A Difference Cleaned Up


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Post-coitus, Sharon was a ball of fire. After cuddling for a short while, she was up and straightening things, setting the toilet tissue back on the rack, wiping up the bit of talcum powder on the bathroom floor, shaking the bath mat out into the shower stall, pulling on a pair of shorts and a very tight tee shirt (which, Richard noticed, accented her breasts wonderfully and make her nipples stand on end), and then brushed her teeth.

"About time," he commented from the bed as she rinsed and spit.

"What?  Did I offend you?" she smirked.  "Because, you know, you didn't seem all that offended."

"You tasted like Old Granddad."

"You been kissing old granddad lately, too?" she asked, jokingly.  "What do you want for breakfast?"

He glanced up, pretending to be thinking about it.  "Eggs over easy, sausage, hash browns, whole wheat bread, lightly toasted, if you don't mind, coffee, freshly-squeezed orange juice, the answers to the Times crossword puzzle and more sex."

She poked her head out of the bathroom.  "Okay," she replied.

He was taken aback.

"I know a diner around the corner with...most of that, I'm very good with crossword puzzles, and I think I can do more sex."  She stood, grinning, and then she went to him, leaning over to brush back his hair and take a good look at him.  "You seem okay, but very...glassy-eyed.  I am going to take your temperature."

"Once you've taken it, what are you going to do with it?  No diner food for me...whatever you make will be fine."

She bit her lip then.  "Okay...just don't expect a lot...I don't really...cook."

"Sharon, you're a restaurant reviewer."

"I eat, I write.  The cooking...doesn't really...work with me-I do waffles.  I mean, the toaster does them, I just do the syrup part.  But..."

He pulled her back onto the bed.  "I'll take care of breakfast."

She snuggled against him.  "Mmm, all this and he cooks, too."

"I'm a ca-AHISH-a catch."

She kissed him on the cheek, warmly.  "Bless you, Baby.  Now...you do have more stuff in your car, right?"

"Well, a little...but..." She was already up.  She pulled a sweatshirt out of a drawer, threw it over her tee shirt (and covering up her nicely protruding nipples, he noticed, glumly) and was out of the bedroom.  He heard her in the guestroom, rifling through his jeans' pocket for his car keys, and then heard her steps thudding down the stairs.  He rolled his eyes and felt more sneezes come on.

"AH-heshoo, hessh, etch, esssshooo!  SNIFF, ahhh," he sneezed, then sighed.  "Shame she missed those." Curious as to what she actually was doing, he got up from the bed, went to the guest bedroom, put on the jeans and a sweatshirt, and went down the stairs to look out the front door.

She was unloading his car.

He stared.  Still in shorts, but having thrown on a long coat and sneakers over bare feet, she hauled up the plastic garbage bag full of his clothing, neatly slung it over her shoulder, and made back to the house with it.  He watched her, surprised at how quickly she'd set to it.  He opened the door for her, and she entered, setting the bag down with a little assistance from him, and gave him a peck on the cheek.  He grabbed her by the shoulders.

"Hey, the stuff can wait. You've only got shorts on...you'll be the one sick next."

She looked at him as if he was mildly dimwitted.  "I've got a coat.  And there's only one more bag.  You must have still left some things at Ashley's."  And she was back outside.  He shook at head, and shuffled to the kitchen to examine the contents of her refrigerator.

There was not much.  There was a pint of Chinese take-out of indeterminable age.  There was a nearly empty bag of roasted ground coffee.  He found eggs, a half-loaf of bread, milk, what his nose tenuously assured him were some unspoiled sausage links, and an extremely frozen-over can of orange juice concentrate.  A search of the cabinets yielded an ancient jar of strawberry preserves, no syrup, and the oldest tin of cinnamon he'd ever seen.  A sniff followed by a few sneezes assured him it was still spicy enough to be used.

