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The Amber of the Moment

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Chris's sister notices it first, when he’s at her place cavorting with his niece. “Who are they?” she throws out casually. In the way that ‘casually’ actually always means ‘completely with pointed and not-casual purpose.’

He glances up at her, then tosses the ball back across the yard towards the kid. “Who?” He’s got a lot of people in his life, okay, and it’s like, Tuesday. Who asks these questions on a Tuesday in the summer?

Katie, apparently. “Whoever you gave the necklace to.”

Chris tries not to react but he nearly drops the ball anyway.

“Nonya,” he finally says, blithely, after tossing the ball again. They think they’re funny, when they’re really just rich white kids from LA.

“Veto,” she says back as she catches it. And holds onto it. Model UN was such a bad influence.

“I lost it?” He scratches the back of his neck.

She doesn’t even dignify that with a verbal response.

He sighs, and straightens. “No, but seriously. It’s not. It’s not a thing.” At her look, he gesticulates. “I mean, it’s a thing, but it’s not… a public thing.”

“Ah.”

“No, no ‘ah,’ you don’t have special powers.”

“I do, too.”

“Do not.”

“Do too!”

“Moooommmm!” an impatient child yells. “Stop distracting us!”

Their grown-up laughter gets smothered in coughs as they acquiesce. Chris has a tingly feeling that this isn’t the last he’ll hear of his missing necklace, but, in good stead and good faith, does that most traditional of traditional WASPy things -- he really, really just hopes it’ll go away.

---

It starts out something like this: Karl hates texting, although he’ll do it with his kids, but insists that makes it even more imperative that he not do it with Chris. Especially not…about anything of a delicate nature. And timezones and work schedules being terrible as they are, phone calls are generally impossible. So they email. Poorly.

I’m bored, Chris starts.

I don’t feel bad for you, Karl doesn't hesitate to reply.

I don’t feel bad feel bad for me either. I just feel BORED.

You’re massively eloquent.

I’m massive, alright.

Is that an attempt at a dirty email?

…is that a challenge?

No.

Because it sounded like a challenge.

NO.

Two days later…

Jesus Christ, Karl, you an unfair bastard.

What did I do now?

Oh.

Where do I even start? Here, let’s have some bullet points:
* It looks like you’re in the middle of a cigarette, and I’m just enough of a reprobate that that idea is incredibly fucking sexy to me
* You look like…You look like…if the wrong person were to interrupt you, you would slay them with a gaze, but if it were the right person…you’d grab them by the wrist and toss them down on that couch and just…have your fucking way with them…fuck them until they couldn’t breathe
* I don’t know why I use so many elipses when writing to you.
* Don’t think I didn’t notice the watch. Or the necklace.
* Bastard.

Karl thinks for about five seconds before replying. With a grin. I can do better than that.

Then he puts down his phone and goes to find some post-its.

---

Karl figures the tiny package of post-its will get there in about three weeks, because the post is terrible and it’s going for an extra stop via Zach, as Karl really is kind of a bastard. There are emails in between but they’re inconsequential, the stupid stuff of daily life in a relationship. Several relationships. Chris’s merry-go-round of ladies never ceases to amuse Karl, and Chris uses this to his advantage, often causing awkward inappropriate laughter in public places as Karl snatches a moment here or there to get out his phone.

At three weeks and two days—because Zach is also kind of a bastard—Karl gets the unusual gift of a voicemail.

“I’m at a loss for words, Karl.” Chris’s voice is rough; cigarette rough, of course, but also a little extra. Karl grins. “And we know that doesn’t happen, you know, ever. Well, no, that’s a lie, I have words, but most of the words I have about you sending me porn on post-it notes rhyme with Jesus fucking Christ when are you going to be here again?”

There’s a pause, and some throat-clearing. “Anyway. Yeah. Watch your email.”

---

So Karl watches his email He practically obsesses over it, although if anybody asks he says he’s playing Clash of Kings.

I will admit, it starts out, that I have a couch fantasy. Which is ridiculous, really, considering most couches are not actually substantive enough to handle both of us, let alone both of us exerting any kind of repetitive force. But we all have dreams, and one of mine is of that damn blue couch in London. Only bigger. So nothing breaks and no one gets thrown onto the floor accidentally.

Okay, so maybe I am terrible at this. Letting reality pervade. But that’s the beauty of it—The reality. The feel of the fabric of the couch, the smell of the skin of your upper thigh, the pulse of blood in your veins, all your veins, even that one on the underside of your cock.

Because that couch, in my head, is the perfect height for me to lean over on my knees, arms heavy around your thighs, and suck you until you are begging me to stop. Until you almost slide out of its insanely overpriced fabric embrace and into mine instead. But you don’t get to do that yet, because I want your come on my tongue before I use them both to get you ready for me, lick into you as far as I can. So that I can fuck you to the edge and back again.

I want you wrecked and ridiculous because of me, worn out and worn into that couch.

I want you.

