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Craig arrived at the airport as late as possible, lingered in his car until around four o’clock before wandering into the domestic terminal and heading for the Arrivals Lounge. He lurked behind the display stands of brochures for car rentals, day-trips and accommodation, attempting to further maintain his anonymity behind dark glasses.
He spotted Orlando immediately as he came through the gate into the lounge, hesitated until sure he hadn’t picked up a fan or two during the flight then emerged enough for Orlando to see him. As soon as Orlando turned directly toward him, Craig began to make his way toward the baggage collection area, taking his time until Orlando fell into step beside him.
Orlando said as a quiet aside. “Consider yourself hugged to death.”
“Doing it now,” came the murmured response.
”What do I get in return?”
“I’ve already stripped you naked, Bloom. You’re just seconds away from being thoroughly ravished.”
Orlando started laughing, his face radiating an intense happiness. “You realize there are probably lip-readers everywhere.”
“Thanks for easing my paranoia.”
“We’ve got a whole week left.”
“I know. I hope the mattress has got good springs.”
“If it hasn’t, we’ve got the bath, the beach – at night of course! – a couch, the floor – “
“You’ve got this all planned, haven’t you?”
“Every minute of it. Even got a little surprise for you.”
Orlando glanced at Craig. “What?”
“I can’t tell you or it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it? I did a bit of exploring and found something nicely hidden away.”
Orlando located his bag and they made a swift exit from the terminal. The ten-minute walk to the car seemed to take forever. Once inside it, and having had a hasty look around for any onlookers, Craig scrambled across the console, and straddled Orlando, murmuring, “I can’t believe I’m doing this!”
He devoured the hungry mouth, and ground down hard against Orlando's slow, suggestive thrusts.
“Don’t do that,” he growled, “Or it’s going to get messy.”
Orlando grinned up at him, taunting, “I’d do it here if you’re game enough.”
“I’m not.” Craig was already glancing around again. “Hold that thought for a bit and we’ll continue when we get home.”
He kissed Orlando again, slowly now, deeply, reminding his senses of the taste and feel of his mouth. He drew away reluctantly again and eased himself back into the driver’s seat, diving into the pocket of his jeans for his keys.
“Let’s get going before I lose it completely.”
“So how did 'Towers' look?” Craig asked once they were on the highway. “Any reason for me to show up on opening night?”
“What do you mean?”
“Is there anything of me that didn’t end up consigned to the waste-bin?”
Orlando smiled. “Actually there’s a lot of you and you looked fantastic. I don’t know where you get this idea that you have no star quality. You made even Legolas disappear. Oh, and you died beautifully. There won’t be a dry eye anywhere.”
Craig grimaced. “How reassuring. Pity I won’t see it.”
“Bad karma to watch your own death. I’ll be sure to avert the eyes.”
“I was really proud of you.” Orlando’s voice softened. “You were – you were magic up there.”
“Something to do with being an Elf, I should imagine. How did the battle scenes turn out? As well as they were hoping?”
“Pete’s rapt. All of them are. It was incredible! If they don’t get an Oscar for effects, New Zealand’s going to declare war on the States and we’ll stage Helm’s Deep Part Two in the middle of LA. We can send in an advance team of All Blacks to soften them up with a bad-arsed haka or two.”
“We?” Craig glanced at Orlando, his lips curving into a speculative smile. “You’re starting to sound like one of us, Bloom.”
“Am I?” Orlando seemed inordinately pleased with the comment and actually hugged himself with unmasked delight. ”I hope so. This feels so much like home. You’ve no idea how much.”
“I think I have.” Craig said.
Orlando dozed in his seat for an hour. When he woke again, stretching and yawning, Craig reassured him, “Not long now, about fifteen minutes.”
“And I’m all nice and rested, ready to pounce on you the minute we get in the door.”
“Provided I don’t pounce on you first.”
The delicious sense of expectancy began to increase by the minute, heightened by exchanged glances and light touches, and an ongoing sexual banter between them.
