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A Friendly Game


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Friends help fix a broken heart...

I’m warm, safe. She’s next to me, hugging one of my arms around her shoulder like a blanket. I draw in a breath of her scent and… “Sal?” I ask, allowing the smallest possible amount of light through my eyelids, reality comes back.

“Mmm.”

Now don’t get excited, Sal is most certainly not someone I expected to ever find in my bed. Me and Sal don’t have compatible sexualities. Well, not anymore anyway.

Sofa? I remember where I am.

Sal’s bed. Sal and Kelly’s bed. Where’s Kelly?

“Kel?” I’m slow. I remember a pill. All the cool kids find a joint that would get your ancestors high to be super lame these days. Do people still say super lame? It’s hard to tell what’s post-ironic anymore. But since everyone else was doing it, I thought why not? Not peer pressure so much as the mild jealousy of watching someone eat a snack when you’re hungry too.

“Mmm,” she replies, and I relax, the non-platonic panic fading quickly. I’d assumed it was Sal being the little spoon, but became aware of unfamiliar cutlery pressed against my early morning blood-flow.

I really hope at least two out of three of us aren’t naked right now, which two I’ll leave to fate. I can’t remember us getting to this room, can’t remember what state we were in.

For a moment my sixteen-year-old self sniggers from the back of my head. On paper this would be the start of a moderately sentimental jerkoff reel, me and two lesbians in the same bed with an estimated nudity ratio of 80%.

Fuck, 90%. As Kel dozes off again, she shifts my arm around her and wakes the entropic nerves. As sensation flows along my arm I realise I’m not feeling anything between my hand and her breast. My best mate’s lover, Don of my Don.

I was just about to get all British and self-conscious about the whole thing. But she was warm in my arms, comfortable against my body. I could feel Sal shifting around me on the other side, her arm just under the covers across my ribs, her hand on top of mine, on top of Kel.

Waking up as a third wheel can be sociologically complicated and, considering they were both asleep again, I decided it was the future’s problem. Tried to remember.

Fuck, why do I always do that? Why must I always go through the recent history right when I wake up? If my fucking brain would learn to shut up then I might’ve just been able to go back to sleep.

I should be with Her right now, the internal traitor wheedles at me. I should have gone over last night when she asked me to. It could be her in my arms. Her ass in my lap, her breast in my hand, and my heart taped back together for just one more day.

Bad move kid, I think as it gives a painful squeeze, as the memory of all that comes back.

I want to get up, but honestly this is the first time since the breakup that I’ve woken up and felt… okay again. My broken heart keeps beating, the feeling fades from a sharp psychological pain to a dull sensation of loss.

I shift a leg and feel boxers around me. Good. I don’t know what happens when you’re on x, this is my first time and my recall of last night is… weird.

I think I’m still high, things feel… good. Not just two warm bodies shielding me from the world but the fact I’m still accepted. My friendship with Sal and Kel isn’t something that could get screwed up by a pill or an erection.

For a while we lay there together and doze. I come around again to Kel shifting under me, awake. I take my chance to politely move my hand, but she shuffles back closer to me, pulls mine and Sal’s hands back where they were.

Grow up man. Her voice from last night comes back, when I blushed at the mere sight of her boobs when we collectively decided we were too hot for clothes. I stay where I’ve been put, try to think friendly thoughts instead of too friendly thoughts as my cock wakes up and smells pussy. It doesn’t understand what a lesbian is, it just wants to do its job.           

These women are something different. Sal and I dated a little but were never serious, back when she was still negotiating with bisexuality as some sort of compromise between what she wanted and what was expected of her. I think maybe that’s why I didn’t quite let myself fall head-over-heels for her, the connection we had was enough to sense that it wasn’t going the distance.           

Kel was always certain about herself, Sal said she envied that in her and me both. Being certain doesn’t seem important until you’re not, and I remember watching her take a run-up at coming out to me. She was so scared of telling anyone, made me angry to think she’d had no choice but to carry that alone for so long.           

One of the things I’m glad I got right. Hugged her, said I was glad she knew, and cried my fucking eyes out in the privacy of the drive home.

Also, she never cheated on me, not even with a girl. That means a lot to a guy in this day and age.

Now I’m lying here in her bed; I’m glad she stopped pretending with me a long time ago. Kel makes her happy, complete. There’s always been a jealousy there, not because I wish Sal were mine. In a way I wish they both were. But like a crush on a co-worker it’s something best kept to yourself, never gonna happen.

In some phantom zone version of reality maybe me and Sal are still together, unhappy with no way to change it. Better this way.

I’m just starting to doze off again when Kel turns over to her other side, shifting under my hand, I zone back in to realise she’s watching me. Not for the first time I wonder if she considers me their pet male, her way to view a gender she otherwise doesn’t like very much.

I open my eyes and watch her watch me. Studying me.

