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Almost Anything You'd Care to Leave

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I'm lying here
Wide to receive
Almost anything
You'd care to leave
-- Morrissey, 'Wide to Receive'

 

"Do you trust me?"

Richard whispers it in your ear. You can feel the sound shivering off every hair of his beard, rippling the space between the two of you. There is no place where your bodies are touching but he is shaping the air with his body, thickening its composition. You don't need to be touched to feel him pressing against you.

He is holding a razor in his hand. The early morning sunlight glances off the blade (pristine, no fingerprints, brand new) and into your eyes. You flinch and he allows the sharp of your shoulder blades to cut back into his chest for a moment. His hand, blank of his wrist pale, does not move so much as a micrometre. You have a strange impulse to press your mouth against that pale place, suck the skin up between your teeth. You try to laugh instead.

"I'm not sure I trust anyone with a straight razor. Not even a licensed professional."

"Do you trust me?"

"Are you finding fault with my ability to shave myself?"

"Answer the question please."

You stare straight ahead. There is a mirror right in front of you but you don't need one to know how black his eyes are right now (ink, or dark water, or a night sky far away from here) and how slow to give up this newest entry in a list of secrets he has kept from you four years long.

"Yes."

He nods. You feel the motion flow forward against the back of your head. A little wave.

"Good."

A step forward, silent, but now it's not air you feel crowding against your skull but the dry warmth of his fingers, whole palm, taking the shape of your head. His thumb strokes the curve, rubs down into the short hair and between the cords.

"Richard -- "

He leans in. You figure his forehead is flush to his forearm, making a triangle with your shoulders. He kisses your shoulder. "Shhh," he says. "Bend your head down."

And you do it, because it is him asking, and you would do anything, even now, if he would look at you how you would like to be looked at. You don't think his opinion of you has improved very much in the last four years. If you plotted a graph of the success of your friendship with him, you think it would probably have more troughs than peaks. A Death Valley of a relationship: canyons, a few stone stacks, and a fuck of a lot of bare sand. And yet, and this is the thing that bothers you, somewhere inside you there is a spring of fresh water, endlessly replenishing. Second chances, trying so very hard just to make him say or do something that proves he doesn't think you take up too much space in his life, on the earth itself. You bend your head close to the water in the sink, eyes closed, lips tingling from the heat radiating off the surface, and wait.

"Good," he says, so softly. His hand rests around the curve of your skull again. His legs are wide, his thighs pressing outside yours, hips set away, as though he can build up momentum (wrecking ball, gunshot, oh fuck just fuck me please) from just standing still. He presses on your skull and you bend closer to the water, its surface is broken by the tip of your nose, the purse of your lips, the point of your chin. You try not to panic. You go to take a breath and remember too late that it is water and not air that you will be inhaling. He lets you up and you spit the water out against the mirror, spluttering.

"Okay," he says, "Okay. Easy."

Hands on your shoulders now. Shiver -- it takes a moment to percolate through your skin, in between sinew, vibrating against your bones. He rubs your shoulders, careful to let his hands rest over the balls long enough for your cold skin to warm up underneath his. You stop shivering, though not tingling, particularly not when his hands slip down your upper arms then fall away underneath them and slide in around your waist. His hands flat on your stomach, still as the surface of the water is still now. He presses lightly, as if testing the muscles, as if priming the skin with his own, ready to receive. Then he pulls back on you, pushing the air up out of your throat in a cough that doubles you over, hits the water in the basin and causes a miniature tsunami.

He holds you there, in a lock, for a minute or so. He is wearing only boxers shorts in a blue and grey plaid and the usual white undershirt and through the shorts, pressed up to the shallow curve of your ass, you can feel his cock getting heavy with blood, and intention. You wonder, and you've wondered this before, whether he does anything without thinking it all through first, or whether, from your own vantage point, from your little villa of complete and mindless infatuation, it only seems that way. He rubs up against you a little, enough to make himself harder. He also allows that he is affected enough by his own physiology to let out a little moan, which brushes against your left ear, hearing, like a bullet train right underneath your bedroom window, as it rearranges the air around itself.

"That's good," he says, more breath than words.

You fell for him within a month of the first day of shooting. And it was just like the show is now -- Janel fell for Brad and vice versa; Martin and John have a history written for them to make up for the one that was inexplicably denied them for real; everyone is sure that Richard and Allison could make a profitable sitcom out of their self-declared soulmate thing.

