Story Name: Strawberry Sugar

Penname: PortiaKhalo

Rating: M

Genre: Romance/Humor

Pairing: Victoria/James

Total Word Count: 7,695 with header.

Summary: James has planned a getaway to Arizona, but first he and V have to buy a suit, tend a strawberry, and find some sugar.

A/N: My love and adoration to Miss Yellowglue for all her guidance, and my twitter friends for inspiring me.

I caught a glimpse of it again while I was pulling my red shirt off its hanger. The reminder between my second and third knuckle was embarrassing and made me feel overexposed. One digit at the end of my appendage looked like Dita Von Teese, while the other side was a more socially acceptable Kelly Clarkson.

The ring finger on my left hand appeared as if it'd been training for a burlesque show. Nipped in at its base, the poor thing had hips, and no amount of ringlessness, or extra cookies had taken away its shapely form. I scowled at my hand. I hadn't worn Laurent's ring for over a year. The tan line it left behind had faded, but not the indention he'd made in me.

I was packing a suitcase to go away with James, pulling long forgotten warm weather tops from the back of my closet. My upper arms were excited to come out and play, even if it meant a little sunburn. He'd planned a sunshine filled trip through Arizona for us, and had assured me I'd need a bathing suit.

James loved every part of me I could bear to list in my mental meat locker; he even loved my slightly deflowered ring finger.

Contemplating shorts versus pedal pushers for 100 degree weather was making me sweat. I'd rarely coveted the thighs of those skinny magazine models that had a peephole between their thighs. I liked that my legs were modest, all of their own accord. They stayed together, sticky in the summer time, without any crossing or tugging of skirts. I pushed the longer pants into my bag.

James called my thighs my nieces, like Anne Lamott's aunties for a younger generation. The fact that my boyfriend had read an Anne Lamott book made his bad boy image even harder to believe. To me he was smooth like a snake's skin, silky under my nieces and hands.

Laurent had called me robust once, like I was some kind of Russian grandmother, and yet I still wore his ring. I thought that's how I was meant to be loved.

I was getting closer to knowing better now. James had closed most of my gaps with gentle touches and protective words, guarding me from my own harsh self-criticism when necessary.

Underwear would've been preferred to swimming attire though.

Bathing suits: they were a nightmare.

Why in God's name would I want to squeeze myself into a spandex contraption and then add water to that horrific equation? If my finger's curves made me feel awkward, putting my d-cups and cellulite on display wouldn't improve things.

At least when you're in your skivvies you have the chance of getting under the covers. The pool was not forgiving however; getting in or out. If you kept your towel on too long it could get drenched, and if you scurried to said towel upon extracting yourself from the chlorine laden depths then things shook.

There was a universal solution that bigger girls seemed to agree on. The outfit covered all questionable areas, and could be pulled on sporadically to hide whatever bodily bunches were busting out.

I'd put a pair of basketball shorts, a sports bra, and a big floppy t-shirt in my bag just as James walked up behind me.

"Hello my Viola Violet Victoria. What are you doing with my gym shorts in your bag?"

I turned and kissed his cheek, letting him wrap his tight, muscled, but kind of scrawny arms around me. James was like Popeye, the muscles only came out when he needed them.

"That's what I'm wearing in the poolio, dearest." I whispered in his ear, tugging my thumbs in his back belt loops.

He chuckled against my curly hair and I could feel him shake his head in a clear, no-ish fashion.

"Oh my darlin' Clementine, why would you want to wear those into the water? They'll weigh ten pounds by the time we're done swimming!"

He patted my cheek and I ducked my head into his chest. "I don't have a bathing suit, James."

"V, how am I gonna see your v if you're all covered up under the water? Come on now, honey, you know us better than that."

With the index finger on his right hand he began drawing the left side of a capital V against my chest, his nail scraping the swell of my breast just hard enough to leave a white trail in its wake. The point of his letter lesson left me breathless before he finished a with a diagonal line on the opposite side.

Leaving his palm on the valley between my breasts, he checked the time on his left, watch-bearing wrist.

"We've got two hours until your shift starts, right?" I nodded my head, catching the curls that threatened to fall into my eyes and block my few of his face as he spoke.

"Let me take you to get a real suit, V, something you're comfortable in and let's me see you."

I let the proposition wander in the halls of my mind while my eyes scaled the summit of James's left cheek bone.