She’s got the body of a model that became a boxer instead, beautiful in a way that I would’ve swooned over as a teenager. Deep dark eyes and a tomboy’s dress sense, when she’s dressed. Anyone who fancied Vasquez in Aliens knows what I mean. I wasn’t the brightest sixteen-year-old, but some wisdom only comes from experience.

All three of us started out knowing we were different but unable to say it. Sal had been taught not to be different, a dyed-white sheep whose roots kept showing. Kel knew she wasn’t like other girls but pretended to be one to get along. Saw an old school photo of hers once, almost un-recognisable without the muscle and the Furiosa buzzcut.

I knew I wasn’t quite a real boy, a difference of species rather than gender or sexuality; I’m a Tiger among Lions, too solitary to be comfortable among the pride.

Me and Sal have differing taste in women of course, she prefers the gay ones for starters, but I can’t fault her choice in Kel.

I think of this woman, who went through shit most people never get over and came out the other side still fighting, think of how she was when Sal’s dad died. They’d only been dating for a month but Kel didn’t leave her side, showed Sal nothing but kindness, loyalty. Not just the noises we make in social situations so people will think we’re nice, but the real thing that shows up and stays.

It’s nice to see someone who understands that the best sort of courage starts with kindness. Something she seemed to have built in, something I had to cobble together for myself.

I sometimes think I’d like to kiss her. Not as a pretext to fucking her or anything. Just to kiss her once without agenda, tell her in ways words can’t that we’re not all soulless bastards looking to use people. Even though the bad ones seem to be the ones who show up the most often, there are good men keeping the faith too.

I think there would be a fifty-fifty chance of her smashing me over the back of the head with the alarm clock if I tried it now. I wouldn’t want her to take it as an insult or a power play for Sal’s affections, or as me showing my true colours as some horny scumwad who only sees women as a sex doll that can wash itself.

But then here I am in their bed, protected by them both.

It’s something I ponder while she watches me. To me direct eye contact feels like an unfriendly radar lock, alarms ring in my brain as my instinct is to either glare back or turn away.

Maybe it’s the MDMA talking but I let her look this time. I wonder if this is the first time she’s ever slept with a man, gotten a good long look at one up-close.

It’s not a good look or a bad look, I get the feeling she’ll take time to consider the results of her observations. I don’t smile, I leave my familiar mask somewhere on the bedroom floor along with my clothes.

Don’t look for hidden depths kid, I think, this is all I am.

She runs her hand along my arm under the covers, pulls it around her hip and hugs me.

Now she’s facing me I can see the body pressed to mine, give silent thanks for a pair of boxers not that different from my own wrapped around Kel’s hips. Without the preceding stare and the fact the love of her life still has one arm around my chest, it could have gotten weird.

Hugs don’t usually feel that good, I’m not sure if it was the drugs, the nudity, the intimacy, or all three. I didn’t really want to let go, wondered if she would mind me dozing off again with my arms around her.

Sal wakes up again with a mumbling yawn, mine and Kel’s moment seems to conclude as she reaches around me for Sal. I decide it’s time to get up, give them their space while I find food and clothing.

Two hands tug me back to bed, nothing is said but even someone like me can read a sign like that. I lie back and think while Sal and Kel’s hands play together across me.

It’s another of those long quiet moments; while Sal watches me, Kel uses my chest for a pillow and dozes like a cat.

I fade out and then back in again, no-one has moved.

I wriggle up and stand on the bed, walked off the end of it to the cool floorboards. While I’m locating my jeans I smile at them cosying back up together with increasing intent. Sal always did like it in the mornings, same as me.

Not wanting to cramp their style I grab my stuff to go, head downstairs.

Didn’t bother getting dressed yet, washed my face at the kitchen tap and started some coffee. The debris of last night is vaguely familiar, I see a few joint stubs in an empty mug repurposed as an ashtray. One of the thicker ones has about half left and I decide to indulge, I’ve got another week before I have to go back to work and assume old responsibilities.

I take a puff as I finish my coffee, stick the lit stub between my fingers and grab the full mug in my other hand. I can hear a thump and some very un-Kelly like giggling from upstairs and snigger quietly to myself. Alright for some.

Sunday morning, so I decide to take my sacrament outside to be among nature. Leave my clothes on the floor with a clink of buckle, prod with a toe to make sure my keys, wallet, and phone are still there. It’s been hot weather for weeks, summer coming to a close.

I look for my shades on the spot by the door but they’re missing. The sounds from upstairs are getting more intense so I’m distracted as I step outside.

Take a long deep huff on a hot coal of weed and hold in the tingling smoke.

“Morning.” Someone says and I leap clean out of my skin, coffee spills onto the grass and I cough up the smoke in a hissing wheeze. “Jeez, sorry,” the voice continues as I focus on respiration. “you okay?”

“Yeah,” I croak and look around. “hey Tina.”

