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VIEW FROM THE WINDOW

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Based upon NO NIGHT IS TOO LONG, a television film based upon the novel by Barbara Vine starring Lee Williams as Tim Cornish and Marc Warren as Ivo Steadman.  Ivo/Tim, adult situations.  In sum:  Tim has been in a long-term affair with Ivo, but he grows disinterested when Ivo declares his love.  Regardless of his true feelings, Tim accompanies Ivo on a working-cruise in Alaska, only to fall in love with a woman, and when he confesses such to Ivo, Tim is afraid he will never escape Ivo and be able to return to the woman he loves.  Author’s Note:  The ending in the novel is much different from the ending offered in the television Canadian-BBC production, so this is an alternative ending still.  NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  

VIEW FROM THE WINDOW by Natasha Barry

  

“Listen, why don’t you take a bath.”

 

How about because I don’t want a bath, Tim was thinking, but aloud he said nothing.

 

They’d been silent on their journey to the hotel from Isabel’s home; consequently Ivo’s convivial voice was inexplicably jarring to Tim.

 

Turning from the view at the window, Tim snapped, figuratively and literally.  “Are you going to pretend that didn’t happen?”

 

“Just for the moment we can do without the recriminations,” swiftly came the advice.

 

Tim barely noted the words, but he reacted automatically.  Now he recalled Ivo checking out their room’s accommodations as soon as they arrived, asking at the front desk if their room had a bath.  At the time it seemed a nonsequiter:  after all, in his own flat, Ivo used a shower.  So Tim was dimly surprised the super-efficient Ivo hadn’t cleared that type of nonsense with the reservations people when he’d called them from the airport, if a soak was all that important to him.

 

Explained Ivo, “You’re in shock; a nice warm bath will do you good.”

 

They’d come directly from the airport to Isabel’s flat, Tim trembling in a mixture of trepidation and anticipation.  It was all that consumed him on the short flight from Alaska to Vancouver, as he wasn’t arriving in the manner he’d promised Isabel when last they met, and what would Ivo do to her, to them, what would Ivo say about their relationship?  The man had promised to tell all about them, and Tim feared the effect of the words especially in concert with the presence of the man himself.  What would Isabel think of Tim knowing the lover he had to break off with was a man?

 

What happened at Isabel’s flat was nothing he would have foreseen.

 

The door was opened by a boisterous, handsome man, approximately Ivo’s age or older, but definitely in his thirties and yet another blond.  It seemed Tim’s life had been captured by blonds lately, first Ivo and then Isabel and now this man.

 

Because the stranger greeted Ivo warmly and Tim was confused, thinking at first they had the wrong address, but Ivo was seeming casual as if this man at this door were anticipated, and then Tim reminded himself they were supposed to be calling on Isabel, and this clearly was someone else.  Isabel was married, separated, she’d said, but how would this man know Ivo?  So this must be some friend’s of Ivo’s, and it was all a deception to torture Tim, threatening for them to drop in on Isabel unannounced, on the very day Tim had told her to expect him, yet since Tim didn’t hold Isabel’s address any longer – it was in the pocket of the jacket Ivo had reclaimed – Tim was easily led to the wrong door with a heightened sense of anticipation.  And maybe Ivo wasn’t taking Tim to Isabel at all, and it had all been a trick.

 

Then the stunner came at him, and Ivo hadn’t practiced subterfuge, as Isabel was hailed into the room by the handsome blond man Tim now knew to be her husband. 

 

Already dazed and confused, and longing for the comfort and security of Isabel, Tim was symbolically held back by the presence of her husband as well as the loose grip – for Tim could escape it if he wanted to – Ivo held upon his wrist. 

 

Ivo led them to a settee and Tim strained to catch every nuance of Isabel’s expression as she avoided looking at him after only greeting him distantly, like someone she’d met long ago in the shops.

 

The strong, silent type Ivo may have been, but Tim hadn’t figured him for dramatics.  Then again, this wasn’t a normal situation, and the man had already surprised Tim with the violence of which he was capable.  So Tim strained to capture every word spoken by Ivo, already guessing Isabel’s husband wouldn’t have known of their affair, as the blond man whose name Tim couldn’t recall, seemed all too happy to be in the same room with himself and Ivo.

 

To Tim’s appearance alongside Ivo, the man had offered a friendly handshake and welcome, so typical of the people who occupied this region of the world.  He couldn’t recall all the life histories he’d picked up from the fellow travelers on the cruise.

 

Only Isabel’s husband – and wasn’t it something how in the Bible it was Lot’s Wife or Pharoah’s Wife, but they went nameless - was now looking worriedly between Ivo and Isabel and questioning if something was wrong between them, for the tension was obvious, even as Isabel’s eyes went moon-like and Tim knew for himself how terrifying and direct Ivo’s indictment would be. 

