“I’m in town.”
“I’ll be there by midnight.”
It’s a simple case of not enough versus taking what you can get. Sometimes she sees him for a day or two, then not again for almost half a year. Sometimes she gets a couple of weeks, and once she gets him for two and a half glorious months. Almost never in public, and rarely at his place, but she gets him all the same. They are careful; they share no interests outside each other and their discreet domestic situation, so there’s not much potential for awkward chance encounters. He loves tennis, he loves to run, and he loves Shakespeare. She does not.
“But, darling,” he says, appealing to the ticklish spot below her left ear, “you love Shakespeare, how can you claim he’s dull? You positively melt when I give you a verse or two.”
She pulls his head away with both hands tangled deep in his hair, staring him down silently with the face she reserves for special idiots. It takes him a full thirty seconds to overcome his surprise at her removal of his tongue from her skin and finally ask what he’s said wrong.
“You numpty,” she sighs fondly. “You could be reading from a sodding cookbook, and I would spontaneously liquefy.”
Then she gets the joy of watching his moment of dawning realization, and he giggles . She can’t think of any other way to describe it. It could be a chuckle, but it’s just a little too sweet for that.
“Shall I go find my Best of Julia Child collection, then? There are some rather erotic things said about chocolate in the later chapters.”
It’s not that she holds back from seeing other people or that she waits for him. It’s more like she has an extra sense and is somehow almost always free when he’s able to be around for a bit. They both know there isn’t a future for them, not in the traditional sense. She’s pretty sure his intensity would be overwhelming if he’s around for too long, and his melancholy can run deep. His job is absurdly demanding on him, and she is a good refuge from the insanity of it all.
“You can feel free to blow off steam anytime.”
He regards her silently, his eyebrows drawn together, his lips thin and displeased. He’s missed her point, she can see, but she waits and gives him time to respond.
“You are more than a stress reliever, you know that. I don’t...You are so much...You do see you’re worth more than that, not just to me, but-”
But she can’t let him suffer for too long.
“Love, I’m easily worth ten of the next woman. Of course I know that! And you’re extra enthusiastic when you’re stressed, did you know? In your case, tension is an excellent motivator. Now, pay attention to the innuendo and get to work blowing off that steam.”
Though she fully understands that a character and the actor who portrays them are different people, she will also readily and vociferously admit that his Loki smile does something extra special to all those anatomical bits one doesn’t mention in polite company or in front of children.
“You smile with your whole self when you really mean it, did you know that?”
He looks up from his tea and newspaper. They’re enjoying a very rare morning where he has no commitments and she is able to put off work for a few hours. Normally, the night is their time, and she so loves the casual, easy mornings they occasionally get where she can spend a few precious hours watching the sun glint in his coppery hair.
He’s growing his facial hair out again, as he always does after a clean-shaven role, and her inner thighs burn deliciously in the afterglow of the previous night’s activities. She squirms comfortably, pulling her dressing gown a little more tightly around herself, and takes a sip of her coffee before she answers.
“When you really mean it, when you genuinely feel the smile, you tend to do it with everything you’ve got. Your soul shines out of your face. I thought you might not know.”
His eyes inexplicably turn a little sad as he gives her his full attention, folding the newspaper and laying it down next to his cup. The morning is cool, and she clutches her mug in chilled fingers, tucking her feet underneath herself where she sits on the couch. He is framed by the rising sun behind him, and she has to squint a little to see him properly.
“That’s a bit existential for sunrise, don’t you think? I haven’t even got my first run in yet.” He rises, stepping carefully around the table to join her on the sofa. She immediately leaves her coffee behind on the side table in favor of fitting herself under his arm and twisting around to stare up at his clear, inquisitive eyes. They’re a little less bright than normal, and she just can’t have that.
