"Come on," Chris wheedled in the tone Mitch should have stopped listening to twenty years ago. "It'll just be a few days."
"That's what you said about helping out with Google Earth," Mitch reminded him. He took another sip of his coffee. Some days he wasn't sure whether the internet or the spread of real coffee was the best change since their college days. Today, and really any day Chris wanted something from him, he had to go with coffee.
Chris grinned past his mouthful of pancakes. "And didn't they give you stock? And aren't you glad, now, when you look back on those six months? And what is time, really?"
"Time is a fundamental quantity used to sequence events, to compare duration, and quantify motion." Jordan looked up from her iPhone. "Sorry, was that a real question?"
Chris and Mitch both smiled at her. Jordan was a constant more fundamental than the second, Mitch thought, then made a mental note to remember that line for later. He was pretty sure she'd squeal and jump on him, and if he timed it right—with a bed behind him—that would not only not trigger his bad back, but end up making him extremely satisfied.
"You can't be happy here," Chris gestured at the pedestrians passing them, the striped awning of the restaurant behind them, the other brunchgoers gossiping and talking on their cellphones. "It's so ... political."
"I'm pretty sure Washington is supposed to be political," Mitch said indulgently, tipping his head up to survey the cloudless fall sky, blue as copper basic carbonate. When he swung back to vertical, Jordan had gone back to typing with her thumbs, her tongue peeking out as she concentrated. She was beta testing the new AutoCAD for iPhone app, and she'd already made significant improvements to the program as well as to the robot dog she was working on for Mitch's niece. "I'll grant you, the weather in Palo Alto is nicer, but Jordan's family is in Virginia, and I like the policy stuff."
Chris snorted. "Policy. Corporations converting money to law. Your puny nonprofit is as nothing against the weight of the almighty dollar."
"We got a science education program passed in the latest appropriations bill," Mitch informed him. But Chris was already not listening, making eyes at a blonde in a business suit, who was smiling right back at him. Mitch loved Chris in every kind of way, that was a given. But sometimes he wished that Chris could spend more than a couple of seconds per minute in serious mode. At the very least, that would have made it possible for Mitch to trot him out for congressional testimony about various science facts. Given Chris's looks and his facility with words—neither of which were exactly standard for physics, a field in which an ancient guy who spoke through a vocoder was the face to beat—he could've been a superstar. If not for the small fact that the FCC would have had to fine C-SPAN for broadcasting Chris's standard monologues.
Chris got up and sat down next to the blonde while Mitch finished his eggs. He looked longingly at Chris's pancakes, but he didn't have the metabolism for that. Cruelly, Jordan could have consumed her weight in pancakes, but she rarely cared about the source of the calories, and she was on to being absorbed in her latest edit war on Wikipedia.
At last, Chris returned, smiling sunnily. He could have been shot down, or he could have made arrangements to meet later; with Chris it was always a tossup. "So, how are the twins?" he asked as he sat down and snagged a piece of toast off of Mitch's plate.
Mitch grinned. "They got bored, so they started taking each other's classes." Mitch hadn't been surprised when Jordan turned out to be pregnant with twins; Jordan was nothing if not efficient. "I keep telling them that they're going to get caught and we're going to be stuck with four sets of tuition bills instead of two, but they don't listen."
"They listen, they just don't think it's that likely, and the risk is outweighed by the rewards," Jordan corrected. "If I could have taken ten classes instead of five, I would absolutely have done that. Don't you think I should have taken ten classes? They never let me though."
"But then you wouldn't have had time for us," Chris pointed out.
Jordan tilted her head, considering that. "I could have gone down to nine my final semester. And in retrospect I'm not sure I needed to knit quite as many sweaters, though I think the Salvation Army really appreciated them. Even in California, people do need sweaters."
"Well, sure," Chris said. "Otherwise their dogs would be naked."