 

It was when the husband made mention to Ivo that Isabel was Ivo’s only sister, so what sister could he be talking about, that’s when all the pieces came together. 

 

Crash and burn went the American expression, and for the first time in his young life Tim experienced what that meant as they left the formerly comfortable couple with Ivo’s condemnation of the wife’s recent infidelity, returning to the taxi they’d left idling on the street.

 

Would Isabel be safe?  Ivo didn’t seem to care.  He’d delivered his pronouncement upon the couple and now he and Tim were on their way.  So would Isabel’s marriage survive?  Did Tim have the right to care?  Why did Isabel come to bed with him if she was only longing for the return of her husband?  Why come to bed with Tim when she knew he was her brother’s lover?  Maybe it was about getting her own back against her philandering husband, even avenging some slight she’d felt from Ivo, maybe he’d tripped her once when they were kids playing on the stairs.

 

But they’d sounded close when Ivo referred to his sister, back when they were in England and she came to stay.  Tim hadn’t met her then, had never seen a picture of her, only resented her presence because it caused a physical breach between himself and Ivo.  Of course, that was when every moment of every day and every thought was about Ivo. 

 

The husband looked concerned at the rift between brother and sister, as if it were unexpected, proving the former closeness of brother and sister.

 

Life was a clumsy house of cards, wasn’t it, Tim was thinking as he now lounged in the hot bath Ivo drew for him, drawn there automatically, though he’d closed the door prior to stripping. 

 

Meeting Ivo – lusting after him, craving his body and careless wit – had led to dissatisfaction with Ivo when the man proclaimed his love, a somewhat deeper emotion than Tim anticipated or wanted, it turned out.  The otherwise craven Tim was left floundering, feeling he’d been caught short in the commitment department.  But he hadn’t broken off the relationship, not then, but instead drifted, hoping it would revive, since Ivo counted on him and their time together, months they’d been lovers by this point.  Now the declaration was made, Ivo wanted permanence and the notion of permanence with Ivo made Tim sick to his stomach.  But, still, he couldn’t disappoint Ivo, not his lover counting on him, and so he’d accompanied Ivo to Alaska and there he met Isabel.

 

Blonde Isabel who bore a slight resemblance to Ivo Steadman, but he’d no reason to put them together, just assumed his adult self was attracted to blue-eyed blonds. 

 

She hadn’t said who she was, using her married name.  No mention of Ivo at all. Yet she’d been set to spy on him, keep him occupied, but obviously not to the extent Ivo now knew of, that they’d bedded, that Tim pledged eternal love. 

 

Ivo accused Isabel of seducing his lover, back at the flat, not even an hour ago.  But Tim had professed his love to Isabel before she came seeking his bed.

 

The only person he’d ever loved.  It was Isabel, but she was Ivo’s sister.  Why was it Ivo’s sister as opposed to someone else?  No wonder Ivo didn’t set him loose in Alaska; the coincidence of the siblings was jarring even if the circumstance was a conspiracy.

 

His thoughts were jolted as Ivo tapped at the door and entered the room.

 

Ivo took a quick glance over the slim figure and his blue eyes returned briefly to the bruising on Tim’s neck, caused by himself.  Three times now he’d been violent towards his lover, that once nearly killing him.  Even with Isabel hopefully shelved, he would have to tread carefully if he were to secure Tim to him.  As things stood, Ivo knew Tim would bolt as soon as Ivo turned his back, which meant even before returning to England. 

 

Whether Tim knew it or not, since they’d left Isabel’s flat Ivo had been carefully keeping watch over his young lover even when looking out the window at passing scenery.  To be tending to him now was nothing.

 

“Here, I brought you a cup of tea.” 

 

Tim accepted it and not without gratitude.  “How did you get it?”

 

“They leave those tea bags in rooms for the guest’s convenience.”

 

“Right.”  He’d only seen coffee in the room in Juneau.  He’d ignored it, of course, in favor of the liquor in the room fridge.  The final tally of his hotel room bill had been tremendous, and not due to any extravagance except for his bar bill.  Presented with the bill, Ivo had been both condescending and impressed, but also offering an apology for having had to leave him for ten days with nothing to do but drink.  Poor luck all round, he’d said, having to take on a job when the previously booked lecturer had dropped out.

 

His abandonment being another nail in the coffin, Tim had been thinking fate was assuredly advising him to leave Ivo behind in Alaska and return to England on his own.  With Ivo trapped on cruises for veritably weeks, Tim would have had plenty of time to retrieve his things from Ivo’s flat, get a job and set himself up elsewhere.  Only his plane ticket turned out to be the most restrictive, no changes allowed whatsoever, and so he couldn’t leave Alaska, he simply hadn’t the funds on his own. 