I’m presented with a young goddess, a little bedraggled after a night presumably spent on the sofa I tend to occupy, but radiant nonetheless. Looks like she had the same idea as me but took the time to wear precisely two more items of clothing; my missing shades and one of my t-shirts. Something about a spilled drink scans across my brain but is too slippery to resolve, different neurons arc.

“With whatsisname, right?” I’d seen her in passing a few times since I started crashing here, asked Sal if she were single and been told not really. Honestly forgot she’d stayed over. I suppose being the only ecstasy virgin I’d probably been pretty wasted on the stuff.

She’s taking a hit on a truncated blunt, so shakes her head instead. Emphatically too, my ego notices.

“Fuck no. Sal didn’t tell you?”

This time it’s me with my lungs full, I shake my head.

“Fuckin’ scumbag.” She doesn’t need to say more than that. I give an agreeing shrug of sympathy as I exhale.

“I can relate.” I tell her out of the corner of my eye, don’t want her to see how fresh that hurt still is. Machismo is a defence, people forget that.

“Really? Fuck…” We stand and stare into the distance and smoke, and think.

“You miss her?” She asks me, which I’ll be honest felt a little personal, but then people standing within six feet of me feels personal too.

I give her a look that I meant to convey ‘please don’t ask’, but I suppose that was an answer in itself.

“Me too.” She says. I find my mind admiring her honesty but my eyes lingering on her legs, from her bare feet to the hem of my borrowed threads. XL for me is pretty much a short dress for her. Her gaze follows mine to the t-shirt, I decide to comment on her attire, something I’m told is conventional small talk.

“I can get you a clean one if you like.” I gesture with the smouldering nub between thumb and forefinger, it’s the one I took off in favour of the lucky shirt Sal gave me before the party got started last night. It wasn’t that dirty really, only lived in, but it gave me something to say.

“Shit, is this yours?” She’s endearingly… endearing for a moment.

“It’s cool, me casa su casa." I decide to be the cool and amiable version of myself today. I’ve had enough of angst for one lifetime, and so far in my new one there’s plenty of good company.

“Sure?” She lifts the front of the hem as what I’m sure was an ill-judged visual aid. I get a glimpse of the front of underwear with a nostalgically familiar cartoon face printed on them. For half a second I realise I’m standing in my boxers smoking a joint in a garden full of sunshine while a beautiful woman shows me her underwear.

Some days seem to be like that, they start weird and get weirder. The last one was a girl who liked being tied up telling me she didn’t want to be tied down. The irony was writ large upon us.

“I won’t take the shirt off your back.” I say, thinking about her front.

She turns crimson as she sees my mixed look of relief and regret, realising, then turns away. We both hiss with laughter for a few seconds. The stuff was good, in all flavours, and we were both just getting that bright glowing early morning hit.

“Been a while since I saw Taz.” I chuckle, she joins in.

“My favourite.” She says, shy again.

“I might’ve said Sylvester a minute ago,” I take a hit mid-sentence for dramatic effect. “But you make a good point.”

You know that moment when the words just fall out of your mouth before you actually listen to them? It’s like waking up at the wheel of a moving car, your reaction is key.

My bad poker face saves me, she smiles and lets me get away with that one. We stand and smoke for a while, neither of us quite sure what to say. Our comfort zones not quite overlapping for a minute as we mentally smooth down our missing clothing.

Our eyes meet again as we both reach for the ashtray. I hold it out for her first.

“And they say chivalry is dead.” She treats me to a smile I already want to see again.

Tina steps up through the back door and I’m hypnotised by the swing of her hips as she walks inside.

Eyes front. My conscience stops a glance becoming a stare. I remember that my boxers will keep precisely no secrets if I get too lost in fantasy. Don’t want my first impression to become an amusing anecdote.

“So you want…” She trails off as a moan drifts down the stairs to where we stand in the kitchen. We share a look, and a blush. “some breakfast?” She finishes, as apparently someone else does the same upstairs. I’m perilously close to giving Tina a much better peek than she gave me and I look around for my snug and non-stretchy jeans.

I remember that moan… Y-chromosome gives a wistful sigh.

“Let’s go out.” I glance up at the ceiling as there’s the heavy creak of Sal’s bed and some muffled pillow talk. “Sounds like they’re starting round two.” I grin.

We try to make small talk as we each locate our previous night’s wardrobe, but we’re not making much of a show of not listening to the enthusiastic bout going on upstairs.

I have a slightly guilty vision of those two bodies in passionate motion, so recently curled around me. A little old pang of sadness that I wasn’t what Sal wanted. Another pang that I’m only half a pervert so I can’t really fantasise about an ex even if I know damn well what’s going on up there.

The last foray into her bi side had been me, maybe four years before. She was lonely after her second ever girlfriend had so casually broken the heart I once strived for.

She trusted me and, in our way, just for a week there, we forgot about the past and future. It’s a sacred thing to be there for someone who really needs you, and I think that last night was her saying thanks. But after that we didn’t try again, around the same time we realised it couldn’t work that way. ‘We were meant to be best friends, not an unhappy couple.’ She said that to me, gave me one last kiss for the road, and we went back to hugs and holding hands like the overgrown kids we were.

