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John Steinbeck could be described as 'repressed,' if one were to be uncharitable but accurate. He was a family man first, and a good Christian boy second. That did not leave much room for indulgence of any sort, obviously, especially not of the more romantic or, god forbid, sexual nature.

His family was always his priority, especially his precious sister. Sometimes, he thought to himself that she was the only woman he needed in his life, but he would never tell his mother that. He suspected that she wanted him to get married to some nice Christian girl who could join their family and help him produce even more kids that they would then need to feed.

That was far from his ideal future, or ideal present. There were no girls that he was interested in at all, even enough to experiment - which he was sure his family wouldn't have approved of, anyway. They never talked about that aspect of relationships, but he couldn't say that he minded that, necessarily. It would be awkward to talk about sex with his parents.

That said, he would have preferred having someone else to talk to about it. And, in his wildest dreams, someone - a man - to help him navigate the confusing depths of his sexuality and his desires. It was a risky fantasy to have, and it pained him that he could never make so much as an attempt.

Unfortunately for him, the only companion he had on his journey for a long, long time was his very own hand.

Then, at age 21, he got a chance to expand his horizons. He was going abroad. It was for a job, yes, but perhaps he would feel less constricted and ashamed if he left his hometown for a little while. Meeting new people, getting some new experiences…it was going to be beneficial, even though he felt a twinge of guilt when he thought about the specifics of the job.

All those memories rushed through his head weeks later as he sat next to Mark Twain, one of his new co-workers, looking up at the sky.

He didn't find Mark remarkable at first. Their personalities were compatible enough, he thought, but there was no deeper bond to speak of.

He wasn't sure when that changed, but along the way he found himself attracted to the man, with his laid-back yet confident attitude, his messy red hair, his incredible reflexes.

John began confiding in him at one point. Around the time when Lovecraft wasn't available to talk to anymore, and he had so much to talk about. His wrath. His hatred. And eventually, his guilt. Indeed, that was the night he was going to bring up his past, all the things he had been thinking about.

'Twain,' he prompted, scratching the side of his neck. The scar from his ability was starting to itch.

Mark perked up, as if John had snapped him out of a nap. 'Hm? What is it?' He was used to John venting at him. It would be odd if he wasn't. His attitude was much appreciated.

'Aren't you cold?' John asked, eyeing his open shirt. It was as if he was always too hot for his own clothes - and so he was, John thought to himself with a smirk. 'Aha, that's not what I really wanted to ask, but it's related. Do you ever feel shame?'

Mark raised his eyebrows. 'Is that supposed to be a trick question?' he asked cautiously. He folded his arms behind his head, humming quietly before answering. 'Nah, not really. Why?'

'That's what I thought,' John said, resting his chin on his knees. 'I do. I wish I didn't. I don't feel guilty about the work I do for the Guild, but I'm ashamed of small things about myself. How ironic.'

Mark smiled awkwardly. He was starting to sweat - trying to keep up with John's train of thought. 'You're being weird again. Can you just tell me what you're thinking about?'

John closed his eyes and sighed. 'It's useless trying to be subtle with you. I need that! It's encouraging me to be more honest.' He stretched his arms and looked into Mark's eyes. 'I'm just thinking about how I've been too scared to even have my first kiss.'

Mark tried and failed to hold back a surprised noise. 'Really? I guess I shouldn't be that surprised, but still. You think that's a sin or what?'

John giggled. 'Maybe so. I don't think I have to ask, but, you can keep a secret, right?'

Mark nodded. 'I'd sure hope so. Unless it's so funny that I have to tell everyone. Go ahead.'

John continued looking at him with a faint smile. 'I've told you about my family before. My mom, I'm sure, really wants me to get married one day. That's how moms are, I can't blame her. God knows that we don't need any more people to feed in this family, though. Anyway,' he looked down before directing his eyes back at Mark, who seemed to be listening patiently. 'I think I will have to disappoint her. Because, and this is the part where I need you to not tell anybody, I don't think I like girls at all.'

He paused, holding his breath. Mark didn't have as much of a reaction as he expected. 'You're into guys, then?' he asked simply, cocking his head to the side slightly. It was really quite endearing.

John nodded. 'It sure seems like it. I never could do anything about it, though. Such a shame,' he concluded with a sigh.

'If you want me to kiss you, just say so,' Mark retorted, scratching his cheek. 'Unless I misunderstood something, that's what you're getting at. I'm down.'

John's eyes widened, his cheeks flushed. 'Wait, really, just like that?' He puffed out his cheeks. 'If I knew that you wouldn't find me weird for it…'

Mark snickered scooting over closer to him. 'You're into guys, I'm into everyone. I've kissed more people than I can remember. This ain't a big deal, I promise. Though, I won't tell anyone if you insist,' he added with a shrug.

'I didn't know that,' John remarked, leaning towards him. 'You're just the person I was looking for, apparently.'

Mark rolled his eyes and leaned forward until their faces were almost meeting. 'Just don't freak out on me too much,' he said before finally kissing John, his hands cupping his cheeks.