 

Then Isabel appeared and his every moment and every thought was of her.

 

Deliberately, Ivo took a seat atop the toilet, not to intimidate but in order to foster necessary intimacy.  “Don’t take it so hard.  I told you, you were confused.”

 

“I guess.  I didn’t know you knew more than me.  You could have told me in Alaska,” he accused, about Isabel, of course.  Controlling, of course he knew Ivo was that, but this recent behavior seemed more the acting out of a sadist. 

 

Of course Tim was right, and Ivo knew he’d pay the penalty for keeping the truth from Tim, just as if Tim was ever to meet Isabel the truth would come out that Ivo had her spying on his lover in Juneau.  He’d been fully prepared to face these consequences.  “I guess I had my own revenge,” he admitted.  Though actually, like Isabel not confessing her identity to Tim, maybe he was waiting on the right time and it never came.  Just like when Tim had wanted to leave him – for weeks apparently – and yet it never seemed the right time to him, and so Tim had accompanied him to Alaska and onto that ship.

 

But Ivo had felt that all along, had known he was losing Tim, that Tim was lost to him, but he couldn’t bear it, so he managed things to keep Tim with him all the way to Alaska.  But it wasn’t about Tim the prisoner. Until the last, Tim had enjoyed the sex, as Ivo kept reminding himself.  Certainly if they were compatible physically the rest – Tim’s glorious passion – would be sure to return.  At least he’d gambled on that, but what did he have to lose?  Only Tim himself, and he wasn’t prepared to lose Tim.  Not for anything or anyone, and certainly not to his sister.

 

“Isabel was a phantom, or maybe there’s something rather convenient about your attraction to her.”  Ivo didn’t like discussing Isabel, really, but there was no getting round it.  She was a painful subject, but maybe he could use it to his advantage.  “I should have told you, about Isabel, I mean.  I shouldn’t have sprung it on you.  But I didn’t know how you’d react.  Frankly, you haven’t been so stable lately.  I was used to your being complacent, but not conniving, and so you surprised me too.”

 

That elicited an involuntary smile.  “And you’ve been the model of stability?” Tim countered, not buying all the excuse, knowing Ivo was resigned to punishing him as well.

 

“Well, my emotions get the best of me, especially where you’re concerned.”

 

“You’ve simply been the strong, silent type, with the emphasis on strong.”  And he still had the bruising on his throat to prove it.  And the other times?  Nearly a broken nose in Ivo’s flat.  And, on the island, Ivo tossed him about as if he were a rag doll before Tim finally threw him off.  He’d never had physical altercations in his life, before Ivo.

 

“It’s just how much I care for you, it’s out of control,” confessed Ivo, “and even when you hurt me I can’t stop wanting you.  But when we were happy, remember then?  You were never afraid of me.  You wanted me as much as I wanted you,” he reminded.

 

But that was a long time ago, and he’d felt under threat by Ivo ever since.  He should have run first chance he got, bypassing the Alaska voyage, therefore bypassing Isabel and the pain of rejection he was now feeling.  It was obvious, oh so obvious, she was back with her husband, she’d taken him back.  She was caught putting herself and her husband above herself and Tim and above herself and Ivo. 

 

And what about Ivo, how did her brother figure into her plans?  Would she consent to being lovers, real lovers, with the former lover of her brother?  They’d had their sex, their night of passion, before she returned to Vancouver, and it was after Tim had assured her the affair with Ivo (using a female pronoun to describe Ivo, always) was at breaking point.  Maybe she took for granted she’d never see Ivo and Tim together, that Tim would be a memory that belonged to Alaska and Ivo would never know the feelings that developed between them in Juneau. 

 

He wished he could talk to Isabel.  But her lack of enthusiasm at his appearance in her home, and her gracious acceptance of the return of her scarf – which Ivo prompted as Tim had gripped it in his pocket – didn’t give Tim hope for a private reunion.

 

As it was, Ivo had declared to his stunned sister and tense brother-in-law he and Tim were only stopping one night, and continuing to Seattle in the morning.   

 

“Are we really going to Seattle?” Tim asked now, letting the water out of the tub and it swirled down the drain like his wishes.

 

“It’s worth a day or two.”

 

“I haven’t seen Vancouver yet.”

 

“Well, there’s always some special trip, perhaps next year an extended visit once I finish a lecture.”

 

He couldn’t imagine wanting to see Alaska ever again.  “I’d rather stay over a couple of days, and skip Seattle.”

 

Ivo considered it.  He knew what was prompting this spurt of rebellion, but as Tim rose from the empty tub a distracted Ivo handed him a towel and watched as the young man covered his nakedness.