Karl almost loses his mind right then and there. He has to breathe. Hard. And his fingers do not seem to want to cooperate when he tries to type his reply: Well played.

---

The next carrier service starts when they meet up in South Africa, of all places; Zach is gallivanting around with his boyfriend in between projects, and Karl is visiting a friend who left New Zealand some time ago. (Her accent has melded with the locals’ twang, but her husband’s hasn’t; it’s awesome to listen to.) Zach tries to make it clandestine, but Karl just rolls his eyes and meets him for coffee.

After they chat for a while, getting the rote stuff out of the way, Zach eyes him. “So?”

Karl reaches into his pocket and pulls out a mostly-neatly-organized pile of post-it.

Zach sighs. “Look, I—“ But he doesn’t really have anything to say after that, and they both know it.

Karl grins. “Is this the part where you say, ‘I’m not an owl!’?”

Zach looks blankly at him.

“You’ve not seen Harry Potter, have you? How are we even friends?”

“You have kids.”

“I would’ve seen it anyway.”

“Fair point, you giant child. Oh don’t give me the eyebrow, I’ll deliver your precious pile of post-it porn.” He reaches out with a scowl, then shoves the pile in his shirt pocket.

“Yes, please, if you could be so kind as to—“

“I know the routine, Karl.”

“—not read them this time.”

“Oh, don’t worry, I won’t. I was traumatized enough the last time.”

“Hey, we’re not that bad, I don’t think—“

“No, but I think of Chris like a brother and let me just say, there are some things a person should never hear about their brother doing, am I wrong?”

Karl has the grace to grimace a little. “All right.” Then he’s back to grinning. “Thanks, though.”

“You’re welcome,” Zach says graciously. “But you’re paying for the coffee.”

---

Chris’s face lights up like a fucking Christmas tree, and Zach feels his heart gain a few sizes. They’re just so cute, these two. Which he’ll never ever say outloud. “Here’s your precious pile of post-it porn,” he says in a bored voice instead.

“Nice,” Chris says, cradling the bits of paper like they’ve got the meaning of life written on them.

“I know.”

Chris looks at him, eyes wide and bright. “I mean you, the porn, and the alliteration.”

“I said I know, Jesus. Shut up and go have some alone time.”

---

Chris starts and deletes about fifty dirty emails in the next week. Instead he ends up sending bad puns and, maybe, a lengthy piece on his struggle to reconcile his love of normatively beautiful women and his general pro-feminism stance.

He feels a bit like a jerk. It’s his turn, and he knows it’s his turn but he just can’t – he can’t let himself go to that place because his brain might explode he wants Karl so badly.

So he waits. He’s a bastard, so he waits.

---

He gets one email acknowledging his silence on the subject. It just says: This is why I use post-its. Less pressure. PS: Miss your face.

Chris throws back his head and laughs. Karl's kids are all over saying 'Your FACE!' to everything right now, because teenagers. And Karl, well. Karl will, delightfully, never grow up.

---

Katie doesn’t do Hollywood much anymore, but Chris gets her to agree to come to a party after a premiere he's been told he has to attend. Karl’s in town, and will be there, too, but Chris doesn’t think Karl knows that he knows this. They haven't discussed it, at least, because that's not how they are.

His skin practically hums with anticipation as he puts on the watch. The watch that he stole, what feels like eons ago, from the love of his god damn life.

---

"So," she says after they've done their initial round of hellos, and damn she's gotten good at that 'casual' tone. "There's somebody I'd like you to introduce me to."

"Yeah?" Chris is a little intrigued. "Clooney's taken now, you know."

Her laugh is light and airy. "So's this one. Several times over." She looks over his shoulder, and her eyes brighten. "And coming right towards us."

And Chris has a feeling, a swoopy, slightly happily nauseated feeling, he knows who's materialized behind him.

"Pine!" Karl's voice calls out, and Chris is glad he's been caught on film with this dopey grin on his face before, because he'll be damned if he knows how to keep it from happening every fucking time.

There's a manly, back-slapping hug, then Karl, because he's Karl, turns to Katie. "And this lovely creature is...?"

"Someone very pleased to finally meet you," Katie says charmingly, holding out her hand. "Katie Pine."

As Karl is a total geek and bends to kiss her hand, Chris's gaze trails down Karl's half-unbuttoned shirt, where skin is visible -- as is the necklace.

He realizes Karl is talking. "Oh, man, has Pine been telling terrible stories again?"

Chris glances at his sister, trying not to look guilty, and her expression leaves no doubt that she's seen the necklace, too.

The kicker, though, is that she seems not at all surprised.

"Yes, terrible ones," she says to Karl. "That's why I've been looking forward to meeting you, someone who's made such a terrible, brutish impression on my baby brother."

"Katie..."

But Karl is dimpling and looking at the ground and it drives Chris a little bit crazy. "What can I say?" he finally replies, slinging an arm around Chris's shoulders. "Chris here is an easy target."

"Ha, ha," Chris shoots back, rather lamely. "Watch it."

