Copyright April 4-5,
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.
“I’m not going.”
“It’s almost time, so you’d better get moving,” Tim said, running his fingers through Ryan’s hair with a dissatisfied look. “Did we cover all of the bases?”
“Why don’t you go instead?” Ryan asked. “Everybody loves you.” He was whining, and that was unattractive, and he didn’t care.
“The Cab Café, seven o’clock,” Tim said, reciting from memory as he plucked at Ryan’s bangs. “The reservation’s under Gillian, his name’s Shawn, he’s six feet tall, blond hair, blue eyes, algebra teacher.”
“I hate algebra,” Ryan said. “I hate math.”
“You have your keys, your wallet, your cell phone, breath mints, and condoms,” Tim said, abandoning Ryan’s hair to fill Ryan’s hands.
“Condoms?” Ryan asked, and stared at Tim with horrified eyes.
“To be on the safe side,” Tim said. “At least stick a couple in your wallet.”
“So when I pull out my wallet to pay, he can see that I’m ready to get it on at a moment’s notice?” Ryan asked. “I don’t have sex on the first date. I don’t have sex the first night I meet someone! I’ve never seen this guy in my life and-”
“You don’t have sex at all,” Tim said, refusing to let Ryan hand the condoms back to him. “That’s part of the problem.”
“I don’t like to leave my apartment, I don’t like strangers, I don’t like blind dates, and I don’t like you,” Ryan said. He dropped the condoms and stared at Tim defiantly. “And I’m not taking those.”
“Okay,” Tim said cheerfully. “Ready to go?”
“Come with me,” Ryan said quickly. “You can introduce us. Break the ice.”
“I’m not going to come along on your date with you,” Tim said. “Paul’s waiting for me. Just go. Have a good time. Drive safely. Remember to order something you can eat without making a mess.”
Ryan stared at Tim, eyes round, mouth falling open.
Seeing that he’d made a critical error, Tim rushed on. “You’ll be fine. It’s one night, you’ll have a good time. You love eating out. Maybe he’ll even pay!” he added brightly, pushing Ryan towards the door. “I love you, have a great time, call me to tell me all about it!” he said, and, with one hard shove, got Ryan safely outside. Then he locked the door and smiled. “Good luck.”
Ryan sat in the parking lot of The Cab Café and looked at his steering wheel.
He could go home. Tim would be gone by now. He could go home, make a nice sandwich, and watch some TV. It would be a very pleasant evening.
He could go somewhere else. Get a good dinner, a night out, somewhere without a blind date attached.
He could go in and look around, peek around, see what Shawn the algebra teacher looked like. And, if Shawn happened to see him, he’d say that he was someone else.
Meeting someone new, making conversation… He hated strangers. He never knew what to say. How was he going to find something to talk about? He had no interesting stories, no fascinating anecdotes. He didn’t even know any good jokes.
He was going home.
Tim would kill him if he went home.
Ryan hesitated. If he ditched Shawn the algebra teacher, Tim would be pissed off. Really pissed off. And that would mean trouble for him. Going on a blind date would be hell, but after he’d finally, finally agreed to go on one and Tim had gone to the trouble of finding someone who’d go out with him, the least he could do was meet the guy.
Tim wouldn’t have chosen someone horrible. Shawn wouldn’t be a hilarious genius supermodel, but Ryan wasn’t that well-suited to hilarious genius supermodels, anyway. Tim had his best interests at heart. Shawn was probably a nice guy, and his feelings would be hurt if he got stood up.
Ryan debated whether the world would end if Shawn’s feelings got hurt.
He debated whether his world would end if Tim found out he’d bailed.
He got out of the car and closed the door and looked at the restaurant’s front door.
He could still go home. Have a sandwich. With chips. TV. Relaxation.