 

Tim was tall but of slight build, would even be suitable for the drag look if he was into that, which fortunately Tim wasn’t.  His nearly feminine beauty had a strong appeal to both men and women, and after all this time Ivo was as affected by it as he’d ever been.

 

It seemed forever since he’d been able to kiss and caress the young man, and he turned his thoughts forcibly in another direction.

 

He couldn’t afford another act of violence or another transgression, such as when he’d taken Tim despite his protestations.  One more episode indicating his lack of control, and Tim would walk out the door, even if he were left begging on the street for money to live on.

 

It might be awhile, of course, before Tim forgave him, even if he already forgave Isabel, which seemed likely.  Disappointing, that, as Ivo had counted on Tim’s feelings of betrayal to override any romantic notions regarding Isabel, but apparently not.  Apparently Tim still felt he wasn’t getting the full story.  Well, maturity wasn’t Tim’s strongest suit, but that was no small portion of the young man’s appeal.

 

He’d known that fairly soon in their acquaintance.

 

At campus, Ivo had spotted the beautiful young man soon enough, whether he was the student riding his bicycle along campus or striding across it, his good looks were unobtrusive yet the beauty was arresting.  Over the course of weeks, he spotted him entering or leaving a few classrooms, and from there he pulled up the student records and obtained the young man’s name and home address as well as his class schedule. 

 

Conveniently, one of Tim Cornish’s classes was held beneath his office, and this led him to monitoring the young man’s comings and goings on a routine basis, usually Tim being accompanied by a fellow student or more than one of his fellows, but most frequently the companion would be female.

 

What led to Tim finally noticing HIM, was when he’d known that Tim would be at that precise time and location, and now cocky with the knowledge and the success of his vigilance so far, he’d propped himself in the office window and waited.  This time went a little differently however, as Tim entered the courtyard but instead turned and embraced the woman he was with, one of those fellow students who especially clung to him.  He kissed her, which was truly annoying to Ivo, but that stopped their conversation and he looked up to Ivo’s window, finally seeing him for the first time.

 

Ivo was surprised and yet not so, for it had to happen eventually, their eyes meeting and remaining transfixed.  Though on his part, he merely froze, as if being a blind man stared at, and therefore allowing Tim to look his fill.  There was something tangible between them, Ivo was sure of it.  In fact, he was so sure of it, he was disappointed Tim didn’t seek him out immediately, dismissing the female student with him.  But from that occasion, now he was known, and Ivo’s tactics changed accordingly.  He surrendered his vigilance, though he retained the knowledge of every location Tim would be in throughout the day.  If occasionally he passed a window Tim was sitting in, so be it. 

 

If there was a move to make, it was now Tim’s move, for Ivo had already orchestrated the overture.

 

“You’re always rushing ‘cross campus,” Tim eventually told him.  “It was hard to catch up with you.”

 

“You’re dangerous and sexy,” Tim told him another time, not long after New Year’s, as Ivo wore his customary black.  The austere color against his blond hair had Tim proclaiming the effect “devastating.”  By this time, Tim had practically moved into Ivo’s flat. 

 

They spent so much together, their other associates dropped from their lives. 

 

Though they didn’t hide their relationship, there was no reason for them to advertise it either. 

 

When they found each other, Tim was in his final year, and Ivo wasn’t one of his instructors anyway.  In fact, unless the rocks were dropped into drinks – American style – Tim kidded how he had no interest in Ivo’s field at all.  But that dismissive air was matched by Ivo’s disinterest in opera, Tim’s musical selection of choice (and perhaps an indicator the young man was of greater depth than face value indicated):  But Ivo was nearly tone deaf, so what did he know of opera.

 

But it all started on New Year’s, when Ivo showed up at the Cornish family’s door to offer an escape to an imprisoned young man only too eager for adventure and romance.  That was an occasion Tim teased him about knowing who he was when he’d never introduced himself.  “So how long have you been planning this?”  Of course Ivo had offered no explanation or excuses.  He soon realized this attitude of his was the source of his fascination for Tim, and it worried him it couldn’t be maintained indefinitely.

 

He hadn’t fully anticipated how when he finally broke down, when he confessed his love, that Tim would go off him quite as he did.  It was now as if Tim, still in his flat at the end of the day and night, was merely going through the motions, not eager to see him as he once was, but content to make do with the situation until something more reasonable came along.

 

Which wasn’t fair to Tim, for the young man was no whore, yet probably making the best of the situation, and Tim couldn’t be responsible for the callowness of his own youth.

