"They're fine, they look just fine," Chris said absently, and Andrew shot him a suspicious look.
"You're preoccupied today."
"Mmm," Chris agreed, and then headed over to the peppers, rich yellow, deep red, absolutely lovely, and he wanted to buy them just to look at them, forget about chopping them up and giving them to strangers.
"In fact, you've been like this for a while," Andrew added, catching up to him. "Ever since you first took up with pretty boy, I'd say."
"Stop," Chris said.
"It's interesting, really," Andrew went on. "I mean, you're not exactly a boy scout, Chris--I can't say that I ever would have picked you to spend time with someone so . . . straight. You must have it bad for him."
"I don't think he's straight," Chris said.
"Four weeks and you're still not sure?! What the hell are you two doing?"
"Do you think those tomatoes look ripe enough?" Chris asked.
"What?! Yes, yes. They're fine," Andrew said, then followed Chris and helped him pick out a few.
"So you haven't even gotten him into bed yet?" Andrew's voice was low, incredulous. "You?"
"Imagine that," Chris said dryly.
"Look--I'm not saying that you're some kind of Lothario, just that you're a handsome guy, and so that if you wanted to, you could be getting laid."
"Anyone who wants to can get laid," Chris said.
"Not my point," said Andrew. "So there's something about this guy, hmmm?"
"Oh, I don't know," Chris said in exasperation. "I mean, he's gorgeous, of course, and I like spending time with him, but--"
"But," Andrew prompted.
Chris picked up a fat, round plum, rolled it around in his hand.
"But it's just so much work, you know? And it'll be even more work to get him into bed because he's so new at all this. And even supposing that does happen, there's a very good chance he'll panic, or freak out, and then I'll just have wasted a lot of time and energy."
"Which you haven't at all done up to now," Andrew said, a smile playing around the edges of his mouth.
Chris looked sharply at him.
"Oh, look!" Andrew said quickly. Oranges!"
Chris scowled, then followed his chef to the other side of the market.
They were at Chris's house eating dinner. When Chris had first asked Tim to his house a few weeks ago, Tim had thought, yeah! at long last!, believing that Chris would finally drop the cloak of reserve he'd had wrapped around him ever since date one and that they'd actually kiss deeply or something. But no--in his own home Chris had been just as controlled, and proper, as he'd been in their public meetings. Not that he hadn't been warm, of course, and friendly and funny and kind, but there was decidedly a holding back. Tim wasn't quite sure how to read it--had he failed to attract? Was he too hopelessly naive? Were the few times they'd actually kissed disappointing to Chris? It was enough to drive him crazy.
In another way, this hands-off approach of Chris's--and the frustration it had caused Tim--was actually kind of interesting, because at first, Tim hadn't been completely sure at all that this whole experimentation-with-men idea was a good thing for him to be doing. When he'd sat in the break room and told Frank that he wanted to be "happy," he'd had only a vague sense of how Chris, or any other man, might get him there. So hanging out with Chris, laughing with him and watching basketball on TV together and talking about books and movies and cars and then ending the evening with a quick grope, a few kisses stolen here and there, had been good in that it confirmed for Tim that he could be interested in another man, could enjoy spending time with him very much. And if he'd gotten Chris into bed on the first night, they might not have had this time to relax and get to know each other.
They had Chris to thank for that. Tim was pretty sure that if the opportunity had been there, he would have plunged right in--the Tim Bayliss full-immersion theory of romance-- Emma, Julianna, etc., etc. So maybe it was good that Chris was being slow to move this thing along.
And yet it still rankled, because Tim had a feeling that he was, in a way, being rejected, or found wanting by Chris, and that wasn't fun, that wasn't happy-making, that wasn't at all what he was looking for.
Tim leaned against the counter, beer in hand, watching Chris throw together all sorts of herbs and garlic to make a salad dressing. Chris's hands were large and strong and beautiful.
Tonight, Tim thought, maybe I'll just go for it. He calculated. This was date number four, and it was perfectly acceptable to have sex on the fourth date--there were very few people left in the world, in fact, who would call that rushing. And hey--he had on a new sweater, and it'd be a shame to waste that, now wouldn't it?
Oh god, Chris thought as he looked over at Tim. Do you have any idea how easy you are to read?
And so it was time. Post-dinner movie in the VCR, Chris sitting not so far away from him at all, and Tim with several beers in him, relaxed, but in a good way, with a low-level kind of buzz thrumming in his body. He looked closely at Chris. Chris was watching the movie.