I shrug into my jeans and realise Tina’s watching, sly devil got a decent look too. She turns away a little theatrically to pull off my old t-shirt and I look at the snaking ink along her spine, the curve of her hips. For a second there our roles reverse as I’m the one who’s half-dressed and she’s the one half-naked.

Normally I would consider myself something of a letch to be watching a near stranger dress, but once her bra is on she turns back and catches me.

I’m expecting an uncomfortable look, thinking maybe I pushed a friendly flirtation too far too soon. But she’s half smiling and half blushing, and I can see it spread out along her skin.

I don’t quite… commit to the look yet. She finds her top from the night before, still damp with incautious beer. Puts mine back on.

We share little glances as we tie laces and button shirts. Upstairs there’s a loud thump and then a clarion of Sal’s laughter, me and Tina share a smirk as she bounces on her heels to pull her jeans on.

She hands me my shades but I find myself reluctant to wear them. My protection against intrusive stares is as usual a part of my face as the eyes beneath, but I’m still enjoying being underdressed around her.

She’s pleasingly… normal with clothes on. She doesn’t seem like something I’m going to wake up from in a minute and be alone on my familiar sofa. I find myself at ease as we leave the happy couple upstairs. I hold open the door and she gives me another of those smiles, without my mask on I can see her eyes.

Kind, sly, and blue.

The street was pretty quiet, Sal’s place was up-market enough not to have people still hanging around from the night before and we had beaten the churchgoers to the pavement.

Occasional joggers passed us, while we walked there she told me about herself. The mundane things like her job, the important things like her family, how she knew Sal. A younger brother she hoped would try studying before his exams, a grandmother she looked after, a life of cares and thoughtful deeds.

When your social skills don’t have an automatic function you have to remind yourself to push the buttons and look at the dials occasionally. I didn’t let my predominantly baked mind wander from her words, but I fired up the old relate-o-tron and punched some cards for analysis.

While steam hissed and pistons clanked in the back of my brain, we found the café that opened early and got coffee.

Nice place, though everywhere looks nice with that much sunlight pouring in.

Tina likes her coffee black and sweet, me too.

Tina likes listening to music more than talking about it, but we talk about it anyway.

“U2, Joshua Tree.” She impresses me with her desert island disc. “You?”

“Johnny Cash, American IV.” I seem to impress her too.

“Hurt?” She guesses, I was going to say Streets of Laredo, my official answer, but I realise she’s right.

“Yeah. With or without you?” I realise I’m making a blind leap and perhaps underestimating her by going for something at the top of the album that’s probably always on the radio somewhere.

“Trip through your wires.” She impresses the fuck out of me by picking the bluesiest song on the album, sentimental for the bottle and old loves without getting too serious.

“Fuck…” We both mentally replay it a little. “Yeah, that’s a much better answer.” I admit.

“Swing and a miss.” She tilts her almost empty mug at me in solidarity regardless.

Tina takes a long look at me.

“Blade Runner?” She appears to have hacked into my brain and made me transparent.

“If you can tell me why, you could start your own religion.” I meant it as a tease rather than a challenge, she gives me a look like a fortune teller limbering up her third eye.

“You read the story.” She takes an inspired try, but falls short. I shake my head. “Damn, my powers are at a low ebb today.” She finishes her coffee, we never quite got around to breakfast, just snacking while we talked.

The relate-o-tron comes back with the latest results. Apparently her showing me her Tasmanian Devil was a clear sign of interest, I leave the thing running but don’t hold my breath for wisdom.

It’s starting to feel like the morning after a really good first date; I remind myself that even though I’ve pretty much seen her naked, and she is wearing my clothes, and I am taking her out for breakfast, she wasn’t who I woke up with.

If we’d both been sober, or at least only drunk on alcohol, maybe I would’ve woken up with her on my familiar sofa. Maybe we’d both be here right now but it would be her I could still smell on my skin instead of Kel’s aftershave.

I think Kel wears it as a gender thing, ‘as female as I feel like’ she told me once. But she shops for scent like I did when I was sixteen, trying to impress a girl at school with my magical talismanic scent.

“Hey…” Tina’s grinning at me. I realise I was trailing off for about a minute there imagining Tina as my alternate reality girlfriend. Damn that relate-o-tron, hogging all my RAM.

“Sorry, I think I’m still a bit…” Her hand slides over mine on the table and I feel it rush through my veins. A little re-assuring gesture from a new friend hits me like a sex demon’s French kiss. I actually tremble a little.

“You okay?”

"Fuckin’ fantastic…” I smile. I wonder why I can feel it more now than I did when I woke up. Sal said something about that…

“Wow, you only had one right?”

