101 (and not Dalmatians)

Warning & Notes: Given the summary, do I really need to say "adult"? And yes, I'm breaking my own rule about not posting an adult story to ff.net, but this one is ... atypical. It's frank rather than graphic -- which is why I gave it only an /R/ rating. Make no mistake, however; the subject-matter is adult. Please don't read it if you're easily offended. It isn't -­ to my mind -­ crude (I detest crude), but it is blunt and one person's idea of blunt may constitute 'crude' to another. If it bothers you to think the Fearless Leader would discuss his sex drive, bail now, and don't read this either if you're a great fan of genre Romance -­ unless you have a sense of humor about it all. Last, I owe a debt of gratitude to close male friends who've been open and honest about men and sex down through the years. Everything male-gender related that Scott says, I've heard come out of the mouth of at least one male of the species -­ if not necessarily with the same biting humor.

Dedicated with love and fondness to my best friend -- my husband of sixteen years.

The way I learned about women ­- really learned something useful -­ was from my mother's Romance novels. Genre Romance, capital-R, as in Harlequin, Silhouette, and all the other publishing lines ­- books that authors turn out four a year to a particular formula for big paychecks because the things sell like mad. Some of them are even penned by men writing under a female pseudonym because they sell, and they're so damn predictable that anyone can do it. I should probably be ashamed to admit that I ever touched one, much less that I learned anything useful from one, but it's true. What I learned, though, isn't what you'd think.

Romance novels come in flavors like ice cream. We have the strawberry romantic with purple-pink prose. Everything is described in sugarcoated allusion, some of which is damn funny -­ lots of heaving breasts and throbbing manhoods. I always thought my 'manhood' was my gender identity, not what hung between my legs. What hangs between my legs is a cock, dick, or penis, depending on how polite I'm feeling and what state of arousal I'm in. But it's not only what these novels call certain anatomical parts, but how they describe actions that cracks me up. "He devoured her mouth," for instance. That always makes me want to ask, "Does he have ketchup or mustard with that?"

Okay, so I'm an iconoclast. Sue me.

Strawberry-gag flavors aside, we also have the Romance variety that gets a bit more daring: chocolate vanilla swirl. "He withdrew his shaft and thrust into her again . . . " A descriptive euphemism instead of an allusive one. And last, we have the mocha-espresso graphic novels (and why is chocolate always associated with sin, anyway?), which amounts to a woman's version of Penthouse Letters. And here, at last, we find plain Anglo-Saxon English: cock. Not that the man who has one acts any more like a real guy, but (as I learned later) that's not really the point. Of course male porn has its own set of sex clichés, too, they just tend to be different clichés. You do not 'eat someone out.' That also makes me think of ketchup and mustard, but women smell more like day-old tuna (sorry, it's true), which requires mayonnaise and pickles. And it's come, dammit, not cum. Misspelling isn't erotic -­ it's misspelling.

That's my problem, of course. The clichés make me laugh; they don't turn me on. I'm like any other guy; I have a direct connection between my eyes and my penis. Visual cues turn me on far more than verbal ones, even if I don't necessarily want them to: one of my female students in a tight blouse can be as distracting as hell. Blame my wiring.

Women really have no clue what a bitch testosterone is.

But every guy has to decide, preferably sooner rather than later, which head he's going to think with, and I decided a long time ago that it wouldn't be the one in my pants. I am not my hormones even if, at sixteen, it sure felt that way.

In any case, I certainly didn't learn about sex from my mother's Romance novels. I had better sources for that, ranging from my father's terse and antiseptic explanations, to the surprisingly frank priest who'd directed our parish youth group (and where he'd gotten the experience, he never confessed), to furtive fumblings under the bleachers at football games or in the choir loft on Sunday nights after youth group. I still remember the first time I discovered that breasts are soft and squishy. Don't laugh; it's not self-evident. I didn't have a sister, certainly didn't remember nursing, and sure as hell don't have a pair of my own. How was I to know?

I was fourteen, a freshman, and had been going with the same girl for about three months ­- Teresa Diaz. She had beautiful black hair and skin like cinnamon. Holding hands was exciting. Kissing was heaven. But I'd only just worked up nerve to try sticking my tongue in her mouth. Neither of us knew what on earth we were doing, and it was more shocking than erotic the first time. I recall thinking, "Okay, my tongue's in here; now what? And am I supposed to swallow her saliva?"