The moment they had parked the car and emerged from it, they were reaching for one another, both snickering like adolescents as they jogged up to the front door. Craig jammed the key in, banged it open, dragged Orlando in, and flung it shut again.
Orlando found himself immediately flattened against the wall. He lifted his arms as Craig tugged off his t-shirt, dropping it on the floor at their feet, then unbuttoned and peeled off his own shirt. In an instant they tangled together, mouths locked, bodies thrusting and rubbing with complete abandon.
“Not going to make the bedroom, are we?” Orlando groaned, as they fumbled with buttons and zippers, yanked aside fabric, hands plunging in, fingers seeking hard, heated flesh, enclosing and stroking with a technique that was clumsy but more than effective.
Craig growled into Orlando’s mouth, “I’m going to last about ten more seconds, and counting down…”
He tangled his free hand in Orlando’s hair and held his head still, was kissing him deeply as Orlando gave a final shove and came hard into Craig’s hand, bringing Craig to completion mere seconds after.
They held onto one another, fighting for breath and unable to do little more than attempt to stay upright.
“Nothing quite like a knee-trembler against a wall, Bloom.” Craig finally managed. He swept back the long dark hair and pressed a kiss against Orlando’s forehead, now damp with sweat. “Only one disadvantage, though.” He looked downward and muttered, “They’re always so indescribably messy.”
Orlando rested his head back against the wall and gave Craig a sultry look through half-lowered lashes.
“Think we might need a bath?”
“Oh I think so, definitely.”
Craig chided him, “You’re so girly!”
Orlando leaned forward, moved his mouth to Craig’s ear and whispered, “You make me feel incredibly girly.”
Craig grinned and kissed him again, “You’re the perfect coquette, do you know that?”
Without warning, he dipped down, heaved Orlando over his shoulder and carried him, hooting with laughter, to the bathroom. He lowered him to the floor again, nodding his head toward the bath.
“Start it running. I’ll get the booze.”
He claimed a last lingering kiss and started to move away. He stopped and reached his arms around him again, holding him tightly for a moment. “Welcome home, love.”
He released him a second time, murmured, “Back in a tick,” and was gone.
Orlando turned on the taps and adjusted the temperature of the water. He stripped off and tossed his remaining clothes aside, then hunted out the Ylang Ylang supply.
“Not too much,” Craig warned, as he returned with an uncorked bottle and a single glass, and caught Orlando as he would have poured in half a bottle of the oil. “We don’t want to keep sliding out, do we? A few drops are enough.”
Orlando grinned, trickled in the recommended few drops, and a couple more for good measure. He climbed into the tub and held the wine and glass until Craig joined him and poured. When the water had reached a comfortable depth, the taps were turned off, and they lay together, bodies snugly entwined, and shared the wine in silence.
“This is so good.” Orlando murmured eventually, his voice low and heavy, and emerging from the depths of complete relaxation. “I’ll miss this more than anything else. I love this closeness.”
“You really are a cuddle-whore, Bloom. Never known anyone like it.”
Orlando smiled drowsily. “Only for you now.”
“You look tired again.”
“I am a bit. Hectic week, didn’t sleep very well down there, energetic sex, bath, wine – I can hardly keep my eyes open.”
“You mean I’m going to have to let you sleep tonight?”
“You can do all the work and wake me when we get to the really good bit.”
Craig canted his head slightly, resting his face against Orlando’s, mouth and nose and brow aligned so perfectly that he could sweep the tips of his eyelashes up the length of Orlando’s.
“No fun at all,” he whispered against the lush mouth, “Without an enthusiastic response. How could I possibly stay interested if you’re snoring away underneath me,” He circled Orlando’s lips with his tongue “And not directing traffic?”
“Directing traffic? I don’t!”
“I’ll record you if you like.”
“So cruel. Mmm – what are you doing?”
“Going to enjoy a rare and spectacular close-up view of Orlando losing himself completely.”
Craig had moved his hand down, and his gradual caressing and stroking quickly brought Orlando to full arousal. He raised his head just a fraction and watched Orlando’s face, observing the subtle physiological changes occurring.
