“Fuck you Martinez! You’re just not educated enough to understand the absolute beauty that is the tomato!”
Mitch Henderson lets out a deep sigh and pinches the bridge of his nose.
Chris can’t help but lean back slightly in a futile attempt to see through the double doors and into the room beyond. Obviously the rest of his team must be in that room and Chris is slightly anxious to meet the person that can work himself into a frenzy based on someone not sharing his level of appreciation for tomatoes.
And that’s what it is now, a frenzy. Based on the mutterings streaming out into the corridor and the escalating pitch of his voice this guy has a serious hard on for vegetation.
“NO MARTINEZ tomatoes are NOT a vegetable. They are a FRUIT. They are the ONLY fruit that should be found anywhere on a pizza. I’m looking at you Johanssen and your freaky compulsion to ruin near perfection with pineapple.”
Shit. It seems he’s missed some quality team bonding by arriving two weeks late.
“I promise you Doctor Beck it’s not as much of a mad house as it sounds right now. Your teammates are actually some of the foremost leaders in their respective fields an-” But Chris would never hear the end of that sentence because at that very moment the double doors swung outwards and Chris finds himself face to face with a tall man clutching a tomato plant to his chest.
The stranger stops quite suddenly which causes his glasses to begin sliding down his nose.
“Ummm…did anyone order a male stripper? Lewis? Johanssen? Vogel?” Chis can actually feel the blush spread across his face and down his neck, he didn’t even think that was possible.
“Watney!” Apparently the man stood before him is Mark Watney, botanist and fellow crew member of the Ares 3 mission.
Henderson continues: “This is Doctor Chris Beck.”
A wide smile spread over Mark’s, if Chris were being completely honest with himself, handsome face and he quickly switches his hold on the pot to one hand in order to reach the other out in a handshake.
“Wow, incredibly gorgeous and a doctor to boot, I have to say this mission is looking better and better from where I’m standing!”
And yep, just when he had thought the blush had been beaten into submission it rears back to life with a vengeance.
There’s two ways he can play this, Chris thinks quickly to himself. He can keep a straight face, greet his teammate and move on to the others. Short, quick, professional. Or he could do this.
Chris quickly reaches out, grabs Mark’s hand and pulls him flush up against his chest, being careful to nudge the plant to the side so it doesn’t get squashed.
He brings his lips right up to Mark’s right ear and wets his lips before speaking softly yet loud enough for the others to hear, “Did you know tomatoes are the official state fruit of Ohio?”
He leans back so his gaze can meet Mark’s and he’s not disappointed by what he sees.
It almost looks as if a spark has been ignited in his eyes and his hand, the hand that is still holding Beck’s, squeezes just a little bit tighter.
Mark’s grin gets that fraction brighter and Chris can’t help but meet it.
“Oh God”, he hears murmured from behind Mark, “there’s two of them.”
Henderson breaks the moment. “Crew this is Chris Beck, the final member of Ares 3.”
Mark lets go of his hand and moves to Chris’ side, if he so happens to place his hand on Chris’ lower back then so be it, Chris is certainly not going to move it.
“Actually it’s Doctor Chris Beck team and I call bunk mate.”
Surprisingly the only emotion that greets Chris after hearing Mark’s claim is excitement, and perhaps a spark of impatience. He can’t help hoping the bunk mate thing comes into effect immediately.
Chapter 2: Do Not Let Martinez Know About the Love Plant
In which there is a love plant and an erection. But don't worry, the two are in no way connected.
The response to this has been amazing so I've decided to keep going! I've tried to do some research regarding NASA and their regulations so hopefully everything is as realistic as possible.
If Chris were honest with himself he'd admit that it's actually a good thing that nothing happens between him and Mark. Romantically speaking of course.
They're six months into their two years of training and the term 'blue balls' has never been more aptly applied.
Although he and Mark have developed an astoundingly co-dependant bond, in fact they've been inseparable ever since that initial meeting, they haven't progressed beyond the realms of friendship. The crushing disappointment Chris feels whenever he stops to think about their current status of 'BFFaABTBDWTTFBTN' (Best Friends Forever and Always Because They're Both Dicks Who Think They're Funny But They're Not- thanks for that Martinez) can be somewhat tempered by just being in Mark's presence.
This is probably because Mark has to be the most tactile person in the whole entire world, at least when it comes to Chris himself. It confuses Chris sometimes.
There he'll be, bent over a microscope when he'll hear rakish wolf-whistle from behind and then he'll find himself jarred forward as Mark's hand meets firmly with his bottom in a loud smack that's guaranteed to grab the attention of everyone within a 100 foot radius.
Other times they'll be hanging out with the rest of the crew, walking to or from their destination (usually the Union Tavern, their local) and Mark will throw an arm around his waist or shoulder and leave it there for the entire journey. And it would just be rude of Chris to ignore him so obviously he has to return the embrace. It's just good manners, no matter how many winks or smirks Johanssen throws his way, honestly that girl is about as subtle as a tap-dancing rhino in a museum.
And lately Mark has started to hold his hand. Now if that doesn't scream romantic interest then what else could?! There they'll be, sitting in the bar or at the back of the room as Henderson drones on and on about something or other and Mark will reach over, without looking at him, and very very slowly lace their hands together. It's as if he believes that if he does it slow enough Chris won't realise it.
So although he's frustrated as all heck that it's been six months and they've yet to progress beyond hand-holding he probably should feel relief that they actually haven't.