“Yeah…” She rubs her thumb across my knuckles, strange how a touch can bring back a memory. I brace for sadness but just feel… love. Love like sunlight creeping up my arm.

What was it she said? Sal told me something just before we all fell asleep last night.

“You’re a real cheap date then.” She smirks and just the sight of her face makes my brain crackle with current as everything lights up.

Our kids would be perfect. Y-chromo tells me, I shut it up, but I agree with the sentiment. The human body has remarkable ways of comparing DNA remotely, we like what we like for good reason.

I smile back and even that feels good, muscles I haven’t used much for a while ache a little.

“Yeah…” I remember what Sal said now, she said; Don’t smoke Tina’s blunts, they’re not just weed. “Ah.”

She laughs and it’s funny so I join in, and that’s funny so she laughs harder. We both stop for breath eventually.

“Come on, I’d better get you home.” She says. I have to keep reminding myself to keep doing things, or I’d just stand there staring at the beauty of it all.

She pays but I tip. Outside is the sunshine.

I find myself walking arm in arm with an insightful woman. The street almost to ourselves, no work to rush to, nothing to worry about.

I wonder if this is what normal people feel like, if my strange brain can run just like the real thing with this specialised fuel.

There’s no pangs anymore. Everything feels too good, the little things are precious again like I’ve escaped from prison or come home from a war.

I think about Tina as a person rather than an event or an impression. Only known me one night, already looking out for me. Bless her.

You’re a fun new pet right now, but that doesn’t last long. The astringent mixture of my bitter experience and cutting paranoia takes one final swing at me before dissolving into the molten MDMA, middle finger raised in final defiant salute.

It’s right of course. Somewhere between Sal and the woman I so recently loved were a lot of bad, one sided, neglectful relationships. I have a thing about saving people, should’ve just been a firefighter like I wanted to when I was five. Chicks dig firefighters.

But for now at least, I ignore it.

We make a show of sneaking back in but no aural stimulation awaits us. My immediate guess is that Sal has gone into post-coital hibernation and that Kel is going to…

Kel walks down the stairs, in her men’s boxers and a sports bra worn for decency rather than function, and decides to ascend the pyramid of needs a few steps from sex to food and social contact.

Sometimes I wonder if Kel is doing an impression of me with this stuff. The walk, the stance, the expression; It’s a bit of Clint Eastwood and a bit of John Wayne and a whole lot of Bogart. I’m very much a self-made man, but it helps to have blueprints.

She’s not transgender so much as she’s… fuck, if you thought I was gonna muster the nuanced vocabulary necessary to describe modern gender identity then you’ve come to the wrong show. Kel is a woman comfortable enough in her femininity to occasionally enjoy slugging down a cheap lager and then engaging in some male posturing. I suppose freedom for Kelly has wider margins than it does for me.

Kel sees the state I’m in and grins.

“What’d you give him?” She asks Tina.

“He smoked the other half of the one we put out last night.” They both take a moment to laugh at me in the nicest possible way. Then, after a good long guffaw and a few residual sniggers, they help.

“How do you feel?” Kel brings my eyes to hers with a loving caress I realise was probably just a business-like grab.

“Great.” I’m still all smiles, it’s not like I have anywhere to be or anyone relying on me.

“Ah, you’ll be alright. No more drugs for you, lightweight.” Kel pats my shoulder and raids the fridge. She leaves a moment later with what looks like an impulsive breakfast in bed. That Kel is a force of nature, I think I’ll buy her some decent aftershave for her boyish days. To say thanks.

I find myself on the sofa next to Tina, the TV is on but suddenly people are more interesting.

She’s stroking my upturned hand in an absentminded sort of way, one cuff left carelessly unbuttoned that she pushes up, following my tattoos up to…

I realise about five seconds too late she’s staring at the scars. They say suicide is the only truly philosophical question, and those scars are how I told myself to stop asking.

Another few weeks and I’d have the sleeve piece finished, it would be covered to the point you’d have to really be looking to notice. A long time ago, but I suppose the point of self-scarification is to remember.

I stare at the TV and try to think of a way to have this conversation without seeming like more trouble than I’m worth. I’m taking too long.

I turn to her, to stall for time or something, ask her a dumb question and then throw all my hopes behind the relate-o-tron.

She’s looking at me, right into the backs of my eyes. Her face fascinates me, I struggle against the urge to lean in for a kiss.

It would be a distraction too, I hate to lie. I’m entirely at her mercy and too stoned to think of something in time. It was nice flirting with her but this is going to turn into the ‘good listener’ conversation in about ten seconds.

She leaves my sleeve alone and puts her hand over mine. I’m still trying to think of something, the relate-o-tron is just hissing steam and spewing bits of punch-cards, no help there.

She stands up and I’m just about ready to throw in the towel and make small talk, make a new friend instead of something better.

Sometimes when you spend your life flying blind, stuff just happens right in front of you and you have no idea why at the time. You could have sworn there wasn’t supposed to be a mountain there and now it’s too late to do anything but yank on the stick and pray.

