My first thought on meeting Hank was that he was cute as fuck. Adorable, shy grin. Ungodly smart. He shared enough attributes with Charles to make me nervous, but didn’t have any of Charles’ natural confidence or charm, which was a little comforting.
But he was Charles’ research assistant at the time, and Hank had a very familiar look in his eyes. A look dozens of co-eds had stupidly flaunted before him. The oh-my-god-isn’t-he-just-dreamy-and-gorgeous-and-perfect-and-made-of-sunshine look. Since he got on the good side of puberty Charles has had a singular talent for getting people to crush on him hard. Sometimes it was straight up lust or bromantic fervor or academic boner-popping or the inexplicable desire to spoon him and pet him like a miniature dachshund puppy.
With Hank I just could not tell what category of admiration he fell into, though I was leaning toward ‘Ostensibly Heterosexual Male Colleague Whose Charles-Crush Manifests in Guilt Laden Masturbation and Eventual Weepy Drunk Confession and/or Poem About His Eyes.’
There had been more than couple of those.
So I decided, cute or not, I wasn’t going to put in the effort.
His obvious jones for me didn’t change my mind either. Instead it just brought back memories of Bisexual Ian and the Spring Break Fiasco of 2007.
It wasn’t until a year and a half later that I finally cracked. We had all gone to a bar together, a fairly common event. Normally it wound up with Hank and I sharing a booth, talking about work or Battlestar Galactica or Kurosawa or feminism or the Shake Weight commercial or family or any old shit, while Charles went off to flirt with people by impressing them at trivia or darts or shots or quoting Byron and telling them their noses were unique genetic snowflakes, or whatever the fuck he did. When Hank went to the bathroom, I cornered Charles.
“So do you and Hank fuck?”
He choked on his beer.
“Bloody hell, you could warn me.”
“You think you’d be used to it by now.”
“You would think.”
There was a long break where Charles did not respond at all, looking vacantly at his beer. My stomach pained a little. “So, are you?”
“No!” He said plaintively. “No. God no. Never.”
I gave him the stink eye.
“No,” he said. “I thought it was obvious.”
“Really? Cause he has the look. He’s had it for a while now, actually.”
Charles rolled his eyes, taking another drink. He liked to play dumb about the look, but he never denied its existence, suggesting he was totally aware of whatever mojo he had that made him irresistible to people. I was still pissed he refused to share his secrets after all those years.
“He has a little academic crush is all. Hank is exceptionally intelligent. It’s difficult for him to make connections, so he gets a little enthusiastic about the ones he has. There’s nothing more to it.”
“Nothing on your part? No deep-seated desire to tie him to your bed and slap him around a little? Never get a hankering for his all natural, vanilla cannoli? You never get the urge, after long hours of writing equations on a chalkboard, to just crawl under the table and polish his lab microscope?”
Charles had a horrified, mealy apple face. “I… You are disgusting. And I never want any more insight into your sexual tastes. Or what you think about my sexual tastes. Or what you think is acceptable vocabulary to describe either. In fact, if you could refrain from referencing sex in any way from now on I’ll die a happy man.”
I smiled. Charles hated talking about sex in any other terms than clinical and respectful, flowery drivel.
“You’ll stop complaining the next time I say ‘fuck,’ though, won’t you?”
After an impressive chug, he wiped his mouth and said, “Or what you think about what I do for a living. I mean, equations on a chalkboard? I don’t even… I’m going to go now. I’m going to go flirt with that woman with the Chinese calligraphy tattoo that she probably thinks means ‘peace,’ but actually means ‘fat astrology cow’ or something.”
“Ooh, standards are high tonight.”
He looked at me with his disapproving, fuck-you eyes, because he’d never actually say it, and left to hit on Astrology Cow.
“Where did Charles go?” Hank said, sliding into the booth a minute later.
I waved vaguely in the air. “Cherchez la femme. Well, at least tonight.”
Hank shook his head ruefully. “It’s always remarkable to me that despite in all the areas he excels, he still behaves so promiscuously. A man as intelligent as he is should know how exponentially his opportunities to contract a sexually transmitted disease increase with each sexual partner he entertains. I mean, prophylactics aren’t bulletproof, so to speak.”
I smiled despite myself. Hank was bit reserved, if not prudish. Frankly, it was a good change of pace from Charles and me. It was nice to have a friend who held something back every once in a while. Charles and I had lived each other’s pockets since my Dad married his Mom. That was as sticky and hairy as two oversexed, stubborn, opinionated people living in close quarters might imply. It was nice to have a friend who you’d known for less than fifteen years and wasn’t kind of related.
“More meaningfully, the law of large numbers becomes immaterial when applied to an endeavor fraught with human complacency and error.”
“The law of large numbers?” I said with a grin. “Is he approaching infinity?”
Hank laughed and blushed pink. “I don’t mean to imply… It’s not like I know any real details. I was just raised to be more discerning about… sex stuff.”
“Ah, well, Charles and I weren’t really raised by anyone. So that might be the problem.”
Hank bit back a piteous look, which was good. The vast amounts of money sort of made up for the lack of parental supervision and affection, but Hank never thought that. But then he smiled.
“It only speaks to your fortitude of character that you’ve turned out so well.” Then as an embarrassed afterthought he said, “and Charles.”
After a pizza and a few drinks, we’d gotten a little loosened up. Hank was a lightweight and a little red on the nose. His hair was mussed from fiddling with it. And he was getting a little emotional, telling me about being bullied as a child in his little Midwestern hometown. I was listening sympathetically and reassuring his doubts, while making sure my tits were at an appealing and visible angle.
