by Matthew Haldeman-Time
I am writing about men having sex with other men. You must be eighteen or older to read my fiction. This site is for consenting, responsible adults only.
“Get-” Anderson slapped Clint’s hand away “-out of my mouth!”
“You have corn in your teeth,” Clint said.
“You can’t just reach in there and get it out,” Anderson said, turning away and trying to scrape between his teeth with what remained of his chewed-off fingernails.
“Why not?” Clint asked reasonably, trying not to laugh. “You can put your dick up my ass, but I can’t put my fingers in your mouth? I can put my tongue-”
“You made your point,” Anderson said, straightening but licking over his teeth self-consciously. “What we do during sex is…it’s sex, that’s different.”
“We can have sex but we can’t be intimate?” Clint asked, confused. Whenever Anderson held him at arm’s length like this, it was like a sudden wall sprang up between them. He never understood why. What was the problem?
“Being intimate and flossing each other’s teeth are not the same,” Anderson said. “God, you’re so freaking casual about everything.”
“I’m too casual?” Clint asked, staring across the table at him.
“You act like none of this is a big deal,” Anderson said.
“None of what?” Clint asked, bewildered. “Corn? Lunch? Eating out?”
“This!” Anderson exclaimed. “You, me! Us! You act like we’re lovers or something!”
“We are lovers,” Clint said. “Baby, what-”
“You keep calling me that!” Apparently realizing that he was raising his voice in a somewhat busy restaurant, Anderson shut up, choosing instead to glare silently.
Clint was lost. “You love it when I call you that. The first time I called you ‘baby,’ you laughed and made me use it in every sentence for the next three hours.”
Turning red, Anderson looked down at his plate, picking up his fork and taking out his agitation on innocent mashed potatoes.
Clint waited for a more verbal response, but received none. “Anderson,” he said quietly, reaching across the table for Anderson’s hand. “What-”
Anderson tucked his free hand in his lap, putting a forkful of mashed potatoes in his mouth.
Clint set his jaw. Anderson would have to talk to him soon; it didn’t take long to chew mashed potatoes. “If it bothers you that I act like nothing’s a big deal, I’d be happy to oblige you and act like this is a big deal, right here, right now. You overreacting and starting up a fight with me in the middle of what I thought was a pretty nice meal, it can be a big deal.” He leaned forward, waiting until Anderson met his eyes. “But I don’t want it to be.”
Sexy, light green eyes blinked; Anderson looked away again. “I don’t want to do this in public.”
“You never want to do anything in public,” Clint said. “I guess that’s the problem.”
“You want to do everything in public,” Anderson said, his voice quiet but filled with sudden energy. “You act like walking down a crowded street and sitting at home on the couch are just the same!”
“You’re my lover whether we’re making love at that moment or not,” Clint said. “Things don’t change just because we get out of bed. The way I feel about you, I feel about you, whether we’re at your house or my apartment or in bed or in the car or on your mother’s front porch.” He frowned, not enjoying their conversation. “I thought you felt the same way.”
“How I feel about you doesn’t change, but some things are meant to be private,” Anderson said. “Kissing, holding hands, putting your hands in my pockets, calling me ‘baby,’ you keep dong everything right out in public for the world to see.”
“Sex is meant to be private,” Clint said. “Affection is natural, affection is healthy. You can’t expect me to spend all day with you and not touch you. Touching is - - it’s sharing, it’s touching base, it’s a way to get your attention, it’s a way to feel closer to you, it’s-”
“Feel closer to me when we’re alone, at home,” Anderson said. “When we’re out in public, feel less close.”
“How close?” Clint asked. “Friends? Acquaintances? Peers? Strangers?”
“You take everything so damned far,” Anderson said, frustrated.
“You just said that I was too casual,” Clint said, equally frustrated. “I’m too casual, I take everything too far, I’m acting like we’re lovers - - baby, we’ve been intimate and exclusive for eight months. What do you call that?”
“I’m not doing this here,” Anderson said, setting down his fork with a sharp motion. “Let’s either eat and not talk about it, or talk about it somewhere else.”
It was hard not to let that “baby” slip out. “I want you to answer my question.”
Anderson’s usually sweetly curved lips tightened into a not at all sweet frown. “I said that I don’t want to do this here.”
