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Strange Times

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I Got Mine
"I bet your skin tastes of salt."

Hal doesn't want to be awake, to have to open his eyes and deal with the world.  But there's something – someone – in bed with him, and he has no idea how they got there.  No idea how he got there, for that matter.  There was a bar and a bottle of wine – and, before that, a drink of a very different kind.  Which explains why everything that comes after has been swallowed up in smog.  And there was –


Hal sits up so abruptly that he nearly tumbles from the bed, which is far too narrow for more than one person – but, then, that's the whole point.

"You're not going to go all weird on me, are you?"  And, yes, he probably is, but he feels entitled, what with the way his head is thumping and raw need is shivering in his bones.  "I hate it when a bloke goes weird on me, afterwards."

After what? Hal honestly has no idea.  Apart from the fact that Alex is naked – all the parts of her that he can see, at least: bare arms, bare shoulders.  Bare throat – his heart stutters painfully – but he can't see a mark on that smooth, white skin.  He grabs her wrist –

"Hey! What –?"

– but there's nothing there, either, just whispering blue threads and the smell of sweat and fading perfume.  And of him.

"Are you all right?" he asks.

"Better than all right.  Fucking fantastic."  She grins, and somehow, miraculously, she's telling the truth.  "Fantastically fucked."

Her hand is brushing – warm and alive, and very, very distracting – up his thigh.  Hal thinks of dominoes; he thinks about the freezer, which is caked with ice and badly in need of defrosting, but she's tickling right beneath his balls, and arousal tingles through him, right down to the tips of his toes.  He won't – he can't – let himself do this, but his fingers are teasing the sensitive skin of her wrist, and working their way up across her palm.  Alex shivers, and her neck arches deliciously – god only knows how he managed to resist last night.

"When we –"  Hal gasps to a halt as she cups a hand around his balls; he clears his throat.  "Did I do anything strange?"

"What do you mean, strange? Like kinky?"  Alex squeezes, gently, just the right amount of pressure to make his eyes roll back into his head.  "Well, you did keep telling me to chain you to the bed.  But if you really want to do that, then you're going to have to get some handcuffs."

Hal is still processing that, still grappling with that present tense, when Alex's fingers brush the underside of his cock.  Which doesn't seem to be at all satisfied with whatever action it saw last night.

Hal scrambles out of bed.  "I don't want to do this," he tells her, and Alex doesn't look convinced.  He doesn't blame her – not when his cock is standing to attention and pointing straight at her – but he has to make her understand.  Without actually making her understand.  "Are you familiar with Russian Roulette?"  Because they may have got away with it once, but each and every time it's like putting a gun to her head, and no one – not even him – knows when it's going to go off.

"What are you saying? That you're firing blanks?"  She's laughing at him, and she really, really shouldn't.  "Because it's a bit soon to be talking about children, don't you think?"  The casual arrogance of the young.

And god, she gets under his skin in more ways than one, and he'd like to teach the bloody woman a lesson.  He's back on the bed – he's straddling her – so quickly that she jumps, and gasps, and how he's missed that.  Stifled fear: so close to the sounds of pleasure, and memories of the night before stir in his murky subconscious.

Hal peels the sheet from her body.  Down over her breasts: he sucks one nipple into his mouth, tugging it between careful, aching teeth, and she throws her head back and groans.  Down, lower, and he can smell it now: pungent arousal.  Lower still, and he runs greedy hands down those long, long legs.  They part at his touch and he just knows – he might not remember, but his body does – that he fits between them perfectly.

"Come on, sugar," Alex urges.  She angles her hips towards his face and Hal lowers his head to meet them.  She's slick and tight, and she tastes of salt.


Howlin' For You
"Not in front of Eve."

Hal forces his gluey eyes to open and squints into the morning brightness.  Sunshine glaring off a mottled ceiling; a sloping roof.  He's in the nursery and, Christ, his head hurts.  His back, too, but that's what comes of falling asleep on the sofa: he must have nodded off after giving Eve her bottle.  There's sweat greasy on his cheek, and he shifts the warm weight cradled in his lap – only that's not Eve, but something entirely more stubbly.

Jesus: it's Tom.  Tom's head resting in his arms.  Tom, curled against him in his sleep.  Hal doesn't move, just tightens his rib cage so the air whispers in and out of his lungs.  But his heart is racing and surely Tom will hear it, will feel it throbbing in his chest, and he doesn't want to wake him.  Doesn't want to face him, not until he knows what it is he has to face.

He must be able to remember: surely he wasn't that far gone.  He remembers coming home, after all.  No, that's not true: he remembers being home, and that's not the same thing.  And then – then nothing but red haze, shapes moving suggestively through it, but nothing hardening into focus.  And it's difficult to concentrate with Tom's head a demanding pressure against his crotch.  With Tom's mouth so close to him, and those lips are parted – inviting – and Hal doesn't like the way his imagination is heading.

