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DTF?

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I could see our reflections against the distant twinkle of Bainbridge. His stubble against my neck. His tongue behind my ear. His possessive hand, taking me and making me.

I want . I want. I need. I need. I’m taking. I’m taking. You’re mine. You’re mine. It chanted. He didn’t speak the words aloud. But they could’ve been written on the glass I was leaning on. They were openly boldly nakedly writhing in the room. Armie’s intentions.

Armie. Armie. Armie. My body sang and I started breathlessly reciting his name. My hymn. His breath singed my neck. And his quiet, low pitched murmured reply encased my heart. “ Baby. Baby. Baby.”

As I came he kissed my neck, holding it so carefully. “My beautiful baby. “

I burned from the inside. If he hadn’t been holding me my ashes would’ve dissolved into the universe. Dark matter. But he held me together. As when I 1st came to live with him. And he had Archie sleep with me to keep me company when I cried in the night.

He carried me to his bedroom now.
I was breathing, sweating, forgetting , overwhelmed.
As he laid me down, I watched the man I had always loved become my lover.

His possessiveness surprised me. I’d never seen him this way with his girlfriends. He’d been so laissez faire with them. Even when I’d catch them making out , Armie would just laugh them off and leave them wanting. They seemed replaceable.
He treated them like they were, until the last one before I fled.

But he looked so different now.

The sandy blonde was gone, the boyish charm was gone, the mischievous guardian and playmate was gone. This was the domination that conquered continents, the capitalist trust funder who ruthlessly owned me now, his grip was firm and hard. His eyes were cold and unsmiling. He asked for nothing. He was taking me.

“If you think I’m letting you go this time time, you’re mistaken,” he declares with a certainty that makes me flame . I say nothing to contradict him. We look at each other and he seems so angry. “ You’re done fucking around. “

I’m bewildered. “What?”

He leans down , his chest pressing me down into the bed, my hands still imprisoned by his. “You’re in my bed and you’re staying here. You are done fucking around.” His voice is getting louder and he’s definitely pissed.

I lift my head and kiss his fuckable mouth. He relaxes his hold as our kisses get deeper and my mouth is shooting sparks. I reach for his hair, and pull on it as I get bolder.

“I.
Don’t.
Know.
What.
The.
Fuck.
You.
Are.
Talking.
About.” I say in between tasting and nipping him.

His kisses me like he’s hitting a ball. Power. Direction.Intent.

When I surface his hands are tight around my wrists again.

“No more hook up apps. No more DTFs.”
I snigger. “ Fuck off. You were DTF.”

“I’m done.” He declares with a finality that confuses me.

Chapter Text

New York- 6 months later.

You’re hurting me.”

A stormfront in his eyes. Thunderclouds in his face.
He pulled the door shut and threw me towards the bed. His bed. The bed we had last shared when I was a teen, discovering him, his arms, me. I was in love with this idol who created a safe home for me.

The first place that felt like home since my parents died.

He who was my home.
Watching boxing matches, corny 80’s movies, tennis tournaments and reruns of BBC dramas on PBS. In this bed.

Falling asleep together. He didn’t give a damn I was gay. My voice was shaking when I told him. Sitting on the couch. Staring at the carpet . Trying not to cry. Knowing I should tell him. He’d been my guardian for 2 weeks and was asking if I had a special girl. The sweat was on my forehead. On my back...but he...
He just shrugged and pulled me into his arms. So I was half sitting on him. He held me tight , rubbing the arch of my back. “You’re ok buddy. You’re ok. I’ve got you,” he murmured.

Knocking on the door ready to burst in to tell him I’d been selected for the school play, as soccer captain, for art school. Finding him with one disposable woman after another. Models, actresses, wannabe Mrs Hammers. They looked displeased to see me. But they couldn’t hold his attention for long. Not when I was in the room.

He was so protective of me. So focussed on me.
He gave up long working days. Came home for dinner with me then kept working from his study. Gave up hard core partying. Got grief from his friends. Took me to the plays and shows I wanted to see. Watched my soccer games. He loved me- like a little brother.

It broke me little by little. Fall in love while you’re young. It’s fucking glorious. Messy but glorious.

But for fucks sake don’t fall in love with your guardian. Straight. Rich. Beautiful.

It stings over and over.

Till your bruises, which used to be covered by clothes and were only visible in the mirror when you looked at yourself naked, are visible to the casual passerby who sees a black eye, a bloodied lip and a cauliflower ear. But he doesn’t notice. His keen gaze is wilfully blinded to how you’re dissolving into a body of injuries and your haemoglobin count is falling. You’re becoming anaemic from your daily bleeds.

Until you and your therapist talk about nothing else but how to break away and find yourself.

It hurt. Leaving him behind. Going across the continent to art school in LA. He was supportive to begin with. Asked a few questions like why hadn’t I applied to any of the amazing schools in NY. Shook his head at my blithe answer (I wanna be warm for once). Why I hadn’t called during my 1st week? Why didn’t I let him know when he could visit? Didn’t cut off my allowance though. Paid my fees. Topped up my trust.

Yes I ghosted him. I still had sessions with my therapist. She was great. I couldn’t have done it without her. I was shaking with anxiety at the newness. New kids. New city. New school. But no one knew my back story. No pitying looks everyday. Just normal weirdo Timmy who doesn’t talk much about NY, but goes on and on about Kid Cudi, east coast vs west coast, fucking soccer and Jean Cocteau films.

And to be honest the destruction was good for me. Well my art at least. My works were mature beyond anything my tutors expected. Grief, loss, heartache, family, love. I thought it made me a superior student – I mean compared with the adolescent angst my peers were going through. They turned to me and we turned to art. It was awesome. Graffiti. Visual art. Sticky tape and glue and paper mache. Film and music and decorative art. It oozes out of kids and twenty somethings as if no one ever hurt the way they did.

But that night in Seattle. When I walked in and saw him. I never could resist him in close proximity. People talk about gravitational bodies. Please- Jupiter couldn’t resist his pull. I never saw anyone who could when they met him. He clothed me. Fed me. Nourished my intellect and spirit. I didn’t have resistance in me. I had run away and we both knew it.

He was sitting in a private booth at the back. Facing away from the door. I asked the maître d’hôtel if there was someone waiting for me. And he had led me through the hushed tables and low lights, jazz trio playing unobtrusively in the corner... to Armie. I was standing in front of him before I could comprehend where the universe had led me. 4 years later.

He swallowed a mouthful of scotch, eyes hooded and face blank. Stood up and came towards me and smiled. A fine friendly smile. Gave me a silent bro hug and sat back down. Ordered a rum and coke for me and laughed at the stunned expression in my eyes and gaping fish mouth. I sat down and didn’t know how to start talking. I sounded so young.

“Armie! Wow man! I mean…this blows my mind. What a fucking coincidence! This..”

“Lil Timmy Tim? What are the chances? I mean that’s what LTT stands for right?”

I nod. “Yeah. And you’re middleweight giant? I bet you get a lot of swipes on that, huh?”

He laughs that cocky hot smug laugh I knew so well back then.

“I didn’t know you .. were into guys Armie?” My voice is breathy and huskier than normal. I’m having a hard time believing this isn’t another Magritte-esque illusion pulled from my subconscious.

He doesn’t reply as the waiter approaches our table with my drink and a tray of hors d’euvres. Labneh, stuffed olives, smoked almonds and pita bread. He looks west at the dwindling sun over Puget Sound. I gaze at his broad beauty. Clothed in a fitted black silk shirt, top 3 buttons open, delicious neck unadorned, stubble emerging from his carved cheeks. The black blazer pulling across strong arms. Narrowing torso disappearing under the reflective table between us. And I want.

I want to see under the table. I want those lips to turn to me and whisper my name. I want those blue diamonds focussed only on me. Those eyebrows rubbing my chest, nipple to starving nipple. Kisses on my breastbone.

He turns his chin towards me. Mischief in his eyes which are slanted in my direction. He smirks. Glances back over the water and begins to tell me his sexual adventures.

Can he see my flush? Does he watch my yearning eyes? Does he hear my breathless affirmations and exclamations?

“I went to club with an …some one I was seeing. It seemed pretty much up my alley, so to speak. We watched some scenes which we enjoyed so we went back. The second time, she participated and I watched. It wasn’t threatening or uncomfortable and so the scenes got a little kinkier. You know? A little shibari, a little BDSM. Girl on girl wasn’t my thing. I’d been watching that porn as a teen so it seemed a little tame.”

I’ve gulped my drink down by now and started on the pita bread. He sips his scotch like the connoisseur he is. I’m bewitched by his tale. He pauses. I don’t interrupt. Another rum and coke appears in my hand.

His silken voice slithers into my groin.

“When I went back on my own I really dug the guy and girl stuff. But it rankled a bit seeing a girl being dominated by a guy. The bells really stated ringing when I watched a guy being dominated a woman. And then, you know the thinker I am, I wanted to know was it the dominant woman or the submissive man that got me? The only way to know was to explore that myself. “

I sigh deeply. Fuck I wish that had been me. I’m hot and horny now. Imagining him in a club. I don’t know if I feel jealous because it doesn’t burn like it did when I walked in on him and his latest fling. Repeatedly.

He is playing with an ice block on his tongue. In his cheek. Watching me watching him with my mouth open. My gaze unfocused. Flicking between his lips, the ice block in his cheek. His tongue. I blink and look up at his eyes. They’re black with a rim of blue. He’s staring at me.

He continues. Voice deeper, softer than before. I lean in to hear.
“I loved it Tim. I loved,” he stretches the word out so I hear it the way he meant it,”being the powerful dominant one in a scene. But what does it for me -more than anything else -is dominating a beautiful gentle person. Females felt a little too much like abuse. But a man- wanting me to dominate him? “

He doesn’t finish the sentence. I’m hard now. I’m in black trousers and a long shirt, black blazer. No one will see. He knows. He fucking knows. His foot is touching the outside of my ankle. I shudder at the touch. I want to beg him to make me submit.

He murmurs something as he reaches across that table and takes some almonds. I don’t hear clearly.

“I’ve been looking for playmates on the app. But when I saw your beautiful hands on your profile pic I wanted to tie them up.”

I gasp. We are both looking at my hands.

“Did you know they were mine?” I demand. Stunned and suspicious.

