"Mrs. Stanley, I know you're in there," Dominic yelled, the torrential rain pelting his face, "we have to evacuate!" He continued to pound on the window in a desperate attempt to get the woman's attention. Suddenly, she appeared at the window and opened it, waving her hand in a dismissive manner.
"Go away, Dominic, I'll be fine! It's just a bit of water."
Dominic stomped his foot and gritted his teeth at the stubbornness of his elderly neighbor. "A bit of water?! Have you seen what it's doing out here? Goddamn it, Genevieve, I'm not leaving without you!"
"And I'm not leaving my cats, so there, blondie!"
Nervously, Dominic turned around, glancing back at the rapidly rising water. The storm had come suddenly, dumping record amounts of rain in a horrifyingly short amount of time. It was now dark and the neighborhood was alive with sirens and flashing lights, with emergency officials and policemen attempting to help transport stranded residents to the nearest shelter, the gymnasium of the local high school.
Dominic nearly jumped out of his skin when a voice boomed out, next to him, "Ma'am, time is of the essence here. We need you to get into some warm clothes, gather any medications you may need, and exit the dwelling so we can get you to safety, okay?"
"Who the hell are you?' Mrs. Stanley asked.
"I'm with the Morrison County EMS, ma'am."
"Congratulations, do you want a cookie or something, big man? Leave me be, I'll be fine here alone. I swear, all this fuss for a bit of water!"
"Don't make me take you by force, ma'am."
Mrs. Stanley narrowed her eyes. "I'd like to see you fucking try, sonny."
The stranger turned to Dominic with wide eyes. He mouthed "woooow" to Dominic, who merely nodded in exasperation.
"Tell me about it," he sighed.
"Can my cats come too?"
The stranger sighed, biting his lip as he glanced at Dominic. "This won't be happening unless we take the cats too, I'm guessing. I'm Matthew, by the way," he added, putting one hand out for Dominic to shake.
"I think you're right. And, I'm Dominic, hi," Dominic smiled. Matthew returned the smile before turning back to the issue at hand.
"How many cats are in there, ma'am?"
"Six. Fluffy, Morris, Leon, Rose, Binky and Merlin."
"Only six. Great," Matthew muttered.
Dominic snapped his fingers. "I'll be right back, I just thought of something. Don't move!" He ran across the yard to his small house and made for his back porch. The power outage made it difficult to see, but eventually Dominic found what he was looking for. Satisfied, he locked his door and ran back to Mrs. Stanley's window. He tossed the large plastic container to the ground, presenting it to Matthew.
"We could transport them in this, they'd all fit."
"What about food and litter and-"
But Dominic had already shimmied up and over the window. "Genevieve, get your things, I'll get the cats and everything they need, okay?"
Matthew watched, jaw still on the ground as Mrs. Stanley sprang into action. He shook his head and had to bite back a laugh as he heard the elderly woman telling Dominic to be sure to gather enough cat food, while Dominic told her to get her fucking ass in gear and get her shoes on. It sounded as though these two had a history of dealing with each other, and Matthew couldn't tell if it was a pleasant one or not.
A mere four minutes later, Matthew heard Dominic calling out and ran to the front door. Matthew picked Mrs. Stanley up, thankful that she was a tiny little thing, and carried her to the small rescue boat that was waiting for them. He looked behind him and saw Dominic struggling with the box of cats in one hand, the bag with their belongings in the other.
Once Dominic was in the boat as well Matthew started the motor. He watched as Dominic pulled Mrs. Stanley close, and as the old lady reciprocated his hug with tears in her eyes. As she spoke soothingly to her kitty babies, Dominic noticed that Matthew was staring at him with a smile on his face. "What are you smiling at?" he grumbled. Much to his horror, he also blushed violently and prayed that Matthew couldn't see it.
Matthew merely shook his head and grinned as the boat made its way down Third Street.
One hour later, Dominic found himself sitting on the bottom bleacher in the gym, a cup of coffee in his hands. He was exhausted, physically as well as mentally, and all the while, the rain pounded on the roof of the school, reminding everyone inside precisely why they were here. He estimated that there were probably about two hundred people in all sharing the space for the night. The Red Cross had provided cots to some and single mattresses to others to sleep on. Mrs. Stanley was on the other side of the gym, on a mattress next to some friends of hers that she'd met up with as soon as they'd arrived. Luckily, her cats were allowed into the shelter also, and were penned up in an adjacent classroom.
