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The Book of Love

David felt his cheeks burning as he recognized the pastor's trademark sign-off to the sermon was about to begin. He willed himself to the seat, even dug his fingers into the hard wood of the old-fashioned church bench to keep his body from flying towards the exit. God please give me the courage to stay, he prayed to himself.

Clearly K.Charles was interested. They'd been playing lookaway-fast for the past two Sundays, which did nothing to settle David's bashfulness and raging fear of rejection (he was new at this kind of thing, after all). Nevertheless, he had the cockels-warming feeling the only thing holding his beloved policeman back from making the first move was the fact that he kept disappearing on him before he had a chance to act.

He was so right.

Since first noticing David in church, Keith had taken to sitting in the same row, but across the aisle, from where ever David sat. He'd determined that, today, should David leave before the end of the service, he would follow him outside and strike up some kind of conversation - or just throw him over his shoulder and run like hell. When the sermon had ended on this particular Sunday and David was still there, Keith took it as the sign from God he'd been waiting for for weeks. Keith would have preferred to go with his initial plan of slinging David over his shoulders, but instead he tried the corniest trick in the book: he stood up, turned around, and dropped a handful of papers onto the floor, near David's feet. He knelt to pick up the papers, casually brushing his forehead against David's closest knee.

He looked up from his kneeling position, and said: "Oh, sorry," and topped it off with the most sultry, sleepy-eyed smile he had in his arsenal, very likely inappropriate for church.

David felt every drop of water drain from his mouth, making speech impossible - he could barely part his lips to get out a muffled grunt that sounded something like: "No puhrproblem ." And, even though it was the most humiliating, lowest point of his entire life to date, David had to laugh. He covered his face with his hand and snickered. When he dared to sneak a peek from between his parted fingers he was shocked to look into the devastatingly handsome face of K. Charles, who still knelt before him. He was laughing, too.

"I was trying to be sexy," he said.

David waited a second to compose himself. He was as taken aback by his own goofiness as he was by the fact that K. Charles hadn't fled in a panic of mortified realization: oh my god - I'm flirting with Norman Bates!

Wait until he finds out I've been stalking him, David thought. He took a deep breath.

"I'm really nervous," David said, truthfully. "I'm so sorry, that was very rude."

Keith straightened up. "I thought you were rating my pick-up technique. I'll admit I'm a little rusty, but it can't be that bad, can it?"

"My God, " David said. "Were you trying to pick me up?"

"Nah! What kind of a guy do you think I am?"

Keith offered his hand. "Keith Charles," he said.

David took his hand, allowed Keith to pull him to a standing position. In his head a voice was screaming: KEITH. What a great fucking name!

"David Fisher," he said. He felt the electric charge he'd been dreaming about for so long - David was sure it originated from Keith Charles' incredible, gentle smile, and was aimed straight at his pattering heart.

"Was it inappropriate?" Keith asked. "Flirting with you in church?"

"You weren't really, were you?" David asked.

"No. Yes. Maybe, but just in case, we better get out of here before Pastor Helen reads us the Eleventh Commandment - thou shalt not practice lame pick-up lines in the House of the Lord."

He grabbed David's arm and led him outside to the church's front lawn, where groups of parishioners were mingling. The late-morning sun was high in the sky, making everything glow like neon - the cars passing by, the shrubbery of the church's landscaping, the glint in Keith Charles' eyes. Keith watched appreciatively as the sun warmed up David's pallid complexion. Standing outside, making small talk about God and sunny Sunday mornings and good places to get a cup of coffee, he barely seemed like the forlorn sad-sack Keith had first noticed several weeks ago.

The eyelashes were the same. Keith wanted to pet them.

He suggested they get breakfast around the corner, and David agreed. They sat at an outside table, drinking coffee and eating omelets. They talked about their faiths, the current heat wave, whether or not eating eggs on a daily basis was a healthy choice. David indicated that he liked to jog, but didn't really get much of a chance to these days. Keith admitted that he was probably a borderline fitness nut, spending all of his off days at the gym. David told him he assisted his father's funeral business. Keith confessed that he was a cop (he usually saved this information until at least the second date - one too many times he'd found himself being treated like the prized slab of beef in somebody's ultimate sex fantasy, and Keith preferred being treated like a human being).

Keith was surprised when David said: "Yes, I know. I've seen you before, in uniform."

"You've seen me before church? When was that?"

"Weeks ago. I was on business and you were....I wasn't following you. I had no idea who you were. I noticed you, yes, but...Then I saw you later going to St. Stephens, and, yes, I did follow you, but I really did want to go to St. Stephens. I wasn't....stalking you or anything."

"Wait a minute, rewind, " Keith said. "What, where, and when did you see me the first time?"

David pretended to think about it for a minute, although truthfully the memory was permanently stored in his brain, filed under "Day One Of The First Day Of The Rest Of My Life".

"Hmmm. Let's see. Was it....I think it was the Oak Convalescent Home, in Pasadena. I was picking up a ....deceased....body. Our van was parked in the driveway, Fisher and Sons it said on the side. And you pulled up in your car, in your uniform. You was really hot. You looked...I don't know, I noticed you. You walked right by me. You must get that a lot."