Imagination: or is it memory? Tom knows that Hal doesn't like to be touched, but Tom is pressed against him, warm contact along his hip and thigh.  There's an obvious explanation.  But surely they didn't; surely Tom wouldn't.  Not Tom, with his courting-not-chatting-up, with his "like a flower".  But Tom's a – not a teenager, but not far off.  Hal can't – refuses to – remember what it was like to be that age, but a reminiscent ache settles in his flesh.

And surely Tom isn't entirely celibate.  There must be times when he takes himself in hand.  In his room, after a long day at the café: fast and frantic, the instant gratification of youth.  Or in the shower, running water masking the noise, fingers slick around his cock, and the evidence washed cleanly away.  Maybe he's been thinking about Hal when he's biting that pink lip between his teeth and –

Shit, that's done it, and now the heat is pumping through Hal's veins to settle insistently in his groin.  But it's just the blood he drank, sizzling through his system.  Or maybe it's the feel of a warm body moulded against his: it's been so long, and his armour has rusted.  Because there's no way that he's actually attracted to this – this boy.  And he'd better prise himself out from under Tom before his body gives him the lie.  Predictably, that's the moment Tom chooses to open his eyes.

"Tom, I …"  What? Can't remember what happened.  Whether anything happened.

Then Tom's mouth is on his, and that answers that, then.  And he's missed this: the clumsy clack of teeth, Tom's tongue pushing into his mouth – too eager, no technique at all – but, god, the urgent thrust of it, the taste of someone else's saliva in his mouth.  Hal sucks on Tom's bottom lip and the noise that the man makes in response sends need washing dizzily through him.  Hal drags Tom closer, slides a hand up under his vest.  His fingertips tingle across smooth skin and firm muscle, across puckered nipples – and Tom shudders deliciously.  Hal is yanking the fabric up over Tom's shoulders but –

"Stop."  Hal stops.  Tom is wriggling his vest back on, and if this has all been some sort of fucking joke –

But Tom is holding out a hand and pulling Hal to his feet.  Pulling him towards the door, the stairs, his bed, and there's a blush spreading pinky across his cheekbones when he turns and says, "Not in front of Eve."


Remember When
"Oh god, are you begging?"

Hal wakes with the taste of blood sour in his mouth, and a hairy chest pressed against his back.  Oh, and someone's prick up his arse, and he's really hoping that it's Cutler – not because he wants it to be Cutler, of course, but because that's better than the alternatives.

"You're awake, then."  That's Cutler, all right: a master of stating the bloody obvious.  And he's not showing any sign of actually pulling out, either.

"Do you mind?" Hal grates between clenched teeth.

"Do you?"  And that's a tricky one, because apparently Hal's body isn't unhappy about this turn of events.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  "Because you certainly didn't seem to mind last night."

Last night: Hal snatches at fragments of memories, and comes away with nothing but a niggling sense of unease.  Of shame.  Fifty-five years of celibacy, of every kind of abstinence, and he shudders to think what he might have done.  What he let Cutler do.  What he's still letting Cutler do, and he ought to buck and shove, and force the man out of him, except – except that would be admitting defeat.

"What do you want, Hal?" Cutler asks, and he sounds completely serious.

But that's a loaded question, and surely Cutler doesn't want to have this discussion now – now, of all times, when Cutler's erection is noticeably twitching inside him, and it's all just too ridiculous.  Laughter hiccups out of Hal.  Cutler doesn't join in.  He never does, not straight away: not until he's certain that the joke isn't at his expense.  You trick a man into drinking his wife's blood one time, and he never lets you forget.

"What?" Cutler demands.  He's suspicious – wary.  Which is even funnier, given that he's the one who's balls-deep inside his maker right now.  But Cutler isn't used to having the upper hand, and maybe he's afraid that this is all some elaborate game.  Which it isn't – but that does rather beg the question of exactly what it is.

Then Cutler shifts.  It's not an actual thrust, probably wasn't even intentional, but it's enough to send pleasure skittering through Hal's body.


"I always wondered what it would take to make you beg," Cutler says, and Hal can actually hear it in the man's voice: the wide, smug curve of Cutler's mouth.

"I don't beg," Hal tells him.

"Well, it certainly sounded a lot like it to me."  Cutler moves again, and this time it is a deliberate thrust – and very well aimed – and Hal has to bite his lip to stop his words from betraying him.

Cutler's hand circles Hal's cock: loosely, far too loosely, just enough to make him ache with wanting more.  He tries to thrust, to press harder into it, against it – and, god, that makes Cutler shift inside him in the best kind of way – but it's not enough, and Cutler just won't give him any bloody, fucking friction.

"Finish what you started," Hal growls.  Then, for the first time ever, and it's damn well going to be the last: "Please."

"Oh god," Cutler laughs, "you are begging."  And this is where he gets to turn the tables, to leave Hal, sweating and cursing, to finish himself off.  But Cutler's hand – wonderfully, finally – firms around Hal's cock.  "I think I could get used to that," he says.