“I’ve seen most of your smiles. I’ve seen your acting smiles and your interview smiles and your ‘paparazzi are the devil but they do catch facial expressions you didn’t know you were making’ smiles. All your smiles are lovely, even the sad ones, but I like your sunrise smiles the best. The ones you aren't even aware of, like when you read something in the paper that hits you just right or when you take that perfect sip of tea, or when I’m about to finish you and you’re all tense and gripping the sheets and your eyes are closed. Sometimes you don’t really mean it, and your smile only goes part way up, it doesn’t get all the way to your eyes. But sometimes you’re completely open, lost in the moment and not paying attention, and your smile hits every little part of you. You don’t even realize it, and, god, are you ever beautiful then.”
For people who don’t get to see each other often or regularly, she suspects they have abnormally long periods of time where neither speaks. It’s a little absurd, especially considering how she loves to simply hear him speak (his Julia Child impersonation had her gasping for air between bouts of uncontrollable laughter), but they do a lot of soulful gazing. His fingers are steady and warm as they stroke down her cheek, and though she leans into the touch, she doesn’t look away. His hand continues down until it rests lightly at the base of her throat. Those slender, impossibly long fingers stretch around, and if they don’t quite meet around her throat, it’s a near thing.
Her breath hitches at the slight tension in his hand, and she allows her expression to ratchet up in accordance with her rising temperature. He leans forward, breaking eye contact as a necessity, his nose brushing down alongside her own. His breath is warm, Earl Grey scented against her skin, and her eyes flutter closed.
“You seem to know me and my face so well, darling,” he murmurs, his lips grazing her cheek as he speaks. He continues exploring the sensitive skin of her face, even as his fingers tighten infinitesimally. His beard rasps along her jaw, and she simultaneously shivers and moans, trembling in his grip.
“Tell me, then, love, what does this expression mean?”
It’s more the abrupt loss of his touch that forces her eyes open than his question. A helpless burst of laughter erupts from her chest as her hands fly unconsciously to her mouth to stifle her giggles. He’s leaned back, thumbs hooked into the sides of his mouth to stretch his smile to ridiculous proportions, waggling both tongue and fingers at her as he crosses his eyes.
“Oh, my god, you wanker! I was having a serious, deep moment, and you have to go and ruin it!” She shrieks as he pounces suddenly, pinning her on her back and running nimble fingers over the most sensitive spots on her ribs beneath her open dressing gown.
“Oh, love,” he murmurs, continuing his assault. “I had no idea you were a snorter . It seems you’ve been holding back. Now, I wonder, what else can I do to force you to repeat that adorable little sound?”
His grin is thoroughly wicked now, though she’s now viewing it through tear-blurred vision, and it reaches every bit of his face.
She has a faint scar on the back of her thigh, just under her left ass cheek, in the exact shape of his teeth. It took her months to talk him into biting her in the first place, and many months more working him up to biting her hard enough to satisfy. Then he got carried away the one time, and while she knows in retrospect it really was too much, she wasn’t protesting at the time, and she still isn’t now. It took a full year for her to convince him afterwards to let go of his guilt, for him to understand that she actually adores the mark and has never been upset with him for it.
“I think of you every time I put on or take off my knickers. Doesn’t that make you a little happy?”
He frowns, watching her dress from where he reclines naked on the bed. The sheets have traitorously draped themselves just enough over his hips, and she seriously considers getting rid of them altogether.
“I believe my manhood should be insulted that our efforts alone aren’t enough to cause that line of thought without grievous injury on your part.”
He’s gone a bit formal, and there’s genuine regret in his voice again, causing her internal warning system to sound. Though she’s only partially dressed in her slip and one stocking, she immediately turns on the end of the bed and crawls over his legs, straddling his lap and bringing his fingers up to her lips.
“I think about you when I’m in the shower and need to get off after a really shit day. I think of you at night when I’m watching some trashy, romancy soft-core porn. I think of you when I’m sat by myself drinking coffee in the morning and the sun is rising behind your usual spot without you in it. I think of you when I buy apples or eat a fucking bagel. I don’t need a scar to think of you, and it wasn't a grievous injury, and some day you’ll realize I mean it when I say I enjoyed all of it but cleaning up the blood. You might even realize your biting me gets me off just as much as your fingers and cock do sometimes and give it a go to see if you can finish me with nothing else.”