 

Ivo was full of blind hope when Tim didn’t put a stop on the plans for him coming to Alaska.  But once there it all went wrong, the first clue being when Ivo returned from his tour to find the liquor bill which awaited him at the hotel.  When he and Tim first got together, the young man seldom drank; now all he did was drink, no matter the occasion.   

 

Since they confessed to being on edge with each other, a change of scene is what Tim suggested, and if that was what Tim required, to put things right between them, even a “cooling off period” would be suffered by Ivo exactly as Tim requested.  After all, what choice did he have but to play the attentive, sensitive lover?  An impatient Ivo could manage that, though every second of every day he yearned to ravish that body, and it felt both normal and shameful to be so obsessed with someone who was so cool towards him.  But he couldn’t imagine not having Tim for much longer, it was simply impossible to avoid that beauty and the temptation it provided. 

 

But when Tim’s efforts to avoid his company became noticeably awkward, as if making the effort to be in the opposite place of Ivo on the same small ship, some new determination slipped into Ivo, and he took the young man, reclaiming him, as he saw it, still hoping it would turn out okay.  At least he’d had him again, they had sex, like plaster, and it would mend the wound, so this had to count for something.  If the sex was still there, the relationship was all right, that’s how it had to be.  It was because Tim had avoided sex with him, that’s really what the trouble was, Ivo convinced himself.  In fucking Tim he was reminding Tim of what they were together, and now it would be all right.  Everyone had incompatibilities, Tim with his opera, Ivo with his study of rocks, certainly that was a minor thing in the scheme of things, and this rough patch would be over with now.

 

Of course then Tim broke up with him, sobbing but joyful as he boasted he was in love with someone else.  Ivo’s own sister, yet, though Tim didn’t know that.  Ivo’s sister, the one whose visit to Vancouver coincided with Tim’s being left there on his own for ten days.  Isabel, who was supposed to keep an eye on his beloved for him, even keep him occupied to a certain extent to reduce the young man’s boredom in his surroundings, but she certainly wasn’t cast as the grand seductress.

 

Isabel, whom Ivo trusted like no other in the world, just as they’d never had an argument, only now he’d descended upon her and left her in the wake of a vindictive husband, and he never wanted to see her again. 

 

Fortunately Tim didn’t realize the true nature of the man Isabel had married; otherwise he’d assuredly have never allowed Ivo to take him from the flat.

 

If Tim hadn’t been present, he would have killed her himself, Ivo thought.  But never again would he threaten Tim, as surely they’d seen the worst of it together.  Tim was the one he loved and meant to keep.  He had to blame Isabel; she was older and wiser, and Tim was a mere youth beside her.  She never kept Tim’s best interest in mind, and certainly threw away her brother’s worth to her in the simple act of seduction.  He didn’t even want to know the details.  To begin with, he had, admittedly he’d thought to drag the truth from her, and an ugly truth it had to be, but it would only be to torture himself and her with the facts.  What had she used to get to Tim anyway?  Wouldn’t her compelling allure to Tim only be explained by her resemblance to himself?

 

But with Tim present to any accusation he practiced immense discretion, not wanting to put the young man off him even more by being heartless in his cruelty.  So he let the disappointment show to Isabel in front of Tim; she would know well enough that she’d lost him forever.

 

“There are things we can see here,” Ivo conceded to Tim’s desire to remain in the city.  “But no Isabel,” he declared.

 

“No Isabel,” Tim agreed.  He didn’t feel up to America is all; it would be less challenging to stay here Canada.  He’d heard there were beautiful gardens in Vancouver.

 

“I forgive you Isabel.”

 

“You’ve said it.  Perhaps I should go home.”

 

“Alone?”

 

“Just because there is no Isabel, doesn’t mean there is an us, Ivo.”

 

Still damp, but with the towel round his waist, Tim returned to the bedroom trailed by Ivo.  He settled upon the bed intent on taking a nap.  The day’s events plus the bath and tea had done him in, plus all that desperation he’d been going through in Alaska.  “But I can’t talk more now.”

 

“We’ll talk when you wake up.  I’ll get room service.”

 

“Whatever.” 

 

Tim’s eyes closed and Ivo watched for a few moments, finally going into the bathroom to utilize the facilities himself. 

 

He could use some food, finding an appetite within him now that had only been craving emotional resolution before.  But he would wait on Tim, forever if need be.

 

When he took a place atop the covers next to Tim, the young man didn’t rouse, but his features looked troubled, and disturbing dreams would be the least serious side effect of the day, Ivo thought. 

 

Eventually, Ivo was dozing when Tim awoke.  “Ivo,” Tim said uncertainly, disturbing him.  “I dreamt I killed you.”

 

“Well you didn’t.  Did you want to?”

Tim sighed.  “Sometimes:  Mainly I wanted you to fall into the sea.”