Ryan was going over his options for the eighteenth time when he heard someone muttering. He looked around to make sure that no one weird was coming up behind him, and saw a guy, talking to himself, heading for the restaurant. The guy’s gaze was fixed on his apparent goal, the front doors, and he had his hands in his pockets. He was dressed in jeans and long sleeves, and maybe it was a trick of the parking lot lighting, but he looked pretty hot. The fact that he was muttering to himself indicated that something was probably wrong with him, but Ryan wished that, just once (or twice), he could date someone who looked like that.
Then, as the guy walked past Ryan without noticing him, Ryan caught what he was saying to himself.
“Hi, I’m Shawn. Hi, are you Ryan? Hi, I’m Shawn Abbott. Hi, my name’s Shawn, are you Ryan? Hi, I’m Shawn Abbott. Hello, I’m Shawn.”
Ryan stared after him as he disappeared inside The Cab Cafe. Shawn? That was Shawn? Tim had set him up with someone gorgeous and crazy? Someone tall and blond and hot who was even more unbalanced than he was?
Ryan grinned and headed for the restaurant.
Inside, since the hostess wasn’t in sight but the restaurant wasn’t that big, Ryan spotted Shawn for himself. Just outside, he’d paused to pat his hair and check his fly, so he approached Shawn with an even stride, feigning confidence. Shawn was studying the menu with unwarranted concentration.
Ryan stopped by the table. If he were cool, he’d slide into the booth confidently with a charming smile, but he wasn’t that cool. “Hi,” he said. “Shawn?”
Shawn looked up, and Ryan blinked. Oh, yeah. Those parking lot lights hadn’t done him justice. Those cheekbones, that soft blond hair, those bright blue eyes. This guy needed a blind date? Maybe Tim was paying him.
“Hi,” Shawn said abruptly, sliding out of the booth and shaking his hand. “Shawn Abbott. Are you Ryan?”
Startled, Ryan shook back. “Ryan Gillian.” Shawn was only a few inches taller, and slender, and nervous as hell. Ryan had expected to be the awkward one; he’d almost been counting on being a burden to his date.
“It’s nice to meet you,” Shawn said. He took his hand back, gaze flickering nervously towards the table and all over Ryan.
“You, too,” Ryan said, wondering what kind of evening he was in for. He sat down, and Shawn slid in opposite him.
“There are…menus,” Shawn said, rubbing his thumb over his temple.
Ryan picked up one, opening it. “I like this place. Have you been here before?”
“I’ve had lunch here,” Shawn said, opening his menu. “A few times.” He closed it. “Faculty, faculty lunches.” He turned it over. “Once a month.” He rubbed his thumb over his temple.
Ryan stared at him. It was safe to stare; Shawn hadn’t looked up since they’d sat. The guy was a nervous wreck. Ryan wanted to ask him if he was okay, but that would draw attention to his agitation, which would probably only make him more flustered.
Maybe if Ryan got him talking, he’d calm down. “Is that how you know Tim and Paul?” he asked. “You work at Kenfield High?” He already knew that Shawn and Paul taught at the same school, but he was trying to make conversation.
“Yeah,” Shawn said, opening his menu. “Yes, I teach algebra. Six years. I’ve been teaching for six years. Paul’s a great teacher. His students love him.” Shawn smiled to himself, or at his menu, or at nothing. “Especially the girls.”
Of course they did. Paul had to be the coolest teacher there. Ryan would have bet that Paul was the most attractive teacher there, too, before he’d seen Shawn. He took a moment to study Shawn over his menu. The way Shawn was blinking probably just meant that he was nervous, but also might have indicated that he was wearing contacts. Ryan felt a twinge of disappointment at the idea that those strikingly blue eyes might not have been quite that naturally blue, after all. Shawn’s hair looked naturally blond, and flopped softly onto his forehead. He wasn’t wearing any jewelry, only a watch, and the top button of his shirt was open. His ears stuck out just a millimeter too far. He was beautiful.
“Good evening. Are you ready to order?”
