The Awakening
Written by Beth

He's flushed, and the blush has crept over the lovely bones of his face and down the length of his throat. I'm sitting right next to him, closer than ever before, and he knows it and it scares him, but he hasn't made a move to stop me. I smile gently (I hope), and slowly move in again, lightly running my hand over his chest, his shoulders. Slow, slow, and then slower--it's become my mantra these past few weeks.

He's breathing rapidly and I rest my hand on his chest, watch it rise and fall in a regular rhythm. I have not actually seen his chest, or any part of his long and lithe body except for hands, wrists, neck, and face. He keeps himself carefully covered and I've respected that. I've never once tried to get him to unveil himself to me, even though the waiting is killing me.

One of the things I've learned over these past weeks, and you can certainly laugh at me if you want, is that wrists and hands and fingers and necks can be quite erotic. I have an intimate and privileged knowledge of his hands now, of the creases in his palms, the soft skin between his fingers, the swell of each fingertip. I've traced his love line and his life line, first with my fingers and then, later, with my tongue. I know that if I take one of his hands and press it to my mouth or lightly run it over my face, he'll tremble, and then lower his eyes a fraction to look at me through eyelashes. Each of these discoveries has been momentous, each one a gift that he sweetly and awkwardly gives to me.

It's not that I couldn't pick up the pace. In fact, I'm now reasonably confident that I could get him into my bed tonight, or any night. A few gestures, some carefully spoken words, and a certain . . . persistence would make him mine. But I've chosen not to do that--not yet, anyway. Awakening should be a deliberate process.

I want to watch as he discovers his own desire, as he becomes aware of each new sensation that travels through his body. I want him to rediscover his body a million times and in a million small ways, always conscious that I'm the one giving him these feelings.

You see now why I usually have the good sense to steer clear of straight men, even the bicurious ones. These discoveries I'm rhapsodizing about do not come quickly or easily, if at all. It's even harder for a man like Tim, schooled as he was in the ultramasculine world of high school sports, SWAT teams, and law enforcement. I still wonder what clicked in his brain the day he agreed to go out with me; I wonder what in his life could possibly have given him the incentive to break the social laws that constructed him. But then I wonder this about all of us sometimes.

Let me recap. I'm sitting next to a charmingly flushed Tim Bayliss on the couch in my living room and I've just put a hand on his chest. I'm waiting and watching his incredibly expressive face to see if he's ready for what I'm going to do next. A moment passes and he looks at me expectantly. A green light: I go on. Slow, slow, and slower, my fingers climb up his chest and come to rest on the knot of his tie. I loosen it carefully, enjoying the feel of the silk on my fingers, enjoying watching him swallow. I pause for a breath or two before, god help me, unbuttoning the first two buttons of his shirt.

The very first thing I want to do is to press my lips to the hollow at the base of his throat, but I hold back for a moment. I look into his eyes for a second, then at long last let myself touch lips to his heated skin, breathe in his fear and his pleasure. I stiffen a little myself when Tim slowly runs his own hand over my back, then murmur into his skin to let him know that I like it. He enjoys having his neck and throat kissed and slowly tilts his head back a little to expose my mouth and fingers to places they've not yet been. I spend long, wonderful moments like this until I strike the jackpot--I get a small, strangled moan out of him, and then a more confident one from deep in his throat.

I move up and press my open mouth to his. He sweetly parts his lips when I nudge with my tongue, then opens himself up to me. This is the deepest kiss we've ever had and I make the most of it, stroking his tongue with mine for a while, gently coaxing. Jesus--he's so incredibly hot under me.

I draw back just a fraction to take stock, and he follows me, mouth searching for mine. Oh Tim. I kiss him even more intensely this time, begin to slowly plunge my tongue inside his velvety mouth. Not too deep and not too hard, but the message is unmistakable. I want to fuck him. Tim moans again, and bells go off in my head. He's thinking about it too and it turns him on. Another milestone reached.

I am starting to lose a little of my control now, but I'm giddy enough that I don't care. This is usually how our evenings end--I'll get too intense and scare him, and he'll go rigid. It's interesting the type of things that have spooked him; he's come such a long way. One night early on, all it took was a tongue in the palm of his hand. Thank god he's over that.

I softly kiss his neck again, move my hand to his throat, then slip down to undo one more button on his shirt. I want to touch his collar bones, so I move there first, my fingers lightly tracing the hard curved line they make underneath his skin.

And he doesn't stop me, and so I go on. Two more buttons, and then my hands are all the way inside his shirt and on his chest. I'm absolutely certain that he'll panic soon, and so I'm fast and sure like I would be with an experienced lover. I find his nipples, I marvel. Wide and dark and beautiful, and I rub thumbs over them until they erect for me.

It's when I'm lowering my head to suckle that Tim implodes, coughing to get my attention and putting hands on my shoulders to push me away if need be.

But it won't need be, because I gallantly pull back and look calmly at him, waiting.

"Uh, it's getting kind of late," he says. "I should get going."