 

“Charming,” Ivo judged, “but at least less violent than some alternatives.  But would my death really solve your problem?”

 

“I thought so; it would have then.”

 

“Why do you turn away from love when it’s freely offered?  Why don’t you let yourself be with me as you were before?”

 

“What?”

 

“I tried telling myself you hadn’t changed, but you had, when I confessed my feelings, and you taunted me by having sex with that first year when we’d always been exclusive.  Now, whenever you’re out of my sight, it’s trolling for sex with someone else.”

 

“If that’s how you see it.”

 

“How else?”  Ivo leaned up on an elbow, subjecting his adversary to a hard stare, ignoring how Tim tightened the loosened towel.  “I always kept you satisfied before, and you certainly kept me satisfied.  We had great sex; great rapport.  What changed it all was three words.”

 

Now Tim confessed what he knew he probably should have long ago.  “It’s always been that way for me.  I’m interested, entranced even, but when someone loves me, I turn off.”

 

“And my sister – who looked like me, let’s not forget – was already married when she met you, and you fell for her.  You have an appreciation for the unobtainable, is that it?”

 

“Is it that simple?”

 

“Nothing ever is, but it’s a start.  Most people are grateful to be loved, so there does appear to be an aberration in your character.  Maybe if we sought counseling, or you did on your own, we could resolve the issue.”

 

This year had been such a calamity for him that, “Maybe that’s a good idea.”

 

“Still, no reason we shan’t be friends.  I promise not to touch you until you’re ready, but I’m not comfortable leaving you on your own either.  Frankly, I can’t trust you to take care of yourself.”

 

“I can’t be judged a basket case simply because I don’t love you,” argued Tim.  “Not even if I do love your sister.  It proves I can love, and have and do love.”

 

“You can’t have her, you know you can’t.  What her motive was, I don’t know.”  He quickly staunched the rising anger before it could develop.  “Come on, let’s get up and go to dinner,” Ivo proposed.  “I’m famished, and you can put some clothes on; you know how your body is a distraction.  Maybe we’ll even buy some nightclothes for you to wear like armor.”

 

“Very funny.”  But also a good idea, as he couldn’t trust Ivo where his body was concerned, no matter Ivo’s professed good intentions on the matter.

 

“And maybe I’ll work on being mysterious again, since that’s your type.”

 

Responding to the tease, Tim shot back, “We can’t wipe out these last weeks.”

 

“No, but maybe we can build on them.  Come on, get dressed and we’ll dazzle the people in the dining room.”

 

“And what about Isabel?”

 

“Your feelings for her or regarding her very existence?  Your feelings will evolve in time.  And her existence is beside her husband, you saw that for yourself.  She’s one of those women who stay forever with their husbands, no matter the bastard they are.  I have no idea what she was thinking, marrying him.  She has such good taste, as a rule.”  He returned to the point with, “You can really love her with how she deceived you?”

“Did she?”

 

“She was the one chose not to tell you who she was; I merely took advantage of her presence since she was coming to Juneau anyway.  Maybe it was something I set up to test you, in which case it hasn’t worked out well for me.  You’re positively lethal, you know.  So maybe I shan’t give her the entire blame.”  Then he fell into a mood.

 

Tim, aware he wasn’t the only one hurting in this, briefly allowed the silence.

 

Actually he hadn’t known that, had assumed when Ivo set this up he’d told Isabel to play at being any woman rather than one with an agenda. 

 

“And she betrayed me,” Ivo admitted coldly.  He’d never forgive her, not betrayal of this extent from someone who’d never hurt him before, not when it involved Tim, whom he’d never surrender.  “As if she wanted to destroy us, no matter what you told her, she knew my side of it.”

 

It was as they were going down to dinner, Tim said, “She played a game, but you played a game on me too, Ivo.  And it was a worse game than her, as you set it all up, and when it was over, when I’d told you about Isabel, you played king and admitted nothing as you dragged me over here.”

 

“Hardly dragging,” Ivo pointed out, “since you were so eager to come.”

 

“But not with you,” Tim reminded him.  The day may have been strange, but he wasn’t suffering amnesia and Ivo wouldn’t rewrite history, not even their own.  “What did you think when you saw her address in your jacket?”

 

“I thought it odd you didn’t mention it, so I assumed she didn’t tell you who I was, that’s all.  Since it never occurred to me you’d had an affair with her, I never questioned you about it, in fact, I assumed she made so little impression upon you, you’d already forgotten her.”

 

“You were wrong.”  It was childish, but he had to say it anyway.

 

“Yes,” admitted Ivo as they entered the hotel dining room, “I was wrong.  Wrong on many counts, it seems, but I’m not a quitter, Tim, and at this point I think I know you better than you do yourself.”

