Karl stepped out onto Bruce’s back patio and stopped to take in the panorama of lights and hills falling away from the railing. It was classic Hollywood Hills beauty. He found Bruce over in the corner with Anton and the assistant director, and went over to say hello.
“Karl!” Bruce, ever the gracious host, greeted him like a long lost brother, not someone he’d seen two days ago at work. “Welcome to my house. Did you get something to drink?”
Karl held up his eggnog. “This is good stuff. I don’t usually go in for it, but it tastes great.”
“Oh, it is,” Bruce assured him. “Amy made enough for an army, so drink up. There’s literally no way we could drink the leftovers ourselves. That shit better be gone by the end of the night. It’s lethal, though. You didn’t drive, did you?”
“No, cab. You’ve got a hell of a view here. Your morning coffee must be amazing.”
“The sad thing is I don’t really see anything for about two hours after I wake up, so the morning view is pretty much lost on me,” Bruce said, and Karl laughed.
“I see you invited Anton, even though he schooled you so badly you shouldn’t even think of playing chess ever again.”
Bruce scowled and said, “Hey, he’s a cheating little bastard and one of these days I’ll figure out how he does it.”
Karl grinned and stage whispered, “He’s just smarter than you and you can’t stand it.”
“Like hell he is. He’s an upstart little whippersnapper of a sub and I will have my victory.” He grinned at Karl. “Amy says the mental exercise is good for my decrepit old mind.”
“Well, make yourself at home, seriously. Let me know if you need anything.”
Karl wondered off to say hi to the others, and maybe see if he could find Chris. He spotted him across the room with Zach and Zoe, but by the time he’d made his way over there, after being stopped and hugged on or back-slapped by at least three people, he was gone.
“Hey, guys,” Karl said when he finally made it over. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas to you, too,” Zoe said, and reached out to hug him. “How are you doing?”
Karl shrugged awkwardly. ‘I can’t think about anything other than Chris and collaring him and how I probably screwed everything up’ didn’t seem like good party conversation. “I’m fine. How’s Chris?”
Zoe narrowed her eyes at him like she could see right through his deflection. “The little coward ran off when he saw you coming,” she said.
Zach snorted. “What do you expect? He’s upset and he feels spurned. You can’t expect him to be eager to have that conversation right here.”
Karl sighed. “You’re right. It’s just I called him earlier and he didn’t answer my call so what am I supposed to do?”
“Just give him some time,” Zach said. “Let me see what I can do to get him to talk to you. Just don’t expect a miracle.”
“I’m not, I just want to apologize. ” Karl said, then finished lamely, “I haven’t really figured out what else to say.”
“The truth is a good start,” Zach said, with enough aggression in his voice to tell Karl that Chris had filled him in on his side of the story.
Karl opened his mouth to defend himself when Zoe squeezed Zach’s arm in warning and cut in before Karl could speak. “An apology is a good place to start. Just make sure he’s okay and knows you care about him and arrange another time and place to work it all out if you’re not sure what to say.”
Zach pursed his lips but held his silence, and Karl nodded. “Wise council.”
Chris avoided Karl all night, though. Any time Karl got near him he eased away, keeping it casual enough most people probably didn’t notice - all he had to do was turn on the smile and most people were charmed enough to not notice he’d just run off in the middle of their conversation. Halfway through the night Karl was frustrated and drinking more of the eggnog than he should.
He finally managed to corner Chris in Bruce’s music room where he was playing a guitar and singing, drunkenly off key, with Bruce and a couple of other people. Chris faltered when he saw Karl leaning in the doorway, then studiously looked everywhere other than at Karl for the rest of the song.
“Behold, the Mighty Kirk in all his glory,” Karl joked when he finished up. Chris frowned and Karl wished he could take back the stupid comment. He sat down on the couch beside Bruce and tried to think of something else to say to lighten the mood.
“I’m sure Kirk had many moments of drunken revelry,” Bruce commented dryly. “He was far too much of a toppy playboy to have sat quietly with Spock in the Officer’s Lounge every night, fraternization be damned.”
“Shatner would never have stood for that,” Chris said, laughing.
Karl wanted to simultaneously hug Bruce for the save, and be irritated at him for having made Chris laugh when he couldn’t.
“Worlds may change, galaxies disintegrate - but a submissive always remains a submissive,” Chris said, quoting Kirk and mimicking Shatner’s voice dead on,with just enough extra-suave Kirk eyebrow to make everyone in the room laugh. Chris beamed, pleased with himself for the audience reaction.
“Oh, we still have a playboy in the role, just a subby one now ,” Bruce said. He grinned and winked at Chris and Karl irrationally wanted to punch him for the leer.
“You know, they have certain standards they have to keep up for the role,” Chris joked back.
“What, in all of Los Angeles they couldn’t find anyone toppy or playboy enough that they had to go with a sub?” Karl asked, knowing he was stepping over the razor edge of appropriate behavior and still somehow not being able to stop himself.