"All right. I think I can handle that. But the underwater basketball gear stays in my bag, deal?"

"Deal. That can be for you, and the swimmy suit can be for me."

He kissed me full on the lips and pushed all my curls back to cradle my face.

"I love you, beautiful girl."

"I know you do. I love you too, Mr. James."

I grinned a wicked one just for him and squeezed his bicep as we walked toward the door. When I had to turn into him to fit us both through the door frame he almost purred.

He stopped me at the precipice between out and in, tugging me in front of him, my spine to his sternum, and squeezed my hips to focus my attention.

"Victorious girl, we don't have to do this if you don't want to. I hope I'll get to see what you have underneath your layers whether we make it to the pool or not."

I nodded my head again and leaned it back into his collarbone. He spittled a curl from his mouth and I laughed.

"No, babe, it'll be good to do this properly again. I haven't gone swimsuit shopping since my Mom took me when I was 9 or 10."

"Good. Although I'm not sure a proper bathing suit is what I had in mind." He smirked against my earlobe and pushed his arms around me so that my heavy, lace covered chest rested on the shelf his arms created.

"Give it to me, V." I lifted my left hand to his mouth behind me. This was something he did at least once everyday. It was our covenant until I was ready to go further.

After telling me again that he loved me, he kissed the space atop my ring finger, sucking me between his teeth and biting down gently.

I sighed, content with knowing that I was his as we walked to his car. There was a pint of fresh strawberries waiting in my seat.

I squealed and clapped my hands.

"Did you have this planned before you got home?" The berries were warm and plump from sitting in the sunlight.

"No, Miss Voluptuous. I just knew you'd love those when I stopped by the store on my way. I was gonna bring them in and surprise you."

"Here." He pulled a small, square, plastic container form under his seat. It was a tub of plain white sugar.

My favorite way to enjoy fresh strawberries had always been to dip and coat them in grainy, plain-old sugar. The texture of the seeds and the sweetness melting against my tongue was the best; it meant summer time to me. I had tried to hide my habit though, afraid that it was inappropriately decadent for a girl like me.

Until James told, and showed me, what watching me lick that extra sugar from my lips did to him.

"You're such a good one James. Did you buy a whole new bag of sugar? We had one at home." We always had sugar at home.

He smiled a boyish smile. "No, I bought a 50 pack of individual sugars and opened them three at a time with my chompers until I'd dumped them all in. I wanted the surprise to be complete when you got it, you know?"

I turned to peer into the backseat and found a small collection of dropped, white paper stubs; the tops of the packets he'd left in his haste to surprise me.

He watched me out of the corner of his eye as I over-coated the plumpest berry in an overdose of sugar and pushed it between my lips.

"I'm glad you're taking your clothes off as soon as we get to the mall."

"Oh, but baby, you can't come in there with me. We'd get thrown out of the store for the mess we'd make." He grunted and grabbed my left thigh roughly, pulling my legs open and making teenaged dreams of mall rat romance fly through my head.


I just licked my lips and squeezed the hand gripping my leg, sliding it centimeters higher in acquiescence.

Once we were parked, I reached across the armrest and rubbed my thumb along his jaw in appreciation.

"Thank you."

He turned his head so quickly I didn't even know what had happened until I felt his tongue on the pad of my thumb.

"Welcome, Va Va. Let's go get you some voom."

James took us to the biggest department store at the mall. Honestly, it was either there or Target, and although Target had the cuter clothes, it also had the cuter girls, which I wasn't up to dealing with.

When you're dead-set on having a horrible experience it's really not hard to fulfill your own prophecy. I wandered through the aisles of bathing suits, trying to shimmy along the fine line between g-string and Grandma. It had been so long since I'd performed this peculiar feminine right of passage that I had no clue what was in style anymore. I grabbed at anything that held my attention for longer than two seconds.

While I womped through the racks, James meandered with a keener eye. He snuck up behind me while I cursed a teeny bikini and scared me to death, making me drop my armful of stretchy atrocities all over the floor.

"Just get something classic, V. You don't have to do anything fancy." He strategically picked up my finds, returning a few to the rack next to him while I huffed and blushed.

"Let's get a room, shall we?" He smirked, pointing to the women's dressing rooms with his elbow.

I laughed an exasperated sound, so glad for a break in the tension I'd caused myself.

