Category: Nathan Barley
Characters: Dan Ashcroft, Jones
Pairing: Dan Ashcroft/Jones
Length: 1-5k words
Notes: Fluffy… but with the suggestion of physical violence in one of the short sections. It’s Ashcroft – of course it involves a teensy bit of rough man-handling.
Hands by The Lizard
“Come on, Dan. No-one’s looking.”
Jones spoke in his most persuasive tone, delicately brushing the tips of his fingers across the back of Dan’s right hand as it rested, palm down, on the café table. Dan’s thumb twitched slightly, an automatic reaction. Jones paused, his own thumb briefly rubbing the knuckle of Dan’s index finger, his eyes flicking up to gauge Dan’s reaction. Dan continued to stare down at the table-top, brown eyes lowered beneath his mess of dark hair, his left hand around his coffee cup, his right hand steadfastly refusing to respond in kind to Jones caress.
Jones was determined to get Dan to hold his hand. In public. There was going to be no more denial, no more hiding their affection for one another when they were outside the squat. Today was the day that Jones was going to hold hands with the man he loved, and he didn’t care who saw.
Apparently, Dan wasn’t ready to make that step. Feeling slightly crestfallen, Jones retracted his hand and snatched a sugar sachet from the small steel pot that stood on the table, needing something to fiddle with, to dissipate the mixture of rejection and frustration that was bubbling up inside him.
Continuing to avoid Jones’ gaze, Dan reached for his cigarettes, placing one of the small white cylinders in his mouth. He struck a match and placed it against the tip of the cigarette, inhaling deeply on the nicotine, exhaling a cloud of blue smoke through his nostrils and casually tossing the match into the small foil ashtray in the centre of the table. Dan pushed back his hair with the heel of one hand, then lifted the white coffee cup to his lips, pursed them on the rim and sipped the hot, brown liquid.
All the while, Jones sat silently, his eyes following the path of Dan’s hands.
The smell of vigorous sex hangs in the air. Their sweating, naked bodies curl around one another, interlocking in a post-coital embrace. He watches the long fingers as they creep along his bare thigh, gently caressing his hip before sweeping across his stomach, the tip of one digit momentarily circling his belly-button before the palm comes to rest across his chest, a thumb resting against his erect nipple. The fingernails are jagged, bitten in moments of anxiety and frustration. He notices a small cut on the knuckle of the thumb, scabbed over, sore-looking.
He reaches up and clasps the hand, weaving his small fingers between the larger digits, pulling it closer around him. The hand responds by gently squeezing his. A sigh of contentment sounds against the skin at back of his neck. He can feel the larger man’s chest rise and fall, his breathing gradually slowing and falling into its natural rhythm. He remains with his body folded into him, fingers inter-twined, until his eyes become heavy and he drifts off into a deep restful asleep.
“I can’t believe I just did that.”
“You had no choice, Dan. It’s alright, you did really well…”
“Christ… did you hear them all, bleating ‘Preacher Man,’ like a herd of demented sheep?”
“Take no notice of them. They’re a bunch of fucking idiots.”
“Yeah… I need to get out of here… I need a drink.”
“Come on. Let’s leave out the back way.”
“OK… what are you doing?”
“I’m holding your hand, Dan.”
“I’m not really a hand-holding person, Jones.”
“I’m not watching that!”
“But I’ve been waiting all bloody night for this, you cock!”
“I don’t care, you silly tart! It’s a pile of fucking bilge!”
Jones grabs at the remote control but the larger man’s hold is too strong. He tries to wrench the plastic box free but is pulled forward on to the sofa, loser in this late-night couch potato tug-of-war.
As he topples, giggling into the cushions and Dan’s embrace, Jones feels Dan’s large hands slide beneath his t-shirt and touch his stomach, tickling. Dan’s fingers are warm and slightly rough, sending shivers of delight around his middle. He twists round and lowers his seat as Dan gently guides him backwards, settling him between his jean-covered legs. Jones nestles between Dan’s thighs, his lover’s bristly chin resting on his shoulder, his limbs wrapped about him, stroking his forearm distractedly; holding him tight as he finally gets to watch the TV show he’s been waiting to see all night.
He is lost in the extreme volume of the techno music; head down, exploring new beats, his hands moving rapidly across the buttons and dials.
He doesn’t notice Dan is in the room until the man’s thumbs and forefingers are circled tightly about each of his skinny wrists. The music makes a deafening screech as his arms are aggressively jerked from the decks.
He looks up at Dan. He can see his mouth move but cannot hear him speak, his voice muffled. Dan strides about the room, gesticulating wildly, pointing at Jones and bringing his fist down on flat surfaces. Then he marches out of the room, slamming the door against the wall.
It isn’t until Dan has gone that Jones is aware of an intense burning pain in his left ear. He winces as the pain continues to sting and spreads across his cheek.
Gasping, he throws himself back on the sofa, pushing a hand through his disheveled hair, his shirt sticking to him, his flies unfastened.
“What the twatting hell just happened?”
“What do you think happened? My hand was just around your cock, Dan.”
Dan turns and stares, placing a hand on Jones’ shoulder, kneading it gently.
“Not in a gay way though, right?”