“It’s either now or later,” Orlando warned him, his fingers gripping at Craig’s shoulder. “Once more and I’ll be closed for the night.”
“There’s always tomorrow. Shush, this is riveting.”
Craig continued to watch in fascination while his hand and fingers moved skillfully. The already dark eyes grew almost black as the pupils dilated, and the lids seemed to become heavier by the moment. Orlando struggled to keep them open. His breathing began to quicken, and he panted lightly between lips that were now fuller and richer in color.
He whispered, “Finish me…” as he thrust into Craig’s hand, he himself now looking up and studying his own reflection with equal fascination. He came quickly, biting down hard on his lower lip, and his eyes misted over as he moaned his completion low in his throat.
After a minute or two to recover, he took a deep breath and exhaled shakily, returning Craig’s unwavering scrutiny.
His brow furrowed slightly. “That was so weird, really intense. What did it look like from your angle?”
Craig smiled slowly. “I’ve been denied permission to tell you how beautiful you are, so I’m not going to.”
“God.” Orlando gave a resigned half-smile in return and closed his eyes to drowse. “Hope you enjoyed that. It’s all you’re getting tonight.”
Craig cuddled him closer. “It was worth it.”
They spent the week entirely absorbed in one other, rarely apart for more than a few minutes at a time. Now that the work on the interior of the house was largely complete, they spent a bit of time outside as Craig contemplated the idea of doing a bit of landscaping. It was a desultory interest at best, discussing the merits of putting in paving as opposed to flowerbeds. Too many other more important issues still weighted down the atmosphere between them.
Along with general chat about work they’d done and people they’d worked with, and occasional moments of reminiscing over the filming of the trilogy, there were other frequent intense conversations that seemed to start from nothing other than the underlying knowledge that time was running out. Not fights – though rage and frustration seemed never far away, and often too close to the surface for comfort – but more a running series of hypothetical situations, worst-case scenarios and unpleasant what-ifs.
Engaged in while sitting quietly in the living room in the evenings or sharing tea out on the deck, as they wandered along the beach at night, or lay in bed after they’d made love – what might have begun as an offhand or unthinking observation, often escalated into a heated discussion, and ended in tense silence.
And then there would be a look or a touch exchanged, some gesture that asked, 'Why the hell are we doing this?' and they would reach for one another and consider doing something a little special, something that would give them a moment to cling to later on when the distance bullshit was a harsh reality.
Such as the ‘little surprise’ Craig had announced at the airport and of which Orlando had finally reminded him on a hot afternoon halfway through the remainder of their time.
“Oh yeah,” Craig said, his lips curving into a slow secretive smile. “Forgot about that. Come with me.”
“Where are we going?” Orlando asked as he followed Craig out the back door in the direction of the lush tropical forest covering the five acres of land included in the property.
“Wait and see. You’ll love it though, promise.”
Craig took his hand and led him along a narrow track through the trees and fernery, a track that appeared to have been used frequently in the past.
He’d finally taken the opportunity to explore it while Orlando had been in Wellington, after his patience with noisy Auckland had worn thin and the silence of the beach house had become oppressive.
He’d simply grabbed his keys and mobile phone, left the house and gone for a wander. He hadn’t worried at all about becoming lost. The dull roar of the ocean from one direction and the sound of traffic on the main road from the other, had kept him aware of his bearings.
It was only when yet another sound filtered through the forest that he’d been tempted away from the track. He’d stopped and listened hard, managed to determine the general direction from which it came, and then begun picking his way through the undergrowth. The gradient of the land had become slightly steeper, the vegetation thicker and more prolific, muffling the sound he’d heard initially -- that of trickling water.
He knew that the existence of a natural spring had been mentioned in the property description, but the suitability of the house for his needs had been his main concern, the saleable features of the accompanying acreage of little consequence.
He’d found the pool by accident, by losing his balance on a particularly wet patch of ground and plunging head first through a clump of ferns.
A loud “Shit!” had reverberated through the forest, followed closely by a few muttered complaints over sodden feet and muddy jeans.
