The man in the rumpled brown suit moved closer to her.
'Would it be too clichéd to ask if you come here often?' He smiled broadly at her, and she found herself smiling back.
'Here? No. And yes, it is a complete cliché. The oldest line in the book.'
The smile became impossibly wider and tipped his head to the side. 'Oh I dare say it is. But there again, I probably wrote the book. If not, I most definitely would have read the first edition.'
She looked him up and down. Tall and very slim, but square shouldered and solid looking. A suit, creased and crumpled but well tailored, fitting him oh so completely, even if it did look as if he'd slept in it. Looking closer, she could see the brown cloth had a not too subtle blue stripe in it. His loosely knotted tie was dark blue with a swirled lighter blue and deep red pattern worn with a dark blue shirt, the colours perfect with his brown hair, somehow impossibly matching the suit, giving him the air of shabby chic, someone who didn't have to try. It was messy yet seemed elegant and effortless and looked perfect on him.
She smiled back at him. 'So, is that what you are -- A writer?'
'What do you think I am?'
'I don't know. Smart mouth, easy manner, vintage chic... You could be a writer. Journalist for some arts magazine. Artist?'
He rocked back on his heels and jammed his hands in his pockets, still grinning.
She tried again.
'Erm... I can't think. So -- not a writer. A and R for a record label?'
He shook his head.
'Oh, no. That is one thing the world is not prepared for.'
'Funny you should say that... I have dabbled, been told I'm quite good. Well, I say quite good. Will said that he hadn't seen anything like my Bott... And that's a very, very old joke that really doesn't need to see the light of day again.' He scratched the back of his head. 'No. I'm not an actor.'
'I felt sure you were in the arts or something. I'm stuck. Brain surgeon, Astronaut...'
'Ahh. Now, you see, you are getting a bit warm there...'
'You're a doctor!'
He stared at her for a moment and then blinked, his mouth quirking into a smile
'You know, you're right. Just call me Doctor'
'Doctor of what?'
'Oh, just about anything and everything, really. You name it, I'll have a go.' He beamed.
She shook her head.
'Oh, OK. Don't tell me. Mystery man.'
'Yep. That's me. Man of mystery.' He grinned winningly at her.
'Come on. You can explain to me the mystery of some of this so-called 'art'. I think we are going to need a drink…' She took his offered arm and they walked towards the wall of carefully arranged canvases.
'Well, Doctor… We've done the polite chitchat. We've spent a respectable amount time looking at this dreadful art. You've got me a drink. I've laughed at your jokes –'
'Ahh, well, actually, no you didn't. Not one of them. And generally people do laugh, they really do...'
'I know a quiet place where we can talk a bit more and then maybe you'll tell me your name and what you really do… 'Doctor'. '
'Quiet? Where? Quiet and me don't…. Gel, really.'
'Quiet as in my place. And the wine I have is much better than this muck.' She raised her glass.
He looked down into his drink.
'This wine isn't bad – I've had worse. There was this place, outer …'
He glanced at her, catching the look she was giving him.
'Are you trying to pick me up?' He looked delighted, his face lighting up.
'Well, it was either offer you some better wine or ask you to come back and look at my etchings.'
'Now, you know, I think that may be the oldest line in the book – In fact I think that is universally accepted as the oldest line in the book. In fact, I'm sure that was used before books were even thought about... Cavemen! Cavemen were using that line… 'You want to come back to my cave to see my etchings?' He grinned away to himself.
By the time the Doctor had been musing over this to himself, she had put her coat on and was fumbling in her bag, checking for her phone.
'Are you ready?'
'What? Oh, yes. Etchings.' He ran his hand through his hair.
'Do you actually have some etchings?'
She laughed. 'No. No etchings. But reasonable wine. Or if you prefer I can do you a nice line in fresh coffee?'
'Oh, I'm a tea man, me. Good cup of builders tea, type you can stand your spoon up in.' He beamed.
'Do you have a car?'
'Car. Do you have transport?'
'Ahhh, I do have transport, but it's not really made for short hops. I, erm… I left it at home. In fact, you could say it is my home.'
'You live in it? What is it, a houseboat or something?'
