Expecting Sean to direct the cab driver to his posh hotel on the Rue de Rivoli when they left the salon (together at last, he privately exulted) Elijah was surprised when instead Sean gave their cabbie the address of the youth hostel. For a moment, he feared that Sean had changed his mind, but then warm green-gold eyes smiled into his and Sean said, "I figured you'd be more comfortable at the hostel than at a place like the Meurice."
Elijah beamed happily at this evidence of Sean's caring, thoughtful nature, and decided that Sean had the makings of a true Empathicalist. He was certain that Sean's hotel was completely out of his league, like Sean himself, although for some reason Sean didn't seem aware of this fact - and Elijah had no intention of pointing it out.
"Are you nervous?" Sean asked softly.
"No," Elijah replied, and he wasn't. After all, he loved Sean and Sean loved him, so everything else would take care of itself.
Of course, he was tempted to pinch himself, since it seemed too impossibly glorious to be true, but there was no mistaking the ardent light in Sean's eyes. His thumb lightly caressed the back of Elijah's hand where it rested on the vinyl seat between them, and each stroke was like the lick of a deliciously burning flame on his skin. He'd wanted to know how Sean's large, capable hands would feel on his body, and if this preview was anything to go by, it would be amazing.
"Do you think they suspected anything?" Elijah asked. "Yves, Henri and Marcel, I mean."
Sean chuckled. "After the way we were making goo-goo eyes at each other and smiling like the two silliest, sappiest lovers since Romeo and Juliet? Nah. I'm sure they didn't suspect a thing."
"Well, I'm pretty sure Yves and Henri had already figured how I feel about you," Elijah admitted. Both men were dyed in the wool romantics, and unapologetic about it, so it was hardly surprising they'd caught on.
"In retrospect I'm very sure Marcel already had my feelings figured out. It looks like I'm the only dope in the bunch who was clueless," Sean said.
"You're not a dope," Elijah said with some heat. "Sean, you're smart and you're talented, not to mention accomplished and artistic-"
"Okay, cut it out," Sean interrupted, his cheeks turning red. "You're making me blush, and I haven't done that since I was twelve and my voice started to change."
Elijah subsided, although he could have gone on at length. He'd spent ridiculous amounts of time this past week thinking about Sean and dreaming about Sean and wondering if there were any chance that Sean would ever, ever see him as anything but a model with an annoying uncle and an interest in philosophy.
In fact, he'd barely given a thought to Professor Mortensen or Empathicalism all week, although he'd been too embarrassed to admit it to Sean when he asked Elijah what he'd been up to in the evenings. It was true, though. Instead of discussing Empathicalism with the Professor or his fellow disciples at the café, or hanging out in the hostel common room with the other young people who were staying there, Elijah had spent his evenings alone, walking along the Seine in the rain or sitting at an outdoor table drinking coffee and watching lovers stroll past hand in hand while he imagined it was himself and Sean. Uncle Ian would surely have deplored the waste of time and cautioned Elijah against keeping his head in the clouds. But Elijah was beginning to suspect that his uncle had never been in love, and he rather pitied him. Uncle Ian had no idea what he was missing.
"Arrêtez, s'il vous plais," Sean said to the cab driver, and Elijah looked at him quizzically. Sean pointed at a shop on the right. A neon green sign above the entrance proclaimed 'Pharmacie'.
For a moment Elijah was confused. "Are you feeling ill?" he asked, and then the obvious answer occurred to him. "Oh!" He flushed with embarrassment.
Sean grinned and said, "'Oh,’ indeed. But I’m the one who should be embarrassed. If I told you how long it’s been since I’ve needed supplies, you’d be shocked." He leaned over and gave Elijah a quick kiss. "Sit tight, sweetheart. I'll be right back."
Elijah sat tight, wearing a foolish smile from the endearment, and trying not to make eye contact with the cabbie in the rear view mirror. Maybe he shouldn’t be so happy about Sean’s confession ... but he was.
“I’m sorry the room is such a mess,” Elijah apologized as he held the door open for Sean. The hostel was clean but shabby, its only real saving grace being the balcony overlooking the courtyard where Sean had performed his magic tricks, and Elijah's housekeeping skills, or lack thereof, hadn't helped matters.