And you? You came down with a severe case of unrequited love; for all of them, really, only hardest for him. It's cold from where you're standing: third-wheel, second-rate, outshone and outplayed and not loved for the face that got you this gig in the first place. No one here cares less.

He feels warm. The warmest point of the shape they make together. It was and always will be a stupid place to go for comfort -- jump into the lake and drown in the water, put your hand against the hotplate and hold it there. For warmth. He is that place. He hurts you, mostly, but mostly you don't care.

"Bend down."

You do. Slower this time, with his hands brushing your neck, soft like a collar. You are breaking the surface of the water, only just. His hands shift and his body closes the distance. Now there is no space, no air not filled with him. He is all around you. He slips his hands into the water and gathers some up in his palms and bathes your face with it. The blade of the razor, laid down on the edge of the sink between the taps, glints in your eyes, mixes with the water gathering on your lashes, blinds you. You shut your eyes tight. His hands are warmer than the water and you lean into every brush of his fingers against your cheeks. Your lips feel as though they have already been kissed for hours, rubbed up against his palms, charged with wet static, ready to electrocute you.

"Okay."

"Richard -- "

"D'you have, you know, shaving stuff? Foam? Soap?"

You shake your head a little, just to yourself. You smile. "In the cabinet. Over there."

He puts his right hand in the small of your back, as if to say: 'stay there'. You do. You don't need to be asked. You don't watch him move across the smallish bathroom. You close your eyes and imagine it instead: the roundness of his belly in the undershirt, the flash of the gold chain around his neck, the spread of the dark hair on his forearms and the thicker hair on his thighs. Between his thighs, the rise and stretch of his erection. You think about that instead of anything else then: how much you want just to rub your hand up against it, test the shape in your palm --

"All right," he says, behind you again. His chest shimmers the air behind your back; he can't keep still, even for this. You wonder if that's really why he asked you to trust him, trust his shifty hands with a straight razor in them. You do. You will trust him when he puts the blade up to your throat. "Lean back."

Your head doesn't rest easily on his shoulder (you are two inches taller than he is) but you do it, and your temple rests against his cheek. The beard is coarse. In the corner of your eye you can see a patch of white, like a little lightning bolt on his jaw. You want to kiss it. You wonder if he will ever give you the opportunity. He puts his palm flat over your forehead, just to set you still in your place. His chest is pillow-like, his belly like a warm unmade bed. You let out a long breath. "Okay," he says. "All right." He doesn't sound unsure despite the current limits of his conversation, but you wonder.

The foam appears in his hand like the results of a magic trick. One click of the fingers. He spreads it over your jaw with care, chin, cheeks, up under your chin, down your neck. Even through the moist, sticky stuff you feel the buzz of his skin. He caresses you, holding the breath in your throat warmly in his hand. His thumb brushes over your mouth and you open up, flick his thumb with your tongue, and get a mouthful of shaving foam. He is trying not to laugh; you can feel the effort building in his chest. His other hand, the clean one, is holding on to your hip, fingers slipping underneath the waistband of your pyjamas. They tighten. You gasp, hard. He presses in close. His cock is fully hard now, uncomfortable against the softness of your ass (iron-hard, gun or crowbar, while you wait there for a beating), off-centre, lying like a branding iron across the spread of your left buttock.

"You trust me?"

It sounds like he doesn't know the answer to the question before it has been asked for a change. It sounds like a real question, like he can't understand why you would trust him today, yesterday, the days that are left to you both. His grip is still tight on your hip, the foam-covered hand holding on to the wash basin. You stare at it: patterns of veins, blunt fingers, short nails, the distribution of the hair over his wrist that makes an unnoticed empty chamber in a forgotten corner of your heart start to ache. You can feel his breath on the back of your neck. You won't look in the mirror. You won't look.

"I trust you."

He nods; you feel it in the air. He lets go the basin and washes his hands in the water. This movement presses you close up to the enamel. Its coldness feels good against your own erection, now insistent, sick of being fucked with. You concentrate, breathing steadily, on the inch or two of skin where the two sensations meet and cancel each other out while Richard cleans his hands and reaches for the straight razor and holds it up to the sun.