It was a start.  He began to assemble them into breakfast, and awaited her return.  The sound of her struggling with one of the bags informed him he'd have a wait. He went out to the living room to find her dragging the bag up the stairs.

"What are you doing?"

She provided him with another of her, "I'm patient, he's a dimwit" looks.  "Bringing your things upstairs.  That's where the bedroom is."

The notion of her "moving him in" suddenly seemed very real and sudden.  Of course, he had come with the intention of moving in for the time being, but Sharon was making it an immediate production.  He could feel something in his throat tightening.

"Stop it," he said, before realizing the tone he was about to use.  Her eyes widened, and he coughed behind his hand.  "I mean, don't do that now...you haven't had breakfast and..."

"But you're still making it," she said, reasonably enough, and then proceeded to drag the bag upstairs with a muscular tug.

"Of course," he said, under his breath, eyes following her.  He knew she was taking it to * her * bedroom.  His status as her live-in had been decided upon.  He returned to the kitchen to finish making breakfast, ears straining after the sounds of her coming back down the stairs, and managing the other bag up. He * was * being moved in.  He knew she'd already made up her mind as to which drawers would have his things, what side of the bed he'd be sleeping on, and where his toothbrush would sit in relation to her bathroom sink.  It was almost paralyzing, but he managed to set the table without giving it a great deal of thought.

And then she came into the kitchen.  A pale rose lit up her cheekbones and she looked horribly lovely.

"Oh good, breakfast, I'm famished, how are you, you still seem a little 'off'?" she said in one breath, and that was before coffee.  She kissed him, and he turned his head, not to avoid kissing her, but to avoid spraying her.


She hugged him warmly and then reached over him to pull open a cabinet, rifling through it with her arm around him until she found what she was looking for.  It was a digital thermometer and she had it popped into his mouth before he could make another sound.  Just having something in there with the intention of its staying made his nose itch, and he wanted to sneeze again, but she was making sympathetic noises, and telling him to "Keep it in there while it's still moving..."

He pulled the thermometer out of his mouth, and exploded.  "ET-shishhh! Could you just...not hover over me?"

She stepped back, startled.  "Okay," she said, softly.  "I was just trying..."

"To smother me..."


"I don't need you to take my temperature, or to unpack my things, or move me in...or...You've just assumed..."

"Fine!" she shouted.  "I'm sorry." She sat down at the table, stewing and staring at the food.  She picked up the fork and looked at it.  She used it to push the food around, and then took a bite.  She chewed, and stared.  He stood, watching her looking at the plate, and then took a seat.  The color had drained out of her face.  She sat, barely eating, and then pulled back her chair and rose.

"I guess I wasn't that hungry after all. I'm going to just...take a shower.  I shouldn't have...unloaded your car...and..." She was out of the kitchen before he could say anything.

He sat.  Now, he had perfectly screwed everything up again.  He was getting used to that feeling.  But not so used to it he wasn't going to do something about it.

Sharon flew up the stairs, eyes tearing.  She wasn't sure what she'd done, but she'd definitely done or said * something *.  She went to the bedroom and shot a look at the two bags she'd only just put in there, and felt utterly miserable. 

"That took, what, two hours to ruin," she muttered.  She pulled the sweatshirt over her head and flung it onto the bed.  She felt pulled through the ringer.  "He wants me but he doesn't want me, but he's had me, is in love with me and can't live with me," she continued talking to herself as she undressed.  She paused to glimpse at herself in the mirror-sweaty and almost desperate in expression.  "And no wonder.  And I talk to myself."

She stepped into the bathroom, and then thought she heard something.  It was Richard, who'd entered the bedroom.  She'd be damned if he were going to confuse things even more for her.  She closed the bathroom door.

"Sharon, I want to apologize."

"I'm taking a shower!" she shouted.

"Please..." Her heart was stirred by the sound of his sneezing, but she remained firm.

"I don't really want to talk to you right now."

