by Vincent Diamond
There is something of the sea in a man's semen: salt and brine, a thick rush of primal fluid that evokes the sharp taste of a gulf's warm water, a flavor that puckers the mouth and tongue. For Steven Pershing, tasting it for the first time was like coming home.
The afternoon didn't start out as their first argument. It was a Sunday, the Florida heat creeping and humid outside. In their motel room, the AC was cranked up, the TV was turned low. Steven had one leg looped over Conrad's thigh and he listened to the other man's heartbeat, steady as a metronome.
Oh, this feels so good. So right.
It had been three months since the Jacksonville PD and DEA undercover operation. With his blond, surfer-dude good looks, Steven fit in with the rave crowd that was the focus of the investigation. The DEA had suspected Conrad's crew was running street meth and Ecstasy along with weekend dances. By the end of the op, Steven had halfway fallen in love with Conrad, a perplexing rush of emotions that puzzled Steven utterly. Steven never found evidence that Conrad was dealing but the Feds ordered a SWAT op during a rave and two kids ended up dead.
When Steven let him run that night, Conrad ran, down to Tampa. After the Internal Affairs investigation and three shitty weeks on the streets, Steven quit the police force.
And followed Conrad to Tampa.
Steven sighed and stretched. His contentment being in Conrad's bed surprised him. As odd as it sometimes felt to wake up in the night and realize that another man held him, there was something special and precious about this.
Conrad was dozing; Steven could tell by his slowed heartbeat. Out of curiosity, Steven had counted one morning when Conrad was still asleep and found his lover had a resting pulse of only forty-two.
Conrad made Steven's pulse race though. The way he touched Steven, the things he said in that throaty growl of his, the pure sweet taste of his caramel skin made Steven ache. Conrad would press him up against the wall or throw him on the bed and Steven would go weak. The sight of Conrad on his knees in front of him made Steven's knees shake, literally shake.
Time to do a little exploring. My turn to make him shake.
He straddled Conrad's thighs and bent low. His fantasies sparkled in his brain like champagne. He'd wanted to try this since their first night together, but he had held back, not sure why. There was something so primal about this act; subservience and conquest, control and acquiescence.
Worship and demand.
He didn't let himself think about it for too long, afraid he might chicken out. He licked down Conrad's belly, feeling the fuzz of hair grow more curly and wiry. Down past that absurdly cute outie belly button, lower, lower, scenting the primal musk of the other man.
Steven pressed his face against Conrad's black pubic hair -- it tickled, wiry and soft against his own skin. He licked up Conrad's shaft, amazed at how soft the skin was on the other man's cock. As soft as any woman's sex. He tongued the tiny slit tentatively, then kissed around the mushroom cap, gentle as a butterfly's touch. Conrad's cock rose up, changing from dark brown to wine as Steven watched.
"Steven, babe, what are you doing to me?" Conrad's voice, husky from sleep and arousal.
"Just a little exploring. You don't mind, do you?" He put a teasing note in his voice, pushing past how shaky he felt inside.
Conrad eased his arms back and moved the pillows up, allowing him a view. "I don't mind at all."
Their eyes met. Steven's word were ghostly, all he could manage was a whisper. "I want you to come."
Conrad nodded. His gaze was so intense that Steven had to look away.
"Just..." Steven settled one hand around Conrad's thick cock and stroked a few times. "...give me some warning, okay?"
"I will, I promise."
He knew how Conrad touched him, remembered how a few girls had performed this act on him. Even a bad blowjob was still a blowjob but a good one...a good one could make a man melt. Conrad had certainly made Steven melt; that first time in the warehouse office and nearly every night since his arrival in Tampa.
He gripped Conrad's cock with a firm hand and let his own instinct guide his movement. He took as much of Conrad as he could in his mouth but there was no way to take all of him. Steven used his hand and his mouth, moving together, getting Conrad wet and gripping him with a little squeeze at the top of each stroke.
Conrad shifted beneath him and sighed. "Oh, yeah, just like that."
Steven heard the pleasure in his voice, loved the way that deep growl evoked such a stirring in his own belly. Conrad was like a lion in some ways; he had a frightening roar but a wonderful purr.
Steven moved faster. He missed a stroke and broke his rhythm but Conrad only encouraged him. "Go on, babe, stroke me, oh yeah, just like that." Conrad thrust his hips upward and groaned once more.
A drop of sweat plopped off Steven's forehead and landed on Conrad's belly. Steven closed his eyes then to concentrate: mouth wide, tongue working from side to side, his fingers clenching Conrad's hard cock. He started making a suction with his lips and tongue and Conrad cried out. "Steven, I'm close, now, just like that, don't stop, so close."