Dominic smiled. He was thankful that she was safe. He'd only been living in this town for nine months or so, and sometimes he felt like Mrs. Stanley was the only friend he had. It wasn't that he had no interest in being social and making friends, it was that he worked such insane hours, he had no time for anything else. He had no call to complain, though - he chose medicine as a profession and his work was everything.
"Hi there," a familiar voice said, shaking Dominic from his thoughts. He turned and saw Matthew lugging a mattress in his direction, dropping it with a grunt at Dominic's feet. "Fucker's heavier than it looks! Here's your bed for the night, you get the last one, actually! Swanky, no?"
Dominic looked up and into Matthew's eyes and bit back a gasp. He'd not been able to get a good look at Matthew earlier, the dark and the blinding rain making it impossible to see anything at all, really. But now, in the bright lights and the safety of the gymnasium, Dominic was able to take a good long look, and when he did he got lost in blue eyes and ebony hair and porcelain skin. Most of all, though, Matthew's shy smile took his breath away, and Dominic found his heart rate increasing a bit.
Matthew was pretty damned gorgeous.
"Given the alternative, it's fantastic," he laughed. "Thank you, I'm very grateful."
"Is there anything else I can get you? Anything at all?"
"Sit and talk with me for a bit?" Dominic said on an impulse, eager for the company; eager for Matthew's company.
"Sure, I'd love that." He sat down next to Dominic and exhaled deeply.
"How's it going? Any problems so far?"
"Everyone's been processed. Two hundred eleven here, a couple thousand in the other schools in the county. Authorities feel like those who lived in the lower valleys have been sheltered properly. I guess we won't know until morning for sure, but we're hopeful that everyone has been accounted for."
"It's fucking scary."
Matthew nodded. "You said it, my friend. We're going to turn out the lights soon. I hope you'll be able to rest well."
"Wait. If I have the last mattress, where are you sleeping?"
"There's a pile of blankets with my name on it in the janitor's closet, I'll be right as rain."
"Nah, it's fine! They're like super fluffy, believe me. Maximum levels of fluffiness could be achieved on those blankets. In fact, I may go into fluffiness overdose before morning comes."
"Let's share mine," Dominic blurted out, not ready to be out of Matthew's presence just yet.
"My luxurious mattress, I mean."
"Oh," Matthew squeaked, "umm-"
"I mean, if you want to. It's just for the night, yeah and we're both adults and yeah. You know? You were so kind to Genevieve and I earlier and I just can't handle the thought of you sleeping on a pile of blankets in a closet."
"Plus, I don't want to be alone," Dominic admitted, his cheeks flushing.
"Okay," Matthew agreed, "honestly, I don't want to be alone tonight, either. We can get to know each other a little better, yeah?"
Dominic smiled. "Sure!"
"How do you know Mrs. Stanley?"
"I moved next door to her earlier this year. She'd lost her husband the month before, apparently, and I had just been through a messy break-up with my previous boyfriend. She just started coming over in the beginning to see that I was eating enough. Actually, I think we're both a bit lonely, so we kind of check in on each other and look out for each other and-"
"Attention, everyone! We will be turning out the overhead lights in two minutes!" a woman with a megaphone called out, "if you need assistance in the middle of the night, volunteers will be available in the hallway just outside the gymnasium. Thank you, and rest well."
They got busy setting up camp, pushing the mattress close to the wall, so they could continue their conversation without disturbing anyone else in the gym. They removed their shoes and jackets and Matthew hoped that Dominic couldn't tell that Matthew was checking out his bare arms.
Matthew wondered briefly what the hell he was doing. He barely knew Dominic, but what he did know of him, he really liked. Dominic was funny and charming and completely gorgeous - and Matthew was a lonely, red blooded man. Also, unless he was really, really off base, he had the feeling that perhaps Dominic might like what little bit he knew of Matthew so far too. All Matthew knew was that when Dominic suggested they share the last mattress, it had been the best idea in the history of mankind.
Now, they were lying face to face in the dark, unsure of how to proceed, until Dominic spoke up. "Let's play Ask Me Anything."
"Ask me anything?"
"Sure, what better way to get to know someone? You go first."
"Okay. Favorite movie?"
"The Lost Boys."