"I'm coming in there."

Her heart pounded.  There was no lock on this particular bathroom door.  He certainly could come in after her.  She wasn't sure if she did or did not want him to do that.

"Go right on ahead!" she snarled, issuing the challenge.

He did.  It startled her so much that she stepped into the shower stall.  "You just...moved a little too quickly, I wasn't ready for how sudden everything...Sharon, I shouldn't have snapped at you but...you have to admit..."

"You showed up at my door, with your trunk packed, okay?  What was I supposed to do?  I don't care if you move in or not if that's how you are about it."

"But that's not how I am..."

"You needed a place to stay because your last girlfriend kicked you out...and you...didn't have to..."

His eyes widened at what she was saying.  She couldn't have totally misunderstood what happened, could she?  And yet it was obvious that she felt used, because she * was * sobbing, and trying not to be seen doing it.  She began to pull the shower door shut.

"I'm done talking to you," she said.

"Don't shut the door on me...I'm coming in after you," he said, and, despite being fully clothed, did.

She looked at him. He looked pathetic, but she couldn't gauge his sincerity by that.  It was intolerable that he took her from being so happy to being completely miserable, and didn't once explain what he wanted from her, or even if he wanted anything.  He wasn't leaving the shower, no matter how balefully she glared at him.

So she turned on the water.

"Jesus!  Sharon!" he yelped.

"I said I wanted to take a shower," she explained.

"Damn it," he said, soaked to the skin.  But he had no intention of leaving.  "Sharon...come on...* Shredder *," he amended, trying her very appropriate nickname.  "I said I'm sorry.  AH-Etchoo, sniff, please."

She was not about to turn and look at him no matter how genuine he sounded, she told herself.  She reached for the soap and the washcloth, expecting him to give up. He touched her shoulder, and she shrugged him off, continuing to go about lathering herself. He sniffled some more, the humidity in the stall working on his nose.  He sneezed again, and then again.

"I'b sorry.  What do you want me to say?  I did not sleep with you just because...I'm not broke, you know...for god's sake...I could find an apartment on my own...* cough *...I left Ashley...I told her about kissing you, and she..."

Sharon turned, feeling confused. "You left her?"

"After a blow up-it's complicated...but she kicked me out and I wanted her to..." he sneezed against the elbow of his completely soaked sweatshirt.  "I should have known I'd screw this up, but I didn't want you thinking..." and then he sneezed again.

She looked at him, a sorry mess and dripping wet in her shower stall, and wondered how she'd ever doubted his affection.  "You poor pathetic bastard," she said, softly, empathy creeping into her voice.  "Over me?"

"Esh-shooo, yes, over you," he said, irritation creeping into his voice.

She stared.  It was astonishing to her. He went on.

"You said you weren't going to let me screw up another relationship." And then he touched the door to the shower stall, but she put her hand over his.

"Don't go," she said, in the smallest voice he'd ever heard come out of her. He had to lean close to her to hear it.  He paused, waiting.  "You'll get the bathroom floor all wet.  And...that would piss me off.  You have this knack..." She took his hand and raised it to her lips, kissing it, and then she kissed him.  "I'm sorry I...made a drowned rat out of you."


It wasn't the romantic response most people would have wanted, but she'd take it.  She pulled him closer and began helping him off with the sodden sweatshirt.

"Drowned rat...ESHH! And the shower is playing hell with my nose..."

"Poor baby."  She stared at the sweatshirt once it had come off, and then draped it over one of the shower knobs.  Her hands worked at his fly.  "I guess these aren't meant to be operated when wet."

"They aren't," he said, helping her.  She kept him steady as he removed his jeans, and he kicked them to the side.  "Hesh, HESHOOO.  Sniff."

"Now at least you're a naked drowned rat.  Must be my lucky day."

"A naked, sneezing drowned rat.  I suppose we've made it to the make-up sex?" he asked, sniffling.  She smiled.

