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In the Closet

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To this day, he doesn't know how he got the idea that his father must have been tall and broad and bearded. The man died when Tintin was only six months old, and if there had ever been any photographs of him, they were lost or locked away by the time Tintin was old enough to ask after them. Certainly, Tintin's own body belies the theory. He is short and slight and always has been, and what muscle he has is lean. He didn't start shaving until he was sixteen, and even now it's more a weekly or even fortnightly nicety than a daily necessity.

Perhaps it was a picture he once saw in a book. Perhaps it was one of his neighbours, like M. Dumont who worked at the brewery and whose children would run out to greet him when he came home every day, only to be caught up one under each strong arm like a pair of casks and be toted, laughing and shouting, into the house. All Tintin knows is that as long as he can remember, there has been a gap in his life that can only be filled by very broad shoulders.

"Someone's coming!" he whispers at the sound of the service lift, and he grabs Haddock by the arm and yanks him into the nearest hiding place.

He pulls the wardrobe door shut behind them, and the clack of hangers and rustle of clothes fall mercifully silent by the time the footsteps approach and the door to the suite is unlocked with a smooth click. There is, in fact, a very good reason why they are currently in the Portuguese Prime Minister's hotel room without permission—or, indeed, a key—but that really doesn't bear explaining right now.

Straining, Tintin can hear the sounds of maid-work, and he slowly lets out the breath he's been holding. Only then does he realize the close quarters they've landed themselves in. He is pressed up against the side of the wardrobe with the captain leaning heavily against him. His nose is buried in the shoulder of Haddock's sweater, which always seems to smell of sea air and tobacco, no matter how far inland they are or how long it's been since the man has lit his pipe, and he can feel warm breath stirring his hair.

Tintin is so accustomed to walking around with his chin tilted up to look taller men in the eye that he hardly realizes he does it any more. Sometimes it's easy to forget the inches and kilos that Haddock has on him. Here and now, however, he can feel the full weight of it. He can feel the width of Haddock's chest and shoulders, and when he turns his head slightly, the soft thicket of Haddock's beard brushes against his skin.

He goes very still. Something gnaws at the inside of his stomach, so sharp and sudden and hungry that he can barely breathe. He can feel his face going red, the flush spreading from his chest to the tips of his ears, and when Haddock carefully shifts his weight, the rub of his own shirt against his chest makes his nipples harden and tingle, as if it were cold out.

The maid and the prospect of arrest for trespassing are suddenly the least of his concerns.

His first glimmer that there might be something wrong with him occurred when he travelled to the east for the first time. He crossed the desert with a group of camel traders—big to a man, dusky and hairy—and they made a fuss of his youth and his smooth cheeks and his ginger hair.

Tintin, in turn, felt nearly dizzy just to be in their presence. At first, his excitement seemed to be owed entirely to adventuring abroad and the pleasure of finding cheerful friends in the furthest of places, and certainly that was much of it. It didn't quite explain, however, why he smiled so helplessly and giddily when they ruffled his hair, or how he felt when he watched them wash, stealing glances at thick, hairy arms and white scars on dark skin. He worried he had heatstroke, because he felt like he was blushing inside, the warmth pooling low in his stomach until his sex swelled, hot and hard and nearly painful.

For a very long time, this occurrence seemed entirely separate from the fact that M. Al-Hamdani cornered him one night behind the tents and tried to kiss him on the mouth and touch him between the legs. So strange and unexpected was the encounter that Tintin could not conceive of any context that might have led to it, or of any repercussions that might proceed from it.

Frozen in surprise at first, he had then pushed M. Al-Hamdani away and explained that there had been some sort of mistake and that despite his lack of a beard, he was very much a boy, not a girl (not that one should go around kissing girls like that). M. Al-Hamdani had been very gracious about the misunderstanding, and Tintin had gone back to his tent unmolested, where he lay awake for a very long time, throbbing between his legs where he'd been touched and rubbing his fingertips over his lips, which were sensitive and almost sore.

He turned the problem over and over in his head, trying to tie its loose threads to anything he had read or seen. He couldn't, and by the time he finally fell asleep that night, all he could unhappily conclude was that he had pushed M. Al-Hamdani away because he was frightened, and he had been frightened because he hadn't entirely wanted him to stop.

"Cats and dogs, will you stop fidgeting!" Haddock hisses in his ear, nearly silently, but it makes Tintin flinch nonetheless.

Gooseflesh breaks out all the way down his neck, and he frowns in annoyance because, really, he is much better at stealth than the captain. Clothing flutters around them as Haddock moves as if to step back, and Tintin, fearful of creaking wood, grabs for his shoulders to stop him. It's dark as pitch inside the wardrobe, and his hands slide along Haddock's arms blindly. He can feel the muscles tense, big and solid, and his breath comes out in an uncertain shiver.

Haddock seems to pause and then leans in again, whispering in his ear, rather more worriedly this time: "You're not one of those claustrophobes, are you?"

There are hands at his waist, squeezing softly in what he's certain is supposed to be a consoling manner. It makes his hips move of their own accord, jutting forward.

He swallows hard. "Of course not."

"Then stop it."