'Umm - It is some sort of ship, yes…'
She looked at him, puzzled and then shook her head. 'You are strange. I'm questioning my sanity at the moment.'
'Oh, don't worry. I'm safe as houses, me. Normal as you can get'
He saw her stifle a smile. 'No really. I am. Cross my hearts…Heart.'
They got a cab back to her flat, the Doctor keeping up a running commentary of bad jokes and inane facts about points of interest they passed. She turned towards him and smiled, laughing and wondering at the strange fascinating man sitting besides her.
'Where are you from?'
'Me? Erm, well.. I'm from' he swallowed 'Around'
'And 'Around' would be near…'
'Here and there. '
'Ah. The well known county of 'Here and There' '
He looked suddenly serious.
'Does it matter?'
'No. No I suppose it doesn't. It doesn't make me feel very clever asking you back home, though. No name, not from anywhere…'
'I've told you. Call me the Doctor. Really. Everyone does. And as for where I'm from -- I travel a lot. Always have done. So I don't actually consider myself to be from anywhere, really. Not any more. Got a bit of a soft spot for round here, though; always seem to end up in this area of the universe. Human weakness, I suppose you could call it.' He snorted 'Yep, you could most definitely call it that. 'Human Weakness'. ' He grinned wildly at her, looking most pleased with himself, as if he'd just said something very, very clever.
'You have a very charming smile, you know that?'
'Good teeth' He snapped them together 'they are brilliant, they really are. Best ever. I think. Not quite as horsey as the last good set…'
She looked at him shocked 'The last set?'
'Ahhh..' He tugged at his ear. 'Erm.' He grinned suddenly. 'Just joking! You didn't think that…'
She shook her head. 'You are quite mad. Quite, quite mad'
He stood just inside the hall, hands shoved in his trouser pockets as she closed the door to her flat, taking off her coat and dumping it and her bag on a side table.
'Nice.' He looked around, nodding.
'It's nicer inside. Coat?'
He shrugged his coat off, throwing it on top of hers, ignoring her outstretched hand.
'OK… come through.' She headed through to the main room. 'I promised you some good wine.'
'Really, tea would be fine, you don't have to go to any trouble.' He wandered after her, hands back in his pockets.
'No trouble, really. I need some good stuff to take the taste of that muck away. I don't know how you can say you liked it… I'll show you a good wine.' She looked over her shoulder as she headed for the kitchen. 'Make yourself at home. I'll be right back.'
He wandered to the bookshelves, reaching into his pocket for his glasses and studying the spines.
'So' He called absent-mindedly as he pulled a Robert Frost collection from the shelf and flicked through it. 'What do you do? You never said.'
She walked back into the room with two glasses in one hand, a bottle and a corkscrew in the other.
'You didn't ask.' She placed the wine and the glasses on the table.
He looked at her over the top of dark frames, book still open in his hand.
'So now I'm asking.' He snapped the book shut. 'Nice choice of books. Frost, Shakespeare, Beckett, Dickens…' He picked out a dog-eared copy of "Hollywood Wives." '…Collins. All the literary greats.'
She grabbed the book from his hand.
'It was for research only. I'm a journalist. I sometimes write the odd review or two.'
His eyes to lit up.
'A journalist! Oh, fantastic! I love journalists. Always sooo…' He took his glasses off 'So inquisitive.'
'Most people would say nosy. Not that my inquisitiveness is getting me very far with you now, is it?' She dropped the book on the table.
'Oh, I don't know. I'm here. That's not bad.' He eyed the wine 'Although a cuppa
would really have been ok, you know. Good wine is wasted on me.'
She reached for the corkscrew and began working on the bottle. 'It might be wasted on you, but I could do with a glass.' The cork eased out of the bottle and she poured two large glasses. 'Sit down and make yourself comfortable. I want to see if I can pry any more information out of you.'
She handed him a glass as he sat down, relaxing against the cushions.
'Pry away.' He sipped the wine and licked his lips. 'So - this wine is better because?'
'Don't change the subject. And it is better, just because you have no taste, don't blame me.' She settled down next to him on the sofa. 'So. Doctor. Where do you work?'
'I'm… Erm. I suppose you could say I work for myself. A freelance.'