"I worry sometimes about the twins," Jordan continued. "I mean, because of the high concentration of intelligent people at MIT and Harvard there's a chance they're at school with several half-brothers and -sisters. We discussed the risks before they left but I'm not sure they took seriously my suggestion that they be sure to undergo genetic testing before having sex with anyone within the appropriate age range."
Mitch no longer winced at this particular conversation. Jordan had sold her eggs to finance her startup a long time ago, and Chris had given up on the taunts about Mitch's refusal to hawk his own genius-level sperm a couple of years after that, though only after making about ten thousand references to Chris's own commitment to making up for Mitch's unreasonable failure to participate in increasing the fitness of the species through jerking off into a plastic cup.
"Hmm," Chris said, putting a finger to his lips as he leaned back. "I imagine I have a few sons and daughters getting world-class educations myself, now that I think about it. Oh God, I have to stop hitting on girls younger than twenty!"
"You should have stopped doing that fifteen years ago!"
Chris laughed and bopped him on the shoulder. "Oh, Mitch, always with the jokes!" He frowned. "Maybe I can do a quick blood-type screening. Overinclusive, but faster than the full panel."
Jordan's phone buzzed. "It's the guy from Greenpeace!" she told them. "I bet he's calling about that decoy whale I built them. I sent you the pictures, right? Those whalers have the funniest expressions on their faces!" She got up to take the call and Mitch watched her go. Among the things Mitch loved about her (along with the rear view, which remained extremely pleasing) was that she appreciated that it was very difficult to listen to someone else have a one-sided conversation, even if she did talk so fast that the other side wasn't so much a side as, maybe, an edge. He glanced over and saw Chris with the same fond expression.
"You guys look good," Chris said, something almost wistful in his voice.
"You should come to the East Coast more often," Mitch said, knowing it wasn't Chris's way.
Sure enough, Chris just tapped his feet impatiently and squirmed in his seat, waving at Jordan while she continued to chatter into the phone. She waved back and blew Mitch a kiss, which Mitch caught and pressed to his heart.
"So when she finishes, we're going to go back to your place and have sex, right?" Chris asked, loudly.
"That was the general idea," Mitch allowed. Mitch was never going to tell Chris that he scheduled reunion brunches in restaurants precisely to allow Chris to scandalize the natives. Jordan would have been thrilled to produce a bake sale's worth of breakfast if they hosted, but Chris enjoyed épater-ing the bourgeois so much, and Mitch enjoyed Chris's enjoyment, so: restaurants.
"Check please!" Chris waved his hand.
Mitch smiled pleasantly at the people whose heads had turned. Yeah, he's with me. Mitch still found it hard to believe that he got both Jordan and Chris, or at least as much of Chris as anyone did. And really, he wouldn't want Chris to be anyone but himself, swooping in randomly (in 1998, in fact, literally dropping out of the sky on a full-size glider, which tangled itself in the powerlines around the house, resulting in Jordan's fabled experiment in cooking everything in the freezer all at once). Chris was the electron, and they were the neutral particles ionized by his bombardment.
Mitch was a little worried—okay, a lot worried—that Chris was going to do a booty dance during a security screening and get himself put on the no-fly list, so that he'd only be able to visit by driving cross-country, but other than that, Mitch knew that this was as good as it got.
Other people might have thought that Chris couldn't possibly have been harder to live with than Jordan, but they wouldn't have been paying attention. Jordan, while extremely high-frequency, was fundamentally stable. Chris was ... Chris.
By the time the valet pulled the car around, Chris had graduated from doing a jig to doing the Lindy hop with Jordan, swinging her around in tight circles that had her hitching with laughter and throwing her head back, her hair flying out around her. Mitch tipped the valet and then opened the front passenger-side door. "You're a superstar," Chris told him and slipped into the seat, and Jordan took the back, immediately leaning forward so that she could stick her head between the seats and join the conversation.
"Hey, I thought Tesla only made two-seaters," Chris said, looking around as he performed a complicated and almost breakdance-like interaction with his seatbelt.
"Production model. Jordan did some consulting." Mitch tried for casualness, but he knew he was kind of gloating.