Steven didn't stop. He wanted Conrad to spill into him, wanted Conrad to grab his shoulders in ecstasy, wanted Conrad to scream with a rush of pleasure. He tugged harder. Conrad's buttocks suddenly clenched beneath them.
"Oh, I'm coming, right now, babe, coming."
Conrad's cock pulsated in Steven's grip, it jerked in his fingers and a wash of warm semen spilled out of him. It was thick and salty. Steven got one good swallow in and then it was too much. Conrad's semen oozed down his hand and onto Conrad's belly. Steven slowed his movement until Conrad was still, his cock gone soft, his breathing softer.
"Look what you made me do." Conrad's smile was warm as honey.
Steven used the damp washcloth on the nightstand to clean him up. He leaned down and give Conrad's belly a kiss before settling next to him.
Conrad pressed soft kisses on Steven's forehead and pushed back his sweaty hair. Now that it was done, Steven felt a knocking in his chest, more anxious now than he'd been before.
He elbowed up and gazed at Conrad. He couldn't hold back a nervous chuckle. "So, does this make me queer or what?" He expected some kind of joke from Conrad in return.
Conrad blinked. "You mean what you just did to me or us in general?"
"Both, I guess."
"I dunno. You feel queer?"
Steven couldn't read his tone of voice; couldn't tell if he were serious or not. The words stung so he didn't say anything.
Thirty seconds dragged by, then Conrad moved to face him. His broad fingers stroked Steven's face tenderly. "I didn't mean to smartass you like that. Come on, what's up?"
Steven's confusion had pinged at him all day. He wasn't sure about saying what was on his mind but figured, no risk, no gain. He took a deep breath. "A girl came in the restaurant today. Beautiful. You know, one of those women that you just can't not watch. Long hair and smoky eyes."
Conrad half-smiled. "Yeah, I know the type."
"Anyway, she leaned over to get something from her purse and her shirt kinda gaped open and man...I couldn't take my eyes off her. I think my mouth literally dropped open when I saw her boobs."
Now Conrad chuckled. "I think a lot of guys would look at a bodacious set of ta-tas, don't you?" They'd watched An Officer and a Gentleman the night before. Steven smiled at the joke.
"A few months ago I probably would have tried to put the move on her but now..." Steven traced one finger around Conrad's nipples. "I mean, I kinda wanted to flirt with her and try to talk to her, but...mostly, I just wanted to come home to you."
Conrad held him close. "I want you here with me."
"So, does that mean now I'm...gay?"
"You know, sometimes you college boys think too much." Conrad sat up and reached for his iced tea.
"Come on, Conrad, don't tell me you haven't thought about this. I..." Steven pressed his face against Conrad's belly and sighed. He was screwing this up. "I just wanted to talk about it, about us."
"I don't think about this shit as much as you do. Really."
"You know, us. Being with guys. It doesn't bother me. But it sure seems to bother you."
"You act like this is just some handjob in the park."
Conrad sipped his tea again, his heavy brows furrowed. "I don't mean it like that. But you have to understand. I've been with lots of guys; have been since I was fourteen. It's not something new to me."
"Well, it's new to me." Steven plopped back on the second pillow and pulled away, feeling foolish. His fingers trembled. He had this all wrong. Conrad didn't care, Conrad just wanted to get laid. All this turmoil, all these questions tumbling in his brain were just a waste of time.
He remembered a couple of girls he'd bedded and later dismissed. Jenny from junior year came to mind: the sweet freckles that peppered her creamy skin all over, the way her face crumpled when he blew her off a week later. Was this what she felt like? Used? Stupid?
Steven sat up. "I'm gonna take a shower." He didn't meet Conrad's gaze. For the first time, being naked in front of Conrad felt -- odd, wrong.
"Hey, what's up?" Conrad sat up.
"Nothin.' I just wanna get cleaned up."
Conrad spent the rest of the afternoon mixing new CDs, the headphones over his ears looking too big for his shaved-bare skull. Steven thumbed through the TV with the remote, eyes scanning the images, trying not to look at Conrad. Trying to keep his chest from filling up.
At seven, Conrad quit with his music, stretched and stood up. They shared a quick glance, then Steven looked away. Conrad glided over to the bed and stood next to it. "Look at me," he ordered.
Steven kept his eyes on the television.
Conrad gently took Steven's chin in his palm. "I said, look at me."
Steven set his face and looked up.
"How about I take you to dinner? That little Mexican place out on the beach."
"Nah, let's just get a sandwich or something."
"Come on. I'm making an overture here. I know you love the beach." Conrad ran his palm down Steven's cheek and neck. He bent low, his breath warming Steven's forehead. "Don't make me work so hard."