There's something tight in Haddock's whisper, and when Tintin squeezes his shoulders in apology, the tension only worsens. The wardrobe is ten feet tall and sturdy enough to hold two men, but in this moment it feels like someone has flung it effortlessly out the window and it's falling end over end, lurching them along, gravity pushing them together.

He holds on to Haddock for dear life.

And now there is the captain. The captain, who smells like tobacco and whisky. The captain, with his big hands and thick arms and legs—with his calluses and little scars.

Tintin has learned the utility of touching himself. He knows it's frowned upon, but he's careful not to let it intrude upon his life. The practice keeps him out of trouble; it's why, he assumes, he's not had the problem of being distracted by girls the way other young men are.

He's careful not to indulge in unhealthy thoughts. He doesn't think unkindly about women when he's alone, and he doesn't linger on the racy scenes that occasionally present themselves in the novels he reads. Instead, since meeting the captain, his spirit is one of anatomical inquiry.

He trails his fingertips across his naked chest sometimes, imagining what it would feel like if it were as wide as Haddock's. His fingers curl as if tangling through a veritable forest of hair. He squeezes his thighs, picturing thick, strong tree trunks. His palm rubs hard where he's stiff and swollen, and he conjures the image of both a broad, rough hand and a thick, blunt sex. It's big—he's glimpsed it, when private accommodations were scarce. It's long and thick, even when soft, and the very thought of it is enough, most times, to make Tintin's hips press up and his breath catch and his stuff spill all over his hand.

Afterwards, he lies alone, warm and tired, his mind moving with uncharacteristic sluggishness, and he thinks about how much he wishes Haddock would stop drinking, because then he would be perfect. He doesn't want to look up to Haddock, and he certainly doesn't want Haddock to be his father. But he does want Haddock to be his dearest friend. He wants them to keep going on adventures together, and he wants to live at Moulinsart for the rest of his days, and there is some part of his mind that's aware that they stand at the edge of some precipice together, ready to tumble one way or the other into some future that Tintin cannot imagine.

Then he thinks that maybe he's secretly pleased every time the captain falls off the wagon. Every time he gives Tintin an excuse to be disappointed and turn away.

The wardrobe, to his surprise, might just be the kindest place he has ever had an epiphany. It's dark enough that he's spared having to see the expression on Haddock's face when his hands start moving almost of their own accord over the man's broad form. He's playing blind man's buff, and it's absolutely ludicrous because he knows it's Haddock standing in front of him, but the part of his brain that lives to solve mysteries is certain that he'll learn something of tremendous importance if he just lets himself look with his hands and figure it out by touch.

Heavy wool, body-warmed. Big hands still clamped on Tintin's sides. Wrists he can't stretch finger and thumb around. He can hear Haddock's breathing grow heavier as his hands slip under that sweater. No undershirt, just bare skin; Tintin gives a start as if he's touched a live wire.

"Suffering sodomites," Haddock breathes in his ear. One of his hands leaves Tintin's waist and slips into the scant space between them, brushing over the front of Tintin's trousers. "Here? Now?"

Haddock's whisper is too rough to read, and Tintin isn't thinking very clearly anyhow. He's hard—he must be. The whole of his body is flushed and throbbing so eagerly that he nearly can't tell, but he must be, and the captain must be able to feel it, and all Tintin can parse is that even an incredulous "Here?" and "Now?" isn't "Stop."

He touches a soft middle and then a rather harder chest. His fingers tangle in crisp hair, and it's only by sheer dint of will that he keeps from making an embarrassing little sound in the back of his throat. He breathes in deeply, smelling something more than salt and smoke now, something like sweat, clean but faintly musky. He wants to see the captain utterly naked, he realizes. He wants to be on top of him, feeling all that bare skin and coarse hair against his body. He wants to be under him, pinned down, touched, held.

Then the brush of beard and warm lips find his cheek in the darkness, his chin and, more pressingly, the corner of his mouth. Tintin tilts his head up before he even knows quite what he's doing, and then Haddock's lips are on his own, and then it's as though a circuit has closed and a light has flicked on.

Oh, he thinks.


"Oh," he says softly, muffled against the captain's mouth.

The soft, wet press of their lips almost covers the sound of the maid's trolley passing and the door to the room quietly opening and shutting. Then the tumbler turns with a click and they are alone once more. Tintin swallows hard and draws back. He can hear—and feel—Haddock breathing very slow and deep and shuddery, as he does to calm himself after a hard chase or a close call.

Tintin wets his lips, shivering slightly when he finds them already damp. "We should find the papers and go..."

"...back to our hotel," Haddock says firmly.

He hesitates and then nods, and then he realizes the captain can't see him and clears his throat. "Yes. Excellent idea."

Rather unsteadily, he pushes open the wardrobe door, and the light steals in through the row of clothes, shockingly bright and warm, illuminating the rather disbelieving grin on Haddock's face. They step out together, and Tintin cannot help but grab hold of the rough, warm wool of Haddock's sweater again for just a moment, his stomach aching with hunger—for what exactly, he still does not know—but his hopeful heart certain that something he has wanted for a very long time is finally within his grasp.