"Still too fast for you?"

"No.  Not at all."  He pressed her to the wall of the shower, and laced his fingers with hers, pulling her arms up over her head and pinning her.  She moaned as she felt his member brush up against her thigh as he crouched to enter her, and she moved her leg aside.  His mouth covered hers as they deeply kissed for a moment, and then he moved his lips down to her neck, where he buried his face, groaning.

"MMmmm, honey, what?"

"No...huh...huh...huthin...ehh...HESHH!" he sneezed.  "Oh, you really...HETCHOO...take your showers warm...my nose is gonna run..."

"Should I..." She braced herself as he sneezed again.  "Just adjust the temp..."

"No..." he said, and even though his eyes looked a little bloodshot, she noticed an evil twinkle in them. "We are...in a shower."  He entered her and she shuddered.  "So my nose is wet...everything's wet...isn't everything wet?"

"Everything," she agreed, weakly.

"Very agreeable...uh...huh..." He could feel her muscles contracting around his member as she tightened in expectation of the sneeze.  He held off on it by breathing slowly, leaning himself against her, and then, "HASSHUH! HESHH!"  Her toes curled.  "Very convenient, this fetish of yours..."

"I don't have it to be convenient."

"You don't do anything to be convenient...oh god...sniff...ESHOO!"  He let go of her hands, needing his own to brace himself against the wall.  "ESHH! ETCH!"  The sneezes sounded wetter and more forceful.  Her hand went to his face.

"Richard...sweetie...we could get out of the...oh..." She couldn't finish her sentence-he pressed even closer to her, thrusting deeply.  His lips pressed against her neck again, and she could hear him sniffing, a damp, throaty sound. It was inexpressibly sexy to her, but she tried again.  "We could get out of the shower..."

"Bud...you're enjoyig dis..." He began, lifting his face...and she could tell more sneezes were coming.  "Aren... ahuh... aren'd you?  AH-HETCH-SHOO!"  The spray from his nostrils was cooler than the spray from the shower, and she felt like she was melting inside.  Her only response was a groan, and he continued thrusting, more insistently.  He rested his head against her shoulder, and his head felt so warm she became concerned for his health again. And then she felt a cresting sensation...she put her hands on his body, feeling his wet, slippery skin pressed against her, and knew he was experiencing something close to her own excitement.

"OH...god...oh..." His lips pressed against her shoulder, he was nearly biting her flesh, and two quick sneezes-- "Mmmmpch...Mmmmppch," softly came against her skin as she felt her release.  And she clutched against him, amazed.

His breaths came heavily, and he threw his head back, eyes clenched tight.  The thought flitted through her mind-how similar they were, the look pre-orgasm, and pre-sneeze... and then the warmth... the groaning hiss... and he settled against her, the crisis passed.  He stepped back from her, leaving her body, and winced.

She caressed his face.  "Outstanding, but you're all runny...shower done," she said, finally.  She reached down to turn off the water, and he slid back the door.  He pulled a towel off the towel rack, and held it out for her-she simply dried her hands and reached for the toilet paper.  She wiped his nose, and he wrapped the towel around her.  "Note to self, buy Kleenex, get another towel in the bathroom." She let him dry her, and then said, "I'll be back with another..." before slipping out the door.  He stood, waiting, and she returned, with towel, and dried...everything, slowly, smilingly.  When she finished, she said, "Get in the bed."


"We didn't finish breakfast.  I'll reheat it and bring it up."

"Etshhh," he sneezed against his arm.  "You don't cook."

"I microwave. Besides, I want to wait on you a little... if it's okay...not smothering," she added, with a saucy grin.

"Perfect," he answered.  He settled himself on the bed and watched her go, wondering if there was a way to harness her after-sex energy, and somehow use it for good, not evil.  Laying his head down on the pillows, he waited, but felt wonderfully warm and happy, and fell asleep before she returned.