"Yes, let's."

Dressing rooms made me feel like a cow being shuffled to a milking machine. There was always a line, and never enough rooms. James must have figured this out, because the rooms he'd spotted seemed empty; no customers, no pushy sales ladies. There was just one lone chair for him to sit in while I tried on my whittled pile of choices.

"James?" I called to him once I'd locked the door and dropped my drawers. "I'm not coming out unless I'm happy with what I've wedged myself into, okay?"

"You go on with your bad self, Vickylou Who. I'm not worried, nor am I in a hurry."

I smiled at my toes and braced myself to look at my reflection in the mirror. Fierce and loyal love for that man marathoned up my back and dripped down over my shoulders to my heart. Drenched in adoration I looked up, and without thinking, I liked what I saw. The body I admired was full where it should be and strong in the right places. But when I glanced at the model so strategically placed on the tags of the basic black one piece I'd picked up, it was all shot to hell.

Glancing at my reflection again as I stepped into the first swim outfit, there were bulges and splotches and I whimpered. James heard me and cleared his throat.

"Queen Victoria, there is no crying in baseball or bathing suits. If you don't quit, I'm going to come ravish you in your stall!"

Cackling to fight off my inner critic, I pulled the straps up over my shoulders and stuck my tongue out at myself. The thing squished my boobs together and cut across my thighs in such a way as to make them look like beached albino whales swimming toward my feet.

"Uh, the black one is a no, my love." I told him.

"There's a yes in there somewhere."

He was so patient with me. I didn't know what I'd done to deserve him. While Laurent and I had walked the same path for a short time, James felt like my whole life's lifelong love.

A tankini was next and tank was an appropriate word. As soon as I'd fought the bottoms over my behind, I was overcome with a memory of laughing with my Mom in a stall just like the one I was standing in. There had been a horrendous purple contraption with a belt, I remembered, that made me look like a defective superhero. In the mirror, I reenacted my SuperWoman flying arms.

"What is so funny?" James was chuckling just from the noises I was emitting.

"I just remembered how much fun this was with my Mom. We'd try on the ugly bathing suits on purpose!" I was laughing so hard I had to sit down on the little bench in my room.

"I wish you'd let me come in there so I could see!" James snickered.

"No!" I wailed, falling into a fit of giggles again. "I'll describe it for you: The top makes the girls look great, but the bottoms… I have a pooch bigger than Pooh Bear's right now."

James' laugh was the craziest I'd ever heard. He sounded like a snake choking on Goofy as he tried to swallow him whole. When he got truly tickled, I couldn't help but join him. I was still snorting when I looked at my watch. We'd already been in the store an hour and I had to go home and change into my work uniform before my shift.

"Babe? I'm just trying on one more. This has been fun, but enough is enough."

"That's fine, V. I snuck one into the pile for you. See if you can find it."

I hunted through my hangers, shaking my head at the crap I'd chosen in my haze. There was one toward the back though that I didn't remember seeing.



James knew my body better than anyone, much better than I'd ever attempted to understand it. This, coupled with the fact that I hadn't shopped like this since I was a little girl, made me apprehensively delighted to get myself into what he'd selected.

It was strapless and electric blue, with random, jagged zigzags of red, neon orange and lime green running all over it. When I tucked my tits into it, I had cleavage that jiggled like Marilyn Monroe's, and the artistic lines of color weren't so random anymore. They ran in a counter-intuitive pattern, but shaped my hips so nicely. The legs were cut high, but my butt was securely covered.

"I don't know how, and I don't want to know how, but I think you found the one." I almost squealed with how fabulously my man had done for me, again.

"Can I come out?"

"You'd better, if I don't see Velma and Louise in that thing soon my britches are gonna burst." He'd named my boobs after a Scoobydoo character and his favorite Susan Sarandon film soon after he'd made their acquaintance for the first time.

I opened the door and peeked out, making sure no one else was nearby before I walked out toward James. I went as slowly as I could, tummy sucked in, boobs held high. I even fluffed my curls before exiting my makeshift closet.

James motioned with one finger for me to spin. I could feel my ass jiggle, even when I went at turtle speed and I blushed, shaking my head.

Before I could register any disappointment, James came up behind me and pressed his entire body against me. With just that thin stretch of material and his old, worn out jeans separating us, I could easily feel how stirred up he was already; and I do mean up.