It had been worth it though, just in finding the tiny oasis in the forest, almost entirely hidden from view by the fernery. He navigated his way around it until he could see it properly, and study it from a slightly drier vantage point. It was a small body of water pooled within a rocky outcrop, about eight feet in diameter with a slightly sulphurous glow to it. Fern fronds dipped into it from all sides, allowing little more than a dappling of light to reach its surface. The trickling sound had emanated from natural seepage, drainage from higher ground that had followed a natural slope to finally emerge from an overhanging lip of rock.
Craig had spent a couple of hours either sitting quietly, or picking his way carefully over rocks and through undergrowth, studying everything, and planning a few subtle alterations. It hadn’t occurred to him to even consider wreaking major environmental havoc on this little gem, but he’d come to the conclusion that he could enhance its natural beauty with a little judicious pruning and clearing.
He had returned early the next day, wearing a backpack containing bottled water and some fruit, a pair of pruning shears and a couple of heavy plastic garbage bags. He’d worked feverishly throughout the day, trimming back the fernery, carefully selecting one frond at a time before he snipped.
He’d initially made his plans whilst standing on a small grassy bank roughly the same size as the pool itself. After he’d finished pruning, he’d turned his attention to that bank and spent a good few hours on his knees carefully gathering small stones, twigs and other bits of forest debris, anything that might dig into tender flesh – because he’d known from the second he’d found the pool that he was going to bring Orlando here, and not merely to show him his discovery.
“We’re not likely to get lost are we?” Orlando asked now as Craig guided him along the forest track. Despite his love of adventures, he was still essentially a city boy, and maintained a natural wariness of any place too far from a paved road.
“Highly unlikely, Bloom,” Craig grinned, “We’re not going far enough away from anywhere to get lost. Just stick to the track.”
They walked in silent anticipation, Craig knowing what was awaiting them, Orlando intensely curious. After about ten minutes, they veered off the main track and down the smaller one Craig had discovered when he’d left the pool that first day.
“Watch your step,” Craig warned, “It’s a bit slippery here.”
He tightened his grip on Orlando’s hand and held him back as he attempted to dash on ahead, in his eagerness to finally see the surprise.
They came across the pool quite suddenly, and Orlando’s response was to stop still and exclaim softly, “Magic!”
He released Craig’s hand and knelt by the pool’s edge, trailing his fingers in the water. He withdrew them in surprise.
“It’s warm! Is it okay to go in?”
“I lived to tell the tale,” Craig said, as Orlando started pulling off his boots. “No diving or jumping though. It’s not very deep.”
Orlando stripped off his clothes without a second thought and then carefully eased himself into the pool. The water lapped around his waist. He took several careful steps, found his footing and then lowered himself until he was submerged to his shoulders.
“Oh God!” he called out, “This is wonderful! Aren’t you coming in?”
Craig was already tugging off his shirt. “Promise not to ravish me?”
Craig joined him a couple of minutes later. He felt around under the water until he found a small rock ledge and sat down carefully on it.
“How long were you going to keep this a secret?” Orlando asked, moving towards him and straddling his lap.
“Only found it the other day.”
Orlando sniffed. “Sulphur? My hair’s not going to turn green or anything if I get it wet, is it?”
“Mine didn’t. Better rinse it off when you get back though. You never know. Can’t have you going back to LA with green hair.”
Orlando locked his arms around Craig’s neck, kissed him lightly then arched back in the water until his hair was soaked and remained slicked back from his face. “This is lovely. Would it be therapeutic, do you think?”
Craig’s mouth curved into a smile. “Well I’m feeling pretty good so it must be.”
“I know you are.” Orlando moved closer until their faces were touching. “I can feel how good you’re feeling. I think I’m starting to feel good too.”
He brushed their lips together, murmuring again, “Sulphur. If we add anything else to it, could we blow ourselves up?”
“Possibly, but what a way to go.” Craig pressed a trail of light kisses down the side of Orlando’s neck. “Want to give it a try?”
It was late afternoon when they returned to the house, vowing to return to the spring each remaining day, but a little better prepared.