He'd done this before--Christ, he'd done it a million of times. It was classic, prototypical, the seduction scene at its finest--two people sitting in front of a movie, for god's sake. Tim contemplated faking a yawn, easing his arm around Chris's shoulders, and then pulling him close and--
But why even bother with the damned yawn? They were adults, for god's sake, and he could do this--it was just like coming on to a woman, and he--well, he usually screwed that up, but this could be different, it could be different in a really good way.
Tim slid close to Chris, who raised eyebrows at him.
"Chris, I was kind of thinking--" Tim began, then just reached out and grabbed Chris's shoulders and began kissing him, and Chris's mouth was warm and sweet underneath his. It felt good! very good, and Tim deepened the kiss, began to stroke Chris's tongue with his, to explore the contours of Chris's mouth. And heat spread through Tim, and his body began to ache.
"Hey--the big fight scene is coming up," Chris said when Tim moved back, breathing hard, and for a moment Tim thought that Chris was predicting that this night was going to end up in an argument, and he opened his mouth to tell him that that was not at all the case, at least not if he had anything to do with it, and then he figured out that Chris was talking about the movie and just stared at him, a little incredulous and a little hurt.
"I don't care about the fight scene," he said a little more loudly than he meant to, and far more vehemently, and Chris turned gray eyes to him.
"Chris," Tim said in frustration. "Are you at all attracted to me? Even remotely? Because I'm starting to wonder here, to wonder why you even asked me out in the first place, in fact. Because you're not seeming too . . . interested as of late."
"I like you a lot," Chris said.
"That's not what I mean and you know it," Tim finished, and Chris sighed then, rubbed his jaw.
"Chris, I want to be close to you," Tim implored, feeling his face flush.
"You do," Chris said, his eyes on Tim's.
"Yes!" Tim said urgently. "You--you're driving me crazy, you know?"
Chris continued to look at him.
"Just--please. Give me a chance, will you?"
Chris smiled a little, and Tim fought the urge to descend upon him right then and there.
"I'm not so sure that's a good idea," Chris said.
Disappointment began to flood Tim, and also a little bit of shock. "But why?" he asked.
Chris said very kindly, "It's not that you're not attractive, and it's not that I don't like you."
"Then what is it?" Tim insisted. He reached out, grabbed one of Chris's hands. "Why?" he repeated.
Chris warmly squeezed Tim's hand, then politely drew back.
"I'm thirty-eight years old," he said. "And I've had a lot of dates with men, a lot of relationships over the years. And one of the things I've learned as I've gotten older is that I just can't--I don't have the energy to invest in relationships that I know won't work."
"How do you know that we won't work?" Tim shot.
Chris leaned back, laughed for a moment. "Oh god," he said quietly. "Where to begin. Okay, uh, let's start with the fact that you're still not too sure about this whole sex with men thing." He gave Tim a wry look.
"But I am! Well, I am now," Tim said, flushing a little bit.
"I know that you believe that," Chris said softly, and Tim made a noise of disgust.
"Listen to me," Chris quickly added. "I want--what I want from you, Tim, I'm not sure you're in a place to give."
"But I--I can learn--I want to learn--" Tim began, and Chris looked at him in amusement.
"I don't mean the sex--although that is part of it," he acknowledged. "What I mean is a certain amount of emotional readiness. And I can tell you here and now that if this is what you want to do, if you really and truly are going to end up liking men, then you're going to want to have some fun at first." Chris grinned, looked down for a moment. "It's a lot like being a kid in a candy shop, as I remember."
"So you're a candy bar," Tim said impatiently. "What's the hell's wrong with that?"
"What's wrong with that is that you're not going to want just a candy bar--you're going to want the gum drops, and the bubble gum, and the jellybeans, and so on. For a while, anyway. And that's fine, and you should want them all. Really. You're going to have a great time, Tim." Chris smiled at him.
Tim crossed his arms. "But what if I only want chocolate? What if that's all I need?" he said, then quickly went on when Chris began to shake his head in impatience. "I mean-- I'm thirty-eight too, you know? And I'm not--that whole sow-your-seed thing isn't quite where I'm at any more."
Chris didn't reply.
"I mean, it seems to me that what you're doing, Chris, is chickening out," Tim said. "I mean, who are you to think you know more about what I want than I do? Hmmm?"
"I don't mean it--it's not like that," Chris began.