"You should not be embarrassed right now, Vanilla Sugar. You are more delicious than any other substance that has ever been in my mouth." He bit my earlobe playfully and swatted my behind.

"Go change back now, Mama, so I can pay for my reward."

Just as I was frolicking back to my door, another, more conventionally beautiful, girl came out of the dressing room two doors down. She immediately scoffed at me, as if seeing me in my suit was akin to me farting in public.

When had women learned to despise each other so much?

Without thinking I lowered my head and wrapped my arms around my middle, hurrying into my room and locking the door as fast as I could.

James caught her though, poor girl, and I could almost hear his rattles as he readied to eat her alive.

"Who the fuck do you think you are looking at her like that? A decent human being would go over there and apologize!"

He waited, his booted foot tapping loudly on the thin carpet as the girl whispered a tortured, "I'm sorry?".

"Now Shoo!"

I heard the girl's feet as she ran from him and his fist pounded on my door not a second later.

"Unlock." He said it like it was two words and gooseflesh prickled my skin. I did as he said.

When he'd trapped us in the tiny mirrored room again, he kissed me until the clothing on my body was so wet with sweat and want for him, it would've had to come home with me regardless.

Licking my top lip one last time he grabbed my face. "Don't ever let anyone make you feel less than when you have so much more." With that, he waltzed from the room and placed himself regally in his chair provided universally for all male shopping companions.

I got first dibs on the bathroom when we made it back to the house.

James' weekly baseball game didn't technically start until eight, and by the time I was in my ruefully pleated pants, with my polo shirt tucked in tight, he had hidden my bathing suit from me. I'd thought he was still just leery enough of my inclusion of his basketball shorts that he wanted to be sure I wasn't responsible for the poor thing making it to Arizona.

Most weekdays, and the early pre-dawn hours before I awoke, found James working hard developing other people's memories for his videography business. He did everything from weddings to pre-school Thanksgiving productions. When I didn't have other obligations, he even let me assist him, especially when he worked with the local ballet studio.

On the side, James played city league men's fast-pitch in Port Angeles, where we lived. He had games on Spring and Summer weekends, with practice on Thursday nights. That's when he would come to happy hour.

When I wasn't in class studying forensics at Peninsula College, I worked varying shifts as a skating food runner at Sonic. Sonic happy hour was the least happiest 60 minutes of my entire day, but it helped that I knew he'd always be there once a week.

I loved the skating part of my job. The wheels on my feet made me feel lithe and limber when I sailed around minivans and top-down cars, but grounded me with their heaviness.

"I love the way your everything wiggles, V." That's what James had said the first time he came to love on me during work.

"When you hook it back to the kitchen like that?" He'd shaken his head and sucked his bottom lip into his mouth. I'd been covered in grease and ice cream, and had sweat dripping from my dorky visor directly into my ear holes, and the guy had still wanted me.

As I'd leaned in his window that day to give him a sneaky, against company policy kiss, I'd pushed my flesh up to his ledge until his face was practically in my boobs.

"I'd like some ketchup with those please." He'd teased, and my nose had crinkled at his kink before I'd double timed it back to the kitchen for another tray. The forward momentum of my pounding heart had made me fly.

I'd never been sure if my regular customers were a blessing or a curse.

My size elicits different responses from people and I wasn't an ideal judge of kindness when people didn't get out of their cars except to potty.

Patrons tended to assume that because my bones had cushion and my muscles were covered in a silky layer of pale skin, that I ate the food I served regularly. Every pore in my body had been regularly permeated with the food smells at work for so long though, that I'd been inoculated from the joy of Sonic. It had been sad at first, but eating my lunch from home on the company picnic benches made me feel like a rebel.

My favorite customer was Angela. She was tall with dark, dark hair and always came by for coffee and french toast sticks on her way home from work. The steam fogged up her cat-eye glasses when she took her first sip, and she left me a buck fifty every time I saw her.

Eric asked for me specifically over the speaker when he showed up. It wasn't an accident either that he always parked in the spot furthest from the kitchen. I think he must have had binoculars in his truck so he could see me coming and be sure his britches were zipped again.

He was disturbingly nice to me, and really got too much pleasure from having me repeat back his order of two footlong chili-dogs. I could've smushed him like a bug with one butt cheek.

