Sunday, August 10, 2014



*Story contains M/M relations, moments of fluff, and a ruined suit.*

"Oh, no!" I whined as my eyes traced the path of the massive Newfoundlander who had bounded from my grasp as though it was not even tied. I started to run. "No, no, oh God, no!" Oh, God, yes, my mind told me.

This could not end well. Even from where I currently raced to catch up with the determined mutt, I could see the fear plastered all over the face of the small man in the suit.

"Bear!" I screamed fruitlessly. "Bear, don't you dare!" Yet even as the last word left my lips, one-hundred and sixty pounds of dog met a frame that could not have weighed much more - complete with mud-covered paws and wet fur. Hundreds of dollars worth of Italian wool went tumbling to the damp grass as Bear toppled the man to his ass. I winced, kicked up the speed, and prayed to the heavens that the man was a dog-person. A hope which was, to say the least, abandoned when I saw the furious way he stared at each of us, green eyes shifting between Bear's dopey brown ones and my similarly-coloured, overtly panicked ones.

"Oh, man," I gushed, yanking at Bear's collar like it would actually have any effect at all. "I don't know what got into him! I'm so sorry!" I gave a final yank, daring Bear with my eyes to rebel, and Bear finally relinquished his new toy, sitting back with a flump while he watched the two of us with a wide doggy smile.

Silence fell heavy. The man was a disaster. A beautiful disaster - short brown hair styled perfectly and cut short, eyes that could stop time and lips that had to have been designed for the express purpose of sucking dick - but a disaster nonetheless. Four separate mud prints dotted and smeared the front of both jacket and shirt, his tie hung out and wrinkled, and his face had that shiny sheen that could be nothing other than copious amounts of doggy drool. The downed stranger slowly lifted a shaky hand, pointing at Bear, and hissed, "Does that... that... beast… belong to you?"

I took a moment to lament on how much prettier the man would be without the furrows carved into his forehead and the scowl on his lips - but only a moment. My pointed review of his pretty features was doing nothing to help Bear's case. So I coughed up a quick apology and timid smile. "Again, I'm so sorry! And yes, he does. Oh, God. Can I... I don't know... help you up or... something?"

He ignored my question. "And does it make a habit of attacking random strangers in public places?"

My lip twitched but I bit my tongue. "No. He doesn't. He's actually usually very well behaved. Short of the occasional jounce brought on by an inquisitive squirrel. But, I mean, you're certainly not a rodent..."

He cut me off. "Look at this!" Both his hands flipped, palms to the sky, as if asking the universe to provide some kind of assistance. "Look what it's done!"

I raked my teeth over my bottom lip. "Yes, he seems to have made a bit of a mess."

"A bit?" His voice caught, spiking to an unnatural high that probably could have shattered glass. "What do you have to say for yourself?!"

There are people in this world that always know the right thing to say. They have an ingrained wittiness, the ability to smooth almost anything over with a simple phrase or clever joke. I'm just not one of them.

I grinned more intensely, trying for cute. "That's what you get for walking through the park in an expensive suit?"

His jaw fell. Wrath morphed into disbelief. "I will have you know," he sputtered, "that I was having a really bad day!" Wounded self-pity flooded his voice. "And Ithought, oh, foolish me, that maybe a nice quiet walk in the park would help!" He ran his fingers through the mud on his chest and then looked at said digits with mortification.

Bear looked up at me with that is-this-guy-for-real expression that only he could pull off, and I cleared my throat to regain the stranger's attention. "Uh, that... was a... joke."

Hi tilted his head, as if the word had never entered his vernacular.

I raised an eyebrow. "You know, joke? Phrase meant to inspire laughter? Something said in jest? A funny ha-ha?"

He frowned again. "I'm well aware of the definition of the word. What I can't understand is why you're joking about my misfortune!"

Once again Bear swivelled his head in my direction and I gave him an I-know-right?! look. "Misfortune? Seriously?" I said, and reached for his hand. "It's a muddy suit and a wet ass, not cancer!"

"Sir," the man said, ignoring my offer of assistance and lifting himself to his feet. "Your amusement over the fact your dog just mauled me is not an indicator of a reasonable mind."