'You're in private practice? That doesn't seem to be your kind of thing…'
'Oh, now you are assuming I'm a medical doctor. A good journalist shouldn't assume now, should they?'
'How do you know I'm a good journalist?'
'Oh, I bet you are. Good journalist. Good wine, good books…' He picked up the copy of Hollywood Wives from the table.
She tried to snatch the book from his hands, but he was too quick and moved it away from her.
'I told you, it was just for my job.'
'It's a bit too battered for that. Let's see where it falls open, shall we?'
'No!' She grabbed again and this time managed to get it from him.
He laughed. 'Oooh, touchy! Let me guess – was it at…'
She looked amazed as he continued to quote, word for word, a particularly florid passage from the book, the amazement gradually turning to arousal.
'But nawww… I'm sure you wouldn't have lingered on such an excerpt as that. She has a torrid turn of phrase, does old Jackie though, got to give her that. Quite stimulating in the right circumstances. If you are that way inclined, of course.' He sipped his wine again, looking at her over the rim of his glass.
'Are you that way inclined?' She asked.
'Ahhh, the journalist, forthright as always. Humans are so good at this, so…'
He looked blank for a moment, blinked and then half smiled.
'Erm, Humans. People, mankind… You know what I mean…'
'Hmm. So – answer the question – are you that way inclined?'
'Ah.. Now that would be telling. And I seem to recall, you were the one that picked me up.'
'Now, if I recall, you used a cheesy pick up line on me first.'
'Ahh, but you actually picked me up. Etchings, remember?'
'You were the most interesting person in that gallery. You seemed like you'd be interesting, and you are. And you're attractive as well… A bonus.'
'You must know you are.'
He shook his head, looking slightly bewildered. 'Not something I think about, really.' He tugged at his earlobe. 'Doesn't come up very much in the circles I mix in, to be honest.'
She smiled. 'You really don't know, do you? I'd have thought you'd have a line of women outside your door.'
'Well, I've been known to have the odd woman or two. Or three. Travelled with a few people.'
'A few people?'
'Oh, I've been around a bit.' He caught her eyeing him 'And not in the way you're thinking, either.'
She lent forward, her hand caressing his cheek. 'I wasn't thinking anything.'
He smiled. 'Yes you were. But I meant travelling wise. Really.'
'You feel a bit chilly – are you warm enough?' She rubbed her thumb over his cheekbone. 'I could turn the heating up…' her thumb moved to brush against his bottom lip 'Or I could warm you up another way?'
'Another way?' He blinked and swallowed.
She lent forward and kissed him, lightly and slowly. He seemed surprised at first but then began to respond, his mouth opening slightly, his cool tongue touching hers.
She stood and urged him to his feet, tugging at his hand. 'This way. I think we'll be more comfortable in here'
She lead him through the flat to her bedroom, stopping by the bed to turn and kiss him again, the only light in the room from the open door to the hall. He responded more readily this time, pulling her closer, his mouth pressing to mouth, breaking slightly away and then returning to slip his tongue against hers. He still felt cool to her, his mouth still tasting of wine. He pulled closer still and she could feel him hardening against her, his hands beginning to tug at her clothes, almost with a mind of their own.
'Zip's at the side.' She whispered in his ear, returning to sucking and nipping at his earlobe.
She felt him trace his hand across her breast, making it's way towards the zip in her shift dress, finally finding it after some rather acceptable fumbling and drawing the tab down to undo and loosening the garment.
'Take it off.' He said quietly, standing slightly back to give her room, his eyes never leaving hers.
She pulled the dress over her head as gracefully as possible and stood in front of him in just her panties, arms at her side, waiting him to make a move.
'Now… That's beautiful. And believe me, I've seen lots of beautiful things in lots of beautiful, beautiful places and that...' he swallowed and took a step towards her, until she could feel the material of his suit against her bare skin 'That is beautiful.'
They kissed again as she moved backwards towards the bed, pulling him with her. Falling backwards onto the bed, him on top of her, his mouth moving from hers, tracing her jaw line with kisses, down further and nipping and licking at her shoulder. Her hands moved restlessly across his shoulders, wanting him closer, pulling him as close as she could get him. He finally turned his attention and mouth to her breasts, gently pressing kisses to her flesh, taking time to suck first one and then the other hardening nipple into his mouth as he descended, his still cool tongue against her rapidly heating skin.