 

They were led to a table and before Tim could offer an objection, there were menus in their hands and a moment of attempted accord, if only for the sake of the diners at neighboring tables. 

 

“You may resent that,” Ivo forestalled the young man as Tim’s lips parted, but Tim’s lips were usually parted, inviting a kiss, though Tim seemed unaware that was the effect.  Mainly, Ivo had come to learn, parted lips on Tim expressed confusion.  “But let’s look at the menu, shall we?”

 

Ivo’s arrogance used to be sexy, then it became threatening or insulting, now it was merely puzzling.  Ivo could switch gears much more readily than he could, it seemed. 

 

It had been a long, difficult day and he hadn’t anything to eat on the plane or prior, and not even a refreshment at Isabel’s, just the tea Ivo forced upon him earlier, one which he gave a few sips to.  Consequently he wasn’t surprised to find his stomach empty in anticipation of something to put in it, no matter his mood to do other than eat.  But he gave an order to the waiter who seemed to be favoring him and Ivo with a more than professional obsequiousness.

 

“You could have him,” Tim offered their waiter as soon as the man departed with their order.

 

“I don’t want him.”

 

There was something stifling about so much intensity being focused upon him, and Tim wondered if that’s how Isabel felt when he was upon her.  Did she feel flattered and overwhelmed?  Had she yearned to rush back to Vancouver and her husband and their life which she already knew?  He didn’t think so, no matter what Ivo said.  Isabel must have felt something for him, she wouldn’t have betrayed her brother by sleeping with his lover otherwise.

 

“I don’t know why you want me,” Tim admitted.  He sometimes felt like an ornament Ivo wanted to carry in his pocket.

 

“That’s precisely one reason I do.  You have no idea how charming it is your lack of self-awareness.  I was puzzled about it in the beginning, you taking everyone’s admiration for granted, all that yearning to be in your company, and in your bed.  But it seems you were merely the most superficial person I’d ever met.”

 

“And you’re exactly the opposite.”

 

“Evidently, but I’ll bet I was the first person who ever interested you.”

 

Well, that one was obvious.  “Yes.  That was the best New Year’s ever.”

 

Their drinks arrived, Ivo offering champagne but Tim had ordered that thing he’d seen everyone on the ship drinking, iced tea.  With a lifted eyebrow, Ivo had changed his order as well, since they had nothing to celebrate really, but also offering a silent endorsement of Tim’s voluntarily drinking something other than liquor. 

 

While on the ship and even in Juneau before that, so often Tim had drunk himself into a stupor.  It had been better than being alone with his thoughts or within the presence of a disapproving Ivo, who must have been wondering how the student he’d picked up with had turned into a drunk.

 

Tim sweetened his tea with the sugar atop the table then their salads arrived.  He was looking forward to the main course, and still puzzling over the question no one he met had an answer for:  Why did they call the main course Entrees in the States?  He’d asked several people aboard the ship, in an attempt to fulfill his part of idle conversation.

 

Looking up, Tim saw Ivo seemed mesmerized by his action with the tea.  Caught out, the striking blond admitted, “You have a delicate touch.”

 

Ivo had strong hands, the hands of a man, the grip forceful, as Tim had cause to know.

 

As if to distract Tim from his thoughts, “Tim, I know you’re feeling fragile right now.  I want to assure you I’m not out for revenge.  I want you to get better.”

 

“You want me for yourself.”

 

“I’m not altogether altruistic.”

 

“It’s all right.”

 

They ate their meal in silence before it was broken by, “The waiter’s gay,” Tim pointed out.  “Why do you think so many waiters are gay?”  He’d never been immersed in the gay culture, not even since Ivo, and he occasionally wondered so many things.

 

“I haven’t the faintest idea:  frustrated actors and models no doubt.”

 

“In Vancouver?”

 

“Maybe they’re looking for a rich husband at an international hotel:  I don’t really care.”

 

“Do you think you’re rich enough?”

 

“I’m not rich; certainly not enough to attract him, if I were interested, which I’m not.”

 

Seeing Ivo was growing exceedingly irritated with his attempt at conversation, “I think I need to sleep for three days,” Tim admitted.

 

Ivo took a moment to adjust to the change in topic.  “This could have been our honeymoon.”

 

“No, Ivo, don’t do that, you know better than that.”

 

“At least you’re talking now; you used to suffer in silence.”

 

“I knew you didn’t want to hear what I had to say.”

 

“You don’t have to please everyone all the time, Tim,” and that included himself, it went without saying, though it grieved him to realize his own degree of selfishness.  He couldn’t live without Tim though; he just couldn’t.  So if that meant hearing harsh words from those lush lips, he would prepare himself.  “I was suggesting maybe Paris someday or somewhere else, for just a weekend?  Somewhere I don’t have to work.  I think we can use time together like that.”