See, I was never meant to write Romance. There's nothing romantic about slobber.

In any case, by my Night of Discovery, I'd figured out (more or less) what to do with my tongue, and I was ready to try my luck with my hands. It was homecoming and I'd taken Teresa to the game; she wore a tight sweater and I spent half the night looking at her chest when she wasn't looking at me -­ and was really glad that I had on loose pants. I finally got her to go walking around the track that circled the football field. "Parading," we called it. Parading usually ended under the bleachers, if you were lucky -­ which I was. She liked me. And I liked her -­ and not just because I was fourteen, horny, and curious. Being around her initiated the whole butterfly thing in my stomach, and she made me laugh, too. But it's way too easy for men (or boys) to separate love and sex, and that night, I was more interested in the latter, or as close as I could get. Which meant groping in the shadows under the bleachers and pretending there wasn't another couple thirty feet away, doing the same damn thing.

So that's how I found out that breasts are soft, and she found out that erections are hard, and we never got much further than that. She was a good Catholic girl. But it was a revelation.

So what did I learn from Romance novels? Three very important things. But before I continue, I suppose I should explain how I wound up reading them. I don't remember now why I picked up the first. Probably I was bored, out of library books, and looking for something I could laugh at ­- and a little curious to see if there were any Naughty Bits. Which there were. (My mother tended to the mocha-espresso flavor, which might bother me if I stopped to think about it, but I steadfastly refuse to go there. She's my mother.) So I found the Naughty Bits by select skimming, read them, and about died laughing. But I confess I was young and ignorant and more inclined to be turned on, too, than I would be now. So I went looking for more. And I discovered that the Naughty Bits were usually in about the same place (making them easier to find if you just wanted to get down to business?), and I also found myself reading a little of the narrative around the Naught Bits, and then a little more . . . .

I finally read one from cover to cover. It didn't take long, maybe one Saturday afternoon hiding in my room lest anyone discover what I was doing. My little brother Alex would never have let me live it down. But what fascinated me about it was the feeling of having turned a corner on a familiar street and wound up somewhere I had never traveled. Girls had been a rather nebulous category for me ­- fascinating, but elusive to my comprehension. Not having a sister, and being raised in a staunchly Catholic and conservative family, I'd been force-fed the traditional male programming since the day I'd been born the eldest son and heir apparent to my father's Air Force career. Blue clothes, baseballs, Matchbox accessories, and action-figure-of-the-week. And I was happy with that. I enjoyed then, and still enjoy, fairly predictable male activities. I just no longer limit myself to them. But in any case, all that had translated to a lack of contact with girls beyond a few of the androgynous ones who liked dinosaurs, science class, and racing bicycles -­ which was fine at nine, but when we all hit puberty, things got complicated. I couldn't look at them as 'just playmates' anymore, and I can still recall being fascinated when I first spotted the tell-tale outline of a bra strap under Alice Jensen's white Tyrannosaurus Rex t-shirt. I'd suddenly found myself wishing I could switch places with the dinosaur. And it was around the same age that I also found out my penis had an apparent life of its own. My father had once given me the cryptic advice of not wearing pants that were too tight, and not sitting with my legs crossed 'like a girl.' At twelve, I'd assumed he just didn't want me looking like a sissy. At fourteen, I understood. The less pressure on the nether regions, the less likely one was to have an awkward situation in public. Years later, Jean confessed to me that when she'd been fourteen (with only an elder sister about), she wouldn't have been able to tell if a guy had an erection . . . and probably wouldn't have thought to look in the first place. Yet in the grips of the embarrassing-but-inevitable, you're certain that everyone notices.

In any case, at fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen, I wasn't the only boy confused by the romantic opposition (which is how girls felt to us at that point), but I must have been born a strategist. The first step to winning a battle is to out-think your opponent, and that means you must understand her. Which is, I know now, a very male way of thinking about it. But that was part of what I learned. And Romance novels became my chief sources of information. I studied them. Very logically. I made outlines of the plot patterns, and character sketches of the various hero and heroine types, and even dissected how the heroes wooed and won the heroines in the hopes that I could figure out what to say, in order to get girls into bed.

And the conclusion I finally came to was that I was going about it all the wrong way. But I didn't reach that conclusion from my outlines. I came to it by the simple expedient of asking a classmate in the lunchroom why she read the damn things. Of course, I didn't admit that I'd read any. "They're not realistic," I told her. "The guys in there are not real guys!"