“No,” he laughs scornfully. Knocks back the rest of his drink. “But you are even more beautiful now than you were 4 years ago.”

He means it. It’s not a chat up line. He has always been so sincere. My brother, my friend and shelter, my cheerleader and fellow mischief maker. He had made me happy – the first person who did after I was orphaned.

“Did you think I was beautiful?” I can’t believe it and the surprise ,despite his sincerity, is in my voice.I mean he was professing he was straight as a line when I left.

“ I did..but I didn’t know it.” He looks away, brow falling and and mouth tightening.

“Shall we order?” He inquires smoothly as the waiter approaches.

How can I deny him?

Chapter Text

The fighting started straight away. That first morning in Seattle. It was a portent.

It culminated in New York 6 months later. When he threw me on his bed, hurting my hand and creating the mother of all arguments.

Portent, shmortent. I wilfully ignored the first one.

Did Armie know what was brewing? Did he know it wasn’t going to be sunshine and skittles?

I don’t know.
We never discussed it, just moved on to the next tiff, the next snipe, the next pull-push.

 

The wakeup had been phenomenal.

I mean, the whole evening had been mindblowing. Armie was the best lover I ever had. (There hadn’t been that many, no matter the grindr profile. I’m an anxious guy and the hook-ups were just a little too nerve wracking. It was usually just sloppy blowjobs or handjobs or frotting. Nothing like Armie Hammer inside me.)

The first time I woke up I was alone in a glorious bed. My stomach brushing against soft white sheets, a hint of grey coming through the window. It took me a moment to get my bearings. Seattle.
Hotel.
Not mine.
My body ached in an unfamiliar way.
Date.
I knew when I saw his watch by the bed.
Armie.

The night before was amazing. His hooded gaze burning with intent. My lips. My hair, my hands. Every gesture I made he was focussed on. He was so present. I was the only one in the room. His blue eyes burning with flames. He was DTF and so was I.

We left the restaurant after dinner. We walked shoulder to shoulder to his hotel. It wasn’t awkward at all. I talked about the art school and the exhibits we had seen and he asked questions about my impressions of the art, Seattle. It was easy talking to him. It always had been.

And no sooner than that thought crossed my mind, did I realise that the shower had stopped. Armie was wrapped in a towel, snug around his narrow hips and walking towards the bed, towards me- with a light inside him. He was fucking glowing.

I did that.

He often looked self satisfied after his girlfriends stayed over, but that glow?
That was all me.

His eyes were gentle and affectionate. I tipped my face up to look at him, feeling smug and possessive myself. He mustn’t have interpreted that clearly because he laughed, “Good morning my grumpy kitten,”.

White teeth and golden skin and blonde locks turned light brown in the shower.

“Come back to bed,” I mumbled thumping the pillow next to me.

He didn’t hesitate. Just lay down beside me and pulled me on to his chest. Kissed me delicately, tenderly.
I couldn’t tell how long we kissed for. Just that we were wrapped in a cocoon. I was enjoying every taste, every warm lick, every thought quietening.I was touching him bare. Skin to skin. My heart yearned for this for so many years.

The next time I woke up, it was to my phone ringing and it was Dustin telling me checkout was in 30mins and dude where the fuck was I.

I swore, started throwing on my clothes -which were scattered all over the suite. When I yelled at him, “Hurry the fuck up! I’ve got to check out!” he blinked and I demanded, “You’re coming with me.”
Armie started getting dressed too.

The mad rush continued- we ran to my hotel, I babbled about flight times and checkouts. We exchanged phone numbers. I threw my clothes and toiletries into my carry on while he made awkward small talk with Dustin. We were just-ever-so-slightly late for checkout.
And as soon as I checked out we had our first fight.

Our first proper adult fight.

I was so relieved that we’d made checkout I hadn’t noticed his face. When I pocketed the receipt and looked up, I found an expression I hadn’t seen in many years. He was pensive and his face was blank. Expressionless.

My class were milling near the doors and he stood off to the side. There were a few interested looks in our direction but I could handle them. When I looked back at him, he looked slightly ill. Like he was keeping waves of nausea down.

I strode over to him, I could handle him too, I was sure. I stood on my tip toes and kissed his neck, burying my cheek into his shoulder. He smelt like MY Armie. My friend and guardian. Not my first wet dream but definitely my favourite one.

He reluctantly and maybe even half heartedly embraced me. I was having none of that. This was urgent.

“My flight’s in 2 and a half hours. Checkout and come to LA, Armie.”

I kept my eyes closed and just breathed him in.

He hesitated before he replied with pursed lips and a furrowed brow against my scalp, “I’ve got to be back in NY on Monday. I can’t.”

“Yes, you can. Fly to LA, spend tonight with me and go home tomorrow night.”

“Timmy, I can’t,” he insisted. He let me go and pushed me back by holding my arms. He looked as devastated as I felt.

“Come home with me, fuck me tonight and fly back tomorrow. Take the red-eye,” I proposed in an urgent hushed whisper.

“And then what?” he snapped.

I made a sour face. Jesus. He was not getting this. I didn’t understand why.

“And then we have phone sex until we see each other again,” I growled.Maybe a little too loudly?

“That’s not..” he began. “No,” he declared.

“Yes!”I rebutted. It was a quiet whispered argument but we were getting looks, and not just because our shuttle had arrived.

We continued until I reached the steps. I had tears in my eyes, his were red and stormy. He wouldn’t kiss me goodbye, he hugged me and held my chin away. Robbing me of my kiss.

I wept as I walked down the aisle. He didn’t even wait. Just walked away, head down, shoulders slumped.

I felt a friendly hand on my arm pulling me towards a seat, but I shook it off and stumbled to the back where I buried my face in my hands and cried.

It took me a minute to realise he was not ok either.I couldn’t let this be.
Not this time.
Last time was hard enough, but I had to do it then.
I rang him when I could speak in full sentences.

“What happened about not letting me fuck anybody else, you fucker?” I launched into a full assault when he picked up.My class mates turned around and stared.They were used to my emotional swings but Timmy Chalamet having a confrontation? no. Just no. I didn’t give a damn.
I didn’t let him say anything- I just went to town on his sorry ass. Which was actually MY sorry ass now.

“Am I just a one night stand to you, Armie?’ I barked.

“No!No Timmy, I …”his voice sounded broken too , like he had been crying. Husky and hurt.

“Then check out NOW, come to Seatac NOW. Buy the first ticket to LA and be there 30 mins after we land. Please Armie,” I implored.

It took a lot more cajoling, but that set the pattern.

 

I should have known better. For fucks sake, I had been having therapy since I was 14.

I won the battle though. He bought his ticket by the time we departed. I hung around at the airport for an hour till he landed. He came home with me and we fucked again.

And we fought again.

Chapter Text

New York . 8 years ago– the guardianship begins

 

My therapy started within a month of moving in with Armie and Vic actually.

Vic had gone back to university and I had just gotten back from a walk around the neighbourhood with Archie, as was my new nightly habit. Earphones on, listening to my favourite rappers swearing their hearts out and playing with Archie in the park. The first night I arrived, he slept with me. He knew I was a mess and appointed himself my protector. I know. I know. That makes me Archie’s puppy…

I loved hugging his curls and his little tummy and he loved sitting with me, his head on my knee. If I was curled up with a book or my phone, with my knees bent and feet flat, he would jostle my legs with his nose until I was either cross legged or my legs were straight out, so he could put his chin on my knee. We sat like that for hours. On my new bed. In my new bedroom which I was allowed to decorate anyway I liked. For a kid who’d been orphaned a year ago, Archie was the closest thing to home I had since my parents passed.

So that evening, when we came home from our walk, I was surprised to see Armie home so early. He’d been staying late this week to make up for the short days the week before. He was flat on his back, legs flopping over the edge of the huge sectional. For the first time I saw him less as a parental figure and more as guy. He was looking hot as fuck in a tight black t shirt and worn black jeans. He looked younger than I had realised. His t-shirt was riding up, eyes closed, one leg straight the other bent. Foot and ankle naked.

Up to that moment I had an inkling Armie wasn’t like a real parent. When I arrived we talked about schools, me, Vic, Armie, his lawyer, the social worker - and Armie had been keen that I return to my old high school. Like it was just a given he would get me back there even though it wasn’t an easy commute. Most parents would just make a choice that was either the best school in their district or the easiest commute but not Armie (“Let me worry about it,” he announced in the sexiest voice I had ever heard).

When Archie jumped on his chest he sat up and overpowered him easily. As he rubbed his ears and faced him down, nose to nose, he teased,” Oh! Now you wanna know me? Huh? Where were you last night when I couldn’t sleep without you, traitor?”

I’m pretty sure I blushed and tried to meet his eyes, “Umm..he was in my room?” It sounded like a question because I didn’t want to get into trouble. And I was quickly learning, I didn’t want Armie to dislike me.

Armie just laughed, kept playing with Archie’s face and then patted the space beside him. I sat down nervously.

He made some throw away comment about how great I was with pets and did I want one. I told him about my turtle that had been given away when I went into foster care and he went immediately into (what I came to know all too well) as Problem-Solver-Armie mode. Who had Urdle? Did I know their number? I should ask for him back.. We could go an collect him immediately.

I was blown away. I never expected anything back now. I couldn’t hold on to my..them… so every possession had become a touchstone of sorts. I was just holding on to the shitty old phone they had bought me. Every piece of clothing that I grew out of was like a new scar under my skin.

 

After the Urdle discussion, he barrelled on and asked if I had a special girl at school. I was already raw about getting my pet turtle back, and Archie knew it. He left Armie’s lap and hopped down on to the floor beside me, laying his sad eyes on my knee.

I blurted out, “I’m gay.” Blinked back the tears, held my breath and watched Armie like a hawk.

He looked me in the eyes, moving his gaze from eye to eye. I felt like I would explode, that this was the end of my lungs and the universe.

My parents hadn’t known. I had been keeping secrets. Working it out for myself. By myself. I was always trying to grow up too fast Mom said.

I couldn’t tell any of the foster carers or school mates. I mean, it just didn’t feel safe. I was already standing out for all the wrong reasons. Skinny. Soft voice. Soccer fanatic. Add gay orphan and I may as well have been Neville Longbottom.