Karl's eyes dip down to his lips, and he knows what's going through his head. He almost coughs.

Then Karl's arm drops, and he salutes Chris mockingly, but not unkindly. "Aye Aye, Captain."

"Told you he was a giant cheeseball," Chris says to Katie.

But she's just smiling, a real one, the corners of her eyes crinkled up. "I think he's charming."

And Chris, well... He's pretty stupid for the guy. "Yeah, I guess I'm kind of a fan, myself."

"Good," Karl says, and there are more dimples, then he turns to Katie, a rueful look on his face. "I apologize, but I just got here, and I've gotta--" He thumbs over his shoulder.

"I understand," she says easily, reaching out for a hug. Karl has zero issues with this gesture, of course. "But don't make yourself a stranger, you hear?"

Chris pinches the bridge of his nose. "Fuck my life."

Then he feels Karl grasp his suit-covered bicep, and opens his eyes. He automatically returns the gesture. "See you--later?" Karl asks. As if there were any question.

Chris nods. His skin feels hot. "'course."

---

It's only a couple hours later, though, that Chris is ready to get the fuck out. He's sporting a nice buzz, both from liquor and laughter, but it's on the downslope, into that jittery-yet-sleepy feeling he gets when everything catches up with him.

Katie, for once, aids and abets.

"Come outside while I wait for my cab?" She tilts her head at him.

"Uh, sure." He glances around for Karl. His gaze stumbles and catches on him without much trouble, and Chris hopes to god his expression leaves at least a little bit hidden.

Karl puts his hand up to his face in the universal gesture for a phone call, his face full of promise, and Chris nods.

---

He pulls out his cigarettes as soon as his lungs get a whiff of cool night air.

"You're pretty predictable," Katie says.

"So I've heard," he says around the initial puff of an inhale.

"I don't mean the cigarette," she says wryly. Then she looks pointedly at his raised, cigarette-wielding hand. At his exposed wrist. "Because that’s a nice watch.”

Chris looks at her, his mouth slightly open. It’s surely a very attractive look.

“Tell me I don’t have special powers.” She raises a pretend glass. “Cheers.”

“But—How—“

She shakes her head. “You don’t need to worry.”

“I’m not worried, I’m just fucking confused.”

“Well, don’t be that, either.” She steps up to him, cups his cheek. His cigarette smoke curls up into the air between them.

She’s smiling. She loves him a lot.

“Just be happy, little brother.”

He has to clear his throat. “Working on it.”

“I know.” She pats his cheek once, then lets go. “Now go get some.”

It’s stupid that he blushes. But he does anyway. “Fuck you,” he says. But he's smiling. And he loves her a lot.

---

He’s seen her to a cab and is on his second cigarette when his phone vibrates in his pocket. Vibrates while playing The Shins’ ‘Australia’, because Chris is not without a sense of humor.

He's had just enough alcohol to be an asshole. "We don't want no Girl Scout cookies!"

Karl's chuckle is warm. "Okay, Quinto."

Chris wants to curl around the voice in his ear. "Hi."

"Hey there. We still on for tonight?"

Chris has a thousand dirty responses, but he's too keyed up to use any of them. "Please."

They can't share a cab, but Karl doesn't let them dwell on it. "Race you."

---

Karl's cab is somehow faster, so he's standing on Chris's porch like the world's sexiest houseguest, his jacket slung over his shoulder, when Chris's finally drops him off. There's an easy smile on his face as he watches Chris ascend the driveway and the steps. "Hey there," he says quietly. He sounds tired. But happy.

Chris puts his key on the lock and pushes the door open. "Get the fuck inside," he says softly.

Karl mock-salutes again before going in, and Chris pushes him the last bit over the threshold.

Once they're inside, he's on him like a drowning man. Like a death-row inmate and a last meal. Like an alcoholic coming out of rehab. Like a lot of other metaphors Chris can't bear to think about right now.

Karl slows him down, shaping the kiss, draining the desperation out of Chris even as he's smoothing his hands over Chris's body, under clothing and onto heated skin.

Chris exhales, heavily, onto Karl's cheek. "Sorry," he says into the skin there. "I've just…" The words are confused.

"Missed you, too," Karl says, holding Chris's face in his hands and kissing him gently, once, twice.

Chris lets himself be led back to his bedroom, but then he can't stop himself from popping buttons and sliding off clothing, from both of them, wherever he can. The night is warm and Karl is hot as fuck and Chris can't get his mouth on enough skin at once, it's a strict human failing, but he gives it his best, and he's not really paying attention to the state of his own body until he feels Karl's hand circle his wrist.

Everything comes to a stop, a stillness. Their bodies are close, stood near the bed. Their clothing is gone, piling onto the floor, the chair, the wardrobe. Chris, he realizes, had been reaching for his wrist, the same wrist around which Karl's fingers are wound tightly. Securely.

“Oh, no,” Karl says, his eyes twinkling, his voice rougher than a whiskey hangover. “Leave the watch on.”

fin