Clint’s temper was about to get the best of him. Taking a slow, calming breath, he said, “I don’t want to commit to eating with you or talking to you if you can’t even tell me what I am to you. If you’re not my lover, then I don’t think that we have much of a relationship to talk about.”
Anderson pushed his chair back, got up, and left. He did it with so little fanfare that no one else in the restaurant seemed to notice.
Clint wanted to go after him. Wanted to run after him and chase him down on the sidewalk and - - but that would cause a scene. And apparently Anderson didn’t care enough about him to risk that.
A lot of things that were done in private were inappropriate in public. There was something to be said for decorum. But simple human affection, the natural desire for an innocent physical connection, why should that be ignored?
Clint had grown up with a lot of physical affection. His family hugged hello and kissed good-bye. His parents were a demonstrative couple. Anderson’s parents weren’t the same way. They were nice people, but they didn’t touch each other a lot. Clint had stopped trying to hug them, since they never seemed comfortable hugging back.
So, Anderson wasn’t happy with the level of public affection that Clint had assumed was normal. That didn’t completely explain why they suddenly couldn’t label themselves “lovers” anymore.
Tucking money under his plate to cover the bill, Clint left the restaurant.
Ten minutes later, he heard the familiar rhythm of Clint jogging up the stairs. Clint never just walked up stairs; it was always a brisk jog, no matter whether it was three steps or seven flights. Clint had odd depths of casual energy, and great leg muscles.
“Hi.” Clint wasn’t surprised to see him.
“Hi.” He got to his feet, stepping aside so Clint could unlock the door.
“You left before dessert,” Clint said, opening the door and entering with a brief glance back at him. “You want some pecan pie?”
Anderson walked in, closing the door. “I’d love some pie.”
Clint went over to the kitchen.
Anderson followed him. Clint hadn’t kissed him, and now he needed to be kissed. Clint always gave him a “welcome to my apartment” kiss, even when they entered together after having been out together all day. It was just a regular part of walking into Clint’s apartment; it fit seamlessly into the rhythm of stepping inside and closing the door. Anderson wanted that kiss. “Sorry I stuck you with the check.”
“It’s okay,” Clint said. “You paid last time.” He opened his dishwasher to find a clean fork. “You’re afraid of commitment.”
“What?” What did commitment have to do with who paid for lunch?
“That’s all I can come up with,” Clint said, taking a glass from the cabinet. “That’s the only explanation I have for the argument we just had. I thought that it was fear of public displays of affection, and that’s probably part of it, but that doesn’t explain everything. So I think that you’re afraid of commitment.” Pouring out a glass of milk, he set it on the table along with the slice of pie and sat down in another chair. “I just don’t know why having corn in your teeth set you off.”
“It wasn’t the corn,” Anderson said, hearing an irritable tone where he hadn’t meant one. He sat in front of the pie. The corn was a symptom of larger problems. “It’s like your answering machine.”
Clint glanced across the room with that puzzled yet accepting look that Anderson had always appreciated. Clint tried not to judge before he was sure that he fully understood. “What’s like my answering machine?”
“Do you ever listen to what’s on it?” Anderson asked. “Do you really listen?”
“I listen to all of my messages,” Clint said. “Even the ones for you. Is that what’s wrong? You don’t like me listening to your messages? I can’t avoid them, they’re mixed in with mine.”
Clint was trying so hard to understand, it only made Anderson more frustrated. How could Clint be this oblivious? “The problem isn’t you listening to the messages, it’s that there are messages for me on your machine. And the messages for you - - my mom asking you to come over and fix the disposal, my sister asking you if you can pick up the kids - - why does my family call you?”
“My family calls you,” Clint said, like it was perfectly reasonable. “My dad talks to you more than he does to me.”
“We haven’t even known each other for an entire year, and look at our entwined our lives are!”
“I noticed,” Clint said. “I like it. Eat your pie.”
Anderson ate some, chewing irritably. It was delicious pie, of course. His mother had brought it over to thank Clint for putting together bookshelves for her. She always thanked people with baked goods. Clint usually had a pie or a plate of brownies or a tin of cookies around, because just about every week he dropped by Anderson’s parents’ house to fix something or put together something or paint something. Anderson had never laid tile in his life, but he suspected that Clint’s first toy had been a caulking gun.