"Yes it is! That's exactly what you're saying," Tim asserted. "You don't know exactly what's going to happen, so you don't want to do anything--and all because I'm new at this? What--you think someone who isn't new isn't going to hurt you? Do you really believe that?"
"The odds are better with someone more experienced," Chris said slowly.
"The fact of the matter is that you have absolutely no idea what I or anyone else is going to do," Tim said. "And that's just--that's life, Chris, that's relationships. You have to take the risk. And I am here--I am here telling you that it's you I want to do this with, you. And you won't even give me a chance?"
There was a long silence.
"I'm going to scare the hell out of you," Chris said softly.
"No," Tim answered firmly. "Really, Chris. You've got-- you've got to trust me. I'm a lot stronger than I seem-- very resilient." He made a fist, pounded his chest and grinned a little, then slowly reached out, placed a hand on Chris's shoulder.
Chris breathed in deep, shifted a little, then looked hard at Tim. And Tim felt something inside of him lurch, because Chris's eyes were radiating intense desire, and it was astounding, and incredible.
"Please, Chris," he whispered, and then Chris murmured, "Oh, for god's sake. What the hell," and pulled Tim into his arms.
Chris had never kissed him like this before, never, he was sure of it, Tim thought as his entire body begin to quiver. This was--this was kissing on a whole new level, kissing so skilled and so intense and so self-assured that it was very nearly overwhelming.
Tim felt hands sliding around his waist and then up and under his sweater and over his skin, hungry touching, intense and territorial and eager. Chris really, really wanted him, and it was so good to know that, to see it, to feel it.
When Chris's hands slid around his rib cage and up to his chest, Tim moaned a little, then tensed in delight as urgent fingertips rubbed his nipples until they were taut. He leaned back, he couldn't sit up straight any more, and Chris was right there with him, pressing him deep into the couch cushions while kissing his neck. Chris's mouth was everywhere, over his neck, under his jaw, on his collarbones, in the hollow of his throat, and Tim desperately clawed at the material of his sweater, trying to lower it further so Chris could move downward.
"Lean forward Tim," Chris said gently, and slowly drew the sweater up and over Tim's head.
"So good, Chris!" Tim murmured excitedly, and Chris smiled and nodded, and then pushed him back again.
Tim felt himself begin to shake when he saw Chris's mouth slide over one of his nipples, and after a moment of shock, he eagerly pressed into the warmth, relishing the tugging and the stroking of mouth and tongue. He moved hands to Chris's head, dug fingers deep into the soft black hair and vowed to hold him there for the rest of time, the sensation was that exquisite.
Chris laughed a little, then slowly drew back to look at Tim, his eyes glittering. Evidently pleased with what he saw, Chris pressed forward again, but not before reaching down and drawing Tim's thighs further apart.
"Oh god," Tim whispered.
Chris began kissing him on the mouth again, sucking on Tim's tongue while caressing his nipples, rocking back and forth just a bit. Then he moved hands down to Tim's ribs, and then lower, and Tim jerked in surprise when he felt warm fingers brushing over his stomach, slipping under the waistband of his pants and moving inside of the elastic of his boxer shorts. And then Chris's fingertips slid still lower, and for a few wonderful seconds Tim was positive, just positive, that Chris was about to caress his cock, and he moaned in anticipation.
So when Chris slowly removed his hand, Tim's eyes snapped open in surprise and disappointment, but it lasted only a heartbeat, because right after that, Chris's hand roamed over the outside of Tim's pants to the bulge of his erection. Chris's hand was strong, and he squeezed rhythmically, and Tim moaned and thrust into the touch.
"All right," Chris finally said, then slowly and tenderly kissed Tim for a few seconds before gracefully sliding off of the couch and down onto the floor in between Tim's legs.
"Help me out here," Chris said, reaching out and beginning to unbutton Tim's pants. Tim swore, then quickly did the rest, pulled off shoes and pants and boxer shorts and everything and then sat back down.
"Mmmm," Chris murmured appreciatively, seductively, drawing Tim closer to the edge of the couch. Tim watched raptly as Chris leaned in, then let out a deep groan as the first few strokes of Chris's tongue hit home. And as Chris leisurely ran tongue over the crown of Tim's cock, then slowly sucked just the swollen head for a while before sliding all the way down, Tim felt his world begin to explode, because Jesus-- Chris was obviously an expert at this, and he didn't think he'd ever had anyone, male or female, human or alien, pay this much attention to his cock, suck it so lovingly and hungrily and urgently or draw it so deep into his throat and with such pleasure. And Tim wanted to have this last forever, but he could feel himself start to throb, to tighten, and then it started, spasms of delight so powerful that for a moment he was frightened, worried that perhaps something had gotten mixed up and he was pumping something more precious than semen into Chris's mouth, maybe even his life force, because this was brutal pleasure, so all- consuming and draining and intense that Tim wasn't entirely sure he was going to survive it. He screamed.