Jones feels his heart sink. He sighs and turns his head away from Dan, staring at the far wall of the lounge.
“No… not in a gay way.”
“Alright, Dan? Kettle’s on.”
He slouched right past him, shoulders hunched, not looking up or speaking. Heading straight through the kitchen into the lounge, Dan’s well-worn trainers scuffed against the remaining pile of the worn carpet. He slumped heavily on to the sofa, sighing loudly. Pushing off his coat to one side, he leant forward, elbows on his thighs, staring at the floor, hair falling across his eyes, silently wringing his hands.
Jones stood in the doorway of the lounge, wearing a concerned frown.
Dan sniffed. Still looking down, he scratched absent-mindedly at his beard, the friction of nails against chin bristle audible in the silence.
The kettle reached boiling point. Jones took this as a cue to leave Dan for a few more moments. He’d make them both a hot drink and give Dan some time to get himself together. From experience, he knew this was the best course of action.
Returning to the lounge, Jones quietly placed the two coffee mugs on the tired-looking coffee table and lowered himself on to the seat next to Dan. Dan leaned back in his seat now, his head thrown back, his eyes closed, his nostrils flaring slightly. Jones turned towards him, calculating the space between them, careful not to move in too early with touches of comfort and support. This would be a delicate manoeuvre. The wrong move now could make this big, grouchy bear even grizzlier.
Jones glanced at Dan’s hands for a sign. He always looked to Dan’s hands for an indication of how he was feeling inside. They were the most expressive part of him. Whether flicking V’s at passing Idiots, tapping anxiously against his pint glass in the pub, or drumming on the arm of the shabby sofa, Jones always managed to gauge Dan’s mood by the signals from his fingers, palms and thumbs.
Dan’s hands gave nothing away; fingers splayed, lying palm-down against his jeans. Not even a twitch in the thumbs. No tapping fingers. No kneading of his thigh. Absolute stillness. This was going to be tricky. It meant that he would have to take a risk.
He’d taken risks before but the result was never a guaranteed success. The night they’d both realized they could no longer contain their feelings for one another – he knew the odds of success were high then, seeing as Dan’s hands were creeping up inside his t-shirt. That situation was pretty easy to assess. Another time he had not been so lucky and they didn’t speak for four days.
In this instance, he had absolutely no idea what his chances were. He chewed his bottom lip and took a deep breath.
Ah fuck it.
Jones leant slowly forward and cautiously slipped his left hand across Dan’s right, clasping his small digits around it, holding it loosely. With his heart beating in his throat, he glanced up at Dan for a reaction. Dan remained stock-still, his breathing the only sign he was alive.
Then slowly, Dan began to turn over his hand. Jones felt the warmth of Dan’s palm as his hand faced upwards and the fingers unfurled, like the petals of a large flesh-coloured rose turning towards the sun’s rays. Dan enclosed his fingers around Jones own, squeezing his hand gently.
Jones flicked his eyes up to meet Dan’s gaze. Dan lifted his head and fondly looked back at him, a warm smile forming on his lips. Jones grinned back, sliding closer to Dan and burying himself under the larger man’s outstretched arm, resting his head on his shoulder.
The two men sat in silent intimacy. Jones knew that everything would be OK.
The café radio played a pop hit from the 1980’s. Dan held a newspaper in one hand, silently absorbed by the headlines, and lifted his cigarette to his lips. Jones brought his legs up from beneath the table and stretched them out across the neighbouring plastic seat, leaning his back against the wall of the café. He twitched his feet in a mildly agitated fashion and glanced about at the other diners. An elderly woman supped at her tea and stared into the middle distance. A younger Barley-style couple chatted exuberantly over Zappucinos about a club they had been to the previous evening. A guy in a suit stood at the counter and ordered black coffee and a panini to go.
Nobody would take any notice if they just held hands for a minute, would they?
The waitress brought over their breakfast, placing two plates and cutlery on the table – egg on toast for two. Dan glanced up at her, said “thank you”, folded his newspaper and laid it flat on the table. Jones twisted back round to face the table and drummed his hands on the edge of it. He watched Dan pick up the salt-shaker and then tip it over; he allowed some of the contents to fall into the palm of his hand, which he then sprinkled across his food. Dan always did this.
Jones decided that if Dan passed the salt-shaker to him, then he would know Dan loved him.
Dan placed the salt-shaker on the table next to Jones plate, and then took up his knife and fork, attacking the corner of a slice of toast. Jones heart sank. He could barely look at Dan. He suddenly didn’t feel hungry, slumping backwards into his seat, staring at the ketchup bottle.
Dan sniffed and continued eating. Then he cleared his throat and spoke in a low voice, just audible above the strains of Kajagoogoo.
“I do love you, you know.”
Jones jerked his head upwards, eyes wide. Did Dan say what he thought he just heard?
Dan held his knife and fork upright, resting his hands either side of his plate. He looked at Jones in amusement and gave a snort.
“What!? Eat your breakfast, you soppy tart.”
Jones felt a warm glow expand rapidly across his chest. Not even the best techno in the world had ever made him feel this happy. He suspected he had never grinned this wide in his life.
Maybe it didn’t matter if Dan didn’t want to hold hands in public.