Ryan glanced up. The waitress was staring at Shawn. He couldn’t blame her for it; he’d been staring, too. “Shawn?” he prompted, feeling very smooth for a moment. To anyone watching, it looked like he and Shawn were friends, or lovers, or connected in some way, coming to dinner together. He was close enough to this gorgeous man to call him by name, anyway.
“The Caesar salad, please, with the, the chicken Caesar salad and,” he rubbed his temple, “Coke please, no ice.” He blinked at the waitress. “A baked potato with sour cream and butter.”
“All right,” she said, jotting that down on her notepad. “And for you?” she asked, turning to Ryan.
He wanted to ask her if she found Shawn’s tics charming or off-putting, but he settled for saying, “The chicken fingers, please, with fries and macaroni salad. And a Sprite.”
“Okay,” she said. “What kind of sauce would you like for the chicken fingers? Ranch, barbecue, honey mustard?”
“Uh, ranch,” he said.
“All right, thanks,” she said, taking their menus with a bright smile and leaving.
Ryan looked at Shawn.
Shawn chewed briefly on his lower lip, then stopped and looked off to one side. At the salt shaker, possibly.
“You like algebra?” Ryan asked.
Eye contact; the quickest flash of a heart-stopping smile. “I love algebra.”
Progress! Ryan hadn’t been prepared for how good that would feel. “Why algebra?” he asked, to keep Shawn talking.
“It’s a puzzle,” Shawn said. His words came in abrupt, choppy sentences. “It’s a mystery. Solving a mystery.” He looked away again; eye contact seemed difficult for him to maintain. “I like solving mysteries.”
Okay. Well, good. “I like mysteries,” Ryan offered. “I watch a lot of crime drama shows. Figuring out who did it, how, why.” For a split second there, Shawn had lit up, and Ryan had to find a way to get that smile back; he had to see that smile again.
“I watch TV,” Shawn said. “While I’m grading papers. I watch ‘Law and Order.’ ‘Murder, She Wrote.’”
“I love ‘Law and Order,’” Ryan said. They were getting somewhere! “Do you watch ‘Cold Case Files?’”
Shawn shook his head, rubbing his temple with his thumb. “I don’t watch TV about real people.”
Ryan waited for lightning to strike. “You don’t watch reality TV?”
“There are enough real people in real life,” Shawn said.
Well…true. Sometimes it was nice to escape into fiction, where the human suffering was a little less real.
“What,” Shawn glanced at him and then at the cup of sweetener packets, “what do you do?”
Oh. “I’m a hairdresser.”
Shawn glanced at Ryan’s hair.
“I didn’t style that,” Ryan said. “Tim did.” Ryan was great when it came to everyone else’s hair and sucked with his own.
“You work with Tim?” Shawn asked.
“Yeah. He’s my best friend.”
“He’s nice,” Shawn said.
“He’s perfect,” Ryan said.
“He’s very friendly,” Shawn admitted. That seemed to bother him a little, which made Ryan smile.
“Mr. Abbott?” A young woman just out of her teens came to their table with a hesitant smile. “Mr. Abbott, I’m Rachel Jorgensen, I was in your class a few years ago.”
“Miss Jorgensen,” Shawn said, quickly getting to his feet and shaking her hand. “You got an A minus in algebra two. You would have had an A plus if you’d spent less time passing notes about Mr. Gorham with Miss Page.”
“I’m sorry,” she said with a happy smile, not sounding sorry at all. “I can’t believe you remember me. You were my favorite teacher.”
“You were an excellent scholar,” he told her. “You had very neat penmanship.”
She laughed, and it was obvious that she really did like Shawn. “I’m sorry,” she said, with a quick glance at Ryan. “I’m interrupting.”
Shawn rubbed his thumb over his temple. “Miss Jorgensen, Mr. Gillian. Ryan Gillian. Mr. Ryan Gillian.”