He wasn’t accustomed to neatness and order except at the book shop, where it reigned supreme. Uncle Ian was if anything a worse housekeeper than Elijah, and the Brooklyn brownstone they shared rather resembled Embryo Concepts after Cate and her minions had got through with it. Except that he and Uncle Ian were always able to put their hands on what they were looking for, even if it was at the bottom of a haphazard pile of stuff.
“That’s okay,” Sean said, setting the white paper bag on the nightstand next to the blue paper flower. “I’m not exactly Suzy Homemaker myself, you know.” He lightly touched the flower, a pleased smile quirking the corners of his lips at this evidence of Elijah's sentimentality.
“Yeah, but still...” Elijah quickly gathered up several wrinkled boxers and tee shirts lying crumpled on the floor and dumped them in his open suitcase that was doing double duty as a dirty laundry hamper. He moved to pick up another armload, but Sean stopped him, taking hold of his elbow. His touch raised prickles like heat rash on the sensitive skin; Elijah shivered.
“Elijah, stop worrying about it.” Sean gave a gentle tug. “Come here.” That ardent light was back in his eyes and his voice had grown husky.
Elijah resisted. “No, I really should...” he began.
“You are nervous,” Sean observed.
“Maybe I am, a little,” Elijah admitted, realizing that Sean was right. “You see,” he went on earnestly, “I’ve never made love with anyone before and I don’t want to be a disappointment to you.”
“As if.” Sean’s huffed laugh soothed Elijah’s nerves better than his words. “But standing around talking about it won’t accomplish anything except make you worse.” His hand moved from Elijah’s elbow, sliding down his forearm in a warm caress to clasp his fingers. “That bed looks delightfully rumpled and inviting," Sean continued in a husky voice. "I can picture you lying there in the morning sun, naked, pleasuring yourself.”
Elijah had never been in a sauna before, but he suspected he knew exactly how it felt now. Steamy didn’t begin to describe the atmosphere in the room in the wake of Sean’s remark. The wonder was he didn't melt into a puddle on the spot.
“You- you can?” Rats, did his voice have to squeak like that? Elijah was certain that Sean’s previous lovers had been sophisticated and experienced, not gauche and jejune like him.
“Absolutely. In fact,” Sean added, raising Elijah's hand to his lips and kissing it, “someday I’m going to shoot you doing exactly that. But right now, I’m more interested in what we can do together.”
He pulled Elijah to him, and Elijah went willingly, eager to revisit the wondrous sensations that had been so sadly short-lived at the church. His cock was already a pleasurably aching tightness against the zipper of his jeans, and having learned how to relieve the pressure, he wasted no time but pulled his hand free and threw his arms around Sean's neck. He pressed up against him, whimpering as he made contact with that solid masculine body and the firm bulge that pulsed at the juncture of Sean's thighs. Instinctively he undulated his hips, burying his face in the crook of Sean's neck and moaning as the most mind-blowing sensations streaked through him like wildfire.
"Easy does it," Sean said in his ear. He grasped Elijah's hips to stop his undulations, and eased his own away so that they no longer touched.
"Sean, no," Elijah protested, needing that deliriously delightful and delicious friction back.
"Your first time shouldn't be going off like a rocket in your pants," Sean said. "Let's get out of our clothes, okay?"
Seeing the eminent good sense in this suggestion, Elijah went to work, yanking his tee shirt over his head and tossing it away and then attacking his zipper with fevered haste.
Sean chuckled, but Elijah noticed that he was moving pretty fast himself. "I guess we'll save the slow sexy undressing for another time," Sean remarked.
"Sorry," Elijah said, simultaneously toeing off his Chucks and shimmying out of his jeans.
"Don't be. It's pretty flattering, actually."
Elijah kicked his legs free of the jeans. "But you're gorgeous." Couldn't Sean see that? Was he blind?
Apparently so, for he said, "Thanks for the props, Funny Face, but guys like Orlando are gorgeous. I'm only average."
