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From all to nothing


It's getting dark. I had forgot how long it took for that to happen here in the North, just like I had forgot how swiftly time moves in your company. It's a weird feeling, as if time was passing both quickly and slowly, at the same time. On the other hand, maybe I can blame the wine. I'm not really used to drinking any more, and the first bottle is already emptied, with a second one started. I can't say I feel drunk, but after some bemused consideration I decide it's more likely I'm drunk than that time itself has hiccups.

My train of thought is derailed by you saying something.


"I asked if I can take one of your cigarettes."

"Oh, sure," I say with a nod to the pack lying beside me on the balcony floor. "Help yourself."

You stretch your leg out and reel the pack in with your toes. I notice you have the tip of your tongue in the corner of your mouth, and smile.

"Thanks." You put a cigarette between your lips and light it, tip your head backwards and blow the smoke out and up. "What were you thinking then, so far away?"

"Just wondering whether I was drunk."

"Of course you're drunk, otherwise there's something wrong with the wine. You might as well make the most of it, now that you're allowed to get drunk. When was the last time?"

"Too long. Years. Can you pass me the cigarettes?"

"Why? You couldn't be bothered to pass them to me."

So you're in a bantering mood? Well, that's quite welcome. I think I need to let go of the sombre facade, and bickering with you, especially when you're in that mood, is a rare pleasure. I get a sudden feeling of deja vu, and remember us sitting like this, drinking, smoking and joking, many years ago. A summer night on a balcony, the night we found out we were friends. And even if the friendship has remained strong all these years, it has become something more. To me, at least. I smile.

"Yeah, but that's because it's my cigarettes, and as you're getting them for free you could make a bit of an effort in return."

"Hey, I'm doing you a favour here. You said yourself you needed some exercise."

"Should I need exercise?" I ask. "When did I say something that stupid?"

"A little while ago, when we were talking about sex, you said that you ought to have sex more often since you needed the exercise."

Ah, right. I did say that. Not remarkable; we often talk about sex. But when I made that comment, I didn't think about having sex in general, but with you, specifically. And as always, you ignored that, just like I know you'll ignore this: "What, here on the balcony?" I take a sip of wine and make a sweeping gesture with the glass.

You snort and roll your eyes. "And who would you have sex with here, do you think?"

"Well," I say and look at your breasts, "I guess I'll have to find someone nearby who looks like a woman. I mean, surely the sex ought to be enough exercise? I shouldn't have to run around and find someone to exercise with."

My reply is automatic. Maybe, I think, you're getting tired of it. You know you attract me. I told you, years ago. And after the initial surprise you've always ignored it. I don't know any more if I want to take you to bed. You once said, I remember, that I didn't want to do, but to have done. Head of the nail.

You snort again. "I shouldn't think so," you say as you toss me the cigarettes.

"Aw, come on! You said you wanted to do me a favour and exercise me." I extract a cigarette and light it. I recall a promise you gave me, without thinking, years ago, a promise I sometimes I sometimes bring up and wave about. "Anyway, you promised I'd get to see you naked sometime, and that ought to be enough to speed up my heart quite a lot."

You give me a look over the rim of your glasses and raise your eyebrows, with your mouth in that sceptical pout of yours, and I do my best impression of a schoolboy caught doing mischief. I stand up to fetch the wine bottle. "But a man can dream, can't he?" I say in my whiniest voice as I fill your glass.

You don't answer, just look straight ahead, out over the lake. I drop the butt of my cigarette in the first, empty wine bottle, and sit down again, careful not to disturb your thoughts with talk.

When you finally speak, you sound more thoughtful than teasing. "But would you?" you ask.

"Would I what?"

You turn to look at me. "If you were allowed to do what you wanted with me, what would you do?"

"Um..." I have trouble reading you now, can't see how serious or silly I should be. Chaotic, confused thoughts prevent me from answering for a long time, but you wait patiently.

"From all to nothing, I reckon," I say. "I honestly don't know, but somewhere in that range."

You have a serious, thoughtful expression, so I light another cigarette and try to consider it calmly. "I mean, it's not just about what I'm allowed to do, is it?"

