"Tell me again why we got up before dawn on our day off to watch this?" Robbie scowls at the telly, currently displaying inside the Olympic curling rink in Sochi called the "Ice Cube". Red and blue bullseyes stand out boldly against the white of the ice.
"It's a playoff game," James explains. "A tie-breaker. If we win this, we'll go to the semifinals."
"'We'? Every man on that so-called British curling team is a Scot. Not one Englishman among them."
James shrugs. "Well, the Scots did invent curling."
"That explains why it's so peculiar. Brooms! What sort of sport uses brooms?" Before James can reply, he adds, "And if you bring up that Harry Potter rubbish, you'll be sleeping alone for a week." James mimes zipping his lips, and settles back to watch the action.
There's not much action, from Robbie's point of view. It's like shuffleboard or horseshoes: the team that gets a stone closest to the centre of the bullseye scores. A race between pensioners with zimmer frames would be more exciting. "What do you see in this?" he asks, genuinely puzzled.
James eyes him suspiciously, then apparently decides that he's not taking the piss. "The strategy. It's very mathematical. Some people call it chess on ice."
Robbie can see why that might appeal to an intellectual sort like James. As for himself, if he's going to watch athletes on ice, he'd prefer the fast-paced strategy of hockey, or the disciplined grace of figure skaters. "All right. That explains why you are up before dawn. Why am I here?"
"Because you love me and want me to be happy," James replies promptly. "Also, I sat through four hours of a cricket match without complaining."
"You read a sodding book!"
"Which kept me from complaining."
"Hush. The next end is starting."
Robbie wonders why it's called an 'end', and not something sensible like 'innings' or 'round'. He glances at James, whose face wears the same focused concentration as when he's learning a new piece of music or examining evidence from a difficult case. He decides to keep his curiosity to himself. He's pleased when Britain score in the second end, bringing them to a 1-1 tie with Norway, but the actual play is rather dull to watch.
Sometime during the third end, Robbie feels James's hand resting lightly on his thigh. He doesn't notice at first; it's common enough when they're watching telly together. So is the slow, back-and-forth sweep of James's thumb. Robbie suspects that the other man isn't really conscious of doing it.
Then, as the British captain is calling, "Hurry hard!!" to his sweepers, James moves his whole hand, rubbing the flat of his palm back and forth along the soft cotton of Robbie's pyjamas. It feels good. Very good. So good, in fact, that other parts of his body make it clear that they'd also appreciate some attention.
The stone overshoots the target, and James hisses with annoyance. He turns towards Robbie. "Did you see that?"
"Yeah. Pity." Robbie lets out a soft hiss of his own as his partner's strong fingers dig into his thigh. Another time, it might be mildly painful, but now it spurs his growing arousal. "James, love, I think you've got to decide which game you're interested in this morning."
James follows Robbie's gaze downwards. "What? Oh. Sorry." He starts to remove his hand, then replaces it gently, fingers splayed.
"I can multitask when the situation calls for it." The corner of his mouth quirks. "And so can you." His fingers glide in lazy circles across Robbie's leg, dipping down to caress the inner thigh, then moves to the underside of the knee. A year ago, Robbie did not know that the back of the knee could be an erogenous zone. Life with James Hathaway is a continual learning experience.
"You think I can focus on anything else when you're doing that?"
James gestures at the telly with his free hand. "If we win, I think you and I should celebrate." His thumb brushes Robbie's cock, which springs up eagerly, straining against the soft blue fabric.
He forces himself to sound calm. "We're out of champagne, and the off-licence doesn't open until ten. What did you have in mind?"
"I was thinking..." James leans over and whispers a thoroughly lewd suggestion in Robbie's ear.
He has trouble finding words, but his cock replies with another jaunty bob. "I—but you've never—"
James lifts one shoulder in a not-quite shrug. "I've been waiting for the right time." He turns his attention back to the telly and frowns. "Damn. They're in the house."