"If I say you're gorgeous, you're..." Elijah's voice trailed off as Sean stepped out of his boxers and stood naked in front of him. "Wow." He might never have gotten naked with another guy before, but he'd seen his fair share of erotica and it paled by comparison with the real thing. "I'm gonna steal your camera and shoot you," Elijah said, shedding his own boxers without taking his eyes from Sean's impressive arousal.
"You know, I used to think you were bad for my ego," Sean said, laughing. "I couldn't have been more wrong." Then his tone changed, turning almost reverent as his eyes devoured Elijah from top to toe, lingering in between. "But trust me, nothing compares to the Quality Man."
Elijah opened his mouth to argue the point, but Sean reached out and pulled him close, bare skin to bare skin, aroused cock to aroused cock. "Now that's what I call pizzazz," he quipped.
"Sean!" A helpless giggle emerged from Elijah, but he said, "I don't want to think about Cate right now, please." While his opinion of Cate was higher than it had been at first, he was still more than a little intimidated by her.
"Hmm, you do have a point," Sean agreed. "She's a definite mood killer. Looks like I'll have to do something to make amends."
He did. Retaining his hold on Elijah, Sean shuffled slowly backward until his knees hit the side of the bed. He let his momentum take him, falling back onto the mattress and drawing Elijah down with him. No sooner had they landed, with Elijah draped over him like a human blanket, than he made a lightning quick move an Olympic wrestler might have envied and flipped them so that Elijah was beneath him with his wrists lightly pinioned beside his head.
He was breathing hard and the pupils of his eyes expanded, black consuming green in a potent warning of what was to come. "How's this?" he asked in a seductive growl, shifting against Elijah so that their cocks rubbed together.
Elijah’s only response was an incoherent stutter. None of his imaginings had even come close to the reality of holding Sean cradled between his thighs, of hair-roughened legs, dense muscle, sweat, musk, and the velvet-over-steel heat of his cock, thick and full and burning against him. He'd yearned to be initiated into that mysterious other world, the world of color and light and emotion, and now it was happening and it surpassed his wildest dreams.
There were truths beyond those the intellect could plumb, Elijah thought dimly, truths that didn’t require a degree in philosophy to figure out. No life was complete without them, he could see that now, but he was glad he'd waited to learn them, because it meant that he had this man as his guide.
Then he stopped thinking at all for Sean captured his mouth in a suckling kiss and simultaneously began to rock gently against him. Gentle wasn't what Elijah wanted, however, and he pushed his hips demandingly upward. Sean increased the tempo, and soon they established a rhythm, moving in tandem while they kissed avidly, tongues thrusting and parrying in tempo with the rocking of their bodies.
Sean released Elijah's wrists to tangle his fingers in his hair so he could deepen their kiss even further. Elijah, free now to touch Sean as he pleased, eagerly stroked his palms over Sean’s shoulders, over his ribs and back, marveling at the satin smoothness of his skin and fascinated by the shift and play of hard muscle beneath it. When he reached the dimpled roundness of Sean’s buttocks, he dug his fingers in, for the pace was rapidly quickening and their cocks, slick with pre-come, were sliding against each other faster and faster in a frenzied mating that left him nearly mindless with pleasure.
Abruptly Sean broke off their kiss, tearing his mouth away to bury his sweaty face in the side of Elijah’s neck. “Shit oh shit, Elijah,Elijah,” he chanted, his body starting to jerk spasmodically.
Elijah barely heard him. Instinct had taken over; the blinding need for fulfillment had him firmly in its grip as an intolerable pressure built inside him and every tortured nerve ending screamed for release. When his climax came, he thought he must surely die, for wave after wave of the most intense sensation tore through him, and his entire body felt as if it was flying apart.
He clung tightly to Sean, his only anchor in wildly tossing seas, until eventually they calmed and he discovered that he was very much alive. Semen was warm and wet on his belly, the skin on his neck tingled where the stubble of Sean’s beard had rasped against it, his lips felt bruised, and muscles in unusual places twinged. Oh yes, he was alive, all right, and he gloried in it.
