|Love at First Date
Author: AlmeidaFluff PM
Post-S2. High-fluff T&M romantic comedy. 24 chapters. Pls. take a minute to review! I love hearing from you! xxxoooRated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance - Tony A. & Michelle D. - Chapters: 24 - Words: 174,936 - Reviews: 390 - Favs: 57 - Follows: 31 - Updated: 07-18-11 - Published: 05-26-05 - Status: Complete - id: 2410790
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
LOVE AT FIRST DATE
Chapter 1: His Mission
His face was flushed and he felt a little dazed as he made his escape from the building. It had been among the more harrowing missions he'd ever undertaken, but he had come through it unscathed, or at least for the most part. It was no small accomplishment, either, considering how new and unaccustomed he was to dealing with this type of assignment. It was a first for him — and a last, if he had anything to say about it.
His brow was still damp from the light sweat he'd broken into when he handed the money over to the young woman, who had kept him standing impatiently as she took her sweet time neatly rearranging each bill, face-side up, before finally releasing the package to him. The waiting had been torturous. He could feel the the eyes of the other people around him staring a hole in his back. All he could think of was exiting that place at lightning speed and never returning again.
Now outside in the cool air, he fished his cuff from the sleeve of his worn-out leather jacket and ran it across his upper lip and brow. The whole ugly episode had just begun to replay itself in his head when, gratefully, his thoughts were interrupted by the jangling of his cell phone.
"I was beginning to wonder if you were still alive."
"Just barely," Tony scowled, scanning the sea of cars, which seemed to have doubled in the short amount of time he'd been inside. "How are you making out?"
"Better than you, it sounds like. Did you get it?"
"Yeah, I got it," he grumbled, jockeying the package from one arm to the other and methodically patting himself down for his keys. "Listen, do me a favor and don't ever make me do a pickup like that again, okay? The girl at the counter couldn't have been more than seventeen."
A weak giggle emanated from the other end of the phone.
"Don't tell me you've never been sent on a tampon run before."
"No," he replied, his voice tinged with a mixture of annoyance and befuddlement. "A tampon run. That's what you women call it? It was embarrassing as hell."
"Well, now you know how we women feel when there's a guy behind the cash register," she giggled again.
"The things I'm willing to do for you, Michelle," he groused, now frantically conducting a second pat-down of his pockets, horrified by the prospect of having left his keys on the counter, which would necessitate going back inside and facing that girl again. He could've sworn she was checking out his hand for a wedding ring as he'd fumbled through his wallet for the cash. Then she had given him that grin — that knowing grin. God, the whole scene had been mortifying. He felt as though his life had been put on display, right there on the counter, for every customer in the place to view: single man; woman back home in dire need of tampons; she asks sweetly; he whines; she pouts; he relents... He couldn't remember ever having exited a building so fast in his life. Not even under gunfire.
Sweet relief flooded through him as he shifted the package again and heard his keys clanking around inside. How they had gotten in there, he had no idea; nor did he care.
"I don't suppose you're up to eating anything," he asked cautiously, recalling how deathly pale Michelle had looked as he was heading out the door earlier.
There was a moment of silence before she responded.
"I'm really sorry about all this," she said. "I just get so sick to my stomach sometimes."
"Yeah, I couldn't help but notice," he said, but with genuine sympathy as he flashed back to the better part of the night they had spent in his bathroom, where he'd stood with an arm around her waist, holding her hair back as she dry-heaved her guts out, over and over again. After about the fifth or sixth time, he decided to park them both on the floor: he with his back against the tub and Michelle stretched out beside him, resting her head his in lap. It had made more sense to just stay put at that point, since no sooner would he get her back into bed when the nausea would begin to consume her all over again.
"Did you get hold of the doctor yet?" he asked, cradling the phone in his shoulder as he slid behind the wheel and tossed the precious cargo onto the floor. He made a mental note to order a case of those things and stash boxes of them everywhere he could think, to spare himself from ever having to go through that scene again.