Suddenly, it seemed like, as far as Anderson’s mother was concerned, Clint was an indispensable member of the family. Anderson’s older sister had finally found someone who could corral the terrible twins without resorting to violence. Anderson’s younger sister finally approved of someone he was dating; she kept introducing Clint to her friends, and then running off to giggle about how hot he was. Anderson’s father liked how much money Clint made and kept asking about his investments, which was the same kind of conversation he’d made with Anderson’s sister’s husband right before they’d married.
Frankly, Anderson suspected that if he and Clint broke up, his family would leave him for Clint.
Although his relationship with Clint’s family was pretty good, too. Clint’s father had bonded with him within three seconds of meeting, over their joint love of college basketball. They’d already gone to five games together - - three without Clint. Clint’s mother was always calling him for tech support, and he’d made several home visits to install new hardware. Clint’s sister was what she called an “acceptance activist,” which meant that she belonged to about fifty-seven or so different diversity organizations, and every time she stuffed envelopes or tacked up flyers or knocked on doors, she dragged him along, occasionally without Clint. Clint’s brother definitely had a crush on him, which was flattering but also kind of awkward; they were affectionate people, but the guy hugged Anderson too often, and too long.
How had Anderson become this enmeshed in their family, after only eight months?
“It’s only been eight months,” he explained, once the pie and milk were gone.
“What’s wrong with that?” Clint asked.
“I don’t remember ever sitting down and deciding that we were boyfriends,” Anderson said. “I don’t remember making that decision. It just…happened.”
“We stopped seeing other people,” Clint said.
“But we never made that official,” Anderson said. “And why did we stop seeing other people?”
Clint crossed his arms on the table, leaning forward, looking into Anderson’s eyes. “Because with you in my life, there is no room for anyone else.”
“We’re such a, such a couple,” Anderson said. “I don’t remember agreeing to be a couple. Not like this. Not like… Not with routines and habits and - - you’re at my parents’ house more often than I am. My mom buys your favorite soda, always keeps it stocked, just in case, just for you. We split up holidays, major big holidays and stupid small ones, seeing both of our families together, like we’re a married couple making the rounds. We even pass casseroles back and forth between our mothers. And when did we decide that we’d meet for lunch every Wednesday at ‘our’ restaurant and ‘our’ table? When did we decide that every Sunday afternoon I’d be on your couch reading your newspaper wearing your sweatpants?”
“I love it when you do that,” Clint said with a deliciously warm smile.
He didn’t allow himself to be distracted from the point. Despite the temptation. “My mother knows that if she wants to talk to you on Thursday night, she has to call my house,” Anderson said. “When did that become an established practice?”
“We’re always at your house on Thursday, because we’re here all weekend,” Clint said. “Monday and Thursday we’re at your house, Friday and Saturday and Sunday nights we’re here, and Tuesday and Wednesday are a toss-up.”
“Why?!” Anderson demanded. “When did we decide that? I don’t remember setting that in stone.”
“It just happened,” Clint said. “You said that you liked relaxing over the weekend away from home, you liked the escape of it. But you needed to be at home on Thursday to prepare to spend the weekend away, and you needed to be home on Monday to catch up. And I like being where you are, so I invite myself over.”
It sounded logical when Clint said it. Reasonable. But Anderson felt like domesticity had crept up on him. “Don’t you feel like you’ve been trapped into - - I don’t know, like you’ve been locked in…”
“You’re part of a ‘we’ that you weren’t ready to be part of,” Clint said.
“Yes!” he exclaimed. “Don’t you feel the same way?”
“No,” Clint said, and solemn regret passed over his face. “I wanted to be a ‘we’ with you. I’ve been excited about every new step towards it. You know how happy I was to find out that you were going to games with Dad. You know how happy I was when your mom asked me if I’d come over and fix the leak in the sink. You know how happy I was when I realized that we’d spent ten weekends together in a row. When Wednesday rolled around, and we hadn’t said anything about getting together, but I showed up anyway and there you were at our table, I knew this was real. I knew that this was a real relationship, I knew that we really had something. As soon as lunch was over, I called Cindy and I told her I’d just split an order of potato skins with the man I was going to marry.”