She'd looked at me, blinked, and replied, "Of course they're not. I read 'em to get away from real guys."

Sometimes revelation sneaks up and taps you on the shoulder, sometimes it curls around your feet -­ and sometimes it just wacks you over the head.

After that, I went back and read some of the books again and tried to look through the portrayals of the heroes (or the heroines for that matter) to understand the mind on the other side. I stopped looking for a series of tips and clues and paint-by-number instructions for getting some. Despite my ostensible goal, my initial foray into the study of Romance novels hadn't been to understand girls, but to figure out how to get what I wanted out of them. Now, I began to see them as books that revealed what they wanted out of me. More or less. Which meant that I stopped looking at it all as potential battle strategy. And that was the first thing that Romance novels taught me: that I was trying to learn about women in all the wrong ways, and for all the wrong reasons. Did I want to be the kind of guy whom girls read Romance novels to get away from? I know I still wind up filling that bill some days, but hopefully it's only a temporary loss of my mind.

The second thing that Romance novels taught me was that women aren't so alien as I sometimes thought. We're all human, and at the root of things, the differences one notices depend on where one draws the lines. I have more in common with Jean than I have with Logan, but what I share with Jean is very different from what I share with Ororo. And Jean and Ororo have little in common beyond their commitment to the team and to our kids. So categories are what you choose to make them, and gender is just one arbitrary division. That doesn't mean it's not based on very real, and biologically-motivated, differences, but it is only one way of looking at people.

The third and last thing I learned from Romance novels is that they tend to describe sexual firsts, or at least something unusual. I guess that makes sense -­ you describe the significant, not the ordinary. But that's misleading, leaving us with warped notions of what sex is like most of the time. I had some bordering-on-disastrous sexual experiences in high school and, later, in college, and they happened because of unreasonable expectations. Sex is rarely apocalyptic, even -­ maybe especially -­ the first time. You don't know each other's preferences and you're as self-conscious as hell, worried about everything. If it weren't for the infamous fire-of-desire, I don't think I'd have tried for two with most of the women I've slept with. My first times were all either unmemorable (aside from it being the first) or an hysterical muddle for some reason -­ and that includes the first time with Jean. I fell off the backseat of the car on my ass, for pete's sake. We were able to laugh about it at the time . . . because we were friends already. And it ended up being pretty good sex, but the situation had still been as funny as hell and it was almost a year before we had anything approaching great sex.

You can't have great sex without trust ­- and that takes time to build, even if you're friends going in. You can't worry about how you look in the throes of passion, or about of what's coming out of your mouth when you're a feather's breath from orgasm, or whether something you try might offend your partner to the point of driving her off. I've only had two relationships that got to that level of trust, and but one that was open enough to yield a sexual experience I might truly call apocalyptic.

And it wasn't a 'first' of anything.

It was one hundred and one, in fact -­ the hundred and first time that Jean and I had sex. Yes, I'd actually kept track. Not for any particular reason, just as one of those weird things you do like count ceiling tiles or paperclips. I started counting at eleven by putting a penny in a jar for every time we had sex. Of course, I had to decide if I'd count every time literally -­ as in every orgasm -­ or simply each encounter, and settled on each encounter. Honestly, though, once was typically enough and I think I can count on one hand the number of times we've had sex more than once in a day, and then it was usually once in the morning and once at night. At first, I worried that maybe I wasn't fully satisfying Jean and would push her for two, until she got pissed at me one night and kicked me off the bed. She told me that she was not multi-orgasmic, didn't feel a need to be multi-orgasmic -­ regardless of what Cosmo would have us believe -­ and trying to make her come twice in as many hours just annoyed her. Her nipples tickled afterwards and she didn't want them touched.

The first of many lessons in honesty. And it's honesty that builds trust.

