Just Shy of Heaven
Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Zander sat in his favorite chair and watched the truly adorable scene taking place in his living room. Tobias was sitting on his couch, and his slim tabby cat Bearclaw was curled up on his lap in a furry ball that exposed her light-orange belly to his caressing fingers. Her loud purring filled the room as Tobias scratched her into a state of catatonia. Zander felt his heart turning to mush as he watched the Man in the Suit make his cat into his own personal slave. The only thing that might have made it better, he thought inside of his head, was if Tobias would caress HIM like that! But there was no way in hell that he was ever going to suggest such a thing; he’d never be able to get the words out of his mouth. So he simply sat there and admired the view as Tobias ‘tamed the wild beast’, and Bearclaw turned into a limp furry worm on his lap.
Tobias looked up at him suddenly, making him start a bit and his cheeks heat. He felt like he’d been caught spying on Tobias or something. A smile lifted the corners of the Man in the Suit’s sensual lips. “I think your cat likes me,” he remarked softly.
There was an understatement, Zander thought. Apparently both he and Bearclaw shared an affinity for handsome men with nice smiles, although he doubted that his cat cared about what Tobias’ smile looked like. She was more concerned with the way that he petted her, which was clearly more than adequate. In fact, the beast was in a blissful comatose state, not moving at all as Tobias’ long fingers stroked over her belly and breastbone.
“Yes,” he breathed aloud. “She really does. Bearclaw doesn’t usually like strangers,” he added.
Tobias surprised him by grinning. “And just how many strangers have you had in your apartment, Zander?” he asked in amusement, his eyes twinkling. “Something tells me that it’s not a very high number.”
Sheepishly he shrugged. “I don’t…like having people I don’t know in here,” he said unhappily.
Tobias nodded. “I can see why you wouldn’t. Not everybody likes to let strangers into their homes. I’m just glad that you let ME in. I’m honored that you trust me enough to invite me into your home.”
Zander twitched. While he was still a little nervous about having his secret crush sitting on his couch across from him in his apartment, at the same time it was oddly comfortable to have Tobias here. As though he’d always been there. “Umm…” he said, glancing at the clock. “Don’t you have to get back to work?” he said sadly.
Tobias sighed. “Yes, unfortunately,” he replied. He picked the limp striped body off of his lap and set the cat down on the couch, which made her shoot him a dirty look out of her big green eyes. “Sorry, girl,” he remarked, caressing her skull with his fingertips. “But I’ve gotta go. I’ll pet you some more later.”
Bearclaw accepted his desertion with a sniff, padding away to curl up in her basket on top of a table by the window. Tobias rose to his feet. Zander also got to his feet to see his guest out, feeling unhappy that Tobias had to go. But the man in the Suit paused by the door as Zander opened it, and turned to look at him. “I really enjoyed eating lunch with you, Zander,” he said. “Your kitty is adorable…and so are you.” and before he could move, Tobias swooped in and kissed him again.
Zander’s breath left his body in a gasp as Tobias’ lips moved over his. It was a gentle, sweet, and wonderful kiss, and he felt dazed when Tobias reluctantly lifted his head. Fingers cupped his chin tenderly. “I’ll call you later, Zander,” Tobias told him. “We can make plans for tomorrow. See you,” he ran his thumb over Zander’s kiss-swollen bottom lip, then smiled and departed.
Zander stood in the doorway of his apartment with his hand to his mouth, watching as Tobias strode out to his coupe and got inside. Before he did so, however, he lifted his hand in a wave for Zander. He found himself waving back, and Tobias grinned before he got in his car and drove away. He closed his door, and then just there feeling hazy and rather out-of-it. Tobias had come into his apartment! And had kissed him again! His lips were still tingling, and he seemed to feel the weight of Tobias’ mouth on his even though he’d gone.
Zander’s phone rang at six o’clock. When he checked it, his heart jumped in his chest when he saw that it was Tobias. He pushed the button and put the cell phone to his ear. “Hi,” he said shyly.
“Hey, Zander. How are you? Are you okay?” Tobias asked.
“Yes. I’m okay,” he said, meaning it.
“Great! I was worried that you’d be all worked up because I kissed you again. Which I really enjoyed, by the way,” his voice was warm and teasing.
“Me too,” Zander whispered, then just stood there in shock because he’d actually just admitted that aloud.
A chuckle. “I’m glad. Because I’d like to kiss you a lot more after this. Every day, if you can handle it,” Tobias told him.
His fingers spasmed on his cell phone, but he took a deep breath and answered: “I can handle it,” as bravely as he possibly could.
