A Good Beginning


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She gave him the eye as she walked past, hoping he'd catch her gaze, practically daring him to follow. It was only a guess that he would catch it; it was a thing that required a certain touch and timing, and he did, after all, have half of his face buried in a handkerchief. But she knew from experience that most men would respond to the eye if it were shot in their general direction. She sauntered past him and out onto the deck, where she took up a stool at the bar, casually ordering a tequila sunrise... and waited.

Not for long, though. Only the merest darted glance back in the direction of the door told her he'd left the group of people he'd been chatting with, and now was waiting just at the door, seeing if she was alone. She avoided looking at him directly, only making a motion with her fingers through the unruly dark blonde waves that she only hoped weren't doing something immensely strange and humidity-inspired in the late August sun. This had the dual purpose of looking artless and covering up her interest in whether he'd caught the look or not. She turned back to the drink, prepared to give him time. However long it took for him to decide to join her was juuuuuusssttt fine. So long as it wasn't all night.

She pretended intense interest in the mechanics of her straw and the unique stirring properties it showed, when she heard the magic sound.

"Ushhh--oooo, shooo."

She wasn't going to turn. In perhaps nine out of ten circumstances she would, because seeing the face was as enjoyable as hearing the sneeze...but in this case she was relatively certain it was him. She didn't flatter herself so much as to think that she could guess how a man sounded when sneezing just from looking at him, but damnit, about some things she definitely was sure, and that she'd picked a man with a certain tendency was plain as the nose, if one would, on his face.

When he sat next to her...then, and only then, did she consider it right to look, a glance and not much more, but certainly with a hint of a smile. Next to her. Very, very good. He leaned in, and she felt it--the eye. It was being returned. He was looking at *her*. She turned back around, still, to the best of her ability to help it, smiling. And then he spoke.

"Hi...I'm Arthur...Schweitzer. I couldn't help but notice you..."

"I'm Sharon...Sharon Crane. I noticed you noticing." She grinned a bit wider at the effect her patter had. His eyes twinkled, whatever color they were--she wasn't sure. Maybe the color of storm clouds or the deepest Atlantic blue. She found those irises nearly as unsettling as the long, slightly teary, golden lashes that framed them.

"I noticed...yuh...huh..." His tanned, straight, actually perfect nose wrinkled for an instant, before his head darted forward. "Ushooo, ush...ooo. Sniff...you...oh...."

"Bless you," she said, promptly, and took note of the slight color in his cheeks. His nose wrinkled again, as if there just might be more irritation, lurking. "Allergies?"

"Afraid so." He grinned, and she nearly swooned. Men had no business being this good-looking. His teeth were almost unnaturally even, his lips full, and...damn everything, she didn't want to look at the rest of him...but she did. Fit, muscled. Worked out. She didn't even want to consider how perfectly his light-brown hair seemed coifed--she knew deep in her heart she was dealing with one of them--the few, the proud, the high-maintenance. She glanced, briefly, at the mirror that sat behind the bar, at the two of them, framed by the liquor bottles in the reflection. They would be a good-looking couple. She nearly groaned.

He gently scratched the bottom of his nose with his knuckle, a nearly unobtrusive rub, but one that suggested that his poor nose still itched.

"The air quality," she said, making conversation. "Awfully humid. I like being outside...but lately..."

"It drives me nuts."


He grinned. She looked back in the direction of her drink.


"Would it be better if we moved inside?" she asked. She wondered if he'd catch what she was really saying, but he touched her arm.

"Hot out here, isn't it?"

Shit, shit, shit, she thought. This might take awhile.

"I kind of like it hot," she admitted. Her eyes met his, searching. She picked up nothing. "You know...almost uncomfortable. The kind of weather that makes you sweat?"

Well, if that wasn't obvious, she thought to herself, but then he gave another of those wonderfully toothy grins.

"Sweat is good," he commented, nearly making her gasp and giggle. She just barely kept from doing so.

"I don't mind a little sweat," she grinned, keeping up the small talk, although she *never* was any good at small talk. "Sometimes a little sweat smells good."

"Hmm," he said, before sniffling. "Anything might smell good. For all I'd dnow."

She did giggle then, but just barely. "Poor baby."

He colored, gorgeously, and winced. "Awful."

"You don't want to be called 'poor baby'?"

"No, the problem is, I liked it."

She elected to take the liberty of touching his arm. "Poor...baby..."she cooed, not entirely suggestive...not entirely not suggestive. He fell into a reverie--and she supposed he tolerated "poor baby" well enough. Slowly, he snapped himself out of it.