The Norwegian stone is sitting on the inner ring of the bullseye, which Robbie vaguely remembers that the BBC sport presenter called a "house". That stone, the last of this end, is closest to the centre, which puts the other team ahead, 2-1. An unpleasant thought occurs to him. "What if we don't win?"
Another frown. "I'll be very disappointed, and will want a distraction. It's supposed to be mild again today—high around 10—so I think I'll go for a run."
"And what about me?" Robbie demands.
Eyebrows arch in mock surprise. "You could come with me, if you like."
"Smartarse," Robbie grumbles. If the British lose, he'll be left home alone with only his good right hand for company—hardly a satisfactory replacement for James's strong young body and his wickedly creative mind.
He studies the curlers on the ice as if they are a group of suspects. They all look strong and fit, as you'd expect of Olympic athletes. He's pleased that the British are in sensible uniforms of simple red and black, unlike the Norwegians, whose trousers are covered with eye-searing red, white, and blue zig-zags. He says as much to James, who informs him that wildly-patterned trousers are a Norwegian team tradition, and this isn't the most garish pattern they've worn. Robbie wonders if it's meant to give the other team headaches.
The match continues, and so do James's caresses. He keeps his touch light, and with frequent pauses, especially when a stone is being thrown. It's not the hot, ruthless teasing they sometimes indulge in. That would have Robbie ready to burst well before the match was half over. This is a subtler torment, a gentle ache, a wanting that sometimes disappears, only to return like an ambush.
He could stop it with a word or a gesture. It’s an unwritten rule of this little game of theirs, that the one being teased can quit at any time. He could get up, walk into the bedroom, and end his frustration with a good wank. Hell, he could do it right here. But he won’t. Partly, it’s a matter of pride, and partly it’s that he doesn’t want to give up on the reward that James has promised.
He's somewhat distracted by the telly. In the fourth end, the British score, bringing the match back to a tie. That encourages him, but then the Norwegians score a deuce. This is followed by two "blank" ends in which neither team scores.
"How are you... holding up?" James suddenly asks, with a sober face and laughing eyes.
"See for yourself." He grabs James's hand and tries to press it against his cock, but James pulls away. Those skinny arms are stronger than they look.
James clucks his tongue. "Patience." He reaches inside the pyjama top and lightly flicks a nipple.
A jolt of desire speeds through Robbie's body to his cock. "Me mam had a name for wicked lads like you," he grumbles. A deep chuckle is the only reply.
In the eighth end, Britain score a deuce, bringing them back to a tie. Robbie's starting to get a sense of the rhythm of the game. He can sometimes guess when the captain—the skip—will call 'clean' or 'hard' or 'whoa' and why. It'll never be his favourite sport, not even in the top five, but he can see why it appeals to James. Then James touches him again, and all he can think about is that two more ends will bring a different sort of end: an end to his torment. He doesn't care who wins the sodding match.
That's a lie, and he knows it even as he thinks it. When Norway score a point in the next-to-last end, he spits out a curse. Beside him, James is motionless. As the tenth end starts, he reaches out and clasps Robbie's hand tightly in his own. In curling, the score for each end isn't calculated until the last stone is delivered. A team could have a stone perfectly positioned to score, only to have it knocked out of play by a well-aimed hit.
The final stone of the match slides down the ice. Robbie holds his breath. As the stone comes to a halt, James hisses "Yessssss! Deuce!" The crowd in the Ice Cube roar, and some of them begin to wave Union jacks.
Robbie grabs the remote and clicks the power button. James turns to him. "Is that a hint?"
"I reckon we've had enough curling for now. The match is over, Britain won, and you promised to have your wicked way with me."
"And so I will." James stands up. "But first, I want you to admit that curling is more interesting, now that you've learned something about it."
"I suppose it's not half bad," Robbie concedes. "Understanding the lingo helps. I don't remember it all, but there's one bit that stuck in my mind."
"Oh? What's that?"
Robbie grins. "What d'ye think? Hurry hard!"
-- THE END --