"Nice one, I'm impressed. Mine is The Maltese Falcon."
"Classy," Dominic commented. "Your favorite meal?"
"There is nothing sexier in the universe than a massive portion of lasagna. Nothing. Yours?"
"My mother's weekend breakfasts. The works, bacon, eggs, pancakes, biscuits-"
"Ugh, that's just glorious, glorious food porn," Matthew groaned. "Umm, let's see...cats or dogs?"
"I'm a cat person. Favorite thing to do on a date?"
"Dancing," Dominic answered instantly, "I love to dance."
"Oh god, not me. I'm horrible on my feet, the last guy I dated used to make fun of me all the time for my lack of moves. Not one of my finer moments," Matthew grimaced.
"Not a dancer, got it. So what do you like to do on a date? How do you sweep a guy off his feet?"
"I don't know about sweeping a guy off his feet, but I do know that an evening spent kissing is an evening very well spent. Just holding someone, letting them hold you, chatting and sharing a few kisses." Matthew shrugged. "That's basically bliss to me. It might sound silly, though." When Dominic didn't reply right away Matthew looked up and into Dominic's eyes, which were studying his own intently.
"Not silly. That's... no, it's not silly at all," Dominic whispered, "I love it."
Matthew blushed. He cleared his throat. "Favorite color?"
"It used to be green," Dominic admitted, "but, recently I've realized how gorgeous blue can be."
"In the past hour or so."
Matthew's mouth opened for a beat, then he snagged his lower lip between his teeth. "Oh, you are good," he whispered, his eyes scanning Dominic's face. He let his hand drift closer to Dominic's own, which was nestled between their bodies. Matthew linked his pinky finger through Dominic's index finger.
Dominic nodded, grin widening as he scooted closer. "Correct, I am. Do go on."
"York Peppermint Patties."
"I'm so sorry, but that's the wrong answer."
"Wrong? Excuse me?" Dominic giggled.
"The only answer is Almond Joy."
"I don't like nuts," Dominic wrinkled his nose, "I don't like the way they feel in my mouth."
"Well... damn," Matthew carefully replied, "that's just tragic."
Dominic's eyes widened as he realized his unfortunate choice of words. It was too late, though, for Matthew was already laughing. Dominic groaned through a giggle of his own, hiding his head in his pillow. "Oh god, how embarrassing!"
"I loved it," Matthew replied, yawning. "I haven't had much reason to laugh lately, but you've made me laugh a lot tonight. Thank you."
"I think I'm getting sleepy too," Dominic admitted, "but, I could talk with you all night long."
Matthew licked his lips and swallowed loudly before looking into Dominic's eyes. "One more question, then? It's a three-parter."
Dominic nodded, his nose touching Matthew's now, their fingers now linked together. "Go for it."
"One, is this... moving too fast for you?"
Dominic shook his head. "No way."
"Two, are you seeing anyone?"
Dominic shook his head again, faster this time as his heart thundered in his chest.
"Three, would you like to go-"
"Yes," Dominic whispered, before Matthew could finish. "Yes, I would." He reached out to smooth Matthew's hair back from his brow, Matthew closing his eyes and leaning into Dominic's touch with a shaky sigh. Dominic's fingertips slid softly across Matthew's cheekbone and down to his chin.
Matthew opened his eyes. "I've never ended up in bed with a guy on the first date before."
"First date? Is that what this is?'
"Well, as far as first meetings go, it's been decidedly... intimate," Matthew mused, "don't you think?" He shifted even closer to Dominic, their sock-covered feet now tangled together.
"Don't most first dates end with a kiss?" Dominic asked, breathless, as Matthew cupped his cheek with his bare hand. He nodded as he pressed his lips to Dominic's softly. It was a decidedly tame kiss, but it was so warm and soft that Dominic's eyes fluttered shut, his hand carding through Matthew's hair. Matthew repeated the motion, this time gifting the corner of Dominic's mouth with a peck, then finally, his cheek, before pulling away.
"Go to sleep," Matthew whispered, pulling Dominic close. Dominic tried mightily to stay awake, but it was no good, and as he was dragged down into slumber, the last thing he saw was Matthew's own eyes closing.
That night, Dominic slept better than he had in months.
When he woke in the morning, Matthew was already gone. In his place Dominic found a piece of paper with a phone number on it, weighed down by one York Peppermint Pattie.