Keith narrowed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. He broke into a big smile, and jabbed his finger at David.

"I remember you," he said. David felt a thrill run down his spine, and feared he was blushing, even as he processed the statement and figured Keith was probably putting him on. "Wow," Keith said, in a tone of voice that suggested he really meant it. He rubbed his finger up and down the back of David's hand, resting alongside his plate of gooey leftovers. "But how did you know that I went to St. Stephens?"

"I didn't," David said, and then explained about his foray into Hollywood in search of make-up for the dead.

"I wasn't stalking you," David continued. "I swear."

"No, it's Kismet. You believe in Kismet, don't you David?"

He had to admit it sounded better than coincidence. Or stalking.

"I really hate to do this but I've got to shove off pretty soon, " Keith said. David didn't bother to hide the disappointment in his face, which made Keith feel pleasantly surprised, and a little more confident. "But I'd love to see you again. Before next Sunday. Problem is, I work late - from noon to midnight, and I almost never finish up on time. All the paperwork and shit. Sometimes I don't get out before 1. It's a four days on, four days off schedule. But I don't want to wait four days to see you again."

That caused David's body language to perk up a bit.

"So," Keith continued. "It'd be so cool if I could see you after work. Tonight, even, if you don't have plans."

David wondered what kind of plans Keith thought he might have in the middle of the night, and then realized that Keith did not know the awful truth: that David was a closeted, uptight virgin who'd never even shared an anonymous quickie hand-job with a man, let alone have a reason to be with one past midnight.

Even so, David's practical side butted in. "Tonight?" he asked. "That would be tomorrow morning?"

"Yeah. Say yes."

"I'll be asleep."

"That's okay, by then, I will be, too. It'll be very zen and mystical. Please say yes."

David was thinking: he said please. But the words that came out of his mouth were: "I have to get up early. And there could be an emergency, and, it's just me and my father. And the assistant."

"What kind of emergency?" Keith asked. "They're dead. They can wait. You can sleep in, just once, can't you?"

If David were to answer that truthfully, he would have told Keith that he never slept in, that he always showed up for work on time, regardless of how he was feeling, whether or not he was ill or exhausted or just plain sick of it all, spiritually, emotionally, physically.

He realized his mouth had gone dry again, like in St. Stephens, and he was becoming uncomfortably aware that motion sickness was creeping up from his gut into his esophagus. He forced himself to respond by asking Keith for his phone number and promising to call.

"No, I have a better idea, " Keith said, smoothing out a napkin in front of him. "You give me your phone number. And not a phony one, either. Don't forget, I'm a cop, and I know where you worship."

Keith called a waiter over to borrow a pen. David gave him his number.

"I'll call you tonight, I mean, tomorrow. EARLY. Do you have voice mail?" Keith asked.

David nodded.

"I don't want to talk to a recording. I want to talk to you. Drink a pot of coffee if you have to. Take illegal substances if you must. But answer the phone. Okay?"

David smiled, feeling 17 years old. And also terribly suspicious - this couldn't be happening. This hauntingly handsome man is not going to call me - everyone in the church is going to know about this. They'll all be laughing at me. I'll be the biggest joke in this guy's incredibly cool world. Maybe THAT'S why I was born.

"Am I being pushy?" Keith asked.

David took a deep breath, wishing he could just spill it all, the apprehension, the disbelief, his primal fear that Keith Charles, the man of his dreams, was going to find out what a complete fraud he was (or vice versa).

"If you think I'm not interested," David finally responded, "after having followed you around - not stalked - but, followed...It's's so sudden, so weird, and I'm so....probably not what you think I am. Not even close. I'll disappoint you."

Keith pushed himself away from the table, walked around to David's side, and held both of his hands out to him. What could David do, except take them? Keith pulled him into a standing position, wrapped his arms around his waist, and hugged him to his body so that they were touching from toe to forehead. The tension never left David's body. He tried to will himself to relax but he was mortified - and turned on. He didn't dare breath, or move, terrified of what Keith might do next. Which was rub the side of his face against David's cheek - the sandpapery texture of Keith's skin creating a scratching sound in David's ears, and an electric current up and down his spine that he would never forget for the rest of his life. Then Keith found his lips, and kissed him so softly that David felt cheated.

Keith pulled back so they could both get a very close look at each other.

"You're beautiful," Keith said.

David shook his head, protesting. "I'm not. I'm so...not."

"I can't wait to tell you just how beautiful you are. Tonight. You can argue with me about it then, okay? Just answer the phone. You don't even have to say a word, just 'hello' and 'yes'. I'll do the rest of the talking."

He started to move away, came back, kissed David again, still chaste, but with emphasis. He pulled out his wallet and dropped some money on the table. "This one's on me, " he said. "For being so pushy."

He waved. Left. David sat down, and it wasn't until many minutes had passed that he thought to look around and check if anyone he knew - if anyone - had seen what had just happened.

But they were all eating, and talking, and enjoying each other's company and the fine sunny day. They could care less.

David didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Either way, he'd never been happier.

Continue to Part 3

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