She grinds down hard against his growing erection the longer her rant goes on, leaning closer and pinning his hands to his sides as she speaks until they are nose to nose, both panting shallowly. His face is ruddy, his eyes darkening with every word she utters, and his jaw tightens at her challenge.
She kind of hopes she’s pissed him off a little.
When she finds herself on her back suddenly, his hand dragging the edge of her slip up over her thighs, she allows herself a tiny, inward victory dance. When his lips press gently just above the edge of her one stocking before she feels teeth clamp on the material to drag it downwards, she manages a tiny, breathy, “ God, yes, thank you ,” before losing the ability to access her vocabulary.
She loves when he lets his kink out to play. Maybe it’s their inside joke about Julia Child. Maybe it’s that he’s a foodie at heart. Maybe he just knows he has one of the world’s most talented tongues, and he likes to be excellent at what he does, but he quite enjoys licking things off various parts of her. He also enjoys finding new ways to eat his food provocatively during dinners, manipulating tongue, teeth, and lips around food in such intimate, profane ways that she feels morally obligated to use physical force to stop him.
“No one should be able to make cheese and crackers that sensually, you abomination! What is wrong with you?!”
He grins around a mouthful of his current culinary casualty, a look of such smug satisfaction on his face that she is forced to stifle her own smile lest he become too saturated in his powers of persuasion.
He likes to work her over in other ways, often employing toys and tools much to her delight and exhaustion, and she finds new and little ways to enjoy herself every time they try something different. The silky slick of a new lubricant he brings over. The obscene schlikt of her new INA Wave as he pulls it from between her legs while she trembles with aftershocks. The glossy sheen of her own arousal saturating his facial hair as he slithers up the plane of her body to capture her lips in a kiss.
And, of course, he is master of simple, animalistic fucking.
“Did you know,” she asks casually, her breath catching in stops and goes as he thrusts into her from behind. Her fingers slip against the wall, and he anchors her firmly against his chest with an impossibly tight arm across her torso.
God, she loves the way her tits bounce on his bicep when he holds her like that.
“Did you know they’ve got a nickname for your penis on Tumblr?”
That actually gives him pause for a moment, though thankfully on a thrust and not a drawback.
“Do they, now? Do I want to know?”
He resumes his efforts, albeit much more casually, as if he’s actually interested in the conversation. She’s not fooled by his nonchalance, however, as his free hand is currently working its way between her legs, brushing against her clit in time to his newly-slowed thrusts.
And suddenly, for the first time in a long time, she is actually embarrassed to tell him something and wonders why she even brought it up in the first place. She knows the moment he realizes the source of her reluctance, and she can literally feel the grin spread across his face where it rests on her shoulder.
“Is it that bad, love? Shall I work it out of you?”
“Well, I didn’t-”
His sudden absence from all around her lasts less than a second before his fingers wrap around her ankle, pulling her back so sharply she winds up on her stomach and face in the tangle of sheets beneath them. Before she can protest, his scorching weight is pressing down the length of her, the tip of his cock nudging between her ass cheeks, and his lips course over her shoulder and along her cheek.
“Come, darling, don’t you think you should confess before I make things too... hard on you?”
She’s not sure if her groan is from the pun or from his fingers dragging her own slick up the cleft of her ass to press on the tight ring of muscle.
“I will...never...talk. You can’t-”
“Oh, I assure you, pet, I absolutely can.” Her wail nearly drowns him out as he presses his thumb inside her, stretching her around the slender digit. He works her slowly, whispering promised rewards and threats alike, and she babbles like an idiot, only just keeping enough control of her tongue to not tell him exactly what he wants to hear.
Even when he is fully sheathed in her ass, dragging her up on hands and knees, she just manages to not say that one stupid word that made her blush so. And then he presses the Wave into her hand, murmuring, “If I’m to break you properly, pet, I’d appreciate a little help. Give that a buzz, would you?”