Silence on the other end. Then: “That makes me happier than you can imagine, Zander,” Tobias said in a pleased tone of voice. “I’m so proud of you. You’re really fighting through your shyness to be with me. Do you know how flattering that is to me? To know that someone who’s as afflicted with shyness as you is trying to get over it just for me? I feel ten-feet-tall right now,” he said.
Zander blinked. He’d never thought of it from Tobias’ point of view before this. “Err…” he said, not sure what to say.
Tobias laughed warmly. “Don’t worry about it, Zander,” he said reassuringly. “Anyway, I thought we could just talk for awhile, then decide where we’re going to eat lunch tomorrow. All right?”
“Okay,” he said, and it really, really was.
He hung up over an hour later, warmth coiling in his belly as he got up to go and start making his dinner. He and Tobias had talked about everything under the sun - his family, Tobias’ family, their jobs, their likes and dislikes, everything. After awhile his nervousness just seemed to fade away, and he’d chattered at Tobias without even thinking about it. It was like talking with his friend Jake, so easy and open - with one exception: he didn’t want Jake to kiss him. Or touch him, or…do other things with him…
His cheeks heated at this thought as he pulled a chicken breast that had been marinating in his refrigerator and set it in a glass pan. Now that his fantasies had the possibility of becoming a reality, he was more than a little freaked out. But at the same time, even imagining being with Tobias, and…having sex with him…made Zander feel far too warm and left his body aching for something it desperately wanted, even if his brain was gibbering inside of his skull and going off the rails. For once he had decided to try to ignore his brain, since it was the cause of most of his troubles anyway. He was just going to go with the flow if he could, and let what happened, happened…
“What a gorgeous day,” Tobias commented, lifting his face to the sun. Zander looked up from assembling his sandwich at the man sitting across from him at the picnic table. They’d decided to eat lunch in the park again since the weather was so fine.
He had to agree. A soft summer wind was blowing, caressing their faces and lifting the leaves of the trees. Soft white clouds drifted through the blue, blue sky overhead, and birds were twittering in the trees. Tobias took a bite of his sandwich, looking satisfied. “I’m just thinking about my colleagues eating indoors right now,” he told Zander. “I feel sorry for them. I’d much rather be outdoors on a beautiful day like this, eating lunch with a cute guy,” he winked at Zander, who blushed furiously.
Zander concentrated on his food to hide his reddened cheeks, squirming a little on the bench. He heard a soft chuckle from across the table, but didn’t look up. He heard Tobias say: “Well, Zander. Are you ready?”
Startled, he finally looked up. “Ready? For what?” he asked, his brows wrinkling.
Tobias lifted a brow. “Today’s Friday, Zander,” he said patiently. “That means that tomorrow is Saturday. We’re going on our first full date tomorrow night.”
Panic froze him in place and made his eyes huge. He’d sort of forgotten about tomorrow, because his mind hadn’t quite been able to think about it. Tobias leaned forward and reached out to cover his trembling hand with one of his own. “Breathe, Zander,” he directed calmly. “Come on. It’s okay. Just like that, that’s right…” he crooned in a calm, even voice. He nodded as Zander’s lungs began to work again. “That’s better. Listen, Zander, it’s no big deal. We’ve already been dating for almost an entire week, if you think about it. This might be more formal, but how is it that much different from today? Or yesterday? Or the day before? You’ll have to go into a restaurant with me, it’s true - but I know you can do it. I believe in you, Zander. You’re strong, and you’re courageous, and you have a huge heart. I know that you can walk into that restaurant with me with your head held high, and that you won’t let anything get in your way, not even your shyness.”
His steady gaze and his words helped Zander to relax a little. His tense muscles slowly unknotted, and he gazed into Tobias’ eyes as he took on a long breath of air. He could do this. He could do it because he wanted to, and because Tobias believed in him. He WAS strong, and courageous too. This crippling shyness was not going to be allowed to steal anymore of his life from him. Never again. This was what he wanted, what he’d wanted since the very first time that he’d seen the Man in the Suit in the bakery talking to Anne. “I…” he croaked, trying to get his mouth and throat to work properly. “I can. Yes, I can,” he lifted his chin, and Tobias beamed at him across the table.
He got to his feet and came around to sweep a startled Zander up into a tight embrace. “I’m so proud of you, Zander!” he crowed, but since he was being hugged tightly by TOBIAS Zander really wasn’t paying that much attention to the words that he was saying. But then Tobias pulled back and kissed him hungrily instead, and he forgot how to breathe let alone think. Ah, who needed it? Thinking was overrated anyway…