Sometimes, the ta moko are a reminder of the walls that stand between them. Sometimes they make Karl feel guilty, as he traces the broad dark shapes that make up the patterns on Lawrence's shoulders, on his back. You are pakeha, colonizer, they sometimes whisper to him. You will never understand everything about him, and you are not meant to.
In the quiet spaces in his head, after a rough bout of sex, after a spanking begged for with twisting edges, the frown of uncertainty, then the rush of hard power, Lawrence is not allowed in. It is Karl alone, brushing his lips along ink-infused skin, who negotiates an inner dialogue of why and how long and not enough.
Lawrence, to his credit, didn't flinch or laugh when Karl laid out his desires in plain English, made this something a little more than fuck buddies or someone to go home with after an industry party. He took what Karl was asking for in stride, but Karl has a sense that somewhere in the broad strokes of darkness and power he missed the fine lines. He can shove and fuck and intimidate like no one Karl has known, and in truth that does arouse him immensely, does prompt the rushing orgasms over the tight squeeze of Lawrence's fist with disturbing predictability, but...
When Karl looks back to where he discovered these latent urges, to youth and laughter and secrets shared in the wee hours in Craig's bed, it's not just the cruelty and the pain and the dark edges that entice him. It's the contrast, the wedge of light, the brush of lips at the back of his ear and the whispered praise, the possessive hand on his stomach, the sense of you are good and you are mine. This is not something Lawrence necessarily understands, because this thing they discovered in the fumbling early searches of a relationship, back in days that are lost now and not to be recovered, isn't something that Lawrence needs. He can understand a request for pain, or a request to be held, but it isn't an urge for Lawrence like it was for Craig, like it probably still is with the beautiful boy he's seeing now.
When Karl meets Viggo, the world doesn't shift, doesn't rumble beneath his feet. No lightning strikes, nothing falls on his head. There's no sign, only an easy smile, a firm handshake, a glimmer of promise that you'd miss if you looked the other way for half a second. So Karl doesn't know what it is that's shivering in his veins when he's around Viggo, where the urge to drop his eyes comes from, why he sneaks onto sets and watches from the shadows as Aragorn subsumes the coworker, the friend, and delivers all the strength and subtlety to a sequence that Jacko could ever hope for.
The first time they find themselves alone in a bedroom, it's alarming how much Viggo knows. Karl asks, haltingly, if Viggo's been talking to Craig, but Viggo just smiles and traces his jaw, then flips Karl in the bed and pins him with a forearm, kissing him until he doesn't want to breathe, until all he wants to do is drown.
Later, Viggo moves about his kitchen with practiced ease, while Karl sits curled in a blanket, the ends tucked under tightly, a bottle of water in easy reach. Viggo sings in a low, sexy rasp, Spanish words Karl can't decipher, as he tips spices into a pot, stirs with a long wooden spoon. He comes to Karl with a bowl of steaming meat and vegetables and a fluffy golden grain Karl doesn't even recognize underneath, and he pulls Karl back against his chest and he feeds him, kissing his hair, calling him "boy." Karl doesn't think it's good manners to fall in love on the first date, but he knows that whether or not love enters the equation, he's falling.
The more he sees of Viggo, the less of Lawrence, and that old guilt comes back, but Lawrence merely holds his head and says he understands, that Viggo is good for him. And Viggo agrees, tying Karl to the bed with something like bungee cord and stroking his entire body with one short fingernail until he's crying out from that recessed place in his mind that would give Viggo everything. He agrees, too, as he holds Karl's chin and turns it up and to the right, fitting his mouth to Karl's with a soft sound of praise, that this is right. Karl belongs with him.
Karl would be happy to belong to him, and when filming ends, when everyone goes their separate ways, he finds himself too often on a plane, or at the airport, too often asking for the need he cannot satisfy elsewhere. Maybe there is a guilt, too, in the rejection of all the perfectly good men of his own country, for this soft-voiced foreigner with rough hands and an emotional intelligence that reaches to Karl in his needy, dark places. But guilt is something Viggo dispenses with, something he controls so that Karl doesn't have to.
Sex, need, release, it's all easier when Viggo defines the borders and signals beginning and end. And then there's the feeling he gets with his head in Viggo's lap, with Viggo's hands in his hair, that almost childish feeling of protection that he remembers fondly from his days with Craig. He's older now, possibly wiser, and this doesn't have the shiny new gleam it once did, but it doesn't matter. There's a succor in safety, a relief that Viggo gives him without words or definitions. He clings to this lifeline even as it expands and tightens to hold him up, even as Viggo's lips brush and whisper, speak the words he knows without asking. You are mine. I will keep you safe, I will keep you satisfied. More simply, I will keep you.