So when he pulled me into his arms, like I was no heavier than Archie, I burst into tears. As my sobbing escalated and I struggled to breathe, he picked me up by my hips and put me on his lap. Looking back it was probably something he did with his girlfriends, but I felt so sheltered in that moment.

As I cried he kept rocking me and assuring me, “You’re ok buddy. I’ve got you.”. When I was snotty he just picked me up, carried me into the kitchen, put my ass down on the kitchen counter and got me tissues and water. Stood between my legs and hugged me. Let me weep on his shoulder. Wiped my tears. For the first time.
When Archie was standing on two legs and trying to comfort me too, Armie pulled me off the counter and took me into his bedroom.

He held me and asked me all about losing Urdle and once I had been able to answer lucidly, softly queried, “ Did your parents know?”

It was a long broken conversation. But what I remember now, was there was no gesture of abandonment or rejection. He held me close, tried to work out how to help and for someone who was barely an adult, who’d been orphaned a couple of years earlier, he instinctively did all the things he and Vic wanted. And we bonded that night. In hindsight my infatuation started then. I just didn’t know it.

Chapter Text

Armie came to therapy with me. Well at least for the first few months. It helped establish some ground rules for both of us. What does a single multimillionaire in his twenties know about raising a teenager? Especially when he’s feeling like an imposter himself, trying to fill his Dad’s shoes.

To a teen a 24 year old feels like a demi-god, so to hear him asking questions that seemed kind of dumb and embarrassing was radical. Like should he introduce me to his girlfriends or should they be banned from the apartment?
Normality but safety- establish rules with the girlfriends so they knew to treat me with respect and that I was a permanent non-negotiable part of his life.
Should he go camping on his annual trip with his school buddies or should he cancel this year?Take Timothee with you, include him in your everyday.

Vic was still going to business school upstate so he could help run their family companies in the long term. Meanwhile Armie seemed to struggle but he was okay saying it, and his frequent phone calls with Vic moaning that he couldn’t wait for him to come back and help sort this shit out seemed to act as a pressure relief valve.

After a couple of false starts, he got his office life sorted so he was home on most school nights so we could have dinner together. He made sure (somehow) that I got re-enrolled in my original school, made sure I had friends over, that their parents knew his contact details, that the housekeeper was always there when I got home. It helped me regain some confidence and it felt like parts of my old life had resumed.

It started a pattern of rescuer, nurturer, caregiver Armie and trusty true transparent Timmy- his responsibility, his sidekick and his cock blocker.

His friends were really nice about me. When they weren’t hassling him about being an old man who skipped drunken shenanigans for bed time with a teen.

I guess I helped him avoid alcoholism or maybe a cocaine problem. I like to think I made a positive contribution to our happy home. And when Vic came back 2 years later, it was awesome. We got on like a house on fire. Vic’s girlfriend Caro was always really sweet with me.

Armie’s? Less so.

We had started having movie marathons on Friday nights shortly after I came to live with him. He’d drag me out of my room, and we’d eat popcorn in his giant bed and watch a classic movie. We’d take turns choosing and the non-selector would give the selector a lot of lip, some curse words and generally trash talk disparaging their shitty taste in movies.

In truth, it was an excuse to interrogate me about my week, so we could deal with whatever shit was going down, when we weren’t so rushed. It was a good idea courtesy of my therapist, Dr M. And bonus, when I woke up on Saturday, he’d be back from the gym or a run, with French pastries and coffee for breakfast in bed.

So the first time he had… ahem… company , she’d walked out of the bathroom in a skimpy lacy thing to find me on my side of the bed. My face flamed, I made huge round eyes and looked at Armie in shock and he just kept talking to me like normal, all the while beckoning her over to the other side of the bed. He shuffled over to me and ignored her. He was slightly rolled over me, with his back to her. I couldn’t see her face but I could see her painted nails. I was watching them on his shoulder with a freaked out horror that made Armie laugh.

“Ok, I’ll bring you breakfast in bed,” he said leaning over and dismissing me with a kiss on the forehead.
Something he had never done before.
That was all kinds of weird for me.

“Ummm, good night,” I mumbled as I literally tumbled out of the bed and tripped on Archie. I did not want to be seeing any sexy times thank you very much.
And Archie’s eyes…oh man…you can’t unsee that shit!
“C’mon Arch,” I called as we escaped, shutting the door firmly behind us.

Armie booted her out before he went for his usual run, so I got my normal breakfast in bed. Only this time he came into my bed, clean and smelling irresistable after his shower. Jo Malone -lime, basil and mandarin. That’s how he smelt to me. Fresh, clean, citrusy and edible. I focussed on the edible when I was alone.

That first girlfriend was followed by maybe half a dozen more in the 4 years we lived together. I saw them all as disposable and Armie treated them that way a bit. He was such a flirt. A monogamous flirt, but he’d flirt with anyone. Drag queens, elderly ladies, elderly men, lesbians, and of course gay guys. He was constantly checking out guys with me and being way too chill about underaged sex. In fact he rarely checked out women of his own age. I wondered if he realised that.

His own parents had been strictly Christian, but he was all for ..well… every kind of legal love.

My infatuation got more intense.

It felt relentless.
My hormones were swirling and I had an extremely short refractory period. He’d come home drunk and kiss me on the forehead, or hug and hold me and my fantasy fodder (my spank bank if you will) would overflow.

Everyone knew about it and we were openly very affectionate. I would have happily talked about it in therapy, while simultaneously jacking off at home, and kissing gorgeous boys in school productions, till I was 30 at least. I was definitely getting my love-language and needs met.

Until Chryslinn.

Her family were gun toting right wing republicans and old friends of his parents. She was the sort who’d be a virgin when she married but until she got the white dress she was having plenty of sex. Virginity reborn type, you know?

Homosexuality? Well…we never discussed it. Maybe it disturbed her, or maybe I cockblocked her too many times. Or maybe she couldn’t see a future where I wasn’t underfoot. She was so nice to my face.

But she had my number.

I didn’t even see it coming.

I’m pretty sure she knew I was in the house that Friday night. I was slamming doors in the kitchen for a late night snack after an off broadway play, and the doors to both his bedroom and bathroom were open. She called to him, “He’s in love with you know.”

His voice echoed from the bathroom. “We’re brothers Chris. How many times do I have to tell you, he’s like my little brother.”

“He worships you and not in a platonic bro way, Armie,” she declared in the tone of someone who was sick of repeating herself.

“I’ll never have those feelings for him. He’s just latched on to me as his safety blanket. He will work it out when he falls in love for real. Why do you keep doubting me?”

There was silence. I couldn’t hear her answer. It didn’t matter. The door to the bedroom thudded shut so I’m pretty sure she knew...

My breath was gone. I felt that ringing warmth and shame, proclaiming my stupidity. My naivete. Spreading from face to my ears. My arms were burning. My eyes were stinging. My back was on fire and I had broken out in an instant sweat.

Hope was incinerated instantly. I hadn’t even known that it had been my foundation.

For fucks sake we shared the same bed camping, on movie nights. We flirted constantly. We were all touchy touchy. And he thought it was …what..pretend love?
That I was a little fool?

Well Chrislynn didn’t, I realised years later. She knew. Or suspected enough to manipulate us both. Her suspicions earned me the privilege of hearing my first love, denying our bond...denying us.

I was humiliated. I hadn’t realised how desperately I had counted on him finally noticing he had fallen in love with me.

Later, many lonely nights later, a continent away, I thought it had been such a fucking boost for his ego.

But the first thing I did was put the food back in the fridge, make a rum and coke and go to my room with Archie. After the shame subsided and the drink was gone, I realised so many assumptions I had based our “cohabitation” on, were mirages.

He didn’t need me.
I didn’t contribute to his life.
He was my guardian. I was an obligation. That I’d never felt it- was a tribute to his grace as a human being.
He was destined to marry a beauty queen, not his skinny, lanky male ward.
He wasn’t mine. Never was. Never would be.

And I couldn’t change that.

I thought he loved me, but I had been fooling myself. Just because he didn’t check out young women, it didn’t make him faithful to me. It made him faithful to them -his never ending parade of girlfriends.

You might think that a teen doesn’t think that clearly. But you’d be wrong. Maybe you didn’t when you were 17.

I had plenty of life experience and the privilege of a roof over my head, running water, electricity, bills paid, a dog (and a turtle) who loved me, and a first class public school education. Don’t forget the best therapist old money could buy, a housekeeper, a driver and an overthinking mind.
And internet access.

I believed him. I believed that he believed what he had said and I knew myself now as fucked up and wrong. Sure you hear people coming out after they are married or have kids, but Armie wasn’t going to be one of them.

Come sunrise, I hadn’t slept a wink.

At 6am I texted my therapist (who was always up early) and organised an emergency appointment. Vic was awake and I asked him if I could join him for his run. I didn’t want to see Chris’ face. I’d rather put on my headphones and run with Vic.

Strangely Armie didn’t join us. Unusual but very very good.
I tapped out about half way, sat in the sun, wrote notes on my phone and dawdled over to my appointment. I had a coffee and forced myself to eat half a croissant, but I couldn’t taste it. My eyes were dry, stinging. When I closed them they watered.

I felt like Armie and all his girlfriends had spent years talking about me. Laughing at my pathetic little crush. His friends probably thought I was a joke too.

It felt nothing like losing my parents. It was like being bullied again- like when I was fostered. Idiotic artsy anxious loser.

You see your illusions for shadows and mirages. They have the shape and form of the real thing but no substance.

And I hadn’t really lost anything- except illusions.

It wasn’t a loss of innocence, it’s just fucking growing up in the real world. Noone died. Noone was broken.

 

That morning when I sat down in her office, I was different.We had talked about Armie a lot, so Dr M was pretty au fait with how my feelings had evolved. And she really helped me. When she couldn’t persuade me to talk to him about what I’d heard, she agreed to help me try to move on.
I was never the same again.

That overheard conversation lit a fire under me. It burned away my new layers and I remembered the old Timo, whose Mom was trying to constantly encourage him to be brave while lamenting how quickly I had grown up. I could do this for them, I told myself. I wasn’t going to get stuck. I was going to live as the Chalamets intended. Heart, head and guts all in.

Months later, I had an acceptance to a school across the country, a trust fund that would see me through until I could get a job. And I WAS going to get a job. I was going to leave every trace of little Timmy, Armie’s charity case behind.