"I did come over here with the intention of buying you a drink."

"I'm pretty well set," Sharon said, swirling the ice in the glass with one hand. "But for how long?" she joked.

"Tequila sunrise...let me guess...Sagittarius?"


"You're good with words...you're artistic..."

"Don't even," she smiled. This was cheesy. She looked into his face, just in time to watch his nose wrinkle, and another short sneeze (ushoo!) happen. He brushed a fist against his nostrils a few times before continuing to play.


"Bless you..."

"I think you're a writer...thank you."

She growled. He got it in one. Did she wear a frigging sign? "I do a column for The Daily Times."

"I know your name," he grinned. "You reviewed Das Gulag...not favorably, as I recall."

"All the vodka in the world wouldn't make that place less of a prison camp," she said, automatically.

"I was a partner in the business."

Shit, shit, shit she found herself thinking. "Sorry."

"I bought out and invested in tech stocks...and Amidu--that sushi place. Very good for me. It was...uh...ESHSHH...heh--ooooo!" He sneezed forcefully and suddenly, his face the portrait of irritation. He reached into his pocket for the handkerchief whilst she considered. Amidu--she rated that one very highly. In fact, she gave it a very favorable review--much to the delight of the owner, according to his very heartfelt and moving letter, which she kept to occasionally inspect the peculiar grammar and interesting syntax of. And then she stared-while-not-stared at the way his long lashes brushed against the slight purple below his eyes as he blew, just lightly biting her lower lip as she did so.

"Amidu has done quite well..." she offered, taking no credit, but merely stating that it had.

"Ushhhooooo..Ushhh...sniff," he began, sinking his nose back into the hanky. When he'd blown rather thoroughly, he went on. "But, uh...sniff...it's true, they have. Trendy...but not artificial. I think you said something about that. I trust your opinions...I guess that's kind of..."



She thought about it, rather delighted. The man invested based on her opinions? She squeezed his arm. "Poor baby...you're sniffling a lot."

"Damn, I do sniffle a lot." He gave her another high-wattage grin, which she returned. His response was a deepening of the color beneath his tan. "Well, I do."

"Now I do want to get you inside. Out of this heat...and pollen and whatnot."

"And then whah...huh...heshhhoo!"

"Bless you!" she said, automatically.

"You'll get tired of blessing me. You'll be saying that a lot."

"I've a way with words. I'll find a way I won't get tired of."

His mouth slung open a little wider and then he sneezed a little more. "Huh--ESHHHH! Ushhhoooo!"

She put her hand behind his head and kissed him gently on the cheek. "Bless you, sweetie."

"What was that?"

She kissed his cheek again. "I figured I wouldn't get tired of blessing you this way..."

"Sniff...oh god...you're good...at this..."

"Let me take you home," she said, emboldened. "I'll show you a lot of what I'm good at."



He sighed, resigned. "Call me Artie."


He sneezed then, suddenly, harshly, "Ush...shooo...USHHHH!"

"Bless you, Artie."

He closed his eyes. It wasn't often that one of his none-too-infrequent allergy attacks got him this kind of attention. It *did *, however, occasionally happen that he ran into one of those "nurturing" types of female who seemed to dote on every sniffle as if it triggered an urge for them to "take care" of him. Which he minded not in the least, especially if the girl in question was a long-legged, full-breasted, apparently very sensual sort. "Your place or mine?"

"I live just around the corner. I like a place I can walk to-I get in less trouble that way."

She grinned, mischievously, as if she hoped she was getting in just the kind of trouble she was hoping for. She was, after all, taking a bit of a chance. Never the type who engaged in the casual pick-up before, she was coming to terms with something unusual in her libidinous make-up and acknowledging a definite fetish-she liked sneezes. She had never actively engaged in seeking out someone for that particular trait (not consciously, anyway), but she nonetheless recognized exactly why she found Arthur this exciting. He sneezed-a lot, and promised to do so a lot more. Which excited her to no end.

"Hmm, I drive for my trouble...I think you're the kind of trouble someone would drive a long way for."

"Want to just...drive around the corner?" She leaned in, her lips hazardously close to his. He kissed them.

"You bet."

She slapped a ten-spot on the bar, and he took her by the arm. "There's some people I have to...sniff...say good-bye to. There from my office...so...sniff...uh-HUSH!"

"Oh, bless you sweetie...well, I suppose you might not want to be showing off that you're uh...finding something to do..." Her mouth twisted, almost against her will, into a distinctly wicked grin. The sneeze, needless to say, was adorable, but the notion of this handsome and willing thing making his "good-byes" with the obvious intent to do the nasty was sublime. She looked away, momentarily, as if suggesting they might leave separately.