Lesson number two in honesty surprised me, and fundamentally altered my definition of 'sex.' Penetration hurt Jean. Of course I knew the first time usually hurt a woman, and even the second or third -­ but the fifteenth? The thirtieth? Jean wasn't a virgin when we first had sex, but she wasn't far off because she hadn't found it terribly pleasant. She might be tall ­- taller than me, in fact, by half an inch -­ but her vagina was narrow, and I was prone to premature ejaculation from too many rushed adolescent experiences . . . which a tight fit didn't help. By the time I got inside with all the stops and starts (it felt more like parking a car than anything juicy in those Romance novels), I was already too close to coming. Two or three thrusts and that was the end of that. So penetration continued to hurt her for months until it got to the point that I couldn't enjoy intercourse either. It's just not a turn-on to watch your lover wince. She'd clench her muscles in anticipation of pain, which just made it worse. We wound up doing everything but penetration for much of the time for our first nine months until she confided to me at one point that it might take having a baby to widen her passage before sex stopped being painful. That was not encouraging. But I loved her. I wasn't about to leave her for what, in the end, was really a small thing (no pun intended). So I enlarged my definition of 'sex,' and we worked at relaxing her enough until entering her no longer hurt. I still remember the night she eased herself down on me with a startled smile because there was no pain, and I didn't come as soon as I was inside. After that, things began to click.

But that took nine months. That's the reality, not the fantasy. Not the Romance novel. Yet in the end, I don't think apocalyptic sex would have been possible without the honesty and trust that those nine months taught us.

Number one hundred and one came at just over six months. We'd recently become engaged, and I'd been keeping track with my pennies -­ though I never told Jean that. She'd have hit me because she'd have thought I was objectifying her, or sex, or both. But I wasn't. I was just counting because I'm anal sometimes. And because I had been counting, and we'd passed the magic one hundred, it seemed like I ought to do something to make the next time special. She wouldn't have to know why. It was just for me, a marker of sorts. I'd never been with any woman long enough to reach fifty times, much less one hundred. I'd never wanted to be.

So I devised something elaborate and romantic: made reservations for dinner, got a bottle of very good wine for afterwards, even had plans to seduce her in the Jacuzzi after most of the kids were in bed. That Jacuzzi was Jean's one requested indulgence at the mansion, and Ororo had backed her up on it. What is it about the X-chromosome and hot baths? In any case, we had a Jacuzzi now as common property, and even the boys liked it -­ but there was a number-coded lock on the door because I'd put it there. And if people came to use it when the lock was tripped . . . well, they could draw their own conclusions. The kids knew all about the birds and the bees, and when you play Residence Hall Parents, it's hard to hide your private life. Nor was I foolish enough to assume they were abstaining; I sure as hell hadn't at that age. We do, in fact, run a sex education weekend once a year for new students. It tends to have them giggling at the outset, shocked about an hour into it, and talking honestly by Sunday afternoon. We'd simply laid down the law that there would be no shacking up, that opposite genders couldn't be in the same room with the door locked, and that they had to be back inside the mansion by a certain hour. But I'd be damned if I'd prowl the halls and check to see who was giggling in the closets. There's a point beyond which you have to let kids go and trust that they can act with a modicum of responsibility. That's my theory anyway. The guys know precisely what I'd do to anybody who got one of the girls pregnant. They also know they can get a condom from me if they need it, and I won't ask them questions except to tell them how to put it on if it's the first request. Most pregnancies that occur despite a condom are the fault of improper use, though the guy usually swears up and down that he knew what he was doing because we don't dare admit to a lack of knowledge in that department. So I tell the boys, and let them roll their eyes at me impatiently. And maybe one or two go away knowing more than they had before.

In any case, and back to my seduction scenario, everything came to naught. 'The best laid plans of mice and men . . . .'

It was in the early days of the X-Men. I think we'd gone on a half-dozen missions over the course of eight months, and most of those had amounted to collecting new mutants for the school. This time, on the very night I'd made all my plans, the professor called us together to send us after Sabretooth. We didn't know then who Sabretooth was; he hadn't yet joined Magneto. We simply had news of a 'Bigfoot' around the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, and the native people there, the Menominee and the Ojibway, were calling him a cannibal spirit who ate part of his prey and left the rest in various states of dismemberment. Native and non-native residents alike were terrified. The professor feared it was a mutant, and we could tell he was nervous of sending us after someone, or something, that so obviously was not a confused kid. "Be very, very careful," he'd warned us when we left.

I almost lost Jean that night, which made me realize just how damn green we all were. If there hadn't been three of us, he'd have butchered us. As it was, he scratched me good and came within inches of taking off Jean's face. In a panic, I tore into him with an optic blast that should have killed him, and that was how we discovered he had regenerative capability. I think I'd call that fight a draw. He drove us off, tails between our legs, but there were no more reports of a Bigfoot in Minnesota after that.