I nod, then carefully move away, giving him space. He buttons the last two buttons of his shirt, the ones that gave me leave to frighten him, then stands up.

"It's been a wonderful evening," I say, standing myself.

"Yeah. I enjoyed myself very much. And I wanted to say, Chris-- I just wanted to say that I greatly appreciate--"

He breaks off, embarrassed.

"I want to see you again soon," I tell him, not bothering to hide the intensity in my voice.

He looks so awkward and so pleased, with his hair rumpled and his mouth still swollen from my kisses.

"Sure," he says. "Uh--this weekend?"

Three days away. I can wait. "Great. How about Saturday?"


I'm three hours late when I finally knock on Chris's door, and I'm more than a little worried that he'll be mad at me. But when he lets me in, he just smiles and says, "Caught at work again, huh? Thanks for calling to let me know."

I'm shedding my coat and grimacing a little as I look down at myself. I look like a cop, of course, in my rubber-soled shoes and my only-okay-fitting suit. That suit looked a lot better this morning, before my twelve-hour shift miraculously turned into a fifteen-hour shift as another body rolled in at mid-day. There's not a damn thing I can do about the way I look now, though, so fuck it.

"It's good to see you," I say.

"You too," Chris replies, and I draw in my breath a little because he's moving very close, his eyes purposeful. We kiss, and I'm amazed, as usual, by the sheer strength of my response, the way that Chris can make me feel so powerful and so weak all at once.

Chris's arms snake around me and I let him pull me close, sighing as the by-now familiar riot of emotions starts to consume me. I'm frightened, excited, and uncomfortable all at once.

Why is this so damned hard for me? Why can't I just relax once and for all and let myself find out what it would be like to get close to Chris? I thought that closeness was exactly what I wanted, which is why it's so damned frustrating that I haven't been able to see this through. I can't even begin to imagine how Chris must be feeling.

He, of course, has been nothing but gentle and kind to me. Each time I look at him I can practically see the goodness in his eyes. But recently there's also been hunger in them, and that's something else altogether. I'm not in this alone--there are things that Chris wants, too. And Chris isn't a choir boy--he's not just my buddy or my partner. He wants me physically, certainly--he's made no secret of that--but I'm now beginning to realize that he wants an emotional commitment from me as well. I can't leave us hanging like this for much longer. Chris's touch, his kisses, his body, are driving me crazy, and I know full well that I'm not going to be resisting him much longer.

"Tim . . . Tim!"

I'm jerked back into the moment. Chris is still extremely close and our bodies are still pressed tight, but he's looking at me with a good deal of amusement.

"Come back to earth, okay?" he teases. "When I kiss a man, I want him in the same room with me."

"God--I'm sorry," I say. "I was--uh, I lost myself there."

He shakes his head, smiles a little, then leans in and begins to plant a row of kisses on my jaw.

"Is this a comment of some sort on my technique? I'm boring you a little?" he asks, his breath hot against my skin.

"No! God, no," I say unsteadily as his mouth reaches my ear, his tongue flickering on the earlobe. I can feel myself start to tremble, and I lock arms around his waist.

"Mm. So I have your attention, now? You're with me again, Tim?"

I sigh. "Yes. Yes, Chris."

He covers my mouth with his and strokes the roof of my mouth with his tongue. It's so good.

I've been starting to get mad at myself for slowing us down too much. When I staggered out of his house the other night, so turned on I thought I would explode, I thought, This is enough, you idiot. Let go.

And so I resolved that I would no longer accept the well-meaning escape lines that he's been feeding me. "We don't have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable"--if I have to hear that one more time, I'll snap.

I'm proving all of this to myself right now by bringing my body close to Chris's, enjoying the angles and curves of him as his tongue nudges mine. When Chris slides hands under my suit coat, I sigh, leaning into the warmth and pressure of his touch. I'm psyching myself up, preparing mentally. I'm not gonna panic, I'm not going to break off in fear.

Which makes it pretty funny when Chris himself stiffens, starts, and then quickly steps back, laughing a little.

"What? What?" I ask, immediately starting to pull him to me again.

"You're armed, detective," Chris murmurs, moving a hand to the badge at my waist and gently tracing it. "Why don't you take off the gun and badge and stay a while?"

I stare blankly at him for a minute and then say "Oh!" when his request finally registers. "I'm sorry about that. I came straight from work and I didn't have time-- "

Chris smiles as he watches me strip off holster and badge.

"There. I'm a civilian again now. See?" I head to a small table in the front hallway and put the gun and badge down.

Chris follows me, then bends over a little and scrutinizes the gun, his gray eyes wide. I have to stifle a smile. He looks for all the world like a little boy.

"Maybe we should put it in a drawer," he suggests.

"Why?" I ask, genuinely curious. In my own house the gun usually sits right on the kitchen counter.

"I don't know," he says, straightening up and then wrinkling his brow. "It just doesn't seem right to have a deadly weapon out in the open like that."