“You see, that’s the problem,” I said. “You keep thinking of yourself as the same weird, gangly kid you were ten years ago. I don’t think you know how sweet and compelling and great you are.”
I nodded. “I do.”
There was a long, sort of tense moment filled with a locked look across the table. I took a deep breath, about to open my mouth to speak, with Hank sporting the same preparation on his face, when my phone buzzed loudly between us.
It was a text from Charles reading: Btw, tattoo read ‘pteranodon fight.’ Intentional. She’s a paleontologist. Charles FTW!
I sighed. “It’s just Charles. He’s telling me about the girl he went off with.”
But when I looked up Hank was already turned away, checking his phone. He cleared his throat, saying, “Uh, I should get going. I have an early meeting with the department head tomorrow morning.”
Ten days later, Erik arrived.
It was immediately apparent upon meeting Erik that he was barely restrained. Why Charles couldn’t understand the danger of that was beyond me. Hell, it was Charles idea that Hank and I had to stand motionless in inspection because Erik was apparently as stable as an attack dog. Yet he just grinned like a loon when Erik crowded around him to poke through and smell his hair. It wasn’t that I really thought Erik would attack Charles. Out of everyone he seemed to dislike me the most, if the yelling was any indication. It was just that Charles was so stupidly optimistic about things, constantly running headlong into things he thought might be exciting.
Adopting a barely sentient prehistoric man to run around his house half-naked, for instance.
The least I could do was give him my Taser.
The first evening at Hank’s apartment was fine for the most part. We watched a mini Torchwood marathon and made popcorn. It was fun.
Then at about half past eleven, Hank said, “So. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
After a long pause, chewing on my lip, I said, “You don’t have to do that.”
“No, it’s alright. You’re my guest. It would be rude of me not to.”
We were still sitting on the couch, unnecessarily snuggled together in the middle. Turning in toward him, and ignoring his frightened-deer-in-the-headlight eyes, I climbed over his lap.
“That’s not what I meant.”
I kissed him and it was a good kiss. His hands were wide and soft smoothed through my hair. It was about as nice as making out on a couch got. We went at it sort of slow, just feeling around each other. Hank adjusted quickly and made no objections when I took off his shirt, and certainly not when I took off mine. Things progressed perfectly. He mouthed politely at my neck and my tits, looking like he was savoring every inch of skin. I ground myself against the tempting tent in his jeans, wanting more and more each time I did.
I slid my hand down to cup him and whispered, “Do you have any condoms?”
He froze completely, hands tense on my hips. Then he gently, carefully pushed me off his dick.
“I don’t… We’re not going to have sex?” He looked me in the eye dubiously. It wasn’t quite a question, but it wasn’t quite a statement either.
“Well, I was hoping.”
He swallowed hard. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
“Why not?” I said, suddenly horrified and worried about every signal I’d gotten from him since we met.
“It’s just… To jump right into things? I just don’t think it’s good for you.”
I leaned back, offended and really desperately wanting my bra and shirt back on. So I got off his lap and turned around, looking for where my bra had landed. It was awkwardly dangling from the ceiling fan. Hank kindly got it down for me.
“Wait, don’t—“ he started.
Once my bra was hooked, I said, “Screw you. I can make my own decisions. I don’t need your help deciding when I want to fuck someone.”
Hank grabbed my arm to keep me from turning away again, because I didn’t really want to look in his eyes at the moment. His expression was caught somewhere between afraid and confused and still aroused.
“Wait, I didn’t mean you, ‘you’. I meant the nonspecific ‘you.’ I meant… me.” He sighed and squeezed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. “I mean, I know we’ve been spending a lot more time together recently, but we’re not even dating. And if we are, I certainly missed that message. I don’t think I’m unjustified in assuming we weren’t dating considering most of our outings involve Charles. But I can’t… I can’t just go from spending time with someone straight to, straight to making love. There are a few steps in between I can’t just hurdle over.”
I paused, holding the information in my mind like a puzzle, testing the weight of it.
“You… aren’t ready?” I said experimentally.
He nodded, relieved. “Believe me, Raven. I want to have sex with you. I like you a great deal. And I liked kissing you a great deal also, but I want to… I don’t want this to be a one-time thing. I don’t want to be some guy you sleep with.”
“You want to be my boyfriend?”
“Well, yeah. If that’s what you want.”
“That’s good. I want that. And if you want to wait to have sex, I want that too,” was what I said. And reasonably calmly. But inside I was flipping out just a little bit.
I’d never had a guy tell me he wasn’t ready for sex. Well, not in a way that implied it was because he wasn’t hard yet. Hank wanted to wait because he wanted to give our relationship the appropriate gravitas. He was the a guy who said things like “making love” earnestly and didn’t want to take advantage even though I’d made the first move. He probably put more thought into my honor than I ever had.
He basically did everything that made me want to fuck him even more.
After he went into the shower to cool down and I changed into pajamas, he stopped awkwardly in his bedroom to say good night.
“You know, you can still sleep in bed with me. If you want. Fully clothed,” I added at a look. “I promise not to compromise your virtue.”
As Hank drifted to sleep, lazily forming the big spoon behind me, I couldn’t help but text Charles: Alone with hairy man-ape? Romantic cuddling with big hot guy. Raven FTW!
Of course I didn’t find out until later that Charles wound up in the exact same position I did. Because he would. Fucking Charles. At least mine could speak English.