Jane Volturri was like ice: not the nice, orb-shaped Sonic kind either. She was a dagger, and we didn't make eye contact when I delivered her order of a Cranilla craze and cheesecake bites. There was no talking as she opened her container of cake and picked through each piece carefully with blood colored fingernails, and I never said a word when she looked as if she was trying to cripple the speaker menu with her mind while she ate. I'm pretty sure Jane was certifiably crazy.

My shift tonight was remarkably uneventful if you didn't count the high school football team that ordered a hundred containers of fried, cheese-stuffed jalepenos for a post-game eating contest. I spent my break picking cheese funk from my collar, while crunching fresh apple slices dipped in Nutella, and sending James kick-ass vibes for his game that evening.

The last time I made it to one of James' games, he'd taken us straight from work. It was surreal, when you spend all day watching teenagers flirt over french fries, to be the girl who rides away in her man's truck with two cherry limeades on board.

He was a brutal player with fast reflexes, and seemed even more savage in his uniform than he did in his usual leather jacket and jeans. It was something about those pants trying to contain him…

He got hit in the shoulder with a pitch while he was up to bat that night. After checking with the umpire to be sure it had been called a foul, he'd whipped his head around so viciously that the pitcher had stumbled back just from the look on his face.

"Sorry, man." The guy on the mound apologized meekly.

From my seat, I'd watched as James had wiped his hand over his mouth, giving his oblivious attacker a sly, evil grin, nodding his head in acknowledgement.

When James had moved to play third base during the last inning, the poor guy got what was coming to him. As he ran for second, with two outs, James clobbered him with the ball deep inside his gloved hand. The impact was so hard, he looked like he'd been slam-dunked in the dirt.

While he held his stomach in pain, James just cocked his head to the side and shouted, "Sorry, Man!"

The other players had all slapped him on the back when the game was over, knowing his snake-like skills had aided their win. As he made it up to me in the stands though, all of his shrudeness had slithered away, leaving behind his new, familiar skin that he used to tuck a wayward curl behind my ear so, so gently. Testing the temperature of my cheek against his own, he'd pulled the collar on my fluffy, fake fur collared coat up higher around my chin.

"Are you cold, Velveteen? Let's go get some hot chocolate." The other players expected him to come party with them, but he'd just brushed them off.

"I'm not cold, really, anymore." I'd admitted, looking at his teammates over his shoulder. "You can go with them, James. I'll be all right."

"But I won't. I need to be with you after an outburst like the one I had out there, not with the people who encourage me to act that way."

Pulling off his hat, I sat it on my head and smoothed back his sweaty hair. His smile had been so innocent as he leaned into my palms. I slid my hands down to his knees, and did my damnedest to brush away the dirt before we stood up.

His game tonight had been against the same team, and I wondered if he'd handled himself in a less reptilian manner.

When I got home from work, with daydreams of my man in uniform pitching through my mind, James met me at the door with one arm behind his back. He was freshly showered and smelled like sandalwood and Ivory soap.

You'd think the combination wouldn't work together, but on his skin and in the wet waves of his dirty-blond hair, it smelled like a hot haven for my weary body.

I stepped inside, welcoming his small kiss, but feeling bad for sullying his clean face with my oil-streaked one.

He pulled his arm from behind his back once I'd set my purse down in the entryway. It was the Houdini-ed bathing suit, with the tags snipped off and that annoying sticker removed from the lower middle quadrant.

"Will you try it on for me again, V?" He had that husky depth to his voice that pretty much assured I'd do whatever he asked of me. Still, I was filthy, and smelled like a jalepeno popper that had finally popped.

I cocked my eyebrow at him and he altered his request.

"My Queen, would you please put this bodacious bathing suit back on your beautiful body?"

With that I laughed and crooked a finger at him to follow me. I was having my bath, whether I was suited up or not.

I stopped him with a hand against the soft cotton covering his chest. Pushing him back just enough to slide the washroom door closed I whispered, "No peeking."

I took my time readying my bath, making him pay for his odd clothing request in seconds and silence. Tangerine-vanilla bath oil and cotton candy bubbles glugged into my water. I never had moved on from the little kid bubble bath section of the grocery store.

Hoisting my top up as I toed the water, I slowly turned and sank into my sea of serenity.

"Calgon, take me away." I moaned as the suds snuck up around my neck. The water was close to scalding, and when I pulled out a hand to scratch my nose, my skin was sunburn flushed from the heat it.

