I woke up wrapped in Quell’s arms. We were home. We’d been here for weeks and I still wasn’t used to it. The light streamed across the foot of our bed in a fractal pattern. I could smell the ocean or maybe it was my imagination. How easy this was. We had a ticking clock, but it had been a small taste of how our time off would be. How waking up with Quell would be when we didn’t have to be on set eighteen hours a day. Our life was slow and I loved him more every day we spent here. Our demeanor had changed with the pace of our life.
He was lovely lying there still asleep. I’d never seen a more beautiful human in my life and he was my partner. It was hard to believe we had a week left of this.
And then uncertainty.
I didn’t like going into a drastic change in our relationship without building up to it, but we didn’t have much choice. I guess it was going to be trial by fire. Because for as many times as I’d tried to talk to Quell about it he hadn’t seemed to want to. So I’d left it. We loved each other. We’d find a way to make the time apart work.
I had nothing booked for the next nine months, and Quell had two movies.
I was about to detangle myself to go make coffee when Quell’s phone started to ring. I reached for my phone to check what time it was. After seven. I was shocked he’d slept so long. More often than not, since being home, he was off wandering the house before I was even awake. I’d gotten so used to it—it was strange to wake up in bed with him. Maybe he was settling into our life here.
I pressed into him and kissed along the back of his neck. Maybe I would stay awhile. Quell was better than coffee any day.
“Is that my phone?” Quell mumbled, sleep evident in his tone.
“I think so.”
He groaned and rolled towards me. “Who would be calling me so early?”
“What time is it?”
“Just after seven. I’m shocked you’re still in bed.” I pushed my fingers through his hair.
He turned and kissed my palm. “I am too. I slept hard.”
“You needed it.” More than I even think he realized.
“I’m sure I did. Maybe it will be a trend.”
“I hope so.” At least until he left.
The phone quieted and he kissed me. I lost track of time in Quell’s lips and soft touches. It was an entirely new way to wake up. One we’d not even had filming Pirate Night. Then we were eating, rushing off to call or Quell had been up on days off. Lots of training sessions. I liked that he’d moved them to a different time.
I stroked my fingers down his sides and over his back. He grabbed me in a hug so tight I could feel his heart beating against mine. We laughed and kissed and I was happy.
Happy felt good. Not that I’d been particularly not happy before meeting Quell, but this was a whole new level of the experience. Now if only my career was less uncertain I’d feel a whole lot better, but I guess that was the nature of the job. Quell would get a contract for another season of Pirate Night before he left. I had faith.
The vibrating started back up.
“Who is calling me this early?” Quell said through a yawn rolling half out of my arms to grab his phone. He squinted at it then answered.
“No idea. Who is it?” I asked before realizing it might not be the best to expose the fact we were in bed together, although anyone calling his cell would probably know.
He put his hand over the speaker, as if that did anything, and said, “It’s our publicist.”
We’d shared one now since he’d left his other because of the conflict of interest with Rachael. Mark was good at his job and more on top of things than Quell’s last one had been.
“Yes, Hale is with me,” Quell said with a chuckle and I was sure I knew what was running through his mind. ‘Naked wrapped up with me.’ “I’m going to put you on speaker.”
Quell clicked the button and held the phone between us.
“Hello, Hale. Since I have you both—” He wasn’t one to beat around the bush, so he dove right into it. “There are some pictures from last night I woke up to questions about. They are already being widely run… so the concern is more: do we have a comment?”
There wasn’t judgment in his tone. He was a gay guy himself which Quell and I really liked when picking a new publicist. He wasn’t going to tell either one of us our career would burn to the ground if this came out. He knew we were a couple and our stance on things.
There were pictures, innocent for the most part. Us out to dinner, but as their divorce had been made public not too long ago, I was sure they’d be big news and keep the discussion on his divorce front and center.
“I don’t think we are going to comment at this time.” Quell looked over at me to confirm.
“Fine with me.”
“No comment? Or do you want me to write something up from one of you like—Quellcrist King doesn’t comment on issues involving his private life anymore.”
“Sure,” Quell said, glancing at me again. “That good with you?”
“Yeah, are we both putting out statements or only one of us? Would we both if we didn’t have the same publicist?” I asked, having no idea what the standard for this kind of thing was.
“I think one response unless I’m asked for one for just you will do the trick. I know you’re less private than Quell so it will probably be less off-putting to your fans if it comes from him. We want people to feel like they have access to you still. If that makes sense. At least until you have booked your next project.”
“Yeah, I think that makes sense.” It was easy. I felt good about it. Quell looked calm.
“Do you want to see the pictures?” Mark asked.
“Yes,” Quell said before I could reply. “What are they printing about them?”
“What we expected.” His words were clipped, a little tight.
“What did we expect?” I asked, realizing I probably hadn’t been around for that conversation. Probably something he and Mark had talked about.“That Quell left Rachael for his co-star. Speculation about why. Speculation Quell has always been gay. Lots of talk about your um…dick, Hale.” He sounded hesitant. “There are some closeups of bulges in your costumes being shared around Twitter saying that your dick would turn anyone gay.”
“Oh my God.” I draped an arm over my face and laughed. “You’re kidding me.”