He was surprisingly short, standing there brushing dirt off his clothing and rearranging himself in some semblance of order, but still strikingly attractive. There was an obvious aura of wealth around him, nice clothes, well-spoken... cocky-ass, self-important demeanour. He looked up at me and squinted. "You're tall."

I snorted. "No. You're just shor..." I caught myself as I saw his eyes widen and lips tighten. "...standing on lower ground."

He lifted his eyebrow in scepticism. He pointed to his chest. "You're paying for this."

I shrugged. "Whatever."

* * *

Apparently, I thought, looking out the window of the cab, when I had previously assumed him to be well-off I had been wrong. My personal definition of 'well-off' was a nice, clean, properly-maintained bungalow in a quiet suburb with two sedans and two point five children between the ages of three and nine. Not a sprawling fifteen-cum-eighteen-thousand room, three-level, all brick, rod-iron-enclosed home that should have been featured in 'Homes and Gardens'. Considering that I live in well-loved fixer-upper down by the beach (read: shack)... let's just say in my oh-so-humble opinion the man had to be rich as God. And he wanted me to pay for his suit. If that wasn't worth an eye-roll, nothing was.

I checked the address on my scrap of paper once more - the one titled 'Erick Klein', and sighed. It was a match. I looked into the front seat and sadly caught the cabdriver's reflection in the rear-view mirror. "So," I asked, not even pretending to myself that I wasn't using everything in my power to delay further. "There isn't any other Tanner Drive in the city is there?"

"Nope," a gravelly voice resplendent with the abuse of years of tobacco worship replied. "Just this one. And the meter's still rolling friend." I watched $14.45 become $14.60 and sighed again, digging for my wallet.

I've noticed, in my short twenty-six years, that nicer neighbourhoods even smell better than the rest of them. Late summer rain had everything clean and fresh, all of the blooms in the flowerbeds were ripe and wide open, and someone, somewhere had managed to fit their lawn cutting in between the raindrops. Sweet, green, and affluent - the entire neighbourhood reeked of it.

I strolled up a driveway meticulously trimmed, over a path of perfectly laid fieldstone, and pressed an elegantly polished brass button to announce my presence. I was not met with a hoard of angry dogs with flattened ears and bared teeth although, I have to admit, I would have been amused with the irony if I had. Rather, my arrival was met with a quickly opened door and a harried head pressing itself through a crack of space to review the area around me with interest. "You didn't bring the dog did you?" Erick asked.

I frowned at him. "Of course not."

"Then you may enter." Erick stepped aside and I was greeted with a lobby both perfectly cleaned and tastefully decorated. "Tea?" He left me in the hallway with a bemused expression and the prospect of either toeing off my shoes and following, or remaining there to pensively consider the tile and skylight. I chose the former.

I tracked the sound of running water until I found my host. He was staring at what I assumed was a now full tea kettle with a look of frustration on his face. He turned at my entry. "Of course you don't want tea," he said, flushed. "Who drinks tea this late in the day?"

I found myself unsure if his mumbling was intended for me or if he was merely speaking aloud to himself. So I hovered in the doorway and waited instruction.

"Wine!" he said, suddenly pleased, and dropped the kettle on the stove with a clang. He yanked open a pantry-like door that actually turned out to be a fridge. Then he busied himself with unwinding wrapping and removing cork. He performed his task with so much diligence and flair, that I didn't have the heart to tell him I hated wine. Instead, I waited patiently until he turned with two glasses and a ridiculous smile, and told me to sit. Which I did - at the kitchen table - to which he said, "Not there!" as if it was the most foolish thing someone had done since nailing Christ to the cross. When he swept from the kitchen I was reluctantly forced to follow him into the living room.

Smoky grays, baby blues and softened whites gave the illusion of a quiet waterfront lounge. I seated myself on fantastically comfortable cloud-like furniture, took the offered glass, and made a definitive effort not to dump it everywhere. "So," he said, sitting opposite to me and crossing his legs, "how are you?"

I frowned, my mind instantly throwing up an imagined emoticon of confusion. "Uh, dude?" I asked, waiting for his attention. "Although I appreciate your hosting skills, I'm just here to pay for your dry-cleaning."

He waved me away. "Due time." He stuck out his hand, tiny, delicate; and I took a moment to consider what hands that small would feel like on my body, before I shook my head and refocused.

"We didn't formally introduce last time we, err... bumped into one another." Erick continued. "You now know I am Erick, I now know you are Dallas." He took a sip of his wine. "Interesting name that."