"I'm ready now, Pool Boy." I said toward the door.

He waltzed in singing, silly man, and I bee-bopped my toes, under the drip-drop of the faucet, in time to his Guns 'n' Roses rendition of the West coast section of "California Girls".

"The west coast has the sunshine

And the girls they get so tanned

I dig a French bikini…"

Until he got to the part about a French bikini, at which point I hurled a fist of bubbles that stuck to his chin like a makeshift goatee.

He was still humming, making his bubble chin quiver, so I started to pose. Both hands went behind my head as I jutted out my boobs just so, and folded my left leg so it was angled to cover my right thigh. James stopped his music making and widened his eyes.

"What are you doing, Valley Girl?" His eyes couldn't decided where to look first, or when bubbles might slip and show him more.

"I'm practicing for the pool. It's a required thing that must be done when one has a new bathing suit. I have to know just how all my parts will shift while I'm laying in my beach chair."

I slid my knees above the waterline as I lowered my hands, slipping them under the suds to camouflage my tummy.

"This practice has officially been declared unjust. I can't see what you're doing down there!" He was still just sitting on the toilet seat, tapping his feet spastically. My fingers made the water near my stomach ripple, just to mess with him.

"That's kind of the point." I said softly, mouthing the words more than speaking them.

"I have to be prepared to sit just so… So that nothing protrudes that's not supposed to." Two reddened caps of knees slunk back into the cotton candy ocean and I lifted a hand to wrap it around the soap in the soap dish.

He covered his eyes, like maybe a short game of peekaboo might shift things into his favor, a devious curl to his lip appearing when he put his hands back in his lap.

"You said protrude."

"Oh just stop it. This is serious business. I'm taking my bath now."

He watched raptly as my hands washed places he couldn't see under the bubbles. We fogged the mirror quickly; me with my hot, hot water, and James with his shallow, heavy breaths. His pajamas seemed incredibly uncomfortable when I lifted my rear slightly to finish washing the backs of my legs.

It was very un-James of him to stay clothed and seated while I teased him so mercilessly. Honestly, I kind of wanted him to jump in and make all my scented agua-land slosh over the sides. My hair was last, and I frothed my top knot after I'd untwisted it and placed my ponytail holder on the ledge of the tub.

"You can come play pool too, if you want to." Before he could answer, my head disappeared under the bubbles as I rinsed my curls clean and pushed my lower half up to be sure I'd cleansed my crown completely.

He looked miserable when I surfaced.

"No, Vickylou, I'm only interested in getting more dirty tonight, not double clean." I shrugged, squeezing excess water from my hair, and nipped at my own shoulder, toying with him.

"I'm all done then." Standing up in the tub, his eyes went down, down, down, traveling with the bubbles as they slipped into crevices well loved by the rest of his anatomy.

"Does the Venus de Milo require a towel?" I nodded, pressing my hands down my front to de-bubble my new suit. James took my hand and spotted me as my wrinkly toes traveled the summit of the tub, and worked the towel from my forehead to my knees in 360 degrees of pampering.

When he bent to dry my toes, though, he winced and my mind stampeded in on itself with concern.

"Are you okay, James? What hurts?"

"Come get in the bed with me and I'll tell you." He dried his hands on my hips after he'd tucked my towel around me and secured it near my heart.

He limped toward our bed. I hadn't noticed a limp before my bath.

My side of the bed beckoned me, and I laid back on my elbows once I was in, trying in vain to keep my sopping wet hair off my pillow case. James sat, and swung his legs up on the mattress from the opposite side. He slept nearest the door; a protective maneuver that still tugged my heart. With his left hand, he undid the tuck of my towel and pulled it from under me in one, smooth jerk. It was a table-cloth trip beneath my china-colored skin, and it made me shiver.

I scootched nearer to his half of the bed, not wanting him to move anymore if it hurt. Grabbing the towel he'd taken, I blotted it over my hair, drying and shaking out my tresses so the curls would start to coil again. He smiled down at me.

"You know how I get out there sometimes, V."

I nodded with him and he moved down the comforter so our faces were closer together.

" Well, I had just the smallest slice of a chance to make it to third base tonight when Emmett bunted."

Emmett was a gargantuan boy of a man on James' team. He could throw for miles, but wasn't very quick on his feet.