They didn’t plan the last day, but it seemed almost logical to relive the most pleasurable moments of the last few weeks, to capture an assortment of particularly special memories in order to make the upcoming separation more bearable.
They spent the morning riding the borrowed horses along the beach, maintaining a physical distance in case they were being spied upon again. If anyone had secluded themselves in the dunes hoping to observe and capture a moment of intimacy, their time would have been wasted.
Being away from the house, and the knowledge that they were ‘in public’ and therefore required to maintain a veneer of polite detachment, somehow made it easier to further consider the practicalities of being apart for long periods of time.
They discussed what Orlando could do to regain some pleasure in his work, agreeing that a concerted effort to get more theatre work would be a good start.
He had admitted that he didn’t really have a reliable support network of close friends on whom he could lean when things got rough – everyone was always so busy or away on location, even the Hobbits. LA just wasn’t a place in which you could retain close friendships, not without really working at them, and individual schedules didn’t exactly help things.
They didn’t make any sort of formal arrangement regarding phone contact, but it was established that calls between them would be frequent, and for consultation as well as for just catching up.
They dared to look ahead and work out exactly when they would next be able see each other, most likely in about six weeks time at the Two Towers premiere in Wellington. Orlando promised to let Craig know his itinerary as soon as it had been finalized down to the last minute. He already had the fairly generalized one, and had given it to Craig to make his own copy. A detailed version wouldn’t normally be available until a couple of days before the actual event.
They were heading back to the house when Orlando finally broached the subject they’d been avoiding.
“They’re probably going to ask me about you. I figure they’ll have been saving up the questions, and holding off the major speculation, until I got back.”
Craig eyed him. “What are you going to tell them?”
“I’d really like to say that I’ve rediscovered the loveliest man in the world who makes me happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life -- and that if they have issues with it, they can go and fuck themselves.”
Orlando sighed and shrugged. “But I’ll just do what I did in Wellington, bullshit a bit and give them a bunch of empty answers and no-comments.”
Craig nodded but remained silent.
“We will be able to go public one day, won’t we? Here at least, where they don’t overreact so much?”
“I expect so, just not for a fair while yet.”
“How will we do it, do you think? I want to plan it so I can look forward to it.”
“Orlando, I think you’d better – “ Craig began but Orlando cut him off. “Pete said that focusing on something good would make the hard bits easier, and it does. This is going to be so bloody hard, pretending to everyone that there’s nothing between us, pretending that you don’t even exist. I want to look ahead and think about the time I can be with you and not care who sees, and when I can tell you I love you and not give a toss if anyone hears me. Is that so bad?”
“No,” Craig conceded slowly, “It’s not. I just don’t want you to dwell on it so much or you’ll drive yourself insane. Love, I’ve been there, and it doesn’t help, okay? Always thinking about ‘the moment when’ -- planning for it, obsessing over it. Sometimes the big moment just doesn’t happen, or if it does, it’s nothing like how you hoped or imagined it would be. Just get on with the rest of it. That’s the only easy way to do it.”
Orlando murmured reluctantly, “Okay.”
They rode the rest of the way in silence, parting at the house while Craig took the horses back. He was gone for an hour during which Orlando started packing his bags, just the one duffle-bag for his clothes, and the backpack for the other bits and pieces he wanted handy during the flight.
When Craig returned, Orlando was sitting on the floor of the spare bedroom where most of his things had stayed, even after the two of them had moved to the main bedroom. Orlando had the grey fisherman’s knit scrunched up in his arms, and his face was buried in the soft wool.
“It seems to have taken a liking to you,” Craig said from the doorway. He kept his voice light though the sight of Orlando cuddling the sweater was incredibly touching. "Keep it if you want, love.”
Orlando looked up and grinned, his face flushing slightly from a combination of embarrassment at being caught out, and delight at being rewarded for it. “Can I?”
“If you like. Just bear in mind that it needs hand-washing and flat-drying. It can be a pain in the arse to look after. Don’t toss it in a washing machine to save time or you’ll kill it.”