"Deadly weapon?" I look carefully at him, try to remember that he's not a cop and that he doesn't live in my world. "So guns make you a little nervous, huh?"

Chris shrugs a little, looking somewhat bashful. "I don't know. I guess that they do."

"Have you had a bad experience with a gun?" I cautiously ask, and he quickly shakes his head.

"Oh no. Nothing like that."

I nod at him, try to think of what to say, and come up blank. "And you want me to put it in a drawer."

Chris reaches out, touches my chest for a moment. "No, no," he says, and smiles. "Forget I said that."

I take his hand in mine, speak softly and sincerely. "Okay, but you still seem a little unsettled, you know? I'm trying to figure out what it is that you're thinking, Chris, and I'm not coming up with much. You, uh, wanna help me out here?"

"Do you like guns?" he asks.

At least his tone of voice isn't judgmental. I pause for a moment, then begin to answer. "Uh . . . yeah. I do," I say a little uncomfortably, and then rush on to clarify for him. You never know how people are going to react to a statement like that, and I don't want him to think I'm best friends with Charlton Heston or something.

"Not in a kill 'em cowboy kind of way, okay? I have no desire to hurt anyone. See . . . the thing is, I'm a really good shot," I say. "At the range, with the headphones on, aiming at a piece of paper or some other nonliving target. I *like* being good at that, and I like the . . . the concentration and the centeredness and the focus that goes into sharp shooting. It's an incredible feeling--it really is. But it has nothing to do with hurting people."

"I didn't mean to imply *that,*" he quickly answers, his face troubled. "I know that you don't buy into all that macho crap."

I nod at him, but wonder a little inside. In a lot of ways, I'm afraid that I do.

"I was just curious, I guess," Chris goes on. "I mean, I've known people who've had guns for protection or whatever, and I can remember watching my grandfather coming back from hunting trips. It's just that personally, I've never had a gun in my house."

"Well, then maybe you should take closer look at mine," I say. "To get over some of the uneasiness. What do you think?"

"Hmm," he replies, looking down at his feet and aimlessly drawing a pattern on the hard wood floor with his toe. I try to stay silent to let him think. It's not easy, because a torrent of words is pressing down on me and I'm dying to break the silence. I bite down on my lower lip to keep my mouth shut.

A minute later, Chris lifts his head and meets my eyes, and I smile because I can practically feel the curiosity and temptation streaming out of him.

"Okay," he says, reluctance and interest at war in his voice. "Okay. Yeah."

I bend over, grab the .38, and carefully remove the clip. Suddenly, an image of Robert Ellison sitting on a swingset at the station, his face wracked by grief, comes to mind. He'd seemed to think that by holding my gun he'd be able to understand something about the kid who'd killed his wife, or maybe about violence in general. I hadn't had the heart to tell him otherwise. I wonder what it is that Chris is seeking to learn right now, and I wonder whether I should be encouraging it.

"It's not loaded," I tell Chris, gripping my weapon by the barrel and slowly offering it to him.

Chris steps closer to me, his eyes riveted on the gun.

"It's okay, Chris. We're perfectly safe." Jesus. I feel like I'm corrupting an innocent.

"I know, I know," he says almost impatiently. "Just give me a minute, okay? I mean, I'm not *scared* to do it or anything. It's just--I don't know." He laughs, runs a hand through his hair, and groans a little. "I'm making no sense Sorry."

I lean over, kiss him on the cheek. I've never seen him so undecided, and I've certainly never seen him this incoherent. Whatever it is, this feeling he has about firearms, I'm oddly glad that I'm getting to see it. It makes me feel good to be in a position to reassure him.

"Look, Chris. If you're feeling unsure, then let's forget the whole thing," I say, slowly putting the gun back down. "The last thing I want to do is force you. You don't have to do anything that you don't want to if it makes you uncomfortable."

My last sentence hangs heavy in the air, then seems to echo endlessly throughout the room. We lock eyes for just a second, electricity and deep amusement in Chris's, near-hysteria in mine, I imagine. Consciously or not, I've just done a killer imitation of Chris's reassuring bedroom voice.

"I am so--" I start, mortified, and then break off as a guffaw rips through me. Chris starts in too, and for a wonderful moment, the only thing I can hear is laughter. It feels so damned good.

Chris finally regains control and wipes his eyes, then says, "Okay, Tim. You're right. No need to rush into things." Then he chuckles once more before saying, "Maybe I'll hold your gun another time, okay?"

Snickering a little, I say, "Really--I am sorry. I didn't mean to say that . . . or to imitate you." Then I grow more serious. "Like I tried to tell you the last time we were together, I've greatly appreciated the fact that you've been so . . . accommodating with me.

"It's okay, Tim. It really is." He gives me an enigmatic look. "Actually I'm kind of glad this happened. Because if you've heard my little speech enough times to have memorized it so beautifully, then we don't need it any more, right?"

"Right," I agree. That sounds good.

"And if *that's* the case, well then maybe- -and I want you to tell me if I'm wrong, okay?--maybe you're ready to pick up the pace a little bit. Physically." He looks straight at me.