When he opened his eyes again, Chris was still sucking, but gently now. Tim felt tears on his face, and for a moment he was ashamed at having so exposed himself. But Chris read his mind, or saw his distress, and a second later he was on the couch with Tim, hugging him and kissing him and whispering fervently, "So beautiful, Tim, so incredible to see you so open . . . please don't be upset."
And after a while, Tim calmed down, and Chris kissed him tenderly, deeply, for a long while, full of gratitude and deep affection and shock.
"You okay?" he softly asked.
"Mmmm, yes," Tim murmured, then nestled his mouth in the hollow just under Chris's ear. Chris moaned.
"I want to go upstairs now," Tim said in a low voice. "To your room, Chris."
And there were so many things Chris wanted to do and so many ways he wanted to do them, but for this first time it seemed best to be gentle, and deliberate. And so he shed his clothes, joined Tim on the bed, and then slowly eased him onto his side and began kissing the soft nape of his neck, the curve of his shoulders.
Tim sighed, pressed back into him, and Chris felt himself began to shake. Good lord.
Slowly, carefully, Chris began to stroke Tim's forearm, and then the inside of his elbow, and then his biceps, his shoulder blades, and then his lower back, and they were both breathing very hard when at long last Chris slid a hand down over the curve of Tim's ass.
"Oh that's good," Tim murmured, and Chris felt a rush of intense, well, he'd just call it feeling. He murmured in response, then slowly reached behind him to the night stand, drew out lubricant and a condom.
It was always a great pleasure to touch a new lover intimately for the first time, to feel him tense and breathe hard and then slowly, sweetly relax as his body opened. And this was a first time on top of a first time, and Chris was more than a little worried that he was going to mess it up, to upset Tim. But Tim moaned as Chris slid fingers into him, and then pressed into Chris for more, and it was perfect, it was more than he could have asked for, it was exactly right.
"Nice and slow," Chris murmured. "We're gonna do this all night," and Tim shuddered in delight. They were so close together, and Chris's fingers were so wonderful, so gentle and persistent all at once.
Chris pressed his chest into Tim's back, loving the warmth, the contact, the way Tim caught his breath and thrust eagerly into him when he angled his fingers in exactly the right way.
Finally, Chris moved wet, hot fingers to Tim's hip and covered his shoulder with kisses.
"Tim?" he softly asked, and Tim nodded fervently, and then Chris squeezed his eyes shut in delight, pressed his aching cock against Tim, and at long last slid deep inside.
"Deeper," Tim urged almost at once, and Chris laughed, wrapped his arm around tight Tim's waist, and began to move. He was inside of Tim, he was fucking Tim, and Tim was wriggling in what seemed to be delight, and pushing back, encouraging him, and Tim was just--he was--if this was not heaven, it sure as hell had to be someplace pretty damned near close to it.
"Oh!" Tim said, and came hard.
"Oh!" Chris said, and did the same.
Neither one of them could sleep well, and so they kept waking up and pushing away the rumpled sheets and touching each other, hugging and stroking and kissing, sometimes going further than that, sometimes not.
"Ohhh, god," Tim groaned very early in the morning, rubbing a hand over his sticky stomach, moving a bit and feeling sore and then getting excited all over again about why he was sore.
"Go to sleep," Chris mumbled into his pillow.
"Wanna get up and take a shower with me?" Tim invited.
"Tim, I can't. It's four in the morning and I need sleep, and you have totally wiped me out--and I have no energy, nothing in me, not a goddamned thing," Chris complained.
"Come on," Tim urged, grinning. "It'll feel good," he coaxed.
Chris slowly lifted his head from the pillow. "I can't feel good ever again," he said. "I transcended good last night, absolutely exploded the concept, I mean, and really--"
"Let me wash you," Tim murmured. "Nice and gentle, Chris. We'll wash and then we'll come back in here and change the sheets--"
"--and then we'll fall asleep. I swear, Chris, it'll feel--"
"Do not," Chris threatened.
"--really very nice," Tim finished.
"Oh, all right," Chris grumpily, happily, said, and then began to move.