Sean was still pinning him down, but Elijah was perfectly content to remain as they were, loving how Sean felt in his arms, with his muscles lax and his cock softening in the aftermath of their lovemaking. They were so close that Elijah could feel the beat of Sean's heart as it gradually slowed. It was the most intimate sensation he'd ever experienced.
Eventually Sean raised his head. He looked dazed, almost stupefied, and Elijah could have purred with pride and satisfaction. “Guess I did okay, huh?” he asked smugly.
Sean’s laugh was shaky. “You Empathicalists sure are full of surprises,” he said, and Elijah giggled. But then he framed Elijah's face with his hands and looked him deeply in the eyes. "How I love you, my sunny Funny Face," he said, and this time when he kissed him, it was with exquisite tenderness.
"I love you, too." Elijah hugged him fiercely and then said, "Sean, can we go for a walk?". Suddenly he felt too effervescent to remain still, as if he were a champagne bottle that had been shaken and the cork was about to pop. And he wanted to walk with Sean as he'd seen those other lovers walk: with clasped hands and eyes only for each other. Maybe it was sappy and cliché, but wasn't that what Paris in the springtime was all about?
Sean looked at him quizzically, but said, "Sure, if you want. I was going to suggest we clean up and go get something to eat." He grinned. "I've worked up quite an appetite - for food, that is. At least," he amended, "food will satisfy me for the moment."
Elijah grinned back and Sean tweaked his nose before lifting himself up - with a little difficulty as their bellies were stuck together with drying come. The process struck Elijah as hysterical and had him giggling helplessly by the time Sean was on his feet.
"Guess a shower is in order, huh," Sean said, laughing with him. "Care to take one with me?" he asked, holding out his hand. "I can promise to misbehave."
The bathroom was tiny, the shower tinier, but there was room enough for the two of them and Sean made good on his promise. They stayed in so long fooling around that the water started to cool and Elijah tried, and failed, to feel guilty about the waste. They weren't recovered enough to have sex again, but Elijah discovered that it didn't matter; it wasn't about sex, but about intimacy and sharing. Sean revealed a new side of himself, mischievous and playful, and Elijah felt cocooned in love and warmth even as Sean tickled and teased him.
As they dried themselves off with thin coarse towels that even Elijah had to admit were inadequate, Sean said, "No offense, Elijah, but tomorrow night we're going stay at my hotel, where the shower is over sized and so are the towels, and there are fluffy bathrobes and slippers and ... Shit."
"What is it? What's wrong?" Elijah asked anxiously.
"I just remembered: I have a flight back to New York tomorrow night at 10:30," Sean said.
"But I'm not leaving until Tuesday," Elijah said, unable to hide his dismay and disappointment. He'd decided to stay in Paris a few extra days to spend time with Professor Mortensen and the other Empathicalists. But that plan no longer held the least attraction for him, and all he could think was that he'd be staying behind while Sean went home to New York without him.
"If you're staying, I'm staying," Sean stated. "I'll just reschedule my flight that's all."
Elijah dropped his towel and threw himself at Sean, who dropped his own towel to catch him in his arms. "You'd do that for me? Oh Sean."
"For you?" Sean huffed a laugh. "I'm doing it for me. I'd go crazy without you, Elijah."
There was only one possible answer to that, and it almost led to them abandoning the idea of dinner to feed an entirely different kind of hunger.
But though tempted by a return to bed, they did dress and go out. It was late, but not by Parisian standards, and Sean took him to a gay-friendly bistro where they sat at a round table so tiny their knees touched. They ate steak and frites and drank a bottle of red wine, and Elijah gazed besottedly into Sean's eyes, green as jade in the flickering candlelight, and knew that Sean was staring back just as besottedly.
Afterward, they strolled hand in hand along the Seine in the moonlight, exactly as Elijah had imagined them doing, and it was pure magic, even without the red rose that Sean conjured from somewhere and presented to Elijah with a courtly bow. When they returned to the hostel, Sean took the rose from Elijah and set it beside the blue paper flower on the nightstand. Then he picked up the white paper bag.
"We haven't used these yet," Sean said, a question in his eyes.
Elijah's heart started to race, not with fear but excitement. "Then let's do it."
They did, and that was magic, too.