VIc had been a goddammed champion. He had supported me when Armie objected to my West coast applications. He urged Armie to let me spread my wings. Stop babying me.

Our relationship had changed and Armie openly questioned me, in fact relentlessly questioned me about why. Why I wouldn’t do movie nights?
Give it a rest, I’ve got my own friends now old man.
Why I studied at school in the library instead of home?
It’s a good vibe and good for discipline for next year- don’t want to be a ridiculous trust fund art school drop out.
Even he couldn’t argue when my grades got better. He seemed frustrated but quickly caved to the hetero bro lifestyle he had abandoned when he became my guardian. And he and Chrislynn were around enough to propel me to focus like I rarely had before.

Armie knew, he definitely knew something was wrong. He was emotionally sensitive. But I always had headphones on, did a lot of exercise with Archie and Vic. Made myself scarce at home and blew him off constantly.

The day I left he had insisted he would drop me off at the airport. I had been able to dissuade him (ok I shamed him) into not coming to LA with me. My battle cry was independence, being my own man, making my own choices. It killed him when I said I didn’t need to be smothered. It didn’t feel so good for me either, but it was easier than when…after the accident anyways.

I did what I had to do.

I called him when I arrived. Within a week I had started using whatsapp in a group chat with him and Vic. Never just with him. When he’d send me messages, I’d reply to them both. Started declining his calls. And when I got a job a month later, I made plans to change my phone number, move house and never touch his money again.

I knew that if I needed them, he and Vic would be there. When I changed address I allowed myself to cry.

Why couldn’t he love me? Was I so unlovable?

Yeah…cliched much?

I focussed on school. Worked as an art therapy assistant at a nursing home, as an assistant at a gallery and generally made ends meet. I kept in touch with Vic and their lawyer, but Armie & I were a no fly zone. Vic was cool about. Never mentioned Armie when he visited, but I knew he was hurt when I wouldn’t come to his and Caro’s wedding. He wasn’t buying my excuses about money either.

He asked once. Just once, “It’s Armie, isn’t it?’

I couldn’t look at him. I stood up and mumbled my excuses and just fled. I fucking fled like a fugitive.

Chapter Text

4 years later -Seattle

When I walked in and saw him. I never could resist him in close proximity. People talk about gravitational bodies. Please! Jupiter couldn’t resist his pull. I never saw anyone who could.

He clothed me. Fed me. Nourished my intellect and spirit. I didn’t have resistance in me. I had run away and we both knew it. 

He was sitting in a private booth at the back. Facing away from the door. I asked the maître d’hôtel if there was someone waiting for me. He had led me through the hushed tables and low lights, jazz trio playing unobtrusively in the corner... to Armie.

I was standing in front of him before I could comprehend where the universe had led me. 4 years later. 

He swallowed a mouthful of scotch, eyes hooded, face blank. Stood up. Came towards me and smiled. A sardonic friendly smile. Gave me a silent bro hug and sat back down. Ordered a rum and coke for me, laughed at the stunned expression in my eyes and gaping fish mouth. I sat down and didn’t know how to start talking. I sounded so young.

“Armie! Wow man! I mean…this blows my mind. What a fucking coincidence! This..”

“Lil Timmy Tim? What are the chances? I mean that’s what LTT stands for right?”

I nod. “Yeah. And you’re middleweight giant? I bet you get a lot of swipes on that, huh?”

He laughs that cocky hot smug laugh I knew so well.Or at least I used to know so well then.

“I didn’t know you .. were into guys Armie?” My voice is breathy and huskier than normal. I’m having a hard time believing this isn’t another Magritte-esque illusion pulled from my subconscious.

He doesn’t reply as the waiter approaches our table with my drink and a tray of hors d’euvres. Labneh, stuffed olives, smoked almonds and pita bread. He looks west at the dwindling sun over Puget Sound. I gaze at his broad beauty. Clothed in a fitted black silk shirt, top 3 buttons open, delicious neck unadorned, stubble emerging from his carved cheeks. The black blazer pulling across strong arms. Narrowing torso disappearing under the reflective table between us.

And I want.

I still want. More urgently.

I want to see under the table. I want those lips to turn to me and whisper my name. I want those blue diamonds focussed only on me. Those eyebrows, eyelashes rubbing my chest, nipple to starving nipple. Kisses on my breastbone.

He turns his chin towards me. Mischief in his eyes which are slanted in my direction. He smirks. Glances back over the water and begins to tell me his sexual adventures.

Can he see my flush?

Does he watch my yearning eyes?

Does he hear my breathless affirmations and exclamations?

“I went to club with an …some one I was seeing. It seemed pretty much up my alley, so to speak. We watched some scenes which we enjoyed so we went back. The second time, she participated and I watched. It wasn’t threatening or uncomfortable and so the scenes got a little kinkier. You know? A little shibari, a little BDSM. Girl on girl wasn’t my thing. I’d been watching that porn as a teen so it seemed a little tame.”

I’ve gulped my drink down and started on the pita bread. I needed something to round me and touch was all I had right now.

He sips his scotch like the connoisseur he is. I’m bewitched by his tale. He pauses. I don’t interrupt. Another rum and coke appears in my hand.

His silken voice slithers into my groin.

“When I went back on my own I really dug the guy and girl stuff. But it rankled a bit seeing a girl being dominated by a guy. The bells really stated ringing when I watched a guy being dominated a woman. And then, you know the thinker I am, I wanted to know was it the dominant woman or the submissive man that got me? The only way to know was to explore that myself. “

I sigh deeply. Fuck I wish that had been me. I’m hot and horny now. Imagining him in a club. I don’t know if I feel jealous because it doesn’t burn like it did when I walked in on him and his latest girlfriend. Repeatedly.

He is playing with an ice block on his tongue. In his cheek. Watching me watching him with my mouth open. My gaze unfocused. Flicking between his lips, the ice block in his cheek. His tongue. I blink and look up at his eyes. They’re black with a rim of blue. He’s staring at me.

He continues. Voice deeper, softer than before. I lean in to hear.
“I loved it Tim. I loved,” he stretches the word out so I hear it the way he meant it,”being the powerful dominant one in a scene. But what does it for me -more than anything else -is dominating a beautiful gentle person. Females felt a little too much like abuse. But a man- wanting me to dominate him? “

He doesn’t finish the sentence. I’m hard now. I’m in black trousers and a long shirt, black blazer. No one will see. He knows. He fucking knows. His foot is touching the outside of my ankle. I shudder at the touch. I want to beg him to make me submit.

He murmurs something as he reaches across that table and takes some almonds. I don’t hear clearly. 

“I’ve been looking for playmates on the app. But when I saw your beautiful hands on your profile pic I wanted to tie them up.”

I gasp. We are both looking at my hands.

“Did you know they were mine?” I demand. Stunned and suspicious. 

“No,” he laughs scornfully. Knocks back the rest of his drink. “But you are even more beautiful now than you were 4 years ago.” 

He means it. It’s not a chat up line. He has always been so sincere. My brother, my friend and shelter, my cheerleader and fellow mischief maker. He had made me happy – the first person who did after I was orphaned. 

“Did you think I was beautiful?” I can’t believe it and the surprise, despite his sincerity, is in my voice.I mean he was straight as a line when I left. Wasn’t he?

“ I did..but I didn’t know it.” He looks away, brow falling and and mouth tightening.

“Shall we order?” He inquires smoothly as the waiter approaches.

How can I deny him?

 

His hooded gaze burning with intent. My lips. My hair, my hands. Every gesture I made he was focussed on. He was so present. I was the only one in the room. His blue eyes burning with flames.

He was DTF and so was I.

We left the restaurant after dinner. We walked shoulder to shoulder to his hotel. It wasn’t awkward at all. I talked about art school and the exhibits we had seen. He asked questions about my impressions of the art, Seattle. It was easy talking to him. It always had been.

I could see our reflections against the distant twinkle of Bainbridge. His stubble against my neck. His tongue behind my ear. His possessive hand, taking me and making me.

I want . I want. I need. I need. I’m taking. I’m taking. You’re mine. You’re mine. It chanted. He didn’t speak the words aloud. But they could’ve been written on the glass I was leaning on. They were openly boldly nakedly writhing in the room. Armie’s intentions.

Armie. Armie. Armie. My body sang and I started breathlessly reciting his name. My hymn. His breath singed my neck. And his quiet, low pitched murmured reply encased my heart. “ Baby. Baby. Baby.”

As I came he kissed my neck, holding it so carefully. “My beautiful baby. “

I burned from the inside. If he hadn’t been holding me my ashes would’ve dissolved into the universe. Dark matter. But he held me together. As when I 1st came to live with him. And he had Archie sleep with me to keep me company when I cried in the night.

He carried me to his bedroom now.
I was breathing, sweating, forgetting , overwhelmed.
As he laid me down, I watched the man I had always loved become my lover.

His possessiveness surprised me. I’d never seen him this way with his girlfriends. He’d been so laissez faire with them. Even when I’d catch them making out , Armie would just laugh them off and leave them wanting. They seemed replaceable.
He treated them like they were, until the last one before I fled.

But he looked so different now. 

The sandy blonde was gone, the boyish charm was gone, the mischievous guardian and playmate was gone. This was the domination that conquered continents, the capitalist trust funder who ruthlessly owned me now, his grip was firm and hard. His eyes were cold and unsmiling. He asked for nothing. He was taking me.

“If you think I’m letting you go this time time, you’re mistaken,” he declares with a certainty that makes me flame . I say nothing to contradict him. We look at each other and he seems so angry. “ You’re done fucking around. “

I’m bewildered. “What?” 

He leans down , his chest pressing me down into the bed, my hands still imprisoned by his. “You’re in my bed and you’re staying here. You are done fucking around.” His voice is getting louder and he’s definitely pissed. 

I lift my head and kiss his fuckable mouth. He relaxes his hold as our kisses get deeper and my mouth is shooting sparks. I reach for his hair, and pull on it as I get bolder.

“I.
Don’t.
Know.
What.
The.
Fuck.
You.
Are.
Talking.
About.” I say in between tasting and nipping him.

His kisses me like he’s hitting a ball. Power. Direction.Intent.

When I surface his hands are tight around my wrists again.