Her voice hesitated on the other end.
"Umm… well, no, not exactly," she said, hoping not to incite another round of the exchange they'd had early that morning, when Tony was moments away from bundling her in a blanket and taking her to the emergency room. She had appeased him by promising to call her doctor first thing in the morning. It was a white lie — well, a flat-out, full-blown lie, to be precise — but it had successfully put the kibosh on the emergency room plan.
"Did you even try calling him?"
"There's no need, Tony. Trust me," she assured him. "This just happens sometimes."
"But can't they at least give you something for it? I mean — geezis, Michelle, I thought you were gonna die last night."
"I already have something. Those prescription pills I took, remember?"
"Yeah, well, they don't work, I hate to tell ya."
"Nah, they just have a reverse effect every now and again," she said lightly, hoping her calm, casual tone would help to soothe his rattled nerves. "Normally, they work just fine."
She intentionally left out the part about the reverse effect occurring only when she took the pills on an empty stomach. She didn't want Tony to feel in any way responsible, since they never did quite make it to the restaurant last night. But that was her doing. En route she had leaned in and whispered for him to pull over for a minute, confessing that she was dying for him to kiss her; that she didn't think she could bear to wait all night for the traditional end-of-date kiss at the doorstep. Tony, who'd been rendered somewhat breathless by her request, and only too willing to fulfill it, had careened across three lanes and illegally parked up on an embankment before gathering her into his arms. After an endlessly long, feverish kiss, dinner-and-a-movie had turned into hours of torrid lovemaking at his apartment, instead. But later, just as they were about to engage in yet another blissful session, the telltale signs of nausea that plagued Michelle every month unexpectedly crept up on her, out of the blue. She quickly fished two of her trusty pills from the little silver box she kept in her purse, but had stupidly forgotten the golden rule about eating something before taking them. And the rest was history. The first half of the night had been the greatest in her life; the second half had been the absolute worst.
Tony waited at a red light, mindlessly rubbing his forehead back and forth. He didn't understand all this complicated female stuff. The entire business made him nervous and uncomfortable, especially when he had to actually talk about it. Although myriad women had breezed in and out of his life for years, he had somehow managed to miraculously escape dealing with their "feminine issues." Now, as luck would have it, the woman who'd stolen his heart out from under him — whom he already knew he'd be proposing to someday, just as soon as he could gather his wits, purchase a ring, and conjure the courage — was seemingly plagued with some kind of bizarre premenstrual-puking malady, with which he'd be contending, now, for the next twenty years of his life. He felt the familiar layer of sweat beading up on his brow again. They hadn't covered any of this in the medic training he'd received in the Marines. He felt like a fish out of water.
"Listen," he said, eager to change the subject, "since this is looking like a couch night, I'm gonna stop and get us some movies. Anything in particular you feel like seeing?"
"Umm...," Michelle pondered aloud for a moment, smiling as it occurred to her that he didn't appear to be planning on taking her home anytime soon. He had evidently made an executive decision to keep her for awhile — like some stray puppy he'd found in a parking lot and had decided to keep for a day or two before taking it to the pound.
"Just don't make me sit through a chick-flick," he pleaded in the classic male whine. "I've had all I can take of you women today."
"You poor thing," Michelle chuckled, clutching her sore stomach muscles. It was more than amusing to see Tony in such an uncharacteristically hapless state. His demeanor was normally so smooth and unflappable; a man comfortable in his own skin, confident in his ability to handle whatever challenge came his way. It was a trait that had attracted her from day one on the job, when she had walked into an office in full-crisis mode. To witness him now, utterly unhinged by a box of tampons and a ditzy seventeen-year-old cashier, was beyond entertaining.
"Just nothing too gory, okay?" she responded, meeting him halfway. "We get enough of that on the job."
Tony smiled. "Okay, sweetheart. I'll be home soon."