“Not at all. There is even a lesbian comedian saying you’ve made her consider dick again.” Mark sounded like he was about to burst. “All good-natured.”
“Wow.” What even was life?
“We might be able to get you a spot reading thirst tweets on one of the late night shows with the buzz from all of this. I’m going to try and book you two around with how well the season is doing and better if we get an announcement from Righteous,” Mark said with a laugh.
“I don’t want to jinx that,” I said. Righteous was like a stone in my gut. I’d never wanted to book a movie more in my life and at the same time was worried it would blow up my relationship.
“I know. I know, but it will be good publicity for the show. I’ll get on it.”
“Thanks, Mark.” I realized Quell hadn’t said anything in a long time and looked over at him. He was shaking with silent laughter.
“Talk to you later.”
I grabbed the phone out of his hand and ended the call before climbing on top of him to kiss over his face. “Asshole.”
“Your dick is bigger news than me being bi!” Quell was almost choking, he was laughing so hard.
“Next I’m going to start getting offers from gay mags.”
“You better not do them.” He started returning the kisses. It was the most glorious way to wake up.
We settled into slow kisses after a few minutes, taking our time to explore one another’s mouths. Soft touches and sounds. His body with mine made the rest of the world disappear. Never in a million years would I have expected the photos coming out to go this well. When we went to sleep, I’d braced myself for a bad couple of days. This was much preferred.
“I need some coffee,” Quell said when we broke apart.
“Coffee on the deck and we can see what Twitter is saying about my dick?” I asked, already slipping out of bed to find a pair of shorts.
“What a morning.” He grabbed a robe and slipped it on, leaving it untied as we headed towards the kitchen.
“What, because you’re internet gay or because my dick is being talked about on TMZ?”
“Both. I really do want to see what they are saying about you.” He started the coffee pot and turned to lean against the counter.
I already had my phone out and was pulling up Twitter. “I have a shit load of tags.”
“They are tagging you in this shit?” He looked a little annoyed on my behalf.
“Oh yeah, and #HalesPackage is trending.” I turned my phone around to show him and we were back to laughing. “Mark wasn’t kidding. This has turned into a monster.”
“I know what your next birthday gift is!”
“I’m not sure I want to know with that look on your face.” I stuck my phone back in my pocket and got down mugs.
“I’m going to find the best ones and print them and get them framed for the office.”
I scrubbed a hand over my face. “The sad part is I know you probably will.”
“Fuck yes. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.” His joy was contagious.
I wanted to take pieces of it and save it for rainy days. I etched it into my memory, knowing I would keep it all close to my heart.
“For you,” I said. “You should do it for your own birthday.” I took the coffee he set in front of me and followed him out to our deck.
He took a seat in one of the chairs and kicked up his feet. I sat in the chair next to him and ran a hand over his shin. This was intimacy. Little moments with him.
“I’m going to dig through this tag,” Quell said, pulling out his phone after smiling over at me.
“Of course you are. Don’t favorite any of them.” I pulled up TMZ instead. I wanted to see what kinds of things were being said. It was probably the worst thing to be doing, but I couldn’t stop myself. I was curious and I knew it would be eating me alive if I didn’t.
“Why not?” he asked, already laughing.
“Are you serious? Do you realize that will be top news? If Quellcrist King is faving thirst tweets about me?”
“Oh…good call. Maybe I’ll wait a few weeks to do that.”
I glanced over, blinking at him. “A few weeks?”
He shrugged. “We’ll see how public stuff goes.”
I was going to leave it there. I didn’t want him to feel pressured. If he was happy to be out in public, it was good. And if all this scared him off because they got intense, I was fine too. I’d made my peace with it.
“They got some photos of us through the glass.” In the most published photo Quell is leaning in on his elbows, staring at me. I hadn’t even realized he looked at me like that. I’m laughing and my hair is falling in my face. If the photo weren’t through glass, I’d be having it framed for us. I wanted a daily reminder of how he looked at me. I saved the photo to my phone.
We spent so much time together it was easy to forget the small things.
“Let me see.”
I held out my phone for him but didn’t say anything.
“Wow, they won’t be happy. They paid a lot of money at that location for glass that pictures couldn’t be taken through.”
“Are you upset?” I asked, not sure how to take his tone.
“No, I felt safer, but maybe the key to take away from this is we can’t feel safe anywhere.”
I frowned. I hated that he was finding any negative in all of this. “I guess so.”
“It’s probably only a matter of time before they figure out where we live, too.” He sat back and closed his eyes.
“Hopefully it will last until we leave. Then it won’t matter so much. We’ll only be here for short bursts.”
“You know, this kind of stuff is fine for a bit, but we really shouldn’t be focusing on what they are saying,” he added.
“Huh?” I asked.
“These people print all kinds of lies. They printed Rachael and I were cheating on each other. I just want you to know what it could look like.”
I stared at the mug in my hands. “I guess I know. But I didn’t think about it in terms of us.”
“It’s hard to imagine it before it happens.” He lifted his shoulders like it was nothing, but his eyes told me so much more.
“Are you sure the pictures are okay?”
He nodded and shrugged without opening his eyes. “I choose this. You choose this. We’ll deal with it.”
I hoped so.