 

“You love your work,” Tim pointed out, remembering though he was faced with reasonable Ivo now, there was no telling how long that would last.  And Ivo wasn’t his friend, never had they just been mates. 

 

“Not as much as I love you.”

 

“We’re together now, and we’re really not a couple now, if you think about it.  Don’t go counting on anything, especially not on me.”

 

Ivo recognized the caution for what it was.  “I appreciate the honesty.  Maybe there are no stones left un-turned.”

 

“You’ve been holding onto that one, Mister Paleontologist,” accused Tim, appreciating the attempt at humor.  Maybe this trip wouldn’t be such a nightmare after all, not in its conclusion, anyway.  “I wish I did love you.  But you frighten me.”

 

“I know.  I’m controlling myself; I promise to continue to control myself.”

 

Their salads barely pecked at, they allowed the dishes to be swept away in advance of their main courses.

 

“I rather like it here, this part of the world,” Tim offered.  “Alaska was beautiful, the sky and the ocean so blue, and the people here are so friendly it’s intimidating.  It’s overwhelmingly attractive.”

 

“I was afraid you thought it ugly.”

 

“I was in a hurry to get to Isabel.”

 

“And trying to avoid me,” Ivo concluded.  “Well, maybe I should consider it well on your resolve to be faithful to her.  You may have the makings of a good husband after all.”

 

“I only cheated on you once, back home I mean.”  It had been an experiment in his newfound determination to be gay.  He hadn’t much to say about the first year student; in fact he hadn’t found the sex between them very gratifying, nothing like how earth shattering it had been in the first weeks with Ivo.  Perhaps that was one reason he stayed, the remembrance of how good it had once been, hoping somehow that spark would be rekindled.

 

“And you didn’t give a shit about him either.”

 

“Just a cute first year who chatted me up.”

 

“Let’s chalk it up to another failed experiment,” Ivo proclaimed, pleased they were washing their linen at last, even if it were in public.  He thought he’d found the key to winning Tim, and it was about talking and listening, especially since he could hardly return to being the mysterious paleontologist he’d been when they met.

 

“You promise not to touch me?”

 

“It’ll be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done,” Ivo assured him, “but you’re worth it to me.”

 

Tim flinched:  How could he be worth it to anyone?  “And stop insulting me all the time.”  He’d had enough with being treated like a kept boy off the street, ignorant and without dignity.

 

“That was my anger.  Surprisingly, I’m not angry now.”

 

Still, Tim shook his head.  “I can’t make any promises, Ivo.  I’m done in.”

 

“We’ll travel a bit for a few days, give you time to get your bearings, and then we’ll return home.”

 

“It may be to remove my things from your flat.”

 

“Then we’ll deal with that then.”  He would have to, wouldn’t he?  It’s not like he could chain young Tim to the bed.  But such love as his couldn’t go unrewarded.  Now Tim knew Isabel and her true circumstance, surely Tim would return to him.  Tim merely needed time, that’s it, time to ease the fog from his mind.  And in the meantime, Ivo would go to work on him, attending counseling sessions with him if needed, all to fixing Tim, who would be the perfect companion for Ivo Steadman if only he’d give himself the chance.

 

You either felt love or you didn’t, Tim was young but he knew that full well.  He knew what Ivo was counting on, was even taking for granted, but he’d play the same game as Ivo – this time would be a first – and with everything that had gone on, even Tim knew not to take anything for granted, not even his leaving Ivo at the first opportunity.

 

After dinner, they visited the hotel stores, tracking down suitable bed garments for them both.  It was even fun to pick up the packages and note the sizes, as they each settled on a couple of pairs and made their way upstairs. 

 

They turned on the television and settled into world news, with brief moments provided by BBC-AMERICA and CNN, and done with that, they were even watching a few minutes of a film being broadcast on HBO, but it only elicited yawns from them both, and Ivo advised they adjourn for the night. 

 

The mattress was large, fortunately, and though Ivo had sex on his mind – he couldn’t think of Tim or be near Tim and not have copulation on his mind, he’d confided to his sister on one of their weekly phone chats – he knew there was a certain priceless advantage in being near the one you loved without having that one turn aside.  But eventually he broke down and a somber Ivo proposed, “Tim, can I put my arm round you?”

 

Thinking on how it had been such a wrong day anyway, Tim said, “Yes,” and he felt the weight carefully snake about his person. 

 

He could trust Ivo not to take him, for tonight anyway.  And tomorrow, well, he’d just see how he felt tomorrow.

  

THE END