"Hunh," Chris said. "I've been thinking about the Roadster, but I worry that it will interfere with my cool image. Kind of a mommy car, if you know what I mean."
"I don't think your image needs to worry," Mitch said wryly.
Chris pulled the windshield visor down and checked himself in the mirror, smoothing his eyebrows down and then wriggling them Groucho Marx-style. "No, I guess not."
It was like that all the way back to the house. Mitch was happy playing straight man, though in other circumstances that was Jordan's job. Chris always threw them into a different configuration, like going from an alcohol to a carboxyl group—both elegant, but with divergent properties.
As soon as Mitch unlocked the front door, Chris bolted for the bedroom. By the time they caught up, his clothes were already piled on the floor and he was under the covers. Mitch wasn't going to make fun of this small vanity; anyway Chris was still the most beautiful man Mitch could imagine.
"I want to watch you first," Jordan announced, pulling her top over her head.
"That's what I love about geeky women," Chris informed them. "No hesitation in asking for what they want, which is especially fun when it's what I want too."
Mitch didn't bother to reply, just crawled up the bed until he could tug the sheet off Chris and lower his mouth to Chris's half-hard cock.
He could still remember the first time they did this, Mitch and Chris at least halfway to drunk—probably, Mitch had to admit, to give them the courage to go for it, though the initial excuse for the drinking had been to celebrate their first six-figure patent license. Jordan of course had been stone cold sober, wide-eyed and occasionally offering advice when Mitch was trying to figure out how not to choke, her face inches away from Mitch's so that she could see exactly what was going on.
Now, she watched from a slightly greater distance, snuggled up against Chris, her leg thrown over Chris's thigh. "There's something so sexy about one naked guy and one clothed guy," she said, almost meditatively, at least by her standards. "It's like you couldn't even wait."
Chris said nothing, which Mitch counted as an achievement. Mitch looked up at their entwined bodies, meeting Jordan's eager eyes; she was rubbing herself rhythmically against Chris's hip, and Mitch couldn't help but emulate her as he humped the bed.
When Chris came, yelling "Yahtzee!" (better than that one time he'd gone with "Thurgood!"), Mitch gallantly let Jordan go next, making out with her while Chris knelt between her legs and worshiped her as she deserved to be worshiped. Jordan squeaked and jerked, letting Mitch hold her down, which he never ceased to find incredibly hot. He nuzzled behind her ear, burying his face in her silky hair: lemon-scented this time, the latest in her home-brewed shampoo/conditioner. He loved the familiar smoothness of her skin, the ideal weight of her breasts in his hands, the way she kissed as if he were another wonderful discovery. Chris put a hand on Mitch's thigh, pushing them closer together, his thumb rubbing up and down and it was almost like getting a handjob, without the worry of coming too soon.
After Jordan finally pushed Chris's face away, Chris licked his lips. "Please?" he asked, and Mitch didn't take much persuading. He straddled Jordan and looked down at her face, dreamy and quiet like she got for about a minute, max, after a really good orgasm. Yeah, it was totally cheesy that Chris liked to watch Mitch jerk off on Jordan's breasts, live porn without the cameras, but that was so perfectly Chris that it worked for Mitch. "God my life is good," Chris said, speaking for all of them, as he palmed Mitch's ass, squeezing in the same rhythm Mitch was using on his cock.
His orgasm was as explosive as anything they'd ever done in a lab.
He collapsed next to Jordan, listening to the soft wet sounds of Chris licking her clean, and stared up at his ceiling. Hard to imagine that he owed this all to Dr. Hathaway. Harder to imagine that he'd have to say goodbye to Chris in a few hours.
But Jordan was with him, and Chris would be back. He wondered sometimes whether Chris wanted more for himself but just couldn't ask for it.
Then he thought about the pictures of Chris's apartment that Chris occasionally posted, with the debris and the toys and the occasional one-night stands looking disgruntled in the background, and thought probably not.
Weird love, he thought. But real love, too.