"Okay. We gotta change." Steven smiled a little. Time to give Conrad a break; maybe they could talk some more over food. Conrad held his face and they gazed at each other for a long time.
Casa Lupita was a real, grown-up restaurant, something a step above the little diners and family restaurants Steven and Conrad normally frequented. No ties, of course, but they got out of their normal jeans and work pants. Conrad wore a moss-green polo shirt that stretched against his beefy arms and set off his caramel-colored skin. At a thrift store three blocks from their motel, Steven found a pale blue dress shirt to wear. With his summer tan, it sharpened his blue eyes and he figured for two bucks, why not?
Steven drove them to the beach and they enjoyed the real Mexican food: spicy tortillas, the guacamole was chunky with avocado bits, the rice was brown with cilantro and chiles. Steven started to sweat at the dinner table.
Afterwards, Steven turned to the setting sun. "Let's walk on the beach." The sky was violet and purple already.
"Walk on the beach?" Conrad's voice rose.
"Yeah," Steven leaned closer, knowing that Conrad could feel his exhale on his neck. "All sappy and romantic-like. Come on."
He crossed the road and pulled off his loafers and socks. Conrad stood across the road, hands in his pockets, his face unreadable.
There was no one else around. It was August. Too hot for any errant tourists and natives knew better than to brave the heat. They had the twilight to themselves.
Steven slipped off his shirt. It was damp under the arms and neck where his meal -- and sitting across from Conrad -- had made him hot. He pulled off his shoes and tugged up his khakis. He felt itchy and wanted to swim.
He smiled and turned back to Conrad. The other man slowly bent and tugged off his shoes and socks. Conrad's tawny skin gleamed and when he smoothed his shirt over his head, Steven swallowed hard.
Wow, he is so beautiful.
That he could think another man beautiful was still new to Steven. Nearly three months since their night together at Conrad's apartment, months of feelings that moved through him like the tide. Being with Conrad frightened him and invigorated him and aroused him in a way that no woman ever had.
Conrad trudged through the sand, his face set. They turned south and walked a long time.
The sun was gone and the sand turned gray against the black of the sea. Foamy whitecaps spilled onto the sand. Steven thought it smelled great -- salty and fishy; it reminded him of his long days surfing off Daytona Beach when he was in high school. For a second his skin remembered the heat and fire of sunburn and he flushed.
Plover birds skittered ahead of them, their shadows skimming over the sand. Conrad was too quiet. Holding hands would have been sappy and Conrad kept his hands in his pockets, not responding to Steven leaning against him or jostling.
It made Steven nervous.
Should I push him about all this stuff or swim first?
Fuck it, swim first.
Steven suddenly turned and raced into the water, pants on. He caught just a bit of Conrad's shout, "Hey! Whaddya doin?" and then the surf overtook him and the water filled his head and he swam in the dark.
He surfaced, sighted the shore with a quick flick of his head and then pushed out. He hoped that Conrad would strip off his pants and tumble in after him. A little roughhouse in the water, some heated kisses and then...
Steven smiled until a clump of seaweed twisted in his hair. Uck. He surfaced again, tossed the seaweed then rolled on his back to float. His wet pants were heavy but he was always a good swimmer, he could work past them. He could see swaying lanterns from the restaurant across the road and knew he was about twenty yards out, not too far.
After a few minutes, he raised his head and spotted Conrad, still on the sand. "What?" He paddled in a little closer; he couldn't hear the other man.
"I said, get your ass out of the water." Conrad's voice was fierce and angry.
"Come in and get me." Steven rolled backwards and porpoised through the water, tumbling in the waves. It felt great. Like being a kid again and free.
"Steven! Right now!"
Steven swam in closer until he could touch bottom again. A froth of wave spilled over his head and he bobbed easily in the water. When he could see again through the foam, Conrad was still at the surf's edge, hands on his hips, his face tight.
Steven stopped moving when the water was waist deep. "Come and get me." The taunt was real.
Now who's in charge?
"I ain't coming in to get you. Now get your ass out." Conrad's finger pointed at the sand, the order explicit.
I think it's time for Conrad to go swimming.
Steven stormed from the water, ran straight into Conrad and half-picked him up in a fireman's carry, enough to get his feet off the sand. Conrad was way more weight than any woman he'd ever picked up and Steven's back twinged as he tumbled them both out into the surf.
They fell into waist high water. Steven laughed as he wrestled on top of Conrad, keeping him down but just barely. The other man twisted from beneath him and as they stood from the water, he heard Conrad gasp and choke and then he felt a bright splat of pain as Conrad's fist connected with his forehead.
What the hell???