Tina turns to face me, fixes my eyes to her with a long look, and then shrugs her jeans down from her hips and lets them fall. The sound makes me realise I’m not just imagining it, strange things seem to happen to me like this more and more.

In my experience, I’ve never flirted with a woman to the point where she stripped for me without so much as a cuddle for pretext. I’m so slow on the uptake with this that even you have already figured it out, right?

“Are…” There was going to be a question there, but I see an oh-so familiar criss-crossing of scars, like a barcode halfway along the inside of her thigh. Something she’d hidden better than I had. There had been a time when every single millimetre of it had been bleeding, stinging, self-inflicted agony.

“Tears in the rain.” She gets the question from way back at the coffee shop right.

I stand too and without so much as a look of affirmation she’s in my arms, kissing me. Her holding my hand felt like some kind of deep psychic tantra; this slow, breathless smooch is entirely erotic.

Never been seduced with understanding before, for me this is a new one. Never heard Blade Runner used as a pickup line either, but it worked on me.

The quiet sounds of skin against skin as her hands drag along my arms and drape comfortably around my neck. My eyes shut to let my lips pull focus, we’re dancing standing still. I hear the stairs creak and open my eyes, look around Tina to see Kel standing there with a look of total disbelief on her face.

“How the fuck?” She mouths at me silently. I realise she’s only seeing the punchline, Tina standing there kissing me with her jeans around her ankles and my hands on her ass.

I ignore the audience, this feels too good, we’re having too much fun.

I feel Tina grin against my lips as she struggles to get her feet out of the legs of her jeans, kicking off her shoes as I guide her back to the wall next to the open doorway.

I hope Kel has gone back upstairs but don’t pay any attention to anything but Tina. I realise the Q&A at the coffee shop had just been small talk, this was where I really got what she was about.

After the immediate, urgent lust of it all dawned even upon me, I picked her up, thighs around my waist, and made for the relative privacy of the kitchen. At least the doorway actually had a door in it, which I kicked to behind us.

Boots are a bad thing to wear for impulsive sex, impossible to kick off when laced up. Her trainers were still with her jeans by the sofa; always a step ahead of me, this one, but we made it work.

It’s wearing off, synthetic ecstasy and herbal remedy, the booze, all of it pulls back from my consciousness. Just Tina and Me pulling each other’s clothes off on the kitchen floor. The real thing is a strange sensation, warm blood back in my veins after a long winter spent frozen.

Our eyes meet as she fiddles with my shirt buttons, I get shy for a second. There are plenty more scars she hasn’t seen, my doubt tells me, a couple of marks that were the reason Sal insisted I stay here in the first place.

It’s an odd thing to be eagerly undressing someone and then find a worryingly fresh injury, like I said I chased around after anyone who I thought needed saving. You see some stuff, you hear some stories.

She finds them, the fresh ones I put there for a woman who would never know about them. A lot of things she didn’t know about me, as it turned out.

I was expecting a lot of things, a glance, a well-hidden non-reaction, a long conversation. She pulls off her shirt and unsnaps her bra with sudden urgency, I can only sit beneath her and wait for more information.

“God…” I say. Apart from a particularly memorable example of my very favourite feminine physical characteristics, there was a tattoo of a man’s name. With an X slashed through it, recently.

We share a look. Protocol dictates a long conversation followed by platonic bonding.

Instead, she puts her hand over my cuts, salt on her palm stinging. I put mine over hers and that seems to be the end of the topic.

I’m proud that it didn’t fuck with our chi. We went straight back to what we wanted to be doing, not what we felt we should be doing.

I can taste her mouth, her skin. I nip her lip playfully, pull her eyes back to mine as my jeans are undone and then dragged down to my knees.

My lucky shirt comes off too, it’s more than earned its name.

The only thing left between me and her was Taz. I’m on the floor leaning back against the fridge as she rises up and shifts around a little.

If I hadn’t been flying on wings made of MDMA then her quick teasing grind, a playful preview, probably wouldn’t have almost made me come right there. As it was my eyes rolled back and despite my usual sexual role as the strong silent type, I let out a sigh that held no secrets. God damn, I’ve either been single too long or I’ve been taking the wrong kinds of drugs until now.

I’m starting to experiment with my new high definition sensations. It might seem horrible to never really want to look someone in the eye, but if you saw what I saw you wouldn’t look either. Now when she looks at me I want to look back, never want to see anything else.

“…” She asks with her eyes.

“…” I answer. One day that relate-o-tron is going to be capable of subtitles, but for now I go by limited intuition.

As fond the memories I have for Taz the Tasmanian Devil are, what we did was way beyond his suggested age range. Tina left him on the floor and knelt back astride me.

“You takin’ advantage of me then?” It feels like the time for some dialogue. Sex without talking is like sex without kissing.