Jesus. I'm starting to get uncomfortable, to blush, but I say it. "I think I might be."

He smiles. "Maybe we'll see tonight," he says, his voice a little lower than usual and his eyes meeting mine for a split second. Suddenly, I'm speechless.

And then, without warning, Chris switches gears. "Look--maybe we should get something to eat."

I nod, trying to regain control and to look as smooth as he does. "I imagine we've lost our dinner reservations," I manage to say.

He grins. "Yeah. Actually, when you called to say you'd be late, I took the liberty of cooking something."

I sniff the air: it smells delicious. I can't believe I didn't notice before.

"Great," I say enthusiastically, but think *Please don't let it be weird.* I don't mean to sound cruel; it's just that the other day we had a conversation about our favorite foods, and I hadn't even *heard* of some of the things on his list. I mean, what the hell is a bourride? And I'm generally a pretty open-minded person. But right now I'm tired, and I've just worked a fifteen-hour day, and all I want to do is sit down in front of something solid and filling. Meatloaf, maybe, with mashed potatoes.

But you know, it really is very nice of Chris to have done this, and he looks particularly attractive right now with that expectant look on his face.

And so I follow him into his kitchen. Chris's kitchen--how to explain it? A lot larger than my living room, for one thing, and full of gleaming steel appliances. Very industrial looking at first, until you notice the warm color of the tile on the counter (tile that he got cheap in Italy, he says), the bookshelves full of cookbooks, the herbs that grow on the windowsill. Tons of counter space, pots and pans hanging everywhere, and a butcher block in the middle of the room. Finally, a small oak table, which is now neatly set for two. Some day I'm going to watch Chris cook--I'm dying to know what he's like when he's working in here.

"Have a seat," he says warmly, opening a bottle of wine for us.

"So, what are we having?" I gamely ask.

He pours me some wine. "You'll see. Just wait a minute."

He takes my plate and heads for the counter. "You can start on the salad," he tells me, and I do. I'm starving.

"Okay . . . " he says a little nervously, standing behind me. "Here it is."

I look down at the dish he sets in front of me and grin like a fool. It's homemade macaroni and cheese.

"Oh, Chris. This is great," I say.

"I fiddled a little with some of the cheeses in it, but I think you should like it," he says, and sits down across from me.

It smells wonderful, and I can't wait to dig in, but I notice that Chris hasn't given any to himself.

"What about you?" I ask.

"I already had something," he says. "So go ahead, Tim. Eat up."


What I didn't say is "I haven't had macaroni and cheese in about ten years, but I'm dying to watch *you* eat it." And I am. I'm so looking forward to seeing the expression on his face when he puts the food that I made for him inside his body.

It's such a cliché for someone who owns a restaurant, but I can't help it--I get off on watching people eat food I've prepared specially for them. I love the notion that the fruits of my labor, something I've thought about and worried over and sometimes literally thrust my hands into, will bring pleasure, give energy and sustenance. And Tim looks haggard and drawn tonight. I want to see him rejuvenated by my handiwork.

The first few bites are the best. He fiddles a little with the fork, blows the steam off of the food he balances on it, and I'm in love. His lips part, he takes a bite, and he chews, lets the flavor spread across his tongue.

Then the payoff. "Oh," he says. "Ohhh. This is so good." His voice is completely sensual, and I lower my eyes a little to hide the embarrassingly intense wave of pride and desire that breaks over me. What I wouldn't give to hear him to do that in another context.

"I'm glad you like it." I rest my chin on my hand and continue to watch, although not obviously enough to make him self-conscious. Besides, he's probably too hungry to notice me. I'm glad that he doesn't shovel the food into his mouth, that he takes time to chew, to savor, to appreciate. Food should be treated with respect, and I'm infinitely relieved to see that Tim understands this.

He eats two big helpings and leaves the plate clean afterward.

"That was perfect," he says, stretching a little. My eyes are locked on him as he sighs and unfolds his long limbs into a catlike stretch. I shift my gaze to his stomach, then look away quickly as I'm seized by a desire so incredibly odd that I almost laugh out loud. What the hell is *with* me? I think he's making me crazy.

"Shall we go have a drink in the living room?" I ask, and Tim nods, stands, and begins to clear the table. Such nice manners.

In a flash, I'm behind him, pressing into him. "You don't have to do that," I say, my voice thick, and then I let myself do it. I slide hands gently, carefully over his stomach. It's ever so slightly distended, protruding gently. God--why does this excite me so much? We must look like an expecting couple--Tim pregnant and I the proud father.

I don't care, though. I want to hold him like this forever, to keep hands quite literally on the evidence that Tim can and will let me inside him. In some way.

"I ate a lot," Tim says, a moment later, his voice a little uncertain. But he's patient. He doesn't panic or grow tense; he lets me continue my strange embrace, and I'm infinitely grateful for his kindness.

I rest my head on his shoulder. "I can feel it," I say.