It’s a near thing, but she is just able to keep from telling him the nickname, though she does tell him a great many other things. They lie together afterwards, spent and shattered in the best way, his chest hair tickling her shoulder blades. She takes a deep breath, buries her face in her hands and forces herself to say it.
“They call it what?! ”
When he is finally able to breathe past the laughter, he manages to ask, “Why? Why in the world would that even be a thing? I’ve not done any nude shoots; there aren’t any pictures, at least no full frontals. Near things, like High Rise , but still.”
She squirms back into his embrace, pulling his arms tightly around her and enjoying the jostling effect of his continued chuckles.
“It’s all those tight trousers you wear, that and the shoot you did in the little white boxers. You can quite clearly see the outline. Oh, and that one film where you jump naked in the pool. People take screenshots, love, and do forensic breakdowns; they’re quite thorough. And, really, that’s what the internet is for, after all, aside from cats. Memes and dick jokes. And sometimes dick memes.”
“And there are really whole blogs dedicated to watching for me in tight trousers to see... Really?! ”
Another thing she loves: despite his salacious mastication habits, a propensity for cunnilingus like no one she’s ever known, and a voice that nearly makes her climax on command, he can’t even say aloud that the internet has him on a cock-watch.
They have an agreement of honesty and disclosure but as few outside personal details as possible. She gets all the information she honestly needs about his love life from the tabloid press, and she answers any questions he has about anyone she bothers to date in his absence, though his questions are near to non-existent. As are her other dates, to be honest. It’s impossible to find anyone that measures up to him in his absence, and she’s mostly given up trying.
She doesn’t see him for the whole of one winter and then only sporadically through the spring. Then the internet and tabloids explode over videos of him dancing and kissing and all manner of things she honestly does not want to see, and she thinks…
Well, she doesn’t know what to think. Jealousy, obviously. Disappointment. A deep, unexpected emptiness. But really, what did she expect? They aren’t married. They aren’t dating or really even committed. They certainly can’t have an official relationship. She has no claim and should really have no expectations. She does her best to avoid tabloids, to turn the other way at the market when she does her shopping, and she avoids all but the most necessary uses of the internet. She buries herself in work and her friends and family and continues on with her life, just as they both always say they should when they aren’t together. Because they are very obviously, very much not together .
And, yet, she misses him all the same.
When the “news” of his break-up hits, she refuses to allow herself to be glad. He’s always wanted someone he can be with publicly, have a real, open life with, and she will not hope for or be excited by the prospect that he has lost something so important to him.
And, yet, she listens for his call all the same.
It doesn’t come.
Autumn has firmly set in and is toeing the line with winter. She is in for the evening, too tired to go out with her friends, feeling just melancholy enough to let herself sulk into a mug of hot chocolate as she surfs shit television, wrapped in giant cardigan, sweatpants, and a fleece blanket to boot. Her flat is conspicuously empty of him tonight, and she feels his absence in every fiber of her being.
“Fucking pathetic, ridiculous, and absolutely stupid.”
She groans and finishes her scalding drink in one go, heaving herself off the sofa with the intention of making another one with extra whipped cream, when the door buzzer goes off unexpectedly. She stares at it, perplexed. It’s too late for deliveries, and most of her mates are off on a mini holiday that she didn’t feel up to joining. No one should be coming over.
The buzzing stops before she can answer, and she waits for a moment, staring hard at the box mounted in the wall. Maybe there was a short in one of the wires. There’s a long minute of silence before she finally shrugs and turns to the kitchen. She’s just pulling the milk out of the fridge when a short, definitive series of knocks comes from the door.
He’s just as tall as she remembered, but he seems a bit deflated as he stands in her doorway, a ridiculous hat on his head, thick sweater obscuring the sharp edges of his body, looking as unlike himself as she’s seen in a long time. She steps back automatically to let him in, but he hesitates, his eyes nervous and sad behind his thick, black-framed glasses. She knows what he’s waiting for, but, as much as it pains her to pain him, part of her is the barest hint of vindictive tonight, and she needs to hear him say it.