He was still dressed in that damn suit as his mouth moved downward, kissing over her stomach until his lips reached the top of her panties. She felt his fingers slip under the waistband and pull down, working slowly over her hips as his mouth moved lower, pressing damp kisses over her skin until he reached his destination, flicking his tongue out to taste her centre. He looked up at her; jacket still buttoned, tie askew - grinned, licked his lips and then bent his head again to continue his task. She gasped and bucked against him, hand reaching to grab a handful of his hair as his wet tongue moved across her, flickering and swirling. She pulled at his hair harder than she intended as he hit a particularly good spot and he lifted his head with a groan.
'Oi! I'm attached to that hair, you know' he tried to look sternly at her, all the while trying to stifle a smile.
She tugged it again playfully and wiggled beneath him, beaming back at him.
'Ahh. Can't stay still. I see. Well, as I'm so attached to my hair and you seem to want to pull at it, I think we have a little bit of a problem here...' He knelt up, still with that smile, and started to pull at his already loose tie. 'And I certainly like to solve a problem - mind like a steel trap, me. What we need is to get those fingers of yours under control and not pulling my hair.' He gave her an almost comedic wink, pulling the tie from around his neck and leaning forward slightly. 'Well, not yet, anyway.'
She smiled as he held her hand, kissed the back and then the palm, tongue flicking to taste her skin. Then moving fast, he grabbed her other hand and raised them swiftly over her head, wrapping the tie around and pulling both wrists together loosely, before using the tie to secure them to the wooden slatted bed head. He sat back again and gave her that full impossibly wide grin she'd first seen at the gallery.
'There. Problem solved. See, I told you' He tapped his head with his forefinger 'Steel trap.'
He took his jacket off, all the while watching her tug in a half-hearted fashion at the bindings around her wrist, and dropped it into a heap over the side of the bed. He then tugged at his shirt, already half out of his waistband, pulling it out completely.
'Chhh Chhh Chhh Heyyy! Watch what you're doing with that tie. One of my favourites, that is. Got it for Christmas... Didn't I? Or was it at that flea market on... Oh, I don't know. Silk.' He reached up and checked to make sure it wasn't too tight.
She smiled up at him and wriggled for the effect, drawing his eyes as her breasts moved, swaying with each tug she gave.
'Although... I am liking the effect. "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." Never, never have I seen one of the laws of physics demonstrated so gloriously. Bet old Newton hadn't either.' He paused, thinking. 'Although he was a bit of a lad was Isaac...'
He brought his hands up, covering each breast, long fingers splayed across her skin. Her nipples hardened further, peeking out from between his index and middle fingers as he watched, fascinated.
'See. For every action...'
'Do you ever shut up?'
He dragged his attention from her breasts to see her smiling up at him. He shook his head. 'No. No I don't think I ever do. Been told that before, actually. Got a bit of a gob on me, it has to be admitted.'
'You certainly do seem to have 'A bit of a gob' on you. How's about putting it to better use?' She arched her back slightly, pushing her breasts further into his hands, and licked her lips.
'Never does any harm to admire the laws of physics when you see them in action, I say. But you're right. Time for a reaction…' He squeezed her breasts lightly, then stood up, unbuttoning and slipping out off his shirt as she watched, fascinated as he lazily toed off his shoes and then slowly unbuttoned and unzipped his trousers pushing them and any underwear he might have been wearing to the floor.
Settling back between her thighs, he lowered his head until she could feel his breath against her skin, cool against her heat. He then flicked his tongue out again taking up where he had left off, causing her hips to lift up to meet him and a gasping moan to escape her. He continued to work on her, lips and tongue pressing against her, and she writhed against the covers, hands still trapped above her head, trapped and at his will. She felt his mouth settle against her clit and concentrate on swirling and sucking whilst she felt fingers press inside her, first one then he added a second and finally a third, long slim fingers moving rhythmically within her as he continued to flick his tongue against her. He picked up the pace and finally she came, her back arching, her hips rising to him, moaning and breathless.