"I'll tell them you're an old friend," he smiled.

"I like the way you think."

She squeezed his arm, and then her hand worked its way into his. She rather liked the way he thought, since he was apparently very adept at the social cover-a definite clue as to how his mind worked. He turned to look her in the face, and they were kissing again.

And, as if they'd known each other forever-they sailed out of the restaurant and into his car.


He drove very aggressively for a person going only, to be exact, two blocks south, one block east, and he sneezed rather quickly and forcefully while driving in a way that made her grip the seat as much from concern as to whether he'd lose control of the wheel as from her rather reflexive lustiness. She pointed out her house and sighed.

"Well there it is. Since you didn't quite get the chance to buy me a drink, I suppose the least I can do is offer to make you one."

He pulled into the spot in front of her house and braked before responding. "Might be good."

"Let me guess," she smiled, feeling corny. "Scotch and soda."

"Whiskey and Coke," he smiled, "Usually."

"Hope you don't mind Jim Beam..."

"Works for me," he smiled. He began to get out of the car, and she noticed the motion of his hand suggesting that she stay where she was. She did, and in a heartbeat he was letting her out of the car, helping her out with one hand, a gentlemanly touch she enjoyed immensely. She kissed him again just for that.

"Mmmm, and what was that one for?'

"I like a man with manners."

"I can occasionally be one of those," he replied.

"And I just like kissing you. You don't mind?" He responded to that by kissing her and then gesturing to her to walk ahead to open the door. He paused as she walked to admire her rear view and then looked up at her house. There was a light on in one room and windows open throughout.


"I'll have to run upstairs and shut some windows so I can turn on the air. I never really use it."

"Not even in August?"

"No, I usually just walk around naked with the windows open, and let the thought of people watching me give me chills."

She said it with a completely straight face. He considered the thought for a moment. "I'm moving in across the street from you. You're kidding, right?" She simply blinked and opened the door.

"Make yourself comfy. I'll just be a sec," she said, and proceeded in, very informally. He wandered into her living room, still wondering if she actually just walked around the house naked with the windows open, and realized the idea made him horny. Looking around at her place, he found it easy to imagine. No wicker, no leather. What he did see, however, was her collection of trophies-The Daily Times softball team apparently won some kind of championship. She was MVP. The pictures on her mantle included one of a college lacrosse team-and one of her teammates signed it-"Best wishes, Shredder-yours, Evil G." Hearing her footsteps on the stairs, he couldn't resist.


"I used to rip the net with the rock. We were a rough team."

"Evil G?"

"I think she's into pharmaceuticals, now. She was then, anyway." She smiled. "Let me just get the thermostat and the drinks." She brushed past him, but paused to peck him on the lips. She hummed as she went.

"An athlete, hmm?" he murmured.

"Heh heh...I just have a lot of energy to burn. What about you?" she said, still proceeding to the kitchen, where she fiddled with a dial for a moment and then set about under the sink for the whiskey.

"What about me?" There was silence, and she peeked her head out of the kitchen to watch him pull out the handkerchief and blow, slowly, and she imagined, trying to be quiet.

"Well, you know-you know what I do for a living-you know I was called Shredder-so I guess I can ask about you."

He put the handkerchief away, but she could still hear an audible sniffle. "I'b a lawyer...uh, business law. Contracts...I set up estates, things like that." She closed her eyes, wondering if there was such a thing as sneeze-dar. Listening, she heard what she expected-"Husshhooo, husshooo."

"Bless you! Sounds interesting." She resumed making the drinks, and then came back with them. They sat on the couch.

"It can be. You'd be amazed...people have no idea how to protect their money...preserve their...uh..." His face grew very sneezy, and her toes curled in anticipation. He shook his head and sniffled. "Their interests. It can be very interesting, helping them get straightened out. Thanks," he said, reaching for the drink. He took a sip, and his eyes widened a touch. She was a heavy pourer.

"You like helping people?"

"Sure....uh...huh...hushooo!" he sneezed, his face momentarily irritated. But he continued, animatedly. "You learn an awful lot though, about how to take care of yourself. I have a couple of other things I'm pursuing, though."



She grinned so much that she almost wanted to cover her face for fear of seeming obvious. It was perfect enough to be corny, but she loved it. "I'm not that difficult to pursue. I'll even...uh...sit still."