I shrugged. "Not really. My mother was a soap opera addict. I got lucky. She could have named me Guiding Light."

I watched another attempt at humour bounce, lost, into a far corner and huddle away with the dust bunnies. Not that there was any dust in this place it seemed. Regardless, I like the metaphor. "So," Erick started again, "I am thirty-two. And you are?"

"Twenty-six," I said, eyeing him. "And you really expect me to believe that you're thirty-two do you?" The man looked to be all of eighteen. Of course, that had a lot to do with his tiny frame and big green eyes, I knew that. Still, thirty-two seemed to be stretching an awful lot.

Erick huffed. "Regardless of your belief, that is my age." He took another sip of wine and I was starting to get the impression that the man was a little nervous. He was peering around the room, avoiding eye contact, making an obvious show of trying to appear oblivious. He nodded at me. "How's the wine?"

"Fine," I said, hoping he didn't notice I hadn't touched a drop of it. "Umm, so I have your money..."

Erick sighed heavily and set down his wine glass with a harsh clink. "Okay. So here's the thing."

I looked up at him with surprise. There was a 'thing'?

He cleared his throat, nervously tugging his shirt into place. He looked up and caught my eye, blushing at my expression. "I don't do relationships. I'm a very poor team-player and I don't get along well with other people. I have a bad attitude and for the most part I'm kind of unpleasant."

Fair enough, I thought, I'll agree with all of that so far - except for the reasoning behind throwing in his relationship statement. What did that have to do with anything?

Erick turned his head away and stared out the patio doors that led to the, of course, flawless backyard. "Are you... uhm... are you seeing anyone at the moment?" he asked. I choked on the sip of wine I had just tried. Literally. I took such a quick, sharp breath when he asked the question that I aspirated burning wine and had to fight to stop it from damaging soft tissue. Several moments of sputtering and coughing ensued.

He watched me cough like I was contagious and, after I had settled back down, taken another sip and regained some of my composure, he smiled and said, "Well?"

"Oh!" I looked up in mock surprise. "You mean me?"

Erick opened his mouth, confused, and then his expression slowly softened. "Oh. That was another joke."

Well, I had to give the man credit. He caught one. Finally. "Uh, ya. It was."

He dropped his gaze to his laps and played with his fingers. "Forgive me," he said quietly. "People don't usually joke with me. I..." he shrugged, "...flounder."

I nodded, not about to argue the obvious, and took another drink from the delicate wine glass. It actually wasn't bad wine either. In contrast to the liquid putrefaction that my friends usually brought to parties (for the sole reason of its relative cheapness) this was actually light, crisp and entirely drinkable.

"Because of my work," he offered, and I looked up startled, realising only then he'd been waiting for me to comment.

"Ah," I said. And sipped.

"Don't you want to ask me what I do?"

I shrugged. "Not really."

"It's quite interesting."

I sipped. "No doubt."

"And there's a background to it that's really..."

That's where I cut him off. "What are you doing?"

"What? Wait... what?" he stammered. "Talking, of course."

I smacked my lips lightly at the tang of the wine. "Why?"

"That's what people do Dallas. They talk..."

I shook my head. "Nope. They don't. We're not old buddies meeting for drinks. Or brothers catching up. This isn't a date. My dog made a mess of your suit and I'm here to make financial amends. Point blank." I drained the wine glass, set it down and leaned forward to rise.

"Wait!" Erick's voice peaked into that super-sonic pitch that I had been astonished by at our first meeting. I winced. He stared wide-eyed. "You're not leaving already are you?"

I pointed at the glass, teasing him. "The wine is done. Were you planning on offering to let me stay for dinner too?"

He stood quickly, grabbing for the empty glass. "Would you like to?"

I gave him a long stare. "What do you want, Erick? What's this about? You don't really strike me as the sit-down-and-chat kind of guy. To be honest, if you weren't so damn tiny I'd be starting to get a little nervous that I'm about to end up lashed to a pole in your basement. You've been dancing around something. Just tell me what it is."

Erick's frown attempted to mask his blush, but in spite of the tough guy expression he still looked more like a kicked puppy. I gave him a three count of silence. Then I stood. "Spit it out or I will take your leave."