"You, uh, don't do this to people in your restaurant, do you?" he teases.

"I don't want to do it to them," I say into his ear. "I usually haven't cooked for them, and I'm sure that none of them is so beautiful when they eat my food."

He laughs a little. I enjoy the vibrations of it through my hands. After a while longer, I reluctantly release him, then grab the wine and our glasses. We head into the living room.

Now we're on my couch again, the place we always begin. I look over at him as he drinks, watch the light reflecting off his glasses, and feel almost ridiculously happy.


Okay. So he wanted to hold my stomach. You know, that's weird, that's certifiably weird. Not normal, not run of the mill, not something that people do to each other. So how come I'm not upset? And if I'm not upset, does that make me weird, too? Probably--because I liked it.

It was something in the way he did it. Gentle and tender and . . . very kind. Almost reverent, actually. And I'm thinking, Jesus, this guy is--is really thrilled with me, and all I did was eat his food.

It felt good. It felt good to make him happy, felt good to know that he wasn't afraid to hide it. What a strange man. He looks so incredible tonight, all in black and with those gray eyes shining at me. He cooked for me, cooked something that he knew I loved, and then he got excited watching me eat it. Yes, I noticed, just like I noticed him watching me on that first strained night at the Zodiac. He thinks he's being unobtrusive, but I can feel the interest pouring out of him.

We're talking right now. We're having a half-assed conversation about the weather, the crime rate, movies we want to see. This is what we do--this is how we slowly build up to the first kiss of the night. At first I was so nervous each time that I could barely sit still. Now I'm more relaxed, excited, even, by our little game.

It's usually Chris who gets us started, of course. He'll take my hand, or move closer to me, or simply whisper, "I'm going to kiss you now." And my job is to get tense for a second before gradually relaxing and melting into him. Sometimes the line--the line I don't want to hear ever again--is spoken, sometimes not. It all depends.

What if *I* make the first move tonight? I mean, given the conversation we just had, it'd be the perfect way to show him how ready I am, how far I've come.

What am I ready *for,* you ask? I'm not quite sure, but I think it's time to find out.

When I reach over and gently run fingers over the nape of his neck, Chris's eyes go wide with surprise for a moment and he breaks off in mid-sentence. All the better for me, because it's now much easier to pull him close and settle my mouth on his. Chris and I share a couple of light kisses before he reaches up and removes my glasses, neatly setting them on the coffee table. Then our lips meet again. I feel Chris start a little when he feels my tongue slide deep into his mouth, and somehow this moment of hesitation intoxicates me. Something about the thrill of taking someone by surprise. And I'm surprising the hell out of him, I can tell. It's a good feeling.

I run my hands over his back, his shoulders, his arms, and then get frustrated because I can't feel his skin, because I haven't even seen his chest yet. What have I been *thinking* these past weeks--why haven't I taken more interest in him? I've been so wrapped up in my own anxieties that I forgot that I was attracted to him in the first place.

He's responding to my touches: I can feel him quiver under his sweater, can tell that his breathing is getting faster. It's intoxicating, and I want more. When I move hands to his waist and slowly work them under his sweater, Chris reaches down and pulls the material away from his abdomen, trying to give me better access to him. Soft skin, and warm. His chest is well defined. I kiss his neck, breathe in the cologne he wears, and let my fingers find his nipples. Chris groans when I capture them under my thumbs, then softly breathes my name. His voice sends a tremor through me, and I decide at that moment that he really needs to lose the sweater. I grab the hem and slowly lift it a few inches.

"Okay?" I ask softly, and Chris laughs out loud.

"Yes, Tim. It's okay," he says, still chuckling a little as he helps me to pull off the garment in question.

And wow. He's just really handsome. I kiss his shoulders and run hands over his back again, but this time I can feel him tremble first-hand. And I touch his arms, his biceps, his elbows, for god's sake. There's so much of him to enjoy.

Finally, I push him back a little so I can run my tongue over his nipples. He presses eagerly into me when I take them into my mouth, sinks fingers into my hair. He's wonderful.

When I raise my head to kiss his mouth again, Chris neatly reaches behind me and yanks my shirt out of my pants, and I sense that the balance of power is about to shift. Soon I have teasing hands dancing all over my back, and then my chest, and Chris is sitting up straight now, a determined look in his eyes. He unknots my tie, then swiftly undoes the buttons of my shirt, helping me to shrug out of it. Then he pulls me close to him for a very long kiss. It's incredible to feel his bare chest brushing against mine, to let him gently ease me down into the cushions of the couch. We scramble around for just a second, and then lightning strikes as Chris neatly positions himself on top of me.

"Oh *god,*" I say in amazement as his erection presses against mine through our clothes. Chris murmurs something--I can't hear exactly what--and then begins to rock his hips into mine. I cry out again--the friction is so goddamned good. I'm hardly thinking when I move hands to the waistband of his pants and start to unbutton them. Chris starts kissing me so earnestly and so sweetly that I can't see any more, though, so I try something else. I run my hand over the bulge in his pants and squeeze.