“Hey, a sub can play a top,” Chris said. His voice dropped just a bit, his posture straightened and broadened so he took up more space. His gaze met Karl’s and it had all the defiant challenge that a top would have in that instance. “What the hell do you think I’ve been doing all these months?”
It was a perfect Kirk persona and it was wrong, wrong, wrong on Chris, who should be soft and open and yielding to Karl. Chris’ challenge sparked through Karl, and the evening and weekend’s frustrations coalesced into the overwhelming desire to bring Chris to his knees.
He sat forward and rested his elbows on his knees, locking his gaze with Chris’. “You’ve been acting, but that’s not who you are.” He bit back on the ‘I want to see who you really are’ that also wanted to come out.
“Yeah, well, all acting comes from within,” Chris said, squaring his shoulders even more and looking like he might put aside the guitar and stand.
Karl gazed steadily at Chris while he imagined what Chris might do if Karl touched him right then. He let the desire fill him as he imagined the way Chris’ mouth might drop open if Karl touched his bottom lip or the way he might bend his head for Karl if he touched the back of his neck. He let the toppy headspace fill him up and change his posture and energy the way it did before he started a scene. “So does submission,” Karl said quietly.
Chris licked his lower lip as if he were anticipating Karl acting on his words. His bold posture was gone; now he set aside the guitar and smoothed his palms down his thighs, looking like he might actually slide off the chair onto his knees.
Karl stood, glass forgotten in his hand as Chris’ mouth actually did drop open as he looked up at Karl. His gaze was heated, hungry, and Karl wanted to kiss him until he’d forgotten his No Kissing rule completely.
Bruce shifting on the couch behind him brought crashing back home the awareness that there were others in the room and they were essentially in public. “Excuse me, I’ve got to find the loo,” he muttered and fled the room.
Bruce found him a short time later, leaning against the mailbox out front, just finishing up a request call for a cab. “What are you doing, Karl?”
Karl sighed and fished his lighter and pack from his jacket pocket. He hadn’t thought much about it when slipping them in his pocket on the way out, but he was glad to have them now. He lit up and exhaled, then said, “I don’t really know anymore. I was just being helpful to a friend, but that seems to have backfired.”
Bruce snorted. “No shit. That boy wants you in ways that aren’t friendly at all.”
“What he wants is a good time.”
“Bullshit. He almost went to his knees for you in there just because you looked at him. I haven’t seen anyone that far gone in a long while, and it isn’t casual. So what are you doing? Because you can’t keep running away from him.”
Karl flicked ash from his cigarette and watched it float away on the light breeze. “No, it isn’t casual anymore. That’s the problem. He likes our relationship how it is and I want my collar on his neck and that-“ He broke off, unsure how to adequately express the enormity of that statement and how he felt about it.
“Have you really talked to him about it?”
“No. I was supposed to be trying to do that tonight but he’s avoiding me. But what’s the point, really? Would he even really want to settle down?”
“That’s a question only he can answer,” Bruce pointed out. “Be careful thinking you know everything he’s thinking and what he’ll do. He deserves the chance to hear your side and answer that for himself.”
Karl nodded. It was a fair point.
“What does Natalie think about all this?”
“She’s supportive, but really, how would it even work? He lives here, I live there, I have kids and would he even want that?” He broke off and took another drag, trying to get his racing pulse back under control.
“It’s a lot to think about, yeah,” Bruce said sympathetically. “I’ve never had two subs before, never really wanted to, but I do know it complicates things a lot. Especially this situation. And Chris doesn’t strike me as an easy sub. He’ll require a lot of effort.”
“I never did either, before now,” Karl said. “Frankly, it’s terrifying. What if I can’t handle both of them, give them both what they need? Where the hell would we live? Just because he’s attracted to me doesn’t mean he wants any of this.”
Bruce laughed a bit in commiseration. “How do you know he isn’t thinking all the same stuff?”
After a pause Karl said, “Well, I don’t really. I’m just pretty sure he isn’t.”
“You know what they say about assumptions,” Bruce said, a touch of his usual humor returning. “Just talk to him.”
“Jesus, I know already. I’m trying.” After a pause Karl said, "I want him, Bruce. I want to be able to touch him whenever I want to. I want to introduce him to my kids and wife and see how he does. I want him at night, at home after work, the three of us. I want my collar around his neck. I know it will be difficult, but I can’t think of anything else lately and I can’t just ignore it. I haven’t been this way since I met Natalie."
Bruce chuckled at him. "You really are a hopeless romantic. Just be careful, okay?”
Karl heard the ‘don’t screw it up’ loud and clear. “Yeah, alright.”
“Call me if you need anything,” Bruce said, clapping him on his back as Chris’ cab pulled up. “Take it easy tonight.”