“No more hook up apps. No more DTFs.”
I snigger. “ Fuck off. You were DTF.”

“I’m done.” He declares with a finality that confuses me.

 

I mean, the whole evening had been mindblowing. Armie was the best lover I ever had. (There hadn’t been that many, no matter the grindr profile. I’m an anxious guy and the hook-ups were just a little too nerve wracking. It was usually just sloppy blowjobs or handjobs or frotting. Nothing like Armie Hammer inside me.)

The first time I woke up I was alone in a glorious bed. My stomach brushing against soft white sheets, a hint of grey coming through the window. It took me a moment to get my bearings. Seattle.
Hotel.
Not mine.
My body ached in an unfamiliar way.
Date.
I knew when I saw his watch by the bed.
Armie.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Timmy and Armie are 10 years apart in age.

New York: When Timmy becomes his ward, Armie is 24, Timmy is 14.

Los Angeles: Timmy is at art school from 18 to 22.They are estranged.

Seattle: They are matched on a hookup app just before Timmy finishes art school. Timmy is 22, Armie is 32.

Los Angeles: They fly to L.A. the following day. Armie is there for 24 hours.

New York: Timmy returns home for good a few months later, when he finishes school.

 

Chapter Text

 

I was waiting at the airport in L.A. , anxiously checking my phone. And this fucking giant of a man just apparated in front of me. I screamed…like seriously screamed like a Hufflepuff faced with a troll.

 

He sounded carefree, so young again. He laughed in that deep basso register and I just jumped up into his arms, our luggage scattering. I kissed him like a sailor on an around the world trip, and definitely not like the guy who had just cried a tearful goodbye in Seattle a few hours ago. He kissed me back just as wildly and I knew down to my mitochondria that making him coming here was the right thing to do.

 

He loved me, a voice whispered.

 

That first weekend in L.A. was easy.

He saw my student share house. He couldn’t handle my cheap bed though so checked us into the San Vicente bungalows. It was a lifestyle I had left far behind me when I left New York. I was a student now -it offended him that I lived like a student with 2 jobs instead of his wealthy ward. But maybe what offended him more was that I was happy in LA?

 

I took him to my haunts – the gelateria near art school, my favourite hangout- the no name bar with no phone number, my spots. He made interested noises but he disliked them. He was curmudgeonly and I let him get away with it. I was amused at this chink in his armour. The Timothee sized chink.

 

We talked about his work, why he canned the private jet, about his friends and my friends- who was where, who was in rehab, who was married, who had kids.

 

As we arrived back at the bungalows I asked about his coming out. He was silent for a moment, then he sighed, eyes glittering like aquamarines, “Not tonight baby. Not tonight.”

 

We closed the door and the night crackled, like a live wire.

I breathed out, he inhaled me.

I made saliva and he drank it.

I gave him the most passionate blowjob I had ever given anyone and although he’d been tense, he came pretty fucking hard. If only 15 year old Armie-obsessed-Timo could see us now.

 

I loved his taste. I savoured it.

I loved his bristly skin.

I love my razor burn.

I loved his stubble against my thighs. Against my ass. His tongue, his long wide fingers. The pleasure was unbelievable. I’ve had very little sex, and its mostly been bad.

You think you’re doing something wrong, or there’s something wrong with you because it’s so average. You tell yourself you’re a little better than those around you because you got laid today, but actually it’s shitty sex with someone who probably doesn’t even like you much.

 

This was not even in the same universe as those experiences.

 

He was pleasing me deliberately and slowly. There was no escaping his skin.  And I wouldn’t want to.

It was different from our Seattle hookup the night before- none of the stormy possessiveness.

He was quieter too.

He wasn’t watching me per se- that’s an inadequate description of what it felt like. His single minded focus was too keen, too intense to be called watching. An archer waiting for the moment to pierce my insides, perhaps. I revelled in the undivided attention. I can’t remember if he said my name. I just remember feeling like I belonged there underneath him. Like I was safe.

 

We showered together in the morning. I mumbled he seemed down, while I felt ethereal. He bit my head off.

“Well, sorry I’m not wearing a fucking sequined tiara. Why did I fucking bother?” he bitched. He just stormed out. Like fucking stormed out of the bathroom.

 

“What’s your problem?” I yelled while trying to get the shampoo out of my eyes. I took my time, cleaned up and calmed down. By the time I dried off and put on my boxers he was packing.

 

“What the fuck Armie?” I cried.

 

“I’ve got to go,” he announced, launching a steely stare in my direction. Defying me to engage with his bitter mood.

 

“Yeah, in 5 fucking hours,” I bit back, digging my fingernails into my palms to stop me from hitting something. “So what, you ass? Can’t we have shower sex and have a lazy day together?’

 

“No I can’t!” he yelled back.

 

I marched over to him and pulled myself up to my full height. All 5 feet 10 inches to his 6 feet 5..and shoved him. Hard. He barely moved.

 

“Why are you angry?” I demanded. “I am right here. Standing in front of you. We’re together- it’s all fucking peachy dude.”

 

He didn’t respond physically. He shouted back right in my face. “For how long? Until you ghost me again?”

 

I bit my lip. Well fuck...that was not what I wanted to hear.

I understood instantly what I had failed to see yesterday-I was living in the moment and he was back in the past.

 

“I thought you wanted me to not fuck anybody else. I thought we were going to be together,” I admitted softly. The words came out in slow motion like experiencing a time dilation distorting reality. 

 

“Well you did it before without a warning, so why wouldn’t you do it again?” he fumed.

 

“Do you want me to promise I’ll never ever.. That’s never going to be possible again. I swear,” I vowed huskily.

 

Sorrowful pools of blue reflected back at me.

 

“I wasn’t honest and..I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” I blinked back tears, fears and regrets for not following very good (and expensive) advice. “You deserve better than ..”

 

He cut me off, seething, “Don’t say it! You have no fucking right to tell me what I do or don’t deserve!”

 

I opened my mouth. I should speak, but what could I say that would make this better?

 

“Ok, let’s ..okay… what do you want me to say…I’ll be honest.” I shook my head as if to ward away evil thoughts. Please don’t let me say anything to hurt him.

 

He looked at me skeptically. Raised an unbelieving eyebrow. Was it the word ‘honest’ that grated on him? Had he lost faith in me? I’d been transparent before- how could he  have forgotten?

 

After a hard swallow I began firmly,“I heard you say to Chrislynn..”

 

He blinked when he heard her name, and then threw the nearest object, a plastic glass at the wall. It bounced harmlessly on to the floor.

 

I had never seen him like this. I wasn’t frightened of him. I was calm, in a surreal way. They say never touch an angry person, but I had to. He was like a lion with a splinter in his paw.

I wrapped my arms around him from behind and held on tight while he tried to shake me off. I held on like a spider monkey. I kissed him over and over, on his neck, on his head, on his ear, saying, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” There was a certainty to it that I can’t really describe. Maybe there’s a phrase in another language, but English lacks the fatedness of it.

 

He kneeled down on the bed, breathing hard, shedding heart worn tears. I kissed them, licked them gently, carefully wiped them away. When he seemed cried out, I pulled him onto the bed and rested his body on top of mine. Rested his head next to my heart.

 

“Do you hear that?” I murmured, planting a kiss on his forehead.

It was a first. A tender first.

 

He shook his head, eyes dull and despondent.

 

“Listen carefully,” I urged, quoting one of my favourite sayings, “This heart beats for you and you alone.”

 

He kissed my chest and held me tight, rubbed his cheek against my heart. I asked him what had made him lose it like that?

 

He expressed bitterness (and an unhealthy amount of self loathing) about how Chrislynn seemed to embody what his folks valued, and how it swayed him into staying longer in that relationship than he should have. It wasn’t just me. Vic and Caro didn’t get on with her either.

 

He had gone along, ever the congenial would-be son-in-law, with what her parents suggested. For the company, for their lives, influenced by their relationship with his parents. He’d been lost too, trying to live up to the Hammer legacy. I hadn’t really seen his self-doubt. He had seemed impervious and capable of everything to his teenaged ward.He made it look so easy, with his astounding self-ease.

 

Their breakup was eventually triggered by her acting out, trying to get him to propose. Something about taunting him by kissing a woman during an argument at a corporate event. Not the Hammer matriarch of the future apparently.

 

I had never known him to hold a grudge, so I had to ask, “Why couldn’t you forgive her? I’m sure she would have been sorry. Becoming Mrs Hammer would have been worth eating humble pie.”

 

He rolled over to face me, lying on top of me, chest to chest. I loved his weight, holding me down like gravity. His hands were folded underneath his chin, resting on my breast bone, eyes tipped up to gaze at me. They were darker, like glittering sapphires or lapis. He considered my face, then spoke gently as if he was trying not to hurt my feelings.

 

“She said some horrible things. About you. About us.’

 

“Like what?” I prompted, fondly brushing the blonde hair from his brow. She couldn’t hurt me now. She was long gone and we were here in each other’s arms.

 

“Like our relationship was twisted. That we had fooled around while you were living with me.”

 

I couldn’t help but snigger. “Well, she really didn’t know you. You wouldn’t do that to anyone. “

 

The more I considered it, the more annoyed I felt. On both our behalves. “You were born faithful. And I was underaged, for fucks sake! Some people are sick. Didn’t she get you?”

 

His eyes burned brighter at my impassioned defence. Was there doubt there too?

 

“Just because I cut myself off, didn’t mean I ever stopped loving you Armie,” I assured him.

 

He propped himself up, pressing hard against me and placed another gentle kiss on my lips.

 

I ordered food, I brushed his hair. I kissed his eyes.

 

I told him about that stupid stupid overheard conversation and he curled around me. He apologised for not knowing how he felt till I was gone. Until her accusations had resonated, long after they had broken up and he was experimenting with his sexual desires. They had broken up 2 years ago and he had thought to come looking for me, but had been dissuaded.

 

“Forgive me?’ I pleaded.

 

Maybe I didn’t deserve it. I had been true without ever knowing it or wanting it. Like an Austen character who can’t fall out of love.

 

He said he forgave me also and just like that, we were granted a new beginning.

Chapter Text

 

New York 2019

 

I knocked on the door, palms sweating. It was 9:30pm on a Friday night. The day my classes had finished. He was expecting me tomorrow. But I just couldn’t wait to be with him.