He has to spend the next 18 months training with these people, and then there's the entire mission to think of itself. NASA kinda frowns (read: heavily disapproves) of their astronauts entering into romantic relationships. Something about it effecting their concentration or mission-focus or something. Chris can't remember, that was the first seminar Mark instigated his stealth hand-holding so he wasn't paying that much attention to Mitch.
So it's probably a good thing right? They could break up and that'd be super awkward. Or something could happen to one of them out there in the black and the other may be left inconsolable (except really, how unlucky would they have to be for something astronomically bad to happen to either of them?).
So they should just carry on as they are; best friends who see each other every day, including days off, and who sometimes hold hands and who email and text each other funny things to make the other smile throughout the day when Chris is off doing medical things and Mark is off doing botany things.
Except. Well there really is one glaring flaw in this plan of Chris'. And that would be that no one has ever made Chris feel the things he feels for Mark. Chris feels utterly compelled to make Mark smile as many times as possible throughout the day. His record is 58. And that's when they'd been able to spend eight hours together non-stop one Saturday when Mark insisted they do some, as he put it, 'touristy crap'.
The fact that Chris is currently standing in a flower nursery picking out the nicest pot he can find for the tiny tomato plant gently clutched in his hands says something else entirely. And who cares that Chris can totally see Mark walking down an aisle some time in the not-so-distant future, dragging the pot that Chris had so thoughtfully picked out for their little love plant? And who cares if he has named their two children? And really, is he doing any harm by deciding that he and Mark should probably retire in Florida so that the garden Mark will so thoughtfully and carefully plant in their house will have the weather it needs to flourish?
Okay so maybe he's a little ridiculous. As if Mark would consent to walking down an aisle! No, they'll both enter from opposite sides of a room and meet in the middle. It'll be a wonderful ceremony.
Maybe the issue is that Mark might think Chris isn't receptive to his advances? Now that he thinks about it it has always been Mark taking the next step in their relationship. And sometimes Chris tends to forget that Mark has spent the last few years of his life studying and hanging out with plant life.
Chris hasn't been much better but based on that one time the entire crew shared their experiences (and who would have thought Lewis was that bendy? Thank God she's outlawed any future consumption of tequila for the team) he does have a bit more experience.
Okay so Chris needs to come up with a plan that's guaranteed to succeed! But where to start? There's always dinner and a movie. But they do that at least twice a week anyway. There's the love plant! But that could just be taken as one of their inside jokes. He could suggest they do yoga together. Naked yoga. In a bed. Mark definitely looks like he'd be flexible enough...He's getting distracted. He may need help here.
First thing's first, buy the love plant and give it to Mark. And stop calling it a love plant because the amount of shit they'd get from Martinez would definitely intensify by like 60 per cent at least.
Chris is snapped out of his inner musings by his phone's text notification. He hopes it's Mark, but then again he always hopes it's Mark.
Phew okay. That totally saves him having to come up with some benign excuse for showing up at Mark's apartment later. Like could you imagine?
"Hey Mark, sorry for dropping by, just wanted to give you this lov- tomato plant that I totally just picked up and no way did I spend 20 minutes comparing plants to make sure I chose the best looking one and no way did I spend an additional 40 minutes looking at pots to find the one as closest to your eye colour as possible. Definitely not."
Yeah, no. Now he gets to spend the entire evening with Mark, who has somehow managed to get his hands on an extended version of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. So that's at least two and a half hours of Mark pressed right up along his side.
And maybe the weather will take a turn and become so bad that he won't be able to leave Mark's apartment. Maybe they'll light the fire to combat the chill in the air. And then maybe they'll crack open a bottle of wine. And maybe, just maybe, Mark will be afraid of thunder so Chris will have to spend the night with Mark tucked away in his arms. And maybe they'll shift just right and Mark will brush against the erection he's been trying to hide since the beginning of the movie. And maybe Mark will lift his head from Chris' neck and their eyes will meet and lightning will flash against the wall, making the blue of Mark's eyes stand out and then Mark will lean forward and Chris will lean forward and - "Excuse me sir, but can I help you?"
Chris near about jumps a mile into the air. He swings around to face the suspicious looking employee whilst swinging the plant down to cover his now rock-hard cock.
Chris is literally standing in the middle of a plant nursery, using his and Mark's love plant to hide his raging hard-on. Jesus.
"Y-yes," a quick clearing of his throat, "sorry! I'd like that pot there please." Chris manages to shift the plant to one hand and points with the other towards an azure coloured pot.
"Of course sir. If you'll follow me to the register please?" And thank God the employee doesn't drop her gaze downwards, instead she does an abrupt turn but Chris can seen the corner of her mouth turning upwards before she's fully turned.
Oh holy Jesus she knows. She knows he's currently at full salute and he's going to become the star of the story she'll tell about the weirdo who stood in the middle of a garden nursery with a tomato plant held to his chest and got hard from seemingly staring at some pots.
He can't leave without his love plant. Thankfully the intense embarrassment has calmed little Chris all the way down.
So immediate POA; buy love plant. Leave store without further embarrassment. Get to Mark's. Present Mark with love plant. Try not to call it love plant. And somehow try to move their relationship along just a little. At this rate a kiss on the cheek would be enough material to get him off in 30 seconds flat.
Goal for the evening; somehow introduce Chris' lips to a part of Mark's person. There's no illusion about which part he's hoping for but- Jesus, shit no! Go away little Chris! Fucking Hell.
Best to leave this train of thought as is. He's got a goal, got a love plant and, if the stars align in his favour tonight, he'll end the day with a boyfriend. And some new hickeys.