“Ryan,” Ryan said, shaking her hand. “He was your favorite teacher?” he asked.
“Mr. Abbott was everybody’s favorite teacher,” she said. “We all loved him.”
“You were all fond of math?” Ryan asked with a skeptical smile.
She laughed. “No, we all hated math. But Mr. Abbott loved it so much, we tried to do well for his sake.”
“Don’t do well for my sake,” Shawn muttered to himself, putting his hands in his pockets. “Do-”
“‘Do well for your own sake,’” she finished with him, smiling. “I’d better go,” she said, looking toward the front of the restaurant. “It was nice to meet you,” she told Ryan. “It was great to see you again, Mr. Abbott.”
“Miss Jorgensen,” Shawn said, shaking her hand again.
She smiled with warm affection and left.
Ryan remembered high school too well. Any teacher with Shawn’s mannerisms would be teased mercilessly. Unless he was different in a restaurant than in front of a classroom. But Rachel hadn’t seemed at all surprised by how odd he was. Which meant that she remembered him being exactly this way, and was fond of him for it. Students loved him? Well, he was obviously gorgeous, and teenaged girls were bound to notice that. Still, that hadn’t been lust in her eyes.
Maybe the students at Kenfield High found Shawn as endearing as Ryan did. Already Ryan felt protective; it was clear that Shawn was nervous, and he wanted to ease that agitation.
The waitress brought over their drinks. “Your meals will be up in just a minute,” she said, and left them alone.
Ryan watched Shawn add a packet of sugar to his Coke.
“Why do you like to style people’s hair?” Shawn asked with a blink of eye contact.
“I’m good at it,” Ryan said. “People feel good about themselves when they look good, and they get excited about a new haircut. I like making them feel good.” He picked the wrapper from his straw. “I started out helping my sister braid her friends’ hair and it grew from there.”
“Here you go.” The waitress set plates down in front of them. “Can I get you anything else?”
“No, thanks,” Ryan said, and she walked off. He poured ketchup over his fries, watching Shawn cut each strip of chicken into three bites. What could they talk about now? Should he bring up TV shows again? “Do you have other interests?” he asked. “Hobbies?”
“Chairs,” Shawn said. “I paint chairs.”
Ryan couldn’t have predicted that answer. “You mean you paint wooden chairs, or you paint pictures of chairs?” he asked.
“I paint wooden chairs,” Shawn said, mashing butter and sour cream into his potato with his fork. “Rail-backed wooden chairs. Sometimes rocking chairs. Any color I want. Sometimes several colors at the same time. Sometimes I do benches.”
“Do you sell them?” Ryan asked.
“No,” Shawn said. “They’re in my basement. I give them away, but I have more chairs than I have friends.” Flicker of eye contact. “You can have one, if you want one.”
“I’d love one,” Ryan said, before he realized that he was going to say it. Then he thought about it. Actually, he kind of did want one. He wondered if he could fit a bench into his apartment. “How did you get started doing that?”
“My grandfather was a carpenter. I helped him to varnish.”
Ryan pictured Shawn kneeling on a drop cloth, painting a chair. Wearing paint-splattered overalls, and nothing else. His mind helpfully inserted himself into the fantasy; he crouched down behind Shawn, and Shawn turned into his embrace…
Ryan was mentally enjoying post-orgasm languor and running his fingers through Shawn’s now-tousled hair, when he realized that their food was disappearing and neither one of them had spoken for several minutes. Hastily, he searched for something to say. Nothing came to mind.
“I’m sorry,” Shawn said. Thumb to temple. “I’m not very good with people.” Flash of blue eyes looking up through blond lashes. “I’ll pay for dinner.”
“No,” Ryan said quickly. He didn’t want Shawn to think that their date had been a failure. Technically, it hadn’t been a marvelous success, but he was curious about Shawn, and attracted. Definitely attracted. “I’ve been having a good time.” After all the long hours he’d been dreading this date, was he really about to do this? “You can pay if you want to, but only if you agree to see me again.”