“I missed you.”
“It was too long.”
Yes, it was.
“I won’t apologize, because you told me not to, but I…”
She cuts him off with a sharp shake of her head. “Try again.”
“I tried, she and I both tried, and it didn’t work. I didn’t want to make you my rebound, so I waited until I thought I was settled again. I should have called, at least checked in, but I didn’t want you to think...I didn’t know what you would say, and I’m afraid I was a bit of a coward. That’s why I came instead of calling first tonight. I was afraid you’d hang up. And then I buzzed, and you didn’t answer, and one of your neighbors was coming in and didn’t recognize me, so I thought...I just wanted to see…”
She gives him one more chance, knowing instinctively he’ll get it right this time.
“I just wanted you.”
There it is.
“Where did you even get that ridiculous hat?” she asks him later, tilting the accessory in question over her forehead as she lounges across his lap. He leans back against the wall behind her bed, hands folded behind his head, watching her with a faint smile of amusement lighting his face. In all those tabloids she hasn’t looked at even a little (not once, not at all) while he was gone, she definitely did not notice how little he was smiling. And all those interviews she didn’t watch on television. Or read about on the gossip sites on the internet.
“I’ll have you know someone told me I look rakish and edgy in that hat.”
“But how does it even fit over all that hair? Really, darling, you’re getting quite shaggy.” She turns to face him, kneeling with her legs on either side of his thighs. Her voice, though teasing, is lower and quieter than normal, and she still feels a little raw around the edges. She needs to reassure herself he’s really here and not some desperate, late night fantasy conjured up by her loneliness. Her fingertips trace over the faint lines around the corners of his eyes, the ones that deepen so beautifully when he smiles. She runs her fingernails lightly through his beard, ghosts a faint touch over his lips, looking everywhere on his face but still managing to avoid his eyes.
“Tell me.” It’s a request, and she knows it, but they have an agreement, and she feels compelled to answer.
“I was jealous, more than I want to admit. And sad. And lonely. And everything I’d imagine you felt after you broke up with her, as well.”
“You have nothing to be jealous over, you’re so much-”
“Shut up, you great git.” But there’s no sting to her words. “I don’t want to be compared to her, even if it’s favorably. I’d never believe you, anyway. You asked, I answered. I missed you, I hated every mention of the two of you together, and I had every vitriolic thought conceivable, none of which I will ever let reach your ears no matter how much you convince me I need to be open and honest and blah blah blah about my feelings.”
“But you can tell me, you know.”
“I can, but I don’t want to. First off, too many details. Second, I am done to death with your ex-girlfriend and would love nothing more than to never think of her again. Third, I have gone nearly eight months without a single stupid Shakespeare recitation or dramatic reenactment of my favorite female chef, so if you aren’t going to put your tongue to better use, go get that recipe book and get to reading.”
“Darling, I don’t need a recipe book anymore. As the good lady herself said, ‘Once you have mastered a technique, you hardly need look at a recipe again and can take off on your own.’ I think my tongue can be put to much better use pleasing you without resorting to recipes.”
She watches him silently from the sofa again, feet encased in fuzzy socks, fingers wrapped around her perpetual morning coffee mug, as he sips his tea and scans the newspaper. The sun slips a little higher in the sky, hitting his ridiculous halo of hair in a burst of bronze, and a knot in her chest she didn’t even know was there loosens suddenly. He looks up at that moment, as if sensing the change, and their eyes lock in one of those silent looks they’ve shared so very often. She feels the sting of tears, but she fights them. Yes, they agreed to honesty between them, but there is honesty and then there is idiocy.
“You’re a terrible arse, you know that? The worst kind, and you know I can’t bear the sight you.”
His smile, though sad and knowing, is entirely genuine when he gathers her into his arms and buries his face in the crook of her neck.
“I never claimed to be otherwise, darling, and I can’t stand you, either.”