It was a sunny day when Richard smiled and asked if you wanted him to fuck you. He said it like doing you a favour, like it was no big deal, like lending you ten dollars or buying you a nice lunch. He's a generous sort of guy. He said it solicitously, but also like a friend who's come to tell you something you don't want to hear, that little catch of dishonesty in his voice, that blunted edge of inevitable cruelty: I can't love you back, but I can stop it hurting. Let me stop it hurting.

It was dark before you answered him. The set was pooled with artificial light that drowned out the small voice that told you to stop, to quit, to leave if that's what it would take. Just run away. But he stood in the light and did not take his words back. You jumped in, and started to drown. You kissed him like you could swallow him whole, like you might be able to pull on the thread that holds him together, unravel him, tie that thread around your own finger. You weren't really surprised when you looked back, a few months later, and found him pristine and looked down at yourself and found nothing but loose ends and broken stitches.

"Lean back," he says.

The razor is cold on one side from the wash basin surface and warm on the other from the sunlight. You feel nothing after the first press against your face. You listen to the sound of the stubble being cut away, and the sound of his small, considered breaths. He breathes like a craftsman in the middle of a masterpiece. And you open your eyes because you know he isn't looking.

His cheek is flush to yours. Your hair feathers the line of his face, sharing space with his beard, with the tiny lightning bolts. There is an inch-long smudge of shaving foam on the edge of his sideburn. His eyes are the blackest things in the room. Though they are just an ordinary brown (leaves in the fall) they suck up light and swallow it down, turn it black, sad, heavy with the expectation of ending. He is concentrating on his work -- fingers turned delicate, his whole body still. It seems to you that the restlessness he usually wears as a shield is being visited now on the blade of the razor, making it sharper, driving it over your skin so smoothly that you can scarcely feel it.

"There." He drops the razor in the water for the last time, cleans off the blade and folds it in two, and places it on the basin edge again. Then his hand moves to the back of your head. "Bend down." You do. He splashes your face with water from the basin, turns on the faucet and does the same with a fresh supply. "Okay," he says, "All done." He lets you up, steps away, removes his arms from around your waist, the heat of his cock from your ass. You look up into the mirror, pass a hand across your chin, then turn around.

"Good job."

He nods. "You never forget how."

There is a sheen of sweat over his throat, glinting, and a flush across his cheekbones. His erection is obvious in his boxers. You swallow, look up at him, into his eyes. "Yeah." You brace your hands on the edge of the basin. "You want to finish the other job?"

He stands there, blinks at you. He passes his hand down the front of his undershirt, across his belly, palms his cock for a second, looking absent-minded. He pulls at the fabric of his shorts as though they annoy him.

"Richard?"

He stares. Blinks. Looks away over your head, down at his feet. Back up to your eyes. He nods, infinitesimally. "Sure."

You fall on him. You wrap your arms around him. Your cock gets a jolt when it comes up hard against his stomach, and another when it rubs against his cock. He puts his hands into your hair, holds his palms over your temples and stretches his fingers around the crown of your head. His mouth could hold multitudes of yours, could drown you every day for the rest of your life. You hold on tight.

He turns you back against the basin and you protest, you moan against his hands, but you are over-balanced by his bulk and end up bent over, elbows in the sink, your face uncomfortably close to the mirror, with his hands in your pyjamas. He passes his hands over your ass, strokes your buttocks gently with his hot, dry hands. You figure he already knows that spit is a crappy lubricant but he spits on his hand anyway then rubs two fingers between your cheeks.

"And you're sure you trust me?" he whispers, with his cheek flat against your back, soft, only half-joking.

"Use the foam as lube, okay? Just stop fucking around."

He chuckles, kisses two knobs of your backbone, then reaches for the foam and squirts some more into his hand and coats his cock, then spreads your ass, then -- time peels away. Part of you concentrates on how uncomfortable it is to be fucked into a wash basin (elbows screaming, belly bruising, your own cock aching) and part on the picture you make together in the mirror (sweat droplets running off him, curving into his beard, eyes still sad -- gentle in the midst of this huge violence, your own face twisted, sick with all of this) and part on nothing, blank at the receive, waiting for the end, waiting to see if it makes anything different, counting up his shallow breaths to see if they fill up the empty space with something more than air.

That night you think about leaving again. You think maybe this time it's the last.