“In your addled state, you mean?” She plays along. You never know where a naked conversation can lead. “Yeah, I’m gonna have to have my wicked way with you I think.”

“Scandalous.” I grin.

There’s a difference between sex and good sex, it has nothing to do with the number of orgasms divided by the number of people.

You can lose that after a while, in the height of summer you forget the taste of snow, the quiet sounds lost in the noise.

I wrap my hands around her hips and we’re moving together. Now I’m learning to handle my newly amplified senses I already want to see what the next boundary looks like.

I kiss her neck, her mouth. I watch her eyes. She seems to pick her moment, I become aware of the sounds of her breathing and the sheen on her skin. I think about the kind, shy, cool woman I’ve spent the morning with and then I think about how very much I’d like to show my appreciation.

Social skills is a wide category, I might not see a hint coming without a written invitation; but I do know some things. Sal didn’t keep me around for my knowledge of forensic metallurgy.

“Come on then.” She pulls my gaze to hers.

Tina’s moment arrives, and she doesn’t tease me anymore. The fumbling foreplay and our mutually exposed scars were a different sort of sex, and she gives me one more soft kiss to remind me of that fact

Our shared mood shifts back from sentimental to serious. She pulls me into her and we both take in some breath. I think maybe I keep surprising her, she hasn’t seen anything yet.

That kind of sex is a hard thing to describe. It might have been less than a minute or more than thirty, one long shared moment that started with that last soft kiss and ended when she leaned back for a better angle and I decided to take a turn at the wheel.

Without really stopping anything that we were doing, I pull her legs around my hips, kneel, and then stand.

“Here…” She says into my ear, one hand running between us for an emphatic squeeze, the other wrapped around my neck for balance. Never keep a lady waiting.

Kitchens are great places for sex. Countertops are just the right height, an abundance of chairs; usually a good solid table that will either stay nice and steady or be an amusingly creaky and mildly dangerous approximation of a water bed. That’s not even starting on the erotic potential of things like honey and ice-cream and washing machines and certain kinds of Ikea cabinets.

We didn’t make it any further than the fridge, but I did turn us around so as to at least metaphorically be on top.

Happy to let the lady drive, of course, but first dates are about getting to know each other and I want her to know what I’m really about.

We hug while we move, even inside her, I feel the urge to stay close. She’s a really good fuck, and that’s a bigger compliment than you realise, dear reader.

It’s like being a really good dancer, a really good listener, a really good friend. Her soft sounds in my ears and her hot mouth on mine, from moment to moment it’s a waltz and a tango and a duet and a savage drunken mosh and a gentle walk holding hands. A moment worth holding on for. Fridge magnets clink to the floor to punctuate little changes in position, I have to change rhythm slightly as we discover the resonant frequency of a fridge rocking on its base.

It’s not earth-shattering news to me but I realise I’m in love. Love comes in small doses, a kiss in the morning, a deep talk, a long sweaty carefree fuck on the floor. It’s all just different ways of saying the same thing.

I’ve been hanging on for a while now, somewhere between the teasing and this intimate dance I’ve been ready for the mid-movie action scene followed by an intermission of coffee. But, ever the gentleman, I want her to meet me at the finish line.

I drop to my knees and I hear her appreciative moan as I get a hedonistic taste. This is the part I enjoy almost as much as she does, not just the power of it or the reaction, not even the intimacy. Some people have flat abs or piercing eyes, something makes them stand out and I have to keep up somehow.

You can’t describe the taste of a woman without tasting her, and for now this one is mine.

I have one hand supporting under her thigh as she stands before me, her other leg draped over my shoulder as I kiss and try to show her the same consideration she showed me. My other hand is clasped in hers, her grip on my hand changing with her sensation, tightening up as I find the way she likes. Some girls are like cracking a safe, and I love a challenge, but there really is no substitute for compatibility.

“Yes…” The last syllable becomes a long hiss as I feel her hips softly rotating under my mouth, putting me right where she wants me.

I look up and see her enjoying herself, a pierced nipple being twisted this way and that, slitted eyes and a constant hum of lustful noises.

It doesn’t take long, a good partner makes all the difference and honestly, I wasn’t about to tease her. She shudders a few times, tremors, and her grip squeezes my hand. I can feel her tensing up and caress her tension with a soft tongue. A stifled noise is finally released as a gasp and her gyrating hips buck in reflex.

“Fuck…” She says, with feeling. It was going to be my next plan anyways, so as soon as she is finished with that first orgasm she drags my mouth slowly along her body to her lips.

She kisses me like no-one has done that for her in too long. I lament the state of my gender, but at the same time it’s good being a hard act to follow.

Normally in sex I’ll either close my eyes or keep my gaze low, not because I don’t want to look; but sometimes the one bit of shyness you hold onto excuses the others you let slip for a while. But with Tina I didn’t want to hide, we stared right into each other almost the whole time. I had heard her at her peak but had been too focused on my task to really look. Like everything else about her, it was beautiful. A cute little frown of concentration becomes anticipation, realisation, and then she smiles and lets the rush carry her.