"Sit still, then," he whispered, hoarsely, and in an instant, his mouth and hers were embroiled in a searing kiss. Her arms snaked around him, pulling him a bit closer, as he cupped one of her breasts in his hand. His mouth was warm, soft-lipped, but his tongue was probing and insistent. If she were the sort of person who rated kisses he would get five stars out of five-but she wasn't that sort of person...they were simply very, very good. She could hear a trace of congestion in his breathing as they broke for air. He sniffled. "I really like you...you're very different."

"Different...good?" she asked.

"Different, very good," he elaborated. He sniffled, deeply, and then turned his head aside. "Uh---HUSSHHHH! Oh. Sorry about that."


"I guess that's a little mood-breaker..."

She smiled. If he only knew. "My mood doesn't have an off switch...that I know of. I only slow down for car wrecks and mobs of angry villagers."

"Do you talk like this all the time?"

She paused. "Um...when I'm turned on."

He sniffled. "It gets worse." He took out the handkerchief again. "I'b just really bad today." He wiped his nose and then carefully looked at her face.

"Well, I wouldn't be totally disappointed if you didn't want..." she began, exceedingly slowly.

"Oh...I mean...I want to..."

Her brow furrowed. Since when did men start thinking with their sinuses? She picked up her drink and sipped, regarding him for a moment. She put the drink back down and leaned in. "You know, the last time I * threw * myself at someone, it was an unfortunate op-ed commentator who was over-zealously guarding third base. Our music critic popped up a sacrifice fly, and I had no idea if I'd make it on-after all, how can you trust the instincts of someone with more piercings than columns? For all I knew, that ball was headed towards their second baseman-he was a sports writer, and three hundred pounds. I lucked out. The op-ed person freaked out when he saw me coming and got out of the way, and the sports writer fell on his face, never tracking the ball. Our guy got on base, and I managed to put my head down and charge for home."

Arthur chuckled. "You threw yourself at him?"

"I take third base seriously-that's a runner in position to score."

He leaned towards her. "I think I see what you mean." They kissed. 'You don't have to...throw yourself at me. Unless you really, really want to."

"I could throw myself lightly...I guess." She moved in closer, and realized that the next step would be his lap. Hiking her skirt up slightly, she straddled his legs, pushing his body against the back of the sofa. She braced her hands against his shoulders as his arms encircled her waist, gently pulling them as close together as two clothed people could be. He pulled slowly at her blouse, freeing it from where it had been tucked into her waistband, and with one hand, she assisted, beginning to undo the buttons. He reached for the back of her brassiere, but she smiled.

"No...here," and guided his hand to the front of her open blouse, where her bra actually fastened.

"Not a bad arrangement."

"It gets more interesting," she smiled, as he managed to get the hooks undone.

"Indeed it does," he admitted, viewing her breasts. He closed his lips over one stiff nipple, and then touched his tongue to the tip, lightly, causing her to throw her head back, softly sighing. He drew her tighter with one arm, and then began to help her off with both blouse and bra. She shrugged her shoulders, helping them drop to the floor, and then reached down to the fly of his khakis, pulling up the edge of his carefully tucked-in sports shirt. Her fingertips grazed the firm, warm smoothness of his abdomen-very nice, she thought to herself, as she pulled his shirt up and over his head, stripping him easily. Then, she proceeded to undo the button of his pants with one hand while leaning forward, pressing her lips against his. He pushed her away, very gently.


"You don't mind?" she asked coyly.

"I like it," he admitted, lifting a hand to his face to rub at an eye. She pulled back, carefully removing herself from his lap, all the better to get her skirt off, but she paused while reaching back to unzip-he looked delectable, half-undressed, willing, and apparently itchy. To her self-admittedly perverse outlook, the way he sniffled while admiring her in the process of losing the remainder of her clothing was the best part.

"There," she grinned, once she was unattired. He stood up, his unzipped trousers hanging at his hips. Her eyes swept his form, from the light golden hairs dusting his nicely muscled chest to the slight bulge that strained the contours of the dark-blue briefs peeking from between the separated teeth of his fly. Her fingers itched to unwrap the package, but she realized that timing was, if not everything, at least a very important thing. "To the bedroom?" she asked, softly, holding out her hand.

He took her hand, nodding, and followed her, his other hand tugging at his pants slightly as they threatened to drop to his ankles. She sighed, and zipped him back up.

"Sorry. I was...aggressive." Her hand lingered against his zipper, gently rubbing the bulge in his pants.

"Not that I minded," he responded, hoarsely. She kissed him and noticed his nose wrinkle for a split second. She wanted to rub it with her own but reconsidered. That delicate organ seemed to need as little encouragement as the one she was fondling. She led him up the stairs and was rewarded for her patience by hearing two soft sneezes as they neared the top of the stairs.