Conrad backed towards the shore again, lost his balance in the swirling surf and went down on his rear. Steven saw him tense and fight the water, saw the waves splash over his frantic face, his eyes clenched shut. This wasn't just being pissed from horsing around, there was real unease on Conrad's features.
Steven reached down and grabbed Conrad's arm, pulling him up. Conrad came up, fast, pushed Steven away -- hard -- and then slogged back to the shore. He bent and coughed a few times, hands on his thighs, gasping for breath.
"Hey, hey, it's okay." Steven put one hand on Conrad's heaving back.
Conrad slapped his hand away. "Fuck you."
"Conrad, hey man, what's wrong? I didn't mean to -- "
Conrad looked up then, his eyes bright and too wide. "Let's get outta here. I've had about enough of walking on the beach."
"Conrad, what is it? I'm sorry about that, really." Steven put one hand on Conrad's chest and held it there. This time Conrad didn't step away, he pulled Steven's hand up to his face.
"Let's just go."
"What is it? Please." Steven eased his hands around Conrad's shoulders, pulled Conrad's head closer to his. "What's wrong?"
He felt Conrad's hands tremble, saw him take a shaking breath. "I can't swim."
Steven blinked. He started to laugh, gulped it down when he saw Conrad's face. "Whoa, I didn't even think of that. Hey, I'm sorry."
Conrad looked down at the sand, his eyes soft. "My Dad took us down to Ormond Beach a few times when we were kids but I just never got the hang of it. Used to spend more time building sand castles and playing with my Tonka trucks than in the water."
"Thanks for telling me. And I'm sorry, really." Steven put a soft kiss on Conrad's mouth.
"I know you are." He grabbed Steven's hand. "Come on, let's go."
Steven pulled him back towards the water. "You come with me."
They stood at the water's edge, an absurd tug of war. Conrad stood like a statue, solid and immovable. Steven pressed against him. "Remember that night in your bed? Remember you told me that you wouldn't hurt me?"
Steven held out his hand. "Come with me. I'll take care of you, I promise."
Conrad's eyes were full of doubt, trepidation -- even, yes -- fear. He took Steven's hand.
Steven took them into waist deep water first, let Conrad get his footing. Then he pulled them out further, up to their chests, watched Conrad's face get tense as the water splashed against his chin. Steven leaned close. "Don't try to control it, just let it move through you." A wave bobbed them up, then down again and he saw that Conrad was okay with it.
Steven paddled behind him, ran his hands over Conrad's chest, then lower. Conrad growled a little, that deep purring that Steven had grown to love. "Move with me, this way." Steven pulled them out into deeper water.
Steven could paddle with one hand and float with ease. "You're okay, stay with me."
Conrad didn't float well at all, too heavy, too tense. He went under, came up spitting and coughing, his arms stiff. "Screw this, man, let's go."
"Stay with me. I promised you." Steven pulled Conrad's head to his shoulder, made him turn on his back, floating. He felt the other man relax, just a little. A series of smooth waves moved them towards the shore. "See? Not so bad."
They floated together, the water cool, Conrad's body warm against him, and Steven's heart flared in his chest.
He trusts me now.
The stars winked above them. Steven listened to the waves, soothing as a heartbeat, felt Conrad's breathing in his arms. The current pulled them into shore. Conrad stood up first, the water spilling off his chest and Steven wanted to lick it off him. What would he taste like? Sweat or saltwater and then he remembered the taste of Conrad's semen. Steven felt himself harden, his cock snaking up, straining against his wet pants.
Steven pulled Conrad to him, his need fierce and hot. The waves up to their waist were strong enough to push them back and forth. Conrad's lips tasted like saltwater and his tongue was spicy still.
"Conrad, please." Steven ran his hands over Conrad's back, then pulled him closer, his hardness pressed into Conrad's pelvis. "Please."
"I'm not gonna fuck you on the beach -- let's get back to the room. Right now." Conrad's kiss was insistent, steely.
Afterward, Conrad lay his head on Steven's chest. He was so big and meaty, there was just so much of him to hold that Steven felt a tingle in his belly. Conrad was solid and real in his arms. And in Steven's mouth, just the faintest aftertaste of semen; that was real too.
I'm not sure I can do this.
Tampa wasn't the real world; this was like dreamspace. Steven wondered how long they would last this way.
As if he had read his mind, Conrad propped his chin in his fist and gazed at Steven. His deep voice broke the silence. "Do I make you feel good?"
"Yeah," Steven admitted.
"Do we take care of each other?"
"Then no more questions, all right?"
"All right." They smiled at each other, warmth and lust and something else mixed in their gazes.
Outside the night sparkled with sultry energy; the waves eased over the beach like a whispering caress. And Steven tasted the tide and the sea again.