“I’ll never wash it.” Orlando buried his face in the folds again and inhaled deeply. He raised his head again, adding softly, “It reminds me of here. It smells like you, Ylang Ylang and the sea.”
Craig nodded, turned abruptly and headed for the kitchen, calling back, “I’ll grab some stuff and we can wander up to the spring as soon as you’ve finished.”
He was determined to keep today and the following morning as emotionally low-key as possible but little moments like that weren’t going to help.
He put some fruit, cheese, crackers, bottles of water and wine, and a couple of plastic glasses into his backpack. He ignored his mobile phone, zipped up the bag and left it on the counter-top. He took a couple of towels from the linen cupboard and rolled them up snugly.
Orlando emerged from the bedroom and Craig handed him the towels.
They spent the afternoon at the spring, soaking, talking, picking at the food and sipping wine. They made love on the grassy bank and dozed away a couple of hours, sleepy and sated. The sun was already starting to set when they packed up and, slowly and reluctantly, headed back to the house. It was still very warm and they were tired, despite the relative ease of the day.
“Early night in order I think,” Craig said as he emptied the backpack and hung up the towels to dry. “You’ve got a long flight ahead of you tomorrow.”
Orlando went through to the bathroom and started the shower running, adjusting the taps so that the water ran just a little cooler than body temperature.
He stripped off his clothes and stepped under the flow, tilting his head back and rinsing the spring water from his hair.
“Let me wash it for you.” Craig offered as he joined him, pulling the door closed.
He reached for a bottle of shampoo – something herbal that didn’t remind him of salons – and poured some into his hand. He rubbed his palms together then began to work the shampoo through Orlando’s hair, using his fingers to massage his scalp in a way that made Orlando’s eyes almost roll back in his head in ecstasy.
“You’re an insatiable sensualist, Bloom,” he growled, watching Orlando’s features – his eyes and mouth in particular – reveal the intensity of his pleasure. “I love watching you enjoy yourself.”
“You’re just as bad!” Orlando laughed with a complete absence of self-consciousness. “What did Rebecca call you, the Crown Prince of Perpetual Self-Indulgence? It’s true. You’re a complete encyclopedia of things that turn people on.”
“Then I hope you’ve taken some notes for when you get back. A bath, a book and some good wine, heaps better for you than a nightclub. Close, going to rinse now.”
Orlando scrunched his eyes shut and moved under the shower, pushing back against fingers that now massaged away the suds. He stood still while Craig squeezed out his hair and then worked in some conditioner.
“Needs to sit for five minutes, doesn’t it?” He leaned forward and locked his arms around Craig’s neck, stopping just short of their lips touching. “Got something we can do to waste five minutes?”
“Wouldn’t be wasted, and anyway, we should save it for a bit later.”
“But we’ve only done it – “ Orlando did a mental calculation, “Four times today already. Think you might be pushing it to manage a couple more?”
“You sorry old git,” Orlando chided him, “I can see I’m going to have to trade you in on a younger model already.”
He kissed Craig very softly to nullify the sting. “That was total bullshit of course. If you could only manage once a year, I’d still be hanging around waiting for it.”
He lowered his head and rested it on Craig’s shoulder and they held one another for a few silent minutes until Craig said with deliberate lightness, “Time’s up. Rinse.”
Orlando rolled his head back and gave an exaggerated groan of pleasure as Craig combed and massaged the conditioner away with his fingers. He repeated the process with his own shorter hair, needing less time to do it. They washed and rinsed the rest of themselves, stepped out of the shower and dried off.
Orlando rummaged in one of the drawers, producing a tube of lubricant. He held it up.
“Going to wimp out tonight or will I do the short cut anyway?”
It was almost routine now to prepare themselves before they went to bed, rather than messing around later.
Craig scowled. “Go ahead.”
Orlando regarded him with a coy look. “Want to do the honors?”
The scowl was instantly replaced with a slow, speculative smile. “No, you do it,” Craig purred, “While I watch.”
Orlando doubled up in laughter. “You’re such a pervert! Okay, ready?”
He uncapped the tube, squeezed some of the gel onto his fingers and held them up with a puckish grin. “Ready?”