Chris reaches down, catches my hand, and looks hard at me. "Let's go upstairs," he says, and slowly stands, pulling me up with him. I grab my glasses and follow.


"Ohhh," he says, his face desperately begging me not to stop.

I have a treasure of immense value in my hand. I run fingers reverently over it, use my thumb to caress the swollen cap, to smooth over the hot, taut skin, to make him cry out. As I tease more, Tim thrusts into me, whispers, "Please, please."

He has the most beautiful cock I've ever seen, he makes the most wonderful noises I've ever heard, and he has the most lovely orgasm in the world when I at long last grip him hard and jerk him off like he wants me to. I'm laughing softly in delight and admiration as he holds me tight, blessing me with kisses and incoherent thank yous. At last, at last, Tim.

I reach down and dip fingers into his semen, then brush them on my tongue. One day soon, I'm going to make him come inside my mouth.

I lie on my back and watch him out of the corner of my eye. His eyes are shut and he's still breathing hard. I wonder what he'll do next. Half of me is already preparing for the disappointment of having him roll over and fall asleep; the other half is constructing reassuring sentences to feed to him when he tells me he's just not ready to touch me like that. I wait.

A minute goes by, and then he finally moves, propping himself up on an elbow and looking down at me. I search his eyes, then smile as I see the warmth and affection in them. I open my mouth to tell him how lovely he just was, but Tim quickly presses a hand to my lips.

"Don't say anything," he firmly tells me, and then slowly runs his hand down the side of my neck, over the length of my body, and down to my erection. I close my eyes, in heaven and hell at once as he sweetly fumbles a little, trying to figure out how I like to be touched.

"Now--tell me what you like. I want to make you feel good," he murmurs very seriously. It's completely and utterly endearing.

"I'm very close," I quietly say. "Touch hard."

"Mmmm," he replies, kissing me, and then begins. And it's so, so good to have his strong hand wrapped tight around me, powerfully moving up and down.

"Tim," I moan, because I want to say his name. "Oh god."

Tim moves back slightly and watches my face. I'm starting to lose it now, beginning to shake and to press urgently into him, begging for deliverance.

"You are so gorgeous," he says, and then grips harder than ever, his hand moving up and down like lightning. And I raise my body up a little and come, gasping for breath and trying frantically to escape his still-moving hand.

Tim finally lets go and I fall back, exhausted and sated. He reaches out to me and pulls me close into an embrace. So perfect, our arms around each other, my stomach pressing into his, our mouths meeting tenderly. This is the heartbreaking kind of kissing--so gentle, both of us so vulnerable, so close, so open.

I want it to last forever, want us to last forever. God help me--I think I could fall in love with him.


Chris has fallen asleep with his arm around me, but I can't drift off, not yet. I'm still too full of what we just did here in his bed. I went to bed with a man--I kissed him and touched him and came all over him. The thought alone is enough to make me start shaking again. I can't believe how good Chris made me feel, can't believe how shattering his touch is, can't believe how incredibly eager I am to have his hands on me again. My eyes are getting used to the dark in the room now, and I gaze at his face, his full mouth, at the dark nipples on his pale chest. He's so beautiful and so very, very talented in bed. I mean, all he did was take me into his hand and it drove me over the edge. And the best thing is that I know he's still holding back, still being careful and gentle with me. I shiver a little as I think of that. What would Chris be like at full force?

I wake up first the next morning, probably because it's an unfamiliar bed and definitely because I'm excited to be there. Chris is sleeping on his stomach with his head turned away from me. I lightly touch his back, gently sliding my hand over his skin. He's pretty muscular--I think he must work out. Although we're about the same height (I have a couple of inches on him), we actually have very different bodies. I'm much more on the skinny side, too long and too thin. Chris has the more classic physique: wide shoulders, muscled arms, hard stomach. Maybe I should start working out myself. Running and swimming keep me fit, but I just don't have the sort of beauty that Chris does. Not that he complained, though. I think of how he looked when he first saw me naked, hear in my mind his hoarsely whispered endearments, and smile. I'm probably okay as I am.

I didn't really get to see much of his room last night, and so now I slip on my glasses to take a look around. It's a lot like him: neat, spare, and elegant. Simple furniture, most of it in the same light wood: a chest of drawers, a wardrobe. Not many ornaments or knick-knacks, I'm glad to see, just a strange sculpture, a couple of plants. And on the wall, a huge painting, with the paint so thick on it that you can see almost each individual brushstroke. I gingerly get out of the bed, careful not to disturb him, and take a closer look. It's abstract, not a representation of anything so much as an experiment in texture and color. Hey--that sounds good. I'll have to remember to say it to him when he gets up. The paints are dark blues, black, and some sort of gray, and the whole canvass is so vivid that I want to touch it. I actually reach my hand out to do so, but stop myself. He could have paid a ton for this thing and I don't want to ruin it.