So we came home with me wounded and feeling like a failure as a leader, Jean shaken, and Ororo upset at the violence that we'd resorted to, just to get it out of the encounter alive. After debriefing, Jean patched me up and we found ourselves in the Jacuzzi anyway at three in the morning -­ with the bottle of wine but no dinner. I'm not sure I could've eaten anything after what I'd seen of Sabretooth's victims anyway. I'd never witnessed death up close and bloody like that. Jean had taken me to the hot tub to make me relax, wounded or not, and between wine on an empty stomach, the hot water, and our adrenaline rush, we were lost fast. Sex began as an affirmation of life in the face of death -­ or whatever psychobabble you want to hang on it. The plain fact was that I was as horny as hell and drunk. And I needed to fuck her to reassure myself that she was still with me. But even more, I needed to hold her in the circle of my arms, safe, and to feel myself contained in her body, surrounded and alive.

That's where apocalyptic sex begins. It's not what you do or the elaborateness of your plans. It's the emotion behind it, the need, the ability to completely let go. It's about trust, at least for me. Appropriate reciprocal vulnerability. So we had mind-blowing sex on the steps of the hot tub and there was absolutely nothing unusual about it in terms of what we did, nothing we hadn't done three dozen times before except in the full release of our inhibitions. I didn't even worry about my eyes because she'd put my visor on me. She sat me on the steps, wrapped me up in her arms and settled down on top, held me inside her while we said a lot of quiet things about what we wanted in life, and needed, and dreamed about. I'd never have believed that I could hold a coherent conversation while I was inside Jean, but I did. And it felt right. Not rushed. Not strange. I'd asked her to marry me a month before, but on that night, I think it finally came home to us both that we were a we forever. I married her in my soul and mind and heart. The rest is just a formality. I'll give her a real ceremony some day because I know she wants it, but it's no longer so high on our priority list.

At some point we did finally shut up, or at least quit trying to be coherent. She started to move on me and let me play with her breasts, and our words turned into noise. It built very slow, and with the kind of relaxed abandon that's extremely hard for me to achieve. No performance anxiety, no concerns about hurting her -­ either from the sex itself or with my eye-blasts. The tension residing within me since the battle coalesced in the pit of my belly and crawled down into my groin. I bloomed inside her from a content pleasure to an almost painful sensation. It didn't take long after that, sucking and licking bared, wet skin, making waves in the water, hands all over. At one point, I couldn't get enough pressure with her on top and pushed her up against the tub wall to rock hard into her, full focus of exquisite tension in six inches until my whole world shattered. She bit me when she came, the only time she's ever done that, and I shouted, which I never do, either. But I also don't usually feel like the top of my skull is about to fly off and every nerve in my body is burning. Her mind reached out to mine, driven by the explosion of orgasm, and we fused. Not Jean, not Scott, but some conglomerate Jean-Scott creature that had a power of its own, and a purpose that went beyond what we could achieve individually. I am more because she's with me, and I'd like to think she's more because she has me to support her. That mental link has never faded. The orgasm was gone in 30 seconds, maybe a minute, but the link remained. It's not a link by which I know what she's thinking, or can read her mind. It's just a presence, as if her body lies against me every second of the day. Unnerving at first, but wonderful.

That's why I'm no longer in much of a hurry to get married. She lives in my head. I don't need a ring, on my hand or hers, to make us any more united. She gives me back to myself, makes me whole, and I do the same for her. Nothing turns me on more than to watch her work -­ really work, completely unaware that a world exists outside her microscopes and data results. I think it's charming, and I don't need to hang on her, or be the center of her attention twenty-four hours a day because I'm already the center of her world, and she's mine. At day's end, sex or no sex, we curl up in bed together and fall asleep butt to butt. I need that. I never sleep well when she's gone.

"And two shall be made one flesh." It's more than words, but there's no short cut to get there. Sex alone can't bring intimacy. It's just two sets of genitalia rubbing against each other with a slightly messy exchange of body fluids -­ a little ridiculous when you think about it, but fun if there's caring, or frightening and humiliating if there isn't. It's almost never apocalyptic. But if the trust is there, and the vulnerability, then once in a blue moon, the apocalyptic happens, even when not making love to a telepath.

But you've got to be together long enough to reach one hundred and one ­- or three hundred and forty-seven, and counting.

Email feedback or reviews are always welcome.

Jean's take on things, "Sleepy Dragon," will remain on my site due to the more graphic nature of the tale.
The Medicine Wheel can be found at . . . http://www.greymalkinlane.com/min