“Get on with it!”
He lowered his hand and reached behind him, locking his eyes on Craig’s as he performed a slow, sensual little dance around his own fingers.
“That would have to be the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen, Bloom,” Craig murmured.
Orlando’s gaze swept downwards momentarily before returning, accompanied by another grin. “I can see how much you appreciated it.”
He washed his hands again, dried them and then started for the door. He stopped suddenly, reaching out and rubbing the tips of his fingers against Craig’s jaw.
“Going to have a shave first?”
“Oh, Bloom’s definitely feeling frisky tonight and doesn’t want his baby-soft cheeks all sand-papered away.”
Orlando’s lip curled in affected disgust. “That’s right, rub it in.”
“Don’t worry, I’m jealous.”
Craig stroked the smooth cheek and jaw-line, caressed the dark hair that was already beginning to dry and curl slightly. “I love how you feel. Your skin and hair – it’s like silk.”
He smiled again, gave him another suggestive look. “I’ll join you in the boudoir shortly.”
Orlando turned and left him and Craig moved to the door to watch him walking, naked, through the living room -- a graceful walk, straight-backed and economical. He was still too thin of course, though he’d filled out noticeably over the last three weeks. Craig had resigned himself to that fact that Orlando ate if the food was offered but, if left to his own devices, he did little more than pick at whatever was handy or whichever took the least time to prepare.
Anxiety gnawed at him as he moved back into the bathroom. It'd so far been a happy and relaxed day, with moments he knew he’d remember for a long time to come. Just that brief, erotic little display only a few minutes ago would fuel countless fantasies.
He lathered up and started shaving, trying not to think beyond tomorrow, of Orlando returning to the tension and misery he’d been able to escape for only a few short weeks. He hoped they’d managed to create something close and special together, something solid that Orlando could draw on that would make it a bit easier to endure the separation. He knew it wasn’t he alone who would suffer from the distance bullshit.
Night had fallen completely while they’d been in the shower, and it was probably as dark as it was going to get outside. The almost-full moon was spectacularly bright, bathing everything in a silver wash. It flooded into the house and lit the bedroom well enough for Orlando to navigate without the risk of barking shins or stubbing toes.
He crossed the room and flung open the curtains and windows, allowing the accumulated heat of the day to escape in the hope that it would quickly be replaced by cooler air. It didn’t bother him, this degree of wide-openness -- not at night. The darkness was sufficient to afford them complete privacy. During the day was altogether another matter.
The night was very warm and uncannily quiet, and the sea, balancing on the turn of the tide, lay spread out like a vast carpet of molten silver, barely a ripple on its surface.
Orlando lingered at the window and was rewarded by a faint breath of air, cooling his skin and ruffling his hair. He reached back and seized his hair in fistfuls, lifting it up to enable the scant breeze to lick coolly against the back of his neck.
He rested his shoulder lightly against the window frame and waited.
In the bathroom, Craig rinsed off the last remnants of lather and splashed his face with cold water. He dried off then slung the towel around his hips, doing a quick tour through the house, securing doors and windows, switching things off.
He made his way to their bedroom, pulled off the towel and draped it over the back of a chair. His eyes went straight to the bed and he was surprised not to find Orlando already lying there, waiting to greet him with that delicious look of unmasked expectation.
He looked toward the window where Orlando stood unmoving, and Craig would have spoken had the words not suddenly caught in his throat and faded to silence.
It was a one of those exquisite moments that, had it been able to be captured on film, could have established a photographer’s career – that perfect balance of dark and light, of illumination and shadow, stark and beautiful in a way that could make one almost forget to breathe.
The moonlight bathed the smooth planes of Orlando’s body, giving it the pale sheen of marble, and each curve and contour seemed highlighted by its own contrasting shadow. Outside, the night was extraordinarily still, yet a mere whisper of a breeze had found its way in and now lifted his hair back from his face as gently as would the caress of a lover’s hand.
Craig stared at him, hypnotized, not daring to move for fear of surrendering the moment too soon.