I give you a pleading look, willing you to read my thoughts, understand what I mean. "Like, if you came with a bowl of candy and said I could eat as much as I like, that's okay, 'cause I don't need to worry about what the candy thinks."

I gesture vaguely with my hands, trying to shape my thoughts. "But even if you gave me permission... if, for some reason, you let me do whatever I wanted, I wouldn't want to do more than you wanted me to do. You know what I mean? Even if I was allowed, it'd be rape if you didn't want me to."

You look at me and nod. I can relax again.

"But", you say with a smile, "it isn't just black and white. There might be things I definitely wouldn't want you to do, and things I would prefer you didn't, and things where I wouldn't care much whether you did or didn't..."

You let that sink in for a while before continuing, with an evil grin, "... and perhaps even things I would really like you to do."

This is safer territory, we're back to the banter. I really like serious conversations with you, but that was too ambiguos. I smile. "Yeah, well, sure. I can see what you mean. I just wonder if I should go and get enginge oil and an inflatable sheep, or if you wanted to do the things that didn't matter before moving on to what you want."

"Okay", you say and draw the word out to show how sceptical you are. "That's strike one you missed, there. Want to try again?"

I empty the wine glass and raise it in greeting. "Just guessing here, and keeping within the bounds of what's reasonably mainstream, I'd guess that a hard fuck up the ass would be at the bottom -" I pause and smile, "no pun intended - of the list, with you stripping off and showing me your body somewhere around the things that wouldn't matter either way, because you've said you wouldn't mind me seeing you naked if I hadn't made such a fuss over it, and..."

I shake my head, speaking slowly. "I... I have no idea what you might want me to do to you. More wine and a hug, perhaps?"

In reply, you empty your glass and stand up, arms stretched out towards me. Dutifully, I fill the glasses, put the bottle down and enter your embrace.

We hold each other in silence. I keep wondering whether there was anything behind your question, but don't know how to decide. Finally, you hug me hard and let go slightly, pull back a bit. I follow suit. I look you in the eyes, and for some reason I get the impression that the hug was some kind of test, but I don't know whether I passed or flunked.

We look deep in each other's eyes and it feels like I'm falling, as if I stand aside and watch. It is like a movie, and just like when you watch a movie and know what will happen, I know that you will tilt your head slightly to the side and I'll bend down. Without any of us taking the first step we will kiss. I know it will happen.

I look into your eyes, sink into them, mesmerized. Without being able to do anything I wait for the movie to roll on, to bring on what must happen. You know it too, know how the script goes, it shows in your eyes.

Now. Now, your eyes close slightly. Now, your head begins to tilt. Now, I feel your body press against mine. Now. Now, I begin to bend down. Now, our lips open. Now. Now I feel your lips against mine, hot, tense, moist.

I open my lips more, feel you follow, tentatively extend the tip of my tongue. Meet yours. Taste you. Play with you. Dance with you.

I hold you harder, press you close, enter you, let you play with my tongue, as I play with yours. You kiss me deeply, take command. Your hands grab my neck and pull me down. Lips to lips, face to face, body to body.

I stop thinking. I kiss you with years of unfulfilled yearning.

I am lost in you. It might have been seconds, hours. But this time, the wine is not to blame. I am consumed by you. As I think that thought, I have a brief vision of your head growing and you literally eating me, the kiss becoming a meal.

As we part our lips at last I smile, at the absurd image and a strange happiness. I kiss your lips, lightly. Don't want to leave them. You loosen your hands, let them fall and take hold of my back.

I open my eyes. You smile, mystically, inscrutably. I become aware of your body again. It's pressing against mine.

My hands caress your back. Want to feel every inch of you, without me controlling them. My fingers play with the fine hair at the back of your neck and you shiver in my arms.

I become aware of a throbbing in my trousers, realise I'm pressing my erection hard against your stomach. It doesn't matter. You are close, you pull me down, you kiss me again.