Shawn stared at him.
Just to see how long it would take, Ryan counted in his head. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand…
Shawn was chewing on his lower lip.
…ten one thousand, eleven one thousand…
Shawn stopped chewing.
…seventeen one thousand, eighteen one thousand… God, he was hot.
…twenty-one one thousand, twenty-two one thousand…
“I can do better,” Shawn said. “I’m not very good with people, I’m not. But I, if you talk to me while I’m working, I can do better.”
“While you’re working?” Ryan asked.
“All finished here?” the waitress asked, coming over and reaching for their plates.
“Yes, thank you,” Ryan said. “Do you want dessert?” he asked Shawn.
“May I have some paper, please?” Shawn asked her. “Do you have some paper and a pen?”
“I might,” she said, taking their plates. “Let me see.”
Ryan pushed his glass aside. “I’ve been having a good time,” he told Shawn again. “You’re a very interesting person.”
“Thank you,” Shawn said, turning red and rubbing his thumb over his temple. “Thank you, you’re, I like you, too.”
The waitress returned with a pen and a short stack of printer paper. “Here you go,” she said, leaving the bill. “Have a nice night.”
“Thanks,” Ryan said.
Shawn uncapped the pen and started to write at the top corner of the first sheet of paper. With short, neat strokes, he created an elaborate equation. And then he began to solve it.
Ryan watched for a moment. Shawn was working steadily but without great speed. Obviously it wasn’t taking a lot of thought on his part; he seemed to be working on automatic. But he wasn’t rushing it, either. It seemed like he was simply practicing an easy exercise in something he enjoyed.
“Can we talk now?” Ryan asked, when Shawn was halfway down the page.
“About anything you want,” Shawn said without looking up.
Surprised, Ryan studied Shawn’s face more closely. His voice had been calm, casual. Conversational. Relaxed. Normal. His face was at ease, his attention on his work. “Anything?” Ryan asked.
“What do you do when you’re not making people look good?” Shawn asked.
Ryan smiled. He wanted to touch the hair falling across Shawn’s forehead. “I watch TV, I take up all of Tim’s time, and I water my plants.”
“Watering plants is a hobby?” Shawn asked, a slight smile curving the corner of his lips.
That smile. Ryan had to get a second date. “I have a lot of plants. Twenty-six of them in one apartment.”
“Twenty-six?” Shawn asked. “How big is your apartment?”
“Two bedrooms. It gets a lot of light.” He couldn’t believe how easily, how smoothly conversation was flowing now. Shawn sounded calm and genuinely interested.
“I hope so,” Shawn said. “What kinds of plants?” He flipped the sheet of paper over and started on the second side.
“Most of them are from one angel plant that lost control. I have a bunch of cacti.” He watched Shawn start another equation. “If I had a couple of brightly painted benches, they’d be a great place to set some of my plants.”
Shawn smiled at the page. “I think so,” he agreed.
Ryan was seriously questioning his own reasoning considering the whole no sex on the first date thing. “Have you been in a serious relationship?”
“I had two boyfriends,” Shawn said, pen flowing smoothly across the paper. “Both of them were in college. We broke up right before graduation, and ever since then, I’ve been dating less and less. I’m not very good with people. It’s hard to meet them, it’s hard to talk to them, it’s hard to get them to want to see me ever again. I’ve become sort of a hermit.” He absently dragged his thumbnail across his forehead, and Ryan wondered if touching his forehead instead of his temple signified anything. “I haven’t gotten laid in years.”
“Years?” Ryan asked. He was more shocked that Shawn had brought up the subject, than at the amount of time.
“What about you?” Shawn asked, moving on to his second sheet of paper.
“I’ve had a few boyfriends,” Ryan said. “Eleven of them, but the last one was two years ago. I’m bad at dating, because unless I’m at work or Tim’s house, I don’t like to leave my apartment. I got laid four months ago, but I didn’t respect myself in the morning.”
