and time zones. Chris is missing Elsa and India dearly. Tom’s having difficulty sleeping.
They spent a week thinking of tabloids and hangers-on and hotel staff and what they might say, and another few days delaying the hour they deemed suspiciously late to linger in one another’s room. Their first night in Moscow, Chris came into Tom’s room carrying a pair of sweats and a leather bag of toiletries and that was it.
They’re in St. Petersburg now, staying their first night in a hotel that’s doing a fine impression of a Tsar’s private apartments. Tom spits and rinses his mouth and pads across a slate stone floor to get a towel and notices for the first time the absolutely, enormous bathtub. Tom considers it for a moment. It’s quite late. Too late, perhaps, to have a bath and not feel a bit odd for doing so, but Tom’s still more than a bit wound up and the thought of spending a bit of time in some soothingly hot water seems like it might be of help.
Tom doesn’t bother to explain himself as he turns the taps. Behind him Chris starts flossing with his usual methodical focus. When the bath is half full and steaming ever so slightly, Tom slips off his shorts and steps in the water. His skin goes pink almost immediately and he hisses as he settles his hips under the water. But after that, bliss. Tom shuts his eyes and focuses on the sensation of the water slowly rising past his navel, then to his chest, and finally just up to his shoulders. He thinks about leaning forward to turn off the water, but before he can he hears the taps squeaking and the rush of water slowing.
Tom opens his eyes and finds Chris bent over at the waist as he turns the knobs until the water stops. His sweats are gone and he grips the edge of the tub, endearingly concerned about slipping as he climbs in after Tom. There is no way to do so but awkwardly even in a bathtub of this size, but Tom spreads his legs wider to accommodate him as Chris sits down, reclining back against Tom’s chest. Chris’s impressive height and breadth, once settled against Tom, is surprisingly easy to hold. His slender waist framed neatly by Tom’s thighs, and his chest is not so broad Tom can’t slip is arms around it. Chris bends his knees and slides down the porcelain until his head can rest on Tom’s shoulder.
The water line with their two bodies submerged is perilously close to overflowing, but Tom hardly cares. He places one hand lightly on Chris’s stomach, and drapes his other arm along the side of the tub. Chris rests his hands on Tom’s thighs as if he were a deck chair, tucking the fingers of one hand around into the crease of Tom’s knee.
For all their many intimacies with each other, this is new. They’ve showered together numerous times, a dozen mornings at least before the novelty wore off, and they still do it now and again when pressed for time. But never a bath. Tom’s never really cared for them and he hardly thinks Chris spends much time chest deep in a bubble bath.
He finds himself thinking, what now? Tom’s mind supplies only a few cliches as options, none of them appropriate and all of them based loosely on fiction.
“What does it say about me, I wonder, that all I can think of right now is the movies I’ve seen where two characters get in a tub?”
Tom can feel just how deeply Chris’s chuckle starts in his chest, “Pretty Woman is the first thing that comes to my mind.”
"English Patient,” Tom offers. He’d been fifteen when that movie came out, full frontal nudity and Oscar winning performances. A young cinephile’s dream.
Chris smiles. Tom knows it from the way the corner of his cheek dimples against Tom’s jaw. “Always thought scenes like that were a bit unrealistic to be honest.”
“This bath tub is unrealistic,” Tom says, gesturing at it, the impossibility of two men over six feet fitting. Just barely, but fitting all the same. “You could fit a porpoise in here if you really wanted to.”
“Or a hooker dressed as a mermaid.” Tom laughs at the picture that brings to mind. “I’m sure it’s happened at least once.”
“If you’re trying to suggest something, Chris…” Tom strokes Chris’s thigh in an overly suggestive manner, and again Chris rewards him with that bone deep chuckle.