Anderson practically fell off of his chair. “You told your sister that we’re going to get married?!”
“Months ago,” Clint said. “Because I love you and I know I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“You don’t love me!” Anderson got up, needing to move, putting distance between himself and Clint. “We’re having a good time, we’re good together, we’re, we - - we’re not in love with each other! Love is, love is - - I don’t know what love is, but this isn’t it!”
“I don’t know what love is, either,” Clint said, rising from the table. “I don’t know if it’s the way my entire body feels better when I wake up and realize that you’re right there beside me.” He was coming closer, with something serious in his expression. “I don’t know if it’s the way I laugh when you sing in the shower.” Even closer, now, until Clint’s fingers brushed through his hair and he gazed breathlessly into dark, solemn, deep brown eyes. “I don’t know if it’s the way I smile when I answer the phone and it’s you, no matter how bad my day’s been.” Clint’s fingertips caressed down his cheek, along his jaw. Down his neck. His skin tingled. He wanted to touch back. “I don’t know if it’s the way my stomach lurches with excitement when you make the first move. I don’t know if it’s the way my heart swells and twists and pounds whenever I think about you. I don’t know if it’s the way I automatically buy the bread and sweetener and toilet paper you like, because I know you’ll be in my apartment almost as much as I will. But I know that I’m in love with you.”
Anderson swallowed, gazing into Clint’s eyes. Of its own accord, one hand rose, trembling fingers settling on Clint’s chest. “You didn’t kiss me when I came in.”
Brown eyes closed, and Anderson closed his own eyes, and then he felt the soft brush of Clint’s lips over his. “I love you,” Clint whispered, and kissed him again.
“Oh my god,” Anderson whispered between kisses, his own heart swelling and twisting and pounding, his fingers clutching at the front of Clint’s shirt. He’d meant to say, oh my god, I’m in love with you. Oh my god, I’m scared. Oh my god, I want this. Oh my god, please stay with me forever. But he couldn’t get the words out.
A gentle touch at his cheek, and the kiss ended. He opened his eyes.
“I can do my best not to call you ‘baby’ in front of other people,” Clint said. “I can try harder to keep my hands to myself, if that’s really what you want. I respect what matters to you. But it doesn’t seem natural to me.”
“I don’t care about that,” Anderson said. He was too busy gazing into Clint’s eyes and wondering when he’d fallen in love. The first day? The first month? Three weeks ago? He remembered that Wednesday Clint had talked about, the first time they’d met without planning it out beforehand. He’d worried that he’d look stupid if Clint didn’t show up, but he’d also realized that if Clint didn’t show up Clint would never know that he’d been there, so he wouldn’t have much to be embarrassed about. He’d worried that he seemed pathetic and desperate, going to a restaurant just in case someone happened to be there, but they’d been having so much fun together, such real fun, such fantastic sex, that he’d decided to risk it.
And then Clint had walked in, hot and handsome and happy to see him, and he’d just…
…wanted to keep Clint in his life forever. Because if he could make someone smile like that just by sitting at a table, if someone could make him feel like that just by walking into a restaurant, then something very unique and very wonderful had occurred between them. And how could he let that go?
“You don’t care about what?” Clint asked.
“Call me whatever you want to call me.” He couldn’t stop staring into Clint’s eyes. He wanted to say “I love you,” he wanted to kiss Clint, he wanted to erect a force field around his life so Clint couldn’t get out. His younger sister swooned every time Clint said “baby” anyway, and that had gone from embarrassing to hilarious pretty quickly. “Put your hands wherever you want to put them.” He loved how affectionate Clint’s family was, the bond that it gave them, the warmth of it. Now that he’d been trained to expect a kiss at the door, Clint’s hand in his as they walked down the street, warm greetings, warm good-byes, demonstrating love and affection, sharing simple touches that revealed them as a close and comfortable couple - - it was part of their relationship, that touching. It wasn’t about “hey, let me get in your pants,” it was about “hey, it’s great to see you,” “hey, I’ve missed you,” “hey, let’s share this moment,” “hey, I like you.”
“I love you,” Anderson said, and kissed him.