Moving back over her body, he pressed her down into the bed, his slim hips pushing against her, his hard cock straining to meet her. She raised her knee, rubbing against his thigh, and he pressed against her again, his shaft sliding along her opening. He reached up and released her from his tie, and she smoothed a now free hand over his face, brushing the hair away from his forehead and reaching up, kissing his cool mouth. He responded, his tongue snaking out to meet hers, slowly tangling and sliding around until he kissed across her chin and down her neck, his long fingers cupping her breast and guiding her nipple to his mouth. Her fingers raked his hair as he traced round the hard tip and then sucked, his tongue continuing to flick the tip while he increased suction. Pulling his mouth away, he moved back to kiss her again, his fingers continuing to stroke around her damp nipple.
'This world is turning, spinning, hurtling through space... And it feels like just you and I, doesn't it? Right now. Just us in the entire universe. Any universe. Only us and nothing and no-one else but us.' He kissed her soundly, tongue moving against hers sinuously 'But it's not true. Not for you, anyway. You're not alone, ever, never. There are millions, billions of you. Me. There's only me' He drifted, his eyes became far away and she wondered why he looked suddenly older.
'But you're not alone. You're not. I'm here.' she stroked his hair again, nails scratching at his scalp.
'You might be here,' He stroked her face gently, tracing over her eyelids, her forehead 'I'm still alone.'
His eyes suddenly darkened and he bent, kissing her savagely, tongue pressed into her mouth, hands moving over her body, pressing her thighs wider with his legs and thrusting hard into her body, entering her completely.
She gasped and rose to meet him, her hands pulling at his shoulders as he kept driving into her, hips moving with no finesse, no gentleness - short sharp movements, moving fast and hard. He tugged at her thigh, pulling her leg upwards, changing the angle of his thrusts and moving harder against her. Wrapping her free leg around his hip, she tried to keep up with his wild movements, raking her nails down his back and digging them into his hips. He licked the side of her neck and said something that she couldn't make out, moving impossibly faster, hitting just the right spot over and over causing her to suddenly become wide-eyed and gasping, curling up towards him as she came hard, body shuddering and clutching at him.
He slowed slightly, keeping his movements shallow but as she started to relax he picked up the pace once more, resuming his wild thrusts, pushing her down into the bed again and grinding against her. He pressed his forehead to her shoulder, gasping and chanting 'come on, come on' seemingly oblivious to her. His movements then became slower and sloppy, until suddenly he almost threw himself off her and lay on his back next to her, one arm thrown across his eyes, his cock still hard and erect.
She turned her head to look at him, watching his chest rise and fall as his breathing returned to normal.
'Are you ok?' she whispered, reaching across to touch his shoulder and saw him nod, eyes still hidden behind his arm. She paused. 'You didn't come' She rolled towards him and started to reach for him.
He moved his arm that covered his face and grabbed her wrist tightly, stopping her touching him. 'Don't. Really. Don't.'
'But nothing. I'm fine.' He didn't look at her, keeping his eyes fixed to the ceiling, his voice a hoarse whisper, releasing her hand from his tight grip.
She lay on her side as close to him as she could get without touching him and studied his profile. He looked weary and suddenly older in some way, around his eyes and the set of his mouth. That look she'd seen earlier.
'You're not fine. Can't I help?' She hardly knew him, but there was something about him that made her want to offer whatever she could to help him.
'I don't make a habit of this, you know. I'm not some sort of sexual predator.' He barked out a humourless laugh. 'Ha, that's a laugh. Me! A sexual predator!' He scrubbed his hand over his face. 'Truth is, I haven't been with anyone for a long time. A very long time.' Turning his head, he looked at her. 'I'm sorry. I thought -- I thought I could...' He stopped and snapped his mouth shut. 'I'm sorry.'
'What happened? Did you lose someone?'
He surprised her and laughed. 'Oh, not just someone. Everyone. I lost everyone. Everything.' He looked her in the eyes. 'I thought I'd won a war, but I lost. Lost the past, the present, the future.' He swallowed. 'I lost a whole damn planet.'