"Bless you, Artie."

"I've been doing this all day," he admitted, in a low voice.

She bit her lip. Lucky me, she thought, evilly. Out loud, she said, "I'm within an inch of calling you 'poor baby' again."

"I could use a little 'poor-babying'," he said. She looked into his eyes. Playful but serious, and slightly pink and teary. She kissed him.

"I think I can do that," she answered, calmly, but her face felt flushed and warm. Artie, in his sneezy, good-natured horniness was just about too good to be true. She squeezed his hand and eagerly led him into her bedroom.

He looked around, apparently admiring her taste. The room was decorated in what might be called "antiques"-but what actually * were * thrift shop finds, and was dominated by a massive four poster bed, at the foot of which was a dresser topped with a large mirror. She gently nudged him to the bedside and began working on his trousers again and noted with amusement that he darted a look at himself in the mirror. She couldn't actually blame him; he was very nice to look at. She kissed his neck and then found herself looking at the reflection of the two of them, feeling very vain and turned-on, and then, still kissing him, pushed him against the bed, where he sat as she tugged the pants off, his slip-off loafers having already slipped off somewhere. Then, she knelt, considering what she wanted to do next and regarding his tan body as he casually sat-allowing her to make the moves. A thought occurring to her, she rose and whispered, "Lean back," and began to strip off his briefs. She was not disappointed at what she saw-it was as lovely and well-tended as the rest of him, and she bowed her head, making him gasp when he saw her tongue slipping out from between her lips. He squirmed further onto the bed, giving her room to kneel astride him on the large bed, and enjoyed the feel of her wet mouth closing over his skin and her tongue softly stroking the head of his penis as her thumb and index finger curled firmly around the shaft.

Running her fingers along his taut torso with her free hand, she let her eyes sweep up to watch his reaction through lowered lashes. He had relaxed rather quickly and receptively, and his breathing became deep and slow, complimenting the rhythm of her kissing and sucking. She momentarily continued checking back to watch his reactions even as she fell into a comfortable pace, one he enjoyed from the sound of his soft moans. From the corner of her eye, however, she saw his arm go up to his face and then she felt his body tense as he rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. Sensing something was immanent (one of two possibilities) she braced herself, raising her body slightly and pushing her hand against the bed. He breathed deeply, shuddered, and she raised her head to see him roll his head forward from the force of two huge sneezes, "USHH!! HUSSSHHOOOO!" half-concealed in the crook of his arm. His eyes winced tight, and he covered his face with his hand. From the shining droplets spread on his upper chest, they had been nice wet ones.

"Hold on," she said, evenly, getting up.

"Oh god, such timing," he moaned. She scampered into the master bathroom and dug into the cabinet below the sink, fairly certain she had an unopened box of tissues in there. She found them, and almost as an afterthought, also picked up the package of condoms she also had there. She returned to the bedroom, surreptitiously slipping the packet onto the bedside table and then proceeding to open the box, from which he took a fistful of tissues. The blowing and wiping had her mesmerized. When he finished, he seemed red in the face. He balled up the tissues, looking about for where to put them. She held out her hand.

"You're brave," he commented. "They're kind of...damp."

"Can in the bathroom," she said, quietly. He got up, and she felt a bit awful about enjoying the sneezes when he seemed pretty embarrassed by them. As he came back in, however, his eye fell on what she'd deposited on the table.



He sniffled. She patted the side of the bed. "I'm not done with you yet." She wondered if his face was red from blowing hard or from blushing. If he were the blushing type, she'd never let him leave.

"I'b not exactly at my best."

"Artie." Her tone of voice did not permit refusal.

"You're running the risk of getting sneezed on," he said, protesting mildly, but coming along nonetheless.

"A little sneeze juice isn't going to melt me."

He paused before mouthing "Sneeze juice?"

She grinned.

"You're evil."


"No off switch."


He continued, and then sneezed into the crook of his arm before sitting beside her on the bed. She kissed him on the cheek, and then trailed a few more kisses up against his ear, making him shiver a little. "Bless you, sweetie."

He picked up the box of condoms and inspected them for a moment. "You are determined to seduce a very sneezy man. There are words for a woman like you."

"Do tell," she responded with amusement, but a slight chill grabbed her. It wasn't so obvious, was it, that she got off on sneezes?

"A sex fiend," he grinned.

It wasn't entirely true. It wasn't entirely not true.

"You've got it," she smiled. It was a very good start.