"I took it and ran, but the first baseman for the other team tipped the pitcher off. I was ¾ of the way to stealing 3rd and had to slide the rest of the way in to duck the ball. It hurt, Vidalia."

He closed his eyes, as if an onion had magically afflicted his sight, and leaned his head back into his pillow.

"And then Emmett couldn't get his big ole butt to second and we lost the inning anyway." Shaking his head, he opened his steely blue eyes into mine and I swept my fingers over the freckles on his nose. Like strawberry seeds, in size and shape, I wanted to nibble them away with his pain.

He kissed me then, grabbing handfuls of my damp, sweet smelling curls and covered his cheeks with them.

"You smell so sweet my Valencia."

My hands snuck around to the back of his neck and clutched the too-long ends of his hair back there. I wondered, briefly, if he'd let me cut it as I massaged my fingers up and around his skull.

James sucked my tongue into his mouth like a lollipop when it came out to play alongside his. He was drinking me dry from the inside out, even as my skin chilled under the wet cloth against it. Finally pulling away to breath, he smirked as my lungs soaked up the newly available oxygen.

"I got so thirsty telling my story again. I needed a tall drink of water." I rolled my eyes and shook my head. I really got too much enjoyment from hearing James talk like a used car salesman in bed.

I patted his rear end softly and told him to let me see what he'd done to himself. He rolled to his back and angled his legs back toward the floor. When he was on his feet, he turned his back to me, pulling the waist band of his pants out half a foot on the right side before lowering them so they sat in the crease between where his butt ended and his legs began.

His leg looked like a monster-man had wanted a giant skin curl on top of their blood ice cream. It was bright red and raw, and ran from his hip bone down and around the back of his thigh a good eight inches. I didn't know how he could even stand to have pants on. It was clean, at least. He'd taken a shower after his game, but he was in pain and I couldn't bare it any longer.

"Sweet Boy, come here and let me doctor you."

I moved behind him, still sitting on the mattress and put my thumbs on either side of his spine, touching him lovingly. In slowest slo-mo I moved my hands down toward his right leg, not wanting to startle him. I hissed for him as I got a closer look at his wound, and watched his skin jump when my fingers shadowed the length of his scrape.

"Stay right here. I've got some Neosporin in the bathroom that has a pain reliever in it too. Have you taken any aspirin?" He shook his head, and sighed, knowing he was finally being taken care of.

I came back with the pain-eliminating cream, two aspirin, and a small glass of water. I set the pills and the glass on the bed side table and curled up indian-style behind him on the bed. With a large dollop of medicine on my right hand, I grasped his left hip to anchor myself, as I lightly smoothed a layer of balm over his giant abrasion.

My hands were so greasy when I was done, and he was wound so tightly from his baseball debauchery, and my bathtub teasing. Without warning or asking permission, I used the relaxing side effects of the ointment coating my fingers to massage the rest of his backside. From tailbone to the tops of the backs of his thighs I rubbed away his worry.

"Is that better?"

Carefully, he twisted to the table near his pillow and bent to take his aspirin, his Adam's apple rolling the length of his neck four times before he was done.

I moved back toward the center of the bed, making room for him as he crawled back over to me.

He still hadn't answered me, and my eyebrows crumpled, not understanding his silence. When he was over me on all fours, I said his name again.


His hot hands moved to cover my mouth, shushing me into a similar silence as he mmmed his contentment into my ear.

"Oh…" Eureka moments happen with no words, sometimes.

Bracing himself with his left hand near my head, his right made weather fronts across my body. Until my clothes dried completely, they'd be nearly impossible to peel off of me. James worked a hot humid fog down my stomach that sent prickly thrills all over me, never allowing me to settle into warm anywhere but between my legs.

Rubbing his index finger along the outer edge of my bathing suit, he traced a trail along the flat line across my breasts, sneaking inside when he went over the swells. His path continued down the orange zigzag that decorated my middle until he moved right and red and came to a stop at my hip.

Even lying underneath this man, I was aware of all my nooks and crannies that weren't well hidden. While I was grateful for the built in structure of my gift from James, the little pockets of flesh that defied inclusion as either part of a pit or a breast refused to conform with the rest of me. It bubbled over the strapless edge of my glamour suit, yanking me out of my James-flavored euphoria and placing me firmly back in Disgruntledville.