The fingers of one hand caress your neck, while the other softly strokes your back, and down over your buttocks. You stiffen momentarily, relax and thrust into my mouth with your tongue. My hand meets the edge of your t-shirt, slides over. Carefully, I move over your firm muscles and pull my hand up again, under your t-shirt, over the edge of your trousers to your soft, warm skin.

Light as a feather I caress your back along your spine, over the bra and up to the neck. Then down again, while your tongue wrestles with mine. My nails follow the line of your spine. I hold you, hard. Press you against me.

My fingers are by your side and I follow the edge of the trousers along your back to the other side. You turn towards my hand without losing contact with my lips, invite me. I fold my hand, caress your stomach, move the backs of my fingers out and up, over your ribs. They meet the edge of your bra.

I stop. Think. I've touched you before, many times, in hugs and massage, but never your breasts or your crotch. I've never even seen them. I've set that limit myself. Never known how you would react if I broke it, but for my own sake, to have a limit to avoid trespassing, to not take more than you want to give...

I'm standing by the limit now. Hesitating. Thinking. My erection throbs almost painfully in my trousers. I'm still. My hand is almost touching your breast. I hesitate.

You let go of my suddenly lifeless lips. Tilt your head backwards and sideways. Look at me. Understand me. Smile.

"Your decision." Your voice is both neutral and challenging. Questioning.

I hesitate, think. My hand is a hair's breadth from your breast. Your tongue has just left my mouth. I'm afraid. I don't know what's happening. You've kissed me. I've kissed you. I've tasted you, touched you.

And now? Should I go on, continue on this path, without knowing where it leads? I've dreamt about it, fantasised about it, imagined you wrapped around me, your naked body against mine. Pictured entering you, being devoured by you, swallowed by you...


I hesitate, afraid. The limit is mine. I've set it up, I can take it down. You'll let me. I don't understand. Why now? You've never shown a sign, in all these years, that you'd welcome me like you're doing now.


I hesitate. You're doing it now. You offer me your breast. And more. You know, you must know, that once I've crossed that limit it'll be gone, for ever. Your breast is a key, a passport to the rest of you. I've made it so.

Oh, god! You know. I look you deep into the eyes and see that you know, that you offer me all of you. My hand is shaking, I've got a lump in my throat. My decision. I swallow. I see it's now or never. You've decided to... What?

To make me choose. I realise that if I decide to stick to the limit you won't invite me again. And I'll have to give up my dreams. If I say no I can't say anything afterwards, nothing about yearning for you, nothing about aching for you. Yes or no. Fullfil my desire or put it aside, keep you as a friend I can tell averything or...

I'm afraid. I don't know what will happen if I say yes. To us. I might lose you. And it's you I love, not your body. You.

My head is spinning, I'm dizzy with indecisiveness, with wine, with you. You wait. See my thoughts mirrored in my eyes, feel my hand tremble against your ribs. I must decide. Yes or no. Platonic friendship, or sex and something unknown.

I hesitate, afraid.

I hesitate, try to think. My fingers slip down along your side. Take hold of your waist with both hands, one under, one over the t-shirt. You've kissed me. I've kissed you. I've tasted you, touched you.

And now I let go of you, let my hands fall to my sides, take a step back, break contact. You don't resist, let me go.

I go. Turn my back to you. Try to swallow away the lump in my throat. Sob. Feel the tears start flowing. Close my eyes.

I've lost you. I've won you. I'll never forgive myself for walking away, but I would never have been able to forgive myself for staying.

Eyes closed, filled with tears, I stand with my back to you and try to hold the sobs in. Swallow, without moving the lump in my throat.

I hear you move behind me, the silent rustle of fabric against skin. I close my hands, make hard fists. I touched your skin, just a moment ago, and you were warm against my fingers. I could have had everything. I could have lost everything. You offered yourself to me and I refused, to keep you. And I'll never know if I could have kept what I have and had everything else, too. I didn't dare risk everything for the sake of everything.

My shoulders are tense, the muscles in my arms hard as steel. I tremble, cry silently. I feel you walk past me, around me, stand in front of me. My tear-filled eyes are closed. I don't see you. But with every shaking breath I smell the scent of your warm skin. You are close.