“Top?” Shawn asked.
“Bottom,” Ryan said, wondering if anyone was eavesdropping.
Shawn smiled at his equation. “Good.”
By the time both sides of every sheet in the stack had been scribbled over, the restaurant was closing. They’d easily and openly discussed Shawn’s college years, Ryan’s cosmetology school experiences, Shawn’s students, Tim and Paul, why Shawn hated apartment living, why Ryan should move to a house, every episode of last season’s ‘Law and Order,’ why ‘Law and Order’ would always be found on some channel somewhere, why Shawn loved classical music, why Ryan hated jazz music, and what Ryan wanted to do to Shawn’s hair.
Shawn continued to sound genuinely interested in Ryan, asking pertinent, curious questions. Occasionally he slipped into a teasing, flirtatious tone that Ryan found to be a rare, tantalizing treasure. He was a warm person, open and relaxed. Ryan was crazy about him.
After their last warning by the waitress, Shawn recapped the pen and pulled out his wallet, leaving money on the table. “We should probably go.”
“Yeah,” Ryan agreed reluctantly. Next time, they’d eat at an all-night diner. “Thanks for dinner,” he said, getting up.
“You’re welcome,” Shawn said, giving Ryan a nervous smile and putting his hands in his pockets. “Thank you.”
Already, Shawn was regressing, right in front of his eyes. Ryan said good night to the waitress and walked outside with Shawn. When they reached his car, he said, “I’d like to see you again. Why don’t we meet for a movie first next time?”
“I, okay,” Shawn said, rubbing his temple, looking over Ryan’s shoulder.
“How’s Tuesday?” Ryan asked. “We can meet outside the Plex at six.”
“Okay,” Shawn said. “Six o’clock.” He raised his hand again.
Ryan caught it before he could reach his temple. Gently, he uncurled Shawn’s fingers, threading his own through them. “Are you like this with everyone?”
“Yes,” Shawn said. Flicker of eye contact. “Not as much around my family.”
“I’d really like to have one of your benches,” Ryan said.
Flicker. “I’d really like to have one of your angel plants.”
Ryan smiled. “I’m willing to arrange a trade.”
Shawn’s smile was warm, his gaze shy. “Paul didn’t tell me much about you. I didn’t know you were going to be…”
Shawn’s thumb twitched in Ryan’s grasp. Knowing what he wanted, but kindly refusing to give it to him, Ryan kissed Shawn’s temple instead. “Going to be what?” he asked.
“Like this,” Shawn said.
“Like what?” Ryan asked, kissing his other temple for good measure.
Shawn caught his gaze, and held it.
Ryan had absolutely no desire to look away. “Are your eyes really that blue?”
“Yes,” Shawn said. A slow, considering blink. Shawn’s thumb twitched. “I haven’t been looking forward to seeing someone again this much in years.”
Ryan smiled. “Thank you.”
“Can I have my hand back?”
Still smiling, Ryan shook his head. “No.” He wanted to kiss Shawn, he was burning to kiss Shawn, but he didn’t know if that would be smart. Shawn had a very attractively curved pink mouth, but Shawn also looked nervous enough that he might not react well if Ryan tried to kiss him. Ryan wanted to initiate at least a good night kiss, but he’d rather do nothing and get to see Shawn again than scare Shawn off.
Shawn broke eye contact, but this time, he only lowered his gaze as far as Ryan’s mouth. “I should go. You have to get home.”
“Yeah,” Ryan said. “We have work in the morning.” He wondered if Shawn wanted to kiss him. He wondered if throwing himself against Shawn’s body would be a bad move.
“Yes,” Shawn said. His thumb twitched. The focus of his stare wasn’t changing. “Good-bye.”
“Bye,” Ryan said.
“Bye,” Shawn said, and kissed him.