It was Orlando himself who broke the spell – by turning his head slightly in Craig’s direction, by curving his lips into a dreamy, distant half-smile and murmuring, “It’s lovely. Just here.”
Craig approached him slowly, silently, until he stood so close to Orlando he could feel his flesh even though they were not touching. He canted his head just a little and kissed his mouth, the tip of his tongue performing a slow, exploratory sweep over each perfectly formed lip, the upper first and then the lower. His eyes remained open, unable to not look at Orlando, and he watched Orlando returning his gaze through half-lidded eyes.
He raised his hand and lay the palm against the side of Orlando’s face, holding it there for the duration of another kiss, before sliding it across his shoulder, journeying down one slender arm, touching his fingers briefly – deliberately – and finally, coming to rest on his hip.
He drew away slightly, just enough to be able to look down the length of Orlando’s body, to observe the unmistakable signs of arousal. He lifted his head and looked at Orlando again, tried to convey to him with his eyes that it was important he remain still and silent, or some rare element of this moment would be lost.
Orlando acquiesced with a single, barely perceptible lowering of his head.
Craig kissed him again, moved his lips to the pulse-point on his throat, located the tiny flutter and kissed it too.
Then, with both hands now resting on the narrow hips – holding Orlando still, steadying himself – he lowered himself toward the floor, leaving a trail of light kisses down the lean body until his face leveled with the taut, flat pelvic plane.
He leaned into Orlando, nuzzling his face against the soft nest of sparse, finely spun silk, and inhaling the smell of cool water and a faint male muskiness. Orlando’s arousal lay against the side of his face, warm and velvety, and he moved slightly, rubbing his cheek – smooth and sensitive from shaving – back and forth. He lifted his hand and held the shaft lightly, continuing the slow rubbing motion, back and forth, against his cheek, then turning, against his lips.
His fingers cupped the soft twin sacs, rolling and caressing them gently between the pads of his fingers and thumbs. He kissed each in turn, using his tongue to lap at them, to taste them and explore their unique texture. He bestowed a last soft kiss to each before moving to the shaft, drawing his tongue with exquisite slowness along the underside, along the ridge from base to dewed tip.
He tasted him, savored him, before slowly drawing him into his mouth.
Orlando uttered a low moan, swayed momentarily, and brought his hands up, his fingers resting lightly in Craig’s hair.
While his mouth and lips and tongue began to ease into a gradual, familiar rhythm, Craig slid one hand across Orlando’s hip and then behind, and lower. Orlando shifted just a little, to allow him to continue the journey. Craig smoothed his hand over sculpted buttocks, used his fingers to breach the warm cleft, gently seeking entrance. It never failed to delight him, how easily and trustingly Orlando always yielded to him, always welcomed him into his body.
If experience was expertise, Craig knew Orlando would finish quickly. His own senses were ever alert and attentive to his lover’s responses, and he was ready when he felt Orlando clench around his fingers, he recognized the spasm of impending completion – a brief tang of salt on his tongue, a momentary fullness in his throat as he swallowed, holding him until he was still again and soft in his mouth.
Several barely audible panted breaths and a slow, shuddering sigh had been the only sounds from Orlando unfaithful to the silence.
Craig released him, cupping him in his hands as again, he lightly nuzzled and kissed the soft, warm flesh. He continued to hold him even as he raised his head.
Orlando still leaned against the upright of the window-frame, still gazed out into the night, the same dreamy distant expression softening the planes of his face and curving his lips slightly into an almost-smile. Only his eyes were brighter now, the white rays of the moon pooled and held captive in the depths of unshed tears.
Craig watched him for a long time, knowing instinctively that Orlando was already somewhere far beyond this moment, beyond the remaining hours that were still theirs. Knowing he’d already reached a place that was thousands of miles, a twelve-hour flight, and an inadequate phone call, away. Knowing too that he was trying on a shroud of loneliness for size, and finding the cut, and the fit, and the oppressive weight of it, to be unbearable.
He lowered his face and leaned into Orlando’s body again, folding his arms around him.
He whispered into the silence, “I’ll miss you.”