Michelle sank back into the thick bed pillows piled in the corner of the couch, which he had propped her up against before heading out on his ill-fated mission. Sweetheart... Home... She played his words over in her head again, luxuriating in how softly and gently he'd said them. He had called her "sweetheart" in the heat of passion a number of times last night, but hearing him use it outside of the bedroom seemed to elevate its significance to a whole other level.
Or maybe she was just assigning more significance than was warranted, out of sheer wishful thinking on her part.
In truth, she wasn't sure how or what Tony was likely feeling. Usually by this point in time, she would have already analyzed her date inside and out, contemplating every possible meaning behind each word and action; working up an assessment of how well things had gone and where she logically stood in the eyes and mind of the man; calculating the probability of a second date; roughing out projections of when he would call her, where he might take her, which topics of discussion might arise, etc. But up until this moment, she had consciously gone out of her way to avoid thinking about last night — even the good part, before she had reduced herself to a heaving fool. She couldn't bear to consider the possibility that she had gone and ruined it all, after he had been so loving and tender with her; so consumed with passion as he kissed and held and tantalized her in ways she'd never experienced before. The things he had whispered to her... The places he had touched her... The spots he had kissed and licked and nibbled and caressed... The long, smooth, rhythmic thrusts that had slowly and steadily pushed her over the edge, leaving her writhing in his arms, struggling to regain her breath, and wanting more.
She didn't have the courage to contemplate what he might be thinking of her now, after having witnessed all those ensuing hours of her less-than-graceful retching, with her head wedged halfway inside the bowl. She groaned and covered her face with her hands, hard-pressed to imagine anything that could possibly turn a man off faster. He was probably having regrets, she began convincing herself. He was probably just being kind to her because of the sorry condition she was in.
For a fleeting moment she considered calling a cab. But then she would have to leave him a note and wouldn't know what to say:
"Dear Tony: Thanks for everything. Especially for saving me from drowning in your toilet last night. Gotta run! Warmest regards, Michelle."
Or maybe just "M," with one of those smiley faces beside it, so he'd know that she was fine with the way things had turned out and that he needn't worry about her hanging herself by her pantyhose the minute she got home.
Michelle turned onto her side, facing the back of the couch, and rearranged the throw blanket Tony had tucked around her before he'd left. The first twinges of cramps were beginning, but she didn't dare take her pain medication. Not until she was ready to eat something first. That's all she needed was for Tony to come home and find her stoned out and babbling incoherently about how huge a loser she's always been with men.
"Home." She still liked the way that word had sounded coming out of his mouth before. Maybe there was still hope. Maybe her fears were just symptomatic of this god-awful PMS she suffered every month. She was probably better off not thinking about things right now. Time and fate would tell If she had blown a future with him. She would try to stay upbeat and positive, and pretend as though the second half of their very first date had never even happened. Maybe, by some miracle, it hadn't thoroughly alienated him. Who knew. But if nothing else, at least her dreams had been fulfilled. She would always have the memories of last night — the good part — to carry around in her heart for the duration of her life — her lonely, loser, spinster life.
A half mile away, Tony's heart was soaring as he tossed the DVDs onto the passenger seat and started the engine. He missed Michelle already and was tempted to call her again, just to hear her laughter, but figured she had probably fallen asleep by now. Or at least he hoped that she had, since neither of them had slept at all the entire night before. He wouldn't have fallen asleep anyway. He would've spent that time, instead, watching her dozing beside him and recalling every thrilling moment he had spent lost in her arms. He'd had his fair share of romances and one-night stands along the way, but no woman in his life had ever built him up to those heights before, unleashing so many raw emotions inside him. He'd felt so connected and uninhibited with her, on the one hand; so virginal and shy on the other. The level of passion she'd brought him to in those last few, final moments, when he'd released himself, over and over, with such intensity and fury, had sent him collapsing into her arms in a trembling heap. Awhile later, as she was mercilessly seducing him into another frenzy, he wallowed in the sound of her enchanting laughter when he had facetiously clutched his heart and made her promise him something: that if she inadvertently gave him a heart attack in the middle of making love, she'd clean him up and dress him so that it would look as though he had simply died of natural causes in his sleep. That way, he explained, his mother could be spared the shock and embarrassment of knowing the true circumstances surrounding his death.