 

We had been texting and face timing every day. Honestly some days it was hard work, especially with the time difference. I had my rose tinted glasses on, but he wasn’t the same guy I had lived with in N.Y. He seemed a little less free, guarded with his thoughts- which was new. I wasn’t sure whether that was limited to us or if this was the way he interfaced with the world now.

 

28 and 32 don’t seem very different but, then again neither do 18 and 22.

 

 If he noticed differences with me, he kept them to himself. In hindsight, that was what could have triggered the fight in the shower in L.A. I blurted out my unfiltered thoughts and he was defensive because of the negative implications about his moodiness. He didn’t used to be so sensitive, but maybe that’s because I had never criticised him before? Trash talk and teasing had been our modus operandi, and here I was naked in the shower with him, dissecting his emotions.

It could not have been regret about our hooking up because he told Vic about us.

Vic was ecstatic about our reunion, he said. Dr M was too, I told him.

 

Armie had come to L.A. for my final art school show. It hadn’t been smooth sailing between show and the after party. He’d been quiet, aloof even. Definitely not the Armie I grew up with -the playful, energetic, charismatic extrovert. I was more social than him, but hey, these were my buddies, my crew. They were poorer, younger and less fancy than his usual suit and tie brigade. So he felt a little awkward? But not out of place. Never that.

 

I knew he’d been exercising like a demon. Twice a day on weekends. When he arrived at the gallery there was an audible buzz that accompanied him. Part of it was his fame, some of the art crowd knew who he was. Why was a New York billionaire at an art school graduation show, even one as prestigious and as well renown as this?

 

He had a new haircut- a fade no less, and a much younger wardrobe. I bet I wasn’t the only one who was going to have..ahem…nocturnal emissions that featured him. I ignored the admiring looks blithely, and he moved to my side like a heat seeking missile, unaware of the noise, the chatter, the hopeful glances. I was dying to show him my work, to be his partner, to have his arm wrapped firmly around my waist.

 

It wasn’t just how he looked- tan, sharp and mine. I’m not that shallow. It was his blatant admiration of my work. When he finally reached my side he was so proud. And so was I. I was giddy you might even say. My endogenous opioids were buzzing, dopamine thrumming in my brain, a cortisol surge energising me. I rocked a semi all evening. He kissed my forehead, then rested his forehead on mind. He kept his hands to himself but was constantly touching me. Little shocks electrifying me.

 As usual our love making that night had been incandescent. He flew back to New York the next morning.

 

So here I was 2 weeks later, and one day early, unable to stay away.

I was moving back. Moving home.

 

 Archie started barking furiously through the door. He had seen me on facetime most days and had been so excited, barking out conversations with me. I called out to him.

 

“Archie, it’s me, buddy.”

 

The door opened to my lover. My furious lover. I failed to notice this initially in my euphoria of being home.

 

So I beamed up at him, “Surprise!’

 

He didn’t say anything…just kind of grunted. I dropped my luggage as he pulled me into his room. A stormfront in his eyes. Thunderclouds in his face.
He pulled the door shut, locking Archie out and threw me towards the bed. I didn’t even get to kiss Archie!

 

He had carried me delicately the first time.

This was nothing like that.

 

“Ow, you’re hurting me!”

He growled, “I’m fucking exhausted. You didn’t even tell me you were coming!”

 

“Well you’re not the one who flew across the country just to be here a day early,” I countered snarkily. I was going to seduce him out of his sullen mood - I started formulating a plan to tease him out of this funk. When I smiled invitingly at him, the floodgates opened.

 

“Fuck you! You could have died ! I could have died! And you just…! Four fucking years Chalamet, and you wander back in as if it’s all been a dream. Looking like the cat with cream.”

 

I swallowed with difficulty, my throat instantly parched. How had I not realised how injured he still was?

 

I let him rant about how could I have not touched the trust fund? How he was worried sick about me, anything could have happened, and how selfish and stupid I was.

 

 When he paused I interjected, “I’m not forgiven, am I?” My voice was shaking.

 

Another sucker punch from Armie. Again.

 

I kept assuming he meant what he said. Stupid, stupid me.

 

“How could you do this to someone you supposedly loved? Explain it to me!’ he implored.

He was pacing like a mad man. At least he wasn’t throwing things this time.

 

“We could have died like our parents, and you just act like…like…I can’t even with you,” he groaned, threw his hands up, turned on his heel and left me on the mattress.

 

I sighed, picked myself up and followed the banging into the kitchen where he was foraging the cupboards for cocktail ingredients. Shaker, ice, champagne, gin…

 

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about that conversation Armie, I’m sorry that I let the years go by. I just assumed that you didn’t..,” I began hesitantly, wondering how to undo years of angst and concern. “I didn’t have the communication skills and I didn’t think me telling you would magically make you hot for me. You said you were straight.’

 

“You should have said something before you blocked me.” His voice was tremulous and he was quivering with pent up emotions. “I gave you everything!” he hurled his hurt at me again. I couldn’t deny how unselfish and generous he had been. I nodded but he didn’t seem to notice.

 

 “They said I’d smothered you, that I’d made a pass... God, Caro’s cousin even thought I’d abused you and you ran away to escape me! That I had covered it up.”

 

The last words were broken and barely audible. His face crumpled and I wondered whether he was about to cry. He inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly and keeping his eyes closed turned away from me.

 

I sighed. Closed my eyes too and allowed his words to seep into my heart. This was the damage I had wrought. It was more just than his self image as my rescuer that was tarnished now.

 

This wasn’t a happy rainbow journey of sexual discovery.

 

This was a meltdown.

 

That I had caused because of my reaction to an overheard conversation. Yes, I was a kid, but I hadn’t listened to good advice when I received it from Dr M.

 

A Timothee sized chink? Ha! It was a rejection that had tilted his foundations too. He had been my rock and I had helped to throw him off balance. Without a backward look.

 

I hadn’t looked deeper when we hooked up, when we decided we couldn’t be apart. I had just carried on as if the years of separation happened to someone else.

 

“I was ashamed of my feelings. I thought you’d been laughing at me for years -at your ridiculous pathetic orphaned ward, pining away for the unobtainable  Armie Hammer. I could take the world laughing at me, but never you. It killed me to hear you talking about me to her. And if you talked to her about me, who’s to say you hadn’t been having that same conversation with all your girlfriends?” My voice was shaking too. We had this conversation in L.A. but if he needed to hear it again, I was going to repeat it patiently and calmly.

 

He shook his head, as if refuting my words. As if he could ward off my feelings -the pain he had caused me- with a magical gesture. He leaned over the counter, his head in his hands.

 

I rubbed my forehead with my hands. I had the urge to kiss his deltoids, his biceps. The back of his neck. His ear. Little kitten kisses.

 

“What would it have changed? Honestly Armie?” I argued softly, nearing him carefully. “You would have married her, had kids and I …would have hung around like a bad smell, a corroded broken hearted boy, underfoot and infringing on your marital bliss. Causing all sorts of problems for you.” I had painted it once, in a piece that was part graffiti and part watercolours. A tin man from Oz with a corroded heart, that was oozing blood and oil. I got an A for that assignment.

 

He was shaking his head again more insistently this time, not speaking. He was listening though.

 

“If it wasn’t her it would have been another woman.”

 

He sighed, turned back towards me and pulled me into his arms. He ran his hands up and down my back, as if comforting me. I reciprocated instinctively.

 

“You wouldn’t have worked out you were queer if I hadn’t left, Armie, you know that. Come on,” I insisted huskily. “Your trajectory would have been straight, married, kids, set up trust funds, divorce, try again and find your sexual preferences on your 3rdmarriage.” I was really getting into this particular hypothetical heartbreak.

 

His lips turned up at that, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. They were still troubled and light, shimmering aqua.

 

“I would have pined for you and after your midlife sexuality crisis, consoled you and drumroll please…become your first husband and third spouse.” I wiggled my eyebrows playfully. He smiled a half smile. “It’s been a hell of a detour, but we got there.”

 

I stood up on tip toes and pulled his head down, kissed his forehead.

 

I inhaled my favourite person. We needed to move forward over new ground.

I didn’t even know I was going to say it when the words came out.

“Tell me about your coming out, baby. Please?”

 

He bit his lips, looked up, past me into the lounge and twisted his lips.

 

“I. I’m not out Timmy,” he admitted, avoiding my gaze.

 

I responded softly and reassuringly.

“That’s okay. It’s up to you and I will support you in whatever you do, like you did for me. I love you, you know. That won’t change.”

 

We stayed standing together, in a moment of safety. It was just a moment because then my brain caught up with his revelation.

 

I peered into his face. When he met my eyes he looked troubled. My mind was still calculating, computing, concluding, checking and racing.

No, no, no, no.

No.

Please God no.

 

“Do you mean that you’ve been on the down low with the hook-ups?” I queried softly.

 

He nodded, pursing his lips, “I only do it -did it- when I was travelling.”

 

I raised my eyebrows quizzically. This wasn’t the impulsive spontaneous Armie I knew.

 

“Ok. Does anyone know?” I was trying to get my bearings- there were definitely rocks ahead. They were within touching distance. My voice sounded suspiciously calm, albeit breathy.

 

He shook his head, meeting my eyes. He gently disengaged, went back to making the drinks. Avoidant behaviour, I registered distantly.

 

“But. But we’re not just hooking up here are we?” I pleaded. I had a sour taste in my mouth as if I might vomit. Oh God, don’t let me have misread this, assumed too much again.

All our planning, our conversations, my hopes.

 

 “No! No, I promise. I just..” He sounded desperate.

 

“You can’t even get the words out, can you?” I whispered forlornly.

 

He was looking at the floor. I couldn’t read his face.

 

“So let’s communicate clearly now. No assumptions.Do I understand this correctly?,” I began through gritted teeth, forcing my voice to be louder than a weak whisper. “We have been on the down low since January. I have moved across the country to be with you. For us to be together. My therapist thinks we’re together, your brother thinks we’re friends or something? And no-one knows about us except my friends?”

 

He was silent and still. I paused, took a deep breath, and walked away.

 

“I’m not ready,” he proclaimed defensively.

 

I bit my top lip and collapsed on the sofa. Archie came to my lap, ever my consolation. I stroked his head, pulled his ears, kissed him.