You touch my hand. Gently you take it in yours, unfold my fingers. Lift it slowly. I don't dare open my eyes. Afraid of your gaze. You hold my hand in your warm, gentle fingers. Pull it towards you. A ruslte of fabric again. You turn up my palm, lift it.

It meets something warm, soft. My thoughts stop. You let go of my fingers. I hold something warm, soft, heavy in my hand. Something slips over my arm. I open my eyes and look down. See your t-shirt fall over my arm. See your breast in my hand under the fabric.

I stare. I'm still, try to understand. Your naked breast lies in my hand. I hold your breast. In my hand.

I look up through tears and confusion. Ask without words. Hold your breast in my hand.

"Just this once," you say gently, as if to a child. "Just..." You hesitate, then shrug. Your breast skakes in my hand. You smile wider and pull up your t-shirt.

You have removed your bra. I see your breasts. They are beautiful. I hold one of them in my hand. The nipple is erect. In my hand.

Gently, slowly, I move my hand. Caress you carefully, feel the roundness, the weight. The bumpy areola, the peaking nipple. Your breast. In my hand.

I stand still and look. See your breasts. Just so. The lump is still in my throat, but the throbbing in my trousers has gone away. This isn't sex. This is just...

Hesitantly. I let my fingers slide over the nipple. You look at me, anxiously.

I swallow again and the lump goes away. Take a deep breath and you you into the eyes.

"It's just a breast," I murmur. "It's just you."

I let my hand fall. Pull your t-shirt down. I take a small step forward and hug you, hard. Bury my face in your hair. Feel your breasts against me. Just so.

You hug me and I let your closeness sweep away all thoughts, all questions. Hold you to me. Close. For a long time.

Finally, I let you go. You look at me and manage to smile. You reach up and give me a light, quick kiss on the outh. Let go of me, walk around me. Sit down.

I follow suit, take the wine glass and drink deeply. Realise we've swapped chairs. "This is your glass."

You give me an amused look. "A bit late to worry about exchanging saliva now, isn't it?"

I laugh and feel the last tension leave me. See your bra on the table in front of me. Pick it up, hold it by the straps and press my lips lightly to one of the cups. I see you look at me with raised eyebrows. I shrug, smile and put it back.

You sip from my glass and light one of my cigarettes. Look out over the lake.

I stand up, take the bra and go to you. The pack of cigarettes lies between your thighs, in your crotch. I pick it up, and that's all there is to it. I'm surprised by my reaction; I don't react. I shake my head and smile. What does it matter if my fingers touch the inside of your thighs? Or that I pick up the lighter that leans against your crotch? I put the bra in your lap, light a cigarette and return to the chair.

Exhale smoke, have a sip of wine and look out over the lake. I feel free. I still want you, but that's all there is to it. It's nothing dramatic. Maybe I'll regret my decision later, but right now it feels right. You've shown me that the limit isn't a high, unsurmountable wall, but just a line on the ground. It's nothing dramatic. It's just a breast. It's just you.

Maybe you'll invite me again, and I know that if I want to I can go past that limit. Maybe you won't, but at least I'm not afraid of the limit I set myself any more. I don't need it.

We sit silent together and look out over the lake.

"Are you okay now?" you ask after a while.

A simple question, and even if the implications are enormous the answer is just as simple. "Yeah."

I take a last puff on the cigarette and stub it out. "Yeah. I don't know why, but I'm okay."

"Good, you had me worried for a while there." You squirm a little in your chair. "But..."


You give me an ironic smile. "I'm still horny."

I laugh out loud, laugh so I lose my breath and can only wheeze, shaking with laughter. You give me a sour look, then you start laughing, too.

"Trust me", I finally manage to say, "you can live with that."

You make a face at me. "You ought to know," you say and smile.

Later, much later, I lie awake on the couch waiting for the room to stop spinning around. My thoughts are spinning too, around you, your body, and your soul. They spin around two very different things - what is, and what could have been.

If I listen closely, I can hear your slow breaths from the bedroom, and in the end that's what lulls me into sleep


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