This time we’re ready together, a glance is enough to establish our immediate plans.

Another long kiss and then we break for air. It wasn’t a race but I did have to tap the brakes a bit on the home stretch.

I become aware of the chemicals in my brain again as I realise my legs are getting weak. Stand up shagging whilst carrying your partner is hard on the thigh muscles and we might have been going at it for a while. X messes with your perception of time more than anything else I’ve tried, it might have been two minutes or twenty.

Actually, probably more like five. My knees would’ve fallen off otherwise.

Still connected and still very much wrapped up in each other’s kisses and moans, I let us slide gently downwards to the floor again.

She was taking it easy towards the end there, feet on the dash with me at the wheel. But after the fact, when my instinct is to cuddle and maybe get a smoke, she’s kissing me in a way she wasn’t before. A sudden hard passion to it that takes me by surprise. I just hold her, let her.

Our lust seems to balance out again and I’m sitting on the floor with her still in my lap. We hug, I kiss her cheek.

Neither of us wants to move and so we don’t.

Until Sal thumps on the, as it turned out, not sufficiently closed kitchen door.

“Can I get coffee or what?” I can hear that smirk. Let her look.

Tina kisses me and gets up, I gasp softly at the friction, lean forward to kiss the back of her thigh as she turns looking for underwear. I turn to see Sal not making any show of not looking through the door. I give her a grin and then lay back on the floor to shrug my jeans back up my legs. Tina throws my t-shirt back on, slips into her underwear.

Tina is a little more self-conscious than I, although in my case Sal has more than seen it all before. We make some small talk while the kettle boils and things are stirred.

There’s a particularly knowing look thrown in my direction as Sal stoops to pick up a few fridge magnets, there’s a feminine looking void on the door. Tina blushes a deep red and I restrain myself from just picking her up and doing it again.

We return to the sofa, the closest thing to my own space in Sal’s house.

We kiss, we hug, we curl up together for a while. Sal and Kel finally emerge, no-one has bothered to get all the way dressed, Kel has a white vest over her sports bra and Sal has opted for shorts and a t-shirt.

I realise I’ve been oblivious to some of the looks going around over my head. Sal has a smile when I catch her eye, watching me and Tina dozing together on the sofa. She’s a subtle one, I never did learn to read those dark eyes but I appreciate them anyway.

A couple of times I notice Kel’s smirk of amiable disbelief. I return it. I have no idea what I did, and to me at least that seems like a good thing. I didn’t do anything except be myself and flirt like a gentleman, it had to work eventually right?

Kel has some Van Morrison on, her and Sal start by tidying up but in the end they’re dancing together. Tina turns over in my arms, gives me one of those kisses of hers.

“So what are you doing tomorrow?” She’s got that pillow-talk vibe in her voice, my gaze lingers on her lips.

“No idea.” I tease and she swats me with a scatter-cushion. I kiss her and she kisses back, a momentary affection becomes a long sonnet of lips and tongues. My hands push into the back pockets of her jeans and I pull her hips to mine so she feels how hard she’s making me with those kisses.

“Oi, no shagging you two!” Sal’s mocking mom-tone makes us both grin into each other’s lips and we remember whose sofa we’re crashing on.

“Sorry.” We echo. My hands move to a friendlier caress than the urgent grip. She grinds against me a bit and grins at the naughtiness of it all before she gets up.

We talk, all of us. We hang around and drink coffee and smoke and put dumb videos on our phones. Kel breaks out the console and the pair of us engage in some post-adolescent rivalry over whose turn it is to use the shotgun.

We lounge in the garden as the warm sun sets. Two deck chairs with a couple apiece, watching the clouds turn red. The music is still on and Tina feels like a dance, we enjoy the cool air and I find myself in the moment. The little square of grass behind Sal’s house was our world for a while.

We order pizza, we watch a movie. We kiss our respective lovers and enjoy our senses, enjoy our company.

And when Sal and Kel have gone to bed, me and Tina sneak out to the garden for another few hits and a daringly un-hurried fuck on the lawn. It’s all suppressed giggles and moans and tingling nerves. In the end she has her hand over mine over her mouth, though I doubt we were fooling anyone really.

We collapse to the grass and Tina draws one leg across me, kisses my cheek and watches me watching the sky.

She asks about my scars and I tell her my story. I run my palm along her thigh to feel the texture of her own marks in the cooling air. She tells me her tale, and I start to understand how she read me so perfectly.

We lie and watch the sky fade to black, we hold hands as we walk back inside with our clothes bundled up. Leave them next to the sofa and curl up together to sleep.

There are a few frames of the old dream still in my head as I wake up in the middle of the night, for the first time I’m glad it’s not real.

I’m warm, safe. She’s next to me, hugging one of my arms around her shoulder like a blanket. I draw in a breath of her scent and…

Smile.

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