The resumption of our old life was another fucking illusion.

 

Armie brought my drink to me.

 

I didn’t want to touch it. Or him.

He sat down perpendicular to me on the sectional.

 

“What am I then? Are we gonna pretend I don’t share your bed? Are we going to be “roommates”? Are you ashamed of me?” My tone was rising and I was getting feistier.

 

“I’m not ashamed Timmy,” he claimed. I could hear the distress in his voice. “I’m just not ready.”

 

“Well, are you going to keep dating women Armie?” I jeered.

 

“No, I’m not! Fuck you!” he snapped.

 

“You did that already and apparently it doesn’t make you less straight. Or less narrow minded. Or less phony!” I countered angrily.

 

“It’s easy for you,” he protested. “You always knew you were gay!”

 

“And you’re a white male billionaire, living in the first world with a huge corporation and servants for fucks sake! Check your fucking privilege at the door!” I yelled. “Who says no to Armand Hammer the third?” I demanded. “Not your hook-ups. Nuh-uh. Not your employees. Not your girlfriends! Do your beards? Ever fool around with them, baby?”

 

“How dare you?” He was shaking with rage.

 

“You’ve been lying to me for months- that’s how, you utter utter prick.” The accusation tore out of my mouth and he flinched. I was breathing fast, clutching my forehead.

 

He stared, lifted his chin and he hesitated. “Do you wish you hadn’t come back?’ His doubt slithered into the open.

 

“No you fucker,” I shouted, anger making me prescient, like it had the night of the overheard conversation. He was scared. I knew what had to be done and it was not going to be easy.

 

An estrangement followed by a hookup. Does happily-ever-after just land at your feet? Only in fan fiction and trashy rom-coms.

 

 “You should have said! You don’t get off the hook that easily! When were you going to tell me?” I spat out bitterly. I didn’t let him speak, I just rushed on. “This is only fair, I guess. I didn’t communicate with you when I left and you didn’t communicate with me until I was back under your roof.”

 

“Our roof!” he argued.

 

“Fuck you!” I was vibrating fiercely now. At a frequency that demanded motion.

 

I pulled Archie off the sofa and strode out the front door, slamming into the night.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

I had cooled down by the time Archie and I got back in. I was disappointed but not despondent.

You have to work for your happy ending in real life. Frustrated hopes, simmering anger and rotting resentments don’t just get dissolved like dirt on soiled clothes.  And me? I was heart, head and guts in-Chalamet style of old.

 

Armie was in the kitchen making mac and cheese for me. He used to do that when I lost a soccer game or failed a test and was so disappointed in myself that I would cry. I could smell the bacon sizzling. Hugs, a kiss and his undivided attention had been enough to sooth those …what would I say now?…those little hurts. This wasn’t going to cut it.

 

He looked contrite when he apologised. “I’m sorry. I should have told you. It was cowardly, but I can’t bring myself to do it yet. Please please forgive me.”

 

I sighed. I knew he wanted a gentle gesture of affection but he hadn’t earned it.

 

“I think we need to talk, because this is all kinds of fucked up,” I suggested gravely. “And maybe we need some help.”

 

He nodded, taking in my posture. Arms akimbo, disappointment writ large on my features.

 

“Yeah,” he mumbled, “I think I do.”

 

I shook my head refuting his words. “We do, baby. If we love each other and we are going to make this work then we need help. You’re afraid and that’s ok. I can be brave for both of us right now.”

 

“Do you forgive me?” he wondered, the fear transmitted -not in his voice- but in the too straight way he stood up, the way he tilted his chin.

 

“No, but I do understand.’

 

I’m not sure he did though because he asked,” So where do we go from here?”

 

I could hear the powerlessness in his voice.

 

“We have dinner, cuddle, sleep with Archie. We get up, make an appointment to see Dr M and resume therapy -together,” I declared sternly.

 

“Ok,” he acquiesced quietly. “Hungry?” he was looking at the stove, nervously. Bracing himself for further rejection or recriminations.

 

“I could eat,” I offered, more out of his consideration in trying to comfort me, to make amends.

 

As he turned to resume cooking, I uttered a promise. “We’ll make it.”

 

He turned, so I couldn't see his tears falling. “Yes,” he whispered.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Tregua?

 

A quiet truce hung over us.

 

We settled into a relaxed routine that felt fragile. We stayed in by agreement, except for Archie’s walks. Dr M was away so we tried to be good to one another. Armie was trying his damndest to make me feel welcome (and overcompensating at that), and I was trying my damndest to reciprocate. Both of us gently manoeuvring around half glimpsed frowns, half finished sentences.

 

We weighed up, together, reservations about explaining the precise nature of our relationship to any acquaintances we might run into. It had been a subdued, somewhat tense discussion, both tiptoeing around the other’s sensitivities. Finally, we agreed to quietly settle into cohabitation as lovers, before we added outside forces into the mix. The sex was different-more cautious, but it had its moments.

 

While he worked, I started looking for a job.

 

We finally mustered up enough courage (or perhaps we felt inured enough) to make plans to see Caro and Vic for brunch in a fortnight.

 

A couple of weeks later (2 Saturday mornings to be precise) I had persuaded Armie to sleep in, skip his gym session, stop pushing himself so hard. (Stop sublimating!)

When I returned from the patisserie I found him in the kitchen. He’d been unable to follow simple instructions (stay in bed) so I was greeted with the aroma of coffee wafting through the apartment. In a concession to obedience, he was still shirtless and still in his hot-as-fuck boxers. Looking delectable. Unshaven. Untamed hair, husky morning voice. If he had been beautiful at 24, he was Venus as a man at 32.

 

The fresh pastries jogged us both back to those precious Saturday morning breakfasts in bed. The nostalgia and the tenderness for each other flicked a switch. I felt a renewed optimism about how right this felt while he seemed seriously turned on by me taking care of him.

 

He stroked my side from behind, his warmth radiating to my back, as I placed the pastries on a tray to take back to bed. He kissed my neck and when he rested his chin on my shoulder, leaning cheek to cheek, I offered him a crumbly nutty morsel.

 

Maybe it was the sweet intoxication of the butter and flour?

Maybe it was his favourite Sade song thrumming through our home?

 

The first bite of pastry on his tongue and he was on me. He pushed the tray down to the counter carelessly and gripped me tightly, possessively. Turned and lifted me in one elegant motion, carrying me over to the dining table. I lifted my legs, wrapped my knees around his waist. Raising my shirt, he demanded urgently, “Off’.

 

I wanted him.

 

He laid me down on the table, the cool wood giving me goose bumps while I was combusting internally. I ran my hands over his bare chest. Olive skin, firm muscles, impossible curves. Stroking his nipples, then kissing them, then nipping them, eliciting half noises of pleasure and desire from his mouth. He pulled my hips firmly down to his with perfectly applied force as he thrust up.

 

We moaned together.

 

I loved it. Stomach to bare stomach.

I needed skin on skin, cock to cock.

I was on fire. And Armie? He was panting hard, biting and bruising me.

 

Our hands were frantically pushing his boxers and my jeans down. Fucking with our tongues, anticipating, both desperately desiring this. Viscerally.

 

So we definitely didn’t hear the door open.

 

It wasn’t till he yelled, “Oh for fucks sake!” that we realised we had company. Vic stood near the door, eyes averted, covered by a hand that was also clutching a bag of pastries from the same patisserie I’d been to a few minutes earlier.

 

My stunned eyes fixed on Armie. He was a fierce, well I’m not sure if red describes it really, a fierce maroon maybe? He groaned, closed his eyes and threw his head back. Took a deep breath. Still as a sculpture.

 

Vic said nothing more. Just marched into the kitchen facing away from us. When he got there,I could hear him slamming cupboard doors. “Really? Really?” he shouted as he poured himself a coffee. He was staying, it would seem. And we were doing this now.

 

We hadn’t seen Dr M. We had been carefully dancing around “the future”. The sense of being stuck in the same dance over and over had been unspoken and irritating. That was done for now- Vic was here and he was going to make us talk. I braced myself for a fight, for fallout. Not so turned on anymore.

 

Armie pulled his hips back and slid his boxers back up.

 

I offered a testing snarky smile, as he adjusted himself. “Smooth,” I mocked.

 

He laughed. Nervously.

A tinkling shiny laugh I hadn’t heard in so so long. He had definitely woken up on the right side of the bed if being caught making out with me by Vic wasn’t upsetting him. I couldn’t fathom it. Shouldn’t he be sweating bullets? He had just been outed, for fucks sake! And Vic did not sound best pleased.

 

Was he happy to be caught, I wondered. Was he so scared of saying it, he’d rather be found out? Be powerless rather than in control? Well, the decision had been wrested from him now.

 

He pulled me up, helped slide my jeans on, which I duly zipped up. Then he slapped my ass as I got off the table.

 

He really was hot for me.

And I was into it. But I was confused too. I loved the PDA, the possessiveness. It really got me off, but this wasn’t closeted behaviour.

 

Vic came back with our cups and sat down on the sofa. I sat across from him, waiting to see what unfolded next, like a tennis spectator waiting for a match point rally. Armie vs Vic, my brothers-in-arms.

 

Armie sat down right next to me, our thighs and knees touching.

This was promising. Very promising.

 

We all looked at each other with a grim foreknowledge that whatever was said could be make or break for all our relationships.

 

When Armie clicked the remote to stop the music, Vic erupted.

 

“Really? You eat at that damned table! Have you no sense of hygiene?”

 

It was such a Dad-rant, and so typical of Vic, that much-loved-but-seriously-displeased face. I dissolved into fits of giggles as he lamented our lack of sense and propriety. Armie could barely keep a straight face but lost it when Vic scolded us that anyone could have walked in (um, security, door man, keycard?). Vic gradually calmed the fuck down and before long he was laughing at his irrational reaction too.

 

“Welcome home you ass!’ he finally offered, leaning over to hug me.

 

“Me? An ass? What about you dufus? Your bro is making out with a guy and you’re worried about the table? Wtf Vic?” I was laughing and scanning Armie’s face, but he seemed absurdly amused too.

 

I kissed Vic’s cheek and hugged him tight, trying to squeeze the breath out of him. Like I used to when we lived together, when I was still growing and he towered over me.