Easy to say, don't freak out. John didn't pull away, but he did feel warmth spread through his body. Mostly - his chest, and his stomach area. His toes curled inside his boots. The kiss wasn't anything like he expected, but it was pleasant until it ended with a satisfying pop.

He looked Mark in the eyes with his mouth wide agape. The other man snickered into his hand.

'Man, you're cute. Are you good? Was it too much?' he continued to ask, watching John's face with amusement.

'Cute?' John snapped out of his daze. He scoffed. 'It was different than I thought it would be,' he then admitted, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

'Different in a good way or a bad way?' Mark asked, playing with his hair. 'Like, are you not into guys anymore now that you know what it's like, or?'

'God, no.' John waved his hand. 'I'm into guys more than ever before.' He cleared his throat, realising the awkwardness of his words. 'I wouldn't mind doing it again. Now that I've tried, it feels natural, you know? And nature is beautiful. I can't argue with it.'

Mark cupped John's cheek and kissed him again without a warning. John leaned into the kiss, feeling the other's hot breath on his lips. Mark's other hand was brushing over his neck, exactly where his ability scar was. He yelped at the sensation.

Mark laughed into his mouth before pulling away. 'You like to be touched there, huh?' he remarked, amused, running his fingertips over the scar, causing John to squirm.

'You could say that,' he muttered, opening one eye. 'It's sensitive.' He wasn't sure if he liked what that touch was doing to him, but his body definitely was reacting to it.

Mark pressed a chaste kiss to the scar, sending even more intense signals down John's body as his arms subconsciously wrapped around Mark's shoulders, pulling him closer.

John wanted more. More touch, more warmth, more of those pleasant sensations. He'd been craving all that for impossibly long.

Mark's arms wrapped around his waist, pulling John into his lap. His hands ran up and down his spine with such tenderness that John could hardly believe it was happening to him.

'Are you still good?' Mark asked, talking right next to his ear. 'We can do more if you want, just saying. I don't wanna rush you, but I'm down for anything.'

John kissed his cheek in response. 'It's hard not to be relaxed when you're like this,' he murmured, running his fingers through Mark's hair. 'The problem is that I don't really know what I want. Everything at once.' He kissed Mark's cheek again, too happy to express it with words.

'You really got it bad, huh. I guess I can't blame you, but it's really something to see you like this,' Mark remarked, leaning his head back to look at John. He then pressed a quick kiss to his lips again. 'Everything at once, you say? I can do everything, but even I probably can't multitask too much. You will have to tell me what to do,' he explained with a grin.

John blushed. 'Sorry if I'm asking for the impossible. It just feels like a miracle that I even got this chance, you know? I want to do everything while I have the chance.'

Mark blinked in confusion, cocking his head slightly. Then, he chuckled. 'John, there'll be plenty more chances. I'm always available, just come to me whenever you want. Don't be so dramatic about it, it's really not a big deal.'

John inhaled sharply, looking at him in awe. 'I guess it's only a big deal to me,' he said with a hint of both relief and sadness. 'You really are amazing! I feel so much better knowing that!' His cheerful attitude was back. 'If that's the case, I just want to be touched for now. I haven't been touched much by people outside of my family, and-'

Mark kissed the side of his neck, rendering him speechless. 'Got it, but you'll have to do something about these overalls. You couldn't have picked more inconvenient pants if you tried,' he teased, making John just slightly embarrassed.

Soon enough, his pants were off and he was back in Mark's lap, now with a pair of warm hands sliding up his shirt, searching for more sensitive spots.

'You know, I'm glad that you picked me to be your first,' Mark mused, watching John's face with a smirk. 'I'd hate to miss it. Repressed farm boy getting touched for the first time and trying not to show how much he likes it. It's too funny.'

'Shut up,' John hissed, flustered. He wasn't the kind of person to ever be embarrassed by anything. He took things as they came, most of the time. But this, he would have to grow used to gradually. 'Are we really going to do it?' he asked, while Mark's hands were firmly sliding all the way down to his hips.

'If you wanna,' Mark said with a shrug. 'And I thought you want to do everything,' he teased, kissing John's earlobe. 'Look, I won't do anything to hurt you. Trust me on that much - I have experience. The only question is when you're ready.'

John nodded, stroking Mark's cheek. 'I'll let you know.' He hummed with pleasure as Mark's fingers brushed over his tailbone. 'About your experience…you really have been with a lot of people, huh?'

'Yeah. Not like, hundreds or anything, don't get carried away in your imagination,' Mark noted, kissing John's cheek. 'Why, does it bother you?'

'No,' John said quickly, shaking his head. 'Maybe it should, but it doesn't. It's a blessing in disguise,' he added, rubbing his cheek against Mark's.

'Whatever you say.'

Mark's hands wandered under the shirt. He was getting to know all the details of John's body - his erogenous zones, where he was ticklish, how he squirmed against him, how many of his ribs he could feel through his skin, how soft his stomach was. Every body was different, he learned over the years of being sexually active, and John's was uniquely fascinating due to his ability. There was scarring not just on his neck but in a few other spots - remnants of Grapes of Wrath and that sharp knife John always used to open his skin.