Tony entered the apartment quietly, careful not to jiggle the keys too loudly in the lock, and found her resting peacefully under his prized Cubs blanket. This was definitely love, all right, he noted to himself. From the day his grandfather had given him that blanket, back when he was a teenager, it had been strictly hands-off to family, buddies and girlfriends alike. He smiled down at her warmly, now, studying the outline of her frail body tucked beneath it, and the bright splash of silky curls spilling out over the top. What a rough time she'd been through. He'd never seen anyone so sick in his life. Not even back in his college days. Every muscle, from her neck to her abdomen, must be sore as hell, he thought. From the force of all that relentless heaving, he was surprised she hadn't cracked a rib.
She stirred a little as he sat himself down on the edge of the couch beside her, tampon box clutched in hand. He didn't know what he was supposed to do: Had she been desperate for him to get home with them, and fallen asleep while patiently awaiting his arrival? Or did she need them for later, after she had run out of whatever she had in that purse of hers? God, he hated this female stuff. He quickly stood up to remove his jacket before he could break into another sweat. This time he allowed the keys in his pocket to jangle loudly, like sleigh bells, in the hopes she'd wake up and take the box away from him. Maybe if he rattled some things around in the kitchen... or perhaps the smell of coffee brewing might rouse her...
He suddenly felt the sensation of fingertips softly caressing the back of his thigh through his jeans.
"My hero," he heard her say, with a sleepy croak in her voice. "I knew you could do it."
He turned around to see her grinning up at him, still struggling to fully open her heavy eyes. Dropping his jacket to the floor, he sat back down alongside her. Her hands reached out and he leaned in to assist her in locking her fingers behind his neck.
"Did I wake you?" he asked in all innocence, flashing her the best soulful, puppy-eyed expression his tired eyes could muster.
"Not much, dear," she admonished him in dry voice, fully cognizant of the lame ploy he had concocted to awaken her.
Tony moved in closer and apologetically kissed her nose and lips and chin, then laid his head down against her chest. His cheek nuzzled the old faded grey t-shirt he had slipped her into the night before, somewhere in between her third and fourth puking episode. He listened to his own low, contented sighs intermixing with the soothing sound of her heartbeat as her delicate fingers circled gently through his hair. Another minute of this and he'd be unconscious, he knew. He wanted to carry her back to bed for a couple of hours of desperately needed sleep, but he was too tired to conjure the energy. And too hungry to sleep, besides.
The box of tampons, still clutched in his hand, caught Michelle out of the corner of her eye, and she had to fight to keep herself from bursting into laughter.
"Is this for me?" she cooed sweetly, taking his wrist and drawing the box closer for inspection. It looked like it had been through the war, with all the dents and creases his tense grip had created.
"It's a cake. I made it myself," he answered with a self-deprecating chuckle, feeling the weight of the world lift as she liberated it from his hand.
"You're so multi-talented," she smiled, thanking him with a kiss to each knuckle. "How are you at making toast?"
"I'm good at toast," he said, raising his head and gazing up at her through bleary eyes. "I'm really good at showers and sleeping, too."
He didn't want her fingers to stop caressing his head, but nevertheless dragged himself onto his feet and stretched for a moment, hoping to cajole his body into manufacturing enough energy to chew. Michelle reached her hands out and he pulled her into a standing position on the couch, kissing her through her t-shirt, here and there.
"I'll man the toaster," he said, lifting her off the couch with ease and sliding her down his body. "And you — you do whatever it is you women do. Just don't put that box in a place where I'll ever see it again, okay?"
"You're pitiful, Almeida," she said, shaking her head as he turned her by her shoulders in the direction of the bedroom.