"Okay, okay," he said quickly, waving me back down to the couch. Then he took a deep breath and set down his wine glass. I crossed my arms over my chest, still standing, and stared at him. "I... this is going to sound odd... but," he cleared his throat, picked his glass back up, then distractedly set it down again. "Well I... did a little research on your dog after I left you last week."

I cocked an eyebrow, unfolded my arms and sat back down. "Okay, nice work," I said. "You have my attention again. Why did you research my dog?"

Erick laughed - a light, nervous little trill. "That's what I do," he said. "When things upset me. I need to know them. Find out what makes them work. It's my way of regaining..." he floundered for the right word, settling on "control."

I lifted the other eyebrow and took a moment to consider the sanity of someone who felt the need to gain control over a random dog jump.

He blushed at the expression and I found myself growing fond of the pink stain that kept colouring his cheeks. Offset by the struggling attempt to appear commandeering and unaffected, it was kind of endearing. "I mean," he said, "why me, right? I find it so damn... fascinating. To a fault, really. Out of everyone in the park why did your dog come running at me? What did I wear? What did I say? What did I do that piqued your dog's interest in such a fashion?"

I shrugged. "Eat bacon for lunch?

I waited. And waited. And finally... Erick grinned. "Oh," he chuckled. "Bacon. Because then he would have smelled it… and… right, I get it."

I grinned at him. Atta, boy, I thought.

The chuckle didn't last long. He looked up and pointed, all serious expression and definitive body language. "And just for the record, no. I hadn't." He pursed his lips a little. "But you know what I did find out? About Newfoundlands? That's what he is right? A Newfoundland dog? You know what your dog is famous for?"

I nodded. "Fur piles?"

He waved away my reply. Ah well, I lamented, I suppose he couldn't catch them all. Baby steps.

"Rescues," he said and caught my eye. "They rescue."

I looked up at him, and he looked at me. His expression was sincere. And his words both intrigued me to all fuck, yet still managed to squick my creep alert when he said, "Now I just need to figure out which one of us he was trying to rescue."

Erick let his gaze drop to the carpet. "Because I've been thinking about you. A lot."

"Oh?" My eyebrows were getting quite the work out. "Care to share? What exactly have you been thinking of?" Yes, there was a part of me crossing my figurative fingers and chanting, 'not litigation, not litigation'. The other part of me however, had quirked its own curious brow. It was convinced that Erick was coming on to me. That this arrogant little thing was actually coming on to me! And that particular part of me liked it. I liked it.

He set his jaw, lifted his chin and spoke determinedly. Even if his cheeks were bright red and his fingers trembled. "I've been thinking about your hands, mostly. Well, not mostly. Your mouth, too. And how your forearms looked when you were pulling the dog back."

"Bear," I provided and he looked up, confused. I nodded and reiterated, "The dog's name is Bear."

Erick frowned. "Err... so?"

I leaned back into the couch and smiled. "So... if you're going to hit on me the least you can do is call one of my best friends by his name. His name is Bear."

Erick frowned. He held up a finger. "Hold on. You stopped me from telling me how attractive I thought you were to correct me on your dog's name."

"Bear," I prompted.

"Right," he huffed. "Bear. To correct me on Bear's name."

"To correct you to use Bear's name," I explained.

He narrowed his eyes. "You are a strange man, you know?"

I grinned. "Said the pot to the kettle." Erick titled his head to the side for a second and I sighed. I was not going to try and explain that one to him right then. I waved it off. "Anyway... go on? I believe you were recalling how much of a sexy bastard I am?"

Erick picked up his wine glass. "Actually, that was pretty much it. I was done."

I chuckled at his attempt at nonchalance. "So, that means what exactly? You want to come home and meet the folks? Share some pasta? Finish the wine?"

He drained his glass and set it down. Then he stood. He walked over to the couch and grinned at me. Then, in that smooth way that only small bodies seem capable of, he knelt on the cushion beside me and slipped his leg over until he was straddling my lap, his arms wrapped around my neck. His grin deepened into something far more feral. "Oh, no," he purred. "We should definitely fuck."

My eyes widened. My brain finally fumbled with the lack of something to say. And the last thing I thought of before his tongue slipped between my lips was, "Steak for dinner for you, Bear. Most definitely steak for dinner."

The End.

Copyright © 2011 AF Henley

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