For all that Chris feels amazing under his hands, Tom was up at ungodly hour to do a Russian morning show which as much of a nightmare as he thought it would be. Making crepes with a woman who had plastic surgery scars just visible under her make-up, awkwardly waiting for each of her exasperated instructions to be translated through his ear piece. It might have been bearable with Chris there, but he was off in make-up for a photo shoot that involved, according to his texts, an obscene amount of make-believe brooding. They had lunch with reporters, and then a late night talk show that had at thankfully been a joint venture.
On any other night the idea of spending a nice long time getting Chris off in a hot bath would have sounded like the most soothing thing in the world. But it was just after midnight and Tom’s assistant had told him with polite earnestness that the latest they could be off tomorrow is 6:55 in the morning. If even the last five minutes needed to round up to seven am were apparently too precious to parcel out, Tom’s thinking that just sitting here, quiet and pressed up closely enough to feel Chris breathing, is about as much energy as he should be exerting.
As a precaution he moves his hands up and away from Chris’s waist and settles them lightly over Chris’s heart. Chris’s hand is not big enough to cover both of Tom’s, but he spreads his fingers wide to try.
“I can’t wait until this is over,” Chris murmurs.
Tom holds his breath for a second before exhaling it quietly. “I find I’m rather more conflicted about it myself.”
Chris turns his head, twisting his neck a bit awkwardly in order to look at Tom. It takes him a moment to puzzle it out, before the memory clicks into place. “Oh,” he says, as disappointment replaces sudden realization. He settles his head against Tom’s shoulder again, “Right.”
Tom has six weeks of filming when this is over. Then two weeks off, some of it spent doing ADR in London. Then another six weeks back on location. It’s a long time to be apart, though they’ve had longer.
Chris sighs, “Forgot. Just thought ‘home’ and you and me both going.” The idea that Chris thinks of the two of them as a unit, moving together, is far more touching than Chris memorizing his schedule.
“That was a nice five seconds, though” Chris says with brittle, uncharacteristic sarcasm, “thinking I only had to wait a week before I got everything I want back in one place.”
Tom lifts a hand up from the water and carefully combs his fingers through Chris’s hair, smoothing it back from the temples and down to his neck. “I’m sorry,” Tom says.
It’s truer than usual. Tom loves working, needs it very nearly more than anything else in the world. There isn’t a person in Tom’s life he hasn’t disappointed at least once for the sake of work, and he can only be eternally grateful that most of them have never come to hate him for it.
Chris shakes his head, “Don’t apologize. I get it. You know I do.”
Tom strokes Chris’s hair one more time, and then slips his fingers around to cup his jaw and turn his head for a kiss. Chris meets him easily, twisting his upper body to seal their lips, and lick into Tom’s mouth. Chris tastes of fluoride, and the smell of chlorinated water is heavy in the air, Tom’s waterlogged fingertips slip numbly over wet skin. It’s not enough. Tom is struck by the same desire Chris voiced a moment ago. He wants to be done with hotel rooms and go home. For perhaps the first time he wishes he could hang the film and go back with Chris and be nothing more than needed.
They’ve had a taste of what it can be like a few times, the three of them all together. It’s always easier than Tom expects, though he’s at times overwhelmed by the way small things take on such significance. He’s just left awed and wondering at a bed just large enough to hold them all; Elsa’s eggs, toast buttered roughly by Chris’s hand, three cups of tea made to Tom’s exacting specifications; India taking two of Tom’s fingers into her small hand to pull him into another room and show him some treasure.
It’s going to take Tom so long to get back to that now, and though he’s already been forgiven each kiss becomes an apology. Whether he knows it or not, Chris accepts each one and turns it into an invitation until he breaks away and settles back against Tom’s chest. They’ll need to get out of the bath soon, get some sleep, but Tom wants his heart to stop beating so fast before they do. He touches his nose to Chris’s temple and breathes.
“I think,” Tom admits, “it’s time to start taking fewer jobs.”
With eyes shut and lips just touching the corner of Chris’s jaw, Tom feels, rather than sees, Chris’s smile.