In the corner of the room is a big and comfortable-looking leather chair; beside it stands a reading lamp. I walk quietly over to the bookcases that line the wall behind the chair and check out his collection. Lots of things by a someone named M. F. K. Fisher; I pull a volume out and learn that she's a food writer. Makes sense. He's also got a bunch of novels: Jane Austen, Pat Barker, Don DeLillo, George Eliot . . . and I grin as I realize that he's neatly alphabetized them. I can relate to that.

The next bookcase is less organized; I wonder if these are the books he uses more often. Scattered names catch my eye: Montaigne, Crane, Whitman, Kosofsky Sedgwick. And on the bottom shelf, at the end, *The Joy of Gay Sex.* I can feel my face get red and avert my eyes, reaching almost blindly to pull out another book, any book. The one I get is called *The Selected Poems of Frank O'Hara,* and I blanch a little when I look at the cover. It features a messily rendered drawing of a very naked man wearing heavy black boots. Jesus, Chris. Your bookcase is a minefield. I open the cover and start to flip through the book. It falls open to one particular page. A poem is circled, and someone has written on it: "To my dearest Chris, with deepest love. Bill, April 1992." April--Chris's birthday? An anniversary for him and "Bill"? I'm really not one for poetry, but I decide to read this one, even though it makes me feel something like a voyeur.

It's called, imaginatively enough, "Poem," and I sigh. Stupid literary pretentiousness. But then I read it.

Light clarity avocado salad in the morning
after all the terrible things I do how amazing it is
to find forgiveness and love not even forgiveness
since what is done is done and forgiveness isn't love
and love is love nothing can ever go wrong
though things can get irritating boring and indispensable
(in the imagination) but not really for love
though a block away you feel distant the mere presence
changes everything like a chemical dropped on paper
and all thoughts disappear in a strange quiet excitement
I am sure of nothing but this, intensified by breathing

It's a love poem, and one even I can understand, although this Frank O'Hara person could stand to use a little punctuation. The words are simple and beautiful, and I glance carefully over at Chris. Whoever this Bill is, he definitely loved you, I think, then put the book back.

God--I really don't know Chris at all yet. He has a history, a whole life of past experiences and past lovers. He could have another lover right now, for all I know. This line of thinking is stupid, but I can't help it. I'm suddenly jealous, and hungry--hungry to know more about him, to be a part of his life, to be important to him.

I get back into bed and move close to him, hoping that physical proximity will start to block out this ridiculous anxiety and neediness. He's on his side now, still not facing me, and I slide an arm around his waist, begin to caress his chest. It's not enough: I want to wake him, to look into his eyes and see myself in them. I press closer still and begin to kiss his scalp, his hair, breathing in the light smell of shampoo. He's so warm, so languid and open, and I moan a little into his ear as I feel myself grow hard, start to ache.

After a few seconds, I feel him stir, murmur hello in a low, amused voice. He sighs a little and stretches, and I breathe in deeply as I feel his body extend against mine. Finally, Chris rolls over and faces me, his eyes drowsy and bright at the same time. I move in and kiss him urgently, imploring him with lips and tongue to give himself to me. Maybe he stores his secrets under his tongue, or in the small of his back. I settle my hands there and pull his body against mine; we groan together as erection meets erection.

"Tim," Chris says softly, and something clicks deep inside of me. Yes, yes. I need to hear him say it.

He's fully awake now, and I sigh in delight as he begins to move hands over my chest, to kiss my neck, my nipples. When he pushes me flat onto my back and moves on top of me, I spread my legs as if I've done this a hundred times before, then cry out as he begins to stroke my cock with his. The friction is too perfect, so intimate, and I know that I'm not going to last long.

I gaze up at him and he leans over to kiss me, his hips still working but his movements getting sloppier and more frenzied as we near orgasm. He buries his face in my neck.

"Say my name," I beg, my voice equal parts sound and breath. "Please, Chris--say my name."

He moves lips to my ear and sucks my earlobe, then starts. "Tim," he murmurs, his voice deep and vibrant. "Tim, Tim, Tim. I'm going to make you come all over me, Tim." And as he talks, I begin to buck my hips into his, and now the pressure between us is entirely too exquisite and I let go, groaning into his skin and doing exactly what he predicted. A minute later and he shudders too, his semen joining mine on our bellies. We lie together for quite a while. I hold him fast to me and close my eyes, trying to lock this moment into memory.

Finally Chris lifts his head and glances at the clock on the bedside table. "It's 7:30," he says. "You have to be at work soon, right?"

"Right," I answer, but don't let go. Just a minute longer . . .


Sunday evening, midnight. I'm sitting alone on my couch, exhausted. We were short- staffed at the Zodiac tonight and I ended up working in the kitchen, which always tires me out. We pulled in a pretty good crowd --about the usual for a Sunday dinner. However, it seemed to me that the orders came in a lot faster than they used to. I'd gotten out of practice, out of the rhythm, and that pissed me off. I could see the rest of the kitchen staff getting impatient, waiting for me to keep up my end of things.