Mark shuddered. He was tempted to ask if it hurt. It didn't seem to, but perhaps John was just used to it, or hiding the pain well.

He pressed soft kisses against his skin, feeling his body grow warmer. The closeness was good, he couldn't blame John for just wanting to be touched.

'I think I want to do…something,' John informed, playing with Mark's hair. 'I don't know what, but I think I'm ready for more.' His smiling lips twitched slightly.

Mark ran his fingers along the hem of John's boxers. 'I could suck you off, if that sounds good enough,' he offered casually.

John laughed. 'Sounds pretty good, but I can't believe it's happening. When I decided to go abroad, I didn't think I was signing up for losing my virginity.'

Mark kissed his smiling lips. 'It almost seems to me like you were hoping it would happen, though. Not judging, but you know…' he remarked, sliding John's boxers off his ass - slowly, but without hesitation. 'You might wanna stand up for this. Or you can lie back. Whatever works for you.'

John cleared his throat. 'I guess I was hoping for it. Not consciously, though.' After a moment of hesitation, he stood up. 'I think this should work. I'll feel weird looking down at you but I'll live.'

'The noises will be weirder, trust me. The good news is that you won't hear them over your own moans,' Mark informed cheerfully, sliding John's boxers down to his knees.

'That confident in your ability to make me moan?' John teased, looking down despite what he said previously.

'Dude, I've been doing just that for a while now. You're the most sensitive guy I've been in,' Mark said, kissing his thigh. Predictably, John gasped. 'See? I told you. And I haven't even done anything yet.'

'I guess you're right,' John admitted reluctantly. 'What if I told you I'm not going to moan the entire time just to spite you?'

Mark shrugged, looking straight at John's crotch. 'Whatever floats your boat, man. If that's your kink I'm not gonna judge.' He stroked the shaft with his fingers, waiting to hear John struggle to stay quiet.

His dick wasn't anything special, really. Perhaps just slightly above average really. Silky locks of blond pubic hair framed it nicely, though.

Mark ran his thumb along the shaft, watching John squirm, his thighs shifting around. He was actually biting his hips so as not to make a sound! That was certainly adorable.

Then, Mark brought his lips up to the tip and pressed a kiss to it. His hands stroked John's thighs before finally settling on his ass (rather bony, but not in a bad way, as Mark noted), squeezing it gently. He opened his mouth, letting the dick inside.

John was desperately trying not to make a sound, which was proving more and more difficult as the warmth of Mark's mouth closed around his erection. As his dexterous, quick hands stroked his behind, occasionally touching a sensitive spot. He wanted to beg for more, but, luckily for him, he didn't need to.

Knowing that Mark was experienced didn't bother him much, but, on the other hand, he couldn't not think about it. The good time he was having now was undoubtedly made this amazing by his partner's previous experiences. Perhaps after a few more times, he would be able to please Mark himself, too.

His hands reached down towards the top of Mark's head. He began playing with the other's hair, a smile forming on his lips. Mark looked up and their eyes met, sending a spark up his spine.

His chest rose and fell with a heavy breath. Again, and again. Unconsciously, he started rocking his hips. Mark's hands and mouth matched his rhythm immediately. He knew that it was time to help him ride it out.

John came. He couldn't hold back a moan as his body twitched and shivered. He was grateful that Mark's grip on his hips was tight enough - else, he would worry that he was going to fall to the floor.

He moved his hips back, attempting to sit down, which was made difficult by his shaking legs. Like goddamn jelly.

Mark's hands gently guided his lower body onto the ground. As soon as he was down, John threw his arms over Mark's shoulders, clinging onto him. Part of his body were still twitching, and he was definitely out of breath. Despite that, he felt happy. He felt truly alive, and safe with Mark's arms snaking around his waist.

'I think you've had enough for now, huh?' Mark whispered softly, kissing his forehead.

'Maybe,' John murmured. 'It was a lot, but I know I want more. Not now, but…later.'

'Whenever you want.' Mark stroked his cheek gently. 'Especially if you end up moaning like that everytime.'

John snorted. 'Shut up.' He rested his cheek against Mark's shoulder, working up the courage to say what he wanted to say. 'If you really can do it whenever,' he whispered, 'maybe we should date.'

Mark stared at him, wide-eyed. 'Huh?'

John hesitated. 'It was just a suggestion. If you don't wanna be tied down, I get it. I can't do that to you. I just really-'

Mark interrupted him with a quick kiss. 'No, no. I just didn't expect you to say something like that. Maybe it's time for me to try being tied down, 'cause I'm into that idea. I was just thinking…won't that be a problem?'

John looked down. 'Maybe it will be. But it isn't now. For once in my life, it's not a problem. Let me think about it later, okay?'

Mark embraced him rightly. 'Yeah, sure. Let's see how this thing works out first.' He leaned towards John and whispered right into his ear: 'Boyfriend.'

A new kind of warmth filled John's body.