When I was younger it used to bother me that those cushiony spots never went away, but I thought I'd accepted those biscuits of betweenness by now. It helped that James was doing things to my hip bone that made my toes curl.

Then I made an awful mistake. I turned my back on the snake and showed him my pale underbelly of weakness. With one phrase it was on and over.

"That tickled."

I was so lovesick that I didn't realize I'd said it until it was too late. My extreme ticklishness was one of our secrets. Neither Laurent, nor anyone else close to me had tested my skin's sensitivity to wriggling fingers so intensely as James.

He went straight for my ribs, laughing a rumbly-tumbly sound from his belly. When my hands flew over his to pry his fingers away, he swooped under my self-created bird wings and attacked my underarms until I was squealing, and lamely kicking my feet.

He finally relented when my knees got a little too frisky near his boy-parts. I let my arms flop back down to my sides. James looked down at me with a cocky, mischievous tilt to his head. He pinched that extra skin beside my surrendered tickle-spots.

"What are you doing to me?" Why did I have to be so self conscious?

"I'm distracting you. And I've never noticed these delicious little nuggets before." He licked the right ba-dump over my bathing suit, pulling in into his mouth to roll his tongue around it lightly.

His plan worked. I failed to connect, in my lust-heavy brain, the path his hand was blazing toward my thigh with the tickle fight we'd had a few moments before. He got me good, goosing my leg until I sounded like a goose myself.

"Oh my Lord, James you have got to stop now. Seriously." I gave him my mean face, trying my best not to bust into another round of breathy squawks and snorts.

"I will my Virtuous Villian, but you have to listen to a story, or more tickling. Understood?"

"Yep yep." I settled my knee between his legs as a reminder of where I was steering our story tonight; away from the tickle monster, and toward the erogenous zones.

"My Mom always called this my Sugar."

He brushed those newly discovered pit-stops on the way to my shoulders with the backs of his knuckles.

"It was my sweet spot. She'd tickle me there until I'd just about pee my pants."

I giggled, arching my hips into his gently.

He tucked his finger into the valley between my breasts and tugged at the almost-dry material to get my attention again.

"I've never heard anyone else call it that though. What do you call it, V?"

He bit me there, on my sugar that was really his, with little ripping teeth, and the ticklish pain of it made me gasp. I didn't want to talk about body parts anymore. I wanted to use body parts more.

"Umm." I tried to think of an answer while he pulled my suit further to the side to get to more of my naked skin underneath.

"I think of them as my biscuits?" It came out as a question. My skin wanted all of his approval.

"That's just prefect then isn't it? I can eat them with breakfast, lunch, or dinner." This time it was him who moved his hips, and I caught myself just before I grabbed his hurt leg.

"Ugh." I said, wanting closer to him but not wanting to hurt him all over again.

He rolled us on our sides, sensing my dilemma. Lying there, with his bad leg thrown over my hip to keep it safe, his pajamas did nothing to hide how worked up he was despite his pain. He blew along the wetness that had stubbornly refused to dry just below my breast.

"Laurent called them my Bingo Wings." I frowned and he tugged my lips apart with his teeth.

"I hate Laurent." He spoke the words directly into my mouth, stealing my breath and sealing his feelings for me between laps of his tongue on mine.

"My Mom, though…" I craned my neck back to give him more room to explore the parts of me that weren't trapped in spandex. "My mom called what happened to your leg a strawberry."

I traced my middle finger around the delicately scabbed over skin on his thigh and he sizzled out a slow breath, steadying himself to the anxiety I raised in the millions of nerve endings still in a tizzy under the surface.

Burying his face in the curls guarding the inner sanctum of my collarbone, he writhed against me, stretching the wet cloth away from my hip with a loud slurp, and sliding his hand down and around my backside.

He used his injured leg to pull me tighter to his body, each piece of each of us fitting together, a sleek glove to the softest mitten.

"If this thing wasn't so new, and you weren't going to need it soon, I'd just tear it off. God Dammit, V, I should've had you take it off before we got in bed."

I felt a warm slip of scarlet slide from his overgrown, but well tended, strawberry to an unguarded triangle of my thigh.

"What were you saying about third base?" This was my story too.

With a growl, he bent his head to my chest, finding my finger, the third one of my left hand, and wrapped his lips around the whole thing, hips and all.