"Go," he ignored her, delivering a playful love-pat to her hind quarter and strolling off in the opposite direction, toward the kitchen.
"I want to watch you shave later," he heard her voice echo from down the hallway.
"You can watch me do anything you want," he called back, "after I devour half of everything in this refrigerator." He crouched down and hungrily peered inside to see what his housekeeper had stocked for the week. "Then tonight, after I eat the other half," he continued, giving her fair warning, "it's you, me and — The Guns of Navarone."
A moment later Michelle reappeared, rolling her eyes and pointing his tube of toothpaste at him in an accusatory fashion.
"You got all guy-flicks, didn't you?" she said.
"Not all," he replied in self-defense, his head still lurking inside the refrigerator. "I got one for you that I know you're gonna like — after The Guns of Navarone."
Somehow she got the hint that there wasn't going to be much discussion as to which movie they should view first. She flashed her eyes briefly up toward the heavens, wondering what God must've been thinking — or drinking — when He, in all His infinite wisdom, had come up with the divine concept of "machismo."
"I don't have a toothbrush," she moved on.
"Use mine," he said over his shoulder, closing the refrigerator with his foot and transporting a full armful of food over to the counter.
"Really?" she said, a little surprised. She had already resigned herself to brushing her teeth with her finger if he didn't have a spare stashed away somewhere.
"We've already exchanged virtually every body fluid there is, sweetheart," he matter-of-factly reminded her in a low, easy voice, glancing up just long enough to flash her a shy grin before returning his attention to opening wrappers, popping lids and stuffing things into his mouth.
Out of nowhere, a barrage of mental images from the night before suddenly flooded her mind, accompanied by an exhilarating rush of excitement that caught her off-guard and rendered her a little breathless.
"Okay," she agreed — to what, she suddenly couldn't remember. Her mind was preoccupied with rerunning the images and gasping from the pangs they produced as she floated back down the hallway. He had used that word again — "sweetheart" — compelling her to recall the first time he had tenderly whispered it last night, locking eyes and fingers with her, entering so slowly and sensually and ensconcing himself so deeply inside her; as absorbed in her emotions and desires as he was with his own.
Without thinking, Michelle found herself backtracking to the living room where she studied him for a moment from a few feet away. His back was to her as he loaded bread slices into the toaster and mindlessly clanked a few things around the counter. Approaching him from behind, she slid her arms around his waist.
"Hey," she said, quietly, taking him a little aback with surprise. But he turned and instantly melted into her as her lips hungrily sealed tightly around his own. Her body pushed hard against him, pressing him back against the counter. His powerful arms brusquely swept around her, holding her almost a little too tight, and they kissed and fondled, fast and feverishly, until eventually breaking their mouths away, each in need of an oxygen break.
Arms still around his waist, she rested motionlessly against his shoulder, lavishing the feeling of his palms slowly and soothingly circling against her skin: up the back of her t-shirt, down inside her panties, across the backs and the sides of her thighs.
"I like it when you call me that," she admitted shyly after a moment, feeling a light blush wash across her face.
"Call you what?" he asked, nuzzling her ear.
"'Sweetheart'… I like when you call me 'sweetheart'..."
"I'll have to remember that," he said quietly, closing his eyes for a moment and drinking in the sweet scent of her hair. He liked it when she called him "dear," but suddenly felt a little too bashful to tell her.
"Go finish up," he said instead, kissing her forehead a few last times before sending her on her way. He folded his arms in front of him and remained leaning against the counter, his mouth slightly agape, his fingers dragging slowly along the side of his face, and his eyes glued to her hips swaying gently beneath his long, baggy t-shirt. It was only early Saturday morning and he had until late Sunday night, he figured, to tell her some things he hadn't been quite ready to say the night before: like, how hard she had knocked him back on his heels; how hopelessly in love with her he had fallen; and that he'd probably been in love with her since the first few minutes they had met. Maybe, if he could gather the courage, he would tell her some of those things tonight — after The Guns of Navarone.