 

“And you!” he exclaimed, pointing a finger at Armie. Whose nonchalant expression broadcast relief. Who promptly leaned over and planted firm playful kisses all over his younger brother’s face. Delight and ease again. Archie couldn’t resist joining in our outing-slash-reunion and started running around and barking like a madman.

 

“Alright, alright, alright,” Vic assured Archie, patting him too, until he lay down next to Vic and put his head on his knee.

 

“So this is great news,” he declared toasting his coffee cup to us. “And not before time.”

 

Armie looked surprised. Definitely relieved now but clearly taken aback. “Did you know?’ he queried.

 

“I knew something had happened, but I didn’t know what,” Vic replied. “I knew you loved each other, Timmy was heart broken and not talking to you.”

 

I nodded, not needing to say anything. I was watching them both with a teeny tiny bit of jubilation.

 

He carried on, “But he needed to grow up and you needed to discover how much you loved him.”

 

“You should have said,” Armie admonished with a dramatic sigh.

 

“Well, you weren’t exactly confiding in me. You were working too hard at being someone else’s version of you, avoiding any reminder of Timmy AND avoiding us,” he admonished right back, in a holier-than-thou tone I remembered from childhood. Vic had always grounded Armie in his moments of self-doubt. Maybe that was my role now, I wondered. It was what I had unconsciously slid into after all our fights.

 

Armie raised his eyebrows, nodding and acknowledging the truth. Then he added “I think I’m bi. But you can’t say anything to Caro.”

 

“Why the fuck not?” Vic sounded bewildered and a little cross, evidently more annoyed about keeping secrets from his wife than Armie’s declaration of his sexual preferences.

 

“Because I’m not out,” Armie shot back.

 

“Well, you need to get the fuck over that pronto,” Vic ordered lacksadaisically.

 

“Easy for you,” Armie bit out with a sourness I had been living with for the last fortnight.

 

I had lacked sympathy for Armie too, when we had words about keeping his sexual preferences secret. But the old Armie, my brother and guardian, he had never been one for self-pity. My lover was different and I hadn’t been accepting of it, of him. His struggles. He was vulnerable and I had been unkind. My heart ached when I remembered his love and generosity when I came out. Regret and guilt warred in my gut.

 

Sorrow and love settled on Vic’s face while he spoke clearly and coolly.

 

“Armie, they’re dead. They are never coming back and you can’t live by their credo. When was the last time you went to their church? I gave that up years ago. We go to a Baptist one now. And you never go. When was the last time you prayed for something?”

 

Armie said nothing, but had glanced at me when Vic asked about his prayers. He looked gutted. Was this the heart of the matter? 

“Why are you wasting your precious days with Timmy by your side?” he cajoled affectionately, “When you know… you both know how short life can be? Make every day count. Commit to each other.”

 

I exhaled. Tears were blurring my vision.

Armie wasn’t scared about me disappearing. He was taking me for granted while he worried about his soul. His not-so-straight-anymore Christian soul. The soul that he didn’t give any outward appearance of caring about anymore.

 

Vic could see that. He knew that in a way that I never could. Armie was shattered by Vic's words. They had illuminated the fears he couldn't bring himself to say. Perhaps also by the love in Vic's eyes reassuring him that their brotherly bond was undiminished. His eyes were open, broken blue pottery pieces. He couldn’t speak and was struggling to inhale.

 

“And you can tell Caro when you’re ready. It’s your decision. But about fucking time you child. You stupid emotionally constipated child,” Vic moved to his left and hugged him tightly.

 

“It’s not his fault Vic,” I protested, embracing my love, my lover, from the other side, wanting -no needing -to defend my constant protector. Both of us were sheltering him. Holding him. “I was embarrassed by my infatuation, and humiliated by..” But Vic wasn’t having that. He interrupted me brusquely looking past Armie’s curled head.

 

“Timmy, listen to me. Don’t be ashamed of your feelings. If they were authentic, genuine altruistic love? That’s nothing to regret. Be ashamed of your behaviour if it was out of line, but I never saw anything that seemed…that looked inappropriate. I saw you loved him, yes you worshipped him a little too much. He’s just my idiot brother.”

 

I was so moved by Vic’s compassion. For both of us. God, this family. How the fuck did I get so lucky?

 

Armie laughed through his tears, as if being called “his idiot brother” by Vic (and not for the first time) was the funniest thing he had heard for months. Our eyes met. Blue and green. His eyes were crinkly, shining with tears. I squeezed mine shut in a moment of euphoric happiness that resonated above an unfurling peace.

 

“And I speak for Archie too when I say, thank God! You’ve been gone too long Timo. Welcome home.” Brothers are the best , and Vic would always be mine.

 

We finished our coffees and confirmed our plans for tomorrow’s brunch, sniffling and laughing. Armie seemed unburdened, playful, cajoling – Armie of old no less, and as soon as Vic left, he pounced on me again.

Maybe the sex would be incandescent once more.

 

“Baby, I need to be inside you,” he murmured against my neck.

“So fuck me, my husband-to-be,” I replied coolly. Claiming him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thoroughly unforgettable hour later (use your imaginations, people), our doorbell rang and behind the biggest bouquet I have ever seen in my life, Caro’s blonde curls appeared. Vic followed her, looking sheepish.

 

“You couldn’t keep your trap shut for even an hour, you douche?” Armie laughed snarkily. Not-so-secretly smugly amused.

 

“Hush now, you fool,” Caro replied in her charming southern drawl, allowing him to bend down to kiss her. “As if he could keep anything from me?”

 

“I walked in, and she just knew,” Vic defended himself manfully, helplessly.

 

I laughed as I embraced her.

 

“Sorry I didn’t come to the wedding, but you look glowing! I can’t wait to meet baby Hammer,” I apologised contritely.

 

“I knew something had happened and I told Vic that it wasn’t Armie’s fault. He would have fixed it if he could,” she carried on talking as if my apology never happened.

 

“Well it wasn’t mine!” I exclaimed.

 

“I know that too, foolish child. Heck I knew Armie was a friend of Dorothy’s the first time I met him. Sometimes timing is a villain, sometimes fate. You were the spine of his book, Timmy and without you he was just scattered pages.” She uttered that profound Barnes quote so blithely.

 

That brought forth protests and exclamations. Armie denied he had been a mess without me and I was amazed at her perspicacity.

 

“Oh shush now! I am not missing your engagement party. When is the date? We are going to have so much fun planning it Timmy!’ she promised.

 

I looked at Armie, who shrugged nonchalantly.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

When the party came, 15 months and one baby Hammer later, we promised no embarrassing stories about one another in our speeches.

 

I stole a kiss and took the microphone. My speech was a little more comical, a little rambly, a little naughty, and less polished than his. He is the corporate titan, you recall. I’m the artist.

 

“Well, being Armie Hammer’s mistress (especially since I was a teen) was not how I expected my year as a foster child to end.

(Guffaws and hollering).

Seriously though, I was the luckiest kid in the world to have Armie, Vic and Archie take me into their family 10 years ago. We couldn’t have been better suited- and I have to believe our parents were watching over us. And my aunt, who married his uncle, and connected us when we were kids, living on opposite sides of New York. Apparently Armie met my Mom and Dad once, when my Aunt died. Little did she know that one day, he’d be her…

(Deep sigh, choking noise. Tight embrace.)

 

Anyway, he may have been rich, but the real spoils of our years together as guardian and ward was the unconditional love and support I received. That doesn’t happen to many foster kids, you know. It’s like a fairy tale, a proper 21st century fairy tale.

 

Many of you know I went to art school out in L.A., but we hooked up in Seattle. We were matched anonymously on a blind date.

(More hooting and cheering)

I think Armie would agree it was the hottest date of his life..I mean, I’ve had better, but it was pretty special for him.

(Fuck you!)

Later Babe! After the guests have gone. Oh Babe, I thought we agreed I was doing the fucking tonight?

(More cheering and catcalls)

 

Anyway, we’re thrilled you could share this evening with us. And we’re delighted that instead of accepting gifts we’re creating a charitable foundation for foster children in New York to attend arts programs.

We’d like to thank Archie for putting up with our stupidity. To Vic, Caro and Nico, you’ve been the best family we could hope for. We’d like to thank you, our friends, for your support.

 

It’s not been an easy road, but seriously Armie. I love you. Always have. Never stopped.

You held my heart from the first time I cried on your shoulder, and for the benefit of our friends who haven’t heard this story, that night was the first time I came out to anyone- and it was to you. You were the first person I said the words “I’m gay” to, and you offered me love, support and acceptance.

I will endeavour to offer you the same -till the last evening of our love.

And I’m going to quote Yeats to finish. It spoke to me then, it speaks to me now.

“I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet”.

 

Armie’s speech was more romantic.

 

“When I first saw Timmy, he wasn’t the sexy mother fucker you see before you tonight.

Nice suit Babe-purple really is your colour.

(Clapping)

He was a scrawny adolescent boy (jeers from the crowd), who looked as lost as a kitten.

He saw me as his big brother, and I saw him as my god-given family, sent to me and Vic to help us in the aftermath of our loss.

 

They say in healthy relationships you can be adults together, play as children together and allow each other to be the child while you take turns at being the adult.

I saw myself as his rescuer, you will be unsurprised to know.

 

It took 4 long years apart, some experimentation on my part and a whole lot of pain, most of it self inflicted (like most of our wounds), for me to find him. And when we came together, it was like nothing I expected. He took tender care of my heart, kissed my bruises better and lightened my load.

 

Thankyou baby, for rescuing me. And don’t think I mean that tritely. In our years apart, I was described as working too hard to be someone else’s version of me- thankyou Vic, for those brotherly words. Our separation was hard, but we had to grow to learn to be together in new and healthy ways. Neither of us are on pedestals now and that’s been the most authentic, challenging and accepting relationship of my life. Shoutout to Dr M, who helped us adjust in the early years and has been rooting for us ever since we were basically just kids.

 

I’m going to quote my favourite writers now- Walt Whitman and John Donne, because if you can’t quote poetry at an engagement party, when can you?

 

Timmy, thy firmness makes my circle just. And makes me end where I begun.

And every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

 

I was emotional, but I didn’t cry. I held his waist while he spoke in the evening sun, bathing us in a golden pink halo.

 

We were together, I forget the rest.