She reached and touched his cheek, rubbing her thumb gently across his cool skin and he slowly blinked.
'And of course you now think I'm completely mad.' He turned to look back up at the ceiling. 'Which in some respects I most certainly am. "What am I doing in bed with this madman?" I bet that's what you're thinking right now. Am I right? I'm right, aren't I?' He turned on his side and faced her. 'You don't have to deny it. You'd probably think that of me in my best moments, let alone now. I wonder about my own sanity at times, but there again I always have - sometimes the old brain just won't stay quiet it just keeps on and on and on... all the time. Sometimes I can ignore it, but it's always there, it is always there... ' He nodded. 'And right now I bet I'm really really scaring you. I think I should leave.'
He started to rise, but she grabbed his hand.
'You don't have to. Really. I'd like to help if I can. '
'You don't know me.'
'I know you seem sad and lonely.'
'Part of the job description.'
'Oh, nothing.' He stood up searching amongst the clothes on the floor for his trousers, finding them and then slipping them on. 'Look, I don't do this. I never do this. This- ' he spread his arms 'This is not what I do. And I'm sorry that you got caught up in my experimentation.' He picked up his shirt and started to put it on, buttoning it up swiftly.
'You think I make a habit of this?' She watched him shrug the now even more rumpled jacket on. 'You think I go to events and pick up strangely fascinating men for sex?'
'You think I'm fascinating?'
'I said strangely fascinating.'
He sat down on the edge of the bed, and pulled the sheet up over her naked body.
'I don't think you make a habit of this, no. But I've been unfair to you and you don't deserve to be pulled in any further.' He fiddled with a strand of her dark hair. 'You remind me so much of someone else and I'm afraid I tried something, something I never had the courage to do before, and it was too late. I'm so sorry I did that, so sorry.' He touched her cheek 'We could have seen so many places, you and I, so many... But it wouldn't be right. Not now.'
'You don't have to go. Really.' She tugged at his hand. 'You really are fascinating, you know. I would like to get to know you better. Try and help, find out what's going on in that head of yours.' She ran her fingers through his hair and stroked down the side of his cheek. 'Go to these places you talk about.'
'I can't do that to you…'
'Do what?' She sat up, clutching the sheet to herself
'I've been unfair to you, I've told you. It wouldn't be right to ask you …To how you what…'
'Ask me. Show me. I want to know. There is something, isn't there?' She held his hand again. 'You say you've been unfair to me. I don't understand. Show me. Tell me why you've been unfair. Let me make up my own mind. Let me decide if you've been unfair.' She tugged his hand again until he looked at her. 'Are you married?'
He laughed, surprising her. 'No! Well, not for a good few years now.'
'So? What have you lost? Why are you so sad?' She turned and sat on the edge of the bed next to him. 'You mentioned a 'War'. What war? Have you literally been in a war or are you…'
'You're really not going to shut up until you until I tell you, are you?'
'You don't have to tell me.'
He laughed to himself. 'Yeah. And I bet you'll let me get away with that. Talk about me having a gob… Journalists. All the same.' He looked her in the eye. 'You really want to know? You want to know about me? What I do? Where I'm from?'
She nodded, smiling encouragingly at him.
'Yes. I do. I really do find you…'
'Strangely fascinating, I know. You've told me.' He stood up, undoing the tie from the bed head and draping it round his neck, tying it in a loose messy knot. 'Come on, then. You can't go out dressed in a sheet. Well, you could, but you'd look a bit odd. Very nice. But odd.'
'You want to know. I'll show you. You're right. You should be able to decide for yourself.' He turned back, looking at her sitting on the edge of the bed, sheet slipping down, a shocked look on her face. He tried to smooth the creases from his jacket and failed. 'Come on – Chop, chop!! Time waits for no man and all that.' He began to button up his jacket. 'Well, it waits for me, but that's something we can discuss later…' He started to leave the bedroom. 'You coming? I'm not seeing any movement… C'mon! Places to go, people to see, wonders to… wonder.'
He stuffed his hands in his pockets and bounced out of the room, leaving her to stare at the door, his voice drifting back.
'Oh, yes…So very, very many wonders to wonder….'