I mean, I wanted my restaurant to be this way-- I wanted to become the concept man who plans the menu but leaves the food preparation to the staff. It's more important to me to be out on the floor running things, giving the waiters and waitresses a hand and generally troubleshooting. But tonight I feel nostalgic for the old kitchen days.

Thank god we're closed tomorrow--I need a break. I yawn and stretch a little, then lie down on the couch, close my eyes.

When the doorbell rings, I want to ignore it. I'm exhausted, and I'm really don't want to talk to anyone fool enough to bother me this late on a Sunday. I go to the door nonetheless. I mean, I suppose that it could be an emergency or something.

I look out the window and see Tim, of all people, standing on my porch and looking about as tired as I am.

"Hey," I say warmly, opening the door and stepping back to let him in.

"I'm sorry I didn't call," he says quickly.

"It's okay," I answer.

Tim hugs me tightly, kisses me, and then says, "Uh . . . I came over because I wanted to talk to you about something.

Fuck. He's going to break it off. I feel myself stiffen, start to prepare for the fumbling lines he'll probably give me.

"Why don't we sit down," I suggest. "You want a drink?"

Tim pulls off his overcoat, hangs it up. "I'll take a glass of wine," he says.

We go into the kitchen and he watches me pour.

"Where do you want to talk?" I ask. The couch is always nice for a breakup, but I think I'd prefer the kitchen table.

"Uh . . .how about in here," he says, and we sit down in the kitchen.

"What is it, Tim?" I ask, unable to wait much longer.

"Okay." He runs a hand through his hair, pushes up his glasses. "I woke up before you did this morning," he tells me.

"I remember," I tease, and there's a small pause as he reddens a little.

"Yeah," he finally gets out, then exhales. "So when I was up, I looked at some of your books. Uh . . . that's okay with you, I hope."

"It's fine, Tim. I don't mind at all."

Maybe I was wrong about him breaking things off. I mean, if this is a breakup speech, it's definitely the worst one in the world.

Tim reaches across the table, takes my hand in his, and then continues. "So when I was up, I happened to--I looked at a book of poems by some guy, uh Fred O'Hara, I think."

"Frank," I say. "Frank O'Hara." Christ. Now I think I know where he's going.

"And there was a note to you written on one of the pages. It was from some guy named Bill."

"Bill was an old lover of mine," I say very calmly. "He gave that book to me as an anniversary gift a while back."

Tim nods, squeezes my hand a little, and then says, "Okay. Uh, so I have to ask you this. Is Bill still special in your life? Is he someone you see from time to time, or--"

"Not any more," I answer firmly. "I'm interested in someone else right now."

Another silence, and then Tim laughs a little. Very charming.

"Umm, so when did you and Bill break up?" Always curious--that's Tim.

I take a deep breath. "We didn't exactly break up. You see . . . Bill died in 1992, a few months after he gave me the book you found. That was the end of our relationship."

Tim gives me a look so deeply sympathetic that it almost hurts me to meet his eyes. I know how important it is for me not to cry right now--I mean, you don't weep for your old lover when you're trying to connect with a new one--and so I look away until I'm feeling steady again.

"How did he die?" Tim softly asks.

"Stomach cancer. It, uh, had metastasized by the time the doctors found it."

Tim shakes his head. "I'm so sorry, Chris," he murmurs.

"It's okay. It's okay. I mean . . . sometimes it still affects me--I'm not going to lie about that. But for the most part, I've been able to move on."

He looks down at our hands--they're still entwined--and then says, "I shouldn't have come here, shouldn't have bothered you like this."

"I'm glad you did," I say. "I think it's good for us to talk."

Tim bites his lower lip for a moment, then starts to speak. "All day I've been thinking about you, Chris, and feeling just--just really close to you."

My god.

"The same goes for me," I tell him.

Tim smiles a little. "It was really good, huh? Last night."

"Really good," I repeat, grinning.

He takes a swallow of wine, liquid courage, and then starts to talk again.

"I think I . . . I think I'm starting to, you know, want to have you just to myself," he gets out, the words all in a rush. "Uh, to be exclusive. Do you, do you think--"

"I think that's a fine idea," I say quickly. "If you're ready."

He nods. "Are you?"

I have to laugh. "I think so, Tim," I say, telling him with the tone of my voice how very much I'm understating.

"I mean, with the Bill thing. I don't really know what it's like, you see, to lose a lover."

"I hope that you never do," I quickly say without thinking, and then regroup a little. "Look. It was a really deep relationship, and sure, I sometimes still miss him. But that was quite a few years ago, and now, Tim, *now* I want to focus on you. You alone."

He smiles a little, looking pleased and shy. What a wonderful man he is.

"So that's decided," he says. "You and me and no one else."

"No one else," I repeat slowly, looking intently at him.

Tim's eyes are heavy lidded, and the hazel irises are starting to disappear a little as his pupils begin to dilate. So he's excited--I am too. I lean across the table, capture his mouth, and begin to seal the contract we've just made.